2021-09-22: Lizard Men Of New Jersey - Part One

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Featuring Karita, Lana
Rating PG
Synopsis Karita and Lana go cryptid hunting in New Jersey!

The interior of a Tesla Model is clean, precise, and minimalist. Everything has been exactingly designed and fits neatly together, with few if any redundant flourishes and wasted spaces.

It's also, well... a bit boring. A bit staid. A bit too functional.

The occupant of the passenger seat isn't contributing to the designer's intended ambience in any way. Lana Novikov is slouched comfortably down in her seat, probably not in the optimal position for her seatbelt to function as intended, but apparently willing to take the risk in pursuit of her idea of comfort. She has her knees pulled up to rest against the dashboard, preventing her comfortable slouch becoming an undignified slide toward the footwell where she's discarded her sneakers, the electric blue laces straggling carelessly across the dark carpet. The fingers of one hand drum lightly against her armrest, and then she reaches up with her other hand to flip her dark sunglasses up on top of her head.

"Are we there yet?" She asks, in the tone of someone who's asked that question before, and who's going to keep asking it until she gets bored. She smirks. "I'll stop asking if you tell me //where// we're going and //what// you're expecting to find when we get there." She glances out the window, squinting a bit at the sun, then looks back at the designated driver. "Probably." She adds.

For the driver of the expensive (but electric) Tesla, her long blonde hair has been pulled up into a neat bun, which has a couple chop-sticks sticking out in an 'X' formation - keeping the hair on top of her head. A pair of Aviator sun-glasses are perched on her nose, as she maneuvers the vehicle through traffic. At the moment, they're stopped in a parking lot of angry drivers, the occasional 'get your ass moving', 'what the hell', 'I hate the freeway', 'this better not be more fucking road construction' can be heard echoing outwards from the vehicles that have their windows down.

Karita, is one of those to have said window down, for the air is cool outside and a nice breeze gently wafts through the vehicle.

Sitting back in her chair, the blonde turns her gaze towards Lana, offering a twist of a grin at the girl. "No, and if you ask again, I'll just turn this vehicle right around!" The threat is like any adult might state, empty as air.

With a quiet giggle, and considering the traffic is now stopped, Karita turns about in her chair and pulls out a small newspaper clipping from her purse in the back, twisting back around afterwards to restraighten her seatbelt and hand the clipping to Lana.

The clipping is from The National News (a rag magazine) and the title boldly states, 'Man believes giant lizard-man stole his dog!'. The article is a quick read, if a bit silly, as the one being interviewed declared he has video evidence of a giant lizard-man taking his dog, and not returning, then it proceeds to follow other tales about lizard-men living in the sewer and cave systems beneath New Jersey.

"Is that supposed to be a threat?" Lana deadpans. "Because it sounded like a promise."

Despite being on a magical mystery tour that's been stopped cold by a traffic jam, Lana clearly isn't really having a //bad// time. Of course, that's no excuse not to give Karita a //hard// time. It serves her right for being so mysterious about the whole thing!

Lana watches with interest as Kari leans into the back - it's that or watch the traffic jam, the entertainment options are pretty sparse right now - and shifts around a bit in her seat to give her a bit more room to get past, winding up wedged half against the door.

It might not be quite so comfortable if they start moving - remote as that possibility seems right now - but at least she's half-turned toward Kari now.

Lana accepts the proffered clipping with one impeccably black-nailed hand and flips it around so that she can read it.

And bursts out laughing.

"Lizard men? Seriously?" Lana's trying not to start laughing again and only half succeeding. "You're finally doing this, and you picked lizard men?" From her tone, it's clear that Lana had never //really// expected Kari to drag her off hunting for things that go bump in the night, but she doesn't seem to mind - until another thought strikes her.

"Hey - did you just bring me along to charge the car?"

With an absolute deadpan answer, Karita's trying her best not to grin, attempting to keep her expression as neutral as her answer. "Of course I just brought you along to charge the car, well, that and Marly was busy today.."

