A Dry Drowning

The Sage was sitting at the table over dinner with Eden at his feet. His compatriots Claire and Rupert were busy eating the dinner the Sage’s man had left for them all. The Sage tried not to keep his man about the house too late whenever possible. There were so many times when he was needed when one crisis or other kicked up.

Tonight’s discussion was about something that wasn’t a crisis or least not at first appearance. The person involved was not in need of their immediate help. He was, in fact, not in need of anyone’s help at all. The plods local to the death were treating it as a suicide, a rather odd one, but a suicide nonetheless. After receiving the email and hearing about the event, the Sage had contact the local police station offering his help. He had been, alas, woefully incapable of getting the D.C. involved to admit that anything odd had occurred. This meant that they suicide would have to have been noticed by those who look out for such things in Devon or worse yet in London.

The Sage had gathered his cadre of people together to decide whether or not it was worth heading down there and not bothering to wait.

While they were tucking into their aglio e’ olio with heapings of parmesean cheese, both Claire and Rupert were reading the reports of the event. This meant that the Sage would be able to get right to what he had planned. While he and Rupert were having a glass of wine with their meal Claire abstained so that she could concentrate on the meeting. Her talents would be needed and alcohol would dull them somewhat. The Sage was keen that she see if she visualise what was going on in order to see if there was something else going when the death occurred.

“Alright I will read you the email I was sent by Douglas.” He paused. “I am not positive but it is possible that he was writing this email as he died. This is providing that they time stamp on the email is accurate.”

“Alright, let me concentrate a bit. Rupert can clear away the dishes and pour you two another glass while I focus. The police description is rather well written for change, this will help a lot.”

Rupert silently did as he was told, carefully not to either make undo noise or step on Eden. She was glued to the Sage’s left leg, making sure to keep at least some contact at all times with her master. Rupert, to his credit, was much less sceptical about Claire’s talents of late. They were getting on much better than they had at first. There was some tension between the different schools of magical strategy practiced by the pair. It took quite a while for Rupert not consider her an interloper into the serious business of fighting Cthulhu’s minions.

“Ready” asked the Sage after patting Eden on the head and having another gulp of his merlot.

“As I ever will be,” retorted Claire. “I am getting a general picture, but it will be hit or miss I can get the vibe of the event. The police due rather make things a bit too clinical for this sort of visualisation.”

The Sage picked up the pieces of printer paper and carefully arranged them, making to focus on the beginning of writing. In order to help Claire he needed to have the right tone to his voice.

The Sage began slowly and with purpose.

“I write to you with not much time left. This will be the final missive from me to your good self. I thank you for your patience in responding to emails on subjects of mutual interest to us both. I am afraid things have gotten rather out of hand on my end.

Those feelings I told you about are getting stronger each day now. The darkness that stalks me is visible to me…it has escaped my dreams and now follows me wherever I go. I know not if anyone can see the dark cloud that follows me wherever I go slowly gaining on me as I go about my life. The blackness mocks me and toys with me. Making it clear it can take whenever it wishes.

The doom envelopes my house even when the rest of area is bathed in sunshine. The rays do not penetrate the veil that surrounds this house. Either others on the street cannot see or dare not look at it. I have had no comments from anyone about the state of affairs. My acquaintances still greet me, but no with sadness.

I feel…no…I am a condemned man. Condemned to whatever fate the impenetrable darkness has for me. I sit her and wait knowing that my time will soon come. I shudder to imagine what fate awaits me, will it be an eternity of torment or merely being marooned in timeless blackness and nothingness.

I finally understand the Adamic tale with the snake. I constantly wish I did not know what stalks me. I pine for my days of youthful ignorance and bliss. The days when I lived a normal life unaware of what would become of me.”

The Sage carefully went to the next page as he gently sipped his wine to wet his whistle.

“I know that you must encounter this sorry tale rather often. For you investigate the poor unfortunate souls who either through no fault of their own or their own curiosity share my fate.

I do not want to have anyone else suffer on my behalf…but I had to send you this missive. I needed to share my last moments with someone in order to set my mind at peace.

I hear the rustling, the dark wind behind…the hair on the back of my neck does not move. I fear my eventual fate but not what befalls me now.

I only hope I have the time to hit send before it takes me.”

The Sage and Rupert could hardly miss Claire’s reaction to all of this. She tensed as she listened to each word. Whenever whatever was stalking him was mentioned, she twitched as her brain was being scratched from the inside.

“The room has begun to grow dark, the light around unable to penetrate the oil like darkness. The walls behind my computer show odd shadows and images…

I must go now…”

And with that the email ended, there was no signature or greeting. It merely ended.

