Turn of the Century- 1900
Loch, Stock, and Barrel
The Report of Father William Murtaugh,
Adjunct observer of the Order
Drumnadrochit, Scotland, January 14th, 1900 A.D.
This is my report concerning the recent unpleasantness. I’m certain your other agents have their own stories to tell, probably more revealing than mine. Still, it was my previous missive that started this whole grisly ball rolling, I suppose it’s my duty to write a half decent report.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, I’ve been a man of the cloth up here in the town of Drumnadorchit, which isn’t all that far from Inverness, for the last thirty years. I’ve been an associate of your Order since learning of its existence from my late father, Cullen Murtaugh, who had been your previous observer in these parts. Until very recently, it’s been a very uneventful relationship. In truth, previous to these events, I’ve always considered my post to be kind of needless. Truly, what rational person believes that there’s a monster in the Loch? Still, I collected local legends and gossip, sending off annual reports to those solicitors of yours in London.
Things all changed in late December, the night of the big storm. It was the 27th of the month and the memory of Christmas was still fresh on everyone’s mind. Bitter cold rains pummeled the area mercilessly. The next morning, a few indigents were found dead of exposure in the alleyways of Inverness. Tragic thing – I knew both of the poor beggars. Anyhow, the strange thing was all the lightning during the storm. It looked like a proper fireworks show at times! Several old trees were felled by bolts from the blue, that night. I feel ‘tis only the soaking we received from the storm that kept fires from running rampant.
The next morning, as I was chatting with Constable MacAvoy, a sobbing man came into town with his horse and cart. He was wild-eyed and looked battered and beaten. It took me a moment to recognize him beneath the muck and blood. ‘Twas Old Ian Argyle, a fisherman who lived down on the shores of the Loch. The man was making no sense, at first, carrying on about the Devil. I was trying to get him calmed down when the constable saw what was in the back of the cart.
What a nightmare! The bodies of Argyle’s two youngest lay wrapped in sodden blankets, broken and torn half to pieces! I had to fight off the urge to be sick, I’ll tell you that for free. The constable went from being consoling to all business right quick, I’ll add. It seems that Old Ian was out in the rain, investigating a commotion over at his stable, when “the Devil himself, the auld serpent” heaved out of the Loch and smashed its head into the house. Hearing the screams of his family, he grabbed up a pitchfork and stabbed the Prince of Darkness in the neck. Well, that angered the beast, and it thrashed about, half-pulling the house down and smashing Old Ian back into the barn, putting his lights out in the process. The poor sod awakened in the morning, chilled to the bone and soaking wet. He looked through the ruins of his house, and only found the… bits… of his two daughters. Of his wife and sons, there were no definite remains.
As Old Ian talked, I noticed that he was clearly feverish. Constable MacAvoy got the cart off the streets and over to the old guardhouse as quick as he could. Old Ian was taken to Dr. Curwen, to see what could be done about his shakes and burning fever. The constables were convinced that Old Ian had gone mad and killed his family. I wasn’t so sure. Old Ian was a good fellow, and hadn’t I baptized his children my own self, with their doting father looking as proud as a prince? Still, I wasn’t at all convinced that the Devil himself had risen up from Hell to take a poor fisherman’s family.
When MacAvoy got back from Old Ian’s place that afternoon, he was pale as death. Being an accomplished listener, I plied him with some whiskey to learn what was afoot. It seems that Old Ian’s place was all but collapsed, the insides looking like a right slaughterhouse. Ian’s little pier was half-smashed, the garden flattened, and a dire stench filled the air. I’m pleased to say that Constable Jim MacAvoy was the first to bring up stories of the monster. I resolved to go out to Old Ian’s the next day, myself.
In the Inverness Journal on the morrow, there was a sensationalist piece about the tragic death of Old Ian’s family. Somehow, the newspaper men managed to make Old Ian sound like the most red-handed killer since Dandy Jack, while also bringing up the monster of Loch Ness. People were in a tizzy, and I found that my services were required in town until later in the afternoon. I got out to Old Ian’s place as the sun was starting to head down, to dig around a bit.
Well, the constable was right about the smell, I assure you! Smelled like sulfur and rot, it did. Things were as Old Ian said – the house looking as if a stick of dynamite had gone off, and much of the yard between the house and the lake had been trampled down flat as you please. Upon returning to town, I sent off my first emergency report to your august institution. I still wasn’t assured it was Nessie himself, but some manner of evil had taken place at the Argyle house.
