Cold City - Cold is the Nacht

Session Three: My Week With Cummings

Agent Francis Cummings is the RPA’s man on the ground in Berlin, and the man who will be our guide for the week. We leave the RPA and go back to our hotel, with the rest of the day off to do with as we wish. Cummings is waiting in the car, looks like he’s asleep, but he wakes as we approach. Cummings takes us back and drops us off, lets us all know that he’ll show us the sights of Berlin that we’ll ever forget. He spends the rest of the journey back being uncommunicative.

We walk into the foyer and Becker is behind the counter, signing in a couple in their mid-fifties, dressed in overcoat and hats. They’re well-dressed. The gentleman is carrying two suitcases, the lade takes her gloves off and surveys the hotel. They are led up one of the staircases, and Jonas gives us a gummy grin. The couple speak French. Jonas speaks rather good French, especially considering his fake teeth.

We’re told there’s been a wire left for us, one for each of us. We read them.

Jean-Pierre avails himself to the sidewalk cafe, drinking reasonable coffee and searching for Nazi’s. Lime goes out to re-establish his networks, checking in on some of his caches hidden around the city.

During Jean-Pierre’s second cup of coffee, sat on a wicker chair next to small steel table, he opens a broadsheet paper and settles down to read what passes for the news. No sooner has this happened than a lady approaches the table, and in a beautiful French accent introduces herself as Ms. Adele Beland.

“Bonjour,” Jean-Pierre says. “Would you care to join me?”

“Very much, Doctor Tranceval.”

“Oh, I did not think we had had the pleasure.”

Jean-Pierre stands and seats her at the table. Beland removes her gloves as she seats, and even that is enough to leave Jean-Pierre’s mouth a little dry.

“I was hoping I would catch you here, in private,” she says. “I’ve been sent by the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action.”

This rings a bell for Jean-Pierre for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that he’s had dealings with the Bureau’s Department B (the one responsible for Odd things; deals with matters arising from twisted technology both inside and outside the borders of the republic).

Adele is the contact mentioned in Jean-Pierre’s Wire. She’s here to discuss Jean-Pierre’s work, specifically the work done on the project that all went horribly, supernaturally wrong. The work had gone silent after it went wrong, and Jean-Pierre had no idea what happened afterwards. But now that it’s been mentioned, his presence in Berlin makes sense.

“We’d like to talk to you about re-opening the project,” Adele says.

“As far as I know, it was never closed,” Jean-Pierre says. “I still send in my invoices every month.”

“I trust you haven’t talked to anyone about this?”

“Who would I talk too?” Jean-Pierre asks.

The conversation turns towards the RPA, and the French Government’s interest in the organisation, although Adele stresses that she works for Department B and has no involvement with the RPA. She says that the RPA has access to something that the Department needs for Jean-Pierre’s work.

She gives Jean-Pierre a document folder. Inside is a single sheet of paper. It says "The Max Plant Institute, Berline.

Underneath, in speech marks, “Virus House.”

“Are you familiar with the institute?” Adele asks.

“I am,” Jean-Pierre says.

“Previously known as the Kaiser Wilhelm instute,” she says.

There are some explanations about the size and scope of the institute, and it suggests that there is far more going on there than you’d expect. It’s a place that’s more than what’s on the surface.

“It looks like I’ll be becoming even more familiar with the institute,” Jean-Pierre says.

“We hoped you would say that. We believe that the institute has the facilities you need to continue your work. The unfortunate accident that caused us to cease your research is over, and most of those affected have been accounted for. We have come accross some information you may be interested in, and if you agree to stay on at the RPA, we can help you get access to the institute to complete your work.”

Adele is holding another blank, sealed envelope.

“I see,” Jean-Pierre says. “This is what they would call, in the cheap detective novels, the carrot. Hand it over, I’m in.”

Adele stresses the need for secrecy, pointing out that there is sensitive information in the envelope that we’d hate to see in the wrong hands. She finishes her coffee and gives Jean-Pierre her phone number on a match book.

Jean-Pierre opens the envelope and it’s full of science things, biology charts, etc. As he flips through, he sees that he’s looking at genetic information, rather than macro-biology information. Project ST-FR-GB.

“Oh well,” Jean-Pierre says, “At least it sounds like we’re keeping the Americans out of it.”

Lime is out sorting out his caches, revisiting a couple of the old black-marketers and quartermasters he used to work with. He’s not trying to hustle, just re-establishing contact and getting to know them again, inserting himself into the network.

