Cliffhangers

Seer Stones of Salt Lake City

June 1927

Following the cast’s hardship in Arkansas the debriefing with the government officials and -scientists dragged on. Luckily the remainder was performed on board a train bound for Washington. As they stepped on to the platform in the dry heat they wondered why on earth they were in Salt Lake City. It turned out G-Man LaRoche’s final barrage of insults had been a train ticket to Washington…State, not D.C. The next train was not until the next day, so they went to look for a hotel. But both the Railway Inn and Le Grande Royal were full from visiting dentists in town for a conference. The same was true for any accommodations within a useful distance. For some reason Tex also arrived here on his way from California to…somewhere unspecific.
As it had happened before a stranger in a truck offered the cast not only a lift but this time also to stay in his house. Considering how things turned out with Ron Pantone in SanDiego some time earlier this raised eyebrows. But this was Arnold Young, a nice middle-aged Mormon (which for simplicity is used i n stead of writing ‘Church of Latter Day Saints’ every dang time!), and also a friend of Lord Winterbottom’s. His offer was accepted.
After dinner he put on his business face and admitted he had asked Winterbottom for help, who had somehow sent the cast this way. Maybe his Persuasion worked by telegraph as well? Arnold Young was the curator of the Mormom Museum, and a recent break-in had left them without Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones. Joseph Smith was the original prophet who received the word of god via an angel written on golden plates, and was granted the Seer Stones to use for translating them. What is not known to all, but most of the pious Mormons in the know, and certainly not written on the glass display case – is that these particular stones were actually not these translating stones, but rather a set of stones owned by Smith prior to his contact with the angel. Apparently he used them for treasure hunting, but there was no more detail than this. Anyway the press did not specify this fact. The odd things about the crime was that there were plenty of artifacts made from rare metals which could have been swiped, which were left alone.
Young told that the real seer stones – the ones used by Smith to translate the testament – were in the safe of Elder Grant, the Mormon’s current spiritual leader and prophet. The inner circle all decided there was no risk. But Young thought otherwise and wanted to recruit the cast to go undercover at the upcoming cotillion at Grant’s mansion to prevent any theft. For their troubles Young would make sure they return to England by first class transport.
The next day Young’s wives and other relatives took measurements in order to tailor appropriate clothing for the cast. In order to not attract suspicion the cast gad to pose as benefactors from London and as two married couples. Knowing the social skills of Khamill suffered somewhat from a cultural gap, Susan had her eye on Tex, and as Elizabeth was allowed a moment’s thought where she was apparently daydreamed Susan called dibs.
Young said some strangers had been seen at the exhibition a few days ago, and as the museum was plundered the same night, witnesses piece together that the joint had been cased. No good description go go on though.
At the museum the robbers had used a small explosive charge to blow the lock, but the door had been refitted since then. The only clue found was a single thumb print made with ink, on the side of the display case. It looked very deliberate, and as it served no purpose in signaling which case to steal seeing as there was only one such set of stones, it was dubbed a Trademark. Not a very good one though, because nobody had seen it before. However, Young remarked that ‘The Preachers’ previously encountered in New York in the case of the poisoned booze seemed somehow connected.
At the cotillion the cast started searching for possible suspects, primarily among the foreign dignitaries since Mormons were obviously above matters of crime and violence. Speaking of which, the cast smuggled pistols inside. Khamill has a shooter and a bottle of booze in his satchel, placed in the wardrobe. Elizabeth had her doctor’s bag and gun in the same place. Khamill made frequent trips there to refresh his taste buds. Sudan hid her and Tex’ two M1911s under her flowing skirts.
The Prophet’s office upstairs was spotted, where his safe was, and possible exit points cased. It seemed unlikely anyone would shimmy down from the window, as it was directly across from the outbuilding housing the toilet facilities, which meant a steady line of possible witnesses. The distraction the cast expected to come was guessed to be the fireworks display being prepared behind the house. Khamill spotted one of the foreigners also frequently visiting his satchel in the wardrobe. It turned out to contain a bottle of booze, several small bottles, and some breath mints. Khamill did nothing about this.
During the cotillion there was an expectation to participate in the dancing. While both gentlemen aced it – Tex by skill and Khamill by luck – their respective partners’ lack of classic upper-class training dragged the couples’ collective poise down. Come evening the party moved partly indoors. Susan and Tex snuck upstairs via the servants staircase to keep tabs on the office. The foreigner Khamill had seen drinking secretly (like himself) collapsed and Elizabeth plus a local doctor look him over. The doctor’s diagnosis was dehydration, Eliabeth added is was caused by intake of alcohol, but the locals dismissed this. He was taken outside for fresh air. Khamill was also outside at the wardrobe, refreshing himself, at this time.
As the fireworks started a heavy set servant in an ill fitting uniform exited the lounge leading to the office and lit a smoke. He was evidently not a local Mormon and obviously not the real owner of the suit, the idea of someone sneaking in as a servant had occurred to the cast but there were too many to bother searching. Synchronized with the fireworks two small explosions were heard. Susan eased out Tex’ gun from her petticoats, he concealed it under his jacket and sped for the office while she kept an eye on the fake servant. Elizabeth fought the current of gusts moving outside for the fireworks display, and made her way up the stairs. Khamill cleverly move to stand below the office window. The fake servant still just stood there, Elizabeth moved towards him to clobber him, while Susan was ready to draw her gun. As Tex entered the room only to see a black clad figure move from the open safe, but not before he made a black thumbprint beside the door frame.
Now things really started to happen! Just beside Khamill a truck smashed through the garden wall, but this hardly rattled him. The thief jumped out the window, with Tex in close pursuit – his gun undoubtedly dropped by now. As the truck’s side doors were not accessible Khamill clambered over the bonnet. The thief landed perfectly on the bed of the truck, ripping the canvas and disappearing from sight. Tex undershot his jump and barely had time to call ‘heads up’ to Khamill before the inevitable collision. An engine was heard revving from the back of the truck – the thief’s escape motorcycle no doubt.

CLIFFHANGER!!!

Tex valiantly vaulted over the cab of the truck only to see the motorcycle escape. By now his next problem was seeing the two goons in the cab look back at him and pull out guns. He snatched up a metal pipe and went back up for the fight. There was a lot of punching and ground rolling but no shots fired. As Tex was backed up only by Elizabeth throwing marble busts of the Prophet and his favoured wives from the second floot the fight was a stand-off and eventually broken up by guests. For a people unwilling to use violence they sure had cojones to step into such a brawl. The coppers came and took all combatants away, Arnold Young made arrangements with the police to let Tex go. The big, black bearded man obviously involved in the safe job, who Elizabeth drugged, stayed behind bars with his two goons. Man was he pissed off when he woke up! He was identified as John Teach, the two goons were knoen hoodlums from West Virginia.
The thief who got away matched the description of the museum thief, identified as Lyn Hornigold. He and Teach were associated with ‘Blackbeard Society’ a criminal organization using names from well-known pirates (John Teach was in fact infamous Blackbeard’s real name) specializing in theft of objects d’art of occult connection. Hornigold’s motorcycle was found at the railway line, it was deduced he had taken the train towards Illinois.
Arnold Young told that researchers from Illinois had been asking about the golden plates – curiously enough Karthago, Illinois was where Joseph Smith died. It also seemed that these researchers were sponsored by William Law of the Preachers.
The significance of Khartago was what after Joseph Smith saw the angel, recieved the Seer Stones, and wrote the Testament he left Palmyra, New York (aka Mormon Hill) to find the Mormon’s new holy land. The Mormons founded Khartago, but following the crach of the bank and the hanging of Smith most Mormons moved on, eventually reaching Salt Lake City.
The cast boarded the next train and followed Hornigold’s tracks. At every station the attendants were asked, but Hornigold had continued towards Illinois. Arnold Young kept rhe cast updated on any new developments by telegram. On the train a Irish bootlegger caught the attention of Khamill, even though he sat in the steamer trunk.
At the end of the line in Illinois Hornigold had been picked up at the station by a large car with Italian diplomatic plates, by an envoy called Benjamin Cowdery, and gone on to Khartago.
In Khartago a local lad showed Tex and Elizabeth around, among others at both the Catholic as well as Mormon churches. Benjamin Cowdery originated from Khartago and a predessor to him had been a friend of Joseph Smith’s at the time. Cowdery’s sister Elisabeth had been Smith’s second wife. Differences between Cowdery and Smith arose when Smith wanted to take Cowdery’s other sister Nina as his third wife. Following the hanging of Smith his widows as well as Nina Cowdery took Smiht’s body to Mormon Hill for burial and never returned.
At the local tavern Tex and Elizabeth spotted Hornigold and an as yet unidentified man dining with a woman later identified as Lady Elizabeth Kilgrew – an upper class dame who was a known associate of Hornigold’s. She had been to Khartago before, stayed at the Law Ranch owned by ‘Mad Dog’ Law.
At the same time Khamill, Wilfred, and Susan were relaxing with a cold drink on the front porch, when suddenly a large truck pulled up, heavily laden with burly men carrying tools.

CLIFFHANGER

But the burly men apparently had business at the building site, and this was not really anything dangerous – yet. Blackbeard aka Teach also dismounted and went inside the restaurant. He failed to recognize Susan from the cotillion, and she followed him inside to warn Tex and Elizabeth.
Across from the restaurant was the former jail later converted to a museum for the Mormon faith and Joseph Smith. It was where he was thrown after the bank crashed, and where the angry mob shot him. The musuem was currently being remodelled, and was a closed building site. Across from the jail-turned-museum lay the old bank, still in use following a rebuilding effort after it burned down. So some of old family owned vaults had not been opened since Joseph Smith’s day.
Khamill joined the builders at the back of the line as they entered the museum one by one, as the foreman consulted his clipboard and ticked them off. When he suddenly saw a huge guy, not on his list he thought he could get a strong worker he could force to take unnecessary risks and avoid paying. Great plan! Sort of…because nobody knew where Khamill was or what he did.
Wilfred crept under Blackbeard’s truck to delicately sabotage it. Unbeknowst to him he accidentally dropped his wallet, and inadverdently revealed the plot to the opposition later on. While most of the cast milled about aimlessly outside the museum Khamill has descended the tunnel dug from museum to bank and assisted in setting charges to blow the wall to the vault room.
Susan cheekily approached the foreman standing guard at the museum door and startet up a ploy pretending to be a union rep. While not entirely succesful it did throw the opposition and drew in Wilfred and Tex as well. By now the culprot’s diversion occurred: A fire at the hotel staged by Lady Kilgrew. Everyone was looking there, and not at the museum. Khamill was tasked with lighting the fuses, encouraged by the booze-running Irishman the cast met on the train who retreated quickly even before Khamill struck the match. As Khamill was moving towards the ladder back up he was momentarily distracted by the bottles of whiskey left behind.
And suddenly there was an ear shattering kaboom! Khamill was blown half to bits, deafened – and even worse: his precious liquor was destroyed! The irishman’s explosive skills left much to be desired. As Wilfred held the opposition at gunpoint Susan and Tex sped down the cellar. Khamill came along insode the bank vault and they decided to not ruin but actually finish the heist. As police sirens were approaching the cast ran along back alleys with a strongbox from inside Joseph Smith’s abandoned bank vault.
As the cast got separated Khamill and Wilfred atempted to hide on top of a flat roofed building. Soon after they were discovered by the police. As an officer climbed up Khamill held him hostage and made all sorts of demands, while Wilfred quietly surrendered. Sheriff Mad Dog Law came along and the situation became markedly worse.
In the meantime Sudan, Elizabeth, and Tex had managed to pick open the double locks on the strongbox. Inside was the Golden Book of so very high significanceto the Mormons.
As Khamill held the captured policeman with one hand, tipping im over the edge of the roof and threatening to toss him down, and a tear gas canister in the other hand the situation turns into a..

