A Cold Spot

Part 3: A Tour of the History

Sunday, April 14, 1929:

The party wakes up (in their separate houses) and gathers at Peter's. The traditional breakfast food-poisoning attack appears to have hit Charlie this morning. Peter is nonplussed at the Nasty Evil Dagger having been stored in his house, and requests that it be removed. Where should it go? Clearly not back to the Apcott house. Perhaps it could be broken or tossed in a lake somewhere. Roderick doesn't think this is a good plan - what if the only way to slay the evil spirit is with its own dagger? Exactly how one would go about killing something completely insubstantial with a knife is puzzling, but the dagger is put back in the desk.

Some speculation about the children's pranks ensues. Roderick thinks it's possible that the pranks themselves are somehow motivated by the spirits. Peter makes a strong case for the pranks being played just by Julian (who is missing a strong male authority figure in his life and is feeling disaffected and angstful due to his illness), out of a desire to annoy Alison and frame Mattie. The possibility of Julian faking his illness (Dr, Schreber explains that the technical medical term for it would be "doing poorly" since Chronic Fatigue Syndrome hasn't been invented yet) is discussed, but if he is, he's doing a very good job of it. Eddie explains his understanding of the treasure game: Mattie goes and buries something ("pirate treasure"), while Julian watches. Julian draws a map to it and gives the map to Mattie. Mattie follows the map to find the treasure.

The group proceeds to the Apcott house for various interrogations. Gerti asks Mrs. Apcott what is in the little cross-marked grave in the yard - the answer is a kitten that they had as a pet about six months ago. It got injured and then died, and Mattie and Julian had a funeral for it. Gerti still suspects vampires as a culprit - there used to be lots of vampires around the area, the Reverend Witherspoon's book said so! Peter calls the Globe offices to find out what the oldest local newspapers are (the Greenfield Gazette and Courier dates back to 1840. while the Greenfield Times only goes back to 1920). Additionally, the Globe suggests talking to the Historical Society in Greenfield for old records.

"She [Alison] will not have the last laugh!" - Peter
"Well, she may, but it'll be the insane hysterical kind." - Roderick

Should anyone interview any of the neighbors? That probably wouldn't be discreet. Peter asks Mrs. Apcott about the drowning - doesn't it seem odd that if they were frequent weekend sailors, they made such a stupid mistake? Mrs. Apcott is rather upset to think about it, and isn't a lot of help, but does agree that it's odd. On the other hand, this particular boat was fairly new and larger than they were used to, and they weren't professional sailors.. Tommy asks Julian about the treasure game and ghosts and the like. Has Mattie ever dug up something that wasn't originally hidden? Only things like the immensely valuable Brown Rocks. No, Julian hasn't seen any of the ghosts. He's asked as to whether Mattie can be behind various things, and he cites the bed moving across the floor as an example of something that she clearly didn't do. He doesn't confess to doing any of the pranks either.

There's a brief argument between Peter and Roderick as to whether the wood of the house (not the knife, apparently) can, in fact, be termed "evil" (if it was built from evil trees) or if it is but a hapless victim of circumstance or an conglomerate of inanimate matter with no actual moral capacity.

Dr. Schreber, Roderick, and Peter make plans to head to Greenfield for research. Gerti is quickly shanghaied into this plan, when it is realized that she probably needs a tetanus shot. Once at the doctor's, Gerti tries to claim that she cut herself while chopping onions, and she and Dr. Schreber argue over the cleanliness of the knife. The doctor, who begins to suspect that something strange is going on when his patient and her escort can't agree on their story, takes Gerti into a separate room and tries to determine whether Dr. Schreber has been "bothering her" or possibly attacking her with knives. Gerti denies this and, in the end, admits to just not liking shots. She finally lets the doctor convince her to get one.

First stop: the town hall. The deed to the Apcott house appears to belong to Amelia, it having been left to her by her husband. Rather than passing to the oldest child, it appears to have passed to the youngest, in that the-youngest-stays-home-and-tends-the-parents-and-then-gets-the-house sort of way. There doesn't appear to be much else of use in the town hall itself - there's not a lot of really really old records, but they suggest the Historical Society.

