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Isabelle- An Occult Thriller- Ch7 & 8
An Occult Thriller by Tony DeLorger © 2011
Isabelle stared vacantly out across the bay. A soft golden light imbued the landscape, adding dimension to the roofline and hi-lighting with its warm tones, the small trees that dotted the walkway down by the waters edge. A gentle breeze drifted across the water, caressing Isabelle’s delicate face, parting her long wavy hair and cooling her tanned skin.
Adam watched her admiringly from the kitchen window, her slender but shapely body silhouetted against the fading rays of the sun. The sheer fabric of her floral dress, unbuttoned up to just above the knee, lifted intermittently with the gentle wisps of air, revealing her silken, brown thighs. Adam was taken with her and beyond the chivalrous urge to protect and to assume the patriarchal role, she was the sort of woman that had always turned his head.
As he watched her it struck him that she seemed so fragile, so vulnerable and in a way peaceful as she peered out into the world. Adam couldn’t imagine what she might have been feeling, knowing that as this day subsided and as darkness drew nearer, her time of reckoning was here. She was in God’s hands now and faith was all that was left.
Adam made his way to the balcony with a cool drink in his hand, the ice-cubes clinking musically as he walked. Isabelle didn’t stir as he approached, but continued to peer out into the distance, lost in thought. Adam handed her the drink without speaking and she took it and leaned forward heavily on the railing, looking down pensively on to the pathway below.
It’s just not fair, Adam,’ she said, her voice trembling a little. ‘They say you can’t miss what you’ve never had,’ she sighed and then shook her head. ‘It’s not true.’
‘There’s not a day that goes by, that I haven’t thought of her- what it would be like to be held by her and told that everything would be all right.’
Isabelle turned to Adam, her face filled with anguish. ‘I’ve missed her terribly,’ she said, tears welling in her pale blue eyes. She collapsed into Adam’s shoulder and sobbed quietly. Adam held her tightly, but as he held her and tried to give her comfort, it was her strength that he could feel, unyielding and clear. This whole strange, complex circumstance had somehow extended her capacity for self-reliance, perhaps more than ever before. He wasn’t sure whether it was born of desperation, revenge or simply an inherent ironclad will that kept her going, but whatever it was, he admired her for it.
After a long tender moment, Isabelle gently drew back from Adam’s arms and soulfully looked into his eyes.
‘It’s time,’ she said, taking him by the hand and returning to the studio.
The area was now completely open, all the furniture moved to the extremities of the room. In the centre, under the skylight, Adam had drawn a large circle in white paint, as Elizabeth had directed. Within the circle were eight points equidistant, each bearing a strange symbol, none of which were known to Adam, but meticulously scribed as he had been told. At the four magnetic points representing the elements, sat thick white candles awaiting life. As Isabelle focused within the circle she gasped and swallowed nervously. On a purple velvet square of fabric in the centre sat a long bladed, silver dagger, next to that a goblet of wine and a shallow bronze bowl.
Isabelle turned nervously toward the window and witnessed the last rays of light surrender under an indigo cloak of darkness. She turned back and looked into the circle with trepidation. Soulfully looking up to Adam, she kissed him gently on the cheek, then stepped into the circle and sat crossed legged on the cool floorboards next to the velvet square.
Ted and Jenny had prepared some food and they all sat on the floor and silently consumed it, rather preoccupied with what was to happen and eating out of habit rather than necessity. As the darkness slowly consumed the studio, Adam turned on a side lamp and lit the white candles one by one. The warm light that they emanated was strong and steadfast, the stillness allowing the flames to rise perfectly vertical with a fine trail of blue smoke cutting through the darkness. As it eventually touched the roof it billowed out and dissipated into the night.
Isabelle sat in torment, awaiting her fate resignedly and trying not to focus on the dagger beside her, its finely honed blade glistening in the warm candle glow. The stillness soon became oppressive and the tension and stress of waiting took them all, one by one. Ted paced up and down wanting something to do, to take his mind off the situation. Jenny chose to sit all hunched up on the floor, her arms wrapped comfortingly around her legs, with her chin resting on her knees. Adam held a constant fix on Isabelle and sat no more than a few feet away, next to the circle. He was watching her intently, his senses razor-sharp, ready for anything. Isabelle seemed unmoved and waited patiently, holding up well beyond what could have been expected of her.
The hours dragged on, carving a mindless trail of anguish through their minds. The candles, occasionally flickering, seemed to waste the night away but sat like sentinels, as if holding time at bay within the circle of warmth. By 10.30pm the seemingly endless waiting had lulled them all into a twilight consciousness. They were not fully asleep, but they weren’t awake either. Outside a breeze had suddenly whipped up and it began to whistle around the building, the temperature change creating an intermittent creaking of the beams overhead. But still no sign of Blaskin. Eleven o’clock passed and still nothing.
