* * *
It was mid-morning on Saturday, June 27, 1925, when Miss Holland telephoned Mrs. Timmons. Jarvis answered the phone.
â€œTimmons residence,â€ he said.
â€œYes, Jarvis, can I speak to Mrs. Timmons?â€ she asked.
â€œWhom shall I say is calling?â€
â€œThis is Mary-Jane Holland.â€
â€œOf course, Miss Holland.â€
She heard him put down the telephone and, a few moments later, Mrs. Timmons picked up the receiver.
â€œYes, Mary-Jane, what did you find out?â€
She sounded very anxious.
â€œYes, well, I spoke to your son yesterday,â€ Miss Holland said.
â€œAnd I was wondering if I could drop by and maybe have a little chat with you about his condition.â€
â€œOf course. Of course. Anything I can do to help.â€
â€œWhen should I be over?â€
â€œWhy donâ€™t you join me for lunch, my dear?â€
â€œOkay. Anyplace in particular or just your mansion?â€
â€œThe house will be fine. Thank you. Thank you.â€
â€œSee you then?â€
She hung up the telephone and left the apartment for the Providence Public Library. She researched for some time, hoping to find out something about the Timmons family.
She found a book called Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New England Canaan in the rare book room. The slim black volume had no title on the binding. Near the center of the book was a woodcut portrait of a man named D. Timmons who bore an amazing resemblance to Brian Timmons. She searched the book and found, not far from the woodcut, a small section dedicated to Douglas Timmons. It noted that he was accused of witchcraft in Boston in 1642. Before he could be brought to trial, he managed to escape to Rhode Island, which was a more tolerant place.
The woodcutâ€™s resemblance to Brian Timmons was uncanny and disturbing.
* * *
When John McKeefe woke up that next morning, he recalled that Mrs. Timmons had said something about Brian having some trouble with the police. He decided to see if he could learn anything at the police station. Heâ€™d had a run-in with the law down in Virginia when heâ€™d been in a drunken brawl a few years before but he didnâ€™t think that the Rhode Island Police would have any information on him. He had never served jail time, having plea-bargained for a suspended sentence. He guessed he was safe to go to the police department.
His investigation there proved fruitless. There was no information on Brian Timmons at the Providence Police Department. If heâ€™d gotten into trouble, it was elsewhere.
He returned home, broke into Miss Hollandâ€™s post box in the foyer, and borrowed her newspaper.
* * *
When Miss Holland returned to her apartment she found that the newspaper was not in her post box. She frowned and guessed she knew where it might be. She walked down to Mr. McKeefeâ€™s apartment and knocked on the door.
â€œWho is it?â€ McKeefe called from within.
â€œItâ€™s Mary-Jane!â€ She replied. â€œYou have my blasted newspaper again!â€
â€œI donâ€™t know who this Mary-Jane is. I donâ€™t know who John McKeefe is.â€
â€œCâ€™mon! Stop playing games! Open up! Let me in!â€
She heard the bolt drawn and the chain removed. McKeefe sheepishly opened the door.
â€œOh, youâ€™re looking for your newspaper?â€ he said with a grin. â€œOh yeah. I found it on the floor upstairs.â€
She walked in and snatched the Providence Journal off the coffee table.
â€œSo, I was looking up the Timmons family earlier in the library and found a very interesting woodcut of one D. Timmons who was accused of being a witch and looks almost exactly like Brian Timmons,â€ she said.
â€œHmm,â€ McKeefe replied. â€œSo: rich - check. Weird - check.â€
â€œI think there might be some sort of connection with the strange happenings.â€
â€œWell, having a weird ancestor usually means youâ€™re going to be a little weird. I just offhand just decided to check around at the police station, see if Mr. Brian Timmons had gotten into any â€¦ ah â€¦ shall I say â€˜scrapesâ€™ around. He wasnâ€™t on record but, of course, being a rich weirdo does have its perks.â€
â€œWould you like to accompany me to Mrs. Timmonsâ€™ house for lunch?â€
â€œAh - so Iâ€™m invited to go back to the rich, weird house. Yes.â€
â€œYouâ€™re just for protection.â€
â€œSure I am.â€
He grinned at her.
They drove to the Timmons house and Jarvis met them at the door. He took them into a sunroom that had a table set for lunch. Cucumber sandwiches were already out as appetizers and the two were joined by Mrs. Timmons shortly. She once again hugged Miss Holland and shook McKeefeâ€™s hand. They started lunch with soup and tea.
