This is the second session of the first chapter from Masks of Nyarlathotep. If you need to catch up, all the other posts are on this site.
The props used in the photo come from the excellent HPLHS pack for this campaign.
We pick up right after Part 1 with the group recovering from finding their friend Jackson Elias murdered in his apartment.
Part 2 – The search for the Stumbling Tiger
New York 1925
Friday Jan 16th – afternoon
Trying to decide what to do next, there was some discussion about visiting Professor Cowles in Arkham, but the weather was too bad, so that on hold for a bit. The idea of going back to Jackson’s apartment was also suggested, but they realised the area would most likely still be crawling with police.
Bolan decided to call Jonah Kensington at Prospero House publishers, as Poole had told them Kensington was dealing with Jackson’s body. Bolan, had been acting as a distributor for Elias’ books in the UK so had dealt with Kensington for a couple of years now, but only via letter. He took the opportunity to get to speak to the publisher for the first time and introduce himself while saying he was in New York at the moment.
Bolan explained that he had heard that Kensington was dealing with Jackson’s body and enquired if there was any way of paying his respects. Kensington told him that the funeral was planned for the next day but it would be a closed coffin service due to the nature of the injuries on Jackson’s head. Thanking Jonah, Bolan said he would be there, along with a few other old friends of Jackson.
They spent some more time examining the items they had found at the apartment and decided the next plan was to head to Chinatown to see if they could track down the address on the box of matches.
In the meantime, Bolan sat down with the headscarf that Singh had taken from one of the murderers and tried to get a reading from it. He was able to get an impression of it being around several murders recently. All of them was close to where they are now, but the item was too new and too infrequently used to get a very strong reading from.
Heading to Chinatown and visiting a few places and getting a meal, they turned up no further information about the Stumbling Tiger Bar. With prohibition in effect, few people were willing to talk to strangers about bars and those that they did speak to, hadn’t heard of it.
They headed back to the hotel through the wind and snow a little despondent but otherwise ready for the next day.
Saturday Jan 17th
The New Grand Hotel
In the morning, Bolan and Constanza left early to go to the address on one of the business cards they had found in Jackson’s apartment. The back of the card had the name Silas N’Kwane, written on it so they wanted to find out who this was and what his connection to Jackson. The address, Emerson Imports, was on the edge of the Hudson River, the other side of Hell’s Kitchen so would take them a while to reach in the snow.
Meanwhile Singh, Gerbil and McTavish headed to the New York library to try to find out anything about the Stumbling Tiger bar and if it was in New York or not.
Arriving at Emerson Imports, Bolan and Constanza spent some time watching the activity at the address. It was a narrow building with loading docks and a surprising amount of activity with the harsh weather. A well dressed man was walking around barking orders at the crews loading and unloading trucks while jabbing at them with his cigar and, at one point, was referred to as Mr Emerson by a worker. Approaching him they cautiously asked if he knew the name ‘Silas N’Kwane’.
Spitting on the floor, Emerson eyed them before asking why they wanted to know about N’Kwane. After explaining about Jackson’s death and the card they had, Emerson’s face softened from a hard scowl to a more sympathetic look. Emerson explained Jackson had come to him recently asking about some imports he was tracking, and had found they had been brought in by Emerson Imports. The company they went to, was a shop called Ju-Ju house, which Emerson gave them the address to.
After expressing his condolences, Emerson told them what he had told Jackson, that N’Kwane made his skin crawl and there was something wrong about him but he couldn’t put his finger on what. N’Kwane paid well for the items he was shipping in, so Emerson said he put up with the odd man. Thanking Emerson for his time, the pair left to go to the funeral.
Over at the New York Library, the research wasn’t going well. Unable to fathom the overly complex indexing system the library used, and nearly becoming lost in the warren of bookcases, they began to lose hope they’d find anything. Gerbil finally approached a librarian to ask for help.
