Winch-Hunt: Part 15
- Winch-Hunt: Part 14
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 14
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.
Jeff ran through the darkened parking lot and made his way down the driveway and around the corner where his car was waiting. The fact that the security guard was sleeping made his getaway easier.
Once he was settled and safely driving away, Jeff began to piece togther the new pieces of the puzzle. Doctor Warren played a major part. His brother, Ronald Barry had been found along with an explanation. Things were beginning to add up, but the sum wasn’t totaled yet. There was still much to know.
Tom, on the other hand, knew nothing of the new discoveries. His research led him nowhere. Mel’s research led her nowhere. If Tom could only understand that Jeff was on his side, if they could only work together, maybe answers would surface more quickly. Jeff had finally resigned himself to the fact that Tom and he would have to work the case separately.
The morning sun was making its way through a light, mid-autumn frost that had gathered on the window. Mel knew it was past time to get out of bed and start her day, but she just wasn’t ready. Tom long ago left for the lighthouse and some early morning investigative work.
Mel struggled to sit up, but felt nauseous. In her weakened condition she tried to stand, but couldn’t. She collapsed back into her bed. Something seemed different to her. The zeal and energy she once had disappeared. She was tired most of the time. Perhaps the stress of the ministry plus that of Tom’s PI work was catching up to her. She always tried to appear strong for Tom’s sake, but underneath she was crumbling.
What Causes Stress
Was it the stress weighing her down? Or was depression setting in? Maybe stress was causing the depression? Maybe it was the Bendith Diafol? The thought creased the edge of Mel’s mind and as the day went on, it grew in strength. She checked for three scratches, but found nothing. If she could just reach the phone, she could call Doctor Warren and make an appointment.
Grabbing the edge of the bed, she forced herself up. Reaching for the phone, she dialed Doctor Warren’s number.
“Hello, this is Melanie Winch. I need to make an appointment with the doctor. I’ve been feeling weak and nauseous from time to time. Do you have openings this afternoon?” The receptionist checked the doctor’s afternoon schedule and was happy to schedule Mel for a 2:30 appointment.
Just then the doorbell rang. Mel tried to get out of bed but as she rose, the room began to spin, forcing her back down. Whoever the visitor was, they would have to try again later. As Mel lay there, looking out the frost-cleared window, she saw Jeff heading around to the back door. He began to knock – over and over. Obviously he knew Mel was home.
Mel stretched for the phone and dialed Jeff’s cell. “Jeff Hunt here.” “Jeff, it’s Mel. Look, I can’t get out of bed to come to the door. What’s so important?”
“I talked to my brother last night. I was able to get into Shady Rest; a couple close calls, but I got in and I talked to Ronny. He overheard a couple of the Bendith Diafol plotting to kill Tom.”
“Well, we already know about that. What’s the big deal?”
“Yeah, I know we already know that, but you’re not going to believe this.”
“Doctor Warren is one of the leaders of the Bendith Diafol. Good, ol’ Doc Warren – can you believe it? Those three scratches that Tom had - the mark, it was probably given to him by the Doc.”
“You can’t be serious, Jeff. Doctor Warren is an upstanding member of our church. Besides, if Doc Warren is behind this, why would he have told Tom about the marks? He would have just let it go and Tom would have never known. Tom’s right. You’re trying to set him up. I’ll prove that Doc Warren is okay. I have a 2:30 appointment.”
“You have what?”
“A 2:30 appointment with Doctor Warren. I’m sick and I need to see a doctor. And I trust Doctor Warren.”
“Mel, you can’t do this! The man’s pure evil. I’ll get you an appointment with a doctor in Cape Elizabeth, but you can’t go to Doc Warren. Please Mel.”
“No way. I’m going to see Doc Warren.” With that the phone went dead.
Mel finally made it to a sitting position and gradually pulled herself out of bed. After being up for a while she began to feel a little better, almost to the point of canceling her appointment. She knew if she did, she would never hear the end of it from Jeff. 2:30 rolled around and Mel was seated in the waiting room.
The receptionist called her name. “Come on back, Mrs. Winch. The doctor will see you now.”
Doctor Warren welcomed her with a warm smile. “So what’s the trouble, Mel?”
