* * *
Nurse Petrov examined Cloverfieldâ€™s leg and found his tibia, the thick bone of the lower leg, was broken. Luckily, as far as she could tell, it was a stable fracture. She gave him a thick wad of gauze, telling him to put it in his mouth and bite down on it. Then she set the bone as he groaned into the gauze. She bound it as tightly as she could but didnâ€™t have anything to use as a splint.
â€œMarco!â€ she called.
â€œWhat do you need?â€ he said, coming to the window again.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t ask this if I didnâ€™t have to. Could you find me something straight that I could use as a makeshift splint?â€
Marco disappeared from the window, returning a moment later with a fireplace poker and shovel. They discussed breaking out the railing from the stairs but decided against it.
â€œBreak it and then Iâ€™ll pay for it,â€ Cloverfield groaned.
Pavil left again, saying he was going to the kitchen. Nurse Petrov watched Miss Chatwick through the window, standing on her tiptoes and looking through while Cloverfield complained about getting his suit dirty.
â€œDonâ€™t move,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œI will watch you from here.â€
The other woman stared at her.
â€œSorry if this unsettles you,â€ Nurse Petrov called.
Miss Chatwick made a gulping noise in her throat.
â€œI know the windows must be frightening after that,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œYeah!â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œLetâ€™s try not to go near that broken window,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œBad things tend to happen.â€
â€œYeah,â€ Miss Chatwick said.
Cloverfield, noticing his pistol nearby, picked it up and put it back into his pocket.
Pavil came around the side of the house a few moments later with several wooden spoons and a mixing ladle. She told him to go back to see to Miss Chatwick and watched from the window.
As she watched, the room suddenly looked completely clean and both she and Miss Chatwick heard piano music. To Nurse Petrov, it was suddenly dark outside and the window was closed. Miss Chatwick looked towards the window and could no longer see the nurse.
An elderly man sat alone, playing the piano. 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. The man slammed his hands onto the keys and stood up. He was tall with a slim build and 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, his hair, mustache and beard a mottled gray. He was balding and had a haunted air about him.
A young woman with long, dark hair pulled back in a bun entered the room. She wore a maidâ€™s uniform. She curtsied nervously and told the old man dinner was ready. As the maid turned to leave, the main rose a shaking hand to stop her and, in a timorous voice, asked her name.
â€œMadeline,â€ she replied. â€œMadeline Werner, sir.â€
She hastily left, The man remained standing where he was, looking after her. Then he looked directly at Miss Chatwick and then Nurse Petrov.
As the room fell into ruin once again, Pavil entered the parlor.
â€œYou are no longer alone anymore,â€ he said.
She was staring at the piano.
â€œElaine?â€ he said. â€œUm â€¦ whatâ€™s wrong?â€
Nurse Petrov turned and quietly went to work splinting Cloverfieldâ€™s leg with her makeshift splints.
â€œOh,â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œHello. I â€¦ I â€¦ I saw â€¦ something. I â€¦ there was a man and the piano â€¦ I â€¦ itâ€™s familiar. I was told about this. James â€¦ told me â€¦ about this, I know. I know what he saw. Is he all right?â€
â€œIn a way,â€ Pavil said.
â€œIn a way? What has happened?â€
â€œHe fell out of the same window as you and I donâ€™t know why.â€
â€œOh â€¦ did â€¦ did he fall?â€
â€œHe fell out a window, yes.â€
â€œOh no. Oh no. Oh no. Was â€¦ who was with him?â€
â€œNobody was with him.â€
Outside, Nurse Petrov could hear the conversation. She frowned and shook her head at what was going on.
â€œI think thereâ€™s someone else in the house,â€ Pavil said.
â€œSomeone else?â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œOr something else?â€
â€œWeâ€™re going to go with someone!â€
He took his semi-automatic pistol out of his jacket pocket.
â€œWhoa,â€ Miss Chatwick said nervously.
He watched the archway that led to the foyer.
Outside, Nurse Petrov finished with Cloverfieldâ€™s leg. She helped the man to his feet and back to the house, warning him to keep weight off the broken leg.
â€œEdna, thereâ€™s a â€¦ cane in the trunk of my motorcar,â€ Cloverfield told her. â€œI could use it as a crutch, I guess. Or at least to lean on.â€
â€œYou need to put no pressure on this,â€ she said.
â€œYes, but you canâ€™t be supporting me the entire time.â€
â€œNo, but you can be sitting the entire time.â€
They reached the porch.
â€œYou can be sitting with Miss Elaine,â€ Nurse Petrov went on.
Cloverfield sighed as she helped him back into the house.
â€œYou have gun,â€ she said as she helped him into the parlor. â€œUse it whenever you want. Do not use it on us, though.â€
â€œOf course,â€ he said.
She sat him on a chair and fetched and ottoman to prop up his leg. Then she left the parlor.
â€œJames!â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œJames! I know. I â€¦ I â€¦ I think I saw the same thing you did.â€
â€œYou did?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œJust then. Just then. It was â€¦ what you described. It was a bald man playing the piano and â€¦ a servant girl â€¦â€
â€œI saw the man again, too. Earlier.â€
â€œAfter I â€¦â€
Cloverfieldâ€™s voice filled with regret.
â€œâ€¦ shot at â€¦ the mechanic â€¦â€
He sat up straight as if putting it behind him.
â€œI saw the bald man dragging the woman into the room upstairs,â€ he went on.
â€œWas it the same â€¦?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œIt was the same man, yes,â€ he said. â€œIt looked like it was her. And she was struggling towards the end. So she was still alive. But she was bloodied. I â€¦ I found a secret compartment in the room. I think there was a body in there. I think there was.â€
â€œAnd then, Marco and â€¦ Deryl called out to me and I went to check the window to see what happened.â€
The front door opened and Nurse Petrov returned with Cloverfieldâ€™s cane. It was more decorative than practical, but it would do. Outside, the rain let up though it remained overcast.
â€œI looked out to see if you were out there because I wasnâ€™t sure,â€ Cloverfield went on. â€œI kept my gun pointed to the door and I turned around, the bald man shoved me out the window and I fell.â€
â€œHe shoved you?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œAnd â€¦ there was no one else in the room?â€
â€œNo. There was no one else.â€
â€œOh. Because I didnâ€™t see anyone.â€
Pavil, listening to the entire conversation, was looking between the windows and doors, working the action on his pistol occasionally, which caused a bullet to leave the ejector port. Then he would remove the magazine from the butt of the pistol, replace the bullet in it, and replace the magazine. Then he worked the action again, removing another bullet, then putting it back into the magazine. Over and over and over and over again.
Once when he looked in the mirror, he thought he saw an additional figure in the room. It looked like a woman. When he saw it, he looked around, trying to figure what he was seeing in the mirror. He thought he heard the distant sound of a woman sobbing.
Cloverfield looked around the room and then looked at Pavil.
â€œWhereâ€™s Deryl?â€ he said. â€œDo you know where Deryl is?â€
â€œNo,â€ Pavil replied.
â€œWe havenâ€™t heard anything for â€¦ some time,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œWas he there with you when you got pushed out the window?â€ Nurse Petrov asked.
â€œWhat was he doing last?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œMarco?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œDeryl,â€ Cloverfield said to Pavil. â€œWhere is he? Mechanic boy. Motorcycle.â€
â€œWhere was he last?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œHe neverâ”€â€ Pavil started to say.
â€œHe went upstairs,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œHe â€¦ never came back from upstairs,â€ Pavil said.
â€œWhere was he going last?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œHe â€¦ was searching,â€ Pavil said, working the action on his pistol again. â€œHeâ€™s â€¦ still upstairs.â€
â€œMust be lots of rooms,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œWe need to find him,â€ Pavil said.
â€œWell, as long as you donâ€™t try to kill anybody in your uncomfortable state right now, I think we can go,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œBut there is a body upstairs,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œIn â€¦ that room?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œYes,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œI am not going back in there,â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œI donâ€™t care to see it.â€
â€œSomeone has to go look for him,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œIâ€™ll go,â€ Pavil said. â€œAnd find him.â€
â€œIâ€™ll go upstairs,â€ Miss Chatwick said, painfully trying to get up.
â€œNo!â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œYou stay here. I will go. Where is poker? There.â€
â€œEdna,â€ Cloverfield said.
He took his little snub-nose .38 special revolver out of his pocket and handed it to her.
â€œNot seen one of these since papa,â€ she said.
â€œIt only has five shots in it,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œYou just pull the trigger. Itâ€™s a double action. You just aim and shoot.â€
â€œDo you have any extra bullets, just in case?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
He shook his head. Pavil worked the action on his own pistol and tossed a bullet at the woman. Then he did it again. Both of them struck her in the chest and fell to the ground.
â€œWarn me,â€ she said coldly before stooping to pick them up.
Cloverfield helped her break the little gun open but the bullets were the wrong caliber. They were far too large. She handed them back to Pavil, who put them back into the magazine and the magazine back into the pistol.
â€œIf I come back and either of these two are dead â€¦ I will shoot you,â€ Nurse Petrov said to Pavil.
â€œI would expect nothing less,â€ the man replied.
â€œGood,â€ she said. â€œWe are on same page.â€
â€œAre you â€¦ all right?â€ Miss Chatwick asked Pavil. â€œI know none of us areâ”€â€
â€œYes,â€ Pavil said.
â€œI believe heâ€™s unstable from all of this,â€ Nurse Petrov said to the other woman.
â€œIâ€™m perfectly fine,â€ Pavil said.
â€œAre you â€¦?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
She pointed at Pavil, indicating he was staying with them.
â€œYes,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œPerfectly fine,â€ Pavil said to himself.
â€œWhatever takes your mind off things,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œI will be back. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s just looking for will.â€
Cloverfield tapped his cane against the floor to try to take his mind off things.
â€œStop it!â€ Pavil hissed at him. â€œStop it!â€
â€œI have bad feeling,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œDo you have extra bullets in car?â€
â€œI carry it for self-defense, not to kill people,â€ Cloverfield replied.
â€œI would hope.â€
â€œUsually one is enough. Thatâ€™s what they say, at least.â€
â€œGood point. Just curious.â€
â€œIt has a lot of stopping power. Donâ€™t necessarily aim for the head, just try to aim and hit them because the bullet will do a lot of harm if it hits.â€
She headed up the steps.
Nothing unusual or strange lay on the second floor landing. From the footprints in the dust, no one had entered any of the rooms there. She guessed if he was anywhere, it would be on the third floor. She stopped at the landing and looked around carefully. Tracks led to five of the six doorways and she saw the bullet hole in the wall. She went to the room directly across from the stairs and found it was a storage room. There was no hole in the wall.
She went to the other room on that side and found Wallin sitting on the floor, his back to the closed wardrobe against the other interior wall, rocking quietly and staring straight ahead. Across the room, one of the windows was broken.
â€œOh,â€ she said. â€œWell, that was easy. Are you all right?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Wallin said. â€œGive me a few minutes. Trying to â€¦ recollect â€¦ I donâ€™t â€¦ I canâ€™t remember everything right now â€¦â€
â€œI assume you saw things?â€
â€œYeah. A few things. Not sure exactly what.â€
He looked around, suddenly frantic.
â€œWhereâ€™s my dog?â€ he said.
â€œYour dog is in the bike, still,â€ she said. â€œYour sidecar.â€
â€œOkay,â€ he said.
He stood up, keeping his back to the wardrobe.
â€œCould you â€¦ help me there,â€ he said, nodding at the door.
â€œYes,â€ she said.
â€œI donâ€™t know how I got in this room.â€
â€œI assume you walked in. You mightâ€™ve saw something â€¦â€
â€œI donâ€™t remember.â€
â€œâ€¦ that caused you to forget. Weâ€™ve had some patients.â€
She helped him back down to the parlor where they joined the rest.
â€œIâ€™m not sure if will is worth it,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œI think fire is good. I think we should leave. This is not good.â€
â€œI need to get to a hospital,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œEdna, where did you find him?â€
She told the man where sheâ€™d found him.
â€œThe body was in the wardrobe behind a sliding door,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œDid he see it?â€
â€œWhat body?â€ Pavil said.
â€œThereâ€™s a body.â€
â€œThereâ€™s a body upstairs. Up in the â€¦â€
â€œYouâ€™re mentioning that now!?! Youâ€™ve been in the parlor this long, youâ€™re mentioning that now!?!â€
â€œI was more worried about his safety. The body did not seem important when he was missing.â€
â€œItâ€™s a damned body! That is the most important thing we could have possibly found here!â€
â€œIt â€¦ it â€¦ it â€¦â€
â€œWhere is it!?!â€
â€œItâ€™s in the wardrobe. I can show you how to open it by sliding the wall. Itâ€™s behind there in a bathroom. You can see into the room through a bullet hole in the hallway.â€
â€œI got up the stairs â€¦â€ Wallin said. â€œThen I was just â€¦ up against the wardrobe.â€
â€œDid you see anything?â€ Miss Chatwick asked.
â€œI â€¦ I donâ€™t remember.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t remember?â€
He didnâ€™t want to remember. Every time he tried to think what happened, he stopped. He didnâ€™t want to know. Something horrible had happened and he didnâ€™t want to know.
He stood up and left the room, going out of the house.
â€œHis dog might help him,â€ Pavil said.
* * *
Wallin went out and looked up. It was no longer raining though it was still overcast and warm. He went to his motorcycle and took off the cover of the sidecar. Sif stuck his head out and licked his face and he hugged the dog and petted him.
* * *
â€œIâ€™m curious but not too curious,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œI think that we should report dead body in wardrobe and leave this place.â€
â€œI think this would be the best next step we could possibly make,â€ Pavil said.
â€œDo you really trust the deputy to handle something like that, though,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œNo,â€ Pavil said. â€œBut I donâ€™t give a crap either.â€
They looked at each other.
â€œA dead body is beyond me,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œWe need police or ambulance.â€
â€œI agree,â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œThis is â€¦ too much. This is too much.â€
â€œI would like to check the body, but my leg,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œI should probably get to a hospital immediately.â€
â€œWe need to report this to someone and get you some help,â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œAnd you too,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œYou have fallen and we want to make sure nothing internal is damaged.â€
They headed for the door, Nurse Petrov helping Cloverfield.
â€œElaine, can you drive?â€ he said.
â€œYes,â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œIâ€™m in better shape than you.â€
Pavil looked up. He could hear a woman sobbing again. It sounded like it was coming for the back of the house. He stood up and went to the foyer. It sounded like it was coming from the basement door. He headed that way.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
He stopped at the doorway to the basement and looked back at them.
â€œDo â€¦ you â€¦ hear â€¦ that?â€ he asked.
â€œWhat?â€ she said.
â€œNo. Do you?â€
He looked at Nurse Petrov.
â€œDo you hear that?â€ he said.
â€œWe donâ€™t have time for this!â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œWe need to go get help. We need to do something â€¦ else! We need to get out of here!â€
â€œMarco,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œSomebody needs help in the basement,â€ Pavil said.
â€œMarco, best advice, weird thingsâ”€â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œDo you think someoneâ€™s alive down there?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
He listened to the sound of the woman crying for a moment.
â€œYes,â€ he said.
â€œEdna, will you come?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œEdna, I can support myself against the frame of the door,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œNo pressure on leg,â€ Nurse Petrov replied.
â€œIâ€™ll be fine,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œAnd Iâ€™ve got Deryl.â€
â€œThis house is dusty,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œNobodyâ€™s gotten here before we got here. No footprints, no nothing. She should not be alive if she is down there.â€
Nurse Petrov thought she heard the sobbing.
â€œIâ€™m not okay with this,â€ she said. â€œNobody should be here. After everything weâ€™ve just seen, I am not going to fall for trick. She got pushed out window. He as well. What happens when we go down there?â€
Cloverfield heard the sobbing as well.
â€œI will be leaving, with or without you,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œBut I am not going into that basement. I lay that down now.â€
There was a creak from above, as if someone was walking to the top of the stairs.
â€œGet out of this house,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Cloverfield pulled the pistol out of his pocket.
â€œDonâ€™t be hasty,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œYou have already shot at one.â€
â€œI heard something upstairs,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œItâ€™s a precaution.â€
â€œEverybody out this door!â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Standing by the door of the basement, Pavil saw something moving on it and dust falling.
â€œOut!â€ Nurse Petrov said.
She took Cloverfield by the left arm and started to move towards the front door.
Pavil threw the door open and headed down the basement steps. Cloverfield broke away from Nurse Petrov and slowly followed him.
â€œNo no no!â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œIâ€™m not leaving him!â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œAs long as I am taking care of you, you are not dying here,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œPut it down.â€
She looked at the pistol and he put it back in his pocket.
He had made it halfway up the foyer from the front door and could see there was a word drawn on the door in the dust. It read: â€œLEAVE.â€
â€œWhether you like it or not, we are leaving,â€ Nurse Petrov said, also seeing it. â€œIt is his funeral. I told him, if he goes down there, thatâ€™s his own.â€
â€œI canâ€™t leave someone to die,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œI understand that but if you go down there, you may die too,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œWe will get cops. If he is still alive, heâ€™ll be found.â€
The front door opened and Wallin stood there, looking around, still shaken. Nurse Petrov firmly but gently escorted Cloverfield towards the front door. He hung his head.
â€œWhereâ€™s Marco?â€ Wallin said.
â€œI told him not to go!â€ Miss Chatwick said, looking towards the cellar door and clutching at the necklace her mother had given her.
Wallin ran into the foyer, heading for the basement stairs. He ran past Nurse Petrov and Cloverfield.
â€œNo no no no!â€ Miss Chatwick cried out. â€œNo! Wait! Please!â€
Nurse Petrov glared at Wallin as he ran past, running to the basement stairs. Cloverfield continued walking, his head still down.
â€œAll of the injured much stay,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œYou will not be of much use if anything does happen.â€
Wallin threw open the basement door and flung the door open. He had seen the word written in dust on the door.
â€œMarco, get your sorry ass up here!â€ he shouted. â€œWe got things to do and places to be!â€
* * *
Pavil heard someone yelling upstairs but couldnâ€™t make out the words. The crying had gotten louder and louder as he approached the laundry room. It stopped when he reached the threshold of the chamber. He got to work pulling up the flagstones again.
Once he removed two more of the flagstones, he saw they were covering a hastily buried bloodstained burlap sack. It was large enough to hold a body. It looked like the same sack he had seen the with the old man in the laundry room earlier that day though dirtier and older. There was the hint of a smell. It was very cold in the room.
* * *
â€œPlease come back!â€ Miss Chatwick called.
Wallin headed down the basement stairs and looked around, a little confused. It was dim in the place and he had never been there before. He turned on his flashlight and saw that tracks ran to the doors on the right, the door near the front of the house, and to the kitchen door on his left.
â€œMarco!â€ he called out.
â€œWhat?â€ came a shout from the kitchen door.
Wallin went into the kitchen and saw the darkened scullery as well as another doorway from which a dim, flickering light came. He walked to the light.
â€œMarco, are you in the flashing room?â€ he called.
â€œEh,â€ Pavilâ€™s voice came.
â€œIâ€™m coming in,â€ Wallin said.
â€œEh,â€ Pavilâ€™s voice said.
Walling peeked into the laundry room where Pavil stood by the four or five floor tiles which had been pried up. In the hole in the floor there was a shallow pit with an old, dirty, bloodstained sack. Nearby, the lighter sat on the floor, the flame flickering though there didnâ€™t seem to be any breeze. It felt cold in the room.
Pavil shakily pointed to the sack in the pit. Wallin shined his flashlight upon it. It was the size and shape of a person and looked like it had been in the dirt for a while.
â€œI donâ€™t like that,â€ Wallin said. â€œWe need to get out of here now.â€
* * *
Nurse Petrov helped Cloverfield out to his roadster, putting him into the passenger side of the vehicle. He seemed despondent and unresponsive.
* * *
In the foyer, Miss Chatwick clutched at her necklace and fell to her knees, staring at the cellar door, paralyzed with fear. She silently prayed to herself for the two men. She started to smell something rotten around her and found breathing difficult due to the stench.
Nurse Petrov entered the front door again.
â€œElaine,â€ she said.
She moved to the woman and helped her to her feet.
â€œCan you smell that?â€ Miss Chatwick said.
The stink was gone.
â€œI â€¦ I donâ€™t smell anything,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œWe need to get you out of here. Those two have already gone too far.â€
â€œWe â€¦ we canâ€™t leave them,â€ Miss Chatwick said.
â€œI understand your feeling. But it would be dangerous for all of us if we stay.â€
â€œI canâ€™t let this happen. Not again.â€
â€œI beg your pardon.â€
â€œI canâ€™t let this happen â€¦ again.â€
â€œThere there, young one.â€
â€œThere there. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s not â€¦â€
She held the other woman, gently rubbing her hair. Miss Chatwick cried quietly.
Then Nurse Petrov felt something pull at a lock of her loose hair. Her skin crawled and she turned to see who it was. No one was there. She firmly picked up Miss Chatwick and pulled her towards the door.
â€œWhat are you â€¦!?!â€ the young woman cried out.
She took her completely out of the house. She carried her to Cloverfieldâ€™s roadster and put her in the driverâ€™s side, bidding her to scoot over to the middle.
* * *
Wallin grabbed Pavilâ€™s arm and pulled on him.
â€œI think youâ€™re right,â€ Pavil said. â€œThereâ€™s no one who can be saved here.â€
They left the laundry room, going through the kitchen and up the stairs. As they reached the basement door, they heard a woman crying behind them, a horrible, gut-wrenching sobbing of pure despair.
â€œIâ€™ve seen what I needed to see,â€ Pavil said.
They found Nurse Petrov struggling to pull the top down on the Stutz roadster with the other two tightly sitting in there.
â€œOh thank God!â€ Miss Chatwick said. â€œOh thank God youâ€™re okay!â€
â€œGlad to know youâ€™re back,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Cloverfield seemed very relieved at seeing the two men.
â€œNo hard feelings, I hope,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œNo,â€ Pavil said.
â€œDid you find what you were looking for, Marco?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Pavil put his finger to his lips.
â€œWe found enough,â€ he said.
â€œI assume what I thought was right,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Pavil glanced at the woman before fiddling with his pistol again.
â€œThatâ€™s all the confirmation I need,â€ she said, going back to the leather top of the motorcar.
She finally got the roof down with some instruction from Cloverfield. He both wanted to speed the process and keep the woman from damaging the motorcar.
Wallin got onto his Harley-Davidson and started it with a roar. He drove away.
Nurse Petrov started the roadster while Pavil shakily used the hand crank to get his Model-T truck started and then followed the roadster down the driveway.
â€œHospital!â€ Cloverfield said.
* * *
A short time later, they pulled into the police station in New Boston. They saw Wallinâ€™s motorcycle was already there.
When Nurse Petrov entered the police station, she found Wallin telling Constable Dolthan there was a body in the basement. Cloverfield entered, limping and in tremendous pain.
â€œOfficer, thereâ€™s another body,â€ he said when he overheard the conversation.
â€œThereâ€™s two bodies in the basement?â€ Constable Dolthan said.
â€œOn the third floor, thereâ€™s a hidden compartment in one of the rooms,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œI thought there was a body in the bathroom. I didnâ€™t get to check.â€
â€œOkay, okay okay,â€ Constable Dolthan said. â€œHold on.â€
Constable Dolthan took the information and wanted them to go back to the house with him to show him where the bodies were located. That was not what Nurse Petrov wanted to hear
â€œAre you okay, sir?â€ Constable Dolthan said to Pavil, who stood near the door, not saying anything.
â€œThey said it,â€ Pavil said.
â€œAre you okay, maâ€™am?â€ Constable Dolthan said to Miss Chatwick.
â€œI want to go home,â€ she replied.
â€œCan you take her home?â€ the officer asked Nurse Petrov.
â€œYes,â€ the nurse said.
â€œThey donâ€™t have a car,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œThis might sound strange Mr. Officer â€¦â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œOfficer Dolthan,â€ the constable said.
â€œOfficer Dolthan. If you see a broken window, do not go near it. Thatâ€™s all I can say. These two were hurt for it. If you donâ€™t believe in the paranormal, you will.â€
â€œAll â€¦ righty.â€
Officer Dolthan wanted to take Cloverfield and Wallin back to the house and said all three of them could fit in his police car.
â€œMy leg, officer,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œI would like to get to a hospital.â€
Constable Dolthan had a medical kit complete with splints and crutches. Nurse Petrov suggested the man go to the hospital and then offered to help. When Constable Dolthan learned she was a nurse, he was glad of the help. She replaced the wooden spoons with actual splints and wrapped it with tape.
â€œI forgot to do this earlier,â€ she said to Cloverfield. â€œHere is aspirin. Itâ€™s not very powerful but itâ€™s better than nothing.â€
* * *
Constable Dolthan drove back to the house with Cloverfield while Pavil drove Wallin in his truck. The police constable had a flashlight and wanted to see the body in the basement first. The word â€œLEAVEâ€ was gone from the basement door. They went down and found the corpse still in the room and Pavilâ€™s lighter, still burning. Constable Dolthan asked them to stand back, got out a folding knife, and cut open the burlap sack.
â€œYep, itâ€™s a woman,â€ he said. â€œA woman died in here. All right. Letâ€™s see this other body.â€
The three men with him were shocked but not really surprised to recognize the maid they had seen earlier.
They went up to the wardrobe on the third floor. The door was still open and Constable Dolthan led Cloverfield and Pavil in. Wallin started to follow but then stopped, unable to enter the horrible room. He wanted to go in but just couldnâ€™t. He just couldnâ€™t.
The secret room was once obviously a bathroom with a sink and toilet to the right and a bloodstained claw-foot bathtub to the left. The tiles covered the floor and the lower half of the walls, which were entirely covered in Chinese characters, apparently having been written in blood. Most disturbing of all was the mummified corpse lying on the floor. It appeared to be a man by the clothing.
When they looked more closely at the corpse, they saw it was the bald man with the beard. His face was twisted in a terrible grimace, his mouth open in a silent scream as if the last thing he saw in his life was something horrific and terrifying.
â€œOh my God,â€ Constable Dolthan said. â€œDoes anybody know â€¦ do you think itâ€™s Reginald Clarke?â€
â€œI think it is, sir,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œWhatâ€™s this?â€ Constable Dolthan said.
He reached under the body and pulled out a leather-bound book.
â€œAll right, Iâ€™m going to have to try to contact the sergeant,â€ he said. â€œAll right, gentlemen, weâ€™re done here.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the book though?â€ Cloverfield said. â€œCan I look at the book, sir?â€
Distracted, Constable Dolthan handed him the book. Cloverfield opened it to look for the will as he left the secret room and found it was written in English. The frontispiece identified the book as Translation of The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. He flipped through it but there was no will inside.
They left the house, getting back into their vehicles. Constable Dolthan started his motorcar and drove down the drive. Pavil got his pickup truck started and got in with Wallin. They took one last glance back at the house.
In the 3rd floor window they saw the figure of an old man glaring down at them.
Wallin looked at Pavil.
â€œDid you see that?â€ he said.
â€œNo,â€ Pavil quietly said.
He put the pickup truck in gear and they drove away.
* * *
They returned to the police station and Cloverfield handed over the book. Officer Dolthan thanked him and wrote â€œEvidence on Reginald Clarke death?â€ on a piece of paper, putting the paper into the book.
They learned the nearest hospital was at the county seat in Pittsfield and ended up driving up there and admitting Cloverfield and Miss Chatwick. Cloverfield rented a motorcar and driver to take Miss Chatwick home while Nurse Petrov took the train. Pavil had gone to the hospital as well, just to make sure they were all right. He later returned to Bristol, Connecticut.
Wallin drove home that afternoon on his own. It continued overcast and rainy for the rest of the day.
* * *
The body of the woman was identified as Madeline Werner. The body of the man was eventually identified as Reginald Clarke. Constable Dolthan contacted Wallin and Cloverfield a couple of weeks later to relay thanks from the family of Madeline Werner.
Each of them were also paid $100 by Thomas Oâ€™Driscoll.
* * *
Pavil soon found that repetitive tapping sounds either wore on his nerves and drove him to distraction or even rage. The sounds were almost everywhere and made his life much harder.
* * *
In the following weeks, Wallin found himself more and more afraid of the dark, a fear the continued to grow. He started leaving all his lights on at night and sleeping less and less. He always kept his dog next to him though it didnâ€™t give him much comfort and he still couldnâ€™t turn off the lights. He went out at night less and less.
In the hopes that a vacation with his dog, Sif, would help, he closed his garage for a couple weeks and went on a hunting trip. They went to a log cabin his family owned in Georgia and he spent a week there. He enjoyed the fresh air and went hunting during the week he was there in hopes it would help his state of mind.
Instead, he found himself snapping at his dog and began to distrust Sif. One night, the dog got out of the cabin and he was afraid to go looking for him. The dog was on the porch of the cabin the next morning, but it almost felt like he was trying to get Wallin into the dark, as if he was â€¦ working with the darkness. He loved his dog but lost the belief that his dog loved him. He didnâ€™t trust him completely. When the dog barked or growled, it terrified him.
It was not good.
When he returned to Connecticut, he decided to take some money out of his savings account to pay the $100 a week for a month of work with an alienist. Despite the terrible cost, the doctor actually helped him after that time and he felt better about things and was even cured of his fear of the dark.
* * *
It took some time for Cloverfield to recover from his broken leg. The break was very bad and pained him, even after it healed. He walked with a limp after that and actually found a use for his cane.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu scenario â€œBlood on the Tracksâ€ by J. Todd Kingrea from The Resurrected III: Out of the Vault on Sunday, Sept 10, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. with James Brown, Hannah Gambino, Ben Abbott, and Yorie Latimer.)
Frank Fontaine had been visiting the Dreamlands for months, ever since he had eaten the strange chocolate and first gone to that place in June of 1928. Time passed differently there and it seemed more like the passage of years. He had more troubles with establishing his new village than he had ever thought possible. When he first found the spot he wanted his village and had brought the slaves he had purchased in Dylath-Leen using dream money, about a hundred all told, he said they could all build a town together and that they were free. About half of them wanted to return home, having been stolen or kidnapped from their respective cities, towns, or lands. They needed an escort, of course, as none of them were warriors and the Dreamlands could be a terribly dangerous place. Another group of people abandoned the spot and fled into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Those remaining proved to be excellent slaves, but terrible at thinking for themselves, having been slaves all their lives.
Fontaine was in a quandary. He first took the slaves who could not be taught anything to Ulthar, asking Robert Ramsden for help in finding a place for them. The man said heâ€™d do what he could.
Over the following years, it seemed, Fontaine made sure to return the slaves who wanted to go home to their places throughout the Dreamlands. It was a long and arduous task and saw him crossing and crisscrossing the land of dreams. Most of them knew the name of their country or city, but had no idea where it might be and it took a great deal of time to return them from whence theyâ€™d come. He met with mixed results. Some of the people were from places he couldnâ€™t find. Others were from towns long lost. Sometimes he was met with happy relatives, glad their people had been returned. Other times he was met by those who wanted to know why he had not returned them sooner or who demanded he rescue others from slavery.
He remained anonymous, keeping his name a secret, fearing repercussions from Dylath-Leen.
* * *
Agent Ramsey Sanderson had been in the hospital for a week at the end of May 1928 over a bullet heâ€™d been shot with during an altercation in the caves under the North Star Amusement Arcade and Pleasure Pier. He did not reveal to doctors that he had been accidently shot by one of his associates. He heard the police raid on the carnival had been successful with numerous carnies captured or killed though a few policemen had either been injured, killed, or suffered nervous breakdowns afterwards. He had learned Wilberforce Wyatt, the owner of the carnival, had disappeared. There were rumors of mustard gas being used by the carnival workers and other crazy happenings.
He was reading a magazine in his room at the hospital in Providence on May 31 when the door was slammed open and two men burst in. The man in the lead was J. Edgar Hoover, a smallish, stout man.
â€œSanderson!â€ he said.
â€œYes sir?â€ Sanderson said.
â€œWhat the hell happened? I had to find out from local police that they were carrying out a raid based on one of my menâ€™s word that there was bad things happening at some carnival. Didnâ€™t I tell you if anything weird happens, you tell me immediately? Didnâ€™t I tell you that? Did I not tell you that, Sanderson?â€
â€œSir, you told me that but it was a situation I couldnâ€™t do much about.â€
â€œOh, and in the week that has passed since then, you decided you would just lounge in a hospital instead of, I donâ€™t know, sending me a telegram? Possibly making a telephone call? I donâ€™t know â€¦ sending one of the men who work for you up to Washing to talk to me!â€
â€œMy apologies, sir. Itâ€™s been quite a pickle.â€
â€œSanderson, I want to know everything. Everything that happened that led you to this raid. Tell me everything.â€
Sanderson told Hoover everything he had seen at the strange carnival: the caverns underneath, the stories heâ€™d heard from the others, the ghouls that lived under the graveyard. Everything. Hoover listened without comment or expression. Sanderson even expressed his opinion Wilberforce Wyatt had used some kind of magic that was later reported as mustard gas.
â€œIâ€™m going to issue a warrant that all of those prisoners be remanded to United States Government custody,â€ Hoover said. â€œYou get to do the legal legwork. Have fun this week. Get your ass out of bed.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Sanderson said.
â€œListen, back in February, you remember I was telling you about that raid in that town up in Massachusetts? Innsmouth?â€
â€œWell, there was a little more to it than I told you. Itâ€™d been taken over by half-men, half-fish, all right? They were breeding with the local population to create more of themselves and worshipping something called Dagon.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right, Dagon. The creatures are being called deep ones by those in the know. Now, 200 of the locals were taken into custody by the Office of Naval Intelligence and the raid and subsequent occupation of the village put an end to the queer practices. A submarine fired torpedoes into a city under the reef! Full of these fish â€¦ people things. Obviously, thereâ€™s some strange things going on. So, what I want you to do â€¦ if you see anything else strange, you send me a telegram immediately.â€
â€œYou can handle it on your own up to the point where you canâ€™t handle it anymore. But I want to know about it as soon as possible.â€
â€œDonâ€™t make this mistake again, Sanderson.â€
Hoover turned and left.
Sanderson spent the next week getting warrants and judgesâ€™ signatures to have all of the prisoners from the carnival remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Investigation or Office of Naval Intelligence. There was some backlash from police and judges who had their arrests and convictions taken out of their hands but overall it went fairly smoothly.
* * *
In early January 1929, Griffin McCree woke up in the middle of the night and smelled smoke. He turned on the bedroom light and saw a haze in the room. He got out of bed and, at first, ran to his window, which faced the front of the house. It didnâ€™t feel hot in the room. He noticed a little smoke coming out of the vent.
He found his bedroom door was not hot, nor was the door knob. He returned to his nightstand for his 1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol, quickly donned his robe, and then opened the door to the hall. There was more smoke there. He went downstairs where the smoke was thicker and made his way to the front room where he retrieved his elephant gun and loaded it. He left the pistol behind.
He assumed someone was waiting outside of his house to murder him.
He went to the kitchen and felt the door to the basement. Though it wasnâ€™t hot, smoke was coming out from underneath it. He returned to the front hall and telephoned the fire department to report his house was on fire. They advised him to get out of the house and told him they were on their way. He went back to the kitchen and saw thicker smoke coming from under the basement door. He kept low, staying near the back door. He peeked out the back windows but it was pitch black in his back yard. A little light spilled from the streetlights near the front of the house.
When he started coughing from the smoke, he decided it might be best to escape the house. He heard a crackling roar coming from the basement and moved to the front. He peeked out of the windows and finally opened the front door, peering out. He didnâ€™t see anything out there so went out to the fresh air on the porch, looking around. In the distance, he heard the wail of a siren and the ringing of a bell.
He paced the porch, looking around, until the fire truck arrived after a very short time. The vehicle disgorged several firemen, some of whom attached hoses to a nearby hydrant while others rushed into the house brandishing axes.
â€œBasement!â€ he said to them.
Flames were licking up the back of the house and he heard the rending of wood from within. Hoses were brought in as the men set to work combating the blaze that seemed to have started down there. The fire had spread extensively in the basement by then, however, and, by the time it was put out, there was a great deal of smoke damage to the entirety of the house and everything in the basement was destroyed. There was extensive damage to the ground floor as well, both by the fire and the water used to fight it.
Over the next week, an investigation by the fire department found accelerants were used and the basement. A gas can was also found by a broken basement window. The report eventually stated someone had broken a window, poured gasoline in the basement, tossed in the mostly empty gas can, and then dropped a lit match in, causing the fire.
Not long after he learned arson was the cause of the fire, he received a letter in the mail. It was postmarked Providence and read:
We know what you did and it is not over. Vengeance will be ours in the end and you will die, screaming for mercy and begging Shub-Niggurath for redemption, succor, and release. The murders you committed in Oak Valley will not go unpunished. We are always watching you. We are always nearby. The blade will fall sooner or later and you will see everything you love and cherish burn. We will find you no matter where you hide even as we found the body of your friend hidden in that shack in the woods. He is ours now. None are safe.
Ia Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.
An odd sigil or image was drawn at the bottom of the paper. It was a series of interconnected lines forming a strange shape. He wondered if it was some kind of map.
The Insurance company McCree worked with covered most of the damage though they performed an independent investigation of the fire and some accusations were made that the fire was caused by McCree himself in some kind of insurance fraud. He noted someone was trying to kill him but when asked who could be doing so, he feigned ignorance. In the end, he got money to pay for most of the repairs to his house.
He decided not to tell the police about the letter.
* * *
The telephone rang at Angelo â€œZippyâ€ Giovanniâ€™s house.
â€œYou got Zippy,â€ he answered it.
â€œHi there Zippy,â€ McCreeâ€™s voice came over the line.
â€œWhy do you always have to say â€˜oh noâ€™ when Iâ€™m calling, now?â€
â€œâ€˜Cause the last time that we went on an adventure together, you told me â€¦ you â€¦well, first of all, what happenedâ”€â€
â€œWell, before we go into that, there, Zippy, uh â€¦ would you like to go to our regular spot to discuss new findings?â€
â€œRegrettably â€¦ but sure.â€
â€œAll righty. Iâ€™ll see you there in one hour.â€
â€œMaybe. Iâ€™ll be there.â€
Zippy hung up.
* * *
When McCree got to the coffee shop where they usually met, he immediately noticed Zippyâ€™s left arm seemed to be completely healed.
â€œSo there, Zippy, I told you that would heal up,â€ he said.
â€œOh, it didnâ€™t just â€¦ it didnâ€™t heal up,â€ Zippy said. â€œI went to a â€¦ medicine man â€¦ and he â€¦â€
â€œA medicine man?â€
â€œâ€¦ chanted some stuff on my arm and he â€¦ we were yelling, screaming all night â€¦ and â€¦â€
â€œBut, it still stands. Your armâ€™s fine.â€
â€œOh yeah, I just had to go to an occultic medicine man who I met by chance investigating a tunnel under somebodyâ€™s house.â€
â€œThat just happens every day for me, you know, no big problem.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m glad to hear it, Zippy. But Zippy, yeah, I got this letter in the mail after my house got burnt.â€
â€œIt got burnt?â€ he said. â€œWhat do you mean, it got burnt?â€
â€œSome of those â€¦ Iowa people â€¦ decided to â€¦ uh â€¦ burn me alive,â€ McCree said.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, I made it out okay. I just have to collect some more trophies.â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I was worried about â€¦ oh. Sure.â€
â€œBut I found this letter â€¦â€
He handed the letter to Zippy, who started reading it out loud to himself.
â€œSo, uh, Zippy, Iâ€™m thinking about getting some people together â€¦â€ McCree said. â€œâ€¦ at some point to go handle this little issue because, you never know, they might be hurting more people up there too.â€
â€œYou do realize, even if I do feel â€¦ I feel this for you,â€ Zippy said. â€œIâ€™m not going to be able to get any policemen to go to Iowa on a witch hunt.â€
â€œOh no. Just anybody you think might be able to help. It may take us a while but â€¦ do you have anybody else on the force â€¦ that â€¦ uh â€¦ would be willing to help?â€
â€œWell, I have an aspiring young pupil. She is the first lady officer on the force. Well, I call her that. I just want a promotion. Thatâ€™s all it is.â€
â€œOh, so youâ€™re training up your replacement?â€
â€œSo you can move up.â€
â€œClassic business move.â€
â€œI never said that. Sheâ€™s seen some strange things too. We were together on a trip that went a little awry. I might be able to convince her. But, you do realize, the last time we were there, we all almost died? Iâ€™m not going to be able to get people â€¦ itâ€™s not going to be morally okay to just get people: â€˜Hey, you might die. Come here.â€™ You know? â€˜People want to kill us.â€™â€
â€œI believe if we had some more people â€¦ we only had three of us. And very quickly, it turned into two of us. So, if we had, say, five or six of us â€¦ then we could handle all those situations before they become situations.â€
â€œJesus, McCree. Iâ€™ll see what I can do about it. But if I do this for you, you gotta â€¦ Iâ€™m out of this situation.â€
â€œOh yes. After this, Iowa should be fine.â€
â€œOkay. Iâ€™ll see what I can do.â€
â€œHopefully, weâ€™ll never have to go to that terrible state again.â€
â€œOh, you mean Iowa â€¦ not dying.â€
â€œThereâ€™s nothing out there.â€
* * *
On Monday, April 22, 1929, Joell Johnson, the union activist, was approached by Ralph Hutton, a man who told him he was a union representative. He told Johnson something was going on down in Louisiana in Houma in Terrebonne Parish. Oil had recently been discovered in the area.
â€œSo the capitalists are coming!â€ Johnson said.
Smith told him there were rumors of wildcatters in the area. Wildcatters were men who went in to look for oil on their own, usually without permission of the residents. It was likely the people working for any wildcatters were not being paid a living wage, if anything at all. Smith wanted Johnson to look into it. He had even arranged for tickets on a non-stop train from Boston to New Orleans.
Johnson picked up his bat and gave it a twirl.
â€œIâ€™ll get on it,â€ he said.
He had seen an odd article in one of the papers that dealt with that same area, he thought. After a little searching, he found the article again. It read:
â€˜Odd Lightsâ€™ Near Montegut Cajuns Post Reward for Missing Persons Houma Star-Tribuneâ€•Cajun families around the Mangrove Trading Post off Point Farm Road in Terrebonne Parish have set out a reward of $200 for information on the whereabouts of three missing persons who have disappeared within the last seven months. The three â€• Sylvain LeParque, age 29, Phillippe Montelier, age 43, and Jeanne-Marie DeSalle, age 17 â€• were apparently lost in the bayous. The Cajuns, however, deny this possibility and hint that â€œodd lightsâ€ near Montegut are the true cause. Anyone wishing to search the swampland for the missing persons should contact Sheriff Aaron Dundee in Houma or Montegut.
Johnson realized having someone official might be of help. He also knew of a photographer who might be good for documenting what happened.
He ended up calling Ramsey Sanderson, the United States Bureau of Investigation agent he knew in Providence.
* * *
The United States Bureau of Investigation had a very small office in Providence. Two agents worked in the lone room under the command of Agent Ramsey Sanderson.
â€œBureau of Investigation,â€ Agent Ralph Smith answered the telephone
â€œHey, I need to talk to Agent Sanderson,â€ the voice on the other end of the line said.
â€œYeah, who is this?â€
The man waited for a second name but it was not forthcoming.
â€œJoell?â€ he finally said.
â€œHeâ€™ll know,â€ the man on the telephone replied.
â€œHold on,â€ he said.
He covered the mouthpiece of the telephone.
â€œRamsey, thereâ€™s a Joell,â€ he said to Agent Sanderson. â€œSays heâ€™ll know who he is?â€
â€œAw Jesus,â€ Agent Sanderson, sitting at his desk, said.
