Posts tagged Gumshoe

Eternal Lies – Session 17

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1934: The Investigators borrowed a locomotive from the Compagnia Mineraria Coloniale in Mersa Fatma. They made arrangements to depart for the small village of Kolluli. Before they left, James “Tick Tock” Cohan assembled a small group of local men to act a guards. They were led by a young man named LAZARE. He was Afar and assured James that he and his companions were skilled at traveling in the desert.

The Investigators had been warned about bandits, so they were all wary, as the train traveled away from Mersa Fatma and into the desert. Dorothy Howard talked a bit with Lazare. He showed off his jile, a curved knife his father gave him. Meanwhile James bonded with YONAS, the taciturn demolitions specialist, formerly employed by the CMC. As they moved closer to the Ethiopian border, Luke Davis noticed a robed figure on camel back, watching the train from the horizon. An eerie breeze sprung up, and the man seemed to be aware of Luke’s gaze. He pointed the figure out to Chantelle Perreault. She caught a glimpse of it, but the train was already moving away.

Near evening, the train reached the end of the line, known as Iron Point. At the village nearby village of Kolluli, the Investigators were greeted by curious children, with whom James bonded. The group was also scrutinized by a much respected leader of the local Afar community, MUHOHO. She invited the Investigators to her home for food. The Investigators’ guide, OGHAI, strongly urged them to accept her invitation.

Muhoho talked with the Investigators, who were hungry and tired from they trip through the desert. She seemed to be pumping them for information concerning their deeper reasons for traveling to an old archaeological dig site at the remote point known as Dallol. A strange group of Afar have taken up residence in that area, and Muhoho warned the Investigators to avoid them. She seemed suspicious of Luke, and asked Oghai to remove him briefly, so she could warn the Investigator about her impressions of him. She also gave James some guidance concerning his desire to quit using nectar. He told her about the loss of his mentor, VINCE STACK, who was lost in the 1924 massacre. She showed him some simple meditative practices, and he allowed his one dose of Nectar to be poured out onto the floor.

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Eternal Lies – Session 16

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1934: In Axum, Eritrea, the Investigators were standing outside the home in which the body of archaeologist BARTOLO ACUÑA had been discovered. Acuña was hanging from the ceiling by his wrists, and his host lay murdered nearby. A crowd had gathered, and members of the local constabulary were questioning the Investigators about their presence there and about the fact that Chantelle Perreault had visited the house on the previous day. Dorothy Howard pointed out to the officers that trucks had just left town, presumably bearing archaeologist HUSAIN SOLIMAN and his companions.

1934 was a strange time in Ethiopia…the things you learn in these games

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1934: The Investigators made their way back to the home of their own host, DESTA EJIGU. They noticed that the residents of Axum were eying them suspiciously and decided to make arrangements to leave town, as the constables had suggested. Their guide ABAI found them a place on a truck that was leaving town soon. Luke Davis sent a telegram to customs officer CARLO SALVATORE, in which he implicated Soliman and his companions in the murders in Axum. Chantelle sent a telegram to her estranged husband, ALEXANDRE, updating him of her movements and experiences.

The truck carried the group back to the port city of Massaua. During the trip, Abai talked with James “Tick Tock” Cohan. He offered James a job with his employers and expressed concern over the intentions of James’ companions. James declined the offer, which might have taken him to England, and he and Abai wished each other well.

Arriving in Massaua, the Investigators parted with Abai. They noticed a general tension between the Italian military authorities and the indigenous people that had not been there before. The Investigators conferred briefly with Salvatore, who told them that Soliman and his companions were being detained for questioning at the airport, thanks to Luke’s telegram. Salvatore also pointed them to a new guide, OGBAI.

Ogbai is older, more taciturn and commanding, but seems knowledgeable and competent. He speaks English, Italian, and Arabic and knows the area around Dallol, Ethiopia. The Investigators have decided to travel there in search of the remains of the 1924-1926 dig led by Acuña and missing archaeologist/cultist GEORGE AYERS.

