Madness is Mercy

Requiem for a Bookseller

The arachnid’s front appendages plunged deep into Edmund McDowell’s chest. One severed an artery and the other fractured his spine. His death was instantaneous.

Atlach nacha rampage

His friends fared better, but only slightly. After suffering a bite from the mysterious spider-creature, Pipkin had collapsed himself during the fray. Only Prof. Charlotte De Winter was left standing at the end to battle the beast. Fortunately her allies had unloaded a couple of shotgun blasts into the creature before becoming incapacitated.

Things had degenerated quickly and descended into a hellish mayhem that made last week’s suicide seem tame.

James Pipkin had been hired by Edgar and Grace Wilcox, parents of the suicide Eugene Wilcox, to keep tabs on the young man. Understandably shaken by the loss of their son, they found new resolve and retained Pipkin to get to the bottom of their son’s death and bring evidence of the wrong doing by the Vargas.

This made DeWinter and McDowell natural partners of his, and the trio quickly formed an investigative team. Carefully interviewing a number of connected parties who ranged from the very helpful Prof. Morgan to Sylvia Addison’s protective stonewalling servant, information trickled in to help piece together a puzzle. It was clear that the Vargas were con artists, and that the spider form that Gerhard Vwinch had taken during the seance had some role in the death of two young men other than Eugene Wilcox.

Trailing Ariadne had yielded results, too. She placed flowers at the graves of two men, whose obits placed them very much in the mold of Eugene Wilcox. A little underhanded deal with Rudolph Tomaszewski at the morgue gained the team access to the autopsy reports for the two. The most interesting finding there was the presence of bite wounds confirming the spider-fang theory.

At the party on that fateful Friday evening, things were more subdued. After the Wilcox affair last week, it was a bit surprising anyone would show up at the party at all. Ariadne seemed her usual upbeat, social butterfly. Zoltan, however, seemed nervous. He pursued an evasive Ariadne all night. When they finally caught up, he escorted her upstairs after a few terse words. Soon after an unnatural man’s scream from the boudoir was followed by Frida’s voice. Well, not Frida obviously, because the woman known as Frida was far from mute, she had a South Boston accent that you could club a shark with. She screamed that “She’s killed him. She’ll kill us all.”

With that “Frida” ran out the front door. The team ran up the stairs and saw a shriveled Zoltan utter his last final words “Ariadne”. Peeking out the window, Edwin felt a searing pain in his shoulder blade and quickly ducked back in the window. The loud scrambling sounds of something could be heard on the roof and the along the side wall of the house. Bursting through the front door was a massive creature. Not quite a giant spider, because it had vaguely human features. The team let loose a volley of pistol fire to little effect before securing shotguns from downstairs.

In the mean time, the spider-thing devastated the party-goers in her path. This must be Atlach-Nacha “The Mother” that the entranced Gerhard Vwinch had alluded to. She was a frightful creature that shredded her way through those fools who had attended the party that night. After a bloody battle, she fell.

Then came the chilling cries of the children in the attic. “Mommy”. De Winter pulled the squeaking trapdoor down, ascended the ladder, and peered into the attic. The beam of her flashlight caught a couple dozen scrambling spiders with human faces that resembled Zoltan and Eugene Wilcox . . . among others. The tiny creatures all calling for “Mommy” unhinged Prof. De Winter, who started uncontrollably mimicking their cries herself . . . even while she fled and the police arrived.

She gathered her fallen friends in Pipkin’s car and fled. The poison injected in Pipkin had only created temporary paralysis. He would recover. McDowell would not be so lucky. He would be one of many who lost their life in that house that night to the dread Atlach-Nacha.

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Disagreeable Goulash

The curious invitation to the ultra-private baccanal at the house on Halsey opened a door into a disturbing world for Dr. DeWinter, Edward McDowell and the foreign Francois Mustafa. The evening was unusual to say the least, and that was before the tragic suicide of young Eugene Wilcox.

Eugene Wilcox, the man . . . boy more like it . . . who they had seen smoking hashish in the basement and maniacally making threats. The chosen one, who had been personally selected by the lady of the house to join her in her boudoir. Most of him was now lying on a slab in the morgue beneath St. Mary’s. Most of him. Skull fragments, bits of brain tissue, and blood that could not be scrubbed remained behind in Ariadne Varga’s bedchamber on Halsey.

Was Eugene’s death a suicide? His behavior was certainly erratic, but why would a man kill himself on the verge of a pleasant encounter with a lovely woman? Investigations by the team revealed that he was not the first such young man to meet with an untimely end.

