Isabelle- An Occult Thriller- Ch 10 & Ep

Book Cover
Book Cover

Isabelle

An Occult Thriller by Tony DeLorger © 2011


CHAPTER TEN

Sunlight streamed through the soft lace curtains into the bedroom, creating intricate classical patterns on the bed and walls. It was a gentle, ethereal light that gave everything a mist-like glow, but also definition. Isabelle lay naked on her side with a twisted sheet over her waist, one leg bent and teasing gravity over the side of the mattress.

Adam was slowly coming to, suddenly becoming physically aware. He rolled onto his back and groaned, his bones aching as if he’d hiked halfway across the country. Half-squinting from the infused morning light, he looked fleetingly to Isabelle who was still fast asleep. Remembering vaguely where he was, he then instinctively lifted the sheet and peered down at his naked body. His eyes opened wider, to make sure that they were not deceiving him. He sat there in shock, edging up on his elbows, and examining the bruises that almost covered his entire lower torso.

Every muscle was aching; even his bones were hurting. Adam glanced at Isabelle to somehow verify this dream like circumstance, but as he moved more upright his body was agreeing that this was no dream. The night of passion they shared was one he would remember.

Adam had not been with many women, his painting took up so much of his time and allowed little opportunity to even have contact with the opposite sex, but he was not completely without experience. Isabelle was the most passionate and fervent sexual partner that he had ever had and she had taken him to new and previously unexplored sexual heights. She was unquenchable and in the end unstoppable. At one point Adam thought that he would pass out. She was so forceful, he felt unable to stop her.Her strength was incredible and her stamina inexhaustible. After hours of lovemaking, Adam’s memory of the evening ended. He could only assume that he must have slipped into unconsciousness, unable to go on.

He quietly swung his legs over the side of the bed and grimaced, the pain in his side intense. ‘This isn’t right,’ he said, slowly getting to his feet. He straightened up stiffly and breathed out having held his breath with the pain, then limped to the bathroom to take a shower.

It was short and sweet, unlike his usual cleansing ritual, but it did make him feel slightly better. With difficulty he slowly and quietly dressed himself, each completed manoeuver another destined path to pain. He eased back on the end of the bed to put his socks on when Isabelle began to stir.

‘Good morning,’ she said lovingly as she rolled over to face him. ‘Come back to bed. Where are you going?’

Adam turned and looked at her, her face was glowing, inviting him, and pleading.

‘I’ve got work to do. I have to go,’ he said sharply, trying to put a shoe on his too distant foot. He gasped and clutched his side in pain.

‘What’s wrong Ad, are you OK?’ she said with concern, sitting up and inspecting his side. ‘You’re hurt!’ she added, swinging round on the edge of the bed.

Adam looked at her, confused. ‘Don’t you remember last night?’ he asked. Isabelle smiled mindlessly.

‘Of course I do,’ she said, ‘We made love, wonderful love,’ staring vacantly into the air, grinning. ‘You were fantastic!’

‘I have to go,’ he said determinedly, kissing her rather coldly on the forehead. She was completely taken aback.

‘You have to stay. Please!’ she begged.

Adam grabbed his jacket from the chair and headed for the door.

‘Adam?’ she said indignantly.

Adam turned fleetingly at the doorway. ‘I’ll call you later, OK?’

The door shut with a thud and he was gone. Isabelle sat on the side of the bed bewildered, not understanding his behaviour at all.

Adam fled into the street still in considerable pain and more confused than ever. This girl that he thought he knew; could she have thrown a fully grown man through a door? After last night Adam wasn’t sure, feeling like he’d climbed Mt Everest, not made love to a beautiful woman.

He caught a cab back to the dock area and thought it best to have a checkup with his doctor. It was just as well; an X-ray revealed a broken rib. The doctor wrapped him up tightly with a support bandage and he was ordered to get some rest, not overexert himself and to let the break heal. Like a mindless apparition, Adam wandered out of the surgery and into the street, in shock and hardly believing what had happened. Luckily the studio wasn’t far and he headed home, wanting only to lie down.

At the top of the landing, having managed to make it up the stairs, he fumbled with the keys. After finally sliding the stubborn key into the keyhole, he leant onto the heavy door and it opened with a creak.

The phone was ringing but Adam, who had no intention of answering it, shut the door and found his way to the sofa, carefully lowering himself down onto it. He exhaled and closed his eyes with relief as his muscles began to give way under his all-consuming fatigue.

The phone eventually stopped ringing and Adam enjoyed the silence, if only for a moment. Within five minutes it was ringing again and he covered his ears with his hands to escape its oppressing persistence. Then as it ceased once more and he finally thought that he could get some well-earned sleep, there was a not so gentle thud on the front door.

Adam sighed in disbelief and resigned himself to the world. ‘Who is it?’ he shouted, with a definite edge to his voice.

‘It’s me, Taz!’ sounded the muffled reply.

Adam slumped in the sofa. ‘Come in!’ he bellowed.

Ted burst into the studio eating a chocolate bar, obviously in a good mood. ‘Hell, what happened to you?’ he mumbled, his mouth half full, as he leapt into one of the armchairs.

