The Night Floors (Part 1)
In the midst of an August heat-wave, the mysterious caller finally gets in touch with Shane via text message. The message instructs Shane to call his friends and meet near the Statue of Liberty in front of the New York, New York hotel and casino. Shane is advised to wear a dark green tie and a pair of sunglasses so that a contact will recognize him…
The contact turns out to be Sandra Levinson, a former colleague of Shane’s at the FBI. Considering his suspension from active duty, Sandra is somewhat surprised to see Shane there. Still, orders are orders, and Sandra proceeds to fill the investigators in on a missing persons case that ‘Agent Sanders’ wants Shane, Sarah Anne, and James to look at and report back any potential occult links.
The case concerns an Abigail Wright, a commercial illustrator and artist, who was reported missing by her father Alan Wright two months ago, after he had found a bizarre and baffling ‘art project’ inside her apartment. The LVPD investigation, led by the notorious Detective McIntyre, failed to discover any meaningful leads after questioning Abigail’s neighbors, friends, and business associates. The case was placed on the backburner until August 4th, when Abigail’s credit card was used to purchase a pack of cigarettes in Patience, Maryland. The FBI soon began investigating the Wright case as a possible interstate kidnapping, but the lead in Patience also brought them to a dead-end. Hopeful that the strange art project in Abigail’s apartment would provide some clues or insight into her possible whereabouts, the Bureau office in Vegas sent two agents over to begin documenting the contents of the project.
One of those FBI agents was Sandra Levinson, who discovered a rather unsettling symbol amid the debris of the art project. She recognized the sign as something Shane had focused his attention on during the fateful case that resulted in his indefinite sidelining from the Bureau. Instead of reporting it to her superiors, Sandra reported her find to Agent Sanders, whom she was presumably previously acquainted with. Sanders was allegedly in charge of an inter-agency taskforce which dealt with cases of a more esoteric nature. Sanders must have felt that Proctor, with his extensive occult knowledge, would be the right choice to look into Abigail Wright’s disappearance.
Shane only had a vague idea of what the symbol actually represented. He thought he had seen something similar to it in his research before, and guessed that it dated back to France in the 18th Century. Sister Sarah Anne recalled that the symbol was used by a cult in France which was driven off by the Church around that time period.
The investigators asked Sandra some basic questions concerning Abigail’s work, where Alan Wright lives, the failed investigation in Maryland, before accepting the task and heading straight over to the apartment complex Abigail lived in, the Macallistar Building.
Located off of Coolidge Ave near the burgeoning Las Vegas arts district, the Macallistar’s faux-medieval design towed the line between arty and gaudy. A fake drawbridge surrounded by palm trees led to an imitation portcullis hanging over the front doors. Inside the foyer, the trio of investigators found mailboxes belonging to the tenants of the building. A considerable stack of old newspapers and junk mail had accumulated outside of the actual mailboxes. Sarah Anne wanted to check out Abigail’s box, which was overflowing with letters when opened. Most of the mail was useless, but Sarah Anne did turn up an unpaid phone bill, which showed the last call from Abigail’s apartment was to her father Alan Wright on April 17th. Also of note was a bank statement, which showed Abigail was sitting on a couple thousand dollars between her savings and checking accounts. Besides the cigarettes purchased in Maryland the week prior, the last card transaction was back on February 10th, at a used book store in downtown Vegas.
Using a key Sandra had given them, the investigators made their way inside Abigail’s apartment, and what they found was more a shrine dedicated to madness than an art project. The carpet had been torn apart, and the walls and ceiling were covered with layer upon layer of random junk that had been glued there. The contents of the shrine were too numerous to take in all at once – papers, jewelry, old radios, clocks, office supplies, parts of an antique wheelchair, random bits and bobs from gutted electronic devices, the list went on and on. Spot hidden rolls were utilized as the investigators spent some time rifling through all the junk, with James and Shane turning up items of interest after combing the walls for an hour or so (Sarah Anne botched her roll, and presumably spent much of the time idly gazing out the window or at a pretty picture on the wall).
