Charles Southard And Lillian Brothers
‘The Case of the Murderous Muse
Something fowl in Asbury Grove’
Mr Southard, a Boston alienist of no mean reputation and Mrs Brothers, a PI appreciated by her clients for her subtlety and charm, and hired by Mr Southard for assistance in finding his lost brother, find themselves thrown from one unfortunate series of events (involving several mysterious corpses) to another (involving yet another mysterious corpse).
Will they prevent more deaths and bring home the troubled William?
Or will they end up as mysterious corpses themselves?
It’s September 1922
Mr Southard, a Boston alienist of no mean reputation and Mrs Brothers, a PI appreciated by her clients for her subtlety and hired by Mr Southard for assistance, travel to Rockport to investigate the disappearance of Mr Southard’s brother William.
On Monday 4th the pair drove out of Boston and headed north east and up through Essex County, past the town of Gloucester and through to the large village of Rockport – arriving just after noon. Rockport is a picturesque small fishing town over the coast of MA. Leaving the relatively cosmopolitan life to its larger neighbour Gloucester, Rockport has a sleepy tranquil feel to it. The air is fresh and briny as it lies exposed on the Atlantic coast. Sticking out into the ocean and home to fishermen and artists both appreciating the rolling waves – albeit for different reasons.
Our investigators, who are very much of a pragmatic mind, head first to secure accommodation – sadly not yet aware that events would prevent them from ever resting their heads on the soft Essex County pillows. There are more specific reasons for their choice of accommodation too – one of the hotels chosen, The Linden, was the last known whereabouts of William. Sadly for our investigative pair – despite some high quality sleuthing of back gardens and doilies, the landlady can shed no light on William’s whereabouts. Mr Southard secures access to William’s room – at a price – but nothing further is learnt other than that William took most of his clothing with him.
The only other lead Mr Southard is able to provide is that his brother had spoken to him of being invited to join the Rockport Art Association – a newly founded but up and coming art gallery. The curator, a Wilfred DanielsonWilfred Danielson, – tall, thin fellow blond haired with a slight befuddled sneer of an expression does remembers William. He appeared a few weeks ago and hung around for a week and then fell with in the weirdo Rockport Set. This set – a group of more abstract artists – are not happy with landscapes but always trying to give them a sense of the unreal. They have tried repeatedly to get their paintings hung but Mr Daniel’s has always felt that they weren’t really appropriate – with their latest offering a particularly unpleasant piece. Despite Mrs Brothers causing a small scene when her attempts at investigating beyond the gallery’s store room door failed, the curator is willing to provide some names of the so called set from his records. These are Florence Peters and Jacob Withers.
With these names fresh in their mind and growing sense of unease about William’s fate our investigators turned to a regular haunt of artistic types – the Lobster Shack – a small restaurant/café on the end of a promontory in the harbour. After a degree of smoozing Mrs Brothers manages to establish that the rest of the Rockport Set comprise of Martin Peters and Alfred West but that recently they had been joined by William and another man, possibly called Sammy, with “weird round glasses”. Additionally they found out that although most of the group have not been seen for a few days there were rumours flying around that Alfred and Florence were recently seen walking the streets soaking wet. Satisfied by their day’s sleuthing the pair decided to head back to their hotels and rest.
However, on their way back from the café they are accosted by a clearly distressed young boy. He has been sent by his mother, a neighbour of Alfred West, having heard that an alienist was in town and could perhaps help with the horrific noises that had been coming from Alfred’s house. Eager to assist, the investigators follow the boy back to Alfred’s house. Once there they easily enter by the unlocked back door and quickly head upstairs to Alfred’s bedroom where a young man is lying in his bed in some mental distress. Clearly a fan of the pharmaceutical school Mr Southard dashes to a chemist for sedatives and quickly puts Alfred into a drugged sleep on his return. When an investigation of the house reveals nothing but some outlandish paintings the pair decide that further information is needed and obtaining Florence’s address from a neighbour, head off to talk to her.
Upon arrival, Florence’s house is dark and there is no response to their knockings. Mrs Brother’s is defeated by the lock of the back door and the pair make ready to leave. However as they do Mr Southward notices a strange obstruction against the curtain of the upper bedroom window. Disturbed by the implications of this the back door is forced and they into the house. Apart from a strange sulphurous smell the house seems undisturbed. Upon entering the bedroom however a horrifying vista is revealed. A young woman with her body sliced open from several large rents lies dead upon the floor. More disturbing still is her blood splattered head where two damp sockets are where her eyes should be. Shocked but still focused the pair inform the police via the telephone and make a swift return to Alfred’s house.
