Out flew the web and floated wide;Wednesday, April 17, 1929:
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.
Much of the group (Gerti, Eddie, Dr. Schreber, Roderick) is still in Boston. Esme, Tommy, and the still-ill Peter are back in North Ashfield.
As the first of her Mad Plans, Gerti thinks the party should talk to Julia Pritchard, the believed medium from "Family Matters", and get her to try to channel Marie the Pilgrim Lady. If Marie was drowned as a witch, perhaps she actually knows something occultly useful that they can learn from her. However, it would probably be hard for her to channel Marie all the way from Boston, and dragging her out to North Ashfield to get possessed would be sad.
Mad Plan #2: Gerti suggests burning the house down in order to get Alison out of it and keep Ezekial from access to anyone. This suggestion is met with some resistance.
Gerti does some legal research into who gave Ezekial Apcott his land, and turns up a record of him buying some unspecified land in Hawthorn from the colonial governor. While interesting, this is not deemed to be as interesting as if there was a record of his having been given it by a registered Satanist Church, or something else more nefarious. Everyone but Eddie decides to take the morning train back to Greenfield; Eddie remains in Boston to continue any research that anyone can think of. After a little discussion, Charlie is given the dagger to look after. Dr. Schreber has a dream, but doesn't mention the details.
Back in North Ashfield, Tommy is patrolling the Apcott house, muttering to himself about the Pilgrim Lady. In the third floor hallway, he feels a cold, damp wind at his back. "Give us a sign - we don't know what to do!" he pleads. The wind picks up, and the doors to Mattie and Julian's rooms slowly swing open. They're both peacefully asleep. He shuts the doors again, pondering. Some time later that night, there's some thumping from the attic, but nothing obvious seems to be still lurking up there.
The main body of the party returns to Peter's house. Dr. Schreber determines that Peter is, in fact, suffering from stomach flu rather than multiple cases of food poisoning. Esme seems to have a touch of flu as well, though she's recovered by later in the afternoon. Tommy expounds on his theory of "Maybe the Pilgrim Lady knows something."
Mad Plan #3: Roderick suggests kidnapping the children on the 28th to make sure that they're not affected by whatever it is on the 30th. Dr. Schreber calls and leaves Eddie a message to call him - Eddie should research Satanism itself, see what sort of methods it uses and what a powerful Satanist might be up to.
Gerti does some more organization of the church basement records, and eats lunch and dinner with Charlie at the Benevolent Cafe in order to chat up various old-timers of North Ashfield. She gets to hear exciting stories about sheep and cows running amok, about the bad winter three years ago, and so on. She determines that one of the other main Old Families is the Hobsons, who own Hobson's Market. She's hoping to go poke through the Hobson libraries at some point. Dr. Schreber makes a nuisance of himself, sulking because he's not welcome at the Apcott house. Roderick, immersed in his book on local legends and history, keeps shooing him away, and he finally heads for the town common to sun himself. He notes the entire family of Apcotts (sans Julian) going for a walk, heading south. With a will check, he refrains from sneaking after them to see where they're going. Later, as he takes tea at the Benevolent Cafe, he notes the family walking north. This begins to strike him as suspicious, until he recalls that he prescribed "lots of long walks" to Amelia as probably good for Alison.
Dinner time. Dr. Schreber requests that Roderick take careful note of Alison's state and make a full report. Roderick begins to expound on her state, but Dr. Schreber begs that he be indulged with real observations, not just made up ones, no matter how accurate the made up ones are. At dinner, Alison seems a bit calmer (though Roderick's amateur psychology roll suggests that this means that she hasn't had a traumatic shock in the very recent past, rather than that she's wholly recovered). Roderick regales everyone with business tales, advising them to invest heavily in stocks.
After dinner, Alison and Amelia are washing up in the kitchen, when Alison shrieks. The dinner guests, rushing in, see that her hand is bleeding. She wheels on Roderick, accusing him of it having been his knife which cut her. He retreats from the kitchen again. Seeing a doctor is suggested - no, not that German doctor! He'd poison her! Her hand is bandaged, after Esme and Amelia determine that it probably doesn't need stitches. Amelia, in private, requests that Tommy talk to Dr. Schreber about something to put on it.
