Gotham on the Brink

March 01, 2015

Desires, Part 2

Gotham, August XX, 1931

With Summer, things begin to really heat up – being a large city, Gotham does not fare very well with the August heatwave, and neither do its people.

The situation with the two major crime bosses is surprisingly stable at the moment, despite some incidents involving territory. Prices on alcohol had dropped through the floor, which leaves Sal Maroni struggling more as he is a primary player on this side of business, leaving him to begin a sideline business in extortion. Carmine Falcone, luckily, has other resources to rely on – Dutch Schultz, one of his men, has moved Falcone’s business to cater exclusively upscale, much to a chagrin of one Cecil Kent.

Harvey Bullock was reinstated by a furious mayor on orders from someone else. The mayor, giving an official proclamation that everyone else can go to hell, will finish his term but overall has left the city without his dubious leadership. Franklin Roosevelt, former New York Governor, called Gotham a disgrace and will bring down Tammany Hall himself, which locals scoff at, saying it’s as likely as his chances at becoming President.

The people are not very hopeful – after all, Gotham is struggling as much as the rest of the country economically, as unemployment continues to climb and banks continue to fail.

The situation isn’t as dire for all, though, and some folks have managed well the last few months. Gordon received high recognition on the “ Rage Murders”, and Harvey Dent has been performing so well that he is now able to work on whatever he feels like, his first target was announced as Sal Maroni. Seymour Smiles has also received great recognition for impeccable journalism, and due to his work, Tyrone Armstrong only gotten 3-5 years instead of life.

After reporting on the theft at the Gotham Natural History Museum (where the perp, Murph the Surf, was sentenced to 50 years at Blackgate Prison), Smiles has increasingly found himself hearing about a pair of thieves who are gaining a reputation of successfully performing small to medium thefts with no evidence. The only thing he really has to work off of are the whispers of someone only known as “the Owl Man”, and ever since, he has had several reoccurring nightmares of being a mouse.

Speaking of, Mr. Stix and Clarence have not found any evidence themselves of Edgar Mandragora. The man had all but vanished after the Eagle Diamond incident, using the same MO that they have been. Nevertheless the two of them have been enjoying their time in Gotham, and are sure that their paths will cross again.

From time to time, they find themselves down at Lizzy Brown’s speakeasy. Her business, like many others, struggling to survive the price of alcohol dropping, many are failing, while others are moving more upscale (with encouragement from the Penguin, of course). With her money and connections, Lizzy is currently doing alright, though is still having troubles fending off Joey Massino, who wants her love now that he no longer has to extort her for money. She had hired a new bodyguard, who does well with guns, for this very reason.

Despite her preparations, interesting things continue to happen to Lizzy Brown, for better or for worse.

The day began as a normal one, where she did her accounting in the back as her bartender, Sadie, began preparing for the evening’s work. An older man with a cane walks in, and wanted to speak with Lizzy. He introduced himself as Dr. Ricardo Caligari, who is normally a professor at Columbia University, but has had to find extra income after the Depression hit and budgets were cut. He performs magic shows as entertainment, and promises that it will be a good time if he is allowed to use their stage. A bit hesitant, Lizzy sends Sadie out to check out some of the places that Caligari had performed at previously. She was able to learn that he is moving from place to place and is performing at increasingly nicer bars. The places that the magician visits sees a boost in sales after he shows up, and this is primarily due to the man’s main act with a large man named Cesare. Rumor has it that Cesare’s predictions tend to come true, though only for small things like the weather. Bars do not get to enjoy his company forever, and he eventually moves on after a short amount of time.

After gambling a good portion of her money away, Sadie reports positively to Lizzy on the news and somehow they managed to speak with the doctor about performing a show. After some heavy advertising, the show is put on a week later to a large crowd. Sadie acts as the magician’s assistant, which helped his overall presence, despite his issues with dexterity. Finally he finally motioned for six men to come forward with the large casket, Cesare laying sleeping inside.

Caligari announces to the audience that he had cured this violent man through hypnosis, but by doing so, Cesare had gained the ability to tell them about the future, past and current. He then asks the audience for volunteers. Joey Massino pushes himself forward to volunteer, and asks about Lizzy and if she’d ever accept his love. Cesare stated with a monotone voice that she will never accept it, because he will be dead by the next day. This shocked the crowd which then ruptured into applause, while Massino increasingly became upset about the whole situation. Sadie tries to convince him to at least get off the stage, but instead gave him a swift kick to the nether regions after he commented about her being a “consolation prize”.

