Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The House of Edwin Part 1.5: June 17, 1926

Chebeague Island, Maine

Before We Sit Down to Dinner

The London Group is show to their rooms on the third floor of Christopher Edwin’s mansion and are told that they have some time to rest up before dinner. Kane, Judge Putnam, and Vivian take the opportunity to wash up and change. Dr. Black spends the time thoroughly searching his own room and the surrounding rooms for anything that looks even remotely like a secret passage. Mikhail, Ron and Pushok take a stroll around the ground and Pushok, for whatever reason, is skittish. Johnny volunteers his services to assist Ms. Bridger with the preparations for the evening meal. This gives him quite a bit of gratitude from Christopher Edwin’s sole servant, as well as an opportunity to poke around in the downstairs part of the house.

At some point during this, Kane calmly walks the upper hallways of the house and has a meditative smoke. He also looks to see if any of the smoke from his cigarette is blow about by unusual drafts—thereby suggesting secret passageways. Despite his cleverness, he doesn’t find any.

Dr. Black persuades Ron to grab him some small, white stones from around the Edwin estate so that he can cast his warding spell on the group’s magic luggage. This goes perfectly smoothly.

Eventually, Johnny is sent up stairs to fetch the others for dinner.

The London Group's Rooms at the Edwin Estate

Old Friends

The London Group joins Mr. Edwin and his other guests for dinner, and is somewhat surprised to discover that they all know one another. His other guests include: James and Stephen Clark, Angie Clark (nee Hutchinson), Papa Doc Horus, Brother Theodore, and Tommy Hayes.

Everyone dines on a fantastic meal prepared by Ms. Bridger (with some help from Johnny). Once the dishes from the meal are cleared and everyone has gotten coffee, tea, and cake, Christopher Edwin invites his guests to talk about their experiences with their shared enemy, the Order of the Silver Twilight. The group swap stories and catch one another up.

Christopher Edwin explains that the London Group and their allies have dealt several critical blows to the Order, depriving them of critical assets, killing their important agents, and throwing their timetable into disarray. Despite this, the group’s job is not done. Edwin believes that the Order’s ultimate goal is to raise the dead island of R’lyeh and awaken the Herald who sleeps there. Even though the London Group has destroyed two thirds of the disc, the magical potency that remains in the third piece is enough for the cult to do their work, “with sufficient sacrifices.” Their success is made even more likely by the fact that they have, according to Edwin, recovered the shards of the Arc of Vlactos.

Edwin then explains that he knows where the Silver Twilight plan to strike next. He reveals a telegram that he says he just received from another one of his agents, David Lee, who is currently residing in Chile. According to the telegram, Lee has spotted two heavily laden ships—which he believes belong to the Order—getting ready to set sail for Easter Island. Lee also mentions that he has also spotted someone he believes is one of “the twins.”

The Telegram from David Lee

Edwin explains that he is happy to spend a portion of his family fortune to get the London Group (along with any of his other guests) booked on a ship out to Easter Island without delay, in the hopes that they can arrive in time to thwart the Order of the Silver Twilight’s plans. The group agrees to this, and much of the rest of the discussion is spent learning about the so called “twins” working for the Order.

Edwin explains that the twins are inhuman monsters who can shapeshift into various different human forms. Edwin has never encountered them himself, but explains that the twins are very old, very powerful, and are considered “Wizards” of the Silver Twilight, a rank shared only by the departed Carl Stanford. That the twins have taken the field means that whatever the Order plans to do in Easter Island is critically important and must not succeed. He also explains his believe that, while the twins often work together, they likely have means of communicating with one another across vast distances, so it is likely that whatever one knows, the other knows.

At this point, Christopher Edwin announces that he is growing fatigued. He thanks his guests and excuses himself, but not before suggesting that they can use the rest of the evening to relax, read, walk the grounds, or take in the sights that both the island and its small village have to offer. He also mentions that there are likely activities going on down in town, as the islanders are celebrating their yearly Solstice festival.

The London Group all decide to travel down to town. The rest of their friends, tired from their long trips, decide to relax in their rooms. Everyone parts ways, for now.

Is This a Cult?

The London Group drive down into town. Despite it being around 9:00 in the evening, in Maine, the islanders are still awake, outside, and enjoying their summertime festivities. A small carnival-type area, with a stage, food vendors, and the like, has been set up in the center of town. While singers, musicians, and magicians take turns on the stage, the islanders wander around dressed in bizarre finery. The group notes that the strange shrines, which they noticed on their initial arrival to the island, are much more numerous here. All of these different elements come together to provide a strong pagan vibe.

