One year, four months and sixteen days. That’s how long I’ve been in business. When I started doing this, I thought I would be more like Columbo but I’m really just a glorified porno photographer. I’ve had one real case and too many cheating spouses to count. At least catching adulterers is pretty easy. The one real case I had was finding a stolen family heirloom. Real cases like that are a lot of work. In the end it doesn’t matter, I’m getting paid and that’s what counts so cheers to me.
Now I’m on my second real case. Hired by the Drakes, Nathan and Elena, to find their daughter Cassie. She went missing a couple days ago. Why they didn’t hire Sam and Max like every one else in town is beyond me but it was nice to not lose another client to them. Especially considering how loaded the Drakes were, which is good because it meant I could charge more. Wasn’t hard to see Cassie’s search history on her laptop and figure out she went to some town in Oregon called Arcadia Bay.
Did I want to fly all the way to Oregon? No, but I couldn’t turn down a rich family offering to pay me double when no one even bothered to ask what I charge in the first place. They flew me there in a private jet. That made the whole trip worth it. The plane was nicer than the cockroach nightclub that I call an office. It had the comfiest chair I’d ever sat in and unlimited drink service. You better believe I took advantage of that. I had about four ice cold glasses of Fresca by the time we landed in Portland.
I rented a car from the airport and drove an hour and half to Garibaldi, then I kept driving. The drive was mostly spent on a two-lane road surrounded by giant trees that wouldn’t look out of place in Middle-Earth. Most people would describe it as beautiful but there’s only so many times I can see the same tree. Just when I thought I was lost, I ended up in Arcadia Bay.
On the surface the place looked like an idyllic, quaint seaside town, the kind you’d see on television, the kind where everybody knows everybody else’s name. There was one of everything. One main street, one hardware store, one general store, one mechanic, and one prostitute. An androgenous person dressed in all purple with a pink bow on their head and perpetually puckered lips. Despite that Anytown U.S.A atmosphere, I couldn’t help but feel as uneasy as a young girl being told her new step-father is Woody Allen. This town had something bubbling underneath and I’d bet my career that it had something to do with this missing girl.
There was only one hotel in the whole town, Hotel Mario, so that’s where I stayed. The Mario Brothers empire is pretty vast but I was shocked that they had a hotel in this middle of nowhere town. It did not live up to its namesake. This hotel was a complete dump, maybe the worst hotel I’d ever stayed in. The paint was coming off the walls, the wood flooring was turning green and there was stain in the corner that I hope was just water. It was four floors and the door to every room was open because they had no guests. At the very least, maybe I could get some info on the town from whoever worked there. I approached the portly looking man behind the main desk. He looked like a turtle.
“Hello sir, I’m Mr. Seedei, Phillip Seedei, the owner of this hotel, how may I be of assistance?” he said in an English accent that sounded like a Welshman going through a woodchipper.
“I need a room.”
“And how long will you be staying in town?”
“Don’t know yet.”
“Alright. What brings you to our town, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I was in Portland for business and I heard my niece was here. Thought come and try and find her, haven’t seen her since Christmas.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, perhaps you’ve seen her around. Cassie Drake” I said as I showed him the picture her parents gave me.
“Yes, she’s been staying here, she went out this morning don’t know where she be.”
“Well why don’t you give me the room next to hers.”
“Morgan. Thelonious Morgan.”
He typed on his ancient computer and handed me my room key.
“There you go Mr. Morgan. Ms. Drake’s is to the right of yours.
“You said she was your niece?” he asked as if he knew why I was really here.
He nodded and I headed to my room. As soon I left the counter, he picked up the phone to call somebody. That guy knew something. The room looked about as the rest of the hotel. I put my luggage down and went to Cassie’s room. Her door was opened just a crack. Thank god because lockpicking is a pain in the ass. Her room was almost identical to mine. There was an opened suitcase next the bed. Still full. No computer anywhere. Damn, that meant I had to actually look for clues. There was nothing in the garbage can so I went through the suitcase. There was a small compartment on the side. It was filled with arcade tokens. That’s where I was headed next.
I headed out into town to find the arcade. It gave me a chance to scope the town, the layout, the people, and anything suspicious. This town was full of white picket fences, every house was some combination of primary colours and everyone was smiling all the time but something about it was pretty sus. The year was 2020 but this town was still living in 2000. There was no cell signal, no Wi-Fi outside, payphones and when I walked past the electronics store, it was advertising the Dreamcast. This was also the whitest town I’d ever seen, not that I’d traveled much, but it was like I was in an advertisement for the Gap. On my walk from the hotel to the arcade, I didn’t see a single person of colour. Like I said it was all pretty sus.
