Session 9 | Arkham | Librorum malum

 

 

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Arkham postcard circa 1923. Private collection.

 

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Absent this session

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats


New Character

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt


 

Bengtsson

 

Kent Bengtsson is the kid brother of recently deceased investigator Ulla Bengtsson. And just like her, he has got a troubled relation with their father, the industrial magnate in chemicals. Contrary to her, he stayed away from working in the family business and enlisted as a pilot during the war. His experiences in war-torn France left him a scarred man, both physically and emotionally. He was shot down burning and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp.

He returned home after the war as a physically scarred, disillusioned and broken man, making a day-to-day meager living by taking odd jobs as a show pilot at M.P’s Flying Circus and the occasional air pest control run. However, jobs have been scarcer lately due to his excessive drinking and drug habits.

Currently, he has been living with his sister in New York (with her providing food and rent) subsisting on a moderate monthly allowance from their absent father (who they meet only on a few yearly family functions).

Ulla meant all to him – she was his only solid anchor in the sane world and news of her violent death grieves him greatly but has also lit a flame of vengeance in his mind. He has now hooked up with the investigators to avenge his beloved sister and put an end to the evil that these deranged people and their minions…

Link to background stories and portraits


Chattanooga Choo Choo

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Slow train to dawn

 

On a train in rural Massachusetts, Wednesday, January 21st, 1925 | about noon

Arkham

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Picturesque Arkham

 

The train ride from New York to Arkham had taken some 5 hours including the change in Boston. Exiting the train onto the small snowy platform, sore from the hard train benches, Carl, Slim and Kent decide to take the omnibus from the train station, taking them across the Miskatonic River to the Miskatonic University campus area. Professor Cowles ought to be in his office at the Department of Liberal arts.

Miskatonic University

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Miskatonic University. Ish.

 

Asking their way across the campus, everyone seems to know the professor and the male students looks especially happy when the Cowles name pops up.

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Professor Anthony Cowles

 

They find the professor in his office, buried amidst stacks of paper, thick books, and other academic paraphernalia, grading a paper while puffing on a pipe. The jovial scholar invites them to sit down, offering not-so-fresh coffee and cordially asks them how he can be of assistance.

Carl and Ulla interviewed him briefly after his lecture on the night of Elias’ death and he remembers Carl. After some discussion, it becomes clear that Cowles does not know more than what is summarized in handout #23. Basically, it comes down to:

  • A bat cult once existed among the Aboriginals in Australia, worshipping an entity known as The Father of Bats.
  • Somewhere in west Australia, there’s a place where once enormous beings gathered.
  • An Australian researcher, Arthur MacWhirr was attacked by Aboriginals while investigating some old stone monuments. Apparently, the attackers used the traditional weapons of the Bat Cult from long ago.

The PCs also disclose some of the mysterious events and observations they have done since Elias met his fate and it becomes clear that the professor acknowledges the possibility of magic and that science has not yet accounted for all things. He also says that he has read a dreadful book of sorcery, named “Ponape Scriptures” that was at the University of Sidney collections, but that it was lent to a man named John Scott of Boston, Massachusetts, and that it was never returned. Cowles is an expert on things Polynesian, Australian, and New Zealandic, but knows very little of the African leads that the investigators are now pursuing.

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Miss Ewa Seward Cowles

 

The meeting is ended rather abruptly when the professor’s daughter, Miss Ewa burst into the office, asking about that lunch they had planned.

Miskatonic Library

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One of the study halls of Miskatonic Library

 

The university library is situated just on the other the block from the Dept. of Liberal Arts, so the investigators decide to go there to see if they find something of value.

Carl asks the librarian at the front desk about the occult and Egyptian books and is directed to the east wing of the 3rd floor.

Meanwhile, Slim rummages through the inventory cards like a madman, discovering that the library indeed holds some very rare occult books. However, the librarian informs him that the books are part of the restricted collection and that they must talk to the head of the library, Dr. Armitage if they’re going to get access. The professor’s office is situated on the 3rd floor, but apparently, he’s not at his office today. Instead, Slim is directed to assistant director Llanfer, who is second in command.

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Assistant director Wilfred Llanfer.

Restless as always, Kent decides to check out the basement where old books, bound periodicals, and newspapers are located. There’s also a study area near the newspapers.  He also finds a locked door with a brass sign saying “Archive”. Being a man of action, Kent devises a fiendish plan to get access to the archive without being spotted.

First, he defecates on the floor in front of the door, hoping that this disgusting deed will keep nosy library attendees away. He then uses his small crowbar to break open the old lock on the door and enters the room. In the room, there are two plain desks with reading lamps and along the west wall, brown cardboard boxes are stacked to the roof on old shelves. Kent searches the room for hidden door and compartments but does not find anything out of the ordinary. He then scans the boxes and spots a box labeled “Restricted Access Collection”, which he searches through, finding lists of people who has been asking for or being permitted to study the restricted books. Kent folds the documents and puts them inside his aviator leather jacket and leaves the room, just missing the turd left outside the door. As he vanishes up the east stairway he hears someone shout in disgust over finding the excrements:

“Bloody hell that’s gross! Not again! Damned vagrants!

While Kent has been skulking around the basement, Carl has been studying the occult section as well as the sections on archaeology, anthropology, religion, and mythology, all situated on the 3rd floor. His cursory search spots many potential works of interest but nothing out of the ordinary.

However, in the Egyptology section, he finds an academic work by a Dr. Ali Kafour of the University of Cairo, describing some disturbing legends from the 3rd and 4th Dynasties in Egypt:

  • In the late 3rd Dynasty, when Pharaoh Zoser ruled a there came a mighty sorcerer known as Nephren-Ka to Egypt, bringing madness and death to those he willed at a flick of his finger. The story says that he came from dreaded Irem, ancient City of Pillars, deep in the desert sands of Arabia.
  • Nephren-Ka worshiped an old foul god – the Black Pharao, and soon they became as one, and now no one can distinguish their deeds and legends.
  • Nephren-Ka and Zoser fought long over control of the realm. However, no records from this time remain today.
  • For a time, the Black Pharao ruled over the peoples of the Nile, but at last Sneferu arose, founding the 4th Dynasty and with the aid of the goddess Isis he fought and brought down the Black Pharao, restoring the land from evil.
  • Legend says that Sneferu built a mighty pyramid to contain the still magical body of the Black Emperor, but the structure collapsed even as Sneferu was building a second pyramid. The Collapsed Pyramid is situated at what now is Meidum. The second pyramid is the Bent Pyramid at Dhashur. Records indicate that Nephren-Ka’s remains were moved from the Collapsed Pyramid to the Bent Pyramid. However, explorations at both pyramids have failed to substantiate this. No trace of the Black Pharao has been discovered at either site.
  • Legend also says that Sneferu built yet another pyramid at Dhashur, the Red Pyramid, to guard Dhashur, lest Nephren-Ka should rise from the dead.
  • Pharao Sneferu also ordered all traces of the Black Pharao stricken from the land, killing worshippers of the Black Pharao in the process. Legends say that remaining worshippers fled south, into the hideous swamps beyond the Sudan river.
  • The book also mentions that in the 6th Dynasty, Queen Nitocris was suspected of being in league with a new cult of the Black Pharao, but evidence of this is at best sporadic and much debated among scholars of Egyptology.
  • Finally, the book mentions that Nephren-Ka (or the Black Pharao) sometimes was known under the name of Neyar-Hotep.

At the same time, Slim gets to meet assistant director Llanfer who calmly informs him that the only person with access to the restricted collection is Dr. Armitage and that he will be back tomorrow morning.

In the light of this, the investigators decide to stay the night in Arkham and go back tomorrow. On the way to the campus, they saw a nearby hotel and head there through the increasing snowfall.

Hotel Miskatonic

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Hotel Miskatonic, Arkham

 

The five-story hotel on West College Street turns out to be very luxurious and expensive, but the investigators think that they are worth it and checks in nevertheless. After a nice meal and a Miska-Tonic in the bar, Carl and Slim withdraw to their rooms to study their new books while Kent stays in the bar having a few more drinks while studying and copying the documents he stole.

 

Arkham, Thursday, January 22nd, 1925 | hazy morning

The Restricted Collection

Next morning, which is sunny but cold they head back to the library and get an appointment with Dr. Armitage, who turns out to be a friendly man, albeit with a slightly troubled look in his eyes. They notice that the old scholars’ left arm seems to be trembling all the time as if having been through a scarring ordeal. Or it is just tics…

While Carl and Slim introduce themselves to Dr. Armitage, Kent returns to the scene of the crime and sneaks into the archive, returning the stolen (and now copied) documents. The door has not been mended so it’s an easy task. Sneaking back up, he’s pretty sure that no one has seen him come or go…

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Dr. Henry Armitage. Head of Miskatonic Library.

 

Dr. Armitage turns out to be a friendly fellow if a bit inquisitive about the reasons for their interest in the tomes of the restricted collection. It soon becomes evident that the good doctor has some hands-on experience with the unknown and things not of this earth. The investigators also share some of their experiences with Armitage, among them the reasons for their interest in these old books, which seems to put him more at ease. He confides that after his terrible experiences with a degenerate sorcerer, he decided that such books are to be kept away from mankind in order to prevent other evil men from meddling with the occult.

