NYPD Beat: An Unusually Special Investigation

Summary:
July 10, 2014 Paul and Sara follow up on the Buzzard, the fires and Jason Blood. An extended log played out over several days.

Various places in Manhattan


Characters

NPCs


Mood Music:


The hustle and bustle of a police bullpen doesn't really quiet down much in NYC, not even as off the beaten path as Special Investigations is, to many capes and crackpots to keep them as unknown as they'd likely wish to be. "Hey Pezz, how's tricks?" asks an over weight, slightly racist, slightly homophobic, mustachioed, but still decent cop most commonly referred to by the cliched name of 'Murph'. It's used mostly ironically as the man could not be more Italian if he tried. Speaking of, a bit of tomato sauce dribbles from the back of the meatball sub he's currently stuffing into his mouth, and down onto his jutting belly, instantly joining a trio of other stains already residing on the white short sleeved button up he wears. He tosses a file folder onto Sara's desk idly as he groans a bit lowering himself into his desk chair, which just to the side of hers. Paul gets a nod and a grunt. That's what he gets for not being a hot chick, barely there acknowledgement.

"Ever consider a bib, Murph?" Paul asks, returning the nod then looking back to his computer to continue filing the report. "They're for more than babies now. You can say you just had lobster." As if anyone in the precinct could afford lobster every day. "What's in the file? Demonic possession? Spontaneous combustion? A cape got his cape caught in a revolving door?"

"Oh, you know, Murph," Sara grimaces as she leans forward to claim the folder. "If it's weird, we're there. Had a fun one earlier in the week, lady was convinced her toaster was possessed because she saw monsters in her toast every time it came out." Folder in hand, she tips her chair back to get a good look at it.

Jason Blood snorts, "Demonic possession, yeah, that's a thing." he wipes at the sauce on his tummy which mostly just spreads it around, "Naw. You remember that gas leak over at DCS? Took out that whole building? Craziest shit ever. Well, fire marshal sent that over, said that maybe it was linked to your case. Seems same night that place went up like a candel another gas leak hit St. Mary's, that old place on the Lower East Side? Yup. Took a heavy hit. Seems the gas company is filled with failures and they all came home to roost couple weeks back. Anyway, Fire Marshal isn't certain it was an accident, wanted to talk to the Detectives in charge of the other case. Turner, Hooch, that'd be you two."

"St. Mary's?" Paul stands up and walks around the desks to read over Sara's shoulder. "How many died?" If it's connected to the preacher, it's how many not did any. "Well, we can certainly talk to him. You ready to go Hooch? Bark once for yes and twice for no."

"You know how utilities are in the old places here," Sara shakes her head at Murph's explanation, flipping through the folder. "Always on the edge of falling apart. I'm good to take a look," she says, closing the folder and setting her chair down as she hands it to Paul. "Careful, Manning, I'll bite."

Jason Blood waves a hand, "Naw, sounds like the place got evacuated before hand, was some heavy fire damage to the interior, but it's an old stone building from back when that was a thing, not a ton to burn but some bibles and some pews. Fire Marshal said it was weird though, I didn't really listen, it's your problem not mine." and Murph spins in his chair, plopping his sub down on another file where it bleeds sauce slowly and being using a wet nap to wipe at his shirt. "Lue's out doing what-the-hell ever. I'll her know you went to chase your tails." Murph offers, his face screwing up in concentration as he rubs at the shirt vigorously…

Paul goes back to his chair to grab his jacket though he doesn't put it on. It's too damn hot and humid. "We'll pick you up some baby wipes on the way back." Looking at Sara, he asks "I don't suppose you'd be willing to pull the car around while I wait inside?"

"Wow, that's how much you love me, huh?" Sara smirks at Paul. "Go head, wait inside, pansy." She brings the car around, then lets Paul take care of skimming the file and calling the fire marshal on the way to the church.

The drive is uneventful, and while the report on the church is solid enough, it's also vague and filled with the familiar buzzwords of things that are meant to sound impressive but don't really mean anything. As if someone were doctoring it up to sound more official and stuffy for the Brass without really wanting to out right lie if they could avoid it. In short… it reads a lot like Paul and Sara's reports. Which means it's relationship with the truth is purely coincidental.

The church itself has a brick facade that while charred around a few busted windows and sporting a spire who's pointy wooden roof had recently been removed (the other spire seems just fine) seems oddly devoid of damage. The door opens to a push and the smell of ash and coals and smoke wafts out pungently. Inside the building is a different story. The entry way carpet is clearly gone, and all of the churches reading materials and tapestries are crispy critters, most of the debris having been removed and swept out in the last week or two. Clean up is obviously progressing well, and walking through the entry way and into the chapel proper, one can understand why the entry looked so neat. Because it was just the first step. The pews, or what's left of them, are stacked all to one side of the chapel, burned bibles and hymnals in a mountain of ashen leather covers without pages in them are heaped just to the side. An older priest, fir and carrying himself a bit like an ex-soldier would, uses a push broom in what is likely his third or fourth pass over the now concrete floor, herding dust, ash, and bits of cold coals over towards the large pile of debris that once were pews for worshipers. He wears a dust mask over his face, stained gray from the soot, and sweat cleans little rivulets down his deeply lined face as he works.

"Just doing my part to promote feminism and equality." Paul counters blandly. When Sara goes to get the car, he calls the fire marshal and arranges a meeting at the church. They should get their about an hour early to look around on their own which should be plenty of time. Once he's in the car, he scans the file as Sara drives. "You know how we lie on our reports by confusing or boring the reader? He's almost as good at it as we are. Do you want me to get you a hot dog at that stand up there?" Translation, pull over and you can have one too if you want. When they do get to the church, he pauses inside to look around and study everything, priest included.

"Bottomless pit," Sara accuses. "But I'll take a pretzel if they have them." She's done by the time they get to the church, crossing herself absently when she gets inside. "What a mess," she murmurs to Paul, frowning as she looks around at the wreckage. "No way this was one person."

The sound of voices causes the priest to look up quickly, his eyes settling on the pair there and while one can't see it, the crinkles at the eyes tell them he's smiling, "Sorry for the mess." he offers, his voice a pleasant speaking tenor, "As you can see, we're in the middle of a bit of a … remodel. I can offer you a recommendation if you are seeking confession or guidance? To a church that currently possesses," he glances around, "seating?"

"No thank you, Father." Paul pulls his jacket to one side to display the badge on his belt. "I'm Detective Manning, this is Detective Pezzini. We're just here to look over the damage and meet with the fire marshal once he gets here. Please don't let us disturb you."

Bennet ah's a bit at that, eyeing the badge, "Well, in that case, avoid the southeast corner. The explosion did some damage to the underpinnings there and we haven't had them come in to shore it up yet. The whole things a death trap over there, the marshal will tell you all about that I'm sure." he turns back to his broom, "Come find me if you have any questions."

"No, I go to Saint Vincent's, father," Sara answers the priest with a small smile. "Thank you, though," she adds when he provides the additional information, starting to walk along the perimeter of the area, careful not to step on anything too unusual. "Was anyone here when it happened?" she asks the priest.

Bennet pauses in the sweep, then nods, "I was, and a couple of the Sisters we keep on staff. It was late and we were preparing some files for the diocese." he turns to eye the other two, "You shouldn't breath in this stuff," he reaches into his pocket and holds out a pair of rumpled but clean dust masks like the one he wears, little rubber bands and all, "here."

Paul opens the file again and uses the report as a guide on where he wants to go: in this case, the origin point. Or points. "What was it that exploded?" If soulless bodies combusted, and churches aren't noted for their supply or propane or kerosene, how did something explode? It's in the file of course but he wants to hear the priest's version.

Bennet pauses in the sweep, then nods, "I was, and a couple of the Sisters we keep on staff. It was late and we were preparing some files for the diocese." he turns to eye the other two, "You shouldn't breath in this stuff," he reaches into his pocket and holds out a pair of rumpled but clean dust masks like the one he wears, little rubber bands and all, "here." The father then leans on the broom handle and considers the question, "I'm not rightly sure. We don't get gas here, all electric, but I suppose the line have to travel somewhere. Fire Marshal said there was a leak under the building, filled in an air pocket int he sewer then something sparked he guesses and…" the father's hands make a 'boom' motion. "Total freak accident. Sad though. This place has been around since the 1800's. Tough old bird though, blow her up and she's still standing." he looks around almost fondly at the ash covered shell complete with its' sooty stained glass windows.

"Thank you," Sara nods politely to the priest, putting on a mask. She listens to the explanation, looking around and nodding along. "But no one was actually in the sanctuary, where the explosion happened?" she asks, looking back to the priest.

