Sunday, September 20, 2020

Look to the Future Part Two: February 10, 1926

Thursday morning begins quietly enough, with Vivian in the kitchen drinking coffee and going over her notes from a return visit to the museum. Her solitude is disturbed by Ron, who had gone out to “look at the animals,” and is only coming home now because he met and spent the night with a new friend—a waitress named Aoife.

Aoife
The Incomparable Aoife

Ron describes the location he went to as the “Game Preserve,” a mob bar run by the Irish Mob. He then gets himself a cup of coffee and tries to go to sleep. His efforts are first stymied by Judge Putnam, who has awoken very early to type up a letter very noisily on his typewriter.

He is then disturbed by Johnny, who comes back to the safe house a short time later. Johnny was researching things at the Boston Public Library, read a Mythos text, went insane, and is just coming down from that insanity now. Johnny confuses and concerns everyone by opening every drawer, cabinet, cupboard, and door in the house, and also refusing to close them.

The group gradually wakes up and gets dressed. Judge Putnam mails his letter. Dr. Black tells everyone that he acquired a very strange key from a very strange young lady at a curiosity shoppe in town. Johnny is very concerned that this key exists. Vivian goes over some of her research, providing further information on Stephen Clark and his exhibit.

Mikhail reports that he had called to schedule an appointment to meet Stephen Clark and talked to his museum liaison, Mrs. Slate. This meeting is scheduled for 10:00. Everyone decides to go.

At about this time, the safe house’s caretaker comes in with a crate full of bootleg alcohol. He steadfastly, and with a  great deal of sarcasm, refuses to answer Ron’s questions about why an Italian guy would send him to a bar run by the Irish mob. Johnny is so entertained by this that he gives the caretaker a dollar for services rendered.

Meeting Stephen Clark

The group travels to the rented house that Stephen Clark is using as a residence, interview space, and studio. They meet Mrs. Slate, who is an older woman who seems very tired. She alludes to the fact that there is something “wrong” with Stephen, and that he’s better for interviews during the day and at night. While the group settles themselves, she fetches Stephen from the studio.

Stephen is a handsome young man with a similar profile to James. He dresses in baggy clothes and looks exhausted. Vivian notices him staring quizzically, and perhaps nervously, at the group before he going to the sideboard to prepare himself a glass of absinthe.

The Very Handsome Stephen Clark


Stephen sips his absinthe and prepares to answer questions, only for Mikhail to point-blank ask if Stephen had seen any of them before. Stephen realizes, all of a sudden, that he has depicted at least some of the group in his paintings. In panic and terror, he flees back into his studio. Johnny covers the exit from the sitting room while Kane goes outside and around back to ensure that Stephen doesn’t escape out a window. The rest of the group crowds around Mrs. Slate and demands answers, while Stephen smashes and crashes his way through things in the studio.

Ultimately, Stephen is calm enough to talk to the group again. Between him and Mrs. Slate, the group learns that Stephen was “suddenly inspired” on October 22, 1925 and painted the centerpiece in the “Fractures of My Mind” art exhibit in one night. From then until the end of November, he found that he had frenetic and uncontrolled energy at night, which allowed him to paint the rest of the paintings in the exhibit in a surprisingly short period of time. Ultimately, however, this mania left him.

He had a local showing, which attracted attention from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. His star has since been on the rise, and he has been interviewed by a variety of art journals and publications. Recently, the mania has come back again, and he spends his nights working on a new exhibit he is calling, “the Future Cometh.” When asked, Stephen says that he got the “inspiration” for this new work on February 3rd, the same day that Raleigh Rothschild sent his letter to the judge.

The group proceeds to examine the paintings of the new exhibit. They find them taking place mostly in white, sterile rooms with sharp angles. Among the things depicted are:

  • A shadowy mass moving down a hallway.
  • People and objects covered with a strange, black growth.
  • Looking at Dr. Black from behind. He is staring at a grey door and holding a key.
  • Unidentifiable machinery.

The group soon develops a good rapport with Stephen, especially Ron, who discovers that Stephen does not know his face and has never painted it. Mikhail broaches the subject of James’ hospitalization and care. Stephen remarks that he has not seen or talked to James for five years, and that their relationship is rather strained. The group later learns that this is because James is the serious, driven one who became a lawyer, while Stephen is the flighty, dreamy one who decided to be an artist. And for no other reason.

The group convinces Stephen that getting his brother out of Bellevue would probably be the best thing for him, so Stephen happily signs the paperwork. The group realizes that this interview has drained both him, and them, quite emotionally, and so they bid Stephen a fond farewell.

As they are leaving, Vivian notices a sealed letter in the wastepaper basket by the door, which she grabs. It is from an art journal and it is addressed to a Miss (deadname) Clark. Someone has scratched all this out with marker and written, “wrong! Try again!” This leads the group to deduce that Stephen Clark is a trans man.

Exhausted by the interview, the group returns to the safe house. Ron threatens everyone with death if they dare awaken him, and goes to his room to take a nap. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Look to the Future Part One: February 6 and 10, 1926

NOTE: My Call of Cthulhu game resumes with the second adventure in the Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaign, "Look to the Future." The text describes this as a quick, fun adventure that will take players one session to complete. 

My players have been playing for six sessions and there is no end in sight. To be fair, I have added on a lot of information, details, and activities to make the game world, and the campaign, feel bigger than it is. My players are also very interested in their own personal goals and sidequests, which tend to take up quite a bit of each session.

And now, on to the game! 

Judge Putnam's New Letterhead


After several months apart, Judge Putnam sends out letters to the rest of the group using his newly printed, and very official, London Group stationery. He informs the group that he has been keeping a very close eye on the work site where the Silver Twilight Lodge once stood. From his investigations, it seems that nothing of a supernatural nature was unearthed from the site and, as far as the city’s hired geologists could determine, there was no evidence linking the destruction of the Lodge to the London Group. He also notes, with some satisfaction, that there is no sign that the Order is recovering or continuing following the fall of the Lodge.

The letters end with a request for everyone to attend a dinner at the judge’s house on February 6th, at which his man, Johnny, will prepare a potato-based Moussaka. He mentions that he wishes to see everyone, but also to discuss a strange matter that has come to his attention.

The Dinner Party

The group spends some time catching up and discussing what they have done since destroying the Lodge in late October.

Doctor Reese Black: Spent several months recovering in the hospital, after which he took a tour of various historical sites and libraries in Europe. He is quite coy about what he was doing there, but seems to have had a very pleasant time.

Johnny Doukas: Has purchased a large, previously owned truck for the group’s use, as the judge’s touring car is not the least conspicuous vehicle around. He has also purchased guns, ammunition, and medical kits, which he has hidden throughout the judge’s house. If the group needs to make a stand against enemies, he explains, they will be ready. The others hope that it doesn’t come to that.

After dinner, Johnny gifts the others with silver pendants decorated with the Elder Sign. These pendants are, in fact, lockets, each of which holds a key. To explain the purpose of these keys, Johnny has everyone come to the carriage house, where he reveals a large, locked steamer trunk. This, he says, is one of a second set of Gate Boxes that he has taken pains to construct. The keys unlock the trunk and provide a modicum of security. The other Gate Box is in Atlantic City, near the home of Johnny’s parents. Johnny also mentions that he has procured a motorcycle, which he has stored with the other box, to allow for a quick getaway.

