The Murders in Midnight Part 3 - Pursuit of a Ghost
* * *
Dr. Weisswald went to Alice’s room when she got up that night. She knocked and the woman answered the door wearing a big robe, her hair a mess.
“Do you need something?” she asked.
“Well, since Willie saw your father’s ghost and also the organ was playing last night, I think that we might be able to see him tonight,” Dr. Weisswald said.
The woman looked at her, confused.
“Oh,” she finally said. “Well, he’ll tell me when he comes back.”
“Well, don’t you want to greet him when he shows up?” Dr. Weisswald said.
“I think that should be his choice. He’ll come to me when he’s ready. I’m so looking forward to it. Or maybe this is all just … some kind of … illusion on my part.”
“Well, Willie saw it, so it can’t be just illusion.”
“That’s true. But I’ll talk to him when he wants to talk to me. Daddy was always … he would lock himself up for days sometimes, making his little machines. But thank you for asking. Do you need anything?”
“Well, good night.”
She closed the door.
Dr. Weisswald headed back to bed with the intention of going up there near midnight. She planned to sit in the doorway.
* * *
Professor Stalloid went to Mrs. Delacroix’s house. She was surprised but not disappointed to see him though she had to go get dressed.
They talked and he allowed her to massage his feet, which was very nice. That went on for some time and he suggested he stay the night.
“Ohh,” she said. “Mr. Stalloid!”
She gave him a playful shove and, with his feet up, the entire chair went over backwards.
“Oh God!” he cried out.
“Oh my goodness!” she said.
She helped him up.
“Well, I’ll prepare a room for you,” she said, giddy. “I don’t usually have a guest.”
“If word gets out of this … my reputation!” she said. “Oh!”
She flitted off to the guest room, obviously quite pleased. She was gone for a very long time. He eventually went to the room and found the window open. One of Mrs. Delacroix’s gloves was on the floor. The bedding was turned but one of the sheets was partially pulled off the bed. He ran to the window and looked out.
He saw a hearse behind the house. Someone sat on top in the driver’s seat, but there were no horses! With only the sound of the wheels on gravel, it rolled away, picking up speed as it disappeared around the side of the house. Professor Stalloid leapt out of the window and ran after it but its speed was incredible. When he reached North Shore Road, he saw it disappear into the darkness in town.
* * *
West hid in the bushes behind the pickler’s store in the bushes. Poorly. He was still standing there, out in the open, when Professor Stalloid ran up, out of breath.
“Hey, my target was taken,” Professor Stalloid said meekly. “I failed.”
“Really?” West said.
“Well, let’s go check the mortuary.”
“Let’s go get Wilder.”
West said he’d go to the mortuary to get Dr. Weisswald while Professor Stalloid went to get Wilder. They would meet at the graveyard. Professor Stalloid told him to get his shotgun.
* * *
Wilder hid himself in the shadows of a tree near Finch’s house. He was well-hidden.
Professor Stalloid ran down the street and started to look around. He ran all the way around Finch’s house.
“Stalloid, what are you doing?” Wilder said.
“I failed,” Professor Stalloid said. “The mystery person came into the house through a window, grabbed her, and drove off. Rode off. We’re going to the cemetery.”
Wilder nodded and they went.
* * *
West could see a light in the organ loft and ran up to the dirty and bloody place, finding Dr. Weisswald up there in the doorway.
“Looks like … Delacroix was the target,” he said. “So you can still wait on the organ but I’m going to go check the graveyard with the other two when they get here.”
They rushed downstairs, both of them going into the men’s bedroom. West grabbed Professor Stalloid’s shotgun and rifle while Dr. Weisswald grabbed Wilder’s Winchester. She ran to her room to grab her bow and arrows.
They ran into the other two coming up the road and Dr. Weisswald and Wilder noticed the leaky rowboat near the carriage house was missing. It had been there that afternoon.
“Are they going to drown her?” Dr. Weisswald said.
“Let’s go to the lake!” Professor Stalloid said.
“I was there … the whole time,” Wilder said as they ran back down the road. “You had one job, Stalloid! Watch the lady! And don’t take me away from the lake. And you did both that you weren’t supposed to do!”
