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…


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." 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

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

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


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.


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.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part Ten: October 18, 1925 (Night)

Ron and Vivian

Viv and Ron prepare to take Ron’s car out to Bayonne. As they pull out of the driveway, they are startled to see Nathan Torpley standing at the end of it. 

Nathan approaches the driver’s side of the car and tells Ron, “I know you are off on an important errand, Mr. Deluca, and it is my sincere hope that you succeed in your endeavors. I just wanted to let you know that everything proceeds apace with the plans for helping your marriage. We can talk about it when you get back, of course.”

Weirded out by this encounter, Viv and Ron drive to Bayonne. They reach Mrs. Dimathias’ house and find it dark. Viv waits in the car while Ron forces open the door and checks the house. Once the coast is clear, Viv joins him, and they search around for signs of Mikhail or trouble. They discover a pile of cigarettes and an empty bottle near some shrubbery across the street, From this, they deduce that someone has been watching the house. 

Ron returns to the house, determined to stay for a while. He grabs a slice of leftover lemon cake and begins combing the kitchen for any signs of alcohol. While he's doing this, Viv parks the car on the next street over and walks back to the house.

On her walk back, Viv sees a gentleman exit a car just up the street. Upon noticing that this man is walking to the Dimathias residence, she backs down the side street so that she will not be spotted. She reemerges a few seconds later and confirms that the man is entering the house.

In the house, Ron hears the front door open. Thinking it’s Viv, he turns and is confronted by the man, who has just drawn a .38. The man tells Ron to get on the floor. Ron tries to intimidate the man, but the man points out that he, not Ron, is the one with the gun, so he, not Ron, will be making the demands.

Viv, realizing that Ron is probably in trouble, races to the front door of the Dimathias residence. Without entering the house, she opens the front door and slams it, loudly. This distracts the gunman, who swings around to look at the door. This gives Ron enough time to tackle the man, disarm him, and wrestle him into immobility on the living room carpet.

Viv reenters, takes the man’s gun, and helps Ron question him. The man is not forthright, at first, but breaks when Viv and Ron both notice his very obvious Silver Twilight Lodge ring. He tells them that everyone in the house left with James at least an hour ago, or more. He also says that the, “rest of them went up to the train station, to deal with the ‘traitors,’" while he was left here to watch the house for signs of trouble.

Satisfied that they have all the answers they’re going to get, Ron tells Viv to get the car and bring it around front. Once she leaves, he attempts to strangle the gunman to death. The gunman fights back, drawing a hidden knife to stab Ron, but Ron wrestles the knife away from the man and slits his throat. In true Mafia fashion, he wraps the now dead gunman in the oriental carpet in Mrs. Dimathias’ living room, drags him out to the car, and shoves him in the trunk.

After a quick change of clothes and some hasty discussions with Viv, Ron pulls the car over on a lonely bridge, weighs down the body, and tosses it into the water. 

Papa will never find out about this. Just like all of the other things that Papa will never find out about.

They drive hurriedly to the train station, spot the judge’s touring car in the parking lot, and head inside.

Judge Putnam

Stately Putnam Manor

Judge Putnam awakens late at night to hear someone prowling around outside house (which now has a canon floor plan). The judge picks up his shotgun cane, goes to the phone in the upstairs hallway, and tries to call the police. Finding the line dead, he huffs, goes downstairs to his office, and tries to use that phone to call the police. That line is also dead. 

The judge, as it happens, does not quite understand how phones work.

While in the office, Judge Putnam hears someone smash one of the small windows near his front door, reach in, unlock the door, and let themselves into the house. The judge creeps into his dining room and watches as the intruder carefully stalks upstairs. After a moment, the judge follows him.

He sees the intruder standing at the top of the stairs, peeking in through now opened door to the guest bedroom. The intruder, satisfied that the guest bedroom is empty, closes the door and turns around.

Only to find himself looking down the barrel of the judge’s shotgun cane. Without hesitation, the judge fires, reducing the intruder’s head to small, bloody chunks.

Searching the body, the judge finds a black velvet bag containing hair, fingernails, and other strange things, as well as two pieces of paper. The first has diagrams and words written in an unknown language. The second is a hastily-written note, “Kill the judge and take his place. Call me when you are successful.”

Slightly miffed at the mess, the judge goes to the carriage house, finds that its phone is still working, and calls the police and his lawyer, in that order.


