THE STRANGE SECRET OF KINGSPORT HEAD

(with Josh Downing)

 

1. In the Library

 

As usual, on this fine day in April of 2013, the bespectacled Dr. Artemis was to be found at the reference desk of the university library, with four windows open.  Not windows in the wood-panelled walls of the library, but windows on his computer screen.

 

These included the case of a missing coed, an email to Chief St. Cloud in Collinsport, a CAT scan of his dog, and the animated adventures of “Simon's Cat” which always brought a smile to his face and frequently an out loud laugh.

 

Artemis stifled that laugh as he spotted his assistant, André Carter, hurrying towards him from the other side of the main room of the library.  The young man was blond and well-dressed, though without a tie today, Artemis noted.  Artemis, for one, was rarely seen without a three-piece suit.

 

“Good morning, Mr. Carter,” said the doctor.  “I'll need you to log our new acquisitions, reshelf the books the Poli-Sci students left out, and dust the suit of armor if you have time.  Ms. Surion gave it a very disapproving look this morning.”

 

Carter stopped in front of the desk.  “Doctor, I had a strange dream last night.”

 

“Oh?”  Having a doctorate in Aberrant Psychology and being a consultant at the local asylum, Dr. Artemis was always interested in strange dreams.

 

“Yes.  You see, I saw my father and mother.  Alive.”

 

“I understand you were adopted.”

 

“Yes, but it was them.  I know it.  I felt it,” he said, with both hands over his heart.  Such a gesture is a common sign of a cardial infarction but Artemis dismissed that diagnosis and instead ascribed the gesture as deep emotions.  And the doctor also took note of the curious, pyramidical ring which Carter claimed was the only memento of his family.

 

“Very well,” Artemis asked, leaning back in his chair.  “Tell me about it.”

 

Carter looked over the doctor's head and breathed a few times before answering.

 

“It was my father, doctor,” he said, “he said his name is Ambrose.  I saw my mother behind him... she was so beautiful.  He said her name was Moriamis.”

 

The doctor frowned slightly at the sound of that unusual name.  But Carter continued.

 

“He said they met as a result of crossing an evil wizard named Azz-ay-DAR-ack.  I'm not sure how to spell that.  Father had been a monk and mother was the wizard's student.”

 

“Apprentice,” Artemis interjected.  He didn't bother mentioning that he knew full well how to spell Azédarac.

 

“Yes.  She knew how to brew a potion of Time travel.  And after I was born, the wizard—or his agents—came after them again.  As they were afraid I would be harmed, they sent me ahead in Time!  They didn't abandon me, doctor—they saved me!”

 

The doctor blinked once or twice.  He glanced down at his desk, wondering where he'd left the admission forms for the asylum.

 

“Don't get me wrong, doctor.  I love the Carters.  They've been wonderful to me.  But these are my real parents.”

 

“In the dream?”

 

“Yes.  No, it was more than a dream.  And they told me something more.

 

“My parents wanted me to have their heritage.  They didn't want me to left defenseless against this wizard and other threats.  My father told me about a cave in 'the port of kings'.  There he left… something in a chest to help me.  And there I would find clues to other stashes.  He said... something about knowledge... items... maybe a book about...  Ivan?  I don't quite remember.  It started getting a little hazy.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“And then my mother said something...  But she was farther away.  I couldn't make out what she was saying.  I looked to father...

 

“And then I woke up,” Carter said, looking sad.

 

“So... this cave is in Kingsport?”  Dr. Artemis asked.

 

“Kingsport?”  Carter said, looking directly at the doctor, surprised.  “I never thought of that.”

 

Artemis nodded then got up.  He went over to the atlas and turned to the page showing eastern Massachusetts.  He pointed.  “As Kingsport is only twelve miles from Arkham, I think it's the best place to begin.  The road follows the river to the sea.”

 

“Thank you, doctor,” said Andre Carter, beaming, “I appreciate you believing my story.  I know it's a little hard to believe.”

