Dark Carnival Session Three Part 1 - Searching Swan Point Cemetery
CoC 1-6e Jazz Age
Monday, February 6, 2017
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario “Dark Carnival” by David A. Hargrave from Curse of the Chthonians Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with James Brown, Katelyn Hogan, Ben Abbott, Yorie Latimer, Joey Scott, Ambralyn Tucker, Katie Gallant, Collin Townsend, and Kyle Matheson.)
Robert Ingerton had been busy all day on May 15, working a con job on a man named Henderson Port. He had used his Timothy Shrodinger persona and managed to con the man out of $83 in a rigged game of chance but Port was very, very angry and lived not far from him so he would have to be somewhat careful.
On Wednesday, May 16, 1928, he telephoned the Providence Journal and asked for Miss Fairfield.
“Please, if this is not to do with the business of the paper, please don’t call her here!” the huffy sounding man on the other end of the line growled.
There was no answer on Rockefeller’s telephone. He was unsure of where the fellow was and hadn’t been able to contact him in weeks.
He finally telephoned Miss Edington.
“Edington residence,” the man’s voice on the other end of the line answered.
“Is Lady Suzanne in?” Ingerton said.
“May I ask who’s calling?”
“Oh, this is Robert Ingerton.”
“Uh-huh. One moment please.”
A few moments passed and Miss Edington came to the telephone.
“Hi, Mr. Ingerton, this is Suzanna,” she said.
“Hi!” Ingerton said. “How are you doing today?”
“I’m doing well.”
“Good. Now … would … is our group still working on this … carnival case? I haven’t seen anything solved in the papers yet.”
“I haven’t heard anybody say they weren’t interested in any more.”
“Okay, just checking. Is there … I can’t get in touch with our other ragtag team members.”
There was silence on the line for a moment.
“I know Joell said something about meeting around 12,” she finally said. “He wants to go to the graveyard.”
“Oh,” Ingerton said. “Joell. My favorite person.”
“That sounded very sarcastic.”
“Oh no! Uh … well … I guess I’ll go meet them over there! See ya later!”
* * *
Miss Edington hung up the telephone after the awkward conversation.
“What did he want … miss?” Virgil Thomas asked.
“He wanted to know where everybody was and if we were still working on this,” she said.
“I don’t think there ain’t nothing to it anyway, no how.”
* * *
Joell Johnson had mentioned on the evening of May 15 that he was going to return to Swan Point Cemetery around noon to look around.
On Wednesday, May 16, he decided he might need some help with investigating the place. He decided to call on his cousin, Joseph Johnson, who didn’t live far away. He figured he would telephone him first and used the payphone in the lobby of his flophouse.
“Hello?” he heard his cousin pick up the phone. “Who is this?”
“This is Joel,” Johnson said.
The line went dead. He’d been hung up on.
A little angry, he went over to the man’s apartment and knocked on the door.
Joseph Johnson opened it. He was a graduate of Brown University with a degree in marine biology. He was 34 years old, a veteran of the Great War, and a marine and tank driver. His buddies in the war had nicknamed Jo-Jo. He was about six feet tall, solid, and clean-shaving with ragged brown hair. He had a scar on the right cheek, a souvenir from the war. He had a problem with gambling since the war and had recently lost $500 in a card game. He worked as a car mechanic at a little shop not far from where he lived.
“Thanks for welcoming me,” Joell said.
Joseph just walked away from the door, leaving it open. Joell looked into the apartment, which was a single room and a bathroom. A kitchen area was tucked in one corner while a Murphy bed was up against a wall. There was little furniture and a pile of newspapers leaned in the corner. It was much nicer than Joel’s own apartment.
“Just thought I’d check up on you,” he said. “Thing’s been going all right.”
“Yeah,” Joseph said. “How ‘bout you check up on your parents?”
“I don’t think I need to do that. They have nothing to say to me.”
Joell was somewhat of the black sheep of the family. Having left home at 18 to seek work, he had learned of the plight of the working man and the repression of the laborer in the United States. It had not been long before he had started to speak out against such things and become a union activist, fighting for the rights of every average Joe. His parents had not approved his decision, his father accusing him of being a socialist or communist or instigator or simply un-American.
