It had aught been a week since my venture into Dentonn’s Abbey, and in all honesty the memories still haunted me relentlessly. Though it wasn’t the memory of the place, nor my memory of the experience that tormented me so; rather the memory that all logic and ration had failed me in such a crucial time. It was as if nearly three full decades spent in the academic world had been but a fleeting experience, or even a vacant dream rather than any moniker of experience. But I was determined to put this alleged ghost to rest, if for no other reason than to redeem myself. Mayhaps more detailed planning had been in order than my blind excursion into the monster’s maw.
This started with trying to divine who the sender of the letter had been. Surely knowing who had composed such a wretched article and key to send in mine name would enlighten me as to the nature of what sort of debacle I had wandered into. To know if this was a legitimate inquiry or some absurd facade. Regrettably, there hadn’t been much to go upon from the contents of the envelope. Not much, mind, but still some.
I knew that the sender had been aware of my early tenure where I had earner the bemused title of “He of the University of Apparitions”, and whomever they were they were of meager means. Surely with a combination of recycled parchment and cheap ink, it ruled out many students and very nearly all the faculty from the University. That mocking title of mine was more well known in the first few years and had gradually faded from all but the most eccentric of rumours to grace the academy as well. There ended my analysis of the document. T’was something to go on, albeit not much.
A lead had presented itself when I had remembered that Professor Demont, a southern foreigner who was teaching at the University, had some history in graphoanalysis. He and I had spoken maybe once or twice in the past, but the conversations had been greatly strained when his thick accent melds with my utter disdain for human interaction. But, if I were to progress in my investigation, I would be made to force myself to his doorstep.
Professor Demont was an utterly contemptible sort. His lacquered skin and hair, sharp features and, contrary to his age, immaculate youth made him something of the topic of affections for the younger student host. Besides: his study in literature and romantically optimistic ideals and, worst of all, his garish generosity made him almost completely deplorable. He seemed positively giddy to pour over this mysterious envelope that I had brought him, claiming that all I needed to do to repay his efforts was to mark some mundane papers for him as reparations. I couldn’t call myself a languages savant by any means, but I made short work of the assignments I had been tasked with assessing.
We finished our tasks at about the same time fortunately. I’ll save myself the aggravation of reciting his analysis word for word; if for no other reason than I had to intercept his dialogue on several occasions for translations. The analysis goes as follows:
|The fact that the writing is in poor quality ink belies the genuine care that was placed into writing the address as well as the warning. The strokes are slow but deliberate, likely in an effort to masquerade the fact that the writer isn’t accustomed to writing in a cursive style. Given this deceit, it can also be postulated that the writer was not an individual of a higher degree of academic intelligence; but rather a sort of cunning that coincides with those who shirk others for their gain. The specific nuances of the forming of the letters in the warning can attest as much.|
This analysis was of great benefit, even if I were so lament to remark upon it in the presence of Professor Demont. He pestered me a while longer as to what Dentonn’s Abbey was, and I regaled him with the tale if only to shut him up and send him back to his office. With this new impression of the author in mind, I needed a little time to read through some old reports of mine to identify prospective student culprits.
This reading took me a day or so, but I was able to compile a short-list of possible culprits. First, there was Charles Dunner: a common thug with common ambitions. His greatest failing was that he was attempted to “strong arm” another student into writing his thesis in his name, while immediately outside my office. As a matter of principle, I did not intervene, though Mr. Dunner failed every other assignment he handed in to me.
Next, there was Rachel Kamloghyre. She had the interests of being a scholar, but lacked the wit. God knows that she certainly gave great effort to graduate all her courses, but the girl couldn’t have held a steady thought in her head for more than five minutes. I am to understand that she defaced Professor Attenborough’s automobile when she failed his final exam by an overwhelming degree; fortunately I cab-in or walk, so I was spared her tirades.
Finally we’re given the name Ashley McGuffin, a bright young individual who sought to disprove all my theories and experiments about the paranormal. Of the three, he was the only to graduate his program and bore no grudge against me; least to my knowledge. His fascination; nay, borderline obsession with the paranormal worried me on occasion, but he was ultimately benign in his interests and showed a magnificent grasp of the hard sciences. Of him I was quite proud.
Then came the legwork I was so loathe to perform; it wasn’t until the morning of the 18th before I had a rare morning without classes with which to venture into the depths of Hendricksburg and find these individuals. Of course, I kept no correspondence with a single one after they had left the University, so I had to pray that their initial listed addresses would have some trace of them.
Of the three, Kamloghyre was easiest to track down. Her bitter look when she saw me at her doorstep indicated to me that she had no intention of viewing my likeness ever again, despite the fact that it had been some sixteen years since we had parted ways. In the back of her disgusting little cabin I could hear the wails of children and youths; none too old to work. She confirmed quite readily that she had not sent the key, and I could assume no reason for her to lie about this claim.
The second on my list to track down was Mr. McGuffin. This one required a little more sleuthing on my part. I shall not bore you with the details as to how I managed to find him, rather the results are far more fascinating. I was lead to the Blechiem District of Hendricksburg: the industrial heart of this fair city. Coal furnaces and refineries had tinted the sky a slate blue here and whafts of clouds rolled in the streets. It is of great fortune that this district sits at the lowest end of the city, and separating true civilization from this smoke is the Midnight Quarter.
The cabbie had pulled over near the large workshop where McGuffin was allegedly working, and after paying him his criminal fare, he whipped his horse forward and disappeared into the haze that surrounded. The workshop itself was a simple sort of monster: rust red brick walls and a steel pitched roof. A thick chute shot to the sky where the combination of monoxides and dioxides would vent into the sky were it in operation.
The door itself was a simple enough piece of hardware: oak with a brass handle. The hinges looked new, and a soot-tinged grey sign read “McGuffin and Gears Ltd.”. At this sign, I knocked politely with a few loud thumps. The sky was alive with the sounds of pistons and welders all around, and I was sure if there was to be someone inside, they’d have a hard time hearing a modest tap.
Some time went by and the door went unanswered. And so, I thumped again with a little more gusto. Again, no response. The windows were too high up to peer inside, so I tried to pull the door. Unlocked. Indeed, someone simply must be within.
The door opened into a large and largely unkempt office of sorts. There were two desks across from one another, identical in shape and construction in very nearly every aspect. Both were littered with papers and notebooks, with heavy typewriters neatly set upon the centre of each. The desk on the left had a small oil lamp with an empty glass basin, though the work surface opposite was without such luxury. Filing cabinets and chalkboard lined all the walls and there was a small pile of chairs off to the corner of the room, just beside an open doorway that lead into the workshop proper.
I cautioned a polite, albeit somewhat obstreperous, explanation as to my intrusion. At first, there was no response. I figured I would distract myself with glancing at some of the articles upon the left-hand workstation, until I heard a loud clatter from beyond the door to the rear of the room. I had not noticed it initially as it was very nearly buried behind a jumble of boxes.
With no small measure of effort I forced my way to the door and pried it open. The sight beyond was startling. There, in the broom closet was not only the hanging corpse of Mr. McGuffin, but a woman hunched below it, looking up at me with an irritated gaze.