The Post-Modern Masks of Nyarlathotep

Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 10)

Outside, Jimmy follows the little girl as she walks directly towards St. Howard’s and St. Phillip’s.

“Your name isn’t really Count Orlok, is it?” asks Seward. “What name have you been going by?”

“Most people seem to call me ‘Bastard’. Is there a question, Dr. Seward?”

“We…weren’t allowed to know, of course, because if we knew we’d endanger you…but…my God, you’re the spitting image of him.”

“That’s all a bit vague.”

“You look just like my old friend, Arthur Longwood, the fourth Earl Godalming.”

Freddie runs through his mental peerage list. He remembers that the fourth earl died childless, leaving his Surrey title vacant. In fact he died…about…why, that must have been close to his birth—

“I see now that my Aunts have been lying to me my whole life,” says Freddie.

“Oh God, they put you with your mother’s family? How horrid.”

“What exactly happened?”

“Well, there were the six of us back then—there was me, and Arthur, and Wilhelmina—”

“Oh, you’ve met her? A colossal, annoying control-freak.”

“Less then. Her husband, Jonathon—”

“She’s married?”

“Not anymore, but she has two children if I remember properly. Then poor Quincy, and my old mentor, Dr. van Helsing. The thing is, though, that once you encounter the powers of darkness there’s never just one of them. And once you’ve been initiated into that world, it’s never easy to come back. And that’s what led us to Cairo. After that, and that book by that ridiculous Irishman—we convinced him to kill off Quincy in the book; as far as I know he’s still out there. Mina, of course, has her own schemes. But you, Freddie, are the son of my oldest and best friend. I have something to show you.”

He takes Freddie down into the wards, and opens the judas-gate. Inside the cell is poor mad Billy.

“I left him in Tanganyika.”

“Really? He was a different man when I knew him. Frederick William Abernathy was one of the finest graduates of the Coldstream Guards. He was your father’s bodyguard. But I’m afraid that night in Surrey broke him rather badly.”

Dear God, thinks Freddie. That’s why they call me…

“We never expected old Arthur would get married after Lucy,” says Seward. “That’s why he decided to retire to his estate. We should have expected some vengeance after Cairo. After they both died…well, Mina and Jonathon weren’t together any longer, so we all just drifted apart.”

“Perhaps we should go meet Miss Lovecraft,” says Freddie. “Her daughter is coming today, I believe.”

“Ah, yes. Mirabelle.”

Freddie of course has lost his French, or he would recognize what her name means in that language: miracle.

Outside, the Reverend sees a young woman in a white dress, sitting alone on a bench under a tree.

“Do you have Faith!” he thunders at her.

“No,” says Vanessa.

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 9)

Thursday, 26 November 1925

Francis and Jimmy are scheduled to meet Dr. Seward; Freddie and the Rev decide to tag along. But first, Freddie decides to investigate the school more.

The problem arises, of course, that he doesn’t have access to their records, and is worried about drawing attention to the girl.

“If only I knew a master of disguise,” he mutters.

“What did you say?” asks Jimmy.

“Sayyyy….”

They put together a disguise for Jimmy. “I think some sort of Catholic priest should do nicely,” says Freddie.

Jimmy pulls out a small hat with a pom-pom on the top. “How’s a Monsignor work for you?”

[JP got a 9 on his disguise roll.]




The Rev greets his disciples, who have been curled up on the street outside his hotel. “Boys, what’s the worst den of debauchery you know of in this town?”

“Fang’s” they say in unison, without hesitation.

“Then that’s where we’re going to go preach.”

“Great!” says Fan. “Say, Sifu, can we beat up the sinners if they don’t listen to the Word?”

“In fact, you may not!”

“Oh. Nuts, that’s as bad as Buddhism.”

“The Iman said it would be okay,” says Ahmad. “Well, Sifu seems to know what he’s doing.”

The Rev preaches the message of Christianity—turning the other cheek, how Jesus could have kicked the Romans’ butt but chose not to, just as he did when he fought Typhon…

His disciples draw pictures of the battle between Typhon and Christ, that the Rev hopes to turn into a flyer. Ahmad is the…better…artist, and Fan puts some calligraphy on the side. The whole effect looks like a poster for a Chinese opera.




Freddie arrives at the Auguste Derleth school. The headmistress greets him, and then catches sight of Jimmy in his Monsignor outfit. “Count Orlok, how nice to…oh. Father! Are you with the Count?”

“I had the good fortune to run into the Monsignor,” says Freddie.

Deo Gratia,” mutters the headmistress. Jimmy, who has no Latin, merely nods.

“The Monsignor has come down with a terrible cold,” continues Freddie smoothly, “so if he needs to say anything I’ll speak up for him.”

“Sorry to hear that, Father.”

“It happens,” croaks Jimmy.

“Monsignor is very interested in your good works, and would like to look over your records,” says Freddie.

The headmistress is happy to take the Monsignor to the records room, and after a moment’s uncomfortableness, agrees to let Freddie sit in with him. An Irish priest accompanies them into the room.

A cursory check of the records shows that of the five scholarship students, two are too old. Of the three remaining, one is French, one is named Janet, the daughter of a local consul, and one is a young girl named Mirabelle Lovecraft.

The mother is listed as Vanessa Lovecraft, and the father as John Black. Freddie notices that the girl has an excuse to leave today to visit her mother.

Freddie pounds Jimmy’s foot. They make their excuses, and decide to lurk around and wait for a girl to leave the school. Jimmy sheds his Monsignor costume.

