Chapter 1: The Case

A knock on Patterson's door made her jump up from her chair as if she had heard a gunshot. Heart racing, she ran over to the door and peeked through the peephole, seeing a fish bowl view of all her friends arriving for their game night.

"C'mon Patterson, let us in! This beer won't chill itself!" Kurt said.

Patterson took a few deep breaths and nervously shook her hands a few times to get out some of the jitters before opening the door. She knew tonight would be a hard sell for most of them; up until now all their game nights had consisted of board games or at least started as board games before everyone got too drunk to play or follow the rules. She was hoping that tonight's game of Dungeons & Dragons would at least make it off the ground, she knew if she could just get her friends to try it, they would actually love it.

"Hey guys! You made it!" Patterson said with a huge grin as she swung the door open.

"Why wouldn't we make it? It is your turn to host game night remember?" Reade said jokingly.

"Yeah, so what is the poison tonight anyways? You were very cryptic on the phone, you just said it would involve an adventure and some dice rolling." Tasha said warily as she got up on her tiptoes so she could see past everyone into the dining room where the table was set up.

"Uhm, well, it definitely will be an adventure... Before you guys freak out though, I just want you to know that this game is for EVERYONE, not just a stereotypical subset of the human population, and all I want is for you guys to give it a try. Ok?!" Patterson said sternly but hopefully. She knew this was the first hurdle of the night, having her friends be open minded enough to dive in to D&D.

"Oh boy… This doesn't sound good." Jane says skeptically as she looks over at Kurt to see his reaction to the news.

"Oh. Em. Gee. Peppermint Patty, is that a DM screen over on the table?! I love role playing!" Rich said excitedly as he rushes past the rest of the group to check out what Patterson has setup for them.

"Of course, I should have guessed that you already have taken a trip down D&D lane, but if you call me Peppermint Patty ONE more time, I will kill your character." Patterson said wagging a finger at Rich.

"Woah woah woah. Patterson." Reade puts his hands up in front of him as if surrendering. "This is not what we signed up for. Look we know you, and Rich, are nerds and like to let that nerd flag fly high but we're just normal people. I don't think dressing up as some fictional character and swinging swords and talking in some weird old-world language is what we were looking for when winding down from work."

"HEY!" Rich shouts.

Patterson jumps in before this goes from bad to worse. "Technically… that's LARPing. Which is still totally cool for anyone to do as well. This, however, is Dungeons & Dragons. You will still be playing characters and acting as if you are them; but you do not have to dress up, unless you want to… which is called cosplay." She sees a room full of blank stares except for Tasha who has a sly grin on her face giving Patterson the patented 'I told you so' look she had come to be very familiar with over the course of the last few months of dating. When no one interrupts her, she continues on. "Look, plenty of people play D&D. Did you know even Vin Diesel plays? I dare you to call him a nerd. If you did he would probably just be proud to say he is one. Look, we don't have to play this after tonight. I just wanted us to try something new, and I think you guys would actually really like it. I've even done one of the harder parts for you and created your characters, not to mention homebrew a world I think you guys will be able to handle a lot easier than a fantasy one."

Patterson watches as Kurt shifts a little at the mention of Vin Diesel, unconsciously crossing his arms in front of him. She knows for a fact Kurt thinks of him as one of the ultimate cool guys. Got him she thinks to herself. That means Jane should be game too, kind of goes hand in hand with being married, now I just have to persuade Reade. She looks towards Reade who still appears to be unconvinced.

"You guys can't seriously be thinking about going along with this?" he says towards Kurt.

"Well, I think it's only fair we give it a try. We are already here, the beer is in the fridge, and it looks like Patterson has put in a lot of work to do this for us." Kurt looks to Jane who just has a wry grin on her face. She knows any time Kurt can try to be like one of his idols, he won't pass up the opportunity. "We should do it, for Patterson."

"All right, I'm in." Jane says as she walks towards the table, giving Kurt a kiss on the cheek before lacing her fingers in his to bring him with her.

Reade looks pleadingly at Tasha, who has been very quiet throughout this whole conversation. "Oh come on. What? Are you afraid you're actually going to like it? I promise none of us will call you a nerd afterwards if that's what you're so worried about." Tasha says jokingly knowing Reade is very self-conscious about how others perceive him.

