Nick realises that the intruder has breached his “panic room.” When he goes to check it, a large feline leaps past him for the open door. It has the waterbottle with the remains of the Acantha clutched in its teeth.
Nick shoots. The thing yowls in anger, but keeps heading for the door. Nick fires again and the animal discorporates into a misty form. It drops the waterbottle and keeps running, through the closed front door and outside.
Han, Vincent, and Stephanie all arrive at about this time. Vincent and Stephanie both see the still-misty form of the cat running into the woods and go driving after it. Han sees something else: the silhouette of a tall humanoid form, slipping behind a tree.
Vincent and Stephanie plow their cars into the woods after the cat. Han gets out of his car to pursue his target on foot.
Neither Vincent nor Stephanie are able to keep the cat in their sights for long. Once he loses the cat, Vincent pauses to take a call from Nick, who warns that he’s planted several bear traps around the property.
Stephanie discovers the bear traps the hard way, ending up with a flat tire and a broken axle. Nick phones and warns her to stay where she is until he can come get her.
Han loses his target almost instantly, but rejoins Nick and Vincent without incident. Vincent stays in the front yard to babysit the watterbottle while Nick and Han tow Stephanie back to safety.
The three of them return to see Vincent running back towards the front yard, spear at the ready. He reports that he saw a tall, thin, humanoid figure lurking about the barn.
A visibly upset Nick orders everyone into the house. He tells the group that the creature has been lurking around the farm for years, eating livestock and people.
Nick advises not leaving the farm until morning. He then heads up to the attic to watch for what he calls the Beast. Han follows.
Nick reviews the security camera footage and easily spots the cat entering the house by walking through a closed door. He also spots places where the footage fizzes out, a sure sign that the Beast has been lurking. However, there is no further sign of the Beast and the night passes without incident.
Nick offers Stephanie the use of his truck while he fixes her car. He and Han, both competent mechanics, add a few extra bells and whistles while they’re at it.
After work, Stephanie takes a blood sample of a cat to a researcher friend at the University of Nevada. He confirms that the creature’s DNA matches that of a bobcat, but that the cell structure is “off” somehow.
Vincent chats up his “uncle” Daryl about Red Reef Casino. As far as Daryl knows, there’s nothing really untoward about the prospective casino, but he does have the impression that whoever’s behind the project is trying to be a squeaky wheel.
Trying to identify the mage’s potential next targets, Vincent learns that Las Vegas city councillor Cassandra Lawrence has been outspoken against the potential development, previously voting against a motion to rezone the property of the prospective Red Reef Casino. He also learns that another city councillor, Jackson Grant, has recently re-introduced a bill to re-zone the property.
Nick goes looking for a way to keep magic ghost cats out of his house. He finds a reliable-seeming curio shop, but its artifacts are out of his price range.
The group reconvenes decides to check out the prospective Red Reefs property. The current building is a collection of somewhat run-down, single-story housing units, with central facilities connected to a front office.
Vincent enters the office to check it out before chatting up the residents. As he enters, he sees a well-kept man just leaving the building in an expensive car.
In talking with residents and staff, Vincent learns that the owner of the property, Casey Lanier, has been approached by someone at Red Reef Casinos, but doesn’t seem willing to sell.
New … friends?
The group leaves the property and is having a lively discussion about protecting Lawrence and Lanier when Nick’s burner phone rings. The caller tells Nick that she has some information about the graffiti sigils. They agree to meet in a public place to discuss.
Stephanie posts herself outside the restaurant while Nick, Han and Vincent enter separately. Han and Vincent find themselves a table while Nick goes to meet their informant, an older woman who introduces herself as Alta.
After some dancing around the issue, Alta reveals that she created the graffiti sigils in an effort to track the Acantha, which had tried to eliminate her once before. She had assumed the creature was destroyed until the death of David Walsh proved otherwise.
Alta tells the players that their adversary is Stefan Gowisse, a property manager at MGM Resorts International. Gowisse is seeking to acquire a property which will allow him to funnel more power into his magics.
