The following events take place around December 1940, and while the Lair of the Occult may be immune to the ravages of time, its occupant is not. Please enjoy.
Greetings, dear reader, I bid you welcome to... The Lair of the Occult! Confused by this conversation? Don't be, you are hardly the first wayward soul to visit my domain, and you will not be the last.
I am your humble narrator, speaking to you with assistance from the Orb of Omniscience, mystical guide to the many dark tales that this reality has to offer. Those who know me have given me many names, some cursed, others holy, yet the one that seems truest to my role in this world is the Oculus, former master of magic, and now, simply a humble member of the vast cosmic audience that monitors unseen. These nightly sessions have become a hobby of mine, and I am terribly excited to see what the Orb has for us this wretched evening. The item shimmers, summoning forth the mystical energies needed to power its purpose, and it slowly begins to pull us in, unveiling its scene far below.
We see a city street, New York, judging from the filth plastered all around. This city is a popular setting for this era, home to many strange events that all seemed lured to this place. It's a dark night, yet the sins that are greed and evil still roam the locale like they own it, with only a single person among them playing host to the pure heart that was once so common in the chests of men! He moves quickly, hands shielded in his pockets and mask of fabric over his face, and while his true name is one I'm not at liberty to give, the name that you will know him by is that of 'The Ghoul', a vastly important player in the cosmic events to unfold, and someone who very much tries to see the good in people, despite the scum he surrounds himself with.
From our unseen vantage point, just above the hero's shoulder, we see what he sees, we hear what he hears, and right now my dear reader, as the detective is about to cross the street, we see someone in desperate need of assistance, even if that person doesn't know it. Thankfully, our friend also catches sight of despair's latest victim, and decides to lend a hand, reaching into his coat, not for the empty revolver he carries, but for the wallet that he very rarely uses. This victim, a young lady going by the name of Penny, is about to see two sides of humanity. One side of light, and the other of darkness, and this maiden has seen much darkness, often stalked by it from the shadows. The life of a prostitute is no stranger to danger, and unfortunately for Penny, she's found herself in the right place, at the wrong time.
Somewhere nearby a clock is ticking. Five minutes left till midnight.
"How long do you want me for, honey?" Penny asks, forcing a tired smile through cracked, dry makeup that does nothing to hide the small scars upon her face. The Ghoul stands by her, dwarfing her with his height, and he says nothing, instead choosing to open up his wallet. Penny catches sight of the money held within, and believes she knows the man's intent, but if she truly knew the Ghoul, saint that he is, she'd know he'd do nothing of the sort.
"How... ah... how much for the evening?" The Ghoul asks, ignoring the looks he gets from passersby, and keeping his covered eyes locked firmly on the woman standing before him. He understands how this must look. Not many people had heard about him at this point in his career, with the general populace more focused on the larger than life characters flying around, but even still, despite this concern, he chose to carry on with his mission, and stayed by Penny's side.
"The whole night?" Penny smiles, a dazzling smile that, if shown twenty years from now, would land her on the cover of every single magazine in the country, yet is now, sadly, little more than a source of enticement for the clientele she tries to attract. "Seventy bucks." Again, the young woman smiles, but that doesn't stop her body from trembling slightly, deep down she's terrified, but this isn't the man that she should be afraid of.
"Seventy..." The Ghoul pokes through his wallet, shuffling notes aside and keeping Penny's gaze fixed onto his hands. "Seventy." He fishes out a 100 dollar note, the last of his cash from the Halloween job, and he places it in the woman's hand, pushing her fingers around it as a shield. "Keep the change." The detective mutters nervously, embarrassed as he quickly turns to leave, stepping into the crowd.
Somewhere nearby, the clock is still ticking. Two minutes left till midnight.
Penny is understandably confused, still shivering, but not from fear, from the night air scratching at her shoulders. She takes a look at the masked man, looks back down at the cash, and then back up at the man dressed completely in white.
"Where... where are we going?" She asks as the man walks further away, almost completely surrounded by the pedestrians walking by. The Ghoul, hero to all, stops and looks back at her, hat casting a dark shadow that covers most of his face except for his black, shining goggles.
"You can go home." He says, voice raspy in the chill of the evening. "You're free for the night." Penny looks back down at the money, clenched tight in her hand, and when she looks up again, her hero of the evening has vanished, disappeared into the crowd.
