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.
New York, December 11, 1923
New York City proved to be the tonic to the ails of the weary. Dr. Nathaniel Millheim had been six months removed from his last mind altering Mythos episode and was at the top of his game as a pulp writer. Steven O'Hara was now a professor of physics at Columbia University, getting research offers, and giving his dilettante wife Angela enough social calls to satisfy the needs of her inflated ego. Only Brian Nichols had had a brush with the unusual. The doctor tired of charlatans and had sent him to evaluate a spiritual medium who was better than advertised, with unintended consequences. Despite this shake to his stability, he maintained his role as the doctor's agent without any issue.
And then that damned telegram showed up at Steven's door.
It was from Kevin Norbridge, Director of Operations at NWI's Windy Point Mine. Steven had been recommended by a number of sources to help the mine deal with a number of unusual circumstances. Norbridge had arranged a time to call and when he did, he mentioned a number of the miners had come down with a mysterious illness, and something more than scientific might be blame. O'Hara and any associates of his who were willing to come up South Dakota to aid them would be well compensated. Steven looked at the Christmas list his wife wrote for him and agreed on the spot. Norbridge wired the money for tickets the following morning.
Steven gave the group the low down on the mission and some preliminary research was done. New World International was a multi-national conglomerate located in Chicago with interests in most industries, primarily in mining, petrol, shipbuilding, and tech research. Nothing could be uncovered about the mine operations.
Outside of the purchase of some proper winter coats for a frigid trip to the Badlands, the group was on a train headed to Rapid City via Chicago.
The train ride into Chicago was pleasant, and to Milwaukee, relaxing. The remaining stretch through Minnesota and South Dakota in an eerily empty car was unsettling. All that was left in the lounge car was
Dr. Nathaniel Millheim: Parapsychologist and recent pulp writer Professor Steven O'Hara: Professor of Physics at Columbia University Brian Nichols: crooked bookkeeper and assistant to Dr. Millheim
Two gentlemen remained in the car with them: Michael Dalcin: struggling chef who had signed a contract with NWI to run the mess at Windy Point. Jeff McGranahan: mechanic and truck driver out of Philly. Also going to work at NWI.
They decided against advising them of the odd illnesses.
At the Rapid City station, they were met by Scott Wallace. It was a pleasant surprise for Steven, as he was one of his associates during the war. What a geologist was doing with his research group, he couldn't remember, but he was a good fellow. He was now working as a supervisor at the Windy Point.
The investigators got the cab of the truck, while the new hires jumped in the covered back. Wallace got the trio up to speed. While the federal government had given the land to the Sioux, it had partitioned a portion of it to NWI for a mining lease. Despite the whole "Despoiling Mother Earth" garbage they like to say, the Sioux weren't complaining about the jobs the mine brought to their community.
Then the suicides happened. Eight in total, they were from the men you would not expect to succumb to such a thing. Then the illnesses rolled in. Six had been afflicted with some ailment which the camp doctor could not diagnose or treat. The Indians started to quit en masse, with whispers of evil spirits cursing the site. Wallace had remembered Steven's "unorthodox" ways to dealing with things, and decided to contact his parents for his information.
The remainder of the drive was uneventful, save the duo in the back occasionally seeing a lone horseman off in the distance, watching the truck drive by.
When they arrived at the mine, the whole facility was in an uproar, Director Norbridge was killed in his office!
Norbridge's body was seated at his desk. His body was slumped back in his chair, with a surveyor's pick protruding from his forehead. Dr Simmons, the camp doctor, mumbled something about murder and staggered out into the night, leaving the group alone in the office with at least a half hour before sheriff would finally arrived. Besides the body of Norbridge, one thing stood out in the office: a strange spiralling unsettling diagram drawn in chalk on the far wall. Everyone else was taken aback by it, except for Steven, who could at best figure out it had something to do with atomic or quantum theory. He had had enough trouble trying to explain a dimensional portal to his group, there was no way he was even going to attempt this one.
Sheriff Updike made an appearance, walked around the office, and declared it a murder, probably by those bloodthirsty Indians. Even the new hires, who were still hanging around with the group, knew that looked fishy, even if they didn't know how. Wallace put an armed guard at the door and found quarters for the group to catch some shuteye before they continued. He also around Michael and Jeff to aid the group with anything they needed until they were finished here.
Safely within the confines of the camp, the group did something that normally spells doom in a CoC game: they split up the party. Nichols and Dalcin went back to the office to look over the journals and ledgers that Norbridge was going over before the attack. The rest went to the infirmary to get a grasp on the illnesses and try to wrap their heads around the suicides.
Between the combined efforts of the bookkeeper and the chef, they could separate the blood soaked pages and determined that a significant percentage of ore that was being mined was never leaving the facility, yet it could not be accounted for.
At the infirmary, the group to barely compose themselves upon watching these sick men also fall apart before their eyes. Dr Simmons had tried everything he knew after fifty years as a country doctor, but nothing could so much as comfort them. To make things worse, another five miners had showed up for sick call complaining about feeling achy and exhausted. The only thing the fellas could ascertain was that the afflicted miners all suffered from nightmares and all of them were from one of the barracks. They ripped apart the buildings but found nothing.
That night they got together at the office to try and piece this together. Except for putting out a theory that Norbridge may have killed himself out of fear, there were few leads.
The next day they paced around the motor pool and the storage areas. Except for finding some of the trucks out of place in the motor pool, they found no solid evidence. Against the advice of Wallace, they got horses and decided to ride out to the Sioux Reservation to ask about the evil spirits.
Upon entering their lands, they were met by a number of heavily armed Sioux, that wished to do more harm than ask any questions. Just as the investigators were about to turn away, very very fast, a lone Sioux rode up, told the others that the investigators were invited guests and led them into their village. They were led inside a small building where they were to the tribe's medicine man, Tommy Morning Star. In a circle, Tommy spoke of a strange group of giant locusts who were there on the mine lands way before the Sioux even stood a foot on this land. It took great sacrifice, and the combined effort all the people, but the Arikasia were sent scurrying underground. Even the medicine men thought little of the trap creatures until the white men came to dig them up. Tommy offered to teach a sacred song to the investigators to keep the creatures at bay, until they can find a better solution. Dr. Millheim and Steven picked up the song, while the others couldn't even muddle through it effectively. Jeff was even having doubts that anyone it this part of the country was even sane.
The group trudged through the cold back to the mine, and they could see trucks leaving the facility, something that was not on any schedule. They raced back to the motor pool, grabbed two trucks, and did their best to catch up to, and follow them.
The trucks reached a far part of the property and the men in the trucks descended into an abandoned mine. The investigators stayed out of sight until the miners returned a few hours later and drove back to the base.
The group made some headway into the mine shaft, only to be met with a buzzing sound, followed by a swarm of giant 2-foot long locusts! They dashed to one of the trucks and Dr Millheim barely find the breath to start the song. To every one's amazement, the locusts stopped in their tracks, hovering a few feet from them. As the singers regained their composure, their singing was louder and the locusts were pushed back further.
Michael took the truck he had driven there, and floored it into the mine. With the giant locusts swarming the truck, Michael crawled through the back window of the truck, into the canvas covered back. He hurried with the cases of dynamite he had tossed in the back as the locust wriggled their way into the truck. Finally, the dynamite lit, Michael dove out the back of the truck and scurried on his hands and knees, barely reaching the outer edge of the song's effect before the explosion tore through the small valley. The mine entrance was completely collapsed, and the few remaining locusts were easily rounded up by the group before they decided to return to the camp.
The lone truck rolled in before dawn, just in time for breakfast. After getting the attention of all the miners, Steven and Dr Millheim did the song one more time for "entertainment purposes." As the sang, nine miners began to writhe in pain, along with Scott Wallace! Each fell to the floor of the mess hall, and one of the locusts exited their mouths! Between the investigators and the miners, these rogue vermin were quickly killed.
Steven had ultimately figured out that the miners were suffering from something akin to radium poisoning, so Dr Simmons could do something for those with early symptoms.. Something seemed rather odd, though. They had been mining a number of items, including pitchblende. Pitchblende was the most radioactive substance they had been working with, and even in large quantities, would not induce sickness. Just what was in that locust cave? It was probably better left a mystery, buried under tons of rock.
By the end of business that day, Wallace had contacted NWI headquarters and they had responded in kind. If questioned, headquarters would claim that Norbridge forced double and even triple shifts for the workers, and they lashed out in retaliation. Wallace was promoted to director. By evening the group had been paid (including a bonus for the new hires) and on a train back to New York. The trio refilled their flasks with Canadian whiskey from the mine commissary and by Minnesota were trying to sort out what they were doing. Perhaps juvenile fiction and college seminars were far better than trying to combat these dark forces. At least they would have some time over the holidays to think things through.
That's what they thought, at least.
November 22, 1923
"Mother said there'd be days like this," Jessica Carson thought to herself as she slowly leafed through her husband's files."No, as a matter of fact, she had no freaking clue."
Surely, not even a guilt filled Irish mother could imagine that in one quick year, her unmarried daughter would go from small town school teacher (with a checkered past) to the talk of New York City... and a widow.
It had been two weeks since she had last seen her husband, in the underground catacombs somewhere under the Revio Theater. Two weeks since a full block of Off Broadway theaters had been leveled in an explosion caused by a crazed magician. Two weeks since she had discovered the Mayor's kidnapped daughter, Maureen and became an instant celebrity. It had been a tough and confusing two weeks.
After the media frenzy, the public appearances with Mayor Hylan, the rabid debate on if a woman should have played a roll in such a dangerous operation to begin with, Jessica went back to her roll as a schoolteacher, stopping into JP's office at nights to try to piece together just what happened to her life.
While packing up files and cleaning up, the office phone rang. Robert Carrington was on the line, looking for JP. After a few moments of awkward realization that he had read the whole story in the paper, he presented his offer to Jessica.
