The Crypt Problem

So we’re blocking out scenes, and I realize I have the wrong goal for Cat. I know it’s the wrong goal because she doesn’t give a damn about it. Scratch heat for the winter.

Now what she wants is to get workers out of her crypt. Basic background: Cat’s living in the belltower of an ancient condemned church and really likes it. But somebody has workers excavating the church crypt seven stories beneath her tower and she wants them out before they discover she’s there. Also it’s her church and they should leave.

And because I am obsessive about structure and three beats, I want her to actively try three ways to do it.

The first one she tries on her own. All I could come up with was stink bombs, which just, no. (She doesn’t want to hurt anyone, so that limits her choices.)

The second solution is to get Toni’s Keely to do something with magic. What we do not know.

The third solution she hits on by chance: she accidentally kills somebody (he deserves it) and tries to use the murder investigation to close up the crypt. That obviously has huge drawbacks, but she works with what she’s got.

What she doesn’t have are the first two attempts. So Argh People, get in here and brainstorm.

How would you get workers out of an ancient crypt to keep your home a secret? (The crypt is open to the sky now because a big explosion blew the ceiling out of not only the crypt but the entire nave. BIIIIIIG explosion.

I know you can do this. You got rid of a body for me for Agnes once, remember? I’ve never looked at Coca Cola the same way since.

So how would you do it?

126 thoughts on “The Crypt Problem

  1. Fake haunting, then tries to do something magical to make the fake haunting seem real and then the murder?
    Hmmm, what things are taboo or would scare people off in this world?

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    1. It’s Monday Street, so nothing’s taboo. It’s set in an alternate fantasy world in 1910, so whatever worked then.
      Actually, if I had ideas, I wouldn’t be abasing myself in a blog post (g).

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      1. If she’s the one who doesn’t have and doesn’t want magic then do you want something that makes her deal with magic?

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      1. Me too! I got all excited when I saw the RSS post, then clicked through and saw 72 people had beaten me to it… Ah, well.

        Fake Haunting was my first thought, too. Perhaps it backfires because the people digging are looking for ghosts/magic, and think “Hooray, we’re onto something!” and double-down on digging?

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  2. Flood it. River, sewer, high water table, really bad storm where she redirects the runoff, whatever. Not only is water difficult to really get rid of, especially if she’s clever about the source of the water and it keep reflooding, if they bothered with the water they would then have to deal with muck after. Maybe they’d give up and go away if it was too much trouble (Cat hopes).

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    1. There’s a toxic bay right there. Maybe that’s what Keely’s magic could do. Hmmm.
      Although they’d know that was magic and that would bring in the cops. A flood for no reason tends to call attention to itself.

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      1. She could seed the idea in ahead of time. Some of that bay water “leaking”/”seeping” into whatever corner is closest to the bay. “Hey boss, wet and glowy in the back corner here. Bugger, I don’t think the puddle was that big a few days ago.” Then with the next rain, woosh. Everyone knows that damp basements flood, right? Perfectly natural. πŸ˜›

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      2. But what if it was flooded Sewers backing up into the crypt ? Just figuring out how to get them to flood (maybe old Roman sewers?) and how icky it could be. Sewers and Rats.

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    2. I’d agree except that the pit on Oak Island floods all the damn time and people have been excavating it for hundreds of years. If the work is still tied to the ritual or whatever it was the Cat saw and the boss man thinks there’s something of power in the basement. I like the idea of a fake haunting because it’s the first thing people think of so Cat would think of it, being practical and all, and she can use her burglar skills to steal/move tools. Ghostly noises and such might not scare off the Monday street folk but losing their tools would create tension (aka less time working and more time arguing) among the crew and people will be less apt to stay at a job where their belongings keep disappearing.

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      1. I realized I forgot to finish my sentence and say that if the big boss really wants whatever it is dug up virtually anything Cat tries is going to fail since the workmen will be more scared of him than they are of whatever she can come up with but she could slow them down.

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  3. Isn’t this a bit of a negative goal? She wants things to go back to the way they were (before the workers), she wants things to stay the same, which doesn’t sound like a Crusie heroine to me. Especially if she’s the go-getting independent type. She’d be more likely to want to try to buy the church, maybe.

