Masks of Nyarlathotep

Masks of Nyarlathotep - part 2

Paintings and Paranoia

Our heroes awake to the morning paper reporting a fire at Ju Ju house and a report inside about the death of Anthony Cowles in a car ‘accident’. As they take this in there is a knock at the door. Olive L’amour, one time member of the guild, has had a change of heart regarding Elias’ request for help in his investigation and has come to join the party. Her arrival is timely for 2 reasons. Firstly she arrives just in time to replace Serene, who’s room is empty. She has obviously decided enough is enough and headed back to Arkham. Secondly, Olive arrives with a fresh clue, a pamphlet published by the Penhew foundation in the year before the Carlyle expedition departed for Africa. The pamphlet was obtained for Elias by a dealer in NY who bought the copy from the Carlyle library. It even has an inscription, appearing to have been sent from Aubrey Penhew to Roger Carlyle. Indeed, it appears to have been meant for the playboy millionaire all along, as this appears to be the only copy in existence, all others having been bought up by the Penhew foundation. The inscription also mentions an ‘M’weru’, possibly the ‘negro woman’ that Roger was apparently infatuated with in the months leading up to the expedition.

This new lead pointing at the Penhew foundation confirmed to the investigators that they should head to London. First they decided to contact Simon at the RPG to try and get one of the members from the psychiatry department to try and gain access to Dr. Huston’s files. Simon said he would try and it was agreed that if successful he would send them to London.

As they hung up with Simon they were called by an excitable Jonah Kensington who asked them to come to his offices. They set off in two cars, Tristram and Olive in his sports car and the others in Bill’s pick-up. On the way to Prospero press, Bill and Ted noticed a black Model A Ford that appeared to be tailing them. Bill turned off and the car followed. After a few more turns through the busy Monday morning traffic Bill pulled over to see what the tail would do. It too pulled over, a few cars back from them.

Ted got out of the pick-up and strolled nonchalantly back past the car, hoping they would follow him. They did not. He continued all the way round the block and returned to the car to report that there were two large black gentlemen in the car. An argument ensued as to the best course of action to take next and, whilst this was happening the two men got out of their car and began walking towards them. This decided the argument and Bill tried to start the truck but the engine refused to turn over. When the cultists heard the engine they pulled out machete’s and ran to each window.

As one approached the passenger side door Ted swung it open as hard as he could and levelled the guy before jumping out to get him. Bill still couldn’t turn the engine over and the cultist on his side began trying to smash his window. Chester pulled out his .45, pushed Bill down and shot the cultist in the face. Outside, Ted was pulled down by the cultist but a well-aimed knee to the groin resulted in the painful incapacitation of the man.

As they took stock of the situation the police arrived and they gave themselves up.

Meanwhile, Olive and Tristram made their way to Jonah’s office. Prospero Press had suffered a break-in and it was obvious they’d been looking for Elias’ notes. Luckily, Jonah had been forewarned. He had received a letter from Elias, written before his death but predicting the same. In the letter, sent from Hong Kong some months earlier, Jackson asks Kensington to give anyone looking into his death all the help they need. He gives them the originals of Elias notes which contain more detailed leads. With this in mind and the ramping up of Cultist activity, Jonah suggests he sort them out passage on the next ship to England. The two investigators head back to their hotel, hoping to meet up with their mysteriously vanished comrades.

They arrive to a chaotic scene. At least two bodies are being brought out of the hotel along with Wilburforce, Tristram’s man, who is badly injured. He apologises for only taking out two of the cultists before he is rushed to hospital. When they rush up to the room it is clear that all their physical evidence, the mask, bowl, robe etc. has been taken, their belongings trashed and the room wrecked. Tristram rings Jonah, hoping the others have made contact. Jonah advises them to get out of the hotel to somewhere less salubrious and gives them the address of a hotel in queens that won’t ask for names at check-in. Aware of the conspicuous nature of Tristram’s car, they take a taxi.

