Monday, July 27, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part Seven: October 13-14, 1925

October 13, 1925, Continued 

(This Officially the Longest Day Ever Until the Next Longest Day Ever)

Everyone but Ron arrives at the Judge’s house to discover that the group that went to the Silver Twilight Lodge somehow found and rescued a catatonic James Clark. Dr. Black takes the lead in his care and, after several hours, everyone worked together to feed, clean, and hydrate James. They are also able to set him up in one of the bedrooms of the Judge’s carriage house. Which happened to be Johnny's bedroom. Additionally, James is now wearing Johnny's pajamas. The nice ones.

Mikhail tries to speak to James, with limited success, as James is still mostly catatonic. Mikhail manages to, with some light verbal harassment and a Psychology roll, triggers a brief, semi-lucid episode in James, during which he screams or otherwise emotes the following:

  • James, who thinks it is the day of his disappearance,  needs to find Mikhail to warn him about something in the Silver Twilight Lodge.
  • James also needs to warn Angie about something.
  • He mentions that the third floor of the Lodge is where they are planning to do something.
  • He mentions both a Disc and something called the Arc of Vlactos.
  • He further mentions that “the stars are wrong. They are WRONG! But if they have these things, it doesn’t MATTER!”

Mikhail tries to get additional information out of James by mentioning Umr-at-Tawil, but this does little other than cause James to weep and stare at the wall.

Everyone discusses plans for what to do with James. There is concern that the Lodge will find him. There is also concern that the group lacks the capacity or resources to take care of James on their own.  Despite this, Mikhail volunteers to take care of James at his place. Johnny, rather grimly, states that he thinks that James will never recover, and that he is better off in a hospital.

In the midst of all of the chaos, Johnny finds some quiet time to look over the book he stole from the Lodge. He finds that the first few pages are written in an old military cipher, which he decodes. He learns the instructions for creating something known as a “Gate Box.”

At about this point, Ron arrives, bearing a new set of forehead stitches from his recent encounter with a lamp. The others notice that relations between Viv and Ron are frosty, at best. They try to catch Ron up regarding the James situation. At this point, those that went at the Lodge describe what they saw in the basement. Everyone is horrified.

Ron tells his story of how he went to threaten his wife’s new boyfriend at his workplace, the Good Year Cab Company. Viv realizes that Good Year, translated into Italian, is “Buon Anno,” which sounds suspiciously similar to the name of a certain dead mob boss. This causes Viv to become even more annoyed with Ron. 

Ron, realizing that he’s inadvertently threatened someone who works for the Bonano Family on Bonano Family turf, is terrified that something bad is going to happen to Connie. He gives Dr. Black his bottle of laudanum, from his recent hospital visit, which Dr. Black uses to sedate James. Then Ron makes like he's going to leave the judge's house immediately and check on his wife in Brooklyn.

He is stopped by Johnny, who patiently explains that he thinks Ron is an idiot, and that Ron also should not go visit Connie alone. Viv agrees, and says that Connie is probably safe, it’s 2 am, and that Ron can go tomorrow. Ron insists on going, and manipulates Viv into going with him. Johnny offers to drive.

Dr. Black retires to his home and goes to sleep. Everyone else decides to sleep at the carriage house, in part because it’s really late, and in part to watch over James.

A Scene Unfolds in Brooklyn

Viv, Johnny, and Ron get to Brooklyn and discover that the Deluca residence is dark and quiet. Ron gets out of the car, goes to the front door, and tries to let himself in, only to find that the door is locked and that his house key is in his other pants. After a moment, he realizes that the back door might not be locked, so he disappears into the alley that leads to the back of the brownstone.

Johnny, seeing this, grabs his shotgun from under the front seat of the car and tears off after him, leaving Viv in the car to invent new and increasingly fanciful Italian curse words. Johnny finds Ron in the back of the brownstone, muttering under his breath that the stupid back door is also locked. Johnny tells him to go back to the goddamn car, but it is at this moment that Ron realizes that the kitchen window is open. Ignoring both Johnny’s words and his pitiful attempts to manhandle him around to the front of the house and into the car, Ron hops up on a garbage can and goes shimmying through the kitchen window.

