Ah, the Big Apple! Dive bars and museums, cinemas and old restaurants, horse-drawn carriages and subway cars, slums and gleaming million dollar lofts – all crammed into a little over 300 square miles of wharfs, concrete and neon. Yet there remains plenty of cracks to fall into, ample shadows to envelope and wicked shades galore…
Cast: Dr. Ichiko Binder, Franz Heinrich George von Pleyel, and Walter Gibson, aka Mandrake the Magician
Also Appearing: Artur Pleško
Special Guest Star: Ernst Hilbert Kerwer
And Introducing: Linas G. Gárdonyi
In-Game Date: Thursday, May 31 through late Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
Body Count: 5
On Thursday, 5/31/2012, Frank Pleyel and Dr. Ichiko Binder are on their way to New York City to attend the Great Antique Meet, and participate in the filming of episodes of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow. The Great Antique Meet is a major event held every two or three years, and is an international convention of antique dealers, auction houses, collectors, and so on. Corporate sponsors of the 2012 Meet include Amazon, BP, Chick-fil-A, Dow, eBay, General Mills, Google, McDonald’s, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Microsoft and The Eric Raven Foundation for the Advancement of Humanity. Due to its scope and international renown, Antiques Roadshow usually devotes several episodes to this event alone.
Aside from the business networking opportunities that the Meet provides – as well as opportunities for building his personal collection – Frank will be participating in the Roadshow filming, as well as compiling information for the Kovel’s annual catalog. Ichiko initially joined Frank on the trip because of her interest and knowledge of books, and her skills in authentication and repair/restoration. However, because of her knowledge and skills, Frank was able to arrange to have Ichiko involved in the Roadshow filming as well. OSU actually agreed to pay part of her expenses, on the proviso that it is noted in the final edit of the show that she is a professor from OSU, and that she wears something prominently displaying the OSU logo or colors during filming (she opts for wearing a Block-O brooch).
They arrive in New York City late Thursday, and are staying at the Hotel Edison, in a pair of their superior suites on the uppermost floor. Ichiko needs to arrange all the Roadshow release documents, which takes a bit of time considering the number of questions she has, and the fact she is communicating with the producers via email. After that, she works on grading papers, since it is coming down to the end of the semester back at OSU. While she is working, Frank goes down to the Café Edison to get dinner to go for them. As he was waiting for the food to be ready, he looks around the café, thinking about all the Broadway musical history that’s been made at these tables (as well as reminiscing about all the matzo-ball soup and cheese blintzes he’s had here), and considers that such a beloved institution of the Broadway theater district will probably be around for as long as there are theaters on Broadway.
Friday morning is Frank’s first day of filming, so Ichiko stays behind at the hotel to continue grading papers. His filming is scheduled to take about four hours, so she will meet up with him later for lunch. Unfortunately, he has a very bad morning at the appraisals, and for some reason he just can’t get focused on the items he needs to appraise. He’s particularly bothered by Carmen – an irritating woman with a Jersey shore accent (and attitude) whose gum chewing, tan-in-a-can day-glo orange skin, and insistence on calling him “Dr. Who” annoyed him to no end. The film crew is sympathetic, but he will need to do some extra filming tomorrow morning to make up for it.
Ichiko arrives to meet Frank for lunch, but they leave by walking through the dealer’s area of the Meet. Frank takes notice of a gold pistol in one of the dealer’s cases, and something about it just catches his eye as interesting. But he also notices that the floor around the dealer’s booth is wet. Frank introduces himself to the dealer, who is Charlie Simmons, from New Orleans, who specializes in 18-19th century items (unusual knickknacks from that time period – shaving razors, buttons, button hooks, costume jewelry, etc.). Charlie recognizes Frank from the Roadshow. The pistol is a gold pepperbox with ivory handles, but Frank’s not certain if it is elephant ivory or whale scrimshaw, it’s in good condition and still has a faint gunpowder smell. Frank does a psychometric reading on the pistol, and learns that it was used as the murder weapon in the killing of a woman in New Orleans about 100 years ago. Ichiko, who had been browsing other dealers, comes over, but slips in the water and twists her ankle. Charlie says that he has asked maintenance about the water, but they can’t find out where it’s coming from, and it keeps coming back once it’s cleaned up. The convention center provides Ichiko with an electric scooter to use while she is there, and once she is mobile again, she decides to go find Artur Pleško, a friend and associate of hers who deals in rare books. Assured that Ichiko is OK, Frank asks Charlie about the pistol’s provenance. Charlie says he found it in a store in New Orleans, paid about $100 for it, and restored it himself. Frank inquires as to the asking price for the pistol, and is told that he will start negotiations at $8000. Frank is intrigued, and says he will keep it in mind.
