A Byakhee Over Bourbon Street

Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign? (Part 3)
In which Johnny gets his big scoop

Please note: this is chock full of spoilers for the scenario “Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign” (by Kevin Ross) as it appears in Tales of the Crescent City

Thursday, February 27th, 1930

Running out of leads to follow, Eugene resolved to drive out to Chet Creighton’s Blacktower oil operation outside of Houma, borrowing a vehicle from the police department. Given the snake attack of the previous night, Johnny, Cornelius and Clinton all decided to accompany him.

Travelling to the oil field, they found that it was fenced in with an open gate, and a crew of roughnecks working on the machinery. It appeared that only one of the pumps was in full operation. They also saw what looked like a site office and two storage sheds.

Hoping to create a distraction, Cornelius and Clinton walked into the site, with Cornelius delivering a fire and brimstone sermon about the unholiness of the oil men’s practices. Creighton was having none of it, but one of the roughnecks, Remy Jacobson, suggested that God’s displeasure might explain the strange occurrences at Blacktower. Creighton fired him on the spot.

Meanwhile, Johnny snuck into the office to snoop around. He found blueprints and other technical documents that had no sinister air to them. Looking at the payroll, he did notice that people on the night shift tended to quit quickly…

Outside, things seemed to be headed towards a violent resolution, so Eugene drove up and pretended to arrest Cornelius and Clinton for disturbing the peace, defusing the situation.

In the office, Johnny turned to leave and discovered a transparent apparition of a young boy in old clothing blocking the door. It looked at him with a reproachful glare. As Johnny dashed through it, the spirit’s face twisted into a horrific grimace, and Johnny felt it clawing at his soul. He escaped without serious injury, but the oil workers saw him running from the shed.

Eugene promptly “arrested” Johnny as a co-conspirator and threw him in the squad car, but Creighton insisted on searching Johnny himself, reasoning that he might have been paid by rivals to steal secrets. Johnny slipped the documents he had taken from the office to Cornelius before Eugene pulled him out of the car. With some quick thinking and a silver tongue, Johnny convinced Chet that he had been looking to interview him and had assumed he would be in the office, playing off Creighton’s vanity as being a “dirt under his fingernails kind of guy.”

As Eugene left with his “criminals”, Remy Jacobson asked if he could get a lift back to Houma. The investigators took him to a local watering hole and learned that that oil site was built over an old indian burial ground, which is why Remy feared that God might have cursed the operation. Strange equipment malfunctions and weird behaviour at night were common occurrences at the site.

Heading back into town, Eugene decided to check in on Officer Boutlier, who had read the French copy of The King in Yellow at Eugene’s request the day before and not reported to work that morning. Entering the apartment, Eugene found that all the yellow items in the apartment had been put in a pile on the bedroom floor, and the closet looked to have been ransacked – Boutlier was nowhere nearby. The neighbour across the hall said that he had departed a few hours before, in very strange garb – what she assumed was a new trend of Mardi Gras costume. Eugene called police headquarters to report what he’d found, and was told that Boutlier was already at the department … and in lockup!

Eugene and Johnny returned to the police department, where they discovered that Boutlier had been searching for the French copy of The King in Yellow. When he found out the book wasn’t in the building, Boutlier became violent and had to be subdued. Eugene and Johnny questioned him, but got little information – he just rambled about how the days of the King were coming soon, and he now saw the true way … upon leaving the interrogation room, an older cop remarked to Eugene that this was approaching the weirdness of Lestrade’s 1907 raid into the swamps. Eugene researched this into the night, finding nothing of use in the police files, but learning that three cops from the raid were still on the force.

Clinton and Cornelius visited Randall Fowler to try and dissuade him from following the teachings of Papa Screech. While Fowler listened to them politely, he was not dissuaded by their arguments. Papa Screech then entered the house, and Cornelius questioned him about the Yellow Sign. Screech told him that the sign appeared to him in a dream, and he believed it brought good luck. Cornelius and Clinton left shortly thereafter, although Clinton hid nearby with the plan of tracking Screech when he left the Fowler mansion. Clinton watched the house until the lights went out at 11 pm, but Screech never exited it.