A Quiet Gas Station

Mikhail starts out toward Massachusetts with his mother, Angie, James, and Pushok the dog in tow. James is concerned and panicky about the whole ordeal. Angie demands some more answers. Mrs. Dimathias hopes they’re going to look at the nice autumn leaves! Such pretty colors!

Mikhail tells them that, “I will explain this ONLY ONCE,” before quickly telling everyone the truth about where he found James and who had kidnapped him and left him for dead.

Their conversation is interrupted by James, who mentions to Mikhail that he thinks someone is following them. Mikhail loses them with some deft offensive driving, including the currently popular bootlegger turn. Satisfied that they are safe, Mikhail continues north, into the night.

Sometime later, they stop for gas. The garrulous gas station attendant tries to engage Mikhail, but Mikhail is having none of it. The gas station attendant eventually gives up, in part because Mikhail is not particularly chatty, in part because another driver has pulled up to the pump just behind Mikhail. The other driver asks to use the restroom and is directed inside the building.

Mikhail has Angie call Deb on the station’s pay phone and has James stay in the car while he gets out to exercise Pushok.  In the meanwhile (and for the rest of the scene), a sleeping Mrs. Dimathias snores loudly while James sits quietly in the car.

While Angie fills Deb in on what’s really going on, the other driver leaves the gas station and walks around to the driver’s side door of his car. A suspicious Mikhail notes that the other driver opens his car door but does not get in, instead proceeding to the back of Mikhail’s car while taking something out of the inside of his coat.

Mikhail and Pushok come around to the driver’s side of Mikhail’s car to see that the other driver is now pointing a pistol at James through the back-passenger window. Mikhail draws his own gun and fires.

A brief and messy shootout ensues. The cars suffer superficial damage, but no one winds up getting shot. Mikhail tries to sic Pushok on the other driver, but Pushok, misinterpreting the gunplay as the setup for a trick Mikhail was trying to teach him earlier, instead plays dead. In the exchange, the other driver slips in the mud and falls beside his car, giving Mikhail the time that he needs to grab his enchanted Masonic blade from his car.

Mikhail closes with the other driver, who has since gotten to his feet, swings his sword, and misses, badly denting the roof of the other car in the process.  The other driver smirks and levels his gun at Mikhail.

There is a small explosion, but it does not come from the other driver’s gun. The other driver gawps in surprise and collapses, the side of his head caved in and spurting blood. Mikhail looks over to see Angie leaning across the roof of the other car, the .45 she usually carries in her purse gripped tightly in her hands.

Mikhail searches the other driver and finds a silver necklace with the same symbol she saw on James’ ring, as well as a hastily written note. “You are to follow them wherever they go and take care of loose ends. You will be uplifted should you succeed.”

They get in the car and drive away into the night, while the terrified gas station attendant calls the  police.

The Train Station

Bayonne Train Station, Platform C

Kane, Dr. Black, Johnny, and Maximilian Reed all arrive at the train station. They enter just behind a traveler with an ornate handlebar mustache, whom the porter at the door calls, “Mr. Reed.” The man shakes his head, asks for directions, and goes on with his journey. Meanwhile, the porter sees Max and ventures, “Ah…Mr. Reed?”

When Mr. Reed identifies himself, the porter smiles nervously. 

“No chance mistaking that mustache. Ha ha. Your friend, Martin left a message. He asks you to meet him on Platform C.”

At the train platform, they are met by Martin, who accuses the trio of treachery. Kane, Johnny, and Dr. Black all protest their innocence, but Martin isn’t having any of it. He tells them that Carl Stanford is convinced that they, or the judge, called James Clark in Bayonne to warn him that the Lodge was closing in. He orders his men to finish them off and draws a gun. 

Johnny, realizing that this is an opportunity to get rid of Max Reed, draws his gun, only to find that Max is already pointing a gun at him.

Meanwhile, Ron and Viv have arrived at the train station, recognized the judge’s touring car, and have gone inside to search for their friends. Ron catches someone who looks like Dr. Black (or at least, wearing Dr. Black’s coat),  disappearing into one of the access hallways to Platform C. Viv takes point, watching out for innocents and cops, while Ron creeps onto the platform and sees the preceding scene unfold. 

From his vantage point, Ron can also see a man--with a sniper rifle positioned for optimal shooting--on the roof of a nearby train car. Seeing that things are about to get confrontational, Ron draws his gun and opens fire.

