MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – NEW YORK PART FOUR

This is the fourth session of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

The structure of this session may seem a bit odd but there’s a good reason. One of the players (Gerbil) was late to the session, we actually thought he wasn’t coming at one point and my plan was his character would be off on his own to Arkham to speak to Professor Cowles, an NPC mentioned in one of the handouts found in JE’s apartment.

We sat down, I opened my mouth to start… and a phone rang. He was running late but would join us. Another player (McTavish) offered to go and pick him up. By the time they both arrived back with the rest of us, the others had pushed on to the Ju-Ju house planning on scoping it out. This didn’t go as planned.

To find out what happened, please read on.

Part 4 –  tongue tied

Tuesday Jan 20th

Gerbil and McTavish headed to the train station to catch a train to Arkham to try and find Professor Cowles to find out why Jackson had a flyer for his talk. 

Meanwhile Bolan, Constanza and Singh decided they would investigate the Ju-Ju house. They agreed to first get some weapons hidden back in their hotel rooms. 

Arriving back at the hotel they found three large, well dressed men lounging around in the reception area. The three men rose from their chairs and walked towards them with an air of menace. The lead man was well dressed in an expensive looking suit. However his face looked as if it had been on the wrong end of a fist a few times. He sauntered up to the group and eyed them up and down. 

Introducing himself as Captain Robson of the 14th precinct, he warned them off sticking their noses in business that they had no interest in. “The Adams case is closed. You’d do well to stay away from it. That guy will fry for his crimes.” Robson smirked. “Get yourselves out of this town or you may find yourselves in the next cell over from him. Got it?” 

Despite receiving nods of agreement and general wording of agreement, Robson didn’t look convinced. “I’ll be watching you guys.” he said over his shoulder as he left with his two cohorts, leaving Bolan, Constanza and Singh to prepare for visiting the Ju-Ju house. Singh retrieved his rifle, Constanza his club and lent a gun to the unarmed Bolan.

Harlem

A short time later as heavy snow and gusting wind blew like ice around them as they arrived in Harlem. Aproaching the Ju-Ju house, the figure of Silas was seen making his way out of the alleyway and heading away from the shop. Pulling their coats tight against the cold, they took the opportunity to sneak down the alleyway and investigate the darkened premises.

The Boston Express

Despite the weather, Gerbil and McTavish easily found a train running to Boston. It would get them there in the early evening where they would be able to get a transfer to Arkham. They settled into a couple of seats in the dining car, ordered and watched the landscape pass by out of the window while discussing their recent exploits. 

Harlem

The shop was dark and the door locked. Peering in, Bolan had to keep wiping the window to clear the mist forming from his breath but couldn’t see any signs of life inside. Singh and Constanza examined the door next to the Ju-Ju house and realised it was an empty shop. Carefully forcing the door, so not to damage it too much, they managed to get inside the building which was full of old rubbish, empty shelves and boxes full of newspaper. A rotten smell seeped through the floorboards from next door but no obvious way through was visible. They checked the walls for weak spots and any way they could break into the shop but there was nothing.

Bolan, keeping watch from the mouth of the alleyway outside in the cold, realised that Silas was carefully making his way back through the howling wind blowing down the street. Rushing back to the others, he warned them but they knew it was too late to escape without being seen so propped the door back in its frame and hid in the darkness of the empty shop.

They saw him walk down the alleyway alone and disappear out of sight towards the Ju-Ju house door. Singh, knife at the ready, carefully crept up behind the hunched figure and, as Silas opened the door, slipped the knife carefully against the old mans throat. Pushing him into the shop Singh signalled to the others to follow him and they entered the gloom together.

The inside of the shop was cold and oppressive. It was only a small room, lined with shelves covered in drums, carved animals, masks and other bric-a-brac. In the middle of the far wall was a heavy curtain separating the shop from another room but that looked dark from where they stood. Silas was making small whimpering noises and told them he wasn’t rich but could give them money. Singh, glancing around the room, spotted some decorative ropes and securely tied the Silas up, stuffed a rag in his mouth and pushed him towards a glass topped counter near the doorway.

