Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past - Part 19 Ch. 47 & 48
Side note - I decided that something written last week was incorrect and since I would correct it for the book volume, I would go ahead and correct it now and repost for those reading this tale weekly. Thanks for the support and I hope you are enjoying the story...
This starts with the 2nd section of Chapter 46 and leads straight into today's work.
Zona floated in the dark. No magic trap kept her out of the way, she was simply unconscious. Her blood boiled at her foolishness. Always be on the lookout! She told herself for the hundredth time since sipping that tea. Whatever the Doctor had used was powerful. No...not the Doctor, but Mr. Cook, the medicine man. And while Zona appreciated his pain, she refused to forgive the man for his part in all the deaths over the last few days.
Taking a deep breath, Zona tried to contact Ephraim once again. Her cries seemingly fell on deaf ears, but she expected it was more likely the fool man was too far underground, running through the sewer tunnels looking for the boy. She shook her head at the thought.
"That boy will end up breaking him," she whispered, needing the words to be said out loud and not trapped in her head.
In all the commotion, Zona caught the boy's proclamation. She realized who the boy was and her heart ached from the information. It would do Ephraim no good to find his son after so long, to only discover his captor had corrupted the boy beyond redemption. So she floated in the darkness, praying to either gain Ephraim's attention or wake up naturally. That is if Cook didn't overdo the poison.
Constable Hill stood by the back door. He stared straight ahead, trying to keep his mind blank. Every few minutes, his gaze shifted as he studied something new in his attempt to distract him from his thoughts. Yet every time his mind slid back to the girl's chest exploding and the shadow creature slithering out. His hands trembled at his side as he replayed the girl dying over and over until he formed fists. Hill imagined he was squeezing the neck of that young lad who so easily drove the blade into her back.
The door opening shook him from his thoughts, and Hill turned to catch who was leaving. Dr. Livingstone strode out of the house and down the alley before Hill even processed what was happening. He was pretty sure the Inspector wanted everyone to stay in the house until he returned from his jaunt in the sewers. If he returns. Hill blanched at the dark thought. He'd known the Inspector for years; the man was tough as nails and would be none too pleased to find the doctor gone.
Hill stood still a moment, the internal argument in his head freezing him in place. Should he take the time to tell Clark up front or go after the doctor immediately? Hill jolted as he realized he no longer saw Livingstone anywhere and sprang forward, rushing to catch up. Clark will just have to wait.
Constable Clark leaned against the front door. He fought the urge to sit down on the stairs and bury his head in his hands. The little girl exploding forced his memories from the war to flood back in; memories he had worked hard to erase. You never really forget. The thought hung there for a moment before Clark shook his head.
"Of course not," he mumbled out loud, "But I finally had it to dreams." A tear ran down his cheek and his hand quickly wiped it away. Wouldn't do to be crying on the stoop when the Inspector returned; he forced a laugh at the thought. He would deal with the memories like he did every night, with a bottle of whatever he could afford.
"Stop," a voice called out and Clark stood straight, looking in the direction of the cry.
"Bloody hell," he growled under his breath, sliding to the top step. Dr. Livingstone was striding away, pretty as you please. The inspector had given them specific instructions to keep everyone together and safe until his return.
Has he come back? Clark glanced at the door and waited for it to open. There was no way the Inspector would keep me outside if they were letting others leave...would he? The door remained closed, so he refocused his attention to the doctor.
Clark shook his head as he spotted Hill waiving his hand and running after the doctor, screaming for the man to stop once more. Clark hurried down the stairs to join his fellow constable. As his foot hit the sidewalk he stopped, suddenly aware that Ms. Whitlock was nowhere to be seen. It seemed odd that the doctor would leave without her as they had been thick as thieves since the Inspector started dragging the boys after them just days ago.
Hill can handle the doctor, he decided as he rushed back up the stairs and into the house. Standing in the entry, Clark racked his brain trying to remember where they left the two. The kitchen! He darted down the hall, happy he would not be navigating past all the blood and bodies that filled this structure.
"Ms. Whitlock?" Clark called out as he moved through the house. He called out once more before making it to the kitchen and freezing at the entryway.
Ms. Whitlock sat slumped in her chair, a teacup shattered on the floor by her feet. A dark liquid shimmed around the pieces as a fire put off a stifling heat. He studied her a moment, willing her to move, but she sat so still. The Inspector is going to have our heads.
"Ms. Whitlock?" he asked, trying to understand what happened. She offered no explanation as he squatted at her side. Her breaths were so slight and her chest rising and falling so shallow, Clark was forced to move closer to investigate.
As he leaned forward, she mumbled, "That boy will end up breaking him."
Clark sighed in relief but wondered what she meant by that. He reached over and shook her gently. He increased his urgency, but she offered no other words and refused to wake up.
"Doctor, wait...stop," Constable Hill called out as he attempted to close the distance.
"Watch it, Peeler," a man snarled as Hill bumped into him. He shot the man a nasty look, annoyed he couldn't stop an address his attitude. The doctor was pulling farther and farther away. Gonna have to use the rattle soon if he gets any more ahead.
The doctor turned a corner and disappeared. Hill lowered his shoulder and pushed onward to the dismay of those in front of him. His hand wrapped around his truncheon in case anyone decided to issue a complaint, but after the first few people, they parted to let him rush by.
