Ephraim Godwin and the Sins of the Past : Part VI
Ephraim led the way into the office of Stanbury and Devitt. A bell chimed to announce visitors. The spacious room had multiple tables and desks positioned throughout. A black stove stood opposite a wide fireplace, where a fire was dying down. The room was warm, but not stifling and Zona smiled as it seeped into her body. Visions had a way of removing her warmth, allowing a chill to take over.
"Just a minute," a voice called from behind a door at the back of the room.
Ephraim motioned to a seat off to the side but Zona shook her head. She might be tired after her spell, but she could stand. They waited a moment longer before the door opened and Mr. Devitt stepped through, his arms loaded with rolls of parchment. He glanced up and gave a start.
"Good lord," he said with a frown, "Whatever are you doing here?"
"We need to speak," Ephraim said. "Is your partner here as well?"
Devitt placed the papers down on a desk and stepped closer to the three. He fidgeted with his hands and Zona noticed perspiration appear on the man's forehead. He glanced back towards the door before nodding.
"Yes...yes, he's here," Devitt said his voice barely above a whisper. "But what do we need to speak about? I didn't see anything the other night."
Zona touched his arm and offered a reassuring smile. He stared at her for a moment and then gave a start.
"Oh, where are my manners, please sit," he said motioning towards the chairs near the fireplace. "Would you care for some tea or something stronger?"
"Tea would be splendid," Zona said continuing to smile as if to encourage Devitt. He returned the smile before turning and hurrying back to the door.
"What did you do?" Ephraim asked leaning in as if to share a secret.
"I simply smiled," Zona said. "It does wonders. You should try it sometime."
Livingstone snorted as he glanced between the two. Zona smiled and winked to the doctor and turned her focus on the flames. She recalled the smoldering remains of the village, smelt the burst and roasted flesh, and she wondered if it would ever go away. Zachariah always led her out of the visions in a way that left the more unsavory bits behind. This time however it all remained.
"Zona," Ephraim said, snapping his fingers to get her attention. She opened her eyes wide in question, focusing on the two men.
"You disappeared for a moment...just wanted to make sure you were back as our host arrived."
Zona read the concern on Ephraim's face, even as he tried to hide it from her. She nodded and reached over and patted his arm. "I'm fine...truly I am. A little tired but a spot of tea and this fire should help tremendously."
"Lily should be here in a moment with that tea," Devitt offered as he sat in one of the open chairs. He motioned to the other gentleman sitting next to him. "This is Charles Stanbury, my partner. Now, what exactly do you need from us?"
Ephraim and Zona shared a look, Livingstone sat quietly watching the other men carefully. Zona nodded and Ephraim turned his attention to Stanbury.
"I am Ephraim Godwin and this is Ms. Whitlock and Dr. Livingstone. We met Mr. Devitt the other night at a seance. Since that night we've made some shocking discoveries and hoped you might be able to help us."
"I don't see how," Stanbury said with a frown. "I told Devitt it was a bunch of rubbish and when he returned he confirmed it. Said he witnessed nothing but a show, a charlatans' act."
Zona shifted to the edge of her seat and gazed at Devitt. She seemed to be dissecting him in front of the others, and his cheeks flushed before he cleared his throat.
"What are you doing?" he asked his voice filled with confusion. She continued to study him, not blinking or offering an answer.
"I believe she is reading you," Ephraim said to fill the quiet. "Wondering why you would tell such a story. Ah, here comes the tea."
A mousy woman entered the room. She moved in a timid manner that did the opposite of what she wanted as all eyes turned to her. She placed the tray down between Devitt and Zona and offered a slight curtsy. She waited until Devitt waved her off and began pouring the tea himself.
"Fine, blast you. I may have told a white lie to you Charles...something did happen," Devitt muttered as he presented the first cup to Zona. She blinked at the offered cup and took it with a gracious smile. Ephraim and Livingstone were next and then Devitt handed Stanbury a cup before placing the pot back down.
"No tea for you?" Livingstone asked.
Devitt shook his head, "It gives me a massive headache, so I avoid it when I can. Not to be rude, but we really are very busy so what is it you want?"
"It's two things, but we suspect you can cover them both with one answer. Tell us about Roberts and the village massacre."
Devitt's face blanched at the question while Stanbury sipped his tea. The quiet returned and filled the room oppressing even the heat.
"I know you were there...because I was there also," Livingstone said placing his cup down. "Well, not there but I would have been if not for that awful lion incident."
A light appeared in Devitt's eyes, and he nodded, speaking before pausing to think, "Oh goodness, that was some nasty business. We eventually got those beasts under control, but they seemed possessed, the way they followed us and kept attacking."
Stanbury glanced at his partner and sighed, "Well I guess the cat is out of the bag now."
Devitt closed his eyes, his cheeks flushed in embarrassment. "Forgive me, Charles, ever since last night I've not been myself."
"Is that what the man from your past was holding over you? Is the village the secret you wanted to keep from the outside world?"
Stanbury nodded. "Yes, just being there stained us. There are rumors of course, but only a select few know how terrible the truth is. I believe that the truth would destroy us. Hatty suggested as much."
Zona held her empty cup out to Devitt who took a moment to realize she needed more. He quickly filled her cup, offering more to the others who declined.
"We need to know what happened," Zona said quietly. Devitt and Stanbury studied her before sharing a glance. Devitt shrugged and Stanbury spoke.
"A part of our regiment was sent with Edwin Roberts to protect him as he spread God's word to the heathens. At first, we believed that was all we were doing but after some time it became quite clear that Roberts had an alternative motive...to collect as much wealth as possible from the villages we visited. If they accepted God and gave gifts to the church, we spared them but if they resisted..."
