Category Archives: RPG

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – ENGLAND PART ONE

This is the first part of the England chapter from the Masks of Nyarlathotep that I’m running. The the other posts are available if you want to catch up.

This session was a little late running. We had planned to run it a few weeks ago but due to unforseen circumstances, we couldn’t. As a result we missed running it during the WeAreAllUs event being run by Chaosium in memory of the late great Greg Stafford.

I still ran this game with the Sartar Rune on the table in Greg’s memory. I hope he enjoyed the game because we did.

Grabber Granny

Prelude

On the Atlantic Ocean, a cruise liner ploughed through the angry sea on its journey from New York to Liverpool. A storm raged overhead, making the floors sway like the room of a drunk after a six-hour binge.

In four cabins below decks, Bolan, Constanza, MacTavish and Singh had each taken one of the books they’ve bought from Erica Carlyle. The books had been delivered to Kensington’s office and collected in a dash before boarding the first available ship heading for England.

Hearing they planned to head for England, Kensington provided them with the contact details for Mickey Mahoney. The editor of ‘The Scoop’, Mahoney was the last person that Kensington knew Elias had spoken to in London, so seemed like a good place to start in their task to retrace his steps.

The books seemed important somehow. The investigators wanted to understand what use they had been to Robert Carlyle. Four of the five books were in English, with the fifth in French. As none of the group could read French, that was put to one side. Bolan took the copy of ‘the Pnakotic manuscripts’, Constanza took ‘Among the stones’, and MacTavish had ‘Life as a god’. Singh had the copy of ‘Africa’s dark sects’ they had collected from the Ju-Ju house.

Bolan struggled with the archaic translated text. He managed to piece together some fragments that suggested there was another meaning hidden within the words. He could see that there was a deeper power hinted at if he could study it further. He also realised that books contained more information than people knew, he should study every book he could get. He would now take the opportunity to gather as many books as possible in case they had secrets within them, no matter the cost.

As Singh read through his, he was disgusted by what was within the pages. The book was about the writers travel within Africa, but had graphic details of the bloody and obscene practices some tribes carried out. There was also an almost step by step explanation of the creation of the soulless monstrosities they had fought in the basement of the Ju-Ju house. This horrified him further. Singh, a deeply religious man, refused to read this practice and after finishing the book, put it to one side, swearing he would never touch it again.

MacTavish had a similar reaction to his book. The exploits detailed within also many blasphemous and unspeakable acts committed in Egypt. These had performed in the name of something called ‘the Pharaoh of Darkness’. Finding the content nauseating, he carried on and found information about something called ‘the bent pyramid’. The unsettling text made the dour Scotsman even more moody and he began to withdraw further from interacting with the others. He preferred to find solace with his own dark moods.

Constanza struggled with his book. Not being a native English speaker he couldn’t follow the strange poems he was reading. There was a couple about faraway lands he had never heard of, including some country called Egypt. The book confused him and he ended the journey with a terrible headache and feeling deeply troubled, but couldn’t place why.

England

Friday Jan 30th

Arriving in Liverpool, the group quickly slipped through customs with no problems. Finding their way to the train station, they headed to London by the fastest train they could get.

Bolan, owned a flat in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden so offered to house the others for their time in England. They agreed and settled into Bolan’s apartment then made plans for the next day to visit the Penhew Foundation and offices of the Scoop the next day.

Saturday Jan 31st

Their first stop was the Penhew foundation, located on Devonshire Street in Central London. The building was hidden away down a couple of winding narrow streets. It was surrounded by a high iron fence and the gate to get in was locked firmly. A plaque to one side indicated the building was open to the public from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Looking over the building, Constanza noticed a single figure walk by a couple of windows inside. It was a smartly dressed man in a crisp formal uniform of almost military style. The guard glanced out at them as they stood there but gave them little notice.

Realising that they may be drawing attention to themselves standing there, they headed for Fleet Street to find the offices of The Scoop. All the time as they travelled through the bustling streets, Constanza felt a sense of awe at this city. It was nothing like anything he had seen before and it was all captivating to him.