“I mean, they don’t have to be good conversations, you know,” Joseph said. “Just … keep in touch.”
“I honestly don’t think they care anymore,” Joell said. “But, I was wondering if you’d heard about what’s going around at the carnival.”
“Uh … a child’s missing. That one guy got mauled, I saw. They wouldn’t even put a real photograph. Something weird’s going on.”
“Something weird is going on. And, while I know my relationship with you all and my parents, especially, isn’t the best, I never took you for someone who would ignore things that weren’t right.”
“So, keep it in your mind. And … if you are interested in trying to help out, meet me by the graveyard south of it around noon today.”
Joseph grabbed his coat and left the apartment without another word. Joell waited for a few minutes and then looked for the keys. Unable to find them, he checked the door. He found a lock he could lock from the inside but still close the door so he locked it and left.
* * *
Joseph Johnson had gone to the rectory St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church to talk to his priest, Father Oein McConnell. Father Oein, pronounced “Owen,” was 25 years old and looked very tired, though he was very handsome. He had black hair that was usually shaggy and about a week’s worth of facial hair as he didn’t get around to shaving very much. Taking on the church after the death of the former priest had been a bit of a strain and he hadn’t gotten much sleep in months. He was presently the only priest at the church.
Johnson found him at the rectory, a newspaper in his hand.
“Hello Father,” Joseph said.
“Hello, Joseph,” Father Oein said. “What can I do for you?”
“Uh … I don’t know. I’m troubled right now.”
They went into the parlor.
“So, what kind of trouble are you in?” Father Oein asked.
“Oh …” Joseph said.
“Yeah. I lost another $500 last night.”
Father Oein sighed.
“Jesus Christ,” he said.
“Now, I got a strange family knocking on the door,” Joseph went on.
Father Oein sighed again.
“I don’t know what to do,” Joseph said.
“Five hundred dollars,” Father Oein said. “That’s … uh … that’s quite a bit. You know the church could really use that kind of money. Seems like a much better investment, if you ask me.”
The two looked at each other for a moment.
“So, did you come to talk about family or did you come to talk about gambling?” Father Oein finally said. “We could talk about both. You know I’m here for you.”
“I just don’t know if …” Joseph said. “Should I let ‘em back in?”
“He’s family. I’m assuming ‘he.’ She? They’re family.”
“Father, have you been sleeping?”
“Not much. You know. You know how it goes. Praying … all the time.”
“Have you been reading the newspaper?”
“Yes, actually, you caught me in the middle of reading it. You’d think … someone would say something. Putting a carnival so close to a cemetery. It seems kind of disgraceful to me.”
“Why would you want to see that … while you’re having fun? I don’t get it.”
“Doesn’t sound like my idea of having fun at all.”
“But it’s a shame. That poor boy. It kind of makes you want to do something.”
Joseph looked at him.
“There’s probably … you know …” he said. “Let’s … ah … my cousin. He’s actually investigating it or something. He wanted me to go down there and help him out. Do you want to … come along?”
“Well, I don’t know how much a simple, small-town preacher like me would do.”
“It’s … I mean … we could use your spiritual help.”
“I’m always willing to help out people in need wherever they are. If you think my being there would help at all, I’m not doing anything. It’s Wednesday. We don’t meet on Wednesday. And I need to get out, stretch my legs. I’ve been praying way too much. I need to get out and get some fresh air.”
“Let’s stop and get some coffee too, first.”
“That sounds amazing.”
They went to a nearby diner for coffee and a piece of pie. They talked for a while before heading back to the rectory to get Father Oein’s Model T Ford to drive out to Swan Point Cemetery.
* * *
Milo James had returned to the Rhode Island Hospital on Wednesday, May 16, 1928, to try, once again to talk to Kent Howard. Unfortunately, he found the man was not lucid enough to speak to him. However, he met Dr. Alan Strong of Holmes Sanitarium of Greenwood, R.I., not far north of Providence. Dr. Strong was an older gentleman with graying hair and a thick black mustache. He wore pince-nez glasses.