Finally, he leads them to a locked vault where the restricted books are kept. The room is windowless and surrounded by thick new-build concrete walls and the thick steel door is protected by several sturdy locks and a state of the art electronic burglar alarm.

Inside the room, the following books are spotted on the shelves:

  • Necronomicon, John Dee English translation
  • Necronomicon, Latin translation
  • Unausprechligen Kulten, German
  • Book of Eibon, English translation
  • Pnakotic Manuscripts, English translation
  • Liber Ivonis, Latin translation
  • Cultes des Goules, French translation
  • Cthulhu in the Necronomicon, English
  • An Investigation into the Myth-Patterns of Latter-Day Primitives with Especial Reference to the R’lyeh Text, English
  • Eltdown Shards, English

Also in the room are two fine oak desks with good reading lamps and a box with white cotton gloves to be worn when handling the books.

The investigators decide that Dr. Armitage is one of the good guys and confides further in him, even showing him photographs of the purportedly magic items that they found in the cult basement under Ju-Ju House (mask, headband, metal bowl, scepter). Using the Mythos books as reference works, they spend many hours in the vault, trying to shed light on the artifacts, but sadly very little information is found.

  • The only real lead is a text passage in the Necronomicon that discusses an entity called “Nodens”, usually taking the form of a bearded human male, often riding a chariot in the shape of a huge seashell, drawn by beasts from legend and served by winged creatures. The reference mentions a headband that can be used to protect the wearer from the entity’s entourage of creatures.
  • Another lead is a reference to a highly magic item called “Ye Maske of Ha-Jama” that allows the wearer to “communicate with the gods”. However, it is very unclear if the mask in their possession is the same as the one mentioned in the book.

Upon leaving, the investigators even discuss leaving their own Mythos books in the vault as they deem it the safest place, but then decides to take them with them to study them further. After all, knowledge might be the key to success now. Or survival.

Should we stay or should we go?

We leave our intrepid book-wormish investigators trekking back through the snowy streets of Arkham, towards the train station, discussing what to do next – go to merry old England or go to Boston to pay a certain Mr. John Scott a visit…

Decisions, decisions, decisions…


Stay tuned for our next session – it will be, err… interesting, no doubt…

 

 

Session 8 | New York | Funeral

8457

Party like it’s 1925!

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Absent this session

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Link to background stories and portraits


Par-tay!

New York, Monday January 19th, 1925 | about 6.30 p.m

A ride, good idea!

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Fancy car for fancy people

At 6.30 pm, the fancy car from Carlyle’s arrives to pick up the PCs. Carl, Edward and Slim steps into the jet black speed-monster as the uniformed driver holds the door for them, barely containing a sneer looking at their in his view not-up-to-par tuxedos.

The ride goes up north along the Hudson river, passing such sites as the Sing-Sing prison and the infamous little community of Sleepy Hollow. (No headless riders are to be spotted though… This time at least…). After some 30 minutes, the car arrives at the gates of the estate, the magnificent and brightly lit mansion visible in the midst of a park-like garden. Many expensive cars are parked in front of the entrance, drivers standing talking and smoking in their fancy uniforms.

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The Carlyle mansion

At the large entrance doors, two big men take their names and check against a list, then the PCs are let into a great hall and is immediately offered a glass of excellent champagne by one of the many servitors. After some socializing, a man comes up to Shady, introducing himself as Mr. Grey.

-“Business first”, he says and leads the PCs into to a quieter part of the house. He opens a set of double doors leading into a magnificent library, where Ms. Carlyle is waiting, accompanied by a huge man in a too-tight suit, introducing himself as Mr. Corey. The man has the predatory stance of a professional soldier.

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The library

Erica Carlyle

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Ms. Erica Carlyle

After some pleasantries, the PCs are invited to sit down and offered an expensive drink. Ms. Carlyle then goes straight to the point, asking what they want from her.

Edward takes the lead, stating that he and his associates has been contracted by some wealthy investors (that wishes to be incognito) in Kenya to look into the recent rumours about Roger Carlyle being alive, as they are concerned of the consequences regarding their business deals with the Carlyle business empire if this should be true. If Roger should be alive, that would mean that he could come back as leader of the Carlyle business empire, which would be a bad scenario for them. The reason for them coming here is to ask if Erica can shed some more light on this rumor and if she would know anything that could help with the ongoing investigation.

If the news startles the young heiress, she hides it well, but she explains that she would be very interested in knowing more about theses rumors. Edward also insinuates that if they should find Roger alive, there is a possibility that he could “disappear” again, should she wish so. Erica looks appalled and says that she naturally wants her brother back, but that she doubts that the rumors are correct. Anyway, she says that she would be happy to be of assistance.

In the continued interview with Erica they learn:

  • Erica thinks that Roger had some secret that worried him
  • Roger had a depraved sexual relation with an African woman (which Erica refers to as “that N-o woman”).
  • However, she has never met her and doesn’t know her name.
  • She also thinks that his relation with the African woman was what triggered Roger’s obsession with Africa and also his nightmares and ultimately pushing him to lose his grasp on reality.
  • It was Erica who coerced Roger to go see the jet-set psychiatrist, Dr. Huston.

Keeper note: This was an excellent lie by Edward, where we role-played the conversation with just a few Fast Talk, Persuade and Psychology rolls.

Edward also asks about her brother’s diary, that he has heard of. Erica answers that there is no diary, but some rubbish old occult books that her brother had bought for a lesser fortune and used to obsess over. She even glanced through one of them, “Pankotic Manuscripts” or some such nonsense and became even more worried as the content of that book seemed to substantiate Roger’s developing insanity. However, she says, those books are soon gone as she is in the process of selling them.

The PCs manage to persuade Erica to name the buyer – a certain book collector named Aloysius Marlower – and the price he has offered. The PCs even manages to outbid the man and the meeting concludes with the PCs buying the books for the neat sum of 2800 dollars! Erica is glad to be rid of them and if they can assist in finding out what happened to him, so much better.

The books they purchase are:

  • The Pnakotic Manuscripts (English)
  • Selections de Livre d’Ivon (French)
  • People of the Monolith (English)
  • Life as a God (English)

After getting the books from a hidden safe, the meeting is concluded and the PCs are invited to party, which they do with a vengeance!

A most deadly funeral

New York, Tuesday January 20th, 1925 | about 11.00 a.m

Edward, Carl, and Slim wake up, the sour aftertaste of too much to drink in their mouths and concrete caps on their heads. After some freshening up and a rudimentary breakfast, they drive through the snow to Brooklyn to attend Jackson Elias’ funeral. Edward insists on bringing his scope equipped M98 Mauser jagdgewehr, “just in case”. Upon arrival at the church, Edward gets out of the car and takes post on a small knoll overlooking the church grounds. In silence, he makes himself comfortable in the snow while Carl joins the congregation in the church.

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The Evergreen Cemetery

The funeral service is kept at the Evergreens Cemetery by Reverend Lawrence T. O’Dell, Jr., who was appointed by Kensington. The service in solemn and sincere and the few people attending seem genuinely interested in being there. Kensington holds a short but affectionate speech, leaving no hearts untouched.

On the snowy knoll, Edwards spots nothing unusual, other than a late attendee to the service. Looking in his scope, he sees that the man is sweating profusely despite the cold. Inside, Carl also notices the late guest who arrives just before the end of the service, taking his seat in the last row of the pews.

When the sermon ends, the man exits the church first of all. The other guests gather in the weapons room greeting and talking about their common friend Elias and about the service.

Outside, Edward has made a circular maneuver, placing him near the entrance. When the sweaty man exit the church, Edward approaches him from the side, gun pointed at his face, demanding that the man tells his name and business here.

Upon closer inspection, the man looks quite underdressed for the occasion. With the gun in his face, he’s frozen still, stuttering some lame story about being early for the next funeral. Suddenly, he turns around and makes a run for it. Edward aims at his lower leg and pulls the trigger, but misjudges the moving man and hits him in the upper thigh, point blank. The man stumbles and falls, coloring the snow red, bleeding profusely from a ruptured femoral artery. Edward runs over, trying to get some info from the man before he passes out. At the same time, he sees a black sedan some 100 yards away revving its engine, driving off at top speed. Before reaching the shot man, the big game hunter takes aim for the driver’s head and squeezes the trigger again…

In the scope, he sees the back window shatter and the driver slumps over the wheel, sending the car skidding into a tree. All is still for a few seconds, then the car explodes in a sea of flames. The back door opens, two human torches straggling out, screaming, but falling to the ground after just a few steps, consumed by the flames.

Turning his attention the leg-shot man, he sees that the man has been trying to crawl away but he’s now collapsed, breathing heavily. Drawing his blade, Edward kneels by the mortally wounded man, demanding to know who sent them here. After some threats and pressing of the wounded leg, the man squeals that they were sent by a man named Jim Flynn with the mission to oversee the funeral, taking note of the attendees. He can be found in the Lower West Side harbor district, Warehouse 17. After this, the man passes out from blood loss.

