Corrupted Transmission

Body of Evidence, Part II

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, March 4th, 10 AM

Dr. Sorenson looks over his notes. ‘This is too crazy,’ the pad says. Frank‘s case just keeps getting weirder. Dr. Ilyes’s findings were impossible yet they were true. What are the Sandmen?

He looks up as an orderly opens the door and leads Frank in. The older man looked tired and distracted. The doctor thanks the orderly and turns his attention to the patient.

“So how are you feeling Frank?”

Frank rocks back and forth a bit, hugging his arms. “Lot of kids in the hallway.”

Dr. Sorenson asks about them, recalling the man’s earlier statements involving the children and the Sandmen. Frank tells him that strange children are wandering the hallways laughing. He also tells him of strange doctors and nurses appearing at night.

“Where did you see these people, Frank?”

“I don’t know. I don’t go out at night. I stay in my room.”

Sorenson leans in and ask if the children are dangerous.

“I don’t know. They took the Sandman away,” he replies.

Sorenson decides to confide Ilyes’s findings about the Sandman with the damaged man. When he comes to the part about the creature healing itself, Frank says, “you should burn the bodies.”

“We’ve come to that conclusion as well.”

They talk some more about fighting and countering these creatures abilities. Sorenson says, “I had a question about the holy water. Do remember where you got it?”

“It was a friend of mine,” Frank says. “A friend of mine gave it to me.”

Sorenson probes further learning he obtained it from a priest. Frank explains, “There was some strange stuff on the south side.”

“I’d love to meet with this friend of yours and find out how this water is prepared. It might be very useful weapon against the Sandman.”

Frank strugles with his memory and then says, “I think he went back to Italy.”

“That is unfortunate, perhaps there are others of his order around?” Sorenson tries to probe further but Frank can’t remember more. He decides to try another tactic. “Do you have any questions for me? I spend most of my time trying to get you answer my questions.”

As Frank tries to think of a question, he continues, “if you can’t think of one right away just jot it down and we can discuss it at our next session.”

Then he rings for the orderly to take Frank back to his room.

March 5th through 12th

Robert Mill spends his week at the Medical school pretending to be a student. In the evening he hangs out at the study hall and chats with the other students. They seem to be unaware of the break ins. In gathering opinions about the professors he hears an interesting tidbit about Dr. Woodruff. It seems the old woman is losing her hearing. As one student explains, “I passed her by one night and she totally ignored me.”

More interestingly, Mill overhears some of the staff discussing a set of missing to the building. The secretary says, “I was sure we had three sets of keys to the morgue.”

The firm follows up this information on Friday the 12th. From Dr. Wilkens, they learn that three professors have keys in addition to the three pairs kept in a lock box in the main office. From the secretary, Janis Fogg, they get the sign out log. The person who took the keys left an unintelligible scrawl but based on the times it must have happened a few days ago. Janis claims Dr. Woodruff signed them out. Dr. Wilkens has yet to talked to Woodruff.

Shaw tells him, “let me look into Dr. Woodruff first. I didn’t see anything strange in her financials. I’ll get back to you in a couple hours.”

The department head agrees to sit on the information for a couple hours.

Shaw gives Mill a call. “Have you heard anything about Woodruff?”

Mill tells her about the rumors of her hearing loss. They speculate she might be distracted. Also the incident occur suspiciously late at night. Shaw is able to discount a financial motive but directs Mill to check the scrawl against Woodruff’s normal signature. They also begin planning a stakeout of the morgue.

Shaw’s research into Dr. Sarah Woodruff turns up little incriminating. A doctor for 40 years, she is nearing retirement. Her finances are good and she is happily married with no health issues. She’s been teaching a reduced class load but there is o pattern between the schedule and the thefts.

Shaw decides to discuss the strange message Mill found on his computer with Dr. Sorenson. The mention of ‘do not trust the children’ and ‘avoid the tunnels’ resonate with material from Kenneth Thomas‘s notes about ’baitman’s children’ as well as the children that Frank mentioned carrying off the Sandman.

