• ERIC BUTLER

Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past - Part 20 ch. 51 -53


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE


Jonah Cook stood straight, enjoying the height his new body provided. He tilted his head to the left, studying his reflection before nodding and turning to the tailor with a smile.


"Mr. Taylor, I am thoroughly impressed," Cook said with a broad smile. "When I heard your name and profession were the same, I assumed I was entering the den of a conman, a trickster trying to live off his family's name...but you sir are an artist."


Mr. Taylor smiled and nodded. Cook studied the man's face, remembering when he last saw the man three years ago. Both were so much different today. Cook obviously since he was in a new body, but Mr. Taylor was no longer the boastful, loudmouth drunk who needed a lesson to become the master tailor he now was.


Cook's smile widened as he remembered how boastful and disrespectful the man had been all those years ago. The amount of disdain he held for Jonah Cook the African, the servant. His tongue lashed out with cutting words until Cook held the man down and sliced out his tongue. And now Cook found the man almost docile...pleasant even. He placed a hand on the man's shoulder and looked down at the man.


"This...three-piece suit is simply amazing," Cook said as he offered a squeeze before letting go. He resisted the urge to move back to the mirror and take in the soft, English cloth the color of the darkest pit in hell.


Taylor offered a tightly closed smile. He nodded and motioned for Cook to follow him to the front. A bell dinged as the front door opened. Oringo slunk in and stood off to the side. Cook smiled, amused at the boy's reluctance to stay clean and wear fancy clothes. Of all the things James Hatty taught the boy, this was by far the worst.


"Mr. Taylor, I believe your next subject has arrived," Cook said with a booming laugh. Oringo cringed before stepping forward.


Taylor scooted around the boy, forcing his limbs into position while quickly measuring. He nodded when he finished, flashing three fingers to Cook.


"Thank you, Mr. Taylor. We will see you in three days," he said as he led the boy out.


"Our time is short my boy," Cook said as they climbed into an empty carriage. He banged his walking stick on the ceiling and the carriage lurched forward. "We must plant our diabolical germs, so they grow while we are away. You also will have time to retrieve that locket you care so much about."


"Thank you master," Oringo said. Cook nodded in approval, and they rode on in silence.


***

Mary glared at Ephraim as he carried Zona into the house. Livingstone trailed behind, tipping his hat and offering a neutral smile. He wondered if Ephraim had that effect on all women or just these two. Shaking his head, Livingstone realized he missed something. Ephraim stormed off in a huff and disappeared through the front door.


"I'm sorry but can you repeat that?"


"I said, doctor...you can leave, now," Mary said with a clipped tone. Livingstone nodded and turned to go.


"Give her this when she wakes up after some broth," Livingstone said pausing to fish out a bottle and placing it on the table as he moved past it. "She really just needs some rest, this will help."


After a moment of silence Mary let out a sigh, "Thank you doctor."


"My pleasure, we will check on Ms. Whitlock in the morning. Please send word if you need anything."


Livingstone let the door close and stared at Ephraim pacing back and forth in front of the house. He was quite disheveled and speaking to himself like a madman. Ephraim ran his fingers through his hair, his hat forgotten in his other hand. He is quite shaken up over all this. Livingstone bounded down the stairs and grabbed the man by his arm.


"Pull yourself together," Livingstone whispered as he glanced at those moving past. Ephraim blinked a few times before his eyes cleared up and recognition filled them.


"Damn it, doctor," he growled as he slammed his hat on his head, "I am more than together." Ephraim marched away and after a few steps, Livingstone decided he better catch up with the man.


CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO


Oringo paced back and forth, staring daggers at the constable standing across from the manhole cover. This was the third one he tried to use and all had been guarded. Well not guarded per se, but definitely watched if the Colonel's teachings were true. Oringo nodded to himself, he knew the Colonel was always right about the constables, which meant those bastards had made it out.


Well, at least one of them did. The thought gave him hope. Maybe the esteemed Ephraim Godwin met his end down there in the dark. If that was the case, his locket could be in the tunnel or at the morgue. He needed to stay calm.


Weaving through the crowd and crossing the street was child's play for Oringo, but he stopped a few steps away from the constable. It wouldn't do to step up to a man who might recognize him. Oringo studied the man for a few moments, taking in every detail he could but nothing rang a bell, so he stepped forward.


"Message sir," Oringo said pulling his cap forward to hide his face as he ducked his head, "Looking for those gents who were in the tunnels."


"Then you need to find Inspector Kimbell. He'll be at the Cat and Custard on Pelham most likely. If no there, Stationhouse five."


Oringo hovered a second before asking, "So they all made it out?"


The constable nodded before turning his attention Oringo and studying the lad. He leaned close and using his fist, raised Oringo's face, so he could look the boy in the eye. Suspicion painted his face.


"And who is sending Inspector Kimbell a message?"


Oringo sprang back and tipped his cap once again. He spun and sprinted away from the constable, hoping the man's duty to watch the cover was more important than questioning him.


***


"Thank God I found you," Constable Hill said to Ephraim as they walked toward Livingstone's residence. They had recently finished a rather pleasant meal of chops and potatoes at Purcell's and were retiring for the evening.


"Quite so, if Godwin hadn't insisted on walking we would be in a carriage right now," Livingstone said with a smile.


"Why are you looking for us, Constable Hill?" Ephraim asked as he stared past the man. Something across the way grabbed his attention, but he couldn't figure out what it had been. The flow of people under the gaslights was a blur of shadows. He shook his head and focused on the constable.