Around noon, a nun and a little girl in a fancy dress—not her pinafore uniform—come walking out of the school and heading up the street. The girl sings a merry French song as she skips along.

Jimmy stays on her tail, while Freddie heads up to St. Howard’s and St. Phillip’s with the Rev. The Rev’s cassock seems to be hissing sometimes, but Freddie tries to ignore it.

Sir John Seward, MD, welcomes them into his office. “Dr. O’Donnell, Count Orlok…and…oh.”

“Brother Jones,” says the Rev, offering his hand. A snake uncoils and almost wraps itself around Seward’s arm.

Freddie notice Seward looking at him rather sharply, almost as if he recognizes him.

“Please secure your reptile,” says Seward with a remarkable amount of sang-froid. They all sit. “What an interesting case,” says Seward, glancing at Jones. “Are you here to have him diagnosed?”

“Of course not,” says Freddie, broadly nodding his head.

“I see. Reverend, would you care to stroll in the garden with two of our interns?”

“That depends. Are they willing to listen to my message?”

“I assure you, Reverend, they will hang upon your every word.”



The Rev, and a couple of young interns head out into the garden, leaving Freddie and Francis alone with Dr. Seward. Freddie notices that Seward’s reaction—buried under a very controlled demeanor—seems to be one of shock and surprise at seeing him.

“We’re here about a young woman named Vanessa,” says Francis. “Vanessa Lovecraft.”

“Of course, Doctor. Ward 3.”

“She’s here?”

“You did not know this?”

“On the contrary,” says Freddie.

“She’s been with us almost five years now,” says Seward. “Her case is…well, she’s fragile, and for various reasons her man of business insists she stay here under the calming influence of our care, until she is ready to reenter society.”

“Could you put us in contact with him?”

“He tends to show up without warning every month or so, with the money to pay us. Rather unusual for a business manager, if you ask me—a bit more rough trade. But he does seem to care very much for her.”

“Is he American by any chance?” asks Freddie.

“One of those accents, hard to place, but if I had to wager I’d say American, yes.”

“You practice the talking cure, of course,” asks Francis.

“My dear fellow, I was practicing it practically before Freud.”

“Could we see your notes?”

“I’m afraid those must remain confidential. I’ve thought a few times about writing this case up, but I’m afraid her man of business is rather…emphatic upon her continued incognito status. I brought it up once. Took a week to get my office repaired. But I could arrange a meeting with the young lady, as a professional courtesy to a fellow practitioner. I’ll set it up at once. In the meantime, I’d like to have a few words with the Count if you don’t mind.”




“…and Nothing shall in any way hurt you!” quotes the Rev to the interns as they lead him out into the garden.

“Tell us about the snakes.”

“I have three here today. This is Freddie, Jimmy, and this one is Noor. I don’t know why I named her that, it seemed important for some reason.”

“Of course there had to be three snakes,” says one intern. “It’s the anima, the animus, and—”

“Don’t give me that Jungian crap! Remember, we’re going to write the paper together!”

[CP: Are any of the other patients showing an interest?


Me: Let’s see, you’re bringing a religious delusion into a psychiatric hospital. Of course some are. And a lot of the interns are gathering around as well.]

The Rev singles out a nervous looking patient. “You, sir! Are you in need of salvation?”

A snake uncoils around his hand as he says this.

“Tell me my lord!” stammers the man. “Are you one of the flying ones from Yuggoth?”

“I don’t fly! Take the snake and hold it! If it bites you, your faith isn’t strong enough!”

“Ow!”

“Try harder!”

A couple of burly attendants approach the Rev from behind, holding a strait jacket, but the interns wave him off.

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 8)

Wednesday, 25 November 1925

Freddie hits the uniform stores. He discovers that the uniform was for a convent school—the Auguste Derleth School for Girls.

Jimmy and Francis head to St. Howard’s and St. Phillip’s. Francis uses his medical credentials to get a meeting with the hospital administrator, Sir John Watson.

[Medicine spend by OP.]

“Dr. O’Donnell,” says the rather doddering Watson. “Who are you looking for? Jack Brady? Doesn’t ring a bell. Ah, Vanessa? What a charming photograph. Can’t say I recognize her, but I don’t know all our patients. But even if I did, I’m afraid confidentiality is extremely important—you can’t just go snooping around like some sort of consulting detective, after all.”

“Well, I’m on an extended case for the Shanghai Municipal Police.” Francis hands over his card. “I’m just trying to do the right thing. A man is dead.”

“Unfortunate. Far too many corpses in my life—I was in Afghanistan, old man. I suppose you could meet with our head of Psychiatry, Sir John Seward. He’ll be in tomorrow.”

[OP: …there was a Seward character in Bram Stoker.
Me: Why, YES THERE WAS. What’s the campaign name again?]




Freddie heads down to the Auguste Derleth school, posing as a rich gentleman who needs to find a place for his daughter. The school is not particularly large. Freddie keeps up a friendly banter, asking about faculty size, what finishing schools the girls go to, and then:

“And how many families of repute, and how many…scholarships.”

“We have a generous grant form the church and locals, and that allows us to take on five or six girls. No, no Chinese or Malays, we don’t admit them. I hope we can see you again soon. What did you say your daughter’s name was?”

“Jacqueline. We call her Jackie.”

The Very Most Reverend Doctor James Warren Jones, DD, is down at the wharf, preaching. For a moment he feels as if some one was watching him, but he shrugs it off.

[Jack Brady has a +3 Stealth modifier; no one actually caught him watching them.]