The Scoop

The office of the scoop was located on the third floor of a shabby building in the middle of Fleet Street. Climbing the stairs, they saw a bustling office with staff trying to all talk over each other as they tried to assemble the next issue of the paper. They were greeted by a flustered receptionist at the desk who was trying to juggle a stack of papers, a telephone and being talked at by two other people. When they mentioned they’re trying to speak to Mickey Mahoney, she turned and bellowed into the office with a voice that cut through the noise.

“Mickey! You got another bunch here!”

A mop of red hair popped up from the middle of a scrum of bodies clustered around a drafting table. A plump, stubble covered face looked out from below the hair, a large cigar gripped firmly between the grinning teeth. Smoke wafted around the face as the eyes studied them. Pushing through the crowd, the man moved quickly towards them despite his overweight frame. Reporters and staff scattered to get out of his way as he bore down on them.

“Got a story for me? Follow me boys.” he said as he approached the group and guided them towards an office in one corner of the room. Flopping into his chair behind a desk, Mahoney beckoned them in and waved at some seats.

“So, what can I be doing for you? Something juicy I hope.”

Between them they explained about Jackson Elias and how they had come to see him about his last movements in London.

“A real shame about that guy. Nice fella. I heard about his death just afterwards as it was all over the news wires.”

Mahoney told them about a couple of stories that Elias had been interested in and that he had been asking about The Penhew foundation. Sadly there wasn’t any juicy gossip about the bunch of dry and dusty Egyptologists. He gave them the headlines of the stories that Elias had pulled from the papers archives.

In exchange, Mahoney asked them to bring any interesting stories to him. He explained that Elias had offered to bring him some before he disappeared back to New York and he felt he was still owed something. Mahoney also hinted at buying any kind of sensational story he could put in the paper. Glancing around the office, candid photos along with news articles could be seen pinned to the walls. It was obvious that sex and violence were the two main selling points for The Scoop.

Spending a couple of hours in the archives searching the papers clippings, turned up the three articles that Elias had been interested in.

The first was about Miles Shipley, an artist who had been painting savagely monstrous scenes. These had captured the imagination of all who saw them and caused great interest in the art world. His art had become something of a sensation in London where it was hailed as a new form of art movement to rival anything being created on the Continent.

The second was about a series of murders and attacks that had taken place in Derbyshire. The article was short on details, more aiming at the shock sensationalism that The Scoop was known for. There was a brief note about the attacker by the sole survivor of the last attack. It was described as a grisly creature that had been driven off by the victim through luck more than anything.

The last article was about a body found in the Thames and was linked to a series of so-called ‘Egyptian murders’. These had plagued London for the last three years and this article offered a reward for anything which helped bring in the killer.

Mahoney confirmed that Jackson had gone to speak to the inspector in charge of the Egyptian murders, Inspector Barrington.

With these articles and some hints about what Jackson had been up to in London, they headed back to Bolan’s apartment for the day.

Sunday Feb 1st

New Scotland Yard

Arriving at New Scotland Yard they were ushered in to see Inspector Barrington. Barrington was a tired looking man in a worn suit who greeted them politely but with an air of tiredness. Explaining they had come to see him in connection to the death of Jackson Elias, Barrington expressed regret at hearing of Jackson’s death. He revealed that Jackson had come to see him with some story about a cult operating in London which he scoffed at. London was a modern, civilised city and Barrington hadn’t believe this crazy American when he was rambling in his office. Now, after the details of Jackson’s death, he wasn’t so sure.

Barrington made them a promise, bring him something he could use and he would help them. At the moment his hands were tied as he didn’t have anything solid to work on but he had a few leads he was following. He could provide officers if needed for a raid but only if there was proper evidence.

The plan now was to look into this mysterious painter. Bolan was determined to find out more about him so set off with MacTavish to visit some art galleries to try and track him down. Constanza and Singh wanted to search for any useful information about the Egyptian murders, so went to see what they could find in a nearby library.

Finding a large gallery that was open was easy enough but, walking into the gallery, Bolan was distracted by a collection of rare books on display. Succumbing to his new compulsion, Bolan wandered over to the books and tried to stuff a number into his pockets. An angry member of staff stormed over and confronted him when he was spotted. Trying to talk his way out of having the police called didn’t work. They left quickly with a confused MacTavish dragging Bolan away from the books and out of the gallery.