He had an associate that was looking for an investigator to deal with a questionable patient. For two months teacher's salary, Jessica was willing to moonlight into her husband's profession.
Carrington was still a respectable gentleman, so he offered one of his associates to drive her around town. When Byron Clarkson knocked on her door, it seemed like an odd pairing, a very "British" race car driver under majority sponsorship of Carrington for next year's Indianapolis 500. They jumped into his roadster and drove over to Dr Joseph Pendleton's office,
Dr Pendleton appeared shaky and paranoid, avoiding pleasantries while going with a direct "Were you followed?"
Only after the duo stated that no one tailed them did the doctor continue.
One of his patients, a Meg Telly, was scheduled to give birth sooner, and he worried of her and her husband Ken's intentions towards the baby. Meg had a strange tattoo and Ken constantly asked which day the baby was coming. That, coupled a few coincidences and a deformed fetus on x-ray made the doctor worry that the couple was involved in some strange cult. The duo's was to provide evidence to prove or disprove the good doctor's worries, and whether or not the doctor should terminate the pregnancy.
Byron was taken aback by the doctor's bluntness, especially with how deranged the whole situation sounded. Jessica was only worried about the doctor's medical record (impeccable) and off they went.
Jumping into the roadster, the pair headed off to Brooklyn to the Telly Service Station. It was owned by Meg's father in law and was where her husband Ken was employed. The senior Telly greeted the car at the gas pump and struck up a conversation about cars with Byron. Jessica asked for a rest room and did a cursory search of the building, finding no clues.
Upon leaving, they determined a more thorough search under cover was needed. That was, Jessica demanded it, and her driver could only agree, with a side trek to the Carrington estate. If some questionable activities were to be committed, he sure wasn't going to use his roadster in a bad section of Brooklyn in the middle of the night. Carrington's older hudson might blend in a bit better, plus he would be above the law if anything bad should happen.
With their new wheels, they headed back the service station. Upon ditching the Hudson safely, they picked the lock, staged a scene to make it look like a smash and grab burglary and went about the place. The search netted them little, save a calendar in the garage bay with each Wednesday circled with the letters "IHME" written inside.
A bit dejected, Jessica decided to leave, Byron wanting nothing more than ending this bizarre night of lawbreaking, but they had barely gotten towards one of the bridges to go back to Manhattan when the duo realized that they had never searched the numerous cars behind the station!
A quick u-turn and they were back. Some quick lock picking and they discovered a robe, some candles, incense, a silver bell, and a gold dagger in the trunk of one of cars. A much more relieved pair headed back to personally deliver the evidence to the doctor, even at that late hour. The evidence received and money exchanged, Carrington's associates soon went their separate ways, in Byron's opinion, not a moment too soon from these crazy people.
It was around mid-December when Jessica found Dr Pendleton's name in the newspaper. He had been arrested for performing three abortions while in the middle of the delivering perfectly healthy children in the month of December. Jessica began to question if a robe, a fancy dagger, and a weird x-ray were enough to justify his actions in November. Perhaps there were facets of her husband's profession that a novice couldn't pick up on the fly.
They Sleep By Twilight is from Worlds of Cthulhu Magazine #5
Next Cthulhu Session: The main group takes much desired vacation... to South Dakota in the Winter.
November 9, 1923
JP Carson was in heaven. The nights might be get longer, but if these dresses got any shorter, he would have to seriously propose an open relationship with his wife. The way they danced, why he could just...
JP was startled awake by someone rudely knocking his feet off of his own desk. The nerve of some people! This had better be important.
As he regained his composure from his nap, the PI saw the guilty parties: an NYC police officer, and some fella in a three piece suit that oozed self-importance.
"JP Carson? I'm Chief Detective Fayette, this is Sergeant Smith. We have a job for you, if you can free your schedule..."
The Detective brought the well rested investigator up to speed. Mayor John Hylan's daughter, Maureen had been missing for two days, and the investigation had to be done quietly, as to prevent a media firestorm. The department's primary "contractor" was Charles Wilson, and his body had washed up in the river this morning, less than 24 hours from starting the case. Twice the discretion would be required.
A picture of her was provided, as well as the limited info about her disappearance. She was wearing a green velvet dress and had become separated from her girlfriends upon leaving a performance of The Great Raspini.
The Sergeant put up his finger to stop the conversation. He swore he had heard a barely audible "Oooh, The Great Raspini," from the other side of the door. He pulled out his revolver, quietly walked across the floor, and quickly turned the door knob to discover a conservatively dressed woman with her ear to the door, armed with a picnic basket.
"Do you know this woman, Mr Carson?"
"Yes, that's my wife. Honey what are you doing here? Why aren't you at school?"
"Pipes burst, so they closed. Thought I might surprise you with a picnic in your office..."
"Just give me five minutes and well talk."
With Mrs Carson no longer eavesdropping, they finalized the financials and Fayette stressed that he was to only contact him with any information.
New York's Finest left and a very excited Jessica Carson started with the important questions, "Are we going to see The Great Raspini?"
The Great Raspini was simply a traditional magician's act with all the flamboyancy that one could muster. He had become a huge hit at the Revio Theatre, so big that the next three weeks of shows were sold out.
JP and Jessica dressed to the nines and did what any self respecting couple would: They found the closest person with two tickets, offered them five times their cost, and got some poor balcony seats. The Great Raspini was exactly as advertised: sawing volunteers in the audience in half, levitation, rabbits out of hats, the whole shebang.
Upon the show's completion, JP noticed three things. (1) the crowd was funneled back out the front door, rather than the (2) completely unmarked side exits. (3) The staff finished their cleaning duties while the crowd was dispersing out onto the street and left with the few stranglers. It would be very easy in the chaos to separate someone from their friends and take them out a side door.
The Carsons were escorted out by the last usher in the building and headed to a speakeasy to mull over their next options.
Two hours later, they were back behind the empty theatre, picking the lock and ending up on stage. Despite discovering a few secrets of the magician's code, they found no clues, save a trapdoor to the basement.
The rooms were all for use when the theatre was having real performances. Set construction, costumes...it was only the prop room that had any traffic.
They had barely begun searching the toon when a bat dive bombed JP, scaring the bejeezus out of him. Jessica could only laugh as she had spotted the tripwire on the cluttered floor and witnessed the cause and effect. In fact, there were a number of these harmless surprises in here, they must be close.
The duo only began questioning themselves when they discovered two sets of footprints leading towards an old prop of an Egyptian sarcophagus leaning against the wall. The dark tunnel that was revealed with the push of a hidden button was one thing. The fact that one of the footprints was of a man 8-foot tall worried them much more!
After traipsing through the tunnel and avoiding all the rats, they came upon an old velvet curtain with a scream emanating behind it. Moving the curtain didn't discover the source of the screams, but it did uncover a ridiculously long bed and an old iron door beside it.
With the door open a bit, the two knew they weren't up against a traditional kidnapper. It sounded as if The Great Raspini himself had kidnapped Maureen. She was to be sacrificed, along with tomorrow night's audience to help him achieve ultimate power.
JP had heard enough, so he slowly opened the door with a low metal groan to survey the predicament. The room had a fast moving stream running through the middle of it (storm sewer?) with only a few flimsy boards acting as a bridge across. The Great Raspini stood on the other side, with the Mayor's daughter strapped to a table and gagged. Another man, a giant of one who must have bee 8-foot tall, silently stood off to the side, clutching a large brass switch on the wall. Normally a large machine covered in gauges, buttons, and levers along the back wall, being adjusted by the magician would be the focus of the Carson's attention. However, the walls being lined with crate upon crate labelled "TNT" should have been their first concern.
JP muttered a few words to his wife. Jessica couldn't understand what he was saying. Was she supposed to save the girl or distract the big guy?
JP didn't wait for his wife to act. He pulled out his .38, carefully aimed at Raspini's head, and fired.
Jessica Carson woke up with a splitting headache and coughing up water. She was floating in the water next to a pier. Where was she? Where was JP? Who was floating next to her? Aaaah! Lucky for her, that person was Maureen Hylan and she was still. Getting out of the chilly water both women remembered an explosion, and since there was a huge fire upriver, they could add two and two together while fighting hypothermia.
Jessica delivered the Mayor's daughter directly to Detective Fayette, Fayette was a right fellow and still paid her her husband's rate. After that, all Jessica wanted was dry clothes, a bottle wine, and someone to tell her if her husband was alive or dead.
What happened in that underground lair? Well, JP had the villain in his sights mid-monologue and with called shot to the head, the environment, and time to aim, I gave him a 35% chance to hit and end the session right there. Phil picked up his Cthulhu dice and *Shooka shooka shooka*
He rolled a 100.
Usually a weapons malfunction, but the scenario states that on a 99 and 100, the shot hits the TNT detonates. Each pc/npc got a luck roll to survive the blast and instead get washed out to the river. Phil butchered that. So our two-fisted pulp detective who was injecting some gritty roleplaying to the team, was obliterated.
This would (and did) make the second half of the Carson's doubleheader of sessions a wee bit together.
The scenario, Murder in the Footlights, is a free pdf scenario for Chaosium's BRP. Outside of the whole block of buildings going up, I thought it was basic enough for them to get their feet wet again.
Next Cthulhu session: Jessica vs Obstetricians, cults, and annoying Brits
Friday, October 5th, 1923.
The Yonkers Train Station was an important stop on the Hudson Line. It could be argued that it was the last stop for civilization before the trains began their lazy journey up the east side of the Hudson River. It was also a focal point for trolleys, as well as commuter and regional trains, avoiding the ruckus of Grand Central or Penn Station and still getting into the city. Friday afternoon volume were for those commuting north of the city, a few "leaf-watchers" spending the weekend in the wild, and one very special passenger car attached to the rear of the 5:15 northbound.
Advertisements had been in the city papers for a chance to "Experience the Supernatural" for a weekend in a certified haunted house upstate. These saw print from time to time, and most people were hoodwinked out of their money by charlatans. Those charlatans however, never charged the outrageous sum of $50, nor did they ever promise a guarantee of a supernatural encounter.