Paul takes the mask but doesn't put it on, instead slipping it into his jacket pocket. He does wander over toward where the explosion was but not close enough to fall through. Hopefully. "We should look at the lower levels below this." he tells his partner.

Bennet shakes his head, "Nope, in the offices. The sanctuary really only caught fire, most of the damage was in the Southeast corner, like I said, back where we kept the rectory and some storage and what not from ages past. That was actually the problem. Tons of old wall hangings and stacks of bibles and hymnals, stacks of old and new robes, ceremonial incense. The whole thing caught fire like kindling after the boom, spread like a California wildfire after that." he points through a door that's only half there on the back wall behind where the choir would usually stand, "Back that way is where the explosion happened, but like I said, don't go that way." the Father sighs when Paul moves that way anyway, and he moves with him, as if he could physically yank him back should there be badness of some kind, he keeps the broom even. When Paul peeks through the door he spots a room beyond that looks far worse then the chapel proper, and in the corner of that room there is a hole straight through the concrete floor. "Careful." the Father says, his voice a bit harsh and edgy. Then again, he did just live through an explosion and fire in his church, edgy makes sense. "There are no lower levels, just what's under the street. Fire Marshall has the whole thing locked down for now, something about structural abnormalities or whatever. There's a way down though, 'bout a block up, service entrance on Pitt by the bakery there."

"Yeah, I'd call that a structural abnormality," Sara agrees with the priest, glancing toward Paul to gauge his thoughts on the matter. "So, a storage area," she muses. "You said this church has been around a long time, Father?" she asks the priest. "Any relics brought over when it was established?"

"We'll want to go take a look at it then." But Sara brings up an interesting point so Paul just turns to look at the both of them and wait. Could there have been something in here to attract the buzzards?

Bennet eyes Sara for a long moment and there's a flash there of Something, "Third oldest church in New York." he says with no small hint of pride, "And yet, we had a couple of smaller relics, but they weren't harmed in the explosion and were moved out of the church a couple of days ago, for safe keeping while we're renovated." he then nods to the pair, "I wouldn't go down there without a professional, but it's your call. Like I said, access tunnel down on Pitt, near the bakery. Can't miss it if you're looking for it, should take you under the block, then just walk on back here, I'll shine a light down the hole so you can see it from down there if you want?"

"So over a couple of centuries," Sara muses, eyeing the hole down below the street. "What were they?" she asks, looking back to the priest. "The relics." She smiles faintly, almost apologetic. "I had a friend who took a trip to Europe, came back with a bunch of stories about the churches out there, realized I hadn't ever thought to look around here."

"And where were they moved to?" Paul asks. "Another church?" He walks back over to stand next to Sara and face the priest.

Bennet shrugs, "Saint's things, a few bones, nothing most would recognize if asked. We did have a chalice that touched the lips of St. Jude, it was my personal favorite-if I was allowed such a thing of course." he says offering a sheepish grin. "Of course! We aren't going to put them in a safety deposit box in a bank or something!" he looks a bit scandalized at the thought.

"Any of them die in fire?" Sara asks, glancing back toward the hole, then back to the priest. "Look, I know it's going to sound a little bit crazy, Father. And I know this is probably your line, but we're going to need you to take a few things on faith here. Sometimes…there's more to the world than what most people want to see."

Paul shifts position to get a better look at the room the explosion was. "I'm wondering if the point of the explosion was to get you to move the relics. Maybe, for some reason, they couldn't be stolen from here. Could you call the other church and have them do an inventory of what you moved there? Just to be on the safe side."

Bennet blinks at both of the detectives for a moment, then shakes his head slowly, "None of them died in a fire." he says, his tone suddenly suspicious, his eyes guarded after Sara's little addition. Paul's words cause him to shake his head, "No. I do not have a cell phone and our phone lines aren't exactly functional. Would one of you like to explain yourselves?"

"We're NYPD, Father," Sara says quietly. "And we're special cases. We deal with the things that everyone else writes off as too strange, too hard to believe, just couldn't happen. I've been doing it for a few years. Paul here's a little new to the department, but he's from Gotham, so, you know. Everything's weird there." There's a flicker of a smile for that, and she pulls out her badge to offer it over. "Take a look. Call the department if you feel like you need to confirm we're who we say we are. You're welcome to use my phone if you need to."

Paul gets his cell phone from his pocket and offers it to Bennet. "Please. This was not the only recent fire. And there were certain… supernatural overtones to the others. Nothing concrete but we're trying to find a pattern if there is one. It could just be coincidence and some gas under the street exploded, nothing more. But it's our job to rule these things out."

Bennet quirks a brow and takes the badge. He checks it the way most people don't know to check it, not with a look, but by touch, sensing the weight of the metal and scratching a fingernail over it, testing it's density. Most anyone can make a good fake badge from plastics or resin, but few people realize how heavy a shield really is. He hands it back then takes the phone, "As you wish." he says evenly. He dials a number into the phone then lifts it to his ear, offering a reassuring smile to the pair. "Father O'Brian? Yes. I was wondering if you've had any break ins or if-" he eyes Paul, "you could do a quick inventory of the relics we've sent to you? The NYPD suspects the issues here were caused to open us up to theft." pause. "I agree, but there's no harm in checking. Thank you. Please call me back on this number, it belongs to a detective Manning and he may have questions for you… Thank you… You too Father." then he hangs up and hands the phone back. "Is there anything else I can help you with?" he asks curiously.

"Thank you, Father," Sara says as she takes back the badge, clipping it back onto her belt. "If you see anything else out of the ordinary while you're cleaning up, give us a call?" she asks, offering over a card. "Unless you've got anything else, Paul?"

Paul shakes his head. "No, let's go take a look under the street. We should be back before the fire marshal gets here. Thank you for the information, Father. And if you could shine that light down, that would be helpful."

Bennet looks around the church, "Anything less out of the ordinary then this?" he asks with a wee quirked smile, "Yeah, sure thing detective." he nods and walks over to the corner and lifts an old heavy metal Mag light, the kind that's been beaten to hell and back and still works like a charm. He then moves over to stand near the door that leads to the big hole, "I'll hit it here in a couple minutes, should take you a bit to get down the block and back anyway. Be careful down there, I can't imagine it's safe."

"We'll be careful, Father," Sara promises, before turning to head back out to the street. "Thank you for your help." As they approach the door, she starts pulling off her mask, giving Paul a sidelong look. Things here are clearly Not Quite Right.

Paul still has his tucked into his pocket. "We will. See you shortly, Father." As they head to the car to get the flashlights from the trunk, he pulls his phone out and looks at the number. "We can get the address of the other church if we need to."

"Run it before we go down there," Sara murmurs, sliding into the drivers seat and pulling up the console database. "There was something off about that. Read it off?" She'll check to make sure the number traces back to an actual church before she goes anywhere, but presuming it does, she's ready to venture into the dark. Again.

Paul reads it off to Sara then double checks on his own simply by using reverse look up. Internet connections are wonderful things. "Looks good. Not that I believe in holy ground but I was wondering if someone or something else does and wanted to get whatever was moved off of it. But if it's at another church, it seems unlikely. Unless it was stolen on the way." Which is why he asked for an inventory. "Right then, let's go see what's underground."

The walk down the block is uneventful, it's a nice little neighborhood, old school, and sure enough once they find the bakery it's a simple matter to spot the service entrance door to the tunnels. It's obviously usually locked, but now it's open for the sake of the investigation which is a good thing considering the door and lock both look very very new and knowing red tape it's likely there aren't many keys to it yet. Though there is one of those nifty 'we can tell if you tamper with the door' stickers on it that tears in half easily when they walk intisde. The walk back up the block underground is smelly, but otherwise uneventful as well, and they can see a light wavering in the distance, presumably the Father wiggling the mag light through the hole.

"Run it before we go down there," Sara murmurs, sliding into the drivers seat and pulling up the console database. "There was something off about that. Read it off?" She'll check to make sure the number traces back to an actual church before she goes anywhere, but presuming it does, she's ready to venture into the dark. Again.

It does. A church outside the New York Diocese, Boston specifically, but it is in fact an old Catholic Church.