They ran back into town and down Harbor Lane to the lake. There, they spotted, 50 or 60 feet from shore, a rowboat in the water. Someone was sitting up in it. They looked around for other boats on the docks. They found a few on the shore, flipped over. The first one Dr. Weisswald turned over had no oars with it. Wilder turned over an old canoe and found oars. He pushed it down into the water and Dr. Weisswald jumped into the front. Professor Stalloid leapt into the back and shoved off.
They rowed to the sinking rowboat to find Mrs. Delacroix tied up and gagged. Her hands were tied behind her back and ropes were wound around her body. She looked around, wide-eyed and terrified.
They heard the wail of the pipe-organ music roll across the town, coming from the Pettigrew house.
Dr. Weisswald reached over to grab the woman as Professor Stalloid counterbalanced the canoe. Dr. Weisswald dragged the woman into the canoe and they rowed back to shore as the music played in the distance.
“Oh, they all have to do with their fears!” Dr. Weisswald said.
Once they were safe on shore, they untied the woman. She was very shaken and terrified. Professor Stalloid calmed her.
“Charles Pettigrew!” she said. “I was in … I don’t know where I was. It was a courtroom! He said I was guilty of lying! Of causing him to be killed out of his term! He’s back! He’s back, Dr. Stalloid! He’s back!”
She stopped and looked up.
“Wait!” she said. “What’s that noise?”
The organ music continued to roll across the town.
“Sounds like the organ,” Dr. Weisswald said.
The music stopped.
Mrs. Delacroix told them the man was obviously dead and had been for some time, rotted and disgusting. Charles Pettigrew had her in a witness stand and he judged her, condemning her to a terrible death by drowning. He brought her to the lake in the hearse though she didn’t hear the sounds of horses. He put her in the boat and shoved her off shore.
Dr. Stalloid suggested taking Mrs. Delacroix to Dr. Chin’s hospital and they hustled the woman up the road. They woke up Dr. Chin and he administered some laudanum to the woman to calm her. He locked her in one of the upstairs rooms and told them he’d keep an eye on her throughout the night once he learned the terrifying story of her being taken.
* * *
Monday, May 3, 1875, was another bright and sunny southern California day. They had another pleasant if strange breakfast with Alice Pettigrew and the empty seat at the table. She told them she heard music the night before.
“So, daddy’s apparently coming back soon,” she said happily.
“I think he’s already back,” Dr. Weisswald said.
“He’s not here yet, though.”
“Two people have already seen him.”
“Well, people say they saw him.”
“I saw him,” Professor Stalloid said.
“So, he must be waiting to surprise me!” Alice said.
She seemed bubbly and happy about the whole situation.
“I saw him,” Professor Stalloid said again.
“Did you?” Alice said.
“Yeah, I saw him driving the hearse without horses.”
“How’d he look?”
“Like a person.”
“According to Delacroix, he could use some of that putty and makeup,” Dr. Weisswald said.
“Well, we’ve got some,” Alice said. “I hope it’s not gone bad.”
She seemed happy about her father coming back and wasn’t even fazed by the fact that he’d been dead for six years.
“Did you happen to have any of the books your father used to read?” West asked.
“I don’t know where he kept his books,” Alice said. “I never found any books.”
“No little secret compartment in his old study?”
“He didn’t really have a study. I don’t know where he studied his books.”
* * *
After breakfast, Professor Stalloid went up to the attic to examine the organ pipes. They were clustered all around the loft and none of them went a long distance. He examined the organ as well and sat down at it. Then he pumped the organ and pressed each of the keys in turn, going up the scale. Alice arrived shortly after.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“I’m learning,” Professor Stalloid said.
“Well, please don’t. This is for my father and you’ve already said he’s come back.”
“Yeah, I want to surprise him.”
“You don’t want to make him angry.”
“I’ll just surprise him.”
“You don’t want to make him angry.”
“Just surprise him.”
“Please don’t play the organ.”
She left after giving the man an “I’m keeping an eye on you” look.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald and West went to the grocers that morning and he took them to Learned’s house, letting them in via the back door and leaving the key with them, asking them to return it when they were done.
“Good luck,” he whispered to them before he left.
