The Dresden Files: What Happens in Vegas

Session 1: Faith & Fallibility

The Train to Perdition

On February 21, 2015, it’s a normal day in Las Vegas, and each of the characters is going about their daily lives.

Donnie visits the Cabaret Jazz, a club where he often plays the saxophone, conducts business, etc. Tonight, however, the manager is a bit out of sorts. He borrowed money from the wrong people, and they’ve been leaning hard on him to repay them. They’ve agreed to forgive some of his debt if he works it off for them selling a mysterious new drug. He hasn’t sold any of it yet, nor does he want to. Curious and concerned for his friend, Donnie tries to investigate the substance, and, through magic, he quickly learns the drug has some powerful magical effects. Not only is this dangerous, but it surely goes against the laws of the accord as well. He decides to buy it in order to investigate further.

Jacob is hanging out at the Sin City Brewing Company in Vegas — his own usual hangout — when he receives a call with instructions to visit a particular payphone opposite the Luxor. Once there, he receives a second call. Little Pete, who operates as the local boss of the Tong, instructs him (through innuendo) to take care of a particular problem: apparently, someone in the organization has sloppily tried to make a move on Little Pete, and he will pay for the mistake with his life. Jacob makes a few calls, and someone along the line makes his target aware of his interest, so he tracks Jacob down first. The target and his henchmen try to corner Jacob, but Jacob manages to intimidate the henchmen into backing down. When the target tries to flee, Jacob is right behind him. He chases him onto the nearby tram.

Karisa has spent the night in pursuit of a particular item for Miss Nadia Bliss, who is a local fence and contact for those wanting to obtain rare and unusual items. (Most of those items are currently owned by people unwilling to part with them.) This item is an ancient gold coin on display at a lawyer’s residence in downtown Las Vegas. As luck would have it, the lawyer is having a party tonight to show off some new award or another. The party itself is fairly easy to infiltrate: Karisa does have to offer a few bills to the man at the door, but he eventually lets her in. Once inside, she cases the apartment her target, and she is delighted to find that there is virtually no security. Realizing that the coin is set in the back and that virtually no one is paying attention to it. she decides to steal it on the spot rather than come back for it later. After tucking the coin into her purse, she quietly leaves the party and hops on the tram to head for home.

Marcello is new to Vegas. After trying to con the wrong people, he wound up a red court infected. The Fellowship of St. Giles intervened on his behalf, and he found himself sent to Las Vegas. This hasn’t done much to discourage him from his life of crime, however: he spends the evening in the company of a recently divorced middle-aged woman at one of the casinos. Recognizing her strength, he allows her to approach him and to take an interest in him, making for a very long con indeed. However, he does successfully catch her eye and obtain her number by the end of the night.

Phee is in her pawn shop, and it seems as though it will be business as usual tonight until a Russian woman comes in. She introduces herself as Nadia Bliss and says she’s in the market for a particular item: an ancient gold coin. Phee promises the woman she will see if she can locate the item — and, thanks to her contacts, she does. She learns from one of her competitors that the coin is owned by a lawyer, and he happens to be having a party downtown. After stepping off the tram, she steps up to the door guard to try and con her way in.

All five characters awaken aboard a moving tram. They’re laying on the floor of what soon becomes clear is the last car. This car, however, is dilapidated and filthy, with questionable slime and grime on the walls and floors. The characters, who, to some extent, know one another, are confused and disgusted, so they quickly move on to the second car. Unsure of their whereabouts, Jacob uses some caution in opening the door. He takes a small bouncy ball out of his pocket and throws it in to the space between cars. It bounces around harmlessly. Assuming that this means they’re safe enough, he then opens the door to the second car.

In the second car, the characters find a man huddled against the far wall. This car is badly damaged: there are broken windows and broken seats here. The man is dressed in a tattered green military jacket, and he is rocking back and forth. He clutches something in his hand, but from the doorway, the characters can’t quite tell what it is. Both Jacob and Marcello train weapons on him. Karisa and Phee both start towards him. When Donnie tells them to wait, Karisa stops, but Phee continues on.