Adam rolled over a little onto his side. ‘I’ve got a cracked rib,’ he replied, straining to find a more comfortable position.

‘You just can’t take care of yourself, can you?’ said Ted with a chocolate smile.

Adam rolled his eyes and looked up to the ceiling, not all that happy making conversation.

‘You seen Isabelle?’ asked Ted, innocently.

‘You could say that,’ Adam replied, giving up on his intended rest and awkwardly getting to his feet. Ted scoffed down the remainder of his chocolate bar and Adam went to the kitchen to put the kettle on. He knew he’d have to explain it all to Ted, and for that he needed caffeine.

Over a hot brew Adam explained to the best of his ability what had happened. Ted’s rather laid back manner quickly changed to a pent-up panic, having never come to terms with what he’d already seen and been through. His mouth gaped wider and wider with shock as Adam told him of all the details and by the end of it, Ted was considerably concerned. It wasn’t so much what was happening, as Adam’s ambivalence to it. He seemed to be taking it all in his stride somehow, when as far as Ted was concerned he should be running like hell.

These new events raised even more questions that seemed unanswerable, at least by what Ted considered to be normal rationalisation. Ted hardly wanted to be within this grey area of understanding, but further, he couldn’t understand his closest friend placing himself so willingly in the line of fire. Ted was troubled and no girl was worth all of this, not for him and certainly not for Adam.

‘Look, I think it’s time to step back,’ said Ted in earnest. ‘I mean, really this whole thing has nothing to do with you, does it? And then there’s Isabelle. She’s a great girl, but is she worth all of this?’ he asked, pleading. Ted was afraid, thinking that in the end Adam could be the one under the blanket, having suffered Carver’s fate.

Ted sat on the edge of his seat, and hunched over worriedly, not knowing what else to say. Adam placed his hand on Ted’s shoulder, appreciating his concern, but knowing this was something that he just had to do.

‘I can’t forget about her Ted. I’m really the only friend she’s got. Who else is there?’

‘That’s my point, exactly,’ replied Ted, emphatically.

‘Why isn’t there anyone else?’

Adam couldn’t answer, all that he knew was that he felt a responsibility to Isabelle, a responsibility that outweighed any thoughts of personal safety or anything else for that matter. He had admitted that he was smitten by her, but that wasn’t his only motivation. She had always seemed the victim; the innocent party in all this and he couldn’t just desert her now when things approached the critical point of change.

The conversation suddenly stopped dead, neither of them with anything else to add to the predicament, certainly not a solution. Ted stayed for another hour and comforted his friend by simply being there, but it was soon time to pick up Jenny from work and Ted rose to his feet, a little hesitant to leave.

‘Will you be all right?’ he asked.

‘Of course I will. We’ll all get together next week and have dinner, probably laugh about all this,’ he said with a half-hearted smile.

‘Yeah, I guess. Keep in touch then?’ asked Ted with concern.

Adam nodded in reply, with a friendly smile and Ted, not happy with his friend’s resolve, quietly left the studio. Adam leaned back on the sofa and cleared his mind; everything was rattling around in his head, making an intolerable racket. He was exhausted and with little difficulty Adam sighed and fell almost immediately to sleep.

......................................

‘Mary, can you please bring in the coffee?’ asked Bob, his mouth half full of toast. It was smothered in an exquisite homemade marmalade that only Mary could have made, and Bob so enjoyed her culinary talents, it was all she could do to get him to leave some days.

It was early and the lively morning light beamed through the kitchen window, imbuing the old oak table with its golden clarity, bringing the subtle wood grain to life. A willow tea set sat on it, glistening in the warmth. The teacups sat filled with their rich offering and gentle streams of tinted blue steam rose listlessly. They curled their way through the shard of light and dissipated, mingling with the tiny specks of dust that floated, usually undetected in the air.

Bob was thumbing through the daily paper as he normally did, with a well used pair of thick framed glasses perched precariously on the tip of his nose.

‘Damned politicians,’ he mumbled, turning the page. Bob was a scanner when it came to reading. He rarely read the whole paper; it could never hold his interest for that long. Rather, he scanned to see if he could find anything of value first, then he would read. It saved him time and the frustration of having to read what he so eloquently called ‘onerous tripe and propaganda.’

Skimming the pages with an expert eye, he passed over world affairs and the usual political mumbo jumbo and as he turned to page five, a small picture immediately caught his eye. ‘Struth! Look at this Mary?’ he said, laying the paper down onto the table and turning it toward her. She rushed over from the sink.

‘It’s that strange fellow from Blaskin’s funeral. He’s dead!’ Bob murmured as he waded through the copy. ‘Fell down a stairwell. Police investigating, it says.’

Reading on, Bob suddenly stopped abruptly and looked up worriedly to Mary. ‘My God, it happened where that girl lives, Isabelle Harding.’

Mary looked at him confused; how did he know that? Bob looked out the window pensively.

‘The girl I went to see, to warn her.’ He looked back to Mary. ‘I thought she was in danger,’ he explained to his wife, who knew nothing about it.