Still, only five people responded:
JP Carson (played by Phil)- former railroad investigator, now independantly plying his trade in New York City. He had bought two tickets for a suprise anniversary present to his wife...
Jessica Carson (played by Jess)- Jessica was a school teacher from northeastern Pennsylvania. She had only moved to the city a year ago when "Phil" (JP) and her got hitched at City Hall. She was a fan of ghost stories, so it was a perfect, if strange gift.
Matthew Drozdowski (played by Scott)- Currently a Civic Engineer for the City of New York. Matthew was a brilliant man in a tarnished body, an accident with a horse team crippling his one leg. He had bought two tickets for himself and his lady friend...
Meredith Sizemore (NPC) - was the young lady Matthew was courting. Unfortunately, she decided to break off the relationship the night before the trip. Matthew has decided to go anyway.
Cecelia Peters (NPC) - young dilettante with a teenaged fascination with the ocult.
Of course, there were those who were invited to this excursion:
Paul LeMond (NPC) - "famed" spirtual medium. He will be conducting the spirit summonings.
Herb Whitefield (NPC) - Paul's manager. Shadier than a grove of trees.
Robert Carrington (NPC) - Owner of the house. He wanted to make sure that sights he had witnessed at the old family house were true spirits and just some hallucinations.
Martha (NPC) - short, overweight cook for the weekend.
Brian Nichols (played by Brian)- crooked bookkeeper and assistant to rising author Dr. Nathanial Millheim. Dr. Millheim is a close associate of Paul through the Belvidere Club. Paul had invited the good doctor up for the weekend, but meetings prevented him from making an appearance. He sent Nichols in his place to make sure that Paul was as legit as Herb claimed he was. It was nice to know the players from the fakes at the Belvidere.
The paying customers, plus Nichols, met Herb on the train platform. Jess was quite excited that her husband had picked such an exotic anniversary gift. They were escorted to the special car at the end of the 5:15 northbound train.
Herb Whitefield filled in the basic details of the house. To contact Jenny Carrington, the elder sister of Robert who had passed away when he was a young boy.
From the rural station, taken by a small motor coach to the house and finally met Martha the cook. The group claimed rooms for the weekend and did a very cursory once-over of the house before dinner. The group lightly picked Paul's brain during dinner, with Herb's heavy handed moderartion until it was time for the seance to begin.
Using an item from Jenny's past (a Jack in the Box found in the house) Paul attempted to contact her. Suddenly the room became freezing cold and Paul began acting in the speech and mannerisms of a young girl!
This was enough to convince Robert Carrington of Paul's authenticity, but something was going wrong. The spirit began to panic about something coming, Paul's body began to writhe and something was heard outside the room. Suddenly, the doorknob began to turn. Paul dispatched the spirit of Jenny and JP ran to the door. He saw the image of a woman dressed in colonial clothing, although the rest saw nothing. He followed her to an empty room, where everything was covered with a solid sheet of frost, Paul started an unscheduled seance.
This new spirit communed through Paul, stating " I am the Guardian of the House, I am here to protect against the Spawn of the Devil..". And as quickly as she arrived, she disappeared.
Overnight, Nichols and JP were awakened separately by the sounds of a crying child. Nichols was the first to investigate, and his movements downstairs nearly forced a worried JP to chuck a chair at him. They found the crying down the cellar stairs with a flickering light. Then a gust of wind extinguished the light and shut the door, with a scream downstairs. After a few worrisome seconds Matthew and Jessica came down with light and the group found a terrified Martha in the cellar. She too had heard the crying and had gone downstairs.
This being the first time in the cellar, the group grabbed brighter light sources and investigated. The one troubling area was the odd brick wall that didn't match the rough hewn of the other walls. It took the efforts of three of them, the they managed to open a door. They discovered piles of rubble and a few wooden supports for the house. On one of the supports they found a single wet nail, dripping blood. After being taken aback, they spent considerable time experimenting with this never-ending bleeding nail, ultimately taking numerous whacks of a hammer to knock it off the support, where it finally stopped.
Saturday, the group went over notes and tried to figure out what was going one. There was some debate whether or not the woman was a friendly guardian or evil spirit, Nichols investigated the library with little success, Matthew went into town and met disdain and little help from the local church leaders. However, in some old church records they had discovered that back in the 17th Century, Quentin and Katherine Tannerhill adopted the baby boy of a convicted witch (Witches, in New York, no less!)
The attic with Jess and JP, found correspondence between Robert's parents. It seemed that his mother was progressively getting more agitated with his sister with constant requests for his father to return home and deal with her "wickedness.". They also found receipts of payments to an asylum for the care of his mother, starting soon after the death of Jenny. According to Robert, he had been always told that his mother spent her last few years fighting a terrible illness. These new details made him very unsettled.
The group had also discovered the old Tannerhill Family Bible hidden in the house, and noticed entries dated during the Carrington family's residence, simply stating "the wicked one has returned!"
Saturday evening... Paul summoned Jenny again, and the group got more specific. She knew of the "bad lady" even when she was little, as well of a third spirit of a little boy. The group quickly decided that this "Guardian of the House" was malevolent and needed to be removed to let let Jenny and possibly the third spirit rest.
They begin a third attempt for Paul to contact this spirit, and with the help of the guests "exorcise" it from the house. Unlike the attempts, Paul could not even find this spirit. The group expended more and more Magic Points for Paul's effort but it was all for naught. It was like the spirit was already occupying someone else's body.
Upon that realization, Martha the unsuspecting cook comes flying out of the kitchen with a large kitchen knife, heading straight for Paul! The stunned investigators could only watch in horror as Jessica did what every mild mannered school teacher would do in this situation: take the silk scarves around her neck, wrap them around the deranged cook's neck, and chocking her to unconsciousness. Apparently, she had secrets not even her PI husband knew about, like why her Garrote skill was over 70%!
Paul quickly restart the ritual, and the very eager PCs in the circle gave as many magic points as necessary to cast the evil spirit away from the house, and with that all traces of spirit activity vanished.
On the trip back home, the group alternated between long, profound periods of silence and short flurries of conversation. Herb was ecstatic over Paul's performance, Robert was eternally grateful to the investigators, and Cecelia Peters was getting awfully cozy with Paul. All could agree that it had been a most eventful and unusual weekend.
Late April 1923 -
After a rough start to the year, our intrepid investigators settled back into their more mundane roles. Steven O'Hara concentrated on his teaching, and ignoring his nagging wife's requests. Dr. Millheim had little for work for Brian, so Mr. Nichols gently eased his way back into being a crooked bookkeeper. There were those two murder raps he needed to avoid, so things needed to be done... delicately. And Dr. Millheim, he spent most of his days writing, although no one knew what the topic of his next book would be. With Smitty back up with his new business partner in Boston, the old comraderie just wasn't there. Life was painstakingly normal for once.
That all changed with one story in the paper. It appeared that body of Selwyn Robards had been dug up and taken from the cemetery. Selwyn had been the long-time legal counsel for Dr. Millheim, dealing primarily in his tresspassing and breach of contract allegations. He had just recently passed away, a few months after the investigators helped solve the murder of his nephew Jeremy Lombard (see post #3).
Graverobbing was not an area of expertise to Dr. Millheim. Hell, it was a bad time for the group. Steven had an only an extended weekend to help out, and Nichols was unavailable, swamped with unethical activities. But Selwyn was the one friend Dr. Millheim could count on when he was starting out (for a modest fee, of course), and the article mentioned other sites getting robbed west of the Susquehanna.
Dr. Millheim briefed Steven, and they hit the trails of the unspeakable acts.
The towns of Kingston, West Wyoming, Shavertown, Dallas, and Ruggles where the graverobberies were located, were within a few miles of one another, but each one had different police jurisdiction. Those jurisdictions were not cooperating with anyone, even the State Police (LOTS of failed rolls on the parts of the players, even Idea and Luck rolls failed miserably.) The only consistancies that could be assertained were that all the sites were dug up by hand (no walking dead clawing their way out) and two sites reported a beat up pick-up truck at the scene.
On Tuesday, low on clues, the duo even tried to connect the graverobberies on a map to find a supernatural pattern or desidng, no luck.
On Wednesday, Steven returned to his job, but stayed in contact with Dr. Millheim in case any research in town was needed. That morning's paper reported another graverobbery, this time further north in the resort town of Harvey's Lake. Dr. Millheim hopped the next train up to the lake and interviewed Michael Felder, the town pharmacist and former husband of the deceased, as well as Constable Owen Tabler. Felder wished him well, but was indifferent to the heinous crime, which might have been caused by the copious ammounts of alcohol coming off his breath.
The Constable was as helpful as he could be detailing Mrs. Felder's accidental demise by drowning, Mr. Felder's history, and also clarifying newspaper reports of "The Harvey's Lake Prowler." It seemed like a deranged vagrant missing his right hand had called the lake home over the last two months and occasionally harrassed boaters, children, and other locals. He doubted the two were connected, but two problems like this before the tourists come back would be bad for business.
On Thursday, Dr. Millheim hopped a train for Binghamton to meet with Dr. Hamilton Fabry, the father of Mrs. Felder. Mr Fabry was very curt with him, repeating the offer of a $1000 reward and not being forthcoming at all with any additional information. The offer was withdrawn after Dr. Millheim was caught tailing him for any clues.
Late Thursday night, Dr. Millheim received a strange, garbled call from someone claiming to be Selwyn Robards. They sounded confused and claimed he was in a house by a lake. The line then went dead.
Friday evening, Millheim and O'Hara were back up in Harvey's Lake. The previous day the Harvey's Lake Prowler had killed a five year old girl. Constable Tabler was still wary to request help from the State Police without any leads. The townsfolk were wary of outsiders. It was a bad weekend for the pair.