A few clouds overhead suddenly parted and a full moon now shone brightly through the skylight and filled the circle with a luminescent glow. The room suddenly filled with a silvery frosting, competing with the four candles to remove the shadows. With a huge crashing sound, one of the windows flew open breaking the silence, a gust of wind sweeping forcefully across the floor and snuffing out the candle flames. Everybody woke with a start.
‘What was that?’ screamed Ted, springing to his feet, beside himself.
‘It’s OK, just the wind and a latch in need of repair,’ replied Adam, going over to secure it.
Outside, storm clouds were forming, dark brooding masses folding outwardly across the night sky. A feeling of heaviness suddenly descend; the beams of moonlight now only intermittent under the urgently passing cloud cover overhead. In the distance a flash of lightning momentarily lit up the darkness, followed by a low-pitched rumbling. Jenny rose to her feet and quickly found Ted, who was just as nervous as she was. Isabelle’s heart began to pound hard in her chest and she drew back from the window.
As Adam turned back to the others, having temporarily fixed the latch, he stopped dead, his face suddenly pale. Over by the door stood a dark figure, the outline only visible from the reflection of the door’s metal cover. Adam’s shocked reaction alerted everyone and all eyes turned toward the door. Isabelle was now on her knees, frozen with fear, unable to move a muscle.
The figure suddenly stepped forward into the moonlight; it was Blaskin. His form was almost solid, not translucent as Adam had last seen him at the clearing. But his voice was just the same, as disturbing and as evil as it had always been.
‘Nice of you all to wait,’ he said menacingly. Looking down his long nose, he then turned his attention to Ted and Jenny, who were in a huddle, their knees almost clattering together in fear. Blaskin slowly raised his right arm and with a sudden hardening of his eyes, sent a flash of light from his hand toward them. It made a cracking sound like a whip and as it collected them, sent them flying through the air and to the floor. They skidded uncontrollably into the wall, unconscious.
With a satisfied smirk on his face, he then turned back to Adam who now stood protectively in front of Isabelle, just outside the circle’s perimeter. Blaskin’s piercing blue eyes looked like lasers through the dim light.
‘This is between me and Isabelle’ he growled.
Adam’s body suddenly rose from the floor, suspended in midair, his arms and legs flailing in panic, unable to resist. With a wave of Blaskin’s arm, Adam was thrown like a rag doll through the air, crashing into a side table and launching the lamp on top into space, eventually smashing into pieces on the floor.
Blaskin turned back to Isabelle and closed his eyes, tilting his head slightly back. The candles immediately lit up with a flash and Isabelle gasped in terror, remaining on her knees.
‘Ah, that’s better,’ he said, as he moved around the circle, perusing their handy work.
‘How kind, Isabelle. Everything just right; I am impressed,’ he added, breaking into an amused grin, then hardening and stopping abruptly, turning directly toward her.
‘Do you honestly think this will protect you, girl?’ he bellowed. ‘Nothing can stop me. You are mine and you will give your life.’
Isabelle’s heart was racing so much she could barely maintain her consciousness, her rapid breathing like a panting animal. The fear was tearing through her body like a maelstrom, collecting her soul and whipping it into confusion. But with what might be her last breath, she gathered all of her remaining strength and slowly rose to her feet. She could feel her essence rising from within her, building into a power of her own. Suddenly, she stood erect and let it all out.
‘You have taken my mother from me, you bastard!’ she screamed, seething with anger. ‘I will stop you Blaskin, you’ll never take me...Never!’
Isabelle knelt down and picked up the dagger and held it threateningly in front of her. Blaskin’s head fell back limply and his eyelids began to flutter, his eyes rolling back in his head. Both arms lifted slowly to a horizontal position with his palms outstretched. From those palms a glow appeared, like a deep red intensifying light.
These glowing red lights suddenly burst into flames, leaping upward from his hands like the tongue of Satan himself, grotesquely scouring the darkness for lustful gratification. A fiery glow now edged Blaskin’s body like a dark loathing energy, surging with a thousand tainted souls and with vast power. His eyes were now fixed on Isabelle, glowing red as the fires of hell. She raised the dagger higher, shaking convulsively, trying desperately to steady her feeble body.
Blaskin’s body was now vibrating frantically, simply brimming with energy, and from deep within his form came the sounds of wailing voices, the pleas of tortured souls suffering in agonising torment. Electricity crackled and flashed intermittently around the room, lighting up the shadows and sending even the dust, for cover.
Adam, amid all the mayhem began to stir, and as he became fully conscious, he could hardly believe his eyes. He scrambled to his feet and looked at Isabelle.
‘Stay inside the circle!’ he screamed.
Isabelle looked at Adam then back to Blaskin, her eyes wide and the panic consuming her every thought. The dagger fell from her hand to the floor and she instinctively stepped back; she wanted to run, but her legs were incapable, useless.
