Cthulhu 100

Case 005 - Eyes for the Blind

Blind men are not always what they seem

June 1892

On June 2nd 1892, Edith, Inspector Nathaniel Hunt, Shemus Moriarty and Theodore Smith were on a train heading to Henley-on-Thames to investigate reports of a two-headed cow, which transpired to be a red herring. However, the train journey led the investigators onto a most unusual case.

The only other occupants of the carriage that the investigators were in were a tall man in a dark suit and a bowler hat, carrying a briefcase. He wore glasses, had a small moustache and appeared to be in his thirties with a somewhat nervous disposition, which as events would prove was well deserved. The other occupant was a blind man, wearing dark glasses and a black suit, who walked rather stiffly with a cane.

The train went along on its way to Henley, reaching a tunnel about halfway between Shiplake and Henley, as the carriage went dark a choked scream and heavy thump occurred, with Shemus feeling a sudden splash of warm liquid hit his face, then suddenly there was a jolt and squeal of the emergency brakes and the train ground to a halt, still in the tunnel. A sharp sweet scent filled the carriage.

The guard appeared bearing a lamp and there were gasps of horror as the tall man was dangling from the emergency cord, his right hand clutching it in a death grip, held upright against the seat by the bulk of the blind man. The hilt of a knife was protruding from the tall man’s chest.

The blind man was slumped frozen against the tall man, the victim’s blood staining the front of the blind man’s clothes. The blind man too was dead, though without apparent wound. The tall man suddenly gurgled and the cord slipped from his grasp, the support lost, both victim and murderer collapsed on the floor.

Inspector Hunt took charge momentarily whilst waiting for the police from Henley, whilst the guard ran back to Shiplake to telegraph the police. Hunt examined the bodies of the two men and discovered that the tall man was a stockbroker named Horatio Cartwright. In Cartwright’s possession there was a letter addressed to a J. Oldacre Esq., 9 Hart Street, Henley-on-Thames with the proviso that the letter be delivered by hand written on the top right corner, which Hunt took as well as Cartwright’s card that had his address at Mortlake written on it. There was nothing to identify the blind man, however, removing the blind man’s glasses the investigators were horrified to see that the man had no eyes.

Hunt read the letter to Oldacre:

My honoured friend Jeremiah,
By the time you read this I fear that I shall be dead. But the time has come to act. Nystor Ferencz means to raise the Dulcarnon, with incalculable consequences. He boasted much in his converse with me, and now I fear I know too much for his liking. Olaus Wormius I have instructed Horatio to hide and by now he should have destroyed the Green Man if all has gone well. I have buried the other things at Robin Hood’s Bower; you know where. Go quickly and beware of blind men who are not what they seem.
Elias

Shortly thereafter, Inspector Longtree from Henley arrived on the scene and the investigators as witnesses were taken to Henley to have their statements taken, with both Hunt and Smith assisting the coroner in the autopsies of Horatio Cartwright and the blind man. Meanwhile, Edith had discovered a newspaper story about two infants that had been discovered in the post, and so after Hunt and Smith had finished with the autopsies, Edith and Shemus both went to the local orphanage to find out as much as they could about the babies, where they discovered, from a rather jolly nun, that they were both in fine health and doing well and that they would need to talk to the police for more details of the case as the orphanage were not sure of the details.

Meanwhile, both Hunt and Smith headed over to Oldacre’s house, where they discovered that the back door was open. Inside they discovered that the kitchen contained unwashed dishes and the bread in the in the bread box was moldy and green, with flies buzzing lazily around the room. However, going through the hall to the stairs, they perceived a rotten odour. Up the stairs, the smell got worse, and on the landing it was quite unpleasant. Upstairs they observed clouds of flies and the smell was worst in Oldacre’s study-bedroom.