West tried to hide when they heard footsteps approaching. When Learned saw Dr. Weisswald there and spotted West trying to hide in the corner, he shrieked. He turned and ran from the kitchen. Dr. Weisswald ran after him. West followed at a more leisurely pace.
Learned ran upstairs and into a room, locking the door behind him.
“Mr. Learned, we just really wanted to talk to you,” Dr. Weisswald said through the door. “We believe that Charles Pettigrew is back for revenge against the town.”
“And we need help in order to, who knows?” she said. “Appease him or make him leave or whatever.”
Learned wailed in his room. He sounded terrified.
“What do you want to know?” he finally cried out. “Get out of my house! What do you want to know?”
“Well, we’ve heard that you were friends with him,” she said.
He shrieked in terror.
“But then you had some sort of falling out,” she said.
“Yes, the book!” he cried out. “The book! The book! I wanted to burn the book! He didn’t want to. He said we could learn from it. After we found it in that terrible, terrible haunted place. He must have used the book and figured out how to come back from the dead!”
He wailed in terror once again.
“Do you know where the book is?” she asked.
“He took it!” he cried out. “I wanted to destroy it but he took it. He said … he never talked sense! That was eight years ago.”
He wailed again.
“Where did you find the book?” she asked.
“I daren’t say!” he said. “It was a terrible place. It was a haunted house. It was haunted by horrible things! And we found the book there. It was - it was - it was English. It was Mysteries of … something. I don’t remember. It’s been so long and-and-and-and-and we never were able to put the thing down! We ran away. It was terrible.”
He wailed again.
“Do you think it was Charles that killed his wife?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” he said. “They loved each other. They doted on each other. I don’t see how - how he could have. Charles wasn’t a murderer. Well. Apparently he is now. Now that he’s dead! He’s dead!”
“Would you like some laudanum to calm your senses?”
“No! You’ll just try to overdose me and kill me!”
“I could just give you the laudanum. Then it wouldn’t be an overdose.”
Learned shrieked in terror.
“Leave it behind when you go!” he cried out.
“Maybe the book is the source of this guy’s power,” Dr. Weisswald said to West.
“Sounds like it,” he replied.
Learned let out another shriek.
“The maimed man!” he cried. “You’re with them! I knew it! You’re going to try to kill me!”
They heard the man weeping in the room.
“Is that haunted house involved with ‘them?’” West growled.
“Everything is!” Learned wailed. “Everything! You don’t know! You don’t know!”
“You are correct. I don’t know. Would you explain it to me?”
“They’re everywhere. They’re everywhere.”
“Who are ‘they!?!’”
“I don’t know!”
“Describe it, please.”
“Things from beyond. Things from beyond time and space. They’re terrifying. Terrifying!”
“Do you have any idea where he might have kept the book?” Dr. Weisswald said.
“No!” Learned cried out.
The only other thing they got from the man was that Charles Pettigrew had a secret place. Learned didn’t know where it was, though.
“Please go!” he cried out.
“All right,” West said. “Thanks for talking to us, Learned.”
Learned shrieked again.
“The maimed man!” he cried out.
Dr. Weisswald left the laudanum outside the door. They heard Learned’s door open as they went down the stairs. Then it slammed shut again. They guessed he’d snatched up the laudanum.
They let themselves out the back door and locked it behind them. They returned the key to the timid giant of a grocer.
* * *
Professor Stalloid and Wilder started to search the Pettigrew house for the book. Alice noticed as she cleaned and asked what they were doing.
“I’ve misplaced something,” he lied.
“Oh, let me help you look,” she said.
“Okay,” he said.
“What did you misplace?”
“One of my research journals.”
She asked what it looked like and he told her it was a book. She helped the man look for it.
* * *
Wilder found the low-ceilinged, damp basement and searched there but found nothing of interest. Some vegetables were stored down there and a clothes washing machine as well. He didn’t find anything of interest or value, however, and no books. He also found the storm doors that led out of the cellar. He pushed on various stones in the hope of finding some kind of secret passage without luck.
* * *
Professor Stalloid and Alice searched the house but found no books. He even took her up to the attic though they found nothing. The only place they didn’t look was in Alice’s bedroom.
While they were searching, Professor Stalloid found a bowl of green apples, fresh picked in the kitchen.
