Call of Cthulhu: The Black Elixir


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To those who read this letter, I beg you: do not discard it with the same neglect by which my own life was cast aside. Having glimpsed the untold and uncaring horrors that lie beyond our world, my only recourse is the desperate hope that fellow men might bear my memory and my warning.

Our stewardship of the Earth is at an end.

From the deep and unseen realms they are coming, from ancient slumber to brush the edge of mortal sanity. No name nor form can I give them, for such things are as frail as all the constructs of the human mind. This horror has no frame, no precedent and no relent.

Run. Spread my warning and run from the shadow that is rising. Take all that you love and hide away, as they have hidden in the countless aeons before our time. And hope as they reclaim this world that their eye will not find you.

But do not pray. Do not throw your tears and pleading breaths into the void. For there shall be no answer. There are no gods but the ones who will devour you.




"Wa'son there, George? A'nt drowned yet then?"

It was 6 o'clock when George Polperro bundled through the door of the Eagle Arms, a torrent of water cascading from his fishing coat to soak the teak floorboards. The storm had sent his hair into a frenzy, with long white curls plastered across his face and tangled with a heavy beard. Cursing, he twisted left and right as he shrugged off his coat.

"Like the piss o' God, I tell ye! We'll be dead b' morning, Kate."

The barmaid, Kate, smiled as she poured a pint of the usual for George. The dark hue of Stogg's Ale contrasted with the white of her blouse and the gold of her hair. She was a picture of youth next to the old fisherman who came each night to flirt with her.

"Ah, go on wi' ye, George. I 'spect you seen worse 'an this in your day."

Hanging his coat over the log fire, George tottered to the bar whilst sorting his hair. Beneath his beard were features chiselled like granite, a face carved by violent winters and toil at sea.

"You an't too wrong there, my pet. Storm o' eighty-severn were twice a' bad. Them cliffs up by Boscastle Point, why 'alf of them fell into the bloody sea, they did! Took ol' Mister Gunwalloe's house with 'em - Mister Gunwalloe an' all! Daft bugger wouldn't leave. We all told 'im. Said he'd die in the house 'e were born in."

Kate slid the ale across the counter. "That'll be you and your boat one day, George. Stubborn ol' barstards, the lot o' ye."

The bar creaked as George planted his elbows either side of his drink. "Well tha's no choice o' mine, Kate. My wife, God rest her, she said to me: 'George, you take care o' that boat now. Not the deep nor Lucifer 'imself be taking it from ye. God knows ye love tha' thing more an I, and I stayed wi' ye three-score and six!' Ah, she were the wiser part o' me, Kate, 'as the truth."

He drank as the storm's assault shook the pub. Lamplights were flickering as a percussion of rattling doors and windows joined the frightened melody of glasses clinking above the bar. But Kate ignored it all and shook her head as she polished the silverware.

George, meanwhile, straightened up with his pint and surveyed the pub. The place, as usual, was near empty. Since Kate took over from her father the locals had stopped coming. It was as if the entire village had quit drinking overnight. Of course, George knew why. The villagers didn't like the idea of a young woman owning her own business. They had snubbed her and taken their custom elsewhere. Still, it could have been worse. It wasn't too long ago that they were drowning witches in these parts.

George, however, had thought it his duty to remain a regular customer, just to keep poor Kate afloat. Ever the rogue, he had no qualms about a young woman being in charge. And such a pretty young woman at that.

He began eyeing a group in the corner. Six dark featured men huddled around a table in flatcaps and blue coats. None of them was speaking and each man nursed his drink whilst staring glumly at the table.

"Still got them Portugeuse lot, I see?"

Kate positioned a jam jar to catch some drips from the ceiling. "Ne'er you mind that, George Polperro. They an't no trouble. Poor boys is in need of some kindness, what with their ship all wrecked a'pieces." She smiled over at the sailors.

"Yeah," George scratched his sodden beard. "Thas a' trouble wi' them Portugeuse sailors. Comin' 'ere to our Cornish seas and they ain't got no sense between 'em. Lucky the 'hole bloody lot weren't killed."

Some of the sailors stared blankly at him, their expressions unchanging.

