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Winch-Hunt: Part 14
- Winch-Hunt: Part 13
The centuries old lighthouse holds the secret of the ages, and Tom Winch must solve the mystery before it destroys him. You won't believe the twist!
From Part 13
The questioning surfaced in Jeff as tension. Still he tried to remain in control of the conversation. “Well, it was quite a trip over here. You know I have a 40 minute drive one way, but if I need to reschedule, I guess I can do that.”
“Yes, we’ll need to do that. Um . . . Pastor Meyers, is it? You don’t seem to be on Michael’s visitation list. Wait here. I’ll have to have Michael verify that he knows you.”
Mrs. Taylor excused herself as she ushered Jeff to a waiting room. Not sure what to do, Jeff decided to wait it out. In a few minutes Mrs. Taylor returned.
“Pastor Meyers, Michael says he never heard of you.”
“Well, this is embarrassing. Doris Camp wanted me to pay him a visit. She must not have followed through with scheduling the appointment.”
“Oh, Mrs. Camp sent you! Let me give her a call. As long as I get the okay from her, there should be no problem! Have a seat again, Pastor, and I’ll give her a quick call.”
“You give her a call Mrs. Taylor. I’ll be right back. I left something in the car.” And with that Jeff made his way to the car, and back to the motel.
Using Mrs. Camp’s name seemed like a good idea. She had gotten Tom into Shady Rest many times. It was obvious that Jeff would have to take another avenue into Shady Rest. Was it even necessary? His brother’s name appeared nowhere in the appointment book. He was told that Ronald Barry was not a resident. Mel’s words came back to him. “If you’re really not setting Tom up, maybe someone’s trying to set you up.”
Jeff knew he would have to be patient. It took the next three weeks for him to fully realize his plan. Jeff kept Shady Rest under constant surveillance. He was sure his stakeout would pay off.
A pattern began to emerge. Ronson Brothers Laundry serviced Shady Rest. Give or take ten minutes they made their usual stop at Shady Rest about 10:35 am. Clockwork was on Jeff’s side. He noticed that on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday the Ronson Brothers employee worked alone. On Tuesday and Thursday another employee accompanied him. It would be risky, but Jeff felt he had to try it.
He would have to have everything planned and timed down to the minute, but with solid preparation, Jeff knew he could pull it off. He headed off to the Industrial and Maintenance store in Cape Elizabeth. He knew that I and M would have just what he needed. He did his research well. Jeff knew that the Ronson Brothers employees purchased their uniforms from I and M. Upon arriving, he made a beeline for the laundry department. He bought himself a new pair of spotless white pants, a white shirt, a white ball cap, a pair of white sneakers, and – oh yes, a blue and white nametag. All that was left to do now was to wait for Friday morning.
Tom made his way to the west side of the lighthouse; his usual spy quarters. Keeping his eyes on the lighthouse and his ears open for anything brought him up empty for another day. He was preparing to make his way back home when a strong gust of wind kicked up the loose sand around him. Shading his eyes from the sting of the gritty fragments, he heard a thunderous noise.
As the gust of wind died down, Tom saw that the lighthouse door had blown open. He reached for his cell phone and quickly called Mel.
“Hey listen, I’m going to be late, but I can’t pass this up. The lighthouse door is wide open and no one is around. I’m going in. If I don’t come home, don’t call the police. It just means that I got locked in again. I’ll be fine, and I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“Tom, I know you think you have to do this, but do you really?”
“You know the answer to that. I’ll be careful. I love you.” Tom hit the end call button, and walked off toward the open door.
The wind was beginning to blow harder as Tom approached the entrance. Quietly, and oh so cautiously, he looked inside. He looked behind him. He was cleared to go in. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a dime forcing it into the latch on the door.
Quite proud of himself he muttered, “There, that should keep the door from locking,” and he gently closed the heavy door behind him.