Dimly seen through the humming swarms of swirling flies was the source of the repulsive odour – the deceased owner of the house, Jeremiah Oldacre, a scruffily-dressed man of sixty-five or so. He lay on the bed, his insides were on the floor and the warm weather had accelerated the decay, with an open back window promoting a fly-blown corpse that was gripped by fat black flies and squirming maggots. Oldacre had been dispatched with the same sort of triangular-bladed dagger used to slay Horatio Cartwright and it had been expelled as the corpse bloated, lying beside the bed on the floor.

The shelves of books testified that the late Oldacre was a student of the occult and Hunt and Smith took copies of The Golden Bough, The Secret Doctrine and The Key of Solomon from the room, along with the dagger. Also of note in the room was a single ornate candle holder, of the sort which includes a finger ring for carrying and a cupping plate with which to catch the wax, it had clearly been much used. Nearby was a half-empty tin of kitchen matches, unlike the rest of the room, neither the candle holder nor the candles were dusty.

After leaving Oldacre’s house, the investigators met up again and decided to spend the night in Henley, heading back to London on an early train the following day, with Hunt resolving to check police files on the matter of the infants in the post, Shemus checking with his underworld contacts and both Edith and Smith going on to check out the Cartwright house at 2 Church Street, Mortlake near to the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens.

Upon arriving in London, they were met at the station by Jonathan Asbatch, who arranged for transport for himself, Edith and Smith to Cartwright’s house. As they neared the house, they witnessed two men fleeing the house, one of whom was carrying a wrapped bundle that could have been a book, and leaping onto a funeral hearse, which was driven by a third man. The hearse took off and Jonathan called for their carriage driver to follow it. A chase ensued, which ended when the driver of the hearse lost control and wrecked it, with both the driver and one of the other men being killed and the final man being heavily injured. As the investigators examined the scene, Smith hurriedly hid the book away in their carriage as Edith and Jonathan spoke to the police.

Heading back to the house, Jonathan realised that the house had previously belonged to the Elizabethan court official John Dee who was synonymous with the occult. They went inside, where the coolness of the mansion was welcome after the heat of the day. Inside however, they discovered the body of a middle-aged woman who was later identified as Mrs. Paterson, the Cartwrights’ housekeeper. Also inside was a blind man who politely bid them a good day, addressing Smith by name, the man was of course animated by Nystor Ferencz, who told the investigators that they should leave well alone from meddling in affairs that they could not possibly hope to deal with or have a chance of stopping. At this the blind man collapsed as Ferencz removed his control.

Searching the house, they found the diaries of Horatio Cartwright, which contained a clipping from the Times announcing the death of Horatio’s father, Elias Cartwright, in a carriage accident. Also found in the mansion were the last instructions given to Horatio by his father:

My dear son Horatio
Be assured that despite the appearance of parts of this note, I am still of sound mind and good judgement. By the time you read this, I will be dead. Unless someone has been very careless, you probably think of my death as an unfortunate accident. I assure you that it was nothing of the kind. Do not waste your time with the police, however, as those responsible are sure to have covered their tracks well and nothing will come of any investigations. Instead, please obey the following instructions to the letter. I assure you it is of the utmost importance that they be carried out. You were always a good and dutiful son to me in life, for the love of God do not fail me now.
First, go into the main library and look along the top shelf on the wall facing the window. On the far right hand end you will find a book in an unmarked black jacket, quite large. On no account are you to even glance at the contents. Instead, hide it somewhere safe. Do not show it to anyone, with one exception. If my friend Mr. Oldacre from Henley, whom I believe you have met once or twice, should call and ask for it, he is to be given it without delay or question.
Secondly, you are to go as quickly as possible by train to Truro, and book yourself into the Black Lion Hotel for the night. Do not use your own name in the register, any other will do. In the morning, rise very early, about 5AM and open the package you see before you. It contains a candle and a piece of paper with writing on it. Light the candle and whisper aloud the verse upon the paper. Then leave at once. Do not extinguish the candle. Depart for London on the next train.
Thirdly, when you have done this, please deliver the envelope to my friend Mr. Oldacre. Deliver it yourself; do not trust to the post, and be quite sure to place it into his hands and no others. If he is absent when you call, try again later.
Please do all these things as soon as possible, and further please take great care for your safety as there are many who would wish ill upon you. I should not advise staying in this house; instead put it on the market. You may well find it much easier to sell than the estate agents expect. I implore you once more to not disappoint me at the last,
Your loving father, Elias.

