The War at Home

The pain was excrutiating, but Adrian Gossard knew he could not give up. Digging his nails into the mud of the ditch he dragged himself out inch by inch. The cold rain of France still pelted down. It had been a good three hours since the American sniper had been discovered by the German patrol out in No-Mans-Land. Beaten and shot twice, once in the right thigh and again in the shoulder, he had been tossed into a water filled shell crater and left for dead. Adrian didn’t know if the violent shivering was from the night cold or the loss of blood, or both? Lying half in and half out the ditch the twenty-four year old hovered between life and death. 

“Honey, we’re going to be late,” stated Murinella Gossard sternly as she shook the shoulder of her husband. Adrian lifted his head from his desk where he had fallen asleep at. He glanced around his small crowded study and nodded. Maps, books, old documents and other research material were packed in cabinets, boxes or just lying about. A big black Remington typewriter sat to one side, a clean page set in it. Adrian was a voracious collector and reader when it came to researching his stories.
Twenty-six year old Murinella sighed as she noted the empty glass and half empty bottle of Bushmills Irish whiskey on the desk too. The not half bad looking woman, with her dark curly hair, worried about her husband and his drinking. So much for prohibition she sighed. She went and finished getting ready for their night out. She loved Adrian and knew about the nightmares that still haunted him. She felt his pain.
Twenty-eight year old Adrian Gossard let out a deep breath and leaned back in the comfy high back leather chair, rubbing his face with both hands. It was just a flashback, a nightmare. It was no longer France 1917, it was Arkham Mass 1922, Monday September the 13th. The Great War was over. How he wished he could forget it all. Reaching for the bottle he poured a stiff tot and shot it back. He was drinking too much and he knew it.
He closed the folder on the desk. He was done researching for the day. The moderately successful author got up and prepared to get ready. His writing career was only in the infancy stage. Apart from his novel No Mans Land, published the previous year, he had just got his second novel, Crossing the Line, published. It was doing better than his first, despite only hitting the shelves a few months back.
While life was looking pretty good for him, one real joy he had was the frequent get togethers with his good buddies, the Orbell bothers, Soloman and Jeremy, and Chris Heap. They were war buddies and had seen hell on earth together. Now all living in Arkham, four years after the war, they were as close a group of friends as anyone could get.
Murinella, his wife, was sort of the outsider. But she was more or less accepted, as she had been over there too. She had been a nurse, and she and Adrian had met after the medics brought him in, after his No-Mans-Land incident. She pretty much nursed him back to health. They fell in love and married. With her and his new buddies from Arkham, he relocated there after the war, instead of going back to Bloomdale Ohio. Unfortunately the sheen of their marriage soon faded as they found themselves having less in common than what they thought. She was an austere, coolly affectionate woman by nature. He often felt she still treated him like a patient. His drinking also did not help. Nor did his single minded approach to a project that made her feel excluded from his consciousness.
“Shall we?” checked Adrian after cleaning up and changing. Almost six foot tall and being well built due to his rural upbringing in Ohio, he looked quite respectable.
“Lets go,” smiled Murinella. The couple locked up their upper middle class apartment on West Street and headed for the home of Soloman Orbell.
The popular tune ‘Aint we got fun’ blared from the grammar phone record player in the up-market apartment of the unmarried twenty-nine year old Soloman Orbell. The former US Army 1st Infantry Lt, was a respectable lawyer in Arkham these days. The short stocky man too however carried the scars of war. His were more physical with the loss of most of the last two fingers on his right hand, and a slight limp. As the music played he and the beefy thirty year old Chris Heap discussed who was a better baseball player, Ty Cobb or George Sissler.
Chris, who had been the unit’s sergeant during the war, was a big man, from farming stock. He and his large family of several brothers farmed the local area. During the war he had been decorated with the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of both Orbell brothers. These days he was content with the rural life, only really making the trip into town to visit with his close friends. He had married young, to Abigail, and had two small boys, both born after the war. Abby got along coolly with the war buddies, but always stayed home to look after the kids.
Adrian Gossard poured himself another drink. The highly illegal Canadian Whiskey that Soloman managed to procure through his contacts, via the O’Banions organization, was a bit better than Bushmills he could lay his hands on. Adrian made the most of it. Murinella said nothing as she watched her husband throw back his third since getting there.
The one person, conspicuous by his absence, was Jeremy Orbell, the younger brother of Soloman. The busy reporter for the Arkham Advertiser had been putting in long hours recently as he worked a story, but he still never missed a get together.
