Clockwork 1888 Date: Friday, May 27, through Saturday, May 28, 1892
In New York they met with their Fellowship contact, Roland Molineux, in a nondescript office on the top story of a six story brick office building in Manhattan. Roland appeared about 24 years old, a dapper and athletic looking gentleman dressed in the most current fashion. His coat, with kidskin gloves showing from the pocket, top hat and ornate cane were on the coat tree and he told them that he had rooms for them at the Plaza Hotel (opened Oct. 1890) on 5th Avenue at 58th to 59th streets.
In New York it was not difficult to track down the sewer workers that claimed to see sewer rats as big as a man. The sewer workers and rat catchers were all employed by the city and tended to frequent the same hangouts. They purchased a city map and as they made their way to the main tavern, they got their story straight.
Entering, they got the usual cool welcome that most strangers would get. But, when they said they were interested in the man-sized rats, the interest perked up. People love to tell their stories and point out where they had seen a large rat. So, they were able to learn where the rats of unusual size had been seen around the city sewers as Evgenia diligently made notes representing the sightings and when they occurred on the map.
Bartley paid attention to each story, looking for clues that might indicate an upright standing rat or lycanthrope. He didn’t hear any reports of upright standing rats, walking rats or people among the rats. But, he made his first round lead and was ready to make his next rounds silver.
After getting all the stories they examined the marks on their city map and noticed an almost circular pattern that started a while ago and had been gradually expanding out from a central area. They also noticed that there were probably multiple large rats as some were seen within minutes of each other and could not physically cover the distance so quickly. So, rather than drop into the middle of the probable nest, they decided to make their way to the center from safer environs, just in case they needed a retreat.
Then, Archibald explained that Bartley was a big game hunter looking to add at least one of the man-sized rats to his list of kills. And, they wanted to hire somebody to act as their guide through the sewers. None of the men was readily interested in going down into that area, again.
Archibald offered to pay an exorbitant amount to whoever would guide them through the sewers. Some said they wouldn’t go for any amount of money but others started listing prices, well above what he’d offered. But before one of them could be hired, a grizzled older man, who had been silently observing throughout the night, spoke up.
“You all know that I know those sewers better than anybody.” The room fell silent as the grizzled man got up from his table and walked to Archibald and Bartley. “You’re planning to kill the big rats?”
“The bigger the better,” Bartley smiled, “and a photo with the dead beast. You see, a rat or the head of a rat, regardless of the size, is generally repulsive to people. I don’t want the carcass, just a photo with my kill rather than a taxidermy, wall hung mantelpiece.” As evidence of the statement, Evgenia produced her Kodak camera.
“You get to kill them and all I want is the credit with my boss. It’s my job. I’ll do it for free,” he said directly to the two men. “Well, whatever rats we get are yours,” Bartley agreed.
It seemed as if the grizzled man was going to say something else but instead he said, “I’m Michael O’Brien,” he said as they shook on the deal. “My friends call me Mickey but my coworkers call me ‘the mouser.’ I’ll answer to any of those and we can start first thing in the morning.”
There was some whispering from the other sewer workers and rat catchers as they left for the night. But, they couldn’t discern what the murmuring was about. In the morning, Mickey led them to where they could enter the sewers and in they went.
Mickey bagged several of the vermin as they traveled along. Then, they spotted some movement in the darkness, the glint of black eyes shining.
Archibald shot the rat but it kept coming and bit at him as a swarm of rodents attacked Mickey. Bartley shot the big rat, killing it, even though it was not as big as he had hoped. Evgenia was surprised and Dracona waited for Mickey to step away from the swarm before she blasted it with fire breath.
The swarm of rats attacked Bartley so he stepped away and shot them, dispersing the rat swarm. That was when they noticed that Mickey had an odor about him, an odor of food stuff that was apparently intended to attract the rats. Mickey mentioned that he has a family to feed as he marked the wall with what must have been his symbol to indicate the rat was his to claim.
As they traveled farther, Mickey occasionally slammed his bag of rats against the wall of the sewers. “Was that a big rat?” Bartley inquired with a disappointed air. “That’s one of the big ones but not the biggest,” Mickey promised as he continued on.
It was a larger rat that charged forth from the darkness of a side tunnel at a surprised Dracona. But, it could not penetrate her magical defenses and Archibald shot it. Evgenia, too, was surprised as a bunch of rats swarmed Bartley, biting him.
Bartley shot the larger rat in spite of the swarm as Dracona was futilely attacked by the big rat, again. Archibald shot the rat, killing it, and Evgenia shot the rat swarm. But the swarm of rats fled forward into the darkness at the fall of the big rat, many of them escaping through the sewers ahead.
Mickey looked back at them with squinted eyes. “Well, normally that means that they’re headed back to their nest,” he informed. “I followed them one time and this is a big one,” he said poking the dead rat that indeed was man-sized.
“I didn’t get a look at the one but the eyes were bigger than this one, as wide apart as a man’s shoulders. Seeing that I thought, ‘maybe I don’t want to go here,’ to myself.” “That’s what we’re looking for,” Archibald said. “I thought it might be,” Mickey smiled a toothy grin.
“Now, even though I saw the big eyes, I noticed it wasn’t alone,” he whispered cautiously. “There were others, probably the size of this one, but how many I didn’t take the time to count, you understand. It was a few months ago and I haven’t been this way since. It is a ways up this way and we may not see any more until we get there.”
“I assume that there are swarms there, too, because that’s the way the swarm of rats went. We might need to rethink this,” Bartley suggested. “If we go out and pick up some shot guns, they work better against the rat swarms,” he advised. “I’ve heard that to be true,” Mickey agreed.
“If this is where they were a month ago, I’d guess they’ll be here when we return. So, I’d suggest we leave, pick up some nice shotguns and shells, and return fully prepared for what lies ahead,” Bartley recommended. “Would you like a photo with this one,” Evgenia suggested as she feigned getting out the camera and flash powder. “It may be the last photo they take of you,” Archibald quipped. “I’ll wait for the really big one,” Bartley answered.
They exited the sewer, helping Mickey to retrieve the two larger rats for turning in at work. Before Mickey took the catch in for his quota, they inquired about a gun shop in the city. Mickey could not offer advice on where to buy a shotgun in the city.
So, they did some asking around and found a gun shop where they could buy Winchester Model 1887 lever action 10 gauge shotguns and cartridges. Bartley leaned over to the proprietor and quietly asked, “Would you have something a little shorter with less of a stock, something more like a shotgun pistol?”
The man smiled wryly as he bent down and retrieved a sawed off shotgun from under the display counter. “Might this be what you’re looking for? It’s had a few modifications to make it smaller.” Bartley bought the sawed off shotgun while others got regular shotguns. Armed with weapons useful against the smaller vermin and their other weapons, they rejoined their guide and returned to the sewers.
As Mickey led the way into the sewers, again, Archibald followed. Bartley had Evgenia wait so he could cast a spell upon the two of them to allow them to see in the dark. Dracona again cast her protections before entering. As they followed their guide, they moved past the previous position and further toward the nest.