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Winter of Discontent

This adventure is intended to give your players a murder mystery to solve. Your players can be part of the mystery or just the investigating team. I set the adventure on Gateway in the Gateway Sector, but it could be easily changed to fit into an existing campaign or just a different venue.

The Victim

Thorne Winter 6798AA Age 81 (looks 35)
Admin-3, Carousing-3, Chemistry-2, Engineering-2, Computer-1, Legal-1, Streetwise-1

Thorne Winter is the head of Winterkorp, a shipping corporation centered on Gateway. Thorne inherited the company five years ago from his father and has since allowed the company to make a bit of a slide. He is a brute and a womanizer.

Winter is found lying dead in his bed at home. He has a pillow over his face and three stab wounds (one in the chest, one in his right arm, and one in his left leg). There is very little blood. A cursory examination of the room will find his bed appears to have only been slept in by Winter. He has a hand computer and a pack of antacid tablets on his nightstand.

A more detailed search will turn up a broken fingernail with a pink nail varnish on it beside the pillow.

The Crime

Thorne Winter has spent the last five years angering a great many people and some of those people have now returned to haunt him. Chief among these is his executive vice-president, Vaskar Indigo. Three years ago, Winter attempted to diversify the corporation from just shipping to starship repair parts. One of the new innovations was a two-part epoxy that would seal leaks. It was to be cheap, effective, and able to be made on a variety of tech levels. This plan was a disaster but Winter still wants to try again. Indigo is in charge of reformulating the epoxy and putting it on the marketplace to replace the original formula. Although the epoxy reformulation has been a success (the first part of the epoxy is a colorless fluid that, once applied, cannot be washed off by anything until the second expanding agent can be applied), Indigo still feels that diversification is a mistake. Further, Indigo feels that the stockholders would make him the president of the corporation once Winter is dispatched.

Following a morning meeting with Winter, his valet Reginald Maudlin, and his chief financial officer Leo Sanchin, Indigo invites Winter to his office for brandy and a cigar. The brandy given to Winter is laced with part one of the epoxy. The part one epoxy is now stuck to the inside of Winter’s esophagus. This will cause Winter to feel unwell the rest of the day, but it causes him no real medical distress.

That evening, after Winter leaves a Holiday party, he goes home, where his valet Maudlin gives him part two of the epoxy mixed in another drink. The epoxy expands in his esophagus, killing Winter.

However, Winter has other enemies who also want him dead. His estranged wife Karyn also wanted Winter dead and believes that she has indeed killed him. After Maudlin left Winter’s home for his own, Karyn Winter snuck into Winter’s home and shoved a pillow over his face. After Winter did not struggle against the pillow, Karyn believed she had killed her husband and leaves the scene.

To complicate matters further, a man who has had shady dealings with Winter and has not been paid also thinks he has killed Winter. After Karyn Winter had left, Gerald Amberson breaks into Winter’s home and stealthily stabs Winter three times and then flees the scene. Amberson also believes he has killed Winter.

The Timeline

The world I placed this on had a 24-hour day, feel free to make modifications as you need.

364-1117
Karyn Winter reconciles with her husband and spends the evening with him.
365-1117
5 am
A visitor enters Winter’s home and Karyn confronts him. The visitor is Leo Sanchin (this is covered in Sanchin’s suspect bio). Winter sleeps through the encounter and Karyn goes back to bed.
8 am
Karyn and Winter have an argument over Sanchin’s arrival at the home. Winter ends the argument by physically abusing Karyn. Karyn leaves.
9 am
Winter goes for business meeting with Leo Sanchin and Vaskar Indigo. Maudlin attends with him. After the meeting, Indigo invites Winter to his office for brandy and cigars. This is where Indigo gives him the first part of the epoxy.
11 am
Winter goes to the Star Spire restaurant with Maudlin. While there, his ex-business partner, Albert Hill, threatens him. Hill is currently the president of his own company, KlimberKorp, which has declared bankruptcy. Hill blames Winter for this. Winter only dabbles at his food and eats little complaining of nausea.
Noon
Winter and Maudlin go to a meeting with Winter’s son from a previous marriage. His son, who calls himself James Russell now, meets them at the Blue Parrot. Winter drinks nothing. Russell asks for money, but Winter turns him down. Both men storm out with Maudlin in tow.
1 pm
Winter and Maudlin have a clandestine meeting in the startown with Gerald Amberson concerning a stolen art artifact. Amberson needs a large amount of credits to pay for storage of the artifact. Winter declares that this is not part of their original deal and refuses to pay him. Winter and Maudlin leave.
3 pm
Complaining of nausea, Winter lays down for a quick nap before the Holiday party later in the evening. Maudlin does his laundry and puts out his clothing for the party.
5 pm
Karyn Winter arrives at Winter’s home and has discussion with Maudlin. Karyn decides to attend the Holiday party with Winter.
6 pm
Winter and Karyn go to the Holiday party. Due to Winter’s complaints of nausea, they stay only two hours and then return home.
8 pm
Karyn Winter leaves Winter’s home for her apartment.
9 pm
Maudlin offers to get Winter an antacid for his nausea, Winter refuses.
10 pm
Devorah Winter Archon arrives at Winter’s home and confronts him asking for more money for their son James. Winter refuses and goes back to bed.
Holiday, 1118
Midnite
Winter calls for a prostitute with whom he has had dealings in the past. She stays for three hours and then leaves. During her stay, she gives Winter an antacid for his nausea and leaves the medication for him. Maudlin goes to bed as she arrives.
4 am
Maudlin wakes Winter and gives him another medication for his nausea. This is the second part of the epoxy. Winter dies soon after.
5 am
Karyn Winter uses her keycode and enters the residence without Maudlin realizing. Karyn covers his face with a pillow and after he doesn’t resist, feels she has killed him. Karyn goes home terrified of being caught.
5:30 am
Bumbling criminal Amberson breaks into the Winter home without waking Maudlin. Amberson quickly stabs Winter three times and after Winter does not fight back, believes he has killed him. Amberson runs back to his apartment, tossing the knife into a small pond on his way home.
8 am
Maudlin awakes and is shocked to find Winter stabbed, but calls the police department and informs them of Winter’s death.

