Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
-Edith Piaf (English lyrics by Mack David)
9 p.m. Thursday, November 22. Norma Heller residence.
Don returned home from the war a few days earlier, shell-shocked and bitter. At the end of a long day, the family sat down for dinner. Maude had done all the cooking while Norma slept the day away. Arguments broke out, green bean casseroles were thrown, and Johnny stormed off to his room, terrified that his parents, separated for so long, were fighting. Norma began cleaning green beans off the wall, fighting the urge to cry bloody tears, when there was a knock at the door.
Norma left her chore to answer the knock, and found Joseph Dante standing at the door. Don confronted him, demanding to know why a gangster type would be calling on his family on Thanksgiving. Norma turned back to Don and commanded him to calm down. Mystically, Don’s mood changed and he welcomed Mr. Dante in.
While Maude did the dishes and cleaned up the mess on the wall, Dante made a proposition to Norma. An associate of his had arranged to buy off the debt she owed to the mob if she were to assist in the recovery of a stolen family heirloom: a 14th century Italian journal. It was seized from the Luciano family in Italy during World War II, and made a gift to Hitler. He was believed to have entrusted it to one of his research scientists to make sense of. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the book now lay in the personal library of Hubertus Strughold, the man masquerading as a common doctor to the Van Dammt family. If Norma could assist in retrieving this tome (rumor had it she had a little bit of skill with a lockpick), arrangements could be made to forgive her debt in full.
Knowing a good opportunity when she saw it, she prepared to leave. Maude stood in the way, demanding help with the dishes, and Norma used her power of Majesty to convince Maude to stand down and happily return to her chores. A couple quick phone calls to those who were available (Olga barely let the word ‘yes’ out of her mouth before hanging up. Jasper, always forthcoming, mentioned that the Prince wanted Strughold alive as well as his spell book), and everyone set off to meet at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where Strughold works.
12 a.m. Friday, November 23. New York Presbyterian.
The group arrived at the hospital together and Dante caused a scene at the front desk while Norma and Olga sneaked over to the personnel records. While Norma was picking the lock, a man arrived seemingly out of nowhere and forced her against the wall. Olga trained a gun on him but he didn’t flinch. He appeared to be a doctor, but had the predator’s aura of a fellow vampire. He introduced himself as Richard Harvey, and he had been given dominion over the hospital on authority of Prince Wycoff. He demanded to know what they were doing there, as they had made several visits over the past few months, and bad things seemed to happen every time they came. First it was a spreading plague, and now bodies had started disappearing from the morgue.
Norma explained that they were tracking down a Nazi mage masquerading as a doctor at the hospital, Dr. Mueller, and finding him could provide a lead on the missing bodies. Richard offered to save them some time by unlocking the room. He mentioned that Mueller had requested a scheduling change a little over a month ago and was now strictly working during daylight hours, and driving home before the sun set.
In the personnel files, Olga found a note for the doctor from her allies in the White Rose and the personnel record for Dr. Mueller. Unfortunately, the doctor had somehow gotten away with leaving a post office box instead of a physical address. The zip code was for the local post office, and they decided to make it a next stop.
As they turned to leave, Richard asked if they had allied themselves with a diablerist. They weren’t familiar with the term, and he explained that it was a vampire that steals the souls of other vampires, a crime punishable by death. He had heard from his fellow acolyte, Julia, that a nosferatu named Jasper had consumed his sire and the prince had absolved him. They confirmed and he told them that Jasper was not welcome among those who respect the laws of the kindred. He promised that if the coterie showed their faces in his hospital again, Richard would see they meet the final death.
Norma and Olga headed back to the hospital’s front desk, waved to Dante who cut off his diversion, and they took back to the streets, headed for the post office.
2 a.m. Friday, November 23. Post office for zip code 10032.
A short time later, the group arrived at the post office. They approached from the gates to the truck yard, and with Dante blocking view of her, Norma took to cracking the padlock. A pair of college students from nearby Columbia walked by and took notice of four people huddled around the gate, but Jasper managed to scare them off pretty easily. The lock picked, everyone entered the building and set about finding the doctor’s box. It took roughly another half hour to pick additional locks to get to the back room where they had access to all customers’ boxes. Olga searched through the box for Dr. Mueller while Dante helped himself to mailed paychecks he could launder. The information they found was very cryptic. There was a note with several redacted sections from a US governmental agency detailing an experimental drug project, and an encoded message. Fortunately, Dante was familiar with a number of ciphers from messages the family shared with each other, and offered to translate the note. There wasn’t enough time to decode right then, however, as the sound of sirens could be heard. Apparently the students had called the police once they had calmed down from the effects of Jasper’s Nightmare. The group hastened out, narrowly avoiding the arrival by the police and scuttling into the 59th street subway station. They agreed to split for some last minute tasks and try to regroup at Norma’s before daybreak.
4 a.m. Friday, November 23. Church of the Holy Communion.
Olga traveled to the church she had begun taking midnight mass at in the Flatiron district. She reported in to the nosferatu archbishop who commended her in the work she had done tracking down Dr. Strughold and gave her his blessing. She exited into an open area and tried to make herself conspicuous. Within a minute, she caught sight of an old friend who she knew had been tracking her, Claude “Blanc”. She apologized for being so hard to keep track of and asked him for his help finding Dr. Strughold. He had little new information, telling her that they had tracked him to his post office box but not yet to his home, and had found evidence that he was plotting something sinister. Olga grew impatient and dismissed Claude.
4 a.m. Friday, November 23. Junior’s Cafe, Long Island City.
