Shades of Arkham

Prologue...

5th October, 1928 : The Disturbing Case of Oliver Gedsby....

The ageing maroon Ford shuddered to a halt along the rain drenched avenue of West Miskatonic. Its engine, which had seen better days, spluttered and then fell silent. The swelling puddles in the street shimmered with the sick orange glow of the sparse street lighting. Dr Anders Lindqvist slowly removed the key from the ignition and released his grip on the wheel. Through the rain streaked windscreen and driving rain, he could just make out the hunched shadowy figure of some unfortunate soul caught out of doors on this most miserable of nights, taking shelter beneath the sagging boughs of a Laurel.
He sat for a moment, massaging his tired eyes with his free hand, as he tried to let the rhythmic drumming of the rain on the roof of the Model T wash the day’s stresses from his mind.

It had been a long, stressful day for the doctor of psychology. Several of his regular patients, who until now had been showing healthy signs of progress, had seemingly regressed to poorer states of mental faculty. What had perplexed Anders further, was that each therapy session had revealed that his patients, in each and every case, had recently begun to suffer from dreams of a most vivid and unpleasant nature. They spoke of finding themselves in the most fearful of places. Ancient, brooding, cyclopean cities constructed from a dark, roughly hewn stone that was strangely cold and damp to the touch. The walls, they said, were covered in diabolical carvings of cruel looking beasts, aquatic in nature. One of his patients, a furtive fellow by the name of Oliver Gedsby, had even been able to produce a rough sketch of one of the carvings from memory. It had looked to Anders, to be something akin to the off-spring of a perverse union between man and octopus. But when pushed for further details of this strange nightmare domain, his patients could provide no further clarity, only that the dreams were causing them to awaken each day with a lingering sense of dread. This feeling, they said, continued to scratch away at their thoughts throughout the day, leaving them unable to concentrate or indeed go about their daily business.
Whilst it had initially struck Anders as odd that each of his patients had been suffering from the same affliction, cases like this were not altogether unheard of. It was very possible that the recent wide-spread media coverage of the ‘Arkham Murders’, as they were now being called, was leaving its mark on vulnerable and impressionable minds. It may have only taken one seemingly insignificant reference in a newspaper or over the wireless for the same details to be absorbed into the sub-conscious minds of those he treated, and thus resurface in their dreams. However, the disturbing and collective nature of the dreams reported had set the good doctor on edge somewhat, and continued to play on his mind for the rest of the day.
His discomfort was further compounded by the unannounced arrival of Detective Crane at the clinic later that day. Anders’ reputation as a psychoanalyst of considerable talent had brought him into contact with the dour detective several times before, whenever the lawman required expert assistance of a psychological nature. But the man had not made a favourable impression on the doctor, and on this occasion he had found him to be even more disagreeable than usual. With regard neither to manners nor protocol, Crane had opened their impromptu meeting by producing a list of names and demanding to see the doctor’s notes regarding those patients. Towards the end of the list, Anders noted, was the name Gedsby. The doctor however, in no uncertain terms, refused to entertain the detective’s request, stating repeatedly that it would be a breach of patient, doctor confidentiality. And when Anders had asked the detective why he needed to see case-notes, and why for those patients specifically, Crane had refused to elaborate, stating it to be ‘police business’. Anders refusal to relinquish the notes had greatly infuriated the detective but eventually he realised that the doctor would not be swayed, and made to leave. But before he went, he pulled a folded piece of grubby paper from his pocket and passed it to Anders, asking if its content meant anything to the doctor. As Anders unfolded the grimy sheet, his breath caught in his chest, for on the piece of paper was a hastily drawn sketch. A sketch that was very familiar to the doctor, for although it was drawn by a different hand, it matched exactly the sketch of the perverse carving produced earlier that day by Oliver Gedsby.
Crane appeared to take some satisfaction from the shocked look upon the doctor’s face, as if his reaction had in some way answered the detective’s questions. He left with what Anders could only think of as a smug look upon his face, reaffirming the doctor’s distaste for the man.
Anders had cancelled his remaining appointments for the day, and spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening reviewing the day’s notes in his journal. What the dreams and strange carvings meant, and how and why they may be linked to the detective’s investigation he could not yet fathom. But Anders was sure that in time their meaning would become apparent. He would speak again to Gedsby at the earliest opportunity, and from him hopefully glean more insight into the whole affair. But for now, he needed to return home and get a good night’s rest.

