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The Inheritance Part 2 - The Strange Clarke House

Posted by Max_Writer , in Call of Cthulhu, Campaign Log 21 September 2017 · 217 views

CoC 7e Jazz Age

* * *

 

Entering the dining room, Miss Chatwick’s eyes were immediately drawn to the silverware collection prominently displayed on the elaborate Rococo style sideboard. A long, mahogany dining table, ringed by high back chairs, took up the center of the floor, while the room itself was decorated with an embossed copper ceiling and rich scarlet wallpaper with an oriental floral design. Everything was covered with a thick coating of dust.

 

She looked through the drawers of the sideboard and a nearby china cabinet. As she was looking, she thought she saw, out of the corner of her eye, a figure quietly enter the room. When she turned, no one was there.

 

“James?” she said. “Is that you?”

 

* * *

 

Cloverfield entered the parlor and looked around. With large bay windows at either end, a tall beveled mirror over the marble fireplace, and others placed regularly around the room, the parlor was bright and airy, even on such an overcast and gloomy day. Although furnished with beautiful reproduction Chippendale armchairs, sofas, and coffee tables, the centerpiece of the room was a magnificent Steinway piano with Schuman’s Piano Sonata No. 2 open on the music stand. The room must once have been quite beautiful but now the windows were covered with dirt and dust lay everywhere.

 

Cloverfield recalled that Robert Schuman, 1810-1856, was regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Sadly, for the last two years of his life, after an attempted suicide, Schumann was confined to a mental institution at his own request.

 

Cloverfield looked around the parlor in search of a will or something else they needed and admired the beauty of the room that once was.

 

“James?” he heard from the next room.

 

“Yes?” he called.

 

“Oh, was that you just now?” Miss Chatwick’s voice came from the foyer.

 

He walked over to where she stood in the archway of the dining room.

 

“No, I’ve been in here the entire time,” he said.

 

“Oh,” she said. “I see. I must have imagined it.”

 

“Maybe it was one of the others.”

 

“Possibly.”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

She went back to finish searching the room for matches. He turned back to the parlor and was surprised to see that the room was completely clean and beautiful. Bright, afternoon light came through the windows and he heard music. When he looked to the piano, he saw an elderly man with a white beard and mustache and balding head sitting alone, playing. The piece was frenetic and he was obviously a talented pianist, but as it built to a crescendo, he seemed to lose his concentration and the music fell into discord. He slammed his hands onto the keys and stood up. He was tall and had a slim build, being dressed for dinner in a black dress-coat, waistcoat and trousers, plain bib shirt, and bow tie. His face was narrow and creased, his eyes sunken with age, and his mustache and beard a mottled gray. He had a haunted air about him.

 

A woman entered the parlor from behind Cloverfield. She had long, dark hair, pulled up in a bun, and wore a maid’s uniform and cap. She curtsied nervously.

 

“Dinner’s ready,” she said.

 

As she turned to leave, he rose a shaking hand to stop her and, in a timorous voice, asked her name.

 

“Madeline,” she said. “Madeline Werner, sir.”

 

She hastily left. The man remained standing where he was, looking after her.

 

The room was suddenly dirty, dusty, and dark again. The man was gone.

 

Cloverfield looked around, confused and disturbed.

 

* * *

 

Pavil and Nurse Petrov found a door in the side of the steps. Behind it was a staircase leading down to the basement. They followed it, Pavil lighting the way with his lighter. At the bottom of the steps, they found themselves in a long hall with a door at the end, three doors on the wall to the right, and a single, double-hinged door with a window in it on the left. They guessed it led to a kitchen and some little light came through the window.

 

“Are you sure about this?” Nurse Petrov asked.

 

“No,” Pavil said.

 

“This looks a lot different from basements that I have been in,” she said.

 

She headed for the door and found a water closet with toilet, sink, and tub within. A small window near the ceiling let in only a little light. When she wasn’t looking, Pavil took another sip from his flask.

 

They next looked at the servants’ quarters. Each was sparsely furnished with rough pine furniture, including a bed, a table, a wardrobe, and a dresser. Each was decorated in the same, plain floral wallpaper. They searched for candles but found none.