And then he goes to the Templehoff air-force base, looking for Staff-Sargent Halliday of the USAF 515th (a US air force intelligence agency). They’re a rather run-down, shabby organisation that’s looked down on by the CIA, but they deal with a lot of intelligence to do with shipping of things in and out of Germany, quite often across Russian borders. In the past I’ve had a close relationship with them, sold them plenty of contraband, but also had a few favours come to me than I could pay off. This is how I find myself working Patrols that went terribly wrong, and I was the sole survivor of the accident. The transport operation was labeled ST-FR1

While I’m at the base, talking to Halliday, when another officer walks in. He’s dressed in his Air force outfit, and he wants to talk to Lime. He gets Halliday to leave.

Troy Carnivale sits in Halliday’s chair and pours his whiskey. Carnivale’s a Captain. Lime can call him Troy.

The transport was a joint American-British-French operation to get rid of something, and it wasn’t meant to end the way it did. We were meant to be transporting the results of a French doctor’s work into Russia. They want Lime to follow Travenchal.

Lime wants his record cleared, $10,000 in cash, and a flight anywhere in the world he wants afterwards. For that, he’ll actually do it.

Harriet Doleman is wandering the rebuilt museums and art galleries of Berlin. She is joined by a handsome well-dressed man. They discuss the Monet before them. Makepeace is Harriet’s contact. They stroll and take in the works in the museum.

“James Makepeace. Captain.” He offers his hand. “I’m here to see you. Britain needs your help.It;’s not secret you are in Berlin at the same time as Dr Trencavel. He is about to restart his the project he worked on during the war. We need his notes, a file entitled ST-FR/GB.”

“What’s in the file?”

They walk through the gardens in to the crisp November afternoon.

“There are aspects of the war, and the involvement of the Experimental Rocket Bureau, that would … umm … trouble the populace. The government needs to … ahhh … distance itself from the projetc.”

“It disgusts me that Britain would be involved in anything like those projects,” she says.

“I understand. The war saw some very strange decisions made. However, CHurchill is no longer PM.”

They walk further and sit on one of the stone benches.

“And what sort of payment will there be for my services?”

“Last time we tried to recover the document, we sent a young man and haven’t heard of him since. That man was your brother. In additional to discovering what happened to him, you will earn the gratitude of your country. Enjoy the museum and we shall talk further later.”

He stands and walks into the afternoon.

Having spent the afternoon being contacted by the Spooks who sent us the wire, we all head back to the Hotel in a more muted mood than we were earlier in the day. We find ourselves with Champagne and Flowers, courtesy of Lime, who needs something to cheer him up after his meeting with the 515th. We chat, drink, look at each other slightly differently, and the trip out with Cummings the next day.

Session Two: The First Day

The next morning, in the hotel ballroom. There is clear, crisp November light and someone is going around opening the large, very tall windows that sit in wall, letting in the chill breeze along with the light. Whoever is doing it obviously doesn’t want people hanging around in the hotel; it’s inhospitable as we sit, eating the scrambled eggs and small glasses of orange juice and cold toast.

There are a few other people seated at the tables, quietly eating their morose breakfast. Jonas Becker stands over near the front desk, going over his ledger, giving us something that’s either a smile or sneer. His wet gums shine behind his lips.

Finding ourselves a table, we sit down and stare as a young girl, no more than 16, walks over and pours coffee. We get about half a cup before she leaves. Lime sniffs the concoction suspiciously, expecting it to be terrible. It is. All the tables have been pushed towards the wall, close to the open windows. The cold breeze actually makes the scrambled eggs seem appetizing.

A chap approaches us in an American uniform (Sergeant), hat tucked into his epaulette. Broad-framed, square-jawed chap in his early thirties. Hands are as large as plates. We trade greetings. He’s been in Berlin since it fell, and they don’t seem to be in a hurry to let him go home. His name is Wakes, and he’s been injured in the distant past. Bullet wound to the leg. He carries the attitude of a man whose been shot and shot-at, but also done some shooting in return.

Tranceval figures Wakes is either good at his job, terrible at his job, or has seen something that means he can’t be allowed to go home. The way Wakes talks about being in Berlin, he’s obviously a veteran. He’s not an amazing physical specimen, but he looks like he’s dug a lot of home. Solid. Well-worn. He’s apparently in the hotel because something went wrong with his quarters – a fire. He wants to get back over there and see how much gear has been destroyed.

Berlin is apparently full of gangs. Some of the worst areas get gangs, the shortages mean the gangs organise and hit a part of town looking for supplies. Stuff gets taken – it happens all the time. But then there was this fire, which isn’t usual for the gang raids.

