A sleepless night, a desire to help, a search for answers
Malevolent follows Arkham Investigator Arthur Lester as he unravels the mysterious circumstances that have befallen him.
In the 32st part of our story Arthur wakes from his Nightmare and begins to put together the pieces behind the entity calling itself Mr. Scratch. With a new purpose to help his landlady, Arthur and the entity look to help in anyway they can.
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PART THIRTY TWO - THE WIDOW
Transcript made and reviewed by Jack
CWs: Captivity/kidnapping, past murder, blood, rot/decay, decomposing bodies, past suicide
(A low, slightly reverberating echo. Rain falls outside. Bedding shifts and Arthur groans.)
(Faroe’s Song starts to play.)
ARTHUR:John? Is it…
JOHN(frustrated):JesusChrist,Arthur. What thefuckhappened?
ARTHUR:Wha – where…?
JOHN:Wake up, Arthur!
ARTHUR:I am, I am!(The bed squeaks.)Am I?
JOHN:Arthur, do you remember what happened?
ARTHUR(sighing):Vaguely.(Another sigh.)I was… dreaming.
JOHN:Yes!(He sighs.)You don’t remember?
ARTHUR:Only bits.(Pained.)Oh, my head. I remember…(The bedding shifts. He sighs.)I remember going to sleep. I remember you waking me up, talking about this… this creature in the ceiling.
JOHN(confused):In the ceiling?
ARTHUR:Yes, you were… out of it, orsomething.
JOHN:You got out of bed.
ARTHUR:I must’ve, sometime after, but… you-you-you were speaking strangely. You –
JOHN: Iwas speaking strangely? You’re kidding, right? Comparatively, you were fuckingpossessed!
ARTHUR:Yes, I guess! But after you had witnessed that creature –
JOHN:You called it Mr. Scratch. But… why the Butcher?
ARTHUR(confused):What? No. No. The Butcher? No, no.
JOHN:When you said Mr. Scratch, I assumed…
ARTHUR:W-Wait. Why did you say the Butcher?
JOHN:Well, that’s what he said to us. He called himself ‘an old scratch’, don’t you remember?(Bedding shifts.)
ARTHUR:No. No, no, no, he’s… is that, uh… wait, well. Is that where he got the name?
JOHN(irritated):Wherewhatgot the name?(Arthur sighs.)Arthur, one minute you’re lying in bed, the next, untying a woman, talking to her like she’s an old friend!
ARTHUR:Wh –(He takes a deep breath.)What time of day is it?
JOHN(sighing):It’s late afternoon.(A slow piano melody starts.)The sky is gray. It’s pouring rain. Heavy droplets are falling on the window and there are a few leaks.(Arthur groans.)Arthur, what happened?
ARTHUR:I dreamt, I think. I don’t remember all of it, but. I remember Scratch… Mr. Scratch, he called himself.(Thunder rolls.)Was that his name, though? Or did he just take that from the depths of my memories, from when the Butcher said it?
JOHN:How could he do that?
ARTHUR:This was a powerful creature, John. I think…(He sighs.)I think it was the same one that you saw. In the ceiling, it-it wanted me to…dosomething, I-I can’t…
JOHN:You don’t remember getting out of bed.
ARTHUR:No, not at all.
JOHN:You walked to the stairs. You refused to head down, I think. You mumbled. Debated. And then you fell.
ARTHUR:Yes. I feel that, a bit, this morning.
JOHN:Then you opened the door.
ARTHUR:Door? What door?
JOHN:The door to the room below us, Arthur! The one Marie asked us not to!
ARTHUR(of course!):Jesus, right! And then – wait-wait, I remember! I remember him talking to us.(Quieter.)Right. Right, I’m-I’m sorry. I’m having a tough time remembering… w-what is… real.
JOHN:It’s fine. It’s fine. You don’t remember the dreams?
ARTHUR:Only parts. None too pleasant. I’m sure they’ll come back to me.(The bedding shifts. Arthur groans.)Oh. I feel like I didn’t sleep a wink.
ARTHUR:I remember… Scratch telling me to sleep, after we untied the woman, wha – well, what happened?
JOHN:You turned around and went back to bed.
ARTHUR:And he… she…
JOHN:Left. It left, Arthur.
ARTHUR:What, the house?
ARTHUR:But what about Marie?
JOHN:She got up a few hours ago. She headed to the room, just before dawn. I couldn’t hear what she said, but she yelled, a… a pained, frightened yell. And then she left.
(Some distant, vague echoes start.)
JOHN:The woman, Arthur. She looked a lot like Marie.
ARTHUR:Well, how much so?
ARTHUR:A sister, maybe?
JOHN:It’s possible. The creature talked about… possession. About being trapped in this house.
ARTHUR:It possessed her. Marie was… what? Keeping her alive,fed?
JOHN:I don’t know.
ARTHUR:I feel awful, I… oh, I feel so guilty, I…
JOHN:Marie was the one who had this creature locked up in the room beneath yours, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Yes. But I let whatever it was out.(Whispers start in the background briefly.)Into the world, i-it spoke of… dreams, didn’t it? S-Saying something about torturing those, now that I released it, I…
JOHN: It seems like it had plans of that nature, yes.
ARTHUR:We need to do something.