Ron’s first shot is a good one, badly wounding the sniper and preventing him from drawing a bead on his friends. Martin dodges out of the way and conceals himself on the stairs leading inside a train car. A third man, who had been hiding behind one of station’s the concrete pillars until now, takes aim and shoots, only to have his gun misfire. He drops back behind the pillar. 

Max Reed and Johnny exchange gunfire, and both of them take minor wounds. In an attempt to avoid Johnny, Mr. Reed stumbles right into Dr. Black’s line of fire and goes down in a hail of bullets.

Ron fires again, killing the sniper. He shouts at Viv and tells her to get the hell out of there while he retreats back into the station’s concourse. Kane closes with Martin, sticks his derringer to the man’s head, and orders him to surrender. Martin drops his gun. The third man takes a pot shot at Dr. Black, injuring him, before turning around and fleeing along the station into the night.

Back in the concourse, everyone else is screaming and panicking. Vivian and Ron make it outside to their car and drive away. The other group, holding their wounds closed, also retreats, dragging Martin with them. They all make it to the judge’s car just before the police surround the train station to prevent any of the perpetrators from escaping. 

Johnny orders first Dr. Black, then Kane, to get into the Gate Box luggage trunk on the judge’s car. They both do and suffer a brief spate of mind-shattering horror as they are magically transported to the matching box in the judge’s garage.

“No hard feelings,” says Johnny to Martin, right as he shoots Martin at point-blank range, killing him. 

Johnny then uses the Gate Box himself, arriving safely at the judge’s garage.

The three men are baffled to hear the approaching of police sirens and peer out the garage windows to see the judge, dressed in his pajamas, bathrobe, and fuzzy slippers, talking to his lawyer and one of the policemen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Call of Cthulhu Part Nine: October 18, 1925 (Morning)

October 18, 1925 (The Beginning of the Actual Longest Day Ever)

The players began the session split into three groups. Despite my best efforts, they ended the session still split into three (albeit slightly different) groups. Here's what happened.

Ashby, MA

Judge Putnam, Dr. Black, Kane Eastman, and Johnny Doukas awoke in Ashby to find that Max Reed had left some time early in the morning. Ruth Anne gave Johnny sealed letter that Mr. Reed had written to the group.

The quartet had breakfast at the boarding house, during which time Dr. Black made a slight faux pas by offhandedly mentioning that the blood he found was merely raspberry jam. As Dr. Black did not further explain that he went out in the wee morning hours to inspect the abandoned mill, where he found something that looked like blood on a rusty circular saw blade, only to determine, by taste and smell, that it was raspberry jam, this statement merely baffled everyone else. 

In a desperate attempt to change the subject, Johnny opened the letter at the breakfast table and passed it around. According to Mr. Reed, there was to be an emergency meeting of the Silver Twilight Lodge later that same evening at 6 pm, and that they were invited. Mr. Reed said he would “see them there” and that their actions of the previous day put them in a position that was “above reproach” as far as Mr. Stanford was concerned.

The quartet set off for home, but not before buying a lock and as much heavy-duty chain as they could from the general store. They then visited the hilltop cabin one last time to bind up the wardrobe, thereby making that particular Gate Box useless to Carl Stanford and the Order.

While driving back, Johnny heard an unpleasant sound coming from the back of the car. He pulled over, gave the car a thorough inspection, and found that someone had tampered with the car’s differential, such that its Babbitt thrust washers had completely degraded. This caused a two-hour delay while the quartet waited for a kindly mechanic to arrive and replace the bearings with metal ones. They then resumed their drive.

(I did a lot of research on cars, as you can see.)

Judge Putnam's Touring Car

On the long car ride home, the quartet shared their findings. These were written up in between game actions, which I will summarize here.

  • Dr. Black went out on foot to check on the abandoned mill, as previously hinted at. Upon returning to town, he saw Max Reed using the phone booth in front of the general store. The good doctor got close enough to listen in. Mr. Reed was apparently talking to Carl Stanford about: how James Clark had slipped away without a trace, how the jade sphinx had been stolen from the Lodge, and how Max had noticed that someone "had gone for a little midnight drive." Max Reed became very irritated with Mr. Stanford and hung up.
  • The Judge and Johnny drove the judge's car to one of the mills, parked behind it, and ventured back up the hill to the lonely cabin. After a thorough search, they discovered fake identity papers for Mr. Reed, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Stanford, as well as enough supplies to either live off the grid for years or start new lives in a new city. The judge found a slim black case containing six stoppered vials of amber-colored liquid and a silver whistle with a strange patina--reminiscent of the silver coating of Leroy Turner's enchanted trumpet. Johnny and the judge made off with this case, but left the rest behind.
  • Kane got some sleep, because someone has to. 