â€œYou wanna take it or you want me to tell him to shove off?â€
â€œIâ€™ll take it. Letâ€™s see what he wants.â€
Sanderson went to the desk with the telephone and picked it up.
â€œHello?â€ he said.
â€œHey Sanderson,â€ Johnson said.
â€œWhat do you want?â€
â€œI figured you werenâ€™t doing anything useful, so â€¦â€
â€œI got a lead on something happening down in Louisiana. A couple of union boys told me there might be some people working around for free, being shoved around by people searching for oil. You heard of Terrebonne? People recently discovered oil in those parts. Thereâ€™s lots of shady stuff around. And on top of that, the reason I called you is, I saw in the newspaper, thereâ€™s people gone missing around there. Seems to me, itâ€™s a lot like our â€¦ carnival incident.â€
â€œWell, havenâ€™t been doing much around here. So, I guess youâ€™re right on that. Nothing as crazy as what Iâ€™ve experience before so â€¦ if you think itâ€™s something worth looking into, I have to look into it but this time around, I have to pass it along to my superior if it gets too bad.â€
â€œI guess thatâ€™s fine with me. If you know anybody else who can help, you can contact them.â€
He arranged for them to meet the next morning to take the train from Providence to Boston. He told him about the non-stop train going from Boston to New Orleans that same afternoon.
* * *
Johnson had telephoned several people in the hopes of getting more help for the trip. He tried Miss Fairfield but the assistant editor at the Providence Journal told him she was busy. He was unable to get hold of Nigel Bricker and no one answered at Miss Edingtonâ€™s house. There was no answer at Joseph Johnsonâ€™s apartment either and he learned the telephone had been disconnected.
He was left with Fontaine, Ingerton, and McCree. He shuddered when he saw all of their names as he had met each man once and all under strange and terrible circumstances. He eventually telephoned Griffin McCree.
â€œHello,â€ McCree answered.
â€œUh â€¦ greetings Mr. McCree,â€ Johnson said. â€œI donâ€™t know if you remember me. We were in a â€¦ dream together looking for a man who went missing in his home a while back.â€
â€œOh! The trolley incident. Which one were you?â€
â€œI was the poor one.â€
â€œAh! Yes! I donâ€™t remember your name though. Sorry.â€
â€œMy names Joell Johnson. I â€¦ uh â€¦ Iâ€™ve been looking through a list of people I know have seen strange things. I donâ€™t know if you remember but I work with the union. Theyâ€™re wanting me to go down to Louisiana where they just found oil. I also know a bunch of people have gone missing. I know that youâ€™re a trophy hunter so â€¦ I was thinking if you wanted to come along in case there was something strange like we saw that night or if there was just a crocodile youâ€™re interested in.â€
â€œAh, great! Good thing you mentioned that. My alligator boots did get burned up in a recent house fire so I do need a new set of those. But weâ€™ll need someone to take pictures of whatever I kill because â€¦ uh â€¦ some of these things tend to disappear and I canâ€™t take any souvenirs home with me.â€
â€œOh â€¦ oh â€¦ okay. They disappear? What, you lose track of â€˜em?â€
â€œWell, no. Remember how in the â€¦ I guess, yeah, youâ€™ve only seen us with that dream.â€
â€œAnd that was â€¦ it was a dream, so â€¦â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™ve been to other places and, after they die, they seem to dissipate and â€¦ become one with the earth again.â€
Joell looked at the receiver of the telephone, starting to reconsider calling the obviously crazy man.
â€œWell, if you need a photographer, I know one in town who works relatively cheap,â€ he said. â€œDeLuve Deluxe Photos.â€
â€œItâ€™s about quality, Joell,â€ McCree said. â€œNot the price.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™ll leave it up to you. But you know who to go to if youâ€™re desperate.â€
â€œWell, where are we meeting, Joell?â€
Johnson told him of the train leaving for Boston in the morning and the non-stop express from Boston to New Orleans.
â€œAnd you said you had alligator boots?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI had them but they â€¦ have recently needed to be tossed,â€ McCree said.
â€œAnd I remember, you gave $50 away to that Oriental man who sold our friend the sleep powder.â€
â€œThatâ€™s right, I need to follow up with that gentleman. See if heâ€™s found anything for me.â€
â€œWell, good luck with that. If youâ€™re interested, your ticket will cost $250. I can help you cover it a bit but, if thatâ€™s good for you â€¦â€
â€œOh, donâ€™t worry about it Joell. Price is of no concern as long as I get my trophies.â€
The price Johnson had quoted actually covered McCreeâ€™s ticket and about half of each of the rest of their tickets. McCree wasnâ€™t sure of how much train fairs generally cost as the company he worked for, Action Safari, generally took care of all the travel arrangements.
* * *
â€œDeLuve Deluxe Photos!â€ Spencer DeLuve, owner of the small shop on River Street said when he answered his telephone.
â€œHi Mr. DeLuve,â€ McCreeâ€™s voice on the other end of the line said. â€œI was wondering if you would like to join me on a venture to Louisiana to capture some shots of my prizes Iâ€™m going to bag.â€
â€œAh, a hunting expedition! I see. Yeah! Iâ€™ve done those before. Um â€¦ but how much would you be willing to â€¦ gauge the â€¦ pay.â€
â€œIâ€™ll give you $20 and cover all your living expenses during our travels.â€
â€œDoes that include â€¦ travel?â€
â€œYes. Um â€¦ sure!â€
McCree told the man the itinerary for travel to Boston and then the non-stop express to New Orleans.
* * *
On Tuesday, April 23, they took the train to Boston and from there boarded the non-stop to New Orleans. The non-stop was a small train with an engine and tender, two passenger cars, a dining car, and a boxcar. They had packed small carry-on bags to last them the two days on the train while their main luggage went onto the boxcar. A few of them kept their handguns in their luggage. Sanderson kept his pistol on his person. Johnson only had the one bag, which had pretty much everything he was carrying.
Each of them had a small stateroom in one of the Pullman compartment and parlor cars. Each of the rooms was connected to the others by a small, private door that could be bolted from either side, as well as a door to the passageway along the side of the car. During the day, the room had a small settee while beds could be unfolded, nearly filling the stateroom, for sleeping at night. Each room also had a small sink. The coach could be entered from doors at either end though passengers were asked not to climb atop the tender or enter the baggage car at the end of the train.
They all met their conductor and the Pullman porter who helped them with their baggage.
* * *
Johnson found himself in the first stateroom in the forward passenger coach. The room was clean and beautiful, even nicer than his flophouse apartment. He was also right across from the toilet, making it convenient as well. A boisterous man was talking outside. Johnson looked out to see a balding heavyset man with a cigar in his mouth. The man wore plaid pants, a checkered jacket, and a gaudy, repellent tie. He helped two incredibly beautiful young women down the passageway. One of them was a redhead and the other a blonde. It looked like the three were settling into the next two staterooms down.
â€œAll right ladies,â€ the man said. â€œHereâ€™s your place, here.â€
â€œOkay,â€ the redhead said.
â€œThis is so nice,â€ the blonde said.
â€œYeah yeah yeah,â€ the man said. â€œItâ€™s nice. Weâ€™ll make you famous. Yeah.â€
The stink of cigar smoke filled the passageway and Johnson was disappointed to see the man was in the stateroom next to his. The women were two down.
* * *
McCree had a room on the second passenger coach and quickly got moved in. He noticed a man enter the stateroom between himself and DeLuve, two doors down. The man had dark hair and seemed no nonsense, with only a small carry-on bag. He didnâ€™t speak to McCree but just closed the door behind him.
DeLuve had also noticed the man McCree had seen enter the stateroom between the two of them.
* * *
Agent Sanderson found himself on the second passenger coach, one stateroom removed from the parlor at the back of each car. In the very last cabin, he saw a priest moving in. The man had blonde hair and a mustache and carried a simple carry-on. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and smiled and nodded at Sanderson as he entered his stateroom.
* * *
The train pulled out of the station at 2:45 p.m. sharp with the conductorâ€™s call of â€œAll aboard!â€ It jerked to a start and quickly got underway.
There was a knock on Agent Sandersonâ€™s door and he pulled it open to find McCree there.
â€œHowâ€™s it going?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œNow, Sanderson, right?â€ McCree said.
McCree let himself in and took a seat at the settee.
â€œSo, Mr. Sandersonâ”€â€ McCree said.
â€œAgent,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œAgent Sanderson. So, have you been running into other â€¦ fun â€¦ paranormal activity?â€
â€œThe last mission I was on had to do with the carnival incident. Iâ€™m sure you heard about that.â€
â€œOh, yes. I didnâ€™t hear exactly the specifics of it, but, uh â€¦â€
â€œIt was strange to say the least.â€
â€œNow, Iâ€™ve also got a tip for you. Over in Iowa, Iâ€™m having some trouble with these â€¦ cultists, it seems.â€
â€œDonâ€™t we all.â€
â€œI reckon. But â€¦ uh â€¦ my case seems to be rather personal.â€
â€œThey showed up at my house here in Providence and tried to fill me with extra holes.â€
â€œSir, I donâ€™t want to hear about this anymore.â€
â€œAfterwards, they tried to burn me in my own house and â€¦ uh â€¦ Iâ€™m a little worried about what they might try to do next. Would you be interested in â€¦ going up to Iowa to give them some more of our â€¦ more â€¦ providential â€¦ hospitality?â€
â€œHave you contacted the police about this?â€
â€œUh â€¦ yes, I do have one friend in law enforcement. But, it seems, you see, I did â€¦ thin the herd as it were, with some of these cultists.â€
â€œSo, some of these cultists ended up killing one of my expeditionary friends.â€
â€œWell, thatâ€™s a shame.â€
â€œAnd reduced the officer with meâ€™s arm to a withered husk. But heâ€™s since gotten over that, thankfully.â€
There was a knock on the door. It was the conductor, checking and punching everyoneâ€™s tickets. He told them dinner would be served from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the dining car and quickly left.
â€œBut â€¦ uh â€¦â€ McCree went on, having lost his momentum.
â€œWhat do you want from me, young man?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWhat Iâ€™m asking of your Mr. â€¦ Agent Sanderson â€¦ is â€¦ it would be nice to have an extra gun and a government official of your standing to help iron things out if it goes to the south.â€
â€œIâ€™ll get back to you about that. If itâ€™s something of interest to the President of the United States, then Iâ€™ll do it.â€
â€œI can tell you there were these big monsters â€¦â€
â€œThat looked kind of like trees.â€
â€œWere they trees?â€
â€œThey were not trees. They stomped towards us, tried to crush me.â€
â€œOh, I hate that.â€
â€œSo â€¦ uh â€¦â€
â€œOkay, Iâ€™ll keep it in mind.â€
â€œIt seems rather important. At least to the folks up in Iowa. I would hate for more of them to be crushed alive.â€
After McCree left, Agent Sanderson knocked on the door to the priestâ€™s stateroom. He noticed the man sitting in the parlor, reading his Bible and occasionally looked out the windows at the overcast terrain outside as he stroked his mustache. Agent Sanderson approached him.
â€œHello Father,â€ he said. â€œHow are you?â€
â€œOh!â€ the priest said, standing. â€œGood afternoon! Father Delarove.â€
He shook Agent Sandersonâ€™s hand.
â€œYou can call me Father Thomas or Father Tom,â€ Father Delarove said. â€œI answer to all those, Mr. â€¦?â€
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œAgent? Sanderson. Agent Sanderson. Nice to meet you. Agent? Am I allowed to ask what agency?â€
â€œIâ€™m with the United States Bureau of Investigations.â€
â€œOh! Oh my goodness. Oh. Why youâ€™re one of those prohibitioners â€¦ I donâ€™t know the term. The ones who stop the gangsters who are selling alcohol to everyone.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m glad weâ€™ve got an officer on board for this trip. Itâ€™s nice to meet you. Well, sit down. Sit down.â€
The priest was very friendly and seemed happen to talk to Agent Sanderson, who asked him what he was making the trip for.
â€œIâ€™m attending a church conference thatâ€™s being held in New Orleans,â€ Father Delarove said. â€œIâ€™ve got information to present on the Catholic orphanages and schools in the Massachusetts area. Iâ€™m from â€¦ well, youâ€™ve probably never heard of it â€¦ itâ€™s a little town in Massachusetts. Itâ€™s about a half hour train ride from Boston to the west. Wellesley. Wellesley, Massachusetts.â€
The priest seemed like a nice fellow.
â€œDo you â€¦ do you like Parcheesi?â€ he asked. â€œI have a particular fondness for Parcheesi and I would love to get a few games in. It will be a great way to kill time.â€
Agent Sanderson was happy to play Parcheesi with the man and there the board game was available on the car so the two did so.
* * *
DeLuve went to the cabin next door, thinking it was McCreeâ€™s stateroom, but the door was opened by an older gentleman with thinning white hair, pince-nez glasses, and stern blue eyes. He was short and seemed quite robust, smelling of cigars. An older, plump woman with dark hair was in the room with him, looking towards the door.
â€œYes, yes,â€ the man said in a gruff voice. â€œCan I â€¦ can I help you, young man?â€
â€œUh â€¦ I think Iâ€™ve got the wrong room,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh no no. Who are you looking for?â€
â€œI know a few of the rooms of some of the people here.â€
â€œIâ€™m looking for a McCree.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know the names. What does he look like?â€
â€œI â€¦ Iâ€™ve never met him.â€
â€œYouâ€™ve never met him. Thatâ€™s a puzzler. I remember one time I had a student who was in the same kind of situation: looking for his classroom, didnâ€™t know what his professorâ€™s name was, didnâ€™t know the classroom number, wasnâ€™t even sure what the class was. It was quite a puzzle.â€
â€œMartin, are you bothering that man?â€ the woman in the compartment asked.
â€œNo no no,â€ the man said. â€œItâ€™s fine. Itâ€™s fine.â€
He offered his hand.
â€œProfessor Martin Howard Leighman,â€ he said, shaking DeLuveâ€™s hand. â€œI can go help you look for him if you want but youâ€™ve got the wrong room. Iâ€™m sorry, this is my wife Melissa.â€
â€œHello,â€ the woman said, smiling at him and then putting her hand over her mouth. â€œHello.â€
Professor Leighman was willing to help the man look if he wanted but DeLuve said he neednâ€™t bother. Professor Leighman got his name and shook his hand again, saying it was nice to meet him.
DeLuve went to the next door and knocked. McCree answered it.
â€œHello, Mr. McCree,â€ DeLuve said. â€œI just wanted to make sure that everythingâ€™s going well for our expedition.â€
â€œWhy yes,â€ McCree said. â€œIt is going rather well. A little nervous with this fellow on my right side. From the sound of things, everyone on the left seemed friendly.â€
DeLuve looked to his left and right.
â€œMy left,â€ McCree said. â€œYour right.â€
â€œAh the plain guy!â€ DeLuve said, remembering the man heâ€™d seen earlier. â€œSerious Sam.â€
â€œâ€˜Serious Sam.â€™ Yes. Indeed.â€
The two men looked at each other.
â€œIs that all?â€ McCree said.
â€œIs that all?â€ DeLuve said.
The two men looked at each other again.
â€œYou are the employer, sir,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhy yes, of course I am,â€ McCree said. â€œIâ€™m the one that gave you the call.â€
â€œOkay, I guess Iâ€™ll just see you later.â€
â€œAre you just reaffirming?â€
A woman came down the passageway. As it was customary for a man to vacate the passageway to allow ladies to pass, due to the tight quarters, DeLuve stepped into the room. The plump, good-sized woman who smelled of cigarette smoke passed the men. She was average-looking but not unattractive and probably in her early 30s.
â€œExcuse me,â€ she said in a very deep, breathy voice.
McCree was immediately put off by that.
â€œI would say â€¦ was it just me or was that womanâ€™s voice rather deep?â€ he said.
DeLuve just walked away. He wanted to go to what he considered â€œthe rich peopleâ€ parlor which he assumed was in the front coach. When he saw Joell Johnson there, reading a book, he knew he was wrong. He sat down near Johnson and picked up a copy of National Geographic that was on a nearby table.
Joell Johnson was reading an English translation of Das Kapital by Karl Marx. The book was a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, economics, and politics. He found it fascinating.
The cigar-smoking man who heâ€™d seen earlier came down the passageway. The man spotted the two of them and came over.
â€œHey!â€ he said. â€œHow ya doing?â€
DeLuve picked up his camera and the man posed for him.
â€œBut I got some girls thatâ€™s make even better pictures for you,â€ the man said. â€œIf you wanna see these girls, theyâ€™re great girls. Little, you know, not much upstairs but â€¦ thatâ€™s the way I like â€˜em!â€
Johnson rolled his eyes and the man sat down next to him.
The man told them he was a theatrical agent and they noticed his cigars had a kind of honeysuckle smell to them. He talked about the many big breaks heâ€™d given many dancers and actors.
â€œYou ever hear of Rip Mackerel?â€ he said. â€œYeah, I started him. Yeah. Yeah. He would be nowhere today without me.â€
Neither of them had ever heard of Rip Mackerel.
The man continued chatting about all of the people heâ€™d made famous. Then the redhead and the blonde came down the passageway.
â€œOh, there you are, Horace,â€ the blonde said.
They sat down next to the man. Both of them had somewhat vacant looks in their eyes. The blonde had a high-pitched voice and a thick accent. She always touched her chest as if to draw attention to it. The redhead constantly played with her hair and batted her eyelashes.
â€œYeah yeah yeah!â€ Horace said. â€œThis is Annie and Constance. Annie Clarke. Constance DeMillings.â€
He pointed to the blonde and then the redhead.
â€œI didnâ€™t catch your name!â€ he said.
He punched Johnson in the arm, almost knocking the book out of his hand.
â€œI didnâ€™t catch your name!â€ he said again.
Johnson glared at the man.
â€œMy nameâ€™s Joell,â€ he said.
â€œJoell, nice to meet you!â€ Horace said. â€œMy nameâ€™s Horace. Thatâ€™s Constance. Thatâ€™s Annie.â€
â€œOh!â€ Miss Clarke said. â€œPleased ta meet cha.â€
â€œHello,â€ Miss DeMillings said, batting her eyes at him.
â€œYeah yeah,â€ Horace said, grabbing DeLuveâ€™s hand and shaking it. â€œHorace J. Brubeck. Cameraman, hereâ€™s the girls you need to take a picture of. You really need to take a picture of these girls, man, girls.â€
Neither Brubeck nor DeLuve seemed to want to let go of the otherâ€™s hand first and they shook for a while.
â€œYou have enough of that?â€ Johnson said.
â€œWhat?â€ Brubeck said. â€œOh yeah yeah yeah yeah. Letâ€™s get a picture. Câ€™mon, get a picture.â€
The two young women posed for DeLuve.
â€œIâ€™m a dancer,â€ Miss Clarke said with a giggle.
They learned Miss DeMillings was an actress.
The theater agent and the girls eventually left. Johnson breathed a sigh of relief.
* * *
* * *
In the parlor in the second coach, a slightly plump woman in nice clothing entered and sat down. She lit a cigarette and looked out the window. Agent Sanderson noticed that every once in a while, she took a little flask out of her jacket and took a sip. He finished the game of Parcheesi, winning it easily. Father Delarove congratulated him with a â€œMasterfully done!â€ He said heâ€™d like to play more games with the man and was ready to play right at that moment but he deferred.
Agent Sanderson approached the woman, who was smoking a cigarette and reading a Time Magazine.
â€œHow are you this evening, madam?â€ he said.
â€œOh hello,â€ the woman replied in a very deep voice.
She stared at the man fixedly.
â€œEleanor Brown,â€ she said finally.
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ he replied.
They shook hands.
â€œDo you have a first name, Agent Sanderson?â€ she asked.
â€œRamsey,â€ he said.
â€œOh, hello, Ramsey, nice to meet you. Oh please, have a seat.â€
â€œCigarette?â€ she said, offering him one from an inexpensive cigarette case.
â€œSure,â€ he said.
He took one.
â€œHere you are,â€ she said. â€œLight?â€
She lit his cigarette with her lighter and tucked it back into her purse.
â€œTell me about yourself,â€ she said.
Agent Sanderson told her he was on a spooky Louisiana trip to the bayou.
â€œOooo!â€ she said with a smile. â€œIt sounds exciting. Iâ€™m just going to see my sister in New Orleans. I very much enjoy train rides. Theyâ€™re so soothing, donâ€™t you think? Relaxing. Like, in the whole world, nothing could ever go wrong on a train, I would think.â€
She blew smoke out of her mouth and smiled at him.
He told her a little about himself and his work in Providence.
â€œWhat room are you in?â€ he asked.
â€œOh, Ramsey,â€ she said with a smile. â€œWell, Iâ€™m in the other car, up in the front. Itâ€™s the third one up on the left coming from this side. Would you like to have dinner together?â€
The two sat close and chatted affectionately until dinner. He learned she was 33 years old.
* * *
Dinner was served at 5 p.m. in the dining car. There were five large tables on one side of the car and five small, more intimate tables for two on the other side.
Sitting at a smaller table in the back of the car, nearest the kitchen, was a very attractive, suave, and sophisticated gentleman with black hair, strong blue eyes, and somewhat of a regal bearing. He shared the table with an attractive young brunette lady in her 20s with green eyes and a wonderful smile. Another face no one had seen yet was a quiet gentleman in his mid-30s with a well groomed, brown beard and mustache in a casual suit of good make. He seemed to constantly wipe dust or dirt from his suit.
They met Randolph Jefferson, the negro cook, who worked in the dining car and watched all the white people nervously. He and Clarence Marlin, the porter, served the meals with the conductor, Wilfred Cosley, coming in occasionally to help out. They had noticed the latter often pursed his lips and fiddled with his glasses.
All the rest of the passengers were there as well. Brubeck and the girls with him sat at one of the larger tables, right behind Johnson at his table near the front. Brubeck kept his cigar burning through the entire meal. He told terrible jokes, laughing loudly at them himself. The girls seemed to hesitate before laughing at the terrible, unfunny jokes, as if waiting for a cue to do so.
Professor and Mrs. Leighman sat at one of the smaller, intimate tables as well. â€œSerious Samâ€ sat at one of the larger tables by himself. McCree was a little suspicious of the man. DeLuve sat at one of the smaller tables near the finely dressed people at the far end. Father Delarove ate his supper alone, looking out of the windows at the darkening landscapes.
Sanderson and Miss Brown had gotten the last small table and she ordered seltzer water and ice, noting he could do the same. She showed him her little flask and raised her eyebrows.
â€œItâ€™s medicinal, of course,â€ she whispered to him.
When her water came she poured a little in and lit a cigarette before dinner.
DeLuve was trying to listen to the conversation at the end table. It was mostly small talk with the girl wondering how much longer the train ride would be and the man reassuring her. He looked a good deal older than she. Though they made no mention of money or valuables, DeLuve realized both of them were wearing very expensive clothing.
McCree also lit and smoked a cigar after he ate a little dinner.
â€œJoell,â€ McCree said after heâ€™d eaten.
â€œYes McCree?â€ Johnson replied.
â€œDo you have any idea whatâ€™s so funny at that next table?â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s â€¦ his own ego.â€
â€œI think thatâ€™s the best joke thatâ€™s been told all night.â€
Nearby, Agent Sanderson and Miss Brown were having cute small talk and leaning close over the table. A few times, Miss Brown touched his hand with hers. He noticed she stared a lot, sometimes at him, sometimes out the window. She would look at something very intently.
After most of them had eaten but before anyone left the car, another man came from the back of the dining car. He wore a shabby top hat but fine clothing. A black patch covered his left eye and he carried an old baseball bat like a cane. A wilted carnation was in the button of his very fine suit, though he looked a little dirty. He had a mustache and a goatee.
As the man took his seat at the large table in the back of the car, DeLuve went to the porter.
â€œYes sir?â€ the porter said.
DeLuve pointed at the man in the top hat.
â€œYes sir?â€ the porter said again.
â€œYou see that guy over there?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWell, I donâ€™t recognize him.â€
â€œWith the baseball bat?â€
â€œNo sir, but â€¦ is that a baseball bat? Isnâ€™t that his cane?â€
â€œThatâ€™s a baseball bat.â€
â€œOh, it is a baseball bat. Well, let me talk to him. Iâ€™m sorry, sir. Iâ€™ll talk to him.â€
The porter went over to the man and DeLuve went to the front of the car and sat with Johnson and McCree. He pointed out the man to the two. McCree realized the man was wearing his best formal-dress suit or an identical one to the one heâ€™d packed.
â€œGentlemen, yâ€™all may want to get somewhere safe,â€ McCree said.
â€œIs that my baseball bat?â€ Johnson said just as a cloud of cigar smoke was blown into his face.
He didnâ€™t think it looked like his bat as it looked old and shabby and grimy. It looked like itâ€™d seen a lot of use.
McCree got up and went to Agent Sandersonâ€™s table as the porter came up to the front of the car.
â€œMr. DeLuve?â€ the porter said to the man. â€œHe says heâ€™s Mr. Nickerbocker?â€
DeLuve stared at the man for a moment.
â€œAnd?â€ he said.
â€œHeâ€™s a passenger, sir,â€ the porter said. â€œThatâ€™s his cane, he says. He seems eccentric.â€
â€œOh, yessir. Thatâ€™s a terrible hat.â€
Mr. Nickerbocker had sat down at the table, facing the rest of the car, had tied his napkin around his neck like a bib in the height of hobo fashion, and sat with knife and fork at ready while the cook brought him a steaming steak. The man was all smiles as he dug into his meal.
Agent Sanderson and Miss Brown were sitting close at the table when McCree approached.
â€œWhy Sanderson,â€ McCree said. â€œCould I speak with you for a moment?â€
â€œOh, Ramsey, whoâ€™s your friend?â€ Miss Brown said.
â€œHi,â€ McCree said.
â€œGriffin McCree,â€ Sanderson said. â€œEleanor Brown.â€
â€œGriffin, how nice to meet you,â€ she said.
She shook his hand. She had a very, very firm handshake.
â€œA pleasure to meet you,â€ McCree said.
â€œGriffin,â€ she said. â€œOh yes. Thatâ€™s a mythological beast.â€
She smiled at Agent Sanderson and the two men looked at her.
â€œIt is!â€ McCree finally replied.
â€œWell, let me â€¦ see what McCree is asking from me,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œDonâ€™t be long, Ramsey,â€ Miss Brown said.
He smiled at the woman and went with McCree to a small room in the front of the car.
â€œMake it quick!â€ Agent Sanderson said to McCree.
â€œDid you, by chance, see that fellow with the eye patch?â€ McCree asked.
Agent Sanderson shook his head.
â€œThat â€¦ uh â€¦ dirty gentleman with the eye patch seems to have possibly gotten into our luggage in the back,â€ McCree said.
â€œHave you checked your luggage?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œUh â€¦ thatâ€™s why I got you first. Because thereâ€™s some â€¦ equipment back there that would be bad if it got into the wrong hands.â€
Agent Sanderson sighed.
â€œIf you donâ€™t mind waiting for one moment, Iâ€™ve got something in my cabin I can grab,â€ McCree said.
â€œIâ€™m going to tell you what youâ€™re going to do,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œYouâ€™re going to go to your room, check your luggage. If it seems in disarray, tell me.â€
â€œOh no. I meant the luggage in the baggage car.â€
â€œWhat I was getting to is Iâ€™m worried of my protection, as of late, with attempts on my life. So â€¦ Iâ€™d like to get my â€¦ protection and â€¦ then we can go check out the luggage in the back â€¦ just in case we run into any nasty surprises. There are some large-caliber weapons back there.â€
â€œI have a weapon on my person. I cannot allow you to bring more weapons forward for anybody to see or know about and just bring them to the public. So â€¦â€
â€œI do not plan on letting anybody see anything.â€
â€œWeâ€™re not going to get guns involved; just go check your stuff first. Iâ€™ll accompany you.â€
* * *
In the dining car, Johnson finished his meal, stood up, and turned around.
â€œYou ever hear the one about the Hollywood agent and the two women?â€ he said to Brubeck.
â€œNo, I havenâ€™t,â€ Brubeck said. â€œIs it a good one?â€
â€œOh, it is.â€
â€œWell sit down there Mr. â€¦ I didnâ€™t catch your name.â€
â€œIâ€™m Joell by the way.â€
â€œJoell, thatâ€™s right. Joell. Sit down. Join us.â€
â€œThat wonâ€™t be necessary.â€
â€œAw. Girls, give him a hug. Look how cute he is. I bet you could make it in pictures. With your looks? Yeah, I bet you could.â€
â€œI have no interest, sir. Anyway, the joke goes: once upon a time there was a Hollywood agent and two fine looking women.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a terrible way to start a joke, isnâ€™t it girls? Go ahead.â€
â€œHe swindled them out of all their money and left â€˜em!â€
Johnson burst into loud, obnoxious laughter and then turned and walked away, heading back for his cabin.
â€œI donâ€™t get it,â€ Miss Clarke said.
â€œI do,â€ Miss DeMillings said. â€œItâ€™s so funny.â€
She laughed, having not gotten it either, obviously.
DeLuve saw Brubeck take a long puff on his cigar.
â€œHeâ€™d never make it show biz,â€ Brubeck said.
DeLuve saw Mr. Nickerbocker finish his steak. With a great flourish, he put his knife and fork on the plate very politely. He took off his makeshift bib and put it on the table, knocking over the salt shaker. For a moment, the man looked terrified, quickly throwing some salt over his left shoulder. Then he picked up his plate, even as the porter walked towards his table. He waved off the porter and handed off the plate to the cook himself, shaking the negroâ€™s hand and apparently complimenting him on the meal. He turned to the porter, who was coming back with plates and took them from the young man, handing them off to the cook, and then shaking the porterâ€™s hand with a grand smile. It sounded like the man had a British accident.
During all this, the two rich people DeLuve had been interested in took their leave.
Mr. Nickerbocker headed forward in the dining car after that.
* * *
Johnson entered the small compartment where Agent Sanderson and McCree were talking. Agent Sanderson had finally made a decision and he led McCree into the dining car, nearly running into Mr. Nickerbocker along the way.
â€œOh!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
He had a distinctly British upper-class accent.
â€œGood day, gentlemen,â€ he said. â€œGood day. Catching a bit of fresh air out there? Nigel Nickerbocker!â€
â€œGriffin McCree,â€ McCree said, shaking his hand.
Mr. Nickerbocker introduced himself to Agent Sanderson as well and then left the dining car. The two men headed for the back of the dining car, McCree stopping when he reached DeLuve.
â€œMr. DeLuve, would you mind finding which room â€¦ fancy-pants stays in?â€ McCree said to him.
â€œI would love to,â€ DeLuve said.
He was thinking about the rich couple he had been eavesdropping on earlier. He got up from the table and left.
Agent Sanderson and McCree talked to Clarence Marlin, the porter about entering the baggage car. He told them only staff and personnel was back there. Agent Sanderson flashed his badge, which seemed to make the man nervous.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, sir, Iâ€™m sorry,â€ he said. â€œI really should check with the conductor first. Can I check with the conductor, sir? Please?â€
Agent Sanderson told the man he wanted back there right then. Marlin led the two men along a passageway that obviously went by the dining car kitchen. That led them to a door out onto a small balcony on the back of the car where the baggage car waited. They saw another door leading back into the dining car, probably to the kitchen.
The baggage car had a single sliding door on the end and they entered to find the car lit by only a few low-burning oil lamps, swaying and swinging from their hooks and casting maniacal, twisting shadows over the piles of baggage. As soon as they entered the cold car, a dog started barking from somewhere.
They searched for McCreeâ€™s luggage. The porter helped as best he could.
* * *
Johnson had quickly made his way to his room after leaving the dining car. He found everything he had brought was there, including his baseball bat.
* * *
DeLuve had rushed to follow the rich-looking couple, thinking that was who McCree wanted to see. He saw them as they left the passageway ahead and made their way to the front passenger coach. He picked up his pace to try to catch up with them and heard a whoosh of air as the door opened. He crossed to the front car and spotted them entering the cabin nearest the parlor on that carriage.
He went to the second cabin and knocked. The door was answered by Mr. Nickerbocker who greeted him with a smile.
â€œOh my!â€ the man said. â€œYes sir! How nice to meet you.â€
â€œHowdy, Mr. Nickerbocker,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œNice to meet you. Could I help you sir?â€
â€œI just wantedâ”€â€
â€œWonâ€™t you come in for a drink? Come in!â€
â€œI just wanted to apologize for reporting you earlier.â€
â€œOh. Oh. Oh. Oh, it was you!â€
â€œI was a little concerned about the bat at first.â€
â€œCome in! Come in! Oh, I lost my cane. You know how these things go. Come on in!â€
DeLuve entered the stateroom and Mr. Nickerbocker closed the door behind him. A bottle wrapped in a paper bag was sitting on the windowsill between the two settees. The sad, little top hat sat on one of the seats. DeLuve noticed there was no luggage in the room.
â€œI donâ€™t have glasses, sir,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œBut Iâ€™ve never been one to stand on formality, you see. Iâ€™ve never been one to stand on formality.â€
He picked up the bottle and handed it to DeLuve.
â€œWould you like a snort?â€ he said.
â€œA snort?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhy, yes sir. As Iâ€™ve said, I donâ€™t stand on formality. I donâ€™t â€¦â€
He looked out the window.
â€œI donâ€™t stand on formality,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œNot for anyone. Actually, I didnâ€™t catch your name, sir.â€
â€œDeLuve,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œDeLuve? Excellent. First name?â€
â€œMr. Spencer DeLuve. Itâ€™s quite grand to meet you. Iâ€™m traveling in luxury this time. Itâ€™s quite a nice change. I love this suit. Itâ€™s quite beautiful.â€
â€œIt looks good on you.â€
â€œOh thank you! It doesnâ€™t quite fit but, you must understand, sometimes when you get things second hand and youâ€™re in the mood because you want to help the working man in a small shop, then they donâ€™t always fit very â€¦ very â€¦ what do you do, Mr. DeLuve?â€
DeLuve sniffed at the bottle. It smelled like very strong and very cheap corn whiskey. He handed it back to Mr. Nickerbocker. The other man took a tiny swig of it and then breathed out heavily, filling the cabin with the smell of cheap whiskey.
â€œThatâ€™s bracing!â€ he said.
He corked the bottle back up.
â€œAs you wish,â€ he said. â€œYou may indulge any time if you see fit, sir. I just had the most wonderful meal and Iâ€™m about to sleep in the softest, most comfortable bed Iâ€™ve had in the last six months Iâ€™m sure. Ah. Pure heaven.â€
The man smiled at DeLuve.
â€œIâ€™ve not met many people on the train yet,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve been indisposed here in my cabin.â€
He looked out the window and then took his jacket off. DeLuve also looked out the window. The two men chatted and had a nice conversation.
â€œWhat brings you to Louisiana?â€ DeLuve asked.
â€œWherever the rail takes me,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œI am a wayward traveler who has â€¦ who has lost his interest in the finer things in life. I was â€¦ I was â€¦ I feel that I was chosen to see the world and rebel against my â€¦ rich British upbringing.â€
â€œYou should probably meet Joell.â€
â€œOh! Why, sir?â€
â€œWell, he works with the unions. Heâ€™s sticking up for the little man.â€
â€œWhy, heâ€™s an American hero, sir.â€
â€œHeâ€™s on the train.â€
â€œWell, introduce me, my good man. I would love to meet this gentlemen of working class. He would be a man â€¦ obviously heâ€™s a man of great strength of character.â€
â€œIâ€™m not really sure where he is. Iâ€™m pretty sure heâ€™s in this car though.â€
â€œWell, letâ€™s find him! Iâ€™m sorry. I didnâ€™t mean to impose upon you. Iâ€™ve let my excitement get away from me. Please accept my apology, sir. Please accept my apology. From the bottom of my heart. I would love to meet this man who sounds â€¦ you see, I am from Great Britain. I donâ€™t know if you can tell from my accent or not but I am from there. Since I said Iâ€™d had British upraising, I guess that does make sense, doesnâ€™t it? But, I would love to meet an American hero like your friend â€¦ Joell, did you say?â€
â€œI would love to meet him and if you find him and bring him back to my cabin â€¦ this place â€¦ is it called a cabin? I have such trouble with the American language. I would love to meet him.â€
He continued to chat with DeLuve, noting heâ€™d had a few â€œdashes with the lawâ€ as he put it but noted he tried not to take anything from anyone who couldnâ€™t afford it. DeLuve felt like the man was not so bad and excused himself to look for Johnson.
* * *
While McCree was looking for his luggage, he found a very large crate some seven feet by three feet by four feet with some paperwork attached to one end. It was a larger than anything else in the boxcar.
â€œIs â€¦ somebody shipping a body?â€ he asked.
â€œI-Iâ€™m sure I donâ€™t know, sir,â€ the porter said. â€œIâ€™m sorry. I donâ€™t know.â€
â€œDid somebody accompany this Nigel back here when he was in this car?â€
â€œWe saw him come from the backside of the dining car.â€
â€œWhat? Iâ€™m sorry sir, I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t know, sir. Iâ€™m sorry, sir.â€
Agent Sanderson took out his flashlight and looked at the paperwork in the manila envelope stapled to the large crate. The tag read â€œAlexander, Christopher.â€ Several legal papers seemed to be there as well. One of the papers was a death certificate for Lady Victoria Alexander, wife of Sir Christopher Alexander. Her date of death was December 1927, some 16 months before and described her dying in a riding accident. Another form from U.S. Customs indicated when the body was brought into the country. The third and fourth papers testified the fact the body was free from contagious disease, vermin, and the like. The final paper was a government form granting permission to transport the body across state lines from Massachusetts to Louisiana. All had been filled out and signed.
â€œIs that coffin-looking thing nailed shut?â€ McCree said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, sir, you shouldnâ€™t be looking at that,â€ the porter said. â€œThatâ€™s official documentation, sir. Iâ€™m so sorry. Please put that back. Please. Please put that back.â€
Sanderson saw the crate had a lid with nails in it. He put the papers back into the envelope.
They found McCreeâ€™s luggage and he opened up the trunk with his formal clothing within. The suit was missing.
â€œIt seems our friend, Nigel, helped himself to one of my suits,â€ McCree said.
â€œWho?â€ the porter said.
â€œThe gentleman with the eye patch.â€
â€œOh. I wouldnâ€™t think he would do that. Heâ€™s one of the passengers.â€
â€œApparently, he might not be.â€
â€œDid he have a ticket?â€
â€œYouâ€™d have to ask the conductor.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go find the conductor,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
McCree pulled out an old, moth-eaten tuxedo with vest from his trunk. It smelled as well.
â€œI feel he may have smuggled himself on,â€ McCree said. â€œHe either hid in here or â€¦ he may have taken out the late body and stored himself in it.â€
â€œIt looked like it was closed though,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œBut I think he did somehow smuggle himself on here.â€
â€œAre you done?â€ the porter said.
â€œYes sir,â€ McCree said. â€œDo we know where the conductor might be?â€
â€œIâ€™m really not sure.â€
â€œLetâ€™s just go,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
They left the boxcar, returning to the dining car. Miss Brown was gone, as were the other passengers.
* * *
DeLuve went to the next stateroom and knocked. The door was quickly pulled open by Miss Brown, who seemed excited to see him for a moment before her face fell.
â€œOh, hello,â€ she said in her deep voice. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œIâ€™m just looking for my friend,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh, well, Iâ€™m alone here. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œHave a great night, maâ€™am.â€
â€œNice to meet you. Iâ€™m so sorry. That was so rude of me. Eleanor Brown.â€
He introduced himself and then took his leave.
There was no answer on the next door and he peeked in. It looked like it was empty.
The next compartment was answered by the two vacuous but beautiful young women, who seemed delighted he was there.
â€œDid you bring us champagne?â€ the redhead asked.
â€œIâ€™m not a porter,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œYou coulda fooled me!â€ the blonde squeaked.
The two girls laughed and closed the door.
The next room stank of cigar smoke. He made his way to the last door.
* * *
Joell Johnson had heard the sound of the two girls laughing in the passageway and when he heard a knock on his door, he guessed it was Brubeck.
â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€ he called angrily.
â€œItâ€™s DeLuve,â€ DeLuve said through the door.
â€œOh,â€ Johnson said. â€œCome in.â€
DeLuve let himself into the stateroom. Johnson was still reading Das Kapital. He was enjoying his time alone in the stateroom. His own home was in a flophouse with stinking halls and paper-thin walls it seemed. He also wouldnâ€™t miss Crazy Jeff, who lived on his hall and who had yelled a good bye at him in the form of â€œHe wears no mask!â€ earlier that day. He wasnâ€™t sure what that was all about.
â€œWhatâ€™s up, DeLuve?â€ Johnson said.
â€œIâ€™m just going room to room, finding out where people are,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œThatâ€™s an interesting hobby if I ever heard one.â€
â€œWell, I mean, weâ€™re going to be on the train for two, two and a half days.â€
â€œWell, this is where I am.â€
â€œGotcha. Have a good one.â€
DeLuve headed back for his room.
* * *
Agent Sanderson and McCree found the conductor and DeLuve in the front passenger car passageway. The man was apparently checking windows to make sure they were securely closed. McCree stopped DeLuve.
â€œWhere does he live?â€ he asked.
â€œOh, fancypants,â€ DeLuve replied. â€œHeâ€™s in the first room in this car.â€
He pointed room closest to the parlor where the rich couple was staying.
The conductor looked a little miffed at the partially opened window. Agent Sanderson and McCree approached the man while DeLuve headed for the back of the train.
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ the man introduced himself.
â€œAh â€¦ Wilfred Cosley,â€ the conductor stuttered. â€œAgent?â€
â€œAgent of â€¦?â€
â€œThe Bureau of Investigation. Has there been anyone on the train that youâ€™ve met with an eye patch named Nickerbocker?â€
â€œIâ€™ve not met a man with an eye patch â€¦ is this a joke?â€
â€œDo I look like a joking man, sir?â€
He pulled out his mangled right hand. Three fingers were missing, leaving it an awful mess. The conductor drew back, repulsed.
â€œIt seems that this Nickerbocker, the man with the eye patch, if youâ€™ve seen him, has helped himself to some of the luggage in the back,â€ McCree said. â€œOne of my suits, actually.â€
â€œPassengers arenâ€™t allowed in the baggage car, sir,â€ Cosley said.
â€œUh, thatâ€™s what I was told by one of your boys,â€ McCree said. â€œBut, uh, when we went to investigate, we did find that my suit was, indeed, missing. And I can affirm that this one-eyed man was wearing it.â€
Agent Sanderson went to the door DeLuve had pointed out to McCree and knocked on it while McCree continued to talk to the conductor. The door was answered by a tall and very good-looking man with dark hair, who was putting his jacket back on. He had strong blue eyes and stood very straight with a regal bearing.
â€œYes, can I help you?â€ he said in a slight accent.
â€œDo you happen to have another male passenger in your room, sir?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œNo,â€ the man said, stepping back and opening the door a little wider to let the man look into the stateroom. â€œThis is my ward, Miss Meredith Denise Shelton.â€
The brunette with green eyes smiled dazzlingly at the federal agent. She was young, probably in her 20s.
â€œWe are traveling alone and sharing a stateroom,â€ the man said. â€œSince she is like a daughter to me since â€¦ since the accident. I am Sir Christopher Alexander.â€
â€œRamsey Sanderson,â€ Sanderson said.
