Logs:Wake House - Not Breaking but Definitely Entering
Wake House - Not Breaking but Definitely Entering
|Characters:||Gast, Jacob, Jeanie and Rafael with Slip as ST|
|Summary:||"Noneuclidean architecture is a bad sign."|
Otherwise, this three-story Queen Anne house looks much like any other one might find in New Orleans.
It's a nice neighborhood, usually. Lately, it's been eerily quiet like so much of the rest of New Orleans. Unsettling, really, how empty the streets are. Evidence of disuse and decay are starting to set in quicker than one might expect toward either end of the street, where lawns have gone untended, porches unswept, damp day-old newspapers at the bottom of stairs. The nearer one gets to Wake House, the pale pink Queen Anne toward the center of the block with its historic place plaque on the front, the nicer it seems. If one ignores the overgrown potted plants and the excess mail in the mailbox. Otherwise, it feels safe. This would be a really nice street to live on. The neighbors tend to look out for one another. That might be why so many have been worrying--or simply gossiping--about Lillian Alexander, the current owner of Wake House, believed to be missing for weeks now. They can't pinpoint precisely how they know, what's really off about not seeing her around, but they know. Something's just not right.
Jacob has heard about the mysterious possible disappearance - of someone he'd been looking for. Could it be he's so close to his goal just to be thwarted now? Is it even his goal? He doesn't know, but he's going to find out. And so he's showed up at the Wake House. He's currently strolling along the street, his eyes - pale to mortals but dark and depthless to anybody else - scanning the area. He stops in front of the wake house to tie his shoe.
He's not particularly dressed for burglary, wearing a black suit with a charcoal tie, the suit simple but fashionable with sharp angles. He wears it well, but it doesn't make up for his disheveled, somewhat curly hair, the days old beard, or the fact that anyone who isn't mortal, randomly parts of him periodically fade out of existing momentarily. As he ties his show that doesn't need tying, he takes a moment to study the house, looking for signs of inhabitance, or recent egress.
One such gossipy neighbor is exactly how Jeanie ends up strolling to the front of Wake House, in her Meals on Wheels Volunteer shirt. The college student's pace slows to a crawl and eventual stand still as she reaches the historic plaque and takes a quick glance around at the overgrown plants and the unclaimed mail stacking up. "Huh... Ms. Johnson really wasn't kidding..." She turns in search of the fence gate only to spot a strangely familiar face (Jacob) in a very unexpected place and take a very hurried few steps back.
If the old woman's finally kicked the bucket, and if she wasn't the fraud most dismissed her as, there just might be something that Rafael could use-- that Rafael needs-- within those four walls. Just to make sure that nobody's been going in and out, he's been parked across the street for a few hours now casing the joint, an old pick-up truck settled at the curb that could blend in pretty much anywhere. A bag of chips is nestled in the man's lap as he watches the place... and then is surprised by at least one face he recognizes.
"Huh," he murmurs, brushing crumbs off his lap and setting the bag aside, opening the driver's side door and clambering slowly out.
An investigator who operates in four governing tenants - the fourth, a catch on three prerequisites. Does the mystery affect the Lost? Is there an opportunity for great reward? Or is it, in and of itself, a draw to his curiosity? This falls under the third, for now. The catch of: 'what are the consequences of involvement?' not yet foreseen. A bitter aversion to the familiar complication of a potential missing person absorbed. Gast is snagged, and so he is along for the ride to see what he can find. He parks three blocks away and walks the rest.
For the first time since arriving in New Orleans, he's out on the street in something other than some combination of layered suit. A brown leather jacket over a gray hoodie. Cargo pants. He keeps the hoodie down, ink-black hair and discordant gaze not covered in such a way as to bring any attention to him skulking. But the face mask he has on at least conceals some aspect of identity viewed from a distance, under the notion of getting away with this much for the current pandemic. Same with the gloves. It all bakes in the heat of day or what the pavement stores for the night, but it also gives the illusion of bulk to his lean and hungry form. The gathering of others, ahead of him, takes any ill attempt of larceny off of the table. And while he might stay back an observe under other circumstances, waiting for those already there to make their move, the spotting of familiar faces among them waives that. He approaches. A lift of a gloved hand to the man exiting the truck as he walks toward Jacob. And the stranger near to him.
