Murder at Devils Abbey Part 7

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

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The conclusion of murder at Devils Abbey, finds Hurley fighting for not only his own life, but that of Shelia Flannigan too,

All through the meal, she could feel his eyes boring into her, but not in the way she was used to men looking at her. There was a time not too long ago, when she would have no compunction at using his obvious interest to her advantage, but lately, she was having serious doubts about her career choice. Besides for some reason she could not quite fathom, the interest he was showing did not feel as if it was sexual. If she was honest she would have to say his eyes on her felt creepy, from the corner of her eye she stole a glance at him. The expression on his face was of that of a hungry man staring at a juicy steak, perhaps it was sexual she thought, but it left her cold. Finally, the meal came to an end; she gathered her coat and bag and headed for the exit. It had been a mistake coming here in the first place, she had intended going straight home after the funeral but for some reason, she thought Hurley might be here. This thought brought a flush to her face; she only realized later that she was becoming besotted with Kevin Hurley. God knows why? After all, he was not exactly the catch of the day, he drank too much and she had heard all about his womanizing. The fact that there was every chance he would eventually be fired from the job, should have warned her off, but there was something about him that attracted her to him. Even now, thinking about him gave her a tingling feeling.

The lobby was deserted as most of the mourners had left the dining room, and gone straight to the bar. Shelia hurried to the door relieved that she was saved the bother of making small talk with anyone; she paused to put her coat on before reaching for the door handle. The hand that gripped her elbow came out of nowhere, and her heart skipped a beat. “Wait up, Ms Flannigan; surely you weren’t planning to leave before toasting the memory of your colleague”. Turning slowly she was confronted by the man that had been staring at her during the meal, Superintendent Joseph Quirke had a quizzical smile on his face that never quite reached his icy blue eyes. Shelia treated the superintendent to what she hoped was a friendly smile, all the time she wracked her brain to find an excuse for her early departure. “Come and have a drink with me, I have been meaning to have a chat with you for a while now. I like to keep abreast with how my staff is getting on.” Quirke all but dragged her to the bar by the elbow and led her to a quiet alcove away from the crowd, Shelia watched him walk to the bar with a rising feeling of unease.

Anyone that approached the alcove to engage the superintendent in chat was discouraged by a stern look from the man’s cold blue eyes. Shelia gulped from the wine glass and willed her mind to relax; there was something extremely intimidating about the company she found herself in. Quirke droned on about the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Ian Crowley, but all the while his eyes scanned the room. It was almost as if he was trying to determine whether anyone was watching them, he asked a few polite questions about how the job was going for her, but, when she answered he did not seem to be listening, and cut her off mid-sentence on more than one occasion to change the subject. After a bit the conversation dwindled out altogether to be replaced by an awkward silence, Shelia made a point of looking at her watch to give the impression that she needed to be somewhere but he ignored it. Finishing her drink she excused herself and went to the bathroom, she needed to think of an excuse to get away from this man. When she returned a fresh drink was waiting for her, and Quirke seemed more relaxed and was smiling.

A peal of high-pitched laughter echoed in her head, and it took a moment to realize that it was she that was laughing. For the life of her, she could not remember what was so funny, and this fact only caused her to laugh even more. A small voice of reason in the fog that seemed to have taken over her brain, pleaded with her to be quiet, reminding her that they were attending a funeral reception. “Are you alright Ms Flannigan, you seemed to have gone very pale?” A voice drifted to her from somewhere close, but she was finding it hard to focus and the room was tilting. A face suddenly came into focus, a handsome man with the coldest blue eyes she had ever seen. “Perhaps I better get you home; it has been a trying few days for us all.” A strong arm went around her waist and helped her to her feet, just as well because the floor was tilting and she felt unsteady in her high heels. The next thing she remembered was being placed in the passenger seat of a car, her skirt rode up past her stocking tops exposing the pale flesh of her thighs. But, the handsome man was a perfect gentleman, and he tugged her skirt back down to preserve her modesty. “Why thank you, sir,” she said, or at least that was what she intended to say, but she could not be sure that the words came out. She felt a hand brush against her breast, and the last thing she heard was the click of the safety belt locking in place. A part of her wondered whether Hurley was driving her someplace, perhaps he was taking her home to ravish her; Shelia smiled at this thought before slipping into unconsciousness. Quirke looked across at her but his expression held no smile.