Bob stood up in shock, realising that his suspicion may well have meant something. ‘I knew something wasn’t right with her, and now that man Carver is dead. I knew it the moment she smiled over Blaskin’s grave. It just wasn’t right,’ he finished, in a daze.

Mary looked at her husband with concern, although she didn’t know exactly what had happened. ‘Bob, this is none of our business,’ she said, worried about his intense reaction and not knowing what he was going to do. Mary felt uneasy and nervously cleared the table, but Bob didn’t respond to her statement, his mind was a blur with conflicting thoughts.

After a few minutes of silent contemplation he finished his tea and looked over to Mary. ‘I must go to work now dear, or I’ll be late,’ he said, wandering over and kissing her on the cheek as he always did. He picked up his packed lunch from the table and his hat from the hat-rack by the door and left hurriedly.

As the door shut firmly behind him, Mary immediately stopped what she was doing and turned around, more than concerned. She knew that her husband was the epitome of right and a paragon of justice; just enough to get him into all sorts of trouble. Mary had cause to worry.

That morning, as Bob went about his daily responsibilities, he couldn’t stop thinking about Isabelle’s face and that strange smile. The pieces of the puzzle floated in and out of his consciousness, begging him to find their rightful place. By 11.30am Bob had had enough of this mental torture and decided that someone of authority should know what he saw. He could well be the missing link that could bring this mysterious chain of events to a conclusion.

At the stroke of twelve, the time of Bob’s usual lunchbreak, he climbed into his car and headed to town. The detective who was handling the case of Carver’s death was named in the newspaper article and Bob was going to tell him all that he knew for whatever it was worth.

As he entered the busy police station, he sidestepped and jostled his way through the never-ending stream of pedestrian traffic, the endless comings and goings of daily police business. Bob was a little overwhelmed with the activity and especially the frantic and often confronting noise of constant and sometimes angered voices, echoing throughout the open entrance foyer.

Quietly and apprehensively, he made his way to the counter and waited. An officer came right over.

‘What can I do for you?’ he said rather sharply.

‘I’d like to see Detective Janson?’

‘In regard to..?’

‘He’s investigating the death of a man named Carver. I may have some information,’ said Bob, a little more confidently. The officer tilted his head back and peered down at Bob through his reading spectacles, studying his demeanour.

After deciding that Bob was no nutter, the officer turned away from him and picked up the phone. A few seconds later he turned back.

‘Up the stairs, second office on the right,’ he announced without looking up, now immersed in a mountain of paperwork.

‘Thanks,’ said Bob, leaving the counter and joining the relentless stream of traffic heading down the corridor.

Bob made his way up the stairs and as he alighted on the first floor landing a man approached. ‘Looking for Janson?’ he asked in a businesslike voice.

‘Yes,’ said Bob, meekly.

‘And you’d be?’

‘Bob Jelks is the name.’

‘I’m Detective Simons, Janson’s partner,’ he said, offering Bob his hand. ‘Follow me.’

Bob was led into Jason’s office. It was a small but well-ordered space containing a desk, chair and two visitors’ chairs. The partitions were fashioned of stained wood with frosted glass inserts and apart from the lingering scent of stale cigarettes; the enclosure had that musty wood-oil smell. Janson stood up and shook Bob’s hand with a vice-like grip. He was a good-looking swarthy chap, with dark questioningeyes and raven black hair.

‘Please, sit down,’ he said, seating himself.

Simons left the office and Bob watched him leave, sitting rather nervously on the nearest visitors chair, looking up to Janson. The detective leaned over the table; his hands clasped together in front of him, giving Bob a most probing, scrutinising glare.

‘You have something for us, about Heinz Carver?’ asked Janson, more than inquisitive.

Bob sat forward awkwardly on the edge of his seat and began to tell his story. Janson took notes as he spoke, listening intently to every word. He asked no questions until the end, didn’t overreact, wanting only for Bob to get it all out. What Bob was feeling, more than saying, was exactly what Janson had felt about Isabelle, and hearing it from someone else finally made him feel justified in taking the matter further.

‘So that’s what I know. I wish I understood it, that’s all,’ finished Bob with a sigh.

Janson smiled wryly, with an almost sinister expression, feeling like he was at last on to something. ‘I have a feeling,’ he said, musing. ‘But why did she do it? What’s the motive?’

Suddenly Simons entered the office, chewing what looked like the remains of a salad roll. Janson looked up.

‘I think we’d better have another look at Isabelle Harding, a close look,’ he announced, abruptly rising to his feet and turning to Bob.

‘You’ve been of great assistance Mr. Jelks. We appreciate you taking the time,’ he said, leading him to the door. ‘We’ll take things from here.’

Bob shook his hand and nodded good day, leaving them to do their best. As Bob made his way to the car, he felt better, having got it all off his chest and hoping the information would lead them to the truth.

Janson quickly told his partner of this new information and it was decided that Isabelle Harding be placed under twenty-four hour surveillance. At this point it was only a hunch, but the action seemed warranted and although there was no proof or known motive so far, he felt there would be, soon.