Immediately upon entering though they notice a sulphurous scent in the air –again. Heading to Alred’s room with some sense of foreboding they discover him lying where they left him but with a blood soaked sheet from a single massive puncture wound to the abdomen and two more glaring sockets for eyes. This is too much for Mrs Brother’s who shrieking runs from the house desperate for open space. However sometimes adversity brings excellence and Mr Southward recalled perfectly a conversation from his student days with a friend reading law. He realises that it is imperative that they inform the police immediately to minimise the risk of incarceration. Given that he had previously informed Alfred’s neighbours that he was both about to sedate Alfred and visit Florence he realises that every effort must be made to support their innocence.
With a rising sense of panic, all thoughts of rest are put to one side for now and our investigators grab a new lead with the address of Alfred’s parents from his neighbours. A late night conversation – where his brutal death is definitely not mentioned – establishes that the Rockport Set are camped out on Milk Island undertaking some avant-garde art experiments that the authorities might not approve of. Mrs West also informs them that Milk Island belongs to the family of one of the set – Sammy – he of the “weird round glasses”. At the same time a horrible realisation dawns on them that Florence had been killed almost exactly 24 hours before poor Alfred at 9pm.
With this new knowledge Mr Southard and Mrs waste no time in securing passage aboard the good Captain Malick’s lobster boat who agrees to take them to Milk Island at 4am the following morning. Plans to rest in their hotels until then however are scuppered by the sight of waiting police outside each of their hotels. Deciding that conversations with the police could wait, the investigators instead decide to wake the owner of the local Bearskin Neck General Store and buy as much equipment as they can possibly carry. With that achieved that take turns to sleep in their car until the tide is ready for their voyage.
The hour long trip is uneventful, save for Mrs Brother’s seasickness and the vague comments of the 2nd Mate that Milk Island is rumoured to be a bad place with a ruined cottage that his grandpappy said was haunted.
Landing on the island is achieved successfully, albeit somewhat wetly, and the investigators immediately began to explore. Milk Island is a small, mile square, sparsely vegetated island off the coast and near to Thatcher Island lighthouse. The first thing they discover is a small locked outhouse containing the clearly deranged Jacob Withers. After several minutes of unproductive and mildly alarming conversation it is decided that it would be safer to leave Jacob where he is –even considering the psychiatric powers of Mr Southard. Their attention then turns to the ruined cottage.
The ruined cottage seemed to be unoccupied and whilst the ground floor was intact, half of the roof seemed to be missing with the bare rib cage of the roof struts exposed and the insulating fabric flapping disconsolately in the faint sea breeze. The door is locked and attempts to check the badly sealed windows produce cries of dissent from inside and requests to leave. A brief argument follows – loud enough to wake another occupant of the cottage – William Southard.
Inside the cottage it turns out there is Martin Peters a short, dark haired fellow and William Southard – both of whom look drawn, haggard and generally disturbed. From a conversation with them it arises that this is indeed Sammy’s family property but that he has left the island on his boat to obtain help. Ruth and Alfred have already left following a distressing incident with their art project. William offers to show the investigators what the nature of this project is although there are many weird landscape canvasses leaning against the walls of the cottage. He leads them upstairs.
The first floor is largely exposed to the sky but underneath a big piece of tarpaulin is a large telescope arranged in a curious manner. Around its base is a series of overlapping chalk octagons and circles with four large white stones arranged equally about it. In front of the telescope itself is a wire frame that holds a selection of weird prices of glass directly in front of the lens. Mrs Brother’s examines in more closely and finds it disturbing on a level that she cannot quite describe. William explains that the telescope shows fantastic scenes of the 4th moon of Saturn and that the artists were drawing inspiration from this wonderful sight. The last time they viewed it though some hideous creature had been seen and it was this that led Florence and Alfred to flee and Sammy to go and get help. Florence was the first to see the creature, then Alfred and then William….
Pressing William further he elaborated to explain that to activate the telescope Sammy sang chants for them to repeat whilst they had to cut their hands and held the white stones. He also explains that he had fallen in with the Rockport Set shortly after his arrival and that Sammy had apparently only recently arrived as well. He overheard them discussing the need to break new barriers in the arts and eventually Sammy had invited them here to show them what he intended.