Bolan spent a moment to examine some of the items in the shop but wasn’t able to see much of interest. He realised that some items seemed to be elements of African ritual magic but a lot was just decorative with no significance. 

They began to search the shop in the dark but it was hard to see what was there and the fear of turning a light on and being spotted, was too much. Bolan did find a ledger with some obvious weekly payments to W.R.14 which Singh realised could mean Robson, the police captain they had met earlier that day, the 14 meaning his precinct. 

Trying to interrogate Silas wasn’t working out for Singh. The wiry old man was mainly cursing them in some African dialect they didn’t understand or spitting at them, telling them they would be cursed if they didn’t let him go. Singh stuffed the rag back in Silas mouth to shut him up but there was still muffled curses coming from him now and then.

A search in the back room uncovered a panga wrapped in a leopard skin and a more gruesome discovery. Bolan picked up what he thought was an ornate version of the headdress worn by the three cultists that had murdered Jackson, only to realise with horror, the red cloth hanging from the head piece wasn’t cloth at all, but a mummified human tongue!

The Boston Express

Gerbil and McTavish reclined comfortably in their seats with blue grey smoke wafting around their heads in the dining car. The food had been excellent and the cigars to follow proved to be just as good. They would be in Boston within the hour and had been told by the guard that they only had a short wait before the connecting train would leave for Arkham. Everything was running perfectly.

The Ju-Ju house

Bolan let out a groan as he realised what he was holding and walked back into the shop to show the others, nearly tripping over the loose rug by the doorway. A clang noise echoed up as his foot caught something under the rug. Flicking it up they found a trapdoor hidden underneath and Silas suddenly grew much quieter, his eyes narrowing as they peered into the gloom. 

Locking the shop front door and bolting it before examining the steps down, they could see strange signs carved into the steps but couldn’t recognise them. A door could be seen in the wall at the far end but it was hard to see properly as there was only a small amount of light coming from above. Realising they hadn’t brought any torches or matches with them, Singh found a kerosene lantern hanging unlit at the bottom of the steps and a quick search in Silas’ room turned up a battered box of matches.

Lighting the lantern, Singh descended back down into the cellar, roughly pushing Silas infront of him. They crowded together in the narrow corridor around the solid wood and metal banded door to examined the lock. Realising that Silas had keys around his neck, Singh grabbed the thong tied to them and pulled the keys from Silas who growled and mumbled at him with the gag still in his mouth.

Unlocking the door and readying weapons, they pushed into the dark space beyond. As the light from the lamp flickered around the room, they could see it was a room about the same size as the two above with another curtain covering a doorway opposite to where they stood. The floor was made up of rough stone flags except for one part which was a large circular slab. In the middle of it was a ring and a pulley next to it looked as if it could be used to lift it. 

Singh cautioned Silas before pulling the gag out of his mouth and asked the old man what this place was. Silas laughed at him and cursed him again. With his head spinning from another clip by Singh, Silas had the gag stuffed back in his mouth and pushed further into the room.

Bolan, curious what was behind the curtain, walked over and lifted one corner carefully but what he saw behind made his blood run cold. The small space was about 8 foot square and the walls lined with shelves full of items but it was the four figures standing in the room which made Bolan start with fright. Two men and two women stood almost motionless, backs to the wall, with their intestines dangling and their foreheads with the cult rune carved into them. They should have been dead with their insides hanging out but they showed signs of life with slight twitching and occasional spasm. Their dead eyes stared into space, not looking at anything.

Bolan backed off quickly but they didn’t respond to his movements. He turned to the others who had been looking at the stone slab in the middle of the room. Constanza had hooked up the pulley to the ring in the middle of the slab and was testing it.

Blurting out what he had seen caused a muted chuckle from Silas. Singh turned on the man with fire in his eyes and demanded an explanation for this desecration, also a warning if he tried anything, Silas would be killed. Silas just told them they would all die in agony unless they released him there and then. Singh stuffed the rag back in Silas’ mouth with a scowl.