After a few hours of preaching, he has against all odds made a couple of converts—two young longshoremen. Fan is Chinese, Ahmad Malaysian.

“We wish to follow you, Sifu. Teach us more.”

They are speaking a Malay-Cantonese pidgin that Jones can barely follow. He sets about teaching them Latin.




Freddie reports back that there’s only five or six little girls they need to look at. In describing the school to Jimmy, he comes to the realization that something wasn’t quite…Christian about the church on the school grounds. Something…protective, as if it was aware of the larger world, and designed to protect its inhabitants.

[OP: So there’s a blue box in one of the stained glass windows…
Me: I haven’t decided if we’re that post-modern…that may be climbing out on a limb I can’t crawl back from…]

Freddie, knowing that he’s probably been observed by Brady, decides to head out into the dark alleys of Singapore, hoping to draw him out. Francis, knowing that he’s likely to be murdered by either Brady or run of the mill toughs, follows Freddie. Several times they feel eyes on themselves, but they never catch sight of Brady.

[FP came close, rolled a 6, but the TN was 7.]

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 7)

Monday, 16 November 1925

Freddie brings the Rev with him, for moral backup or distraction.

[Me: I know you guys are player characters and have agency, but—you could have the party Face make the meet, and the party thugs—er, action heroes—go to the warehouse.
FP: Excellent. I’ll bring the former party thug now face with me.
OP: And I’ll bring the former party face now thug with me.
Me: Wait…that is kinda how it went, isn’t it?]

They are only waiting for a short while when a stout Chinese man in his fifties, wearing a well-tailored grey English suit, enters. With him is a teenaged girl in a cheongsam dress.

“Count Orlok?”

“Ah, Mr. Ho?”

“No! Merely his barrister. This is his daughter, Ho Hsi-tzu.”

“Charmed. Is—is this Chiu Zhoutsu?”

“He goes by the Reverend Jones.”

“It is important to have an alias.”

Freddie studies Miss Ho carefully, but he can’t tell if she’s human, or as he suspects, an alien wearing a human suit.

“My Chinese is a bit disreputable…” says Freddie.

“Feel free to continue in English. I am well-versed in several European languages.”

“At one point I spoke some French, but it has escaped me.”

Quelle dommage. I understand you are interested in investing with us. Right now we are in the process of merging with a Calcutta-based company.”

“Perhaps I know it.”

“I would be surprised if you do—Thakur Shipping?”

“Dil Chandra Thakur! A remarkable woman. Quite…memorable.”

Francis and Jimmy approach the warehouse, resplendent in their new armor. The gate easily opens to Jimmy’s masterful locksmith skills. They cautiously sneak in to the courtyard of the warehouse.

They see a guard. They freeze. Then they hear a gentle snoring.

Francis clamps a handkerchief laced with chloroform over his face to make sure he stays that way.

The enter the warehouse and take the stairs up to the office. Jimmy notices a weak spot in the stairs, and they mark it.

Inside the office, they find a safe. Jimmy spends a few minutes massaging the tumblers and then cracks it open. They take out a few bundles of cash, and a large chart of the Indian Ocean.

Clearly marked on the map are:

—A spot in Arabia (Freddie would say it was near where they found Irem)

—A spot about where the Carlyles were supposed to have been killed in Tanganyika

—Somewhere in the jungles of Bangladesh

—A spot about where they found Huston’s dig in Australia

—And an island far in to the south.

They leave. Francis, who had been planting “O’Donnell cocktails”, zaps one with the lightning gun. Soon the warehouse is burning rapidly. As it collapses, they notice an armored storeroom underneath the weak spot on the stairs Jimmy found. They also notice a hatch that led down from it to the water—much too low for a boat.

[Molotov hadn’t been linked yet to gasoline filled bottles, thus the moniker. Right around here I quoted Michael Caine from The Dark Knight: “Some men just want to see the world burn.”


I didn’t have this warehouse fire kill any innocents. Well, the guard died. But he wasn’t that innocent.]

A man comes running into the restaurant just as the fourth course is being served. He whispers in Hsi-Tzu’s ear. She puts down her napkin.

“Very very clever, Mr. Blakely. I see that this has all been a ruse. You will regret this.”

She stalks imperiously out.

Several toughs from the kitchen step into the dining room.

Freddie takes out his pistol and puts it on the table. “I am still willing to pay the bill,” he says.

“Dinner’s free. Just leave.”

“Come along, Reverend.”

The Rev grabs some rice. “A sin to waste food.”

When they get back to their hotel, their rooms have been thoroughly tossed.

Francis and Jimmy arrive almost immediately, covered in soot.

“What, again?” says Freddie.

[Flash forward to Bataan, 1942: Francis laughs maniacally as he swings a flamethrower around.]

Shanghai’s a bit hot. They decide to head to Singapore.

[At one point I prepped using the Heat rules from “Night’s Black Agents” but it really wasn’t necessary.]

Onboard Hardekker’s ship, Jimmy decides to study the map. With the aid of his books. But he can’t figure it out.

[A lot of the time, I’ve been allowing my players to decide how bad they want the Mythos spend to be—I ask them how much they want to know. In this case, JP could have learned the entire plan, which would have been 8 Stability and 3 Sanity. He decided to forgo the spend.]

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 6)

Jimmy returns to the hospital. He spends several hours studying the sucking wound on their corpse’s chest. Then he sighs and begins searching through Charleston’s books.

He’s in the middle of a terrifying chapter when Francis plops next to him. “Armor.”

