Isabelle- An Occult Thriller- Ch4
An Occult Thriller by Tony DeLorger © 2011
As the car rumbled over the old wooden bridge, just outside the town limits, a sign came into view. It read ‘Bamfield- Population 5,500’. Ted drove slowly through the sentinel-like willows that lined both sides of the road. As these elegant giants slowly receded to the meandering creek's edge and away from the roadway behind them, the main street of the town came into view.
The street was broad and flat, with many potholes and patched tar blemishes across its surface and both timber and sandstone buildings sat either side in rather mixed and unrelated styles. It appeared as though the town hadn’t changed in a hundred years or so and the sight of cars parked here and there, seemed somehow out of place; horse-drawn carriages may have been more fitting.
The entire township wouldn’t have been more than two hundred metres long and smack bang in the middle of the street, right in the centre of town was an ornate looking clock tower. It rose from the tattered street like some ill-forgotten monolith, hardly even noticed if not for its rather inconvenient placement. It was a four-sided marble block, adorned with fancy scrollwork around the clock face and with a tall scalloped metal spire that reached up more than twenty feet. Several sphere topped metal posts surrounded the tower; each joined by a length of chain making it just about possible to drive around this unaesthetic eyesore.
They glided silently down the uneven street, peering at the strange eclectic group of shops and businesses, broken shingles and faded paint signs. Not a soul walked the street, but from behind doors and through darkened windows, they felt steely eyes gazing at them, searching inquisitive eyes that were not all that accustomed to visitors. There was a pointed silence in the Chevy; no-one with anything of value to say, everyone feeling a little put off by this strange, eerie welcome they were receiving.
Ted, carefully eased his pride and joy around the clock tower and then further on down the street. To their surprise, a woman suddenly appeared from a shop doorway, but after having seen the strangers, nervously scurried back inside.
‘Friendly lot,’ muttered Ted, his skin beginning to crawl. A poignant, silent reply offered irrefutable agreement. Up ahead, at the end of the main street was a stone building with tall Corinthian columns at its forefront.
‘This has to be the town hall,’ jeered Adam, amused with its singular magnificence. Sure enough as they approached, the etched parapet became legible. ‘Town Hall, erected 1893 AD’ it read. It was an appealing structure but being no more than the width of a single garage, it seemed a little out of place here, perhaps a little out of place anywhere.
Ted turned slowly to the left and as the car tyres crackled over the stony, parched ground a tiny motel appeared a hundred-odd metres further on, down by the creek. A dusty old neon sign perched high above the roadside blinked haphazardly on and off ‘Astor Motel-Vacancy’.
Ted pulled up outside and gave the rusted monument of a sign an ambivalent glance, then turned to Adam. ‘It’s not exactly five star.’
‘Don’t think there’s a choice,’ replied Adam, not especially impressed either.
The reception was no more than a few metres away, at the side entrance to the owner’s house. The motel rooms were placed twenty metres further towards the creek. Six rooms in all were butted together in a long, unremarkable brick structure that reminded Adam of the shearers quarters he’d once had the misfortune to sleep in during one of his mindless, artistic walkabouts. They too had that well used, but unloved look that only those rugged shearers would have accepted as home. Adam’s acceptance was to be far less forthcoming and even compared to the relative squalor of his own studio, this little motel was less than inviting.
With a brave smile Adam, with Ted in tow, strolled over to the reception to organise their accommodation, the girls stayed happily in the car.
As the squeaky screen door slowly shut behind them, with its flimsy makeup clattering against the doorframe, they restlessly scanned the tiny office. It was small and rather dark, with a musty smell. There were water stains on the aged floral wallpaper, with a few corners and join lines showing signs of peeling. Adam noticed the clock above the doorway straight away; it was a little familiar. Like a round dome of glass it protruded from the wall, the clock face itself displaying a scantily clad beauty in a seductive pose. It had been an ad of some kind, for cigarettes or soft drink but time had rusted away the print, rendering it unreadable.
Ted stepped forward and leaned over the reception desk to see if anyone was there but couldn’t see any sign of life. Begrudgingly he rang the small brass bell on the counter and waited. Moments later the amber beads that were suspended in rows down over the doorway behind the desk, clattered together, then parted as an old, squinty-eyed, full bearded man appeared.