Early Sunday afternoon, Steven gave up on the endeavour, packing up and leaving on the noon train. Dr. Millheim walked the banks of the lake, desperate for any leads, when he heard a shrill scream. He saw a little girl being chased by a lumbering form of a man. He quickly snapped two photographs, but moral decency caught the best of him and he ran down to distract the man and save the girl. The man was horribly disfigured, unable to communicate, and missing his right hand! Despite having twice as many hands, Dr. Millheim was quickly overcome by this savage brute, and if not for a lucky shot with a nearby 2x4, we may have been talking of funeral arrangements for the Dr. and a new character for Nate.
Dr. Millheim scrambled as fast as he could back to the hotel, and in a moment of panic, patched himself up and headed out on the final train of the day at 3pm to Wilkes-Barre.
The papers next week were all aflutter with the chaos at Harvey's Lake. While Dr. Millheim had been boarding the train, some townsfolk had surrounded the Prowler and killed him outright. When others went to visit the pharmacist at his home for medicine for the injuries to the young girl, they discovered the body of Michael Felder in the basement. It had been ripped to shreds as if animals had attacked it. The open door for the furnace revealed human bones...
Keeper Notes: I'll never say the main group of investigator PCs is the most competent I've even GM'ed, but this was the first time the group suffered abject failure on such a level (Outside of nearly getting sacrificed by Klan cultists, the backup characters saved the day). Neither social nor research skill rolls were getting anything close to a success. With the chief lockpicker of the group (Steven) not convinced the drunk pharmacist was hiding something, and that he insisted going back to his teaching job, a normally bumbling parapsychologist was nearly exposed for the man he actually was.
After their dealings with the dead rising in Harlem, the Trentons and Smitty bid the others a fond farewell (or good riddance) and departed for Boston. Dr. Millheim, Steven, and Nichols decided to stay through the New Year, up until Steven had to return to classes at Wyoming Seminary. They invited some of their friends to visit, but no one was able to take them up on their offer.
January 1923 --
Dr. Nathaniel Millheim: a combination of Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters and "Big Dan" Teague from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Noted parapsychologist and crackpot author
Steven O'Hara: Instructor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Wyoming Seminary. Friend of Dr. Millheim.
Brian Nichols: Former bookkeeper for "questionable" organizations. Currently working as Dr. Millheim's personal assistant as he is trying to avoid two murder raps in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
All characters' namesakes are the actual players (Steve plays Steven, and so on...)
The academic world is a tangled web of connections and contacts, so it was only a matter of time that a Professor of Medieval Literature at Columbia University would contact the investigators in their New York hotel room. The professor, Dr. Rudolph Pearson, had confided in a former collegue, Dr. Robert Wintermute about the disapearance of a third staff member, Dr. Ephraim Harris. Pearson was worried that Harris had finally used "his brilliant mind to make bad decisions," and that those decisions were not things Pearson could convince the police about. Wintermute had since moved to Arkham, Massachusetts to fill a visiting faculty position at Miskatonic University teaching history while conducting more research. Wintermute relayed Pearson's odd story in passing conversation to colonial history expert Dr. Eric Bowsfield. And guess who was the roommate of Dr. Bowsfield many years before at the East Stroudsburg Normal School?
That's right, Dr. Millheim. If you need a drink to comprehend that, go ahead, Prohibition's over!
Bowsfield was one of the people who had been invited to the Nyc festivities, so could easily drop the investigators a pre-emptive telegram to warn them of Dr. Pearson's contact.
Pearson's story was not much helpful. Dr. Harris has been missing since just after exams in December. He is a brilliant physicist, who hates to travel, and can be quite absent minded at times. However, when he didn't show up for lectures before, at least he could be found in his lab. He left no notes or clues to where he disappeared to. For a nominal fees (enough to cover bar tabs and ensure they didn't have to sneak out of the hotel in the early morning hours), they took the case.
At Harris' home they found a cluttered apartment, with two large mobile chalkboards, covered with equations, a few diagrams scattered about, and little else of interest. Steven, after examining the boards, actually corrected some of the equation, realized the implications of the equations, and decided that while the reward money was nice, someone had to stop Dr. Harris before he did something very dangerous.
(In GM-speak, our trained physicist rolled a 02 on his Physics skill, easily passed his San check, and only lost one point of Sanity after realizing what Dr. Harris was planning to do.)
Before going any further, the fellows stopped off for a few drinks, took a bottle for the road, and returned to the hotel, where Steven tried to explain to the group what the equations and schematics were for. It was great fun to see Steve the player squirm as he tried to explain what amounted to a teleporter in 1920's terms to the investigators. It was also neat when the other players staved off San checks, because they all failed to comprehend what Steven the character was babbling about.
The next day, at Steven's insistence, they followed up on a possible lead in the newspaper. The Hell Gate Power Plant had been suffering from frequent brown outs and even a few complete failures of the grid. Knowing Dr. Harris' plans involved great power requirements, the group posed as investigators from Columbia making inquiries. The plant manager was little help, although he could provide exact times of the outages.
Coming back to the hotel, the group was met with a fearsome visage in the hotel room: Steven's wife Angela.
Angela O'Hara - a Northeastern Pennsylvanian socialite, living off the money of the coal mines. She married Steven expecting reknowned teaching positions and international acclaim. She got a prep school teacher who constantly got in trouble with his group of friends. Angela had already aided the investigators twice (see entries #2 and #6), and was well-aware of the Mythos. However, this was the first time she would be a full-fledged PC, being played by Steve's friend Jeff in a very special guest appearance.
It seemed as if Steven should have been home a week ago, and with a few prodding phone calls, Dr. Bowsfield gave the fellas up. After getting caught up on their "job", Angela agreed to stay and finish it and then get the hell back home.
With Angela's oversight, they searched the apartment again, this time coming up with a basket of baseballs and a rough lease agreement to a warehouse, right near the Hell Gate plant. Steve also deemed it wise to completely eradicate the equations on the board. The others just looked at him puzzledly.
They find the warehouse, knock on the door, and are responded by only a "Go away, I'm busy!" After a few more increasingly ruder back-and-forth, they mention Dr. Pearson, and the door flies open to a thin bespectacled man.
"Why didn't you say you knew him in the first place!"
To call Dr. Harris frenetic would be and understatement. As they navigated boxes, tables, parts, etc, he picked up an oblong rock with multiple runes. "I found this one in my travels isn't it marvelous!"
Dr. Millheim and Brian's heads tilted a bit towards to the side and they nodded in unison. Steven felt repulsed by the object... "Dr. Harris can we just see your project?"
Without missing a beat Harris lead them into a larger part of the warehouse. On the other side of the room stood a circular gate-like contraption. The mess of wires, cables, latches, and other mechanical parts stood 15 foot high, even more impressive as it sat on a five foot high platform.
"Hilliard, Dynakov, they knew want we could accomplish. They just needed my genius, and the rest of humanity to catch up. Wanna see where we can go," Harris gleefully said, as he flipped a giant switch. Parts spun, other parts created a growing hum. He twisted some dials, flipped a few more switches and the open area inside the circle turned electric, then purple, finally showing rock formations in a night sky with no recognizable constellations.
"This is where I found my lovely, come along!" Harris shouted, as he raced up the ramp and jumped into the gate! Dr. Millheim and Nichols chased after him like schoolboys at recess and went through as well."
"Those fools, let's get out of here, before anything happens. Your "friends" are doomed," cried Angela, tugging at Steven's arm. Steven watched the professor and hit two friends disappear behind some pillars, and then he dashed towards the tables, reading schematics, pouring over Harris' notes.
For Nichols and Dr. Millheim, the land was disorienting at best. Solid ground seemed to shift like ocean waves, and the two of them would lose each other after being two feet apart seconds earlier. It took sheer determination and a LOT of luck for them to come back to the portal and the warehouse. Finally, as the machine began to smoke and begin to make unhealthy metal on metal sounds, Dr. Harris returned...
This is where the stories deviate, in the kinder/gentler world. Steven sabotages the machine, the group goes back to tell Pearson the Harris is a lost cause, and the day they leave the Big Apple for Wilkes-Barre, they see a scholarly man on a strange winged beast, flying through the air. As the last part of a long gaming day, I made things a bit too fluffy.
In the real world Dr. Harris barely makes it back, as Steven and Angela systematically dismantle the dimensional portal, causing irreparable harm to the machine. Harris goes berserk and the happy couple barely pulls Millheim and Nichols to safety, before they barricade the door from the outside. The sparking, malfunctioning machine probably ignites the old warehouse and the everything inside. The investigators go back to Pearson and tell them (most of) the truth. But sooner or later, probably after when they return back from a few episodes of Masks, Dr. Harris will have his revenge. Dr. Harris WILL have his revenge.
I will make sure of it.
Transgression is one of the two scenarios in the back of Secrets of New York sourcebook. I chose it for two reasons: (1) Its sci-fi aspects throws everybody outside their comfort zone of walking dead and strange cultists (2) except for Steven who is a trained physicist who worked for the government during the Great War. Truly, Steven acted as he should. He was the only one who could comprehend what Harris was doing, heck he could have IMPROVED on it. Rather, he realized how dangerous Harris was, and eliminated the active technology. Of course, many of the equations are still in his head... Hell, Steven is the only character who has more Sanity than when he started! Those advanced theories are comforting to him, and although it doesn't explain the strangeness, he can accept it as part of the universe.
I fear he's going to be able to stare down an Elder God (from a safe distance), and think nothing of it. Since I'm laying the seeds for Masks, Spawn, and Day of the Beast in the next few weeks, I think the group might hope he's actually able to do that.
New Year's Eve is traditionally a racuous occassion in the streets of New York. When Prohibition was enacted, the party became publicly muted, but the celebration spread out many days in the dives, speakeasies, and clubs the sprung out of the rubble to cater to the those who desired a little illegality.
The Blue Heaven was one of those finer establishments. By December of 1922, it was a well-regarded place to those within and above the law. Athletes, politicians, entertainers, mobsters, and any other citizen willing to show civility and pay their tab were welcome... so long as you were White.
