Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past - Part 15 Ch 39 & 40
Livingstone slipped past Ephraim and Ms. Whitlock. He stood in the same room they had first met Mr. Chattoway. Except this time, the room was painted with the man's insides. Livingstone stepped lightly, trying to avoid the bits and pieces lying haphazardly about. Pools of the man's blood dotted the floor as well.
Mr. Chattoway sat in a chair near the middle of the room. Livingstone leaned closer, inspecting the man and discovering the same angry scratch running down his face that the fountain woman had. The man's features were swollen and discolored but managed to retain enough of his features to be recognizable. Wonder if the water played a part with the young lady? His curiosity stirred, he tucked the thought away to be revisited.
The pressing concern, Livingstone decided was the large hole in the man's chest. Leaning closer still, he studied the damage before shaking his head and glancing back to the others.
"Can someone bring me a lantern?" he asked suddenly aware of the lack of any real light in the room other than the dying fire.
A constable handed him a small, hooded lantern, and he nodded his thanks before motioning the man to open the curtains. Might be enough daylight to help; he found the idea of sunlight most settling. The constable waited for Kimbell to give the okay before sliding them open.
Ms. Whitlock gasped, her face no longer buried in Ephraim's shoulder. Livingstone glanced at the windows and shuddered. Bloody hand prints and smudges decorated the glass. But clearly, a message was smeared, YOU WERE WARNED.
"Indeed we were," Ephraim said as he stepped to the side of the doctor. Livingstone nodded and shined the light on the opening.
"Just as I thought, his heart is missing as is many of his vital organs," Livingstone noted as he started to point at various spots, inside and out of Mr. Chattoway's remains.
"Hard to tell if they were taken or used to decorate," Ephraim said peering around the room.
"Very true, but I am fairly confident his heart was taken."
"Gentlemen, I have Mr. Roberts," Zona called out, no longer showing any effects from the room's carnage. So much, that she walked through this room to investigate another.
Livingstone was impressed by her fortitude and moved towards her. Ephraim wore a straight face, but Livingstone saw his jaw tighten before following. They stopped at the doorway and glanced in.
John Roberts lay in a pool of blood. He was on the floor and from the bloodstains on the carpet was making his way back to the larger room. This was the office of a secretary or bookkeeper: something close by for Chattoway if he needed instant answers, but closed off enough so Roberts could get work done undisturbed.
Deep gashes ran down his back, and through his clothing. Livingstone pointed to some words on the floor.
"What does that say?"
"Why it looks to be Whitlock," Kimbell said as he walked up.
"Why would he write my name in his blood?" Ms. Whitlock asked seemingly as befuddled as the rest.
"Look," Ephraim said. "He is holding some papers, maybe they can explain this." He stepped through the doorway and instantly fell. His unconscious form slammed into the ground with a crunch.
Ms. Whitlock immediately grabbed the other men and pulled them back from the doorway.
"We can't enter," she said, worry eating at her voice. "Someone has cast a sleeping curse on that room. Without knowing the parameters, there's no way of knowing for how long."
Kimbell glanced at her from the side, and Livingstone read the disbelief on his face.
"Believe me, Inspector," Livingstone said. "A few hours ago I would have scoffed at such a suggestion but now...now I understand there are forces at work here, man is not equipped to comprehend."
"Oh, I've worked with Mr. Whitlock long enough to understand that, but we have a victim just feet away, whose written her name in blood and I can't investigate closer because of a supposed curse? But unless Godwin is in on the gag as well...he seems proof enough."
The three turned their attentions back to Ephraim as he lay on the blood-soaked floor, a soft wheezing snore coming through his broken nose.
Ephraim stood at the end of a dark hallway, every few feet a gas-lit fixture shined dimly. He shook his head, he was always puzzled why so many preferred gas lights to candles when you still needed so many to light an area. But then again, Ephraim wasn't the one lighting all the candles.
He turned and studied the door. It was a dark brown wood he was unfamiliar with. Ephraim reached out and ran his hand over the smooth finish, surprised to feel warmth radiating from the door. He grabbed the knob and turned it this way and that, but it remained locked. A booming laugh drew his attention back to around.
"I guess I'm meant to move that way," Ephraim said aloud, hoping to find comfort in his voice.
He stepped forward, tentatively at first before quickly tiring of being cautious and hurrying with each step. He counted the light fixtures as he passed, lit and unlit, and became flustered when he hit fifty. How bloody long am I expected to walk in this hallway?