The clock chimes twelve times. It's midnight.
Penny won't follow the Ghoul's advice. An unfortunate choice on her part, and as she stands, shivering once more by an open alley, unaware of the approaching danger just behind her, the Orb of Omniscience decides to spare us the more gory details, and instead levitates us across the street, back to our hero, as he arrives home to his makeshift sanctuary. He's still wearing his mask, uncaring for his secret identity as he steps through the front door of his building and walks past the Landlady, a delightful old English woman named Ms Crouch.
"Good evening, Mister Ghoul." She jokes, carrying a twine basked of washing in her arms as she shuffles down the stairs. "Catch any crooks tonight?"
The detective ignores her, making his way up the first flight of stairs to his room. It's rather small, covered in dust due to its little use, and is home to a bedroom, bathroom, living room and a fire escape balcony that overlooks the street where Penny is still standing. The Ghoul removes his mask and hat, before jumping onto his bed and trying to get some much needed rest. He lets out a yawn, closes his eyes, and he feels peaceful as he begins to drift.
There's a knock at the door.
Immediately the Ghoul awakens, reflexes toned and sharp after several months of intense crime fighting. He moves out of bed, drowsy and unsure of how long he's been asleep, before throwing open the front door.
There's no one there.
Yet the knocking still continues, and as the Ghoul looks around, deeply confused, he looks through his window, and sees a sight that he won't ever forget. Down in the now deserted streets, Penny is still stood by the alley, her head the source of the knocking sound as it's smacked repeatedly against an alley wall, courtesy of a man dressed in black, shimmering clothing that covers his whole body.
The Ghoul blinks, surprised, then he moves. He charges towards the fire escape, managing to grab his mask and pull it on before leaping over the railing and landing in the middle of the road. It's a miracle the fall didn't break his ankles, yet the detective doesn't seem to care, clambering over a parked car as he moves towards Penny's attacker.
There's blood on the wall, all of it from Penny's skull, and the whole area stinks... stinks like a dead rat the Ghoul remembered from his childhood. Penny's eyes are closed, she's either dead or unconscious, and the money, gifted to her earlier, lies by her feet, soaked with puddle water and useless. Her attacker, some sort of Slasher, doesn't seem to have a face, with it being hidden beneath bleach white hair. He's dressed like a man from another time, a grim reminder of the fashion sported by Victorian England, and he doesn't seem to notice the world that's moving around him.
"LET HER GO!" The Ghoul screams, coming to a halt by the alley entrance, unbelievably angry, body shaking like Penny's as he tried to quell the fury brewing in his stomach.
The Slasher does as asked, releasing Penny and letting her body slump to the ground like a dead fish. As he turns to the Ghoul, red eyes peering through his hair, he reaches into his jacket, and pulls out a very large, bleach white butcher's knife. In response the Ghoul raises his fists, knowing full well that his empty revolver won't win this fight, and he gets ready for a fight. His enemy gets ready for a slaughter. The Slasher moves forward silently, legs not even moving as he hovers across the ground, unconcerned for any possible injury. He smiles as he brings up his weapon for a strike. The Ghoul is lucky, dodging the swipe a second before the knife would have embedded itself in his skull, and instead suffers a slight cut to the mask as he moves backward. His enemy is the fastest thing he's ever seen, and as the detective steps back shocked, the Slasher is already preparing to strike again.
This time the knife misses on purpose, drawn to the blood smeared on the alley wall and picking up a fresh drops on its edge. The Slasher brings the knife to his mouth and licks it clean, vastly enjoying the experience. Feeling rage, the Ghoul swings a heavy punch, and watches in horror as his fist passes through the killer's face as if it weren't even there. Caught off guard, the Ghoul feels a searing pain in his stomach, and looks down to find the Slasher's knife is tangled up in his guts.
"God!" The Ghoul gasps, pushing away from his foe, knife still sticking out of his body as the detective falls to the pavement. The Slasher let out a chuckle at his work, deep and macabre as he watched his victim begin to crawl across the ground in an attempt to escape. He watched in silence for a moment until the Ghoul stopped moving, and then he stepped backwards into the shadows, knife vanishing with him, as the Ghoul stopped moving, and lay very still.
That, dear reader, is when I decided to step in.
Next Week: Conclusion