‘What can I do for ya?’ he growled, searching for his spectacles in the pockets of his grey stained overalls.
‘We’re in need of accommodation,’ said Adam, getting down to business. ‘Best two rooms you’ve got.’
After fumbling around for another minute, the man finally discovered the spectacles on the counter in front of him and quickly put them on, looking up to study his unexpected guests.
‘Haven’t made up more than two rooms, since....’73,’ he mused wistfully. ‘Guess they’re our best.’
The man opened a dusty leather bound register and then turned it toward Adam. ‘That’s thirty per room, per night, paid in advance,’ he announced with a trite, half smile, revealing several missing teeth. He handed Adam a pen and he began to fill in the register.
The man gave his two-day growth a quick bristly scratch and looked up at Ted. ‘Where ya headed boys?’ he asked.
‘Right here,’ replied Adam, before Ted could even open his mouth. The man tilted his head back, looking down the line of his long, narrow nose.
‘Don’t get much city folk this way. Got family here then?’ he enquired, fishing. Ted looked sort of stupid, not knowing what to say.
‘Not exactly,’ said Adam.
‘Who’s the law around here?’ he added, having finished the register, turning it back to the owner. The man quickly scanned what had been written then looked up suspiciously at Adam.
‘Barret’s ‘is name, Sam Barret. You can usually find him at Aimie’s Cafe, opposite the post office.’
The old man scratched his head then brushed back his long grey hair from his face. ‘You got business with Sam?’
‘Maybe,’ replied Adam, rather pointedly. He unfolded some money that Isabelle had given him, from his usually empty, moth-eaten wallet and placed down the first nights accommodation fee. ‘Not sure how long we’re staying, not yet’.
The man held his suspicious glare for a moment then turned and retrieved two keys from the board on the wall behind him and dropped them carelessly onto the counter.
‘Enjoy your stay,’ he said coldly and about faced and disappeared behind the beaded curtain.
Ted gave Adam a look of decided insecurity, snatched the keys from the counter and happily hurried outside. Adam and Ted climbed back into the car but said nothing. The girls looked at each other strangely but were hesitant to ask what had happened. Then as Ted rolled the car down to the rooms, Adam leaned over toward the back seat.
‘Hope you don’t mind, but I got us a double room. I don’t want you by yourself in this place,’ suggested Adam.
Isabelle smiled nervously. ‘Of course, that’s fine, Is everything all right?’
Adam sighed not knowing how to answer the question. Ted turned around fleetingly. ‘I just think we should do what we came to do and get out of here.’
They pulled up in front of the rooms, and got out of the car. ‘Five and six seem to be ours,’ said Ted, throwing one of the keys to Adam over the bonnet of the car. Adam cleverly caught it nonchalantly and leapt up over the step to open the door.
The rooms were much the same on the inside as they were on the outside; but at least the interior was clean containing a double and single bed, a table and two chairs and a tiny bathroom with shower. Without paying it too much attention, they all stowed their gear and headed into town on foot to find Sam Barret, and to get some answers.
‘It’s not exactly a holiday destination,’ said Jenny, tightly clutching Ted’s arm, as they strolled down the desolate street.
‘Not in this life,’ mumbled Ted holding her arm just as tightly.
As they continued up the main street in search of ‘Aimie’s’ they felt the cold stare of unfriendly locals, hidden in the darkened recesses of this strange patchwork of a town. It seemed lifeless, not a soul venturing out into the light of day. They walked with some trepidation along the footpath, surveying the little shop fronts and curtain drawn businesses. Occasionally a moving shadow would draw their attention only to reveal the still aftermath of fleeting enquiry and nothing more. They were hardly being welcomed and it felt more than uneasy.
As they approached what looked like a general store, one of the patrons suddenly flung open the door and stepped out into the street, the shop doorbell jingling incessantly. A middle-aged woman stopped dead before them, transfixed by their presence. She was wearing a full-length black dress with a bonnet covering her long grey hair. Her rather odd Victorian dress was strange and as she caught herself staring at them, she nervously lowered her head, clutched tightly her cane shopping basket and scurried past them on her way to anywhere else.