James had heard of the man. Strong had taken over Holmes Sanitarium in late 1925 after the sanitarium was raided as the current owner and chief psychologist was running some kind of bootlegging operation. The man had disappeared and many of the staff were arrested. That was around the same time the notorious Quincy Washington escaped from Holmes Sanitarium. Washington and his gang of women went on to kidnap the young rich heiress, Lily Mitchell, the following year, but the girl had been recovered. Washington and his gang were captured or killed when they tried to kidnap the girl a second time. At least one of his accomplices, a mysterious figure, had escaped.
Around noon, he headed over to Swan Point Cemetery.
* * *
Nigel Bricker decided not to try to ask for more time off from his boss, Harold Potter, as the man was already frustrated by all of the weird happenings around the garage. However, he decided he would take his lunch break at Swan Point Cemetery around noon.
* * *
Jake Wessen, a private investigator from Providence, R.I., had followed the missing persons’ stories in the Providence Journal and Providence Evening Bulletin. He decided to do a little investigating of the case on his own. Perhaps a reward would be offered for the return of the child or the woman. Perhaps the family would graciously offer him money for finding out who had assaulted and maimed Kent Howard. In any case, he didn’t have must business coming in so it gave him something to do. He was blonde, clean-shaven, and tall.
He was in Swan Point Cemetery, looking around, when three automobiles arrived, along with several people on foot.
* * *
Sir Doctor Carl Huxtable arrived at Swan Point Cemetery in his powder-blue Rolls Royce Phantom 1 with the top down. Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas arrived in her white Packard sedan. Father Oein and Joseph Johnson arrived in the priest’s Model T. Joell Johnson, Milo James, Nigel Bricker, and Robert Ingerton all arrived on foot, having taken the trolley. Joell had his baseball bat in hand.
It was overcast and gray. The ground was wet as it had rained early that morning. It was very dreary.
“By God, Father, did you bury someone today?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“No,” Father Oein said. “No. No. I don’t … I don’t … uh … participate in this particular cemetery.”
“Suzanna, there’s a lot of new faces here,” Ingerton said. “What happened to our … first group?”
“You act like I know,” she replied.
He looked at her for several moments.
“Hi everyone!” he said. “I’m Robert Ingerton. Local philanthropist and … child savior.”
“Oh good!” Dr. Huxtable said. “We need a child savior. There’s a missing child.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Ingerton said.
“Hello, Mr. Ingerton,” James said. “Father … I don’t believe I recognize you.”
“Oh, probably not, it’s a small church,” he said. “I don’t get out very often.”
“Okay, I personally don’t … particularly associate with religion. But I appreciate you being here.”
“Oh, well, what, if you don’t mind me asking, do you associate with?”
“Uh … well … I … I’m personally agnostic. I have trouble with … faith, especially seeing that, if this God’s will, it certainly is terrible.”
“It’s a very hard thing to process. It’s hard to think that there is a plan for everybody, but you know, if that’s what you prescribe to, I can’t necessarily fault you for it.”
Someone nearby whistled and Wessen stepped out from behind a tree.
“Who’s Model T is that?” the man said. “That’s a slick motor.”
“No wonder you’re religious,” Dr. Huxtable said to the priest. “God gave you a lot!”
“Who’s car is that?” Wessen asked.
“That’s … uh … that’s mine,” Father Oein said.
“Yeah, it gets me from place to place. It does the job.”
“You looking to sell?”
“Oh … no. No, this is the … this belongs more to the church than it does to me.”
“I’m sorry!” Dr. Huxtable said. “Is this the cemetery car auction that we’re at?”
“No,” James said.
“Mine’s not for sale,” Dr. Huxtable said. “Do not ask.”
“What was your name, sir?” Ingerton said.
“I’m Sir Dr. Carl Huxtable. In that order.”
“Sir Doctor. Carl. Huxtable.”
“Good to know.”
“Well … uh … Sir Dr. Carl Huxtable,” Wessen said. “What’s going on here? You look like a man in the know.”
“We’re looking for a young boy,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Oh. Is this a─”
“My friend lost his young boy and I must find him for him.”
“I’m assuming you’ve read the paper?” James said.
“Freddy Pendergast,” Father Oein said.
“Yes,” Wessen said to James. “Yes, indeed. Is this Freddy that you’re looking for?”
