Family Matters

Part 2

October 28, 1927:
During the night watch at the tea shop, Charlie spots two largeish types who wander by suspiciously, look around the outside of the tea shop, look briefly in through the front windows, and continue on. Nothing else of interest happens during the night.

The Valiants start up on a second round of interviews, starting with Julia Pritchard, who is breakfasting on fruit and bran crackers. When asked, she says that she's a vegetarian, which causes the Valiants to exchange significant glances as they think of Roderick's interesting nutritional theories. Oddly, she doesn't seem to remember much of the unusual events; she heard wind, which she supposes must have broken the vase. Tommy points out that it seems unlikely that wind would have come through the window, blown the vase from the far corner into Maria, and then shut the window. Julia, archly, admits that Tommy is right, that's very unlikely, and the vase must not have broken after all. Further pressing causes Julia to start admitting that she supposes all the noises must have happened, but this isn't considered to be productive, and the interview concludes, though not before asking whether Mr. Bellesby might pay a call on her as well. When Gerti is told of the discussion, she is outraged to hear this proof of Emil's villainous conduct. What? ask the Valiants (as, indeed, might well the reader at this point), and Gerti (who had up until this point been voting for Anna Lombardi as the arch-villain) explains to the brothers that Emil has clearly hypnotized Julia in order to allow himself to cause trouble at the séance. Her Houdini books talk all about this sort of thing - if both Emil and the hypnotized Julia did a forced-trade of hands with the people on either side of them (thus leaving their own hands free) then there would be people on both sides of the table all set to chuck vases and choke hapless women.

Meanwhile, Charlie, Gerti, Roderick, and Juergen are guarding the teashop and going through vast quantities of tea (except for Charlie, who still thinks tea is for wusses). The two thugs from before (Vito and Paulo, to give them names this time) come in and order tea and cookies. They don't seem to have much luck holding the cups (it's so difficult to fit hands the size of toaster mitts around those little handles), and several teacups are "accidentally" broken on the floor. Charlie asks them to take it outside; they take the teapot outside. Charlie follows, trailed by Gerti. After some kidding around with Charlie, who's trying halfheartedly to get them to hand over the teapot (without making it seem like he wants it himself) - they end up by tossing it to him, and he drops it. Vito and Paulo figure this is enough for today, and head down the street, also trailed by Gerti. After a few blocks, they knock on a door and give a password, where they're let in. Gerti guesses this is a speakeasy rather than anything more nefarious, and persuades Charlie to find out who it's owned by: Marbles Botticelli.

A picture of Tony Genelli is acquired for showing around to people, but I don't think it actually gets shown to anyone.

Next, the Valiants interview Emil, who didn't hear any wind, and repeats his story of having heard someone whisper "You bitch!". He's been to a lot of séances; this was the first time he'd been to Miss Saravelda's, and this is the second séance that he'd taken Julia to. The first was a bit more traditionally fake, according to Emila, as were most of the other séances that he's been to. Miss Saravelda's was the first which seemed, to him, to have an actual manifestation, and he's hoping to go back. No new information is unearthed, but then, Gerti is still sure that he's lying through his teeth. He doesn't mention having hypnotized Julia, but nobody asks him.

Eddie calls Mr. McIntyre, the prosecuting attorney in the case against Joseph Marino several years back, and is given five minutes of phone time. Not a lot of information is conveyed in either direction; in the end, Eddie's explanation is that someone seems to have injured Mr. Marino's girlfriend, and that he may be going to cause trouble about it. Has the girlfriend pressed charges? No. Has he made any concrete threats? Well, no. McIntyre's advices is that everyone involved (at least, everyone the Valiants are representing) should make statements to the police, and that he's not entirely sure what the Valiants want him to be doing, especially since from the (albeit somewhat limited) description of the problem, Marino's girlfriend seems the most likely complainant. A file does get opened on the Valiants, though.

(Does Mr. Bellesby talk to Julia today, or only tomorrow?)

All the interviews having led to not much enlightenment, the group reconvenes at the tea shop to discuss what to do next. Perhaps they should hold another séance! But with who? Surely Mr. Marino will not be pleased to hear the suggestion. And what if Mr. Genelli shows up again, but causes more trouble than just thumping his wife with a vase?

