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…

The uncle of all dragons

A few months ago I was contacted by (and I have to stand up and salute when I type this) the head of the Guild of Makers that I’m a member of, asking me if I could sculpt some DRAGONS!

Wooot. oh… Missed a line… Some dragon hands? Whaaaaa?

It all makes sense once you get down into the details. The mind lurking on the shoulders of Dr Lucy Rogers who first appeared on this blog many years ago, had conceived of a way to make a smoking dragon head using an e-cigarette (those things people make huge clouds of smoke that smell like Bakewell tarts) and a cast dragon head.

I approve 100% of the materials used by the way. Dragon Skin is one of my favourite mould making materials and I use it a lot for my castings. My current moulds for Loki (GRAAAA! Still not done a write up for him!), Odin and Freyja all use Dragon Skin moulds.

I was handed* a brief which was to make two pairs of hands as if they’re exploding out of the wall and to sit on either side of these smoking heads.

So armed* with this concept, I knuckled* down to come up with something handy**.

At some point, I bought a large 4lb pack of Aves Epoxy sculpt thinking it would be cool to do these in something new, but ended up falling back to my old favourite, Super Sculpey. Stick with what you know.

I spent ages doing the scales on each one. I was going mad some evenings when I was doing them as I felt I wasn’t getting far and then all of a sudden… BOOM. Done.

The two right hands got a little over done in the oven, but other than a little darkening down, they came out fine. The claws then got added with Milliput.

I then made the left as if they’re in the process of ripping through the wall. Once baked, I cut up the wooden bases and carved chunks into the back to fit wall mounts.

The back of the mounts had a recessed area so the hangers wouldn’t stick out and remained flush to the wall.

Many tubes of glue gave their lives in the process. A minutes silence for them please.

Next came the smashed wall bits. I finally used the Epoxy sculpt and its quite nice to use. I made the wall texture by scraping cracks and then pressing a stone onto the soft Epoxy to give it a rocky surface.

I regret not making the whole hands out of them a bit now. They fit well on the walls.

Some paint. Mainly bright but simple colours, as they had to match the castings. I didn’t do as much shading as I could have done but it was nice to do something simple.

The original dragon heads I’m matching. The green isn’t as minty as it looks from what I understand.

I like the red one. Nice and Welsh. Cymru am byth.

The green looks good as well though.

Big ol’ google gallery time https://photos.app.goo.gl/oJ8YwwHAChKeEdRY9

*bad pun

**that one didn’t work.

Masks of Nyarlathotep – New York Part one

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

In game terms, this follows a number of years after the Peru introduction scenerio so I gave the players a chance to advance their characters based on what they had been doing over the years inbetween.

SPOILERS BELOW

1921 – 1924

After the events in Peru, the new friends of Jackson Elias each headed to their own different parts of the world. They all had their own share of the riches salvaged from the pyramid.

Elias, returning to New York, published the exploits in Peru as “The Hungry Dead” and kept in touch with each of them, sometimes calling on them for assistance in his travels.

James McTavish headed back to Scotland. He spent the next few years studying Archaeology and history in an attempt to understand more about the events in Peru.

Robert Bolan became the chief distributor for Elias books in the UK, even hosting him as part of a tour to promote “The Hungry Dead”. He was also determined to learn how to defend himself incase something similar ever happened again, so took up firearms training.

Guido Constanza used his money to learn to fly so he could travel more easily around Peru, helping out the poorer areas. He also studied forms of mesmerism for reasons known only to himself.

Knut Gerbil returned to Princeton to write several well respected papers on Mathematics.

Pranit Singh Dhillon, in keeping with his faith, gave away most of his money. He kept enough to allow him to travel to war zones around the world where he assisted with medical services.

1925 – January 5th

Four years later, early in 1925, McTavish, Bolan, Constanza and Singh each received a telegram from Jackson. He asked them all to meet him in New York on the 15th January as he had important information about an expedition to Egypt that had vanish a few years before. Gerbil, being in the US, received a phone call from Elias. He was told he should gather the others and meet him at the Hotel Chelsea, Room 410, at 8 p.m. Elias sounded worried and even a little frightened, something that was uncharacteristic of him.

Each of them traveled to New York as quickly as they could, with Bolan and McTavish meeting up to travel together.

