The Armitage Files

Carnival of Stars

Fresh from talking with Sheriff Prouty the previous evening, the investigators decide to see if the Carnival is still at Beach Bluff. After a short drive they find it, a number of tents in a central area with about 7 or 8 trucks parked in the field behind. Each truck tows a wooden box ‘caravan’ trailer. Most are fairly drab but three are painted in bright colours: Red, Blue, and Yellow.

The investigators sample some of the delights of the carnival, playing the sideshow alley games, where Detective Mahone, a streetwise detective familiar with the troubles and troubled folks whom inhabit these travelling carnivals, subtley plies the ball and skittles man for information, learning that Sergei Garkalin is working the ‘Test of Streength’ at the moment and that the more risqué entertainments such as the freak show and the burlesque show start after dark.

Before the investigators arrive at the Test of Strength, a second strongman takes over the amusement, and they soon learn that this is Vladimir Krotkin, an immensely strong man and an obvious bully. Major Wessex, hardened by 20 years in the US Marine Corps, manages to ring the bell on the Test of Strength, slightly deflating the strongman’s string of insults as he taunts the Doctor for being a “leetle man”. The bile rises in the Doctor’s throat as he begins his viturperation, but Mahone, experienced in reading people, recognises that the strongman will respond violently and without warning if pushed by the arrogant Doctor. A confrontation is avoided and the Detective notices the bruising and callouses present on the strongman’s knuckles.

Making a subtle recconoiter of the after dark aspects of the carnival they note the freak show and burlesque show tents and notice an open air boxing ring, which they speculate is the province of the strongman after dark. They move on to the Fortune Teller and the Doctor enters to have a reading by Claudia Brazda, the smokey eyed gypsy woman. After the Doctor’s dime disappears into the folds of her gypsy shawl the fortune teller quickly recognises Stumpf’s disbelief in the power of the reading. She presents an ominous reading for the Doctor, warning him off his current course of action. The Fortune Teller’s tent is dim and a haze of incense fills the air in a cloying smoke. The smell of vanilla masks a number of other scents.

First we lay your path before us, who you are, what you want to be, and what you seek. Who are you I wonder…aah the Chariot Reversed; a sceptic you are, you do not believe in the cards. Never mind, I will make you believe before we are done. Next, who do you want to be? Yes, yes the Emperor, ruler of all, surely all will bow before your greatness no? now the third card tells us what you seek?…the Devil. This is very dangerous. You should not seek the devil. Give up your foolish quest before it is too late.

She seems slightly shaken but continues with the reading.

Now we lay the cards across, first the card that tells us how you perceive….here is Judgement, but it is reversed….I think here it is the troubadour, yes I feel the trumpet is the key, you perceive the music of the soul, the inner harmonies and disharmonies. You hear the music of the universe don’t you? Now the card that tells us the reality of what you perceive here…the World…this heralds great change before you. See how she hovers above the world naked with a staff in each hand? This is change…for good or ill I cannot yet see. Let us see how you will proceed on your journey…the fool…you will be foolish in your pursuit, you cannot see the truth and you will make many wrong choices, turn aside now before it is too late.

She stares directly at Stumpf, as if afraid to turn another card. For the first time her voice quavers and her sultry purr takes on an anxious edge.

Lastly we see the cards that tell us if you will find what you seek. The first is what will affect your search…the Hermit, called Chronos of old, this is father time, in my old country in the village by the sea, we called him another name, but time will be your enemy or perhaps your friend. Lastly we see what you will find at your journey’s end….Death

The card falls from her hands into place. A cold shiver runs down your back and you could swear that the room has darkened, perhaps it is just a cloud passing in front of the sun.

You have been a fool and you rush towards death…

Dr Carl Stumpf’s first reading

As the last card is revealed the fortune teller is clearly disturbed and rushes from a previously unnoticed back entrance to the tent. The Doctor is momentarily stunned into inaction and by the time he gathers his wits and leaves the tent his only hint to the location of the gypsy is the door closing on the blue caravan about 50 yards away across the field. Pure instinct alerts him to the fact that in amongst the bustle of the carnival the hasty departure of the gypsy woman has not gone unnoticed. The ball and skittles man is staring straight at him and a man in a hat and purple ‘tails’ has apparently stopped mid-stride to stare in his direction. The man in tails abruptly changes direction and hurries toward the blue caravan.

The investigators, sensing that they have inadvertently stirred up some trouble, decide to move on from the carnival and return later that evening to observe the more risqué aspects of the show.

Having plenty of time before the scheduled monthly meeting of the astronomers, the investigators decide to look into the Kingsport Yacht Club. They immediately recognise that the establishment is one of incredible opulence and that they are not its usual class of clientele. The Doctor’s arrogance drives him to claim bogus membership of boating organisations in both Tripoli and Gibraltar and they are reluctantly admitted by the staff, and skilfully deposited in a side drawing room, given drinks and made comfortable. The Doctor makes a faux pas, demanding congac, and is accommodated with the same. The club president eventually arrives to interview the club guests and the Doctor, hoping to substitute for actual social standing with arrogance and exaggerated claims to the Austrian nobility, supplementing his bogus boating associations, quickly raises the upper class (subtle) ire of the President, Oliver Gardiner. They are henceforth skilfully ejected by the head porter, sure in the knowledge that their social standing will not afford them legitimate entrance again. Perhaps, Professor Massachusetts Jones’s more credible social standing will permit him entrance at a later date, though he will no doubt have to attempt this without his companions now that the first attempt was botched.

Disappointed by the Kingsport Yacht Club outing the investigators move on to the New England League of Amateur Astronomers, where they are enthusiastically greeted by the President, Thomas Ongine. They meet a number of the members at the small gathering, including Mattie Pease, a local historian who seems to be perpetually offering them a finger of sherry. The Major enters into an enthusiastic conversation about local areas of Revolutionary War interest. She gives the evenings presentation, tying in the current night sky with the local historical occurances, shipwrecks and the like. They also meet Sheriff Elisha Culberson, a chain smoking and laconic man. Major Wessex asks him whether he knows where the ‘standing stones’ are (a reference to the aforementioned hidden clue in the pictures drawn by homer at the sanatorium). The Sheriff doesn’t immediately answer, instead asking them why they want to know. He eventually tells the Major where the standing stones might be found, referring to it as “Sacrifice Hill” exhorting the investigators not to go at night, ominously warning him that the forests are confusing in the dark and freezing at this time of year. More than one wanderer has lost their way, never to be heard of again. The Major promises to check in at the Bolton Sheriff’s station if they decide to make their way to the stones.

After the meeting the investigators leave, Detective Mahone making his way to the local boarding house he uses when in Arkham and the Major and the Professor making their way to their accommodations on campus. As they move through a darkened archway between buildings they are set upon from behind by two ruffians. A short scuffle ensues and the major is badly beaten. The Doctor, through a series of lucky, if unskilled, strikes and dodges emerges largely unharmed and one of the assailants in pummeled badly. They withdraw suddenly and the Doctor administers first aid to his beaten companion. They withdraw to the safety of their lodgings.

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