Hill turned the corner just as Livingstone entered a building down the way. Stopping in front, Hill studied the structure. What ever did the doctor need with a dress?
The door opened and a woman rushed out, "Praise the Lord, constable there is a strange man inside. Please remove him at once!" She tugged at his sleeve hoping to get him moving as she returned to her shop.
"Yes ma'am," Hill said with a tip of his cap. He entered first and glanced around. "Where is he exactly?"
"The back," she said pointing excitingly, "Over there."
Hill nodded and rushed forward barging through the opening and stopping in the back room. A young girl cowered in the corner; she raised a shaky arm and pointed to the staircase leading up. Hill sprang up the stairs stopping on each floor to check for the doctor before moving higher. The stairs ended at a door, and he burst through, finding himself on the roof.
Livingstone strode to the edge. He appeared to be arguing with himself as he moved back and forth. Hill watched as the doctor grabbed his head in pain and hunched over.
"Doctor," Hill shouted as he stepped closer. Livingstone straightened and glanced at the man before offering a wicked smile.
"See you in Hell," he said his voice deeper and fuller than the constable remembered.
"No," Hill cried out as he dashed across the roof and grabbed the tails of the doctor's coat as he attempted to step from the roof. A collective gasp issued from the people below, but Hill ignored it as he pulled with all his might. The doctor's right foot dangled over the empty air but his other stood firmly on the roof's edge. The doctor fell back into Hill. The two men tumbled to the ground and Hill moaned at the weight of the man he just saved.
"I say Constable Hill," Livingstone asked, his voice back to normal, "Whatever are we doing laying on this roof?"
Oringo slowed to a walk. If he counted correctly, he should be near the ladder he needed to escape back to the surface. Shifting the creature away from the glare, he held the lantern higher hoping to illuminate the tunnel better. After a few feet, the light reflected off the ladder. Now the hard part.
Oringo stepped past the ladder and walked a few more feet. Laying in the muck was a pile of corpses. His master said they would be fresh, but from the smell, Oringo doubted that. He was no stranger to death, but he was frightened of the dead. The image of his mother's lifeless eyes still haunted him in his dreams.
The creature squirmed in his grasp, and Oringo realized he was crushing it. He loosened his grip and it sprang forward burrowing itself in the dead flesh. Oringo fell to his knees, scrambling around trying to recapture the creature. Footsteps echoing down the tunnel grabbed his attention, and he stood.
No time for this. He hoped the creature would be unaffected. With the dagger gone, Oringo wasn't sure if his master would or even could make another. Reaching into his pocket, he removed a packet. He sprinkled the contents over the bodies and whispered the exact words his master had made him learn in a dark and unnatural tongue.
He waited a moment, shining the lantern on the pile. The creature emerged from the mouth of an old man, oozing down his chin and sliding to Oringo. He bent down and scooped up the creature. The footsteps were louder, closer and Oringo knew his time was up. He stepped back, holding the lantern high.
There, a twitch. His mind reeled from the implication. Now the bodies were writhing, chests moving up and down, and limbs flopping around like fish straight out of the lake. He threw the lantern in the muck, extinguishing the light. A grotesque smile came over Oringo's face as he began to climb the ladder. He would return at his leisure to retrieve his mother's locket.
"Do you hear that?" Kimbell asked over Ephraim's shoulder.
"Yes," Ephraim answered as he held the lantern higher, "Maybe an animal?"
Ephraim pulled up and waited. He failed to see how rushing blindly forward would help them. A loud clang sounded from down the tunnel.
"I think our quarry has departed this subterranean nightmare," Ephraim said glancing at the inspector who nodded.
Wet slippery sounds echoed down the tunnel. Splashes and moaning increased in volume and Ephraim stepped forward, trying to capture anything in the light.
"Good God," Kimbell said, disbelief filling his voice. He raised his revolver and fired multiple times into the shuffling mass.
Ephraim's ears rang as he stared at the group of bodies moving toward them. At first, he thought they were individuals, clustered together for support, but as they shambled closer he realized that was not the case. Instead, the bodies seemed to flow into each other blurring where one started and the other ended. His mind flashed to the Stanbury Estate and the fountain they used to enter this labyrinth.
The Inspector fired again, an old man's head exploded like an overripe melon but the mass of flesh pushed forward without a pause. A low hissing whisper filled the tunnel. Ephraim's skin crawled when he recognized the hiss as human voices. All who made the horde advancing towards them were speaking together.
"Inspector, I fear we need to backtrack to the last ladder and leave this pit of despair," Ephraim said as he backed up a few steps forcing Kimbell to do the same.
Tentacles started slipping from the mob of bodies, wriggling in every direction. Ephraim opened the lantern fully and swung his arm back. As his arm moved forward, he released the lantern and shouted, "Run."
Ephraim spun around and put his hand on the Inspector's back, encouraging him to move faster. A loud whoosh filled their ears as the lantern crashed into the bodies, spilling its oil and lighting the flesh on fire. The flames rose quickly, filling the tunnel with enough light for Ephraim and Kimbell to navigate with no issues save the nightmarish shrieks that filled the tunnel behind them.
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