Our investigators undertook further investigation finding one small room downstairs that was used as both a store and presumably Florence’s room and another room, that was Sammy’s, that whilst locked was opened with difficulty. Inside Sammy’s room was a table with a candle with more weird chalk marks though this time more like pentagrams and inside a chest was what appeared to be some kind of journal. This unfortunately was written in code although some of the diagrams in it did seem to correspond with some of the chalk markings. A quick exploration of the wider island was undertaken and upon a small hill a strange semi completed stone tower was discovered of about half a metre in height. It was hollow with an entrance on one side and the land within seemed completely barren. Whilst the base of the tower was clearly old it was noticed that further stones had been added to it recently and that distributed within the walls of the tower were pieces of white limestone, similar to that found near the telescope, that seemed to glow slightly and were almost warm to the touch.
Eager to depart the island before the monster Sammy could return – who they now suspected of murdering both Florence and Alfred – our investigators decide to risk using the two man row boat they had used to disembark Captain Malick’s craft to take themselves and William back to the island. This is not easily achieved however as William appears to have developed a fear of the seagulls – of which there were many on the island. After a few failed attempts and then some struggling with the rowing (including a capsize) the investigators finally reach Whale Cove at around 6pm.
After first drying off in a retired captain’s lonely cottage and hearing yet more tales of how Milk Island was a bad place and how the Injuns didn’t go near it the investigators head further up the hill in search of either a car or a telephone or both. They find a wealthy farmer who kindly allows them to report the location Jacob and Martin on Milk Island on the phone and then drops them off in Rockport. Eager to put as much distance between themselves and the Rockport police as well as whatever may be about hunt William in 2 hours time they drive to a motel in Gloucester. They refresh and at 9pm collect in their main room and wait… knife and gun drawn.
At 9pm the dreaded yet familiar sulphurous smell starts to appear in their room and before they can reach the door a hideous, over 2m tall thing appears in the middle of the room. It’s skin hanging in dank folds from his body and his head a mass of teeth it reaches for William with long taloned arms. William screams and frantically tried to burrow into the carpet in a corned of his room, ripping his finger nails as he tries to dig with fear induced strength. Mrs Brother’s fires a wild shot in the air whilst Mr Southard frantically tried to pull his brother out of danger. The things swipes widely at both Mr Southward and his brother and fortunately misses. A depressing clunk however marks the tragic malfunction of Mrs Brother’s gun leaving Mr Southward to attempt to fight the beast with his knife alone. He manages to catch the creature with a glancing blow but in return it knocks him back with a cruelly sharp talon heavily ripping his chest. It also rips the back of the still frantically struggling William. Mrs Brother’s expertly flicks a throwing knife into the monster’s dank hide before Mr Southard, empowered by filial love, throws himself at the beast with the knife in both hands and plunges it deeply into its chest. It roars, shimmers and fades away……
Our investigators travails are not over yet however as the noise and disturbance has brought both the hotels security and the local police. A screaming blood soaked man hiding in a corner whilst another blood soaked man looks on and a lady stands clutching a throwing knife would be enough to get you into trouble as it is. When they realise you’re also implicated in a double murder things could get tricky….
William is taken away – to a secure mental institute you are informed. Mean whilst, Sheriff Arbitrage of Essex County Police has a few questions for you. He’d like you both to begin by setting out exactly what you think happened….
It’s the morning of Sunday the 18th of September 1922.
Our investigators find themselves in a tiled plain room. They sit behind a bare wooden desk whilst Sheriff Arbitrage – a large, bear like figure of a white haired 50 year old – paces in front of them. Clearly unimpressed by the statements that they have provided he starts by pointing out the madness of what they have suggested attacked them in the hotel. Before he can get fully into his stride however he is interrupted by an underling and goes outside of the questioning room. A loud argument takes place in the corridor and although someone is talking quietly and inaudibly the Sheriff can be heard to shout things like “what?” “How dare you talk to me about jurisdiction” “this happened in my town” and finally “I’ll be in touch with the Mayor’s office about this”.
The Sheriff then returns into the room and says that the Massachusetts State Police have decided that as the crimes occurred across Essex County and may be linked to events in different areas that they will be pursuing the investigation – for now. He turns leaves and slams the door. After him enters a tall, well built man in his late 30s dressed in a smart State Police uniform. He has a strong jaw line and blond hair and introduces himself as Captain Knox, head of the MSP serious incident team. Rather than ask them questions he begins by saying that he has read their statements and that that he believes that there may be some truth in what they are saying. He knows that there are real and dangerous threats to the USA that need identifying and removing and they he will help them if they help him.