“I’ve really been under a lot of stress lately. I don’t have as much energy and I get light-headed. Don’t really know if it’s emotional or physical, Doc.”
“I’m going to have the nurse run a battery of tests on you, and we’ll see what’s going on. Do you have time to do that now?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ve nothing better to do.” “I’ll have her get right on it. It’s been good seeing you again Mel, although I wish you felt better.” The doctor left and the nurse entered.
Mel fought with every fiber of her being to not mention Jeff’s accusations to the doctor. She really didn’t believe Jeff, but what if he was right? What kind of trouble might she be in for? What about Tom?
Tom sat behind a rock on the south side of the lighthouse waiting and praying for another opportunity to get inside. He didn’t have to wait long. A rather short, chubby man carefully and cautiously turned the key to the lighthouse door and entered.
Tom had never seen the man before. He took note of his strange characteristics and meticulously recorded them in his notebook. Tom crawled closer. He could see the shadow of the man through the ground floor window, but then it disappeared. It was time to make a move . . . if he was to make a move at all.
Racing around to the back of the lighthouse, Tom caught another glimpse of the man through the back window. It appeared as if he was writing something as he faced away from the door. Tom quickly ran for the door and slowly opened it far enough to peek in. The man was still by the window, and Tom noislessly moved to the stairs. Circling around the first spiral, he was able to see the whole floor. The man didn’t leave Tom’s sight as he went from one side of the lighthouse to the other. Tom was not sure what he was doing, but he continued to silently watch.
Within minutes, the man left. From the window, Tom watched as he disappeared down the south beach. Once again, Tom found himself locked in the old lighthouse. Carefullly, but quickly he made his way over to the floor grate and shifted it enough to squeeze through the opening. Disappearing into the dark, Tom felt his way to the light switch.
“Ahhh, let there be light,” Tom sighed as he turned the switch. With the aid of the dull light, he headed down the hall to investigate the library of the Bendith Diafol. Opening the second door on the right, Tom entered.
The first thing he noticed was a shelf with several masks – no, they were more like heads, full heads with necks. Tom thought it interesting because no one could ever wear them. The neck hole was too small for anyone to put their head through although the head itself was quite large. He counted them, thirteen in all. The eyes of each one seemed to stare back.
Tom grabbed a couple books and settled back into a corner where there was a small table and lamp. A swinging door separated the reading quarters from the rest of the room. The door reminded Tom of a door to a public restroom stall. It was positioned in against the wall, leaving the entrance open.
As Tom paged through one of the books, he heard footsteps coming down the ladder. He quickly pushed the swinging door shut and lifted his feet above the opening between the door and floor. As he did, a dark opening revealed itself, hidden behind the swinging door. Tom grabbed the door, crawled into the wall and pulled the door behind him, covering the opening – and waited.
Tom’s eyes were not adjusting well to the extreme dark. He couldn’t see anything, but his hearing was overly sensitive. He could hear each footstep that approached the room. Tom crawled back deeper into the wall cavity.
The footsteps stopped at the room and Tom heard the light switch click off and the door close. Two men were talking. “That Jeff – he never locks up or turns off the lights. He’s something else.”
Tom was infuriated as he muttered to himself, “Yeah, that Jeff. I’m going to fix him good one of these days.”
Then he heard the key turn. He knew what that meant. The footsteps continued down the hall, and the sound of the door at the last room opening echoed though the pit.
A terrible heat came over Tom. Sweat began to pour from his brow. Screams in a distance began to grow louder. Was this really the Pit to Hell? The heat was rising in Tom’s outer darkness. The deafening cries of the damned filled every corner of Tom’s cavern. The screams filled his head. All focus was gone. His head began to pound.
What seemed like an eternity finally came to an end. Events began to occur in reverse. The deafening cries once again gave way to relative silence. The temperature began to drop and return to normal. The door to the last room closed with a recurring echo. Footsteps could be heard coming down the hall. Hopefully, the footsteps would stop at the door and unlock the door so Tom could get out – free.
The last event never happened. Instead the two men stopped just outside the door to make sure it was secure. Tom listened to the conversation.