"P'rhaps you can gi' em a lift 'ome once the storm clears," Kate joked as she stuffed a towel against a window to stop it rattling. The pane was grey with damp and beyond it Penkos was a waterscape of sodden silhouettes. There were hardly any lights on in the village, just a faint flicker from the church and the distant glow of the Cargwyn Mansion on the headland.

The only other customers tonight were a couple by the door, near where George had come in. Two men, sitting very still and not talking. They wore raincoats like George, but were definitely not fishermen. Too clean-looking. Plus they gave George a chill - a little shiver when he looked at them. Each had a tot of whisky untouched and their hands in their coat pockets. They met George's stare and did not look away.

But rather than show how unsettled he was by them, George simply lifted his glass. "Evenin'"

The men did not answer.

George shivered again and turned back to the bar, frowning as Kate began polishing the counter.

"Christ, girl, who you expectin'? The King of England?"

Kate flicked him with the cloth. "Well, since yer ask so nicely'" She leant forward, went to speak, then instead raised her finger. "Keep this to yerself, mind." She leaned closer. "That there new constable's arrivin' tonight."

"Young Danny's replacement, eh?"

"Tha's the one." She went back to polishing and George glanced around the bar a second time. The silence of the two groups was in surreal contrast to the hammering wind and rain outside.

He lifted his pint and shrugged. "I 'ope the bugger's got a sense o' 'umour."
Six hours by bus, another four by train and finally two hours in the back of a cramped cab.

As a journalist I'm used to having to travel for my stories, but this is starting to wear on me.

“Jus' about there, sir!” calls the driver over the din of rain crashing down upon the vehicle. The storm outside's a fierce one, to say the least; the driver's been regaling me with tales of '87, as he puts it, which was apparently even worse. This story doesn't exactly make me feel better, but I smile and nod all the same.
“Is there anywhere I might get a room for the night?” I shout back.
“Y'd want t'be tryin' the Eagle Arms, I'd reckon. Good rooms and not a bad price!”
“Sounds excellent! Could you drop me off nearby to it?”
“Get ye right up beside the door, so I will!” the driver says with a chuckle, “Not like anyone else's usin' these streets the night, I'd wager!”

I open my briefcase to once again withdraw and read the letter sent to me by my friend. Quite why I'm reading it again I don't know; I've seen this letter so many times I could probably recite it in my sleep. Yet it's worthwhile keeping the mind refreshed with matters such as these. This is, after all, the letter that led to me traipsing around the offices of the Metropolitan Police, getting stonewalled by various officers. That led to me searching in vain for the girl my friend mentioned, hoping to get further information.

That led to me travelling across the country to a remote fishing village in Cornwall, hoping to find the truth behind the murder of a young man in London.

The cab halts and the engine quietens down, the pounding of the rain growing louder in it's place. The driver turns round in his seat and flashes me yet another grin. “Here we are, my friend! Eagle Arm's jus' over there, the one wi' the big sign outside th'door! We'll call tha'... ten pound, shall we?” Thanking him, I pass the driver a crumpled ten pound note and heave open the door. A gust of wind and rain hammers into me, almost pushing me further back into the cab. “Watch yoursel' out in that storm, now!” the driver yells as I succeed in climbing out, “Wouldn't want t'find your body washed up a couple days from now, would we?” He's laughing as I close the door, great torrents of rain crashing down from the sky and a howling gale ripping through the deserted streets.

I move straight for the Eagle Arms, pulling my collar up higher and narrowing my eyes in an attempt to keep the rain out of them. Not for the first time, I wonder what I'm putting myself in such discomfort for. Then I remember the letter, and the story that's unfolding around me.

Shouldering open the large, heavy doors of the pub, I stagger inside and close the door quickly behind me. Not before letting in a howling gale and yet more rain, I note. Inside, the warmth washes over me, and I take a second to get my bearings. Six men with the look of sailors sit around a table nearby, and next to the door an odd pair in large coats sit at a table of their own. Finally, there's the barmaid standing behind the bar and an old man, who looks he too recently braved the storm outside, talking to her.

