Inside the Darkness Grows by Patrick G Moloney.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Instalment 10 of the Jack Burke mysteries..

Submitted: March 07, 2017

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Submitted: March 07, 2017

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The lone figure struggled to remain upright against the howling wind, far below him the waves crashing against the cliff face generated white foam that stood out in the pitch darkness. The lights of a passing freighter showed in the distance intermittently amongst the towering waves, he vaguely wondered about the sailors tossing about in the vessel on the treacherous sea. Did they fear for their mortal lives or was this a normal event in a seafarer’s existence, was it any different in the light of day or did they fear the darkness even more. He himself was very much aware of what the darkness could hide, but then again there was more than one type of darkness. There was darkness such as he was experiencing here as he stood alone on the cliff top, it was just a deprivation of light. However he had stood alone in a far different form of darkness, a darkness that was deeper and deadlier than just a lack of light. The type of darkness that took on a life all of its own, where not only was light absent but everything good and pure had also been removed. He pulled the lapels of his jacket tight across his chest; the biting Atlantic wind had a stinging bite to it. It was closing in on the last week in October now and the air temperature had been steadily falling, the vast ocean was beginning to live up to its reputation as the wild Atlantic. He had thought about returning to the city on more than one occasion lately, but that thought of sitting alone in the office left him colder than the Atlantic’s howling winds.

In the end it was the coming of the rain that drove him from the cliff top, the wind carried it into his face like so many little needles. It was time to go anyway as the aching in his damaged vertebrae sent darts of white hot pain down his leg, the last thing he needed now was to overdo things and cause a setback in his recovery. Leaning heavily on the ornate walking cane he turned to the path, only to stop dead in his tracks at a sound carried by the driving wind. He strained his ears trying to pick out the sound again, but all that was present was the howling of the wind and the pounding of the waves against the cliff far below. A sudden and unexpected emotion swept over him, a deep and profound sadness welled up inside. Jack wondered if it was this or the stinging wind that brought the tears rolling down his cheeks, he listened steadfastly for another while. But no hint of that sound came again; perhaps his mind had caused him to believe he had heard her voice calling to him on the wind. The journey down the steep cliff path to the village was an ordeal; the aching in his back had matured into a burning pain. His left leg no longer performed as it should do and his progress down the path was a slow affair, but the thing that caused him the most pain was the thought he may not see her again. It was over three months since that night in Silver Bluff and he had no news of Mabel since, he would make the long journey to the city once a week to check on the mail but never a word on her since. The last time he was in the city he had contacted the postal services to forward his mail here; he was beginning to find the drive into the city and subsequent disappointments too hard to cope with. He needed to find something to occupy his mind, to at least mask the ghost of her absence.

Bell Harbour was not exactly a hotbed of tourism even during the summer, no sandy beaches or swimming areas to attract visitors. The locals survived on the small fishing industry, any tourists that did come, came to charter a boat for wreck fishing. Jack had always liked it here, somewhere in his mind he fancied it was similar to the fishing village on the west coast of Clare in Ireland where his mother hailed from. It was his refuge, a place he usually came to when he needed to think or lick his wounds, and he certainly needed to lick his wounds now. But the trouble was this place afforded him too much time to think about Mabel, now as he sat in front of the open fire his mind was filled with her ghost. The small cottage was a Spartan enough affair, a kitchen and living room downstairs and a bedroom and bathroom upstairs. It had cost him very little and he had managed to do most of the work on it himself, he had toyed with the idea of bringing her here after the White Peak affair, but in the end he was afraid she would get the wrong idea if he offered. Now here he sat staring into the flames, drinking Irish whisky and wishing she was here. The cold woke him not long after first light, the whisky bottle was empty and the fire had long since burned out. He pottered around the cottage for a while and half-heartedly attempted to eat breakfast, but in the end he decided to go and check the mail box at the post office in the village.

