Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CoC #35: Masks of Nyarlathotep #15 "Washing the Dishes"

June 4, 1925 - Shanghai, China
Starting in the Japanese settlement in late May, demonstrations and full-out riots by Chinese students and workers, had spread to the four corners of the city. Over the next two days the increasing violence in the street made it harder and harder for anyone to leave their hotel.  Many Europeans were fleeing their homes or other hotels for the safety of the Hotel des Colonies, where the Investigators were staying. Many patrons were staying in their rooms, using room service for meals, and answered the doors with firearms at the ready.  
June 5, 1925 - Shanghai, China
With the riots worsening, and the window closing for contacting their Japanese Imperial Navy contacted Captain Isoge Taro,  reporter David Kavida and big-game hunter RJ Cunninghame pushed the rest of the group to send the group's interpreter, Li-Weng Chen over to the American Settlement to make contact with the officer at the Stumbling Tiger Bar. 

In the note hidden on Chen, they covered only what they knew for sure.
  • Another group has uncovered the site of the weapon, an island off the coast of China
  • They are not only interested in the group developing the weapon, and lay no claim to the technology
  • The help of the Imperial Japanese Navy would be most appreciative
Chen didn't arrive back at the Hotel des Colonies until after dinner.  He carried one note in his hand the other note shoved into the back of his pants.

Letter #1:
  • More specifics on this other entity is required, but he could acquire two naval vessels for support purposes in less than four days.
  • If the other group is that dedicated for revenge, no Japanese sailor will participate in an illegal slaughter, on possible foreign soil.  He task the investigators to ensure no parts of the weapon are damaged by the other group's bloodlust.
Letter #2
  • All future correspondence, or requests to attend face to face meetings should be done through a mailbox located on the far side of the city.  The Stumbling Tiger is not safe for ANYONE anymore.
June 6, 1925 - Shanghai, China
At breakfast, Dr Bob Wintermute received a message under his coffee cup.

"The Woman is among the crowds, far too dangerous.  You need to move.   Wash your dishes around 5pm   -B"  
While Jack Brady had scheduled communication with them within the time frame, it appeared legitimate, but it's cryptic nature confused the group.
The potential for violence in the street had escalated so much that Westerners were hiring armed non-Chinese thugs to escort them anywhere, and sometimes that tragically didn't work..  Fires  burned off in the distance, and there was no evidence to believe anyone was trying to put them out.
The hotel had been overbooked, with even the lounges closing a bit early to allow room for more people to sleep.
Steven O'Hara was able to use his charm and charisma to convince a French family to switch rooms with them.  Convincing them that the recent plaster and minor renovations made it a much better room one the wife over in particular.   He failed to disclose that the rug in the room was covering up a substantial blood stain.

After lunch, the group continued to debate the meaning and legitimacy of the Brady's note.  Everyone agreed that they needed to vacate the hotel ASAP, however the logistics proved more daunting by the second.
They decided to order dinner early, so as to have some time to work out what was supposed to happen.  It was a regular service, with no cryptic note, no secret handshake from the hotel staff, no one was poisoned etc...

As Cunninghame began to wash his dishes in the bathroom sink to set out, Father Dorian Dolan, the Anglican priest made a stunning realization:  They didn't need to wash the dishes, they needed to be WHERE they washed the dishes... which would be towards a back door and a possibly secret escape by Brady or the New Army to a (hopefully) safer location.
The rest didn't buy this idea at, but the good Father convinced Steven to humor him a bit and back Dolan up on a jaunt to the hotel kitchen.
The duo worked their way through the busy waitstaff, in the midst of a chaotic dinner service for a packed hotel restaurant, until they reached the dish sinks... right next to a screened over back door.
Steven peeked out the door to see at least three Chinese who looked like the exact people Brady tried to avoid.   They didn't appear to notice the eye staring through the crack in the door.

Unfortunately an impatient waiter plowed past Father Dolan, who in turn pushed into Steven's back and him out into the back alley.

