Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Orient Express Part Three: March 26, 1926 (Later)

Mikhail’s Interview

Mikhail, still reeking of turpentine, spins his tale about being abducted by a stranger and dragged into the baggage car to Janssens and Thorne. Thorne is skeptical of Mikhail’s story, and asks what Mikhail was doing by the baggage car when he knew he wasn’t allowed to go near there. Mikhail explains that he was walking Pushok. Thorne counters with the obvious fact that Pushok isn’t around. Mikhail screams, “MY DOG!”

The interview ends a short time later, with Mikhail immediately feeling to the recreation car to tell his friends, “Pushok ran in here. You found him. You put him in my cabin. Okay? Okay!”

He then goes to change his clothes.

Inspector Malachi Thorne

Liam’s Smarm and Kane’s Meditation

Liam ingratiates himself with his fellow passengers. He speaks to Greta and Ingrid, who have one of the rooms next to Smith, and tries to get information from them. He learns that Greta got up to use the WC at 2 am and noticed a terrible smell coming from the area in front of Smith’s door (which was also in front of Archie and Liam’s door). She found a porter, but by the time she brought him back, the smell had dissipated.

Liam also talked to the Abernathys, who have the cabin on the opposite side of Smith’s. He becomes suspicious of Mrs. Abernathy when she mentions that she doesn’t like or trust Detective Thorne. She then admits to not telling him anything. When pressed, she mentions that she woke up in the middle of a night from a nightmare, during which she was sure she heard some kind of chanting. Despite this, she refused to volunteer the information to Thorne.

Meanwhile, Kane has, while under observation from the judge and Johnny, been going to various locations and meditating in them. His plan is to open his mind and see if, by doing that, he can discover anything of interest. While on his travels, he also attempts to gain access to Smith’s cabin, but finds that it is locked.

Kane first meditates in the cabin he shares with Dr. Black, and finds nothing unusual. He then meditates in Johnny and Judge Putnam’s  cabin and finds himself briefly overpowered by an alien presence. He manages to expel the presence from his mind, but is shaken by the result.

Plans

Kane theorizes that the murders/attacks are progressing in a zig-zag pattern starting with the Countess’ room. He suspects that Vivian’s cabin might be the site of the next attack. He admits that his reasoning for this is tenuous, but it’s what he’s got to work with.

The group decides that they need access to Smith’s cabin. Johnny believes he can pick the lock, but would prefer to do it at night when there are fewer people around.

The group also thinks that they should talk to the rest of the passengers in Berth Car 8 to see if they can learn anything else. At around this time, it is suggested that Vivian make the acquaintance of Luci Martin. In part because she seems particularly astute, and in part because Vivian and Luci could share a cabin and be safer together.

Jannsens, the Conductor

Dwight Featherstone

Mr. Featherstone emerges from his stateroom and goes to the recreation car. He immediately makes a nuisance of himself, complaining about how the train staff have damaged his personal effects and so on. Several members of the group, including Liam and Dr. Black, insult Featherstone and fluster him so badly that he turns to depart.

At this point, for reasons that are unclear to everyone, Dr. Black picks up a breakfast roll and hurls it into the back of Featherstone’s head.

Featherstone wheels around and says, in a much coarser accent, “Oy, which one of you pillocks did that?”

Everyone in the recreation car reacts with stunned silence. Featherstone regains his posh demeanor and returns to his cabin.

Liam, recognizing a con artist when he sees one, goes to Featherstone’s cabin to confront him. He discovers that Featherstone has all of his luggage (including a large steamer trunk) in his cabin. Liam attempts to get Featherstone to drop the act, and even reveals his own real Irish brogue to do so. This, plus some further needling, causes Featherstone to break character. He grabs Liam, slams him against the cabin wall, and tells him—in a coarse Cockney accent—to mind his own goddamn business.

Liam reports back to the group. Everyone is now fairly certain that Featherstone is a criminal of some stripe, and possibly a smuggler. At this point, Dr. Black goes to confront Featherstone and attempts to pin the murder of the Countess on him.

Featherstone drags the doctor into his cabin and tells him the following. He was awake in his cabin and heard the Countess being murdered next door. He admits that he did not call for help or go to her aid, because he wanted to stay alive, thank you very much. As Dr. Black leaves, he apologizes for throwing the roll, which makes Featherstone apoplectic. Dr. Black slams the cabin door in his face and scurries back to the recreation car.

The Abernathys

During lunch in the dining car, Kane breaks the ice with the Abernathys by congratulating them on their recent nuptials. Mrs. Abernathy shows off her ring and chats about the couple’s honeymoon plans. It appears that Mr. Abernathy is Greek on his mother’s side, and wanted to take this opportunity to visit the “Old Country.”

Johnny confirms that Mr. Abernathy’s story is plausible by speaking to him in Greek and asking him where his family came from. After a hasty check of Google maps, the Keeper is able to have Abernathy reply with a real district in Athens.

Upon further questioning, Mrs. Abernathy once again reveals that she is afraid of Detective Thorne and suspects him of all manner of unpleasant things. Her husband opines that this he is German, and they are, by nature, terrifying. Mrs. Abernathy goes on to describe her nightmare experience from the previous evening.

This is enough for the majority of the group to rule them out as suspects.

Luci Martin

During dinner, Vivian politely asks to dine with Luci, who has spent most of the train ride writing feverishly in a notebook. Vivian finds Luci to be intelligent, perceptive, and dryly sarcastic. She learns that Luci is a Frenchwoman, from Paris, and is a reporter.

Luci says that, as Thorne has made no progress in discovering the murderer, she has taken it upon herself to solve the case. She has filled one of her notebooks with her observations of the other passengers and her details on the case. She has her suspicions, and she hopes to be able to discern which of the passengers is the murderer before they strike again.

Vivian explains her own thoughts on the murders and suggests that she and Luci team up. She also suggests that she and Luci, being unaccompanied young women on a train, share a cabin for the evening for safety and strength in numbers. Luci accepts.

During this conversation, Mikhail and Liam wander over to the table, sit down, and order drinks. Luci grills Mikhail about his misadventures with Thorne and asks him what he was really doing by the baggage car. When Mikhail says that he was walking his dog, Luci points out that Mikhail didn’t bring his dog with him to the baggage car.

Mikhail stammers and leaves. Many of the players note that they would like to play Luci should their own characters bite it, as she is both snarky and smart.

Eric Creagen

Creagen has spent the majority of his time on the train in his cabin. Judge Putnam, after hearing about the man’s interesting history from Johnny, decides to investigate further. He goes to Creagen’s cabin to introduce himself and spends some time talking history and archaeology with him. Creagen finally relaxes a little bit.

Later on, the judge invites Craegan to his cabin and asks him to bring the arm of the mysterious statue that he has acquired. The judge mentions to Johnny that this will allow them to observe Creagen more closely, and also allows Creagen to be more easily protected should the murderer strike.

Everyone else pointedly leaves Featherstone alone in his cabin and to his own devices, because they don’t like him very much.

Night Investigations

The interior train lights dim and the other passengers return to their cabins to sleep. Vivian accompanies Luci to her cabin to discuss plans. Creagen brings his statue arm over to Judge Putnam’s cabin to discuss it with him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Black sets up a watch in the hallway while Johnny and Kane break into Mr. Smith’s room.

Johnny picks the lock easily. He and Kane enter Smith’s cabin and find dried blood sprayed everywhere. Smith’s threadbare coat hangs on a hook at the door. The mattress of the cabin’s single bed is soaked in blood, as is the floor and the walls. Johnny notices that the attack was apparently so vicious that sections of the cabin’s carpet have been torn up in places.