Constanza and Bolan began to pull the pulley and lift the slab from the hole it was plugging while Singh stood back and covered Silas with his rifle incase he tried anything. With some grunting the stone slab started to move away from the floor and the sounds of crying and wailing could be heard coming from the now uncovered floor.

Arkham

McTavish and Gerbil arrived at a neat bungalow on the edge of the campus of the world famous Miskatonic University. They had been given this address by the university and told it was where Professor Cowles was currently residing. It was still early evening and they took the chance he was available as the lights still burned inside.

After a polite knock on the door, a heavy-set, ruddy-faced white man with a bushy red beard, opened the door and greeted them with a quizzical look. Introducing themselves they asked about speaking to Professor Cowles about a recent lecture he had given recently. The man broke into a hearty smile and introduced himself as Cowles before ushering them into the house where he offered them coffee and had them sit by a roaring fire.

When they mentioned Jackson Elias, Cowles said he knew of Jackson’s work and had read a number of his books but hadn’t ever met him.

Over the next hour Cowles regaled them with details of his talk, his research into blood cults in Australia and his interest in an expedition by Arthur MacWhirr. MacWhirr had explored an area in western Australia which was detailed in a song cycle by the Aborigines, enormous beings who lived in ancient times and legends of the Father of All Bats.

He showed them some photos from the MacWhirr expedition and the huge structures he had found in the desert along with mentioning he had read MacWhirrs diary

After talking long into the evening, Cowles daughter interrupted and dropped several, not very subtle, hints that her father had work the next day. Cowles reluctantly agreed and showed them to the door.

The Ju-Ju house

The sound of wailing grew louder as the slab moved further back from the hole it covered. Bolan and Constanza peered in and saw faces looking up at them. Moving the light closer they saw that it was dozens of human faces set into a thickly cylindrical, worm-like mass of sickly,  purple veined muscle. The sound of crying and wailing grew louder as they looked in and they recoiled in horror at what they saw.

Describing the horror to Singh, they backed up. Singh, disgusted at what was in there and at the gleeful noises that Silas was making, drew his knife and slit Silas’ throat in one fluid motion, the lifeless body dropped to the floor with a thud. The noise of fabric ripping behind them came over the noise of the crying sounds and turning, they saw the four human figures lurch out of the small storage area.

Singh grabbed for his rifle and snapped off a shot but it went wild in the dark. Constanza jumped forward and swung his club into the nearest figure and brought it down with a sickening thud. Another dug its broken fingernails into Bolan, gouging out chunks of his flesh causing him to let off a shot from the pistol in his hand. The third reached towards Constanza, intending to do the same to him, but only managed to scratch him, leaving it open and another went down to the vicious club. 

Singh, swung with the but of his rifle at the only one standing on its own and managed to cave in its chest. Bolan tried to escape from the grip of his attacker but its hand was like a vice. Constanza stepped up smartly behind it and finished it off while it wasn’t looking.

As the fight ended, they realised they should get out quickly. Singh pitched Silas’ corpse into the pit where the sound of wailing was replaced by the sounds of tearing flesh.

Bolan gathered up handfuls of items in the storeroom before heading up the stairs with the others. In the shop they unlocked the door and left as Singh turned and threw the kerosene lamp into the middle of the shop floor, the flames spread quickly in the shop with plenty of wood to burn. 

Shouts of alarm rang out around the streets as they hurried away, the building behind them was rapidly being engulfed in flames and the fire was spreading.

Arkham

McTavish and Gerbil had found a small hotel near the campus and settled into their respective rooms for the night. Blissfully unaware of the chaos currently unfolding in New York…

To be continued.

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – NEW YORK PART THREE

This is the third session of our playthrough of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you need to catch up, all the other posts are on here as well.

This is a shorter writeup as the group spent some time going over the handouts again after getting the papers from Prospero house. There was also a chunk of time taken up by the will and the discussions afterwards.