It's not until they're a good fifteen or so feet inside the charred blast radius that things seems off somehow. It's not specific, it's not like either of them are Bomb Squad or know more then cursory knowledge about explosions, but this just seems weird. But then, that was kinda what the Fire Marshal's report was hinting at without actually saying. Sadly, it's hard to tell much from the debris, after all, everything did sort of… explode down here. Bits of metal piping and wire are scattered about, there's some cracks in the concrete and lots of sooty char, and of course, the stink. Frikkin' gas smells bad, even after it's been burnt…

"Sure. Or unless whoever it is is already inside the church," Sara grimaces, shutting down the console and moving back out. So much suspicion. Then again, it wouldn't be the first time she ran afoul of dirty clergy. Once they're in the tunnel, she skips the flashlight in favor of the Witchblade, a bright white light glowing from the center of her gauntleted palm as she walks. "Sulfur?" she murmurs, sniffing.

"Methane. They add it to natural gas which is otherwise odorless. Else we'd never know when there was a leak." Paul notes absently as he looks around. "Careful the priest doesn't see that." After a moment, he shakes his head. "Something just doesn't feel right."

"You down there Detectives? I heard voices, everything okay?" comes the Father's voice from the hole. All this tension, someone really ought to point out to the two cops they are allowed vacation time.

"What, and die quietly in our sleep? Crazy talk," Sara murmurs to Paul, eyeing the hole up above when the Father calls down. "Not dead yet, Father," she calls back up, crouching down to get a closer look at some of the debris.

"We're fine, Father." Paul calls. "We can see the hole now so you can switch off the light. We don't want to keep you form your work any longer than we already did." In a more normal volume, he says "When he switches the light off, you do too. I want to get a look in the dark. And make sure everything is."

The Father's light winks out, "Just holler if you need anything, I'll be up here sweeping!" he calls down helpfully into the hole and presumably returns to his work. When the lights go out, everything appears, more or less, normal.

"I'm not sure that's a great idea," Sara cautions Paul, the gauntlet extending until it covers her shoulder and creeps over her temple. "We're really not liking this place. There was definitely something not right about what happened here." It takes a little work, but she manages to dim the light in her palm, taking it down to a faint glow.

"Can you be any less specific?" Paul murmurs as the light dims and looks around. "Since when do things you need that for use gas to start explosions? I don't see anything anyway. I wonder what the fire marshal thinks of this?" But they'll find out soon.

"Sorry, I'll bring that up at the quarterly performance review when I have a chat with the creator of ancient and all-powerful artifacts. Please provide better communication," Sara snarks at Paul. "And maybe whatever it was didn't need the gas. I've got a feeling the inhabitants of hell don't have a lot of experience with modern utilities." She moves toward what seems to be the center of the explosion, holding out her hand. "It's similar to how it feels about Jason," she adds more specifically. "Just…significantly more powerful. You know, like the difference between a dealer and that guy we saw in the loony bin."

Paul just ignores the snark entirely. The rest of it? Not so much. "That doesn't reassure me or put me at ease. Ok, let's think this through… Let's say this was not an accident. Lets also say this was intentionally set by some kind of supernatural something. Why? Why here? Answer: it couldn't get onto holy ground so beneath it was the next best thing. Why? Why blow up a church? And did one of those relics keep the explosion from being worse than it was? And last, I can't believe I'm spouting all this crap since I met you. You've corrupted my nice, sensible view of the universe where the only evil was human evil. Holy ground my ass."

"I will admit, I don't know exactly to what depth holy ground applies," Sara says slowly. "But the reasoning's sound. Besides, these are sewers. Easy enough to imagine they wouldn't stay all that holy for long. And sorry about the worldview thing. On the upside, look how broad your horizons are now."

"Yes, the knowledge has really set me on fire." Paul comments dryly then calls "Father. When the fire marshal gets there, please ask him to join us down here. We're going to look around a bit."

It's a long wait, since the cops were in an all fire hurry to beat the Marshal there, and of course, he gets to do the double trek up and down the block again. That said, eventually an older gruff looking man appears in the tunnel, super powerful hand spotlight in hand, hardhat on his head, and what look like a few burn scars adding character to what is left of his right ear. Which isn't a lot. He stops and lights the pair of them up as he walks up, stern expression on his face, "You the two detectives?" he rumbles out at the pair. He's short and has to look up at both of them, but he's got that FDNY hardness that shows he once put in to many hours seeing to much stuff. There's a black bar metal on his chest… He was at Ground Zero. All of that doesn't jive with his voice, which is nasal and high pitched for a guy who looks like he should growl, and the New York in his accent is thick enough to cut with silverware. "Marshal Mathers," he offers a hand, "first one of you to make a rapper joke gets kicked in the jewels."

Marshal Mathers

"Wouldn't dream of it," Sara assures, turning to greet the marshal with the Witchblade back in its usual bracelet form. Even if she'd much rather have the extra protection. "Besides, I'm sure you know how to make this place collapse and look like an accident," she adds with a wry smile. "Thanks for coming back out for us. "

"Detective Manning. This is Detective Pezzini. I read your report, Marshall." Paul tells him. "Congratulations on saying so much while saying almost nothing. We couldn't have done better ourselves. Now I'm curious to hear what you didn't say."

Marshal Mathers gives Manning a look up and down, his lips twisting a bit beneath his 'straight from the 80's' mustache of doom. "Yeah. Someone said you SI guys were the ones to talk to about this shit." he then turns to look around, "What did you get from this cluster fuck so far? Or you just come down here and poke it with sticks trying to suss it all out on your own?"

"Something like that," Sara answers the Marshal with a grimace. "We're not fire, but we know enough to see when something's not quite right. Some of this stuff is less charred than it ought to be. Things are…off." She shrugs, taking a look around. "What do you think really happened, Marshal?"

Paul glances up at the hole then suggests "Perhaps we should speak down there a bit." and motions down the tunnel. "Just in case there's any loose debris." Or priests listening.

Marshal Mathers looks around silent for a long moment, then sucks in a breath through his teeth, "To much." he answers Sara then grimaces, "Okay, so I'm gonna say some stuff, not use any real words or nothin that'll make you think I'm crazy, but… you make of it what you will." he says, looking around as if expecting a trap of some kind. The Marshal shakes his head, "This ain't a lecture, it's show and tell." he says, "That way, I don't have to say nothin weird." he notes. He seems to gather himself, "You smell that?" he asks, waits for nods, "Yeah, that's not supposed to be here. Been two weeks since the explosion, any gas came out, got burnt, smell would be long gone. Plus that ain't gas. Smells like it, sorta, but not. Did some sweeps through there, shit didn't add up. Let's start with…" he looks around then nods, walking over to a section of blown out pipe. "This." he points. "Looks like it popped right?" he looks around then shoves the spotlight into Paul's chest and bends down to sift through the debris. He comes up with two larger bits of twisted metal. These he holds up to the existing hole, sort of turns them so the cops can see. Something didn't blow /out/ from the pipe, something cut /into/ it first. Metal's bent in, not out, and it's bent in 4 clean parallel lines, like someone hit it with an axe four times in a row, side by side by side. Or you know claws. Whatever. Dropping that bit the Marshal eyes the pair, "It gets weirder." he adds starting to look uncomfortable but deciding to continue since no ones pointing and laughing at him yet.

Sara Pezzini gives Paul a look when the Marshal says 'not gas.' "Weirder than sulfur and claws underneath the church?" she echoes the Marshal, following him. "Try us." A faint smile twists, reassuring. Apparently at least this detective isn't thrown by the suggestion.

Paul picks up that bit fo pipe with the claw marks. He'll want to look at it more closely later. "Well, you've caught out attention. Go on."

Sara Pezzini raises both hands, palms up, at the marshal's denial, following along as he points out the rest. And when the light changes? Yeah. She sighs. Like this is disappointing, but normal. Sort of. "Well," she says quietly. "On the up side, no one's really going to have to go through an arson investigation."

"Will these record?" Paul asks though he doesn't really expect an answer. Instead, he pulls out his phone and starts sweeping the site in video mode. He doesn't ignore the claw marks in the floor either. "What kind of filter is that? UV? Did you find any circles or stars on the ground?"

Marshal Mathers nods his head at Paul's questions, "Yeah." he states, watching the detective filming and doing his best to shine the light where he thinks the cop oughta see things, "Are you fucking kidding me? I saw this shit and damned near turned in my fucking papers. This is some creepy ass vandalism." he shoots Sara a look that dares her to call it something other then vandalism. "What about at that DCS building that burned down, you guys see anything like this there?" Who knows… they certainly weren't looking for it! Who would!?

"Not exactly," Sara shakes her head to the Marshal. "We were there shortly before it went up, I'm sure we would have seen a sign of something starting this sort of thing if that was the cause."

"Though we need to requisition some UV filters now." Paul tells his partner then raises his voice. "Father! Can you please toss that broom down here? Thank you." He continues to slowly turn in place in order to get a recording of everything. "I want to see what's under all this debris and soot." he tells the others. "Would you do the honors, Sara?"