Mikhail Dimathias: Has spent quite a lot of time visiting James Clark in Bellevue, where James is currently being treated for his nervous attack.  He has also spent a lot of time with Angie, who has also been visiting James. Mikhail informs the group that he strongly disagrees with the sanitarium's doctors about James’ care, and wants to release James into either his own custody or into Angie’s. He mentions that he would like to do this prior to February 14, 1926 when James is due to undergo some kind of procedure. After dinner, he privately asks Judge Putnam to help with a court order that will allow him to free James. Judge Putnam explains that this would be easier if he were a blood relative, and asks if Mikhail knows if James has any family members that could help.

Ron Deluca and Vivian Bernouse: Vivian is cheered for being the toast of the town and the lady of the moment in the society pages. Others note that her relationship with Ron is strained, though not in the usual way. There are numerous oblique mentions of Connie as Ron’s “ex-wife,” as well as allusions to catastrophic events that occurred at the Bernouse family Christmas Party. Ron has also grown a bit of a self-pity beard, which Vivian gently mocks him for.

Vivian also mentions that she has seen Deb and Angie several times, and that, through them, she has learned that the Order of the Silver Twilight has made no efforts to rebuild the Lodge or restore their ranks. When Mikhail mentions his frustration at being unable to get James out of Bellevue, Vivian says, “Oh, Angie told me he had a brother. Have you tried talking to him?”

Mikhail then remembers that James does have an estranged brother, named Stephen, who lives in New Hampshire. He decides to telephone him later.

Kane Eastman: Reveals that he has been playing gigs and has been having a really good couple of months. He also tells the others that he spoke with his friend, “Papa Doc” Horus, the voodoo priest. Horus told him quite a bit about the evil demon known as Yog-Sothoth, and about the demon's ability to open doorways between our world and the next. Horus went on to say that there are many terrible creatures who live in the outer world, who are waiting by the barrier, “which is as thin as a soap bubble,” for doorways to allow them access. Horus also told Kane that their battle with Yog-Sothoth isn’t over. In fact, it’s only just begun.

This leads Mikhail to talk to Kane about several occult objects Mikhail purchased at an antique shop in Berkshire County. Kane offers to take Mikhail to meet Horus after dinner. Mikhail accepts.

The Judge’s Proposition

The Rothschild Letter, Page One

The Rothschild Letter, Page 2

During dinner, the Judge passes around the letter that he received from his friend, and former attorney, Raleigh Rothschild. Raleigh retired at the end of October, and moved with his wife to Cambridge, MA, where he took on an adjunct faculty position to teach law at Harvard. On a lark, Rothschild joined a business management group called “Look to the Future,” which is run by Lostalus Black and Bryan Slim. Rothschild explains that the weekly meetings feature lectures and seminars about “the power of positive thinking,” and “visualizing success,” which is much as one would expect.

On the weekends however, the group is led in a chant by Lostalus Black (the chant, transcribed in Rothschild’s letter, includes the word “Yog-Sothoth,” which rather piques everyone’s interest). After perhaps an hour of chanting, several volunteers on stage vanish before the crowd’s eyes “like a magician’s trick,” only to return a moment later laden with goods acquired from the future. Rothschild was so impressed that he paid $100 to acquire one of these future artifacts as evidence, which he has offered to show Judge Putnam should he ever come visit.

Rothschild explains that, while he was intrigued by Look to the Future’s activities, he was not certain that everything  was entirely aboveboard. He mentions some circumstantial evidence for this, including that Black and Slim are always accompanied by bodyguards. He also explains that, after each weekend meeting, he felt increasingly sickly and diminished, as well as suffering headaches and other strange symptoms. He has since quit the group, but would rejoin it if the judge, after discreetly investigating it, proved that everything was on the up-and-up.

The group agreed that this was definitely something worth investigating. Everyone said that the smartest thing to do would be to go to Boston the next day to meet with Rothschild and investigate Look to the Future. Mikhail begged off actually going to Boston, saying that he would instead spend his time getting in touch with Stephen Clark.

Ron informed the group that, when he had planned to “go away for a while” with Connie, Vincenzio Bernouse offered to put him up in a safe house he had set up in Boston. Ron promised to ask Vincenzio if the group could use the guest house as a base of operations. Rather than deal honestly with his boss, Ron proposed saying that it would just be him and Vivian going up to Boston to look for concert venues at which Vivian could perform. This made everyone a little nervous, but they all also agreed.

A Visit to Horus

Kane and Mikhail visited Horus. Horus analyzed Mikhail’s purchases from the Berkshires. He dismissed the Witch’s Ball as mere occult superstition, but told Mikhail that the Corn Husk Doll might protect Mikhail from supernatural forces relating to the Old Ones. He also said that the medicine bag he made for Kane served a similar purpose. This prompted Mikhail to buy a bag and Kane to purchase a second one, just in case. Horus told them they could come back at any time, especially if they wanted to buy more bags.

A Phone Call to New Hampshire

Mikhail borrowed James’ appointment book and flipped through it to find Stephen’s phone number. The person that he reached was not Stephen, but was instead someone who was watching Stephen’s house while Stephen was in Boston. It turned out that Stephen’s latest collection of paintings was on display in the Museum of Fine Art, and Stephen was staying there to help with publicity and touring and so on.

Mikhail thanked the house sitter and hung up, only to call the others to let them know he would also be going to Boston with them the next day.

February 10, 1926

The Safe House's Jovial Caretaker

The group caravans up to Boston in multiple cars, arriving at the safe house without incident. There, they meet a jovial Italian caretaker. Ron bribes him to silence with $50 and Dr. Black wins his affection with a selection of delectable pastries from a famous New York bakery. The caretaker tells them that he can help them with everything they need around the house, including “ventilators,” his code word for firearms.

Ron explains that they’re all set for ventilation, but wants to know what they can do for alcohol. The caretaker says that he can bring something by, but also says that if Ron goes to a certain address and asks a certain person about “wanting to see the animals,” he can get everything he needs.

Calling Rothschild

While the group gets settled, Judge Putnam calls Raleigh Rothschild and informs him that he, and some of his investigative team, are in the area. Rothschild is overjoyed, and agrees to meet the group at a local restaurant at 6 pm for dinner. He promises to bring the artifact he purchased, as well as to answer any of their questions to the best of their ability.

The Museum of Fine Arts

The group visits the museum in the hopes of meeting Stephen Clark or seeing his artwork. Stephen is not there, but the art is. While the rest of the group tours the exhibit with a helpful docent, Ron, overwhelmed and bored by all the fancy art, wanders the statue gallery and ogles naked marble bosoms.

The Clark exhibit, entitled “Fractures of My Mind,” is an astonishingly large collection of oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, and pastel on paper, all of varying size and compositions. Common to each piece of art are jagged fissures, like the cracks in a glass, that subdivide each work into several smaller sections. Clark then uses these sections as smaller framing devices, where he depicts numerous surreal imagines that are variations on the following:

  • Hooded figures
  • Open gateways
  • Candles
  • Torches 
  • People in chains

The group eventually reaches what the docent describes as, “the heart of the exhibit,” a massive 15’ x 18’ painting called “My Brother’s Broken Mind.” The docent states that this is the first piece that Stephen painted, on October 22, 1925, which was the basis for all the other art in the exhibit. The group realizes, with some concern, that the 22nd was the date that they blew up the Lodge hall. They are further concerned when they learn that Stephen painted his keystone work in one day and completed the rest of the artwork in the exhibition in one month.