Part 3– Greetings from beyond the grave

New York 1925

Sunday Jan 18thafternoon

After scouting out the Ju-Ju house, Bolan and Constanza headed away from the alleyway leading to the shop. Bolan happened to glance back and noticed a tall, muscular African man with a shaved head watching them from the mouth of the alleyway. Indicating the man to Constanza, they decided to go back to speak to him, turned around and headed to the alley.

The man looked down at them with a heavy scowl as they approached but didn’t move. Bolan, adopting the air of a casual tourist, asked about the Ju-Ju house being closed and the man glared before answering “Closed”. Asking if it would be open tomorrow, Bolan received a heavy stare and told to go away.

Looking over the man’s shoulder, Constanza saw five large men sauntering slowly down the alleyway towards them with an air of menace. Realising discretion was the better part of valour, they left with only a couple of quick backwards glances.

Monday Jan 19th

The group had been invited to the reading of Jackson Elias’ will at Carlton Ramsey’s office in Harlem, on 124th Street and Lenox Avenue. Arriving promptly at the office, they were greeted by Willa Sligh, and ushered into a small, simply decorated and neatly kept office. Inside, five chairs, exactly the same number as the members of the group had been set around Ramsey’s desk.

Before the reading itself, Ramsey pulled a bottle of bootleg bourbon out of a drawer in his desk and started to pour drinks for everyone. He asks the group a few questions about how well they knew Elias and for how long.

After some discussion, Ramsey explained that Elias visited him the day before his death in a quite agitated state and updated his will in a rush. Elias hadn’t said anything outright but hinted that he thought something was going to happen to him and wanted to ensure everything was in order.

Reaching back into his desk, Ramsey produced a wax cylinder which he placed in a phonograph before starting to play it. The crackling voice that came from the speaker was Jacksons, and he greeted them from beyond the grave. The recording explained he was worried about his life as had stumbled upon something shocking about the Carlyle expedition. He requested that if he has been murdered, they should continue to dig into the expedition and find out what had happened. If he was killed in an accident, well that’s simply embarrassing.

After playing the cylinder, Ramsey then read the will to them. Elias had given full power of attorney to Ramsey, who now had complete authority to liquidate his assets and to use the money to help the group investigate the Carlyle Expedition.

Ramsey explains he will use the funds to pay for travel, accommodation, living costs, equipment purchases, legal bills, and medical expenses. Ramsey also offers to act as a central point of contact and to provide support when needed.

After some further discussion around how the money can be used, Bolan headed to Prospero house and the rest headed back to the hotel.

The New Grand Hotel

As they walked through the lobby area one of the staffed calls out to Gerbil saying he has a telegram. Shosenburg had managed to setup a meeting with Millie Adams. Contacting Shosenburg, Gerbil phoned her back to confirm a time the next day.

Tuesday Jan 20th

Prospero House

Kensington welcomed Bolan to the Prospero House, sweeping sweeping him through into his editors office. Kensington immediately started rummaging through the piles of papers on his desk looking for the files that Jackson had left him.

Kensington rambled on as he searched, talking about how he thought the idea of a cult behind the murders is correct as Jackson seemed to be infatuated with blood cults. He said that Jackson had some wild notion that some members of the Carlyle Expedition may be alive, and that Elias managed to dig up evidence contradicting the testimony admitted during the inquest and trial in Kenya.

Elias then sent Kensington a wire from Hong Kong to say his inquiries were proceeding nicely and then he went quiet until the middle of last month, when he wired from London. Elias’ telegram was confusing and suggested that he had stumbled across some kind of conspiracy that was on a timetable. There was also a mention of needing to go to Australia but had to return to New York first.

After arriving in New York a few days prior, Elias visited Kensington and left more notes with him which Kensington then gave to Bolan. Bolan quickly read through the notes and then headed back to the hotel to share with the rest of the group.

Harlem

In the meantime, Gerbil had gone to Harlem to speak to Millie. Arriving at her apartment he was greeted by an elegant African-American woman in her mid to late 20’s with fine features, her blouse and woolen skirt are always neatly pressed and her hair perfectly styled.