CLIFFHANGER!!!

To avoid wasting time resolving such a hopeless situation, any good Cliffhanger flick unceremoniously cuts to the Prisoner Exchange. On a flat plain outside town Mad Dog Law and his cronies walk the handcuffed Wilfred and Khamill towards Elizabeth and Tex who reluctantly hand over the Golden Book for the two. As a furtehr element of tension a mototcycle approaches trailing a huge cloud of dust as the exchange is at its most intense. Mad Dog’s cronies hanging back – a dude dressed as a priest, Blakcbeard, Hornigold, and the Irishman cluth guns to one side. At the stolen truck Olav and Susan likewise flwx their trigger fingers…
But the motorcyclist is recognized by Mad Dog as a ranch hand of his, and he is there to deliver a note. Angrily Mad Dog crumples the paper and hastily retreats after the exchange. Not knowing what the deuce else to do the cast agree to work for Mad Dog. They have to hurry to Mormon Hill in Palmyra at the east coast near the Canadian border to prevent Lady Kilgrew in arriving with the Seer Stones, at the next full moon. As it turns out she double crossed Mad Dog and nicked the stones during the exchange. The hastily discarded retrieved after Mad Dog left note said something about how “those left behind” must not get their hads on the stones, signed Benjamin Cowdery.
Not wanting to waste even a minute Wilfred dug into his pockets and chartered a private plane to fly the cast at best speed to New York. A rented car took them the rest of the way to Palmyra. As it were they were bound to have 3 days before Kilgrew could arrive, barring a similar tgravel arrangement by plane which was dismissed as impossible knowing her lack of assets.
Palmyra was a quiet catholic town with a fair bit of industry owned by Benjamin Cowdery – among other the saw mill and the cannery – who was also buying up loosely connected businesses like mechanic’s workshops and housing estates. Outside town was a small Mormon settlement – unpopular with the local townies – near the hill known as Mormon Hill.

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Something is afoot, underground!!

Alright, then.. so the story goes like this:
After our heroes found the final resting place of the old spanish pearl galleon for Nebraska, but utterly failed to recover anything besides the captain’s seal and log, they were all set to fly back to New York, the catch the liner back to Liverpool and Old Blighty. But, as luck would have it, the plane broke down just after passing texas, and had to set down. Luckily (or maybe not), the party was given 1st class tickets on the train to New York – and there was a dining car and all! So off they went. On the way through Arkansas, the dinner was rudely interrupted by a loud noise, and when Wilfred checked out the window, he found that the track had been undermined in the heavy rains of the last few days, and the train was about to derail itself.

The options were simple enough: stay on the train and ride it out (not a good call) or try to get off, before the train jumps the tracks. Wilfred ordered everyone towards the back of the train, to try to decouple the carriages and brake them manually before reaching the cut in the line. Susan got the message loud and clear, but started turning the brake wheel just before Florian was to jump across, resulting in him hanging between the buffers, having a rather too close look at the rails below, before pulling himself back up. It quickly became apparent that the “Braking the carriages”-scheme wouldn’t work, so people started bailing out in quick succession, starting with Florian, who took a quick tumble down a meadow, and looked up just in time to see a package crate bounding towards him, spewing pots, pans and other assorted ironware in all directions.

CLIFFHANGER!!

Luckily, the crate bounced right by him, and none of the others were really badly hurt, except for some bruised egos. Unfortunately the rest of the trains occupants hadn’t been so lucky. Both the engineer and conductor had died when the engine exploded. Wilfred investigated the break in the line, and didn’t find any signs of sabotage, while Susan and Elisabeth set out warning lights to either side of the crash site. Before too long a couple of trucks came by on the nearby country road, and after a quick discussion, our heroes were driven up to the nearby Jones’ farm, where the local sheriff (in Monticello, AS) was called and informed of the accident. The Sheriff told them to come to Monticello with the bodies, and to stay in town until he had questioned them the next day. On the drive up the Jones farm, the driver remarked that a lot of bad things had been happening, lately – starting off with a meteorite crashing into one of Jones’ fields, just over a week before.

Monticello turned out to be a bit of nowhere, a small dinky town on the wrong side of the tracks. After dropping off the bodies, Wilfred and Florian were patched up in the emergency room (nothing more than a couple of stitches), while Elisabeth nosed around, and came across a mental patient in another ward. The man was clearly deranged, and kept babbling on about something “in the middle of the corn field”, “talking to it, but not saying anything” and it “came from the sky”. Elisabeth tried to find out what medication the poor sod was on, and who he was. He turned out to be a mister Edwards from the Department of Agriculture’s field office in Little Rock, which seemed ood, the say the least. Meanwhile Susan went to book some rooms in the nice hotel in town, while Florian, Olav and Khamil went across the tracks to find something to drink and locals to talk to. There was a LOT to drink (prohibition apparently didn’t apply in Arkansas) and some friendly locals who had some interesting things to tell: A lot of things had gone missing in the last week: turkeys, ponies, cattle and hobos – ever since that meteor came down – the farmers were digging in, not trusting anyone, and some hotshot government type had even paid Jones some kind of compensation, which interested Olav to no end – the government handing out free money?! Anyways, it was unanimously agreed that they would go check out the meteor the next morning – but first another round of drinks.

The next morning found Susan, Elisabeth and Wilfred well rested, but with no sign of the rest of the louts. However, after a brief search, they were found in a rather sorry state at the other hotel in town, but some cold water and coffee soon fixed them up. While Elisabeth tried to find out more about Mr Edwards, Olav made a beeline for the mayors office to find the nice man who gave away money for free. Olav found his secretary, and eventually him, but got nowhere, money-wise (he did annoy the heck out of LaRoche, though)

Susan and Florian went to talk to the local newspaper – trading the story of Florian’s heroism in the train wreck for the inside scoop on what was happening in town. Everything had started a week before, on monday, with the meteor crashing down. Jones and his neighbour, Martin had argued over who owned the darned thing. Then things had started disappearing from the countryside. On wednesday Mr Edwards had arrived and started asking questions. On friday some guy names LaRoche had arrived from Washington DC, and had immediately had Edwards committed to the hospital – and paid Jones some money(!) – and then on sunday, the train wreck. The editor was convinced that some big time hush-up was happening. Martin had gone weird – Jones and Martin had argued over who owned the meteor, and then the guvmint had taken the rock, and paid Jones – to shut up??

With their interest peeked, the party set off towards the Jones farm, to talk to him, and find out some more about the weird happenings. Jones greeted them, and said they were welcome to look at the crash site, but said that the rock was gone. The site was quickly found on the border between Martin’s and Jones’ land. The crater had some traces of some white crystalline material, that Olav thought would be a great idea to taste (go figure). Aaanyhoo, the party decided to go visit the Martins – Wilfred and Susan wanted to take the truck they had leased, the rest wanted to stroll over, figuring Martin wouldn’t shoot them without warning.

Florian, Khamil, Olav and Elisabeth hadn’t gotten that far before they found one of the missing cows – it had literally been sucked into the ground! While that bit of shock was sinking in, Florian felt the ground give way beneath him and something grabbed his leg and pulled!! Luckily he was able to pull himself free, and saw… A GIANT WORM!!!! I MEAN HUGE!!! Now the course of action was clear: Get to the Martin’s farm PDQ – someone had left a wagon in the field, and it was downhill to the farm, so they quickly made their way down, only causing moderate damage to the surroundings.

The Martin’s farm was eerily quiet. Nobody could be found anywhere, including the livestock. But on searching the house, Florian found the way to the basement, where someone had been digging a big hole in the wall – and there was some of the white crystals on the floor. Just as the party was examining the hole in the wall, a giant worm attacked out of it! Thing s were about to get hairy, but again Florian was the man of the hour, hacking a big chunk of the worm off, which caused the chunk to turn to the crystaline material. Everyone were congratulating themselves when a gigantic tremor (!) struck, and

CLIFFHANGER!!

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On the Trail of Nebraska Dave's Treasure

April 1928

The entrepid adventurers exit the plane, weary from a long journey, and squint as they shield their eyes from the blazing sun bearing down on Lindbergh Field – as the airstrip in San Diego is soon to be named. How did it all start?

A cold and foggy day in London as many others have been, the cast sit in their offices with little to do. In the absence of Lord Winterbottom the daring expeditions are further apart these days. Could he really voluntarily be traveling the world trying to rekindle the flame with the lady Winterbottom? The radio is quietly humming today’s popular tunes and the kettle is whistling. The front office as always is empty since there is no receptionist hired and none of the menfolk dare suggest this would be a job easily handled by Susan with her abilities.

Tex recieves a letter from a place called Imperial, California. Inside is another letter, also adresses to Tex in London but it has been opened. There is a note attached. The innermost letter is from Tex’s old comrade-in-adventures – the treasure seeking Nebraska Dave. He writes that he finally did it, found the Big Score, well before Tex found anything worthwhile he wryly adds, and is now looking to buy land and retire as was always his dream. The second note is from Dr. Connor in Imperial relating that Nebraska was assaulted, beat up, and lies in a (plot related) coma. The only means of contacting next of kin was by opening the unsent letter to Tex. Tex knew Nebraska was an orphan and doubted there was anyone else. Well, time to pack the bags and haul theur collective backsides transatlantic-wise!

As the bags were off-loaded the cast were approached by a large, young man with a mustache introducing himself as Ron, sent by the doctor in Imperial to offer a ride in his truck. Well, it’s a mustache kind of morning and such people are trustworthy! Khamill as always called shotgun and the rest sat in the canvas covered back. Funny, Tex remembered he had not replied with an arrival time, so how did the clinic know to send Ron and when to?…
As time went by the driver was sweating and nervous, all of which Khamill failed to notice. As the truck took a detour to the old quarry (yep, just a stone’s throw away, you know), he told Khamill it was a stop for lunch. Suddenly he slammed the brakes and bolted out the door! Emerging from the back Tex and Susan were puzzled and intended to drive on. When surprisingly they found themselves under fire from riflemen perched at the top of the ridges. Unable to return fire with merely a pistol Susan took the footboard on the passenger side while Tex gunned the truck and gave chase to Ron. As the hood was riddled with bullets one was bound to hit something important, and right as you are the engine started venting steam. Great! Stuck in the desert, in an ambush, with a broken radiator! Even with every possible effort given the truck did not manage to run down Ron before he scrambled up the steep side of the path. Susan was at first sure she managed to nail him with a shot, but later realized she had hit a boulder instead.

Once out of the firng line they pulled over and as the opposition did not pursue they made makeshift repairs to the truck. Khamill found the map and considered his options: He was stuck in Prohibition USA with his single remaining bottle of booze. Even with minimal skills his assesment of their location was failry close to what Tex gleaned. Yet another thing Khamill was not caught be inept at, so the cast thinks he can read maps. Just like they in Congo thought he could track in the jungle. There was less than an hour to Imperial and the truck drove leasurely on. Soon after a dustcloud approaching from behind revealed the Sheriff’s car. Good, now the ambush could be reported! Khamill was by now drunk as a poet on payday and also somewhat queasy. He wisely chose to keep quiet and still as the archetypical, fat Sheriff came round. He asked their business, they told him they were lookin into Nebraska Dave’s situation. He was not at all amused and wanted no trouble. Instead of accepting a report of an ambush he instead wanted to press charges for stealing the truck. He said the cast could stay a few days and then leave. If they stepped out of line he’d be on them like a ton of bricks. Great! The cast were bound to get in trouble – real or imagined – whatever they did. Correctly guessed the county judge turned out to be the Sheriff’s cousin

Arriving in Imperial the small town was taken in. There was a service station, a tavern, a church, a general store, a diner, an infirmery, and the Sheriff’s office with the courthouse on the top floor. First stop was Dr Hudson at the infirmery. Elizabeth could only confirm what Doc Hudson said – there was no way of knowing when Nebraska would wake up. He had many broken bones as well as head trauma. He had been found beat up behind the tavern. The important thing to notice was the absence of his good luck gold dubloon he always carried around and flicked with his thumb. So whoever had assaulted him were bound to have this!

