It was another spring day. Another twenty four hours of human hands committing the most heinous and terrible crimes imaginable.
The Police Officer was standing at the scene of the crime, notepad in hand. Prospect and College. 9:42 AM.
Location: Scene Of The Crime
The victim sat on the curb, head in hands, dazed; the paramedics had done what they could, but it wasn't much. Psychological shock was out of their league.
Other witnesses were milling around, being dealt with in turn; there weren't many, and most had little more to say than "I think I heard a scream" or "I had a feeling that something was wrong". Confusion, disorder, a useless mess. Worse than usual, which was saying a lot.
"I... I think it was, like, I was standing there... and... someone just... someone ATTACKED me. I don't know."
"Can you give me a description, sir?"
"He... he must have been... big, I guess. No... no, that doesn't make sense... I'm really not sure."
"Any details at all might be helpful."
"It's all... kind of a blur. I'm sorry. Let me think. No... no, maybe it was a woman..."
10:28 AM. Walking up Prospect towards Thayer Street to get some coffee, The Police Officer paused just past the Hay Library. That single stone, with its inscription, never failed to mystify, or at least intrigue.
Location: The Lovecraft Memorial
And opposite it, wreathed in the strange light of midmorning, Carrie Tower pressed against the sky; The Police Officer walked over to it, dazed almost, an intuition born of fifteen years of service tugging at the memory insistently. But nothing. Four smooth tower walls.
The Police Officer sat beneath the Tower for a time, lapsing into a kind of reverie; visions, memories, a photograph of an old church, entirely pitch-black, before its destruction. An uncle's cryptic report; scavengers in the ruins. It was all so clear, so immediate, and yet also somehow impossible...
Location: Carrie Tower
The police radio crackled to life, and with a shake of the head, The Police Officer discarded the collage of shifting dreams and returned, reluctantly, to the world. This was no time for old memories.
It had been a cold November evening when The Police Officer's father was buried. He had wanted Swan Point, but by that day and age its gates were already closed to all save heroes; so Oak Grove it was.
Law and order run in this family, his father had said. We are the real warriors here. The armies fight each other, but that's politics now; in a few decades, no one will even die in wars anymore. It's here, on the streets, that the real war is taking place.
But there it was. Three gunshot wounds from a semiautomatic, not so uncommon
really in the downtown areas. The casket had been closed; the hard dirt
had been shoveled; the last of the sparse crowd had dispersed.
He had no choice now, he supposed, but to take up the baton, to pick up where his father had left off, to do his family's work: habit and assumption sometimes accumulate the weight of necessity.
The Morning Paper
"We need a couple men down at Pembroke Campus to investigate some vandalism. Broken lamps, chalk graffiti. It's got Brown all concerned."
The Police Officer was walking with a colleague down Brown Street. The
man, Paul Gradey, was a friend of his, and the two of them talked quietly
as they traveled.
"That's the great thing about Providence... police car slows you down more often than not."
"Are you joking? Being a cop in Providence is lousy. You almost never get the flashing lights, wailing sirens, and high-speed chases."
"Is that why you joined the business?"
The Police Officer sipped his coffee as they passed the Christian Science church, with that strange house opposite it, somewhat withdrawn from the road and embedded in foliage. It held his attention somehow, his eyes tracking it unconsciously until he snapped out of it and asked,
"Did you see that assault yesterday?"
"The one on College St."
"Yeah. Some weird shit, I'll tell you that. Did you know the guy's permanently blind in one eye?"
"Do they know what did it yet?"
Paul shrugged. "Some kind of acid. Something usually only used in labs, as I recall. They found traces of it all over the area. I'll say it again, man: weird shit."
They arrived on Pembroke campus, emerging past Smith-Buonnano into the Andrews quad. It was quite a mess; Paul and The Police Officer made a beeline for the stone seal outside of Andrews, around which a number of students were clustered.
Location: The Stone Wheel
Noting down all that he saw, The Police Officer began to think, absently rubbing with one foot at the remnants of the white chalk markings that scrawled outwards from the central seal. Carefully, he began to follow their spiralling path outwards, leaving Paul to start questioning witnesses. He stopped in front of the strange, abstract stone sea monster sculpture nearby and stared.
Location: Scene Of The Crime
"Hey, Paul... I think you'd better take a look at this."
Later, The Police Officer stood on the balcony of the CIT in the cold night air. Another attack. The victim was babbling about the Sciences Library, the roof, the air above being consumed by blackness... her extensive wounds were being tended. The Police Officer shrugged uncomfortably and began to pace; this was beginning to seem out of his league.
Location: The CIT
The Morning Paper
The Police Officer stood in a tomb, surrounded by shattered glass. "This is beginning to get out of hand, Paul."
It was the Annmary Brown Memorial, a beautiful tomb donated to the University by a rich alumn upon his wife's death. Samantha Jonnet had been killed by the fall of an enormous, intricate glass window directly above the gravestone itself; she must have been cleaning up last night. Conjecture only, since no one else was around.
Location: Scene Of The Crime
Later, The Police Officer was talking with Paul over a cup of coffee. "What do you make of all this?"