Reade lets out an exasperated breath before finally cracking. "Ok, fine. But no one mentions this at work, understand? No one." Reade shakes his head and walks over to the table to sit down next to Rich who hands him a beer.

Tasha gives Patterson a wink and as she starts to head towards the table, Patterson mouths "Thank you" as she walks past. Now that what she thought was going to be the hardest part of the night is over, the big ball of nerves at the pit of her stomach has relaxed and she only feels excitement over getting to share something she loves with her friends.

Patterson walks over to the table and after everyone settles down she goes over some of the main rules and concepts of Dungeons & Dragons. She tells them all about how they can basically do anything they want, they just have to roll a d20 for it and add what Patterson tells them to add off of their character sheet; then depending on that number outcome Patterson will tell them what happens and continue on. To make it super easy on them, she already drafted up character sheets for them as well as laid out a set of 7 polyhedral dice in front of each person.

"You made me a bard?! They're so lame!" Rich exclaims, picking up his character sheet and shaking it at Patterson. "Change me out, I want something different!"

Patterson glares at him. "You are totally a bard and you know it! Plus you're thinking of an older iteration that was the brunt of the jokes. In 5th edition, they can actually be quite cool! Just give it a chance. If you still hate it, you can kamikaze your character and roll a new one. Deal?"

"Fine. This edition's bard better be the shit, 'cuz I deserve nothing less than that. I'm fucking Rich Dotcom, I get to be the coolest character." Everyone tries to hide their grins as Rich says this, they know it's just his antics as well as how highly he thinks of himself – but they love him anyways.

"Ok, ok, ok. If everyone has settled down and there's no more questions… Why don't you all read off your character's class. For simplicity sake I made everyone Humans mainly so you didn't freak out about having to be some other race you hadn't heard of."

"What if-" Rich starts.

"No! Only if your character dies. Then you can come back as whatever class AND race that you like. We are trying to get everyone's feet wet so they want to keep playing, not scare them off by you being some crazy Chaotic Evil Tiefling trying to secretly kill the party!" Patterson sees Rich's eyes light up, realizing what she said she quickly adds, "Which is also not a good idea if you come back as that. You're trying to work together, not be a mole."

Before Rich can say anything else on the matter, Tasha speaks up "Soo… I'm playing a Rogue. I don't know why, but there you have it."

"Ok miss C.I.A., no reason at all you're a rogue." Rich says pointedly rolling his eyes earning him a death glare from Tasha.

"I'm a Paladin. What's that mean again?" Kurt questions looking towards Patterson. "Am I some kind of drone?"

"No, a Paladin is essentially the front-line guy who takes a lot of the hits and damage for the group, they also more or less follow the law – I made yours Chaotic Good instead of Lawful Good because not everything is black and white, so you'll be able to act according to your gut for what you feel like the "good" choice of a situation is."

"So, basically, he's himself?" Jane mentions as she pokes at his stomach eliciting a small chuckle from her husband.

"That's kind of the theme here. I thought it would be a lot easier to try out something new if you could play characters that are somewhat close to who you actually are in real life. If you guys end up liking it, down the line we can always try out different classes and races in a more fantasy campaign setting…" Patterson trails off.

"Hold up. I think just for tonight will be just fine." Reade interjects. "I'm a fighter."

Rich does a fist pump towards Reade as he starts humming the chorus of Eye of the Tiger.

"See? Bard." Patterson says with a toothy grin. "Ok, last one then we can begin, Jane what are you playing?"

"I'm a Monk… which is pretty cool if it's the kung fu kind."

"That's exactly what it is!" Patterson says excitedly. She now feels like everyone, besides Reade, is actually quite stoked to be playing her game. She thinks with time though, she can get him to open up and really enjoy his character.

"Ok, if everyone is ready…" Patterson leans in and pauses for dramatic effect. "It's time to jump in to tonight's game of Dungeons & Dragons."

"You are all at the FBI headquarters, crowded around one of the televisions watching the news report yet another murder that happened during a robbery in NYC. This time it is at The Met and the curators are keeping quiet about what item was stolen overnight. This is the third time in a month that a heist with a similar M.O. has been used. First, it was the bank robbery in Texas that the robbers dressed up in Western garb, then the Jewel heist in LA where the culprits were dressed as cat burglars - literally as they had worn a full size cat onesie featuring both a head and tail. Now you see on the screen a group of four people on the security feed image, each posing with different weapons: one person has two Japanese looking swords, another with nunchucks, the third with a long circular piece of wood, and the last one seems to have a pair of small three pronged weapons from a video game that you don't really recognize - each has one long blade protruding from the handle flanked by two shorter blades that come out of either side of the base."