Meanwhile the others are being questioned by two detectives, Smith and Jones, who are not entirely convinced by their ‘self-defence’ story, especially considering Chester’s previous run-in with the law back in Chicago. The investigators unreliable recollections of the events of the last week don’t help as the detectives follow up inconsistencies in their stories. They quickly come to the conclusion that they have nothing on Bill and release him but Ted and Chester are held for questioning.

Bill returns to the hotel and, finding it ransacked and abandoned, rings Jonah. Jonah tells him where the others are and warns Bill to be careful. Bill abandons his truck and takes a taxi, noticing the tail almost immediately. With a 5 dollar inducement and a bit of time the taxi driver loses the tail and deposits him at the flophouse, where he spots some cultists in the by now standard black ford staking out the place. Deciding the only thing he can do is warn the others, Bill enters the hotel and makes his way to Ted and Olive’s room.

After filling each other in on the day’s events, they decide to sneak out the back of the hotel and make their way back to the police station, reasoning that custody is probably the safest place to be until Wednesday morning. They put the plan into action immediately and managed to sneak out of the back door without being spotted. In the alley behind the hotel, 4 bums were settling down for the night. With a bit of persuasion from Olive and financial inducement from Tristram they swapped clothes and headed out of the alley near the cultists car, leading them away and allowing the investigators to get away on the subway. Almost as soon as they sat down they began to feel drowsy and drifted to sleep.

Back at the police station, the detectives were pushing Chester hard. They softened up on Ted but didn’t release him, instead using him to poke holes in Chester’s account of events. Eventually they had enough for the day and left them to stew in the cells overnight. All the investigators were beset by strange dreams between now and when they left NY.

When the investigators on the train awoke it was to the sound of a conductor throwing them off the train at the end of the line. They were at the end of the line, the far side of Manhattan from where they needed to be and it was now the early hours of Tuesday morning. Being unable to hail one of the very few cabs operating at this time, due to their shabby appearance, they resolved to walk the forty or so blocks to the police station. The night was freezing and when they finally arrived the desk sergeant took pity on them and allowed them to sit in the entrance lobby of the station until morning. They managed to drift off and the dreams came once more. They awake to Detectives Smith and Jones arriving back at the station along with Detective Poole. When Poole sees them he reports that the police have discovered the bums that they swapped clothes with dead in an alley. After they relate the previous day’s events to him, Poole offers them protective custody and an escort to the docks the next morning, an offer the investigators gratefully accept. He also tells them that Smith and Jones are about to release Ted and Chester, having accepted their claims of self-defence with a little persuasion from Poole.

Once Jones is alone with Chester, however, he warns the watchmaker that the Bloody Tongue does not like to be thwarted and digs his fingers into the old man’s shoulder wound. After this, Chester is adamant that the NYPD is not to be trusted. It is only through much coaxing that he is persuaded that Jones is an isolated case and not the tip of a department wide cultist iceberg. They spend the rest of the day going over what’s happened and trying to decide what the next move should be.

The next day they are driven uneventfully to their ship and depart New York for Southampton. When boarding the ship, they notice Joe Brady, Erica Carlyle’s bodyguard, openly watching them as they board. Tristram is punched in the nose by an irate Spaniard, who turns out to be Hypatia Masters ex-lover, concerned that the questions Tristram had been asking about her would damage her reputation. Conversations with these men during the 5 day passage reveal nothing of interest. Brady claims to be ‘on vacation’ and the ex-lover refuses to be drawn into conversation with Ted. The investigators spend the rest of the trip going over what they know, looking at various clues in more detail and deciding on their course of action.

The only other matter of interest on the cruise is the spontaneous recovery of Chester’s obviously infected shoulder wound, which heals itself in a matter of days. This is a great relief to him but the confiscation of his .45 revolver at customs takes the shine of somewhat.