 

* * *

 

Wallin had left a trail in the dust as he went up to the second floor. He found a landing there with several open doors leading into dim rooms. The landing was decorated with dark green, flock wallpaper and stained oak paneling similar to the foyer, paraffin lamp brackets spaced at regular intervals. From the light, each of the rooms obviously had a window. Another set of steps went up to the third floor. He continued on up and found a similar hallway there with several open doorways leading into dimly lit rooms.

 

He headed to the door to his right nearer the front of the house. It was a bedroom decorated and furnished with rich wallpaper and a bed, wardrobe, table, and dresser all made of oak. A floral carpet covered the floor and windows looked out the front and side of the house. Dust, dirt, and cobwebs covered everything.

 

He heard a noise like a creaking floorboard on the landing. When he looked out, no one was there.

 

He followed the wall and went into the other open doorway there. The storeroom was filled with crates, chairs, a disassembled table, and other odds and ends. Some books were in the crates.

 

He heard someone coming up the steps. It sounded like the person was dragging something. He headed back for the staircase but then stopped when he didn’t recognize the bearded and balding old man dragging a bleeding woman up the stairs. He ducked back around the corner into the storeroom and realized it was darker in the room. When he looked at the window is was practically pitch black outside. There was a flash of lightning and a crash of thunder. The sound of rain hammering on the roof was nearly deafening.

 

Heavy breathing came from the hallway. Footsteps walked along the landing and a dragging noise. Then a door slammed with a crash.

 

When Wallin looked onto the landing once again, all of the doors were open and it was lighter than it had been just the moment before. He took out his switchblade and opened it, looking around nervously.

 

* * *

 

Miss Chatwick found a half dozen matches and two candles in the last drawer she looked in the dining room.

 

“Good,” she said. “Finally.”

 

She pocketed one of the long candles and the matches. She lit the other candle and put it in a small, silver candle holder. Then she made her way to the foyer, crossing it to the parlor where Cloverfield stood.

 

“Why James, have you found any … oh,” she said. “Goodness, are you all right?”

 

Cloverfield was very pale.

 

“I think I just saw someone playing the piano,” he muttered. “And it was clean in here for a moment. And … there was a … I think it was Clarke and Madeline because … a lady came in …”

 

“I’m not sure I understand,” Miss Chatwick said. “You … you mean … spirits possibly?”

 

“Maybe?” he said.

 

He was unsure if it had been real or some very vivid and realistic hallucination.

 

“It was probably nothing,” he finally said. “It might have been nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

 

“Well, uh, let’s say we stick together and find the others,” she said. “Maybe see what they’ve uncovered.”

 

“Should I draw my pistol? I have a pistol.”

 

“Do you feel threatened?”

 

“I don’t know. They … the spirits didn’t make any threatening actions towards me.”

 

“Maybe not just yet.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I’m not sure we should resort to violence.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Miss Chatwick realized they were leaving footprints everywhere they went in the thick dust. She figured they could find the others.

 

“It’s very unkempt here so we should be able to find the others relatively simply,” she said.

 

“But who should we follow?” he said.

 

They saw one set of footprints went towards the back of the house and another went up the steps.

 

“Maybe we should go join the loner upstairs,” he said.

 

“Yes, I agree,” she said. “No one should be alone in this house.”

 

They headed up the steps.

 

* * *

 

Pavil and Nurse Petrov pushed the double-hinged door open and walked into the kitchen. It was bright and clean with several paraffin lamps burning. The bottom half of the walls were covered with plain white glazed tiles, the upper half whitewashed. The ceiling was pressed tin and the floors were laid with unglazed terracotta floor tiles. A black-leaded range stood against one wall with a large oak table in front of it while the other walls were lined with cupboards and shelves or hung with pots, pans, and other utensils.

 

A hefty, middle-aged woman wearing a white apron stood in front of one of the ranges, stirring a saucepan. She had a piggish, fat-cheeked face that was lathered in sweat, and her dark brown hair was flecked gray and pulled back in a severe bun. She took a bottle of wine from the table behind her, pouring some into the saucepan before taking a surreptitious look around and then taking a swig.

 

As she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, a pretty young woman with long dark hair and wearing a maid’s uniform walked into the kitchen directly between the two watching. Nurse Petrov jumped. When Pavil saw her jump, he jumped. The maid carried a basket of washed potatoes. The cook, whom they recognized as Mrs. Brown whom they’d gotten the keys from earlier, glared suspiciously at the maid.