Removing my soaking coat and straightening my tie, I move for the bar.
“Evening,” I say with a polite smile to both the barmaid and the old man, “Horrible weather outside, is it not?” The old man chuckles and nods, turning away, and the barmaid smiles politely.
“Tha's fer sure, my dear. Can I get you somethin'? Look like you could use a drink after bein' out in tha' storm.”
“That would be lovely,” I reply, laying my briefcase and coat down on the floor, “Perhaps I should have waited for the storm to die down before I travelled here.”
“You been on th'road long?” the woman asks, pulling a pint.
“Left London last night. Knew the weather would be awful, but I've got business here that probably can't wait.”

After all, the sooner I start looking into this place, the sooner I'll figure out if my friend Jake was right about the death of young William Harvey.

"London, eh?" boomed the voice of George Polperro. "Wind mus' be blowin' 'arder than I thought!"

He laughed heartily, looking round for some other locals to share his joke with, then realised he was in the minority tonight. The Portugeuse sailors looked at him blankly then went back to staring at the table.

Sighing, the old fisherman chugged on his pint and looked the journalist up and down. "Long way from that there London, an't ye? Wha' kind o' business 'as a London-man in Penkos?" He then leaned toward the barmaid. "Ere, Kate, this ain't tha bloody constable, is it?"

"Oh, behave yourself, George. Gi' the man some space!" Kate flicked him once more with the bar cloth then paused and leaned towards the newcomer, whispering. "You ain't the bloody constable, are ye?"

Already, Arthur could feel two pairs of eyes burning into his back.
I feel eyes on me from all across the pub.

An uncomfortable situation, to be sure, but as a journalist I've learned to handle such things.

Smiling, I shake my head at the barmaid.
“No, I'm not. I'm actually a travel journalist, writing for the Western Morning News.” The lie slips from my mouth with practised ease; no-one in journalism ever got ahead of the competition by telling the truth, after all. “Apparently Blackpool's going out of fashion as a holiday destination, so they've sent me here to see what Cornwall's like. I think I'll leave this storm out of my article, however,” I add with a smile, speaking loud enough for the men no doubt watching me to hear.

I decided on the train that it would be best to keep my true reasons for coming to Penkos a secret; if even half of what my friend has hinted at is true, then there could well be people in this town out to stop me from getting to the truth of the matter.

And I have a feeling that two of those people may be sitting behind me. Call it a hunch.

So I stand at the bar and take a drink of the pint just poured for me. A dark ale with a heavy taste I note as I drink it. Not entirely unpleasant, either. No doubt the fisherman sitting next to me, George, will be surprised that a Londoner can hold such a drink.

Ah, small towns. You've got to love them.
Thunder boomed in the distance as for the third time in the span of a few minuets the door opened and a rainsoaked figure shambled in, cap pulled low and coat pulled high dripping water on the unpolished wood floor. Henry muttered under his breath as he pushed against the door against the wind and managed to secure it before he looked around. The trip from London had been long and miserable, made worse so by some posh reporter looking type nicking the last taxi heading into town leaving Henry to hitch a ride in a cart that smelled of fish an manure, presumably this seaside hamlet's two primary products. God if this trip wasn't worth the effort someone was going to pay, one way or another.

He lifted his cap from his head and slicked back his soaked hair before setting it back on more comfortably and shedding his sodden coat and handing it near the fire giving the patrons a look trying to figure out which group looked the mos inviting. The pretty blonde barmaid settled his mind of the bar and he took a stool. "Glass of your best." he said leaning on the bar glad that the trip was over, and he could begin his search. Even if the man standing nearby was the one who had taken the last cab, seems he wasn't then only one here on business.

"Two London-folk in a row, eh?" George cried as he heard Henry's accent. "Mus' be a full moon."

Holding his pint, he gestured at the newcomer with his elbow while looking at the barmaid. "'Ere, Kate, is this'un that there new constable?"

"I'll 'a you thrown out you keep goin' on, George!" Kate warned as she handed Henry a pint of Stoggs.

After taking his money, she leaned towards him again. "'Ere... you ain't that there new constable, are yer?"

