Back at the Gables I hesitated before entering the house, but rather than stay outside with the loathsome sight of the bloody seagulls, I forced myself to step through the doorway. And again ended up walking on my hands for a few metres, my feet securely held up in the air by some invisible claw-like hand.
Right side up again I showered then changed, then returned to my late uncle's bedroom and started poring through his diaries again, hunting for further references to leLande Strange and Morton Matthews. After leafing through the volumes for a few minutes I located a section in late 1976 when Lindsay Stafford spoke of going around the side of the mount to find the camp site of Matthews and Strange: "Instead of a camp, however, I found a great white circle painted onto the grass, and saw twelve purple-robed figures (six men and six women) dancing anti-clockwise around the circle, holding hands, while Morton Matthews stood within a white, five-pointed star inside the circle, chanting loudly to the stars in some weird dialect, hands raised to the heavens in supplication as though pleading with the stars themselves. Looking more than ever like the stereotype of a warlock, 'Iä! Yog-Sothoth! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! Iä! Nyarlathotep!' he chanted on and on, a seemingly endless spiel of drivel. I realised to my horror that Matthews and Strange were really witches!"
I gave up the diaries for the night at that point, starting to fear that Uncle Lindsay must have been growing senile by that time. (By 1976 my uncle would have been eighty-odd.) I decided that the next time I met with the two men I would probably agree to sell the mansion to Morton Matthews and leLande Strange.
That night I had hardly fallen asleep when I was awakened by the loud electric hissing sound, which I recognised even before looking up to see the long white snake of static electricity three or four metres long whiplashing like a repeatedly cracking whip only centimetres above my head. This time even the air I breathed seemed charged with electricity so that my throat and lungs tingled from the very act of breathing.
Just as I had started to fear that I was having some kind of attack, I heard a faint buzzing sound. I strained my ears to listen and finally realised, "My God, chanting!" And indeed that's what it was, the eerie sound of chanting heard dimly from a long way off.
After awhile the static crackling in the air vanished and once more I heard a loud thud upon the corrugated-iron roof, followed by the sound of something scampering across the roof. Something which I realised sounded much too large for any possum.
I had now firmly made up my mind to sell the Gables to Matthews and Strange the next time I saw them. However, despite the diaries' claims that the two men had harassed my uncle almost every day for more than twenty years to sell them the house, when I decided to sell out, the two men failed to put in an appearance.
* * *
The next day I forced myself to go outside the Gables, despite my reluctance to go out onto the blood-strewn mountainside. To my astonishment, there was no sign of the thousands of seagull corpses that had coated a large portion of the mount the day before. Where the bloody carcases had been earlier, the ground was now broken and torn up as though a large-toothed hoe or other digging implement had been dragged around the mount, removing most of the grass to leave wide, deep grooves making the field look like a badly sewn field. At one point a great hole yawned, looking for all the world like a bite mark. But a bite of incredible size: a great chasm more than ten metres deep had been scooped out of the side of the mountain. No creature that had ever walked this planet (dinosaurs included) could ever have made such a bite.
After staring at the "bite" in disbelief for almost fifteen minutes, I returned to the mansion to look for a shovel to fill in the hole. Instead I found a grey-haired couple waiting on the porch: The man tall, lean and distinguished looking; the woman short, slightly plumpish, and very beautiful, despite being in her early sixties.
They introduced themselves as Sebastian and Eleanor Hilliard.
I hesitated to invited the Hilliards into the house for fear that the shock of walking on their hands might prove too much for the elderly couple. Instead we stood talking on the front porch.
After a moment's hesitation Sebastian said, "Rather than beat around the bush, Mr. Richmond, I'll come straight to the point. We're members of a society called the Ordo Templi Australis, or the Order of the Templars of the South." He paused for a moment, obviously uncertain of himself, before adding, "Look this is none of our business really...But we've come round to ask you. No, to beg you not to sell the Gables to Morton Matthews and leLande Strange."
