Trans-Atlantic Terror, part 1
DAY 1: Jonah stood silent at the chain fence as he watched the casket pulled from the hearse and loaded into the bowels of H.M.S. Adriatic anchored in Liverpool, England. It was going to be a long and somber Atlantic cross taking his departed friend Gerald Feinstein home to his mother in Arkham. A joyous summer break from college, spending their last dimes (well, their parents’ last dimes) traipsing across Europe. Jonah intent on furthering his education attending lectures by some of the greatest minds, such as Einstein. Gerald more intent on the breweries and barmaids. Till that fateful Munich rally they chanced upon. Those hooligans clubbing the protesters. Good-ole chivalrous Gerald rushing to aid the poor girl being beaten. The ‘Brownshirt’ club cracking his skull. A life cut short. How would he explain events to Mrs. Feinstein?
Clyde tried to console his new friend, “Come now Jonah, the past is done. Gerald wouldn’t want you wasting your life over him. I know you don’t drink but we can still celebrate his life as we sail home.” Clyde had run into the duo a month ago and the friendship blossomed. Gerald questioning Clyde’s look (APP15) jovially suggesting the short-statured dwarf escaped from a circus. “Matter of fact, I recently DID work for a circus just last month. Transient work but good pay, long hours, and friends that accepted my looks.” Gerald now feeling like an ass till Clyde broke out in laughter. The mood set and lasting friendships established. Till Gerald was killed…murdered.
Waiting their turn to board as the first-class passengers (in their tux and tails and fancy dresses) climbed the ramp. At least Mrs. Feinstein had wired them money upgrading their accommodations from 3rd class cots to 2nd class cabin.
Once aboard, Jonah headed to A-deck to gain height and the grand vista of Liverpool. Clyde preferred to tour the interior, quickly getting lost (Navigation fumble). Over an hour before he found his way back to sunlight. At least he’s now familiar with the ship interior.
Come 5pm, three short whistle-blasts called all to B-deck for the pre-sailing muster drill. The pair crammed in the back (without life-vests) as the 1st class passengers listened to instructions on how to wear their vests and board the lifeboats. A long whistle-blast ending the muster as the shipping lines were released and the grand ocean-liner began its voyage. Dinner bells calling all to the 5:30pm dining. The waiter not even batting an eye as he spied Clyde and ushered he and his friend to the head table…the Captain’s table!
1. Captain Barclay
2. Augustus Vanderbilt
3. Felicity Morgan
4. Joseph Taft (Tony)
5. Joanna Ostermann
6. Clyde August (Brian)
7. Jonah Franklin (Keith)
8. Jonathan Copperfield
9. Judith Farnsworth
10. Lorelei (Sharran)
11. Dr. Evvie (Dom)
12. Elizabeth Dodd
Joseph Taft called to Clyde to bring him another Scotch, till he realized Clyde and Jonah were sitting down. “Servants don’t sit! Get off your arsk, get properly dressed like the other waiters, and get me a drink you fools!” Joseph glared at the steward (Shaw) who had seated them. “I’m sorry sir, I thought they flashed 1st class tickets.” Luckily, Augustus intervened, “Don’t be so rude Joseph. Let them stay so we can enjoy fresh conversation other than politics, profits, and empires.”
And that’s when Lorelei looked up from her conversation with Judith and first noticed the dwarf. “Oh my!” She quickly composed herself (before reaching to ensure her necklace was still there). Jonah quickly realized they were not dressed for THIS table. But Joseph’s badgering gave him reason to stay, “So Mr.Taft. Might I guess you a brewer testing and peddling your ware?” Laughter erupted at Joseph’s expense, “How dare you commoner be so indignant!” Things were getting out of hand till another bell chimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Captain Barclay.”
As the Captain reached for his chair he finally caught sight of the…commoners. Once again Augustus intervened, “My guests captain. Please excuse their attire. I’ll have a steward find something appropriate for them.” Which created Joseph’s opening, “A monkey suit for the monkey? I’ll drink to that.” Awkward moments till the captain offered introductions, “So how do you find my mistress…this R.M.S. Adriatic. Quite the lovely lady I must say. Commissioned in 06, fourth of the great White Star Line ocean-liners. Fastest of the 4 and first to offer an indoor swimming pool and a Turkish bath. She’s served admirably: troop ship during the Great War. Even aided in the rescue of Titanic passengers. In fact, we’re coming upon the ten year anniversary of that fateful event this week.”
