Episode 15: Thy Father's Keeper

With Arkham being covered by Dr. Armitage and Miles Callendar on his Christmas break from West Point, the rest of the gang heads across the country to recover Diligence's father's body. Apparently he's been in San Francisco for 14 years, while his mind voyaged back to the dawn of time and lingered on the Internet as a ghost. Excellence, learning of their plans, charges first-class airline tickets on Daddy's Visa.

On the plane, Marcus finds the Runestaff under an empty seat and hands it to Alex. She's a bit concerned that it belongs to the Doctor, but not concerned enough to leave it behind or to avoid using it!

They're met at the airport by Willow and Tara, who rented a van and drove up from Sunnydale, five hours down the coast. It's afternoon, so rather than travel down and come back, Juliet decides to go to the address and get Diligence's dad right now.

The apartment is right where the ghost said it would be, but there's some sort of ward on the door and gas bills from 1986 in the mailbox. Apparently no one has entered, or demanded rent, for 15 years.

Juliet goes in and finds Orne Peaslee sitting on the floor, colored a dull red all over. Dust occasionally settles on him and pops like a bug-zapper when it touches the red force field. The other walls are covered with books, which Diligence, Alex, Willow and Tara start checking to deduce what happened to him.

Which leaves the less magical investigators at loose ends. As soon as Billy heads out for coffee, Walker gets a sudden feeling that something moved. He looks out the window and counts three gargoyles on the building across the way, which has four projecting cornices for gargoyles to roost upon. He spots a gargoyle sneaking away over the rooftops and pursues, but it gets away.

Now the fighters (Juliet, Marcus, Walker, Billy) are worried, while the magicians are still reading, reading, reading. There's just tons of really cool occult secrets here! So when the motorcycle gang starts heading up the hill toward them, it's harder than it really ought to be to convince Diligence, Alex and company that maybe it's time to pack up and leave.

Tara manages to figure out how to carry Orne without getting shocked (slip a shower curtain under him and carry the corners), but by the time they start climbing out the window, the bikers are coming in the front door! Juliet fights a dozen bikers with amazing powers of strength and stamina, and does pretty well, bouncing them off walls, floor, and stairs.

Meanwhile, Alex and Willow use the time-stopping spell under which Orne is held to freeze the bookcase in front of the door, stymying the few attackers who get past Julie. Excellence calls 911 on her cellular phone and says not only is there a murder in progress, but the killers are using racial slurs. Within seconds the cops are there, throwing the bikers in custody.

But one of the bikers, knocked senseless by Juliet up on the roof, is missed by the cops. Our guys interrogate him and discover he's a ghoul, a human who drinks vampire blood to gain vampire-like powers. He works for Eddie, the Brujah boss of the city, who has had a gargoyle watching the apartment since 1990. He knew someone would come looking for this guy one day, and when they did, they'd pay plenty to get him back. Huh? says Marcus. He's right here! But when Diligence tries to cancel the stasis spell, Orne disappears!

Seems Eddie had a second spell overlaid to booby-trap the first one. Damn, these vampires are sneaky!

A phone call from Julian, the Prince of San Francisco, asks us to meet him at a particularly trendy restaurant after dark. Juliet goes with everyone except Diligence, who fears a trap. Julian confirms that Eddie has Orne Peaslee, but Julian's worried about something else. Eddie Fiore is nobody's sorceror. Someone else is helping him booby-trap spells and animate gargoyles, and that someone is operating in Julian's city without his permission. That's an affront he can't afford to tolerate. So he offers to tell Juliet where Orne is being held, and in return, she can tell him who's helping Eddie with his secret plans.

Juliet doesn't see any other way to proceed, as Diligence's efforts to locate his dad magically have produced the strong indication that an equally competent magician is diverting his spells. And it doesn't really cost them anything to try. Besides, Juliet sensed something odd about Julian, who doesn't seem to have the single-minded selfishness characteristic of most vampires. Perhaps he's one of those whose soul was restored by the Peaslees' efforts in the Tunnel of Hands.

The site is the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, located on the grounds of the Presidio. Juliet and her friends drive up, kick in the door, beat up some armed guards and find a lab where Orne's body, still frozen in stasis, is being examined by three red-robed vampires while a dapper little vampire in slicked-back hair and black suit with narrow white tie looks on. All three of the red-coated vampires turn out to be members of Clan Tremere, knowing sorcery as well as the secrets of the undead, and they summon flames and clouds of doom in Juliet and Walker's faces. Billy manages to bushwhack one of them, and Alex sets the gangster vampire on fire, so things are proceeding swimmingly when Dilgence and Walker turn red and freeze in place, hit by the same Spell of Deferred Eventuation that Orne used to put himself in stasis years ago! The vampire wizards have learned fast.

But they haven't learned fast enough to freeze Julie in time before Diligence, and she kills them. One, a fellow with no flesh on his face, just a leering skull, almost gets her, but in close combat, the Tremere are hopeless. Alex unfreezes everyone except Orne, and the gang high-tails it amid spouting sprinklers, shooting flames and panicked whitecoats.

Once safe in the van, Orne is rescued from stasis. Diligence is a little peeved that he missed his whole life, but Orne says he had to take a stand against evil, no matter the cost. Which is something everyone in this group can understand.

Juliet emails Julian with a description of the vampires they fought, and Julian identifies one of them as an ancient Pictish sorceror who is, or now was, a major pillar of the Tremere. Well done, all!