He tries to grab her and pull her down with him, though at this point, a brawl began to break down. Clair, who was attending the show and loves being in situations such as these, put on her brass knuckles and gave him a punch straight to the nuts. Joey gave a bull elephant scream before going limp and is ejected into the street. Due to her skills, Clair eventually got to have drinks and sex with an attractive man, while Sadie turned all of her own suitors down.

Stix, who was also in attendance at the time, became curious about Joey and followed him out to ask for his home address. After gaining it, he and Clarence go to visit Joey’s place, which was no problem to break in due to all of the metal locks. The man did not make it home when they were there, but they did find a couple hundred dollars worth of small knicknacks and cash.

Joey was easily found the next day in the headlines of the Gotham Times – he was getting ready for bed later that night when he was stabbed in the back with a knife. The police are seemingly all over this murder, including Johnny Broderick – Gordon’s protégé. He interviews Sadie for awhile, and looks for Clair, who is nowhere to be found. Stix and Clarence attempt a different method of investigation by going to the university where he works, but learns from the head of the department, Professor Headley, that the man never worked there at all, and that he had never heard of him. The professor does ask them that if they do catch Caligari, they are to let him know so that he can answer for posing as one of his staff members, though Stix and Clarence brush it off as soon as they left since there is no benefit for them in doing so.

Clair sluggishly makes her way to the stand after her wild night, and finds herself face to face with Harvey Dent, who is carrying a bottle of alcohol and wants to speak with her privately. She wants to go back to her place for it, but he eventually persuades her to stay put instead. Harvey has publicly stated that he will bring down a major actor in the alcohol smuggling business and has so far come up dry. But he has discovered that a small group of people, including Lizzy and Clair, seem to have some connections with both of them and he needs her help in his quest to take in one of them. If she does, Dent promises to help her out in the future.

Clair thought for awhile, and finally decided on Maroni, due to the physical harm that he had caused her in the past, and asks what the plan is for bringing him down. Dent says it’s all up to her before handing her a card with his contact information on it, saying that she needs to contact him when she has something set up.

Clair then makes her way over to Lizzy’s, anticipating another show. She’s not the only one, seeing the place is packed with a lot of people, including the FBI, who are interrogating several people about previous events. Finally, when the show is about to happen, the magician never shows up. After some time, Lizzy announces a free round drinks on the house to placate the crowd, which ended up working rather well.

A curious Clarence asked around but ended up becoming so distracted by shiny objects and alcohol that he promptly forgot what was going on. Sadie, on the other hand, had a much more successful night – by turning up the charm, she learned two things: one, that the Joker finds Caligari so interesting that he is trying to hunt him down, and secondly, there is a group of college students that are so dedicated to this magic show that they were able to find out his movements and have a short list of places that he may appear next. Finding one of them attractive, she ends up leaving with one of the college boys, who she eventually found not to be so mentally attractive.

What Clarence did find was Stix’s couch, and laid there in a daze until Stix returned. Asking that Stix uses his mental abilities to help him remember the night, Stix hypnotizes him and learns the same information that Sadie did, then stripped Clarence naked before leaving. When Clarence wakes up, he uses his own powers to fiddle with Stix’s bed frame as payback.

The next day, Professor Headley had entered the bar to speak with Sadie about Caligari’s performance, particularly his movement as he went about the stage. As Sadie described it, he found himself increasingly disappointed by the description, which caught her eye. As she questioned it, he described himself as a “scientist”, but what Caligari was performing that night wasn’t what the Professor thought it was. She questioned him about magic, but he moved around the subject a little before leaving.

Clair decided to do a little investigation of her own, and eventually ran into one of the FBI guys from the previous night. In the daytime, she was able to recognize him as one of Falcone’s special agents. He wants to know why she’s searching for Caligari, which she refused to say until he tells her what Falcone will get out of this. He simply states that Falcone thinks that this is one of those “special cases”, and in return, she tells him that she doesn’t think that what Caligari was performing up there was hypnosis at all.

The next day, Sadie enters the bar to start her shift, but instead finds herself in a middle of a crime scene. She quickly learns that Lizzy has been kidnapped and the bodyguard is dead. After some waterworks, Harvey Bullock tells her what he knows – the resident forensics scientist, Nygma, was able to determine that the bodyguard was killed in the same way as the previous man – using a bowing knife in a certain angle to reach the heart. Large fingerprints were found on the scene but it doesn’t match anything they have on file and it will take awhile to investigate it. Professor Headley shows up at this time and finds himself deeply disturbed about what happened, but managed to convince the police to let him stay and move around.

