After surviving and resolving the mystery of the Pennywell Hangmen (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), the group was in need of a long rest, some more than others.
Jessica Carson required hospitalization from her grievous wounds given to her by the Byakhee. Multiple transfusions and a long hospital stay were required to get her back on her feet. It didn't help that rumors of a woman hunting at night in New Jersey and suffering a catastrophic gunshot wound diminished her spot as NYC's media darling. Saving the mayor's daughter was old news...
Detective Frank Dresden, NYPD visited her often. He admitted to her that he had been assigned to re-open the investigation into the disappearance and probable death of her husband, private investigator JP Carson. With a wink and her best smuggler's swagger should could muster in a hospital bed, she said, "I know."
Dresden would visit when he could and once Jessica was released in late January, they would go out to lunch. With her teaching career in shambles, thanks to the injury and a bit more publicity than the school directors desired, Jessica went about following in her husband's footsteps and become an investigator. Realizing the references, qualifications, background checks required by the State of New York, and her desire for authorities not to unearth her dirty little secrets, she made a startling discovery. The licensure forms contained no mention of gender, and as fast as she could rush it, her husband's credentials were renewed and the "P" on the door's glass was scraped off. Dresden may or may not have assisted her in some of her cases, no one is telling.
The detective wasn't the only one to attend the mealtime of the Lady PI Carson.
Dr Bob Wintermute, Professor of History at Columbia, had been bit by the bug of the occult/Mythos and tried desperately to determine how expansive this new knowledge was. Beyond checking on his favorite Turkish Library Assistant, Kalimah, he would have frequent lunches and dinners with the widow Carson, picking her brain of any stories about her experiences.
He also spent time with his colleague, Professor Steven O'Hara, Department of Physics. Considerable time was spent at the faculty lounge, off campus clubs, and such establishments, not only prying for occult knowledge from the wary scientist, but inquiring why such an obviously brilliant man had not acquired the normal credentials of an Ivy League professor, namely a PhD. Wintermute came to the conclusion that O'Hara might provide the best access into this new world, and tried as he might to obtain research grants, publishing agreements, and possibly a position at his home institution of Miskatonic University. Steven took all offers with interest, but he already had some form of agreement with Columbia, and with a pregnant wife, was not willing to make any drastic changes... yet.
Dr Nathaniel Millheim effectively disappeared. He had managed to keep his composure through the whole affair but he had been fighting the unknown for over three years. A break might have been in order. From just after Christmas through the Spring, no one heard from him or his assistant Brian Nichols. Brian came back from where ever they were staying with a spring in his step... then could be found in the office at all hours, pouring over tomes, obviously aiding Doc Millheim in either his scientific research, or his pulp writing.
That is what transpired until near the end of March, 1924.
March 21st, 1924
The story of "The Dreamer" begins with the one individual not mentioned above, Joshua Wanisko. His family had recovered from their traumatic experience at Pennywell as well as expected. Joshua developed a platonic relationship with Jessica, although he was quite certain that she gave him the sugar coated version of everything that transpired. She had candidly mentioned her friendship to famed spirit medium Paul LeMond, and when he noticed an article about his disappearance, he figured a visit to her office was in order.
When he arrived at the office, the door was locked and the lights were off. Knowing her hours were erratic, he figured it best to hang out for an hour or so before heading home. After nearly the most boring hour of his life, Joshua spied a strange man approaching. This was Brian Nichols. After a half hour of painful vagueness trying to get information out of each other, Nichols invited Joshua to the Belvidere Club for a drink, and Joshua didn't need to be asked twice.
At the club the members toasted to Nichol's employee, Dr Millheim, for his new writings. It seemed rather odd, as Brian was effectively his manager and knew nothing of any new material getting published. Already half in the bag was Steven O'Hara. The trio worked their way through stronger and stronger swill until the walls of descretion were torn down and the guys started to talk shop.