Before proceeding, Patterson looks up to see everyone fully engaged, leaning towards the table just like they do when they are on a real case at work. "The FBI and CIA have been tasked with stopping these attacks before more lives are lost, and more items are stolen. You know that Pike, your completely awesome amazing Forensic Scientist and quartermaster has already been hard at work deciphering some clues that were left behind at each of the first two crime scenes as well as prepping some new gadgets for you. What would you like to do?"

"We can do anything we want right? Anything at all?" Kurt questions as he leans in further to rest his elbows on the table.

"You can certainly try." Patterson gives him a smirk before continuing, "Anything you would like to do just let me know. I will tell you whether it's something you need to roll for or if the information is just freely given - no roll needed."

"Alright, well it sounds like we should go see this Pike first, right? We need more information on the older cases if we are to stop these guys." Jane says looking around at everyone else.

"Yes, let's go see Pikey-poo." Rich says with an ornery look towards Patterson. "For the record I did not in any way shape or form call YOU any of the aforementioned nicknames I'm not allowed to say or death do my character and I part."

"I'm starting to regret this." Patterson deadpans but without any malice behind it.

"Let's touch base with… Pike… and then if we need more info maybe I can contact the CIA to see if they have any information the FBI doesn't?" Tasha suggests. "Sound good, Reade?"

"Huh? Yeah, sure. Let's get more information… and more beer." Reade examines his empty bottle, knowing that he definitely needs to crack another one open since the only way forward is through the game.

"Ok, great! So you guys go into Pike's lab to meet up with her." Patterson continues on but slightly adjusts her voice for her characterization of Pike, "Hey, glad you guys finally got my text! I have some new information that came in after examining the first two crime scene files." Patterson pauses here to see if anyone is going to take the initiative.

"Uh, yeah, so Patterson… I mean Pike… what did you find out?" Kurt supplies.

"Well it seems like we are dealing with some big showboaters. Think almost Moriarty-level egos. The obvious clues were left right in front of our noses. At the scene in Texas they left a Lucky Cat in the bank vault, and at LA they left a rat stuffed animal. The other weird thing is how they cut the security camera feed. They make sure at each scene that they are seen before leaving, only for a second, before the feed cuts again. But I've noticed each time they have cut it, the Snow or Static that it shows seems to have a pattern that I haven't been able to crack yet. The computers here are currently analyzing that. LA and Dallas scenes have both been cleaned up, scrubbing the chance for any extra information other than what we have in these files, but maybe you guys can find something at The Met that was missed?"

"Ok. Mission one, we head to the Met, maybe grabbing a hot dog on the way so we aren't finding clues on an empty stomach. Even Scooby and the gang had to eat before solving mysteries." Rich pauses before adding, "Oh, also, great and powerful Pike, do you happen to have any gadgets at your disposal that could help us?"

"Now that you mention it, I do. I just got these back from the lab." Patterson changed back to her own voice cadence again, "She hands you each two small vials of red liquid. So make sure and mark that on your character sheet." Switching back to Pike she adds "Here are our latest formulas for a healing draft. For these to work, all you need to do is make sure that you empty the vial into your mouth and swallow the liquid. The effect will be immediate and it will help anyone who is injured or has fallen unconscious get back up."

"Sounds like we may be getting our asses handed to us soon." Tasha jokes. "Is there anything else the pretty lady has for us?"

Patterson blushing faintly adds "The only other thing I have here are your COM links as well as a distress button. Think of this as a life alert when you've fallen and can't get up. Once pressed it will immediately send whatever backup we can muster, but it can only be used once per day - so use it wisely." Patterson continues, "So Pike hands you all the COM links and goes to hand someone the distress butt-"

"I GRAB IT! I want the button!" Rich exclaims holding out his hands towards the notecard Patterson is holding with the details of the distress button.

"There is no way in hell I'm letting Rich have that button!" Tasha chimes in. "Can I fight him for it?! Because I totally will!"