Shane had found a carefully hidden map which seemed to be the architectural plans of the Macallistar Building. A number of nonsensical notes had been scribbled in the margins – “Man with briefcase and white shoes”, “Roses and butter”, etc. There were also a number of additional doors that had been drawn in, although they made even less sense than the notes. If the doors really existed, they would lead into open air, and some of them were marked above the third floor, the upper-most story of the apartment complex. Shane, ever the occult-theory man, started hypothesizing that Abigail was dabbling in travel to other dimensions, and started looking for hidden exits inside her apartment. The other investigators were slightly leery of this theory, although not entirely against the possibility.James meanwhile, had found a piece of paper which contained what looked like a segment of a play. He shared it with the others…
SCENE: The Smoking Lounge, a large parlor on the fourth floor. In the room are THE DOG, THOMAS, and MICHELLE. ENTER MARK ROARK. MARK: Abigail is gone, she moved upstairs today. THOMAS: And? MARK: I miss the kid. MICHELLE: Her dad, that pig, came around. She doesn't like you Mark, no one likes you. Anyway, she ran off with that salesman, everyone knows it. MARK: Fuck you, you cunt. THOMAS: Come on guys...come on... THE DOG BARKS. Someone is heard coming up the steps, a loud racket reverberating up and down the staircase. MARK: Who is that? Everyone stops to listen. MICHELLE: Who could be down there? Who is that? MARK steps to the doorway and leans to look down the stairs. MARK: Hello? Hello? ENTER FBI AGENTS. -The King in Yellow Act II. Scene 19
As they pondered the meaning of this, the investigators searched Abigail’s bathroom and kitchen. The kitchen seemed to provide the most amusement for everyone, when it was discovered that items in Abigail’s refrigerator had expired months ago yet still appeared to be fresh and edible. James even went to the trouble of clearing space on the kitchen counter for his forensics kit so he could analyze a carton of milk (one postulated theory was that the milk had been frozen and was recently thawed out). A successful chemistry check only proved that the carton had not been frozen and that it was still fresh. The only rational theory was that someone was re-using old food containers that had gone past their sell-by date, but that was a flimsy idea at best…
It was at this point that Shane had a sudden wave of paranoia wash over him, feeling as if he were being watched inside the apartment. He started tearing the place apart looking for surveillance equipment, but even with his pals helping him search, nothing was found. As James chastised Shane for being too jumpy, Sarah Anne thought she heard strange voices coming from behind the walls of the apartment. The voices sounded… demonic in tone. It was then decided that perhaps the investigators should leave the apartment for awhile and focus their efforts elsewhere.
The investigators took the page of the play with them and checked the mailboxes in the foyer to see if any of the names there matched up with the first names of the characters in the play. Their reasoning was that the play had mentioned an ‘Abigail’, so perhaps it was part of a ‘based on a true story’ piece. There was no ‘Mark’ to be found, but the investigators did find a box for a Michelle Vanfitz and a Thomas Manuel (in addition to two other names – Louis Post and Roger Carun). The trio took a chance with Ms. Vanfitz first, and ventured up to the second floor to ask her a few questions about Abigail’s disappearance.
Sarah Anne was put forth as the questioner by Shane, who had little desire to speak to a strange woman that was identified in police reports as a writer of feminist and socio-political works. A knock on the door was answered by an angry looking woman in her 30’s wearing African tribal beads, a Che Guevara t-shirt (an intriguing choice for a feminist?), moccasins, and nonprescription glasses. The players got really scared when they saw a poster for ‘Nutcracker Suite’ on the wall of her apartment.
Michelle was leery of answering questions in front of two scruffy looking men, but Sarah Anne diverted her attention by mentioning how much she enjoyed Michelle’s most recent essay, Men Are Scum. This loosened Ms. Vanfitz’s tongue enough to answer a few questions, the answers providing little illumination to the case at hand. Michelle didn’t know Abigail all that well, and she had virtually no insight into the cause of her disappearance. She was also unaware of what exactly The King in Yellow was. Shane was brave enough to ask Michelle if she had a dog, which she didn’t. Michelle was unaware that pets were even allowed inside the complex. Sensing her growing apprehension, the investigators thanked Michelle for her time, only to receive a slammed door in their faces.