Arriving in London, the gang hole up in a suite at the Ritz. On arrival they receive Dr.Huston’s notes on Roger Carlyle, obtained for them by a member of the Guild. The notes mention an M’Weru, which could well be the name of the negro woman Erica mentioned. It also speaks of Huston ‘being exposed’ if he doesn’t go on the expedition. What could this mean?

They decide that the first orders of business should be speaking to Mick Maloney and Inspector Barrington of the yard, 2 contacts of Elias Jackson whose names were passed on by Jonah. They also want to try and find out what has become of Tristram’s cousin, sent to have a nosy around the Penhew foundation two weeks previously and not heard from since.

First up, they all head to the offices of The Daily Scoop on Fleet street, the tabloid that Mahoney edits. As they leave the hotel, Joe Brady is sat at the bar and raises a glass to them as they go. Maloney is friendly and welcoming having heard of Elias’ death and eager to help uncover the reason for his murder. He gives them three newspaper clippings that Elias seemed interested in. One is a report of a painter in Soho, whose work has received some attention recently for its horrific subject matter, supposedly painted from the painters ‘visions’ of alien worlds. The next is a report of a series of gruesome murders in a small Derbyshire village, supposedly carried out by a ‘beast that walked like a man.’ Thirdly is an update on the investigation into the so called ‘egyptian murders’ a series of horrible crimes in which the victims have been beaten to pulps before having their hearts pierced. The policeman in charge of the investigation is an Inspector Barrington, who Maloney confirms is the same man mentioned by Jonah.

Maloney tells them that Elias was not his usual self when he arrived in London towards the end of the previous year. He seemed nervous and on edge, fidgety, not his usual collected self. Something, or someone had scared him badly. Maloney isn’t sure what he did in London, but knows that he came here from the far east, Shanghai by way of Hong Kong.

The investigators decide to follow up these new leads immediately. While Tristram and Ted head to the formers London club to see if anyone has seen the cousin, Olive leads the others to Miles Shipley’s house, the painter mentioned in the article, posing as American art dealers. The door is opened by an elderly lady who turns out to be the artist’s mother. Through some persuasive fast-talk, they are admitted to the house and lead up to the studio by the artist. The house is dark, kerosene lamps provide some light but they are not bright. The house is clean, but a little bare.

Arriving in the attic, the investigators get their first look at the paintings. They are indeed horrific, showing strange, otherworldly scenes that leave the viewer feeling uncomfortable. Olive attempts to find out more about the inspiration for these images but Miles is obviously highly strung, mad even and after a few moments talking takes offence at an innocuous comment and ushers them out of the studio, refusing to sell them any of his work. On the way out, Chester notices a cupboard in the room with a heavy padlock on the door.

Downstairs, they attempt to find out more by gently interrogating the mother but she is no more forthcoming than her son. The party leave, certain that this house requires further investigation.

Meanwhile Tristram and Ted discover that the cousin did indeed make it to London and was seen around the club up until about two and a half weeks ago. He hasn’t been seen since, though no-one seems particularly concerned. After a delightful meal, Tristram and Ted head back to the hotel to meet with the others.

After hearing what happened at the Soho house, Tristram and Ted agree that further investigation is needed. A plan is concocted to gain access to the locked room in the attic. Ted and Tristram will go back to the house, posing as rival art dealers and offer to buy all Miles’ paintings with no searching questions. Once the painter agrees they will insist on taking both him and his mother out for a meal to seal the deal. Once the house is empty, the others will break in. There is some discussion over what they will do if the mother refuses to go as they discovered on the first visit that she’s been something of a shut-in since the death of Mr. Shipley but it is decided that this will not be a bar to the plan. After all, how much trouble could one old lady be?

Ted and Tristram arrive at the house and Tristrams obvious wealth makes entry smooth sailing. They are shown the paintings and offer to buy the whole collection. Miles, with prompting from his mother, agrees. Ted invites them both out for dinner and, after a little cajoling, Miles agrees but Mrs. Shipley will not go whatever they say. After a few minutes trying to persuade her, Ted accepts that it will only be Miles going with them. They troop downstairs, still urging the old lady to come with them when Tristram catches a glimpse of the old ladies shadow in the light of the Kerosene lamp. The shadow is not that of an old lady, rather of some huge, serpent like creature. Tristram tries to tell Ted what he has seen without alerting the residents of the house but gets stuck in some-kind of feedback loop and begins babbling uncontrollably.