Just then, Franks suddenly feels a presence behind him and turns around – and looks into the chest of a man 6’8" tall. He glances up to see ice blue eyes so intense they’re almost neon, and breaks into a big smile. “Franz, my dear friend!” says the newcomer, “how good to see you again!” The man is Ernst Hilbert Kerwer, a longtime friend of the Pleyel family. He is sometimes a client, and sometimes a friendly, good-natured competitor of Frank. The two old friends greet each other warmly.
Among other things, Ernst is a collector of firearms, and takes note of the pistol that Frank had been studying. Ernst also asks about the starting price and is told $12,000 (Frank doesn’t bat an eye!). Ernst jots that down in a small notebook, and makes a bantering comment to Frank about getting to the pistol first. “Do you know of any good gentlemen’s clubs where we could get a good brandy?” Ernst asks. “I may know of a few,” Franks responds, keeping to himself that in New York, “gentlemen’s club” could have several meanings, but he knows the type that his friend is referring to. They exchange their New York contact information, and part ways. As Ernst is leaving, Frank notices him meet up with another person – a toady little man with a bad comb-over. Frank thinks he may have had business with him in the past, but can’t put his finger on it.
Frank moves on, and sees Ichiko, or rather the flag on her scooter, at Artur’s booth, so he goes to meet back up with her. As he is approaching, one of the stacks of books falls over, and Frank thinks he sees a shimmer of – something. Through his monocle he gets a quick glimpse of a dark and misty figure, but it is soon gone. It is obviously spiritual or supernatural. As he gets closer, Franks hears Artur say “. . . stuck up little snob interested in Alice in Wonderland,” but he does not hear what the conversation was about.
Frank has had some dealing with Artur in the past, but it’s been some time since then so he reintroduces himself. He notices that Artur seems very weary.
Frank and Ichiko head out to lunch, and go to a place Ichiko has heard about: Le Rivage, in Restaurant Row. Ichiko has the lobster bisque, seafood crêpe, and apple tart; Frank has the pâté, duck á l’orange and bread pudding. After that, they head up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibit “Designing Nature – The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art.” As they are walking through the exhibits, they notice some other patrons making a great commotion. It turns out to be Carmen – the annoying woman from the Roadshow filming that morning – there with many of her friends, and they are waving to Frank. They even start humming the Dr. Who theme music. Embarrassed, Frank politely waves, but he and Ichiko quickly move on, allowing the museum security to deal with the disturbance. Other than that, they have a pleasant visit to the galleries, and are politely ushered out by the staff as the museum begins to close.
As they are waiting outside for a cab, they notice that Carmen and her friends are also waiting nearby, but fortunately they don’t seem to have seen Frank. Suddenly, there is a scream as Carmen falls into the street and is run over by a bus. Frank, however, sees that a dark figure looking like a black silhouette clearly pushed her – she was deliberately killed. Frank does feel sorry for her – she may have been annoying, but she did not deserve this. He also begins to wonder about the shadow figure, and what it may represent.
Later, Frank and Ichiko decide to go to a show to take their minds of the event. Ghost, the Musical had just opened a few weeks ago, but they thought that might have been too similar to real life for them, so they decided on Nice work if you can get it, another recent opening starring Matthew Broderick. Ichiko was particularly amused by the Duchess, a prim and proper teetotaler, who ends up drunk and swinging from a chandelier! Frank secretly enjoyed the eye-candy.
Frank has his make-up filming for the Roadshow Saturday morning, and the filming goes much better this time. Ichiko meets up with him for her filming session, which also goes well, as does her afternoon session. Frank’s afternoon session goes very well. “Frank, baby,” the producer raved, “you’re on fire!” Their filming sessions are done for the day, but both of them are worn out, so they go back to their hotel to rest for a few hours. After resting, Frank has the idea to go to a different place he saw on Restaurant Row: Swing 46, a club with live swing music, dining and dancing. As they are eating, they notice that one particular person on the dance floor is doing very well, and is attracting a lot of attention. Frank realizes it’s the toady little man he saw Ernst speaking to yesterday, and now he remembers how he knows him. He is Linas G. Gárdonyi, and as he thought, they’ve done business with each other in the past; in fact, he’s the person who acquired the Dead Sea Scrolls powder for Frank. However, most of their business has been handled online, which Frank thinks is why he didn’t recognize him right away yesterday. He has a PhD in archaeology, and is another linguist, including several ancient languages. Frank remembers that he is an arrogant little shit. Apparently “don’t worry, it’s natural to feel inferior around me” is his personal motto, but he is an undisputed expert in his field.
The rest of the evening is great fun, but at one point there is an incident where someone fell because of water on the floor. Frank and Ichiko hear the commotion, but don’t witness it themselves. Frank gets the impression that there is definitely a presence here, and Ichiko uses her stone and gets the impression of a smell. Perfume like, but not quite perfume. Then she places it: it is the aroma of bath salts. After this, they call it a night and head back to the hotel.