Meanwhile, Cornelius returned to Del Rio’s Arcane Bookshop, where a disheveled and wild-eyed Mr. Del Rio practically pushed an english translation of The King In Yellow into his hands. Resolving to get to the bottom of things, Eugene spent all night reading the book …

Friday, February 28th, 1930

The next morning, Eugene had finished reading the book. He was shaken by it, but retained his sensibilities. Exhausted, he went to catch a few hours of sleep while the others resumed their investigations.

Johnny went to Tulane University’s library to look for historical background on the burial ground that Blacktower was build over. He discovered that the site had been intended as a meeting place to sign a treaty, but the natives were betrayed, murdered and buried in that same spot. Locals later erected stone tombstones in the hope of appeasing unquiet spirits, but the place had always had a bad reputation since.

As he was finishing his reading, Johnny was disturbed from behind by a familiar voice – that of Doctor Marquis, the man Johnny had been sent to New Orleans to find! Unfortunately, Marquis had a gun concealed inside his jacket, and he made Johnny leave the library with him. Johnny was able to use subtle eye contact to convey his discomfort to nearby librarians, but his attempt to drop a business card on the library floor was detected by Marquis. Once they left the library and got into an alleyway, a group of Marquis’s allies grabbed Johnny and stuffed him into a vehicle!

Eugene, meanwhile, was talking to the old cops at the police headquarters. He learned that the raid in 1906 had broken up a cult that was preying on the swamp people outside of New Orleans. 20 cops had descended on the cult during one of their rituals, and over half of the hundred or so cultists were captured or killed. While the cops were shook up by the bodies and the bizarre rituals, they did remember than Officer Swanson had approached the site from another route and said he saw something hideous on the Lake, Swanson was retired now, but still lived nearby in the Algiers neighbourhood. Eugene decided to pay him a visit.

Clinton was scoping out the warehouse watching for the movements of people coming and going. A vehicle pulled up in front of the building and four men removed a long sack that looked like it might be a body … Clinton had a bad feeling that one of his friends might be in trouble. He convinced a street kid to run to Eugene’s police department and tell him to come to the warehouse, promising that Eugene would pay a dime. Unfortunately, Eugene had already left to question Swanson. Clinton kept his vigil on the warehouse.

Waking up around noon, Cornelius tried to track down Johnny, correctly guessing which library he would have used for his research. The librarian told him that his friend had left with a black gentleman a few hours prior, and looked none too happy about leaving either! Cornelius then went to the police department, but had also just missed Eugene leaving. He decided to head to the warehouse and found Clinton, who let him know about what had transpired.

Back in Algiers, Eugene met with Robert Swanson, an impoverished alcoholic who was clearly haunted by old demons. Swanson told him that during the raid, he saw a white, bulbous form rising out of the misty lake. He had only caught a glimpse of it, but that image had haunted him ever since.

With Eugene nowhere in sight, Cornelius decided to try to enter the warehouse himself, under the guise of apologizing to Papa Screech and Mister Fowler. When his tactics didn’t seem to be getting results, Cornelius suddenly started suggesting that Screech had kidnapped someone and was keeping them in the warehouse. Screech and the others angrily asked Cornelius to leave the building.

Eugene got the messages when he returned to the police department, and met his allies in front of the warehouse, shortly after a pair of patrolmen had entered and exited the warehouse. Eugene ran after them to ask what had happened. They told him that the Fowler fellow who owned the warehouse was good friends with the police commissioner, and had complained about people harassing his employees. They were told to make sure that the Krewe wasn’t disturbed further. It appeared that the investigators’ window of opportunity had closed.

Later that night…

The hood was removed from Johnny’s head, and he found himself on the roof of the warehouse. Around him were several of the warehouse workers. In front of him were Papa Screech, Doctor Marquis and a hideous winged insectoid creature. Marquis noted that Johnny had followed him from Arkham, and was now going to get his big interview. They then fed him a potion that paralyzed his body, and the creature picked him up in it’s large claws and took flight.

It flew far away, out of the atmosphere and into distant galaxies …

… depositing him on an alien planet, in a strange, seemingly empty city…

… where the shadows whispered hungrily.

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