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On Her Majesty's orders and against his better judgment or indeed any sense of self-preservation, the Master Detective found himself once again at the gates of terrible Ravenhearst Manor, where he was greeted by the spirit of its namesake. Emma thanked him again for freeing her and warned that he was in grave danger by returning, but she begged him to free the souls of those still trapped inside. She mentioned a secret passage, and Darnell set about finding a way into the now-condemned manor, finally forced to break a window with a brick. Inside, he found a cozy fire burning in the hearth of the parlor and a new, intricate lock on the door into the putrid kitchen, proving that he was not alone in the manor, though he honestly couldn't tell if the other occupant(s) was living or dead. While in the kitchen, Darnell swore he heard footsteps outside, which ran his blood cold to hear. The secret passage turned out to be through the hearth, and he reached a part of the basement he'd not found on his previous investigation. There, he met the spirit of Rose Sommerset, Emma's maid, who begged him to free her and her children. Frightened at the new supernatural encounter, Darnell pushed on to find an underground antechamber with three doors. Strange tubes carrying even stranger, glowing green liquid flowed to/from the doors along the ceiling over his head.

Solving the puzzle on the center door, he stepped into a mockery of an old town complete with salon, general store, and ample evidence that this was where Rose had been held captive more than a hundred years ago. Missing persons posters and newspaper clippings were scattered throughout, telling of a husband desperate to recover his missing family, and Charles having been exonerated of their disappearances, with faces scratched out of the photos and handwritten notes promising "they'll never find you". Eventually, Darnell worked his way deep enough into the complex to locate a chamber with a skeleton lying in a coffin that had an intricate machine attached to it and more of those tubes of green fluid flowing away through the rock walls. He disabled the machine and, in doing so, freed Rose's spirit who then begged him again to find her children.

Solving the puzzle on the left-hand door back in the antechamber led into a space obviously meant for children but still constructed by a depraved mind, filled with a decrepit playground, a "Toys for Brats" toy store, a dark schoolhouse, and a disturbing gingerbread playhouse. There, Darnell met the ghosts of a pair of twin girls who warned him about "Father", whom he had to guess to be their captor Charles, as well as a mysterious "brother." Despite his own mounting horror at the ever-deepening nightmare around him, Darnell continued pressing on and eventually found and freed the souls of Rose's twins Gwendolyn and Charlotte Sommerset who, like their mother, had been entombed attached to a diabolical pumping machine that Darnell had to disable. Finally, too, he had the pieces he needed to solve the puzzle on the final door back in the antechamber.

He opened that last door to find a cable car that would take him down the cliff behind Ravenhearst Manor, to the beach he needed to reach in order to then climb the steep stairs to a guest house he'd spotted earlier in the investigation. The guest house's chimney had been smoking when he spotted it earlier, so he'd known all along that he had to go investigate. However, upon picking the lock on the door, he found the place occupied! Somehow, he was rooted to the spot as a nasty, decrepit old man - Victor Dalimar, the "brother" that the twins tried to warn him about - overpowered him, binding and blindfolding him and talking about how pleased "Father" would be when he returned. When Darnell finally managed to free himself of his binds, he discovered he'd been locked in the attic of the main house. If he didn't free himself before Charles returned, he knew he was done for. And really, how was Victor - or Charles, for that matter - still alive!? The events in Emma's original diary had been dated 1895, which was over 110 year ago! With night fast approaching, the storm over the manor growing worse, and Charles's return immanent, the Master Detective knew his time was running short if he wanted to get out of this alive.

After finding the upstairs theater and watching a bizarre reel of Victor poring over a book on time traversal, Darnell escaped the main manor and made his way back to Victor's cottage, ensuring first that Victor wasn't home before entering this time! He found evidence that Charles had been committed to an insane asylum for a time sometime before meeting Emma before being forced to hide as he heard Victor - supporting a weakened Charles who'd apparently just returned from Fate's Carnival - pass one of the windows outside, Victor going on about Charles settling in to his family's warm embrace and regaining his strength. Darnell was too terrified to speculate at what that might mean, but he had little choice than to press on. He followed them back to the main manor, finally unlocking the one area he’d not previously been able to reach, and found a workroom with a book filled with notes and sketches for some kind of vile machine that, apparently, could keep one alive indefinitely, powered by spirit energy. Then Darnell found the chamber with the actual machine.

Victor was nowhere to be found, but Charles floated in a vertical tank of the same glowing, green fluid he’d seen in tubes throughout the twisted world below Ravenhearst Manor. Charles was going on about why was he still so cold and why wasn’t his strength returning. He seemed to realize the reason about the same time that Darnell did, when he spotted the Master Detective sneaking into the room to try to figure out how to shut down the machine. It was because Darnell had found and freed Rose, Charlotte, and Gwendolyn. Charles had been powering his bizarre machine and his own horrific existence on their captive souls! As Charles shouted first for Victor’s help, then for him to escape, Darnell rushed to shut down the machine. It began to self-destruct instead. Victor disappeared into some kind of capsule to one side of the room, cackling and waving goodbye to Darnell as the detective watched the counter on the front drop from 2009 to 1895 before it, too, disappeared. The fire spreading throughout the room forced Darnell to flee without trying to figure out that mystery. Indeed, the fire seemed to chase the Master Detective up from the subterranean nightmare and out of the manor itself, overtaking the entire structure. Once at a safe distance, he turned to watch the destruction only to spot the spirits of Emma, Rose, Gwendolyn, and Charlotte following him out of their collapsing prison. With grateful smiles and waves, the four disappeared.
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Special Agent Darnell Barrett, Master Detective

August 2017

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