‘Good morning!’ snapped Ted brightly, trying to cut away some of the ice, but the woman scurried away unabated, without response. Ted frowned, turned and watched her disappear into the distance; it was not the response he was used to.
‘I can’t believe this place,’ grumbled Ted, shaking his head in disbelief.
‘Look,’ interrupted Jenny. ‘Across the street.’
A few shops down on the opposite side was Aimie’s Cafe- there in all its glory. Unlike most of the other establishments, it was freshly painted and had a quaint little carved wooden sign over the doorway. At least it seemed a little more inviting.
‘Let’s meet the locals then,’ said Adam brightly, but with apprehension written all over his face. They crossed the street and quietly made their way into the cafe. As the front door clattered shut behind them they stood motionless, the room suddenly deathly quiet. All eyes were now on the strangers. After a long, unnerving silence, the few seated patrons present returned to their cakes and coffees, the low hum of their collective voices like a hive of bees hovering, poised, biding their time.
Adam perused the cafe quickly. Apart from the handful of regulars, a single waitress wiped down tables and collected used cutlery and plates. How strange she looked in her 1950’s style blue uniform with white frilly apron and cap. It was as if time had somehow stood still in this odd little backwater town.
The room was only small and contained a few booths and a half-dozen round tables each covered with a starched white tablecloth, perfectly placed cutlery and shiny silver napkin holder. At the centre of each setting a single rose sat in a slender etched glass vase. The walls were covered with old photographs and memorabilia including a few notable movie stars autographed pictures. It was quaint and had a certain ambience that wasn’t all that inhospitable. But the patrons themselves were another story.
While Ted and the girls quickly found a side booth and began to read the menu, Adam saw his man seated in the corner. He had a broad girth and was balding, the top of his head shiny under the overhead lights. What little remained of his fine dark hair was soaked in hair-cream and combed back hard. The man’s rather engorged face was round and ruddy, and revealed the weathering of a middle-aged country life. He remained engrossed in the daily paper as Adam ambled over.
‘You Sam Barret?’ he asked, trying to be bright and friendly.
‘Who’d be ask'n?’ replied the officer, still fixed on the daily news.
‘Adam Tasman-Bishop’s my name. Just like to ask a few questions, if that’s all right?’
‘That’s gonna depend, son. Fancy name ya got there,’ Barret sniped, still without looking up.
Adam, uninvited, pulled out a chair and sat down next to him. ‘A man named Blaskin was found stabbed to death out here, some time back. You remember?’
At the mention of Blaskin’s name a silence returned to the cafe, as if all present suddenly held their breath for a second, then realising their reaction exhaled and resumed whatever they were doing. This question had Barret’s attention and he placed the paper down gently, his eyes now studying this brazen inquirer.
‘Blaskin, you say?’
Adam nodded emphatically.
‘Who are ya son, a city reporter?’
Barret paused thoughtfully. ‘There’s nothin for ya here, nothin that I haven’t already told those city boys. Nothin left to tell.’
Barret scratched his chin, folded his arms and leant forward in his chair, his eyes hard and cold, fixed on Adam’s.
‘Listen boy, things work a bit different out here. When things get dead, we bury ‘em.’ His face hardened further. ‘A word of advice, let what’s gone rest in peace. Helps no-one, diggin up the past. Folks don’t like it. I don’t like it.’
Barret held his glare for a moment longer then rose to his feet, tucked the paper under his arm and walked slowly to the front door of the cafe. As he passed the waitress he turned toward her.
‘Give our guests a piece of that blueberry pie of yours, on me. They’re just passin through,’ he said, looking back fleetingly to Adam, then back to the waitress. ‘Aimie,’ he said with a respectful nod, then left the cafe.
Adam was feeling decidedly uncomfortable, not just from the lack of friendly hospitality but from the pointed and bristly response of Officer Barret. He for one wanted no such enquiry and for some reason, Blaskin seemed to be a taboo subject.
Adam joined the others in the narrow booth and looked quickly at the menu.
‘Anything?’ asked Jenny, sipping her tea.
‘Not really,’ replied Adam, ‘but they’re hardly friendly around here. Let’s just eat and then we’ll take a look around.’
Amid the suspicious glances of the local patrons, they ate and drank and for a moment ignored the unnerving attention. When they had finished the girls went to freshen up and Ted leant forward across the table.