The afterglow from the lightning danced in his eyes and it took a while for his night vision to return, getting out of the car he walked to the big wrought iron gates. The effects of the whiskey he had consumed earlier were waning now, and Hurley was having serious doubts. How was he going to explain why he was trespassing on the property of one of the country’s most senior judges? What he was intending to do was ridiculous, he had come here to confront a high court judge on the suspicion of being a Satanist and murderer, and all on hearsay from a priest that liked to spike his tea with whiskey. All this would achieve was to finally get him sacked from the job, and more than likely prosecuted. What he was avoiding thinking about was the real reason he came here, and it was far more than confronting Alexander Hartman. Kevin Hurley had come here emboldened by whiskey, to put an end to what Hartman and his cohorts were doing, and he had every intention of doing so outside the law. However, his mind was not about to let him ignore this fact any longer, the reality was that these people could only be dealt with outside the law, and his career was as good as over anyway.

Hurley returned to the car and drove it further down the road; he found an overgrown forestry road and parked the car. He was just approaching the gate when the lights of an oncoming car caused him to hide in the shadows, the car came to a stop at the gates and a figure wearing a hooded coat got out and pressed the buzzer. He just made it through the gap in the closing gates as the tail lights of the car disappeared around a bend in the driveway. Now that he was inside the grounds the anxiety began to build, but he pushed it from his mind and headed in the direction of the big house. He moved into the tree line, being careful to keep next to the road as the storm intensified, but for some reason, he kept having to stop to reorient.  One moment he could reach out his foot and touch the road, and the next he was stumbling around searching for that same road. It did not take long until he was lost with no idea which way he was going, it was ridiculous because it was a small wooded area yet it felt as if was in a vast forest. But even worse than the disorientation was the feeling that he was not alone in the trees, on more than one occasion when the lightning lit up the trees, he was sure he saw figures moving in his peripheral vision. This stand of trees was quickly becoming a fearful place for him, there was a bad atmosphere in the place and the storm was not helping.

Time had lost all meaning, and Hurley had to keep reminding himself where he was, and why he was even here. It was the most surreal experience he could remember having, that was apart from the experience at the ruined church, which had led him to almost killing himself in a car wreck. He staggered through the wooded area desperately trying to cling to some notion that he was still in the real world, it was as if he had somehow crossed an invisible line into a different dimension. The small part of his mind that was still capable of logic thinking, tried hard to convince him that what he was experiencing was not real. But the fear he was experiencing felt all too real, even though his mind did its best to convince him that the fear was unfounded. The visions that had manifested themselves in his peripheral vision suddenly began to make their presence felt in other sensory fields. Lisping voices whispered among the leafless trees, he could not make out what they said but he knew they were speaking about him. A skeletal hand reached out and raked bony fingers across his face, the cold sensation of rain running down his face was joined now by the warmer blood from his damaged cheek. A low whimpering sound reached his ears, and it took him moments to realize that sound was coming from him. A sheet of lightning lit up the trees and the skeletal hand was illuminated, however, it was nothing more than a low hanging branch.

A wave of relief washed over him but it was short-lived, the voices began again and their insidious whispering burrowed into his brain. He needed to get out of these woods before he lost all touch with his sanity; he had visions of being found dead from hypothermia among the trees. Hurley took off running blindly through the darkness, things reaching out and snatching at his clothes and flaying the skin from any exposed flesh. He fell and got up to continue running only to fall once again, he was exhausted now but he kept moving forward. The whispering voices threatened to make his brain explode, and he was in full panic mode now. A figure appeared directly in his path and he screamed, veering away he trundled on with eerie laughter following behind.  More half-seen apparitions closed in on him and he changed course time and time again, his legs began to feel like rubber and his heart pounded in his chest. Tears joined the rain and blood that flowed freely down his face, and he half expected his overworked heart to fail him. Something caught his eye and he turned, a faint twinkling of lights could be seen through the trees. Summoning every last ounce of energy he drove himself on towards the lights, something gripped at his foot and he fell, he kicked back against it and crawled forward. Suddenly he was in the open on grass; he lay prostrate on the soaking earth, exhausted but relieved to have left the woods behind him.

The cold began to leave him and numbness had set in, he was not sure how long he had been lying there. Part of his mind pleaded with him to get up, but he was so sleepy he just wanted to close his eye and drift off. Concentration was difficult and his mind seemed to have gone into slow motion, perhaps if he slept for a while longer it would clear his head. “Get up Hurley, please get up. You are not sleepy you are dying, you are experiencing advanced hypothermia. Get up or you will die here!” The urgent voice roused him and he lifted his head, it was a woman’s voice but he could see no one near him. With an enormous effort, he dragged himself upright and began to stagger towards the lights. With every passing moment, his mind began to slowly clear, and by the time he drew near the big house, he remembered why he was here. He made it as far as the back yard of the house and rested against the wall, he was thinking much clearer now and realized he needed to get in out of the elements if had any hope of surviving this. When he finally reached the back door he was elated to find that the lock had been damaged, he let himself in and found himself in a pantry.

