Saturday, April 18th 1925:
Nickels observes that the ‘Goddess’ is in remarkably good shape; well taken care of for a ship in a busy industrial harbor.
Viljoen-Ballard arrives in harbor. Running in Ernst and Nickels, he is welcomed back to the fold.
Nickels goes about the docks trying to discern the repair history and servicing agencies of the ‘Goddess’, trying to potentially get aboard as a mechanic. Meanwhile, Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard travel to the Stumbling Tiger Bar.
At the bar, the morning light illuminates far more than is comfortable. The bar is shabby in the dark, but it’s foetid in the light. McChum is eating breakfast with another man at a table and looks surprised to see customers this early. Nonetheless, Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard are welcomed. Ernst orders a scotch and water, and sips it while McChum finishes breakfast. Ernst insinuates that he thinks McChum knows more of Brady then he’s letting on, but McChum is resolute. As far as he knows, Brady is out of town. Ernst says that if Brady should stop by, McChum should tell him that a ‘Friend of Elias is going looking for the Flower’. McChum says again that he is still sure that Brandy is not in Shanghai, but that he’ll pass it along if he’s wrong.
Ernst and Viljoen then pay a visit to Sister Anna at St. Cecilia’s. Sleeves rolled, smelling of cleaning agents, she has no new information to pass on. Pleasantries are exchanged, and Ernst and Viljoen-Ballard leave, returning to the hotel.
The investigators take stock and plan next moves. Ho Fong’s house and yacht are prime targets, and Ernst decides they need more explosives. Eastwick makes a purchase of dynamite from an outfitter, also picking up carpets and a ladder.
Nickels returns, and has found that the ‘Goddess’ utilizes local contractors for maintenance, but does not have a regular schedule. It is not looking to hire now. The party decides to make an attempt on Ho Fong’s house that night. All rest up in preparation.
The Dark of Night:
Ernst, Nickels, Spalding, and Eastwick travel surreptitiously to Ho Fong’s mansion. Scouting the perimeter, they observe the wall all around topped with iron spikes, barbed wire, and broken glass. Nickels determines that the top of the wall is not electrified. Due to the positioning of the roofs, the presence of courtyard areas are inferred. It is decided that they will drop into a side courtyard, to better avoid potential passers by and avoid the main gate. Eastwick waits in the car, ready to sound the alarm or assist in a quick getaway.
Using the ladder to ascend and the carpet to cover the top defenses, all vault onto the roof. Nickels catches his side on a point and is painfully bruised. Sneaking across the roof, Nickels catches his foot on one of the clay slate tiles, which clatters back into position as he tries to adjust. Ernst, meanwhile, has crept to the roof edge and looks down into a dirt courtyard surrounded by many doors and containing a storage shed containing groundskeeping implements. A man emerges from a side door, ostensibly to investigate the noise. Ernst jumps down upon him from the roof and fells him with a mighty blow. The rest carefully lower themselves to the ground, and stealthily search the court.
The flanking rooms are shabby and ill furnished. Little more than a cot, some personal effects, and in some instances some Chinese characters written on the walls. There are sleeping inhabitants in two of the rooms. There is one corridor leading out towards the main gate and a larger courtyard. The party creeps down that way.
Rounding the corner, they spy the front gate and a cobbled courtyard surrounded by many doors, some of which are quite large. This area is well lit with electric lighting. Ernst hears shuffling from beyond an arch near to where they are sneaking, and jumps around it in a flash. An elderly man in a well kept uniform starts in surprise, but Ernst smashes his powerful fist into his face before he can make any noise. The man’s nose crumples and he goes flying into the back wall of the niche. Ernst follows up with a blow to the stomach, possibly misjudging just how thin this man is. His fist seems to push all the way back to the man’s spine. He crumples in the corner. Ernst does his best to quickly prop him up to look as if he’s sleeping.
There is a corridor leading back deeper into the compound, lined with doors. The party progresses down this carefully, checking each door in turn. The first door is a sitting room, luxuriently furnished with comfortable looking expensive furniture, standing screens, and fine art. The next room is a library, similar in opulence to the sitting room, but containing thousands of scrolls and books, mostly in Chinese. A track along the ceiling line contains recessed lighting, casting a warm glow about the room. ABout to move to the next door, Ernst suddenly hears movement coming from the back court. All swiftly return to the library to hide.
The party hears the door of the next room over open and shut, and someone moving about inside. The party leaves the library, and listens at the door. They hear soft singing in Chinese. Fearing a sorcerer, Ernst barges in and finds a rotund man in a fine suit beginning to disrobe. Ernst stabs him in the chest before he can say a word. Falling to the ground, red froth bubbles out of his chest wound. Ernst smothers him with a silk pillow from his well appointed bed.
Taking a moment to look around, they see that no expense was spared in furnishing this bedroom. All the furnishings are hand carved and inlaid, rare textiles and silks are the rule. Fine art and statuary are abundant. AMongst some white jade pieces on a table. Spalding finds a statuette of the Black fan Goddess. It depicts a scene with the goddess walking on a path, a man on his knees before her with his hand near his head.
The party moves on to the next door. On the other side they hear a low, irregular humming. Nickels does not think it’s a machine… it sounds like some kind of animal. They decide to move along. Across from these doors are another court, this one containing a pool and many exotic plants. Spalding inspects some of them, but cannot identify them without further scrutiny. Time being of the essence, they do not linger.
Behind the next door they find a shrine to the Buddha. A large brass statue sits before a hardwood floor, incense burners set into stands around the front. Searching the place, Ernst thinks he’s found a secret door, but it’s really a flush cabinet serving as a cushion storage area. Nickels inspects the statue, and discovers that there is a fine seam around Buddha’s neck. Spinning the head, it only moves clockwise and ratchets in fine increments. Two full rotations causes a catch to release, and the statue slides away revealing a dark hall. Ernst pulls out his flashlight to light the way.
The hall is short, with openings to either side and a barred heavy door at the end. The ceiling is painted with Chinese characters. In one of the side rooms shelves are filled with powders and goos, along with tools including a mortar and pestle. Spalding identifies these as organic compounds, and all decide they are likely poisons grown from the back court garden. In the other room is a small arsenal with a small stock of rifles, many pistols, a few thompson submachine guns, and ammunition. Ernst inspects them and finds them well maintained. Ernst takes a m1911 and Spalding takes a Thompson.
The heavy, barred door poses a challenge. It is locked, and breaking it down would be noisy. Nickels inspects the lock mechanism, but can’t determine how to open it. Using Nickels tools, Nickels and Ernst take apart the faceplate and hinges, discovering an elaborate needle trap within the lock. Eventually, it is sufficiently disassembled to shift it off its hinges and the party enters a dark room.
Ernst’s flashlight illuminates a small room, perhaps 12 feet square with a ceiling 10 feet high. Standing over this space is a metal statue depicting a bloated woman, tentacled flanges protruding from her corpulent form. Although inanimate, all get the sense that she is aware of their presence. A teak cabinet with hammered gold doors sits to the side, monstrous carvings spiraling up its edges. It is covered with strange inscriptions the language of which the party cannot identify.
All attention is immediately called to the center of the room, however. There, within a gold inlaid circle set in the floor, is a long steel and glass box segmented into 7 compartments. Spread between them, secured in place by the dividers, is a naked woman. Her feet and ankles have been viciously mauled. Along the top of the box, situated above the woman’s head, is a smaller compartment set on rails. Within are two large Shanghai river rats, scrabbling at the glass plate that separates them from the woman’s face.
Alerted to the presence of others by the light, but unable to turn her head, the woman shifts in a panic within the box.