‘I don’t like it Taz. There’s something not right here. The whole damned place is giving me the creeps,’ he said nervously.
Adam scanned the room, the eyes stealthily gazing on them, then timely receding into shadow as they met with his. ‘I’m not enjoying this much either,’ he added. ‘But one thing’s for sure, whatever’s going on, I’m going to find out about it.’
They wandered back to the motel none the wiser and under the constant watchful eye of a masked and seemingly soulless town. Just being there was chilling and a sense of fear and foreboding sat on the edge of their consciousness. These feelings were without rational origin or purpose but they were as real as the tampered brake fluid line and as unexplained as they were, weighed heavily on all four of them.
On their return to the motel, Ted and Jenny lay down for a moment in their room and unknowingly drifted off for an afternoon snooze, having felt at least content from their country-cooked lunch. Isabelle, deep in thought sat on the step outside her room, her long floral skirt hitched up over her knees, cooling her legs from the afternoon sun. She peered blankly into the distance trying to piece together all that was happening. None of it made sense. How could Adam have had the same dream, and what possible connection could there be between them? It was all too confusing.
Adam emerged from their room with a glass filled with iced water, sat down next to her and leant his head back against the railing. The sun ever so slowly edged its way down the sky into the western horizon, still searing through the blue and beating down on the parched earth with little mercy.
‘It sure is hot out here. Want some water?’ he asked, offering the glass to Isabelle.
‘Thanks,’ she replied, taking a sip, then rolling the icy glass across her forehead.
‘You OK?’ asked Adam, feeling more than the heat was bothering her.
Isabelle sighed deeply. ‘I just don’t understand. I’ve felt so strange since Blaskin’s death. I can’t really explain it. It’s as if someone is trying to tell me something or I know something but I just can’t remember it.’
She looked at Adam squarely. ‘I don’t know why I was down at the docks that day, I had no reason to be there. Why was I drawn to it? There must be some explanation.’
She was exasperated; her head hung in confusion. ‘Why you Adam, what have you got to do with this? How could you possibly have my dream, and why?’
Adam slid closer and placed his arm gently around her back and rubbed her shoulder reassuringly. ‘It’ll be all right, we’re going to find out. Go and lie down for awhile, get some rest. We’ve got plenty of time.’
Isabelle gave Adam an appreciative smile and made her way to the bed to heed his advice. Adam watched her walk solemnly into the motel room, the soft elegant folds of her dress swishing gently back and forth. She was a graceful creature, slender and feminine to the core, but it was natural, no pretence or wiley intention could have come from this young woman. Adam thought how special she was, how unique and untainted she appeared, given her tumultuous past. However traumatised she was by all that was happening, she still had an emotional freedom and having a giving nature was her most engaging virtue.
Adam suddenly looked down, having caught his runaway emotions just in time. Isabelle had indeed captivated him, but now wasn’t the time to consider that. He could feel a stirring within him, how could he not? There was an instant rapport, an almost cellular connection between them and she was more than attractive. But being caught up in all this madness had not afforded them any romantic opportunity. So far, they had spent most of their relationship fleeing from things that went bump in the night; hardly a conducive catalyst for romance.
As the afternoon drifted away and Isabelle slept to somehow quell the insecurities of her tormented mind, Adam sat and watched the fading day. Just as confused about what was going on, he peered out into the open expanse of sky wondering what would come of all this, what they would learn and finally the outcome of their knowing.
The following morning, after all had rested and somehow dealt with this strange little town, they sat over breakfast at ‘Aimie’s’ and all but ignored the secretive conversations and suspicious glances of the local patrons. They decided that they should split up for the sake of time. While Ted and Jenny tried to talk to the reticent town folk and get some background information, Adam and Isabelle would drive out to the grasslands where Blaskin’s body was found.
There seemed a renewed determination from all of them to get to the bottom of this and at least for the moment, their uneasiness was put aside. Even Barret’s rather threatening remarks could not deter Adam from solving this seemingly abstract conglomeration of events, and in a perverse way it drove him on, his resolve set in concrete.