"This dreadful day continues sir," Hill said with a shudder. "I'm to take you to Inspector Kimbell."


Livingstone and Ephraim exchanged glances and the doctor smiled. Ephraim shook his head but knew the man was correct. They should have taken the carriage. Ephraim thought a brisk walk after dinner would help clear the mind and get them ready for bed. Livingstone remarked he was quite ready for bed, walk, or not.


"Well enough of this walking nonsense," Ephraim growled as he motioned to a passing carriage, "Tell the man where to and come on."


Hill spoke with the driver a moment and slid in next to the doctor.


"Any clue as to why the inspector requested us?" Livingstone asked as the carriage lurched forward. Ephraim stared out the window.


"My orders are to say nothing but...it's terrible sir," Hill said with a shudder. Ephraim turned his attention to the man, cursing the shadows hiding his face. If the tone of the man's voice told them anything, whatever they traveled towards was quite terrible indeed.


CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE


Zona's sleep was restless. Her body ached, stopping her from delving deeper into her dreams. So instead she floated in the darkness. She called out to Zachariah, but he either couldn't or wouldn't answer. Zona refused to accept he might be gone forever. No spirit truly was no matter the circumstance. She simply needed to get stronger, more skilled to reach him. Ephraim would need to also. The thought made her smile. That first night she would never have guessed it possible, however now he seemingly had no choice but to believe. Too much has happened.


Zona reached out with her mind, searching for the man. She vaguely remembered calling for him when she lay poisoned but the memories were jumbled and fuzzy. She would try again and hopefully the attempt would at worst tire her enough to slip into a restful sleep.

Zona imagined herself a ghost, slipping gracefully through the darkness. Shimmering lights popped up here and there, but she ignored them. Wouldn't do to attract the wrong people, or their nightmares right now. Her brother warned her of the dangers getting too close to powerful dreamers posed, especially those who are trained in the art. They would be in control and depending on their talent and will...well she shuddered remembering the descriptions.


A light bloomed in the distance. It shone with blue, red, and yellow pulses. She wasn't sure how, but she was sure she was seeing Ephraim. Whatever he was doing spiked his emotions. Zona slowed, suddenly afraid she made the wrong choice. Did she really want to witness whatever the man was doing right now?


All Zona knew for sure, Ephraim was awake. She floated in the darkness, studying the color. Blue, yellow, and red burst in front of her like waves of fury; she could feel the rage building with each pulse. Swallowing, Zona nodded to herself. Move forward silly girl.


Zona slid closer and peeked inside. Her head jerked back in revulsion as bile rose in her throat. The burning sensation jolted her awake, and she leaned over, vomiting in the basin Mary had been wise enough to leave her. Zona desperately wanted to go to sleep and rest, but she feared what she would see if she closed her eyes.


***


"That is Ms. Blair," Ephraim said with a sigh. Stanbury's bedroom flashed through his head, but that paled compared to this.


"I don't care if this Church is abandoned," Livingstone said through gritted teeth, "This is beyond comprehension."


"Ms. Blair?" Kimbell asked as he stared blankly ahead. "Someone involved with all this then?"


Ephraim nodded, pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and covered his face. He found the smell overwhelming. The poor woman lay diagonally across the altar. Her head dangled from the front left corner, her legs hung over the back right one spread open with the point a few inches showing between. Ephraim forced himself closer, noting her eyes had been removed, her chest ripped open, and he would need Livingstone's assessment, but he believed some organs were missing.


A white altar cloth covered her from the waist to her knees, but only the soaked through blood stopped anyone from seeing the obvious. Ephraim noted a dress bundled off to the back corner, and aside from the cloth, she was very naked. Livingstone is correct...this is monstrous.


"Look up," Kimbell called out as Ephraim finished circling the body.


Ephraim paused and spun around. He found the lack of blood confounding and as he began to comment, the words stuck in his throat. A few constables held lanterns high, illuminating the wall showing where symbols and words painted in the missing blood. They started just above where the statue of Jesus would hang and would light up during the day with help from the stain glass windows.


"I've seen some of these before," Ephraim said so quietly Kimbell asked him to repeat himself.


"Zona... Ms. Whitlock would know what these meant," he said instead. He motioned to Livingstone who produced a pad and pencil. Ephraim began to mark them down.


"And why is that?" Kimbell asked as he slid closer to the others, "Other than the fact the names Godwin, Livingstone, and Whitlock are written in this poor woman's blood."


"This is something dark," Ephraim replied as he removed the finished paper and slipped it into his pocket. "And something to do with the first night we came together."


Livingstone nodded and pointed to the body. "Her heart and lungs are missing. Maybe some other organs, but I can see the absence of those from here."


"I'm not sure what part poor Ms. Blair had in all this, but now there are only three of us left from that night," Ephraim said as he walked away from the body. Livingstone and Kimbell hurried to catch up.


Kimbell glanced back, "You men get the body to the morgue...then clean that wall off." The three men exited the building and stepped to the side.


"Is that a good idea?" Livingstone asked.

"The last thing we need is a panic such a display will cause," Kimbell said after a moment of silence. "The three of us know it, and those boys in there. Rumors are fine, but if a newsman or God forbid someone important saw that we'd be under it."


"Especially as the inspector pointed out, our names are listed in the victim's blood," Ephraim said with a sigh. Although honestly, he felt they had been under it for quite some time.



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