Next stop was the tavern. First Khamill argued futilely with the barkeep about booze until he realized he needed a permit from the Sheriff and pastor to buy alcohol for medicinal or religious purposes. The mustachioed hoodlum Ron was the youngest Pantone lad it turned out, and everybody fell out with them! Nebraska Dave had also spoken with “the Mexicans”. Tex rented the house Nebraska has stayed in, to ensure any leade of piece of in formation he’d had (and was not already lost) would be found. Slippery Pete as the service station was mentioned as being to go-to guy. As the truck was sent to repair by the mechanic Pete told he had procured things for Nebraska Dave, and could for us as well. He would not way what in detail, but it had been maps as well as books. He also said that Nebraska had a falling out with the Mexicans – father and son Joaquin and Ramon de la Cardena. Khamill tried a scam claiming his alcohol permit was accidentally sent to LA instead. This failed but pete promised to get him a fake permit. At the general store Khamill was goaded into buying a shotgun to replace the ones he was always losing, and fresh food was stocked up on. Finally, notes had been hung up all over town about the imminent flooding – due to the building of a dam of – certain areas north of town in 3 days…and it was already afternoon on the first day! So for plot related reasons it was obvious that the treasure was in the areas to be flooded.

At the rented house the door had been kicked in and the place ransacked. Maps were found but there were too many marks too insignificant to deduce anything from. The set of books on ships in Pacific USA from mid 1500s up until 1890 was missing the book covering M-N. A pair of stinking wellies were found, which Khamill with his extensive farming knowledge identified as having visited a pig sty. Between two floor boards the calling card of a “Jeweler Schwarz” in San Diego was located. Nothing untoward happened during the evening or night, except that Slippery Pete snuck ineptly round the trashcans during Elizabeth’s watch, bringing in Khamill’s permit which she did not give him until the next morning. He also told that Ramon played poker at the tavern each evening, that would have to be looked into the next evening.

In conclusion Nebraska Dave was looking for a treasure ship, most likely Spanish bearing Aztec gold and jewels, which had somehow sailed inland on a river and run aground. All low-lying places not currently covered in water were possible sites for this. He had also been round a pig farm, and had been looking into – or even actually had been – selling gold and jewels. Back in town to collect the truck Tex asked Pete about pig farmers. There were three: Ed Swanson at Thanksgiving Farms, who also raised turkeys. The Pantones as Happy Snout Farm, perhaps the largest. And finally little Patrick Peterson at Wandering Turtle Farm.

Khamill went to the tavern and used his fake permit to get booze from the barman’s wife. He was only allowed to drink while at the tavern, removing any alcohol was tantamount to smuggling and thus a Federal offense. He snuck the water out of his canteen and replaced it with booze. Later be bought a second canteen at the store to actually bring water, Tex commended him on his desert survival skills.

First stop was the Pantone farm, the truck was parked down the road and the cast snuck up to the barn/garage. Khamill and Susan stayed back to keep watch while Tex and Elizabeth snuck up to the main house. Inside the living room there were some maps and Tex went inside to pilfer them. Caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar Papa Pantone suddenly appeared with a double barrel shotgun. He angrily demanded to know what Tex wanted and who he was. Tex continued the angry line and said they had a bone to pick with Ron and his ambush at the quarry. Papa called in the hulking big Jim-Bob to cover Tex with the gun while he went to signal the rest of his brood with the triangle at the porch. In the meantime Khamill had snuck down to the pig pens to scout. as he heard the signal he saw two men haste to the house. He opened the gates and tossed inside a tear gas grenade hoping the pigs would stampede. it was not quite as dramatic but they did leave the pen. In the living room Tex momentarily confused Jim-Bob with a “look out” ruse and leapt over the coffee table – which collapsed – to punch out the hick. First jaw-ringing upeprcut failed to take out the big lad, but now the fight was too close to use the gun. One hard body punch richer Tex repeated his uppercut with better effect – Jim-Bob went out cold. Before leaving Tex went into the next room – Papa Pantone’s den – and found large wads of cash in the cupboard. Because it is dumb to become a criminal for peanuts he stuffed his pockets with the greenbacks, left through the window before any more pantones arrived. He haded for the truck with Susan and Elizabeth. The pilfered maps showed nothing but unimportant tool sheds, and Khamill was picked up on the way to the next farm.

Wandering Turtle farm was smaller but with a freshly painted house and new pig pens. Noone answered the door, because inside little Patrick Peterson was found dead – having been so for a week, tied to a chair, tortured, beated and kneecapped. To set a timeline Nebraska Dave was beaten 4 weeks to the day, so way before Peterson. His ledgers showed no special income but a sudden spending spree with a new batch of pigs and a new truck. The pigs were there all right, but starving and having succumbed to canibalism. The truck was nowhere to be seen. His plot of land bordered the places to be flooded so his farm would become more fertile with easier access to irrigation. The pig pens were being built with old, sturdy timber. very old, having been in a pile for quite some time. And it looked as if it could have been pieces of a ship at one time…So Peterson was in on the treasure, but how? He had found the ship pieces long ago, but only recently seen money. Did Nebraska see the timber and buy information from him? Were they partners? Did Peterson find the treasure himself? In that case, why did he act as if only finding a small sum and not just move away and start over a better place? And why then would Nebraska write he had found treasue? In any case it was likely this was the place Nebraska had visited in his wellies. And the money found at Pantone’s could have been what Peterson had left, stolen by them after killing him. But the Mexicans had to be involved as well. On to the last farm.

At Thanksgiving Farm the nice Ed Swanson told he’d never actually seen Nebraska Dave only heard of him, and that four months earlier Peterson’s pigs had died from a disease. He was surprised to see him actually have enough money to buy a new batch. Dr Hudson was also the local vet and as he had examined the pigs he was the next person to visit. There was some debate as whether to tell the Sheriff that Peterson had bought the farm.

In town the cast first visited Doc Hudson, who told that Peterson’s pigs had died from a virus brought in by a few pigs he added to his stock, from San Diego. Khamill became increasingly anxious since he had been poking around the pigs, and tried to entice the Doc to visit Wandering Turtle Farm. The Doc did not want to go unless summoned, and Khamill all but admitted to having been there. All the while Tex tried his best to make it sound as if they had not been there, refering to them having heard things from Swanson, because when the body was found it would be better to be less involved. In the end Doc Hudson was all but intimidated by Khamill into going.

Subsquently Khamill went to drink. Tex went to the general store to call Jeweller Schwarz in San Diego. Elizabeth went to the courthouse to see if anyone had made recent purchaces of land to be flooded, or if there had been any expropriation. Meanwhile Susan decied the conversation with the Doc had been so insinuating that she went to the Sheriff to fess up that Peterson had been found dead! Thanks a lot, now the cast were bound to get in trouble with conflicting stories. The Sheriff took a report and locked Susan up – as witness or suspect – until the judge came back from his hunting trip. Elizabeth found nothing seriously suspicious with land sales or purchaces, only that a few people – Including Judge Porter – obviously with insider knowledge made a wad from buying worthlesss land ahead of time and selling at a premium once the news of the plans to flood got out. Plus she got some juicy local gossip from the nice lady at the office, primarily about who was cheating on who. Tex called Jeweler Schwarz and was sufficiently vague and claimed to be Nebraska Dave “calling to check up on the status of the case”. Schwarz said there had been no other black pearls sold than the ones Peterson sold recently, and the the Mexicans had also checked up on this. Aha, so the treaure was pearls! And the wetbacks knew about it.

Meeting up outside the tavern – except Susan who was waiting for her phone call to get her fathers’s mob lawyer in NY on the horn – the cast saw Ramon de la Cardena on the upper floor balcony flipping a gold dubloon nonchalantly and asking for new money…err…faces…at the poker table this evening, as most locals had already lost their money.

CLIFFHANGER!!!

By now Maxi and Olaf emerged from their deep sleep in “The Ol’ Steamer Trunk”. A plan was brewing to bust Susan out of the slammer and foil the opposition. In such a small town it was almost mandatory to use horsepower to yank the bars out of the window (and possibly rip out the entire wall…). In the roaring 20s this should b a truck rather than horses, and Olaf remembered the bit about the Pantones having a truck in their barn. And then clobber Ron pantone as revenge for his earlier ambush, put him in the truck and crash if following the bust – in order to frame the sucker. In retrospect actually doing this would have done wonder for the finding of clues and the investigation but without doubt fouled up a lot of things.

Anyway there was a poker game, which Tex and maxi went to, using the stolen pile of Pantone money (which originated from Patrick Peterson’s sale of the black pearls). The game was joined by Judge Porter and a very nervous Ron Pantone! Only the dealer was allowed inside the private saloon with the gamers. Khamill and Elizabeth stayed on the adjacent balcony. Both father and son Cardena played, and Tex came off to a good start. Ron was playing very defensively and was obviously both working for Ramon Cardena as well as being forced to play for borrowed money. Judge Porter was the first to be cleaned out, but Maxi sportsmanlike loaned him his own winnings and he continued. The innkeeper came in and whispered something to Joaquin Cardena and he excused himself for important business.
Outside Oloaf had arranged himself a balloon for the next day at noon, to fly oevr the desert and try to find the treasureship. A lot of people were apparently coming to town to see the flash flood, among others a balloon guy from San Diego. Suddenly three cars arrived and out of each three big guys in the same sorts of suits got out. Slippery Pete found out they were Pinkertons – private detectives and enforcers, known for their violent to the point of lethal response to strikes and demonstrations. Six of them went into the inn, the other three drove away in the cars.
In time most players got cleaned out. First off Ron who went all in for the big risk-big gain but lost big time. Two Pinkertons intercepted Ron and took hi to a room, he was obviosuly shaken. By now things went the wrong way for Tex, Ramon shoveled one big pile after another to his side, and eventually Maxi was cleaned out too, and was told to leave. Tex was sure Ramon was cheating, he only had to spot it. Judge Porter opted out as Ramon indicated he needed to speak with Tex alone. He wanted to ow what their business was, and Tex told him it was about Nebraska Dave. Ramon merely mentioned it was a pity but he had it coming. Finally Tex had a good hand but even that was not enough and Ramon grabbed the pot. Unfortunately he now had the upper hand, and started playing with Nebraska’s gold dubloon to make matters worse. He offered a game where the stakes were answers to the Nebraska case versus tex leaving town. Tex lost that as well. FInally Ramon offered the ‘Tijuana Takeoff’ where Tex stood to loose the clothes on his back versus 2 questiosns answered. Bring none too attached to material things Tex took the bait but concentrated on spotting the cheat. As the dealer finished the two piles of cards Tex toomk Ramon’s cards instead and this was accepted. As the dealer nervously went to put on a record Tex heard the tell-tale metallic sound of a gun! Ramon was also known as a master gunfighter in Tijuana, so Tex went for the old Flippin’ Table tactic. As he got to his feet Ramon was only momentarily hampered by the table, not knocked over, but it was enough to delay the shot. Tex whipped out his own piece and the classic Mexican Standoff occurred. Not for long tough because Ramon was twitchy and Tew made a shot for his arm. Ramon opted to twist into cover of the upended table. Tew not followed through with a slam to the table and half-way pinned Ramon beneath it.

At this time the shot alerted Maxi adn he ran in Luger at the ready. Khamill also made for the room but two Pinkertons followed on Maxi’s heels. Tex lowered his gun and he and Maxi were shown the door by the Pinkertons who needed a serious word with Ramon. Regrouping outside Tex was tossed the gold dubloon by the Pinkerton’s leader Rutherford up from the balcony. Khamill tried to get in but was told to get lost, and eventually got the message after four Pinkertons came to flex their muscles. Olaf found a ladder and crept up int he darkness to the upepr story windows to peek inside, avoiding the sporadic Pinkerton guards. as Ron had not left he inn he must still be inside. As he was alone in a room and not under guard Olaf sprung him and the cast regrouped in the rented house.

Ron was by now willing to tell the story, although he was downplaying his own part in it obviously. Nebraska Dave had arrived first and started to poke around, and not until Patrick Peterson had sold the two pearls did the Cardenas get wind of the treasure. It was normal for ousiders and townies to come looking for the big score, but this was more serious. The Mexicans came to town alone and hired the Pantones as muscle. Yes, they beat Nebraska but there was no motives of getting information. Ron also admitted they went to ‘prepare’ Peterson but he was alive when they left, it was the Mexicans who interrogated, tortured, and killed him. The Cardenas were angry the Pantones took the cash and the new truck from Peterson’s farm. Ron hoped to go to Papa Pantone and borrow this money to pay his bedt to Ramon, but sadly this was impossible as Tex and Maxi had lost it all in poker. Ron went to hide with Betty, because her husband was away. This also answered the question of who Betty was canoodling with, a conundrum Elizabeth was introduced to whiel speaking with the Judge’s secretary.

So in conclusion Peterson had found and sold two pearls and this alerted the Mexicans. But Nebraska Dave was also investigating this angle and had possibly not been working with Peterson. But the Mexicans did not have tresure yet, or else they’d long gone and not give a rat’s arse about the cast. So they had the same time pressure! The jailbreak was cancelled as Maxi felt he had a god change of negotiating Susan’s release by way of his friendly connections with Judge Porter. Also it could be hinted that his insider knowledge and subsequent speciúlation in land could hurt his career. Even though the Cardenas may have had Nebraska’s clues to finding the treasure it was deemed to risky to try a break in after springing Ron. Even with the clues it would be hard to pin pioint the treasure, and following the Mexicans by way of balloon seemed the best course.

Maxi’s negotiations were only partly succesfull, as the Judge demanded 1/8 of the treasure for himself and the same for his cousin the Sheriff to let Susan go and get away clean. Otherwise he would send her to the Mexicans as a hostage for a lump sum and let treasure be treasure. Insinuating his insider deals could hurt his career was to no avail since the real culprit was the person higher up the chain who leaked the information. Coincidentally the same person who could prosecute the Judge, so this went nowhere. Maxi accepted. The conversation was not a complete loss as the Judge let slip that the Nexicans desperately needed the treasure, as their Tijuana business was failing. And how then dd they afford expensive Pinkertons? If they came to collect debt it would explain how they had acted around Ramon after the poker game/gun fight.

Afterwards the cast finaly realized the only place left with even a slight chance of a clue was Peterson’s new truck which the Pantones lifted. It had been ignored because he obviously boght it after having found and sold the pearls. And pigs. However he had been going back to salvage timber from the wreched ship to build the new pig pens after having bought the truck. The barn was easily snuck up to and a few boards removed in order to slin inside unnoticed and avoid the sentry at the farmhouse porch with ubobstructed view of the barn doors. The truck was having the engine fiddled with as was not ready to run, good thing there had not been a plan for a jail bust where this was the vital part! Under the seat Susan found a map with several notes and markings, and also noticed the truck’s trip counter had not run very far. Noting the numbers she intended to do the math after they got away. By now Khamill had wandered to a workbench and was suddenly close to the ledge of the hayloft, when suddenly a Pantone sprung up with a shotgun. Covering Khamill he called out for Papa…

CLIFFHANGER!!!

Due to logistics there was yet again a change of cast members: Olaf, Khamill, Maxi and Elizabeth all crammed into the increasingly overfilled “Ol’ Steamer Trunk”, and a slightly confused Wilfred emerged. Once filled into the deails he was fully onboard. Tex for some reason switched places with Khamill on the floor and was thus the subject of the Cliffhanger.

As Tex dove for cover back under the edge of the hayloft the as yet unnamed Pantone lad blasted his twin barrels of buckshot at Tex’s contrails. A woman’s scream was heard from the hayloft and the Pantone guy was obviously up there fooling arund with his floozey. Susan started telling him off in the hardest phrases her Italian could muster, and it threw him off for a second. Wilfred made for the hole in the wall, followed by Susan and finally Tex left as well after firing a .45 ACP up through the floorboards to send the Pantone into cover. With the limping Wilfred the flight from the farm up to the truck parked on a back road took quite a while. But since the raid had been during the daytime feeding time at the pigfarm the Pantones took a while to muster the pursuit.

Once the truck was rolling the dustcloud behind showed trouble brewing. A road among some hills was chosen for am ambush point but Tex’s bad luck betrayed his driving skills and the truck engine groaned to a halt halfway up the hill. Susan was on the canvas covered bed of the truck to get the rifles when this unscheduled stop (well before the good cover for the ambush) ruined those plans. Wilfred took cover to one side of the road, with his trusted Webley in hand and saw the Pantone truck speeding up the hill. Susan handed Tex his Winchester and went into cover herself. Tex took a short aim and sent a duo of shots at the driver. The Pantone truck failed to stop and rammed the cast’s defunct truck ruining both in the proces. And then both started rolling painfully slow back down the slope. Tex approached it and saw blood on the windscreen and a slumped over body at the wheel. One after another Pantones crawled out with revolvers in hand but dropped them at the sight of the Winchester. When suddenly autofire from inside the truck ripped the canvas cover and a single bullet nailed Tex. Susan returned fire while Tex took every effort to remain standing. Wilfred appproached from his side and seconds later saw a figure crawl off the truck, taking his time to aim a shot he took out his opponent cleanly. Once able to focus again Tex shot back through the hole int he canvas, and then everything was quite. Both he and Susan had clipped poor ol’ Jim-Bob.

The two disarmed Pantones ran off and the cast let them. As Susan patched up Tex Wilfred assessed the wrecked trucks and decided that even with his low march speed it was not viable to try and fix a ride but better to trek the full hour to town. There was a still a few hours until the balloons were ready and some undefined time until the water came flooding the areas. Susan snateched Jim-Bob’s Tommy Gun, took advantage of the commonly used .45 ACP round and topped off the almost empty drum from Tex’s rapidly depleted ammo box. The maps found in Patrick Peterson’s truck and liberated from the Pantones were studied while walking. With Olaf out of the game Wilfred as aviator planned the route across three major points of interest pinpointed on the map within the small area Peterson’s new truck with the low number of miles traveled could have visited.

The balloon guy gave Wilfred instructions and Slippery Pete went along for the ride. At the first site there was a small mishap with the gas burner and one tank had to be ditched. The emergency landing was rough and Wilfred needed some time to get the balloon ready again. A quick search revealed wreckage from the treasure ship but not nearly all. Susan and Tex trekked for the second site and Wilfred was to catch up when the balloon was ready again. But even before they were out of sight Wilfred found a hollow space covered in boards and signalled by firing his revolver into the air. Below the sand was a vertical shaft covered by boards and shored up with timbers from the ship.

Tex crawled down first, the shaft was about 24 meters deep with platforms for resting at the third-way points. However care was taken to not touch these as their structural integrity was unknown. At the bottom a passage shored up with more timber led down a slight incline. After almost stepping on a tripwire set to pull out the support pillars and cause a cave-in the cast came to a few carved steps leading to the cave where the ship’s crew has stashed the cargo. The name plaque read “Montego” and the captains log told it was a Portuguese caravel. Near the fancy figurehead the treasure chest with the 100 pounds of black pearls were found, and quickly distributed into the packs of the three adventurers. Skeletons of the sailors showed them to have been shot in the chest. For further archaeological proof the log book was brought along and using the plaque as a sled the figurehead was hauled back up the passage.

Suddenly sounds were heard from up the shaft and leaving the figurehead a dozen steps down the passage Tex crawled quietly up, and stopping at the topmost platform only 8 meters from the top he heard voices in Spanish and Slippery Pete being beaten up. Ramon peeked down and a difficult negotiation began. He felt the treasure was his and he wanted it or else he’d drop down a few grenades. Tex felt there was no guarantee the cast would ever get out alive anyway and tried to appeal to his sense of pride and goad him into a fair fight. Meanwhile Wilfred climbed quietly up the supports of the shaft walls and Susan tied the packs to the rope. Ramon retreated from view and Tex begun climbing the last stage, with Wilfed about half way up. When Ramon reappeared he was angry about having his honor questioned and threw down two grenades before reterating again. Tex sped up his ascent, Wilfred warned Susan below who quickly picked up the grenades and hurled them down the passage. As she toook quite a blast anyway and was deafened the more distant Wilfred got off more easy and valiantly hung on to the wall.

Topside Tex was just clearing the lip of the shaft when the explosions sent up smoke and sand. A quick assesment showed two Pinkertons with baseball bats at the far side of the shaft, a third agent with Ramon further away beating poor Pete, and a fourth one as lookout. Two cars were parked to one side. Momentarily blinded the two closest Pinkertons were delayed in running in opposite directions around the shaft just long enough for Tex to get his M1911 ready and start the shooting. The first agent was nailed well and good, and fell down the shaft. He narrowly missed the still struggling Wilfred and surprised poor Susan by going splat at the bottom. As Tex shot the second one just as he was within striking range of the bat Susan noticed perhaps too late that the passage was caving in, and the walls of the shaft were beginning to collapse as well.

Ramon bolted for the balloon and the Pinkerton with him charged the still prone Tex, this was Rutherford their leader. As Tex missed with his last remaining shot Rutherford connected solidly with Tex’s ribcage. Wilfred finally made it up and engaged him with his cane, as his Weblet had not been reloaded after signaling with it earlier. Susan spent too much time double checing then the packs were still tied to the rope and the falling debris was accumulating faster then she could clear it! Without someone pulling the rope from topside she was certainly doomed! But Wilfred and Tex were still fighting Rutherford. Tex grappled him by the legs, and after his blow at Wilfred was deflected he dove into the dog pile while recieving a solid whach from Wilfred’s cane.

So, as Tex and Wilfred fought the Pinkerton leader right at the edge Susan was in grave peril down the collapsing shaft. The fourth Pinkerton on lookout cried out as the horizon showed an approaching storm…or perhaps a flash flood? An explosion sounded from where Ramon had run to the balloon…

CLIFFHANGER!!!

This week there were no switches, but retroactively the second balloon hovered over the pit, steered by Khamill and Elizabeth. Olaf – the Norwegian balloon skipper – still snoozed inside the Ol’ Steamer Trunk.
Wilfred let Tex fight on his own and stepped to the edhe of the pit to help Susan. He directed Khamill to drop one end of a role down from the baloon and Elizabeth dropped some altitude. Meanwhile Tex and Rutherford were still engaged in an increasingly futile wrestling match where the upper hand kept changing but nothing conclusive was ever performed by either side in order to end the fight. Susan wrapped the rope around her wrists and Wilfred directed the baloon up again, as Khamill slid down the rope to join the fight. Meanwhile the explosion heard previously was in fact the other baloon being destroyed by another grenade from the dastardly Ramon, who fled in on of the trucks he and the Pinkerton’s had arrived in. Once Khamill hit solid ground the baloon had suddenly been freed of an immensely large ballast and susan was yanked free. Wilfred had a free moment to slap Rutherford across the back with his cana once more, but to no avail. Elizabeth was aiming her large rifle at the fight, and a few seconds later severed Rutherford’s arm, giving Tex a breather.
Satisfied with the fight ended Khamill went to try and pull up the rope with the treasure filled packs tied to an end, but not even his bear-like physique could move the mound of sand pushing down on it. With no time to spare Tex and the finally rescued Susan bolted tot he other truck and gave chase to the Mexican. As the flash flood was approaching fast the balloon was once again descended to allow Wilfred and Khamill access. Luckily the wind bore them towards town.
In a daring manoeuvre Tex pushed the truck to the very limit of speed across the rutted desert floor and caught up quite well with Ramon’s truck. Soon after they realized he had the last Pinkerton driving and showed off his skills as Tijuana’s best marksman, narrowly missing Susan several times. Dust clouds sraight ahead were approaching from town, vehicles no doubt – but who was stupid enough to drive towards the flood? Just as Tex drove within pistol range and Susan nailed Ramon, but could not confirm a kill, their truck lurched to one side and suddenly Tex was playing chicken with a sedan! Both sides dodged to the same side and the crash was inevitable. The truck flipped on one side and stopped, revealing that Slippery Pete has been hiding on the bed. The sedan crashed into a sand dune and was stuck. It was the Judge coming to protect his investment – seeing as Maxi had promised a part of the treasure to ensure Susan’s freedom. Relieved of his gun by Tex he hastily agreed to a new deal: A lift in a baloon was worth a clean slate and nothing owed or remembered. Susan was quick to ask for $5.000 which he later actually had taken seriously and paid to her.
Once again the inept ballooners managed to drop altitude for just long enough to pick up the stragglers and lift off missed by the rushing waters by a hair’s breadth. As the waters covered the small mound at the treasure site the prepared barrel-on-a-rope neatly bopped to the surface, gently mocking everyone in the know that here lies a treasure which nobody can get their hands on.
Once back in town the Judge honored the deal and there was no sign of the Mexicans. Back at the clinic Nebrasks Dave had recovered fully from his plot-related coma and injuries. As Tex showed him the captain of Montego’s signet ring and seal – as the only thing recovered from the treasure site – Dave was happy to just know he had been right. A true adventurer at heart it was not about the money. He already had another good lead for a treasure in Africa.

And thus concludes the daring adventure On the Trail of Nebrasks Dave’s Treasure.

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Diamonds of the Dark Congo

London,
June 1927
Following a social function at the London Tribune Susan, Elizabeth and Tex strolled home. Upon leaving the well lit great streets for a murky, winding lane they passed a pub at the lower middle rung of society. An older man stumbled out, muttering and obviously not well. A trained nurse’s eye saw he was not simply drunk (but how!), he also suffered from progressed tuberculosis.

The man was Mr. Adrian Crook was taken home with the help of a Bobby called to the scene. His simple apartment had been broken into and trashed but this he did not notice. He collapsed in bed and died within the hour. Searching his belongings and dwelling he turned out to be a former enlisted soldier down on his luck recently. Only he had just the same day received a package and pawned an undisclosed gem at a pawnshop in Soho. Receipts in his pockets told a story of old debt being paid off. His passport showed signs of travels to Belgian Congo every other year and only a few months home in London. It was wrapped in a think piece of leather with some sort of map drawn inside, along with small shards of what was assumed to be diamond dust.

Florian was brought in to help investigate this the next day. At the pawnbrokers A ploy was tried where Florian posed as a friend of Mr Crook’s. The broker was asked to show the diamond but he refused unless Mr Crook himself came, which Florian said he would have to then! The broker was obviously surprised.

At the post office Susan flashed her Tribune credentials and got a name and a description of the gentleman who had sent the package, Noel Jamison. The party split up to visit all hotels and boarding houses in Soho, betting the gent was not local. A local pub was arranged as rally point for lunch. Florian quickly hit pay dirt, but the man had already left in a hurry to catch the express train to Edinburgh. With no time to leave a message he bolted for the station and leapt aboard the train just as it pulled away. Strapped for cash he had only enough on him for a ticket to Birmingham.

Walking the length of the train led him to many possible suspects, but once he asked for the name he got the right man. He told he had served with Crook and that they had worked together in Congo since. The diamond sent was paying off old debt. Florian got booted off the train at this point and had to call to get picked up by car later that day. The rest of the party were sufficiently intrigued to drive on with him to Edinburgh.

Arriving in Edinburgh the next day the great headline was. “Murder on the express train”. Yes, it was Jamieson who had been shot. Unidentified men simply walked up to him, whipped out pistols, and shot him. They pulled the emergency brake and hopped off, the police are still hunting for them. Witnesses tell the men were foreigners – most likely Belgians. Tact and diplomacy was taken with speaking with the sister of the deceased man, Florian at first was called out as the murderer, but as he was American things were all right.

The sister told her brother had worked in Congo for a company called Vermeern Handel apparently doing horrible things they would never tell, but he was plagued by nightmares. He was finally coming home, it seemed he had earned enough money to pay off old debts and return to his old life in Edinburgh.

Back in London the pawnbroker was the last lead, and there was no more mystery here than an opportunistic man. He bought the diamond for a pittance – perhaps taking advantage of a dying and desperate man – and now it was his, and he had every right to sell it! The party gave him fair warning that unidentified gunmen had killed and were willing to do it again to get to the diamonds. The pawnbroker should probably cool off with selling the stone.

The next step was the Congo! The party coked up a bogus story and had Lord Winterbottom lead an expedition to the Congo to recreate the journeys of Stanley in preparation for the 40th anniversary (not for some years). Using the name of the Lord, the guise of an expedition from the Royal Adventurer’s Society of London, and a mind-numbingly boring scientific cover the party believed they would get permission to enter Belgian Congo. A letter was written to the Colonial Administration in Belgium, the steamer trunks packed with jungle gear, and the train was boarded. On the ferry to the continent the party were enjoying a cup of tea on the ship’s restaurant when suddenly a duo of sinister looking Belgians spotted Florian and bolted, while Elizabeth recognized them from the description of the killers on the train….

CLIFFHANGER!

A chase ensured on the ferry, eventually taking the cast to the cabins in which one of them was the hiding place of the Belgian gunmen. After a few attempts to pick the lock Florian resorted to the good old boot to the door. Tex was first man in and guessed one would be hiding in the bathroom immediately to the left, while Florian continued to the bedroom. Two fights ensued: Tex and one ruffian had a shoving match with the bathroom door, until Elizabeth slipped in and kicked the Belgian in the crown jewels. Florian had his troubles with the other one, in a wrestling match on the floor. When Tex finally joined the dog pile Florian had been struck and bitten but none had the upper hand in pinning the other. In the end he was subdued, but the noise had alerted an already annoyed a British ex-officer in a nearby cabin so the purser was called, and later the captain. The cast managed to convince him they had made a citizen’s arrest of the culprits of the recent train murder, and the captain had heard of this. It was also the truth – which often makes for the best plans – but it meant the Belgians were to be turned over to Belgian police and possibly extradited to England. The two were taken into custody, but the cast managed to have one member distract the ship’s officers while another took a crack at interrogation. Nothing worked though. Later on Susan got the attention of the sailor guarding the Belgians’ cabin while the rest searched it. This yielded nothing but a large sum of English money.
In port the two were turned over to the local police, identified as known goons for hire. The cast was questioned and cleared of any wrongdoing. The next day they took the train to Bruxelles and sent work to the Colonial Administration that Lord Winterbottom was in town and ready to clear the paperwork. But this turned out to be a kafkaesque nightmare of red tape and bureaucracy. Once the deputy secretary was greased with a night on the town it became apparent that by being not-Belgian meant the expedition would get nowhere. However he was acquainted with Lady Eda Baunholz, a Belgian noblewoman widow of a German count. Her son George was in Congo leading a botanical expedition and missing! This was quite the opportunity.
Promptly the expedition changed name to “The George Baunholz Rescue Mission” and was granted permission to travel. Professor Simon Mignole of the university told of the medicinal properties of the flowers George was looking for, something about suspending biological processes. Based in Leopoldville he searched for clues to finding the flowers, helped by the local experience of jack-of-all-trades Igor Vossen. George was known to have sailed up the river two monthe prior to this time and had not been heard from since.
Any clues the company Vermeern Handel might have yielded was categorically ignored. The cast had an uneventful journey by steamboat to Congo, and finally arrived at Leopoldville up past the rapids of the mighty River Congo.
The local magistrate Christian Hazaard had searched for George with help of the military patrol boats but to no avail. Lady Baunholz did not think he had done all he could. The night before the meeting with the magistrate the cast spoke with the local innkeeper. According to him and several other witnesses George had spoken with a man who had seen a large clearing in the jungle with the flowers in question. George and Igor had a disagreement as Igor refused to sail to this place, and Igor disappeared without a trace the same night. Two days later George sailed with a few black helpers to this location and had not been seen since. At the boat houses the cast spotted a man running away from the shack, which smelled oddly chemical… and then suddenly the shack burst in flames…

CLIFFHANGER!

Susan immediately gave chase, as did Elizabeth and Tex. Florian and Khamill stayed back to try and save the gear from the fire. it was a local, black man who ran and several tries to tackle or topple him were unsucessful, as were threats to shoot and even warning shots. Eventually only Tex followed, valiantly swinging on a vine down a slope to end in the river. Elizabeth and Susan headed back towards the town and eventually caught the man at gunpoint as he doubled back towards the docks. Khamill and Florian saved a lot of the expedition gear, sadly most of the provisions as well as mosquito nets were lost. Volunteers forming a fire chain were warned that there was dynamite inside and so the shack was left to burn down. Florian went in one last time – with no help from Khamill – ans was hit by falling, burning debris and had to leap into the river to put himself out.
Once the fire had died out and there was no longer any risk from munitions cooking off, the magistrate Christian Hazaard came to the scene. The culprit spoke no language comprehensible to the present company and the soldiers took him into custody. Khamill wanted to beat some answers out of the man, but Elizabeth would not let him. Hazaard enhanced the patrols along the docks, so the cast chose to sneak up to Vermeer Handel’s offices instead. What was known in advance was that missionary Drier Merzen made a business of buying timber and local arts and crafts from the natives. Te main building was the only one in town with a stone foundation, and apparently also a cellar. Two lengths of wooden outbuildings held storage and residence for local worker respectively. There was a fenced in yard at the back with a shack with two guards.
Khamill seemed to have some sort of plan, but only Florian (possibly) was let in on it. But there was some sort of payback for the lack of help in the burning shack so Florian did not instigate a diversion as Khamill wanted, so Khamill could not grab the guard unnoticed in order to perform a choke hold. Instead he was spotted in poor hiding round a corner, holding his belt in his hands. Luckily he permanently reeks of booze, and by only speaking Russian he in fact made the diversion. While the other guard ran to help and afterwards went to fetch a Belgian soldier the rest of the cast snuck into the yard.
The cellar was protected by an iron door, with small ventilation holes with bars and mesh netting. Before Florian managed to jimmy a window open Khamill was taken to the lock-up and the guards returned. The cast had a narrow escape while Khamill has politely taken to jail to sleep of his bender. His gun was unloaded and his door left open, and the next morning he was let go and met up with the rest on their way to speak with the magistrate. Only then did he remember that he had spent the night in an unlocked cell, unguarded and right next to the black man. This annoyed him to no end for the rest of the day. Hazaard had identified the man as from the M’bele tribe up river at had an interpreter and a few strong soldiers to interrogate him with.
During the day the ruined equipment was repaired or replaced, Florian and Khamill went to search Igor Vossen’s boathouse. This showed evidence of someone – not likely a white man – had been bunking there. They also scrounged two crates of tinned food. Arrangements were made with a river boat captain – Peter Konrad – to take the cast upstream. By coincidence he had been the captain to see the flowers Baunholz was looking for, while sailing a Vermeern employee downstream. This was odd as they usually sail by their own boats. This employee had been none other than Noel Jameson, and it had been he who told Baunholz about the flowers. After supper Hazaard had some answers about the native saboteur: he had been sent from his village at a tributary upstream by Vossen to wait at his boathouse and try and stop newcomers from following Baunholz’ trail. The M’bele tribe and their village was something universally avoided by white men!
A lot of theories now arose. Noel Jameson had obviously found diamonds far up the Congo, on a personal venture because he sailed with Peter Konrad rather than Vermeer’s boats. He had seen the flowers, and once he spoke with Baunholz at the bar in Leopoldville Baunholz immediately wanted to go there. He and Vossen had an argument, and Vossen sailed upstream the same night, not to be heard from again. Until some time later when he sent the M’bele tribesman doen to Leopoldville to prevent people from following. Two days after Vossen’s disappearance Baunholz left. He sailed up across the Stanley Pools but did not go further up the Congo, according to the trading post at the river mouth. The flowers he sought were at the edge of the pools, at the tributary leading to the M’bele village. It seems likely that Vossen knew something or had some projects up at the village and did not want Baunholz to go poking around. Once he realized he could not prevent it he left, and captured or even killed Baunholz as he came. But whether Vermeern has anything to do with Vossen is unknown.
Later that evening the cast decided to go pay Vermeern a visit, and were actually shown down into the cellar. it was nothing more than a fortified basement with provisions and guns in case the native went crazy…except for one small room which remained unseen. During the night a raid was planned, but before the alarm clock went off Elizabeth woke up and spotted something creeping on Susan’s bedcovers, under her mosquito net…

CLIFFHANGER!