None of the group had seen or heard from the widow Carson in over a week, as well as her "shadow" Detective Dresden. Joshua admitted wanting to let her know of LeMond's appearance, and Nichols responded ironically enough, that he had just gotten off the phone with Paul's mother minutes before tryring to contact the Carson Detective Agency.
Between the paper and his mother, it appeared that Paul disappeared two weeks prior while walking home his girlfriend's apartment. Police had nary a lead and Mrs LeMond was offering a $2,000 reward. Joshua was still leary of travelling with his newfound, mysterious friends, much less leaving his family and job without notice....
March 22nd, 1924
.... a copious amount of alcohol, and a few botched CON rolls later, a completely wasted Joshua got onboard a passenger train for Buffalo.
Mrs LeMond was the nice overbearing mother Nichols remembered from the haunted house seance. She spoke of Paul's nightmares as a teenager, so severe that he had to be institutionalized for a stint. Afterwards he ran off for a few years with an odd gentlemen named Mr Rodgers. Mrs LeMond gave them Paul's high school journals, a basket of cookies, and a cardigan sweater each and they headed back to NYC
Back on the train, they read the very droll journals. The only points of interests seem to be that certain dreams set in a dark primordial jungle felt more of an outer body experience than a true dream.
Upon a late night return to the city, they hit a common club that wasn't their blessed Belvidere Club (some were wearing out their welcome without Doc Millheim in attendance). There they encountered Dr Wintermute and his lovely Turkish library assistant. Wintermute had begun probing around for Lakota Sioux myths based on his associate's story, had encountered the librarian and decided to circumvent the restrictions of Islam by introducing her to homemade mead. The Buffalo trio updated them on their trip and they agreed to help out with the search.
But first let's drink!
March 23rd, 1924
The following morning, they all woke up disheveled in some random room in Wintermute's apartment. Bloody Mary's were concocted for all and a plan devised.
First stop was at Herb Whitfield's office, Paul's manager. Paul seemed friendly initially, but soon alternated between vehemently denying any involvement in any wrongdoing, including providing an alib, just as he did with the police, and then forcibly pushing the Investigators out the door. At one point Kalimah even threatened to hit him with a large tome she was carrying!
They them visited Cecelia, no longer weird occult fan, now acting like a glamourous actress. Herb had gotten into her head and got her a fit bit parts off-broadway, and she was vamping it up for all it was worth. Despite, her over the top performance, she was very concerned about Paul's whereabouts. Unlike the local gossip that he disappeared minutes after the break-up, she claimed the two of them had broken up weeks before, although Paul had made one modest attempt to win her back that night.
A quick visit to Paul's apartment yielded little, save a notebook with the start of a letter he writing to his mother. In it, he complains about horrifying dreams, Herb wanting him to visit an asylum for a respite, and a terrifying Beast that hunts him, in both the waking and dreaming worlds.
The group decided to split up and do research through the afternoon and into dinner, agreeing to meet up again at night to compare notes. They did not get far on their focus of delusion and multiple personalities that they believed were tied to Paul's ailments and disappearance. Where was Dr Millheim again? The man had a college degree in psychology and claimed to be a noted alienist. That would have been a huge help. Come to think of it, where was Brian Nichols, his trustworthy aide? He hadn't made it back to the club.
Brian had originally gone back to Millheim's office for some much needed R&R, but the ringing phone interrupted his plans. It was Betty, Herb's secretary. She too thought Paul was in trouble, although she was not certain Herb was the only person involved. Taking a girl to a nice steak dinner might allow her to relax and let a load off her chest. *hint hint*
An hour later, the pair met for psyche-relaxing steak dinner. Betty said Herb had numerous debts, to Brian they sounded like kickbacks to entertainment figures. In fact a representative from one of the gentlemen came in and paid a visit and dropped off a card that was still in the wastepaper basket. Nichols managed to break into the office and recover the card, only to be accosted my a man on the street. The gentleman claimed to be John Denin, an insurance agent from the Klein Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Late in the night, Nichols finally got to the club to fill the others in the details of his eveing. The business card had an address for a Mr Clarence Rodgers...