â€œSo, Mrs. Timmons, I saw your son yesterday,â€ Miss Holland said.
â€œYes, yes,â€ Mrs. Timmons said. â€œIs he as bad as heâ€™s been?â€
â€œWell, I wouldnâ€™t say heâ€™d be fit for society, personally, but he was babbling about some very interesting stuff. He said he was doing genealogy research and, for some reason, wouldnâ€™t go any further about what heâ€™d been doing, which peaked my interest. But he seemed to paint a very horrible picture of you, which I, personally, could never see you as being such a person. But, do you have any idea why that might be?â€
â€œI donâ€™t. I mean, I had him committed because I was afraid he was going to hurt himself or someone else. After that little trouble with the police that he had up in Woonsocket, but I donâ€™t â€¦ he must be angry at me for having him committed, for putting him into the sanitarium. Thatâ€™s the only reason I could think of.â€
â€œWell, I denied him several times to talk to the doctor and he didnâ€™t seem to hate me.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know then. I really donâ€™t know. Youâ€™re welcome to look in his room if you think you might find something of interest there. Anything that could lead us to figuring out what has gone wrong with the poor boy.â€
â€œI think that would be a good idea.â€
They finished lunch and made a little small talk before Mrs. Timmons led them up to Brianâ€™s bedroom.
â€œHereâ€™s Brianâ€™s room,â€ she told them. â€œIf you could find anything at all that would help you, then please do.â€
She said she would be in the living room as she didnâ€™t want to be in the way.
Brianâ€™s room was fairly typical. It was nicely furnished with very expensive items. A bed stood against one wall and a full bookcase was evident next to a chest of drawers. A desk stood against another wall, near the window.
They searched the room thoroughly for a half hour and Miss Holland found a copy of the same book that she had found at the library: Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New England Canaan. Other books were mostly concerned with history and genealogy, though nothing of any interest. She showed McKeefe the woodcut of Douglas Timmons and he also noticed the resemblance between the two men.
â€œWhat do you make of this?â€ she asked.
â€œItâ€™s pretty weird,â€ he replied. â€œThough I guess being ancestors means youâ€™re probably going to look a little like him.â€
McKeefe had been more thorough. He had even looked under the mattress and in the pillows but found nothing.
They went back downstairs and found Mrs. Timmons in the living room. She was drinking whiskey on the rocks, though it was only about 1:00 in the afternoon.
â€œMrs. Timmons, Iâ€™m sorry to disturb you, but do you mind if I could take a look at this book that your son had in his room?â€ Miss Holland asked.
â€œOf course,â€ Mrs. Timmons replied, putting down her drink. â€œEspecially if it will help him in any way.â€
â€œYes. Thank you very much.â€
â€œYouâ€™re welcome. Is there anything else I can do?â€
Miss Holland noted that if Brian was planning on living alone in the wilderness by himself, he wouldnâ€™t be able to do any harm to anyone. She also implied that if she looked after him, she was sure Brian would be fine. She noted that he really wanted to continue his research. Mrs. Timmons said that the doctors said Brian was a danger to himself as well.
â€œWell, when I went in, I saw that he wasnâ€™t really a danger to himself,â€ Miss Holland said. â€œHe was just very passionate about his work.â€
She was quite persuasive and Mrs. Timmons said she would talk to his doctor about getting Brian released. She was still worried about the situation. She also asked if Miss Holland was planning on taking care of Brian. Miss Holland nodded.
â€œWell, in that case, maybe I should have him released,â€ Mrs. Timmons said.
She thanked them again and said that she hoped Miss Holland enjoyed her book.
The two left and went back to Miss Hollandâ€™s automobile.
â€œWhat do you want to do now?â€ McKeefe asked. â€œItâ€™s your little â€¦ investigation. We could go back to the sanitarium and deal with this strange boy or we could drive all the way up to his weird little farmhouse up on the middle of nowhere.â€
â€œI think I want to go to Woonsocket,â€ she said.
They drove up to Woonsocket and, following Mrs. Timmonsâ€™ directions to the farmhouse, arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon. The late 17th century farmhouse was in disrepair, though it did appear that some repairs had been made on the building. There were no outbuildings though a river ran to the west of the house and the road ended there.
They left the automobile and walked around the house. The second floor of the building was smaller than the first and there were windows in all of the walls. They also saw a back door. The front had a porch with a single door in the center of the house.
They went to the front door and Miss Holland tried the knob but found the door locked. McKeefe noticed that it appeared that the right front window had been forced open and closed again.
