* * *
As they had all been in the Dreamlands before, they knew the way through the door to the Cavern of Flame in which burned a great pillar of fire that reached from floor to ceiling. They passed Kaman-Thah and Nasht, passing down the 700 steps and through the Gates of Deeper Slumber, entering finally into the Enchanted Wood. They eventually found their way to Celephais where they boarded one of the ships to the floating city of Serannian. There, they were easily able to find Mitzividor, a great castle of white marble where Cousin Melba lived as The White Maiden while in the Dreamlands. She was delighted to see them all.
The children the cousins had rescued that magical Christmas in Kingsport had all long since grown up as time flowed differently but much more quickly in the Dreamlands. However, Melba had adopted more children since then, always bringing Dreamlands orphans into her home. She introduced the children there to them all once again.
There were numerous krampus in the castle as well, acting as servants and helpers. Gordon had made amends with the krampus he had badly injured with the axe on their first meeting and they had become the best of friends. He was glad to see Gordon.
â€œHans!â€ Gordon said.
â€œHow joo doing?â€ the krampus said to him in the thick, krampus accent.
They had a lavish and splendid dinner with Cousin Melba and her children.
â€œI havenâ€™t felt comfortable enough to go along this line of questioning yet, about Aunt Margie,â€ Alice said.
â€œThatâ€™s fine,â€ Melba said to her.
â€œDo you have any information?â€
â€œAunt Margie? Is that your aunt from Innsmouth?â€
â€œI never really knew her. I know that the Innsmouth people are strange. I never learned much about them.â€
â€œI knew her very well. She â€¦ she saved me â€¦ when I was â€¦ when I was â€¦ younger.â€
â€œGood. Thatâ€™s great. I donâ€™t know much about her though. I never met her in the real world. Iâ€™ve never seen her in the Dreamlands or at least sheâ€™s never come here. What do you need to know about her? I might be able to look up some things in Kingsport in the real world.â€
â€œWell, she sick with some kind of illness I was never told the name of. And she â€¦ my family said she had to go away. But â€¦ I just never believed that. I â€¦ her house is empty and â€¦ Iâ€™ve never seen her. I have had possible glimpses of â€¦ I donâ€™t know what inside of her windows â€¦ I â€¦ probably a figment of my imagination but still, I canâ€™t get it out of my mind.â€
â€œDo you think she might still be there? Even after the raid and everything.â€
â€œI hope â€¦ sheâ€™s not a ghost.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know much about her at all.â€
Alice started crying and Melba took the girl into her arms and held her.
â€œIf thereâ€™s anything I can do in the real world to help you â€¦ or here,â€ she said. â€œYou let me know. Do you need a ride up there? I havenâ€™t been up there. I know the militaryâ€™s still up there from what Iâ€™ve heard. Are they still up there?â€
â€œI have concocted a lavish, perfectly impenetrable plan â€¦ to get us into Innsmouth,â€ Edward said.
In the Dreamlands, Edward never stuttered and his voice was warm and smooth like rich, perfect coffee.
â€œSeveral plans,â€ Alice said.
â€œYou can trust me to get everyone in there safely,â€ he said.
â€œSo, you donâ€™t need any help from me at all?â€ Melba said. â€œI could borrow a car. I could drive you all up there.â€
â€œThat would be nice,â€ Alice said.
â€œHow would we get past â€¦â€ Edward said.
â€œWe wouldnâ€™t have to arrangeâ”€â€
â€œâ€¦ the military checkpoints?â€
â€œI-I donâ€™t know,â€ Melba said. â€œI havenâ€™t been up to Innsmouth since the raid. I donâ€™t know about any military checkpoints. I could askâ”€â€
â€œAnd this is the superiority â€¦ of my amazing plan,â€ Edward said.
â€œI could act as a distraction,â€ Melba said.
â€œSo, it would be safer to ride our bikes individually?â€ Alice said.