"But how...?" I asked, dumbfounded.
"Then they have approached you already?" asked Eleanor.
"Well...yes," I admitted.
"Please don't," she begged.
"We...we asked your uncle also. But fortunately Lindsay Stafford had no intention of selling the family manor," said Sebastian.
"But...but whyever not?" I asked. I somehow resisted the temptation to ask, "What business is it of yours anyway?"
The elderly couple exchanged a long, hard look for a moment. Then finally Eleanor said, "We might as well come clean, Mr. Richmond...Sebastian and I are witches..." Seeing my stunned look she laughed then added, "No I suppose we're not exactly how you would picture witches. But then most of the standard picture of witches is all media hype. The truth is that witchcraft is an ancient fertility cult. Our aim is to attune ourselves to the natural forces of the Earth. We worship the White Goddess, Hecate..." She rambled on for a few minutes in this vein, before finally realising she had lost my interest, she said, "But that's not what we came here to talk to you about...
"We came to warn you about Morton Matthews..." She paused for a moment before saying, "I first met Matthews in 1948..."
"1948!" I repeated, shocked, thinking she must mean 1984. In 1948 Eleanor Hilliard would have been a mere teenager, Morton Matthews hardly even that.
Noting my surprise she laughed again, then said, "I assure you Mr. Richmond, it's the truth. I met him in 1948 when I joined the Ordo Templi Australis as a sixteen year old neophyte. Apprentice witch, that is. Matthews...Well Morton Matthews looked exactly as he does today...Like a man in his mid fifties. Which he may well have been at the time...But, of course, that was more than forty-eight years ago." She paused to allow the statement to sink in.
"But wait..." I started to protest.
"Which means that even if he really was in his mid fifties then, he now must be more than one hundred years of age!" put in Sebastian.
"I know it sounds incredible, but it's the truth, I swear it," insisted Eleanor. "When I joined in 1948, Matthews had risen up through the ranks of the Ordo Templi until he was second in charge. A position that he held for another fourteen years. Then in 1962 he became impatient and made an unsuccessful take-over bid. Soon afterwards our leader, Barry Hawthorne died in a mysterious manner."
"He was the victim of a spontaneous combustion," explained Sebastian. Then, in case I didn't understand what the term meant, "That is when a human being bursts into flames for no apparent reason and burns to ashes in seconds...Leaving their clothing and any surrounding furniture unsinged."
"Yes, I've heard of it," I said, "Dickens mentions it in Bleak House. But surely spontaneous human combustion is only a myth?"
"I assure you, it is not," said Eleanor. "You see we were all there when it happened. Barry was conducting a simple healing ritual with all the Ordo Templi Australis in attendance. When suddenly he burst into flames before our eyes..." Although it had happened more than thirty years earlier, the old woman was almost crying as she spoke.
Placing a comforting arm around her, his own eyes a little misty from the memory, her husband said, "But not ordinary flames...Strange, luminous, almost phosphorescent flames...If that makes any sense at all."
"Soon afterwards Matthews made another try for the leadership. But Barry's death was never solved and we were wary of Matthews, fearing he had somehow been responsible..."
"Also, of course, people had started to notice the fact that he did not visibly age. Well they could hardly fail to notice...In 1962 Matthews looked not a day older than he had in 1948. Of course some people are lucky and age well...But no one ages that well...Not naturally that is."
"Which had us fearing that Matthews had started to dabble into sorcery...In the quest for such fabled goals as the philosopher's stone and the elixir of youth...."
"But what's the difference between witchcraft and sorcery?" I asked, genuinely perplexed. "Surely they're the same thing?"
"No. Only in the eyes of Australia's yellow news media..." assured Sebastian. "In reality they are totally unrelated. Witchcraft involves worship of nature; the four elemental forces: earth, wind, fire, and water. Sorcery is an outgrowth from alchemy; in essence a perverted form of chemistry. An attempt to work magic through the use of chemical concoctions for strictly personal gain: turning base metals into gold or silver; or achieving longevity. Like demonology (which also is totally unrelated to witchcraft), sorcery sometimes involves human sacrifices...."