Hearing Gerbils accent, Millie was at first uncertain about speaking to him as Hilton had served in the war but he quickly calmed her. Mille and Gerbil talked at length about Hilton and she gave him further information about how he was arrested. There had been a series of disappearances over the course of several years. It wasn’t noticed at first as people came and went from Harlem all the time but a pattern emerged after while. It seemed to be two people a month but some months it may have been only one was noted. If there was another, it could have been a homeless person or it just wasn’t reported.

She explained the police didn’t seem to care when they investigated, so when the disappearances got too serious, Hilton who had been a sergeant in the 369th Infantry Regiment,  the Harlem Hellfighters, during the war, was able to gather support locally. He rallied support and started several patrols at night to try to catch the culprits.

After he was arrested many of his supporters abandoned him and she gave Gerbil four names. Needham Johnson, Art Mills, Douglas Fells and ‘Little Jackie’ Wallace. Mille also agreed to arrange a meeting with her husband in Sing Sing.

Johnson worked locally at the newspaper office of the New York Age, so Gerbil left Millie and went to the office.

Arriving at the bustling office, Gerbil was able to charm his way by the reception and pointed towards Johnson’s desk. Approaching the desk, Johnson glanced up and grimaced as Gerbil stopped next to him.

“I told your boss, I won’t say anything. I’ve kept my mouth shut so far. Just leave me the hell alone.” Johnson said through gritted teeth.

Asking if he could have a chat to Johnson quietly in a meeting room, Gerbil turned on the best charm he could and managed to coax him into a side room. Johnson visibly relaxed when Gerbil explained he was trying to help Hilton clear his name.

Johnson explained that he had been helping Hilton to patrol parts of Harlem and one night Hilton had stumbled across someone being attacked when out on patrol. He drove the attacker off and ripped a bit of cloth from the attackers mask. Shortly after the police starting making threats against Hilton and his friends, especially after Hilton started talking about some shop in Harlem. When Gerbil mentioned the Ju-Ju house, Johnson nodded in agreement. “Yeah, that’s the place alright.”

After more questions, Johnson explained that most people backed off from supporting Hilton because they received threats from a Captain Robson, who arrested Hilton for the murders. The teams who helped patrol the street all had visits from Robson or other officers who said that they could be arrested as accomplices and find themselves on death row as well.

Realising that he had everything he could get out of Johnson, Gerbil left the offices and headed back to the hotel, noting the cheery faces looking at him as he left through the main area.

The New Grand Hotel

Bolan had arrived back at the hotel and was already sharing the papers from Prospero house with the others. They noted a number of themes throughout the papers and the other items from Jacksons flat such as names, locations and symbols.

They excitedly pieced together some of Jackson’s confusing notes which suggested some of the original Carlyle party may still be alive, having escaped before the massacre. One of them had been spotted in Hong Kong two years after they had all been declared dead. Also tracing Jacksons movements from the letters showed he had been in Hong Kong, England and was planning on Australia after New York.

One of the Prospero papers mentioned some books in Roger’s safe so Singh suggested they try to contact Erica Carlyle and try to access these books. Calling Ramsey, Singh explained their situation and was told to try Bradley Grey, a partner in the law firm of Dunstan, Whittleby, and Grey. Singh was able to arrange a meeting with Grey and they left to hurry to the office.

Dunstan, Whittleby, and Grey

Upon arrival, the only one allowed up to meet Grey was McTavish as the rest appeared to be too scruffy or not of a high enough class.

McTavish was escorted to Grey’s office where he was met with polite but confused questions.

Grey,  a slender, slightly foppish white man with dark, wavy hair that is graying at the temples and an overly brilliantly white smile, wanted to know what his interest was with Ms Carlyle. McTavish explained that they had reason to believe that some members of the expedition that Roger had formed, may still be alive.