â€œThe distraction plan is something I did not think of,â€ Edward said. â€œBut I like the bikes plan still because itâ€™s the one I came up with. I still think itâ€™s very good. I put a lot of work into it.â€
â€œAre you planning on going into Innsmouth?â€ Melba said.
â€œWell, yes,â€ Alice said.
â€œOkay,â€ Melba said. â€œBe careful. Iâ€™ve heard thereâ€™s strange things that happen out there.â€
They looked at each other.
â€œYes,â€ Alice said. â€œWeâ€™re aware.â€
â€œDo you have any details â€¦ on the strange things?â€ Edward asked.
â€œNo,â€ Melba said. â€œThereâ€™s â€¦ Iâ€™ve heard about fishermen who fished in their waters, from Falconâ€™s Point and Martinâ€™s Beach, and â€¦ bad things happened to them. Theyâ€™re boats got stove in, their nets got torn and ripped to shreds.â€
â€œSuch a terrible thing to be afraid of the water,â€ Alice said.
â€œYeah. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve heard. Well, Iâ€™d like to help somehow. When are you planning on going?â€
â€œWhen we wake up.â€
â€œAre all of you here? I mean, are you in Innsmouth right now?â€
â€œWell, if we were in Innsmouth, we probably wouldnâ€™t be talking about the plan to get into Innsmouth that we have yet to enact,â€ Edward said.
â€œYouâ€™re so clever, Edward,â€ Melba said with a smile. â€œYouâ€™re right.â€
â€œDonâ€™t be such a smartie to Melba,â€ Gerdie said. â€œMelbaâ€™s so nice.â€
Melba smiled at her.
â€œBut heâ€™s right,â€ she said. â€œOkay, where are all of you?â€
â€œWeâ€™re in Ipswich,â€ Alice said.
â€œYouâ€™re in Ipswich. Okay.â€
â€œWeâ€™re at my house.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not far from Innsmouth. I tell you what. I donâ€™t work tomorrow. Iâ€™ll drive up to Ipswich tomorrow. Thereâ€™s someone I can borrow a motorcar from.â€
She smiled. Melba had several suitors in the both the real world and the Dreamlands.
â€œWhen are you going in?â€ she asked. â€œAfter dark?â€
â€œI think with the cover of dark that would be best,â€ Alice said.
Melba said she would drive up to Ipswich that night around dinnertime and surprise everyone. If there was anything the children needed from her or the vehicle, she would be there for them. After that, sheâ€™d at least be around if they needed her. She didnâ€™t know what she could do to help, but sheâ€™d be there to help if she could.
She hugged Alice and the rest.
They spent what felt like weeks in the Dreamlands, enjoying themselves. They all tried to learn the language of cats, most of them without luck. Gerdie learned some of the cat language from one of the cats in Melbaâ€™s palace. She also tried to get one of the krampus to teach her how to smell things. She wanted to learn how to sniff someone out.
â€œHold on,â€ the krampus said to her. â€œBarry!â€
A small krampus came out.
â€œTeach her how to sneeff,â€ the first said to him.
â€œOh jes!â€ Barry said. â€œI teach you how to sneeff! Letâ€™s go! Letâ€™s go! Letâ€™s go!â€
He did his best to teach her how to track via small. It wasnâ€™t easy as she wasnâ€™t really built for it, having a human nose and all.
* * *
When they got up the next morning, Saturday, February 16, 1929, Alice asked Donald if Simon slept. He told her he didnâ€™t know and had never thought to ask. He supposed if Simon did sleep, he did so when he slept.
â€œW-w-w-w-wait a minute!â€ Edward squeaked. â€œDo you just go to sleep with him looking over your bed?â€
â€œNo, he goes to sleep too,â€ Donald said. â€œI think. He likes to stay in the closet, sometimes. Sometimes he goes under the bed. And sometimes heâ€™s just gone, â€˜cause he just kind of fades away. Where do you go when you fade away?â€
He looked over by the door to the room.
â€œIt is too my business,â€ he said.
