Bad Press ( Part 4)

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

Corbett has joined forces with detective Jones. It is a partnership of convenience that lacks trust, but he believes that there may be safety in numbers. However, neither man is aware of the darkness that is closing in on them.

It started as a low moaning that built and built until it reached a crescendo of sound that human vocal cords were never designed to utter, a wind suddenly appeared in the room and lifted the stack of papers from the table and spun them around in a vortex. The source of the sound stood in the center of the room, and by any stretch of the imagination, it would be hard to describe it as a human being. Where once stood an attractive blonde woman, now stood what could only be described as a shifting shape, sometimes human, sometimes animal, and sometimes a thing so horrific it was beyond description. Eventually, the sound faded as if the thing uttering it had used up all of its energy reserves, the room fell silent except for the soft rustling of papers falling to the ground. The shifting shape solidified into the shape of a woman, but this time her appearance was different.

 She looked to have aged significantly, but not to the extent that would reflect her actual age. For she was far older than most would believe, the explosive rage she had just exhibited had abated to something deep and burning inside her. Sophia had misjudged Corbett’s willingness to please her, he had left Granger’s house without properly searching it. She knew there had to be something in there that would lead her to what she sought, but Granger had been a wily old adversary. He had performed certain rituals that prevented her from entering the house, now she would have to gain control over Corbett again and send him back in there. Sophia and the people from whom she took instructions were not the only ones searching for Granger’s memoirs. There was a lot at stake here and a rift had appeared between what once were firm allies. The ancient society had broken into two rival camps, and she intended to be affiliated to the one that came out on top.

The tall thin man stood statue-like against the brickwork of the wall, the only light entering the enclosed yard came from the door that stood partially open. The aroma of fine food being prepared in the kitchen that lay beyond that open door would have had most people salivating. But the tall man dressed in clothes of a bygone era had long since been devoid of any inclination towards pleasures of the pallet or flesh. He ate neither for pleasure nor hunger, but solely as a means to fuel this body that had become a prison for him. Even his name meant nothing to him; it was only a handle by which others referred to him. Aharon was little more than a machine albeit of flesh and blood. Just like that thing that masquerades as the blonde woman, he existed to do the bidding of others. The thought of the blonde woman stirred something in the darkness that was his mind, and if he had recognized it as an emotion he might also have recognized it as jealousy. For unlike him Sophia had not been stripped of everything human, she still knew the feelings of human emotions, even if they were the darkest kind. In truth, neither of them belonged in this world, but she had a much firmer foothold on it.

The door leading from the kitchen swung open fully, and the man dressed in the fine evening suit stepped into the yard and lit a cigar. He looked a picture of calmness, but inside a rage was burning. He did not like being disturbed at his private club, especially when he was dining with politicians and power brokers. Still, if that thing called Aharon had deemed it necessary to interrupt him here, then the matter must surely warrant his attention. Behind him, the sounds of a busy kitchen were in stark contrast to the stillness in the darkened yard. “Come forward Aharon and stop skulking in the shadows, I know you are there I can smell you.” The tall man stepped from the shadows, being careful to remain just beyond the small pool of light spilling from the doorway. “Neither Corbett nor the blonde woman is anywhere to be found.” His voice sounded like the rustling of dead leaves, and what he had to say was a source of great displeasure to the man in the suit. “Go find them then, and do not return, until you have the information I require.”

Aharon faded back into the shadows, and the man with the evening suit cursed softly beneath his breath. By the time they had discovered that Granger’s dying words were nothing but lies, the Deadman’s study had been emptied of every scrap of paper. Sophia and the reporter had beaten them to the punch, and now their only option was to locate her before she found what they all were seeking. Ian Blackwood dropped the cigar on the cobbled floor of the yard and ground it to powder beneath his heel, he was filled with a blinding rage, but he was also fearful. The fact that Maurice Granger had turned from the path and was threatening to expose the workings of the society was bad enough. But when it was discovered that he had stolen the book of rituals, then other things came into play. Whoever possessed that book had the means to reach the very top, and Ian Blackwood had every intention that he would be that person. Blackwood forced his mind to be calm and returned inside, he was entertaining the police commissioner and the Mayor and they both had a stake in this as well.

The stench of urine and vomit stopped him dead in his tracks as if he had walked up against an invisible barrier. The toilets of the Lame Duck should have been sufficient proof that the pub needed to be closed on public health grounds, but public health inspectors or for that matter any persons representing officialdom tended to give places like this a wide birth. Detective inspector Royce Jones had picked this pub for precisely those reasons, he was well aware that he could murder Jack Corbett right here in the bar, and be sure that not one witness would come forward to say he had ever been there. The thought of putting an end to Corbett’s miserable life brought an all too fleeting ray of light to his troubled mind, but it just as quickly faded leaving brooding darkness. It wasn’t that he particularly disliked Corbett enough to end his life, but because of the reporter sticking his nose in where it did not belong, Jones now found himself in the middle of something he did not want to be in. Jones lit a cigarette hoping it would mask some of the stenches, and entered the toilets. He slipped into the cubicle and closed the door behind him; he lifted the cover of the cistern and found the Luger pistol and ammunition wrapped in plastic.