“Sorry I haven’t been in touch lately,” sorenson says when she calls. “I keep hoping for a breakthrough with Frank. But just little bits of information here and there.”

Shaw broaches the subject. “Turns out there is a connection between what he had said and another case we are investigating.”

They fill each other in. Intrigued, Sorenson says, “I wonder if we could investigate this facility at night.”

Shaw seems supportive but wonders if the children are the same ones Kenneth mentioned.

“Frank is under the impression that they are helping to thwart the Sandmen from intruding into the center,” Dr. Sorenson says. “Maybe I’ll have to stay late after work to investigate these children.”

“If you need help I’ll be happy to join you,” she says.

“Some backup may be a good idea.”

The two plan to meet up after 8 that night. Just then there is a knock at Sorenson’s door. “If you need anything else, let me know, I have an appointment.”

Sorenson hangs up and Anna Wade, one of the secretaries, hands him a file.

“New patient?” he asks.

“No, she’s been with us a while. I guess you are the next one to-”

“Have a crack at her?” he interrupts.

“Yes.”

As the doctor digs into the file of Lara Woronov at the Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Shaw calls Erin Bartram to give her the task of looking into the tunnels under the university and Hillcrest.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, March 12th, 6PM

There is a knock at Shaw’s door. Erin cracks the door open.

“Hey Bartram,” Shaw says looking up from the records on her desk.

The dark skinned woman nervously grips a folder. “Just put together a report. I didn’t expect you to be here.”

Erin shows her the report. The other woman has collected maps, depositions, and more for both locations. “These are the original tunnels. Here we have the additions put in 1965 and 1998.” She explains that only a few custodians have access to the tunnels.

Erin turns to the second half of her report.

“Hillcrest, that’s where Frank is isn’t it?” she says uncertainly.

“Yeah,” Shaw replies.

“It has,” she pauses, “an interesting history.”

“I haven’t looked much into its history myself. It was well recommended though.”

Erin outlines its history from its founding in 1882 by Dr. Ignatius Hopper to the present day. The East Wing, where Frank is housed, is the original building. There are tunnels to the West Wing and supposedly substantial subbasements. She has a map of the grounds. “I haven’t been able to find any maps of the tunnels. Much of the work was done in 1907 after a fire.”

“What is the West Wing used for?” Shaw asks.

Erin explains it is primarily houses the therapy areas as well as a coma ward. She goes on to describe how the tunnels were sealed up afterwards. There was talk of working on the tunnels back in 80s but nothing came of that.

“I did charmed my way into the archives and find this.” Erin hands Shaw a piece of paper. It is a letter from a company called Hoyle and Shepherd about their decision to back out of work involving the subbasements. “That was the firm that was contracted to do the renovations.”

“Is there a copy of the depositions?” Shaw asks.

“No. Shall I look more into this?”

Shaw tells her no and explains their consultant Dr. Sorenson. “Have a nice evening.”

As Shaw packs up she texts Robert about the tunnels beneath the university. She tells him to check tunnels. She leaves a copy of the report on his desk.

University of Washington, University District, 8PM

Robert tries another grate. Rusty but definitely not locked. He thinks back to the report, remembering the layout of the tunnels with crystal clarity. One more to go.

A few minutes later at the edge of campus he pulls on a final grate. It easily swings open. His keen eyes spot flecks of rust on the ground nearby. Someone’s been using the tunnels.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, 8 PM

Shaw pulls into the darkened parking lot next to the Hillcrest Center. She rings Dr. Sorenson and heads for the entrance. The grim visages of four saints look down on her as she passes into the building.

Dr. Sorenson lets her inside. “I hope you’ve eaten, the cafeteria is closed.”

Shaw tell him about the tunnels beneath the building. Sorenson knows nothing about them but is not surprised. She asks, “I don’t know if you can get a hold of it but there is supposed to be a more detailed deposition in your records.”

“I can look into it,” he says leading her to his office.

“Have you asked Frank about Baitman’s children or any other details of the case?”