The laugh is then out, as the road begins to clear a bit, at least enough for traffic to flow and the drive continues along - at least until the next exit, where Karita manages to get the car over (a loud HONK and 'you can't drive it, park it' echoes as she cuts one person off), and off the ramp she goes.

A few minutes later, and Karita's tesla is charging in one of the designated stations right in front of an all night diner. "C'mon, we can talk over this after lunch. I'm starved - and buying."

Once seated inside the diner and Karita's ordered (ham sandwich on rye with french fries and a diet pepsi), that she begins talking about the case. "So the guy there. In the article. He called up the NYU paranormal society the other day asking if we'd look into it, even though it wasn't a ghost. He sent me the video, and I couldn't resist. It -kinda- looks like a lizard person, and I'm not talking Zara here, but a were-lizard like thing. Here."

Yanking out her cell phone, Karita pulls up the video and turns the phone around for Lana to see. The image is very brief, and very blurry, but you can -almost- make out a large, lumbering ..something.. picking up the small dog and wandering away with it.

"Really busy, or did you show her the clipping //first//?" Lana says in a playfully challenging tone, but then has to grab on to whatever interior fittings she can find - not easy when you're wedged half against the door and the cabin is as minimalist as the latest IKEA collection - as Kari lunges across at least one lane of traffic to take the off ramp.

The wail of the horn makes Lana wince, half-expecting the next sound effect to be CRUNCH, but either Kari's driving skills - or the other guy's brakes - are up to the challenge. And she's loyal enough to raise one hand in a vaguely obscene gesture in answer to the abuse that gets yelled in their direction. "Screw that guy too." Is Lana's cheerful verdict as she rearranges herself to sit in her seat like a mostly normal person.

Once the car's parked up, Lana retrieves her sneakers from the footwell and jams her feet into them, tucking the laces back inside for the time being, and innocently leans up against the charging station while Kari gets the car connected up. She might be surreptitiously topping off her own batteries while she waits, it's hard to tell. She certainly seems to be in a bright enough mood as she follows Kari in search of lunch, and soon enough she's devouring a burger right across from Kari.

"And they said 'of course' because they've never found any actual ghosts, either?" Lana puts in, helpfully, and then rolls her eyes. "Of course you couldn't." She says under her breath, but then makes an encouraging gesture with her burger. "No, go on, go on." She says, agreeably, and wipes her hands on a napkin before accepting Kari's phone.

"If it looked anything like Zara we wouldn't be able to get near the place for news crews. Those guys on the internet who say she eats live prey and Sentry are covering it up need a kicking." Lana has strong opinions on the subject, it seems, but isn't distracted enough not to actually watch the video. Twice.

"So." She says with a smirk. "When we find the steroid ape who stole this guy's dog, do you have a plan?" She's teasing. She's clearly along for the ride.

A few seconds before Karita had to hastily get over and off, she MIGHT have said, 'I showed her the clipping first', which would explain a lot, but the honking and breaks and yelling sort of drowns out any amused confession on Kari's part.

Now seated in the booth and enjoying her sandwich as well, Karita offers a wry grin to Lana, at least between bites. "I think they said yes, because they knew that I'd jump at the chance to go actual cryptid hunting." She admits, before delving into a few fries, followed by a sip of her drink.

"Oh, Zara totally eats live prey. I bet it's wriggling and uncooked all the way." The twinkle to Kari's gaze shows she's just trying to bait Lana, as is the twisted expression on Kari's face - her mouth turned up into a teasing smile.

"Anyway. We're going to head over there, talk to the guy, see if we can get the actual video, and just do a little searching about." There's an almost dodgy nature to Kari's voice there, as her eyes move from looking at Lana, to casting down at her sandwich and playing a bit with her fries.

Lana didn't need to hear Karita's confession. She just knew it already. Marly might have to watch out when Lana gets back... OK probably not. But it's going on a list somewhere!

Karita jumping at the chance to go cryptid hunting is definitely not news to Lana. "Well at least it's not a swamp monster." Lana remarks. "I still remember that look you got after you made me watch The Legend of Boggy Creek with you." She pauses and narrows her eyes. "There //isn't// a swamp involved where we're going, right?" She says that a bit ominously, the first time she's sounded anything less than 'what the hell, why not?' about the whole adventure.

