The Lurker in Tunnel 13 Part 1 - Lost in Pennsylvania
CoC 7e Jazz Age
Monday, November 20, 2017
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu original scenario “The Lurker in Tunnel 13 on Sunday, November 12, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. with John Leppard, Jacob Marcus, Austin Davie, and Katelyn Hogan.)
James Cloverfield had returned on numerous occasions to Columbia University to talk to Karl Sappington. Though Sappington didn’t really want to hear it, Cloverfield told him about the strange events that took place in the city in May of 1923. Sappington mentioned the name Nyarlathotep but admitted he didn’t know a lot about whomever or whatever that was. However, he knew someone who did. Dr. Joseph Murrow was a Ph.D. of Classical Studies who used to work for New York University. He had since retired, but now lived in McAlveys Fort, Pennsylvania. However, Sappington warned him that, from what little he knew of Nyarlathotep, the Messenger of the Gods of a Thousand Masks, it was a very dangerous thing to pursue. He advised against following up on it.
Cloverfield ignored his advice.
He got a letter of recommendation from the professor. Sappington wrote on the back of one of his cards: “Dr. Murrow, please tell this gentleman anything he wants. I trust him.” He signed it and gave it to the man.
When Cloverfield asked about other information, Sappington doubted he’d be able to easily learn anything. He mentioned rare book rooms, Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts, or occult or rare book stores.
“People don’t look into this and those who do … bad things happen to them,” Sappington said.
He asked for Cloverfield not to use his name except with Dr. Murrow.
Cloverfield later asked his butler Winters to look for such strange and esoteric tomes whenever he was out. Winters assured him he would. However, in the months since the strange occurrence with Leroy Turner and his cursed trumpet, Winters was not able to find any occult books for sale that seemed relevant.
* * *
Marco Pavil, from Jonestown, Pennsylvania, had become a recluse over the span of time after he had visited the strange Clarke House in Massachusetts. He continued doing his job in the steel mills but he found himself have more and more trouble dealing with repetitive noises. He had smashed every clock in his house and left them on the walls, the time they were smashed within minutes of each other.
He had written his mother and father in Poland, telling them everything that had happened in the horrible Clarke House. He tried to describe it in detail in the letter. He received a letter back from his mother, advising him to remain calm and noting his Great Aunt Needa had a similar experience. She also recommended he talk to a priest about it and possibly go to confession and join the church once again. She went into more detail about Aunt Needa, who lived in a haunted house for 48 years. She noted Aunt Needa had been fine by the end.
Pavil was not sure who Aunt Needa was but assumed she was a great aunt, perhaps one of his grandmother’s sisters. His family was very large.
He went to St. Columba Catholic Church there in Johnstown. The church was only about 10 years old and he worked to become a devote Catholic. The priest at the church was Father Patrick Donald. Pavil converted fully to Catholicism, going to confession and being confirmed in the church. He became an active member of the congregation. One of his most treasured possessions became a crucifix he was gifted after his confirmation.
At one point in 1923, he talked to Father Patrick about everything that had happened to him at the Clarke House in Massachusetts. He actually opened up about it but Father Patrick was not as receptive as he thought he would have been. The man of the cloth tried to comfort him and dismiss what he saw as hallucination, which put Pavil off. The priest also had a cane and tapped it quite a bit.
Pavil found another Catholic church to attend in Johnstown. He didn’t trust Father Patrick anymore and didn’t want to see the man.
Pavil also knew his friend Deryl Wallin had been seeing a psychologist ever since he had visited James Cloverfield in New York in May of 1923. Cloverfield was paying for it, according to Wallin. Unfortunately, the therapy had not helped the man very much. He got together with Deryl when his brother James Wallin came to visit him. The three men spent time together and Pavil was a little surprised the other man was a lumberjack who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. James Wallin told him he traveled out of town to do his work as well as work trimming and felling trees for individuals and the city. Pavil and James hit it off though Deryl was rather disturbed.
James Wallin knew what was going on with his brother and was not only sympathetic but also seemed to actually believe the madness that had befallen him. Something had happened out west to James Wallin and, though he didn’t talk about it, it seemed very important.
* * *
James Wallin, Deryl Wallin’s brother, went on an anniversary dinner with his wife, Elizabeth. They had a tiny baby boy named Michael. He and his wife had a good relationship. Elizabeth was Catholic and James more a realist and naturalist.