JOHN:Well, what are we supposed to do?
ARTHUR(downtrodden):I don’t know. There’s so little I know about it.
JOHN:What about Daniel? What about the Butcher? And the Order of the Fallen Star?
ARTHUR:I know, I know, but-but look. This… This Scratch, it-it controlled me.
JOHN:It said that others weren’t as susceptible as you.
ARTHUR:It wants to hurt people. A-And Marie… she doesn’t deserve this.
JOHN(intently):You can’t save everyone.
ARTHUR:I know, I know. Believe me, I know.(A wistful piano tune starts.)Many parts of my nightmare are still fuzzy, but… I remember… the guilt I-I have felt.
JOHN:I heard you whimper at times.
ARTHUR:It was difficult. Some memories, to relive, but… but this thing, it’s… it’s a blight, John. Perhaps there’s no easy way to stop it, but. I feel like we at least have to try, no? Well – look, we have time!(The bedding shifts. The bed squeaks.)The Butcher shouldn’t be on our case, and Daniel doesn’t know we’re even here, and… and Marie… Marie must be out there, now, looking for her.(Thunder rolls.)
JOHN:You’re not wrong. Well, then. What’s the plan?
ARTHUR:Right. Um… the room she was in. I-It must hold some clue, some bit of information. Let’s get dressed and head down, poke around a little bit. See if we can’t turn over something and reveal more about this possession.(A low, reverberating echo starts.)
JOHN:Right. Right. On the other hand…
JOHN:Well, this was the room it… appeared in.
ARTHUR:So you do recall.
JOHN:Well, once you said it. (ARTHUR:Heh.) Perhaps this room is key. It may be wise to start here and look around.
ARTHUR:If Marie comes back, she may not want us snooping around that other room.
JOHN:You wouldn’t tell her it was your fault?
ARTHUR:I… don’t think so, I-I don’t know. Damn. Perhaps. But I want to keep my options open.
JOHN:Fair. Either way, we can’t do anything lying in bed. We need to move. But it’s your call.
ARTHUR:Fair enough, fair enough. You make a good point. (The bedding shifts.)Then let’s… check here, first. In the end… it’s where we’ll probably spend a few more nights, at least. It… may make sense to look around.
(The bedding shifts, Arthur grunts.)
ARTHUR:But… might as well wash up, first.
JOHN:You had quite the night.(Arthur sighs.)You sweat nearly through the mattress.
ARTHUR:Yes. It was… terrible.(Arthur washes his face in the basin, occasionally sighing.)
JOHN:Did you… dream about Kellin?
ARTHUR(muffled):Yes, yes.(Clearer.)I did. How did you…
JOHN:You muttered his name once or twice.
ARTHUR(muffled):Yes, fair. I did. I dreamt of…(Clearer, sharp inhale. A slow piano melody begins.)I dreamt quite a bit about him, actually.
ARTHUR:Feel guilty? No. Look, I’m over all that. That dream, that… nightmare… was many things. But it was also me confronting the way I… I see myself. Well, at least the parts I remember, I… look, I-I tend to beat myself up. If that’s not clear by now.
ARTHUR(a grim laugh):Yes, well. I think I came out the other side of that experience a little… lighter.
ARTHUR:I’m not letting guilt weigh me down anymore. At least, not about the past.
JOHN:I’m glad to hear that.
ARTHUR:I even recalled a terrible memory, the day Faroe was born… one where an old friend tried to, um… well, talk some sense into me. I suppose.
JOHN:Was it Parker?
ARTHUR:No! No, no. A man named James. I wonder if he’s still in Boston, now.(Sharp inhale. A lighter piano melody starts.)Anyway! All that is to say… is that… I think I needed to confront some of the, uh… things that I’d been suppressing.
JOHN:Is that so?
ARTHUR:Yeah. You can’t carry it around, eventually it will drown you.
ARTHUR:Yes, guilt, anger, frustration, lies…
ARTHUR:Yes, they all weigh you down, eventually.
ARTHUR(deep breath):Anyway. Much better.(The sound of splashing stops.)
JOHN:And… what if you lied… to help?
JOHN:And what if you’re lying for… good? To help someone?
JOHN(anxious):I just mean to say… you’ve lied to help others, haven’t you?
JOHN:Does that eat you up the same way?(A chilling sting.)
ARTHUR:I suppose, in that case, it’s… about what’s at stake.
ARTHUR:Is there something you want to tell me?
JOHN(indignant):Can I not ask a question without you assuming something?
ARTHUR:No, alright, just checking.
JOHN(frustrated):For fuck’s sake, Arthur. We’ve been together for months now. You really need to ask things like that?
ARTHUR(annoyed):You asked me! You know what, it doesn’t matter.
JOHN:I asked you because I’m still learning all of this.
ARTHUR:I know. I forgot.(Conciliatory.)You know it’s easy to forget that aspect of things, okay? B-Be patient with me.
(Arthur sighs. A pause.)
ARTHUR:Oh, th-the window!(A slow piano piece starts.)You mentioned yesterday, and last night. It had a… sort of an odd effect to it, a rippling or something?
ARTHUR:Yes, well, with the revelation of Mr. Scratch, I’m wondering if you can… maybe have another look? I’m curious, now.
