Decade of Darkness

Summer in the City
surprises abound

It’s a sultry June in New York, the year is 1920.

On the 5th June Juliawrites to Alessandro, Chesterand Solomon, after several months of increasingly infrequent meetings. She suggests a meal for Chester’s birthday and informs the other two that she will organise a surprise party for him.

On the evening of the 19th Alessandro walks into Delmonicos, where he is informed that Miss Somersby will not be joining their celebration due to illness. He informs the others as they arrive, and after some discussion, a sumptuous meal and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from the restaurant staff, where Chester is given an enormous cake, they decide to leave.

Chester, not content to leave a stone unturned, asks the staff about the phone call informing the restaurant of Julia’s non-appearance. He calls the Somersby household and is greeted by the butler, after a little insistence he is on the line to Earl Somersby, Julia’s father.

Not willing to discuss the nature of Julia’s malady Mr Somersby politely bids Professor Allen good night, informing him that a house visit would be inadvisable. He is resigned and a little sad in his otherwise stern tone.

Not satisfied with the information gleaned from the conversation, Chester resolves to look into the Somerby family doctor’s background the following day to see what can be found about Julia. Solomon and Al gently persuade him to go back to his bachelor pad for a celebratory round of medicinal liquor.

After a cab ride to Greenwich Village Chester hears whispers as he approaches his previously-thought empty and dark apartment. When the lights switch on he is greeted by a crowd of party guests in fancy dress. The three of them are handed glasses of illegally spiked punch and Chester is acquainted with Theodora StJohn-Osgood, Julia’s best friend and party-organiser stand-in (Theo to her friends), whilst Solomon reacquaints himself with Alice Albert. It becomes clear quite quickly that the party has already been going for some time, and that the majority of the guests are Julia’s circle of friends – mostly children of rich businessmen, and struggling artists & writers.

Halfway through the hard partying there is a brisk rap on the door and Mrs. Peterson, Chester’s landlady enters the flat. She complains about the noise and hands Chester a parcel that she helpfully took in from the mail box to prevent it getting rained on (even though nobody has seen a drop of rain in weeks). With Mrs. Peterson placated and escorted back to her apartment Chester glances briefly at the parcel, recognising but being unable to pinpoint the handwriting.

Back in his front room Theo grabs Chester by the hand and leads him to a pile of gifts. When these are all opened all that remains is the parcel brought in by his neighbour. Carefully snipping the string Chester removes the plain manila to reveal a used, worn diary. On the flyleaf is the signature of his Uncle Frederick Short, an historian of comparative religions at Miskatonic University.

Several onlookers remark at the strange gift. One of whom, a man in a Venetian mask and long robes, asks if there is anything further inside the parcel. Chester looks, finds nothing, and realises that the man has an accent.

Resolving to read it in privacy Chester rejoins the party and at around 11pm starts to try and encourage the guests to leave.

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Tuesday 10th February - Endgame

After their uncomfortable night the gang quit the Hotel and begin the drive home, feeling satisfied they have a result in that they have rescued Keeting from whatever fate awaited him at Claibornes hands.

Keeting is unclear on his part in the last two weeks while he was away from New York but seems to be glad of the new clothes and hot meal provided by the companions.

The journey back to the Big Apple passes uneventfully until finally a mere 30 minutes from home, the heroes are held up by a car load of henchmen identified as being associates of Ezekiel Crater.

A standoff occurs as the gangsters make them a reasonable offer to buy the necklace off them. Rightly Chester opines they must have been tracked by Dark Arts and concludes that was the purpose of the Bone Totems around the farm, not to keep the investigators out as first thought.

Covered by Solomon who is always ready to swap lead Chester exchanges the necklace with Craters henchman and the mobsters drive off leaving the bemused and relieved gang with a bag of cash.

Following the car and unidentifiable from where they are is a winged shape………

Keeting id reunited with his sister and the gang go their separate ways to carry on with their daily routines – for now……..

