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Just Like Clockwork: Scene V -- Erin

   
Just Like Clockwork: Scene V -- Erin

11:21 PM, Monday, November 10th, 2003


The Day of the Devourer was going to be the Next Big Thing. Everyone said so, who worked on the film. It had everything, so went the theory. It had a stunning script, written by the eternally boyish director and producer, Gary Fletcher. It had an atmospheric location, the decrepit and eerie Museum of the Industrial Revolution. It had a marvelous villain, the vile cult leader Onaxis, played by one of the last great mustache-twirlers, Clive Adler. It had a charming heroine, the beautiful (and bosomy) Maria Karlova.

Most of all though, it had special effects, and these were produced courtesy of Mr. Robert Hammond and his skilled team of technicians and craftsmen, a skilled team that happened to include Ms. Erin Lamothe. If it could be built, it was done so. Clockwork ravens to caw out ominous greetings as the heroes approached the cult headquarters? It was done. Stationary suits of armor that brought down swords and pikes on command, creating a deadly death-trap? It was done. A twenty-foot mechanical centipede with chomping mandibles and a firelight glow in it's eyes? Robert handled that personally, using three golf-carts for the main body, combined with a great deal of painted aluminum. It looked almost alive.

On more than one occasion, Fletcher had talked about prizes at Cannes and Sundance and maybe even Oscars for special effects. They were certainly very good special effects. And if they were on occasion helped by just a little bit of faerie magic... people have long said that movies were magical.

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There was the dream again. The dream was always the same, and had been almost since filming started. The darkened museum, stretched out, elongated, dark and dreary and full of moving machinery. One could get lost in it. One did get lost, all the while being stalked by something in the distance. The hunter never came too close. But it was never to far either.

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It was late, but Erin couldn't sleep. Quite aside from the dreams, there was work to be done. The Devourer had recently started squeaking when it ran through the corridors of the Museum, which rather ruined the effect of the giant mechanical centipede. The fix was simple enough, on the whole, but involved having to take apart half the wheel structure. Once that was known, Robert had declared it a job for Erin, and then shooed everyone else off home.

First though, one had to find the necessary tools for the job. Gear-shafts, spare wheels, other bits of mechanical detritus. Knowing where things had been used to be Colin Meade's job, but since Colin had disappeared last week things had been piled up in the basement. Which, for better or worse, necessitated a trip to the basement. Still, Erin had a security pass to get her past Sergei and Aleksander, and the Devourer would be down here as well.


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"Mistress?" Erin asked aloud, looking down the ever stretching hallways. It didn't feel like the mistress, that cold feeling of her shear-like fingers bearing down on you, the shadows spinning into the hem of her dress. It felt more like the creatures in the library, fluttering wings that swooped silently from the ached ceilings. She had never seen them, for they only came in darkness, but they were always waiting. Whenever the servants had ventured into the library, the creatures would be there to take their due toll.

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Perhaps that is what happened to Colin? Erin thought to herself as she clipped the security pass to her jacket. Hammond had informed her that it was not normal here for people to go missing, even if they often ventured into the basement, and that she should try to act that way. So she had done her best to emulate the other people on the set, seeming concerned but not too concerned, certainly not voicing what she really thought: that when the things in the darkness took you, you never came back.

But if it wasn't normal, then what were the guards for? The general consensus seemed to be money, among the building crew - at least, there was a lot of money being tied up in this film. Most films simply had shoeboxes, spraypaint and unreasonable demands from delusional directors. The Day of the Devourer actually had the budget to buy quality. It had mildly disappointed Erin at first, to be honest, as she enjoyed surprising people by creating the impossible. But Gary Fletcher had proved just as demanding and obsessive as any over-confident, under-paid director, and so Erin had been pleased.

She also remembered Fletcher nearly grovelling to a man in the suit, the first day of filming. She had acted much like that before, in the presence of the mistress. The mistress had given them food and shelter for their servitude; perhaps Fletcher had likewise gotten his money.

She shook herself out of pondering, clicking on one of the flashlights - a large, heavy duty thing that was thick enough to be mistaken for a floodlight. On a second thought, she stuffed three more into various pockets. In the library, they had staved off the creatures with candles and oil lamps; now she used LED bulbs and batteries. The lamps had rarely helped them in the library, and the flashlights had not helped Colin, but there was nothing for it. There was work to be done.



The basement was pretty much deserted by this time of night. The lights were out, all but a few weak lamps that illuminated the exits. Upstairs, there were more lights, and windows to let in the stars and the moon. Here though, it felt like a burrow or cavern. Cramped, dark, and gloomy. Admittedly, not actually all that dark, given that the flashlight was cutting a path through the darkness broad enough for a truck. But the beams of light went only one way, and the shadows crowded close.