The two men by the door kept their eyes on Henry's back.
The door to the Eagle Arms burst opened as the young fisherman stumbled in attempting to balance his armload of gear. Using his foot he kicked the door shut behind him and shook like a dog to get the rain off of his coat. He turned back to the door and leaned his sea rod against the wall, good enough place as any. Tackle box in one hand and suit case in the other he walked to the bar, his boots squeaking with each step. He set his suit case down on the ground next to his chair as he sat and dropped his tackle box on the bar, "Hell and high water out there I tell you what." He took his rain soaked hat off and shook the water off before setting it on the stool beside him. He looked at the old sea dog down the bar and nodded his head before addressing the bar maid, "Excuse me ma'am. I was told this place had food, lodging and hard drink. I'm desperately in need of all three. Rum if you got it."

He started fiddling through the inside of his coat for his wallet. The first thing he pulled out was the letter he had received. He promptly put it back but once again he thought of the possibilities the letter represented. He could get his own boat and crew, maybe. No more listening to worthless captains who knew less about the sea than they did women. It was always his spots that found the fish, his nets that got the biggest haul and his wits that kept the boat from sinking. So many doors back in the states would open so easily if he just did as the letter asked. At first he didn't want anything to do with any of it. But the more he thought about it the sweeter it all looked. By the time the captain had given up on try to out last the storm his mind was already made up.

Pulling out his wallet he started to slap down american dollars on the bar, "Oh crap, sorry, hold on a second." He snapped open his tackle box and pulled out a manilla envelope, "The captain said this would be enough to cover a few days. Course, it all comes out of my wallet when we get back the bastard. Like it's our fault he chose to go out early despite the storm warnings." The envelope was full of wadded up cash. Each man had been giving one envelope to cover their expenses for three days. After that they'd be on there own if the storm hadn't let up by than. Rox shook his head, "I'm sorry miss, where are my manners. Name's Rox Hardy. It's a pleasure to meet you." He first held his hand out to the bar maid and than reached out to the old man. After that he then bothered to look around the bar at the other occupants. Cursing under his breath at the side of the portugeuse at there own table. Those damn portugeuse are crazy at the open sea and damn pushy about there fishing spots.
James took slow steady steps as he made his way to the Eagle Arms. He'd arrived in town a few days ago. He'd made a little money doing odd jobs, but those were up in the air now that the storm had hit. James instinctively pulled his coat closer too him, not that it made much difference in this rain. He hated small towns, they reminded him too much of home, but small towns had more work for drifters since they tended to rely more on seasonal work.

James grabbed the doors to the Eagle Arms firmly before pushing to open it. Rain poured into the establishment again, but the door didn't slam. James slid in through the small opening he had made with the door before pushing it closed.

Keeping a slow steady pace James walked over to the bar, sliding off his coat and placing it next to him as he sat down. "Evening Miss," He said to Kate, "glass of water if it wouldn't be too much of a bother."

James didn't bother looking around too much, there were rarely too many people in a small town like this. There would be even less here considering the rumors he'd heard while he was working. He preferred it that way, crowded places had people with questions. If there was anything that would annoy James, it was people with questions.
Henry smile and almost chuckled to himself. As tempting as saying he was the constable, if the man himself showed up it would only lead to unnecessary trouble. "No, Ms. Just hear outa London looking for a distant relative then I'm heading off again. Just mapping out the family tree you could say." It was a story he had come up with on the trip over and flowed out his mouth with the ease of the truth as he took a deep draft from the glass feeling the booze warming his insides. "No one knows and Cargwyns around here do they?"
At the time Henry asked his question, three things were happening. The barmaid was serving James a glass of water; the Portugeuse sailors were turning in unison at the sound of Rox's American accent; and George was about to make a joke about all the foreign folk washing up in the pub tonight.

But then Henry asked his question.

A question it was very dangerous to ask in Penkos.

The air twisted to a definite note of tension and all eyes came upon Henry. Kate's voice went suddenly quiet, as if restrained by a phantom hand. "Now now, my pet... why'd ye wanna be askin' a question like that?" She gave James his water then wrang her dishcloth in both hands, the knuckles white. "Ain't no good'll come from askin' questions 'bout the Cargwyns."

George nodded and leaned over to Henry. "Thas true as 'ell, boy. You take me advice and leave it alone now."