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Monday 9th February - part 2

Having had lunch and bought necessary supplies the Gang set off back to Penns Creek having decided on a dusk raid on the claiborne farmhouse, the location of which Chester and Solomon obtained from the Reverend Davies……..

On their way to park up, they spot a strange mannequin suspended within the hedge bordering the property, which they scrutinise with Solomons field glasses. All is still, the drapes are drawn, but there are a couple of vehicles in back………and two entrances.

The heroes decide to split up – Solomon and Chester to try and affect enter via the rear door with the assistance of a pint of acid and Alessandro and Julia take a closer look at the mannequin, taking a can of petrol along as a precaution…….

As dusk descends, the Professor and Solomon gain the rear door and proceed with their plan to melt the lock……..

Meanwhile Al and Julia decide the mannequin is unpleasant and it should be burned! Al splashes gasoline around the area to great effect and the hedge goes up in a blistering conflagration.
The mannequin starts an unearthly screaming noise, but doesnt seem to be attacking them. It is at this point they decide to make a run for it and try to break down the front door of the property, whilst running across the open gap between the gate and the front of the house they come under fire from a sniper upstairs.

Their combined efforts shatter the front door nearly taking it off its hinges and they end up sprawled in an ungainly heap under the gun of Solomon – who has made it to the dining room and also the sniper who has taken a pot shot at them as they crash through the door.

More unnervingly there is a corpse of a middle aged woman in the sitting room which Al and Julis can see from where they are.

Julis snd Alessandro dust themselves off and join their compatriots……..to discuss their next steps…..

Their quarry – Miss Claiborne and Paul Keeting – who is under the influence of some sort of mind control ready their escape……..

Having decided to go up the stairs carefully, the Investigators careful ascent is halted by the revving of a car and their quarry speeds off towards the gate of the property which Al and Julia left open…….

The convertible driven by Claiborne is involved in an accident with the Deputys vehicle, leading to demise of the Deputy – who had been nagged by his daughter to drop into the house on their way back from work – and Claibornes car – both of whom are unconscious.

Chester and Julia search the bodies and stabilise the three living occupants……discovering while they do so that Miss Claiborne has a necklace which fairly makes the air crackle (with POW)

Rather curiously Solomon and Alessandro decide not to investigate the upper storey of the farmhouse, instead retreating to get the car and make their escape.
Chester and Julia carry Keeting to the car where they make a sharp exit, as the authorities finish putting out the fire and the State Police arrive…….

Taking Keeting back to their Hotel – they are told he will live…….

Paranoia over the eldritch necklace – which Chester has tried to destroy – and cant – leads them all to spend the night in Chesters hotel room, observing propriety of course.

Nothing happens …….but they spend an uncomfortable night!

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Monday 9th February 1920 part 1

After a hearty (last?) breakfast the heroes set off for Penns Creek, a small one street subsistence level farming community where they discovered Keetings current girlfriend Josephine Claiborne grew up.

On arrival Julia recognises the place from a strange dream she had where the missing socialite communicated with her.

Their first port of call is the Church – which is locked – it being 10.00 on a Monday morning

They set about making enquiries locally. Their first stop at the general store meets with outright hostility from the storekeeper who perceives them as “stuck up townies”
Slightly demoralised they have a consustation on the boardwalk and agree to split their efforts.

A slightly more approachable resident points Julia and Alessandro in the direction of the Reverend Davies’s residence and they pay him a housecall. Unfortunately they are unable to come up with a reason for being there apart from a shotgun wedding and start behsving suspiciously in his study, having interrupted his work on the following Sundays sermon.
Eventually the Reverends patience frays and he asks them to leave before he calls the Sherriffs Office – indeed his housekeeper has already done so.

Meanwhile Solomon and Chester enquire at the Sherriffs office and make the acquaintance of the attractive but waspish Lauratta Franklyn the Sherriffs daughter who does the office work/admin but despite being a country girl is nobodys fool.

