This was the third episode in the SINS playtest game I ran, and features all 4 players.
Previously on SINS…
We see flashbacks of Detective Tohbi sensing subtle power flowing through the walls of the hospital in episode one.
Next we see a cut of her explaining what her grand father told her: the “Wards” of New Orleans are a double meaning for both the old voting blocks and the magical wards set into the city to protect it.
Lastly we see a cut of Captain Decoudreau explaining that the de Paugers are an old family with much wealth and political power in the city.
It’s sunset in front of an old building. Demolition crews stand by beyond a fence, and on a small stage before the stripped old building a group of politicians take turn giving speeches about the new building that is to be erected. The sign in the background proclaims the project as belonging to Pauger Industries. As the businessmen and suits finish their speech, the building is demolished via explosives with the setting sun.
The camera fades into later that night, and a green glow and pulsing sound of magic builds and begins to flow from the demolition site down the street. We see a series of scenes: The light flowing over a dog in it’s dog house, and the dog begins barking madly. The light flows over a sleeping woman, and she begins to trash as if in a nightmare. It flows past the windows of a poor family, and the talking voices from beyond the window turn to yelling and arguing. Finally the pulsing sound and green glowing light flow down the street and into the doors of an old hotel.
The camera cuts to a man exiting the elevator and walking down the hall. The badge on a lanyard around his neck proclaims him as in town for some kind of business conference, and his slight trouble walking and disheveled suit let the viewers know he has had a bit too much to drink. He walks to his hotel, fumbles with the key, and eventually manages to open the door, as he steps into his room he flicks on the light, and his eyes widen in shock and horror. We, the viewers, can not see what he sees as the camera zooms in on his face, but by the nature of his scream, we know it isn’t good.
Cut to Opening Credits
After some standard office banter, and the decision to remain partnered up as they were for he previous episode, the two sets of players are each handed a case by Captain Decoudreau. Tohbi and Lagneux remain paired up, and Caine and Carlson stick together, although Caine is no longer willing to let Carlson drive.
Case 1: Smuggling
Lead Detective Caine
Detective Caine and Carlson find themselves with a white collar crimes case. Angel Dawnberger has called the police department to report that her neighbor has been loading cages full of endangered birds into his truck. The detectives arrive at her house and she eventually invites them in. It is immediately clear to the detectives that Ms. Dawnberger is an avid birder, especially after she sits them down and begins going through her extensive collection bird photographs from her trips. According to her, the man living a few houses up the street was loading a bunch of cages into his car, and the cages contained live birds of endangered species native to the bayou.
Taking the sighting seriously, the two detectives visit area pet stores and eventually find a store owner with some knowledge of the rare/exotic bird black market. According to their source, there is a small but profitable trade in endangered species flowing out of the New Orleans ports. Some of the animals are used for exotic pets, but some are exported for “eastern medicine” purposes. The banter with the store owner quickly became the obvious moral message that endangered species need to be protected, in true TV show form.
Having verified that Miguel Ontigo, the owner of the house, had a reputation for endangered species trapping and smuggling, the detectives knocked on his door to ask him about some birds. When he opened the door they could hear and see a variety of exotic animals living ill fitted cages and cardboard boxes all over his living room. Flashing their badges, the detectives manage to spook Miguel, who bolts into his house towards the back bedroom.
When they chase him to the back of the house, the detectives get a rude surprise: Miguel seeks his pet “Fluffy” onto them. Fluffy is a 10 foot alligator. Detective Caine raises his guns to shoot the beast, but Detective Carlson recognizes it as a rare Black Caimen, an endangered species that would be serious paperwork if killed. Caine stays at the door way, one gun on the caimen and the other on Miguel, while Carlson heads into kitchen to use the phone to call up someone in animal control to come deal with the endangered but dangerous animal. He manages to call in a favor with Old Jeb, a park ranger on good terms with SI.
Unfortunately, things do not go well for Caine. He manages to spook the animal and lunges at him, biting him around the shoulder and pulling him down into a death roll. Miguel takes the opportunity to bolt past the distracted detectives and takes off running down the street. Detective Carlson notes the fleeing smuggler and gives chase, leaving Caine to deal with the large reptile on his own.