Marshal Mathers shrugs, "Been my experience, you get two 'gas leaks' in the same night," he air quotes 'gas leaks' clearly, "they aren't exactly unconnected. But what the fuck do I know, I'm just the guy that tells the brass what they wanna hear." There a shuffling noise from the hole, "The broom? Sure. Heads up!" comes the call, then the push broom falls down clattering a bit to land amid the debris.

"What, are you telling me it's my job to do the cleaning around here?" Sara smirks at Paul, stepping over to get the broom. "Just for that, you're buying the next round of whatever we're stopping to eat. Your report final enough for us to do this, Marshal?" she asks before she starts anything.

Marshal Mathers mutters and waves his hands in the air, "I don't wanna know." he says firmly, having the courage to admit when he's just not up for any more creepy shit. He hands his spotlight over to Sara, "You two just… just see that I get that back will ya? Shits expensive. I'mma go get a beer or seven and forget all about this crap. You find anything at the other joint, I don't want to know about that either. I'm done." he's shaking his head as he walks away, "Fucking super villain shit, that's what this is. Yeah. Bet it's all that Doom weirdo," he mutters as he disappears down the path towards the exit, "or mutants. Could be mutants…" Beneath the soot and debris is more writing, but it's smudged all to hell by both the explosion and the broom brushing over it. It's not as though it was carved into the concrete, just apparently 'drawn' atop it somehow. But it's intricate and clearly there was something there, though it's not like it was in English and easy to read or anything.

"Shine that over there a little more." Paul tells Sara, moving closer to get a better shot of what she's uncovered with the broom. "Have one for me, Marshal. I don't see anything that looks like a pentacle, do you?" he asks Sara. Someone's been reading up on black magic since the whole buzzards thing started. "So if a demon made those claw marks, it wasn't summoned right?" He doesn't wait for the fire marshal to be out of earshot. Poor guy. Ignorance is bliss.

"Buddy, whatever these things are don't seem to be following the rules," Sara says ruefully, brushing the place clean and shining the light around them to get a better look at all of it. "I haven't exactly made a close study of the details, but I'm pretty sure there are several sets of rules, and not all of them require an invitation."

"I'll take your word for it. A couple weeks of research doesn't make me an expert." As Sara plays housekeeper, Paul goes over what's revealed in a second pass to capture more details. "So a demon, let's call it a demon for lack of a better term, was down here and cut through some gas lines causing the explosion. Was that the purpose or did it just have a temper tantrum? All these symbols pretty much state that the location was not a coincidence. There's something special about this spot either because its under the church or for some other reason. Did I missing anything?"

"Could be something to what you said about accessing the relics upstairs," Sara muses as she sweeps. "Or the explosion could have been just to cover up what was going on down here. Leave nothing behind and all that. How many marshals you think would have pulled out the light filters?"

"Probably not many." Paul agrees. "I didn't even know they used things like that. Or maybe they all do but I'm not the only one who never heard of it. You done here? Otherwise, I think we should go give the father back his broom and since I'm sure I have no bars down here, there's probably a message on my voice mail from the other priest."

"Done enough," Sara says after a moment, turning a slow circle as she takes one last, long look at the place. "Probably ought to send the Father down here for a blessing or something before they fix everything. Just in case anyone left any doors open."

Paul puts his phone away and starts back down the tunnel. "I'll let you suggest that to him. I'm still fighting the urge to yell 'You're nothing but a pack of cards'." Once they get back tot he street, he checks his voice mail.

There is a voice mail waiting confirming what the Father stated to him before. Nothing is missing. Nothing is amiss. All is well. The person speaking has a light Irish accent with a hint of Boston in it.

"Look at the bright side, Paul. The explosion already happened here. No fire," Sara says cheerfully as she makes her way out of the tunnel. Once he gets the message, she opens the car door, settling into the drivers seat for a moment to mull things over.

"Planning on saving that as a souvenir?" Paul asks, motioning to the broom in Sara's hand. "We also need to tell him that his relics are all present and accounted for so that's a dead end. Coincidence maybe." Not that he sounds convinced of it.

"I'm thinking," Sara grimaces to Paul, eyeing the church. "This doesn't make a lot of sense. Unless yeah, like you said, one of the relics was able to mitigate the effects. Or if someone else was there to stop it." She reaches for her phone, scrolling through the directory. "Might be able to reach someone. Maybe."

"We should go look at the relics then." Paul suggests. "Maybe one will make your bracelet buzz. And if it is a relic that saved the church, we need to figure out what's so special about it. Or about the priest."

A night spent chewing over the various folders and files, sifting through countless photos and records, and still the detectives find nothing but added frustration. Until Paul spots something at the very edge of the frame of a photo of a completely burned out room. The edge of what was once a table and is now nothing more then a large bit of fragile charcoal… it could be a claw mark. Could be heat cracking. There's only one… hard to tell… Of course, this just means another trip to DCS Building, or what's left of it.

It's been a long day, all the time at the church, in the bowels of the city with the Marshal, then sifting through all the files. It is the wee hours of the morn, sometime around 4 am when it is darkest (though this is New York so that's a relative term) and when even most clubs have begun to close their doors, ushering the drunken masses out into the streets. Though in this part of town it's the time of night when no one's around. Government buildings that have watchmen sitting in their entrance ways or janitorial staff cleaning still have a few dim lights on, but DCS is a husk and there's nothing left there to steal. Other then the signs of much debris removal having been going on for the last couple of weeks, the place is a home of shadows and soot and darkness, devoid of all life in every sense of the word. So basically it's super fucking creepy. Yeah. That.

Sara really didn't want to come back here. It isn't exactly full of happy memories. But with the other site coming to dead ends, there weren't a lot of other options less, and she likes the idea that those kids died for nothing even less than she likes the idea of coming back here, so she's sucked it up. That doesn't mean she isn't going to sit in the car for a minute, eyeing the rubble.

"Yes, I know you don't want to go there." Paul says from the passenger seat as Sara drives. "No, I don't want to hear it again. We need to and you know it so just suck it up. Besides, there's a chance it might not have been your fault." he points out. "Not that it was your fault but you haven't listened to me yet. Maybe some solid evidence will convince you." The good thing about DCS being a burned out husk is that there's now lots of parking around it and he gets out of the car while Sara broods.

"Hey Paul, need a light?" Sara snorts back at him, finally climbing out of the car with a heavy sigh. "Fine. Let's do it." She pauses to open the back seat, pulling out a flashlight with a filter to match the one they borrowed from the Marshal. "If I find out there was more of that shit going on here before we showed up…"

The building is super dark, super creepy, and smells like it was burnt to it's foundations and supports. Cause it was. Also? Not all that safe. Like seriously, stuff creaks when you walk and whats left of walls moans when the floors beneath them are walked upon.

"…we'll find out who's responsible and kick their ass." Paul finishes his partner's sentence. He hefts his own flashlight, the nice heavy ones the police use to bash heads in and make evildoers see the light, and starts playing it along the floors and walls and ceilings as they walk. "You know, we should probably tell someone where we are in case we fall through to the floor to the basement and can't get out. NO bars down there."

"I've still got the Jason-phone," Sara says, lifting her wrist and jangling the Witchblade. "But yeah, couldn't hurt. Hold on." She pulls out her phone, tapping out a quick email of where they're at to their department emails before tucking the phone away again. "There. They'll check our emails if we don't show up."

The building remains creepy, dark, and moany. Someone should poke it with sticks, you know, see what happens.

Paul waits till the text is sent then leads the way. They have a copy of the fire marshal's report on this one too so he leads the way to where it indicates is the - or one of - origin points of the fire and then starts playing the light from the flashlight around.

Sara Pezzini picks her way carefully along the rubble, grimacing to herself. "Guess that parkour practice is good for something after all," she says as she steps from one pile of rubble to another, searching for the worst of the damage. It's late enough and dark enough that she doesn't worry too much about letting the Witchblade gauntlet up, trying to see if anything catches her attention.

The building is, at first glance, remarkably better off then when last they saw it. Charred ashen columns with mountains of crispy desks and chairs and what not are all gone, leaving only the supports that managed to survive the fire and the floors and ceilings, most of them anyway, and without the objects in the building to break up the monotony, it's kinda depressing. Like a the images of a city after some great epic movie disaster where no one lives anymore. The bones of a building dead and gutted and left in the sun to bleach. Yup. Depressing.

