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The Energy Eater Recap

Via narrative Carl receives that during the construction of the new Lakefront Hospital & Research Center, two Indian construction workers died under mysteriously circumstances. The others walked off the job and the project was completed by new workers.

Carl is covering the dedication of the new Lakefront Hospital and Research Center. A cute receptionist gives him a press kit, and as he strikes up a conversation with her, the bar closes and a speaker takes the stage. The speaker introduces medical director Ralph Carrie and builder Walter Green, the men primarily responsible for building the hospital. Elsewhere in the building, a technician at breaker panel 15 operates switches. Behind him the wall plaster begins to crack; he whirls to shut off the power, but is engulfed in sparks and flame. The panel shorts out as small flames erupt from it. Upstairs, the lights flicker. The speaker cuts his words short and begins the walking tour. He says that due to time constraints the tour will not include the lower levels.

Carl breaks away from the official tour and ducks through a door marked “Hospital Personnel Only.” He finds an elevator to the lowest level: LL3. Inside the elevator he tries to coax a conversation from a nurse named Janice Eisen without luck. LL3 is very hot despite cool air flowing from the vents. Carl loses Nurse Eisen when she enters the pathology laboratory where she works. Wandering alone, Kolchak finds breaker panel 15 in ruins. A man nearby is sweeping the floor and Carl asks him about the cracks in the wall. He says settling from pile driver operations caused the cracks, but when pressed admits that he only knows that because his foreman told him. He won’t reveal the name of his foreman or even his own name. As Carl continues through the basement the sweeper moves so that he can see where Carl is going. Down a short side corridor, Carl begins to hear a high-pitched whirring and sees the walls begin to crack and shake. Frightened, he heads out of the basement.

At his desk, Carl phones a contact and learns that the funding for the hospital came from conventional sources – no union pension funds or blind loans. Tony soon figures out that Carl’s story, with its angle on the hospital’s lack of geriatric facilities, was written by Miss Emily and that Carl dragooned her into doing it so he could do other work. Tony’s objection isn’t as much to the story as it is to Carl reassigning his work. Tony is further outraged when he discovers that Carl is going over a set of hospital blueprints that he stole.

Tony gets a call and returns to his desk. Carl continues his own research by placing a call to Don Kibbey, an architectural engineer Carl once helped out of a jam. As Carl prepares to meet with Kibbey, Tony returns from his own phone call and offers Carl an assignment: write about the shotgun murder of mobster “Little Augie” Cesaré and his bodyguards. But Carl isn’t interested in that story. He’s already got a story and reminds Tony of his own maxim, “one story at a time, Carl, one story at a time.” Tony wants Carl to do the Cesaré story. Employing his trademark trickery, Carl manages to get Tony to “show him how it’s done,” by doing the mob story himself. Carl thinks the hospital is going to collapse and wants to write a story about that.

Carl takes Kibbey into the hospital by disguising himself as a physician and Kibbey as his patient. Down on LL3 it is still very warm and there is evidence of more cracks and repair attempts. Kibbey agrees there’s a severe problem that could be the result of poor quality building materials, an error by the geologist, or even previously unknown geologic problems below the structure. Such problems might also explain the heat. It’s serious regardless of the cause but Kibbey won’t put anything in writing. Once the victim of unsubstantiated accusations, this is a tender spot for him. All he will admit is that Carl has turned up enough to warrant additional investigation.

The lights brighten and the strange whirring begins again; the floor shakes and a light explodes. Kibbey has clearly never experienced anything like this before – he races for the elevator and flees the building. Carl visits the pathology lab and has Nurse Eisen paged. He confronts her with what he knows – the shakes, the heat, and the damage. Eisen scoffs at first, but when Carl mentions that people are dying and suggests the hospital bring in an engineer, she sighs and says it will take more than an engineer. She reveals that earlier in the day a patient in a heart-lung machine was “horribly killed.” She also shows Carl the body of the electrician who died while servicing breaker panel 15. All of the victims had some connection with electrically operated equipment.

Upstairs, Carl waits to visit Dr. Carrie, the medical director. When one reporter is turned away he pretends to be with Dr. Hartfield and follows him into the conference room where Dr. Carrie is discussing the deaths. Carrie describes something unprecedented in the annals of medicine: the victims’ blood has been reduced to a tar like substance. The substance contains almost no plasma; it is little more than a mass of packed cells. As Carrie begins to divide research tasks among the assembled physicians, Detective Webster enters the room. Carl is unable to evade the detective and is escorted out of the building. Detective Webster scoffs at Carl’s idea that a “force beyond his comprehension” is trying to destroy the building.

A new line of inquiry takes Carl to the Starret building on Michigan to talk to the construction crew--the same crew that walked off the hospital job in its early stages. They won’t speak except through their shaman, Jim Elkhorn. At first Elkhorn won’t say why he pulled his men from the Lakefront job. The matter is tribal business not to be discussed with reporters or outsiders. But Carl persists and Elkhorn finally tells him “Matchemonedo” killed the men. Then he slams the door to end the short interview.

Back at the Lakefront Hospital, a quadriplegic named Claudia Granoff is confined to an electric bed. Moments after the nurse leaves the room sparks fly from the bed and flames erupt. Ms. Granoff’s quadriplegia is the least and last of her worries.