According to Ogbai’s suggestions, the Investigators caught a boat from Massaua to the smaller mining town of Mersa Fatma. Here they approached the manager of the Compagnia Mineraria Coloniale, RENZO SEGNI. The company is largely shut down, so Segni agreed to let them use a small locomotive to travel through the harsh Danakil Desert to Iron Point, near the small village of Kolluli. Dorothy and Chantelle joined him for dinner at his home, where he insinuated interest in some sort of engagement involving them and his three wives.

Luke conferred with Segni’s capable assistant, SINUHE DJAU, who warned of bandits and of a group of Afar who have put aside a more traditional nomadic lifestyle. They have inhabited a small villager closer to the Dallol dig site, surrounded by what they call the Agony on the Wind.

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Eternal Lies – Session 15

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1934: In Axum, Eritrea, Chantelle went to interview BARTOLO ACUÑA for a second time. It was early morning. As she approached the house at which Acuña was staying, Chantelle glanced through a window and saw an old man looking back at her in fear. He was Acuña’s host, whom Chantelle had glimpsed before. He signaled her with his eyes that something was wrong inside the house.

Chantelle stopped to listen. She heard the sounds of angry men speaking English. Only a few words reached her—something about hanging something. Chantelle could not get a good view without exposing herself, but she guessed that there was a small group of people present. She made a hasty exit.

So many TTRPGs…I love the huge variety of settings and styles

Still acting as tour guide, ABAI led Dorothy and James to Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, (Tsion Maryam). The attached Chapel of the Tablet is rumored to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Virtually no one is allowed access to the Ark, but James’ heartfelt plea allowed him to briefly visit the chapel. (Dorothy’s offer of a sizable donation was declined.) The priest accompanied him, and he found the Ark under armed guard. He witnessed a strange shimmering effect in the air of the chapel.

Chantelle returned to the house at which the group was lodging. Luke had woken just recently to find that the false journal he’d had planted has been stolen. Dorothy told him what she’d witnessed at the house where Acuña was staying. Luke spoke briefly with their host DESTA EJIGU in her garden.

The group shared another meal with Abai, who remained nervous. At night, James made his way to the tents by the Northern Field of stelae. He stole into the large screen tent and found a small typewriter and desk set up near a dinning table. He stole some documents, including an image of a cartouche and a letter from HUSAIN SOLIMAN to SAVITREE SIRIKHAN. James noted that there were other men stationed about, including someone sleeping in the back of the large tent and at least one other man in a small tent. He approached the entrance of an ancient tomb and overheard men talking about leaving Axum.

After James returned to the house, the group compared notes. They heard cries up the street. A crowd was gathering around the house where Acuña had been staying. The archaeologist and his host had been beaten to death. Acuña’s body was left hanging from the ceiling of the house. As local law enforcement agents approached the Investigators, Dorothy saw a few trucks driving away into the night, presumably carrying away Soliman and his companions.

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Eternal Lies – Session 14

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1934: In Axum, Eritrea, James “Tick Tock” Cohan continued to survey the street, while his companions interviewed Spanish archaeologist BARTOLO ACUÑA inside a nearby house. Tick Tock asked the group’s guide ABAI whether he knew of any strangers in town. Abai passed the question to a local woman, who confirmed that there was a group of foreigners in town, including the large angry man Tick Tock had already met.

the Investigators continued to interview Spanish archaeologist BARTOLO ACUÑA. He described the Ethiopian dig that he and missing cultist GEORGE AYERS led from 1924-1926. Their entire crew was lost when a volcano erupted near the ancient chamber they’d unearthed near Dallol. Ayers and Acuña were off site, visiting the Compagnia Mineraria Coloniale (CMC) in Mersa Fatma. Once the dig was halted, Acuña returned to Spain in exasperation, while Ayers headed back to Dallol, only to disappear. Acuña told Luke that the only possible remnants of the ancient chamber would be buried with the workers lost at Dallol.

