Thursday, January 17, 2019
Trans-Atlantic Terror, part 2
DAY 3 late evening: Elizabeth is done with her crying and now determined to get others to listen to her bold accusations, “Look at her slink away from the table. I tell you THAT is not Joanna! The real Mrs. Ostermann was kinder and SHOULD be ten years older! And knew how to dress.” But her words fall on deaf ears as each passenger is wrapped in their own thoughts. Dr. Evvie wracking his brain for those missing minutes of today, Judith now sobbing for all the distractions tainting her coming wedding. Lorelei pinned between to the two emotional women and out of consoling words for either. A new passenger (played by Brian) having joined the table having overheard the soap opera and trying to console the women. Jonah finally returning to the table while detective Fenster (played by Tony) passes up his chair.
A pause and quizzical look by the new passenger till the lightbulb shines, “Mr. Franklin?! What are you of all people doing at the Captain’s table? I remember you in my History class last year.” Jonah recognizing his old instructor, “Professor Varrier. Yes, I’ve been asking myself lately how I got seated at this table. Do you remember another student, Gerald Feinstein? You can pen his death in your history notes of the uprising of ‘Brownshirts’ in Germany.” A retelling of events that includes mention of Mr. Taft and his missing status. Jonah aware the detective absent so he can claim, “Now me getting asked to help investigate a ship thief and missing passenger, Mr. Taft.”
It’s now Augustus Vanderbilt, “MISSING? What do you mean his cabin is empty? I heard the threats from your friend Mr. Clyde but I didn’t think much their manly talk of actually dueling. What has your accomplice done?!” He turns to involve the detective only to find his chair empty. Reginald departed, following Mrs. Ostermann. Walking past the deck-A elevators, around the turn, down the stairs, with a casual glance over her shoulder spotting her tail. Slipping away. Reggie referencing the ship registry to then corral the ship purser as he goes to Joanna’s cabin. Unanswered knock brings out his master keys. The cabin empty. His search finding little: a mink coat and fancy hat in the closet, empty dresser – no clothing, not even suitcases tucked under the bed or in the closet. Just a briefcase. Using his ‘special tools’, “CLICK.” Two vials: one clear fluid, the other blue. “Invisibility and healing.” He takes them to the ship medical room which is closed and locked this late at night. Reasoning to check the bars. Not at the A-deck lounge but found at the rear bar near the skeet-range. A drink in his hand, with two empty glasses before the corpsman, “I’ll get right on it. Tomorrow OK?”
Meanwhile, Jonathan rises from the table, “I hope you understand, but the stress of today has spoiled our plans. Judith and I have decided to postpone the wedding. If you’ll excuse us.” Lori rises to comfort her best friend only to see the re-assuring glance from Jonathan that he has matters well in-hand. Evvie pressing his memory loss; trying harder to remember (failed Psychoanalysis; Pushing to find even a small detail he can pick at…failed. He now determined more than ever…his only thoughts). And that’s when Reginald returns to the table. It doesn’t take much threats from Vanderbilt to get the detective hard on the case, “I’m beginning to see a link between this Clyde and Mr. Taft. And if the threat of a duel is real, we MUST find them now.” Evvie rising in support, “Yes, yes, Clyde’s the key to my missing minutes.” Jonah offering, “I don’t know where that drunk and braggart Joseph stumbled off to, but I’d bet my cricket-bat Clyde sought consoling comfort beside our friend Gerald’s coffin.” Lorelei offering, “Mr. Taft DID leave with Mrs. Ostermann last night. She must know more than she’s telling. Let me change into more comfortable clothing and I’ll join the search. Elizabeth, would you like to join us so you can catch your Mrs. Ostermann red-handed?”
And so the group splits: Professor Varrier (Michael) following Jonah to his room to collect his cricket-bat, Lori to her cabin to change then join Jonah at his cabin (another blush at the thought of him in that bathing suit). Minutes for the 4 of them (Jonah, Michael, Lori, Liz) to gather their belongings and join-up to begin their search. Meanwhile, Reggie (with the purser still in tow) and Evvie have already begun their search. It’s not long before they push open the door to the cargo bay and walk into the musky stench. Reggie smothering his nose in his elbow-crotch, the purser bend over vomiting before he retreats for his real job upstairs. Thurston (Evvie)’s eyes widening (while tearing up) and loudly proclaiming, “I remember that smell! We’re were here! I left Clyde in here somewhere.”
As they walk deeper into the bay they hear noise then see Joanna appear around some crates lugging a suitcase, “Clumsy crew lost my luggage. I had to find it myself. Come now detective, you can lower you gun.” But Reggie keeps the gun out as his neck-hairs stand…something not right (his Spot-Hidden, Evvie’s Psychology). The doctor picking out the tells of her lies; the detective realizing the suitcase awfully light as if empty. Which has Joanna placing the suitcase on the ground while displaying her own gun, “OK, you caught me. Mr. Taft is OK. He’s just paying off a debt. Isn’t that right Joseph?”