 

Artemis smiled at the young man.  No, it's impossible to believe, Artemis thought, but if there's a sliver of a chance that it might lead to an original copy of St. Azédarac's fabled Book of Eibon, it's worth looking into.

 

Artemis then went back to the reference desk and picked up the phone.  He got hold of his new security guard, Xiang Linbao, and asked him to come to the library as soon as possible.  Xiang was there within ten minutes, looking tall and sharp and formidable in his PRC Army uniform.

 

Dr. Artemis hated that uniform.  Unfortunately, he could find no stipulation against wearing it in the university's slack regulations.

 

PRC Political Officer Xiang Linbao continued to wear the uniform of the Red Chinese army, despite having resigned his commission three weeks earlier.  Prior to that, he was a staunch Communist, in command of fifteen North Korean... friends.  Their purpose in being camped out in a cabin along the Arkham Reservoir was to protect a [REDACTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND DEFENSE].  However, convinced of the errors of his mission by Dr. Artemis, Xiang resigned and joined the Miskatonic University security staff.

 

Dr. Artemis quickly informed Xiang about Carter and his dream.  Xiang stood at attention the entire time and lifted an eyebrow only once or twice.

 

“And why do you need me, Comrade Doctor?”  Xiang asked, “to protect you from this madman?”

 

Carter clinched his fists but he knew better than to cross the warrior.  Instead, Artemis spoke.

 

“Not at all, Comrade Xiang.  But one can never tell.  I'd like you to accompany us as a safety precaution.  The university will pay for your time, if Ms. Surion approves.”

 

“Agreed then.”  Xiang said, as he saluted.

 

Carter wanted to shake his head in disbelief but he didn't want to express any kind of second-guessing.  He’d only been in Artemis’s service for a few months, and had only heard rumors of this Xiang fellow and his politics.  He could not fathom why a man like Artemis would tolerate the presence of a man like Xiang, let alone allow him on a mission.

 

Unbeknownst to André Carter, Xiang had a secret, and only Artemis knew it.  Artemis was very good about keeping Xiang’s secret, just as he was good about keeping his own.

 

 

2. Kingsport Culture

 

As they would not all fit in the doctor's Eco-Car, Artemis, Xiang, and Carter went to Kingsport in Officer Xiang's truck.  The road was not in the best condition, but hardly the worst of the roads in the county.  As such, the ride seemed longer than twelve miles.

 

Topping the crest, where the Miskatonic River meets the sea, they spotted the ancient town of Kingsport below.  Pausing at the crest, they had a picturesque panorama, in many ways typical of old seafaring towns along the Atlantic coast.  The houses were old with peaked roofs and the streets narrow and winding.  To the south, a quay jutted out into the Atlantic and at its end raised a lighthouse, still functioning due to contributions by the local artists' colony.

 

But truly unique was the towering spectacle of Kingsport Head to the north, rising hundreds of feet above the town and the sea, to a point lost in the mists.  The jagged pinnacle of stone was formed off the same geological structure as the continental granite that formed much of the state, Artemis knew, yet its formation was rare—all but unheard of.  Erosion must have caused it to break off so sharply along the coast.

 

Local legends told of a strange house, high on the pinnacle where few men ever went.  Stranger still were the legends of the house's inhabitants.  But Artemis knew the house was real.  He had been there.

 

“I'm quite familiar with the town,” Dr. Artemis explained to his companions, “I drop in almost every week.  The fish is always fresh and comes at a bargain if one is willing to haggle a bit.”

 

Artemis directed Xiang to a good place to park in the center of Water Street, where most of the businesses in town could be found.  They got out and Artemis put on an overcoat and buttoned it up, as the Atlantic air was not warm this late in the day.  But Carter started on his own.  After a moment, the others followed.

 

Carter was not happy with where they parked.  He looked past the quaint old buildings and dry-docked boats, the hanging fishing nets and the curious idlers.  He headed back along the road they had come until Xiang stopped him.

 

“Where are you going, Comrade?” he asked.