“Hey bring us one of those too,” called Soloman as he saw Adrian pouring another. The former sniper gave him the thumbs up and poured another.
“How about you Chris?” asked Adrian.
“I’m still good thanks,” replied the big man. He generally didn’t drink, but made the exception when visiting Soloman.
“So is Jeremy still working like a dog?” asked Adrian, handing Soloman his drink.
“Yeah,” admitted the brother, “Typically he’s been like a dog with a bone, but hey that’s Jeremy!”
“Er fella’s?” called Murinella suddenly.
“What is it?” replied Adrian.
“It’s the police,” she replied, glancing out the window, “They’re coming to the door!”
“Hide the booze!” whispered Chris loudly. Soloman strode to the door, as Murinella and Chris tried to hide the whiskey bottles. The lawyer was not too concerned as prohibition was only loosely adhered to, even by the law. He knew that even they enjoyed the odd illegal tipple. Adrian gulped down his glass and followed Soloman.
“Evening officers,” greeted Soloman, opening the door before they knocked.
“Good evening Mr. Orbell,” greeted the one. His nametag under his badge on his chest indicated his name was Sergeant Selwyn. The heavier set man next to him was Sergeant Lobar.
“So to what to I owe the honor of this visit?” queried the lawyer diplomatically.
“Well Mr. Orbell,” began Sergeant Selwyn, “There’s no easy way to say this, ….your brother Jeremy has died.”
“What?” gasped a shocked Soloman.
“What happened?” blurted an equally shocked Adrian.
“He jumped from the window of his apartment,” explained the cop, “It was suicide.”
“Impossible,” declared Soloman straight away, “Jeremy would never do that!”
“Its just not Jeremy,” echoed Adrian.
“Well we are still awaiting the coroners report,” admitted the cop, “But we would like you to please come down to identify the body.”
“Yes of course,” muttered a shattered looking Soloman.
“You could do with a drink,” remarked Adrian and went inside to fetch one for his friend.
“We’re very sorry Mr. Orbell,” stated Sergeant Lobar.
“Thank you,” nodded Soloman softly.
“We’ll go with you,” declared Murinella, placing a hand on Solomans forearm for comfort. The hard boiled lawyer swallowed hard and nodded. The concept of Jeremy being dead, especially after having survived the Great War, just was not comprehendible. Solomon had made sure he protected his younger brother. Adrian returned with Soloman’s drink, and one for himself. The cops didn’t even bat an eyelid, respecting the circumstances. Moments later the friends all piled into Soloman’s Packard Single-Six, with Adrian driving, and headed down to the mortuary.
“It’s him,” confirmed Soloman, fighting back the tears. Big Chris wrapped a brawny arm around his buddy and hugged him. The four of them, plus the coroner, and Detective Ray Stuckey of Arkham PD, stood around the gurney with Jeremy’s lifeless body on it. Normally it would just have been the immediate family allowed in, but with all of them being war veterans, and upon Soloman’s insistence, they were all there.
“Terribly sorry,” offered the coroner, as he was about to pull the sheet back over the body. Murinella grabbed his wrist and stopped him.
“Look at this!” she remarked. The others gathered round closely.
“Looks like scratches,” offered Adrian, noting the marks on the neck.
“And that bruise,” added the nurse, “It looks like he was in a fight!”
“Jumped?” frowned Soloman, “I don’t think so.”
“The official report will determine cause of death, and rule whether it was suicide or not,” stated the coroner.
“We eagerly await that,” responded Adrian dryly.
“You mentioned a suicide note?” checked Soloman, addressing Stuckey, who met them there, and was the lead investigator on the case.
“Yes here it is,” nodded the veteran cop. He was a typical tough old school police detective. His reputation was one of being competent at his job. Soloman read the note.
“This isn’t Jeremy’s hand writing,” he told the detective.
“Well it appears to have been written rather hastily,” pointed out the cop, “That might be why it looks unfamiliar.”
“I know my brothers hand writing,” snapped the stocky lawyer.
“I’ll make a note of that,” shrugged Stuckey, “And wait for the coroner to submit his report.”
“I will call on you in the morning,” promised Soloman, “Good night detective.”
After collecting up Jeremy’s personal effects the four left. They went straight to Jeremy’s apartment, despite the late hour. On the drive over they all raised doubts over the competency of the police department. Parking out front they went up the four flights of stairs to the apartment. The apartment door was unlocked so they went in, aware it was still a crime scene.
“Excuse me!” called a voice from further down the hall. They all back turned to see a ginger haired middle aged man in the doorway of another apartment.