- Rafael's surveillance hasn't turned up much: the occasional neighbor watching the place with concern as they walk past, the mail carrier annoyed at how full the mailbox is getting and, now and then, a frog or two hopping from Wake House's lawn onto the sidewalk.
Nobody but the mail carrier has been by in the last few days, let alone the last few hours. Hell, the longer Rafael's lingered here, the easier it's been to wonder if maybe the supposed witch is just out of town. Which doesn't change the window of opportunity that might be open to him, just the context in which it's framed. Rumors of anything suspicious seem more and more like nothing but idle speculation of bored people spending too much time inside the longer one lingers in the area. It's quiet, a pleasant evening. Really, all is well.
The front gate is easy enough to open, the fence rising only to waist-height, though there's another which separates the modest front yard from what promises to be proper backyard gardens, for the flowering tree branches draped over wooden slats.
Jacob straightens after "tying his shoe", having seen nothing of import himself, and catches sight of Jeanie. He breaks into a smile, which turns into a bit of a smirk as she backs away. "Ah, Jo. What a pleasant surprise. I would have thought you would be at home, safe, or perhaps somewhere away from others, such as a park. Do you live around here?" He spots Gast, approaching, then, and the smile widens. He actually seems pleased to see the man.
"Perfect timing. There's something we ought to talk about." It's hard to see his 'gaze flick' considering those alien eyes, so he suffices for a subtle nod towards the Wake House. Are you thinking the same thing I'm thinking? If so, I have an idea that might benefit us both." He doesn't notice Rafael right away, perceptive as he is, but will study the man should he come closer.
Jeanie is completely oblivious to Rafael and his truck given how all of her attention is focused on Jacob and his presumed associate at the moment. She doesn't seem as pleased at the run-in as the man, crossing her arms as she maintains that prescribed safe six feet of distance. "I'm volunteering." She points to her shirt that loudly proclaims it, even if said meals seem to be suspiciously absent at the moment. The girl moves towards the gate, opens it and then carefully and slowly shuts it behind herself.
There's not a lot to Rafael at first glance; a light jacket zipped up, a backpack shouldered, a pair of stained blue jeans. Work gloves. As he draws closer, he greets in casual tones, "Evening, folks. This guy ain't bothering you, is he, Race Car?" There's a twist of humor to his tone, a brow arched and the corner of his lips on that side tugged up as if attached to the same string.
Gast draws his mask down to around his neck as he nears; that he has to adjust it with his hands, a good argument against its effectiveness in what's been going on. The smile he wears is amiable, but questioning, matched by the subtle tilt of his head and a lift of his chin that inquires as to why those gathered are here, without asking it out loud. Or maybe he just assumes for the same reason he is - curiosity. "I imagine so," he answers Jacob, amusement on his voice, edged by the naturally sardonic. Acknowledging the nod of the head and what has brought them both here, to the Wake House. "And we might be," he adds, as to whether they're of like mind.
A greeting nod to Jeanie, as she speaks up. Meals on Wheels, without the Meals. "Wellness check?" he tries, giving away a potential means to conceal motivation freely and aid in subterfuge if curiosity is the reason. Darkling that he is. His own curiosity tagged when Rafael produces the nickname 'Race Car', on approach. "There has to be a story behind that." And he'd like to know it.
Jacob follows Jeanie to the gate, opening it after she closes it and following her, motioning for Gast to come with. "Volunteering for what? Touching people's gates?" She doesn't have any food with her, after all. He makes a 'tsk' sound'. "How did your studying go, by the way?" The studying he blessed. He looks at Rafael as the man approaches and lifts and eyebrow. "Race Car?" He seems amused.
When Gast suggests a wellness check, he smiles broadly. "Exactly so." He sounds very much British. It could also be the accent. "Well, let's go check on Ms. Lillian." He proceeds to head across the yard, towards the door. It seems stealth isn't his forte. He then simply opens the door. There's a faint frown as he does, but he hides it quickly. "Helloooo?"
Of course, to those who can sense sneaky-workings, something magical has happened. Glamour has glammed, engulfing them in fabulous obscurity. Or, well, nothing's going to stop them from entering. Not even Ms. Lilian's own protections. Well, not the lock, at least.