There was a lot that did not add up with these Hungarian Vargas, who claimed to be displaced nobility exiled from their ancestral land. Study showed Varga was not a noble name and the dissolution of the Hapsburg Empire did not dispossess nobility of land.

Stuart Portman, the bibliophile lurking upstairs at the time of Wilcox’s demise, had acted beyond squirrelly. Pompous, arrogant, and obnoxious, yes. But there is more to him than he has revealed.

Then there was the medium, Gerhardt Vwinch, whose unholy seance unleashed something supernatural and undeniable in Mustafa’s shop. Vwinch had transformed. Those damned, glowing read eyes! Those fangs that he sank into his own shoulder. What were those words he muttered crazily again? Something about ‘the mother’ and an unpronounceable name.

Tragedy and dark terror have partially revealed themselves, but at present there are more questions than answers. Only fools would delve deeper into an inquiry of such horrifying events.

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A Bad Joke...

Did you ever hear the joke about the Jew, the two Micks and the Whop?

No, I don’t think so.

It’s hilarious. Ok, a Jew, two Micks and a Whop go up to a town called Arkham. They’re gangsters, and they’re going up there for a job or something working for some guy named O’Banion. He’s the big crime boss up there running an Irish mob. Anyway, they’re introduced to this guy through his second, Big Eddie and they’re sitting around waiting to talk to this guy, and they meet the boss’s sweetheart Elaine. She’s your typical mobster squeeze. She’s cute, a bit annoying and she tells the guys that the boss gets really pissed when people make mistakes. So now these guys are freaking out. The boss comes outs in a robe, all mobster like, and tells the guys he has three things for them to do. They say ok, and listen.

Is this going somewhere?

Yeah, hang in there its hilarious. The boss says I’ve got three things for you to do. First, a family friend has died. His name is Shawn Kelly. He’s not in the business, but a close friend. I consider him an uncle. He worked for the town’s waterworks and died of a heart attack. The rub is someone tried to steal his body from the funeral home and must have been seen by someone because they left the body hanging out the basement window. He’s says he thinks it’s a sick practical joke of sorts by a rival gang run by a Petrello, the Italian gang boss and he’s pissed about it. He tells them to go to the funeral home and check things out and find our what happened. Also, he wants to get a ring this guy Kelly was wearing. One of them Irish rings with the heart and two hands. I can’t remember…

A claddagh.

…Yeah, a claddagh! He says get this ring for me. Its kinda been promised to me.

Second, he tells them to go to the wake and slip Mrs. Kelly some cash. Don’t let her know it’s coming from him. There must be some bad blood there or something.
Third, go check out this guy Petrello and find out what’s what.

Ok, so the guys go are off and running. First, they head to this funeral home. Its run by another Jew. Long story short, the two matzah balls go off and talk to each other and when they do this the other guys find out its near impossible to steal a body and get it out the basement, and then they see little bloody rat tracks coming from a drain, all over the room and it looks like the rats were trying to get the body out. Its bizarre, but hey that’s that. They do their best to take the ring off the guy’s finger, but its stuck good and if they try to hard they’ll rip the finger off. They decide to find another way to get the ring and they split.

Where’s the punchline?

It’s coming. They go to the wake and meet Mrs. Kelly. She’s a nice old broad. The Whop hides the money given to them by the boss in a book by her nightstand. It’s a book on Irish folklore. So what right? You’ll see that it matters. The wake is relatively uneventful until some one-armed guy named Dennis Connolen shows up. He’s a stinking drunk. He puts a dart in the dead guys hand and creates all sorts of commotion. Seems him and Shawn belonged to a group call the Sons of Tiperary’, except the big Irish guy is so stupid he thinks it the “Suns of Tiperary”. Dennis tells them that Shawn was having an affair with a woman named Diedre. She was a singer of some sorts. Wait, a minute…I think I got some of this backwards.

This is going nowhere.

Doesn’t matter. They leave the wake to talk to this guy Dennis and when they get back everyone is knocked out and the body is missing! They see these clues suggesting the body was dragged behind back and down into the sewers, so they decide to follow. It’s dark and spooky. Eventually they hear music in the background – it’s this Diedre singing! And then they see a ratman who tells them to run from the little people! Then they’re attack by what appears to be invisible leprechauns.

What!?! That’s the punchline?

