Ivy Morgan, Jonas Markham, and Ray Brannigan awaken early and head down to the dining room at the Shoremist Inn for a hasty breakfast. With an errand to complete before heading to their nine o’clock appointment with Mr. Booth, they scarf down their meal, get in to Ivy’s Daimler, and drive to the Harborside neighborhood, looking for a place to buy fisherman’s waders. They are pointed to Kingsport Village Store by a supervisor at a fish-packing warehouse, and are able to procure the waders and some additional supplies before driving to Arkham
Ivy parks the car a block from the apartment where they are meeting Mr. Booth, and Ray and Jonas conceal their handguns. Walking up to the building, Ivy notices that the curtains are open and lights are on in the lobby. Ray rings the bell – after a few moments, Mr. Booth opens the door and invites the investigators in. He leads them in to a lavishly decorated apartment, and has them sit down in the study. When Booth exits, Ivy lights a cigarette and begins perusing the bookshelves, looking for anything out of the ordinary. A few moments later, Booth returns with coffee, offers the investigators a cup, and exits the room.
After nearly fifteen minutes, a young man walks in to the study, and introduces himself as Henry DuPont, owner of the Steeplin County Mill.
He pauses for a moment. “As Miles has already stated, I wish to employ you to purchase an item rather precious to me.”
DuPont would like the investigators to attend an auction being held by a group of foreign art collectors at the University Exhibit Museum. The majority of the works to be sold is of little value and interest to him. However, he does require one item – the final auction piece, lot number 27. This is an 18-inch statue made from finely crafted stone and inlaid metal. About 100 years old, it is worth approximately fifteen-hundred dollars and depicts Fredric DuPont, Henry’s great grandfather. The statue is of obvious historical importance to the DuPont family and Henry is determined to purchase it.
Unfortunately neither Booth nor he can attend the auction as it is necessary that they are not observed in Arkham. He explains to the investigators that there is nothing sinister about this situation, only that other parties must believe that both Henry and Booth are still at their estate in Steeplin County (a small area north-west of Arkham).
The other party DuPont refers to will also have an agent at the auction who may bid for the statue. However Henry is aware that this person will have only two-thousand dollars available, so he will ensure that the Investigators have three-thousand dollars.
The investigators are to out-bid the other agent for the statue, while Booth and Henry return home unnoticed. After the auction, the Investigators are to travel to Steeplin Valley by train (an eight hour trip) and from there on to the DuPont homestead to return the statue (and any remaining auction funds).
Ivy, speaking for the group, agrees to procure the statue for DuPont. Henry shakes each of their hands, gives Ivy two envelopes, and leaves the room. Opening the envelopes, Ivy sees three-thousand dollars (in one-hundred dollar increments) in one, and three train tickets and thirty dollars cash in the other.
Booth enters the study to take away the coffee. The investigators question him on the seemingly “cloak and dagger” nature of the job, and Booth tells them that the need for discretion stems from DuPont’s fear that his Board of Directors are trying to move against him and take over his company. Henry has been quietly visiting Arkham and New York City (under the guise of being ill and seeking specialized medical treatment) to meet with lawyers, and he cannot be seen by anyone connected with the mill. The investigators (and Ivy, in particular) were chosen because their upper middle-class standing and disassociation with Henry DuPont made them perfect candidates to acquire the statue.
Satisfied with Booth’s explanation, the investigators leave DuPont’s apartment and walk to the car. Ivy, concerned about leaving the Daimler on the street overnight, finds a Phillips 66 station and pays the owner to watch the car. They make their way on foot to the University Exhibit Museum, and are directed to the room where the auction is being held. About twenty-five people are mingling about the room, perusing the various auction items and taking notes. Ivy registers with the auctioneers, while Jonas and Ray split up, attempting to nonchalantly approach the statue. When Jonas reaches the display case, he sees that the statue is roughly eighteen inches tall, and made of a type of stone that he is unfamiliar with. It is also inlaid with a silvery band of metal that appears to be platinum. Looking closely, he notices strange symbols embossed on the base of the statue, which resemble small bugs or insects. With the twelve o’clock start time approaching, the investigators take a seat near the middle of the room.
The auction starts quickly, and the first twenty items are sold off in roughly an hour-and-a-half. However, as the successful bidder walks up to claim lot twenty, the silence is interrupted by horrified screams. Looking back, the investigators see a terrified, elderly woman hurrying down the row, pulling what appears to be a bloody carcass on a leash. The carcass, bouncing up and off the floor in the woman’s haste, hits several people about the head and chest. Bedlam ensues and many of the attendees flee the auction. After nearly twenty minutes, calm is restored and the investigators realize that they are three of only nine people left at the auction. Close to them is a couple who appear to be engaged in a heated, albeit whispered, argument. Three men are huddled in close conversation to the investigators’ right. In the back row sits a large man, wearing a hat and a leather bomber jacket, carrying a leather briefcase.
The remaining items are auctioned off quickly, leaving only the investigators and the man in the back row to bid on the final piece.