Ted and Jenny set off on foot while Adam and Isabelle took Betty out of town and on to a dirt road that headed north-east. The field where Blaskin was found was only a
few kilometres away and there being only four roads out of Bamfield made their direction easy enough to find.
As they travelled the dusty uneven road the car tyres kicked up thick clouds of red dust and stones, thudding across potholes and around bends on this winding, unforgiving track. The further from town they went, the more sparse the vegetation became, until they were surrounded with little more than pale, rolling grasslands with the occasional clump of twisted, tormented trees.
Many of the trees stood alone, like monuments of past life they stood, gnarled and grey with weathering. Like ghosts of nature they gave testament to life, somehow warning of the path of time and the eventual transformation to the dust from where it came. Their lonely forms seemed sad in the open space, lost and forgotten, like omens of death and the result of transgressions against the natural ways of the earth.
The sea of grass rolled back from the road as they passed, like an ebbing tide, rolling aimlessly across the seemingly endless landscape. There was a peace out here and both Adam and Isabelle lost themselves in it momentarily. Its fluid movement was mesmerizing.
Up ahead a fork in the road slowly came into view and Adam eased the Chevy to a halt. As the cloud of dust slowly dissipated Isabelle quickly unfolded the old map they had bought and scoured the mass of lines and junctions looking for this particular intersection.
‘It must be this here,’ she said, not all that confident. Adam leaned over and peered down at the map.
‘That’s a right then?’ he enquired.
Adam smiled and shrugged with an assured acceptance, then turned the car out on to the dusty road and entered the right fork. Sure enough, no more than a hundred metres down the road a large open clearing surrounded by giant intertwined trees came into view. Adam ground the gearshift trying to get old Betty to play along, then when she took the challenge the Chevy skidded off the track on to the grass towards the clearing.
Moments later as the Chevy’s huge motor wound down to a standstill, a lonely silence fell about them like a weighty blanket. An unexpectedly wisp of a breeze brushed gently across their faces and cooled the effects of the rising summer sun while the parched, brittle red earth beneath groaned in sufferance. In the near distance a sole native bird darted in and out of one of the tall clawed trees surrounding the clearing, occasionally breaking the silence with its ominous sigh-like call.
It was an eerie and desolate place and Adam took Isabelle’s hand nervously, as an instinctive gesture of protection. ‘Let’s take a look,’ he whispered, not all that enthusiastic.
They quietly left the Chevy and made their way towards the clearing, some 20 metres ahead. The endless humming of silence filled their ears and as they got closer their skin began to crawl, the shallow breeze teasing the fine layer of perspiration that was slowly immersing their bodies.
They drew closer and closer and as they did familiar features began to register, sending their nervous systems into panic. The clearing itself was oval in shape, the bare red dust surface surrounded by tall grasses. Around the oval, tall trees with dark gnarled branches hung overhead like giant menacing talons. At its centre sat a rectangular stone block, out here in the wilderness, defying purpose or explanation, its dark intent known only through a shared dream, a nightmare that in some way had brought them together. Adam shuddered as the memories of this baleful vision surfaced in his mind. The jewelled dagger poised high above Blaskin’s chest, its razor-sharp blade glistening in the torchlight and Blaskin’s maniacal acceptance of his own bloody death flooded back with vivid clarity. He and Isabelle suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of impending danger, even though they were completely alone.
‘This is real,’ muttered Isabelle in fear, now trembling and clutching Adam’s arm tightly. This nightmare was now confirmed- the reality irrefutable.
Adam stepped back instinctively, a sudden, searing pain to his heart making him gasp. ‘I think we’ve seen enough,’ he groaned. ‘Let’s get out of here.’
They scurried back to the car like two frightened children, returning in the darkness from a midnight pit stop, to the safety of their beds. Their nerves felt like someone was scraping them with a blunt instrument and their minds two metres ahead of their bodies in their frantic attempt to escape.
In a cloud of dust old Betty skidded around in the dirt and finally, after gripping the hard earth beneath, rumbled across the grasses towards the road back to town. Eventually, as they began to calm down and their fear subsided, they sat in silence not wanting to face this nightmare was much more than that, reality becoming less of a known quantity. There were no answers yet; just the unnerving certainty that whatever was happening was not simply a figment of their collective imaginations.
