Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past - Part 13. Ch 35 & 36
Updated: Apr 7
Cook smiled as the carriage took them past the three would-be detectives. They passed mere feet from each other, but they neither sensed him nor recognized the boy at the reins. That forced his smile to widen. The truth of it all was extremely delicious. But that is for another day.
Closing his eyes, Cook was well aware of how long the trip back to London would take, and he planned to replay the last hour, savoring every minute.
Oringo bounced down and opened the door to the carriage, letting Cook out. He wore his crooked smile, well aware they were about to do some mischief. Cook fought the urge to reach out and ruffle his hair. The boy was close enough to the age his boy would have been. His heart ached at the thought, but he swallowed the pain down. He was ten feet away from scoring his first real revenge.
Oh, there were plenty of men he'd killed on his journey to possessing Zachariah Whitlock's body that deserved punishment, but there were three men he held responsible for his village's massacre. One of those men was inside.
Cook marveled at how pale his new body's skin was as he reached out and gripped the knocker before giving it three hard taps. He swept the hat from his head and held it in the crook of his arm. As the door opened, Cook smiled.
"Yes," the butler asked.
"Good day, I am Zachariah Whitlock, and I am here to speak with Mr. Stanbury," Cooks said staring at the man so intently he took a step back.
The butler cleared his throat and studied Cook's attire a moment before deciding to err on the side of caution. He motioned Cook into the house and led him to a sitting room.
"Please, make yourself comfortable," the butler said before giving a slight bow and hurrying away.
A few minutes later a maid appeared and sat down a tray with a teapot, two cups, and a plate of assorted cookies and shortcakes. Cook nodded in approval and the maid slipped away, only pausing a few times to stare at Cook's height and almost transparent skin.
The only drawback to this body, he thought with a shake of the head. There was no way to move around without every single person remembering who they saw. Of course, the amount of power, Whitlock's body could control made it all a moot point. Ten feet tall with four arms and this body would be worth every single sideways look it received.
A chuckle slipped out as he visualized such a thing and a throat cleared from the doorway. Cook stood, turning slowly; hoping to savor this interaction.
"I swear I recently spoke with a Whitlock, but it was a Ms. and nowhere as tall," Mr. Stanbury said as he stepped in the room and offered his hand.
Cook gripped the hand, tentative at first as one might when picking up a viper. Stanbury didn't note the hesitation and after two quick pumps, let go and moved to the seat facing Cook's chair. He motioned for the man to sit before he took his seat.
"Would you care for some tea?" Stanbury asked, pouring only after Cook's slight nod. "So what can I do for you man? This is a rather long trip from London for a social call."
Cook smiled, taking the cup and sipping the hot liquid. He worried his throat would freeze, and he would be forced to carry on his revenge in silence. He practically trembled, being so close to the man.
"If I am being honest, this trip is both business and pleasure," Cook said reaching out with his mind and slipping into Stanbury's mind.
After a few seconds, Stanbuy's body stood, and he marched out of the room. He stalked through the house searching for one room in particular. After opening five doors, the last one was locked. He smiled in triumph and fished in his pocket. Removing the key, he unlocked it and slipped into the room.
A fire provided most of the light, but streams of daylight snuck through multiple curtains pulled to on the far wall. He marched to the closest one and pulled them open. Across the way, he spotted Oringo and waved. The boy waved back and tipped his cap, the signal he was ready. Nodding, Stanbury's body turned to the enormous desk in front of the windows.
It didn't take long for Stanbury's body to find the papers Cooks desperately needed. Cooks studied the man's signature before willing the body to pick up a pen and write. After four letters were written and numerous documents signed, Stanbury's body stood and started to march from the room. Cook's stopped it and flipped through the letters, before dropping one on the ground by the door and leaving.
"Daddy," a young girl's voice pierced the silence and Stanbury's body cringed.
"Ah, there you are dear," Cook forced the words from Stanbury's mouth. He knelt and put his hand on her shoulder. "Be a dear and run outside. There's a young man standing by a new carriage. He has a trick to show you...unlike anything you've ever seen."
The girl clapped her hands and scampered to the door and slipped out without looking back. Cooks relished Stanbury's voice screaming in the head they shared; calling for his little girl to come back, to run away, anything other than to go to the young man. Cooks closed his eyes, imagining Stanbury's face as if he faced him and whispered.