Sunday morning Frank and Ichiko both have filming, and both do well with their appraisals. Apparently, Frank is starting to get a bit of a fan following!
Frank notices some gossip going on around the set: Danny Torvis, one of the other filming crew members, died last night. Apparently, he tripped, crashed through his hotel window, and fell eight stories.
In the afternoon, Frank and Ichiko go to Obscura, the antique store featured on the Science Channels Oddities. Ichiko is quite taken with an anthropomorphized stuffed fox that has six tails. It is mounted as if it is standing like a human, and is wearing a very accurate kimono. Closer examination shows that it had seven tails at one time, but one has broken off. In any case, she quite likes it and decides to buy it. It is marked at $500, but she is not quite as savvy in the art of haggling prices for antiques, and for once is surprisingly speechless on what to do.
Meanwhile, as Frank has been looking around the store, he notices another woman who has been watching him. She is a young woman, and at first she appears to be dressed in the current “steampunk” fashion – not necessarily out of place in Obscura – but a closer look shows that she is really wearing the “neo-Victorian” style (a fashion trend of the early 20th century that recreated the Victorian styles, but as seen through the perspective of the 1920-30’s). Frank approaches her and says hello. “I think I need your help,” she says to him. He is a little taken aback by this, and asks how he can help her. She says “I think my husband is getting into bad things – shady things – again.” He asks her “what sorts of things,” but as he is asking he is also doing an empathic reading and detects confusion, anxiousness and concern. It is at this point that Frank is momentarily distracted by the silence coming from Ichiko, and briefly turns to see what could possibly have left her at a loss for words. It is only for a moment, but when he turns back the young woman is gone. He knows that she could not have left through the door, but he also notices that there is now a puddle of water on the floor.
Frank helps Ichiko with haggling over the price of the fox, down to $350, and it turns out that they still have the tail that had broken off, so they wrap that up as well. As they are leaving, he explains what happened about the young woman to Ichiko.
As they are heading back to the Edison, Frank gets a call from Walter Gibson, who, as it turns out, just arrived in New York to do filming for The Late Show with David Letterman later in the week. As chance would have it, he is also booked to stay at the Edison. So once he is settled in, they all meet up and head out for dinner. Ichiko wanted to try Thai cuisine, so they end up at the Pure Thai Cookhouse, not far from the hotel on 9th Avenue. It is one of those tiny, not very fancy, hole in the wall places that are all over New York, but still manage to serve fantastic food. Walter, ever the showman, does a few illusions for the current restaurant guests, and is so popular that he gets his meal complimentary from the manager. Afterwards, they all go for a horse drawn carriage ride though Central Park. Although nothing untoward occurs, and he sees nothing that appears to be related to the events he’s already witnessed, Frank does notice a lot of first world manifestations. At one point he even sees a headless woman being chased by a dog! But he remembers that New York has been a major population center for a long, long time, and there is bound to be a lot of psychic and spiritual residue in the area – even if it is unnoticed by, and [mostly] harmless to, the second world population.
On Monday morning, Frank and Ichiko again have filming, and both of them do well. Frank hears many of the convention center staff talking about how the assistant manager hung herself in her flat last night, but he is unable to find out any other details.
Frank goes back to Charlie Simmons’ booth and the gold pepperbox pistol is still available – Ernst has not gotten to it yet – so he purchases it, wondering how he can rub it in when Ernst discovers he has been beaten to it. Charlie is not actually there at the moment, and Frank is helped by Sam, one of Charlie’s assistants. He said that Charlie has always wanted to see Letterman, so he is currently at today’s filming of The Late Show.
Meanwhile, at the Ed Sullivan Theater that same morning, Walter does his walk through for his filming at The Late Show later that week, and then takes care of signing his contract. With the business out of the way, he spends some time entertaining the crowd standing in line to get in, and warming up the audience. When the filming for that day’s show eventually starts, he moves just off stage to watch the taping, but he notices something up in the catwalks above the audience that doesn’t look right. He says something about it to a stage hand, but just as he is pointing to the spot, one of the lights falls, striking one of the audience members. He runs to where the light landed and helps the crew to remove it and check on the guy that it fell on, but the unfortunate man was killed instantly. While helping to remove the light, Walter uses his post-cognition ability and sees the image of a shadow with no features removing the bolts, but without actually touching them – they were unscrewing by themselves. He stays on to help clear out the studio, and give a statement.
On a hunch, Walter calls Charlie Waage, the detective they had met in Las Vegas, and explains the situation with the spirits and people getting killed to see if he has any contacts with the authorities in New York that might be able to assist with this kind of first-world situation. Waage does not have any contacts, and his only suggestion is a man called Linas Gárdonyi, but he says that his help would be costly.