"These murders and assaults... we never get them in this kind of rapid succession."
"Well, we do have a Campus Security Alert more often than not, it seems like. This is finals period. People are stressed. And you know, accidents happen."
"You don't think there's something to it?"
"What, someone rappelling off the top of the SciLi to attack someone else
on the balcony of the CIT? Don't you think that's a little ridiculous?"
"I've heard stranger things... besides, this is the second book preservation person in as many days. Do you read the obituaries?"
"Everyone does in our line of work."
And later still, The Police Officer's radio crackled to life. It had happened again, this time a murder, a clear murder. As he dashed to the scene, he had a strange feeling that pieces were starting to fall into place...
Thomas Weinstein, a fairly well-known psychologist, lay dead, and it was no pretty sight. The signs of ritual about the murder were unmistakable. The Police Officer shot Paul a look.
Meticulously, methodically, he began to note down details. This was it, the starting point that he needed; the investigation was now well and truly under way.
Location: Brown University Psychological Services
The Morning Paper
As the sun rose over Providence, The Police Officer was sitting at his desk, a cold cup of coffee and a ream or two of scrawled notes before him. He was tapping his pen, absently, to an uneven rhythm; otherwise, he was motionless.
"One," he muttered to himself. "A series of attacks. People don't remember who did it."
"Two," he muttered to himself. "A man in a black coat, with dark glasses."
"Three," he muttered to himself. "A list of Weinstein's patients, half of them already victims of those attacks."
He got to his feet, with difficulty, and walked outside. The morning air was bracing, and helped him clear his thoughts. He continued in a low tone of voice, "The psychologist's notes talk a lot about this Phillip Dexter person. A collector of some kind... an obsessive... he must have something they want. No reason to kill the psych except to get at his patient, unless... but no. Or what if they're all connected somehow?"
He squinted into the rising sun, peeking above the Providence Place Mall downtown. "Fine. Dexter it is." He made the necessary arrangements for a visit.
Location: Dexter's House
He left with a feeling of deep unease. If the man wasn't insane -- something, given recent events, he was loathe to say -- then something very sinister indeed was going on. He returned to his office and began making phone calls.
"Let's see," he said to himself, "what a few background checks might dredge up."
Old Newspaper Clipping
August 9, 1935
Amid last night's terrific storm, Patrolman William J. Monohan reports
a very peculiar incident. In the hours of the early AM, in the night's
darkest reaches, a crowd of seventy to eighty onlookers had gathered about
a certain church on Federal Hill with lit candles. A vigil of some sort
was evidently taking place, for Father Merluzzo of Spirito Santo Church
was sighted there as well, leading prayers. The evening took an unexpected
turn, however, when the boarding from one of the deserted church's windows
broke off and fell into the crowd. No one was hurt, thankfully. The crowd
dispersed soon afterwards, but many later reported sensations of nausea,
terror, and awe. Indeed, a kind of temporary amnesia seems to have taken
root in many, apparently fueled by the intensity of the storm and the
religious fervor of the occasion.
The Morning Paper
The Police Officer was standing outside the house of Phillip Dexter, sipping a cup of coffee. Why was he not surprised? Of course Dexter would be killed. The pattern was becoming quite clear: some random chemical attacks to throw him off, and a hit list that was smaller all the time. The murders themselves had been gruesome in the extreme; first Weinstein with the writing implements stabbed into his eyes, and now this, Phillip Dexter, his fingernails caked with his own blood, consuming his eyes, seemingly torn from his head while he was still alive. The strange markings clawed into his flesh were new, however, and gave The Police Officer pause. He was glad that he had been doing this for quite some time.
And then there was the matter of Tobit Bowen, the escaped psychopath. If his hand indeed factored into this, it was worse than The Police Officer dared think. The information revealed by his background checks on Thomas Weinstein and his patients had been both startling and difficult to use -- besides for the occasional Brown University student that got through on standard Psych Services stuff, it appeared that Weinstein had been a central contact point for a loosely-organized cabal of some kind, a collection of armchair occultists who seemed to concern themselves primarily with knowledge, vision, and truth. There were Roderick Adams and Samantha Jonnet, a pair of book preservation employees, both of whom were now dead; Maxwell Jaranti, a Brown University dean who worked closely with the library system; William Mayhew, a collector of H. P. Lovecraft memorabilia and a friend of The Horror Enthusiast, who had died on April 30 following an attack similar to those on the CIT balcony and near Carrie Tower; and one Jack Massey, an esoteric sculptor whose work was on display at a RISD gallery. Furthermore, Weinstein had recently taken on a new patient, a Photographer whose work seemed somewhat similar to Jack Massey's in theme.
Contact: The Horror Enthusiast
Contact: The Photographer
Location: Woods-Gerry House
So, the pieces were coming together. Bowen could not have escaped from Arkham alone; he must have had accomplices. The Police Officer would find them, and he would begin by tracking down the strangely alluring engraved box that had been in Dexter's sitting room and no longer was. It seemed almost certain that whoever had killed Dexter had taken the box; had, in fact, been after it from the beginning.
"Call it a hunch," he said to himself.