    I obviously could be completely wrong about this, so please feel free to ignore me. πŸ™‚

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    1. But Crusie women often seem to start out with the negative goal (keep things the same) and the story is partly them finding out what their positive goal should be when the negative goal goes off the rails.

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      1. Yeah, but Crusie heroines should not do that.
        My earlier heroines might–it took me awhile to learn this stuff–but my later heroines all have positive goals.

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    2. It would be if she wanted things to stay the same.
      What she wants it to evict the guys in the crypt. That’s her one focused goal.
      If she were doing multiple things to stop change, if she was saying, “No,” a lot, then her goal would be negative.
      But she’s saying, “Yes,” three times to getting the men out of the crypt.

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  4. Shouldn’t she find out first why/what ‘they’ are excavating? If it is (perceived) treasure, spreading rumours (contaminated illness/reeaally bad mojo) might be something to get at least one batch of workers uneasy enough to stay away. The rumour thing might also work if they’re excavating magic/demons? Even Monday Street might not want extreme nasties on the loose..

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    1. Toni and I are talking about that now, possibly because you mentioned it (she got to the comments first this morning; I sleep late). I think Cat would do the simple thing first and just try to scare them off. When that doesn’t work, I think she’d turn to, “What the hell are they doing down there anyway?”

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      1. That sounds like the pragmatic Cat you’ve described… focusing first on solving the problem, and only bothering to care WHY they’re there when her first solution fails.

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  5. Can she do something that creeps them out? Bring in lots of snakes? Or spiders? Have mysterious sounds echo throughout? Hide fresh sandwiches inside the sarcophagi? Having that crypt open to the sky limits dark and creepy happenings somewhat. Even stink bombs, should she change her mind about that, would dissipate fairly quickly, I would think.

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    1. Yeah, stink bombs are not a good idea. Scaring them off is good, but snakes and spiders won’t do it. They’re using tramps from Monday Street to dig; snakes and spiders are their pals, and they’d just eat the sandwiches. But yeah, something frightening would be good, and it’s a crypt, for heaven’s sake. That should be hard.

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      1. My first thought was rats. (Probably because I had a massive invasion of the nasty buggers last year.) Rats are creepy, unpleasant, poop all over everything, and BITE. She could lure them in with anything (I used sunflower seed butter to bait the traps I use, because apparently they love sunflower seeds) and the rats would eat whatever she put out, so no one would know. You can get workmen to hang around for most things, but a massive influx of rats? Urgh.

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  6. I like Mel’s suggestion – my first thought was a fake haunting. Presumably she needs to scare them away; or to make their work impossibly hard or dangerous – flooding, falling masonry. Or else somehow give them what they’re going after, but in a way that works for her. Which will be especially tricky if she doesn’t know what that is. Maybe she uses the local gossip network to find out, and is told wrong, so that her first attempt doesn’t work. Then she uses magic to discover what they’re really after?

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  7. Could she use her burgling skills to pick their pockets or steal their tools? Picking pockets might be better – thinking that’ll put them off, or that they’ll think it’s magic, but they just keep coming back because their goal (or reward) is too important for that kind of petty magic to bother them. (Rather weak, but I’ll post anyway just in case this could spark something better.)

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    1. They’re being well-funded, so the tools would just be replaced. And one wrinkle I failed to include is that the crypt is contaminated and the men working down there are dying, so Cat’s not going to be actually going in there. Yet.

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  8. Perhaps a Burn Notice “Bad Breaks” kind of sabotage? Excavating a formerly toxic crypt seems hazardous – she could tamper with equipment, make things difficult, maybe some minor injuries. I know she doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but as long as the damage isn’t permanent or serious, it wouldn’t be so bad. That could tie into the “thing with magic” attempt, too. The magic could be an escalation,, an attempts to make them think everything that’s gone wrong is because of a curse/haunting.

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    1. I loved that episode.
      Hmmm. Bad breaks. Boy, if not now, maybe in story two for something else. That kind of story is really good for a team, and we have to build a team in the second set of stories (aka Act Two).