 

“Back towards the higher ground,” Carter answered, “I'm looking for a cave.”

 

Artemis rolled his eyes.  “Carter, rather than wander about aimlessly for hours, why don't we find someone who knows about the town and its history.”

 

“Oh!  Oh, yes.  That's a good idea.”

 

“Shall we try the tavern?  We might get information as well as something warm to drink.”

*   *   *

Inside the Rusty Hook, Artemis ordered a hot apple cider for them all, but Carter changed his order to hot chocolate.  Xiang eyed the few other patrons disdainfully.  Alcohol, he knew, was a capitalist tool to keep the masses from rising up.  It was early and they were almost the only customers.  The staff consisted of the owner/bartender, a waitress, and presumably a cook in back.

 

Their refreshments having arrived, all three men sat down at the table.  On the juke box, the Beach Boys sang “Sloop John B”.  Appropriate, Artemis thought.

 

“So,” Xiang asked Carter, “in your dream do you remember the direction to this cave?”

 

Carter nodded.  “Yes I have some idea it was east of the town.”

 

Artemis frowned.  “East of the town is a great deal of Atlantic Ocean.”

 

“Oh.  I thought it was east.  Maybe it was west.  I get turned around in dreams.”

 

“Doctor,” said Xiang, “you said Mr. Carter believes there is a chest in a cave near Kingsport that contains some sort of treasure.  But the coastline is most likely riddled with caves.  How do we find the right one?”

 

“We need to find someone who knows the town.”

 

And with that, Dr. Artemis went over to the local tavern owner.  Carter followed him with his eyes and ears.

 

“Excuse me sir,” Artemis said, cheerfully, “wonderful cider.  My compliments to your staff.”  And here the doctor presented the innkeeper with a twenty dollar tip.

 

“Thank you, mate,” replied the man, one Clyde Morgan, if the sign outside was correct.

 

Artemis leaned against the bar and spoke again to the innkeeper.  “Sir, we need help finding a location here in town... an authority... someone who knows all the old spots in Kingsport better than anyone else.”

 

The innkeeper leaned close and spoke in a hushed voice.  Neither Carter nor Xiang could hear his answer.

 

The doctor nodded at the innkeeper's words.  “Really?  Where do I find him?”

*   *   *

The trio trotted along the narrow street in the gathering darkness, as the sun had sank behind the horizon leading to Arkham.  Xiang kept his slanted eyes peeled, looking around at the scarcely populated streets.

 

“He told me about an old sea captain who lives at the end of Fish Street...." said Artemis," He says the old salt knows Kingsport better than anyone.  Follow me.”

 

Moments later, Dr. Artemis found the house at the very end of Fish Street, unaware of a shadowy figure following them.  The house instantly caught all their attention.

 

Fish Street terminated in a dead end.  Defiantly stopping the street from continuing was an unpainted house—really, a shack though it stood two stories high and even had a widow's walk on the roof.  Stone Tiki idols leaned this way and that in the weed-choked lawn.  Up a few crooked steps was a porch that looked anxious to collapse on visitors.  A lone door and a large, dirty window faced them.

 

After a moment, Artemis stepped up on the porch, deciding to peek in the window first.  But before he got anything like a good look, he heard a gruff, aged voice from within.

 

“Who be thar?” the voice demanded.

 

The doctor jumped slightly then embarrassedly said, “Oops.”

 

The door opened and a man appeared, old, bent, with a long white beard and a face like the Devil.  And his eyes...

 

Artemis forced himself to smile.  “Hello, sir.  We were told you might be able to help us.”

 

“I might if I so wish,” said the old man, “and not if I don't.”

 

Artemis nodded nervously.  “Quite so.  I'm Dr. Artemis from the Miskatonic University.  My associates and I are on a historical tour of your charming town and we heard you might be able to help us.  May we come in?  I promise we'll be brief.”

 

“Aye, but just ye and the lad.  I won't have no Chinee traipsing through me quarters.  Had too much trouble with their kind in Jhiangnan.”