"After the death of Barry Hawthorne, Morton Matthews was expelled from the Ordo Templi Australis, despite his protestations of innocence. Soon after he founded the Cult of Cthulhu..."
"At first we took it all as a bit of a joke," said Sebastian. "In 1962 H.P.Lovecraft was far from the legendary figure that he is today, but his reputation had started to build and we had read enough of his fiction to realise that he was the inventor of the 'fictitious' Cthulhu..."
"Or at least so we thought at the time..." added Eleanor. "For the next few years the Cult of Cthulhu slowly built up a following, without any great controversies...Then in the early 1970s he recruited leLande Strange, who soon became Matthews' right-hand man."
"Don't let Strange's outer persona fool you," warned Sebastian. "He appears to be a giggling cretin...but in reality the man is an evil genius, with an I.Q. of over 200."
"Strange seemed to be the missing link for Matthews. Strange had been employed at the Woomera Rocket Range, in South Australia, working on super-secret nuclear reactor experiments for twenty years from the early 1950s. Then in 1973 there was a catastrophe at Woomera. A nuclear reactor went into overload and temporarily opened a portal between Woomera and sunken R'lyeh, almost allowing Great Cthulhu to slither into existence in the desert of South Australia. As a result the "rocket range" was shut down and blown up. However, Strange was confident that he could reproduce the result -- which had included a partial materialisation of Great Cthulhu himself. But to avoid any trouble with the Australian or English Governments (the latter of whom had actually been in charge of Woomera), Strange moved his operations from South Australia to Victoria...."
"And promptly met up with Morton Matthews," put in Eleanor.
"As far back as August 1980 Matthews and Strange set off a controlled nuclear reaction on the far side of Mount Peterson and managed to open a portal between our world and far off Yuggoth. However, to date they have not been able to properly control the portal, or call anything through. Nonetheless I fear that they might be m the brink of success...If it can be called that. Heaven alone knows how those two lunatics expect to control Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath, or any of the other Great Old Ones if they do manage to call them through the portal. Heaven help the world if anything does make it through the portal between Earth and far off Yuggoth...!"
As I listened to the Hilliards' strange tale, I started to wonder about the sanity of the locals, and started to become increasingly convinced that my best bet might be to sell the Gables to Matthews and Strange (if I ever saw them again).
Seeing a sad look come into the pale blue eyes of Eleanor Hilliard, I realised that she was aware of what I was thinking. A fact confirmed when she hurriedly interrupted her husband to announce that they had to be leaving.
"But please consider our words Mr. Richmond," she pleaded, looking back as they stepped off the porch. "Selling the Gables to Matthews and Strange could have catastrophic consequences. For the whole world!"
Having made up my mind to sell the mansion to Matthews when next I saw him, the "sorcerer" suddenly seemed reluctant to put in an appearance. For a whole week the two men failed to appear, and every night for that week I was awakened by the sound of the static hissing as the gloving electric coil whiplashed in the air above my head. Every night I heard the distant buzz-buzz-buzz of far off chanting. Every night as the static snake abated a loud crash resounded upon the corrugated-iron roof, followed by the crashing-thumping of some large animal racing around atop the roof.
Finally I decided that I had had enough. This time I waited up, seated upon a chair beside the bed, for more than two hours until the sound of chanting started Then I raced outside and started across the mountainside in pursuit of the distant, chanting voices.
I had only gone a few metres across the dark mount, before realising that the chanting was emanating from the opposite side of the mountain, where the "burnt" section was. As I approached the "fire zone" the chanting grew steadily louder.
I stepped over a rise upon the mount and was shocked to see a circle of chanting witches exactly as my uncle had described, in flowing, purple-satin robes, dancing widdershins round a white circle in which stood Morton Matthews.
