* * *
Miss Edington left the shop, taking out a cigarette and long filter, fitting the cigarette into it and lighting it. Virgil Thomas followed her outside into the cold. He stood off to one side while she smoked.
* * *
â€œSo, Iâ€™m a hunter,â€ McCree said to Mr. Li. â€œWould you have anything that could help bring down large animals?â€
â€œNo,â€ Mr. Li said. â€œThis is not a hunting store.â€
â€œYou sell very strange Oriental things. You donâ€™t have anything that could help â€¦?â€
â€œAh, there are certain poisons. They are quite illegal to sell. I would not think of selling illegal things.â€
â€œWell, since you donâ€™t sell these illegal things, where could I get those?â€
â€œI would not know. Perhaps you should check at the zoo.â€
Miss Fairfield realized Mr. Li was lying. He sold illegal things.
â€œSo thereâ€™s nothing legal I could get to â€¦ as you can see by the way I dress â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œNot in my shop,â€ Mr. Li said.
He gestured around the shop and described some of the various items on his shelves. McCree had been to the Orient and recognized most of the items as what they were: junk for tourists.
â€œThank you for your time, sir,â€ McCree said.
â€œThank you for your patronage,â€ Mr. Li replied. â€œPlease come again.â€
â€œIf, by chance, you do come across something that would possibly interest me â€¦â€ McCree said.
He handed Mr. Li the business card for the company he worked for along with two twenty dollar bills and a ten dollar bill. Johnsonâ€™s eyes opened wide and his mouth fell open. It was a great deal of money.
â€œIf you come across something that might interest me â€¦ I could pay you for the information and, if you sell it, obviously buy it from you,â€ McCree said.
â€œAh,â€ Mr. Lee said, taking the money and the card. â€œIf I come across any, I will contact you. I am your most humble servant.â€
He looked at the card.
â€œWhat is your name?â€ he asked.
â€œI am Griffin McCree,â€ McCree said.
â€œAh, I see,â€ Mr. Li said.
The money disappeared into his pocket and he opened the cash register and put the card carefully within.
â€œJust to let you know, I barely know any of these strange people,â€ McCree said to the man.
He walked to the door and noticed the Happy Dragon Chinese Restaurant and Tea House across the street. It was the restaurant heâ€™d seen when they arrived.
â€œIâ€™ll be next door if yâ€™all need me,â€ he said, leaving the shop.
Bricker purchased a pretty blue plate with a Chinese pattern on it. He got a little stand to display it upon and paid Mr. Li before leaving. Miss Fairfield looked at the monkeyâ€™s paws.
* * *
McCree left the shop, crossing the street to the restaurant on the opposite corner of Empire and Washington streets. The front of the restaurant was made of wide windows and a warm glow came from within. As he entered the place, the smell of Chinese food made his mouth water. Heâ€™d not had dinner yet. There were several people eating at booths and tables and, in one corner, four old men were playing mahjong and drinking tea. One of the men was Caucasian while the others were Chinese.
When a man asked him how many were in his party, he asked about a little girl and old lady in Chinatown.
â€œLittle girl?â€ the Chinese man said, somewhat taken aback. â€œYou will want to talk to Mr. Tsang.â€
He pointed to the four men in the corner near the window playing mahjong. The bells to the front door opened as Bricker, Johnson, and Miss Fairfield entered the establishment. McCree headed over to the old men. He saw there were plates and glasses on the table as well.
The Caucasian man watched McCree as he crossed the room to the table. He was an older gentleman with white hair and a thick, black mustache. He wore pince-nez classes and his clothing, though nice, was a little out of date.
â€œIâ€™m looking for Mr. Tsang?â€ McCree said.
One of the Chinese gentlemen looked up at him. He was balding with his hair cut very short and he had a large salt-and-pepper mustache and a long, thin van dyke beard on the end of his chin.
â€œI am Tsang Bai,â€ he said. â€œHow might I help you?â€
â€œHi Mr. Tsang,â€ McCree said. â€œIf I could bother you with a few questions.â€
â€œWell, our game has been rather dull tonight,â€ Mr. Tsang said.