He had bought a few steaks and they went to a small cabin in the woods they owned for a romantic night to celebrate their four year anniversary. It was the same place he and Deryl had the fire a year or so before. Wallin cooked the steaks and they spent the night alone, having gotten a sitter for their child.
* * *
Nurse Edna Petrov continued to search for her lost love.
Mikhail Chernykov had been a very small man in the Russian Army before the July Offensive in October 1917. Chernykov had often come to Nurse Petrov’s medical tent before that. He was a sweet man who was obviously very fond of her. Most other men found her intimidating due to her brusque nature even though she was a handsome woman. She had grown to love the weak little man.
A month or so before the Russians pulled out of the Great War, Chernykov disappeared during a Russian attack. His body was not brought back and there was no word of the man. Nurse Petrov made inquiries as to his disposition, as he was not listed among the rosters of the dead or missing. He was simply not listed at all.
When Russia pulled out of the war in 1917 and the Bolshevik government had signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Nurse Petrov, like others, went back to Russia where there was great confusion and continual fighting. She stopped making inquiries as she was very busy.
Sometime after that, she immigrated to the United States but she continued her inquiries via mail through one of her brothers. That continued for some time until, in 1923, she received a disappointing letter. “We can’t look into this anymore,” the letter stated. “Please do not write me about this anymore.”
This understandably upset her and she wrote him back, demanding why he was rebuffing her and refusing to help her find the “only man who would love me.” In response, she got a short telegraph from Berlin, Germany. It was signed by her brother and she wondered why he was in Germany. It read:
“Letters are being read by the government. Stop. Cannot pursue this. Stop. Family under investigation. Stop. Everyone in danger. Stop. Look in northern France. End.”
She guessed the telegram had been sent from Berlin as her brother felt safer sending from there than Russia. She didn’t know why the government would care what had happed to Chernykov as the man was not even an officer. It was all very perplexing.
Not long after the telegraph arrived, a letter came from the same brother, obviously meant to be read by whoever was opening the family’s mail. Her brother simply wrote he was happy she decided to stop pursuing her investigation and asked for her to confirm she would no longer pursue it. It felt like the letter was asking for a confirmation just for the people spying on the family to get the government off their backs. The letter was not written in her brother’s usual style and she picked up that it was meant for dissembling. It mentioned an old game they had played with their mother and she remembered the lying game, where they would try to deceive each other.
She wrote a letter back with just one word: “Fine.”
She stopped all correspondence about Chernykov.
* * *
James Cloverfield looked up McAlveys Fort in an atlas and found it lay in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. A little research showed trains ran to nearby Huntingdon, the county seat. From there, he guessed they could take a motorcar.
He telephoned Deryl Wallin to see if he could come with him.
“I-I can’t come,” Wallin said. “I’m not ready yet. I-I could call my brother and … um … he could potentially help you out.”
“Okay,” Cloverfield said. “We’ve got to go to McAlveys Fort, Pennsylvania. If you want to meet me there in a week. And can you contact Marco and ask if he’ll come?”
“Yes. I’ll give my brother Marco’s information.”
“Remember that nurse from two years ago?”
“Maybe you should invite her along. Just so … in case we get into it or something. I don’t know. I’m just going to ask this guy but … I don’t know. Maybe … maybe some closure or something.”
“I’ll go to the hospital and tell her you asked for her.”
After he was off the telephone, Cloverfield had Winters arrange the train tickets and the butler told him that after inquiries he learned a car could be rented in Huntingdon. He had Winters arrange to rent a four-seat car there and made plans to take the train.
* * *
Wallin went to the hospital in Bristol and asked for Nurse Petrov. He told her Cloverfield asked for her to potentially go help him. When she asked about what, he noted the rich man was checking out a lead in central Pennsylvania.
“Lead for what?” she asked.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Wallin admitted. “I didn’t stay on the phone too long to ask.”
“I know but don’t worry. Marco is going to be there as well.”
She realized Wallin was not acting quite right.
“You have number so I can get questions answered?” she asked.
“Huh?” he said.
“You have number?”
“Yes, uh …”
“Not for you. For boy. Cloverfield.”
He wrote down Cloverfield’s information for her.
“Okay,” she said. “I call. I ask questions.”
“All right,” Wallin said.
“Get rest,” she said.
* * *
Nurse Petrov sent Cloverfield a telegram. It read:
“Need details. End.”