Underneath one of these torn up sections of carpet, Johnny notices a sheet of old parchment. Its contents are in Arabic, which Johnny understands. It is apparently a Mythos spell and allows its caster to Astrally Project.

Possession

At about the same time as all of this is going on, Pushok starts barking and turning tight circles in his cabin. Mikhail tries to sooth him, to little affect.

Vivian feels an icy cold presence descend upon her mind, and she feels an almost irresistible urge to kill Luci Martin. Vivian manages to shake off this urge before she acts on it and before Luci notices.

A moment later, Judge Putnam is overcome with an icy cold presence and picks up the statue arm with the full intention of bringing it down on Eric Craegen’s unprotected head. He, too, fights off the alien presence controlling him. Craegen seems not to notice anything untoward, and continues on describing the statue arm.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Orient Express Part Two: March 26, 1926 (Day)

Questioning

The detective, Malachi Thorne, begins interviewing people from Berth Car 8 in alphabetical order. Meanwhile, Conductor Janssens and his staff will search Car 8 for evidence. The group becomes acquainted with the other people in their sleeping car, including:

Mildred and Abner Abernathy: A young newlywed couple from America. They have spent a lot of time in their stateroom.

Erik Craegen: A very nervous Scottish man with an impressive moustache. He claims to be an antiques dealer.

Dwight Featherstone: An upper-class twit from London, who argues with the conductor about the room search and warns that the train company will have to pay him if any of his personal belongings are damaged.

Greta Jager and Ingrid Schmidt: Two young German ladies who are “very close” “gal pals.”

Luci Martin: A Frenchwoman who appears to be a reporter.

Detective Thorne interviews the Abernathys, Vivian, and Dr. Black. He seems very suspicious of Dr. Black, especially considering the doctor’s somewhat erratic behavior on the previous day.

The Second Murder

The interview session is interrupted by a cry from Car 8. The group sees one of the porters lurch violently out of one of the cabins and vomit in the narrow hallway. Conductor Janssens yells for order, and everyone in the recreation car soon realizes that the search team has found another body.

Detective Thorne goes to investigate, leaving the passengers confused and scared as to what’s going on. Greta and Ingrid are closest to the door between the two cars, and Liam (with an assist from Mikhail) attempts to socialize with them in an attempt to get close enough to hear and see what’s going on in the car.

The two women misunderstand both men’s intentions and complain to one another in German about, “oh god, more boys hitting on us. Uugh.” Johnny, who speaks a little German, finds this all terribly amusing.

At some point, Eric Craegen says, “Oh, thank god it wasn’t in my cabin.” This draws the suspicion of Liam and several others in the group.

A few minutes later, porters arrive with a stretcher. They carry out the body, which is concealed beneath a bloody sheet, and take it to the baggage car. The conductor seals the room while Thorne returns to the recreation car to speak with the passengers.

Thorne explains that, because two murders have been committed—one of them especially heinous—he is going to order that the train be pulled off on a side track just outside of Milan, where everyone will remain until he discovers the murderer. He then asks that the group speak to him quietly in another car.

Once the group is situated, Thorne reveals a small notebook that he has recovered from the room of the second murder victim. It soon becomes apparent that the second victim is none other than Mr. Smith. According to identification taken from Smith’s room, it appears that he is an American private investigator named William MacIlvane.

The notebook contains bits of information on each member of the group, beginning with their time in Scotland. Smith’s notes describe, in the most unflattering way possible, the group’s defeat and arrest of Belphegor. It also explains that the group is trailing Bryan Slim, an international criminal. Smith confesses he isn’t sure whether or not the group plans to join up with Slim or to kill him, too.

The group attempts to explain themselves and do a reasonable job of convincing Thorne that the evidence in Smith’s notebook isn’t nearly as cut and dried as it appears. The judge also scoffs at the ethics and professionalism of private detectives in general and Smith in specific. Wary, Throne allows them to return to the recreation car.

Upon their return to the recreation car, Thorne tells the passengers that they may remain here, go to their staterooms, or go to the dining car. Otherwise, however, their movement around the train is restricted.

Berth Car #8: Geoff's Map

The Body

The group learns that Smith’s body has been locked inside of the baggage car.

Liam, Dr. Black, Mikhail, and Kane all make plans to go to the baggage car to collect evidence. They move toward the car in stages, stopping at either their staterooms or the dining car to make their movements look less suspicious.

The door to the baggage car is locked, but Mikhail picks it. Going inside, they see the luggage of many of the train’s passengers neatly stowed on shelves and locked away behind metal grating. In the center of the car, resting on several large steamer trunks, is the stretcher containing Smith’s body. The sheet over the corpse is now quite badly stained with blood.

The group looks around and discovers some cleaning supplies—including a broom and a can of turpentine—in one corner. When he thinks no one is looking, Liam attempts to pilfer valuables from the passengers’ luggage. His access is limited, however, and he doesn’t find anything of value.

Satisfied that they are alone, the group urges Dr. Black to conduct an autopsy on Smith. Dr. Black pulls aside the sheet to reveal that Smith has been the victim of a rather gruesome post-mortem violation known colloquially as “the blood eagle.”

After the group recovers from this gory sight, Dr. Black begins his examination. Smith is no longer bearded, but he does have gum Arabic residue on his face. This suggests that he was wearing a false beard, and that he had removed it just prior to the murder. He is also dressed in a nightshirt, limiting Dr. Black’s ability to find any identification or evidence.

Dr. Black also notes that the corpse’s tissues are peculiarly spongy. He explains to the others that it’s not rigor, and it is a condition with which he is completely unfamiliar. Dr. Black borrows Kane’s knife to take a tissue sample while the rest of the group tries to figure out what to do next.

For no reason at all, Mikhail picks up the can of turpentine, unscrews the cap, and begins pouring out all over the baggage car.

“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he shouts. “Help! Help!”

Kane is able to tackle Mikhail just as Mikhail pulls a box of matches out of his coat pocket. Dr. Black assists Kane in restraining Mikhail, while Liam scarpers.

Grabbing Johnny

Liam flees back to the recreation car, briefly explains the situation to the group, and asks Johnny to come back with him to help out with the Mikhail situation. On their way back to the baggage car, Johnny is cut off from Mikhail by Eric Craegen, who takes that moment to step out of his cabin into the hallway.

Johnny and Craegen "errr" and "umm" awkwardly at one another, until Johnny notices that Craegen has a stone statue arm laid out on his bunk. When he asks about it, Craegen retreats and tries to close his cabin door. Johnny, however, is too fast for Craegen, and blocks the door with is foot. Craegen, defeated, invites him inside.


The Orient Express Route

Mikhail

Liam discovers that he has lost Johnny only after he has returned to the baggage car. He finds that Kane and Dr. Black have stabilized the situation, and that Mikhail—though drenched in turpentine—is otherwise all right.

After a quick whispered conversation, the quartet decide to return to the recreation car using the same somewhat stealthy method that they used to get to the baggage car.

Mikhail, who leaves the baggage car last, is unfortunately spotted by one of the dining car waiters. The waiter, a Frenchman with a saucy accent, becomes quite suspicious of Mikhail, and demands to know how he was able to get inside of the baggage car and why he is soaked in turpentine.

Not wanting to risk getting caught, Mikhail puts on a little show for the waiter. He cries and stammers and points at the baggage car. He explains that he was abducted by a scary man—possibly the murderer—who dragged him into the baggage car, poured turpentine on him, and tried to light him on fire.