Part 1 – My knife slipped

New York 1925

Jan 15th

New York has been brought to a standstill with a two-day snowstorm on January 2, followed by a fresh storm ten days later. Most of the city is under a heavy blanket of snow, with the roads blocks, railways covered and the sidewalks covered in snow.

They managed to gather at The New Grand Hotel at Broadway and 31st Street in South Manhattan, only a few blocks from the Chelsea.

On the 15th, they headed to the Chelsea and arrived at 7:30pm ahead of time and making their way up to room 410. Knocking on the door met with no reply. Listening carefully, there was possibly a faint noise within but after a short pause and another firm knock there was still no reply. McTavish decided there was a problem so proceed to give a heavy kick to the door. The lock broke apart with hardly any pressure and he barreled into room which was in darkness. From the dim light coming through the hotel window, he could see two figures turning towards him. One in the centre of the room and one climbing out of the window onto the snow covered fire escape.

As he entered the room he felt, rather than saw, the blow that narrowly missed his head from the 3rd person in the room who had been behind the door.

Gerbil was next through the door and instantly went for the light switch. Flicking it on, the room was bathed in weak light from the single bulb. The two men in the room were black while the one climbing out of the window was whites, each of them were dressed in shabby suits and wore a headpiece with a strip of red flannel protruding from the forehead. Brutal looking knives sat tucked into sashes around their waists and hands moved towards the hilts of each ones.

Wasting no time, Constanza charged forward and swung his club into the chest of the one in the centre of the room and there was sickening sound of breaking ribs along with the heavy expulsion of air from the mans mouth.

Singh lept for the man climbing out of the window and drew a deep slice in the mans back with his knife.

Bolan, hovering near the door, pulled his pistol that he’d been training with and called out to the room for everyone to freeze. However his voice was lost in the noise of fighting and nobody noticed.

Gerbil, following Bolan lead tried the same trick, pulling his imported Luger from his jacket but again, nobody heard him.

McTavish was locked in a viscous hand to hand fight with the man who had tried to attack him. They traded blows with each one managing to land hits on each other. McTavish, schooled in brawling on the streets of his native Scotland, finally managed to get the upper hand and brought his fist down squarely in the middle of the attackers face with a crack. The man slumped to the floor with a grunt, McTavish standing over him and wiping blood from his own wounds.

Constanza’s club connected again and snuffed his targets life out with another hard swing.

Meanwhile, Singh had physically subdued his target, who was cursing and swearing, and dragged him roughly back into the room where they all took the time to survey the scene.

The room was ransacked. Clothes, papers and other items had been tipped up and thrown about the room but that wasn’t the most shocking thing. They gathered around the bed in the room. Lying on his back with his eyes glassy in death and a grotesque symbol carved in his forehead, was their friend Jackson Elias.

Singh put his knife to the throat of the man he held and demanded to know why they had murdered Elias. The man, in a thick New York accent, told Singh exactly what he could do with that question along with a few other colourful suggestions about what they could all go and do with themselves, their mothers and their sisters. His blood boiling at the sight of Elias’ mutilated corpse, Singh pointed out to the man, they had his friend as well and carefully slit his throat before letting his body drop the floor.

Casually reaching down, Singh takes the head dress from the twitching corpse and, after examining it, pocketed the rough fabric headpiece.

Aware of all the noise, Gerbil quickly darted to the door and checked the corridor. A few floors down he could hear shouting while several faces poking out of doors which quickly disappeared when he looked up and down. He pushed the door closed but couldn’t lock it, the smashed lock was now useless but it held shut with the shattered pieces wedging into the frame.

Bolan and McTavish began to search the room and found a number of interesting items that the three attackers seemed to be trying to escape with. A letter addressed to Roger Carlyle, a business card for an Edward Gavigan, a matchbox for the Stumbling Tiger Bar, a photo of a yacht with some chinese junks in the foreground, a business card for Emerson imports with a name scribbled on the back, a letter to Elias from a Miss Atwright from Harvard University and finally, a flyer advertising a lecture by a Professor Anthony Cowles.

Gerbil could hear heavy footsteps coming up the stairs, suddenly there was a heavy banging on the door shouts of ‘POLICE! OPEN UP!’  They all turned to escape out of the window, fearing to be caught in a crime scene. As the door was pounded again, Bolan, the last to leave, tripped and fell over the scattered items on the floor. As he rose the door burst open and two uniformed police officers came into the room, pistols drawn. “FREEZE BUDDY!” one of them yelled and Bolan raised his hands in surrender.