The Suspects

Karyn Winter 586679 Age 28
Admin-1, Carousing-2, Equestrian-2, Steward-1

Karyn Winter is a former exotic dancer whom Thorne Winter married soon after his divorce from Devorah Winter Archon. Karyn had always wanted to better herself, but never did. She has had an unhappy marriage to Winter and has consoled herself by buying material goods and learning to ride some of the riding animals on the world.

Over the past two years, she has been confiding in Reginald Maudlin, Winter’s personal valet and Maudlin has developed quite a crush on her. The last problem was the secret of Winter’s bisexuality, which is what caused their latest breakup.

Karyn Winter has been living in an apartment that Winter for which Winter has paid. The night before Holiday, she spent the night with Winter, only to be surprised by the arrival of Leo Sanchin, Winter’s financial officer and lover. She throws Sanchin out of the house and then confronts Winter about the visit. Winter then goes into a rage and beats her. After the physical beating she received before Holiday and the verbal abuse on Holiday, Karyn has decided this is her time to act. She used her keycode on Winter’s door and (so she believes) smothered Winter to death. During the attack on Winter, she broke a fingernail and left that behind. Later, upon getting home she realized that she had lost it. She is now very scared and worried that she will be caught. She has been hiding in her apartment and refuses to come out unless it is absolutely necessary.

Devorah Flenton Winter Archon 566778 Age 62
Admin-2, Engineering-2, Pilot-2, Leader-1, Liaison-1, Vacc Suit-1

Devorah Winter Archon was a former naval officer in the Galian Federation Navy when she met Thorne Winter. Winter swept the younger woman off her feet and she left the navy to become his wife. They were married for twenty years but were never happy. Devorah finally divorced Winter and took their child, James. Now she is living on Gateway with her husband Johann Archon.

Devorah’s father is still in the Galian Federation Navy and is a member of the Admiralty. Admiral Chester Flenton also lives on Gateway and exhibits a great deal of influence over matters there. Admiral Flenton will protect his daughter at all costs.

Reginald Maudlin 887986 Age 54
Steward-3, Stealth-3, Admin-2, Liaison-1, Equestrian-1, Handgun-1

Maudlin has worked in Thorne Winter’s employ for the last thirty years. He became his personal valet twenty years ago. Only recently has Maudlin come to the conclusion that his employer is a man who needs to be killed.

Maudlin, in conjunction with Indigo, have created the plan to kill Winter. While Indigo is doing it for business purposes, Maudlin is doing it for love. Maudlin has fallen in love with Karyn Winter and believes that if he eliminates Thorne Winter, he will be her knight in shining armor.

It is thus Maudlin who has agreed to administer the final part of the epoxy to kill Winter.

Maudlin is a very mechanical man, almost without emotion. He is the perfect servant who is seen little and not heard at all. He will often pass without notice in the household unless the PCs are not specifically watching him.

"Merlot" 8A9884 Age 32
Carousing-3, Streetwise-3, Admin-2, Legal-2, Artisan (Erotic Art)-2, Interview-2, Handgun-1, Small Blade-1

"Merlot" is a tall, light skinned beautiful woman. She is a prostitute on a world where prostitution is legal. She is a professional, but she refuses to use her real name of Karolin Berlioz.

She has been called to Winter’s house on several occasions, and the night of the murder is no different. She is staying in an apartment on Gateway for which Winter is paying. When Merlot hears of the murder however, she will fear for her own life and safety.

James Russell Winter 897866 Age 23
Carousing-3, Streetwise-2, Intrusion-2, Handgun-2, Small Blade-2

James Winter, who goes by the name James Russell to avoid connection with his father, is a failed college student who has now turned to a life of crime. He has become a petty thief and has been caught on several occasions by the Gateway security forces.

After his latest arrest on petty burglary, his father totally cut him off from the family wealth. He has since met him three times, including the day before the murder, asking for money. Each of those three times, he was refused. After the last time, he went to his mother, who then pleaded with Winter on his behalf.