Indeed, Joseph speaks up, “As she said, I’m working out a deal. I owe them money. Everything in order; you can leave. I’ll be out shortly. Leave now before someone does something stupid that gets me shot. Clyde? He’s part of their team. Upstairs now at the telegraph room wiring a money transfer from my bank to their account.” The voice close, but not quite right; something gravelly in his tone. Reggie not convinced, “All passengers were to check their weapons. Be smart and toss that over.” Joanna complies by bending to drop the gun and kick it halfway toward the detective as she assures, “Joseph is a willing part of this money exchange.” As Reggie advances toward the other gun, he hears Joanna’s strange words and feels the momentary tug at his chest (POW check-success). The hint of a heart-attack faded fast.
And that’s when the cargo door opens once more as the remaining passengers arrive. Elizabeth gagging at the stench, turning in disgust only to spy the prior puddle, thus adding her own vomit before she too gives up the chase for the comfort of her stateroom. Jonah covers his nose as he remembers something from his history class (Occult check), “Professor, didn’t you once describe early druids of England writing about strange snake-like creatures that walked upright. They called them serpentmen?” The professor too, quickly equating the smell, “Snakes?! You know I hate snakes!” Michael now on tip-toes, eyes wide (Advantage Spot-Hidden and Listen but Disadvantage on all other skills) warily entering the bay empty-handed. Furtively glancing left and right as they move forward. All slowly advancing toward the shadows and sounds before them: the doctor and detective confronting someone 40 yards ahead.
Meanwhile, Reginald continued to advance toward Joanna but pauses once again (Sanity check) when she turns into a serpentfolk! Reggie frightfully squeezing the trigger and getting off 2 shots before he drops the gun to grasp his chest (spell attack – Clutch of Nyogtha). Doctor Thurston (Evvie) charges to punch the beast but is lifted and throw into nearby crates 20 feet away. The gunshots calling the other group forward, now running. Jonah charging, swinging his bat which is blocked by Joanna’s counterattack. Lori rushing past the two to gather the guns on the floor. A scared professor meekly calling for one of the guns, only to jump aside when one is tossed his way.
And that’s when the Spectral-Blade slashes at Lori. Reggie paralyzed by his heart-attack. Jonah swinging his bat and hitting Joanna but his confidence waning. Evvie getting to his feet to charge again…invigorated by memories of his war days rushing into battle (then to save lives). Grunting sounds and the sounds of strange words spoken from behind the car. And that’s when Joanna breaks from battle and runs towards the crates to escape. Evvie following. Reggie finally catching his breath as his heart-attack subsides, now unarmed, searching and finding a crowbar to battle the blade attacking Lori. Michael noting Joanna’s departure and thus his meek desire to go the opposite direction toward the grunting sounds. Lori dodging the blade as she retrieves the 2nd gun to then dive for nearest cover, climbing inside the car behind its protective glass.
Reggie hearing the strange words behind the car, seeing another serpent form, slides over the car hood to club the creature…but his pant cuff snagging the hood ornament throwing off his attack. Michael rounding the car only to find another serpent squatting giving birth. Which prompts the professor to leave a pee-puddle as he gives up the fight himself (never having entered the fight) and turns to run past Jonah now rounding the car. Jonah spotting the same squatting serpent but realizing its not birthing, but rather consuming what’s left of Joseph Taft! Failed Sanity. A wild swing of his bat breaks the stick held up by the serpent. More Sanity loss as he realizes it’s not a stick but rather Clyde’s leg! Enough! Jonah takes off running back to the cargo door arriving about the same time as the slower professor. Who both witness Joanna emerging from the side crates to begin opening the door. Only to see the doctor following and trying to bull-rush her into the door.
Lori squeals as the blade shatters the car window tinkling glass all about her. But as she turned to avoid the glass she spied the belly of another serpent on the other side of the car. She raises both guns and fires off multiple rounds. Critical-Impales! One shot splattering its gut then as it slides down the car side, another shot disintegrating an eye, splattering brain behind it. Behind her she hears the metallic clatter of the blade falling to the floor (its caster dead). Reggie free to club the squatting serpent with his crowbar. Lori too hears the grunting which draws her vision and realization Taft is being consumed. She reaches thru the shattered window taking aim at another target. But glass cuts from the window spoil her aim…only one hit that ricochets off the scale. Luckily missing the detective. As both attack, they soon both gag as the dead beast births what remains of Mr. Taft…only his upper torso.