Meanwhile Isabelle was getting tired of Adam not picking up the phone. She knew he was avoiding her and really didn’t know why. All that she could feel was complete rejection and that issue in her life had come up more than once. She was getting more and more angry. She sat in her apartment stewing over everything, doing what needed to be done within her normal daily routine, but preoccupied with Adam and what had happened.

About 10am she went out to get some coffee, she’d been drinking it like water the last few days. Some ten minutes later on her return, she turned the key in the lock of her front door, but it wouldn’t open. The door was new, having been replaced after Carver’s rather inelegant flight through the last one, and now it seemed to be somehow wedged in the door-jam.

Isabelle growled, turning the key and leaning on the fixed door. It wouldn’t budge. This was the last thing she needed and as she struggled with the door, her blood began to boil.

‘Stupid thing!’ she squealed, thumping hard on the wood. ‘Why can’t anyone do a job right,’ she added, losing patience and giving it a few more thumps.

‘For God’s sake!’ she screamed, now leaning into the door with her shoulder. No matter what she did, the door refused to move, it was jammed as tightly as anything could be. She snarled with frustration, changing shoulders and leaning into it again and again, as hard as she could.

Suddenly a neighbour emerged from an adjoining apartment, having been disturbed by the ruckus. He was a fat balding man, not particularly attractive, standing there in a pair of baggy shorts and a white singlet.

‘Sweet Jesus, keep it down will you? There’s people in here trying to rest!’ he shouted angrily.

On hearing his outburst Isabelle froze, then turned toward the man, her eyes hard and cold. Her entire face contorted and a seething anger began to well up from deep inside her. She looked him scathingly up and down and he stepped back, alarmed at the ferocity of her scowl.

‘You fat fuck!’ she sneered. ‘Get out of my face, unless you wanna go for a ride down the stairwell too!’

The man, unable to believe what she had said, held up his hands in submission and nervously edged back inside his apartment. Then, with her focus back on the door, Isabelle gave it one final frenzied battering, dislodging the lock from the door as it flung inwards with a thud. Isabelle took a deep breath and sighed, then stepped into the apartment and gently closed the door. A few splinters of wood fell to the floor outside, as some other inquisitive neighbours, having heard the confrontation, peaked out from their darkened doorways.

Chester, the abused fat man, went straight for the phone; no-one was going to threaten him.

‘What are you doing?’ asked his wife.

‘I’m calling the police. She can’t say that to me!’

Pat, his wife, rushed over and put her finger on the button then looked up at him. ‘Don’t get involved, Love. She’s always been a bit strange. Best keep out of it.’

After a long moment of thought, Chester surrendered his grip on the phone and let it fall back into position. ‘Somethin wrong with ‘er. Can’t be sayin things like that to people,’ he said.

‘Come on Love. Come and sit down; I’ll make you a cuppa,’ said Pat soothingly, leading Chester to the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Isabelle tried to phone Adam once again, but there was no answer. In a fit of unrelenting frustration, she slammed down the phone and picked up a small brass figurine on the phone table, hurling it into a nearby lamp, which shattered and flew across the room. She fell back onto the couch with tears in her eyes, her body trembling with anger and frustration.

That afternoon Isabelle went out shopping for clothes; she thought it would somehow make her feel better. She felt so alone as she wandered mindlessly down the street. Every person that she ever cared for in her life had abandoned her, for one reason or another. Now it appeared that Adam was repeating the cycle and she was none too pleased about it.

As she walked along the street, dodging passers-by and trying to maintain her composure, she felt someone was watching her. Feeling more than uneasy about it, she continually turned around but no-one looked out of place, obvious in any way. She tried to ignore the feeling but it remained persistent throughout the entire shopping expedition. Each time she stopped and scanned her surroundings, there was no sign of anything untoward, nothing at all to support her rising paranoia.

On her arrival home, Isabelle sat worriedly on the couch trying to allay her fears. Something was wrong and the mere thought of someone prying into her life made her squirm- jumping from terror to indignant rage. She felt like a rubber ball, her emotions bouncing one way and then, without warning, bouncing the other.

Continually trying to calm herself, Isabelle walked to the loungeroom window and opened it to get some fresh air. It was now late afternoon and as the sun buried itself deep behind the edge of the world, a cool breeze wafted carelessly across the bay. It was refreshing and Isabelle could feel herself ease back a little with its calming and cleansing affect. But as she looked down onto the street below, her expression changed.

Twenty metres away, Isabelle saw a dark-blue Ford parked by the kerb. Two men sat motionless in the front seat. She had noticed them when she went shopping earlier, but didn’t think anything of it. Now, as the day was at an end, they remained, there, like statues. Suddenly, she felt that familiar panic rising within her once again.

‘It’s the police,’ she mouthed silently.

‘They’re watching me.’

Isabelle stepped back from the window, her heart pounding. Her hands were trembling as rage slowly but completely consumed her. She began to pace the floor, her nerves at breaking point. She felt trapped, out of control and raced to the bedroom to lie down, trying in vain to calm herself. Unexpectedly, just for a moment, everything went black. Then without thinking, she sprung to her feet and in a blind panic, dashed out of the room and into the bathroom. Frantically she climbed out the bathroom window on to the fire-escape behind the building and descended the ladder down to the laneway below.