‘For God sake, stay inside the circle!’ Adam bellowed, trying to be heard over the humming and crackling of this enormous energy.
Just then, Blaskin opened his eyes and the unholy cacophony subsided, the energy easing back leaving a soft red glow around his unholy form. He appeared almost solid now, his power at its zenith. He glared hatefully at Isabelle, his eyes as the Devil himself. With a jolting movement, he opened his hand and the dagger by Isabelle’s feet flew from the floor, its handle landing perfectly in the palm of his hand.
‘The time has come Isabelle,’ he said with a pleasured look on his face, as he stepped unperturbed into the circle. Adam, horrified, leapt to his feet to intervene. Blaskin raised one hand and Adam suddenly became paralysed, standing in the middle of the room and unable to even speak. He was about to witness a murder, the cold-blooded murder of someone he cared for, and there was not a thing that he could do about it. His face contorted in pain and anguish; his heart thumping so quickly it felt like a blur of movement inside him.
Isabelle, realising this was the end, gave way under the barrage of pure terror and fell limply to the floor, unconscious. Blaskin smiled and knelt down next to her and grasped the wine goblet. Holding it up above him he shouted… ’I am immortal!’ and began to laugh maniacally. He drank the wine and threw the goblet carelessly across the floor. It clattered noisily then came to rest.
Blaskin looked up to Adam, still fixed to the floor, unable to move. ‘She’s mine,’ he mouthed, mockingly and raised the dagger up, the blade turned down over Isabelle’s chest.
‘Give me life,’ he growled, the strength building up within him, ready to thrust the dagger and resurrect his hateful earthly life. He took a deep breath and was just about to unleash his fury, when suddenly the dagger was torn forcibly from his hand and thrown across the floor. ‘What?’ he cried.
A shaft of pure golden light suddenly flooded the circle and Blaskin rose to his feet, fuming with anger.
‘Who defies me?’ he bellowed, turning around to discover his rival. At the same time Adam fell to the floor, somehow released from his torturous paralysis. Isabelle awoke. Realising where she was, she scrambled toward Adam in a panic.
‘Who is it?’ screamed Blaskin, his foul temper exploding. The light was growing in intensity and Blaskin was forced to one knee, trying to shield his eyes. The faint sound of chanting suddenly filled the studio and as the light became brighter, so the voices became louder, more earnest. The rays of light were like a wall that edged the circle, an impenetrable barrier that had trapped Blaskin within its bounds. His power seemed to be of no consequence within it.
As they watched this miracle unfold, a woman dressed in white manifested before them, at the edge of the circle, facing inward and chanting words that neither of them had ever heard before. Then another woman appeared, then another and another, ever increasing the intensity of the light and their chanting adding to the swell of voices.
Adam suddenly realised who these people were. ‘The women in the clippings,’ he whispered to Isabelle. The last of them joined the circle and Isabelle sat up and smiled.
‘It’s my mother,’ she muttered, in ore of the gathering. Elizabeth completed the circle, eleven women in all, their hands joined as a surge of light burst upward into the shaft. As Adam refocused after the sudden flash, he could see the circular shaft was now moving upward and was so fine in its pristine form there was no conceivable way to describe it.
Blaskin was powerless and remained cringing on one knee, shading his eyes from the intense light. Then to his dismay another figure appeared outside the circle. As it slowly found form and drew nearer Isabelle recognised who it was; it was Eve Blaskin. This vision was magnificent; rays of white light flowing from her like a lighthouse amid the fury of a storm. The kindness and warmth in her expression was overwhelming as she smiled lovingly at Isabelle and then turned to her husband, her expression fading to despondency.
‘Ivan?’ she said softly. ‘Look at me, Ivan.’
Ivan knew her voice well and turned toward her, still shading his eyes.
‘You are a sad and twisted man Ivan, weak and violent. In life I put up with you, but I will no longer,’ she said, calmly and with great resolution.
‘You have no power, only weakness. You will not harm this girl or any other,’ she followed, lifting her face toward the heavens, her arms outstretched.
‘Take this soul into the light, into the truth,’ she appealed. ‘Take him from this place, from this life, so he may see the darkness in his soul. Take him now!’ she said, raising her arms slowly upward.
Eve’s body glowed intensely and slowly joined the main body of light, streaming and pulsing upward. At its centre the shaft of light began to swirl around and around, and Blaskin still cringing with the intensity, began to lift gently within the vortex. His body was completely encapsulated, helpless under this power. He rose higher and higher, his form dissolving within the pristine haze, until he disappeared completely.
A moment later, the shaft of light dissipated, but the figures remained. Adam and Isabelle sat huddled together on the floor, aghast at what had happened. As they peered toward their saviours, the eleven ethereal figures slowly turned around and faced them, their hands clasped piously in front of them.