Walter meets up with Frank and Ichiko at the convention center, and they start discussing the events that have happened so far, including Walter telling them about the events at the Letterman show. They decide to start their investigations at Charlie’s booth, where they discover that it was Charlie who was the man killed at the Letterman filming. Frank notices water again, and the booth’s staff says that a lot of the clothes are wet, particularly a rack of Victorian garments. Just then, one of the staff exclaims that’s “it’s ruined!,” and they notice that a wedding dress, also marked as Victorian, is soaking wet. Walter and Frank offer to help the staff close up the booth, but that also gives them time to examine things closer. Walter does a post-cognition on the wedding dress, and he gets the reading of being drowned in a hot steamy tub with bath salts, but the feeling is of being grabbed from behind and pulled back down into the water. Frank uses his monocle, and he sees the young woman he saw earlier in Obscura, who is kneeling down and slumped over. Frank kneels in front of her and says “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I want to help.” “Right now you can help by getting out of the way” someone says, and pushes a cart through the spirit of the woman, who then dissipates.
From there they decide to examine Danny Torvis’ room, the film crew grip who “fell” through his hotel’s window. Frank is able to get access to the room by explaining to the director, who has the key, that he had lent a rare book to Danny that he thought he would be interested in, and that he wanted to retrieve it. Danny’s room has a faux balcony, and the window is boarded over. Some of his belongings have been gone through, but they are not sure if the hotel staff or others from the Roadshow did that. The bed is pushed up against a wall, but that was probably to make room for the people to board up the window. There are also a tablet and Kindle. Nowhere is there any immediate sign of a struggle. The group searches for any antiques, and find a tin Superman toy, with a note saying it is a gift for Danny’s nephew, a new modern replica of a Victorian top hat, and a first edition Leaves of Grass, signed by Walt Whitman. A receipt tucked into the book shows it was purchased from Artur Pleško. Walter does a post-cognition on the area, and gets a vision of Danny coming out of the bathroom, wearing a bathrobe and with wet hair. He sees a shadowy figure come up from behind him, who first pushes Danny up against the window, then pulls him back, picks him up, and throws him through the window. After that, the figure vanishes. After further reflection on the memory of the vision, Walter realizes that just before the shadow figure appears Danny had two shadows. He can’t tell if the figure walked up from behind Danny, or just rose up behind him. The figure appears completely flat, almost two-dimensional. Finally, Walter realizes that when the figure disappeared, it actually just fell flat on the floor. Once they are done with their examination, they decide to take the book with them in case they’ll need it later for the investigation, with full plans to return it to Danny’s family afterward. This also serves as the “rare book” that Frank lent to Danny, to help cover their story.
After that, they decide to check out the apartment of the convention center assistant manager, and they are able to find out her name and address. Her apartment is in a secured building, the kind where you need to be “buzzed in” by one of the residents, so they check out the back door, and Walter is easily able to pop the lock. The group heads up to the third floor, and the apartment is taped off, but there is no sign of a guard. Walter again picks the lock, and he and Frank go in, with Ichiko staying outside to keep watch. It is a loft apartment with a high ceiling and open beam rafters. Walter decides not to do a post-cognition this time, since they already pretty much know what he would see: it’s fairly obvious that she was hung by a drapery cord thrown over one of the beams, where they notice a wear spot notch from when she was pulled up off the floor, and the cord was tied to a glass door handle. Searching the rest of the apartment, Walter and Frank find a large collection of all sorts of puppets, along with a book about antique puppets that was recently purchased. They find the receipt, and notice that the book seller is part of the Great Antique Meet, but the seller’s booth is next to Artur’s booth in the dealer’s area. They find nothing else of importance, so they leave, only to have Ichiko realize that they’ve been on the apartment’s security cameras the whole time. They don’t immediately hear any alarms or commotion, so they quickly and quietly exit the way they came.
Later on in the early evening, the group decides to take their investigation back to Obscura, to see if they can learn anything else there, or if, perhaps, the young woman might make another appearance. Walter purchases a few antique magic tricks, and Frank asks if they have any Victorian clothing. As it turns out, they do have some neo-Victorian garments, but they keep them sealed up in plastic in the back. Frank asks if they have ever shown signs of attracting water, and they say that’s the reason they’re kept sealed up. They go on to explain that they used to have a wedding dress that was always getting wet, although they no longer have it – they sold it about six months ago to a Charlie Simmons from New Orleans. They think the dress was made here in New York sometime around 1937-1938; they have the name of the dressmaker’s shop, but it closed long ago.