It takes some time to get to the third floor where the rooms were located where Jason was left with the Hollows, but that room is marked as one of the origin points for the fire, and upon entering it's clear to see why. There's a literal blast radius mark spreading outward in wash from near the center of the room, like a bomb went off, but not a concussive one, one of flame. Paul's been to war, he knows that real bombs don't really blow up with fire, they blow up with force, sure there's a little fire, but not much, almost all the damage is done by shock waves, they leave destruction but rarely any fire behind. This is the other way around. Tons of fire, but not much force is evident. Closer inspection shows deep grooves carved into the hardwood flooring here, hidden by the soot, they first appear as just heat cracks, but they're to uniform for that, four parallel marks so deep they cut through the wood and into the concrete beneath. A pair of them, about two and a half, three feet apart. Right at the base of the explosion marks.

Paul looks around careful then comes back to something that caught his eyes and keeps his light on the claw marks. "Look familiar? I don't see any symbols though. Here."

"Looks familiar," Sara murmurs in agreement, crouching near the marks. She looks up toward Paul, lips twisting in a grimace. "You know, I'm starting to wonder if we ought to be looking closer to home for whatever happened here," she says slowly. "This is where we left Jason. You remember what those kids started singing when we were leaving?"

"Yes. Something about someone named Etrigan." Paul answers. "I'd been meaning to ask him about that but…" He shrugs. He got a little distracted about being told he was going to burn to death. Soon. "Sounded like those kids were trying to summon it. A demon? And the same one below the church? If you're done here, let's look at the other points the fire started."

"They were rhyming, right?" Sara shifts a bit, straightening to look around. "He once told me if he started to talk in rhymes, I should break his jaw and he'd thank me for it later. I'm not sure I understand completely what goes on with him, but what if they let him loose here, and he moved from here to the other site?" she suggests. "It'd explain why there are no markings here. He waiting until he was in a safe, hidden place to do the difficult calculations, or whatever the hell it was. And it'd explain why the best description I've got for what this feels like is that it feels like Jason, only…bigger and worse." Silver tendrils climb up her shoulder, curving at her temple as she tenses. "Eyes open."

As they carefully traverse the building, following the point of origin for each fire located in the building, they begin to spot things, things they never would have noticed before amid the damage. That standing door frame? Claw marks in the jam, as if something put it's hand there while stepping through. More footprint claw marks dug into the hardwood as it reached the area where the kids were kept as a whole, followed by a blast pattern that's not visible now but that the fire marshal stated must have been created by a back draft in the building as the blast was powerful enough to tear through two rooms and carried with it some of the hotter fires he's ever seen considering the damage. He writes that the children in the room couldn't have lived more then a second or two under it's touch and likely felt nothing since their nerves were incinerated faster then their minds could process. Some small favor there. The social workers were another story. They appear to have been cooked by the fires slowly, trapped in a room where the fires mysteriously did not spread, the temperature rising quickly, but slowly enough to feel. There was evidence of someone trying to break a window with a chair but it not working. Outside the office cubicle section where the social workers were slowly cooked alive (there are descriptions but no one needs to read those), there are more claw marks, circling the the hall as if something were pacing here, spent some time there. Hard to see, even looking for them, but after a half hours careful search, they can been clearly seen. Something paced here, more or less, and waited for the social workers to broil.

At the warning, Paul draws his gun and keeps it ready in one hand with the flashlight in the other. As the gather more pieces of evidence that make little sense alone and that would drive the fire marshal into retirement, he says "You know… We've just been assuming all the fires everywhere were started at the same exact time. But it's just that, an assumption. What if Jason started the fires here to kill those kids before they could become hosts for whatever? And the social workers? There's a word for them in the military. Collateral damage. And then he goes to the sewers and conducts a ritual to kill the other hosts at the jail, burning them too and letting you take the blame. And the church… Carelessness? Temper tantrum? Maybe you should give him a 'call' so we can talk to him. We don't really have time to drive to Gotham."

"Collateral damage, or cleaning up," Sara muses, eyeing the floor. "He waited until they were dead. Look how many steps there are. "Or the kids were necessary and this was dessert," she adds with a grimace, reaching for her phone to punch in Jason's number.

The phone rings before an automated answering machine, the old kind that she can actually hear click to life, speaks, "You have reached Old Gotham Antiquities, if you wish to call back during ordinary office hours, they are as follows, Monday through Friday, Seven AM to Seven PM, Saturday and Sunday Ten AM to Ten PM. Leave a message including your name and number if you wish our staff of experts to assist you personally in anyway and they will return your call at earliest convenience. Thank you."

"Use the thing he gave you." Paul suggests.

"And if he sets me on fire, I want you to kill him." he adds. "Not arrest him. Cut his fucking head off with your boyfriend."

"Yeah, I wanted to try the phone first," Sara sighs when she gets the answering machine. "In case there's any sort of…resonance. I don't know, honestly, I just kill things, I'm not a wizard." A moment of thought sees the bauble out of the Witchblade and in her hand, as she taps one gauntleted finger on it. "Knock knock."

Nothing happens. This is why people should listen when given instruction with magical froo-froo.

Paul rolls his eyes and reaches out to take the stone. "Don't you read the instruction manual?" he asks dryly then says "Jason Blood, get your ass over here."

"Still not a wizard," Sara reminds, all too happy to hand over the stone. "Though I did get the memo about angering them, for they are…I don't know, maybe I didn't read the whole memo, but you're not supposed to piss them off."

Jason Blood's voice speaks from directly behind the pair of police, "I honestly expected it to take longer for you to use th…" his words trail off as his eyes look around the blasted remains of the building and the vaguely amused expression on his face instantly becomes completely unreadable. "Why have you summoned me here?" he asks, his tone flat and cold. Other then his voice and a few lingering wisps of black smoke still clinging to his form, there's no indication of his arrival. He's just there. Behind them. Boo.

"All you had to was google magical summoning gemstones. Plus he told us how to use it when he gave it to us." Paul points out then spins as he hears Jason's voice behind him. It's not a coincidence that his gun is pointed at the man's chest. "We'd like to know exactly what you did here. And what you did under St. Mary's."

"Whoa, easy, Paul." Sara steps between her partner and Jason, though there's more of the Witchblade now, covering both arms and her shins. "I was going to start with where you remembered waking up, personally," she says a little more evenly than Paul. "Because it looks like someone took some shore leave."

Jason Blood's glance at the gun is dismissive as though the weapon weren't a concern to him in the least. He glances at Paul, then at Sara, his look is searching, thoughtful, and hard. "When last we spoke neither of you cared, in fact, you went out of your way to not know the details of what occurred here that night." he seems to be following trains of thought aloud, "What has changed between then and now?"

"I'm going to catch on fire soon. I don't have time to 'whoa'." Paul retorts. He goes from denying it to using it as an excuse as the mood takes him. He does though stop aiming at Jason. Mostly because Sara is between them. Ok, completely because. "St. Mary's. The claw marks there, the claw marks here. Also the symbols under the street. Congratulations. You've managed to convince us there's more to this than meets the eye and that it's about to hit the fan." Which would be easy if he's the one doing it. Sociopaths like the attention.

"It didn't end here," Sara answers Jason. "Or at least that's what it looks like. Paul, do you still have the pictures of the writing from the church on your phone?" she asks, holding out her hand for it. "Something was here, and then there. We're seeing the same claw marks in both places. We know you were here. We don't know what the church has to do with it."

Jason Blood blinks, his expression slightly confused, "I… was unaware of any of this. What happened here is not exactly clear to me, there are forces at work th-" which is the point when a blindingly glowing spear point explodes out of Jason's chest with a hiss, sizzle, and a flash of white fire. His scream is primal, a sound ripped out of a man not in injury, but in agony beyond description, beyond understanding. The point of the spear stops an inch from Sara's nose, the blood that boils on the blade keeps moving after it's sudden stop, and splatters of the warm liquid spray over Sara's face in thick splat.

Jason's forced to his knees by the spearhead, the shaft of the weapon cranked in such a way as to drive him to the floor and behind him stands the cloaked and hooded figure of a beautiful woman in skin tight body armor /resplendent/ in both crosses and weaponry. Her gaze burns at Sara accusingly, "I knew you would lead me to him!" her tone hurt, but triumphant, "The stench of his corruption clings to the whores of Babylon and you reek of it." there's a vicious twist and Jason's second scream is worse then the first,

What's a cop to do when the wizard he's interrogating him is stabbed through the back with a spear? Paul fires, of course. Regulations call for a double tap. That's how he always starts. Continuing depends on whether the first two work.