â€œOkay, fine!â€ he said. â€œWow. Donâ€™t ask him that question! He doesnâ€™t like that question, apparently. What is wrong with you? Okay. Okay, Iâ€™m sorry. Iâ€™m sorry. Iâ€™m sorry. Iâ€™m sorry! Okay. Itâ€™s okay.â€
â€œIâ€™d feel safer is someone was watching me,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œU-u-u-u-unfortunately, I would not get that impression,â€ Edward said. â€œIt would be very bothersome.â€
â€œSimon would watch over you,â€ Donald said to Gerdie. â€œIf you want.â€
â€œAw, thanks Simon,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œI donâ€™t want a 9-year-old watching me while I sleep,â€ Edward said again.
* * *
That day was spent with the families at Aliceâ€™s house. They had a large breakfast and a fine dinner, with Cousin Melba arriving unannounced as a surprise as she said she would. Gerdie impressed her by whispering â€œHelloâ€ in the language of cats. A very enjoyable evening was had by all of them. Melba found time to tell all of the children she was going to leave after dinner but she would be around Innsmouth. Edward told her of their plan and she thought it a good idea. She warned them to be careful.
Near dark, the parents all went their own ways, George and Edwardâ€™s parents to the nearby hotel, Gordonâ€™s parents into the back of the truck, and Gerdieâ€™s parents into the living room to sleep. Cousin Melba left as well.
Aliceâ€™s mother gave her a kiss on the cheek before the girl went to bed.
â€œThis was a great idea, Alice,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m glad you suggested it.â€
That left the children alone.
After they were certain their parents were asleep, they snuck out and borrowed bicycles from a place Alice knew there were several. Edward had brought his own bicycle. George was disappointed he had a girlâ€™s bike.
â€œCâ€™mon!â€ he muttered.
Alice punched him on the shoulder.
â€œOw!â€ he said. â€œStop!â€
â€œGeorge, shut up and get on the bike,â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhy does he get a boyâ€™s bike?â€ George said.
â€œYour ideas of gender are atrocious!â€ Alice said to him.
â€œItâ€™s only one bar of iron,â€ Gerdie said.
Donald helped Simon get on the bike.
Some of the bikes had bells and some had electric lights powered by a generator. They agreed not to use either.
They headed for Innsmouth. It took them about an hour to get there but it was a cold, clear night. They went to the road where there were two concrete barricades. They saw some light up at the checkpoint on the other road nearby. They went around the barricade and, as they were riding up the road, they saw a dark-colored sedan pull up to the checkpoint and, after a few minutes, drive on into Innsmouth.
The smell of fish grew stronger as they approached the decrepit town. They noticed some light came from the village and Alice realized the streetlights, which had burned intermittently in certain parts of the village when she had lived there, still worked. Most of the streets were cloaked in darkness, but certain parts of town had working lights, she remembered. That changed her plans somewhat.
Gerdie was riding her bike with her shovel on the handlebars, holding it ahead of her and thinking of it as a dowsing rod. Alice gave the girl a look but realized stranger things had happened. Donald whispered over his shoulder to Simon.
They went around the barricade on the other side of the road that became Fall Street and stopped. The houses there looked like they were about to fall down. They were decrepit, the sidewalks there in disrepair though the street seemed to be in decent shape.
They rode up Fall Street without issue until they reached the Marsh Street Green at the intersection of Marsh, Fall, and Bates Streets. The streets surrounding the large, iron-railed green were in poor shape. Weeds growing up inside the fenced green had taken firm root well into the pavement, filling the cracks in the street with dandelions and thistles, all dead in that time of year. The dead, waist-high weeds of the green hid the remains of a toppled Indian statue and rotting park bench.
Gerdie sniffed around, hoping to smell Aunt Margie, but the stench of fish was very strong. Alice told them the route she hoped to take to Aunt Margieâ€™s house on the northern side of town.
Gordon suggested they all pair off in case anything happened or they had to separate. He thought someone who was good at hitting something and someone who was smart was the best way. They decided Donald and George were a pair, Gordon and Gerdie were a pair, and Edmund and Alice were a pair. When they called Donald and George â€œthree,â€ do to Simon, George frowned.