Johnny is so alarmed by this vibe that he immediately turns the car around and drives back toward the Edwin Estate, with Judge Putnam still inside.

Some of the More Outlandish Islanders

The rest of the group are also leery about the islanders, but they decide to remain in the vicinity of the town square to gather additional information. Among the more notable encounters are the following:

  • They noticed that the telegram from David Lee had no date on it, and so they decided to stop by the telegraph office to acquire further information or see if Mr. Lee had sent another telegram. They discovered that the telegraph office was closed until further notice for repairs.
  • Ron caught sight of one of those “ring the bell and test your strength” games and decides to pit himself against it while Kane looks on. Ron, who has a lot of past experience swinging heavy hammers, does very well for himself. So well, in fact, that he unwittingly wins the immediate adoration of one of the village girls. He doesn’t find out about this until shortly thereafter.
  • Dr. Black takes in one of the magic shows at the stage and realizes, to his dismay, that this is 20 minutes of his life he will never, ever get back.
  • A bunch of excitable village children overwhelm and overstimulate Pushok, and so Mikhail decides to take him for a walk. He brings Pushok down past the ferry docks, and notices that the ferry is no longer there. A helpful sign informs him that the ferry will return to the island for regular trips sometime tomorrow morning.
  • Vivian tucks herself into a shadowy spot between two buildings and listens to the gossip of the passersby. She learns that something has been breaking the islanders’ lobster traps, although some of the lobstermen have discovered bits of gold and jewelry left behind in the wreckage, “as if someone were apologizing for breaking it.”
  • Vivian also learns that one of the local boys is very angry at a certain “flatlander,” who his girl is making eyes at. Vivian doesn’t even need to make an IDEA roll to guess that the boy is talking about Ron.
  • The local boy finds Ron and challenges him to a fight. Fortunately, Kane is there to help smooth the situation over. It also helps that Ron is so intimidating—even when he’s doing nothing at all—that the boy decides he has bitten off more than he can chew. He leaves, with his friends razzing him for his cowardice.

Oh, Yeah, It’s a Cult

While on their way back to the Edwin household, Johnny and Judge Putnam spot a small group of people singing and chanting by one of the numerous shrines that dot the island. Realizing that he should probably learn more about what’s going on before he retreats to the safety of the Edwin house, Johnny pulls the car over and he and the judge get out. Both men find the group of islanders very friendly and only too happy to explain their local customs.

One woman, the most talkative of the bunch, tells Johnny and Judge Putnam that they haven’t seen the best part of their festival yet. This is apparently going to occur tomorrow evening, on the official longest day of the year “up over there on Sentinel Hill.” Johnny presses for details about this part of the festival and learns that a group of costumed mummers will process to the top of the hill with the rest of the islanders in tow. Once they reach the summit, they will engage in a sun ceremony filled with songs, prayers, chants, and fun.

It is about this moment that Mikhail and Pushok, who have continued walking away from the town area, spot Johnny and the judge and move to join them. The now larger group continues to converse with the islanders, and learns that they conduct their prayers and sun-worshipping songs in Portuguese, and that their various costumes are handed down from generation to generation.

Judge Putnam mentions that he wouldn’t mind taking a look up at the top of Sentinel Hill. The islanders, pleased at his interest in their customs, are only too happy to bring him up there. After a bracing walk, the three men (and Pushok), emerge from the trees surrounding the hill to find that the summit is well maintained, mowed, and features a large amphitheater for the ceremony.

The three men get their bearings and notice that, not only is the hilltop where the Edwin estate stands visible from here, but that there is also an old, stone tower standing just above the treeline on another nearby summit.

After some more polite conversation, the islanders escort the three men (and Pushok) back to the judge’s car, before going back to the town proper to retire for the night.

The Distant Tower Up Close

A Not Terribly Quiet Evening

As the members of the London Group reconvene, it seems as though the town festival is gradually running out of steam. The group watches as the food carts get put away and the islanders return sleepily to their homes. Realizing that they, too, ought to get some rest, they get into their cars and drive back up to the Edwin estate.

Sleep comes quickly, but the group’s rest is soon spoiled by a sudden banging and crashing from somewhere downstairs. Worried at what this could mean, the group gathers themselves together and heads to the first floor to confront the source of the noise. They swiftly discover that it is coming from the dining room.

As the London Group enter the dining room, they see a very worried Angie Clark and a very frightened James Clark begging and pleading with a manic Stephen Clark, who has pushed a chair against one of the dining room walls and is standing on top of it. Ignoring the pleas of his brother and his sister-in-law, Stephen frantically marks up the blank wall with bits of soot and charcoal he has pulled from the dining room’s fireplace.