“No but we could go up to see him if you’d like.”

“Sure.”

The two go upstairs. The halls are quiet. They pass a single orderly on the way up to the third floor. “Working late, Dr. Sorenson?”

“Yes, I have a new case load. Hope things work out.”

A few minutes later they reach Frank’s door. “Frank, its Dr. Sroenson. Do you have a minute to talk? I have a guest here. A friend of yours.”

Franks bald head appears in the small window. “Hi Frank”, Shaw says.

“Hi Shaw.”

Dr. Sorenson unlocks the door. “I thought we could talk in here, in private.”

Dr. Sorenson describe the group’s investigation of the children to Frank.

“They come out a little bit later,” the older man says.

Shaw asks, “Frank I was wondering if you had heard of the Baitman or if these children have anything to do with Baitman?”

Frank gets a distant look in his eyes. “I’ve seen that name.”

He thinks for a moment. “On a wall. Downstairs somewhere.”

“A doctor’s name?” Sorenson asks.

“Yeah, a Dr. Bateman.”

Dr. Sorenson notices Shaw’s puzzlement. He asks, “you were thinking a different context?”

Shaw explains she thought this was tied to the fish cults. She was thinking the spell as B-A-I-T instead of B-A-T-E like someone’s name.

Frank adds, “I think it was down by the lobby.”

“We could go down there to check,” the doctor offers. He turns back to Frank. “What do you think the children’s purpose is?”

“I talked to Michael,” the inmate says, refering to another patient. “He said they live downstairs.”

Shaw and Sorenson discuss if the children are a danger to Frank. He claims they carried off a Sandman. “Michael says they carried off a patient once.”

Sorenson asks if Frank feels safe.

“I’ll be safe,” he says, his eyes darting to end of his bed where it hits the wall.

As the two realize Frank has a weapon hidden here, Dr. Sorenson leans in to him. “Be sure that none of the orderlies know you have defenses in here. They might misinterpret. I understand you need to be safe.”


Shaw and Dr. Sorenson return to the lobby.

“Do you know a Dr. Bateman?” Shaw asks.

Sorenson admits there a lot of people working here and he isn’t acquainted with most of them. He logs into the computer system and checks the employee directory. “No matches.”

“Frank told them he saw it on a wall,” Shaw says.

As they look around the room, Dr. Sorenson realizes he never really read the list of directors on a plaque in the entrance hall. Right under the current director is: Dr. Thomas Bateman (1980-1991).

Shaw googles his name on her phone. Apparently the former director went to jail for murdering his assistant Dr. Alexander Valerio. He was sentanced to 26 years in prison but was murdered in 1993 by a former patient.

Dr. Sorenson tries to reassure her. “I hope you know not everyone who works here is crazy.”

They discuss investigating the basement but Shaw thinks it would be safer during the day. They decide to stakeout the third floor from an empty room near one of the stair wells.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, 2 AM

As the rain falls outside, Sorenson focuses on the smallest noises. The singing and yelling of a few hours ago are long over. He glances out at the wet darkness outside the tiny window.

Then he and Shaw hear child-like giggling echoing down the hall. It is distant and coming from the direction of the far stairwell but there does seem to be some children in the halls.

Dr. Sorenson sneaks out of the room with surprising quietness. Shaw follows him. He reaches a corner and looks down it. There, near Frank’s room, he sees an unfamiliar doctor talking to a child.

The doctor’s back is to him but the child’s face looks angry, with an almost feral rage. The starved urchin is dressed in filthy clothes too large for him. Then the child launches himself at the doctor and begins to claw at him. The doctor loses his composure and with one arm lifts up the child and smashes him against the wall.

As he pulls the child back from the wall, Frank’s door opens. The old man stabs the strange doctor with a homemade shiv.

The child is smashed against the wall again and a painful crunching noise can be heard. Suddenly the child turns to black goo that splashes across the floor.

“Noooo!” Trevor screams as he runs forward and slams into the doctor.