"And some light housework too!" Jeanie nods as she seizes on the stranger's suggested ruse and adds her own. As Rafael also appears, she blinks in surprise but gives a little shake of her head. "Not yet. But you might want to watch the bushes. //Someone// seems to inspire naked men to run from out of the shubbery." The someone she's glaring at right as he so calmly walks right up and just casually opens the door and lets himself in. "Hey! You're supposed to knock first! What if she's bathing?" Or more dangerously, just getting done with bathing. Nobody wants to get that close with a senior citizen witch, probably! As for the story of Race Car, that'll have to be a mystery for another day.
Something small rustles in the grass as people move through the gate toward the porch. A frog launches itself upward, away from footfalls, toward the safety of taller grass and shrubs, toward the cool shadows and their obscurity.
A single eyebrow on Rafael's face has nearly climbed into his hairline as he looks between the motley gathering of people in front of this particular house, and he brings a hand up to rub above his eye as if to ward off an increasingly swelling headache. He glances aside to Gast's approach, and a faint 'heh' escapes his lips briefly as he notes, "One of those... things that you said you'd been looking into?"
The protests from Jeanie have him clearing his throat, and he notes, "Well, we should probably follow him and make sure he's not going to rob the place."
You know, like he's planning to.
Another nod paid, accepting Jeanie's extension of excuse performed, respect for follow through. Gast follows along as motioned to, keeping a relaxed posture as not to seem too out of place as Jacob leads them onward. But he does keep an eye and an ear out for anyone not directly involving themselves in this excursion as they go forth. A frog gets only a glance when it retreats from their presence. Naked men? Shrubbery? He looks between Jeanie and Rafael for further explanation as brief distraction from his observation.
"One I've just added to the list," he replies to Rafael, one edge of his grin creeping upward. He covers up what he assumes to be the glamour's workings when Jacon opens the door - adding that point to the mystery of it, when he comments with dry and quiet sarcasm, "Well, that's not disconcerting." He'll enter in the wake of all that choose to.
Jacob smirks as Jeanie mentions housework. "And your client provide cleaning supplies? That's a great client." When she adds the naked men and shrubbery bit, he sniffs, "I /explained/ that, Jo. I was the victim." He then proceeds to ignore the knock first comment. "What if she needs our help, Jo? We are her bastion, her first responders." He doesn't interrupt Rafael and Gast's interaction, but he's obviously taking note of it, because when Rafael comments on robbing the place, he replies over his shoulder, "/First responders/."
He doesn't notice the frog, of course. Right before he steps through the door, he looks back at Gast. "Might want to be careful, though. That doorknob, it must be rusty, because there was a lot of /resistance/. He smiles, and then heads inside. He pauses, taking a look around, gathering his bearings. "Hellllooo? Ms. Anderson?"
"Indeed," Jeanie's quick to agree that Jacob might just be setting out to rob the place and so she follows along inside the house. She dubiously raises an eyebrow as Jacob gives his speech about being GOOD DEED DOERS. "Yeah... you're not exactly dressed for cleaning or helping old ladies off the floor." She's at least got the t-shirt, worn jeans, and sneakers. Once inside she can't help but give a look around the front room, while also calling out. "Ms. Anderson? I'm Jeanie. Ms. Johnson from three doors down asked me to check on you! She's really worried!"
It's a nice place, well-kept and nicely furnished. All the furniture is practical in function, but designed for comfort, all of the seating plushly cushioned. Someone's taken care to see to an inviting color scheme, all in muted tones of off-whites, creams, greens and browns, accented appropriately with reds, pinks and oranges. An entry table beside the front door hosts a vase of cut flowers that can't be more than a few days old, water still fairly clean, the blooms only barely beginning to wilt. A closed black notebook rests before it with a rather nice black pen beside it. It could be a visitor's log book, but there's nothing on the front to suggest purpose.
The layout is otherwise fairly open upon entry, a wide hall leading back to the rest of the house, a set of stairs ascending to the next floor. A door to the left stands open, while a few others--one to the right, in front of the stairs, and a couple more on the left farther down the hall, stand closed. It's hard to see much with the lights off, with their eyes not yet adjusted to the interior darkness of the evening.