From reading Horatio’s diary, the investigators found out that Horatio was in need of quick cash and so had taken the most valuable looking books from the library to a bookseller in London’s Seven Dials, whom he knew to be one his father had used. The man was very interested in acquiring the volume mentioned in his father’s note, so much so in fact that Horatio became suspicious and left without the sale he had sought. Horatio had followed his father’s wishes in heading to Truro on the morning of the 30th May, but he had left no details as to what had occurred there.

Meanwhile Hunt had managed to find that the parcel containing the infants had been sent from Lambeth, but had not managed to learn anymore and Shemus had also come up against a dead end, however he had managed to procure some dynamite. Hunt also forcefully questioned the survivor of the carriage accident, where he learnt the name of David Smythe. Finally, it was decided to hide the Necronomicon with Alasdair Maloney.

The next day, Hunt with Edith and Smith in tow decided to pay a visit to Seven Dials, which was formed by the joining up of seven streets at a point about two hundred yards east of the Charing Cross Road. Flanked to the west by Covent Garden, then still a bustling vegetable market with a lawless reputation, and to the east by Charing Cross and Soho, Seven Dials became most disreputable after the building of New Oxford Street drove the underworld south, out of St. Giles’ rookery.

In the daytime, Seven Dials was popular with pickpockets, and in the evening with prostitutes. By night it was a place better avoided. The buildings mostly small and crookedly constructed, contained a mixture of pubs, coffee houses and shops, the last representing a wide variety of trades with secondhand and stolen goods being particularly common. Items for sale leant towards the exotic and unusual.

Abraham Hengst was the bookseller to whom Horatio Cartwright had showed the edition of Olaus Wormius. His shop was the only bookseller’s on Seven Dials, flanked on one side by a secondhand clothes shop and on the other by a repair shop. Inside the light was dim, and the must of old books filled the air. Hengst conducted business from a small counter set next to the door, it was noticed that the Occult section was a little larger than would be expected.

Hengst was a short fellow of about fifty, bearded and bespectacled, who answered Hunt’s questions about the Cartwrights, but began to become more evasive when Hunt began to question him about Smythe and Ferencz, eventually breaking down and showing the investigators the secret exit from his shop that Smythe often used. Informing them that Smythe was not a man to be messed with to which Hunt informed him to be out of his shop that night as he was going to be paying Smythe a visit.

Later that day Hunt contacted Inspector Harrison Craddock asking him to patrol the area of Seven Dials with a group of constables as he was going to be leading a raid on Smythe’s lair that night.

The night of the raid, Hunt, Smith, Shemus, Edith and Jonathan were accompanied by Charles Van Winstin Hine, Takeshi Takemori, Bob Shire and Reginald Black. They entered through Hengst’s shop, where they found that Hengst was not around and so leaving Shemus to stay behind momentarily in case they were being followed they headed into the secret passage into the sewers. Heading along the sewer, they found a ladder leading up nearly 35 feet in height, which they began to climb, Takeshi taking the lead followed closely by Hunt and Reginald.

At the top of the ladder Takeshi slowly opened a trapdoor, hearing a small rock roll from it, which later transpired to be a ward set up by Smythe. The room that he emerged into was empty, with one door leading out and so consequently the rest of the investigators followed him into the room. Listening at the door, Takeshi could hear one side of a conversation featuring Smythe, and although unknown at the time Ferencz. Smythe was informing the other person that he wanted to recover the book (Necronomicon), both Smith’s and Hunt’s names were mentioned by Smythe. Smythe also asked about Graystone as well as an offer that had been made by someone named Gray. At this point Smythe wondered aloud as to why the uninvited guests (investigators) had not come into the room yet.