Tranceval suggests that it might have been an unexploded bomb.

Wakes works out at the Tempelhof Airport as a guard.

Lime thinks all sorts of details about the story fail to ring true – the gangs don’t usually go for property damage, the authorities would usually quarter people, even temporarily, in an area much closer to their duties.

We’re just finishing breakfast when Becker tells us Cummings is outside. We notice he has a new set of false teeth. Cummings meets us in the lobby – he’s been scanning the ledger.

“Good morning,” he booms. “Your ride is here. I trust you slept exceedingly well.”

We assure him the quarters are adequate and join him in the car. Chiswell is already in the front seat.

Doleman studies the city. Jean-Pierre flirts with Chiswell.

We drive through Berlin. He drops us at the BASC building.

Jean-Pierre leans in through the driver’s side window. “I don’t want you to say too much, but what happened back there with that fire?”

“No fire,” Cummings says, “never any fires.”

“Ah well,” Jean-Pierre says, “lovely morning for it.”

The guards demand our papers. They actually pay attention to them. Lime gives them some grief. They aren’t impressed.

Lime asks if there’s anything unusual about the quartet. There is confusion. “usual,” the guard says. “Like there’s anything usual in Berlin.”

We walk through a seemingly abandoned building. The front desk has been abandoned for a while. We hear someone in heels walking down the hall. It’s a youngish, well-dressed woman who tells us to follow her.

The entire floor is either abandoned, or devoid of staff for several years. It looks like there are multiple floors above, but nothing seems to go on. The only sound we can hear is our footsteps. We eventually reach an old, ornate elevator that’s been kept in good condition. She pulls aside the cage door. We pile in, and she presses the “B” button.

She introduces herself as Jones and explains that she’s escorting us to our contact. She keeps records, has folders with our dossiers within them.

The basement is well-lit, clean and tidy. We can hear the sounds of an occupied office space where things are going on. Jones asks us to bear with her for a second, deposits Mrs Chiswell in an office, and we part company with her.

We go into a dark room where Von Nacht is waiting. He flanked by a pair of Dobermans.

He explains to us the purpose of the RPA, and offers us things in order to join and stop the threats to Berlin.

Session One: The Train to Berlin

We board a train. Harriet boards first and finds the car. Jefferson and Jean-Pierre get log-jammed at the door, staring at one another, until Harriet invites Jean-Pierre in. They recognise each other after working together at the war, and catch up.

A French porter comes and asks if we’d like a paper. Harriet asks for a London times, gets a Paris Times instead. The Porter mentions that the buffet cart will be open for the next hour and a half, after which it will close. Jean-Pierre is snippy about the quality of the food on the train.

We go to the dining car. It’s a full carriage, but there’s not a lot of options. We order coffee and scan the limited the menus, find very little that we actually want to eat. A few people reading the paper talk about the state of rationing. We discuss what we’re going to Berlin for – no-one has any real details beyond being asked to report to the BASC, but we can’t really understand why two medical personnel and an ex-black-marketeer whose contacts are out-of-date are being asked to report there.

No-one has been to Berlin since the war. Jefferson Lime had hoped never to return.

We notice a woman travelling alone who goes to leave the carriage after we arrive. She’s mid-forties, slim and attractive, brown-haired and fashionable, wearing the kind of clothes that are hard to come by these days. We watch her leave (Jean-Pierre would recognise her legs again anywhere). The dining room grows cold, so we choose to retire.

Jefferson waits behind to hustle the waiter and get some supplies – it’s a long train ride and there’s no dinner being served. He secures a basket full of supplies – cheese, crusty bread, slices of ham. Jean-Paul and Harriet catch up on their back to the carraige – Harriet’s brother has been asleep for a very long time.

They discover that someone’s in the carriage – the woman from the dining cart. Her cigarette smoke fills the cabin as she reads the paper. The doctor poses dramatically, and Harriet has to poke him in the back to get him into the cabin. The woman stares at them, then smiles as the train emerges from a tunnel.

“You are perhaps lost?” Jean-Paul asks.
“No, not at all. I believe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Her cigarette goes out and Jean-Paul re-lights it for her. He feels like he’s being played, but he doesn’t particularly care. He introduces Miss Daleman, the woman introduces herself as Mrs. Margaret Chiswell. She’s going to Berlin in order to do her duty to King and Country.