Adam studied their faces and realised that they had subtly changed. There must have been a sweet release in knowing that Blaskin would no longer roam the earth and that they could finally put to rest what had so cruelly been done to them. As they that remained in earthly life were now free of Blaskin, so were these souls free of him and the bondage that he had created.
From within the group, Elizabeth, Isabelle’s mother stepped forward. ‘You are now safe, my dear,’ she said lovingly. Isabelle rose to her feet and approached her, tears of longing welling in her eyes. She reached out yearning to touch her, even for a moment, but knew she could not.
‘I want only happiness for you Isabelle. Remember, we will be together again, but for now life has taken us on a different course.’
Elizabethstepped forward and smiled at her daughter. Turning the palms of her hands upward she closed her eyes and a warm glow appeared in the centre of her chest. Its soft rays radiated outward and as it grew more and more in intensity it suddenly exploded into a flash of light. Isabelle flinched under its force, but as the burst subsided and the dim light of the room returned, she found her mother standing before her in the flesh. She was real.
With tears streaming down her cheeks and with a look of utter bewilderment on her face, Isabelle fell into her mother’s arms. She melted into those arms as an entire life of yearning and needing was being fulfilled. She wept unabashedly with happiness, enraptured with the love and tenderness of a mother, that until that moment, life had deprived her. Time stood still as Isabelle’s life was magically restored, her soul replenished.
Elizabethgently lifted Isabelle’s face toward hers and kissed her warmly on the forehead. ‘I love you,’ she whispered, looking deeply into her eyes for a long moment. Elizabeth then released her and was gone.
All the figures suddenly vanished, leaving the flickering candlelight dancing on Isabelle’s delicate face. She fell to her knees, cradling her face in her hands, weeping. It was over.
Adam raced to her side and took her in his arms. As he rocked her back and forth, Isabelle released a lifetime of pain and the feelings of loss and abandonment that had so affected her young life. She sobbed and sobbed for her mother but now knew that she was loved, and that fact would now return her to life and the chance to start again.
Ted and Jenny suddenly came around and sat up disoriented and confused about what had happened. Holding on to each other for support, they slowly made their way to Adam and Isabelle. They were OK.
Looking around the room, they suddenly realised that this nightmare was over, it was after midnight and Isabelle was unharmed. With tears of joy and relief they all collapsed into one another. The four of then stood entwined in the darkness for some time, the heaviness having miraculously disappeared.
After restoring the lights and turning on some music that Adam deemed appropriate, they sat exhaustedly on the sofa and peered out into the night. The storm clouds had once again scattered to reveal an unblemished moon and the night no longer held fear within its dark cloak.
For an hour, all four fervently scrubbed the floor with soap and water to remove the paint and any evidence of what had taken place. The occult was not something that any of them wanted to experience again, and although they were dog-tired, this last cleaning was a necessity. When they had finished, their catharsis was complete and everyone, now released from this unsavoury past, slept where they lay with the knowledge the new day would bring sunshine and a normal life, just like everybody else.
The morning dew glistened on the crisp green blades of grass, suspended like crystalline jewels on these vibrant green shoots and forming a blanket along the edges and pathways of the cemetery grounds. The sun’s rays crept stealthily up the face of a receding night sky, creating long shadows behind the granite and marble stones. The lonely chapel spire reached high into the clear blue, eclipsing for a moment, natures blissful transformation.
Bob the groundskeeper was there, early as usual, soaking up the fragrant morning and filling his lungs with that crisp, biting air that always made him feel so alive. His highly starched overalls almost seemed out of place in such a position as his, but Bob’s wife was very particular and Bob loved that she always made the effort.
He’d been the groundskeeper at St. Lukes for more than twenty years and it had become more than just a job to him. He loved the serenity and that in memory of those who had passed and chose to be buried in these grounds, he was given the responsibility to maintain their plots and respectfully uphold their memory. In a job with little supervision, Bob took his position seriously and had great pride in his work.
He was a fastidious fellow and stuck to a fairly rigid daily routine. After raking up the leaves from the walkways, he took some old rags from the shed and began to wipe down the polished headstones, one by one. It was only a small church cemetery and it usually didn’t take him long to complete the task. By 10 o’clock he found himself in the new plots area that edged the rose gardens.
Having been there so long, Bob knew just about every grave and inscription. But occasionally, he found himself reading the stones, and some of them still upset him, especially the young ones, taken with hardly a life spent.
He slowly made his way down the line, carefully wiping away the dust and dirt, making the polished granite and marble look like new. As he rose to his feet to move to the next, his knee twinged and he grimaced in response, straightening his leg out and rubbing it briskly. It had been giving him trouble for some time, but he wasn’t ready to admit that it might be old age, not just yet anyway. He hobbled to the next stone, a little preoccupied with the pain and carefully lowered himself down. But as he looked up ready to start polishing, he stopped abruptly, rather shocked at what he had found.