Holding his hands wide apart above his head, Matthews chanted as though praying, "Iä! Great Cthulhu answer our supplications. We are your servants, the keepers of the silver key, the watchers at the portal. Iä! Great Cthulhu arise from your watery bed in far off sunken R'lyeh and come to rule us. Iä! Great Cthulhu, we are your willing slaves, ready to assist you to conquer then destroy the human race!"
'My God!' I thought as I watched incredulous, 'I was wrong about you, uncle, you were perfectly sane till the day you died. These are the loonies!'
"Oh Great Cthulhu!" shrieked Morton Matthews as I turned and started back toward my own side of the mount.
After this experience, quite frankly I did not know what to believe; who were the local loonies: Matthews and Strange, or the Hilliards?
At daybreak the next morning, I set out for nearby Glen Hartwell, to investigate the Hilliards' story. However, first I had to get down the side of the mountain. I had noticed when investigating the other side of the mount that travelling down the mountain was not as easy as running up it had been. The inversed gravity on the mount meant that walking down even ten metres had me gasping for breath. Likewise my Mitsubishi, which had effortlessly rolled up the hill upon my arrival, now coughed and spluttered, continually stalling through what should have been a quick drive down the mount, turning it into an endurance test. Then, as we passed from the bottom of the slope to the level ground, the car suddenly took off; forcing me to slam my foot onto the brake pedal to avoid rocketing into a large blue gum on the other side of the small path at the bottom of the mountain.
* * *
In the mid 1990s Glen Hartwell (or "the Glen" as the locals call it) was a large country town, of nearly 2,500 people. The two-man police station, situated in Mitchell Street, at the northern end of town, was manned by Sergeant Danny "Bear" Ross and his constable, Terry Blewitt. Bear Ross was a fair-haired man in his late thirties, more than 200 centimetres tall, with a huge barrel chest, and bulging muscular arms and thighs, leaving no doubt as to how he had come by his nickname.
"Take a seat," offered the big man affably, waving me toward a tall-back wooden chair beside his black-wood desk. "What can I do for you?"
I hesitated, uncertain how to start, aware that he might end up thinking me as crazy as I was convinced that Matthews, Strange, and the Hilliards all were...Finally I blurted out, "I...I was hoping you might be able to provide me with some background details about an organisation called the Ordo Templi Australis?"
When Ross failed to answer I explained, "I recently inherited the Gables, a mansion on top of Mount Peterson..."
"Haunted Mountain?" said Bear Ross.
"Er yes..." I hesitated for a moment before summoning the courage to give a fairly lengthy (and I hoped believable) account of all the goings on at the mount over the last ten days or so.
My tale told, I waited for some response from the big man. He sat with a puzzled look on his face, hands clasped before him for an inestimable time, before saying, "I can't tell you anything about Matthews or his Cult of Cthulhu...However, we do have a file on the Ordo Templi Australis."
Getting up from the desk he went across to the four-drawer metal filing cabinet and pulled out the second top drawer. After leafing through the drawer for a moment he extracted a Manila folder bulging with newspaper clippings and typed police reports.
Returning to his desk, Bear leafed through the official police summary for a few minutes before saying, "It all happened a little before my time, I'm afraid. There was a series of ritualistic murders, involving beheadings and disembowellings, committed in Glen Hartwell and neighbouring Daley through the first half of 1982. My predecessor, Lawrie Grimes, handled the investigations and initially suspected the Ordo Templi Australis. However, after interviewing members of the OTA a few times, he couldn't prove anything against them and retired in June 1982 with the murders still unsolved. In June that year Terry Blewitt, Lawrie's constable, took over as acting sergeant for four months, but by that time the murders had ceased and he was unable to make any headway. When I came to the Glen in October 1982, the murders were already cold. I did my best to investigate them through into early 1983, at which time the Ash Wednesday bushfires became my main priority."
"How many murders were there?" I asked.
He leafed through the papers again before replying, "Eleven."