The waiter believes this story and runs to fetch Detective Thorne and Conductor Janssens. Realizing that he may have incriminated himself and his friends after all, Mikhail begins to cry for real.

Suspicious Activity

Liam, back in the recreation car, attempts to get information out of the passengers. He first sets his sights on Mr. Featherstone. Featherstone, however, is not in a talkative mood and Liam inadvertently insults him, which only makes things worse. Before Featherstone stalks off to the dining car in disgust, Liam notes that the man has an anchor tattoo that Featherstone tries to conceal with his high shirt collar.

Meanwhile, Johnny and Mr. Craegen have a heart-to-heart conversation in Craegen’s cabin. Johnny learns that Craegen is actually another Call of Cthulhu investigator, who is currently playing through the very beginning of the Horror on the Orient Express campaign. After he and Johnny swap weird tales and useful advice, Johnny suggests that Craegen team up with the reporter and the two nice lesbians, so that he doesn’t have to face the horrors of the Mythos alone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Orient Express Part One: March 22-March 26, 1926

In which Liam MacGuire (William Grant) joins the group, and we try to get him up to speed and nicely woven into our ensemble cast.

Liam MacGuire: Actor, Con-Man, Boxer


The Dig Site

The Dig Site

At Dr. Black’s urging, the group travels to Hancock’s dig site on the shores of Loch Mullardoch. Ron, seeming a bit traumatized by recent events, bows out. He gives the group the impression that he is going to enjoy a few last, legal drinks in Cannich before returning to the United States.

The rest of the group travels to the site, which has been painstakingly unearthed. A tent holds piles of unsorted, recovered relics. Another tent seems to be Hancock’s. Two additional tents seem to have had their guidelines cut. Only the stakes remain.

The group soon learns that the site, though featuring Roman remains, is not Roman itself. It appears to be the handiwork of some other, far older, ethnic group. They find the following areas of interest.

  • A temple, empty of artifacts, apart from a large statue of a faceless sphinx.
  • A second temple, whose doorway was clogged with rubble. Johnny cleared it, and he and Mikhail entered the area beyond.
    • Both men realized that this second temple was dedicated to Azathoth.
    • They found two corpses of Roman legionnaires. One was in the possession of a surprisingly untarnished sword hilt.
    • Johnny deduced that this room had once been a gate.
    • Valusian glyphs found carved into the floor in the center of the tomb translate, roughly, to, "PATHWAY PROCESS WINGED ONE ZIGGURAT."
  • Vivian and Dr. Black searched through the relics tent.
    • Dr. Black found the pieces of a carbon steel sword blade, in pieces, which looked remarkably clean and not at all rusty. He deduced that this blade was once affixed to the hilt found in the Azathoth temple.
    • Vivian discovered a lead prayer tile on a cord. A note accompanying the tile indicates that it was found strung around neck of the sphinx E. Latin translated as, 'With this, Marcus entreats Mars Nodens to ward away (the gaze) of the Egyptian demon (from this place).'"
  • Vivian also searched Hancock’s tent and found:
    • An Elder sign.
    • A transcription of a paragraph from Nameless Cults, regarding cult presence in Syria and Egypt.
  • Pushok scented on an otherwise ordinary pile of rubble. When the group dug there, they found the badly decomposed corpse of a man. The face was destroyed beyond recognition, but the bird tattoo on the arm led the group to believe that it was the body of Adam Chisholm. A stub of a cigar was also found with the body.
  • Dr. Black identified several serpentpeople remains throughout the site.
  • The group also found pottery painted with Valusian lettering.
  • Lastly, the group discovered another section of the R’lyeh Disc carefully hidden under a slab in one of the ruined buildings. The group immediately transported the piece, via the gate box highway, to Atlantic City.

Meanwhile

In addition to getting drinks, Ron plants the gun he used in the Bayonne Train Station Massacre™ in one of the Jimmies’ trunks before they leave Cannich.

Saying Goodbye

The group departs Cannich, rather glad to be well shut of the place. They travel by rented car to Inverness and then take various trains all the way down to Dover. There, they plan to cross the channel and board the Orient Express, which will bring them to their next destination. 

At the train station in London, Ron says goodbye. He has decided, somewhat abruptly, to return to New York with Luca and a somewhat recovered Mr. Potafiori. The group tell him that, if they need him, they will fetch him via gate box highway. At this point, Ron takes a train westward, to the ship that will ferry him back to America.

I Was Told There Would Be Bluebirds

The group arrives at the port authority in Dover and waits for their ship to come in.  In the meantime, they decide to inform themselves by looking over international police bulletin board for any new red notices. They see one for Bryan Slim as well as one for Jimmy Rizzo. 

Bryan Slim's Red Notice

Ron Deluca's Revenge

A gentleman from Western Union arrives and delivers a small package to Judge Putnam. This contains Christopher Edwin’s notes on the Nameless City, which the judge had requested from Edwin previously. 

Sometime later, the group is surprised when they run into Liam MacGuire, an actor acquaintance of theirs from New York City. Liam is also going to Syria, apparently to act in the film Prince of Babylon. With him is a young, charismatic, but somewhat guarded young man named Archie Leech, who is also an actor. The duo hope that these film roles will be their first big break into the world of film.

While traveling across the channel, the group explains their plans and findings to Liam…at least, as much as they dare to. Liam shows off the letters he received from Grant Winwood, the executive producer of the studio that is financing Prince of Babylon. He further explains that the casting director wanted him to seem, “more American,” so he has adopted the stage name of “William Grant.”

The group relaxes and enjoys themselves as they land in Paris and board the Orient Express.

Archie Leech

The Countess

The group settles in on the Orient Express. They are all berthed in sleeping car #8, along with several other people. They dine in the dining car and take drinks and smoke in the recreation car. Dr. Black notes that there is a man with a very unusual, coarse beard and a threadbare trench coat, who is off in the corner reading a newspaper. Something about the man seems familiar, and the group soon realizes that he is “Mr. Smith,” lately of the hospital in Inverness. The group watches him carefully, but he does nothing suspicious.

In an attempt to learn more about the man, Dr. Black approaches the conductor, Leon Janssens, and asks to see the passenger manifest. The conductor, immediately suspicious, refuses. Dr. Black goes on to say that he thought he saw a man who was once a patient of his board the train, and that he wanted to confirm that the man was on the train and also seek him out to catch up. The conductor remains unmoved.

The players notice that an older woman, bedecked in fur and jewelry, is holding court in the recreation car. They learn that she is, allegedly, a Prussian countess. Liam, who is secretly a con artist, approaches her to make conversation and to, eventually, separate the countess from some or all of her money.

Mikhail sees Liam making overtures and, mistaking Liam’s intentions, goes over to be his “wingman” in an attempt to help him start a more intimate friendship with the countess. Liam, panicking, calls over Vivian and Kane to help him out. The countess, assuming that Mikhail and Liam’s interests are of a carnal nature, does not like the presence of additional people…especially Vivian. She insults Kane and Vivian’s musical tastes before excusing herself and retiring to her stateroom for the night.

But not before whispering her room number to a shocked and somewhat disgusted Liam.

The group spends the next little bit gently mocking Liam for his success with the countess. Liam, flustered, points out that she is not his type, and that he is already in a committed relationship with Ron Deluca, Jr., of all people. At this revelation, the car goes eerily quiet for a moment.