Crashing into the room, the investigators were set upon by what was later revealed to be two Dimensional Shamblers, quickly followed by Smythe’s two Hindu bodyguards. Shots at Smythe were proving to have no effect and Smythe managed to gain control of first Takeshi and then Reginald, setting the two fighting each other. Both Bob and Charles were injured, Bob by one of the Dimensional Shamblers and Charles by one of the bodyguards, all of whom were killed, just as several thugs ran into the room where Smythe was. At this point, Hunt backed up by Smith launched an attack on Smythe, but Hunt was dismayed to find that he failed to hurt the sorceror who then after having failed to gain control over Hunt managed to control Smith, making him shoot Hunt at pointblank range with a shotgun, killing him. Meanwhile Takeshi seriously injured Reginald just as a tall pale figure emerged from the trapdoor that the investigators had used, shouting to the investigators to get back down the ladder before they were killed by Smythe and his thugs.
Shemus with the aid of Jonathan tied up Reginald and proceeded to carry him down the ladder, closely followed by Edith, Charles and Bob, whilst their new ally wrestled Takeshi and carried him. Meanwhile, Smith threw dynamite at the thugs, not realising that he was still within range of the blast, setting off the dynamite that he still carried, blowing him to pieces as well as the body of Hunt and killing several of the thugs. The floor gave out and the various bodies were dropped four stories as was Smythe, who managed to survive and affect a quick escape.

Once away from the influence of Smythe, both Takeshi and Reginald were freed from Smythe’s spell and the man introduced himself as Sir Francis Varney, an ally and friend of the late Rupert Merriweather. Going back to the Society’s rooms, Varney informed them that he was dedicated to the destruction of the Chapel of Contemplation, but that he preferred to work alone. He told them to continue the investigations that they had been doing and leave Smythe well alone for the timebeing. He did not know who Graystone was, but did know that Gray was none other than Dorian Gray whom he had been tracking for some time, informing them that Gray was an immortal who could not be harmed. Varney in turn was somewhat evasive regarding his own past, although he did admit to the investigators that he was a vampire.

The next morning, Craddock informed the investigators that the thug that had survived the carriage chase had been found dead in his jail cell, having committed suicide and leaving a suicide note that implicated Hunt as the cause, he also informed them that Tobias Smith, the younger brother of Theodore Smith, had been kidnapped and that there was as yet no message from the kidnappers. It was at this point that Craddock was informed that both Hunt and Smith had been killed during the raid on Smythe’s lair.

That day they tried to track down the whereabouts of Tobias. Later the investigators uncovered what they could about Varney and looked into the whereabouts of Robin Hood’s Bower, which they discovered to be not far away from Henley and so consequently Edith, Jonathan, Takeshi and Reginald headed back to Henley, where both Edith and Jonathan reinvestigated the Oldacre house though nothing of further use was uncovered there.

On the way to Robin Hood’s Bower from Henley, the investigators read a news article by Harry Blount covering a bay farming case. What struck the investigators as strange was that the defendants Pearly and Isobel Grubbe from the Ratcliffe Highway had been working with an unnamed blind man.

Robin Hood’s Bower proved to be a neolithic enclosure that was being farmed as an ordinary field. At the Bower, they eventually uncovered a page from a book, a glass vial containing an amber liquid, a piece of parchment inscribed in words in an unknown tongue and a note to Jeremiah Oldacre from Elias Cartwright, which read as follows:

Dear Jeremiah
You are my hope to avert the doom of the Dulcarnon. Let this vial be your last resort in time of direst need. To use it, break the top and smell of it, then strike the rhythms revealed on the parchment. This will take much practice, I fear, for you may make no errors. Once taken, from the remedy of this extreme appeal there is no retreat.
Elias

The page was in English and dealt with the Dulcarnon, linking it with the legend of Merlin, who apparently imprisoned the Dulcarnon in a man-made hill. The vial however was five inches in length and was sealed, being opened only by breaking the vial, the liquid inside did not behave the way a viscous liquid would be expected to behave. The parchment contained a set of musical staves that Jonathan from his Mythos studies had worked out to be similar in patterns to the reported speech of the Great Race of Yith. It was decided that Jonathan would practice the rhythms in case the last resort was needed.

