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.
Thursday Jan 22nd
The previous day, McTavish 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.
McTavish 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 McTavish the location of the safe house in Harlem they had hidden in. After a short taxi ride, McTavish 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, McTavish 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
McTavish phoned Grey who gave him a few different dates when Miss Carlyle would be free, including that night at 8pm. McTavish quickly agreed to this time and made a note of the address before thanking Grey. With a few hours to kill, Singh, McTavish 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 McTavish 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 McTavish 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.
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
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.