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I am in my 40s and recently quit my job of 20 years to take care of my ill son and to pursue my love of writing.  Within this blog, I hope to cover all the ups and downs I will face as I go from unpublished to published writer, while facing the challenges of being a stay at home dad to a teenager battling Crohns and colitis. Along the way I'll spout off on pop culture and revisit the entertainment that made me the person I am today.  My writing primarily falls under horror but I hope to branch out to other genres as I travel down this path. 

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  • ERIC BUTLER

Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past Part IV

Updated: Feb 20


Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Chapter Eleven


Although warned of the carnage, Dr. Livingstone was unprepared for the amount of blood in the room. Taking a deep breath, he entered the room, stepping lightly to avoid the larger pools of blood. His destination was the middle of the room, where the body of a man lay on the autopsy table.


As Livingstone moved towards the body, he examined the room. Pools of blood lay all over the floor and bloody tracks of different shoes crisscrossed over the off-white tile. On the far wall, bloody handprints created a large circular eye. The excess blood ran down giving it the appearance of bloody tears. Livingstone paused halfway there and closed his eyes. While unsettling, the butchery was not unique. He had witnessed such terrible slaughter more than once on the Dark Continent. However, the eye was unique. Livingstone remembered seeing the symbol once before in a tiny village; a tiny village that no longer existed.


"Sir, are you all right?" Inspector Kimbell said after a moment.


Livingstone opened his eyes and glanced back at the inspector. "Sorry, this just reminded me of something."


When no other question was asked, much to Livingstone's relief, he moved forward to the body. The head was gone. No, that's not right...it's crushed flat. He assumed that specific violence is where most of the blood splatter came from. Leaning close, he identified bruises on the neck, and he only hoped the poor man was already dead when the rest was done.


The morgue attendant's chest was open, the flaps of skin and muscle held back with long pins inserted through into the body. Livingstone studied the opening before sticking his hands into the man's chest.


"He is missing his heart, liver, and it appears...his spleen." He glanced back at the inspector with a frown, "Whoever did this was quite tall and very strong."


"Why do you think that?"


Livingstone stood. He laced his fingers behind his back continuing to stare at the body. Releasing a deep sigh he shook his head, "The top part of the eye is quite a ways up there. I suspect only a tall man reaching without help and I spot no stool or ladder. Hard to tell exactly but I'd say taller than six feet."


Kimbell sighed and motioned to an overturned box in the corner. As Livingstone approached, he recognized the bloody remains of Mr. Whitlock's white dress shirt.

"So the killer took Mr. Whitlock's body and everything but his shirt?"


Kimbell nodded, "Lord knows why?"


Livingstone nodded and moved to return to the body when a sparkle caught his attention. He stepped to the box, grabbing the shirt, and began to look it over. He grunted in satisfaction and turned to the Inspector.


"What is it?"


Livingstone held up a blood-caked metal amulet about the size of a schilling, "It's the eye of Horus."


***


The carriage ride was uncomfortably quiet. Except for the occasional sob from Mrs. Chattoway, no one made a noise. Zona glared at Ephraim, who in turn stared out the window and watched London pass by. Why is this my fault? He simply suggested they take Mrs. Chattoway home since Zona's carriage was nearby. If looks could kill...he shuddered remembering the heat in Zona's eyes as the words left his mouth.


Ephraim chanced a glance at the two ladies across from him. Mrs. Chattoway with her face buried in her handkerchief didn't appear to detect the rage rolling off Zona in waves. Ephraim offered an innocent smile before turning his attention back to the street. Better give it some more time.


The carriage came to a stop and Ephraim hurried to exit. He waited, holding his hand out to help first Zona and then Mrs. Chattoway from the hackney. Mrs. Chattoway offered her thanks and led them into her house.


Ephraim nodded to the butler as he led them to a sitting room. Mrs. Chattoway excused herself and Zona went to stand by the window. Ephraim sat by the fire and studied the flames.