The other two older Chinese men â€œhmphedâ€ in offense.
â€œWhat do you wish to know?â€ Mr. Tsang said.
â€œIâ€™m curious as to why everyoneâ€™s giving odd looks to a Miss Lily Mitchell,â€ McCree said.
Mr. Tsang frowned and spit on the floor.
â€œShe is evil,â€ he said. â€œShe works with a group called the Tcho-Tcho. They moved to Providence a decade ago. They are degenerates! They are degenerates!!!â€
His shouts of â€œdegeneratesâ€ carried across the room and people looked in the direction of their table.
â€œShe continued to associate with them though warned off by others in the neighborhood,â€ he went on. â€œThe Tcho-Tcho are universally hated in China. I heard terrible rumors about them before I came to America in 1880 as a young man. They are terrible people with terrible customs and traditions. They worship some pagan god that looks like an elephant, perhaps Hindu. I do not know. Pygmies, dwarves. They sharpen their teeth to look more â€¦ ferocious. They are very dangerous. They are connected to gangs, vile criminal games in Providence. They are less reclusive and more defiant since Lily Mitchell began to associate with them. There is a boarding house filled with their vile filth down the street. Why do you wish to associate with Lily Mitchell and her foul monstrous little friends!?!â€
â€œNo, I was just curious,â€ McCree said. â€œCould you tell me why are the Tcho-Tcho so dangerous? Theyâ€™re so small.â€
â€œI do not know. I know nothing. I just know that they are hated in China. I do not question what my parents tell me: that they are evil, that they kill, that they do terrible things. I mean no offense to you. I apologize if my â€¦ anger â€¦ has gotten out of hand. I humbly beg your forgiveness.â€
The old man bowed.
â€œNo issue at all, sir,â€ McCree said. â€œThis â€¦ Lily Mitchell though, do you know anything about her?â€
â€œShe associated with them some years ago after she was kidnapped,â€ Mr. Tsang went on. â€œSince then, she sometimes comes here. She works with them. Some say she has been corrupted by them. Some say she is one of them in disguise.â€
â€œThat does sound disturbing.â€
â€œI would not talk to Lily Mitchell. Do not. She is dangerous. As are the Tcho-Tcho!â€
â€œWell, thank you for your time, sir.â€
â€œYou are quite welcome. I apologize again for losing my temper.â€
â€œI couldnâ€™t help but notice, sir,â€ the white man at the table said, â€œthat you were in the Curios shop. Did you find anything of interest?â€
â€œI was just asking him some questions,â€ McCree said.
â€œHe seemed a little jumpy after a certain person talked to him.â€
â€œA certain person?â€
â€œYeah. Someone that looks more like theyâ€™re with the authorities.â€
â€œOh, the police! He doesnâ€™t like the police. I can understand that.â€
He looked out of the window towards the Curios shop.
â€œYes, Mr. Li can be a dangerous fellow,â€ he said.
â€œReally?â€ McCree said.
â€œWhy is he dangerous?â€ Johnson said.
He had approached the table and stood a little ways off while McCree talked to Mr. Tsang.
â€œI saw you exit his shop as well, sir,â€ the white man said to him.
â€œWell â€¦â€ Johnson said.
â€œEndecott,â€ the man said, extending his hand. â€œSamuel Endecott.â€
â€œGriffin McCree,â€ McCree said, shaking the manâ€™s hand.
â€œMy card sir,â€ Endecott said.
He handed McCree a card that read: â€œSamuel Endecott: Psychologist and Oneirologist, 133 Mathewson Street, Providence, Rhode Island.â€
â€œWhat were you doing with Mr. Li?â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œIâ€™m curious, I must say.â€
The Chinese men with him had quietly gone back to their game of mahjong.
â€œWell, weâ€™re asking some questions about a sleep aid,â€ McCree said.
â€œA sleep â€¦ aid â€¦ you say?â€ Dr. Endecott said.
â€œWhat kind of a sleep aid?â€
â€œA special one.â€
â€œTo have a specific kind of dream.â€
â€œDreams, you say?â€
â€œHave you been experiencing nightmares? Perhaps I can help.â€
* * *
Bricker and Miss Fairfield had waited for a hostess, who led them to a table. They saw a booth right next to the mahjong table.