â€œI think that someoneâ€™s been here lately without really having any permission,â€ he whispered to her.
â€œFine,â€ she replied.
She pulled out the keys Mrs. Timmons had given her.
â€œRemember?â€ she said, jingling them in front of McKeefeâ€™s face.
She unlocked the door and pushed it open. It revealed a hallway that ran towards the back of the house. A staircase went up on one side. Archways stood on the right and the left and a door lay in the far wall. The house was silent and smelled musty and old.
Miss Holland walked into the house and up the stairs, McKeefe following behind. They both noticed that the archway on the right opened into what appeared to be a dining room and the archway on the left opened into a living area. The stairs ended at the top in a landing lit only by dusty windows. There were two doors in the wall to the left.
They each went to one of the doors. Miss Holland entered the room at the front of the house and found it completely empty. The room McKeefe entered had a bed, a wardrobe, and a large fireplace against the far wall. Miss Holland entered a moment later.
McKeefe went to the fireplace and examined the mantle. He saw that there were ashes in the fireplace so he donned a pair of white gloves he usually wore on jobs and sifted through them. He found nothing. He went to the bed and looked under it and then between the mattress and the slats without luck.
Miss Holland opened the wardrobe and found a few articles of clothing as well as a heavy black coat and hat. On the shelf was a pair of dark glasses. She went through the pockets but found nothing.
They went back downstairs. Miss Holland entered the study while McKeefe went into the dining room.
The room that McKeefe entered had only a small table and two chairs. A small buffet was on the far wall with some plates and silverware on an old, linen tablecloth. He went to the buffet and looked over the silverware. He recognized that a few of the pieces of silverware were antique and solid silver.
In the study, Miss Holland saw that a large roll-top desk and chair were positioned near the crowded bookshelf on the far wall. A fireplace dominated the wood-paneled north wall. The room smelled as if something had died there some time ago. She went to the bookcase and started to look over the books. Most of them proved to be historical volumes dealing with pre-revolutionary New England.
McKeefe looked over his shoulder, saw that Miss Holland was busy with the bookcase and pocketed several pieces of the silverware. When he finished, he headed to the other room.
Miss Holland found a slim, unmarked book. She took it down and opened it, finding handwriting within. The book was as journal. It only took her few moments to realize it was the journal of Brian Timmons. She tucked it into her purse.
McKeefe entered the room as she began to examine the roll-top desk. Someone had apparently pried up the roll-top, forcing the lock. A cigar butt, cold and dry, lay on the floor next to the desk and had managed to burn a substantial hole in the rug before going out. In the top drawer, she found a letter addressed to Brian Timmons and dated May 7. It read:
My Dear Son Brian,
My heart aches when I recollect the damning conversation I overheard while on your front porch.
Please, you must put aside these abominable practices and end your association with that disreputable
You have broken your motherâ€™s heart and I fear that she may never stop weeping or smile ever
again. For her sake, if not for your own, please leave the old farm and return home to your mother
and father. If you will come to your senses and return home now, the police need never know.
Your Forgiving Father
Scrawled across the bottom of the letter in an archaic script was the statement â€œRight ye be, olde foole!â€
She read it out loud to McKeefe.
She found a large antique key on a side shelf and, in a bottom drawer containing a few pre-revolutionary documents was a letter written in a language she didnâ€™t recognize. It was in the Roman alphabet, but the words made no sense. She handed it to McKeefe but he didnâ€™t recognize the language either.
McKeefe went to the fireplace; the smell was worse on that side of the room. He pulled the dirty gloves back on as he knelt down in the hearth and sifted through the ashes there. He didnâ€™t find anything out of the ordinary. The smell was very, very strong, however, and made him feel ill. Both of them searched that end of the room.
McKeefe found a loose corner on one part of the oak paneling. It looked like it had been pried out of the wall. He found that he could get his fingers under the paneling and grabbed hold of it. Miss Holland looked over his shoulder. He pulled on the paneling and it came back from the wall with a loud creak. In a rush of warm, fetid air, a corpse dropped out from behind the wall and landed on the floor in front of them. The smell was overpowering and both of them retreated from the area of the corpse and got violently ill in their own part of the room.
After each of them composed themselves, Miss Holland putting some perfume on a handkerchief and covering her mouth and nose with it, they returned to the corpse. McKeefe also held a handkerchief over his face. She gestured for McKeefe to roll the corpse over. He did so, and looked through the dead manâ€™s pockets. The corpse wore a suit and tie and, though he didnâ€™t find any identification in the manâ€™s pockets, he found that he was wearing a ring on his right ring finger that, on closer examination, proved to be a class ring from Boston University.