The Police Officer's father had told him the story innumerable times while he was growing up, most often while explaining the weaknesses of the justice system. It went something like this.
"Just because you catch a man and you know he's done wrong, that doesn't mean you've won. That's what lawyers are for; it's what they do. They make the guilty innocent and the innocent guilty. We caught a man, once, someone we'd been after for a while... a psychopath, really. A total nut case. His fingerprints were all over the scene of the crime when a famous and well-respected doctor was done in. The thing is, it was actually his insanity that saved him. They wouldn't put him in prison because he was mad. Does that make sense to you? If you kill another man in cold blood, of course you're crazy. That's what the lawyers and judges don't understand, but it's something you learn well enough when you're a cop. Of all the murderers out there, there's not a one that isn't crazy somehow. And Hell, who's to even say who's crazy and who isn't? Some well-known psychologist? I don't care what they say, you can't learn the heart of a man by reading books. At least this one got committed to a sanitarium; better than nothing, if you know what I mean. But it's not to say that he deserved it."
The Morning Paper
So, Jaranti -- the Brown University dean in charge of the libraries -- was dead. The Police Officer eyed the obituary coldly, finding himself unsurprised. The guards that he had insisted be posted saw nothing; the police cars across the street had been useless. Also unsurprisingly, the manner of death was highly suspicious; it's not every day that a man drowns to death on ink.
Unfortunately, Jaranti's notes and personal documents would not be of use in the investigation -- they had been wiped clean somehow, all of them, the words and letters running off in rivulets to stain the white carpet. Even going off of Dexter's writings, though, The Police Officer was realizing that the victims had banded together not for purposes of their own so much as to prevent something, to stand together against some other force.
The Police Officer's thoughts were interrupted by a loud crackle on his radio. "All units to Rochambeau House... all units to Rochambeau house..."
Location: Rochambeau Garden
What he had seen at Rochambeau sickened and appalled him, but The Police Officer felt that it had some bearing on his present investigation. He had sent a few men to look into the details; in particular, the blood-red vines around the burial mound seemed unusual and out-of-place. One of these men now returned, and hurriedly informed him that such plants were not native to Providence, and had been seen growing there in only a few locations. With a grim smile, The Police Officer nodded. "Have those places watched."
It could not be long, now. One way or another, this string of attacks and murders was going to end. Even if the coalition of light (for so, in his mind, he had begun to call Weinstein and his compatriots) no longer remained to witness the victory, the killers would be arrested; Tobit Bowen would be brought to justice for the second time, but The Police Officer would succeed where his father had failed -- he would put the man behind bars, once and for all.
When word arrived that Bowen had been sighted outside one of the watched locations, the historical Samuel B Mumford house, The Police Officer was polishing his gun. He stood, and smiled. The time for justice had come.
Location: Samuel B Mumford House
The Police Officer stood poised outside of the Samuel B Mumford House, his pistol in one hand, his men arrayed about him. This was it. This was the moment when justice would prevail. He murmured into his radio, making sure that everything was in place, then gave Paul the nod. The floodlight turned on, bathing the area in harsh white light, and they kicked open the door. "This is the police! Surrender yourselves now, give up peacefully, and lethal force will be minimized..."
For all that he had seen, the Police Officer was not, in truth, expecting what he beheld within. As the shadows melted back from the doorway like a living thing, a shriek rang out, a sound so hideously inhuman that several of the less-seasoned officers fell to their knees, paralyzed with terror. Others began to fire into the open doorway, and the screams of men and women inside revealed that at least a few of these shots hit their mark.
Still the shadows melted back, a smell like ozone filling the air, along
with a scent much more acrid, more familiar: it was the acidic chemical
that The Police Officer had discovered at the sites of the earlier attacks.
A number of cloaked and hooded figures could now be made out amidst the
wreckage of what must have been a ritual of some kind; at the center of
it all was The Graduate Student, a lanky man in his early twenties, bound
and gagged. And above, in the deepest gloom of the rafters, something
else was twisting, gibbering, trying to maintain its darkened form in
the glare of the floodlight. Gritting his teeth so hard that he could
taste blood, The Police Officer fired his gun. Again. Again. Again.
More screams, and then stillness, the radio crackling quietly in the background. The policemen began to pick through what remained of the historic building. The Graduate Student was freed, and the implements of sacrifice were retained as evidence. Arrests were made. Dexter's crystal was never found.
Looking back, The Police Officer was never thereafter certain what precisely had occurred. His reports said that the bust had been a success; the newspapers said that arrests were made. That could only be a good thing, he supposed, although it was no longer entirely clear that these had been the perpetrators. How could he know? Justice had been so swift and certain -- what if a mistake were made? He became less and less sure that the entire thing had even happened.
He switched to the night shift, because he didn't like the hours. He got himself taken out of the Investigation unit, because he was no longer confident in his abilities. He began to accumulate meaningless habits, opening doors twice before passing through them, playing the flute (although, for some reason, he never seemed to improve), stirring coffee exactly three times, because without them he might have been forced to realize just how irrelevant he had become, just how purposeless all of it was. All that he had left behind was a trail of paper, and even that was rapidly being archived and forgotten.
Life continued on.