“What?”

“Monster-proof armor. Not a ritual. Materials. I’ve been attacked by lizard people who bit me, and aliens who smacked me, and now there’s this sucking thing hanging around. I’m tired of being a punching bag.”

“Like those bullet-proof vests the G-Men sometimes wear?”

“What?”

Jimmy explains about recent advances in bulletproof clothing. “They’re mostly silk with a metal plate…”

“So, like the kind of armor the Chinese have been making for centuries?”

“Not exactly but…oh, I see. Maybe we can find someone…and the Japanese had something that worked against muskets…”

“And mystical runes. For protection.”

“What?”

“You’ve got the books, Jimmy. I’m tired of getting blindsided by events. I have enough weaponry. It’s time for armor.”

They decide to start hitting up the illegal weapons merchants in the city. Jimmy locates a spell with the help of Noor that might help…the Elder Sign

[Bargain spends, and a point of Streetwise per suit. It looks like…well, sorta like Chinese armor, but acts like bulletproof vests, so two points of armor but it costs a point of Athletics to wear.


Jimmy was able to cast the Elder Sign with the help of some Stability loans from the rest of the party, because it costs a point of Stability rating to cast. They cast the Elder Sign on the inside of the armor, so that they don’t have to walk around with a highly visible mystical rune on the surface.


All this took about a week to take care of, just getting this out of the way.]

After that disturbing conversation, Jimmy turns back the disturbing parts of his books. He searches for the being that could leave such a wound. And he finds it.

Then I oped the Seal and Call’d it forthe…the hideous Star Vampyre. Hidden were it from site, save when it Fedde, for then the Gore wouldst spill upon it and reveal its Glorious forme…and ye shall knowe it, by the sound it maketh, verily like unto the Titter of a small Childe…

[Cthulhu Mythos spend by JP, three points of Stability since this is a pretty tough Mythos critter.]

Folks spend some time recuperating. Francis goes out into the Concession and ties one on with Guy. Jimmy strokes his rabbit’s foot meditatively, and tells Noor the story of how he got it.

“Oh. I never heard that story while I was alive. I guess it will be much better now that I’m dead.”

They also beat the bushes, trying to learn more about Ho Fong. Francis finds out that he has a reputation in Shanghai; no one messes with him. He wasn’t always scary, however—up until five years ago, he was considered a bit milquetoast. He has operations in Calcutta, one of the only Indian cities with a Chinatown. He has a sixteen-year old daughter who is involved in the business to an unusual degree.

Jimmy finds out that Ho Fong is laying off people right and left, and getting ready to move his operations.

[Oral History use by OP and JP.]

Freddie decides to send his card to Ho Fong and request an interview. After a few days, arrangements are made to meet at a restaurant outside the International Zone. Francis and Jimmy plan to pay a call on the warehouse that same night.

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 5)

Monday, 9 November 1925

Jimmy wakes up on his cot down in the hospital lab. He fishes the burnt piece of paper he found at the Pension Montigny the day before, pops it into an autoclave for a moment, and then examines it. The scorch marks have faded, and with the help of a stain he can lift a trace of writing from it.

It’s in Chinese, of course.

He runs down a nurse. She examines it. “Hrm. This part, is address. Not in Shanghai. This part, is bill. For uniform. Girls’ school uniform. Maybe 6 years old.”

Jimmy kicks Francis awake, and tells him what he heard the night before.

“Let me understand,” says Francis. “Brady? The guy on the run from everyone? Sang at the bar?”

Jimmy shrugs.

“Brady must have lived next door to the assassin,” says Francis. “And that guy died horribly. So, he’s either hiding, or being protected. By Ho?”

Jimmy takes out the notes Jax left on Brady. “So, he was wounded at Chateau Thierry…the doc said he should have died. Then, Jax caught up with him in Singapore…met someone named Vanessa.” He holds up a picture of a young woman. “That really disturbed her. And there’s this ship.”

It’s a picture of a steam yacht, surrounded by junks. The letters DAR can be read on the prow.

“Go check out the charitable foundation Freddie found out about,” says Francis. “I’ll see if I can track down this ship. And then maybe we can use those connections to find this little girl.”

Back at the Pension Freddie, the doctor thanks them for their help. “I’m a little addled,” says Mwimbe. “I don’t know what happened. They burst in during the night, I think they were cultists.”

“How do you know that?” asks the Rev.

“They asked about my books.”

“B-b-b-books?” says the Rev. His eyes get a strange glint.

“Very boring books,” quickly interjects Mwimbe.

“Romance novels,” says Freddie. He notices that the normally unreadable Mwimbe seems genuinely surprised that she was attacked, and a little afraid.

Freddie arranges to move them all to the French Concession. Gilbert makes some arrangements with his underworld contacts.

Francis heads down to the docks and spends a long wearisome time crawling through various registries, agencies, logbooks, and writs. Eventually he discovers that the boat in the picture is named the Dark Mistress, British registry, owned by an “Alfred Penhurst.” The parallel to Aubrey Penhew strikes him immediately. He also finds out that it has been making regular trips all around the Indian Ocean, especially between Calcutta and Shanghai—and occasionally ties up at the slip registered to Ho Fong Shipping.

[I handed out that darn picture in the first bloody session but no one ever asked me about it until now.]

Jimmy heads out to find out more about the charitable organization Isoge tipped them to. He heads to the local Anglican church and eventually discovers they fund hospitals throughout the Empire. Brady’s papers singled out two of these that share the same campus—St. Howard’s, and St. Phillip’s. One of them is a mental institution, Jimmy notes.