Lorelei was quick to reason, “You don’t mean we risk collision with icebergs?!” Felicity adding, “I’ve heard they’ve found polar bears and other animals floating on icebergs at sea. Maybe we’ll sail near one that has a Yeti that Augustus can bag for his trophy room.” The captain apologizing, “Excuse me, I didn’t mean to imply any such thing. I was only pointing out the ship’s history. We’ve made great strides since then to insure our route is safe and free of such obstructions.”
Introductions continued around the table:
Augustus(30): Safari hunter. Born into family money. His empire built on journalism. Covered Titanic story. Friend to Joseph Taft.
Felicity(27): Dilettante whose empire built on aggressive investments.
Joseph(27): Nephew of now 10th Chief Justice Taft. Even he admits he uses family name to his advantage (weaseling his way out of trouble).
Joanna(58): Dilettante; world traveler.
Clyde(44): American who backpacked across Europe as carnival or transient worker.
Jonah(24): Recent graduate of Miskatonic University with BS in Math. Strong supporter of Prohibition.
Jonathan(22): British groom; son of diamond baron.
Judith(20): British bride; daughter of oil tycoon.
Lorelei(38): British dilettante (diamond industry) joining her good friend Judith soon to be married. Widow and astrologer. Mystery writer too.
Dr. Evvie(40): Born in India as son of career soldier (in the British Indian Army) and Sikh mother. Served in the Great War for King and Country as medical officer. Now a practicing psychoanalyst.
Elizabeth(60): Dilettante; spry but hard of hearing.
Clyde turned at the tap on his shoulder from Elizabeth, “Excuse me. Please change seats with me so I can be next to my dear friend Joanna.” But Joanna intervened, “Don’t be rude Elizabeth. You imply Dr. Evvie is a bore. Go on back to your seat.” Not even a quiet whisper. Stunned look on Liz’s face. Awkward as everyone heard. Joseph breaking the silence by asking Jonah and Clyde, “So what bring you on the ship? Is this another British purge of their prisons?” Clyde’s neck veins popping but he remained controlled, “Obviously not on-board to learn manners from you!” Jonah trying to lighten the mood by offering, “If you must know, we escort the body of our dear friend home to his mother.” But instead of compassion, the drunken Joseph taunted, “There’s a dead body on board? Maybe there’s an African witch-doctor too from one of Augustus’s safari that can raise you friend…and command him to come drag you away from our table.”
The rest of the table gasped at Joseph’s tirade. Even Augustus interceding. Jonah restraining Clyde ready to punch the lights out of the ass! The girls being the peacemakers, “You poor souls. How awful to have lost your dear friend.” Augustus offering, “You need to take your mind off the matter. Come join me tomorrow for skeet-shooting before noon tea.” Dr. Evvie agreeing, “Yes. A distraction. Good for the soul and recovery. I am a counselor if you ever want to talk.” Good-nights were said.
A knock at Jonah and Clyde’s room. The steward Kelly delivering cloths, “Per Mr. Vanderbilt’s request. This was the best we could find.” Formal attire for dinner. They tried them on (Luck roll for fit: within 5 of their luck = fits, low is small; high is large). Jonah laughing at Clyde’s tight fit, “I think they brought you children’s cloths.” Clyde rebutting, “You’re one to talk. I think yours might fit me better.”
DAY 2: Morning breakfast before the 11am skeet-shooting. Four Parker shotguns (over/under double-barrel). Two each: 20 and 12 gauges. Augustus taking the 20 gauge as a handicap. Joseph (yes he showed) claiming a 12 gauge. Jonah needing Clyde’s help to choose (being told high gauge must be better). Augustus correcting him. Augustus, then Joseph, then Evvie breaking skeet. Jonah at least shooting in the general direction. Another round about the same except for Jonah’s gun misfire (safety still on) so the fool tried to peer down the barrel. Joseph of all people, pulling the barrel away.
Meanwhile Lorelei, Judith, and Jonathan sat at a table watching the gun show. Waiter Kelly bringing them morning tea as they chatted about the coming wedding. Till a shadow caught Lorelei’s eye. Not a cloud in the sky. Eyrie shadow…of what? Only people walking the deck. And the approach of Elizabeth joining them at their table. “I don’t understand Joanna. Almost ten years ago we sailed together to Paris. Almost a month traveling together solidifying our friendship. See our smiles and laughter in this picture?
But now? By chance we’re aboard the same ship on a return voyage. Yet she avoids me. As if I don’t even exist.”
