Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NYC CoC #19: The Half Moon

June 2, 1924

Back in NYC, things had happily turned a bit mundane.   So much so, that the investigators had not met over the past 2 1/2 months, except for a few natural one-on-one meetings.

Jessica Carson, widowed female private eye, was still trying to deal with the influx of business.   A female detective who keeps secrets close to the vest was a popular commodity.  If only there was some way for her to get all those calls when she was on the street working a case.  A call from the editor's office of the New York Weekly Messenger to discretely search for a missing reporter was right up her alley.  Time to contact...

Det Frank Dresden.  He was curtailing his friendly duties with Jessica to focus on his professional ones, but missing persons cases always benefited with a little access from the NYPD.

They arrived at the Messenger's office and met with editor Erasmus Driggs.  Driggs was very worried that his star reporter, Sydney Silver, had not reported in for days and was feared missing.  He seemed worried not only for his employee, but the financial sake of the company.  "Almost" no price was too high to find him.  He provided the duo with a list of clippings based on his current assignments, including articles from other papers about "monsters" lurking around the sewers and business cards for Harlem establishments of ill repute.

Dr. Bob Wintermute, Professor of History at Miskatonic University was perturbed.  In the two short weeks since his assignment at Columbia ended, he had experienced not one, not two, but three incompetent sets of movers try to transport his things from his Manhattan apartment back to Arkham.  The last time the savages moved everything from his partially furnished apartment that WASN'T his. What he expected to occur, did.  This time the right items got onto the truck.  What he didn't expect was the phone in the apartment to ring, and his mentor at Brown, Dr. Alexander Powell, on the other line.

It seemed the years had flown by, and Alexander young son, William, who Bob remembered from numerous weekend dinners at the Powell home, had grown up, graduated Yale, and turned into some reporter under an assumed name for some New York tabloid rag.  He hadn't written in weeks, and wasn't answering his phone.  It was bad enough that William's uncle Leland, a member of the New York elite, had just perished in a boating accident off Long Island Sound, Williams disappearance would  be an tremendous stress to an already grieving family.   On top of that, he was supposed to be married this year, and he didn't want to break the news to his fiancee. If Bob wasn't already on the train going back to Arkham, could he possibly have one of his local contacts to try to ensure that William was safe.

Dr Wintermute decided to call Carson, and arrange a rendezvous at the Belvidere Club.  Of course Brian Nichols was the traditional way into the club when Nathaniel Millheim wasn't available and he'd normally scoot right over to reserve table, only today, he had an unexpected guest.  Mike Dalcin had returned from South Dakota and took Doc Millheim up on his offer of hospitality that he never thought would make due. Nichols assumed by hospitality that meant a blanket near the stove of the apartment, but first a trip to the Belvidere Club.

The Gentle Reader might now see the heavy handed approach I used to keep the group together "one more time."   William Syndey Powell, one of the heirs to the Powell fortune, decided to forgo his name to become an investigative journalists.  A few rounds of Manhattan Juleps were required to connect the dots.

The group went back into library mode, researching the man and making far more assumptions than discoveries.  Silver's writings were expanded versions of stories published in other papers, and written on such a level that few could believe that the writer had a degree from Yale.
Others researched psychological texts, trying to determine if Silver just snapped.  A credible mind in psychology like Doc Millheim was not available to dispute such assumptions without credible proof.  Then again, Doc Millheim was still hiding at a "spa" to exorcise his own demons.
With the help of  Dresden, they got into Silver's Brooklyn apartment, only to find it ransacked.  They did find an odd cypher on a newspaper article about a charity picnic and the passbook for Silver's savings account, with over a thousand dollars in it.
Part of the group continued their research into Silver's descent into madness they had concocted, another group travelled to the Peacock Club in Harlem to see what a few business cards in Silver's file meant.  Their lack of rhythm and dark pigmentation failed in their endeavour, although their money was certainly good, and the drinks in return not watered down.

While the rest are out researching/partying off appendages,  Jessica Carson figured out how to find Silver, and after a few calls first thing the next morning to the Messenger  and Silver's bank, she found him in a resort in the Rockaways.  He was a shell of his former self, so Jessica took the huddling wretch back to the office.  It was hours before the group recovered from their hangovers to meet up their.  Wintermute contacted Alexander Powell and Dalcin was used to guard Silver until family contacts could arrive and take him back to a safe place to recover.  Oddly enough, Alexander's brother Leland, a powerful man in New York business and politics, had been killed in a yachting accident only a few days prior, and the immediate family in the city had their hands full with that tragedy.

Nichols and Wintermute went back up to Harlem, under the assumption of doing more research, but Nichols had found an address to a certain JuJu House were he could obtain an "authentic" African dagger to use for the spell he had learned from Doc Millheim.  The encounter with the shopkeeper and the subsequent transaction went down smoothly, but as he exited the shop, he was accosted by a few bums in the alley.  Pulling out his resolver, the gun misfired, shooting off two of his fingers and leaving him barely conscious.  If not for the help of another vagrant, who pulled him from the scrum and ran out to the main street, Nichols would have surely been a dead man.  This guardian angel of hobo-dom turned out to be Japanese!  Maguro No Sarada did his best to staunch the bleeding and keep Nichols conscious.  For his help the Investigators kept him around.

Researching Silver's odder notes turned out to be much easier.  Frances Tavern had a few documents from the 17th Century detailing Henry Hudson's first encounter with Manhattan, a few members of the crew, reputed murders and ne'er do well hooligans, had jumped off the side of the Half-Moon and disappeared into the wilderness.  Another later text mentioned a strange Cult of the Half-Moon, but details as to its machinations were sketchy. 

