NYC #14 - The Pennywell Hangmen, Part One
After solving the riddles of the NWI mines, our Investigators were hailed as heroes, given their pay and a complimentary bottle of Canadian whiskey, and promptly sent back to New York City. Three of them, at least. Mike and Jeffrey decided to stay on and honor their contracts with NWI. They exchanged information and saw the others off at the station at Rapid City.
As the traversed the country, the three men talked of what had happened, what they had to do when they got back home, and even a few dreams.
Dr Nathaniel Millheim: noted wacky occult expert and rising pulp writer was all about a "spa retreat" to soothe his rattled nerves. He had even decided to allow his assistant to read the books he had accumulated. Of course, he would have to find a place that would allow him to keep writing. It would be therapeutic, after all.
Brian Nichols: Dr Millheim's assistant, became giddy at the concept of finally being able to read some books. His disintegrating sanity kept presenting the case for spa retreat as well.
Professor Steven O'Hara: Had been delighted by the "mining adventure money" to cover some of his wife's higher end items on her Christmas list.
The group had a plan after the holidays as the train pulled into home. Meanwhile, in another part of the city...
December 18th, 1923
Ah, Christmastime in New York City... The lights, the freshly fallen snow, the endless supply of Christmas parties, socials, and balls. The Mogens Institute for Advanced Human Studies Annual Christmas Party. The Mogens Institute wasn't a hot ticket, but most organizations working with them often sent a few obligatory guests. Among them were:
Dr Bob Wintermute: Acclaimed professor of history, currently teaching at Columbia via loan from cash strapped Miskatonic. His prodigious publishing schedule has forced Miskatonic to sell their rights to him to the highest bidder
Kahleel: There were many a strange glance when he brought the Middle Eastern library assistant to a function.
Jessica Carson Her fame and popularity waning from saving Mayor Hylan's daughter, the widow Carson was milking the last of it. She used her status for invites to numerous parties. The Mogens Ball was a favor for her friend, wealthy industrialist Robert Carrington. His chemical branch of business did significant business with Mogens, but neither Carrington nor his immediate underlings wanted to attend. Jessica was offered a chaperone by Carrington, one....
Joshua Wanisko: Joshua was the chemist at Carrington Industrials with the most interaction with Mogens. He was rather quiet... and married, so it hopefully it work out well acting as a buffer between a "famous" person and a solid client. He was given specific instructions to keep Jessica out of trouble.
Josh failed to show up due to a massively rescheduled weekend. As a result, he was played as an NPC. Please remember as you read the rest, that I could have been far, far worse on him.
Det. Francis Dresden: A transplant from the New Orleans Police Department, Francis had been given the unenviable task of trying to figure exactly what happened that night last October when a full block of the Theatre District was levelled and JP Carson, PI disappeared. Three previous detectives gave up on the case, but Dresden was determined to trail the widow Carson and get down to the bottom of things. On a tip that she would be appearing at the ball, he acquired an invite and pressed his best suit.
The last five wandered into the Hotel Algonquin around the same time, and after a bit of small talk before the ballroom doors opened, it was apparent that no one, investigator or high faluting NPC, recognized Jessica. Her despair over her fleeting fame was cut short by two men darting through the lobby and slide-hopping on one foot to make the corner into the ballroom area. One looked slightly desheviled in a black tuxedo, but the other fellow was decked out in an all white tuxedo, complete with shoes, gloves, hat, and a cane.
Brian Nichols and Dr. Millheim had arrived....
When this duo arrived back at their office/backroom apartment, they discovered the tuxedos hanging from the coatrack with a note.
As part of your advance you agreed to perform certain public functions. I obtained tickets for you and a date/your assistant to attend this years Mogen's Institute Christmas Ball. The people attending it are eclectic enough to embrace your eclectic style. Please make sure you are there by 7pm, or the contract is voided and you must return your advance, minus the portions for services you have already completed. Invitation is on the desk.