‘Oh, no. Damned vandals!’ he spat, throwing the rags to the ground. When Bob occasionally found that someone had desecrated a grave sight, he took it as a personal affront. This vandalism was no exception. In front of him, the grave appeared to have been burnt- the grass and earth black and charred. The gravestone was cracked in half, one side remaining precariously upright. Bob wrestled with the fallen piece of granite and with difficulty, lifted it up and roughly leant it against the remaining piece. It was only a recent addition to the area. The inscription read...
Born 1931 - Died 1992
‘May he now rest in peace’
As Bob wiped down the headstone, he noticed the crack that divided it was cut cleanly. There were no impact marks, as you would expect, in fact apart from the crack itself, there was not a scratch on the stone.
Bob sat there perplexed for more than a moment; the granite was more than four inches thick. How could that possibly be?
He reached down and picked up a handful of the blackened earth and rubbed it between his fingers. That too was strange. There were no remnants of ash, wood or any residue or accelerant, just pure earth, blackened by what appeared to be extreme heat.
‘If it wasn’t burnt from the top, then how could it be burnt?’ he asked himself. Then, after feeling a sudden chill move up his spine, he realised what he was in fact thinking, as crazy as it was.
‘From underneath?’ he mumbled, rising to his feet, the thought beginning to worry him. But as he leant over and picked up his rags, suddenly feeling the urge to leave, the whole thing got a little more unnerving. He looked down at the grave and realised the charred earth was in the shape of a human body, the arms crossed on its chest. Bob, for the first time as the cemetery’s caretaker, felt afraid and hurriedly left, returning to the chapel.
He reported the apparent vandalism immediately to Reverend Kelly and after a cup of tea returned apprehensively to his duties.
At first light the following morning, a group gathered by the gravesite. Bob stood in the background twenty feet away, choosing not to be too close. Around the grave stood a police officer with relevant paperwork and next to him, Reverend Kelly the parish minister, his eyes glued to the grave. Beneath them two workers were digging, the dark damp earth rhythmically spraying out into the air and in a rough pile next to the grave.
It was to be a hot day and the morning sun was already potent, beating down on the bare-chested workers, perspiration already running down their faces. Above them a shallow breeze teased the treetops with a whisper, the peace of the morning shattered by this fervent, constant digging.
Eight feet down one of the shovels struck something with a clang. ‘That’ll be it!’ said one of the men, kneeling down to brush the earth off the top of the casket. But as they swept the earth aside, they found nothing. Then the other fellow found something at the side of the pit.
‘What’s this then?’ he asked, pulling out a piece of metal from the charred earth. He held it up to show the police officer. Constable Bevan knelt down and took it from him, sat on his haunches and examined it, Reverend Kelly bending over to take a look. It was a casket handle- the connecting brackets melted out of shape.
They kept digging and found all four handles, but no casket and even more puzzling, no body. There was not a trace. Even in the crematorium furnace, there are things that just don’t burn.
‘A body can’t just disappear,’ said the Constable, confused and looking to the Reverend for some explanation. Reverend Kelly, who was just as perplexed, shrugged and said nothing.
Bob, having had enough of all this, wiped his wet brow with his sleeve and returned to the tool shed. He’d seen some things in his time, but nothing like this. By nature he was a sort of black-and-white kind of man and this oddity was unnerving him.
Casting his mind back, he remembered Blaskin’s funeral; it had troubled him at the time. He’d read somewhere that Blaskin was a successful businessman and that he had been murdered in most strange circumstances. Yet at the funeral, only two people attended. One, a strange looking man who remained anonymous and who insisted on paying for the funeral and the other, Blaskin’s adopted daughter.
Bob remembered how oddly behaved this secretive fellow was. He was middle-aged, tall and slender and said little. He simply came to make sure the arrangements were carried out according to the agreement, then went straight to the office and paid cash for everything. The young woman arrived shortly after and only stayed briefly. He remembered it well because the Reverend had made some passing comment about how the world was made up of all sorts. But now with this grave incident, Bob didn’t know what to think.
The court order secured to exhume Blaskin’s body had of course proved nothing. Indeed it posed more questions than anyone dared to look at. In the end, after due consideration, the conducting officer concluded there was no proof of vandalism and the body had not been tampered with, or at least in any explainable way. Therefore, it was best for all concerned the entire matter be dropped and the dead be left in peace. The grave was filled in and the headstone would be repaired in due course. No-one else was to be notified.
Bob went home that night feeling very uneasy, not something that had ever happened before. He was a contented man and nothing much ever bothered him.