Acuña said he’d fled Spain recently, as Franco asserted power there. He traveled to Eritrea to help remove one of the ancient obelisks here. When asked about Oxford-educated archaeologist HUSAIN SOLIMON, who also seems to be in Axum, Acuña was dismissive. In particular, he objects to Solimon’s ideas concerning door-like carvings in the bases of the some of the obelisks and the idea that they might open onto actual rooms. Acuña alluded to controversy concerning the deities to which the obelisks are dedicated, as well as the chamber at Dallol. Acuña believes the obelisks to have been associated with something called GOL-GOROTH, while the chamber at Dallol and its mouth-like inscription were emblematic of the unnamed PRISONER OF GLAAKI. Glaaki itself is a monstrous being venerated by medieval cults in England’s Severn Valley.

During this conversation, both Tick Tock and Chantelle noticed a strange man with a walking stick. He was standing across the street from the house where the interview was being held. He seemed to be watching, but was at a distance from which he could not be listening to what Acuña and the Investigators were saying. He noticed Tick Tock watching and turned to walk off. Tick Tock pursued, and the man stumbled, dropping a piece of paper. He made his way toward the field of obelisks on the north side of town, while Tick Tock stopped to examine the paper. It was a telegram from a Daniel Lowman in Bangkok, which mentioned the Severn Valley and a mysterious “she,” who seems to be in charge of the foreign visitors here.

The group made their way back to the house at which they would be bunking to compare notes and to eat. Abai joined them, at Chantelle’s request, though he would be sleeping elsewhere. He seemed nervous. He left after they’d eaten and agreed to return in the morning to show them the local sights. Chantelle followed Abai and noted that he seemed to be following a circuitous route toward the north side of town, where the obelisks stand.

Street scene from the area and time period of our adventure

At the house, the group planned their moves for the following day. Tick Tock and Dorothy prepared to go with Abai to visit local churches and to distract him from the activities of the rest of the group. Luke decided to author a fake journal, which would point possible adversaries toward sites that are not significant to their current investigations. He would work overnight and then sleep during the day while the other Investigators were going about their activities. Chantelle made ready to speak with Acuña further and to possibly feed him false information.

Overnight, an alien mouthlike opening appeared in Dorothy’s midsection. It spoke in her voice, but its words were nonsensical. The mouth disappeared, and Luke and Chantelle moved to comfort Dorothy. Their hostess came to see what was wrong and to insist that the men and women not mingle.

Early in the morning, Dorothy and Tick Tock left with Abai to see the sights. They stopped at the Axum Ministry of Culture to register as visitors. They made their way to the Cathedral of Tsion Maryam (St. Mary of Zion) in hopes of glimpsing the Ark of the Covenant, which is rumored to be here, and to keep Abai distracted.

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Eternal Lies – session 13

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1934: In Massaua, Eritrea, the Investigators returned to the Hotel Internazionale. They left a message for ABAI, the guide they’d obtained, telling him they’d be visiting the Italian customs office. There, they met with CARLO SALVATORE, a somewhat corrupt government official and acquaintance of ELMER WICKER. (Luke’s friend/ dealer back in New York.) Dorothy and Chantelle catered to his ego and wallet. After a generous donation, he provided the Investigators with transit papers to carry them throughout Eritrea. He also answered some questions about the archaeologist BARTOLO ACUÑA, who he said was in transit to Axum (or Aksum) with a group of Italian soldiers. He confirmed that Acuña led a dig with GEORGE AYERS at the desert site of Dallol in Abyssinia, from 1924-26, and that the dig ended due to a volcanic eruption.

The Investigators reconnected with Abai, who got them passage aboard a truck headed to Axum, a quiet, ancient town, which houses the seat of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Axum is also home to an expansive field of standing stones—or stelae—along its northern edge. Most of these were erected between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., and they range in height from 3’ to over 100’. (The longer stones have mostly fallen.) Some of the obelisks depict buildings that are 10-13 stories in height.

