Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Mob War Part 7: Friday, June 10, 1926

NOTE: The following episode recap describes an extremely messy, protracted combat in two locations. Viewer discretion is advised.

As a reminder: Ron and an invisible Johnny are upstairs in the ball room with the heads of the Five Families and their bodyguards. Kane is out front with Luca and most of the other enforcers. Vivian is in the Astoria dining room, near the front entrance. Judge Putnam is in the lobby, standing beside the fireplace. Dr. Black is seated in a chair near the access door to the stairs, reading a newspaper. Mikhail is out in the back of the hotel.

The Astoria Hotel

A Million Monkeys Hammering on Chicago Typewriters

Out behind the hotel, Mikhail hears the screeching of several tires. Down an alley, he sees three large, black cars driving down the street and turning quickly onto the road leading to the hotel. Mikhail, concerned that this is the beginning of something very nasty, runs into the hotel and tells Dr. Black.  Dr. Black runs past Mikhail and out the back door into the alley.

Out front, Kane, Luca, and several of the other mobsters hear the screeching of tires and start to get nervous. Kane draws his gun.

Moments later, the three cars pull into the horseshoe driveway in front of the Astoria Hotel. Several men get out of the cars and, using them as cover, open fire with tommy guns on the façade of the hotel. Patrons and staff scream and flee, while the mafia out front return fire. Kane and Luca use a concrete planter for cover and manage to avoid being struck by any of the suppressing fire.

As the men ditch the empty drums from their tommy guns and reload, a horde of men armed with shotguns leave the car and rush into the hotel. They are delayed by the hotel’s revolving door, but are aided by the fact that the hail of automatic weapon fire has more or less shot the front windows to pieces.

Kane and Luca return fire, killing three of the attackers with relative ease.

Vivian, who is inside, sees Giacomo, the young mafioso that treated her like a literal princess earlier. She urges Giacomo to come with her and hide inside of the restaurant’s former bar (now currently an ice cream parlor). The pair hide until most of the panicked crowd has left the restaurant. Then Vivian and Giacomo flee into the kitchen and up a set of access stairs to the second floor.

Dr. Black, hearing the shots, races down the alley into the backstreet and pulls the nearest fire alarm. He then proceeds to run back to the back door of the hotel, hoping to enter and aid his friends. He is disturbed to see that the panicked patrons and staff, intent on fleeing the massacre in the front of the hotel, are rioting and stampeding, trampling one another in an attempt to exit the building. Dr. Black puts his plans on hold and does crowd control, turning the rout into a more orderly exit and saving many lives.

Now That's a Lot of Guns

Mikhail, realizing that he can turn the hotel’s broken revolving door into a choke point for the invaders and, ideally, a kill zone, moves to intercept the shotgun-toting heavies before they can get into the building. He is aided by the judge, who takes up a position near the fireplace and unloads first his shotgun cane, then his handgun, into the men trying to push through into the hotel.

Judge Putnam is shot and grievously wounded by one of the shotgun-wielding invaders. He remains conscious, and retains just enough of his strength to drag himself into the unlit fireplace for protection. He has an overwhelming desire to lap up the blood of friend, foe, and bystander alike that has collected in several pools around the lobby, but he is far, far too weak to reach them.

Mikhail fights off the attackers with sword and handgun. Unfortunately for him, his handgun jams at a critical moment, allowing the invader he is fighting to smash him in the temple with the butt of his shotgun. Mikhail collapses unconscious and heavily concussed.

Kane and Luca swing around and attempt to bring their weapons to bear on the invaders that have stepped over Mikahil’s prone body and are pouring into the lobby. Both of them miss. One of the attackers fires his shotgun at Kane, and likely would have killed him had not Luca pulled the singer to the ground and taken the brunt of the shotgun blast in the back. Luca falls unconscious, crushing Kane beneath his massive, refrigerator-like bulk.

Smoke and Mirrors

Upstairs, “Big Grin” Bianco is both grilled and castigated by the other family heads. Ron notices that “Big Grin” seems to be trying to pull himself out of his fugue state, and seems to have done so once Don Genovese has gone up one side of him and down the other.

Don Genovese concludes by saying that he is appalled at the attack on Vitale’s Gym—a long-established neutral ground—and warns Bianco that his actions could lead to a mob war. He goes on to say that the rest of the families have attempted to keep things civil for as long as possible, because the last time they all went to war with one another, innocent people died. Don Genovese, Gambino, and Luchese all nod their condolences to Don Bernouse, whose wife, Maria, was one of those innocents.

“Big Grin,” who by now seems more in command of his faculties, apologizes to the other family heads. He tells them that he doesn’t know what has been going on, but he will do whatever it takes to make it right. The other dons inform him, in no uncertain terms, that he must deal with his new girl, Anne Chantraine, and get his outfit under control.

Johnny, who has been keeping a careful vigil on the room, notices the mirror on the north wall beginning to darken. Suspecting magical shenanigans, he fires a single shot from his future gun, damaging the mirror but not destroying it.

Everyone in the room looks up in shock as a very large image of Anne Chantraine appears in the damaged mirror. She taunts the men assembled in the room and tells them that she would very much like to be the “capo de tutti capo” of New York city. The dons of four of the five families all scramble to understand what’s going on.

“What is this?” shouts Don Luchese. “Some kinda moving picture?”

“In color?” yells Don Gambino.

“With sound?!” cries Don Genovese.

“Big Grin” Bianco simply remains in his seat, vacant again and exhausted-looking, and says to no one in particular, “that’s my girl…”

His Girl

Realizing that the family heads are not going to turn over control of the city to her, Anne sarcastically comments that she expected that, and is more than willing to do things the “hard way.” This coincides with the beginning of the assault out in front of the building. Those assembled for the meeting, already panicked by Anne’s magic, scream in terror as a fusillade of gunfire pours into the front of the Astoria Hotel. Dons Gambino, Genovese, and Luchese are all ushered out of the room by their bodyguards. Ron pushes Vince out of his chair and onto the carpet, the better to keep him in cover, and then grabs the back of “Big Grin’s” head and slams him face first into the table.

Johnny, totally fed up with Anne’s magical power, shreds the mirror with a burst of fire from his future gun.

“Big Grin,” angry and enraged, flips the table, stands up, and pulls a gold-plated, pearl-handled .45 automatic out from inside of his jacket. Ron manages to dodge “Big Grin’s” first volley of wild shots, slip his brass knuckles onto his fingers, and repeatedly punch the disgraced don, shredding his face into hamburger.

It is about this point that Vivian and Giacomo reach one of the doors to the ballroom. They sneak inside and, without drawing any attention to themselves, manage to reach Vincenzio Bernouse, who is lying in a heap next to the overturned table.

“Help me get Papa outta here,” Viv tells the somewhat overwhelmed Giacomo.

“Big Grin” sprays lead from his custom handgun. Ron throws himself on the floor to avoid the shots and rolls around behind the overturned table.

“Hey, Viv!” he says, right before “Big Grin” steps around the table and blasts him in the chest. Ron lets out a gurgle and passes out from the shock and blood loss.

“Big Grin” is about to deliver a coup de grace with his pistol, but Johnny, who is still invisible, sights down on the mob leader and puts a future bullet straight into his brain. “Big Grin” dies on the spot, his gold-plated automatic falling from his lifeless hand.

While Vivian and Johnny attempt to perform lifesaving first aid on Ron, Anne Chantraine projects herself into another mirror. She doesn’t manage to speak more than a couple of words before Johnny blasts that mirror into glass shards.

Under Vivian’s frantic and amateurish care, Ron Deluca gradually comes around.

“Okay,” she says to Johnny and Giacomo. “Pick his ass up. We gotta get out of here.”

No sooner does she say this than Anne Chantraine possesses the last two giant mirrors in the room. From one, she leers out at the investigators, congratulating them on their cleverness and chutzpah. From the other, she manifests a wall of horrifying tentacles with the intent of crushing and consuming them. Johnny empties his magazine, destroying the last two mirrors and banishing the tentacles back to the horrifying abyss from whence they came.

Johnny then tosses his future gun aside and helps Giacomo pick up Ron.

Unbeknownst to everyone, Ron has enough presence of mind to grab the gold-plated automatic as a “spoil of war.”