The lighthouse was deserted as far as Tom could tell. He wasted no time and walked directly over to the floor grate and yanked hard on it. A space large enough for him to squirm through opened into outer darkness. It didn’t take long for him to decide that investigating the Pit to Hell was useless without a flashlight. He slid the floor grate back and as he did, he caught a glimpse of a shiny object on the stairs.
“Unbelievable! It’s a flashlight . . . . Wait a second. This is too easy.” Tom began to say to himself. “It’s a setup.”
“God, be with me. You know I have to see.”
Retracing his steps, he grabbed the flashlight and headed back to the covering. Gripping the handles with both hands, he pulled as hard as he could. That same space large enough for him to squirm through appeared. The setting sun reflected off the first rung of the ladder, and the rest would be up to the flashlight and God.
The single stream of light cut through the thick blackness of the pit. Tom could see that the room opened up into a wide cavern-type room. The flashlight also revealed a light switch on the wall adjacent to the ladder. The light was dim, but much more effective than the flashlight.
The room was incredibly large. It appeared to be carved out of the rock foundation of the lighthouse. Toward the back of the main room was a hallway. There were three doors down the hall; two on the right side, and one on the left. The door on the left opened into a small closet. The first door on the right was an entrance to a smaller room, but still fairly large. Streaks of dried blood veiled the single altar of cold stone that sat in the middle of the room.
Tom headed to the next door on the right. A smaller room on the other side of the door was lined with shelves. The dark tools of the Bendith Diafol were neatly stored on the shelves; hideous masks, blood stained gloves, daggers and knives. There were books detailing the ritualistic executions of the group. Maybe these books held more of the mystery, but Tom knew he would have to wait to check them out. This was a survey trip. A more comprehensive excursion would have to be planned for another time. At the end of the hall was another door. For now, it’s contents also would be unknown. It was securely locked.
Tom made his way back to the main room and hurried up the ladder. He made his way to the top and secured the floor grate. Slowly he opened the lighthouse door and looked around. The coast was clear and Tom’s investigating was done for another day. His next stop would be home. Mel and a nice hot meal were waiting for him. Feeling like much was accomplished, Tom was ready for some rest and relaxation.
Jeff’s watch read 10:27. At any minute, Ronson Brothers would be heading up the long driveway and wind their way around to the back entrance of Shady Rest. Jeff quickly moved from the brush behind the building to a bush just left of the vendor entrance. He waited there.
He could hardly believe he was actually doing this. Dressed in his “laundry man whites”, he hoped he was hidden well enough to pull off the next step of his Shady Rest invasion.
It wasn’t more than a couple of minutes before the white van made its way to the entrance and backed in. Coming to the back of the van, the worker opened the van’s double doors and yanked out a laundry cart and laundry bag.
Propping open the entrance door, he threw the laundry bag into the cart and proceeded to the check-in desk. He flashed his blue and white nametag at the employee behind the desk. Jeff, who by now had come up behind the lone Ronson Brothers delivery driver, in like-manner flashed his nametag – no problem. They were both in.
Jeff knew he had to get lost before the laundry man noticed him. As they passed the first hallway, Jeff fell out of step and peeled off into a restroom. Inside his laundry bag he stored his navy blue suit, a freshly pressed white dress shirt, and a red and navy blue striped tie along with his Bible.
He quickly changed into his pastor’s disguise leaving the laundry bag shoved far down in the trash can. He started down the hall, trying to look casual as he peeked into each room as he passed. A doctor looked at him strangely as they passed. Jeff just smiled and continued on to the next room although he knew he had to work fast.
Completing his “rounds” on the first floor, he chose to take the stairs up to the second floor. As he passed room 203, he noticed Michael Bledsoe staring aimlessly out the window. He kept moving until the second floor was completed. Again, he chose the stairs to take him to the third floor. The stairs were less traveled than the elevator.
As Jeff walked down the hall swinging his Bible, he passed room 326. He was drawn to the room by the constant laughter of the resident, Mrs. Sophie Brachston. Jeff looked in quickly and continued on his way undetected. Sophie had her eyes glued to the TV screen.