â€œTwo and a half,â€ he said.
â€œAnd â€¦ thatâ€™s rude,â€ Alice said.
â€œDonâ€™t be mean to Simon!â€ Gerdie said.
â€œHe has a soul and no body,â€ George said calmly. â€œHeâ€™s half a person.â€
Alice slapped George firmly in the face.
â€œOw!â€ he said. â€œStop it, Alice!â€
They also decided if they all got separated or something they would meet back at that spot and hide in the tall, dead weeds, despite the fact that Bertie thought they should meet at the remains of the old lighthouse on the southern tip of the breakwater in the harbor. It looked, from that distance, like nothing more than a jumble of stones.
â€œYou can see it from here, so it would make a good meet up spot,â€ she said.
They discussed whether or not to ride their bikes. In the end, they decided to walk their bikes to allow them to hide if need be or use them to flee.
They continued along Fall Street but, as they approached the next intersection, which Alice knew was Waite Street though there were no street signs, they spotted two armed soldiers walking down the street towards them. Each of the men carried a flashlight and had a rifle on his shoulder.
Gerdie said â€œhideâ€ in the language of cats.
None of them knew that language.
They all went to ground, hiding as best they could in the cluttered street. Gerdie disappeared into the darkness but Gordon knocked over an old garbage can as he tried to hide. Donald was also loud, dropping his bicycle and shushing Simon. Edward lay down in the gutter next to the street. Alice picked a terrible hiding place and didnâ€™t realize there was a beam of moonlight shining on the back of her head.
The soldiers obviously heard the children and started to walk towards them more quickly when there was a crash from down Waite street in the direction of the New Town Square. The soldiers stopped and there was another crash. They took their rifles off their shoulders and headed down that way, shining their flashlights ahead of them.
Gerdie meowed it was clear.
â€œWhat are you saying?â€ Alice asked.
â€œGerdie, stop rubbing it in!â€ Gordon said.
â€œD-d-d-dâ”€â€ Edward said.
â€œSheâ€™s been learning cat,â€ Donald said.
â€œD-d-d-d-does this mean I should talk in Latin now?â€ Edward said.
â€œNo!â€ Alice said.
â€œNo Ed,â€ Gordon said.
â€œThatâ€™s even worse!â€ Alice said.
â€œJust donâ€™t talk at all!â€ George said.
â€œNo, you can still talk,â€ Gordon said. â€œJust donâ€™t talk in Latin.â€
Alice glared at George.
â€œIâ€™m going to slap you in the face again if you donâ€™t stop that,â€ she said.
â€œYou gonna slap him too?â€ George said.
They quickly moved down the opposite way down Waite Street.
As they passed a house on Waite Street, they thought they heard a heavy breathing coming from one of the few remaining buildings. They had moved into an area that was desolate and most of the houses has been demolished. The street was unpaved and it was very dark. There were some warehouses still standing in the area. The breathing sound seemed to be coming from one of those out of a broken window.
They kept walking but Edward slowed to look at the building. As he did so, the breathing stopped and he heard the slapping of wet feet as if something were running away into the darkness of the edifice. Gerdie held her shovel out towards the sound and didnâ€™t seem to think it minded it.
â€œS-s-s-somebody just got out of a bath,â€ Edward said, trying to make a joke.
Alice just looked at him.
They continued down to Water Street where most of the buildings were simply rubble and debris as if they had been blown up or burned down. As they approached the bridge over the frozen Manuxet River, they saw three more soldiers walking down the street towards them from the other side.
The children hid as best they could. George and Donald actually hid in the darkness, tucking their bikes among the rubble. Gerdie and Alice managed to hide themselves.
Gordon and Edward both tried to climb down the short embankment below the bridge. Both of them slipped on the dirt and loose grass there and slid all the way down to the ice, crashing at the bottom. Both of them slid away, having lost their bicycles, which slowly slid off in another direction.