Nearby Singh and Constanza searched for anything that may be connected to the Egyptian murders before they stopped for a break. Constanza started idly flicking through a magazine, trying to understand more about the culture of this country he was in. One of the articles was about Miles Shipley, the very artist they wanted to find.

The article was thin on details about the artist himself was overflowing with praise from others who had bought his work or had seen it. Finally, at the end of the article, it listed his address.

Taking this information, Constanza and Singh found Bolan and MacTavish and they headed for Holbein Mews.

Chelsea

The area of Chelsea they found themselves in was run down but clean and quiet. The occasional passer-by on the street was dressed in Sunday best after church or visiting the pub. It was a far cry from the bustle of the inner city areas they had been in already.

The address was on a terrace row, the house stood out due to the barred windows and skylight in the roof which appeared out of place. The street was quiet and there was no sign of life as Bolan walked up to the door and rapped smartly on it.

A quiet shuffling noise inside followed before the door opened and a kindly old lady smiled at him. Introducing himself to the lady, Bolan politely asked if they could speak to Miles Shipley about buying one of his paintings.

The old lady beckoned them to enter and guided the group into a small parlour just inside the house. She introduced herself as Bertha, Miles mother. She offered them tea and then disappeared upstairs to speak to her son when they had been settled.

Returning after a long pause, she said Miles was quite busy and didn’t want to be disturbed at the moment. MacTavish brought up that they wanted to buy one of his paintings and cracked open his wallet. At the sight of the money, Bertha trotted upstairs at what seemed like a slightly faster pace. Returning quickly, almost pushing Miles in front of her.

Miles was a skinny, almost gaunt figure who glanced around the room with a nervous energy. His eyes kept darting back to his mother as if he was afraid of her in some way. He looked like he had been rolling in paint rather than using it to make art, his clothes and hands seemed to be caked in the thick layers of colour. He wiped at his hands with a rag and stuck it out to shake Bolan’s hand when Bolan asked him about buying one of his paintings. After a pause, Miles realised that Bolan wasn’t going to shake his hand and get it covered in paint. Withdrawing it, he waved vaguely towards the door, indicating they should follow him to his studio.

He led them upstairs to a loft room which had been converted into his art studio. The room was lit from several lamps hanging from the room and the skylight was painted over from the inside to block out light. Even with the lights burning the room felt dark and heavily oppressive, as if shadows formed by themselves.

In the centre of the room stood a large easel with a newly started picture resting on it. Pencil marks and blocks of colour covered the canvas. Next to the easel was a table. Paints, brushes and other paraphernalia covering the wooden top. The only other furniture in the room was a table in the far corner which was covered in more painting materials.

There was one door to a small cupboard opposite this table, a large gleaming padlock held the door closed. Two of the four walls held five finished paintings which Miles swept his hand towards with a wave.

The four investigators studied each of the paintings while Miles and his Mother stood nearby watching them. Miles continued to wipe at his hands with his rag while his mother simply stood watching them with a kindly smile on her face.

Each of the paintings was more graphic and horrific than the last. The first was some kind of alchemist’s lab, smoke spilled from vials while scientific equipment filled the background. In the foreground a reptilian humanoid was posing mid dissection of a cadaver on the table in front of it. The body it was cutting up wasn’t recognisable but the detail in painting of the entrails and blood that flowed seemed horribly realistic.

The second show a scene in ancient Egypt. A golden chariot was passing through a huge mass of people who had fallen to their knees. The pharaoh in the chariot was adorned in black and gold but his face couldn’t be seen as it was turned from the viewer. Behind the pharaoh was a pair of men, impaled on stakes, their internal organs spilled down to the ground and a pack of jackals fed on them.

Third was a night-time woodland scene. A yellow moon cast its light onto a group of naked men and women cavorting around a bonfire. Rising from the flames of the bonfire, a goat headed man seemed to be conducting the frenzied figure below.

The penultimate canvas showed a man being cut open by a silver dagger being held by a black-robed figure. There was an occult looking sigil carved onto his chest which seemed to twist and move while looking at it.