Ron's New Gun

The Agonizing End

Johnny, Ron, Vivian, Vince, and Giacomo flee down a flight of stairs and reach the back entrance just as the invaders pour into the lobby and Dr. Black re-enters the hotel from the alley. Desperate to stop the attackers and save his friends (and Vince and Giacomo), Dr. Black overexerts himself to try and cast the Wrack spell on the six shotgun-wielding men that are running toward them. He calls upon wells of strength and dark knowledge that he did not know he possessed and manages to affect five of the men, sending them thrashing to the ground, weeping blood and shrieking in animalistic agony. Between them, the group gun down the last man standing.

The attackers who remained outside with the cars see that their initial onslaught has been defeated. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, they pile back into their cars and drive away.

Vivian, Vince, and Giacomo flee out the hotel’s back door and into the night.  They reach the Bernouse house an hour or so later. Giacomo has so distinguished himself during the encounter that he is quickly given a nickname—Jackie the Kid.

Ron, who is walking wounded, decides to head up front and see how everyone else is doing. Johnny, who is still invisible, goes with him. The two men encounter Fredo Albanese, who took a bloody shoulder wound in the fight and is now trying to flee before the cops arrive on the scene. He arranges a truce with Ron and promises to get him both safely away from the hotel and to a doctor. Ron, realizing that he may not have a better chance to get information from Fredo, agrees to the terms. Johnny stalks along behind them.

Dr. Black does triage on Judge Putnam, Mikhail, Luca, and various other patrons, staff, and mafiosi injured in the assault, and is just about finishing up when the police and a hook and ladder firetruck arrive on the scene.

Luca, Mikhail, and Judge Putnam are taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. After a few hours in surgery, they are expected to make a full recovery. Kane and Dr. Black stay with them for the rest of the night. They are eventually joined by Johnny who, after realizing that the judge isn’t coming home, calls around to various hospitals to find out what’s become of him.

Both Johnny and Dr. Black are very relieved that the judge was unable to drink human blood during the assault, despite really, really wanting to.

After Action Patch-Up

Johnny and Ron accompany Fredo Albanese to a sketchy basement apartment in a nearby neighborhood. This place is owned by a hairy, angry “doctor” named Slavoz, who treats both Ron and Fredo’s injuries. Ron notices that Fredo has old bruises on his side, which indicate that he was in a scuffle relatively recently.

Slavoz remarks that he “still has the ring,” that he pried off of Fredo’s finger the last time he was here. Realizing that this might be the evidence that they need to implicate Fredo, Johnny roots around in the filthy apartment looking for it. He soon finds it in a dirty tray near the kitchen sink. It is, unsurprisingly, a Silver Twilight Lodge ring, its band crushed almost flat by an alarming amount of force.

Fredo seems unconcerned that Slavoz has mentioned the ring. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I was going to give to jeweler to have band fixed, like you wanted. Haven’t had a chance to go yet. Maybe you want it back?”

"Doctor" Slavoz

When Fredo nods in the affirmative, Slavoz begins rooting around for the ring. At this same moment, Johnny taps Ron on the shoulder and quietly drops the damaged ring into Ron’s jacket pocket.

Fredo seems unbothered that Slavoz is unable to find the ring. With a jaunty, “It’ll turn up,” he thanks Slavoz for his work and goes to leave. Ron (and Johnny) goes with him.

Outside, Fredo withdraws a pocket mirror from his coat, checks himself out in it, and begins combing his hair. Ron, alarmed at the sight of yet another mirror that could be magicked by Anne Chantraine, yanks the pocket mirror out of Fredo’s hand and hurls it into the street. Fredo is about to complain when mist pours out of the mirror, slowly resolving itself into the shape of a large, winged, serpent-like beast.

The three men flee and manage to elude their spectral pursuer. Sometime later, while recovering their breath in a distant alley, Ron tries to ask Fredo questions about his involvement in the murder of Gabriella Puglisi. When Fredo professes not to know anything, Ron gives him a love tap to knock him unconscious. Johnny becomes fully visible a short time later, and the two men cart an unconscious Fredo off to an “undisclosed location” where Ron can question him further.

Johnny, not wanting to get his hands dirty in this particular way, returns home. When he finds that Judge Putnam isn’t there, he begins calling around to hospitals until he finds the one that the judge has been admitted to. He reaches the hospital ward a short time later, and explains to the others what happened after the battle in the Astoria Hotel.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Mob War Part 6: Friday, June 10, 1926

In Upstate New York

Dr. Black, Johnny, and Judge Putnam decide to tie up their formerly invisible assailant and drive him back to Staten Island for questioning. They return to the judge’s property without incident. The judge’s new personal security force is skilled enough at their jobs to know to not ask stupid questions about the man tied up in the back seat of the car.

The assailant doesn’t reveal terribly much under questioning, other than that he has been sent by Anne Chantraine to kill them all for $100 a head. Johnny goes to fetch a shovel and prepares to get down to the dirty business of getting rid of their assailant, while Dr. Black employs his tried and true, “scalpel stab to the shoulder” method if interrogation to get more information out of the man.

This doesn’t work, and the sight of so much blood pouring out of the man’s shoulder inflames Judge Putnam’s already barely in check bloodlust. Dr. Black realizes his grave error just in time to keep Judge Putnam from feeding on their imprisoned assailant, and Johnny returns, shovel in hand, to find the two men wrestling around on the floor.

Johnny very quickly takes control of the situation, sends the judge upstairs into the carriage house to compose himself, and orders Dr. Black to clean up the garage. Johnny then takes the assailant to Atlantic City and takes care of him.

At Vitale’s

Ron, thinking better of it, asks Kane to help him carry the man who attacked them into the gym’s basement. They do so without anyone in Vitale’s, apart from Vivian, noticing that they have done so. It seems that the rest of the made guys are too badly freaked out by both the breach of mafia etiquette and the horrors recently on display in the men’s room to notice anything so mundane as two guys carting a third guy down into the basement.

Vivian remains in the main room, which means that she is perfectly situated to hear an argument that starts just outside the gym’s front door. Peeking her head out Vivian sees Jimmy Russo (Big Jimmy) accosting the second of the two suspicious men that she spotted earlier (he went outside, while his friend went into the bathroom to ambush Ron and Kane).

The altercation draws the attention of several other made guys, but also of the two cops who have been following Ron around in their totally inconspicuous, unmarked cars. Vivian notes that the older cop, Dougherty, seems a bit too friendly with Jimmy Russo, and suspects that he is on “Big Grin’s” payroll.

Vivian goes down into the basement to warn Ron that the cops are right outside. Ron acknowledges this, but it doesn’t prevent him from playing reasonable cop/psychotic cop, with Kane and their assailant, whom he has just tied to a chair with some old jump ropes.

The assailant quickly gives in to Ron’s intimidating demeanor and slaps to the face. He tells them that he is working for Anne Chantraine, and that she has promised to pay them to take care of “the seven people she don’t like, in particular.” The man adopts a very tough demeanor, and clearly doesn’t seem to realize, or understand, how badly over his head he is.

Ron ultimately decides to work the guy over a little bit, go through his pockets, and then turn him over to the cops outside. On his search, Ron finds a small vial containing a bluish liquid. He notes that the man has no wallet or identification.

Kane, Ron, and Vivian cart their captive assailant up the steps and out the front of Vitale’s. Dougherty seems pleased that both men are caught, and offers to take the two men down to the precinct for processing. The other cop, a younger man who seems like a bit more of a straight arrow, asks if he needs help with the two suspected criminals, or if he would like to perform anything remotely resembling proper police procedure at Vitale’s. Dougherty insists that the younger cop remain on the scene with Ron. Dougherty promises to take the two suspects down to the precinct and will “be right back.”

The younger cop doesn’t notice that Jimmy Russo hops in the car with Dougherty and the two assailants. Viv points out that two assailants have literally no idea how fucked they are as Dougherty drives away.

Ron decides that it is high time that they get the hell away from Vitale’s, and that they need to meet up with the rest of the team.

A Meeting with Don Bernouse

Ron calls around and tells everyone to meet him at the Bernouse residence. He has a plan, and he thinks the London Group needs to meet and share information. Johnny is willing to drive the judge and Dr. Black over. Mikhail, who is home alone researching mind controlling magic, is also happy to attend.

It turns out that Ron’s big plan is to invite all seven members of the London Group into the Bernouse house for an impromptu meeting with Vincenzio Bernouse, Viv’s father. He tells Luca of his plan and, while Luca balks, he goes to fetch the “old man” anyway.