As they are leaving, Frank gets a phone call from Ernst. “Franz, you thief! You know full well I wanted the pistol, and you purchased it just to keep me from having it!” Frank smiles inwardly, knowing this isn’t entirely untrue, but he simply responds by pointing out “now Ernst, you know you had all the same opportunities for buying it that I did.” “You now probably want to sell it to me at an exorbitant profit!” his friend continues to rant, but quickly changes subject, “anyway, I can find no good gentlemen’s clubs in New York. Do you want to meet me at my hotel for a brandy?” Frank agrees, and asks if he can bring his associates. “If one of them is attractive, then OK” his friend responds.
So the group meets up with Ernst at his room in The Hilton. Interestingly, some of his collection “just happens” to be out for display: a few paintings; a newly-made reproduction display box with a velvet cushion that appears to be the perfect shape to cradle a pepperbox pistol; and four books. Two of the books are from other vendors, but two of them are from Artur: a first edition Alice in Wonderland, and a book by Nietzsche. Ernst again accuses Frank of purchasing the pistol just to keep him from having it, but an empathic reading shows that although there is a bit of envy – Ernst is a firearms collector after all – there is no malic whatsoever. Frank knows this is the same one-upmanship banter that has been going on between them for years, and it is one of the cornerstones of their long friendship.
They get into an elevator and begin to head down to the hotel lobby, but Frank suddenly notices that although there are only four of them in the elevator, there are five shadows! One of the shadows begins moving up the wall, and presses the emergency stop button. The elevator shudders to a halt, and they begin to hear the twang of cables snapping. Since Ernst is from the old country, and he has been a friend of the Pleyels for many years, Frank knows that he is aware of the supernatural, so he quickly warns his friend: “Ernst, this is the first world!” “Oh, Scheiße!,” Ernst exclaims, and pulls out a German Cross pendant and appears to break something on it. The group quickly assess their situation, and decide to try climbing out of the access panel they find on the top of the elevator car. As Walter starts climbing out, he sees two shadow figures working on disabling the cables and brakes, and one of them succeeds in severing another cable. Just then a voice from the elevator intercom system comes through: “Hello? Is anyone there?” “Yes, hurry,” Franks tells them, “the cables have snapped!” “Don’t worry,” they are told, “we’ll have someone there soon.” The doors crack open, and a maintenance worker looks in. “Quick,” Frank says, “brace the car!” The worker responds with the ususal response to people trapped in an elevator meant to calm them: “Sir, don’t worry. These elevators have emergency brakes that make them perfectly safe.” “You don’t understand,” Frank responds. “Yes, I do, sir. Just calm down.” At this point Frank realizes any further discussion is pointless. He knows that elevators have excellent emergency brakes, but modern brakes are not typically designed to deal with first world entities working to disable them! He realizes there’s no way to explain this to the hotel worker, so he just lets it go, goes back to the original plan, and with Ernst’s help begins to climb up and out through the access panel. Ichiko is next, and finally Ernst climbs out. Walter has opened the doors to the hotel floor from the level of the top of the elevator, and holds them open for Ichiko to jump through. She lands safely in the hallway, but turns to see one of the shadows climbing out as well. Frank jumps out next, followed by Ernst, who slips, but quickly gets righted again. He then grabs Walter and pulls him into the hallway. They see blackness sliding out between the cracks of the elevator doors – three shadow figures in total.
One of the figures stands up and holds out its hand, and an ax from the fire extinguisher station down the hall flies to its hand. The other two shadows begin to move toward the group’s normally cast shadows, but Walter lights off a sheet of magician’s flash paper, and the figures briefly cower back. Seeing this reaction, Franks pulls the covers off the wall sconce light fixtures hoping that will increase the light level they put out, and the figures do appear to shrink back. “We have one of two options,” Ernst says, “more firepower, or run like frightened Frenchmen.” “Je parle français!,” Frank answers. Ernst and Walter start running down the hall, and the shadows take off after them. The one carrying the ax is running down the center of the hall, while the other two appear on the walls as shadows of people running. But before Frank and Ichiko can follow, two hotel servicemen and a man with an Otis patch on his shirt come out of the stairwell. “What appears to be the problem,” asks Frank, who suddenly adopts an innocent and curious expression. “The elevator stopped with some people trapped. We’re working on it,” one the men tells him. “Oh my,” Ichiko feigns, “I hope they’re OK!” “We’ll take care of it. If you could just use the stairs, please.” But as Frank and Ichiko start down the hall, they hear one of the guys exclaim “jeez . . . look at that!” “Perfectly safe emergency brakes indeed,” thinks Frank, as they nonchalantly, but quickly, move down the hall.