- Rafael's suspicions were right. There might be something to this witch thing. Even if she had no power herself, he's beginning to get a sense that something in this house did, but it's so vague right now, a slight easing of symptoms as the infection inside of him sniffs something out, something it hasn't quite found yet. It's promising, but not particularly weird, given what he knows. What might qualify as strange is the sound he catches off in the room to the left, a quiet, uneven, wet smacking sound. Like... a frog hopping on hardwood?
"Watch your step. Yard's full of frogs," Rafael observes casually-- maybe he saw that particular frog, or he's just been staking out the place long enough to notice the amphibious residents of the greenery about the home. He slowly steps into the foyer, moving towards the 'sign in book' and reaching a gloved finger to flip it open. Then he pauses, head canting to one side. "...and... the house is full of frogs too?" That one is far less casual. He sounds rather bemused, in fact.
- Jeanie catches a couple odd details in her first cursory inspection of the place. First, that there isn't weeks' worth of dust on any of the surfaces, no grime gathered up in the corners; clearly, someone has been here fairly recently. A housekeeper, perhaps? It definitely doesn't look abandoned. Second, in that consideration of all the surfaces not in need of immediate cleaning, she catches symbols scratched into the window frames, small and subtle, some seemingly incomplete.
- There's an impossible door here. Jacob sees it, recognizes it, for all the strange places he's been. It's set on the left wall in what seems, at first glance, a reasonable position, but all it takes is one peek into the room on the other side to see that the door would open into the bookshelves. Unless his depth perception is off. Maybe it's just behind them, with a horribly thin wall.
- Gast, knowing what subtle details to search for in a scene, can tell that the notebook by the door has seen frequent use, a bit of density to its pages that keep the cover from laying flat. So, too, might he notice how clean the place is. No dust. No grime in the corners. No film on the windows. The house certainly isn't entirely abandoned for all that nobody--certainly not a Ms. Anderson, hadn't her name been Alexander?--answers the call, the sudden company barging into the house. Then there are the flowers. Aside from the cut flowers in the vase by the door, he can spot at least two potted forget-me-nots with their small five-petaled blue flowers. Maybe they complement the decor, even if that shade doesn't show up in any of the art or upholstery.
It's a slow whir that those with the capability to experience Mien here. The aperture of Gast's clockwork eye expands gradually to let the light into its lense as he enters behind the crowd. And as he draws the door quietly almost all the way shut behind him, for Jacob's mention of that resistance. Cautious. He twists the deadbolt out to prevent it from closing in the wind. And if there's a chain to keep it from swinging outward as well, he sets that too. When Jacob flicks on the light, he winces, his clockwork eye grinds to narrow the aperture in defense against the illumination that blasts its way into the senses as it reveals the space around them. He squints through the bright pain of the light as his curious, discordant gaze sweeps the space. "Sure is clean," he comments. Contrasts draw is gaze to flowers. To see if they're real or not, but he opts first to thumb through the notebook. Full of frogs? "Hmm?" he answers. Not that he spotted.
- The book Rafael flips through seems a log book of some sort. It holds dated entries with notes in a neat enough hand-writing which occasionally presses too hard, leaving an imprint on the next page. The most recent entry is dated Sunday, March 29. 4:39pm. "Sorted mail. Paid utilities. Watered plants. They still don't like me. Tended to plums. Filed report from Manfred. 11 frogs. The well is silent. I hate this waiting."
Jacob murmurs to Jeanie as she steps into the house as well, "Well, maybe I'm not a /cleaner/. Maybe the poor woman needed a notory for her last will, hmm?" Meanwhile, he's not yet moving into the room. Instead, he feels the wall nearby. He's no Darkling, so he actually needs light. He finds some switches and he flips them. "Jo, be careful. We don't know what we're going to find." And, for a moment there, he sounds genuinely concerned about the mortal girl.
When Rafael speaks, he's already inside and just hears 'frogs'. "Of course there's frogs." They're checking on a witch, after all. "Hasn't been mowed in a while." Ok, not that long, and he's murmuring it as an afterthought as he looks around. He pauses a moment, squinting at a door on the left wall He moves away, investigating, forgetting his banter. He peeks around the corner, then pulls back into the room. He smiles slowly to himself.