Ted realises instantly that something is very wrong and tries to excuse them from the dinner and extricate them from the house, but suddenly, Mrs. Shipley is very insistent that they stay, at least until Tristram has had a sit down and a nice cup of tea. They are lead to the parlour and sat down on opposite sides of the room. Miles sits down next to Tristram and watches him closely as he continues to speak in tongues. Ted once again attempts to be allowed to leave but Mrs. Shipley returns with the tea, gives one cup to an unresisting Tristram and the other to Ted. Suddenly, the last thing Ted wants to do is drink the tea and he attempts to convince the Shipley’s that he needs to leave. Ted finally insists on leaving and goes to get up from his seat, at which point Mrs. Shipley stabs him in the shoulder with her knitting needle. Ted cries out and the old instincts kick in as he punches the old lady square in the jaw. She goes flying backwards and lands heavily on the floor. Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the matter as she begins screeching and writhing. Suddenly, where moments before there was a little old lady, there is now an eight foot serpent man. Seeing this transformation is too much for Ted’s fragile state of mind and he withdraws, curling up into a ball on the floor and rocking gentle back and forth. Miles also leaps to his feet, grabbing a meat cleaver that was secreted by the side of the sofa, yelling in anger. He turns and swings it at the gibbering Tristram, who can only watch helplessly as the blade buries itself into the back of the sofa inches from his head.

Meanwhile, outside in their hiding place, Olive, Bill and Chester hear Ted’s yell quickly followed by a strange, otherworldly screeching and rush to aid their friends. On the way, Olive grabs a half-brick from the front garden and Chester grabs a milk bottle waiting for the milkman. Arriving at the entrance to the house, 59 year old Chester lifts his leg and kicks the door off its hinges with one devastating kick. Bill rushes in, heading down the hall and turning into the doorway of the room and freezes when he sees the Lizard man, on his feet now and looming over the cowering Ted. The monster turns to face him and starts a strange sibilant chanting. Chester arrives, pushing into the doorway besides Bill and comes up short. Olive, unable to get past the others to help and thinking quickly rushes up the stairs, hoping to get into the cupboard in the attic. Miles, seeing the newcomers turns and advances on them with his meat cleaver. Chester and Bill hurl themselves into the fray, mostly ineffectually, punching at Miles and the Lizard. As it finishes chanting it throws a hand up at Bill, who feels his mind twist as a blast of terror hits him in the face. Overcome with horror, Bill runs straight past the lizard and leaps out of the front window, rolling as he hits the garden outside, leaps the wall and flees into the night.

Chester manages to land a good punch on miles, but then the crazed painter swings the cleaver straight him and buries it in his chest. Chester looks down at the blade protruding from his chest, whimpers and collapses to the floor. This seems to snap Tristram out of his insensibility and he quickly takes in the situation. Jumping to his feet he draws his sword cane and charges the Lizards from behind, stabbing it through the neck. The creature hisses in pain and swivels round, aiming his snapping jaws at his attacker. Tristram jumps back, avoiding the attack, but Miles turns to help his ‘mother’ and lands a good right hook on Tristram who goes down. Things look bad for our heroes now. Tristram is unconscious, Ted is a small ball of terror, Chester is bleeding out in the hallway and Bill has run off in terror into the night. They are helpless as their enemies loom over them. Suddenly, the lizards head tilts back, his tongue darts out and with a quick gesture to Miles they both begin running up the stairs.

