“It’s an incredible story — incredible and horrible!”
There’s a rap at the door, interrupting Laura’s fireside reverie. Laura Collins has been living in the cottage on the Collinwood estate for two months now, periodically ensorcelling people, as she prepares to enter the furnace with her son, and char for all eternity. Laura has a vivid interior life.
But the rap, as I said. She glides to the door, and finds a Dartmouth professor in glasses and turtleneck, standing at the threshold.
“Mrs. Collins?” he inquires, and Laura says yes.
“I’m Peter Guthrie. I’ve been wanting to meet you.”
“I was just thinking about you,” she smiles, quietly. “Wondering what you’d be like.”
And now I can see what you’re like, she thinks. Oh, well. You can’t win them all.
Meanwhile, three years later, another knock on another door, and guess who pops by the haunted antiques shop.
“Mr. Todd?” says the trenchcoat, and Philip says yes.
“My name is Lawrence Guthrie. I’m here from the state capital, investigating the unusual aspects of the murders.” There’s been murders, which have unusual aspects.
“Yes, I’d heard you were here,” Philip says, and invites him in, and another turn of the wheel begins.
So here they are, Pete and Larry — the Guthrie brothers — settling down on the couch, in just the spot you had earmarked for other purposes. They’ve got a few questions, if you don’t mind, about symptoms and suspects and the existence of other worlds.
They will ask their questions, and raise their eyebrows, and smile their secret smiles, and then they’ll die, these doomed investigators. They will die in fire and agony. It’s purely a formality, you understand; it’s nothing personal.
Dr. Guthrie isn’t a regular type doctor; he’s actually a parapsychologist, called in from Dartmouth to assist in a case that’s baffled the finest minds in Collinsport. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is flat on her back, unable to move or speak or take any nourishment but sherry, and yet the doctors say there’s nothing wrong with her. So here comes Peter Guthrie, ghost-chaser and big thinker, to pose as a doctor and diagnose this impossible illness.
Inspector Guthrie isn’t quite what he appears, either. Yes, he’s an investigator from the state capital, but he hasn’t been assigned to this case. Nobody has. The boys in Augusta steer clear of the cases from Collinsport, a town where every murder has unusual aspects. The state capital has had several hundred years to adjust itself to Collinsport, and they’ve learned that investigators who head in that direction don’t come back. Lawrence Guthrie knows that better than most.
But the file on Lawrence’s desk said “Paul Stoddard”, as in Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. Pete’s last case.
Meanwhile, three years ago, Peter Guthrie perches on the sofa, ingratiating himself. Laura Collins is not an easy woman to ingratiate. She’s not even a woman, probably, she’s a white hot kernel of popcorn, visibly holding back the pop, as she arches an eyebrow and pretends this is a social call.
“David’s a nice boy,” says Dr. Guthrie. David is her son, the one she plans to flambé.
“Yes, I think so,” she says. “And also a very imaginative one. Of course, you can’t blame him, growing up in a place like this all by himself.”
“It’s a beautiful place.”
“Oh, yes, it is,” she allows, “but so much a part of the past, rather than the present. It’s not surprising that he believes in ghosts.”
“Well, what do you believe in?”
Another eyebrow. “Well, if I so incline, I believe in times gone by. I believe that the events of the past can be haunting enough, without conjuring up spirits about it.”
This dame has been consumed in flames several times, by the way, in various time periods and municipalities. I don’t know if she’s ever been burned specifically because she talks like this, but I bet it didn’t help.
But you talk about haunted by events of the past? Yeah, that’s Lawrence’s area; he’s had a lot of experience in that line. He’s currently standing in the middle of the country’s most dangerous antiques shop, trying to put it to rest.
“Now, Mr. Todd,” the inspector begins, “I’d like to ask you a few questions about Paul Stoddard. I’m sure you’ve already discussed this with Sheriff Davenport, but if you don’t mind –”
“No, of course not,” says Philip, the proprietor of the scene of the crime. “I’ll tell you anything I can. We were all very, very upset about poor Davenport.”
“Why?” says Jeb, the tall young man in the back of the room with a predator’s stance. “When a man dies like that, in the line of duty — isn’t that the way he wants to go?”
Lawrence swivels. “Isn’t that a rather odd point of view?”
“Such a strange illness,” Dr. Guthrie tuts. “What do you make of it?”
Laura regards him. “Well, I’ll leave making anything of it to you. After all, that’s your business.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it. Not in this world.”
“Are there other worlds?” she asks.
“There might be.”
She pauses. “What an interesting observation,” she says. “We must discuss it sometime.”
And meanwhile, three years in the future, Lawrence feels a tingle as Pete’s interesting observation collides with the cold front of Jeb’s odd point of view. The Guthrie brothers are asking the same question at what isn’t actually the same time, and suddenly, for a moment, the wheel skids — and a tiny fracture zigzags its way across the skin of their existence.
Lawrence can hear — no, he can feel himself saying, “Isn’t that rather an odd point of view?” But it’s Pete’s voice, and in that moment, tears spring to his eyes, and he can see it all again — the absence of a brother, the wreck of a driver, blinded by fire and consumed in flame. And he stands at the graveside, numb with pain and fury. Just come home, asshole, Lawrence said, three years ago — and Peter feels a tug, between this world and another. But only for a moment.
Stop thinking about that, Lawrence tells himself. Just do your job. Inspect something.