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  9. What if she decides to try and get them to think that whatever caused the first massive explosion was still unstable, so she gets some dynamite from the store that sells everything to set off a series of tiny explosions, down the other end of the crypt from where they are working, so that nobody gets hurt. Except that actually uncovers something that helps them with what they are looking for, makes them realise they were looking in the wrong spot. So then using Keely’s magic, she tries to fill it all back in, both what she uncovered and what they had done, with an impenetrable force to stop them, but that backfires as well (and is possibly a trigger to demonstrate that hiding things, trying to keep things as they were, is not going to work?)

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    1. I like small explosions. Maybe fire crackers.
      They don’t know what they’re looking for, they were just sent down there to excavate and bring up whatever they find. The people who hired them don’t know what they’re looking for, they just know what it does, so they’re sifting through a lot of junk.

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  10. Or she can rat on them? Get someone other than police asking questions, say a desperate for story low level reporter? The other option is she could infest the place with something. Hundreds of mice or bats or crickets, making their human experience uncomfortable. I don’t know if this would work she could also pay the local homeless population to sleep there a couple of nights derailing the bad guys’ progress and you know maybe another dead body in the process.

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  11. Lure these hardworking souls away with the prospect of a better job elsewhere: better money, better conditions. But how she’d do that I don’t know. I see them all dropping their shovels and racing toward an Emerald City sort of occupation that she’s invented…maybe an ad in the paper detailing a fake job far away. Too crazy, perhaps, but instead of them being pushed out, I like the idea of their being tempted out.

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    1. Cat’s a waitress. No money. She has to do this on the cheap. She’s a burglar/pickpocket, so she can steal things, but not enough money to pay a dozen vagrants to leave the job. Also they’re working for the local crime boss. Not a guy you quit on.

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      1. If you did the rat thing (see my comment above), Cat could lure them in with bits of food being thrown away at the restaurant, so she wouldn’t have to spend any money.

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  12. Part of he problem is to be able to do three attempts to get rid of them without cluing anyone in that there are attempts to get rid of them. This is 1910, so it’s part of a fairly rational world but where some superstition can also have an effect. The second problem is masking — she wants them gone without revealing her interest in them.
    In this situation here’s what I’d do. First I’d plant a document or object that makes them believe it’s cursed against grave robbers. She can use this to make tools and other stuff disappear while they’re working. This gives you some tense scenes as she sneaks in and steals things while the workers are there. She also has to dispose of these items. Next she can give them bad weather. While they’re keeping away she could also try to find what they’re looking for, so their goal is no longer valid. She could leave a note that it’s been moved too, so their attention is diverted. Then, if that doesn’t work, she could get her magical friend to summon a storm as cover for the flooding and cause the rains to break a channel to the toxic waterway. Therre’s your three beats. (Note — for close readers three beat structure, though seeped in folklore and the way of storytelling dating back centuries, can be predictable — you might want to put a forth beat in there) This all deals with action by one or two people, so it limits the chances of her getting found out and evicted. And you can make her positive goal to get enough money to buy the church so she can prevent this from happening again. One more thing — this is a fantasy setting, so it’s possible the curse is real, and she’s just getting lucky. (Phillip K. Dick’s short story, “We can Remember it for you Wholesale” has a great example of this concept) Fantasy can blur the lines, with elements of horror or just about any other genre popping up.

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    1. I like three beats. It has a rhythm and I can dance to it, story-wise.

      Cat has no magic. Zip. I’m not even sure these guys can read, so a note probably wouldn’t do it. I kind of like the idea of her writing “Begone” or something on the crypt wall in blood but that would be evidence that she was there and –biggest problem–there are air fish in the crypt which means there’s a lot of magic down there. She’s not going in that crypt.She also has to stay subtle so causing a storm is out.

      I do like the idea of writing on the wall, though. Even if they couldn’t read it, that would have an impact.

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        1. Hobo language! Something scary in hobo language, but using a technology that’s so eldritch a hobo would never use it. (But that’d probably be magic in the first step. Maybe blood or fake blood, or fake guts. Or real guts from the restaurant. )

          That reminds me of that stupid happy face in the Mentalist series. Scariest damn thing I’d seen in a long time, yet so simple.

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      1. Air sharks, or other deepsea scary things, (instead of magic flooding, which may or may not make the church foundations even more unstable)?