Using the Sight, Donnie tries to get a better understanding for this situation and the man here. He can see the car surrounded with flame, and the item that the man holds seems to be absorbing the light of the flames. Unfortunately, he can make no sense of what he sees. He can only conclude that the group must have somehow been brought into the Never Never and that the key must be dangerous somehow. Phee concludes that this place is not real — at least, not grounded in the reality they are used to.

In the meantime, Phee reaches the man, and she can now see that he is holding a key. It becomes apparent very quickly that the man is oblivious to their presence. Phee continues to try to coax the key from the man, but he doesn’t react until she gently touches his hands; at that point, the man slaps her hand, then continues rocking.

By now, the rest of the characters have moved forward as well to examine the door beside the man. It’s locked securely with a padlock. When Karisa examines it to open it, however, she realizes that the lock is like nothing she’s ever seen before: there are no tumblers or pins for her to manipulate! She is forced to admit defeat, and they group returns their attention to getting the key from the man. Rather than outright take the key, Karisa attempts to switch the key with one of her lockpicks so that the man might not know the difference. Although she knows her action should have succeeded, she is shocked to find the lockpick in her hand and the key still in his.

Marcello decides he has had enough: he drives the man’s head into the wall behind him with a crack. With the man unconscious, Marcello neatly picks the key up off the body and uses it to open the door. Karisa yells at him then goes to check on the homeless guy while Donnie shakes his head at Marcello’s lack of class. Knowing they can’t do much for the homeless man at the moment, Karisa and Donnie reluctantly follow everyone else into the third car.

In the third car, they find the decor has changed yet again. Here, everything seems worn down and used, but none of it is broken. A number of people sit in the seats here with keys around their necks. Once again, they discover the door in front of them is locked, and, this time, the key from the homeless man won’t open it.

Donnie begins a polite conversation with a woman in the car. She tells him repeatedly that she would just like to get off the train and that she’s been riding it an awful long time. As his questions become more specific, however, about where she came from or how long she’s been riding, her answers remain vague. She suggests they speak to the conductor if they have any questions or concerns. The keys, they learn are required for the passengers to depart the train at their final destination. When asked where their final destination is, the woman points to a tram map on the side of the car, which seems to make sense to those examining it until they turn away from it. As soon as they look away, they become confused about what the map actually contained. When Phee asks to borrow a key, the woman hesitates. She reminds Phee that she needs the key, and Phee promises to return it. With key in hand, Phee turns to open the padlock on the door. It opens, and then the key simply breaks apart. The woman seems concerned about her key, but no more-so than she was initially; the party offers her a sheepish smile and a wave, and then they move into the fourth car.

In the fourth car, the group is immediately confronted by a porter at the door. He hands Phee, who is the first through, a ticket bearing the Number 13 and politely asks them to take a seat to wait their turn. Further questioning reveals that the current number — Number 5 — is lit up on an old-fashioned electronic list of numbers. He assures them that Number 6 will be up soon and tells them candidly that it’s just a “short wait” between numbers — only about 20 years or so. He also tells them they’re free to trade their ticket if they can find someone who would like to trade with them. Number 6 turns out to be held by a woman accompanied by her two children. It is suggested Karisa swipe their number from them, and Karisa outright refuses.

Donnie borrows the ticket and the porter’s cap, and he sits down to see what he can learn through magic. He has a vision of the ticket being shredded, and, once the ticket lies in pieces, he feels suddenly much lighter, as though he is flying.

As Donnie experiences his vision, Karisa sits down to meet the family holding ticket Number 6. The woman is initially a little cautious, but Karisa is soon playing a series of clapping games with the little girl. Suspecting that Karisa is ruining their chances of ever getting ticket Number 6, Phee sits down to get to know Number 7, who appears to be a businessman traveling alone who reminds her somewhat of her father. In spite of a nice conversation, Phee tries to keep it impersonal, as she doesn’t want to get attached in case they have to take his ticket.