Abai told the Investigators they would have to bunk with people in town, but said this practice was not highly unusual. There are no hotels in Axum. As the truck arrived in Axum, the Investigators noticed a group of Italian soldiers leaving town. A few stayed behind with a disheveled civilian who turned out to be Bartolo Acuña. He agreed to be interviewed in the home of his host.

Most of the Investigators went to question him, with Tick Tock staying behind to keep an eye on some other strangers in town. Having sized them up, they appeared to be professional muscle. He approached one, who appeared to be the group’s leader. This man was large and unfriendly. He threatened Tick Tock and moved to punch him. He told him to leave town with his friends.

Meanwhile, the other Investigators found Acuña to be a drunk and a boor, but knowledgable concerning many of their questions. He is affiliated with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, but currently woking for the Italian Cultural Ministry, removing artifacts from Ethiopia. He confirmed that the Dallol dig was cut short by a volcano in 1926. Both he and Ayers avoided the blast, as they were away negotiating with the Compagnia Mineraria Coloniale, (CMC,) an industrial concern that was hauling gear and people for them by train. After the explosion, Acuña returned to Spain, while Ayers lingered in Abyssinia before going missing. Acuña stayed in Spain, until the Civil War drove him out.

Acuña told the Investigators that the Dallol dig had been partially successful. Before the eruption, the archaeologists breached an ancient chamber belonging to an Abyssinian mystery cult, wherein a large, monstrous moth had been impressed in stone. The cult venerated a deity associated with orgiastic rituals. Acuña said he knew were to look, due to a careful reading he made of The Revelations of Glaaki. Acuña said that Ayers had met him through correspondence, after hearing of his ideas concerning the book. The Dallol dig was largely funded by Ayers’ associate RAMON ECHAVARRIA, before his death.

We left off with the Investigators still questioning Acuña.

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Eternal Lies – Session 11

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1934: Luke Davis stirred from a mental haze to find himself, naked in SAMSON TRAMMEL’S study. He was staring at a strange painting of an alien landscape that was hanging on the wall, while Trammel sat on the floor nearby, sketching him. Trammel showed him the bundle of papers and effluvia in which he was drawing. It was stained with what might’ve been blood and other human secretions and bound with hair. Trammel snipped a little of Luke’s own hair and mashed it into what he called his “testament.” He allowed Luke to glance over the pages, which contained peculiar occult meanderings intermixed with business records and correspondence. The information here seemed to link Trammel /or drug trade to locations in Mexico City, Valetta, and Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Chantelle, Dorothy and Tick Tock were locked in a guest bedroom. CAPTAIN WALKER entered and questioned them about who sent them and why. If the Investigators agreed to leave Los Angeles and not return, Walker said he would release them. He cited their powerful friends and his desire to keep the Nectar operation functional. He distanced himself from the religious side of Trammel’s operation, saying he just handled the business. He made it clear that doing so was difficult, given Trammel’s unstable nature.

Luke was brought back to the room, and he and Dorothy exchanged awkward greetings. (At this point, no one in the group was probably finding it easy to look anyone else in the eye.) The Investigators were led outside by one of Trammel’s men. They were given a car with keys. They made haste for the airport, where FRANK KEARNS remarked on their disheveled appearance, before piloting them back to New York.

A mythos themed print by my good friend Gadz

Tick Tock went to church and gave confession to a priest. He felt somewhat comforted. Dorothy spoke with her mother, ABIGAIL HOWARD, and mentioned that she would be traveling overseas with her friend Chantelle. Abigail suggested that Dorothy join the family for dinner. Chantelle turned on her French charm to win the approval of the Howards.

ELMER WICKER delivered The Communion Rites of Victorian Death Cults to Luke. He and Dorothy met up to study it and the UCLA texts. They also had sex.