The equipment would have been somewhere nearby, most likely in one of the storerooms. Which would have been more helpful had there been fewer storerooms. Still, Erin had keys, so this was not an overwhelming problem. The first few storerooms were empty of film equipment, though she did come across some rather nice 1850s farm equipment and what looked like a mine-dredger. The third room Erin tried was likewise lacking anything helpful, containing a small shop's full of clocks. Grandfather clocks, desk clocks, clocks that hung on walls, what appeared to be a clocktower clock, display cases of pocket-watches. In short, a great many clocks. That, and a sound. It sounded rather like something snuffling.

Dice Roll: 5d10s8e
d10 Results: 1, 3, 8, 3, 5 (Total Successes = 1)


Lights...

That was right, there was a light switch. Erin still had trouble remembering those.

Simply on instinct, she reached out and flipped it on.

The lights took a long time to turn on, the bare bulbs spluttering and flickering for a while before finally illuminating the room with a kind of watery, yellow light. Still, it was enough to see by, more than enough in fact. Mostly what Erin saw was clocks, in all their grand and widespread profusion. Big clocks and little clocks, old clocks and new clocks. At the same time, Erin also saw the cause of the snuffling.

It was a dog. A German Shepherd, actually. It was a big dog, probably not significantly smaller than Erin. Generally of lupine-like proportions, with a black-and-tan hide and an intelligent-looking eyes set atop a squarish muzzle. The dog had been nosing around a large grandfather clock, one which lay on a low table, the glass panel locked shut.

The dog stopped suddenly when Erin turned on the lights, and turned to look at the woman with all of her flashlight. After a moment, it suddenly began to whine.

Ah, this made sense to Erin. The dog wanted to open the glass clock case, but couldn't because it lacked thumbs. It was a bit of a design flaw in dogs.

A more normal person might have felt this was less sensical, perhaps wondering why a German Shepherd was in the basement of a museum, and why the basement was filled with nothing but clocks, and why a dog would be interested in a clock in the first place. Erin also found it unusual, at least in the location of the dog - and hadn't she used the keys to open this door? - but she had never been a kennel master, and didn't really know what to do with it otherwise.

She walked over to the clock, feelers tapping against the glass. It was frosted, leaving whatever was inside hidden from view. It was also, unfortunately, locked. And Lamothe hadn't happened to bring any lockpicks along with her. She'd seen bobby-pins used as well, which is why it was a shame she didn't use bobby-pins. As it was, Erin couldn't-

shing shing

-WOULDN'T open the glass case like this. Trying to use improper tools might scratch up the clock, which would be unacceptable.

Instead she began to check the clock over for smudges and dents, repairing and polishing what she could. She put her ear to the glass and closed her eyes, pressing her hands against the body of the clock and feelers tapping it experimentally.


It was an old clock. It had been built in a little workshop in York, back in 1869. There was once a time when it had been used, when it had told time to all who asked. Now however, it lay in an unused storeroom, in a third-rate museum in London. Erin's mind cast backwards, to the most recent time the grandfather clock had been handled.

There had been something in the clock then. Something stuffed into it's gears and gizzards, forced behind the frosted glass panel. Large, fleshy, with arms and legs that were bent in ways that living bodies didn't bend. It was a corpse. It looked like Colin. It had his eyes, his nose, his mouth and most of his ears. It did not have most of his hair, however. This is because the corpse was missing the top of it's head. As though someone had taken a hacksaw and sliced through the top of Meade's head, just above the brows. The corpse's brain was gone.

The door opened to the storeroom, and Erin knew that it was 1:42 AM, on Saturday. The clock didn't run, but it could still tell time. Two men entered the room. One was big, with broad shoulders and too-white teeth, carrying a large laundry bag, heavy duty canvas. The other was a slender, rabbity man, with a missing finger on one hand. He kept the other hand inside a pocket at all times. Both wore heavy workmans gloves. Aleksander and Sergei. The rabbity man watched the door, while the big man went to the grandfather clock. Aleksander opened it, and levered the corpse out of the clock. Grunting and swearing, half in English, half in Russian, he got Colin into the bag, and shut it. Now the two men switched roles. The large man watched the door, while the rabbity one quickly wiped down the inside of the clock with a damp rag and some cleaner solution. Then they closed the glass door of the clock, took the corpse, and left.

Erin's mind went back to a previous time. She knew that it was 7:06 AM, on last Wednesday. The door to the storeroom slammed open, and Aleksander came in, Colin's corpse in a fireman's carry over his shoulder. The Russian looked about and shut the door quickly, locking it. Quickly and efficiently, he manhandled the corpse into the clock, then stripped off his shirt and took it with him, stained with blood and a pale, off-yellow fluid.

A previous time. 1:46 AM, a few weeks ago on October 25th. There was another corpse in the clock. It was a woman's, small, petite, with red hair. Erin didn't recognize her. She too had the top of her skull sawed off, the scalp missing, the brains gone. Again, the two men came. They put the corpse into a laundry back, cleaned the grandfather clock, and left. They talked, but it was in a language Erin didn't know.