About fifteen minutes later, Luca and Vince join the London Group in the dining room. Ron and the others proceed to fill Vince in on the mafia-related shenanigans that have occurred, while studiously leaving out the magic-related shenanigans. Vince agrees with the group that “Big Grin” has completely lost control of his outfit, the Chantraine lady and her goons are messing everything, and that the attack inside of Vitale’s was definitely a bridge too far. He promises to call the heads of the other families and schedule a meeting to discuss these issues.

While Vince is talking to the heads of the other families, Luca and the London Group go to a steakhouse for dinner. While there, they catch one another up on what occurred earlier in the day and try to make plans for later. Mikhail explains that he thinks that Anne Chantraine is using mirror magic to hypnotize or mentally dominate her lackeys. He thinks that it might be possible to end this domination by blocking line-of-sight contact with any mirrors she’s using. Ron shows off the small vial of liquid, which Johnny suspects is the same type of invisibility potion that the Ossining attacker, and Mikhail’s unseen assailant, used.

Toward the end of the meal, Vivian gets a call out at the host’s stand from her father. Vince tells her that the heads of the five families will be meeting at the Astoria Hotel, later tonight, at 8 pm. He says that he wants her and her friends there, in case one of the other families tries something suspicious.

Vivian informs the others. They all proceed home to gear up and get dressed up in their glad rags for a night at one of New York’s more expensive hotels.

The Astoria Hotel

The group arrives at the Astoria Hotel to find that several made guys are already congregating in small groups outside, trying to blend in with the posh folks who are either staying at the Astoria or dining at one of its many restaurants.

It soon becomes apparent that only the dons of each family, plus one bodyguard, will be permitted to enter the meeting. Vince takes Ron with him for protection, ordering Luca to wait outside with the others and watch for signs of trouble. Johnny, who at this point is loaded for bear, quaffs the invisibility potion and follows Vince and Ron inside.

The others take up positions both inside and outside the hotel. As far as they can tell, nothing strange or untoward is going on.

“Big Grin” Bianco is the last of the dons to arrive. The group and the mafiosi in attendance are shocked to note how diminished, enfeebled, and confused Don Bianco looks as his bodyguard very gently coaxes him into the hotel for the meeting.

The location of the meeting is a ballroom on the second floor. A table and five chairs have been provided for the dons. They all sit, with their bodyguards standing just off to the side and behind them. Ron is fascinated and disgusted that “Big Grin” needs help getting to his chair.

The three other family heads (Gambino, Luchese, and Genovese) are all extremely elderly men, but all of them seem to be much more on the ball than Don Bianco is. They start lambasting Don Bianco for his inability to control his men, and for allowing his girlfriend to run amok in Family affairs.

As they begin to discuss the unfortunate implications of the attack on Vitale’s earlier in the day, Ron and Johnny both notice that the walls of the ballroom are covered with mirrors…

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Mob War Part Five: Friday, June 10, 1926

The Previous Evening

Unbeknownst to everyone, Ron arranges to get Luca and Vince out of the house for a night on the town. Well, for as much of a night on the town as his “police escort” will allow. The three men go to an Italian restaurant near Vitale’s Gym, assuming that they will be relatively safe in the neighborhood blessed by Vitale’s “neutrality.”

They have a good evening, though they are briefly accosted by some men that Ron recognizes as being Anne Chantraine’s hired goons. Members of the other families, realizing that things are about to go down, intervene on Don Bernouse’s behalf, preventing any violence and lecturing the goons on Mafia etiquette.

The three men return to stately Bernouse villa, where their raucous, drunken singing awakens a perplexed Vivian. She yells at them to go to sleep and slams the bedroom window down on them.

Legal Eagles

Mikhail is released from police custody. The police cannot determine the identity of the man who attacked him, but it seems to them that Mikhail was defending himself from a mugging. They let him go, with the promise that they will comb their photo books to see if they can identify his attacker that way. They tell Mikhail not to leave town. 

Kane, who has been doing some investigating of his own, also learns this information. He also begins to track down how to get in touch with Martin Kavanaugh, the detective on Ron’s case, and Fredo Albanese, the other man the doorman saw. Kane also learns that, now that Gabriella’s apartment building is the subject of two criminal investigations, he won’t be able to get anywhere near it to look for evidence. 

Rally at the Judge’s

The London Group once again convenes at Judge Putnam’s to share information and try to figure out what to do next. The main focuses of this conversation are on the following topics:

Judge Bartlett: Based on information she received from Mr. Potafiori, Vivian suspects that the judge is in league with the Order of Silver Twilight. She consults her old notes about the membership of the Silver Twilight Lodge and finds a D. Bartlett listed among their members. Johnny explains that he has also seen photographic evidence that shows Judge Bartlett knows and is at least outwardly friendly toward “Big Grin” Bianco. The group tries to figure out the best way to steal the aforementioned photograph from Judge Bartlett’s apartment. Meanwhile, Judge Putnam and Mikhail explain that, if they are able to prove this connection, they might be able to get Judge Bartlett to recuse himself from presiding over Ron’s case.

Ron’s Case: After putting all their pieces together, the group decides that they need to protect the doorman and track down Fredo Albanese. Mikhail calls Luca to tell him to tell Vince not to kill the doorman, but to protect him. Luca is totally okay with this, and promises to forward the message up the chain. Ron says that he actually sort of knows Albanese—by reputation, anyway—and also that Albanese is one of the Gambino family’s enforcers. Ron and Vivian think it’s weird that, due to the way the Five Families territories are laid out, that Albanese would show his face around Central Park.

The Scissors: Also related to Ron’s case, Dr. Black reveals that he has stolen a pair of bloodied scissors found at the crime scene from the evidence bag at the coroner’s office. He tells the group that he did this because he believes these are the same scissors that wounded Ron, and that they will definitely make him look guilty. He suggests taking a drive up to his new property in Ossining to dispose of the scissors.

Oh, Scissors

After a lengthy conversation, the group splits up. Ron, Vivian, and Kane will go to Vitale’s Gym to see if they can talk to someone in the Gambino outfit about Albanese. Judge Putnam, Dr. Black, and Johnny drive up to Ossining to get rid of the scissors. Mikhail, meanwhile, goes off to do some research on both Ron’s case and for the magical means to defeat Anne Chantraine.

The Trip to Ossining

The trip is unremarkable, at least at first. Johnny, Judge Putnam, and Dr. Black, all being somewhat old hands at this sort of thing by now, remain vigilant for tails or signs of trouble as they head upstate. Once they are sure that no one is around, Johnny pulls over and Dr. Black exits the car to throw the scissors into the Hudson.

They continue onward, reaching Dr. Black’s new property without incident. Dr. Black once again talks about how he’d like to station cannons on his property where it overlooks the Hudson, for reasons that are unclear to the others. The group also chats amiably with the workmen who are busy renovating the main house. Dr. Black is vaguely tempted to dig up the strange, lead amulet that Ron buried inside his barn, but he ultimately decides against it.

On the way back to New York City, all three men become aware that the front passenger seat looks—indented—as if someone that they cannot see is sitting in it. The three men exchange looks before Dr. Black tosses a pinch of the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi into the front seat, briefly revealing the otherwise invisible, hard-looking young man sitting there.

A desperate fight ensues in the car, with Judge Putnam and Dr. Black trying to restrain the invisible assailant from the back seat while Johnny drives and tries to stab the assailant with his pocketknife. Things go briefly south when the assailant twists Johnny’s knife hand (which is also his maimed one), disarming him and causing the car to swerve dangerously. Things go even further south when Johnny and Dr. Black both realize that the judge’s eyes have turned bright red and that he is leaning over the front seat to sink his teeth into the assailant’s neck.

Johnny does a bit of expert offensive driving, throwing everyone around in the car like sacks of potatoes. Both Judge Putnam and Dr. Black wind up a little dazed in the backseat. Johnny then braces himself and hits the brakes. Hard. This causes Dr. Black and Judge Putnam some additional discomfort, but also hurls the invisible assailant face first into the windshield, knocking him out cold.

Johnny pulls the car over to the side of the road and the three men discuss what to do with their unconscious attacker. A quick search of his person reveals no identification, a small phial with the dregs of a bluish liquid, and a very big knife.

The Trip to Vitale’s

Just Another Day at Vitale's...Until...