Grey was interested and suggested that Erica may be as well but she didn’t want old news being dragged up again that may besmirch the Carlyle name. McTavish agreed that this wasn’t being done for sensationalism but to try and find out what had really happened.

Grey agreed to try to arrange a meeting with Erica and McTavish left to rejoin the others.

To be continued…

Masks of Nyarlathotep – New York Part two

This is the second session of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you need to catch up, all the other posts are on this site.

The props used in the photo come from the excellent HPLHS pack for this campaign.

We pick up right after Part 1 with the group recovering from finding their friend Jackson Elias murdered in his apartment.

Part 2 – The search for the Stumbling Tiger

New York 1925

Friday Jan 16th – afternoon

Trying to decide what to do next, there was some discussion about visiting Professor Cowles in Arkham, but the weather was too bad, so that on hold for a bit. The idea of going back to Jackson’s apartment was also suggested, but they realised the area would most likely still be crawling with police.

Bolan decided to call Jonah Kensington at Prospero House publishers, as Poole had told them Kensington was dealing with Jackson’s body. Bolan, had been acting as a distributor for Elias’ books in the UK so had dealt with Kensington for a couple of years now, but only via letter. He took the opportunity to get to speak to the publisher for the first time and introduce himself while saying he was in New York at the moment.

Bolan explained that he had heard that Kensington was dealing with Jackson’s body and enquired if there was any way of paying his respects. Kensington told him that the funeral was planned for the next day but it would be a closed coffin service due to the nature of the injuries on Jackson’s head. Thanking Jonah, Bolan said he would be there, along with a few other old friends of Jackson.

They spent some more time examining the items they had found at the apartment and decided the next plan was to head to Chinatown to see if they could track down the address on the box of matches.

In the meantime, Bolan sat down with the headscarf that Singh had taken from one of the murderers and tried to get a reading from it. He was able to get an impression of it being around several murders recently. All of them was close to where they are now, but the item was too new and too infrequently used to get a very strong reading from.

Heading to Chinatown and visiting a few places and getting a meal, they turned up no further information about the Stumbling Tiger Bar. With prohibition in effect, few people were willing to talk to strangers about bars and those that they did speak to, hadn’t heard of it.

They headed back to the hotel through the wind and snow a little despondent but otherwise ready for the next day.

Saturday Jan 17th

The New Grand Hotel

In the morning, Bolan and Constanza left early to go to the address on one of the business cards they had found in Jackson’s apartment. The back of the card had the name Silas N’Kwane, written on it so they wanted to find out who this was and what his connection to Jackson. The address, Emerson Imports, was on the edge of the Hudson River, the other side of Hell’s Kitchen so would take them a while to reach in the snow.

Meanwhile Singh, Gerbil and MacTavish headed to the New York library to try to find out anything about the Stumbling Tiger bar and if it was in New York or not.

Arriving at Emerson Imports, Bolan and Constanza spent some time watching the activity at the address. It was a narrow building with loading docks and a surprising amount of activity with the harsh weather. A well dressed man was walking around barking orders at the crews loading and unloading trucks while jabbing at them with his cigar and, at one point, was referred to as Mr Emerson by a worker. Approaching him they cautiously asked if he knew the name ‘Silas N’Kwane’.

Spitting on the floor, Emerson eyed them before asking why they wanted to know about N’Kwane. After explaining about Jackson’s death and the card they had, Emerson’s face softened from a hard scowl to a more sympathetic look. Emerson explained Jackson had come to him recently asking about some imports he was tracking, and had found they had been brought in by Emerson Imports. The company they went to, was a shop called Ju-Ju house, which Emerson gave them the address to.

After expressing his condolences, Emerson told them what he had told Jackson, that N’Kwane made his skin crawl and there was something wrong about him but he couldn’t put his finger on what. N’Kwane paid well for the items he was shipping in, so Emerson said he put up with the odd man. Thanking Emerson for his time, the pair left to go to the funeral.

Over at the New York Library, the research wasn’t going well. Unable to fathom the overly complex indexing system the library used, and nearly becoming lost in the warren of bookcases, they began to lose hope they’d find anything. Gerbil finally approached a librarian to ask for help.