Stix and Clarence take their chances by looking for Cesare at Arkham, and after describing the events that happened, are surprised to learn that Dr. Caligari is actually the night shift psychologist at the asylum. After Clarence asks to speak with the manager, they are introduced to Dr. Johnathan Crane. They begin the same story about the reason that they are there – that Cesare is a relative of Clarence, before they notice Crane’s motionless face and stance at the mention of the man. After a couple seconds, he snaps and gets enthusiastic, asking that they tell them more about Cesare. He receives a description of the night’s events with Caligari, and they are wondering why the night psychologist was performing magic tricks at night. Crane’s jaw is open at this point, before laughing. He tells them that what he had learned was very informative, and that what had happened will be investigated more thoroughly. With another insane laugh, he mentioned that he wants to share some “experiments” with Caligari once they meet up, and that it’s very possible that he will be let go afterwards. Stix and Clarence ask if they can attend but Crane prefers that it be a private show.

At this time, Stix feels a presence penetrate his mind, which makes him feel very ill all of the sudden, and that it was caused by a powerful entity inside of the building somewhere. Due to the illness, they do leave, though they invite Crane to dinner beforehand once the man has an opening.

Meanwhile, Clair goes to talk to Falcone about what had happened between her and Dent. Falcone seems pleased by the arrangement and is willing to assist her in any way possible to take care of it – he will cancel all of her debts and give her 5,000 dollars. Clair then asks about the “special case” that his men are undercover for, and he only says that it’s something that he’s doing “for the good of the city”. He then pours the both of them a fancy liquor and toasts to Maroni’s death.

In high spirits, she makes her way over to Lizzy’s bar, though only finds Sadie and Professor Headley there, shortly joined afterward by Stix and Clarence. They tell the group about what had happened at the bar, and mentioned that it was the same large man that had committed the previous murder – Headley adding at this point that the man was so strong that he had bent the doorframe to get inside. They wonder if it’s Cesare, which at this point Clarence mentioned that they found out that Caligari, the guy who was controlling him was actually from Arkham, confirmed after speaking with Dr. Crane. Headley was surprised that they had managed to speak with him, since the man is very difficult to get a hold of most times.

Headley then leads them through the crime scene – the bodyguard was overwhelmed and was taken down in a pool of blood before making his way upstairs to Lizzy’s room, where she was grabbed while she was still asleep, and he managed to take her without her screaming downstairs and out of the bar, tracking blood for a good few yards.

While they were upstairs in Lizzy’s room, they heard a commotion downstairs. Clair and Clarence sneak down to see that there was a group of thugs tying up the staff. While Sadie hid under the bed, the rest of the group decided on a surprise attack to take them down. Clair began to fire her .44 Magnum at them and Clarence used his telekinetic ability to throw one guy’s knife into another. He then attempts to use kegs to throw at them, but the power of disbelief was too great for him to really use any of it, until the professor uses his cane to shoot out something to stun them. Stix uses his ability to become much better at handling a gun and joins in the fray until they managed to kill one and take down the rest. Clarence ties up one using metal from the bar, and were able to find out by interrogating him that they were working for the Joker, and that the man is getting frustrated with the lack of clues on the whereabouts of Cesare and Caligari.

The police show up and are baffled by the crime scene – they were easily able to rule it as an act of self defense, however they could not figure out the knife wounds nor could they figure out how the metal bar got wrapped around the one thug, despite Clarence telling them that he was the one that did it. Stix walked out due to his disgust with the police, using his mind powers to convince them that he was not the one that they were looking for, but the rest of the crew was questioned. Sadie was too shaken about what had just taken place, especially with a corpse still on the ground and fresh blood splattered on the floor, so she was unable to really press charges. The police then began to a little clean up before leaving without charging anyone with any crime.

While they were busy with the police, the Professor pulls Clarence aside to talk to him about magic. He begins by saying that he inherited the work of a fellow colleague after his death, Herr Professor Wittelsbach von Dusseldorf, and was amazed by the fact that his notes on magic happened to be factual after he tried it. He wants to know if Clarence can help him with a spell, which Clarence tells him that Stix may be the better one to talk to, since his own powers are more physical than anything. After they meet with Stix, he learns that their powers are different in the fact that they are psychics, who are able to perform things more naturally versus setting up spells. Nevertheless, the Professor believes they can help and mentions that he wants to try a tracking spell to find Lizzy, though it will take some time and energy. He will let them know once it’s done, which will be in an hour, and that they will meet at a cafe known as the Purple Onion. By the time they go, Sadie is with them because she wants to know about the whereabouts of her boss, while Clair is there for sheer curiosity. The spell did work, she is actually in the bell tower of the Gotham Cathedral.

