The detectives began the session visiting the Emporium, a fairly non-descript shop in Marigny-Bywater that sells voodoo artefacts. They spoke with the proprietor, Daniel Cisek, who again confirmed that he had not seen one of the tribal masks they were looking for, but intimated that there were several parties in New Orleans actively interested in acquiring them. He seemed to know that Mammy Martine herself was hunting for them already. He agreed to keep an eye out for any masks fitting the description and contact the detectives if he found one.
As they had yet to break into anywhere (the players seem fond of it), they next decided to visit Loyola University, more specifically the office of the late Father Joseph McNelis, where they knew a secret panel concealed a small library of occult works, some of which had already been looted in an earlier chapter by LeRalf. This proved to be relatively easy, with manitou-infested PI Lee Deville making use of the sonic lockpick obtained from slain hit man Jazzman James. McNelis had few works on voodoo to start with, but they did managed to obtain a 1911 biography of vanished houngan and founder of the Bayou Vermilion railroad Baron Simone LeCroix.
The book, written by Michael Braddock, looked to be largely based on hearsay and idle speculation, but did shed some light on a couple of new items of intelligence. Firstly, LeCroix, who came to New Orleans from Haiti, funded his railroad with an unknown source of wealth, rumoured to be either the proceeds of blockade running during the Civil War, or pirate loot. Secondly, although he did not found the Red Sect, he helped to make it into the dominant organised crime group in New Orleans before Prohibition gave the Black Hand a foot in the door. Thirdly, he wanted his daughter, Marie-Louise, to take control of Bayou Vermilion after his death. When he disappeared, she was quickly edged out by her sister (circa 1890), and also vanished from sight. The book speculates that one or both sisters were responsible for the Baron's disappearance, and that Laurelie 'Mammy' Martine may well have murdered her sister to take control of the Red Sect.
Doing the maths, the detectives worked out that Mammy Martine must be well over 70, although she looks much younger (55-60).
While relaxing for the evening in the Absinthe House with their beverages of preference, the detectives were approached by a pair of Black Hand thugs, who told them that Mike the Stick was aware of their visit to Mammy Martine, and wanted to see them. The mafia goons were fairly threatening in their manner, and one stubbed his cigarette out in Doc LeBoeuf's drink, almost prompting a fight, before a display of Prof Gordon's telekinesis device reminded them of who they were dealing with.
The next day the detectives trawled the newspapers for a high end interior decorator they could consult about a restoration project for LeRalf. Their real purpose was seeking information on any antique African masks that might be held privately in New Orleans by wealthier residents. This pointed them in the direction of the house of former Senator for Louisiana Byron Cruzet, sitting between Washington Avenue and Felicity Street in Uptown. The detectives now knew that the Cruzets collected African art and had a mask fitting the description of those they were hunting in a glass case.
|The Cruzet mansion|
Downstairs, LeBoeuf confronted the intruder who was in the process of climbing in a back window. This proved to be Cisek, the owner of the Emporium, who promptly fled. The elderly butler was advised to call the police, and Gordon posed as the dispatch officer on the other end of the line, ensuring no police were actually summoned.
Now equipped with the mask (which only seems to whisper to De Ville, and not the others), the detectives travelled to Prof Gordon's lab, where De Ville put the mask on (after his colleagues took the precaution of tying him into his chair). Looking through the eyes of the mask, De Ville could see that he seemed to be standing in a wooden canoe in the middle of a huge swamp, under a strange, kaleidoscopic sky, similar to the one he saw in the red church painting in Mammy Martine's house (see 'Meeting Mammy Martine'). De Ville has stashed the mask in a safety deposit box at the First Bank of the Confederacy in the Central Business District.
That evening, the detectives visited Sanzone's, the Sicilian restaurant controlled by the Black Hand, where they met with Mike the Stick. Although initially unhappy with them for visiting Mammy Martine, the Stick seemed more relaxed when Gordon told him of the shooting of Martine's son, Bon Bon Lescartier, in a previous episode. He seemed to know the square root of nothing about the masks, but given the Red Sect's interest in acquiring them, told the detectives he would be keen to obtain them himself. He accepted that they could borrow them first, but scoffed at any occult powers they might have.
De Ville fuzzily recalls meeting Marburg and speaking with him shortly before De Ville was shot and killed himself. This would have been in 1934. Private investigator Gavin Phillips was also present at that meeting. The Stick says he knows of Phillips but says he has not done any work for the Black Hand.
To be continued...