No, I’m getting to it. They’re beaten, confused and spend some time in a hospital. The boss is pissed, but they still need to find out what happened. They decide to do some research and they find that in the civil war there was this guy who disappeared and the circumstances are similar to what happened with Kelly. They go talk to his grandson and sure enough, the grandson has seen these leprechauns and said that his grandfather wore a ring just like Shawn Kelly. Some more research on folklore suggests that Shawn Kelly made a deal with these leprechauns and that when he died they would take him with them to make him one of their own, but the gangsters still need to do what there boss wants, otherwise they’re in deep trouble. They learn that the only way to deal with these leprechauns is with holy water, religious rites, and sunlight.

They’re vampires?
__
That’s the part of the story that doesn’t make it sense. It seems they would be vampires, but no they’re leprechauns. So now the gangsters are going off to fight the leprechauns and get the body back, and then….uh….oh, crap.

What’s a matter?

There’s more to this, but I can’t remember it. I’m the worst at telling jokes.

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Oy Gevalt
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It seemed simple enough. Head up to Boston with a car load enterprising fellows, on word from Big Eddie. Seemed that a groyser tzuleyger mick by the name of Danny O'Bannion was looking for some talent, and only a dope would say no.  

The diver seemed like a mentch, and the first few hours went well but then this meshuggah storm rolled in, and that’s when the tsuris began. It got so hard to see that the boychic driving was having trouble seeing and narrowly missed driving us off a cliff, but wrecked the car smashing into another vehicle on a closed bridge.

My Great Grandmother used to tell me about evil spirits and golems and other mishagas from the old country, but what I saw that night was beyond anything I had been prepared for. Nightmares straight from the secret pages of the Kabala attacked us and nearly killed us all. The hitter and the gunner and the thief were all unconscious, and only divine intervention allowed me to wound the demons enough to get the others to safety. Mush of what happened before and after is still a blur, but i do recall running though the wet new England hinterlands like mindless loon.

How much was real and how much was my traumatized psyche, I don’t yet know, but I think this pischer should have stayed in New York.

<!—EndFragment—>
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Engine Trouble
unexpected danger while slogging on the muddy roads to Arkham

Wherein four gangsters, a scholar, a working-stiff teamster, and two unsuspecting apple farmers are ravaged by a terrible creature.

O’Bannion had sent for them. What O’Bannion wants, O’Bannion gets. The kingpin of Arkham’s purposely quiet criminal underworld was himself from Boston. So, it was natural he would look to familiar turf to recruit some new blood for his Arkham rackets.

Of course, the simple matter of bringing some new boys on was beneath the station of Danny O’Bannion, so it fell to one of his two trusted lieutenants, “Big Eddie” Leery, to get the job done. It was actually Leery who made the calls around town to get a make on a few fellas that might be useful to O’Bannion in his future plans.

And so, packed into the 1920 Cole Aero-Eight 870 sedan were the following collection of small-time Boston hoods:

  • Manny “The Mentsh” Siegel: a self-described mastermind. It never hurts to have a few thinkers in an organization, and Manny’s proved himself useful in planning a few heists and setting up a small numbers operation on the Southside. Sure, he was a jew, but jews are good with numbers.
  • “Little Jimmy” O’Connell: the hulking brute. Where does a son of a bitch that big get shoes? Muscle is a necessity in this business and muscles “Little Jimmy” has got in spades. Besides, the goon has one of those Chicago choppers that could come in handy.
  • Johnny “Noodles” Torrio: a thieving wop burglar from New York. The kid must be special, because the Boss ordinarily doesn’t think much of dagos or New Yorkers. Rumor has it that tiny “Noodles” came through big on a score in Waltham and kept his mouth shut when he got pinched. Thanks to a good “family” lawyer, his stretch ended up being very short.
  • Connor O’Duinin: one hell of a wheelman, whose proved his value running liquor. A silver-tongued devil whose talked and bribed his way out of a blockade or two, this kid is a real asset. There’s a lot of talk about him having a bright future in the rackets.

The crew made their way down on to the Aylesbury Pike on the way to Arkham. They got sidetracked a bit, but that’s a story better told by the boys themselves.

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Treatment Notes: Cash Lochlain
Dr. Wharton's perspective on session one, through the lens of her psychoanalysis of Cash Lochlain

TREATMENT NOTES
Patient: Lochlain, Cash

After extensive inpatient treatment, determined CL’s progress warranted introducing him to social settings. Gala for Florentina Theater seemed appropriate; enough variety in behavior/people for CL to blend in, good spirited cause unlikely to lead to conflict. Newspaper story shortly before gala gave pause, but perhaps time for CL to confront head-on supernatural superstitions.