The last painting was a towering mountain, possibly in Africa, over which a monstrous creature was rising up. At the base of the mountain, a temple like building could be seen with figures gathered around it. Each of the figures had their hands raised to the god-like entity in worship. From each head, a red tongue or tentacle seemed to hang down.

Bolan’s mind reeled as he looked at the paintings. He stepped around each one, his vision swimming with each step until, with a shriek, he realised he had gone blind! He stumbled forwards toward the nearest painting, almost crashing into it when a strong, vice like grip grabbed his arm and guided him away.

“Careful now deary, you nearly had an accident there. I know his paintings are quite shocking. They’re not really my thing either. Come downstairs with me and have a nice sit down with a cup of tea.” the old lady cooed as she guided him with a firm hand towards the steps down. Singh, suddenly wary, followed them both downstairs to watch Bolan. MacTavish and Constanza stayed in the studio with Miles as he checked the painting hadn’t been damaged.

When they got downstairs to the parlour, Bertha settled the still blind Bolan on a sofa and pottered over to the teapot.

“Would you both like a nice cup of tea?” She said as she bent over the teapot.

Bertha picked up the teapot and then, with a speed that belied her aged appearance, swung the teapot in a tight arc at Singh’s head. With years of fighting experience, Singh was able to dodge the blow at the last second and the teapot swam through the air where his head had just been. Reaching for the knife at his belt, Singh realised that the old woman had been replaced by a tall lizard like creature. Its head had an almost crocodile like snout appearance and a fat tail swished behind it.

Its mouth hissed wide as it lunged again towards, claws raking the air where Singh had been seconds before. Once again he had dodged aside but now he was ready. Pulling his ceremonial knife from its sheath he cried out an alarm to the others upstairs.

“TO ARMS! TO ARMS!”

He swung his knife and was rewarded with a deep cut across the creature’s body. Hot blood spurted out of the wound and splashed across the floor.

Constanza and MacTavish had been trying to make conversation with Miles but the painter just muttered and didn’t engage with them. The faint cry from Singh came up the stairs and at first nobody seemed to respond. Constanza and MacTavish looked at each other, one hearing the shout, the other not fully understanding what it was. Miles responded faster. He began to try to distract them by suddenly becoming quite animated and to point out details in the paintings. It didn’t work. Both men headed for the stairs to help their friend, only for Miles to try and stop them. He managed to grab Constanza, stopping him but MacTavish was already past him, leaping down the stairs.

In the parlour Singh and the creature circled each other, wary and sizing each other up. The creature had expected to take Singh easily when he was distracted with Bolan but hadn’t realised he was armed. Snarling it swung again and a claw caught Singh drawing some blood but it was a light touch on him. Singh retaliated by driving the knife deep into the monstrosity. He was rewarded with a loud cry and his target slumping forwards, dead before it hit the ground.

Just at that moment Bolan’s eyesight began to return and as he blinked a few times, he began to make out details through the fog of his blindness. He blinked again and saw a hideous scaly face with glassy eyes looking at him. With another scream he jumped and nearly fainted again before realising that Singh was standing over the thing with his knife in his hand.

At that moment MacTavish burst in and saw the corpse on the floor as well. Realising that Constanza may be in trouble, he turned and ran back upstairs to find Constanza still struggling with Miles. Grabbing Miles from behind, he was able to separate the two.

Miles crawled away and sat in the corner of the room muttering and rocking leaving the pair to search the room. A small key lay on the floor where Constanza and Miles had been struggling. Scooping it up, Constanza realised it would fit the padlock on the cupboard door in the studio.

The padlock unlocked with a satisfying click and dropped off the door. Swinging open the door carefully, they could see a large sheet draped over a canvas inside the cupboard.

Constanza reached forward and pulled the sheet away to reveal a nearly finished painting below. The scene in the painting was a swamp with a small island in the middle. A stone altar sat in the middle of the island and all around the swamp, serpents massed on the ground and through the undergrowth.