“Mr. Todd,” says the inspector, “how long was Paul Stoddard here, on the night of his murder?”
“Just a few minutes.”
“Well, where did he stand?”
“About where you’re standing now.”
Yeah, that figures, Lawrence thinks. X marks the spot.
He indicates a door. “As far as you know, he didn’t go anywhere near that door?”
Philip is puzzled. “No, I don’t think so.”
There are no further questions. Not on that subject, anyway.
That’s not the door I saw in my dream the other night, Lawrence thinks, when I saw Pete, and he begged me to stop looking. How many doors are there, in this town?
“Haven’t you ever considered the possibilities of another world?” Dr. Guthrie is warming to his subject, although his subject is not really warming to him.
“Well, let me put it this way,” Laura sniffs. “I feel that the possibilities of things in this world are so infinite, that it’s difficult to conceive of another.”
“What an interesting observation,” he parries. “We must discuss it sometime.”
Meanwhile, the inspector directs his attention to the predator. I’ve seen guys like this before, Lawrence thinks, although he hasn’t, really. Hardly anyone has.
“I wasn’t here on the night of the murders,” says the gorilla.
“Yes, I know. Where were you?”
“Traveling, across country.”
“Business, or pleasure?”
“Both,” Jeb says. “I’m a photographer.”
“You must have gotten some interesting pictures.”
“I’d like to see them someday.”
But “someday” is not an option, for the doomed investigator. Someday is a luxury that he can not afford. It’s the doomed investigator’s job to unearth, but not resolve. That’s what he’s good for. And it runs in the family, apparently, but not for very long.
Laura looks at the little man who’s taking up space in her storyline. “Are you going to be around long enough, for us to have our… discussions?”
“Well, that depends on how soon I get to the bottom of your sister-in-law’s illness.”
She offers a pointed sigh. “I wish I could be of some help.”
“Well, you may be,” says the doctor. “You very well may be.”
And he smiles his secret smile, and then he burns, cooked in the crucible of the Collins family. The wheel turns, unbidden, and the car slips off the road, and Peter Guthrie burns.
And the scream echoes, from now ’til then and back again, and it finds favor with the Old Ones.
Meanwhile, three years from now, Lawrence Guthrie has a lead.
“What is it you wanted to tell me?” he asks Philip, his late-night tipster.
“How Paul Stoddard was killed, and who killed him.”
“What? You know?”
“Yes, I know,” Philip says. “It’s going to be difficult for you to believe. It’s an incredible story — incredible and horrible!”
Lawrence shivers. “Do you want to talk here, or at the police station?”
“At the police station, I think. But before we go, there’s something I’ve got to show you. A room, upstairs. It’s an important part of the story.”
So this is what he wanted. Isn’t it?
To find this door? To make this choice?
I told him to come home. That wild story, on the phone — a dead woman? A phoenix? A portrait that changes, while you’re looking at it? It’s not real, I said, it’s just one of your stories.
“Well, if it’s just a story, then it can’t hurt me, can it?” I could hear his smile, over the phone. “So you don’t have to worry about me.”
Just like he always did. He smiles that dumb smile, and he thinks he’s smarter than everyone, and I know that it doesn’t make sense, but you need to get out of that town. And I got mad, and I hung up on him.
“Larry, you –” I didn’t let him finish. Fuck fuck fuck, the last thing I would ever hear him say, and I hung up while he was saying it. Just come home, asshole. I’ve heard about that town.
So Philip offers a door, and Lawrence walks right in. As it turns out, you don’t choose the chosen room. You just keep asking questions, until it chooses you.
“It’s an important part of the story,” Philip said, but that’s just what the Guthrie boys are not.
Failure is success, in the doomed investigator business. Failure gets you home on time. Failure means that you live long enough to apologize.
Because there’s something incredible in that room, incredible and horrible, and in that last moment, as the monster bares its fangs and the car skids off the road, Larry knows that Pete was right, and vice versa.
But when a man dies like that, in the line of duty — isn’t that the way he wants to go? Screaming and burning and dying in darkness, as he considers the possibilities of another world?
Tomorrow: Flappy Bat for the Win.
The Peter/Laura scene described here is from episode 177; the car crash is from 185. And yes, they were both actually named Guthrie. Sometimes a story is just sitting there, waiting for someone to notice it.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Amy runs to Carolyn, there’s a glimpse of a stagehand on the left.
On the phone, Philip tells Guthrie that Jeb has gone to Collinsport. He realizes halfway through the word that he means Collinwood, but keeps on going.
When Jeb leaves the Chosen Room and slams the door behind him, the key drops onto the floor.
Jeb tells Philip, “You did your job well. Megan would be proud of you!” Philip moans, “Megan…” and Jeb says, “You did your job very well.”
Behind the Scenes:
The credits say that Inspector Guthrie was played by Jered Mickey, but IMDb says that his real name was Jarred Mickey, although he was credited as Jered Mickey in both of his screen appearances. IBDb says that he’s Jerry Mickey. I’m not sure what difference it makes either way.
J. Mickey was on Broadway for a week in 1963, in the ensemble of Andorra, and then an understudy in The Homecoming in 1967. Then he was in Sam’s Song, a 1969 Robert De Niro movie, and then Dark Shadows, and that’s all I know about him. This is his only episode, obviously.
Tomorrow: Flappy Bat for the Win.
— Danny Horn