â€œNice to meet you, Mr. Sanderson. Thereâ€™s only the two of us in this stateroom.â€
â€œOkay, sir. Well, thank you for your time.â€
â€œYouâ€™re very welcome. Is something wrong?â€
â€œJust trying to find a particular person.â€
â€œWhat does this person look like. Perhaps I have seen him. He is not here.â€
â€œOne eye with an eye patch covering the other.â€
â€œThat was that gentleman that had the steak,â€ Miss Shelton said, snapping her fingers. â€œHe was in the dining car just a little while ago. We were just finishing up dinner while he was having steak. He â€¦ he seemed quite eccentric. He had a baseball bat he was using as a cane.â€
She laughed, leaning forward and patting Agent Sanderson on the hand. Sir. Christopher laughed along with her.
â€œAre you looking for him right now?â€ she said. â€œWould you like to come in? Come in and tell us about this man.â€
â€œNow now now, Meredith, Iâ€™m sure the gentleman is very busy,â€ Sir Christopher said.
â€œNo no, come in,â€ Miss Shelton said. â€œJoin us. Weâ€™ve just been talking. We havenâ€™t really met any of the passengers.â€
She smiled at the man. Sir Christopher smiled at Agent Sanderson as well as if he was fine with it.
â€œIâ€™ll make my rounds back around,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œIâ€™ll find this gentleman first and then I can meet with you later.â€
Sir Christopher shook the manâ€™s hand as did Miss Shelton. They both seemed delighted to have met the man.
As he moved to the next door, McCree and the conductor went past him. McCree had finally convinced the conductor of what he believed but the man wanted to see for himself the suitcase heâ€™d looked in, wondering if he might not have gotten the wrong luggage. Though hesitant, McCree went with the man.
Agent Sanderson knocked on the door to the next stateroom and, after a moment, it was opened by the one-eyed Mr. Nickerbocker. He looked towards the parlor but saw the door that led to the second passenger coach close as McCree and the conductor left.
â€œOh dear, another!â€ the man said. â€œAnother new person. Nigel Nickerbocker. So nice to meet you. Please come in! Please come in!â€
Agent Sanderson was ushered into the stateroom and the man closed the door behind him.
â€œPleased to meet you!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œAre you an American?â€
â€œYes,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œItâ€™s so nice to â€¦ are you Joell?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m not.â€
Agent Sanderson scowled.
â€œMy good friend Mr. Spencer DeLuve said he was going to send â€¦ well, he didnâ€™t say he was going to send his friend Joell around but he implied that I would love to meet Joell,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œHe seems like a wonderful fellow. Would you like a snoot?â€
â€œNo, thank you,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œVery well,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œWell â€¦â€
He took a sip of the bottle and put the cork back in.
â€œPlease please, have a seat,â€ he said. â€œOh dear. Iâ€™m sorry sir, I didnâ€™t catch your name. How rude of me! How terribly rude.â€
â€œRamsey Sanderson,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Mr. Nickerbocker shook his hand again. He seemed quite chagrinned he had not asked his name. The man was very friendly and chatted with Agent Sanderson, who suspected he might suddenly turn violent if exposed to any kind of confrontation.
â€œWhat do you do, Mr. Sanderson?â€ he asked.
â€œIâ€™m a police officer,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œOh! You are a working man of the people. Thatâ€™s grand. Iâ€™ve met many police officers. You would be surprised how many. They all seem like grand gentlemen, trying to save men from other men who are terrible men. Men who would hurt and harm and do awful things. I â€¦ I respect your profession more than any other, I think, any other. It is a grand profession.â€
â€œWhat brings you to be traveling with us?â€
â€œWell, after I went to university in Great Britain, I decided that I would turn my back and rebel against my rich family and become a wayward, wandering soul. See the world. My travels brought me to America.â€
Mr. Nickerbocker told him about working his way across the Atlantic on a steamer that left him in South America. From there, he rode the rails in whatever capacity he could up to North America and made his way eventually to the east coast and Massachusetts. He boarded the train they were on and was heading wherever the rail took him. It was a long but very entertaining story.
* * *
In the baggage car, McCree found his luggage fairly easily. Conductor Cosley checked the tags on the bags and the trunk and then they opened the proper one. McCree also showed him the dirty clothing on the floor and showed the man that his best dress suit was missing.
* * *
* * *
Mr. Nickerbocker was talking about the suit he had recently acquired from â€œa man whose generosity knows no bounds.â€
â€œLook,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYes sir,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
â€œThe reason Iâ€™ve come to see you: an associate of mine knows that the suit you have on is not yours.â€
â€œAnd Iâ€™m going to â€¦ I want to make this a pleasant ride for everybody. So if you just give me the suit so I can return it.â€
â€œWell, Mr. Sanderson, I would love to do that but â€¦ but â€¦ it would be â€¦ then I would not have any clothes to wear. You have to understand, Iâ€™m wearing underwear of course â€¦â€
Mr. Nickerbocker pulled back a sleeve of his shirt and coat to reveal the end of ratty-looking long johns.
â€œâ€¦ and that would be the height of impoliteness,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œThere are ladies on board, my good sir.â€
He took another sip of the bottle and offered it to Agent Sanderson.
â€œNo, thank you, sir,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
The other man smiled and carefully corked the bottle once again.
â€œI donâ€™t mean to impose but I donâ€™t want to be rude,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
â€œIâ€™m going to get you some clothes,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œJust, give me the suit and there wonâ€™t be any problems.â€
â€œVery well, sir. Do you wish to take me away in handcuffs as well? I submit myself to your mercy, to your gentle, tender mercy. However you wish to handle the situation officer. Just one more snoot.â€
â€œJust go ahead and give me the suit. Just drop it. Drop the suit.â€
â€œWell, can I ask a terrible, terrible huge favor of you, officer, sir?â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the favor?â€
â€œCould you bring me the clothes before you take my suit? It is a beautiful suit. It fits me so well. But I promise I will not leave this room until you return. I swear on my motherâ€™s honor.â€
Agent Sanderson took out his handcuffs.
â€œI understand!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œI understand!â€
He held out his hands to be cuffed and hung his head. Agent Sanderson cuffed him.
â€œIâ€™ll be right back,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYou will find me here,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œSir. Sir.â€
He sat down on the settee.
Agent Sanderson went back to his room and retrieved his second suit of clothing, returning to the stateroom and knocking. Mr. Nickerbocker opened the door, at first looking embarrassed and then obviously relieved to see Agent Sanderson.
â€œYes, Officer Sanderson!â€ he said, ushering him in.
Agent Sanderson uncuffed the man and then stood outside while Mr. Nickerbocker changed into the other suit. After a few minutes, the door opened and the man stood there. The other suit of clothing was over his arm.
â€œOfficer, I have to confess another crime!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
â€œOkay,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIf you could see yourself clear to looking the other way â€¦ I understand thatâ€™s against your oath! Youâ€™ve sworn an oath to uphold the law like the man that you are, but if you could see yourself clear to look the other way, just until we make the stop in New Orleans, I will make redemption the best I can. I wonâ€™t be a bother; I promise.â€
â€œThe conductor is now thinking that â€¦ he knows youâ€™re on the train without a ticket because the other passengers have said something about it.â€
â€œOh dear. Well, itâ€™s jail for me again, I suppose.â€
â€œLook, if you want to stay in my cabin, just so I can say I have you arrested and then when we leave you can just get the blazes out of here.â€
â€œSir, you are an officer and a gentleman.â€
A single tear rolled down the older manâ€™s face, his heart touched by the other manâ€™s generosity. He picked up his bottle and his baseball bat, tucking the bottle away. He put his top hat back on his head.
Agent Sanderson had Mr. Nickerbocker lead them back to his stateroom. They were at his door in the second coach, when the door to the parlor opened and McCree and the conductor entered. Agent Sanderson shoved Mr. Nickerbocker into his room and approached the two.
â€œOkay, I have your suit,â€ Agent Sanderson said to McCree.
â€œAll right,â€ McCree said. â€œHas the perpetrator been handled?â€
â€œI have apprehended the suspect,â€ Agent Sanderson said, â€œand once the train ride ends, I willâ”€â€
â€œWait,â€ the conductor said. â€œWhat suspect are you talking about, Agent?â€
â€œThere was a hobo who had come onto the train somehow.â€
â€œBut he was apprehended. Once the train gets to its destination, I will immediately get him sorted out. Right now he is arrested.â€
The conductor thought on that a moment.
â€œVery well,â€ he finally said. â€œIf you wish to take charge of that situation, he is in your care and custody so youâ€™re responsible for him.â€
â€œLike heâ€™s my son,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t go that far, but â€¦ thatâ€™s fine,â€ the conductor said.
He turned to McCree.
â€œAre you satisfied, Mr. McCree?â€ he said.
â€œWell, I will need to get this washed,â€ McCree said. â€œBut â€¦ uh â€¦ as long as everythingâ€™s sorted out, it should be fine.â€
He told the conductor to please watch the luggage more closely.
â€œYes â€¦ sir,â€ the conductor replied dryly.
* * *
Agent Sanderson went to Miss Brownâ€™s room and told her of the strange situation that had occurred and, as an officer of the law, that he had to deal with it, also telling her it was very late but he was looking forward to seeing her the next morning.
â€œOh, youâ€™re so brave,â€ she said to him. â€œYour job is so dangerous.â€
She gave Agent Sanderson a little peck on the cheek and then blushed and went back into her stateroom. He went back to his own stateroom and made ready for bed.
* * *
The scream of â€œMurderâ€ awoke many of the passengers on the train around 9:30 p.m. The cries came from the forward carriage. It sounded like it was right outside of Johnsonâ€™s door, waking him up. He grabbed his bat and ran out the door as the stateroom door next to his opened and Brubeck ran out wearing mismatched pajamas.
Annie Clarke stood in the passageway wearing a frilly negligee and pointing down the way where a blood was spilled out into the narrow hall. Footprints of blood led towards the back of the train. Johnson ran towards Miss Clarke, who swooned. He ignored her and saw a body in the stateroom. It was Miss Brown, who lay on the ground in a great deal of blood. Her neck was twisted and her throat appeared to have been torn out. He stopped in terror for just a moment before he ran after the footprints.
â€œHoney! Honey!â€ Brubeck said to Miss Clarke. â€œWhat happened!?! Whatâ€™s going on!?!â€
â€œThe conductor!â€ Miss Clarke cried out. â€œIt was the conductor!â€
She pointed down the passageway in Johnsonâ€™s direction.
â€œIt was the conductor!â€ she said again. â€œHe came out of the compartment! He was covered in blood!â€
â€œItâ€™s okay, baby!â€ Brubeck said.
Johnson followed the footsteps into the parlor where they faded to nothing. He slid open the outside door and headed for the second passenger coach.
* * *
Agent Sanderson and DeLuve had heard the screaming and rushed out of their own staterooms on the second car. Other stateroom doors were opening as people looked out to see what the disturbance was. A few people came out to look up the passageway. â€œSerious Samâ€ and the bearded man none of them had met yet both exited their rooms after they passed.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ â€œSerious Samâ€ had asked.
â€œI heard a scream!â€ DeLuve said.
They had reached the door to the car when Johnson burst in from outside, baseball bat in hand.
â€œThereâ€™s a dead woman back up there!â€ Johnson said. â€œFootprints went this way. One of the actress ladies said it was the conductor and he ran into this car.â€
â€œIâ€™m a cop,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œGet out of the way, Joell. Just move.â€
He shoved Johnson aside and left the carriage. Johnson started to continue down the passageway but DeLuve grabbed him and pointed at the bloodstains around the door to the washroom at that end of the car. Johnson cursed and banged on the door with the baseball bat. There was no answer so he tried to open it but found it locked.
The door of the end stateroom opened and Professor Leighman looked out, pulling his bathrobe on.
â€œGentlemen, whatâ€™s going on?â€ he asked.
â€œThereâ€™s a dead woman in the first car,â€ Johnson said.
â€œOh my God!â€
â€œBlood footsteps ledâ”€â€
â€œMelissa, stay in the room!â€
Professor Leighman pulled the door shut behind him. Johnson looked at DeLuve.
â€œCan you pick locks?â€ he asked.
â€œY-Yes,â€ DeLuve said.
He headed back to his stateroom as more people peeked out of their doors. Other people came up the passageway. Both the Father Delarove and the man with the beard had come out, the priest with a blanket over him. â€œSerious Samâ€ zipped by them and headed for the forward carriage.
Professor Leighman knocked on the door and rattled the latch. Father Delarove and the bearded man asked what happened. Johnson told them as quickly as he could.
â€œWas she dead?â€ the man with the beard asked.
â€œDefinitely,â€ Johnson said.
* * *
Agent Sanderson had rushed forward to the other carriage and found several passengers around Miss Brownâ€™s stateroom. The woman was obviously dead of both a broken neck and a torn and bloody throat. Agent Sanderson felt sick.
She was a good woman, he thought, mortified.
He was shaken and angry by the sight of her corpse. He headed back the other way, following the footprints. He almost ran into â€œSerious Samâ€ coming from the other direction. Agent Sanderson dashed by him towards the second passenger carriage.
* * *
DeLuve had grabbed all his lock picks and ran back to the washroom.
â€œAre you sure she was dead?â€ the man with the beard and mustache asked.
â€œYou wanna go have a look?â€ Johnson said. â€œYeah, she was dead.â€
â€œIâ€™ll go look,â€ the man said, not making eye contact. â€œIâ€™ll go look.â€
He opened the door and headed out of the carriage.
DeLuve started to work on the lock to the washroom when Agent Sanderson came back into the carriage. The agent noticed the nice-looking lock picks DeLuve had and then headed for his stateroom to get his sidearm.
* * *
Mr. Nickerbocker was in his stateroom when Agent Sanderson got there.
â€œWhat happened?â€ the old man said.
Agent Sanderson didnâ€™t reply. He just got his 1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic revolver, worked the action to put a bullet in the chamber, and put it into his pajama pocket. He left the room without a word.
* * *
DeLuve was still working on the lock to the washroom when Agent Sanderson returned. He stood up and moved away, motioning for someone to break it down. Agent Sanderson rushed the door, putting his shoulder to it and throwing his entire weight against it. The door was sturdier than it looked and it didnâ€™t move but Agent Sanderson did hurt his shoulder.
â€œSanderson, let me,â€ Johnson said.
He used his baseball bat on the door and started to smash it down. It took several minutes to break through. McCree came out of his cabin, fully dressed. He had secreted his own semi-automatic pistol into the back of his belt. Johnson eventually broke a panel and could see into the room. A great deal of blood was splattered on the walls. He didnâ€™t see anyone at first in the room, but then saw someone lying on the floor. He was covered in blood, especially his arms. Johnson cursed and reached in the hole to unlock the door. The knob for the lock was wet but he turned it and then pushed the door open.
The door opened partially but then Johnson had to press hard against the corpse of the conductor, lying twisted and crumpled upon the bathroom floor. Both his wrists proved to be slashed and blood adorned the walls and floor. A bloody straight razor lay in the basin.
Professor Leighman went pale and Father Delarove crossed himself and stepped away.
â€œAll right, people,â€ McCree said, looking away from the terrible scene. â€œSo, if the conductorâ€™s dead, whoâ€™s in charge of the train.â€
He looked at Agent Sanderson.
â€œSanderson!â€ Johnson said.
Agent Sanderson knew the porter was in charge of the train with the loss of the conductor. He also realized the amount of blood evident in the bathroom was far less than what it should have been for two slit wrists. It was comparatively little for such terrible wounds. He also noticed the blood on the walls appeared almost to be smeared on â€¦ or perhaps spat. A any rate, it looked wrong, not in keeping with the spray that would have resulted from the wounds.
The porter, Clarence Marlin came through the door to the forward carriage. He looked ashen and terrified and worried.
â€œOh my God,â€ he said. â€œOh my God.â€
He walked over and peeked into the toilet that was now an abattoir.
â€œOh no,â€ he said. â€œNo no. Everyone needs to go back to your staterooms. Everyone needs to go back to your staterooms, please. We-we need to â€¦ Iâ€™ll explain fully when we figure out whatâ€™s going on. Weâ€™ll explain fully. If thereâ€™s any police officers on board â€¦ wait, Mr. â€¦ Officer â€¦â€
â€œSanderson,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œSanderson, if you could help â€¦â€ he went on.
The outer door opened again and â€œSerious Samâ€ entered the carriage.
â€œSam Club, private investigator!â€ he said, holding out his credentials. â€œAll right, everybody needs to calm down. Everybody needs to calm down so we can get things organized here.â€
The porter looked between Club and Agent Sanderson.
â€œFederal agent,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYouâ€™re a federal agent?â€ Club said.
â€œWhereâ€™s your badge?â€
Agent Sanderson reached for his badge and realized he didnâ€™t have it in his pajama pocket.
â€œItâ€™s in my real clothes,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œI need to see it at some point,â€ Club said. â€œI need your help and you can definitely use mine. We need to get these people calmed down. How about I go to the other carriage and tell people to get in their staterooms and you handle people in this one for now and weâ€™ll get together and figure out what to do about this.â€
â€œThereâ€™s a doctor on board. He can look at the bodies.â€
â€œHeâ€™s right here,â€ DeLuve said.
He pointed at Professor Leighman.
â€œIâ€™m not a doctor,â€ Professor Leighman said. â€œIâ€™m a professor, my good sir.â€
He launched into a lecture on how and where he got his degree and credentials.
â€œIs that okay with you, officer?â€ Club said to Agent Sanderson.
â€œLetâ€™s just get to work,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œDo yâ€™all need my assistance or do you want me to go back?â€ McCree said.
â€œAre you a cop?â€ Club said.
â€œNo,â€ McCree said.
â€œThen no,â€ Club said.
It took some time to get all the passengers in order, back into their rooms, and settled down until they could try to figure out what had happened. Agent Sanderson learned the man with the beard was Dr. Troy Adamson who was a physician. He was willing to take the bodies of Miss Brown and Mr. Cosley and clean them up and look at them to determine their cause of death. He was going to do it in Miss Brownâ€™s room.
DeLuve questioned the porter on having everyone go back to their staterooms, wondering if they should separate everyone up. The man replied that it looked like Mr. Cosley had killed the woman and then killed himself. Agent Sanderson noted it looked like it had been set up to look that way. Club thought it better to separate people to keep people from collaborating if there was another killer.
Dr. Adamson found Agent Sanderson and asked if he was in charge. When he found he was, he said heâ€™d come to tell him what he learned about the dead bodies.
* * *
In his room, DeLuve opened the window. A blast of cold air burst in and he stuck his head out to look at the carriage top. He realized he might be able to climb to the roof, though it would be very hard and he would have to be able to climb like a spider. One slip would send the potential climber to his death on the ground below. He thought he remembered seeing a ladder going up the side of the baggage car but otherwise there was no easy way onto the roof of the cars.
He closed the window, not trusting Sam Club.
* * *
Johnson, in his room, heard Brubeck in the corridor telling Miss Clarke and Miss DeMillings they would open the connecting door between their rooms so he could keep them safe. Johnson wanted to beat the man. He hated him.
â€œIâ€™m so scared,â€ he heard Miss Clarke said.
â€œIâ€™ll protect you, baby,â€ Brubeck said.
* * *
Agent Sanderson returned to his room, glad Mr. Nickerbocker was still safe. The hobo asked what was going on as Sanderson got dressed and he told him. There was a knock on the door and DeLuve was there.
â€œHow can I help you?â€ Agent Sanderson asked.
â€œI â€¦ I just â€¦ Iâ€™m â€¦ Iâ€™m awfully suspicious of this â€˜Samâ€™ guy,â€ DeLuve said. â€œEspecially the way he tried to take control of the situation immediately before anyone else. And now heâ€™s alone with some other guy that I think he knows, talking about â€˜we donâ€™t want people collaboratingâ€™ but heâ€™s the only other one with someone else â€¦ possibly collaborating.â€
Agent Sanderson realized Club wasnâ€™t with anyone in particular and told DeLuve the man was questioning passengers.
â€œNever mind,â€ DeLuve said. â€œI thought he and the doctor were doing the autopsy.â€
Agent Sanderson told him Dr. Adamson was alone in the room doing the autopsy. He told Mr. Nickerbocker to wait in the stateroom. Then he went to the forward passenger carriage to see Dr. Adamson. He found the man cleaning the bodies in an attempt to get a better look at the wounds. Dr. Adamson noted he was not planning on cutting either of the bodies open and expected to have his results in a couple of hours.
Agent Sanderson looked around Miss Brownâ€™s room. There was not as much blood there as he would have expected either.
* * *
While Agent Sanderson was gone, DeLuve told Mr. Nickerbocker everything that had happened.
â€œOh dear,â€ the older man said. â€œThat sounds quite dreadful.â€
â€œGhastly,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œGhastly! How well do you know all your friends?â€
He especially wanted to know about the rich man who had owned the suit.
â€œWell, heâ€™s my employer,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œYou see, sometimes the rich are very eccentric. They donâ€™t think like normal people.â€
â€œEveryoneâ€™s a little eccentric.â€
â€œWell, I would keep my eye on him. He seems â€¦ well, I donâ€™t really know him. I shouldnâ€™t just the man before I know him. He has a very impressive mustache.â€
â€œWhat we were talking about earlier. Good on you.â€
â€œYes yes. I havenâ€™t met him yet. Wait, what about your friend Joell? I havenâ€™t met him yet either. And I would like to.â€
He started talking about Joell and his work again.
* * *
Sam Club found Agent Sanderson an hour or so later. He advised the passengers could probably be allowed to move about if they wanted, so long as they were careful. He was convinced that the conductor murdered Miss Brown and then killed himself. He didnâ€™t see there was any other explanation. When Agent Sanderson told him there wasnâ€™t enough blood in either of the rooms, he asked what that meant. Agent Sanderson didnâ€™t know either. Club wondered if they were both anemic.
â€œI tried pulling the brake cord and nothing happened,â€ Club said.
â€œWhat?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œThe brake cord. Thereâ€™s a brake cord to stop the train. Itâ€™s broken.â€
Agent Sanderson took Club out of the room and they headed for the engine. Opening the front door of the front passenger coach showed the back of the tender, which was as tall as the car. There should have been a ladder there but it was missing. They could see the bottom of it and the top of it attached to the coal tender but a good eight feet of the middle was simply missing as if it had been torn off.
â€œOh my God!â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œHow the hell would they get to the engine?â€ Club said. â€œThis is stupid. Is there a telegraph in here to talk to the engineers? Iâ€™ve never heard of that. Thatâ€™s fancy.â€
They leaned out and looked forward, trying to see the locomotive. It was wreathed in darkness.
Agent Sanderson went to look for the porter while Club went room to room to tell the passengers they could move about the train again as it was thought to have been a murder suicide.
Johnson left his room when he was able and went looking for Sanderson.
* * *
Sanderson found Clarence Marlin, the porter, in the second passenger coach. He told him about the missing ladder and the malfunctioning brake.
â€œUh â€¦ uh â€¦â€ Marlin said, obviously distraught. â€œDid you check all the cars? The dining car? The other passenger coach? Try to see if all the brakes are broke.â€
They went from car to car and tried the emergency brake cord. None of them did anything. That disturbed Marlin even more.
â€œWe have a telegraph,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s a telegraph here. Itâ€™s on the train. We can send a telegraph to the next station. Let them know whatâ€™s going on. Itâ€™s back in the dining car.â€
The two men went to the kitchen of the dining car where the telegraph was being stored, and found it damaged beyond repair. It looked like someone had ripped out the insides of the device.
â€œOh God,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWha â€¦â€ Marlin said. â€œWhat do we do? What do we do?â€
â€œGet it together man!â€ Agent Sanderson said, slapping the black man in the face.
* * *
Johnson found Agent Sanderson in the second passenger car parlor.
â€œWhat do you make of this, Sanderson?â€ he asked the man.
â€œThereâ€™s been sabotage,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œTelegraph is destroyed. Brakes are shot. Ladderâ€™s gone off the back of the coal tender.â€
â€œJesus. And the murders?â€
â€œWhat about â€˜em?â€
â€œDo you think he killed himself?â€
â€œOh no. Thereâ€™s not enough blood.â€
â€œSo what does that mean? Do you think somebody set it up?â€
â€œI said it was a set up, didnâ€™t I?â€
â€œA set up? But that would mean that somebody took out all our communication, we canâ€™t stop the train, and presumably, theyâ€™re still on it and they killed these people and used one of their bloods to frame it. Iâ€™m not a cop, if you canâ€™t tell.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to do to you what you did to that sentence. Yeah, thatâ€™s what it seems like. It seems like somethingâ€™s fishy and somebodyâ€™s the culprit. Or somebodies. Two people maybe. I donâ€™t know. Thereâ€™s some people in pairs.â€
â€œSo, does that mean we have to start doing suspects and figure out â€¦â€
â€œSam Club says he talked to some people but I donâ€™t know what heâ€™s come across. He says he still believes itâ€™s a suicide. Murder/suicide.â€
â€œI mean, it would make sense if it wasnâ€™t for the lack of blood which you said and all our shot communications and brakes. What do you want me to do?â€
â€œI want you to keep an eye out. Listen in. Sneak. Youâ€™re good at sneaky.â€
â€œNot particularly â€¦ but Iâ€™m glad you see me in that light. I can keep a watch on the first car but I canâ€™t guarantee Iâ€™m going to be a spy.â€
DeLuve came down the passageway as Johnson went to the parlor in the first passenger coach. A few people moved through the parlor, looking nervous. Professor Leighman found the man and asked about what was going on. Johnson filled him in on what heâ€™d seen.
* * *
Agent Sanderson had gone to the forward passenger car and knocked on the door of the room with the young women. There was a startled wail from inside. The door was opened by Horace J. Brubeck.
â€œOh hey,â€ he said. â€œHowâ€™s it going, there? Youâ€™re one of the cops, right?â€
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ the man said, holding out his hand. â€œIâ€™d like to speak to â€¦â€
Brubeck had been holding a cigar in his hand and when he reached for Agent Sandersonâ€™s hand, itâ€™s switched it to the left hand but the ashes spilled all over both of them.
â€œOh,â€ Brubeck said. â€œSorry. Sorry, there, Agent. Sorry, there.â€
â€œOh my goodness, who is it?â€ one of the woman said from the stateroom. â€œIs he going to murder us?â€
â€œItâ€™s okay girls,â€ Brubeck said. â€œItâ€™s a cop.â€
â€œOoo!â€ one of the girls said. â€œA cop!â€
â€œIs it a man?â€ the other said. â€œIs it a man cop?â€
â€œIâ€™d like to speak with the witness,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œOh â€¦ yeah,â€ Brubeck said. â€œCâ€™mon in. Câ€™mon in.â€
He ushered the man into the tight little room and backed into his own room through the adjoining door but stayed to watch. He pointed out the blonde girl, Annie Clarke.
â€œOh, officer, how can I help you?â€ she asked
Her voice was very high-pitched. She wore a short, revealing negligee and a housecoat that covered little more. It was quite distracting.
â€œOh officer,â€ she said. â€œOh dear. Oh, it was horrible. It was horrible.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to need you to tell me everything you saw,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œOkay. Well, I got on a train and I saw a train.â€
â€œWhat did you see of the murder?â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™m sorry. I thought you policemen wanted details. Okay. So, I was coming out to use â€¦ to powder my nose, and as I was lookinâ€™ to my right, I see the conductor. That Mr. Conductor Fella.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know his name and he comes out and heâ€™s got blood all over him!â€
â€œAnd I thought â€˜Oh no! He mustâ€™ve cut himself.â€™â€
â€œAnd then I thought â€˜Thatâ€™s too much blood. Itâ€™s so much.â€™ And he looked at me â€¦ and he had fire in his eyes. I know how men are. I know how they are. And I thought â€˜Oo.â€™ And then he turned and he starts running the other way, and I walk up, and I saw that lady, Mrs. Brown, and sheâ€™s dead on the floor and thereâ€™s blood everywhere, splattered all over the place.â€
â€œAnd then I screamed and then that little dirty fellow came out of his room and he ran past me and had a baseball bat and he was looking at the floor. And thatâ€™s when I saw the blood on the floor and then everything went blurry. And I woke up and Horace here was holding me up because Iâ€™d passed out. Oh, it was terrible.â€
â€œMiss Annie, do you happen to know what time you came out of your room to powder your nose?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t look at my clock, no. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œI will next time.â€
â€œThatâ€™s okay. Please do.â€
â€œI will. Iâ€™ll always check my â€¦ I donâ€™t have a watch â€¦â€
Agent Sanderson thanked her and stood up.
â€œIt was the conductor,â€ she went on. â€œHe was covered in blood and he just ran away. I mean, he even left a trail, you can still see it out there on the carpet. It was terrible! I was so scared!â€
â€œThank you for your time,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œBut now heâ€™s dead,â€ Miss Clarke said. â€œSo am Iâ€™m not as scared but Iâ€™m still scared.â€
â€œDo you want to talk to Constance?â€ Brubeck said as Agent Sanderson tried to get out the door.
â€œDid she see anything?â€ Agent Sanderson asked.
â€œConstance, did you see anything?â€ Brubeck said.
â€œNo, I was â€¦ I was in the â€¦ I was lying down,â€ Miss DeMillings said. â€œI came out into the corridor when I heard â€¦ when I heard Annie screaming but I never saw the man.â€
â€œShe didnâ€™t see nothing,â€ Brubeck said. â€œI didnâ€™t see anything either. I came out after I heard the scream. But I am a very important fellow.â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™m sure,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œIf you see or hear anything else, let me know.â€
â€œOf course,â€ Brubeck said. â€œThank you, officer. Agent - sorry.â€
Agent Sanderson looked at the bloody footprints, which faded by the middle of the parlor.
He headed for the washroom where the conductor had committed suicide to find DeLuve there, taking photographs of the little room.
There was a good amount of blood on the toilet seat, which was obviously down when the man had died. The basin was bloodstained and there was blood on the floor and walls. There was less blood on the ceiling. The room stank of it.
When they examined the window more closely, they found some bloodstains around the handles and discovered the window was unlocked. Agent Sanderson opened the window and cold wind blew in as he leaned out, using his flashlight. He found bloodstains leading up to the top of the car. It looked like a very hard climb and Agent Sanderson couldnâ€™t figure how someone would be able to make it to the roof.
â€œSo â€¦ letâ€™s close this window,â€ DeLuve said, doing so. â€œI will go to the front car and close and lock every window. You should go and close and lock all the windows in the back car.â€
They set out to do so.
* * *
DeLuve got Johnson to help and they checked all the windows, asking everyone to make sure to close and lock their windows as well. When they got to Dr. Adamsonâ€™s room, he opened the door.
â€œYes?â€ he said.
â€œOne of the officers just came and told me we should lock our windows,â€ Johnson said to him. â€œSo I just thought Iâ€™d let you know.â€
â€œYes,â€ Dr. Adamson said. â€œOkay.â€
He quickly checked the window to make sure it was locked. Johnson was a little unnerved to see the two sheet-covered corpses.
DeLuve opened the next stateroom and checked it to make sure it was locked. There were a few personal items that looked like they probably had belonged to the porter and the conductor. He looked through them but didnâ€™t find anything incriminating or even of any great interest. He left that door open. The other empty room was the one where heâ€™d originally found Mr. Nickerbocker.
The two of them met Agent Sanderson eventually. Johnson checked the doors on the front and back of the train cars and found they couldnâ€™t be locked.
All of the windows in both passenger cars were closed and locked. Johnson went back to his seat in the parlor with his book. DeLuve joined him there. When Agent Sanderson came back through, DeLuve reminded him they hadnâ€™t checked the baggage car. The three men headed that way, DeLuve knocking on McCreeâ€™s room as they passed by it.
â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€ McCreeâ€™s voice came from the stateroom.
â€œItâ€™s DeLuve,â€ the man said.
â€œAh â€¦ whatâ€™s going on now, DeLuve?â€
â€œWeâ€™re going to go check the baggage hold.â€
â€œUh â€¦ one moment. Let me put something on.â€
Agent Sanderson and Johnson went on ahead, leaving DeLuve behind.
* * *
Johnson and Sanderson entered the baggage car, still only lit by the low-burning oil lamps that swung and swayed, casting the strange shadows over the piles of baggage. Aside from the rattle of the wheels on the tracks and the blowing wind, it was quiet. It was very cold in the place. Johnson looked around with interest at the mail and the large crate.
Agent Sanderson shined his flashlight on the large wooden crate and got into the paperwork again. Nothing looked like it was in any way different from before. Then he examined the door on the other side of the boxcar and peeked out. The tracks receded into the darkness and seemed to be speeding under the train. He closed it.
â€œI didnâ€™t find anything,â€ he said.
Johnson was looking over the luggage. Eventually DeLuve and McCree came in.
â€œWhatâ€™s in this big box?â€ Johnson said of the large crate. â€œI saw you looking at it earlier.â€
â€œUh â€¦ when I checked the paperwork on it earlier, it said it was a box from England,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
He told him all the particulars of the paperwork about Christopher Alexanderâ€™s dead wife, Victoria.
â€œThere arenâ€™t any British people on the train, are there?â€ Johnson said.
â€œNigel,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œNigel Nickerbocker said he was British,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh, whoâ€™s that?â€ Johnson said.
â€œHeâ€™s a hobo,â€ DeLuve said.
Johnson went to the box and found it was nailed shut. He lifted on the lid and it came right up as if the nails werenâ€™t even holding it.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ Johnson said. â€œSanderson, flashlight!â€
Johnson lifted it up and peeked into the crate while Agent Sanderson shined his light over his shoulder. Within was a mahogany coffin with brass handles and trimmings. Agent Sanderson reached for the coffin lid and Johnson pushed the lid of the crate rest of the way off and picked up his baseball bat.
â€œLift it up,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Johnson flipped up the lid quickly and stepped back. The heavy coffin lid went up, stopped when it was 90 degrees, and then bounced back and slammed shut again with a crash.
â€œLetâ€™s just put it up normally,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
When Johnson pushed the coffin lid up more carefully, he saw it was empty.
â€œI knew it!â€ he cried out.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œIs it empty, as I assumed?â€ McCree said.
â€œHas the body been exhumed?â€ DeLuve said.
DeLuve was looking for his baggage and McCree was fiddling around with his rifle bags.
Johnson noticed a portion of the velvet lining was pressed out as if something were stuffed into it. He pointed it out and Agent Sanderson reached in and pulled out a book with a strange, mottled cover and yellowed pages. He realized the cover of the book was polished and pressed shards of bone. All over both covers and the spine were bizarre etchings of half-glimpsed things swimming in a great lake. He could also feel something not unlike tiny figures swimming under his fingers as he held it. Even the fingers he was missing on his right hand seemed to feel the odd touch.
â€œSanderson, you just went a little pale,â€ Johnson said. â€œYou okay?â€
Agent Sanderson made a strange face.
â€œYeah,â€ he said.
â€œSo, whatâ€™re you all thinking this time?â€ McCree said. â€œZombie or â€¦ vampire?â€
DeLuve had retrieved the camera case he used to hold his sawed-off shotgun. McCree was looking through his gun bag.
â€œCan I have a look at that?â€ Johnson said.
Agent Sanderson handed over the strange book. Johnson looked at the book and blinked when he felt the strange sensation pressing against his fingers.
â€œWhat the hell is this made of?â€ he asked.
Agent Sanderson looked at him for a moment.
â€œBone,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Johnson opened the cover and saw that it was handwritten and in English. The frontispiece read â€œSelected Material from The Revelations of Glaaki.â€
â€œYou all know who Glaaki is?â€ he asked.
McCree looked up as Johnson turned to the next page and found more handwritten English.
McCree wasnâ€™t sure how he knew it but he somehow realized Glaaki was a terrible god that pierced the chest of its followers and would kill them while at the same time making them immortal. Certain things could hurt them, including sunlight. The terrible thing was worshipped in the bottom of a lake somewhere in England. Glaaki itself came from some other world hundreds of years before. He didnâ€™t know how he knew it, but he knew it.
â€œApparently, through some â€¦ I canâ€™t explain it but â€¦ it sounds like thatâ€™s some sort of alien, English zombies?â€ he said.
He told them what he knew of Glaaki.
â€œI donâ€™t know why I know this but â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œLetâ€™s go talk to Nigel,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œSounds like it,â€ McCree said. â€œAh â€¦ I feel like â€¦ immortal doesnâ€™t go well with what weâ€™re doing so why donâ€™t I bring a big gun as well.â€
â€œDid you say that sunlight is one of its weaknesses?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYes,â€ McCree said, fetching his Greener F35 Far-Killer shotgun.
The shadows in the boxcar seemed somehow darker and more forbidding. They seemed to move towards them at times.
â€œUh, Sanderson, you donâ€™t mind if I take this on the train, do you?â€ McCree said, hefting his Greener.
â€œAt this point â€¦â€ Agent Sanderson said.
He left the boxcar while the other two men looked at what Johnson was reading.
â€œWhatâ€™s the title of your book with Glaaki in it?â€ McCree asked.
â€œRevelations of Glaaki?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œSelections from the Revelations of Glaaki,â€ Johnson said.
â€œAll right â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œMaybe we should go look at that in better light,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œAh, the light of the dining car?â€
â€œBetter than reading under these lamps.â€
â€œThat sounds fine to me,â€ Johnson said, closing the book.
They went to the dining car where the lights had been dimmed. Johnson put the book on one of the tables and skimmed through it, DeLuve looking over his shoulder. McCree went in search of Agent Sanderson.
* * *
Agent Sanderson went to his stateroom and found Nigel Nickerbocker there, sitting up in his bed asleep, his baseball bat in his lap. McCree caught up with him when he continued on from there to the forward passenger car and the room of Sir Christopher Alexander. He knocked on the stateroom door, putting his hand on his pistol in his pocket while McCree waited around the corner. There was movement from within the room and then the door opened. Sir Christopher was there, pulling a robe on.
â€œYes?â€ he said. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œTell me what you know about the box in the luggage car,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWith your name on it, sir?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry. I just woke up. You mean the large box with the â€¦â€
â€œThatâ€™s my wifeâ€™s coffin. She died 16 months ago in Great Britain where we were living at the time. It was before I came to America. I brought her with me because where I end up settling is where I wish to have her finally buried.â€
â€œYour box â€¦ has been opened.â€
â€œSomething has come out of it.â€
Sir Christopher looked at the other man.
â€œWhat?â€ he finally said. â€œNo no no no. That is impossible. It was cleared. There is no vermin or disease. We had her body examined. She was â€¦ how you say? Whatâ€™s the word? You put fluid in the body to preserve it?â€
â€œTell me what you know about Glaaki,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWho? Is this a baseball team?â€
â€œCome with me for a moment, sir.â€
â€œMeredith, weâ€™ll be right back. Will she be safe?â€
Sir Christopher came out of the stateroom and closed the door behind him. As Agent Sanderson passed McCree, the man fell into step with the two men. When they got to the dining car, Sanderson told DeLuve and Johnson to go to Sir Christopherâ€™s room to keep an eye on Meredith.
â€œBoth of us?â€ DeLuve said.
They continued towards the boxcar and Johnson and DeLuve got up, Johnson marking the place in the book.
â€œYou donâ€™t want to hide it?â€ DeLuve said.
Johnson put the book under his shirt.
â€œIâ€™ve got bags!â€ DeLuve said.
â€œFine,â€ Johnson said.
They tucked the book into the photography bag and they headed forward.
* * *
* * *
When they reached the baggage car, Sir Christopher seemed surprised to see the crate and the coffin open. When he looked in and saw it was empty, he looked quite upset.
â€œMy â€¦ this â€¦ my â€¦ she should be in here,â€ he said. â€œWhere is my wife? What have you done â€¦ my wife?â€
â€œYou tell us,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œWhere is your wife?â€
â€œMy wife was in the coffin because she was dead.â€
â€œSheâ€™s not in the coffin.â€
â€œThereâ€™s evidence that something has been onto the roof, crawling.â€
â€œThere is a book.â€
Agent Sanderson showed him the place where the book had been tucked away.
â€œThereâ€™s a book here,â€ he said. â€œTalking about some sort of â€¦ demon god thing.â€
â€œI just looked!â€ Sir Christopher said. â€œThis was nailed shut! We removed her four days ago. I saw the body in the coffin! She was gaunt and degraded after so long.â€
â€œMr. Alexander, what is your relation to the woman in your cabin?â€ McCree said.
â€œSheâ€™s my ward,â€ Sir Christopher said. â€œHer parents were killed in a carriage accident some time ago. So, I took it upon myself to raise her as my own daughter.â€
â€œDoes your ward act unusual at all?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWell, she is a precocious young woman,â€ Sir Christopher said. â€œOf course all women act unusual at her age.â€
â€œAgreed,â€ McCree said.
â€œYou must find my wifeâ€™s body!â€ Sir Christopher said.
â€œWeâ€™re on it,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œThank you! Thank you!â€ he said.
Sir Christopher turned and left the boxcar. McCree and Agent Sanderson discussed briefly what they might be able to do next.
* * *
Johnson knocked when they reached Sir Christopherâ€™s room.
â€œWho is it?â€ a womanâ€™s voice called.
â€œItâ€™s Joell and Mr. DeLuve,â€ Johnson said. â€œSanderson sent us to make sure everything goes okay in here. You need company?â€
â€œUh â€¦ no. Hold on. Hold on.â€
They heard rustling from within and moving around before the door was opened. Miss Shelton stood there in a robe, holding it closed with a hand at her throat. She was achingly beautiful and they noticed she was quite tall.
Doesnâ€™t want to show that hole in her chest, DeLuve thought.
â€œSandersonâ€™s talking with your â€¦ father?â€ Johnson said. â€œI donâ€™t know your relation.â€
â€œIâ€™m his ward,â€ she said. â€œSince my parents died a while ago.â€
â€œSanderson just wanted somebody to watch the room. If you just want us to stand outside, that would be fine.â€
â€œThat would probably be most appropriate.â€
She slowly closed the door.
It was some time later when Sir Christopher returned to the room, thanked them, and entered. Johnson put his ear to the door but could not make out what the two were saying. They were obviously talking very quietly. When DeLuve suggested they search the cars again, Johnson said he wanted to meet up with Agent Sanderson and McCree. He wanted to make a plan for the night with the others.
In the end, they decided to wait in the parlor of the lead passenger coach, Johnson reading and DeLuve watching down the passageway.
* * *
McCree and Agent Sanderson went to Miss Brownâ€™s room and Dr. Adamson told them heâ€™d be done shortly, noting it was unusual. McCree found Johnson and DeLuve in the parlor while Agent Sanderson returned to his room, where Mr. Nickerbocker was sleeping, snoring quietly.
* * *
A short time later, the three men in the forward passenger coach parlor heard the door to the front of the car open and close and felt a blast of cold air. DeLuve had been watching up the passageway and thought he saw a shadow but wasnâ€™t sure. Johnson put the book down.
â€œBag,â€ he whispered.
DeLuve took the book and tucked it back into his camera bag. He took out a little bag of flash powder.
Then they noticed mist crawling along the floor down the passageway from the front of the car. Johnson cursed. Up the corridor, one of the light bulbs flickered and went out as Johnson picked up his baseball bat and he and DeLuve positioned themselves at the near end of the passageway. Then a second one flickered and went out. DeLuve reached into the camera bag and took out his flashlight.
Red light came from outside of the train somewhere ahead and Johnson cursed again. Then they thought they heard a ululating wail quickly approaching from the front of the train. In moments, it resolved into the ringing of bells and the red lights of a railroad crossing that the train sped past. Johnson almost panicked and ran before he realized what it was.
When they next looked up the passageway, they saw the figure of a woman standing at the far end. She looked at them and then made a noise like she was slurping in the air.
â€œMiss Alexander?â€ DeLuve called nervously.
Johnson looked towards McCree.
â€œGun!â€ he hissed. â€œGun! Gun!â€
â€œAll right,â€ McCree said.