 

Xiang eyed the sea captain with suspicion, but he stayed outside with the idols.  The doctor, however, entered cheerfully, replying, “Thank you, sir.” he said, “Carter?  You coming?”

 

Andre Carter nodded, even as he looked back at the town and the century-old buildings in the growing darkness.  He followed after a momentary pause.  “Sorry.  I thought someone was watching.”

 

Artemis had no chance to reply before the old man said, “Have a seat, lubbers.”

 

“Uh, thank you.”  The doctor sat gingerly on an old chair, finely carved in its day.  The room was cozy, festooned with typical nautical paraphernalia—a ship's wheel, fishing nets, a harpoon, a pair of crossed cutlasses, and scattered seashells.  There were also several unusual items, brought back from various voyages—a Chinese censer burning patchouli, opium pipes of ivory and brass and red jade, a carved wooden mask likely worn by a Polynesian witchdoctor, a hanging necklace carved from ivory in the shape of tiny skulls, and some manner of fetish stick in the corner, carved with naked demons and a large, gleaming eye.  There were two doors, one closed.  The open door led to a kitchen which the sea captain would, no doubt, call his galley.

 

The old man took a seat of his own by the table, upon which sat seven dark bottles, each holding a dangling ring of what appeared to be lead.  This caused the doctor to raise an eyebrow, but he said nothing.  Those being the only chairs visible, Mr. Carter was obliged to stand.

 

“Carter, eh?” the old captain said, “now there be a fine name.  I recall sailin' with a Randy Carter around the Horn and along the Portugee coast of India.  Disembarked at Canton as I recall.  Said he'd do a bit of exploring inland.”

 

Carter interjected, “I had a great-uncle who lived near Meadow Hill, north of Arkham.  His name was Randy.”

 

The captain nodded.  “The Carters had a fancy for the name.  But the Randy Carter I sailed with twern't the Randy what got himself a knighthood from ole Queen Bess.”

 

“Bess?” said a surprised Artemis, “Queen Elizabeth the First?”

 

The old man picked up one of the black bottles.  “Aye.  Tain't that right, Mate Ellis?”

 

Artemis raised an eyebrow as he thought—imagined, of course—that the lead ring glowed slightly.  But in the darkness of an unlit room, he doubted his own eyes.  The old salt is mad, of course, Artemis thought.  Really, I need to start carrying those admission forms with me.

 

Apparently, the old man had no further interest in André Carter's genealogy, for he simply said, “Me mates 'n me, we like to keep tabs on sartain folk here abouts.”

 

“Really?  How interesting, I suppose,” the doctor said, trying to get back on the subject.  “But we were more interested in caves.”

 

The old man eyed the doctor suspiciously, “Caves?  Ye be eel fishing?”

 

“Actually, this cave supposedly has a box in it.”

 

“...I see.  The sea has many caves hidden within.  Aye, scores of 'em along about Innsmouth.”

 

The doctor cleared his throat.  “Yes.  I'm sure.  Anything closer?”

 

There came a hum from one of the black bottles.  The old man turned one eye—and only one of them—and gazed on it.  It became quiet.  Artemis noted this occurrence but Carter did not, apparently.  He was admiring the seashells.

 

“The cave ye be searching fer is below the base of Kingsport Head.  Go to the base of Kingsport Head at low tide, about half a knot along the trail.  Not but ten feet below the waves at ebb tide be the opening to the cave.”

 

Then the old man added, “Now be off afore I sic me mates on ye.”

 

Artemis instantly stood up.  “Thank you very much sir.  I think we have everything we need.”

 

The doctor offered his hand, but the old man simply stared at the blackened bottles, his yellow eyes flitting from one to another.  He grinned. 

 

“Aye,” he said, “we'll see how well they do.”  He seemed to be speaking to the bottles.

 

Seeing enough—more than enough—Dr. Artemis hurried for the door.  “Thank you, sir.  You've been most helpful.  Goodbye.”