Despite some initial resistance, the librarian finally gave in to his European charm and dug around in a few directories and street maps of New York, but was also unable to find any information about the bar or the address.
Realising time was running out, they headed off to the funeral as well.
Cypress Hills Cemetery – 1pm
Jackson’s funeral took place at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn. Arriving early, the two groups met outside and found only three mourners in the church.
The trio approached them in greeting and the first was a short, squat white man whose balding pate is framed by uncontrollable curls of greying red hair. A bulbous frame was squeezed into an immaculate suit that looked like it was cut to flatter him more than it should. Upon realising that Bolan was there in the group, he singled out Bolan and grabbed his hand, pumping it hard in greeting. Introducing himself as Kensington, he introduced them to the other two, Carlton Ramsey, and his niece Willa Sligh.
Sligh was a young, tall and athletic lady dressed smartly while her uncle was a contrasting figure. A small, wiry African-American man, filled with nervous energy. His eyes flick around as he speaks while the expensive bespoke suit he wears looks a little shiny and frayed. While he is clearly going bald, Ramsey was trying to mask this by pasting strands of well-oiled hair across his crown.
Kensington spend a few minutes chatting to Bolan and gave him the offer to come and visit Prospero House on Lexington Avenue near 35th Street. He said he has some manuscripts and documents that Jackson had left with him before his death. Kensington explained that Jackson had come to see him recently and had been in a distracted state. He was quite agitated and was concerned he had gone too far in some of his investigations.
Ramsey was busy chatting to the others and told them that he was the executor for Jacksons will. He invited them to the reading which was in two days at his office.
As they’re waiting for the service to start, Singh notices a small, dark-complexioned woman outside the church. While not hiding, she was keeping a respectful distance from the building. Gerbil, not wasting the opportunity to chat to another fraulein, sauntered over and asked if she was here for the funeral.
She introduced herself as Rebecca Shosenburg, a New York Times reporter covering a series of murders that may be linked to the death of Elias. She was interested in talking to anyone who knew Elias, as she believed he may have been killed by the same person or persons that had been killing people around New York.
She mentioned that someone had been arrested for the murders but, as another one had now taken place, she was convinced the man was innocent. Shosenburg invited Gerbil to meet with her at the newspaper’s offices on West 43rd Street where she had some information to share.
The ceremony began so Gerbil headed back in. The turnout was small, with the only mourners apart from the group being Kensington, Ramsey, and Sligh. The Rev. Lawrence T. O’Dell, Jr. reads from Psalm 13
How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.Psalm 13
Kensington then gave a long rambling eulogy. He concludes by saying that he almost awaits some quick telegram from Elias in heaven, asking for financing to cover expenses with the promise of an exclusive interview with Satan.
Finding a moment to gather himself, Constanza tried to reach out with his mind and touch the astral plane. Being so close to Elias’ body helped him to find a strong connection. A slight hush falls across the room and the air starts to take on a slight chill as Constanza sensed a presence nearby. A low moan starts to escape from his lips which suddenly turns into a louder noise but he was able to control it.
Seeing some confused looks from the others in the church, Singh quickly covered for him explaining that Constanza was deeply moved by the ceremony and is just grieving in his own way.
Suddenly Constanza starts to mutter and speak with an American accent that sounded familiar. “Phansigar, phansigar—they are among you, with their pretty yellow nooses.”
Singh turned, looking horrified at this sudden outburst, recognising the reference to the Thuggee cult.
Constanza muttered something else. “Si un hombre no se levanta el sombrero ante ti es seguramente un delfín” Singh, also knowing Spanish, translated for the rest of the group “If a man won’t raise his hat to you, he’s probably a dolphin.”
Bolan recognised both of these as being references to books that Elias had written with the dolphin quote coming from the most recent one about Peru which they had been mentioned in.
Suddenly stopping and patting down his pockets, Constanza, without a trace of his normal accent said “I don’t suppose you know where my pipe is, do you? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.”