The painting seemed to move and swim before their eyes. MacTavish felt himself being drawn, not just towards it, but into it. He could hear and smell the swamp around him. Constanza could feel the draw as well. At the last minute he snapped his mind back to the small loft room in London and grabbed MacTavish’s arm, whirling the Scotsman away from the painting.

The cloth was thrown back over the painting and the door shut quickly.

Leaving Bolan to recover, Singh searched round the ground floor of the house but there was little of interest. A search in the cellar revealed a hidden area filled with powder, potions and what looked like the unidentifiable animal parts. One corner of the basement was filled with a large stone tub with a metal sheet over the top. Singh approached cautiously and lifted the corner of the sheet.

In the middle of the tub, the decapitated head of a woman looked up at him. Singh, his mind already hardened to the horrors of war, wasn’t affected. He lowered the lid back onto the tub and carried on searching the basement.

Miles came back to his senses once he knew his ‘mother’ was dead. After Bolan and Singh joined them upstairs, he explained that a few years before he had been approached by a man in the pub one evening. The man offered him the ability to paint more interesting scenes than the ones he already had been creating. This strange man created a powerful drug and used hypnosis to send Miles’ mind exploring in other times and locations. After he had demonstrated this power and had Miles under his influence, the man had revealed his true form to Miles.

Using his influence, this creature had forced Miles to bring him a steady supply of victims who it would then eat. The paintings brought in money and Miles brought meat for it so he could keep getting the drug. Miles told them he had a few doses left which he kept in his room.

They agreed to help Miles dispose of the body downstairs and, after checking around the house further, they stopped to figure out their next steps.

To be continued…

Call of Cthulhu – The Derelict – crew

The Derelict is a one shot scenario for a modern era setting of the Call of Cthulhu RPG created by Sandy Peterson for a convention and then bundled inside the book “Peterson’s Abominations” that collects a number of his scenarios together.

The setting follows a crew that find a ship floating abandoned in the middle of the ocean and their efforts to investigate it. The NPC’s that are created for the game are crew and passengers aboard a luxury yacht but I wanted to change that setting and there’s a couple of mentions of a tug crew. 

I prefered that idea, so ended up making my own NPC’s so I could run the story as if they’re a salvage boat crew who are struggling for cash and need to raise some serious money quickly. I let the players pick from the characters but keep the Captain and First mate as NPC’s who I can use to push the story along.

I’ve mentioned my setup a few times in the past and shared the character sheets before, so I thought I’d put them here to make it easy to find in the future.

The sheets are below for anyone to download and below that is my notes on how I run the story. Each one doesn’t have a name or gender specified, I allow the players to pick those. Please don’t read any further if you ever want to play the Derelict as there are possible spoilers.

Characters

NPCs

Background and setup

Now we get to the fun bit, the story. I made a few changes in the setup in the book but feel free to ignore these and go with your own version.

In mine, the captain is struggling to raise enough money to keep the boat. He wants his son (the first mate) to take over the boat and retire soon, this gives him a lot of motivation to try and salvage the derelict.

Each of the PC’s also has a secret on their sheet that allows the players to lean into the characters as much as they want. Some have a good reason to either try to salvage the ship or to escape.

Also, take note of who has silver and who doesn’t, that is important.

When they first get to the derelict, I have the captain go along with everyone who wants to goes aboard. The captain, although slightly lame in one leg, feels he should go as part of the boarding party. When the time is right, I have an explosion aboard the salvage boat, killing the first mate.

This is done by the… you know what on the derelict going onto the salvage boat and trying to kill the first mate.

Obviously if someone stayed aboard the salvage boat, they need to not die at this point or else its a short game for them. When I’ve had this problem, I’ve had them see the first mate waving a shotgun around from the other side of the boat, then get thrown into the water when theres an explosion. I have the first mate shoot a gas bottle which causes a massive amount of damage to the boat and killing him.

This has two effects. Firstly it should drive the captain insane with grief, meaning he can become another problem for the group to deal with. Secondly, it means their way of escape is now cut off as the salvage boat is now dead in the water if not sinking.

Twice I’ve had the captain turn on the crew, blaming them for the death of his son but he is an easy thing for the group to deal with. He can be good distraction, building up the tension until he is killed right infront of the others by the… you know what.