The investigators visiting the Blue Heaven the last week of December, 1922:
Marcus Trenton (Scott) was a gentleman from Boston who had aspirations of opening his own version of the Blue Heaven in Beantown. A mediocre lawyer, he stumbled into a relationship and eventual married to an exiled Russian noblewoman, and her family's recipe for vodka made him a popular man in Massachusetts post-Volstead Act. Through his ne'er-do-well connections as a lawyer, he opened up two speakeasies with the help of a Welshman from Pennsylvania coal country.
Natalyia Trenton (Kelley) would be considered a petulant daughter of an insignificant Russian nobleman, but you would not know that from talking to her. In fact, you might think the Bolsheviks had missed one of the Romanovs! She had escaped Russia just after the Revolution with a modest portion of the family fortune and she and Marcus were living off that before Prohibition went into full swing.
Smitty (Adam) He was forced to close his bar, the Angry Welshman, due to "distribution issues" and was looking for a fresh start. He moved up to Boston and became the go-to man for Marcus' plans. Things have been going great and Marcus thought it was a good idea to celebrate and do a little homework on how the classier joints do things. Since it was the week between Christmas and New years, Smitty invited his Wilkes-Barre buddies to come in for some celebrating.
Dr. Nathaniel Millheim (Nate) took some time to recover after a rocky visit to Georgia. He had even spent some time at a "spa" to relax. 1922 had been a rough year in the independent book selling trade, the contacting-spirits-from-beyond business, as well as the nearly-getting-sacrificed-by-Klu-Klux-Klan-cultists, so a week in New york was a perfect way to set up 1923 right.
Brian Nichols (Brian) still a wanted man in name only, he had struggled alongside Dr Millheim in research and book publishing. New york would be welcome relief as well. And, of course, the good Doctor still wouldn't let him read any of the books.
Steven O'Hara somehow had obtained a "hall pass" of sorts from his wife for the week. The prep school teacher had put his nose to the grindstone after the Georgia incident, winning the respect of his superiors at work, and putting back together a rocky marriage with his wife. He hadn't seen his fellow investigators much in the last eight months, and a good time would be had by all.
Marcus had gotten the right connections to get them into the Blue Heaven Ballroom. It was a first-class establishment with fine dining, gambling, and a huge orchestra to keep the even larger dance floor jumping.
Well into dinner and drinks, the large orchestra began to play. Preoccupied by the music, and possibly the fine liquor in their hands, no one initially noticed a man walk up to the table beside them, pull out a large handgun, and blow out the brains of the solitary figure sitting there. The investigators were one of the few to notice, with the blaring trumpets and heavy drumming drowning out that single shot. Smitty and Nichols tried to follow the armed assailant as he dashed out of the club, but he quickly entered a gray Packard and fired a few shots out the back window to deter anyone else.
As word of the shooting slowly spread through the Blue Heaven, pandemonium erupted much quicker when people began noticing the bloody remains. People began dashing out, even with the band playing louder and faster. All the while, the investigators noticed something horrible: The dead man, whose brains were splattered all across Marcus' face, was getting up! He staggered into the throngs of people trying to leave, only to fall apparently be trampled to death again. By the time our group had enough time to gather their wits amongst them and follow this phenomen, the undead gentleman body's had made it outside, only to be hit by a police car and pinned against a telephone pole. Only one person had heard want the body uttered as he staggered out the door... "Joey...."
With police sirens in the distance, the group rushed back in to grab their belongings and with the helped of one of the Negro muscians, escaped out a service entrance. The investigators got a glimpse of the Negro's bizarre trumpet and picked up a business card for a funeral home that must have dropped out of his pocket during the escape.
The next morning, the New York papers summarized the previous night's chaos. The dead-again alive-again man was Pete Mancuso, an "independent" bookkeeper. The papers stated he showed indominatable will in surviving a gunshot wound as long as he could.
As Marcus was still picking out pieces of skull and brain from his hair at the breakfast table, the investigators knew that was an outright lie.
The investigators, plus the Trentons, had two interesting leads to follow that morning. Mancuso's office, and the funeral home.
Mancuso's office door was wide open and already ransacked when the investigators arrived. They only found large gaps in the files in his cabinets, and a poorly written threatening note. Deciding to turn to his apartment for clues, the group discovered Steven's knack with lockpicking, and a number of savings passbooks with questionable-looking deposits.
By the time they got to the funeral home back in Harlem, the procession was already working its way down the street to the cemetary. The group could identify numerous members of the Blue Heaven orchestra at the head, including the Negro with the strange trumpet. As the band yed louder and louder a commotion started closer to the casket. The dead man inside was breaking his way out! Pandemonium ensued and threats of the undertaker burying a man alive permeated the crowd.
The group was noticed by Mitchell Webster, the band leader from the Blue Heaven. He had surmised two things were similar in both acts of the dead rising again: the investigators were present, and trumpet player Leroy Turner had finally decided to sober up enough to play a few notes. He gave the investigators his address and off they went.
A half-drunk Leroy was very frightened to see four white men and one strange sounding broad standing outside his front door, and it took a little "coersion" to convince him to talk. He was confused and frightened: in ten years of playing the trumpet he had never seen anything like the the last 24 hours happen, much less see it happen twice. He lamented the loss of his love and the appearance of his new love, a four valve trumpet with a silver crackled, "I received it from Mister Louie Armstrong himself!"
The interview over, the investigators went back to their car and decided to stake out Leroy's apartment. No more than five minutes later, Leroy exited the apartment, with an empty bottle in one hand, and his trumpet in the other. A quick five minute walk found him outside a well-hidden speakeasy, but before he could get inside, a gray Packard pulled up and a number of well-dressed white men pulled him inside the automobile. The investigators managed to follow the car to an old warehouse along the Harlem River.
The group decided to wait it out beyond the fence surrounding the warehouse. The fight with the KKK had made them cowardly? No, but with the exception of Nichol's three-shot revolver, the group was unarmed, going up againsta very "organized" group.
After a half hour, the group came out, and threw Leroy in the backseat, and drove off. Halfway into the Harlem the tailing investigators notice a fight inside the Packard. The lurched to the right and stopped, and Leroy jumped out, trumpet in hand, and high-tailed it out of there. He managed to elude his "friends", but the investigators were just able to follow him. They found him a cemetary, playing his trumpet with all his might. The ground began to shake and the dead appeared to be rising out of their graves. The investigators did not hesitate to get back to a more respectable place in Manhattan.
This was the third scenario I've run out of the CoC rulebook and despite promising read throughs, this was the least satisfying. Even as a Keeper, the scenario felt railroady, although the notes specifically state it's meant for beginning players or an experience group that's earned a break.
The group actually missed most of the clues and acted as bystanders to most of the acts. As I know my regular players, they were certainly engaged as players, just that their characters had little interest admitting their occult learnings to complete strangers, even if it was in Nyc. Plus at least the character versions of themselves are appropriately racist
Part Three: The Cavalry Comes to Save the Day
Steven Oâ€™Hara dashed from the Wilkes-Barre Station and used his remaining funds for a taxi across the river into Kingston. His three day train trip gave him plenty of time to plot a plan B to somehow rescue his â€œassociatesâ€ from the inbreds of Georgia. Claiming Nathan was in trouble, and he earned a â€œleave of absenceâ€ from school, his wife Angi (and primarily her shotgun) was a shoo-in. A quick telegram from Philadelphia to Dr. Bowsfield in Arkham secured his cooperation. Additional help was problematic. Steven needed more firepower. Nichols and Smitty knew an enforcer named â€œRedâ€ who hung out at the Angry Welshman. Some of the $5,000 from Boston was given to him to help out (and ultimately reopen his favorite bar.)
So our relief players:
Steven O'Hara: played by Steve
Dr. Bowsfield: played by Nate
Angela O'Hara: played by Adam
"Red" Russo: played by Brian
The relief squad arrived in Atlanta, procured an automobile, a number of supplies, and *gasp* a plan.
They would drive to Corina the evening of April 30th, go straight through town without stopping, and ditch the car about two miles away from the hill that the ceremony was supposedly occuring at. If Dr. Millheim and company were alive, they were probably going to be sacrificed. Dr. Bowsfield has obtained a cannister used by exterminators to spread pesticide, filled it with gasoline, and planned on burning some nearby fields to distract local law enforcement, plus some cultists. The others would hide out on the mountain and wait for the ceremony to commence.
Around 11 o'clock at night, dozens of men walked up the hill, dressed in a mixture of KKK garb and the odd flame robes they had found in Boston. A man dressed as a leader/high priest, along with a number of guards, escorted the relief party's friends, as well as a Negro man and woman, to the altar.
Tying Dr. Nate to the altar, the high priest spouted off a few chants and began explaining the situation in his best James Bond villan act. It seemed that he not only worshipped a distant vengeful god, but he had discovered the ability to travel through time. He discovered that in the future, some Negro reverend would have to audacity to become President. He had found the future parents of this abomination living in Atlanta, so he had them kidnapped. "And right after we prepare our god's arrival with the blood of these Yankee bastards, we'll sacrifice the niggers and save future generations."
A single shot from Steven's .30-06 rifle pierced the heart of the high priest. Plenty of good Conceal rolls, plus an "02" on the shot ensured sheer chaos atop the hill. A few more crack shots between Angela and Steven created bedlam. It allowed "Red", who had been hiding in the trees behind the altar to free Dr. Millheim, and begin freeing the others.
Realizing little chance of escape, Dr. Millheim grabbed the priest's ceremonial dagger, wiped some of the priest's gushing blood onto it, and began a chant he had learned from the vile books he had studying. Soon, a huge hulking creature not of this world materialized in the midst of the cultists. It ripped apart the nearest men, and drew the attentions of the others away from the O'Haras. The sheer sight of the beast, if you could call it that, broke some men's psyches on the spot.