The soldiers heard and stopped on the bridge, looking down. One of them took the rifle from his shoulder while the other two shined flashlights down onto the ice below.
â€œWhoâ€™s that down there?â€ one yelled. â€œDonâ€™t move! Donâ€™t move!â€
â€œStand up!â€ another man yelled.
The soldier with the rifle wasnâ€™t pointing it at the boys but held it ready as the other two soldiers worked their way down the embankment to the ice below.
â€œCâ€™mere!â€ one of them said.
They made for the boys who were struggling to stand up. Edward tried to run away, sliding along the ice to the embankment on the opposite side of the river. Gordon tried as well but fell, slamming onto the ice face-first. The soldier grabbed him by the arm and picked him up.
â€œBoy, just hold still!â€ the soldier said to Gordon. â€œJust hold still!â€
â€œIâ€™m a dog!â€ Edward shrieked as he slid across the ice to the other side of the river, the soldier close on his heels. â€œIâ€™m a dog! Iâ€™m not a person, Iâ€™m a dog.â€
He ran up the embankment and around a broken building to hide behind the rubble, trying to bury himself. The soldier wasnâ€™t fooled.
â€œIâ€™m a dog!â€ Edward said, panicking. â€œBark bark!â€
The soldiers snatched the boy up and dragged him back to the bridge.
â€œHold still, boy,â€ the soldier that had Gordon said. â€œWeâ€™re not gonna hurt you.â€
â€œBark bark!â€ Edward squealed. â€œIâ€™m a dog!â€
â€œThereâ€™s something wrong with this kid,â€ the soldier that held Edward said.
â€œLet me go! Iâ€™m a dog!â€
â€œThereâ€™s something really wrong with this kid, I think. Kid, weâ€™re not gonna hurt you. Weâ€™re not gonna hurt you.â€
They met on the bridge once again and started to head to the north along Water Street in the same direction the children had been going. Alice followed them at a distance, trying to stay hidden in the shadows. Donald and George followed her.
â€œWhereâ€™d Gerdie go?â€ Donald whispered.
â€œSheâ€™s dead,â€ George whispered back.
â€œSheâ€™s right there,â€ Donald said, spotting Gerdie in the shadows.
Gerdie followed, a little despondent that sheâ€™d lost her buddy. The three of them caught up with Alice.
â€œWhere you going?â€ George whispered.
â€œWe gotta do something!â€ Alice said.
â€œThey have guns!â€ George whispered.
â€œSo!?!â€ Alice said, brandishing her two knives.
â€œWeâ€™re so close, we should go to Aunt Margieâ€™s house,â€ Gerdie whispered. â€œThen weâ€™ll figure it out.â€
The soldiers took a left on Dock Street and headed down towards the Old Town Square where there light spilled from the streetlamps there.
â€œIf we get caught too, then we canâ€™t do anything,â€ Gerdie whispered.
â€œYeah, but, weâ€™re supposed to all be together for this!â€ Alice whispered.
â€œWeâ€™ll get together later,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œEdwardâ€™s smart!â€ George said. â€œHeâ€™ll figure it out. Heâ€™s tricky. Soâ€™s Gordon. Gordonâ€™ll probably insult â€˜em â€˜til they pass out.â€
They could see several vehicles parked in the Old Town Square as they stopped before they reached the lit streets.
â€œThat looks like a bivouac,â€ George said.
â€œA â€¦ what?â€ Alice said.
â€œThatâ€™s where they stay, where they live. I bet thatâ€™s where theyâ€™re staying.â€
â€œA bivouac. Thatâ€™s where you lay your head. It means a camp, okay? Itâ€™s just a camp. Thatâ€™s the soldiersâ€™ base, I bet.â€
They decided to continue up Water Street on their original route. All of the buildings there had been demolished and then they heard something moving in the rubble. Alice crouched down and Gerdie meowed â€œfriend.â€ A moment later, she heard a meow and a ragged black cat came out of the debris. It asked her for food while Alice looked back and forth between Gerdie and the cat.