Arrived at gala. CL still fixates on my feelings towards my hands, but checked himself before making a scene. Met GL and her friends; perfect company for CL — his symptoms masked to some extent by GL’s own neuroses. Made sure to offer CL tonic water to avoid calling attention to his alcohol issues.

CL, as expected, interested in ghost stories; sought out spiritualist who invited group to seance for a price. Again, maybe time for CL to confront “ghosts?” Paid nominal donation; CL was not the only one to experience strange phenomena — room felt colder, smell of lavender. Note to self: make appt w/ Dr. S.

Decided that investigation into folklore/history may take mystery out of evening. CL seemed to be uncomfortable about Kingsport Historical Society; curator seemed to know him? Amnesia on CL’s part? Found links between property and witchcraft; history of place enough to have effect on collective psyche? CL seems familiar with some findings re: occult lore/history — mine for truth in repressed memories? Note to self: review Freud’s Totem and Taboo, Studies of Hysteria; Jung’s dissertation: On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena.

At Florentina, met disturbed child; too little time to use learning from Freud’s dream studies to treat child for dreams of monkey men. (Odd, her description sounds strangely like those of witches’ familiars in research…must read Jung soon!)

Maybe not such a good idea to push CL so far so quickly into superstitions, but how else to show him that they are merely that? (Admit, am self a bit paranoid; efforts to treat this all seriously to validate CL while exposing superstition may not be viable strategy any longer until own appt. with Dr. S…)

Called Barton to set up tour of theater; artifacts and books found in basement. CL panics; oddly, feel swept up by his hysteria and inadvertently feed it. Left theater to see “monkey mummy” and old books. Mummy grotesque, startling. Content of books unknown. See Dr. S. immediately!

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Ghosts of the Florentina
Where modern progress meets elder horror

Invited to a gala hosted by Raymond Barton to raise funds for the conversion of the dark, decrepit Florentina Theater into a modern, motion picture palace, the plucky team arrived in Kingsport. Kingsport, that sleepy, seaside resort whose colonial history was filled with exciting stories of witchcraft, blockade runners, whalers, and privateers. The town has become a fashionable getaway with a thriving summer arts colony that preys upon caters to waves of vacationers.


Kingsport

At the elegant Shoremist Inn in town, the team attended what was generally another swanky event well designed to pry financial support from Kingsport’s social elite for a worthy charity. Mr. Barton seemed a charming, albeit a bit smarmy, developer whose vision for a cinema in Kingsport was well received. Murmurs of ghosts at the theater causing remodeling setbacks coincided with an interesting guest at the affair. The inscrutable Cash Lochlain, the rather odd guest of Dr. Isabel Wharton, keenly observed that Gerhardt Wvinch was in attendance.

Wvinch is a German spiritualist now living in nearby Arkham. Cash engaged the man and learned that he’d been hired by Barton to host a special VIP seance at the theater following the fundraiser at the Shoremist.

After a little unseemly dickering over donations with Mr. Barton, the team pledged adequate financial support to secure invitations to the seance and were whisked away in Dusenbergs for the intimate gathering.


Interior of the Florentina

The Florentina Theater was dark. Following the dim lantern, the team caught flashes of red velvet and darting reflections of brass on their way to the theater’s candlelight stage. The smell of saw dust hung in the air, as they took their seats on stage.

Before long Gerhardt Wvinch was leading a seance speaking through his Indian spirit guide Chief Potowak, attempting to make contact with the ghost of Lucille Frye. Lucille had been the star of this stage decades ago and it was her presence that seemed to haunt the theater. Her poltergeist it was believed was causing pranks and accidents to befall the workers and drive them off the job. Perhaps this seance could provide answers to appeasing her. The odor of her familiar lilac perfume and an unmistakable coldness permeated the stage. Brief contact with Lucille’s spirit was brought to a crashing halt when a heavy sandbag plunged through the seance table. Wvinch and Barton were genuinely uspet and frightened. They expeditiously escorted their generous donors out of the theater and called the evening to an abrupt close.

The team, however, had other ideas. They convened, discussed the events of the evening, and committed to investigating the odd goings on.

Each would pursue different paths of inquiry to learn more about what was happening at the Florentina. Their avenues of inquiry and the results they produced are best left to the investigators themselves to describe, but diligent scholarship, interviewing, and exploration revealed startling facts about the prior owners of the property and how work at the site might have dredged up a sleeping evil and spun sleepy Kingsport into potential supernatural danger.

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