MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – NEW YORK PART FIVE

This is the part five of the New York chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

The header picture is some minitures I painted up to represent the group. Left to right we have Bolan, Singh, Constanza (and his club) and McTavish. Thet came from North Star here in the UK but they’re originally from Pulp Figures in Canada. I have plenty more which I shall be painting up when I get a chance.

Sadly one of our players (Gerbil) has dropped from the group for a while and due to a last minute turnup, McTavish was unavailable for this session as well. From a story point of view, they’re both in Arkham, visiting Professor Cowles so they can easily rejoin. The three remaining players pushed on with the session and I tried not to have any big a story events happen.

Instead, we had a lot of running. A lot of running.

The Bloody Tongue

Wednesday Jan 21th

Three figures hurried away from the now burning Ju-Ju house, arms filled with bundles of liberated items. Bolan, Constanza and Singh somehow made their way back to the hotel without being seen and packed up their possessions. They now feared that anyone who knew they had been investigating the Ju-Ju house would make them a target for retaliation.

They knew they needed to find somewhere safe. Singh placed a quick call to Carlton Ramsey who answered the phone after a few rings with a sleepy voice, complaining that it was 2am. Singh explained they needed to hide as there may be people after them. Stopping to think for a minute, Ramsey told Singh he had a place they could stay and to meet them at his office in a couple of hours.

Paying for theirs and McTavish and Gerbil’s rooms, the trio checked out in the small hours of the morning. They also left a message with the reception desk to tell McTavish and Gerbil to contact the lawyer to find them.

Several hours later, they settled into a small apartment in Harlem, Ramsey used for hiding people when needed. It was a quiet part of the neighbourhood so they should be well hidden, provided they didn’t make a scene.

It was now 7am and they’d been up all night, the adrenaline was wearing off, so they crashed out for the night and slept through until the afternoon.

After waking, they sifted through the items they’d found in the Ju-Ju house. Constanza leafed through a copy of ‘Africa’s Dark Sects’ while Singh tried to open the small locked money box. Snapping open the lock, the lid swung off to reveal some personal items inside. A couple of them had been engraved with different initials, while other items looked quite distinctive. Singh guessed he may be able to cross reference the initials with the missing people or murder victims in the Hilton Adams case. This may help to tie some of the previous owners to the cult under the Ju-Ju house.

Bolan sat down to examine the headpiece made from a tongue that he had unearthed in Silas’ room. Compared to the rough cloth one, this headdress was a much more ornate cloth band with the dried tongue stitched neatly to the front. Strange symbols and shapes decorated the band. He held the headpiece gingerly and focused on the grotesque mummified tongue that hung like old leather from the cloth.

As he stared at it, he was hit with flashes of a country far from New York and of someone lying squirming in front of him. It was night there with stars shining in a cloudless sky. He saw hands that were not his own, pulling and cutting at the victim and the triumphant cry and the fleshy mass was separated from the head. His vision swam as a wave of pain assaulted him, as if his tongue was being pulled from his head. With a gurgle,

Bolan heard the victim die but he could only see the hands holding up the bloody tongue which had been ripped out. He could see it happening and feel the pain at the same time, as if he were two people at once, the attacker and the victim. The pain passed and he caught sight of himself reflected in the puddle of blood forming at his feet. With a gasp of shock, Bolan recognised the much younger face of Silas N’Kwane reflected back at him from the dark bloody pool.

Bolan felt his mind try to reject the pain and horror he had seen, but it was too much. He snapped out of the trance with a scream of horror which startled the other two and felt part of his sanity shatter away. He let the mummified tongue headdress drop from his fingers and closed his eyes.

Singh went to contact Schosenberg. He knew the items may be of use in her investigation of the Hilton Adams case. She expressed an interest in seeing them but also said she had been in contact with Millie Adams. Millie was trying to leave town and wanted to share some information with her. Schosenberg thought it would be useful for them to all meet up. She suggests the Lafayette Theater at 132nd Street and Seventh Avenue that evening.

After recovering, Bolan noticed the scratch he had got in the Ju-Ju house was now infected. Constanza and Singh seemed ok but Bolan found his was quite sore and weeping puss. The wound he received during the fight had been made with long, dirty fingernails gouging into his skin. Some dirt had got in, either during or after the skirmish but most likely from the ragged nails that had clawed his flesh.

Singh had some medical experience, so tried to clean the wound and dress it. As he wiped the wound it sprayed a thick, oily yellow pus all over his hands and clothes. Wiping the pus from himself with a cloth, Singh told Bolan he wouldn’t be able to do anything further without a medical kit. Bolan and Constanza set off to find a hospital while Singh went out to find food and other supplies.

It took a little while to find a taxi in the quiet neighbourhood of Harlem, but they finally managed to flag one down and to get to a hospital. After a long wait, Bolan managed to see a doctor in the emergency area. There were a few raised eyebrows and questions over the injury but claiming a dog attacked him seemed to be enough for the doctor even if he wasn’t totally convinced. With some cream to keep the wound clean and some bandages to cover it, Bolan thanked the Doctor.