I finally arrived at the arcade; a building that looked like Tim Burton puked it out. It was aptly named Bloodtooth’s Arcade. Walking in was like I went through a time machine. This was a proper arcade with stand-up machines like Pac-Man, Truxton and Street Fighter. No one was playing any of them though. Every machine was abandoned except for one. Right in the middle of the arcade was a machine with a line up of about two dozen people. As I approached the machine I was stopped by a tall, thin man, wearing a three-piece suit, with tiny spectacles, a thinning ponytail and a Vincent Price mustache.
“Hello sir, may I be of any… assistance?” He spoke in the strangest cadence I’d ever heard, like someone from the 1930s, and with a pause before the last word of each sentence like a bad Christopher Walken impersonator.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am Mancubus Bloodtooth, owner and proprietor of … the arcade.”
“Why are all your customers on that one game?”
“Why that’s Polybius, it’s our most popular…game.”
“Right, um have you seen this girl around at all?”
I handed him the picture of Cassie.
“Oh yes, yes. Cassie Drake, new in town, she’s here all the time. I believe she’s here…right now.”
I followed the line at the Polybius machine all the way to the front, and found Cassie playing the game. This must have been some game because immediately some annoying little girl with blue hair demanded I get to the back of the line.
“Hey listen! You can’t cut to the front of the line!” she yelled. If a gnat could talk, it would sound like this girl.
“Pipe down, I have adult things to worry about.”
I walked up to Cassie. She was entranced by this game. Her pupils were dilated and she was barely blinking.
“Cassie Drake, your parents are worried about you. I have to bring you back to them.”
She didn’t even acknowledge me, just kept playing the game. It was like it had some sort of power over her. I tried to pull her away from the game but she wouldn’t budge, she held onto that joystick like a python chocking its prey. I just wanted to get back home and get paid. I’m not proud of it but I pushed that girl as hard as could to get her off that game. When I did, the strangest thing happened. I caught a glimpse of the screen and it was a cacophony of color. I felt like I had just taken some sort of super mushroom. I started seeing things that weren’t even on screen—flashes of some sort of golden triangle, blue hoofs. I took Cassie’s place at the joystick and started playing.
That’s the last thing I remember until the next day, when I woke up in my hotel room with an urge to play the game again. It was like it was calling to me. I splashed some water on my face and left my room to find the girl again. I had to get both of us out of this town before we touched that game again. Mr. Seedei was at the desk in the lobby. He was standing there, staring at the stairs like he was waiting for me to come down.
“Mr. Morgan, there’s a car outside waiting for you. Mayor Nook would like to see you.”
The mayor. What the hell did I do? A black SUV was parked out front. The back door was open and the driver was standing there, waiting for me to climb in.
I spent the whole car ride trying to recall what had happened the nigh before, but it was no use. Admittedly the car ride lasted about five minutes on account of just how small this town was. The driver didn’t just take me to city hall, he escorted me all the way to the mayor’s office. The mayor was a chubby fellow in a Hawaiian shirt, with a big beard and raccoon eyes. Not exactly the kind of guy you’d expect to see in a political office but I guess electoral standards went out the window in 2016.
“Thelonious Morgan is it?” he said in a Citizen Kane-like voice.
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Thomas Nook, mayor of Arcadia Bay. I hear you’re trying to get Cassie Drake to leave town and go back to her parents. I sympathize with that, unfortunately, I can’t allow that to happen.”
“And why is that?”
“Well, she’s accumulated quite a debt to me. I can’t let her leave until I’m paid back in full.”
“Is that so?”
“You’re welcome to stay in town until her debt is cleared. I hope you understand.”
Before I could get another word in, Mayor Nook signaled one of his security guys into the room.
“Knuckles, please see Mr. Morgan out.”
This big oaf escorted me out of the building. He signaled for me to get back in the SUV.
“No thanks big guy, I’ll just walk back to the hotel,” I told him, lying through my teeth.
“Do you know the way?”
“Yeah, I can manage.”
Walking away down the street, I sensed I was still being watched. I turned a corner and kept walking about half way up the street before I stopped and turned back. The only thing that mayor said that I believed was him not letting Cassie leave town. I had to figure out the real reason. I walked back to city hall and peaked around the corner to make sure no one would see me. There was a little coffee shop called Arin & Dan’s across the street. I went in and took a table next to a window that gave me a great view of city hall. It was a damn fine cup of coffee as well.
A few hours and four cups of coffee later, the sun was down and Nook finally came out of city hall. I followed from across the street and a few feet behind him. Private Eye 101. Wherever he was going, I was hoping it would reveal the real reason he was trying to stop me from bringing the girl home.
He went into the arcade. I tried to listen through the door but everything inside sounded like the adults from a Peanuts cartoon. I didn’t want to risk going in through the front and being seen, so I went around to see if there were any other entrances. There was a locked door on the side that I picked my way into. I made sure to stay ducked behind the arcade machines to avoid being caught but there was no one in there. It was deserted and mysteriously, the Polybius machine was gone, an empty space where it used to be.
