This session is an open-ended continuation of our introductory game at VaultCon in July. It was adapted from Doors to Darkness's investigation, "Servants of the Lake." Also, we are considering starting a second Call of Cthulhu: Atomic Age (1950s) table that would coincide and could be mixed with this group to accommodate more players. If you're interested, let me know!
Cast of Characters
Cindy as Babs the Photographer
Caitie as Jo the Drifter
Kelly as Sophia Nye, Retired Star of the Pictures
Jacob as Jack Keel, Veteran and College Drop Out
Tyler as Derek Munds the Tough Street Greaser
Ted as Karl, Nuclear Engineer and Field Researcher
We join Jack Keel, a gaunt veteran and former POW from the war in the Pacific, who is on the tail of several missing person reports. He's driving through the Northern Nevada desert when in the distance he spots what looks like a radio tower blinking in the dull desert haze. In short, Keel's in the middle of nowhere.
The radio tower stands some 30' out of an adobe addition to a foldout service station. The service station is getting tidied up by a handful of somewhat bedraggled folk in working clothes. Two of the workers, Derek Munds and Karl, introduce themselves to Keel. They can tell immediately that Keel has not "heard the Signal," though it turns out that Keel has been following the trail of various members of the crew at the Station. While confusing, it appears that many missing persons are here, mostly hard at work and in good health.
Inside, more workers are fashioning the service station from the dusty rundown joint they found into a sort of dormitory and point of operations. Box speakers in the corner resound with the tinny voice of a radio news reporter in a strange patchwork style. For those who are initiated, they know that Speaker is a little rough on the eyes and is holed up, rather literally, in the cellar behind a utility door.
Jack Keel, it appears, is not the only one keeping an eye out for missing persons. Jo returns from the cellar with a photo printout and a few details. Speaker adds, "James Frazer was returning home from San Diego to see his girl next door in St. Louis. It appears he never made it. I have suspicions that his disappearance is more unusual than a blown tire. I recommend seeking the last place he stayed on the route there, so check guest books of the hotels along the route marked."
Sophia Nye, eager to get out of the dusty Station despite that her driver Alfred had heard the Signal, was quick to depart with other investigators, including the curious Keel, in tow.
Driving through the night, the investigators began the unglamorous work of checking with various motor lodges along Frazer's route. By the early evening, they had made their way to the Squatter's Lake Motel in southeaster California. The titular Squatter's Lake was surrounded by weary Joshua tree (yucca palms) with old the remains of old Spanish ruins opposite the motel and highway. The motel's T-shape included the reception and private owners' quarters at the top with eight lodgings along the body. The whole structure was raised off the ground with boardwalk patios along the entrance sides. Stairs led up to the platform with ramps along the reception and rear entrance, an odd quirk given the era.
Jo, Babs, Jack, and Sophia entered the reception and were greeted by a desk, a wall of license plates, a guestbook, and a door in the back. The guestbook, it appeared, had a few pages removed. From the rear come the elderly voices and unoiled wheels of William Brophy pushing Robert Brophy in a wheelchair. These travelers, accented of Northern England, own and operate the hotel, though much of that duty falls on William since Robert sleeps much of the day, has lost his voice, and is wheelchair bound.
Outside, Karl explores the lake, perfunctorily crossing paths with a crooked nose man in his late 40s who we will later learn is Bill Dunston. Karl comes on the hold Spanish missionary ruins on the far side of the lake, overgrown with shrubs and scrub grass. On the far side of the lake, Derek and he spot tire tracks in the mud around the like and an oily sheen on the lake itself.
Securing a few rooms and with a share of suspicions, William shows our investigators to a few rooms at a fraction of the new chain hotel in Clarksdale up the way. Sophia entertains Robert with conversation of her film roles just outside of the reception while Jo gets a closer look inside. She is suspicious of the torn pages, which William had attributed to spilled tea and a swift tear to salvage the book, and is rewarded by finding it in the waste basket, crumpled but rather dry. In addition, she finds the license plate, AB 1652, which Speaker had attributed to the missing James Frazer.
Having settled into various rooms, they witness a heated conversation outside their window between a wiry young man and the more mobile proprietor. It seems this young man is seeking a missing friend, too, which William denies. The investigators decide to split up to speak with the various guests.