He pulled the ring off the corpseâ€™s finger and wiped it off. An inscription on the inside of the ring read â€œB. Timmons, class of â€™16.â€
â€œI wonder what this means,â€ McKeefe said. â€œWhy is this guy wearing Brianâ€™s ring?â€
They looked more closely at the mottled and rotted face of the corpse. Though the corruption made it impossible to readily identify the man, they realized it might very well be Brian Timmons. His hair was also the same cut and color of hair as Brian Timmons.
â€œCould it be possible that this guy is Brian Timmons and the other guy is a fake?â€ Miss Holland asked.
Still holding the handkerchief over his mouth and nose, McKeefe looked into the small secret panel where the corpse had been housed. It was very small, only about two feet deep and wide, and only about five feet high. There was nothing else in the tiny hidden cupboard and he had to soon move away due to the stench that hung in the place.
They searched the rest of the house but only found a small kitchen with a few cooking utensils and a very moldy half-loaf of bread on the counter, and a small, empty cloak room. Miss Holland unlocked the back door of the house and stepped out into the fresh air.
â€œShould we call the police?â€ she asked nervously. â€œShe would notify somebody?â€
â€œWhat do you think we should do about this body?â€ she asked.
â€œI say we go back to town,â€ he replied. â€œWe donâ€™t go back in the room because itâ€™s going to smell horrible. But, we go back to town, conveniently call up the police, get them to come out there. We donâ€™t really need to stay around the house too much, just let them know there is a slightly very decomposed body in there.â€
They drove back to Woonsocket and found a drugstore with a telephone booth. McKeefe telephoned the police, telling them of a corpse in the farmhouse. He hung up when the police officer on the other side began to ask questions as to who he was. Then he left the drugstore, went to the automobile, and Miss Holland drove them away.
Miss Holland decided they should go the public library in Woonsocket to try to translate the letter. McKeefe was interested in reading the diary theyâ€™d found at the farm. They found the Harris Institute Library on Main Street. While Miss Holland used various books to research the language of the letter, McKeefe read the diary.
He found it very interesting. It contained details of Brian Timmonsâ€™ investigations into his familyâ€™s past. In it were names, birth dates, a few scribbled comments, and several half-completed genealogy charts. He also learned that Brian was very interested in his ancestor, Douglas Timmons, who was run out of Salem in colonial times for â€œloathsome and un-Christian practices.â€ Brian had also apparently found the location of the secret grave of Douglas Timmons, which lay about a half mile east of the farmhouse. Finally, there was listed the location of an old tower near the river about a half mile south of the farmhouse and 200 yards from the riverbank. Brianâ€™s interest in the tower was not explained. When he finally finished reading, he was surprised that three hours had gone by.
Miss Holland had taken that time to translate the letter. She was still feeling out of sorts after what had happened at the farmhouse and it had taken her some time to find that the language it was written in was German. Then the translation itself had taken much longer than sheâ€™d expected. In the end, the translated letter read:
I trust this last shipment has been suitable. I am pleased to have been of some service to you,
and hope that it will help you decide whether to accept my offer of induction into the organization.
I expect your response to my offer within the month.
She showed the translated letter to McKeefe and he told her what heâ€™d learned in the diary.
â€œMaybe this tower has some merit to it,â€ McKeefe said. â€œI figured we could go dig up some old corpse, but I donâ€™t know much about corpses or why that might be at all special, so â€¦â€
Miss Holland thought on that.
â€œThe tower?â€ she finally said.
â€œThe old tower,â€ he replied.
â€œAn old tower.â€
â€œThe old tower.â€
â€œAn old tower near the river about a half mile to the south. Brianâ€™s interest in the tower was not explained.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go to the tower.â€
They drove back to the farmhouse. They guessed the police had been there but they saw no evidence of it. McKeefe told Miss Holland to park the car nearby but where it would be hidden from the road.
In the late afternoon, they walked south from the farmhouse along the river until they reached a spot where the ground rose slightly above the surrounding area. They didnâ€™t find a tower, but they did find a foundation of stone in a ring about fifteen feet in diameter. The inside of the foundation was filled up to the top with dirt, though the ground around the foundation was about a foot below the edge of it.
They looked over the stone ring and saw some vague signs that someone had been there, but there was nothing truly out of the ordinary, nor any indication that anyone had been there in some time. The stonework was old and if there as a tower there, it had been gone for quite some time.
McKeefe wandered around the foundation but found nothing strange or interesting. It was probably an hour before dark. He started to wander down towards the river.
â€œWhat do we do?â€ Miss Holland asked.
McKeefe shrugged and continued walked down to the river, his hands in his pockets, looking around. She followed him. When he reached the bank of the river, he stopped. Miss Holland stopped next to him and then put a hand on his arm and pointed downstream. There was a dark spot on the river bank with brambles all around it. It lay in almost a straight line from the tower and, when they examined the spot more closely, they found that the brambles formed a thicket. They pressed on through the thicket and found a tunnel behind them.
â€œLetâ€™s go in the tunnel,â€ Miss Holland said nervously.
It was very dark in the tunnel but each of them carried an electric torch. They lit them and then, deciding to conserve the batteries, decided that only Miss Holland would use hers.
Miss Holland led the way into the tunnel. The caveâ€™s roof was supported by old, heavy timbers. There was evidence of recent repair on some of them and a number of shoeprints could be seen in the mud. They followed the muddy tunnel for about 10 yards before it ended in a pair of heavy oaken doors fixed with a large, antique lock.
â€œYou still have that key?â€ McKeefe asked.
â€œYes,â€ Miss Holland said.
She took the large key out of her purse and found it fitted into the lock. She turned it and the lock opened. McKeefe pulled the iron chain from door handles. They pushed the doors open and found themselves in a large chamber, perhaps 80 feet across and circular. Set in the floor were several round, iron grates, each about three feet across. On the other side of the chamber was another set of wooden doors and near them was a long wooden ladder of rude construction.
Miss Holland counted the grates. There were 10 of them.
She crept forward to the nearest grate and, as she approached it, a cacophony of terrifying shrieks and screams came from the grates. It was terribly disturbing. She stepped forward and shined her light down in the pit.
The thing in the pit was humanoid in shape, naked, and terribly deformed. The arms looked like they bent the wrong way and the legs were mutated and looked more like the legs of a goat or a dog. One eye rode higher on the thingâ€™s face than the other and its mouth was far too wide. It looked up at her, licking its lips with a long, pointed tongue as it drooled. It looked like a person but it was obviously not. The horrible creature howled and slobbered and leapt up, almost reaching the grate 10 feet above it.
She yelped and jumped back from the grate. McKeefe ran over and put his left hand on the .45 semi-automatic pistol that he carried in his jacket pocket. Miss Holland shined her light around the room at the other pits.
â€œAre you okay?â€ McKeefe said over the wailing all around them. â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œThereâ€™s something down there, but I donâ€™t know what it is!â€ Miss Holland said. â€œIt isnâ€™t human!â€
â€œWell, what is it?â€
â€œTake a look for yourself!â€
McKeefe took the flashlight from her hand and looked down into the pit. The horrible creature howled and gnashed its terribly mismatched teeth. He staggered backwards, badly disturbed by the horror that heâ€™d seen. Heâ€™d not even seen anything that terrible during his year in Europe during the Great War.
â€œOh my God!â€ he cried. â€œWhat the Hell?â€
She noticed that the hand he held the flashlight with was shaking. His eyes were wide and he was breathing hard. She carefully took the flashlight back from him. McKeefe turned and walked towards the double doors on the far side of the room. As she followed him, Miss Holland tried to shine the light down into the grates they passed and looked at the horrible creatures within. None of them looked like the first, but they were all terribly wrong. The kind of terrible deformities that each of the creatures had made her wonder how they could even live. One of them appeared to have its brains outside of its skull.
When she was young, she had read The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. The horrible things in the pits remaindered her of the animals that had been experimented upon in that book. However, she couldnâ€™t see any scars on any of the horrible creatures.
Itâ€™s just not right, she thought.
When he arrived at the double doors, McKeefe pushed one of the doors open and leaned back. Miss Holland shined the light within.
The room beyond was a small, square chamber. It contained a table, a set of shelves filled with sealed opaque bottles, and an ornate wooden chair with red velvet upholstery. Held into the chair by stout leather straps was something that once must have been human. Its head lolled to one side, eyes closed in a faint, and drool ran from the corner of its mouth. The torn rags that hung from its body were too little to cover the awful physical deformities it bore. One leg was terribly shriveled, the foot set at an odd angle and resembling that of a small child. The thingâ€™s left arm was crossed awkwardly over its chest, the flesh joined to the flesh there and immobile.
McKeefe looked away from the horrible man in the chair.