Meanwhile, Ernst’s long strides have given him a lead on Walter, but the shadows are closing the gap. They pass Walter and keep on running after Ernst, so it appears that he is their main target. Ernst makes it to the stairway, and then gets down to the first level of the parking garage, but the shadows are close behind, followed by Walter. When he gets there, Walter sees the shadows melt into the darkness under the cars. Ernst is winded from the long run, but he is otherwise unharmed. Just then, they hear three car engines start up, so Walter and Ernst head toward the hotel lobby entrance. By that time, Frank and Ichiko arrive in the hotel lobby, which is nicely well-lit, and as chance would have it they pass Linas Gárdonyi, who is impatiently pushing the elevator button. “What is wrong with these elevators?” he complains. “There are first world shadows trying to kill people on them,” Ichiko says as she passes him. Just then, they see a car come crashing through the lobby glass doors, and they hear someone screaming, who, as it turns out, is Linas, who then starts running from the lobby. A crowd of people show up outside, including a police officer, whose gun comes out of its holster by itself, and is now being held by a shadow. Walter suggests that Ernst head out to the front of the hotel to the fountain, which is lit by bright spotlights, so Ernst heads out to stand in the fountain, followed by Walter. Another car driven by a shadow drives up over the curb, but the headlights from the car pass through the shadow carrying the gun, which disintegrates, and the gun clatters to the ground. Walter tries flash paper again on the shadow driving the car, but this time it has no effect. Frank asks the cop if he has a flashlight, but he won’t give it to him. “Well,” shouts Frank, “the driver of that car just tried to kill that man – shine it in the driver’s side of the car!” The cop does so, and the shadow driver is momentarily pinned, then disintegrates. The third shadow never shows up again.
They take Ernst back into the hotel bar, and he is given a blanket. He doesn’t want to go back up to his room, so the hotel begins to arrange a new room for him. Frank buys him a drink of the strongest thing they have, “not Cutty Sark” Ernst demands, and making sure his friend is OK, they go up to his room to examine the books more closely. Frank does his psychometric readings, but gets nothing of significance that might relate to this mystery. Although from the Nietzsche volume he does get the feeling that at least five people have killed themselves after reading this book – with good reasons. That must explain its good condition – it’s never been reread. However, they do find a slip of paper that has been tucked into Alice in Wonderland. It is just a plain, but trimmed, piece of paper with inkjet printing that says “we will have the Obscurus.” Frank does a psychometric reading, and gets an intense feeling of serious fear while holding the paper with shaking hands that are old and arthritic. Walter does a post-cognition, and gets a feeling that is so neutral it’s bland. He sees gloved fingers with scissors.
Before the group meets back up with Ernst, they go out to one of the late night stores that are all over the Time’s Square area and get four bright portable spotlights, and four flashlights. They then go back to help Ernst get settled into his new hotel room, setting up the bright lights as a precaution against any further attacks from the shadows. They ask, but Ernst knows nothing about an “Obscurus.”
So they head back to the Edison. They do find out where Charlie Simmons is staying, but the room is shared with this staff, so there is no way for them to search it. Before turning in for the night, Frank tries a bit more online investigation. He learns that “obscurus” is Latin for dark, shadowy, etc., but he can find no other information. He also looks to see if he can find any records of a drowning death of a newly, or recently, married woman in the New York area around 1937-1938, but he finds nothing.
Tuesday morning finds all of them finishing up their filming obligations for their respective shows. Walter has his filming, as Mandrake the Magician, for The Late Show with David Letterman, and he does quite well; David is very pleased with the performance. Frank and Ichiko finish up their filming for The Antiques Roadshow. When their filming is complete, since much of the things they’ve discovered are centered around Artur, they decide to go speak with him. Ichiko speaks to him initially since he is her friend, and he is at first his normal self, but when she tells him about the attack on Ernst the previous evening by shadowy two-dimensional beings, he suddenly becomes very paranoid and belligerent. An empathic reading by Frank shows that he feels that Ichiko and Frank have betrayed him. “You will not get it!,” he shouts at them. “You can’t have it! We’ll see what happens tonight!” he continues ranting. He starts closing down his booth, and calling for security to have Ichiko and Frank removed, so they leave the poor man alone.