Back at Peter's house (except for Esme, who is keeping Alison company), the party gathers to discuss events. Roderick expounds. The house is using Alison as a tool to get rid of the effective people - first Dr. Schreber, then Eddie (who was beginning to find things out), now Roderick. Dr. Schreber also notes that Gerti and Charlie haven't been around much, and Tommy and Esme, being naturally charming, are possibly harder to turn Alison against. Roderick is pretty sure the house will not push her over the edge, or mortally wound her, because if she's committed or hospitalized, she won't be a good tool any longer. Roderick also notes that Alison is an Apcott by blood, while Amelia is only one by marriage - perhaps this is why she is more strongly affected. Dr. Schreber is concerned for the safety of the children - might he use Alison to kill one of them? Gerti wonders about the fact that it was stronger the one night nobody was around. Should the group stay away tonight to see if there are terrible screams again? Tommy thinks that plan is far too mean - "There's two young kids in the house!"
Gerti: "Has she stopped blaming the children, then?"
Dr. Schreber: "She's fixed on us as a more sinister cause for the troubles."
Dr. Schreber: "Alison is going quite inexorably insane. I suspect she will not be functional for more than a week." Gerti thinks she should be gotten out of the house, but Dr. Schreber, while conceding the point, doesn't think the party has a clever way of doing so yet.
Mad Plan #4: Send Mattie to Boston with Eddie. Send Alison a ransom note saying "clear out of the house, or else!" Perhaps this is a little overboard as well? How about a free vacation trip? That won't work, she won't go. How about a mandatory Harper family gathering? Are there any Harpers who can be prevailed upon for this?
Gerti begins to get cranky that all her mad plans are being shot down. "If we really think she's automatically going crazy if we do nothing, and maybe going crazy if we do something drastic, I vote for doing something drastic!"
Mad Plan #5: Fake the death of one of the party, and lure Alison to a funeral? (Perhaps if she could dance on the grave...). What does it take to commit someone to a sanitarium? A family member plus a doctor is generally sufficient. Less than this is also plausible if the victim is acting erratic - you need more evidence if they're behaving themselves at the arraignment.
Mad Plan #6: Poison her with something that requires hospitalization! Roderick points out if this is done in the house, the house will see it and may well reveal the plan to Alison, turning her against someone else.
Gerti asks if someone (ideally, one of the historian types) could take a look at the Hobsons' library for possible mention of Ezekial.
Dr. Schreber: "If we wait until the 30th, she'll be irretrievably insane. I have to consider the health of the patient, not just the long-term goal of preventing evil."
Mad Plan #7: Have Mattie confess that she's behind it all, and it's because she really hates North Ashfield and this house. But Alison probably doesn't really think that the children are behind it, that's her irrational denial smokescreen.
Roderick, who has been examining the family tree, notes that when Ezekial died, his son was almost nine. In 1856, when the Greenfield Gazette & Courier noted the disturbances in April, Michael Apcott was nine. Now Mattie is nine. "I don't know if this is relevant at all. Still, numerology is an exciting science." (A message is left for Eddie to look up an 1856 Farmer's Almanac and see if there's anything significant about that April. ). Was there a mass death of Apcotts right before 1856? No.
Tommy and Charlie head off to the Apcotts for the night, meeting up with Esme, who's missed all the above mad plans. Tommy talks to Amelia about Dr. Schreber's concerns - she'd like to talk to him herself. Tommy goes to fetch him, and they talk downstairs in the library (Alison is resting upstairs). They discuss committment - Amelia is a bit concerned that forcibly wresting Alison out of the house might harm her mental health, no matter how restful and peaceful the sanitarium itself is. Dr. Schreber says that there are lots of modern lovely sanitariums that don't use straitjackets.
Charlie hears a strange noise upstairs, and heads up. It sounds like whimpering coming from Alison's room. He gestures for Tommy and Esme, who follow. Esme gets herded to the door, while Charlie stays near "in case she starts running about with a knife or something." Esme gingerly opens the door, but the room is dark (possibly darker than it ought to be?). She turns on the light and gasps - the bed is completely soaked with blood! Wait, no, it's not. However, Alison is curled up in the bed, eyes shut, still whimpering. It takes a moment or two to wake her, and Alison says that she had a bad dream (she keeps eying her bandaged hand). Esme asks if she wants some water - yes, please. Esme gets some water, and suggests maybe coming downstairs for a while and having tea. (Dr. Schreber, in the library: "Argh, no!"). She agrees, and they head for the hall. Suddenly, Alison is screaming hysterically - Esme turns and sees the reflection in the (now uncovered again) mirror is of Esme, face contorted with rage, strangling Alison. The image fades after an instant, but Alison collapses to the floor, still screaming.
