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Coal Cracker Cthulhu #7: Dead Man Stomp

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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

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