ARTHUR:Yes, well, these things don’t just happen. Scratch said that he had been trapped here for…(Impressed.)Two hundred years.
ARTHUR:Well, that’s quite an amount of time, especially for this area.
JOHN:What do you mean?
ARTHUR(thoughtful):Well, I mean! There would be buildings here two hundred years ago, but… well, I-I mean… I don’t know. I… I suppose he could be telling the truth. This building does feel quite old. I’m obviously only able to make half-guesses, I can’t know whatyou’reseeing.
JOHN(terse):I’m doing my best.
ARTHUR:I just, I mean to say… you don’t have the wisdom of a newer building… o-or the lot, uh, that it sits on, to compare… in order to validate Scratch’s claims. Look, it doesn’t matter. I just… there’s a reason for him being here. And I want to find it out.
JOHN:Well, the window, as I said previous, is warped. Like it’s been… broken.
ARTHUR:Yes, you mentioned. What does that mean? Try and explain while I get dressed.(Arthur grunts and starts to shift on clothing.)
JOHN:It reminds me of the windows in Larson’s car. The one out front that we took.
JOHN:It had a thin layer of ice on the window. Looking out, it felt… warped. Changed, in some way. Only… this one is clearer to look out, and the pattern is almost spider-webbed. I don’t know if that makes sense.
ARTHUR:It doesn’t, but I get why you’re having difficulty explaining. Is there any pattern at all? Anything you can decipher?
JOHN:Not really. Doesn’t seem to be on one focal point, just the entire thing.
ARTHUR:Okay.(More determined.)Okay. So the bed is centered on the north wall. Stairs to the south, and you said there was a… a desk?
JOHN:Yes.(Distracted.)Next to the bed on the same wall, just… further to the west.
JOHN:Nothing, just… the odd geometry in this room. In the morning light, it-it seems… odd.
JOHN:Just the angles. They seem… uneven. Certain… corners, I can’t quite make sense of.
ARTHUR:What do you mean?
JOHN(frustrated):They just seem off.
JOHN:Additionally, it’s easier to see that there’s an alcove by the stairs. Against the south wall. There are a few boxes there and a rolled-up carpet.
ARTHUR:Okay, well… desk first.(He steps and grunts as he rolls out a drawer.)
JOHN:Unsurprisingly, there is nothing in these drawers.
ARTHUR:Right. I mean, if Marie cleaned this room for a guest, or… or a renter, unlikely she would leave anything too noteworthy.
JOHN:Yes, but my thinking was…(Arthur grunts, closes the drawer.)In the less obvious areas.
ARTHUR:Yes, er. Under the desk?(He grunts, bends down.)
ARTHUR:(Quietly.)Damn. What about the bed?(In realization.)Oh! The wall! You said there was a cross?
JOHN:Directly above the bed. There used to be a cross, I believe. It’s just an outline, now.
(A light piano melody begins to play.)
ARTHUR:Why a cross, though?(He steps.)I mean, why take it down? Maybe the better question.
JOHN:You said under the bed?
ARTHUR:Uh, yeah.(Bedding shifts. Arthur grunts.)
JOHN:Nothing. It’s clean. No storage, just…(Thoughtful.)Huh.
JOHN:Oh, nothing. But the mattress is a bit darker in the center.
ARTHUR:But only in the center.
(Arthur stands. The bedding shifts.)
ARTHUR:Let’s flip this.(He exerts himself.)
ARTHUR:Yes, oftentimes these mattresses get rotated out…(The bedding shifts.)W-Well, you flip it. Bottom to top and such. To… keep the padding soft.(Exhausted.)I-It doesn’t matter why, just…(A final grunt.)Here. Okay, you said it was stained?
JOHN:As if someone was… brutally killed on it.
(Suspenseful string music rises.)
JOHN:There’s blood. A deep faded maroon, all over this mattress.
ARTHUR:You’re sure it’s blood?
ARTHUR:Someone died here.
JOHN:Murdered. Based on the small cut in the mattress, where a blade would pierce.
ARTHUR:(Whispered.)Jesus Christ. Okay, okay. Let’s-Let’s put this back.(He exerts himself. The mattress creaks as he flips it.)So, Marie rented us a room where someone was… well, stabbed. Most likely died.
JOHN:Do you think that had to do with… why we saw the figure?
JOHN:The lantern, on the bedside table.
ARTHUR:Yeah, what about it?
JOHN:Pick it up.(Arthur steps, and grunts. Metal squeaks.)The glass on it, it’s… it’s warped, as well.
ARTHUR:Like the window.
JOHN:I have no idea.
(A pause. A soft piano melody begins to play.)
ARTHUR:Okay. The boxes in the corner. Like the desk, Marie probably would’ve made sure they’re empty, I think. Right?(He walks over and starts rifling.)
JOHN:Storage. An old ceramic pitcher, an empty tin of –
ARTHUR:Right, right. Okay.
JOHN:Should we check the woman’s room now, before Marie comes home?
ARTHUR:Yes! Well… Or.
ARTHUR:Well, there’s a grocer downstairs. We spoke to him on the phone, first. Perhaps we should ask. Find out if any… guests have stayed here. Disappeared, even. Get some background information on Marie, and this… place.