He glances at Gast, waving him over. He motions towards the door as he leans in, breaking social distancing standards, and murmurs, "I think she's still here. I'm going to go through. We should make sure they," a nod towards Jeanie and Rafael, "don't get pulled into more than they can handle."
The house looks clean enough, but Jeanie will run a finger along the window sill just in case. "Rafael, do these mean anything to you?" She calls out to the man she's deemed least suspicious in this whole not breaking but definitely entering affair as she points to a few small symbols scratched into the frames. "So busy. Hiding in bushes, checking on little old ladies." Her hands withdraw from investigating the window to return to their former crossed position as she glances between Jacob and Gast. "I think I can handle whatever she has in her house." Famous last words? "Even if she's...." A finger crosses her throat in that near-universal mime for deceased.
Deadbolt jutting out to keep the door from closing and chain set to keep the door from swinging wide, it leaves a crack which easily lets a large, loping mosquito in, buzzing toward the overhead light as it considers its potential buffets. The other door, the one that Jacob points out, doesn't seem particularly unusual on the surface. It looks much like the others of the house. Should anyone do that dip and look to try and gauge its relation to the other room right there, well... it does look like it's cutting it suspiciously close. It's not really a reasonable place for a door.
But that's not the only interesting thing worth consideration here. There are those symbols Jeanie found on one of the window frames. Are these the house's original window frames? Rafael might have some inkling that they could be, from the wood to the fittings; they're well-cared for but remarkably old. At least six symbols are carved into the wood, though there seem to be a few more which are faded, worn in parts, incomplete. Educated guesses might qualify them as part of local folklore, wards against prying eyes, keeping the place private.
"There was someone here just a few days ago... the twenty-ninth. They sorted the mail, watered the plants, all that. Counted the frogs. They reported to someone named Manfred... something about the well being silent." Rafael's lips purse in a tight line, and he looks up and over to Jeanie, "Let me take a look. Everyone just... be careful. I've got a feeling about this place, and it's not a good one..."
He steps away from the log-book to examine what Jeanie had discovered at the window, leaning in a bit to examine the etched symbology. "Mm. Wards," he murmurs, keeping his voice low, "Effective ones, too."
An amused exhale from Gast as he hears Jacob's own shifting justification for being here, as Rafael thumbs through the visitors log - detouring from that, when it gets searched. 'Manfred' he mouths, to commit name to memory until he can write it down. While Rafael goes to look over what Jeanie found on the sills - Gast hasn't noticed those. He checks the doors in sight, peeking through and up the stairwell as he clears the entry with quiet, practiced efficiency. The soles of his shoes soft enough to dull his movement. He tries the knobs of open doors, opening enough to peek in if they work. He doesn't head deep down toward the back of the house, leaving any entries for now that would take him away from conversational distance with the group. And he nods, shallowly, it does make sense with the place being so spotless that someone should be here - but he hasn't heard any movement, either. Something off, as he still considers that aforementioned resistance.
"You been around at all for Scooby Doo? Have that in your country?" he asks Jacob. Probably a comment about splitting up. But he's quick on finding a reason for Jeanie about why they should be cautious. Court of Fear and all. "Could be anyone taking care of the place. Someone who offed her. Opportunistic criminal. Cashing social security benefits." Why is his first assumption that the alleged occultist is dead? Maybe his background.
Jacob, when he hears Jeanie, looks over to see what she's showing Rafael. His eyes narrow a moment as he looks at them - familiar and yet not at all. "So very busy," he replies offhandedly, while studying the markings. Under his breathe, he murmurs, "It's a trick. It's..." When Rafael speaks, he looks towards the man. "Manfred?" He grumles to himself, "All this way and I still can't escape goddawful fucking names." He takes a breathe, adding, "Oh yeah, there's some wards. /Someone/ doesn't want us here." He's so intrigued that he's forgetting social niceties such as hiding and manipulating details.
When Gast speaks, glancing at him. "Of course I have. See you in a minute." He hopes. With that, he's attempting to open that Weird Door and step through it. Casually, so as not to make the mortals panic. There is, however, a brief wink in Jeanie's direction before he steps through the doorway, and probably into another room. So dramatic. But, you never know. It could be just what he's looking for.
