- Alex Toussant eagerly hopes that this next town, Sacramento CA, is the city where she will locate her sister, who disappeared during Hurricane Katrina seven years ago, without a word. She is tired of riding trains across the country, following endless leads. The loa of guilt guided her here. Raven’s scent, it told Alex, was stronger than ever. But it had said that before…
- Minutes before the Amtrak train winds down the last leg, passing through the Roseville junction and encountering an unusual track-switching error and thus delaying the train, Ex-Marine Dylan James has yet another prophetic, and annoying vision. He curses the aliens who abducted him as a child, and twice curses those who don’t ever believe him. Thankfully, this particular vision is clear to him. On the TV, a breaking report cuts in: Channel 3 news is on the scene – a hostage situation on an Amtrak train. A gunman in Army fatigues holds a young woman hostage, his black .45 pistol pressed to her head. Dylan recognizes the woman – encountered when he was still in the service, during a crowd control mission at the Superdome in New Orleans… just after Katrina. The news cameras capture the police confronting the disturbed man, and in answer he mindlessly decorates the train’s cabin with the girl’s brains before being killed in turn by the police. Dylan recovers from the “flash-forward”, as he calls the visions, Scoobie-Doo is chasing a ghost on channel 40, and Dylan realizes that in his vision, the sun had already set. Yet seeing the slice of sunlight on the stained carpet of his flop-room, he tugs on his pants and boots and rushes out the door – mere minutes to get to the station and save the woman he’d seen his reverie.
- Standing on the platform as the train from Reno pulls into the I Street Amtrak station, Fee Bettencourt impatiently waits to give a mysterious, and very shiny, steel briefcase to her Uncle’s colleague, Alvin Teague. Uncle Frank, who is also her legal guardian and godfather, told her the contact was returning to Sacramento – after two week’s leave from the Army. Uncle Frank also told her whatever was in the case was none of her business. Typical! As the locomotive eases to a stop and the passengers begin to detrain, Fee spots a wide-eyed Teague pressing a sweaty palm against the window of the train. He wears a crazed expression on his face. Just then, a hand presses on her shoulder, and she nearly jumps. This new man, one of Uncle Frank’s old hunting buddies – Dylan… something – stands behind her. “Take cover,” Dylan pants, then leaps past the disembarking passengers, into the cabin. A muffled gunshot rings out and Fee swiftly leaps between the platform and the train, not wanting to become another faceless victim of growing crime in Sacramento.
Also present at the station are Detective Sgt. Rudy Opfer and his partner Det. Val Vanveen of the SPD Special Investigations Unit. They’d been tipped off about an exchange of illicit goods taking place at the station, and spotting Fee carrying a shiny case alerted them that she may be the suspect they were looking for. But after the shot rang out, Ms. Bettencourt was low on their priorities.
Dylan rushed into the train car as the passengers fled. Alex was caught between the gunman and the exit, so no way out for her. Dylan nearly took a bullet as he tackled the bewildered and homicidal Teague, aided by Alex who’d tangled up the man’s gun with her handbag. Within moments, Sgt. Opfer had the gunman, Teague in cuffs. Statements were taken and the witnesses were released in little time whatsoever.
Fee suspected the that the police were on the scene looking for whatever was in the case, so she carefully hid it in some brush. Not even Fee realized how well she’d hidden it. The police could not locate it, nor could their search dogs find it. Fee was eventually spotted and taken in for questioning, but she lied and told the police she did not know what they were talking about. Eventually they had to release her.
Dylan knew Fee’s uncle, and so he went to the police station to see if she was alright. Eventually her Uncle Frank came and picked her up, taking her back to her car near the Amtrak station. The police were on hand, undercover – waiting to see if anyone would come back to pick up the missing case. Joey, one of Fee’s cousins dealt with (distracted) the cops while Fee retrieved the case and returned it to her uncle.
Meanwhile, Alex, just off the train and in a brand new town and shaken from the incident, asked around for a good diner that was open late. It was now past 9pm. She was given a few suggestions by the station attendant, and she chose to go to a place called Annie Mae’s. The attendant said it had southern food, and Alex was missing her home as well as her sister, so chose to walk down K Street and find the place.
Being late at night, K Street was mostly empty, save someone scrounging dumpsters in an alley. She found the Cafe, drawn closer by the sound of a blues harp, the harmonica music wafting down the road and filling the air. When he saw Alex approaching, the harmonica player, Slim, stopped and looked up at her. The men clapping time beside him stopped and turned as well, and Slim’s face transformed into a wide-eyed smile, as if he recognized Alex.