“Yes?” responded Soloman.
“You’re Jeremy’s brother, aren’t you?” checked the man.
“I am,” nodded Soloman.
“And who are you?” asked Adrian suspiciously.
“Aaron Ramsey,” replied the man, “I was Jeremy’s neighbor. I just wanted to tell you I’m really sorry to hear about Jeremy.”
“Thank you,” nodded Soloman.
“And to tell you I heard quite a bit of arguing and commotion coming from his place earlier today,” he admitted.
“Really?” remarked Soloman, “What kind of commotion?”
“Well like fighting,” added the man.
“Why didn’t you go and find out what was going on?” demanded Adrian angrily.
“Well……,” hesitated Aaron, “I wanted to, but there was this rather large Italian fellow standing at the door. I mean he must have been about six and a half foot at least!”
“A wop?” frowned Soloman. There was not exactly much of an Italian presence in Arkham. The Irish controlled things, through the O’Banion gang.
“Yeah,” nodded Aaron, “I heard the name Luigi too, and there was a black Studebaker parked out front for quite some time.”
“And this was about the time Jeremy died?” checked Adrian.
“A little before, I think,” explained Aaron.
“Did you mention this to the police?” asked Adrian.
“Yes, but they didn’t seem too interested in hearing it,” he replied. The four cast knowing glances at each other.
“Well thanks for that,” offered Soloman. Aaron nodded and went back into his apartment. The four then reentered Jeremy’s apartment and began to look around.
It wasn’t long before they identified signs of a struggle with spots of blood, the stump of a cigar in the ashtray, Jeremy’s diary, and some crumpled papers in the trashcan.
“What have we here?” muttered Adrian as he flattened out the crumpled papers and checked them. They were all handwritten and seemed to be drafts of a report Jeremy had been writing, titled ‘Spirits over Arkham’. In the article he starts to mention apparent paranormal activity around a certain haunted house, the Hosenth Place, just out of town. There was mention of the Gargoyle of Arkham, the ghost of the Burning Man, unexplained disappearances and tragic accidents. It then goes on to mention certain illegal activities associated with the ‘new’ owners of the property.
“Mmmm Havana,” remarked Soloman as he sniffed the cigar stump. He too smoked cigars and recognized the fine quality. With just one tobacconist in town, and not too many being able to afford the $3 a cigar, he figured it would not be difficult to track down the smoker.
“This is interesting,” mused Murinella as she flipped through Jeremy’s diary. She went on to report that Jeremy had been working on an article on missing livestock in the area of the haunted house known as Hosenth Farm. Only Adrian, who was not a local, didn’t know the haunting stories of the old place. Most recently a child had died there, just before the war, under mysterious circumstances. Jeremy’s diary indicated he had met with several farmers in the area like Isaiah Turnbull and Samuel McCormack, both with farms close to the Hosenth place. He also apparently met with a Dr. Wade who also lived nearby. There was some reference to gunshot wounds next to the doctors name. Suspiciously pages ten and eleven had been torn out the diary. The last entry mentioned a meeting with one J Watson, a local real estate dealer.
“I think its safe to say that Jeremy didn’t commit suicide,” declared Soloman. He was relieved, but also as furious as a brother could be. He wanted justice done and his brothers killers brought to book.
“I can easily be free tomorrow,” stated Adrian, “Then we can go and do a little investigating.” Chris and Murinella indicated the same. They were not going to leave it in the hands of the police.
“Thanks guys,” nodded Soloman, “Lets all meet at the public library first thing tomorrow morning.” With that decided they all headed home to get a good nights rest.
“Look Mr. Orbell,” sighed Detective Stuckey, “The coroner’s report has ruled it was in all likelihood a suicide.” As one the four friends fumed as they stood at the desk of the police detective inside the Arkham PD station.
“And all the other evidence?” asked Soloman.
“We’ll look into it,” promised Stuckey. Adrian rolled his eyes. Like the others he was amazed at the police’s lack of apparent motivation to investigate Jeremy’s death.
It was around lunch time and the day had been quite fruitful till then. The visit to the public library had been disappointing as they had found no info in its limited archives. The librarian, who seemed to fancy Soloman, did however report through the rumor mill that some new Italians had arrived in town and that they drove around a black Studebaker. They had also recently purchased the old Hosenth Farm and had moved out there. It had been abandoned for years.