Once Donnie explains his vision to the group, they decide to try tearing up the ticket. Not wanting to risk their own, however, they grab someone else’s ticket and are surprised to find it doesn’t tear — the ticket becomes rubbery and strangely durable even though it feels like simple paper. They decide to try their own ticket — and it tears easily. Nothing happens, so Donnie tries to throw the paper up into the air like confetti. Again, nothing happens. Karisa collects the pieces of the ticket in the porter’s hat and returns it to him, at which point the porter asks if they are surrendering their ticket. He pulls it from the hat, and it is magically whole again! Karisa is quick to assure him they aren’t surrendering her ticket — she was just returning his hat to him.

Feeling as though they have no choice, the characters decide to cheat: they pull down the electronic line of numbers and rig it so Number 13 is lit up. As soon as they return it to the wall, the porter encourages them to go through the door. Donnie walks through the door with his head bowed in shame. Karisa glances over her shoulder to whisper an apology to the woman, who is now glaring at Karisa with a hurt and betrayed expression.

In the fifth car, the characters can smell the aroma of cooked food. Their stomachs and watering stomachs remind them that it has been some time since they ate — and it looks wonderful. However, the passengers who are eating seem to be eating with too much gusto, and they seem emaciated besides. This makes the characters suspicious, so they demand to see the chef. Jacob takes the lead and convinces the staff that they’re actually health inspectors here to inspect the kitchen.

Inside the kitchen, the characters find everything neat and orderly. It appears to be a normal kitchen with staff bustling about preparing various types of dishes. The only thing out of place are the human bodies the staff is butchering for dinner. Although horrified, the characters press on with their ruse and tell the chef that the kitchen is not up to code. They demand to see the conductor of the train, and the chef points them towards a swinging door at the back of the kitchen.

This door, however, will not move for the characters. They watch as numerous waitstaff walk through it. They even try to throw a busboy through it and hold the door open as he passes through — however, they find that no matter how fast they are, they can’t seem to reach the door in time. They decide to try to duplicate the staff by first carrying a tray through the door. It doesn’t work. Their next step is to knock out a waiter and steal his clothing. This also fails.

Finally, Phee makes sure Karisa isn’t watching, and then she tries a nibble of food off of a tray. This time, the door opens easily for her — but looking back at the group, everyone can see a smear of blood on her chin. She tries to hold open the door for the rest of the group, but, once again, no one can reach it. Seeing as they have no choice, Marcello also takes a bite of food, followed, reluctantly, by Jacob and Donnie, who only partakes after a stiff drink from the bar fails to allow him access (but does give him a “Thinner” condition.) Karisa, however, asks Marcello for the key from the homeless man, and, without a word more, she turns on her heel and stomps back through the kitchen towards the back of the train.

In the sixth car, the group finds several tables filled with people gambling for a single pocket watch. At the far end is yet another door, and, this time, it is accompanied by another porter. The porter tells them the only thing they need to access the door is to give him the pocket watch.

Donnie decides that he isn’t going to leave Karisa behind, so he leaves to follow her. Everyone else, meanwhile, decides to go ahead without him pretty quickly. Using his supernatural speed, Marcello snatches the watch from the table, and they hand it to the porter who is all-too-pleased to let them through.

Donnie catches up to Karisa in the last car returning the key to the homeless (and still unconscious) man’s hand. Winded from his brisk walk, he sits down a moment, and she looks at him with an expression that displays clearly her disgust and loss of respect for him. She also tells him she is not eating people, no matter what, and that she’d rather throw herself from the back of the train than stay here a minute longer. Donnie sees some sense in this argument, and so they jump out the back door.

Meanwhile, in the seventh car, the characters meet the conductor at last. They’re in the engine now. The people here are busy feeding coal into the flames that keep the engine running. The conductor reminds them that they’ve accomplished terrible deeds to reach him, and he wonders what they want. When they tell him they want to be sent back, he tells them he can’t do that: “salvation requires a leap of faith.” After some debate, Jacob decides to throw himself from the side of the train. Marcello hesitates, but he finally gives in and does the same. Phee is last to jump.

The characters all awaken in their own beds. After waking up fully, they realize that it’s the morning of February 21, 2015. It’s as if the previous day didn’t happen at all, and it was all just a terrible dream… But was it?

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