It is about this point that the group notices that Mr. Smith has, somehow, departed the recreational car without anyone spotting him. Concerned, but not overly worried, the group make a note to track him down later and then go off to their various staterooms to sleep. Archie, who has been drinking in a fish in the bar car, comes to bed sometime later and passes out.

The Prussian Countess

In Which, Unshockingly, There is a Murder

At about three in the morning, both Kane and Dr. Black awaken in their stateroom plagued by headaches and unpleasant nightmares. Both men notice that, as they are come awake, their stateroom door is in the process of closing. Dr. Black, concerned by this, opens the door and looks out into the narrow hall beyond. He sees no one else but a porter.

Concerned that they have been robbed, Dr. Black checks the contents of his doctor’s bag. He notices that the Dagger of Nephrem-Ka has not only been removed from the bag and replaced, but it is also covered with fresh blood. He and Kane immediately deduce that a murder has been committed and that they are being framed for it.

They search the room for more clues, finding a coarse, straw-like hair with a bit of sticky residue on one end. Before they can figure out what this means, someone else on the train pulls the emergency brake cord. The train comes to a shuddering stop, throwing Kane and Dr. Black around and awakening their companions (except Archie, who drunkenly sleeps through it).

In the chaos that follows, the conductor and several porters move along the train to find out who has been playing around with the emergency brake. During this search, someone discovers that the countess has been brutally stabbed to death in her stateroom. There are screams and panic. The conductor attempts to calm the passengers, with little success. He soon demands that every passenger return to their stateroom and stay there.

Dr. Black, realizing that he is holding the murder weapon, sneaks into Johnny and Judge Putnam’s stateroom. He uses the gate box to travel to Staten Island, where he locks his doctor’s bag—and the dagger—in a toolbox. He then Wards the toolbox, returns to the train, sneaks to Vivian’s single occupancy stateroom, and explains everything to her.

At some point, while walking around, Dr. Black runs into the conductor, who asks him what he is doing outside of his stateroom. Dr. Black insists that he has misplaced his doctor’s bag, and is in the process of looking for it. He is ordered to return to his stateroom.

There is very little to do, so the group remains in their rooms and tries to figure out what to do next. In the meantime, Kane and Dr. Black realize that the coarse hair they found has gum Arabic on one end. Knowing that Mr. Smith could not have grown a thick beard in three days, they surmise that he was, in fact, wearing a false beard, and that one of the hairs fell off when he stole the dagger from Dr. Black and planted it again after killing the countess.

The next morning, the conductor calls everyone from berth car number 8 into the recreation car. He introduces an older, German man with an eyepatch, and explains that this man is the company’s detective inspector. The conductor further explains that everyone will remain in the recreation car while the detective takes everyone’s statement.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Cannich Part Nine: March 22, 1926 (Afternoon)

On Creag Dhubh

Johnny and Kane manage to grab ahold of a naked and raving Tommy Hayes and keep him from going anywhere until he calms down. Once he recovers from his temporary insanity, Tommy finds that he still has a pair of pants to wear. Johnny also gives him his shirt, so that he’s at least presentable.

At about this time, Dr. Black has also recovered from his madness. Johnny and Kane untie him.

Tommy relates that he was abducted at knife point by a bearded, red-haired man and taken up to Creag Dhubh. Tommy seems not to remember being murdered—probably a good thing, all things considered—but is grateful to the trio for scaring off his abductor. He assures them that, though he has never seen the man around the village before, he will definitely recognize him if he saw him again.

The trio have a quiet meeting a short distance away from Tommy. Kane and Dr. Black decide to go to Mullardoch House and inform the others what they have done. Johnny will stay behind on the hill and babysit Tommy.

At Mullardoch House

Ian MacLennan demands to know what the hell is going on and why the hell Judge Putnam, Ron, and Mikhail have tried to murder his university friend and house guest. While calmly reloading his gun cane, Judge Putnam explains that Peter Dubner (aka Belphegor) is a murderer and a kidnapper, and that the trio was trying to stop him from committing more crimes.

Mr. MacLennan is not convinced and has his butler, James, call the constable. The already overworked Constable MacNeil arrives a short time later with Dr. MacParlan. While Dr. MacParlan treats Belphegor, Ron, and Mikhail, Constable MacNeil tries to get to the bottom what’s happening. He seems reluctant to arrest the critically injured Belphegor just on someone’s say so, but does say that he will compare Belphegor’s likeness to that of the wanted poster in the post office.

At about this time, Dr. Black and Kane arrive. They are detained in the foyer by James the butler, who has had quite enough excitement today, but overhear the judge accuse Belphegor of murdering Tommy Hayes. The doctor, fearful that this will cause issues with the group’s plans, runs back up Creag Dhubh to warn Johnny.

“They think he’s dead, but he’s alive! What do we do?”

Johnny decides to take the direct approach and has Tommy accompany him down Creag Dhubh to Mullardoch House.

While this is happening, Dr. MacParlan calls back into town to find a truck to take Belphegor to a hospital in Inverness. News of this odd request, and the reason for it, spreads like wildfire through Cannich Village. Vivian and Luca, who are prepping for the afternoon meeting at the distillery, hear about what’s going on and immediately suspect that whatever happened is Ron’s doing.

Luca drives Vivian to Mullardoch House in the other rental car. Upon arrival, they find that numerous onlookers have gathered from the village, whispering and pointing as Belphegor’s unconscious body is loaded into the back of the truck. Vivian catches up with the others and finds out what’s going on, while Tommy Hayes positively identifies Belphegor as the man who abducted him.

Dr. Black surreptitiously shows off the murder weapon to Vivian and Ron. Vivian identifies it as the Dagger of Nephrem-Ka, confirming Dr. Black’s suspicions. Ron finds himself quite taken with the look of the knife. The others grow concerned, but Ron insists that he’s just interested in the knife’s aesthetics.

At Vivian’s request, Luca, under the pretense of “taking a leak,” does a quick walkaround of the house to see if anyone is attempting to escape. He finds no evidence of that, but he does tell Vivian that he saw a letter in a typewriter that mentions, “some of that stuff that youse all talk about when youse thinks I ain’t listenin’.”

This statement makes Johnny extremely wary of Luca.

The Partially-Written Letter

Vivian follows Luca to an open window, where the typewriter and the letter are in easy reach. She swipes the letter and shares it with the group. It confirms that Belphegor, Ian, and Annie are all in cahoots and working for or with Carl Stanford. Johnny is dismayed that Annie convinced them to let her go.

Dr. Black takes Constable MacNeil aside and asks if he can ride along with the truck to the hospital in Inverness. MacNeil tells him no, especially considering all the accusations flying around. Dr. Black then says that he suspects that Belphegor might try to escape, or that people might try to come after him, and could Constable MacNeil call ahead to Inverness and have a police presence around Belphegor while he recovers? To this, MacNeil agrees.

A short time later, the excitement dies down and the truck transporting Belphegor leaves the scene. As the villagers disperse, the group makes plans. Vivian, Ron, Mikhail, and Luca will go back to Dunne’s Distillery to plead their case, while Kane, Dr. Black, Johnny, and Judge Putnam follow the truck to Inverness so that they can kill Belphegor.

The Kerfuffle in Inverness

The Royal Northern Infirmary, Inverness

The quartet reaches Inverness undetected and enters the Royal Northern Infirmary. They talk to the nurse at the front desk and learn that Mr. Dubner has just been brought into surgery, so that they cannot see him at this time. She instructs them to wait in the hospital waiting room, and promises to call them once Mr. Dubner is out of surgery and in a room.

