The Mysteries of Drake Manor

SESSION 2, part 1

(Only Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes were present for this session.  Jack Storn, cub reporter, remained in Arkham to continue his research in the archives of the Advertiser.  Raymond Learson, globe-trotting archeologist, never answered his doorbell that morning.  His whereabouts are currently unknown.  Liquor and/or harlots are believed to be involved.)

The Road to Drake Manor

The turn-off from the Arkham-Bolton Pike towards Innsmouth was like a gnarled, bony finger stabbing into the dark past.   Less than a mile from the junction the road surface degraded into pock-marked and crumbling ruts of gravel and dirt.  Old, rusted signs warning of road construction were still jabbed into the shoulder at several points but there was scant evidence of recent repairs.

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and his passenger, Jenny Barnes, spent the better part of an hour being tossed about the interior of the doctor’s Buick coupe, which was now covered up the windows with dust and dirt and speckled with bare metallic dings and dents from the rocks tossed up by the tires.  They easily spotted the turnoff to the Drake estate–home of the formerly esteemed astronomer Dr. Emery Wallace Drake–the only track remotely in the location given the directions that Det. Strawbridge provided earlier that Sunday morning.   Along that small driveway–for it was no more than that–the two passed the Drake family burial plot, low headstones of various vintage surrounding a tall and impressive central mausoleum, the whole surrounded by an ancient and rusted iron spike fence.  Lokar slowed down for only a moment before continuing on to the house.

This was an impressively constructed two story villa in a Mediterranean style of architecture.  The saffron paint, which at one time must have appeared bright and welcoming, was now peeling in large strips and much faded.  Grime coated the many broad windows and settled into the crevices of every bit of ornamentation and trim.  If they had not known otherwise, Lokar and Barnes would have sworn the place was deserted.  The surrounding grounds were in a markedly better-kept state, the lawns cut and trimmed to the borders of the breezeway, bright clumps of flowers surrounded the base of the flagpole and the hedges up close under the windows neatly manicured.  As they pulled up and exited the vehicle, however, it was apparent that shrubs closest to the manor were sickly and twisted, as if some pestilence had afflicted these plants but not those mere inches further from the walls.

Samson

A tall man, blonde, sunburnt and broad-shouldered, stood at the topmost of three circular stone steps that led to the massive double doors.  His pose was rigid and unwelcoming, and his face impassive and humorless; he wore the coveralls of a working man, faded to a light blue and discolored by dirt, grime and sweat which would never fully wash out, and carried a double-barreled shotgun which he rested nonchalantly on his right shoulder.

“Are you the ones the police sent?”, he asked in a pronounced Scandinavian accent.  “They can’t be bothered to come themselves.  Why do you need to bother an old man whose only son was just murdered?”  There was more sadness than menace in his voice as he slowly shook his head in disbelief at Lokar and Barnes.  Nearby, they heard the barking of a dog.

“Sam, it’s alright.”  One of the great double doors opened and a woman wearing a plain black dress with a white, lace-edged apron ran up to the large man and the newcomers.  “The police rang up that they were coming, there’s no need to be curt with them.”  Saying nothing more, he turned and slowly shuffled off.

Claudette Jourdain

The woman introduced herself to Dr. Lokar and Jenny as Claudette, Dr. Drake’s maid.  She explained how the estate had once employed many servants but she was the last, along with Samuel Olson, the groundskeeper.  Claudette had worked for Dr. Drake for three years.  Before that, she made her living singing at the Commercial House in Arkham on dance nights.  Dr. Lokar recognized her and asked how she had come to be employed as a maid.  The work was steady, she  said–entertaining was hit or miss and at some point she had simply fallen out of love with it.   It was difficult now to keep up with the needs of the estate but at least there were only two Drakes to take care of, the doctor and his son, Jonathan.  Even so, Jonathan was rarely there and only stayed overnight to sleep off one of his frequent drinking binges.  Claudette’s eyes welled up with tears up at the mention of Jonny.  She had rather liked him for being a kind-hearted sort despite the bad crowd and decadent lifestyle he had fallen into. Because of her fondness for the dead son, she offered her full cooperation in attempts to get to the bottom of the matter.  The manor was at the investigators’ disposal, except for the few rooms that they may find locked, which she wished them to leave undisturbed.

Claudette described Sam–whom everyone called Samson as both a concatenation of his name and due to his great size and strength–as trustworthy.  They met close to twenty years earlier in Sam’s native Norway when Dr. Drake was on an expedition to study the northern lights, and they had been together ever since.  Sam had been an outdoorsman, hunter and tourist guide.

The Missing Maidservant

Finally, she mentioned another maid, Marianne Silvers, who had abruptly left Dr. Drake’s service three months earlier.  Marianne was young and annoyingly willful, and her sudden departure did not come as a great surprise.  It was very odd, however, that she had not taken any of her belongings with her.  These Claudette left in Marianne’s quarters on the first floor in the event that she sent for them.

Lokar and Barnes thanked Claudette for the information and her offer of assistance, then walked up the three stone steps to the front door.  Looming above them on the outer wall was the Drake family crest–a dragon grasping the circle of the world with its claws.

next:  The Guests of Drake Manor

(to be continued)

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