From here on in its down to the players to see how they survive.

Have fun, send me any questions if you want and let me know if you get some use out of these.

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP – NEW YORK PART SIX

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

This session was mainly wrapping up a few loose ends and the motley crew picking where they wanted to go next. We had a bit of fun with the pulp rules when one of the characters had his sanity fried (you’ll see why when you read the session) and developed a new pulp skill.

It didn’t get used in the session but we made sure it fit in with what happened to him and I’m sure we will get some fun out of it in the future.

The title picture is the careful opening of the last New York prop from the HPLHS prop pack. It was sealed and there was an air of quiet excitement as it was sliced open.

Bubbles!

Thursday Jan 22nd

The previous day, MacTavish had caught the sleeper train to New York. He arrived early in the morning, with the news that Gerbil would be staying in Arkham. He had decided to take the opportunity to stay and study several tomes in the university’s library in an attempt to understand what they had discovered during their investigation into Jackson’s death.

MacTavish headed to the hotel, arriving mid-morning, only to be informed the rest of the group had checked out the previous day. The receptionist handed him a sealed letter and a telegram. The letter explained the group had left due to concerns over a pair of ‘incidents’ they had been involved in. He should contact ‘the lawyer’ to find out their current location and get to them as soon as possible.

The telegram was from Bradley Grey, he had spoken to Miss Carlyle who was happy to speak to them and he should contact Grey to confirm when they could meet.

A quick call to Carlton Ramsey gave MacTavish the location of the safe house in Harlem they had hidden in. After a short taxi ride, MacTavish arrived at the address to find Bolan sitting in a worn armchair flicking a headband of grey metal around in his hands. He was attempting to gain some insight into the headbands history but wasn’t getting anywhere with it. With a sigh Bolan gave up and the four of them sat together to decide their next course of action. After explaining that Gerbil will not be joining them, MacTavish showed them the telegram from Grey. They in turn, filled him in on what he had missed and why they now hid in the safe house. The recent destruction of the Ju-Ju house and a foot chase after someone spying on them

MacTavish phoned Grey who gave him a few different dates when Miss Carlyle would be free, including that night at 8pm. MacTavish quickly agreed to this time and made a note of the address before thanking Grey. With a few hours to kill, Singh, MacTavish and Constanza went over their notes. Bolan, after a short rest tried examining the carved wooden African mask they had found in the Ju-Ju house.

The mask had four faces carved around the top and as he focused, he noticed one of the faces was glowing softly. Turning the hideous face towards him, Bolan realised the room had melted away around him. With a start, he found himself trapped in a transparent glowing sphere gliding through a dark void of nothingness. Looking around he started to see countless other such spheres, all slipping and gliding around each other. Half-seen horrors sometimes smashed against his sphere, causing a sound like the breaking of glass. With each one the sphere shook violently and rattled him around, but the sphere didn’t break.

Through the frosted sheen of the bubble, Bolan could see that most of the other spheres appeared to be empty. Occasionally he would glimpse a few distant ones holding strange entities within them. Now and then he would spot a few human shapes within them but they never looked towards him.

For what seemed like an eon, the spheres glided through the void as several titanic bubbles appeared in the distance. Massive beyond measure, only a slight visible curve hinted at them being spherical in any way.

Within the giant sphere Bolan could see events from his past, moving in front of him and sliding away into the distance. Suddenly his sphere lurched violently away. It began to glide away and wander through countless other giant spheres. Each of these contained strange vistas and worlds that defied Bolan’s understanding of the universe.

Slowly he realised the spheres began to wink out one by one until everything went dark and he was left alone in the void.

With a scream, Bolan leapt out of his seat, dropping the mask and causing the other three in the room to jump with alarm. Bolan began to babble about huge spheres and alien landscapes before sinking back into the chair, panting heavily. He was left with the strangest feeling that the spheres were still all around him. He could almost reach out and touch the spheres, if only he could stretch his mind and body to reach them somehow.

The Carlyle Estate

Once Bolan had calmed down, they took a taxi ride out to the Carlyle estate. As they drove through the storm, which was still pounding the city, there was an occasional ominous glimpse of Sing Sing Prison not too far away.

