Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wildwyck County: The Case of the Haunted House: Part IV

Back at the farm, they took precautions against possible possession. Weapons were unloaded and locked away, and the three kept close watch on one another for uncharacteristic behavior. Charlie’s wounds, incurred when dragged through the glass, were dressed and Chuck began to read the three small books liberated from the closet.

One proved to be an out-of-print book dating from the late 1800s. It was a commercially-released treatise of demonology, available through special dealers and more liberal-minded book stores. Although the information within was unsettling, it was nothing that had not been covered in other texts before. One section of the book was dog-eared, however, and the phrase “Knights of the Silver Twilight” was underlined several times. The investigators tucked this tidbit away to follow up on at another date.

The other two books were personal journals, scrawled in the spiderlike hand of Walter Corbitt, himself. Deciphering the scribbles would take some doing, and Chuck proceeded to brew a pot of coffee before delving into the arcane memoirs.

Reading the journals took two days, but the information within opened Chuck’s mind up to frightening new vistas of reality. In addition to several unsettling implications about the nature of the cosmos, the books also explained the process required to “Summon the Shimmering Walker.” It would take some weeks to master that process, so the journals were put aside for safe keeping. The investigators had learned their lesson about revealing ownership of strange books to outsiders.

Speaking of which, during the period while Chuck decrypted the journals, Joseph and Charlie attempted to track down the whereabouts of Father Sullivan. Father Andrew revealed that he was quite concerned about the missing priest as he had himself learned from the church records that Father Sully was an only child. Although finding his excuse for his sudden disappearance false, Father Andrew was loath to allow the two investigators into the absent priest’s quarters. He was hoping that this disappearance was due to poor decision making rather than a criminal act. Having experience with Irish priests in the past, Father Andrew was fervently hoping Father Sullivan would return soon, bleary eyed and shameful, but in sound health.

With no new information learned and the journals completed, the three decided that they could hide from their inevitable task no longer and drove back to Ashton to confront the house and the forces that inhabited it once and for all. Arriving on site, they discovered the upstairs windows still smashed, but the doors closed and unlocked. Suspecting either the wind or a concerned neighbor to be responsible for the shut doors, they ventured into the house one last time, tense and alert.

They made their way to the cellar door without delay, throwing upon its locks and descending down the creaking, rotting stairs. At the bottom, they discovered a small cellar with oiled dirt floor, several cluttered workbenches, an old barrel, and a side room that once held coal and firewood. Three of the walls were brick; the fourth was closely fitted wooden boards. This irregularity led them to believe that the wooden boards concealed another chamber and Charlie and Joseph took to demolishing the timber with their pry bars. They opened a gap large enough to look through and shone their electric torch into the small space beyond. A fetid stench filled their nose and the chittering of rats—dozen and dozens of rats—arose from the junk-filled cavity beyond.

As they peered inside, Chuck gave out a scream behind them! Turning, they saw a bloody wound across Chuck’s back and a rusty knife floating in mid-air before him! The knife slashed again, barely missing him. Joseph leveled his shotgun at the knife and let loose a blast, hoping to strike the invisible force wielding the weapon, but to no avail.

The three battled the knife, grasping a wooden barrel lid and using it as a shield. Despite their best efforts, both Charlie and Chuck were gashed by the blade, Chuck bad enough to lose consciousness as blood ran from his myriad wounds. As Chuck tumbled to the earthen floor, so did the knife, inert once again. Joseph applied first aid to Chuck, while Charlie heaved the bloodied dagger into the open barrel and then nailed the wooden lid in place to seal up the peculiar poignard.

Despite Joseph’s best efforts, Chuck remained unconscious and the two alert investigators debated a full retreat. Thinking back upon the battle, however, the both realized that the blade stuck slower and slower as the fight dragged on, as if the eldritch forces behind the attack were growing weary. Rather than risk giving those unknown powers the chance to recuperate, they decided to press on and see what lay beyond the timber barrier.

The rats had fled during the fight, so it was without incident that the two cleared an entrance into the space beyond. There they discovered another wooden wall, this one bearing the phase “Chapel of Contemplation” carved into the aged boards. Some more hard labor later, an entrance had been made into the chamber beyond that final wall.

The space beyond was obviously the remainder of the cellar. The floor was earthen and the walls were brick. It held little, but what it did contain gave the two pause. A crude pallet lay in the center of the room. Atop it was the thin, almost feral-looking, form of a naked dead man. A small table holding papers stood in the far corner and cobwebs hung like streamer from the ceiling above. The investigators moved towards the table, thinking that the paper would shed light on this final conundrum.

As they approached, the dead man rose to his feet. A stench like rotting corn wafted from his wizened form and white, burning eyes glimpsed the two. Charlie raised his revolver and blasted away at the walking dead man. His first shot struck the corpse in the skull, blowing away a part of its skull but to no effect. His second shot took the body high in the chest, blowing another hole in the corpse and causing a spray of stinking, black blood to erupt from its back, painting the walls with gore.

The corpse closed on Charlie, swinging ghastly claws at the terrified shamus, but missed their target as he scrambled away. Joseph swung his shotgun like a club, striking the corpse to little discernable result other than to gain the attention of Corbitt’s corpse. As the undead sorcerer moved in for the kill, Charlie fired his last shot at the body, blowing away the rest of the dead man’s skull. A cry erupted from the corpse, the chittering of rats sounded in the walls, and the body collapsed to the floor. Moments later, the body crumbled to dust, revealing a black stone amulet and chain where the corpse had lain.

The two attempted to collect the papers from the table, but time had nearly destroyed them and they too turned to dust when touched. Gathering a Mason jar from the one of the worktables near the stairs, Joseph looped the chain of the amulet onto his pry bar and deposited the necklace inside the glass container, securing the lid once inside. The two gathered up the unconscious Chuck and departed the site with great alacrity.

The trio was successful in uncovering the forces responsible for the Willow St. house’s uncanny events and despite the wounds suffered, emerged victorious. Fletcher Dobbs paid them the promised $100 bonus, a sum that came in handily as both Charlie and Chuck were admitted into the care of the good doctors at Ashton Hospital with knife wounds allegedly incurred during a mugging attempt. They are currently resting and recuperating, leaving Joseph in possession with both Corbitt’s journals and the mysterious amulet at his farmstead.

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