"Now let's go find the rest of your family and visit upon them the fury you all deserve."
Cooks glided up the stairs, scarcely containing his enjoyment as the man who rightfully owned this body whimpered in the darkness.
The carriage arrived in London with time to spare. Cooks slipped down and motioned for Oringo to grab the birdcage strapped to the back. It was still earlier enough, and they had plenty to do before the three meddling detectives returned to try to stop him.
Ephraim stood in the doorway, frozen to the spot. The hallway was soaked in blood. Three bodies lay about, like toys a young child tossed aside. He quickly identified the butler, a maid, and what seemed to be a stable hand. Although for the life of him, he couldn't understand why that man would be in the entry hall.
Taking a deep breath, Ephraim forced himself to take a step forward. As soon as that foot landed, he was commanding the other to move. He didn't notice Livingstone or Zona until his seventh step.
"This is no place for a woman," he whispered, aware she neither cared nor asked for his opinion, but he felt it necessary to give. He still woke up in a sweat most nights, remembering the atrocities he witnessed over there; many of which paled in comparison to the damage done to these three bodies.
"This is no place for anyone," Livingstone said, kneeling next to the maid. "Someone has removed her skin."
The words were barely out before Livingstone vomited again. He wiped his lips with a handkerchief and stood. His legs shook and wobbled and Ephraim moved to catch him if need be.
"I'd harbor a guess that all three have been relieved of their skin, Doctor," Zona said marching down the hall before arriving at a larger open space. Her shriek hastened the men to her side, and she buried her face into Ephraim's chest.
"Dear God," Livingstone said in a hushed tone.
Ephraim stared at a young boy, no more than three, hanging from the banister his intestines the rope.
"I fear God is no longer in this place," Ephraim remarked as he slipped free of Zona and sprang up the stairs. Once at the top, he hesitated before gripping the boy's insides and pulling him up. He laid the body on the carpet and tried to close its eyes. But every time he removed his fingers, they sprang open, staring at Ephraim.
A hand fell on his shoulder and Ephraim shocked, stumbled back and almost slipped in the muck spread on the carpet. Zona and Livingstone stood off to the side, and Ephraim tried to hide his embarrassment by stomping by them. The carpet squished with blood and gore with each step he took closer to the end of the hallway. A door lay partially open, and Ephraim caught a glimpse of a man slumped against the bed frame.
Ephraim pushed open the door and stepped in. A woman lay on the bed, her head twisted around and looking up at the ceiling. She wore no clothes, and Ephraim's stomach rolled as he slid closer and the damage to her body became evident. He slipped a blanket over her, hiding her from sight as Zona and Livingstone entered.
"Don't ask," he said as he stepped away from the woman. He didn't want to explain to Zona what he expected was done to the poor woman. Best if she never knew, and it had no bearing on their case.
"Is he...alive?" Zona asked as Livingstone rushed to Stanbury.
He blinked a few times and opened his mouth. Zona gasped as a few teeth, and strings of blood slipped out the man's mouth.
"His pulse is weak but steady," Livingstone said before digging in his bag and pulling out a bottle and needle.
"Cooks wanted me to warn you," Stanbury said, his voice shredded and dull. "It will only get worse if you continue. He is giving you a chance to leave it alone. Even you Doctor."
Stanbury's arm shook as he lifted it to point at Livingstone.
"He said your part to play can be forgiven but only if you step away," Stanbury said beginning to weep as the words tumbled out. "If only I had that chance, he took everything...made me do terrible things...my family."
Zona stared at the man, covering her mouth with her hand. Her eyes were so wide, Ephraim worried some type of permanent damage may be done. Ephraim gestured with his head to gain Livingstone's attention, and at that moment Stanbury acted.
He grabbed the needle and drove it into his eye, pushing until the metal cylinder wedged in the socket. His mouth hung open and the man's body slumped with the finality of death. Zona's mouth opened to scream but instead, her eyes rolled up, and she slumped to the carpet.
Ephraim had no explanation of how they made their way to the carriage or finding the liquid he sloshed all over the floor of the house, only that Livingstone said it was flammable. He wouldn't be able to tell Zona why they left the lit candle there to burn the place down. It just seemed like the right thing to do. He stared at her resting face, as the carriage sought out all the bumps, and he wondered if maybe they should take Cooks' offer.