Late Wednesday, January 21st, 1925
We opened with Helen learning that her inquiries about strange new occult groups around the nightlife social scene in Harlem had paid dividends… at least as far as catching the attention of one Madame St. Clair. Mme. St. Clair appeared to have some connection with the bootlegging trade around ol’ Harlem way and she was perfectly willing to work with Helen (and any associates) who might be interested in the address of a warehouse where certain suspected cultists might convey illegal booze into and out of.
Having dropped the injured Mr. Murphy off with Helen’s driver, The Major and Mr. Morgan picked up Helen and the trio set off for a quiet farm on the Hudson valley. Silas N’Kwame, though mortally injured, proved most devoted to his cause—an ardent follower of a Dark Lord who was capable of spitting only venom. And that his leader, a Mr. “Mukunga M’Dare”, would surely exact some revenge. Silas never left the farm. The Major saw Helen safely returned to Natalia’s Brighton Bay residence—rapidly becoming a meeting point and general safe house for the gang—before returning, with Mr. Morgan, to the Ju-ju House. Some vagrants appeared ensconced in the alley, but that didn’t deter the pair as they used Silas’ key to enter the shop and descend, by means of a trap door, into a mysterious corridor below.
The corridor was elegantly assembled out of stones covered all over with carved inscriptions in a language neither man spoke. At one end, opposite the steep ship’s-ladder style staircase, lay an impressive vault door, locked and chained shut. A quick improvised explosive saw to the lock, and the Major carefully eased the well-lubricated door in. It opened on a pitch-black room, nearly architecturally impossible, some 40’ square. The door opened roughly in the middle; in one opposite corner stood a small alcove. The other side of the room was dominated by a large well-like structure, covered with a massive stone lid connected by means of a pulley system to a winch. In the center of the room stood a circle of used candles some 15’ in diameter. More candles lined the edges of the chamber. While Mr. Morgan monitored—and bought off—the vagrants, The Major entered the unsettling chamber. Upon crossing the room, a faint but distinct keening howl could be heard from the sealed well—never a good sign.
The Major crept upon the curtained alcove, and threw the curtains aside only to find himself staring at four… corpses? But unlike corpses, they sprang to a shuffling, demented imitation of life! The Major let his Thompson gun express his surprise, if indeed he had any at encountering the grim spectacle. Mr. Morgan had come running at the sounds of gun fire, but seeing the Major hard pressed—and the apparent ineffectual-ness of the .45 caliber slugs—he and the Major decided that a retreat, covered by some grenades was the best course of action. Returning to the group after torching the joint, they had their wounds tended to and a disturbing story to share.
Thursday, January 22nd, 1925
The morning brought the news of a general strike, and the news that Thomas, Helen, and the Major were needed back at Poole’s midtown precinct. The NYPD’s outside consultant, Dr. Mordecai Lemming, was prepared to make a full report, and Poole wanted the only living witnesses of this cult’s bloody activity he could get his hands on present. With the whole day ahead of them, the party drew up plans. In the morning Helen, Natalia, the Father, and the Major would proceed to Albany, to speak with the State Medical Board about Dr. Huston’s files. Between Helen’s nursing credentials, the Father’s moral presence, the Major’s look of gravitas, and no small about of library work from Natalia, they quickly found the—mis-filed!—records. And what a sordid story they told!
In the afternoon, Richard decamped to follow up Mme. St. Clair’s warehouse lead, while Natalia and the Father went to examine the wreckage of the Ju-ju House. Richard was able to circumnavigate the strike line with ease and, staying out of sight along the piers, was able to observe Mukunga—a man he’d seen before, fleeing from Winston’s charity ball—giving orders for the unloading of a small skiff of crates. He was able to unobtrusively follow the crates to their destination, and, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, made a mental note to return soon.
Natalia and the Father, noticing that the authorities had cordoned off the burned shop, disguised themselves as fire inspectors and proceeded to get a closer look. Much to the Keeper’s chagrin, they declined to explore the mysterious ritual chamber further, though they were able to place the carvings in the hallway as being of African—quite possibly East African—origin, though a translation defied them. Prepared for this impasse, they obtained rubbings, and informed the uniformed policeman stationed out front that the place was a structural risk and should not be entered.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Poole was introducing Professor Lemming and a youngish black woman who was theoretically his research assistant. The professor rose and gave a rambling speech, full of inaccuracies and vague generalizations. His research aide disputed several points, and after a warning, was sent out of the room. Helen followed, while the Major remained to the bitter end of the professor’s ludicrous lecture, often attempting to spar with him. The young woman introduced herself to Helen as Ainra von Schattenberg, a German-Tanzanian student of considerable ability but limited social means. She was aghast that the professor was leading the police astray and volunteered to help in any way she could if the party were serious about thwarting the machinations of this regressive and backwards cult.
Next session will pick things up Friday morning! There’s a funeral to go to at 2pm, and a visit to the Carlyle Estate after. And Saturday morning there’s the small matter of a total solar eclipse. What could possibly go wrong :)?