Investigating the large painting only makes the group more uncomfortable, as it depicts places and people that they have seen and experienced, but which Steven could not possibly know about. It includes, among other things: James Clark, manacled and starving, in a cell, with Mikhail’s face reflected in one of his eyes; The oubliettes beneath the Silver Twilight Lodge, and the nightmarish beasts they contained; a large building engulfed in flame; someone that looks very much like Dr. Black lying, mortally wounded, beside a pillar of some kind.

The group also notes another piece of artwork that is slightly different from the others, in that it depicts a large, white, lozenge-shaped building and a man in a fez who is smiling menacingly. This man reminds Vivian of Nathan Torpley.

Thoroughly unnerved, the group thanks the docent and leaves the exhibit, but not before getting Stephen Clark’s Boston contact information. Mikhail resolves to track down Stephen so that the group can meet with him, while the rest of the team goes to have dinner with Raleigh Rothschild.

The Dinner

Raleigh Rothschild, Esq.


The rest of the group had dinner at a nice restaurant with Raleigh Rothschild. They found Rothschild amiable and agreeable, and willing to answer all of their questions. He elaborated further on the strange ritual, and this led Kane and Johnny to believe that Lostalus Black was using the assembled participants as a very large energy battery to power his time traveling spell.

Rothschild showed off his artifact, a pan with a bakelite handle and a strange black coating that Rothschild insisted allowed food to slide right off the pan without effort. The group was baffled by it, and even more confused by the makers’ mark, which read, “The Bobby Flay Collection: 2016.”

The Artifact--From the FUUTUUURE!


Monday, August 31, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Interlude: Autumn and Winter 1925-1926

Note: After the destruction of the Lodge and the conclusion of the last adventure, I decided to give my players a bit of a timeskip, so that their characters' lives could go back to normal for a bit. What actually constitutes "normal" for these characters varies wildly, but they were grateful for the time off and used the next few months to unwind, take care of themselves, celebrate the holidays, and recuperate from nearly fatal gunshot wounds. I presented this time period, and what sorts of interesting things happened during it, in the following little document.

Time marches on, as is its wont, and things gradually return to normal. You may use the period of relative quiet that follows to reflect upon your most recent adventure, learn more about the strange world you have now twice stumbled upon, or try your best to forget.

The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight

You are not quite sure how well your desperate, final operation against the Lodge went until the story hits the next morning’s papers. You learn that, with a great noise and a heaving of the earth, the Lodge (as well as bits of city block all around it) vanish into a precipitous sinkhole, gone forever. The event baffles geologists, who were certain that that part of the Bronx rested on stable bedrock, not sediment. Future study in the area leads to the discovery of several disconnected cave systems. It is eventually determined that the accident was caused by a structural instability of an undetected cavern that ran directly beneath the Lodge. The geologists never discover just how right they were.

The strange story is the talk of the town for perhaps a week, at most before falling off the pages of the Grey Lady and into obscurity. Those who venture out to the site see a cordoned off hole and city workers attempting to fill in and pave over the gaping hole. Aside from the usual onlookers, you see no one suspicious lurking about the site.

It appears that the destruction of the building also effectively decapitated the Order itself. The obituaries of thirty or so great men soon crowd out that particular section of the times. Johnny notes, with some satisfaction, that the previously missing police sergeant Logan Terry is soon listed among those who presumably died when the Lodge collapsed. Those who follow the obituaries and the social register note that various scions move to places of hire prominence and inheritances are dolled out according to various wills, but not much changes aside from that.

James Clark

James spends the rest of October and part of November recuperating at home. He returns to work just before the Thanksgiving holiday, only to have a stammering, sobbing breakdown in court during a witness cross examination. He is committed for nervous exhaustion and remains so throughout the winter. Angie, at the very least, visits him frequently.

The Band Played On

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Kane Eastman receives, through his agent, a package from “Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra.” The package contains a brief letter of thanks and a record. The A side contains a song you’ve never heard before. The B side contains, “Dead Man’s Stomp, recorded by Mr. Leroy Turner (on new instrument).”

The Holidays

They come and they go. For some of you, they are more festive than usual, owing to the fact that you didn’t think you’d survive your ordeal with the lodge. For others, especially for Ron DeLuca, they bring with them quite a bit of sadness. For others, who knows?

The DeLucas

It seems as though the DeLuca marriage does not survive the ordeal of the last few weeks. Connie, Ron Jr., and Liam all move back to the brownstone in Brooklyn. Ron moves back to the guest house on the Bernouse property. Alone. There is some contact between the two parties, but it is much more cordial than previous encounters. Billy Young, seeming exhausted by the whole ordeal, vanishes from the scene and presumably goes on to less stressful endeavors—like sticking his hand in an industrial blender.

At some point, Ron goes to check on the status of that damned necklace, only to find that it has crumbled to gold and green dust. A last “favor” by Nathan Torpley, perhaps. Who can say?

Your Activities During This Time

Are many and varied, and will be dealt with in upcoming BGA responses. Did you keep in touch? Did you celebrate the holidays together? Did you get one another gifts? Did you ring in the New Year? Or did you hole up and try to forget anything weird ever happened?

February 6, 1926

Just as you are all finally letting out held breaths and letting life return to relative normalcy, Judge Putnam receives a letter in his mail on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon. It seems to be a personal letter from his now-retired attorney, Raleigh Rothschild.

The contents of that letter will no doubt have you remembering the events of the past, whether you like it or not. What may surprise you is that the letter may also force you to…

LOOK TO THE FUTURE
SHADOWS OF YOG-SOTHOTH: CHAPTER TWO



Saturday, August 29, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part 14: October 22, 1925

The Night of October 22, 1925

"And now," as Majel Barrett would say, "for the conclusion." 

Recap

Mikhail, Angie, James, and Mrs. Dimathias all arrive at the judge's house as the others enters the wardrobe. Mikhail and Vivian try to fill one another in after Mikhail cuts his mom loose to explore the judge’s fancy house.

Meanwhile, the others (Johnny, Ron, Kane Eastman, Judge Putnam, and Dr. Black) step out of the wardrobe into an increasingly cramped oubliette. There’s a howling, mewling, half-formed, humanoid…thing that’s pretty darn appalling down here. Martin, formerly of the train station battle, is somewhere upstairs, calling out to Carl Stanford and begging for forgiveness.

The Oubliette

Some of the many awful things in the oubliettes beneath the Lodge


Ron mercy kills the inhuman thing with his sledgehammer, stifling its cries and giving the team more room to maneuver. Various people clamber onto the shoulders of various other people and manage to slide the iron grating off the top of the oubliette. From there, it takes only a little time for everyone to get themselves and their gear out of the oubliette.

There is some discussion as to what to do next. A few are interested in investigating Martin’s fate, while others want to search this level more extensively. Eventually, the team realizes that they don’t have much time, and so proceed with all haste to the stairs leading to the upper cavern.

As they ascend, Johnny feels his psychic link with his summoned byakhee snap and fall away. He urges everyone to hurry.

At the Carriage House

After a long moment of everyone starting at everyone else very awkwardly in the judge’s garage, Vivian invites everyone upstairs for snacks. They chow down on some of the food in Johnny’s larder. They also find the homemade baklava that Johnny was gifted by his mom. They do not eat it, but Mikhail does spike it with hot sauce.

Mikhail’s mom, who cannot go anywhere without making sounding noises like a submarine, announces that she is in the back garden and that it is lovely. She then wanders back into the judge’s house and, thanks to an amazing Luck roll from Mikhail's player, accidentally locks herself in the wine cellar, sparing her from the rest of the night’s terrors.