A persuasion attempt on Esme's part gets Alison to stop screaming, but
not to calm down any. Mattie and Julian are now awake, and wondering
what's going on. Tommy tells Mattie that her mother has had a bad
dream - Mattie says that it's because Mommy doesn't have a man in her
closet to protect her from them. This intrigues Tommy, but he isn't
able to find out anything else relevant-sounding. Charlie tells
Julian that his mother has had a bad dream.
"That's all right. That's a mistake my cousin... never mind."
Gerti suggests to Dr. Schreber that the mirror is cursed, and regardless of whether they get Alison out of the house, they need to get her out of the room, or, at least, the mirror out of the room.
Dr. Schreber suggests tea for Alison that he's put some pharmaceuticals in (without telling her that detail) but his drug-mixing isn't as efficacious as usual. She's persuaded to drink a little, and Amelia sits with her as she goes back to sleep. Amelia comes downstairs after this, and the group discusses more plans to get Alison out of the house. Luring her to the hospital for a night on a pretext of Mattie's illness, and then for another night... this probably won't be able to last for very long. Could psychiatrists be brought in to examine her?
Eventually, everyone goes to sleep. Charlie guards the attic, Tommy patrols the third floor, and Esme is in Mattie's room. Sadly, everyone gets a bit dozy except Charlie. Charlie (who has become the principal contender for "Person To Notice Stuff") notices Alison heading downstairs, and heads after her, waking Tommy. The closet door in Mattie's room slams open, waking Esme. The group pursues her down the stairs. "Mrs. Harper? Are you okay?" "Mrs. Harper! You have to fight this!" She heads out the front door - Charlie dashes around the house to hide in the bushes to follow, while Tommy cuts around to block her path to the gate.
"Stand aside, varlet!" she orders him. He goes to grab her. The first grab fails to cover her mouth, though, and she says something in a nasty-sounding language, points at him, and he takes a lot of damage and becomes black and shriveled-looking. Charlie grabs her, but she says something else nasty sounding and he cowers in fear. Esme keeps shouting loudly for Alison to cut it out until Mattie opens her window and peeks out. "Go wake up your grandmother!" Esme tells her.
Meanwhile, the phone at the Collins house has started to ring, waking people up. There's no one on the line - that's the universal signal for "we need you"! Roderick, Gerti, and Dr. Schreber start over. On hearing the commotion from the front yard, they hurry. Alison starts walking along the road, pursued by Esme, Roderick, and Gerti. Tommy gets into his car and pursues the group, while Dr. Schreber tries to snap Charlie out of it with some stimulants and telling him that Gerti's in trouble. Amelia comes to the front door trying to figure out what's going on, and Dr. Schreber tells her everyone is chasing Alison, who seems to have had something bad happen to her. She asks if she should get the car - he says yes. Amelia and Dr. Schreber take her car, pulling into the line of followers after Tommy's car. Charlie takes off on foot after Gerti.
Alison turns on her pursuers. (Roderick, Esme, and Gerti)
Alison: "Stop, or I kill the bitch."Strangely, the two women continue to pursue (somewhat stealthily), while Roderick hangs back. "You'd think it was me who had just been threatened with death."
Roderick: "At the risk of being flippant, Ezekial, which one?"
Gerti (offended): "Sir!"
Alison: "Your choice!"
Gerti decides that Alison must be heading for the front gate of the cemetery, to get to Ezekial's body, and cuts over the fence and across the cemetery, pursued by Charlie. The pair of them stake out the cemetery gate, but then Gerti spots the cars continuing to chase Alison down the road (she doesn't appear to have turned to come in the cemetery) and they catch up again.
Roderick gets in the car with Amelia and Dr. Schreber, but then has a sudden attack of insipration or panic. Instead of continuing to chase Alison, they need to go back to the Apcott house and get the now-unguarded kids out!