â€œOh, do you mind if we sit over there?â€ Miss Fairfield asked the young Chinese woman.
â€œOh, of course,â€ the girl replied. â€œOf course. Come. Come.â€
They were seated next to the mahjong table and were able to overhear the entirety of the conversation between McCree, Johnson, Mr. Tsang, and Dr. Endecott.
* * *
Miss Edington, done with her cigarette, crossed the street with Virgil Thomas and headed into the Chinese restaurant the rest of them had gone into. Agent Sanderson looked back into the Curios shop and saw Mr. Li fiddling at the counter. After a moment, he crossed the street and found a dark spot on the side of the Chinese restaurant on Washington Street where he could see into the Curios shop and didnâ€™t think Mr. Li would be able to see him. He staked out the Curios shop from there.
He saw the man fiddle with the door behind the counter before disappearing into it, leaving it open.
* * *
Miss Edington and Virgil Thomas entered the restaurant and the hostess asked if she would like a seat, giving Virgil Thomas a look. Miss Edington spotted the others.
â€œIâ€™m with them,â€ she said, pointing to Bricker and Miss Fairfield.
The hostess picked up two more menus and led the two to the booth. Virgil Thomas took the lead and sat next to Bricker. From that location, they could overhear everything going on at the mahjong table.
* * *
â€œI am an oneirologist as well as a psychologist,â€ Dr. Endecott said to McCree. â€œThat is the study of dreams. Itâ€™s not thought well of in the scientific community, but Iâ€™ve found it does lend to certain people having nightmares: psychoanalyzing them and helping them to work through some of the things that happen in the dark of the night.â€
McCree described the dream on the piece of paper Johnson still held.
â€œOh,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œOh. Is this a dream youâ€™ve had?â€
â€œPossibly â€¦ somebody,â€ McCree said. â€œNot quite possibly. I believe someone is having this dream.â€
â€œWeâ€™re looking in on a dear friend of ours,â€ Johnson piped up. â€œHe says heâ€™s been having nightmares that donâ€™t seem to end. That heâ€™s been in a swamp and thereâ€™s a train that is rusted over. Not moving. And there are people pursuing him in this dream.â€
â€œPeople?â€ Dr. Endecott said, gesturing to McCree.
â€œWhat I was explaining,â€ the hunter said.
â€œThat kind of people?â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œHas your friend â€¦ been to visit Mr. Li?â€
â€œHe got something from Mr. Li, yes,â€ McCree said. â€œSupposed to take it with tea?â€
â€œThat is why we were visiting his shop today,â€ Johnson said.
â€œYes yes,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œThere was a large group of you. I couldnâ€™t help but notice. So, your friend â€¦ your friend â€¦ did he take a draught from Mr. Li? Has he taken a medicine of some kind from Mr. Li?â€
â€œI believe he did,â€ McCree said.
â€œThatâ€™s what we believe,â€ Johnson said.
â€œAnd what do you think is happening to him?â€ Dr. Endecott said.
â€œWell, the problemâ”€â€ Johnson started to say.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you tell me everything?â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œNo matter how insane it sounds.â€
â€œDr. Conner at Dexter Asylum came to me, talking about a patient who was not able to read, write, or speak English, but he started writing this note,â€ Johnson said. â€œSaying that he was a man named Howard Phillips who lived at 66 College Street.â€
He described the dream.
â€œWe went to check in on Phillips at the behest of Dr. Conner,â€ Johnson went on. â€œMr. Phillips was not there. However, in his bed, or presumably his bed, we found a warm spot.â€
â€œWas the bed pressed down as if someone was lying there?â€ Dr. Endecott asked.
â€œYes,â€ McCree said.
â€œYes,â€ Johnson said.
â€œYour friend, Mr. Phillips, is in a great deal of danger, right now,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œDid you buy a draught from Mr. Li? Did you get the liquid? The potion?â€
â€œHe wouldnâ€™t even sell it to us. I fear that our acquaintance, who is an officer of the law, might have scared him out of it.â€
â€œHm. How good of friends are you with this Mr. â€¦ Phillips? How much are you willing to risk to help him?â€
â€œSo what kind of danger is he in?â€ McCree said.
