The Dracula Dossier

The Dossier
How you got your hands on it

‘Hopkins,’ the shadowy contact who’d been feeding intel and work to the group through Doyle for the last few months, contacted him for what he said would be his last time. A book could be found in the reference section of Harrington’s East Side Books, a hole-in-the-wall used bookseller in York. The specific volume would be covered in plain brown paper, much like the sort used in old grocery bags, and would have a sticker on the spine identifying it as “Belgian Quilting of the 19th Century.” It would be on the highest shelf and behind a book about Nigerian geography, double-stacked. The book was to be taken, not purchased, and it would only be found on the afternoon of next Tuesday.
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When recovered, easily filched by the expert hands of Noemi while Doyle talked endlessly about futbol with the proprietor – who actually seemed bored by the subject – what the team had was a first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, seemingly like the one that Doyle had purchased from the outside, but once examined in private, substantial differences were evident. It was longer than the typical copy of the same age – this was confirmed not only from Doyle’s copy but from some online searches for information about the original yellow-cover printings. It was also marked throughout by what seemed to be three different people, using three different colors and types of ink, in different scripts and, given the look of the pages and ink, done separately over a long period of time.

You are in York, in northeastern England. It’s Tuesday night. What now?

Meta
I recommend that you read the book. Yeah…no kidding. Book club and all. I’ll re-read it, too, but it might even be useful for you folks to coordinate between you about what you’re reading and how much and whatnot. Feel free to write your own wiki pages or Adventure Log posts if that’d help, and I can help however you’d like.

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Meta Post
Orienting ourselves

A few hours of examining the book would yield the following:

  1. The thing is old, and most probably is an original printing, from the 1890s, albeit not one for distribution, as it’s missing the publisher info and in some places it looks a little rough and mis-aligned. It looks like a single sample copy.
  2. The annotations are in different colors and are clearly of different ages – 3 or 4 – and in different scripts. A little examination with various light sources and research online points to some being several decades old; some a few decades; and some quite recent. Spelling conventions and script style seem to support these conclusions.
  3. As stated, when the book is compared agains Doyle’s old printing it’s longer, and after leafing through it with an eye for what’s different, there are definitely sections of text that are in this copy and not the broadly-available version.

Ask anything you’d like about the book itself, given what you could reasonably figure out by looking at it for a few hours and doing some online research from your safe house. Please indicate which Investigative ability(s) you’re using, too.

Let’s get this started!

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Noemi Drinks Absinthe
What The Green Fairy Thinks

Noemi alternates on the Dossier; half the time she thinks it a government boondoggle that someone would seriously investigate what is so obviously a work of fiction. The key factor to her when she expresses this opinion is not the story, but the annotations – someone believed they had come across a Dracula in a more modern timeframe, and the parallels to the monster that killed her mother and which was in the well at Dragovir are very suggestive. She certainly doesn’t think the actual Dracula story really happened, “Ugh, Stoker even put an American Texan in it! How much more of a metaphor do you want it to be?” However, it doesn’t seem likely that she’s going to go in and crack MI-5 and MI-6 wide open to find out the truth, so suggests the team “nibble around the edges” of this one to determine if any remnant of this EDOM or other operations remain somewhere.

The other half the time she still thinks the Dracula story is fiction, but suspects Stoker or more likely, someone in the “chain of custody” between Stoker and his publishing house, might have been using this edition to communicate in a coded way with some far-flung assets. Of course there was no Harker, no Seward, no actual Dracula, etc. These are stand-ins for either groups or specific people active in that time frame that took actions similar to their counterparts in the story. She likes this one quite a bit because it both accounts for and explains the literary merit of the work; it feels like fiction because it is fiction, it incorporates allegorical elements because it’s an allegory, though not so symbolic or psychosexual as most think; more a direct one-for-one allegory. In this case, she suggests starting with the “handed down”, but confirmed real references of the annotated book, like the guy who listed all the businesses suspected to be in Dracula’s control and noted they all “still existed” in whatever the present-day of the annotator was.

Noemi hasn’t been having an easy time since the monastery. She freely admits that, although she has, in the past, left people to most-likely-die, she never executed someone face-to-face. She’s a forger/smuggler, not an assassin. She went from 0 to a mass murderer in one well-armed standoff. She can’t sleep, when she does sleep she has nightmares, she jumps at loud noises and is drinking too much. Textbook PTSD symptom clusters.

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Digging into Dracula
Initial research, plus a late night B & E

The team spent a week in a forgettable, out of the way apartment held under an alias, in a neighborhood where no one looks anyone in the eye or pays attention to where they go. Doyle was able to turn up a good amount of information through online research, and he was confident that he knew where some useful library collections might be, too.