"If she gets killed, we're in trouble..." - Gerti

After some consideration, the decision is made to hold a practice séance, with just the investigators and Miss Saravelda, in case Mr. Genelli's spirit can be convinced to show up without having to bother his wife in the process. Everyone moves upstairs, and Miss Saravelda goes through the usual spiel about being open to the spirit world. There are some mysterious tapping noises, and some sighings and groanings about the room, that Miss Saravelda indicates are spirits. A spirit indicates by selective tappings that it is here to speak to Tommy, but Tommy denies knowing anyone who's dead now ("Even in the war?") and isn't interested. Another spirit indicates that it is there to speak to Roderick, and spells out its name as "Calvin," the name of the gentleman he had claimed he was thinking of in the first séance. Any message for Mr. Bellesby? "AS EXPECTED" raps the spirit. No one is quite sure what to make of this.

Back downstairs in the tea shop, the occult specialists, upon reflection, think that it might be significant that Julia heard wind - that's often associated with channeling. Maybe she was the real medium? Perhaps she should also be invited to the next séance? Gerti insists that Emil not be invited, as he's obviously the source of the trouble. It's too late at this point to try and arrange another séance for the evening, so most people head home, while the Valiants and Charlie watch the tea shop again. Vito and Paulo again slouch by at around midnight, and wave up at the window Charlie's keeping watch out of.

October 29, 1937:

Eddie wanders around in the Chelsea neighborhood where Mr. Marino and Mrs. Genelli live, watching for Mr. Marino to leave. Eventually, he leaves (from his house, not hers), and Eddie visits Mrs. Genelli to ask if she could come to another séance. She's a bit dubious, but Eddie assures her things will be safer this time, and he hopes that this will be able to resolve things. She is eventually convinced (after a good Persuasion roll by Eddie). When Eddie suggests that she come without Mr. Marino, and tries to determine if this will be a problem, she declares, not without humor, that she is a grown woman and can actually drive herself. Meanwhile, Mr. Bellesby is visiting Julia Pritchard again, in order to convince her that she's really a medium, and to come to the séance as well. She's utterly unconvinced by the former, though she argues with him amusedly for a while as to whose subconscious is hiding what from who, but agrees cheerfully to come to another séance - and bring Emil, who'd love to see more manifestations. Since Mr. Bellesby isn't as convinced as Gerti that Emil's the master villain, he doesn't think to raise any objections to this.

The day passes, otherwise mostly uneventfully. Esme goes shopping. Vito and Paulo drop by to mock Charlie at the tea shop, but don't break anything. Eddie searches the tea shop building again, including the shared basement with the yarn shop next door. The only things of note that he discovers are a disassembled dumbwaiter in the basement, and a spot in the kitchen wall that looks like it used to have one but doesn't any more. That spot is underneath one of the hollow spaces in the walls upstairs. However, more rapping around with long sticks doesn't find anything any more suspicious.

The third séance is held. Miss Saravelda begins her standard lecture, but shortly thereafter the candles go out.

There's a whisper from nowhere: "Maria"
Mrs. Genelli, tremulously: "Tony?"
A crashing rending noise from the outer edges of the room.
Miss Saravelda: "Go towards the light, Tony, dear."
The whisper again, more anguished: "Maria!"

Suddenly, the outside window shatters! Mr. Bellesby declares that both of the spirits have fled, and the séance is deemed, somewhat haphazardly, to be over. Mrs. Genelli is weeping, but those with psych rolls think it's more cathartic than anything else. She quickly leaves, declining escort. When the lights in the room are turned up, in addition to the broken window (which seems to have dropped pieces of glass in both directions), there is a section of wall which has been torn open, revealing what looks like nothing so much as a mangled bagpipe, hanging in a hidden compartment in the wall. Miss Saravelda quickly pulls the curtain over it again and hurries everyone downstairs.

Mr. Bellesby states that there were two spirits present, and a quick poll of who was thinking of who discerns that there were about three people each thinking of Houdini and Tony Genelli. Everyone nods knowingly, and Emil is beyond excitement at the thought that Houdini did show up at a séance he attended!

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