Time passed, and so did the dawn of the new Century. I wasn’t in much of a celebrating mood, to be sure. New Year’s Day brought two new events of note. The first was the disappearance of Tall Ian Argyle’s fishing boat, the Sweet Marie.
A word of explanation; the Argyles are a large clan here in Drumnadrochit, and Ian was a popular name some thirty years ago. We’ve had to come up with titles to tell them apart in casual conversation. Old Ian and Tall Ian got off easy with the nicknames. How would you like to be known as Fat Ian or Ian the Sot? Still, those two fellows may have wretched monikers, but at least they made it through this whole affair intact. I can’t say the same for Old Ian and Tall Ian.
Talk was spreading around about Tall Ian’s boat, and I was listening to some of the local lads at the Blue Horse talk about finding bits of wooden wreckage floating on the Loch. Had the Sweet Marie been swamped, or had Tall Ian’s habit of fishing with dynamite caught up with him? Simon Tully, with a quaver in his voice and crooked finger, brought up the monster.
This is when the second incident of note occurred. Three foreign sorts walked into the Blue Horse. It turns out one was a Frenchy named Pierre Guillemot, a talkative fellow who wasn’t afraid to buy a few rounds in order to loosen tongues. The other two were of swarthier bent, big brutes with bald pates and drooping mustaches. Didn’t hear them speak at all.
Well, Guille… ah, Lord forgive me, I’m going to call him Frenchy… Frenchy was a historian who had come up to study Urquhart Castle. He was curious about the talk going ‘round about Old Ian. It took a lot of coin and several rounds for the house to loosen up the tongues of the fishermen, but it worked at last. He seemed quite amused at their stories of monsters and devils. Eventually, he and his brutes toddled off to their inn, leaving the Blue Horse awash with sloppy drunk fishermen. I helped Simon stagger home before his wife, Edith, could come looking for him. Probably saved his life, I did. That woman’s wrath is a thing to behold. Well, Lord’s work and all.
Over the next few days, most of the fishermen were dragging shotguns, dynamite, and even some harpoons out onto the Loch with them. By the grace of Our Heavenly Father, and the power of earnest prayer, none of them managed to kill themselves off. The few times I ran across Frenchy, it seemed that he’d gotten caught up in the madness, as well. One day, he went out onto the Loch with Grover Stoddard and his boys. He didn’t see anything, though. There were a few sightings of… something in the Loch. Bradley McEwen managed to harpoon a large piece of driftwood, but was still well pleased because it was, as his crew said, “one Hell of a toss.” I was hoping that there was no monster, nothing that couldn’t be explained rationally. Sadly, I was to have no such luck.
Late on Wednesday afternoon, Kieran Tully’s Cold Comfort limped back to dock with a dreadful tear in its hull. Kieran and his mates were bailing like mad and filled with terror. Kieran himself was in a bad way, half-drowned and with broken ribs. It seems that something had risen up under the boat, half-swamping it. Kieran fired off his shotgun at the thing, as it passed by just beneath the surface of the water. He must have angered it, because it breached nearby, “a right dragon,” then lashed its tail about. Kieran was hit in the middle, and tossed into the Loch. His boys scrambled to get him back on the boat before he could become a snack for the beast.
Soon, stories about what was going on down on the Loch were buzzing around all the local communities. Somebody from the Inverness Journal came down and interviewed Tully. The very next day, a carriage came down as well, with three of your agents aboard.
The man in charge was an English fellow, well-bred, but a bit distracted in his demeanor. With him were a Tinker woman and a Yank. They made introductions. The man was named Sherwood, the brightly-dressed lassie was named Natalia, and the Yank was a cowboy named Jake. They neglected to share their last names with me, but they did provide adequate identification. I invited them back to the Church, for tea and explanations.
The Yank seemed very keen on stories of the monster, but the Englishman was more interested in what I’d said about Frenchy. They were discussing things as if I wasn’t there, when the Tinker girl pulled out a deck of those Tarot cards and performed a spiritually questionable rite right there on my dinner table! Making proclamations as if she were the Witch of Endor herself, she stated that “the old one is being yoked by a shadowy hand.” As if that meant something! After some more discussion, Sherwood and Natalia went one way, and Jacob pressed me into showing him Old Ian’s place.