As they approached the main street of Bamfield, Adam slowed down and scanned the walkways. It appeared deathly quiet as before, with only a few locals quietly darting about, going about their business. Adam and Isabelle cruised the street slowly, around the clock tower and then on toward the motel. As they approached the town hall, Ted and Jenny alighted at the top steps and waved enthusiastically.
Adam parked the car and lazily climbed out.
‘How did you go?’ he enquired.
‘The mystery gets deeper,’ replied Ted. ‘No-one particularly wanted to tell us anything. It was like trying to pull teeth. At the mention of Blaskin’s name most of them shook their heads and virtually ran off.’
‘Until we met Miss Elba,’ added Jenny. ‘Dear old thing.’
‘Yeah! She must have been ninety if she was a day,’ said Ted. ‘She gave us a good lead though. It seems Blaskin was a regular visitor, in fact he owns a house just south of town.’
‘Elba obviously didn’t trust the man, in fact she reckons lots of strange things happened when he was around,’ explained Jenny. ‘People wandering the town in the dead of night, strange secretive meetings and people hiding away, as if they were scared of something; made her feel jittery she said.’
‘She thought something was going on and told us to leave; that was her advice. I agree,’ added Ted, rubbing his chin nervously.
‘You find anything?’ asked Jenny.
‘Just confirmation,’ replied Isabelle, shuddering with the cold knowledge of it.
‘Perhaps we should take a look at his house,’ she suggested.
‘Yeah, good idea, there’s got to be some answers somewhere.’
With unanimous agreement, the four climbed back into the car, Ted happily removing the keys from his friend to take up his rightful position. After a loving stroke of Betty’s leather-covered steering wheel, Ted started the old girl up. With a quick and noisy spin of rubber against earth, they headed off towards where they were told they could find Blaskin’s house.
The property wasn’t far outside town and was three hundred metres or so from the nearest neighbour. It was broken-down and surrounded by old, overrun gardens with a few discarded car tyres and old boxes among the pale, dry wheat-grass. Ted slowly pulled into the drive and made his way behind the side garage to ensure no-one would see them.
They slowly and apprehensively climbed out of the car and walked around to the front verandah. The house was a single story weatherboard building, reasonably large with bull-nosed verandahs on three sides. Paint was peeling freely off the boards revealing the grey aged wood beneath. The doors and windows had been haphazardly boarded up with odd pieces of lumber; it had obviously been done hurriedly. Over the front verandah a rusted wind-chime clattered rather inharmoniously, tickled by a reluctant breeze, sarcastically heralding their unwelcome arrival.
Adam scoured the outskirts of the property and satisfied that no-one was about, began to remove the boards from the front door. Ted lent a hand and with only a few small tacks holding the boards together, it wasn’t long before the front door stood ominously in front of them. A brass knocker immediately stood out and Ted stepped back, unnerved by its design. It was a gargoyle or something of that ilk, with hideous eyes and a savage snarling face. As a doorknocker, it was hardly welcoming and therefore, rather non-functional. Adam immediately saw the funny side of that irony, but Ted most definitely did not.
With a furtive glance back to the others, Adam slowly reached for the door handle and gently turned it. The patterned brass handle squeaked slightly and the door hinges, as dry as Ted’s mouth, almost screamed in pain as Adam pushed on the door and it begrudgingly gave way. Ted edged back, more than a little jittery and was happy to let Adam go first. He was trying to be a gentleman if nothing else and Adam smiled knowingly in response then stepped inside.
There were dust and cobwebs everywhere, like a thick protective skin, covering a blemished past. It was as if a second in time had been frozen and the life within it abandoned forever. Ted, Jenny and Isabelle, all huddled together, shuffled across the wooden floor and gently collided with Adam, who was feeling every bit as apprehensive. There seemed no air there at all and Jenny began to cough, covering her mouth to shield herself from the almost toxic environment. They silently paired off and crept slowly around in the dim light searching for anything of interest.
What little furniture remained was covered with sheets that in turn were layered in thick dust and debris. A few desperate looking roaches scurried across the floor searching for food while the odd surviving spider sat poised in the darkened corners amid a mass of web, hoping for an insect miracle.
