The Case Files of Jake Malone

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Chapter Sixteen

The doorway led me into a large hallway, but instead of wooden walls and doorways, I only found a raised wooden walkway with stone walls. For a minute I was afraid I was still in the lizard tunnels, but I quickly realized that the walls were made of cut stone, and not by the act of tunneling. Furthermore, the raised walkway only extended a dozen feet or so in either direction, as if the floor had fallen in at some point, and someone had decided to replace it with wood, instead of stone.

Electric lighting ran up and down the long hallway, but I still saw no windows, and no other doors. If I’d have had a coin, I would have flipped it to choose the direction I went. But I must have left all my change in my other loincloth.

With a frustrated sigh, I headed off to the left. It was much colder wherever I was now, and I began to frantically wish I had more clothing. It wasn’t until nearly fifteen minutes had gone by that I finally reached a doorway. The entire time I had walked my mind had conjured up the image of a never ending hallway, like in a bad nightmare.

I very cautiously placed my ear to the door, with my hand on the handle. I pushed my senses hard, trying to notice if anyone was in the room beyond. I was forced to give up. Either my senses were once again out of whack, or there really wasn’t anyone on the other side. I wouldn’t know which one was correct without opening the door.

Turning the handle as slowly as I could, I pushed the door open just a crack. I peeked inside through the crack, but the room was completely dark. I sighed mentally, and dashed into the room, shutting the door behind me quickly and silently. There was no outcry, no alarm. I fumbled at the wall until my hand felt a light switch.

When I flipped the lights on I found myself inside of a woman’s bedroom. There was lace everywhere, the color such a bright pink that it almost physically hurt to look at it. It was on the bed, on the thick curtains that covered a window, in the form of little doilies on the arm chair. What there was not, however, was a person.

A closer look revealed a coating of dust on nearly every surface. This was a room that had not been used in a long time. I searched the room quickly, hoping to find anything I could use for either clothing or a weapon, but came up empty. I suppose I could have draped the pink curtains around me like a toga, but a man dressed in bright pink would hardly go unnoticed against the gray walls of the building.

I moved gratefully to the window, finally having the chance to see just where the hell in the city I was. I knew that if I could get to the street level, I could make my way back to Professor Rafkin’s in no time. The scene that met my eyes when I pulled the curtain away, however, dashed that hope to pieces.

The window was blocked by steel bars thicker than my thumb. I’d need a hacksaw and half a day to cut an opening wide enough for me to fit through. After that, I would need a very, very long rope. The window sat on the edge of a sheer cliff, the ground nearly two hundred feet beneath me. Way off in the distance I could see the city skyline. I realized with a groan where I was. The mansion of Mad Moby.

Ask enough people in any town and you’re always bound to find a story or two about a person or place that is taboo. Maybe it’s the haunted house at the end of the block, where people claim the dead return every full moon to take vengeance on the living. Perhaps it’s the old woman everyone knows is a witch. Sometimes it’s a creepy section of woods where everyone is sure that a monster lurks. For the city of Vells, it was Mad Moby’s mansion.

Professor Octavius Moby had been a peer, of sorts, of Professor Rafkin’s. He was absolutely brilliant, of course, and also, as his nickname suggests, quite insane. His primary study was of nature, of animal life in particular. Migration patterns, mating habits, feeding tendencies and territories. He studied them all.

He became so obsessed with the animal kingdom that he began to forsake his own species. He built a giant monstrosity of a mansion as far away from humans as he could, while still remaining close enough to use their power sources, water supplies, and food markets, of course. From his mansion he continued to study animal life, while sending out the occasional discovery to the scientific community.

After a time, people began to disappear from the city. Homeless for the most part. Sometimes the occasional prostitute or street thief. No one that would be missed too much by the average citizen. They always disappeared at night, and there were never any witnesses or crime scenes.

It was at about the same time that Professor Moby began releasing papers whose main theses were that humans were a parasite on the face of the planet, and that if we were to survive as a species, we needed to become more like animals. Or they needed to become more like us.

Almost a year went by before the police realized the relevance of the two events, and even that required a metaphorical kick in the face. A woman had called the police, claiming that a monster had broken into her home. It had tried to talk to her, and claimed that it was her son, who had gone missing several months before. She had stabbed the creature, locked it in the pantry, and needed the police there immediately.