I don’t mind saying that I wasn’t keen to head out to that place again; ‘twas just too sad. Jacob carried with him a mess of firearms, and asked a lot of questions about tales of the monster. Had anybody seen it, was the question that he asked the most. I’m not sure how many different ways I could tell him about Kieran Tully. Still, when we got out there, he got quiet, and started prowling about the place. There was a dust of snow on the ground by this point, and I kept myself warm with the occasional pull on my flask. When the cowboy had satisfied himself, we headed back into town to see Dr. Curwen, to question Old Ian and Kieran Tully.
I chatted with Dr. Curwen while Jacob questioned the wounded men. The fact that he seemed to earnestly believe what they had to say help to allay their good and natural suspicion of outsiders. With words, fine whiskey, and assurances of the beast’s death, he managed to coax coherent descriptions of the creature from them.
The beast was a long-necked brute, with a mouth full of needle-sharp teeth. Four nubbly horns surmounted its grey head. It seemed part crocodile, part serpent, and part seal. It was able to lurch up onto the shore (this from Old Ian), revealing a thicker central body and flippers. Both spoke of the creature’s scarred appearance, like it had bits torn out of its hide. It was massive, a hundred feet long it if were an inch. Although Jacob remained controlled, you could sense a hungry excitement coming to a boil within him. I do believe this talk of monstrosities and horror was pleasing to him in some way!
As we were preparing to go, Sherwood and Natalia came staggering into the good doctor’s home & office. Sherwood was badly bruised, and sporting a blackening eye. Natalia was soaked to the bone and shivering. It seems that as they were following Frenchy out to Urquhart Castle, they were set upon by two masked thugs! The brutes shoved Natalia, who rolled down the snowy hillside and into the Loch. The fiends! To lay angry hands on a female like that! Afterwards, Sherwood fought them off, but took several powerful hits in the process. He seemed quite miffed that he hadn’t a chance to string his bow. At that moment, I thought to my own self, “who carries a bow?” Poor pagan Natalia dragged herself out of the bitterly cold waters of the Loch, and rejoined Sherwood as he was recovering himself.
Well, Dr. Curwen wanted to inform the constabulary straight away, but the three insisted on his discretion. Curwen then went to work cleaning and bandaging Sherwood’s injuries while getting water on the boil for a hot bath for the lady. I busied myself hanging some bed sheets as a make-shift curtain, so the lady could have some privacy. I swear, Kieran Tully has never let something as trivial as broken ribs dissuade him from his lecherous pursuits! I probably saved his life, as well. I suspect the Tinker lassie could more than protect herself from his advances. The Tully clan have much to thank me for, I tell you!
In the early morning, horror struck out across the Loch. Over in Whitebridge, on the far shore, two boats were swamped by a “bloody great dragon,” as their crews were getting ready to make sail. Five good men were killed in that incident, a great tragedy! Not an hour later, a lakeside cottage outside of Foyers was destroyed, its inhabitants missing. A friend headed to the house heard the loud splintering of wood and a mournful trumpeting sound. Oh, but I pray for the poor souls who lost their lives that black day!
Upon hearing of this, Sherwood staggered up from his sickbed, saying grimly that he was “going hunting.” Jacob just nodded and said “Reckon I am, too.” The Tinker elected to accompany Sherwood.
I felt at this point as if that lovely heathen felt that she was to blame for the Englishman’s pains. Sheer foolishness! What could a slip of a girl, without even the Good Lord’s Grace to protect her, have done against such thuggery? Though surely her pagan soul is fated to forever bake in Lucifer’s oven, I must admit that I had to respect her pluck. Such a pity, that. Well, I suppose there’s still time for her to seek the Almighty’s forgiveness and take the hand of our gentle savior, Jesus Christ. Hope springs eternal.
As before, Jacob dragged me along in his wake. He had a very determined demeanor, and I hadn’t the nerve to argue with him. I took him out to Fat Ian’s farm, where the Yank spent a great deal of money to purchase all of Fat Ian’s cattle. With three heifers in tow, we headed back to town. There, he spent the rest of the morning buying up all of the dynamite that the fishermen had been purchasing for the last few weeks. He also purchased a Very pistol and a handful of flares.
I must confess that the men of town made quite a profit on their previous investment in dynamite. Jacob didn’t seem to care how much he spent in order to get what he needed. When it seemed as if Liam Conroy was going to refuse to sell his bundle, I feared that the Yank might draw that strange pistol his and shoot the man! Liam must have realized that he’d miss-stepped, and sold Jacob the dynamite at the most reasonable price he’d gotten that day.