Bayonne, NJ

Sunny Bayonne, NJ - Circa 1920

James seemed much more lucid in the morning, and a devoted Angie was not about to let him leave her sight again. While Mrs. Demathias made breakfast for everyone, Mikhail went to a shelter and got himself a big Doberman named Pushok.

Upon returning to his mother’s house, Mikhail called the Bernouse residence. He updated Viv and Ron about what had happened, as well as the fact that both Angie and Deb were there and knew about James. 

Mikhail also related a story that Angie had told him once things had calmed down. Apparently, she had been visited the day before (just prior to Mikhail's phone call), by Carl Stanford himself, who had asked her if she had seen James. Mikhail mentioned that Angie thought wanted to call Mr. Stanford, “just to let him know that James is all right.” Mikhail convinced her not to, without telling her why.

Viv, Ron, and Mikhail all agreed that Mikhail should stay put for now, but suggested that there was a good possibility that someone had followed Angie and Deb and was now was watching the Dimathias residence.

Mikhail hung up and tried to have a serious heart-to-heart with Angie to see where her loyalties lay. Angie, assuming that Mikhail was accusing her of something, got upset and went for her purse, but Mikhail managed to calm her down before she pulled her gun or smacked him in the face again. Eventually, Mikhail determined that, despite being Silver Twilight Auxiliary, neither woman knew much about the deeper secrets of the Order, or who really wanted James or why. He finally revealed to Angie, but not to Deb, that that James was being hunted by someone who felt James had wronged him in court. Angie seemed to believe this.

New York City

Barry Pollard, Before His Mafia-Style Beatdown

Unbeknownst to Vivian, Ron and Luca Tartaglione (another one of the Bernouse made guys), went had done a little business for Vincenzo the night before. This business, prompted by Ron, involved Ron and Luca finding and beating the tar out of Barry Pollard, the haughty girls-school headmaster who a) was an appalling racist and b) insulted Vincenzo at the Lodge. They successfully tracked down Barry and found him with Jack, one of the members of Lodge security. They then proceeded to beat them both to a pulp. Unfortunately for Ron, his player failed a Luck roll, which meant that Jack recognized him from the original Lodge meet-and-greet, which allowed him to start putting a few things together. 

For Vivian, the day began mostly quietly, even with Ron and Luca hanging around with her and obliquely (and not subtly) talking about their nightly activities in front of her. 

Viv also played operator, fielding calls from Bayonne and Ashby, and keeping Ron and Luca abreast of everyone's movements and plans. It was decided that the four group members who were also Order members (Kane, Dr. Black, Johnny, and the Judge), would attend the emergency meeting at the Lodge and report back. The rest would remain where they were until they received additional information.

October 18, Afternoon

New York City

Prior to going to the meeting, Johnny and the judge dropped by the New York Public Library. Johnny was curious about the whistle and bottles of liquid that he and the judge had found, and wanted to see if there was any mention of them in the one Mythos book that the group had thus far discovered. 

The librarian told Johnny that the book was in the Rare Books Collection, and that he needed to fill out his application and wait at least a day for approval. Judge Putnam ruled that this delay was not acceptable and insisted that the librarian make an exception. After a successful Credit Rating roll, Johnny and the judge were shown into the Rare Books Collection and granted access to the Mythos book Monstres and Their Kynde.

Johnny read the book and went temporarily insane from the revelations he discovered therein. Judge Putnam was, thankfully, able to talk Johnny out his bout of madness, returning his driver to lucidity, if not total normalcy. 

Johnny also learned the Bless Blade ritual, as well as a ritual to call forth an Ice Demon. Further notes in the Ice Demon ritual mentioned such topics as, “whistles whose notes are pleasing to the beast,” and “the great elixir which allows those to survive whilst the demons carry them to distant spheres.” Johnny assumed that these topics referred to the whistle and the vials that he and the judge had found, and vowed to hang onto them.

Meanwhile, Across Town

While all this was going on, Ron explained to Viv how Nathan Torpley was going to reconcile him with his ex-wife. This apparently involved throwing an incredibly fancy dinner at a Midtown, Michelin-rated French restaurant Viv immediately started teaching Ron the basics of table etiquette, to Luca's great amusement .