A previous time. 2:19 PM, on October 23rd. It was the small man now, carrying in the body of the redheaded young woman. He was stronger than he looked. This time he stayed with the corpse for a time after he put her into the clock, sitting on the table nearby and staring at it in silence. At length, he left, still not having said a word, though he cleaned up as best he could.

Another time. 1:09 AM, on October 4th. Again, there was a corpse in the clock. A young man, maybe in his twenties or late teens, wearing the T-shirt of a fast food service. It said his name was David. He had green eyes which stared off into the distance, and bits of blood flecked on his face. His skull was sawed in half, the bone half crushed in places, and his brain was gone. The two men came, and took him away in their bag, spraying the clock with cleaner fluid and wiping it down with rags in their gloved hands.

Erin could feel the dim presence of another event, perhaps some days before, when the corpse was brought in. Was it evening? The memories began to unravel, too distantly into the past....


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The dog was looking at Erin very intently when she came out of her trance. Very intelligent eyes for a dog, even a German Shepherd. Once she was awake, the dog nudged at the clock with its nose, but then returned back to looking at the slight woman. It was a very intent look.

Erin's eyes flicked open, and she looked at the dog. Ah, she thought to herself again. This must be a police dog. That was why it was down here investigating. That made sense.

"I'm afraid they've taken all the bodies out and wiped it down," she said regretfully, figuring that must have been what the dog wanted - hoping it didn't want her to still break open the clock. She shook her head as she polished it again, removing any final smudges, like her fingerprints. What an abuse of a beautiful machine. It occurred to her a moment later that when people were taken apart here, they weren't put back together. So, Colin was dead.

She crouched down, hands on her knees, so she could talk eye to eye with the dog. She quietly whispered what she had seen to the creature, just in case someone else was listening in on them. Dogs were supposed to have good hearing. "They seemed to always come for the bodies between 1 o'clock and two in the morning. Perhaps it is easier to move in the dark? Maybe a furnace is running that time of night? But then, I saw three bodies. Three is not a set pattern. There may have been more. But, I wonder if 'David' was the first. His skull seemed less cleanly cut than the others." Lamothe paused for a moment in thought, thumb pressed to her lips. "And there is ectoplasm, isn't that strange? I bet you would never find what was used to kill these people, or saw open their heads, it has probably all melted away."

"If you could smell them here, perhaps you could smell where they were taken?" she asked the dog. "Or perhaps try to look where this 'David' worked?" She chewed on her thumb a bit. She was supposed to be repairing the Devourer. She supposed multiple homicides were more important than work, though it seemed like blasphemy to think such a thing. The dog wanted something, though, and that she could not ignore.

Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 3, 5, 5, 2, 4, 1, 1 (Total Successes = 0)
Wits+Survival (Tracking)

The dog gazed at Erin in the eyes as she spoke, that intent look never leaving its face. The dog, on the whole, did not act very doggy. It did not wag it's tail. It did not scratch itself. It did not even move while Erin relayed her vision, instead only looking at her. Then, when the she finished talking, the dog moved towards the grandfather clock and began to sniff around, a more general kind of sniffing.

Then the dog sneezed. Then it sneezed again. The massive German Shepherd sat back on its haunched and shook its head, as though trying to clear its nose. Then it sneezed yet again. It was with a somewhat irate look that the dog gazed back at the grandfather clock. If Erin tried, she could smell it too. Cleaning fluid. Lots and lots of cleaning solution, sharp and pungent. The canine nose, it seemed, was not going to be of much help here.



"Watch the door, if you please?" Erin asked the dog, concerned that someone or something - for once, being more concerned about the former than the latter - would come in the door. She also preferred that no one watched her work. People watching you was bad, it meant you had done something to attract attention. She plucked the spare flashlights from her pockets, looking around and gathering materials.

"There are lights in the darkness, lights beyond light," she muttered to herself, as she began to scrape the coating carefully from a light. "The fallen light, the light of darkness, it is invisible and reveals invisible things..." It took some doing, but she finally wired together the last connection, turning on the purplish glowing sphere, which glowed with UV light. She'd used pieces of a broken clock to embellish it, and had to say she liked the steampunk look. Who was going to miss one clock in all these hundreds anyway?

She used one of the gears to click through frequencies until the light illuminated the ground, revealing traces of blood and other bodily fluids. "Look here," she told the dog, crouching a bit lower to get a good view. "They couldn't clean everything. Let's see where it leads."

Moving cautiously, flitting from shadow to shadow and minimizing the light as best she could, turning out her flashlight whenever she didn't require it, Erin followed the glowing trail, being sure to turn out the lights and lock the door behind her.





 

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