Dr. Millheim was one of them. Just the act of summoning the creature shook his mortal soul, and the resulting carnage snapped his last shred of reason. He turned around and ran from the creature at full speed, right off the cliff at the top of the hill, tumbling down into the surrounding woods. His slightly saner #2, Brian tried to follow him.
All the while Dr. Bowsfield discovered a newfound appreciation for pyromania. Not a single soul investigated his burning fields/woods.
After a few tense early morning hours, the party took their car out of hiding and got the hell out of Corina, dropping off Michael King and his girlfriend back at their respective homes in Atlanta. The threat, or ramblings of a madman, had been stopped.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, a single .243 bullet fired from a Remington 760 Gamemaster pierced the neck of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, killing him on the spot. The assassin, one Benjamin Grayford of Corina, placed his rifle back into the trunk of his car and drove to Jim's Grill for late snack and to finish up business. He had to tell Memphis Police Lieutenant Earl Clark that his services to murder the Reverend were no longer needed. Grayford did pay Lt Clark for some poorly made false documents to give to Mr. James Earl Ray. Ray was an uneducated, habitual criminal on the run, who had discovered a strong desire to worship the gods of Martyr Lambert. Ray had been told he had a secret mission to Africa, once he boarded the plane in London, his contact would provide him with further instructions. Blind obidience is a useful tool. An obviously fake Canadian passport is easier for authorities to catch the man you're setting up.
Ray didn't admit to killing King initially. Despite his allegiance, he gave up Grayford pretty easily. However the authorities had absolutely no records of a Benjamin Grayford. The only related records brought up a Benjamin Grayfjord who died in 1934. His obituary read like any other could in Georgia. Successful businessman, loving husband (wife deceased), fought in the Great War. If certain organizations had done more research they may have found and underground obituary, which could have prevented a coerced confession on the part of Mr. Ray:
Benjamin Buford Grayford b. May 1, 1892 d. September 7, 1934. Successful Corina businessman. High Priest of Time and Fire, earning that title from the Martyr Lambert in 1922. Died as a result of a home fire. No identifiable parts of the body could be discovered. Although he is gone from us now, he protects us and our children from the evils of future generations, and someday will finish the vision Martyr Lambert had first created. Ia! Ia! 41P Blackamoor? No!
March 17, 1922
As the group returned to Wilkes-Barre, they looked over the odd material they "recovered" from Mayhew Cooper's residence: Numerous notes referring to a ritual at the end of April, other papers and scraps of paper with strange codes, and what looked like a photograph of a detailed globe of the Earth, complete with clouds IN COLOR. How could one obtain a picture of Earth from Outer Space?
Finally, they decided to investigate, and possibly intervene whatever event was occurring.Dr. Bowsfield did a little work up in Arkham and discovered an old account of some cult around Corina and a large explosion atop a hill outside of town.
Just to keep things straight, the group travelling to Atlanta was comprised of:
Dr. Nathaniel Millheim: a combination of Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters and "Big Dan" Teague from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Noted parapsychologist and crackpot author
Steven O'Hara: Instructor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Wyoming Seminary. Friend of Dr. Millheim.
Brian Nichols: Former bookkeeper for "questionable" organizations. Slowly becoming Dr. Millheim's personal assistant.
"Smitty" : Proprietor of "The Angry Welshman" a speakeasy in Wilkes-Barre. He was lured into this field with money and chance to be violent. Curiosity is the reason he's staying.
Part Two: Southern Fried Chaos
The group boarded a train from Wilkes-Barre to Atlanta, and rented a Plymouth to drive to Corina to investigate. Tact is a useful skill when youâ€™re in another part of the country. Unfortunately, since the players didnâ€™t see it as a % on their character sheets, they completely ignored it. They walked around town, from the historical society to the sheriff, asking about cults, Lambert, and Mayhew Cooper. Smitty even asked townsfolk where "41P Blackamoor St" He had seen "41P Blackamoor No!" on a scrap of paper in Cooper's home and assumed it was a street.
For those of you not associated with the Klu Klux Klan, Blackamoor is Klanspeak for an "uppitty negro." Nothing like a large Welshman asking passers-by where "Uppitty Negro Street" was. It was surprising that they got out of town to begin with.
They loaded up in the Plymouth and drove out to the hill mentioned in Dr. Bowsfieldâ€™s research. As they drove through the countryside, they were accosted by a group of â€œsouthern gentlemenâ€ (i.e. rednecks) who stopped the car and threatened them with baseball bats, pipes, and other household weaponry. Steve (the player) boldly stated, â€œMy drivingâ€™s skill great. Iâ€™m going to put the car in reverse, floor it, pull a bootlegger reverse and get the hell out of here!â€
*shooka shooka shooka* â€œ99â€
â€œYou put it into reverse, loose control and plow into a tree, everyone takes 4 damage.â€
The group managed to subdue the men long enough to make a dash back to town, but the gig was up. Groups of townsfolk began actively chasing them. The investigators split up, and were captured one by oneâ€¦
Except for Steven Oâ€™Hara. Steven put on a southern drawl, stole a work jacket, and obtained a rail ticket for the afternoon train back to Atlanta, immediately transferring to a train going north.
To be continued...
Dr. Millheim was sitting in his office, perusing his recent occult acquisitions of Liber d'Ivonis and the Corbitt diaries when the phone rang. On the phone was Selwyn Robards, local lawyer and one of the many defense attorneys he's used while in business as a "Spirit Investigator." He wanted to meet with the good Doctor and his "associates" about a family problem. Millheim and Nicols went to the meeting.
At his law offices , Robards explained that his nephew, Jeremy Lombard had died three days ago. Police ruled it suicide, as it appeared he jumped out of his 4th floor apartment window. Robards would not believe the police report, knowing that Jeremy was a driven young man, "full of life", and "not the type of person to do those things." Robards only knew his nephew was a local reporter for the Kingston Journal and he was camping out on a case north of Kingston. Robards was willing to pay well for information refuting the police report, or any solid evidence that confirmed the suicide. Dr. Millheim agreed, asking only to use his phone, to call his good friend Steven O'Hara.
Nichols took Millheim to his favorite watering hole, a speak-easy named the Angry Welshman. Steven showed up, showed interest in helping out, and informed them that at this time, Angela was more willing to use her Shotgun on them than for them. Smitty, the owner, was a practical man, but for a share of the 'reward' he was willing to work two jobs for the next week, both with sawed-off shotgun in hand.
Smitty and Nichols went to Jeremy's apartment to see if the police missed anything. They found a locked apartment door, and the 1920's version of police tape, an "Official Police Business" notice on the door. The small apartment did yield some interesting clues: a Journal with entries stopping five days prior (with two pages ripped out), and a number of very rough drafts of his "big scoop" in the wastepaper basket. The journal noted the loss of livestock at some farm and the regular movements of a mysterious truck down the farm road. The rough draft mentioned a haunted house connected to the "Wyoming (Valley) Gargoyle", the Ghost of the Burning Man, numerous disappearances and tragedies, and the new activities of the its residents, which are merely alluded to, but no specifics mentioned. The pair snuck out the door just as the police pulled up to investigate a complaint of prowlers.
Steven and the Doctor went to the Kingston Journal, Jeremy's place of employment to get any additional info. The Journal was pretty much a bust; except for being over-diligent in his work and late with his deadlines, Jeremy was a model employee and co-worker, who primarily worked alone.
Meeting for lunch back at the Welshman, they can't find anything on Isaiah Turnbull, a farmer mention in the Jeremy's journal. Steven and the Doctor went back to apartment and waited till after the police presence left before they asked around about Jeremy. By luck they found one fellow who did see three men leave the building right before Jeremy's body was discovered. They then walked over the police station and through some sweet fast-talking got to look at the suicide note, which matched Jeremy's writing perfectly. Using further bamboozlement and a little sneakiness, the Doctor actually managed to find the police file of Brian Nichols "Person of Interest" in the death of Adam Mosherâ€¦ in the pen filled margins, he noted "B.Nichols is a large, bald black man" and promptly left the station.
The next day the group traveled to the archives of the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader and the Kingston Journal, and a short trip to the Library. In the dead files, they found an article written a year prior concerning the Ghost of the Burning Man, by one Jeremy Lombard. He connected the Burning Man to the Wyomoing Gargoyle of 1778(!).
The library produced a old journal noting the old Hobart house burning to the ground to the Ghost of the Burning Man (disregard the mention of two squatters living there and setting numerous fires to stay warmâ€¦) The property was purchased by the Hoesynth family, and under community protest, they built a large house on the property.
They also found two articles from 1913, recording the murder of young Jasmine Hoesynth, age 8. It seemed the police officer assisgned to watch over the family the night after the murder had a sudden and complete mental breakdown.
Dr Millheim took a long walk over to the old Hobart/Hoesynth house, known for its stone tower just peeking over the treeline along the river. He observed activity inside in the house and was bold enough to knock on the door and ask some Italian man with slicked-back hair where the river was, even though the river was 50 yards away.
Utlimately they found Isaiah Turnbull's farm, located between Kingston and Wyoming and dropped Jeremy's name to prevent and intimate acquaintance with the farmer's 20-gauge shotgun. They camped out at the farm together Wednesday night with no problems. Smitty remembered his liquor shipment was showing up very late Thursday night, so the rest agreed to do a bit more research in town and camp out without him that night. Oh, yeah, Dr. Millheim finally realizes the Hobart/Hoesynth house is right down the road from Turnbull's farm.
Trying to find out more about the house, the visited the Wyoming Historical and Genealogical Society. They did find the journal of Colonel Thomas Hartley of the Continental Army.
* History Lesson *
Battle of Wyoming occurred in 1778, with local Indian and loyalists butchering 200 militia men. General Washington ordered General John Sullivan to march from Easton to the Wyoming/Susquehana River Valley, finally ending in the Battle of Newtown near Elmira. While on this march Sullivan's men would use a scorched-earth policy on any and all Indian settlements.
Well before Sullivan reached what would be modern-day Wilkes-Barre, Col Hartley and his men performed a raid on local Loyalist and Indian settlements, or that's what the history texts say.