We then set out for Old Ian’s home once again, the cowboy grumbling about “Gorram stingy Scots yahoos.” I cleared my throat and was about to chide him for taking the Lord’s name in vain when he fixed me with an angry glare. I prudently decided to save his soul when he was feeling calmer, and focused on keeping the cows moving.
Grumbling something about “old rogues driven from the herd” and “territory,” Jacob began his preparations. Two of the cattle he staked out, and then he slaughtered the third. A fine, milk-giving animal, too! Quite the waste! The blood and some of the organs he caught in buckets purchased for that purpose. A rope was tied around the dead cow’s carcass, while the other end was attached to a burlap-wrapped bundle of dynamite, which had then been soaked with lamp oil. I must confess that I was becoming quite worried at this point. The Yank could easily send us all, man and cattle alike, to a fiery end if that Very pistol slipped! He then suggested that I leave the area, as he settled in to wait. I couldn’t bring myself to leave this strange spectacle, so I remained.
As I huddled next to the small fire that I started on a hillock overlooking Old Ian’s place – winter in the Highlands being what it is – I saw Jacob spread blood and gore over the dock and the shore. From time to time, he’d take one of the buckets and dump it into the lake from the end of the pier. Hours passed, during which Sherwood and Natalia’s “hunt” was coming to its finale. Having no knowledge of such things at the time, I will continue my narrative, and relate what I learned later at the time in which I learned it.
The sun was slipping beneath the rugged horizon, all red light and long shadows. Jacob was at the end of the pier, having just hurled one of the last buckets of offal into the Loch. He looked about, and then began to head back towards the shore. I saw a ripple moving through the water, quite unlike the waves that were lapping at the shore. I was just standing to warn Jacob when the pier simply exploded!
A monster from the nighted pits of Hell rose from the waters of Loch Ness that evening! If anything, its size exceeded Kieran and Old Ian’s estimates. Its face was knotted grey flesh and its teeth were ivory spears. The stench was literally breathtaking! The lads were right about the beast’s hide, too. It was a map of scars, some old, some fresh and pink. Many of those scars seemed to be bite marks, from something with jaws quite like its own. The implications of that cause me to shudder even now, warm and safe in my home.
Jacob went tumbling arse over heels onto the shore. The beast… I can’t call it “Nessie,” it’s too kind a title for this demon… snapped at the cowboy, and for a moment, I feared that he had been swallowed whole! This was just a trick of the bad position I was in, though. Jacob had been cleanly missed, and was sprinting across the yard, towards the trapped carcass. Less than a heartbeat after Jacob vaulted the body of the late prize heifer, the beast’s jaws snapped closed once more. It’s head went up, and its jaws worked again and again, shredding the carcass and working it down the creature’s throat. The crude oil-soaked bomb dangled perhaps twenty feet below the beast’s head, yet it did not touch the ground!
Jacob fumbled through his pockets, and then swore a sulfurous oath that I will not repeat here, out of respect for our Lord and Savior, as well as any decent ladies who might one day pursue this report. He had dropped the Very pistol during his initial tumble! Scrambling across the blood slick grass towards the ruins of the pier, Jacob desperately cast about for the flare gun. Being so close to the rearing beast was actually a boon for the cowboy. It couldn’t effectively strike at something so close. The beast shifted position and reared once more, preparing to chomp down, just as Jacob picked up the Very pistol. He dared not fire so close to the bomb that was flailing about like a morning star beneath the beast’s maw. Having no other chance for survival, he ran for the ruins of Old Ian’s house.
Once, twice, the foul thing struck at Jacob, but always a hair short of its target. Jacob ducked and twisted like a cat, and threw himself into the runs of the house. Clumsily, the creature flopped up on the shore, as Jacob raised the flare gun and fired.
I wish I could tell you that it hit, sending the creature to Hell straight away. The man may have been a splendid shot, but the bomb was dancing and bobbing on the end of that rope like a housefly, and Very pistols are not made for accuracy. More vulgarities split the air as Jacob ran through the ruins and further inland, fumbling to reload the pistol.