ARTHUR:We don’t know what we’re dealing with, and having the information could contextualize not only the blood-stained mattress, but whatever we may find in the woman’s room.
JOHN:Well, it makes sense. It’s your call.
ARTHUR:Let’s check it out. If Marie should return, we may not get another chance and we could have another chance with the grocer.
(Arthur sighs in exertion and starts to walk.)
JOHN:You should be quiet. In case she’s home.
ARTHUR:You said you heard her leave.
JOHN:Doesn’t mean she didn’t quietly return.
JOHN:And… be careful. Who knows what Marie is truly capable of?
ARTHUR:Right.(He continues to walk and opens a door.)
JOHN:Here’s the door.(Another door creaks open.)Quickly! Shut it behind you, just in case.(The door closes. Arthur makes a noise of disgust.)
ARTHUR(pained, quiet):Oh, what’s that smell?
JOHN:A number of things.(A slow piano melody begins.)This is a small room. It opens to the right of us. The left wall is directly beside. Sitting against it is a small, round coffee table with… stacks of unwashed dishes.
ARTHUR:I think that’s the smell.
JOHN:There does seem to be some rotting food on some of them. There’s a basin in the corner, like ours. Opposite us on the northern wall is a shelf and a fireplace. In the north-east corner, another bookshelf is tucked against the wall. And on the east wall is the bed. I think that’s mainly what you’re smelling.
JOHN(quickly):That’s where she was tied up. It’s a dilapidated bed, broken and sunken, as if someone had jumped on it for weeks. It’s covered in filth, sweat. Pieces of bedding are littered on the floor surrounding it.
JOHN:Next to it is a small table. And finally, on the same wall as the door we’re at, there’s a second bookshelf, just to the right of the door.
ARTHUR:Okay. Every detail matters here. Look everywhere.(He starts to step.)
JOHN:What is that? By your feet. You-You kicked something.
ARTHUR:Kicked what?(A jagged horror sting plays.)
JOHN:It looks like a line of something.
ARTHUR:A line? Like chalk?
JOHN:No. Take a look at the foot of the door.
ARTHUR(grunting in exertion):Here?
JOHN:Yes. There’s a rug, but… across it, there’s a line of gray… I think it may be dust.
ARTHUR:Like the kind you’d find in a house, or-or sand, or…
JOHN:Yes, in a house.
(They brush against the floor.)
JOHN:There’s a few marks. I think you may have kicked it last night.
ARTHUR:And it-it runs the length of the door?
ARTHUR(perplexed):What on Earth could that mean?
JOHN(frank):I have no idea.
ARTHUR:Okay, well.(He grunts and starts to walk.)
JOHN:Where to look first?
ARTHUR:Well, the food. I assume it’s just… uneaten.(Flies buzz.)
JOHN:Yes. Food Marie must have… brought. For this… person.
ARTHUR:Right. Well, I guess… the bed, then.(More steps.)
JOHN:It’s… quite ripe.
ARTHUR(muffled, as if covering his nose):Yes, I can smell.(He makes a noise of disgust.)
JOHN:The rope is still here. It was affixed to the bedpost by her head.
ARTHUR:When we were at the door yesterday, she sniffed at it. No?
JOHN:She wasn’t tied up.
ARTHUR:Right. But why didn’t she leave, then?
(A quiet, higher piano melody starts to play.)
ARTHUR:It wasn’t locked.
JOHN:Marie entered last night, remember?
ARTHUR:Yes. Yes, what did she say?
JOHN:I didn’t make out much. She may have tied her back up, though.
ARTHUR:I mean, that makes sense, but… it sounds like Scratch had control of the body already. I don’t see how –
JOHN(interrupting):What if the dust was… purposeful? Placed by Marie?
JOHN:To prevent Scratch from leaving?
ARTHUR(disbelieving):Dust. Why would dust stop him?
JOHN:I don’t know, Arthur. I’m theorizing.
ARTHUR:Okay.(Going with it.)Okay. Look, given we know nothing about this being… obviously, different beings are affected by different things, then…
JOHN:What is dust made of?
ARTHUR:Well, for the most part, I don’t – I don’t know, I… hair? Things from the body, I-I-I can venture. I-I don’t know.
JOHN:It would make sense that breaking that line is what Scratch wanted us to do, along with untying him. Or her.
ARTHUR:I suppose. Okay. So let’s hypothesize that this being cannot cross lines of dust for the time being.
JOHN(eager):Wait, Arthur! There’s a mirror here, tucked away. Over the basin!
JOHN:It-It’s set into the wall, a little bit!
ARTHUR:Warped?(In realization. A brief horror sting.)Warped! Like the glass upstairs!
ARTHUR:What on Earth?
JOHN:I don’t know. But something in this house is causing the glass to… change. Like ripples on water.
ARTHUR:You think this… glass is affected by him?
JOHN:Or his presence.
ARTHUR(sighing):Okay, these… shelves. This one, by the bed?
JOHN:It’s neck high and filled with books.
ARTHUR:Is there anything that… jumps out?
JOHN:Like ‘Possession and How To Stop It?’(Brief pause.)No.
ARTHUR:Are they fiction?
JOHN:Perhaps. I’m not well-versed in fiction books of your world, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Do they look well-used?
JOHN:No. Rarely, if that. Though the top is clear, probably used mostly as a place for… flowers. Extra surface space.