As they stealthily crept through this lifeless crypt, floorboards creaking echoed up through the rafters. From room to room they searched for clues, anything that could give them a hint of the life that was. They all felt strange and intrusive, not threatened in any way but unnerved. Adam and Isabelle searched the two bedrooms and found little beyond the shards of light trying to pierce the blackness through the boarded windows.
At last Ted, having opened a jarred door, had discovered a library and everything was intact. ‘Taz, quick! I’ve found something,’ he squealed, rather pleased with his discovery. Adam and Isabelle rushed to the north-west corner of the house and into the room. It was a well stocked library and had been preserved with only a single sheet covering a desk at the centre of the room. The walls were simply filled with books, from ceiling to floor- there must have been hundreds of them.
Jenny gently lifted the sheet off the desk to reveal an ornate mahogany bureau, highly polished with a gold stamped leather inlay.
‘It’s beautiful,’ she whispered, running her fingers over the onyx penholder at its edge.
Ted systematically opened the desk drawers and thumbed through the few papers that were inside, while Jenny scanned the documents atop the desk.
‘This is quite a collection,’ said Isabelle, checking out the books. She began to remove one at a time off the shelves to scan their contents. As she read her blood suddenly ran cold and after seeing several of these horrid books, she snapped the last one closed and abruptly threw it onto the table. As it hit the desk the thud resounded in the small room and quickly caught everyone’s attention. All eyes fixed on the book.
‘My God this whole section’s on the occult, Satanism, the black arts, everything,’ she said, nervously. Isabelle’s face turned pale, as a renewed panic took her.
Adam removed a lighter from his pocket and tried to ignite it several times with his thumb, the sparks flashing out into the dim filtered light. Finally it lit up, creating a warm glow over the table. He thumbed inquisitively through the text and after confirming its unsavoury content, closed it nervously and stood rigid next to the desk.
‘It gets worse,’ said Ted, down on his haunches.
He slowly rose to his feet having found a leather folder in one of the bottom drawers and opened it on the desk. Adam leaned forward lifting the lighter up so they could all view its contents.
‘They’re all newspaper clippings,’ told Ted. ‘But look what they’re about.’
The four edged closer to the table and peered down at the clippings. The pictures were all of women or girls, victims of some tragedy or another. Some were murdered, others taken in some freak accident or tragedy. The ages and circumstances varied enormously making it difficult to draw any conclusions or connection between these unfortunate people. As Adam spread the clippings out across the desk to try to detect some association, Ted was again down on his knees, struggling with a stubborn drawer.
‘There’s something stuck in this damned draw, it feels like a book of some kind,’ he said, straining his fingers to try to reach it. Adam, sick of holding his rather overheated lighter, snapped the top back on and went to the darkened window behind the desk. He drew the curtains, unlocked it and kicked off one of the covering boards outside. Suddenly a broad beam of light flooded the room, lighting up everything. Just as the light struck the desk, the stubborn book dislodged and Ted recoiled and fell onto his rather adequate posterior, his prize firmly in his hand.
He clambered to his feet and up on to a covered chair in the corner and opened the leather bound book. It was beautifully fashioned with intricate gold stamping and beaten brass corner caps.
‘My God, it’s a diary,’ said Ted, his eyes like two plates. Adam crouched down to see, while Jenny and Isabelle watched inquisitively. As Ted turned the pages, the strange symbols and text within began to unnerve him.
‘Perhaps you should look at this. It’s all-Dutch to me,’ he said, nervously handing the book to Adam. Adam took it carefully and placed it down over the clippings on the desk, then sat down on the leather studded desk chair. He slowly examined the contents and it became immediately obvious that Blaskin had been involved in some strange occult group. The word ‘magic’ was repeated over and over in the text and strange rites and rituals were described in detail. There were endless written invocations and spells listed under their ultimate purpose, then finally, right at the rear of the book they found a page headed ‘Temple of Asteroth’. Listed beneath were the names and code names of people who obviously took part in this unnatural madness.
If that wasn’t bad enough, between the last page and the back cover, Adam found a folded piece of parchment. His eyes widened as he began to read what was so eloquently and skilfully scripted.
‘This looks like some kind of contract,’ muttered Adam, unsure about what he had found. As his eyes darted quickly across the page and the meaning of this document began to find clarity, Adam shuddered and stopped reading momentarily, trying to still his racing heart. He forced himself to calm down and then again began to read the text, this time more slowly.