She received a reply that read: “Found lead. Stop. Doctor Murrow. Stop. Lives in McAlveys Fort, Pennsylvania. Stop. Knows about strange things relating to house. Stop.”
He included information on Huntingdon and the date they were to meet in the city. He also noted he offered negotiable compensation if she came.
She decided to go.
* * *
James Wallin, after his brother called him, told his wife good-bye and for her to take care of little Michael.
“Where are you going?” Elizabeth asked.
“Deryl told me one of his friends needs help with something.”
“This rich man named Cloverfield.”
She was confused and wanted details. He told her Cloverfield lived in New York and they met twice. He told her he was going to Pennsylvania, only one state over, and wouldn’t be gone too long. He promised.
“Write me every day,” she said.
“I will,” he said.
“Wait, he’s rich? Call me every day. Let him pay for it.”
“All right. I will.”
She was not happy with him going off without her. It was his first trip to another state alone. He had taken shorter trips for his work as a lumberjack but she hadn’t liked that either.
He took the train to Huntingdon.
* * *
Marco Pavil got a telegram from Deryl Wallin. It read: “Cloverfield says meet in Huntingdon Pennsylvania on February 15. Stop. Has a lead. End.” He contemplated on it for a day before replying with a telegram that simply said. “Is this about the house. Stop. Where can I find him. Stop. Contact information please. End.” The reply came within a few hours: “Maybe. Stop.” It also contained contact information for Cloverfield. He sent to Cloverfield.: “Is it about the house. Stop. Where can I find you. Stop. Tell me what you know. Stop.” The response was “Related to house. Stop. Meet me in Huntingdon Pennsylvania February 15. Stop. Will tell you there. Stop. Will pay. End.”
* * *
On Friday, February 15, 1924, they each arrived in Huntingdon on various trains from various parts of the country. It was very cold in Huntingdon and snow lay on the ground. Huntington was a small city with a population of about 7,000 and they all met at one of the hotels. Cloverfield had a rented car ready for them but it was in the afternoon when they were all ready to head for McAlveys Fort. Cloverfield had gotten instructions and maps for the trip and knew the way to the tiny town only about 20 miles away. Even on the snow-covered road, they would make it in an hour or two. They expected to arrive at the town before dark.
Wallin asked Cloverfield for money to telegraph his wife before they went and went to the telegraph office to send to her: “Everything’s going well. Stop. Met him. Stop. Couldn’t find a phone. Stop. Sent this instead. End.”
Even with the delay, Cloverfield expected to arrive before dark. He drove and the rest loaded into the newish Chevrolet hardtop sedan. They drove into the mountains of Pennsylvania.
It started snowing as they left Huntingdon and the weather got worse as they passed through the tiny, practically nonexistent towns of Gorsuch and Donation, slowing their progress considerably. They were looking for Ennisville, but they drove for several more miles and took more turns without seeing the town, unless they had missed it in the snow and the dark.
The motorcar reached a particularly steep downward incline in a thickly wooded area, the road feeling very narrow. As they headed down, Cloverfield pressed on the brakes but the car didn’t slow at all as the wheels locked and the machine slid down the hill, out of control. As they plowed down the incline, an old man stepped out from behind a tree on the right, looking around. He seemed oblivious to the motorcar, which struck the man, who went down in front of the machine. There were two bumps as the passenger side front and back tire went over him.
They slid down to the bottom of the hill where the Chevrolet crashed into a large snowdrift and was partially buried in the snow as the engine died. Both Pavil and Nurse Petrov, in the back, were slammed around and injured in the crash. The two in the front seat were fine.
Cloverfield put his head in his hands while Wallin climbed out of the motorcar and headed back up the hill towards the man they’d hit. Nurse Petrov climbed out with her medical bag. Pavil also climbed out and pulled out his flask, taking a swig. He headed up the hill as Cloverfield climbed out, cane in hand, and followed.
It was terribly cold and the snow continued to fall heavily. When Nurse Petrov and Wallin got to the old man they saw he had a beard and wore overalls but no coat or hat. The overalls appeared to be homemade. He was breathing heavily and obviously badly injured. His hands were pulled up into near-fists, almost like claws. Nurse Petrov examined the man but didn’t want to move him.
He suddenly grabbed Nurse Petrov’s coat.
“It’s too late,” he muttered. “Too late to help me now.”
Nurse Petrov reached into her medical bag and prepared a syringe with morphine.