Freddie asks Dr. Mwimbe about what she was being questioned about. She tells him that they were interested in her books and artifacts.

“Rather specific information, don’t you think?”

“Yes. I think it is a safe bet that the cult knows we are here. I…I fear I have not been completely honest with you, Mr. Blakely.”

“I’ve known that for a while. Is this the part where you say you’re a cultist and stab me?”

“No, but…I was a cultist. In my youth I joined an occult organization. When I discovered they were not actually interested in ending imperialism, but merely the worship of dark evil gods, I left. But they have long memories.”

“Do you feel better for telling me?”

“I suppose. I apologize for endangering you…I hope I have provided some small assistance, from time to time.”

The Rev is straightening up Mwimbe’s room. The porters at the pension are quietly respectful.

“Mr. Chiu?” one says. “If you ever need protection, just let us know.”

“What would I need protection from.”

“No way,” they murmur. “I told you he was tough,” says one. “Just like his dad!” says another.

“What was my father ever doing in Shanghai,” wonders the Rev to himself.

“Chiu Wei-fan and Li Hong were the two greatest of all the Boxers in Shanghai,” says one.

“I’d like to hear some stories of that someday,” says the Rev.

The porters take him out for lunch. The Rev does some light preaching: “Let me read to you from Tentacles, Chapter 13…”

That night they reconvene at a charming French restaurant in the Concession. Freddie recognizes from the description of the uniform that Jimmy has been put together that whoever it was for probably attends a high-end convent school.

[He had the highest Credit Rating.]

“Perhaps we could drive by and assassinate Ho Fong,” muses Freddie. “No, that’s a ridiculous idea.”

[When FP and I played Masks together, that’s exactly what we did. Don’t have a predictable schedule after you threaten psychopaths with shotguns—Evil Cultist List Item No. 41.]

Francis wants to know more about the warehouse. Freddie is nervous about the next arson charge that will be placed against him.

Jimmy wonders if they can learn more about Vanessa, who seems to be in Singapore.

[Here’s the relevant entries from Jax’s diary:

4 [November?]

[I can’t believe it no its] [Heavily crossed out]

Not possible .

But I saw!

I saw what [Illegible, scribbled out]


Saw her.

Vanessa


How How?

What does it all mean?

After dinner, Freddie decides to call his cousin Wooster, with the aim of reaching Jeeves.

“Wooster residence.”

“Ah, hello Jeeves!”

“Count Orlok. What a pleasure.”

“Since the lady of our mutual acquaintance doesn’t want me to contact her directly, I thought I’d pass on the following to you: at this point, we’re on the verge of burning down another warehouse, starting a Communist revolution, and going to Singapore. What say you?”

“I would say that the first one would almost certainly be a criminal action and you should not attempt it, the second is probably inevitable if Mr. Marx is correct, and the third sounds a capital idea. Would you like to speak to your cousin? He is somewhat indisposed right now…”

“Not necessary, if I know Bertie he’ll be a while. Well, what ho, Jeeves.”

“What ho, Jeeves…what an interesting turn of phrase.”

Click.

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 4)

The Most Reverend Doctor James Warren Jones stands outside the Stumbling Tiger, decrying the sin of the people inside. The clubgoers are amused. “I love your act! Will you be doing this every day?”

“Every word and every vision you see in this place is a lie from the pit of Hell! I’ll be here every day!

“Ooh! I think he’s doing an American black man!” They throw some money at the Rev.

“Irredeemable debauchery from pillar to post! I’ve never seen anything like that in all my days!” he thunders.

“That’s what we’re here for!” say the passersby on their way in.

Fortunately for the Rev, since people think he’s associated with the club, the Green Gang keep the Shanghai Municipal Police from hauling him in for annoying white people or some similarly idiotic charge.

Around 4 AM, when the club is finally winding down for the evening, a young Chinese waiter comes up to the Rev and says in Shanghailese, “Chiu Zhoutze? Can that be you? What are you doing here in China?”

“You have to understand,” says the Rev in the same language, “I’m from Shanghai, West Virginia.”

“Riiight. I get it, this is some kind of cover. Don’t worry, we’ll talk to you soon.”

“Be a sport, I know I’ve been decrying you for being the spawn of Hell—”

“Don’t worry, it’s just white people being despicable.”

“Let’s not make it about race, now.”

“They started it. Why don’t you come around back, we’ll give you something to drink.”

He takes the Rev to the kitchen entrance. “You’ll never believe who this is,” says the waiter by way of introduction. “Chiu Zhoutze!”

“No way!” The kitchen staff gather around him. “It’s an honor,” says one man.

“How is your father?” asks another.

“My father?” says Jim. “I…don’t remember.”

The head scullery worker slams down a cleaver. “You,” he spits. “You sold out to the tongs. Go back to the Lis. Go back the gangsters.”

“You can’t say that!” says the waiter. “His father was one of the greatest of the Boxers!”

They feed the Rev and walk him out. “Don’t worry, we still believe in you.”

“That’s fine, but you know who you should believe in? Jesus.”

“What, that white guy god? We don’t care about him.”

“I do,” says one serious young man. “I believe in Jesus. He’s going to save China.”

Freddie and Jones stumble back into their pension around 4:30 AM. They collapse on their beds.

Until dawn, when a noise wakes them up. Freddie dashes out and sees that several toughs have kicked in Mwimbe’s door and are trying to drag her out.