â€œMiss Alexander?â€ DeLuve called quietly up the passageway again.
McCree stepped around the corner and saw the woman, who seemed to be floating backwards.
â€œInteresting â€¦â€ McCree muttered.
â€œMiss Alexander?â€ DeLuve quietly called again.
The woman, seemingly still floating just off the ground, disappeared around the corner, still looking at them.
â€œWell, it seems she doesnâ€™t like too many people in one spot,â€ McCree said quietly.
The lights at the other end of the corridor came back on.
â€œDeLuve, keep watch,â€ Johnson said. â€œThereâ€™s nobody living back there except for my room, but thereâ€™s doors in between each room. If it could get through a locked door. If it could break open a locked door or â€¦ however, then everybody in this car could be in danger.â€
â€œI could go,â€ McCree said. â€œI just need somebody to stay close by.â€
â€œIâ€™ll stay close by,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œIâ€™m going to need some light if she likes to turn â€˜em out,â€ McCree said. â€œShe doesnâ€™t compare to a walking tree, right?â€
â€œWe donâ€™t know!â€ Johnson said.
â€œWhatâ€™s a walking tree?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œAnd what did we hear, that theyâ€™re almost immortal â€¦ zombies â€¦ from the Glaaki thing?â€ Johnson said. â€œYou said that! Thatâ€™s a quote from you!â€
â€œIf I blow her arms off, she hopefully wonâ€™t be able to move,â€ McCree said.
â€œWasnâ€™t she just floating!?!â€ Johnson hissed. â€œShe was just floating. I donâ€™t think she cares! Sheâ€™ll be a head - nyah nyah nyah!â€
He clacked his jaws together and leaned forward.
â€œDid you see something I didnâ€™t?â€ McCree said.
He headed down the passageway with DeLuve and Johnson close behind.
â€œThe only people we have to worry about â€¦ the ones we have to worry about the most â€¦ are the girls and that horrible, dirty, nasty man,â€ Johnson said. â€œI donâ€™t want to get any closer than we have to, but we need to make sure theyâ€™re not going to get killed.â€
As he passed Miss Brownâ€™s door, it suddenly opened right next to him. He jerked back and McCree let out a cry of â€œJesus!â€ Dr. Adamson was there.
â€œGentlemen,â€ he said, somewhat startled himself.
â€œSorry, Doctor,â€ McCree said.
â€œAre you all right?â€ the doctor said.
He pulled the door closed behind him. It was very close in the passageway.
â€œThereâ€™s something strange going on in this car,â€ Johnson said, pointing up the passageway.
McCree continued heading towards the front of the car, gun in hand. Dr. Adamson gave the man a look.
â€œI need to talk to Mr. Sanderson about the autopsy report,â€ he said.
â€œGo go go go,â€ Johnson said.
â€œYes,â€ he said. â€œAll right.â€
He squeezed past Johnson.
â€œOne moment,â€ DeLuve said.
The doctor stopped.
â€œMay I see your chest?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œI beg your pardon?â€ Dr. Adamson said.
â€œItâ€™s part of the investigation. May I see your chest?â€
â€œSir. You see that gun? May I see your chest?â€
DeLuve gestured towards McCree, who had halted his advance. Dr. Adamson looked at the man.
â€œAre you threatening me?â€ he said.
â€œNo,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œI will not be threatened!â€
â€œWeâ€™re saying this is a very serious matter.â€
â€œI might be a man who does not often stand up for myself, but Iâ€™m not going to be threatened by people.â€
â€œIâ€™ll show you my chest. You show me yours.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to see your chest, sir. Why would I want to see it?â€
He turned away.
â€œSir!â€ DeLuve said. â€œDonâ€™t move.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t need to see it!â€ Johnson said.
DeLuve looked at the man.
â€œThe chest is the spot,â€ he said. â€œRemember?â€
â€œOh!â€ Johnson said. â€œAnd we were worried about the floaty thing, not worried about him!â€
â€œYes, but â€¦â€ DeLuve said.
McCree had turned away and made his way up the passageway. The woman should have been right around the corner by the washroom but when he arrived, there was no one there.
â€œWhat if, itâ€™s in his chest?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œI need to go talk to Mr. Sanderson,â€ Dr. Adamson said. â€œIf you want to look at my chest, come with me.â€
He turned and walked away.
â€œI donâ€™t want to be alone with him,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t seem sheâ€™s down this way anymore,â€ McCree called.
â€œI think if thereâ€™s a chest-hole zombie, it would be the one that was floating down, came out of nowhere, crawled on top of the train!â€ Johnson said.
McCree came back.
â€œBut heâ€™s been alone the whole time with the other body!â€ DeLuve said.
There was a noise from inside Miss Brownâ€™s stateroom as if something fell. Johnson cursed. He flung open the door, banging it against the bed. He looked into the room but nothing seemed to be out of place. DeLuve peeked in as well but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Both corpses were covered by bloodstained sheets. Both corpses rocked a little bit from the motion of the train.
â€œWe shouldâ€™ve checked his chest,â€ DeLuve said. â€œWe shouldâ€™ve checked his chest.â€
â€œWhat are we looking at?â€ McCree said when he reached them.
â€œWe need to check their chests.â€
â€œHave at it! Iâ€™m right here. Donâ€™t worry.â€
â€œI heard something from that room,â€ Johnson said.
â€œWe heard movement in here,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œI canâ€™t really check it while holding this,â€ McCree said.
â€œIâ€™ve got to hold this flash powder,â€ DeLuve said.
Baseball bat raised, Johnson entered the room and looked around. He looked at the bodies lifting the sheets from their heads. The slight movement of the train caused the corpses to continue rocking. Then he lifted up the sheet far enough of them to look at their chests. Neither of them was damaged or injured there. Miss Brown had a terrible wound on her throat but not on the chest. The conductor had bruises on his neck but nothing on his chest.
â€œThatâ€™s weird,â€ Johnson said. â€œIf he was bruised on the neck, why did he slit his wrists?â€
* * *
The soft knock on his stateroom door didnâ€™t wake Sanderson at first. On the second knock, he leapt from his bed and pulled the .38 revolver from under his pillow, looking around. At first he had thought someone was knocking on the window but then realized it had come from the door. He opened it and found Dr. Adamson there.
â€œAgent Sanderson?â€ the physician said.
â€œYes sir,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIâ€™ve got some information. If I can come in Iâ€™ll tell you what I found out.â€
He let the doctor into the room. The man didnâ€™t make much eye contact and seemed shy. Agent Sanderson looked at his watch. It was midnight.
â€œThe victim, Miss Eleanor Brown, was a female, age 30 to 33,â€ Dr. Adamson said. â€œShe died from a broken neck and loss of blood from a torn and severed jugular vein. There were fingernail marks on her arms. Her neck was also snapped between the second and third vertebra. The assailant probably entered her stateroom, grabbed her, there was a short struggle is my guess, during which time her neck was snapped and then the jugular vein was, for some reason, torn out. The breaking of the neck should have killed her.
â€œWilfred Cosley, age 50 and 55, some light contusions on his throat as if heâ€™d been briefly choked or held tight. The slits on his wrists were directly on the arteries, almost surgical in the precision of their placement. However, the amount of blood present doesnâ€™t support the suicide theory. If heâ€™d have slit his own wrists, the blood would have covered just about everything. As it stands, it didnâ€™t look like enough blood was present in the bathroom or remaining in his body for that matter.
â€œIn short, I believe Mr. Cosleyâ€™s wrists were slit by someone else and his blood was â€¦ taken away. God knows how. Or by whom. Thatâ€™s all I can tell you sir.â€
â€œThank you so much,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIf thereâ€™s anything else I can do, Iâ€™m going to clean up and try to get some sleep. If thereâ€™s anything else I can do, please let me know.â€
He related his stateroom was right next door and left, stating again he was going to bed.
Agent Sanderson went to look for the others.
* * *
â€œIf someone wants to keep watch on this, thatâ€™s good,â€ Johnson said. â€œI think theyâ€™re just dead.â€
â€œIs the window locked?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWe need to go see if those girls and the horrible man are awake and, if we can, I think we should get them out of here because bad things are up there.â€
â€œThis car is damned.â€
â€œSo â€¦ where are we supposed to put them?â€ McCree asked.
â€œPut what?â€ Johnson said.
â€œThe other passengers.â€
â€œI think we should take them back to the parlor or we could go back to the other car.â€
â€œBut â€¦ where do they sleep?â€
â€œI â€¦ as long as â€¦â€
â€œLetâ€™s go get the people!â€ DeLuve said.
â€œAs long as theyâ€™re alive, I donâ€™t care if they sleep!â€ Johnson said. â€œI ainâ€™t slept yet!â€
â€œAll â€¦ right,â€ McCree said.
â€œLetâ€™s go get the people!â€ DeLuve said.
Johnson went to the stateroom where the two women were staying and knocked. There was a startled cry of distress at the knock.
â€œOh no!â€ Miss Clarke called in her high pitched voice. â€œHeâ€™s here! Heâ€™s here! Horace, help us!â€
â€œWhat?â€ they heard Brubeck said. â€œWhaaa?â€
There was some disjointed grunting and then a man cleared his throat several times.
â€œWho is it?â€ he said. â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€
â€œItâ€™s Joell,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI gotta gun,â€ Brubeck said.
â€œItâ€™s Joell!â€ Johnson said again.
â€œWhereâ€™s the gun?â€ Miss Clarke said loudly. â€œI donâ€™t see a gun!â€
â€œShut up!â€ Brubeck said. â€œOh, Joell!â€
The door suddenly opened and Brubeck was there.
â€œThere you are!â€ he said. â€œYeah! How you doing? Howâ€™s it going?â€
â€œWho did you mean by â€˜was here?â€™â€ DeLuve asked.
â€œThey said â€˜heâ€™s here.â€™â€
â€œWhat? What are you talking about?â€
â€œOh, theyâ€™re ditzes.â€
â€œWhatâ€™d you say?â€ Miss Clarke called.
â€œI said you both look lovely, even at this time of night,â€ Brubeck said without batting an eyebrow.
â€œAw,â€ Miss Clarke said.
â€œWe thought we saw something up at the top of this car,â€ Johnson said.
â€œSomething?â€ Brubeck said.
â€œOh, the killer? No, the killerâ€™s dead, ainâ€™t he?â€
â€œWe donâ€™t know what happened.â€
Brubeck peeked his head out and looked up and down the passageway.
â€œIf everybodyâ€™s dressed and decent, we think it may be a safe idea to move to the parlor for a bit,â€ Johnson said.
â€œFor a bit?â€ Brubeck said. â€œBut we have our doors bolted.â€
â€œWell, the bathroom door where the man was in was locked,â€ Johnson said.
â€œWe believe the thing - the killer is moving along the top of the car,â€ DeLuve said.
Brubeck looked up.
â€œOh?â€ he said. â€œOh yeah. Okay. Letâ€™s get dressed girls. Yeah, weâ€™ll be just a minute.â€
He closed the door.
â€œYeah, I can see things,â€ they heard him say. â€œIâ€™m a theatrical agent, I donâ€™t pay attention.â€
There was laughter from within.
They had noticed the two girls were on the bunks and the blankets in the middle were a mess as if heâ€™d been sleeping with them.
Johnson watched the front of the carriage. It seemed to take them a long time and he heard a good deal of giggling from the room.
â€œHorace stop!â€ one of the giggling girls said.
â€œWhy are you putting makeup on?â€ Brubeck said.
â€œI want to look nice,â€ one of the girls said.
The door opened.
â€œTheyâ€™re â€¦ uh â€¦ theyâ€™re going to be a minute,â€ Brubeck said to Johnson before closing the door again.
Johnson growled in frustration.
* * *
McCree went back to the parlor of the front carriage where he met Sanderson, who told him what Dr. Adamson had found. He also made his way to Johnson to tell him and DeLuve. McCree told the federal agent about the strange figure theyâ€™d seen in the passageway and the strange things that happened with the lights. That gave Agent Sanderson pause for thought. McCree said it was a woman and guessed it was Sir Christopherâ€™s wife.
Johnson finally came down the passageway with Miss Clarke, Miss DeMillings, and Brubeck. One of the girls was doing her hair.
As they passed Sir Christopherâ€™s door, they knocked. Sir Christopher answered.
â€œYes?â€ the haggard-looking man said.
â€œWe feel it would be most â€¦ uh â€¦ productive for everybody to stay together for the rest of the night,â€ DeLuve said to him.
â€œVery well,â€ the obviously tired man said.
â€œWe have spotted an unaccounted-for person.â€
â€œVery well. Thereâ€™s some vagrant on the train. Meredith, put your robe on. Come on.â€
The two of them came to the parlor and sat down groggily. Brubeck sat between the two girls, his arms around them.
â€œDoes anybody have any mechanical expertise?â€ DeLuve asked him.
â€œWell, you know â€¦â€ Brubeck replied. â€œIâ€™m an expert at a lot of things.â€
â€œBecause the brakes are broken, this trainâ€™s gotta stop eventually.â€
â€œWell, theyâ€™ll stop it with the engine, wonâ€™t they?â€
â€œWe donâ€™t know that the brakes are broken, we just know that the line we have to tell them to stop doesnâ€™t work,â€ Johnson said.
â€œOn any of the spots around the train,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œThe people in the engine may be able to stop,â€ Johnson said.
â€œIs that bad, Horace?â€ Miss Clarke asked.
â€œNo, baby, youâ€™re fine,â€ Brubeck said.
The two women cuddled against Brubeck and closed their eyes.
â€œI can keep watch on this corridor in this direction,â€ Johnson said. â€œWe should probably also have eyes on the other train car to make sure that she doesnâ€™t just â€¦â€
He turned to DeLuve.
â€œYou still have that thing we found?â€ he asked.
â€œYeah, I still got that thing you sent me,â€ DeLuve said.
Johnson moved to the table to watch down the passageway.
â€œSo, McCree, if youâ€™d like to keep an eye out for us as we go between the cars to the middle sections, me and Mr. Horace will take a look at the connectors,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œDo you know what, Horace?â€ Miss Clarke said. â€œDo you know what I saw?â€
â€œWhatâ€™d you see, baby?â€ Brubeck said sleepily.
â€œThere was that Mr. â€¦ that doctor guy. No, that professor man. He was talking â€¦â€
â€œWhat are you talking about, baby?â€
â€œI saw it. He was looking out the window at the full moon. He was staring out the window at the full moon.â€
â€œOh yeah, itâ€™s a beautiful moon, baby. Itâ€™s as beautiful as you are.â€
â€œWhere was this?â€ Johnson asked.
â€œWhat?â€ Miss Clarke said.
â€œWhere was he looking at the full moon?â€
â€œIt was in the parlor. I think it was â€¦ that professor fellow. Or maybe he was with. Wait. Who was it? I donâ€™t remember. I was so scared. No! It was that fellow, Club. That mean fellow that yelled at everyone, said â€˜Get in your rooms.â€™ Yeah. I think. He was talking to Dr. Leighman and Dr. Leighman offered him a cigar and he looked strange and looked out the window at the full moon. I remember it now. Yeah. I remember.â€
She cuddled up against Brubeck again.
â€œKeep an eye out for Leighman,â€ Johnson said to McCree.
McCree and DeLuve went out on the cold catwalk between the cars so DeLuve could get a look at the couplings between the carriages. He was unsure how to uncouple them but guessed the porter probably knew how.
â€œLetâ€™s check out Leighmanâ€™s room,â€ he said.
â€œWell, letâ€™s first meet back up with Sanderson,â€ McCree said.
â€œWell, we go by Leighmanâ€™s room.â€
â€œHeâ€™s not going anywhere.â€
â€œWell, I mean, but if we go this way, he could go that way. Letâ€™s just go check Leighmanâ€™s room.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™ll wait here if you want to grab Sanderson because Iâ€™d rather have someone of authority with me.â€
â€œBecause Iâ€™m just a crazy man with a shotgun on a train.â€
The two of them went to get Agent Sanderson and stopped by Leighmanâ€™s stateroom at the front of the back carriage. Mrs. Leighman answered the door.
â€œOh my goodness, Iâ€™m so glad youâ€™re here,â€ she said. â€œDo you have any idea where Martin is?â€
â€œMartin went missing?â€ McCree said.
â€œHe went out a couple hours ago. He wanted someone to play chess with not long after we were all questioned. He hasnâ€™t come back yet. Itâ€™s almost 1 oâ€™clock.â€
â€œWell, weâ€™ll go look for him for you.â€
â€œThank you very much. He might have gone to check on our dog â€¦ but probably not.â€
Agent Sanderson realized the dog had not been barking the last time heâ€™d been in the baggage car. He headed for the back of the train.
â€œSanderson, before you head that way, should we check with Sam?â€ McCree said.
â€œNo!â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œSam was looking at the moon!â€ DeLuve said.
â€œGo check on him them!â€ Agent Sanderson said, continuing down the passageway.
â€œBut itâ€™s on the way!â€ DeLuve said.
â€œYou can talk to Sam,â€ McCree said. â€œIâ€™m going to be behind.â€
DeLuve knocked on Clubâ€™s door and the man looked at them suspiciously when he opened it, his hair messy and obviously having just woken up.
â€œWhat?â€ he snarled.
â€œHow about that moon, Sam?â€ McCree said.
â€œHave you seen Martin â€¦ Leighman?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ Club said. â€œWhy do you have a gun? Who are you? Why have you got a gun?â€
â€œSanders gave it to him,â€ DeLuve said. â€œHave you seen Martin Leighman?â€
Club looked at the man.
â€œHeâ€™s missing,â€ DeLuve went on.
â€œNo, I havenâ€™t seen him,â€ Club said. â€œI went to bed.â€
â€œGotcha. Youâ€™re just the last personâ”€â€
â€œIt was the conductor.â€
â€œYouâ€™re the last person that was seen with him and heâ€™s currently been missing for three hours.â€
â€œI havenâ€™t seen him since before the murder. I went to bed right after we questioned â€¦ I need some sleep. I havenâ€™t been with him.â€
DeLuve thought the man was telling the truth though he seemed a little befuddled. He seemed annoyed as well.
â€œFinal question and weâ€™ll let you get back to sleep,â€ DeLuve said. â€œDid you lock your window?â€
â€œYeah yeah yeah yeah,â€ Club said. â€œWhen you came by, I locked it. Here.â€
Club crossed the stateroom and rattled the closed and locked window.
â€œHave a good night,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhat is going on?â€ Club said.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to figure that out. Thereâ€™s an empty coffin.â€
â€œThereâ€™s a man missing.â€
â€œLeighman, you said. Okay, let me get up and get dressed.â€
â€œPeople are gathering in the parlor in the first car.â€
Club closed his stateroom door again.
â€œIâ€™m going to go check on Sanderson,â€ McCree said.
â€œYou keep going,â€ DeLuve said. â€œIâ€™m going to check on the bishop.â€
* * *
Sanderson made his way through the darkened dining car. He went to the baggage car and found his way to the crate with the air holes where heâ€™d heard the dog barking before. It was dead quiet now except for the sound of the wind blowing through the boxcar. He tried shining his flashlight into the small air holes in the box but couldnâ€™t see anything.
He opened the small door at one end of the crate just as the boxcar rumbled over a rough patch on the track. The little door flew open and the obviously dead bodies of Professor Leighman and the dog seemed to leap out at him. He cried out and fired his pistol, hitting Professor Leighman in the forehead. He stumbled back and saw that man and dog had been squashed together , broken bones protruding from torn skin, dark bloodstains covering both. Leighmanâ€™s face was contorted in a grimace of fear, the eyes bulging and glazed. Several deep claw marks were raked across his eyes, cheeks, forehead, and mouth. His head was tilted at a terrible angle, bearing witness to his snapped neck. The dog was likewise dead with a broken neck and there was a smell of urine and feces.
The door on one end of the boxcar flew open and Agent Sanderson turned, pointing his gun at it. McCree ran in.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on here?â€ McCree called out.
â€œLook at this!â€ Agent Sanderson said.
McCree looked at the terrible crushed bodies of man and dog.
â€œI vote we get all of the passengers together so no one gets picked off anymore,â€ he said.
â€œYep,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œIâ€™m going to check the box again.â€
â€œShe doesnâ€™t seem to like groups of three or more,â€ McCree said.
Agent Sanderson looked in the large crate again but nothing appeared to be different within it. The two men headed back.
* * *
DeLuve, meanwhile, had knocked on Father Delaroveâ€™s door. The tired priest answered.
â€œYes, can I help you?â€ he asked.
â€œHowdy,â€ DeLuve said. â€œHave you seen Martin Leighman?â€
â€œNo no. I havenâ€™t seen Professor Leighman â€¦ no, I havenâ€™t seen him. Just trying to sleep.â€
â€œWe think thereâ€™s another killer.â€
â€œProfessor Leighmanâ€™s been missing for three hours. We havenâ€™t found him. Itâ€™s a small train. We should have found him by now.â€
â€œEverybodyâ€™s gathering in the parlor in the first car.â€
The priest closed his door. DeLuve headed towards the back of the train where heâ€™d heard a gunshot a few moments before. He ran into McCree and Agent Sanderson coming forward in the dining car.
â€œLetâ€™s go,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œDid we find the porter?â€ DeLuve asked. â€œLast place we hadnâ€™t checked: the kitchen.â€
They found the porter and the cook sleeping in a corner on the floor, each of them armed with a large kitchen knife. They woke the two men up and took them along. The small group went through the dining car and the second passenger coach. On the way, DeLuve asked the porter if he knew how to separate the cars. The young negro didnâ€™t.
They picked up Father Delarove and Mrs. Leighman on the way. When they returned to the parlor, they found the others grumbling and complaining; the only one not bothered by it was Brubeck, who slept upright in the chair with a beautiful woman on either arm.
â€œDid you find my husband?â€ Mrs. Leighman asked.
â€œAll righty,â€ McCree said. â€œNew announcement everyone. So, thereâ€™s been another murder. So we need to stick together so that we canâ€™t get picked off one by one.â€
â€œSo, weâ€™re sitting in this room for the next â€¦ 36 hours?â€ Brubeck asked. â€œIs that what youâ€™re saying?â€
â€œUntil sunrise,â€ McCree said.
â€œDoes that sound better than death?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œUntil sunrise?â€ Brubeck said. â€œWhy the hell does that matter? We could lock ourselves in our rooms.â€
â€œDid you see how well that worked out for the other two?â€ McCree said.
â€œWhat are you talking about you god-damned limey. Where the hell are you from, anyway?â€
Brubeck just stared at the man, obviously wracking his brain for some insult to call McCree. He couldnâ€™t think of anything.
â€œAnyways, if youâ€™d like to, Sam â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œWhat other two?â€ Brubeck said. â€œMy name ainâ€™t Sam.â€
â€œOh, Horace. You can if you like.â€
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€
â€œItâ€™s for your own good.â€
â€œWho the hell are you!?!â€
â€œSanderson should make this announcement,â€ Johnson said.
â€œAll right everybody, thereâ€™s a lot of unexplained business going down,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
One of the girls gasped.
â€œWe have gathered you all here for safety,â€ Agent Sanderson went on. â€œWeâ€™ve got a few leads on who could be a potential cohort in the murder business. But for everybodyâ€™s sake, weâ€™re just going to stay together for now and I will talk to each individual person as I see fit.â€
â€œWhat â€¦ what is this â€˜til dawn stuff?â€ Brubeck said.
â€œWeâ€™re just playing it by ear for now,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œIt isnâ€™t a permanent fix. Itâ€™s a momentary.â€
Brubeck sighed loudly and lit another cigar.
â€œWe just need to keep watch while people sleep,â€ Johnson said. â€œWeâ€™ll have shifts going around to make sure nobody is still on the train and that nothing happens. Once everybodyâ€™s awake â€¦â€
There was a rumbled of discontent from the other passengers.
Sam Club came over to Agent Sanderson and asked who the new murder was.
â€œWait, Martinâ€™s not here,â€ Mrs. Leighman said. â€œWe have to find Martin. If thereâ€™s someone out there thatâ€™s killing people, Martin might be in danger. We have to go. We have to find him.â€
Agent Sanderson took her aside and told her that her husband was a victim.
â€œNo!â€ Mrs. Leighman said. â€œWhere is he!?!â€
â€œAt this time I think itâ€™d be best for you to just take it easy,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Mrs. Leighman broke down crying and became hysterical asking where Martin was, what had happened, and what was going on. She cried and cried and cried, finally falling asleep.
Once he could, McCree took Agent Sanderson aside.
â€œWell, my hypothesis is that the next one to go might be the Sam fellow,â€ he said.
â€œLetâ€™s talk to Sam,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIf you want to,â€ McCree said.
Agent Sanderson suddenly realized Dr. Adamson and Mr. Nickerbocker were both missing. He left the parlor, McCree behind him, to find the two.
They found Dr. Adamsonâ€™s door and knocked. It took a long time before the door opened. Dr. Adamson stood there.
â€œYes?â€ he muttered groggily. â€œWhat â€¦ happened?â€
â€œAlright Doctor,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Dr. Adamson looked very sleepy as if heâ€™d just woken up.
â€œSorry, Agent, yes?â€ he muttered. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œDoctor, weâ€™re all meeting in the parlor room to ensure everyoneâ€™s safety,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œThere has been another murder.â€
â€œOh. Can I get dressed?â€
â€œMake it quick.â€
He closed the door.
Agent Sanderson went to his own stateroom next door to check on Mr. Nickerbocker. He found the old man buried under the blankets in his bunk, clutching his baseball bat to his chest, and snoring loudly. He didnâ€™t want to wake the old man up but did so.
â€œWhat?â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œDeidre? What are you doing Deidre?â€
â€œNickerbocker, we have to go,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œThereâ€™s been another murder.â€
â€œOh no, Deidre. Your voice sounds â€¦ your voice sounds so different, Deidre. Who is the murdered? Was it Sebastian?â€
â€œIt was Martin.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t have any horses named Martin.â€
Agent Sanderson helped Mr. Nickerbocker out of bed and down the passageway, waiting for Dr. Adamson along the way. When they got to the parlor, they found several of the passengers complaining. Brubeck was very vocal about how stupid the situation was.
â€œIf the murdererâ€™s here, heâ€™ll just murder us all!â€ Miss Clarke cried out at one point.
* * *
* * *
When 6 a.m. rolled around on Wednesday, April 24, 1929, before the sun was even up, the passengers were ready to go back to their rooms. Agent Sanderson allowed it and everyone wandered out of the parlor.
â€œIâ€™ll protect you girls,â€ Brubeck said as they left the parlor, much to Johnsonâ€™s displeasure.
Johnson was so annoyed that several good people had died and Brubeck remained alive.
Each of them went back to their rooms and went to bed. They had just fallen asleep when there was a knock on their door in almost every case. It was Clarence Marlin, the porter, who told them there would be a meeting in the dining car at 9:30 a.m. and urging them attend.
* * *
At 9:30, as the train roared through the countryside, the dining car was crammed to capacity with passengers. Hushed mumblings and whispers filled the car until the porter called for attention. Both he and Father Delarove tried, in the most strategic way, to explain the events of the previous night. They quelled any rumors that were circulating. That included the rumor of someone looking at the moon. Another passenger said he heard the killer could walk through walls but that was likewise refuted. Something about cannibalism came up as well. Although they didnâ€™t have much information, both the porter and the priest assured everyone that proper authorities were working on it at that very minute and they would have the fiend in custody before reaching New Orleans.
Father Delarove made himself available to anyone who needed his services. The porter explained the necessity of moving about in groups of no less than two and letting someone know their whereabouts.
â€œThese precautions will make it much harder for the killer to strike again so that, God help us, we can avoid another tragic evening like last night,â€ he said.
A few of the passengers were missing, including Mrs. Leighman. Brubeck wasnâ€™t there though the girls were. Sir Christopher, who had stayed awake all night in the parlor, was also not present, though his ward was.
Both Father Delarove and Marlin took questions from the passengers. Agent Sanderson was also asked several questions before the meeting broke up.
* * *
After the meeting, Johnson found DeLuve and urged him to skim through the book with him. He wanted to find out everything he could before that night. DeLuve handed over the book.
â€œYou donâ€™t want to read it with me?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI have things to do,â€ DeLuve said. â€œI canâ€™t spend it reading a book.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Johnson said.
He went back to his stateroom, conferring with Sanderson and letting him know heâ€™d be in his room reading the book if he needed him.
* * *
McCree went to his stateroom and went to bed, as did Agent Sanderson.
* * *
DeLuve took a four hour nap, getting up around 1 p.m. He went to the forward passenger carriage and examined the back of the train tender, noting the broken ladder again. He looked around hoping there might be some kind of tube to communicate with the engine but didnâ€™t see one. He looked up at the top of the carriage and the tender before going back into the car.
He went back to the baggage car and examined the coffin in the daylight. Close examination proved there was dirt shoved down in the cracks between the velvet lining of the casket.
* * *
Joell Johnson skimmed the book all day and got the gist of what it was about. It seemed to be about a place called Severn Valley and a terrible, stagnant pond that housed the horrible ancient god Glaaki. It discussed the god and his associated cult and servitors that, once pierced by one of the terrible spines of Glaaki, were killed but then rose from the dead as endless, undead things. It also discussed the green decay which befell older servitors, destroying them if they exposed themselves too much to the sun. They were easily to identify by the horrible wound in the center of their chests. The book had two spells. One allegedly allowed for the actual summoning of one of the servitors of Glaaki, causing it to appear before one. The other one was to contact and talk to Glaaki itself.
* * *
They met for dinner that night in the dining car along with the rest of the passengers, including Nickerbocker. Sir Christopher approached them to ask how the investigation was going.
â€œWe donâ€™t have a lot of leads on who it might be but it seems to be good when weâ€™re all together,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œThereâ€™s a rumor that it goes through walls, this person?â€ he said.
â€œWe donâ€™t think thatâ€™s true. Thereâ€™s no evidence of it.â€
â€œWhy were all put together?â€
â€œJust for numbers and sheer strength in case the thing busted a window open or come through a door.â€
â€œAh. Are we going to have to do that again tonight?â€
â€œJust to be safe.â€
â€œAll right. I do not sleep well sitting up.â€
He headed for the front of the dining car.
DeLuve and McCree were talking quietly about the possibility of getting onto the tender and the engine. DeLuve wanted to see the engineers.
â€œHey, McCree, you wanna give me a boost?â€ DeLuve said. â€œInto the tender?â€
â€œSounds dangerous,â€ McCree said.
â€œYeah, but you could give me a boost and I could pull you over.â€
â€œSounds excessively dangerous.â€
â€œBut we need to get to the engineers.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re alive and theyâ€™ll stop the train when we get to New Orleans.â€
â€œHow do we know theyâ€™re alive? Also, how do we know they arenâ€™t the thing?â€
â€œBecause itâ€™s doubtful.â€
â€œBut weâ€™ve gotten everybody else.â€
â€œI heard Joell might be able to help you.â€
That frustrated DeLuve.
Sir Christopher stopped at Father Delaroveâ€™s table and chatted with the priest for a few moments before he left the dining car with Miss Shelton. Father Delarove left shortly after that.
Mrs. Leighman ate and left, still very distraught.
â€œSee, itâ€™s all over,â€ Brubeck said, puffing on his cigar and laughing it up with the ladies. â€œEverythingâ€™s fine!â€
Johnson had the book at the dinner table and cursed under his breath. He hated Brubeck.
DeLuve approached Agent Sanderson.
â€œYou want to give me a boost into the tender?â€ he said.
â€œYeah,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
DeLuve didnâ€™t really want to go in the dark, though.
â€œCâ€™mon girls, weâ€™ll go hide in the room!â€ Brubeck said to the women.
Johnson told the others about what heâ€™d read. Hearing it, Agent Sanderson went to Miss Brownâ€™s room to look at the bodies. The room was starting to smell a little bit. Agent Sanderson examined the corpses, looking at their chests. He found nothing unusual about them and searched the room, finding the window locked and a book on the floor that had obviously fallen from a shelf. The book was H.G. Wellâ€™s War of the Worlds.
* * *
Johnson and DeLuve were in the forward passenger carriage with McCree and Agent Sanderson later that evening. Sir Christopher and Miss Shelton were there, playing backgammon until about 8 p.m. Then Sir Christopher headed out the back of the car while Miss Shelton went to their room.
â€œWhere are you going, Sir Christopher?â€ Agent Sanderson asked him.
â€œIâ€™m going to see â€¦ Father Delarove,â€ the other man said.
â€œOkay,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Sir Christopher exited the car with a whoosh of outside air. McCree headed that direction too.
â€œWhere you going, McCree?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIâ€™m keeping an eye on Christopher,â€ McCree said.
â€œOkay,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
McCree got into the second car in time to see Sir Christopher knock on Father Delaroveâ€™s room and enter. McCree continued on down to the parlor in that car.
The train roared through the night, the click-clack of the wheels beneath the cars and the swaying of the carriages almost soothing.
* * *
In the forward carriage, there was a crash and sound of breaking glass.
â€œItâ€™s outside!â€ a woman cried out. â€œHelp me!â€
Johnson ran to Sir Christopherâ€™s room, where the commotion was coming from. He threw the door open, baseball bat in hand.
In the room, Miss Shelton was screaming and he saw the window was shattered. She pointed to the window, crying.
â€œIt was clinging to the side of the car like a spider!â€ she cried out. â€œHe was black with orange eyes and great wings! Teeth like a serpent! I began screaming and I hurled my valise through the window and it disappeared!â€
* * *
In the second car, McCree got up and went to Father Delaroveâ€™s room when he heard the screaming, throwing the door open. His suspicions were correct. Sir Christopher and Father Delarove were locked in combat. Father Delarove had slashes across his face and he let out a cry, grabbing his crucifix and pressing it against Sir Christopherâ€™s head. There was a hiss and a terrible stench of rotten flesh. Sir Christopher screamed and stumbled backwards. The priest had blood all over his face.
McCree put his shotgun to his shoulder and fired both barrels. The blast struck Sir Christopher in the midsection, blowing a substantial hole in the man and splattering a good amount of blood and gore against the window. The glass of the window was shattered and the wind blew in. Father Delarove cried out as a little of the buckshot struck him in the arm and fell to the ground. Sir Christopher was knocked back against the wall and started laughing before he turned into mist and faded away.
* * *
The others heard the blast of McCreeâ€™s rifle.
â€œWe need to get you safe,â€ Johnson said to Miss Shelton. â€œGet in the parlor and we need to see whatâ€™s going on with those gunshots.â€
â€œOkay!â€ the girl cried out. â€œOkay!â€
She grabbed her suitcase, her eyes wide in terror and rolling around in her head. She breathed heavily through her mouth.
â€œLetâ€™s go!â€ she said. â€œLetâ€™s go! It was right outside. Oh my God. It was right outside!â€
She pushed Johnson out of the room, following him quickly. He ran into the parlor and saw Agent Sanderson heading out of the front car ahead of him and he gave chase. As the three men and Miss Shelton ran down the passageway of the second carriage, Sam Club stuck his head out of his stateroom door.
â€œWhat the hell was that!?!â€ the private investigator shouted.
He ran out of his stateroom and followed them, gun in hand. They saw the door at the end of the car suddenly slide shut.
They found McCree over the bloody priest in the last stateroom, trying to perform first aid, the door wide open and wind blowing in through the shattered window.
â€œHe attacked me!â€ Father Delarove said. â€œHe attacked me!â€
* * *
DeLuve ran the opposite way of the rest and knocked on the door at the front of the car.
â€œThereâ€™s been another murder and weâ€™re meeting in the second car!â€ he yelled.
There was a terrified shout from inside the stateroom.
â€œWho died?â€ he heard Brubeck call.
But it was too late. He was running towards the back passenger car.
* * *
Johnson headed for the door at the end of the car. Agent Sanderson was right behind him.
â€œItâ€™s Christopher Alexander!â€ McCree called out. â€œApparently he doesnâ€™t like crosses!â€
â€œWhat?â€ Miss Shelton said.
She seemed confused as she ran after the two men, suitcase in hand.
â€œIs this our stop?â€ she said.
McCree picked up the priestâ€™s crucifix.
* * *
As DeLuve entered the second passenger car, he knocked on Mrs. Leighmanâ€™s door.
â€œJust leave me alone!â€ he heard her call out.
He continued towards the back of the train.
* * *
Johnson and Agent Sanderson entered the darkened dining car. They thought they saw Sir Christopher at the far end of the dining compartment. He backed away, smiling at them in the darkening car as all the lights went out. He seemed to be floating. Then he was out of sight.
Johnson slowly followed as Agent Sanderson got out his flashlight. They went through the passageway that ran by the kitchen and saw that, when he reached the outer door to the car that led to the baggage compartment, Sir Christopher, standing there, seemed to fade into mist and disappear.
Johnson ran towards the door, flinging it open. The small balcony was empty and the door to the baggage car was closed. There was no sign of Sir Christopher. Johnson thought for sure both Sir Christopher and his wife would be there. Miss Shelton had followed them, seemingly in a maddened and confused state.
* * *
â€œDoctor! We need a doctor in here!â€ Sam Club called from Father Delaroveâ€™s room as DeLuve down the passageway. â€œHeâ€™s bleeding! Someone did a terrible job in here!â€
Dr. Adamson exited his own stateroom with his medical bag as DeLuve passed it. The man ignored the commotion and ran towards the back of the train.
* * *
Johnson flung open the door to the baggage car and saw it was pitch black within. All of the lanterns had been extinguished. Agent Sanderson shined his flashlight around the boxcar. He didnâ€™t see anyone but there was plenty of places to hide, including in the crate the coffin lay within. Johnson turned to look at Agent Sanderson and was startled when Miss Shelton thrust her head forward between them.
â€œIs this our stop?â€ she said. â€œIs this our stop?â€
She clutched her small suitcase to her chest.
â€œIs this the station?â€ she asked, her voice strange and distant. â€œIs this the station?â€
â€œStay back here,â€ Johnson said to her.
â€œIsnâ€™t this the station?â€ she said.
Behind them the door to the dining car opened and McCree stepped out, shotgun in hand.
Agent Sanderson headed into the boxcar, gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, making for the crate. Johnson followed him more slowly.
They saw that the lid was off the crate. When Sanderson got closer, he saw the lid of the coffin was closed.
â€œIâ€™ve got an idea!â€ McCree cried out.
â€œDoes anybody have any silver?â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œOr a stake?â€
â€œI have a cross,â€ McCree called.
â€œSilver!â€ Miss Shelton said. â€œI have silver!â€
â€œGive it to me!â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ she replied. â€œSo sorry.â€
She opened her suitcase partially and started to pull things out, throwing them to the floor. There was some clothing, a few bottles of perfume and a few toiletries, and some underwear.
â€œOh!â€ she said, pulling out a sickle.
She swung at Johnson. Johnson leaned back as the horrible weapon swung by him and it missed him for the most part. He felt a little of his hair drop onto his shoulder where the weapon had sliced right through it.
At that same moment, something fell from the roof of the boxcar onto Agent Sanderson, knocking him to the floor. It was Sir Christopher. He was on top of the man scratching at him.
â€œMove!â€ McCree shouted.
Agent Sanderson managed to get his pistol between himself and Sir Christopher. He fired the gun and saw the bullet rip out of the manâ€™s back. Sir Christopher laughed and vanished into mist.
On the catwalk, McCree blasted Miss Shelton in the side at point blank range, the blast knocking the beautiful girl a good ten feet into the boxcar, falling just short of Sanderson and sliding towards him, leaving a trail of blood behind.
The mist went up towards the top of the boxcar and looked like it went through the roof of the car.
A figure stepped out from the left of Johnson. The man was partially rotted and obviously long-dead. He had a terrible wound in the center of his chest from which vein-like markings projected. It rushed passed Johnson and at McCree, crashing into him and trying to grab at the man.
* * *
DeLuve had gone back to the parlor when he saw the dining car was completely dark. Moments later, he heard gunfire from the back of the train.
â€œThey are trained professionals,â€ he said to himself.
* * *
Agent Sanderson looked around and saw the naked walking dead man on the balcony next to McCree. He was terribly shaken by seeing the horrible thing. Then the thingâ€™s head turned all the way around to face the man, itâ€™s eyes seemingly piercing his very soul. Another of the things appeared inside the boxcar and then another and another and another. They all smiled at him, their backs to him but their heads facing him.
Agent Sanderson fired at the first one, the bullet striking the boxcar just above Johnsonâ€™s head. Johnson ignored it and turned, swinging at the thing on the catwalk. Unfortunately, he misjudged the width of the doorway he stood in and the baseball bat smashed against it, losing all momentum and power.
McCree kicked the horrible dead man, knocking the thing down onto the catwalk between the cars.
Agent Sanderson fired at the thing again, hitting it in the back as the others in the room came towards him. The blast blew a large hole in the thingâ€™s chest, a greenish ichor spewing out. It should have killed or incapacitated the man but he continued to get to his feet as if he didnâ€™t even feel it. Then Johnson struck the thing in the side of the head with his baseball bat solidly enough to knock it completely over again. It fell to the catwalk again and stopped moving.
McCree broke open his shotgun and shoved two shells into it.
Agent Sanderson put another bullet into the head of the thing on the ground even as the others faded away all around him, obviously merely the product of his own delusional mind. More of the greenish goo spewed out.
â€œYouâ€™ve made a terrible mistake,â€ Sir Christopher whispered into McCreeâ€™s ear.
The man felt someone slash his back, his jacket and shirt being ripped open and pain running through him where he felt like someone had slashed him with a knife. He stumbled forward with a cry, one of his feet slipping from the catwalk and nearly sending him tumbling off the train.
Johnson spun around and saw the horrible man there. He stepped forward and swung his baseball bat. Sir Christopher backed effortlessly and gracefully out of the way. Johnson saw blood on the manâ€™s right hand which seemed to have long, nail-like claws upon it.
â€œYou do not know what you deal with,â€ Sir Christopher said to him.
He looked at the shotgun and smiled.
â€œYou cannot kill that which is already dead!â€ he yelled. â€œYou cannot kill the vampyr, but I shall drink your blood.â€
McCree turned and punched Sir Christopher in the face with his left fist, Father Delaroveâ€™s crucifix wrapped tight around it. There was a sound of hissing and the vampire let out a screech and flew off the catwalk, disappearing into the darkness.
They all looked around a moment.
â€œTry to destroy that coffin!â€ McCree said.
He knelt and pressed the cross into the horrible dead man who had the strange wound on its chest. Nothing happened. A quick look proved Miss Shelton dead as well.
They quickly moved into the boxcar as DeLuve arrived, having made his way through the dining car when he heard the screams. The four men pulled the coffin from the crate and dragged it to the end of the boxcar, opening the door there. They shoved it off the edge and it shattered to pieces when it hit the tracks at 40 miles per hour.
DeLuve took photographs of the dead bodies for his personal collection.
Sam Club entered the boxcar, gun in hand.
â€œJust in time!â€ Johnson said sarcastically.
â€œYou are late, sir,â€ McCree, still bleeding from his back, said.
He headed for the front of the train.
* * *
Dr. Adamson tended to McCreeâ€™s wound as best he could though it was quite terrible.
They searched Sir Christopherâ€™s room and found more of the black dirt in his bed. McCree took it upon himself to fling the dirt and the sheets off the train, but only after he touched it with the crucifix. They found a small cigar case with lid polished to a mirror finish. They recognized the cigars as belonging to Professor Leighman. They also found one of the suits in the room had splatters of blood upon it.
The train didnâ€™t slow and, when daylight came, they discussed trying to get to the engine. DeLuve wanted to as he was unsure if the engineers were working for the horrible man as well. He pointed out they would all possibly die if the train crashed into another one.