This doesn’t sit well with Mr Southard – who has clearly been made irritable by his lack of sleep – and he demands to see his brother and asks exactly what help could be provided. Despite the circumstances Mr Southard gives every impression of believing that his situation does not look too bad… This cuts no mustard with Captain Knox who explains in increasingly terse tones that William is in a secure mental institution, that the charges against them are serious but that he can secure their release on bail for some time – claiming that they are helping with the wider investigation. However he adds that would need more evidence to talk to the relevant authorities to get them fully cleared.
Mr Southard is still in no mood for negotiation or indeed salvation and continues to demand access to his brother and an explanation of why their help would be needed at all (with something of an air of man who expects his taxes to be well spent). Captain Knox repeats the unavailability of William and explains that unfortunately his unit is fully engaged with some moonshine smugglers in Boston and he cannot investigate this fully. He wants them to stay in the county, find this Sammy character, and regularly report back to him on progress. He stresses that they are on a multiple murder charge and that they should not leave the county.
Following some last minute moderation by Lillian our investigators accept the offer and are driven to a café where their car is waiting.
The investigators give Mrs Brothers’ car a quick glance over and Lillian’s sharp eyes spot that the notebooks that they had salvaged from Milk Island have vanished. Furious they vow to question Captain Knox about this later. Then, with the strong pragmatic sense for which they are both well known, they decide to have some doughnuts and coffee and discuss their next steps.
Despite some unconstructive discussion of Mrs Brothers’ wages the pair produce a quick plan of action. Firstly they arranged for the photos to be developed from Mrs Brothers’ shots of Milk Island (the camera had been left although she paid an extremely high fee for their rapid development for 5pm the next day). Mrs Brothers also put in a call with an old contact called Henry to get the rub on Captain Knox’s credentials (he would call back and confirm that he was legit). Following that they spent a surprisingly long time discussing firearms at the local gun shop… Mr Southard was evidently easily able to put his double murder charge behind him and selected the largest shot gun he find using the somewhat weak cover story of deer hunting…
Filled with doughnuts and loaded with weapons our investigators then followed their clearest lead on the mysterious round glasses wearing Sammy character – the ownership of Milk Island itself which was alleged to have been his family property. The local records office produced the fact that the island was purchased by an Isaiah Bishop of the Willowdale Estate near village of Asbury Grove in 1823. The census records however imply that Isaiah Bishop never lived in Rockport or the island itself. Following up on the Injun tales they also confirm that the island was likely to be under the Agawam people.
After checking in with Captain Knox at 10pm as agreed the pair agree to call it a day and the day after try Ipswich records office, the survivors in Rockport and then Asbury Grove itself.
After an hour long drive through the scenic country and coastal roads of this stretch of the Eastern seaboard our investigators arrive at the ancient but industrious fishing town of Ipswich.
Their first port of call is the records office. Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, they can find no record of an Isaiah Bishop. They are informed however that records are patchy pre 1850 and that their best hopes lie in the parish records of the place their inquiry was born.
Disgruntled but not dispirited they move onto the local library – keen to find out more about the Agwam than the small library of Gloucester could give them. They are rewarded doubly. First they establish that the Agwam were indeed the native people of the local area; with the last of them seen on Wigwam Hill in 1726 and that they were rumored to practice unsavory rituals. They spoke Eastern Algonquian, a language group belonging to the Algonquian family. Secondly the librarian, impressed by the cut of Mr Southard’s jib, lets them know of a burglary at the town university’s ethnography dept.. Intrigued by this the pair rushed to the campus at once.
Once there they easily located the correct building and smoothly talked their way into a doctoral student showing them around the large exhibition room. From this they learned that the dept. held a large collection of Agwam works but that the professor whose specialty it was had been so shocked by the break in that he had gone to stay with family. The break in occurred around three weeks ago and the professor was expected back shortly. Although the doctoral student is unable to confirm what was taken the keen investigatory skills of Mrs Brothers notices that a case labeled as ‘ritual text’ is broken and covered up… alas the student became suspicious at that point and asked them to leave.
Vowing to pursue the professor later the pair decided that it was time they visited Asbury Grove to obtain further information on the mysterious Isaiah Bishop.
On the short drive west through the leafy woodlands of the Hamilton’s they notice that they appear to be being followed. Although the car and its occupants appear unremarkable Lillian makes a point of driving beyond Asbury Grove and pulling up in the next village. After leaving some time the pair drive into Asbury Grove free of their tail. Or at least as far as they can tell they do…..
Asbury Grove is a small village, placed upon the crest of the Wenham swamp to the West and the rolling wooded hills of the Hamiltons to the East. The village itself has just a small church and a hotel cum village store – The Fowl and Fowler. The houses are modest and wooded and seem to crane close to the road as though to be closer to the mark of civilization for safety. As they drove in off the Ipswich-Topsfield Road they noticed a large run down mansion, set back, to their left and settled in the hill side.