Vincent casually walks by Nick and Alta on his way to the restroom. Once inside, he finds little of interest in the purse that he just pickpocketed: her driver’s license, which reveals her name to be Alanna Lucente, and a flip-phone with a handful of contacts. Vincent circumspectly returns the purse to her booth on the way back to his table.
In which the party uses their downtime between adventures to cause SHENANIGANS
Han Zian returns home after a couple weeks helping his parents through the aftermath of a recent car accident, and more than a couple of awkward conversations after his parents find out exactly what he does for a living. The other characters fill him in on their previous adventures.
Stephanie Schulman goes to lunch with her friend Rachel Valenzuela. Rachel grills her about an incident where Stephanie asked for some “makeup help” (to visit a crime scene in relative anonymity, but Rachel doesn’t know that). Rachel lets Stephanie change the subject, but she makes a point of not being fooled.
Vincent Valenti spends his downtime searching the city for rumours of ghouls. He finds some interesting things.
Nick Shelley drags Han out to a nightclub, despite the fact that neither of them have any idea what there is to do at nightclubs. They decide that nightclubs are for being famous people, and draw out their fans with a few well-crafted Tweets.
Nick lets his frustrations get the better of him. No one in the club is willing to pick a fight, but as they leave, they pass a couple of teens silently handing out business cards for a brothel. Nick sucker-punches the closest kid into unconsciousness while Han, dozens of fans, and several filming smartphones look on.
Nick and Han both give impromptu speeches about the evils of human trafficking, because at this point, why not.
A less-than-impressed Han drags Nick out to a coffee shop where they can talk, but Nick’s not in a particularly talkative mood.
Morning arrives. The police do not. Stephanie emails around to the group, suggesting they try to find out who summoned the Acantha. Nobody’s very thrilled with Nick, but he’s not apologizing, so they move on.
The group heads down into the storm drains beneath the city where they fought and killed the Acantha. Annette Thomas informs them that to the best of her knowledge, nobody else has come down to the tunnels asking about the creature, and there haven’t been any more murders. She’s still willing to help, but seems a bit wary of the party now that they’re openly claiming to be monster hunters.
As they work their way through the tunnels, Vincent asks around about the graffiti circle that the party had discovered near David Walsh’s body. One of the other tunnel residents with a long-standing interest in the occult reocognizes one of the runes the party hadn’t yet deciphered as something to do with dowsing or finding. He informs them the rune is of Estrucan origin.
Before leaving the tunnels, the group heads down to the site of the Acantha’s most recent murder, as it tried to bait the party into attacking it. The body of the victim has been removed, but the site is otherwise undisturbed, with no trace of graffiti.
Han asks to see the original graffiti, since he’s only seen it in pictures. With a keen eye, he’s able to confirm that it was used for a real magical purpose. He also suspects that runes were meant to help find someone from Walsh’s bloodline.
Before they leave the scene, Nick puts up a series of posters with a picture of the graffiti spell circle and the caption “Have you seen who did this?” He adds the number for one of his disposable phones on tearaway strips at the bottom of each poster.
The party takes another look at the two murder victims who were not residents of the tunnels, Sean Bulmer and Toni Hopf. The two victims don’t seem to be related to either each other, or Walsh.
Nick takes a trip to the local county office, and comes away with a geneology of both Bulmer and Hopf, at least what can be put together from publicly available city records.
In trying to learn more about Bulmer, a casino manager, Vincent learns that there is a new prospective casino in the same neighbourhood as Bulmer’s place of work, a prospective development called Red Reef Casinos. The casino doesn’t exist yet, but its owners have apparently been making inquiries about zoning permits and property sales.
Wondering if there’s a connection between Red Reef Casinos and the murders, VIncent does a bit of digging and learns that Toni Hopf, an educational activist, had previously spoken out against the prospective casino, as the property it was aiming to buy would displace a block of low-income housing.
The party decides to call it quits for the day, as it’s getting late by now. They go their separate ways and head home. Nick arrives on the farm to discover a dead mouse left prominently on his front porch and a small but noticeable trail of leaves and brush in the hallway just outside his “conspiracy room.” He immediately grabs the shotgun by the door, calls Han to request reinforcements, and hunkers down to wait for whatever comes next.