• ERIC BUTLER

Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past - Part 16 Ch 41-42


Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE


"Are you sure there is no way to wake him?" Dr. Livingstone asked, turning his attention to Zona. She nodded, a frown on her face. There was only one way to wake him but she didn't want to test the spell's power. The last thing they needed was another person trapped in the room.


"Doctor I need to know if you have any chloroform in your bag," she asked softly.


"I believe so, why?"


"I need to fall asleep but not in there," Zona replied, motioning towards the room Ephraim lay in.


Livingstone nodded slowly and moved to where his bag sat. Moments later, he returned with a cloth and a small bottle.


"Inspector," Zona said, sliding next to the man, "I am going to retrieve Mr. Godwin and was hoping you might continue looking for any clues."


He glanced at Ephraim before refocusing on her face. He studied it, the seconds dragging to a full minute before nodding and walking to Chattoway's desk.


Zona walked to a free chair and motioned for the cloth. Livingstone doused it with the liquid and handed it over, his nose wrinkled in displeasure.


"Thank you, Doctor," she said with a smile. "Please wake me in thirty minutes if we have not returned." She placed the cloth to her nose and slumped back.


***


"Thirty minutes," Livingstone said as he checked his pocket watch before moving to the desk to help the Inspector.


Kimbell glanced up and nodded, and returned his attention to the stacks of papers.


"You would think someone who worked for Mr. Chattoway would have some filing skill," Livingstone said under his breath. He could tell the papers all dealt with real estate but not how they related to the man's death.


"These are some rather worthless areas," Kimbell said holding out a form for Livingstone to peruse.


"Curious," Livingstone mumbled, noting the listed areas. As the inspector began to pull the paper, Livingstone gasped and his hand shot out to halt the inspector. "Good God, man...look there."


His shaking finger pointed to a fine signature at the very bottom, Zachariah Whitlock.


***


Zona found Ephraim sitting in an overstuffed armchair. He was staring at a chessboard but the pieces were scattered on the floor. Ephraim gave a start when she cleared her throat.


"Bloody hell," he growled, "you nearly gave me a heart attack. You have no idea what's lurking around."


"Why are you just sitting here?"


He motioned to the wall and smiled at her expression once she noticed the door was gone.


"It does that for some reason," he said standing and stepping to the wardrobe. "The real trick is figuring out how he used this to escape, and we might catch him yet."


Zona gave him a questioning look before turning her attention to the wardrobe. She'd see one like this before in her brother's books. Sitting down, she closed her eyes and concentrated. Zona felt Ephraim's gaze on her and tried to block out the distraction. She needed her full attention focused on the problem if they were going to escape anytime soon.


In her mind's eye, Zona replayed the conversation with her brother about wardrobe travel and focused on the illustrations in his book. If only I was at home, we could be out of here in no time. She envisioned him flipping the page, and although their cat selected that moment to distract her younger self Zona caught the clue she needed.


Standing she twisted the left knob to the right, Ephraim heard three clicks. Zona grabbed the other knob and twisted it once to the left. She opened the doors and gestured.


"Um," Ephraim said not sure what she thought he was looking at but quite sure he was seeing the same interior as before.


Zona's eyes closed to slits as she glared at Ephraim. He stepped back, wondering how this was his fault. She moved to close the door but her toes bumped into the wooden frame, and she fell into the wardrobe and disappeared.


"Not again," Ephraim said diving after her; his eyes scrunched closed as he expected to hit the wood inside.


CHAPTER FORTY-TWO


Ephraim's eyes popped open and he rolled to his side. His body ached, and he wondered if everyone took turns hitting him with sticks while he was trapped playing chess with Mr. Cook. Or Zachariah Whitlock. He dreaded the thought; no the truth was he dreaded the thought of telling Zona. Ephraim wasn't sure what to believe from the dreamlike world, so he would wait.


He moved to Robert's body and secured the papers. Glancing around Ephraim saw nothing else of immediate importance. He stepped from the room, careful to avoid the blood on the floor.


"Gentlemen, I have the papers," Ephraim called out. Livingstone and Kimbell stood at the desk, Chattoway was still in the chair and on the walls, and Zona sat with her head in her hands.