“If you’re a stranger in these parts, stay a stranger,” the old man said. “Whatever you do … don’t go into Perdition.
“Not that Perdition wasn’t a good town once. It was a fine town. A mining town. Rich in coal and precious ores. But then the coal ran out and the people starting running out as well. There wan’t any natural way to restore the mines. So, Monroe … Abraham Monroe … he started looking into unnatural ways … the occult. The supernatural.
“Then, one night, I guess he thought he was ready. He gathered up all the mystic books and such he’d been collecting and carried them into the mine … and that was the last anyone ever saw of Abraham Monroe.”
She injected the man with the morphine.
“Oh, there was the scream that night of course,” the old man rambled on. “It came rolling out of the mine, spilling across the streets of town. But never any sign of the man who made the horrid sound …
“Things haven’t been the same in Perdition since then. The strange disappearances of anybody going too close to the mines, the gnawing fear that everybody lives there with … and the fact that since Monroe vanished … nobody else has ever left town.
“Until me that is. I was leaving town. I was running from it … Now I guess they’ll never get me back there again …”
The man breathed his last. His age and his injuries were simply too much for him.
“Okay, then,” Wallin said.
It seemed to get colder and Nurse Petrov picked up the old man and moved him to the side of the road. She packed some snow around him, but her gloves were not meant for the wet snow and quickly became soaked, her hands freezing cold.
“Does he have a map on him or anything?” Cloverfield said.
“I’m not going to rummage through dead man’s pocket,” she said.
“I don’t have a darn clue where we are at the moment,” Cloverfield said. “And we’re freezing.”
“Well, he was walking away from the town so … if he came out of the woods over there, that should mean town’s that way,” Wallin said.
“But, didn’t he say he wanted to … that … stay out of … the town,” Cloverfield said.
“Yeah, but isn’t that the town we’re heading to anyways.?” Wallin said.
“Well … no,” Cloverfield said. “It was Fort … McClay? McAlveys Fort. Old man said it was … the town was … but I don’t think it was the town that we were trying to go to.”
“You’re right, he didn’t say the word Fort,” Wallin said.
“He didn’t say Fort,” Nurse Petrov said.
“Which means it might be in the other direction,” Wallin said.
“Perdition,” Pavil said.
“Let’s try going the other direction, then,” Wallin said. “He was coming from the right, maybe we should go left.”
There was no road to the left. They went back to the motorcar and Cloverfield got it started but it was stuck in the snowdrift. They didn’t have any shovels or tools to dig the motorcar out with and if they dug with their mittens and gloves, they would quickly become soaked, threatening them all with frostbite.
They noticed a sign near the road. The top appeared to have been rotted or ripped off but the bottom said “One Mile.” It looked like it was very, very old.
“Let’s find shelter or freeze,” Nurse Petrov said.
Pavil pointed out if they started walking, they would warm up about halfway there.
“Halfway where?” Wallin said.
Nurse Petrov pointed to the sign.
“Going one mile there,” she said. “Maybe someone point us in right direction.”
They all grabbed some of their luggage and headed down the road through the drifts of snow. Pushing through was not easy but the remains of the road through the thick oak woods was not hard to follow. The snow started letting up and roughly a mile from the spot where they struck the old man, they came to a spot where the road dipped down into a valley. The clouds parted and the nearly full move shone down.
The light shined eerily down into the snow-covered town and smoke was evident from some of the chimneys of the village filled with quaint little two-and three-story houses and businesses. Just as evident was the ruined nature of many of the structures. Several had wrecked upper floors, the windows that survived on the bottom boarded up. Debris was evident near the fronts and sides of the buildings and a few of the structures had collapsed entirely. Decrepit picket fences lined the yards by some of the houses on the edge of town and most of the structures appeared deserted.
Wallin set his suitcase down and slid part way down the hill before the snow built up in front of it.
“I was tired of walking,” he said to the others as they walked down the hill.
Pavil began to feel the beginning of a headache or some kind of pressure on his mind. It was not pleasant.
They passed several houses that were obviously abandoned. The village appeared to be in a shambles, looking even worse than it did from the entrance to the valley. Houses and homes had obviously not been kept up and the entire place looked shabby. A signpost stood near the edge of town but the sign was not upon it.
Though there was no light from any of the houses or buildings, smoke trickled up from several that weren’t abandoned. The newly-fallen snow on the road and the ground was unmarked and not shoveled, standing nearly two feet deep in places. It was very cold.