‘I’m home!’ he shouted, throwing open the front door and clumping into the entranceway with his muddy work boots still attached. Mary, Bob’s wife, flew out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.
‘Not in those boots, Bob Jelks!’ she snapped, shooing him back out onto the verandah.
Mary was a large rotund woman with red curly hair, cut just as she liked it, short and kept out of her way. She had fine porcelain skin with fat rosy cheeks, a compelling sparkle in her eye and a quick wit to match. She fussed endlessly over Bob and just about everything else. Their home was always spotlessly clean, orderly and neat, everything in its place. Mary was also a wonderful cook and made nearly everything, even household cleaners, soaps, skin balms and basic medications. She was a real whiz and a fountain of knowledge, but all that she did had to be done in her own particular way.
Although at times Bob’s less than perfect approach to domestic life and comfort, made him cringe at Mary’s eccentricities, he was more than willing to overlook them. The two shared a wonderful relationship and Bob enjoyed the love and care that had always been afforded him by this rather large, capable woman.
Their cottage was small, but adequate, filled with memorabilia from a rich and rewarding life. Their children were now married with families of their own and this little home was now their sanctuary, cosy and safe in their twilight years.
After removing his boots on the verandah, Bob went straight to the kitchen, where Mary was placing their evening meal into the oven. ‘Hannah called today, wondering if you could give her a hand on Sunday,’ said Mary with a sigh, removing her oven mitt and rubbing the small of her back.
‘Givin’ ya trouble again?’ asked Bob, taking a peak at dinner. Mary slapped his hand from the oven door and smiled just a little.
‘Only if I move,’ she replied, turning toward him.
‘What happened with that grave?’
Bob sat down at the table in the kitchen and stroked his chin in a quandary.
‘Quite a mystery really,’ he began and explained all that had happened. Mary didn’t seem to be bothered much by it but held his hand to reassure him. He was obviously unnerved by the whole experience.
‘Life holds many secrets. I guess we’re not meant to know everything. Sometimes you just have to accept and move on,’ she said calmly, patting his hand lovingly then getting back to organising their meal.
‘Maybe,’ mused Bob, still mulling over what had happened. He got up and retrieved a cold beer from the fridge, then sat down and watched his wife in action, trying not to think about the missing body.
Bob was a good-looking man, there might have been snow on the roof but his skin was taught and tanned and there was a strength and determination in his face fitting a man half his age. Unlike his dear wife, Bob was slender in stature but broad-shouldered, displaying a physique of a man that had spent most of his working life labouring in the outdoors. Also there was a certain softness about him and a strong sense of virtue that had always endeared him to his doting wife. Their marriage was as strong as a rock, always had been, with an unsinkable solidarity.
Bob sat there quietly, but for some reason he found it all but impossible to put this disturbing enigma aside. That night, after a hearty meal and a short game of chess, which of course Mary won, Bob had a most restless sleep, dreaming strange and unexplained dreams. As always, Mary slept like a baby by his side, snorting and snoring the night away.
The next morning after his usual more than sustaining breakfast, Bob left for the cemetery earlier than usual; he wanted to speak to the Reverend. They sat in the presbytery kitchen over a cup of coffee and discussed Blaskin’s grave, throwing around possible explanations. But Reverend Kelly’s apprehension and lack of any real ideas did nothing to allay Bob’s uneasiness. Finally with no answers, religious or otherwise, the Reverend simply accepted that it was best left alone. Bob could not only see questioning in the Reverend’s eyes, but could also see fear, not something that he had ever seen in this most confident and resolute man of the cloth.
He left shortly after, feeling not the slightest bit comforted from their conversation, in fact after seeing that odd expression on the Reverend’s face, he felt worse, much worse.
On his way to the tool shed, Bob knelt down to try to save a small violet that someone had unknowingly trampled. After he had replanted it, he looked up from where he crouched and noticed that someone was at Blaskin’s gravesite. For some reason, his heart began to thump and he instinctively crept around the side pathway and made his way down to the new plots. He hid behind a clump of conifers and peered over to the grave, twenty feet from where the man stood. It was that mysterious fellow that paid for the funeral.
Tall, dark-haired with pale skin and wearing a dark pinstriped suit and sunglasses, the man stood in front of the grave with his head bowed. Bob crouched down and leant against the trunk of the tree, his eyes just peaking around enough to see. The man turned fleetingly to make sure that no-one was around and Bob quickly retreated behind the trunk, his heart racing even faster. Slowly, craning his neck, Bob saw the man place something onto the top of the headstone, and then leave hurriedly.
Bob sat there for a minute, considering if this rather melodramatic behaviour of his was all that appropriate. Suddenly he felt a little silly, but as he rose to his feet, determined to forget about all this and get on with his day, he saw a small red car approach from the east. That of course was no cause for alarm, but as it passed him, the tyres breaking the silence, crackling slowly over the pebbled drive, he felt a strange, nervous feeling inside. The car finally pulled up and he immediately noticed that it was no more than a few metres from Blaskin’s grave.