Babs met with Sarah Bonner, a woman of dark complexion and curly hair, reading a chemistry book on the lakeside deck in front of her room. Sarah's truck, it seems, is getting some work done on it by William, as it ran into some troubles on the road. Sarah is studying chemistry to be a nurse and has not seen or heard of Mr. James Frazer. Jack and Karl check in with the wiry young man from the altercation, and learn he is Jacob Trent. He is not seeking James Frazer, but instead an Abe Hickey, who he was in touch with him by wire after having checked into Squatter's Lake. He's aggravated and scared, complaining of sounds at night that keep him up. He encourages them to leave, which the investigators ignore. Sophia has a bit more success with Bill Dunston, who recognizes her from her pictures. She claims to have stayed in Bill's room a previous night and left some jewelry. Dunston says that he saw another young man, likely Frazer, come one night and leave early the morning of the day after, even before Bill had gotten up for unsuccessful fishing. While finding no such jewelry, under the Navajo rug she nearly trips finding a trap door. Jo and Babs join Sophia and Bill there. Trent comes to Jack and Derek's room, #1, where they come across a journal note from Frazer reporting terrible sleep, even sleepwalking, his row with his father, and that William is working on his car.
Babs and Jo forced the swollen trapdoor of Bill's room, jumping down below. With a flashlight in hand, they could see that all of the rooms had trapdoors, including one under the Brophy's quarters at the top of the "T." This door, unlike the others, was not bolted. Babs climbed in, finding herself just behind the reception in a living room with two doors opposite. The door on the right appeared to be a bedroom with a wall mounted bookshelf, but in lieu of a bed was a large wooden crate, open and lined comfortably. On the shelf Babs grabbed the thick book "Revelations of Gla'aki: Volume Six." The adjacent room (very top center of the "T") was a more traditional bedroom with a lockbox under the nightstand. Babs attempted to open the lockbox and failed, making a bit of noise in the process.
With the investigators scattered and night fully settled, the motel shook with the screams of Sarah Bonner. Action took over and it was not an easy situation. Camera inside William Brophy's room, Babs frustrated by the lockbox, and the not-so-infirm Robert is there, shotgun in hand. He raises his weapon and fires, but Babs ducks out of the way. The shot opens the lockbox revealing rolled bills and wallets of previous travelers. She grabs it and leaps through the window, taking a grievous wound from the hastily broken glass.
Jo, Jack, and Derek move to Sarah's room from underneath the motel, breaking through the trapdoor they find one James Frazer wrestling Sarah toward the door of her room in a tight hold, the door to leading into the top of the "T," the Brophy's quarters, wide open. They attempt to reason with James, to no avail, and are quickly waylaid by the ghastly formers of previous, now permanent, hotel guests of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who tangle ferociously with our investigators.
Karl and Sophia, with Dunston in tow, find Robert Brophy in the doorway, who they force at gunpoint to move along the outside of the motel when something... something that should have stayed dead leaps out at them. This once dead thing attempts to capture them, but they shove Robert to the ground near them and attempt to find their fellows on the far side of the motel.
Babs moves toward the front of the motel, but William is at the reception door entrance and fires at her! She dives into one of the vehicles, hoping for safety. In Sarah's room on the opposite end of the hotel, Jo is horribly lacerated by Mrs. Smith, wielding a meat hook while James forces Sarah toward the lake. A chittering drone fills the air as Derek and Jack finish off Mr. Smith and then move to Mrs. Smith.
Karl and Sophia spot James wrestling with Sarah and take aim. One bullet hits the wrangling Sarah, knocking her low. Jacob, loses interest and moves toward them. Sophia takes aim and lands a daring blow against James. Bill moves to Sarah to help stabilize her. Inside, Jack grabs Jo and runs beneath the motel toward his truck. He applies first aid and tosses Babs the keys. Babs, fear for her life rising in her throat, drives the truck into the boardwalk before backing out toward the highway! William takes aim, damaging one of the tires with buckshot.
Just as the undead foes seem to fall aside, gore decorating the walls of the motel and the putrid lake, the chittering rises. Out from the lake comes a massive ovoid form covered in spines, like a sea anemone of cyclopean proportions. It fires a spine at Karl, which injects something putrid and foul into him. While all who look upon this alien monstrosity shake, Derek, a borrowed shotgun in hand loses something of himself...
No, this can't be real, Derek thinks. This is a movie set. I finally made it! I have to show the Director that I mean it. He's over there in the chair thinking that I'm going to lose this shot. I'm in one of those flicks of creatures from beyond the stars, and there it is, there's that rubbery nightmare. And I'm the hero! I'm going to end it!
So Derek strides up, confidence and one-liners in tow, and takes aim. Rattled as he is, the creature turns its terrible hide on him. The blast awakes Derek, now toe-to-toe with this nightmare, and he runs. Bob carries Sarah, Karl reels from the wound, and they run to their vehicle. Robert has begun to shout some dark prayer in an unknowable tongue in the night as they move to drive toward the Clarksdale hospital. William, once infirm, clings to below the vehicle, Alfred driving them to some semblance of safety.
But what can be safe knowing that such nightmares walk this world?