The group walk into the Cathedral with no issues and are greeted by the resident Priest. He originally tells them that the bell tower is closed in the evenings due to the fact that there is no electricity up there, but after some gentle “persuasion” by Stix, he gives them lamps and sends them on their way up the stairs. They were the first to arrive, and Clair, out of breath and smoking a cigarette, answers Lizzy’s call when she asks who is present. Clair and Clarence search for any traps, Stix goes to untie her and Sadie catches Lizzy’s body as she slides down from the bell.

She confirms their suspicion that the giant was Cesare after all, who caught her by surprise and tied her to the bell “for her own protection”. Strangely enough, his eyes were closed the whole time he was tying her, telling her that she was beautiful and that she was in danger, however, he predicts that this way the first people to come to rescue her will be her allies and she will finally be safe. Lizzy then decides that she will make good on the threat that she and several others have been saying this whole time – she is finally going to move to Metropolis after this ordeal. She decides to sell the business to Sadie before she leaves, believing that it’s in capable enough hands to live on without her.

Meanwhile, the rest of them search the room for something that can be used to locate Cesare. They find a small scrap of cloth that could belong to him, which they give to the professor once they return from the bell tower. The professor took the cloth and tells them to meet him at the usual cafe, but this time he did not show up at all. Stix and Clarence find out where he lives, and were easily able to open the door. They find the professor, passed out, in the middle of a giant pentagram surrounded by candles burning everywhere. Slapping him awake, Headley jumps up with a bolt and backs away afraid as soon as he sees their faces.

It takes a long time and a lot of alcohol before he finally tells them, reluctantly, that he performed the ceremony and was attacked psychically to an inch of his life. The psychic force told him that if he goes anywhere near “them” again, they will kill him. He was able to describe them as beings beyond the stars, who live in Arkham’s basement. Despite what happened, he believes that they had messed with the wrong person, and that he will personally bring them down if it’s the last thing he will ever do. Headley then asks for their assistance, and will offer his own in exchange. He believes that Cesare is one of the keys to this – he is one of their creatures and needs to be found before more damage is done, and it’s likely that Cesare is under their control. Hedley then asks them if the group is familiar with the Eagle Diamond, seeing that it actually belongs to those beings. They mention that they are, and Headley tells them that he feels sorry for the guy that has it – anyone with telepathic or empathetic abilities may end up merging with the device. Stix scoffs, knowing who exactly has it, and says that he is not sorry for the guy at all.

Clarence and Stix come up with a plan to investigate Arkham further by going through Johnathan Crane. Seeing that Crane is a man, they believe that they can use Sadie to their advantage, and begin to discuss this further as they leave. Headley mutters to himself that he needs to learn spells to seal one’s mind from invasion.

Back at the bar, Clarence and Stix try to convince Sadie to join them for dinner with Crane, sweetening the deal by telling her that he is a handsome and successful doctor. Sadie believes there is more to it, but then is intimidated by Clair into going, saying that she needs to do it for Lizzy. Clarence gets into contact with Crane, who happens to have an opening the next evening at his favorite Italian restaurant, Vesuvius, and that they should join him at his private dining room there. The group agrees to meet him there at a certain time that evening, before sending Clair to investigate the restaurant and Sadie off to buy an attractive red dress. Clair finds out that the restaurant is top notch, and that there are many rooms to the place, but nothing else to note.

Stix and Clarence meet up with Crane the following evening and are seated for dinner. Clarence leaves the table for a bit and comes back with Sadie, who brought along her “grandmother”. They give the excuse that they bumped into Clarence on their way over to their own room, and instead wanted to dine with him. Clarence gives up his seat for Sadie, and Crane resumes his conversation. Completely ignoring Sadie (which she found extremely unusual), he tells them about the unauthorized experiments that Caligari was performing at the asylum, and after the interrogation, he was “let go”. When Clarence asked where, Crane clarified that he was let go as a staff member to enroll as a patient. Clair uses some her knowledge of psychology to describe what she thought of Caligari, which caught Crane’s attention and made him much more fascinated in her than the much younger woman next to him (to Clair’s satisfaction). Food was served and found to be quite delicious, and wine was poured to no end.

As the night went on, Stix found Crane’s conversation so fascinating that he did not hear the thump of his companions falling face first on the table around him. Crane then grinned and complimented Stix on his endurance, finding it quite satisfactory for the experiments that he is about to conduct. Stix finds Crane’s words strange as he snaps to attention, seeing the fate of everyone else before his vision fades to black from the spell that hit him from behind….

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