Kane, Vivian, and Ron find that it is just another day down at Vitale’s, with young men learning to box and old men trying to give them pointers. Ron is immediately accosted by “Big” Jimmy Russo as he walks in.

“What the hell, Deluca! Every time you come down here, you bring the cops with you and none of us can get anything done. Go home and take your friends with you!”

Vivian entertains the attentions of a very young gun who has just joined the Bernouse ranks. He treats her with all the deference and respect one normally reserves for royalty.

The Italians present at the gym are a bit baffled at the sight of Kane Eastman. Ron explains that he’s brought Kane down to Vitale’s to teach him how to box. This explanation doesn’t seem to reduce anyone’s confusion.

Ron spots Fredo Albanese sitting by one of Vitale’s three rings, offering advice to a young guy who is sparring with an old trainer. Ron heads over, introduces himself and Kane to both Albanese in the trainer, and then pressures the trainer to teach Kane the basics. Kane, who was not expecting this and has no other clothes, takes off his shoes, strips to his shirt sleeves, and pulls on some loaner gloves. He takes a few jabs at the pad, only to do so badly that the trainers swats him in frustration, knocking him to the mat.

This draws quite a crowd of onlookers from the rest of the gym, who come over to watch Kane’s “training” and shout helpful bits of often contradictory advice. Kane doesn’t fare much better, but he at least manages to connect with the pad more often than not.

Alfredo Albanese

Ron makes small talk with Albanese, confirming that he was, indeed in Central Park and that he did, indeed, see Gabriella. Ron also notes that Fredo has a splint on his ring finger. When asked about it, Fredo shrugs and says, “eh. Don’t know how I got it. Musta sprained it falling out of bed.” When asked if he has rings, Fredo says, “yeah, at home. Can’t be wearing them right now, though.”

Meanwhile, Vivian notices that two men who are undoubtedly some of Anne’s new muscle. One of them heads into the men’s room, while the other goes outside. She informs Ron and Kane of this once Kane is allowed to leave the ring.

Before Ron goes to check out the bathroom, he leans in and gives Albanese a friendly, Italian hug. Ron notices that Albanese flinches when he taps him in the ribs, which he finds interesting.

Under the pretense of “washing their hands” Ron and Kane enter the men’s room to track down Anne’s man and maybe shake him down for some information. Upon entering the restroom, Ron and Kane notice that the mirror above the sinks abruptly turns black and begins to swirl unpleasantly. While the two men struggle to make sense of this, Anne’s man leaps from his hiding place in one of the stalls, decks Kane, and nearly knocks him into the mirror.

A brief scuffle ensues. Kane and Ron soon get the upper hand, but not before ropy tentacles push themselves out of the mirror to seize them. Ron, seeing this, basically loses his shit and starts screaming for help. Vivian, who is outside, but who knows that she, a proper lady, cannot enter the men’s bathroom without causing a scandal, demands aid from the other mafiosi at Vitale’s.

A dozen made guys, angry that one of Anne’s men is causing problems on neutral ground, storm into the bathroom to teach him a lesson, only to be confronted by the horrifying monstrosity in the mirror. They scream and fall all over themselves as they try to escape the confines of the bathroom. The only one who manages to keep their head is the young gunsel who was previously doting on Vivian earlier. He sweeps up a small dumbbell, throws it at the mirror, and shatters it. This dispels whatever horrible magic is affecting it, causing the tentacles to vanish.

Hoo Boy!


Friday, May 28, 2021

Tales from a Distant Galaxy

Intro

Now that the Kickstarter for Boldly Go! has finished, I am hard at work on some other projects. One of these projects is tentatively titled A Distant Galaxy, which uses roughly the same rules system as Boldly Go!, but which is set in a world reminiscent of another popular sci-fi franchise.

To be fair, it is actually set in universe that is a nice mélange (if you will) of several sci-fi franchises. Which means that I have either avoided lawsuits or have invited all the lawsuits.

The draft rules for A Distant Galaxy have been finished for quite a while now, and my first playtest of the game was at Metatopia 2019. I haven't been able to get much playtesting on it since then, because of the pandemic, but yesterday, some friends of mine had openings in their schedules and we were able to sit down for a bit of the old virtual gaming!

It actually went very well, and the rules seem to mostly work. Things went well enough that the players wouldn't mind playing again, which is always a heartening thing to hear. 

Some highlights on the game, as well as some notes on the setting, are below.

The Setting

Humans spread out across the galaxy ages ago, aided in their endeavors by their little robot friends. Some humans were able to keep their DNA strands relatively intact over the thousands of years that followed. Many couldn't and wound up genetically adapting to new situations and environments. They're still human, they just look a little bit different.

Explorers attempting to travel past the galaxy's edge returned with tales of a strange "frequency" that, when attuned to, allowed practitioners to draw upon the latent energy that permeated every lifeform in the galaxy. Practitioners of this discipline soon came to refer to the frequency as the source of all life, and so dubbed it, unimaginatively, "The Source."

In time, the humans and new humans all united into a vast galactic empire, aided by their robot friends, their advanced technology, and their mastery of the Source. Some of the most prominent users of the Source were the legendary Solar Knights, who were held in very high acclaim until about a century ago. At that time, it was learned that the Solar Knights, who desired peace in the galaxy, had been subtly manipulating humanity with their Source disciplines in order to promote certain behaviors and quash others. When they learned this, the people revolted, disbanding the Solar Knights and driving them to the far corners of the galaxy. 

Though the people gained their freedom, many were much less altruistic when left to their own devices. Corruption and avarice spread.

Such issues might have been survivable were it not for a new production line of robots known as the "Automata." On the first day of their activation, they went rogue, murdered the Empress of the Galaxy and her court, and destroyed the Imperial Capital World of Kanolphan. The imperial citizens rallied and, after a long and costly war, drove the Automata to the furthest edges of the galaxy.

In modern times, the empire is rather quickly coming apart at the seams as warring noble houses fight for political control and scavengers pick at the fringe systems. Robots, once the companions of Humanity, are now widely distrusted for the Automata Betrayal and are no longer manufactured.

The galaxy is becoming a wilder and more dangerous place, where adventurous people, deluded citizenry, and criminals struggle to live and survive as the cracks in the infrastructure widen.

Dramatis Personae

Rex Manoo

A true human mercenary who is incredibly sexy and has a large fan following.

Lyra Sylph Erevan IV

A new human noblewoman from an ancient world of Loud Hedonists. One of Rex Manoo's biggest fans.

Liriak Khron

A true human from KolVor, a peaceful core world devoted to learning. She is a brilliant, but constantly tired pilot. She was hired by Lyra in her quest to seek out and befriend Rex Manoo.

Ket Tunan

A new human shuttle driver from an apocalyptic world of factionalized biologists. He wound up involved in the gang's previous adventures and who is just along for the ride.

Highlights

Our heroes are eating in a space diner on a spaceport on a lonely moon. They have been there for some time while their ship was undergoing extensive repairs. They didn't have the cash to repair their ship themselves, so they borrowed money from a Very Nice Lady.

An orange-haired gentleman with an eyepatch saunters into the diner and introduces himself as a business associate of the lady. He says that, in return for the ship repairs, the heroes will take a shipment to Algo X.

PLAYERS: What's in the shipment.

GENTLEMAN: You don't need to know that!

They eventually agree. The gentleman departs.

KET: I *think* that man was a *criminal!*

LIRIAK: Really?

Meanwhile, Rex goes over to the spaceport kiosk to get some additional provisions.

REX: I think I'm gonna buy some handcuffs.

LYRA: Oooh, ReeeEEEEeex. I didn't think you were into that.

REX: Oh. Uh. I also buy some throwing weapons.

ME: You get three kunai in clamshell wrapping. They're a genuine "SPACE NINJA" product. The mascot is a ninja in a space helmet.

The heroes get into space. They are pursued by three mysterious ships, which they manage to elude thanks to Liriak's skillful piloting. Once they're sure that they've lost their new friends, Rex decides to open the box. 

ME: You see a robotic arm coming out of the box. It is currently grabbing Rex Manoo by the throat and lifting him off the floor.

REX: Aargh! Gurgle!

A fight ensues! Lyra fries some of its circuitry with her stun pistol and makes it drop Rex. Liriak attunes to the Source, gives herself incredible strength, and tears the robot's arm off. Rex decides *not* to throw a grenade and instead shoots it with his blaster rifle. Ket gets in a couple of good whacks with his powered wrench!

During the battle, Rex's player loses connectivity with Discord!