- Most of the doors Gast checks are entirely reasonable: a closet here, a bathroom there, a set of basement stairs, what looks like it might be a study. It's that one that Jacob pointed out, nearest on the left, that doesn't seem right. The hallway on the other side is awfully long. And there's a door that looks like it ought to let out into the entry parlor over there. Jacob was right. Something about it is wrong. The rest of Gast's inspection doesn't reveal much, no sounds from upstairs, no movement in the kitchen. Beyond the kitchen, french doors let out onto what promises to be a lushly gardened backyard, a large tree the centerpiece, toward the back.
"Is this woman like an amateur biologist or something? Counting frogs... amphibians are a good indicator if something's wrong with the enviornment. Maybe she's got a pond out back!" There's Jeanie dredging up maybe irrelevant facts from her coastal studies undergrad. She gives a defiant headshake after Jacob's attempted warnings. "Opportunistic criminal would have hightailed it out the back after all the yelling out we did." But then Gast is giving a second confirmation on those wards actually meaning something and she seems to sober just a bit more and turns to Rafael. "Well, Shaggy, guess we might as well look at the kitchen if we're all splitting up? Heart of the house and all? If someone's around and living here, should be some signs in there."
A hallway. Everyone can see Jacob step into it. It's not all that mysterious. Except that it's an awful long hallway. And even if it didn't already look architecturally impossible, there's definitely a door there which would open into the entry parlor over there, and there's not a matching door on the other side. Otherwise? It's fine. Everything's fine. It's just a normal door. He's still there. All is well.
- Nah, that's definitely a magical door. Jacob knows it. This is his area of expertise. He just crossed a significant threshold, permitted by virtue of the blessing of the Crown that he's gifted to himself and his compatriots. Easy peasy.
"I'm not building a giant sandwich in there," Rafael observes a bit deadpan to Jeanie's reference to him as Shaggy, "And splitting up is an absolutely terrible idea, especially in a house like this. I'm starting to think that there's more going on here than..." He trails off as Jacob opens that door. He looks at it with a frown, then moves back into the parlor... yeah, no door.
"Noneuclidean architecture is a bad sign."
Gast doesn't comment on the judgement of the name 'Manfred'. Aside from an amused exhale. He clears the closet and washroom. Grunts something curious to himself as he finds a set of stairs going down toward a basement. "A lot of basements in New Orleans?" he asks the room. He leaves that door open and goes- His gaze drifts, tracking a line of one wall, slipping to the other side as he gauges something internally. He pats down his jacket, for a physical inventory of what he brought in with him.
He pauses, looking away from his self inspection when Jacob slips through the door. If he can't warn caution, he can at least wait and see what going through results in. "Signs point to yes," he answers Rafael's bad sign. He's waiting to weigh in on moving on to search, to see what Jacob finds in entering the wrongness of the door. Or if something will result of trying.
Jacob is no longer paying attention to Jeanie's jabs or any of the banter between the others. He's focused on the door. He steps through it and find himself in that hallway, endlessly stretching, those doors taunting him. Those doors, they call him. He murmurs to himself, "This is what I was looking for..." He grunts then and looks back towards the doorway, and Gast. "I'll be right back. Entertain our friends. Try not to, you know, because... you know. Be careful."
He then opens that other door, the one that shouldn't be there, and looks inside. Assuming it's not hellfire, he steps through.
Jeanie stares as Jacob walks into that way too long hallway. "Maybe it's like one of those funhouses? Optical illusions?" She went to the museum of optical illusions once. It was very trippy and she's still full of optimism even though the longer she looks at the disconcerting WRONGNESS of the door, the more she starts to turn just a little green. "You're right, we should probably hold off on the kitchen. And no...." The last is said to Gast as she turns to look at the door he's just opened. "Far as I know, they all flood."
As Jacob steps out of view, something... shifts. The door he went through, though it stands open, it just... seems like something better ignored. There are more interesting things in this house. So many more interesting things than a boring old door.