The cowboy was fortunate that the flare distracted the beast. After the second flare also missed, he was lucky that the beast became momentarily entrapped in the ruins of Old Ian’s cottage. Had words the power to kill, the fiendish beast would have died straight away from the crude vulgarities being hurled like spears by Jacob as the fumbled to reload the hot pistol.
By this point, I was on my knees in prayer; praying for salvation, praying for Jacob’s survival, praying for the beast’s death, and praying that the cowboy did not choose to run my way. As the beast shook off the remains of Old Ian’s cottage like a dog shaking off the rain, Jacob fired his third and final flare. Our Heavenly Father must have been watching over us, for it hit the make-shift bomb and set it alight. A moment later, the world seemed to vanish in light and noise.
When I opened my eyes, ears still ringing, I became aware that the previously foul smell was now much worse. I hoped that the gentle rain would wash away the reek, when I realized that what was falling from the sky was not cleansing water, but rather blood and bits of flesh from the creature. Of the lower neck and upper torso of the beast, there was no sign. The head and a four-foot length of neck were being tossed listlessly in the shallow water. The two other cows were long gone, and I later learned that they found their way back to Fat Ian’s barn. Laughing and whooping like a madman, Jacob stood with his hat in hand, literally covered with blood and clots of viscera. After a coughing fit several minutes later, he wiped his face off and waved me down. Happy as a child at Christmas, he proceeded to recover the beast’s head from the shore. Both he and I used this opportunity to clean ourselves off in the Loch’s frigid waters. Who would have thought that those peat-clotted waves could ever make things cleaner? We then made a fire to warm ourselves up in preparation for the long walk back to town.
Hunkered down around the fire, still half-covered in the blood of that primordial thing, we must have been quite a sight for Sherwood and Natalia as they came riding up in a cart, accompanied by a white-faced Constable MacAvoy. The hell-bound Natalia quipped, “Do you think you used enough dynamite, there, Jake?” The cowboy answered with more peals of laughter. He gestured the others to come over, and displayed the head, which he had until that moment been seated on. “Oh, and a trophy, too,” added the Tinker.
Jacob could not be persuaded to get on the cart until he had relayed the story of the ferocious battle. Sherwood then noted that their hunt had also been successful. Rather a quiet fellow, that. It was not until later that I learned what he meant.
Constable MacAvoy, while sharing a bottle of good whiskey with me, told of how he was called out to Urquhart Castle to find three dead bodies and the remains of some manner of pagan ceremony. One of Frenchy’s foreign brutes had been slain by three arrows to his chest. The other seems to have slipped on a wet stone and pitched off the wall over Urquhart, dashing his brains out on the rocks below. Bad luck, that. The Frenchman himself was found dressed in a crimson robe, wearing a copper crown in the shape of a serpent, lying dead in the middle of strange symbols painted on the stones of Urquhart Castle. His right hand had been mangled by a misfiring round from his revolver, and an arrow transfixed his throat. What were they doing up there? Did they have something to do with the beast, or its reign of terror? I suppose such knowledge is above my pay grade, as they say in the service.
The beast’s head was packed away in a crate full of ice and shipped to your receiving address in London. The next day, several well-dressed men from London came to town by way of Inverness. After speaking to Constable MacAvoy and identifying themselves to me as members of the Order, they began to dispose of any evidence of this matter.
Old Ian, saddened by his loss, faces no charges for the loss of his family. The killings have been pinned on “anarchists and foreign agitators.” Kieran has retracted his story, claiming that he got drunk and fell overboard. He’s also persuaded his men to agree with his version of events. The fact that both men have recently received word of an inheritance from distant relatives might have something to do with all this. Not everybody believes the cover story, of course. This will fuel tales of Nessie for years, if not decades, to come. Still, nobody can actually prove anything. There’s no body. I’d love to know how you people managed that one. The smell on Old Ian’s farm still lingers, and he’s talked of moving to Inverness to live with his cousin, David. Something similar must be going on in Whitebridge and Foyers. Things will, in time, return to something approaching normal.
Still, I am troubled by something that Jacob said while setting his trap for the beast. He said that it was acting, “like a rogue bull, driven from the herd.” I saw the scars on the thing, and even now my blood grows thick and cold when I think of it. Are there more of those damned things in the Loch? How is it that we’ve never seen them thus far? Will something like this happen again? I suppose I must content myself with the knowledge that there is an organization able to respond to such an eventuality, and that I can count myself in their number. Well, near their number, more like.
I remain respectfully yours,
Father William Murtaugh