For some reason it was Florian who went to wake up Susan. Equally afraid of the snake as of being caught acting odd in the room of a sleeping female, Florian tried to grab the snake quietly. Using all his strength of will he suceeded, and tossed it away. But Susan woke up to see Florian perched over her bed and consequently slapped him. The snake hid in the darkness. With the help of the rest of the cast the snake was found and dispatched with Tex’s cavalry sword. There was no windows accidentally open and no visible holes so this was obviously an assassination attempt. Khamill went out to spot a possible culprit but was unsuccesful. THe raid was postponed a few hours. During this time Wilfred Harker caught up with the rest of the cast. He had a flying gig to Congo by chance, but his plane nedded serious overhaul. he carted his three steamer trunks with wilderness gear to the hotel.
At Vermeers there was still the two guards at the shack out back by the gate to the yard. Susan, Elizabeth, and Wilfred kept watch as one guard went on his round, while Khamill, Florian, and Tex went in. At the outside door to the cellar Florian found that the deadbolt on the inside, which he had slid open during the visit previously that day while Elizabeth created a distraction, was still open. Inside the second locked door to the small room provided a challenge impossible to master. In the end the hinges were hacked and pulled quietly out of the wall, allowing Vermeern to know for sure there had been intruders. Inside the room there was tools for carpentry, armoury, and finally for weighing diamonds. It was now obvious that Vermeern smuggled illegal diamonds to Europe using local artwork as mules. Tex also discovered a fair deal of crates labelled “machine parts” now empty. So Vermeern har´d equipped a lot of employees with rifles. The three burglers made it out again without incident. Even though the cast had preferred leaving right away the boat was not ready until the morning’s coal delivery.
At the docks the two Vermeern boats were gone, so the cast expected to sail straight into an ambush. The first day of sailing was uneventful, as was the night – except the sounds were unnerving for those unacustomed to the jungle. At the end of the second day a small, local village was suspiciously quiet, and turned out to be wholly empty. All inhabitants were gone, tools along with them, but there was still pots with food left. No signs of violence except a small trace of blood. Florian found a young local boy who fled but was caught. Elizabeth made a connection with hin by offering chocolate and his bromen bits of French told that armed black men had taken the villagers. M’bele warriors presumably, all working for Vereern Handel, taking slaves for the diamond mines. The odd thing was that many leads point to the tributary from the lake where the M’bele tribes lives, and where Baunholz’s flowers grow to be the secret spot. But Jameson’s map showed the diamonds to be up the main river, past the trading post, and then inland.
The cast camped on the boat by the small dock at the empty village. During the night while Tex was on watch he saw a person keeping watch from the edge of the jungle past the village. As he was already made he woke Wilfred up and went to investigate the opposite side of the village, and snuck round through the jungle. The spotter was gone when he arrived but it had been booted feet, so not locals but Vermeers mercenaries.
The following day the boat steamed further up stream and came to a narrow passage through higher ground, just before the lake. The steamboat had to use every last bit of power to fight the current, this was the obvious ambush point. Tex and Susan each took watch at the front of the boat, covering the high ground on the flanks. Elizabeth stood by Peter Konrad to give orders or relay information, Khamill was slightly drunk, and Florian looked straight ahead. He saw a person poke his head op from beind a rock, and seconds later something was pushed in the water and raced towards toe oncoming boat. Something fairly small and low in the water – was it a barrel? Florian did not call out but instead took aim with his revolver, an almost impossible shot. Which he failed! Alerted by shots but still not knowing what was happening the rest of the started scanning the surroundings. Tex did not help by erroneously believing wholeheartedly he saw something in the water which was not there at all. As he emptied his Winchester into the area Susan managed to tear her attention away from this and to where Florian was shooting. The barrel came closer and closer, and they saw another one launched into the current…

CLIFFHANGER!

Obviously there were explosives in the barrels – everyone knew this in advance. As the first one inevitably hit the front of the boat and slid down one side Florian cut his losses and dove for cover. At the same time Tex grabbed a boat hook and went to push the bomb away but needed to cross to the other side. Wilfred stopped the paddle wheel. After the earsplitting kaboom only Florian was close enough to the blast and found himself hit. Luckily it was not shrapnel but merely rocks which the exploding barrels were loaded with. Elizabeth took aim with her Springfield at the rock where the unknown ambusher was throwing barrels from. The second barrel closed in, Tex pushed it away and it went off with little effect. As the ambusher stuck out his head Elizabeth rattled his nerve with a near miss just past his nose. The next barrel was tossed blindly over the cover, and unfortunately (for him) it failed to reach the current and got stuck just on the other side. Tex started the time consuming task of reloading his lever action Winchester, Wilfred set full steam ahead again, and Florian noticed a shooter up in the ridge to the port side. Both sides exchanged fire but no hits, Florian was merely drawing attention away from Tex who aimed. As the shooter – a white man – was nailed in a thigh his three local hirelings opened up with rifles but barely even hit the water. As the white shooter howled out in pain his hirelings dropped their rifles and bolted. The third barrel went off, this time just on the far side of the ambusher’s cover. As the boat passed the rock the ambusher was seen bleeding from the ears, holding his face with both hands, and rocking back and forth. The cast went ashore and as Wilfred held up the shell shocked mercenary the rest went for the one shot in the leg. The remining bombs were defused and the dymanite added to Wilfred’s stash.
Tied up and drugged the two mercenaries were searched and interrogated as far as it was possible. They were Danish marines just arrived in Congo to work for Vermeern. Their lieutenant had dropped them off at the choke point for the ambush, and afterwards their local help were supposed to lead them to a village on the lake shore for subsequent pickup. Good luck with that. The shot up thigh was bad news, even even with an expert medic like Elizabeth to try and amputate it to save his life he did not make it. His odds were poor anyway, if not now he would most likely have suffered a long and painful death from infection.
As the village indicated was on the opposite shore of where Konrad had seen the flowers this palce was ignored. Anyway, it was likely to only lead to further ambush, shootings, and captives unable to shed more light on the matter. At the first village the Danish marine was put ashore, still drugged up and deaf from the explosion, with the cheap rifle one of his hirelings had wielded and a single shot. The cast are heroes, remember? They gave him a fighting chance to survive.
A few days of uneventful sailing led to the clearing where the flowers had been seen, except that Florian might be contracting malaria, although this was meta-knowledge. However there was only grass here! Without any botanical expertise – at all – the acst guessed the flowers had been picked about a month ago and grass grown since. Further search of the area revealed a trail starting some distance fro the clearing and leading along the tributary, up which noone ever sailed because of the M’bele tribe. Packing provisions for a handful of days the caast marched on, after a day there was a small trail leading off to one side away from the river. This was followed to yet another grass covered clearing, and after some digging a lot of seed bulbs were found in the ground, almost laid out in an equidistant pattern. This had to be the flowers, and they were obviusly planted deliberately and cultivated. There were also a lot of other seeds, and samples were taken of it all as well as the earth.
A cunning plan was executed that night as light disciplin was broken and a campfire lit to attract anybody watching the flowers clearings. As Florian sat in the circle of light to attract attention the rest lay waiting with rifles. On Elizabeth’s watch a black man was heard and spotted sneaking closer. She woke up Wilfred and Tex and took the shot, nicking him in one buttock. Florian awoke with a shock at the shot, and started to untie the string with empty tin cans he had tied to his leg – so the rest would have heard it if he had been carried off in the night. Tex rushed the clearing and ended in melee with the second native who was quite expectedly there, but a few good striked wit the rifle butt ended his will to fight. The two of them had been on their way home from a hunt, a skinned tapir and three pears were found in the jungle close by, so the third native had run home. They could not be interrogated due to lack of a language in common, but they reacted to the word M’bele – so it was gathered they were from this tribe. The tapir meat had been treated with a blueish paste, and this was linked to the flowers sought and the natives knew to use it as a preservative. The following morning they were sent off home. Florian gave them a few coins to see if they recognized money, but this was not the case. They were miffed the cast kept the tapir but did not argue the point. The cast trekked back to the lake and the boat, loaded with fresh meat.
It was obvious that the M’bele tributary was the way to go, but Captain Konrad was not too thrilled – no one ever sailed up there! Elizabeth diplomatically managed to convince him, but there were many rocks and logs clogging the outlet. The group’s civil engineer Wilfred asses the phenomenon as ‘completely and utterly natural’ and noone possessed any other knowledge to contradict him. Wilfred’s expertly laid plans to blow a passage using dynamite were put to the test as Tex volunteered to do the actual placing of it from an improvised raft. There was no sense having the limping enginer risk this kind of work when a hands-on Texan was willing. Further challenges arose when Tex fell off the raft from pushing off a treacherous rock. As he stood wait deep in muddy water a humongeous crocodile smelled a meal. While Florian was still laughing Elizabeth and Wilfred grabbed their Springfields. Tex whipped forth the trusty M1911 – a gun working perfectly fine covered in mud, thank you very much – and popped off a few rounds. While he did hit it and also hurt it noticably it only served to enrage it further at this time. Just as it rammed into Tex in order to pull him under and rend him to shreds the rifle shots rang and Elizabeth hit true. The croc was now seriously hurt and gave up. While Tex scrambled to his feet and for his dropped pistol Elizabeth followed up with a kill shot. New meat for the menu, this certainly tasked Florian’s cooking skills. Against all odds Tex recoverd his gun and finished setting up the explosives. But as Wilfred later pushed the plunger nothing happened! Checking up on things personally he found a loose connection and fixed it. Kaboom! The boat steamed up the M’bele tributary as the first steamboat ever. The river cleared up from debris almost immediately after the outlet to the lake. Wilfred maintained that the blockage had been natural.
At the end of the afternoon the boat arrived an a very old stone landing dock, covered in vines and weed. A paved road was found under more low underbrush and it was followed to a low lying clearing with a pyramid shaped temple (presumably) on a low hill in the center. Evening was closing in but the cast just needed to stick their noses inside to satisfy their curiosity. As Wilfred went back the the boat to get his pack and more importantly his helmet lamp the rest went poking inside, just part this corner…no past this one..and so on. When Wilfred returned they were already inside the central and only chamber. Tex examined a small raised platform with wooden remains of some kind of furniture. The walls were unadorned but the remains of woven tapestries were seen. Florian found a stone disc in the center of the floor, and Elizabeth tried to prevent him from fiddling with it. it was a cover of some kind, it had a hole through once the dirt was removed. By scientifically applying a falling rock Wilfred guessed the bottom of the shaft or hole was about 10 meters down. Above the disc was an iron hoop ideal for using to lift the cover with a rope. As Wilfred and Tex rigged this up Florian raced back to the boat after his pack. While they were waiting with opening the cover for his return a scream was heard from outside…