Simultaneously, the church door opens, spilling out church goers. Edward plants his own pistol on the man and throws the Mauser into a bush, screaming:

-“Help! This man has been shot by some thugs in the car over there! There was a firefight and they managed to hit each other!

People run over to help the man, while others run for the burning car. In the distance, police sirens can be heard… It is soon evident that the shot man is dead and efforts are redirected at the people by the car. Someone remarks that these guys must be remarkable shots, hitting each other with pistols at 100 yards…

The driver of the car is burnt to a crisp as well as one of the people in the back seat, but the last one is still alive. Police and ambulance arrive, taking care of the wounded man and taking up witness statements. After a while, an officer finds the stashed Mauser as well. It is concluded that the man outside the church shot at the car that returned fire, killing him with a lucky pistol shot. Edward and the rest of the church attendees are noted for later questioning if needed, and let go. The police label the whole incident as gang-related violence, probably some kind of turf dispute or act of vengeance…

Gun shopping (again…)

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Edward’s favorite store!

On the way home, Edward insists on stopping by his favorite gun shop, getting himself a new Mauser M98 with a sniper scope… And lots of ammo of course…

West Side Story

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The docks

Back at the Harlem laundry shop, Carl and Edward change back to more inconspicuous attire and load up the car for a mission to the harbor district around West Street. They drive downtown to Lower West Side asking around for warehouse 17. After some wrong turns, they find the place all down by the waterfront. Cautious as they are, they park the car a block away and approaches the warehouse on foot. It’s an old wooden structure, painted in chipped light blue color and surrounded by a 6-foot high wooden plank fence with a padlocked gate. The place seems deserted. Outside, they encounter an unwashed old sailor wino who reeks of booze and urine. Old Jim tells them (for a quarter) that yes, this is the place of Jim Flynn and his crew of Irish dockworker thugs. For another quarter, he also informs them that Flynn usually hangs out at the local sailor bar – the Blue Oyster – the next street away. Walking towards the Blue Oyster, Carl and Edward become aware that five sailor type thugs are following them, throwing insults at them, promising the “snobs” a thorough ass whooping, brandishing blackjacks and short blades. Edward resolutely draws his gun, pointing it at them. The thugs back off, and start running in the other direction…

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After work at the Blue Oyster

The Blue Oyster is a rowdy dock bar, situated a half stair down in a dingy basement. Edward and Carl try to look “sailor-ish” and sit down at a table near the entrance, ordering cheap watered beer. The place is full of seamen, dock workers, and winos. A few working girls are working their trade as well.

In the back of the room, there’s a raised wooden dais, surrounded by a low railing. Despite the crowded place, there are only a few tables there, surrounded by stuffed chairs and a sofa. A red-haired man in a finer suit sits there, surrounded by a few rough looking men. The PCs deduce that this must be Mr. Flynn. They discuss ways to approach Flynn but are interrupted when a fat African lady accompanied by two large brutish men come down the stairs and walk straight up to the dais, where they are welcomed. It’s Fat Maybelle! Carl and Edward try to hide their faces to avoid her from recognizing them, putting their snouts far down their glasses.

Flynn and Fat Maybelle have an animated discussion, then she hastily rises up and leaves the place with her entourage. The PCs think that they avoided being spotted… Flynn looks furious and starts yelling at one of his men, waving fists in the air…

Carl and Edwards deduce that Fat Maybelle has somehow teamed up with what seems to be Irish mobsters after having her illegal booze business crushed by the police (and the PCs). Maybe she’s looking for vengeance against them?

Edward decides to try their luck again, walking up to the ruffian guarding the dais, demanding to see Mr. Flynn. Flynn accepts and lets them through. He doesn’t invite them to sit down. The PCs give up false names and offer their services. Flynn downs a whiskey laughs and tells them to sod off. He’s already got all the losers he needs for his little operation. The PCs sense that they should leave and get out of the Blue Oyster, hustling back to the car which incredibly enough still has all its wheels and hubcaps in place.

Columbia University

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East view of Columbia University

On their way back, they stop by Columbia University to pick up the black sphinx. Dr. Brantenberger thinks it is from the Egyptian 4th dynasty of pharaoh Sneferu. It’s very atypical however and he hasn’t been able to translate the glyphs yet, but he suspects that it’s some kind of sect symbols or a cipher of some kind. He also says that the statuette is either a very well made replica or a genuine artifact, in which case it would be quite unique and valuable. The PCs thank the good scholar and take the sphinx with them when they leave.

Plans, plans, plans

It’s late afternoon when they finally come home. Over a baloney sandwich and luke-warm beer, the group assesses the situation:

  • The police are after them
  • The Cult of the Bloody Tongue are after them
  • The Harlem African gang are after them
  • The Irish gang will soon be after them
  • The Italian mobsters want to use them for their own nefarious needs

It is concluded that it is time to leave the city and even the country. Tentatively, England and London seem like the logical choice now.

But first, they decide to go to Arkham to see Professor Cowles, who they talked briefly with after his lecture at New York University, the day of Elias’ murder, to see what he knows.

Next session will start the day after (Wednesday the 21st), on the train between New York and Arkham.


Here we had to conclude the session for the evening. To be continued…

 

Session 7 | New York | Stealer of Souls

shadow-of-azathoth

There is no life in the Void. Or…?

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Justin Case | NYPD Detective | 32 yrs | Djuro

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan


New Character

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Link to background stories and portraits


hercule-poirot

Slim Shady. Attorney-At-Law at your service.

Slim Shady is…(story to come)

Stealer of souls

New York, Sunday, January 18th, 1925 | about 9 p.m

I could sleep for a thousand years…

The session started with the PCs gathered in the dingy laundry-turned-makeshift-home on a Harlem backstreet. Patching up wounds, resting, some even resorting to booze to calm the nerves. Always interested Carl Blackwater sits down to keep up on the news. In the newspaper he spots an interesting article in the business section – it concerns a business deal involving the Carlyle Estate, mentioning Ms. Carlyle’s attorney, a certain Bradley Grey. Might be a lead.

The Black Sphinx

Meanwhile, Case, Foxworthy and Rennfarth discuss the black sphinx statue that they saw in the Ju Ju shop. It sticks out as odd, being the only Egyptian item in a shop full of African stuff. On a whim, they decide to check out the shop again to see if the statue’s still there.

Spotting no movement, the three amigos sneak out into the alley using the laundry’s back door. The door to the African shop is marked with a sign: “Crime Scene. Do not enter.” Case picks the lock, letting Rennfarth and Foxworthy into the shop. Rennfarth and Case stay near the exit while the big game hunter delves deeper into the shadows. The black sphinx sits just where it was last time. Suddenly, Foxworthy hears something, like someone sneaking or shuffling. The sound comes from behind the drapes behind the counter. Moving there quickly, Foxworthy finds himself face to face with a decomposed but still moving thing, dressed in fisherman’s attire, still sporting a rubber fisherman’s hat! Foxworthy stumbles back but quickly comes up with a fiendish plan, running on the outside of the counter to the opposite side, luring the zombie-thing behind the counter where it falls into the hole in the floor where the hatch down to the cult temple used to be!

Accompanied by the living dead’s wailings, the scurrilous companions grab the sphinx and head back to the laundry.

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The Black Sphinx

Poring over the statue, even Foxworthy*, who’s the most knowledgeable in things African cannot determine anything about its origins. Black, extremely smooth and dense stone with hieroglyphs carved around its base. Even to the untrained eye, the glyphs look crude and different from the ones commonly seen in museum exhibits. It’s obviously Egyptian, but other than that – nothing.

*Foxworthy’s player is actually a trained archaeologist with a special interest in Egyptology, so I knew they would go for the sphinx…

Teamwork and favors

Suddenly, there’s a bang on the door. Outside, Mr. Giuseppin stands outside wringing his greasy hands, accompanied by a distinguished man in a very expensive tailored suit, with a cashmere coat hanging over his shoulders. Behind them is three menacing looking men, also in fine suits, with telltale bulges under their jackets and one carrying a violin case.

The landlord introduces the obvious leader as Mr. Sangiovese, an associate of his. Upon request, the other men are presented as Mr. Sangiovese’s “uncles”, despite being younger than him. Mr. Sangiovese asks to come in as he has “an offer” for them. His dead fish eyes reveals nothing.

After som bickering at the door, Misters Sangiovese, Giuseppin and “uncle Frank” is let in while the rest takes post outside.

After commenting on the PCs interior decorator, Mr. Sangiovese sits down on one of the few chairs and lays out his case in a heavy New Yorker Italian accent. In short:

  • He knows that the police PCs are personae non grata in the police force at the moment. He knows the feeling. Pigs.
  • He knows that the PCs have been successful in combatting the Africans, his “business competitors”, and says that his enemy’s enemies are his friends. Teamwork, right?
  • He also now knows where the PCs are holing out, since Mr. Guiseppin works for him, and wouldn’t it be a shame if the address came out to, say, the Africans? Great shame.
  • In other words, he would like to propose a deal where the PCs help him out with some “domestic problems” in exchange for his silence.

After presenting his case, Mr. Sangiovese carefully wipes his hands as if having touched something very gross and bids his farewell, promising to be in touch about “that favor” shortly.