The Sage broke the silence. “It was go he managed to send the email. At least the poor man got his last request.”

Rupert spoke up, “I am guessing you have not shared this email with the police? You do realise that they will find the outgoing email to you?”

“Considering how cut and dried the DC thought it was, I would not be surprised if they didn’t bother.”

Rupert then asked the question on everyone’s mind. “How did the man die in the end?”

Claire spoke as if she were in pain. “He drowned.”

“Oh,” responded Rupert. “Just you normal suicide then…”

“Yes quite. You do see what I mean.”

“Might be a bit of job to get ahold of the body to have a look at it. I gather was not listed as cause of death on the death certificate?”

“You guessed right…simply said “death by own hands”.”

“Ah, how easy for them then. The Devon police don’t seem to be keen to have a mysterious death on their hands I see. You would think that considering what part of the country they are in they would be used it. After how many odd things wash up on the shore of Lundy or near Appledore frequently?

“Well, it seems that someone has decided that odd aquadic creatures turning up every so often is not the best things to attract the gormless American tourists.“

“Poor man…at he least he died quickly. Well at least his corporeal body died quickly…his essence’s fate is still rather sketchy.”

“Take it easy Claire, what exactly did you see?”

“Exactly what he said really. Staring at a computer screen typing then everything went black. A black so black as to be purple…I felt an incredible sense of doom and desperation.”

“So you have no idea what took him?”

“Well it wasn’t human and it certainly wasn’t got to let me see what it was…”

The Sage took another gulp from his glass. “So is it worth pursuing?”

“There is nothing we can do for him…we would ruffle quite a few feathers…”

Rupert piped in; “what you are saying is that it is an exercise in intellectual professional curiosity?”

“In short it would be…probably.”

After much discussion about who would and would not be going on the wild Old Ones chase. It was agreed they should all go and by what means they were going to go. The option of flying was ixned after Eden made it clear that she would not be happy to be left behind.

It was a disgustingly early as they boarded trawler Rupert had secured them a ride on across the sea to Bideford. The Captain was unsure about taking Eden along until it was made clear that she was going one way or tother. He was especially welcoming when Rupert suggested that he inform her that she would not be going.

It would take most of the day to reach Bideford this way, but it was more sensible that taking a train to London and then back down to Devon.

Despite the discussions about Eden, Rupert was well known to the Captain. He had insisted as is standard that the crew should be only his most trusted and that no one unknown should be given access to the ship the night before. Even with these cautions, the three human companions all carried extra protection should their travel attract any untoward attention. Considering the recently cracked plot to sink a cruise ship, it could be seen as risky to take the water route to Devon.

Either Claire or Rupert were on watch during the whole trip; the Sage and Eden were confined to the Captain’s quarters for the entire trip.

After a event free trip, the ship pulled into Bideford late in the afternoon. The Captain had managed to obtain a docking space next to the high street, normally the reserve of Russian trawlers and other larger vessels.

As is normal in these sort of situations, or so it seemed, the man in question had a small bungalow that was somewhat secluded from the town. Despite the encroaching development on the hills around the town, there was a wee distance between the small bungalow and the nearest house. This was mostly due to trees and shrubbery rather than actual distance.

After having a late lunch at the 3Cs internet café, the trio w/Eden headed towards the house. In order that they might not attract attention they approached the house on foot via uphill all the way. The effort was all for naught as they were greeted by a rather annoyed looking officer upon reading the gate to the house.

Rupert whispered, “looks like someone has been tipped off at our arrival.” He paused, “I do so enjoy watching Claire use her breaking and entering skills.”

She snickered back at him in a mocking fashion.

“A bit out of your stomping ground isn’t it Sage?” was the officer’s opening salvo. His accent was definitely not local.

“Oh nice, not even a hello.” Claire grumbled.

“Surely you realise Devon is not part of Wales?”

The Sage approached the officer, who was alone, and calmly responded. “Our enemies do not care about human boundaries so I must go where ever I am needed.”

“You are needed here? That is news to me Sage. Last I checked, it was simple tinfoil-hat brigade suicide. Nothing freaky about this one.”

“Did he just say freaky?” Whispered Claire to Rupert who was restraining Eden from standing between the Sage and the officer.

“Well I am here to find out for certain…” The Sage was trying to make sure to avoid having to admit how he knew.

“You obviously know something we don’t or you wouldn’t be here…” He now got very close to his elder. “I hope you aren’t withholding any information from this investigation.”

“I thought you said it was a suicide plain and simple.”

“You think you know something we don’t…” he paused and tried to be as intimidating as possible. “If you aren’t telling us something I can bang you lot up for obstruction.”

Rupert got fed up and blurted out; “trying to make a name for yourself are you? Banging up the ole’ Sage here would not exactly do for your career you know?”