"Jesus Christ!" Sara curses appropriately, suddenly bristling with armor as the Witchblade reacts to protect her. She steps back, reflexively reaching out to try to grab the shaft of the spear where it extends out of Jason's chest. She can't take back what's already happened, but she can try to keep it from happening again. "Are you trying to get us all killed?!"

The woman holding the spear is fast. As in very /very/ fast. As Paul pulls the trigger she's dropping down beneath the flight of the bullets and twisting the spear again as she rotates, her leg snapping out in a sweep at Sara's legs. As her fingers brush the spear length, white fire blossoms from the touch and in her head the Witchblade screams. Twisting with the momentum of the sweep, she wrenches the spear from Jason's body and it whips around in bright white arc, whistling through the air it moves so quickly, a trail of fire in it's wake. Damn. She's good.

Paul backs up quickly to get away from that spear as well as give Sara room to maneuver. He fire more, not only at the spear wielder but at where he thinks she might be as she dodges. Somehow, he suspects this is more Sara's area of expertise.

Sara cries out when her fingers brush the Spear, leaving her vulnerable to that leg sweep as she falls heavily to the ground. "You don't have a clue what you're doing!" she exclaims as she hits the ground heavily. "Back off!" And to back up her commentary, she reaches out to snag the other woman's ankle with one hand while she's down.

The woman rolls with the grab to her ankle, not fighting the pull and instead leaning into it, which allows her to get close enough to snap out the blunt end of the spear at Sara's face, the Witchblade in no uncertain terms informing Sara that it does NOT want that thing touching it. NO TOUCHIE!! A flick of her hand sends a trio of throwing weapons shaped like sharpened crosses in Paul's general direction, but the motion seems more dismissive then serious, as though she weren't considering him a threat. "I am ridding the earth of the Beast's corruption, it is you who do not know what you have unleashed on the world." the heel of the spear jabs out again as she rolls free of Sara and ends in a three point fighters crouch. "You willingly set him upon children and noble warriors for good, you unleashed It and it devoured innocence and hope and YOU SUMMONED IT HERE!" She stands, rage flickering over her otherwise gorgeous face. "You consort with Hell and I should have unmade you long ago, but I allowed myself to be mislead by your lies. Never again."

Paul drops and rolls under the spikes and comes up in his own crouch, using some debris as partial cover. Ejecting the magazine, he pops in his spare and waits for the right time. Hopefully when she's being held still. "Friend of yours, Sara?"

"You know how people like to argue with fundamentalists about how Jesus wouldn't have been an ass to people?" Sara replies to Paul, lunging back out of reach of the spear and firing back with a blast of light and flame of her own. "Well, ask his granddaughter. I didn't summon anything!" she adds to the other woman. "And those kids were already gone. I was trying to save them, you stupid bitch!" She can't touch the Magdalena, not much, but she does move to get between her and Jason.

The woman sloooowly stands upright, the spear held with a false idleness at her side as she stares Sara down, "No?" she aks, a fake sense of reasonableness in her voice, "You spoke his name and he appeared." she says plainly, "How would you define summoning?" she asks easily, her eyes falling to Jason's form where he's coughing wetly and trying to push himself up to his knees. The spear entered his back but seems to have deflected, likely off of a rib or some such, and exited his shoulder. If the wound hadn't cauterized instantly, leaving a hole one could actually /see/ through is one were macabre enough to try, he'd only really have been in danger of bleeding out or shock. Neither of which seem to effect him overly at the moment. "She's talking about me." he says, spitting a mouthful of blood down onto the charred boards of the floor. "The Church… and I…" he shakes his head and Magdelena's eyes narrow, "You are taint made flesh creature and I will see your filth removed from existence." Jason actually chuckles at that, a wet sound that quickly turns into a hacking cough. He holds a hand out at Paul, trying to use the cop as a crutch to pull himself up to his feet with.

Paul keeps his gun trained on the crazy woman with the spear and extends his left hand to Jason to pull him up despite his better judgement. "You should be dead with that hole in you. But I'm not going to argue. You got here quick, how about getting us all out now." It's not a suggestion.

"Okay, I think you're a little bit off base here," Sara says, holding up both hands. Conveniently, it lets her put more of her own body between the Magdalena and the others. "Let's try for less of the crazy talk and more of the actually solving the problem here. I've got a demon problem. You've got a magical, demon-killing spear. No need for this to get any uglier."

Jason Blood coughs again and he pulls himself to his feet, his fingers gripping at Paul's arm with fevered strength, but it's fleeting, "She knows what she is doing." he says, spitting once again upon the floor to clear his mouth. "I told you detective, you don't understand wha…" he stops talking and his eyes fix on the Magdelena, "Where… where did you get that?" he asks softly, his gaze fixed on her beld. The Magdelena grins, it's a smile of pride, recognition, "She has been tracked for nearly two decades, it to so long to find her, but she was so careful, to careful to lead us to you." the Magdelena's fingers toy with the necklace that hangs from her belt, almost lost amid the other religious iconography. It's old, worn, but the familiar St. Jude's metal hangs in a rather nice custom setting, some sort of silver circle. On it's back is a single small red stone. Sara has a larger one of her own. The Magdelena lifts the necklace, "She disgraced it with her touch." the woman shoots Jason a look, "You needn't worry about her any longer filth, like all the whores of Babylon, she met a righteous end." he whispers a single word and his fingers suddenly clench on Paul's arm like a vice, "Gerry?" for a man so usually controlled, the emotion in the voice… It is the sound of a human heart breaking. The sudden crack in the middle of the word, the sink that steals the strength from the tone. The catch in the breath.

Paul looks from the Magdalena to Jason and back. It doesn't take a detective to figure out what's going on here. "You bitch. You're everything that's wrong with religion. Despite your delusions, you're nothing but a sociopath and a murderer. I only wish that someday you get judged the way you're so quick to judge others. And suffer for it."

Normally, Sara would try to talk before she fights. Really, she would. Or at least give some sort of warning. She's not twenty-five any more. But when she puts together what the other woman is saying, when she realizes what's going on? She doesn't. This time, there's no resisting the Witchblade's hunger. She steps forward, toward the other woman, and swings a gauntleted fist full-force at her jaw.

She eyes Paul for a moment and grins a serene smile of peace, "Of course I will be judged, we all will. But of those here I am righteous before the Lord. I do not traffic with demons, lay with sorcerors, nor soil myself with acts of abomination." She's a charmer this one. When Sara moves the Magdelena barely shifts position, the Spear of hers coming across her body in a swiping motion as it flares into a blinding white light. As Sara's fist hits the spear, the Witchblade screams in pain and wrenches itself away from the weapon, leaving Sara's fist bare for a second before reforming. The spear sweeps out again then, point first this time, forcing Sara to back away, keeping her at a distance, "You embarrass yourself." she sneers at Sara, "I've trained at this since I was four years old, you've what? Taken some Police Academy self defense course and work out for an hour a day? in some gym? I thought you were noble, good, but you traffic with Lucifer's minions and summon his champions to you." The woman sniffs dismissively, "As if partnering with an abomination wasn't enough.".

Jason's eyes, tear filled and heavy, stare at the St. Jude's pendant until it's suddenly yanked from his view by the blur of action. His grip on Paul's arm becomes painfully hard, "You…" there's a choking sound and his eyes close as he seems to struggle with himself. When they open they glow with an inner crimson light, "You killed…" his mouth casts out shadows in yellows and oranges, as if fire were flickering inside him, "MY WIFE!" the word echoes around the skeleton of the building like a thunder clap, stirring the dust, the soot, and making the entire structure groan with it's power, "I no longer care to fight." he sounds almost defeated, but his eyes still burn with hate, "Congratulations foolish little girl. You will have your wish…"

"Change, change the form of man.

Free the prince forever damned.

Free the might from fle-"

It's one of those moments where you need to choose which is the worse decision. On the one hand, whatever Jason is about to do will hopefully make the bitch nun pay dearly. On the other hand, Sara told him that Jason told her to break his jaw if he ever started to rhyme. So, is it worse to try to break his jaw or let it happen? Maybe it's the death grip the magician has on his arm that decides Paul; he does not want to be standing next to him when that rhyme is finished. And so he takes Jason at his word and tries to break the man's jaw with a solid right hook.

Sara doesn't seem to be particularly intimidated by the spear. She probably should be, but she's not known for knowing when to be afraid. "Lady, I was kicking ass long before I had this thing," she starts to say, bracing herself to do something that will no doubt be stupid and end in serious injury. "You want to put yours down and even the-" But then there's rhyming, and that is very much not a good thing. The fight with the Magdalena is a lost cause, really. But Jason has to stop. They're already in the aftermath of what she thinks may have been him. She's not going to let it happen again. She's too far away to reach him directly, but the Witchblade doesn't have any problems hitting Jason. As she extends her hand, the Witchblade provides a staff, aimed right for Jason's head.

