The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
Seeds Of Suspicion
To: Ross Myers, Madeleine Hook, William Brickham, Jake Numenor, Jason Lazarus, David 'Brandy' Smith, Mal Harris, Jonas Shabazz.
From G.M. Blaize
July 2nd. 1:30am. University of Kent at Canterbury. Prof. Osumo Kawakami, Japanese head of natural science, was found drown in the Keynes college duck pond. Verdict: suicide due to severe depression.
July 4th, 11 am. Usk Agricultural College, Dr. Peter Jameson died after throwing himself in front of a car. Dr. Jameson was a lecturer of eight years standing at the college. Police verdict - death by misadventure. Autopsy results turned up high levels of alcohol in Jameson's blood.
July 4th. 3pm. Colchester University, Essex. Mrs Sarah Kendal, head of biology department, stabbed her husband to death. Motive unknown. Mrs Kendal is currently being held in a mental hospital pending trial.
July 6th, 10 am. The Food Research Centre, London. Mr. Jonathan Lee, technician, was discovered dead of an overdose. Verdict: suicide. Motive unknown.
Surprisingly little information has come to light about any of these cases. Autopsy reports, where they were carried out, were brief and largely uninformative, newspapers - even the local ones - have been very quiet. The very secrecy surrounding these incidents has lead us to believe they may be connected in some way. Your brief is therefore:
1) To investigate each incident separately and ascertain true cause of death or, in Mrs Kendal's case, murder. Police cover-up cannot be ruled out.
2) To investigate any link that emerges.
3) In particular, to establish whether any group or groups are behind the incidents and, if so, to investigate such groups as far as circumstances will allow. Names, locations, motives, all are important.
In order to give you maximum freedom to ask questions, you will be posing as an Anglo-American journalistic group collaborating in making a radio program on the growing pressures on scientific and academic staff. It is imperative that you maintain this cover throughout the investigation. If there are other interested parties, they must not learn of, or even suspect, SITU's involvement.
You will be starting this assignment in Canterbury where rooms have been booked for you at the Chaucer Hotel. I suggest you meet at the university itself so you can start work immediately. It is expected you will need to travel to the other sites involved, and it may be wise to split into separate groups to do this for the sake of speed. Please make your own arrangements for transport and accommodation. All reasonable expenses will be reimbursed.
As usual, we cannot take responsibility for the activities of our operatives. Anyone breaking the law may find himself suddenly cut off from the organisation. This applies to you especially, Mr Myers.
July 8th. 11 am
"Ross! Ross, guess what!" Maddy's voice echoes shrilly right to the high ceiling of the old warehouse.
Ross Myers looks up tiredly. Three months of sitting about in this place waiting to be arrested for murder hasn't done much to improve his mood and his dark eyes narrow into a scowl as he stands up.
Maddy, oblivious as ever, grins at him. "Guess where I've been?"
"India?" Ross guesses, taking in the purple sari and henna-decorated arms.
"Yes, and I've seen a hypnotherapist person, and all my old friends, and I thought someone was following me only when I went to see, they weren't. AND..." she gulps in a breath of air and finally comes to the point. "We've got a new mission."
She chatters on and Ross doesn't stop her. No point disappointing her by telling her he received his briefing package this morning. He rakes his fingers through black hair that has grown far too long and wonders vaguely whether he ought to add a second handgun to the kit in his bag. He shrugs. Maybe not. One was enough last time.
July 9th 9:30 am
The University of Kent is set on top of a hill that even the Romans deigned to build on. By the time Mal Harris has made it to the top he knows why. It might be July but the wind is still freezing. He pauses a moment to catch his breath and looks around. The college buildings are the usual shapeless concrete and the patches of grass and trees between them look overshadowed, out of place. He knows exactly how they feel, Mal thinks to himself, grinning suddenly.
A couple of students glance at him curiously as they walk by. Mal turns to watch them go and only moves on when he's sure they've lost interest in him. His polished black shoes are silent on the concrete path as he heads in the direction of the science building.
Moments later, a taxi turns off the main road into the campus and stops. Its occupant gets out and hands a twenty pound note to the driver.
"Thanks. Keep the change."