Patterson chuckles at the banter. "How about you guys just roll me a Dexterity check to see who can grab it from Pike first. Just roll a d20 and then add your modifier you see under DEX on your character sheet, the highest score gets the item."

"Ok, fine, I rolled a 14 plus my Dex thingy is a 3, so a 17 for me." Tasha shifts towards Rich to see what he rolled.

"You know, should I have advantage on this or anything for being the first one to say I wanted it? I feel like that should count for something right?" Rich drums his fingers on the table a little frustrated. When Patterson shakes her head at him, he sighs rubbing his face with both his hands. "I rolled a natural one."

Tasha starts laughing, she may not know how everything in D&D is supposed to work, but she knows from Rich's reaction that he just rolled the worst he possibly could. She gladly leans over the table to grab the notecard from Patterson, sticking her tongue out at Rich for good measure. "I'll take that, thank you!"

Patterson describes the encounter while trying to keep her composure and not break out into a laughing fit, "Alright, well Rich as you went to grab for it you tripped over a line on the floor... and faceplant, taking 1 point of damage. This allows Tasha to step forward and claim 'The Big Red Button' item for the team."

"Good, it's bad enough when Rich has the reins in real life, we don't need it in this game too." Reade says flippantly.

"Mark my words, I will press that Big Red Button if it's the last thing I do." Rich warns. "I can never resist a big red button, no matter how big the boom might be."

Jane takes a pull of her drink as she finishes taking notes about the objectives and the crimes. "Alright, well, we now have some information and gadgets. Let's go check out The Met and get some imaginary food on the way."

"You arrive at The Met with no problems, you downed your hot dogs along the way. You see police on site roping off one of the exhibits. As you walk closer, you see some chalk outlines on the floor as well as about 5 officers going around trying to dust for fingerprints and gathering evidence. There is one Detective standing near the middle of the room rubbing his temple with his pen while talking to some of the museum staff." Patterson says this as she gestures her hands out to the group to proceed.

"I got this." Rich says confidently as the group lets out an exasperated sigh. "I walk over to the detective and tap him on his shoulder to get his attention. 'Hello, good sir, I would like to inquire as to the nature of this crime as well as let you know that if you have any evidence you need to let us have it.'"

"Who the fucking hell do you think you are? You look like a civvy to me, why should I give you any details let alone NEED to give you evidence?" Patterson drops her voice low with a distinct stereotypical New Yorker accent.

"Ouch, is this because I called you Peppermint Patty earlier? Because that was out of game and this is in game." Rich says deploringly.

"No, it's not. It's because you did not tell the detective who you are working for, so since he does not recognize you, he knows you aren't one of his officers and thinks you're a civilian." Patterson states. "Go ahead and roll a Diplomacy check for me, we will see whether he recognizes the badges on the other group member's lanyards."

"Finally! This is my jam! Stand back and watch the master work." Rich exclaims before rolling. "Ok so that would be a 23 total, because I am THE shit."

"Alright." Patterson starts before switching back to the Detective, "Oh I'm sorry, I did not know you were with them. This case has everyone's panties in a bunch, it never looks good when there are multiple strikes and The Force is made out to be fools. There's no way they could have possibly got away with this unnoticed, and yet they did."

"Well technically they're with me, but whatever, semantics." Rich mumbles as his character before proceeding, "What is so out there about this job that they couldn't go unnoticed? I mean I know this really awesome hacker who could do some pretty crazy schemes…" Rich trails off at the eye rolls of his friends at the table. "Anyways, do you guys know what was stolen? Was there maybe some kind of animal figurine or toy left behind?"

"Well, you tell me how you can break in to The Met, steal one of the most well known statues that was here on loan from Italy, and whisk it out through the museum without any alarms being set off. Our relations with the Italians are about to take a nosedive once they are notified that Michelangelo's David was the statue that was stolen. There was no animal figurine or toy left that we have come across, but you're welcome to look for yourselves. We did however find a hat that someone found." Patterson switches back to herself as she explains the look of the hat, "It appears to be a checkered hunting hat with a viser both on the front and the back. It also has two ear flaps that are tied at the top of the hat."

"We should inspect the hat closer, it is no coincidence that these guys would all of a sudden drop their hat and leave it behind. Maybe we should see if there is anything else around that they may have missed." Tasha says to the group sitting around at the table. "Reade, do you want to help me look around?"