“Come on in, my girl.” he said and opened the corner glass door for Alex. “We been ’xpecting you!”
Alex hesitantly walked inside, to find an ambiance that made her feel like she was home. Just then, from out of the back came the waitress, arms full of food. It was her sister, Raven, followed closely by the Cafe owner, Annie Mae, who smiled when she saw the resemblance to Raven, and beckoned Alex to have a seat. Raven herself seemed terrified, and rushed into the kitchen as soon as her customers had their food.
A nice scolding by Uncle Frank had left Fee a little frazzled, so she decided to get something to eat, conveniently also at Annie Mae’s. During her walk from the street parking, she saw a man rummaging through a dumpster in the alley behind the cafe, and when he grunted in her direction, she picked up her step. “Creepy old dude,” she’d said to herself.
Dylan had followed Fee to the police station, but when it seemed his assistant wasn’t needed, he also decided to grab some grub, having missed dinner because of his annoying vision regarding Alex being shot in the head. Of course, the closest all night diner was Annie Mae’s.
Once at the diner, the trio made acquaintances, or re-acquaintances as it was, and Alex and Fee were introduced to each other. By the time Fee and Dylan had arrived, Alex had spent almost an hour having a tense heart-to-heart with her sister. Raven fled New Orleans because she believes her powers were responsible for Katrina. She was too afraid and ashamed to return home, and had ultimately hoped that everyone would just think she was another victim of the storm. She knew the folly in that logic, with both sister Alex and their mother practitioners. The Loa were more than happy to help Alex reunite with her wayward sibling.
Slim bought them all breakfast, and sat down to chat with the trio. He seemed to know much about all three of them, explaining that things don’t just happen, “The Lawd Almighty brings us together fo’ his own purposes!” As they spoke, a strange man – seemingly drug-addled, smacked against the plate window of the diner, screeching his face and sweaty palms across the glass as he moved toward the entrance. He was babbling, obviously addled, and covered in sweat much like the crazed gunman on the train, Alvin Teague. This new man, later discovered to be Brian Turvey, a state worker, tried to enter the cafe, but the threshold wards set there by Slim made it too uncomfortable, so he simply stood there and bellowed “crazy talk,” as Fee described it.
Slim excused himself and addressed this stranger, escorting him away from the cafe. A few minutes later, the old blues man returned, a new weariness to his step. He dismissed the group’s concern, but instead told them that the man was not haunted nor possessed, for an attempted exorcism proved ineffectual. Dylan blinked at the old man’s words, and busied himself texting on his phone. Slim told them the sweaty and crazed man, now dubbed a “Sweat Walker” by Fee, fled down the street after Slim’s attempt to help him with the Lord’s power.
After finishing up their meal, the group walked down to Sactown Blues. Slim invited them all over to check out the record store, and he took them to his rooftop above the shop for a private and serious chat. On the way up, they met Cab, a very friendly fellow who lives at the store (primarily because he was killed there, and as a ghost, he rarely wishes to leave). Cab greeted the wary youngsters. Only Dylan was significantly unsettled by the sight of a ghost, and redoubled thumbing his phone’s keypad. Fee and Alex, however, were somewhat familiar with such occurrences.
On the roof, Slim talked to them about all the strangeness, the “creepy things” that happened in Sacramento after dark. He briefly explained a few of the nastier things that anyone new to Sactown – and new to the supernatural community – needed to be aware of, such as Vampires, Shapeshifters and the like. He also told them about several disturbing and unusual occurrences that had happened in the last few days. Events shockingly similar to Teague’s near massacre at the Amtrak station, and the strange “Sweat Walker” event at Annie Mae’s. He suggested that there was a distinct connections, and that perhaps the group spend some time investigating the incidents (which included the suicide of a housewife and a gang member who also committed suicide by cop_.
Dylan, who by now was more than a little unsettled, had been unsuccessful in getting ahold of his old marine buddy, Michael. Michael now works for the government in some top-secret position. They shared a few military engagements and had formed a friendship over the years. If anyone knew what to do in such circumstances, it was Michael. But alas Michael was not replying to texts nor answering his phone. Needless to say, Dylan was kind of freaked out, given this crash course in the supernatural (even though he was certainly well-versed in the unexplained, being a child abductee himself).
It was in the wee hours when the group finally retired. Slim offered Alex his couch for the night (actually he offered to sleep on the couch himself, but Alex would have none of it). Dylan escorted Fee to her car, then walked home, an unsettled feeling clutching him on the warm summer night. They all agreed to meet up for lunch the next day at Annie Mae’s, to discuss the strange “Sweat Walker” phenomenon.