Dark Carnival Session Three Part 2 - Under the Carnival
CoC 1-6e Jazz Age
* * *
Wessen headed further south where there were structures, passing the numerous graves, plaques, stones, and mausoleums. He found a man with a push mower cutting the grass.
“Excuse me sir,” he said.
“Yeah?” the caretaker said.
“Do you work around here?”
“Yes sir, I work every day.”
“Were you working here on Monday or Saturday?”
“Did you see anything out of the ordinary?”
“This is a graveyard.”
“I mean, there ain’t much to see.”
“So, did you─”
“There was a funeral on Saturday.”
“I don’t know, sir. I don’t know.”
“Did anyone look like maybe they didn’t belong to the funeral and were just hanging around?”
“Huh-uh. I mean, people come in all the time and put flowers on graves. They … uh … you know, talk to the dead people. You know, that kind of thing. The dead don’t usually talk back or anything.”
“Not usually, but sometimes?”
The man gave him a look.
“What are you, a psychologist?” he asked.
“Just a joke,” Wessen said. “Sorry about that.”
He laughed uncomfortably.
“Have you … uh … seen any children, little boys, around here?” Wessen asked.
“Sometimes,” the man said.
“By themselves, perhaps?”
“All right. All right.”
“No. No. No. Man, who are you? What?”
“Name’s Wessen. I’m a private investigator. I’m looking for Freddy Pendergast. The little boy gone missing.”
“The little boy gone missing Monday. Didn’t return home.”
“Wait! I saw that in the paper!”
“Well, that was up at the carnival he disappeared, wasn’t it?”
He pointed towards the carnival.
“Yes sir,” Wessen said.
“Okay,” the man replied.
“But he’s not there now, is he?”
“Is he here?”
“I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
“Oh. Well, I ain’t seen no kids that are just walking around.”
“Seen any injured persons? Missing an arm?”
“That man got taken to the hospital, I read.”
“That’s right. Well, is there someone else who works around here?”
“Well, there’s Charlie. I don’t know where he is. We just go out and try to clean up the cemetery every day.”
“It’s just you and Charlie.”
“Yeah. And the Superintendent but, you know, he’s in charge.”
“Well, where is he?”
“The superintendent’s house is down on the south side of the cemetery. I don’t know if he’s there or not but you can go look if you want.”
“All right. Well, thank you sir, you’ve been less than helpful.”
The man went back to work without a word.
* * *
Father Oein also found a man with a pair of clippers weeding around the tombstones.
“Good evening, sir,” he said. “How are you?”
“Hello?” the man said.
“You’re a preacher man.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, I’m Methodist, so … okay. I’m good.”
“That’s … that’s … that’s good. Thank you. So, how have things been around here?”
“Well, gotta keep these tombstones clear. People don’t like coming around and there’s weeds growing up.”
“Doing God’s work.”
“I dunno about that but …”
“Well, it is. I appreciate that. So, I just had a couple questions. How long have you been employed here?”
“Uh … four years.”
“Four years? And I’m sorry, my name is Father Oein.”
“Charlie? Charlie. It’s nice to meet you Charlie.”
“Uh … so, uh, have you come across anything unusual since you started working here, Charlie? Something that don’t seem─”
“Just heard stories.”
“Stories? What kind of stories would you hear?”
“Uh … there was some dancing people out here one night, s’posed to been. That’s what I heard.”
“I dunno. Probably kids. Probably kids.”
“Large group of children dancing in the cemetery?”
“Children? I don’t think it’s … like … like … punk kids. You know. Throwing eggs and …”
“Oh, desecrating the graves.”
“Yeah. Yeah. That’s probably who it was.”
“Yeah. Any idea where that was supposed to take place. I would like to go pay my respects.”
“Police might know. Cops might know. I think cops got called.”
“I think so. I mean … you’re not supposed to dance in a cemetery. What the hell?”
“Respect the dead.”
“Not that they can do anything about it.”
“Stories. Heard any unusual noises around the cemetery?”
“Um … nope.”
Charlie looked away nervously when he said that. He went back to work with a vigor.
“You know, no matter what denomination to prescribe to, lying is still a sin,” Father Oein said.
“Now, I don’t wanna lose my job there, minister,” Charlie said.
“Well, say this is between you and me. This is what I do.”
“Sometimes … I heard some weird noises underground. Like … like … like digging. But I don’t tell nobody ‘cause it’s crazy! ‘Cause you don’t dig up under the graves, you dig down to the graves.”