They reached an intersection and saw the smoke coming from houses on either side.
“Well,” Nurse Petrov said. “I say we go to house with fire.”
“Probably a good plan,” Wallin said.
“Yeah,” Pavil said.
“Yeah,” Cloverfield said.
They went to the house on the left and knocked on the door. After a short time, they heard movement inside.
“Who’s there?” a gruff voice called.
“Uh … we are four people,” Nurse Petrov said. “We lost control of car. Cannot bring out of snow. Need shelter temporarily.”
It was quiet for a long time and then a flickering light appeared in one of the windows. After that, the latch clicked and the door opened timidly. A man stood there in a nightshirt with a jacket thrown over his shoulders.
“You’re … you’re strangers?” he said.
He looked back into the house.
“It’s someone from the outside world!” he called.
He looked back to them.
“C’mon in,” he said. “C’mon in outta the cold.”
He backed up, opening the door wider.
This isn’t the reaction I expected, Pavil thought.
The home appeared to be worn but well-furnished. The man closed and locked the door behind them. They saw two children peeking out from behind the doorway.
“Go get Ezekiel!” the man said, pointing to one of them. “Go get Ezekiel! They’re strangers!”
The child ran to the door and put on rugged and rough-looking homemade looking clothing and pulled on a pair of very work and patched boots. He ran out the front door and into the darkness.
A low fire burned in the fireplace with red-hot coals all around it. An alcohol or kerosene lamp flickered with light nearby. The room smelled of fried food or grease and they guessed the lamp might have been filled with some kind animal or vegetable oil. The man looked at all of the nervously as the warmth from the room started to thaw them out. Nurse Petrov went over and sat by the fire. Cloverfield and Wallin both realized the man was obviously terrified of them, eyeing them warily and keeping his distance.
“Sir … where are we?” Cloverfield asked.
“Uh … this is Perdition,” the man said. “Perdition, Pennsylvania. But Ezekiel’s coming. You can talk to him. He’ll know what to do. He’ll know what to do.”
“Do you know where Fort … Mc … El …?” he said.
“Fort Mickle?” the other man said.
“Fort Mickle, yeah.”
“Fort Mickle? No.”
“I believe you meant Fort McCray?” Walling said.
The man shook his head.
Wallin went to the man and offered his hand. The man backed away as if he thought Wallin was going to kill him.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Wallin said.
The man shook it tentatively.
“What are you scared of?” Pavil asked.
“How rude,” Nurse Petrov said.
“We don’t get many strangers around here,” the man said. “Sometimes … I mean …”
“It is out in the middle of nowhere,” Wallin said.
“That’s right,” the man said. “That’s right.”
“Why don’t you get many strangers?” Pavil said.
“We just don’t,” the man said. “Ain’t no train.”
“Most people probably think ‘abandoned town,’” Nurse Petrov said. “No offense.”
“None taken,” the man said.
“Do you know an old man?” Pavil said.
“Uh … I know some old men,” the man said.
“Maybe one that might have gone missing? Tried to get away, leave this place?”
“Nobody leaves. No. I don’t … I don’t …”
“Long white beard,” Wallin said. “No mustache. Bald head.”
“Uh … might be … Johnson Bice,” the man said. “He sounds kind of like you’re talking about. I don’t know where he could go. It’s got arthritis really bad. He couldn’t go nowhere. Especially not in that.”
He gestured towards the door.
“It’s been a bad day,” he said. “It’s been a really bad day.”
Pavil suddenly realized, in the silence when no one spoke, there was the constant tick-tock of a clock from some other room nearby. The repetitive, unending noise started to grate on his nerves and he found his eye twitching with every tick and every tock. Nurse Petrov noticed it and narrowed her eyes. She realized he had some issue and soon recognized the twitch was synchronized with the clock.
“Do you need to leave?” she asked.
“If you could make that clock stop it’d be even better,” Pavil said.
“Explain,” she said.
She could hear the tick-tock of a pendulum, probably to an old grandfather clock, somewhere in the place.
“Plug ears,” she said.
“It’s been like this ever since the house,” Pavil said. “Couldn’t get it to stop.”
“Plug ears,” she said again. “Here you go.”
She pulled earplugs from her medical bag and Pavil put them in his ears. He could no longer hear the ticking and he felt a great relief.