"I'm not exactly angry with you," Zona said as she crossed the room to be closer to the fire. "But we don't have time to waste taking a jilted lover home and holding her hand."


"True, but you weren't going to solve anything simply by looking at a body, and we need to know her connection to this. I couldn't bloody well bring her home by myself."


Ephraim glanced up and breathed a sigh of relief at Zona's smiling face. True the smile was small, but he would settle for anything this side of pleasant.


"You are correct," Zona said slipping into the chair next to him. "Plus you really shouldn't get too far away from me for another day or two."


Ephraim opened his mouth to question that last statement when a throat clearing announced Mrs. Chattoway was in the room. Her face freshly washed and a change of clothes almost gave her a relaxed look, but Ephraim recognized the grief with the pinch around her eyes, the flush of her cheeks, and the way her mouth fought to turn down into a frown.


He rose and after a moment, Zona followed suit. They studied her as she moved through the room to the third chair by the fireplace. She offered a timid smile and sat. Ephraim paused, waiting for Zona to sit before following. He hoped she would begin to ask questions, so he could study Mrs. Chattoway's responses.


After a sideways glance at Ephraim, Zona asked, "Mrs. Chattoway are you all right? Is there anything we can do for you?"


She stared at the fire biting on her lower lip, the silence stretched out but finally, she said, "I will be fine. Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking today. I thought I might speak with him at the office, but when I spotted him in the street...well, emotions got the better of me." She offered Zona a sad smile.


Ephraim studied Mrs. Chattoway as she spoke. She carried herself with all the dignity and poise of someone of the upper class, but on occasion her old life poked its head out and spoke of her true heritage.


"How long have you been married to Mr. Chattoway?" Ephraim asked quietly.


Mrs. Chattoway blinked as if just noticing him sitting in the room with them, "Ah, three years this May."


"And this man we just witnessed you...speaking with, he works for your husband?"


Mrs. Chattoway studied Ephraim's face as if trying to calculate how much to share with this relative stranger. He offered an encouraging smile. If not for the séance last night, he wouldn't dare ask, but they were old friends now.


"Yes, he is a clerk and may soon be given a promotion."


Ephraim nodded his understanding. Zona glanced between the two, as if not sure what just passed between them.


"Did Dr. Bent give the baby a clean bill of health after last night's scare?" Zona asked to fill the silence.


Mrs. Chattoway nodded and turned her attention back to Zona, "Yes. I was worried all the excitement might have caused undue stress to the babe, but when I awoke this morning everything was fine."


"If you don't mind, what is the father's name?" Ephraim asked. He let his gaze linger on Mrs. Chattoway as he waited for an answer.


"Oh, I guess you can find out easily enough. His name is John Roberts."


Ephraim stood and motioned to Zona that he was ready to leave.


"Thank you for your time Mrs. Chattoway...oh one more thing. Did you recognize anyone last night?"


She bit her bottom lip once again and studied the fire a moment before replying, "No... I knew no one. I came because I received an invitation from Mr. Whitlock to attend."



Chapter Twelve


"I don't believe her," Zona said as Ephraim entered the carriage. "And neither do you."


He nodded his agreement and stared out the window at the Chattoway's estate. While the home wasn't large by any stretch of the imagination, it still struck Ephraim odd that so few servants worked there. Other than the butler, he had seen no other person although he assumed there was at least a cook or maid hiding somewhere.


"You are distressed," Zona said more than asked. Ephraim turned his attention to her and offered a sad smile.


"I was thinking how lonely Mrs. Chattoway must be in that house. She most likely is fifteen to twenty years younger than her husband and is no longer allowed to fraternize with her friends and family as it would be an embarrassment to him. However, no one in his social circle will ever accept her, especially when news of the babe comes out...well, I understand why she sought comfort in the arms of another."


Zona sighed, "If what you say is true then it is tragic...but I wonder how you picked all that up in the short time we spent with her?"