REX: I'm back, did I miss anything?

ME: I don't think so, no.

REX: Okay. The robot that I shot. Is it still a problem?

ME: Thankfully, no. However, it seems as though the other pair of mechanical hands is...

REX: OTHER pair of mechanical hands?!

ME: Okay, so you did miss something


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Mob War Part 4: June 9, 1926

Ron Goes to the Pokey

Ron is transported to the police station and booked. Mikhail and Kane arrive shortly thereafter to help him. Kane does quite a good bit of fast-talking, managing to convince the arresting officers that he is Mikhail’s paralegal.

As they are going to talk with Ron, a young man in a very nice suit approaches Mikhail. The man introduces himself as ADA Springer, who will be the prosecuting attorney in Ron’s murder case. He tells Mikhail that he would like to speak to Ron and his defense team as soon as possible.

The meeting is soon arranged and, while Ron, Mikhail, and Kane all dine on sandwiches and police station coffee, ADA Springer explains the reasoning for his meeting. He says that the evidence will easily allow him to charge Ron with Murder One, but he is willing to drop the charges down to Murder Two, or even Manslaughter, provided that Ron cooperates with him. The meeting quickly ends when ADA Springer says that all Ron has to do is turn state’s evidence against the Bernouse Family. ADA Springer tells Ron to think about it a little longer, as he’s due to be arraigned by a night court judge in a few hours’ time.

ADA Springer Makes an Offer Ron Can Refuse

The Arraignment

AKA: Geoff Uses 30 Years of Watching Law & Order.

Ron’s arraignment is quite speedy, and seems to have involved ADA Springer pulling strings to get a judge out of bed and back into the courtroom to preside over it. Mikhail enters in a plea of Not Guilty for Ron, while ADA Springer officially charges him with Murder One. He then requests that Ron be remanded, without bail.

Kane launches into a lofty speech about Ron’s character and his ties to the community, stating with 100% certainty that Ron will not only not be a flight risk, but will remain in the city and behave himself until the trial. The exhausted judge questions Kane and, upon learning that the man is merely a paralegal, orders him to sit down and shut up.

Mikhail rallies, however, and manages to get Ron’s bail set at $10,000—a princely sum for 1926, but still well within the London Group’s means. Mikhail also informs the judge that Ron, still sick and weak from his use of the Ouroboros Ring, asked for medical care during his arrest and has not yet received it.

The judge, wanting to end the hearing as quickly as possible, orders ADA Springer and the police to have a doctor visit Ron in the Tombs, where he will remain, pending bail.

Mikhail is presented the people’s discovery documents and reads them. He learns that Judge Bartlett—a name that is familiar to him—is going to be presiding over Ron’s trial. Mikhail remembers that Judge Bartlett was also the judge who reversed Judge Putnam’s injunction on Look to the Future.

At Judge Putnam’s

While Ron’s criminal drama plays out downtown, the remainder of the London Group try to figure out what to do next. Numerous plans, many of which involve Mythos sorcery, are floated and then almost immediately discarded as being too dangerous, too impractical, or both.

Kane and Mikhail return later that evening and discuss what happened at the police station. The group realizes that they have enough money to pay the full amount of the bail, and Judge Putnam authorizes Mikhail to take a cashier’s check for $10,000 down to the courthouse the next morning.

Mikhail also tells the group that Judge Bartlett will be presiding over the case. Several of the other members, especially Vivian, suspect that this is no accident.

The Tombs

Ron is evaluated by a doctor, who can find nothing obviously wrong with him. Ron then demands his one phone call and calls Vince. The two have a very, very frosty conversation that leaves Ron demoralized and possibly ashamed.

Ron's New Home...At Least for a While

Thursday, June 10, 1926

This morning, the Society section of the newspaper mentions a soiree that is to be thrown this coming Saturday evening at a theater downtown. The theater is in the process of being renovated thanks to a generous donation from James Bianco, who is hosting the soiree to raise additional monies for the theater.

The London Group, realizing that this might be their chance to strike at “Big Grin” and Anne Chantraine, start thinking about what they could do to use this social gathering to their advantage.

Mikhail Dimathias, Esq.

Mikhail spends the wee hours of the night and morning reading up on the details of the case. He learns that one of the key witnesses to the crime is the doorman of the building in which Gabriella Puglisi resided in. He also learns that the People plan to call numerous other witnesses, including Ron’s wife, Connie.

Mikhail also learns that Ms. Puglisi’s autopsy was conducted by Dr. Manson, a city forensic pathologist. Realizing he needs to double-check these findings and gather further evidence, Mikhail deputizes Dr. Black and asks him to pay a visit to the Coroner’s Office.

Once that’s done, Mikhail pays Ron’s bond and has him released. He accompanies Ron over to the guest house at the Bernouse residence, where Ron is currently living. Both men notice the inconspicuous, unmarked police cars parked out front. Ron is ordered to remain in the house as much as possible, and to call the police department if he plans to go anywhere or do anything outside. Mikhail leaves Ron to stew in his own juices.

Mikhail is about to go over to Central Park, to interrogate the doorman at Ms. Puglisi’s building, but is by Kane Eastman calling out to him from the lawn of the Bernouse house. It turns out that Kane had, without telling anyone else, came over to inform Vincenzio Bernouse about Ron’s case. Kane tells Mikhail that once Vince discovered that Kane was merely a “paralegal,” he demanded to see Mikhail right away.

The Bernouse Estate

Mr. Potafiori, Finally Recovered from His Ghost Attack

Things are quite tense around here in the wake of Ron’s arrest. Luca is being run ragged on various errands, Mr. Potafiori seems desperate to talk to Vivian about something, but is also afraid to approach her, and the air is thick with unpleasant tension.

Mikhail and Kane’s meeting with Vince goes surprisingly well. The head of the Bernouse Family is not happy, but he seems to take everything that Mikhail and Kane tell him in good stride. Mikhail notes, to his dismay, that when he brings up the doorman a significant look passes between Luca and Vince. After a moment, Vince shakes his head. Mikhail takes this as Vince sparing the doorman an ugly and anonymous death—at least for now—and vows to question the man the moment it is convenient to do so.

Vince tells everyone present that he is, unfortunately, unable to help Ron directly at this time, for a variety of reasons that he doesn’t discuss further. He says that he would very much appreciate it if Kane and Mikhail could “do their best” to get Ron acquitted. He also, asks them to tell Ron that he likes him a lot and that he hopes he’s okay.

After Kane and Mikhail leave, Vivian arranges to relax in the kitchen for the rest of the morning and to “put on a pot of coffee just in case anyone needs it.” She speaks to Luca, who is relieved to have some time away. She also speaks to Mr. Potafiori, finally, who tells her that he has been looking over to the Future’s ledgers and has found several payments from the group to Judge Bartlett. This confirms Vivian’s already deep suspicions.

Central Park

Mikhail stops by Gabriella’s apartment (and the murder scene) to talk with the doorman. She finds him friendly and somewhat talkative. The doorman tells Mikhail the following facts about the case:

  • Ron visited on the morning of the murder and left about an hour or so later.
  • Ron visited the building several times over the last few months.
  • The doorman knew Ron was paying for Gabriella’s apartment.
  • There was an altercation, several months prior, between Ron and Gabriella, which resulted in a broken lamp and some blood on the carpet.
  • Ron seemed fine when he left.
  • Ron was dressed in a new suit. 

Mikhail also learned that an Italian the doorman had never seen before—one Fredo Albanese—visited Gabriella sometime after Ron left. He stayed for only a few minutes and left quickly.

Mikhail, now realizing that the doorman has provided him with at least some circumstantial evidence that could lead to reasonable doubt, proudly and happily walks around the corner and back to his car. He notices a strange flickering light from down an alley behind Gabriella’s building and goes to investigate.

The flickering light turns out to be an assailant cloaked by an invisibility spell, who blocks Mikhail’s retreat from the alley and tries to assassinate him with a silenced pistol. Mikhail calls for help, but no one comes. He then attempts to stab his assailant several times, to no effect. At last, Mikhail pulls out his .45 automatic and fires a blessed bullet into his attacker, who both dies instantly and becomes visible. Mikhail notes that he is a young, shabbily dressed man with curiously empty pockets.

Mikhail’s single gunshot draws quite a bit of attention, and soon onlookers and police officers arrive at the mouth of the alley. The officers on scene arrest Mikhail, who offers no resistance. They take him downtown, question him, and let him go once it seems like Mikhail was the victim of a “mugging gone bad.”