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Mr. Guiseppin

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Mr. Sangiovese and a few “uncles”

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Left to right: Luca “88 Magnum”, Mr. Sangiovese, “Vito the Sledgehammer”, “Handsome Frank” and “The Swede”

The Stealer of Souls

After the visit by the “Italian businessmen”, Detective Case wants to try the African mask a second time. He has now learned a new incantation, scribbled in the book “Africa’s Dark Sects” and he thinks those words are what the bearded being asked for last time he tried the mask. At last, the secrets of the mask will be revealed!

Not.

Case puts on the mask. Foxworthy and Blackwater see it fuse to his face and witness him convulse, still standing, staring wide-eyed into nothingness. After half a minute Case collapses to the floor, the mask falling off spontaneously. The brave police detective’s face is frozen in terror! Blood vessels in the eyes have burst, making the eyes all reddish and there’s a trickle of blood from his left nostril as well as a great deal of drool coming out of his mouth. He is mumbling something unintelligible sounding like: “Asha, asha, asha…”

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“It was just a dream. It must have been…”

Keeper note: Case’s player managed to roll really bad here, first rolling a bad result on what the mask did, then missing his San roll, thereby losing 65 SAN points in one go, instantly kicking him down to SAN zero!  I can’t discern what happened to poor Case here as my players read this, but his mind has been shaken to its very foundations, leaving him an empty shell of a human…

Not much left to do but to tuck poor Case in and finally get some sleep as everyone is dead tired after having been active for almost 24 hours. Although they do not sleep very well, hearing Case’s occasional screams: “Asha! Asha! Asha!”

New York, Monday 19th, 1925 | about 8.30 a.m

The Psych Ward

The first thing the next morning, Rennfarth notifies the Police Chief about what has happened to Case. It is decided that they should take Detective Case to the New York State Psychiatric Hospital, to Professor Hans Schmiedke whose assistance the police department usually relies on in cases where mental issues are involved.

At the hospital, another figure also turns up. The police chief has asked Slim Shady of the law firm “Shady Law Ltd.” to attend. Mr. Shady has been Case’s attorney on many occasions and is now there to ensure that Mr. Case’s rights are preserved.

After a cursory examination, Prof. Schmiedke quickly concludes that Case is in dire need of in-hospital treatment and the mad police detective is admitted into their care. It is decided that his affairs are to be overseen and monitored by his attorney. The attorney is immediately intrigued by what has befallen Case and volunteers (well for a nominal fee at least) to assist the PCs in legal matters in relation to the case, which they happily accept. He is, after all, a bit of a socialite in New York high society and knows some powerful people and he is well versed in the workings of the law.

Guns, guns, guns

Meanwhile, Foxworthy goes to his favorite arms dealer in New York to replace his lost elephant gun. He completes his purchase with extra boxes of ammunition.

Columbia University Department of Arts & Archaeology

Since they can’t figure out the Black Sphinx statuette, the PCs takes photographs of it and brings them (and the statuette, hidden in the car) to see Dr. Brantenberger at the archaeology department at Columbia University. The good archaeologist is known as one of the best Egyptologists in New York. Dr. Brantenberger is delighted over the photos and says that the sphinx is indeed an unusual one, as are the glyphs engraved on the base. However, he cannot tell any specifics before having time to consult his books and colleagues. It ends with the PCs leaving the statue at Columbia for 24 (48?) hours in order to have it properly examined.

Robert Huston’s medical files

Having promised to help with the case, Shady arranges a lunch meeting with Judge Carruthers in order to obtain a warrant for the release of Dr. Robert Huston’s files on Roger Carlyle. Carruthers is hesitant to open up the old case, but having heard Shady out, he agrees to Shady’s suggestions. The PCs pick up the papers and go straight to the Medical Board, where they get the files without much hassle.

After having studied the files, they conclude:

  • Huston treated Robert Carlyle on behalf of his sister Erica, who already knew the doctor.
  • Robert Carlyle had been having nightmares about an Egyptian-looking dark figure. As a consequence, he had been sleeping bad and his sister sent him to Huston.
  • The repeating dream involved said dark godlike figure and a strange asymmetric pyramid – again the Egyptian theme.
  • The files mention someone called M’Weru, Anastacia and My Priestess. These names appear to relate to the same person.
  • Carlyle did not consider the dream to be a dream, but rather a call from a god on the other side, which of course was refuted by Huston as a sign of psychic issues.
  • The files also suggest that Carlyle had a catch on Huston. Something secret that Carlyle knew about Huston, that Carlyle threatened to expose if Huston did not go with him.

Keeper note: Handout #24 – added  to Dropbox

The PCs conclude that they really must meet up with the elusive Erica Carlyle. Partly in order to present the idea that her brother isn’t dead (and maybe get her patronage for their investigations) and partly because they have indications that Robert Carlyle’s occult books are still in the Carlyle mansion library.

The attorney happens to know Erica’s lawyer, Mr. Bradley Grey, and sets up a lunch meeting at a fancy restaurant to try to get access to her upper-class party this very evening.

New York Library

While Shady is having lunch with Bradley Grey, Blackwater and Foxworthy goes to the New York Library to do some news clip research on M’Weru and what might have happened to Dr. Huston that Roger Carlyle was blackmailing him about.

The M’Weru trail gives nothing, but they find a short newspaper clipping that mentions the suicide of a certain Miss Imelda Bosch, who was Dr. Hustons ex-girlfriend and who apparently ended her own life after Huston broke up with her. As he was a famous psychiatrist, the suicide of his ex-girlfriend would, of course, be a scoop for the tabloids. This might be the reason for Carlyle’s blackmail.

Keeper note: Handout #24a – added  to Dropbox

Lunch with Bradley Grey

After convincing Mr. Grey that he represents some foreign investors having business interests with the Carlyle financial sphere, Grey agrees to meet for lunch at the Ritz. Shady manages to convince Grey (critical Persuasion roll!) into arranging a meeting with Miss Carlyle, as he has vital intelligence on a recent big business deal that is to be concluded soon, and it is imperative that he meets her in person on behalf of his employers. Shady suggests that they can meet tonight at the party at her estate and even manages to convince the lawyer to arrange for four invitations to the party as he must bring his associates as well. Grey agrees to send the invitations to Shady’s downtown fancy offices ASAP. Good man.

Tuxedo or Evening attire?

The PCs meet up and share what they have found. They also realize that they must hurry to rent some decent evening wear for the party!


And here we had to stop for the evening. To be continued.

Session 6 | New York | Hart Island

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The Bathtub of Evil

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Justin Case | NYPD Detective | 32 yrs | Djuro

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Ulla Bengtsson | Professor (Chemistry) Columbia Uni | 48 yrs | Berndt

Absent this session

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondant | 31 yrs | Martin

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Link to background stories and portraits


Hart Island

New York, Monday January 19th, 1925 | about 4 a.m

I could sleep for a thousand years…

After having raided the cult’s base below Ju Ju House, the PCs decide to retreat to the laundry to tend to their wounds and get some well deserved rest. The place includes a large basement area where they have put mattresses and basic survival gear. It’s not nice, cosy or warm, but it will keep them off the cult’s radar as well as the police’s…

Roadtrip

Around midday, they have some egg sandwiches and whiskey reinforced coffee to steady their nerves and then H.P, Ulla and Case takes Case’s car and drive through the snow-laden streets all the way out to the Bronx and City Island where they plan to visit a marina and charter a boat to get them to the restricted Hart Island. The ride takes about 2 hrs in the crappy weather.

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Winter in the Bronx

Getting someone willing to get them to the island is harder than anticipated. Several burly fishermen stop talking to them when they mention their destination, but eventually old Sam Hopkins, captain of the small fishing boat “Hopkins” agrees to take them there and back for a…shall we say…inappropriate amount of cash.

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Captain Sam Hopkins

“Garr… There are plenty o’risks with that. What about the ol’ missus if I should end up in jail, eh?” Capt. S. Hopkins

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The Hopkins in a happier time

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Aerial view of City Island (left) and Hart Island (right)

What they know about Hart Island is that it is a restricted area, run by the Department of Correction and that the small island (1.6 km long, 0.4 km wide) has been used as a massive potter’s field for many years. As of now, there is a Reformatory Prison for criminals deemed mentally unfit, drug addicts, aged, homeless and any combination thereof. The inmates work the burying detail, overseen by prison guards. However, the prison is under liquidation, moving over to the larger facility at Riker’s Island, and there are only about 50 prisoners left along with a skeleton crew of staff. The island also hold an abandoned mental asylum and on the south tip the eerie overgrown ruins of a never finished amusement park stretch skeletal against the grey sky.

After a short but salty sea voyage freezing outside the small boat’s cabin, the Hopkins arrives at the port facility of Hart Island. During the cruise, the PCs try to negotiate a deal with pipe-smoking Hopkins to pick them up and it is settled on three hours (approximately 3 p.m).

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Modern pic of the port. The guard shed was situated to the right of the road, about where the tree is in the pic.

Hopkins approaches the landing just near enough so that the passengers can jump ashore, then the boat leaves in a hurry.

Just after the landing is a grey wooden shed with an open door. A fat prison guard steps out. “Whoa there! This is restricted area for civilians!