Realising that this was Elias, they tried to ask about what he could remember. Constanza/Elias kept rubbing his forehead and asking why his head was hurting so much.
Looking round at the assembled group he asked. “Are we still in Peru?”
At this, Constanza could feel another, more malevolent, presence lurking nearby. He had to concentrate hard but managed to keep this under control by a sheer force of will, but it was still able to enter a small part of his mind.
An even colder wave ripped out from Constanza and a calm, level voice without any accent spoke softly “That’s enough of that for now. I think you should be quiet.”
“Hello… again.” Constanza turned to look at Gerbil, his eyes had gone pure black.
“We meet again. It’s funny how our paths keep crossing like this. I’m sure we will speak again soon.”
With that final comment, Constanza’s eyes returned to normal and he slumped forward in his chair.
By this time, O’Dell was storming towards them, red faced and shouting that this was a house of God, not a place for their pagan blasphemies. As they went to leave, the doorway was blocked by Lt Poole who was leaning against the doorframe and clapping slowly.
“What do you do for an encore?” he asked before turning to Bolan and gesturing to the other. “Are these your friends who weren’t at the apartment of your friend?”
Shosenburg appeared at his shoulder. “Lieutenant, do you agree that this murder being carried out, while Adams is in prison, means he is innocent.”
Poole glared at her. “No comment.” he growled and stalked off, calling back “I’ll be watching you guys closely.”
Shosenburg turned to Gerbil and said “I hope you find time to come by my office.” and headed out into the snow.
The New Grand Hotel
After battling through the traffic and arriving back at the hotel, they settled down and Bolan thought he would try to take a reading from the matchbox. He was able to draw out the feeling of travel, as if the matchbox had come from a long way away. Also, the feeling that someone had given this to Jackson who was some kind of protector or guardian.
Sunday Jan 18th
New York Times Office
Gerbil visited Shosenburg at the New York Times building. She greeted him at her desk with a surprised, but pleased expression, and began to quickly explain the background to the murders.
Shosenburg had already retrieved the relevant clippings about the murders from her scrapbook to show him. The early reports about the murders hadn’t made any connection between them but with the third, and subsequent murders, connections started to be drawn. They all had the symbol carved in their heads and one of the police reports that Shosenburg had seen, suggested that they may have been alive when the symbol was carved in. One of the early ones was not as neat as the later ones, suggesting the victim had struggled or the person carving may not have had a steady hand. A Dr. Lemming she had spoken to, had suggested some form of Death cult was responsible for the ritualistic style of the murders, but was unable to identify the symbol.
The first bodies were found in different police precincts and, as such, there was little coordination or sharing of information between the precincts. Even after everything was transferred to Captain Robson of the 14th Precinct in Harlem, there wasn’t much progress on the case until Hilton Adams was arrested at the scene of the eighth murder. Shosenburg revealed that she thinks Robson is either incompetent or corrupt, and may have been responsible for framing Hilton Adams to get a result.
She mentioned that she thinks Lt. Poole may be an honest cop but his hands are tied by not being included as part of the original investigation.
Shosenburg offers to introduce them to Millie Adams, Hilton’s wife. She also offers to convince Millie to get her husband to receive Gerbil as a visitor at Sing Sing, if he would like to speak to him directly.
Bolan and Constanza decided that they would investigate the Ju-Ju house that Emerson had told them about so headed to Harlem. It took a while for them to find but the art shop was at the end of a small alleyway off West 137th Street. After finding the entrance, they found the alley opened up onto a 20 foot square courtyard. The only doors in the courtyard are for an abandoned shop they had passed on a side street and the Ju-Ju house. A window next to the door looked into a dark shop which was shut as it was a Sunday.
They looked around quickly before heading back to the alley and leaving. At the last minute, Constanza looked back over his shoulder to see the face of a short, elderly African-American man with very little hair peering out of the shop door window.
He glanced around the courtyard before pulling the blind down on the door as they left and headed away from the shop.
To be continued…