 

“You took your time,” she snapped at the girl. “Get peeling. He don’t like to sit late for dinner.”

 

The room suddenly went dark and they could see the kitchen was as decrepit as the rest of the house. It was dark and gloomy with only a little light coming from the dirty windows high in the walls. The room was permeated with damp and black mold from years of disuse. There was a moldy smell in the place. Beyond the kitchen was some kind of scullery. Another door led off to their left.

 

Both of them were shaken by the strangeness.

 

“What the hell was that!?!” Pavil hissed.

 

“Okay, so I wasn’t only one who saw that,” Nurse Petrov said. “Whatever that was.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I’m going to look for candle. I swear, if I find body though …”

 

She started to look through the cupboards. Pavil moved to the scullery, also looking.

 

* * *

 

Wallin realized the only footprints in the thick dust were his. The man had been dragging the woman. There should have been a large area of dust wiped away from that. There wasn’t.

 

He heard someone coming up the steps and peeked over the staircase. Footsteps came from the landing below.

 

“Who’s down there?” he called.

 

“Oh, it’s us,” Miss Chatwick called. “It’s Elaine and─”

 

“Mr. Cloverfield,” Cloverfield said.

 

“All right,” Wallin said with a sign of relief. “C’mon up.”

 

They walked up.

 

“Why you look … you look shaken as well,” Miss Chatwick said. “Are you okay?”

 

“I just saw a bald man with a beard dragging a body,” Wallin said.

 

“You saw a bald man?” Cloverfield said.

 

“A … body?” Miss Chatwick said.

 

“Yes!” Wallin said.

 

“I saw a bald man a moment ago playing the piano,” Cloverfield said. “Talking to a woman named Madeline.”

 

“Oh,” Miss Chatwick said. “Oh goodness.”

 

“Wait,” Wallin said. “Isn’t she … uh … she’s the maid that … died?”

 

“Yes,” Cloverfield said.

 

“Disappeared,” Wallin corrected himself.

 

“So, I’m not going crazy, am I?” Cloverfield said.

 

“Mmm … maybe both of us are … but that’s debatable,” Wallin said. “I vote we keep searching the upstairs areas since that’s where I saw him dragging the body.”

 

“Okay,” Cloverfield said.

 

“There might be a hidden room in one of these rooms,” Wallin said.

 

“Well, have you found anything , sir?” Miss Chatwick said.

 

“I’ve been in those two rooms,” Wallin said. “Didn’t take a real good look around but didn’t see too much.”

 

He looked at the wall and realized something didn’t feel right about the two rooms he’d just been in. If felt like something was physically wrong with the rooms.

 

“If you want to help me take a closer look in those two rooms, we can,” Wallin said.

 

“Yes, uh … as long as … we’re …” Miss Chatwick said.

 

“Relatively close together …” Cloverfield said.

 

“Relatively … yes,” she said.

 

“Preferably on the same floor,” Cloverfield said.

 

“We’ll search together,” Miss Chatwick said.

 

She headed for the room towards the front of the house where the footprints indicated Wallin had already been. Wallin followed her.

 

Miss Chatwick looked around the room and realized there should have been a water closet or a bathroom somewhere connecting to such a nice servant’s quarters. There was no other door leading out of the room.

 

* * *

 

Cloverfield went to the front of the house. The room there was another landing with steps going up. He went to the room across from the room the others had gone to. The room was quite austere. A plain wooden desk was positioned in front of a blackboard, while a smaller school desk sat in the middle of the floor facing it. The smaller desk was full of neatly arranged schoolbooks and papers. When he looked at them, he found the name Jeremiah Clarke was written on some of them. Everything was covered in dust and grime.

 

* * *

 

Pavil had found a single candle in a drawer in the scullery. He lit it with his lighter.

 

“Edna,” he said. “We have one more door to check.”

 

“I see you have candle,” she replied.

 

He went to the other door off the kitchen, which led to a laundry. The room was similarly tiled and whitewashed but had a grey flagstone floor instead of floor tiles. A Belfast sink stood against one wall with a cast iron water pump beside it. A big copper boiler took up another corner while wooden clothes dryers were positioned around the floor. A large hand-operated clothes watching machine with plunger and wringer stood near the boiler. A little dim light came through the dirty, high-set window. Everything was dusty.