â€œI would not endanger my fellow man, if thatâ€™s what youâ€™re asking?â€ Johnson said.
â€œHow about yourself, sir?â€ Dr. Endecott asked.
â€œWhat are you talking about?â€ Johnson said. â€œWhat are you â€¦?â€
â€œThis will probably sound quite mad but I might be able to help you with your problem. I have â€¦ some knowledge of Mr. Li. He is â€¦ heâ€™s a terrible, terrible man. If your friend is in trouble, I might be able to help you. You say you have access to the room where you saw the indentation in the bed and you felt the warmth of his body? If youâ€™re feeling the warmth there then thereâ€™s a good chance heâ€™s still alive. This will probably sound quite mad but some kind of residue, ectoplasmic perhaps, or psychological residue, of the man who is still trapped in his dream. But it will require â€¦ it will require â€¦ you to go in after him, so to speak. I understand that sounds quite insane and quite silly, but if itâ€™s something that youâ€™re willing to do â€¦ I can help you.â€
â€œWould we be able to â€¦ how would we be able to help him against these monsters?â€ McCree asked.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Dr. Endecott replied. â€œI â€¦ do not know. The creatures that you described are â€¦ reminiscent of â€¦ certain â€¦ certain obscure gods that were once worshipped. As I said, this will probably sound quite mad to both of you, but â€¦ if youâ€™re willing to trust me and youâ€™re willing to help this man, you might be able to save his life.â€
â€œWell â€¦ thatâ€™s what weâ€™re here to do,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI was here for a trophy!â€ McCree said.
â€œI doubt youâ€™ll be able to catch a â€¦ trophy â€¦?â€ Dr. Endecott said.
He seemed confused.
â€œI misinterpreted the writing,â€ McCree said. â€œI thought these might be, you know, physical dangers.â€
â€œIn the dream, they probably are physical dangers,â€ Dr. Endecott said.
â€œHm. Would we be able to bring weapons into this dream?â€
â€œI do not know, honestly. All Iâ€™m asking, if this is a good friendâ”€â€
â€œIâ€™d be willing to try.â€
â€œIf youâ€™re willing to try then â€¦ what is the address? Sixty-six â€¦â€
â€œCollege Street,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI can meet you there â€¦ I can meet you there in half an hour,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œI have to get something from my office. If â€¦ if you are willing to help this man than we had best do it as quickly as possible. How long has he been there?â€
â€œUpwards of two days.â€
â€œThen it will have to be done as quickly as possible. Otherwise, there will be no saving him. Once he is lost, he will be lost forever.â€
â€œDo you know the chance of our success?â€ McCree said.
â€œI â€¦ I will tell you â€¦ I can â€¦ I donâ€™t know,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œI honestly donâ€™t know what chances you might have to save him but, if youâ€™re willing to risk yourselves, then there is a chance that you might be able to though I have no idea based on what you told me. But I can help you to the best of my abilities. But again, if we do not do something soon, time passes there differently.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll meet you over there in 30 minutes.â€
Dr. Endecott stood up quickly.
â€œIâ€™ll meet you there in a half an hour,â€ he said.
He looked at his watch and headed for the door.
* * *
At their table, the other four had heard the entirety of the conversation. They had ordered but their food had not yet arrived at the table. They saw Dr. Endecott walk briskly to the door and exit the restaurant.
* * *
Outside, Agent Sanderson saw a man leave the restaurant, glance at the Curios shop, and then walk to Washington Street where he hailed a cab and was whisked away.
* * *
â€œMr. Tsang?â€ McCree said. â€œBefore I go, I was wondering, is there any other information you can tell me about these terrible Tcho-Tcho?â€
Mr. Tsang spit on the floor again.
â€œThey are dangerous,â€ he said. â€œTerrible, terrible, terrible people. Do not eat anything that they offer you. Do not eat any pork that they might offer you.â€
â€œAll right,â€ McCree said. â€œThank you.â€
â€œGood day to you.â€
â€œGood day to you.â€
McCree walked over to the table where the others were.