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Officer White

Justin Case whips out Inspector Macceroni’s police badge, stolen from the corpse and bluffs the guard that they are on official police business, searching for a missing police officer, believed to be on the island, and asks if the guard has seen anything unusual in the past days. Officer White tells them that he heard strange sounds in the south part of the island a few nights ago, and that there are rumours among the prisoners of a huge winged bird that has flown over the island, but that is of course only superstitious rubbish. He did hear sounds however, which he thinks was smugglers or whatever. As he speaks, he glances back to his cosy shed with his newspaper, baloney sandwich and cuppa coffee, and waves the clearly demented PCs through.

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Player map of the island

The abandoned asylum

The players follow the gravel road along the west coastline, passing the prison proper. In the north they see people working in the “fields”, but the center and south part of the island is dead silent. After some 500 m they reach the old asylum, now overgrown with 60 years of foliage and covered in decades of dirt.

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Asylum exterior I

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Asylum exterior II

 The only sounds are of the leaves rustling in the wind. No animals are seen. After a scouting detour around the house, the PCs decide to enter via the main entrance. Weapons drawn, they open the half rotten doors and enter the decrepit building. Inside, all is chaos, as if someone suddenly decided to move out. The valuable items and equipment are gone but old rusty bedframes, battered desks and broken chairs are scattered everywhere.

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Asylum

The structure consist of an L-shaped building with central corridors, lined with many doors, some open, some closed. The first floor turns out to be mostly remains of offices, staff areas and various treatment rooms. Suddenly, a sound is heard from a room down the corridor. Ulla and Case enters the room, while H.P stands guard in the corridor, watching the rear.

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Corridors…

It turns out to be some kind of tiled water treatment room, complete with water hoses and a dirty bathtub with a tarp cover leaving space for the head (on the floor). Nothing can be heard in the room, except the flapping of the shredded curtains in the destroyed windows.

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Water treatment room

Ulla and Case does a grisly finding in the bathtub. A severed hand, covered in grime. It looks old, as if it has been broken off from a body in a grave or something. Both PCs go to fetch H.P but upon returning they notice that the hand is gone! Only a slimy trail going over the edge of the bathtub and towards the window can be seen.

Ulla runs over to the window and sticks her head out only to see the hand coming at her, running on the wall like some hideous spider! It jumps at her, grabbing her throat, jamming a finger up her nose.

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The Hand!

The investigator stumbles back, clawing at the thing and biting a finger off it, but it doesn’t release it’s grip. Case tries to help by trying to pry off the hand and punching it but to no avail. Ulla’s strength is ebbing out and her struggle gets feebler and weaker until she passes out on the tiles. Case finally manages to pry off the hand from her unmoving body, throwing it into a corner and shooting it to pieces with his gun.

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H.P looks down the corridor…

While the struggle is at hand (heh!), H.P hears a strange wailing noise from the corridor and runs down to the corridor main doors to investigate. Peaking outside, he sees a bone chilling sight! A complete spinal column with a one-eyed brain attached is crawling towards him through the debris on the floor! The pure horror has his brain short circuiting and screaming in panic he fires a long burst of shots with his Tommy gun, obliterating the thing along with half the corridor, sending splinters of glass, plaster and wood flying…

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The Brain Thing

[Keeper note: H.P failed his SAN check, losing 5 SAN but then he manged his Idea roll so his mind failed to realize the mind-shattering horror of what he just witnessed].

When the dust settles, he runs to the others, seeing Case kneeling on the floor, trying to resciciutate Ulla, but to no avail. H.P tries to shake life into her as well, but Ulla is dead, a look of dread and disbelief in her eyes…

Shocked, sitting on the floor beside Ulla’s body, the investigator’s suddenly hear a wailing sound from above and decide to investigate. After sneaking up the stone stairs they discover that most of the second floor is inaccessible due to locked steel doors sealing the corridors. However, the stairs lead further up to a third floor.

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Third floor power

The third floor is an attic of sorts. One large empty room. In the far end they spot a human figure strapped to a chair. The head is hanging, drool slowly dripping down on the floor. Moving closer they see that it’s Lt. Poole! The man has been beaten and is now clearly out of his mind, mumbling about “the wings, the wings”.

The investigators untie him and bring him down the stairs to the first floor, where they spotted a semi-busted wheelchair before. Poole is parked in the chair and the men go looking for a second wheelchair for Ulla’s body. That is when they find it – the stair to the basement…

After some discussion they decide to make a quick check in the basement and see if they can find a wheelchair. Downstairs, they find a rickety wheelchair in a room full of broken furniture and hospital gear. Two rusty, locked steel doors lead out of the room. Faint scuttling sounds can be heard from behind the west door…

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Basement…

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Boiler room

Case decides to try the door and manages to pick the lock. The door swings open on rusty creaking hinges. It’s the boiler room and is dominated by a huge coal fulelled iron furnace from the last century. In a corner there’s a huge pile of coal. Suddenly, the boiler fires up, bathing the room in red-orange firelight! H.P and Case quickly decides to withdraw, locking the door and fleeing upstairs. They place Ulla’s stiffening body in the wheelchair and hastily exit the building, heading the short walk back to the harbour.

The prison guard looks at them suspiciously but decides against arguing with such distinguished law enforcement professionals and return to his shed with a sigh. Shortly after, the Hopkins arrives to take the now decimated band of investigators back to the civilisation.

They load up the insane police detective and dead Ulla in the back seat and drive back to the laundry to brief the others. The Kid is there, warning them that Macceroni apparently has disappeared and that the disappearance, along with that of Lt. Poole and the “Cult Killings case” now has been given to a Lt. Dingle.

Hospital

Case and H.P then drives to the Bellevue Hospital Center with insane Lt. Poole and dead Ulla. They then call Capt. Malone who arrives shortly. The suspended policemen tell Malone about the island and how they found Poole, leaving out all things supernatural. Malone is glad to have Poole back, but the suspension is still in place as far as the police PCs are concerned. Malone teels them to drop the case and stay low until further notice.

The Medical Affairs Board

In early evening (about 7 p.m), Case and H.P decide to follow up on the lead regarding Dr. Robert Huston’s psychiatric patient files on Roger Carlyle. As Dr. Huston was a member of the Carlyle expedition and is presumed dead, his patient files are stored at the Medical Affairs Board on Park Avenue at 61st Street. This is a posh address and after showing Macceroni’s badge to the guard in the lobby, the PCs are admitted into Suite 1002 where the Board Offices reside. The place is officially closed as it’s Sunday evening, but since the secretary is there working with some overdue tasks he agrees to see the PCs briefly. They are met by a most snobbish and annoying Mr. Adrian Ferris, Secretary to the board. Despite their best attempt at talking Ferris into letting them read the records, Ferris declines their proposition stating in a most condescending way that if they’re not (a) relatives, (b) fellow psychiatrists or (c) have a warrant from a judge, he will not let them access the records. Period.

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Adrian Ferris. Snobbish a**hole…

Case considers letting Ferris make himself aquanted with his police baton, but decides against it and the investigators are forced to leave the Medical Board none the wiser. As they exit they see Ferris wiping his hands as if he had touched something very dirty…

The City Morgue

Driven by the failure at the Medical Affairs Board, the policemen decide to follow up on another lead as they read in the papers that bodies have been disappearing from the City Morgue (which is at Bellevue Hospital, East 26th Street). Meeting up with the first assistant to the chief medical examiner (Dr. Drüber-Halle), they get the names of the disappeared bodies:

  • Michael Conley – longshoreman
  • Adolf Thurmond – stock broker at Wall Street
  • Damir Kharzov – burnt-to-crisp low life criminal

It appears that the bodies just vanished into thin air. No signs of forced entry. No suspicious people seen in the morgue. No nothing…

And here we had to conclude for the evening. To be continued…

The in-game time stamp is about 9 p.m (21.00) Sunday 18th of January 1925


Since we had our first killed investigator, I’ve started a new page called “The Gallery of Honor“, where those unnamed heroes that lose their lives or minds battling the great evil will be remembered…

Session 5 | New York | Meat is Murder

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The hungry thing in the subway…

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Justin Case | NYPD Detective | 32 yrs | Djuro

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondant | 31 yrs | Martin

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Ulla Bengtsson | Professor (Chemistry) Columbia Uni | 48 yrs | Berndt

Absent this session

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits


Meat is Murder

New York, Sunday January 18th, 1925 | about 1.00 a.m.

This goes way up…

Ju Ju House African Curio Shop, Harlem.

The last shots and screams have just echoed out as poe-lice sirens in the distance signal the approach of several squad cars. H.P, Edward, Carl and Ulla quickly hide in the abandoned laundry shop while Lt. Case and the Kid stay to greet their colleagues only to find themselves surrounded by twenty armed cops led by Inspector Macceroni who tells them that they are relieved of their duties and that his team will take over from here. Case tries to protest but is convinced otherwise by Capt. Malone who confirms that “the brass” have appointed Macceroni from the Special Task Squad to take over the investigation of the “Harlem cult murders” (as they have been named by the tabloids). Case and the Kid are ordered back to police HQ. As they drive away the see Macceroni smile as he enters the shop.