As it started to get dark outside, the party went downstairs to check in on Mr. Manuel, and were greeted by a pleasant enough young artist who invited them in and offered them a drink. Shane asked for a glass of milk, but decided not to drink it when it was eventually given to him (although I did point out that there wasn’t enough time for Thomas to poison the drink, William still wouldn’t touch it). Investigators noted an awful lot of stereo equipment and precious few items relating to art in Manuel’s apartment, which stood out as being odd for someone who was reported to be deep into abstract artwork. When questioned on this, Thomas told the investigators that the night manager allowed him to use an unused room in the basement as a workspace, and that the stereos were gifts from his parents, whom he was close with. Music helped Thomas with inspiration while he was painting (Thomas’ genre of choice being Belgian jazz…).
Contrary to Michelle and the established police and FBI reports, Thomas knew exactly where Abigail had gone – she had ‘moved upstairs’ with a salesman who apparently also resided in the building. Further questioning on this revealed that the salesman lived on the sixth floor of the Macallistar. Thomas was also familiar with The King in Yellow, although it became apparent as he tried to describe some of the plot elements of the play to the investigators that Thomas knew little of what the play was actually about, he was just in love with the language and the tone of the writing. To further emphasize this thought, Thomas showed the investigators his favorite snippet of the play, which he had photocopied and saved…
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies But stranger still is Lost Carcosa Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa -Cassilda's Song in 'The King in Yellow' Act I. Scene 2.
The investigators asked if Thomas was familiar with Mark Roark, which he was. Thomas said Roark could usually be found in the smoking lounge on the fourth floor. The investigators requested that Thomas show them up to the fourth floor, which he reluctantly agreed to. He took the party up three flights of stairs towards a hatch that would normally lead to the roof. However, when Thomas opened the hatch, it lead into an exquisite Edwardian parlor. Leather armchairs dotted the room, a fully stocked wet bar was located in one corner of the room, rows of bookshelves filled with antique leather-bound books were located on the opposite side of the room (which, as Sarah Anne discovered, all contained various collections of antique pornography… much to her embarrassment), and – perhaps most baffling of all, the room contained a blazing fireplace. Although the city was currently in the midst of a terrible heat wave, the fire actually made the room seem cozy and warm.
Thomas introduced the investigators to Mark Roark, who was sitting in one of the chairs puffing absently on a cigar and nursing a glass of scotch. Roark was an overweight man in a seersucker suit with an absolutely abysmal looking wig on his bald head. He was also extremely ill-tempered, referring to Sarah Anne as ‘Two-Face’ at one point. The party briefly questioned Roark as Thomas took his leave. Yes, he knew ‘Abby’, and yes, she was now living with a ‘bastard encyclopedia salesman’ on the sixth floor, but after answering these questions Roark quickly became irritable again. The investigators left the bitter, miserable drunk to his own devices and started searching the dimly lit fourth floor hallways, located beyond the threshold of the smoking lounge…
The following section of the synopsis recounts the players’ explorations of a strange place where the normal rules of nature and logic need not apply. It is possible one or two events may have been placed out of order here, but that is simply because this absent-minded Keeper cannot recall them exactly as they happened many days after the fact. Perhaps this is somewhat appropriate, given the mind-bending, anachronistic nature of this portion of the scenario.
Shane could immediately hear noises from behind the first door the investigators passed – the sound of passionate lovemaking. The characters decided to leave well enough alone there and ventured up the staircase at the end of the hall to the fifth floor, similar in design to the fourth, but with a long, elegant mirror placed prominently at the far end of the hall. The group wished to continue up to the sixth floor to try and find the room belonging to this mysterious salesman, but were first interrupted by a rather dapperly dressed waiter, who offered the investigators some tasty looking hors d’oeuvres. Everyone hastily turned down the food. I think the players are under the impression I’m trying to poison them…
Moving past the waiter to climb up to an impossible sixth floor, the investigators saw another elegant mirror at the end of the hall. They also caught sight of a nervous, sweaty, overweight man who took one look at the investigators and bolted for the nearest door, fumbling around to find the right key before slipping through and slamming the door shut behind him. The players were nonplussed about this, and decided to check out all the other doors on this floor before going near the fat man’s apartment.
Shane pressed his ear to the door directly across the hall and heard the sound of a little girl singing. He tapped on the door and received no answer, so the investigators carefully opened what turned out to be an unlocked door and crept into the apartment. The sound of the girl’s singing immediately stopped, and Shane could find no trace of a child whatsoever. Instead, the room was crammed with old books from floor to ceiling, practically all of them unmarked. Sarah Anne picked one up and read a passage, which told the story of a giant dancing about madly, wreaking havoc wherever he went – with thousands of people, the size of ants on his gigantic body, writhing around in a wild orgy on his despicable glowing flesh. This passage disturbed Sarah Anne greatly, although she did not explain why to the others. She chose to hold on to the book for the time being, as the group decided to move on and inspect another area.
Inside another unlocked apartment, the investigators find another piece of the play lying crumpled on the floor…
SCENE: A room on the fifth floor. Present are MICHELLE and ROGER. ROGER: Hey, weren't we just in your apartment? MICHELLE: You've had too much to drink. And you're not doing a good job of answering my questions. ROGER: Oh. I'm sorry. What did you want to know again? MICHELLE: When are you going to pull your head out of your ass and actually try to write a strong female lead into your books? You write some of the most stereotypical chauvinistic male trash I've ever seen. You have no idea how womyn actually think or feel, do you? ROGER: Well...now...hold on just a minute... MICHELLE: Typical chainmail bikini nonsense! ROGER: Now, hang on. I never said... A wimper is heard from the corner of the room. ROGER: Hmm? What's that? MICHELLE walks toward the sound. She finds LYLE cowering and shivering. MICHELLE: Lookie what we have here! Another snivelling, cowering man! ROGER: Hey there fella. You look a little hungry. LYLE: What? No! No, stop! I'm not in this! Don't put me in your crazy play! MICHELLE: Say what? LYLE: No, I haven't gone off the deep end like the rest of you yet! Keep me out of this thing! LYLE runs from the room, screaming. ROGER: That's what you get for trying to shut my cable off, bub. Uh...now where we were? -The King in Yellow Act II. Scene 26
The investigators also found a boarded up window placed in an improbable location. Shane bashed the planks of wood in, revealing another living room, this one fancied up in 1950’s decor. Sarah Anne crawled through the window to have a look around, but didn’t have much of a chance to search when James started to freak out, believing that he was hearing an Elvis Presley song playing from out in the hall. Sarah Anne joked that The King in Yellow actually referred to Elvis, ‘the King’, but the others remained skeptical. As soon as the investigators backed out of the room, the music James had heard disappeared.
After encountering an empty apartment, the investigators went to check on the door that the nervous man had slipped through. Shane swung the door open and went in first, only to take a headlong fall into an open elevator shaft that had suddenly appeared. Shane fell down into darkness for an impossibly long time before finally bouncing off of something, again and again and again. Sarah Anne and James turned to see Shane come tumbling down the stairs at the end of the hall, looking dazed and confused.
Nothing made sense anymore. The investigators backtracked to the fifth floor and looked at the mirror at the end of the hall. The reflections they saw appeared normal, but their clothes looked tattered and frayed. Soon the investigators saw a brief reflection of a tattered figure in yellow robes behind them, beckoning the trio towards him, but when the investigators turned around, the figure was no longer there. This gives Shane the bright idea to shoot the mirror with his handgun, which he does with no effort. Unfortunately, the loud bang causes all kinds of commotion in the Macallistar, tenants shouting and groaning, a dog barking, and – as the investigators approach one of the doors on the fifth floor, a rapid-fire response: the sound of a machine gun going off several times, followed by a harrowing death scream.
Gun drawn, Shane lead the way into the room, only to find an empty ballroom in place of an apartment. The scent of gun powder hung heavy in the air, and bullet casings could be seen all over the floor, but there were no gunmen in sight… nor any bodies. A few trails of blood led to one nasty pool of blood that had gathered in the center of the room. Other than that, the investigators could find no trace that anyone had even been in this room.
Back in the hallway, the characters then heard the sounds of a heated argument between a man and a woman. The investigators burst through the door just as the argument started to borderline on violence, but, typical for this strange place, the noise ceased as soon as the door was opened. Inside, the investigators found life-size statues of a man and a woman arguing. After poking around for a few moments, the investigators left. The sounds of arguing started back up as soon as the door was closed behind them.
The investigators found their way into another apartment, this one dotted with framed newspaper clippings from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s, books, and plenty of antique odds and ends. The apartment was empty, although the investigators did find another piece of the play in here. This was the oddest part yet…
SCENE: A void. Somewhere in an undetermined section of space and time. Four individuals are sitting around computers, taking part in a social 'game' of unknown origin. JOE: Man...sucks that all of our characters died at once like that. SHANNON: Yeah, I didn't really see that one coming. WILLIAM: I feel kind of cheated. Isn't there some other saving throw we could have made? MATTHEW: No. Sorry...your investigators are goners. Everyone will have to roll new characters up. WILLIAM: Can my new character still know kung-fu? SHANNON: Can I have a character with a flamethrower now? JOE: Hey, maybe if I create my new character with a crippling disease or some sort of horrific mutation already in place, GOOD things will happen to him? -The King in Yellow Act II. Scene ??
Depending on which player you ask, this was either funny or groan inducing. At any rate, the investigators were uncertain of their next move. Sarah Anne wanted to check out the apartment that had the 1950’s living room behind the window, since her search was previously interrupted, so the characters all headed back upstairs to the sixth floor. However, the room had somehow changed since the investigators last ventured there, now populated with a collection of weird antique photographs of people holding an odd-shaped bottle in front of them. It was here that another piece of the play was found…
SCENE: The apartment of ROGER, who is present, alongside ABIGAIL. ROGER: Can you believe that guy? Trying to shut off my cable like that... ABIGAIL: Listen, Rog, I just stopped by to say that I'm going now. I won't be coming back. ROGER: Eh? Where...where are you going? Why won't you be coming back? ABIGAIL: I'm moving upstairs. He's going to take me away from all this. ROGER GASPS. ROGER: You don't mean...? ABIGAIL: Yes. Carcosa awaits me. Goodbye, Roger. They share an awkward embrace. ABIGAIL departs. ROGER: Bye... bye. -The King in Yellow Act II. Scene 17
Sarah Anne wished to connect to the Internet and search for the phrase ‘Carcosa’. A constant bane and irritant for Keepers of modern CoC, isn’t it? To have characters walking around with Internet-ready cellular devices and laptops. And the lame excuse of ‘it doesn’t work in this weird building’ just wasn’t going to cut it. Um… but I digress – a successful Internet/Library use roll turned up some brief snippets mentioning ‘Carcosa’ as an alien city from the play The King in Yellow, although Sarah Anne had to dig pretty deep into the archives to find them. As she was pursuing this information, she heard Elvis Presley singing “Suspicious Minds” out in the hall.
The investigators moved out into the hallway, where Sarah Anne saw a strange reflection in the mirror – Elvis in a tattered yellow jumpsuit, beckoning her to follow him. Freaked out by this, Sarah Anne had Shane shoot this mirror too, which promptly caused the thing to shatter into a thousand pieces. The commotion this time brought Mark Roark up the stairs, who bitched the investigators out for causing so much racket. Shane played it off like they were just young kids having fun by raising hell. Roark begrudgingly went away; most likely he had spent far too long away from his precious booze at this point anyway.
Frustrated with their lack of progress, the investigators moved back down to five again to look for the room where Act 26 of the play took place, hoping to find this previously unheard of ‘Lyle’ character. Approaching a door, the investigators noted a large crack in the wall, which ran all the way to the ceiling. Feeling barbaric, Shane kicked the crack in, which caused reality to tear away from everyone in the party like a house of cards falling away. The investigators found themselves on a large stage looking out to an audience of marionettes gently swaying back and forth in the darkness. The marionettes silently stared back at the party….
And that particular sanity-testing surprise acted as the cliffhanger for session number three…