Jason Blood's head makes a sickening 'plunk!' sound as a right cross from one side, right to his jaw and delivered with a goodly portion of Paul's strength, is added to a magically potent blow from a the Witchblade's extension to the other side of his face. His head twists slightly in place, the miracle being the torsion doesn't straight break his neck, and his chant is stopped mid word with a cracking of bone. Jason falls to the floor in a slumping lump, more blood pouring from his mouth as he slumps, releasing Paul's arm.

That of course was an opening that the Magdalena required. Her arm flicks out just as Paul's punch lands, and three large throwing stars shaped like crosses sail for his center mass even as the Spear dances out in a lightning quick thrust for Sara's midsection.

Yeah, Paul's not shocked that the Magdalena tries to take advantage of the situation. As Jason falls, he grabs the magician's arm and yanks him out of the way of those throwing crosses, a quick boost giving him the strength to make it effortless and, more importantly, fast. "Do something." he hisses to Sara.

Whether Sara has simply come to rely on the Witchblade to protect her or it is a conscious decision, what happens next is probably going to hurt. She doesn't try to dodge. In fact, she reaches out bare-handed for the shaft of the spear, pushing the Witchblade to her other hand as she drives forward and reaches for the Magdalena's throat, trying to push her back.

The Magdalena's spear blazes with light as Sara's hand clamps on it, and the Witchblade peels off of her clear up to her shoulder, leaving her arm bare in a mental scream of anguish. Sara's arm reaches the other woman's throat, just managing to touch her skin before there's a burning pain low on her belly as something sharp drives into her just above the hip. Having kept Sara focused on the spear and high, the Magdalena brought the free hand around, the one that was holding the pendant and hurled throwing crosses at Paul, back low out of her line of sight, and a punching dagger slices into Sara as the Magdalena's fist hits home. It should have been a shot that would have speared her liver, but the sudden attempt to try to keep just enough distance to avoid being touch by Sara threw her aim off.

In the noise of the scuffle and violence, Paul almost doesn't hear the tell tale toe curling sound of bone grinding on bone, but he does manage to pick up the last couple of painfilled and slightly slurred words…

"thah demonsh…

There is a roar of flame, of heat, and a concussive force like being hit in the chest with a pillow fired from a cannon, "ETRIGAN!" and where Jason lay, there now stands seven feet of heavily armored, yellow scaled, massively muscled, sulfur reeking, still smoking Demon… and it's laughing.

"Sara!" The nice thing about burned out husks of buildings are the exposed pipes and Paul tears a piece of after boosting. Nor does he stop as he leaps forward to try to bring the pipe across the Madalena's head much like Sara did with her staff. Except he can flip an SUV at the moment. Which is not to say he doesn't think 'Oh shit.'

Sara Pezzini pits her will against the Witchblade as it shies away from the spear, trying not to think about how much that stabbing pain hurts. Things are falling apart, and there's nothing to be gained from going back now. When Paul shouts, she ducks her head, continuing to bull forward despite the dagger in her side. She gets a bit of a push, anyhow, from the concussive force behind her. "Dammit!" she curses, smelling the sulfur and hearing the laughter. "Paul, get clear! This is about to get ugly!"

Releasing the dagger the Magdalena spins in place, using Sara's grip on the spear as a fulcrum to roll up and over it and inside of Paul's swing, slipping just past his hip as she rolls. The pipe Paul swung doesn't score the floor so much as explode through it, knocking out a hole in the charred flooring boards the side of a small child and exposing the ventilation space beneath. The roll over the spear puts the Magdalena back on her feet and she grips the spear in both hand and with a deft flick twists it's length out of Sara's grasp by turning it towards her thumb and the weak side of her grip. With a grin of mad glee, she continues the spinning momentum and thrusts out with a 'HUAGH! of effort, stabbing the bright glowing weapon at the giant Demon creature… Who doesn't so much as blink. The spear sinks into his gut and Etrigan screams in pain as the white light fills the air with the scent of cooking sulfuric flesh (which is muuuuuch worse then regular cooking flesh). A large clawed hand reaches down to grip the spear's haft, and instantly the hand begins to smoke and sizzle as the Demon yanks it free of his body and then tugs the Magdalena in close with a jerk on the weapon, yoinking her like a yo-yo on a string. His hand then wraps around her neck as her shock at the ease with which the Demon /wasn't/ dispatched forces her to hesitate. Skin that would hardly count as lips pulls back away from a maw of fangs and without visible effort the Demon lifts the woman off of the ground, both hands now smoking from their contact with holy items, "You who play and toy at knowing Hell, believe it is the pain of the Holy I fear," the Demon's words are a rasping grate, like nails of glass drawn down a rusty steel chalkboard, they sound /wrong/ in the air and make the skin crawl, "but if you knew me half so well," he raises the white hot spear up so the Magdalena can see it, and then he /licks/ the spear's tip, his tongue sizzling and burning with the touch. The Demon shudders, letting loose a happy little noise, "you'd know it is pain I hold most dear." and then he casts the spear aside with a rattle and a clank. It instantly grows dark and looks utterly normal. Etrigan's red glowing eyes remain on the nun, "In your veins the Christ's blood flows, pulsing in your skin like musical art," a single blackened claw tip draws down the nun's cheek, slicing her flesh open as though it posed no resistance, "the chaos I shall spread, the woes!" it sighs and shudders again, "once I have feasted upon your heart." her eyes go wide. Imagine the magical power of the blood of Christ in the hands of a Demon Prince… Etrigan glances over the struggling Magdalena's shoulder and through the smoke still roiling off of his hand, "Be with you shortly." that oh so polite, and /not/ rhyming statement is by far more creepy then what came before it.

"Come on!" Paul grabs Sara's arm and, if he needs to, drags her out of the room as fast as they can move without tripping over their feet. It's not quite primal fear but even if he weren't boosting, he'd still be in fight or flight mode and he's not running toward the demon.

Paul may not be running toward the demon, but Sara is. Possibly because she has no sense of self-preservation. With the spear out of play, the Witchblade is all too glad to get back to full armor duty. Dark blood washes over her hip, seeping through the weave of the armor, but there's no telling if it's healing. "I have to stop this. You go," she pants to Paul, spines and blades sprouting from her armor as a sword forms in her hand. "Neither of them is innocent, but the people they'll go after if either wins are."

Etrigan quirks a brow slightly at the sight of the sword, then looks at Sara more closely, "Oooh Jason… you've been keeping secrets from me." the demon rumbles. He casually waves an arm that smashes through the wall next to him, collapsing it in a flood of ash, soot, and debris. The building shudders from the blow, "I would be careful Wielder. A fight between us would bring the building down on your friends. You wouldn't want that." he sounds certain of it, as if fighting him means he would /make/ the building crumble. "Besides, I told you, just a moment." and then he lifts the Magdalena in the air over his head, grips her about the ankles and the neck, one hand on each, and pulls. The woman's scream is ear piercing.

The sound of a human body torn in half, the snapping of tendons, the wrenching of bone, the sounds of muscles and flesh not cut, not sliced, but ripped, shredded almost slowly by immense strength is not a sound one can unhear. Nor is the sight of a Demon with his mouth held wide to catch the soft inside of the nun as they fall down upon him, a shower of blood and gore covering his face, his armored shoulders, his chest, a sight that one can unsee. The scream is cut short at it's height and when Etrigan turns his gaze once more down to eye Sara… he's chewing. A flick of his wrist sends one half of the woman as Sara like a cannonball, the other half at Paul's retreating form, both ends fountaining what blood they still contain as they spin through the space.

Damn you, Sara. Do you really think Paul would leave you here? Not to mention bringing up innocent people? That hits him like a buck of cold water and he stops dead. "And just how were you planning on killing both of them?" He has to duck as half a corpse sails over him. That's going to be the stuff of nightmares. Ok, how was she planning on killing one of them? His eyes fall on the discarded Spear and he sprints over to pick it up, pointing it at Etrigan. Now what?

"One down," Sara murmurs to Paul, blanching as Etrigan makes such short work of the Magdalena. She has enough presence of mind to throw herself to the floor when half of a woman gets slung at her, but as soon as she's down, she holds out her hands and opens up with both barrels. The Magdalena was complicated for the Witchblade. It's half Angelus, but it's also half Darkness. Not all of the Witchblade is comfortable with the Spear. But Etrigan? Neither half cares much for the demon, and it's been clamoring for a piece of him since Sara first met Jason. Wrist-thick beams of white-hot light and flame shoot from her palms toward the demon, roaring as the air around them super heats.