Despite the appalling weather, he had made good time on his journey home, the late hour providing some respite from the usual jam of traffic, and now sat but a short distance from the comfort of his home. Bracing himself for the inevitable elemental assault, Anders scooped his briefcase from the passenger seat and climbed swiftly from the car. The clawing wind drove the chilling rain against him as he quickly retrieved his raincoat and fedora from the rear seat. As he carefully splashed his way across the sodden verge to the sidewalk he chanced a look over his shoulder, and was frozen in his tracks by an overwhelming sense of fear.
The hunched figure that Anders had spied earlier was still stood in the shadows beneath the great tree, their features lost in the shadows. Yet Anders instinctively knew that they were staring directly at him, and in that malevolent gaze were thoughts of purest hatred that washed over him like a thousand cuts from a blade of blackest ice. His steps faltered as he fought against the urge to cry out. His heart skipped a beat and his breath caught in his throat. Icy prickles of sweat broke out across his body and the briefcase slipped from his now clammy grasp, scattering its contents into the gathering puddles. Succumbing to urges of a most primal level, the doctor turned and fled.
He dashed along the rain soaked sidewalk, covering the short distance to his Georgian home in short order, and took the slick wooden stairs to his porch three at a time. With numb, trembling hands he fumbled his key into the iron lock and threw the front door aside. He staggered into the safety of the dark hallway and slammed the door shut behind, throwing the bolts, before sliding to the floor, ragged gasping breaths escaping between gulps for air. Wan streetlight filtered through the ornate coloured-glass door surround, eerily illuminating the hallway and casting strange shadows that now appeared most frightful to the doctor. He scrabbled across the hall, dragging himself upright against the parlour door frame, his heart still pounding in his chest. Staggering into the room, he fought down the urge to throw the switch and bathe the parlour in welcoming light. That he thought, would only draw attention to his locale. Instead, in the dim light, he felt his way across the room, until he was within reach of one of the tapestry curtains. Taking the heavy cloth in hand, he dared a quick glimpse through the window into the dank street below.
The sidewalk was empty, the nocturnal glow of the street lamps making it glisten in the pouring rain. The imposing gambrel houses of the Abbotts and the Armitages that lay across the street showed no signs of life, save the odd sliver of light that escaped from behind heavy curtains. Of the terrible shadow figure there was mercifully no sign. He quickly drew the curtains shut, and determined to make himself feel less vulnerable, felt his way across the darkened room once more. Several staggered paces brought him within reach of the fireplace, and the poker hanging on the wall beside it. Gripping the heavy iron tightly to his chest, he moved to the safety afforded by the high back of his favourite reading chair and waited. Tense moments passed. The only audible sounds were the doctor’s own gasping breaths, and the creaking and sighing of the house as the strengthening wind drove the rain hard against the large bay windows.
In those dark, long moments, the doctor tried with all his mental resolve to regain his composure. His eyes began to adjust to the gloom, dispelling the fear it had recently held. As he stood there, hiding in his own parlour from an unknown and possibly imagined threat, the apparent absurdity of his own actions began to push its way to the forefront of his mind. The doctor had always considered himself a man of strong mental condition, bereft of flighty and whimsical notions, able to tell the real from the imagined. Indeed it was his life’s work to help others who could not. Why then had he acted so irrationally? Had all the talk of strange dreams earlier that day, mixed with his tired state of mind played detrimentally with his logical reasoning? Yes, that must be it. Nothing a good night’s sleep wouldn’t fix. He allowed himself a small chuckle at his own ludicrous behaviour.

