Clara goes in to work. Dr Harp has left her a note regarding the chemicals being administered to Butler. The compound seems to be Scopolamine, which is typically a sedative used for childbirth. The note references some research by Robert House out of Dallas, TX, regarding effects…nothing conclusive. Harp promises to keep digging for more information.
Douglas goes to the paper to see if he can sweet-talk his editor into paying for him to go to Wisconsin (to investigate Stuart’s last days).
His editor is less than enthusiastic, but cuts a deal with Douglas, if the article is a flop, Douglas will have to pay all his travel expenses back, and if he writes a winner, they’ll call it even.
Troy gets the house ready for our departure and winterizes it. He also calls the newspaper, milkman, and post office to stop deliveries.
Marion has her date with Margaret. She gets dropped off at the house as the rest of us are sitting down to dinner. She breezes in…looks at us all and tells us it’s none of our business, then proceeds to tell us that they went to the library. Research on the region turned up evidence of prehistoric copper mines in the Upper Peninsula, but that the native tribes didn’t appear to do much copper work.
Besides the alchemical properties of copper, Marion thinks that maybe the tunnels are the point….like the dolmen/gateways with their tunnels.
She mentions that as she and Margaret were headed up Germantown Road, they passed a motorcycle coming in the other direction….she found it suspicious because the road isn’t terribly busy, and she thinks it might be the same one that pulled out after the police and M.E. left the night of Stuart’s death.
The next day, Douglas is the last to rise. It rained during the night…now it’s sunny. We eat a quick breakfast, clean up, and get things tidied up, then head to the train station for the long trip to Wisconsin.
October 28 (Tuesday)
One evening as we’re sitting in the dining car, Troy turns to Doug and asks him if he remembers him. Troy had a dream that he was on a battlefield in France…mortars were going off everywhere. He looked back and saw soldiers frozen in terror; he accidentally stabbed someone in the arm with a bayonet. A mortar went off, knocking Troy back. He looked around and saw Douglas’ face, and lots of blood.
He asks Douglas if he has a scar on his arm from the bayonet.
Douglas replies that he had a dream where Troy pinned his arm to a tree with a bayonet.
As the two men are talking, Clara looks at the table. there’s a glass of ‘water’ that had contained olives on a toothpick…all that’s left is the toothpick, which now rests atop a menu. During the conversation, the toothpick rolls around on the menu in a way that isn’t congruent with the motion of the train.
She thinks of the talking board…the word “before” is discernible. The toothpicks stops suddenly and rolls of the table.
Marion and Clara discuss what happened…they decide to make a paper ouija board and planchette to see if they can contact the spirit.
We all head to the sleeper car. We ask questions…nothing happens until Clara asks if the spirit is her mother…then there’s a twitch. Douglas asks if we’re heading in the right direction and the cup spells out “from before.”
When Douglas asks for clarification, Troy turns to him and says “I died the first time because of you. I came back to make sure that doesn’t happen this time.” He then tips over backwards, landing heavily on his back. We check on him….he regains consciousness with no recollection of his episode.
Douglas thinks of the weird, mummified hand…the one that looks like his own left hand.
All further questions yield no answers, so we give up and go back to the dining car.
Marion thinks that because the talking board at home is dedicated to its specific purpose, it is more accurate and effective that the makeshift paper board we tried to use. She decides to make a proper board.
Clara’s dreams that night are muddled and murky….she awakens at 2:17 AM, just as the train is pulling into Lincoln, Nebraska. She vaguely recalls it as being the same one she had before about the chess game…and also about Gatineau’s bizarre letter to her and Marion…the one about the sleeper beneath the sea and the stars realigning.
At the next stop, we go to a store in town and pick up the supplies to make the new talking board. It’s expensive because Marion wants it to be as good as possible…we even purchase real silver wire for it.
When we board the train again, a porter tells Douglas there’s a telegram for him. Douglas tips him and reads the message, which was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska’s station from Portland:
Fear it may be checkmate in a few moves STOP
Suggest keeping sunset to your back for a while STOP
May have a feint or two left STOP
Steward en passant STOP
Signed, Mad Hatter
We figure that the Mad Hatter is Milner. Troy figures out that Steward is synonymous with Butler. Clara sends a hasty telegram back to ask if Butler is okay, and that we’ll be in Des Moines and then Madison.
Marion constructs the talking board. She asks for blood from them all to use. She is very apologetic about this, given her own experience at the hospital.
We stop in Des Moines. The talking board is ready, but we decide not to use it right away since we need to change trains. No telegram awaits us..it’s only been six hours since we left Lincoln, so this isn’t surprising.The train to Madison is smaller and less well-appointed, but we settle in quickly and Marion brings out the board.
We gather that we’re speaking to Douglas’ Paternal grandmother (Dorothy). We try to get her to explain what she was trying to tell us before. She finally responds positively when Clara asks if she had anything to do with the dream about the chess game. She also answers in the affirmative that she had something to do with Troy’s episode. After many questions, we glean that she is trying to help us resolve things…that she wants us to join her…when Douglas asks her where, she says outside…what word…out…more…be…us.
Douglas makes the leap to Mobius strip, which calls to mind the piece of paper that had been hanging from the door handle in the alternate Morningside (memory lane).
Mariom’s eyes narrow…she says “I” and the planchette decisively spells out YOU ARE NOT AT HOME.
We try to find out who the new spirit is (since it pretty clearly isn’t Dorothy). It responds by sending the planchette (which is shaped like a wooden triangle) hurtling off the board and straight at Douglas’ throat. Luckily it isn’t sharp enough to cut him, but it still hits him pretty hard.
Douglas brings his left hand up to his throat and the planchette flies at him again, smacking into his wrist.
Clara reaches for it, and it hits the floor. Douglas keels over backwards (much as Troy had done). Marion tells the spirit that we’re done, and releases it.
Troy stamps his foot down on the planchette. The board starts clattering on the table. Marion clamps it down.
Clara checks on Douglas. He comes to. His throat is burning and it hurts to breathe, but he is otherwise unharmed.
Marion opens the window and chucks the board out.
The theory is that the second spirit was Edmund.
“I saw instead of Clara, Edmund…saying he hadn’t gotten my blood but he didn’t need it” Douglas says.
Marion is furious because Edmund means he has her blood. The thought is that Edmund believed magical ability runs in families and he’s trying to create another “family member” from her or Douglas’ blood or (in her case) reproductive organs (the whole thing with the ovary removal).
“If I see him, I’m going to kill him….again.” Marion hisses.