The Investigators made their way to the Manhattan office of JANET WINSTON-ROGERS. They briefed her on their recent experiences. She asked that they dig deeper, and Tick Tock asked if she really wanted to know the truth about her father, WALTER WINSTON. She said that she did, and that she hoped that Tick Tock would get some answers about his lost friend VINCE STACK as well.

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Eternal Lies – Session 7

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 1934: The Investigators finished up their search at RAMON ECHAVARRIA’S farm, noting further scrutiny from the nearby construction workers. They also discovered calcified marks in the remnants that could be mouth-shaped, about 7” across at their widest point. But the scene had clearly been picked over by the police 10 years ago.

The Investigators headed to UCLA to look into EDGAR JOB’S past, including his relationship to Professor GEORGE AYERS of the History department. While they were there, they decided they’d search the university’s books for information concerning the supernatural manifestations they’d encountered or heard about.

Chantelle Perreault placed a call to JANET WINSTON-ROGERS to let her know what was happening and to ask if she could use her influence to give the Investigators access to the LAPD’s investigation of the 1924 massacre. Meanwhile Arthur Rowe met with Job’s faculty advisor, STUART TICHENER. He revealed that Job was a mediocre but driven student, who drifted out of graduate studies under the influence of drugs and of George Ayers.

Dorothy and Luke talked to the UCLA History department assistant, SAMANTHA BURNISH, who spoke with distaste about George Ayers. She said he was a hedonist and exploited his position to avoid work and corrupt students. She confirmed that Ayers traveled to Abyssinia in 1924 on an archaeological expedition, funded, at least in part, by the university. She offered to make an appointment with the Investigators with HAMISH MACDUNN, chair of the History department. The Investigators agreed to return on the following day.

Dorothy and Luke also visited the History section of the UCLA library. Performing a broad search concerning various phenomena they’d encountered or heard about, they complied a handful of strange books. They used their credentials and wealth to convince the librarian to let them take all but one of these off campus to study. The withheld book was a late edition of the dreaded Unaussprechlichen Kulten of Friedrich von Junzt. The UCLA librarian provisionally agreed to release the book, if Dorothy’s grandfather were to make a very, very large donation to the university.

Cthulhu waits dreaming on the refrigerator

Meanwhile, James “Tick Tock” Cohan surveyed the area to see if the Investigators were still under surveillance. He noted that the same large, angry man was parked nearby. The man approached Tick Tock and offered him nearly $1000 to leave L.A.. Tick Tock refused the money and tried to get the man to tell him who he was working for. The man seemed afraid, despite his bluster, and said that his employer was even scarier than the mob. He told Tick Tock he was through with him.

The Investigators reassembled and then headed back to their hotel. On the way, they noticed they were being followed by a police squad car. Dorothy pulled over so that Chantelle could confront the police. An officer got out of the car and said they were being followed because of they were driving erratically. Chantelle expressed doubt about the motives of the officers. Dorothy stepped in to defuse the situation.

Back at the hotel, a police report of the 1924 incident had been delivered for the Investigators. Some of the Investigators checked in with their contacts. Dorothy convinced her grandfather to make a large investment in UCLA’s library. Dorothy and Luke dug deeper into the handful of books from UCLA. Chantelle called DETECTIVE TRENT HIGGINS, the police officer attached to the 1924 incident. He didn’t know much, but having been told about the officers who were following the Investigators, he alluded to related corruption in the LAPD, including some connection with the real estate developer SAMSON TRAMMEL, who has been linked to Ramon Echavarria.

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Eternal Lies Session 4

NOVEMBER 1, 1934: In Savannah, he Investigators left the decaying Henslowe Estate. A rain storm continued around them, as they made their way back to the DeSoto Beach Hotel. It had been a very long day. Dorothy Howard momentarily nodded at the wheel. She had a brief dream or vision in which she walked the Joy Grove Asylum’s halls, which were now empty. Inside the rooms she passed, she could see people moving. One of these patients came to the window of his room to stare out at her. He opened his eyes to look at her, and she saw two small mouths, whispering strange words. Dorothy woke at the wheel, before the car had any trouble.