She kindly gives them a map of the local area and points out where Josephine Claibornes mother lives. Then the phone rings – it is the Reverends housekeeper reporting a couple of suspicious strangers. This is deflected by Miss Frankln and Chester and Solomon go to find Julia and Alessandro.

Luck conspires against them and they miss each other. Julia and Alessandro go to the Sherriffs Office and are told to curtly leave while they can.

Chester and Solomon try to mend fences with the Reverend and succeed in getting more information about Miss Claiborne by making out Julia and Alessandro are theives and con artists and possible associates of hers.

The foursome are reunited by the car, the keys for which are with Solomon. By now Julia and Alessndro are soaked from waiting around for their friends and Chester moots a return to the Hotel, to eat, change and buy supplies.

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Sunday 8th February 1920

The Gang set off for Pennsylvania in Dwight Alberts army surplus staff car – now turned into a spacious and comfortable tourer.
Travelling light and with rest stops at autoparks the journey takes most of the day, fortunately Solomon knows a little hotel/restaurant an hours drive from their destination and with Chesters help manages to secure them some accomodation.

The four spend a convivial but alcohol free evening dining and planning the next days activities.

Penns Creek from whence their quarry hails is about an hour drive away.

The four turn in early and Chester starts writing his memoirs of their activities thus far – for posterity

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Saturday 7th February 1920

Julia, Alessandro and Solomon go home after their encounter with “the Law” for some much needed sleep………

Meanwhile Chester has arranged a meeting with Alice Albert at her family residence that afternoon and has been trying to contact the other heroes.

Their rest after their late night exertions is interrupted as messages are delivered to meet Chester for lunch at Petes Tavern.

Bleary eyed they turn up to be told by Chester about meeting Alice for tea that afternoon. With a sense of relief and a soupcon of grumpiness about lost sleep they go along and renew their acquaintance with Alice.

Chester asks would her parents be interested in a fundraiser to assist the Imperial Russian cause which she promises to at least ask her parents as they control the purse strings……
As part of the catching up after the Majestic Affair Alice discovers the heroes are involved in more unusual goings-on and lends assistance in the form of her deceased brothers luxury car, which Solomon takes charge of.
Chester, Julia and Alessandro then travel to Brooklyn to make enquiries at the local precinct about the raid they read about of Det Sgt Devlin – who is not on duty, probably at a baseball game.
A short and vigourous stroll takes them to Ezekial Craters mansion on Park Slope, the scene of the raid. There is no outward sign of life after checking the back of a neighbours residence on the pretext of the loss of “Fatty” the dog.
They leave as there is no means of access to rear of the property without causing damage or drawing attention to themselves.

Alessandro goes home to get ready for the following day’s trip to Pennsylvania where the gang have discovered Keetings girlfriend hails from originally.

Chester and Julia resolve to go to the High Note – Craters Jazz Joint – but it is a little early in the evening to be able to do anything without drawing the attention of potentially hostile employees of Craters.
They decide discretion is the better part of valour and go home to sleep and prepare for the trip the following day.

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Friday 6th February 1920

Julia and Solomon go about their own business, Chester drops by the University to catch up and Alessandro has an enjoyable lunch date with Madeleine the poet……who reveals a nugget of information about gaining access to Keetings apartment.
It would seem she and Keeting were involved previously and he kept the spare key under a potted plant on the landing.

In the afternoon, Chester Solomon and Julia go to a meeting Chester arranged with the Imperial Russian exiles. They decline a mutual aid agreement when strange distressed noises are heard coming from a room adjoining with Princes suite.
They also decide discretion is the better part of valour – perhaps wisely under the circumstances and head off to meet for what is becoming a nightly supper.

Supper is subdued apart from Alessandros nugget of information which Julia Solomon and Alessandro decide to act upon and gain access to Keetings apartment.

Chester calls Alice Albert and arranges a tea-time visit the following day……..