Suddenly, there came a loud knock on the front door. The doctor recoiled with fright, images of shadowy figures whirling devilishly through his mind, adrenaline surging through his veins. The knocking came again, louder and more insistent this time. Then a metallic scraping sound. ‘Were they trying to force the lock?’ he thought. Anders gripped the poker more tightly and shrank down behind the large chair, his pulse racing and heart thumping once again. A voice sounded in the darkness. ‘Doctor Lindqvist. My name’s Diamond, Joe Diamond. I’m a detective. Can you come to the door please sir’. Anders, relieved that the voice had sounded reassuringly normal and not in the slightest bit terrifying or shadowy, crept from the safety of the reading chair. With no small manner of trepidation, he crossed to the hall doorway. The knocking began once more.
‘Doctor Lindqvist, I’d just like to ask you a few questions. It won’t take a minute. I’m holding my identification up to the glass now’. Anders peered cautiously into the hallway. In the pale street light that filtered from the street he could just make out that the mail flap, which had been pushed open, was being released from the outside with a metallic scrape. Through the coloured glass door surround the doctor could indeed see the distorted silhouette of an arm pressing something up against the glass. The pattern of the glass, however, made it impossible to read any detail on the document but it appeared to display a badge of some description. It was quickly withdrawn.
‘Doctor Lindqvist’ The knocking started again.
‘Crane must have sent one of his men to perplex me further’ Anders thought as he moved warily to the front door. Holding the poker in his left hand to keep it from sight, he took a deep breath to steady his frayed nerves and gingerly opened the door.
On the doorstep stood a smartly dressed man of medium build, most likely in his mid-thirties. His grey suit and waistcoat appeared expensively cut, and his hat and raincoat were in keeping with the latest fashion. His dark features lent him a handsome, almost dashing look but his face showed signs of pocked scarring and had not seen a razor for several days.
Two men stood behind him. The first was a much younger man. He leant against one of the timber beams supporting the porch roof, trying unsuccessfully to light a rather damp looking cigarette. He was slight of build with a youthful, clean-cut, appearance. He flashed a grin at Anders as the door opened. He was carrying a canvas bag over his shoulder but resting at his feet was the soggy, dishevelled looking leather case that Anders had dropped in his flight. The other man, by contrast, was heavy set and most unfriendly in appearance. He wore a dark suit and trench-coat that had obviously seen better days and glowered at Anders with steely grey eyes from beneath the brim of his rain soaked hat. One of his large fists rested on his opposite hip within the folds of his tatty coat. Rain poured down behind them, cascading from the porch roof to the small garden below.
The smartly dressed man finished putting what Anders assumed was his identification into an inside jacket pocket and extended his hand to the nervous looking doctor.
‘Doctor Lindqvist? Joe Diamond, it’s good to finally meet you’. The man was well spoken but Anders detected the hint of a Boston accent as the man shook his free hand robustly. The doctor glanced past him at the other two men, and seeing this the detective introduced his companions.
‘And these are my associates, Mr Ford’ the detective jerked a thumb over his shoulder towards the younger man ‘and this handsome fellow is Mac’ he gestured towards the brute on his left. Anders noticed that the bigger man’s cold stare hadn’t left him nor had his hand moved from his hip. This he found somewhat unsettling.
‘I have some questions for you Doctor, and my friend here has some property of yours to return’. The younger man picked the soggy briefcase from the porch and handed it to Anders. Water dripped from it onto the wooden hallway floor.
‘If you don’t mind?’ continued the detective. He left the question hanging, turning to look at the worsening weather.
Anders opened the door no further. A creeping realisation that the man in front of him was no police detective was entering his thoughts. And his companions were certainly not Farbror Bla. ‘You said you were a detective? The three of you don’t look like Crane’s usual men? Let me look at your identification again please’.
‘Hey, there’s no need for formalities Doc’ Joe shrugged and raised his hands. ‘We’re not with that flatfoot Crane, or the police. Look, I’m no bull, I’m a private eye and I just need to ask you a few questions’. He’d dropped the well spoken facade and the Boston accent was back in full.
The doctor was growing concerned. Who were these strange men? ‘I’m afraid that if you’re not with the police then I can’t help you, I won’t discuss my cases with any old Dick’. He began to close the door but Joe’s foot had swiftly moved into the gap preventing it from closing. ‘Listen, I just need to know about Gedsby’ he blurted.
Anders froze. How did they know about Gedsby, what the devil was going on here?
‘I think Gedsby is tied into the ‘Arkham Murders’ ‘ the P.I. continued, ‘but I need more answers.’ Anders paused for a moment. First Crane, and now these gentlemen. His curiosity was peaked.
‘Fine, I’ll answer your questions, where appropriate, but first you must tell me how you know of the name Gedsby’.
‘Fine, fine’ conceded the detective ‘but first can we get out of this damnable rain’.