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        1. The church is stable. It’s huge, it’s stone, it’s been around for four or five centuries, and the builders knew the bay was right there. It would have lasted forever if that orgy in the crypt hadn’t blown up 83 years ago.
          Sex kills, people.

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  13. I think I like the idea of luring because I ultimately want to see her lured out of her isolation. Maybe it’s *not* her church–not really. A church is a place for gathering, for community. She’s got it upside-down. She needs to flip from the belfry to the dirt foundation and hang with the workers…perhaps she starts there to get them out. But she stays there because that’s where she belongs.

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    1. She’s not lured out of isolation (that’s passive), she grows out of it through the events in the story. And she’s not that isolated; she’s a very popular waitress in a very popular restaurant, and most of the people on Monday Street are her friends. She just likes the quiet and the safety of the belltower, plus you would not believe the views: she has the city on her right, the forest on her left, and the Sea of Monday in front of her. And it was a very wealthy church, so even heavily damaged, it’s beautiful, lots of gold inlay, fantastic gargoyles, carved woodwork. She loves it, especially since she loves heights, and it’s the highest place in the Edge.
      I’d live there.

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      1. Ahh!!! I want to live there!!

        I meant lured by love, like a flower turning and growing toward the sun, but you’re right, she’ll have to be active and choose.

        I do think there’s a symbiotic relationship between the human will and the magic of love that transcends the beauty, exhilaration, & dignity of choice. But I can’t explain it, and I especially don’t want to downplay the imperative that a choice *must* be made.

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        1. I didn’t want her to give up her heart’s dream for a man. It works out just fine. Trust me, I am big on women getting rooms of their own.

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    1. I can see Spike looking around a magic crypt full of rubble and tramps and saying, “No.” He likes the good life, Spike does. He’d go find a better crypt.

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  14. She could salt the cellar (there’s a pun in there somewhere) with things that would require the people stop: artifacts, bones, things that produce bad juju.

    She could plant clues that send the diggers AWAY: something underneath, the opening of the pits of hell, some better treasure that is far far away from her and her crypt.

    A fake haunting could go either way.

    If she knows what they are looking for, she could hide or remove it, so they’d stop.

    Monkeywrenching – gumming up their process when they are not there, including moving or removing tools, messing with larger equipment so it won’t go (the equivalent of sand or sugar in the gas tank).

    Encourage vermin. Maybe Edwin could help. Lots and lots of animals can freak people out; a heaving mass of snakes or mice or rats or a flock of birds.

    some kind of leak that fills the place with [choose] sewage, toxic lake water, night airs that give you bad dreams… a hole in the dike kind of thing, that has the potential to become worse. If they are really at or under sea/lake level, then keeping it out is a constant battle and requires constant vigilance, and all the cellars will have puddles and damp spots and be monitored for water. There might even be law enforcement around that, because one flood imperils much of the town. Think the levees around New Orleans.

    impersonate an officer, order them out

    booby trap the space somehow, ranging from the classic bucket over the door to trip wires and biting things in buckets and poison on handles. or even ink on handles that doesn’t come off well – the power of suggestion is HUGE, if the marks are set up to believe stuff on them will harm them, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    barricades, piles of crap, doors nailed shut, simple physical closing out

    drop random stuff on them, see what makes them nervous. It would seem like the wrath of god, something falling on you from seven floors up…

    steal their stuff while they’re digging, undo their work after they go, change their work slightly while they’re gone, so they begin to doubt their sanity, or think something scary is changing their work site.

    play music and wear a mask

    puppets. or shadows – mess with the shadows, and project scary things on them, or near them.

    this is way more fun than what I am supposed to be doing.

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    1. I’m thinking about the air fish. Do the air fish populate like water fish do? Small in the shallows, bigger/scarier in the depths? Because I’m thinking there’s a big scary shark or Lock Ness type monster lurking in the depths of the crypt. If only Cat can bring it out to where the workers are.

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      1. Or maybe I’ve got that reversed and the scarier stuff is in the thinner air? Or is that too much from Dr Who, the Christmas episode where the sonic screwerdriver gets partially eaten by a shark…

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    2. If Cat is afraid to go down there, then dropping stuff in would be good. How about stuff like, oh, leftovers from the slaughterhouse, the most grotesque stuff like eyeballs, intestines…

      And then the ravens and the buzzards come in, drawn by the blood. And the rats. Lots of scavengers.