As they are walking away, Frank looks back at the pitiful, paranoid man, and starts thinking about how old he must be. Then he is suddenly struck by an idea. “Ichiko,” he asks, “Artur is an old friend of yours. Is he married?” “No,” she replies, “but he was . . . once. He’s a widower, with no children.” Then things begin to click together for the elderly antiques dealer. They move to a secluded section of the dealer’s area in the convention center, and using his laptop, he begins to look up Artur’s past, including his marriage records. He learns that Artur was married in 1937 to Helene. They were not doing well financially at first, but in 1945 they started doing very well. However, in 1947 Helene drowned in a bathtub, and it was ruled a suicide. Making calls to his network of contacts, Frank learns that in 1945 Artur started getting involved in the first world in the business of secrets, particularly in finding out about them. After Helene died, however, he got out of the business. During his investigations about Artur, Frank finds a reference to something extremely rare that he missed during last night’s investigation: the Liber Pupa Obscurus. An ancient Roman text, translated as The Book of Dark Puppets. It is a highly sought after book, and it allows someone to summon and control Shadow Puppets. They realize that if Artur came across this book in 1945, that would explain how his business worked: using the shadow figures to discover the secrets that he either sold or used for blackmail. It would also explain the appearance of the shadow figures over the past few nights, though it does not explain the connections between the victims or the reasons for the attacks. Frank remembers her words: “…my husband is getting into bad things – shady things – again,” she had said! He finds a link to an image of Helene and Artur’s wedding photo online. Already knowing what he will see, he clicks . . . and there she is: looking out from 65 years in the past is the same young woman who asked him for his help just two days ago in Obscura, standing next to her proud and handsome new husband, wearing the very dress that is even now for sale only a short distance away.
“Call me a sentimental old fool, Ichiko” Franks says, “but if anything is going to help Artur, it’s his love for Helene, and the love she still has for him.” They head over to Charlie’s booth, which is closing down, but the dress is still there, so they purchase it ($2000). As the dress is being wrapped up, however, they notice that Charlie had also bought a book: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, and the receipt is in Artur’s now familiar shaky handwriting.
They meet up with Walter, and the three of them go down to Artur’s shop: Rare Books by Pleško, in Greenwich Village. The store is open and they go in, but Artur is not out front; a small bell attached to the door had rung when they walked in, but there is no indication that anyone heard it. There are, literally, floor-to-ceiling stacks of books everywhere in the shop. Walter sneaks toward the back, and sees Artur in the back room, with an open book in front of him on a table, surrounded by candles. He is speaking to the book, and it is answering him in Latin. Walter starts to come back, but a floorboard squeaks, and Artur hears that and comes out front.
“Artur, please! Hear us out,” Ichiko begs of her old friend. “We want to help you. Helene came to us and asked us to help you.” But Artur doesn’t hear her plea. “You can’t have it,” he rants, just as he did earlier that day. “I know you want it! I won’t give it to you!” Out from under the counter he pulls a stack of papers and throws them at the group. They are all small pieces of inkjet printing, just like the one found in Alice: “We want the Obscurus"; “$5 million for the Obscurus”; “We will have the Obscurus” and so on. “Artur,” Frank says in the most calming voice he can muster, “those are not from us; we didn’t send them. We don’t want the Obscurus. We just want for no one to get hurt!” But Artur is still not listening. “First I thought it was that annoying New Jersey woman who kept going on about seeing ‘Doctor Who,’ whatever that is. Then it was the assistant manager from the convention center, taunting me by purchasing a book on puppets. Did she think I would not notice?! Then the Simmons man, teasing me by buying a book with “darkness” in the title – but I was on to him! And that tall German fellow, thinking he can buy back the evidence he slipped to me on the first day – he has learned his lesson now!”
Suddenly, Frank and Ichiko sense Helene’s presence. “Artur, Helene is here now! She wants us to help you! She wants to help you!” But he is not listening, and starts digging for something behind the counter. “No, Artur,” Helene says, though only Frank and Ichiko hear, “not the gun.” Frank puts in his monocle and sees Helene standing between Artur and Ichiko with her arms outstretched, shielding Ichiko. Ichiko looks at Frank, and gestures to the package he is carrying. Frank had forgotten all about the dress! He unwraps it, and lays it gently on the counter. Now that she has a focus for her spirit, Helene begins to inhabit the dress, filling it out until she is whole and visible. She gets down from the counter and goes to her husband, who is standing, stunned, with tears streaming down his face. The gun, forgotten, falls to the floor. They speak together quietly in Yiddish, which Frank understands. “I’m sorry . . . I’m so sorry,” Artur says between sobs, “I didn’t know it was going to harm you! It said it was just going to frighten you because you found out about it! They said you drowned yourself, but I know the book did it!” “My love, how could I blame you?,” Helene responds tenderly, “it is the book that is evil, not you. It has deceived you again, just as it did those many years ago, turning you into its puppet. But I have never stopped loving you, my handsome Artur!” Suddenly, Artur clutches at his chest and starts to collapse, but he is gently cradled by Helene as he sinks to the floor. His face is in pain from the heart attack, but it is also one of . . . relief. When he has passed, Helene also dissipates and the dress slowly deflates, remaining draped over Artur’s body.
