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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Explorer's Log 328
Year 4 Month 3 Day 27

Mr. Maxwell has finally started taking me seriously. We journeyed into the Underworld again and the Map has finally found a purpose. It kept pulling and tugging…and now the path is clear. Mr. Maxwell even seems to feel the pull now, albeit only to a very odd and small degree.

The Sergeant’s companion has been most helpful in convincing Mr. Maxwell to foray into these depths. As we mapped, I sensed a little bit of uneasiness from him. The Sergeant’s companion has some form of motive for exploring down here, but as long as the Map is completed, I care not what it is. Mr. Maxwell seems to, but also seems to trust this…reporter(?) as a friend. Who can say what will happen?

I do wish the Sundown Man would take more interest in the lower worlds. Both he and his companion seem to dislike and avoid them as much as possible. Maybe I can convince Mr. Maxwell to show Sundown’s companion around the city here a bit more. The world above and the worlds below are linked more than any of us can imagine, and the possibilities are endless. Still, I must admire the companion, his dedication to duty is admirable. And something that Mr. Maxwell will hopefully pick up on.

The final Geist and companion are still a mystery to me. The companion seems to get around fine with Mr. Maxwell, and the two of them seem to have similar jobs(?), pastimes(?) at least. However the Hobo strikes me as…odd. I still do not understand what motivates him in the slightest. Perhaps Mr. Maxwell can convince the companion to tell me more about him.

Observations on our group aside, I admit to being puzzled by the deaths happening of late. Mr. Maxwell seems torn between getting to the bottom of the demon child and with dismissing it as someone else’s problem. I wish he would look deeper into the second forest we found, but the man has a stubbornness more solid than any mountain I’ve seen. At least the group seems closer to finding the answer.

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No More Flyboys
CASE FILE: SPECIALTY #15

ASA JACOBI: PALE HORSE INVESTIGATIONS

JAMES DASHIELL

CLIENT: JAMES DASHIELL (DEC.)

STATUS: CLOSED

CC: NONE

SUMMARY:

This job is complicated, so it is encouraging when things turn out for a change. Mr. Dashiell, a special client, refused patently to move along until we had cleared up just what sent him taking the gravity express to the Oakwood Park station. End of the line.

First instincts were right, I should have listened to them (and Henrietta Wilson besides). Face value, that cat at the bank, Jansie, was the ideal suspect. Motive, capability, even a little evidence. But it smelled too clean, and he wasn’t the killing type. The type not to look to hard into his partner’s untimely death, maybe, but no murderer. Too much for a guy with such delicate nerves. These kids nowadays.

Decker, though… Yeah, it was her all right. Tried to pull it off like she just wanted to give old Jim a little jump, and that it turned into a big one. A line, and this fish didn’t bite today. She admitted it, after I pressed her. And then…

I don’t know why I did it. I’m a PI, there are rules. First damned thing I should’ve done is call Benjamin Taffee right then and there, tell him to send some flatfoots around to take their statements. Should’ve put her away for murder one, or at least given Val his crack at her.

But I didn’t. And Pierce can’t figure out just why. I guess it’s because, well, it’s already done with. Dashiell’s dead, so why bother with locking people up? Why put them through it? Is it me that judges that kind of thing? God help me, I killed forty times as many people than that frail did, and some of them were decent family men. I wonder what their names were, if they’re still buried under the red poppies…

Christ, this is why I shouldn’t drink writing these up. I get all sentimental. Poetry next, I bet. Yeah. Sure.

Jimmy wasn’t immediately inclined to leave, even with my generous offer. But between what I offered him and what Charles did, well. Let’s just say he picked the easy way out. I hope he found what he deserved, whatever that may be.

I tipped Decker off that Pierce was gonna run the story on her. I don’t know why I did that, either. I think it was the right thing to do. I hope so. Sundown’s been quiet, he doesn’t have any answers for me. Something tells me…

I haven’t seen the last of Annie Decker.

Wishful thinking.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS:

(Written in pencil, not part of the report)

Bones knows something about these “gates” around town. I asked Sundown about them, once, near that beginning of our partnership. Drank that answer right out of my brain, left in the care of Mr. James Beam. I hope to hell I don’t have to go down there. This old man’s had enough truck with trenches.

Jimmy was awfully talkative about the people in the black hoods. Shouldn’t write too much of it down; this place has locks, but just locks. Suffice it to say it’s more up Pierce’s alley.

The Upjohns had a job for me; open-and-shut missing niece. She eloped to Detroit with her squeeze. They’re generous tippers.

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Kalamazoo Police Drop the Ball
Corruption or Negligence amongst Kalamazoo's Finest?

