The Fixer From Boston – Chapter Eight

The Fixer From Boston – Chapter Eight

Thursday 16th April 1925 – Atlantic City Investigations:

10:30pm – The Pink Feather Club in Atlantic City – Continued

As the lights slowly come back up at The Pink Feather everyone seems to calm down after strutting their St Vitus dance to Thelma Ickerson’s warbling.

Things have turned very, very strange indeed.

Thelma Ickerson
Thelma Ickerson

Ed and I head to the bar for another drink. – Best make ‘em doubles. Yep, those bar hops definitely have lumps of wax in their ears. Worth remembering!

Morello heads over to The Pink Feather’s back room door where the cute little broad was taken and tries to eavesdrop….it ain’t subtle and he doesn’t hear nothing.

We nod to each other and head off, passing on the opportunity to cause a scene. This drum could get a little cold and we figure we ain’t carrying enough heat to warm it up with the natives. We leave The Pink Feather.

We look to head off to The Gentlemen Loser, but change course, in front of McNifey and Cherry a shabby looking guy heads out just ahead of them. It looks like his hand is bleeding.

The Pink Feather Club
The Pink Feather Club

We amble out after them and cross the street from The Pink Feather.

Has he deliberately hurt himself to break the spell? McNifey spots the angle, catches him up and tries to engage him.

This scruffy, late 30’s something fellow is polite enough but not interested in idle chitter. He departs with a

Stranger: “May God be with you!”

So some kind of religious nut who likes to look at dames. Hell there ain’t no shortage of them in the seminary.

We swap places with McNifey and Morello. Ed and I then tail the mark for seven blocks, downtown. He stops. Looks quickly about and enters our Saviour of Christ Mission, a lumpen brown stone Catholic flop house in a less salubrious part of town. We go to follow. Father O’Malley greets us at the door blocking our way with a nonplussed wrinkle of his heavy brow. Clearly we don’t look like his usual parishioners.

MaGee: “We’ve come to pray.”

MaGee mumble. It’s kind of the truth, but I can still feel myself reddening. Hey, it’s a Catholic thing!

Eventually, Berkeley finds our man in a side room and starts with the questioning routine. He seems to take us on face value and opens up like a shucked oyster.

Farther Jericho: “I don’t want to be enchanted by the dirge, I had to distract myself. They are drawing some kind of life essence from the audience; it’s why they go all light headed.”

Farther Jericho: “Yes I knew what was going to happen, I had a clue.’

Ed: “So what put you onto them?”

Ed continues quizzing.

Farther Jericho: “I’d crossed paths before, one of my flock wanted protection but I couldn’t help him. He was a ship’s captain….”

Ed: “Was his name Pruett?’’

Farther Jericho: “Yes!”

This hits him like a sap to the skull and I can’t believe our luck….this has to be the mysterious Father Jericho from up near Newbury Port.

Farther Jericho: “Ye..yes, Pruett had been cursed with ‘Breath of the Deep.’’

Jericho now looks up and looks intently at Edward Berkley.

Farther Jericho: “You have a look of death about and.. you are unrepentant!”

Ed: “I suppose you are correct.”

Ed ponders.

“Ambivalence’!? Ha! That must be a technical term for a loose screw!”

MaGee: “Look, we’ve got a place that is safe and protected – we have a boat that is apparently protected by a strange sign. If you believe that kinda hokum! You’ll be as safe there as anywhere”

I offer.

Farther Jericho: “Then let us leave, I don’t want to bring doom upon this place and its people.”

The Pink Feather Club
The Pink Feather Club

McNifey and Morello are taking a discrete watch in the shadows at the entrance to the Mission. They spot a mark, smoking on a street corner across from them. Has he seen them too? He scurries away into the gloomy night, before they can act.

Berkley and I lead Farther Jericho through the back entrance of the Mission. Ed grabs a 4’ silver plate candlestick holder grasping it like a baby comforter.

Farther Jericho helps us to fill in some blanks as we head back to the Beauregard.

Farther Jericho: “Evil comes in many guises and black magic is just one of them.”

MaGee: “You mean that lullaby that Thelma Ickerson was singing was a magic spell?”

I ask, and his nod is an unswerving nod of solid brass conviction

MaGee: “So where’d you learn your stuff about these Deep Fish things?”

Farther Jericho: “I was run out of my diocese in Innsmouth by the Esoteric order of Dagon. Sloane is one of the chief members of the Order. He’s somehow maintained his humanity and not started the descent into pisceanmorphisation and is looking to extend the Order’s sphere of influence under the guise of a legitimate businessman.”