Upon returning to London, the investigators, having failed to gain admittance to the lodgings of the Grubbes decided to dispatch Bob to the court to witness the trial where he made the acquaintance of Harry Blount. Meanwhile, the investigators researched the topic of man-made hills and came across the mound located just outside of Silbury as the most logical location for the Dulcarnon and so the next day they headed out to Silbury.

Before heading out to Silbury, Craddock informed the investigators that Hengst’s shop had been burnt down in the night, though there was no sign of Hengst himself and also that the Cartwright house at Mortlake had been burnt down.

At Silbury they questioned the local vicar who informed them that the place tended to have an influx of visitors nearer to the Summer Solstice (June 21st). Shemus made a hideout in the woods near to the mound where both he and Reginald kept watch, but nothing of any unusual nature occurred. Eventually they all retired to their rooms in a local inn, deciding to check out the mound again first thing in the morning, but nothing had happened and so it was eventually decided that seeing as they were some way to the west of London that they would carry on to Truro in Cornwall and investigate Graystone at the Black Lion Hotel.

Truro was one of the largest towns of Cornwall, in the southwest of England. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Truro was a fashionable place on a par with Bath, luxuriant with the money the tin mines brought to the area. Fashions changed; in the 1890s, the town was no longer a haunt of the smart set, especially as the tin industry was on the wane, but the grand houses of the time were still standing and prosperity was returning. Clustered on the coast, straddling the River Allen, Truro was full of narrow, cobbled streets. Narrower alleys wound between huddled houses with strangely shaped roofs, niggardly windows and old porticos. The cry of seagulls echoed around the buildings, there was a clear quality to the light and the smell of salt was strong in the air.

The Black Lion was a comfortable hostelry in the centre of Truro, not far from the then incomplete cathedral church of St. Mary. It was owned and managed by Miles Graystone and was on three floors, with the ground floor consisting of a lobby, bar, lounge, offices, dining room and kitchen and the upper floors being used for accommodations.

After signing in the register, some using aliases, others using their own names, the investigators were shown to the rooms, whereupon they asked to see the rooms of the recent fire and were shown these by the bellman, where they could see that the rooms had been badly damaged, but that the fire had been quite localised.

In the evening, Edith was talking to Jeremy Hawser, the night bellman, who informed Edith of the events of the night of the fire, telling her that when the fire had been discovered a great uproar ensued. Hawser had made sure that the upper floors were vacant when Mr. Graystone had arrived, out of breath. He immediately asked Hawser to go along to the cellars with him. There they met Ramekin Perkins the night boiler man. Graystone asked Hawser to turn his back and not to look around. Thereupon much shoving and movement could be heard at the end of the cellar far opposite the stairs. A door opened and then something very heavy was pulled across the floor. When Graystone summoned Hawser to help the bellman saw a long bundle wrapped in dirty hotel linen. Graystone instructed the employees to carry the bundle up and out to the garden. Once the fire was out they carried it back to the basement. Graystone volunteered no information and Hawser asked no questions, the bundle felt to Hawser like it was bundles of sticks or wicker.

Later the investigators were talking to Graystone and asked him if they see his cellar, which alerted the man immediately as to their intentions, he informed them that it was something of a mess and that he would be happy to show them the following day. Meanwhile, both Shemus and Reginald attempted to distract the other guests and staff by drinking and dancing on tables enabling both Takeshi and Jonathan to slip away unnoticed and look around the hotel, which proved to be unfruitful.

At about midnight, the investigators decided to sneak into the cellar from the outside, using the coal chute from the outside. It was decided that Shemus would sneak in, but unfortunately he created a large amount of noise when he fell onto the coal, alerting the attention of Perkins who came to investigate. At this Takeshi jumped down the coal chute to aid Shemus and eventually the two of them managed to knock Perkins unconscious. The rest of the investigators then made their way to the cellar from kitchen as a secret room was found behind some crates.