The Miskatonic University Library however offered more information. In a book entitled ‘History of the Arkham Valley’ there was an entry by dated 1712, by a Captain Norris. It told of how he led a militia to a farm in Chatham owned by a man named Hobart, who had been accused of being a witch and running a coven there. In a battle the Church of Astral Essence was destroyed and the farm burnt. Many were killed, but Hobart, the coven leader, himself escaped. He was last seen running into his burning home, but was not among the bodies. Something referred to as ‘gargoyles’ were discovered under a tower and they were burnt and killed. One escaped and was tracked to Arkham where it too was killed, but not before it slew four men.
From what Chris and Soloman knew of the Hosenth place, it too had a tower close to the farm house. It seemed to be a mirror image of the setup in Chatham, which was 100miles to the south. Had Hobart relocated the remnants of the Church of Astral Essence to Arkham, they all wondered?
From there it was to the Arkham Advertiser where Jeremy worked. They met with Harvey Gedney, the owner and managing editor of the paper. Unfortunately he could offer nothing apart from the fact Jeremy had missed his deadline. Jeremy’s desk also yielded nothing.
A visit to Jimmy Watson, the real estate broker did confirm that a Mr. Graziani Vaducci, a NY businessman had purchased the Hosenth farm, at a very good price. Vaducci had in fact been even more interested in it when he heard it was apparently haunted. The name Vaducci popped up once again when they stopped in at the tobacconist to find that just Soloman and the Italian purchased the expensive cigars.
“So what do you know about this Italian Vadducci?” asked Soloman.
“He bought the Hosenth place didn’t he?” replied Stuckey.
“That all?” frowned Soloman. Stuckey shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
“Were you around when that little girl died there, before the war?” asked Adrian.
“Yeah,” nodded the detective, “Jasmine Hosenth. I was new on the force but I remember.”
“What actually happened?” pressed Adrian.
“Well she was found in the forest near that tower,” recalled Stuckey, “She had been hit on the head and stabbed. We found a knife nearby. It had weird decorations from what I remember.”
“Can we see it?” asked Murinella.
“We send all our old cases to Boston,” explained Stuckey, “The files and evidence with all be with the Boston PD.”
“If we went there could we take a look at it, you think?” asked Murinella.
“I’ll make some calls for you,” promised Stuckey.
“Say has anyone other than Isaiah Turnbull reported any missing stock?” asked Chris all of a sudden.
“No not to my knowledge,” replied the cop.
“So with all the farms in the area, why is it just Turnbull?” mused Chris, more to himself than the others.
“Well thanks for your time detective,” offered Soloman politely, shaking the mans hand. They left the police station knowing that solving this would be all up to them. Piling into the Packard they drove out to Dr. Wades small holding to question the medical man.
“Are you Isaiah Turnbull?” asked Soloman Orbell as he approached the wary looking man with the 12gauge double barrel, standing on the porch of his farm house.
“That’s me,” nodded the man in his forties, “Who’s asking?” Starting with Soloman they all introduced themselves, shaking the man’s hand.
After meeting with the elderly Dr. Wade and finding out he treated an Antonio Vaducci for gunshot wounds, due to a hunting accident, and hearing of bonfires being seen over at the old abandoned Danbay Farm, they left for the Turnbull place. The leads they needed to check out were piling up. All the same it seemed that things were pointing to Mr. Vaducci and the Hosenth Farm.
“My brother was Jeremy Orbell, Mr. Turnbull,” explained Soloman, “Apparently he was over here questioning you?”
“Sure was,” nodded Isaiah, “Why? What’s up?”
“He was killed last night,” piped up Adrian.
“Damn!” exclaimed the farmer, “Murdered?”
“We reckon so,” nodded Chris.
“Sorry to hear that,” offered Isaiah, “I thought he was a pretty decent fellow.”
“Can I ask what he came here for?” asked Soloman.
“Sure,” nodded the farmer, “He came here to ask me about my livestock that’s been disappearing. Its been cows, sheep and chickens, and I am damn sick of it!”
“Have you looked for tracks?” asked Chris.
“I did find some blood trails leading north into the forests, toward the old Danbay place,” admitted the man, “But not much else.”
“Have you seen the bonfires coming from there?” quizzed Chris.
“Nope,” admitted the man, “But the lay of the land makes it difficult to spot anything other side the forest.”
“Well we think there’s a connection there,” stated Chris.
“Look I am offering a $25 reward to anyone catching the bastards doing this,” declared the farmer.
At least Adrian’s ears perked up to this. While financially very stable, he came from a poor background and never said no to cash. Also his drinking was costly, but in saying that he hadn’t touched a drop the entire day. Investigating Jeremy’s death had focused his energies. Murinella had also taken it upon herself to hide his stash of booze. All he had was a full hip flask.