October 18, Evening

The Emergency Meeting

Just prior to the meeting, Dr. Black decided to call Dr. Call, as he was concerned that the emergency meeting might actually just be a trap for him and his three companions. It turned out that Dr. Call was also invited to the emergency meeting, but had no idea what it was supposed to be about. He agreed to meet Dr. Black for coffee beforehand. This meeting was brief and cordial.

Thus caffeinated, the four Order members went to the meeting. They found the air around the Lodge quite tense.  They had to pass some minor vetting in order to be let into the building, and they (as well as the other Order members present) were confined to the Lodge's foyer until the meeting began.

The meeting was held in the lounge and presided over by Carl Stanford. Mr. Stanford first mentioned the theft of Mr. Scott’s notebook by a disgruntled excommunicated member. He then went on to say that, while this issue was being handled, and quite admirably, by some of the Order’s membership, a new problem had come to light.

At this point, Mr. Stanford called in a rather battered servant named Steven. Steven, it turns out, was the security member who had been escorting Ron in Ron's guise of "City Waterworks Guy," and who had been knocked unconscious by Ron and stuffed underneath the Noble Philosopher's dais. Steven relayed the events of his assault, as well as the news that his assailant had also stolen, “one of Mr. Stanford’s personal items of great importance.”

Mr. Stanford then called in Barry Pollard and Jack who also looked quite worse for wear. The two of them described how they had been attacked by two Italians “mob style” on the previous evening. Jack claimed he got a very good look at the “little paisan,” and stated that he thought that the city employee and the guy who jumped him had been the same person.

Carl Stanford then explained that he thought that all of these incidents were coordinated efforts by outsiders to bring down and discredit the Order. He also stated that he wanted to keep these issues—and the dealing of them—in house, so that they could be handled properly. He then asked to speak to the Order members a few at a time, so that he could give them important tasks that would help bring this matter to a swift and satisfying conclusion.

The Library Meeting

Kane, Judge Putnam, Dr. Black, and Johnny all met with Mr. Reed and Mr. Stanford in the Order’s library. Mr. Stanford congratulated them on a job well done, and asked if they were ready for more important work. The quartet tried to press him for more details about why they had been sent to Ashby. Mr. Stanford apologized and explained that, “it was just a hunch, but not only do we definitively know that he’s not in Ashby, we also have recent intelligence of where he is right now.”

Judge Putnam tried to get assurances that the Order would not be doing anything illegal in their attempts to resolve the matter. He was less than satisfied with Mr. Stanford’s replies. 

Kane asked why the Order simply couldn’t call the police, to which Mr. Stanford replied that, “as upstanding gentlemen yourselves, you might not know that the mafia families have numerous police officers in their pockets. If this is, indeed, tied to some sort of mob thing, the moment the police know, the mob will know, and then we might be in a great deal of trouble.”

Mr. Stanford then ordered the quartet to go with Mr. Reed to Bayonne, NJ. There, they would rendezvous with another Order member by the name of Martin, locate James Clark, and return him to the Lodge for further questioning.

The Plotlines Converge, Sort Of

It was at this point that the judge, being an elderly man who had to work the next day, asked if Johnny could bring him home. Mr. Stanford said that that was just fine. While the rest of the group waited, Johnny brought the judge back to the house on Staten Island before returning to pick up the others and go to Bayonne.

The moment Johnny dropped the judge off, Judge Putnam called Viv to let her know what had happened at the meeting. He obtained Mikhail’s mother’s number from Vivian and called Mikhail to fill him in as well.

Once everyone was updated, Vivian and Ron decided to drive to Bayonne to meet up with the others. Mikhail, realizing that, as it had been thoroughly searched, Ashby might just be the safest place on earth right now, bundled his new dog, his mother, Angie, and James into his car and headed north for Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Deb drove back home to New York City.

Johnny returned to the Lodge and went into the foyer to collect the others. He (and they) were just in time to hear that Mr. Stanford had received a phone call from their Bayonne liaison, Martin. Martin told Mr. Stanford that “they were on the move,” and that Max Reed and the quartet should instead meet him at the Bayonne train station. From there, Martin explained, they would try to figure out what to do next.

The session ended with the judge trying to figure out how to operate the toaster, while the rest of the group drove to various destinations and appointments with destiny.