And not even all that had prepared him for the corpse in the crypt at the church, the headless torso they had discovered that day.
“Brent Malone! You’re under arrest.”
The two men had stopped. They stared at one another, and then at the officers.
“What’s the charge?” Malone asked.
Martine felt strangely unnerved. Neither man appeared armed—but then, they were wearing ankle length coats. They were both big men, very tall.
“Murder,” Georges said. His voice sounded quavery. Not good, he thought They were the police.
Though the pair they accosted were impressively sized men, they had made no outward moves to suggest danger or resistance.
“Javet knows that I’m not guilty of murder,” Malone said, frowning.
“There is a warrant out for your arrest, Malone, and that is that. The bodies are piling up, so if you’re innocent, perhaps you can prove it in jail.”
Malone stepped forward. “Gentlemen,” he said softly. “I’m very sorry. I can’t afford for you to arrest me tonight.”
Martine drew his side arm up, aiming for Malone’s heart “Monsieur, you are under arrest for the murder of—”
He suddenly found that he had stopped speaking. He found himself looking past Malone to the other man. Then he lowered his gun, dizzy. He was going to black out!
He stumbled back, falling against the patrol car. He shook his head, clearing his eyes.
“Michel!” Georges called out frantically.
“What, what is it?”
“I can’t see!”
“Hold still, close your eyes, take a breath!”
Michel had done so already. He blinked, and was greatly relieved to realize that he had vision again.
With nothing to see. The street was empty.
All around them, he saw nothing but shadows.
From somewhere, however, came a chilling sound. A deep, elongated cry in the night.
A howling ...
The night’s chill suddenly surrounded him. The shadows seemed to be encroaching, like something alive.
“Get in the car!” he commanded Georges. “Get the hell in the car!” Later, back in the light and bustle of the main square, he felt sheepish. He looked at his partner. “We never saw anything tonight, do you hear me?”
Georges stared straight ahead at the road. “Not a thing, sir. Not a damned thing.” The strangest thing about the dream was that she knew she was sleeping, that she had entered a nightmare realm, and that nothing here could be real.
But it felt real.
She was moving from darkness into light, but the light would never become really bright. The dark, she believed, was the safe realm of sleep, where, if she did dream, it was of moments gone by—simple things, strolling down a country lane, walking along the streets of New York, doing something so mundane as trying to capture the exact mood and feeling she wanted for a canvas, with the paint perhaps disappearing each time it seemed she had touched the paper with the perfect tone. The darkness was deep sleep, restful sleep, a place that was safe. Strange that a shadow realm should promise such a land of peace, while the light...
But it wasn’t sunlight, not the light of day, or even the friendly light of a street at night flooded with neon.
It was different. Muted, eerie, yellow light tinged with something that threw everything within it askew.
And there was a breeze. Not a soft, gentle breeze that wrapped around the flesh and touched with an air of freshness, not a breeze that lifted the hair as tenderly as a touch. The breeze had a chilling element Not like the wind, not like the cold of winter. It was a chill that seemed to reach with hard and bony fingers, and close right around the heart, and perhaps the soul.
She was walking, walking forward from the safety of the darkness into the unknown dread that would be so readily visibly in the odd and evil light She didn’t want to go, and indeed, tried to turn back. And it wasn’t so much that the evil reached in and dragged her out, but rather that she knew she must go forward. It was imperative that she see whatever horrors were to be discovered in the realm of the macabre; she knew only that she must move forward.
For the longest time she simply moved, aware of the chill, aware of the evil. She moved with caution, yet wondered why. She could see her bare feet take step after step, but there seemed to be nothing beneath them. She could feel the silk of her nightgown wrapping around her with the breeze, the fabric itself made cold by the touch of the unlikely wind. Her hair pulled behind her, blown out around her, tangled and whipped, and she could feel each strand as it touched her face. Her fingers were cold, her hands knotted and unknotted with tension, and she could take note of each and every sensation around her. Color ...
the color of her nightgown was light blue, almost ethereal in the yellow glow. Her toenails were painted ochre.
And the house ...
At last, she stood in the woods, and the glow was coming from a house. There was ground beneath her feet now, earth, grass, stones ... a path. A little trail, heavily overgrown, that led to the door.
Her feet hurt as she moved forward. She could hear her own exclamation as she stepped on stones and cried out softly in pain. Then, it seemed as if she first stood some distance from the house, staring at the thick, heavy old door.