      If the guys who are working down there are dying, maybe anything that emphasizes death and decay would give ’em the jitters.

      Or how about worms and maggots?? Cockroaches?? Eeeeuw! I’d run for the hills…

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        1. Very true. Although I have cleaned out under my son’s bed while he was a teenager — not sure there’s much difference.

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    3. Ooo – You said impersonate an officer, but what if she gets them a fake message from The Boss, sending them far away on an errand. It might only buy her a week, but still…

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  15. This stuff is fabulous, thank you very much.
    Toni read the comments this morning and came back in e-mail and said, “Those Argh people are good. How about X, Y, and Z?” And then we talked about it and I came here and read the comments myself and we are now MILES ahead of where we were yesterday.

    Expect more “Oh, crap, we’ve written ourselves into a corner now what do we do?” posts in the future.

    I still remember all of your suggestions for getting rid of a body back in the Agnes days. I’ll be using those in books for years.

    THANK YOU!

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  16. Okay, world-building question: how active is God in this world? It’s 1910, we have magic, and we also have an abandoned church. Could one or more deities still have an interest in the church, or at least the crypt, even though people aren’t/haven’t been using it in a while?

    Among other things, it seems to me that a Divine Expression Of Displeasure might be easier to fake and more effective at keeping workers away than your garden-variety (well, crypt-variety) haunting.

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    1. Everybody has abandoned this church, and Phoebus, a kind of sun god, isn’t really a player except for the kindly or horrible things people do in his name.
      But FAKING Phoebus is a great idea. Hmmm.

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  17. Is Cat worried about attracting the attention of the big boss to the job site with all of this? I mean, if all these weird things start happening and I’m a smart crime lord my first thought is that someone is sabotaging me and that I won’t stand for it. I’d put guards, smart guys not dumb muscle, on the site and hire/bully/extort a magic user to investigate. I’d also put out feelers for why someone was interested in the church, someone other than the obvious people who would be my rivals. Maybe I’d even bump off someone as a warning, one of the men on the crew or a rival’s well protected flunky to remind people just how scary I am.

    Unless poking the bear is part of the plot in which case just ignore me. (g)

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      1. Is there some kind of charitable society run by powerful, respectable battle-axe women who would try to rescue the poor, helpless tramps and take them away to be cleaned up and taught to be respectable citizens if Somebody told them said poor, helpless tramps were digging around a derelict site, putting themselves at risk?

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  18. I just love these discussions…

    As a reader, I love seeing how the wild brainstorming evolves into a cohesive world. Reading the wild ideas for Agnes, and then reading the actual novel WHILE KNOWING that backstory, just adds another layer to Agnes’ and Lisa Livia’s relationship. There’s only so many people you would dispose of a body for …

    I can’t wait to see how Cat deals with her infestation of people.

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  19. Could she, through her work as a waitress, circulate a story about a legend involving the crypt as sacred ground? Something her father had told her as a child. She’d be setting up the story for future events. Then ask if anyone has seen a ghostly figure late at night, then brush it all off as silly. Then start with making weird noises through a down pipe, creating other-worldly echoes, as the diggers dig. The story would circulate quickly and she could introduce other aspects of hauntings, things going missing, until she ends up scaring herself because there is magick there.

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    1. That’s too easily traced back to her and too slow. Also, Cat’s incredibly practical and down to earth. People would think she’s lost her mind.

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  20. HI,

    I like your idea of stink bombs. My dad has done some work in mines and he’s talked about the worry of gas leaks. If this crypt is underground it could be connected to caves or deposits that could have gas in them, it would scare people off since it’s so volitle and breathing it in kills people. Once some due dilligance was done the workers would go back, but there would probably be dark mutterings about danger etc…

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    1. The crypt is full of old magic, so we’ve got an analog to that working. I’d already thought of the air fish as the canary-in-the-mindshaft analogy. When the air fish show up, you got magic.

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  21. If she fakes some Viking/First Nations etc artifacts digging will halt while they investigate.