The young woman behind the counter lifted her head from whatever was holding her attention, the puzzled look on her face attested to the fact the clicking of his cane against the quarry tile floor had startled her. She looked in his direction and when their eyes met she gave him a friendly smile, for some reason this small gesture made him feel more connected to the human world than he had done for a while. He tipped his hat at her and twirled his cane in a Chaplin style; it actually gave him a lift when she giggled at his antics. He suddenly realised the his isolation was not doing him any good, there and then he decided that within the next few days he would leave here and seek her out. The smiling young woman was quite a looker when he got close to her; he wondered what made her stay in this quite backwater village. When she returned with his mail she made a point of calling him by his full name, and wishing him a good day. The cheeky little wink she threw him as she handed the mail to him, actually made him feel as if he could actually be young again. He felt a little lighter of spirit as he made his way back to the car, unfortunately like every other time in recent memory the feel good factor evaporated quickly. The moment he looked at the envelope he knew that the real world had caught up with him, all the other mail was forwarded from the office. This particular one was addressed to him at Fisherman’s Lodge, Bell Harbour, the name he had given the small cottage. The thing was, he had told no one where he was lying low, and as a matter of fact the only other person who knew of the cottage was his late friend Fr Murphy. The letter inside the envelope consisted of just one sentence, “Ring me at this number as soon as possible” The sinking feeling in his stomach caused a chill inside him, he shivered involuntarily as a myriad of thoughts popped into his mind and none of them were good. A small voice at the back of his mind, told him whatever was happening was his own fault. Jack believed that voice, because everything he ever cared about in life always ended up getting fucked up.

There was a pause between the coins dropping into the box and a voice coming on the line, he almost slammed the receiver back in its cradle. A part of him badly wanted to run from this, just go back to the small cottage and climb inside a whisky bottle. “Hello Jack” just the two little words and he knew who he was talking to, the Collector waited for him to speak and the awkward silence grew. He could hear his heart pounding, it sounded like a bass drum in his head. In the end all he could think of to say was “I got your note”, he would go back over the conversation that was to follow, time and time again over the next few days. Mabel had been taken from her so called safe place; the man who had given him the cane had died trying to prevent her abduction. He stood outside the phone kiosk leaning heavily on the walking cane, it had started to rain but he did not even realise it. A concerned voice brought him back from the dark place his mind had taken him; it was the pretty young woman from the post office. She was asking if he was okay, he looked into her concerned face and just shook his head. Jack could not remember the drive back to the cottage or what had occurred over the rest of that day, his next recollection was placing his bags in the car the following morning and heading to the city. He had an appointment with the collector and a job to do; he fingered the ornate walking cane on the seat beside him. He pictured the two feet of cold steel hidden in the handle, and he pictured someone dying at his hands. Someone would pay for what had happened to Mabel and the man who had given him this cane, the same man who had given his life trying to protector her would have his vengeance.

The office was just as he remembered it; it was filled with priceless antiquities worth a king’s ransom if they were sold. But Jack had learned that the collector sold only a fraction of the items that came into his possession; he had a feeling that money had never been a big consideration for the man who sat opposite him. Jack tapped the tip of his walking cane against the plush carpet as he waited for the elderly man opposite to open the conversation. The man’s cold calculating eyes seemed to be boring into his head; he could almost feel the tendrils of the man’s consciousness probing his mind seeking out his most inner thoughts. Jack became aware that a growing anger was building inside him, eventually it spilled over and he snapped at the man. “How could you let her be taken, your people were supposed to be keeping her safe”. If his outburst affected the man in any way he gave no hint of it, the man continued to access Jack for a while longer. Just when Jack felt he would lose control and reach across the desk to grab the man by the throat, the collector spoke. The crux of the situation was the collector and his people had sorely underestimated Jeff White and the people he worked for, it seems they badly wanted Mabel for a reason that even the collector was not fully aware of. So there it was in all its devastating truth the anger was still burning white hot inside him, but to channel it against the collector would be a futile exercise. Jack reminded himself that but for the collector’s man both Mabel and he would already be dead, charred beyond any recognition in the small house in Silver Bluff.