March 24th, 1924
That morning, the entire group descended onto the Mid-Town address on the business card. A miracle of miracles, the posse checked out the location of the apartment, go no answer at the door, then made it up the fire escape undetected and broke in through the window. Even more miraculous was Joshua's new fond ability to pick the lock on an inside door. (He needed a 1% and got a 1%... he is now the group's primary cat burglar.)
The inside room was chock full of odd books, bizarre electronic devices, and even some alien books made out of metal. They wisely decided to start packing up things to head back out of the fire escape and attempt to discern who they were up again, but then there was a knock at the door...
"Hello? Mr Rodgers? It's the maid...." A jingle of keys could be heard afterwards
While the others scrambled, Steven ran towards the door to try to put the chain on the door, to try and buy them some extra time. Coordination was never his strong suit (critical failure on a DEX roll) and he tripped over one of the few pieces of furniture in the apartment, tumbling towards the door, only to be hit in the forehead by it when the maid open it. A failed CON roll later, and a Steven lay unconscious on the floor.
The caravan of investigator/burglars froze mid-action as they attempted to work their way from the book room back to the fire escape. The maid just looked like a confused maid, until she pulled a pistol out of her mop bucket and began firing.
Most of the group desperately dashed towards the window, except for Kalimah. The Turkish librarian was holding another oversized book and rashly decided to charge the maid.
USING A BIG-ASS BOOK IN COMBAT WITH SOMEONE HOLDING A GUN:
PRO: If it's thick enough, it will block a bullet.
CON: It's a big ass, unwieldy book, which does not do much damage and might allow the gun-wielding person to get off a few more shots.
Soon Kalimah was lying on the bloody floor and the rest had sprinted down the fire escape and hailed taxis. The spoils of the apartment were spread out to the investigator's different offices to somehow prevent them from being tailed.
Later that day, they met up at Dr Millehim's office to try to piece together what had happened and mourn the probable loss of two friends.
Then the phone rang.
It was Angela, Steven's shotgun toting pregnant wife. Between the screaming and cursing, Nichols could ascertain that Steven and an Egyptian whore were at a hospital uptown? Attempted murder?
When they got to the hospital, they noticed a large police presence on the floor, but managed to get ahold of a furious Angela. She said the police contacted her, claiming her husband was found unconscious in a seedy hotel near Harlem. A strange Arab woman was found with him with multiple gun shot wounds. Both would live, but Steve faced Attempted Murder charges, and if it was prositution gone awry, the woman would be shipped back to whatever country she belongs in.
This was where things got weird.
With some poor help from Cecelia's make-up friends in the theatre, Joshua was dressed up as a Turkish diplomat, with Bob has his official escort from Columbia (University). They demanded the release of Kalimah. In the ensuing ruckus with the police, Angela and company managed to get Steve out of his room and into a stairwell. When police noticed that, they turned their attention to the Math professor and allowed Dr Wintermute and Joshua to free Kalimah. I'm not quite sure how this actually occurred, but it appeared to a mixture of good rolls and the Keeper getting overwhelmed by the sheer audacity of the plan.
Their friends recovered, everyone returned to Dr Millheim's office (still sans Dr Millheim), but their efforts had revealed some unintended consequences. Steven had no memory since January 23rd and Kalimah remembered meeting Dr Wintermute in September of '23 and that was it. Upon further inspection, a uniform series of needle holes could be find at the base of each of their necks. The former patients were given a few days rest so everyone had time to plot their next moves.
March 26, 1924
Two days later, Steve was back up and running, although Kamilah was still in pretty bad shape. One of the books from the apartment was Clarence Rodgers diary, where he explained a relationship with a strange ancient race call the Yith, his relationship with Paul, using Paul as a conduit to bring the minds of the Yith from the past into the modern day (and sending his back to prehistoric Earth), and a mission to kill Paul and all of his loved ones.