“I figure we’ll be in touch then,” smiled the Ohio native.
From there they checked on the McCormack farm and spoke to Samuel McCormack. He confirmed he had not had any stock thefts. He attributed this to good fences and lots of dogs. Chris took a walk around the boundary fence and discovered human tracks on the outside, indicating someone had at least perused the place. Samuel McCormack also mentioned seeing strange lights out at sea every Wednesday night. He could however not explain it.
As it was heading for late afternoon the four friends raced back to town to buy binoculars and flashlights, and to pick up some weaponry. Their aim was to get to the bottom of the bonfires over at the Danbay Farm. It was supposed to be abandoned and bordered on the Hosenth property. After dark they returned.
“Stop the car here,” suggested Adrian. He removed his Springfield .30 06 bolt action from its rifle bag and proceeded to load one of the eight round clips with full metal jacket rounds. Many US servicemen had returned from the Great War with their issued firearms. Solomon stopped the Packard and killed the lights. The Danby Farm was not too far ahead.
“How long you need to get in position?” Solomon asked Adrian, as he checked the safety on his officers Colt 1911 .45 pistol. Since injuring his right hand, he had started to shoot lefties.
“Give me five minutes,” stated Adrian, “I just want to gain some elevation.” He kissed Murinella on the cheek.
“Be careful,” she begged. Adrian nodded. She sat with a loaded S&W .38 revolver on her lap.
“You wait here,” he instructed and she nodded. With that he climbed out the car and all dressed in dark clothing, he ducked into the forest just off the road and crept toward the Danbay place. The glow of a large fire was soon apparent, coming from the area of the old farm house. Adrian stopped at the edge of the tree line where he looked down on the front of the old building. A sizeable fire pit had been dug and a large fire raged in it. A few shabby looking men sat around the fire eating. The aroma of a barbeque wafted over. Adrian lay flat, lined them up, and waited.
“Ready?” checked Solomon, putting away his pocket watch.
“Ready,” nodded Chris, his 12gauge pump action Remington shotgun in hand. The two got out, nodded to Murinella who was waiting with the car, and started down the dirt track to the Danbay Farm house. It wasn’t long before they arrived at the informal barbeque. Solomon had his .45 in hand, in his coat pocket, out of sight. Chris carried his shotgun in hand, pointing down.
“Good evening!” greeted the local lawyer. The slovenly, shabby dressed men around the fire all stood up. There were five of them. The looked like hobos. Remains of animal carcasses lay off to the one side, and most of the men had large knives on their belts. They had been eating some recently barbequed meat.
“What do you want?” sneered one of the men.
“I want to ask a few questions firstly,” replied Solomon looking around. His instinct told him that the bums in front of him were likely just cattle thieves and didn’t have anything to do with his brothers murder.
“Oh yeah?” remarked one of the other men, hand on his blade as he eyed out the shotgun in big Chris Heaps hands.
“So its you that’s been raiding poor old Isaiah Turnbull’s farm?” mused Solomon.
“You accusing us there?” checked the one man.
“No, I know its you lot,” confirmed Solomon, realizing they had probably solved the missing livestock mystery.
“You cops?” checked the man.
“What can you tell me about lights out at sea, or the goings on over at the Hosenth Palace?” continued the lawyer, ignoring the mans question.
“A couple of times a week we hear trucks coming and going from the place along side here,” piped up one of the younger men, “Where those eyeties are.”
“Anything else?” checked Solomon. The men stood in silence.
“Well I guess that explains s few things,” shrugged Chris, who despite his apparent simpleness, was quite bright.
“Alright you lot,” sighed Solomon, “Its time to face the music. You know, ‘do the crime and do the time’.”
“You sure about that?” checked the bravest of the hobos, drawing his blade, “There’s just two of you.” He of course noted that the shotgun did even things out a bit. Solomon pulled the Colt out his pocket.
“Yes I am sure, now drop the knife,” ordered Solomon sternly, “Adrian!” With Adrian emerging from the nearby tree line, Springfield rifle to his shoulder, all resistance faded. The livestock thieves raised their hands and surrendered.
Without being able to stuff everyone into the Packard, it was a long walk marching them back to town and the Arkham PD. They were then duly arrested for theft and the companions retired for the night.