No one on the force took her seriously, of course, but someone had to respond to the call to reassure the woman. That someone had been a freshly graduated officer and his partner. Detective Wilson and I were welcomed into the woman’s home gratefully. She told us that the monster had gone silent, but that she was still afraid to open the pantry. Wilson and I did it for her. Lying dead on the ground was a small… creature.

It had wolf-like arms and legs, but the front paws had human thumbs attached to them, the thread that had sewn them on while they healed in place was still barely visible. The creature had a tail that stuck out of a hole in the back of its blue jeans, and its upper body was that of a human, with a kitchen knife sticking out of the chest. The sides of the creature’s head was covered in fur, and two furry, pointed dog ears stuck out where human ears should have been. The face though, was the worst. It had the coloring, and even proportions, if I blurred my eyes, of a human. But the skull had been bent and warped until it more closely resembled a wolf. The chin, mouth, and nose had been elongated into the form of a dog’s snout.

Sick to our stomachs we closed the door, and asked the woman what exactly the creature had told her. She told us again that it had claimed to be her lost son, but that other than that she was too distraught to catch anything it said. She thought she might have heard the name Moby, but she wasn’t certain. The creature had been too horrifying for her mind to process what it was saying.

We thanked her, called in a meat wagon, and left with the body. Neither of us told the woman what we suspected. That the creature had been telling the truth.

Professor Rafkin, as a friend of mine and as the leading scientist in the community, had been called in to examine the body. He had confirmed our worst suspicions. That the creature had been somehow spliced with both human and wolf body parts. He showed Mad Moby’s most recent papers to the police, and they responded in force.

Every available senior officer drove out to Mad Moby’s mansion, leaving the new recruits, like myself, behind to keep order in the city. The stories they came back with were the kind to induce nightmares. Body parts kept in glass jars filled with some sort of preserving fluid. People with the brains of animals, living in pens, and animals that acted and thought like men, living in the rooms of the building. Half people wandering around in a confused haze as they looked at their new animal parts. And at least one head of a woman being kept alive on some sort of machine that kept blood and oxygen flowing to her body-less brain.

The police had acted like an enraged peasant mob. They showed no mercy to the unfortunate souls who had done nothing wrong but be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and been kidnapped by Mad Moby. The police killed everyone they saw, and burned every piece of paperwork they could find, while simultaneously destroying every machine.

But in the end there was no sign of Professor Moby. Whether he got away, wasn’t there during the raid at all, or had transferred his own brain into one of the animals, no one ever knew. Rumors have persisted over the years that he’s still out there somewhere, waiting for a time when he can change all human life forever. When the story came out, the woman who had killed her own son had jumped off one of the tallest buildings in town.

As for myself, I think he’s dead. I know the ego of scientists, having grown up with one, and none of them could remain out of the spotlight this long. I shuddered involuntarily as I looked around the bright pink room. The image of the wolf boy had never really left my nightmares, and I knew that if I survived this, I would be seeing him again soon. I wondered idly who, or what, had lived here, where she could see the city she would never return to.

I left the room quietly and made my way down the hall, armed with the knowledge of what the officers who had raided the compound had told me. Despite the mansion’s huge size, most of the place was empty hallway, built against the side of the mountain. Mad Moby had preferred the long walks from room to room, justifying it by saying that by building small rooms here and there, he was minimizing his impact on the environment. It didn’t make much sense to me, but then he wasn’t called ‘Mad’ just because of his experiments.

After another ten minutes or so, the hallway expanded into a large lobby, with a grand staircase winding in a large circle, leading down, at my left. To the right were a couple of doors, and straight ahead another hallway started, leading on to who knows where.

I thought immediately of taking the stairs down, and getting out of the building. But something wasn’t right. If the Natives were supposed to be the big new gang in town, why were we all the way out here, as far away from the city as realistically possible? And why hadn’t I seen more than four of them since I got here? And, the most important question, how was Dr. Johann involved?

I wanted to leave. I desperately wanted to go home, crawl into bed, and sleep for a week. I was tired, beaten, bruised and cut. I had no weapons, no clothes, and even my fedora had fallen by the wayside somewhere. I had no friends by my side, and no phone to use to call in the cavalry. I was alone.

But I was a private investigator, and this case didn’t make any sense. And if there was one thing I hated, it was an unsolved puzzle. I was hired to find the Moonstone, and the word I’d heard on the street, from Lenny, was that the Natives had it. And here I was, in presumably their headquarters, filled with unanswered questions.

I was going to finish this case, even if it killed me. ‘Which,’ I thought ruefully, ‘May very likely be the case.’

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