Story

The investigators were contacted by an old acquaintance named Bill Drake. He gave them a letter he had inadvertently intercepted, addressed to a guy named Mark Ridley. The letter was a notification of a meeting to be held between Ridley and the writer, a man named Montgomery Andram. It suggested that occult artifacts would be exchanged during the meeting. Bill Drake, knowing of the investigators’ interest in such things, brought it their attention in case they wanted to be on hand.

The investigators decide to stake out the meeting place: a small public park known as Little Tokyo for its Japanese garden motif. It is dark and very cold. They hide in an inconvenient spot and don’t get a chance to see much. In the distance, on a kiosk in the middle of a pond, they see two men conversing. They exchange objects, and one of the men goes away. The other, who walks close enough by the investigators for them to get a good look, is looking through some papers and drops one or two as he leaves. He also drops a small numbered key. After he is gone, they retrieve the items he dropped.

Information on the papers gives them the man’s name: Ridley, and his home address. They go and check out his home. After watching him leave, they convince the landlord, Claude, and his wife, Mrs. Claude, to let them into Ridley’s apartment. Inside they learn that Ridley is a hood with some rather interesting connections. They find letters from his associates, postmarked in exotic foreign lands, telling of success in obtaining several very frightening artifacts. The letters make it clear that Ridley’s operatives have killed people in order to acquire certain items. They also find a veritable catalog of occult paraphernalia, all relating to one cult, called the Pazu-Kanpa. The catalog, a collection of 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper stapled at one corner, contains pictures and descriptions of about 12 different items: including a knife, a bowl, a knotted rope, a small human figurine, a staff, a candle, and a small brass box containing what is known as The Idol of the Abominations. Some of the pages have red check marks on them, suggesting that these are items already procured. Other pages, including the one for the Idol of the Abominations, are unmarked. There is a letter from Andram which suggests that Ridley is working for the Pazu-Kanpa to obtain these relics in time for a specific ceremony. There is also some information linking Ridley to Union Station.

The investigators go to Union Station, the major train station in the city, and begin to look around. They see luggage lockers, and realize that the small key Ridley dropped might fit one of them. They use it and discover that they are correct. From within the locker they recover some of the items described in the catalog, including the candle and the human figurine. They also find more documents making the working relationship between Ridley and Andram more clear. The Pazu-Kanpa is revealed as a cult devoted to the Sumerian god Pazuzu, the Lord of Pestilence and Fever. Andram warns Ridley numerous times in various letters that the artifacts he is procuring have tremendous power, and that they must be treated with the greatest care. The Idol of the Abominations, in particular, is extremely dangerous. Just opening the box and looking at the statue it contains can bring insanity or death. Andram warns Ridley never to open the box.

While at Union Station, the investigators are approached by a hobo named Sammy. He goes up to them because he knows Ridley and knows that they are looking through his locker. He wonders if they are friends of Ridley’s. They talk with him for a long time, learning all they can about Ridley. Sammy tells them that he knows Ridley is probably doing something wrong or dangerous, but that he has been nice to him. He shows them a good luck charm Ridley gave him. It is an ancient Roman amulet, which Sammy has tied around his neck with a filthy old shoelace. He is very proud of it. Their interview with Sammy is very helpful, and at the end they give Sammy money to buy some food. He is very grateful.

Using information from the locker, the investigators finally track Ridley to his secret headquarters. It is a small white house in an innocent-looking neighborhood. Staking it out, they watch Ridley go inside. Very nervous about what they will find, but determined to go in and confront Ridley and, if necessary, the Pazu-Kanpa, they enter the house.

At first they are very confused. The house seems to be completely empty. It is clearly not a living space. Piles of boxes and junk line the walls in every room. It is used for storage. Much of the material stored is not occult: it is a warehouse of pornographic magazines. The upstairs rooms are not as crowded, but are also filled with junk. Ridley is nowhere to be seen.

Then one of them catches a whiff of smoke. They try to follow the smell, and it leads them to a closet. Carefully opening the closet door, they find nothing but an empty, ordinary, coat-sized closet. However, one of them notices a small shaft of light on the floor of the closet. Following its source, they realize that the right-hand wall of the closet interior is actually a hidden door. There is no knob, put it is ajar a fraction of an inch, allowing the shaft of light to hit the closet floor. They pry the door open, and discover a very rickety wooden staircase leading into a hidden basement, lit from overhead by a single bare bulb hanging from cobweb-infested wires.

Their anxiety multiplied, they prepare to descend the stairs and confront who-knows-what. They are trying to be very quiet, but the staircase creaks. The smell of smoke is getting much stronger, mixed with another unpleasant smell they can’t identify. They make it to the bottom of the stairs without being attacked, and cautiously move forward.

The basement consists of only two large rooms. The first, into which the stairs descend, is lit with the bulb. The other is dark. It is from this dark room that the smoke is coming. Left with no other alternative, they draw their guns and turn on their flashlights to see what is inside.

Sitting at a small packing case turned on end for a table is the body of Mark Ridley. It is charred and horribly mummified in a very bizarre way. It is frozen in a position of horror: the mouth wide open in a scream, the hands up covering the face, the head tilted back as though from the force of an explosion. The eye sockets are filled with white powder. The clothes are charred and hang from the dry, discolored flesh in smoking strips.

Sitting on the packing case in front of the body is a pad of paper, on which Ridley was writing just before he died. Also there is a small brass box, which the investigators recognize from the "catalog" as being the container of The Idol of the Abominations. The idol itself seems to have been destroyed: little burned chunks of terra cotta sit inside the box. They close the box quickly just to be on the safe side. The note Ridley was writing just before his death has been mostly burned away, but they can see that it was addressed to Montgomery Andram, and begins to say that someone had broken into the place where he was storing some of the artifacts (Union Station), and that he was working on finding out who was responsible.

The investigators quickly conclude that Ridley made the mistake of opening the box despite Andram’s warnings, and paid the price. They assume that, without the artifacts they have intercepted, and without the Idol of the Abominations, whatever ceremony the Pazu-Kanpa was planning has been effectively stopped. As far as they know, the Pazu-Kanpa does not know of their involvement in the case, so they decide to leave the house quickly and try to forget the horrors they have seen.