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A Pretend Terror

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Cold Warning Part 1



WARNING: Spoliers!


The Diary of Harry Harrison: Mystic


December 1922
Bangor, ME


I write this some miles from my small but comfortable room above the clubhouse of the Second Sight Co-operative, for it is with this erstwhile organisation that I currently find myself employed.


While my memories have yet to fully return since those terrible days in Clio, MI, my companions and I have at least ascertained that we are all members of the SSC (formerly headed by the late Lyn Cartwright). It seems that we are all dedicated to researching the weird and supernatural, and the clubhouse (situated next to the Miskatonic University’s Orne Library) acts as a nascent museum to such oddities (among our meagre exhibits are letters from such luminaries as Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and Harry Houdini no less).


Arkham, and indeed most of the New England seaboard, is currently in the grip of the most severe winter in decades. It was thus with some surprise that we (Monty, Reginald and myself – poor Ossian being confined to a padded cell) received a request for help from one Dr. Trenton Harrod, psychiatrist.


Taking along with us our newest member, a sceptical photographer straight out of university by the name of Bob Grubb, we were received by Dr. Harrod’s secretary Ms. Swain and shown into his office. It transpired that the good doctor wished us to investigate the suicide of one of his patients, Joseph Sutton: a successful banker who had been consulting him since the summer, upon returning to Arkham after a trip to his brother’s, following which he to be plagued by terrible dreams.


He played us a recording of Mr. Sutton while he was under hypnosis. The poor man spoke of a terrible cold, blood freezing and body turning black. Freezing wind ripping through him as something huge loomed above, pulling his down with cold arms. He screams as something shrieks and blurry, inhuman faces loom through the icy wind. As he is smothered by the ice and snow the huge shape calls to him and two red stars burn in the sky…


Dr. Harrod linked these terrible nightmares to a childhood incident when Sutton and his father became lost during a winter hunting trip in the wilds of Maine. Joseph Sutton was found alive, albeit with half his left hand missing from frostbite, but his father perished.


Apparently the patient was responding well to treatment, but nonetheless a few days ago succumbed to some mania (possibly an extreme fear of cold) and blew his brains out, leaving behind a grieving wife, Marilyn.


Interestingly Sutton suspected his wife of being intimate with his brother, Stuart, with whom his widow is now residing at a lodge up in Maine. Could feelings of inadequacy regarding a possible affair have contributed to the victim’s state of mind? It was up to us to find out – subject to a daily fee plus expenses!


We gallantly took him up on the case. He had little else to tell us, save that an obviously pregnant Mrs. Sutton was swathed in black during the funeral. While she was inconsolable, her brother-in-law was noticeably less upset.


After obtaining a letter of introduction from Dr. Harrod, lest anyone object to our investigations, we proceeded with the case. Dining at Reginald’s club, we discovered that Sutton was well known and did not get on at all well with his brother. Maybe his suspicions of an affair were well founded?


We decided to split up. I headed for Sutton’s abode and, finding no-one at home, interviewed one Gary Webb, who rented the rooms above. He spoke of hearing Joseph’s terrible nightmare screams during the night, but also told me a curious tale of how he often saw Marilyn shouting and wandering out into the snow. He would tell me little else – apparently Joseph had threatened him into silence before his suicide.


I eventually secured a spare key from Webb and took a look around the house. I discovered little, save a photo of the two brothers in happier times and a grisly blood stain in the master bedroom - presumably this is where Sutton took his own life. I did however ‘borrow’ the man’s address book for future research.


Meanwhile Monty visited the local hospital (where he had recuperated following the ‘Clio incident’) to speak to the coroner. He informed us that Joseph had shot himself through the left-side of his head. But hang on – wasn’t his left hand crippled by frostbite? Something didn’t add up here…


Reginald showed Bob the ropes by doing some research at the public library. Looking for any information on northern New England, specifically the brother’s lodgings in Maine, they found some quaint Indian legends of Manitou and an embodiment of winter hunger known as the Wendigo, but nothing concrete.


We retired to the SSC clubhouse and were roused the next morning by a messenger boy, bidding us to attend to Ms. Swain without delay. Trudging through the snowy streets we arrived at her employer’s office to find the secretary distraught, and for good reason – the whole building practically encased with snow and ice!


Digging our way to the door, we managed to gain entry, only to find that even the interior was coated with snow. In fact it was colder inside than it was out! Soon we were in for another shock – sitting at his desk with black staring eyes was Dr. Harrod, frozen solid!


The poor man had clearly been frozen to death. Moreover his office had been trashed, as if a whirlwind had passed through it. Looking for clues was futile, as everything we touched was so frozen that it crumbled to the touch. The cold was so intense that we would have done too if we had stayed inside for too long!


After comforting Ms. Swain we called the police, who were as mystified as we were. We gave our statements to their satisfaction, before earning their gratitude by saving the now gawping crowd from being swamped by the large amount of snow that was now rapidly thawing and threatening to fall from the roof of the building.


Capitalising on this gratitude, Monty and I met a Detective Cooper (a surname that even now brings a shudder), who showed us, off the record, the evidence from Sutton’s suicide. There was the revolver, found at his side, and a suicide note, apologising to his ‘beautiful wife and loving brother’. We were also told that on the night of the suicide, the domestic staff had been given the week off and that his wife had gone for a walk – returning to find his body.


Luckily I was allowed to make a tracing of the suicide note and hit upon the idea of comparing the handwriting to that in the purloined address book. There were two styles, presumably that of Sutton and his wife, but neither of them matched the handwriting in the note.


A quick trip to the coroner to view Sutton’s death certificate, as signed by his brother, added further mystery. The brother’s signature matched the handwriting on the suicide note. Interesting…

Reginald and Bob meanwhile paid another visit to the Sutton’s house, once again obtaining the key from Mr. Webb. A second search of the bedroom revealed a smaller bloodstain, consistent of someone being shot in the left-hand side of the head. Also of interest was the fact that there was little in the way of female clothing in the wardrobe and absolutely no evidence of gun ownership. Had his wife pre-packed to leave? How did Sutton obtain the revolver? Indeed, how did he manage to use it?


They questioned Webb some more, but he became increasingly nervous and uncooperative. He claimed to be a pianist, playing at an eating establishment called Luigi’s, but the intrepid pair could not recall such a place. Intrigued, they trailed him as he set off for work that evening, eventually following him to a nondescript door. Oblivious to his trackers, he knocked and went in. Suffering from the cold, Bob sought warmth in a nearby café while Monty lingered outside the door, only to be warned off by a large menacing man.


Subsequent inquiries (during which Reginald lost his precious train set - don't ask) proved fruitless until a chance encounter with a less-than-lawful acquaintance of mine revealed what I had suspected – Webb worked at a mob-run gin-joint. We decided to drop this line of enquiry – supernatural perils are quite enough without getting involved with the Mafia!


Knowing from bitter experience that it’s not a good idea to waste too much time, we decided to head north as soon as possible, buying some winter clothing and supplies before taking the train to Bangor, Maine. As we headed north the weather grew worse, and it was with much difficulty and expense that we found a taxi driver, Claude, willing to take us further into the cold.


Perhaps we could have benefited with some more research in Bangor, perhaps not. Suffice to say we now begin our motor trip into the frozen hills of Maine, to the Winter Haven Hunting Lodge, Penobscot County. Will we find Mrs. Sutton and her suspicious brother-in-law Stuart? Only time will tell…

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