Rafael slants a look to Jeanie. "I don't think that's the case," he murmurs to the girl, his tone a bit rueful, and then he's looking away from that door. "Let's check the rest of this place out, though, since Mister Condescending has decided to explore the corridor of illogical spatial limitations." He gestures towards the stairs, and moves towards them - making his way carefully along, as if expecting to find razor-wire hazards strewn in his wake.
"Yeah. I'll be careful," Gast answers the Lost who steps to the door. Emphasis on 'I'. Sardonic tone on blast. And then Jacob is through it, and he finds that his gaze has wandered back onto the door to the basement that had last snagged his interest, without even really realizing it. He resumes patting down his jacket, nods, secure in what he has on him as he steps back to the door with the stairs leading down. He leans in to take a great big huff, nostrils flaring as he smells - looking for mildew, mold, anything telling of previous or present flooding and water damage.
Counterpoint to Rafael, for Jeanie, on the probability of this being something mundane. "The owner was eccentric. Making the place seem strange could have been a business angle." He's definitely bullshiting, as when Rafael leads the way away, but he wears his composure well. He's liable to follow up the stairs when he's done - depending on what his inspection of the way to the basement tells him, first.
"Splitting up isn't recommended, but at least we're not going all alone. If we hear screams of pain from wherever it is that Jake walked through, we run and call the cops and avoid whatever spooky serial killer might be lurking in the attic or basement or mystery hallway. We'll make it out alright," Jeanie sounds convinced of this plan and that it WILL WORK GOSH DARN IT. Equipped with nothing more than said plan, her own self-assurance and those car keys gripped tightly in her hand just in case, Jeanie falls Rafael up, up and hopefully not too far away?
The stairs leading upward prove safe. No traps. Hardly any creaking. Not even an errant frog in the way. The second floor landing hosts a few doors, some of which might easily be identified as closets for their location or a bathroom for the door cracked open to reveal tile inside. The evening light streams in through a rosette window at the front of the house while the light from downstairs provides some further illumination. It's pretty peaceful, really, only the occasional creak of an old house settling feeding any pre-existing anxiety.
The basement smells damp, musty. Faintly stagnant. Like there might be standing water down there right now. A chirrup is answered in kind, the sounds both coming from downstairs, but from two different points. Crickets, maybe. Or possibly frogs. Really, frogs seems a good guess. Turning on the light at the top will reveal that it is not a finished space, the walls rough hewn and, yes, water damaged, but the stairs seem new--or recently replaced, perhaps--the wood still bright and clean.
Rafael flashes a smile back to Jeanie at her pep-talk, making his way carefully up the stairs. "It'll be fine," he reassures her, "I doubt he'll be... croaking anytime soon." A wink in the wake of the quip, and then he reaches out to the first 'closet' door to open it. Might as well be thorough in their looti-- in their checking of the house for the poor missing witch.
"From someone else's phone, away from here," Gast quips, dryly, toward those headed to the stairs, over Jeanie's plan. "We weren't exactly invited in." He's revoking justifications. They're all trapped in the same crime now. The justifications for the occult, however, remain. He tries the light when he finds it - notes that the basement, while still tugging at his curiosity, doesn't fall outside the range. He does make an affirmative sound, though, at the notice of the frogs. Rafael was right about them being inside. Satisfied enough with the inspection to return later, he leaves the door open and steps around toward the stairs - though he's a ways behind Jeanie and Rafael, and he's slow going once he hits the halfway mark. The rust in the bellows of his lungs choking out into rasps and forcing him to take his time. To those that experience the Mask, he's just surprisingly winded. He'll be a moment.
"Or I can just call my dad and tell him about what Ms. Johnson has said plus the screaming and ask him to get someone to do an official welfare check," Jeanie is unpeterubed by the risk to her own well being, but who would expect a Sheriff's daughter to be the one breaking and entering if she was the one to call it in? Never mind that he's a sheriff from a couple parishes over. As for Rafael and his closet looting, she'll leave him to it as she turns her attention to the ceiling. "There should be an attic around here somewhere." Nevermind this house seems to have a creative idea of what floorplans might be. Or physics.
The closet has very nice linens, all neatly kept. Everything about the house, aside from the frogs, seems very neatly kept, intentional care for the place. Despite its eccentricities. Jeanie's right about the attic. There's a pull cord in the ceiling which will drop down a set of collapsing stairs leading up into the abbreviated third floor.