Freddie fires his pistol at him. Several turn around and drop Mwimbe. One just runs away. One pulls a gun. And two go for…their martial arts.

They shoot at Freddie. He fires back and pegs one of the Boxers, but the other roundhouse kicks him in the head.

Reverend Jones pokes his head out of the door. He sees Mwimbe, collapsed to the floor.

“My black African Princess!” he shouts, and rushes for her. “You can’t treat a sister like that!”

The combatants all share a double take. “What the hell?” says one of the Boxers in Shanghailese. Realizing that not only does Freddie have an ally, but that he’s clearly crazy as hell, they decide that discretion is the better part of valor and run off.

Mwimbe has apparently been beaten for information. The Rev helps bandage her up in her room.

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 3)

Thanks to the curfew, Shanghai is like a ghost town. Finally they arrive at a club with a huge neon sign of a tiger pouncing, then tumbling head over heels. A large crowd of mostly men is gathered outside it.

A lot of the young men are remarkably good-looking.

The lightbulb goes on over Freddie’s head.

“Are you a real Russian count?” one of the handsome men asks Freddie as they whisk through the doors.

“Only where it counts,” he leers.

Once inside, the drag act on the stage, men and women dancing only with other men and women, and waiters wearing very little more than a bow tie quickly allow the rest of the group to come to the same conclusion as Freddie: the Stumbling Tiger is Shanghai’s largest gay bar. Freddie is thoroughly amused.

Mr. Isoge is sitting at a roped-off table.

[Me: You know there’s only one guy who could play this guy—George Takei.


FP: His name definitely sounds like an alias; it’s not a real name in Japanese. It means “Faster, Taro, Faster.” There’s some serious innuendo there.]

Jimmy recognizes one of the men sitting with Isoge from a picture in the police station—he’s Big Ears Tang, the head of the Green Gang, the criminal cartel that runs most of the Chinese section of the city.

Freddie finds one of the comrades who works as a waiter. “Are you here to destroy the British like you did in Cairo?”

“I would never admit to such a thing…but if it were to happen…

“That is wise.”

“Can you tell me how to approach Mr. Isoge?”

“Mr. Isoge likes two things—being told how great Mr. Isoge is, and money.”

“Fortunately, I have a surfeit of both.”

By midnight, Freddie has spent an obscene amount of money. Occasionally they see a person from the Embassy staff or the SMP, and everyone pretends not to recognize each other.

Francis stands in the corner, staring down Green Gang members.

Jimmy hunkers down at the bar. “Excuse me?”

The bartender is Chinese, but has an impeccable Received Pronunciation accent. “How can I help you? I have ales, brandies, single-malts, sake…”

“I’ve never tried sake,” says Jimmy. The bartender fetches it to him in a wooden box. Jimmy looks somewhat askance at the warm liquid.

“Have you worked here long?” he asks the bartender.

“Many years, sir.”

“So you would remember say an American woman waltzing in?”

“Sometimes the wives of the Embassy staff come in, looking for a memorable adventure. Taking in the sights, as it were.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have talked to a woman named Jackson Elias?”

“Me not speak English. Me go now. Bye.”

“Sir?” Mr. Isoge would consider it an honor to meet with you." Freddie heads over to Isoge’s private office.

“So, Count Orlok, what brings you here?”

“I’m enjoying the view. A friend gave me one of these.”

“Ah, our matchbook. Is the clientele to your taste? I could arrange something for you.”

They banter for a while. Freddie digs for information about the club. “I know many people in Shanghai,” purrs Isoge. “If you are looking for someone in particular…”

“Well, a woman named Elias…”

“Ah yes, I heard the name, and hoped she might work out here. But then it turned out she really was a woman. She was here about a year ago. A most impertinent woman.”

“But she did tell me about this place, and it has more than lived up to expectations.”

“Oh, my.”

[Flattery use by FP.]

Isoge, however, doesn’t know anything about Jax’s activities in Shanghai; he said she asked about Brady, and he had nothing he could tell her, so she went on her way.

“About Brady…”

“Oh, I don’t actually know anything about him…”

Freddie sees that he is obviously lying.

“I only bring him up because a fling of mine said he was…very stimulating.”

“I’ve heard he’s hung up on some fellow he met in America. He’s a very dangerous fellow to ask after. And a friend of mine.”

Isoge considers Freddie carefully. Then he opens a wall safe. “Brady said if anything every happened to him, all his money was to go to these people.”

Freddie examines the papers. They are for a worldwide British charity, but the particular chapter is in Singapore.

Jimmy is still sitting at the bar. A very pretty queen is sitting at the end. “Were you asking about Jackson Elias?”

“Yes?”

“Are you looking for Jack Brady?”

“Maybe…”

There’s a pause.

“You could buy a girl a drink.”

“Of course.”

A few rounds later, she has become very vocal. “Brady used to come in here from time to time, to sing. He has a really good voice. We would dress him up, so people couldn’t recognize him. It wasn’t his thing, but it was fun. One time, he really tied one on. He had just got back from Singapore, and he was really depressed, and he started to talk about this girl. He almost called her his daughter, but then he caught himself. ‘No, she’s not that,’ he said. ’She’s a miracle though.’ Then he sobered up and hit me and threatened to kill us if we told anything about it. But I think you have a good heart. Hey, I have to get on! It was really nice meeting you, Jimmy!”

“Break a leg!”