Dante sat by himself in the diner, an untouched cup of coffee at his table, a pencil and the cryptic note in hand. He carefully decoded each letter and discovered another post office box number, as well as a plot to gather at the Cloisters museum in northern Manhattan at the next full moon, scheduled for Monday. It was unclear what exactly was planned for that night, but Dante was not interested in waiting for it to come.
4 a.m. Friday, November 23. Norma’s house.
Norma and Jasper returned to Norma’s house. Dishes had been finished and leftovers put away. They received a quick call from Dante with the new post office box and called up the 21 Club and asked for Tony Spaghettio. They asked him to visit the new post office and request information on the listed box and to call them the next evening. An hour later, Olga and Dante arrived with the sun fast approaching. Norma charmed Maude and Don into not making a fuss and invited them to spend the day in the cellar.
10 p.m. Friday, November 23. Norma’s house.
Evening arrived and the phone rang. Norma spoke with Tony who told her that he’d traced the post office box in the note Dante had translated to an occult book shop owned by a recent German immigrant in the Lower East Side. The address taken down, the group set off for the shop.
12 a.m. Saturday, November 24. Alabaster Bookshop.
The lock was very easy to pick, and entrance to the shop seemed too easy. No one was interested in searching for eccentric items, and Norma quickly found a Rolodex with the home address for Dr. Strughold. They turned to leave and found the strange statues in the shop had come to life, some kind of mystical security system. Jasper unloaded his shotgun, which ricocheted off the stone of one of the gargoyles. Seeing how little damage was being accomplished, the group felt it more wise to escape than to fight. Address in hand, they made their way to Strughold’s home.
2 a.m. Saturday, November 24. Strughold’s house in Forest Hills.
Mystical energies filled the air around Strughold’s house. The party walked past the house several times, unable to find it and only with a very dedicated focus were able to pay attention long enough for it to materialize in their mind’s eye. The house seemed to flicker in and out of their perspective, looking away for a moment would make it disappear. They crossed around to the backyard to try the door, finding it locked. While Norma worked on picking the lock, Jasper climbed up to the second floor window. He could see into the bathroom but found the window locked. It was a simple lock and with a firm amount of pressure, he figured he could pop the lock.
After a number of attempts, Norma finally cracked the lock on the back door. She pushed the door to open it and found it significantly heavier than she expected. She pushed on it harder and found a massive weight hit her as her hands crossed the threshold. Dante figured he could leap past the threshold and overcome the weight. He took a running jump and was slammed to the ground by a magical force. It felt like he was carrying several hundred pound bags across his body, and couldn’t muster the energy to stand up right. He supported himself on bookshelves and stands. If he had to breathe, the pressure would likely have crushed his lungs.
Above, Jasper managed to force the window open and attempted to climb through. The weight the front half of his body took on threatened to tear him in two over the window frame. He couldn’t get the leverage to climb through and began kicking at the wall, trying to force himself the rest of the way through.
Dante made his way to the stairs and started climbing up on hands and knees. He could hear stirring in a room above and focused his will to make it to the top of the stairs. Reaching the apex, he looked to his left and saw Dr. Strughold, lying in bed, staring him in the eye.
Dante activated his Celerity and bum-rushed the doctor. He got his hands around the doctor’s throat as Strughold reached his hands up to touch Dante’s face. The hands burnt like hot coals, scarring Dante’s face, but his strength proved too much for the doctor to take. While Jasper screamed from the bathroom, “I need him alive!” Dante squeezed harder. A few seconds later, Dante heard the crack of the doctor’s neck breaking, and a weight was lifted off his shoulders.
The threshold enchantment broken, Norma and Olga walked into the house in search of the journal. Dante made a quick search for old, leather bound books with Latin or Italian writing, and quickly found Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s journal. Jasper found a pillow case and loaded it up with as many old books as he could, assuming one would be the journal the Prince had sent him to retrieve. One of the books on the shelf triggered a secret room where they got a glimpse of the work Dr. Strughold had been doing on his off hours. A bloody torture room lay in his cellar, and everyone felt a little more secure about having taken him out.
4 a.m., Saturday, November 24. NYPL.
Jasper returned to the library to report to Prince Wycoff. He delivered the sad news that Strughold had died in their strike on his house, but he had managed to secure most of his library. He dumped the books out and the Prince started to sift through them. He demanded to know where the 14th century Italian journal was, and Jasper confessed that another member of his coterie had gotten his hands on it. Wycoff told him he had failed, and that it would be a long time before he could be taught the Coils of the Dragon. In the meantime, the Prince wanted to ensure that Jasper’s addiction would not be a liability, and he tossed over a bag of heroin to hold him over.
4 a.m., Saturday, November 24. Olga’s apartment.
Olga returned home to find a woman sleeping on her stoop. Nearing the building, she could smell fresh blood and ran over to check the woman. Nearing, she saw that the woman was her friend Marta Strauss from the war, clutching her stomach, covered in blood. Marta struggled to speak, and told Olga that she had been tracking her down ever since her grandfather’s body disappeared from the morgue. She had asked around and learned where she was staying, and was waiting for her to return when a man she recognized arrived. She couldn’t be positive, but she was nearly sure it was Konrad Böhm, the SS officer. Böhm shot her and entered the building only a few minutes ago.
Rather than confront Böhm without her allies, Olga opted to beat a hasty retreat and get medical attention to Marta. After carrying Marta for only about a block, Olga heard an explosion and turned around to see her apartment building on fire. Marta gripped her tightly and told her she wouldn’t be able to make it to a hospital. Not wanting to lose her, Olga made the hardest decision of her life since giving up her allies in the White Rose. She drank deeply from Marta, draining every last drop of blood she had. Cutting her own arm, Olga fed her vampiric blood back to Marta, and she gasped back to life. Olga had spread her curse to another.