Lana slumps back in her chair with the groan of someone who knows they're being wound up but can't resist biting. "She does not. Does she look like a Klingon?" She says in the tone of one who's said the same thing before, and will doubtless have to say it again before long.

"Uh huh." Lana is evidently unconvinced that Kari's plan has been thoroughly thought through. "So we're looking at trespass, harassment and probably being chased off with a shotgun?" She says, trying and failing to sound reproving. She stuffs some fries into her mouth. "Sure, why not? At worst I won't be able to show my face in Jersey, so..." She shrugs. "No loss there!"

Maybe a little sewer crawling... The thought occurs to Karita, and as she opens her mouth, the noise almost comes out, but she thinks better of it, and just wryly grins. "Something like that..?" She intones, less than convincing in her statement nor the way she chews on her bottom lip afterwards.

Karita does assure Lana though, "And absolutely no swamp involved. This time. Pinky swear." On this, Karita raises her right hand pinky upwards, wriggling it back and forth.

"Gagh is best served live!" Karita repeats a phrase from Star Trek - The Next Generation, one of her favorites, actually, given the tone that the Klingon officer used. Though she doesn't go much further into the teasing, for in all honesty; Karita is just as much of a fan-girl of Zara as Lana appears to be. (And yes, Kari does have her cosplay outfit of a snake-girl, doesn't everyone?)

"Maybe not exactly trespass, as we look over hedges and through shrubs?" Karita offers with a shrug to her shoulders, "With any case, it should be amusing enough, do you want to do the video recording, or shall I?"

Lana's brow furrows a bit at the way Karita's demeanor changes, but she's distracted by the firm promise that swamps will not be a feature of this expedition. Whether she'll look back on this later on and realise that this was the moment that she could have chosen a different path - possibly dropping her burger, running out the door and stealing Kari's car - remains to be seen.

Instead, Lana looks at the wriggling little finger as if it //were// gagh, and limits herself to saying, with some feeling, "Good."

Incidentally, if you called Lana a Zara fangirl to her face she'd (metaphorically) (probably) fight you to the death to deny it. But she does like the snake-girl's style. And she's against anyone being slandered. Unless it's her slandering Kari's involvement with the paranormal society, but that's different.

Chiefly because she's the one doing it.

Finishing off her lunch, Lana points out, "Making us sound like creepy stalkers isn't making it better." But she's still clearly amused - at least until filming is brought up. "Are you kidding? I'm doing it. No way are you getting me on video for this!" She defiantly hoovers up the remains of her drink for emphasis, then looks at Kari, before slowly smiling.

"OK. If we're doing this let's get on with it."

With a laugh, Karita's head bobs up and down at Lana's statement. "Got it. I'll get the camera out when we get there, pretty simple use really; the IR light is attached to the side, and it goes out about ten feet in darkness." Darkness?

Karita doesn't go into anything FURTHER, as she gobbles down the last of her meal, gets her drink to go, and pays for everything as they head back out to the car.

A full charged battery later, and they're once again heading down the freeway towards their destination.

When they finally get to the neighborhood, it's not exactly a GREAT one, the houses are older, some are in states of fairly bad disrepair, while others are just older. The neighborhood isn't one that is going to have a drive-by shooting any time soon, but having car thieves and porch pirates would certainly be a thing here.

Pulling into the driveway of their destination, Karita yanks out her portable battery and begins charging the tesla, before handing a small camera to Lana. The camera is pretty self explaining, point, click, zoom, record. The IR light is an on/off switch, for 'if it gets dark soon', and the camera, itself, goes into dark mode automatically when there isn't enough light.

Karita's gaze flickers towards the house, making a slight face as she pauses, then turns towards Lana, "Right. Lets go talk to this guy, and begin our investigation."

If ever there was a time for Lana to write off Karita's description of how her camera works at night as bragging about her toy's pointless features... this really wasn't it. So it's with no sense of impending doom that Lana loads herself back into the passenger seat of Kari's Tesla, and away they go.