Carl sneaks back into the hospital basement by wearing a lab coat and using a stack of bedpans to hide his face. Workers supervised by Walter Green are repairing the damage. Carl confronts Green with Kibbey’s theories, suggesting the building is unsafe and should be evacuated. Green dismisses all the theories and suggests the evacuation begin with Carl. Carl sneaks away when Green walks around the corner in search of a police officer and again visits Nurse Eisen in Pathology. Eisen tells him about Granoff’s death: all her organs “seized up” and the bed she was laying in “went crazy.”

Carl enlists Eisen in his next plan: to visit Jim Elkhorn and learn more. Elkhorn has a weakness for pretty women so Janice Eisen will serve as Carl’s entrée. Carl has fed Janice some questions and between them they tease more information about “Matchemonedo” from Elkhorn. Matchemonedo lived about where Lakefront Hospital sits. It predates both Illinois and the Iroquois Indians and appears in tales of the region going back to the earliest explorations. It was said to be invisible and was inexplicably called a “bear god” in Indian legends. To pacify it, the Indians drove buffalo to its location and it would eat them – quite a feat since it lacked a stomach. Matchemonedo has been inactive for many decades and Elkhorn can only suggest that the land where it lives was submerged by shifts in the lake geography. The Lakefront Hospital project reclaimed and dried that land.

Carl, Jim Elkhorn, and Janice Eisen return to the hospital. She returns to work while Jim Elkhorn and Carl visit the basement. There is new damage, including an immense crack in the floor that Elkhorn says was created by “a force too powerful to be driving off by dancing.” Carl asks him to try anyway and he agrees. After about ten seconds he stops in disgust, claiming the dance didn’t work for his grandfather and won’t work for him. But something is happening; the whining begins, low and far away. It builds in pitch and volume; sparks explode from the floor. Jim and Carl race off – as they reach the elevators there is an explosion. The morgue is a ruined mess, with debris and at least one body strewn about. The debris includes a number of x-ray plates that Carl believes he can develop.

The X-rays seem to contain random images. Then Carl notices two that match. Working together, he and Elkhorn find matching edges and piece together an enormous image from all the films – a staring eye the size of a grown man. Matchemonedo stands revealed--more or less.

Back at Elkhorn’s apartment, the men examine books containing paintings of Matchemonedo. Some of these are cave paintings dating to the time of primitive man, suggesting Matchemonedo predates human civilization. Other books contain writings that mention the creature. Carl is the first to spot a pattern – the creature appears only in the summer months. When Elkhorn casually speculates that perhaps it hibernates, Carl figures it’s known as a “bear god” because of its habits and not its appearance. When the lake shifted the cold water forced the creature into perpetual “hibernation.” When the land was reclaimed the creature felt warmth once again and awoke.

Carl and Jim go to Walter Green with this information and suggest he devise some way of refrigerating the area and evacuate the hospital. He is less than receptive. Dr. Carrie is at least a little bit more open-minded. Carl hammers at this wedge in hopes of getting action on his story but only succeeds in further irritating Green. The conversation is interrupted by another attack. This time the monster has invaded the cobalt storage room. Feeding on the cobalt, it bursts through the wall and door. Even the most skeptical now must concede that something strange exists down on LL3.

Green releases a cover story suggesting that weakening of the foundation has made evacuation a wise idea until the matter is investigated and resolved. The press release only goes to the major news services, cutting Carl and the INS out of the story. Carl visits Jim Elkhorn again but Elkhorn isn’t interested in helping out. The Indians once offered sacrifices to appease the monster. But those days a long past and Elkhorn believes since the white man now controls the land, the white man must solve its problems.

Heavy trucks have been going to and from the now empty hospital site all day and Carl is determined to find out why. He takes two cameras from storage – one for infrared film and one for ultraviolet. He hopes to capture a picture of Matchemonedo that Tony can publish. Realizing Tony isn’t buying the “monster” story Carl concocts a wild tale about “Carlos Matchemonedo,” a Cuban bantamweight fighter. Slapping the film voucher into a puzzled Tony’s hand, Carl races off seconds before Tony recovers with one of his signature outbursts.

Carl returns to the hospital to get the story. There he discovers men feeding pipes marked “Extreme Cold” into the basement. Nearby, Carrie and Green are arguing over whether it is necessary to evacuate the entire building. Carrie wishes to remain behind. From this argument, Carl learns the plan is to freeze the monster with liquid nitrogen. Green really doesn’t believe Matchemonedo is real but is proceeding as if it is. And he’s very afraid of what it might do when they try to freeze it.

Carl slips into the basement to photograph Matchemonedo and it returns as he is snapping away. Kolchak drives it away with a cold fire extinguisher. Then the super cold gases begin to reach it and Carl can hear its whine decrease in pitch and volume until it disappears. But Carl can’t make it out before the cold overcomes him. He wakes up in St. Vincent’s hospital, only a little worse for the wear. The cold ruined most of the film, but Carl did get one shot--the same staring eye.

Lakefront Hospital will never open; Green’s company will replace it with a marina--one with deep channels of very cold water…

Written by Gadfly on Jan 23, 2017

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