The lane was dark, cold and empty. As Isabelle stepped from the ladder, she looked both ways and then turned and set off away from the main road and those intruders, her heart still racing and her breathing erratic. But toward the end of the darkened lane, where it joined another backstreet, she gasped in horror and stopped dead in her tracks. On the opposite side of the adjoining road stood a dark figure, lit from behind by an overhead streetlight. The man wore a hat and overcoat. He was without facial features, his body in shadow, standing motionless with his hands by his side.

Isabelle was shaking, the fear tearing through her like an express train. Suddenly, amid this silent stand off, the man spoke, his voice echoing through the desolate street.

‘You are one of us, Isabelle. The Temple of Asteroth awaits you,’ he said in a strong, clear voice.

‘No!’ said Isabelle backing into the lane. From behind the corners of the buildings that edged the lane, several more figures emerged facing toward her, their blackened silhouettes dark and ominous.

‘The temple awaits,’ said another voice.

‘Come with us?’ added another.

Isabelle drew back further, tears rolling down her cheeks. ‘Leave me alone,’ she sobbed, as the figures, joined by even more dark faceless forms, began to walk slowly toward her.

Isabelle felt her legs become weak, her mind flooded with confusion and the raw panic consume her. She stumbled back trying to flee these evil phantoms, but her legs could hardly move, they were like lead weights. Then, as she tripped and scrambled down the lane a baleful chanting resounded behind her, first softly then louder, forever increasing in tempo and intensity.

‘Is-a-belle, Is-a-belle, Is-a-belle, Is-a-belle...’

She could not even scream, her body was so racked with fear. As the chanting gained strength and approached its climax, these ghouls drew closer, their steps quickening.

Isabelle stammered and fell, rose and crawled, in a desperate attempt to escape. Her mind stricken, her body numb, she made it to the bottom of the fire-escape ladder. The approaching figures were now pounding along the lane towards her, their collective footsteps like an escalating hailstorm.

Hand over hand, one step at a time, Isabelle climbed the rusted steel ladder. Her breathing was so fevered that she felt her heart would explode at any moment, and the blood was rushing through her body with such speed that she could barely maintain her consciousness. She felt her feet grip the rough rungs of the ladder and she pulled herself up with all her might, further and further from the street. But as she looked down, the figures gathered below, their hands reaching up like the gnarled claws of a beast, savouring the last moments of capture.

‘No!’ she screamed, trying to lift herself further upward. Amid the outstretched hands, one hand slowly rose above the others, clutching at her heels, its long bony fingers edging closer and closer. Isabelle tried to lift her leg but her strength was all but gone; she could only rotate her ankle, in an attempt to avoid those searching fingers. She tried to kick, tried to shake her way loose, but the hand suddenly surged upward and firmly grabbed her ankle.

Isabelle tried to scream, looking down to see the face of her captor. From the shadows the face emerged, etched out of the darkness, the features hard and elongated. An evil smiled slowly crept across the face and with one powerful yank, Isabelle felt her hands slide from the rungs, her body falling limply, as if in slow-motion, into their hands.

‘Ahrr!’ she shouted, sitting bolt upright, the perspiration running down her forehead. Isabelle found herself in the safety of her own bed, having returned from hell itself.

Her mind was spinning, her nerves shattered. This whole situation just couldn’t continue. She had to do something, somehow resolve all of this.

Isabelle went to the window, and looked down into the street; the police car was still there. It was now completely dark. ‘Adam,’ she thought. ‘I must see Adam.’ She quickly grabbed her coat and went out into the stairwell. On the floor above there was a fire exit that alighted into the south side street next to the building; it was normally used for maintenance parking. There she felt she could elude police surveillance and make her way on foot to the studio.

Isabelle crept down the metal stairs in the cool night air, being careful not to make a sound. Once on the ground, she stealthily made her way to the street, twenty feet behind the parked police car. Thankfully the side street was in complete darkness, the front lighting of the building entrance unable to reach the structures extremities. She peered around the corner, then, tightly rugged up in her woollen coat she scurried out on to the footpath and away toward the docks.

The detectives in the car were bored stupid having spent the day like two shags on a rock. But as Isabelle ventured out into the street, the driver, Detective Peters, saw her in his rear vision mirror. A smile crept across his round unshaven face as he turned to his partner.

‘Looks like we’re on the move. At last, something,’ he said, turning on the ignition, and gently pulling out from the kerb.

Isabelle all hunched up in her coat and scarf, pounded down the street toward city central and the dock area beyond. Occasionally she would turn fleetingly to make sure that no-one was following, but apart from a few passing cars, no-one revealed themselves.

The two detectives wisely stayed right back out of sight, keeping Isabelle just within visual range, but not close enough to be detected. Through the city streets she strode, through crossing after crossing, over walkways and down alleys. The detectives, knowing every corner, lane and intersection stayed on her tail, but remained well back. Peters then called in to base.

‘On the move. Suspect heading down Grenfeld towards bay area. Over.’

The radio crackled with a short burst. ‘Received. Over.’

A few minutes later Janson got on the base radio.