Quick phone calls to Ma LeMond, Cecelia, and Angela later and the confirmed everyone was safe... for now. Cecelia seemed to changed from starlet mode back to occult geek mode and offered to help if it helped bring Paul back safely.
Steve managed to operate the strange electronic device. It generated a holographic image of a disturbing conical creature, with multiple limbs protruding upward and odd eye stalks. The creature apparently could see them too, and when it realized they were not familiar, cut off communications. The device would then turn on, but the feat could not duplicated.
Still figuring that Herb had something to do with Paul's disappearance, the crew went to his apartment and found the door wide open. Herb was twitching on the ground in a bloody heap, the only thing he could mutter as he made eye contact with them was "Bonnato." A quick search of the apartment yielded a series of bills to a "rest home" in Upstate New York. An ambulance was called before the investigators scattered.
Another follow-up with their missing PI. No widow Carson, no Detective Dresden.
They then went back over to Herb's office to check on Betty. She pulled out a letter requesting payment of a debt to Mr Bonnato with an address in Harlem, plus mentioned that Mr Rodgers showed up again.
The investigators proceed to Bonnato's address, some of the veteran investigators remembered the place from a certain Negro trumpet player who could raise the dead. They brazenly walked up to the large abandoned looking warehouse and were immediately accosted by arm thugs and pushed inside. The conversation with "Boss" Bonnato involved a lot of Nichols getting punched in the gut, and Bonnato flirting with Cecelia. He openly admitted to picking up Paul, handing him over to Herb. Herb was supposed to pay him for the services, but hadn't come up with the money... and that was on top of sizeable gambling debts.
Escaping with their lives, they went back to Betty. It looked as if Herb had Bonnato kidnap Paul, who in turn took him up to the rest home for an undetermined amount of time.
Betty showed that she was the brains of the operation by advising them that a notarized letter from Herb releasing Paul into the investigator's care would be all they needed. Awfully convenient, since she not only wrote Herb's signature on all his documents, but she was also a notary.
March 27, 1924
With the group in rough shape, only Wintermute and Nichols took the drive to the Woods Rest Home in Upstate New York. The home's director, Fabian Woods, escorted the duo with an orderly to Paul's room. He reminded them that Paul was under heavy sedation to counter the nightmares.
As Dr Fabian opened the door numerous small objects came whizzing out of the room, throwing him against the wall behind him. After a moment large amounts of blood poured out of five spots on his body, and he slumped to the ground, dead.
Peaking around the door they saw a man with a pistol and the maid from the apartment holding Paul's head and trying to insert some odd futuristic looking device to the back of his neck. The man tried to shoot at the investigators, but his gun misfired in a small explosion.
Nichols had recently upgraded his firearms before this investigation, so he pulled out his brand new .45 and unloaded half his clip into the man until he died. The woman stopped trying to to use the tool and made a violent, jerking motion, and then began screaming "get it out of me!" Over and over until falling into the fetal position.
Paul was safe for now.
The group got their reward money, and scandal befall the prestigious and discreet Woods Rest Home for celebrities and the wealthy.
For Nichols, he proved that he didn't need to be in the shadow of Dr Millhem, although it certainly helps, as does a new big ass gun.
For Joshua, the encounter at Pennywell and this new encounter with a strange new world of secrets just under our noses, made him feel alienated from his family, and made those Manhattan Juleps Dr Wintermute concocted far more appealing groan they should be.
For the rest, the Columbia Turkish Prostitution Scandal never saw the light of day, but it cost Dr Wintermute considerable clout, as well as Steven losing his "golden boy" status with the university. Employment for O'Hara was still guaranteed for September, just he was now on a very short leash.
Kalimah lost her academic standing and was deported, hopefully to Turkey.
And questions still linger everywhere, but the biggest ones were, "Where's Doc Millheim?" "Where's Carson and Dresden", and "Did Joshua keep the fez from when impersonated the Turkish diplomat?"
Cause fezzes are cool.
For those wanting a different take on events, check out Jugular Josh's recap here.