Just then, the bells on the door ring as someone else comes in: Linas Gárdonyi. He has a 1,000 watt halogen spotlight in one hand, and a gun with a silencer on it in the other. He demands that Walter get the Obscurus, and threatens to shoot Frank and Ichiko if he does not. So Walter goes to the back room to get the book, but before he brings it out, he inserts several sheets of flash paper into the pages, just in case. He comes back out and puts the book on the counter, but then makes an attempt to get Artur’s gun. Linas fires at Walter, but his gun jams. “Shoddy American firearm workmanship,” he curses and swings at Walter, but it is only a glancing blow. Ichiko pushes over a stack of books, hoping to have it land on Linas, but it only lands between them. Frank, meanwhile, grabs a bag, scoops up the Obscurus, and runs toward the back of the store. The tome immediately begins to speak to Frank, tempting him “Proh Pleyel! Res ego sum validus efficio vobis!” (“Ah Pleyel! The things I am able to do for you.”) “Apage,” Frank retorts, “ut est non iens evulsum!” (“Nonsense! That is not going to happen!”) Frank finds the back room, but that space would not work for what he plans. He wants to burn the book to destroy it, but realizes that starting a fire there would send the building up like a tinderbox. So he heads down to the basement to see if there is a furnace where he can burn the evil grimoire. He finds it, but he would have to start it up. At that point the book realizes what Frank intends to do, and calls for defense – and all the shadows in the basements start to move! Frank realizes their error in forgetting to bring the flashlights, and heads back upstairs.
Meanwhile, since his gun has jammed, Linas shines his spotlight into Walter’s eyes, and although he is not blinded, fighting is difficult. Ichiko pushes another stack of books over on Linas, who is not seriously injured. “We don’t have to fight like this,” Walter says. “Your right,” Linas responds, and throws the jammed gun at him, hitting him in the shoulder. Now unarmed, the ensuing slap fight between the two decidedly non-fighter types would be comical – if the situation were not so serious. True to his character, Linas realizes that discretion – and treachery – is the better part of valor, and runs out of the store yelling “they’ve killed Mr. Pleško.” People do start to stop and see what is up. Ichiko calls 911, thinking it would be better for them to make the call, while Walter heads to the back of the room.
During this fight, Frank has made it back upstairs, slams the basement door, and heads towards the back door, which, unfortunately, is bolted with several locks. He feels the book squirming in the bag, and suddenly he sees a shadow coming up from the stairs after him. It was summoned by the book, Frank realizes, and he starts working on undoing all the locks on the back door. Just as he gets them all undone, the shadow looms up behind him, and grabs the bag containing the Obscurus. Frank throws open the back door, but although the sun is shining into the alley, the angle is not right for it to shine into the doorway. He tries to grab the bag to pull it – and the shadow – outside into the sunlight, but he is not successful. Walter tries to bull rush the shadow from behind, but he also fails, although he does end up still holding the bag, fighting for it with the shadow. Frank tries to help Walter pull the book away from the shadow, but he fails as well. (One must remember that these two are not normally the fighters in these kinds of situations.) To try something different, Frank grabs a mirror he noticed, and steps out into the sunlight hoping to reflect the light onto the shadow, but there is too much movement for him to get a reflected ray into the hallway to strike the shadow. However, during the scuffle Walter has managed to get a hand down into the bag, and he sets off the flash paper, which is just enough to startle the shadow and get it to release the bag. Frank and Walter quickly rush into the sunlight and start a dumpster fire, which destroys the grimiore. As it burns, they can hear it screaming.
That evening, Frank suggests a celebration dinner at one of his favorite restaurants: Picholine, a Michelin star French restaurant near Lincoln Center. Ernst approves; “perhaps the colonies are not so bad after all” he raves. During dinner conversation, they realized that it was Linas who had been sending the notes asking for the Obscurus to Artur. Apparently he was looking to acquire it for a client of his. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of using the grimiore was that it fueled its owner’s paranoia, and when the notes started arriving, Artur lashed out at anyone who he thought may have the person who was after it.
Prior to their meeting for dinner, however, Frank did a thorough check of the pepperbox pistol, and did not detect any negative energies or enchantments (such as was on the cursed music box), so he gave the pistol to his friend to make up for the events he had gone through the previous evening. As they were meeting for dinner in Ernst’s room, Frank slipped the pistol into the case Ernst had made for it when he wasn’t looking. Frank did later let Ernst know about the pistol’s history as a murder weapon, and suggested a psychically neutral location to display it, just as a precaution.
They returned the Leaves of Grass to Danny Torvis’ family, along with an appraisal of the current value of the book (Danny did pay a good price for it). Since no next of kin could be found, the group also arranged for Artur’s burial at the plot he had next to Helene’s grave. Her wedding dress was buried with him, and it was never wet again.
Much later on, Frank eventually receives an “apology” call from Linas: “It was all just business,” the slimy little toad said. “You know I would never have shot you. You would have done the same.” “If he wants to think that I beat him to it then sold the Obscurus to one of my clients, instead of destroying it,” Frank says to himself, “who am I to set him straight. Let him waste his time trying to find it, now!”