A Photograph of Mikhail's Attacker

The Coroner’s Office

Dr. Black makes an appointment to see Dr. Manson, one of the New York City coroners. Dr. Black arrives at the Coroner’s Office shortly thereafter, to find Dr. Manson in the midst of eating his lunch. The coroner continues to eat noisily while he produces Ms. Puglisi’s body and personal effects for Dr. Black to examine.

Dr. Black looks over the body and the autopsy report and finds that all the evidence is consistent with Ms. Puglisi being brutally strangled to death. While Dr. Manson chomps on his sandwich, Dr. Black inspects the bruising around Ms. Puglisi’s throat and notes that there is an unusual circular indentation on the side of her neck.

When investigating Ms. Puglisi’s personal effects, Dr. Black notices that, among the evidence in the paper bag, is a pair of large, bloodied shears, which she was holding in her hand when the police discovered her body. Dr. Black is worried that these scissors will implicate Ron at trial, and decides to do something about it.

He sends Dr. Manson out of the room to get him a cup of coffee and then does the following things to tamper with the chain of evidence:

  • He drops the bloodied scissors into his doctor’s bag, replacing them with one of the many pairs of scissors strewn about the Coroner’s Office.
  • He borrows an inkwell and some wax paper from Dr. Manson’s lunch and uses both to get an ink impression of the circular mark on Ms. Puglisi’s neck. He discovers a shape—something that looks vaguely like the letter Y—in the middle of the circular mark.

He manages to do all of this just before Dr. Manson returns with the coffee. At this time, Dr. Black drinks, thanks Dr. Manson for his hospitality, and suggests that they go outside of the Coroner’s Office to get food the next time they get together.

Catching Up

Dr. Black, Vivian, and Kane meet up with Judge Putnam and Johnny to discuss what they’ve learned so far. Vivian identifies the mysterious symbol that Dr. Black found as being an imprint of the lodge ring worn by members of the Order of Silver Twilight. Vivian supposes that whoever strangled Ms. Puglisi a) wasn’t Ron and b) was wearing the ring backwards, so as to hide their cult affiliation more easily. Vivian also makes known what she has discovered about Judge Bartlett, which leads Judge Putnam and Johnny to make a social call at Judge Bartlett’s to gather evidence.

Do You Remember Me? From the First Chapter? I'm Back! Hi!

At Judge Bartlett’s

The judge and Johnny are received rather warmly at Judge Bartlett’s by both the judge himself and by his manservant, an older gentleman named Seymour. Seymour and Johnny, realizing that they have a great deal in common, nod at one another in long-suffering understanding.

The two judges take tea in the living room and engage in easy conversation. Though they have known of one another for many years, they have never become properly acquainted until now. Judge Putnam thanks Judge Bartlett for his hospitality, and goes on to explain in greater detail what happened surrounding his injunction of Look to the Future. Judge Bartlett is quite sympathetic, and says that he would have likely done the same thing in Judge Putnam’s place. Judge Bartlett goes on to discuss about how awful “those Italians” are, descending into racial slurs and saying that they’re, “even worse than the Irish.”

While the judges talk, Seymour invites Johnny back into the kitchen for some commiseration. On the way, Johnny passes through a hallway lined with publicity pictures, featuring Judge Bartlett smiling with many members of the New York City political and cultural elite. Johnny notes, to his utter lack of surprise, that one of the pictures shows Judge Bartlett smiling and shaking hands with James “Big Grin” Bianco.

Once they have reached the sanctity of the kitchen, Seymour says that his last name is “O’Brien,” that Judge Bartlett knows this, and that the judge constantly puts down the Irish, in part, to keep Seymour in his place. He then offers Johnny some wine from Judge Bartlett’s personal store, which prompts Johnny to slip out to the car and bring in a nice bottle of champagne that Judge Putnam stows there as an impromptu gift, in case one is ever required.

The two manservants drink, chit-chat, and play cards, using pennies and nickels as ante. After Johnny purposefully loses to Seymour for several games, he casually takes a $50 bill out of his wallet and puts it on the table.

Johnny explains, in a roundabout way, that he’s looking for information on Judge Bartlett’s involvement with “Big Grin.” Seymour replies, in a roundabout way, that he is fine with taking Johnny’s money and reporting back to him with anything he learns about the judge. The two men smile, and the money disappears from the table.

Then, moments later, Judge Bartlett rings a bell to summon Seymour so that he can fetch Judge Putnam’s and Johnny’s coats so that the two of them can depart.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Mob War Part 3: June 9, 1926

Early in the morning of June 9th, Dr. Black takes Judge Putnam to an out-of-the-way hospital. Both the judge and the doctor receive blood transfusions, restoring their vitality after the byakhee attack and Dr. Black’s rather unorthodox magical use. The two men go home and finally get some rest.

The London Group is very busy the next day, mostly with meetings. The following occurs.

Mikhail and the Mob

Mikhail realizes that he might be able to get leverage or information against Big Grin and his new lady friend. He calls in a favor and replaces the public defender on an assault case featuring one Cecilio D’Agostino (AKA Cecil “The Hammer”). Cecil is a low-level enforcer for the Bianco Family, who was picked up after some Russian guy named Boris Novak got his face smashed in with a hammer at a speakeasy. Oddly enough, Big Grin is not sending a hot shot lawyer out to defend Cecil. Hence his asking for a public defender.

Mikhail meets with Cecil at Rikers. He learns that Cecil didn’t do it, but is copping to the charge, anyway, in order to do a favor for Big Grin. Mikhail learns that Cecil was at the speakeasy when a “new hire” of the Bianco Family, one Adam Dellinger, attacked Boris. He goes on to explain that there are now two factions in the Family: the old hands, who are all traditional mafiosi and who report to Big Grin, and the young guns who are not mafia and who are surprisingly loyal to Big Grin’s new girlfriend, Annie.

Cecil goes on to say that Dellinger, along with several other of the young guns, have been tasked with tracking down, “seven people that Miss Annie don’t like in particular.” Dellinger was at the speakeasy at the same time that Cecil was, and was asking around for someone named, “John Dukakis, somethin’ like that.” He refused to take no for an answer, which led to the fight with Boris, which led to Boris getting his face smashed in.

Cecil indicates that he’s willing to do a nickel for the assault charge because it means making it look like the Bianco Family is still a normal outfit, instead of revealing that Dellinger did it and admit the worse sin that Bianco can’t seem to control his own men.

Mikhail promises to defend Cecil, provided Cecil tells him more about Anne Chantraine. He learns that Anne appeared on the scene relatively recently and wormed her way almost instantly into Big Grin’s good graces. There’s a lot of concern amongst the old guard that she’s calling the shots now, and they’re worried.

Mikhail leaves with quite a good bit of information, including that it seems like Anne Chantraine has marked all seven members of the London Group for death.

Ron and Viv and the Mob

Vincenzio Bernouse has Gotten a New Actor, Apparently!

Early in the day, Ron meets with Vince and tells him that he thinks he murdered Gabriella Puglisi. He then goes on to tell Vince that he thinks that he’s pretty sure where Big Grin is getting his money from now, as he and Viv found the ledger from Look to the Future.

This caused Vince to become apoplectic, swill down some bourbon at an alarming rate, and order Luca to get Potafiori on the phone and get his ass down here right now. He also tells Luca to fetch his daughter, Vivian, who is practicing violin upstairs.

Everyone assembles in Vince’s office and endures an uncomfortable meeting of Vince chewing them out. Ron gets yelled at because he’s supposed to keep Viv out of the family business. Potafiori gets yelled at for colluding with Vivian about the ledger and not telling him where it really came from. Vivian gets the least of it, but she still gets an earful from her father about how, “she’s supposed to be the good kid and have a better life, and Jesus God!”

Vince further goes on to say that Ron needs to cool it and lay low for a while. He says that there’s rumors going around that Bianco can’t control his men, and that his new enforcers are just kids with guns who don’t know or care about omerta. Vince says that it would look very freaking bad if word got out that Vince can’t control his men either. He tells Ron that he is not to act on any impulses that he has, and if he does get impulses, he should have Luca sit on him.

After the meeting, Vivian takes Ron aside and yells at him for telling Vince about the origins of the ledger. She says that she gave that ledger to Potafiori and told him, “not to tell Papa where it came from.”