The taxi driver pulled up outside a large gate in Westchester county half an hour north of New York City on the Hudson River. Behind the gate, an elegant three-story mansion loomed out of the darkness. A high iron fence topped with sharpened finials surrounds the vast grounds.

Two guards with their coats pulled up against the snow, stood by the gate watching them cautiously. They introduced themselves to the guards and explained that they had an appointment with miss Carlyle. One of the guards trudged through the snow up the drive to the house. After a short wait he reappeared and beckoned them to follow up to the house.

Inside the warmth of the house, a butler took their coats while Grey met them and led them through to a large drawing room with a fire blazing in the hearth. Sitting next to the fire was an elegant woman in her mid to late 20s wearing a fashionable dress. Her hair was cut short and smoking from a long cigarette holder. She stood up as Grey introduced her as Erica Carlyle.

Sitting at the back of the room, and watching them closely, was a huge man with a face that looked like it had been punched more than once. His huge frame was squeezed into a small chair but he didn’t look uncomfortable. If anything it emphasised his build. Cold blue eyes watched every movement in the room and a large .45 calibre pistol hung from a shoulder holster.

Erica greeted the group with a polite, but no nonsense greeting and indicated they should sit.

“Tell me why you’re so interested in my late brother?” she asked, waving the cigarette holder at them in a lazy fashion. Her face showed no emotion when she mentioned her brother.

The answer she got was that there was the possibility that one or more of the expedition could still be alive. Jack Brady had been seen in Shanghai and there was a chance others could be hiding as well. Erica expressed some surprise at this news.

“Brady had always been totally loyal to my brother. He was his personal bodyguard and went everywhere that Roger went. He would never had left Roger without a good reason.”

Her interest now piqued, Erica explained more about how the expedition came about. Roger had always suffered from nightmares but recently they had become worse. She has pressured him into visiting Dr Robert Huston, a psychologist based in New York that was popular in the higher social circles. Dr Huston had managed to get Roger to open up about his dreams and had been collecting extensive notes about them. Roger had even joked to Erica that every time he went to visit, the folder got a few inches thicker.

Shortly after he began to see Huston, Roger began to disappear for days on end before reappearing dishevelled and wild-eyed. All he would say was that he had been spending time in Harlem. It was after one of these visits that he began to talk about a woman who he referred to as his priestess. Erica described her as “That horrible woman, Bunay”. She began to control Roger more and more. Erica believed that between Bunay and Huston, they had persuaded Roger to form the doomed expedition to Egypt. Why, she didn’t know but she had encouraged it at first, believing it to be beneficial to Rogers state of mind.

Along with Brady, Roger also took Sir Aubrey Penhew, who Erica knew nothing about and Hypatia Masters who she had met once or twice. Masters was a photographer who had dated Roger once or twice, but Erica didn’t understand why she went. Erica also mentioned that Roger had been dealing with a Frenchman called Besson, Beesard or Besart, she couldn’t remember the name exactly.

Up until the end, Erica had hoped that Roger would see sense and drop the whole thing but he stuck to it. She expressed a little relief as he had been busy driving the Carlyle companies into the ground. Since taking over, she had been able to rebuild them a bit.

When asked about any papers that Roger may have left detailing the trip to Egypt, Erica looked confused. She said he had taken his research with him except for several books he had acquired at great cost. She mentioned she had skimmed over one which Roger had left it out one day. It had chilled her and she tried to forget about them until now.

When asked if they could see these books, she led them into a well-stocked library. Walking to one bookcase, she pressed one section and a secret panel swung open. Shooting the group a quick look, she indicated they should look away before she opened the safe. The well-built man, who had followed Erica into the library, stepped between them and the safe, blocking the combination as Erica span the lock.

The safe swung open. Erica pulled four books from inside and placed them on the table. Bolan stepped over and studied each one with his book dealer’s eye. He quickly realised the books were quite old and valuable as the titles of each was known to him. The Pnakotic Manuscripts, Sélections de Livre D’Ivon, Amongst the Stones, and Life as a God. Each of the books has paper markers in different sections that Roger had left as he had been reading through. One even had hand written notes, scribbled along the sides of the pages.