West returned not long after that.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald went to the graveyard and knocked on the door to Rupert Smith’s shack.
“What?” he said when he opened it.
“I just want to ask you a couple questions,” she said.
“Apparently Charles had some sort of secret place. I just wanted to know if you know where that is.”
He just closed the door.
* * *
When Dr. Weisswald returned to the house, Professor Stalloid got her alone for a moment.
“Get rid of the apples,” he said.
She looked at him like he was crazy
“I want to get her out of the house,” he whispered. “Get her out in the orchard.”
“Okay,” she said.
Dr. Weisswald grabbed the bowl of apples while the others were still searching. She took them to the carriage house and fed them to the horse and mule there. She returned the bowl and, not long after, Professor Stalloid went to the carriage house and claimed his research journal, which they’d been searching for hours, was in the saddlebags the whole time.
Alice noted the missing apples and went out to the orchard to pick more. While she was gone, West, Dr. Weisswald, and Wilder went into her room to search for secret doors while Professor Stalloid stood outside the house where he could get a good look at the orchard. They found nothing and so Wilder went down to replace Professor Stalloid as lookout and he came and looked.
They found no secret doors or places in their hurried search of the girl’s room.
Wilder started coughing loudly outside and they guessed that meant Alice was returning. They quickly left.
Alice prepared lunch for them and then got to work on apple pie for dessert that night.
They all went to Rupert Smith’s shack as a group. They knocked on the door and he opened up.
“What?” he said. “What do you want?”
“Just got a few questions for you, Rupert,” West said.
“I got some questions for you too,” Rupert said.
“Oh,” Dr. Weisswald said. “Good.”
“What happened to your face?” Rupert said.
“I think it was sulfuric acid, sir,” Professor Stalloid said.
West rolled his eyes.
“That’s my hypothesis,” Professor Stalloid said.
“What?” Rupert said. “What do you want to know?”
“Well, we’d like to know where Charles’ little secret lab is,” West said.
“Well, why don’t you ask Charles? He’s apparently running around, trying to kill people!”
“Look, we’re tired of all this stuff about Charles running around, too,” Professor Stalloid said. “We think it’s someone else trying to cause trouble and they’re using him as an easy scapegoat.”
Rupert looked at him for a moment, obviously torn.
“We don’t want anybody messing with his graves anymore too,” Professor Stalloid said.
“If I tell you things, I’ll be a target next,” Rupert said.
“We can keep you safe,” Dr. Weisswald said. “We kept Mrs. Delacroix safe.”
“You should just get outta town,” Rupert said. “I heard what happened to Mrs. Delacroix! That she was put in a boat and about drowned.”
“Yeah, but she’s alive,” Professor Stalloid said.
“For now,” Rupert said. “I don’t think I wanna take that chance.”
“We know what his source of power is,” Dr. Weisswald said. “If we destroy it, then he’ll stop.”
“What’s his source of power?”
“Locked in his secret lab,” West growled.
“Follow the hearse,” Rupert said. “That’s all I can tell you.”
“It goes south,” Professor Stalloid said.
“Follow the hearse,” Rupert said again.
“It goes south,” Professor Stalloid said again.
Rupert closed his door. West looked at Professor Stalloid like he was an idiot.
“It goes south,” Professor Stalloid said again.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald and Professor Stalloid went to Judge Harris’ house around lunchtime to try to determine what he was afraid of. So far, the two victims of attacks had been subject to their fears. Marshal Baker had been claustrophobic and placed in the mausoleum of Charles Pettigrew. Mrs. Delacroix had been left to drown in the lake. Professor Stalloid felt he understood Finch was afraid of choking or being choked. They were unsure of Judge Harris.
The man invited them in for lunch and they spoke to him for some time. Dr. Weisswald realized he had no phobia, per se, but guessed he had a mania for food of all kinds by the way he treated the food at the table. He loved the smell of it, the taste of it, the look of it, the sound of eat being eaten. She thought the man simply loved food more than anything else in life. Though he didn’t gorge himself with food, he loved to eat, took his time with it, and enjoyed it completely.
When she asked him what he would do if all his food disappeared, he said food was not hard to find. He admitted that even bad food was good food. Discussion led them to understand that even hard tack and beef jerky and other rough food was simply a delight to the man.