Winter spent all of the night of the murder in bed with a stripper of his acquaintance. He never left her home.

Leo Sanchin 787AA6 Age 45
Admin-3, Broker-3, Trader-2, Legal-2, JOT-1

Leo Sanchin is one of the true forces that are keeping Winterkorp afloat. While Winter is off being a playboy, the actual day-to-day workings of the company are being run by Sanchin.

Sanchin is in love with Winter. Sanchin is probably the only person on Gateway who is truly sorry that Winter has been murdered. He has been Winter’s secret lover for years. He often goes to Winter’s home in the night secretly and then leaves secretly in the morning. The last time however, he found Karyn Winter in Winter’s bed and the two confronted each other. Sanchin went home and then met Winter at the business meeting the next day.

Sanchin will be the PCs best hope for finding out about anything inside Winterkorp. Sanchin will be eager to help find the killer in any way possible.

Albert Hill 5769A8 Age 81 (looks 65)
Admin-3, Legal-2, Broker-2, Trader-2, Naval Architect-1

Albert Hill is the former business partner of Thorne Winter after the death of Winter’s father. Hill was then taken out of the company by legal action and Winter assumed the ownership of the corporation. Afterwards, Hill founded Klimberkorp, which has recently declared bankruptcy due to poor earnings.

Hill hates Winter with a passion and if the PCs see Hill, they may very well believe he killed Winter. He is quite capable and certainly has a motive. He will be open about his desire to see Winter dead, but will state that he did not kill him.

If it becomes public who the suspect is at any time, Hill will buy them the best lawyer he can find and actively work to see that the suspect is cleared of the charges.

Arvin Landau 7579A9 Age 86 (looks 56)
Admin-3, Legal-3, Broker-2, Trader-2, Leader-1, Carousing-1

Arvin Landau is the owner of Gatekeeper Enterprises. Gatekeeper is currently the leader in shipping on Gateway and is taking most of Winterkorp’s business away from them. Landau has no reason to kill Winter, but the PCs may wish to check him out.

Landau will be superficially sorry to see Winter dead, but if pressed he will admit it doesn’t hurt his feelings at all. Landau sees this as the ignoble end of a man who should have been dead long ago.

Landau will be friendly to the PCs, but has little time to spend with them. He will help them very little.

Vaskar Indigo 656AA7 Age 71 (looks 45)
Admin-3, Chemistry-3, Legal-2, Engineering-2, Broker-2, Trader-2, Biology-1, Liaison-1, Robotics-1

Indigo has worked for Thorne Winter for years with little thanks. He hates Winter but loves Winterkorp and its employees. Indigo feels Winter has destroyed the company, especially by attempting to diversify it. Indigo knows that if Winter were dispatched, he would be able to bring Winterkorp back to greatness and destroy its rivals.

It is thus with a pleasant irony that Indigo has killed Winter with the product of his diversification, the epoxy.

Indigo will be indignant if questioned, and seem offended that the PCs would even consider questioning him. He is however, the expert concerning the epoxy, and if the players learn of the epoxy’s relation to Winter’s death, he will be the first suspect.

If questioned and pressed hard, Indigo will explode and tell the details of his plan and expect the PCs to revel in his genius as well. Needless to say, they will not.

Gerald Amberson 788553 Age 32
Streetwise-3, Intrusion-3, Gambling-2, Small Dagger-2, Broker-1, Trader-1, Carousing-1

Amberson is not a very intelligent man. He is a petty thief, turned stolen art fence, who cam up with an art piece that he thought would interest Thorne Winter and make him rich. He was right, it did interest Winter. However, instead of paying Amberson for the piece, he simply hired other thieves to break into Amberson’s apartment and steal the piece.

The day before the murder, Amberson convinced Winter to meet with him. During the meeting, Winter refused to pay Amberson and left the man sitting at his table cursing.

That night, Amberson decided to get revenge and attack Winter in his sleep. He expertly defeated the keypad and entered the home, only to quickly stab Winter three times in fright and run from the house. In his hurry to get away, he tossed the knife used in the murder into a small pond.

He is now on the run in Gateway’s seedier districts. He is not very clever though, and should be easily found by the PCs if they look around for him there.

The Investigation

The biggest clue to your PCs that something odd is happening should be the lack of blood at the crime scene. Many who are mystery buffs or have medical skill will instantly realize that the stab wounds did not kill Winter. The other clues, such as the fingernail left by Karyn Winter and the dagger dropped in the pond by Amberson can also be found by forensics and investigation techniques.

Most of the clues should be distributed to the players through interviews with the many suspects. In some cases, suspects will lead to other suspects (ex. an interview with Maudlin might lead to questioning Albert Hill).

If you are playing this without changes, consider making some of the PCs part of the mystery. When I ran this for my gaming group, the prostitute was one of the PCs and another PC was working with Amberson. The others were investigators and one was a journalist trying to get the story.

Hopefully, this will lead to an entertaining night of sleuthing and interviewing NPCs. The game’s afoot!