The front door opened with a blast of cold air and the boy the man had sent off came in. Three more people were behind him, a man, a woman, and a young boy. The man was handsome and young with thick hair that was out of style. The woman was blonde and pretty. The young man was obviously their son and looked at the four people curiously.
The man whose house they were in rushed over to the door.
“What’s someone from the outside world doing here?” he said to the man.
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out,” the man replied.
He patted the old man on his shoulder.
“Not here on purpose,” Nurse Petrov said.
“Howdy folks, we don’t get strangers here often,” he said. “What’re you all doing in Perdition?”
“I crashed our car out on the hill,” Cloverfield said.
“Oh,” the man said.
“Caught in snowdrift,” Nurse Petrov said.
“Yeah, it’s been bad, bad weather,” the man said. “Well, listen, we don’t have much in the way of … what were you doing coming this way?”
“I was trying to get to Fort Mickle?” Cloverfield said.
“What is Fort Mickle?” the man said.
“Fort McCree?” Nurse Petrov guessed.
“I just know it’s a fort,” Cloverfield said.
“So, you’re lost,” the man said.
“Well, we were trying to get this … Fort place … and there’s a doctor there we were trying to speak to,” Cloverfield said.
“We got two doctors in town,” the man said. “Is somebody sick?”
“No, a professor,” Cloverfield said.
“Oh, I see,” the man said. “Well, you’re not going anywhere tonight.”
“Too late,” Wallin said.
“Obviously,” Nurse Petrov said.
“Tell you what, I’ll go wake up Mr. O’Brien at the hotel, we’ll get you all some rooms,” the man said. “Um … is anybody hurt? I can send for Dr. Reddick and wake him up.”
“Only bump,” Nurse Petrov said.
“Nothing too bad,” Wallin said.
“After all, we wouldn’t want to lose the first visitors this town has had in years, now, would we?” the man said.
“Do you know man with long, white beard, no moustache, balding?” Nurse Petrov said.
“Uh …” the man said.
“It might be Johnson Bice?” the first man said.
“Johnson Bice?” the man said. “Why he’s all wracked with arthritis. He wouldn’t’ve been out. Why? He lives on the other side of town.”
“Unfortunately, car lost control,” Nurse Petrov said. “We slide. We hit man. Look like that. By accident.”
“Oh,” the younger man said.
“He was also in some overalls,” Wallin said.
“Before he died, he rambled about how nobody can leave this place and that he was sad that he was never going to because we hit him with the car accidentally,” Pavil said.
“Oh,” the younger man said.
“He was mental,” Nurse Petrov said. “Came out of nowhere.”
“Sounds like he was just rambling, then if you hit him with a car,” the younger man said. “It might be. I’ll go check on his house and see if he’s home.”
Cloverfield told him where the body and the motorcar both were.
“I’ll see what I can do about that,” the man said. “I’ll see what I can. If you’ll come with me. Just put your coats back on. I’m sorry about this. We don’t want to keep Mr. McKensey up, do we?”
The other man shook his head, still very frightened.
“Apologies,” Nurse Petrov said.
The man nodded his head.
“Did I say that right?” Nurse Petrov said.
“Yes,” Wallin said.
The younger man led them down the street. They passed more homes, a bank, a restaurant, a billiard hall, a drugstore, and a boarded up building marked “Perdition Post.” Then they passed a Dr. Reddick’s, a meat shop or butcher, and finally to a three-story building with the sign “Hotel” out front. The man knocked and the man who answered seemed very nervous as he opened the door to the young man, saying “It’s Ezekiel!”
“Andrew, we need some rooms,” Ezekiel said. “We got some strangers in town and they need a place to stay. And … uh … this is Andrew O’Brien, he runs this hotel.”
The building stood on cross-streets.
“I’ll have to clean ‘em up,” O’Brien said. “We haven’t had anybody in so long. Sorry the rooms are going to be kind of cold but I’ll get you extra blankets. The old wood furnace, it doesn’t work like it used to.”
O’Brien scurried up the stairs. Ezekiel hesitated.
“If you want to come over for breakfast tomorrow morning, I’ll have some breakfast,” he said. “I live right across the street here.”
They could see the large house directly across the street.
“Very kind,” Nurse Petrov said.
“You’re lucky you found the town,” Ezekiel said. “A night like this … people won’t live through a night like this. Not in the Appalachians.”
“Heck no,” Wallin said.