They left and headed along the main road outside the hospital. Constanza had a bout of paranoia and became convinced they were being watched. He scanned the street as they walked, looking for anyone paying too much attention to them. Unfortunately he wasn’t watching his step himself and walked into an old lady on the sidewalk, nearly knocking her to the floor.

The woman began to scream and shout, accusing Constanza of trying to rob her. She was a small woman but she swung her handbag at his with surprising force and her voice was sharp. They tried to calm her, with no luck, her cries of “THIEF!” and “HELP!” attracted the attention of two police officers walking a beat outside the hospital.

Hurrying over, the officers asked what was going on. Bolan attempted to turn on his English charm but it had no effect. The officers exchanged glances at his weak charms. Saying that the pair would have to go for a little walk with them to the precinct to sort this all out one tried to place his hand on Bolan shoulder.

Bolan looked at Constanza, and the pair set off running as quickly as they could. Taken by surprise policemen reacted slowly but took off after them. Constanza quickly took a lead, his early life growing up in the Peruvian hills had given him strong powerful legs. Unfortunately Bolan was struggling to keep up, his more bookish lifestyle meant he didn’t have much physical exercise.

The two beat officers closed the distance on Bolan but one skidded on a spot of ice and tumbled over, leaving just one to try and grab at him but missing. Constanza desperately looked around for some way to escape but he couldn’t see how until he spotted a taxi, engine idling, a few yards away. He dashed for the car and leapt in, leaving the door open for Bolan.

The driver, looking back and seeing the policeman bearing down on the taxi, started to gently roll off and Bolan made one last big push to reach it. He dived into the open door, feeling the fingers of his pursuer snag against his coat but there wasn’t enough purchase and the hand closed around nothing. Bolan, out of breath and slumped in the car, pulled the door shut as the taxi sped off.

The driver, laughing about how he was always being shook down by crooked police officers and it was great to get his own back on them for once, dropped them a couple of blocks away from the safe house.

Arriving back safely, they prepared to see Shosenburg and Millie that evening.

The Lafayette Theater – 8pm

They arrived to see Millie Adams and Shosenburg waiting for them outside, Millie ushers the trio into the lobby into the main theatre and towards one of the rows of seats. Members of staff moved around cleaning and preparing the theatre but none came near them as they sat and talked.

Millie explained how she went to see a friend of hers over the other side of the street and happened to glance out of the window to see a pair of men she recognised from staking out the Ju-Ju house. After Hilton was arrested, she took to investigating the Ju-Ju house after she heard Hilton mention it. She saw groups of men going into the building once a month, often with crates, so she suspected it may have been some kind of club or speakeasy.

The two men came hurrying out of her apartment building when she noticed that it was on fire. Now convinced the men are after her because of some kind of disturbance in Harlem last night. She was planning to leave New York that night and head down the coast to North Carolina where she had some family.

Giving the description of the two men she had seen, Constanza and Bolan recognised one as the man they had spoken to outside the Ju-Ju house a few days before.

Hilton had been arrested after he had been investigating the Ju-Ju house and was found standing over a dead white man by Captain Robson. They found his army bolo knife nearby covered in blood but Millie swears that he never took it out on patrol with him.

A sound coming from above catches Constanza’s ear. He glanced up to see a figure in the stalls overlooking them on the lower floor of the theatre. The figure, shrouded in darkness, realised he had been spotted and ducks back out of sight. Singh and Constanza leapt towards the lobby with Bolan staying behind with Millie and Shosenburg.

The sound of running feet came from the lobby as they burst through the doors, a black man in his late teens or early twenties was just reaching the main door. He turned, eyes widening as he spotted them. Slamming open the main door, he ran into the snowy night with the two investigators close behind him.

As they ran through the streets, the young man screamed he was being attacked but few of the pedestrians took note. Most made the point of ignoring what was happening except to step out of the way when they ran in their direction.

After a hard chase they managed to catch up and pin down the man. He continued to call for help so Singh stuffed a glove in his mouth. Searching him turned up one of the cloth headbands with the red fabric tongues, he was one of the cultists. They discussed what to do with him, reasoning that if they let him go, Millie would be in danger. Singh was all for holding him down and suffocating him or just simply gutting him but it would prove to be difficult to do in public.

He managed to spit part of the glove out of his mouth to which Singh punched him in the face, knocking him out instantly. Dragging the now unconscious form back to the theatre while pretending he was drunk, they tied him up while Shosenburg phoned Lt Poole.

Millie was getting ready to leave, Singh gave her some extra money to help get away for which she thanked him profusely while wiping a couple of tears from her eyes, and left to try and catch a train out of New York.

30 minutes later Poole arrived and they showed him the evidence. He agreed it wasn’t enough to fully clear Hilton and the nature of its acquisition was more than a little bit suspect, but it was enough to put some pressure on Robson. He dragged the now handcuffed prisoner away, promising to keep him out of Robsons clutches.

Slumping into their seats, the group wondered what there next step would be.

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…