Tingling sensations in his extremities were quickly followed by stabbing pain as his circulation began working once more; he was cold again and shivering, the sound of his chattering teeth seemed frighteningly loud. Hurley knew his priority was to get out of these wet clothes, but the thought of wandering naked about this rambling old house just served to make him feel even more vulnerable. The house itself was deathly silent, the lack of any sound making the atmosphere feel oppressive and intimidating. He moved through the dark pantry trying to be as quiet as possible, a part of his mind reminding him that the house was so large and sprawling that a gala ball could be taking place somewhere in the big building. Hurley searched the adjoining rooms until he stumbled on a linen storage area; he peeled the wet clothes from his body and vigorously dried himself. Then he took a bedsheet and fashioned a toga of sorts, which he secured at the waist with his belt. Creeping into the main body of the house, he stealthily moved from room to room, but the house appeared deserted. He was just about to climb the stairs when he thought he heard muffled voices coming from above.

The sound of descending footsteps reached his ears, and he shrank back into the shadowy area beneath the staircase. Hurley moved silently backwards until his back met the wall, from here he would at least have a view of the area of the floor immediately surrounding the staircase. Moments later two men appeared and headed for the front door, it was impossible to tell who they were in the poor light with their backs facing him. The men exited the building leaving the door ajar, outside the storm continued to rage. What seemed a long time later they came back in, their breathing laboured as they struggled under the weight of a third person. Just as they entered a flash of light illuminated the reception hall, the light was reflected from a large mirror hanging on the wall. Hurley’s breath caught in his throat as he saw Shelia Flannigan hanging limply between the two men. One of whom he immediately recognised, Superintendent Quirke, supported Shelia on one side, while the other man Hurley did not recognise supported her limp figure on the other side. Something was said that he did not hear, and Quirke took the burden while the other man returned to lock the door. From where he stood the unconscious girl appeared to hold tight to Quirke in a parody of an intimate dance. The other man returned and between them, they carried or dragged her upstairs, it was a long and arduous task and they stopped frequently to catch their breaths.

Hands grasped at her clothing urgently undressing her, but there was nothing seductive in the act. Somewhere far off she heard the sound of material ripping; she was disappointed now as this was not how she imagined it. She wanted to tell Hurley to stop being so impatient, she wanted to scold him for his lack of finesse. But her throat would not form the words, she willed herself to open her eyes but they felt like lead and she only managed to flicker her eyelids, the words she wanted to say came out as a groan. “She is coming around, and it is too soon.” Shelia had a vague feeling the voice was familiar, but she neither grasped the meaning of the words or the identity of the speaker. Fear began to creep into her now and she redoubled her efforts to open her eyes, the lids eased up a fraction and vague shapes of people came into her vision. Something was wrong here, she knew now that Hurley was not present. She tried to sit up but all she managed was a weak spasm of her body, it was as if her spine was damaged. “Help me” In her mind, Shelia had screamed the words, but in reality, they came out as hoarse whisper no louder than the rustling of dead leaves. Someone said something she could not catch, and a sharp pain like a bee sting on her neck sent her tumbling again into the darkness. Shelia’s eyes closed again and a solitary teardrop ran down her pale cheek.

Hurley waited for quite a while before moving to the stairs, he had no clue what he could do, but he knew she was in danger. Standing at the foot of the stairs he contemplated finding a telephone and ringing the police, but how would he explain this. He must surely look like a madman, dressed in a sheet and covered in blood and dirt. He bore a vague resemblance of the man that had died on the cross; they would never take his word against that of a judge and a high ranking police officer. Another thing that tormented his mind was the fact that Shelia may be in their company through choice. Perhaps she just had a little too much to drink and they were taking her to sleep it off, after all, he knew nothing about her private life. Finally, he found the courage to go upstairs, he needed to find her and try and get some answers from her. The first floor was deserted too, and he eventually found the stairs leading to the top of the house. At the end of a short corridor, he heard the voices coming from behind a closed door, now that he was this close, Hurley’s courage once more began to desert him. He stood frozen in the spot until he heard the sound of someone trying to climb the stairs stealthily. He found a door and squeezed himself into the narrow closet.