By now Dr. Evvie has quit shooting and joins their table. He’s heard enough to realize she is distraught. He picks up the picture showing interest as a doctor, “Yes, you two did have fun back then. But it has been, what did you say, ten years ago? People do grow apart.” Lorelei too tries to reason with Liz, “Don’t make too much of the one incident. Maybe she WAS just trying to consider the Doctor’s feeling when you tried to change seats. I’m sure it will be better tonight.” That got Liz calm.
Elizabeth made certain to get at the dinner table to sit beside Joanna. Calm on her face as she pulled out the picture and reminisced in a one-way conversation with Joanna. Joanna more focus on Joseph at her side. The fake laugh at his conversation; her hand innocently placed on his forearm. The rest of the table banter continued as before, Joseph drinking as hard but at least not as irritating. Till he saw Jonah and Clyde’s tight fitting wear. More ribbing. Then the delivered salad. And Jonah and Clyde paused to reason which fork to use. So many utensils spread about the plate. (Credit-Rating check to see if they knew proper etiquette…failed). Jonah trying to use his peripheral vision (Spot Hidden) to see which fork Joseph reached for…oops. Joseph laughing at their gaff.
Joanna using Joseph’s volume to lean into Liz and whisper. Evvie close enough to eavesdrop (Hard Listen), “Keep away from me, you prattling cow. You are nothing to me.” Lorelei hearing Liz’s muted sobbing (but not Joanna’s remark), “Now, now dear. See how your friend leans into Joseph. I think she’s flittering and Joseph is responding. You’ve done nothing wrong. She’s just not acting her age.” At that, Liz pushes away from the table and leaves the dining room in tears.
Dinner and dessert is served when Jonathan and Judith rise together clinking their crystal gobbles with a knife, “We have an announcement. Captain, if you’ll do us the honor to wed us on the ship. You are all invited to the wedding in 2 days. Lorelei, if you’ll be my bridesmaid.” Cheers and toasts and more drinks. Pats on the back and handshakes and hugs. Joseph getting too frisky has Joanna speaking up, “Joseph! I think you’ve had enough. You should retire to your room. The waiters can escort you.” Surprisingly Joseph stands and makes apologies for his departure then reaches for Joanna’s arm, “If you’ll join me.” Quit a surprise indeed!
DAY 3: By now the passengers have settled into a routine. Breakfast, tea, and dinner. Shuffleboard and Squash for those saving their money. A determined Elizabeth exits her room in search of willing ears, finding Lorelei and Dr. Evvie in the lounge. “I thought about it all night and finally realized…I don’t know who this woman is, but she ISN’T Joanna Ostermann! Of that I am sure!” Again she points at her picture, “Ten years ago and the Joanna you see hasn’t aged a day! Have you noticed she has worn the same outfit 2 days straight?! The Joanna I knew had a wardrobe full of clothes and delighted in showing them off.”
It dawned on Lorelei that she too had noticed Joanna wearing the same clothes, “Maybe her luggage is misplaced?” Evvie handles the picture taking a closer look. Looking up in time to see Joanna cross the room. Another glance at the picture…hard to tell. The picture IS worn with crinkles and now smudges. Sure looks the same. Elizabeth leaves the table to chase and confront Joanna. Around the corner and another room.
By now Jonah and Clyde arrived to join Lori and Evvie, “Does anyone else hear that? Silence. No pompous Joseph about. Joyous silence indeed.” But Joseph’s absence continues into noon tea. Strange indeed if you also consider the waiter who escorted him to his room along with Joanna is also absent. First thoughts Joseph and Joanna retired to the same room for some hanki-panki. Gross. But then Joanna has been up and about. Growing concern has Dr. Evvie ask another nearby waiter for Joseph’s room. “Sorry sir, ship policy we don’t pass out such info.” (Persuade check – fail. Push: I’m his doctor concerned for his medical needs – failed.) “I’m sorry sir but I must ask you to follow me to the ship detective. You’ll have to convince him.” Down the elevator to B-deck and a knock at the door as the waiter turns Evvie over to ship detective Reginald Fenster (also played by Tony). Who sees no urgency in locating Mr. Taft known to “tie one on too often. Give him till dinner to sleep it off. Discrete if he is shacking up with another passenger.”
Jonah also showing concern takes a different approach. Knowing waiters write room numbers on food and drink orders, he tries to peer at the waiters’ desk in hopes of finding a large collection of Joseph’s bar tab. (Spot Hidden: failed. Push: attempts to fake stumble into table to knock paperwork to the floor so he can see up close – failed). “Thief! He’s stolen something off the tray!” Jonah runs! Past Evvie just stepping out of the elevator returning to the lounge. Waiters in pursuit, one going for the elevator and the detective. Clyde dumbfounded at his friend’s action, “That idiot. Running just makes it worse. He was only trying to find info about a missing person. Face the cop and tell the truth.”