Alice meowed a question, the purr rising up at the end.
She tried to say â€œfriend or foeâ€ but both Gerdie and the cat looked at her quizzically. The cat continued to ask Gerdie for food. Gerdie sniffed around for fish but the stench of fish was everywhere.
â€œFood,â€ the cat said to her again. â€œCâ€™mon!â€
â€œFollow,â€ Gerdie said in cat.
â€œOkay,â€ the cat replied. â€œBad stuff underground.â€
â€œGerdie, whatâ€™s up?â€ Alice asked. â€œWhat is she saying?â€
â€œIt wants food but it says donâ€™t go underground,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œWhy the hell would we go underground!?!â€ George said.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Gerdie said.
â€œCâ€™mon, letâ€™s take her with us,â€ Alice said.
George looked around nervously as they moved one. The cat followed Gerdie and, about a block up, where Church Street met Water Street, they found a small, stinking pile of rotted fish guts and bones in a terrible corner. The cat seemed quite happy with the find. Gerdie took the coins out of her handkerchief and tucked them safely in her pocket. She scooped up some of the rotten guts and bones and put them in the handkerchief to take with her. The cat followed her.
* * *
The soldiers took Edward and Gordon to a square north of the river where there were lights. There were more Ford pickup trucks and motorcycles painted olive drab in the square. Several soldiers were present as well. The boys were taken to a building on the square that had a brick storefront with dusty windows. The sign hanging overheard read â€œDr. Rowley Marshâ€•General Practitioner.â€ Below, in smaller letters was written â€œRalsa Marshâ€•Law Consultant.â€ A long, black Cadillac sedan sat out front.
They were taken into the building and to a small front office where there were two doors, one on either side of the hall. They were made to wait there with one of the soldiers. The other went to one of the doors in the back and entered.
Sometime later, two gentlemen came in from the back. One of them was an older man with a mustache and a stern face. The other man was younger and clean-shaven. Both of them wore suits and motioned for the soldier to bring the boys into the back. They sat the boys on a bench in the room, taking Gordonâ€™s axe and placing it on the desk. Then both soldiers left.
The older man grabbed Edward by the shoulder.
â€œSit still, boy,â€ he said.
â€œO-o-o-o-o-o-okay,â€ Edward squeaked.
The man got very close to the boyâ€™s face and looked in his eyes and then at his mouth and finally he turned the cowering boyâ€™s head from side to side and examined his neck closely. He did the same to Gordon. He finally stood back from the boys.
â€œWhat are you doing in Innsmouth?â€ he asked.
â€œW-w-w-w-w-w-weâ€™re â€¦â€ Edward stuttered.
â€œEd, just let me talk,â€ Gordon said. â€œI bed Ed here we could sneak in the town because he didnâ€™t think we could do it. Because you know with all yâ€™all soldiers in here, he said we couldnâ€™t do it and I wanted to prove him wrong.â€
â€œW-w-w-were you checking us for the â€¦ plague?â€ Edward squeaked.
â€œWhere you from?â€ the man asked.
â€œI-Ipswich,â€ Edward stuttered.
â€œIâ€™m from out in Dunwich,â€ Gordon said. â€œI was just in town visiting him.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€ the man asked.
â€œMichael â€¦ Filbin,â€ Edward lied.
Gordon pinched his nose in frustration. He had already called Edward by his name.
â€œHow about you, boy?â€ the man asked. â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
â€œIâ€™m Gordon,â€ Gordon said. â€œGordon Brewster.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s this? Whoâ€™s the lying boy?â€
â€œMy cousin Ed. Believe me, I thought he was smart.â€
The man walked over to the desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out a hammer, putting it on the desk next to the axe.
â€œNow, why are you here?â€ he asked against.
â€œW-w-w-well â€¦â€ Ed said.
The man picked the hammer up and hit the desk hard with it. The noise was loud and startled Edward.