The flirting begins, and Miss Daleman opens her paper and ignores them. Jean-Paul notices that Chiswell doesn’t have any luggage. He sits opposite her and watches her, she stares out of the window. She confides that she finds train rides terribly adventurous, and that it feels like anything could happen when you’re rushing through the countryside.

The flirting gets a little more intense. Jean-Paul claims to be going to Berlin for a medical conference.

Chiswell finally asks “and what are you doing Miss Daleman?”

“I’m travelling with my fiancĂ©e here.”

This doesn’t bother Chiswell at all.

The door opens and Jefferson Lime. He introduces himself and blunders into the conversation, immediately attracting Chiswell’s attention when he says he’s been to Berlin before. She’s obviously playing, toying with Jean-Pierre, and he refuses to play.

She orders coffee from a porter, out-hustling Lime in the way she handles the young man. Lime immediately spends the next couple of hours engaging in conversation, trying to figure out the exact limits of how she gets what she wants.

We eat dinner – bread, cheese, ham – and about an hour after that the train drags itself into Berlin. We’ve had a long day and a long journey – improved a little by the company and the coffee – but we’ve still not found out why we’re travelling to Berlin. As the train pulls in, we realise that we won’t be able to report to the Berlin Air Safety Centre until the morning, nor are we required to.

We step off the train into the night. The station is black and deserted at this time of night; a few flickering lights on. The train steams down and people disappear into the night quickly after disembarking. We huddle in a group of four with Chiswell, next to a small pile of luggage.

A squat, round man emerges from the darkness. About 5’ 5", round-faced, with a mop of dark black hair. He walks right at us, umbrella in hair, his overcoat and scarf fastened tightly around him. He smiles widely as he approaches and shouts, “Francis Cummings,” in a British accent. He pushes his hand out, awaiting someone who’ll shake.

Harriet shakes his hand. Jean-Pierre shakes his hand. He smiles at the others. “Francis Cummings. RPA. It’s wonderful to meet you.” He looks nervous about admitting that. “Sorry, still getting used to it. Come with me.”

He turns and walks away, almost disappearing into the darkness. When he looks back, any trace of a smile gone.

Cummings puts his umbrella up and walks towards a car. “This way, this way, we’ll have you dry in moments.”

“I think we should get a cab,” Lime says.
“Yes, I think we should,” Jean-Paul says.

Cummings identifies us all by name. He says he’s here to make sure we’re safe and looked after. “Well looked after. We have a room for you at the Hotel Berlin.”

We climb into the car and Cummings says nothing as we drive through Berlin, heading through empty and rain-soaked streets. One of the most noticeable things about Berlin is the ruined landscape, as if it were still a war-zone and all the soldiers had simply become ghosts. There are occasional signs of civilization – churches with lights out the front, market squares that see obvious use during the day, occasionally buildings being repaired.

We stop out the front of the Hotel Berlin. “We’ll have the porter bring in your luggage,” Cummings says.

It’s an older building, one that escaped the war unscathed beyond a few gunshot marks. A couple of porters emerge and start collecting our bags. We go inside, and it’s as if we pass from a cold November night into the warm, glowing heart of a hotel (probably because we do). There’s an elderly gentlemen behind the counter in the foyer.

“Welcome to ze Hotel Berlin,” he says. He looks at Cummings with suspicion, then at us. “Please, welcome, come in.”

In the background – in what might be a ballroom – we hear music and the clink of glass and the pop of a cork. Mrs. Chiswell has already disappeared.

We sign the guest room and collect keys. We’ve all been booked on floor six, and we have our room. “Of course,” the clerk says, “we haz the dance tonight, you are welcome to partake.”

When he smiles we notice that all his teeth are false.

“Here at the Hotel Berlin, we wish a you stay that iz most welcoming. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to call. We thank you very much for the custom.”

Cummings calls it a night, says he’ll be back to pick us up at 9 AM sharp.

The story so far

1950, Berlin and the cold war is just getting started.

Each of the players have, in some way, been touched by unknown and unknowable forces or events. Strange happenings that have opened their eyes or minds to another reality just under the surface of the one they thought real. Left with the certainty that all is not well with the world and either hiding their experiences or even themselves from the outside world they carry on with life as best as humanly possible.

The players have been noticed by the RPA and each given tickets for the train to Berlin and told to report to the offices of the Berlin Air Safety Centre located in the old Supreme Court of the Russian State building.

They are to report to one Heinrich von Nacht. Agent liason for the Western Allied Nations recruiting.

Having been given some cash for expenses and and a dossier on the other players the game opens with them travelling by train to Berlin.


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