After five months and twelve play sessions, the first season of Welcome to St. Cloud came to a timely ending yesterday, on Halloween night. I’m pleased to report that, after all that time, we’ve barely scratched the surface of St. Cloud’s mysteries
SPOILER ALERT: even though no two playthroughs should be alike, the report includes information best kept hidden from players.
But before I get into the scenario’s events, the cast should first be listed: Silvia Clemente played Jessica Bishop, the local psychologist; Iola Yolska was Cynthia, the Woodrows (the most powerful family in town) youngest child; Ana Miguéns took the role of Gary McKay, a drunken journalist too curious for his own good; Manuel Sousa starred as Peter Anderson, son of Jim Anderson, St. Cloud’s clinic owner, he himself a doctor, recently returned to his hometown from New York. Pedro Franco joined us later in the role of Jean-Michel Dubois, a Canadian private detective.
We followed the main plotline for this scenario, (Not) Wrapped in Plastic, which means that a substantial part of the events revolved around the disappearance of Lucy, the Anderson couple youngest daughter and Peter’s sister. The first season ended with part of the mystery behind Lucy’s disappearance – and subsequent murder – solved. But if this was the driving storyline, many other things happened in parallel.
The story kicked off days before Peter Anderson and Patricia Halley’s engagement party, during which there was a blackout, and Lucy was kidnapped from the Northern Hotel, where the party was taking place. The common element between the characters was, at first, the clinic: Peter was preparing to start his job, Jessica had been practising there for a short time and Cynthia, in constant conflict with her parents since returning home from college, had started therapy. Gary McKay has, for the moment, little or no relation to the others, but shortly after this introduction, a strange event, witnessed by all, created a link between the four: they found a man wandering about Lynch Bay’s beach. The man appeared to be around 30 years old and was dressed strangely in a 1970s style. McKay recognised him as Robert Carpenter Fogg, who had mysteriously disappeared since the late 1970s and, during the following days, Cynthia took him under her wing, trying to help him unravel the enigma, with McKay’s help.
Always a believer in a supernatural explanation, Cynthia had in Peter a strong opponent: the doctor will remain an advocate of a rational explanation for what happened. Romance almost blossomed between Cynthia and Robert. Or it did, in fact blossom, but she never wanted to talk much about it. But it was not only Robert who led Cynthia to suspect supernatural manifestations in town. During her first days in St. Cloud she had an encounter with the Blue Dog and visions about an enigmatic Tibetan hermit. Noah, the old Carpenter Fogg mansion’s gardener, reassured her about this case: the Blue Dog is a benign entity as well as the hermit. On the other hand, Robert’s recurrent indispositions, during which he vomited absurd amounts of water (which proved to be salty), worried her.
Meanwhile, another incident aroused the group’s interest: while working at the family business (Halley’s Department Store), Patricia found a video surveillance camera in the women’s dressing room. Aided by the player characters, Patricia investigated the case. They eventually discovered that it was her own father, John, who installed the device and collected videos of customers changing clothes. The case was not publicised, but after the shock of being confronted with his guilt John became distraught. Shortly afterwards all memories of what happened were erased from the his memory, while a strange joy and a will to sing the standards overcame the Halley patriarch. Luckily, his voice is wonderful, he sounds a lot like Sinatra.
Peter, always the rationalist of the group, later had his first real shock while confronting the mysteries of St. Cloud: his middle sister Donna was behaving strangely and, at some point, it became clear that her mind was – or seemed to be – somehow controlled by Linda Fox, a high school girl who has a crush on Peter. Though believing in drugs rather than spiritual possession, he still suspected Linda’s involvement in Lucy’s kidnap and murder.
While passing through St. Cloud’s Carnival, the supernatural once again manifested itself to the characters through Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine. In addition to advising Cynthia not to enter a certain house (the mansion adjoining Robert’s home, currently owned by an eccentric writer, Ronald Macey) and advising Jessica to be cautious around “men in black”. Zoltar also suggested that Donna was really being possessed by Linda.
The supernatural definitely entered the characters’ lives during a hunting trip organized by Quincy Forbes, manager of the Woodrow sawmill, during which Stan Keller, Quincy’s best friend, vanished. Stan, who had fallen through a hole in the ground, was eventually found, but it was already late in the evening. Now, everyone knows that it is not a good idea to stay overnight in St. Cloud’s woods! When they tried to return home, they got lost in darkness and were stricken with a sudden fear of the dark. They were saved by the intervention of Jules Montaigne, a Native American deputy, whose closeness to the woods is well known.
Then the engagement party raised the weirdness level in town. The storm that raged over St. Cloud during the day culminated in a blackout. At that time someone kidnapped Lucy. As usual, whenever something strange happens, suspicion falls on the Nielsen, a family of inbreds who reside at the foot of Frost Peak. Peter, however, had his own suspicions (almost certainties): for him the involvement of Linda Fox and Ted Woodrow – Cynthia’s brother and the doctor’s rival since high school days – will never be questioned. In the days that followed, packages with Lucy’s severed appendages (two fingers, one toe and an ear) were left at the Anderson’s porch, accompanied by ransom notes. The notes were vague enough, they were only a ruse, nobody was expecting the ransom to be paid and the girl was already dead.