Hartley's journal stated that his mission was only particular Indian groups, and hunting an elusive beast with a blood-covered maw that frequent Elias Hobart's tower. With the help of a preacher, the "gargoyle" was killed. No sign of Hobart or his family could be foundâ€¦.
*End History Lesson*
That night the group camping out saw the large truck drive down the road from the old Hobart/Hoesynth house and onto the main road. It came back early that morning and parked in a garage around the back of the house. Without their trusty shot present the trio ran back to the Angry Welshman. They compared notes with Smitty, who found a striking coincidence between the mysterious truck and the truck delivering his liquor last night. It seemed like Grazziani Verducci, small time mobster and Smitty's liquor connection had something to do with the house.
An entire half-hour of real-time elapsed as the group argued what to doâ€¦Screw the supernatural clues, our heroes were more concerned that the goods Verducci forced on his clients were not true Canadian booze! Just after noon the group jumped back in Steven's Dusenburg and drove back to the house, parking the car in the woods.
Nichols and Dr. Millheim decided to try the garage as Smitty and Steven tried the front door. The plan was simple, Smitty was to knock on the door and pretend he was selling liquor door-to-door. Steven would hide around the corner with his wife's shotgun in case things might go bad. The sheer brilliance of their plan blinded them from considering that selling illegal hooch door-to-door (without a peddler permit to boot) might not be the best way to get in a house full of mobsters. They also didn't anticipate the lone person left in the house was Luigi, who seemed mentally unstable and hid a shotgun behind the door.
The ploy went south quickly. Smitty wasn't killed by the sudden shotgun blast and tried to wrestle it away from Luigi. Steven had trouble getting a clear shot.
Meanwhile, Nichols and Dr. Millheim got into the garage and found it empty, no truck, and no other vehicles. When the shotgun blast went off, they found a back door into the house and saw the mobster at the far end of the hallway. A full-out melee ensued and eventually Luigi got enough separation from the guys, not to fire his shotgun, but to be the recipient of Steven's (Even with 4d6 damage at point blank range, a dude with 17 hit points is one tough sonovabitch). Smitty put a extra shot in Luigi's head to finish the deal.
The fellas pulled Luigi's body inside and began a search of the house. A few odd books in one room, some nice furniture in anotherâ€¦.. When looking in the bathroom, Steven was surprised by a headless Luigi pummeling his back. Smitty couldn't seem to get a decent shot off, Dr. Millheim went mad, and Nichols ran to the car.
They managed to put down the creature with large amounts of fire (and firepower) and found the singed but still legible missing pages of Jeremy's journal in Luigi's flaming coat.
After a quick and heated discussion, they decided to check out the basement, that is Smitty decided to find the booze. He couldn't find anything. A recovered Dr. Millheim then asked if he search for any hidden compartments and passageways. "No, why would I do that?" said the owner of the hidden speakeasy. Dr. Millheim and Steve went downstairs and immediately found a hidden passge filled with chemisty equipment leading to the motherload of Canadian Whiskey. Smitty was ready to grab a case or two, but the other two noticed another hidden door behind a pile of beakers. The new room emanated a bright blue light from a glowing pentagram in the floor. And this point Smitty realized he had had his fill of parabnormal crap and tried to dash up the stairs, only to find a blue glowing ghost at the top. Smitty stopped in the middle of the stairs, but the ghost dove down and went right through Smitty. Smitty kept his cool and proceeded to run out to the Dusenberg. After waiting a few minutes for the other two, Smitty and Nichols snuck off towards the tower, to hide from mobster/authorities/glowing ghosts.
Steven and Dr. Millheim debated what to do with the glowing pentagram. Steven initially wanted to destroy the pentagram, but his limited knowledge of the occult (ie the last session), convinced him that chanting the same chant as before would do the trick
Now, to be fair and comprehensive, somewhere between Luigi's re-appearance and the ghost appearing, someone decided it was a smart thing to set fire to the Living room and it had been slowing spreading. The smell of smoke was becoming a bit of a problem, even in the basement, so the pressure was on the pair. Dr. Millheim convinced Steven that destroying the pentagram was a better course of action. Five minutes later, the pentagram destroyed, the room exploded. Five more minutes and the intrepid Dr. and his trusty friend Steven staggered out of the burning house, only to be met by the local fire and police departments. A significant amount of fast-talking later, plus the pages from Jeremy's journal and the local authorities managed to ambush the mobsters and arrested them for murder, bootlegging, and a small slew of petty other crimes. Good news: The guys got a handsome sum for the investigation and Dr Millheim and Steve have contacts with the State Police. Bad News: A previously misplaced file on the murder of Adam Mosher was found and the fingerprints to Brian Nichols were now oddly linked to a series of gruesome murder-suicides in Slocum Corners south of town. Plus the investigators didn't find the ten grand in cash before they torched the place. Really bad news: The Angry Welshman is gonna need to find another supplier.
I nearly spit out my beer when Adam said he was going to work in a speakeasy, even better when he rolled enough starting wealth to actually own the speakeasy! I also realized Dr. Millheim might not miss a session due to psychotherapy since his new friend Smitty has a decent psychoanalysis skill (as all bartenders should have.) The desire to burn things worries me a bit, but I did allow those some post-game library use rolls for some follow-up research to offer a few more leads. It seems some person named Elias Hobart owned a small house and a stone tower near Newtown, New York as well (hmmm). Elmira (NY) Historical Society records had Hobart connected to some Church of the Astral Contemplation. Hmmm.. there seems to be a whole lot of churches contemplating stuff. What stuff, you ask? Perhaps that will be answered next sessionâ€¦.
August 29, 1920
Steven O'Hara was spending another leisurely August afternoon, polishing the chrome on his car. Of course, his custom built Dusenberg did not quite fit the middle-class neighborhood in Kingston, Pennsylvania, but a man with multiple advanced degrees should not be teaching at some Podunk Wyoming Seminary in the middle of Coal Country either. The special courier that arrived at his home reminded him of his short time doing government research for the war effort, getting urgent notices at all hours of the night, so it was a welcome distraction from his daydreaming into the shine.
Things tuned serious. It was a short note from friend and confidante Rupert Merriweather. Dr. Merriweather was one of his professors at the East Stroudsburg Normal School. He was every student's dream teacher: unpretentious, social to all people, and able to keep a secret when students made secret romantic rendezvous or discovered a cache of liquor. Heck, he was willing not only to partake in alcohol with his students, if you got into his good graces, he may be willing to procure it for you. Steven had kept in touch with Dr. Merriweather as he traveled to Arkham University near Boston for his Masters in Mathematics, moved to New Jersey for war research, and acquired a Masters in Physics from Rutgers University. Merriweather lived in Wilkes-Barre, and pulled some strings to get him the job at the Seminary two short years ago when job prospects seemed non-existent. It was only in the last six months that they had not met, other matters interrupting their friendship.
The note was handwritten and short. "Please meet me at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Room 402, Thursday at 1:00pm. Bring Angela. R.Merriweather"
The next day Steven and his wife Angela entered Room 402 at 1:00pm. They saw an emaciated Rupert Merriweather lying in a hospital bed, his lovely wife Edith at his side, with his pretentious twit of a son Edgar looking at them with crossed arms. Before Steve could even get a word, two other figures stumbled into the room. One was a much disheveled Nathaniel Millheim, his college roommate at East Stroudsburg Normal, and some other questionable man helping him in. In a raspy voice, Rupert actually made introductions to all. The questionable gent was Brian Nichols, an "associate" to Doctor (?) Millheim and whatever his endeavors were. Merriweather shooed his wife, son, and nurse out the door.
Merriweather was vague and barely coherent, but it amounted to "I made some mistakes with some friends many years ago. We've released something into the world, and with my death things could get worse." He motioned the group to grab a metal box, which Steven took. A few moments later, Merriweather started coughing up blood. His family and the medical staff rushed and rushed the group out the door. Halfway down the hall they could here the doctors say "He's gone."
Agreeing to meet at a local restaurant to go over the contents, a disbelieving Steven and Angela caught up with their college buddy "Dr" Nathaniel. In this alternate 1920's universe, either Adam was not even a casual acquaintance of Steven, or he never read the newspaper dealing with the Congressional Aide's grisly death... in town nevertheless.
The box contained an ancient Egyptian artifact, a deed and key to a house in Slocum Corners, south of Wilkes-Barre, and a journal detailing a "literary fraternity" Merriweather was a member of that dabbled in the occult. According to the journal, the group summoned some horrible being that killed one of their members, and drove another to madness. Luckily everything necessary to banish this thing was in the journal, or hopefully still at the house.
For a Cthulhu games, research was minimal and scant. Although the characters were interested in procuring some of the mentioned books (I don't think the University of Scranton has a copy of De Vermiis Mysteriis, especially since it was only St. Thomas College at the time.)
The next afternoon, they piled into Steven's car to take a daylight tour of the property: a long-neglected farmhouse with warding runes over each door and window. Through the solo investigation of the house by Brian, they found enough material to reverse the summoning, and decided to turn their afternoon jaunt to a midnight ritual (as per the instructions). The plan seemed easy enough, three people would chant the ritual at all times and one person would "watch" for shenanigans, whether mystical or real world. The fact that they would be armed with Mrs. O'Hara's personal shotgun made everyone a little uneasy (yay Angi and her 60% in Shotgun! ). Besides for the wailing and movement of the spirit, which had taken up residence in the attic, the first hour of the ritual went off smoothly.