A short time later, Anders, Joe and the young Mr Ford were talking in the now reassuringly well lit parlour. Anders had lit the fire in an attempt to dry out his now waterlogged briefcase and so that the men could dry their sodden jackets. A musty, damp smell now hung in the air. The man introduced as ‘Mac’ had entered last and hovered in the parlour doorway. Anders’s had caught him exchanging a glance with Joe, who had nodded almost imperceptibly. The bruiser had then pushed past the doctor and headed deeper into the house. The doctor had detected a strong odour of stale, cheap alcohol as the man passed. At the doctor’s protestations Joe had reassuringly said ‘Don’t worry, Mac knows what he’s doing. I’m sure he won’t break anything too expensive’ and guided the still protesting doctor over to the empty drinks cabinet, and the bottle of Scotch inevitably hidden there. Whiskeys now poured, the doctor turned to Joe.
‘Now tell me, what really brings you to my door, and what do you know of Gedsby?’. His question was punctuated by a distant clatter elsewhere in the house. The young Ford grimaced ‘I’m sure he really does know what he’s doing Doctor Lindqvist’.
‘I’m sure he does, but it’s the what he’s doing that’s of concern to me..’.
‘Mac’s just checking that there won’t be any unwanted interruptions’ Joe cut in ‘as for why we’re here, Fraser..’ he gestured to the young man. Fraser opened the canvas bag he had been carrying and pulled from it a blurry black and white photograph which he handed to Anders.
‘The ‘Arkham Murderer’ appears to have struck again’ continued Joe, ‘Slick here managed to snap a shot of the latest victim before Arkham’s Finest shooed him away’.
Anders caught the black look the younger man gave the detective as the photo was handed over, the nickname was obviously unappreciated. He returned his attention to the picture before him.
The photograph was of a most gruesome nature, even considering it was grainy and blurred. It showed the body of what looked like a young woman lying face-down, naked in a dirty alleyway. What made the scene all the more terrible was the spidery writing that appeared to have been carved into every inch of exposed flesh. The letters, in a spiky hand, were bloody and scabbed. A stark contrast to the white, puckered skin between them. The words appeared to overlap at random, and the blurry quality of the photograph made them impossible to read. Yet even with Anders’ limited medical knowledge he could tell that some of the cuts must have been very deep.
‘Who is, uh, was she?’ the doctor corrected himself, ‘Where was this taken?’ the words escaped his lips in a whisper.
‘It was over in Rivertown earlier tonight. Its an alleyway that runs behind Dunham’s Brickyard over on East Armitage’ Fraser divulged. ‘ I, err, accidentally overheard the police broadcast on the wireless and headed over there as quickly as I could. Managed to get that shot before Sergeant Nichols tried to turn my head inside out with his nightstick. It’s a swell shot, should make the front page’ he continued proudly, before sheepishly adding ‘um, but that’s obviously not important, given the circumstances.’
‘As for the who’ continued Joe, shaking his head at Fraser ‘the police aren’t saying yet. As far as they’re letting on it’s just another Jane Doe.’
‘No wonder the police haven’t been releasing any details of the murders, this is barbaric. Who could do this to another human being?’ Anders asked incredulously.
‘That ain’t the worst of it Doc, Slick here even managed to get some of the body in focus. Turn it through ninety degrees and look just above her gams’
Anders followed Joe’s instructions. As he turned the photo in his hand, some of the picture was indeed in focus and the writing barely legible.
‘My God’ the doctor exclaimed aloud as he realised what words had been carved into the unfortunate girl’s skin. ‘Gedsby’. He felt a chill run up and down his spine as he uttered the name.
Joe stared at the doctor, his voice level ‘Keep reading Doc’.
Anders swallowed slowly, his pulse quickening again as he squinted at the torturous letters beneath.
‘Lindqvist…’ the word rasped from his now dry lips as he stared at the picture in horrified disbelief.
‘And that’s how we ended up here. There ain’t that many Lindqvist’s in Arkham, but there’s a bucket load of Gedsby’s’ said Joe, ‘we just need to find the right one’.
With a shaking hand, Anders slowly passed the picture back to Fraser, his mind reeling at the shocking revelation. His name was on the body of a young woman, tortured and killed. What did it mean? How could it be? An image of the shadow figure clawed its way into his thoughts. He swallowed the contents of his glass and quickly poured another. Only after a third did he stop.
‘It really gives you the heebie-jeebies, don’t it Doc’ said Joe, knocking back the last of his whiskey.