"Sure. Just tell me what I need to do, and I'll do it." Reade mutters as he takes another sip of his beer.

"Ok guys, just roll me an investigation check. It's the same d20 die and add your Investigation that is listed on your character sheet."

"Ok, I show a 17 total." Tasha says happily waiting for Reade to roll his.

"Uh, well, I'm not sure what this means. I rolled my die but it just shows some kind of weapon symbol on it…" Reade trails off while shifting positions to see if he can figure out what number that is supposed to be.

"OH! That's a mace and that means that you rolled a Natural 20!" Patterson yells excitedly. "That's the best roll you can ever have! We have our first natural 20 of the night!"

"I guess being better than Rich at everything just comes naturally to me." Reade jokingly says with a sly smile towards Rich, who is trying to hide his excitement about Reade's roll.

"Well even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then." Rich says with a smirk of his own.

"Ok so Tasha you look around and you notice that there are 2 body chalk outlines and they seem to be positioned near the statue's base as if they were trying to create a physical barrier in front of the statue. You also notice that there is some kind of substance on the surface of the base, but can't make out what it is supposed to be. The hat just looks like a normal hat to you, sorry. Reade with your natural 20, you notice the substance Tasha points out, but you catch that it seems to also be on the inside of the hat. You think that if you were to perhaps shine your black light on it, you may see something written there." Patterson supplies gleefully.

"Ok, I will pull out my blacklight and shine it on there. What does it say?" Reade asks with a steady voice, trying to hide his peaked interest that he may have found a clue to this mystery.

"On the hat you see the following numbers: 19, 24, 25, 14, 3, 21, 7, 6, 18, 7, 17, 21, 13, 17, 24, 4, 7, 20, 4, 17, 21, and 14." At this Patterson pulls out yet another note card to hand the group with the numbers listed out in the same exact order as when she rattled them off to the group. "Also on the base of the statue you see in the blacklight a drawing of the back of a hand with the first two fingers extended. Off to the right of the drawing, just barely visible you also see the number 18."

"Why would they be throwing us the Peace sign?" Reade says confused. "And, why would they put numbers by it?"

The group goes silent as they take in all these clues and what it could mean.

"Maybe it is GPS coordinates of the next attack?" Jane says while surveying the numbers. "No, never mind far too many digits and not divisible by 8." She trails off thinking even harder over the puzzle in front of her. She knows that the answer as to be there, she just cannot make it all fit just yet.

"Well V is the roman numeral for 5. Maybe 5, 18 is significant? The time maybe." Kurt interjects as he leans closer to the notecard in the middle of the table, hoping that something will pop out at him."

"These numbers have to have some significance. They were left here by the robbers on purpose. Who takes the time to actually DRAW something in a substance that can only be seen under a blacklight? Especially when you're trying not to get caught stealing one of the greatest artifacts of all time!" Tasha says frustratedly. She knows Patterson well enough to know that this should be a somewhat easy puzzle. It should be a softball of a case, and that fact is what is currently fueling Tasha's growing frustration.

"Guys, guys, I think I have it. What if…" Reade starts but doesn't get to finish. Right as he is about to throw in his hypothesis to the group, all of their phones buzz.

Real life is calling, and they have to get back to the office in order to solve an actual case. "Oh come on! I put so much work into this, why does the universe have to give us an actual hot case now?!" Patterson complains.

"Don't worry Patterson, this case…" Kurt says as he points to the table in front of him, "is FAR from over. We will figure out this puzzle and stop the bad guys, just like we do in real life."

"Oh paladin, my paladin." Rich says in a sing song voice.

Tasha, Jane, and Reade all chuckle at Rich's quip before agreeing that they too are excited to pick this game back up next time. Right as everyone was about to leave the apartment to head to the office, Reade pauses by the door turning back towards Patterson with a big grin. "I know how to solve this clue, and I will get the satisfaction of figuring out one of your puzzles." With that he steps through the door and off towards the office.

Patterson thinks that while she would have preferred they be able to play for the 4 or 5 hours she had planned for, that last sentence from Reade made the night worthwhile regardless. She is grinning from ear to ear as she follows everyone else out, locking the door behind them. Before they get out of earshot, she yells at them "So when is the next game night?"