Judge Putnam is still suffering from a deep knife wound inflicted by Belphegor, asks to be admitted to medical care. He is taken upstairs, treated, lightly sedated, and brought into the post-surgical ward to rest.

The other three kill time in the waiting room and plan their next room. While there, they notice a disheveled man in a threadbare and bulging trench coat come in, go up to the front desk, and ask about his friend Peter Dubner. The nurse explains that Mr. Dubner has just come out of surgery, and an orderly will be by to bring him upstairs. The nurse then informs Kane, Johnny, and Dr. Black, and has them stand next to “Mr. Smith,” who is also waiting to see Dubner.

Johnny attempts to cast the Wrack spell on Mr. Smith. Smith retreats from the spell, but trips over a wheelchair and breaks his arm. Johnny, shocked by what has happened, loses control of the spell and it rebounds on him. He does not take the full effect of the spell before it dissipates, but he suffers enough pain that the nurses and orderlies fear that he has suffered a heart attack. Both Johnny and Mr. Smith are wheeled into the emergency department, while Dr. Black and Kane are taken upstairs to see Belphegor.

They find that Belphegor has been put in the same room as Judge Putnam. There are two policemen standing outside the room and two standing within the room around Belphegor’s bed. Kane, Dr. Black, and the judge have no idea what to do in this situation, and so make small talk with the police.

The Kerfuffle in Inverness, Part Two

The Mysterious Mr. Smith

Johnny, in a johnny coat (appropriately enough), has been given a battery of tests and also a clean bill of health.  Now all that remains is for him to be discharged. He shares a room with Mr. Smith, who has a fully plastered right arm and who is also waiting for discharge.

Mr. Smith, still wearing his trench coat, asks to use the loo. Johnny follows him out into the hallway, only to discover that Mr. Smith has not gone into the bathroom, but through the door leading to the stairs. Johnny follows him and a chase ensues! Johnny manages to close with Smith just as the other man goes barreling out of a door in the stairwell onto one of the hospital’s upper floors.

It turns out that this is the floor is Belphegor on. The two constables posted outside Belphegor’s door see Mr. Smith and Johnny and come running. Mr. Smith attempts to convince the constables that Johnny has snapped and is pursuing him for no reason. The constables do not buy this, however, and ask Mr. Smith to open his heavily laden trench coat. When he does, both the constables and Johnny see that Smith is carrying a rune-covered metal rod and a variety of other occult paraphernalia.

Dr. Black, Judge Putnam, Kane, and the constables all hear this exchange from inside the hospital room. One of the constables leaves to support his comrades, and Dr. Black sticks his head out into the hallway to inexplicably ask the constables why they aren’t searching Johnny as well. Fortunately for Johnny, he is wearing a hospital gown and has noting incriminating on him.

The constables decide to take both Johnny and Mr. Smith into an unoccupied office for some questioning. Dr. Black uses this opportunity to send the last constable on an errand, leaving himself, Kane, and Judge Putnam alone in the room with Belphegor. The three men soon discover that they are unable to kill Belphegor in cold blood. Dr. Black ultimately satisfies his need for revenge by altering Belphegor’s chart and scheduling him for numerous unpleasant, unnecessary, and invasive procedures.

Meanwhile, Mr. Smith and Johnny are given a stern talking to and sent back to their room under guard. They are told to remain there until they are discharged, at which point they will be escorted from the hospital. Johnny and Mr. Smith, knowing that each has foiled the other, knowingly smile at one another and share some words of professional respect and courtesy.

A short time later, Judge Putnam, Johnny, and Mr. Smith are all discharged from the hospital. The group leaves Inverness for Cannich. Meanwhile, Belphegor is prepped for the first of several enemas.

Showdown at the Distillery

On their way back to the distillery, Vivian explains Bianco’s financial situation to Luca, Ron, and Mikhail. She says that she knows that Bianco doesn’t have the resources to back the financial deal he wants to make with the distillery, but the trick is proving that to Dunne somehow.

As fortune would have it, when they pass through Cannich on the way to the distillery, they see that Yacovangelo, Rizzo, and Russo have all piled into their rental car and have pulled onto the road ahead of them, presumably to go to the meeting.

Vivian has Luca pull over while she, Mikahil, and Ron go into the Slaters Arms to search Yacovangelo’s room for evidence. Without prompting, Ron destroys yet another of the inn’s interior doors, allowing the group easy access to Yacovangelo’s room. Mikhail soon finds a ledger hidden among Yacovangelo’s personal effects that contains all the real numbers for the Bianco holdings. He explains the significance of this to Vivian, and tells her that all the numbers shows how shaky Bianco’s finances are.

Realizing that this is the ace in the hole she’s looking for, Vivian hustles the group down the stairs and back into the car, and has Luca drive them to the distillery.

Dunne is once again his jovial self, and even makes jokes about how the MacQuarrie boys are trying to pressure him into getting them off the hook for their crimes. He then goes on to say that, while he respects Vivian’s father very much, Bianco is going to pay him more and, therefore, he must accept that offer.

At this point, Mikhail goes full “simple country lawyer” and reveals the Bianco ledger. Yacovangelo swallows his tongue as Mikhail goes over the numbers with Mr. Dunne. The scales swiftly tip in Bernouse’s favor, and Dunne tells Yacovangelo to take a hike while he has his secretary draw up papers for Vivian to sign.

A short time later, the documents are signed and, with a final toast of whisky, Vivian and company dash off a quick telegram to Mr. Bernouse before returning triumphantly to the Slaters Arms.

Epilogue

Ron is confronted by Hamish, Fergus’ son, and is asked to pay 20 quid for damages to two doors. Surprisingly, Ron acquiesces.

Yacovangelo and the Jimmies check out of the inn and prepare to drive to Inverness to return to New York City. Yacovangelo, sternly but politely, congratulates Mikhail and Vivian on their skillful negotiation. The Jimmies try to say nice things to Vivian, Ron, and Luca, only for Ron to tell them to go fuck themselves.

As they depart, the group who went off to Inverness return, joining Ron and the others around a table in the Slaters Arms. They discuss what happened to each of them, as well as their future plans…

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Cannich Part Eight: March 22, 1926

Meeting Adjourned

As mentioned previously, Elias Dunne tabled the meeting at the distillery rather abruptly. The group later learns that this is because the MacQuarrie brothers, who work for him, are intending to tell all of Dunne’s dirty little secrets unless he somehow gets them out of trouble. He spends the morning and early afternoon in the constabulary, splitting his time between yelling at people and trying to get the MacQuarries released. The group is left to their own devices.

Vivian locks herself in her room at the Slaters Arms and tries to find a way to make the Bernouse offer palatable to Dunne, while also possibly kicking the supports out of Bianco’s offer.

Dr. Black and Judge Putnam attempt to get a look at the skeletons in the Hancock house. They are aided by Dr. MacParlan, who is on the scene and sweet talks the constables guarding the house into letting them through. All three men confirm that there is something horribly wrong with one of the skeletons. Dr. Black and Judge Putnam are certain it is the skeleton of a snakeperson.

The three men get to talking about Hancock’s archaeological interests. Dr. MacParlan offers to tell them what he knows and invites the judge and the doctor to his house for tea. During the visit, he says that Hancock was very secretive about the dig site. Dr. MacParlan knew that it was on the north side of Loch Mullardoch, and that it could not be seen from the shoreline, but did not know its location apart from that. He also tells his guests that he was invited to join the expedition, but declined due to his advanced age. He also mentions that he found a document which Hancock said had helped him greatly in his research. He produced a copy for Dr. Black and Judge Putnam. When the two men read it, they discover that it is a more detailed version of the account that Kane “found” in the town church.