Professor Stalloid asked him where the hanging of Charles Pettigrew took place. He told them a scaffold was built in the middle of town on the corner of Main Street and Wharf Road, where there was a farmer’s field. The gallows was taken back down after the hanging. When the man asked him what was south of town, Judge Harris told him there were a few farms further out but nothing else until one reached Temecula, 30 miles away. A lake lay about halfway to the town.
* * *
They discussed what to do once again and formed a plan. Wilder would watch Finch’s house again while West would watch Judge Harris’ house. Professor Stalloid planned to stay in the hospital to watch over Mrs. Delacroix, who was spending the night there again. Dr. Weisswald was posted on her horse, which was very fast, at the Gardener’s house on the south side of town to watch for the hearse if it went by.
They had a filling dinner again that night of turkey and mashed potatoes. Then they napped once more until about 10:30 p.m. before going out, with their horses and Professor Stalloid’s mule this time, and taking their positions to guard the other people. All of them were armed.
* * *
Late in the night, Wilder heard a cry from Finch’s house. Moments later, the horseless hearse rolled out from behind the house, turned, and headed up the Fisher’s Lane at speed. Wilder leapt onto his horse and kicked it into action, following the horseless and quiet hearse, which turned right on Main Street and headed south.
As Wilder galloped onto the street, West, who had seen the hearse as well, came galloping down the road and the two of them gave chase.
* * *
Professor Stalloid had gotten a very nice foot massage from Mrs. Delacroix earlier that evening and was sitting near the front door, watching both the stairs and out the front window. He saw the horseless hearse roll by, only the crunch of the wheels on the ground making any sound. He ran outside to where his mule was tied up and mounted him even as Wilder and West galloped by in pursuit of the hearse. They were losing ground to it, however. It was moving terribly quickly.
His mule brayed as he kicked it into motion. It wasn’t very fast.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald kicked her horse into a gallop even as the hearse came around the side of the hospital, trying to keep up with it. It flew by her and she pressed herself close to her horse, Shy Ann, tearing down the road. The dappled gray mare didn’t disappoint and she found herself leaving Wilder and West, riding hard behind her, in the dust.
Unfortunately, the hearse proved to be even faster. A quarter of a mile south of town, she lost sight of it for a moment when the road curved to the left. When the road straightened out again, the hearse was simply gone. She looked around desperately and then spotted a path off the road to the left in the woods. She turned Shy Ann and ripped onto the path.
* * *
When Wilder and West came around the same turn in the road, they saw Dr. Weisswald was gone.
“She’s gotta be this way!” West said.
He turned his horse onto the path Wilder hadn’t noticed. The other man followed, kicking his horse into a gallop once again.
* * *
The path Dr. Weisswald followed ended at the side of a steep hill. She reined Shy Ann up and looked around. There was no sign of the hearse. It was so very dark and she dismounted and lit her lantern. She heard hoof beats and West and Wilder galloped up and looked around. The path seemed to go up to the edge of the hill and just end.
“Nothing,” West said.
“Who was taken again?” Dr. Weisswald asked. “The prosecutor?”
“Yeah,” Wilder said.
“If we’re all here, we’re not … protecting him,” she said.
“There’s gotta be a secret entrance somewhere!” West said.
He dismounted and looked around the hill. He found a cleverly hidden entrance. Burlap sacks were mounted on hidden logs. Fake grass had been stitched into them and, when they were laid out, formed a rough wall that, especially in the darkness, made an almost invisible covering. In the daylight, they might have more easily found it, but at night, it was all but invisible.
Inside was a wide cave mouth about nine feet high. There were ropes in place to pull the burlap back and which could be used to quickly close the burlap, accounting for why the hearse had disappeared.
They stopped when they heard more hoof beats coming, these a little slowly. A moment later, Professor Stalloid and his mule arrived, the professor having stumbled across the path as well and then seen the light of the lantern. He tied his mule to a tree and lit his own lantern, making sure his shotgun was loaded.
About 20 feet into the cave stood the hearse. Dr. Weisswald threw the door in the back open and found the hearse had been modified. A false floor had been put into the vehicle and below it were numerous lead-acid batteries, all of them wired together. They proved to be attached to some kind of mechanical engine that apparently ran on battery power. There were also two brushes on the back of the hearse, hooked up to the batteries, and positioned behind the wheels, built so that, as the hearse moved, the brushes would spin on the ground behind it.