The two officers secured the room, removing the pistol from Bolan and carefully checking the bodies on the floor. The unconscious attacker was handcuffed, along with Bolan. They hadn’t seen anyone leaving and by the time they had carefully checked, the rest of the group had made good their escape and was heading back to the hotel.

After a wait that seemed to Bolan like forever, a a heavy-set man in a neat but poorly fitting suit arrives. The two officers greet him as Lt Poole and give him a run down of the events as they see it. One explains he saw Bolan making a run for the window when the came in and how they found the three corpses lying in the room, along with the one unconscious guy by the door.

“It looks a lot like the other murders from last year, Lieutenant.”  

Poole walked around the room, pausing to examine the mark on Elias’ forehead.

“Did you do all this?” Poole asked grimly.

“We had come to see Jackson Elias and found him dead with these men in the room.” Bolan blurted out.

Pooles head snapped round. “We? Is this guy a friend of yours?” He pointed at the dead white man with his slit throat.

Bolan stammered out that he hadn’t seen the man before. Poole eyed him carefully then told one of the policemen to go get the receptionist. When she came up, she confirmed she had seen Bolan and some other men arrive at the same time.

“OK pal, start talking. You say you came here by yourself but she says otherwise. You break into the room and single handedly kill two guys and knock out a third.” Poole eyed up Bolans size and looked back at the door.

“You got a lot of muscles for such a little guy. Plus you came packing heat but didn’t need to use it. I think you and I had better have a little chat down the station.”

Turning to the police officer left in the room he gave orders for nothing to be touched until the photographer turned up.

“OK limey, let’s go find a nice cosy room down at the station, where we can have a talk.” Poole led Bolan away and took him to the local police precinct.

After over an hour of questioning Poole finally released Bolan after saying he had nothing on Bolan but would be watching him.

“Something’s not right with your story, you’re not telling me everything but I’ve got nothing to hold you on besides being at the crime scene. You had no blood on you and I don’t believe you have it in you to take out three guys single handed. You’re up to something and I’m goin’ find out what. Get outa here ya mug.”

Bolan scurried for the door and as he left the precinct, he saw the 3rd attacker from room 410 being led out of the building by a couple of police officers and a plain clothed man but he wasn’t able to get a good look at them.

Heading into the cold night, Bolan made his way back to the hotel through the snow.

Jan 16th

The next morning, the group gathered for breakfast to plan what to do next. While reading through the morning paper, there was a brief article by Rebecca Shosenburg about the murder of Elias.

McTavish, taking note of one of the items they found in room 410, phoned Harvard University and manages to speak to Miss Atwright who had written to Elias. He pretended to be following up on Elias’ request for a book and Atwright checked the details. Elias had asked for a copy of Africa’s Dark Sects  but their copy mysteriously disappeared from the Widener Library several months before Elias requested it.

By “mysteriously,” she means that one day it simply vanished. “There was an unspeakable odor in the collection the day we noticed the Sects book was missing.”

Thanking Miss Atwright, McTavish asked if she could try and find down another copy, to which she said she would let them know. He then tried to track down information about Professor Anthony Cowles, another lead from a leaflet one of the men in 410 had tried to steal. Phoning the Schuyler Hall at New York University, McTavish was told that the Professor had given a talk recently but had gone back to the Miskatonic University where he was in residence.

Deciding to split up, Bolan, Constanza and Gerbil headed to the police station to try and find out what was being done with Elias’ body. McTavish and Singh went to the New York Library to do something…

Arriving at the Police station, Bolan asks duty officer at the desk about the body recovered last night. Phoning up for the detective in charge the officer asks them to wait and shortly after, Poole arrives and grunts in annoyance at seeing Bolan.

“You again. What do you want now?”

Bolan inquires about the body of Elias and what is happening to it. Poole, annoyed by Bolans questioning, tells them the body is being dealt with by Jacksons publisher, Jonah Kensington.

Over at the Library, McTavish and Singh spent a few hours digging through newspaper articles. They managed to find a few, all written by Shosenburg, relating to a series of murders around New York. In the descriptions, each of the victims had all mutilated with a symbol carved into their foreheads, similar to how they  had found Elias. A more recent article described how the police arrested Hilton Adams who is now on death row awaiting execution.

The two groups meet back at their hotel later in the afternoon to try and figure out their next move.