Before she realized she had taken a step, it suddenly loomed before her. She was there. She wasn’t certain she had come willingly, but she was there.
The knob was cold in her hand as she reached for it Brass. Rounded. More than cold. It was icy.
The door seemed to move, to shudder inward, then outward, as if the house itself were breathing.
Come in, do come in, please . .. we’ve been expecting you.
The voice of sanity in her mind called out with valiant, determined, effort. No, no, no! It’s what they want you to do! Don’t go in, don’t go in . ..
She stilled the voice, because there was another. I have to go in. I have to go in, and find out what is behind the door. I have to go in for Jacques. I have to go in, because ... the truth is within the house . . . somewhere.
And it’s all right. It’s all right if I go in, because it’s only a dream.
Her fingers closed tightly over the knob. She twisted, pushed the door open, and the squeaking, creaking sound it made was like the sound of fingernails raking across a blackboard. She could hear it so clearly.
And then ...
Candles ... oh, Lord! Candles burned everywhere. They were tiny accents to the fire in the hearth that seemed to roar as loudly as the door had creaked. The warmth was intense, and yet, oddly enough, it seemed that the breeze had followed her in, and she was chilled and warmed, all in one. The flames in the hearth flickered blue, green, yellow, gold, and intensely red. The large flames leaped and danced in a frenzy, as if bowing to the breeze. And all around her, the candles burned with flutters, leaps, and bows, as if they too danced to the same whispered beat.
Gargoyles and grotesques lined the hearth, sat upon the newel posts to the staircase at the end of the room, and graced the arch over the long hallway that went off to the side, where the yellow light seemed to dim with shadow. Not a welcoming shadow, not the warm darkness of safe sleep, but a shadow that wavered and played in strange shapes.
She found herself walking toward it. She paused, staring up at the archway. A horned grotesque seemed to escape its inert stone boundaries and come to life, hissing and spitting down at her as she moved along. She looked up at it, and knew that it could not come down for her, yet neither did she dare come too close to it. From the hearth it seemed that she heard more— spitting, cawing, harsh, cackling laughter that was suddenly only a whisper, a sound that might have been the breeze, or the dance of the fire ... but was not.
But was not.
She looked down. The hardwood floors had been strewn with woven runners in shades of crimson, black, and gray. Battle scenes were depicted. Tartar armies defeating their foes, slicing them down in a frenzy of death. As she walked, the characters beneath her feet seemed to come to life. The victims shrieked and wailed.
Blood curled beneath her toes.
She looked up, and straight ahead. The runner was playing with her, creating fear. She had to look ahead, straight ahead. The night was illusion, she thought The house was a house. The gargoyles were fashioned of stone, and they did not move.
There was that laughter. Deeper than any whisper. It became a pulse, a beat... like a heartbeat. A heart that beat too hard ...
The hallway beckoned.
Doorways creaked open as she trod through the hall. She heard the eerie creaking sound as they parted, as the little rays of evil light seemed to escape from each. She came to the first It was barely ajar. She didn’t want to look in, but she knew that she must. If she didn’t look, it had made no sense that she had come.
She had to do it She had to know. There was truth here, somewhere.
She pushed the door open.
And she saw ...
There were bodies ... body parts ... torsos... heads ... limbs. Strewn about As she stood there, they seemed to form together, as if drawn by unseen tendons or ligaments. Furious arguments began to take place in whispered anger. Let go, you’ve got my foot! That’s my hand! And then, one of the heads rolled to connect to a neck, and the lips moved in the mottled, bony, gray, sexless face. Give me what is mine! Give me what is mine!
The eyes of the creature suddenly locked upon Tara. The lips began to move. The tongue was swollen and black, and as it moved, blood began to trickle down the decaying chin. Why, Tara, you’ve come!
Don’t you think I’m right? He must give me my own legs. I was never fat before, and I’ll not take his fleshy little knees when my own are right there... where are my arms? I must have my arms.
The better to hold you, my dear, the better to draw you to me. I must have my hands, the better to touch you. To stroke your neck. What a lovely, lovely, neck ...
The thing was almost all together. limbs danced and angled awkwardly across the room, intent on completing a full body. And the eyes ... the eyes were still on her, the lips were still moving, whispering her name.