As the early morning sun peered through the drapes of the bedroom, a door opened and I was unceremoniously dragged from my cot. Bernice was wearing an expression of utmost disdain, and ordered me to get dressed and meet her outside. As she stormed from the bedroom, I looked over at Lex, who shook his head, smiled his roguish smile, and put on his jacket.
We descended the stairs into an empty parlor. I looked around for Bernice’s aunt, hoping to deliver a genuine, heartfelt apology, but she was not there – there was not a single Monroe in sight. As I walked from the house, I imagined Bernice’s relatives barricaded in a bedroom, vigorously quoting scripture and praying for their deliverance from evil. Despite my embarrassment, I chuckled.
I endured Bernice’s sermon on the dangers of drink and debauchery as I drove into town. As a breakfast was not provided by the Monroes, I found a local diner on Main Street, and the three of us ate quietly. I wanted to go to Miskatonic University and meet with Dr. Henry Armitage. I had a hunch that he might have met Ivy Morgan through one of her associates. Bernice, though still not pleased, agreed that I was probably right. Lex sipped his coffee quietly, his eyes moving back and forth between Bernice and me.
Bernice led us through the campus towards Orne Library, a newer building that held over 400,000 books and pamphlets. The large, granite structure looked cold and austere, but once inside it proved bright and less dreary. I walked to the front desk, introduced myself, and asked to see Dr. Armitage. The assistant director was a pleasant man who showed us to chairs and asked us to wait. After nearly fifteen minutes, the assistant descended the stairs with an elderly gentleman, who walked over to our seats and greeted us politely.
As I suspected, Dr. Armitage had met Ivy Morgan. She had arrived at the library during the summer, in the Company of two gentlemen; one of which possessed a letter of introduction written by Rudolph Pearson. The man, whose name escaped Dr. Armitage, brought a strange idol with him that he had found on his farm. Professor Pearson had told the man that a tome within the restricted section of the Orne Library might shed light on the idol’s origin.
Dr. Armitage showed the group to the restricted section, found the tome, answered some of their questions, and left. A number of hours later, Ms. Morgan came to Dr. Armitage to tell him that she and her associates were done reading the book. He did not see Ms. Morgan or her associates again.
All of the interviews I had conducted corroborated the information Ivy had written in her journal. But what she wrote in journal couldn’t be real. To believe what Ivy wrote was to believe in madness. I continued to arrive at the same conclusion – Ivy suffered a trauma, probably when she watched Pete Manusco gunned down in front of her, and never fully recovered. She was delusional – she began to fraternize with people she would not normally associate with, and paid the ultimate price.
But then there was the farm. There was evidence to support that a wild creature or creatures were at the scene of the crime. Bernice verified this in the hours immediately following the murders. Could Thomas Parkhill be telling the truth? If so, why did he light the entire hilltop on fire?
I chewed over the facts of the case like a well-done steak. It helped keep my mind off the turbulence as we bounced through the air towards Buffalo. Bernice was sitting quietly, eyes closed, muttering something under her breath. When the plane touched down, Lex looked back at us with a wry smile, impressed that we had avoided being sick.
It was late afternoon when we arrived at the home of Irene LeMond, a little one-story on the outskirts of the city. I walked up to the door and knocked – an overdressed, heavily rouged woman in her late fifties opened the door and beckoned us to enter. Unlike the unimpressive outside of the home, the inside was crowded with expensive furniture and knick-knacks. Mrs. LeMond wore a hodgepodge of expensive jewelry that neither matched nor looked particularly good on her.
Irene left us in the parlor, and returned quickly with a tray of tea and cookies. As we ate, she told us about her son, Paul’s, childhood. His father died when Paul was young, and Irene did her best to raise the boy. When he was seventeen, he suffered through a series of horrible nightmares, and was hospitalized with partial amnesia. It was during his stay at the hospital that Paul developed a friendship with Mr. Rodgers, a fellow patient. Mrs. LeMond confided that she felt Paul had changed during his stay at the hospital, and when he was released, he and Mr. Rodgers embarked upon a number of long, unexplained trips that kept Paul away from home for nearly eight years.
When Paul returned, he suffered another bout of amnesia, and was again hospitalized. After a brief stay in the institution, Paul was released from care and began to act normally again. However, he also began to show strange powers, most noticeably an ability to commune with spirits.
Paul’s special ability caught the eye of a New York City talent agent, Herb Whitefield, who signed Paul to a management contract and moved him to the Big Apple. Irene had only seen Paul three times since he moved to the city. During his most recent visit, Paul brought his girlfriend, Velma Peters, along to meet his mother. Shortly after the visit, Paul went missing. Irene does not trust Paul’s manager or Velma Peters, and fears they’re conspiring to get rid of her son and collect on his insurance.
I agreed to take the case. As busy as I was with the Morgan investigation, it was nothing short of insanity to turn down two thousand dollars. As we were preparing to leave, Irene provided us with the address of Paul’s apartment and Herb Whitefield’s office in New York City. She also handed me a recent photo and the diary Paul kept as a teenager. I told Mrs. LeMond that I’d keep in touch, and walked out into the night with Bernice and Lex.