“Look I think we’ve eliminated all other possibilities,” declared Solomon, “All evidence points to this Vadducci character. He is responsible for my brothers death!” The companions were all seated around the breakfast table in Solomon’s up market apartment. It was the day after they returned from a quick trip up to Boston to check on other leads. For instance the blade used to kill young Jasmine Hosenth was likely occult in nature, but didn’t help with the investigation into Jeremy’s death. They hit the libraries and museums there and garnered a great deal of info on weird happenings around Arkham, but nothing to aide them in their investigation.
“Agreed,” nodded Chris.
“Then its simple,” stated Adrian, “We go out to the Hosenth Place and have a word with the man.”
“It seems so strange that the police aren’t interested in the evidence,” mused Murinella.
“It is,” agreed Adrian, “But maybe they’re on the take? The Italians have big money.”
“The bottom line is that we are on our own,” confirmed Solomon.
“So tonight then?” checked Adrian. Solomon nodded.
Like the others he could feel that the strangeness of Arkham, that they had grown accustom to, was somehow linked to Hosenth Farm. It however didn’t alter the very likely possibility that Vadduci had killed Jeremy. So Vadducci had become public enemy number one.
Just past the McCormack farm the Packard pulled off the road. Solomon turned it and backed it up so that it faced the road, ready to nail it out of there. The four companions, all armed, got out the car, grabbed equipment, and started off for the nearby coast. Adrian had wanted Murinella to remain with the car, but she was having none of it this time.
They reached the cliffs above the rocky shore and edged along in the direction of the Hosenth property. It wasn’t long before they came to where a set of steep steps cut into the cliff, led up from the shore. A rough crude jetty was visible below them. It looked recently repaired. Also there was the strange stone tower. Beyond it, a little inland, was the farmhouse.
“Check the tower first?” whispered Adrian. Solomon nodded and they went over. In the dark it looked especially foreboding. A shiny new padlock secured the front door, indicating it had been recently used. Chris and a crowbar took two seconds to snap it open and they entered.
The light of their torches showed a set of stairs leading up the inside of the tower, to the roof all of four stories up, and stairs leading down to a lower level. Adrian pointed out that the stairs leading up had been used recently as there were footprints in the dust, but none going down.
They decided to check up first and made it out onto the flat roof of the tower. There a bulls-eye lantern, oil, and matches were found. It seemed the ideal spot to signal to vessels off the coast. This led them to surmise the lights out at sea might be a vessel signaling to the tower, and could be how the Italians were bringing in contraband like alcohol.
Heading to the sublevel they came to a locked old door with rusty hinges. Solomon theorized that a tunnel might connect the tower to the farm house. After much effort they forced the door open to reveal a tunnel. Excitedly, but cautiously, they made their way down the cobweb laden stone tunnel. Around fifty yards down the tunnel they came across alcoves to the left and right filled with what appeared to be human bones. Ignoring them they came to another door, alos locked and with rusty hinges.
“I think its safe to assume the Italians haven’t been down here,” whispered Chris, coughing from the dust.
“Any idea what this is?” asked Solomon, as his light revealed a painted design on the surface of the door.
“Not anything I have ever seen,” shrugged Adrian. The three men put shoulders to the door and forced it open with a loud crack.
“So what do you……..,” began Chris, when a loud creaking and rattling caused them all to spin and shine flashlights back down the tunnel. To their absolute horror, they saw all the bones from the alcoves rise of their own accord, pin pricks of red light in their empty eye sockets.
“What the fuck!” exclaimed Solomon, almost not believing his eyes. The skeletons surged toward them, sharp boney hands outstretched.
“Fire!” roared Adrian, snapping into action. He shouldered the .30 06 and pulled the trigger. The boom in the confines was deafening. The lead skeletons head snapped back from the impact of the full metal jacket, but he didn’t go done. The round punched a hole through the bone above the left eye.
Chris had his 12gauge at the hip and pulled the trigger. Another deafening boom, but this time the head was taken clean off another skeleton and it went down. Solomon and Murinella raised their handguns and blazed away at the wholly unnatural creatures, neither one taking down one.
The slow demonic creatures closed to melee range. Adrian had to fend one off with his rifle as he worked the bolt, while Chris took a scratch from the boney protrusions to the arm. Solomon and Murinella backed up into the room who’s door they had just opened to avoid attacks. Solomon panned his light around to find they were in an old dusty laboratory of sorts.
Adrian fired his rifle at point blank range and executed the on he had wounded, while Chris blew away one of the wounded ones. Murinella fired from behind them but missed. Ducking a blow from another skeleton, Adrian came up and smashed the metal clad tip of the but of his rifle into the face of the beast and it went down. Chris had to back up to avoid being wounded again.