"Brandy" David Smith is pure city, right down to his briefcase and umbrella, and the steel-capped shoes that click smartly as he walks away. His hair is slicked back, mirror-shiny and somehow he is managing to smile and whistle at the same time. Hopefully he'll be the first one here - nothing like getting in a bit of investigation before the troops arrive. He glances down at the neatly folded university map in his hand. Now, the science building should be that square one next to the library. He strides towards it, shading his eyes from the sudden brilliance of the sun...
The double glass door swing noisily shut.
Someone is arguing with the porter on duty. Brandy strolls across in time to catch the end of the conversation.
"Now listen my friend, I know you've got your job to do but the fact is we are expected and we are running to a tight schedule here. So if the science principal isn't available maybe you could find someone who is." The man is American - the accent is unmistakable - and looks like he has stepped straight off the pages of some magazine. In fact, he might have done, Brandy thinks, frowning. He's sure he's seen the face before. The deep tan, calculated to offset the streaks of deep silver in the carefully designed hair style, and a suit that must have cost... He can probably afford the tie, Brandy thinks. If he saves hard for a year.
"If you're on such a tight schedule," the porter says, "where's the rest of your group?"
"Just coming," Brandy cuts in. He offers the American his hand. "Brandy Smith."
"Who?" For a moment he stares at him, puzzled, then his face clears. "Ah yes, of course. Good to meet you... again." He gives Brandy an exaggerated wink. "Listen, these people obviously aren't ready for us. How d'you fancy a drink while we're waiting. I presume there's a bar somewhere in this place?"
"Jason Lazarus," he introduces himself while they're still within earshot of the porter's lodge. "You've probably heard of me. 'Honey, I ate the Kids,' that sort of stuff." He plays with a cheap-looking ankh hung around his neck while he talks, looking sidelong at Brandy, obviously waiting for recognition. The penny finally drops.
"The director," Brandy says. "What on earth are you doing on one of these jaunts, then?"
Lazarus grins widely. "I've been asking myself that ever since I arrived, kid. Ah, here's the bar at last. Why don't I tell you about it over a drink?"
Will, Jake and Jonas find themselves drawing a fair amount of attention as they walk up to the university campus together. Hardly surprising. Jonas Shabazz - a black, bald-headed ex-boxer, seemingly composed entirely of muscle and scar-tissue; Will Brickham - a blonde-haired, blue-eyed giant of a man with the sort of tan that could not have happened naturally anywhere in England; and walking between them and looking tiny in comparison, Father Jake Numenor of the Jesuit faith, his angled face dominated by hard grey eyes, the sleeves of his black shirt rolled back to reveal twin tattoos on his arms. All three are American.
"This the place, then?" Jonas glares around, more out of habit than malice and shrugs. "I expected it to be bigger." He sounds disappointed.
Jake laughs harshly. "Looks too ordinary for someone to have died here. Still, stranger things have happened." He turns his head sharply, his fists clenching for a moment, then he relaxes and gestures to the other two. "Shall we continue?" He starts walking without waiting for an answer, leaving Will and Jonas to fall into step behind him.
"What brings you into this?" Jonas asks.
Will shrugs. "It's as good a job as any other. You?"
"It's a long story."
Will doesn't press further. "Want to know what worries me most right now?" he says after a moment's pause. He nods to the priest walking along in front of them. "Him. Maybe it's just me, but he doesn't seem to be quite all there, if you get my meaning."
"There you all are!" Maddy announces, bursting into the bar where everyone is gathered. Ross, following her, smiles a greeting while his eyes weigh everyone up, one by one. Jonas returns his stare angrily, Will dismisses him with a shake of his head. Only Mal looks away, and Jason Lazarus is so engrossed in telling his life history to a bored Brandy that he barely notices the door has opened.
"Right..." Jake begins, trying to call the group to order. He is interrupted by a new voice.
"Hello, you're the group doing the research, aren't you?"
Jake turns to see a middle-aged man, unhealthily thin, gazing at them all through spectacles rimmed with bright green plastic. He raises a hand to push them back onto his nose and frowns. "My name is James Reardon - Professor." His words are clipped, hurried. "We're a bit pushed for time here, as always, but I can spare you an hour or so to answer any questions you have. I presume you're aware that Professor Kawakami's office is still strictly off limits, not that there would be anything there of interest to you. So then, the sooner we start, the sooner we can all get on with our work." He glances at his watch. "Well?"
July 9th, 10:30am.
Staff bar, science building, University of Kent.