The Agency had begun to settle into a world without Jessie. They returned to routine. They played some poker and shared some smiles. It was Kitty’s night to win the bulk of the wagered sweets, it seemed; even as Geneviève dragged a small pile of hard candy in her direction. The sharp clomps of the Agency’s founder preceded him and the office door swung open. Chancy was not alone. So much for routine.
“This is Johnny Alden,” Chancy explained, referring to the young stranger, dressed in spanking new rancher’s attire a few sizes too large for his thin frame. “He was there the night we lost Jessie and he tells me he’d like to help. I, for one, think he can.” Of course the other Agents were suspicious; skin had prickled and hairs were raised when Johnny walked in. There was something particularly out of the ordinary with him. So Chancy explained by picking up a brass lighter from his desk, and tossing it to Johnny. “Tell us what you see,” he said.
Johnny wrapped his fingers over the lighter, closed his eyes and willed it to reveal to him its past; a past soaked in blood and horror. He told them what he saw: a man, more beast truly, slaughtered first Johnny’s mother in her home and then later Jessie, who had chased it into the woods. The Agents arrived. It fled on foot, slowly returning to a state of humanity as it did. Once only a man, nearly naked in the woods, the lighter’s owner heard a twig snap. He looked aside just in time to see a revolver lift in his direction. There was a bang; the same bang the Agents recalled hearing that same night, as they stood over Jessie’s shredded corpse.
As Johnny dropped the lighter, his eyes still moist from tears, Chancy tossed a revolver on the table beside it. “Look familiar?” All eyes on him, Chancy explained that beside the apparent advantage they could gain from Johnny’s extrasensory insight, the Agency, in failing to stop the “wolf man” in time, shared some blame in the death of Johnny’s mother. He said he will add the young man to the payroll, lest an Agent object. None of them did, of course. they can see his value.
“Good ,” said Chancy. “Because I got word from our friend in Clifton, that he requires our services. Gather your gear and get to the wagon, we’re meeting him tonight.”
In Clifton, a suburb of Cincinnati, they met with Dr. Aleister Cobb in his exquisite mansion. It was revealed that his daughter had fled to New Orleans with a vagabond poet and he was hiring the Agency to retrieve her. He had already had one manservant go missing in this duty, so he is particularly concerned as to her safety. Understandably unnerved by turning from otherworldly horrors to hunting down a wayward child, the Agents would soon learn there was more ot this situation that what appeared at first glance. The maid, Aunt Mary whispered to them that when the daughter, Virginia Cobb, had fallen from her horse as a child and nearly lost her head to a tiller blade, it was Dr. Cobb who hauled his daughter into his lab, locked himself inside with her for three days and then reemerged with her still alive but in may ways “different.” For instance, she now wore a black velvet choker to cover the scar that circled her neck.
Before the Agents could actualize their plan to sneak into Virginia’s room for further answers to this weirdness, Chancy emerged from a private conversation with Cobb and announced they would be taking the next train to New Orleans.