â€œI want the truth!â€ he said. â€œNext time I use this hammer, thereâ€™s going to be a finger under it, you understand?â€
â€œI-I-I-I was reading about Innsmouth,â€ Edward stammered. â€œAnd I was - I was just really curious. I-I-I-I-I read a lot of books and I wanted to know if it was - if it was true, all the things they said.â€
â€œWho are you with?â€
â€œIâ€™m with my cousin.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. We donâ€™t have â€¦ I ainâ€™t with anybody else. Iâ€™m scared. Youâ€™re about to hammer my hands.â€
â€œIf need be.â€
â€œIâ€™m trying to protect this great country from horrors â€¦ from things that are trying to infiltrate the American people.â€
â€œAm I a horror?â€
â€œThat remains to be seen.â€
â€œHarry, theyâ€™re just a couple of kids!â€ the other man said.
The older man shushed him.
â€œShut it!â€ he said. â€œSomethingâ€™s going on, isnâ€™t it?â€
â€œMaybe,â€ the younger man said.
â€œCouple kids just decide to come in tonight on a dare,â€ the older man said, then turned to Gordon. â€œOn a dare, you say?â€
â€œYes sir,â€ Gordon said.
He shoved Gordonâ€™s shoulder, none too gentle.
â€œItâ€™s like I told you, he bet we couldnâ€™t get in,â€ Gordon said, sticking with his story. â€œI bet we could.â€
â€œMm-hm,â€ the older man said. â€œInteresting. Letâ€™s see what else we can find out.â€
* * *
Alice, Gerdie, Donald, George, and the cat reached the intersection of Martin Street and Water Street. Alice noticed a couple of suspiciously large crabs scuttle out of the rubble nearby.
â€œWhat the hell is that?â€ George said, pointing his bat at the things.
â€œThatâ€™s â€¦ thatâ€™s not good,â€ Alice said. â€œThose are not good.â€
She picked up her pace, heading up Martin Street.
â€œWhat does that mean!?!â€ George said, also walking faster.
The others followed suit. Gerdie looked at the shovel, expecting it to show her good things. She looked at the cat, expecting it to warn her of danger. She was not disappointed when the cat ran after Alice.
A block from Aunt Margieâ€™s house, between Fish Street and Main Street, there was a horrible stench unlike anything any of them had smelled before. It was the terrible stink of death and decay and something worse. They spotted, on a building that was mostly intact, a black, tarry slime near a large hole at the base of the building. George cursed at the stench and they all stopped.
â€œWhat is that?â€ he said.
â€œWe should go to Aunt Margieâ€™s first,â€ Gerdie said.
Alice pulled her coat tighter around her and looked towards the cat. It crossed the street away from the terrible smell and kept walking. All of the children avoided it the hole.
After they carefully crossed the intersection at Main Street, they saw a strange symbol on a wall not far from Aunt Margieâ€™s house. It appeared to be a star with a flame in the center of it. Alice didnâ€™t like it. It made her uneasy. Gerdie recognized it as an elder sign, a protective symbol she sometimes saw in her strange dreams. The cat didnâ€™t seem bothered by it at all. The shovel seemed indifferent to it.
Aunt Margieâ€™s house stood on the corner of Fall Street and Martin Street, facing south onto the latter. The older Georgian house had a gambrel roof and two windows to the attic on the third floor. The first and second story windows and doors were all boarded up but the decrepit structured looked little different than it had before Alice left Innsmouth. There was no sign of life in the place or any suggestion anyone lived there.
Alice was suddenly hesitant, stopping in front of the building.
* * *
Edward was taken to the office next door, which appeared to have once been a doctorâ€™s office but now had several cots set up on one side. The older man got in the boyâ€™s face and started being a little rough with him. Edward told the man he was telling Gordon all about how creepy Innsmouth was and they got into an argument about it so they decided to try to creep into the town. Then the soldiers caught them. They were just going around the houses to try to look for weird and spooky stuff.
The man didnâ€™t seem to believe him.
