Horror on the Orient Express

Note for Note

"The Demon of La Scala is real, I saw it with my own eyes!"

Bella, Eugene, and Nigel arrived in Milan with their accommodations already set up by their friend Caterina Cavollaro, an opera singer whom they had met on the train. She had also been kind enough to give them tickets to see Aida, where she was performing the title role. The group arrived a day after her – their small trip to Lausenne cost them a bit of time – but it didn’t matter anyway. As soon as they pulled in the stations, they heard news criers announcing Cavollaro’s kidnapping. The news criers were the brightest thing in the city – most of the town seemed depressed, almost shell shocked.

With little else to do in such a depressed city, the group decided to visit the Duomo, or the largest cathedral in Milan. A priest, Father Angelico, approached them immediately, happy to practice his English on them. He started off quite cheerful, but quickly descended into crying and ranting about how La Scala was a house of evil, and as attendance at the theater went up, attendance at the church went down. He gestured to three small women in the back, all wearing black and praying for Cavollaro’s return. He told Eugene, Bella, and Nigel that they worked at the costume shop, and that they were well aware of the evil of La Scala – especially the costumer’s curse. Unfortunately, they only spoke Italian, and Father Angelico had no interest in talking about La Scala. The group tried to leave, only to see a man in the back, down on the ground and looking for something. Bella tried to help him, but startled the man, and when he stood up, a jar fell out of his pocket. It shattered, and dead butterflies and moths spilled all over the floor. The man quickly ran out, but as Bella watched, a small chameleon appeared and quickly skittered away. She picked up some of the moth and butterfly mixture, and the three headed back to their hotel room.

That night, they heard Caterina Cavollaro singing outside the hotel room, the same aria she had sung on the train. They rushed outside to find her, and started twisting through alleyways, trying to find the song. Finally, they saw the chameleon in a corner. Darting after it, they found themselves in a dead end, and the chameleon gone. That night, after they went to bed, they dreamt of singing lizards.

The next morning, the papers had picked up the story of Cavollaro’s disappearance. Eventually, the investigators went to speak to Rischonti, the man who was quoted in the newspaper article. He told them that the costumer’s curse was that La Scala has not been able to keep a new costume designer for more than three months. Each had fallen ill – consumption, pneumonia, asthma, and even a few cases of dermatitis on the chest. Management is currently thrilled because the newest designer, Luisa Visconti, has been there for four months and has no symptoms. Rischonti gave instructions to the costume shop, and Nigel, Bella, and Eugene headed out.

Luisa Visconti (plus the three women from the church) were all working in the costume shop together, on six dressmaker’s dummies. All six are wooden, but when asked, Visconti translates for the three women, who say that there is an absent seventh dummy, which has been taken downstairs. It’s a large black thing, and it makes them uneasy, but it is useful – costumes made on it never needed adjusting. Eugene also noticed an open door in the back, and Luisa complained about how it was always open, and never locked properly. Useful information for those planning to break into La Scala.

That night, all of the investigators went to finally see Aida. It took a good five minutes to get to the front row, where they were sat in front of the orchestra. At eight PM sharp, the conductor tapped his podium, and the orchestra began to play. The curtain slowly raised up to reveal a great hall of ancient Egypt, with priests sacrificing plaster limbs. Radames is chosen to be the new Egyptian leader, and the priests take him away to be presented with his new armor. Aida’s aria begins, and in addition to hearing the understudy, the whole opera house seems to hum. Everyone is singing along, so their wish can be granted. However, they can particularly hear the voice of Caterina Cavollaro. Looking around, Nigel pointed out that the voice was coming from a tall, elderly man several rows behind them – the same man they had seen in the Duomo. His neck was scarred, and next to him was an elderly woman with an equally scarred neck, staring slack jawed. She appeared related to Cavollaro… or maybe more than related.

As the aria finished, the man collapsed, and Radames’ suit of armor is rolled onstage on a large dressmaker’s dummy – the same large, black pottery as the arm. The man screams, and Eugene leaps for the stage – and falls straight into the orchestra pit.

From there, a huge chase broke out. Nigel tried to fight off the men, while Bella leaped onstage, grabbed the dummy, and began to wheel it away. Nigel went with her, and the two jumped on the dummy, wheeling it like an unruly skateboard through the twisting and turning backstage. Eugene started fistfighting the men backstage, and then all of them began to hear ‘fire! fire!’ Eugene took the opportunity to pick up Radames’ sword and helmet, and started screaming in his fierce, Irish accent. Bella and Nigel navigated through the fire, and saved several people by directing them to the costuming door, and then began to lower down the torso using fabrics. Eugene ran to meet them, accidentally setting his helmet on fire in the process. The three managed to escape, although La Scala burned to the ground, and spawned a new legend in the process – the demon of La Scala.

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