“Lot twenty-seven,” begins the auctioneer, “Statue of Frederick DuPont, circa 1815. I will start the bidding at one-thousand dollars.”
The man in the back raises his paddle. Ivy, in turn, raises hers. The bidding continues in one-hundred dollar increments until Ivy raises the bid to twenty-one hundred dollars. Noticing that the man in the back row has stopped bidding, the auctioneer awards the statue to Ivy. Looking back, the investigators see the man mutter something under his breath, stand up, and storm out of the auction in a huff. Ray follows the man out of the room, while Ivy and Jonas walk to the front of the room to claim the statue.
Ray follows the man to the main entrance and out the door. The man walks purposefully to his car, gets in, and drives off quickly. Hurrying down to the street, Ray sees the man turn left on Garrison Street. Unable to follow on foot, Ray returns inside, where he finds Ivy and Jonas walking out, the statue wrapped in Ivy’s jacket.
Realizing that they have only thirty minutes to make the train to Steeplin County, the investigators look for a sporting goods store to purchase a duffel bag for the statue and two fishing pole cases for their rifles (“just in case we need them, of course!”). Once they’ve made their purchases, the group makes their way to the Phillips 66 station to pack their weapons, and then heads up Garrison Street to the train station. Arriving with a few minutes to spare, Ivy, Jonas, and Ray are able to find a quiet cabin at the front of the train.
As the train leaves Arkham and heads north, the scenery turns to gentle hills. A steady rain falls for a few hours, but subsides around six o’clock. Not wanting to leave the statue unattended, Jonas agrees to stay behind while Ivy and Ray go to the dining car. When Ivy and Ray return, Jonas goes for a bite to eat.
On his way back to the cabin, Jonas sees Mr. Booth approaching. Without making eye contact, Booth nonchalantly passes a crumpled piece of paper into Jonas’ hand and continues walking to the dining card. Jonas enters the cabin, sits down with Ivy and Ray, and opens the piece of paper to reveal a note. It reads:
Meet me in the luggage carrier in five minutes…trust no one but DuPont
Ivy throws the duffel bag over her shoulder, and Ray gives Jonas his .38 revolver. Jonas takes the lead with Ray and Ivy following. They make their way through the crowded dining car and another passenger car before they reach the luggage carrier. Cautiously opening the door, Jonas can hear muffled voices and the loud cha-chunk of the train moving on the tracks. Walking in to get a closer look, Jonas sees Booth and another man struggling at the back of the car, near an open cargo door. Before Jonas can react, the man throws Booth through the door and off the train.
Jonas moves forward, Ray’s .38 revolver in hand. The man notices Jonas and identifies himself as Deputy Carl Grietski.
“Just give me the statue and no one will get hurt,” he yells. Ray moves down the opposite aisle, .45 revolver at the ready, towards the voice. Ivy stays near the door, looking back to see if anyone has followed them.
The deputy bellow his command a second time, and tells Jonas to lower his weapon. Jonas complies. Ray, however, jumps around the corner and fires at the deputy, grazing his ear. Ivy begins searching the luggage racks for her rifle.
Jonas tries to subdue the deputy to no avail, and Ray fires an errant shot. Ivy finds the fishing pole case holding her rifle and pulls it from the shelf. Ray lunges at the deputy, but is unable to grapple him. The deputy pulls a pouch from his pocket and throws it to the floor. In an explosion of light, both Ray and Jonas are temporarily blinded, and the deputy starts moving towards Ivy.
“Just give me the statue,” the man yells, “and no one will get hurt.”
Ivy opens the door to the passenger car and walks backwards, screaming “help!” as she goes. Turning to her right, she sees a passenger reach up and pull the emergency brake cable. Bracing herself, Ivy manages to stay in one place as the train begins screeching to a halt. Ray, Jonas, and the deputy are not so lucky. Each is flung into the luggage racks – Jonas and Ray losing their handguns in the process. Meanwhile, Ivy moves to the front of the passenger car, looking for an exit from the train.
Unable to see but alert to their surroundings, both Ray and Jonas can hear someone run past them towards the open cargo door. Suddenly regaining their sight, they look around to orientate themselves, and see the deputy jumping from the train. Ivy, who can see the deputy from her vantage point, takes off her heels and jumps to the ground. Ray and Jonas search wildly for their firearms.
The deputy runs towards a line of trees, Ivy giving chase. Jonas finds his gun and jumps from the cargo door to follow. Ray, unable to find his gun anywhere, swears loudly.
Ivy is unable to keep up with the deputy and attempts to mark his progress into the trees. Jonas fires several errant shots at the deputy’s legs, and quickly gives up the chase. Ray, revolver in hand, yells to Ivy and Jonas to return to the train. Defeated, Ivy and Jonas comply.
The three investigators recount their story to the conductor and porter, and agree to give a statement to the police when the train arrives in Newburyport. By the time the train reaches the station and the investigators file their report with the police, it is after nine o’clock – they’ll be lucky if they arrive in Steeplin County before one o’clock in the morning. They head back to their cabin – Ivy to sleep, Ray to clean his guns, and Jonas to wonder what awaits them when they get to their destination.