“You know, it seems like all the bugs have been worked out of the system. Everything seems to be working okay.”
“Oh yeah! If the idea is to traumatize our sacrifice, it surely will. It’s been thirty years since it’s been used, but with the new technological updates, it’ll do the job just fine.”
“Tom Winch will be half dead by the time we offer him. He’ll certainly be compliant. Let’s get the operating manual back and get out of here.”
Tom could hear the key jiggling in the lock, and the door flew open. The men placed the operating manual on the table and turned to leave. There was no way for Tom to get out without being seen, and in the darkness Tom heard the door close and the lock click.
The footsteps were heard heading back toward the last room. Tom decided to come out of hiding in case they were planning to retest the pit. The footfall faded until all was quiet again.
Tom took three quick steps toward the door when he was stopped dead in his tracks. A familiar clicking sound grew louder and more steady. He could detect the sound from two directions – one as it echoed against the stone of the underground; two as it reverberated in the pit.
It was coming from the pit, or at least somewhere close to it.
“It could be a trap,” Tom reasoned. But reason didn’t always answer the big questions. Tom ducked back into the pit and followed the sound through the tunnel. The constant clicking grew to its loudest peak on the other side of the rock wall. Then without notice, it stopped.
Tom climbed back out to the main room and sat down at the table with the operating manual in front of him. Another book was opened on the table as well – Methods of Sacrifice. As Tom thought through the recent events and studied the book, the plan began to come together.
Tom began to think out loud. “Now let’s see. The sacrifice is to be kidnapped between 24 and 36 hours before the offering.”
The book read, “He shall be held no longer than 36 hours and no less than 24. At exactly 12:45 a.m., he will be placed in the Pit to Hell. The purpose of the pit is to terrorize the victim and make him compliant. He shall remain in the pit until exactly 2:30 a.m. when at which time he shall be presented to the Hollalluog Fam, and she, the Almighty Mother, shall give the blessing.
The description continued, but that was enough for Tom. He closed the book. Now it was time to focus on freeing himself from the lighthouse, but not before he stuffed several pages of the book into his pocket. “I’ll read these when I get home,” Tom thought.
Doctor Warren called his nurse into the conference room. “Did you get Melanie Winch’s test results back yet?”
"Yes, Doctor. Here you go.”
“Just as I thought! I’m so good. She’ll have to be eliminated as well. Get the morphine and the needle ready. I’ll give Mel a call and we’ll just let the dream god take her away.”
Mel reached for the ringing phone. “Hello, Winch’s residence.”
“Melanie, this is Doctor Warren. Your tests came back. You didn’t mention it, but do you feel faint along with the other symptoms?”
“Is there a difference between light-headedness and feeling faint?”
“Yes Mel, I think there is. Feeling faint is bordering on that feeling of passing out. Light-headed is more of a dizzy feeling.”
“I guess if you put it that way, sometimes the lightheadedness precedes a fainting feeling.”
“Uh huh, that’s what I thought. Mel, you have a simple case of hypotension – low blood pressure. We can treat it with prescription medicine, but I would recommend you coming in to the office. We can take care of it with a quick shot.”
“You mean you can cure hypotension with just one shot?”
“It may take a couple, but it’s absolutely amazing what we’re learning about medicine these days. Can you come in right away?”
“No, I can’t right now. Tom’s out on a mission, and he has the truck.”
“Okay. We’ll make it first thing in the morning; 8:30 sound okay?”
“Yes, that will be fine Doc. See you then.”
As she disconnected the call, another call was coming in.
“Mel look, it’s Jeff. I know you don’t want to hear from me. I just wanted to check and see how you’re feeling. You have another appointment to see Doc Warren, don’t you?”
“Well yeah, but how did you know? I just got off the phone with him. Jeff, did you bug our phone?”
“No, I just know how the doc works. He’ll have you come back and all of a sudden there will be three scratches.”
“No Jeff. I have hypotension. I have to go in for a shot first thing in the morning.”
“Look, hypotension is nothing serious. You’re in good health otherwise?. . . Mel, what you’re experiencing isn’t low blood pressure. I’m no doctor, but the symptoms and the treatment just don’t line up. Yeah, maybe a little dizziness, but you can’t even get out of bed without your world spinning. Mel, you can’t treat hypotension with one shot.