Ephraim waved the question away and glanced once more out the window. Even with the little he was able to glean from the visit, Ephraim found himself stumped. He still had no idea how she fits in the puzzle and why they all found themselves at the séance the night before. Maybe Livingstone was having more luck.


***


Livingstone stood on the sidewalk in front of Zona's house as the carriage pulled up. He opened the door and helped Zona down. Ephraim followed seemingly lost in thought. Zona slipped her arm through Livingstone's as they made their way to the front door.


"My dear lady... I don't know what to say," Livingstone admitted as they stepped inside.


Mary appeared and took the men's coats and hats before disappearing into the kitchen. The three made their way to the room where the séance was held and took seats. Zona patted Livingstone on the back of his hand and smiled.


"Thank you for your concern doctor, but we must cut through the niceties and get to the meat of the issue."


"Well, then simply put...it was exactly what Kimbell related when he found us in front of the café. Someone killed the morgue attendant and stole your brother's body."


"And?" Ephraim asked, his attention fully on Livingstone.


The man fidgeted a bit before exhaling a large huff of air. "Well, I am fairly confident the man was strangled."


Ephraim raised an eyebrow and continued to stare at the doctor.


"But afterward, the killer removed his spleen, heart, and liver. He also bashed his head flat. There was quite a bit of blood and gore decorating the room; in fact, the killer left a rather large eye on the wall."


Zona gasped and closed her eyes. Livingstone's heart tightened at the flash of devastation on her face but found her spirit inspiring. He remembered how wrecked he was after his wife's passing. Weeks passed before he found the resolve to push forward and here Ms. Whitlock was in the thick of it the next day.


"And do you have anything to add to Inspector Kimbell's story?" Ephraim asked, "Something useful?"


Mary appeared and placed a tray down. She moved to start pouring the tea but Zona shook her head. Mary offered a curtsy and a nasty look at Ephraim and left the room. Livingstone wondered what happened the previous night to get such a look from another person. Ephraim shrugged and moved to pour the tea in everyone's cup.


"I've seen the eye before...in a village a long time ago. Oh, and there was this," Livingstone said as he patted his pockets until he found the amulet. He held it out for Zona who grabbed it, her eyes large.


"Where did you find this?"


"Whoever took his body, also took his clothing except for his bloody shirt. The damage was too extensive and I found this pinned to the left pocket."


Ephraim glanced over and hummed, "Hmm, The Eye of Horus?"


Zona nodded, wiping the blood from the silver amulet and studying it closely. "Nothing is missing, but I wonder why it failed?"


"Failed?" Livingstone asked before sipping his tea.


Ephraim set the pot down and stirred in some milk in his cup. "Her brother wore it for protection... I assume."


"And like the circle, failed to protect us. Nothing should have made it over so strongly...or stayed."


Livingstone shook his head. If he hadn't witnessed amazing spiritualists in Africa, he would dismiss Ms. Whitlock and her talk of mumbo-jumbo as the thoughts of a hysterical woman. But up to and right after his dear wife passed, he witnessed things that made him a believer. The world contained things that man simply can't explain.


"Any idea how?" Ephraim asked draining his cup afterward. He seemed disappointed with the choice of biscuits Mary provided, but it didn't stop him from eating them all Livingstone noted.


Zona stood and moved to the window. She stared out quietly for a long moment. Livingstone fought the urge to fidget, or stand and instead focused on Ephraim's face.


He looks tired...no, exhausted and half-starved. Livingstone had seen plenty of men starving in his travels, and they had the same hollow look around the eyes and cheeks. He wore the same clothes as yesterday, slightly wrinkled but clean. Livingstone wondered if he would notice or even care if they weren't.


"Honestly, I have no idea," Zona said finally. "The number should have stopped someone from entering the circle fully, and the amulet should have allowed Zachariah to send them away as soon as he wanted them gone. We are dealing with something powerful to override that."


Livingstone shuddered. If someone skilled in these arts failed so completely, what hope did they have?



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