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Capt. Terrence “Pretty Boy” Macceroni

In the car, Case reviews what he knows of Macceroni who is an up-and-coming star in the police force. The man comes from a wealthy background and has studied law at Harvard. He is also the youngest ever to attain his high rank and has a reputation of being very correct and for doing things by the book. Other than that – nothing.

Getting the shaft

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Anger. Hostility towards the opposition.

Entering the Captain’s office, Malone is furious and starts yelling like never before about recklessness, property damage and unnecessary violence. And police harrassment of an innocent African culture club.  He then asks Case to take a vacation until things blow over but when Case tries to persuade him he goes into a fit of rage, spitting sour saliva across the room:

“- You are suspended, Case! Leave your badge and gun on my desk. Now! And that goes for Rennfarth as well!”

Case gets a feeling that the good Captain is under external pressure – someone with power must somehow be connected to this bizarre cult.

Before leaving the police HQ Case asks the Kid to keep an eye open to figure out who is pulling the strings here and decides to unravel some buried dirt on “Pretty Boy” Macceroni. He also takes a quick look at some city maps to see if the subway tunnel under Fat Maybelle’s might possibly be connected to the cellar of the Ju Ju House.

The plan is simple – get back to the cellar of Ju Ju House and finish those occultists once and for all.

Bebop laundry shop

Hidden in the abandoned laundry (that no one knows that they are hiring), Ulla, H.P, Carl and Edward observe the police from Special Task Squad “clean” the Ju Ju House of all evidence! Body bags and other objects are carried out from the premises and people go in with cleaning utensils, led by a smirking Inspector Macceroni.

The bastards!

If the plan doesn’t work – try a Molotov

It is past 12.30 a.m. when Case gets back to the laundry. The others inform him of the dirty police officers and their little cleanup operation. The PCs decide to go back to Fat Maybelle’s and check out the hidden subway tunnel.

Back at the dark and boarded up speakeasy, they take the door under the stair to the cellar and then the circular tunnel down to the service tunnel. Cautiously they traverse the subway tracks and remove the blankets and plywood boards that conceal another circular dark entrance. Torches and weapons ready, they head into the unknown. After a few meters, the tunnel opens up to a rectangular cave with a mystical symbol on the floor, drawn with lime paint. In the back of the cave there’s a colorful drape. A faint moaning sound can be heard… Ulla slides the drape aside with her Tommy gun and the investigators find themselves staring into the myriad eyes of a strange wormlike horror, made of human faces!

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The sanity-blasting sight makes Case so terrified that he involuntarily soils himself*, while Carl manages to keep his stuff in, but in his battered mind he develops a different coping solution to this otherworldly horror*. Edward and Ulla are also shaken but keep their heads cool. After a few seconds (that feels like an eternity) of frozen screaming all the investigators pull their triggers and send a volley of hot lead towards the creature. Carl and Case just keep pressing the triggers of their Tommy guns and empties their 100-round clips into the beast in pure panic. But all those bullets seems to have no effect on the creature who attacks Case. With amazing speed it lashes out and three faces take bites out of the panic strucken police detective!

Retreating, Ulla throws a booze molotov at the roof over the beast, raining broken glass and fire upon it and while the bullets didn’t seem to do anything besides making it angry, the fire seems to actually do some damage! Ulla screams to the others to use their molotovs and while falling back, trying to lure the beast out to the tracks to electrocute it, Carl readies another molotov, but in his nervousness the bottle slips from his sweaty hands, shattering at his feet, setting his shoes and legs on fire, sending him into a merry jig to put out the flames.

The creature is slow so it is no problem to get out into the subway tunnel, but the creature won’t follow pursuit out of the cave. Sensing the vibrations of an approaching subway train, the PCs man up and go in again, throwing molotovs at the creature:

-You don’t like fire huh? Take this you ugly piece of shit!

The creature retreats, but it has nowhere to go to and it succumbs to the flames, spreading a popcorn-like smell as it burns.

The investigators are searching the cave and photographing the creature’s faces to compare with missing persons records when Edward turns around, finding Carl kneeling beside the creature, chomping on something. Edward realizes that Carl has a knife in one hand and three human eyes in the other, pried from the beast…

-We must eat the eyes so that they can’t see us! *chomp chomp*

Edward slaps Carls hand and turns away in disgust…

*[GM comment: Carl and Case failed their SAN checks and lost 8 SAN each, sending them into a short temporary insanity. Case got delusional, seeing familiar faces on the beast while Carl developed another coping mechanism where eating the eyes of the monster would make everything normal again…].

Behind the drape is a smaller cave where the creature has gnawed out a shallow depression, creating a lair of sorts. In the bottom of the lair, there’s yet another round tunnel running deeper into the ground…

Masquerade

The narrow tunnel goes deeper into the rock before levelling out and running fairly straight. The walls are glistening with moisture and sometimes a faint rumble can be felt in the stone. After walking for a long time the tunnel slopes upwards and exits into a small cave with a colorful drape. Faint sounds like someone is whistleling a merry tune can be heard. Learning from previous mistakes, Edward cautiously peaks behind the drape, only to find himself face-to-face with one of the zombie-like creatures from Ju Ju House! He quickly pulls back in the hope he wasn’t noticed.

The investigators come up with the brilliant plan of putting on the silly occultist hats that they took from Jackson Elias’s killers at the Chelsea Hotel. As they only have two, Ulla and Edward puts them on and enters the zombie room. Nothing happens. Searching the small area they find a shaman’s feathered robe on the wall, along with a pair of clawed gloves and two more silly tentacle hats. In a leopard skin bundle they find a book – Africa’s Dark Sects – stolen from the Widener Collection at Harvard University! Also, in the bundle, is a strange African tribal mask with no straps attached.

Ulla and Edward return to the tunnel and they investigate their finds. In a “Look, frost“-moment, Case puts the mask to his face. It immediately attaches itself, forming after his face. The others see Case struggling for air, falling to the ground while clawing to get the mask off. Suddenly the mask changes, as adapting to the new face and Case’s eyes and mouth become visible in the mask. The eyes roll up, showing the whites and Case slumps to the ground, lifeless…

After about 30 seconds, the mask falls off and with some slapping Case comes to senses again, telling that he suddenly found himself in a grey featureless place. There was an old bearded man and winged creatures swirling in the misty sky. Case tried to talk to the man who replied in a booming voice:

You must utter the right words.

And then he was back in the tunnel again. The old man didn’t feel malicious but very alien and Case feels somehow enlightened [GM comment: +1 Cthulhu Mythos skill].

The stalwart investigators put on the new stolen cult hats and proceed into the zombie room, where they tie up the zombies, including their shoelaces. From behind the drape they hear the merry whistling and a sloshing sound. Ulla dares a peak and realizes that she is looking into the cult room below the Ju Ju House, but from across the room. The door they previously entered from is open and sounds can be heard from outside the room. In the center of the cult room, Inspector “Pretty Boy” Macceroni is mopping the floor with a broom and a bucket, while whistling on “Bam, Bam, Bamy Shore” by Mort Dixon. No traces of the previous massacre can be seen. It has all been taken care of…

A plan is devised – to run into the room, grab Macceroni and make him talk. However, as they prepare to run into the room, Mr. Mukunga, dressed in a fancy suit steps into the room.

“-Almost done here, Mr. Mukunga” says Macceroni. “-Hell of a job, but someone’s gotta do it, right?” And with a last splosh he throws the red stained wash cloth into the bucket.

Brass knuckles on one hand and shotgun in the other, Case runs into the room and punches Mukunga’s jaw, telling him to shut the fuck up. They know what magic powers Mukunga has, so they’re taking no risks with the African sorcerer. Simultaneously, Edward rushes at Macceroni and places his gun at the police detective’s forehead, making it clear that silence is of the essence. Ulla and Carl takes up post at the corridor door, making sure that no one comes that way.

Macceroni acts very surprised, but Mukunga starts chanting in some African language. Afraid of the fireballs and zombies, Case shoots him, point plank in the face, sending blood and brain matter over the newly cleaned floor and walls. Mukunga falls backwards, his head a bloody mess.

“-I told you to shut the fuck up…” Case is breathing hard, adrenaline pumping…

Macceroni starts to whine about his mighty contacts and how the investigators will end up in jail and the electric chair and that no one will believe them before the word of him, the successful Inspector Macceroni. His monologue is ended abruptly when Case’s brass knuckles dig into his cheekbone, sending him sprawling on the semi-wet flagstone floor. The investigators try to question him, aided by punches and general slap-around techniques, but Macceroni spills nothing. Only when the zombies are released to feast on Mukunga’s carcass does he start to look frightened and blathers something of “the Cult of the Bloody Tongue” and how the cult will hunt them down and kill them in imaginable ways.

After some harsh questioning, it is evident that Macceroni won’t talk. His aspirations to power dies right there on the stone floor as Case and Edward put some bullets in him, leaving the carcass to be disposed of by the two zombies, along with Mukunga’s corpse. Before they release the monsters, the heroes make sure that no traces of evidence are left that could lead back to them.