“Well, I would … I would suspect someone in your line of work would associate just natural phenomena, just nature noises …”
“It must be. It’s gotta be. Natural. I dunno.”
“But don’t tell anybody. I don’t wanna get in trouble.”
“This is just between you and me.”
“It’s weird. I heard it a few times.”
“Well, I really appreciate your assistance, Charlie.”
“Nice talking to you.”
He went back to work.
* * *
Dr. Huxtable and Ingerton strolled through the cemetery, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
“My God, who did you lose to pay respects at this cemetery?” Dr. Huxtable asked.
Ingerton cleared his throat.
“Did you lose a boy as well?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“No. No,” Ingerton said. “It just seemed like a good closing to the conversation.”
“You lied to the man!?!”
“A little white lie.”
“I will have to tell the Father when he comes back.”
“There’s nothing I can do. I have to.”
“If you must.”
* * *
Wessen found the superintendent of the cemetery’s house locked up. No one was at home.
* * *
Around 5:30 p.m., Miss Edington found a spot where the grass was mashed down and there was tiny bit of dried blood. It was probably about 50 feet from the actual crime scene and closer to the river. She thought it possible this was where Kent Howard was actually attacked. She remembered the lack of blood at the crime scene. She pointed it out to those with her. She wondered if Howard had been chased by someone or something
* * *
They all came back to the north side of the cemetery by dinnertime. Miss Edington showed everyone the flattened grass, which seemed to be large enough to have been some kind of very large animal. Wessen looked over the spot but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.
Dr. Huxtable took out the flask, sniffed it, and then sealed it and went down on all fours, trying to find a similar scent on the ground. Father Oein arrived as the man began sniffing.
“Jesus,” he muttered.
Miss Edington just stared at the man on the ground.
Joell asked if anyone had learned anything. Father Oein mentioned Charlie hearing a rumor about dancing children in the cemetery. He decided not to tell them about the noises as he didn’t want to break Charlie’s confidence. Wessen told them what little he’d learned from the other caretaker. They talked about the strange music coming from the sewer pipe the fisherman told them about.
“My suggestion is, once night comes around, we go in through the sewers to investigate,” Ingerton said.
“I’m going to need to change,” Dr. Huxtable said.
Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas both looked at the man as if he were crazy.
“Likewise, I need to put on my coveralls,” Ingerton said.
“We’ll check it out,” Wessen said to Miss Edington. “You keep certain people away from it. I don’t think it necessary that everyone go.”
“I don’t think I’ll go there,” Father Oein said. “But I will go talk to the police about the dancing people.”
“I agree,” Joell said. “I think that’s a likely lead. And I think I’m tempted to do that rather than go to the sewer because I don’t have many pairs of clothes.”
“And I’ve got to wear these on Sunday,” Father Oein said.
Oh, you poor thing, Miss Edington thought. She felt bad for Joell, who was obviously very poor.
* * *
James suggested they all get something to eat before returning to the cemetery.
“If you want to go investigate the sewers and you want a free supper, pile in my car,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Free supper?” Ingerton said. “I wanted to ride with you anyways. The other part’s a free bonus!”
Ingerton, James, and Wessen got into Dr. Huxtable’s Rolls Royce. Virgil Thomas and Miss Edington got in her white Packard and followed
Father Oein, Joell, and Joseph Johnson headed for the nearest police station in Father Oein’s motorcar.
* * *
“No phone calls today, huh Bricker?” Harold Potter quipped with Bricker before he left for the day.
Bricker didn’t find it particularly funny. After everyone had left, he slipped into Potter’s office and tried to call Ingerton but there was no answer. He headed off to the cemetery in hopes of finding the others.
He arrived just in time to see three motorcars leaving the grounds. He recognized Huxtable’s powder-blue Rolls Royce. Guessing they were going to come back at some point, he decided to putter around the cemetery for a while to see if they returned.
* * *
Dr. Huxtable drove to a diner not far away in Providence. Both vehicles parked and they got a booth. Ingerton commented on how quaint the place. They got sandwiches, breakfast, meatloaf, and the like. The food was very good and the servings were large.
“Is it just me … or is that Joell horrendously poor?” Ingerton said.
“He must not be that poor,” Dr. Huxtable said. “He didn’t take a free supper.”
“He doesn’t like handouts.”
“I don’t like handouts.”
“Neither do I.”
While they were at the restaurant, Ingerton made a telephone call to a fake faith healer he knew, Joey Fontain, to tell him about Dr. Huxtable and all of the money he had.
