SESSION 1, part 2
(Here’s where the game actually begins.)
Jonny Drake had departed mere minutes before the other patrons of the Desolate Highway Cafe heard a piercing wail of terror from the direction of the alley that separated the cafe from the Boston & Maine Railway terminal. After a tense moment spent exchanging bewildered glances, they poured into the alley and tried to discern the source of the disturbance. Jack Storn, ever eager for a story, was the first to see the smashed and blood-soaked figure lying motionless in the side alley that led to West Armitage St.
Jack gazed down silently at the body of Jonathan Drake, face-up, contorted, broken limbs splayed in unnatural positions relative to the torso. Brain matter, guts and unidentifiable bloody bits of flesh splattered outward like a ghastly starburst, giving every appearance of a body that had fallen to earth from a great height. Had he been accosted, taken to the top of a nearby building and been thrown off to his death? That would have taken time and there would be evidence of a struggle. The worst injury of all was the gaping, bloody void that was Drake’s chest. His heart was missing, as if it was brutally and crudely ripped from him. Storn recorded the details in his notebook. No one else dared approach so closely. Several people screamed or gasped while others ran back into the Desolate Highway to phone the police.
Dr. Kenneth Lokar, upon seeing the grisly scene, darted back inside the cafe and out the front door onto West Armitage, hoping to spot some assailant. He briefly thought he spotted a dark figure turn a corner onto Gedney and heard a rhythmic loping and what sounded like the flapping of canvas sails. A trail of blood led Lokar for a block along West Armitage and then seemed to swerve left around the corner where he spotted the dark figure. There the trail abruptly ended as Dr. Lokar still heard the sails flapping in the dark, moonless night. He ran further up Armitage in a futile attempt to spot the figure and finally encountered a patrolman near a police call-box. The officer had not seen anyone fleeing the area and was only now being apprised of the situation by the duty sergeant. Frustrated, Lokar returned to the cafe.
The police arrived quickly and began pushing back onlookers while taking statements. Detective Sergeant Dagwood “Dag” Strawbridge lead the investigation. He questioned Jack Storn away from the crowd and asked him not to file a report of the incident to his newspaper. Storn protested but Strawbridge insisted and offered to explain in further detail at the police station first thing Sunday morning. Storn was aware of other investigations that were accompanied by pleas for secrecy from the authorities and the printed stories never matched the accounts confided to Jack by his fellow journalists. Strawbridge overcame Jack’s objections by promising a scoop on the details of the investigation and that settled matters for now.
Back inside the Desolate Highway, Storn, Lokar, Learson and Barnes shared the sense that tonight’s brutal crime was in some sense unnatural. All four were prone throughout their lives to flights of fancy, a shared trait that had brought them together in the first place, and their various individual suspicions reinforced and amplified each other. It was still 24 hours until Jack was to meet again with Det. Strawbridge.
(engage terse writing style; I’m bored)
Jack Storn went over to the Advertiser, where his editor was burning the midnight oil. The two men conferred on how to handle the story, the editor suggesting Jack play along with the police for now and hoping that the promise of a scoop came through. Jack went into the archives to research stories of bizarre cases that might fit the description of Drake’s death.
Lokar, being a close friend and colleague of Dr. Galloway, was allowed into Orne Library to perform his own research. He faintly recalled reading of medieval European cults whose evil rites included mutilation, cannibalism and human sacrifice. Lokar doggedly spent the entire night and most of Saturday following ambiguous and tenuous leads. A series of newspaper articles filed in a Vienna newspaper late last century described murder scenes much like Drake’s. The last article in the series mentioned insights the reporter gleaned from a German-language volume called “Unknown Cults” but wrote that the tome was henceforth unavailable due to a government ban on subversive and heretical texts. No subsequent articles filed under that reporter’s name could be found.
Raymond Learson looked into the religious rites of the Mesoamerican empires, known for cutting the hearts from scores of still-living sacrificial victims. The particulars of the Drake murder did not match the descriptions of the surgical precision of the ancient high priests. Modern cults known to exist in South America consider it a sign of prestige and standing to be able to cut the heart from a victim while leaving only the smallest hint of an incision. The killer of Jonathan Drake exercised no such care.
The four got back together on Saturday evening and decided to seek information from Stewart Portman, the collector of rare manuscripts. They met Stewart back at the Desolate Highway and were invited, through the feminine machination of dilettante Jenny Barnes, back to his home to view his collection. The visit wasn’t immediately fruitful but Dr. Lokar received Portman’s promise to notify him of some promising manuscripts which were on the way from a European contact. Jenny also received promises from Portman which she could not repeat in polite company. Somewhat frustrated, and weary from the past day’s events, they each went home to get a good night’s sleep.
Jack Storn arrived at Arkham Police Station at 7am to meet with Det. Strawbridge. Strawbridge explained that he was indebted to Jonathan Drake’s father, disgraced astronomer Sir Emery Wallace Drake, an old family friend, for putting him through school and setting the youthful but troubled Dag Strawbridge on the right path in life. The detective had taken on the task of keeping a watchful eye on Jonathan Drake, who looked like he would never achieve much in life aside from degenerate drunkenness. He hosted Drake on many occasions in the station’s drunk tank and did his best to keep crimes and scandal out of the newspaper. Drake was involved in illicit behaviors and likely had enemies, and Strawbridge could not honestly claim he was surprised that Drake had met an untimely end. It was the nature of that end that proved unsettling to the hardened detective. Further, the murder was both a failure and embarrassment not only to Strawbridge personally but to the Arkham Police Department and unwelcome attention would be focused on both as word of the crime spread. Arkham was no stranger to grim crime scenes – a fact not widely known – but justice was expected to be swifter and more sure when the victim was a citizen of means.
On Monday morning, in twenty-four hours, Strawbridge would have to give a report to the chief of police. Strawbridge asked Jack Storn for his help in investigating the crime and gave him the same twenty-four hour deadline. They needed answers and they needed them quickly. Jack was advised to enlist the help of discreet and trusted friends to uncover any evidence of someone with the motive and opportunity to kill Jonathan Drake. Strawbridge would even call ahead to the Drake Manor, twenty miles outside of Arkham on the road to Innsmouth, and tell Dr. Drake and the staff to cooperate with a group of city-appointed private detectives.
Jack Storn related his dealings with Strawbridge to his three companions and they prepared themselves for their first investigation together.