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 18th – afternoon
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
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.
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…