Looks like Thelma Ickerson was brought out of Innsmouth as a kind of thrall and is helping Wiseacre – almost certainly another member of the Esoteric order of Dagon and confederate of Sloane – to possibly take control of the East Coast. It’s certainly an option judging by who’s been washing up around here.

Farther Jericho: “I’m not quite sure what or who they are empowering with all this chanting and life force gathering, but God has sent me from the Forest and now on to Atlantic City to stop whatever they are doing. God’s path is never an easy one”

Jericho says, quickly crossing himself.

McNifey and I follow suit.

The Pink Feather Club Staff
The Pink Feather Club Staff

We know what we must do. Whether we believe this screwy priest of we just want to close down Wiseacre and his wailing piece of tail, we need to get into “The Pink Feathers” and take an inventory.

Farther Jericho: “If we’re going to the Devil’s realm I will need a weapon”

Farther Jericho mutters. Ed offers him a .45 still intact with a US cavalry holster.

Morello finds a suitable wagon to move us in. Berkley sparks her up on the second attempt. We grab some ropes, our weapons and a ball of wax.

02:10am – The Pink Feather Club Raid

The wagon pulls up around the side of “The Pink Feather” and we wait to see who leaves, paying particular attention for Thelma Ickerson.

The pretty chick in the red dress leaves – so they let her go, but what happened to her!?  She walks across to where her fat sugar daddy is sat in a fancy white tourer and lets off with some serious firepower. That little bunny is not happy, and don’t Papa know it!

Other customers begin to leave The Pink Feather and eventually so do the staff. At last the two big bruisers in monkey suits come out front, making cover for Thelma Ickerson as she jumps into a large sedan and heads South, we resist the urge to follow.

We figure there are more staff inside, but they must be doing the graveyard. Time for us to start work too.

Atlantic City Sewers
Atlantic City Sewers

We double round the block and look to take up a manhole cover. Morello and Berkley head down into the sewer first, on recon duty.

It is the ghost who picks out what sounds suspiciously like a wet webbed footstep. Within seconds a clammy patch of impenetrable mist appears in front of the boys. They retrace their steps, moving quickly and silently along the walkway back towards the open manhole, 100’ away.

Without warning Morello feels a terrible, crushing weight exerted upon him, pinning him with what feels to him like writhing, powerful tentacles, constricting, python like around his chest.  The rank stench of rotten seaweed and foetid brackish water assails the senses. It is a death grip that The Ghost resists as much in mind as body. Another spell?

Berkley is aimed and ready as, out of the sewer water, a glistening Deep One rises silently from the filthy sewer water, ready to attack. Berkley whips back the trigger mechanism of his trench gun and blasts the inhuman creature with a devastating shower of leaden rain.

Morello, with an effort worthy of mighty Hercules, raises his trench gun and blasts the Fish Man from near point blank. The creature staggers backwards, stumbling while trying to use its webbed appendages to reacquaint it’s innards with their rightful place. It fails, staggers backwards, slumping into the water like a fat guy’s belly-flop.

Berkley stands momentarily entranced by the visceral flotsam that remains, floating atop this canal of human effluent like an unholy water lily.

Instantaneously the effects of the tentacle spell unravel from a very grateful Morello.

The rest of us, including Father Jericho, descend from the street as soon as we hear the shots echo out.

We stop and let the blast echoes subside but hear no more sounds of movement. The mysterious fog patch though, does not dissipate. So, instinctively we cross the sewer and then cross back again to get around it A few minutes later we reach the ladder that will take us to cellar of “The Pink Feather”. Half way up is a wooden hatch. Pay dirt!

Berkley climbs up and listens….almost reassuringly he hears human voices:

Hench Men 1: “You think the swimmer got them?”

Ed then makes the most curious rasping, gurgling sounds. Another spell? What the hell, is he choking? No, no in an inspired piece of theatre Ed makes the sound a deep one speaking…

Ed As Deep One: “Hhhhelp thme…hjjelllp thmeee!’

He thumps on the hatch. Then raises his weapon in readiness.

Initially Wiseacres men are unsure, but eventually curiosity get the better of them and they unhinge the hatch….slap bang into a very angry swarm of big lead pellets, as Berkley unleashes a full frontal, point blank assault.

Of the two men facing him one drops instantly as a casserole of bone, brains, blood and teeth exit his skull. Berkeley’s infamous trench fighting skills remain undiminished as he gets the other with another devastating point blank blast. Death is certain and satisfyingly instant.