Ron is cowed. It doesn’t last.

Judge Putnam and the Attorney General

AG Ottinger is Tough on Crime!

Johnny drives Judge Putnam to his meeting fateful meeting with Albert Ottinger, the New York Attorney General’s. While driving, Johnny tells the judge that he has done some research and is concerned that Judge Putnam may be slowly transforming into a ghoul. Johnny begs the judge not to eat blood and to especially not eat the blood or flesh of human beings. He tells the judge to try and hang on to his humanity a little longer while he works on a cure.

The judge seems to take this all a bit too lightly for Johnny’s comfort, but promises to obey him in any case. They soon reach the Attorney General’s office, and Judge Putnam goes in for his meeting.

Attorney General Ottinger is a hard-nosed Republican who is cracking down on crime. He is disgusted at the judge’s extralegal injunction of Look to the Future’s assets, and embarrassed at how bad the judge’s overreach makes the New York court system look. He demands that Judge Putnam explain himself.

Having worked out with the rest of the London Group what he was going to say, Judge Putnam calmly recounts his partially accurate tale to the attorney general. He explains that he was repeatedly threatened by mysterious forces, including within his own house, to the point where he feared for his life. He goes on to state that these forces, which he assumed were organized crime in nature, were asking him to perform certain legal favors for him that he wasn’t comfortable with. He froze Look to the Future’s assets at the request of these forces before fleeing the country, fearing that he would be killed. He only dared come back once Judge Bartlett had reversed the injunction.

The story is woven well enough to convince AG Ottinger of the judge’s good character. He asks Judge Putnam to fill out a sworn affidavit so that he can build a case against the people who were threatening the judge. Judge Putnam replies that he is glad to do so, filling out all necessary paperwork and pointing the finger at the Bianco Crime Family. He then has Johnny drive him back to his home on Staten Island.

A Visit to an Old Friend

"Always Happy to Help Dumb White Boys with their Dumb White Problems"

Upon their return to New York, Johnny stops by Kane’s. He tells Kane of the judge’s ghoulish condition and explains that he knows how to make an elixir to cure him. Johnny says that he received this recipe from none other than Professor Armitage at Miskatonic, whom Johnny called out of desperation. Unfortunately, the elixir requires three rare herbal ingredients that Johnny doesn’t know how to get. He was hoping that Kane could take him to meet his friend, Papa Doc Horus.

Kane is happy to do so, but first asks Johnny to procure some fine wine from the judge’s stores. With offering in hand, they go to Horus’ place for Johnny’s first meeting with the voodoo priest. The three share the wine, discuss the judge’s condition, and go over Johnny’s ingredient list. Papa Doc says that he has one of the ingredients (morning glory seeds), but that the other two are rarer and harder to come by. He says he could probably get it in a week, for the right price.

At this, Johnny produces the judge’s checkbook. He balks slightly when Horus asks him for $100, but fills out the check and forges the judge’s signature anyway. Horus promises to get back to Johnny soon.

At Judge Putnam’s

The London Group reconvenes at Judge Putnam’s place. The group has a lot to discuss, including: the fact that Anne Chantraine is gunning for them, that Ron definitely did murder that lady, that Papa is very upset, and other things.

The group laments not knowing terribly much about Anne Chantraine. Ron, reflexively, wonders if the Many-Faced Stranger can give them useful information about Anne. This causes him to activate the Ouroboros Ring, nearly die from the casting cost of the summoning ritual, and collapse on the rug in Judge Putnam’s parlor.

As the others hoist him onto a sofa, Vivian removes the Ouroboros Ring from Ron’s hand, wraps it in a handkerchief, and tucks it away on her person.

We Have to Stop Meeting Like This! Hee Hee!

Moments later, there is a knock on the door. Johnny sighs and goes to answer the door, where a very smug Nathan Torpley stands waiting.

What follows is a very frenetic scene that is amusing for some, terrifying for others, and very annoying for Johnny. The judge’s put upon domestic servant pours drink after drink for Nathan Torpley while the eldritch abomination partially answers whatever questions are put to him.

They learn quite a bit more about Anne Chantraine, including that she is a member of the Order of Silver Twilight and that she was Carl Stanford’s long-time girlfriend. They also learn that her goals are similar to his and, thanks to a possible slip of Torpley’s tongue, that Stanford might somehow still be alive somewhere.

The group also gets their suspicions confirmed that the Order of Silver Twilight is entering the next phase of their plan on Easter Island. When the group says that, “we melted down two thirds of the R’lyeh Disc, so that’ll stop them,” Torpley says that the Silver Twilight still has a piece of the disc, which may be enough, especially since they have recovered the shards of the Arc of Vlactos.

Dr. Black, furious at Torpley’s hubris, demands to know just what the amulet Ron buried at his new cult site is supposed to do. The rest of the group tries to prevent Dr. Black from waking the ire of the Avatar of Nyarlathotep. Nathan Torpley just laughs.

Torpley soon grows bored with the conversation and departs. Ron, whether as a delayed reaction from his summoning of the Many-Faced Stranger or as a result of the stressful conversation with Nathan Torpley, pukes on the rug. Johnny rolls his eyes and fetches a mop and bucket.

Kane’s Trip to the Bathroom

During this whole scene, Kane—perhaps as a result of all the wine he drank earlier, perhaps out of a need to escape the fearsome presence of Nathan Torpley—ducks into the bathroom to relieve himself. As Kane washes his hands, the bathroom mirror darkens, obscuring his reflection. When it clears again, he finds himself looking into a well-appointed library, where Anne Chantraine is standing, dressed to the nines as a flapper.

“Finally,” she says, with a smirk. “And here I was starting to think you were the least vain member of your little group. I have a proposition for you, Kane.”

Anne tells Kane that she respects him as an adversary and an intelligent man. She further tells him that she thinks, of all the London Group, killing him would be a terrible waste. She tells him that she’s making a one-time only offer to, “join the winning side.” She says she will give Kane one day to think about it.

The mirror swiftly returns to normal. Kane exits the bathroom to tell the others.

Cheese It, The Cops!

As the group discusses Kane’s encounter, Johnny tries to both contribute and mop Ron’s vomit off of the judge’s very expensive rug. He doesn’t get very far before the doorbell rings.

This time, it’s one of Judge Putnam’s new security guards, who tell Johnny that the police are here with a warrant for Ron’s arrest. Johnny (perhaps a touch too eagerly) permits the cops to enter the premises.

The two police officers seem not to care very much at all about Ron’s weakened condition, and begin to harass him and harangue him to get up. Mikhail plays the lawyer card and manages to get the officers to back off. Slightly chastened, the cops support Ron as he struggles to leave the judge’s house under his own power. They then bundle him into the back of their car and take him downtown.

Mikhail gets in his own car to meet Ron at the police station, while the rest of the London Group plans their next move.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Mob War Part 2: June 8, 1926

Cleanup on Aisle Three

Let us spare a moment to detail the cleanup events after the massacre that occurred last session. Johnny drove down the team’s truck to dispose of the bodies and to pick up the pieces of the Disc of R’lyeh. Ron parked the dead mafiosi’s cars in various places on the Atlantic City boardwalk with the keys in the ignition. Dr. Black mopped up afterward.

June 8th

Early in the afternoon of June 8th, the London Group convenes at Judge Putnam’s.

Ron shows up an hour late, looking discomfited and wearing a brand-new suit. He asks Dr. Black to tend to a rather nasty, ragged wound in his abdomen. Dr. Black does so, noting that the wound could have been made by a dull knife or a pair of scissors. Vivian shoots Ron several, “What the *$#@ did you do, Ron Deluca?” looks, but no information is forthcoming.

A short time later, Mikhail arrives, breathless, from his investigations at the New York Public Library. He informs everyone that Anne Chantraine is, based on his research, a 300-year-old wizard, and likely cut from similar cloth as Carl Stanford.

Looking Pretty Good for 300

Once everyone calms down a little bit, Judge Putnam tries to focus the group’s attention on more practical matters. He informs everyone that he has a meeting with the New York District Attorney tomorrow, likely about his freezing of Look to the Future’s assets. The group works with the judge to create a credible story as to why the judge would do such a thing. Eventually, they settle on the documented facts that the judge has been attacked in his home, the recent mob war, and similar, to show that the judge has been trying to stop the mafia, and that the mafia has retaliated.