ARTHUR(reasoning):This is right by the bed.
ARTHUR:Uh… anything under it? Anything maybe someone would’ve dropped and rolled away?(He grunts, as if crouching down.)
JOHN:Nothing I can see.
ARTHUR:Nothing fallen behind? If it’s neck high, could something be put on top?
JOHN:You’re reaching.(Arthur gets up.)
ARTHUR(terse):I’m investigating.(Normally.)We’ll take a quick look around the room. I also want to checkinthe mattress.
ARTHUR(pfft):I found a surprising number of diaries in between mattresses in my heyday.
JOHN:I doubt she kept a diary. She was Marie’s age.
ARTHUR:Wait, she’s older?
JOHN:Yes. A sister I thought, remember?
ARTHUR(remembering):Right, right, right.
JOHN:Anyway, there’s nothing that’s fallen below, because there is no space between the shelf and the wall.
ARTHUR:Okay, well. Diary is out. Uh… the other shelf?(He steps.)
JOHN:More books. Similar in style and title. This one reaches to the ceiling, however. In fact, the hole we looked through last night is here, by the door.
ARTHUR(surprised):Did she climb on the coffee table to, um… what did she do?
(A brief horror sting plays.)
JOHN:Lick, I think.
ARTHUR:Right. Well. Perhaps under the bed… wait. Wait, you said that there was no… space on this bookshelf over here.(More steps.)This one. Between it and the wall?
ARTHUR:Just, what do you mean, ‘no space’?
JOHN:It’s… part of the wall.
ARTHUR(sighing):That’s not normal. That’s not right. (A quick-paced piano melody begins.)
ARTHUR:You don’t build bookshelves into the wall like this, especially in older houses. It’s strange. Well, uncommon.
JOHN:Why are you running your fingers along the back?
ARTHUR:It’s sealed all the way around. Someone did not want this to come away from the wall.
ARTHUR:Well, that’s exactly the question we’re going to answer.(He grunts.)Okay, the books…
JOHN:Maybe they’re covering something.
ARTHUR:Yes.(Arthur rifles through books.)
JOHN:Wait. Wait.(The rifling stops.)There’s something here.
JOHN:At the back of the second shelf!
ARTHUR(feeling around):Here? Here?
ARTHUR:Okay! Here?(His hand brushes against the wall.)
JOHN:You feel that?
ARTHUR:Yes. Yes, it’s flush with the wall.(In awe.)How did you see that?
JOHN:Well, we were looking for it.
ARTHUR(impressed):Right, right. Shall I?
JOHN:Might as well.(A slow scraping noise.)
JOHN(excited):The space of wall between the shelf and the fireplace, Arthur, it opened!(A melancholy piano piece begins.)
JOHN:Well done! It’s a… hidden room.
JOHN:I can’t see, it’s too dark.
ARTHUR:Well, this is quite the turn of events, if I do say so. This room could shed some pretty detailed…
JOHN:Listen!(Someone distantly clears their throat. Something rattles.)She’s home.
ARTHUR:Fuck!(Rising suspenseful music.)
JOHN:Quickly! We need to leave this room.
ARTHUR:But – !
ARTHUR:Let’s just hide in the room! It’s hidden already and we can investigate it.
JOHN(frustrated):What if she knows about it!? What if she’s heading here now?
ARTHUR:If she knows about it, then she wouldn’t risk entering it while we’re here. While we’re right above.
JOHN:But she may think we’re not home!
ARTHUR(intense):Look! This could answer everything, even save this poor woman’s life and countless others. We may not get another chance.
JOHN(insistent):No, Arthur! Just leave the room. Who knows what Marie is capable of?
ARTHUR:We may not get another chance.
(A tense sting of music. John huffs.)
ARTHUR:How does this –
JOHN:It opened inward. So you can just shut it again.
ARTHUR:The books!(John huffs again. The shuffling of books.)
ARTHUR(in exertion):Come on!
JOHN:Quickly!(A final thud and the music abruptly stops. The loud creaking of a door.)Quiet!
MARIE(muffled):To help – (JOHN:Listen!) And to give a better idea of the –
STRANGER(muffled):Oh, god, Marie. What have you done?
MARIE:What do you…
STRANGER:The state of this room, Marie. It’s abhorrent.
(As they speak, they walk around the room.)
MARIE:Shush! I need to see if the tenant upstairs is home.(More distantly.)Parker?(A pause.)Parker?(She returns.)He’s gone.
STRANGER:What on God’s Earth did you do?
MARIE:Listen to me. Hattie was fighting it. Better than Albert, better than I thought or could have hoped.
STRANGER:What and where is she now?
MARIE:Oscar, don’t be cruel.
MARIE:We’re in this together, you know.(Ominous music briefly plays.)
OSCAR:Don’t you dare.
MARIE:It’s true. It’s true, isn’t it?
OSCAR:I helped you with Albert, Marie, because I had no other choice. I never would have willingly allowed you –
MARIE:Now, listen. Hattie isn’t going to come to that fate.
OSCAR:That fate? You make it seem as if you were –
MARIE:Oscar, that’s enough.
OSCAR:You came tome,Marie!(Despairing.)Oh, god. Oh,god,what have I done –
MARIE:Get it together.(Mysterious music briefly plays.)