"And you simply stopped investigating them?" I asked incredulous, not meaning it to sound like a reproach.
"There wasn't a lot more I could do," he said apologetically. "I interviewed members of the OTA myself, but came to the conclusion that they were harmless kooks...Incapable of the level of horrendous brutality perpetrated by the murderer or murderers...."
"But you could have been mistaken?" I goaded.
"Well...Yes...I'm not perfect," he conceded. Then, after a moment's embarrassed silence, "Look maybe it would be best if I took you round to speak to Lawrie Grimes...Lawrie lives in Howard Street, just a few blocks away. Although he's in his seventies now, his mind is still razor sharp and he has almost computer-like recall; he's bound to remember the only mass murders to have ever occurred in the area in his time...He could probably tell you a hell of a lot more out of his head than he ever put down in the files..."
Naturally I accepted the offer and we were soon knocking at the door of a lemon-yellow double-fronted weatherboard house in Howard Street.
Lawrie Grimes was as tall as Bear Ross, but almost deathly thin, with dark brown hair, which made him look fifteen years less than his age of seventy plus. Seeing Bear Ross, Grimes reached out to shake the big man's right hand in obviously genuine affection.
Grimes showed us into his lounge room and sat us on the sofa while he potted about at the other end of the house making coffee. Upon returning he sat in a black leather armchair to listen, while Bear tentatively filled him in on why we had come calling.
"Yes, yes," said the old man enthusiastically, "that's one case I'll certainly never forget. One of the few unsolved murders in the twenty years that I served as sergeant, and the only mass murder in the Glen in that period."
"Your notes say you suspected the Ordo Templi Australis?" I asked.
"At first yes," he agreed. "But after investigating them for a while I came to the conclusion that they were exactly what they claimed to be: worshippers of elemental magic. Perfectly harmless, if not exactly your everyday religious types...At the time of the murders the gutter press claimed the OTA was an offshoot of Aleister Crowley's infamous Ordo Templi Orientis, the Order of the Templars of the East, trying to claim that Crowley had personally founded the OTA on a tour of Australia and New Zealand early this century. Of course Crowley never legally entered this country, although immigration and customs controls were very slack at the turn of the century so he could have entered secretly without any real difficulty. Besides which, the press chose to ignore that aspect, concentrating instead m the fact that Crowley's best known High Priestess-Courtesan, Leila Waddell, or 'sister Cybele' as Crowley called her, was born in Australia. But with the help of the local priest at the time, Father Benjamin, I managed to confirm Ordo Templi Australis' roots can be traced back more than eight hundred years to southern Europe. Remembering that Australis is Latin for 'southern Land', which is where Australia got its name from, and also Austria, since it was considered one of the world's southernmost countries before the discovery of South America by Amerigo Vespucci, then Australia by Captain Cook...."
The old man rambled on for a moment before I interrupted, asking, "Is there any chance of me speaking to this Father Benjamin?"
"I'm afraid not," said Bear Ross. "Fr. Benjamin and his young curate, Father Dominique...were both brutally murdered in early 1986..." Then seeing my startled look, he added, "No, their killings were totally unrelated to the ones in 1982. The priests' killer was finally caught."
"The current priest at St. Margaret's, Father Benedict, was a close friend of the young curate Fr. Dominique," put in Lawrie Grimes, "you can talk to him if you like. But I doubt if he could tell you anything useful."
"Was he in the Glen in 1982?" I asked.
"No, but he visited Fr. Dominique a number of times between 1982 and 1986 and was visiting at the time the two priests were murdered. He was probably lucky Bear caught the killer, or else he most likely would have been victim number three."
I nodded my agreement, realising the murders of two priests couldn't be mere coincidence; the murderer had to have been a freaked-out maniac with a major hate-on for the Church. Trying to get the discussion back onto track, I asked, "What can you tell me about the Cult of Cthulhu?"
