I'm in Leeds. A godforsaken little town, down the road from where I grew up. Place has always given me the creeps, and I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the case I've taken. 'Find out who's broadcasting obscenities from a pirate radio station in the area'. Sure, buddy, whatever. I've bills to pay so it's not like I have a choice...
Right from the off, I have a bad feeling. I check in to a grubby, run down B&B and, having handed over my deposit to the acne faced teenager who showed me to my room, head into town to make some initial enquiries.
No one wants to talk to me, an out of towner, and I've just about given up when an old woman nods in answer to my question. 'Broadcasts? Oh, I've heard those, sonny. But if you want to know what's really going on in these parts, you want to look into what happened to young Tim McLellan and that other fella who came here asking questions like yourself...' at which points she cackles madly and turns and flees, leaving me standing there, feeling like someone's just walked over my grave.
I find more info in the library, looking at recent copies of the local paper. Two unexplained and seemingly unconnected dearhs. Tim McLellan, an eight year old who was found strangled and with bite marks on his body, and Clement Lestrange, a private investigator from Chicago, found in his hotel room with his head caved in. No clues or witnesses to either violent death, and unwritten attitude from the police chief that '... these things happen...'
I go for a coffee in a joint called the Haymarket Cafe. It's quiet - just me and old timer with his back to me, who doesn't even turn round as I walk in. I ask about the deaths as I take my first sip of bitter coffee. The woman serving me shakes her head, she doesn't bother much with the news. I sit and drink my coffee, wondering what the hell I'm doing here.
I finish my drink, grimacing as I swallow the dregs, leave the tip on the table, and get up to go. At which point the old man turns round and waves me over to his table. 'Take this,' he says, handing me a brass key, 'it's the Key to the Real Leeds'. He turns away again, our conversation clearly over. I stick the key in my pocket and leave, shaking my head as I do so. Weird ass town.
I pop into the drugstore and pick up a copy of the latest edition of the local newspaper, in the hope that this may offer me some more information. And my god, it does. 'Mutilated Victims!' screams the headline. I read the article with shaking hands, learning that a farmer on the edge of town found the mutilated bodies of several young kids in his field this morning. Just what the hell is going on?
It gets worse. Reading more, I learn that the parents knew their children were out after dark, and were 'Unconcerned' when they didn't come home. Which to me, makes them complicit.
My appetite gone, I head back to my room at the B&B, where I sleep fitfully - with nightmares of dead children and uncaring parents.
At breakfast, I pick at the cooked breakfast of greasy undercooked sausages, burnt beans and chewy toast and try and get my thoughts in some sort of order.
'Seen the news, Mister?' asks the acne faced lad as he pours me more coffee.
'About the mutilated kids? Yes, I read about that yesterday,' I reply grimly.
He shakes his head, 'No. They found more kids bodies. Big pile of them. In one of the store rooms at Langford Elementary School.' He says this so matter of factly that I'm momentarily lost for words. He leaves the dining room and I'm left with a creeping sense of unease.
With soul chilling timing, the easy listening music piping from the antique radio behind me is replaced by a cacophony that I can only describe sounding like the cries of the damned.
I flee outside, without coat or hat, my shivering not because of the cold.
Ten minutes later, and I've somewhat come to my senses and realise just how cold I am as I walk though the streets of the town. I spy a second-hand book shop ahead of me, and enter, rubbing my hands, grateful for the warmth inside. The owner, Anne Gare, is chatty and she tells me how things have always been strange here in Leeds, but that things have gotten worse lately. 'I think it's all related to...' she starts.
A banging on the window cuts her short. An elderly man is staring through the window at us. Having got our attention, he turns leaves.
Next to me, Ms Gare is as white as a sheet.
'Who was that?' I ask.
'William Dither,' she answers, 'One of the town elders. You'd better leave.' She disappears into the stockroom, locking the door behind her.
I head back to my room at the B&B. Cold, and with a growing sense of dread, I slip into bed for a quick morning nap.
I awake hours later, disoriented and for a second unsure of where I am. It's morning. I slept right through all of yesterday and the night.
And then my thoughts fall into place and I realise I know what happened to young Tim McLellan and the other kids. I remember the old tales of Leeds, the ones I grew up with. The stories of cannibals. And I understand the Key I've been given is the Key to all of this. Because I'd bet my life on it being the Key to the school storeroom and it belonging to old man Dither.
But even though I'm sure the case of Tim McLellan's death is closed, I dont have enough real evidence yet, and I still need to investigate further. So I make some notes, hide them and the Key in my locked luggage, and go down to breakfast.
By the time i head into town, it's almost ten am. The news hot off the press means my fears are realised. Another child has been killed. Seven year old Rangel Bantem has been found suffocated, with his eyes gouged out.
Before he vanished, Rangel was spotted near the woods on the edge of town. I walk across town and then down a short dirt track into the trees.