A Summary of the Expedition, Part One

A Summary of the Expedition, Part Two

Kane sends a telegram.

Johnny wanders about town, as does Mikhail.

Ron also sends a telegram to Vito, informing him that he “didn’t do it.” Then, on his way back to the bed and breakfast to rest, he once again encounters Nellie Thompson. This time, Ron takes the more direct approach, directly interrogating the little girl about her activities and proclivities. He tells Nellie that he knows she’s not actually a girl, and suspects that she has some relationship to Nathan Torpley.

Nellie laughs, horribly, and tells Ron that she is Torpley, and Lostalus Black, and many, many others. She says that she has helped Ron and his friends in the past because he finds them useful and interesting. She also says that Ron should strive to remain interesting if he wants to keep living.

Nellie offers to help Ron. Ron says that he would like to be able to go home and start over and sort everything out in his personal life. Nellie then gives Ron a rag doll which has two faces (one terrified, one bespectacled and angry). The doll wears a badly worn and many times perforated grey robe, as well as a cigar band on one stuffed fist. In not so many words, Nellie tells Ron that she will help him if he can get the gold band (the Ouroboros Ring) away from the one who has it (Bryan Slim possessed by Carl Stanford). Ron blanches at the thought as Nellie walks away cackling, leaving him with the doll.

A Brunch at the B&B

Ron invites the others over to his bed and breakfast, where the elderly, mostly deaf woman who runs the place serves them tea and scones. The group compare notes, drink tea, complain about the dryness of scones, and try to determine what they should do next. Dr. Black seems interested in finding Hancock’s dig site, while Kane and Johnny are more focused on finding where Tommy Hayes has gone.

The group is interrupted by Rae MacNab, who has come up to Cannich to thank them properly. He is here because he inquired about the group’s location from the constabulary and was directed to the bed and breakfast. He awkwardly thanks the group and promises that his wife will send along some baked goods shortly.

Rae also says that he knows, from his visit to the constabulary, that people are out looking for Tommy Hayes. Rae says that early in the morning, he saw someone who was definitely Tommy walking closely with another man that he did not recognize. He tells the group that Tommy and the other man were headed toward Creag Dhubh.

Once Rae departs, the group gets in their cars and drives back to the mountain that has been the source of much unpleasantness.

Not Metal Enough for a Cannibal Corpse Album Cover

The group ascends Creag Dhubh and finds a murder of crows congregating around the ritual circle. The corpse of Tommy Hayes lays on its back on the altar stone, slit open from abdomen to sternum and congealing in its own blood. Dr. Black puts the time of death anywhere from 2-4 hours ago. Dismayed that they are too late, the group searches the hilltop in an attempt to gather evidence, including:

  • A fragment of a distant argument between two men. They are too far away to hear what is being said.
  • An emerald and silver tie tack, which is missing its back.
  • An alternate pathway down the mountain. It is a good deal steeper than the path the group has been using. It also leads more directly to Mullardoch House.
  • An unknown set of footprints, which head down the steeper side of the mountain.

At this point, the group descends the steep path hoping to find more evidence or the murderer.

Down the Steep Way

The group slip and slide down the steep path, following a trail of occasional blood spatter as it wends its way downward.

From this vantage point, Dr. Black thinks that he can make out the dig site on the shore of Loch Mullardoch. The group notes this and continues their pursuit.

They come to a place where it seems that the murderer has slipped and, in bracing themselves, has transferred a large amount of blood from the murder weapon to the surface of a flat rock. The group notes that the murder weapon appears to be a knife of some kind with a sun or flower motif carved on its blade.

Making a note of that, the group completes their descent and reaches Mullardoch House. Without informing anyone of his intentions, Ron slips away from the group and goes peeping in at the first-floor windows. He sees the kitchen staff at work, as well as numerous empty rooms, but nothing of note.

Johnny, Kane, and Dr. Black split off from the group to search the barn at the back of the property, which they know is the squatter home of Willie Wassle, the mad servant of Azathoth.

Judge Putnam, who has no time for this skullduggery, marches up to the front door of Mullardoch House to announce himself. Mikhail and Pushok go with him. Ron completes his circuit of the house just as the two men and the dog arrive on the front steps. Ron, very quietly, joins them.

In the Barn

Kane, Dr. Black, and Johnny reach the barn without incident. They search the pile of haybales that is serving as both the furniture and walls for Willie’s makeshift bedroom. Johnny finds a filthy datebook containing Willie’s scrawled down thoughts, while Dr. Black spies a glint of bronze gleaming from beneath a haybale that makes up half of Willie’s bed.

The doctor puts on gloves, lifts the haybale, and retrieves the object, which is an ancient bronze dagger with ebon grips and a flower or sun design carved on the blade. It is also thickly clotted with blood. Dr. Black recognizes something in the shape of the dagger and, recalling something Vivian mentioned to him in the past, realizes that the weapon might be none other than the Black Lotus Dagger, one of the Nine Treasures of Nephren-Ka.

The Dagger of Nephren-Ka

Kane, meanwhile, splits off from the group and ascends a ladder to the barn’s loft. There, he finds a ritual circle crudely etched into the floorboards. He points it out to Johnny and Dr. Black, and the two men climb the ladder to study it. Though they are all convinced that the circle has occult or Mythos significance, they cannot determine what it’s for or what it does.

The three men have a long conversation about the knife and what they are going to do with it. Kane is strongly in favor of leaving it there, as it is the murder weapon and, without it, the constabulary will not be able to convict the murderer. Dr. Black suggests using the new science of fingerprinting to see if the murderer left prints on the blade, and mentions that Tommy had a fingerprinting kit in the secret compartment of his briefcase.

Eventually, the group decides to wrap the blade in additional doctor’s gloves and take it with them as they climb back up Creag Dhubh. This is because Johnny has had an awful, terrible idea.

Visiting Mullardoch House

Ian MacLennan, Lord of Mullardoch House

Ron, Mikhail, and Judge Putnam are greeted by James, a butler straight from central casting. When informed that the group would like to see Mr. MacLennan, James vets them, ensuring that they are not there to arrest his lordship or serve him with papers. Once the group passes his scrutiny, James allows them to come into the house, takes their coats and hats, and shows them to the sitting room.

Pushok, alas, must remain outside, as dogs, according to James, are very dirty. Mikhail blusters at this, but eventually relents.

They meet Ian MacLennan, who seems displeased to see them, but greets them cordially enough and offers them drinks and cigars. They exchange small talk for a bit, while James stands vigil at the doorway, until Judge Putnam informs Mr. MacLennan that he is a judge and that Mikhail is a lawyer. Mr. MacLennan is immediately on his guard, but relaxes a bit when Judge Putnam tells him that they are there to help him with his recent legal trouble, if he will have them.

Mr. MacLennan is about to answer them when another man walks into the room. The man, a red-headed bearded fellow, who clearly expecting to find MacLennan alone, stammers an apology and tries to leave. Mr. MacLennan insists that the man join them for drinks, and introduces the man as Peter Dubner, his old friend and house guest.

Peter Dubner

Mikhail and Judge Putnam recognize the man as Belphegor immediately, even with his altered appearance. All three men also notice that Mr. Dubner is missing his tie tack.

Judge Putnam makes small talk with Mr. Dubner and learns that he is in agribusiness, and that he is here in part to visit his friend Ian, and in part to try and update “his lordship’s” hobby farm with the latest technologies and techniques.