He stood there for a minute, tossing up whether he should play detective. But with his curiosity now far outweighing any other emotion, he contradicted his own sensible decision and quietly crept along a hedgerow back to the grave, being careful not to be seen.
A young woman alighted from the car and as she turned to close the door, Bob saw that it was Blaskin’s adopted daughter. ‘Surely this is normal, a daughter, grieving at her father’s grave?’ Bob thought, again feeling foolish for his behaviour. But before he could creep away and leave the poor girl alone, she moved around to the other side of the grave, revealing her face. Bob just couldn’t take his eyes off her.
She looked down at the freshly refilled grave, the topsoil not tightly packed as it had been, and Bob suddenly remembered that no-one else had been told about what had happened. ‘She’s bound to question it,’ he thought. But to his surprise and ultimate dismay, she picked up some loose earth and smiled. ‘If that wasn’t the most inappropriate thing that I’ve ever seen, then what is? What the hell is she smiling about?’ Bob mumbled, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. The smile bothered him a great deal; it was a pleasured smile, in a way, self-satisfied.
Bob watched as the girl suddenly discovered the object that had been placed on top of the headstone by the tall man. She reached over and picked it up. It appeared to be small and shiny. As she held it in her hand to examine it, her expression instantaneously changed and a wave of anger overcame her. Her face went red and her fist white knuckled trying to crush whatever it was in her hand. Then in a rage, she hurled the object against the headstone and stormed back to her car, driving off in a cloud of dust and spitting gravel.
Bob was now confused, the puzzle getting more and more complex by the minute. He scratched his head and stood up, watching the dust slowly dissipate as the little red car disappeared into the distance. He took a deep breath and walked over to the gravesite. In the earth at the base of the stone, was a small gold amulet. About one and a half inches in diameter, it looked handmade with a plain border and a strange symbol at its centre. ‘What does it mean?’ he pondered, becoming more than inquisitive.
The amulet was roughly made and was quite heavy, but as Bob studied it, he noticed it felt strangely warm and a sickly feeling began to gnaw at his stomach. Thinking he was imagining things he stuffed it in his pocket and shook his head in an attempt to clear his mind. Then, resolved to return to normality, he got on with his duties.
During the day Bob was continuously drawn to the amulet and at one point he even thought that he could feel it moving in his pocket. Many times he took it out and studied it, wondering what it could mean and why the girl became so angered by it. Somehow Bob just couldn’t let it go and he made a conscious decision, for God only knows what reason, to find out what this symbol meant.
In a strange way, this cloak and dagger stuff was getting under Bob’s skin. His days, however peaceful and serene, were just that, without excitement or change. Bob suddenly felt alive in a new sense, vitality exuding from his skin and he felt compelled to find the truth and drag this enigma out from the shadows and into the light of day.
That afternoon, Bob left work early, something that he had rarely done. He took the old ‘Zephyr’, his much loved automobile and headed into the city to the library. Whatever this symbol meant, it would be somewhere in that mountain of books and he was determined to find it.
The city traffic was thicker than he remembered, having not made the trip for a long-time. But as he pulled into the library car park, the building’s Grecian architecture was somehow comforting, having endured such time without change. The library stood a paragon of human history and accomplishment and guardian of the truth. Here, Bob would find some answers.
It felt good to enter the world of the written word and as rusty as he was at finding his way around, he began to search for clues in the computer indexes. An hour later he was surrounded by a plethora of texts, open references, one leading to another. He began to feel like he was going around in circles until, in a book about ancient languages, he came across a reference that simply said in a small italic script ‘refer occult science’, followed by several suggested titles.
Having obviously gone the wrong way around, he closed the dozen or so books on the table and returned them to the front counter, following up his new lead. As he scanned the long lines of stained wooden shelving, he got closer to the rear of the library, further and further away from the counter. Finally in a dusty dimly lit corner, he found the texts he was looking for. As he took them off the shelf one by one, he felt a cold shudder move up his spine. This area in the library felt strangely as though it was out of bounds. Not even looking at the three books, he held them to his chest and scurried out into the open reading area and sat down. His heart was racing and he didn’t know why. ‘This is a book just like any other,’ he mouthed, reassuringly.
With some trepidation he opened the first book. It was leather bound and it bore a gold stamped pentagram on its cover. The written contents and illustrations were a little unnerving and described rituals, incantations and rites that Bob could well have done without knowing.
The first book revealed little if anything, only a dark world that Bob wished no part of. The second book also revealed little about amulets, giving a brief history of occultism throughout the ages. But as he turned midway through the third book, to see if there was any chance of it being of help, the symbol that he sort sat staring at him in the centre of the page. He removed the amulet from his pocket and placed it next to the image. It was exactly the same, in every detail. Bob’s face lit up- he’d found it.