"Oh jolly good," Livingstone said with a broad smile. He stepped to Ephraim and took his free hand. "Honestly I had no idea what to expect."


Ephraim wondered what his friend meant exactly but returned the smile and handshake. Zona glanced up with a sour expression and Ephraim wondered if she too was having stomach discomfort. He shook his head to remove the thought.


"We might have something," Kimbell said as he motioned them to the desk. "But in all honesty, it makes no sense."


Livingstone nodded his agreement but offered no other explanation. Zona struggled to rise, but soon was standing with the others at the desk. Kimbell passed the paper to Ephraim. His face froze when he recognized the signature at the bottom and held the paper out to Zona.


She glanced at it and let the document drop to the desktop.


"I assume you both see the name at the bottom?" Kimbell said.


"Yes, and the date," Ephraim said to emphasize it could not be her brother. "This document is signed days after his death."


"Unless he's still alive," Kimbell pressed, studying the reactions of the others but keeping his attention mostly on Zona.


"And working for the man who began all this insanity?" Livingstone asked.


"I've seen stranger things...just this past few days," Kimbell replied in an even voice.


Ephraim couldn't argue that point, he had just escaped through a wardrobe, but he knew that Zona's brother was dead...his spirit at least.


"If he is to blame for all this, then we must stop him," Zona said, her voice steel. Livingstone patted her on the shoulder and tried to offer a smile, but failed and instead gave her a slightly sick look instead.


"Sir," a constable called out. The group turned their attention to the speaker, and he noticeably swallowed. "A young man is holding a little girl near the fountain in the back garden and demanding to speak with Mr. Godwin."


Zona and Ephraim exchanged looks and moved as one, racing to the back door. The constable, Livingstone, and Kimbell were close behind.


"That's the boy who attacked me," Zona proclaimed as they exited the house.


The boy stood with his back to the fountain and the young girl stood in front of him. He held a blade to her throat and wore a wicked smile.


Ephraim wondered how she was able to stand upright, she was shaking so much. He guessed her age to three to four years younger than the boy. She had long blonde hair and a pinched face that reminded him of Mrs. Stanbury before he covered her with a blanket. Ephraim prayed she was clueless about her parents' demise.


"You need to stay there," the boy said. Ephraim was amazed at his calm demeanor. It was almost as if he didn't realize how outnumbered he was at the moment.


"He wants me to deliver a message but first I want my chain back," the boy said as he stepped back from the girl.


"Where did you get that chain?" Ephraim asked his voice barely above a whisper.

Zona slid closer and started to raise her hand. The boy sprang forward and a dull pink blade flashed in his right hand. He drove the knife into the girl's back. Her shrieks filled the garden as she reached back, clawing to remove it. Smiling, the boy locked eyes with Ephraim.


Behind the boy, the fountain water churned and sloshed as if a terrible storm was shaking a sea. White foam covered the statue as the water boiled and frothed. The boy began to laugh as he pulled the blade from the girl's back and flung it towards Livingstone.


"From my ma, and I will get it back," he said, his voice flush with anger. He turned and dove into the fountain, his form disappearing into the foaming green waves.


Livingstone cried out as the knife struck him on the forehead. The girl stumbled forward into Zona's waiting arms. She made little noises of hurt, and Ephraim turned his attention towards the girl. Her cries gained strength, and she screamed one final time before her chest exploded outward.


Zona shrieked in surprise as the girl's blood sprayed on her. She stumbled back, letting the body fall to the ground in a heap. Kimbell's curses filled the quiet air as Ephraim sprang to Zona's side. He helped her rise as the little girl's body shook before black slime spewed out the hole in her chest.


It slithered down her dress, to the ground, and towards the water.


"Stop...it," Ephraim called out to the constables but the men were frozen in shock. They followed it with their eyes but made no movement towards the creature.


The group watched it slip into the foaming waves of the fountain and disappear. The water calmed, draining off the statue. Zona gasped and pointed at the marble, no longer a cherub with a harp, now in its place stood a mass of tentacles flowing out towards them.

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©2020 by Naked Cat Press. All Rights Reserved.