14 November 1932, Los Angeles California
Professor John DeShane looked once more at the obituary he had been sent, which dealt with the unusual death of his room mate from college. Rick Feldman was that colleague, and so happens to have been a good friend of John’s.
Rick had been living in Minneapolis and was investigating a small town just north of Duluth Minnesota. The town had an infamous reputation amongst the followers and opposers of occult happenings.
Rick had told John several months ago, in a letter he had written, that he had stumbled upon an old manuscript that had hinted something was about to happen, something that had not happened in one hundred years, in the sleepy village of Two Harbors Minnesota.
John had advised Rick to wait until he was free to join him in the investigation, since it would be safer for him if he had a partner to cover his back. Rick had refused, saying he needed to go before the beginning of Samhain.
Rick’s usage of the Gaelic name, instead of the modern name of Halloween, had given him pause. However, John could not get out of his previous engagement, and so had wished his friend the best of luck and told him to be careful. It seems the last part had fallen on deaf ears.
John put down the obituary and picked up the last letter he had received from Rick before he met his demise, wondering if the two were, somehow, connected.
It happened on Samhain. The sound of the waves lapping on the shore of Lake Superior told me that I had reached my destination.
The road ahead curved steeply towards the left and right. The road to the right led to the ancient cemetery, which was perched atop the lonely, windswept, cliff-side.
Its crypts and sepulchers were outlined against the silver-yellow waters of the lake, which reminded me of a drowned and blackened corpse’s teeth. It was Samhain, and I shivered at the thought of what lay before me.
All through the long trip from Minneapolis my mind had returned again and again to the task at hand, the same way a person’s tongue will return to the cavity left by a rotted tooth.
As I paused in my long drive the moon, rising, bloated and angry, burst through the swiftly scudding clouds to light the landscape with a ghastly yellow corpse light, which drained all of the color from the nefarious and noisome surroundings. It was then that the first of the torches appeared out of the woods, their destination seemed to be the same as my own.
Once more I struggled forward. I was the last of my family. No more would my kith and kin return after this evening, to help with the ritual that my ancestors had called ‘The Opening’. It is a ceremony as old as time itself, as ancient as the ritual that had taken the sanity, and then the life of my nephew, Blake Feldman.
Blake’s death was the sole reason for my being at this loathsome, and demon-haunted, place. I had sworn an oath to his father, my brother, that I would shield the boy from the horrors of our family’s calling. Failing this, I would take my revenge on those who had brought about his demise.
My nephew had been pulled, half-drowned and nearly dead, from the frozen waters of the lake the day after Christmas, two years ago. When he had awakened in the Duluth hospital he had told a nigh incoherent tale of a gathering that he had attended on Christmas night. The doctors and nurses had tried to calm him, even going so far as to bring to him a copy of the dreaded Book of the Dark Ones.
In the pages of that tome of evil Blake had found a passage that had confirmed his worst fears as to what had befallen him on that fear-drenched night. Instead of calming him down, it had sent him down the path to his incarceration in the Duluth hospital for the mentally disturbed, and his eventual death.
I had visited Blake there, in that ghastly place of eternal screams, shortly before he died and he had told me what had befallen him. Things that he had told me he dared not speak of to his doctors.
What they would not, and could not believe, I did. On the day of Blake’s funeral I vowed vengeance upon those who had brought about his destruction.
The Opening occurred only once every one hundred years, but it was not the only ceremony held in this accursed town. The Book of the Dark Ones told of another gathering, held once each decade, known only as ‘The Birthing’.
Through study, and some occult contacts, I had learned when it would be held and, unfortunately, this year was the time when both ceremonies would happen. These events are something very bad for Humanity, very bad indeed.
The Birthing was to take place on Samhain of this year, as for the Opening, I can only guess as to when that night will occur.
For years I had felt the overwhelming pull of these ancient ceremonies and had managed to studiously avoid them, unlike my father. For even though I am a student of many strange and esoteric arts, there are some things that are better left buried in the past.
Yet, here I was, with a torch giving off a greasy light in my hand. My mission of vengeance was driving me towards a confrontation with those that, I felt, was responsible for my nephew’s death.