Another blast from Chris’s shotgun at such close range and the fifth skeleton went down. Adrian wounded the sixth and last, and it went down in a hail of led from Murinella and Solomon.
“How was that even possible?” muttered Murinella. Like the others, her ears rang.
“That is so fucked up!” gasped Chris as he shaking, reloaded the shotgun.
“Welcome to bloody Arkham,” chuckled Adrian dryly as he swapped clips. He was not quite as jaded to the weird goings on, as the locals. Just then Solomon cursed.
“What?” asked Chris.
“It’s the end of the tunnel,” reported Solomon. They all entered the lab and scoured the place. There were no exits off it, secret or otherwise. Apart from the regular lab equipment, there were a number of glass jars of various sizes containing unidentifiable specimens in formaldehyde. There were also some old dusty books on a table.
“This is a bust,” muttered Adrian as he collected up the books and placed them in his bag.
“Guess its back the way we came,” shrugged Solomon, and the foursome went back down the tunnel and up to the ground level of the tower.
As they were about to exit the tower they ran slap bang into an Italian, armed with a .38 revolver, who in all likelihood had come to the tower to investigate the noise. The gunfire, having been underground, would have been muffled to a large extent.
The surprised mobster didn’t ask questions and just opened fire, hitting Murinella in the side. He then turned and ran as he saw he was outnumbered. Solomon fired his Colt at the man but missed twice. Adrian stepped out the tower and shouldered his Springfield .30 06 and tagged the fleeing man between the shoulder blades, killing him.
“Are you ok?” he asked Murinella, kneeling down next to her.
“Its just a scratch,” she grimaced, and placed her hanky to her side, “The bullet just nicked me and passed right through.”
“We better move, the alarm would have been raised now,” mentioned Chris.
“Move!” ordered Solomon, “Before they have a chance to react.”
The three men ran for the farmhouse, weapons at the ready, while Murinella brought up the rear. Chris took the lead and burst through the front door, shotgun in hand. He confronted an Italian in the entrance hall, and before the mobster could raise his .38 revolver, Chris blasted him with a dose of buckshot in the chest, killing him.
The others burst in after him and in the adjacent front room of the farmhouse they came upon an older Italian in an expensive suite, cigar in mouth, a very attractive young woman with dark hair, and a meat slab of an Italian who had his Colt .45 out.
Adrian reacted first and shot the big Italian in the chest, dropping him. Solomon covered the other Italian they suspected was Vaducci, who regarded them without fear. Chris and Adrian then made sure the rest of the place was empty, and it was.
“So who the fuck are you cowboys?” sneered Graziani Vaducci, rolling the expensive Havana in his mouth. He showed absolutely no fear. The woman with him looked terrified.
“Mr. Vaducci I assume,” began Solomon, “I am Solomon Orbell. Jeremy Orbell was my brother.”
“So?” shrugged the man.
“I know you killed him you bastard!” snapped Solomon, “What do you say to that?”
“Blah, blah, blah,” scoffed Vaducci, “He was a sneaky little piss-ant, who should have minded his own business. He didn’t and that’s why he died.”
“You don’t even deny it?” gasped Adrian.
“Why should I?” sneered Vaducci, “I think he made a good example to others.”
“You should be begging for your life bastard!” roared Solomon, “Not bragging about killing Jeremy.”
“I don’t beg,” responded the mob boss evenly.
“Oh yeah?” bellowed Chris and grabbed the man, and forced him to his knees.
“How about now?” checked Solomon, the .38 off the man Adrian shot, in hand. He placed it on the mans forehead and cocked the hammer.
“That would be a big mistake sonny,” declared Vaducci menacingly.
“Plug this fucker Solomon,” growled Adrian, annoyed at the mans arrogance, and wanting payback as much as the rest.
“This is for Jeremy!” yelled Solomon and pulled the trigger. Brains and blood exploded out the back of Vaducci’s head and he flopped back, dead.
“Where’s that arrogance now you……..,” began Chris. He stopped however when the dead body began to shake violently. A primordial scream came from what seemed the basement of the place, and the whole structure shook. Long black tentacles sprouted out of Vaducci’s body.
“Um guys?” exclaimed Murinella.
“We are leaving!” yelled Solomon and the four raced out the house. Chris grabbed the young woman who was screaming as he went. They were all just steps from the house when it exploded violently, flinging the companions into the air.
Adrian opened his eyes and as the pain registered he thought he was back in France. He pushed himself up and realized he had only been out a few seconds as debris from the exploding house was still falling. He scrambled over to Murinella who was unconscious but alive.