The group watches in horror as a terrifying picture begins to emerge from Stephen Clark’s crazed artistry...

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Mob War Part 8: Friday, June 10, 1926

Mob War Wrap-Up

Ron, still wanting answers, takes an unconscious Fredo Albanese to one of the Bernouse Family safe houses, strips him to his undies, and ties him to a chair in the basement. When Fredo comes to, Ron questions him about his involvement of the death of Gabriella Puglisi. Fredo is baffled by the line of questioning, so much so that Ron suspects there might be some kind of Mythos hijinks involved. Realizing that he is not smart enough to figure this out on his own, Ron uses the safehouse phone to make some calls.

He eventually tracks down the hospital where Luca is staying, and, through that, is able to talk to Kane and Johnny. Ron pleads with them both to come to the safehouse to help with the Fredo situation, which they do. Kane, ultimately, tries to hypnotize Fredo to unearth any repressed memories he might have.

It turns out Fredo has a lot of repressed memories, which Anne Chantraine ordered him to forget about. Fredo calmly explains to Kane that he was mentally dominated to kill Gabriella and then suppress all memories of the event, and of knowing anything at all about Chantraine, from his mind. Kane thanks Fredo, tells him that he will remember all of his repressed memories when he awakens, and brings him out of his trance. Fredo is horrified at what he’s done.

Kane and Johnny manage to talk Ron out of killing Fredo, and thereby making the aftermath of tonight’s all-out mob war even worse. Ron calls the Bernouse mansion and talks to Giacomo, who, after distinguishing himself in the service of the family, is now called “Jacky the Kid” and has been temporarily given Luca’s phone duties.

Ron persuades Giacomo to wake both Vivian and her father (separately) and to ask them for advice about the situation. A pissed off Vince is actually relieved when Ron tells him what all went down and that he has not yet murdered Fredo Albanese. He tells Ron to go home, and that he will send some men to the safe house to babysit Fredo. He tells Ron that he will meet with Fredo’s boss, Don Genovese, in the morning, and that they will decide what will happen from there.

While all of this is going on, Vito drops in to visit the others in the hospital. He brings baked goods (including a cannoli for Ron). After wishing everyone well, he departs.

Everyone (but Ron's) Second-Favorite NPC

Dr. Black promises to stand vigil while his friends rest and recover. He even goes so far as to slip a sheet over the mirror in the recovery ward’s bathroom—just in case Anne Chantraine wants to try anything. She doesn’t.

Dr. Black has a dream of ritually sacrificing numerous offerings to the four gods of the Nameless City. The dream shifts, and he realizes that he has been inhabiting/sharing space with a rune-covered, orange-skinned man. The man informs Dr. Black that he is the one who failed to walk the Path of the Penitent, whom Dr. Black absorbed. He says that, because Dr. Black overextended himself to cast the Wrack spell on several people at once, he has strengthened the bond between them. Dr. Black awakens, fearful in the knowledge that this long-dead priest may attempt to exert further influence over him.

Transition to the Next Chapter

A week goes by. Mikhail, Judge Putnam, and Luca recover from their injuries and are discharged from the hospital. Luca needs a second wheelchair to transport all of the flowers, food, and gifts that his well-wishers have been sending to the hotel.

At some point, Papa Doc Horus tells Johnny that he has acquired the rare botanicals that Johnny asked for. Johnny picks them up and mixes a restorative drink for Judge Putnam. The judge imbibes this without hesitation, and soon loses all craving for human blood.

Several high-level meetings occur between the four surviving heads of the Five Families. There is an immediate ceasefire in the mob war. The Bianco/Bonnano Family is leaderless and in shambles. No one can find Anne Chantraine anywhere. Most suspect that she has fled the city.

Ron manages to weedle the phone number for the place his wife and son are hiding out away from Darragh and gives them a call. It goes as well as one might expect. Ron Jr. is worried and nervous. Connie pendulums between scared and really, really angry.

Judge Putnam convenes the London Group at his house and starts making plans for their trip to Chebeague Island, and to the home of Christopher Edwin.

The House of Edwin Part 0.5

The London Group sets out on a two-day trip that will bring them to Portland, and to the ferry that will take them over to Chebeague Island. They stop over at a bed and breakfast in MA for the night. The group studiously avoids going to Ashby.

June 17, 1926

While passing through New Hampshire, the group collectively decides to stop in on the Clarks. They make the detour, only to find that Stephen, Angie, and James have gone off on an outing of their own. The housekeeper, Mrs. Harris, invites them in for tea, coffee, and crumb cake, and gives them a chance to rest and recover from their long drive.