Excerpt from the Kalamazoo Gazette

By: Charles Pierce, Thomas McClaren contributing

In April of last year one James “Jimmy” Dashiell was murdered in what appeared to be a hot air balloon accident. The ensuing investigation by the Kalamazoo Police Department led to the erroneous conclusion that no foul play was involved and that it was an accidental death. James’ ballooning partner Henry Jansie was suspected, as was his romantic interest of two years Annie Decker, personal aide to Mrs. Grace Upjohn. The police blatantly disregarded procedure in returning the evidence in the case to Ms. Decker claiming that the next of kin was to far away to return Mr. Dashiell’s cousin in Chicago. Mr. Dashiell and Ms. Decker were involved in a domestic argument just days prior to his demise, the sounds of which could be clearly heard by James Dashiell’s neighbors, including Devon Dunworth, who said the argument “Sounded like nothing, the two of them yelling and carrying on like what all”. The exact nature is unclear, but the argument certainly provides enough motive to place her on a list of suspects, further, while seeing Mr. Dashiell she was simultaneously involved in a relationship with James’s partner Henry Jansie for six months, who upon hearing of the argument went to have words with James. Henry Jansie could not be reached for comment on the following discussion, but James had proposed to Annie Decker and been turned down, presumably due to her interest in Henry, whom she continued to see until just days ago when he fled town following the news of her involvement in the death he had suffered the social stigma for.. Security at the Oakwood park grounds saw a figure matching the description of Ms. Annie Decker fleeing the tent under which the faulty parachute was the night prior to the jump. Ms. Decker declined to comment or to provide access to the parachute which a source close to the two confirms is still in her possession.

The KPD’s lack of investigation in this crime is tantamount to negligence at best and to corruption caused by the pull of the Upjohn family at worst. The amount of control that the Upjohn’s exercised in support of their trusted employee Annie Decker is difficult if not impossible to ascertain, but one feels certain that the investigation would not have been dropped by the fine men in blue at KPD without some excellent reason. Kalamazoo Chief of Police Benjamin Taffee and Mrs. Grace Upjohn both declined to comment on the case, though sources in the department were quick to point out that there is no statute of limitations for murder, however there is for several lesser charges which Annie Decker could be facing…

The piece continues on on the possibility of negligence or corruption at the KPD.

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Wood's Lake 1
From the notebook of Charles Pierce

- There is an Avernian Gate at the bottom of Wood’s Lake

- Henrietta Wilson has a locket and a wedding ring, which serve as her anchors, they appear to be tied to her two children and her husband. The locket was recovered with the body, the ring is with her hands.

- Both her hands and eyes were removed prior to her death, the cause of which was her heart being cut out. While I originally suspected her husband, and she did admit to having committed adultery, it appears now that something supernatural is involved.

- Something in the park is eating ghosts, of which there are a disproportionate number of female victims. It also appears that it is collecting body parts from its victims.

- The coroner in Kalamazoo is a Sin-Eater, a very odd one from the sounds of it, not to be trusted necessarily. He speaks with the dead, but he prefers the bodies that do not speak back.

- A nearby witness indicated that she was killed in the same fashion, however she has no desire to move on, she preferes to watch the birds, she may become a valuable source of information, despite the fact that she can not speak.

- Prior to the arrival of the “she-thing” which is devouring the ghosts a group performs a ritual wearing black sheets over their heads.

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Cold Lakes, Cold Cases
Special Client #13 and Client #311

I never took much of a shine to fishing. You end up cold, wet and if you do everything right, you might even get some nice slimy mackerel flopping all over your trousers. Sounds like a real ball to me. Yeah.

But fishing is what we had to do last few nights. Sad to relate, Ms. Henrietta was more than a little bit entrenched (if you’ll pardon the euphemism), so we had to fish her out. At this point it’s probably prudent to clarify who “we” are, if that’s a suitable pronoun to use at this juncture. Fear not, Specs has not lost a few marbles and started using the royal ‘we’. Actually, I guess we Bound are all entitled to use that particular tense. I digress.

I’ve been working with Charles again, to our mutual benefit. He’s sharp as a tack and, though I’d never admit it to him, probably a better investigator than I am. But something about him crawls under my skin. I don’t get his angle. The guy just likes… death. It borders on a morbid fascination, as if we ever have any other kind in our line of work. I met a Sin-Eater in Lansing once, called those kind “Necromancers”. Suitable title.

It has been my dubious pleasure to associate with that speakeasy musician as well. He’s a weird sort, all of life’s a game to him, and all the men and women merely gamblers, to paraphrase a book I read once. But he’s no slouch and he’s well connected.

I don’t have a great spread on the Wop yet. He keeps his cards close to his chest, like most Italians do. He doesn’t talk much, unlike most Italians. Maybe he’ll open up more, soon.

In less morbid news, got a garden variety snooping case from a little frail works as the personal aide-de-camp for Mrs. Grace Upjohn. She didn’t tell me that: I pulled the Holmes routine and I think it impressed her. However you cut it, she’s a broad that turns heads fast enough to make you take a trip to the chiropractor, and she was worried that her beau had a wandering eye. She should’ve looked in her own house before hiring a shamus. It’s not her squeeze with the itch. It’s the little bird work’s down at Burdick’s. But I did my job and got my retainer. Dames. What can you do?

Stray notes—

Henrietta’s not very good at backgammon. I’ve noticed that our special clients usually aren’t too capable of learning things.

The sister with the Sister is fiery, sparky and overall the kind of dame you’d expect not to have some nun hovering over her shoulder. Or maybe you would? I haven’t been to church in a while.

I need to update the old BloodHound maneuver. Something’s messing it up.

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