A nurse at the information desk stared rather oddly at Jeff as he turned the corner. Jeff politely smiled back, and continued on, taking the time to look in every room. With each room, his heart sank a little deeper. Was it really worth the time and effort – and risk?
It was at the last room on the third floor nestled in a corner, room 337, that Jeff’s efforts paid off. Peering into the room, Jeff saw his brother sitting in a chair staring at the adjacent wall.
“Psst. Ronny.” No response. “Ronny, it’s me, Jeff.”
Although there was no indication, Ronald Barry heard his brother the first time. Jeff slowly entered the room after being sure that no one saw him. He walked over and put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. Ronny looked up.
“Ronny, how did you get in here?” There was no response. Ronny just looked up into his brother’s eyes and opened his mouth. The sight repulsed Jeff. Ronny’s mouth was an empty cavity. His tongue had been surgically removed. He began to mumble.
“Wait . . . wait Ronny. I’ll get you a piece of paper. Don’t worry about trying to explain. Just write it out.” Jeff grabbed a sheet of notes from inside his Bible and flipped the paper over. He took his pen out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket and gave it to Ronny. He began to write.
“What’s the matter? It seems so awkward for you to write."
Ronny was able to scratch out the words, “left-handed”. Now Jeff had remembered that his brother was left-handed.
“Why are you writing with your right hand?”
Ronny raised his left arm and rolled back the sleeve. His left hand had also been surgically removed just below the thumb. Ronny mumbled again and pointed to the small broom closet situated beside the only barred window. Someone was coming down the hall, and they were heading for Mumbles’ room. Jeff squeezed into the closet, pulled the door shut, and silently prayed.
“He went in here,” the nurse from the information desk exclaimed. “I know he came into Mumbles room.”
The security guard looked under the bed, behind the curtain, the bathroom; no one anywhere. God temporarily hid the closet door.
“I know he came in here,” the nurse shouted.
“Okay, okay. Calm down. Can you give me a description of this man?
“He was well dressed. He was wearing a three-piece navy blue Oxford suit with a really crisp looking white shirt. His tie was navy blue and red striped. I mean, the guy was sharp; everything in its place, except for one thing.”
“He was wearing white sneakers like the laundry guy wears. I’m telling you, I don’t know who he is, but he doesn’t belong here!”
“In case you haven’t noticed, he’s not here.”
“The nurse looked over at Mumbles. “Where did he go?”
Ronny mumbled a sentence or two.
“Oh Mumbles, why did they have to cut out your tongue? You know where he is. You know! Tell us.”
Ronny shrugged his shoulders.
The nurse ran out of the room in frustration followed by the security guard.
Jeff slowly opened the closet door and stepped out. “Boy! That was close, Bro. Now I have to figure out how to get out of here . . . but Ronny, I need time to talk to you. What happened?”
Ronny grabbed the piece of paper and wrote, “Hide – third shift – quiet – get out – talk later.” Voices were echoing in the hall. Footsteps were getting closer. Jeff hopped back in the closet and prayed again. The nurse was coming back this time with a doctor.
“Doctor, I know he was in this room. I saw him turn and come into this room; not the room across the hall; not the room next door. I saw him come into this room!” Casting a look of distain and contempt Mumbles’ way, she continued, “And if that idiot could talk, he’d tell you.”
The doctor began to speak. The voice was familiar, but Jeff couldn’t quite place it. The doctor and the nurse continued to look under the bed, the curtains, and any other possible place to hide in a room with little furnishings. The closet was never considered.
By this time, the nurse was getting out of control. It was looking like she might be a better fit for room 337 than Mumbles.
“Now Vickie, sit down here. Pull yourself together,” the doctor said. “Now tell me about him. What made you notice him?”
“I’ve never seen him before, but he was nicely dressed. He carried a Bible. At first I thought he was here to see one of our religious patients,” she said with disgust. “But Doctor Warren, he was wearing white laundry sneakers like Bob, the one who picks up the laundry. I mean, the guy was emaculate except for his sneakers. They didn’t fit the rest of his look.”