Carlson manages to catch the perp, tripping him up and sitting on top of him while handcuffing him. Caine trashes about on the floor pistol whipping Fluffy with his two Glocks until the animal finally goes limp. His survives the encounter far more intact than his suit.
Old Jeb shows up shortly there after, gator catch-pole in hand, to find things under control. The Detectives, having arrested Miguel, leave rounding up the various animals, knocked out Fluffy included, to Jeb.
Case 2: Vandalism
Lead Detective Lagneux
Detective Lagneux and Tohbi head to the edge of the old French Quarter, to Hotel Hyperion. There is a call about a room being vandalized. When they arrive on the scene, Detective Tohbi immediately gets a bad vibe about the place, as though a large amount of bad mojo is being pumped directly into the building.
The players quickly talk with the manager, Clark Denton, who directs them to an inebriated guest in the lobby: Robert Jones. Based on his ruffled suit and lanyard name tag, the man is clearly a dentist in town for the convention, and has been partying it up on bourbon street this evening. According Dr. Jones, when he entered his hotel room, he found it covered in bloody graffiti claiming he was a murder.
The detectives head up to the third floor to check Dr, Jone’s room, and find it lacking any marks of any kind. They track down a cleaning lady on the floor who informs them that the room was not cleaned since before Dr. Jones checked in that morning. Confused, the detectives head back down to Dr. Jones and inform him that his room looks fine and ask if he’d like to show them what it is he thought he saw.
When the two detectives and Dr. Jones return to his room on the third floor, they discover it’s now full of bloody graffiti making claims of murder. The Drunken Dr. Jones freaks out, but Detective Lagneux is able to talk him down a bit. After some questioning, the detectives feel relatively sure that the dentist has not killed anyone. Detective Lagneux send him back downstairs while Detective Tohbi re-enter the room, only to find it once again lacking any bloody marks.
While Tohbi searches the room, Detective Lagneux notices the door into the room across the hall is open, he approches the room to see if anyone is inside, and an attractive woman with an odd hair style, and seemingly only wearing a thin silk robe, meets him at the door. She smiles at him, and motions for him to walk into the room after her. Lagneux almost follows her into the room when Tohbi taps him on the sholder and asks what he’s doing. He says he was about to talk to a possible witness, but when turns to point at the room, the door is closed. Tohbi shakes her head at him, and the two head down stairs to have another talk with Dr. Jones.
Only they don’t make it down stairs. They press the button for the elevator, but when the doors open they find a hotel room inside instead of a elevator car. More over, the room is decorated in an old style, unlike the room they had just been in. They can even hear some old jazz playing. Confused but curious, the two detectives walk into the room to investigate. Detective Tohbi walks to the window and looks out, seeing the courtyard of the hotel and the modern skyline of the city. Detective Lagneux investigates the room’s decor. Both detectives are surprised when the door shuts, revealing another attractive woman with an old style hair cut and almost no clothing. She ignores Detective Tohbi, but begins to flirt with Detective Lagnuex, inviting him to sit on the bed with her. Detective Lagneux politely refuses, but she repeats the invite, word for word, like on a script. He refuses again, and again, while detective Tohbi attempts to open the door, and discovers it is firmly stuck closed.
On her fourth repeat of the offer to join her on the bed, the woman transform from a nearly naked beauty, to burned corpse with the room changing to a charred ruin with her, and the music becoming distorted. The charred corpse continues to ask detective Lagneux to join her, but the offer is made with burned vocal cords. Unsure what will happen if they don’t comply, Lagneux sits on the burned out bed next to the corpse, and she launches into her next lines about why he’s being so timid, and if it’s his first time… all the while touching and fondling Lagneux with charred corpse hands. The detective is unsure what his line or action is supposed to be, and the corpse continues to fondle him and repeat the line, growing more tense with each repetition, eventually the dead woman snaps, and begins to strangle him, all the while repeating her lines.
Detective Tohbi jumps to her partner’s defense, and finds that she is unable to touch the woman. Her hands and silver dirk pass harmlessly through the dead woman, as if she wasn’t even there. Detective Lagneux’s attempts to defend himself are equally ineffective. At this point it clicks for detective Tohbi: the woman is a ghost. She’s a haunt, a minor spirit repeating the actions that led up to her death, and enraged that detective Lagneux isn’t playing the part correctly. She also realizes that the woman clearly died in a fire, and that she might be able to use that to her advantage.