In the Cavern

Things are going relatively well. The team has gotten to the upper level of the caves and have begun setting dynamite around each of the support pillars. They are about halfway done when several of the team spot three figures marching slowly, but determinedly, toward them. Kane Eastman, Dr. Black, and Judge Putnam continue to work, while Ron and Johnny face the intruders.

As the three figures come closer, they are revealed to be hairless, naked men of exceptional size and strength, their skin piebald and covered in deep pockmarks, their genitals completely withered. Johnny, suspecting magic, gives Ron his blessed knife.

In the brief exchange that follows, Johnny kills one of the figures and badly wounds another with his shotgun. Ron almost gets his head knocked off his shoulders by one of the figures before killing both it and the wounded one who had almost reached Johnny.

Whenever Ron stabs one of these figures with the blessed knife, it leaves a bloodless wound that glows with a blue-green light. Every time Ron kills one of the figures, they collapse, instantly, into piles of fine dust.

After the battle, the team confers with one another. Have they been discovered, or was this just a patrol? Is mining half the pillars enough, or should they risk doing more? After a frantic discussion, they decide to continue on, as quickly as they can, and get as many pillars set with explosive charges as possible.

A Modern Solution to Medieval Problems

At the Carriage House

James has gone to bed. Viv, Mikhail, and Angie are sitting around the kitchen table, filling one another in on the events of the past few days. Angie is willing to add her gun to the cause, and the others fill her in on the weirder aspects of what’s going on. A lot of time is spent trying to describe the workings of the wardrobe.

And then, the trio hears the sound of terrible flap-flapping outside. It seems to be circling the house. Pushok goes nuts and starts barking up a storm, following the thing as it circles the house. Vivian and Mikhail go to the window, getting only a glimpse of the leathery, hairy bulk of the Johnny’s unbound byakhee as it goes flapping past the window.

After a moment, the byakhee flies to the front door of the main house and begins smashing its way through the front door. Mikhail, terrified that it will kill his mother, races out of the carriage house to go rescue her.

In the meantime, Viv and Angie take stock of the situation and Angie hotwires the judge’s car. They are unsure of what to do at the moment—should they wait for the others or should they get the hell out of here? They stand watch nervously, with Angie retreating to the bedroom to stand guard over James.

In the Cavern

"Insolent FOOLS!" cries Carl Stanford

The team has just about finished setting dynamite around all of the pillars. All that remains now is to hook the wires up to the plunger on the lower level and bring down the house.

Just then, three more people enter the cavern: John Scott, Max Reed, and Carl Stanford. Mr. Stanford does something to cause the cavern walls to emit a steadily brightening red glow, allowing everyone to see everyone else. Kane and Johnny duck back behind pillars, and are not spotted at the moment.

Carl Stanford sarcastically welcomes them to the Lodge, and tells them that they could simply have come in through the front door. He tells them that the byakhee was clever, and that he is impressed at their resourcefulness. He realized, almost too late, that the byakhee was likely a distraction for them coming in the back way, and so has come down to the basement to end matters once and for all.

Judge Putnam steps forward, pretending to be his duplicate, and tries to salvage the situation, telling Mr. Stanford that, “this was the only way I could get them to come.” Mr. Stanford doesn’t buy it, and the final battle begins.

Carl Stanford shapes a glowing red symbol in the air with his cane. This causes anyone to see it (including Stanford and his allies), to suffer organ swelling and internal bleeding. When Max Reed mocks him for his spell suggestion, Stanford snaps, “You’ve already died once, so stop complaining. Besides, think of this as encouragement to be efficient.”

Ron taunts Carl Stanford, and Stanford immediately recognizes Ron as the Italian “city maintenance worker.” Stanford is not surprised that Ron is part of the group, and gleefully remarks that they have made it easy for him to tie up all the loose ends.

At this point, Ron tells Stanford that he stole the Jade Sphinx on behalf of Nathan Torpley. This causes Stanford to fly into a panicked, confused rage. Stanford tugs on his cane, revealing that it is, in fact, a sword cane. With the blade halfway out of the cane body, Stanford turns to stab Ron.

Only for him to be body checked and knocked to the floor by Johnny.

The frenetic battle lasts only a few more seconds, but the amount of brutality packed into those seconds is truly a sight to behold.

Max Reed and Dr. Black blaze away at one another with their guns, trading one-liners the entire time. Max Reed dies, again, crumpled against the cavern wall. Dr. Black collapses, mortally wounded with a perforated liver, next to one of the pillars.

Ron leaps on the prone Carl Stanford and stabs him with the blessed blade. He wounds Stanford, who bleeds like a stuck pick and screams that “this is impossible,” and other Republic serial villain lines. Stanford summons a tentacle to grasp and strangle Ron, but Ron avoids its slimy caress and stabs Stanford in the heart, killing him.

The judge, who just wants to be thorough, empties his pistol into Carl Stanford’s body.

John Scott tries to shoot Johnny, who is lying on the ground next to Stanford, with a flintlock pistol. He misses, tosses the gun away, and shows that he, too, has brought a sword cane to a gun fight. Johnny blasts him at point blank range with his shotgun, killing him instantly. Johnny then tries to pick up Carl Stanford’s cane, only for it to “bite” him. He swaddles the cane up in his coat, and resolves to worry about it later.

In the meantime, Kane Eastman, who has not been noticed by anyone, has taken the wires down to the lower level and has hooked them up to the plunger. He hurries to the upper level and, realizing the battle is over, has Johnny help him carry the unconscious Dr. Black downstairs.

The team all follow, reaching the plunger, which is at the lip of the oubliette. Johnny proposes that he stay behind to use the plunger, leaping through the wardrobe immediately after. Judge Putnam, however, countermands that order, and says that, as the oldest member of the team, he will stay behind. Everyone looks at one another, and worries privately that this is the last time they will see the judge. Realizing that there’s not much time left, they all travel back through the wardrobe.

At the Judge’s House

While the byakhee ravages the front door of the judge’s house, Mikhail sneaks around the back and comes in through an unlocked door on the verandah. He hears his mother talking in a normal volume (or as someone else might say, shouting) in the basement.

“Mikhail. Honey? Is that you? I’m stuck in the basement! I think there’s a bird in the house!”

Mikhail hears the byakhee smash its way through the door and into the front hallway of the judge’s house. He throws open the hall doorway, steps through, readies his gun…

And watches, in bafflement, as the byakhee disappears.

At the Carriage House

Angie screams in terror as the wardrobe doors open and a dust- and blood-covered Ron steps into the room. She almost shoots him. Ron yells at her about it. With good reason.

Vivian tries to calm Angie while Ron tries to explain what’s going on, as the unconscious Dr. Black flops out of the wardrobe onto the floor. He is soon joined by Kane and Johnny, the latter of whom works very hard to save Dr. Black’s life. Johnny calls upon his experiences in the trenches of Europe and uses what he learned there to stabilize the doctor. Unfortunately, this triggers a brief psychotic episode, during which Johnny destroys the doctor’s pocket watch.

There is a long, ghastly silence, at the end of which, the wardrobe opens for the final time. Judge Putnam steps through, thoroughly unflapped, even as the wardrobe, its link severed by several thousand tons of collapsing rock, implodes behind him. Johnny grabs the judge and kisses him on the head.

The Next Day

The next day, the papers tell a patchy, sensationalist story about how, after a brief moment of noise and shaking, the Silver Twilight Lodge vanished into a sinkhole. Many members are missing and presumed dead.