The new Richard fit in quickly and well, and the common bond of having faced the supernatural brought the disparate personalities together.

One of the first questions settled was that related to the annotations, which came in three colors and appeared to be in three different scripts. After some textual analysis and viewing of the inks under different lights they determined, with considerable certainty, that the darkest ink was from the 1940s, while the green ink appeared to be from the late 1970s or early 1980s. Finally, the red ink – and all the numbers on each of the annotations – had to be post-9/11, due to its mention of a number of very current names, places, and issues.

Looking at the sections of their copy that did not appear in the mass-market version, they focused on one of several characters: Francis Aytown, a painter who supposedly painted portraits of others in the book, including some other missing characters. Some research turned up a real painter by that name, of some repute, who was active in London society from 1892-1897, and then seemingly disappeared. Noemi was able to track down some of his work at an auction house, as well.

Doyle, piqued by the idea of the book characters being real, suggested that they dig around to see if some of them were…and that’s when the figurative champagne bottle whacked Noemi upside the head…Tabitha Holmwood, Eurotrash party girl supreme. Could she be related? Search through the lists of peers and lineages revealed a direct connection to Arthur Holmwood of the book – her great-great grandfather. And further, a current Lord Godalming, of the House of Lords, the great grandnephew of Arthur. The next step – an estate, a city house, all inhabited. What else could be real?

Next stop: the Godalming estate. Doyle silenced alarms and put cameras on a loop while the other three entered the old mansion in search of…anything. After a few hours of creeping about the place, Richard found some kind of complete-with-shackles cell in the basement; Noemi found Arthur’s Bible and a crucifix, which she filched; and Ryan found one of Lucy Westenra’s dresses, which he…kept. Kept under the watchful eye of a fat, old house cat that seemed to watch everything he did in the attic.


Key Takeaways

  1. It seems that the characters in the book were real, and some of them have direct descendants alive.
  2. There are paintings from F. Aytown in existence, and possibly some of the photographs he used for them – whether there are any of Lucy Westenra or anyone else of note, remains to be seen
  3. Operation GLADIO seems to have been a CIA operation during the 1940s. More research, probably of the classified sort, is needed.
  4. Could Dr. Seward have been real, too, and if so was the asylum he ran real? Does it still exist?

Meta
Player secrets will follow NLT Sunday as I sort out my thoughts and do some research. If you get what seems like a second notification about this post, it’s because I’ve edited it – most likely by adding a Player Secret for someone. And Thom is out of the group for the foreseeable future – scheduling and family commitments. I’ll play Doyle as a mush-mouthed British lout who happens to be really good at hacking until he can return.

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Research Leads
and other stuff you'd share

After some asking around and online research – give Doyle some fish & chips and he’ll work like a dog – you find the following.

  • The ‘Tepes Tapestry’ is a three-panel work, about 12 feet long/high, and with each panel about 3 feet wide. These were the ones photographed by Aytown. Based on the images you found of it, to say that it’s “abstract” is an understatement. It has figures, large looming mountains or structures, and army, or monsters, fire, or maybe wind, and lots of strong colors. It’s currently on display at Castle Bran, the widely-accepted supposed home of the Dracula of history.
  • Two of Francis Aytown’s works are owned by an auction house in London. The flat where he lived – supposedly with his gay lover – and worked still exists, in a London neighborhood undergoing a hipster gentrification.
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More research, another B&E...
...and Doyle gets his ass kicked

Takeaways

  • Aytown’s old flat is there, but empty. The empty basement seems to indicate that his stuff might have been claimed. Given the record of someone having paid his back rent and the case being closed, it seems likely.
  • Pre-Dracula vampires don’t appear in English folklore, so it seems he was Patient 0 for the UK
  • Something troubling took place at Lady Carradine’s house; and she was associated with Robert Parton
  • Doyle’s computers are all fried, although we knew he kept backups elsewhere
  • The guy who beat up Doyle did so with one punch and a long treatment of a stun gun, and then he tossed the apartment and took the forged copy of the Dossier. Me moved inhumanely fast, and drank one of your last beers
  • It seems that Francis Aytown photographed Lucy, Mr. De Vill, and Juliette Parton and they all exhibited the same disturbing ‘skull face’
  • Doyle pointed out that aside from the B&E at Lord Godalming’s estate 8 days ago, all their research has gone into people and places related to a redacted portion of the book – could this be how they were tracked and the safe house found?

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Post your questions, comments, and other points as comments below as soon as you can in order to get tied to this post.

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