Some hours later, I find myself in a clearing. It's dark and smells of rotting leaves.
And with a shudder I realise I am not alone. Several men are standing in the shadows, watching me. I want to run. But I hold my ground. Waiting.
Finally, one of them speaks, 'Don't interfere in matters of the flesh you don't understand.'
And then, in a blink, they are gone.
I quickly head back into town, resisting the urge to look over my shoulder as I do so. As I make my way through the streets I get a feel for the Real Leeds - an evil desperate place.
A young woman sits next to a placard reading 'Ghost Tours'. Desperate for normal human interaction, I stop and ask her how business is. 'Quiet,' she says glumly, 'Who wants to go on a ghost walk with all the killings?'
I can't argue with that. I learn her name is Merrie Thornbuckle and I make some polite small talk before making excuses to go. 'Go and see Benjamin Stockton,' she says, 'He's a Warlock and he'll know what's going on.' She gives me his address and I leave with a sense of positivity I've not felt since I arrived in Leeds.
Benjamin Stockton is a strange man, but he tells me more than I could have hoped. He tells me about the history of the town and of the occult leanings present for as long as anyone can remember. When I ask about the broadcasts he shakes his head. 'I don't know who is behind the broadcasts,' he says, but they are regular, if you know their schedule.' He switches on a small radio and nods at me. A moment later I hear gleeful confessions to the killings told in a manical distorted voice. I know then that it is all linked. Benjamin hands me a piece of paper with a handwritten broadcast schedule on it.
I leave the Warlock with a shake of his hand and head into the main part of town, looking for somewhere to eat.
Passing under a railway bridge I stop in my tracks. The seemingly cryptic graffiti actually details what happened to Clement Lestrange. He clearly learned too much about the killings and the powers that be had to silence him. I take a picture of the graffiti, and I allow myself a smile - because I know that with this second case now solved I am one step closer to get all the evidence I need to go to the authorities.
After a passable dinner in a family run restaurant I had back to my room, exhausted after an eventful day, but hopeful.
The next morning, any positive feelings I may have immediately vanish when the young lad serving me breakfast tells me of yet another death - this time it's a young busker called Finn Groomer who has been found with his throat split. 'These things come in cycles,' he tells me.' But he won't expand on this despite my plea for him to enlighten me.
There is a strange sense that everyone here knows what is going on and expects it. It makes my blood run cold.
I visit the school and speak to Rangel's teacher, Mrs Haggerty. She tells me about Rangel - about his sense of humour, his hobbies, his interest in rock music. She has tears in her eyes as she begs me find out who killed him. She hands me a book - 'read this later,' she says, 'It may help'.
Cutting across the Leeds town common, I spot a crowd on the distance. The police have taped off an area of thick bushes. From speaking to some of the crowd I learn that a tour guide, Susan Dimmsler has been found strangled.
This is all getting to be too much. I need caffeine and some time to get my head together.
Sitting in a nearby coffee shop I look at the book that Mrs Haggerty have me. It's titled 'Libellus Vox Larvae' and is written in something - Latin? - that I can't read. I shake my head, what help is this?
I'm just about to finish up, when a young woman sits down opposite me. 'I'm Carol Kitten' she says, 'My daughter was one of the bodies they found in the school storeroom. Please do something. The people here won't - they're all too scared.' She looks around nervously and then leaves without another word, practically running as she does so.
I return to the B&B and go to my room to study the book. Remembering the graffiti, I understand now how to interpret it and I spend the afternoon reading a history of occult activity and learn the names of key townspeople detailed in its pages.
Later, the lights go out. I tense, expecting some sort of attack, but I sit there in the dark with my heart hammering and nothing happens. Outside, everywhere is dark and I realise it's a general blackout.
But the dark acts as a trigger and I suddenly know who killed Rangel Bantem. I call the police and tell them who is responsible, and then immediately call a local reporter - to ensure my information is acted on. I have no idea how deep this goes, but the press have been vocally questioning the official response to the killings so tipping them off will mean the police are held to account.
Not only have I solved Rangel's death, but I've given the police names, so it feels as if I've solved 2 cases in one.
There is a knock at my door. With the power out at this end of Leeds, the young man in the B&B tells me I need to check out as they can't heat the rooms and wont be able to provide breakfast in the morning. I state I'm happy to leave in the morning but he makes it clear this isn't an option.
I leave and head across town to where the power is still ok.
The first place I come across with a 'Rooms Available' sign outside is a very weird house, with strange walls that hurt the eye to look at. I hasten on and twenty minutes later arrive at the Hotel Northampton. It's a modern looking establishment and it's a breath of fresh air after the grubbiness of the B&B.
But my good mood comes to an end shortly afterwards as I settle into bed, when I realise the time I've spent changing lodgings has cost me dear - because in the morning I must head back to the city... and I've not yet solved all of the strange goings on here in Leeds...