“Erase the tracks,” Professor Stalloid said.
They noted the usual glass of the hearse had iron plates mounted behind them and there was a place to lie down and peer out of a slit in the front. Some kind of steering mechanism was also there where someone could manipulate and control the hearse from within.]
Next to the hearse was a small, underground stream with an electrical generator attached to a waterwheel.
It was all very ingenious.
They followed the cave, which continued into the hillside, until they saw the glimmer of light around a corner ahead and heard a voice.
“You have been found guilty of the murder of a man who did not deserve it!” the husky voice growled. “How do you plead?”
“Not guilty!” they heard the voice of Aristotle Finch. “I was just doing my job!”
“You are guilty and you must be punished,” the husky voice said. “What would be a good punishment?”
They doused their lanterns and started to move forward as quietly as possible. Then they heard the noise of West’s spurs behind them. He sighed and stopped.
“Ditch the spurs,” Professor Stalloid whispered.
“They’re part of the boots!” West whispered.
“We’ll come back for them!” Professor Stalloid whispered.
“I’ll give you a two-minute lead,” West whispered, pulling out his pocket watch.
The other two continued to sneak forward. Professor Stalloid followed behind.
* * *
The tunnel they crept through opened into a larger cave with a higher ceiling. Several beams supported the stone above and a judge’s bench had been constructed in the middle of the room. A witness booth had been built near it and, off to one side were tables covered with items. A couple of lanterns lit the cave only dimly.
Sitting behind the judge’s stand was the dead form of Charles Pettigrew. He didn’t look to be in as bad a shape as six years in the grave would have left him. But he was obviously dead. He wore the clothing of a mortician as well as a top hat with a long black scarf attached to it.
They were all convinced the body must have been someone in a mask. Dr. Weisswald realized someone could fit under the judge’s stand.
“The sentence is death!” the horrible voice said. “You will hang by your neck until you are dead!”
They noticed Finch was tied up. The man struggled in the chair he was tied to and cried out in terror.
Wilder crept into the room and headed for the shadows behind one of the supports. Professor Stalloid just ran into the room to the witness stand. Weisswald stayed in the shadows of the cave entrance. She took out her bow and an arrow.
“You can’t sentence this man to death!” Professor Stalloid said. “He didn’t even have representation!”
There was silence for a moment.
“What is this!?!” Professor Stalloid said. “Some kind of kangaroo court!?!”
* * *
West heard Professor’s Stalloid’s voice. He looked at his watch. It had only been 45 seconds since the others left. He put out his lantern and crept along the cave in the darkness.
* * *
“He represents himself!” the horrible guttural voice from the body on the judge’s stand said. “Who are you!?! Get out! Get out!”
“I’m professor Brandon Stalloid!” the man said. “Saver of children and master of law! I do not believe this man chose to represent himself, so I will represent him!”
“I have chosen! My choice will stand!”
“The judge doesn’t get to choose who represents people!”
“I will find you in contempt!”
“I want to see your credentials!”
While they talked, Wilder crept from one support to the next, hiding in the shadow. Then he saw a figure peek up from under the judge’s bench and recognized Alice Pettigrew in mortician’s clothing and hat. She had a shotgun in her hands and laid it on judge’s stand, aiming at Professor Stalloid. He saw the figure but not who it was and so leapt behind the witness stand as the shotgun fired. The blast went off but Stalloid was safe behind the stand. Part of one of the supports splintered.
* * *
West heard the shotgun blast and started running through the dark cave as best he could.
* * *
“Revenge will be mine!” Alice Pettigrew shouted in a deep, guttural voice.
There was another blast, part of which caught Finch. The man screamed and the chair he was in fell over in the witness booth, knocking the man back onto Professor Stalloid, gasping for breath. He was, surprisingly, not dead.
Wilder moved even closer to the judge’s stand along the wall. Alice hadn’t noticed him yet.
Weisswald ran from her cover, crossing to Finch, who was bleeding but obviously only caught some of the shotgun blast. He was whimpering in pain and bleeding but she didn’t think he was in immediate danger.