Despite some initial resistance, the librarian finally gave in to his European charm and dug around in a few directories and street maps of New York, but was also unable to find any information about the bar or the address.

Realising time was running out, they headed off to the funeral as well.

Cypress Hills Cemetery – 1pm

Jackson’s funeral took place at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. Arriving early, the two groups met outside and found only three mourners in the church.

The trio approached them in greeting and the first was a short, squat white man whose balding pate is framed by uncontrollable curls of greying red hair. A bulbous frame was squeezed into an immaculate suit that looked like it was cut to flatter him more than it should. Upon realising that Bolan was there in the group, he singled out Bolan and grabbed his hand, pumping it hard in greeting. Introducing himself as Kensington, he introduced them to the other two, Carlton Ramsey, and his niece Willa Sligh.

Sligh was a young, tall and athletic lady dressed smartly while her uncle was a contrasting figure. A small, wiry African-American man, filled with nervous energy. His eyes flick around as he speaks while the expensive bespoke suit he wears looks a little shiny and frayed. While he is clearly going bald, Ramsey was trying to mask this by pasting strands of well-oiled hair across his crown.

Kensington spend a few minutes chatting to Bolan and gave him the offer to come and visit Prospero House on Lexington Avenue near 35th Street. He said he has some manuscripts and documents that Jackson had left with him before his death. Kensington explained that Jackson had come to see him recently and had been in a distracted state. He was quite agitated and was concerned he had gone too far in some of his investigations.

Ramsey was busy chatting to the others and told them that he was the executor for Jacksons will. He invited them to the reading which was in two days at his office.

As they’re waiting for the service to start, Singh notices a small, dark-complexioned woman outside the church. While not hiding, she was keeping a respectful distance from the building. Gerbil, not wasting the opportunity to chat to another fraulein, sauntered over and asked if she was here for the funeral.

She introduced herself as Rebecca Shosenburg, a New York Times reporter covering a series of murders that may be linked to the death of Elias. She was interested in talking to anyone who knew Elias, as she believed he may have been killed by the same person or persons that had been killing people around New York.

She mentioned that someone had been arrested for the murders but, as another one had now taken place, she was convinced the man was innocent. Shosenburg invited Gerbil to meet with her at the newspaper’s offices on West 43rd Street where she had some information to share.

The ceremony began so Gerbil headed back in. The turnout was small, with the only mourners apart from the group being Kensington, Ramsey, and Sligh. The Rev. Lawrence T. O’Dell, Jr. reads from Psalm 13

How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13

Kensington then gave a long rambling eulogy. He concludes by saying that he almost awaits some quick telegram from Elias in heaven, asking for financing to cover expenses with the promise of an exclusive interview with Satan.

Finding a moment to gather himself, Constanza tried to reach out with his mind and touch the astral plane. Being so close to Elias’ body helped him to find a strong connection. A slight hush falls across the room and the air starts to take on a slight chill as Constanza sensed a presence nearby. A low moan starts to escape from his lips which suddenly turns into a louder noise but he was able to control it.

Seeing some confused looks from the others in the church, Singh quickly covered for him explaining that Constanza was deeply moved by the ceremony and is just grieving in his own way.

Suddenly Constanza starts to mutter and speak with an American accent that sounded familiar. “Phansigar, phansigar—they are among you, with their pretty yellow nooses.”

Singh turned, looking horrified at this sudden outburst, recognising the reference to the Thuggee cult.

Constanza muttered something else. “Si un hombre no se levanta el sombrero ante ti es seguramente un delfín” Singh, also knowing Spanish, translated for the rest of the group “If a man won’t raise his hat to you, he’s probably a dolphin.”

Bolan recognised both of these as being references to books that Elias had written with the dolphin quote coming from the most recent one about Peru which they had been mentioned in.

Suddenly stopping and patting down his pockets, Constanza, without a trace of his normal accent said “I don’t suppose you know where my pipe is, do you? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.”