‘Come in 640? This is Detective Janson.’

‘640, receiving,’ answered Peters.

‘She’s on her way to Bishops, do not intercept. Over’

‘Message received.’

‘Keep well back, at least a block. I’m going myself- this could be something. Be ready as back up.’

‘640- received. Over.’

Janson grabbed his coat and Simons and headed down to the car. With a short burst of acceleration, the tyres skidded then found grip, propelling their car up the ramp from the car park and into the street.

Janson sped at great speed down toward the docks, going the long way around to ensure they would not come across Isabelle on foot. He ended parking no more than fifteen feet away from the studio, in the shadows behind a large metal skiff. ‘This should do nicely,’ he said leaning back and awaiting Isabelle’s arrival.

The backstreets of the dock area were desolate. Not a soul could be seen, except for a lone bedraggled dog scavenging through an overturned garbage bin. The moonlight glistened across the water while a brisk breeze occasionally whisked up a piece of paper, sending it rustling across the empty, darkened landscape.

Adam was in the kitchen, cooking up some noodles for a quick and effortless meal, when he heard a knock on the door. He wasn’t expecting anyone and looked pensively toward the door. Another knock resounded, this time with more force. Adam rested the hot saucepan he was holding on the bench and made his way to the door. He looked through the security lens then unbolted and opened the heavy door.

‘Yeah?’ he asked the stranger, a little off guard.

‘Look, I’m sorry to bother you. My name is Bob Jelks. I got your name from Detective Janson,’ Bob began.

‘What’s this about?’ asked Adam, feeling uncomfortable.

The man was obviously nervous, but intent on relaying something.

‘I think I need to talk to you about Isabelle Harding,’ he said, his expression stone-cold serious.

Adam looked him up and down for a moment, then he opened the door further. ‘You’d better come in then.’

Adam led Bob to the dining table and asked him to sit, while he turned off the stove. Under a soft overhead light they both sat, Adam eyeing this man with intense suspicion.

‘Who are you?’ he asked sharply.

‘I’m the grounds keeper at St Luke’s parish church and cemetery. I know this is a bit strange, but I’ve been talking to the police and I think you should know why.’

‘Go on,’ said Adam, with undivided attention.

Bob carefully explained the funeral and how Isabelle had smiled over Blaskin’s grave. He then removed the gold amulet from his coat pocket and placed it on the table, explaining how Isabelle had first reacted to it only to deny having ever seen it, later. Adam was feeling more and more uneasy.

‘You see when I read about Carver falling down the stairwell at Isabelle’s apartment, bells began to ring; I just had to speak to the police. Then I found out about you, and....well I had to tell you. Isabelle is not what she seems,’ Bob added.

Adam swallowed. His throat felt as if he had just eaten a cactus and his stomach was in a knot.

‘I know it’s none of my business, but maybe you could be in danger?’ Bob suggested.

Adam leant back in his chair. All the pieces didn’t fit, but he just couldn’t imagine Isabelle being some sort of monster. Under great stress perhaps a little irrational, but violent, capable of cold-blooded murder? Adam didn’t think so, he just couldn’t. He leaned forward and put his hands to his forehead, rubbing impatiently, agitated. He didn’t know what to think.

Meanwhile Isabelle appeared through a laneway, alighting fifty-odd feet down the eastern end of Adam’s street. She hurried toward the studio entrance.

‘Here she is,’ said Simons, sitting more upright.

‘First Jelks, now Isabelle. This could be a real party,’ mumbled Janson, sitting forward in his seat. He gently wound down the window, and scanned the upstairs windows in the studio with a pair of binoculars. All was quiet.

Isabelle entered the stairwell and bounded up the stairs, but as she reached the landing she felt suddenly strange, a little faint. She leaned weakly against the wall, her vision slightly blurred. Peering down at her hands, she frowned, feeling sure her eyes were deceiving her. The hands before her were not hers, they seemed older, a different shape somehow. She blinked a few times thinking it was her imagination, but this strange feeling persisted.

She looked around her, suddenly forgetting where she was, trying to get a bearing on things. Then a wave of anger mysteriously swept over her and the dizziness relented. Isabelle immediately straightened up, her eyes suddenly turned cold and hard, the soft blue that had so enticed Adam, replaced with a soulless darkened grey.

Suddenly, a persistent thud on the front door echoed through the studio and both Adam and Bob startled. Again the pounding thundered through the open space like an approaching storm. Adam rose to his feet, apprehensively.

‘I know you’re in there Adam. Open up!’ screamed Isabelle, the anger in her voice hardly disguised. Adam turned back to Bob who was frozen in his chair, his eyes wide.

Adam, trying not to believe the worst, went to the door and without consideration, opened it. Isabelle barged her way in, then turned back toward him.

‘Why are you shutting me out!’ she screamed. ‘I thought you were on my side,’ she added, a little less aggressively, tears now running down her face. Adam looked in her eyes; he saw that soft blue, that vulnerability. He was powerless and reached out to her. As he drew near she hardened.