Etrigan eyes Paul as he picks up the Spear of Destiny and it flares to light. The demon's eyes squint against the glow a bit, "Have you ever used a spear before little mortal? I imagine not. Your kind are more comfortabl wi-" and then the beams of energy hit the Demon and knock him onto his back, sliding him down the hall so that his claws and armor both dig gouges out of the burnt flooring, until such time as his hand comes down to simply sink /through/ the floor, and his arm comes around, held him before the blast until it trails off. He then slowly pushes himself to his full seven feet and eyes Sara, "Plasma?" he asks, his lips splitting in a grin that shows the blood stained teeth beneath, "You thought you could /burn/ me??" he sounds incredulous, "Let me show you true fire." and then his mouth splits open and flames shoot forth. This is not the concentrated focus of the beam that Sara had, this isn't even a flame thrower, spewing out a liquid stream. This is a tidal wave, a flood of Hellfire that fills the hall and barrels down at the pair of them like the business end of a speeding delivery truck.

Nope, never used a spear. But Paul's damn good at sports even if he's never done the decathlon and he wasn't planning on fighting with it so much as throwing it, right through the flames at the center of the demon. Because it worked so well when the bitch nun speared him. And then he dives behind Sara hoping that the Witchblade can do something about those flames. Cause he sure as hell can't.

"I liked it better than getting in close, considering how that went for the last girl," Sara quips automatically to Etrigan. Sometimes, when things reach a certain point, there's no defense but humor. She has a split second of warning when Etrigan summons his flames, enough to call up a shield from the Witchblade and slam it into the floor in front of her and Paul, angling it against the force of the flames. "Hands and arms inside the Witchblade, Paul."

The flame screams. Not like the heat makes the wood scream or turns water to steam, which it does all that too, but it literally screams the screams of the damned. The fire clings to everything it touches like napalm, sticking and burning still as the force of it comes to an end with the Demon's roar of pain. When the flames, more or less, clear, the Demon has a spear sticking from his shoulder. He reaches up to wrench it free in a gout of flame and burnt flesh, and then hurls it out the window and into the street beyond. "I mentioned I enjoy pain," he growls into the hall, "but I think perhaps I am done with it for now."

"I got nothing." Paul gasps from where he hides behind Sara and her artifact. The holy spear didn't do much of anything. It's certain his gun won't. "Ideas?" He's covered in sweat from the heat and the stink of sulfur makes it hard to breath. He reaches into a pocket for a tissue or something to try to use to cover his mouth when his fingers find a small, round object. He put it that after summoning Jason earlier. The question is, will it work again under these circumstances? He closes his hand around it and says "Jason Blood. Get your ass out here." It's almost a question. It's also a Hail Mary pass.

"That's why I told you to get out of here," Sara grimaces to Paul, keeping the shield up for the moment. "I can hurt him. He's probably bigger than anything I've taken before, but if she couldn't and I can't, it's not like there's someone else out there who can if we run to them. This is what this thing is for, Paul. This is what it means." There's still blood at her hip, dripping onto the floor and sizzling from the heat of the flames where it's sunk into the floor. She looks to the stone when he tries it, but a blade forms in her hand once more.

The Demon tilts his head to the side, and laughs, "Jason isn't listening right now, perhaps if you call back later when he's willing to face a world without his 'wife'." Etrigan says with a grin, "Seems he's all out of care for what happens to this Realm for a time. I believe he thinks the lot of you have it coming." When the sword appears in Sara's hand, Etrigan grins and flames spring from his own hand and form themselves into a sword of curving and twisting charred black metal. It would be completely unusable by anyone who wasn't, you know, ridiculous by nature. "Sword play it is." he says, and then he hurtles down the hall at the pair of them in a blur. Damn he's fast.

Paul does the only thing he can do: get out of Sara's way. He rapidly backs up to a safe distance so she can maneuver as freely as possible. What to do? What can he do?

Sara really needs to get proper sword lessons one of these days. Sara really needs to get a lot of lessons one of these days. The Magdalena wasn't wrong. Holding down a day job sort of interferes with the superhero training regimen. Luckily, Sara's weapon comes with cheat codes, and when her opponent is a prince of Hell, she has no problem letting the 'blade run the show. Memories and knowledge rush into her, the combined experience of hundreds of bearers. She raises her blade, trying to step into the rush and let the demon's speed add to the force of her strike.

Etrigan whiffs past the pair of them in the blink of an eye, a streak of yellow and blackened steel. There's a scream of metal on metal and a shower of sparks, some yellowish and bright and others black and seem to swallow the light around them. Then pain is exploding through Paul's chest as the Demon hits him right in center mass. There's a crash behind Sara and as she turns, she can see Paul pinned to the wall by the claws of the demon, the tip of each finger sunk through Paul's skin and muscle and holding him in the air against the burnt remains of a wall. Etrigan's head turns to look back at Sara, "You're better with that razor when I thought… I will remember that." his visage is destroyed by a wicked looking slice that runs down over his forehead and across his jaw, having ripped the eye free of the socket and torn away completely. The empty socket glows on anyway, which is creepy in and of itself, "In return for the lesson, I shall share one of my own." he grins wide at her as fire simply pours down his arm and engulfs Paul's torso with a rapidity that makes it look as if the man had been doused in kerosine before hand. "You have a friend to see too me thinks." he quips as with a flick of his wrist he tosses the burning man at Sara's feet and fourteen foot wings explode from the Demons back. "And I've business with a certain holy man to get to…" and then with a surge Etrigan simply leaps through the ceiling, exploding clean through two floors and the roof and up into the dark night beyond. Meanwhile, the Hellfire doesn't devour Paul's flesh as it should, instead, it seems to enjoy taking it's time, spreading as if he were soaked in accelerant, but burning as if he were fire resistant.

Paul screams in pain as the fire starts to flow over him. Screaming that doesn't stop. Briefly, it flashes through his mind that it didn't start in his left hand. Jason was wrong.

"No!" Sara lunges toward the demon, blade out, but despite her brave words, she can't leave her partner there. Not without even trying to save him. "Paul, don't you dare. Don't you dare," she murmurs as she crouches next to him, reaching her hands out toward the flame. "Come on, we can do this," she begs, before steel enters her voice. "You will do this." Except it's flame. It's just…hellfire. Stabbing it isn't going to do anything. The fire needs to go out. Possibilities rush through her mind, before she finally makes a last-ditch effort, pushing the Witchblade into making a tight tent over Paul, trying to suck the air out of the space for long enough to put out the flames.

Hellfire is Hellfire. Does it require oxygen to burn? Sure it does… sort of. It's a long time before the heat from the fires finally vanish, a long time indeed, longer then makes any sort of sense, and once gone, they leave little behind in their wake. Paul lays within in the tent, his body curled into what is commonly called a boxers pose, his arms curled up by the heat of the flames shrinking the tendons in his arms, his legs drawn to his chest for much the same reason. He obviously doesn't breath, more coal and flaking ash then man, the Hellfire did more then just char the outer layers of the man as ordinary fire would have done, it seems to have soaked into him, leeched into his flesh, and dried him out like a long burnt log.

The pain. It is extraordinary. Beyond anything anyone could understand. It doesn't stop at the physical, it reaches deeper, into the core of who a person is… and it sets that alight. It wipes the mind of hopes or dreams of love or joy, leaving burning coals of only hate behind. And rage. Not the rage that helps motivate, that helps drive one to better thing, but the rage that causes men to beat their wives and children to torture animals, only the darkest of things remain. And then come the deafening screams as Paul impacts the charred granite out cropping, his body bouncing painfully across the to hot stone, his naked flesh informing him that it's burning wherever he touches it. Once upon his feet he looks around and he sees… Hell. In all it's ignominious glory, infinite fire blasted planes of sulfur, fire, and punishment. Tortures no mind could fully grasp and remain sane are in every inch of space, and there is no madness for Paul's mind to escape into, forcing him to simply 'live' with the truth of the place. And there, on the field below, hang to familiar forms. The Magdalena screams as her skin is peeled away in strips by what appears to be knife-limbed scorpion like creatures, slowly, one centimeter at a time. And Jason, who stares off silently into the distance, his face devoid of anything but grief as what appears to be a paper thin blade heated to a glowing red is slid between his ribs. "Welcome to Hell Paul Manning," says a voice that thunders across the planes like the voice of god himself, "an innocent man in the fields of iniquity. Welcome and know despair…"


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