The document was some pact made with a spirit called ‘Kannaer’. The preamble outlined the introduction of certain dark spirits by a powerful entity known as Asteroth. These spirits, who were listed by name, could perform various tasks for the initiate, who was in this case Blaskin, and their service was without limit within their individual realms and areas of expertise. They were named as ‘Aciebel’, ‘Marbuel’ and ‘Baruel’.
Following this explanation was the detailed invocation that would invite them to appear and ultimately acquire their services. This long complex ritual was to be performed three times and then whatever the initiate needed would be undertaken swiftly and without question. But what followed this passage was the most shocking revelation of all. Ted suddenly went pale and the girls flinched with the sudden and unexplained chill in the air.
‘You better look at this,’ he said, nervously. Adam looked up in shock, then turned back to the book.
The agreement between Blaskin and Kannaer was straightforward enough. For the price of his soul, Blaskin was to be given immortal life on earth. The process and directions to this end followed.
Blaskin was to undertake the sacrifice of twelve souls in all, six mothers and six daughters. Their deaths were to be carried out in an individually prescribed manner at certain times of astrological junctures in the heavens, each soul bearing relation to the other via certain circumstances and the forces of darkness. With the passing of these particular souls and after Blaskin’s own timely sacrifice, he would finally return to earthly life to fulfil his every earthly desire. The price of this agreement was for Blaskin to become the servant of Kannaer, until the end of time.
At the base of the parchment was a red wax seal bearing the head of ‘Baphomet, the Goat of Mendes’ within a pentagram. Adam recognised its unpleasant form having seen it in some stupid movie Ted had demanded they watch. But the significance now in reality, was far more unsettling. Next to that unholy image was Blaskin’s signature; the agreement was complete.
‘Shit,’ slurred Ted. ‘This guy’s a complete lunatic! Sacrifice, black magic, this whole thing is ridiculous,’ he added, trying to play it down for his own peace of mind.
‘Maybe not,’ said Adam, as he moved the book and parchment aside to take another look at the clippings.
Adam, now knowing these articles and photographs represented pairs of mothers and daughters, began to try to match them up. A few had the same name, they were of course the younger ones, but those that were married needed further attention. Colouring and facial likeness sorted a few out, but as he got toward the end of the task, Adam realised there were only eleven articles and pictures in all. Three pictures remained unmatched and Ted and the girls moved closer to try to solve the puzzle.
‘Which is the odd one out then?’ posed Adam, studying the faces. Two of the women appeared blonde but shared no common facial features, the other was darker and obviously younger but it was almost impossible to tell who was with whom.
‘Which ones are left?’ asked Isabelle, stepping forward. Jenny, who’d been hogging the best vantage point, moved aside to let her get closer.
‘Who’s the mother to this one then?’ asked Adam, assuming the brunette was in fact the daughter. He placed the three photos in front of Isabelle and she leant over and thoughtfully scanned the faces.
Suddenly she gasped, as if she were taking her last breath. With her pale eyes bulging and her mouth gaping, she slowly straightened up, her eyes glued to one particular photograph. Adam frowned, not knowing what the problem was and reached for her hand to comfort her. She was trembling.
‘What’s wrong? What do you see?’ he asked worriedly, not understanding.
Isabelle reached reluctantly into her bag and nervously removed a small object, then concealing it in her slender hand. Her eyes began to well with tears as she unclenched her fist to reveal a sterling silver locket. It was obviously old and finely patterned with the name ‘Liz’ engraved on its face. Isabelle placed it down onto the table next to one of the faces, then unclipped the front and opened the locket to reveal a photograph inside. Adam peered down at the face in the locket. It was the same face as in the clipping- there was no doubt. He looked up to Isabelle in shock. Tears were now streaming down her face, her soft blue eyes filled with anguish. She surrendered her fix on the locket and looked squarely at Adam, her lip trembling, ever so gently. He could see the hurt in her eyes, mixed with pain and longing. Isabelle forced herself to speak.
‘It’s....it’s ....my mother,’ she muttered.
Her eyes suddenly rolled back in her head and she collapsed into Adam’s arms, unconscious.