Of alcohol, Oscar Wilde said, “After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.” Truer, more unfortunate words have never been spoken. My name is Ainsworth – Fred Ainsworth – and I’m a private investigator.
The day had started off with a bang – a straight-laced New Englander by the name of Bernice Monroe had interrupted my hangover, and provided some useful insight into my investigation of Ivy Morgan’s murder. I rewarded Ms. Monroe’s tenacity by asking her to assist in the investigation, and to my surprise, she agreed.
I had struck out at Columbia University the previous morning, so I gave Bernice the task of landing a meeting with Rudolph Pearson. She got on the phone and had the operator connect her to the university. Shortly thereafter, she was having a long woman-to-woman chat with Pearson’s secretary, and setting up a meeting with Professor Pearson for the following morning.
There was something about Bernice that intrigued me. Beneath her demure facade burned a stony determination that was equally compelling and powerful. I could tell that she was a no-nonsense lady, and that she rarely let the word no intimidate her. I silently applauded my brilliance in bringing Bernice into the fold, as she hung up the phone and gave me a curt nod.
The morning was growing stale, and my inaction was allowing the hangover to take hold again. I called one of my contacts at the Times, and made an appointment to look through the archives that afternoon. After that, I planned to head to Ivy’s Morningside Heights home to look for clues. Bernice and I ate a quick lunch and then headed downtown.
The trip to the Times proved useful. With Bernice’s help, I was able to find Ivy’s Op-Eds peppered throughout the 1926 editions. I had to hand it to Ms. Morgan – she came off as a pretty smooth dame who knew her audience. Preaching a hedonistic lifestyle to a bunch of young socialites might have been as easy as introducing a 16-year-old ingenue to Charlie Chaplin, but Ivy sold her vision with well-reasoned arguments, and never in a lewd or lascivious manner. I’m sure she stirred up the bluenoses something fierce, but that didn’t make her a criminal.
Ivy’s house had the picked-over look of a flea market. Everything was slightly out of place – handled, no doubt, by disinterested NYPD detectives helping their Arkham counterparts determine a motive for Ms. Morgan’s murder. Roughly opened mail lay strewn about a small table near the Davenport. Crystal decanters, at one time filled with gin, bourbon, and rye, stood un-stoppered and empty – presumably taken back to the precinct as evidence.
Bernice followed me up the stairs and into what I assumed to be Ivy’s bedroom. This appeared to be the most lived-in area of the house. The closet door was ajar – I could tell by the look of mingled awe and distaste on Bernice’s face that she had never seen that many dresses outside of a department store. As she rummaged through Ivy’s wardrobe, I looked around the room – another set of empty decanters littered a small table in the corner. An intricately carved vanity was nestled in an alcove by the window. I noticed that one of the nightstands next to Ivy’s bed was facing the wrong way – clearly none of the detectives took the time to look around, because the table had been turned so the drawers were facing the wall. Intrigued, I walked over, turned the table around, and pulled open the top drawer. Inside, I found three leather-bound books, a typed manuscript, a crystal, and several pieces of stiff fabric, which appeared to have been written on in a dark red ink. I called Bernice over to the bedside and showed her what I found. She gave the items a quick glance and returned to the closet. I opened the biggest of the leather-bound books, and began to read.
Ivy had been keeping a journal since June. She had been a very busy girl – her entries referenced a murder at the Blue Heaven Ballroom, power outages in the Gashouse District, a series of disappearances in Red Hook, and adventures in Arkham county. She also outlined a number of rendezvous with unnamed socialites, which involved medical-grade ether, hotel bathtubs, and a lot of ice. More disturbing than all of these entries, however, was Ivy’s references to Father Washington’s Bible. The journal cross-referenced the typed manuscript I found in the drawer. I reached into the desk, picked up the manuscript, and started to skim the pages.
I couldn’t tell if a minute or a day had passed. I woke up on my back in Ivy’s bathroom – Bernice standing over me with a bloody rag in her hand. She told me that I ran past her into the bathroom and began retching. At first, she thought that my many debaucheries had caught up to me. But after a few moments she heard a crash, and ran in to the bathroom to find me unconscious on the floor with a gash in my forehead (Bernice reckons that I must have slipped in some of my vomit and struck my head on the sink). She found some bandages in a closet and quickly administered first aid.
I sat up and ran my hand over the bandage that Bernice had placed on my head, and thought about what happened. I didn’t want to spook Ms. Monroe, but for the first time in nearly ten years I was as sober as a judge, and didn’t believe for one moment that alcohol had anything to do with my episode in the bathroom. The harsh realization that something in the typed manuscript had unnerved me to the point of sickness washed over me in torrents of icy coldness. I quietly lamented my decision to involve Bernice in this investigation, and tried to master my senses and decide what to do next.