As if to answer his question, a door opened to his left. Ephraim paused and looked in. The room was empty except for a small couch, upon which sat two creatures holding hands. A red light from an unknown source bathed the whole room, and the creatures seemed to be soaking it up. Ephraim fought the urge to enter and sighed in relief when the creatures began to quarrel in a nonsense language and then grow violent with each other.
The door closed and Ephraim shook his head, unable to process exactly what he just witnessed. Pushing forward, Ephraim began to count again. This time he stopped at the hundredth fixture and waited.
A door opened to the right and Ephraim gave a start. The African from the shared dream sat at a table. There was one other empty chair and a chessboard on the tabletop. He slipped in and the door slammed closed behind him.
"Ah, Mr. Godwin so good of you to join me," the African said as he stood and gestured for Ephraim to take the other seat.
"So we meet again Mr. Cooks," he said as he took his seat.
The African smiled and moved a pawn to e4. Ephraim studied the board and moved his pawn to e5. Mr. Cooks nodded and motioned to the side of Ephraim, where a glass appeared filled with an amber liquid.
"I hope you realized long ago we are not in the real world," Cooks said with a wide smile. Knight to f3.
Ephraim nodded as he picked up the glass and took a long drink. The liquid warmed his insides as it traveled down, and he sighed from the experience. Knight to c6.
"Although you can die here just as easily," Cooks said with a laugh. Bishop to c4.
"For some reason, I trust a poisoned drink is not your style." Bishop to c5.
Cooks offered a slight nod, a smirk dancing on his lips. Pawn to c3.
Ephraim studied the board. He was a fan of the game, but rarely had a chance to play it, and he wondered if Cooks was using some kind of sight to play or if he was a student of the game. Whatever he was doing, Ephraim hoped by playing some of his plans would be revealed. Knight to f6.
"You were warned. Since you've continued you will now have to finish the contest with me, all of you," Cooks said with an exaggerated frown. Pawn to d4.
"This isn't a bloody game, innocent lives are being slaughtered," Ephraim hissed as his pawn took Cooks' pawn, d4.
Cooks slammed his hand on the table issuing a thunder crack. Ephraim grabbed at his ears moaning in pain.
"Do not dare speak of innocent lives to me," Cooks snarled. Pawn to e5.
Ephraim stared at the African and sighed, remembering the village in the dream. Knight to e4.
"I will see England scoured from the earth for what was done," Cooks said in a low even voice. He stared at the board before reaching out, bishop to d5.
"While you have my sympathy," Ephraim said. "You must know we will stop you." Knight takes pawn f2.
"How's that?" Cook said sneering, "With a stiff upper lip and a slip of a girl scarcely aware of what she's dealing with?" King takes knight f2.
Ephraim stayed quiet. Honestly, he had no idea how they were going to stop him. He had no idea where he was at the moment or how he even got there. Ephraim studied the board, hoping in the quiet Cooks would grow impatient and say more. A mantle appeared to the side and a clock struck eight.
Ephraim's pawn took another of Cooks' pawns, c3. Cooks nodded and stood. A wardrobe appeared in the room. Cooks opened it and pulled out a rumbled, white suit from the back. Ephraim glanced at it and back at the board wondering what move he would make next.
"I assure you that slip of a girl is more than capable of ending whatever you have planned."
The board began to shimmer, and one by one the pieces disappeared as they fell through. Ephraim glanced to the floor, but wherever Cooks sent them it was no longer in the room. He leaned closer, staring at the shimmer as it smoothed out and became a window. A black shape rushed towards Ephraim; tentacles, slime, teeth, eyes, and a darkness unlike anything he had experienced since the war. It slammed into the window and pushed, trying to force its way out.
"That is all that is holding it back," Cooks said his voice now raspy and whisper quiet. "I will have it opened soon enough and the irony is who is with me to help."
Ephraim glanced up and stumbled backward, knocking his chair over and struggling to keep his balance. Cooks was gone, and in his place stood Zachariah Whitlock.
"Everything you hold dear will be the first to go," Whitlock said with a smile. "I mean that which isn't already gone."
Ephraim overcame his shock and stepped forward, his hands clenched tightly into fists. What does he mean by that?
"If you ever escape this room," Cooks said as he placed his top hat on his head and held up his cane. "You may very well find out."
With that, he stepped into the wardrobe and closed the doors. Ephraim rushed and pulled them open only to find it empty. He entered and closed the doors. Nothing happened. He left the wardrobe, swearing when he noticed the door he entered through was gone. There was only the table with the board left and his chair.
"I sure as hell hope she's as good as I boasted." His words rang empty as Ephraim sat down to wait.