 

Another hallway left the laundry room. Through the open doorway, they could see it led to a short set of steps going up to a set of angled cellar doors.

 

“I guess now, Edna, we can go back out of the basement,” Pavil said.

 

As they left the laundry, light suddenly appeared from the room behind them.

 

“I don’t like this,” Nurse Petrov said.

 

She continued walking.

 

Pavil, on the other hand, spun around. The room was lit by two paraffin lamps and appeared to be completely clean. An elderly man with a mottled beard and mustache, his head bald, knelt on the floor, prying up a flagstone. He looked very upset and there was blood on his clothing. A bulging sack lay nearby, blood slowly seeping from within.

 

Then the light was gone and the room was dirty again.

 

Pavil went over to the spot on the floor where the old man had been pulling up the flagstones.

 

“Marco,” Nurse Petrov called from the kitchen.

 

“Edna!” he replied.

 

“I’m not going down there,” her voice came from somewhere in the kitchen.

 

“Get in the kitchen and try to find me something to pry the tiles off the floor,” he said.

 

“What madness do you speak?”

 

“There’s something under the flagstones.”

 

“I will look for fire poker or something.”

 

In the kitchen, she looked for something while Pavil stared at the spot on the floor he was sure he’d seen the old man. It only took a few moments for Nurse Petrov to find fire poker, shovel, and brush, as well as a crowbar.

 

* * *

 

Cloverfield searched the teacher’s desk in the schoolroom but found nothing of interest. He headed for the doorway to explore elsewhere when he stopped as he suddenly felt terribly cold. It was cold enough to make his joins and hands ache. He thought he smelled soap. He looked around but there was nothing else in the room. As soon as he took a step, the coldness was gone. He put his hand back in the spot but there was nothing there.

 

He went back out of the hallway and then into the room at the top of the steps. He crept in and saw a large bedroom had been given over to a nursery. Colorful wallpaper covered the walls. The floor was littered with toys such as a beautifully carved rocking horse and an army of tin soldiers. Another door obviously led to a bathroom. Like the rest of the house, everything was covered in dust and grime.

 

He heard a scream and the shatter of glass and then heard the sound of footsteps running his way.

 

He spun around, drawing the pistol from his pocket and holding it at ready.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Petrov took the implements she’d found to laundry room.

 

“I found you poker, shovel, and crowbar,” she said. “Take your pick.”

 

Pavil took the crowbar and started to pry up the flagstones.

 

“What are you doing?” Nurse Petrov asked. “What did you …where are the lights?”

 

“I saw a man,” he said. “Like we saw the fat lady in the kitchen a minute ago. He was putting something under the floor.”

 

“Maybe it’s his will.”

 

“Let’s hope it’s his will.”

 

He got the first flagstone up and was working on the second when Nurse Petrov heard a woman’s scream from above and thud. It seemed to come from the cellar doors. She flung the other implements to the ground, startling Palin, and ran out of the room towards the cellar stairs.

 

“Edna, where are you going?” Pavil said.

 

“Stay safe!” she replied.

 

He cursed and continued prying up the flagstones.

 

* * *

 

“This seems a bit off,” Wallin said.

 

“I … I understand,” Miss Chatwick said. “I have an odd feeling about this place.”

 

“Something seems like it’s … missing.”

 

“There doesn’t seem to be a bathroom. Have you noticed?”

 

“Just now, yes. Where would one of those be in this type of room.”

 

“Towards that wall.”

 

It was the wall the wardrobe stood against.

 

Wallin opened the wardrobe but it was empty aside from a few old hangers. He started to fiddle with the back of the wardrobe, pushing on it. It gave more than he thought it should but didn’t move.

 

A scratching noise came from the window that overlooked the side of the house. Miss Chatwick walked to the window, trying to see what made the noise.

 

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

 

“What?” Wallin said, poking his head out of the wardrobe.

 

“A sort of scratching sound?”

 

“Yeah, slightly. Yeah.”

 

She walked to the window but there was no tree near that side of the house. Then she suddenly felt two hands strike her upper back from behind, slamming into her. She crashed through the window with a scream and fell to the relatively soft and soggy ground below on her back. She lay very still.