As a first port of call our investigators head to the church – hoping that it contains the parish records. The large, wholesome clergyman agrees to allow them access to his records room but insists on gently sweating in the background while they work through the numerous cabinets. But they have success!
Firstly they discover the birth and death records of Isaiah Bishop, and his descendents:
Then they uncover the property records for the Willowhall Estate:
• 1st July 1734 – the building is completed by Lord Turner
• 5th August 1777 – the estate is sold to Isaiah Bishop for $1
• 12th June 1839 – the estate is Estate sold to Ipswich Enterprises
• 10th April 1851 Estate sold to Turner Hill Timber
As the research has taken many hours the pair thank the clergyman and leave the church in the gathering dusk and head to the local hotel with the growing sound of insect life on the swamp and the occasional curlew call echoing around the street.
The village inn agrees to find them rooms and looking around our investigators see only a few local patrons – except for a group of dark skinned burly men in a corner. Deciding that their investigations are not quite over they fall into conversation with them and one of the lumberjacks (as they turn out to be) agrees to show them to the Willowhall Estate. They work on the forest estate nearby and that the building acts as the companies head quarters.
They walk with the lumberjack through the gathering mist and falling light the short distance to the Estate. It is reached down a long gravel tree lined avenue leading to a slightly uncared for two wing mansion. The gravel road forms a square outside with a leaf filled pond and a broken fountain. A slight air of wood shavings mixes with the more damp, rich air coming from the swamp. After haggling a payment (in the dark with a stranger) the lumberjack agrees to wait while Lillian, and then Mr Southward, climb in through a window. They are unable to see much in the darkness other than paperwork and as they stumble around they hear footsteps outside on the gravel and a questioning voice…. Realising the futility of their situation, they answer and are collected by a scruffy, rustled blond and bearded man who introduces himself as Mr Nicholas Haggart – the lumberyard supervisor.
A short awkward conversion ensues until some smooth talking, and hard cash, convinces Mr Haggard to spill. He explains that one wing of the estate is used as an office and the other as accommodation for clients on hunting trips. He admits that a shifting looking character with round glasses had also visited in the last two weeks or so and that he had ‘facilitated’ his entrance. In exchange for some more hard cash he agrees to do the same for the investigators.
It transpires that Sammy asked to be left in the study and our pair to do the same. Mr Haggert agrees and Mr Southward and Mrs Brothers have a good look around the study. Apart from a few comfortable chairs and small tables the room has a substantial fireplace with a large picture of King George III over it while the rest of the space is filled with book cases. Our investigators note that there are several clear gaps but that the dust in them suggests the books have not been taken recently. Further looking does however identify a shelf containing an old book entitled ‘The Agwam and similarities to certain other global religions’ by a Mr I Bishop. Next to it is an old copy of the ‘Keys of Solomon’. Our pair take both and make their exit.
As they walk back to the inn along the deserted main road the mist gently drifts up from the swamp while the stars overhead glare down and offer some small illumination. Then a strange noise comes muffled out of the mist from the direction of the swamp. It is a sort of high pitched tittering – a sound unlike any that they have heard before. They walk on. Then a single loud shotgun blast roars out of the air and echoes off the hill side. Hurrying their pace they see that a small path leads off the main road down into the swamp. The shotgun blast seemed to have come from that direction. Pulling out their weapons, with Mr Southard taking the lead, they head down the path. There are shapes in the trees ahead that, as they draw closer, appear to be large birds hanging down, with a gentle patter of blood dripping from their bodies. As our investigators pause, the tittering sound is heard followed by another shotgun blast and then a scream. Creeping cautiously on, whilst Mrs Brothers covers the rear, Mr Southard sees the outline on a small, ancient looking cottage up ahead with a shape on the ground to one side. Pausing, then calling Mrs Brothers to look with him, the two advances towards the shape. What they see is the partially desiccated corpse of an old man – his body covered in small puncture wounds filled with blood. His skin sags against his skull and bones as though he has been partially drained. Realising the potential legal complications of discovering yet another corpse, the two head back quickly to the inn – intent on informing Captain Knox as soon as possible.
Back at the inn they call Captain Knox and explain what has occurred. He sounds agitated and tells them to be tell no one, stay put and he will be over in the morning to tidy things up. As they hang up however a gentleman wanders over having heard the phrase ‘puncture wounds’…..