    Flooding the crypt is another option.

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  22. I didn’t read everything, because I’m supposed to be working. So someone may have said this already. But what if things fell out of the sky. Dead birds. Road kill. A safe. Do they have flying machines. It could rain blood. I’m trying to think what might spook guys that are fairly unspookable…

    Dolls that look like real babies. Body parts. What if a mannequin dressed exactly like one of the workers fell into the pit? Would that spook them? Voodoo dolls?

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    1. okay, I went back and read the post and the 100+ comments. Argh people, don’t mess with them. Now I want to read this teaser story. Was it written? Is it still findable? Help, please!

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      1. It was, but when my editor read it, she said, “This is too violent to publish.” It was a prequel for Agnes. Agnes did not mess around with men who hurt Lisa Livia.
        You know, I don’t know where that story is. I may even have lost it; I poured Diet Coke into one laptop and water into another one since then.

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        1. Oh, this makes me sad. If you ever stumble across it, I hope you’ll add it to the website or put it as a bonus in an ebook or something. I very much would love to read it.

          Do you remember how they disposed of the body? After reading everyones’ suggestions, I quite curious. Also, I didn’t see Coke in the comments, but I’m guessing maybe in a future post someone suggested to use it for the acid to dissolve the body in?

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          1. They drove it to a major river, waited until a container ship was going by, and dropped the body on that, figuring that by the time the ship was unloaded in China or wherever, there’d be nothing left to find.

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  23. What if Cat watches them, finds out who they are, where they come from and go to. Then she uses her skills to plant stolen items on them and get them arrested? into trouble? that hopefully keeps them from coming.

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  24. Tony’s Keely helps Cat with a “keep-away” spell, as in “what-you-seek-is-not-here” but the Big Boss has a mage too, so that gets thwarted.

    Tony’s choice on whether Cat does some “lifting” in return for Keely’s help and it making it into Keely’s story.

    Boy, Jenny, you sure don’t do things the easy way. Just keeping track of plot must be half the work!

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  25. I’ve read the comments and have no useful ideas, but am concerned that if the diggers are slowly dying by being in the crypt digging that any of the small critters would perish way to quickly to be anything but bodies. If a man can be there for 2-4 weeks before the magic kills him, how long would a rat survive?

    My favorite suggestion was the faking of the god.

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    1. Any rat that would go into that crypt has become something else by now. That’s where the air fish live, and they’re swimming in magic.

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  26. I agree with the fake haunting idea – something small and magical, like a rat ghost. But it should drop real messages addressed to real workers, threatening their families or lives. To find out who they are and what they hold dear is Cat’s job. The men should be scared witless, so they wouldn’t want to come back for any money.

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  27. So, you’re broke and dying and tough enough to work in a toxic crypt, for a boss who scares you more than a potentially nuclear amount of magic in a potentially haunted space… what would it take to make you quit? Maybe if one of your coworkers “mutated” into something dead and sinister (based on a superstition of the sun god)? Cat can’t bribe all the men to leave, but maybe she could bribe one, and then create a dummy wearing his hard hat and drop it into the crypt? Maybe she could find someone to help convince the boss that he’s digging in the wrong place? (fake a “sighting” of the stuff he’s after somewhere else in town?) I like the fake haunting idea, especially if the world has death superstitions that are powerful enough to sway the workers, and Cat’s haunting makes those superstitions come to life in some way. Also, men can’t dig if they can’t see, so maybe a little tear gas-like bomb that causes temporary blindness? If it happened enough times, they could think it was the result of the magical contamination and refuse to go back to work.

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    1. Well, they’re not dying before they go down there. And once Harry starts running the crew, nobody dies.
      But yes, something dropped in there to make them run out like a tear gas bomb would be good.

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  28. If Cat drops things on them from above, she’ll have to be really careful or they’ll start investigating the structure above, which will lead them to her bell tower, which would be bad. That would also be careless of her, and she doesn’t seem the type who would be that careless. Not unless something really unsettled her.

    If I were in her position, I think my first attempt would be stealing the tools. It’s simple and very direct. I could see myself doing that and muttering about people being where they’re not supposed to be and what the heck do they want down here anyway, it’s toxic for cripes sake, don’t they have any sense at all?

