TE Clue ANI in Tales of Justice | World Anvil


Abbey Normal Inspections


Today's Home Inspection

ANI has got a great start to the year! You are doing one of your earliest New York State home inspections, officially looking for signs of metahuman-related effects while secretly checking for the macabre.
(Mostly, what you find is going to be Call A Plumber, Call An Electrician, or Call Pest Control. Some people would rather blame the eerie feeling late at night on "mutated squirrel powers" than on, say, normal squirrels chewed through the wiring in your attic. You have both learned many, many ways to phrase the bad news to the client:
It turns out to not be
Sciuridae Sensory Block
clouding your mind.
It is,
in provable fact,
the squirrel pee.
Some clients take a smidgen of extra convincing.)
The clients at this brownstone home on northwestern Sackett Street have plenty of documentation for you when you arrive. First, of course, there are many stories in newspaper accounts, magazines, and even a few books as to the frequent hauntings alleged in brownstones. More than half of these include notes about the likelier non-supernatural sources, each underlined by the client:
  • Brownstone home construction tends to have long, narrow room shapes. As a consequence, they get very little natural light.
  • Buttermilk Channel is only a few blocks west of here.
  • There's an ironworks in the center of the second block nw of here.
  • Old houses make hard-to-identify noises as they warm up and cool down.
The clients are confident that they do not have ghosts or spirits, goodness me no!
They think that the house contains residue from a mutagenic past resident. Mutants and mutates just, you know, leave flakes of that stuff where they live for long periods of time? Sort of like dead skin and hair?
You have heard some version of that frequently in the past six months.

Psypher does his research!

Shingo has finally found a daytime pursuit that Ranma will not interrupt, and that is crawling around the attics and other grimy, un-heated spaces of an old home in a New England winter. She is willing to pitch in on the billing, the tax filing, even the paperwork to place an advertisement in one of those bulk mailing coupon collections. She is not willing to risk getting "residue!" on her skin.
This does not mean Shingo skips the background research before "Kobayashi" and his business partner accept a client. This side gig helps ease the financial burden on both of them, and it gives them access to places that not even their SAFEGUARD connection could provide. There is no call to simply accept any customer who clicks on the contact form.
Buildings in the greater New York City area change hands all the time. There is no suspicious trend of homes being put on the market for this neighborhood; Shingo checked it. Nor is there a suspicious trend of homes never being put on the market. (Shingo checked that, too!) (And then Ranma checked it a second time, because of course she did.)
Shingo did find it interesting that someone else has been doing this kind of background research into property history, too. Someone has searched the ownership history of every building in every block of this entire neighborhood.
It does not look like the type of search pattern that a scout for a land developer would do when they want to build a high-rise and price all the long-time residents out of the neighborhood. That is good.
It looks like the type of search pattern that a methodical, plodding researcher would do, if they were looking for a specific something but were not sure what names they needed. Maybe this is someone trying to figure out where a distant ancestor lived, based on old documents? Maybe they think something of value was left behind, made part of a building?
Or, who knows. Maybe the searcher wants to find buildings made of a specific material type -- not "brownstone", the search does not fit that, but possibly a pipe metal or a particular type of wood used in the house framing or a specific glassmaker for the window glass -- and they plan to offer to buy it up, swap it for more modern replacement components, so they can use the old stuff on a project.
What is extra strange to Shingo's mind is the dates of the searches.
  • Today is within the very first week of 2010. The searches that Shingo first noticed were conducted in late 2009, but not in that plodding way.
  • The plodding-est of methodically plodding searches happened from November 15th, 2008 through December 8th, 2008.
  • On October 8th, 2007, a plodding search started up, then halted, then swapped to investigating the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Central Park in Manhattan. The searcher veered off to seek details on a site called Quabbin Reservoir Labs. Said search ended most abruptly! It ran into the technological defenses of SAFEGUARD, who immediately tried to backtrace it directly to the searcher. Did they find their quarry? Should Shingo ask?
  • The same methods, in fact perhaps even a bit refined and more skillful compared to the most recent search methods, labored tediously through the internet wilds of May 2005. Whoever this searcher was, they particularly investigated each building in this area for the traits of reinforced structures. Did they want to know what buildings could withstand a major windstorm? No such windstorm happened. In October 2005, there was some sort of a flooding problem due to the remains of a tropical storm, but that was too far in the future to be the concern for a May search.
  • A searcher explodes into action on September 9th, 2003. They are not plodding this time. They are, however, using the same signature search style that Shingo has now come to recognize -- even though he is looking at internet "data intrusion" artifacts from six years ago. They search every building's history for connections, even distant ancestral ones, to names Shingo recognizes as villain secret identities or at least their favorite fake identities: "Bill Bailey", "A. R. Cadenski", "Augustus Nero Cavendish", "Casanova von Frankenstein", "Sirius Mandrake", "Susan McIverson", "Edward Nigma", "Anton Phelps", "Rutger Xanatos".
    Interesting that the answer was "no", far enough back that the search would have had to leave online sources to go visit real world microfiche and hardbound city records.
  • Throughout March and April of the year 2000, searches on these buildings tried to turn up contestable claims of ownership based on any legal grounds, however dubious. The searches included things like current and past liens against the property, each of which was thoroughly researched to see if it were paid off or otherwise vacated. The searches found success on three sites near the intersection of Columbia Street and Degraw Street, not for whole buildings but for portions of each. Shingo can find later evidence in the end of April that complaints had been filed in Small Claims Court, for hearings were scheduled on from Thursday, May 11th, 2000 through Friday, May 12th, 2000 that had property managers closing their offices so they could appear in court on those days to assist in the defense of their clients. (At least the property owners managed to all have the same law firm represent them?)
    Shingo thinks "keeping the property management offices busy on those days" must have been the real point, because follow-up dates were scheduled to continue the cases, but the complaints were dropped by the plaintiff later on. He could probably challenge Ranma to dig out the plaintiff's name. Why should he try to read this tedious court docket?
  • The most disturbing discovery for Shingo was when, late one snowy night, Shingo decided to keep his mind off his noisy neighborhood by doing one truly deep search into the past. He had great difficulty in finding traces of such an internet search from so long ago. He truly had expected the March-and-April search to be the most distant result he could reasonably discover. The internet has changed so much in the past ten years.
    Oh! but! on January 3rd, 2000, the searcher learned techniques that they never use again. Techniques of crafting searches, of investigating data repositories on the internet that were meant to be truly secure, that would not exist in cutting edge Tokyo for another year and a half!
    Techniques that
    the clandestine elegance of 2000's SAFEGUARD.
    The searcher wanted to know if any of the buildings in the Columbia Street Waterfront District had ever been owned by a kryptonian.
    (Apparently not.)
    That might have been just a little bit terrifying.…