Devitt jumped in at the pause, "If they resisted he found excuses to order us to attack. Roberts was clever though, always making it appear as defending ourselves or protecting the church and crown. But every time the smoke cleared, He ordered the men to strip the place clean of any valuables. Edwards kept most of it, but he always shared a little, claiming God's will that we be compensated for doing our duty."
"When I was with the group, he destroyed no villages," Livingstone said quietly.
"No...the lion incident was the catalyst. Roberts claimed the villagers used dark magic and bewitched the lions. After you left, he punished the village and wiped it out. We moved on to the next village and did the same. We realized the pattern, took our cut and left. We sold our commissions and returned home with our pockets full. Then We opened this trading and shipping company and tried to forget that time."
"What aren't you telling us?" Zona asked a sad knowing smile on her lips. Devitt refused to make eye contact and stared at his hands as they fidgeted in his lap.
"Yes, terrible things happen all the time but this man claimed to have something that he threatened to use against you...something worth money to keep quiet," Ephraim said.
"Before we left we killed a fellow soldier, an officer...or thought we did," Stanbury said with a sigh.
"Terrible man... Colonel James Hatty; we called him the Butcher. In the last village, they barely waited before attacking. In the center of the carnage was Hatty, stripped to the waist and covered in the blood of the villagers. He moved from hut to hut, with a group of bloodthirsty soldiers. They murdered everyone in the huts, stopping only to rape the women."
Devitt shuddered as he listened to Stanbury. Shaking his head he mumbled, "Terrible, just terrible."
Stanbury nodded as he continued, "Bill and I stopped when we saw the madness take over the boys. No longer was this a mission of goodwill, of sharing the good word. Instead, it devolved into plain and simple debauchery. We followed the Colonel to the last, largest hut in the center of the village. By now all the others were busy fulfilling their own pleasure and the man hunted alone. He had been in there for a few minutes before we arrived. The sounds...inhuman cries of pain and humiliation came through those walls...froze a man's soul."
Zona glanced to Ephraim. He wore a look of horror and understanding that broke her heart. His eyes shined with unshed tears and his lips pressed tight in a slight frown. His hands no longer held the cup as he gripped both arms of his chair with such force she was surprised the wood had not splintered. Suddenly aware of her gaze, he tried to relax but with little success. Zona turned her attention back to Stanbury.
"Since there is a lady present, I will not go into any more details. Safe to say what the Colonel did to that poor woman and her child will haunt me to this day. We entered and as he lay, with his back to us, we drove our swords through him. To my eternal shame, we took whatever we found and ran. Heading back to relinquish our commissions and escape back to England to forget...as if we could."
"That's why we run this business as we do," Devitt spoke after a moment. "We are trying to make up for our roles in that dark time. And then he returned after all these years."
"He wanted revenge, and he would have it by destroying us and our business," Stanbury said his voice thick with emotion. "I could not allow that. I hired a man to track him. I stress we only wanted Hatty followed until we figured out a way to fix this but our man swears he was seen and forced to kill the Colonel in self-defense."
"So the spirit was this Colonel?" Livingstone asked remembering the dark shadow pouring from the medium's mouth.
Devitt nodded, "But I didn't know he was dead. So I assumed it was a trick or a part of his plan. So when the lights went out I ran. Came straight to Charles and told him what happened. Charles informed me then that Colonel Hatty had been killed hours earlier."
"Who did you hire?"
"An African we use for such activities, his Christian name is Jonah Cook. Strange fellow but usually gets the job done with no fuss. This was the first mistake he made in the three years we've employed him."
"Where can we find Mr. Cook? And did he supply you with Hatty's whereabouts?"
"Mr. Cook is near the brewery on Browns Lane. Hatty slept somewhere on Charles Street near where Thomas Street intersects."
"It's a shame you weren't here a few moments earlier," Devitt said. "You just missed Mr. Cook."
Jonah Cook coughed into a handkerchief. He pulled it away and frowned. The quantity of blood increased each time. Jonah was dying; the magic to get him to England and close enough to exact his revenge required a heavy price.
The crow trick took more out of him than expected. Once, that trick could be pulled off without any drain. Yes, in my younger days. He frowned at the thought. Looking in the mirror, he traced the lines on his face. His younger days were only ten years ago, but no one would believe that now.
Although it helped him move within his enemies circles, this older unrecognizable mask. But soon he would wear a new face, one that would allow him greater maneuverability within society. He placed the mirror down and left the room.
Jonah Cook took the steps down to the basement. Blocks of ice sat throughout the room driving the temperature down. Goosebumps rose on Jonah's naked flesh. He ran his hands over the bumpy skin, stopping on a long angled scar. He would miss that on his new body, the reminder of how much he despised the English. Do you really need to be reminded? He let out a long breath before shaking his head. His memories of his village, his family, his wife's and daughter's broken bodies would be enough. He would take that with him where ever he went, in this life and the next.
Jonah glanced to the corner of the room and studied the woman tied to a chair. The woman trembled but Jonah wasn't sure if it was from the cold or fear. He stepped closer and squatted so they were eye to eye. She flinched when he reached up to her face and for a moment his anger burned hot. Taking a deep breath, Jonah forced a smile on his lips.
"My dear Ms. Blaire, it will all be over soon. Play your part and I promise you a freedom you never experienced before."
Ellie Blaire struggled against her bonds while fear made her eyes bulge and the gag muted her screams of terror. Jonah patted her on the leg and stood. He moved to the center of the room and picked up a pocket watch.
Soon; Jonah bent over Zachariah Whitlock's body on a long table. He had covered the cold dead flesh with symbols and characters with the blood of Chattoway's unborn baby. She had proven quite useful in his quest for revenge. He smiled as he ran his fingers over Zachariah's soft hair. Soon he would be a new man; one final sacrifice to finish the spell.
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