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 2)

Freddie changes clothes, grabs an old book, and soon hits the streets as Fritz Janssen, ex-Spartacist. He decides to look up someone he met briefly in Paris. “Scotty,” he thinks. “What did his friends call him? Zhou?”

[As it turns out, I was going to bring Zhou En-Lai into this anyway.]

Zhou, as it turns out, was looking for him anyway. “Comrade Blakely! How terrible that you must play the aristocrat. We have use for a man of your talents—someone so skilled at defeating the British, in Africa, Australia, Egypt…The Movement progresses. We tweak the foreign imperialists here, while gathering in the south.”

“Aren’t you some kind of military leader?”

“I have a police training. These men behind me with rifles are here to express their devotion to the cause of our recently departed leader, Sun Zhongsan. Hopefully his idiot son-in-law won’t come to power. Do you know Zedong? My friend Comrade Mao?”

“Haven’t had the pleasure yet.”

“He will do great things. Come and bring your revolutionary insight one day. I think you are kindred spirits.”

“I am looking for a man named Jack Brady. He seems to have some connection with the Stumbling Tiger nightclub.”

“Interesting. As regards the nightclub, it is a den of enormous decadence and materialism…also…I had not thought it was your kind of place, but no matter. We all struggle together, and I accpet the peccadillos of my fellow comrades. It is run by a phenomenally corrupt Japanese named Isoge Taro. We have a few comrades in the kitchen. Brady, I am afraid I know little about.”

“And a businessman named Ho Fong?”

“Very successful gentleman. Not particularly noteworthy until five years ago. Independent, has an international shipping business. He has a warehouse in the Bund district. We DON’T have any comrades in his operation. He is well-protected—not just by the Europeans and the Green Gang, but by a certain…malign influence. We have learned through experience not to tangle with Ho Fong.”

“I’ll make sure not to let him know you sent me.”

“That would be most beneficial to both of us. It would be a shame for our friendship to end on such terms.”

[Me: Zhou En-Lai was particularly good at the veiled threat.]

Jimmy and Francis meet at their crime scene lab in the hospital. Francis turns over the kukri and the passports to the police.

[I offered a spend to make it go faster, but OP said it was “their case—I’m just helping out.”]

Jimmy is very disturbed by the wound—it reminds him of things he had read in Charleston’s books. He prepares a chemical bath to see if he can lift anything off the piece of paper he found.

Freddie hies himself down to the Bund. The warehouse is surrounded by a high concrete wall, with broken bottles embedded along the top. He notices that there seem to be rather fewer people there than most warehouses he’s seen (at least before Francis blew them up.) Also, items seem only to be taken out of the warehouse.

He follows a truck from the warehouse down the wharf. The items are being loaded onto a cargo ship. The Port Warden, an American named Commander Jack Bradford. “One of those Russian aristocrats, eh? How can I help you?”

“I’m interested in running some ships here.”

“That’s us, it all falls under the American River Patrol. Let me explain the details…”

Freddie half-listens, while reading the Commander’s log book upside-down. The cargo ship is the Star, bound for Calcutta. There don’t seem to be many entries bringing cargo to the warehouse, he notices.

“What ho, gentlemen!” says Freddie. He looks around at the lab that Jimmy and Francis have hijacked. Alembics bubble, bunsen burners flame quietly, and three assistants….shanghaied…by Francis bustle about.

Freddie explains what he has discovered.

“Another warehouse,” grunts Francis. A malicious gleam comes into his eye.

Gilbert silently hands out evening clothes to Francis and Jimmy.

Dinner at the American Embassy is a lavish affair. The cuisine is mostly in the high French style, with a few Chinese touches thrown in for local color.

The servants are all Chinese.

Francis and Jimmy are sitting near an aviator—Commander Earl Spencer, USN.

“What line of work you fellas in?”

“Private investigation,” says Francis.

“Really? That’s an interesting career.”

“Not as interesting as flying,” says Jimmy.

Freddie is seated next to his wife, a woman named Wallis.

[In answer to your question—how many women named Wallis are there in the world? This is indeed the future wife of Edward, Duke of Windsor.]

“Very pleased to meet you,” says Wallis. “I feel like I’ve known you before. You ever come down to Baltimore?”

“Mostly New York, when I was in the States.”

“Oh, I love New York. Wish Earl could get posted back there. His career is a bit stalled…maybe Prohibition would cure him of being a drunk.”

Freddie notices that Wallis Spencer seems to have a rather unnerving charisma.

Unfortunately, Earl Spencer notices Wallis paying attention to Freddie. “Who the hell is she talking to? The [gender slur].”

“That’s not a very nice way to talk about your wife,” says Francis.

“She’s not a very nice lady. What’s it to you, anyway? You want to make something of it?”

“I really do.”

They walk outside, Earl leading the way. The moment they cross the threshold, Francis kicks Spencer’s leg out and begins punching him on the ground.

“He’s going to kill Earl! You know how hard it is to get remarried if you’re a widow!” says Wallis.

“Won’t you get a widow’s pension?” says Freddie.

“Well, he’s only a Commander…”

Freddie pulls Francis off of Spencer. Earl and Wallis scream insults at each other.

The party finally crashes to an end around ten PM. “Thank you for a most…interesting evening,” says the Ambassador. Freddie and company pile into the car Blakely had hired and head over to the Stumbling Tiger.

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Episode XV: If You See Her, Say Hello (Part 1)

Shanghai in the 1920s! Gangsters, foreigners, illicit trade with a backdrop of neon-lit nightclubs. Divided into multiple foreign sections, Shanghai has little municipal government outside the International District (the joint British-American sector) and the French Concession.