He began to read fervently, but as the words silently passed his dry lips and their meanings were absorbed into his consciousness, Bob felt a cold sweat envelop him. The amulet was common enough and was used as a device of protection, during many satanic rituals, mostly to do with sacrifice. Coven members, to ward off the influences of unwanted demons and resistance from outside the group wore the amulet during all rituals.
Bob gently closed the book and stared into the silent, open space of the library. ‘What the hell’s going on?’ he thought. ‘That girl’s in danger, I just know it.’
Bob returned the texts to the counter and hurried back to the car; it was late and Mary would soon start to worry. He drove home rather preoccupied with these startling revelations and didn’t know exactly what he should do. He immediately felt that this girl, Isabelle, was in some kind of danger but should he, not knowing what was going on, get involved? It was quite a problem, and none of his business. But Bob’s sense of right and duty had always been a redeeming feature and he knew in his heart that he would have to take this further, in some way.
That night Bob hardly slept, having not mentioned a word to Mary. He had never kept anything from her in the past, but somehow felt this time it was for her own good, even though he felt guilty about it. He tossed and turned all night, alone and confused, somehow feeling entwined in all this mystery and in some way responsible for it. The night passed at a torturous pace, second by second, minute by minute, Bob being burdened with the knowledge that something horrible was afoot.
The next morning he woke less energetic than he normally was, and Mary became a little concerned. However it crossed her mind that she’d snored more than usual during the night, having woken herself several times, so she said nothing to Bob who’d always been kind enough not to mention her nocturnal vocalisations.
It was Saturday, and after getting into his work clothes Bob entered the kitchen to finish off his cup of tea.
‘That’ll be cold now Bob, sit down and I’ll make you another,’ suggested Mary, unsure why he was in such a hurry.
‘Haven’t got time, love. Gotta go to work and borrow some tools for Hannah’s tomorrow.’
‘Why now, so early?’ asked Mary, a little more suspicious.
‘No reason. Just want to get it over with. I won’t be too long,’ he said, racing over to give his wife a peck on the cheek.
‘Pumpkin soup for lunch!’ she shouted, as Bob opened the front door. He turned fleetingly wearing a warm smile.
‘I’ll be back well before. Bye!’
Bob hopped into the car and headed off to the cemetery. When he arrived, he drove around the back way and parked under cover, near the tool shed. He then stealthily made his way to the office, hoping that no-one else was around.
He sorted through his mass of keys looking for the right one. Nervously fumbling and continuously looking over his shoulder, he eventually found the office key and quietly opened the door. The room was dark and the curtains drawn, but he knew exactly what he wanted and went straight to the desk and grabbed the rollerdex. He crept to the nearest window and with his shoulder, held open the corner of the curtain, while thumbing through client cards. He found Blaskin’s name almost immediately and wrote down the listed next of kin, Isabelle Harding. Then underneath jotted down her address and phone number.
Quickly replacing the rollerdex, Bob headed for the front door and as he quietly closed, then locked it, Reverend Kelly appeared at the entrance to the chapel. Bob slipped around the corner out of sight, and then with his heart racing he took a deep breath then nonchalantly strolled back around the corner on his way to the tool shed.
‘Morning Reverend!’ he shouted, with a nervous smile on his face. Reverend Kelly looked at him strangely.
‘You do know that this is the weekend, Bob?’ replied the Reverend, thinking that old Bob may have blown a fuse.
Bob grinned knowingly. ‘Just come to borrow some tools, to give my sister a hand,’ he said.
Satisfied, the Reverend waved and turned, heading back to the rectory. As he left Bob breathed a sigh of relief and after returning to the shed, threw a few tools in the trunk before heading off home.
Bob and Mary spent most of that day caring for their garden, something that gave them both great pleasure. Mary, who knew her husband back the front and inside out, knew something was on Bob’s mind, but she felt it inappropriate to question him, knowing that whatever it was would come out eventually. One thing that Mary and Bob did share was trust, and after so many years together, there was a respect for privacy that outweighed many personal considerations.
Bob worked in the garden as he had always done, digging, pruning and replanting, but his mind was on other matters. He had a plan, and as irrational as it may have been, he was now resolved to go through with it.
The following day, before going to Hannah’s, he had decided to visit Isabelle Harding. He wasn’t all that sure of what he was going to say to her, but felt somehow that he should go and warn her. All of these strange happenings had to have some purpose or course and he was certain that Isabelle was in danger, although he had no proof or understanding of what had happened.
Bob being Bob, had to go through with what he saw as a personal duty and perhaps also to satisfy his now overzealous curiosity. When he got there, standing rather awkwardly before this girl, he was just going to have to play it by ear.