OSCAR:Why did you bring me here? What was the purpose of this? To incriminate me, too?
MARIE:No, Oscar. You are the only other person who knows about this. You’re the only one who’s… seen it.
OSCAR(sternly):Him.And please, don’t remind me.
MARIE:It’s true, isn’t it?
OSCAR:Stop. I refuse to remember.
MARIE:Right, well. You helped me, then. Help me now.
OSCAR:And you promise nothing will happen to her? That you won’t –
MARIE(scandalized):This is mysister,Oscar!
OSCAR:He was your husband.
MARIE:That was different and you know it. I was helping her. She was getting better! She was fighting it.(She cries briefly.)
OSCAR:Well, what’s your plan, then? She’s obviously not woken up yet.
MARIE:Well, that’s the thing, Oscar. She was having a harder and harder time waking up.
OSCAR:What do you mean?
MARIE:I don’t know, exactly. She was always groggy when she shook it off, and she’s been less and less awake –
OSCAR:We had control of her more often!
MARIE:If that’s the way you see it.
OSCAR:That’s the way it is.
MARIE:So. What is your plan?
OSCAR(angry):Myplan? You broughtmehere!
MARIE:To help!(Oscar groans in frustration.)
OSCAR:I can ask around the congregation. See if anyone else has seen her. Do you have a photo?
OSCAR:Thank you. What are you going to do?
MARIE:I need to be here. If she wakes up and comes home, she’ll need help. And I’ll have to tie her up quickly.
OSCAR:That’s a temporary solution, Marie.(He sighs.)And if she doesn’t come back? If she doesn’t wake up?
MARIE:Don’t say that.
OSCAR:How did she even get out?
MARIE:I don’t know.
OSCAR:The dust? Was it disturbed?
OSCAR:You said there was a new tenant? You don’t think…?
MARIE:I don’t know. It’s possible.(Suspenseful music starts.)
OSCAR:You said he wasn’t home.
OSCAR:Could she have –
MARIE(overwhelmed):I don’t know, Oscar. I don’t know!
OSCAR:Alright, alright.(He sighs.)It’ll be okay. Look, we’ll find her and bring her home before anything has happened. And you’re sure nothing looks out of place otherwise?
MARIE(uncertain):I don’t think so.
OSCAR:Okay. The church has a number of people who are more-or-less busybodies. I can enlist the help of –(His words grow unintelligible as the door opens and shuts.)
(A long pause.)
ARTHUR(whispering):Scratch. It sounds like it.
JOHN:And still rented you a room. Can youimagine?
ARTHUR:‘You’re the only other who’s seen him.’ What… what do you suppose she meant by that?
JOHN:It sounds like Oscar has seen Scratch, but… not Marie.
ARTHUR:Odd, then. She’s been here for a while, a-at least.(Chilling sting of music.)Why has she not seen Scratch?
JOHN:I’m not sure.
ARTHUR:She was trying to save her sister. This Oscar sounds like a… a priest, maybe? A clergymen, of some sort. Perhaps enlisted as help when her… husband… maybe.(He sighs.)
JOHN:It sounds like she didn’t exactly help Albert.
ARTHUR:What is this room?(He walks in.)
ARTHUR:Right.(The rustling of his bag. Arthur flicks the lighter on.)There.
JOHN:It’s a small, dust-covered room, Arthur.(A slow, melancholy piano piece begins.)There’s a broken shelf, dilapidated and old. And a small desk on the far wall. Cobwebs in the corners.
ARTHUR:Does it look disturbed beyond us? Any footprints in the dust? By the door, perhaps?
JOHN:None beyond what we’ve made, as far as I can tell. Move a little left.(In disgusted discovery.)Oh!
JOHN:There are… skeletal remains here, Arthur.
JOHN:Laying on what appears to be… (ARTHUR:Oh.) Some sort of… (ARTHUR:God.) Symbol?(Arthur sighs.)Large and carved into the floor.
JOHN:It’s unlike any I’ve seen. Circular, with a pattern that repeats into its center.
ARTHUR:How old are the remains?
JOHN:I’m not touching them.
ARTHUR(conciliatory):I know, I know.
JOHN:There’s no flesh on them, anyway.
ARTHUR:Jesus. You don’t think…
ARTHUR:He said he’s been trapped here for 200 years. This room hasn’t been touched in…
JOHN:Maybe as long.
ARTHUR(sighing):So this is the source. Does the body have anything else on it?
JOHN:Tattered clothing, completely rotted through. It’s… It’s laying face-down. Or rather, the skull is.
ARTHUR:Okay, okay. The desk.(He walks closer.)
JOHN:There are a number of items here. A smaller, rodent skull.(A brief suspenseful sting of music.)A bottle that had fallen over and its contents long since dried up. A book is open!
JOHN:It’s nearly completely fallen apart. Left open to the ravages of time.
ARTHUR:Nothing is legible on it?
ARTHUR:But it’s laying open?
JOHN:Yes.(The book crinkles.)
ARTHUR:Damn.(He shuts the book.)Well, does the cover say anything?
JOHN:Nothing. Just a symbol. Wait.
ARTHUR:Yes!(He rifles through his bag and retrieves the book.)What about it?
