The Greek philosopher Pythagoras said, “Strength of mind rests in sobriety – for this keeps your reason unclouded by passion.” My name is Ainsworth – Fred Ainsworth – and I don’t think Pythagoras would have felt that way if he was a private investigator…
I woke up early for what seemed the first time in years. The typical fogginess that greeted me most mornings was absent, and I found not having to piece together the events of the previous day unnerving. I got dressed, put the percolator on to boil, lit a Chesterfield, and began to thumb through Ivy Morgan’s journal.
Ivy was a sharp dame. She seemed to know what she wanted, and definitely knew how to get it. So, why the sudden change of heart? Why stop fraternizing with the socially elite? Why give up the lifestyle that seemed to suit her so well? As I read through the journal, I guessed that Ivy must have suffered some serious trauma and began to come unhinged. The entries got weirder and weirder – like something out of a pulp. But Ivy never lost her voice – she never raved. She was articulate and lucid, which gave me the impression that she believed what she was writing.
But after meeting Lex Lashley and hearing his tale, I couldn’t help but bring myself to the conclusion that Ivy was more than a bit coo-coo. Lex’s account of his rendezvous with Ms. Morgan dovetailed uncomfortably with what I read in her journal. And what I read in the journal was not normal behavior for a lady of Ms. Morgan’s standing and upbringing.
A loud knock at the door told me that Bernice and Lex had arrived. Bernice, dressed demurely, hair in a severe bun, eyed me piously and sniffed the air as she entered the office. I guessed that she was searching for some sign of lingering drink. Lex, looking like a puffed-up Eddie Rickenbacker, gave me a roguish smile and a wink, and leaned against my desk.
I had a meeting with Rudolph Pearson at Columbia University within the hour. After that, I wanted Lex to fly us up to Arkham, so Bernice could show me the farm where Ivy and the others were murdered. We were walking out the door when the phone rang.
She introduced herself as Irene LeMond, and said that she was looking to hire a private investigator to find her missing son. She had found my number through an ad in the paper, and needed me to come up to Buffalo to discuss the case. When I told her that I was busy with another investigation, she offered me two thousand bucks if I could find her son. I told her I’d see her in Buffalo the following day.
Bernice, Lex, and I jumped in the car and headed to Columbia University. Pearson seemed like an affable chap – he was well spoken, as only a southern gentleman could be. He told us that he had been a colleague of Ivy’s grandfather, Lewis, and had met Ms. Morgan through an acquaintance. She and some associates had helped Pearson learn the whereabouts of a missing faculty member a few months prior, and as a gesture of appreciation, the professor had written one of the associates a letter of introduction to Dr. Henry Armitage, the head librarian at Miskatonic Unversity. A few weeks later, Ivy returned to discuss a book she had found while investigating a murder in Red Hook.
It was during these conversations, Pearson said, that Ivy had expressed an interest in the occult, and that she had claimed to see things that had shaken her perception of good and evil. So, when a colleague at Miskatonic University called a few weeks ago to ask if Pearson knew anyone that would be interested in investigating some alleged psychical activity on the school grounds, the professor naturally thought of Ivy. He admitted to introducing Ms. Morgan to Cuthbert Sorensen and his assistant, Thomas Parkhill, and that the three had agreed to cooperate in the investigation. When he saw in the paper that Ivy was murdered, Pearson felt a great deal of remorse for introducing Ivy to her would-be killer.
We took our leave of Professor Pearson at midday, and headed to Teterboro Airfield, on the outskirts of the city. I had never flown, and sipped at my hip flask to calm my nerves. Bernice seemed leery as well – although I think she was more concerned about dying alongside a carousing booze-hound, and ending up in Hell with me by mistake. Lex shot a wink our way as he climbed in the cockpit, told us to buckle up, and proceeded down the runway.
The best that could be said of the flight was that it was quick. I turned a few shades of green and vomited copiously into a burlap sack. Bernice, unable to handle the constant turbulence, lost her lunch as well. Lex seemed unfazed, and merely chuckled as the two of us wretched. We touched down at Arkham Airfield in the early evening, and were routed into a hanger. We were greeted by Stanley Harrington, a well-known pilot who Lex said shot down six German aircraft in the Great War. Stanley was gracious enough to lend us a car, and we drove to Bernice’s family farm.
An Arkham County sheriff was waiting at the house when we arrived. He introduced himself as Sheriff Bureau, approached Bernice and asked her where she had been. She gave it to the sheriff straight, telling him that she had gone to New York to find out more about Ivy Morgan, in hopes of making sense of her uncle and cousin’s murder. Sheriff Bureau did not seem impressed – he warned Bernice that they had the right man in custody, and that she shouldn’t interfere. He eyed me appraisingly and asked who I was. He didn’t believe me when I said that I was a family friend, and warned me to not stick my nose where it didn’t belong. He issued another general warning from the car as he drove from the farm.
Dinner with the Monroe’s was a somber affair. Bernice’s relatives were, if possible, more dour than she, and looked at Lex and me like we were about to start speaking in tongues. Only a small boy, no more than four years old, seemed excited to see strangers in the home. During dinner, Bernice pulled her aunt into the kitchen, and the two had a whispered argument. When she came out, Bernice told Lex and me that we were welcome to stay the night, and then ushered us out into the yard.
Bernice led us to the barn. She opened the door, walked inside, and exited moments later with three rifles and a lantern. She handed a rifle to both Lex and me, and told us to follow her. We walked for a time, careful to look around to ensure we weren’t followed. As darkness descended, it became nearly impossible to see. I trusted to Bernice’s familiarity with her surroundings to keep us on track, and after nearly an hour, we came to a halt.
By the light of the lantern, Bernice was able to find a spot in which clear footprints could be discerned. They were large, heavy, and like nothing I’d ever seen. Upon closer examination, I noticed that the surrounding trees had been clawed as well, leaving deep, livid scratches. On Bernice went, and along we followed – nearly every twenty feet there was another set of huge claw-like prints in the ground, and the nearby trees were torn up. As we reached the top of the hill, a number of burnt-out building shown in the feeble moonlight. I looked around for clues, but found nothing of particular interest. The local police and sheriffs had made a mess of the area, and any prints that might have been discernable were trampled.
Satisfied that I had visited the scene of the crime, Bernice led us back to the farm. I spent the majority of the walk back swigging from my hip flask, thankful for the dulling feeling in my brain. The house was dark when we arrived. Bernice walked us up to a bedroom, opened the door, and bade us goodnight. Lex was still taking his jacket off as I fell onto the cot.
Minutes, perhaps hours, had passed when I woke up suddenly, wet and warm. I looked down just as a little boy started screaming. He must have climbed onto my cot at some point during the night, and got frightened when I soiled myself. Bernice’s aunt stormed into the room, gazed horrified at my wet midsection, grabbed the child, and hurried away, loudly quoting Isaiah 28:7.
As my head hit the pillow, I knew that I would never again be a welcomed guest at the Monroe farm.