Shaw sees him run around the corner. She pulls her gun as she follows him. She sees Frank and Dr. Sorenson struggling with a large man in a lab coat. A large black smear covers the floor. Frank stabs again and again into the man.

“Stand down!” Shaw shouts.

The strange doctor flees down the hall and smashes through a windowat the far end. Shaw chases after him, following the trail of blood. Looking down from the window she sees the man crouched 30 feet below. The man looks up inot the rain as a bolt of lightning comes down.

In that instant Shaw sees that the man is really made from a patchwork of different people. Then it vanishes into the darkness.

Shaw’s mind refuses to process what she saw. Dr. Sorenson still shaken by what he saw tries to calm her down. Get gets Frank back into his room and cleans the blood from his shiv. “I’ll cover for you Frank.”

Then he returns to Shaw. “Let go back downstairs and talk about what happened.”

She stare blankly at the window.

“I know it was completely crazy,” He says. He glances around at the broken glass, blood and black goo. “But this isn’t something we should discuss here.”

He leads her to his office and they talk.

“The lightning hit him,” she says. “It actually hit him. It lit him up and did you see that!”

“I didn’t get a real close look at it,” he admits.

Shaw shakes a bit. “He was stitched together, he was like-oh my god-could he have been stealing the bodies? Is that the connection?”

“I don’t know, its possible.”

“He was stealing body parts like a finger,” she says loudly. “We couldn’t figure out why.”

“Its possible, its possible,” sorenson says. He begins to ramble as well from the adrenaline. “The children seems to be protecting the people here from creatures that come here to collect things. We have to find a way to talk to the children and learn from them. We have to try again, perhaps another hall or corridor, or a subbasement to see where they live. I’m going to get us some coffees. I’ll be right back.”

The two talk for a half hour but don’t more sense of it. Shaw at least however regains some composure. But after she leaves, Sorenson goes back up to check the hall. The black goo and the blood is gone.

Saturday, March 13th

Dr. Wilkens calls Robert Mill. He explains he talked to Dr. Woodruff but that she denies that she took the keys. But also has something else to tell him. “I was talking to a friend of mine at the county morgue, Stephen Chang. We get a lot of our cadavers from there. It came up that he’s been having the same sort of issue. Maybe its not someone here or not just someone here.”

Robert verifies that the culprit at the morgue has the same MO. “Has he been investigating as well?”

“I don’t know.”

He tells him thanks and rings Shaw. He tells her about the county morgue connection.

Shaw says, “I have a possible suspect or at least a connection. I saw something really strange at the asylum last night.” She explains the sighting of the patchwork man and explains her theory that it was taking body parts to add to itself or make more of itself.

Robert brings up the section of the message from Infinity: ‘the thief knows not what he does.’

They discuss the unanswered questions brought up by this. Shaw says tiredly, “I should have collected samples. I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“That will happen in these circumstances. Its disturbing. In light of this information, how do you want me to proceed?”

Shaw asks if he learned anything about the tunnels. Mill describes the possible access point and suggests checking the morgue as well. Shaw decides to have Erin look into it. she also tell him that Dr. Sorenson is searching for records on the tunnels under Hillcrest.

Something nags at Mill though. “But this creature didn’t attack you? It also didn’t go into any tunnels and instead ran out a window and onto the grounds?”

“Yes but I think it was just an expedient retreat. If you can survive a 3-story fall that is.”

Mill turns to more mundane matters. He asks if he should stay at the school. “I’m not picking up any more information here.”

“We were hired to make sure it wasn’t an inside job,” Shaw says. “I want to clear Woodruff first. But start closing it up, typing up your reports, and see what you can find on Woodruff.”

“I’ve been spending a lot of time with her and I haven’t seen anything strange.”

They decide to stake out the morgue that night.

Medical School, University District, 8 PM

Shaw nods to Mill as she passes by the study lab. Erin was already watching the tunnel entrance at the edge of campus. Shaw lets herself into the morgue and hides herself in a storage closet.

A couple hours later, Mill spots Dr. Woodruff walking down the hall. He glances at the clock 12:34. He sticks his head out and sees her head for the morgue. He texts Shaw: ‘incoming woodruff’. He then starts to follow her carefully.