The group arrives at the Historical Society shortly after lunch, and meet the proprietor. He's happy to show them the library and the souvenir shop and the museum, and lets Gerti poke around in the basement where the newspapers are stored (after noting the mouse-holes in the crates, she abandons the search). There appear to be no books about Apcotts, and very little about North Ashfield at all. Roderick discovers a book on the legends and superstitions of the area that mentions a tribe of Indians that lived in the North Ashfield area called the Surani. Further reading of the book provides more details: the tribe worshipped a mysterious sea god to whom they would make sacrifices at annual pilgrimages to the coast, and they were all wiped out by a smallpox epidemic.

Meanwhile, Peter is visiting newspaper offices. At the Gazette and Courier, with the help of Joey the Copy Boy, he turns up two articles on "the ghosts of North Ashfield." (Joey also appears to be assigned to learn what the cool exciting story the Globe reporter is working on is). The Greefield Daily doesn't appear to have anything useful, though when the editor is asked about weirdities and legends in the area, he tells Peter about a Bigfoot family that's believed to live near Lock Village.

Back at the Historical Society, Gerti has found a reference to the Apcott house being built on "filled land", thus finally answering the question of "Where is the darned pond?" Peter returns, and buys a matched Pilgrim Lady and Gentleman doll set for Mattie, and a book on county history for Julian. Gerti buys a map toy for Charlie. Through judicious donations to the historical society and leaving a large deposit (plus a good Persuasion roll) Mr. Bellesby manages to convince the curator to let him check out the book of local legends despite not being a county resident.

At the Apcott house, Eddie, Tommy, and Esme are finishing ransacking the attic. Oil portraits of Ezekial and Sarah are discovered (as well as portraits of most of the rest of the grownup Apcott family tree). Letters from Abraham and Felicity to each other are the earliest examples of letters found, and they don't mention anything about secret evil stuff in the house or Satanic plans of his father. After an exhaustive search, Eddie is sure that there aren't any other secret compartments in the attic. Some letters pertaining to the Keelings are found, but Eddie is sure they're irrelevant (He's right).

The Greenfield horde returns, and the group convenes again at Peter's house. The two ghost articles and the ex-pond nature of the house are triumphantly related. Tommy is sure the knife is familiar somehow, but can't place why. Gerti and Dr. Schreber go to the evening service at the Episcopalian church.

The group heads to the Apcott house for dinner (having heard that missing dinner the previous night was a social faux pas). Alison is on better behavior, though Dr. Schreber thinks it's forced. Peter examines the skin tones pictured in the old portraits (possibly pursuing Gerti's theory about vampires, though the family does not seem overly pale). Peter gives his presents to the children - Mattie is overjoyed by the Pilgrim Lady doll, though everyone else thinks it's a little weird of Peter. As the evening progresses, Roderick, Tommy, and Amanda all get quite ill; Esme, Dr. Schreber, and Peter get somewhat sick. The ill people mostly return to Peter's house; Dr. Schreber treats Tommy and Roderick (and decides that it's likely to be some sort of poison, based on the timing), and calls the Apcott house to see if anyone there needs some medicine. Alison answers.

"Hello, this is Dr. Schreber... AND I'M COMING TO KILL YOU" interrupts a deep booming voice. Alison slams down the phone and calls the police. "Uh, oh" thinks Dr. Schreber. Alison reports to the police that the evil German man with the hunchback called and said he was coming to kill her. The deputy dutifully investigates at Peter's house (he's a bit confused to learn that Peter is himself staying at the Apcotts') and takes statements from people who say that Dr. Schreber didn't make any threats. They convince him to call the Apcotts' (maybe the voice will return!) - after nobody else answers the phone, Amelia drags herself out of bed and tells the deputy that there has been a lot of trouble with the phones and static - perhaps it was a crossed line? The deputy finally leaves again and the night is otherwise uneventful.

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