Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Circle of Seven: Session Four

An Odd Expression of Grief

Dale attempts to tackle Dr. Miller before he can reach Saul. This results in the two men rolling around on the carpet, ineffectually slapping at one another. Ada tries to coax Dr. Miller back to his senses while Father Wilk kneels in supplication before Val—who gamely goes along with it.

Father Wilk sees his deceased, former mentor, Father Anatoli, standing before him. Father Anatoli tells Father Wilk that there is darkness and evil in Port Harbor, and that he must be vigilant, so that he can take the fight to the corrupt, the degenerate, and the unbelieving.

The Late Father Anatoli

In the midst of all of this, Saul sneaks over to the door and lets himself out. This allows the sounds of the conflict to reach the main lobby of the bank. Saul sees that several people are already concerned, and Neil Letty (the bank manager) is already on his way to investigate, with another man at his side.

Saul insists that everything is all right, and that his companions are just having trouble processing their grief in the wake of Mr. Fresno’s death. The man with the bank manager introduces himself as Dr. John Brinkley, a psychiatrist. He tells Saul that he is available if he or his companions need treatment.

Dr. Brinkley steps away from the situation, but Neil Finney pushes onward into the conference room. Fortunately, both Dr. Miller and Father Wilk have recovered sufficiently by this point to at least put up a good fa├žade. Dr. Miller tries to brush off the bank manager’s concerns, but he is having none of it. Father Wilk fares significantly better, however, when he rises to his full—nearly seven foot—height and commands the bank manager to leave. He does.

The investigators decide to leave the book in the bank for now. They also decide to go back to the Fresno place, so that they can rest and process what’s happened.

On their way out of the bank, Dr. Miller approaches Dr. Brinkley to see if he can learn more about the man. He finds Dr. Brinkley instantly unlikeable and impossible to read, but somehow familiar. A brief “conversation” between the doctors yields no new information about the man, other than that he has a practice in Westbrook and had come to Port Harbor to open a new bank account. Frustrated and exhausted, Dr. Miller is eventually convinced to leave the bank with the others.

Neil Letty, Manager of the 2nd National Bank

I’m Thinking Lincoln

The investigator reconvene at the Fresno residence and catch Martin up on what happened at the bank. Father Wilk describes his visitation. Dr. Miller apologizes and says that he has no memory of what occurred after he started reading from the book. Saul, who seems quietly, but extremely, affected by the incident, hides himself away from the others and tries to calm down.

It is nearly 5:00 pm, so Martin gets ready to go to the train station to pick up his horse. Dale offers to drive him in the Fresno car. At the station, the pair run into Charlie (of the Charlie Dog). They buy hot dogs and engage in pleasant conversation with Charlie. They learn that Charlie’s business is rather slow at the moment.

Dale has the idea to hire Charlie to set up shop at the Fresno place the following day to sell hot dogs to the investigators, the Detherages, and anyone else who happens to show up. Charlie is amused by this prospect and agrees. He also tells the players what he knows about Nicholas Fresno. This turns out not to be very much, as Fresno had no close friends in town apart from a hobo named “Leatherman” Hobbes, who wanders around a lot. Charlie also mentions that Fresno died hiking Ringrose Mountain, of an apparent heart attack, and that Hobbes was with him at the time.

Dale and Martin thank Charlie for the dogs and the information. They sign for Lincoln, Martin’s horse, and bring him to Crosstree Farms for stabling. They return to the Fresno house and share the information they got from Charlie with the others.

A Side of the Tracks

It is a cold, rainy, unpleasant November night, but the investigators decide that they should try to track down Mr. Hobbes as quickly as they can. They travel to Duchess Diner, which is near the train station, to both get a bite to eat and see if there are any hobos around that match Hobbes’ description.

After dinner, the investigators head out into the railyard near the station, where they find several hobos warming themselves around a large, burning drum. The hobos are skittish around the investigators and are uninterested in talking to them, at first. However, between some kind words from Dale and an offer of money from Martin, one of the hobos—a man named Carl—is convinced to open up.

Carl says that John “the Leatherman” Hobbes doesn’t ride the rails or come into town very much at all. Hobbes apparently walks a regular circuit that takes him as far west as Killingworth and as far east as East Lyme. He usually keeps away from populated areas, preferring to walk and camp out in the woods. Carl suggests that the investigators might have good luck poking around in the woods north of town. If Hobbes is in the area, that’s where he’ll be.

Up Ringrose Mountain

The investigators travel to Ringrose Mountain. It turns out to be a mostly civilized mountain with an attached park. There are numerous walking trails, campsites, and an observatory at the top.

The investigators are lucky to find two working flashlights in the back of the Fresno car. They take them out and shine them on a nearby map board. They learn that there is a large pavilion midway up the mountain. Since it is likely to be unoccupied and dry at this time of night, they decide to start looking there first.

A trip up the mountain paths in the chilly drizzle eventually leads the investigators to the pavilion. It is dark inside, but there are obvious signs that someone has been here recently. A small campfire has been lit in the massive firepit in front of the pavilion, with a bubbling tin of beans sitting on top of it.

The investigators call out for Hobbes and receive a nervous answer from somewhere deep inside of the pavilion. The investigators explain that they are the current heirs to the Fresno estate, and that they just want to have a talk. This coaxes Hobbes, a scruffy man clad in homemade leather garments, out into the firelight.

Jonathan "Leatherman" Hobbes

Over the course of a very spooky conversation with Hobbes, the investigators learn that he was with Frenso when he died. He claims that Fresno was killed by a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. He insists the investigators not believe the story they tell in town, about how Frenso died of a heart attack. It’s not true.

Hobbes also tells the investigators that Fresno was in the process of gathering evidence about a young woman who went missing. This woman was a member of the Heartfire Church, and Fresno was convinced that there was a connection. Hearing this makes the investigators even more determined to figure out what’s really going on at the church.

Dale asks if Hobbes would like to come and stay at the Fresno place, but he refuses. He says that, much like “the Wanderin’ Jew o’ legend,” he is cursed to wander by a strange power that he does not name. He tells the investigators his usual route, in case they need to find him to talk to him.

The investigators eventually take their leave of Hobbes, leaving him to his fire and beans. They walk back down the mountain trails to the car, with much to think about.

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