- When Rafael grabs that door handle, he feels a pull toward another nearby. For one of the bedrooms. Magic. Keen. Singular, up here, far from all the fuckery downstairs.
Meanwhile, in the Impossible Hallway...
The door Jacob goes through opens into a fairly small room which looks like it belongs to the rest of the house, similarly furnished. A study, perhaps, given that there's a table to one side, a pair of cushioned chairs to another, and shelves lining the walls. The shelves contain a great variety of books, several of which are in languages that might itch unpleasantly at the foggiest parts of the helldiver's memories. Some of the shelves contain knickknacks, collectibles or pretty houseplants. On one, there's a little green frog staring at Jacob, breathing, clearly alive. There is no other exit to the room save the one Jacob stepped through.
Jacob looks around as he steps into the new room. They're all in danger, considering the resitence and now thse doorways. This is not the sign of someone who's weak. But... as much as he finds the mortals amusing, as much as he wants to aid his newfound Lost contacts, he can't turn away the draw of the door. He knows he's close to something. Part of himself, perhaps. He has no time for questioning himself.
Yet... yet the thought of the others left behind is already gnawing on him. Just a moment more and he'll turn back, warn them.
He runs his hands over the knicknacks. He admires the decor. And then he's face to face with the frog. He sighs, heavily. "Really? A frog is the most common witch's spell, and pretty high up on the list of psychopomps. Not to mention all the /prophets/. I'd think that, i fyou really wanted to hide, it'd be a mole or something." He smiles, then continues, "I'm not looking to interfere, here. I just want what's mine. I'll even /help/ you."
The effect of the first trinket Jacob touches is easy to overlook. He hardly feels it when the statuette of the dancing girl tugs at one of his memories and simply takes it from him. How long has it been since he thought about that anyway? He can surely live without it. It's when he touches the second, a pair of brass knuckles mounted on a small stand, that he might think better of it. He can feel its effect sharply. This one doesn't take. It gives. Freely. Eagerly. He can feel a need for violence rising in him, an urge to hit something. It's not his. He knows it. These wrathful urges itching under his skin, but they feel so real, so sharp, so insistent. It's probably best he doesn't touch anything more after that.
The front, meanwhile, just sits there. Until Jacob draws closer. Then it turns slightly, its webbed feet peeling from the wood shelf and flopping into their new positions. It's angling toward escape. Just in case. It has no response otherwise.
Jacob tenses when he touches that first trinket, but he has so many other things on his mind. His thought has shifted from /why/ he's in New Orleans - to find himself, to find a piece of his line - to this mystery he's faced with. This witch, this empty house, these doors. They so engross him that it's not that hard to steal his more important memories.
He looks confused for a second, but he continues on. He doesn't remember entirely why he's here, but he's fascinated with the place. He knows he's so close to /something/. So close. And then he runs his hands over those old brass knuckles. Why are those even here? It makes no sense... but it doesn't need to. It's a sign. He's been gentle for far too long. Always taking shit. His parents, the Fae, and now all these so called Capitalist bastards who make his life difficult. Oh, and then there's the people who threaten his sister, which is everybody. All this time, he's been taking the diplomatic approaching, threatening people, making people disappear quietly...
He was wrong. It's not going to work. Only violence will work. He wraps his fingers around the brass knuckles. He takes them, shoving them in his pocket. And then he's turning, looking at the frog. "Tell me." Then, louder, "Tell me where it fucking is!" The anger wells up in him. Where it is... what is it? It's already fading but he doesn't notice because he wan't nothing more than to crush this stupid frog. He heads back out into the hall, eager to continue his search. Yet... yet... He starts to struggle halfway down, confused and emotional - the opposite of what he normally is.
The frog backs up when Jacob yells at it, blinking mutely at this strange, angry person. When he moves on, the amphibian takes another couple steps to turn away. That was scary.
Whatever the helldiver was looking for, it's much harder to get a sense of it now. It allows that itch of morality that's been clawing at him to win out. He left the others behind. He should maybe probably go check on them. Except... they're nowhere in sight when he steps back out of the impossible hallway. Not that they're hard to find, what with their banter audible upstairs. They might even hear him moving below.
To be continued...