 

The old man chuckled, perhaps at Artemis, perhaps at something he thought one of the bottles said.  André Carter followed.

 

When he and the doctor were outside with Xiang he remarked, “That's a very strange man.”

 

“I agree, doctor,” Xiang said, “I have a really bad feeling about all of this.”

 

Artemis walked back along the street, casting glances at the shadows lining the dark alleyways between the ruddy buildings.  He stopped, looking from Xiang to Carter.

 

“So, Carter, what's it to be?”

 

Carter had no hesitation.  “We go to the cave of course.”

 

 

3. The Expedition

 

It was dark by then, with only a faint pinkish hue to the west or the yellow lights from houses.  There were few persons about and those made their way to the Rusty Hook.

 

The smells of dead fish and oil mingled with the creeping fog to obscure whole neighborhoods.  In all Kingsport, only the sailor's tavern seemed alive.

 

Artemis and Carter walked abreast, followed by Xiang.  Xiang continually looked about, feeling they were being watched, stopping now and then to looking around more carefully.  But the thickening fog blurred not only vision but also sound.

 

“Do we charter a boat at the harbormaster?”  Carter asked.

 

“We could.  But let's first go out to the end of Pier 3 and take a look.”

 

They followed him, and Xiang looked out to sea, watching the chilly mist roll over the rippling black sea.  It was beautiful in an austere, melancholy way.  Pier 3, being the northernmost, gave them the clearest view of the Head.  At least, it would when the fog cleared.  As they got out to the end, however, the fog thickened and they had only a dim impression of the magnificent pinnacle.

 

“This isn't helping,” Xiang sneered.

 

“I see that.  Let's go back and find the trailhead that leads along the base.  It's not far.”

 

They all turned to return to the shore, but then a large, darkened figure appeared to them near the start of the pier.  The doctor and his assistant froze.  Xiang, a brave man in battle, jumped at the sight of this newcomer.

 

The dark figure stood indistinct in the fog.  Xiang instinctively drew his Shanxi Type 17 sidearm.

 

“Thou shall not pass,” came an eerie voice.

 

Xiang aimed at the head—or where he thought the head would be.  “Halt!  Halt or I fire!”

 

The shadow instead came right at the Chinese captain.  Xiang fired, once, twice, three times!  The bullets would have struck it in the forehead, the neck, and the sternum.

 

But the bullets hit nothing.  The Shadow reached out and touched Xiang's hand.  He screamed and dropped the pistol.

 

Even as he shuddered, Artemis reached into his coat pocket.  His experiences with the occult told him this was no common ruffian—and he always came prepared for the preternatural.

 

But he was not prepared to see André Carter suddenly run and jump into the water, causing a large splash.

 

“Carter!”

 

The shadowed figure moved quickly, seemingly ready to follow Carter into the depths.  Artemis pulled out a small vial and tried to get close enough to the shadow, but feared he would be too slow.

 

Xiang, who had no experience with spirits and spooks, turned and ran for dry land.  “Doctor!”  Xiang called, “No!  That... that thing... It is not human!”

 

Artemis tried to splash the shadowy figure with the liquid in the bottle.  Almost to his surprise, he hit it.  The thing recoiled upon itself for an instant...

 

And then, as if attempting to get away from the burning Tikkoun Elixir—a potion which Artemis had sometimes referred to as “holy water on steroids”, the Shadow-Creature tore itself apart!  And then each half formed into a new Shadow.

 

“Yikes!  That's never happened before.”  And the doctor knew what he was talking about.  He'd employed the Elixir before, once on a kind of uber-revenant raised by Dr. West and once during the Styrian Crisis three years ago.

 

One of the Shadows moved—drifted—to the edge of the pier and dropped into the water.  It disappeared under the waves before Artemis could do anything.  There was no splash this time.

 

And the other drifted towards Artemis, its wispy arms extended...

*   *   *

André Carter swam deep, trying to find the cave.  It was dark in the cold water, even darker than above.  He came up for air once, heard the doctor behind him, complaining about something, then dived back down.  He had no intention of let Artemis distracting him from reaching his goal.