    That’s if she’s willing to go into the crypt. Does she want to stay out of the crypt entirely, or just spend as little time there as possible? Her possibilities are pretty limited if she doesn’t go into it at all. I can’t think of any new ones at the moment.

    She could also try a variation on Davie’s fish in the seat cushions scheme: small dead things in tiny spaces that give off a long term stench. Or maybe she could entice a large family of skunks or the local equivalent to move in. Even if they don’t spray, they scent their living space with a rather pungent odor that takes some time to dissipate (I had some living under my kitchen at one time). that makes it unpleasant to enter, and when they do, someone is bound to get sprayed, and it, after the tools being stolen, might feel like the whole enterprise is ill-omened. Her home is far enough away that it won’t matter.

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  29. You’ve described Cat as practical. She’s a cat burglar by training. (And inclination?) The first thing she would do is fall back on that skill and steal their stuff, i.e., whatever she feels is most necessary to what they’re doing. Or do something closely related that would rely on that skill set, like put something in there to deter.

    Or, you know, since there’s fish down there, establish a feral population of rabid cats. Lots for them to eat. I have no idea where that idea came from.

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  30. Variation on a theme here, but… Minor sabotage couldn’t hurt. A disguised Cat could stealthily pose as one of the workers, making tweak adjustments to slow the work down and mystify the others working until work is stopped. She moves like a wraith among them.

    Harry eventually shows up to investigate and notices a similarity between the lithe, agile new worker and Cat, but he says nothing to the foreman. But he knows that ghost-like cat. He’s heard of nine lives not nine occupations.

    Yeah, that’s pretty bad πŸ™‚ But if the American White House can have a ghost-cat, why can’t South Edge?

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  31. A lot of my ideas have been mentioned already, so there may be some repeats here.

    But I think a big deal is how is Cat defeated (temporarily) by the antagonist? Does he directly put a stop to her darn meddling? Or is she sometimes defeated because she underestimated the hungriness of these workers? If the workers are going to work in a toxic waste dump, I don’t see them being the kind of people who are going to be frightened by ghosts. These dudes have no imagination — just hungry bellies and a need for drugs or whatever addictions carry them through their miserable days.

    I can see her underestimating once, and that leads her to finding out who her real antagonist is.

    I’m always about sabotaging the machinery as a first step. Or blocking off the area with a controlled landslide, or just hauling a bunch of junk in (with a little help from her non-magical friends) to blockade it.

    (-: I don’t think this will work, but what if she tried to unionize the workers? Unions — a big deal in 1910.

    Use magic to make a facade of too much stuff in the crypts.

    Use magic to make it not only look toxic, but ball-busting toxic. A man might work in a lot of awful conditions, but if he’s afraid his testicles are going to get fried, he’ll think again.

    And, my last idea, use magic to make it look like there’s something highly desirable (gold?) . . . in another place.

    I think the key thing is that these workers can’t be scared off, they can’t be bought off — so why does Cat even try? She can underestimate them once (and I like the progression that this gives the arc), but I don’t know if she can do it twice. The second try is going to have to more directly aimed at the antagonist, IMO.

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      1. Ah, I see. Didn’t you also say that the guy running the crew was somebody’s love interest? That complicates things, too.

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  32. Maybe during her burgling Cat found a scientist’s lab with phosphorescent pigments and dry ice? Apparently both were being studied before 1900. One source says in 1897 Herbert Samuel Elworthy obtained a patent for dry ice to make “solid dry ice for his soda water.” She might use stolen dry ice and water to make fog appear to billow up out of the floor. (She’d have to observe this reaction somewhere.)

    Phosphorescence doesn’t last long, but she might be able to write something on the walls with pigment mixed with varnish and have it “magically” appear in the torchlight?

    If there is a crack in the foundation and some way she can run a pipe from the waterline, the movement of the water can cause eerie sounds.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqeG97ILh6E

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    1. Back to my moaning pipes idea… If they were already part of the building, she could have sealed them up before to fix the noise. Now all she has to do is reverse her work. She could be sealing them and unsealing them to get different effects over several days.

      She’s going to need to be careful of leaving footprints in the crypt once excavation starts.