* * *
The old man returned to the room where Gordon was being watched by the younger man. He grilled Gordon roughly but the boy stuck with his story. The man told Gordon that wasnâ€™t what Edward had told him.
â€œWhat about the others that came with you?â€ he said.
â€œWe had one other cousin that came with us but they chickened out at the last minute,â€ Gordon said.
â€œWhat was that cousinâ€™s name?â€
â€œName was George.â€
â€œWhereâ€™s he from?â€
â€œWhere is he from? Is he from Innsmouth?â€
â€œHe was in town with the rest of us. Heâ€™s from Arkham. All three of us showed up. He was tagging along. All three of us showed up and at the last minute he said â€˜Nah, Iâ€™m not doing this.â€™â€
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you mention him before?â€
â€œWhy didnâ€™t you mention him before?â€
â€œHuh? You didnâ€™t ask.â€
The man grabbed Gordonâ€™s hand and held it down on the desk.
â€œYou can - you canâ”€â€ Gordon said.
The man had picked up the hammer and slammed it down on the desk next to the boyâ€™s hand. It startled Gordon.
â€œSir, you can do that all night,â€ Gordon said. â€œItâ€™s nothing compared to what my daddyâ€™ll do to me.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your daddyâ€™s name?â€ the man said.
Gordon told him.
â€œWhere is he?â€ the man asked.
â€œHuh?â€ Gordon said. â€œHeâ€™s back in town.â€
â€œSo, who are you staying with in Ipswich?â€
Gordon told him he was staying with the Sanders.
* * *
The old man entered the room where Edward waited with the younger man.
â€œYour cousinâ€™s made of tough stuff,â€ he told Edward. â€œDidnâ€™t even scream when I broke his finger.â€
â€œH-h-he didnâ€™t â€¦â€ he muttered. â€œY-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-yâ”€â€
â€œGo in there and help that boy,â€ he said to the younger man. â€œSee if you can set it. Or, if you canâ€™t set it, just cut it off.â€
The younger man left.
â€œIâ€™m tired of all these lies,â€ the older man said. â€œWho are you here with and where are you going?â€
â€œI was just - I was justâ”€â€ Edward stammered. â€œI was just here with Gordie. We were gonna see - we were gonna see the plague and the spookiesâ”€â€
â€œGordie! Gordie! Itâ€™s his name! His name is Gordie! We call him Gordie! Itâ€™s a nickname! Oh God!â€
â€œYouâ€™re very persuasive son, but youâ€™ve got to understand something. There are things going on in this town that not only threaten the United States but the people in it. There are things in this town that are trying to destroy the human race. You understand that? Theyâ€™re trying to change us into something weâ€™re not. Theyâ€™re very dangerous, and if youâ€™re not going to help me, then Iâ€™m going to have to find out some way to get some help.â€
â€œIf youâ€™d elaborate on that, let me write it down, Iâ€™ll get out of your hair instantly! I just find outâ”€â€
â€œYou canâ€™t write any of this down.â€
â€œI donâ€™t have to write it down. That was a lie. You can just tell it to me. Iâ€™m just curious.â€
â€œIf I get another lie out of you after this, Iâ€™m throwing your ass in jail.â€
He looked at the boy carefully before he went on.
â€œThere are things, living on Devilâ€™s Reef, that have been breeding with the people of Innsmouth and changing them into half-human, half-fish creatures,â€ he finally said.
â€œI thought my friend told me - he couldnâ€™t - he couldnâ€™t do it with a fish,â€ Edward muttered.
â€œTheyâ€™re not fish. Theyâ€™re fish people. Theyâ€™ve evolved next to us for millions of years.â€
â€œHow did the fish people start?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. But weâ€™re trying to protect this county. The raid last year was to stop them. Now, are you going to help me, and protect whomever else is here with you? Or not?â€
Edward was certain the man was telling him more than he probably should have and felt he was being completely honest with him. It was unnerving. He also felt like the man would do anything he needed to do to get the information and the truth.
â€œWill you help us?â€ the old man said again.
* * *