“Well, I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Mr. O’Brien here,” Ezekiel said.
It was several minutes before O’Brien came back down. He led them upstairs nervously and they noticed dust in the air of each room. The rooms smelled musty, as if no one had been in there for years. It was very cold in the rooms but O’Brien brought them each several blankets and quilts. He left a burning candle in each of their rooms before he left. Cloverfield seemed very displeased with the accommodations.
Each room had a single bed, basins and jugs on a dry sink, chest of drawers, and chests with more blankets and quilts. Velvet curtains covered the windows and the whole place felt very out-of-date. O’Brien took the jug from each room and returned with it filled with cold water. He pointed out the chamber pots under each bed. He finally bid them each goodnight, telling them if they needed anything they could find his room behind the stairs. They thanked him and he nervously left them.
Pavil was relieved he could not hear any clocks.
They were not given keys to their rooms and the bolts in the inside of the doors had obviously been removed long ago. Both Cloverfield and Pavil slept with their pistols under their pillows.
Pavil sat in front of the chest at the foot of his bed and reassembled his Springfield rifle before he went to bed.
Nurse Petrov pulled back the curtains to look out her window. She couldn’t see much outside but noticed the frost that had already formed on the inside of the window. She realized the curtains were closed to act as further insulation.
Wallin slipped his chainsaw out of his bag and under the bed.
* * *
All of them had nightmares and unsettling dreams through the night, though only Wallin could remember what he had dreamed.
He dreamt he was carrying books and scrolls that were old and hoary through a mine shaft. He put them down and started to intone a chant. It seemed to last for a long time. When he stopped, nothing happened. Then he felt something moving on his arm. He reached down to pull back his shirt at the sudden large, strange bulge there … and awoke.
* * *
Pavil woke up very early on Saturday, February 16, 1924, as was usual for him. He got up from the warm bed into the cold room and opened up the curtains. Outside, a layer of snow made the scene almost picturesque, were it not for how terrible the town looked. It was worse in the daylight. Buildings hadn’t been painted in years and even the sky was gray and dreary.
“I don’t know what I expected,” he muttered to himself.
There was a knock on the door. He found James Wallin there. Wallin noticed the Springfield rifle on the chest.
“You still got that flask, buddy?” Wallin said.
“Yes, I do,” Pavil said.
“You mind if I have a swig?”
“Not at all.”
He produced the flask and Wallin took a drink of the whiskey. Pavil joined him, warming himself.
“I had a horrible dream last night,” Wallin said.
“I had some bad ones but I don’t remember ‘em,” Pavil said.
“Oh. I was in … a mineshaft. Had some books on me. I … I don’t know what that is.”
“I started speaking some … weird mumbo jumbo. Don’t really know what it was … and then everything just sort of stopped and I felt something on my arm. It was bulging.”
“You were in a mineshaft with books, you started speaking some weird language, and something touched you?”
“No. Not something touched me. My arm just sort of started … bulging.”
“Yeah. Don’t know what it could mean. All I know is, I’m ready for some breakfast. Didn’t O’Brien say …”
Pavil had taken out a little notebook and jotted down what Wallin had told him about the dream.
“Didn’t that bald man say there was a mine somewhere in this town?” Wallin said.
“Yes, he did,” Pavil said. “And that makes it even more disturbing. Did Deryl ever talk to you about the house?”
“He talked to me a little bit about it. We were really, really drunk the night he talked to me about that. He later told me about more about New York City thought.”
“What happened in New York City?”
“Basically, some mobsters shot at him and then there was this man who was playing a trumpet that was apparently raising the dead? I don’t know if I believe that. But, from what I can remember about the house, he told me there was some sort of haunting in there.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
“Anyways. I’m ready for breakfast. Hopefully, I’ll see you down there soon. By the way, nice weapon.”
“Thank you. I kept it from the War. And I will never let it go.”
Pavil had pulled a rosary from his pocket and handled it nervously.
Wallin left the man, using his chamber pot and heading downstairs. He found O’Brien down in the kitchen, cooking some eggs and ham. He was also toasting homemade bread.
“Oh!” he said when Wallin entered. “Oh. Hello.”
“Hello,” Wallin said.
“Just cooking … there’s a dining room right there. Through there. I’ll bring you something to eat.”
Wallin went into the simple dining room and O’Brien brought him food. It was very bland and there were no seasonings on the table either. He also brought him a glass of well water.
* * *