 

Wallin saw the entire thing: the girl walk to the window and then suddenly jerk forward as if someone had shoved her and crash through the glass and out of sight. He ran out of the room and towards the stairs.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Petrov reached the cellar doors, threw open the two bolts and flung open the doors, running out into the rain. She looked around and saw Miss Chatwick lying spread eagle on the ground on her back near the front of the house. She had blood all over her. Nurse Petrov ran to the girl and checked her pulse, finding the young woman unconscious but alive. A quick check confirmed she didn’t have any broken bones but she had been cut by glass.

 

She got up and ran to Pavil’s pickup truck to get her bag.

 

* * *

 

Cloverfield pointed his gun at the hallway from the open doorway of the child’s room. The footsteps running towards the room came closer and, as a figure loomed into view, he fired a single shot. Too late, he realized the running figure was Wallin.

 

Wallin had seen Cloverfield with the gun and ignored him. He was shocked when he heard the gunshot as he grabbed the railing, flung himself over, and crashed to the stairs, tumbling down, head over heels, and landing in a pile at the bottom.

 

The bullet had struck the far wall of the landing. Cloverfield didn’t know what had happened to Wallin. He stood frozen, pointing his gun and staring at the wall with dead eyes, not seeing anything and just contemplating the fact that he almost killed a man.

 

* * *

 

Wallin crashed to the bottom of the steps and sprung to his feet. He ran down to the first floor. As he reached the foyer again, Pavil crashed out of the basement door with a crowbar in hand.

 

“What the hell just happened?” Pavil asked walking towards the other man.

 

“Uh … rich boy just shot at me,” Wallin said, approaching. “Hat girl fell out of the window.”

 

“Are you hurt?”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Let’s go help … hat girl.”

 

As they both turned to the front door, they saw it was pitch black outside and the lightning was coming faster. They could hear the rain pouring down loudly on the house. The old man was there, dragging the unconscious body of the maid behind him. His white shirt was smeared with blood and his face was plastered with sweat as he tried to manhandle her up the stairs. She had a gash on her forehead and a thin trickle of blood was splattered onto the floor in her wake. Her head bumped against the steps as he dragged her by the feet.

 

Then both of them vanished again and the foyer was dirty and dusty once more.

 

“I saw something like that earlier,” Wallin said.

 

Pavil grabbed Wallin by the jacket and pulled him close.

 

“Please tell me you saw that!” he screamed in the other man’s face.

 

“Marco,” Wallin said calmly. “Yes. I saw it. I also saw it earlier. We need to focus on the task at hand.”

 

“What is that!?!”

 

“Outside. Hat girl.”

 

“Okay! Just get me out of the house!”

 

They headed out the front door.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Petrov had run to Pavil’s truck, retrieved her medical bag, and run back to Miss Chatwick, where she was tending to her wounds when the two men came around the side of the building. The young woman had suffered blunt trauma and many cuts. Luckily, there didn’t seem to be any broken bones. Miss Chatwick awoke with a groan in a great deal of pain.

 

“Don’t move too much,” Nurse Petrov said. “You are very hurt.”

 

She looked around and saw the window on the third floor was shattered.

 

“I don’t know how you did it,” Nurse Petrov said. “Try to be more careful.”

 

“I …” Miss Chatwick said.

 

“Let’s get you inside.”

 

“I … was … pushed.”

 

“Is she okay?” Wallin asked.

 

Nurse Petrov carefully picked up the woman.

 

“She looks very hurt,” she said. “I’m going to take her inside so she doesn’t get sick from rain and mud.”

 

Miss Chatwick, still moaning and in great pain, looked at Wallin, terrified.

 

“You!” she said.

 

“What?” he said.

 

“You … pushed … me!”

 

“No, I didn’t. I saw … some sort of force … just … I was over by the wardrobe. I promise.”

 

Miss Chatwick just groaned in great pain.

 

They entered the house and Nurse Petrov took Miss Chatwick into the parlor.

 

* * *

 

Upstairs, Cloverfield came to his senses when he heard something in the hallway. Someone was coming up the steps. It sounded like they were dragging something behind them. Cloverfield moved to the wall by the door and braced himself against it. The footsteps reached the top of the steps and he peeked out of the door.