‘Don’t touch me!’ she snapped, stepping back. ‘You wanted me the other night....and now you don’t? Is that it?’ she said venomously, turning away into the center of the room. As she turned, she caught sight of Bob, standing rather awkwardly next to the dining table.

‘What’s he doing here?’ she screamed. This was the last straw. ‘What the hell is going on?’

Just then, as if taken by a solid blow to the head, Isabelle fell limply to the floor, unconscious. Adam and Bob rushed over to her and Adam checked her pulse; she was OK. He loosened her blouse and felt her forehead; she was hot, very hot. But before he could get up to fetch some cool water, Isabelle opened her eyes. They now appeared almost black, like polished ebony. Adam drew back in shock, Bob already ten feet behind him.

Isabelle rose to her feet and stood rigid. This was not Isabelle, thought Adam as she looked right through him, her expression cold, completely without emotion.

‘You betray me,’ she said in a low, threatening voice. Adam stepped back, retreating.

‘You fools!’ she screamed. ‘You think you can do this to me? My own father could not destroy me, nor could those stupid weak souls that followed him. Carver was weak. As if I would play their childish games, their mumbo jumbo.’

‘And what do you think you know? You think old daddy tried to kill his innocent daughter, don’t you?’ she laughed. ‘He was trying to protect himself.....From me.’

Adam couldn’t believe what was coming form her mouth. He was flabbergasted, his mind trying to absorb the inconceivable.

‘Daddy never had a chance, did he?’ she said in a sickly sweet voice. ‘The power of good won in the end, didn’t it?’ she added. ‘Bye-bye Daddy,’ she laughed, maniacally.

‘Fuck Daddy!’

Adam and Bob, now fearing for their lives moved further back. Bob, in a fit of panic, made a break for the door, but as he burst into action, the studio lights exploded in a shower of glass and the bolt on the front door snapped shut.

Moonlight streaming intermittently through the skylight above, now partially lit up the room, Isabelle’s dark figure silhouetted against the soft shard of light.

‘You are not leaving,’ she growled. ‘At least not by the front door.’

Isabelle stepped forward with an evil smile on her once innocent face.

‘You are all such fools,’ she added, suddenly amused by their ignorance.

As Isabelle roamed around the centre of the studio, obviously pleased with herself and revelling in her successful deception, a white emanation began to form only feet from where she stood. She saw it immediately.

‘What’s this, another little trick?’ she spat.

As the pulsating light slowly found form, a voice began to resonate from within it, becoming clearer and clearer. ‘Isabelle, Isabelle,’ it said with warmth and purpose.

‘It is Elizabeth, your mother.’

Elizabeth Harding suddenly appeared from within the ethereal light, calling to her daughter. Isabelle stepped back, more than angered at her mother’s interference.

‘This does not have to be your choice, Isabelle,’ said Elizabeth, with quiet understanding.

‘What would you know? You were never my mother; you were never there for me!’ snapped Isabelle.

‘There are many paths in life, Isabelle. Sometimes it is not always what we would like. But God has a purpose, it is not ours to question.’

‘Don’t talk to me about God!’ Isabelle screamed, getting more outraged by the second.

Meanwhile Janson and Simons, having seen the light show through the studio window, immediately called for back up and hurriedly left the car, entered the stairwell and dashed up the stairs.

They tried to open the door but it was of course bolted.

‘Open up! Police!’ they shouted, pounding heavily on the door. ‘Open up!’

The two began to barge the door in a frantic attempt to enter. The metal door rattled with each thud, the surrounding frame creaking under the strain.

Inside, Isabelle stood erect; her eyelids fluttering as her eyeballs rolled back into her head, leaving the whites of her eyes like two beacons glowing in the dim light. Her hands slowly rose up in front of her chest with her palms facing outwards. Suddenly the room began to vibrate, the windows rattling constantly. Every article and piece of furniture began to shake uncontrollably; vases and anything not attached fell to the floor and smashed. All the cupboards flung open and cans and packets of food rolled out and spilt all over the kitchen floor. Cutlery and metal utensils were strewn everywhere, clattering on the hard surfaces, creating a deafening sound. Tubes of paint burst, flinging their contents up the walls and onto the floor, bottles containing solvents and mediums exploded, spraying glass everywhere.

Adam and Bob cowered behind furniture trying to protect themselves, but one by one these pieces were overturned or thrown to the side, leaving them once again vulnerable. An unexplainable wind suddenly stirred up light debris and paper, whisking it around the room like confetti.

Elizabeth, with her hand reaching out to Isabelle, suddenly abandoned her attempt to save her child and hung her head sadly, realising her efforts had been in vain. She looked at Adam with a beaten expression, then faded away, her image swallowed up by the darkness.

Meanwhile Janson and Simons, having heard the maelstrom inside, continued to batter the door with even more gusto and the hinges were finally beginning to give way. The centre of the door was now bowed inward, the rivets popping off one by one as the officers continued the onslaught. Their back up had now arrived and all four of the officers gave the door one last pounding.

Finally, with a tremendous thud, the metal door flung inward and Janson and Simons burst in with revolvers held out in front of them, their eyes wide, ready for action. With an almost instantaneous affect, the shaking suddenly ended and pieces of paper and fine debris floated slowly and quietly to the floor.