The small room behind the crates was still nearly 60 feet in length and contained a 20 feet wide pentacle on the floor, at each of the five corners of the pentacle was a large black unlit wax candle. On a throne-like wooden chair in the centre of the pentacle sat an extraordinary entity, the figure of a man, sitting some seven feet tall, entirely constructed of leaves, branches, plaited corn, fruits and grasses woven together in an intricate and methodical design, this was the Green Man.

Eventually after much experimentation, the investigators managed to animate the Green Man who took the prone form of Perkins as a sacrifice, reducing the man to a lifeless husk within a minute. The Green Man then went back to his chair and proceeded to answer the questions put to it by the investigators with nods or shakes of its head.

After questioning the Green Man, the investigators were interrupted by the arrival of Graystone along with a couple of thugs and a bound Hawkins. A fight then ensued, which resulted in deaths of Graystone and his thugs. Releasing Hawkins, the investigators decided to start a fire in the cellar to try and destroy the Green Man once and for all, whilst Hawkins evacuated the remaining guests. It was then decided, after retrieving the register, to quickly head over to the home of Graystone and to see what they could find there, which proved to be uneventful, before heading back to London on the first available train.

Once back in London, it was decided that Shemus in disguise would head back to Truro to try to keep an eye on things there, whilst Reginald, who was still injured from the raid on Smythe, would book himself into a hospital. The remaining investigators would then head over to Oxford University, where with Jonathan’s contacts they would try to see if they could retrieve any of Cartwright’s books that were held there.

The trip to Oxford proved to be another dead end, with it being revealed that Horatio Cartwright had been to the university to reclaim his father’s possessions. The worrying aspect was, this had been done a few days after Horatio’s death, meaning that somebody had posed as Horatio in Oxford.

After heading back to London, the investigators were met at their secret rooms by one of the blind men, with a note from Smythe, offering to trade the Necronomicon for Shemus. It was decided that there would be no deal as the book would prove to be far too dangerous in the hands of Smythe. Most worryingly of all Smythe now knew where and with who the Necronomicon was being hidden and so the investigators decided to hide it again in a new location.

At this point, the investigators also received a letter from Blount containing a new newsclip regarding the skinned bodies of infant babies being found in the canal at Newbury, and so consequently, Edith, Takeshi and Jonathan along with Charles decided to head over to Newbury to see what they could uncover there.

In Newbury they came across a gypsy fair that they realised was owned by Nystor Ferencz. After a couple of encounters with the gypsies, including a rather heated debate between Takeshi and Strazi the manager of the fair, the investigators decided to head back to London to plan their next move.

It was decided that they would set up an ambush at some point on the road between Newbury and Silbury, which was surely the next destination of the gypsies as it was getting closer to the Solstice, and so consequently with aid of Craddock and some constables in plain clothes, Edith, Takeshi, Charles, Jonathan, the self discharged Reginald along with Alasdair and Bob laid an ambush for the gypsies.

The ambush was a success and the ensuing battle wiped out the gypsies as well as three zombies (Hengst, Tobias Smith and Hawser) and two Dimensional Shamblers that were summoned by Ferencz, but not before Bob and Charles had both gone temporarily insane and Alasdair’s right leg had been maimed and it was touch and go as to whether he would lose it, as well as the death of one of the constables. Finally Takeshi backed by Jonathan and Reginald attacked Ferencz, but as Ferencz began to suck the life out of the Japanese man, Jonathan freaked out and fled. Eventually however, Ferencz was killed.

Epilogue

Harry Blount was later dispatched to Truro to see if he could pick up the trail of Shemus. He was however, only partly successful. Managing to discover that Shemus had disguised himself as an Inspector called Inspector Shemus and that he had been asking questions about Smythe and had followed him to the site of the ruined Black Lion Hotel, but had then disappeared and had not been seen again in Truro.

Blount eventually managed to gain access to the ruins of the hotel, but could find no further clues as to what had happened to Shemus, who remains MIA.

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