Meanwhile Lorelei has been in Judith’s room discussing the coming wedding. “Something borrowed, something blue. I insist you borrow my diamond necklace.” The sounds of pounding feet outside the door disrupts their conversation. Lori cracks open the door in time to see a waiter running past…yelling, “Stop thief!” The door quickly pulled shut, “Oh my. Thieves. Quick, lock up my necklace.”
Clyde corrals Evvie to join him in the search for Jonah to turn himself in. “Where would he go?” Clyde having already toured the ship surmises, “Somewhere secluded and without prying eyes. Like maybe the engine room? Quick, follow me.” They head for the elevator going down into the bowels of the ship.
But Jonah has other plans…blend in. He descends the stairs for the Deck-B sunning chairs. A quick stop at the bathing room to rent a bathing suit before he grabs a towel as he hunkers into a chair. Tucking his chin into the towel.
The waiter pounding at the detective’s door, “There’s been a robbery!” Reggie led to the crime scene lounge. The few witnesses have little to tell, “Well, he did knock over a cart. Can’t say for certain he stole anything. But he did run. He must have stolen something.” Reggie taking the waiter in tow as he begins a search of the ship.
Clyde leads Evvie deeper into the ship, down stairs and into a large cargo bay. "Maybe he's visiting Gerald's coffin." (POW check – failures). Clyde loudly gags at the stench, almost puking. Evvie quickly covers his nose. But Clyde has gotten enough of the smell to analyze (Nature check – pass 5%), “That reminds me of molting reptiles. Like snake shedding their skin.” Evvie surmising, “Then that must be one damn big snake. You say you worked the circus. Might we be carrying a circus full of animals?”
Curiosity has them inching deeper into the bay, filled with stacked crates and even cars lined up. And from one of the cars steps Joanna with a cigarette in hand, “Where is a woman to find the privacy to discretely smoke? You caught me. Least you can do is escort me topside.” But the hairs on Evvie’s neck has him disbelieving something about this. He steps closer. And that’s when both men grab their head (POW check-spell resistance: Evvie failing, Clyde succeeding). Evvie stumbles in a blank state of amnesia. Clyde only knows he’s been attacked and begins to retaliate till…(POW check – fail) he witnesses Joanna turn into a Serpent!
He turns to run and hide (Stealth – failure), tripping on the edge of a crate. The serpent now towering over him sinks her teeth into his shoulder sending poison into his bloodstream. Cylde struggles to escape but is held tight by powerful serpent claws. He stabs with his switchblade that mostly slides across the thick scales. Another bite (Major wound – passed CON) has Clyde fading fast.
Meanwhile, Jonah has come to his senses and decided to give himself up. Well after one more attempt. Maybe he can find a maids cart on Deck-A where the 1st class passengers reside. Still in his bathing suit, he pushes the elevator button. As the doors open, he steps into the occupied lift, “Hello detective.” Reggie turns to the accompanying waiter, “Is he your suspect?” A quizzical look before, “That’s not him.”
The detective and waiter go one way. Jonah wisely goes opposite. Alone, he does find a maids’ cart and searches for a guest list. “Jonah? Is that you?” Jonah turns to find Lori staring at him with a blushing face as he tries to make an excuse, “Forgive me, I was looking for some lotion.” Awkward! Lori squeals as she turns to rush back to her room.
Just in time to see Joanna conversing with Dr. Evvie as they head towards the lounge.
Dinner is an awkward affair. Joseph and Clyde missing. Lori trying her best not to stare at Jonah. Evvie with a puzzled look mumbling to himself; self analysis. Jonah trying to act as if nothing happened till he hears a familiar voice, “Captain, do you mind if I borrow your Mr. Franklin?” Jonah turns to find detective Finster gesturing he follow. Long minutes as the two move to another table for discussion. Jonah finally returning with a sigh of relief before asking, “Evvie, where’s Clyde? Last I saw you two in the lounge as I…excused myself for a few minutes.”
Evvie racking his brain, “We were going to look for you…I think. I, I can’t remember. Something is wrong. There is a gap in my memory. Yes, yes. Look for you. You’d run away. We rode the elevators and descended stairs. But where?” And that’s when Mrs. Ostermann excused herself from the table. Jonah finally noticing their current waiter is new, “Excuse me, where are our regular waiters Kelly and Shaw?” “Sorry sir but this is their first sail. They ain’t regulars in our quarters either. All I know is they was recommended by that lady that just left. Mrs. Ostermann?”