CLIFFHANGER!
Due to an act of chronological impairment by a player is was the suddenly re-appearing Khamill who faced the Cliffhanger alone in the jungle. While strolling leisurely down the path to the boat he thought he saw something in the jungle and went to investigate. Carefully he brushed away the vines entwining the tree which caught his attention…until he saw the horrific sight! While he screamed the rest of the cast ran directly to him. Behind the plants were two dead men nailed to the tree with wooden stakes. Their attire was something last seen in the 1870s but the bodies looked no more than 24 hours dead. Elizabeth investigated and the cause of death seemed to be by stabbing the abdomen with possibly a spear. their organs were crudely removed and the cavity stuffed with the blue paste made from the elusive flowers. Their gun belts were empty but the remaining rounds were stamped in 1870. They had passports naming them Baart de Weewer born in 1826 and Wouter Breeke born in 1830, both had permission to enter Congo in 1870. The blue paste had preserved them beyond imagining, including clothes and leather gear. They had presumably been covered on the outside as well but had been washed off in the meantime. Oddly enough no animals had as much as pecked at the corpses, but then again there was no abundance of animals in the area save for a few birds. The ground had few but adequate amounts of worms and bugs to process the fallen foliage.
Back in the temple the stone disc posed some trouble lifting, but the combination of Russian brawn and British engineering did the job. Down the hole was a conical chamber with human bones and no discernible exit. The air was foul but not toxic, and Tex was lowered down. More than 30 human skeletons were here, some where the bones fitted together and some widely dispersed. Some were intact and some broken, but none showed signs of cannibalism (thanks again for that idea, Susan!). The bottom of the chamber was 2-3 meters below the bottom of the hill and at the foundation Tex found some holes looking oddly deliberately made. As he peered inside something shout out at him! In a heroic act he avoided it by sheer luck, and at the end of his tumble his flashlight pointed at a huge, black cobra-like snake. “Bull’s eye” Elizabeth shot the angry serpent in half with a crack rifle shot and the chamber held no more secrets to investigate.
Back at the boat Florian started cooking the tapir recovered from the M’bele hunters a few days earlier, it was still well preserved due to the blue paste no doubt. Kamill refused to eat but instead set up the scientific gear to analyze. He knew the flower extract was supposed to suspend biological processes, but which? Apparently it could preserve flesh and even cloth, but if smeared on a wound would natural healing stop? He dared not try, nor even taste it (even though any chemist worth his salt usually did this). He set up a test of the tapir flesh with and without the paste. Also he discovered that the blue pigment was from flower pollen, which was the active ingredient, while oil from a local nut acted as binding agent.
During the night Florian heard the jungle drums and watches were doubled, he heard several other locations answering the signals. The next morning the brave cast decided to continue upstream to look for the mysterious M’bele. An empty village was found, and a path led through the river valley and up on a hill. Here a stone altar was found, and again it was Tex who found a huge snake by having it shot out of an artificial hole. On the far side of the hill was another valley along the river, and smoke was spotted as if from a village, fitting nicely with where Florian believed he had heard drums from the night before. Susan had stayed back at the boat and thought she saw several black people spying on the boat from various locations. This continued during the day while sailing.
In the afternoon banks of fog started appearing on the river and the captain slowed down. Eventually another stone pier was seen, this time with M’bele tribesmen standing on it. They were armed but did not seem threatening, and simply waved the boat on. The cast stopped the boat at a stone precipice leading to stairs up a steep hill. The tribesmen were still armed but posed no apparent threat. The stairs led nearly to the top of the hill where an opening lined with pillars was found. Deep inside they found a chamber with a throne where none other than Igor Vossen sat! He was stroking a huge black snake and was quite willing to speak with the curious cast. Years before he had met the M’bele tribe who had taken residence in the ruins of an unknown civilization which had fallen centuries before. He protected them and kept them hidden because their culture would not survive meeting the white man. He had tried to persuade Georg Baunholz to give up his research, because the discovery of the flowers’ secrets would only lead to grief for the tribe as white scientists poured in, smelling money. George was safe and sound downstairs he said. He had nothing to do with Vermeern Handel, in fact he was against them! As expected their trading post up the other tributary was nothing more than cover for their slave driven diamond mine and smuggling operation (quite as expected, and proven from the finding in the secret cellar back in town). Igor feared the Vermeern mercenaries were about to attack the M’bele and take them as slaves. He told his high status among the M’bele was due to the snakes having chosen him. So much for any ambitions Tex might have had.
He led the cast down a spiral staircase to meet George and someone named Alexander. Elizabeth called it correctly at this early stage: This was the third Belgian explorer from the 1870s expedition. Alexander told his expedition had been attacked by the M’bele and him and his two white colleagues were taken before the snake. It has hissed at the other two but reacted amiably to him. He guessed his friends had been taken off and killed. He said he ‘unfortunately’ had remained largely unchanged since 1870, but did not yet elaborate. Apparently there were significant flies in the ointment regarding this blue preservation paste. Just as he was starting to tell about the properties of the flowers, the paste, and the lost civilization gunshots rang out outside. The cast grabbed their arms and ran for the exit…

CLIFFHANGER!

Oh, by the way – suddenly Max von Beiderbecke was found to be along with the cast. No questions asked, this is CLiffhangers!
It turned out the opposition was not one to be trifled with! The Vermeern mercenaries had captured the M’Bele, black soldiers and white officers and NOCs with superior firepower. Florian went out to negotiate, but the deal was one sided. The prisoners were gathered in a circle, surrounded by soldiers with rifles. Two machine guns had been set up with overlapping arcs of fire, and the officers were in hiding behind the throne. In consequence the mercenaries left with their hostages and promised to shoot them if interfered with.
Naturally the cast decided to follow, because shooting all the slaves you need for your secret diamond mine is a bad idea. plus they’d lead the cast right to the mine. The plan was…well, there was no plan! The cast gathered their jungle gear and set to hike after the prisoner column. It would take too long to sail back down the tributary, across the lake, and up the main river, only to hike over land for an indetermined distance to find a mine they had no map óf. And how difficult could it be to follow the tracks of a dozen soldiers, two machineguns, and two dozen prisoners? Quite hard it would later seem…
The remaining M’bele said the mine was only 4 days overland hika away, and when Khamill ordered some tribesmen along as packmules they refused. They were warriors! Somehow the rest of the cast thought this meant they would not help at all. But in retrospect a few brought along as trackers would have been not only possible but also highly advisable. The cast unfortunately moved at the pace of the slowest, and this was Wilfred with his bum leg, however well trained he might be in the wilderness. The bulk of his gear was divided up among the rest to at least make sure this wasn’t slowing him down. Khamill tracked the column and this proved extremnly hard, they must have been removing their tracks behind them. Come nightfall they had not – to the confusion of them all – caught up with the comumn. The dangers of night travel were too great and camp was made. The next day did not result in cathcing up either, and the threat of an ambush became a plausible event. During the night the sentries perhaps heard someone, so the cast may very well have been under surveillance.
Many days later it became apparent that the four days hike was for fit M’bele warriors, not english mining engineers with bum legs! Eventually Khamill became observant of some tell tale traces which seemed deliberately left behind. Eother it was a ruse by the enemy, to lead the cast astray. However as the direction was still towards where the M’bele said the mine was, it was most likely M’bele prisoners signaling any trailing helpers. The guess was that the mercenaries were well aware of their incompetent tail, and had left ambusher behind only to have the cast fail to reach those points in time. And that some prisoners observed this and added what help they could.
Finally the cast reached the obvious ambush point! A stream crossed the path, not too wide but with broad expanses of swamp on the sides. A small group had trampled a path across the swampy ground over what looked like firm ground. The long ramge shooters set up along the flanks, Tex and Elizabeth to the right with Max and Wilfred to the left. The plan was to have Florian and Khamill walk the path and draw out the ambush, and have the riflemen take them out. Tex and Elizabeth walked further than their designated spot to check if part of the ambush was on their side, but found nothing. Keen observers spotted a white shooter across the stream, behind a tree close to the path. Later a small group of black soldiers was seen hiding behind a dirt mound, on the other side of the path on the far side as well. Khamill disappeared without telling any plan he had, and Florian becase increasingly torn between doing something and avoiding taking the suicidal path. It later turns out Khamill want far to the right, upstream, and crossed unobserved. Unfortunately his shotgun and revolver were not believed to be functional. He snuck closer, with only cursory knowledge of the enemy’s positions.
Florian was about to do something stupid, but as the ambushers were hiding and not (they all hoped) drawing beads on them, Tex made a pre-emptive action. He stuffed his hanky in the rifle barrel, had Elizabeth cover him, and leap-frogged across the firm patches in the swamp some 20 meters to the right of the path. Close enough for the rest to know what he was doing. He succesfully crossed the mud, leapt and waded the stream and crawled rapidly through the mud on the far side. Florian ran the path and crossed the stream witout incident.
Still nothing happened, and Tex snuck towards the mound. Luckily Khamill was closing in on the four black riflemen, because they spotted or heard the ineptly sneaking Tex. He tried to bluff and hold them up them with a revolver not likely to shoot. Florian went into melee with the white soldier, and a vicious knife versus blackjack battle ensued. Sadly for him his assailant stayed expertly in cover of a tree, denying Wilfred and Max a clear shot.
Of the four black soldiers one got too close to Khamill and they started fighting. The other three shot unsuccesfully at the rushing Tex, who dropped his rifle in favor of his M1911 – which jammed on the first shot due to the mud! Elizabeth pulverized the skull of the left hand soldier. Tex instead drew his cavalry sabre to meet the two soldiers charging with rifles wielded for beating. This melee was almsot as poor as Forian’s!
Florian was stabbed multiple times but valiantly gave the enemy a fair beating. Eventually Max had a clear shot – if only of the enemy’s hand – and let loose with the full teeth-rattling rate of fire of his BAR and shot the hadn to ribbons. Tex cut one combatant acorss the arm, and as he retreated from the fight he was shot. The other guy really managed to work poor Tex’s torso over with the rifle butt until he was vicously distaptched by a Tex barely hanging on to consciousness. Khamill all but killed his opponent with only a few punches.
Eventually the fight died down, Tex had severely bruised and broken ribs, Florian multiple stabs luckily missing his vital organs, and the single white soldier was alive but missing a hand. The prisoner readily accepted the expert medical attention of Elizabeth and willingly gave information. The cast rested until the next morning, where more of them now moved no faster than Wilfred. After another few days, led by their prisoner, they reached the valley where the mine was. A stream running down the hillside had been diverted to wash over a large area to create the open mine. There were barracks as well as an enclosure for the prisoners.

and…what the deuce else? more to come once my memory works again [Edit: It never started working again. There may or may not have been a Cliffhanger this week?!?!]

So, this session was run without me, and the summary from the other players left a lot to be desired. Tex went into the cupboard – you know, the big thing always following the party around, housing characters where their players are absent. And the prisoner mercenary who led the party to the camp somehow disappeared from the story. A focus group for the Tv network must have labeled him uninteresting.This brought no tears to the cast once they realized this.