The End
For Now

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part 13: October 20-22, 1925

At the Judge’s House

Maximilian Reed--Reborn!

Learning that Max Reed is at his front door, the judge sends Vivian and Dr. Black to various points throughout his palatial manse in order to 1) acquire accouterments for the upcoming card game, and 2) get them out of the way while he speaks to Max Reed. The others refuse to put up with this, and hide just out of sight to eavesdrop. 

The judge notes that Mr. Reed seems to be in as fit a state as the judge has ever seen him, though he now has deep facial pockmarks and scarring that the group had previously seen on the face of Jonathan Scott.

Dr. Black has a bit of a nervous breakdown overhearing Max Reed speak, as he is completely sure that Max shot him to death in the Bayonne, New Jersey train station. The reports of bodies recovered from the scene, as mentioned in the New York Times, only further cemented that certainty in his mind.

Max Reed explains to Judge Putnam that he had come by to speak to him on behalf of Carl Stanford. He tells the judge that Mr. Stanford would like him and his associates to stop by the Lodge (calling ahead first), so that they could be rewarded for their great work on behalf of it. Max Reed mentions that Mr. Stanford is hoping to perform a small ritual to confer upon them the rank of Masters of the Order of Silver Twilight. 

With that, Max Reed departs. The others creep back into the parlor. Dr. Black makes a comment about, “being sure he shot that guy." Their attempts to play cards in the aftermath of Mr. Reed's visit does not go well.

Somewhere in Upstate New York

Logan Terry's Wardrobe Recovery Vehicle


Johnny and Kane are in the judge's car with the wardrobe, and have been approached by Logan Terry and another man (assumed to be another Silver Twilight Lodge member). Logan and Johnny exchange words. Kane attempts to draw his derringer and get out of the car to get the drop on Mr. Terry. Johnny intervenes, and he and Kane fumble around in the car, to no effect other than the confusion of Logan and his associate.

Johnny tries to bluff Mr. Terry, saying that he and Kane picked up the wardrobe on behalf of Carl Stanford, and name drops one Yog-Sothoth, a name he heard from Mikhail. Terry, surprised and off balance, says that he was ordered to pick up the wardrobe and wants to know why Carl Stanford is playing “mommy/daddy” with them and giving important missions to neophytes.

Johnny then responds that, “whatever the case, if we’re all standing around here, we’re failing the mission, so let’s just get this wardrobe back to the Lodge.” Logan Terry agrees but, smelling something fishy, orders his companion to get in the car with Johnny, while Kane comes with him in the truck.

At this moment, Mikhail, who has pulled up behind Logan Terry’s pickup truck, opens fire. A brief gun battle ensues, leaving Logan’s associate dead. Johnny calls for Mr. Terry to surrender, which he does. Then Johnny interrogates and, ultimately, executes Logan Terry.

The three men spend the next hour or so clearing the scene and burying Logan Terry and his associate in the woods. Once that’s done, Mikhail drives back to Ashby, while Kane and Johnny return to Staten Island with the wardrobe.

At the Judge’s House

The card game is swiftly forgotten. Vivian seizes the moment to start discussing the group’s future plans, especially considering Max Reed’s improbable reappearance.

At about this point, Kane and Johnny, looking filthy and disheveled, enter the judge's house. The two teams catch one another up on what has transpired this evening. Dr. Black, still confused and disbelieving, mentions once again that he was sure he killed Max Reed.

They also discuss if it would be possible for them to destroy the Lodge building itself, whether the offer of the elevation ceremony is a trap, and how they could turn the elevation ceremony to their advantage.

Amidst all this, Mikhail makes it back to Ashby, checks in on James, his mom, and a very beleaguered Angie, and then goes to bed.

October 21, 1925

On the 21st, Dr. Black takes an extended leave of absence from work and orders four canisters of medical oxygen to be delivered to his house, so that he can “care for his sick mother.” Johnny calls Ron and asks him to acquire as much dynamite as he can. Vivian has a heart-to-heart talk with Deb about the Order, and fills in many of the blanks that Mikhail wasn’t able to. Deb tells Vivian that the Order has full meetings every Thursday night, but people tend to hang around at other days and hours, as well (the Lodge being a social club, and all).

Mikhail calls Vivian to give her the lowdown as to what’s going on. Mikhail also happens to be worried about Angie’s mental state (she seems stressed and nervous), so he puts Angie on the phone to talk to Vivian. Angie tells Vivian a little more about what’s going on, and also about Mikhail’s curious task of moving a wardrobe out of a cabin and then taking it…somewhere…

Later on, Mikhail and Johnny talk on the phone. The conversation gets pretty heated, and Johnny hangs up on Mikhail. The bone of contention is that Mikhail wants to keep his friend, James, safe from the Order, while Johnny was hoping for Mikhail’s help in infiltrating the Lodge.

Meeting at the Judge’s House

The Oft-Mentioned Wardrobe, Stolen from Ashby, MA


Everyone meets at Judge Putnam’s house to discuss their final plans. The judge reports that he has gotten a somewhat surprising letter from his long-time lawyer and friend, Raleigh Rothschild, in which Rothschild has announced his retirement. Apparently, all cases and clients will now be handled by Raleigh’s son, Devin, of whom the judge is not particularly fond. Judge Putnam is concerned that the Order has “gotten” to Raleigh. Everyone else is concerned, as well, but have other things to focus on.

Johnny and the others baffle Ron and Vivian by telling them about their plans to use the wardrobe to sneak into the Silver Twilight Lodge. Johnny suddenly realizes that Carl Stanford could have done something to the wardrobe that is in the Lodge and so, cursing and freaking out slightly, he runs to the garage of the carriage house to the wardrobe. Everyone else follows him.

Johnny clears the locks and chains from the wardrobe. He tells the others that he will step into the wardrobe to “check on the other end,” and will knock three times to let the others know that he will be stepping out. He is also convinced that something “might already be inside the wardrobe.” As a result of this, Johnny readies his shotgun and toes open one of the wardrobe doors while Kane, Dr. Black, and Ron all cover him.

It’s empty.

Neither Narnia, Nor Kansas

Johnny steps into the wardrobe and uses its power to move to the other wardrobe. He opens the doors a crack to discover that he is in pitch blackness in a musty, damp area, near something making snuffling and scrabbling noises. Johnny realizes that Carl Stanford has moved the other end of the wardrobe from the Lodge’s basement library into one of the oubliettes in the prison area, where Mikhail and Kane discovered James Clark.

Johnny attempts to close the wardrobe door and leave, but the hinge squeaks, alerting whatever noisome thing is in the oubliette with him. It starts screaming, which causes the other things in the other oubliettes to start screaming.

Among the bestial shrieks, Johnny hears someone calling out, “Mr. Stanford? Is that you? I’m still here, Mr. Stanford. I’m sorry.” He realizes that the voice sounds just like Martin, from the train station.

He steps back through the wardrobe, knocks three times, steps out, and relates his recent discoveries to the group. Ron and Vivian do not understand what he’s talking about, and so Johnny demonstrates the magic of the Gate Boxes by using the set he made with the luggage boxes. Ron is supremely weirded out by this, as is Vivian, though she tells Johnny it does explain something Mikhail had mentioned to her offhandedly on the phone earlier.

Vivian further explains that Mikhail went to a library near Ashby and researched how people might move from one location to another without having to physically cross the distance in between. The group discussed these methods, and tried to determine which of them the Gate Boxes used.