Ron walks through the darkened house, planning to unlock and open the front door to let the others in.

 He is mystified to discover that the front door is already open.

Unbeknownst to the trio, Ron Jr., having heard Johnny and Ron arguing in the back alley, has grabbed one of his dad’s guns and has crept out the front door to investigate. He gets the drop on Johnny and disarms him, then starts cursing Johnny up and down. His shouting draws Ron’s attention, and Ron realizes that his son has mistaken him and Johnny for intruders. Father and son yell at one another, which attracts Viv’s attention, causing her to leave the car and investigate the noise. What follows is a, frankly, embarrassing confrontation during which Johnny fears for his life multiple times.

Ron isn’t finished! Refusing to listen to his friend, his goddaughter, or his son, he barges into the house and goes up the stairs to wake up Connie and deliver his warning to her. He learns, to his deep shame and confusion, that Connie is out for the evening. 

Again, ignoring everyone else’s advice, he opts to sleep in his own bed that night and wait for Connie to get home, so that he and she can have a “conversation.”

At this point, Johnny, needing no further urging, drives Viv home before returning to the judge’s house.

October 14, 1925

Suffice it to say that the conversation between Ron and Connie does not go well. He eventually makes it back to the Bernouse place, sporting a shiner to match his new stitches. His plans to enter the Bernouse guest house and go right to sleep are foiled by a friendly stranger, who greets him by name, and offers him a business proposition.

Everyone's Friend, Nathan Torpley

This gentleman is extremely handsome, well-dressed, and sports a yellow, silk tie with a gemstone tie pin. He introduces himself as Nathan Torpley (anyone conversant with anagrams and the Cthulhu Mythos will likely know who this chap is immediately), a person who is in the business of solving other peoples’ problems. He tells Ron that he has access to a lot of money and a lot of people with diverse skills, and he makes a point of using those resources to help people who are dealing with intractable problems.

Viv, happens to see Ron meeting Nathan from the living room window. Wondering how in the HELL some random person got onto the Bernouse property, she heads outside to investigate. She finds that Nathan somehow knows her and has seen her perform, though he explains that he is really here to talk to Ron.

Nathan promises Ron $1,000 if Ron is able to recover a jade sphinx statuette from the third floor of the Silver Twilight Lodge. Nathan explains that the statue rightfully belongs to a client of his, and that he believes that Ron has just the right sort of skills to get in and get the statue back. He also says that Ron will have an opportunity to stick it to the people who insulted his boss—a nice side bonus. He also promises that, should Ron succeed, Nathan will also direct his considerable resources to helping Ron with his “family problems.”

Ron agrees, getting half the money up front. Viv, realizing that there is another player in this weird and unfathomable game, sends Luca, one of her father’s men, to the judge’s house with a note describing the new situation.

Meanwhile, at the Home of Judge Putnam

Judge Putnam an early morning phone call from Carl Stanford. Unbeknownst to either of them, Kane and Johnny listen in using various extensions in the main house and in the carriage house. Carl explains to the judge that he is trying to reach both him and Dr. Black, as there has been an incident at the Lodge, and, of all the members, he trusts them the most. He asks that they come by as soon as they can, bringing with them anyone else they trust implicitly. After some discussion. Johnny, Judge Putnam, Kane Eastman, and Dr. Black all pile into the judge’s car and drive over to the Lodge. Mikhail stays behind to tend to James.

There, they meet Carl Stanford, who takes them to the library and informs them that one of John Scott’s personal note books has been stolen. Mr. Stanford blames one James Clark, a degenerate with odd proclivities, and a former Lodge member that was expelled for reasons best not discussed. The theft, he says, occurred when the judge and the doctor were in the library with him the previous evening, so he knows that they did not have a hand in the crime. Mr. Stanford asks them to recover the book and James, if possible. He further explains that he has reason to suspect that James has fled to Ashby, Massachusetts.