As I cleared the curve, the lights of the town appeared through the darkening sky. The lake, driven by the rising winds, pounded against the rotting, wooden pilings, of the town’s wharves.
The dark, eternal Lake Superior, Gichigami to the Ojibwe Indians of the area, concealed many of its secrets from the eyes of man. While brooding over the cold light of the houses was a towering steeple of an ancient church, which spread its mocking shadow over the homes in the sleepy lakeside village.
At the fork in the road I was presented with two choices. To continue on, into the town or turn my eyes right, once again to the cemetery that hung like a vulture to the side of the road. Without hesitation I continued my journey to the right.
Crowded around the mouth of the cemetery, the torches of the robed strangers fluttered and smoked, giving off their dim, greasy light. I was the last to arrive.
Now the ceremony could begin.
At the gate I was greeted by the leader of the group, a tall man dressed in a hooded robe and wearing a hideously carved mask, which looked like a crocodile with six eyes! With a curiously scaled, and at the same time, fleshy hand, he indicated that he was a mute, and beckoned me to follow him into the graveyard.
As I passed through the portal to the cemetery the others fell in behind me, and I could only shudder at the half-guessed reason for their silence. Not only did they not speak, I could not hear any trace of the sound of their footsteps on the hard-packed earth.
Through the ancient graveyard, past the weed-covered tombs and crypts of the denizens of this accursed town, we made our way to a patch of unconsecrated ground.
It was the ‘Potter’s Field’, where the lost, the criminal, and those who had dedicated their lives to the Dark Ones were interred. It was a lonely, miserable place, where the only thing to indicate the presence of the graves was scattered clods of hastily overturned soil.
One of the robed figures had brought a spade with him, which he threw on the ground near my feet. The leader indicated that it was my duty to dig, pointing at a patch of ground that seemed less weed-choked than the surrounding area. Handing him my torch I picked up the shovel and furiously attacked the half frozen sod.
It was hard work. The ground was dry, hard, and constantly turned aside the shovel blade. However, at last I managed to break through the frost encrusted dirt into the softer soil below. It only took a few more minutes before my blade, with a dull thud, struck the half-rotted wood of a cheap casket.
A sudden and disturbing hiss, which sounded like a dozen tea kettles at the boiling point, passed through the assembled worshipers, it was, somehow, more horrifying than their previous silence.
As quickly as I could manage I scraped away the soil that held the lid closed. Before I could raise it to reveal the contents of the box, hands that were horribly scaled, soft, and clawed, grabbed my coat and pulled me from the hole.
I watched in silence as the robed figures crowded around the newly disinterred grave. From the burial place something was pulled out, something that snarled horribly and writhed as if in great pain.
A mask, gloves, and a robe were quickly produced, and whatever it was, was swiftly covered. The huddled acolytes stepped back, revealing a new member who wobbled and stumbled like a newborn colt trying to get to its feet.
The leader came up to me and handed me my torch. He motioned to me that the ceremony was over and that I was to approach the newest member, to give my loyalty. However, in my foolhardiness I pushed past him and approached the new arrival. He had gained some semblance of balance and stood silently in front of me. Before I could be stopped, I stepped forward and ripped the mask from its head.
“Who the hell are the Ea-Su?” John said out loud. His words failed to reach the ears of any living thing. The power of the dead air overwhelming them.
John could only wonder what he had stumbled into, and whether or not he would survive to see Christmas.
Two Harbors Police Station
As Kenneth Meadows entered the interview room he reflected on the fact that it had to have been a pretty surprising suspect to pull the Chief of Police out of his office for another one of the frequently found dead in this town. On the other hand, he had finished the normal stack of paperwork an hour before.
Meadows had been flipping through the fishing section of the Sears & Roebuck catalog when Lieutenant Anderson had come in. The Lt. had told him that they had arrested some guy carrying a body out of the old potter’s cemetery, south of town.
Meadows just sighed when he had been told this. It seemed to be the perfect culmination to the series of events that had been the height of town gossip for weeks, ever since Halloween. As he got a look at the culprit he was more than a little surprised.
‘Some guy’, indeed.
As he sat down across from the suspect, Chief Meadows tapped the autopsy file, a few reports and pictures of the crime scene inside a manila folder, were lying on the table.
