The group has survived their adventures in Syria, but not without permanent and lasting scars of both the physical and emotional variety. Considering what the group discovered and accomplished, they agree that these scars seem like small prices to pay.
Judge Putnam and Kane Eastman: Drinking deeply from the Blood Fountain on the Path of the Penitent has deeply changed them. They are plagued with occasional nightmares of the most gruesome type, but laudanum and other drugs seem to be able to blunt their menace. They also note that they have started to order their steaks rarer and rarer. The bloodier the better. Mmm…blood.
Johnny Dukas: Plastic surgery has developed quickly as an art since the end of the Great War, and the doctors are able to use it to good effect to repair Johnny's maimed arm. However, there is permanent damage even the doctors cannot repair. Johnny's hand remains heavily scarred and somewhat twisted. He wears a glove to better hide this injury from others.
Mikhail and Dr. Black: Their draining of energy from the half-formed creatures in the dust storm have rather unpleasant consequences. They find that they occasionally remember things that they've never experienced—presumably these are the memories of the horrific creatures they killed. The memories are of a time and place beyond ancient, and they intrude on their conscious minds at the worst times.
Vivian: She went a little mad when she saw all of those nightgaunts circling above the Bone Zuggurat, and now no longer trusts the sky. It hides things…terrible things. And the stars. They whisper. What do they say? No! Make them stop!
Ron: His usual narrow focus and sheer bloody-mindedness kept him from falling prey to most of the terrors of the Nameless City. Somehow!
April 10-11, 1926
Johnny, Dr. Black, Kane, and the Judge return through the portal in As-Safa. They reunite with the rebels, Turki, Brother Theodore, and James Raven. They spend a night with the rebels before setting out the next day for As Suwayda.
They find that the cast and crew of Prince of Babylon in the middle of packing up and returning to America, as Palm Tree Studios has decided to cut their losses and abandon the film. They are paid $400 by Faram Tokamak for their troubles and are informed that Liam is already back in Damascus and preparing to go home via the Orient Express.
Kane has a very nice liaison with Roseanna Bartlett, though she is a bit miffed that Kane isn’t able to tell her as much as she wants to hear about what was going on at the movie set in the desert.
April 12, 1926
|The Retouin of Everyone's Favorite New Joisey Mothah!|
Ron, Mikhail, Vivian, and Pushok appear in a quiet corner of the Bayonne, NJ train station. They get some odd looks due to their disheveled appearance, their wounds, and their cultist robes. They stop in the station bathrooms to remove their robes and tidy up before taking a cab over to Mikhail’s mom’s house.
Mrs. Dimathias is happy to see her boy and his friends. She sits them down and stuffs them full of cake and tea and asks them really inappropriate questions. Everyone is uncomfortable when Mrs. Dimathias suggests that Vivian and Mikhail date. Everyone is more uncomfortable when Mrs. Dimathias sees their reactions and says, “Oh, are you and Ron dating, then? But he’s so much older!”
Ron notes that the door and the new carpet look very nice.
In Syria, the rest of the group bids farewell to Turki and Brother Theodore and prepare to return home. They hand over Mr. Raven to the care of Dr. Wakefield, who promises to get James the care he needs from the “best spa in Hollywood.”
The group then proceeds to Damascus, where they meet up with Liam and catch the next boat across the Mediterranean to Athens. From here, they take the Orient Express to France, where they board an ocean liner to New York City. The trip is blessedly uneventful, apart from the odd coincidence that the conductor on their train is none other than Leon Janssens. The conductor pointedly avoids the group, and seems very nervous whenever he encounters them in the dining car.
April 20, 1926
By now, the London Group has all made it back to America and is getting settled back into everyday life.
Johnny undergoes surgery to graft skin onto his maimed arm.
Terrance gratefully ceases watching over Judge Putnam’s property, and suggests that the judge might want to hire professional security guards next time. Terrence then takes a week off to recover from a recent concussion.
April 23, 1926
|Luca is Mostly Happy to See Everyone|
Luca is so happy that everyone’s back that he takes them all to out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. He tries to keep things light, but the mob war (see below) makes that very difficult. Luca quickly learns from context that Ron told Vivian about the context of the letter. Luca, who is somewhat drunk and stressed out, unloads on Ron so loudly as to scare the waitstaff and other diners.
“HOW MANY TIMES I GOTTA PUT IT IN THE LETTER RON? JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH! YOU CAN’T EVEN DO ONE SIMPLE THING. OH, MARONE! THE THINGS I GOTTA PUT UP WITH FROM THIS GUY. HEY! WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT? I’M JUST HAVIN’ A CONVERSATION HERE! YEAH, THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT!”
May 8, 1926
The group visits New Hampshire to attend the very small wedding of Mr. James Clark and Ms. Angie Hutchinson. The wedding takes place at a park near Stephen Clark’s house. Other than the London Group, only Deb and Mrs. Harris are in attendance. The ceremony is simple, but lovely. Everyone returns to the Clark house for dinner and cake.
Stephen Clark shows the group some of his latest paintings, which are being boxed up and taken to the Met in New York City. The group sees familiar vistas: white skies with black stars, trapezoidal buildings, ziggurats, bone pits crawling with barely human creatures, and other unpleasant things. The worst of all these is a picture of Carl Stanford, wrapped head to toe in sticky spider web, laughing madly.
Stephen tells the group that his paintings have become more mundane recently. There are a lot of city scenes showing hard-looking men in pinstriped suits. One painting in particular catches’ the group’s eye. It shows none other than “Big Grin” Bianco sitting at his desk. Leaning on his chair, all dolled up in the latest “gun moll” fashion, is none other than Anne Chantraine.
June 5, 1926 (Present Day)
Judge Putnam receives a letter from Christopher Edwin.
The Mob War
Throughout this time period, the mob war rages. It has become much quieter since the first salvos mentioned in Luca’s letter. The rogue gunman who shot up the Bernouse place has disappeared, likely either killed by the Bernouse Family or by Bianco for his shocking breach of mafia etiquette.
Tensions are very, very high in the city as far as The Families and Law Enforcement goes. Ron and other members of the Bernouse Family get hassled or followed whenever they go out in public. The only thing that stops Ron from retaliating are very fucking clear instructions from Vincenzio and the fact that every other made guy in the city is getting roughly the same treatment.
There are a few hits and betrayals going on around the fringes. More people than usual try to swim in the East River. A few cops disappear. More families than just the Delucas decide to go visit Westchester or the Catskills to take in the nice spring weather.
Meanwhile, up north, Boston is a no-go zone for anyone who isn’t directly affiliated with the Bianco Family. “Big Grin” is using his new influx of cash and influence to lock the city down and make it work for him, even going so far as to wage war against the Irish and the Russians.
In New York City, however, Bianco seems to be content with the territory that he has recently claimed from Burnouse and the other families. He seems to be using the relative ceasefire to reinforce his holdings and make friends with the city government. There are also rumors that he’s developed a peculiar interest in certain reading materials and artifacts of an occult nature.
Vito has been staying with a distant cousin out in Brooklyn and has gotten some legitimate work as a fixit guy and illegitimate work running numbers for the Bernouse racket. This makes him one of the more likely people to have run-ins with the cops and with the Bianco Family. He still keeps his good humor, though, and the next time he meets Ron, he brings him a bag of giant cannoli and pinches his cheeks. Ron, somehow, refrains from murdering him on the spot.