Jack West ran into the entrance to the large cave and saw a figure crouched behind the judge’s stand.
Wilder realized the double-barrel shotgun in Alice’s hands was empty. He leveled his Winchester, which he’d loaded with his remaining silver bullets, at the figure seated beside Alice and fired. The bullet struck the figure, which jerked, and he heard the ricochet on the opposite wall. The bullet had passed right through the unmoving corpse.
Professor Stalloid tried to bind Finch’s wound. Weisswald, seeing Finch was in no immediate danger of dying, leapt up and ran across the room to the opposite side of the judge’s stand from Wilder. She saw Alice Pettigrew there. Alice screamed at Wilder and then ran right by Weisswald and out of the room through the nearby cave entrance.
West aimed his pistol at Alice Pettigrew and then changed his mind and sprinted across the room. Professor Stalloid leapt up and ran towards the cave entrance Alice had just fled into. Wilder ran after the girl as well. However it was Dr. Weisswald who chased after the girl and tried to grab her around the midsection.
West moved forward and aimed down the tunnel but everyone was in his way. He didn’t have a clear shot at all.
“Everybody watch out!” he shouted.
Professor Stalloid turned and saw West pointing a gun at him. He ran off to the right, nearer to the table covered in items. Wilder dropped prone and fired his Winchester. The shot missed, ricocheting right next to Alice. Dr. Weisswald grabbed Alice around the midsection. West ran towards the tunnel.
“No!” Alice screamed. “No!”
Professor Stalloid ran to Finch and administered some laudanum to the man.
Wilder leapt up and ran to the two struggling women. Alice tried to break free but Dr. Weisswald took the woman to the ground, landing on top of her. The other woman struggled like a wild animal.
West ran up beside her.
“Don’t move or I’ll break your leg!” West growled.
Stalloid crossed the room and grabbed the ropes off the table. He headed for the tunnel while Wilder collected the shotgun Alice had dropped. They soon had Alice tied up as she screamed in defiance.
Dr. Weisswald tended to Finch, who was already feeling the effects of the laudanum.
“Now where’s that book that you don’t know what I’m talking about,” West growled.
Alice screamed in his face, obviously quite mad.
“I hate you!” she shouted. “I hate you! Kill me! Send me to my father!”
Dr. Weisswald realized Alice was much stronger than she looked.
They found a mask underneath the judge’s stand. It looked much like the face of the corpse sitting at the stand, which had been treated with embalming fluid and other things to keep it intact even after all those years. Alice had obviously been behind all of the kidnappings and the murder.
Professor Stalloid went back to examine the strange electric horseless hearse.
The others found some poison, a feeding tube, and a good amount of food on the table, which they guessed was to be used for Judge Harris. They found a noose they suspected Alice was going to use on Finch. They also found a bloody fireplace poker, identical to the one that currently resided in the parlor.
West found a book under the bench. It was a thick leather bound book that was titled Mysteries of the Worm and over 700 pages long. He flipped through it. The frontispiece noted it was an English translation of Der Vermis Mysteriis by Charles Leggett published in London in 1821. The very thick book had no pictures and didn’t interest the gunslinger very much. He found a scroll in the back that had Oriental writing upon it.
* * *
Professor Stalloid’s examination of the hearse and the generator proved the latter could be used to recharge the former. He guessed the charge would probably propel the vehicle for less than 20 minutes, barely enough to get to town and back. Still, it was an ingenious machine. He was unsure exactly how it worked but took copious notes.
Charles Pettigrew was obviously a genius, much as Alice had said.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald explored down the corridor where Alice had tried to flee. She found several places where there ladders up. She found a hidden trapdoor in the floor of the carriage house. Another ladder went up into a secret trapdoor that led into Alice’s bedroom. With a more exhaustive search of the room for another secret door, one was found that led to a ladder up to a tuning keyboard underneath the organ pipes. That was how Alice had played the organ without being found. A final passage in the caves led to a ladder up to a secret trapdoor in the mortuary building behind the house.
* * *
Wilder listened to Alice’s ranting. She still believed her father would come back and she told him there were spells in her book. She yelled at West, calling him an evil, ugly man and demanding he give her back her book. He ignored her.