Henry Campbell, Gemfolk Publishing
This was read at 6:30. Cuff links were still being fastened as they coolly walked to the end of the line. Pleasantries were exchanged, Brian recognized Jessica, Joshua admitted being a fan of Dr Millheim work, and Dr Wintermute showed some disdain towards the pulp author/parapsychologist's occupations.
Then the waiting guests heard a horrible caterwauling coming from the lobby. A shrew of a woman dragged a frazzled bespectacled man to the back of the line.
Steven and Angela O'Hara made it.
Although Steven was the first drop off on the taxi, he had hit the local speakeasy before arriving home. He barely got his foot in the door when he saw his tuxedo hanging off a door and a very inpatient wife in an evening gown. Similar to Dr Wintermute's predicament, Columbia wanted more representation at the gala, and since Steven was the low man on the totem pole (and rarely complained about it), the tickets had arrived the day before he left for South Dakota.
Pleasantries continued to be exchanged, Angela introduced Steven to Dr Wintermute, and Dr Millheim finally met Jessica.
Soon enough the doors were opened and the guests filtered in.
Refreshments were served and official kibitzing began. About 15 minutes in, Ambrose Mogens himself took to a small podium, thanked everyone for their attendance, apologized to needing to run back to the lab for more tests, and left without interacting with any guest.
As the waitstaff was trying to move the guests towards their seats to serve the meal, a hysterical woman, wearing only a faux-silk night gown and dripping in sweat, blood, and muddy water, yelled, "Help!" She staggered through the crowd, finally being stopped by Detective Dresden.
"He's upstairs... It's got him."
Dresden raced upstairs, following her muddy trail of footprints, the rest of the group in tow.
The trail ended at a room on the third floor. A sound of a scuffle could heard from inside, They pushed open the door and were immediately hit with an earthy smell of mud, blood, and urine. The room was only lit by the windows and the hall lights. Within was a single man, acting like he was struggling with something invisible. Before they could react, the man fell out of the window, onto the street below. The woman, whose name Siobhan was the only thing Jessica could get out of her, went into full hysterics before turning completely catatonic. The group went into action searching the room before Dresden could kick them out to contact the police. Jessica put the confused Joshua on elevator/stair duty, to wait for the police.
The room was covered vile form of mud. Quickly going through the things in the room netted the man's name (Robert Williamson), his job (salesman at WNYC), and a home address in Queens. They also found a card for a "Theodore Depp, Carouser" for a Sugar Cane club close to Harlem.
Nathaniel and Steven ran downstairs to take a look at the body. They pushed through a growing crowd of gawkers to find that Williamson had landed on top of a car, and was hopefully killed instantly. His undershirt and pants were torn and bloody. The two odd things they noticed was a tattoo of a script "A" inside a pentagon on his upper arm, and a distinct lack of glass around the car from falling out of a window.
When the duo came back upstairs, Dresden was trying to usher everyone else out, however two beat
cops showed up and needed direction, so he begrudgingly left the rest to their own devices.
All the glass was on the floor of the room, plus they noticed what appeared to be claw marks on the window frame. From the looks of them, claw marks were used to pull something from outside the window. Jessica checked the bathroom to find Siobhan’s clothes, a small silver flask, a rent book for the Drury Tenement, and more cards for the Sugar Cane club.
Dresden finally came back with two other detectives, Cory Hyatt and Jack Stapleton. All three detectives and the two beat cops went about interviewing the group, plus the remaining guests downstairs. Correction, the beat cops did most of the work. Dresden tried to diagram the room while Stapleton and Hyatt flirted with Jessica the celebrity.
Pretty soon the coroner showed up, as well as an ambulance from Bellevue Hospital to handle the catatonic prostitute. With the questioning finally finished, the investigators got a chance to go down to the ballroom, where the party had wrapped up early due to the dire circumstances in the hotel. The staff was nice enough to reheat some of the meals for the haggard group, and after a few shared swigs of a flask, everyone left for home, more concerned about how to get the various stains out of their clothing, than solving a murder or a suicide A good night's sleep and they would be ready to take on anything.
Coming up on The Pennywell Hangmen, Part Two: Early morning hygiene with martial fervor.