The Shadow does his research!

The fact remains that the Columbia Street Waterfront District has a carefully veiled connection to the uncanny. Especially in the last few months, Quentin Marks gathered some disturbing rumors from the psychic community of the Northeast: this region of the Big Apple has always been a liminal place, a boundary space.
Lately, it seems, those boundaries may stretch thin.
  • All around the Northeast, psychics given to visions complain in online forums of persistent interruptions to their trances. Whatever they had been sensing, suddenly a man in a deerskin shirt steps directly in the way. He holds a spraypaint can in each hand, which he uses to start graffiti art directly over the scene in progress -- all while speaking in what a few psychics have called "maybe Algonquin?" If the psychic makes sympathetic or encouraging noises long enough for the graffiti to take shape, it appears to be some sort of serpent made of badly rusted metal. The serpent is being smothered, choked, or dangled as a marionette by a long-fingered hand with dull blue-gray skin.
  • Psychics who do tarot card readings in the Columbia Street Waterfront District or even Cobble Hill have seen some odd clients lately. Always a woman and a man, although never looking the same; they want a reading about Transcorp, about a nearby building that has spent more than a year listed for sale or lease, and about a distant location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • A neighborhood mob formed from seemingly nothing to intimidate would-be real estate developers, come to inspect a decaying old metal fabrication shop in the Columbia Street area -- one of those places listed by the tarot readers. The visiting executives sound nearly hysterical on the recorded call to dispatch. No evidence of any meeting can be found -- the executives arrive, unlock the old bay door, walk a few steps in, and appear to have a protracted conversation with … no one. "No one" then pursues them out of camera range, presumably to their waiting vehicle.
  • The season is winter. The weather is bitter. A certain number of "Have you seen…?" posters are inevitable at this time of year, whether the tragic target is a pet or a person.
    What is less customary is for some of these posts, online as well as printed on cheap paper and plastered inside a bus stop shelter, to be queries more along the lines of "did you too see what I saw?". Strange lights at twilight in the nearby park. Anthropomorphic people dressed in strange armor. Brightly colored "dragonflies" the size of a kite, with wingspans nearly two feet across from tip to tip.
These events could have been malignant hypnotism in action. Why would someone bother? What could be the goal?
Perhaps this will be the rare client who truly does have a metahuman origin to their home repair problems!

Cover image: by Jarissa