“And why are you interested?” Joell said.
“Well, I … uh … I always try to help where I can. I thought I might be able to find this boy. Recover him.”
“You like young boys?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“You,” Wessen said to Miss Edington, ignoring him.
“Me?” Miss Edington said.
“What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“I’m Suzanna Edington. What’s yours?”
“I’m Jake Wessen.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Very nice to meet you.”
He took her hand and kissed it. Virgil Thomas looked unimpressed.
“Well, you sure are a gentleman,” Miss Edington said.
“Are you a P.I.?” Joell asked.
“Why yes,” Wessen said. “Yes, I am.”
“So not another one of these … lunatics we’ve gathered over here?”
“Oh stop Joell,” James said. “You know we need all the help we can get right now!”
“Now what the hell is that supposed to mean!?!” Miss Edington asked.
“Hey hey!” Father Oein said. “Let’s keep the cursing to a minimum. Especially in a cemetery, for God’s sake.”
“Is God here right now?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“God is everywhere.”
“My God, I need to write that down.”
Ingerton laughed internally at how easy it would be to con the priest. Virgil Thomas rolled his eyes at Dr. Huxtable.
“May I ask what progress you all have made?” Wessen said.
“We know he’s missing!” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Well, that’s something. You’re a … you’re quite the astute gentleman.”
“Of course! That’s why I’m a doctor!”
“What kind of practice do you have?”
“Oh. All right.”
Ingerton took Father Oein aside.
“Is your church in need of money?” he asked the priest.
“We can always use a little bit,” Father Oein said.
“As a local philanthropist, I always look for opportunities to create local fundraisers for those in need. I would love to create a fundraiser for your church.”
“What about a missing kid’s fund?” Dr. Huxtable said.
Ingerton gave him a confused and quizzical look.
“Child savior!” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Well, that’s what I’m doing here!” Ingerton said. “Right now.”
“Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, where did you come across your money?” Father Oein asked.
Wessen had been talking to Bricker.
“Have you all found anything around the cemetery?” Wessen asked.
“As for things we’ve found, we did detect a horrible smell in the Tunnel of Terrors where the boy went missing,” Joell said. “There was some ooze.”
“Very viscous type,” James said.
“Explain this ooze,” Wessen said.
“We have a bottle of it,” Joell said.
“Yes!” Dr. Huxtable said.
He pulled out a silver flask with the initials WHP on the side. He held it out and let the man take a whiff of the slime within. It was repulsive. He had never smelled anything like it. It was foul.
Miss Edington took out the little wooden statuette she’d purchased at the carnival.
“Don’t leave the cap off for too long!” Dr. Huxtable said. “Put it back! If it is exposed to air, it disintegrates. We don’t know what it is!”
He glanced at it before he closed the flask again.
Miss Edington showed them the small, wooden carving. It was some kind of thick worm or slug with tentacles growing from the front, apparently. It was very detailed.
“Does this look familiar?” she asked.
“I have a friend that would probably love to look at this!” Ingerton said.
“I’ve heard of that!” Dr. Huxtable said. “They’re called the lubalas!”
Everyone looked at him.
“The lubalas?” Ingerton said.
“Excuse me?” Joell said.
“The lubalas!” Dr. Huxtable said again. “They can fly.”
“What?” Ingerton said.
“They can what?” Miss Edington said.
“Yes,” Dr. Huxtable said, looking up. “They could be above us right now!”
“I’m … but without … I’m sorry sir, but without … sir doctor … without wings, how can they fly?” James asked.
“They fly?” Miss Edington said. “I don’t know about that.”
“Well, it just happens, you know?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“It don’t look like they can fly with nothing,” Miss Edington said.
“He is a doctor!” Ingerton said.
“A sir doctor!” Dr. Huxtable said.
Virgil Thomas rolled his eyes again.
“So, doctor, are you familiar with such weird creatures such as this?” Ingerton asked.
“Too many to count!” Dr. Huxtable said.
“I have some friends─”
“I don’t want to talk about it!”
“─that would love to talk to you about it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it!”
“Who are these friends, Mr. Ingerton?” Miss Edington asked.
“I have a hunter that would love to get his hands on one of these,” Ingerton said.