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      1. The church was built over three hundred years ago, abandoned eighty-three years ago. No pipes. Also she’s a waitress/thief, not a plumber (g).
        She works from six PM to two AM six days a week. Most of those night she’s out stealing things she needs. She gets eight hours of sleep because she’s a healthy young woman with two physical jobs. She isn’t going to have the time, energy, or interest in building, drilling, persuading, anything that could leave a trail back to her. It’s just not efficient and practical.
        The smart person takes the quickest, easiest, simplest path. That’s Cat.

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  33. I like the idea of planting someone in the crew that later “dies”. There have to be some failed actors or troubadours down by her, yes? This person could be the one to spread the rumors, sow dissent and mangle machinery, that way Cat wouldn’t have to be anywhere near the crypt. This character could owe her, or she could steal something as payment. She could even plant two people, so that one “dies” and the other starts the movement of “quitting” this job, cuz it ain’t worth dying over. Perhaps?

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    1. So . . .
      You have to find somebody you can trust that doesn’t come from the part of the city where you’ve spent all your life.
      You have to convince this person to dress like a tramp and go down into an ancient crypt and dig through rubble. Oh, and people are dying down there.
      Then you have to wait until this person you’ve never met before but trust spreads rumors and hope that they take hold, not just in some people, but in ALL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD so that nobody will ever go down there.

      Or she throws firecrackers in the hole. Or whatever.

      Always keep it as simple as possible. The minute you get at all complicated, your plan will fail. This is true in real life, too.

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  34. Free drinks! Must be part of a party of six! Tramps and hobos get special discount! Can YOU guess the number of jellybeans in the big big jar? First one to guess gets all the jellybeans! Sexiest Tramp contest! Winner gets free drinks for a week! Don’t delay! First six men through the door get all the beer they can drink in 27 minutes flat!

    And so on. The supervisor hero guy can try to reason with them each time, but each time they tell him he’s just jealous/ stupid/ wasteful/ a spoilsport, and fall for the next coupon/special offer and tramp off.

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  35. Could she get her hands on some blood? There’s gotta be a slaughterhouse somewhere. I was thinking that she could get as close as comfortable and then pour a bucket or two of blood on the floor, fling some on the walls and just generally make, as my grandfather used to say, a mell of a hess. Maybe bust an expensive liquor bottle up and make it look like someone came in for a little me and my bottle time and met a gruesome end. If she left something like a fancy jacket button, something that would be on a rich person’s clothing, then it wouldn’t be suspicious when none of the Monday street regulars were missing. We all know that drunken rich kids like to do stupid things on dares like spend nights in haunted crypts.
    It would have to be real blood because sure as the world someone, the sensible hero, would get the idea that someone was trying to scare them and that it wasn’t blood and they’d touch it and smell it and probably taste it.

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    1. That’s an interesting idea. She wouldn’t have to go down there, just stand over the hole in the nave and pour it into the crypt.
      Of course if they went to the butcher, she’s caught . . .

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      1. What’s the floor of the crypt made of? If it’s dirt, she’s going to need a lot of blood because it will soak in but if it’s stone, she won’t really need that much. If she’s stealing from a slaughterhouse, it shouldn’t be too hard because they would have a place, a drain or something to get the blood out of the work area. Sharp knives and slippery floors don’t really go together. It might mean a stinky night but still. And if she has to get some from a butcher, what if he was saving some for making blood sausage? Breaking and entering are her thing. Her blood wouldn’t have to be 100%, she could water it down some but really she shouldn’t need more than a couple of gallons. Even if it took her two nights to get. And it would have the added bonus of attracting every rat and raven in the city

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  36. *Always keep it as simple as possible. The minute you get at all complicated, your plan will fail. This is true in real life, too.*
    Keeping this in mind for guidance. Posting on the wall too. Good advice for plotting, planning and real life too.

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  37. 1910… public health and sanitation are a kind of new idea, but gaining popularity. Cholera, miasma, drains, I liked the idea of suggesting that river-water was rising into it. The foreman is competent, but a determined muckraker bringing City Hall into it might slow him down some. (Also gives me an excuse to recommend Spain’s _How Women Saved the City_.)

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