Isabelle opened her eyes and looked at them hatefully. Janson, still panting from the energy of having barged through the door, studied her expression and unconsciously cocked the trigger of his revolver. Isabelle ignored their presence and turned her attention toward Adam, who was over behind some trashed furniture. Her eyes were now black, like an abyss, her mouth curled downward, snarling like a caged animal. She reached out in front of her and a large carving knife flew from the kitchen floor and landed perfectly in the palm of her hand. Her fingers clenched the weapon tightly, until she was white-knuckled. Janson looked to Simons in disbelief and horror.

What followed took place in what appeared to be slow-motion. All present seemed to be caught in a time warp, unable to struggle free from its hold. They all stood there trapped in this horrific moment, watching it unfold before their eyes and unable to avert what was to take place.

In complete silence, with even the dust having settled, they all looked at one another, their minds flooded with fear and apprehension. Then, through this ominous silence and without provocation, Isabelle let out a bloodcurdling scream and lifted the knife high above her head, leaning forward and springing into action.

Adam reeled and collected the wall behind him. He watched each second go by as if an hour, as Isabelle headed straight for him, the razor-sharp blade of the knife glistening in the luminescent light. As Isabelle gained momentum she lifted the knife higher, ready to thrust it into his flesh. She was growling with determination, with pure hatred in her eyes. Then Isabelle was suddenly airborne, having lunged forward with all her might to end the man that had betrayed her. Her body sailed through the air like a sylph, her dress billowing out behind her, fluttering in the air like lace in a gentle breeze.

Both detectives fired simultaneously. One shot caught her on the shoulder sending her into a half spin, the other straight through her chest. Blood and flesh sprayed out like little coloured bubbles, splattering on the floor and out into the room. Isabelle hit the floor hard, the knife dislodging from her hand and spinning out of control towards Adam.

With a short metallic thud, the knife buried its tip into the wooden floor only six inches from where Adam stood. Adam slowly looked up having followed the knife to its resting place and peered down at Isabelle. She lay in front of him, motionless and bleeding profusely. He studied her delicate face; she had changed. Her eyes were open, a soft clear blue colour, but she was now vacant.

Adam slowly slid down the wall to the floor exhausted, staring mindlessly at Isabelle’s lifeless body.

The others stood there in shock, while spirals of pale blue smoke rose silently and peacefully from the barrels of the revolvers. Within the sanctity of darkness a life had vanished, disappeared from this mortal coil. A struggle ceased to be and the finality of death was all too evident to those that remained.

In Adam’s confusion and within a numbing cloud of discontent, his mind frantically flittered through memories of Isabelle, when they met, what they had shared and what finally happened. Deep in his heart he did not blame her, he felt only sorrow and the Isabelle that he knew had somehow been taken away, well before this night.

Now, in the silence of that empty space, where dreams and reality vie for recognition, there was a strange yet fitting peace. It was as if Isabelle had somehow known what had to be done, and in doing so brought peace and balance back to life. In a way her struggle was hers alone and for Adam in a strange way, the real Isabelle had won.

EPILOGUE

Adam, for many days could not motivate himself. The same half-finished canvas sat on the easel, untouched. In the silence of time and the shifting of light, life outside continued its endless activity, but without him.

Isabelle was almost like a dream, but would always be an innocent to Adam. It was as if a demon got hold of her and wouldn’t let go. The seed, planted by her father, was guiding her in ways she could not understand. Adam believed in her innocence. He believed she knew nothing of her actions and of the internal struggle that eventually led to her death.

As she lay dead on the floor of the studio her face, Adam believed, told the story, revealed the truth. Adam had finally come to terms with the fact that this was meant to be. Even Isabelle’s mother, in the end, didn’t intervene. As sure as Blaskin had implanted this evil seed, Isabelle was sure to die. Death seemed the only way to stop it, and for Adam, he felt she knew that too.

This is how Adam chose to remember Isabelle, and in his own life this experience would give him more courage and commitment than he could have ever mustered himself. Life was a journey full of unknowns and doubt and as an artist, Adam had enough experience through his relationship with Isabelle, to fill a thousand canvases. This was of course, his intent.

Not too many days later, with the sun streaming into the studio, Adam made peace with himself and placed a fresh canvas on the easel. There was not a cloud in the sky and a soft breeze drifted intermittently across the water and through the open window. Adam breathed it in and smiled, stroking his two-day growth. In the background the subtle but vibrant melodies of Strauss wafted through the vast open space, teasing his creativity and beckoning his participation. He gazed down at the shiny mounds of paint lined up in order on his pallet and picked up a brush. Rolling it in his slender artistic fingers, he marvelled at its symmetry and design. He then lovingly immersed the tip in a magnificent shade of aqua, and with eyes wide and filled with expectation, touched the canvas and watched the colour explode before him.

Adam smiled blissfully as he took part in the magic, and experienced the completeness of what he had discovered, having finally made his peace.

‘Once found, the very purpose of any life becomes one with its essence. As a consequence this purpose then becomes the most effortless and the most divine of all addictions, expression, the fruit of life.’

THE END

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