Gerti notices that Alison is doing something strange (later in retrospect, she thinks it was clawing at her chest - and her hand was bloody). Gerti charges Alison and whaps her with her purse. Alison says something nasty-sounding, points at Gerti, and Gerti collapses, writhing in pain. Charlie, irate now, punches Alison twice, breaking her nose. At this point, even the average Charlie-sized person would have fallen down, but Alison is still standing. Alison says the same nasty-sounding thing to Charlie, and he collapses, writhing in even more pain.
Alison stops walking and starts a longer incantation, gesturing at the sky. Tommy is forced to get out of the car and roll the two of them off the edge of the road before driving at Alison and attempting to whack her with his open door (he misses). He turns the car around and tries to hit her head-on, just as she's snatched up by a dark flapping creature. Esme tries to shoot it with her pearl-handled gun, but misses.
Tommy tells everyone to jump into the car (that includes Esme and a semi-functional Gerti - Charlie is still overcome by pain, and sure that if he piles enough dirt on his head, it'll make it better), and they drive up the road a bit to where Tommy's plane is. He runs to the and starts it up, telling Esme to follow the creature. Esme and Gerti manage to keep track of where the creature is going, though since it isn't sticking to the roads, they soon have to decide whether to stay on the road themselves or head out across the fields. Choosing the latter, Esme drives the car through a fence and into a ditch, and then gets stuck. Tommy in his plane catchs up to the car, but is unable to spot where the creature has gone, and circles overhead.
Back at the Collins house, Dr. Schreber and Roderick dither. Should they go after the car? They don't know where it is now (though they know where they left it). They won't be much help in combat - but Dr. Schreber might save someone's life. Eventually, Dr. Schreber takes Amelia's car, while Amelia and Roderick stay. Dr. Schreber first spots Charlie in the ditch, where he's finally managing to stand up. "I hurt. A lot. Give me drugs. Now." (The combination of the painkillers and the earlier stimulants leave Charlie feeling well-nigh invincible). Then find the other car in the ditch - Charlie nearly manages to push it out himself, but is persuaded to let Amelia's car do it.
Esme waves at the plan circling overhead.
"If that creature is still up there, waving might not be a good idea."The two cars head back towards Peter's house. Dr. Schreber hears, up above, Tommy's engine revving and then cutting out entirely. He's not entirely sure if that's normal or not, and after some consideration, pulls the car over in time for the party to see the plane crash into a nearby field!
"I'm waving at Tommy!"
The rescue mission gets to the plane and pulls Tommy from the
wreckage. Charlie's keen nose smells Scotch, though Esme is sure it's
airplane fuel. This is the first Dr. Schreber has seen of Tommy's
condition (in addition to the broken arm, broken ribs, and multiple
smashes and lacerations). Dr. Schreber is cursing Tommy in German,
and Esme asks (in German) if it's serious. He tells her to shut up
and let him work. Tommy is stabilized, and then loaded into the back
of Amelia's car. Meanwhile, Charlie is driving Tommy's car back, in
somewhat careening style (he's still invulnerable). Esme notices the
odd behavior of the other car in the rear view mirror.
"Dr. Schreber! Look at their car!"
Gerti and Charlie stop by the Apcott house, but find nothing out of the ordinary. They call the Collins house. Roderick tells her to get out. She suggests a seance. Rolling his eyes a bit, Roderick agrees. The three contact Marie in the upstairs hallway. She thinks the dark man (Ezekial) wants the children, but doesn't have details about how or what to do. Can they bring her and James peace somehow? Protect the children.
Tommy really needs to go to a hospital. After pumping a bit of saline into him, Dr. Schreber and Esme head for Greenfield. At the hospital, Dr. Schreber theorizes to the doctors that he was struck by lightning while flying the plane (to explain the weird dehydration). They're a bit confused by the symptoms, but sure, lightning is weird.
Back in North Ashfield, Roderick realizes that there's no way they're going to be able to come up with a happy story for Amelia, and tells her the basics of what they think happen. She's upset, but when he starts saying it sounds unbelievable, tartly informs him that she's been living in that house for the past month and isn't about to run about screaming that he's babbling nonsense about the supernatural now. He offers to put the remaining Apcotts up in his house in Boston until the 30th; he doesn't think it's safe to return to the house before that.
Gerti calls Eddie, telling him that Tommy's been in an airplane accident and she thinks Alison has sprouted wings and flown off. Perhaps he had better come and hear things in person.
The morning of the 19th dawns.