Woodruff enters the morgue. Robert pulls his gun and a can of mace. His phone vibrates. checking it, he sees a text from Erin: ‘entrance is open’. He forwards the message to Shaw. She sends back: ‘radio silence’.

Inside the detective peers through the crack of the partially open storage room door. The elderly doctor enters the room and heads over to the cadavers. Shaw fails to notice the door open again and her partner slip in. Shaw starts recording with her phone, video taping the whole scene.

Woodruff stops. She turns around. She looks directly at Shaw.

Shaw emerges from the closet.

“Who are you?” warbles the doctor.

“What are doing here so late Dr. Woodruff?” Shaw asks.

Woodruff hesitates but calmly replies, “looking at the bodies.”

“They’re good,” the detective assures her. Robert, unseen by all, crouches by the door.

“There are some new specimens and I needed to check them,” the ‘doctor’ says.

“Yup, they’re really fresh. Its already been done.”

“What are you doing here?” the old woman asks. Her voice is even and emotionless.

“Don’t you know?” Shaw asks, her arms still outstretched recording the entire conversation.

“No”

“Who are you?” Shaw asks.

Robert checks that they are the only ones in the room.

“I’m Dr. Woodruff,” the woman says. “That what you said.”

With her other hand, Shaw checks her gun is clear. “Yeah and what’s your first name?”

As the woman hesitates, Shaw says louder, “I’ll ask again, who are you?”

She points her gun at the woman. She puts up her hands. “I-I’m not here to hurt anyone.”

“Then answer the question please,” Shaw says testily.

“I’m Community,” the woman says.

“What you’ve been doing has been notice,” Shaw explains.

“What do you mean?” she says innocently.

“The pilfering of the bodies.”

“I needed to fix things, to fix myself,” she explains.

“You look fine,” Shaw says confused. “What do you mean?”

“There’s imperfections. I need to fix myself. So I don’t have to disguise myself anymore.”

“What disguise?” Shaw asks.

Community reaches up to her face and pulls it on it. As she pulls it seems to maguically wipe away. Instead of Woodruff, they see a strange androgynous person with a face mades from dozens of different patches of skin. Her clothes changes as wel, transforming into rags. On one should the tattoo ‘C6’ can be ssen.

Shaw flinches in disgust. She drops her phone and with both hands on her gun begins firing.

The first round strikes it solidly in the chest. It immediately starts to flee. It reaches the door and see Robert crouched there. Panicking it rips the door off its hinges and flings it across the room.

From his vantage point Robert can see the bullet hole stitching close before his eyes. He sprays it in the face with his mace. As it flinches back, Shaw puts another round into its shoulder.

They chase it down the hallway. Robert hits autodial for Erin on his phone as they go. It busts the doors to the outside open and rushes for the nearest tunnel entrance.

“Erin! Its going for the tunnels!” Robert shouts.

Shaw shoots it again as it dive into the tunnels. Robert drops in behind it. He pauses a moment to pull a flashlight and then races down the dark corridors with only the sound of its fading footsteps and his mental map to guide him.

Shaw calms herself down. She goes back into the building for her phone and the evidence on it. As she looks at the destruction it wrought in its escape, she realizes she’ll need to give a statement to the police. She finds Bob Evans, the security guard.

“I think we scared off your body thief,” she says.

“What the hell happened?” the overweight man asks.

She looks that broken doors. “I’m still not sure how it managed to do this. It really looked a lot of Dr. Woodruff but it wasn’t her.”

“So it was some sort of impersonator?” he asks confused.

“Yeah, I guess,” she doubting herself. “It was dark. It looked like her. I guess I wasn’t hiding well enough. It made a threatening gesture and I shot at it.”

She pauses. “Mill is down in the tunnels chasing it. I recommend you get better security for them.”

Looking at the room she can see blood splatter from her shots. Its less than she would expect.