Lana's only concession toward being ready for anything is to lace up her sneakers properly. Maybe she's still thinking about being chased off by some enraged local with a shotgun...

Lana gazes out of the window as the Tesla cruises near silently through the neighborhood, privately taking odds on the likelihood of the car still being where they left it when it comes time to go home. It's not like nearly new EVs are much in evidence around here.

"I might have been wrong about lizard people living around here." Lana says, not very charitably, as they pass a particularly decrepit residence, but she's either still on board... or at least suitably resigned by this stage. She takes the camera without comment, although she does cast a look at the sky. Just how long does Kari think they're going to be out here...

Begin our investigation. Lana purses her lips until the urge to laugh at the officious way Kari puts it subsides. "After you, Agent Mulder..." She says.

Not being on video was definitely the right choice here.

Considering Karita has her own podcast, she's quite use to being in the 'lime light' as it were. Okay, sure, she has only about two thousand followers, and many of them are just there to complain about the lack of any 'real' evidence, but she does have a pod cast!!

Knocking on the door, Karita waits for the door to part open just enough for fingers to be seen, and maybe a nose, as the man behind the door keeps the chain locked in place. "Don't want anything, can't you read the no soliciting sign?" And he's just about ready to close the door when Karita swiftly states.

"Mr. North? I'm with the New York University Paranormal Society, my friend and I are here to inquire about the lizard ..." Karita's voice halts a moment as the door slams shut, though the reason for that is the audible click of the chain being removed as an older man in sweat pants and a 'wife beater' t-shirt steps out. (He even has slippers on his feet.)

"Why the hell didn't you say so!" He states, arms crossing over his chest. "My Bruno, he was just taken! I sent the video, it's so obvious. They're out there.. waiting.. they come up from the sewers, and they eat any animal that is in sight, then they scurry back." His eyes are wide, and fairly blood-shot, it's about that time that a small yappy dog comes trotting out of the house and begins to yap wildly at Karita and Lana, though it doesn't get too close.

Karita pauses a moment and casts her gaze down at the dog, then a questioning glance to Mr. North. "Ah, is that Bruno?"

"Of course it is, he's a smart one, got loose, came back, but if he wasn't so smart, they'd have EATEN him." Comes the response from Mr. North, as he plucks up the killer (and tiny) yapping dog, cooing at it, even the creature is now growling at Karita and Lana.

Karita is absolutely undeterred about this turn of events, as she clears her throat. "Do we have permission to explore the grounds?" To which Mr. North merely nods his head. "Yeah, feel free - the sewer entrance is in the back, and if you find evidence, I get first dibs.."

At that, the man turns around with the growling, yipping, and fierce monster mutt in his arms to disappear into the house.

Lana does not have her own podcast. In fact, she barely has a social media presence at all. This might be because she has a sneaking suspicion that she'd find it far, FAR too easy to spend half her life arguing with idiots on the internet if she DID do the whole social media thing. In short, she's very happy to be behind the camera right now.

Her certainty that she made the right choice is only reinforced when the door opens and Karita'... client? Contact? Subject? Makes himself known.

"Well that's us told." Lana says, under her breath. "At least I got lunch..."

As Lana should really have expected, Karita isn't put off so easily, and before she knows it the door is being unlocked to display Mr North in all his dubious glory. Lana blinks at the vision before her, not daring to shoot a look at Kari, and particularly not trusting herself to speak when a small yappy-type dog makes it's appearance.

Just as if there was any chance of Karita not having noticed the disagreeable animal, Lana very deliberately elbows Kari and points at the dog, as if prompting her. There might be some serious lip-biting involved right now, but she hasn't quite drawn blood yet.

Lana just about gets herself under control when the tiny horror starts //growling// at them, and clears her throat. "That's very interesting, but we should..." She starts, only for Karita to boldly request permission to //explore// the place. "Yes, that." She says, quietly, while her eyes bore holes in the side of Karita's head.