* * *
Joseph Johnson suggested going to the precinct closest to the cemetery. They discussed it briefly, Joell noting that if that precinct didn’t have anything for them, they could head downtown after that. Father Oein agreed. They soon found the police station and went in.
Father Oein asked the desk sergeant about any vandalism or desecration at Swan Point Cemetery, saying he wanted to pay his respects. The police sergeant said he was too busy to help him but he was welcome to look at the open police records if he wanted. The three of them went in and looked.
They spent the next four hours poring over the police records that were open to the public. They found a few things of interest. On June 17, 1918, Alexander Arnold, Superintendent of Swan Point Cemetery, was found dead in the center of the graveyard, severely burned. It was ruled as a possible lightning strike or spontaneous combustion. On May 10, 1919, Robert Parsons, 65, of Providence, was reported missing. His automobile and shoes were found at Swan Point Cemetery. There was no sign of a struggle. On July 18, 1919, Anthony Place, 19, of Providence was reported missing. He was last seen by friends near Swan Point Cemetery where he claimed he “wanted to see the ghosts” and said he would spend the night there.
Joseph also found a note in a police report that seemed unrelated but had to do with a mugging near Swan Point Cemetery. It read “Does the chief want to add this to that file of his?” In a different handwriting on the note it read: “No. Chief says it is not applicable.”
He suggested they ask the police chief about the file.
It was around 10 p.m. by then. There was nothing about people dancing in the cemetery.
“It seems like there’s a history of people going missing in the cemetery,” Joell said. “And possibly not the carnival. But it could be wrapped up all of it for all we know. How do we want to approach the police chief about this file? Because I don’t think he’s just going to give it to us if we ask him about it. Do any of us have a good reason why they might be able to ask for it? Because, if we have a way in, we might be able to persuade him. Otherwise, we’re just going to be barking up the wrong tree.”
“We could see if the private eye wants to help,” Joseph said. “He might have a connection with the police department.”
“I’m not sure they’d want me digging around in their files,” Joell said.
“I mean, I don’t much know about everybody else but if there’s someone else who might have a reason, I certainly don’t,” Father Oein said.
“Do we know where the others are heading? Do you think they’ll be in the sewer by now?”
“That’s where they were going. That’s the best place to meet up with them. Do we go to the sewer to meet up with them?”
Joseph mentioned his Springfield rifle.
“I guess so. I don’t feel confident going to the police chief on our own. If you want to be careful, needing a gun and not having one is going to be worse than needing one and having one.”
They left the police precinct, driving to Joseph’s apartment on the other side of town and retrieving the rifle before heading back to Swan Point Cemetery. It was close to 10:30 p.m. before they arrived.
* * *
After eating dinner, Wessen was ready to go the sewer pipe.
“No!” Dr. Huxtable said.
“You said we were going to the sewer!” Wessen said.
“Yes, but we need clothes we can get dirty in.”
“Oh, that’s true,” Ingerton said.
“And I’m going to buy them for everyone.”
Dr. Huxtable drove downtown to purchase hip waders, boots, and other necessary equipment for a trip into the sewer pipe. James bought himself a pair of tall rubber boots. Ingerton had Dr. Huxtable buy him a raincoat as well.
Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas, meanwhile, returned home to get suitable clothing of their own. They both had their clothes from Florida which, though cleaned since, were not the in the best condition. Miss Edington told Virgil Thomas she was unsure about going into a sewer pipe. He told her straight up he didn’t want to go into any God-damned sewers. She agreed and he noted they could wait outside of the sewer and keep a lookout. She suggested climbing a tree.
They went to a hardware store and purchased a .38 pistol and bullets for her. The man wouldn’t sell to a woman or a negro until she had bribed him an addition $10.
They all returned to the Swan Point Cemetery by 8 p.m.
Bricker had been just about the leave when the powder-blue Rolls Royce and the white Packard returned. There was no sign of the priest and his Model T. There was some talk about what to do and they decided to wait for the others to return, if they returned, before entering the sewer pipe. Bricker wanted to retrieve his shotgun.
“Why do we need a shotgun to go in the sewers?” Dr. Huxtable asked.
“You never know what we could find,” Ingerton said.
“I have a gun but it’s small.”
“But if he gets a big gun, maybe they look at him.”
“At worst, I’m sure we will only find rats.”
“Hey, Sir Doctor?” Wessen asked.
“Yes?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“What if we find one of those flying …?”
“Lubalas? Well … they can’t be harmed.”
“Oh. Well that’s good to know.”
“At all?” Ingerton said.
“What have you tried?”
“What?” Miss Ingerton said.