 

He saw the old man there, in the very dim light of a single paraffin lamp, the landing now clean of dust and dirt. The man was dragging Madeline Werner up the stairs. She was beat up the room was very dark except for the occasional flash of lightning. The sound of rain hammering on the roof was nearly deafening. The old wheezed and his face was ghastly to behold while Miss Werner seemed began to struggle feebly as she started to regain consciousness. The old man dragged her across the floor into the bedroom the others had been exploring, slamming the door behind him.

 

Suddenly, everything was the way it had been. Dim light came through the windows and the rain, though falling, was not as heavy as it had been.

 

He thought he heard the sound of people downstairs. He stared at the door the old man had slammed. It was ajar.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Petrov put Miss Chatwick down on one of the couches.

 

“You, Marco,” Nurse Petrov said. “You stay with her.”

 

She turned to Wallin.

 

“You,” she said. “You come with me. We’re going to look for towel or something to get her out of these wet clothes.”

 

Pavil took out his flask and drank long and hard from it.

 

“You, you not very good at protecting if you’re drunk,” Nurse Petrov said to him disapprovingly.

 

Nurse Petrov took out some aspirin from her medical bag.

 

“Take two,” she said. “I don’t know where water is. I hope you can take dry.”

 

Miss Chatwick held out her hand, not knowing what was in the flask, to take her aspirin. She choked on the smooth Canadian whiskey as she was a teetotaler and didn’t drink. She handed the flask back.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Petrov and Wallin went in search of a towel.

 

“Just a hint,” Wallin said. “The other guy shot at me.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” Nurse Petrov asked.

 

“Rich boy. The one that was always hanging out with her. He also might have pushed her.”

 

“Were you not there with her?”

 

“I was. But I was looking at a wardrobe that had an almost broken back.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

They went to the back of the house and found a bathroom there by two more doors leading into what looked like a library and a study. There was also a back porch and a set of back stairs. They found towels in a cabinet.

 

* * *

 

Cloverfield stumbled across the landing to the room where the others had been. He saw the window had been broken out, the muntins and glass missing from a good portion of the frame. Rain blew into the room. Something seemed wrong with the room and he didn’t see a bullet hole where he’d shot directly through the wall. He guessed it must have been in the storeroom and he realized the room seemed very small and should have had a bathroom. He went to the storage room.

 

There was no bullet hole in the storage room either. He was unsure how that was possible.

 

He returned to the hallway and saw the bullet hole went directly through the wall and into a darkened room. He used the butt of his revolver to bang against the wall.

 

* * *

 

Nurse Petrov and Wallin returned to the parlor and they all heard a banging upstairs.

 

“What was that?” Wallin, still a little jumpy, said.

 

“Must be our friend,” Nurse Petrov said.

 

“Shouldn’t we take that gun away?” Pavil said.

 

“Ideally,” Nurse Petrov said.

 

“How are we going to do that?” Wallin said.

 

Nurse Petrov started drying Miss Chatwick off. Pavil and Wallin discussed weapons and Pavil offered his 1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol to the other man who took it but then handed it back and pulled out his switchblade knife.

 

“Now let’s go see what he’s up to,” Wallin said.

 

He and Pavil left the room.

 

* * *

 

The hole in the wall appeared to go into a dark chamber. Cloverfield returned to the furnished room, noting a wardrobe against the wall that seemed to lead to the right place. He entered the wardrobe and fiddled with the back wall. Pushing didn’t really do anything but, when he pressed the center panel to the right, it slid to the side, revealing a pitch black room beyond. He could only make out dirty white tiles on the floor near the secret door.

 

He checked his pockets for any kind of light source but had nothing.

 

He looked into the secret room and could just make out what appeared to be someone laying on the floor. It was too dark to be certain, however. He pointed his pistol at it. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could just make out a toilet and sink to his right and what appeared to be a tub to his left.

 

Nervous, he backed out of the room, crossing it to the broken window. As he reached it, he heard some people creeping up the steps. He pointed his pistol towards the door.

 

* * *

 

Wallin and Pavil crept up the stairs to the third floor.

 

“Cloverfield?” Wallin called. “You up here still?”

 

“Yes,” Cloverfield’s voice came from above. “Who is it?”

 

“You gonna shoot at me again?”

 

“No. Did he push her out the window?”

 

“No.”