I grab McNifey.

MaGee: “Billy, we’ve caught them with their pants down! Let’s get back up top and catch any rats looking to escape this dirty little ship.”

Meanwhile, Morello follows Ed in to a store room. He stops to catch his breath and hears from behind a doorway ahead of him, the sound of a knife being drawn from a sheath.

As The Ghost hops back, one of the barman steps out and throws a knife at Farther Jericho, who has just stepped into view, the blade whistles harmlessly past the priest’s head. His assailant tries to edge back into cover, but just a little too slowly for his health, and duly receives a prescription for an intravenous double dose of the wrong kinda medicine – he drops, spasms briefly and leaks across the rough stone floor.

Suddenly the sounds of unearthly chanting pipe up from the next room along the short stone corridor.

Morello, discarding any concern for his own safety, seizes the opportunity and makes a desperate charge into the dimly lit  storeroom from whence the sounds emanate – only to be met by another glistening, scaly Deep One that is gesticulating wildly in his direction; apparently sending forth a blast of invisible power that lifts Morello like a crazy Italian rag doll, tossing him backwards and into the wall behind – with a whoosh of rapidly displaced air and the solid thump of Italian meat hitting Yankee masonry.

Morello does not rise from this spectacular assault.

Berkley finishes off the barman with his first shot then pivots like a wild eyed matador and directs a rather more visible blast of fire power at the chanting creature, with his second shot.

The chanting stops, replaced by the exotic squelching of oversized fish innards making contact with an immovable surface. One thing’s for sure, the cleaner won’t be happy in the morning!

Father Jericho helps to bring Morello back to consciousness after that weird burst of force nearly takes him out for good.

Deep One
Deep One

Unaware of the chaos ensuing below us we run around to the back door of “The Pink Feather”. I listen at the peephole hatch set into it. Then cautiously, McNifey knocks on door as I hold my trench gun, stock held tight into my shoulder. At the sound of the hatch opening I let off a blast and am met by a reciprocal blast from the other side. Thankfully we have set ourselves on either side of the door. Neither shot finds a target.

We fire more rounds into the door, but it’s soon clear that the door’s been heavily strengthened and bolted. This route’s clearly a dead end, but my hope is that at least we’re creating a diversion for the boys.

McNifey taps me on the shoulder and silently nods at the roof. Barely breaking stride, he shins up a drainpipe and goes off in search of a skylight or inspection hatch.  I go to follow but it seems my new suit trousers have been cut a bit too tight and climbing after McNifey turns into a painful experience. After a few failed attempts I give up and wave McNifey on, while I keep dog below.

In the cellar, Morello manages to pick the lock of the last room in the basement – within an eerily pulsing green glow, leeks out into the corridor. The three men gaze, mouths agog, at a foot high glowing piece of coral sat on a base of black basalt that has been carved with writhing tentacles emanating from and wrapping around it, in a deathly grasp that sends a shiver down Morello’s bruised spine.

Deep One Statue
Deep One Statue

Father Jericho approaches the coral statuette and tries to pick it up with his gloved hands. It is a reckless thing to do, as immediately he screams,

Father Jericho: “My hands are stuck!”

Father Jericho begins gurgling, and water starts coming out of his mouth.

Berkley, who suggested picking it up in the first place, kicks Jericho hard in the side and knocks him out. The coral statue falls from his hands and on to the ground, bounces, and is curiously unharmed by the impact.,

Up on the roof, McNifey locates an access hatch and takes a few minutes trying to prise it open with his small Trench Knife. I  blast away at the back door to give him cover.

Eventually the lock pops And he drops down onto a desk in the room below.

I hear police whistles closing in and move back to the van, ready to make a move out of here.

McNifey starts looking about, finds a couple of thick brown glass bottles of Chloroform next to a chair with straps and a bottle of cooking tequila.

PETE CAN you describe layout here please.

McNifey then steps out into the club proper and sees that the front door is now unlocked and open. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to realise someone has gotten away. So it can only be a matter of time before Wiseacre gets a call.

McNifey also hears the tell-tale approach whistles and they ain’t playing Dixie. McNifey slips out and meets me at the van.

Unaware of circumstances above, Berkley unhitches his hand axe and deftly chops off the dearly departed deep one’s webbed hands, Brutally and cunningly he uses them to move the glowing art piece and drops it into a hessian sack.

I pop my head into the sewers and call out a warning, at which they all scurry down into the sewer and emerge by the van which Billy is now gunning into action.

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