“A lubala?” Dr. Huxtable asked. “That can fly?”
“I still don’t see how this thing can fly!” Miss Edington said. “I don’t see any wings on this thing!”
“Well, yes!” Dr. Huxtable said.
“I actually have someone who studies the occult,” Ingerton said went on.
“Oh no,” Dr. Huxtable said. “Don’t say that in front of the Father.”
Miss Edington didn’t say anything because she had too. Father Oein shifted uncomfortably.
“And these strange happenings,” Ingerton said.
He took Dr. Huxtable aside.
“Between you and I …” he said.
“Between us,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“First off, is it going to stay between us?”
“Second off, maybe.”
“I’ve been offered a finder’s fee if I can link this man to things of odd nature such as that … sculpture.”
“Apparently. Yes. If you could possibly talk with him about any information you may have … I could make it worth your while as well.”
“What do I want?”
“What do you want?”
“Sir Dr. Huxtable?”
“I would love to see the King of England again. Because I am from there. Obviously.”
“Could you request something I can supply you?”
“We can talk further about this. Yes.”
“Excellent. Thank you for your generosity.”
“I am very generous!”
“Sir Dr. Carl Huxtable.”
“You got it right!”
Wessen and Virgil Thomas spoke, Virgil telling Wessen they were looking for the missing people from the carnival.
“Something’s going on,” Virgil Thomas said. “Something bad. I don’t think Miss Suzanna should be here.”
Miss Edington narrowed her eyes and stared at the man.
“That’s all right,” Wessen said. “I’ll look out for her.”
“I’ll be looking out for you, then,” Virgil Thomas growled. “Her heart belongs to someone anyways. Some idiot.”
Miss Edington told them she had purchased the strange statuette at the Northern Lights Gift Shop.
“That is disturbing,” Father Oein said.
“Well, you let me know if you find anything,” Wessen said. “And I’ll do the same.”
“It’s actually carved as if the person was looking at the creature while they made it,” Miss Edington said.
James looked at Ingerton suspiciously. Something was not right about the man but he wasn’t able to figure out exactly what. He figured he’d have to get to know the man better to understand him.
Joseph looked at the horrible statuette and realized it was not anything found in nature. It was obviously not real. Nothing like that existed in nature. It was extremely detailed, however.
“I would like to meet the person who carved that,” he said.
“I have no idea,” Miss Edington said. “I could take you to the shop.”
“Okay,” he said.
They could just hear faint music coming from the nearby carnival.
Dr. Huxtable, Joseph Johnson, James, Ingerton, Father Oein, and Miss Edington realized Bricker was missing. Miss Edington went over to where she last saw him and spotted his footprints. She told them she thought he went that way and followed the tracks. The rest of them followed but Dr. Huxtable stopped them.
“What’s going on?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Bricker went─” Miss Edington said.
“Well, I came here to search this graveyard,” Joell said. “So, I’m going to start heading that way and search.”
“Wait,” Dr. Huxtable said. “Hold on. We came here to find a boy and, instead, we lost one?”
They followed Miss Edington and found Bricker near the area roped off by the police.
Miss Edington put her hands on her hips and gave Bricker a glare.
“Mr. Bricker, you really should tell us when you’re leaving because we already have missing people around here,” she said.
Virgil Thomas, behind the woman, just nodded at Bricker as if to affirm what she said. Bricker apologized, noting he was on a tight schedule. Virgil Thomas nodded again as if he understood.
* * *
Joell and Dr. Huxtable had not followed the rest.
“I came here to search this graveyard,” Joell said. “See if there’s any more clues. There was a crime scene somewhere over there that looked like it didn’t have much in it.”
“Let’s go there,” Dr. Huxtable said. “Please.”
“Fine,” Joell said. “I can try to lead you back to the crime scene but then I want to search the place.”
They found the rest of them near the crime scene.
“So, you got any insight from this?” Joell said to Wessen. “We haven’t really gotten any.”
“Let’s see,” Wessen said, crossing the police line and examining the area.
Wessen saw there was no sign of a struggle in the area, nor was there any way of the man having had his arm ripped off that he could see. There were scattered footprints as if many people had been in the area, probably the police.