At the apartment they discover some unusual art and a forgotten Bible belonging to Josephine Claiborne – Keetings current girlfriend…………..

Their activities attract the attention of a nosy neighbour who brings a couple of beat cops.
After some persuasion that they arent there illegally the trio are let go to make their way home with the promise the beat cop will be checking their story out.

Exhausted the three of them go home in the wee small hours to sleep.

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Thursday 5th February 1920

The heroes meet up at Solomons office and he drives them to Sarah Keetings townhouse on Gramercy Park.

It is revealed her brother has gone missing – but she isnt too sure how long ago as they moved in different society circles.

She gives the impression she doesnt approve of her brothers activities or circle of acquaintances – but family is family.

The foursome go off to pursue their own avenues of investigation after having retired for lunch at Petes Tavern near Gramercy Park

Chester checks out the library and discovers an illuminating newspaper cutting in the archives, showing several characters they had previously met were involved in a Police raid . Julia checks with her society contacts and ALessandro gives Madeleine a call – who offers to tell him what she knows over lunch.

The gang meet for another supper at Arturos to discuss their findings and plot their strategy for the following day

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Wednesday 4th February 1920

Our heroes are reunited fully restored to good health at a poetry reading at the Algonquin Hotel, ostensibly hosted by Alessandros new patron Paul Keeting who has given Al a break in the world of the Arts.
Julia and Chester are invited along by Alessandro for “moral support”
The gang make the acquaintance of Sara Keeting, Pauls sister, an exiled Russian prince in whom Chester shows an interest and Madeleine a female poet.

Alessandro pulls off a spectacular poetry reading and is the toast of the soiree.

Afterwards they bump into Solomon who it seems is engaged as Sarah Keetings bodyguard – they then learn from her that her brother is missing.

The gang split up – Alessandro gallantly walks Madeleine back to her apartment. Solomon, Chester and Julia retire for a late supper at Arturos to catch up and speculate over the disappearance.

They have a couple of appointments arranged for the following day and arrange to meet at Solomons office the following morning.

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Tuesday 13th January 1920 and afterwards

The next day, Solomon, Julia and Alessandro visit the hospital to see how Chester and Alice are getting on. They appear to have had a restful night, which is something – the first one since Saturday evening.

The doctors say that they will be able to go home in a couple of weeks but that it will take considerably longer than that to fully recover. Chester puts a brave face on it and says that his University duties will not be too strenuous. He believes it best to put it around that he has had a skiing accident. The less said about the goings-on at the hotel, the better, as far as he is concerned.

Alice is quite chipper, all things considered. She has reconciled herself to the fact that Dwight is probably dead. This means that she is now the heir to the Albert family fortune. She issues an open invite to the party to visit when they are in town; they will all be welcome.

And with that, it looks like time to wander down to the station and catch the next train back to NYC.

In closing:

Tommy Milner hands in his notice to whoever employed him (the hotel’s owners are based somewhere in NYC) and gets on a train for California where he’s heard there are opportunities in the movie industry.

No-one recalls seeing Quigley getting into any of the cars or trucks that drove up to the hotel that night from Marlboro. The remaning staff and guests were not too keen on searching the place for him.

The papers announce the death of Dwight Albert in a ’tragic skiing accident in the Green Mountans, Vermont. It is believed that Mr Albert, a veteran of the Great War, was attempting a particularly challenging run when an avalanche occurred which swept him away. The search is still going on for his body."

On Highway 9, near Marlboro, state officials are seen erecting signs on a turn-off heading up into the hills. The signs read “DANGER – avalanches are common in this area. For your own safety, do not use this track. No access to unauthorised persons”

The Sheriff, when his leg recovers, contacts the Governor and after a long meeting with him, the track is permanently blocked with concrete and rubble. A new sign is put up that reads “HOTEL CLOSED. NO ADMITTANCE. KEEP OUT

The Marlboro incident is blamed on vagrants who had suffered frostbite from exposue to sub-zero temperatures.

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