 

Then he spotted the cave, dispite the darkness.  Indeed, he felt drawn to look in the right place.  He swam for the narrow opening and entered.

 

Carter swam forward ten feet or so and the cavern terminated.  He then swam upwards, his lungs burning from lack of air.  But here there was a pocket of stagnant air.

 

He coughed and climbed out onto a flattened bit of the cave.  He took out a pocket flashlight he'd thought to bring with him and looked about.

 

It was small, naturally formed by whatever means caves form.  Carter was no geologist.  The roof was just tall enough he could stand, if he crouched.  A tunnel took off to one side but what really caught his attention was a carved niche in the stone wall on which rested a small brazen chest, thoroughly covered in a thick patina.  If not for his excitement, Carter would have feared to touch it.

 

It looked ready to crumble, despite brass being largely immune to the effects of sea water and salty air.  But one part looked untouched by the ravages of time and that was a tiny disk, in which was impressed the shape of a four-sided triangle.

 

Carte immediately removed the pyramidal-shaped ring from his finger.  He pressed it into the corresponding shape on the chest.  

He tried to turn it but nothing happened.  It was stuck!  The lock had corroded in such a way that the chest was sealed tight.

 

And then, when he thought nothing could possibly go worse, André Carter suddenly felt he was no longer alone in the ancient cavern.  He whirled about and saw it growing, looming before him.  It was a Shadow-Demon, just like the one he'd seen above water!

 

The Shadow descended on him...

*   *   *

As Dr. Artemis understood it, entities like this shadow-creature were once ghosts, but through time or unknown means, they lost all memory of their former lives.  Now they retained only brutish, primal emotions, or hunger.  Some had been bound by powerful spells to guard various sacred sites or buried treasures.  In many ways, they were more akin to demons than ghosts.

 

Not that the doctor was cataloging the creature now.  He was too busy trying to keep it from killing him.

 

Artemis held the bottle in front of him, hoping to ward off the wispy, black entity.  To a degree, it worked.  The Shadow seemed reluctant to receive another dose of the Tikkoun Elixir, but it did not retreat.  But Artemis dared not use the Elixir directly, lest he end up with yet another horror to combat.  Instead, he backed away.

 

“The thing is like a Greek Hydra!” he yelled, not seeing Xiang, “The more one hits it, the more of them appear!”

 

Xiang stopped running long enough to gather his breath and thoughts.  He was letting a fifty-year-old man fight while he—a trained soldier in the People's Revolutionary Army—ran like a child!

 

“Now is not the time to panic!  I must help the doctor!”

*   *   *

In the cave, Carter struggled against the icy grip of the Shadow.  The Thing had not killed him in a single touch as he might have expected.  But André Carter did not know that he now tangled with but half of the bisected spirit.

 

He tried to fight the creature, to wrestle it, but he might as well have wrestled a cobweb for all its substantiality.  At last he fell hard against the stone wall, dropping the ancient chest.

 

The chest broke open on the impact.  A sheath of papers... no, the remains of a scroll fell out.

 

Carter ignored the Shadow's debilitating touch long enough roll over and grab his fallen flashlight.  The undead creature flayed uncertainly at his throat.  Carter hit it, slapped it with his free hand.  Despite his hand passing through the Thing, the blows seemed to hold it off, but only for a few seconds.

 

The light fell upon the ancient parchments.  One portion in particular lay clearly displayed, as if it were meant for him to see it.

 

Half the text was some unfathomable language he'd never seen before.  But the other half was in Latin letters.  He did not speak Latin fluently, and much of the illuminated phrase was incomprehensible to him, but he could read it.  And therefore he could pronounce those words.

*   *   *

The wispy horror reached out for Dr. Artemis once more.  He backed away, knowing there was only so much of the pier left behind him.  Artemis deflected the blow by holding out the little bottle with its last remaining teaspoon of Tikkoun Elixir.  The Shadow's limb recoiled, but another limb extended and touched the doctor's side briefly.  He gasped—the freezing pain nearly doubling him over.  One or two more swipes and he'd go down.

