By Randall Stone
I tried the handle but the door was locked. A futile exercise, born of complete boredom. I personally had locked the door and held the only key. Still, it was an excuse to stand and stretch my legs.
I had been on duty for just over four hours now, sitting on that awful, stiff backed chair and guarding the only door in or out of the Colonel’s study. There was a window of course but it was without a balcony and we were three stories up. The nearest drain pipe even was at least forty feet away from the large bay window and it was an eighty foot drop straight down to a very unforgiving pavement. No, the only way in or out of the study was through this door. Colonel James Hesswell was on the other side of that door, under house arrest, one might say, only this was at his own request. I, personally wasn’t on duty that morning when the Colonel had visited our station, so it was my Chief Inspector who had filled me in before sending me over there and it was a very strange tale he told me.
I consider myself to be a very open minded person and am up on all the latest inventions and news of this glorious new millennia. Just a few years previously we would have laughed at the idea of a horseless carriage or men travelling through the air in a powered machine but yet, in this year of 1905, we had them both and marvels besides. The story that our Colonel told however and what happened that night is utterly beyond belief and had I not witnessed it myself, I don’t think that even my broad mindedness could have accepted it for real.
In a very agitated state, the Colonel had charged into the station and had explained to a most disgruntled and surprised Sergeant Alice that he was under attack from an African curse. Apparently, Colonel Hesswell had been the commander of a unit that had been sent to liberate the British base of Ladysmith, about a hundred and fifty miles south west of Pretoria during the last Boer War. On the way there from Durban, the Colonel had received intelligence that a small village some five miles east of Ladysmith, was hiding Boer Commandos. With a skittish manner and bulging, rolling eyes, he had explained to the Sergeant that his unit had gone to Mbasu, the village, with the intent of interrogating the natives there.
Things had apparently, gotten quickly out of control and the Colonel had sanctioned the use of torture to gain the information he wanted. During this diabolical episode the Chief’s eldest son died at the hands of his men and so he was cursed by the man. Because he had stood and watched the death of his son, the Chief had said, the Gods would make sure that the last thing he heard before his death would be the drums of vengeance, just before having his eyes ripped from his head. In a fit of rage, the Colonel had run the Chief through with the man’s own war spear. For the past three years he had put it from his mind but that previous night, he had been kept awake by an incessant drumming of whose source he had been unable to determine. Rather than keep a man of the Colonel’s standing in a dingy police cell, the Superintendent had decided to place four of his men at his disposal and guard his house. I was to guard the study, the most secure room of the Colonels residence, while another officer watched the front door and middle landing. We also had two other officers watching the front and back of the house.
Yawning, I put my ear to the thick, oak panelled door but could discern no sounds from within. Checking my pocket watch, I found the time to be eleven minutes past