JOHN:It had three symbols on it. Y-Yes!
ARTHUR:Yes, the one with Shub-Niggurath.
JOHN:Let me see.
ARTHUR:The other two were faded.
JOHN:I think… the symbol on this book. It may be one of the two remaining symbols on the bestiary.
ARTHUR:The symbol on this destroyed book…
JOHN:Yes. I think it may also be the circle carved into the floor.
ARTHUR:So. Whathappenedhere? This is a man’s corpse.
ARTHUR:Sacrificed himself. In this house. In his house, perhaps.
JOHN:This doesn’t speak to sacrifice. To me, at least. This seems like… summoning.
ARTHUR(reasoning):Summoning. You think this… person summoned… Scratch? Trapped him here.
ARTHUR:Okay, we need to study the bestiary. Is there anything else of note in here?
ARTHUR:That can tell us anything? Or that we can take.
JOHN:I don’t think so.
ARTHUR:Okay. Well, I don’t hear Marie out there, and… Oscar, was it?
ARTHUR(whispering):Let’s try to leave. Quietly.(He walks.)How does the, uh –
JOHN:There’s a latch. Just pull inward. There.(With a grunt, Arthur walks. A thunk of a latch. Something scrapes heavily against the floor.)It’s clear.
ARTHUR:Quietly, now.(The door shuts.)
JOHN:It’s shut. Let’s go.(Arthur opens and shuts the door.)There! We’re clear of the room. At the very least now, we can say we slept through her calls.
(Arthur sighs in relief. A melancholy piano piece begins to play.)
ARTHUR:If our book would give ideas as to… what this creature is, or how to stop it, it’ll be worthwhile to look into.
JOHN:So we head out.
ARTHUR:Yes. Anywhere but here, for now.(He steps.)Marie?
JOHN:Her door is closed. She may be in her room.
JOHN:The stairs are to your right.(Arthur goes down the stairs.)The front door is just before you.
(At a distance, Marie’s voice is audible.)
ARTHUR:It sounds like she’s in the kitchen.
JOHN:The door, Arthur! It’s right before you, let’s leave!
ARTHUR:We could help.(A gentle piano melody begins.)
ARTHUR:I mean to say…(He sighs.)That this is what I did, John. I would help people with problems worse than this. She’s made mistakes, perhaps, but… but maybe we should speak with her. Actuallyhelpher instead of sneaking around. We don’t need to reveal all that we know, but… if she’s enlisted the help of this Oscar, perhaps we can help her, too.
JOHN:We could just leave. Read the book somewhere quiet.
ARTHUR:If we were investigating this, we would want to know all we could first. Which would mean speaking to her. You always wanted a taste of this life, no?
ARTHUR:What do you say?
JOHN:I say do what gives us the best chance of stopping him, Arthur.
ARTHUR(sigh):Yeah. Agreed.(He steps and opens a squeaky door.)
ARTHUR:Marie!(He steps closer.)Oh! Good morning, Marie.(A chair creaks.)How are you today?
MARIE:Morning. Yes. Uh… tea?
(A quick-paced piano melody plays.)
MARIE:I’m fine. Fine.(The faint clack of ceramic.)Yourself?
ARTHUR:Fine. Just fine.
JOHN:She looks as though she’s been up for hours. She’s been twisting a napkin in her place at the table.
ARTHUR:You were… out when I left this morning.
ARTHUR:Is anything the matter? You seem a touch… distracted.
MARIE:Everything is just fine, boy.(Thunder booms.)
JOHN:She doesn’t seem to want to talk.
ARTHUR(upbeat):Uh… I told you why I was here in this city, but I don’t think I told you about… uh, what I do?
ARTHUR:I’m, uh. I’m a private investigator.(The kettle starts to whistle.)
JOHN:I think her eyebrow rose, only slightly.(The kettle stops.)
MARIE:Is that so?
ARTHUR:Yeah. Fairly good one, if I do say so myself.(The pouring of tea.)
MARIE:Good for you, boy. Sugar?
ARTHUR:No. No, thank you.
JOHN:I don’t think she’s biting. Youneedto explain to her.
ARTHUR:I would often help those in circumstances that were beyond their ability.(The clattering of dishware.)Thank you, so much.
(They occasionally sip tea as they talk.)
ARTHUR:For example, uh… uh. A little while ago… a, uh. A young girl went missing.(Faroe’s Song starts to play.)Her father, a senator, reached out to my partner and I. It turned out this girl was taken as leverage on the father, who himself had stolen something of great importance from the wrong man. We were right behind them, trying to track down where the meeting would take place. Even though we were too late to save a few of the men, we, uh. We pieced together that the girl in question had actually escaped.
It was a difficult time, tracking her down. We ourselves were being hunted, but eventually, we found her in a barn up north from the city. She had come there for her… mother. Well, it turned out that the man in question, her father, the one who hired us, never intended to get her back. In fact he wasn’t even her real father. He had taken her when she was young. Killed her mother.
MARIE:That’s… quite ghastly.
MARIE:But she was alright?
ARTHUR:Yes. Yes, s-she was. She wouldn’t have been, h-had I not been there.
JOHN:I don’t think she’s biting.