Shanghai! Where Jackson Elias seems to have first encountered Jack Brady, and where a shadowy importer named Ho Fong seems to be at the center of a world-wide exchange of artifacts of great evil…

Sunday, 8 November 1925

The diesel yacht Sterkte makes its way up the Whangpoo river and docks at the Shanghai waterfront. Captain Hardekker and his mate, Desmond Motombo, had to double up in the same cabin to accommodate Freddie, Francis and company. Jimmy notices that they seemed to have done so even before they took them on as passengers.

The customs lines are interminable; the normal bribes merely get them on the less-slowly moving line. Francis notes that security seems tighter than they would have expected. Freddie notes that it is suspiciously easy for him to bribe the customs officials to ignore Francis’ arsenal.

As they finally make their way away from the entrepot, two officials in suits approach. Francis and Jimmy immediately suss them as cops.

“Mr. Wright? Mr. O’Donnell? Let me introduce myself. I’m Harvey Phillips. I don’t know if you know much about the political situation here…well, we had a situation where the Municipal Police fired into a crowd. So there’s a curfew, first of all. Oh, this is Clive Basserman, my counterpart on the British side.”

[The “trouble” was the May 30th Movement, a massive series of strikes and anti-imperialism demonstrations that crippled the city in 1925. A curfew was indeed instituted, and all European/American men were armed as an impromptu militia. The strikes are winding down by this point, after the electricity was cut off to large parts of the city.]

“Go on,” says Francis.

“Well, we seem to have a little mystery on our hands, and if you could help us out, we’d be delighted to have you dine with the Ambassador tonight.”

“This is my associate, Jimmy.”

The James Wright? I remember your ads from when I was in New York. What brings you fellows to Shanghai?”

“I hired them,” says “Count Orlok”.

“I hope you don’t mind us borrowing them? Good. If you boys would come down to the department, we’ll talk it over with you.”

Freddie sets out to find an inconspicuous place to lay low. He heads out into the Chinese part of the city, and rents a pension in a poor district. Then he begins to put out feelers on Ho Fong, and “The Stumbling Tiger” nightclub—Jax had a matchbook from there.

“Well, chaps,” says Basserman when they’ve reached the Municipal Police headquarters, “I’m asking for your help not only because of the unusual nature of the case, but because frankly we’re stretched very thin. And to be utterly frank, detective work isn’t one of the recruiting needs of the SMP.”

Francis nods. He’s already noted that most of the Shanghai Municipal Police are Indians.

Francis and Jimmy are led down into the morgue, where they’re shown a body that’s been kept on ice. With his medical training, Francis immediately sees that the body has been completely exsanguinated.

“The only injury was this sucking sore near the aorta,” says Basserman. “As if something drained out all the blood through it.”

Francis arranges for the body to be transferred to the nearest hospital. Basserman gives him his card—“if you have any trouble, even with the frogs, this will clear you.”

Once at the hospital, Francis defrosts the body and pumps it full of saline. Once rehydrated, he discovers several defensive wounds on the man’s arms. He can also identify the corpse as almost certainly an Indian. The sucking wound resembles nothing he has ever seen…the closest analog he can find is a lamprey bite. But this is much bigger.

The body was found on the border of the French Concession; he seems to have been a vagrant who was staying at the Pension Montigny, a dive in the Concession. He had no papers on him, and the French seem to consider this not their issue since the body was found—absolutely, definitively—on the Chinese section.

Jimmy heads over to the Pension Montigny. There are checkpoints when he leaves the International District.

The Pension is a run-down residential hotel. After five minutes of hard knocking, a rather used-up woman opens the door. Jimmy can hear the sound of empty bottles being cleared away by the sweep of the door.

Bon jour?”

“Bon jour.”

Américain. What do you want?”

“I’m looking into a resident of yours, found dead in the Chinese zone?”

“I don’t know anything about that.” She moves to close the door.

Jimmy jams his foot in the way. “I’m not with the police. I’m a private eye.”

“Oh, like in a roman noir! Okay, how can I help, Mister Private Dick?”

“Can you tell me about him?”

“This place is cash only, I don’t keep track. It’s very hot and I need a drink.”

“I have excellent taste in drinks,” says Jimmy, producing a flask.

[Flattery and Preparedness by Jimmy.]

“That’s completely different! My name is Jennie. Room four, room five, the guys left, didn’t want the deposit back, so I spent it. Room five, he stay here a long time, always coming and going—stay away for weeks, but he pay the rent. Room four, he was new, just spent all his time in the room. Room five guy came back one night, I hear them talking, and I don’t remember what happens next—I had a little snoot—then they both gone.”

“Were they French?”

“Room four was Indian. Room Five, spoke Chinese really well, I think he was American.”

Jimmy leaves his flask and goes upstairs to check out the rooms. Room five has a homely vibe, as if it has been inhabited for a long time—yet at the same time, there’s a certain impersonality, as if the guy was used to leaving in a hurry. Jimmy searches up and down for a long time. He finds next to nothing useful—the few remaing clothes are all secondhand and bought locally—but finally behind the bed he finds a charred piece of paper that he thinks he could extract something from given time and chemicals.

Room four has a similar air—that of an inhabitant used to leaving in a hurry. Under the bed, he finds a valise. Inside is a rather wicked looking kukri. It is very well cared for, and very often used. He also finds several passports with different names.

This guy was a pro, thinks Jimmy. And he died, fast and horribly. He has little question that the man in room four was an assassin.

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