Whilst the fight was happening on the ground floor, Olive made her way up to the attic, used her brick to smash the lock and discover a easel upon which was a canvas with a sheet covering it. Removing the sheet, Olive saw a painting of a small island in the middle of a dark swamp. In its centre stood an altar and in the shallow water of its banks, lizard men waded. As Olive stared the picture seemed to shift, becoming three dimensional. She pulled it off the easel and took it into the main room, throwing it onto the floor. As she glanced at it she noticed that the water appeared to be rippling gently in a non-existent wind. She heard footsteps on the stairs and grabbed the kerosene lamp from the ceiling, holding it over the painting. The lizard and Miles pile up the stairs into the room. Olive takes the sight of an eight foot lizard man in her stride and yells out.

‘One more step and I torch it!’ there is a moment of silence as the three of them weigh up there options. Suddenly, with a quick ‘fuck it’ Olive smashes the lamp on the painting. The lizard screeches in fury and leaps across the room towards her, snapping his toothy jaws at her throat, whilst Miles runs to the burning picture and begins beating at it to put out the flames. Olive dodges the lizards attack and makes to run for the door and freedom.

As she goes to run, her foot slips from under her and she comes crashing to the ground beside the lizard. She feels a terrible weight as it puts a foot on her back and feels cold scales as it grabs her hair and forces up her head. In horror, Olive realises that Miles has succeeded in putting out the flames and is holding up the painting right in front of her eyes. She finds she cannot look away as the lizardmen in the painting begin to move and the smells of stagnant water begin to drift from the painting. The scene becomes more real with each passing second until the painting is real and the small, Soho attic room is gone completely.

She is lying on the small island. The altar glows before her and the sounds of splashing drift from the waters all around. The air is warm and muggy. Olive gets to her feet, takes a deep breath and steadies herself. Walking to the altar she sees nothing she can recognise, either in its design or in the symbols carved upon it. Behind her is the sound of wet feet on earth and a low, warning hiss. She turns and sees two of the lizards advancing on her. The first one leaps at her, cracking her skull and knocking her into blissful unconsciousness as they advance to feed upon her corpse.

Olives sacrifice is not in vain, however. She has given the others chance to recover. Ted drags himself to his feet and notes his two comrades on the floor. Chester has recovered consciousness and is dragging himself towards the front door. Tristram is still passed out, his jaw cocked at an unnatural angle. Ted reaches down and attempts to lift his comrade, but his strength seems to have left him and he drops the dead weight. The sound of footsteps coming down the stairs gives him impetus and he tries again but fails once more. As the footsteps start coming down the last flight Ted tries once more, panicking now. He finally manages to hoist Tristrams dead weight over his shoulder, grabs the sword cane and heads for the broken window.

Meanwhile, Chester is dragging himself to the front door. Remembering Mrs. Shipley’s reluctance to leave the house from their previous conversation, he hopes that if he makes it over the threshold the lizard will be stuck and he’ll only have Miles to worry about. He’s nearly out when they start coming down the stairs and see him. Chester pulls himself to his feet and staggers out of the

house, but the lizard piles down the stairs towards him, and continues out of the door. Steeling himself, Chester throws a desperate punch, connecting with the onrushing lizard and knocking it cold. Miles screams in fury and comes charging forwards, just in time to meet Ted, coming to Chester’s aid who throws a punch so hard that they hear the mad artist’s neck snap like a twig. He crumples to the floor. Ted draws Tristram’s sword and stabs the prone lizard enough times to be sure it’s dead.

Bill arrives back in time to see this. Having come to his senses halfway down the street, he forced himself to return and help. As the investigators lick their wounds and figure out how to get Chester and Tristram to the hospital, Bill runs back into the house to find Olive. Arriving in the attic, he finds a half burned painting on the floor. Looking closely at it, he sees a small island in a swamp. On the island, two lizard men appear to be feasting on something. On closer inspection the thing appears human. And as he stares closer, and the image begins to become three dimensional, Bill finally realises that it is Olive. Raising the canvas up, Bill smashes it on his knee, tearing it beyond repair.

‘Where’s Olive?’ Ted asks as Bill returns.

‘Olive’s not coming.’ Bill replies.

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