 

* * *

 

Cloverfield went over to the window and leaned out, looking down to see if Miss Chatwick was down there on the ground. There was no one out there. As he looked back towards the door to keep an eye out for the others, he saw a man standing right next to him. He was bald and had a mottled beard and mustache. He rushed at Cloverfield who stumbled backwards out the window as he felt the man’s hands on his chest, pushing him.

 

* * *

 

Wallin and Pavil heard Cloverfield shout in alarm. Then they heard a long scream from outside. It seemed to go on and on. Pavil ran down the stairs.

 

* * *

 

Miss Chatwick struggled to her feet.

 

“Marco!” Nurse Petrov called.

 

“I’m coming Edna!” she heard the man yell from upstairs.

 

“You’re the only one I trust right now!” she called.

 

Miss Chatwick hobbled painfully towards the front door. Above, footsteps were pounding down the stairs.

 

“You need to sit,” Nurse Petrov said.

 

“I … I can’t …”Miss Chatwick said.

 

The screaming was going on horribly outside.

 

“Dear God!” Miss Chatwick said. “It’s happened again.”

 

“Woman, you’re going to make my job hard!” Nurse Petrov said.

 

She gently but firmly picked up the other woman and put her back on the couch.

 

“Please!” Miss Chatwick said.

 

“Stay. Here,” Nurse Petrov said. “Marco!”

 

Marco came crashing down the stairs, stumbling but not falling, and hit the foyer at a run, tearing out of the front door and running out into the rain.

 

“Stop!” Nurse Petrov called.

 

But he was gone.

 

* * *

 

Wallin went up the steps to the room with the wardrobe once again. He could clearly see the secret opening in the back of the piece of furniture and fished his flashlight out of his pocket, turning it on and shining it into the darkened room. It was definitely a bathroom though the tub appeared to be bloodstained. The walls were covered in Chinese characters written in some kind of brown paint.

 

A body was lying in the middle of the floor.

 

* * *

 

Pavil ran around the side of the house. Cloverfield lay on the ground, clutching at his lower left leg. He screamed and screamed and screamed. His pistol lay on the ground next to him. Pavil tried to help the man, who struggled against him, screaming.

 

The ground floor window opened and Nurse Petrov leaned out.

 

“Marco!” she said. “Get your ass in here now and protect this lady while I tend to …”

 

She looked down at the man on the ground.

 

“… broken leg,” she finished.

 

“I’m fine!” Miss Chatwick’s voice came from behind her.

 

“I was just about to suggest the same thing,” Pavil said.

 

He turned and race back towards the front door while Nurse Petrov climbed out of the window with her medical bag. Cloverfield stopped screaming but was groaning and grimacing in pain.

 

* * *

 

“What happened to him!?!” Miss Chatwick said when Pavil entered the parlor.

 

“Fell out the window,” Pavil said.

 

“He … from where?” she asked.

 

* * *

 

Wallin sniffed. There was a rotten smell in the room but it was long past being awful, as if something had died in the room years ago. He stepped into the room, shining his flashlight on the body and the strange Chinese writing on the walls. He tried to memorize some of the symbols. Most disturbing was the mummified corpse lying on the floor that appeared to be a man judged by the clothes he wore. There appeared to be some kind of book underneath the corpse.

 

As he reached for the book, the room suddenly lit up and the dirt and dust disappeared. A lantern stood next to the sink on the floor, lit, and the old man stood by the secret door. The corpse was gone. There was blood on the floor and a little trail of blood leading to the entrance. His shirt was also covered in blood. He held a mop and bucket in his hand.

 

“I’m sorry, Alice,” the man muttered. “I tried so hard. I tried so hard to bring you back.”

 

There was movement in the bathtub. He looked towards it. Wallin looked at the tub as well. The old man started screaming and didn’t stop.

 

The thing climbing out of the tub was far too large to have ever fit in it. It appeared to be a woman of at least 500 pounds and, as it rose, its horrible head nearly touched the ceiling. It had tentacles in place of arms and more tentacles sprouted from the rolls of sickly yellow-gray flesh. Below its eyes another tentacle waved and below and beside that were lumpy chins, each sporting a mouth, each mouth a perfect rosy bow made hideous by clusters of fangs. It wore an open yellow and black tunic of silk.

 

It was coming out of the tub.

 

* * *







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