The judge insists on seeing where Mr. Scott kept this book. When Mr. Stanford hesitates, the Judge explains to him that seeing the scene of the crime could give him valuable information on the methods and thought process of the perpetrator. Mr. Stanford reluctantly relents, saying that he will only show them the area if they promise not to reveal what they are about to see to lower-ranking members of the order.

They agree, and are brought into the main hall on the second floor. Mr. Sanford pulls back the large curtain, revealing a concealed door that leads into a back hallway. He directs everyone up to a flight of stairs that leads to the third floor, stopping at a landing halfway up. He then opens a door to a small closet situated on the landing, where books (similar to the one Johnny stole), as well as other ephemera, are revealed.

The quartet notes that, despite all the construction material, this area looks well-maintained, finished, and finely appointed. They question Mr. Stanford about James and the missing book for a little while longer before taking their leave. Mr. Stanford says a grateful goodbye to all of them, and promises that they will be fast-tracked through the order’s ranks if they can successfully perform this task for him.

On the Way Back

Johnny notices that a car has been tailing them ever since they left the Silver Twilight Lodge. After some discussion on what to do next, the quartet decides to visit a coffee shop as a way to stall and maybe gain further information. The tailing car parks a fair distance behind them, and Johnny sees that none other than Max Reed, Mr. Stanford’s driver, is at the wheel.

Max Reed, With Whom the Players Built a VERY Antagonistic Relationship

Back at the Carriage House

Mikhail is in the process of cooking gourmet delights for James when someone presses the call button on the Judge’s front gate. Mikhail looks out the window to see Luca (whom Mikhail doesn't know) standing at the gate. Luca pushes the button a few more times but, since Mikhail doesn’t respond, he eventually shrugs, does something to the call button’s panel, gets in his car, and drives away.

Mikhail, fearing that Luca has planted a bomb, and knowing he has no easy way to warn the others, writes a warning note and wraps it around one of the judge’s paperweights. He then sits vigil by the window, waiting for the others to come back.

Back to the House

The quartet decide that they are going to allow Max Reed to continue following them, but that they are going to make like they are planning to go to Ashby immediately. Johnny drops off Dr. Black and Kane at their respective homes, before making the long drive back to the Judge’s house. As he pulls up outside to open the gate, Mikhail shouts a warning from the window before running down the drive and hurtling his weighted message over the wall.

Johnny retrieves and reads Mikhail’s message. Baffled, he looks over to the call button and sees that someone has shoved an envelope in the grill. He takes it out, opens it, and reads the enclosed letter. It’s from Vivian, warning him (and the others) that there’s a new wrinkle to worry about. Everyone laughs nervously, realizing just how on edge they all are.

At about this point, Kane, who has packed his things and taken a taxi over to the Judge’s place, asks his cabbie to stop at the bottom of the street. With duffel bag in tow, he walks up the street and “accidentally” stumbles upon Max Reed. Reed, clearly flummoxed at being discovered, makes up some half-baked story about how he had brought Mr. Stanford up this way for a meeting. Once Kane resumes his walk to the Judge’s house, Reed abandons his stakeout and drives away.

The Team Finally Gets Back Together

The Jade Sphinx

Dr. Black arrives at the Judge’s house, luggage in tow. While Johnny packs his own and the judge’s bags, someone calls Viv on the phone. After hearing what’s been going on, and confronted with the story of what happened at the Lodge, Viv and Ron make plans to drive to the Judge’s house for a group meeting, stopping by briefly at the library to look up information on the jade sphinx.

Ron is apparently a savant when it comes to the Dewey Decimal System. While looking through a book on archaeology that is mostly pictures, he finds a black-and-white plate of the very sphinx statuette in question. The sphinx was discovered in the ruins of Taq Kasra, in Ctesiphon, in a tomb empty except for a group of black candles burned down to their stubs. The statuette was in an overseas museum for many years before being stolen.

Armed with a bit more information, Viv and Ron meet up with everyone else at the judge’s house, and learn that their may be plans in the works for some or all of them to take a trip up to Ashby to “find” James and the stolen book.

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