Kate gestured with her cloth at James, Rox and Arthur. "Tha' goes for all o' you, mind. You're welcome in this 'ere pub, but them other villagers don't much like outsiders. 'Specially them Cargwyn lot up at the mansion. Now, I'll 'ave this be the end of it!"

She wiped a spot on the counter, a little anxiously, then smiled to distract herself. "So... 'ow many o' you boys be wanting rooms?"

The two men in longcoats by the door were watching Henry.
And thus did an awkward silence echo throughout the Eagle Arms.

I note that the two gentlemen at the door have shifted their attention to the new arrival who just made the local faux-pas of asking about a 'Cargwyn' family; at least their attention is no longer upon me. I'd prefer to keep a low profile just now as I start my investigation in Penkos, and those two have trouble written all over them.

As the barmaid changes the subject by asking if anyone would be interested in rooms, I smile politely at her and nod.
“A room would be lovely, thank you. Do you want the money for it now or shall I wait until you are a little less busy?” Manners cost you nothing and tend to make people more relaxed around you, I've found in my profession. Already I'm noting people whom might be able to assist me and people who may be able to give me information to start building this case on.

George, the fisherman, is a clear candidate; he looks like a local who knows what's going on here and all old men like to tell stories. Buy him a pint and I'm sure to get something interesting out of him. The new arrival who just made the blunder seems to be here on 'business' of some kind as well; it may be useful if we combined efforts at points.

However, those men are watching him. And they make me uncomfortable.

So I decide to go for the easier option first.

Moving over to George, I politely say, “You seem to be a man who knows this town quite well, and I'm in need of some information about the local area for my article. I wonder if you would be willing to tell me a bit about Penkos in exchange for a drink, maybe?”
George squinted at the journalist, then noticed that the barmaid was getting down some rum from the top shelf for Rox.

"'Ere, Kate, I'll 'ave a glass o' that there rum. Cour'esy o' London!" He nudged Arthur with his elbow and laughed.

As the drink was poured, George finished his ale and shook the empty glass at Arthur. "Ain't nothing for you emmets and grockles 'ere, boy. You tell 'em tourists to stay where they bloody are! Coming down 'ere, 'rupting our way o' life." He picked up the glass of rum and raised it to Rox. "Cheers, my 'andsome." He had barely swallowed before he turned back to Arthur. "Not that 'ere's much life in Penkos, mind. Ain't been the same since the young'uns left. Closed the mine, ye see? And them Cargwyns ain't 'sploitin' the land like they should, yer know?"

He leaned on the bar again, careful not to step in the puddle of water dripping from Rox. "Time was we had good fishin' in 'ese parts. 'Errin', mackerel, cod, scallops, cockles, crab - the 'ole bloody lot! Fell in the boat they did - right in the boat like 'and o' God were picking 'em up. I were a man o' some wealth in them days. Then the young'uns all started leavin', bout the same time the mine closed down. Bloody storms begun an' all. This were ten years ago, mind. Town went real quiet after 'at, 'cept fer 'em Cargwyn lot. Always an 'ell of a racket at that there mansion each night."

"An't nothing to do with us, George," Kate warned him as she put back the rum. "What Lord Cargwyn does is 'is own business. We don't go stickin' our noses in. You know what 'appened to Father Marrak."

"Yeah, yeah," George grumbled, then noticed Arthur's inquisitive look. "Local priest got himself a licking from them Cargwyn lads. 'E only went up there to ask if they could reopen the mine. Got set on fire for 'is troubles, poor bugger. 'E an't none too pretty now."
“Very interesting,” I say, making a mental note to write the name 'Father Marrick' down later on to follow up on it. Already I'm getting a sense that the Cargwyns are influential around here... and clearly dangerous, too, if they are willing to burn an important figure in the community for interfering with their business.

Yes, George seems to be quite well-informed about goings-on in Penkos. I think I'll get him another drink and see what else he has to say.

“Could I get two more glasses of rum, please?” I ask Kate before turning back to George and motioning towards one of the many free tables in the pub. “I don't suppose we could continue this conversation away from the bar? The drinks are on me,” I add with a smile.