There was some sort of strange sound coming from the back room. I tried to listen in. Voices were chanting, I just barely made out what they were saying.
“Rip and tear! Rip and tear!
I could see flashing lights at the bottom of the door, I thought perhaps it was some sort of drug party. The chanting and lights stopped. I ran and took cover behind some of the arcade machines. The door opened and a group of men in hoods came out. I didn’t recognize most of them but among them were Mancubus, Mr. Seedei and Mayor Nook. They were talking.
“Well, we’ll just have to try with the next one.”
I watched them through a space between machines, careful not to make any noise to alert them as stood around making chit chat. As they began to leave, I slowly came out from my hiding spot, making sure neither of them came back before fully going into the open. I made my way into the back room. I was not prepared for what was in there.
There were strange symbols written all over the walls. The Polybius machine was in the middle of the room, towering over a table with the body of a girl. I freaked out thinking it was Cassie but upon closer inspection I found it was that annoying blue haired girl from before. She was unconscious but had a pulse. It looked as though they were performing a ritual to the arcade machine—but why? There was a book next to the body. The symbol on the cover matched the symbols around the room. The Nintendonomicon. I opened it but I couldn’t understand anything. It was written in some strange language I had never seen. This case was becoming more trouble than it was worth. Sam and Max solve their cases so quick and easily, bet they’ve never been roped into something like this. I took the book and left. But as soon as I was out the door, everything went black.
I woke up tied to a chair in the back room of that arcade. The hooded figures stood around that table. I could just barely see that Cassie was on it. She was their next sacrifice.
“Who the hell are you people!” I shouted, trying to buy time.
Mancubus took off his hood and approached me.
“We are the Esoteric Order of Ganon. The great old one is trapped in this machine and we must…free him.”
“What happens when you free him?”
“He will cover the world in darkness and become supreme leader of all. Under his rule we will be his…servants.”
He put his hood back on and rejoined his comrades. I struggled as hard as I could to get free. I couldn’t over power the rope that I was bound by. I violently shook and bounced, hoping to break the chair but alas, the chair was clearly not from Ikea. All I could do was watch helplessly as they preformed their ritual. Mayor Nook put some sort of device on his hand. It was grey and had a button pad on the wrist. It had a large cable attached to it that he plugged into the Polybius machine. He pushed one of the buttons and it began to glow blue. It was some sort of glove. Some sort of power glove. He hovered the glove over Cassie and she too began to glow. As he began pushing the buttons on the glove, the rest of them began a chant.
“Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start,” they chanted in unison, over and over again.
Polybius started shaking, the screen became as bright as Conan O’Brien in florescent lighting. A giant blue hand came out of the screen, and then another. They grabbed the bottom of the machine and began pushing on it. It was like a baby trying to help the doctor deliver it. The screen lit up even brighter, it was like a flashbang went off. When I opened my eyes there was a giant, muscular, blue boar like humanoid creature standing there. It had giant tusks, a red cape and was holding a trident. All the hooded figures were kneeling before it.
“Oh, great Ganon, we have freed you so you may bring your darkness upon our…world.”
The creature opened its mouth and began to speak. Its voice was so deep that it would make Barry White blush.
“You creatures freed me?”
“Yes, we did…great one.”
“Oh, thank you so much! I must have been trapped in there for a thousand years. I was just minding my business and this little blonde pip squeak trapped me in here. I have to get back to my family, I told them I was just going out to buy a pack of cigarettes. To show my appreciation for you freeing me, I will not enslave your world.”
Just then a puff of smoke filled the room and Ganon was gone.
“Well, that was…disappointing.”
“Now what do we do?’
“We can find a different deity to try and bring about the destruction of the world.”
“Can you let me go now.” I chimed in.
They all approached me and I prepared for the worst. The next thing I heard was a loud BOOM. A dozen armed men stormed the place.
“Freelance Police! Everybody on the ground!” one of them shouted.
All the cultists lay on the ground as they got handcuffed. Then in walked Sam and Max. Those bastards had come to steal another client. As least that’s what I thought. They came up to me and untied me from the chair.
“Thelonious, what the hell you doing out here?” Sam asked in a cool tone of voice.
“What do you mean what am I doing here? I’m on a case. Isn’t that why you’re here, to steal it from me?”
“Oh no, we’re here on a different case. You. Apparently, you owe your ex-wife some alimony and disappeared without saying anything the day before it was due.”
Days later I was back in my office, my alimony paid, my case solved. Sam and Max didn’t steal it from me, but they made me give them a cut of the payment on account of them saving my life. Those bastards. Next time someone hires me to catch their cheating husband, I’m not going to complain. I’m going to be relieved because this case was fucking exhausting.