As the three very bad-looking guys turned towards him, with a fourth appearing beyond some boxes, a hand grabbed Steven's and Father Dolan's shoulders, and said, in heavily accented English, "Don't go out.  Not safe.  Friends ready I can take you to Mr Brady.  But not that way. "
He tried to walk the pair out of the kitchen through a service hallway, and into the freight elevator. Gunfire could be heard from the kitchen.
As the doors to the freight elevator shut, the fake hotel employee spoke:

"I am Zhu Quinong of the New China Army. I was to watch you for last few days, but you almost yourself killed!  I can take you to New Army truck to take you to headquarters, but it tree blocks away!  We need to grab your friends and go!"  
The trio sprinted back to the room, where there was great confusion.  While the group was all packed up and ready to bug out, Wintermute simply refused to believe that the dishwasher was who he said he was, especially after he explained that the safest way to travel to the truck was by roof!  The rest had had enough, grabbed all the bags and guns, and headed up the stairs, leaving Wintermute with his paranoia, a small satchel, and a his rifle. He took a moment to clean off his glasses, and the moment his stepped out of the room, a throwing knife struck the open door, about three inches out from and a foot above his head.
Emerging out of the elevator were the four men, who looked like they had nothing to do with an earnest dishwasher.   Wintermute raised his rifle and let out one quick shot, which hit the knife thrower in the middle of the forehead . The resulting explosion of skull and brain was enough to distract the men so Wintermute could ash down the hall to the stairs and attempt to catch up with his compatriots.  Before the door to the stairwell closed, Wintermute felt a stinging pain in his upper leg as he was nicked with a throwing knife but he was still faster than his pursuer's and caught up with the group.
While many of the buildings in Shanghai appeared to be flush against each other, or were connected by the roof, many had a two to three foot gap between them, sometimes larger, and some roofs had a two-plus story difference in height!

With a group of academics, clergy, and retired men of adventure, the goal of the group was to outdistance the cultists without plunging to their deaths or succumbing to a heart attack for the leaping, running, and jumping required.    It appeared that Zhu had familiarized himself with the rooftops for just this occasion, hopping to and fro, leaping a story down with a roll and a hop.  Steven O'Hara seemed equally at ease, finding the easiest routes to climb and safest ways to jump, and the rest followed suit with some discomfort.  For RJ Cunninghame, some of the gaps proved too much, and he continually landed with a wincing thud.  Yet, the big game hunter showed much resolve and picked himself up and scrambled on, where lesser men should have blacked out from the pain.
By the end of the second block, their tail had been left in the dust. Zhu continued to stick with his plan, however Cunninghame had other plans.  Climbing up over wall, he lost his grip and fell through the first story roof of a brothel below.  Lucky for him, a collection of pillows couches, and prostitutes broke his fall, but he needed help to escape.   Other cultists had been following the group via street level and sprung at their chance to capture one of the investigators. Steven bounded down the hole to protect his friend, while Kavida found the door from the roof and ran down. Cunnighame, Wintermute, and Francois Guerin fired at the cultists from the rooftops with rifles while Steven and Kavida  retrieved the big game hunter, got him back on the roof.  Despite some numerical superiority inside the brothel, the cultists quickly withdrew after a few pinpoint pistol shots by the rescue team. 
Back on the roof, group needed to only dodge some wildly errant shots from the cultists on the final third of their journey, finally reaching a small streetfront warehouse with a single large door and a smaller one built inside it.  A few tense second later and someone let Zhu in.  Inside were some crates, marked in Russian, one old  American truck from the Great War...

It was cramped in the back, especially since Zhu and his contact who let him in forced them to load crates of ammunition in the back before departing.  It was even more disconcerting when they shut and tied the canvas flaps in the back, forcing the investigators into near darkness as they started the was long, hot, and stressful trip to some undisclosed location.   

By the time the truck stopped for good, it was past sundown.  As they were let you out of the back they realized the truck had entered a far larger, better lit warehouse.  Dozens of Chinese wearing olive drab uniforms and buzz cuts were performing a number of different martial tasks. 

One man, noticeably older and the only one wearing  a hat,(no star) walked up to the group and in broken English orated a pre-rehearsed speech.

I... am.... Mu Chien.... of Firm Action New China Army... You guests of Jack...  here safe *points at a line of cots* Message from Brady come morning.  You help, big attack soon."  He snaps to attention and walks off. 

Zhu and the others attempted to make as comfortable as Spartan military conditions allowed.   First aid was made on the cuts, scrapes and fall from their escape.   
No one slept that night.  A healthy dose of paranoia combined with martial arts training and what amounted to a small political pep rallies made sure at least two were awake at any time.  Not a soul bothered them.  Of course the investigators could feel some weird ease as they lay surrounded by crates of bullets, grenades, and mortar rounds....

Next: Masks #16 "We're in the Warehouse Now"

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