When asked, Mrs. Harris explains that James is doing well, but that Stephen has had one of his “episodes” again where he obsessively paints non-stop. She says that this particular bout ended sometime last Saturday morning, which she was quite relieved about. She says that his return to normalcy is part of the reason why he, his brother, and his sister-in-law all went off on this trip.

Ron, curious and fearful about what Stephen has painted, persuades Mrs. Harris to temporarily part with the spare key to the studio. The group lets themselves in and has a look around. Inside, they discover several paintings, including:

  • Anne Chantraine sitting at a vanity doing her makeup. However, the reflection in the mirror is not of her own face, but of Fredo Albanese’s. Fredo looks terrified and ashen-faceed.
  • A very large painting depicting the shootout at the entrance to the Astoria Hotel. Kane is very discomfited to seem himself and Luca portrayed among the hotel’s defenders.
  • A painting of a hilltop overlooking the setting sun. A robed figure stands with their back to the viewer, watching the sunset. 

The group thanks Mrs. Harris for her hospitality and resumes their journey. They take their cars onto the ferry in Portland and arrive, without incident, at Chebeague Island about an hour later.

Chebeague Island

The London Group disembarks in their cars and begin driving away from the ferry dock, only to encounter a formidable looking woman standing by the side of the road. The woman holds a neatly lettered sign that reads, “EDWIN.”

The Formidable Ms. Bridger

When the group pull their cars over, the woman approaches and introduces herself as Ms. Bridger, Christopher Edwin’s servant. She explains that Mr. Edwin’s other guests have already arrived, and that she will be happy to escort them to the Edwin household, where they will get a chance to rest and wash up for dinner. She asks them to remain here momentarily while she fetches her vehicle.

Ms. Bridger departs, returning a few moments later wearing a leather cap, goggles, and riding on an Army surplus motorcycle with attached sidecar. The London Group follow her down North Road and get to do a little bit of sightseeing as they travel to Christopher Edwin’s house.

They see that Chebeague Island is sparsely populated, though the few houses are neat, tidy, and very New England. They see boats beached on the shoreline, bathers enjoying themselves on the beaches, and several people digging for clams in the low tide. Mikhail is excited to note numerous fishnets hung out to dry on sheds and on fences—most of which feature witch’s balls glittering in the June sunshine.

The group also notices several odd shrines that have been built here and there along the road. Most appear to be collections of bundled sea grass, flowers, beach glass, shells, and other bric-a-brac. The group does not have a chance to investigate them to discern their purpose.

Judge Putnam notices a man in a rain slicker and fisherman’s hat standing by one of the shrines. The man turns and looks for him with a baleful, wall-eyed stare.

The Mysterious Fisherman (Artist's Rendition)

A few minutes later, the group follows Ms. Bridger as she turns off of the road and travels uphill, into the island’s interior. She takes them to one of the tallest hilltops on the island where, surrounded by overgrown forest and gardens, stands the somewhat dilapidated mansion of Christopher Edwin.

The House of Edwin

Ms. Bridger brings the group through the front gate of the house over to the kitchen dooryard, where they park their vehicles next to several other cars. The group gathers their belongings and follows Ms. Bridger inside.

Despite the condition of the outside of the mansion, the inside looks well-tended and cared for—if a bit worn. As the London Group divests themselves of their coats and hats, Ms. Bridger tells them that there are bedrooms on the second and third floor, most of them with their own washrooms and dressing rooms. After some discussion, the group all decide to occupy the rooms on the third floor, with an idea of being close together in case of an emergency.

Mr. Edwin and His Gravity-Defying Wheelchair

Before Ms. Bridger shows them to their rooms, she brings them into the dining room where they are at last introduced to their host, Christopher Edwin. Edwin is an elderly, frail-looking man with a hoarse voice and a dry cough, who appears to be confined to a wheelchair. Despite his infirmities, he greets the London Group politely and with enthusiasm. He says that he is delighted to meet them at last, and that, he hopes, after a wonderful dinner prepared by Ms. Bridger, they can all work together to find a way to bring down the Order of the Silver Twilight once and for all.

With that, Mr. Edwin excuses himself and moves to an adjacent room to rest before dinner. Ms. Bridger escorts the London Group to the third floor. She puts Vivian in the room next to her own, as is right and proper, and allows the rest of the group to situate themselves however they choose.

As Ms. Bridger takes her leave to tend to the rest of dinner, Johnny offers his assistance. In part because she appears to be the sole servant in this massive house. In part because he wants to snoop around.

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 fa├žade 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!