Thursday April 16th 1925, Early Afternoon, continued:
Eastwick decides to contact his friends at the University in Hong Kong asking after (though trying to be nonchalant) the Black Fan Goddess and related aspects. He will check in later to see what they’ve found.
Meanwhile, the party, having decided that this location is too known for their tastes, loads their belongings into Josiah’s car, and drive to the Old City address on the note. Parking a distance away, they scope out the house. It is an old style residence, not falling down, but ill kept for its age. The red slate roof has a number of slates missing, the woodwork is dried and cracked in places. There is a high wall surrounding the place, preventing easy view of the interior. They spend some time observing and see movement from the windows, but nothing suspicious.
They approach the gate and Eastwick knocks. A middle aged doorman with a flattened, crooked face answers and they produce their invite. The man escorts them down a short open corridor into a courtyard, where he passes the party off to a fine featured woman who takes the instruction to bring the party to the master. All are escorted across the uneven and at times broken cobblestones of the court and into into a throne room. A wizened man in expensive but old robes sits on an elaborate chair at the far end. He is flanked by screens, and hidden lights indirectly illumine the walls in a soft glow. He introduces himself as Lin Tang-Yu, a collector of rare and obscure texts. Inquiries made by the party have drawn Lin’s attention, and he is aware of the parties activities in Shanghai.
He is looking for ‘The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan’ and has reason to believe that it was stolen by Jack Brady. Lin makes several accusations about illicit activity in Shanghai, and Ernst admits to the blowing up of the warehouse, but says he did not see the scroll there. Lin asks after Brady. Ernst says they know much about him, but not where he is. Pressed for more, he gives a general idea of their expedition, and why they are looking for Brady. Ernst, in turn, presses for more information, but Lin refuses to give it; saying he’s been magnanimous enough to keep other parties off them sufficiently for them to meet him. Lin says that they should tell him if they find Brady or the ‘Seven Books’ , and, more matter of fact then malicious, that he’ll know if they don’t. He also gives them the location of Ho Fong’s Mansion and Grey Dragon Island. Ernst says he knows what they are up against, then asks if Ho Fong has things going on outside Shanghai. Lin laughs at this, saying the party really has no idea what they are up against.
Spalding asks if Brady works for Ho Fong. Lin says no, but that his girlfriend has been kidnapped and thus he may be being coerced. He tells them she used to live on lantern street.
Making overtures that the conversation is finished, Lin whistles and the courtyard woman returns. She shows them out the way they came.
New accommodations are arranged and the party relocates to a hotel in the Japanese district, deciding that this area seems the least corrupt. They unload their trucks and get settled.
Nickels and Spalding go to the docks to see if they can find Ho’s yacht. Making inquiry of the locals, Nickels discovers that his yacht is called the Luxuriant Goddess, that it has an English registry, and that it’s not present currently. The Dark Mistress is not here either.
Meanwhile, Ernst and Eastwick survey Ho Fong’s house. The walls are high, spiked, and barbed wired. Two thugs stand outside the heavy gate. They scope out the neighborhood looking for a vantage point. They could scale a neighboring building and observe from the roof, but they would be visible from the street and need to be quick. They briefly entertain the notion of a camouflaged hot air balloon. All ideas seem dangerous in one or another way shape or form, so instead they return to the hotel.
Friday, April 17th 1925:
The party makes special effort to be polite to Japanese forces in hopes of creating a good reputation. Deciding to follow up on the strange headlines, the party heads to Lantern street. Not far from the Stumbling Tiger Bar, It is home to a number of flower girl houses, of which 88 Lantern is one. Knocking, they are greeted by several working girls, though they were not anticipating customers at this hour. Making known that they are not they for their services but rather for information, the proprietor of the establishment, Madame Gee, is summoned. She is a fierce older woman who is not happy to have been disturbed, but some money exchanging hands brings her around.
The party is brought to the room that was attacked by the creature. Ernst convinces Madame Gee to wake up some of the other girls to interview. Eastwick asks them questions while Ernst and Spalding check the room.
The room is destroyed, and still has a large hole broken through the outer wall. The furniture is smashed, and blood stains and bits of viscera are still present. Agents of some kind have been spread to mask the smell, but they don’t do much good within the room itself. Ernst and Spalding are unable to uncover any leads.
Meanwhile, Eastwick learns from one of the girls, ‘Quivering Jade’, that things happened quickly that night, and there wasn’t much time for anyone to respond. The consensus among the girls is that the girl who was in the room that night was unlucky; She was new to the room, which used to belong to ‘Long Night’. Asking further about ‘Long Night’, Madame Gee says she kept a man who never paid, and so she kicked them out. She was sold to an establishment at 140 Lantern Street. The party relocates there.
Keeping on the headlines, the party heads to the Seaman’s Club. It is a Baroque Revival style building featuring ionic columns and intricately carved cupolas on the Bund. Eastwick is a member, and vouches for the others. There are a sparse number of folks in the common areas, and the party decides to mill about and see if they can get a read from the place. Eventually they find an Aussie sailor, hard and calloused, who was there the night of the collapse. He describes tentacled fishmen emerging from the surf, and then the panic at the collapse. The party also talks to the staff, determining the occupied rooms involved in the collapse, and getting the name and description of an occupant: John Smith. The description matches Jack Brady. They ask that if he stops in, to leave a message for Ernst under the name Jack O’Brian.
All take a satisfying lunch at the club, then follow up on the last headline, travelling to the Garden of the Purple Clouds of Autumn. It is a small community, shaken by the fire and loss of some of their own. Talking to the Bonze, they get a description of the European at the scene, which also matches Jack Brady.
The party observes that the ‘Luxuriant Goddess’ has come into port. Ernst and Nickels stake it out and see that it is under guard, including a man meeting the description of ‘Long Nights’ last customer. There are men loading goods onto the ship. An assault is briefly entertained, but it is decided that it is too dangerous. Ernst and Nickels stay on a stakeout overnight.