Once the man and his dog have retreated, Lana takes a deep breath. "OK. So. Let me get this right. The lizard men eat any animal in sight. Like dogs. Like that dog. That dog that this guy says they took. That dog that hasn't been eaten. Not that I can blame them on that one. And now we're going looking for evidence... of lizard men NOT eating this guy's dog?"

Lana waits a beat, sorting through that in her head, then frowns and adds, "What did he say about the sewers?"

Feeling the nudge, Karita can only shrug - and when the client is behind the door, and the dog is still yapping AT the door, well, she looses it. A burst of laughter echoes forth from her, as she quickly takes a few steps towards the Tesla. It's only as she's pretty well out of ear-shot from the door that Karita starts talking. "Well, it'll make a great pod cast if nothing else." She intones another shrug offered as her shoulders rise and fall.

Pulling loose a flash light AND a crow bar, Karita trudges around the back. "So, in his initial statement, he feels that the manhole in the back, that leads to the underground sewer system beneath this subdivision is where the lizard men live."

There's a slight pause as Karita's gaze suddenly flicks over to the shadows which are beginning to lengthen behind Lana just a bit, in fact, there's a slight chill in the air around Lana, ever so slightly colder where she's standing for just a brief moment, before the warmth of the afternoon begins again.

Giving the area BEHIND Lana a slight scowl, Karita's soon turning back around and talking. "I mean, it can't hurt to just - y'know, take a peak." Karita then says, her gaze once again turning back to the large man hole cover in the yard.

And before Lana can say another word, well, the metal grate has been shoved to one side with said crow bar, and Karita's on her knees, poking her head and flashlight through to the deep darkness beyond.

Lana had done so very well in not laughing, not that her bottom lip is going to forgive her for that any time soon. And then KARI goes ahead and loses it. Lana tries, she really tries, to look disapproving, and says, "Hey, you're supposed to be the professional..." And then has to snort back laughter. "You really know how to pick them, Kari..."

For just a moment, Lana thinks they might be about to pack up and go home, but no, Karita is taking stuff OUT of the car, not putting in back IN. "Wait, you're not. You are. Your army of viewers don't need to see inside a sewer!"

Lana gets the sudden feeling that Karita isn't listening to her - or even really looking at her - Lana waves her arms theatrically. Which helps ward off any untoward chill. "Hello?"

And then Kari is turning around and heading for the manhole, leaving Lana to trail along behind her and be silently impressed with how quickly Karita manages to remove the manhole cover. Looking down at Kari, already halfway underground, there are a few things that cross Lana's mind to say. That Kari has to be kidding. That if Kari told her sewers were going to be involved, she'd have dressed in something //other// than an ankle length skirt. Lana snorts to herself at the ridiculous situation, and a rueful smile touches her lips.

"Just so you know? Swamps and sewers count as the same thing." She takes a breath - not to deep because she's standing over a SEWER - and says, sounding resigned, but with amusement behind it, "So are you going to do a piece to camera before going down there?"

A little bit of mumbling can be heard coming from the sewer grate. "You can see in the dark, you don't need me to bring a flashlight down there, just go look. No I'm NOT going to go down in there with you, I can see things ...floating... and I'm not wearing waders." Evidently there are even some things that Karita will finally refuse to do, and floating items in a place called 'the sewers' is one of them. Though talking to herself is not new, she tends to do so at weird times. Like now.

Lifting herself back upwards, Karita turns her gaze onto Lana then, the wafting smell coming forth is unpleasant, to say the least, and Karita's doing her best not to gag as she scrambles back from the grating. "Okay. So." She states, coughing slightly, and if she gags, she just knows it's going to cause Lana to gag, after all gag reflexes are very contagious.

"This was a bad idea." Karita concludes then, skidding backwards further to pull up to a standing position and pushing the manhole BACK into place with the crowbar. "There weren't any skid marks. I mean. You know. Like. Claw marks on the manhole, nor anywhere along the sides, so this isn't where the lizard men are coming in from."

Grinning at the camera, Karita offers a wry. "Waders. Next time. We can bring waders.. Lets go gambling, then head back home."