A Mr Martin Taylor introduces himself. He is a smart nice looking if weathered 40 yr old. He explains that he is a widower who used to be a factory overseer in Boston but now keeps a farm on the coast. His son went missing a few years ago after claims that he had been followed by weird voices and that he had seen strange giant birds. He now clearly believes that there’s something out there. He keeps an eye out and a scrap book on weird happenings and his farmer friends had mentioned that some of their cattle had weird puncture injuries in the last few weeks. The farms are on the banks of Ipswich River – Ipswich side of Turner Hill. Kinda between Scott Hill and Turner Hill. Asbury seemed to be the nearest place to stay. Since he’d been here he heard more rumors of weird noises near the Black Brook Road.
“Now what was that about puncture wounds you were saying just then?”
To be continued…..
After giving a carefully edited version of events to Martin Taylor they agree that they will perhaps visit him in future. Cards are swapped. Our investigators retire to their room where they recap the day’s events. In an amicable division of labour they agree that they should take a book each and retire for the evening.
Mr Southard takes the ‘Keys of Solomon’ notes the contents of its slightly frayed black leather covers. A skim suggests that it contains complex descriptions of the nature of magic. The second volume contains descriptions of spells for summoning spirits. They seem to require very specific substances such as vole blood, queen bees and other materials you do not recognize. Ritual patterns do bear some resemblance to photos though. The spell is called ‘knowing that that may’. Exhausted he then passes out.
Mrs Brothers takes ‘The Agawam and similarities to certain other global religions’ and reads it for some time.
However Mrs Brother’s reading is disturbed after midnight as she hears a sound at the door. A sound as though someone was attempting to enter the room. She rouses herself and produces her firearm and heads into their lounge to investigate. She is greeted by the sight of a tired and irate Captain Knox. He explains that he has driven straight over and they need to fix this. Now. The two of them wake the slumbering form of Mr Southward. Then, when Mr Southard feels that they have sufficient ordinance with them they creep outside where Knox’s and his 2 associate’s cars wait.
They drive to the game keeper’s cottage. Mist and the sounds of millions of insects still rolling off the marsh. Somewhat concerned over Mr Southward’s howitzer Captain Knox directs that he should lead the way…. They creep down the mist strewn path with eyes and ears playing tricks. They reach and investigate the body where Mr Southard displays his medical expertise by observing that cause of death appears to be heart failure due to loss of blood pressure in turn caused by multiple small puncture wounds. A further investigation of the site discovers strangely corroded and diseased undergrowth leading away from the body and into the marsh.
They return to the cars where Captain Knox orders his two troopers to take care of the situation and they are seen heading towards the crime scene with a large barrel of something…
Back at the car Captain Knox attempts to ascertain if our investigators have managed to accumulate any clues as to the source of the killer. Despite Mr Southard’s cynicism Captain Knox refuses to acknowledge that anything non-normal may be occurring but believes that Sammy may still be in the area. Marking the sites of the various disturbances that Martin Taylor reported they decide that the Estate may be worth investigating as it is near, if not central to the triangle of disturbance.
They drive to the unlit estate through the mist. Captain Knox discourages entry into the Estate itself following a brief recap on Mr Southward and Mrs Brother’s previous discovery. They decide to head off down the rough road that sweeps to the East away from the Estate and into the forest that covers the hill.
The road continues past the estate with the hill summit looming to their left. As they walk on they see a row of wooden buildings with lights outside behind the Estate which look like the lumberjacks lodgings and warehouse. Some snores come from it. Waking on the rough muddy road the trees loom in on either side. The mist thins and a few stars can be seen. Night birds screech. And the sound of small mouse can be heard before an owl swoops across the path. Just through the gently moving branches the dark outline of the summit can be seen. The road rises gently and a after a short while it branches. One road turns downhill and right another continues sharply to the left. They also notice a footpath that breaks off and heads up to the summit.
Scrambling and slipping they head up the path, Mr Southard and his blunderbuss leading the way again. A noise is heard behind them. They pause and prepare themselves as the sound of twigs breaking and heavy breathing approaches… until the torch shines into the face of an exerted Martin Taylor. A surly reunion between Mr Taylor and Captain Know ensues. They head on reaching the summit where, from a weathered top compete with a mossy fireplace and seats, they can see across the night and mist strewn landscape around them. From not far the East they can see some form of illumination, lighting the undergrowth.