Realising that this was Elias, they tried to ask about what he could remember. Constanza/Elias kept rubbing his forehead and asking why his head was hurting so much.

Looking round at the assembled group he asked. “Are we still in Peru?”

At this, Constanza could feel another, more malevolent, presence lurking nearby. He had to concentrate hard but managed to keep this under control by a sheer force of will, but it was still able to enter a small part of his mind.

An even colder wave ripped out from Constanza and a calm, level voice without any accent spoke softly “That’s enough of that for now. I think you should be quiet.”

“Hello… again.” Constanza turned to look at Gerbil, his eyes had gone pure black.

“We meet again. It’s funny how our paths keep crossing like this. I’m sure we will speak again soon.”

With that final comment, Constanza’s eyes returned to normal and he slumped forward in his chair.

By this time, O’Dell was storming towards them, red faced and shouting that this was a house of God, not a place for their pagan blasphemies. As they went to leave, the doorway was blocked by Lt Poole who was leaning against the doorframe and clapping slowly.

“What do you do for an encore?” he asked before turning to Bolan and gesturing to the other. “Are these your friends who weren’t at the apartment of your friend?”

Shosenburg appeared at his shoulder. “Lieutenant, do you agree that this murder being carried out, while Adams is in prison, means he is innocent.”

Poole glared at her. “No comment.” he growled and stalked off, calling back “I’ll be watching you guys closely.”

Shosenburg turned to Gerbil and said “I hope you find time to come by my office.” and headed out into the snow.

The New Grand Hotel

After battling through the traffic and arriving back at the hotel, they settled down and Bolan thought he would try to take a reading from the matchbox. He was able to draw out the feeling of travel, as if the matchbox had come from a long way away. Also, the feeling that someone had given this to Jackson who was some kind of protector or guardian.

Sunday Jan 18th

New York Times Office

Gerbil visited Shosenburg at the New York Times building. She greeted him at her desk with a surprised, but pleased expression, and began to quickly explain the background to the murders.

Shosenburg had already retrieved the relevant clippings about the murders from her scrapbook to show him. The early reports about the murders hadn’t made any connection between them but with the third, and subsequent murders, connections started to be drawn. They all had the symbol carved in their heads and one of the police reports that Shosenburg had seen, suggested that they may have been alive when the symbol was carved in. One of the early ones was not as neat as the later ones, suggesting the victim had struggled or the person carving may not have had a steady hand. A Dr. Lemming she had spoken to, had suggested some form of Death cult was responsible for the ritualistic style of the murders, but was unable to identify the symbol.

The first bodies were found in different police precincts and, as such, there was little coordination or sharing of information between the precincts. Even after everything was transferred to Captain Robson of the 14th Precinct in Harlem, there wasn’t much progress on the case until Hilton Adams was arrested at the scene of the eighth murder. Shosenburg revealed that she thinks Robson is either incompetent or corrupt, and may have been responsible for framing Hilton Adams to get a result.

She mentioned that she thinks Lt. Poole may be an honest cop but his hands are tied by not being included as part of the original investigation.

Shosenburg offers to introduce them to Millie Adams, Hilton’s wife. She also offers to convince Millie to get her husband to receive Gerbil as a visitor at Sing Sing, if he would like to speak to him directly.

Harlem

Bolan and Constanza decided that they would investigate the Ju-Ju house that Emerson had told them about so headed to Harlem. It took a while for them to find but the art shop was at the end of a small alleyway off West 137th Street. After finding the entrance, they found the alley opened up onto a 20 foot square courtyard. The only doors in the courtyard are for an abandoned shop they had passed on a side street and the Ju-Ju house. A window next to the door looked into a dark shop which was shut as it was a Sunday.

They looked around quickly before heading back to the alley and leaving. At the last minute, Constanza looked back over his shoulder to see the face of a short, elderly African-American man with very little hair peering out of the shop door window.

He glanced around the courtyard before pulling the blind down on the door as they left and headed away from the shop.

To be continued…