"Other than that it has been led since 1962 by the apparently ageless Morton Matthews?" said Lawrie. "Not a lot really. Although after I ruled out the Ordo Templi Australis, the Cult of Cthulhu became my next most likely suspects...."
Clearly startled Bear Ross sad up quickly, almost spilling hot coffee over himself and said, "Yet you don't even mention them in your notes of the case?"
"How the hell could I?" demanded Lawrie defensively. "Cthulhu was a mythical being invented by the father of American science fiction, H.P.Lovecraft. How the hell could I have mentioned Cthulhu or Lovecraft in official police records? Particularly since by 1982 Lovecraft had already become a household name the world over...Of course in the decade and a bit since then, many writers have hinted that the so called Cthulhu mythos is more than mere fiction; that Lovecraft somehow stumbled onto a 'nest' of supernatural invaders and didn't dare write of them as non-fiction for fear of being locked away, so instead he hinted at them in works of 'fiction'. Drawing on the fact that H.P.Lovecraft died mysteriously in 1937 aged forty-six; hinting that he may have been murdered somehow by the Great Old Ones whom he wrote about...
"But, of course, that's all supposition; none of it can be proven, and it wasn't even hinted at (at least in my hearing) in 1982. But even if it had been, I wouldn't have dared mention Great Cthulhu or the Great Old Ones in my official notes. Christ, I was within a few months of retiring when the murders started. The last thing I needed was to be given the push four months early and miss out on my pension...." He paused to gather his thoughts for a few moments, obviously feeling guilty under Bear's questioning. "But I swear to you I did check out the bastards to the best of my ability. I'm almost certain the Cult of Cthulhu was responsible for the eleven murders; some kind of weird blood sacrifices to call Great Cthulhu through into our world. But I couldn't prove it then, and I can't prove it now."
I considered that for a while before deciding to shift my field of questioning a little by asking the old man about the Hilliards' claim that Matthews and Strange had managed to detonate a controlled nuclear explosion on one side of Mount Peterson in August 1980.
Grimes was clearly surprised by the suggestion. He considered for a moment before saying, "I guess anything is possible with that pair...There's no doubt that there was one hell of an explosion out around that area at that time...
"Did you investigate it at all?"
"Oh yes, Terry Blewitt and I spent the better part of a month scouring the countryside, looking for the source of the explosion ... but we never considered a nuclear blast. Our main thought was either space junk falling to Earth, like the U.S. Skylab not long before that ... or more likely a meteorite."
"A meteorite?" asked Bear Ross, sceptically.
"It can happen," said Lawrie defensively. "Admittedly due to the force-field effect it's unlikely, but it occasionally does happen."
"Force-field effect?" asked Bear, obviously as puzzled as I.
"Yes, when a planet has three factors, a very heavy gravity, a very dense atmosphere, and a rapid rotation about its axis, all of which the Earth has, it effectively generates a force field at the outer rim of the atmosphere. That's why meteorites rarely strike the Earth, but the moon close by looks like Swiss cheese. The moon has one-sixth the Earth's gravity, no atmosphere, and no rotation about its axis. So any meteors, comets et cetera passing either smash into the moon or hit the Earth's 'force field' and carom off like a billiard ball. Nonetheless, one occasionally does get through to the Earth...Which is what we assumed had happened in August 1980. Of course we couldn't find any debris, but we couldn't possibly search every square centimetre of the forestland. And, of course, if it had been an ice-comet meteorite, it would have disintegrated upon impact."
He paused to consider for a while before admitting, "Still it could have been a nuclear blast, set off by those two loonies...." He scratched his chin ruminatively for a few seconds before adding, "Although considering what Matthews and Strange are into, it could have been something far more ominous...
"More ominous that a nuclear blast?" asked Bear.
Lawrie looked across at the younger man guiltily, as though ashamed to admit what he was thinking in his presence. "If Matthews and friends hope to open some kind of portal between our world and Yuggoth, the explosion could have been the tearing of space itself caused by the opening of the portal. Considering what could shamble through such a portal, I'd suggest that was a hell of a lot more ominous than a mere nuclear blast."
