A gentle dusting of snow falls through the dusky twilight, but the inn's main lounge is bright and cozy. Two of the guests sit by a corner window, chatting in hushed tones. Although the innkeeper's cousin is a sour, unpleasant woman, she's observant and loves to gossip. From Bertha's description, the man in the corner must be Calvin Fox, an American cabaret performer now living in Vienna. The woman so deeply in conversation with him is Marina Popov, a beautiful Russian expatriate who doesn't tip and seems captivated by the "black arts."
"She hypnotizes people and she knows things," Bertha told you, crossing herself like a good Catholic.
"Communicating with the dead is a sense, like smell." Marina is speaking English. "Their spirits speaks to your spirit. Perhaps you have such skills yourself. Would you like me to hypnotize you, Mr. Fox?"
"No, thanks," Fox chuckles. He's a large, ordinary looking man with a nervous tick that now and then twitches his left eye. "Are you a friend of Masque's? Is that why he invited you to his New Year's bash?"
"I've never met him," Marina replies. "An invitation arrived by post.
The vibrations were fascinating. And of course I've heard rumors about his extraordinary chateau. I'm not sure any of us knows our host personally."
"I've met him," a voice calls out.
Striding into the room is a cheerful gentleman with an impressive mustache and Vandyke beard. This must be Martin Urfe, an English aristocrat (according to Bertha). You take this opportunity to join the group and introduce yourself.
"I met Ian Masque at a party in London," claims Urfe. "Like you, Mr. Fox, I'm an entertainer, albeit an amateur." A closer examination of Urfe's clothing reveals a certain shabbiness. Stylish but frayed. "My passion is magic," he continues. "Masque saw me perform a few illusions for friends and immediately asked for my card. I'm afraid this is going to be a working party for me. My invitation came with a request to provide the New Year's Eve diversion."
"Mine, too," Fox laughs. "I tell you what, Urfe. You do us a magic trick and I'll sing you a song. It'll do us both good to practice."
It's all quickly arranged. Five minutes later and you're gathered in the library. Even Bertha and the blind Fritz are seated and ready to be entertained. Urfe wheels on a large box decorated with stars and moons, and begins his patter by asking for a volunteer. Fox jumps up, eager to help.
You've seen this trick before. Everyone has. The volunteer is placed inside and the lid is closed. Swords are stabbed through from every angle, their sharp tips emerging from the opposite sides. The box is then spun around again and opened with a flourish. And the volunteer has vanished.
You applaud and yell bravo. Then you watch as it's done in reverse. Swords are removed. The box is spun again. Urfe, you have to admit, has a nice dramatic flair. He swings the lid open and gestures for his volunteer to emerge. And this is where the trick is different.
Fox is still gone. The box is empty.
It takes everyone a full minute to realize that the magician is more baffled than anyone else. Martin Urfe checks the box's secret door, then checks behind the screen where everyone assumed Fox had been hiding. When he pulls the screen aside, you see that the cabaret artist has disappeared.
"Fox!" Urfe is shouting between clenched teeth. "Thank you for ruining the illusion. Fox, where are you?"
It must be a joke, of course. You wander through the inn's shadowy rooms, calling the missing man's name, but he doesn't answer. He's not in his room, not in any of the public rooms and you haven't a clue how he could have dematerialized without anyone catching a glimpse.
The good humor of the evening fades and a pall of unease, perhaps even dread settles over the small group. "He's still alive," whispers Marina Popov, her eyes closed in meditation. "Nearby. But I can't see where."
Your job, it seems, has already started. This is definitely something that needs to be observed by a trained investigator. You make another tour of the inn, then go outside and circle the perimeter. The thin crust of icy snow surrounding the building has not been disturbed.
"He's obviously still in the chalet," you inform the others. "Tomorrow we'll search again. It'll be easier in the daylight." Then you climb the creaky stairs and retire to your room on the third floor.
That night, December 30, the penultimate night of 1938, you sleep fitfully. A chorus of metallic clanks and ghostly moans seem to seep up through the vents. You tell yourself it must be the old chalet, groaning in the cold, its ancient boiler straining to provide heat. These tortured sounds are perfectly natural.
But you know, deep down, they're not.
Copyright © 1998, 2010 by Newfront Productions, Inc.
Copyright © 1998, 2009 Hasbro Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.