Steven James sought a certain book–The Dreamer's Dictionary–to aid in the research for his next book. He thought he had located a copy in Rhode Island, but Evelyn Carnahan–owner of Carnahan's Books–informed him she had lent the book to a good customer–James Gardiner. Gardiner had the book at his home and Steven resolved to get it from him. His abode–Ma Shanks' boarding house–is dangerously close to the seedy Italian district of Rhode Island and so James contacted his old friend Frank Abbot to accompany him "just in case".
Meeting Evelyn at her store, Steven and Frank made their way to Ma Shanks' Boarding house. There they convinced Jackson Elly–the building's landlord–to let them into Gardiner's room. Gardiner himself had not been seen for several days and Jackson was growing concerned for the recluse's welfare.
Events grow confused after Jackson opened the door to Gardiner's dingy one-bedroom apartment. Neighbours speak of muffled thumping and a shrill piping sound followed by a large bang, indistinct shouting and a flurry of panicked gunfire.
Everything was quiet when the police finally arrived, but several witnesses spoke of seeing Jackson carried from the boarding house on a stretcher. When they emerged, Steven James, Frank Abbot and Evelyn Carnahan looked distinctly unwell, although the bookstore owner was seen clutching several books to her chest.
The resultant police report speaks of drugs found on the premise, an overdose and gas leak–which is curious as several of the boarding house's residents affirm the building has no mains gas supply...