Meanwhile, Johnny has had enough of the disc pieces and wants to get rid of them permanently. Fortunately, Kane Eastman had a similar thought. For the cost of a few bucks, he has gained temporary access to a warehouse on the east river that contains some smelting equipment. He tells the group that they can use the warehouse starting at 10 pm that evening, and that the equipment should be sufficient to melt down the disk.

Phone Calls

Throughout these conversations, the judge’s house gets a series of phone calls. Judge Putnam, desperately trying to be a more modern man, has been practicing answering his own phone. Johnny lets him answer all of these calls, not without a trace of amusement.

The first call is from Luca to Ron. Luca informs Ron that the cops have been at the Bernouse place looking for him. He informs Ron that it might be better to turn himself in than to wait until the cops find him, especially now. After this conversation, Ron makes some vague excuses, tells his friends that he has to “see a guy about a thing,” and quickly leaves the judge’s house. Johnny is tasked with driving Vivian home later, which he is happy to do.

The second call, which comes about forty minutes later, is from a Detective Kavanagh of the NYPD. He is looking for one Ron Deluca, and has heard that he sometimes associates with Judge Putnam. The judge tells Kavanagh that Ron left quite a while ago. The detective thanks him and hangs up. The group’s earlier suspicions that Ron has been involved in something shady are now confirmed.

The third call, which comes about forty minutes after that, is from a desk sergeant at one of NYPD’s many precincts. The sergeant is looking for Mikhail, because one of his clients has requested an attorney. That client? Ron Deluca.

Where Ron Went

When Ron left Judge Putnam’s house, he went to his brother-in-law Darragh’s house and not, as one might expect, to the police department. Darragh’s wife was none-too-happy to see Ron, and told him that, no, Darragh wasn’t there, and that he was, in fact, upstate with his sister and his nephew, who Ron had earlier convinced to flee the city.

The conversation ends abruptly with Ron’s sister-in-law slamming the front door in his face. He leaves, only to notice a NYPD patrol car drive up the block, make a U-turn, and then drive back toward him. Ron realizes that the jig is up and, for once, decides not to fight it. The uniformed police officers tell him that he needs to come down with them because they need to ask him a few questions. Ron accepts, but immediately proclaims that he wants a lawyer.

Fortunately, Ron has Mikhail’s card and a coupon from Mikhail in his pockets. The desk sergeant calls Mikhail.

Let’s Split Up

Back at the judge’s house, Mikhail bids the group farewell and drives down to the precinct to represent his new client. Everyone else helps Johnny load the disc pieces into the truck and makes plans to get to Kane’s rented smelter as soon as it becomes available.

The Interrogation

Detective Kavanagh

Down at the precinct, Mikhail and Ron have a few minutes alone together to get Ron’s story straight before they are interviewed by one Detective Kavanagh.

Kavanaugh starts out attempting to ascertain Ron’s whereabouts for earlier in the day. Ron mentions that he was in Queens, where he bought a suit. As Kavanagh’s questioning continues, it becomes clear that he is more interested where Ron was earlier in the day. Ron mentions that he was at Central Park earlier in the day. As the questioning continues, Ron reveals that he went to visit his friend, Gabriella Puglisi, who lives in an apartment there. 

Satisfied with how the interrogation is going, Kavanagh leaves the room for a bit. Ron and Mikhail huddle. Mikhail is certain that something has happened to Gabby, and that Kavanagh is trying to put the blame for it on Ron. Ron confesses to Mikhail that he did go to see Gabby, just for a conversation, but that he blacked out and he doesn’t remember most of the visit.

Mikhail and Ron decide to use a similar stratagem to the one suggested for Judge Putnam—blame it on “Big Grin” Bianco. Bianco knew that Ron had a previous association with Gabby, and knew that Ron would take the fall for it if something happened to her, so…

Kavanaugh returns a short time later with a manilla folder. In it are pictures of Gabby, deceased, in her apartment, a pair of bloodied scissors by her hand. Mikhail and Ron recount their prepared statement, and, based on this, Kavanagh lets them both go. For now. He advises Ron not to leave town.

At the Smelter

Johnny drives up to the small warehouse and backs the truck up to the front door, so that it’s easier for the group to carry the disc pieces inside. Johnny remains seated in the truck, cradling his future gun, and watching for any signs of intruders.

The rest go in and, fortuitously, find some instructions that allow them to turn on the smelter. The group soon realizes that the melting point of gold is much, much higher than they expected, and so they sit around and wait, watching the crucible as the gold slowly heats up.

Johnny sees no people around anywhere, but does see a large, ominous shadow pass overhead. He gets out of the truck and hefts his future gun as a byakhee screeches and dives down at the truck. Johnny opens fire, riddling the byakhee and causing it to spray silver-black blood everywhere, but does not kill it. The byakhee lands and grapples with Johnny, who tries to fight it off with the butt of his future gun.

Everyone inside the warehouse hears this commotion. Vivian, realizing that the sky has seen her and is moving against her huddles in a corner and has a panic attack. Judge Putnam and Kane race outside to help Johnny, while Dr. Black minds the smelter.

A pitched gun battle occurs outside by the truck. The byakhee, overwhelmed by the group’s impressive firepower, releases Johnny, tries to retreat, but collapses in a decaying heap against one of the other warehouses. Relieved at their relatively easy victory, the group congratulate one another and light up celebratory smokes.

And then Johnny spots another shadow looming overhead.

The second byakhee swoops down, seizes Judge Putnam, and savagely bites him in the shoulder. The group open fire on the creature—including Vivian, who has recovered enough to take pot shots at the byakhee from the door. The creature shrugs off the initial onslaught and takes wing, hauling Judge Putnam up with it into the sky over the East River.

Judge Putnam realizes that the byakhee is feeding on his blood and is rapidly depleting his strength and vitality. Realizing that two can play at this game, the judge calls upon the bloodlust that he gained from drinking too deeply from the fountain in the Nameless City and savagely bites the byakhee’s chest. He feeds on the byakhee’s blood as the byakhee feeds on his, all the while Kane and Johnny desperately fire up at the judge’s abductor from below.

Some Old Friends from Beyond Time and Space

The Cavalry

Released from the police department, Ron and Mikhail take Ron’s car and head over to the warehouse to see how the rest of the group is doing. They arrive on the scene to see the second bykahee flying overhead, keening in rage, with Judge Putnam in tow. Ron stops the car for a moment, trying to decide what to do. Mikhail takes advantage of this to get out of the car.

The byakhee, still feeding on the judge. Swings out over the East River and dives down for another run at the group. Ron floors the accelerator on his car, hoping to ram the byakhee with it and free the judge. Mikhail, realizing Ron’s intentions, runs along behind the car, Masonic blade in his hand.

The byakhee charges at the car and rakes down at it with its powerful leg talons, tearing the roof off completely. Ron, stunned by this display of physical prowess, slams on the brakes and comes to an abrupt stop. This allows Mikhail to catch up to the car, leap onto the rear bumper, and jump at the byakhee. He manages to grab onto the byakhee’s leg, swatting at it with his sword as the creature flaps its leathery wings and climbs.

Johnny, realizing that he definitely cannot shoot at the byakhee without risk of hitting Mikhail or the judge, watches helplessly as the creature wheels for another pass. Kane takes careful aim at the charging creature and tries to take another shot, only for his old, much-used gun that he purchased from Vito the caretaker, to jam. Kane quickly clears the round and reloads.

Ron, enraged and still wanting to go car jousting, executes a perfect bootlegger turn and drives straight at the byakhee. He manages to get up to just above 40 mph when he crashes into the hideous monster from beyond space. The impact utterly destroys Ron’s car, kills the byakhee, and critically injures both Judge Putnam and Mikhail.

Johnny rushes over to Judge Putnam and uses his coat to make the unconscious man a makeshift pillow. If he is discomfited at the sight of the ring of silver-black blood around the judge’s mouth, he doesn’t say anything about it.

Dr. Black arrives on the scene moments later and, using reverse of the technique of the half-men from the Nameless City, he pushes his own vitality into the judge. This leaves Dr. Black woozy and weak, but also heals the judge enough to allow him to regain consciousness.

Dr. Black treats Mikhail as well, and manages to coax the swashbuckling lawyer back to wakefulness.

Meanwhile, Vivian, who has refused to leave the safety of the warehouse, watches in delight as the disc pieces begin to liquefy in the crucible…

What Remained of Ron's Car