Detective Tohbi pulls out her police note book and promptly lights it on fire. Using the burning book as improvised weapon, she attacks the ghost, eventually burning the ghost away. As the ghost is defeated, the room transforms back into a modern hotel room, and then the room’s smoke detector goes off.
The two detectives head back down to the lobby, taking the stairs this time. Detective Lagneux spins the situation, including the small fire in the room, to the manager, while detective Tohbi convinces Dr. Jones to stay somewhere else for the night. The two then head back to the station to do some research.
Who You Gonna Call?
Back at the office, Tohbi and Lagneux recruit Carlson and a ruffled Caine to aid them on their case. Lagneux and Caine research the history of the Hotel and discover it was rebuilt in 1918 after the previous building on the site, a brothel called the Chateau Octoroon d’Blanc, burned up in a fire that killed madame GeGe LeBlanc and several of her prostitutes.
Tohbi and Caine look into how to deal with ghosts. According to their research, the ghost can be blocked or even harmed with Salt, and are vulnerable to what ever killed them, but those measures are only temporary. A ghost, being already dead, will reform if “killed” after only a few days. To permanently defeat a ghost, you have to either solve what ever issue has them lingering in the living world, or you have to find the physical anchor that is keeping them in the world and destroy it. Anchor objects are typically something associated with the person’s life or death, but can be almost anything.
Oddly, the research Tohbi and Carlson do indicates that ghost are generally fairly weak, barely able to manifest visually or move small objects around. Ghosts have been known to have additional power on the anverisary of importants dates, like their birthdays, death days, etc, but when they check the date with Lagneux and Caine, there doesn’t seem to be any anniversaries that would give the ghosts such a sudden boost in power.
Undaunted, the group equips themselves with extra ntoe books, a pull the double barrel shotgun and rock salt shotgun shells out of Locker #113, and return to the hotel to further investigate.
The players park their two unmarked police cars in from the hotel, and detective Tohbi once again gets a major bad vibe from the place. She gets the distinct impression that the power is flowing into the hotel from somewhere near by, possibly explaining why the ghosts have suddenly got a boost in power. The detectives split up and investigate the neighborhood.
It’s detectives Caine and Carlson that locate the construction site a few blocks away. A “Pauger Industries” project, the site had just recently demolished an old condemned building. Caine, disbelieving the ghost story, hypothesized that the “vandalism” in the hotel might be from vagrants forced out of the condemned building by it’s destruction. Tohbi, however, got a distinct sense of a well of power passing through the site, as if a damn had be removed, and wondering if the building had one of the fabled Wards her grandfather had told her about. If true, then is destruction might be allowing fresh power to flow into the hotel, and empowering the ghosts.
As the detectives approch the hotel again, their discusion on how to break up the investigation is interuppted by multiple screams coming from inside the hotel. They rush into the hotel lobby, breaking up into their standard partner pairings to follow the two distinct sets of screams. Detectives Tohbi and Lagneux rush down the 2nd floor hallway kick down a door into a honeymoon suite. Inside they find a burned ghost strangling a man in bad, while his wife looks on, screaming in horror. Caine and Carlson run up the stairs to the third floor, where they find a man being chased down the hall by beautiful named woman. Caine doesn’t take the situation all that seriously until the woman catches the man and beings to strangle him.
Detective Lagneux considers shooting the ghost a stride the man, but figures he’d also end up shooting the victim too. Detective Tohbi lights her new notebook on fire and manages to burn the ghost off the suffocating newlywed. The man is unconscious, but breathing. Detective Lagneux, seeing the situation handled, hands the shotgun off to Tohbi and takes off back down the hallway to begin to spin the confused manager. While he attempts to keep the manager calm, Tohbi runs down the hallway carrying a double barrel shotgun, headed towards the third floor.