It took quite a bit of persuading before he could convince the collector he was fit enough to go to work, in the end the elderly man handed over a dossier containing everything that was known about Jeff White. The following morning Jack found himself once again heading out of the city, inside him the white hot anger had settled into something much darker. A change had come over Jack, at some stage during the sleepless night he realised that in order to overcome the darkness he would have to embrace it. It turned out the Jeff White had only been resident in Silver Bluff temporarily, he had moved around frequently in the northern area of the state in recent years. Jack sat in the grubby motel room with a map of the state; he referenced the addresses in the dossier and marked them on the map. When he had a route worked out he lay fully clothed on the bed, it was not long before he drifted into a deep sleep. A sleep filled with wind swept cliff tops, and a voice carried from the darkness on howling sea winds. The building had been obviously derelict for quite a while, but he was taking no chances so he entered quietly through the back door. The inside was covered in a thick layer of dust and mould grew on the fabric of the curtains, he cursed to himself in frustration. This was the third dead end in as many days, he was beginning to think the information the collector had given him was useless and outdated. The longer she was missing the more hopeless the situation would become; he slammed the tip on his cane on the floor in frustration. The impact dislodged a short length of floor board; it was a struggle for him to get on his knees but once he put his hand in the space below the floor he found the book. It was a scrap book of sorts wrapped in plastic; it turned out Jeff White liked to record his achievements in life for posterity.

A series of old newspaper clips depicted Jeff White in various poses presenting cheques to various charities, the one that caught Jacks attention first was a photo of White and another group of men smiling outside an orphanage. It was taken years earlier and the paper was faded, but not so much faded that Jack could not recognise the orphanage in White Peak. The most recent clipping depicted White outside another children’s institution one of the group from White Peak was smiling and shaking his hand, the small writing below told Jack all he needed to know. A voice with a heavy Irish brogue sounded deep in his mind, it said “You will find her there Jack”. It was dark when he pulled into the small town, a quick chat with a local cashier while buying a pack of smokes told him all he needed to know to find the place he was looking for. It was situated in the hills three miles from town, another cold and dismal establishment of grey granite stone. He had been watching the place for less than two hours when White showed up; Jack took him as he reached into the trunk of the car. The impact of the cane on his head sent a shudder up his arm; the difficult part was getting him into his own car. But eventually he got the limp figure into the back seat of his car, and then he drove him out into the country side. By the time Jeff White died he had already ceased screaming for quite a while, in the end death came to him as a great release. Long after he had told Jack what he needed to know, Jack continued to slice and cut him. He made sure White would not be harming any children ever again; he looked at the butchered remains of the man and felt no real emotion. Save for the fact he knew for certain now that to defeat the darkness you had to embrace your own darkness, he drove away without a backwards glance. The man from White Peak was sitting at his office desk when Jack killed him; the long steel blade entered his right eye and exited the left temple he died without a word. Jack found Mabel exactly where White said she would be, she was secured to the bed with leather cuffs. He looked into her eyes as he helped her upright, there was no recognition only a disturbing emptiness.

The convent stood behind high walls, it was in a remote area miles from any civilisation. Nothing on any maps of this area made any mention of this place; they were totally self-sufficient and isolated from the outside world. Very few people even knew of the existence of this order of nuns, but Michael Murphy had told him about them a long time ago. Jack sat in the mother superiors office surrounded by wood panelling and holy statues, a scent of furnish polish competed with incense in the air. The nun opposite him was old and of very few words but she had a light of kindness in her eyes, she listened in silence to his story. When he had finished there was a long period of silence, then she agreed to shelter her. Jack went back to the car and led the young woman to the convent, when the nun took her hand she seemed about to resist. But then she walked meekly to the nuns side, Jack kissed her briefly on the cheek. He could feel a lump in his throat; he leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Get better soon Mabel, when you want me call my name, the wind will carry it to me”. He watched her being led away meekly by the hand, he wondered if this childlike state would one day pass and the young woman be returned to him. The drive back to the collectors place was the loneliest he had ever felt, if he was to survive he needed to be back working again. He decided to tell the collector to contact him at Bell Harbour when he needed him. In the meantime he would make frequent trips to the cliff top and wait for the wind to carry her voice to him.

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