One name came up that concerned the group:  Ambrose Mogens.  Mogens was a wealthy philanthropist and head of the Mogens Institute for Advanced Studies, and think tank trying to improve the human condition.  Many of the members of the group had actually met Mogens (and each other for the first time) at his own Christmas party!  Searches at the New York Public Library and the Hall of Records made things turn a bit darker.  The name of one of the persons who jumped the Half-Moon over three hundred years before?  Ambrose Mogens.  The name of one of the others?  A Vanderklei, who just happened to share the same last name as the current Mogen's Director of Science at the Institute.  Something was awry, but our intrepid group of investigators weren't quite sure what they were looking for.

Two uncoordinated trips to the Mogens Institute may have set off some concern.  At two times in the same day, two different gentlemen (one Dalcin, the other Sarada) posed as Doctor Nathaniel Millheim looking for either Mogens or Vanderklei.  Both times they were refused admittance.  Dalcin even went so far as trying to get it through a rear entrance, only to be met by security with shotguns!

The group decided the Mogens definitely had nefarious ideas, so it might be proper to investigate the Mogens Estate in Queens.  A late night drive and a long walk later, they arrived at the thick brick walls surrounding the spacious estate.

The Japanese hobo agreed to scale the wall and do some investigating.  Hiding in the bushes on the other side, he relayed to the group the scope of the grounds, as well as the the three security guards with dogs patrolling the estate at regular intervals.  Without any encouragement, he dashed across the open expanse unnoticed and reached the main building, only to get cold feet and run back to the wall without drawing attention.  Luck ran out for him when he could not climb the wall to get back with the rest of the group.  Falling back into the bushes caught the attention of the guard dog, and soon the hobo was detained.  The rest of the group fled in a panic. 

None of the investigators slept that night.  If Mogens had dealings with the unsavory, an untested ally in their hands who at least knew their names might doom them all.  If no Orientals were turned over to the police last night, the fate of their new friend was far more uncertain. 

Soon members of the group wanted to flee.  Others, such as Dalcin, wanted to recruit more hobos, arm them with baseball bats and sledgehammers, fill their gullets with cheap hooch, load them up onto a bus, drive said bus through the front gates of the Mogens Estate, and sneak in under cover of the ensuing chaos. 
I don't know what it says about the group that Operation: Hobo Justice stayed on the table for discussion far longer than it deserved. 
Cooler heads prevailed and a more "practical" plan was adopted.    The group would be dropped off near the rear of the estate.  Dresden would drive back to the gate with a large number of live rabbits they would procure and dump the rabbits on the other side of the gate.  Hopefully, this would distract all three dogs, with two dozen rabbits scurrying across the estate, allowing them to access the servant's entrance in the back.

By some miracle of fate, everything succeeded flawlessly.

They broke in through the back door, narrowly avoided an encounter with some inquisitive servants, and explored the first floor of the estate.  Most of the rooms fit with a New York philanthropist with a long family.  The library finally uncovered a few clues that somethings were just not right.  On Mogens desk were memos from the Institute documenting some terrifying experiements that may or may not be using human test subjects.
Two of Mogens' journals lay on the desk as well, although it seemed peculiar that his ancestor's journal from 1842 had identical writing to his most recent journal entry.  In the '24 journal, he claims that Leland Powell had been delivered to him and that, "his agony has become all the sweeter."

Finally, they uncovered a trap door hiding under the Oriental rug in the room.  After descending a dark stairwell, they came upon a locked steel door, with a smaller sliding door at its base.   Dr Wintermute slid the small door open, but beyond a blast of cold air and a rank smell, nothing could be observed.  He advised the group leave this area, ransack the library, and get whatever evidence they could before escaping, but when he stood up and turned around, a grotesque muscular arms shot out of the small door, grabbed his ankle, and tried to drag him in!   It took half the group to pull him away from whatever creature was on the other side, and Wintermute had already been pulled halfway through the door, rather painfully so. 

"I believe we found Leland," Wintermute said, "Let's not try to confirm it any further."

The investigators went back upstairs into the library, ransacked what they could of the library, but Dalcin wanted to leave a parting gift for Mogens.  He lit a Molotov cocktail, intent on incinerating whatever dark books they couldn't take themselves, but his career as an anarchist was short.  (He rolled a 100).  The Molotov slipped out of his hand and exploded around him, instantly engulfing him in flames.  The library quickly filled with flame and the other investigators were forced to flee for their lives. 

Dalcin was not a cross-dresser, but you get the point.
For the next two weeks, the papers were all abuzz with the torching of Ambrose Mogens' mansion, but no suspects were ever found.  Even more peculiar, no strange happenings had befallen a very paranoid group of investigators who were certain the "Warlock of New York" would be coming for them.

Apparently dead vagabond cooks and tortured Asian hobos tell no tales... for now.

This took awhile to compose, but I believe it was the first encounter they had with a powerful evil beyond the "monster of the month" variety for over two years.  Unlike the encounter with the Wideawakes and the Klan, Mogens was very much alive and very, very angry. 

The Japanese hobo's player, Aaron, also ran the ill-fated Turkish Librarian.  We'll see how his next character fares. *snicker*

Besides their compensations for their services, the investigators also got wedding invitations for the Powell wedding.

... on the Isle of Crete
Next Campaign Entry:  Some of the Investigators take a Mediterranean vacation while they attend a wedding and try to burn the roof off this mother in The Secret of Knossos.

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