“Well Johnson,” Wessen said to Joell. “Doesn’t appear that anything of interest happened here. I say we move on to somewhere else.”
“That’s exactly what we got, too, when our other police friend looked around,” Joell said. “Which is why I wanted to check other places in the cemetery.”
“I think that’s a swell idea.”
“Also, call me Joell. My cousin’s here.”
“Fair enough, Johnson.”
“Is it a sin to cross a police line?” Dr. Huxtable quietly asked Father Oein.
The man just shook his head so Dr. Huxtable crossed the line to look around as well. Joell headed away from the crime scene, walking through the cemetery and looking for anything of interest. He made a systematic search as best he could of the place. Wessen worked with the man so they could cover more ground. Joseph and Edington followed Joell.
Bricker told them he had to go and Joell told him if he stopped by in the evening, they might still be around.
“I know I will be!” Ingerton called.
“How long do you plan on staying here, investigating?” James said.
“I plan on taking a lunch break,” Ingerton said. “Dinner break. But … into the wee evening … and then, maybe even at night.”
“Have you ever been to the cemetery, Mr. Ingerton?” James asked.
“I was here just two days ago with Lady Suzanne …” Ingerton said.
He pointed where the woman had been standing but she was gone.
“Wherever she went,” he said.
“Well, as much as I don’t like to split up …” James said.
“It looks like we’re combing the cemetery at the moment.”
“Yes, we’re looking for any kind of evidence right now. Wessen has already stated that where we are right now doesn’t have much for us. Would you like to investigate with me while they search? I feel like we could cover more ground.”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
“But … and it would give me time to know my new team members.”
“Yes, I agree.”
Several of them noticed a man in a boat on the Seekonk some 40 or 50 yards away, fishing. Dr. Huxtable, Wessen, Ingerton, Father Oein, and Virgil Thomas all saw the man.
“Maybe the fisherman might have seen something,” Ingerton said, pointing him out.
“Maybe we should go and ask him,” James said.
“We just need to find a boat. Or maybe he can see us flail from the shore.”
He went to the shore and started waving.
“Local fisherman!” he yelled.
The bearded man looked his way and waved.
“Excuse me, sir!” James said, also waving.
Father Oein walked over.
“We should probably respect the dead a little more and not shout in the cemetery,” he told them.
“And the fish!” Dr. Huxtable added.
Ingerton just stared at Dr. Huxtable.
“Well, thank you father, but this is a serious investigation and I don’t think the dead can necessarily hear us,” James said.
Ingerton, meanwhile, was waving the fisherman towards the shore.
“Where is the property line, sir?” he said.
The man fiddled at the back of the boat and they heard the putter of a motor. He navigated the boat to shore with a small outboard. It was a slow ride until the boat bumped onto the mud of the shore. He proved to be an old, stout man with white hair and a beard and mustache. There was a twinkle in his eye and he grinned at them.
“Yeah, can I help ya?” he said.
The fishing pole was tucked on one side of the boat and a bucket of water with a few fish in it was near the front. Two oars were also in the boat and when he turned off the tiny outboard motor, they could hear the music from the carnival again.
“Yeah?” he said.
“Hi!” Ingerton said. “Robert Ingerton!”
“Malcolm Harris,” the man said.
“Hi Malcolm. Did you by chance see anything strange happening in this vicinity in the last few days? Since the incident with the armless man?”
He gestured vaguely behind him.
“No,” Harris said. “No. I’ve seen some strange things but I haven’t seen anything in the cemetery. My … uh … I had a friend named Alex. Old caretaker.”
He pointed towards Swan Point Cemetery.
“He passed away 10 years ago,” he went on. “I’ll admit our conversations will fuelled by a little wine or whisky now and then. But remember, this was a long time ago afore Prohibition. There was a lot of truth in him. He … uh … Old Alex sometimes complained of finding glop in the leaves. Looked like the trail of a giant snail or slug.”
“Mr. Harris?” James said.
“Yes sir?” Harris said.
“My name is Milo James. You said─”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you. “You said some kind of slop?”
“Are you familiar with its smell, maybe?”
“No sir. It was my friend Alex that found it.”
“The one 10 years ago?”