Struggling down the hill again they reach the road once more and choose the left branch towards the direction of the light. Walking further they see another wide path stretching over into the ancient oaks away from the road and in the direction of the light they believe. They head down it, fighting brambles all the way. After some distance they can see that they are approach the light. The source appears to be a brick shaft that protrudes a foot above the surface of the earth and is covered with an iron grill. Closer inspection reveals the ironwork to be corroded in some places. Casting the torch around more widely reveals that the leaves of some of the trees are also corroded and diseased.
As Mr Southard looks at the strangely affected foliage he notices that they are being brushed aside as though some large object is being pushed through. At the same time an alien tittering fills the air… shotguns and pistols roar, bloody ruptures appear on Captain Knox followed by a red filigree tracing of some nightmarish tentacled monstrosity looming over them all – it’s too much for our investigators and shrieking they run into the woods….
Our investigators find themselves by the banks of Ipswich River. It’s rushing water surging through a tunnel made by the overhanging trees on either bank. Dawn light slowly filters through upon them.
They realize that they have run further down the path that they were originally on and retrace their steps – uncertain of what they have seen or what they will find. On their return they notice what appears to be a collapsed entrance to an underground tunnel. Heavily overgrown it looks to be have been inaccessible for a very long time. A little further on they find the remains of a small brick building – as overgrown as the tunnel. Still further on and they come to the grate and the site of their encounter only hours before. Waiting for them is a bleeding but unbowed Captain Knox and a clearly petrified and shocked Mr Taylor. After a brief discussion they agree to return to Captain Knox’s car so that he can seek medical support and back up to assist with dealing with the escalating situation in Asbury Grove.
Captain Knox drops off the party at the Fowl and Fowler leaving our investigators with clear instructions not to delve further into events. Mr Taylor retires to his room, repeating his offer of hospitality but saying that he needs to return home to recuperate. Mr Southard and Mrs Brothers decide to ignore Captain Knox’s request and instead divide some tasks between them –Mr Southard is to stay at the inn and continue his studies of the Keys of Solomon while Mrs Brothers should drive to Ipswich to see if the anthropology professor has returned. As Mrs Brother’s car spends off Mr Southard swiftly falls asleep in his room…
Mrs Brothers heads to the university through the wooded hills in the crisp sunshine – faintly troubled by the sensation that she is being tailed…
Arriving at the university she finds the Prof with his but unfortunately rapidly makes his feel uncomfortable with am implausible line of questioning. Realising that a change of tack was required she summoned Mr Southward – who managed to rapidly rouse himself and arrive in a taxi.
Re-tackling the Professor enables the investigators to extract a range of information from the voluble academic on the Agawam and their religion:
While at the university our investigators decide to use the library to research other topics that recent events and discovers have brought to their attention.
They attempt to cross-reference the ‘The Agwam and similarities to certain other global religions’ by a Mr I Bishop and find in reference to Jan Van Hendriks that:
Looking into the history of the Asbury Grove the only information they can find is that the Estate was famous pre war as smuggling centre and during the war as defeat of a British force and is unique in having a memorial to the bodies. Inspired they rush back to the village church to see if they can find it. As dusk falls upon the settlement they enter the autumnal graveyard, and yes, there is a small plaque saying ‘God protect their souls’.
They return to their room and plan their next steps. The talk of revolutionary wars rings a bell – the painting of George III in the Estate itself. They prepare and head off. Mrs Brothers opens the door with consummate ease and they swiftly head to the library. Waiting for them is the large painting of George III. Pausing for inspiration while they consider this seemingly incongruous painting they notice that it has an usual metal frame. Twisting it turns and with a muffled click one of the book cases behind them swings away from the wall revealing a passage beyond. A damp musty breeze wafts up. With a chill they notice scratch marks all over the bottom on half of the door. Scratch marks made by something from the inside.
Taking a lamp from the room they head down the steps of the well built tunnel, tall enough to stand easily, that heads downwards into the dark. A short way down the tunnel ends in a large rusty gate that they discover is unlocked. Despite the depth of mould pn the ground it looks as though it has seen recent disturbance. Mrs Brother’s sharp historical eye notes that the brickwork could date back to the 1700s.
They pass through and follow the tunnel’s gentle curve to the left for a few minutes more before it ends in a T junction. To the right is another metal gate – although Mrs Brother’s is sure that is of later date than the previous one. The lamp light reveals that there are more disturbances in the ground here – heading from beyond the gate to the left – with a dried dark brown liquid marking a passage over the bricks.
Our investigators head left and it is clear that the bricks change, perhaps dating from the 19th century. Continuing further they reach a further T junction. An air of quiet evil seems to linger.