Johnson said it was a stupid idea.
â€œBut if we do just keep barreling into New Orleans, weâ€™re all going to die,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhy do we need to go up there?â€ Johnson said. â€œIf theyâ€™re not shoveling coal into it, we wouldnâ€™t be going now.â€
â€œWhat Iâ€™m saying is if they keep shoveling coal into it, we could crash.â€
â€œIf theyâ€™re alive, then theyâ€™re shoveling coal into it and we keep going.â€
â€œInto the train yards. Where we crash.â€
â€œWhy would they keep on shoveling coal?â€
â€œThe brakes arenâ€™t gone, just our way to tell â€˜em â€˜hey stopâ€™ is gone.â€
â€œZombies are shoveling coal. Itâ€™s a zombie train!â€
â€œNo, I mean they could be working for â€˜vampyr.â€™â€
â€œYes! All of this is crazy!â€
â€œOkay, but do you know whatâ€™s more crazy? Thereâ€™s a difference between crazy of vampires and zombies attacking us then zombies getting together to man a train and saying â€˜Well, if we donâ€™t kill â€˜em, weâ€™ll just throw the train. Weâ€™ll organize into a union!â€™â€
â€œI never said that. Fine, weâ€™ll let the train roll out.â€
* * *
As the train approached New Orleans on the late morning of Thursday, April 25, 1929, they watched the engine closely to see what would happen. They saw two people leap from the engine, crashing the ground and soon being lost to sight. After a short while, the engine slowed, finally coming to a stop.
â€œIt was zombies!â€ Johnson said. â€œWhat the heck!?!â€
* * *
The authorities soon arrived and they told them Sir Christopher was the murderer and at the end, he just jumped off the train as he was obviously a madman. They also told police Miss Shelton was helping him. Men came in to move the train and they were all questioned. There was some confusion about the conductor killing someone and then committing suicide but all of them, including Agent Sanderson, reported Sir Christopher being the madman who killed Professor Leighman and then attacked them.
Johnson kept the strange book they had found.
I was contemplating man's place in the cosmic scheme of things today. I am not exactly sure how the realization that we are incredibly insignificant is a source of horror.
A nihilist must just be a jaded optomist.
All this spooky cosmic horror just means that in the long run the pyramids of Egypt are as culturally significant as the box of my 1st grade school work mom has stored in the attic.
The universe is vast, indifferent, and uncaring. Even something as massive as the sun has a limit. It is as significant as the black sock lint between my toes.
And yet, here we are, capable of conceiving love, compassion, unity and kindness.
Azathoth sits at the middle, vomiting out chaos and nonsense. I sit here trimming the plum trees, mowing the lawn, and trying to feed my kids and put them to bed on some sort of schedule. (Because apparently kids feel happiest when they have structure in their lives, which is to say that they reject the nonsense Azathoth spouts at an early age)
I understand how my smart phone works just as much as I understand the cosmos. Even though this device terrifies me, I still really enjoy playing with it.
So how the hell am I supposed to describe the Horrors an investigator feels when I tell him he looks at the night sky and feels small?
I think I might write a horror game about public speaking. That is some freaky ****.
H.P. Lovecraft was afraid of immigrants and space. If I ran a game of Call of Cthulhu for Lovecraft.......
"You step outside. The sky above you stretches into infinity. Coming down the sidewalk you see a pair of men, obviously from a foreign country, conversing in a language you can not understand. Roll sanity.".
I don't know.
When I started writing this blog post I am pretty sure I had a point. I have no idea what that was now.
I suppose I could go back and re-read what I have written to figure it out.
If I don't even feel like reading this, I can imagine how you must feel.
I would totally give you a high-five if you wanted one though, if that makes you feel better!
I wonder how terrible my grammar is, and what that reveals about me.
* * *
At 8 p.m., Fontaine found himself on Federal Street in the Federal Hill neighborhood. The small two-story house with the small porch was his destination. Looking around carefully and fairly certain he was not being followed, he went up to the door and knocked.
Zippy answered the door and let the man in.
â€œLet me perform my â€¦ first aid,â€ Fontaine said.
â€œSweet!â€ Zippy said.
Fontaine concentrated and laid his hands on Zippyâ€™s twisted, shriveled arm. At first, Zippy felt nothing and thought the whole thing was pro
A couple of months back, I discovered the existence of Bradford Literature Festival. I also found out that an old friend was participating in the brand-new (and therefore apparently completely unadvertised) Comic Con attached to the festival, so of course I went along. It's not far from my own Yorkshire home.
I've written up the first part of my trip on my non-Cthulhu blog. May be of interest to some, and it includes an interview with my friend, a professional comic artist. When I get time I'll check and post up the recordings of two talks I went to about the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, which did touch on Lovecraft at one point, and hopefully will be of interest to some Yoggies.
[spoiler alert - do not read if you intend to be a player in TERROR]
I always liked the TERROR scenario: the idea that players are being tested for their loyalty prior to being erased from the living and turned into special agents investigating the mythos that reaches into the very heart of the Soviet state has such pulpy overtones. but the scenario does not take this potential further (after all it's a one-shot) and instead drops it altogether by having the characters executed at the end. much worse, it suffers from so many historical inaccuracies that even players without much knowledge of the Soviet union would feel their suspension of disbelief breaking if it was played out as written.
what i set out to do was the following: 1) fix some of the historical mistakes and adjust the tone of some other scenes; 2) provide some historical background that can be used to add more realism to the setting; 3) integrate GRU SV8 into the narrative and set it up as a starting point for a campaign.
Most obviously, 1932 is not the time of the purges yet. However the terrain is being prepared and this is something the keeper can build on. Martemyan Ryutin was expelled from the party in 1930; he was released from prison in Jan 1931 and allowed to rejoin the party but remained in silent opposition to Stalin. He was allied with Nikolai Bukharin, a well-regarded figure in Soviet politics also opposed to Stalin. Bukharin confided to Lev Kamenev (another well-regarded Soviet revolutionary, former husband of Trotsky's sister Olga Kameneva) that Stalin was "Ghenghis Khan" and "evil genius of the Russian revolution". Bukharin, Kamenev and Zioviev lead a clandestine anti-Stalin platform, and Stalin is aware that this is the major threat to his leadership. Trotsky is more of a threat from the background - in 1932 he lives on Buyukada island in Turkey, thereby geographically still fairly close. So the atmosphere can be portrayed as politically ominous, and it is especially helpful to have one character who may be affiliated with Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev and Ryutin.
The second problematic aspect is that the scenario assumes that the Tunguska explosion was common knowledge in 1908, so much so that the reports of a meteor in the swamp soon followed. In fact, the expeditions were only conducted in earnest at the end of the 1920s. In the scenario, Stalin is meant to have been imprisoned for revolutionary activities in the Krasnoyarsk region in 1912 and subjected to experiments with the meteor. For those who are familiar with Stalin's revolutionary years, this doesn't really fit in well. In Dec 1916 however, Stalin was made to travel to Achinsk (a place on the trans-siberian railway one mile from Karsnoyarsk) with assorted enemies of the state (including Kamenev) by dog sleigh. It makes sense to have Dr Chervyakov as a geneticist drafted as an army doctor who comes into possession of a piece of the meteor which at that point is used in witch-healing rituals by a local tribe, observes its mutagen properties, and commences on his own to conduct experiments on communist prisoners to learn more of its properties. This also allows a tie in with Kamenev: he can be involved into the story at a later point as he would presumably know about Stalin's strange experience with the meteor fragment.
The third problematic apsect is the timeline - if the meteor was so important, the cover up of the monstrous events in the wagon would be enacted very quickly. I pushed everything forward, so that the pick up of the meteor was on the day of arrival at 7pm, Berger stumbling onto the scene at 9pm (in a panic that ensued after the monster massacred the prisoners, the wagon was just closed and left unattended while the meteor was driven away) and the murder of Potakov and the start of an earnest cover up at 2am. The investigators have a window in which they can conduct some investigations at the wagon depo - after 2am, the wagon is taken away as if it was never there, Lupova gets murdered after speaking with them, the ominous black car (a NAMI-I) appears in front of buildings where important NPCs live and attempts to follow the investigators to their base. The recruitment of the investigators is orchestrated by Major Strudnikov of GRU-SV8 and comrade Rubeshkov is a friendly who fought with Strudnikov in the same unit and can be trusted. The investigators are given a disused building in Krasnoselski district to use as a base, as well as a car and some basic supplies. If the investigators manage to complete the mission but their base is discovered, the ending as written ensues, with the real OGPU waiting there for their report. If they manage to complete the mission without their base being discovered, they will be sent on the next mission for GRU-SV8.
There's also a few historical inaccuracies: the NKVD is called OGPU in 1932. Head of OGPU between July 1931 and Oct 1932 is Vyacheslav Rudolfovich Menzhinsky, although some say that his predecessor (and soon to be heir again) Henrik Yagoda is in fact in charge. Head of the anti-religious section of the OGPU is Yevgeniy Alexandrovich Tuchkov. The transport section is called GTU - Glavnoye transportnoye upravyenie. Together with the Narkomput it is in charge of transport, which is serious business: saboteurs on the railways are a big issue and are blamed on the worker-peasant party, industrial party and menysheviks. There are big tranport developments in Moscow itself - the plans for the underground have just been approved in Jan 1932. Metrovick (metropolitan-Vickers electrical company) from London is advising on the building, which leads to additional paranoia about foreign spying. Similar deals with the west were not unheard of in this period: e.g. in May 1929 a deal was signed with Ford to open the NAZ car factory, which duly happened in Jan 1932, with Ford's sign on the factory logo and its engineers contracted to provide advice. Mayor of Moscow (aka first secretary of Gorkom) at the time is Lazar Moyseyevich Kaganovich, with Nikita Kruschov as his deputy who is very much connected with the moscow underground project.
In terms of railway yards in Moscow, it is best to put them in Krasnoselski district, which contained multiple railway interchanges and stations (Yaroslavsk, Kazansk & Kursk stations) around Komsomolski square, where a big underground station will be built (to open in 1935).
Finally, in terms of Soviet science, in 1931 OGPU did purge a number of scientists. The academy of sciences itself is to relocate to Moscow from Leningrad in 1934. Soviet scientists have been known to indulge in a few wild projects and I envisioned Dr Chervyakov as a mad scientist whose experiments included production of the Soviet super-soldier by crossing gorillas and humans, with a Dr Demikhov-style monkey with two heads in one of the cages. I did not think it sensible that he should have a meteor thing captured in a cage - the way these things are described, they could easily break out of a cage at any time, and I thought it best if he had a dead meteor thing from M. Kalinin for autopsy. I think it also makes sense that if Dr Chervyakov is engaged in state sponsored top-secret experiments, his lab should be in a protected compound into which the investigators would need to sneak in or fast-talk their way through.
To follow this up, I plan to send the characters on a mission pursuing the Shokptsi who escaped to Shanghai from Vladivostok. That will give me the opportunity to use some of the marvelous material in the Masks of Nyarlatothep companion. Alternatively, tie ins would also be possible with Cold Harvest or MTS-37. I am not terribly fond of Secrets of the Kremlin, but it serves well as a prequel from the official DG:Countdown history for GRU-SV8, wherein it is said that in 1928 Stalin had found Ivan Grozny's secret library but that by April 1931 his experiments had failed. This presents a nice lead-in to him wanting to acquire the meteor fragment again.
Finally, no one should be called mister, as it says in the scenario, unless you're a pro-western subversive - it's for each comrade according to their needs, and from each comrade according to their abilities!
Monday, July 31, 2017
(After playing the original Call of Cthulhu Pirate scenario â€œLost Port Royalâ€ Friday, July 28 from 2 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. with Kyle Matheson, Hannah Gambino, James Brown, Ambralyn Tucker, Helen Koeval, and Yorie Latimer.)
The Golden Age of Piracy had been long and, for some, hard. The days of freebooting and piracy seemed to be drawing to a close in the Caribbean in the summer of 1692, however. With an alliance between Spain and England in 1671, the buccaneers of Port Royal had become personae non grata. When Privateer Henry Morgan became Lt. Governor of Jamaica in 1684, the English started cracking down on pirates.
Jamaica was taken from the Spanish by the British in 1655, an act that led to war between England and Spain that same year. Two years later, Governor Edward Dâ€™Oley invited the Brethren of the Coast (pirates) to come to Port Royal and make it their home port. Those pirates later became privateers with letters of marque given them by Jamaicaâ€™s governor.
The War of the Grand Alliance had been fought since 1688, pitting an alliance of England, Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, and Savoy against France. William III and Mary II held the throne of England since King James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution while Louis XIV remained king of France. Fighting had also broken out in New England in the American colonies as part of the war, pitting the American Indians against the colonists there.
In 1692, Port Royal, Jamaica, had a population of approximately 6,500 with 2,000 dwellings, a concentration of buildings and vessels all huddled tightly on the end of a long peninsula. As the available land diminished in the last 10 years, it was common practice to fill in areas of water and build new infrastructure atop it or build buildings taller. Most buildings had a shop on the ground floor and living quarters above. Newer buildings had adopted the brick styles of homes of native England. Wide streets of sand led through the town, the main roads 20 to 30 feet across.
But strange things were afoot in Port Royal that very summer.
* * *
On the morning of Saturday, May 31, 1692, two small pirate ships that had been working together to loot French vessels lay in the harbor. The Dautelous and the Golden Gull had been relatively successful in their endeavors but the crew had voted, in each case, to sell off their goods and ships and part ways. That meant two master gunners and a sailing master without work.
Flint Dawson was a young master gunner of 26. A simple-minded fellow, he had long blonde hair, bleached nearly white by the sun. He had wide, watery eyes that didnâ€™t often comprehend what was going on around him. Solid, he was feared by many in Port Royal for his temper, which, when it did reveal itself, which was not often, did so with violence.
Flint had been quite bright when he was a child but his mother in Port Royal, a simple-minded woman herself, had dropped the boy many times on his head and even dragged him around by one leg. That had stunted his vocabulary and his thinking in general. Working with guns had not helped his disposition, unfortunately, though he sometimes had tiny, fleeting moments of brilliance. They were few and far between.
He loved all the animals of Port Royal and had a dog that he always fed when in port.
Theophilus Dawson was a dashing and beautiful sailing master. His looks defined him. Going by the name Theo, he had salt-and-pepper hair, cut short, and beautifully dark eyes. His smirk only made his 31-year-old face even lovelier. He had a thin beard that he kept immaculately trimmed. He was also very smart. He carried two flintlock pistols in his belt. Though beautiful, he was cruel to everyone except his brother and could really do no wrong, at least in his own eyes. He even thought himself too important for the prostitutes in Port Royal.
Theophilus was the brother of Flint, or at least they thought they were related. Neither of them had known their last name, however, their parents having died when they were young. They had chosen the name Dawson at the same time they decided they were probably brothers.
BrÃ¼n Jeagar was hideous, even for a pirate. Nothing else could quite describe the 29-year-old master gunner from the Holy Roman Empire. He was tall and solid with short salt-and-pepper hair and was clean-shaven. But his face. His terrible face.
Jeagar had been caught in an explosion on board ship that had destroyed his right eye and ear, as well as his lower right leg. It left his face horrible scarred on that side of his face as well. Children were known to run away crying when they saw the man coming and a few had taken to calling him JÃ¤germonster â€¦ but only when he was well out of earshot. Dr. Merriam Leighlin had been the one who had operated on him after the terrible accident.
He carried a brace of pistols in crossing bandoleers and kept a hatchet tucked in his belt. Due to his strength, he was considered a one-man cannon crew in Port Royal.
The three had been gone for about a month and there seemed to be a pall of some kind over the town, almost as if the bright Caribbean sun were dimmer there. They noticed the people on the street were acting somewhat odd as well. Men would not meet their eyes. Everyone seemed jumpy as if they hadnâ€™t been getting much sleep or were having bad dreams.
They noticed several posters or papers on the sides of buildings as well as the same, strange symbol painted on some walls of Port Royal.
* * *
That same morning three locals were walking down the street when they spotted the sailors, who were familiar to them. They had not really noticed the pall over the port, but had heard some strange rumors of late.
Dr. Merriam Leighlin was a local surgeon, one of many that Port Royal boasted. He was English and not very attractive, with a thick shock of red hair and thick eyebrows. His face had several scars upon it and his clothing, though fine enough, was often bloodstained from his work. He was of average size and skinny and 25 years old.
Dr. Leighlin was not really a man, nor was he English. Originally from France, Merriam had vowed, at a young age, to be something more than she was. Immigrating to England, she posed as a young boy who had a penchant for both medicine and dissection. She had disguised herself as a man successfully for years, graduating from a prestigious English college of medicine before fleeing to the New World. She had even scarred her own face to appear more rugged.
Sam Fowler was a young explorer, being 19 years old. English, he was blonde and good-looking with chin-length hair. He was trying to grow a mustache and beard without a great deal of luck and wore rugged clothing. He had been all over the Caribbean and to both North and South America, having explored far in his short life. He often carried a musket.
He had a lot of friends in Port Royal, being very sociable and friendly with people. His parents lived in the city as well, his father being a blacksmith in town.
Dean Ackworth, Esq., was a gentleman adventurer and educated as both a merchant and a lawyer. He had dark brown hair, angular features, and a thin mustache that led to big muttonchops. He had a certain poise to him, being quite rich, and always wore a decorated small sword. He also had a monkey named Momo that he took with him everywhere. He carried two flintlock pistols.
Ackworthâ€™s father was a merchant and captain with his own ship. He had heard a rumor of some great beast in the harbor. The man had not seen it, but when it had moved, the water had heaved up and down as if it were the size of a whale.
They had all heard of pieces of paper with a strange symbol upon it that had been appearing for the last few weeks. None of them had seen them but they had heard they were terrible to behold.
They all noticed the strange symbols that day which, in the cases of Fowler, Flint, and Jeagar, seemed to twist and squirm, reaching hungrily for each of them. It only lasted a moment but it was strange and unsettling. Many of the other residents of Port Royal seemed affected by the symbols as well. Some were laughing at the strange things. Others were crying or simply staring at the terrible symbol. One man walked down the street, trying to cover his eyes.
Flint ran to one of the papers and ripped it down, dropping it to the ground.
â€œTheo!â€ he cried out. â€œScary words!â€
â€œItâ€™s okay, brother,â€ Theo called back. â€œNo worries. Just keep going! Just keep moving!â€
Dr. Leighlin looked aghast at a symbol. Theo stopped, shocked and scared as he noticed another. Flint gave out a roar and ripped another one down. When Flint saw some ahead of then painted on the wall, he started to pull down his pants to urinate on them. Theo stopped him.
The six finally reached each other on the crowded Thames Street along the North Docks.
â€œOh, itâ€™s nice to see you,â€ Dr. Leighlin said to Ackworth.
â€œFlint, what are you doing?â€ Fowler asked.
â€œBad symbols!â€ Flint said. â€œMake brother sad. Me pee on wall.â€
â€œAll right, thatâ€™s enough brother!â€ Theo.
â€œI see your leg is healing very nicely,â€ Dr. Leighlin said to Jeagar.
â€œItâ€™s wood now,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œI can see that,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œItâ€™s beautiful.â€
Nearby, a carpenter was climbing up a ladder with a bundle of thatch in his hand.
â€œHey you!â€ Flint called to him.
â€œCan I steady your ladder?â€ Ackworth asked the man.
The carpenter looked down and just nodded his head.
â€œGimme some paint!â€ Flint yelled at the man climbing the ladder. â€œPaint!â€
He noticed, when the ascending man looked down at him, the whites of his eyes were showing, his eyes open wide and his mouth opening and closing without any noise.
â€œWhat is he going on about?â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
Flint pulled his pants back up and ran to the ladder, climbing it as quickly as he could.
â€œPaint!â€ he shouted.
â€œPerhaps a cranial hemorrhage,â€ Dr. Leighlin muttered, noting the carpenterâ€™s strange expression.
The carpenter looked back at Flint but kept climbing without a word. He got to the top just before the master gunner. Flint pulled himself up, taking care to stay near the edge of the thatch roof. He had fallen through many and had learned a lesson from that. The carpenter was moving up the edge of the roof towards the height and Flint grabbed at the thatch. The carpenter gave it to him without a word. Then he took the hammer out of his belt, backing up the eave. He took out nails as well, handing everything to Flint. He got to the very peak, removed his belt and handed it to Flint, and then turned and jumped off the roof of the house, diving down to the sandy street.
â€œNo!â€ Flint screamed.
The man struck the street headfirst, a loud and nasty crack reverberating when he hit the ground. People scattered away from the spot. Some cried out in alarm and terror, some fled, and others looked on in amazement or horror. A few looked up at Flint as Dr. Leighlin walked over to the dead man and stared at him with astonishment and amazement. Jeagar was disappointed he didnâ€™t see a coin purse.
â€œI didnâ€™t do it!â€ Flint cried out, still standing on the roof with the carpenterâ€™s things. â€œI didnâ€™t do it!â€
He climbed back down, protesting his innocence and crying.
â€œI didnâ€™t do it!â€ he said when he reached the bottom. â€œTheo! I didnâ€™t do it!â€
â€œItâ€™s okay, brother,â€ Theo said. â€œNobody knows anything.â€
â€œItâ€™s okay, chaps,â€ Ackworth said. â€œWe were all here.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t do it,â€ Flint sobbed.
He threw the hammer as hard as he could. It flew through the air and came down on the street, striking a man some distance away on the head. The man dropped to the ground.
â€œI didnâ€™t do it!â€ Flint cried out. â€œI didnâ€™t do it!â€
He ran away.
â€œThis man needs to get to my surgery immediately!â€ Dr. Leighlin said, pointing to the dead carpenter.
Ackworth and Fowler helped lift the dead man and Dr. Leighlin led them back to his house.
* * *
Flint was running and running and running. Then he saw a woman standing by a building and screaming at her shadow.
â€œLeave me be!â€ she shrieked at it. â€œLeave me be!â€
Flint punched the wall, his fist going right through the flimsy wood. The woman looked at the man.
â€œJust kill it!â€ she cried out. â€œGet it away from me!â€
She grabbed Flintâ€™s left arm, clinging to him and shaking his arm.
â€œFinish it!â€ she cried out, laughing hysterically. â€œFinish it!â€
Flint punched another hole in the wall.
â€œItâ€™s not dead!â€ she cried out. â€œItâ€™s not dead!â€
Theo approached the crowd gathering around Flint and the woman.
â€œAll right brother,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s enough. Donâ€™t you think we should get on our way. We need a room and food. Are you hungry?â€
â€œLady in trouble, Theo,â€ Flint said. â€œHelp lady, Theo!â€
Theo looked at the woman who was pretty but also seemed crazed.
â€œYes, Theo!â€ the woman said. â€œKill it! Kill it!â€
Flint, who had the thatch still under his left arm, pulled it out and shoved it into the holes. Someone came out of the building.
â€œWhat did you do to my house!?!â€ the man shrieked. â€œWhatâ€™s that thing on the wall over there!?!â€
The man pointed at one of the posters across the street and ran back into the building in terror.
â€œAlright, Flint, thereâ€™s no reason to keep this up,â€ Theo said. â€œThese people are mad. Letâ€™s be on our way.â€
â€œWhere we go?â€ Flint said.
â€œWeâ€™re going to go to find somewhere to sleep tonight and get food,â€ Theo said.
Flint turned the lady away from the wall.
â€œItâ€™s gone!â€ she cried out. â€œItâ€™s gone!â€
She wandered away.
â€œAre you satisfied?â€ Theo said.
â€œLady strange,â€ Flint said.
â€œYes. Letâ€™s be on our way.â€
â€œTheo! Why lady scared of shadow?â€
â€œThereâ€™s all sorts of things in the food nowadays. Sheâ€™s mad.â€
â€œNo. Not like you. Youâ€™re a good boy.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go get food then, my boy!â€
Theo put his arm around his brotherâ€™s shoulder and they headed up the street.
* * *
As the other four carted the corpse to Dr. Leighlinâ€™s surgery, they saw a man in the street, beating his Negro slave and ordering him to get up. The slave just laughed and laughed, louder every time the manâ€™s stick struck him. It was not a pleasant sight. They finally reached Dr. Leighlinâ€™s house and took the body in.
Dr. Leighlin looked over the body.
â€œWell, it canâ€™t be helped,â€ he said. â€œWe can perform some various tests on this â€¦â€
â€œWell, I have to get to breakfast,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œFine then,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œMy minions â€¦ assistants â€¦â€
â€œYes sir!â€ one of the Italian boys Dr. Leighlin employed came out of the back room. â€œYes sir!â€
â€œItâ€™s Gregory,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œYes, itâ€™s Gregory! Itâ€™s me! Itâ€™s Gregory, sir.â€
â€œCalm down, boy.â€
â€œYes sir. Sorry sir. What do you need, sir?â€
Dr. Leighlin got to work on the body, experimenting. Jeagar turned to Ackworth.
â€œBreakfast,â€ he said.
â€œYes, breakfast,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œSounds like a great idea.â€
â€œItâ€™s been ages since Iâ€™ve seen you!â€
â€œUh â€¦â€ Fowler said.
â€œOh look!â€ Gregory said. â€œHis leg moved, master!â€
Giovanni, Dr. Leighlinâ€™s other assistant and Gregoryâ€™s twin, entered the room as well. Dr. Leighlin continued to cut up the body.
â€œYes, my good friend,â€ Ackworth said to Jeagar. â€œLetâ€™s get some breakfast.â€
â€œSo, youâ€™re going to breakfast?â€ Fowler said to the other two men. â€œWhy donâ€™t I come with you?â€
â€œSure,â€ Ackworth said. â€œThe more the merrier.â€
â€œBreakfast,â€ Fowler said. â€œThat sounds good.â€
They left the surgery and the so-called surgeon to his work. They heard a crack somewhere behind them and then Gregory call out â€œOh! Look at all the blood, master.â€
They continued back along Thames Street and, on the way, saw two men sitting by the road, slitting their skin off their flesh and then playfully slapping each other with the strands as if they were playing some kind of terrible, insane game.
* * *
They all met at the Catt and the Fiddle Tavern, less Dr. Leighlin. The establishment was of some size and prestige, standing on the corner of Lime and Thames Street not far from Fort James. Peter Litton was the current owner of the Catt and the Fiddle, a tavern near the north docks. He was a good friend of Dean Ackworth.
Flint and Theophilus Dawson sat at a table, eating.
â€œLook!â€ Flint said, pointing at Ackworth as he entered. â€œNow we donâ€™t have to pay!â€
Theo rolled his eyes and shook his head.
â€œAh, if itâ€™s not my favorite cannoneer!â€ Jeagar said to Flint. â€œAnd â€¦ the brother.â€
Flint nodded and kept eating.
â€œWhat want?â€ he said between mouthfuls. â€œMe hungry.â€
â€œHow is your brother doing, Theo?â€ Fowler asked.
â€œI good,â€ Flint said.
â€œQuite well!â€ Theo said. â€œQuite well.â€
As the men sat down, Ackworth went to the barkeep to tell them he was paying for everyone and that he wanted turtle and turtle eggs. He also ordered brandy. The man got to work preparing the food.
People in the tavern were talking about the signs and sigils. A few were talking about Flint throwing a man off a roof.
â€œHow are you doing?â€ Jeagar asked.
â€œFine,â€ Flint replied. â€œBut man falling off roof make me sad. Theo sad. And now everyone thinks Iâ”€â€
â€œTheo does look sad.â€
â€œEveryone thinks Iâ€™m a killer.â€
â€œYouâ€™ll be fine.â€
â€œOh, I fine. But I donâ€™t want Theo have to explain I donâ€™t kill people.â€
â€œEveryone knows that, brother!â€ Theo said. â€œYouâ€™re not a killer.â€
â€œBut that person over there look at me strange,â€ Flint said. â€œCan I go hit?â€
The man at the nearby table looked away.
â€œNo,â€ Theo said.
â€œCan I go take his food?â€ Flint said.
â€œNormally Iâ€™d say yes,â€ Theo said. â€œBut no.â€
â€œYouâ€™re no fun,â€ Flint said.
â€œLater brother,â€ Theo said.
Fowler and Flint noticed the man started to eat more quickly.
â€œNow weâ€™ll never get it,â€ Flint said. â€œWell, there is one way to get it.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Theo said.
â€œYou gonna finish that?â€ Flint asked his brother.
â€œNo, go ahead,â€ Theo said, pushing his plate to his brother.
Ackworthâ€™s food came and he set about eating it. The others ordered their own breakfast and got fish, eggs, cooked potatoes, and a great deal of good food and drink.
Dr. Leighlin entered the tavern, fresh blood on his coat and hands. He had seen red-coated soldiers moving through the town, ripping down the papers. Some carried whitewash and paint and were covering the terrible yellow signs painted here and there on the walls. He joined the rest at their table.
â€œHello,â€ he said. â€œSo nice to see you.â€
â€œGood morning,â€ Fowler said.
â€œGood morning,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œYes.â€
Ackworth pushed his bowl of soup away upon seeing all the blood on the man.
â€œYou should wash your hands,â€ Flint said.
â€œWhy, dear boy?â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œTheyâ€™re perfectly fine.â€
â€œYou should wash your hands.â€
Dr. Leighlin ran his hands through his mop of red hair. He called over the tavern keeper and ordered the duck.
â€œOh, I do love creatures that swim!â€ he said with a smile.
â€œThatâ€™s pretty much everything they have here,â€ Ackworth said.
A pair of red-coated soldiers entered the tavern and talked to Litton, having a short conversation. Flint ducked under the table.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Litton said. â€œI had some on the front. Someone tore them down.â€
â€œRight,â€ one of the soldiers said. â€œYou see anyone suspicious, let us know.â€
â€œYes sir!â€ Litton said.
The two soldiers left.
â€œThey think I did it!â€ Flint said, still under the table, his head between his brotherâ€™s legs. â€œTheo!â€
â€œWhat?â€ Theo said.
â€œThey think I did it!â€ Flint said.
â€œOh, my dear boy,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œAre you suffering from paranoia?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t do it,â€ Flint said.
â€œWe all know you didnâ€™t do it, Flint,â€ Fowler said.
Dr. Leighlin wondered if Flint was merely suffering from pressure on the brain. He knew it could be removed with a simple corkscrew if need be. Trepanation was not a terribly complicated surgery. At least not for the surgeon.
Jeagar got up and went to Litton, a portly man who ate a lot of his own food.
â€œWhat was that all about?â€ he asked the man.
â€œOh, theyâ€™re asking me if I had any of those sigils, signs in my establishment,â€ Litton replied. â€œI didnâ€™t. Told him there was a couple out in front this morning. Strange things. Donâ€™t like â€˜em at all.â€
â€œSo, what is all that about? I just came in, recently, to port and noticed all the signs up everywhere.â€
â€œOh! Those things been showing up around town every once in a while. Never had hundreds of them like we had this morning. I went outside to throw out the p*** pot this morning. Thought I was going to have a fit.â€
â€œThat sounds pretty bad.â€
â€œIt is bad! Did you see them?â€
â€œYeah. Theyâ€™re a little strange. Unsettling.â€
â€œA little? Unsettling! Yes! Yeah! Thatâ€™s the word! Thatâ€™s a great word for it! Unsettling.â€
â€œNot like the setting sun,â€ Ackworth called across the room.
â€œYes, yes, thatâ€™s right Mr. Ackworth,â€ Litton said to him. â€œNot like the settling sun at all. Unsettling. Indeed.â€
â€œMasterful wordplay,â€ Jeagar called.
â€œI donâ€™t understand some of the words,â€ Flint confessed to his brother from under the table.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Litton went on. â€œApparently the soldiers are taking everything down is what he said.â€
â€œDo you know where they originated or whoâ€™s doing it?â€ Jeagar walked over and asked.
â€œNope. Havenâ€™t heard. I heard a rumor. There was a priest. He was preaching. He was preaching outside one day. Not here. But down on York Street. He was on the corner. He was rambling on about Sodom and Gomorrah and how it was coming here next and how Port Royal is so wicked, just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Some soldiers rounded him up, because thatâ€™s dissention. But, before they could get him back â€¦ to the prison â€¦ they all went blind and deaf â€¦ and he got away. Scampered off. Thatâ€™s what I heard.â€
â€œDid you hear about what he might look like?â€
â€œOh no. He was a priest, so he mustâ€™ve been wearing black. It goes to reason.â€
â€œAye, it does. But thatâ€™s all I heard, apart from seeing these sigils. Apart from seeing these sijils. Whatever theyâ€™re called, I donâ€™t like â€˜em.â€
â€œThank you very much, Peter.â€
â€œOh, very good, sir, very good. Youâ€™re with Mr. Ackworth?â€
â€œOh, of course.â€
â€œHere, have another beer.â€
Dr. Leighlinâ€™s duck arrived and he dug in with gusto, ripping it apart with his bloody hands. He gobbled down the meat, making choking noises as he didnâ€™t chew his food well enough. As usual.
â€œI wonder if this â€¦ priest â€¦ has anything to do with these symbols,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œItâ€™s possible,â€ Fowler replied.
â€œPriests are good,â€ Flint said from under the table.
â€œWell, we could go to the church,â€ Fowler said.
â€œYeah, what street did he say?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œLetâ€™s go to St. Paulâ€™s Church,â€ Fowler said.
â€œWhat would you fancy, brother?â€ Theo asked Flint.
â€œI just want to do what you want to do,â€ Flint said.
â€œAw,â€ Theo said.
Flint leaned over to Theo.
â€œCan we go to the church if we donâ€™t believe in God?â€ he whispered to his brother.
â€œYes, but not a lot of people do,â€ Theo said.
â€œDo you want to go with us?â€ Jeagar asked Flint.
â€œIf I want to,â€ Flint replied.
He smiled. So did Theo as he now had someone to look over his brother for a while.
* * *
Dr. Emmanuel Heath was the priest at St. Paulâ€™s Church on the south side of the town. There was an old oak church further to the east that had originally been built not long after the English took Jamaica but it was no longer used. They knew a synagogue lay somewhere in the town and that Catholic and Protestants met in peopleâ€™s homes when they wished to worship.
Fowler, Jeagar, and Flint had gone to St. Paulâ€™s Church to talk to the doctor. The fine stone church was empty on that Saturday so they went in search of Dr. Heath and found his house. They were able to secure a meeting with the Anglican priest and soon found themselves in his study.
Dr. Heath was a white-haired gentleman of solid girth. Clean-shaven, he almost had a boyish face despite his age. He wore fine but comfortable clothing and put down the bible he had been reading as they entered.
â€œHello,â€ he said to them, standing. â€œHello. Can I help you gentlemen?â€
â€œWell, we heard a rumor of a priest acting oddly,â€ Fowler said. â€œWould you happen to know anyone like that at St. Paulâ€™s?â€
â€œActing oddly? No. Iâ€™m the only priest at St. Paulâ€™s.â€
â€œNot a preacher with you,â€ Jeagar said. â€œBut have you heard of the one spouting â€¦ nonsense right off of â€¦â€
â€œNonsense?â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œYouâ€™ll have to be more specific than that, Iâ€™m afraid.â€
â€œSomething about Sodom and Gomorrah?â€ Fowler said.
â€œAh yes, I heard that rumor,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œItâ€™s just a rumor, Iâ€™m sure. No man can make people blind and deaf. Iâ€™m sorry. Thatâ€™s in the realm of God. But I do know that it is heretical to claim that one of His Majestyâ€™s colonies will fall to the same symptoms as that terrible city.â€
â€œDo we know who this preacher may be?â€ Jeagar asked.
â€œNo,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œHeâ€™s not any priest â€¦ heâ€™s not the Catholic priest. He doesnâ€™t have anything to do with the Jews here. Nor, as far as I can tell is he with the Protestants. So â€¦ heâ€™s someone new. I have no idea.â€
â€œSo, heâ€™s just a crazy newcomer?â€ Fowler said.
â€œHe could be,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œBut if heâ€™s preaching dissention â€¦ and it sounds like he is â€¦ if you apprehend him and bring him in, heâ€™ll be arrested for it. In fact, Iâ€™m sure Governor White will be happy to lock him up until he sees the errors of his ways.â€
â€œThank you for your time,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œTurn him over to any soldiers that you find,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œIf you find him.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Fowler said.
â€œWill do,â€ Jeagar said. â€œThank you, Emmanuel.â€
The priest glared at the master gunner.
â€œYes,â€ Fowler said. â€œThank you, Dr. Heath.â€
â€œAsk him if Godâ€™s real,â€ Flint whispered to Jeagar.
â€œHave a great day,â€ Jeagar said to the priest and turned and left.
Dr. Heath nodded at Fowler and the man left as well.
â€œIs God real?â€ Flint whispered to the priest.
â€œWhy, of course He is,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œHe sees into all our hearts and all our souls.â€
â€œHe loves us all very, very much,â€ Dr. Heath went on. â€œIf you give yourself over to him completely, youâ€™re guaranteed a seat in heaven.â€
Flintâ€™s mouth fell open and in amazement.
â€œJust keep that in mind, good boy,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œDonâ€™t forget to come to church tomorrow morning.â€
I donâ€™t like to wake up that early, he thought. Then he ran off, happy.
* * *
Theo, his brother situated and safe with others, had gone down Thames Street to visit with Lily.
Lily Campbell was an older woman of about 40 whom Theophilus was having an affair with. Her husband, Captain Joseph Campbell, was a merchant of 50 who was often away on his ship and Lily was very lonely. She was perfect for Theophilus, who thought himself above the whores of Port Royal. She also often paid the man in little trinkets or gifts for the pleasures he gave her. She lived in a fine house on Thames Street, her bedroom overlooking the harbor.
Theo was very familiar with the house and the servants and slaves, all of whom he bribed generously to guarantee his easy access when Captain Campbell was away. All of them knew and liked Theo.
â€œCaptain Campbell is, of course, at sea, right now,â€ one of the servants told him. â€œMrs. Campbell, sheâ€™s been acting a bit strange today.â€
â€œHow so?â€ Theo asked.
â€œIâ€™m not sure,â€ the other man said. â€œShe just seems off.â€
Theo handed the man a few coins.
â€œYes, of course,â€ the servant said. â€œGo right up, sir.â€
He handed the man a cup of beer and Theo headed upstairs. He knew all of the servants knew of Lilyâ€™s affair as both she and Theo were very loud during their lovemaking. In his arrogance, Theo was actually in the habit of shouting out his own name during their trysts.
He found his paramour in her room. It was a large chamber with a balcony overlooking Thames Street and the North Docks. Lily sat at her vanity on the other side of the room, combing her hair with a silver brush. She didnâ€™t look at the door as he entered, merely stared at the silver mirror and combed her hair. He saw there was a lot of hair in the comb.
A pretty young girl was in the room. Theo recognized her as Lilyâ€™s personal maid. She approached the man and he handed her a coin which she tucked away.
â€œMadam has been combing her hair for four hours now,â€ the maid said.
â€œReally?â€ Theo said.
He looked more carefully at Lily and noticed that though she was looking at herself in the mirror, she didnâ€™t seem to see anything. He crossed the room, coming up behind her and putting his arms around her. He noticed her hair looked a little thin on the side she was still brushing.
â€œWhatâ€™s the matter, my love?â€ he said.
â€œI cannot forget Carcosa,â€ Lily mumbled, still staring straight ahead into the mirror and continuing to brush her hair. â€œI cannot forget. I cannot forget Carcosa.â€
Theo closed his hand on the hand that was still brushing her hair, hoping to calm her down.
â€œWhatâ€™s Carcosa?â€ he asked.
â€œI cannot forget Carcosa,â€ she mumbled again. â€œI cannot forget. I cannot forget Carcosa.â€
Theo turned to the maid without letting go of Lily.
â€œDo you know what this is?â€ he demanded.
The maid crept up to him.
â€œShe went out this morning for breakfast and â€¦ she came back in a few hours ago and then â€¦â€ the maid said.
She gestured towards Lily. Theo could feel his love pushing against his hand but he was much stronger than she. He moved to her side, crouching down and looking up at her.
â€œWhy wonâ€™t you look at me, my love?â€ he said.
Lily started to comb again.
â€œBecause I cannot forget Carcosa,â€ she whispered. â€œHeâ€™s coming.â€
He put his hand in front of her eyes to block her view of the mirror. Lily continued to stare straight ahead and brushed and brushed and brushed. Theo stood up abruptly and turned back to the maid. The girl had crept to the door and looked uncomfortable, as if she wanted to leave the mad womanâ€™s room.
â€œGet some of the other servants and get them to put fabric over the mirror,â€ he said. â€œTry to calm her a bit and get her to stop this. Itâ€™s a bit much.â€
â€œYes sir!â€ the girl called out, obviously relieved someone was doing something. â€œYes sir!â€
She bolted out of the room. Theo turned to look at his lovely Lily and then left the house to find his friends.
* * *
It was mid-afternoon when Theo found Sam Fowler at a tavern, drinking with his friend Timothy Dalton.
Dalton was a long-time friend of Fowler. Another young sailor, the two men were best friends and had explored the Caribbean together on more than one occasion. Dalton was an average-looking man in rugged clothing. They were talking about some of the strange things happening in the town.
â€œHow you doing?â€ Theo said.
â€œIâ€™m doing fine,â€ Fowler said. â€œHow are you, Theo?â€
â€œGood,â€ Theo said. â€œIâ”€â€
â€œAre you going to introduce me?â€ Dalton said.
â€œOh, Tim, this is Theo,â€ Fowler said.
â€œNice to meet you,â€ Theo said.
He turned back to Fowler.
â€œDid you learn anything today in your travels?â€ he asked.
â€œNothing particularly useful, no,â€ Fowler said.
â€œFair enough. I may have stumbled upon a strange term and I was hoping â€¦ perhaps you know it.â€
â€œWhat kind of strange term?â€
â€œSomething called â€¦ â€˜Carcosa.â€™â€
â€œCarcosa. Never heard of it. Tim, have you ever heard the term?â€
â€œNo,â€ Dalton said. â€œSounds Spanish though. Is it Spanish?â€
â€œPerhaps,â€ Theo said. â€œI have no idea.â€
â€œOh. Oh. Oh. I see. I thought this was a game.â€
â€œAll right then,â€ Theo said. â€œIâ€™ll be on my way to find our other acquaintances. Do you know where theyâ€™re at?â€
â€œI heard your brother and Jeagar talking about how they were going to go talk about cannons,â€ Fowler said.
â€œAll right,â€ Theo said. â€œIâ€™ll leave you two be. Have a good night.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Fowler said. â€œYou too.â€
* * *
Ackworth and Dr. Leighlin had gone in search of the man who had seen the thing in the harbor. In the course of the day, Ackworth heard that odd rumblings had been heard under the ground in Port Royal. He also heard of strange lights in the water of the harbor in the early morning hours. Someone told him madmen seemed more common in Port Royal as such. At least one or two men or women a day seemed to go mad. Dr. Leighlin heard people had been going missing for nearly a month. Usually they disappeared in the wee hours of the night but some claimed others vanished from their homes. He also heard that someone was dragged out of his boat by something in the harbor. The man didnâ€™t come back up.
It was in the evening when they finally found the man who had seen the strange, heaving water. He wasnâ€™t sure what it was but noted the water rose up as if something underneath was coming up. The thing must have been at least as big as a sloop or bigger. He expected something to surface but then the water simply settled back down again.
â€œHow high?â€ Ackworth asked.
The man wasnâ€™t sure due to the distance but guessed the swell was between eight and 12 feet. He also told them the rumor of the man pulled from his boat, though he didnâ€™t see it himself.
Dr. Leighlin was talking to himself again, jabbering on about sea life.
* * *
* * *
It was evening before Theo found his brother. He was with Jeagar.
â€œThe next time we get a job, we should go together,â€ Jeagar was saying to Flint. â€œThen we could run all of the cannons on the ship at the same time.â€
â€œBut usually ship have one gunnery master and you want two,â€ Flint said.
â€œThereâ€™s no rule that says there canâ€™t be two!â€
â€œAre you going to take all the money and I donâ€™t get any?â€
â€œNo! Why would I do that?â€
â€œYouâ€™ve done it before.â€
â€œI donâ€™t recall that.â€
â€œWhat about Theo?â€
â€œHe â€¦ could come.â€
â€œI usually have to ask Theo if itâ€™s a good idea. He doesnâ€™t like you very much.â€
â€œHe always gives me these strange looks.â€
â€œYeah, he thinks that youâ€™re odd. He thinks that nobody should be missing as much of their body as you are.â€
â€œIâ€™m just one of the lucky ones!â€
â€œWe have different idea of what luck is.â€
â€œWell, I would be more lucky if I didnâ€™t lose them but â€¦ Iâ€™m still alive.â€
â€œWhat kind of job do you even want to do?â€
Jeagar told him some of his ideas but Flint quickly stopped paying attention. Theo found them while Jeagar was claiming to have invented grapeshot.
â€œHello brother!â€ Theo said. â€œHello â€¦ Jeagar.â€
â€œTheo â€¦â€ Flint said. â€œTheo, did you go do the yelling stuff with the lady again?â€
â€œSurprisingly not this time, brother.â€
â€œWhy do you say your name all the time when youâ€™re with her?â€
â€œAre you admitting to eavesdropping, brother? I told you to plug your ears, brother.â€
â€œIt didnâ€™t matter! I still heard you. I think the whole town heard you once.â€
â€œAll right, all right, all right. Iâ€™ve just come along to share some information Iâ€™ve gotten. Not too much information. Just a phrase in particular. A name. A place. Something. You havenâ€™t heard of it, brother, I know you havenâ€™t. But have you heard of Carcosa, Jeagar?â€
â€œIt does not ring any bells,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œAh, well, thatâ€™s not new,â€ Theo said.
â€œWhatâ€™s Carcosa?â€ Flint said.
â€œI donâ€™t know, brother,â€ Theo said. â€œSomething Iâ€™m trying to find out now. Weâ€™ll probably have to ask around the locals, who know the town a little bit better than we do.â€
â€œMr. Jeagar wants me to do another job with him.â€
â€œWhat happened the last time, brother?â€
â€œHe lost a part of his body.â€
â€œWell, weâ€™ll put that idea to rest.â€
Theo glared at Jeagar.
â€œThat was a mistake!â€ Jeagar said defensively.
â€œMm!â€ Theo said. â€œIt always is a mistake, Jeagar. While youâ€™re of no use to me, I suppose the two of you can have the rest of your night, unless, brother, you want to accompany me to our lodgings.â€
â€œThere is somewhere I actually have to be,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œAll right,â€ Theo said. â€œWell, then letâ€™s be off, brother.â€
â€œHave a nice night, Flint,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œBye bye Mr. Jeagar,â€ Flint said.
â€œSee you later,â€ Jeagar said.
They parted ways.
* * *
Once they had secured their lodgings and Flint was sleeping, Theo went out to ask people about Carcosa. He learned that many people were talking about Carcosa but no one seemed to know what it was. Only the people who were acting strange seemed to know anything and it was impossible to get anything coherent out of them. They said they would always remember Carcosa or they were going back to Carcosa or that they knew Carcosa, but none of them would â€¦ or possibly even could â€¦ say what Carcosa was.
* * *
Alice was the only prostitute in Port Royal who would sleep with Jeagar. She was very beautiful but cost a great deal, usually reserving herself for the upper crust. She had, for some unknown reason, a soft spot for Jeagar, though that didnâ€™t mean she was going to lower her prices for the man. It was the reason he had become a pirate, actually. He needed the money for her.
He gave her most of his money and she was happy to spend the night with the man, the two of them pleasuring each other. Between their lovemaking, he learned she had heard a rumor of strange voices sometimes heard in the night, calling and calling. She had heard no words could be made out, however.
* * *
Fowler and Dr. Leighlin had terrible nightmares that night. The horrific dreams seemed to be about the sign they had all seen the day before, or a man wearing tattered yellow robes who wore a crown but kept his face covered by a pallid mask, or of something beneath the lake that was always there in their dreams, always nearby.
* * *
Sunday, June 1, 1692, dawned as hot and beautiful as many days did in Port Royal.
Acting Governor White had ordered soldiers out the night before to patrol the street and arrest anyone caught putting up more of the terrible signs or sigils. Despite all of that, however, there was disquiet, distress, and even terror on the streets of Port Royal that day. Voice cried out in horror and despair.
* * *
BrÃ¼n Jeagar pushed the shutters open on Aliceâ€™s window. He thought he saw pieces of paper pasted on the walls on the street below. He could not make out the single symbol on each paper and didnâ€™t particularly want to. He guessed it was the same as the day before, however. People were obviously distressed by what they saw.
* * *
Flint Dawson was up early that morning and left their small room quickly.
Flint, though he was not wise enough to understand, exactly, what was going on, had an impression that the pieces of paper that day were different from the day before. In a flash of inspiration, he realized the papers were all printed as opposed to being hand drawn. He tore down one of the sheets and saw there was something small printed on the back.
Unfortunately, he couldnâ€™t read.
â€œTheo!â€ he called out, looking around himself.
He ran back to the room to tell Theo.
* * *
Sam Fowler also heard the sounds in the streets that morning. At breakfast with his parents, with whom he lived, he asked if they knew anything about the strange things happening in Port Royal of late. Neither of them did though both had seen the symbols and didnâ€™t like them at all. Fowler decided to eat breakfast at home and stay off the streets that morning.
* * *
Upon waking, Dr. Merriam Leighlin wrote down what little he could remember of the terrible dreams of the night before. Then he heard the noises in the street and went out to investigate. He saw the fliers with the terrible sigil upon them and noticed they were printed as opposed to being hand-drawn as those had been the day before.
He stared at the terrible symbol for over a minute, rooted to the spot and terrified as it reached for him once again, seemingly writhing horribly as if it were alive.
* * *
Dean Ackworth, Esq., looking out onto the street and seeing the papers and how people were reacting to them, began to draft a letter home about the strangeness of the colonies and how feeble the minds of the colonials were.
* * *
Theo Dawson was laying in bed, fantasizing about Lily, when the door burst open and Flint rushed in, paper in hand.
â€œTheo! Theo! Theo! Theo!â€ Flint cried.
â€œBrother, we talked about knocking!â€ Theo said.
â€œTheo! Theo! I have â€¦ smart thought.â€
â€œI found paper outside. Again. But this time, itâ€™s not drawn. See? Look.â€
He shoved the paper into Theoâ€™s face and the man flinched. Then Flint turned it over to reveal something printed on the back.
â€œTheo, I canâ€™t read,â€ Flint said. â€œWho did this?â€
â€œBrother, you know good and well I canâ€™t read either!â€ Theo said.
â€œI forgot. Theo, who can read this?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Probably one of the rich men. Maybe â€¦ even the doctor.â€
â€œPerhaps. Perhaps. Heâ€™s educated.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go to Mr. Breakfast Manâ€™s house.â€
â€œI will meet you there.â€
Flint ran out of the room again.
* * *
Once Dr. Leighlin had recovered from his strange terror, he ripped the piece of paper off the wall and examined it carefully. Printed on the back in very small print were the words â€œJoseph Gill, Printer, Cannon Street.â€ He stuffed the piece of paper into his shirt and ran towards Cannon Street.
As he ran south, he spotted Flint running in his direction with one of the pieces of paper in his hand.
â€œI had a smart thought!â€ Flint was saying and smiling. â€œI had a smart thought!â€
The two stopped when they reached each other.
â€œDo tell, my boy,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œThis new paper printed, not drawn. Printed,â€ Flint said. â€œI donâ€™t read though.â€
Dr. Leighlin told him what was printed on the back of the paper.
â€œIâ€™m heading there right now,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œYou can read?â€ he said.
â€œYes, my boy!â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œYouâ€™re amazing. Even Theo canâ€™t read.â€
â€œOh, my boy.â€
Dr. Leighlin touched Flintâ€™s head, wondering what had gone wrong with the man.
â€œIâ€™m going to Breakfast Manâ€™s house!â€ Flint said. â€œWait. But you already read it so thereâ€™s no point.â€
He frowned. Then he realized it was another smart thought.
â€œI had another smart thought!â€ he said, running back the way heâ€™d come.
The man only made it 20 yards or so before he ran back to Dr. Leighlin.
â€œWhat was the name again?â€ he asked.
â€œJoseph Gill, Printer, Cannon Street,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
Flint turned and ran away again, calling out â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street. Joseph Gill Cannon Street.â€
Dr. Leighlin raced for Cannon Street.
* * *
Fowler was still at his house when his mother entered the room.
â€œThose papers!â€ she cried out in frustration. â€œOh!â€
She had several of the sheets of paper which she was ripping up and taking out to the cook room to burn. Fowler decided it was prudent to stay inside for the time being.
* * *
Ackworth finished his letter and put it into an envelope, leaving the house to take it to the customs house so it could be sent back to England with the next ship. He ripped one of the strange papers off a wall, folding it and putting it into the envelope with the letter.
He ran into Jeagar on the way down the street. The man had a sly smirk on his face.
â€œWhere are we going?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œIâ€™m going to the customs house,â€ Ackworth said.
Jeagar fell into pace with him, hoping for a free breakfast.
â€œThese things look really strange,â€ he said to the other man. â€œIf you look at them right, they come at you.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what you mean,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œIt feels like these posters have it out for you. When you look at them. Donâ€™t you see that?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what you are seeing here.â€
â€œMaybe youâ€™re stronger of character.â€
* * *
Theo was just getting comfortable in the bed again, fantasizing about relations with Lily, when the door burst open and Flint ran in again. Theo sat up.
â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street!â€ Flint called out. â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street!â€
â€œWhat are you saying, brother?â€ Theo said. â€œWhat are you saying?â€
â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street! Joseph Gill Cannon Street!â€
â€œWhat is that, brother? Is that the text? Is that what it said?â€
â€œThe strange doctor read it for me!â€
â€œOh good, youâ€™re seeing him. Thatâ€™s good.â€
â€œHeâ€™s smarter than you because he can read. And youâ€™re smarter than me because I fell on head.â€
â€œYes, brother, you tell us every day.â€
â€œHow many times I fall on head again? Is it â€¦ the big number?â€
â€œWhat we do now?â€
â€œWell, I guess we should investigate. But first I have to check on my â€¦ sweet Lily.â€
â€œYou always check on her! We need to â€¦ focus â€¦ I forgot what focus means but you tell me to focus a lot!â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what that word is either.â€
Flint swung the blunderbuss on its strap, taking it from his back.
â€œDo I have to go see him alone?â€ he asked.
â€œNo, brother, you donâ€™t need to use weaponry against the townsfolk,â€ Theo said.
â€œBut they do what I say when I hold it.â€
â€œLetâ€™s put it away for now â€¦ and then if we need it we can get it out.â€
â€œIâ€™m gonna go find the cripple man.â€
â€œYeah! Mr. Jeagar!â€
â€œHe likes to use guns like I do.â€
â€œOh! Such a good example. You go on your way, boy.â€
â€œWhy donâ€™t you go do the mm-mm-mm?â€
Flint walked out of the room, feeling neglected.
* * *
Flint walked down the street and had a third smart thought, already that day. He remembered Jeagar usually tried to eat with Ackworth as the gentleman adventurer often paid for those around him. He guessed the two might be at the Catt and Fiddle again.
He was walking up Lime Street towards the North Docks when he saw William.
William was a friend of Flint. Only six years old, the child and the big man had become fast friends as they were on the same mental level. They enjoyed playing childrenâ€™s games and chasing the seagulls in Port Royal. William was the only one Flint really trusted completely in Port Royal aside from his brother Theo. William had never let him down.
â€œWilliam!â€ the man said.
William stood in front of his house. In one hand, he held one of the flyers. He stared directly to the east at the sun, just visible down another street.
â€œWilliam!â€ Flint said, approaching the child. â€œDonâ€™t look at sun. Itâ€™s bad for eyes.â€
The boy didnâ€™t reply. Flint ran up to the boy and pushed him to the ground.
â€œI told you,â€ Flint said.
The boy didnâ€™t get up but turned his head to stare at the bright sun.
â€œNo!â€ Flint said. â€œStop, William!â€
He turned the boy over and the child turned his head to look directly at the sun.
â€œWilliam, you better stop playing,â€ Flint said. â€œI donâ€™t like this game.â€
â€œHave you found the yellow sign?â€ William mumbled.
â€œYou mean the sun?â€ Flint said.
William, still staring at the sun, held up the piece of paper.
â€œWhat?â€ Flint said. â€œI have one!â€
â€œHave you found the yellow sign?â€ William said again.
â€œStop looking at the sun, William!â€ Flint said, holding the boyâ€™s head down so he couldnâ€™t see the sun.
â€œI say, whatâ€™s he doing to that boy?â€ a passer-by.
His companion shushed him.
â€œItâ€™s that crazy person!â€ the other man said.
â€œHelp!â€ Flint said. â€œThis boy keeps looking at the sun! Help!â€
People avoided him. William struggled feebly against the man, trying to turn his head towards the sun. He finally picked the child up, holding his hand over the boyâ€™s eyes.
â€œCâ€™mon William,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re going to get breakfast.â€
The boy turned his head towards the sun, but Flint kept his hand over the boyâ€™s eyes. It was strange but, as they walked, the child continued to turn his head towards the sun despite Flintâ€™s changing of direction.
â€œWilliam, youâ€™re so silly,â€ Flint said.
* * *
Dr. Leighlin reached Cannon Street and found the shop of Joseph Gill. The word â€œPrinterâ€ was over the door, which was closed. The shutters were also closed.
â€œDamn,â€ he muttered.
He tried to look through the cracks in the shutters but it was very dark within. He noticed the upper floors had open windows but all of the windows downstairs were shut up.
He went to the end of the block and climbed over the walls that led to the yards behind the houses. He eventually got to the correct building, noting the cook room in the yard behind the house. He found the back door locked as well so he kicked it open.
It was dim inside, with little light coming through the cracks in the shutters. The room appeared to be a print room and was a mess with scattered items and paper everywhere. A small printing press stood in one corner, a set of steps went up in another, and a man sat on the floor in a third. The man stared at the press and muttered to himself, his eyes wide open. Next to him was a small pouch with shiny coins peeking out.
â€œHave you seen the Yellow Sign?â€ he muttered as Dr. Leighlin crossed the room to him. â€œIâ€™ve seen the Yellow Sign. Itâ€™s there. Itâ€™s there.â€
He pointed at the press.
â€œItâ€™s there,â€ he said again. â€œThe Sign is there. The Yellow Sign. Donâ€™t look at it! The Yellow Sign is there. Itâ€™s there.â€
He laughed insanely.
â€œThe Yellow Sign is there,â€ he said. â€œYes.â€
He laughed again.
Dr. Leighlin walked around the room and saw papers were scattered all over the floor. A few cupboards were open and typeset and various tools were lying on the floor under them, as if someone had opened them up and just pulled everything out. A few cupboards were open but still filled with various items. A key was in the lock in the front door. Light came down from the stairwell.
â€œWhat happened here?â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
The man laughed again.
â€œHe came,â€ he said with a smile, still staring at the printing press. â€œHe came. Heâ€™sâ”€â€
â€œWho?â€ Dr. Leighlin asked.
â€œHeâ€™s the one.â€
The madman pointed at the printing press and laughed.
â€œAnd then â€¦ itâ€™s still there!â€ he said, his voice lowering to a whisper. â€œItâ€™s in the printing press! Donâ€™t go. Donâ€™t go!â€
â€œWhatâ€™s there?â€ Dr. Leighlin asked.
â€œDonâ€™t! Donâ€™t! Donâ€™t go! Donâ€™t go there! Itâ€™s in there! Itâ€™s in there! I tried to stop it!â€
â€œItâ€™s in there! Itâ€™s in there! Itâ€™s in there!â€
Dr. Leighlin slapped the man smartly across the face. He went quiet for a moment.
â€œDonâ€™t go near the printing press!â€ he then went on. â€œDonâ€™t do it! Donâ€™t do it!â€
Dr. Leighlin went over to the press and the man let out a squeal.
â€œQuiet, man!â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œDonâ€™t look!â€ Gill said. â€œDonâ€™t look!â€
Dr. Leighlin looked at the typeface on the printing press and saw it was made of lead and, instead of being print, it was the terrible symbol that was on the paper he had in his shirt. Reversed, it seemed to reach for him, squirming and grabbing at the man, who stumbled back and suddenly realized how dark it was in the room. He let out a shout and found it hard to breathe. Gill echoed his scream.
â€œSee!?!â€ he cried out. â€œSee!?! See!?! No! No! No! See!?! See!?! See!?! No! See!?! See!?! No! See!?!â€
â€œShut up!â€ Dr. Leighlin cried. â€œJust shut up!â€
â€œSee!?! See!?! See!?!â€ Gill screamed.
Dr. Leighlin fled.
* * *
Flint found Jeagar and Ackworth at the Catt and the Fiddle. Ackworth was drinking sherry and eating breakfast and Jeagar was drinking beer when the mentally deficient man entered carrying a child.
â€œSilly William, stop looking at the sun,â€ Flint said.
He took his hand off the boyâ€™s eyes and the child looked towards the eastern wall.
â€œNow Flint, who have you got there?â€ Ackworth asked.
â€œThis is my friend, William,â€ Flint said. â€œHe wants to look at the sun all day.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not good for you.â€
â€œI â€¦ well, I tried to tell him that. He just keeps looking at it. Can we have breakfast?â€
They noticed the child had one of the pieces of paper in his hand.
â€œHe probably shouldnâ€™t have this,â€ Ackworth said.
He pulled on the piece of paper. It tore in half as the child had the paper clutched in his fist. Ackworth tore up the part that he had.
â€œHey!â€ Flint said. â€œDonâ€™t! I was trying to tell you something â€¦ what was I trying to tell you? Give me breakfast and I shall remember! And some for William as well?â€
â€œSure,â€ Ackworth said.
As the food arrived, Dr. Leighlin appeared in the door of the tavern, shaking.
â€œWhat happened to you?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t believe me,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œYou wouldnâ€™t believe me.â€
â€œIâ€™ve seen a lot of mad things lately.â€
â€œThe â€¦ the â€¦ this.â€
Dr. Leighlin pulled out the printed paper from his jacket.
â€œThis is bad,â€ he said. â€œThis is bad.â€
â€œAh, I mailed one of those,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œThatâ€™s what it was!â€ Flint said. â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street! Joseph Gill Cannon Street!â€
â€œYes,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œI went â€¦â€
â€œDid you say Joseph kill chemistry?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œNo,â€ Flint said. â€œJoseph Gill, Cannon â€¦â€
â€œI went to Cannon Street,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œCannon Street,â€ Flint said.
â€œJoseph Gill on Cannon Street,â€ Ackworth said. â€œThe printer.â€
â€œHeâ€™s printing these,â€ Flint said. â€œI thought of that.â€
â€œI was there!â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œI was there! He was â€¦ he was â€¦ sitting there! He was sitting there in the dark and â€¦ I-I-I â€¦ I couldnâ€™t help it. I just. I tried to knock him out and it didnâ€™t â€¦ it didnâ€™t take and there was â€¦â€
â€œJust calm down,â€ Ackworth said. â€œTake a seat. Have some food and drink and weâ€™ll talk afterwards.â€
Dr. Leighlin called for brandy and drank it down, nearly choking on it.
â€œThank you,â€ he said.
He looked them over as a man took his empty cup.
â€œI went in â€¦ there was a room,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œThere was a room besideâ”€â€
The man brought another cup of brandy. Dr. Leighlin took another drink.
â€œThere was a room beside â€¦ there was a room that the man told me not to go into and I went anyway,â€ he said. â€œAnd this symbol! This symbol! It jumped out at me!â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I was talking to you about,â€ Jeagar said to Ackworth.
â€œIt jumped at me!â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œI have no idea. I have no idea what for.â€
They all looked at him.
â€œItâ€™s â€¦ itâ€™s quite bothersome,â€ Jeagar said.
William kept turning his head towards the wall to look at the sun and Flint continued to pull it back.
â€œWhy did you go before you had breakfast?â€ Flint said.
â€œIt does seem like a poor thing to do on an empty stomach,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œWeâ€™re supposed to be a group. And we need breakfast first.â€
â€œWhat? A group?â€
â€œWhereâ€™s my food?â€
The food arrived.
â€œI saw this in a dream!â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œI saw this in my nightmare! Have any of you? Iâ€™m starting to worry for my own sanity.â€
â€œYouâ€™re worried about it?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œDeeply. This is not me. I donâ€™t do this! Have any of your experienced something like this?â€
â€œSome of those flyers were coming right out at me.â€
â€œAt you, sir?â€
â€œIt sounds like what you are all experiencing is called an optical illusion,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œThis was no optical illusion!â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œJust a mere trick on the brain,â€ Ackworth said.
Flint raised his hand.
â€œYes, Flint?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œWhat is optical delusion?â€ Flint asked.
â€œOh, nice twist on it, sir,â€ Ackworth said.
He began to tell Flint about optical illusions. Flint put the food in front of William but he ignored it. He put some food in the boyâ€™s mouth and the boy chewed and swallowed it. Dr. Leighlin looked at the boy, standing up and going to him. He started inspecting the child, who seemed to be out of sorts, possibly due to an imbalance of the humors, perhaps too much bile. He felt the boyâ€™s head.
â€œHey, doctor,â€ Flint said. â€œCan you look at his eyes. I think he might have looked at the sun for too long.â€
Dr. Leighlin looked at the ladâ€™s eyes. They were terribly injured by his staring at the sun.
â€œAlso, I didnâ€™t do it,â€ Flint said. â€œWill he be able to chase the seagulls with me again?â€
Dr. Leighlin didnâ€™t think the boy had done permanent damage to his eyes.
Fowler came in through the door, his hand over his own eyes, partially shielding them. He had finally worked up the courage to leave his house but feared seeing the terrible sign that had so disturbed him and filled his dreams the night before. He made out, while trying not to look, the sounds and sights of soldiers ripping down the papers on his way north along Lime Street. He breathed a little easier when he got in the door of the Catt and Fiddle. He looked carefully around the room but didnâ€™t see any of the terrible flyers.
â€œFowler, are your eyes quite right?â€ Dr. Leighlin asked.
â€œTheyâ€™re fine,â€ Fowler said. â€œItâ€™s those God-forsaken symbols.â€
â€œOh, you mean like these?â€ Jeagar said, holding up the piece of paper Dr. Leighlin had brought.
â€œDonâ€™t show that to me!â€ Fowler cried out, closing his eyes tightly.
â€œWhat is the matter with you!?!â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street!â€ Flint said. â€œJoseph Gill Cannon Street!â€
Fowler reached for Jeagar, blindly grabbing the paper and ripping it to pieces.
â€œNo!â€ Flint howled.
â€œYou can get more off the street later,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œThereâ€™s plenty more out there,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œWhat is this boy doing here?â€ Fowler said.
He turned to Dr. Leighlin.
â€œYouâ€™re not going to do something to him, are you?â€ he went on.
â€œWell, Iâ€™m not sure,â€ Dr. Leighlin said, offended. â€œIf he needs my help, of course.â€
â€œHe wonâ€™t stop looking at the sun,â€ Flint said.
â€œHeâ€™ll go blind,â€ Fowler said.
â€œWell, I feel like if we all want to go talk to Joseph Gill, we probably should head over there before the soldiers do,â€ Ackworth said, sipping at his brandy.
â€œWhoâ€™s Joseph Gill?â€ Fowler asked.
â€œThe man who printed these,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œCannon Street!â€ Flint said.
â€œDo not go there!â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œDo not go there!â€
â€œWhat am I supposed to do with William?â€ Flint said.
â€œYou were right not to look,â€ Dr. Leighlin said to Fowler.
â€œThank you!â€ Fowler said.
â€œIâ€™m going to go talk to the barkeep,â€ Flint said, standing. â€œMaybe he knows his family.â€
Ackworth paid for their food. Jeagar followed close behind.
â€œWhere did you find this boy?â€ Dr. Leighlin asked.
â€œHe was outside,â€ Flint said. â€œLooking at the sun.â€
â€œJust the sun?â€ Dr. Leighlin said, picking up the paper with the sign upon it. â€œDid he have one of these?â€
Fowler looked directly at the piece of paper but looked away quickly. He reached out blindly and grabbed the piece of paper, ripping it to shreds.
Flint walked over to the barkeep, Peter Litton, who was always quite polite to him.
â€œYes, Mr. Dawson?â€ Litton said. â€œI trust youâ€™ve had a pleasant breakfast?â€
â€œIt was very nice,â€ Flint said.
â€œOh, very good. Very good. Iâ€™m so happy for that.â€
Flint laid the boy on the bar.
â€œI â€¦ canâ€™t cook that, sir,â€ Litton said. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œThis is my friend William,â€ Flint said. â€œHe wonâ€™t stop looking at the sun.â€
â€œSee how his head â€¦ watch.â€
He pushed the boyâ€™s head to one side but the child immediately turned it back to look at the east wall.
â€œIâ€™m very sad for him, but I donâ€™tâ”€â€ Flint said.
â€œHe needs a doctor,â€ Litton said.
â€œI donâ€™t know his last name. I donâ€™t know who his family is.â€
â€œVery well. Very well. I will find out who his parents are and weâ€™ll return him to them.â€
He turned away from the barkeep but then turned back.
â€œI didnâ€™t do anything,â€ he said.
â€œOh no no no,â€ Litton said. â€œHe â€¦ strange times. Strange times. Strange times.â€
He took the boy and sat him in the chair nearby.
â€œDonâ€™t look at the sun,â€ Flint said.
â€œVery good point,â€ Litton said. â€œYouâ€™re very wise.â€
* * *
Dr. Leighlin was able to get another of the flyers but found several red-coated soldiers ripping them down. The men were not reacting well to the strange sign. One man started laughing hysterically as he tore the flyers down. Another appeared to be crying.
He returned to his surgery in order to test the ink to see if there was something strange or special about it. He learned only that the ink and paper were typical. There was nothing special or strange about it at all. Chemically, it was just a symbol printed on a piece of paper.
* * *
Theo had returned to Lily Campbellâ€™s house. He learned from the servants that Captain Campbell was still away, his ship not having yet returned. Mrs. Campbell had wanted to go out again that morning but the servants had persuaded her to stay in the house. She had not left.
â€œHer spirits seem to be better today,â€ one of them told Theo as he dropped a few coins in his hand.
Theo made his way to Lilyâ€™s bedroom and found his lady-love sitting on her bed. She was pleased to see him, standing up and putting her arms around his ample shoulders. She laid her head on his chest.
â€œI donâ€™t know what happened yesterday,â€ she said. â€œSomething â€¦ terrible. I saw something terrible. I-I â€¦ I meant to go out this morning. I had to go out this morning but the servants wouldnâ€™t let me. They said that I should stay. They said that I should stay. I have not been out but I hear terrible things are happening in town. I-I â€¦â€
She was obviously quite distraught.
He put his arm around her waist and his hand to her cheek, lifting her chin to look into her eyes.
â€œBut you are feeling better, my love?â€ he asked.
â€œThey said that you were here yesterday but I do not remember it,â€ she said. â€œI do not recall. It was as if my mind was gone. As if something had stolen it away. I donâ€™t remember anything of that day. Itâ€™s as if the day never happened.â€
â€œWell, youâ€™re safe as long as youâ€™re indoors. Thereâ€™s something happening right now and we canâ€™t explain it. Thereâ€™s no answers right now. But, as long as youâ€™re safe, thatâ€™s all that matters.â€
â€œOh! Oh Theo! Kiss me! Make me feel like a woman â€¦ like Joseph canâ€™t!â€
Theo did so, spending the day in the house with Lily.
* * *
* * *
On the way to Cannon Street, Ackworth finally noticed the terrible symbol squirm on the piece of paper and reach for him an way most unnatural. It came at him and he drew his smallsword and swung at the reaching thing. The sword scraped across the wall, cutting the piece of paper in half. That was when he realized the only way to make sure it never happened again: digest the terrible papers.
He dropped his sword and grabbed the papers, shoving them in his mouth and chewing them. They tasted foul.
â€œStop!â€ Flint shouted. â€œWe already had breakfast!â€
â€œGive me the papers!â€ Ackworth screamed between bites. â€œGive me the papers! Give me the papers!â€
Flint swung his blunderbuss off his back and aimed at the man, terrified. Ackworth looked at the gun but ignored the man, continuing to rip the papers from the wall and shoving them in his mouth. The ink ran, blackening his mouth.
â€œWhereâ€™s Theo!?!â€ Flint cried out, tears running down his face.
â€œDoes Theo have papers!?!â€ Ackworth screamed.
â€œCalm yourself, Mr. Ackworth!â€ Fowler shouted at him.
â€œDoes anybody still have papers!â€ the enraged Ackworth shouted back.
He continued tearing down the flyers on Cannon Street, shoving them into his mouth and nearly choking on the heavy paper and the foul-tasting black ink. Fowler moved to the man, taking out his musket, and tried to club the man with the butt of it. He only managed a glancing blow on the manâ€™s arm. Ackworth ignored him and continued to eat the papers.
â€œWhat the hell are you doing!?!â€ Jeagar said to Fowler.
â€œI â€¦â€ Fowler said.
He put his musket back on his back and they all just watched the man eating the papers for a minute and a half or so.
â€œAre you okay, sir?â€ Jeagar said when he finally stopped.
Ackworth spit out several pieces of paper, hacking up some that were still in his throat.
â€œYou see?â€ Jeagar said. â€œI told you these posters were up to no good.â€
â€œWhy did you do that?â€ Flint said, face wet with tears.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œHave you gone mad, Mr. Ackworth?â€ Fowler said.
â€œHavenâ€™t â€¦ havenâ€™t we â€¦ yes,â€ Ackworth said. â€œYes.â€
He thought upon it.
â€œIt was a rather â€¦ intriguing experience,â€ he said.
â€œI can imagine,â€ Fowler said. â€œYou just ate several pieces of paper!â€
â€œWell, letâ€™s go see Joseph Gill!â€ Ackworth said, his voice cracking.
They continued on to the shop of Joseph Gill and found the place locked up and the shutters closed. They proceeded around the back, through several yards, and found the back door open, the lock broken. The shop inside was dim and they found the man in the corner, staring at the small printing press.
â€œThat must be Joseph Gill,â€ Jeagar said. â€œJoseph?â€
â€œJoseph Gill, is that you?â€ Fowler said.
Jeagar moved into the building but to one side. The others approached the man.
â€œJoseph, whatâ€™s going on here?â€ Ackworth asked.
The man muttered to himself.
â€œJoseph, itâ€™s okay,â€ Fowler said. â€œThereâ€™s nothing here.â€
Flint went to the printing press. Jeagar moved to the coin purse.
â€œHave you seen â€¦ the Yellow Sign?â€ Gill asked, pointing at the press. â€œI have seen the Yellow Sign.â€
â€œWhat is the Yellow Sign?â€ Fowler asked.
â€œIâ€™ve seen the Yellow Sign,â€ Gill said. â€œIâ€™ve seen it and itâ€™s there.â€
â€œWhat about the coin purse, Joseph?â€ Ackworth asked.
â€œThe Yellow Sign â€¦â€ Gill said again.
â€œThe coin purse, Joseph,â€ Ackworth said.
Flint walked up to the printing press, aiming his blunderbuss at it. He saw the type form with the inverted symbol and it seemed to move a little but didnâ€™t come at him. He thought of shooting the press but realized it would not damage it much. An axe or a hatchet might. He remembered Jeagar carried a hatchet so asked for it.
â€œWhere did you get that coin purse?â€ Ackworth asked. â€œDid someone pay you to do this?â€
â€œItâ€™s â€¦ itâ€™s the coins,â€ Gill said. â€œThe coins.â€
â€œOh, what?â€ Jeagar said. â€œThese coins?â€
He picked up the pouch of gold doubloons.
â€œAre the coins the Yellow Sign?â€ Fowler said.
â€œNo!â€ Gill said. â€œNo! No!â€
Jeagar inspected the coins but they looked like typical Spanish doubloons.
â€œNo, it doesnâ€™t look like it,â€ he said.
â€œNo,â€ Gill said. â€œNo. No. No. No. The press. Itâ€™s the press.â€
â€œDid the press make the coins?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œNo,â€ Gill said. â€œThe coins. No. No. No.â€
â€œWho paid you?â€™ Ackworth said.
â€œThe man!â€ Gill said.
â€œWhat man?â€ Fowler said.
â€œThe Spanish priest!â€ Gill said.
â€œThe Spanish priest?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œThe Spanish priest?â€ Fowler said.
â€œHeâ€™s from Spain!â€ Jeagar said as tears flowed form Gillâ€™s eyes.
â€œWas it the priest on York Street?â€ Ackworth asked.
Jeagar pocketed the coins.
â€œHe came to me three nights ago,â€ Gill said. â€œHe had a wallet filled with gold and a request. He wanted â€¦ he wanted a thousand printed pieces of paper with a symbol. He worked with me for some hours on Wednesday and Thursday to get the type form. We had to have it just right and then he left him to do the work Thursday night.
â€œBut the symbol â€¦ the symbol â€¦ itâ€™s alive!â€
Gill grabbed Ackworth by the lapels of his jacket.
â€œEvery printing â€¦ it reached for me, lunged at me!â€ Gill said. â€œOnly my speed at the press kept it contained. It was mesmerizing. I couldnâ€™t stop.â€
Flint had gotten the hatchet from Jeagar and went over to the press. He started striking the press with the hatchet, startling them all.
â€œI was awoken Friday morning by the man,â€ Gill went on, ignoring the noise. â€œHe paid me and took the printed papers. But he left the type form on the printing press! He said it was a â€˜gift.â€™â€
He laughed hysterically.
â€œI canâ€™t leave the shop!â€ he said. â€œI locked it up because â€¦ itâ€™ll escape! Itâ€™ll do terrible things! I know itâ€™s here! Itâ€™s waiting for me to leave!â€
He looked at Flint over Ackworthâ€™s shoulder.
â€œKill it!â€ he shrieked. â€œKill it! Kill the type form! Kill it!â€
â€œI am,â€ Flint said.
â€œThatâ€™s the press! Not the type form!â€ Gill screamed. â€œThe type form! The type form!â€
â€œWhere is it?â€ Jeagar said.
Flint went back to destroying the press.
â€œHeâ€™s killing it!â€ Gill screamed. â€œTell him to kill the type form! The type form!â€
â€œMr. Ackworth, can we set it on fire?â€ Fowler said. â€œWould that do it?â€
Gill laughed insanely again.
â€œKill it!â€ he screamed. â€œKill it!â€
Ackworth grabbed the manâ€™s wrists and pulled himself free of the madman. He looked around as Fowler approached the press. He picked up a burlap bag and dumped the paper out of it. Then he headed for the press.
â€œMr. Ackworth, hand the bag to me,â€ Fowler said.
Ackworth ignored him, removing the type form from the machine and shoving it into the bag. Flint continued to chop up the press as Gill giggled and bawled madly.
â€œYou did it, Flint!â€ Jeagar said.
â€œI did it,â€ Flint said.
Fowler went back to Gill and tried to comfort the printer, managing to calm him down somewhat.
â€œHe was a bald man,â€ Gill muttered to him. â€œHe had a beard and mustache. A priest. Black robes. Spanish. Brown skin and a thick accent. He had fire in his eyes. He said Sodom and Gomorrah was coming soon.â€
Someone banged on the front door of the shop.
â€œWho is it?â€ Flint said.
Ackworth ran out the back door.
â€œJoseph Gill, open up this door!â€ a voice from outside called.
â€œJoseph Gill from Cannon Street?â€ Flint asked.
â€œOpen this door, Joseph Gill!â€ the man on the other side called. â€œYou are under arrest for dissention and for spreading rumors, lies, and creating a riot.â€
â€œOne moment,â€ Flint called.
He and Jeagar fled out the back as Fowler went to the front door. As soon as he opened the door, the red-coated soldiers pushed their way in.
â€œJoseph Gill!?!â€ one of them yelled at Fowler.
â€œIâ€™m not Joseph Gill!â€ Fowler said.
â€œYouâ€™re under arrest!â€ the soldier yelled.
â€œIâ€™m not Joseph Gill!â€ Fowler yelled.
â€œWhere is Joseph Gill!?!â€ the man yelled at him.
â€œHeâ€™s right there!â€ Fowler said, pointing. â€œHeâ€™s that man in the corner.â€
â€œJoseph Gill!â€ the soldier yelled at the man.
He turned to Fowler.
â€œYou stay where you are!â€ he said.
He turned back to Gill who laughed insanely at him.
The soldiers took both Gill and Fowler though the latter was released within an hour, narrowly avoiding looking at the terrible Yellow Sign during his questioning when a soldier shoved it in his face and demanded to know what he knew about it. Gill was taken away, screaming for them to please put his eyes out.
Fowler got safely home some time later.
* * *
Ackworth found a lead smith and paid the man to melt down the lead type form. He paid the man a pound and told him to melt it down in the bag. It didnâ€™t take long to melt the type form down, the bag burning up the in the process. He told the smith to keep the lead.
* * *
Jeagar got together with them at dinner that night at the Catt and Fiddle and suggested they stay up that night to look for whomever was putting up the strange signs and sigils.
â€œDid you destroy the type form?â€ Fowler asked Ackworth.
The man nodded.
â€œGood,â€ Fowler said. â€œThey have Mr. Gill in custody. They had me as well but they let me go.â€
â€œYou should have gone out the back,â€ Ackworth said.
They shared what information they had learned that day, Fowler telling them what the Spanish priest looked like.
â€œThe Spaniards!â€ Jeagar said.
He suggested they watch the streets that night and catch the priest who was putting up the signs. Flint pointed out that man didnâ€™t have a printing press anymore so there was no point. Jeagar noted the hand drawn sigils they saw two days before but Flint said he couldnâ€™t do it all in one night. When Fowler said he had done that before, the man simply stated they didnâ€™t know if that had all been done in one night.
Ackworth said heâ€™d go visit the other printer in town and Fowler went with him. They found the man had printed some pamphlets and the like but it was obviously unrelated. Ackworth warned him about the strange Spanish priest and the symbol. The printer wanted nothing to do with it. At all. Ackworth paid the man to inform on the Spaniard if he came around and the printer was happy to help. He even opened a drawer to show the man a flintlock pistol and said he would detain him if the gentleman wished, or even shoot him if that was his preference.
â€œIâ€™ll leave that up to you,â€ Ackworth said.
They returned to the Catt and Fiddle some time later and discussed watching over the town.
â€œIâ€™m going with Mr. Jeagar â€˜cause heâ€™s going to let me shoot if I have to,â€ Flint said.
â€œIâ€™ll accompany you,â€ Theo said.
â€œFinally!â€ Flint said.
His brother stank of sweat and sex.
In the end, they all decided to keep watch through the night.
* * *
There were no new instances of the Yellow Sign being painted or posted in Port Royal on Monday, June 2, 1692. It was another hot and beautiful day in Jamaica. They were all exhausted from staying up through most of the night, avoiding the small groups of roaming soldiers, and looking for any evil-doers and mischief-makers.
Dr. Merriam Leighlin had even less sleep than the others. He had acquired a distinct fear of the dark and so ordered his assistants to keep candles and lanterns burning through the night. When he did try to sleep, he was often awoken by his own screams as he had terrible and terrifying dreams of the Yellow Sign, the King in Yellow, and some horrible city.
When he would awake screaming, one of his assistants would run into the room.
â€œAre you okay, Master?â€ the man said.
â€œGet out!â€ Dr. Leighlin yelled at the man. â€œNo!â€
â€œYes, master!â€ the man cried out, fleeing in panic. â€œYes, master!â€
This continued through the early morning hours and the physician got little sleep.
That morning, he had his assistants bring his breakfast and he ate on the balcony that overlooked the North Docks. He picked at his food. Nothing tasted good and he was completely exhausted. He watched the people walking by and the ships being unloaded.
He noticed a wagon being driven down the street with a coffin in the back. The driver wore black and had a white, puffy face that made Dr. Leighlin think of a coffin worm. As he passed the balcony, he looked up at Dr. Leighlin and stared at the man as he went by.
It was quite off-putting.
* * *
â€œIâ€™m going to follow Mr. Jeagar,â€ Flint Dawson said to his brother Theo when he got up that morning. â€œBecause at least heâ€™s there.â€
He left their tiny room without another word.
* * *
They all met for breakfast at the Catt and Fiddle later that morning.
â€œFlint!â€ Jeagar said.
â€œYes?â€ Flint replied.
â€œI found where the captain misplaced your payment.â€
â€œYeah. It was in strange, Spanish money.â€
Jeagar handed Flint half the gold doubloons heâ€™d found in the printerâ€™s house the day before. Ackworth, Fowler, and Flint had all noticed the small coin purse, actually.
â€œOh!â€ Flint said. â€œThank you! These are really shiny.â€
He looked at the doubloons.
â€œWait,â€ he said. â€œHold on a second.â€
He bit one of the coins.
â€œHey!â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s real.â€
He looked at Jeagar.
â€œWhere can I even spend these?â€ Flint said.
â€œWherever you want,â€ Jeagar said.
Flint looked across the table to Ackworth.
â€œIâ€™m not going to tell him I have money for breakfast because I donâ€™t want to spend it,â€ he said.
Dr. Leighlin wasnâ€™t eating. He looked shaken.
â€œAre you okay?â€ Fowler said.
â€œYou love the goose,â€ Jeagar said.
Dr. Leighlin let out a shriek.
â€œWhy are you not eating?â€ Flint said.
â€œI â€¦ I donâ€™t feel like it,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œCan you order something on his money and just give it to me?â€ Flint said.
â€œJust order what you want,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œI did,â€ Flint said.
â€œSo, youâ€™re hungry again, Mr. Flint?â€ Fowler said.
â€œAlways,â€ Flint replied. â€œYou never know when youâ€™re not going to be able to eat again. Right, Theo?â€
â€œThat is so true,â€ Theo replied.
â€œIâ€™ve always been able to eat,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œRemember that one time when we didnâ€™t eat for three days?â€ Flint said. â€œAnd I almost thought about eating you?â€
â€œOh ho ho, brother!â€ Theo said. â€œFunny times.â€
He didnâ€™t like the memory.
â€œExcuse me,â€ a man said, stepping up to the table. â€œWhich one of you is looking into this whole sign thing?â€
â€œUh â€¦â€ Fowler said.
â€œIs it you?â€ the man said.
â€œNo,â€ Fowler said. â€œOf course not.â€
The man was disheveled and nondescript with messy hair, a beard, and a mustache.
â€œWhat sign thing?â€ Fowler said. â€œI donâ€™t know anything about this sign thing.â€
â€œI have seen the signs,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œYouâ€™ve seen the signs,â€ the man replied.
â€œIâ€™ve seen things, sirâ”€â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œI believe weâ€™ve all seen the signs,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œHe wears no mask!â€ the man said, drawing a dagger and lunging at Dr. Leighlin.
The physician moved to one side and pushed the manâ€™s arm away. Fowler leapt up and rushed the man, punching him solidly in the face. The man stumbled backwards. Dr. Leighlin drew his own knife and tried to cut the man but only tore his clothing. Ackworth drew his smallsword and tried to stab the man, who leapt to one side. Across the table, Flint stood up, pulled the blunderbuss from his shoulder, and blasted the man, blowing off his right arm.
The arm was ripped from the manâ€™s body and he spun around twice before sagging to the ground, dead. A spray of blood spewed all over Dr. Leighlin, Ackworth, and Fowler. Theo had leapt out of his chair and was not touched.
People leapt from their chairs in the tavern, crying out in alarm.
â€œOh my God!â€ one man yelled. â€œSuch a disturbance! Iâ€™m trying to eat my breakfast!â€
â€œLook out, itâ€™s that madman!â€ a woman cried out, pointing at Flint. â€œHe kills people!â€
â€œHe had a knife!â€ another person screamed.
The confusion lasted for nearly 10 minutes before it was worked out the man had drawn a knife and attacked Dr. Leighlin and the gunfire had been in self defense. Peter Litton went to get a mop while Flint carried the corpse outside.
â€œSorry for the mess,â€ Flint called.
Litton picked up the arm and flung it into the street with the body.
Ackworth gave the barkeep some money and told him he wasnâ€™t there. Litton was happy to comply.
Jeagar, meanwhile, searched the body. The man didnâ€™t have any money on him but he did find a piece of paper in his pocket. It was a printed map of Port Royal with nice places on High Street and Lime Street marked with an â€œx.â€ They formed a â€œVâ€ starting where the two streets met and going down perhaps 400 feet along each street, at least according to the scale of feet noted in one corner of the odd map.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, everyone,â€ Flint said when he returned to the table.
â€œItâ€™s all right, Flint,â€ Theo said. â€œNot your fault.â€
Litton approached the table and told them their breakfast was on the house due to the incident.
â€œYou donâ€™t have to pay, Breakfast Man,â€ Flint said to Ackworth.
â€œLook,â€ Jeagar said, brandishing the map. â€œLooks like they were going to do something on these streets.â€
â€œHold on,â€ Flint said, picking up the map.
â€œWhat street is that?â€ Fowler said.
â€œWhat do these â€˜xâ€™s mean?â€ Flint asked.
â€œThere might be treasure!â€ Jeagar said.
Flintâ€™s eyes opened wide.
â€œI think I know where this is â€¦â€ Flint said. â€œBut I canâ€™t read.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll have to go after breakfast,â€ Jeagar said.
Fowler was not really hungry for breakfast anymore. Flint reached across and took the manâ€™s food.
Dr. Leighlin had taken out a handkerchief and wiped the blood off his face. Then he sat once again, taking his brandy and staring off into the distance.
After they ate, they went to the corner of High Street and Lime Street. The wide, sandy street was filled with traffic, not unusual for two of the busiest streets in the port at that time of day. Nothing seemed strange or unusual as they approached the intersection from the north. They continued on to the places the markings seemed to indicate on the map, spreading out. Several of them noticed a divot in the sand in the spots where the markings lay. In those divots, the sand had sunk slightly.
Both Fowler and Flint noticed a couple of Negroes who seemed to be watching the group: a man and a woman. When they saw the two notice them, they turned and walked away. Fowler headed off, following them.
â€œI think thereâ€™s something bad over there we should look at,â€ Flint said to Jeagar.
Jeagar looked in that direction. There were dozens of people, several houses, and even a few ships visible.
â€œYou mean Sam?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œYeah, I think he saw them too,â€ Flint said.
Fowler went around the corner as Flint reloaded his blunderbuss in the middle of the street.
The two of them followed Fowler, Theo close behind them, but the man was gone by the time they got to the corner where he had disappeared.
â€œHe has to be around here somewhere,â€ Flint said. â€œLetâ€™s just keep looking.â€
They wandered away.
* * *
Fowler followed the two Negroes down to Cannon Street where they talked to several other slaves and servants around Joseph Gillâ€™s print shop. After watching them for a while, he casually walked by them in the street, hoping to catch part of the conversation. They seemed to be questioning the people about Joseph Gill and he heard one of the servants tell them the man had gone mad and was arrested for printing heretical pamphlets.
He went back to watching them from a distance.
* * *
Ackworth drew his smallsword and stabbed it into the divot.
â€œExcuse me, sir!â€ a man called from behind him.
He looked around to see a wagon being pulled by a horse standing there, trying to get by.
â€œOne moment!â€ Ackworth called. â€œIâ€™m investigating here! Here. Take this. Go around me.â€
He handed the man two pounds.
â€œYes sir!â€ the man said. â€œGo around this man! Heâ€™ll give you two pounds!â€
He pulled his horse to one side and went around the man. Others started to walk towards Ackworth. He quickly stabbed the sword down into the sand, putting as much weight on it as he could. The weapon went down about two feet, nearly to the hilt, and then struck something. It shouldnâ€™t have.
â€œIâ€™m waiting for my two pounds, sir,â€ someone behind him said.
â€œHereâ€™s your two pounds,â€ Ackworth said, tossing the coins at the man.
As he walked away, he heard a woman clear her throat behind him.
â€œOh,â€ she said. â€œUm â€¦ damn!â€
â€œSorry,â€ Ackworth said. â€œYou lost your chance.â€
The woman cried a little bit and walked away as Ackworth headed off to buy a shovel. He found Dr. Leighlin wandering around Lime Street, looking at the sand but obviously oblivious to anything there.
Ackworth returned to the spot where heâ€™d found the divot and noticed a red-coated soldier nearby. The man had a musket on his back, the bayonet already mounted. He approached the soldier.
â€œYes sir?â€ the soldier said. â€œMay I help you, sir?â€
â€œIâ€™m doing a big of investigation on these strange occurrences,â€ Ackworth said. â€œAnd I need to do some excavation on this road.â€
â€œOn High Street?â€
â€œYes, just a small, little section of it.â€
â€œOn High Street?â€
â€œOn the busiest street â€¦â€
â€œâ€¦ in the whole God damned town.â€
You realize â€¦ no! No, sir. Thatâ€™s ridiculous. Thereâ€™s too much traffic. Thereâ€™s too many people trying to go back and forth. Itâ€™s too busy. Iâ€™m sorry. Excavation? Whatâ€™re you? Some kind of â€¦ excavator?â€
He looked at the man.
â€œIâ€™m sorry sir,â€ the soldier said. â€œWe canâ€™t stop traffic on High Street. Itâ€™s a very busy street.â€
â€œWe have reason to believe that there are precious mineral deposits underneath the earth,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œThereâ€™s sand underneath the earth!â€ the soldier said.
Dr. Leighlin took out three pounds in coins. The soldier looked at it greedily.
â€œAll right,â€ the soldier said. â€œI think thatâ€™s all right.â€
He pocketed the money.
â€œDonâ€™t you be taking too long sir,â€ he said to Ackworth.
â€œAll right,â€ Ackworth replied.
â€œSirs,â€ the soldier said.
â€œFor the Queen.â€
â€œGod bless the King and the Queen.â€
Ackworth handed Leighlin a shovel and they went to the spot on the street. As Ackworth began digging, people started to shout at him and curse at him to get out of the way.
â€œOh, p*** off!â€ Dr. Leighlin yelled.
Ackworth just grinned and kept working. Someone threw a rotten tomato at the man but he persevered. After an hour or so of digging and taking abuse, he came to a little circle of basalt about a foot in diameter. Digging a little further revealed it was some kind of pillar or plinth.
â€œDo you want to come back tonight or do you want to continue?â€ he asked Dr. Leighlin.
â€œGet out of the damned way, you stupid git!â€ someone yelled.
â€œI honestly canâ€™t take any more of this,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œI donâ€™t know why I decided to do this anyway, so â€¦ weâ€™ll come back in the morning.â€
â€œIâ€™m gonna whip you upside youâ€™re stupid ugly face!â€
â€œI said â€˜p*** off!â€™â€
Dr. Leighlin walked away.
â€œFill in that God-damned hole you stupid â€¦ pansy!â€ the man yelled.
Ackworth removed one of his gloves and turned to the man, who was quite small but very loud. He slapped the little man across the face with his glove.
â€œBert!â€ the little man shouted. â€œGet over here! I got a duel to fight again! Clem! Câ€™mere!â€
Two very large men got out of the back of the wagon as the little man lifted his fists and started dancing around.
â€œCâ€™mon!â€ he shouted. â€œCâ€™mon! Iâ€™ve got this! Clem, back me up! Bert!â€
â€œOh, weâ€™ll back you up,â€ Bert said.
â€œThatâ€™s a pretty pansy move, donâ€™t you think?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œOh! Oh! Coming from a dandy!?!â€ the little man said. â€œComing from a dandy!?! Oh! Oh! Iâ€™ve got the moves! Iâ€™ve got the moves!â€
â€œI may be a dandy but Iâ€™m not a pansy.â€
â€œBert, punch him in the face a few times!â€
â€œBertâ€™s gonna punch me in the face! Thatâ€™s a pretty pansy move! Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m talking about!â€
â€œOh, you call me a pansy! Iâ€™m insulted, sir!â€
The man looked around for something to hit Ackworth with. Unable to find anything, he took of his disgusting, sweaty shirt and slapped the man in the face with it. It left Ackworthâ€™s face dripping wet.
Dr. Leighlin ran back down the street and grabbed Ackworth by the arm.
â€œMan. My God, what are you doing?â€ he said to him.
â€œAre they your seconds?â€ Ackworth asked.
â€œTheyâ€™re my firsts!â€ the little man yelled.
â€œWell, then, why are you here?â€
â€œCâ€™mon! Take a swing, you dandy!â€
â€œWe havenâ€™t even declared the time and day!â€
â€œIt is now! Letâ€™s go!â€
â€œIs it now?â€
Ackworth turned and walked away.
â€œOh!â€ the little man called after him. â€œLeave a hole in the road! Oh!â€
â€œI was going to fill it, but not now!â€ Ackworth called back.
They yelled insults at the man as he left. He heard others complaining as he and Dr. Leighlin left the scene.
* * *
Jeagar, Flint, and Theo finally found Fowler on Cannon Street. He told them what he was doing. They saw the Negroes talking to other people and, after following them for a little while, Fowler approached one of those people they questioned after they had moved on.
â€œOut of curiosity, what were they asking you about?â€ he asked.
â€œIâ€™m sure I donâ€™t know,â€ the hapless servant answered. â€œThey want to know whatâ€™s happening in Port Royal.â€
â€œDid they say anything about the symbols?â€
â€œWell, they were asking about them. They seemed quite concerned.â€
â€œQuite concerned with â€¦?â€
â€œWith the symbols.â€
â€œIn what way?â€
â€œThey were worried.â€
â€œThey were worried about the symbols.â€
â€œThatâ€™s how it seemed to me.â€
He learned the two were asking about the symbols and about the strange occurrences in Port Royal. He returned to the others and told them what he learned and the three continued to follow them at a distance. They told him about what they had learned as well.
Through the rest of the day, the two men questioned people around Port Royal, mostly restricting themselves to servants and slaves in the town. At the end of the day they went to a house where they had probably a rented room.
* * *
Dr. Leighlin saw the strange, pale, puffy-faced man several times during the day. At least once, the man was just staring at him from across the street before he moved on. Once he was sitting on the side of the street. Another time he was walking by.
* * *
Eventually, they all got together around dinnertime.
â€œHello Flint,â€ Ackworth said. â€œWould you like to dig a hole tonight?â€
â€œWhy, Breakfast Man?â€ Flint said.
â€œOh, just to dig it.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s in it?â€
â€œWell â€¦ we donâ€™t know yet. Itâ€™s a surprise.â€
â€œMy brother shall dig no holes unless thereâ€™s compensation, my good man,â€ Theo said.
â€œWell, of course thereâ€™ll be compensation!â€ Ackworth said.
â€œYouâ€™ll have to pay up firsthand!â€ Theo said.
â€œNo!â€ Flint said. â€œWait! I donâ€™t want money. Give me breakfast and lunch tomorrow!â€
â€œWeâ€™ve got a deal!â€ Ackworth said.
Theo just glared at the man.
* * *
Flint, Theo, Jeagar, and Ackworth returned to the spot late that evening, well after midnight. Ackworth pointed out the spot and they dug for two hours to uncover it again. They found a small, basalt pillar, perhaps a foot in diameter and six feet tall. The pit they ended up digging was about eight feet deep. The pillar did not appear to be attached to anything so they dragged it out of the ground.
They filled the hole back in and manhandled the pillar back to Ackworthâ€™s house. Ackworth examined it closely and found it was roughly made but very solid.
Flint asked if he could sleep at Ackworthâ€™s house that night and the man obliged him, giving him a guest room. Flint enjoyed the feather bed.
* * *
* * *
On Tuesday, June 3, 1692, Theo woke up early to find his brother not in their bed, surprisingly. He thought sure someone was taking advantage of the mental deficient. He got up and went out in search of his brother. He decided to head down to the Catt and the Fiddle and thought to himself that his brother had better be there.
* * *
Both Fowler and Dr. Leighlin had terrible dreams that night, once again about the Yellow Sign, the King in Yellow, and a terrible city with tall towers and terrifying visages. Something seemed to pursue them through the city.
Dr. Leighlin also had nightmares about the man with the maggot-white colored skin heâ€™d seen several times the day before. He continually woke in terror, screaming often when he did so. Gregory and Giovanni came into his room whenever he awoke with a cry but he drove them off. He did not have a good nightâ€™s sleep but he did eventually tell the two young men what heâ€™d dreamt of and to beware of the man in black with the terribly pale skin as he had followed him. They brought him brandy to aid his sleep but it didnâ€™t help either.
* * *
The streets of Port Royal were confusing that day. Though the town was very small and they were all familiar with every street and house, that day some of them had a terrible time finding their way to the tavern to meet the others for breakfast. Flint was very confused but Ackworth guided him to the tavern.
Dr. Leighlin was very confused by the streets. He got completely lost and was very disturbed by getting lost in a town he knew like the back of his hand. He finally managed to get to the Catt and the Fiddle but he realized something was terribly wrong. He was the last to arrive, and was shaken when he got there, looking around in confusion and touching the walls as if unsure if they were real.
â€œI got to sleep in my own bed,â€ Flint told Theo.
â€œDid any of you have trouble getting here?â€ Dr. Leighlin asked.
â€œUh â€¦ I mean it was a little strange but â€¦ no,â€ Fowler said.
â€œNo,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œWhy would I have trouble?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œI never walked from his house so I was a little confused,â€ Flint said.
â€œI went straight across the road and I ended up beside the church,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œThere was no way.â€
â€œMaybe it was God.â€
â€œThis is no time for that!â€
â€œI heard he was real.â€
â€œYouâ€™ve got to help me. I feel like Iâ€™m losing my mind.â€
â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ Fowler said. â€œWeâ€™ll get to the bottom of this â€¦ somehow.â€
â€œYou seem a lot different,â€ Flint said to the doctor. â€œYou seem a lot stranger.â€
â€œWell â€¦â€ Dr. Leighlin said uncertainly.
â€œHe speaks his mind,â€ Theo said. â€œThatâ€™s for sure.â€
â€œLike he wasnâ€™t strange already?â€ Fowler said.
Dr. Leighlin said nothing. He tried to eat something.
They discussed the markings and told the others what they had found in the hole: a six-foot high and one-foot diameter basalt pillar.
â€œIn the street?â€ Dr. Leighlin asked.
â€œIn the street,â€ Ackworth said. â€œStanding straight up.â€
â€œUnder the street,â€ Flint said.
â€œUnder the street,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œAnd I had to pick it up,â€ Flint said.
â€œAnd we have reason to believe that there are eight more,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œEight more,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œSpread across the city.â€
â€œIâ€™m not doing that eight more times,â€ Flint said.
â€œSpread across the city,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œWhy on Earth?â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œLet me see it.â€
â€œDo you know some men who could help us dig?â€ Ackworth asked Jeagar. â€œSome good, trustworthy men?â€
â€œYes, I do,â€ Jeagar said.
Ackworth ordered Jeagar to get some men while he would go and get some digging supplies.
â€œHow much should I tell them weâ€™re going to pay them?â€ Jeagar asked.
â€œWhat do you think a fair wage is?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œAnd Iâ€™ll get shovels and a cart to carry them this time.â€
â€œThat sounds better for my back. My leg almost broke.â€
â€œMaybe a few lanterns. Make sure these men are ready to tussle.â€
Jeagar told him about the Negroes who were asking around the town about what was happening in Port Royal. He also told them where the two had been staying, according to Fowler.
* * *
Fowler and Dr. Leighton left, going to the courthouse to look into what had happened to Joseph Gill. They learned the arraignment was to be Wednesday and a trial was set for Thursday. The man he talked to guessed Gill would be fined or perhaps imprisoned for some time. There were rumors Gill had gone mad, however, so it was possible he would be imprisoned for his own good.
* * *
â€œâ€˜And then there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground,â€™â€ they heard a man in a Spanish accent call out on the street.
Flint, Theo, and Jeagar had left the inn for their various errands when they heard the voice and looked down the street to see a man in a Catholic Priestâ€™s robes preaching.
â€œâ€˜And he said, Behold no, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servantâ€™s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways,â€™â€ the Spanish priest went on. â€œâ€˜And they said Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.â€™â€
As they approached, they saw he was a bald man with a mustache and goatee and dark skin like a Spaniard. Though none of them were particularly religious, they recognized the name â€œLotâ€ as part of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
â€œThe Lord smote the cities for their wicked ways and shall smite this one as well,â€ the priest cried out. â€œHe is coming here, here to Port Royal. Death and destruction are coming. You â€¦ you must make peace with God. You must confess in order to pass into Heaven rather than burn in Hell when the city shall soon be destroyed!â€
Most people walked by, ignoring the man. A few spared him a glance but otherwise did not pay much attention to him. Others rolled their eyes as they walked by. He continued to preach about the destruction of the city.
â€œIsnâ€™t that the Spaniard that paid Joseph Gill?â€ Flint asked.
â€œI believe it is,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œShall we arrest him?â€ Flint said.
â€œYou canâ€™t arrest him, brother,â€ Theo said. â€œYouâ€™re not a constable.â€
â€œShall we follow him instead?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œYeah,â€ Flint said. â€œI want to ask him why Port Royal will be destroyed. Should I talk to him?â€
â€œThatâ€™s not a bad idea,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œOkay,â€ Flint said.
â€œIâ€™m going to hide here in the shadows and follow him when he goes,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œTheo, do you have my back?â€ Flint said.
â€œAbsolutely, dear brother,â€ Theo said.
Flint walked down the street and crossed to the priest, who continued to preach fire and brimstone, of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed for their sins, utterly annihilated, the entire valley decimated, and everyone dead. Lot had been warned to leave by God and told not to look back. His wife looked back at the destruction and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Flint knew the story. He knew Abraham had pleaded for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, asking God if he would spare the city if he could find 40 righteous men. God complied. Then Abraham asked he would not destroy the cities if he found 30 righteous men, and God agreed. He asked about 20 righteous men and God agreed. Finally he asked if God would spare the city if he could find 10 righteous men and God, once more, agreed.
The Spaniard preached that, as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their sins so, too, would Port Royal be destroyed for its sins.
Flint sat on the ground and listened.
â€œHow do we save it?â€ Flint asked.
â€œYou canâ€™t!â€ the priest said. â€œYou cannot save it. You cannot save the city. You can only save yourself â€¦ by confessing your sins to a good Catholic priest. And then â€¦ then your soul, at least, will go to Heaven when you are destroyed with all of â€¦ all of this wickedness, this terrible wickedness.â€
â€œThen letâ€™s all leave!â€
â€œThere is no escape. The souls of the damned will still burn in hell.â€
â€œHow long do we have?â€
â€œYou do not have long. Saturday. The end comes Saturday.â€
The priest went on with his preaching about the destruction of the cities. He finally finished it up and looked with contempt at the people passing him by on the street and ignoring him. Flint looked around and saw Theo talking to someone but constantly looking in his direction.
â€œTheo!â€ Flint yelled at his brother. â€œWe got â€˜til Saturday! Port Royalâ€™s going to be destroyed on Saturday!â€
â€œWho are you talking to?â€ the priest said.
â€œâ€˜Cause heâ€™s my brother.â€
â€œWhy? Why do you speak to your brother? Will he confess? Will he confess his sins?â€
â€œHe doesnâ€™t believe in God.â€
â€œDo you believe in God?â€
â€œYou should believe in him with your heart and soul because if you do not confess your sins you will burn in the pits of Hell for all eternity!â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to do that.â€
â€œThen you must confess your sins.â€
â€œTell me. Say â€˜Bless me father, for I have sinned.â€™â€
â€œBless me father, for I have sinned.â€
â€œâ€˜It has been â€¦ I have never had a confession.â€™â€
â€œI have never had a confession.â€
â€œNow, you must tell me your sins. What have you done that has angered God? What commandments have you broken? How many have you killed?â€
â€œI killed a man.â€
â€œYou killed a man?â€
â€œHow many men have you killed?â€
â€œTheo says itâ€™s the big number.â€
â€œThe big number? A hundred men you have killed? A thousand men you have killed?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know how big that is but I donâ€™t know how many â€¦ but I did kill one yesterday.â€
â€œDo you regret your sins?â€
â€œNo, they were bad!â€
â€œKilling is a sin, my child.â€
â€œBut I kill bad people.â€
â€œIt is still a sin. You will go to Hell if you do not confess and repent of your sins.â€
Theo had made his way across the street and was moving up behind the priest.
â€œYou must confess your sins and regret the terrible things you have done,â€ the priest said to Flint. â€œKilling is wrong. Have you stolen?â€
â€œYes,â€ Flint said, matter-of-factly.
â€œIt is a sin.â€
â€œI would die if I didnâ€™t steal.â€
â€œIt is better to die a saint than live a sinner.â€
Theo had made his way behind the Spaniard and poked a pistol into his back. The priest stood up straight and looked over his shoulder at the man.
â€œYou would threaten a priest?â€ he said. â€œWhat kind of sinner are you?â€
â€œTheo!â€ Flint said. â€œWhat are you doing?â€
â€œHeâ€™s threatening a man of God, my child,â€ the priest said.
â€œTheo, Iâ€™m trying to confess my sins so I donâ€™t burn in hell!â€
â€œWho is this sinner?â€
â€œThatâ€™s my brother behind you.â€
â€œYou should get down on my knees and confess your sins.â€
Theo leaned forward.
â€œIf you want to live, youâ€™ll go into the street that is right adjacent to us,â€ he whispered.
â€œOh,â€ the priest said. â€œYou wish to rob me. You are a sinner too.â€
He turned to Flint.
â€œYour brother is a sinner,â€ he said. â€œIt makes me sad in my heart.â€
â€œAm I saved yet?â€ Flint said.
â€œNot unless you stop your brother from robbing me.â€
â€œI told him to stop!â€
â€œYou must take his pistol away.â€
â€œWhat more can I do?â€
â€œYou must take his pistol away. Or God â€¦ God will cry upon you.â€
â€œMr. Jeagar! We need help!â€
The priest moved towards the narrow street as he had been told, hands still down by his side.
â€œStop yelling and just go get him,â€ Theo said to Flint.
â€œWell, maybe donâ€™t hold someone at gunpoint in daylight,â€ Flint said.
â€œWell, maybe donâ€™t argue! And go get him.â€
â€œI was trying to save my soul!â€
Jeagar headed across the street towards them.
â€œMr. Jeagar, I was trying to confess my sins and then Theo pointed a gun at him,â€ Flint said, stopping Jeagar in the street.
â€œThe preacher is probably a liar,â€ Jeagar told him. â€œHe doesnâ€™t even believe in God.â€
â€œWhat? He lied to me?â€
â€œMore than likely.â€
They looked around and realized they had lost sight of Theo and the priest.
â€œWeâ€™d better see whatâ€™s going on,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œYeah, weâ€™d better catch up,â€ Flint said.
They headed for the side street.
* * *
The priest had moved up the side street and then turned to Theo.
â€œWill you kill a man of God?â€ he asked the man.
He backed away from Theo.
â€œYou cannot stop what is happening.â€
Theo followed the man, picking up the pace.
â€œDonâ€™t be a fool!â€ the priest said.
He turned and ran. Theo gave chase.
* * *
When Jeagar and Flint reached the side street, they saw the priest running away towards the other end, followed closely by Theo.
â€œGo protect your brother!â€ Jeagar said. â€œQuick! Iâ€™m too slow!â€
Flint picked up Jeagar, who cursed.
â€œPut me down!â€ Jeagar said. â€œYou just go! Iâ€™m going to go cut him off!â€
He struggled against the larger man, who eventually put him down.
* * *
The priest ran for the corner ahead.
â€œYour destruction is assured!â€ he shouted over his shoulder
The man ducked to the left and when Theo ran around the corner, he saw it was a dead end but it should have been Lime Street. He turned to his right and saw an alley that he didnâ€™t remember in this part of Port Royal. Then he saw the priest again. He gave chase.
* * *
Flint ran after his brother and saw him turn left onto Lime Street. When he ran around the corner, his brother was completely gone. There was no where he could have easily disappeared. Perhaps he ran into one of the shops on either side.
* * *
Theo managed to mostly keep up with the priest, who was sprinting. Though the streets didnâ€™t seem to go where they were supposed to and he seemed to be in parts of the town that were not even connected, he kept up until he ran out of breath and had to stop. The priest continued to run.
* * *
Jeagar, who had been fighting against the confusing streets, finally came around a corner and saw the priest running in his direction. Theo was behind the man but then stopped and started breathing heavily, leaning against a wall.
Jeagar rushed the man, pulling his hatchet from his belt and striking the man in the leg, cutting him badly. The priest screamed and Jeagar ran right by him as fast as his peg leg allowed, heading towards Theo.
The priest stopped down the street, muttering something and pointing at Jeagar.
â€œRun away!â€ the priest said.
Jeagar felt an uncontrollable compulsion to flee and so ran down the street away from the man. The priest ducked around a corner and disappeared from sight.
Jeagar felt the compulsion leave him after only a few seconds, but the priest was gone by then.
* * *
Fowler and Dr. Leighlin exited the courthouse and saw a man outside who seemed to be in some distress.
â€œSir, are you okay?â€ Fowler asked.
â€œHave you seen the Yellow Sign?â€ the man said.
He drew a knife and ran at Fowler. Fowler pulled his musket off his shoulder, cocked it, and shot the man in the right hand, blowing a substantial-sized hole in it and knocking the knife away. Blood sprayed and the man crashed to the ground. Dr. Leighlin backed away as people screamed and fled.
Fowler explained the man had attacked him in a mad fury and Dr. Leighlin attested to the facts. People grabbed the unconscious man and dragged him to the jail, blood still dripping from the terrible wound in his hand.
* * *
Ackworth spent the morning purchasing shovels and other paraphernalia for digging up the streets, including a few handcarts for use in transporting the strange pillars he was convinced were buried under the street. He also got some lanterns.
* * *
They all got together that night to dig up the things in the street. Jeagar had hired a dozen men to help pull the carts and dig. Ackworth provided 10 shovels and they got to work digging up the things from the street. Soldiers accosted them several times but Ackworth paid them a few shillings sent them happily on their way.
It was in the wee morning hours when a man approached with a lantern in his hand. He was a tall man with shoulder-length, stringy hair and a strange grin on his face. He wore a tri-cornered hat and had a large knife in his belt. His eyes were wide.
â€œGreetings,â€ he said. â€œHello. Iâ€™m looking for a righteous man. Are any of you a righteous man?â€
â€œWhat do you mean by a righteous man?â€ Fowler asked.
â€œWell, I must find 10 righteous men â€¦ to save Port Royal,â€ the man said.
â€œDefine a righteous man,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œYes,â€ Fowler said.
â€œWell, I must â€¦ if I find 10 â€¦ well, any of you could be righteous men,â€ the man said. â€œI-I take it youâ€™re not going to just dig holes in the street. Youâ€™re going to refill it.â€
â€œWell, of course,â€ Ackworth said. â€œThatâ€™s what we did last night.â€
â€œI have some questions that I can ask,â€ the man said. â€œTo see if any of you are righteous men. If I can find 10 â€¦ 10 righteous men, I can save Port Royal. I swear I can.â€
â€œGo ahead,â€ Fowler said. â€œAsk me some questions.â€
â€œVery well,â€ the man said. â€œAre you â€¦â€
â€œA righteous man?â€ Jeagar muttered.
â€œâ€¦ a righteous man?â€ the man finished, either ignoring or not hearing him. â€œHave you ever killed a man or otherwise broken one of the Ten Commandments?â€
â€œUh â€¦â€ Fowler said. â€œWell, I donâ€™t know.â€
â€œThen you are not a righteous man,â€ the stranger said. â€œA righteous man would know.â€
â€œWell, no man without sin,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œAre you?â€ the man asked him. â€œHave you broken the Ten Commandments?â€
â€œWell, I mean, no man is without sin,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œI do not need wordplay sir,â€ the stranger said. â€œI need a yes or a no.â€
â€œI was born with it, though!â€ Ackworth said.
â€œYou are not a righteous man,â€ the stranger said and turned to Jeagar. â€œWhat about you, sir?â€
â€œOf course!â€ Jeagar said.
â€œYouâ€™re a righteous man?â€
â€œYouâ€™ve never killed another man? Youâ€™ve never stolen? Youâ€™ve never â€¦ never â€¦ never coveted thy neighborâ€™s wife? Youâ€™ve never committed adultery?â€
The man went through the whole of the Ten Commandments.
â€œYes,â€ Jeagar lied.
The stranger looked at his carefully.
â€œNo no,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m sorry. You are a liar. That is a sin as well, my friend.â€
The stranger turned to Flint.
â€œWhat about you?â€ he said. â€œAre you a righteous man?â€
â€œIâ€™d like to think so,â€ Flint said.
The stranger looked pained by that answer.
â€œHave you killed other men?â€ he said.
â€œOnly the bad ones,â€ Flint said.
â€œThat does not make a righteous man,â€ the stranger said sadly.
He turned to Dr. Leighlin.
â€œWhat of you, sir,â€ the stranger asked him.
â€œAre you a righteous man, sir?â€ Ackworth said.
The stranger turned back to him.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter what I am,â€ he said. â€œI am looking for righteous men.â€
He turned back to Dr. Leighlin.
â€œBut how do you know a righteous manâ”€â€ Ackworth said.
â€œQuiet, you!â€ the stranger replied, turning back to him.
â€œâ”€if you are not a righteous man, yourself?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œDo not speak again or Iâ€™ll strike you down on the spot!â€ the stranger said to him.
He turned back to Dr. Leighlin.
â€œAre you a righteous man, sir?â€ he asked, nearly in tears.
â€œAre you a righteous man, sir!?!â€ Ackworth yelled at the man, mocking him. â€œIâ€™m looking for 10 righteous men!â€
The stranger swung the lantern at his head and Ackworth leapt out of the way.
â€œAre you a righteous man!?!â€ Ackworth shrieked insanely. â€œIâ€™m looking for 10 righteous men!â€
The stranger drew his knife and tried to stab Ackworth, who ducked back.
â€œDo not interrupt me again!â€ he screamed.
Ackworth shouted back at him. Then Fowler took out his musket and shot the man in the shoulder. The man stumbled backwards and crashed to the street, his lantern falling to the ground and going out. The man lay there, bleeding.
â€œDr. Leighlin, see to the man!â€ Ackworth said.
Flint drew out his blunderbuss.
â€œWhy did you do that!?!â€ he cried out. â€œHe was trying to save us!â€
â€œAnd weâ€™re going to save his life too,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œBut we just shot him!â€
â€œWe didnâ€™t kill him though. Hopefully.â€
Dr. Leighlin tended to the fallen man.
â€œTheo, what do I do?â€ Flint said.
â€œPut your gun away, brother,â€ Theo said, drawing his own flintlock pistol. â€œYouâ€™re safe with me.â€
Dr. Leighlin bound the terrible wound. The bullet gone directly through the manâ€™s shoulder, punching a terrible hole in his scapula. He was bleeding profusely but Dr. Leighlin stanched the wound.
â€œI feel like we should question him,â€ Fowler said.
â€œI feel like we should tie him up,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œThat would be good too,â€ Fowler said.
A few people investigated the strange occurrence, but a little money from Ackworth saw them on their way. Fowler wanted to question the man to find out who he worked for and what he wanted.
â€œI think he was just following the stories,â€ Flint said.
â€œWhat stories?â€ Fowler said.
â€œSodom and Gomorrah,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œYes,â€ Flint said. â€œIf you find righteous men than you save the town.â€
â€œOh,â€ Fowler said. â€œI remember that from church. Save the town from what, exactly?â€
â€œWhen is the town going to be destroyed?â€
â€œAnd youâ€™re only telling me this now?â€
â€œOh my gosh.â€
They got back to work.
* * *
Before morning on Wednesday, June 4, 1692, they managed to remove all eight of the basalt pillars, had them loaded into the carts, and were heading back to Ackworthâ€™s house on Thames Street along the North Docks, the sky ruddy in the east. A yellowish glow seemed to indicate the rising sun â€¦ until they realized it was not. Something else was to the east. Something unnatural.
Dr. Leighlin looked away. He felt his mind couldnâ€™t take much more strangeness.
Across the harbor, standing on Pelican point, stood a strange city with a yellow glow behind it. It crouched dimly on by the shore, many spires and towers silhouetted by the rising sun in the strangely yellow sky. The towers appeared impossibly tall and thin. Something flitted between them.
Others on the docks stopped their work as they stared at the strange city. A few pointed.
Fowler recognized the terrible city from his nightmares. He reacted particularly poorly to the sight, rooted to the spot in terror. He felt a terrible horror of the color yellow and couldnâ€™t look away from the glow behind the city.
Theo saw the priest heâ€™d accosted the day before just down the street, staring at the city with a satisfied grin on his face. He looked around and saw Theo, his smile widening and he nodded at the man. Then he turned and walked away, quickly disappearing.
â€œHey!â€ Theo said. â€œI just saw that priest!â€
â€œWhere did he go?â€ Sam muttered, still staring at the terrible city.
â€œHeâ€™s in the city.â€
â€œWell â€¦ that narrows it down a lot â€¦â€
â€œWait â€¦ you want to go into the insane city?â€
â€œI have nothing else to lose right now.â€
They went to Ackworthâ€™s house and unloaded the pillars inside.
They later heard the strange city had vanished a half hour after its appearance. A few people had tried to swim across the harbor to it but drowned in their attempts.
* * *
Fowler suggested they find the priest that day, figure out where he was, and force him to tell them what they needed to know to stop the madness afflicting the town. Dr. Leighlin took the unconscious madman back to his surgery, finding his way back to the house with only some issues. He hid in his house in hopes of avoiding the strangeness.
* * *
Flint took Theo aside.
â€œI think we should leave Port Royal,â€ he told his brother. â€œThis place is terrible.â€
â€œWhere do you want to go, brother?â€ Theo said.
â€œAnywhere but here.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a lot of options.â€
â€œI think the preacher was right. I think this place is doomed to Hell. So, we should just leave.â€
Theo thought about asking Lily if she wanted to come with them.
* * *
Dr. Leighlin heard a knock at his door. A few moments later, Gregory came into his room.
â€œMaster!â€ the Italian youth said. â€œMaster! Doctor Horton is here. He says he has discovered something amazing!â€
â€œYes, yes,â€ Dr. Leighlin said, getting up.
He went to his study. A few moments later, Dr. Horton peeked into the room.
Doctor Anthony Horton was an older man of about 40 who was also a surgeon in Port Royal. He was a rival Dr. Leighlinâ€™s, though Dr. Leighlin was a better surgeon than Dr. Horton. Dr. Horton didnâ€™t appreciate the new blood coming into Port Royal, especially when people in the town started to come to Dr. Leighlin instead of continuing to see Dr. Horton. Secretly though, Dr. Leighlin wished he was as a good as Dr. Horton. The man was tall and slim and wore bloodstained clothing.
â€œDr. Leighlin,â€ he said.
â€œYes Horton,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œMay I come in?â€
The other surgeon entered the room, seating himself on one of the chairs.
â€œIâ€™ve discovered a new way of reattaching dead limbs,â€ Dr. Horton said with a sneer.
â€œAnd why would I be interested?â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œBecause you canâ€™t do it.â€
â€œYou think so?â€
â€œWhat is it you plan?â€
â€œOh! Showing you up amongst the gentry and the aristocracy. Finally proving my worth.â€
â€œI have no time for this.â€
â€œFair enough. Fair enough.â€
â€œGo play with your toys.â€
â€œI have all I need.â€
The man stood up and headed for the entry, stopping and turning back.
â€œJust know!â€ he said. â€œJust know, any sign of weakness is proof that I am your superior!â€
Dr. Leighlin stood as Dr. Horton went to the front door.
â€œBastard!â€ Dr. Leighlin said to him.
â€œHa!â€ the man said, turning on the step. â€œI know who my parentsâ”€â€
Dr. Leighlin slammed the door in the manâ€™s face.
* * *
Fowler had decided to wander the now-strange streets of Port Royal to try to find the Spanish priest they had told him about. He noticed some strange statues that he had never seen in the city before. Most appeared to be broken and old, as if they have been there for many years, and depicted oddly shaped and sometimes strangely dressed people. Many were unfinished or partially damaged. They were all terribly large and he had no idea how they could have been placed in the city overnight. A few other people looked at the strange statues.
It was quite unsettling.
* * *
As all of them but Dr. Leighlin ate a very late breakfast at the Catt and the Fiddle, a Negro, obviously a slave, approached their table. Fowler recognized her as one of the two he had followed the day before.
â€œI need to talk to you,â€ she said in a Spanish accent.
â€œWhat do you want to talk about?â€ Fowler said.
â€œThe Yellow Sign.â€
â€œWhat is the Yellow Sign?â€
â€œYouâ€™re not about to pull a knife on us, are you?â€ Ackworth said.
The woman looked at him bemusedly.
â€œPerhaps,â€ she said.
â€œOkay,â€ Ackworth said. â€œâ€˜Perhapsâ€™ is better than a â€˜yes.â€™ Continue.â€
â€œI was sent by my master to stop what is happening in Port Royal,â€ the woman said.
â€œHow do we do that?â€ Fowler said.
â€œI need to talk to you somewhere more private,â€ the woman said.
â€œLetâ€™s go somewhere private,â€ Fowler said.
â€œWhich would be where?â€ the woman said.
â€œThis gentleman, Breakfast Manâ€™s, house,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œBreakfast Manâ€™s house?â€ Ackworth said. â€œWhere weâ€™re storing all the basalt pillars? Sure.â€
They went to Ackworthâ€™s house and she seemed nervous but, once they were within and settled, spoke.
â€œMy people and my master live in the wilds of Jamaica,â€ she said. â€œAs we have done for two generations. We are the Maroon.â€
They knew the Maroon were slaves who had escaped from the Spanish or the English years before and lived free in the wilds of Jamaica.
â€œThere is a cult of a god name Hastur that is trying to take over Port Royal,â€ she said. â€œThe Yellow Sign is both their means to do it and a way to spread the cult. It slowly drives men mad over the course of many nights or days. Whenever they sleep. The sigil is a physical force of madness and evil. The cult has worked against our own masters for a very long time and â€¦â€
â€œYea!â€ a child cried out, running into the room.
He stopped when he saw all of the adults there, listening to the negro woman.
â€œQuiet Billy!â€ Ackworth shouted at the boy. â€œGet to your room!â€
It was his nephew, who also lived in the house. The child fled the room.
â€œWe seek the same as you: to stop it,â€ the Negro woman said. â€œWe have had little success in finding out what causes it.â€
â€œHow do we do that?â€ Fowler said.
â€œWe do not know. We know there is a madmen in the street seeking righteous men. There is a priest of some kind behind it. We think it is Dr. Heath, who is in charge of the church.â€
â€œWe have the madman,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œWhat?â€ the woman replied. â€œHe would know more than we.â€
â€œWe also have these pillars,â€ Ackworth said, pulling the sacking from around one.
The woman took some time in counting the pillars. She was obviously not well-educated.
â€œIt is said that nine pillars are required to summon Hastur,â€ she said. â€œBut it is not the summertime that he can come. I do not know how we can help you but we will if we can.â€
â€œIf you wish to wait here, we can go get the madman,â€ Ackworth said. â€œTwo of us.â€
â€œI do not know what I could find out from him. If you can find out what you can from him â€¦ this priest. This Emmanuel Heath. We think he is behind this.â€
â€œWait,â€ Fowler said. â€œBut he said he didnâ€™t know anything â€¦ oh. He was lying. Because he said he didnâ€™t know anything about it and he thought it was strange.â€
â€œWell, there you have it,â€ Theo said.
â€œI do not know,â€ the woman said. â€œI just know that â€¦ if there is any way we can help you stop this â€¦ the city that appeared across the bay this morning is a place called Carcosa. It eats towns that are wicked or evil.â€
â€œI can go talk to Heath to see if he knows anything,â€ Fowler said.
â€œDo you know where he is?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œI know where his house is,â€ Fowler said. â€œI know where the church is.â€
â€œWe think he is behind all this,â€ the woman said.
â€œWell, weâ€™ll see if he is,â€ Fowler said.
â€œIf you need our help, find us,â€ she said.
She told them where they were staying and took her leave of them.
â€œWho wants to go confront the priest with me?â€ Fowler said.
â€œI havenâ€™t been doing so well with priests, lately, so I will go to the good doctorâ€™s house,â€ Ackworth said.
* * *
* * *
â€œYour patient is still sleeping,â€ Gregory said to Dr. Leighlin when he finally got up that day.
â€œMy patient?â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œThe man you brought in last night,â€ Gregory said. â€œHeâ€™s a-still sleeping.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
He went down to examine his patient once again. While he was doing so, Gregory returned.
â€œThereâ€™s a Mr. Ackworth here to see you,â€ the young boy said.
â€œYes,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œI will bring him to the a-study,â€ the boy said.
Dr. Leighlin went into the study to find Ackworth there. Ackworth noticed the man looked even more exhausted than he felt.
â€œMay I offer you brandy?â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œIâ€™m fine,â€ Ackworth said. â€œHas our friend woken up?â€
â€œNo, heâ€™s still unconscious,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œI â€¦ I have thought about â€¦ I can try â€¦ to wake him.â€
â€œIs he restrained?â€
â€œNo. I havenâ€™t restrained him yet.â€
â€œWe should restrain him first.â€
â€œI would suggest you stay out of the room.â€
â€œOf course. But I will be close by.â€
Dr. Leighlin went into his surgery, strapped the madman down, and then used smelling salts to awaken him.
â€œUh,â€ the man said, looking around desperately. â€œOh! Where is it? What day is this?â€
â€œSir, itâ€™s all right,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œWhat day is this!?! What day is this!?!â€
â€œToday is Wednesday. Please. Please calm down.â€
â€œNo! Iâ€™ve lost a day! Itâ€™s gone. Iâ€™ll never get it â€¦ I have to get out!â€
â€œItâ€™s all right, sir. What are youâ”€?â€
â€œMy shoulder hurts. So badly.â€
â€œYes, you were shot.â€
The madman moaned.
â€œIâ€™m so sorry,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œLet me get you something for that.â€
He picked up the laudanum he kept in the room.
â€œNo!â€ the man said. â€œNo. No! I must find 10 righteous men or Port Royal is doomed. Doomed!â€
â€œWell you canâ€™t do it like that,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œI know! I canâ€™t get up! I canâ€™t get up!â€ the man said.
Dr. Leighlin forced the laudanum and water mixture upon the man who choked on it but it went down. The man cried out in despair.