This continued into further discussion of who would use the wardrobe to enter the Lodge, where they would place the dynamite, and how they would set it off. They also discussed whether or not to reconnect the gaslight lines in the Lodge itself (eventually deciding against it), and whether or not to bring along the doctor’s oxygen tanks (again, no).

Phone Call from the Adversary

The phone in the carriage house rang at about this point. Ron answered the phone and discovered Carl Stanford was on the other end of the line. Mr. Stanford wanted to speak to Judge Putnam in private, which was easily done.

Carl Stanford, still believing that Judge Putnam was the Order member who had killed and replaced Judge Putnam, talked to Judge Putnam about current and future plans. The subjects of their conversation are represented by the following bullet point list:

  • Judge Putnam said that his friends were suspicious of him, and that, as a result, he has had very little time to put the Order’s plans into action.
  • Carl Stanford wanted to know if the double found Mr. Scott’s book and the Jade Sphinx on Judge Putnam’s property. Judge Putnam told him no.
  • Carl Stanford, eager to tie up loose ends, asked the judge to bring Kane, Dr. Black, and Johnny to the Lodge on Thursday night for the big meeting.
  • Carl Stanford tells the judge that the pretext for there visit would be to elevate them to the next level. In reality, it’s to “take care of them.”

2 Italian 2 Soap Opera

Connie Deluca, Unaware that She is a Pawn of Dark Forces...and Her Husband


During a quiet moment, Ron tells Vivian that something is really wrong with Connie. They haven’t fought since the big dinner, and Connie seems to be willing to do whatever Ron asks. Even all the abrupt plans to go to Boston/not go to Boston/go to Darragh’s haven’t phased her or annoyed her at all. Ron suspects that the necklace is controlling Connie’s mind. Ron also says that “take the necklace off” is the one command Connie won’t obey.

After the meeting adjourns at the judge’s house, Ron and Vivian drive out to Darragh’s house, so that Vivian can see for herself how weird Connie has become. Vivian helps Darragh heat up some leftover pot roast from the night’s earlier dinner, so that she and Ron can eat. While separated from the others, Darragh and Vivian they compare notes about how freaking weird and creepy Connie is acting.

In the meantime, Ron borrows some of his brother-in-law’s whiskey and fills two glasses. He then takes Connie into his brother-in-law’s bedroom and asks her to explain, in excruciating detail, the familial lineage of the people in one of the photos of disgruntled Irish peasant farmers hanging on the wall. She obeys, and Ron takes this opportunity to mix the last of his laudanum (prescribed to him for his previous, lamp-related injury) with Connie’s drink.

Connie takes a drink from her glass and passes out in short order. Ron attempts to remove the necklace, only to discover that either the clasp is broken, or that his beefy, Mafia hands are too big to work the delicate mechanism. He pulls out his pocketknife and tries to pry the clasp open, butthat doesn’t work, either.

Fortunately, Vivian comes into the room, assesses the situation, and is able to easily remove the necklace. Ron pockets the necklace and lies to Darragh, who just cam into the room, telling him that Connie had fainted. At this point, Connie wakes up and starts yelling at Ron, leading Darragh and Viv to exclaim, “Oh, she’s fine!”

October 22, 1925

The next day, everyone arms up and meets at the judge’s house. Mikhail and company begin their journey back from Ashby.

The plan is for the judge to tell Carl Stanford to expect them at 7:30. This will, hopefully, encourage all the Lodge members to be in the building around 7:00, which is when the group plans to start its final assault.

Just prior to this, Johnny has Kane take him, and both of the luggage Gate Boxes, to a quiet area near the Lodge. Johnny then takes one of the Gate Boxes with him, climbs to the top of a nearby building, and casts a spell to summon a horrific ice demon from beyond space. Kane drives back to the judge’s house, but not before Johnny tells him to tear up a bed sheet and make headbands for everyone.

The summoning goes surprisingly well, and the ice demon appears. Johnny tells it to “wait 15 minutes, then attack anyone inside the Silver Twilight Lodge” (points) “not wearing a headband.” The demon settles down to wait, while Johnny hops into the luggage and takes a quick jaunt back to the judge’s car, which is by now parked in the judge’s garage.

The Ice Demon (Johnny in a Jaunty Hat for Scale)


At this point, everyone but Vivian takes turns stepping through the wardrobe into the oubliette in the caverns beneath the Silver Twilight Lodge. Johnny briefly shines his flashlight around the oubliette, which reveals that the thing in here with them is an eyeless, mostly legless, human-like thing with skin sloughing off in places. It screams. Its screams are answered by other creatures in other oubliettes.

Martin, who is somewhere nearby, once again starts calling for Mr. Stanford.

It is at this moment that Mikhail, his mom, his dog, his best friend, and Angie arrive. Vivian fills Mikhail in while Mrs. Dimathias wanders around the premises, distracted by the beautiful luxury of the judge’s house.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part 12: October 19-20, 1925

NOTE: This part of the adventure originally featured a new character, played by Ron's player, who decided to retire Ron after his marital issues had "resolved," see below. After a couple of sessions, Ron's player went back to playing Ron for a variety of reasons. In order to keep the narrative manageable for those who weren't present at the game, I'm going to carefully cut around the briefly-played new character and streamline a few things. Yay, continuity (sort of)!

October 19, 1925

Some of the News That's Fit to Print


The Bayonne train station shootout is mentioned on the front page of the NYT. The Bayonne police chief, Halloran, mentions that the three bodies they found had no identification, but that he suspects Mob activity. He is currently following up on leads.

Meanwhile, back in New York (and Ashby), everyone takes the day to advance their own personal goals.

Johnny

Purchases a knife and several dozen chickens so that he can create a Blessed Blade. He also sends another letter to his war buddy, Junior, and visits his parents in Atlantic City. He has a lovely time with his parents, and they give him some baklava to take home. He cannot shake the feeling that he is running out of time.

Mikhail

While his mother strolls around town, trying to make friends with everyone she sees, Mikhail enlists James’ and Angie’s help to acquire the wardrobe. They find it and lash it to the roof of Mikhail’s car. Mikhail and Angie talk about what’s happened, and Mikhail apologizes for not being able to trust her before. Angie understands, but warns Mikhail that, “if we’re gonna take on the Lodge, I gotta warn you I only got five bullets left in this thing.”

Mikhail pops by the general store and, as luck would have it, finds a box of .45 caliber ammunition for only $4.43. He buys it, thus ensuring that Angie has 100 more bullets to fire at Lodge members.

Vivian

Embraces her role as the group’s researcher and tries to correlate everything that they know so far about the Lodge’s activities. She also suspects that VLACTOS is a Valusian word, checks her notes from her last library visit, and is gratified to be proven right. It means, “Of the Ebbing Tide.” 

Vivian is pretty sure that the Jade Sphinx is the Arc of Vlactos, and is relieved that it is out of Carl Stanford’s hands.

Vivian visits the NYPL again and consults with the librarian who taught her what he knew about Valusian. She goes through his notes to learn more about Valusia and learns that it was a powerful nation that was destroyed many ages ago. Its people seemed to favor iconography featuring snakes. There isn’t much else.

The Judge

Takes a cab to his local police station and gives a statement about the criminal shenanigans that occured at his house the night before. While there, he learns that the impound lot in Bayonne has his car. The judge, refusing to take a cab back to his house, uses his high Credit Rating to force the Bayonne police department to release his car and bring it to the New York Police Station within two hours. When asked if he is going to drive himself home, the judge sniffs, looks at the beleaguered patrolman who has driven his car all the way from Bayonne, and asks him to drive the car (and the judge) to back home to Staten Island.

