Sister Flora Godden and Felix Falwright planned to write a note of warning to slip under Alfie “The Half-Human Boy” Pivar’s door. On the way to do so, however, they were spotted by Madame Claudia, a fortune teller at the carnival. She read Falwright’s fortune, but there was nothing particularly noteworthy about it: Typical, vague pronouncements like “you are outgoing, but with a private part of yourself few people see,” and “you will soon come into some money.” During this session, she gave the impression of subtly and carefully trying to determine why they were here, and why they were interested in Alfie.
After some reassurances, she explained that since Alfie joined the carnival, she had become a kind of surrogate mother to him, and was concerned when she saw the investigators attempting to break into Alfie’s home a while back. But having been convinced they had only Alfie’s interests in mind, she introduced them to Alfie and let them explain the situation.
Alfie, learning he was in danger, asked what he should do. Shown a few photographs, he recognized Thomas Ongine as the man who had held him captive during his childhood. Madame Claudia said she had seen some members of the local astronomers’ league hanging around the carnival (though not Ongine himself).
The investigators found another traveling carnival, passing through a few counties over, which accepted Alfie — and Madame Claudia, who insisted on going with him. They have adopted new names, and should be several states away before the astronomers even realize he has gone.
They then looked into the American Preservation League, an isolationist political organization run by Fred Jahraus. Detective Falwright subscribed to the APL newsletter. Falwright also asked Jahraus if he was familiar with Red Hollow, which he told Jahraus was a place receptive to his ideas. Jahraus did not recognize the name, but promised to look into it, and thanked Falwright for the suggestion.
The next lead was The Helping Hands, a charitable organization with local chapters around the world. The receptionist was reticent, obviously believing Detective Falwright to be closer to the hobos in the Helping Hands soup kitchen than a potential volunteer. So, leaning in to that impression, he dressed himself a bit shabbier than usual, and went to the soup kitchen. Sister Flora sensed no danger in the soup, which Falwright ate while talking to the downtrodden men in the place.
We learned that a regular there, “Old Cece,” has not shown up for a meal in a couple of weeks. Some of the locals are concerned, but others just assume he caught a train somewhere. Later investigation with the local police found that (as expected) no one had bothered to file a missing person report about “Old Cece,” but that there was an earlier disappearance where a report had been filed: Hasse “The Hessian” Norberg was reported missing by his daughter. She will most likely be the next stop on the investigation.