At five after one in the morning, everything went to Hell. A truck pulled off the main road and onto the property. Out pops out the Luzerne County Sheriff, pissed off that's he's out there at this hour, and one Edgar Merriweather yelling at the investigators to get the Hell off of his personal property. Angela went outside, sans shotgun, and managed to delay the odd duo from entering the house. Soon, a moaning, blood soaked woman walked around from the right side of the house. The sheriff ran over to see if she needed any medical attention, and was promptly attacked by this walking dead. The sheriff was in a live-or-death struggle, Edgar was frozen in fear, and Angela dashed to the truck to grab the Sheriff's shotgun. Angela began firing shell after shell at this abomination as it tore into the Sheriff. Meanwhile Edgar got up enough frantic nerve to try to entire the house and (by ignorance) stop the ritual. He was stopped at the door by Steven with Angela's shotgun. After 20 seconds of crazed rants Edgar was pulled away from the doorway by another walking dead. Although Angela couldn't save either individual, her repeated blasts with a shotgun stopped both creatures (and amusingly enough, did not worry the closest neighbor a quarter mile away... at least until the next morning).
By two in the morning, the ritual succeeded and the spirit was banished back to wherever it came from....
The next morning, when State Police appeared, they found a grisly scene at the house, involving Edgar, the Sheriff; a local woman reported missing, and the local hobo engaged in some horrible (Satanic?) ritual/suicide. We'll see what CSI: 1920's Wilkes-Barre will pull out of this one, particularly if it puts THREE suspected murders on Brian Nichols...
Well, at least the group got an Egyptian artifact for their troubles (what to do what to do what to do).
Gameplay wise, it was amusing to see Steve only make 2 die rolls for his 20's alter ego all night. Angela (also played by Steve) was a combat monster. Hey, Angela's occupation was Dilettante, which in 5.6 CoC contains Shotgun as an occupational skill. Why argue? The other amusing thing was that after all the revelation, all the supernatural activity, and all the bloodshed. Steven O'Hara ultimately gained a point of Sanity. Just like in real life, little will faze Steve, short of duct tape and beatings.
A straight hobo isn't too strange, it's the "special" hobos that got me. My one buddy would put as points as possible into martial arts, dodge, jump, and similar skills. His "Kung-fu" hobo was useless as an investigator, but always survived the encounters only to wander the woods and rails, looking for another group.
After a failed Hackmaster campaign, it was time to focus on something a bit more free form. CoC was an easy choice.
Call of Cthulhu was going to be as simple as I could make it. Each player was going to run the 1920's version of themselves. We had Adam Mosher, congressional aide to Rep James P Casey (D). Rep Casey's shot for re-election was pretty bad so Adam was looking to pick up some extra money. Brian Nichols was a crooked bookkeeper with minor organized crime ties and a penchant for cheap booze and quick cash. They were both part of a team with noted parapsychologist and author Dr. Nathaniel Millheim.
The three of them are hired by a slumlord named Francisco to investigate some peculiar goings-ons in his recently purchased property on Fell St in Wilkes-Barre. It seems his last tenants went mad and had to be sent to a sanitarium, and right after that episode he heard rumors of the house being haunted for many years previous. Armed with the keys, the address, a $100 advance, and Nichol's holdout pistol, they begin their investigation.
Now I was worried that the group would jump right into the house and get completely overwhelmed. Boy, was I wrong! They spent so much time researching the property they didn't even pass BY the house until Day 3! They did a good job thinking of info to look up and places to check out without Idea rolls, and they made MOST of their Library Use roll. You could tell Balls had played, he was the only one who put a good pile of points into that skill. Day one and two was trips to the Times-Leader, the courthouse, and the library, picking up useful tidbits of information, then meeting at the closest greasy spoon to have lunch/dinner and go over their information. They found records of insanity within the house since 1880, and a long line of landlords who quickly resold the properties running all the way back to 1866. They found out that the owner previous to the episodes was a Walter Corbitt, whose only mention in their reseach was a lawsuit by the NEIGHBORHOOD back in 1855 to force him to move due to his "inauspicous demeanor." His obituary listed a Rev Michael Thomas of the Chapel of Contemplation and Catholic Church of Our Lord as the executor of his will, so they decided to go visit the church (again, even before looking at the house).
They were shocked to find the church in ruins: the building was a collection of blocks of granite and burnt timber, with years of overgrowth covering it up. There was some odd "occultish" symbol that on the wall, so Dr. Millheim started snapping pictures of it. Suddenly the ground gave way next to him and Adam plunged into a secret basement (first damage inflicted!). As he dusted himself off he was shocked to find to skeletons dressed in robes laying on the ground (first lost sanity!). He couldn't anything of interest in the rotted file cabinents in the basement, but he did discover a large leather worm-eaten book, apparently written in Latin (hmmmm...) Despite Dr. Millheim's capable skill in Latin, he thought it best to get a priest to read the book for him (it was a Catholic Church anyway). The priests at a nearby rectory denied the Chapel of Contemplation was ever a Catholic church, but one priest was willing to go over the book they had found, a few minutes later the same priest was screaming bloody murder at the top of his lungs, and a younger priest was escorting them out of the church "for their own safety." It took some phenomenal rolls by Dr. Millheim to convince the younger priest that they needed the book back.
A quick trip back to the courthouse to check the Register of Churches and find that it was built before 1850 and was closed in 1912 by the county with no additonal information, they decide to spend the afternoon at the house (oh, after they stop off at another greasy spoon to discuss their info and their options). After looking around the non-descript two-story brick house, they knock on the door of the next store neighbor, the "Old Polish Lady". She's very old, very nervous with three big guys come to the door, speaking perfect English, and wasn't very helpful, yet the group spent a good 15 minutes trying to get info out of her. They finally gave up and went inside the house. As they walked through the living quarters nothing out of the ordinary caught their eye (that is, except the fine quality furniture and mahogany dining room table that a working class guy could afford, but that was never followed up on). Some storerooms netted some old journals which would be read later. The upstairs seemed normal, an empty unused bedroom, with a metal bed frame/springs and dresser, a children's room for the two boys the couple had, and a master bedroom for the husband and wife with nothing of great note in any. As the guys were standing in the master bedroom, a loud thumping noise could be heard down the hall, they investigate and they get closer to the empty bedroom the thumping stops. Thinking it was triggered in the master bedroom, they have Brian walk back down the hall into that room. There is then a scratching sound coming from the window in the empty room. Adam goes to investigate that, with the good doctor wielding his camera to get a picture of any odd activity. He might have gotten a good picture to, if the far wall didn't begin dripping blood. That caught him off guard as he stared at it, going, "What the???" Adam turned around, only to see the bed fly towards him, forcing him through the window and down the sideyard below. With the blink of an eye, the blood is gone, and the bed is back in it's orginal position. Going outside to retrieve him (and give him a little first aid). They attempt to recreate the scene with Brian at the window with no success.
The basement being the only thing left, they worked their way down the rickety stairs to a small dirt basement. The fact that one wall in the basement was made of wood, and the large ammount tools all about the room was the immediate focus of the group. Brian starting trying to tear the wall apart. They were all shocked when a large dagger floated out of the junk in the room and began attacking them (yeah, more SAN loss). Brian was simply amazed (minimal San loss, just shocked), Dr Millheim was trying to capture the phenomena in a an ash can, and Adam being the most direct of the group, spent many rounds trying to grab the thing out of midair. A few bloody rounds later (and some first aid on his cut hands), the dagger was no longer a problem. They finally managed to rip apart the wall, only to find a a two foot "crawl space" and another wooden wall inside. And let's not mention the rats. The group decided the best thing to do was open all the downstairs windows, go home and develop the (blurry) pictures and read the journals.
The next morning, they found another way to delay the inevitable, as Dr Millheim got a response from a letter he had written to the Sanitarium the parents were placed in Clarks Summit. They spent a good portion of the day driving their and didn't get much out of the experience, except the wife would mention an "evil presence" and it would throw dishes at her from time to time.
It was finally time to open up the other wall and with Brian and the good Doctor using tools in the basement, and Adam using a recently purchased pickaxe, they ripped apart the wall in record time. The other side a large room with a number of large pallets with a body on top. The body was quite dead, but it's skin still intact and tightly stretechd. Then body began to move. The group did whatever any heroic group would do: Brian threw their lantern at the creature, then Brian and Dr Millheim ran up the stairs, with Adam and his pickaxe took up the rear. At the top of the cellar steps, they locked the door and threw the three deadbolts, and moved upstairs to find the family's Bible (like THAT'S oh so going to frickin' help!) The creature burst through the cellar door and worked it's way up the stairs. When the creature got halfway up the stair, Brian pulled out his one-shot revolver, pointed it at the monster, and then quickly turned around and shot at Dr. Millheim, missing at point blank range. (Dominate spells are so much fun). Adam then swung the pick axe at Brian, thinking he had gone mad. The creature started tearing into Dr. Millheim, whose only defense was throwing salt at it. Brian crawled down the hallway, his only thought was jumping out a window in the Master bedroom to get away. Adam began wailling away at the creature, but taking tremendous damage from its claws. As Brian locked the door to the bedroom he heard a horrible death scream, as the creature ripped out Adam's lungs. (Having lost 5 SAN in the game he just made his roll to keep his senses to prevent him from being the second member of the fly-out-the-closed-window club). The creature made quick work of Dr. Millheim. *fade to black*
When the Wilkes-Barre Police arrived at the house, responding to multiple reports of gunfire, they found a bloody mess. The eviscerated remains of Adam Mosher, Congressional Aide lay in the upstairs hallway. They managed to revive an unconscious Dr. Nathaniel Millheim. It took a considerable ammount to fast-talking and persuasion for police to remove Dr. Millheim as a suspect. They are still trying to find Brian Nichols as a possible susptect in the murder of Mr. Mosher. Dr. Millheim was smart enough not to mention any sort of monster/creature, and once Francisco was reached he did vouch for the good doctor. About two weeks later a slightly remodelled rental property found a new tenant.
In other news, Olga Buchashevsky of N. Fell St in Wilkes-Barre has been reported missing. Police notice the forced entry of her front door, as they were investigating shots fired at a neighboring property. The elderly Polish woman, who has rarely left her house since her husband passed away in 1903, was not found in house and no one knows where she could be. If police can't find the woman within the next month, the county may seize the property in trust.