“I … don’t want to talk about that …” Dr. Huxtable said.
They waited for a couple of hours before Father Oein and the Johnson cousins returned. Wessen asked what they had found out and Joseph Johnson told them a little about strange things around the cemetery. He also noted the police chief had a personal file he kept with information about those and other cases. They discussed the people who were missing.
The sewer pipe was within the glow of the carnival lights and they realized they might be seen going into it.
“I believe we should wait until the carnival has died down,” Ingerton said.
“No, it’s already died down,” Dr. Huxtable said. “What if the person who has abducted the kids works at the carnival? Then he will leave and go home with his boy.”
“If that were the case, they’d be living right out back there,” Joell said.
He pointed over towards the wax museum where he had found the bunkhouses and quarters on Monday in his explorations.
“They live here?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Well, if you want to tell me whose houses those are that aren’t people who work here then yeah, they do,” Joell said.
“Hmmm,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Did you find anything about Lucy Pringle,” Wessen asked.
“We’ll find her when we find the boy!” Ingerton said.
“Will we? You know that they’re together?”
“We work youngest age first and then … we go up,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Children then women this time,” Ingerton agreed.
“That’s what they did on the Titanic. They got the children off and then the women and then the men. Poor men, they all died. Except for the rich ones.”
“They were all first! Before the children.”
“So, should we check the houses before we go in the sewer?” Wessen said.
“I don’t think we should go inside,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“No, I mean knock, door to door.”
“I think the houses are where we would be seen for sure.”
“Why does it matter if we’re seen at the houses?”
“Because we have guns! This man has a rifle!”
“He doesn’t have to go.”
“We don’t want to leave whoever this is alone.”
Dr. Huxtable gestured at Joseph Johnson.
They decided to wait until after 11 p.m. The carnival closed and it was another half hour before all the lights were turned off and the sounds of various voices drifting into the cemetery ceased as the carnies wandered towards the other end of the park. It was very dark and quiet. Only a few lights were left on in the place but they were simply forlorn pools of light scattered about the carnival grounds. No light burned near the sewer pipe. By midnight, all was quiet.
“It sure is quiet,” Dr. Huxtable said. “Maybe now we can go.”
They crept along the river under the sliver of moon still showing. It was dark and quiet aside from the lapping of the water nearby. All of them were equipped with flashlights but they didn’t light them as they could just make out the round pipe. It proved to be about three feet across so they all had to crouch to enter.
Everyone entered except for Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas.
“What are you going to do out here?” Dr. Huxtable asked when he learned the two were not going in.
“I’m not going in there,” Miss Edington said.
“At … um … if we are gone for two hours or more, we might be lost,” Dr. Huxtable said. “Can you yell in the tunnel ‘Hey, it’s over here.’”
“I think that would be a bit suspicious,” James noted.
“Maybe quietly say ‘It’s over here,’” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Hopefully the echo reaches us,” Ingerton said.
Virgil Thomas looked at his pocket watch.
“Well, that doesn’t sound like it’d be very helpful if did it very quietly,” Miss Edington said.
“Maybe somewhere in between,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“We’ll figure it out,” Virgil Thomas said.
“Loud but quiet. Soft but …” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Projection,” Ingerton said.
“Yes,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Let’s go,” Joell said.
The stench coming out of the sewer pipe was disgusting. Joell laid down his jacket and his shirt, hoping not to expose them to the sewage. Miss Edington took them and handed them off to Virgil Thomas. James checked out Joell. He was pretty slim but not in bad shape. He was a good-looking man though.
The flow of brown liquid oozed out of the pipe and dripped into the river. A terrible stench issued forth.
“Thank God I’m wearing waders,” Ingerton said.
Joseph led the way into the place, crouching and moving at a crouch into the pipe. He’d smelled much worse during the war though he figured he’d have to throw out his shoes and probably his pants after the terrible trip. Wessen headed in after the man, followed by James, handkerchief tied over his mouth. Joell entered the place next and suddenly vomited violently. That was followed by dry heaves. James had narrowly missed being puked on.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Joell gave the man a thumb’s up. James pulled out a second handkerchief and handed it to the man. He had vomit all over his chest and pants.
Ingerton was next and managed to hold down the urge to vomit in the terrible smell. Dr. Huxtable climbed into the pipe, followed by Bricker and Father Oein, who also vomited up what little food was left in the stomach. He got it all over himself as well.