Anyway, from what I hear the two sneaky gits Khamil and Florian snuck down to take out some guards, so pave the way for a rescue mission by the rest of the party. Whatever was upposed to happened did not go as planned and the entire cast was captured. There is said to have been some chance of turning the affair around, where Florian is a hairy situation urged Khamil to take a shot, accepting the risk of being hit by it. Khamil apparently was too chicken.
The cast were set to work in the mud and filth of the mine, unless thay had some special skills. As the camp suffered from a bout of dysentry Elizabeth was obviosly set to treating this. Khamil and Maxi fell ill. Wilfred was tasked with dynamiting a new layer off the slope in order to mine here. When asked whether they had no dynamite guy to begin with, the answer was: “Oh, he’s around…here, here, and also over there!”
Florian refused to try anything regarding escape, as he was miffed his plans were always dismissed, criticized, or failed to be excecuted succesfully. As he was locked up behind barbed wire and under constant gunpoint he reckoned it was the outside group who had the responsibility of an escape plan. Wilfred was setting dymanite charges when a sudden landslide threatened the workforce at the mining area, including many guards and also Florian.

CLIFFHANGER

At the next session Susan’s and Tex’ players entered the stage again, and Max, Khamil, and Wilfred entered the cupboard. As a woman Susan could not be forces to do hard labour in the mud, and with Italian roots she was naturally sent to the kitchen. Tex took over from Wilfred’s dynamiting project, so it was he who yelled a warning to the workcrew. Florian siezed initiative and ran for the jungle, a single guard gave chase while the rest got hammered by tons of mud. As the survivors were dug out Florian jumped and beat up his pursuer. Disguised a a guard and armed with only a revolver he observed the camp to wait for an opportunity. It might be that he did not in fact wait for the outside group’s plan, or he might have interpreted the landslide as a deliberate opening. In any case this event started a chain of events leading to…mayhem!
Once the survivors were taken back to camp the camp’s two officers – Jaan and Emil, subsequently refered to as Laurel & Hardy, due to obvious physical resemblances – sent out a patrol with one white and five black to hunt the escaped Florian down. The sick Maxi was taken to a room in the one cabin, along with Elizabeth, Susan, and Tex. They were told. “No funny business!”. This request was naturally not granted, and the three of them cooked up a ruse. Yes, a ruse! This is the roaring 20s – the heyday for ruses.
Elizabeth called out to a guard saying she needed medical supplies as Maxi had taken a turn for the worse. The guard told them to get away from the door and then opened it but stayed in the hallway with his revolver drawn. He was focused on Tex who crouched at maxi’s side erroneously believing him to be the most dangerous element. So Susan opened the ball andused her relatively newfound martial arts to beat him silly. Tex dove out into the hallway and grabbed the guard’s dropped gun. As he drew the hammer he spotted the second guard aiming, and risked a snap shot. Bang! The bullet hit the hip for maximum damage, ripping the poor man’s femural artery.
Tossing the second gun to Susan Tex kept the momentum op and peeped out toward the other cabin. A shot hit the wall and he consequently stormed the new opponent, with Susan at his heels and the unarmed Elizabeth bringing up the rear. The guard withdrew from the doorway, Tex dove inside the large common room while Susan sliced the pie. As Tex ended his roll prone on his back he faced the goard across the room, hiding by the door. Both sent shots flying but none hit true. Susan had the perfect angle to brain with a contact shot him but calmly pacified him with a barrel touched to his temple. And thus saving Tex’ bacon. His gun was droppd and kicked towards Tex, Elizabeth moved inside towards the gun. Tex got up to go down the hallway.
And this was when the second guard chose to enter from the hallway and blast away, narrowly missing Tex. Tex on the other hand saw fit to jam his revolver! The guard withdrew to the hallway before Susan or Elizabeth could draw a bead on him. Texes rushed in pursuit and as the guard had stopped just out of sight Tex slammed his wiry Texan frame into him and knocked him onto his back. Inside the furthest two rooms Laurel and Hardy were apprehended with little drama.
Armed with a rifle Elizabeth went to cover Tex as he tried reasoning with the remaining white soldier, perched in his guard tower with a machinegun trained on the cabin. Hans as he was called was not fully responsive to demands of surrender and shot a warning salvo across the threshold. Elizabeth stepped to a window and aimed, and as Hans trained the gun on her she confidently blasted his heart ond a foot of his spine out his back. Tex shouted in French to the remeining black soldiers – two in each tower – to take to the hills and be spared. They cleverly obliged.
As Tex hoisted a white flag of parley he went down hill to attact the attention of the remaining jungle patrol. Florian had been watching the machinegun event and joined Tex for the negotiations. The white soldier agreed to calmly take his survging comrades and never return again, his only demand was that the did not ahve to ever face Laurel and Hardy again. thi was easily accomodated and the surviving soldiers were given provisions and told to law low for five days in order for the cast to get to Leopoldville and deal with Vermeern handel before they came through.
The mine was sabotaged by forcing another landslide, the guard towers were leveled, and the encampment’s guns were gathered and had firing pins removed to a small bag. Susan found the camp’s swag of diamonds while Elizabeth made sure the sick and injured could be taken care of by the fitter slaves now freed. Maxi was doused with the blue paste and his condition did not worsen on the ensuing jungle trek. A few M’bele acted as guides to take the cast along with Laurel and Hardy to the M’bele temple and Igor Vossen to face the music.
Igor accepted the cast’s promise of secrecy, Georg Baunholz gathered specimens and was brought home with them. Alexander – the unaging Belgian – chose to stay. The rest of they journey to Leopoldville was by boat with the anxiously waiting Captain Konrad. As they reached the great lake the effects of the blue paste wore off, same was true for Khamil’s controlled experiments. Maybe the blue paste did not work outside the local area? That would be Georg Baunholz’s problem though! Maxi recovered nicely from his illness on the relaxing boat ride, and Tex and Florian’s wounds also managed to heal.
In Leopoldville the cast booked tickets for the train the next mid-morning to go to the ocean, and debated whether to blow up Vermeern Handel’s building. However it was dismissed as too risky since no train would leave after such a disaster, plus the cast were the obvious suspects. Also, however crooked Drier Merzen might be, gunning down an elderly missionary could seem socially unacceptable.
Luckily things were decided for the cast during the night. Expecting trouble they has set a watch, and Susan on third watch noticed a lurker. She gave chase, and soon after Elizabeth, Texand Florian followed. It was only a local boy paid by Merzen to see how many they were. The cast were told Merzen har five armed men, and they went back to the hotel to load up. Inside the bar room in the dark they were alerted halfway across by the cock of a hammer and a voice ordering them to stop. Tex shone his light at the gunman, only to hear four more guns cocked. Tex took first shot and hit his illuminated target squarely. The remining four gunmen opened up and barely missed. Susan went prone with her gun out, Elizabeth flipped a table for cover, and Florian rushed the bar counter. Tex tossed his light towards the gunmen and went for the wall, where his target had fallen. In an instant the cone of light showed Florian an opponent at the bar and gave Susan a target. Susan missed her shot, rolled away in instant before her tagret dove for her. Elizabeth returned fire but her gun jammed. Florian shone his light at the face of his opponent and grappling ensued. Elizabeth risked tossing her defunct gun into this melee but failed to hurt Florian’s opponent. Tex and the gunman he expected in front of him, near the wall, bumped double-blindly into each other. Fists went flying, at first Tex pistol whipped the guy right in the kisser but not hard enough. He was consequently punched in the gut end sent reeling. Susan tried repeatedly to pistol whip her gunman, and eventually took him out with a close range shot. While the tide shifted back and forth between Florian and his opponent Elizabeth jumped the bar to kick the goon but again failed to hit hard enough. Just before her infamous knee-to-the-groin was initiated a gun was cocked close to her head from her blind side…

CLIFFHANGER!

And next week: The conclusion!

And now: The Exciting conclusion!

So, things were looking pear shaped. Elizabeth with a gun to her head wisely chose to put her hands up. Florian let to of his opponent, and the two goons made for the exit using Elizabeth as a shield. Tex came to his senses but had lost his gun. Susan was ready to shoot, but had to target. As the goons made it to the door they pushed Elizabeth away and bolted. Quickly scooping up flashlights and guns the entire cast gave chase. Florian was first man out and took a shot to the arm as the goons covered their retreat. They disappeared behind a corner. Tex rounded the same corner and took aim as soon as he saw a target, while Susan took the wide circle. Bang! Another lucky shot from Tex shot the goon dead. Rounding the next corner Susan expected retaliatory fire and took defensive precautions. Her dive gracefullytook her out of the line of fire. Tex on the other hand crudely shoulder-slammed the man before he had time for a good shot. On his back and shaken he obliged the guns pointed to his head and gave up.
Regrouping the cast learned that Drier Merzen had sent first the local boy as distraction and then the grouo of goons to shoot then and recover the diamonds. He still has four armed men at the house. Time was of the essence, as the heavy gunplay begun drawing in vigilantes with rifles of their own so the cast skipped getting their own heavy guns and simply sprinted for Vermeern Handel’s compound. As they charges across the open space the upepr story windows were shattered from the inside and riflemen took positions. But before they got a shot off the cast took cover at the walls outide a good line of fire before going inside. Tex shattered the lock with a few rounds. Again Florian was first man in, he kicked the door open and leapt inside and dodged bullets like there was no tomorrow. One shooter to the left was engaged by Susan, the other at the top of the stairs by Elizabeth while Florian got to his feet again. Keeping the pace going Tex cleared the right hand side of the house backed up by Elizabeth while Susan kept the left side covered and Florian had the stairs. As two riflemen appeared at the top of the landing Florian wisely took shelter under the stairs. Tex and Elizabeth were drawn to the sound of rifle shots. Heavy return fire pacified the riflemen.
Simultaneously the slghtly recovered Maxi snuck in and held up the guards in the yard and met up with Susan at the back door. With Susan and Maxi holding the downstairs Elizabeth, Florian, and Tex cleared the upstairs rooms. Tex dived into Drier Merzen’s study and his line of fire but avoided the bullet. Elizabeth returned fire but luckily (or sadly?) Drier managed to take cover under the desk. He was quickly held up and the rest of the house declared safe.
The negotiations now begun. As before, the wanton excecution of an old missionary was out of the question for various reasons. The more practical one was that leaving Congo would be impossible, especially with the diamonds. Merzen admittet defeat and said his business was closed down now. Before the constabulary arrived on scene a cock-and-bull story was cooked up, to the (relative) satisfaction of all:
Drier Merzen’s mercenaries had gotten their hands on contraband diamonds and a fight erupted over them, starting down at the hotel where the cast coincidentally were staying. One side wanted to kill Merzen and smuggle the stones out, while the minority remained loyal. A gunfight erupted and the cast intervened. They quickly made for Merzen’s compound to avoid further bloodshed and helped him and his few loyal men survive. The side of righteousness prevailed, and concidentally all the dead men were the villain and the few surviving, wounded ones were loyal men. These few readily backed this story up, as they were supplied with a severance package by Merzen. The constable “confiscated” the diamons the fight had been over, and a supplemental wad of cash later he concluded his investigation and accepted the given statements. Provided Merzen, the cast, and all surviving mercenaries were on the morning train to the coast and never returned again.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, it was a quiet train ride to the coast as the cast no longer had any rivals or enemies. Merzen made sure the luggage was not searched in earnest so the cast made it out with a bag full of diamonds. Sadly they are contraband all over the world, and if they are ever to make use of them some srious black market trading is needed. Back is Bruxelles the Lady Baunholz was thrilled to have her son back in one piece, and the cast recieved a handsome reward easily covering their expenses fopr the trip plus granting them a fair incoem to live off. Georg Baunholz was subsequently disappointed that his plant sampled could not grow at all, a thing the cast suspected all along.

And thus concludes THE DIAMONDS OF THE DARK CONGO!
What exotic locations and exciting adventures will the cast experience next?
Follow us next week on CLIFFHANGERS!

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