Enquiring about the price and if he could buy them, Bolan received a withering glare from Erica.

“I’m hardly likely to sell them to someone who I’ve just met and told me some wild story about my brother. For all I know you could under value them and sell them on at a much higher price.”

She turned to face Grey.

“Please arrange for Kelsall to come and value these tomorrow so we can set a price.”

Realising they could get nothing more out of her tonight, they left after providing Grey with details on how to contact them via Ramsey.

With the night still drawing in they asked their taxi driver to drop them near the Medical Affairs Board building.

Medical Affairs Board

Arriving outside a new looking, 20 story building on a quiet street, they spent a short time watching the building for any signs of activity. A small number of lights blazed across floors and a lit lobby area, but there were no signs of people. Walking over to the front door MacTavish rapped smartly on the door and peered in. A security guard raised his head from behind a high sided reception desk from where he had obviously been napping and stumbled over to the door. Opening the door he peered out into the cold and asked what they wanted.

After a brief explanation that they needed to go up to one of the offices and a handful of dollars was given to him, the guard cheerily waved them inside. The money disappearing quickly into his pocket. Checking a directory list on the wall they found a reference to a records office on the 10th floor and thought they’d start there. The guard warned them there was another guard up on the top floor walking his rounds at the moment. He wasn’t due to reach the records office floor for about half an hour but his route was erratic.

Reaching the 10th floor they found the door was locked but MacTavish pulled out some lock picks and set to work. There was a tense moment when the lock seemed to seize up, but a second later there was a loud click as it unlocked. Opening the door revealed row upon row of filing cabinets, but it was well labelled and they quickly found Roger Carlyle’s records.

Quickly leaving before the second guard arrived, they headed back to their safe house and turned in for the night.

Friday Jan 23rd

The next day was spent preparing to leave New York. There was still an air of menace over the city and the constant fear there was someone coming to find them after the events of the Ju-Ju house.

They settled on England as the next destination as there was a couple of leads they could follow up. It was Jackson’s last port of call before going to New York and they wanted to look into his last steps.

Bolan spent some of the day reading the Carlyle records and discovered many references to a shadowy man calling to Carlyle in his dreams. One word stood out and caused him to stop.

Nyarlathotep.

Bolan had come across this name before but couldn’t remember exactly where. There was also a feeling that he somehow knew who this was, but that was impossible, how could he know a mythical entity? He realised there was a common theme among many cultures. Each had something similar to this shadowy man. It was probably nothing more than having read references to this character but he felt should look into this further.

In the meantime, Grey got in touch with Ramsey with a price for Rogers books. It was eye-wateringly steep, but not out of the bounds of the money available to them from Elias’ legacy fund. The offer was accepted and the books couriered over to Ramsey’s office.

The next day they boarded a liner and left New York behind them and headed to Southampton…

End of Chapter 1

Epilogue

The storm that had gripped New York for the last few weeks, began to slowly clear away towards the end of January.

Shortly before he was due to be executed, Hilton Adams was taken from death row and moved to the main body of the prison. Several weeks later he was released with a full pardon. According to the newspaper article by Shosenburg, Captain Robson had turned up evidence that cleared Adams. The reports indicated it was mainly through the assistance of Lt Poole. Shortly after Adams was released, Robson announced he was retiring and Poole promoted to running the 14th precinct.

Adams was reunited with his wife and they left New York to start a new life somewhere away from the events that had nearly destroyed their lives.

Meanwhile, something evil still stirred in Harlem. The ruins of the Ju-Ju house became shunned by the locals. Rumours of howling noises late at night persisted. Shadowy figures where spotted digging through the ruins. One night, a large truck was spotted leaving the area with a huge, heavily reinforced crate on the back.

Few of those that lived nearby dared to visit the site with the empty hole that was the cellar mysteriously opened up. Even after the ruin was torn down, the cellar filled in and new apartments built in its place.

In time, the whispered stories of the horrors that supposedly slipped into legend but at night, but for years afterwards legends lingered of the haunted ruin that was once the Ju-Ju house.