Lucy’s disappearance became the centre of attention from here on, but other enigmas, most of them already mentioned, got mixed up with the main investigation. And no matter how much Peter insisted on rationalising the facts, the inexplicable kept happening, as Lucy’s image started to disappear from all the existing photos, and even the memory of the young girl threatened to fade from the minds of locals. Peter’s insistence on retaining memories of his sister seemed to fight the trend and, after young Anderson’s death was proven, suddenly all the pictures returned to normal and the St. Cloudians remembered the young girl once again.
Cynthia and Jessica continued to try and explore the supernatural angle and brought psychic Dr Clarence Meadows to town. The psychic died of cardiac arrest when he tried to give a spiritual reading in Peter’s sisters’ bedroom. On the rational side, Colonel Black’s theory that most of the strange happenings in St. Cloud are due to the introduction of hallucinogenic drugs into the town’s water supply by an outsider, Glenn Cleveland, a drug dealer and leader of a pseudo-mystical cult, was frequently recalled. Although various tests made to the water (and also blood tests) indicated that the theory was misleading, some believed that the drugs were just innovative and difficult to detect.
Meanwhile, Walter Fox took the unusual step of hiring a private detective to investigate the case. Peter believed that hiring Canadian Jean-Michel Dubois was nothing more than a ploy to cover up the involvement of Walter’s daughter, Linda. But the doctor was wrong, Walter is Lucy’s real father, the fruit of an affair, one of Angie Anderson’s many extramarital relationships. Detective Dubois himself was quickly added to Angie’s conquests shortly after his arrival in town. The Canadian had a sexually prolific encounter, but nothing came out of it from an investigative point of view. Dubois was also keen in investigating the Glenn Cleveland angle, but by combing through the outsider’s cabin in the woods he concluded that there was little going on there, other than raves, orgies and drug abuse.
Jessica and Dubois visited the residence of horror novel writer Ronald Macey when he left home to be interviewed by local DJ, Jane Webber. Macey had joined the list of suspects for his eccentric behaviour, but also because Gary McKay, who once had an affair with Ronald’s late wife, Susan, believes the writer killed his wife. Cynthia, who had always suspected Ronald, followed Zoltar’s lead and refrained from visiting the house. Luckily for her, because both Jessica and Dubois found a scene worthy of a horror film: trapped by a black, dense substance that covered the outside of the house as soon as they entered, they glimpsed bizarre scenes inside: among other unpleasant surprises, they came across Susan’s mummified corpse and Gary McKay hanging in the attic. When they come out of the house all seemed to have been the result of an illusion. The fact that Gary was alive proved that it had been so. However, Gary himself began to doubt his own sanity when he was visited by Susan, who claimed to have staged her own death, and promised to reveal secrets about the town she has been investigating for the last decade.
And so we arrive at the outcome, having skipped a lot of details in the way. After Lucy’s memorial service, events precipitated:
Robert Carpenter Fogg continued to suffer his salty water vomiting events and Cynthia accompanied him to the Carpenter Fogg mansion, worried about his health. Jessica and Dubois visited her later and had an encounter with the mysterious Blue Dog, an “old friend” of young Woodrow. This time, as they followed the dog, the two found themselves in a strange landscape, a mountain where a stream runs from the foothills to the summit, and where a hermit waited for them with binoculars that allowed them to see beyond the illusions surrounding reality. Peering through the binoculars, Dubois saw indistinct figures in the midst of a pagan ritual, raping, killing and mutilating a young blonde girl.
The landscape faded soon after, and Dubois and Jessica chatted with Cynthia about what happened. During their conversation, Robert left the house unannounced. Minutes later he was seen by Peter – who had given a ride to Lynch Bay to a newly-arrived small circus troupe of four weird people: Rasputin, Rachid, Madame Margaux and the Piccolo Diavolo – undressing and entering the water. Several fishermen tried to rescue Robert, but achieved nothing, he had already disappeared. Peter warned Cynthia about it. Later she found a message left alongside Robert’s clothes: “I’m sorry but I can’t stay. I’m going back home. Goodbye!” Cynthia considered following him ‘home’, but after a few drinks in the company of Gary McKay she gave up the suicidal plan.
Angie, who harassed Dubois again during the funeral, waited for him for a second meeting at the Xanadu Motel, and confessed that she was the one to blame for her daughter’s death. Keeping onion rings in his coat pocket could, somehow explain the detective’s popularity among women… The detective tried to persuade her to point out other culprits, but Angie talked only about the cult led by Glenn Cleveland and, feeling unwell, entered the toilet, where she attempted suicide again.
Peter confronted Dubois about what happened in the motal, mostly interested in how involved his mother was in Lucy’s murder. Angie was, in meantime, hospitalized in Everett. Sheriff Steele, distraught and even thinking about resigning from his post, proposed to Peter that all this affair should be covered up and forgotten. Peter, until then a fierce critic of Steele’s work, comforted the law officer and urged him to keep up the good work.
Meanwhile Reverend Sanders, in desperation, seeks out Jessica: he claimed to be being pursued by a circus troupe because of a crime committed in Europe, two decades earlier. Sanders, with whom Jessica had a kind of open relationship, asked the psychologist for help and took refuge in her basement. He later handed her a strange shopping list, which suggested the practice of magical rituals.
Dubois, contacted Fox to tell him about the outcome of the case, and was hired by the businessman for a new mission: to find Glenn Cleveland. After saying goodbye to Jessica, Dubois left St. Cloud in search of the drug dealer. Peter also left town in the company of his fiancée, Patricia, and his sister Donna. His plan, to spend a season in New York and then get married in Las Vegas, before returning to St. Cloud to take over the clinic.
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