“That’s right; he passed away 10 years ago. He used to be a caretaker here at Swan Point Cemetery. Said it looked like the track of a giant slug or snail. He said he sometimes heard deep, throbbing, rhythmic, almost musical sounds coming from under his feet.”
“Jazz?” Dr. Huxtable said.
“No, it … uh … I would think that jazz would have more of a kind of a beat that wasn’t rhythmic,” Harris said.
“Like a boop boop bop bop boop boop?”
“Not like that, no.”
“Well … you do it.”
“When I think rhythmic, young man, I think more─”
“─I kind of think like a boom boom boom as opposed to a bop bop beep beep or whatever the hell you just did.”
“Like a boom boom bop?”
“No offense padre.”
“None taken,” Father Oein said.
“The only noises I ever heard was sometimes the carnival music coming from out the … there’s a sewer pipe over by the carnival,” Harris went on. “I heard some strange music coming from out of there.”
“Where might his sewer exit be?” Ingerton said.
“Why, it’s over by the pony rides. It’s kind of … it just … I’m guessing it’s where their … their … uh … it’s where they … they dump their stuff into the Seekonk. You know, sewage has to go somewhere.”
“Of course, the sewer tube changes and screws the music. It’s sort of spooky-like. But I’ve seen a damn-sight too many things that were unseemly-like anyway.”
“Like what, for instance?”
“Could you possibly describe the unseemly?”
“Unseemly. That’s a description. It’s an adjective.”
“Can you smell this?” Dr. Huxtable asked, holding out the open flask.
“I don’t indulge,” Harris said. “Not since the Prohibition.”
“In more detail please,” Ingerton said.
“No, it’s not alcohol,” Dr. Huxtable said. “I just want to know if you’ve ever smelled something like this.”
The man sniffed at the flask and then drew back, his face screwed up.
“No!” he said. “I never want to ever again!”
“Mr. Harris, that was a sample that we found earlier,” James said. “I thought it might have been similar to the slime that you described. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Harris said. “As I said, Alex is the one who told me about this gunk.”
“Did Alex by chance tell you anything else that seemed outlandish?” Ingerton said.
“Like I said, he found these trails of slime. Sometimes he’d hear things under the ground.”
“Did Alex give any details about where this slime trail was?” James asked.
Harris pointed to Swan Point Cemetery.
“In the cemetery,” he said. “That’s where he worked.”
“Does anybody work there now?” Father Oein asked. “Is there a caretaker?”
“Ayup, there’s caretakers. Poor old Alex.”
“Sir, do you fish for a living or is this more of a hobby?” James asked.
“I’m a retired cobbler,” Harris said.
“You’re a retired cobbler?”
“I used to make shoes.”
“Yes, poor old Alex. He was a good man.”
“If you don’t mind, sir, I hate to do this but … how exactly did your friend pass?”
“Oh. He was found all burnt up, one morning, right in the middle of the cemetery. There’s them as says t’was spontaneous combustion. And there’s them as says that ain’t no such thing as spontaneous combustion.”
“There are two types, yes,” Dr. Huxtable said.
“Me, I’m just a retired shoemaker,” Harris said, ignoring him. “How the hell should I know what happened?”
James turned to Ingerton.
“Are you getting frustrated?” he asked.
“Little bit!” Ingerton said. “How does he not understand what I’m saying!?!”
“Mr. Ingerton, I don’t think he has anything more relevant to say to our case.”
“No no, it’s true but … the sewer business did help.”
He turned back to Harris.
“Thank you!” he said. “Thank you, Malcolm.”
“Ayup,” Harris said.
“Your assistance was greatly appreciated.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. Are you paying respects?”
“Well, I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, Mr. Harris,” James said.
Father Oein stared at Ingerton, a little disturbed by the blatant lie he’d just told.
“How many fish have you caught?” Dr. Huxtable asked.
“Got three catfish so far today,” Harris said. “A good haul.”
“Catfish?” James said.
“Ayuh,” Harris said.
He worked his little outboard motor and got it started. He pushed off with an oar and then turned the boat and took it out onto the Seekonk 30 to 40 yards away. He chucked an anchor over the side and he got fishing again.
They took up the search once more.
* * *