“Really? Last I know we in England don’t go for the x-files nonsense as much as you celts do in Wales and Scotland. We are more sensible here…”

For a moment it seemed to Claire that Eden was restraining Rupert. She placed her hand discreetly on her colleagues belt and gently held him.

The Sage changed tack to ensure entrance. “Well as I do know something…I might as well just head into the house anyway. You seem to be so keen on arresting us.” He began to walk forward brushing past the rather surprised officer. “I was the last person that the gentleman in question talked to before he died.”

Rupert, Eden and Claire pushed past the officer as well. Rupert managing to should him just enough for him to lose his balance a little as he tried to reach for his radio to call for back-up.

“I estimate we have about 10 minutes before the plods show up to harass us into leaving.” Rupert advised as they all walked into the door.

The officer looked more the fool as the house did not look anything like one of a tin-foil brigade member. Beside a few modern electrical creature comforts, like a big telly and a cordless phone the house looked as it would have 30 years before.

“I sense a woman’s touch here, probably his mother but could be the previous owner.” Said Claire.

As one would expect, Eden led the way to the computer room.

As they entered the front door was pushed open with some force as their favourite officer rushed in behind them. Rather than yelling he was spluttering.

The computer room, no doubt the gentleman’s office, was yet again not at all a candidate for Loon & Gardens. It was neat, well laid out with very little in terms of clutter. The small bookshelf did not contain the normal collection of stygian texts found in the cliché’ Old Ones victim. Computer and game manuals vied for space with a folder of professional Microsoft discs. A set of clear fronted drawers contained computer parts and components.

By this time, Rupert’s mass was blocking the entrance to the room to buy the Sage some time. There was little need as both both Eden and Claire quickly sensed another non-human presence. The far corner of the room, directed behind and to the right of the computer chair looked rather odd. It shimmered in the light of the room, the texture was rippled and dark. The ripples revealed a blackness that no light could penetrate. As the trio stood before it the corner wall seem to draw back further into the corner, giving the room an odd curve to oneside.

As the Sage began to speak, the officer managed to get by Rupert. “I was right..”

Claire and the Sage turned in horror as corner of the room reached out to grab the unprotected man. Rupert, a few seconds prior pushing the man away, leapt to his aid.

So sudden was the attack that the officer was unable to even muster a scream. Claire grabbed Rupert from behind and held on for dear life. Eden grabbed the Sage with her teeth as he leaned forward to place an elder sign under the officer’s belt.

“Let go now!” Commanded the Sage. His colleagues looked a bit perturbed while instinctively following his command.

The officer disappeared into the corner of the wall.

“Rupert get ready…”

“For what?”

“Just stand in front of me and get ready?” The Sage waited for Rupert to stand in front of him and moved towards the door. His timing was just about right as Rupert suddenly found his line of site filled with the officer flying at him.

The officer had a padded fall as Rupert half caught him as he was flung out of the wall. Rupert just kept his balance as he attempted to gently lower his charge onto the ground.

After ejecting its meal the wall shuddered and closed taking much around the area to whence it came. It was fortunate there was no upper-story to the house as it might not have allowed the group to flee before collapse. As it was they just made it outside as the entire building collapsed itself as if a house of cards.

Fortunately for the group, back-up was not there yet, despite the nearing sound of sirens.

“So who gets to tell the locals what happened?” Asked Rupert.

“Leave that to me…just make sure there is not much to investigate.”

Rupert rushed over to the building with a small bag launching out of his hand aimed at the middle of building.

He was safely back with the group as the first car arrived, emptying quickly of its inhabitants.

Claire was holding the officers head in her lap, having wrapped his newly white hair in a gauze bandage.

“Get an ambulance!” Yelled the Sage to the stunned constables. “This man needs medical help now!”

One of the men in front of the Sage finally reacted and began to call it in.

The Sage began his explanation before being prompted.

“The house was collapsing as we got here, we just got him out on time. His head has been badly injured but he is still alive.” As if on cue, which in fact it was, the building behind them exploded in a ball of flame. Everyone dove for the ground as bits of the building flew about…

“Better get the fire brigade as well then…”Quipped Rupert.

The Sage and Co hung around a bit after giving their stories and their details to the requisite PC. Any research by a competent PC would find out who they really were with the requisite raft of referees.

Their departure was unimpeded, the Police even arranging for them to have rooms at a water-side country hotel. It was not until well after their return to Wales that the officer woke up. So traumatised was he that he was unable to remember most of what happened. The state of his hair was the talk of the area. For his dark brown hair was now bleached white. For the rest of his life he never spoke about what he saw if any memory remained…


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