* * *
I left Lawrie Grimes' Howard Street house more firmly convinced than ever that the people of Glen Hartwell suffered from some form of hereditary insanity. (A view seemingly shared by Bear Ross who very sheepishly apologised as we drove away, saying, "You have to make allowance for Lawrie being in his seventies; his mind isn't as sharp as it used to be.") I was no longer sure what if anything I could believe of the crazy tale I had been told by the Hilliards and the retired policeman. I half feared that they were all plotting together for some reason, to scare we into selling the Gables and leaving the Glen. Although the Hilliards had warned me not to sell out to Matthews and Strange, I decided their true reason may well have been so they could make a bid for the mansion themselves.
Returning to Mount Peterson, once more I found the Mitsubishi eagerly raced up the mount even in first gear as you would expect it to race down. Although it was only early afternoon, I decided against further investigating that day, deciding instead to retire to my uncle's bedroom to leaf through the voluminous diaries of Lindsay Stafford, but without discovering anything new.
My uncle had also met the Hilliards along with other members of the Ordo Templi Australis, whom he had started off mistrusting, but whom he had soon come to regard as his allies: "My God, how wrong I have been in thinking that Matthews and Strange were mere harmless witches. If only that was all they were! I know now that Morton Matthews and leLande Strange are worshippers of an ancient, evil religion that predates the dawn of mankind! They have been trying for years to break through to far off Yuggoth, or to call back Great Cthulhu from his eternal sleep beneath the waves..." he wrote at one stage, making me doubt the old man's sanity, thinking, 'Is anyone at all sane around this place?' I half wondered when the inverted laws of physics on the mount would start to effect me. Then I wondered whether they already had, whether my whole experience to date, including my encounters with Matthews, Strange, the Hilliards, and Lawrie Grimes, as well as the rain of seagulls, and even my uncle's diaries, might all be part of some weird fever dream I was having?
Common sense told me to leave the mount immediately, that very minute; abandon my clothes and flee in my Mitsubishi Magna. But after a short period of intense panic, my curiosity took control again and I decided to stay on, at least until I had discovered the truth, or otherwise of the Hilliards' claims. 'If the worst comes to the worst,' I thought, 'I can always abandon the Gables and move to a hotel in Glen Hartwell or Daley to continue my researches.'
Flicking through Lindsay Stafford's diaries again, I read, "Morton Matthews has been attempting to get in contact with one of the Great Old Ones for decades. Despite his appearance of being permanently in his mid fifties, if the Hilliards are right, Matthews must be at least a hundred years of age!"
This told me nothing new though; nothing that I had not already heard from Eleanor and Sebastian Hilliard. If the elderly couple were both certifiable as seemed probable, then quite likely when they had visited Lindsay Stafford they had managed to "infect" my uncle with their madness. As presumably they could have infected Lawrie Grimes when he interviewed them while investigating the eleven unsolved murders in mid 1982.
Turning over the page of the diary I saw a whole series of photographs that were listed as a gift from the Hilliards. The photos were mainly grainy old black and whites and like the photos of the Gables' slow accent up Mount Peterson, their subject was identical: the unsmiling visage of a widows' peaked Morton Matthews, looking unagingly in his mid fifties. But unlike the earlier photographs, these ones, although startling, were not as irrefutably convincing. As my Uncle Lindsay admitted: "Of course a cynic might say that they are not all of the same man from the 1920s through to the 1990s. In theory they could depict Morton Matthews, his father, various uncles, brothers, and other male relatives. Although exact look-a-likes are rare, even in families, they are not completely unheard of. If the pictures were of a great series of related men each at the same age (in different years), theoretically (although improbably) they could look exactly alike at that age. Or at least enough alike so that their photographic images look identical, allowing for the fact that the camera most definitely CAN lie."
END OF PART TWO: