Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies

Episode 4: Darkness in California

April 7th, 1937 . . .

After spending time recovering in Savannah and updating Janet Winston-Rogers on their progress, Lord Edward Homeward, Howard Defoe and Fr. Carl Meinardus made plans to fly to Los Angeles to use the Bank Key they found at the Henslowe Estate. The key, going to a safe deposit box at the Bank of Long Beach seemed to contain some important clues regarding the 1924 Incident and the current Henslowe Case.

Before Frankie Fawn prepped the DC-3 for a very long flight to the West Coast, Lord Edward sent off more correspondence to his uncle, Dr. Marvin Derrikson in Oxford, England. As Dr. Derrikson was something of a mentor to Lord Edward, Edward wanted his uncle’s take on a variety of topics currently under investigation.

When the group finally began their flight, they knew it would take them the better part of a week. Several stops for rest and sleeping for Frankie would put them in Los Angeles by the the 11th. During the flight, however, there was an incident. Howard Defoe noticed that his arm was festering, moving and making disturbing sounds. As he ripped away the bandages he noticed, to his horror, that there was a grotesque and horrific mouth mumbling and weeping, similar to the ones found at Joy Grove and at the Henslowe Estate on the alligator! Fortunately, within moments, Howard awake from this nightmare, noting that his arm was fine, but it was his psyche that was damaged.

Upon landing in Los Angeles on April 11th, at the Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, the investigators thought they would approach things differently than they had in Savannah. In Los Angeles they would rent a private penthouse apartment (West 4th Street Apartment) and rent their own car (1930 Dusenberg). Since the Bank of Long Beach was 2 hours away from downtown Los Angeles, where they were planning on staying, a car would be needed. Of course, many other areas like city hall and the library would be within walking distance.

After settling in, getting acquainted with the area and deciding on a course of action, the following day they drove down to the bank in Long Beach. To their dismay they found it closed. Not simply closed for the day but shuttered and no longer conducting business. A local vagrant said the bank had been shuttered for about five years and that the federal government had seized the assets. Determining that the FDIC would have dominion over everything, including safe deposit boxes.

The return to Los Angeles, proper, was slightly more somber as they came back empty handed and had to find the FDIC offices before close of business. After meeting with government officials, producing the safe deposit box key and proving they had the right to have access, the officials agreed to have the box brought to the office from the warehouse the following day. Meanwhile Fr. Carl went to the library to investigate the local take on the 1924 Incident and reported back that the farm that Edgar Job and Douglas Henslowe had referenced was on Lot 32 and was owned by a Ramon Echavarria.

The following day, Defoe decided to go to the police station in Los Angeles and see if he can get access to the police records on what happened at the farmhouse at Lot 32. Receiving a few suspicious glances, Defoe eventually was able to convince a clerk to make a copy of the file (Lot 32 File) with a few kind words and a few dollars for his trouble. Asking of any detectives were still around, Defoe was directed to Trent Huggins. Huggins and Defoe seemed to hit it off well with Huggins telling Defoe his take on the investigation – drug users and weirdos killing each other over heroin or something similar to it. The two men agreed to stay in touch but not before Huggins told Defoe to watch himself as certain elements of the LAPD did not like strangers asking too many questions. Gesturing to a particular detective who seemed to be watching their conversation, Det. Nate Detmiller, Huggins seemed to use this individual to illustrate his point.

Lord Edward first went to city hall to examine records. Whereas Echavarria seemed to have no relatives and no next of kin, the only property discovered was a home in Highland Park (who has gone three two owners since 1924) and the infamous Lot 32.

Back at the FDIC, Lord Edward did secure the safe deposit box and upon testing the key and determining it worked, scurried back to the apartment to examine the contents. Walking back to the apartment, Lord Edward did seem to notice a police car roll by and the officer in the passenger seat shoot him a dirty scowl. As he entered the rented apartment, he and Howard Defoe connected and everyone would be present for what was inside the box.

When they finally made it upstairs to open the box they traveled so far to find, they discovered it contained a large series of photographs and a ledger. The photos (Blackmail Photos) were perverse and disturbing pictures, clearly taken from concealment, which capture between three and a dozen people engaged in depraved sex acts in a variety of interior and exterior locations. The photos are not even titillating but instead disturbing in their unnatural, and in some instances, painful acts.

One man or Latin American descent, (later identified as Ramon Echavarria) is in every single one of the photos, leading the current investigators to conclude, he must have been the target of the photographs. Edgar Job appears in a couple of the photographs and another man, identified as actor Richard Spend, was also identified. These photos were so revolting that Fr. Carl had to walk away and Lord Edward remained quite disturbed for the rest of the evening.

The ledger (Narcotics Ledger) describes a variety of drug transactions, described in code, detailing the lucrative sale of a liquid substance called ‘N’ (later identified as Nectar). The ledger described sales between 1918 and 1924 and were clearly prepared by a trained accountant. Evidently, the material was compiled by the 1924 Investigators as possible blackmail material or leverage against Echavarria in case it was needed.

Howard went through the police file, confirming everything he and Huggins had discussed earlier. Turning to the section on the bite marks, Howard wondered if the bits could have been performed by horrible little mouths that they had encountered more than once.

The following day Lord Edward went to the UCLA Medical Center to examine the Secretion Goo that was discovered in Joy Grove back in Savannah. He discovered that while it was carbon based, there was no known substance on earth that matched. He did bottle up a small portion of it to send back to Janet Winston-Rodgers for a deeper examination since her family did own a pharmaceutical company.

At the same time Howard deciphered the Narcotics ledger and found that the mysterious accountant seemed to go by the name ‘Towncar.’ This prompted him to discover who Echavarria’s actual accountant was, suspecting that the would be one in the same. Searching around, Howard discovered that Echavarria’s accountant was Abraham Buchwald who was still practicing downtown and had a sterling reputation. Naturally, Howard decided to pay him a visit.

Lord Edward made arrangements to track down Yolanda Spenzel, the next of kin for Richard Spend. He discovered she was the maid for a large and wealthy family in Los Angeles and was bitter at her lot in life. Clearly Richard’s money paid for them both, preventing Yolanda from having to work. Now that he was gone, due to circumstances she felt could have been avoided, she was upset. She spoke of the strange parties, the weird activities, the suspected pornography and her brother’s wild mood swings from being sweet and charming to being morose and angry to sitting in a chair and drooling for hours at a time. She did say that his girlfriend at the time, the now famous actress, Olivia Clarendon, could have more details – assuming she had time for anyone. But she also mentioned how detectives who visiting her (likely the 1924 Investigators in disguise) asked her about drugs, specifically one called Nectar.

When Howard caught up with Abraham Buchwald, Buchwald was reluctant to discuss anything other than basics. But when Howard showed him the ledger that had disappeared over a decade ago, Buchwald seemed nervous as serious criminal and ethical questions would appear over him if revealed to the public. At this point Buchwald was much more forthcoming. He mentioned the wild parties, the dug trade he was involved with (Nectar)and the weird religion Echavarria seemed to practice. He implied that he had attended some of the parties but never was a part of the weird cult. He did mention the actor, Richard Spend, Richard’s girlfriend at the time, Olivia Clarendon as well as a history professor from UCLA, Dr. George Ayers. But he went further and related a story about how Echavarria once mentioned to him something about their weird god, Gol-Gorath. What the Gol-Gorath Statement amounted to was that Echavarria seemed to be ‘pulling one over’ on the rest of the cult, suggesting Gol-Gorath was not what everyone thought it was and how there was a deeper purpose for what they were doing. At the conclusion of their conversation, Howard placed a call to UCLA and got a hold of Lord Edward to tell him about Dr. Ayers.

When Lord Edward went to the History department, he discovered that Dr. Ayers had gone on sabbatical to Ethiopia a few months before the 1924 Incident and had not been seen since and was presumed dead. Seemingly a dead end. But Lord Edward was in a hurry and figured he would speak with some of Dr. Ayers’ colleagues at a different time.

Finally, Howard asked around and discovered that not only was Nectar alive and well in Los Angeles but was being distributed by a mysterious figure known only as ‘Captain Walker.’

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Episode 3: Swampland Revelations

After visiting Joy Grove Hospital, the investigative team of Lord Edward Homeward, Howard Defoe and Fr. Carl Meinardus knew that with the information provided to them by Douglas Henslowe, they were looking for the Henslowe Journal, an item he had hidden somewhere on his property. Henslowe was kind enough to provide them a letter that would give his permission to gain access to his estate, allowing them to try and find these imperative clues.

The night before they left for the Henslowe Estate, located about 12 miles outside of Savannah, they spoke with Frankie Fawn, their pilot, in the lobby of the Pirate House. She informed them that in the morning she had to go out and make some repairs to the plane, as reported by the air field mechanic. Perhaps it was the paranoia of the unsettling events that had transpired at Joy Grove but Lord Edward and Howard were both somewhat suspicious and it was agreed that Howard would follow her in the morning, just to be certain nothing unusual was happening. That evening Lord Edward sent letters to Janet Winston-Rogers updating her on their progress and sent a letter to his Uncle Marvin Derrikson, asking to update him on some specifics with occult questions Lord Edward had.

In the morning, when Howard followed Frankie, Lord Edward remained with Fr. Carl to plan their day at the Henslowe Estate as they had no idea what to expect. For his part, Howard hired a car and followed Frankie, who did go out to the air field and seemed to spend the morning making repairs to the plane, so it seemed that their suspicions were unfounded.

Upon Howard’s return, they took the same car out to the Henslowe Estate, realizing they were headed to swampland in a very rural part of the area. Spanish moss and towering trees greeted them as they came closer and they were confronted by the heat, humidity and insects. The Henslowe Estate had clearly seen better days as it was now decrepit and almost appeared abandoned, a long way from its once fine grandeur.

Asking the driver to wait for several hours, the three investigators approached the house and were greeted by the caretaker, Mr. Carruthers, a large, elderly man whose family had no doubt been in service to the Henslowes for generations, predating the Civil War. He explained, in his own rustic way, that Mother Henslowe was upstairs resting but the letter provided by Douglas was certainly more then enough to allow them to look around. When Lord Edward, a certified doctor, asked whether he could speak with Mother Henslowe, Carruthers agreed. When Howard asked if he could look at Douglas Henslowe’s study, Carruthers agreed but in a more hesitant fashion. Carruthers did mention Douglas Henslowe’s strange activities when he was out of Joy Grove, referencing trips outside with shovels and flashlights at strange hours. Carruthers did warn them of the alligators that frequented the swamp in the back and if they were to go out and about they should be very careful.

Lord Homeward spoke with Mother Henslowe, quickly realizing she was in frail health with arthritic problems and circulatory problems, not to mention her obvious senility. But in moments of clarity she was able to reveal that her son, Douglas, had gotten involved with some bad people in California, over a decade ago, and that they had hurt him so badly that his mind was never right. Whatever it was, he had never spoken of these things. In the short time he was out of the hospital he had been in his study and acting very strangely. So strangely that it was felt commitment back to Joy Grove was the best solution.

Howard and Fr. Carl went immediately to Douglas’ study and began looking at the unusual items. Mostly they were books and notes but one book caught Fr. Carl’s eye: Communion Rites of Victorian Death Cults by Francis J Hickering. Hickering was someone Henslowe had mentioned when they spoke to him at Joy Grove. When Fr. Carl investigated the book, a photograph fell out. The photo (the Henslowe Photo) was of the back of the Henslowe estate and on the back of the photo were a list of names, later suspected to be the names on gravestones. Lord Edward did take an interest in some of the texts on Henslowe’s shelf. Some, which he determined had some value, were packed up. These items, the Henslowe Library were things they thought would have future value.

When Lord Edward arrived in the study, the three investigators examined the clues and found a bag containing a camera, a shovel, a flashlight and some twine with a brush and blue ink. They did not, however, find the Henslowe journal, the very item they had come to find. However, since Douglas Henslowe suggested that he had hidden it, they wondered if his strange behavior, combined with the shovel and other items, meant he had buried it somewhere nearby, with the photograph acting as some kind of map.

When the three went out back, they asked Carruthers where the nearest cemetery was. Carruthers explained that there were a collection of family headstones there and the investigators immediately set out to examine. When they got to the family plots, the names that were on the photo were some names on headstones. Determining that it was some kind of puzzle of code, the investigators discovered that if they put the twine around the headstones in the correct way, the twine lined up with blue ink hashes, forming a perimeter and the knots that were on the twine formed a cross section in the middle of the plot. After beginning to dig at the knots, they realized the best place to dig was in the center where the knots formed a cross section. However, before they could dig too far, they were attacked by an alligator that had come through the grass. However, the alligator was not . . . normal. In its back was a grotesque mouth, weeping and making horrific noises. The unnatural appearance and ghoulish visage of this creature was shocking, especially as Lord Edward found a similarity between this mutation and a mouth that had appeared on the wall at Joy Grove.

The alligator attacked swiftly and with deadly force, immediately snatching Lord Edward’s leg and dragging him towards the swamp. Fr. Carl and Howard tried to attack but were not very effective. Right as the mutated alligator was to drag Lord Edward into the swamp, Howard did score a hit with his pistol which caused the creature to release him and attack Howard, biting his arm.

Just then, as the investigators thought they were doomed, Carruthers came out with a shotgun and blew the creature to bits, saving everyone. Within moments they were back in the Henslowe Estate having their wounds tended to. Fr. Carl made the brave decision to return to the area to dig, coming back with a small box a half hour later.

Upon opening the box they discovered a Warding Stone. Henslowe’s Journal, Henslowe Letter and a Bank Key. Based upon these clues, it was clear that their next step was to go to Los Angeles.

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Episode 2: Secrets in Savannah
Secrets are learned in the south

Howard Defoe, Lord Edward and Fr. Carl flew by way of Janet Winston-RogersDC-3 towards Savannah. Piloted by the capable Frankie Fawn, the trip took the better part of the day, but the only clues to the strange life of Walter Winston would clearly be found in this small southern town. They had two addresses, one for what they assumed was a mental institution where Douglas Henslowe was incarcerated and one where it is presumed Henslowe once lived.

Upon arriving, they all four checked into the Pirate House, a small in by the Savannah docks area. The quaint establishment was all they needed to act as a base of operations while they started their investigation as it was close enough to the city library, the first address they needed as well as had a decent bar and restaurant.

Fr. Carl immediately set out for the city library, intent on looking for clues about the addresses as well as the area in general, while Lord Edward and Howard went looking for rumors about the town. While Fr. Carl spent all day looking at maps and books, Lord Edward and Howard found themselves at Mulligan’s, an Irish pub where they encountered Gertie Martin, a local girl with a lot to say once she had a few rums in her. Flirtatious and forward, Gertie held nothing back, telling them the location they were looking for, Joy Grove was a place for lunatics and criminals and where all the ‘crazy people’ were locked up. She mentioned that the doctor at the hospital, Dr. Jonathan Keaton was awfully attractive and someone she was hoping to get to know better as her friend, Beth Hampton was a nurse who worked the front desk as a receptionist. Of course, she also mentioned that she heard that things ‘went missing’ at Joy Grove and some of the staff would filch things and resell them later.

Meanwhile, Fr. Carl found similar information about the hospital – it would only be a thirty minute walk or a short car ride – but also discovered that the other address, the presumed residence, was about 12 miles outside of town, towards the swamp. The residence was the Henslowe Estate and was in the possession of Douglas Henslowe’s mother, Nannette Henslowe.

The following morning the trip to Joy Grove was eventful. They met Nurse Hampton who was every bit as flirtatious and forward as her friend, Gertie. They also met Dr. Keaton who was overseeing the Henslowe Case. He was apparently very interested in showing them around the hospital and happily agreed to allow them to speak to Douglas Henslowe, as well as mentioning he had another patient, Edgar Job, who was involved in the incident from 1924.

While touring the facility, the conditions were noticeably in deterioration and in much need of repair. Upon discovering that his visitors were not only representatives of Walter Winston (who they did not reveal was deceased) but also that Lord Edward was wealthy in his own right as well as a trained Oxford doctor, Dr. Keaton was more than interested in having a conversation with them, leading to a possible benefactor relationship with Joy Grove.

During the tour one of the patients, Fred Culver, made threatening gestures to Howard, eventually breaking free of his orderly, attacking Howard! A short scuffle later, Howard was bit in the arm and Fred Culver was detained by the orderlies and placed back in cell, which resulted in numerous apologies and medical treatment by Dr. Keaton.

After the business with Culver was settled they finally got to meet Douglas Henslowe. He told the investigators his terrible and eerie tale that happened back in 1924. The story, horrific and deranged revealed the following points:

  • The investigators at that time were Walter Winston, Vince Stack, Katherine Clark, and Dr. F.C. Kullman, and of course, Douglas Henslowe
  • They traveled the country trying to unravel a crazed, drug dealing sex cult dedicated to some unusual god
  • They tracked the cult’s leadership down to Los Angeles
  • Dr. Kullman, the occult expert, determined that whatever they were looking for was called by many names, by Dr. Kullman called it The Thing With a Thousand Mouths
  • A firefight broke out at the farm outside Los Angeles where the cultists were planning a ritual and the investigators of the 1924 Incident failed to stop the cult from summoning this creature
  • Things went haywire, many cultists and investigators died but he, Henslowe, escaped
  • Henslowe agreed to write them a letter giving them access to his home so they could search for his notebook

Upon the conclusion of this story, Dr. Keaton explained that this was part of a ‘shared delusion’ with another patient, Edgar Job, who was on the other side of the investigation – a cultist. Edgar shared this strange vision of monsters and multi-mouthed entities. Dr. Keaton explained that he had Edgar transferred to this facility in order to study this psychological breakdown by the two men and mentioned that he thought they delusion was induced by stress and contact with whatever drugs they were involved with. While Dr. Keaton readied Edgar for an interview, he lead the investigators back to the lounge area to wait.

While getting some coffee, Lord Edward was in the next room and noticed a strange water stain on the wall. As he looked closer, he saw a mouth forming before his every eyes, the wall splitting and forming into a horrible visage. This mouth, human-sized with jaundiced lips and brown, broken teeth, seemed to be trying to speak, but they were words that were only whispers. Lord Edward immediately suffered a fit of nerves before Fr. Carl was able to come to his aid, the terrible mouth, disappearing before his very eyes.

Calming Lord Edward, Fr. Carl looked carefully at the wallpaper and noticed some strange symbols around where the mouth had formed, later determining that these symbols were a collection of various occult symbols designed and keeping away spying, scrying and unwanted figures.

Shortly after, the investigators were able to speak with Edgar Job, a presumed cultists that the 1924 Investigation was trying to observe and dismantle.

Edgar provided the following information:

  • He was on drugs most of his time with the cult
  • He met the cult through a friend, George Ayers or George Avery – he could not recall
  • The drugs made his sexual appetites increase
  • The cult really had no name
  • It was led by someone named ‘Echavarria’
  • Echavarria had a horrific library of strange occult tomes at his Los Angeles mansion
  • Edgar did not know where the drugs came from, exactly, but knew Echavarria had somehow produced them
  • Echavarria’s parties were wild sex orgies with alcohol, sex and other activities Edgar could not quite recall
  • Echavarria put a spell on Edgar and Edgar had no idea what it was as he (Edgar) did not even think Echavarria even liked him
  • The aforementioned spell was put on Edgar the night of the summoning, right before the Fisher arrived
  • The Fisher (or Thing) had long, weird limbs and no head, but numerous mouths
  • Edgar stated that when Vince Stack shot Echavarria in the face with a shotgun, he then attacked Vince, stabbing him to death
  • Edgar was sorry for what had happened and fled, but that the Fisher (or Thing With a Thousand Mouths) had been summoned but was still out there
  • Edgar was extremely sorry for what he had done and despite the fact that he knows he can never undo it, he would like the opportunity to try and right some of the wrongs he had done

Dr. Keaton and the investigators worked through what they had heard and again Dr. Keaton reiterated his fascination with the case, calling it the most amazing shared delusion he had ever seen. Dr. Keaton and Lord Edward retired to Keaton’s office to work out some details about Lord Edward’s interest in investing in Joy Grove which game the investigators immediate access to the Henslowe File.

After reviewing these documents and getting the letter form Henslowe to gain access to his home, they investigators determined Henslowe’s home and his mysterious journal was the next step.

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Episode 1: Meeting Ms. Winston
In which our adventure begins . . .

March of 1937

A cold, crisp evening . . .

Howard Defoe and Lord Edward D Homeward, two men who had never met and who came from different walks of life were both summoned to Providence, Rhode Island to meet with a woman they had prior minimal contacts; Janet Winston-Rogers. Lord Edward came by train and Howard was flown in from Dallas, Texas by Ms. Winston’s personal pilot, Frankie Fawn, on her DC-3.

When the two men were brought out to Ms. Winston’s private hangar, outside Providence, they were curious to find the hangar had room set aside for a private study and library where Ms. Winston was waiting for them, along with another associate, a Catholic priest from Haiti, Fr. Carl Meinardus. After some initial pleasantries, Ms. Winston began with her explanation as to why she brought everyone to speak with her.

She described her father, Walter Winston as a man with many secrets over the years. Ms. Winston described Walter as a man who had withdrawn from life over the past 13 years. She described how he was a man who had numerous odd friends but that at some point in 1924, he disappeared for a few months, writing seldom and that upon his return, was a changed man. He was withdrawn, eerie and solemn. When he finally died in late 1936, he left more secrets than answers.

When Ms. WInston, her manservant, Edward and her friend, Fr. Carl began to go through his things they uncovered some unusual letters. These were letters that she had known had come over the years but they were letters that seemed to play some role in Walter’s unusual behavior These letters, The Henslowe Letters as they were called, likely were the key to the initial part of the mystery.

In examining the letters, it was clear that Walter was looking for some kind of code in the writing but had never written back, based upon the increasing erratic nature of the author. The author, one Douglas Henslowe, seemed to need Walter to “tell the truth” and try to help convince the doctors that “what they had seen was real.” It was evident to Fr. Carl, Lord Edward and Howard, that Henslowe had been in and out of an insane asylum in the Savannah, Georgia area. Of course, Ms. Winston alluded to another ally who was already in Savannah . . .

It was at this point that the three men agreed to take the case and agreed to help Ms. Winston. Frankie, the pilot, would be flying them to Savannah as soon as they were ready, to seek out Douglas Hensowe, to see precisely what he was up to and why he wrote these strange letters as he would be able to shed some insight on the 1924 Incident.

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