The Investigators gathered in one of their rooms at the DeSoto Beach Hotel. Luke made the sign of a Hamsa on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall, in hopes of protecting the group from whatever force seemed to be haunting Douglas Henslowe and Edgar Job—and which might be responsible for the strange mouth-like apparitions Luke had seen at various places since the investigation began.

With a little effort, the Investigators were able to open the box they had dug up at the Henslowe estate. It contained a key for another box—this one at the First Bank of Long Beach in California. Douglas had mentioned that he’d stashed some items there in 1924. In this box were a few other items—a strange volcanic stone, a diary from 1924, and a note for Walter Winston. Douglas seemed to have believed that Walter would’ve come looking for the box.

NOVEMBER 2: The Investigators checked in with their contacts, with Arthur Rowe writing to his friend Myra Banks to tell her what was happening with him. James “Tick Tock” Cohan checked in with his friend Joe Kelly to see if any more information had surfaced about the strange men who’ve been following the Investigators. It had been confirmed that one had been killed by Tick Tock’s associates in New York, and that he bore tattoos on him that were in Thai and that seemed to allude to a mouth or mouths. Dorothy Howard sent telegrams to her family, assuring them that she was fine and behaving in a proper fashion.

Chantelle Perrault also sent out a telegram—in this case to her mother, telling her what she’d found about Walter Winston’s past activities. Finally, Luke Davis checked in a dealer in black market antiquities, Elmer Wicker, to say what, if anything he could find out about the strange stone from the box. Wicker determined that it might be Abyssinian in origin, specifically from an area populated by the Afar people. He mentioned other digs that had happened there recently, including one led by a disreputable archaeologist named BARTOLO ACUÑA.

NOVEMBER 3: The Investigators reconnected with JANET WINSTON-ROGERS’ pilot, FRANK KEARNS, who flew them to Mines Field in Los Angeles. Along the way, they questioned him about his past travels with Walter Winston. Cheerful but guarded, Frank mentioned said that Walter was well-traveled. He mentioned stopovers in England and places “south of the border.” He said he’d heard about Walter visiting more distant or inaccessible locations like Southeast Asia and Africa.

Frank suggested some hotels for the Investigators to use while they were looking into the safe deposit box and possibly into the events of 1924. They settled on the Hotel Cecil, with its history of hauntings and strange deaths, in hopes of encountering real supernatural phenomena. Despite the beauty of the weather, they noticed prominent signs of the economic hardship inflicted on the area by the Great Depression.

As it was night, and the bank would most likely not be open, the Investigators decided to spend a night out. For the dilettantes and artists in the group, the natural stop-off seemed to be the Cocoanut Grove Ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel. Tick Tock and Luke went along. The former was looking for a game of cards and hobnobbed with some criminal types. The latter was just tolerating his companions’ interests, but met a young woman who insisted on buying him a drink and flirted with him somewhat aggressively.

Dorothy, meanwhile, was fascinated by the robotic monkeys that hopped around in the trees at the Cocoanut Grove. She and Chantelle made their way inside, hoping to meet a celebrity. They were unable to locate Clark Gable, but found friendly John Barrymore, who bought them champagne and took in the floor show with them. Arthur made his way over to the bar area, where he engaged a group of bohemian types in conversation. One of them, LEE DEMPSON attempted to get Arthur to leave with him to engage in sex and/or drug use. Dempson was a visibly beat up and obviously high and mentioned drugs from Bangkok. His companions mentioned him leaving L.A. for a while and then returning in his current broken down state.

Everyone noticed the entrance of a handsome, well-dressed man who made a big show of inappropriately eyeing the women around him. He was accompanied by an entourage of large men in zoos suits, who seemed out of place in the Hollywood crowd. They positioned themselves around the room, appearing to keep an eye on the scene. We left off with the Investigators enjoying libations. The players did the same as we celebrated a real life 2020 presidential victory for JOE BIDEN.

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