Nightmare on Vine Street

The Trenches

In which things get down to earth

Yesterday was, without question, one of the most terrible of my life since the War.

It didn’t start out so bad, let me make that clear right off the bat. Cashed the last check from Mrs. Upjohn, which put a little spring in this shamus’ step, let me tell you. But after that it was off to a pretty sordid affair at the house of justice.

Someone’s trying to set up Ben Taffee, and the little sixth sense you get from hanging around creeps in this profession points towards one creep in particular. Endsley and Taffee have never gotten along, and this rickety frame has his pawprints all over it. That being said, I put on the Shroud for a little look-see and did not find anything incriminating at the moment. Nuts.

After that I grabbed lunch at Burdick’s tried to ignore their resident pest and had a chat with the guys. Charles was all gung-ho to head “downstairs” to take a look into things. I didn’t like it, but once Pierce gets an idea about this kind of thing in his head it’s powerfully difficult to shake loose. And the guy can’t swing a punch or shoot a rifle to save his life. I agreed to go with him.

I think Henrietta was getting bored at my office (can’t blame her, God knows I sure do). Handprints on the walls and mirror again. But we talked a bit, and that always helps with her. Real shame what happened to the broad. She seems nice.

After that I… well, it seems kind of dumb now. Well, no it doesn’t, it’s appropriate. I got out the old uniform. It still fits pretty well, the puttees and the topcoat only a little tight. Took down the Krag, and my good luck charm. I looked just like I did back at the Marne, if a little older. In books, this is the part where you’d hear the old soldier say that it felt good to be back in uniform, that it took him back to those good ol’ days giving Jerry what-for. I didn’t feel like that at all.

I just felt sad. Sad and dead.

We set up our new place of residence after that, a little mausoleum in the cemetery on Main Street. Not a bad place, if a little bit morbid. Bones’ little set up with the vapors down in the crypt gave me a turn. I don’t know how he can stand to eat that stuff, plasm or no. To each his own, I guess.

After that we took our trip. Bones opened the portal, Wiseguy Eddie stayed behind to keep an eye on things. When we first walked in, it was dark as pitch. I groped along the wall, and Lord if it didn’t feel just like the trenches. Just like the dark trenches, with the fear and death all around you and the duckboards clicking under my boots and something (Jesus, what?) clinking off my helmet with a wet sound.

We broke out of the dark and saw it stretch before us, the city of the dead, the Great Below. The streets of skulls, houses mortared with human teeth and the glowing blue streetlights. It was terrible, and all the worse for how familiar it all seemed.

Some days, I tell you, I think Sundown waited too long for me. He should’ve taken me back in France, because I’m reminded of it more and more in this business. I don’t like it one bit.

I hate it, in fact.

We had a conversation with Alice Steinfeld, regarding her now-lost daughter and some nasty business with her husband. More on that later. Charles wanted to go talk to ‘the mayor’. We dissuaded him. If I never see that place again, it’ll be too soon. But there’s no way I’ll get that wish, is there, Sundown? I know you’re reading this, but if you change anything I’ll be more than a little steamed. The journal is off limits, remember? Fine.

Had a chat with the good doctor not long after that. He didn’t have much pleasant to say, but it shed some light on our perennial problem over at Oakwood Park. That’ll have to wait for a longer write up, though. I gotta go pick up Pierce, we’re off to our favorite den of sin, and we’ve got a wake to go to later this week…

Stray Observations:

Pierce learned the trick for making Mementos. How about that. Might have to commission one to keep my good luck charm a little more permanent.

It occurs to me that the residents Down Underneath might be more pliable if we brought them some gifts. I should go to the grocer, the pharmacy, the tailor…

I dreamed about Sundown waltzing with Alice. I don’t know what the hell that is supposed to mean, other than a dissertation for some Sin-Eater shrink somewhere.

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