Arcanum

4. Mrs Cunningham's Wardrobe

Tuesday, the 28th of February, 1888

[Lisa, 11. 06. 2016, rewritten 4. 09. 2016]

At the beginning of the night, Marcus finds his childe busying himself with repairing furniture from his manor; curious as to the reason, he inquires and is told that this is due to the “lady visitor”, potentially meaning SinĂ©ad who is sleeping off the previous night’s party with the Gangrel. The two chat for a time about Dementation, mostly its effects and the difficulties inherent in learning or teaching it, before the topic shifts towards one of Christopher’s own “lady visitors”, who suggests he might invite the unnamed woman over for dinner with his sire one of these nights before “encouraging” Marcus to leave his house for the night.

Somewhere in the city proper, Emma receives a message related to her inquiries into the missing persons case of the mortal Harris. One of her contacts advises her to seek out an investigator by the name of Andrew Norton, which she does the very same night. She finds him with a young maidservant, a Judy Styles, who as it turns out works in one of Mr. Harris’ guesthouses and has quite a story to share. With excitement at the attention she receives, she tells Emma about the body of a man, found in the wardrobe of a Mrs. Cunningham, who is an old and otherwise unremarkable widow. Judy continues with claims of having heard the voices of the dead from within the wardrobe, which amuses Emma greatly and prompts her to feed the girl a story about how the wardrobe might actually lead into a different dimension, possibly the underworld, with advice to keep away from it and not mention it to anybody else – something that Emma full well knows a gossipmonger like Judy could never keep quiet about. Just as predicted, Judy eats up this story with wide eyes and polite shock and disbelief, a sure sign that she will spread it to everybody who will listen to her.
Norton seems exasperated at Emma for encouraging the wild tales this wardrobe already spawned, but still agrees to provide her with a full report of his findings in the case after proper payment. As it turns out, the maid’s account was flawed and likely contained lies about several details, which he corrects. He also has some additional information to share about Mr. Harris, which Emma happily accepts, hoping that even basic information could help her solve the puzzle of the people who have gone missing in the city recently.

Marcus, after being gently kicked out of his own home, travels to the second Elysium, where he meets two newcomers: one Alexander McCarthy and a woman who is only introduced as “Milady”, both of whom are playing poker together. They talk for a while, saying that Atticus might be in financial troubles because of his generosity and that the Prince might have disappeared again. This gossip is interrupted by the arrival of Atticus himself, who bickers briefly with Lionel before talking with Marcus about the Sheriff competition and the Sabbat which might be lurking in the city.
As the Brujah primogen excuses himself and the talk turns back to mortal affairs, Marcus finds that he isn’t quite caught up with news, a situation which is remedied by Caroline, who hands him a newspaper in which he finds a very high number of articles about scandals involving mortal aristocracts of the greater London area. As Lionel helpfully explains, these scandals are the result of the city’s Ventrue doing what he calls a “spring cleaning”, pruning their mortal aristocratic contacts of those who have not performed to their expectations.
The conversation between the two of them moves on to the topic of the body found in Mrs. Cunningham’s wardrobe, who apparently was drained of all its blood, dressed up oddly, with the cause of death being strangulation. Lionel mentions that the case has been forwarded to the Tremere primogen so that she can investigate the “people-eating” wardrobe – and shortly after this remark, the primogen herself bursts into the Elysium, chewing out Lionel for wasting her time and slamming the case file onto the table in front of him before leaving again, much to the surprise of those present. The Ventrue claims he never touched the file itself and didn’t forward it personally; he merely received the report when Lady Anne was present, who immediately took an interest and had it forwarded to the primogen for investigation. He then cautiously takes a peek into the files before immediately closing them again and excusing himself from the Elysium, claiming that he had to take care of this matter.

Emma is on her way to the third Elysium to spend the rest of her night when she hears a bloodcurling scream somewhere nearby. She wastes no time investigating its source, crossing the river by a bridge, and notices strange mist appearing on it along with an eerie silence, so absolute that no sound other than her own steps can reach her ears. Worried at what she perceives to be supernatural interference, she hurries to the other side of the river, while the temperatures drop rapidly – so quickly, in fact, that the pouring rain turns into snow flakes settling on puddles-turned-ice. As the mist clears and her vision extends, she breaks into a run, turning corners in search of the source of the scream, and suddenly finds herself face to face with what she thinks to be the ghost of a young and once-beautiful woman, almost translucent, with a decomposing face. Emma narrowly avoids running through the apparition, who lets out the same shriek she heard before, and runs as fast as her feet can carry her until she is completely out of range of the weird weather phenomena.
Majorly uneasy and worried, she is at first glad when she comes across Julian, though this relief dissipates quickly when she finds him arguing with a mortal woman named Emily who insults Emma, calling her a side lover of Julian’s, which provokes her anger. The young Ravnos manages to shut his companion up before Emma can intervene less gently, but proves to be entirely unhelpful and just as unhappy as Emily, so Emma quickly leaves both of them to their own devices, wanting nothing more than to end the night as quickly as possible.
However, luck isn’t on her side: just as she hesitantly approaches one of the city’s bridges on her way to the Elysium, she is jumpscared by a blonde stranger, who mocks her for her fear of bridges, crossing easily himself and preparing a prank on the other side of the river – an attempt to make her trip just as she is about to reach the other side, which Emma dodges skillfully. With her patience wearing thin, she tries to learn the stranger’s name, who isn’t very forthcoming and keeps prodding her. Unwilling to test her waning patience, she leaves him standing at the bridge and finally makes her way to the Elysium, where she starts telling the story of her ghostly encounter. The Kindred present seem to enjoy her skillfull storytelling, buying her drinks and asking her to tell it over and over again.

Before Lionel can leave, Marcus asks him for the address where the body was found and decides to investigate the matter himself. He finds a young, thin man resting nearby the house, and, probing his mind, sees his dream involving the wardrobe with golden light shining from within, a heavenly chorus singing, and then the doors opening to reveal a black, menacing figure with gleaming red eyes. Unsure what to make of this, he gains entrance to the building itself from another lodger, who flat-out tells him that he hopes the stranger is here to murder Mrs. Cunningham. Apparently the old widow does not have a good reputation with her fellow lodgers.
Marcus makes his way into the old woman’s rooms, obfuscated and sneaking to avoid waking her, and analyzes the wardrobe for emotional imprints, finding several impressions: an unknown female Kindred who was not amused, several policemen, Judy Styles and a young man, the latter of whom he identifies as the man sleeping outside, and lastly somebody who is slightly familiar to Marcus but also seems strange and who was actively trying to prevent leaving or hiding their impression of emotions on the wardrobe.
With nothing else to be gleaned from without, he crawls into the huge Victorian wardrobe himself, which smells faintly of the corpse, lavender and a cheap perfume. He finds a hidden compartment containing old letters and valuable documents as well as two wedding rings and a diamond ring, but chooses not to remove any of the contents. Further investigation yields insight that the person who was found dead must have been killed before being put in the wardrobe.
Unfortunately Mrs. Cunningham wakes just as he is leaving the wardrobe – though Marcus is obfuscated, the old widow still shrieks since she thinks the wardrobe opened itself in her sleep, waking up the other lodgers, while the Malkavian makes his escape undetected. This incident, in combination with the wild story fed to Judy, ensures the popularity of a new urban legend – of Mrs. Cunningham’s people-eating wardrobe.

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