â€œWait!â€ the man suddenly said to him. â€œAre you a righteous man?â€
â€œI â€¦ I donâ€™t know,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œYou donâ€™t know? Thatâ€™s not a â€¦ oh no â€¦ Iâ€™ll never â€¦ I must â€¦ you must let me go. I must find 10 righteous men. I must save Port Royal. I must save Port Royal.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a familiar story, my friend.â€
â€œAs Abraham himself said, if there were 10 righteous men in Sodom, he would spare the city but â€¦ no one looked. No one looked. They didnâ€™t look!â€
â€œDid he tell you this?â€
â€œNo, but I read the story and I know the Bible and, if there are 10 righteous men in Port Royal, perhaps we can save it. Perhaps. Perhaps we can keep it from falling â€¦â€
â€œBut this is neither Sodom nor Gomorrah. We canâ€™t expect that.â€
â€œBut he thinks it is!â€
â€œFather Diego thinks it is!â€
â€œFather Diego is just insane.â€
â€œNo! No! Yes! Arenâ€™t we all? He knows the secrets. He has cast the spells. He will bring Carcosa to Port Royal. And then â€¦â€
â€œWait! Are you saying heâ€™s behind this?â€
â€œHe was. But all has been set into motion. Unless I find righteous men â€¦ unless I find righteous men â€¦ unless someone goes into Carcosa and stops this â€¦ nothing will ever stop it. And then Port Royal is doomed! Itâ€™s doomed. If I can find 10 righteous men â€¦ then â€¦ he wonâ€™t destroy Port Royal. â€˜Itâ€™s a wicked city,â€™ he said, â€˜a wicked city.â€™ And a fool, I â€¦ I believed him. I followed him. He says that in the manner of Sodom and Gomorrah, Port Royal will be destroyed. He summons Carcosa. And Carcosa â€¦ Carcosa will eat Port Royal. I was a follower of his until some days ago. I realized the folly of my actions.â€
Tears welled up in the manâ€™s eyes.
â€œMuch â€¦ much of my time with him is a blur,â€ he went on. â€œBut â€¦ but I might be â€¦ but â€¦ he said there were basalt stones that would help with its summoning. He was â€¦ he tried to destroy the city â€¦ but the Yellow Sign â€¦ he was â€¦ the more violent and more repugnant Port Royal is, the more likely it will be consumed. He was â€¦ he â€¦ you have to let me go! Iâ€™ve got to find â€¦ 10 righteous men. But you donâ€™t know if youâ€™re a righteous man. Are you a righteous man? Have you sinned? Are you a sinner?â€
â€œCalm yourself,â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œCalm yourself.â€
The madman wailed in despair.
â€œI canâ€™t get up!â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m getting up! I have to get up!â€
The man was not moving at all but, due to the laudanum, obviously thought he was breaking free of the restraints. Dr. Leighlin backed out of the room to where Ackworth loitered outside.
â€œWell, heâ€™s awake now,â€ Dr. Leighlin said to the man. â€œWhat should we do.â€
â€œWell â€¦â€ Ackworth said.
â€œIâ€™m not sure itâ€™s safe to let him go. But he seems like he knows a lot more than any of us at this point.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think heâ€™ll actually hurt anyone.â€
â€œWell he certainly wouldnâ€™t hurt â€¦ couldnâ€™t hurt anyone right now.â€
â€œHm. So â€¦ we know we canâ€™t let the preacher get the basalt pillars.â€
â€œYes. Is there any way we can destroy them?â€
Dr. Leighlin knew he did not have enough chemicals to destroy the pillars.
â€œIf we canâ€™t destroy the pillars, we must destroy â€¦â€ he said.
â€œThe city!â€ Ackworth said.
â€œOh! Yes. Of course. Diego.â€
â€œWe must destroy Father Diego.â€
* * *
â€œCan I help you gentlemen?â€ Dr. Heath said when the others went to visit him.
He looked at Fowler and Jeagar.
â€œI believe I talked with you before?â€ he said.
â€œYes,â€ Jeagar said. â€œWell, new things have come up. Have you seen whatâ€™s going on outside?â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard rumors about some mirage that appeared over the harbor,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œApparently the governor sent some men to talk to Mr. Swettmann, who has a house on Pelican Point. He didnâ€™t see anything. I would say it was an illusion of some kind. It was only there for half an hour.â€
â€œThen there was something â€¦â€ Jeagar said.
â€œThere were strange statues,â€ Fowler said. â€œI donâ€™t know what they were. Do you know anything about that?â€
â€œIâ€™ve heard some rumors to that affect,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œThose have always been there, havenâ€™t they?â€
â€œNo, they havenâ€™t!â€
â€œI thought the Spanish built them or some rubbish. There are many rumors going around Port Royal right now, but many of them seem to be the blathering of a madman.â€
â€œYou seem pretty confident about that.â€
â€œWell, with faith in God and science, the things that we cannot prove exist obviously donâ€™t. It was obviously a mirage or an illusion of some kind.â€
â€œWhat about this whole nonsense of Sodom and Gomorrah?â€
â€œAre you talking about that priest thatâ€™s been going around preaching? Heâ€™s obviously a dissident. Heâ€™s Spanish. They are â€¦ inferiors.â€
â€œRight. Of course they are.â€
â€œBut obviously heâ€™s taking advantage of the situation, trying to stir up some money or get some kind of cult started of some kind in some way. Soldiers are looking for him. Of course, theyâ€™ll arrest him when they find him.â€
While watching Dr. Heathâ€™s face, Jeagar said â€œHastur.â€ The man didnâ€™t seem familiar with the term.
â€œThank you for your time, sir,â€ Fowler said.
â€œVery good,â€ Dr. Heath said. â€œI always have time for my flock. I will see you Sunday.â€
He would not see them Sunday, nor ever again, actually.
* * *
â€œWhat do you want us to do about the man?â€ Gregory asked Dr. Leighlin sometime later. â€œThe man that you have strapped down?â€
â€œSee to him in whatever he needs,â€ Dr. Leighlin said.
â€œHe will not be released!â€
It was later on Wednesday night when Dr. Leighlin released the badly injured madman, who went in search of 10 righteous men.
* * *
Fowler asked Jeagar where Father Diego had been preaching. When Jeagar told him it had been on High Street, he went there. He was disappointed to see more statues on the road, some in place of the stocks that were usually there. He turned and walked away, avoiding them altogether.
He went home to get some sleep.
* * *
Ackworth, out and about to find the others and tell them not to kill the priest, also saw the strange statues. He didnâ€™t think they had been there the day before and he had spent most of the night on the streets, so he knew they must have appeared within the last hour or so that morning.
* * *
Theo, Flint, and Jeagar wandered the town, looking for Father Diego. They noticed the strange statues that hadnâ€™t been there the day before. Flint felt terribly ill upon seeing the strange statues and fled, going back to his room and going to bed.
The other two spent the day searching for the priest in vain.
Ackworth eventually found them and told them finding the priest would be good, but also advised they didnâ€™t kill the man as the events were already set into motion and he had nothing to do with what was going on anymore. He thought they should keep him for questioning as he told them about the strange things the madman in Dr. Leighlinâ€™s surgery had said.
â€œWe have to kill someone in the spire city?â€ Jeagar said.
â€œWell, the madman said we had to find 10 righteous men and go into the spire city,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œDo we have to be righteous?â€
â€œAccording to him. Once again, what is a righteous man?â€
They decided to all go their own ways and get some sleep, planning on rising early the next day to go to the city.
* * *
They rose early on Thursday in the hopes of seeing and entering the strange city. Rumors were rife in Port Royal about things that flew out of the sky and snatched people off the street the night before. The horrible things either took their victims away or dropped them from a great height where they were smashed to the ground below.
Jeagar, Ackworth, Theo, and Dr. Leighlin went to the North Docks. They were not alone. Hundreds of people waited on the docks and, just before dawn, a great cry went up from many of them. Fowler had stayed at home and Flint was bedridden with a fever.
The strange city appeared on Pelican Point again, across the harbor. It was a amazing and terrible as it had been the day before. A few people screamed, others fainted or cried. A few jumped into the water. A small riot broke out on the docks but there were numerous soldiers stationed there and it was quickly dealt with.
Dr. Leighlin shrieked and then started babbling incoherently. The other three simply headed to a nearby rowboat Ackworth had rented.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you wait at the shore?â€ Ackworth said to the babbling man. â€œGood.â€
Dr. Leighlin didnâ€™t even look at the man though he realized they were going. He didnâ€™t watch them go but just fell to his knees and then to his side in a fit.
Two pinnaces sent out with four squads of red-coated soldiers, all of them heavily armed, which headed for the city. It was not the only boat in the water as a few other citizens of Port Royal also set off in small boats. Jeagar, Ackworth, and Theo boarded their own boat though the pinnaces soon outraced the smaller craft in crossing the bay.
As they crossed the harbor, they noticed the smell of brine vanished. They crossed the wide bay and , as they got closer, saw impossibly high towers and strange domes. The odd construction was both beautiful and horrifically alien. It was unlike anything they had ever seen before. They saw the pinnaces beach and the red-coated soldiers disembark and head into the city.
It got darker as they approached the city as if night were falling. The closer they got, the darker it got until, by the time they beached their boat, it was somehow night. Another man who had rowed to the city looked up into the sky and the towers in awe and amazement before he took out his knife and stabbed himself repeatedly in the stomach and chest, eventually falling to the ground as blood spewed from him.
The stars were wrong. Strange constellations unlike any they had ever seen before filled the sky. It was especially jarring to Theo, who had studied the stars and knew how the night sky should look. The other two were also disturbed by it but not as much as Theo, who was rooted to the spot for a minute or so, just staring at the terrible wrong stars and constellations.
They entered the city. The buildings were strangely decorated and oddly smooth. At the same time, they seemed to be shabby and sometimes almost in ruins. The towers and buildings were built of various materials though the dark domes and monolithic towers were everywhere. Many of the structures were made of a black and pitted stone and towered over the streets that either felt too wide or two narrow.
Twin moons could be seen near the horizon and figures seemed to be flying high above. There were no sounds, not even the sounds of the others who had entered the place. It was dark, dreary, and apparently desolate and abandoned. The streets wound confusedly. Open doorways into darkness were common though sometimes a pale glow emerged. Tall towers and buildings loomed above them: grotesque, strange, and inhuman. They saw stairways that were too narrow, too shallow, or too steep for comfort.
The buildings and the rooms they sometimes peered into made their eyes water and their brains ache as the angles were strange and wrong. Sometimes there were dry canals without boats: deep, stone-lined and watermarked channels filled with naught but shadows.
Statues abounded in the horrible city. Some seemed familiar while others were completely alien or sometimes uncomfortably realistic. They recognized some from those they had seen in Port Royal the day before. There were fountains with clear, clean water scattered throughout the city. Dust and dirt were everywhere though, as if the city were long-deserted. Sometimes strange footprints could be seen in the dust and they left their own footprints behind as they walked.
They soon came across an obvious churchyard filled with dozens of open graves. They didnâ€™t approach closer, fearful of what they might find on the headstones.
At another point, they saw movement in a tower door. It looked like a woman in a short, black dress. She fled up the steps in the tower. Jeagar headed into the tower alone as the other two waited below.
He heard footsteps echoing ahead of him, clacking like metal on stone. When he finally reached the top of the tower, only a strange black dress lay on the ground next to odd-looking high-heeled shoes. No one was on the tower top at all. He looked over the edge and, far down below, he saw Theo and Ackworth, the former waving up at him.
As Jeagar went back down the steps, he could swear he heard the someone walking ahead of him, the metal footsteps clacking down the steps. When he reached the bottom and exited, he found the others had not seen anyone enter or exit the building. Nothing had been there but the sound.
They continued to wander through the city, soon finding a great clock, the face lit by flames. It stood at 11:43 and it felt terribly important, though they could not say why.
They later found a strangely-shaped, domed building with a wide entrance that seemed to beckon them. Jeagar led them into the place and within, lights shined on the ceiling to form, on one side, recognizable constellations on half of the high roof above, and on the other side unrecognizable and strange constellations and stars. The floor was a model in tiny but perfect detail. One half was a painstaking model of Port Royal. The other a model of the high towers and strange domes of the city they stood in. A large lever stood near the door next to them.
Theo didnâ€™t like it at all and turned, leaving the building.
Jeagar, unable to contain himself, tried to pull the lever just a little bit. As soon as he touched it, it pivoted down all the way. He tried to push the lever back as some kind of clockwork began to creak under the floor. It wouldnâ€™t move. He turned to flee and then stopped and drew his pistol, aiming it at the model of the city of towers. Ackworth, watching the models carefully, pushed the manâ€™s hand aside.
â€œI want to watch it,â€ he said.
The models on the floor moved towards each other and, in some impossible and inexplicable way, the cities moved into each other, Port Royal completely vanishing into the city, consumed and subsumed even as the stars shining from the ceiling above merged, the familiar constellations vanishing altogether to be replaced by the odd and unnerving stars over the towering city that remained.
The two men left the building, stunned.
They continued through the city and found a group of statues of naked men, all of them apparently in great pain or anguish, in a widened part of the street. They all reached upwards and their mouths were open in silent screams. They appeared to all be made of ivory. Ackworth was surprised they werenâ€™t salt. Nearby, they found torn and shredded clothing: red military coats and red hats, and pants, all ripped to shreds. Muskets with bayonets, powder, and soldiersâ€™ kits were also strewn around the square nearby. Theo took a rifle and ammunition, as did Jeagar.
Theo laughed hysterically at the sight not stopping for a minute or more.
They next found a building with a gallery in the front. Paintings hung on the walls portraying strange buildings and scantily-clad people. However, the flesh tones of the models were sallow and unhealthy with a sickly color. Their eyes were almost lifelike and seemed to follow them around the room. It was all very strange. As they looked around the odd room, a man entered from the darkness of an inner chamber.
â€œIt must be the turpentine,â€ he said. â€œThey always turn out like that.â€
The man was very strangely dressed with a shirt buttoned up the front and a tall collar. He wore a high vest and a paint-stained jacket, over which was an artistâ€™s smock. He had short, black hair, a thick mustache, and appeared to be in his 30s. He looked like nothing any of them had ever seen before. His accent was strange and unfamiliar.
â€œHello,â€ the man said. â€œAre you new?â€
â€œYes,â€ Ackworth said.
â€œJack Scott,â€ the man said, shaking his hand.
â€œHowdy, Jack Scott.â€
â€œAnd you are?â€
â€œIâ€™m Dean Ackworth.â€
â€œAnd you sir?â€
Scott turned to Theo.
â€œTheo Dawson,â€ the sailing master said, shaking his hand.
â€œYes â€¦ and you?â€ Scott said.
â€œBrÃ¼n Jeagar,â€ the master gunner said, shaking his hand.
â€œWelcome to my gallery,â€ Scott said. â€œAs you can see, Iâ€™m working constantly. Itâ€™s the turpentine. Perhaps itâ€™s the canvas. I donâ€™t know. They all turn out like this. Unfortunately. Ah, but I must keep trying. I must keep trying. It is a shame. I do, indeed, say â€˜It is a shame.â€™â€
â€œWhere are we?â€ Ackworth asked.
â€œWhat?â€ Scott said. â€œYouâ€™re in Lost Carcosa. It is a terrible place. I donâ€™t leave the studio or the gallery. I donâ€™t like it out there. Itâ€™s always dark. Theyâ€™re up there, flying around. Itâ€™s very â€¦ a very strange place. Iâ€™ve been too busy too. Iâ€™ve been painting constantly. Painting.â€
â€œAre they the ones that turn people to ivory?â€
â€œUh â€¦ I donâ€™t understand what you say sir. Turn people to ivory?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re not sculptors. I can tell you that. Iâ€™ve done some sculpting in my time. But the painting. The painting, of course is â€¦ I try. But nothing is right since I read it, you know. Nothing seems to come out the way it should. Poor Tessie. Poor Tessie. Who? And why â€¦ and who â€¦ I donâ€™t have many visitors. Would you like to model for me. I do need models, you know. Who are you? Youâ€™re dressed â€¦?â€
â€œWeâ€™re from â€¦â€ Jeagar said.
â€œAntique clothing,â€ Scott went on. â€œThey are quite quaint.â€
â€œWeâ€™re from Port Royal.â€
â€œPort Royal. Port Royal. South Carolina?â€
â€œIn Jamaica. What is South Carolina?â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s unimportant. Jamaica. Jamaica. Iâ€™ve never been to Jamaica. At all in my life. Mostly â€¦ mostly other places, you know. What are you doing in my gallery?â€
â€œThis city appeared out of nowhere across the bay.â€
â€œFrom your Port Royal?â€
â€œThatâ€™s a town, I take it. Yes. And you came here, why?â€
â€œSomething about if we were to stop somebody here, it wouldnâ€™t destroy our town.â€
â€œInteresting. Carcosa is a strange place. Yes. Well, tell me your story. Tell me your story.â€
They told him their story. He seemed to find their use of the year 1692 amusing.
â€œOh my,â€ he said with a smile. Then he stopped smiling. â€œOh â€¦ my. Thatâ€™s disturbing. No matter. No matter. Go on.â€
They told him everything. The man often questioned them or made interjections so telling him everything took upwards of an hour.
â€œI seem to understand something about this place,â€ he said after they had told all. â€œThough I do not know how or why. Perhaps reading â€˜The King in Yellowâ€™ so long ago. It was so long ago, wasnâ€™t it?â€
â€œThere was something about him,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œThe King in Yellow?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œItâ€™s a play,â€ Scott said. â€œA play. You shouldnâ€™t read it. I shouldnâ€™t have read it. It â€¦ uh â€¦ was quite disturbing.â€
He looked uncomfortable for a moment before going on.
â€œThe â€¦ uh â€¦ from what I understand, the more wicked, corrupt, and mad â€¦ the more there is of the wickedness that Carcosa â€¦ Carcosa,â€ Scott said, gesturing around himself, â€œcraves it. So to speak. The more likely it will take away that place for its own. Perhaps you should destroy all the things you can that bind Carcosa to your Port Royal for a start. Perhaps acting against your own darkest impulses might help as well. Or against your own nature, who you actually are, and, instead, be who you think you need to be. But thatâ€™s a guess, thatâ€™s just a mere guess, of course.
â€œBut, if any of your would like to sit for me â€¦ I do need new models. Tessieâ€™s gone â€¦ sheâ€™s long gone. The â€¦ watchman â€¦ came. If thereâ€™s â€¦ yes.â€
â€œThat clock,â€ Jeagar said. â€œThat we saw. Does that mean anything?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know of any clocks,â€ Scott said. â€œIn Carcosa.â€
â€œ11:43?â€ Ackworth said.
â€œIt means nothing to me,â€ Scott said.
â€œIâ€™d be happy to model for you,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œCome this way. Come this way.â€
â€œBut, if we could touch upon the items that were taken from Carcosa to there. Would that be basalt columns by chance?â€
â€œI â€¦ donâ€™t know. We talked about your basalt columns. Perhaps theyâ€™re connected? Perhaps that would help? I donâ€™t know. You will sit for me?â€
â€œIt will take an hour or so. Iâ€™m a painter. Jack Scott, Artist.â€
He led Jeagar alone into the next room, the other two staying in the gallery. After an hour, Jeagar and Scott returned. The painting was quite good, though obviously hastily done, and looked jaundiced and yellowed like the rest.
â€œIt must be the turpentine!â€ Scott said, terribly disappointed. â€œIâ€™m so disappointed. Everything turns out like that.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t want to keep that one,â€ Jeagar said.
â€œWe keep them all,â€ Scott said.
The three of them left of the gallery and eventually found their way back to their boat on the beach of what appeared to be a lake. In fact, they couldnâ€™t see Port Royal at all, but a palace across the water. When they rowed towards it, it vanished and Port Royal slowly appeared, as did sunshine and the smell of the sea. Rain was coming down by the time they reached the familiar docks.
It was late morning in Port Royal when the city across the bay disappeared once more. Only their boat had returned from all those went to it.
* * *
Fowler was done with the madness that day. Careful to look at nothing but the ground and trying his best to ignore everything in Port Royal, he went to the North Docks and talked to several ship captains about leaving Port Royal. He wasnâ€™t the only one with the idea and soon learned the few captains who were ready to leave were asking in excess of 40 pounds for a berth on their ships. That would cost all of his own life savings and his parentsâ€™ life savings as well. One captain wanted 50 pounds.
â€œFifty pounds for one person!?!â€ Fowler said.
â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ the man he talked to said. â€œFifty pounds. Look at this line Iâ€™ve got! These people are all willing to pay.â€
Fowler found he could not get much better of a deal for a single person. He tried to make a deal for working his passage across but the few ships that were abandoning Port Royal had captains who merely wanted money.
He spent the rest of the day trying to get passage for a price he could afford.
Towards the evening, he thought of leaving the town by the isthmus that connect Port Royal to Jamaica. He went home, packed what few valuables he had, and left the city by land. As he crossed the rugged terrain, horrible things flew down out of the sky at him. The things flapped rhythmically: hybrid winged things. They were not crows nor moles nor buzzards nor ants nor decomposed men but some strange and horrific combination of all.
The terrible things tried to grab Fowler but he managed flee from them. As he ran away from Port Royal, they tried to snatch him up off the ground, tearing at his clothes and gear until he finally turned back in despair and frustration.
* * *
It was pouring rain again on Friday, June 6, 1692. Ackworth, Jeagar, and Theo had moved the small basalt pillars to a rowboat along with half a dozen paid men and a small cart and paddled towards Carcosa.
The HMS Swann, a 10-gun fire ship, got underway almost as soon as the terrible city across the bay appeared. The ship ran out her guns as she approached the city, turning and giving the towers a broadside to the cheers and wails of those watching from the North Docks. The cannon fire seemed to do damage to some of the high towers but, as the Swann turned to make another run, several dozen things flew up from Carcosa and descended upon the ship. A vigorous and terrible melee ensued with gunfire, shouts, and screams. A fire broke out on board as the Swann passed up the coast and out of the harbor, finally limping back to Port Royal, sails in tatters and blood along her deck.
The three paddled to Carcosa and ordered their men to remove the pillars from the rowboat, transporting them into the city. Ackworth wanted to find the building with the models in it once again to try to figure out where the streets of Carcosa lined up with where they had found the pillars in Port Royal.
They entered Carcosa but soon realized the streets were all different from the ones they had traversed the day before. It was as if the streets themselves had changed in the course of a night somehow. They searched for some hours but could not find the gallery or the strange room with the models. They continued wandering the city, pulling the heavy cart filled with pillars.
â€œWe stay here,â€ Jeagar suggested. â€œAnd then, tomorrow, when the other town is eaten, we just leave this town.â€
As they wandered the city, one by one the men they had brought wandered away or abandoned them. One man, who seemed to be losing his mind, lagged behind at one point. Several dozen scarecrows flocked up to him and then vanished along with him.
* * *
Fowler took his life savings and the life savings of his parents and got passage on a ship for himself alone. He paid the captain and found a place on deck, which was filled with people. The ship left the dock but had not traveled far when Fowler saw more of the terrible things come down out of the sky. He fled below decks and heard the shrieks and screams of people above, as well as gunfire and even some cannon fire. Blood dripped down through the hatchways and the ship eventually stopped moving. Men came below decks, most of them injured or with wide-open eyes. The captain, his left arm in shreds, forced Fowler to get out of the hold, flinging a few coins at him. He went up and was disappointed to find himself back at the docks of Port Royal. The deck of the ship was awash with blood and bodies were being heaved overboard. Only a people disembarked. Some of the crew, armed with pistols, clubs and knives, headed below decks where Fowler had last seen the shipâ€™s captain. He soon heard screams below.
He looked across the bay. The city was still there. He stole a rowboat and rowed across to the city, going into Carcosa. He found the other three as he wandered the city, lost and terrified.
â€œWhat the heck!?!â€ he said to them. â€œI canâ€™t get out of here! This is insane! I shouldâ€™ve left a long time ago!â€
Jeagar told them his idea to spend the night in the city.
It was a terrible night. It seemed like it lasted months. At one point, Fowler started laughing and laughing and laughing and then just sank into the ground and vanished.
That night did, indeed last forever for them. They were never seen again.
* * *
Saturday, June 7, 1692, was sunny and, unlike the last three days, no strange city appeared on Pelican Point across the harbor. The strangeness of the past week all seemed like more of dream though many people still crept around Royal, looking over their shoulders or with eyes blank with madness.
Dr. Leighlin was having a late breakfast on the balcony overlooking the North Docks. He was feeling quite calm. He had punched Giovanni in the face until he had stopped moving the night before and was amazed at how many blows it took to knock the youth unconscious. The Italian youth was up and about that morning, though obviously in a great deal of pain.
It was nearly quarter until 12 when the skies suddenly an inexplicably darkened to be filled with unknown constellations and the horrible city appeared on Pelican Point in all its glory. A palace appeared in the midst of Port Royal. The ground began to tremble and then rolled like waves on the ocean. Though there had been tremors before that did nothing, this time the shaking was much worse and went on for much longer.
The tower and church of St. Paulâ€™s fell into the sea, collapsing like many other buildings. The northern and western sections of town, including the North Docks, also fell into the sea. Forts James and Charles sank into the water, taking many men with them. Fort Rupert, Fort Carlisle, and Fort Walker likewise disappeared with a terrible noise.
The sand under Port Royal liquefied and flowed out into the harbor. People were sucked down into the now-flooded and liquefied sand and, like some kind of terrible sludge-like quicksand, vanishing beneath the surface, never to be seen again, literally sucked into the earth. Entire buildings slid into the water and some sank straight down into the sludge. Many more collapsed. The older buildings fared better as they are wooden and low, compared to the tall, brick English houses.
Even as the residents were reeling from this catastrophe, a tidal wave crashed into the town from the south, putting half of the town under 40 feet of water. People partially buried by the earthquake were drowned. The HMS Swann was carried from the harbor and deposited on top of a building on the island.
By the end, only a few minutes later, nearly every building in the city was uninhabitable. Most of the corpses from the graveyards floated into the harbor among the victims of the disaster. Even the Palisadoes Spit, which connected the town to the rest of Jamaica, was smashed and collapsed, putting the town on a true island once again. Only Fort Charles and itâ€™s tower still stood.
Then Carcosa and the palace vanished, along with hundreds of people, who looked towards the high city and simply ceased to exist.
* * *
Dr. Leighlin survived the terrible disaster. His entire house had slid down into the sea upright, leaving him on his third floor balcony, now at sea level, somehow intact and finishing his breakfast. His house did not survive the tidal wave that washed over from the south but he managed to cling to a large piece of timber, probably a broken shipâ€™s mast, until he was rescued.
He found his assistant Gregory alive some short time after that.
â€œMy boy!â€ he said when he found the youth. â€œMy sweet child! I thought you had perished!â€
When he asked about Giovanni, his other assistant and Gregoryâ€™s brother, the Italian youth told him the sad tale.
â€œYes, master!â€ he said. â€œMy dear brother, Giovanni, pushed me upwards and saved my life. Iâ€™m so happy to see you, master. He was sucked down by the sand though, master.â€
â€œOh, my dear boy!â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œSuch a tragedy. I shall take care of you here. I am your family.â€
He thought about trying to find Giovanniâ€™s body but there were simply so many corpses floating in the bay and the sea around Port Royal, he figured the effort would be fruitless.
* * *
Flint had been looking for his brother Theo that morning when the earthquake hit but managed to get to safety somehow. In the terrible aftermath, he found Dr. Leighlin and his remaining assistant, Gregory.
â€œSuch a curious specimen,â€ Dr. Leighlin said when Flint found him and asked about Theo. â€œIf Iâ€™d had the chance to â€¦ pick his brain â€¦ I wouldâ€™ve. Sadly, he has not visited me.â€
â€œAre you in need of care?â€ Flint said.
â€œDear boy?â€ Dr. Leighlin said. â€œPersonal Care? Are you asking to become one of my specimens? I know of Theoâ€™s whereabouts â€¦â€
â€œI take care of you!â€ Flint said.
Dr. Leighlin smiled.
Dr. Leighlin and his two assistants, Gregory and Flint, stayed on in Jamaica for some time, moving to tent town in Kingston for a while. There was a great need of doctors and many people who survived the earthquake sickened and died after, either of injuries or of diseases that seemed rife in the camp. Some died while under Dr. Leighlinâ€™s tender care. He saw that their bodies were put to good use.
They stayed on until Dr. Leighlin got bored of the life there and moved on.
* * *
Some 3,000 people were reported killed in Port Royal that terrible day in June, though some claimed many had just vanished. Another 2,000 died of disease and from their wounds over the following month.
Dr. Leighlinâ€™s rival Dr. Anthony Horton was killed in the earthquake, as was Peter Litton, the barkeep at the Catt and Fiddle. Theoâ€™s woman, Lily Campbell, reportedly screamed and vanished as she sat in front of the mirror at her vanity that terrible morning, just before her house sank into the sea. Both Sam Fowlerâ€™s friend Timothy Dalton and BrÃ¼n Jeagarâ€™s expensive harlot Alice survived the earthquake but died some weeks later, Dalton of disease and Alice of her infected wounds.
Flintâ€™s 6-year-old friend, William, survived though the rest of his family was wiped out. His vision continued to worsen quickly and he was completely blind by the time he was 20.
Form and Void
As the group stood around the SUV an unusual car pulled into the lot. The vehicle had clearly been a Herse once but some stylish modifications had given it a second life. Maria recognized it. The car pulled up and out stepped Esther Smith, Mariaâ€™s personal hairstylist. Maria had not turned up for work since filming had halted and was returning to her apartment in the building. Before the group could act she had strode over to see what was going on. After a short and probably very troubling conversation with Esther she agreed to assist. The Investigators prepared to return to Jarred Woodwardâ€™s apartment.
From a bag in the trunk of his SUV Ramirez pulled a surprising amount of weaponry. Throwing a shotgun to George the party entered the elevator. Maria suggested that perhaps the impenetrable darkness was somehow created by some sort of electrical field so the group attempted to shut off the lights. By torchlight they headed to the suite door and found the impenetrable darkness still complete. With little else to go on they stepped across the threshold.
The group came to their senses atop a large cliff in the dark of night. A natural auditorium made of smooth glassy rock surrounded them on all other sides. Far below waves smashed against jagged rocks. A short distance ahead two forms were visible. Jarred Woodward knelt, head bowed in front of a woman in a long black sequined dress. He appeared to be sobbing. Drawing his Desert Eagle, Ramirez announced himself. Woodward turned, wild eyed to the group, rose and began running madly at them. Behind him the woman began a slow advance. The group turned to one another, unsure what to do.
â€˜Run!â€™ yelled Woodward as he closed in on them. Ramirez fired on the woman but the bullet went wide. Woodward closed in and grabbed Maria and Esther and began to drag them to the cliff face but a sharp palm to the face soon stopped him. â€˜We have to get away from her!â€™ he yelled and threw himself over the edge. As the woman slowly drew closer the party decided to join himâ€¦.
And came to on the floor of the editing suite.
A large editing desk and screen stood against one wall, a shot of the familiar basalt cliffs where stood The Woman in Black facing Verity frozen on it. An editing table with a canister of film and some clipped frames against another. A small bowl of what was almost definitely blood sat beside it. Woodward lay in the middle of the floor blubbering. When challenged he scurried over to a corner and began rocking backward and forward. As Ramirez approached the screen The Woman in Black turned towards him. A loud shot echoed around the room as the screen exploded from a close-range Magnum round. Heâ€™d clearly got sick of this. Turning to the table Ramirez scooped the contents into his bag to the protests of Maria who wanted to examine the film further. This caused friction. After a brief argument about the film and whether to turn it over to the authorities Maria withdrew from the confrontation. Ramirez found her a couple of minutes later attempting to call 911. He relieved her of her phone. Dragging Woodward to his feet, the group left the penthouse.
When the five got back to the car the door was open and Verity Harrow was nowhere to be seen. Woodward was pushed into the trunk of the SUV and the group began to pile in. Maria, however, refused. She distrusted Ramirez. After a short debate Esther and Maria decided to take the Herse.
The Celebrity Retreat seemed like the next stop and Woodward could get them in. Christopher Ramirez and George Williams pulled the car up in a vacant lot. They dumped the film in a barrel and set the evil thing on fire. They then turned to Woodward and politely explained to him why he was going to help. The trio continued to the retreat and caught up with Maria and Esther.
In the foyer of the retreat the group met Mandy Solek, the bubbly receptionist. Mandy arranged for security to come and get Jared Woodward but refused to let the group into the building. As they were about to leave, however, Mandy received a call. It seemed Craig Steel had heard of their arrival and wanted to see them. A little worriedly the group, accompanied by security, were led to Steelâ€™s office.
Craig Steel sat behind his desk in a very opulent office. He seemed genuinely happy to see the group but concerned about their wellbeing, offering an emptying session. The four, of course, politely declined but Steel became more and more insistent. Then he told the guards to take them by force.
One attempted to grab Ramirez but he ducked aside. The second went for Williams, striking him in the face. As Ramirez and Williams were engaged in combat Maria and Esther had other plans. They approached Steel, agreeing to go with him. Steel seemed puzzled by this but eventually began to lead them from the room and down a connecting corridor. Back in Steelâ€™s office one of the guards had tazed Ramirez while Williams beat the other with a chair. Esther made her move. From her coat, she pulled her favorite scissors and put the point to Steels neck. A fight broke out but Steel was able to push Esther away. Esther fled into the building.
Maria had other plans. She agreed to accompany Steel and together they made their way across the building. Steel opened a door near the emptying suite and led Maria inside. Esther circled back and made her way back into Steelâ€™s office to find the two men still in combat with the guards. She quickly searched the room for something to assist her. In Steelâ€™s desk Esther found the final reel of film and quickly destroyed it. A large cupboard was next to be searched. Throwing open the door Esther (and the combatants) were shocked to find a man standing there. When the initial shock wore off it could be seen this was not a living person but a mannequin on which hung a humanâ€™s skin. Despite the wear it appeared to be the Churchâ€™s founder, Ralph L Chandler.
Wilson and Ramirez had finished off the guards and set off after Maria while Esther continued her search. A cardboard box marked the Exegesis of Ralph L Chandler and another Tome titled The Sussex Manuscript took her interest and she scooped them up to return them to her car.
The two men continued down the hall to find more security coming for them. One of the guardâ€™s head exploded from Ramirezâ€™s large caliber weapon while Wilson took down the other but beyond them was a high security door.
Beyond the door Maria screamed as she was tied down and skinned aliveâ€¦
Desperately Ramirez turned to search for something that could be used to set the place alight but didnâ€™t get far before Steel emerged from the room. Ramirez blasted Steel in the chest.
Craig Steelâ€™s chest split open. From within, blackness spread into the world. Tentacles of night whipped at the two men. As the void spread the two fled from the retreat.
Epilogue â€“ The hours following
The Survivors were apprehended by the police and taken into custody shortly after their escape from the Celebrity Retreat. During the hours they were held an FBI raid was undertaken on several Church buildings, including the Retreat. Few Church members put up resistance and the raid was completed cleanly. While exact information on what was recovered remains classified FBI spokesmen have referred to it as â€˜of troubling and occult nature.â€™ In the coming weeks, many high-ranking church members would be arrested and the church would eventually close. Brian Musgrove, the head of the Church, has not been found.
George Williams, Esther Smith and Christopher Ramirez were released without charge after intervention from higher government authorities.
Maria del Ponchard, would be seen a few more times, always wearing dark glasses before disappearing completely.
Esther Smith retains The Exegesis of Ralph L Carter.
Pushing ahead with one more story review before the end of this month it's nice to get to a longer piece again. I like short stories, but often they are just too short for me, too slight, or too thin an idea padded out. This one looks like a good length, though whether it uses that length well I'll find out shortly as I read.
Again first person narration, so typical of Lovecraft. I like the way the narrator raises the issue of a questionable narrator right at the very start. That seems very meta.
And again the narrator seems very reminiscent of Lovecraft himself, in his account of his lonely childhood, spent in dusty old books and the like.
I'm not making many notes as I read most of the story. It's quite gripping, though little happens for a long time. I'm not surprised at the narrator having a genealogical link with the family in the tomb, though how direct this is remains to be seen.
In some ways this feels like a precursor to the story of Charles Dexter Ward, with the combination of genealogical connections uncovered, and a young protaganist adopting an archaic way of speaking.
I do like the vision of the mansion and its guests brought back to life though. It's very evocative.
And again I make few notes, right up to the end. I really enjoyed that. It's well written, nicely developed, not too predictable, and a good ending. Great stuff.
Pushing on in the hope of a better experience I reach "The Tree", which seems to be set in Greece, long ago.
The opening descriptive passage is evocative, but also rather clumsily written for me. I find it a hard read in places, and the text doesn't flow as it should do. But things improve after then for me, as the story moves on to recount the story of sculptors Musides and Kalos. Though I am finding them a little hard to visualise, and distinguish between. I wish Lovecraft had described them physically, maybe one dark haired, one fair. As it is the only obvious distinction between them early on to the reader is their differing choices of places to go to.
Could the statue really take so long to sculpt though i.e. the time before Kalos's death and a further three years afterwards? I know the proposed statue is described as "of great size", and the sculptor is carving it without the help of his slaves. But it still seems somewhat incredible.
Thank goodness for my iPad Kindle app's built in lookup facility for "proxenoi". Though to be fair this term would be more familiar, probably, to readers a century ago, when classical education was more widespread.
I'm not entirely sure what happened at the end. Was Musides captured by the tree, or does it represent Kalos, or both of them? But I still think it's a rather nice story. Very different from Lovecraft's usual settings.
From the beginning this story feels reminiscent of "The Street", and not in a good way. Although the three criminals are referred to as "Messrs" and "gentlemen", which is somewhat respectful, their names clearly suggest immigrant families, even before this is made clear later, and the association with them of crime is uncomfortable to this modern reader. I'm also guessing I'm supposed to side with the "Terrible Old Man", but I'm not exactly feeling that sentiment at the moment.
I do like that it's set in Kingsport though - an area I'd like to read more about, and don't feel is nearly as well developed in Lovecraft's fiction as other locations such as Arkham and, of course, Providence. Though even this setting is scant here. I'm also intrigued by the seemingly sentient lead bottles and pendulums inside them. But the writing seems to be often laboured, and repetitive, and I'm thinking this story could be told in a much shorter version, even though it's already very short. Or not told at all.
The ending is predictable, and I found it disappointing. After a repetitive and padded build it didn't deliver the goods for me, and the story just died away. I do not recommend this story, on almost any grounds.
"But it would be dangerous to search too earnestly for the allegorical in Titus Groan. It remains essentially a work of the closed imagination, in which a world parallel to our own is presented in almost paranoiac denseness of detail. But the madness is illusory, and control never falters. It is, if you like, a rich wine of fancy chilled by the intellect to just the right temperature. There is no really close relative to it in all our prose literature. It is uniquely brilliant, and we are right to call it a modern classic."
- Anthony Burgess on Titus Groan (1946) by Mervyn Peake
After about 9 hours of play chapter on of the Shadows campaign is finished. No one died, but two of the three investigators are in the single digits of luck. Luck spending took all the punch out of the climactic villain. I am considering disallowing luck roles for combat. Then again, if not for the luck these characters would not survive to see chapter two!
the following blog is about to contain spoilers. It is all SPOILERS!!
Myron, Melborne, and Jackson have had some encounters with the mythos together. (Crimson Letters) This led them to making some friends and joining the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight. They enjoyed the cuisine, camaraderie and illegal booze offered by the club.
After some time they began to notice that there was something odd about the place, and the Head Philosopher John Scott.
As they looked deeper into the mystery of the club they ascended the ranks of membership achieving the level of Master. Eventually they were curious enough to gain access to the secret levels of the Hermetic Order, going as far as becoming Keepers of the Silver Gate.
after swearing an oath to Yog Sothoth the three realized they may have sullied their souls, as Prof. Armitage's guard dog at the Orn Library growled ferociously at them when they attempted to conduct a bit of research in the restricted section.
Eventually the three decided to explore the club after hours, finding a secret door in the basement floor which led them deep into the earth. Here they discovered ancient stonework wrought by a civilization that predated anything they had knowledge of.
They found cells and pits that contained unspeakable subhuman abominations.
They discovered an interesting Bas Relief depicting a squid headed monstrosity. They found star charts, books on science and astronomy. Then they rolled 02 on a spot hidden roll which revealed to them a secret compartment in a bookcase that contained the Necronomicon.
After finding this Greek translation of the fabled book they retreated to their own fortified underground bunker beneath Jackson's Auto Garage. It was here that the three (Jackson, Melborne, and Myron) poured over the unholy text, and made an Elder sign upon the door hoping to keep any evil from assailing them.
The following afternoon the three were interrupted from the study of the book by the odd phenomenon of a massacre of crows that had taken roost outside of the auto garage. Jackson was nearly pecked to death as he attempted to leave the area. They were being held prisoner within the garage.
Later John Scott arrived to ask for his book back. (necronomicon) They surrendered him the book. Melborne stayed hidden in the basement as Jackson and Myron were led away from the Auto Garage, forced into John Scotts automobile, and were driven to the Lodge of the Hermetic order.
Melborne followed them at a safe distance. He followed them into the basement, and down into the caverns below the earth. Melborne was crafty and sneaky. He was never noticed as John Scott and his weird servant goons locked Myron and Jackson into a subterranean cell.
After John Scott left, Melborne released his friends and they discovered the jars and vials filled with the essential salts of deceased people. They deciphered the writing upon the wall and experimented with raising the dead from the salts via the spell written on the wall. They also discovered how to send the resurrected back to salt by reciting the word in reverse.
They were alerted to the return of John Scott by the howls of protest proclaimed from the lips of Melborne's girlfriend Lucy Stone. Apparently John Scott had left to apprehend the third member of the investigator trio, and settled on his girlfriend when he was unable to find Melborne at home.
There was a fight. Luck spends made John Scott's lethal magic punchless. Multiple handgun and sub-machine gun rounds were pumped into the warlock, but he seemed unaffected, despite the fountains of blood that sprayed fourth from his multiple wounds. Eventually, through hand to hand combat, and a lucky shot that blew out John Scott's knee he was subdued, and then fed the barrel of a fully loaded colt 1911. This handgun was then unloaded into John Scott's mouth leaving nothing but a bloody stump of a neck with a lower jaw bone attached.
Lucy Stone was rescued, as was an acquaintance of their's James Clark, from a cell below.
The bodies of John Scott and his goons were hauled to the pentagram in a torture chamber in the deepest level of the caverns, and the spell was reversed sending them back to essential salts.
Melborne and Jackson went to the hospital where they left James Clark. Jackson also stayed behind as he was horribly wounded from the fight with John Scott. Myron went upstairs into the club and had a drink. He had a fleeting conversation with Abner Wick, the owner of the antique store down the street. Wick said things that made Myron feel very uneasy, and he excused himself and went home to sleep.
Lucy Stone told Melborne she had had enough of Arkham MA. She had been given a supporting role in a large budget film that was to start filming next month in California. She said she was going, and wanted Melborne to move west with her. Melborne said he would consider it.
The next day the three grabbed early editions of the Arkham Gazette excited to see photo's from the crows that had descended upon Jackson's Auto Garage. The front page told a different story however... In the early hours of the morning, several children at the Arkham Orphanage had died mysteriously in the night from several fatal gunshot wounds.
With the exception of Jackson, the investigators realized that the children had been enchanted by John Scott to soak up any physical harm that might befall him, and the deaths of those children were caused by the bullets they had fired deep below the city of Arkham in ancient and forgotten caverns of misery and woe.
Whatever sanity they gained from completing chapter one was lost when they learned of this horrible development.
with the exception of Jackson Wilder of course, who only skimmed the story while happily munching his toast from his bed in the recovery wing of whatever hospital he was in. The story about the crows in section B got all his attention that morning.