‘Here, you might be needing this’ The detective reached into his jacket and produced a squat looking pistol which he placed on the side-table between them with an audible clunk. Anders looked at it quizzically.
‘What possible need would I have for a gun, I’m a doctor of psychological medicine?’ he asked, tentatively lifting the alien metal object from the table. He’d always found the very concept of firearms to be most disagreeable and certainly hadn’t had any need to handle one before.
‘Spare me the neutrality baloney Doc, it didn’t do you any favours in the war. Let’s just call it an insurance policy. There’s a stiff in the morgue with your name written all over her, so I’d say that someone out there doesn’t think you’re the bee’s knees’. The doctor studied the cold metallic form of the pistol. There was a ruddy brown stain along one side of the stubby barrel.
‘Is, is that blood?’ he exclaimed.
‘Yeah, well the last guy didn’t think he’d need it either. But don’t worry, I don’t think he’ll be asking for it back any time soon’ the detective replied with a wicked grin, finding some amusement at the doctor’s obvious discomfort.
At that moment the sullen looking man returned to the room, pushing what appeared to be a large revolver back into the hidden depths of his sodden trench-coat.
‘It’s clear’, he growled in a gruff, Irish brogue, ‘I’ll bring the car round front’.
‘Ok Mac’ replied Joe before turning back to Anders. The front door slammed as the big man headed out into the stormy night.
‘Look, the way I see it is you’ve got two choices Doc’ Joe said in a conspirational tone ‘either you help that flatfoot Crane and cover up what’s really happening, or you throw your lot in with us and figure out the truth.’
‘And get a cut of the thousand dollar reward they’ve posted’ put in Fraser.
‘I can assure you, I have no interest in benefiting financially from the misfortune of others’ Anders stated bluntly.
‘Funny’, thought Fraser ‘seeing as you’re a rich doctor and all’, but decided it best to hold his tongue.
‘Of course not Doc’ said Joe, shooting a glance at the younger man, ‘All we need to know is which damn Gedsby we’re looking for, and I’m as sure as hell is hot, that you two are linked somehow. And if what you know turns out to be a wooden nickel, hey no problem. I’ve always got a few open cases that could do with an expert’s opinion. Here’, the detective pulled out his wallet and offered a business card, ‘sleep on it’.
The doctor took the card without really looking at it. His mind was racing. Like Crane, these men were asking him to breach his strict code of patient confidentiality. But if what he knew could somehow help to bring the murderer to justice, was it not his social duty to divulge such information? What of his name, so horrifically carved onto the body of some poor young woman? And that strange, terrifying shadowy figure, what did it all mean? There were so many questions.
The two men had by now collected their belongings and were heading for the door. Anders placed the pistol on the table and showed them out. He bade them goodnight, but was relieved when the door was locked and bolted behind them. What a most trying day this had turned out to be.
But what did all this have to do with Oliver Gedsby? Surely there must be some clue hidden within the notes of their therapy session earlier that day. Entering the parlour, he sifted through the damp contents of his briefcase to recover his journal. He flicked through the leather bound book until he reached his entries for the day. Or at least to where the entries should have been. For it appeared that those pages, including the Gedsby sketch, had been torn from the book. Odd looking, nonsensical words had been scrawled across the remaining pages in some dreadful reddish fluid. The hairs stood up on the back of Anders’ neck, and his breathing grew more rapid as he realised with dread that the words were written in that same awful spidery hand writing; “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”
What did this all mean? Had the shadow figure too sought to discover what Gedsby may have confided in him? And what of those strange words, so alien to his eye that they almost hurt to look at?
Anders dug the detectives card from his pocket;
Diamond Investigation Agency, 351 W Main Street, (617) 442-5612
There were too many questions, too much fear of the unknown. His decision was made. He would cancel his morning clinic and instead pay a visit to Oliver Gedsby in person. Then he would contact the detective. He needed answers.

With the snub nosed pistol gripped firmly in hand, Doctor Anders Lindqvist retired to bed…

Players should now review the Case Files, and then detail what their character will do next in the appropriate area of the Forum

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Skampaw

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