Alcohol is often useful for getting answers, I've found.
Henry was surprised by the reaction in the bar to say the least. He could feel all the eyes on him and quickly emptied his glass and put it back on the bar to be refilled. "Think I'll be needing a room." he said quietly when asked and kept his head down. The men by the door were giving him the creeps and the sooner he was out of this miserable little town the better. "One night should be enough." He then leaned over the bar and once his glass was refilled listened to the conversation next to him. 'Well at least everyone knows them.' he thought, 'Should be easy finding out what happened to the chap then I'll be on the first rattletrap outta here. God forsaken backwater, first stop, that priest, he might even have the answer I need.
Almost the second the shot of rum hit the counter it went down Rox's throat. Before swallowing he did raise his glass back to the old man. He tapped it twice on the bar top to signal for another. He took a light notice to the portagees looking over at him but tried to ignore. He was going to have to remind himself this wasn't America, none of his fellow mates were around and one versus six isn't good odds. Any bar near the docks in the US he'd have a small army stand with against those damn portagees. Coming over and swarming all over our docks like vermin. Rox took in a deep breath and than slowly let it out. It'd been too long since his last fix back on the ship and it was definitely time for another.

The bars reaction to the Cargwyn didn't phase him much. The though of a family lighting a priest on fire seemed nuts. Evidently these little towns in Britain where crazier than the back waters of Louisiana. Just another reason to keep your cool and not do anything stupid he told himself. As George started to talk about the good old days of fishing he smiled. Some things don't change no matter where are you. The tales reminded him of the old men back at the US docks, "I've heard. I brought my rod with me hoping the storm over the docks here will clear up before they do out at sea. Some of the ol' mates down there at the docks said you could be pull some great eattin' fish out of the water right there. Nothing quite like catching and roasting your own fish right at the beach, y'know?"

As the reporter fellow invited George to a table to continue his questioning, Rox shifted his attention to Kate, "I'll be needed a room till this here storm blows itself out. I do got a question for you young miss. I'm lookin' for an old friend who goes back and forth between here and the states. If for some reason my cap'ns boat can't get back I may need a ride. You had a feller named Jago Jones come through here recently?"

Kate was rifling through a drawer at the end of the bar. She took out three keys and laid them on the counter one by one.

"You boys can pay up in the mornin'. An't like yer going nowhere, any'ow."

Room 1 for Arthur.
Room 2 for Henry.
Room 4 for Rox.

Having set down the keys she looked back at the American. "Jago Jones? Can't say I 'av, pet."

She went back to polishing the glasses, then suddenly thought. "Oh, we 'ad a Mrs Jones check in last night, but she were from out o' town. Poor thing an't been feelin' too well - bin in her room since she got 'ere."

Further down the bar, George Polperro's eyes gleamed as the next round of rum arrived. "Well now," he remarked as he watched Arthur take his key and hand over the rum. "P'rhaps we can manage a few o' you emmets comin' down 'ere after all."

Laughing, he followed the journalist to a table by the rain soaked window, where the chairs has been made from old cargo barrels. Growling as his old knees lowered him onto the seat, he placed down his rum and continued his ramblings.

"Now then, London-Man, 'tween us gents I'll tell yer 'is much - 'is 'ere town don't care much for the likes o' me. Askin' questions and bein' too friendly an't quali'ies to be admired by them buggers!" He pointed at the town beyond the window. "They's tellin' me to stay out o' the sea and be 'aving nothin' to with this 'ere pub. But ye ask me, they can shove it up their arse! Just cos the young'uns is vanishing and thah priest got set on fire, s'like the whole bloody town's scared o' livin'."

He took a swig of rum and puffed out his belly. "So I keeps my boat out o' the docks an' I don't go to that there church. But not 'ell or 'igh water's gonna stop me fishin' or from visiting young Kate 'ere." He glanced over at the barmaid. "She's a fine girl and deserves better than 'is lot."

Through the window the storm was pummelling trees and savaging the rooftops. In the distance waves crashed against the cliffs where the Cargwyn Mansion perched. Apart from the church it was the only place with any lights on, and it wasn't even 8 o'clock yet.