Jeff’s mind began to turn. Finally Jeff recognized the voice. It was Doctor Warren from church. “What is he doing here? He’s a family practitioner from Webster’s Cove. He never mentioned working at Shady Rest. Something’s not right. He’s a likable guy. Maybe I should just reveal myself and tell him why I’m here. I’m sure he knows what happened to Ronny.”
The doorknob wouldn’t turn. He was locked in the tiny broom closet, and he began to panic. While he struggled, Doctor Warren and Nurse Vickie headed out.
As soon as they exited the room, the doorknob was able to turn and Jeff came out wiping sweat from his brow. “Ronny, I’m going to go get Doctor.Warren. I know him. We’ll get you out.” Jeff turned in a hurry to leave. Ronny’s right hand grabbed his arm. He looked at his brother as he shook his head horizontally. Jeff was going nowhere, and with no explanation.
Puzzled at what was happening, Jeff sat down and looked over at Ronny. Ronny was already busy writing another message. Proudly he stood up and gave it to Jeff. It was his best right hand cursive.
“You leave tonight – after dark. It will be safe. The nurses at the nurses station talk and gossip all night. They’ll never see you. The security guard sleeps. I’ll write out more information and get it to you somehow.”
Jeff read the note. “No, Ronny. I have to talk to you now. We have to get you out of here. You leave with me tonight.”
Ronny shook his head, “no”.
“But why? Ronny, if it’s so easy to get out of here, why are you still here?”
Once again, Ron took the paper and continued to write. “You and Tom Winch are in big trouble. If I leave now, they will know you’ve been here – or someone connected to you or Tom. It’s a long story, but it just won’t work right now. I’m okay here. But you’re not. They’ll kill you if they find you.”
“Who is the ’they’ you keep talking about?”
More scribbling – “The Bendith Diafol. It’s a cult that’s been ruling the area for over a century. Doctor Warren is involved, and others, but I don’t have the whole thing figured out yet. When I do, that’s when I’ll get out of here. Tom Winch is to be the next sacrifce.”
“On December 21, right?” Jeff interrupted. Ronny nodded afirmatively. “I’ve been doing research too, Bro. I understand the whole sacrifice thing. What I don’t understand is why you are here. What do you have to do with any of this?”
“Another long story.” Ronny wrote.
“Go for it. I’m not going anywhere until nightfall. Tell me as much as you can about everything you can.”
Ronny picked up the pen and began to write. “I took a Sunday drive to Sandy Hill. I just wanted to walk the beach and think for a while.Things weren’t going right for me at work. I just wanted to clear my head.
“I saw the lighthouse and decided to take a closer look. I sat down on a rock and was enjoying the sea breeze when I heard two men talking beside the lighthouse. They didn’t know I was there. They outlined the whole December sacrifice in great detail. There are still pieces I have to put together though.
“I tried to sneak away as best I could, but they saw me. They made me promise not to tell anyone; threatened me, beat me, the whole nine yards. To be sure of my silence they removed my tongue with a pair of pliers and severed my writing hand. Must have forgot I have two hands!
“One of those men was Doctor Warren. He bandaged me after the ‘surgery’ and brought me here . . . Look Jeff, it’s time. You need to get out of here while you can. I love you, Bro.”
Jeff felt he needed more answers, but Ronny was insistent. Besides, his right hand had taken a toll and was beginning to cramp.
“It’s too risky trying to sneak back in here during the day. Do you think I can sneak in at night the same way I’m leaving? I’ll come see you again.”
Ronny just nodded his head to say “Yes”, and Jeff very carefully made his way out of the building. As he opened the front door, an alarm sounded. The sleeping security guard awoke, and the chase was on.
- Winch-Hunt: Part 15
The centuries old lighthouse holds the secret of the ages, and Tom Winch must solve the mystery before it destroys him. You won't believe the twist!
© 2016 William Kovacic