Dr. Black

Dr. Edward Call


Arranges to borrow the use of a cabin in the Catskills from one of his colleagues, Dr. Tanhauser, to use as a bolthole in the event of an emergency. 

He also learns, from a mutual acquaintance, that Dr. Call, a fellow Lodge member, is growing concerned about the Silver Twilight Lodge's activities. Dr. Black agrees to meet Dr. Call for lunch the next day to talk over his suspicions.

Ron

At 8 pm, Ron arrives at the French restaurant to find that he and his wife are the only patrons. They are served by two waiters in immaculate white uniforms and are even served champagne—somehow! There’s also an orchestra!

Connie is suspicious and irritated, but is still dressed to the nines. She and Ron talk, and Ron manages not to taste his shoe leather too much.  He also finds out that, on the night he broke into his own house to sleep in his own bed, Connie was out visiting her brother.

RON: How is he?

CONNIE: Mildly concussed, thanks to you!

RON: Ah.

Connie is moved by the ostentatious display of the evening, especially the necklace, but questions Ron on whether or not all this stuff got paid for by his, “Italian business.” Ron swears that it isn’t and helps Connie put the necklace on.

After this point, a grateful Connie starts to cry, grabs Ron’s hands in hers, and asks him what she wants to do to save their troubled marriage.  Ron says he should move back in. Connie tearfully accepts.

A happy ending?! In a Call of Cthulhu game? Madness!

October 20, 1925

I'm Sure It's Fine. They're Still Dead, After All...


The New York Times reports that the three bodies recovered from the train station shootout were stolen from the Bayonne morgue late yesterday evening.

Johnny, for one, is delighted to have the opportunity to kill Max Reed again.

The End of the Italian Soap Opera?!

Ron Jr. discovers his parents in post-coital bliss downstairs in the kitchen, and is thoroughly weirded out. He goes to talk to Vivian for some advice. Vivian is also weirded out, and plans on checking out this whole "second honeymoon" thing.

Dining with Dr. Call

Dr. Black meets Dr. Call at the diner. They have a conversation about the Lodge. Dr. Black is, unsurprisingly, sympathetic to Dr. Call’s concerns. Dr. Black, perhaps a bit injudiciously, starts talking about magic, the occult, sorcery, and other very bizarre things. Dr. Call ends up leaving abruptly, leaving Dr. Black to pay for his own coffee and Dr. Call’s coffee.

The Very Exciting Paperwork of Judge Putnam

Judge Putnam goes to the office to do some work. He spends the morning with his secretary trying to get the building plans of the Silver Twilight Lodge. No one can seem to locate the plans, but he does get a layout of the old gaslight lines inside the building. 

In a previous session, Judge Putnam had decided that the group should have an official name--the London Group. He now proceeds to have his secretary and his lawyer, Raleigh Rothschild, draw up paperwork to incorporate the London Group, with himself as president, Johnny as vice president, and Dr. Black as the secretary. He also takes pains to edit his will.

Judge Putnam then calls the Bayonne city morgue and talks to someone there who is very, very tired of answering phone calls. The man confirms that there was a break-in, that there was no damage, and that nothing was taken except for the three bodies. He confirms that the bodies were in a locked room, to which only a very few people had the key. He mentions several times that he has told all of this to the police already. He mentions that the head forensic specialist is named Dr. Van Stoeber.

Last of all, Judge Putnam decides to take Kane's rather dubious advice from the night before and has his secretary send a letter over to the Silver Twilight Lodge. In the letter, the judge pretends to be the person who was supposed to kill him and then assume his identity. He informs the Lodge that he has succeeded in replacing Judge Putnam, and that he is now waiting for further instructions.

At this point, the Judge calls his home to talk to Johnny.

Operator, Number Please

Johnny has been fielding calls ever since he got back from dropping Judge Putnam off at the office. He gets a call from Vivian, catching him up on her research. He gets a call from Mikhail, who is wondering what to do about the wardrobe that he, James, and Angie collected. He gets a call from Kane, who is feeling nervous about being home alone.  The results of these calls are:

  • Mikhail is told to drive partway down to Hartford, CT. Johnny will meet him there to take custody of the wardrobe.
  • Johnny tells Judge Putnam that he will be leaving to do get the wardrobe. The judge tells Johnny to first stop by the office, because he has some paperwork for Johnny to sign. He also wants Johnny to call him a car service to take him home, as he refuses to take a cab.
  • Kane will go with Johnny, since it gets him out of the house. Johnny tells him that, once they secure the wardrobe, they will go to upstate New York and buy as much dynamite as the judge can afford.

At the Judge’s Office

Oh, Hello, Mr. Stanford


Kane and Johnny arrive at Judge Putnam’s office only to discover that the judge is having a friendly meeting with…Carl Stanford?! Kane is amused that the judge is going through with his plan even though the others said they didn’t want to go through with this plan. Johnny is not sure if he can trust the judge anymore, and is pretty sure everyone’s going to die. Mr. Stanford is just ever so happy to see everyone and shows himself out. Judge Putnam thinks that Mr. Stanford believed the ruse, giving them yet another way into the Silver Twilight Lodge.

OOG: It should be noted that the judge's player sent the letter to Carl Stanford in secret (they texted me to let me know that this was what they were doing), and so the players discovering Carl Stanford meeting with Judge Putnam at the judge's office was a legitimate surprise to everyone, both in and out of game. The players (apart from the person playing Judge Putnam), needed a few minutes to calm down after this scene--they were legitimately horrified. Then we continued.

Johnny signs the paperwork and realizes he will inherit everything in the event of Judge Putnam’s death. If Johnny dies first, the London Group instead inherits everything. Johnny is flabbergasted and appalled. The judge, rather pragmatically, says that he is old, has no children, and that what they’re doing is very dangerous. Johnny signs the paperwork, but is still unsure of the judge and his real plans. He makes a quick phone call to Vivian, to fill her in on what just happened, and then he and Kane head north to Connecticut.

Mikhail, Kane, and Johnny Go to Connecticut

Mikhail leaves Angie to mind the store (and his mom, and James), while he takes the wardrobe down to Hartford. The wardrobe is quite large and ends up tied to the roof of Mikhail’s car. Mikhail puts his extreme paranoia to work and watches for signs of pursuit or interest.

Just outside of Hartford, a new-looking pickup truck, driven by two gentlemen, drives past him, going the other direction. Mikhail watches them pull a quick U-Turn on the road behind him and start following him. Mikhail, once again, takes evasive action and manages to lose them before driving into Hartford. He pulls onto Asylum Avenue and parks in front of City Hall.

Johnny and Kane arrive quite a bit later and meet up with Mikhail. As the three of them transfer the wardrobe from Mikhail’s car to the judge’s touring car, Mikhail notices the truck from earlier is doing slow laps around City Hall. He assumes, correctly, that the men in the truck are waiting for the transfer to be completed, and that they will follow Johnny and Kane back to New York when they depart.

Mikhail has Johnny and Kane leave first. When the truck drives off after them, Mikhail follows both vehicles in his car. Johnny takes the caravan down increasingly remote roads, until he finally stops the car on a very narrow dirt road somewhere in Western Connecticut/Eastern New York. The truck stops several yards behind Kane and Johnny and the two men get out. One of them reaches into his coat and pulls out something that looks like a wallet.

By this point, Mikhail has pulled up behind the truck, and is pretty certain that the two men haven’t seen him. He waits as the two men approach the judge’s touring car.