The pipe ran for a good 40 or 50 feet, the filth oozing under their feet and the smell getting worse and worse. It was covered in a thick, slimy coat of fungus. Black mold clung to parts it. There were maggots, flies, and bits of food. The whole place stank of ammonia and sewage. A strange glow came from the sewage.
The pipe ended in a large natural cave or cavern. Directly ahead, the low part of the cave was filled with a pool of filth and sewage which was oozing into the pipe. A sluice pipe in the ceiling, some 20 feet above, continued to drop a trickle of filthy water into the terrible pond. A pump chugged somewhere up above. The pond was probably 50 or more feet across.
To the right and left were places they could step out onto the stone floor of the caves. The right was wider and the left merely held a narrow space between the brown pond and the wall. Joseph Johnson led them out of the pipe to the right and they were soon standing on the stone floor, dripping filth. All of them lit flashlights and shined them around.
It was chilly in the cave and, without his shirt and coat, Joell started to get cold.
There were three cave entrances off to the right. To the left was a single, larger opening. Across the sewage pond, pretty far away, was a light in that direction. It seemed to flicker like firelight.
Joell started to follow the edge of the horrible pond, looking for a way across. Unfortunately, it reached the opposite wall of the cave they were in though there was a narrow place where a person might be able to jump across it. He was unsure how deep it might be. Ingerton, following him, stopped behind him.
Bricker had followed the men as well. He looked at the wall and saw there were handholds upon it so he climbed along the wall over the water. It took him about five minutes to get across but managed to get to the other side, where he could step across a runnel of filth to be clear of the horrible water. Joell tried to follow him but got about halfway and then couldn’t find any place to put his feet. He made a mad jump from where he clung and landed with a splash in water a few feet from the edge, going up to his knees in the filth. The water was warm.
Dr. Huxtable tried to climb around the horrible pond but got stuck as well. Father Oein and Joseph simply crossed the water near the pipe and went to the other side.
Ingerton jumped across the spot the others had crossed. Dr. Huxtable leapt across as well, but didn’t make it, ending up in the water up to his ankles when he landed. He waded out of the horrible pond.
* * *
Wessen didn’t cross the pond. Instead, he walked into the nearest tunnel on their side, shining his flashlight ahead of him. James followed him.
* * *
The larger group headed towards the light, Joell very cold without a shirt. Father Oein guessed they were heading towards the cemetery. They soon came across another pond of some kind, though it was fairly vast, going as far as their flashlights could illuminate. The black, scum-topped water smelled strange, though not as awful as the sludge they had already crawled through. They followed the edge of the water, still making their way towards the light.
As they got closer, it appeared to be in some kind of brazier. A malachite altar stood near the spot as well as low basalt benches. They could see three men standing there. As soon as they saw them, they turned off their flashlights. Father Oein covered his with his hand.
The men by the three-legged brazier didn’t move or speak. They stood, staring into the darkness. Ingerton started to move closer but Dr. Huxtable grabbed him by the shoulder.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“We have to investigate,” Ingerton said. “They don’t seem to have noticed us so far.”
“These-these are not city workers, right?”
Ingerton looked at him like he was crazy.
“Probably not,” he said.
“So, what are you going to do?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“We must investigate. But quietly.”
“You keep saying investigate but that’s very vague.”
“We’re going to search around them, not too close to them.”
“So, you want to sneak around them.”
He looked at the scene again. The men had not moved and the cave wall behind the brazier was illuminated, but it was very dark down towards the edge of the water. They might be able to creep by there.
“Does everyone have a weapon?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Are you good with pistols?” Ingerton asked Father Oein.
“Uh … no,” he said. “I don’t want one.”
“Would you like a stick of dynamite?”
* * *
Miss Edington crept back to the cemetery with Virgil Thomas.
* * *
Wessen and James followed the cave until they came to a place where there was a pond of relatively clean water. It appeared to be coming in from the right, trickling in as if they were below the river. The cave continued on beyond the small pond that filled the area from wall to wall. Wessen walked directly into the water, which proved to be only a couple of feet deep, but slipped about halfway across and went under. James reached forward to help the man and pulled him across the water to the other side. Wessen’s dunking had cleaned some of the feces off him, however.
As they waded out of the water, they both thought they heard voices up ahead of them somewhere, echoing in the cave. There were also footsteps. They crept carefully forward, being extremely quiet. Whomever was talking was apparently walking away. Soon, the sounds were gone.
They came into another area with two caves to the left and a larger open area ahead of them. They could see water ahead and to the right once again. Wessen headed directly forward. James picked the middle left tunnel and headed into it by himself, telling Wessen where he was going.
* * *