Life as a private investigator was difficult enough for detective Carter before this particular case came into his lap. Had he known then, what he knows now, he may have simply avoided it altogether.
It seemed simple enough at first, like any other missing persons case in a small suburban area. However, little did he know, following the clues to solve this case would end up changing his life in irreversible ways, and soon enough, solving the case would be the least of his worries.
Investigating a series of strange occurrences in the area had lead him to this particular neighborhood, a small town called Dunwich.
In appearance it differed little from the surrounding region, mostly developed countryside outlying the larger cityscape over the hills to the east. A far stretching sea of nearly identical pre-built houses with neatly trimmed lawns and small bits of personalization dotting their walls and grounds.
However, over the past 2 weeks or so the department had been receiving an increasing number of concerning reports from the area. Ordinary citizens suddenly stricken into apparent cases of violent madness, strange changes to some of the inhabitants’ bodies.
Strange tales about outbreaks of odd physical afflictions, and a steadily rising number of disappearances. People of no apparent links to each other, of various ages and physical builds, vanishing throughout the woodland bordered grid of development housing.
After canvasing the series of streets and variously pastel tinted houses throughout most of the afternoon, alongside sizing up the surrounding countryside according to the local maps- he had made the observation that most of the stranger sorts of activity seemed to focus around a particular area of the town.
A hillside pre-planned community housing area with not much more than a shopping mall, a few roadside shops, and a gas station to serve the gated and well-kept sprawl of houses stretching out from the main road.
Spending the early afternoon investigating the shopping areas and questioning the various inhabitants and owners turned up little to no useful information that wasn't already available in the case file.
Save a growing interest from most of the locals on an apparent influx of "newcomers", various businesses and residents who had recently begun flooding into the area during the fluctuating economic times.
The more neatly trimmed surface sights of the area did however give way to a seedier undertone when searching the backsides of the buildings and alleyways between the shopping centers.
Carter's search revealing quite a few oddly impoverished and unintelligible vagrants or drunks of some kind, muttering to each other in hushed and garbled tones when approached, and offering little when questioned.
Little that is, besides unbelievable rantings about strange lights coming from some of the shop buildings at night, and rumors of witches. A certain coven of witches, who apparently used to frequent the hills beyond the developed housing in older times.
According to a number of the old drunkards, they claimed these unknown occultists were still burning strange fires and committing dark rituals in the dense forest stretching towards the mountainside.
These rumors, he simply shook off as common local superstitions.
Often, when investigating a series of shocking cases like these, the local populace would take to blaming whatever particular local folklore creature or legend-shrouded bit of forest area that their grandmothers had taken to telling them stories about for generations. It was nothing new to encounter such irrational testimonies.
However, often times such rumors held even deeper truths, misidentifications of actual committed crimes being taken as lore or mythological happening. Irrationally labeled as such by potential eye-witnesses high on their own superstitious beliefs.
So, after taking log of the more and less rational accounts of the local common folk, he had been able to boil the area of possible suspects, and the highest frequency of reports to a particular series of streets.
All that could be done for now, was to investigate the oft mentioned neighborhood and hillside forest itself. One of the houses on these few blocks must hold either a witness or a suspect that is connected to the strange occurrences and disappearances throughout the area.
One of these seemingly average inhabitants of this gated community was probably a habitual killer, or perhaps a ring of human trafficking had sprung up in the area, Carter mused to himself.
Such criminals often liked to mask their activities to the eyes of the local populace of more dubious areas by merging it into their local folk-lore.
Assumptions aside the task was clear, and he decided to start by going door to door questioning the neighbors individually to see what he could gather. As well as seeing them face to face, to get a more accurate judge of character.
Although he wouldn't be able to breach certain barriers of their households in this way, unless they were compliant, it still offered a chance to see for himself who was who on these streets.
The first few houses offered what he had mostly expected. Dreary looking housewives answering the door, painfully distracted by whatever it was they were doing, and already too aware of the same rumored answers he had gotten from the people of the shopping district.
"Strange lights in the woods, strangers settling into the town" and a collection of less useful street-side rumors about the other each other mostly concerning who may or may not be addicted to what and who may or may not be sleeping with each other.
The local streets offered little useful towards solving the case, but on the second block, Carter came across a particularly shut in looking single man.
After exchanging the usual pleasantries and being questioned on the disappearances, stated he'd seen a lot of unusual activity on 13th street, particularly around 301-310, the houses that make the round along the cul-de-sac where the road ends.
He spoke oddly cautiously, glancing over his shoulder at the nearby houses as he explained- "a lot of the more rebellious youths in the area have been running around at night, between the houses and into the woods, doing god knows what."
He had been keeping an eye on the area at night because he feared for his house being broken into by the assumed vandals, but had only seen the usual neighborhood drama and "typical town bullshit" besides that.
He stated when pressed further however, that he had seen one of the local college girls carrying a strange light, a lantern or flashlight of some kind that caught his attention.
He had worked in electronics and couldn't recognize the type of luminance as any kind of phone or device he was familiar with, saying it gave off a "strange, blue eerie glow".
But even the man himself copped it off mostly to his imagination playing tricks on him, after being spoon-fed the local myths about "witch-fires in the woods" throughout his childhood.
Walking away from the lifetime resident’s house left Carter with a strange sense of discomfort. His seemingly sober tale adding a bit of depth to the otherwise passably ignorable rantings of the town gossips and the alleyway drunkards.
Standing at his car for a moment, he found himself unable to shake the unnerving feeling. After taking a break, he decided to focus his efforts for the rest of the quickly dimming afternoon sunlight on the Cul-de-sac area the man had mentioned.
Climbing into his car, Carter attempted to shake off the eerie vibe building in his mind from the various rumors he'd collected throughout the day. Driving quickly past the remaining houses on the block, he made his way towards 13th Street.