Once the two men are close for him to do anything about it, Johnny realizes that the man holding the wallet is Logan Terry, a police officer and a Lodge member. Logan, brandishing his badge, tells Kane and Johnny to get out of the car while the other man draws a gun from his coat.

Logan Terry--When Your Secret Order Needs a Dirty Cop on the Payroll
 

CLIFFHANGER!

The Judge’s House

Unbeknownst to the judge, Johnny has informed Vivian and Dr. Black that Judge Putnam has gone through with Kane's foolhardy plan to pretend to be his own assassin, and has made contact with Carl Stanford. Worried that the judge might either be murdered or do something even worse if left to his own devices, Johnny asks Vivian and Dr. Black to visit with and mind the judge for the evening.

“He’s an old white man,” says Johnny, “so just sit with him and play cards. It'll be fine!”

Vivian and Dr. Black arrive and agree to a bracing night of card games. While the doctor pours the drinks and the judge sets up the card table, the doorbell rings. They open the door it to find a very angry, very Teutonic, very pockmarked man with an impressive mustache standing on the front porch.

“Please tell the judge that Maximilian Reed is here to see him.”


D-D-D-DOUBLE CLIFFHANGER *AIR HORN*

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part 11: October 18, 1925 (Late)

In which the longest day ever at last concludes...

Mikhail

After a harrowing journey that has taken its toll on everyone who wasn’t Mrs. Dimathias (she slept through the whole shooting/murder/drive away quickly scene like a champ), Mikhail and company finally reach Ashby, MA. They meet Phillip (Ruth-Anne’s husband) at the boarding house and get rooms for the night. Phillip is fine with having a dog on the premises, which suits Mikhail. He neither wants to sleep alone, nor with Angie in his room.

Once everyone is settled, Mikhail makes some phone calls using the public phone at the general store. He first calls Deb, tells her pretty much the entire truth of the situation, and apologizes for not trusting her before. He tells her that he now trusts her and Anige with this important information. Deb is willing to help Mikhail take on the Silver Twilight Lodge.

Mikhail’s other phone calls are continued below.

Ron and Viv

Somehow no worse for wear, Ron and Viv return to the Bernouse residence later that evening. They find that Nathan Torpley has left a small, flat box (wrapped in brown paper and twine) on the steps of the guest house. There is a note addressed to Ron, indicating that, “everything will be ready” and that he should come to a certain French restaurant in Midtown at 8:00 tomorrow evening. Ron opens the box and finds a very nice gold and jade necklace.

Mr. Torpley Has Good Taste...


Viv then gets a late-night call from Mikhail, who tells her where he (and James and company) are. Mikhail mentions the Silver Twilight Lodge member who almost assassinated James before being killed by Angie. Viv is surprised at how far Mikhail went to keep James safe, but does admit that Mikhail has a point when he says, “they just thoroughly searched Ashby. It’s the last place they’ll look.”

Viv relates her and Ron’s adventures of the previous evening. In the background, Ron apologizes for the states of the door, the rug, and the lemon cake at Mrs. Dimathias’ house. He promises to send someone over to fix things. The call ends with Viv asking Mikhail to call Johnny and crew and fill them in on what happened. They should all, hopefully, be back at the judge’s house by now.

At the Judge’s House

Judge Putnam convenes a quick meeting with Kane Eastman, Dr. Black, and Johnny to get their stories straight, while the judge’s lawyer, Raleigh Rothschild, talks to the police on scene. The quartet spin a believable story about how, at the same time the now deceased intruder broke into the judge’s house, a pair of different intruders broke into the garage to steal the judge’s car. Johnny, Kane, and Dr. Black went to investigate the sounds of the break in, exchanged gunfire with the suspects, but could not prevent them from fleeing in the judge’s car.

The police believe all this because the judge is white, a judge, and very rich. They take everyone’s statement, remove the dead intruder from the house, and ask the judge to stay in the carriage house tonight while they process the scene. They also ask the judge to stop by the station tomorrow to give a more complete statement.

The quartet retire to the carriage house, where they debrief one another on what happened that night. The judge hands over the black, velvet bag containing human hair, fingernails, some knuckle bones, and a small vial of blood, as well as the two pieces of paper recovered from the intruder. Johnny notices that the ritualistic scroll is partially written in Greek. He manages to make out that it is a “magic spell” that allows someone to “take on the form of another” through something called “anthrophagy.” He tells the judge that he suspects that the Lodge meant to kill him and, through the use of magic, replace him with a doppelganger. 

The judge dismisses all of this magical stuff as poppycock and balderdash.  Dr. Black, who is busily stitching up his own wounds, is skeptical. Kane Eastman, however, believes Johnny’s story. He says that, if the judge was willing, he could call up Carl Stanford and pretend to be the successful intruder, now disguised as the judge. He further says that the judge has made this even easier by obliterating the intruder’s face (and head) with a close-range shotgun blast. The group discusses the merits of this plan. The judge worries that he might accidentally give the game away by not knowing things the intruder should. Kane says that, “it’s magic. You could probably fake some kind of amnesia.”

The judge, discomfited by all this Silver Twilight Lodge nonsense, tells the others that he plans to create a warrant and send about fifty police officers in to seize and search the Lodge premises. The others are hesitant, and bring up the following:

  • A lack of evidence.
  • Other Lodge members having enough influence to stop the investigation.
  • Other members learning about the police operation and fleeing before the cops arrive.
  • There was also a suggestion that the judge could order the sting operation and then abruptly end it, as a way to prove that he had been magically replaced.

Johnny then said that he wished he had gotten the Lodge’s Gate Box back from Ashby instead of just chaining it up. He explained that the group could use it as a way to get into the Lodge undetected, douse the place with kerosene, and leave behind a huge pile of dynamite. He said that it would almost be worth it to make a multi-hour trip to Ashby to get the box back. Failing that, he planned to employ other means…

At this point, Mikhail called.

MIKHAIL: I’m in Ashby.

JOHNNY: You’re WHERE?!

MIKHAIL: Ashby, Massachusetts. I have James, we…

JOHNNY: Okay, I want you to listen to me VERY CAREFULLY.

Johnny tells Mikhail that it is vitally important for him to recover the wardrobe from the lonely cabin in Mill Ville. Refreshingly, when Johnny says, “it’s because it’s a magic box that will allow us to teleport into the Lodge undetected,” Mikhail 100% believes him and trusts his judgment.

Mikhail tells Johnny that he has James Clark, and that James went a little loopy yesterday, which caused him to start screaming about the end of days and an invading deity or monster. Something called “YOG-SOTHOTH.” Johnny has never heard of the name, but is concerned. He mentions it to the others, and they’ve never heard of it either.

The End of the Day, Finally

Kane's Friend, Horus

Everyone gets some rest. Except for Kane Eastman, who steals a bottle of the judge’s best wine and brings it to his friend Papa Doc Horus. Horus is happy to see Kane, but is absolutely horrified when Kane mentions the name “YOG-SOTHOTH.”

Horus tells Kane that this is the name of the evil, grasping spirit that he had told Kane about before, and that Kane needs to drop this whole business before the demon sorcerer destroys him. Kane refuses to do this, as he is convinced that the Lodge is up to no good and needs to be destroyed. Horus sighs, drinks  straight from the wine bottle, and makes up some charms that will protect Kane from the evil he is guaranteed to soon face. Kane also takes a swig of the wine bottle before thanking Horus and going home to bed.