Jonah and Evvie are distracted by the sound of gunfire behind them. They can only hope it’s their allies doing the shooting as they press the attack upon their own serpent. As for the professor: Michael cowers behind his student Jonah. Evvie punches the beast then watches Jonah put all his weight (scrawny as he is) into his cricket-bat swing. Critical-Max damage which sprawls the beast at their feet. Michael not wanting any part of it. Silence (except for heavy breathing) fills the cargo bay as the passengers soon gather near the car and scene of what’s left of Joseph Taft and Clyde August. “Now what?!”
Michael finally getting involved, “It’s a snake. A DAMN snake! Box them up and ship to Miskatonic as evidence these creatures exist!” Detective Fenster too wanting to keep them as evidence. Jonah wanting to dump them all overboard, “Clyde was my friend but how do you reasonably explain THIS!” as he points to the dead beasts. Doctor Evvie seconding the idea, “I can tell you from experience, physical evidence will be hidden to protect the public. All of us will be claimed insane and subject to being hidden within an asylum. Remember, that was Joseph Taft, nephew to the Court Justice. You think HE’LL believe such story?!”
And so it is, the cargo loading door on the side of the ship is opened and all of the bodies shoveled out. Hours scrubbing the floors. Detective Fenster practicing his story for Mr. Vanderbilt. Finally, Reginald picks up the ship phone calling the bridge, “Sound the alarm! Man overboard. Send the captain to the cargo bay, NOW! It’s about Mr. Taft.” The ship circles the area for hours spotting a few sharks feeding near the surface and eventually finding the lift-preserver Reggie threw out the cargo side-door. No bodies. The captain had brought along Augustus Vanderbilt, “What happened?”
Detective Fenster was convincing, “I searched the entire ship before coming in here. Where I found Mr. Taft drunk, the side cargo door open, and him trying to wheel that coffin out into the ocean. Mr. August protesting and tugging back on the coffin. Mr. Taft lost his grip, stumbled backwards and fell overboard. Clyde, Mr. August, jumped in after him. I threw the life-preserver then called the bridge. Best I could see was the bodies being sucked toward the propellers. I’m sorry to say I think them both ground into chum.”
It was near 2am when all crawl into their beds for a restless night. Professor Varrier (‘bout of Madness) has a fitful night tossing and turning and screaming. Which soon brings stewards to his room worried he is being injured. Yet the battered and bruised professor’s injuries are self-inflicted from his nightmarish wrestle in his bed. As for Jonah, unable to sleep with haunting thoughts of Clyde being consumed while Gerald helps to stuff the body into the beast. Sunrise comes too soon as the exhausted grad-student wanders into the dining hall for breakfast. Too exhausted to realize his actions the rest of the cruise.
It was another six days till the R.M.S. Adriatic pulled into Boston harbor. Along the way, detective Fenster finally stopped at the ship infirmary, “So what did you find out about those vials?” Vigorously scratching his arm, corpsman McDonald spoke up, “I don’t have the equipment to really test the fluid. I’d suggest you take them ashore to a real hospital and lab.” Reggie left the room with the thought the idiot actually did a taste test (indeed, he did taste the mutagen that now grows scales on his skin).
At the pier, the passengers slide past the throng of press agents come to learn about THE Joseph Taft’s death. Mr. Vanderbilt concocting his own story to protect and preserve the Taft name, “Mr. Taft was targeted by a carny worker who tried to squeeze him for money. In their struggles, Mr. Taft was pushed overboard dragging his assailant with him.”
Meanwhile, the common passengers lined up for customs, “Anything to declare?” Jonah laughed as he considered claiming insanity. Once outside the terminal, Jonah struggled to load his heavy suitcase inside a taxi. When did his cloths get so heavy? Jonah paused to open the case, “Where did all this silverware come from?!” [Jonah’s ‘bout of madness manifested as kleptomania.]
It's no surprise Jonah sought professional counseling at the Miskatonic University hospital from the visiting therapist , Dr. Thurston Everett Vaughn Eammon Balcombe-Caine IV, "See you next week Jonah. And please, return my fountain pen to its stand." As Jonah departs, Evvie lays down on his couch in self-analysis, "Now where was I ..."
Meanwhile, across campus, professor Varrier closes his lecture doors bidding his last student goodbye. As he turns for his lecture stand he pulls the claw from his vest pocket. The proof he saved from the cargo scene, "Snakes are real. Fight your fears. It's time to delve deeper in to our extensive library. Study the occult."
Across town, Lorelei pushes past the other women as she snatches the bridal bouquet from the air. All thoughts of the ship encounter pushed deep in her memories. Nothing but joy and laughter with her best friend, the now Judith (Farnsworth) Copperfield. Smiles as she gazes upon the happy couple. Till her vision connects the shadowy lines in the drapes behind the couple into the outline of a serpentman.