Meanwhile, on the third floor, Detective Caine flashes his badge and attempts to remove the “naked woman” from the struggling man. His complete inability to touch her in anyway is confusing to him, but worse is the reaction his attempted interference invokes in her. She transforms from a naked woman into a charred corpse, which results in Caine drawing his guns and opening fire. Not surprisingly to Carlson, the bullets pass through the ghost and into the wall. Carlson lights his notebook on fire, and makes a swing at the ghost, but doesn’t manage to affect her much. The ghost drops the man she was strangling and attacks Caine instead. Caine and Carlson are still struggle with ghost when Tohbi arrives. The three detectives fight the ghost off of Caine, eventually burning her away just as detective Lagneux arrives with the rock salt loaded shotgun.
As the ghost burns away, the players here an angry call from the end of the hallway, accompanied by the same old jazz tunes as before. A door opens revealing the ghost of madame GeGe LaBlanc. Unlike the simple haunts they had been dealing with thus far, the madame proves to be a more potent ghost, and one somewhat more aware of her surroundings. She unleashes telekinetic furry on the detectives that had been “hurting her girls” and sends them flying down the hallway and into the walls.
The players, somewhat staggered by the onslaught, get back up on their feet. Lagneux hands the shotgun to Caine, and attempts to talk the angry ghost down, distracting her. Tohbi uses the distraction to move down the hallway and attempts to hit the madame with a burning note book, but unlike the other ghosts, the fire passes harmlessly through her. Apparently the madame wasn’t killed in the fire. Angered at the attempted bodily harm, the ghost transforms, taking on her appearance in death… and bloody stab wounds appear across her chest and back. Most of the detectives are taken aback by the change, but detective Caine unleashes both rock salt filled barrels on the ghost, dispersing her form.
The detectives return down to the lobby, where the manager and number of guests are shocked at the strange activities that have just taken place through the hotel. Lagneux first spins the manager’s perception of the events, pointing out that he may actually gain business from his hotel being haunted, and then questions the man on any antiques in the hotel, specifically things from before the fire. The detectives end up scouring the building locating the old paintings, vases, and furniture. In an old narrow vase full, the unit finds a dirty, bloody, World War 1 Trench Knife. They also discover that an old phonograph has gone missing, but eventually locate it inside a vent in the maintenance room. The heat warped record on it is a “Mahogany Hall Stomp” and it immediately becomes clear to Tohbi that this is the anchor of the madame’s ghost. The detectives decide not to immediately destroy the anchor, but to instead attempt to find out what really happened to the madame in 1917.
They take the record player back to the office, and set it in a circle of salt inside the interogation room. They lock the door to the room and put a note up to keep the day shift from messing with it. The next night, the ghost of GeGe LeBlanc reforms inside the circle. She appears weaker and more translucent, and Tohbi suspect that without the power flow that was passing through the hotel, she isn’t as powerful as she was.
Lagneux and Tohbi enter the interrogation room, and essentially perform a good cop-bad cop routine on the ghost. She eventually retells the story of her death. Three young soldiers had come into the brothel looking for a good time before they shipped out to the war the next day. She set them up with girls, but something went wrong. One young man had become upset, apparently the girl he was with had laughed at him being a virgin. She had tried to calm the young man down, but he simply became more upset, and drew his knife and killed her. He then burned the whole place down. The ghost did not know much about the man, but she could tell that he had died, of old age, without having been caught, and that neither she nor her girls could find peace while their killer was undiscovered.
The detectives begin investigating, using what little they knew of the man. They call in a favor with the crime lab to have the knife examined, and discover it contains two kins of blood, one a rare AB Negative. Using the knife model and date, along with the blood and records from the old military base, they eventually discover the young man was Private Edward Hughes. Hughes had been shipped off to war the day after the fire, where he distinguished himself in battle, and received a field promotion. When he returned the US after the war, he chose to stay in New Orleans, and led a series of good works through the city. The players found his hand print in the dedication to a statue commemorating the veterans of WW1, and it’s finger prints matched those of the knife.
Unfortunately, Hughes’s descendant was a city councilman running for reelection. Concerned that outing the family hero would bring unwanted political pressure down on the unit, the Lagneux contacted the politician and helped him develop a way to spin the closing of the cold case in a better light. Specifically that having his descendant make the announcement would be better than it coming to light in the news papers.
With the decades old murder discovered and closed, the unit actually gained in standing on the force. The reports, of course, made no mention of the ghosts involved, but instead claimed that a routine investigation of vandalized hotel room resulting in finding evidence of a murder form 1917.