While they are talking, Judge Putnam gives the eye to Ron and Mikhail, indicating that they should make a move against Dubner/Belphegor now. Mikhail nods in understanding while Ron gets up from his chair to look for something heavy.

In order to maintain some element of surprise, Judge Putnam gestures to an old oil painting hanging over the fireplace and asks Mr. MacLennan about its history. Dubner regards the painting politely while MacLennan recounts a not terribly interesting story about how it was painted by his great-great grandfather, a previous Laird of Mullardoch House.

It is at this moment that Ron Deluca picks up a smallish stone replica of the Venus de Milo, grabs it by its head and neck, and swings.

The statue shatters against Belphegor’s chest, hurling him with great force into one of the room’s many overstuffed armchairs. Mr. MacLennan lets out a cry of surprise and protest, and only stops when Judge Putnam levels his cane gun at him. James the butler starts across the room to do something about the terrible, terrible breech in protocol, only to be sent back to his corner by one intimidating glare from Ron.

It is at this moment that Mikhail begins to feel that someone is tampering with the timestream. Assuming that it is Belphegor’s doing, Mikhail recites the Justman Equation, which is known to halt temporal anomalies. He casts it on himself and on Belphegor, but the latter’s superior will shakes free of the equation.

For the rest of this encounter, it seems to Mikhail that he and Belphegor are moving at normal speed, with everyone else in the room moving impossibly slowly. To the others, it seems that they are moving normally while Belphegor and Mikhail are moving so quickly that the eye can scarcely perceive them.

Belphegor pulls a knife and stabs Judge Putnam in the back. The judge swings around and opens fire on Belphegor with his cane gun. Despite it being a point-blank shot, Belphegor dodges. The judge’s buckshot riddles the wall behind where Belphegor was standing, narrowly missing James the butler.

James, for his part, seems to be not discomfited in the slightest. He is a professional, after all.

Mikhail draws his blessed Masonic sword and trades blows with Belphegor, but neither one can break the other’s guard. Belphegor retreats, slicing apart Ron’s coat sleeve and mildly wounding him, but somehow getting struck in the jaw by Ron in the process.

Belphegor reels back and calls forth terrible magic to wither Ron’s physical body, but Ron resists.

Realizing that Belphegor is distracted by Ron, Mikhail takes his opportunity and stabs, striking Belphegor in the abdomen. Mortally wounded, Belphegor collapses onto the room’s bearskin run, and time abruptly resumes its normal flow.

Johnny’s Plan

Johnny knows the portion of the Ritual of Salts to reduce someone who has been resurrected by the other portion back into their essential salts. Since the resurrection ritual is simply saying the words of the portion he knows backwards, he informs Kane and Dr. Black that it would be trivially easy for them to resurrect Tommy Hayes.

This leads to a long discussion between the three men regarding both the moral implications of bringing Tommy back to life with awful magic, and the fact that, once Tommy is alive again, they can no longer accuse or arrest his murderer.

Kane, ultimately, feels that he must do right by Tommy, as he feels it is the group’s fault that Tommy is dead. He persuades Johnny and Dr. Black to try the two rituals.

In order to preserve the vestiges of his sanity, Johnny teaches half the ritual to Dr. Black and half the ritual to Kane. Dr. Black goes first, casting the portion of the ritual that renders Tommy’s corpse into its essential salts. The group watches, horribly fascinated, as Tommy essentially sublimates into powder before their eyes. Dr. Black is so overcome by this process that he goes mad with the power he believes he has unlocked. He raves to Kane and Johnny that he has found the means of conquering death, and promises to rid the world of suffering and disease.

Kane and Johnny tie up and gag Dr. Black, just to be safe.

Kane then casts his portion of the ritual, which is meant to restore Tommy to life. Kane, focusing on how much he wants to do right by Tommy, maintains his composure as Tommy’s body reintegrates before him. Moments later, Tommy Hayes, now naked but fully healed, sits up, lets out a terrified shriek followed by a string of curses, and flees down the side of Creag Dhubh.

Kane and Johnny manage to corral the frantic, naked, newly alive man before he is able to either get away or hurt himself.

Meanwhile, Dr. Black realizes that his new gift makes him, essentially, God.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Cannich Part Seven: March 21-22, 1926

Seamus’ Return

The group takes some time to get their story straight about what happened on Creag Dhubh, and manage to put something coherent together without mentioning anything about cultists, earthquakes, magic, or similar. Tommy Hayes, a touch shell-shocked about what he has seen, also promises to blow his cover to the local police in order to lend credence to the group’s story.

Once this has all been decided, the group goes to the constabulary and awakens both Constable MacNeil and DI MacDougall. The two men are very glad that Seamus is alive and unharmed, and they agree with the group that it was wiser to bring the baby here than directly to his parents.

The group tells their story, and also shows the constable and inspector the list of coven names that they found in Duncan MacBain’s cottage. Constable MacNeil says that this list makes a lot of things that he was baffled and concerned about make a lot more sense. It takes little urging from the group to get him and DI MacDougall to stage a midnight raid, rounding up as many people from the list as they can.

DI MacDougall calls down additional men from Inverness. Upon their arrival they, along with the inspector and Constable MacNeil, go out in the police wagon to arrest the cultists. Tommy Hayes stays behind at the constabulary with two constables who are taking care of Seamus MacRae. Kane offers to help them with the baby and turns out to be a naturally gifted parental figure.

An Unwelcome Guest

While this is happening, Johnny steps through the gate box to Staten Island to return the group’s more dangerous and conspicuous hardware. Upon arriving in the carriage house garage, he notices a strange, gel-like liquid has been smeared on the lid of the Staten Island box. He also notices that the lock on the second set of gate boxes (which leads to his Atlantic City bolt hole and the hiding place for the group’s piece of the Disc) has been unlocked.

Johnny, assuming that whoever has gone through the gate box will soon be coming back, sets up an ambush, shotgun in hand.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group, concerned that Johnny has not get come back, decide to send volunteers through the gate box to check on him. Ron Deluca steps through first and almost gets shot by a hypervigilant Johnny. Then Judge Putnam steps through.

The three men decide to set up a larger ambush behind the gate box leading to Atlantic City. That way, they will be able to see who comes through the gate box before that person can see them.

A few minutes later, they are rewarded when the Atlantic City gate box opens and a battered, bloodied, and terrified Annie Chantraine crawls out of the gate box and onto the concrete floor of the garage, muttering apologies to someone and saying that, “she tried, but couldn’t find it.”

Look What Crawled Out of the Gate Box

The three men surprise Annie. She screams. During an initial round of questioning, Annie reveals that she was forced to go through the gate by a man who is staying at her cousin, Ian MacLennan’s place. She said that the man told her if she didn’t go through and bring the Disc piece back, that he would kill her cousin and burn Mullardoch House down.

Judge Putnam, with his grasp of psychology, realizes that there is something about Annie’s story that doesn’t add up. Johnny recalls that the Disc piece weighs in at 150 pounds, and it seems unlikely that Annie would be able to move it on her own. Ron decides that Annie is lying and threatens her with physical harm. Faced with Ron’s implacable anger and implicit threat, Annie adds that her cousin is secretly a sorcerer “or something,” and that the man who is staying with them, Peter Dubner, is a self-styled wizard who was teaching Ian magic.

Panicked and weeping, Annie tries to get the three men to believe her, with decidedly mixed results. Ron attempts to kill her with a knife, only to be stopped by Johnny and the judge. Johnny steps briefly into Atlantic City, confirms that the Disc piece remains undiscovered, and sets up a Warding around it so he will be warned if anyone else tries to disturb it.