 

Desperately, he made a librarian's effort to punch the undead shadow with his fist.  Surprisingly, two things happened.  First, he managed to hit his target.  Second, despite contacting the Thing, his fist received no freezing pain as he more than half expected. 

 

Then, suddenly, Officer Xiang ran in front of the doctor.  “Stay back!”  Xiang commanded, standing firmly.

 

“Xiang!  Don't be foolish!”

 

“You are my comrade, doctor.  I can not let you fall alone.  But you are the expert on such matters—how do we stop this strange ghost?”

 

“If I knew what they were, I might know what to do.”

 

Then the Shadow reached forth and hit the Chinese officer full in the chest.  Xiang almost swallowed his tongue in an effort to keep from screaming.

 

Artemis backed away from the creeping Shadow until he felt the edge of the pier underfoot...

*   *   *

The undead wraith gasped Carter by the throat.  No!  Its wispy, freezing hand entered Carter's throat, cut off his supply of stagnant air.

 

Carter struck the incorporeal entity, using his fist and the flashlight.  The Shadow pulled back but a brief second, though it must have known triumph was at hand.

 

Carter took advantage of that instant of reprieve.  He turned over again, grabbed the sheet of parchment and directed the light on it.  He could read it even though he had no idea what it meant.

 

The Shadow grasped him from behind.  The hands—if hands they could be called—reached into him, grasping his heart.  André Carter felt his heart freezing.

 

But he read aloud the centuries-old writing on the scroll.  He had to do this, he knew.

 

“Thalabo zenti exorcismos sombrosio portentium zoval!”

 

Everything stopped.  Carter wondered if he had died.

*   *   *

Topside, Artemis clutched the wavering Xiang, as he fought to keep himself from falling off the end of the pier.  In truth, he was about to take both of them into the water

 

But then, at the same moment that André Carter uttered the spell underwater, the Shadow suddenly stood stone still.  A second later, it faded from sight.

 

Artemis and Xiang steadied themselves.

 

“Doctor?  Is it gone?”

 

He looked around, slowly.  “I don't know.  Let's not stand around waiting to find out!”

 

Xiang agreed and they both ran until they got to dry land.  There they saw open shutters and various neighbors sticking their heads out.  They heard a police vehicle in the distance.

 

“They'll have heard the commotion, Mr. Xiang.”

 

But Xiang's attention was elsewhere.

 

“Look!”  Xiang said, pointing at a figure swimming in the night waters of Kingsport Harbor.  “It's Carter!  He's still alive.”

 

Indeed, it was André Carter swimming, but fitfully, as if exhausted.  Xiang ran to the shore and jumped in.  The doctor followed but stopped at the shore.

 

Xiang made it out to the boy and grabbed hold of him.  “I got you!”

 

Xiang swam back to shore with one hand.  A moment later, he climbed out of the water with the doctor's assistance.  They carefully laid Carter on a patch of sand.

 

Carter looked to each of the men, and then, overcome with exhaustion and amazement from the evening's events, slumped down, unmoving.

 

“Carter!”  Artemis cried, and then checked his vital signs.  It turned out Carter had only fainted.  His heart was beating fast but that was to be expected.

 

“He's OK.”  Artemis said, and then looked at a thoroughly soaked bundle of parchments, still in Carter's hand.

 

“We should get him to safety,” Xiang said, though he also wondered how he would explain these events to his superiors in Pyongyang.

 

“Yes,” Dr. Artemis said, nodding in agreement, “And I want to examine what's left of these papers.  Why didn't the idiot leave them in the cave and come back for them when he had an airtight container?”

 

Exasperated as he might have been at his assistant's antics, he was glad to seem him alive and well.  But then he stopped, looking back at the ancient seaport.  And for a moment, he thought he heard the far-off, echoing laughter of that terrible old man.


THE END