â€œWell,â€ he said. â€œHeâ€™s going to be there in 30 minutes.â€
â€œOh great!â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œIs everyone in the mood for a good nap?â€ McCree jested.
As the waitress walked by, Virgil Thomas asked her to make the food to go. She returned very shortly with oyster pails, food boxes, already filled with their meals. Miss Edington left a five-dollar bill on the table and they left the restaurant.
Agent Sanderson joined them as they left. He had noticed a door on the side of the building with the Curios shop but had otherwise seen nothing of interest or suspicion about Mr. Li or his shop.
They returned to their motorcars and drove back to the house at 66 College Street, Bricker eating his Chinese food in the automobile on the way. McCree told Agent Sanderson everything heâ€™d learned and had some great concerns about the Tcho-Tcho as well.
When they arrived, Dr. Endecott was already waiting for them outside the house.
They went to the house, McCree carrying three rifle bags and Miss Edington carrying one. Johnson tried the front doorknob to make sure it was still locked. It was. He unlocked it and let them all in.
â€œHeâ€™s up in the bedroom,â€ McCree said. â€œDoes everyone have a weapon?â€
â€œNo,â€ Bricker said.
â€œWell, is anyone good with a rifle?â€ McCree asked.
â€œNot I,â€ Johnson said.
â€œIâ€™m more of a shotgun man, myself,â€ Bricker said. â€œI could use one of the rifles â€¦â€
â€œNo,â€ McCree said. â€œYou â€¦ you â€¦ can you handle the kick of this monster?â€
He pulled the Greener out of his bag.
â€œVirgil, are you versed in riflery?â€ McCree asked.
â€œI served in the War,â€ Virgil Thomas said. â€œI know something about it.â€
â€œIâ€™ve also got this.â€
He patted his jacket pocket and they noticed the bulge of a handgun there.
â€œWell, if youâ€™d like to use this â€¦â€ McCree said. â€œYou could possibly use it.â€
He pulled a Mauser 40B rifle out of the other rifle bag. It had a scope on it.
â€œThey shot at me â€¦ hm,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
McCree pulled out the elephant gun heâ€™d brought for himself. He also got the Greener shotgun out and handed it off to Bricker.
â€œWhat about Mr. Johnson there?â€ Virgil Thomas said.
Johnson pulled the baseball bat out from under his overcoat.
â€œUh, sir, do you not have a firearm?â€ McCree said. â€œDo you know how to use a pistol?â€
â€œSomewhat,â€ Johnson said.
McCree took a 1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol out of his belt and handed it to the man.
Dr. Endecott had already headed up the steps and the others followed him in to the bedroom. He felt the spot on the bed.
â€œI would hypothesize the man is still alive,â€ he said. â€œIf not, the spot would not be warm. Iâ€™m guessing itâ€™s, as I said, some kind of ectoplasmic residue.â€
He looked at the others, whom he hadnâ€™t yet met, a little quizzically.
â€œOr residual life force that marks the place where Phillips slept,â€ he went on. â€œAnd was then dragged into the dreams. Iâ€™m surprised thereâ€™s not an indentation where his head would be. I would assume that heâ€™d died but, as it remains warm, there is still hope. This might sound quite insane â€¦ but you might be able to enter his dream and find a way to escape.â€
He looked at Miss Fairfield.
â€œUh â€¦ Samuel Endecott,â€ he said, extending his hand.
â€œEvelyn Fairfield,â€ she replied, shaking his hand.
â€œNice to meet you,â€ he said.
He extended his hand to Bricker.
â€œSamuel Endecott,â€ he said.
â€œNige Bricker,â€ Bricker replied.
They shook hands.
â€œMr. Bricker,â€ Dr. Endecott said before turning to Miss Edington.
â€œSuzanna Edington,â€ she said, extending her hand.
He shook it.
â€œNice to meet you,â€ he said. â€œMiss â€¦ Miss?â€
â€œMiss,â€ she said.
â€œMiss Edington,â€ he said.
