Problems

Something disquieting happened to Pike shortly after he posted his comment about Pickman’s footage: someone broke into Pike’s home and stole the camera. And nothing else. And the folder on Pike’s computer containing the files he transferred from the camera was gone too. There was some transferred footage that was either undiscovered or left alone, however, which he showed to Ella and me.

There were a few woodland shots of a beast similar to the one we had encountered. Others showed buildings in the background that looked like those at the corporate campus we investigated a year and a half ago. There was movement in the foreground but there wasn’t enough light for me to tell what it was. Another shot appeared to be looking out a window from the inside and the screen just showed blackness within the frame of the window, as if the camera wasn’t registering whatever was out there.

The last shot showed part of a town street at night. The camera was perpendicular to the street and close to the back corner of a building, as if Pickman were trying to avoid being spotted. Moving down the street was what I initially thought was a line of people in frog or fish costumes doing some sort of weird dance. Then I saw that they weren’t dancing, but hopping. A couple of the figures had what looked like tall white tiaras on their heads. Even though we didn’t see much of the street it seemed familiar, as did the weird figures. Pike thinks it may have been the main street at that strange town we visited in our trip up north.

A few nights after that, Ella stopped by my apartment unexpectedly. I’ve seen her in a lot of different situations and she’s always had a measured sort of attitude, even when she’s been fearful, so when she paced around my living room looking pale and anxious I was pretty alarmed. I asked if she was all right.

“I’ve been a little…pressed lately,” she said. “This thing with Pike getting robbed…” she stood against the wall next to one of the windows and moved the blind slightly to look outside. “You probably hadn’t heard of those entities I’m studying before I told you about them.”

“What,” I said, “the goat thing and those other guys?” Ella grimaced. “No, I hadn’t,” I said, before she had a chance to chastise me.

“Well, people besides folklorists do know about them,” she said. “Tes and I found that out in college. We were working on a project that we thought was historical research but ended up being…” She uttered a sardonic chuckle. “An adventure, I guess. Us versus a whole organization.”

“An organization? Like a secret society?”

“Sure. I thought we took care of them.”

“You and Tes took out an entire society?”

“Not alone. I only mentioned that because I didn’t think I needed to take any special precautions anymore. But then the Pickman footage was stolen. And tonight I’ve been followed.”

“What? Are they out there?”

“I don’t see them.”

“Well, do you want to call the police? Or Ingrid?”

“I guess I…”

“ELLA SHERRINFORD.”

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

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