ARTHUR:Anyway. No sense in bringing this up. I don’t know why it’s been on my mind, frankly. (He grunts and pushes the chair back.)Suppose I’ll drink this in my room. Afternoon.
JOHN:Arthur, you’re not seriously…
MARIE(at a distance):Parker?
ARTHUR(satisfied, quietly):There.(Calling out.)Yes?
MARIE:I’m… wondering if you wouldn’t be interested in… picking up a little work, while you’re here.
(Faroe’s Song begins to play.)
ARTHUR:It depends on the work, Marie.(The chair squeaks.)
MARIE(sighing):My sister has gone missing.(A pained noise. Distressed.)She’s very unwell. Not herself, really. Not at all. She was staying here, in the room beneath yours. But I’d rather you not look there, I promise there’s nothing in it to give note of where she’s gone.(Despairing.)Oh, I don’t know. How are these things normally…?
ARTHUR:Yes. Right. Well.
JOHN:Will you tell her? What we found?(Insistent.)Ask about the blood. Ask about Scratch. Does she know anything? Suppose she doesn’t, though.
MARIE:Look. Parker. I need you to get her back. She’s left this place and I don’t know where and I am worried –
ARTHUR:Marie. Of course I’ll help you. Happily. Is there anyone else aware she’s missing?
MARIE:Oscar. He holds a community congregation in the basement of Saint Jean Baptiste’s Community Center, for the… well. For those who have difficulty making it to the Sunday morning service. He’s helped me in the past with… problems that have come up.
(A slower piano piece begins to play.)
JOHN(in realization):You’re not going to ask her.
ARTHUR:Do you have a photo of her?
MARIE:I do, but I gave the most recent one to Oscar. You can retrieve it from him. He was reluctant to help anyway.
MARIE:My sister, Parker, she’s… well. She’s dangerous, I think. Not just to herself, but to others as well. There’s… a sickness in my family. My husband had it, too.
ARTHUR:A sickness. How?
MARIE(sadly):Oh, Parker. He wasn’t himself. He was… he tried to hurt people. I had to…
ARTHUR:It’s okay, Marie. Anything you say will stay between us.
MARIE:Look. It doesn’t matter.(Insistent.)Suffice to say, I don’t know where she has gone. She is not herself, and she’s gone somewhere!(Begging.)Please,please,I’ll pay you, of course. How much?
ARTHUR:Look. For now, let me find Oscar and ask him some questions. And get the photo and see if I can’t… turn up anything. Have you spoken to the grocer downstairs about her?
MARIE:They weren’t open when she left. They saw nothing.
ARTHUR:Okay, well, let me speak with Oscar. You stay here, in case she returns.(The chair squeaks.)This, uh… community center, is it to the north, or – ?
ARTHUR:Thank you. I’ll find out what I can. Don’t worry.(He steps.)
MARIE(at a distance):Parker?
MARIE:Thank you. You’re a good boy. A good… man.
ARTHUR:I hope I can help.(They walk, opening the door. The rain and thunder is louder.)You were quiet in there.
ARTHUR:Well, what do you think?
JOHN:Y-yes. That wasn’t too helpful.
(A melancholic piano piece begins to play. They start to walk.)
ARTHUR:No. But at least we’re not skulking around trying to avoid her. At least we’re working on her behalf.
JOHN:Well, perhaps we can get some money out of it, too.
ARTHUR:Too true. We do need to be mindful about that.
JOHN:Well. This now has an air of authority around it, but what of Daniel? The Order? TheButcher?
ARTHUR:Yes. Well, look, regardless. We’ll head to Daniel’s today, whether we find something about her sister or not. The Freemasons are still our best path to this secret society –
JOHN:Who knows? Maybe this thread will offer an alternative, as well.
JOHN:And the Butcher?
ARTHUR:It’s been a few hours, not counting my lack of sleep. We’ll find a solution to that, too. We always do.
JOHN:Just like your missing girl case.
JOHN:The story you told Marie. It must’ve felt good to relive that.
ARTHUR:Yes. O-Only it… it didn’t happen that way.
JOHN:What do you mean?
ARTHUR:Well, that wasn’t my story, frankly. And it didn’t have a happy ending. The office we leased from Roland Cummings, we took over that lease from Elijah Strong and his ex-partner. Strong got out of the game, o-or rather was forced out after murder charges were brought down on him.
ARTHUR:Yeah, he killed the father in that story.
ARTHUR:It was them who had the case. And the girl ended up… well, taking her own life.
JOHN:He told you this?
ARTHUR:Yeah. He wasn’t the same afterwards. He was a cohort, of sorts, of Parker’s. He told us the whole thing.
ARTHUR:It was all I could think of when we started talking. I… I don’t know why. Something about this… city. Something about this whole…
(A quick-paced piano melody begins to play.)
ARTHUR:I had the strangest feeling that I’d heard of him before. I didn’t clue into it until now, but… he – I think he’s been mentioned in that story! They were pursued by this man.
JOHN:You think it was the Butcher?
ARTHUR:I-I don’t know.
JOHN:What happened to Strong?
ARTHUR:Well, he died in prison. Hung himself.
JOHN:So there’s no one to ask.
ARTHUR:Possibly. I’ll have to have a think on it.
JOHN:Think while you continue to walk.
ARTHUR:Right! Right, right. Let’s find some answers.