Mansions of Madness

The Old Damned House - Part 1

Magic, Mummies & Chowdaaah

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On a Sunday afternoon in September 1926 a select group of eccentric and foppish investigators of the Silver Stroker Crime & Mystery Club assemble in the club reading room on the 5th floor within a Boston apartment building. Smoke fills the air as the various members puff away on their pipes and cigarettes, inhaling the healthy tobacco vapours which are well known to keep all manner of maladies and illnesses at bay. These happy select few represent the keenest minds and wits of the club and they have assembled having accepted the rare privilege and challenge of conducting an actual investigation. The club president, Bartholomew Petard enters the room, accompanied by a stranger, a stern looking middle aged man dressed in a well cut suit. Bartholomew introduces George Knowles to the group and gives him the floor.

Knowles explains that he is co-owner of the Rimant & Knowles insurance company, based here in Boston. On Wednesday the notorious Hazard Pearls were reported stolen from the Hazard mansion in the Connecticut town of Mystic. Knowles has spoken with the investigating officer, Detective Wheeler, and is disturbed by what he has heard and the policeman’s attitude. He has little faith that the investigation will get to the truth; fortunately Bartholomew has told him that the keen minds of the club are prepared to assist and get to the bottom of things. Knowles asks that the group goes to Mystic as soon as possible and retrieves the missing jewels and more importantly, identifies the culprit. He elaborates that he is of the opinion that it is an inside job and that one of the Hazard family members has done the deed. Fliss enquires as to why this is believed and Knowles explains that the Hazards are one of the oldest and most well known New England families and that they have been steadily selling off their material assets over the years to make ends meet. The Hazard Pearls have an insurance value of $500,000 and furthermore Detective Wheeler has stated that ingress into the house was made through an unlocked window and that there is no sign of the thief’s exit. Fliss asks about the Hazard family members but Knowles only knows of Prime Hazard and a female, whose name he can’t remember offhand. With the briefing complete, Knowles asks if there are any further questions; Hugo, a stuttering illusionist, enquires whether there are expenses are to be paid during the investigation. Knowles is horrified by this question since it was Bartholomew who was so insistent on getting the club involved in the issue. The rest of the group quickly shut Hugo up and Bartholomew just as quickly ushers Knowles out, whispering to his nephew, Ezekial, to ensure that no similar embarrassments occur. Left on their own and having received their task the group decides that they will head out to Mystic early the next morning.

On Monday morning the group sets out on the road divided equally among two vehicles; Fliss’ open topped Bentley and Hugo’s van which contains is magician’s equipment and staging. It takes them just over three hours to reach Mystic and they encounter no issues except for Fliss’ awful and reckless driving which leaves a trail of roadkill all the way back to Boston. They park up on Main Street and opt to go into the Benson Hotel. Fliss, an aristocratic British socialite is used to the finer things in life and doesn’t hesitate in renting the hotel’s penthouse apartment for three nights. The group ensconce themselves in their new digs, unpacking their baggage and dividing themselves up into the three bedrooms. It’s close to lunchtime and after a meeting to discuss their next steps Fliss decides that she will go to the town’s only restaurant, The Albion, for luncheon while Ezekial, Michael and Stanford head off to the town library to begin some background research on the Hazards. Ravi, a demented psychologist, goes over to the town hall opposite where he charms the clerk into compiling all the marriage, financial and property records on the Hazards. The clerk tells him to come back before closing time, which is at 4.30pm.

Fliss finds that she is too early for lunch for the chef has not even arrived. Undeterred she takes a seat and orders herself a gin cocktail only to be informed that prohibition is still in force; the flapper has to settle for an Elderflower cordial instead and sits sipping in the near deserted restaurant while a piano player plinks away in the corner. Meanwhile in the library, Ezekial discovers a mess of stacks of books all piled up on the large tables and near bare shelves. After a while an elderly librarian appears and informs him that she is in the middle of cataloguing the libraries holdings and doesn’t expect to be finished on the task for at least another year. The occultist dilettante asks if there are any books concerning the Hazard family but is told that there may well be but the librarian doesn’t know where they currently are but is more than welcome to look for himself. The three investigators then spend the next three hours searching through the random stacks of books in the hopes of finding some information. Buns and cakes are purchased and consumed from a nearby bakery while the men continue to work. Their perseverance pays off when they come across a diary entry for a woman who was present for a Hazard family funeral in 1865. They also learn that further information may be available in the Mystic Historic Society which is located a mere street away.

Back at the restaurant Fliss is informed that the chef has finally made an appearance and after much deliberation over the rather limited menu opts for one of the many available chowders. A passable but uninspiring seafood meal is duly experienced.

After lunch all members of the group converge on the Historical Society and spend the majority of the afternoon going through the newspaper archives and artefacts. They discover a swaddled bundle of bones in a display case with a label declaring them to be the bones of an Indian Mummified Baby which was found in a graveyard in 1827. Ezekial and Ravi scrutinize the object and are unsettled by what their knowledge tells them – it’s not the remains of a child, nor is there anything to indicate it being of native American origin. As they continue to search they uncover a journal which gives the account of a Nailor Tom back in 1759, who encountered a Wilfred Hazard under strange circumstances. Checking the newspaper archives they then find an account from 1827 which report of the mysterious disappearances of 8 of the town’s residents; the Hazard family were at the forefront of the searches but no trace of the missing people were ever found.

Ravi heads back to the town hall and is informed by the clerk that the records of the Hazards have been compiled but cannot be viewed until the next day due to it being closing time. The group then head back to their apartment to discuss their various findings and what their next course of action should be. There is some concern about approaching the Hazard family directly and many feel that they want to learn more about them before doing so. By now it’s early evening and after enquiring with Harold on the front desk they learn that the small town only has St Michaels, the Old Church, the New Church and a few scattered knitting and poetry groups as a means of entertainment. Sadly local connections and introductions are required to join the knitting and poetry circles. In the god-fearing town of Mystic, The Albion serves as the slow beating heart of social life and with due dread Fliss heads back there with Hugo and Ravi accompanying her. Ezekial decides that he will remain in the apartment and contemplate the facts learned so far. Michael is keen to explore the Old Church cemetery where the mummified “baby” was discovered back in 1827.

Life has picked up a little in The Albion. A violinist has joined the piano player and there are now seven customers dining inside, all of them younger than those at lunch too. The trio are seated and presented with the same menu as before and while they contemplate which flavour of chowder to select they observe a stern looking middle aged man in a suit sat in a corner booth. Hugo, ever the extrovert decides to amuse his companions with some impromptu magic tricks which alarms two young diners sat a few tables away. Fliss walks over to them and apologises for her companion’s bizarre and inappropriate behaviour. As she is doing so the stern looking middle aged man appears and demands to know who everyone is and what they are doing there, showing a police badge and identifying himself as Detective Wheeler.

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