“Adrian?” checked big Chris Heap as he got to his feet. He had used his own body to shield the young woman at the last second, so she was shaken but unhurt. Chris however looked in a lot of pain.
“Yeah I’m ok, you?” checked Adrian.
“Ok,” lied the big man, “But Solomon doesn’t look too good.”
“Is he alive?” checked Adrian and Chris nodded, “Well lets get the hell out of here before the cops or more mobsters arrive.”
With Chris carrying Solomon and Adrian Murinella, they headed for the car, taking the most direct route, straight up the road. The young woman Isabella, followed, looking shell shocked. Not a hundred yards up the road they had to bail into the bushes as a delivery size truck rumbled past toward the farm. Some mobsters were returning from making a delivery. After the truck passed they hurried on to the Packard and piled in. Chris took the wheel as he had fished the keys out of Solomon’s pocket.
The Packard roared to life and Chris punched the gas. The car lurched forward onto the road before stalling. Cursing Chris battled to restart it as the sound of the truck leaving the farm got louder.
Damn!” muttered the big man as he tried again. The lights of the truck were just bout on them, stranded across the road.
“Keep trying!” ordered Adrian as he stepped out the Packard and shouldered his .30 06. As the truck came into view he opened fire. He worked the bolt and kept pouring fire at the vehicle, aiming for the windshield area. After emptying his clip he hastily slammed in a fresh one.
As he approached the stationary and quiet truck, the Packard came to life. He continued on and found two dead Italians in the front cab. He retrieved a sawn off 12gauge and a Colt .45. He also lifted almost $100 off them. Leaving them he hopped in the Packard and they raced off to Chris’s farm Dellview.
“So how is everyone feeling this morning?” asked Abigail Heap as she served up plates of bacon, egg, hash brown and loads of fresh baked bread.
“Marginally better I think, than last night,” mused Solomon, all bandaged up. After getting to Dellview, Chris went and fetched Dr Wade to come and treat everyone. The doc was good it seemed at keeping his mouth shut when handed enough greenbacks. Just $30 from the two mobsters stash was enough to buy his silence. He treated all the wounds, which he said were not serious. Everyone was up and about the next morning, albeit gingerly.
Isabella Verona, the young woman who had been with Vaducci, informed them she had been there against her will. Her father owed the man a lot of money and so she was insurance that he would be paid. The twenty-two year old looker was very grateful to be out from under his control.
Abigail had not asked too much about what had happened and seemed satisfied to know they had meted out justice to the killers of Jeremy. She trusted in the judgment of Chris and left it at that. Later that day the four companions met out in the garden in front of the farmhouse.
“So what do we do now?” asked Adrian. He was craving a good scotch as it had been days since his last.
“Well we got Vaducci, so what else is there to do?” asked Solomon.
“I think Adrian is talking about what was behind Vaducci,” mused Murinella. Chris nodded.
“There is more going on in Arkham and the surrounds than we like to admit,” stated Chris, “Its always been like that, what with strange disappearances, murders and what not!”
“Yes of course,” admitted Solomon, “I think Jeremy was about to find out more than just the whiskey smuggling angle, and that’s why he died.”
“Look we struck a blow against whatever is behind all this,” stated Adrian, “So do we keep striking?”
“A secret crusade?” mused Solomon.
“If we don’t then who will?” asked Chris, “And who better than us? I mean we were soldiers after all.”
“Most of us,” smiled Murinella. Chris grinned and nodded.
“If we do this,” began Solomon, “Then we have to be ultra secret. We need to maintain our public lives without interruption, because these evil forces will come after us in time.”
“We can do this,” declared Adrian.
“We MUST do this,” stated Chris, as he thought of his family.
“And so we will,” nodded Solomon, “Our regular get together’s will become our strat-plan meetings. We have lots to organize and stacks of intel to gather.”
“You got it Lt,” smiled Adrian. They all shook hands.
Just before they were about to leave to return to their homes, Detective Ray Stuckey arrived with some constables to question them about reported gunfire over at Hosenth Farm and the subsequent blowing up of the farmhouse. He didn’t mention the killing of numerous Italian mobsters. They were to discover later that for reasons unknown, no bodies were ever found, deepening the mystery.
Solomon Orbell handled the discussions with Detective Stuckey and the local barrister tied the poor detective into so many legal knots that he was only too happy to write them off his list of suspects. He left looking bewildered, as he and his constables drove away.
And so the war at home began……………

This post was submitted by Trent.

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