The sounds of the zombie’s ripping and tearing and feasting on the cultists’ flesh echo in their ears as they leave the cult room the same way as they came…

A quick look at their wrist-watches shows that it is almost Sunday morning – 5.30 a.m. Tired and bleeding, stumbling from exhaustion and shocked by the recent events the investigators walk in silence as in a drug haze they slowly move back to Fat Maybelle’s to get their car and drive back to the abandoned laundry which now has to become their new base of operations as no one knows about it. Rennfarth’s bookshop has been compromised, and their apartments are surely under surveillance.

The Laundry it is.


To be continued…

Session 4 | New York | Operation F.U.B.A.R

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Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae
Justin Case | NYPD Detective | 32 yrs | Djuro
Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondant | 31 yrs | Martin
Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Absent this session
H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats
Ulla Bengtsson | Professor (Chemistry) Columbia Uni | 48 yrs | Berndt

Link to background stories and portraits


Operation FUBAR

New York, Saturday January 17th, 1925 | about 7.00 p.m.

They dig deep, my lord…

As the police investigators plan to leave the den of vice, Det. Case changes his mind and decides to investigate the strange tunnel to prevent any bad guys from getting away. Remembering seeing a knotted rope on a shelf, he uses the rope to climb the steep tunnel. Inside, the smell of burnt machine grease and metal on metal gets stronger. Studying the walls, the policeman realize that the marks in the stone resembles teeth marks. Human teeth marks… For a moment, fear almost wins, but then he continues his downward climb. The tunnel exits into a narrow (4 ft high) service culvert, perpendicular to the length of the sloping tunnel. The culvert is full of electrical wiring, fuseboxes and other electrical gear servicing the subway system. Case cannot recall any subway stations in this area…

The short culvert ends in a steel hatch that shows signs of having been forced and then closed to hide the break-in. The hatch exits into a subway tunnel, where the rumble of the steel beasts is never far away. The detective knows that the trains go with approximately 5 minute intervals and since one train just went by, he should have some time to check out the tunnel, cautiosly avoiding the current-bearing center track.

Opposite the culvert hatch he spots some plywood boards, covered by dark grey woolen blankets that has been propped up against the wall. Case sneak over the tracks and cautiously look behind the plywood and finds another “chewed” circular tunnel running straight into the rock. This tunnel is wider than the sloping one. This is where Case decides to withdraw to come back later in force.

Back in Fat Maybelle’s basement the remaining men board up the place and place police investigation signs on all the entrances. The patrons as well as suspects along with illegal contraband has already been transported to the precinct.

Laundry life…

Meanwhile, in the abandoned laundry shop, now rented by the investigators, a steady stream of people of all walks of life has been starting to arrive at the closed for the day Ju Ju House. And no one comes out. After some more time, four men arrive carrying a heavy mat which they bring into the shop. The investigators wait, but no one comes out…

Panic at the precinct

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Det. Case and the boss

When Case, Rennfarth and the kid report back at the police HQ in order to start interrogating the people detained from Fat Maybelle’s, they find the place in a state of dissolution. Someone sends Case to the boss immediately.

Case finds the police chief sitting behind his desk, his regularly kept uniform unbottoned and the tie loose around his neck, an opened bottle of whiskey on the table.

Apparently, Lt. Poole has been reported kidnapped and a small box was left for Det. Case. Case opens the box, which contains a chopped off ringfinger with Poole’s marriage ring on it… The box also contain a small paper note that says, in neat handwriting:

“Hart Island. Tonight. And no cops”.

After some persuasion, Capt. Malone agrees to letting Case use his civilian “troubleshooter friends” to go to Hart Island. The police chief even agrees to let Case take out some more Thompsons and a few shotguns to be able to properly arm his team of civilian vigilantes… They will also be able to use one of the police boats on Manhattan.

Before leaving, Case orders the bar patrons released with a fine and the suspected criminals are placed in custody until he can come back and interrogate them. Then he and Rennfarth hastily drive to the Ju Ju House stakeout to get the others.

Tastes like chicken, smells like napalm

The civilians at the laundry tell the police investigators that about 20 people have entered the shop during the last 3 hours, and about the guys with the rolled up rug. The PCs discuss that maybe Lt. Poole was in the rug and that the island note might be a red herring. It is decided that Ju Ju House will get a visit before going to the island…

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“The Kid” checking out his Tommy gun…

Weapons are loaded up and checked for function. Straps and buckles are tightened. Extra ammo is tucked in pockets. Groovy…

Case, Foxworthy, Blackwater and “the kid” (Case’s NPC police constable protégé) are to conduct the raid, while Bengtsson and Rennfarth will stay in the laundry as backup (as those players weren’t present).

The team sneak into the alley and up to the shop door. Case tries to open the door using his lockpick tools, but it’s not locked. These guys are obviously not afraid of break-ins…

The investigators sneak into the shop, finding it empty. Faint grunts are heard from behind a drape behind the counter. Elephant gun in front of him, Edward peeks behind the drapes to fins a small kitchenette and a toilet, where Silas N’Kwane is taking care of nature’s needs. Looking up from his 3-day old newspaper, Silas looks into the barrel of a two-barrel elephant gun… Edward presses the barrels against the old man’s forehead, asking him to tell where all the people went. Silas solemnly denies that there is anyone else in the shop and asks if he can wipe himself, reaching for some low-quality toilet paper on a shelf. Edward tells him to sit still, but Silas disregards that and goes for the paper anyway, only to receive a rifle-butt to the face. The man slides off the toilet, barely conscious. Behind the TP, Edward sees the glint of a straight razor… “Trying to kill me, eh?” Furiously, he grabs the razor and slits old Silas’ throat. Searching the body, he finds an old key on a leather thong.

The premises are searched, revealing a trap door under the rug behind the counter. Beneath, a wooden stair leads down to a straight stone corridor leading to a stout iron-band reinforced oak door, where weird chanting and drumbeat can be heard as well as screams of terror. A lonely kerosene lamp is hanging from a hook in the roof and strange occult symbols are scribbled on the walls as well as on the door. The investigators have seen nothing like it, not even Carl, who is a student of all things dark and occult.

A quick strategy is drawn up. After opening the door, the PCs will enter the room and place themselves just inside the door and blast away at anyone or anything inside. The door is open and the exstatic people inside doesn’t notice it swinging up…

As the door opens up, they see some twenty naked people dancing, wearing only red tentacle headdresses. Six drummers along the walls keep a droning beat going. To the right is a kind of wooden contraption designed to lift a large stone slab off the floor and opposite the stone slab two naked and terrified women are tied to wooden poles jutting out of the wall. One of the women is fighting to get free, the other seems to have resigned in the face of her own fate. Both have parallel claw marks across their skin.

And in the center of the large rectangular room, a shaman dressed in a feathered robe is dancing and chanting, his hands adorned in claw-like metal gauntlets.

Suddenly, the shaman burst into flames, screaming. He has been hit with a booze molotov from “the kid”. Everything stops, everyone looking at the man aflame, then the gazes turn towards the door. Twenty furious pairs of eyes against the investigators, hands clenching in animal anger at such blasphemy…

Then the silence is broken by the sound of gunfire. Case and the kid sweeps the room with full auto-fire with their Tommy guns, while Carl fires away with a Mauser rifle. Edward shoots the burning but still standing shaman with his elephant gun, killing him instantly. After killing a man and wounding another, Case’s Tommy gun jams and he drops it and drawn a shotgun instead, loosing valuable time against the approaching cultists. Just after, the kid’s Tommy gun jams as well, forcing him to resort to his backup shotgun as well. Thompson machine guns…unreliable modern shit…

The hailstorm of lead send many of the cultists falling, blood spilling on the stone but they keep coming at the PCs, and is getting into melee range, grappling for the weapons. Two cultists are running towards the contraption and starts cranking a big wheel, setting the stone slab in motion. Sensing that the stone slab should not be allowed to open, the kid and Edward concentrate their fire on the cultists operating the crank, killing them.

Despite being in firepower superiority, the sheer number and the fanaticism of the cultists forces the PCs to retreat outside the room to create a choke point. Suddenly, the cultists fall back a little. A drape in the back of the room opens and four shambling, rotting shapes starts moving towards the PCs. Once human, now something else, the creatures attack the investigators, the cultists following in their tracks.

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Brain!

The investigators become hard pressed, both physically and mentally as the creatures are truly unnatural and frightening, but the manage to keep their heads cool. Despite many solid hits and even molotov hits, the creatures keep coming and eventually the investigators must make a fighting retreat up the stair into the shop, setting it on fire behind them. Without hesitation, they throw down old Silas body, watching the snarling creatures devour his flesh… While the creatures feed, the PCs fire away into their dead but strangely alive bodies, eventually killing them all.

“And now what? Some ten cultists are still down there, some of them people of note. People that could kill a career just like that. Not to talk of the two female victims who are still down there as well. Not to mention the two police issue Thompson SMGs lying on the floor… And no sign of Lt. Poole… And is that police sirens in the distance…?”

Damn! This is so FUBAR…


To be continued…

Session 3 | New York | The Harlem Shuffle. With a twist.

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1920s car chase!

