Active investigators: Dr. Mannerheim
Venice, Thursday 31 January, 1923
The stench was getting unbearable from the canals. Also the tide had risen and foul water started sipping through into the piazzas and alleys. Some of the investigators needed a break. They were feverish, injured, and right out fatigued. Dr.Mannerheim ordered 24 hours consecutive uninterrupted rest. He himself felt fine as he had joined the group later. He would continue some of the research and represent the investigators at Maria Stagliani’s dad’s funeral.
Dr.Mannerheim started with an early visit to the local police station. He wanted to find out more about the disturbing murder in the canal the other night, where a man was impaled by a large pole through the chest. The visit was a disaster (failed Persuade and Credit Rating rolls) and the language barrier proved to strong as well.
Gasparetti was true to his word and picked up Dr.Mannerheim by the canal as agreed upon. There was short boat trip to the cemetery island of St. Michele where a funeral procession was held.
There were many relatives of Maria’s father from Milan and Venice. Rossini was there, sweating as a pig, being his usual self. Maria greeted Dr.Mannerheim warmly and asked about the other investigators whereabouts. Dr.Mannerheim noted that Rossini could barely take his angry eyes off of Gasparetti. At the same time Gasparetti and Maria exchanged caring glances.
After the funeral there was a gathering with food and wine at Maria’s dad’s house. It was a lovely building several stories where Maria’s family held the two first levels. The living areas was like a museum full with books and art with Venetian origin.
Early afternoon Dr.Mannerheim left the house with Gasparetti and they took a gondola. As the gondola took of down the canals something was wrong. Gasparetti started yelling at the gondolier. Dr.Mannerheim walked up to the ruder trying to grab it but failed (missed opposed Str-rolls).
The gondola entered a marina just outside the city center. There was a gang of six black-shirts waiting. A trap! “You can leave” said Gasparetti, being noble and wanting to save Dr.Mannerheim. “I shall not leave you to these thugs!” replied the battle proven Finn. “I stay by your side.”
After a couple of thrown punches, Dr.Mannerheim pulled his .45 Automatic. “Down boys, down. I will not hesitate to fire this pistol to kill. Understood?” The ferociousness of the Finn made the blackshirts stop. Dr.Mannerheim had fought the bloody civil war against the communists. He was not a man to play with. Slowly the six blackshirts backed up from Gasparetti and then ran off. Gasparetti was dizzy but still conscious. “They will probably kill me one day.” He said calmly, as a matter of fact. “Not as long as I am here” replied the Finn.
The evening was for study and Dr.Mannerheim had now completed 4 out of 7 days of the Brother of the Skin tome. Horrible reading that made his dreams twist and turn. What an evil kult. They have to be stopped. Midnight he crashed.
The next morning there had been a second murder. A gondolier Paulo Rizo had been torn to pieces and found without blood in his gondola. A witness had seen the murder (apparently) pole away in inhuman speed from the scene. Dr.Mannerheim focused on the task at hand and decided to visit Maria. Perhaps she knew something about the letter and it’s exotic seal of a winged cherub with a doll in its grasp. Dr.Mannerheim went there alone but as he landed on the quay ask the gondolier to fetch Gasparetti as well. He noticed a blackshirt in the window and tried to rush in. Door locked. Dr.Mannerheim pulled his pistol and fired a .45 bullet straight at the lock that exploded in pieces. He ran in and saw two blackshirts afar at the courtyard. As they ran towards him he shot one of them straight in the heart and he died instantly. The second blackshirt ran away up the stairs. Dr.Mannerheim ran forward but was ambushed at the side corridor. Another blackshirt wrestled for his gun and after a couple of heavy blows Dr.Mannerheim fell to the ground unconscious.
He woke up tied to a chair. There was Rossini and three blackshirts. They were upset. Dr.Mannerheim acted surprised. “Rossini? What the hell is going on here!? I come here and spotted a burglary.” Rossini stared him down. “What is going on!!?? You just shot and killed one of my men! Now We have a lot of problems. But I will resolve it. WE will blame it on the communists.” Dr.Mannerheim had managed to convince Rossini he thought it was a burglary and had reacted accordingly. Rossini took his .45 automatic and told him to immediately get back to his hotel and say nothing about the whole thing.
Above: Rossini, fascist leader of Venice.
Precious time was lost and Dr.Mannerheim woke up Saturday at dawn. He wanted to try another charge at Maria’s house. He called for Gasparetti and asked him to gather his anarkist friends. Six of them arrived so they were now a group of eight, versus Rossini’s five (one killed). A numerous advantage. Furthermore, Dr.Mannerheim readied his 12-gauge shotgun which surely would give firepower advantage to Rossini’s fine calibre Derringer pistol.
The group went in motor boat to Maria’s house and divided into two assault teams. Dr.Mannerheim and three anarkists went to the back, and Gasparetti with three anarkists charged the main entrance by the canal quay. Dr.Mannerheim had the anarkists break down the door and they charged inside full speed. Two blackshirts were there but they fled up the stairs. One was remaining at the other side of the courtyard so Dr.Mannerheim fired and hit “01” critical hit. The blackshirt fell dead on the ground. He ordered two anarkists upstairs to follow suit and then went to help Gasparetti break through the main entrance which was a bit more sturdy. Then he heard two shots upstairs. “Oh no, Rossini with his gun.” He ran towards the stairs and met the two anarkists retreating with bullet wounds. “He has a gun and there are several of them up there. We also saw a young woman.” Maria. “Follow me!” he shouted and ran up the stairs. He caught another blackshirt but this one was too fast and escaped into the living room. Rossini showed up in the door with his pistol aimed at them and they fired at each other simultaneously. Dr.Mannerheim missed, but Rossini hit. Dr.Mannerheim fell unconscious to the floor. Darkness.
Dr.Mannerheim woke up in a bed. He shouted for help and Bice, Maria’s assistent, appeared. Dead in the corridor was poor Gasparetti and an anarkist youth. “They forced her to marry him” said Bice and cried. She was in hysterical condition. “Please help her”. Dr.Mannerheim was in bad condition (1 hitpoint) but managed to search the house before retreating back to his hotel for medical aid. Dr.Enea gave him first aid (1+3=4 hit points by now) and told him to get some rest. It was 10 am Saturday morning and Dr.Mannerheim had no time to rest. He had gotten help from Bice regarding the wax seal. “It is the Gremanci doll works” she said. “They are right here in Venice”. Dr.Mannerheim went there without further delay.
Above: Gremanci doll works.
He was greeted by an assistant and then showed into the office of Antonio Gremanci, the owner. An old, fragile man. He showed him the letter and wax seal. Antonio was shocked and had to sit down. He called for his son Sebastian who spoke excellent English. “This was my grandfather. My brother died in the battle at Monte Grappa. I will help you find this client.” A frantic search started in the archives in Antonio’s office. Eventually they found a lead.
“…my old friends in the clock tower….” Could they be the statues we were looking for? “Thank you so kindly” said Dr.Mannerheim and rushed onto the canals heading for Palazzo Rezzoniani.
Above: Gremanci doll works at work.
To be continued…