He comes back to Atlantic City to find that Ron has gone back to Cannich and returned with Dr. Black. Dr. Black tends to Annie’s wounds and then thinks to ask about the goop smeared on the lid of the Staten Island gate box. Annie says that the man, Peter, told her to put it there and shows off the small glass bottle that it came in. Dr. Black reads the bottle’s label and discovers that the goop is batrachotoxin, a lethal poison. Counting their blessings that none of them ever touched the poison with their bare hands, the group convinces Annie to wipe it up and dispose of it.

The group decides to allow Annie to live. Dr. Black gives her twenty dollars and Johnny takes her through the Atlantic City gate to leave her in a random place on the boardwalk. He tells her that he doesn’t want to see her again. She is happy to oblige.

The four men return to Cannich, where law enforcement has returned with their first load of suspected cultists. DI MacDougall mentions that they were prevented from arresting Ian MacLellan or entering Mullardoch House because MacLellan pulled his noble rank on them and slammed the door in their faces. Several members of the cult, such as Duncan MacBain, are still missing. However, the police have arrested the oft-mentioned, but so far never-seen MacQuarrie brothers.

Andrew MacQuarrie


Jamie MacQuarrie

It is very late, and Mikhail, Ron, and Vivian have an important meeting in the early morning tomorrow. Everyone says goodnight and goes off to bed. Tommy Hayes bids them a good evening, and tells them he will be working with the Inverness police for just a bit longer before going to bed himself.

Monday, March 22, 1926

The police have picked up Fergus MacInnis, as his name was on the list of suspected coven members. This leaves Fergus’ disaffected teenage son Hamish in charge of the Slaters Arms. Lacking the owner/bartender and lead server, breakfast at the Arms is a slow and chaotic affair. Everyone eats, compares notes, and prepares for the day ahead.

The group receives three telegrams from Tammas MacIvar, who runs the post office. They are as follows:

One from Liam to Vivian, describing how he is has gotten a part in a major Hollywood movie that is being filmed in Syria.

Liam's Telegram to Vivian

One from Vito to Ron, informing him that Mikey Angelo has been found murdered in an unmarked grave. Vito also mentions that Mikey was found with a knife, whose handle was engraved RAD (Ron Anthony Deluca). Vito says that if Ron swears to him that he didn’t kill Mikey, he’ll believe him. He also asks Ron to tell Johnny that he said hi.

Vito's Telegram to Ron

One from Christopher Edwin to Judge Putnam. Mr. Edwin seems to be aware of the group’s recent fight with Bryan Slim/Carl Stanford, and explains that he saw a strange bird flying away south and east. He also mentions that he has sent information on the next leg of their journey to the judge’s next port of call.

Mr. Edwin's Telegram to Judge Putnam

Shortly thereafter, a courier arrives from Inverness, who delivers Dr. Kennedy’s sworn affidavit about the group’s adventure in the Hancock house to Dr. Black. Ron has already been cleared of all charges and had his personal property returned, but the group is glad to have the information, regardless.

At the end of breakfast, Constable MacNeil comes and informs the group that Seamus MacRae is back with his parents and that they are extremely relieved and thankful to the group for rescuing him. Constable MacNeil also says that he hasn’t run across Tommy Hayes yet, and asks the group to pass the MacRae’s well-wishes onto him should they see him.

The Search for Tommy Hayes

The group is immediately fearful for Tommy’s safety. Vivian recalls that Tommy is also staying at the Slaters Arms, and suggests checking to see if Tommy is in his room. Constable MacNeil and Ron both go to the room and the constable knocks on the door. When there is no answer, the constable suggests going downstairs to ask Hamish for the room key. Ron, not wanting to wait, shoulders the door in.

The room is completely clean and spartan, just like when Vivian entered it yesterday. The bed has not been slept in, and there is no sign that Tommy has been here recently.

At this point, Vivian, Mikhail, Ron, and Luca all prepare for their big meeting at Dunne’s Distillery. Before they head over there, however, they join the rest of the group and pay a visit to the constabulary.

The Ravings of Willie Wassle

None of the constables at the constabulary have seen Tommy Hayes, either. One constable remarks that he stayed at the constabulary last night for “about a half-hour after you all left. Then he said he was going to bed.” Everyone is concerned at what this might mean for Tommy.

At this point, someone starts shouting at the group from the very crowded constabulary cell block. It is Willie Wassle, who, among other things, shouts, “I wanna talk to ‘em. Let me talk with ‘em.”

The constables reassure the group that they do not have to speak with Willie if they don’t want to, but Johnny, undeterred, approaches the constabulary cells anyway. He finds most of the cultists sharing a very small space behind bars. Willie, who is at the front of the cell, raises his head and starts raving at the group.

Willie demands to know where Annie is, and whether or not she’s all right. Johnny explains, vaguely but patiently, that Annie is safe from harm and far, far away from Cannich.

To this, Willie responds, “she’d better be. You’d better not harm a hair on her. For if’n you do! If’n anyone does! I’ll call down Azzadod! I’ll call him and he’ll come and you’ll pay! YOU’LL PAY!”

Terrified at the implications of this, the group leaves.

 

Dunne’s Distillery

The Exceptionally Scottish Silas Dunne

While the rest of the group remains in town, performing various activities, Vivian, Ron, Mikhail, and Luca take the trip to Dunne’s Distillery. It is a humble, but seemingly prosperous, business, owned and operated by Silas Dunne. Mr. Dunne is quite the jovial, upbeat fellow. He invites the group, as well as Mr. Yacovangelo, Mr. Russo, and Mr. Rizzo into the distillery’s break room to conduct their meeting.

Dunne opens by apologizing. He explains that all manner of unpleasantness has happened lately, both in the village in general and in the distillery in specific. He mentions that two of his workers, the MacQuarrie brothers, have been apprehended in some kind of police operation. He further mentions that he is not surprised by this, as the brothers have often shirked work to get up to mischief, “including working for that Hancock fellow. You know, the one they found murdered in his house?”

Despite his outward appearance as a small-town bumpkin, Dunne shows some evidence that he is as ruthless as either of the two mafia dons represented at the meeting. He is eager to work with either of the dons to create new markets in America, the better to “stick it to the folks over at Macallan.” He explains that, while he likes Mr. Bernouse, the deal he was offered is not very profitable for him. Mr. Bianco’s deal, however, leaves him flush with cash.

Vivian and Mikhail explain that, based on their notes, that Mr. Bernouse is offering a lower-risk deal with a promise of payout to Dunne in the future, while Mr. Bianco is offering a high-risk deal with a large payout up front. They go on to insinuate, with some success, that the Bianco family deals more in gambling than in liquor and has less experience in the area. Mr. Yacovangelo counters with some snide remarks about the Bernouse family, as well as with the assertion that Bianco is looking to diversify and stabilize the city.

The meeting is interrupted by Dunne’s secretary, who is immediately yelled at in Scots Gaelic by Dunne. The pair of them go out into the lobby and get into a shouting match that the two groups of investors do not understand. A few minutes later, a rattled, but still-trying-to-be-pleasant Dunne comes back into the break room and explains that his presence is needed at the constabulary. He hastily arranges for the two groups to meet with him later on that afternoon before politely, but quickly, sending them all away.

Back in Cannich, Mikhail and Vivian decide that they need to work on stronger arguments to assault Bianco’s proposal. Ron and Luca crack their knuckles and prepare for the worst.