Meanwhile in the tunnels, Robert makes it to the exit. The creature is long gone. Erin is standing nearby pressed against a wall and looking down the street.

“What was that thing?” she asks.

“Are you okay Erin?” he asks.

She shakes nervously. “It ran off, it jumped across that street.”

“Its alright, let’s get back.” He begins to lead her to the car.

“What was that?” she asks again.

“I don’t know. Shaw has a recording of it. It will be alright.” He manages to calm her down and lead her back to the medical school. The police have already arrived.

Shaw gives them a statement, claiming she saw a figure in disguise and that it came at her. She says she fired a warning shot and then it destroyed the door.

“Its kind of strange to call it an in but…” she says gesturing to the damage.

March 13th through 16th

Shaw still troubled by her recent experiences sets up some counseling sessions with Dr. Sorenson. He starts her off with deep breathing exercises.

The police decide not to pursue any charges against Lillian Shaw or One of a Kind Investigations. Unfortunately the forensic evidence was contaminated by foreign material. The blood splatter reveals a host of different blood types.

Dr. Woodruff apparently was on the other side of the city with her husband. Their job complete, One of a Kind Investigations gets paid by a somewhat confused but satisfied Dr. Wilkins.

Shaw has Mill contact Stephen Chang about hiring them to look into the county morgue thefts.

Meanwhile Dr. Sorenson does research into the tunnels beneath the Hillcrest Center. The company hired to do the rebuilding of hospital after the fire demolished the entire East wing and built more modern structure upon the ruins. The architect was a Frank Teesdale, who models the lowest subbasements on a series of preexisting tunnels. However after construction was complete, Dr. Edward Brake, the director at the time, had them sealed up the lowest levels.

Along the way he learns the tortured history of the facility, the deaths and scandals that have plagued its directors, and the disturbing work that was done there. Strangely he is unable to find any record of a fire 10 years ago, despite the reference in Lara Woronov’s files.

He does find some other papers and notes, misfiled in the facilities ancient filing system. One cryptic note details mad ramblings of Laurence Merrigan who murdered Brake’s successor. Another by Brake himself, admonishes a junior doctor not to investigate the subbasements. A final transcript comes from Adam Backer, who killed Dr. Bateman in prison. He claims Deros made him do it.

The current owners of the Hillcrest center are a group of medical and pharmacology companies. They include the non-profit Pleusus Guild, which runs the coma ward in the West wing, as well as Peregrine LCC and Weide GmbH.

Over the week, Robert brings up the fact that the creature, whatever it is, doesn’t seem hostile. It has always fleed from them. “It seems really strong but instead it chose to run rather than fight.”

Shaw is unable to bring herself to agree. Robert still would like try to talk to it.

The investigators and Sorenson meet during the middle of the week to discuss the case further. The doctor still thinks the children serve as a some sort of defense system for the Hillcrest center.

Shaw still wants to tie this Kenneth‘s notes on the children. "They could be some sort of fertility cult. Maybe that’s what’s down in the basement?"

“I think it is in our best interests to get into the subbasements,” Dr. Sorenson says.

Robert interrupts, “one question is why was this creature even at the hospital? There are no body parts there.”

No one has a good answer to that. Also even if they are defending Hillcrest, they can’t be trusted. Infinity warned them.

“That doesn’t mean they are bad,” Dr. Sorenson says, defending them.

Mill is unconvinced.

Talk turns to who cleaned up the mess after the fight in with the creature at Hillcrest.

“Maybe the children cleaned it up,” Robert offers.

They discuss the cleaner staff being in on it or even being replaced by doppelgangers or patchwork men.

Shaw tell Dr. Sorenson, “I still think if you try to make contact with the children again that you take someone with you.”

“I’m not going to do that again,” he says emphatically. “There is a lot crazy things happening there. Its dangerous.” He then espouses his theory that these creatures are products of pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Sorenson is not ready to go to the Hillcrest board of directors about this matter. They decide to begin checking that people are not being replaced or infiltrated by doubles. At the same time Dr. Sorenson begins his own plans for sneaking the group into Hillcrest.

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