“Now please, make an appointment with a doctor in Cape Elizabeth. You pick the doctor. I’ll stay out of it. Just get a second opinion. There’s something more to this shot theory than meets the eye. The ol’ Doc is up to something, Mel. And you don’t need to be his guinea pig. What’s it gonna hurt to get a second opinion?”
“Okay Jeff, I’ll think about it, Now, why did you really call?”
“I was over at the lighthouse this afternoon. So was Tom. You probably already know that, right? Well, anyway . . . Tom’s locked in.”
“Oh, it’s not the first time that’s happened. He’ll be home . . . Well, you have a key. Why didn’t you let him out?”
“I could have, but he disappeared. I saw him go in. A short while later two others entered in. They came out. Tom didn’t.”
“Meaning Tom isn’t in the lighthouse. It’s empty!”
“Did you check everywhere?”
“Everywhere! He’s gone.”
“Hold on a second Jeff. Someone’s at the door.”
Mel placed the receiver down on the table and headed for the door only to see Tom walk in. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here, remember?”
“Oh Tom, I’m sorry. I just thought . . . well . . .I guess . . . well, I’m just happy to see you.”
“I could get used to these kind of welcome homes.”
Mel gave him a hug and dismissed herself to the kitchen where she carefully and quietly returned the phone unanswered to its cradle. “Mel, you’re not going to believe this.”
“No really. I know how they plan to make me a willing sacrifice. You know that room I told you about with the books. There’s a hole in the wall. That’s the Pit to Hell. They force you in there and then turn up the heat, literally. They play these hideous, recorded screams. It’s really nerve-wracking and unsettling. After that, anyone would do almost anything. It leaves you kind of numb – but I know what it’s about so I can play their game.
“Here’s another part of their game. The sacrifice – that would be me – is kidnapped between 24 and 36 hours before midnight of the winter solstice. So again, I’m one up on them.
“I read some other material, too. They’ll have no idea what’s going on. Listen to this. The sacrifice – that would be me – is first presented to the Almighty Mother who gives the blessing. After the blessing is given, the sacrifice . . .”
“That would be you.”
“Right, that would be me. Anyway – after the blessing I’m given to prif was y diafol. That’s the devil’s chief servant. He slits my throat and that’s all there is to it. But we can’t let that happen.
“Now listen to this. Prif was y diafol dresses in black and wears a hideous full mask. I mean the kind you stick your whole head in; covers the whole head and neck; know what I mean? Now, I saw the head and the black cloak; and here are the instructions as to how to make it all.”
Tom reached into his pocket and pulled out the step by step directions.
“Here Mel. Check this out.”
“What in the world are you thinking, Tom Winch? You can’t possibly be entertaining the idea of making this get-up, are you?”
“No, you’re the seamstress. Now listen Mel. I know sometime within the last 36 hours before the solstice, they’ll take me, but we’re taking a Christmas break – out of town. They’ll have no idea where we are or what happened to us. The evening of the solstice I’ll get into the lighthouse dressed in my Prif was y diafol costume. I’ll crank up the sound in the Pit to Hell and appear. They’ll think I’m the real chief servant of the devil. They’ll do whatever I say.”
“No Tom. It’s too risky. I’m all in favor of a Christmas break though.”
“Do you have any better ideas? What does your superior brain tell you?”
“We still have a few weeks before the solstice. Let’s just think about this rationally and realistically. I do like the thought of a Christmas though.
“Now I have an appointment with Doctor Warren in the morning so don’t plan to use the truck. I’ll need it.”
“What’s this all about? What do you have to see the Doc for?”
“Oh, it’s nothing really. Just a little hypotension; one shot and I’ll be fine.”
“What are you talking about? You can’t cure hypotension with a shot.”
“Doc Warren says you can.
”That’s ridiculous. Mel, get a second opinion. Call a doctor in Cape Elizabeth. See what they say. Now how about some supper?”
There was a knock at the door. Tom stepped toward the door to open it. On the other side of the door stood a bloodied Jeff Hunt.
- Winch-Hunt: Part 16
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