Heading left the duo discover three rooms, all with stout wooden doors with viewing shutters. The doors are all unlocked and contain manacles. The last door is metal and looks even more recent than the others. The brown dried stains come from it and its doors slightly ajar. Inside is a bare cell like the others. Lying in the room are 4 desiccated corpses of rabbits. Scrawled on the wall in chalk are a collection of diagrams that our shocked investigators note look very familiar to those seen on Milk Island.
Turning back down the corridor they reach a large wooden door, with a metal shutter window about two thirds up. Inside it is unlocked. Inside is a large bench with a collection of rusting sharp implements on it. On the opposite side of the wall are two manacles tied in the wall, with manacles at the bottom with a drain gutter underneath. It is filled with think, dry brown dust.
On the other side of the corridor is a large wooden door. Its aging lock is no match for Mrs Brothers. Inside there are rugs upon the floor, a moldering seating chair, a high backed chair in front on a writing desk, a drinks cabinet with a bottle of 1830s brandy inside and a small empty book case. Mr Southward pockets the brandy.
There being no further options for exploration the pair head back to the main junction. The tunnel continues along, sloping gently downhill. There are unused torch holders on the wall. The marks continue along the floor but turn left at another T Junction. Turning left the corridor continues briefly before ending in an ajar door.
Hesitantly pushing the door open they discover a large brick lined room. Besides the lamp it appears to have some partial illumination from the ventilation shaft in its ceiling. Bits of broken tables and benches litter the floor in heaps. Lying on the floor is what appears to be some sort of bloody corpse…
Gasping with shock the pair advance and are further surprised when the thing rolls, sits and stands and begins to mutter at them. It clearly has no idea who they are and initially mutters incoherently about a “boy’ and sneeringly refers to his big ideas. Mixed in with this are phrases about “Van Hendrik’s knew”. In a moments focus it states in leaden, confident voice:
As the creature is intoning this pair notice a small bark scroll on the floor, similar to that seen at Ipswich University. Mrs Brother’s steps forward to pick it up and noticing the creature encourage them to come nearer, to come closer, closer. Unable to stop herself Mrs Brother’s begins to door so. Mr Southward protests but as soon as he does so pieces of wood spontaneously flying from them floor at him. This forces Mr Southward to act -with a mighty band his shot gun roars and pellets fly and ricochet around the room. Some strike into Mrs Brothers and perhaps the pain breaks the creature’s mental grip on her for she is able to make a dive for the scroll. She reaches it but the creature in turn seizes her. Rotting fingers seizing her legs. Mr Southward releases his second barrel….
Holes are torn in monsters body but also tear into the struggling form of Mrs Brothers. The monster releases her as she faints. Mr Southward, with a speed surprising for his age, leaps in, grabs her bloodied form and strives to carry her away to freedom. The monster stirs, grabs her ankle once more, but with a final tussle, Mr Southward is free and runs down the corridor while enraged sounds and stumbling sounds behind. He runs up the stairs, slam shut the door and exits the building.
Stricken with guilt and horror he speeds into the night – bound for a hospital and the warmth of modernity.
Principle Cast (in order of appearance)
• Mrs Brothers – A PI
• Mr C. Southward – A Psychologist
• Wilfred Danielson – Rockport Art Gallery curator
• Alfred West – Artist, member of Rockport Set (dead)
• Florence Peters – Artist, member of Rockport Set (dead)
• Captain Malick – Rockport ship captain
• Jacob Withers – Artist, member of Rockport Set
• Martin Peters- Artist, member of Rockport Set
• Mr W. Southward – Charle’s brother; insane
• Eye eating visitor from beyond (assumed dead)
• Sheriff Arbitrage – of Essex County Police
• Captain Knox –head of the MSP serious incident team
• Mr Haggard – Willowhall Estate timber foreman
• Martin Taylor – retired businessman and ‘truth searcher’
• Tentacled entity of Willowhall Estate
• Professor Rider – Ethnologist at Ipswich University; specialist in Agawam
• Rev. Sawyer – Asbury Grove Church
• Undead tging
Sujets d’enquête (not to be taken as exhaustive!)
• Sammy’s diary (location unknown)
• The Agawam and similarities to certain other global religions’, Mr I Bishop
• ‘The Keys of Solomon’
Lines of enquiry pursued:
• History of Milk Island
• birth and death records of Isaiah Bishop, and his descendents
• History of Agawam
• Ownership of Willowhall Estate
• Jan Van Hendriks (18th Century Dutch explorer)
• History of Asbury Grove
• Milk Island
• Willowhall Estate Building, grounds and cellars
• Asbury Grove Church