“What book?” he growled.
She screamed she would kill him like she killed her mother. She told him her father had found her right after she’d killed her mother and told her he would take the blame before sending her out into the apple orchard. He apparently covered himself with her blood so he would be blamed but then trusted to justice and the court to find him innocent.
“But it didn’t!” she shrieked. “It didn’t work!”
When West asked her why she had killed her mother, she told him she wanted to leave the family business and go out into the world once she turned 18. Her mother had refused to allow it so she killed her. She ranted about what a terrible person her mother had been and that she had deserved to die. She was obviously very unstable and quite insane.
When Dr. Weisswald returned, she wanted to commit the girl to a sanitarium, not believing she should die when she was obviously not in her right mind.
* * *
Wilder told people they had tracked Alice down and brought her in at Marshal Flute’s request. They showed Marshal Flute where the caves were and Dr. Weisswald suggested they bury them. Alice was incarcerated in the single cell in the basement of Marshal Baker’s house. Marshal Flute said he’d take care of her until they took her to a sanitarium.
West looked for the notes Charles Pettigrew might have made on his devices but found nothing. When he later asked Alice about them, she told him she’d burned them.
“You’ll never know how my father’s inventions work!” she screamed. “To hell with you!”
* * *
Professor Stalloid and Dr. Wilder spent the next week skimming through the book in shifts. It proved, in its sixteen chapters, to talk ghosts, the walking dead, and the like in the first chapters. Then it talked about the supposed travels of Ludwig Prinn amongst the Saracens of Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and Libya, and his encounters with djinn, and efreet. There was much material regarding the summoning and binding of different demons. The last chapter talked about a drug that allowed one to travel through space and time though no formula for it was given.
The book made correlations between the Egyptian pantheon and entities of the some other mythos and related the legend of a long-long Bubastis cult in Cornwall that experimented with human-animal hybridization and cannibalism. It also described the many faces and forms of Nyarlathotep, the crocodile god Sebek and his cult, and the legend of Nephran-Ka, Egypt’s “black pharaoh.” Also mentioned were such entities as Father Yig, dark Han, and serpent-bearded Byatis. Prinn went to great lengths describing the relationship that sometimes existed between magical creatures and the statues and images made after them. These forms could often be used to communicate with the entity or even summon it, according to the book.
The book also claimed to have the formulae for many spells, including Command Ghost, Contact Deity/Byatis, Contact Deity/Yig, Create Scrying Window, Create Zombie, Invoke Child of the Goat, Invoke Demon, Invoke Invisible Servant, Mind Transfer, and Voorish Sign
* * *
They took the scroll in the back of the book to Dr. Chin and he skimmed over it and was somewhat disturbed by it after studying it for a couple of days. He said it was written in Chinese and claimed to be the first of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan that discussed Huang-Ti, the Yellow Emperor, and his miraculous inventions and cures. He noted it claimed to have a spell called Restore Life.
Jack West asked if he could translate it for them but he said it would take months and he had no interest in doing so. It was terrible.
* * *
In the end, they decided Dr. Weisswald would hold onto the book and study it. Professor Stalloid would take the scroll to San Francisco and see about getting it translated.
They had stayed at the house the entire time they were there and Professor Stalloid talked to Marshal Flute about purchasing the house. The man didn’t know how much to charge him for it. Professor Stalloid offered the man $1,000, pointing out the place was a double murder house. Flute consulted West, Dr. Weisswald, and Wilder about it and wanted to know if they thought it was a fair deal. None of them was sure so Marshal Flute talked to Mrs. Delacroix and Judge Harris and, eventually, the offer was accepted for the house, land, and outbuildings. Half of the money was to be set aside to help pay for Alice Pettigrew’s sanitarium stay. The rest was to be put in the town’s coffers.
Professor Stalloid went to Riverside and had the money wired to him, bringing it back and paying Deputy Flute. Judge Harris was put in charge of the money for the town’s use.
Professor Stalloid paid an additional $500 to make repairs and improvements on his new house and outbuildings. He also had local carpenters and carvers do the work, and had a large set of solid doors built over the cave entrance below. He had the stone Pettigrew sign sanded down and removed the name, leaving it blank. He also had the organ keys replaced.