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae
Justin Case | NYPD Detective | 32 yrs | Djuro
Ulla Bengtsson | Professor (Chemistry) Columbia Uni | 48 yrs | Berndt
Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondant | 31 yrs | Martin
Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Absent this session
H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Link to background stories and portraits


The Harlem Shuffle

New York, Friday January 16th, 1925 | 5.30 a.m.

Best made plans…

After their visit to the Bellevue Psychiatric Ward, the PCs reassemble at Rennfarth’s Antiques for a debriefing and some food (and a few beers). They decide that they should try to talk to Robert Carlyle’s sister Erica- the ultra-rich and successful heiress to the Carlyle business imperium. [This session Detective Rennfarth will stay in the shop to try to arrange a meeting with Erica Carlyle as the player is absent].

Ju Ju House by night

The others decide to scout out Ju Ju House, but as expected the place is closed for the evening when the PCs arrive. Nothing can be seen through the small windows of the shop. They also find a boarded-up back door directly opposite Ju Ju House. As they skulk around the small court in the dark, there’s suddenly something stirring under some cardboard sheets and an old grey haired wino appear…

After some polite chatting, Old Joe tells them that strange people come to the shop at odd hours, sometimes carrying heavy rugs. Those people are up to no good he says. And they always beat him up and takes his booze, the bastards.

The PCs decide to come back when the place is open and bid Old Joe farewell, concluding that there indeed is something strange going on in that curio shop.

Fat Maybelle’s

Next, they decide to follow up on the tip they got from the roasted russian cultist, and drive over to Fat Maybelle’s at 139th and Lenox.
Upon entering the run-down premises, the PCs decide to split up and pretend to not be aquainted to another. Ulla and Carl enters first and take their seats in the back of the diner. They order booze, but Fat Maybelle offers only sarsaparilla. After some yapping and flashing some green, they finally get some dirty glasses with prima moonshine. Next, Edward enters and sits down at the bar. From his barstool he spots a small door under the stairway leading up. Case enters the bar last, immediately flashing his badge and starts harassing Fat Maybelle about her illegal moonshine operation. Finally, Fat Maybelle says that he must talk to the boss and leads the detective into the back room where 5 tough african guys sit and play cards, with a bouncer dude outside the room. Case is left in the room while Maybelle goes to get the boss upstairs.

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“Fat” Maybelle Hopkins and a speakeasy patron posing outside the bar

There is a menacing air in the room, with detective Case eyeballing the goons, trying to look cool. Some of the men speak some african language, creating an uneasy tension with their remarks. One of the goons (the leader) decide to challenge the cop by making mock remarks and making it clear that he is packing a gun and that something bad might happen. In a fit of anger, Case flips the goon’s chair over, sending the overconfident man sprawling on the floor and draws his 9mm Luger Parabellum, pointing at the man’s head. The other tough guys look angry, but they don’t act. Professionals. Case takes the man’s gun as well as his carry permit and send the other men out of the room. The permit is issued to a Silas Patterson. Probably a false permit with an equally fake name.

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Mr. Mukunga

The boss enters the tense room with a very confident swag and in broken English he presents himself as Mr. Mukunga. Case tries to press him with allegations of alcohol crime, but Mukunga denies it all with a smile. As the PCs are outnumbered and have no hard proof, Case decides to retreat. Mukunga calmly asks for his name in case he should remember something. Case tells him to report to Lt. Martin Poole, NYPD.

Looking over their shoulders, the PCs hurry back home to get some food and rest. By now they have set up the basement of the Antiques Shop as a base camp, even if most of them do have their own apartments in New York. Before retiring for the night they discuss Jackson Elias’s last barely legible notes and how to get access to the patient files of Dr. Huston, now filed at the Medical Board. They are also convinced that something fishy is going on at Fat Maybelle’s.

Sat 17th January | 09.00 p.m.

The chase
After a good night’s sleep, the PCs discuss how to proceed over breakfast. The plan is to  pay Ju Ju House a daytime visit. The air is cold and crispy and a new layer of snow muffles all sounds as the PCs get out of the shop. First out, Edward spots an african man standing across the street, opposite the shop. When the man realizes that he has been seen, he starts to walk away hastily and rounds a street corner. Edward sprints after and sees the man running down the street towards a black car with the engine on, pumping blue oil-mixed smoke into the air. Edward sprints after. The man slips in the snow, but so does Edward. The man jumps into the car and it speeds away. While Edward was running, the other PCs got their own car and seconds after they pick up Edward in hot pursuit.

A car chase commences. After some reckless speeding through the streets, Edward decides to shoot at the fleeing car. The others join in, including Ulla who pulls out a shotgun from the trunk and blasts away. The fleeing car returns pistol fire. Most shots miss but some hit the fleeing car, and suddenly it starts swerving in the snow, smoke pouring out from somewhere. The car loses speed, and the followers close in. The back window is shot to pieces. One of the african men inside shoots back, misses and is hit in the arm, dropping his gun. The fleeing car slows down and skids to a halt on the curb, sending pedestrians running and screaming. The three men get out, guns in their hands. The chase has led all the way to Midtown and there are people everywhere, screaming in panic. The PCs drive up alongside the abandoned car and give the fleeing men a broadside, sending two of them flailing in the snow. The last one returns fire and goes for a side street, but is hit in the neck by a bullet from Carl’s .38. The runner stumbles and falls dead in the snow (he is later identified as Silas Patterson).

Case runs into a shop to borrow a telephone and call the police and an ambulance. The PCs check the downed bad guys, and two of them are still alive but unconscious. They have no papers and no IDs on their persons. In the car however, the investigators find a crate of moonshine in glass jars, a bag of green leaves (khat), 2 prangas and an african throwing knife.

Soon, the police and ambulance arrive and take over the crime scene (a Lt. Monahan).

At the precinct

After the reckless car chase, Detective Case is summoned to the Police Chief Capt. Malone who gives him a hard time:

“What the hell were you thinking of Case? A shoot out in Midtown?  The Mayor is on the Police Commissioner’s ass, the Commissioner is on my ass and now I’m on your ass, Case!”.

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Capt. Malone

Case presents the case (!) and manages to talk his furious boss into a permission to do a raid on Fat Maybelle’s [some very good Fast Talk and Persuasion rolls there]. After some cursing, smoking and sips of too strong (and cold) coffee the chief agrees to assign seven policemen and necessary equipment for a raid. Case also brings his young cop-protegé. The conversation is ended with:

“I want results Case, results! Or you’ll be back in the traffic department in no time! Now, get the f-ck out of my goddam office!”

Meanwhile in Harlem

While the police investigators are doing police stuff, Ulla, Carl and Edward go to Ju Ju House. (They pretend not to know Edward). Three african-looking thugs loiter outside the shop, glancing menacingly at the strangers when they enter the alley. Inside the shop the PCs meet Silas N’Kwane – a friendly old man.

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Silas N’Kwane

Edward shows one of the captured “cult tentacle hats” but Silas doesn’t recognize it (though Ulla gets a bad mojo feeling about it all). One of the thugs enters and talks to Silas in Swahili, glancing at the PCs. Then he leaves again (Edward knows Swahili, and the thug asked if all was ok). Coming up with nothing, the PCs leave the shop and instead check out the closed store with the back door opposite Ju Ju House. It turns out to be an old abandoned laundry. The landlord’s number is posted on a “For lease” sign, and the PCs  decide to call the owner – a smooth-talking Italian by the name of Mr. Giuseppin, who comes down and shows the premises. The PCs end up hiring the place indefinitely. The first thing they do is to drill dirty observation holes towards the alley/court. Instant observation post accomplished. It is decided that the “civilian” investigators should stay here and keep the store under surveillance.

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Mr. Giuseppin give the PCs the “high hat”

The raid on Fat Maybelle’s

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The new Patrol Wagons

The police PCs along with seven officers, armed with shotguns and Thompson SMGs and riding in three patrol wagons arrive at Fat Maybelle’s in the most crowded time of the evening. The police burst into the place and arrest everyone. The premises are searched through thoroughly, but Mr. Mukunga seems to have fled his apartment on the 2nd floor via the fire escape…

They also search the door under the stair, which hides a stairway leading to a rather large basement. Luckily for Detective Case, they find lots of illegal liquor and moonshining paraphernalia as well as things used to distribute the booze. They also find a crudely drawn and now partly rubbed out occult circle painted in the center of the floor and burn tracks on the stone floor leading from the circle to an overturned and locked crate placed all the way up to the basement wall. The crate is empty, but in the back the wood has been removed, revealing a strange oddly circular tunnel going down into the ground. There is a stench of ozone and burnt oil coming out of the opening and a cursory check determines that whoever made the hole was very skilled as the walls are very, very smooth.

Not wanting to go in there alone, Case orders the place closed up with “Police Investigation” signs. The plan is to return later in force with the rest of the investigators to explore the tunnel. And to bring bigger guns…

And here we had to stop for the evening. To be continued.

In-game date: New York, Saturday January 17th, 1925 | 7.00 p.m.


This session the PCs also started reading the newspapers…

Newspaper information
1. Article about coming solar blackout
2. Article about a party to be held by Miss Carlyle at her estate
3. Article about bodies missing from the city morgue, among them the body of burnt-to-crisp Damir Kharzov