“You know,” Meadows began dryly, “We get quite a few ‘jelly beans’ who are all wet wandering into town, gumming up the works for folks, folks who have taken offense to these crumbs one too many times. We just haven’t ever gotten one who was a ‘Joe Brooks Abercrombie’ college type before, Professor DeShane.” Meadows said as he dropped the file he had picked up, in front of John, a police file that had a transcript from a telephone interview with the Dean of UCLA stapled to the front.
John just smiled at the policeman’s attempt to insult him. He leaned forward, putting his manacled hands on the metal table. “Why, thank you Chief, I am rather smartly dressed, but alas, I do not know everything, otherwise I would know who killed my friend Rick and Professor Delafield.”
Meadows ignored John’s attempt to provoke him into revealing any information. “So, why’d you do it?”
John looked at the middle-aged man as he pulled out a metal flask marked Old Number 7. He knew that the flask was not filled with water, he could smell the Tennessee Sippin’ Whiskey from where he was sitting.
DeShane continued to look at Meadows with a gaze that mixed deference with surprise in the face of seeming insanity. “Chief, I assure you I had nothing to do with his death. As a matter of fact, I dearly wanted to speak with him about the Ancient Sumerian City of Eridu.” Chief Meadows just rolled his eyes at this.
“Are you telling me that you think that I killed a man with my bare hands, even though I was packing heat, and then walked out onto the highway with his body in my arms?” There was surprise in John’s voice, along with a touch of bitterness.
Were these people so stupid that they did not recognize a threat, one that lurked in their very midst? John thought to himself with building incredulity.
“Look DeShane, I don’t know what’s going on, but I know I’m going to find out before you leave this station, or head on over to the Minnesota state big house.” Meadows said as he walked around, switched on the sun lamp, and hovered over John. Even at 5’11”, the sight of him leaning over the archeologist should have been intimidating to the man.
Then Meadows began asking more questions. “What were you doing in that cemetery?”
John had to squint to keep from going blind from the sun lamp the Chief had turned on, to make him sweat. DeShane knew that if he told the Chief the truth he would, in all probability, be locked up in the Duluth state nut house.
“I have been told that there were some civil war era graves up there, and since I am in town investigating my friend’s death I figured that I would indulge in my civil war history hobby by collecting some more American Civil War era names.”
“Did you meet Delafield in that cemetery, to buy or sell something, and the deal headed south? We all know how you archeologists are nothing but tomb raiders.”
John just laughed at the insinuation. “At all times I adhere to the standards required by the international conventions for the protection of antiquities. As for the second part of your question, Professor Delafield was already dying when I found him.”
“Or is this because Delafield found out a secret of yours and was going to bleed you, until you fit him for a Chicago overcoat, by beating him to death?” At this John’s face had the look of utter incomprehension plastered across it.
“Look, I realize that when someone is trying to bleed you that bad blood will abound. Never-the-less, you have to realize something too: this is America, we do not follow vigilante justice, and we follow the law. As sure as God made little green apples, you should have reported his attempt to bleed you.”
It was then that realization suddenly dawned to John. The people who had killed Rick and Delafield had mandated secrecy... apparently they were very good at keeping secrets.
With a look that held a touch of fascinated bewilderment and, especially in his grin, the hint that he was not totally around the bend, John asked a question that infuriated Kenneth Meadows. “You have no idea what is going on, or who is behind all of these deaths and disappearances, do you?”
John had been bumping gums with the Chief of Police for several hours before they finally let him go. Insufficient evidence they had said. Although, John would have bet a sawbuck that Julian, the Dean of UCLA, had something to do with it.
Julian James had contacts within the FBI. Moreover, John was sure that ‘ole JJ’ had dropped a few hints about having a few G-Men show up to take over the investigation.
One thing John knew about small town police chiefs, they despised the thought of the Bureau getting in their way and taking over their investigations. However, as much as John smiled at the thought of the chief sweating over that possibility, it did nothing to help him figure out what was happening in this town.
Once John was released he had returned to the cemetery to retrieve the notebook Delafield had had in his pocket. Some sort of journal the man had used to keep track of his evidence.