"Bah!" George muttered, "Was a time not long ago they was drownin' witches in these parts. Threw 'em right in the ocean, they did. Superstitious bastards! An' now they's all scared of them mansion lot. Says they is castin' spells. Load'a bollocks if ye ask me."

Back at the bar, a shadow fell over Henry. Then a second shadow moved to his right hand side. A man arrived at the bar with gloved hands lighting a thick cigar. His every action was deliberate, a slow dance of menace. Blowing a ring a thick grey smoke, the man stared ahead with eyes veiled in the shadow of his hat.

"Wrong nose."

Henry looked up at him, frowning..

The man took the cigar from his mouth. "Wrong nose for a Cargwyn. And unless you fell a long way from that family tree, you wouldn't be sitting in place like this."

The accent was impossible to place. It wasn't Cornish, nor from up country. Henry couldn't be sure if it was even English. The man's companion stood a few feet behind Henry's bar stool, staring silently.

The cigar-smoker looked down, shadowed eyes fixing Henry. "So I'll ask you once. What business brings you to Penkos?"
Seems my guess about George was correct.

I take another drink of my Strogg's as the old fisherman finishes his grumblings, and nod.
“Sounds like you've lived here much of your life, my friend.” I say with a smile, “And the name is Arthur, by the way. You're George, yes?” I see no reason not to be friendly with the fisherman; he's happy to supply me with the information I need in return for drinks, after all, and it sounds like he has a lot of useful things to say.

“And yet the priest was burnt for asking questions about the mine; was there any legal action ever pursued regarding the matter? Oh yes, and you say that the young people of Penkos are vanishing. Do you mean they're all moving away to different parts of the country?” I make a point to keep my voice down; already I'm feeling uncomfortable with the presence of the two longcoat-wearing gentlemen in the pub. My instincts tell me something is not right about them.

And a journalist should always trust his instincts.
Henry turned his glass in his hand straining his ears to place the man's accent, intent, anything. "So what? You teach genealogy in the university of Mexico City? Just looking for a relative of my step mum like she asked me to on her deathbed. Once I know if hes kicked the bucket or not its back to civilization. REAL civilization. Country air is nice and all but I miss Big Ben."

With the key resting in his palm he had the feeling he'd best be locking his door. County types, always thinking they made the rules in their little worlds when the real world had left them behind. He almost chortled at the big foreign man surrounded by country tosspots some of whom set priests on fire acting like the rooster. Small towns, each one as bizarre as the next.
"Legal action?" George's garrelous laugh filled the pub and did battle with the thunder above. "You an't in London no more, boy. Police round 'ere don't lift a finger. Lord Cargwyn and Chief Penrose is like brothers, yer see? E'en turned a blind eye when poor Danny West fell down that mineshaft last month. I 'spect this new bloke won't last long neither. Word is them Cargwyns got their fingers in a lot o' pasties. Best you keep yer nose out of it, young Arthur London-Man."

Hugging his glass, he leant forward. "Now then, as to yer second question you be asking, I an't knowin' much. But they say them kids is being taken up that mansion there." He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. "An' they an't never 'eard from again. God Lord never blessed me with a nipper, but thas plenty o' buggers 'ere who 'ave lost their pride and joy. S'no wonder the town's in poor spirits."

Meanwhile, at the bar, the longcoated man smoked slowly as he watched Henry. His stillness was contrasted with his companion, who had stepped closer to Henry and was now almost touching his back.

"We're all one big family here. Tell me his name. I'll tell you if he's still alive."
Henry did now like the how close the man was standing, but what scared him more was the dangerous calm.... no... cold, of the one doing the talking. He turned in his seat his thoughts on the knife he usually carried. "Would help me if you would. I'd be out of here bright and early, but you know, even though she weren't my birth mother I was very close to the old girl so when I kneel by her grave I need to know I'm speaking the truth."

The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end. "Beside, clear as day you're from around here no more than I am so how do I know you're close to the Cargwyns?" he forgot his glass on the bar as he sized the pair up from his seat. "Well anyway..." time for a test "The chap's name is... got it written down somewhere... Leopold... Len... for the life of me... Don't worry it will come to me by morning."