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œAgent,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œAgent?â€
â€œWhat agency sir?â€
â€œStop looking at me.â€
â€œHeâ€™s a private eye,â€ McCree quipped.
â€œAll right,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œEach of you will probably have to sit on the floor. Since weâ€™re in the room where Phillips â€˜wentâ€™ I think it will be easier.â€
â€œSit on the floor?â€ Miss Edington said, appalled.
â€œFor now,â€ he went on. â€œIâ€™m going to have to hypnotize each of you in order to try to help you enter the dream. And then I will try to enter as well.â€
â€œOh boy,â€ McCree said.
â€œI know,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œIt sounds insane. But, trust me, Iâ€™ve been to a place called the Dreamlands where it sounds like your friend was. It does exist. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s a gestalt consciousness created by all the dreamers of the world or if itâ€™s an actual place, but it does exist. I hope youâ€™ll believe me.â€
He looked them over.
â€œIf any of you donâ€™t wish to participate, I can understand that,â€ he went on.
Virgil just shook his head.
â€œThen you can just stay and watch,â€ Miss Edington said to him.
â€œIâ€™ll stay and watch,â€ he said.
â€œBut otherwise, I will try to hypnotize you,â€ Dr. Endecott said.
He took a small test tube from his pocket filled with a golden liquid.
â€œThe elixir that Mr. Li gives, I believe, sends his victims into some kind of dream state where they are driven mad by this god that I told you about,â€ Dr. Endecott said. â€œHeâ€™s called Nyarlathotep. You probably havenâ€™t heard of him.â€
Miss Fairfield went white with a quiet gasp. She wasnâ€™t sure how she knew the name but she was certain that she knew it and it filled her with dread. She couldnâ€™t even remember reading the name, but somehow she knew of the dread messenger of the other gods and was afraid. Both McCree and Agent Sanderson noticed but the others were too busy readying themselves mentally for hypnotism.
â€œThis is not the draught that Mr. Li uses,â€ Dr. Endecott went on. â€œIt is of my own design. It has some of the same ingredients as Mr. Liâ€™s, as far as I can tell, including the black lotus nectar. Itâ€™s very dangerous. I need those who are going to go to take a single drop upon your tongue. No more. No more. It could be very dangerous. I cannot guarantee your safety if you do so or whether youâ€™ll ever be able to return.â€
He looked them over.
â€œThen I will hypnotize you to put you to sleep,â€ he went on. â€œAnd hopefully, it will take us to where â€¦â€
He nodded towards the divot in the bed.
â€œâ€¦ your friend lies,â€ he finished.
Endecott gave each of them a drop of the liquid on their tongues.
â€œDoes anyone want this?â€ Virgil Thomas said, holding out the Mauser.
Miss Fairfield held out a hand and Virgil Thomas handed off the rifle. Then he drew a Colt revolver out of his jacket pocket. They noticed it had an unusually thick barrel, almost like a rifle barrel.
Each of them found a comfortable place to sit on the floor and, when McCree asked if they should stay away from Phillips, Dr. Endecott noted if they made it out, he feared what might happen if they were both in the same place. When Johnson questioned him, he said he didnâ€™t know and that all of this was out of his range of information. He told them heâ€™d talk to them more about dreams and the Dreamlands when they returned.
Once they were all comfortable, he took out a pocket watch and hung it down in front of them. He held it steadily with his left hand a few inches from their eyes but above their head, telling them to keep their heads level as they looked at it. He told them to keep their eyes steadily on the object and their minds riveted on the idea of the pocket watch, merely to focus solely and completely on the pocket watch. After a minute or so, they all felt their eyes going in and out of focus as they contracted and then dilated.
Miss Edingtonâ€™s eyes went glassy first and he put the fore and middle fingers of his right hand by the pocket watch and moved them towards her eyes, which closed involuntarily. He looked around and then repeated the action on Miss Fairfield, McCree, Bricker, Agent Sanderson, and finally Johnson.
He ordered each of the hypnotized people to lay down in a comfortable position and then sat himself in the chair, took a drop of his draught, and focused on part of the wall for some time before he self-hypnotized himself.
* * *