McCluskey slumped against the wall his breathing shallow and ragged; the pain was threatening to plunge him into unconsciousness. Rivulets of clammy sweat ran freely down his face, and the shotgun felt like a ton weight in his hand. A wave of dizziness washed over him and he had the terrible sensation he was about to vomit, he closed his eyes and willed it to pass, and it slowly dissipated. He felt as weak as a kitten but happy he had made it this far. The muffled voices at the end of the short corridor told him the end was near, forcing himself to make one last effort he moved awkwardly towards the closed door, the pump-action shotgun clutched to his chest. He reached the door and knocked softly, the voices inside went silent and he knocked again. After what seemed an eternity the door slowly opened and a face peeked through the gap, the sound of the shotgun in the narrow corridor was deafening. Bishop Edmund Carey did not have a chance to speak, the blast took his head from his shoulders, his body fell backwards opening the door inwards. The area directly inside the door had taken on the appearance of an abattoir slaughter hall. The silence that descended after that made McCluskey wondered whether the blast had deafened him.

Hurley had no sooner thrown open the door when the second blast echoed around the narrow hallway, without even stopping to think he ran headlong through the open door only to trip over the headless corpse. Lying on the ground he looked around in disbelief, the entire front section of the room was awash with crimson. Alexander Hartman lay on the floor, his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. The centre of the judge’s chest was now just one big gaping wound, McCluskey stood swaying in the centre of the floor, surrounded by a pentagram and strange symbols. He never even looked in Hurley’s direction; his whole concentration was turned towards the man standing by the altar. Quirke stood over the prone naked body of Shelia Flannigan, in his hand he held a ceremonial dagger, and his eyes were firmly locked on the barrel of the shotgun McCluskey was trying to level on him. Hurley’s stomach lurched at the sight of Shelia’s lifeless body; the alabaster skin was stained with crimson. Quirke stood stock still like a deer in the headlights, his eyes darting between the gunman and the naked woman.

The flickering candles behind Quirke gave the impression his head was swaying like a cobra, it was obvious from his expression that he was trying to formulate a plan. Finally, he spoke his words faltering at first, but once he saw McCluskey halted his advance he became emboldened. “Take it easy McCluskey; we can come to some arrangement here. Now that Hartman and Carey are out of the way, we can lead the order. I can handle this so that we come out of it as heroes. This can all work out in our favour, we will be hailed as the people who solved the case.” McCluskey’s resolve appeared to falter now, and it looked as if Quirke had convinced him. Slowly he lowered the shotgun and Quirke took this as his chance to approach him, Hurley took this opportunity to try and get to his feet. McCluskey swivelled and the gun was suddenly pointed squarely at Hurley, Quirke made his move and rushed McCluskey. Just as he raised the ceremonial knife, Quirke’s foot slipped on the bloody floorboards, he stumbled giving McCluskey the advantage.  The shotgun roared again and Quirke was lifted bodily off the floor, he crashed against the altar spilling burning candles to roll about the floor.

Hurley was on his feet without realizing it, and he hurled himself at the man with the gun. He cannoned into McCluskey and they both went down hard, but Hurley was quicker to his feet. He made directly for the gun that had fallen from McCluskey’s hand, however, the other man was on him before he could turn the gun on him. Hurley was panicking now and he swung the gun like a club, the heavy stock connected with McCluskey’s head. A sickening crack sounded and McCluskey’s head hung at an awkward angle, the man toppled to the floor and lay still. Weariness washed over him and he wanted to sit down, but the crackling sound and the smell of smoke alerted him to another danger. He approached the naked girl and was surprised to find tears streaming down his face; he hesitantly lowered his ear to her chest and detected a heartbeat. He pulled her from the altar and all but dragged her downstairs, by the time he got her to the car the top floor of the big house was ablaze.

The small office was accessible by rickety wooden stairs; layers of dust remained on the higher shelves. The fly spotted window looked out on a narrow side street and the top floor of a pawn shop building. It was situated in a part of town that had long since seen better days, but the rent was affordable and included the tiny apartment above the office. Hurley sat facing the window and sipped from the large whiskey, he stared out onto the narrow side street but his mind’s eye showed a different vista. He could not get the image out of his mind of the girl; he often thought it was a mistake going to see her in that institution. The once pretty features were strangely blank now, he had held her hands and stared into her eyes, but he saw no sign of recognition. The doctor told him it was impossible to say how Shelia’s recovery would progress, and he promised he would return soon, but that had been months ago. His muse was interrupted by the jangling ring of the phone; he picked it up and answered. “Hello, Hurley investigations, how can I help you?”

 


Submitted: October 12, 2020

© Copyright 2022 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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