Jones dropped the pistol into the right-hand pocket of his coat, and the ammunition went into the left-hand pocket. A sudden wave of anxiety washed over him and he felt light-headed, he leaned against the filthy wall and squeezed his eyes shut. Eventually, the anxiety and light headiness began to abate, leaving in its stead a feeling of overwhelming confusion as his mind tried to make sense of how it had all come down to this. In the beginning, his sights were set on someplace worlds away from the filthy latrines of the Lame Duck pub, he had been so naïve it beggared belief. Royce Jones believed that a young lad from a filthy mining village could make it to the top of law enforcement in the big city. How fucking dumb could any one guy be? Jones was never destined for the circles where the membership of certain societies guaranteed success. The world of secret handshakes would always be denied him, and once he had learned that his life changed. Jones turned a blind eye when he needed to, and took his share of the dirty money; he became a good little errand boy for the people at the top. He just wished that the kicking he had doled out to Corbett would have been an end to this, but here he was in shit just as deep as Corbett.

Corbett gave up trying to attract the bar man’s attention from where he sat, so he got up and stood directly in front of where the barman sat leafing through a magazine about motorbikes. He cleared his throat loudly several times only to be ignored once again; anger flared up inside him. But for the arrival of Jones, he might have said something to the barman that he would later regret. Jones called another round and directed Corbett back towards the shadowy alcove, giving him a look that told him he was out of his depth here. Corbett watched the surly barman have a long whispered conversation with Jones, and Jones pushed what looked like a lot of money across the bar. This seemed to thaw out the tattooed man’s attitude, and he brought fresh drinks to their table at regular intervals. The strained conversation between them was kept neutral, as both men weighed up how the subject should be broached. Corbett was sure that Jones knew more about what was going on than he was saying, and Corbett was trying to weigh up just how much he should share with the detective regarding the strangeness of the past few days.

In the end, he gave a watered-down version of what had happened, leaving out the bits about the house falling into dereliction overnight. He told Jones that he had met the blonde woman named Sophia in a bar, and while he was drunk he had blabbed about the story he was chasing. They decided they would break into the Maurice Granger’s house to see if there was anything newsworthy to be found there, and the last thing he remembered was her driving him to the square. Corbett took up the story again from the point where he had awoken in the derelict house across the road and returning to find his flat had been burgled. Jones listened in silence and when Corbett finished, he sat there staring into the shadows beneath the table. It was his turn now to paint a blurry picture of what he knew about the situation, it needed to be some version of the truth. Because he was well aware that even though Corbett had descended into alcoholism, the reporter still had a keen nose for when he was being blatantly lied to. Jones had been taken upstairs and given simple instructions, find out what Corbett knew about Maurice Granger aka Fredrick Sykes.

Jones was left with little doubt his instructions were coming from the very top, it appeared the death of Granger had garnered great interest in the dizzying heights of law enforcement. Although it remained unsaid Royce Jones was left with a strong impression that once Corbett had divulged everything he knew, the gods of law enforcement would prefer that he disappeared permanently. It would not be the first time Jones had operated in the shadows for his superiors, but he had a disquieting feeling that he was being pushed out on a limb here. Hence the illegal firearm in his pocket, he would have no compunction in putting a bullet in anyone that became a threat to him. From here on in Jones was going to save his skin come what may, and if that meant killing Corbett and making a run for it, then so be it. He had also decided that the first chance he got; he was going to put an end to the walking cadaver that had burnt him. He would look that long streak of rotting flesh straight in the corpse-like eyes, and then put a bullet through his face.

Jones persuaded Corbett that both of them might be in very real danger, and the best course of action would be to combine forces to find out what was behind all this. He was also careful to emphasize the fact that there just might be a front-page story here, but in the end, it was not a hard sell. Even Corbett realized that neither of them would be safe until they knew what they were dealing with here, and he could not do it on his own. They finished their drinks in silence, and both men were lost in similar ruminations regarding their mortality. Outside the narrow street resembled a stream bed as rainwater ran freely down the gutters on either side and even though Jones’s considerable bulk stood within reach, Corbett had a sudden feeling of isolation. The shadows seemed to have grown thicker and more menacing since he had entered the pub. The small narrow street acted as a wind tunnel, and the breeze made an eerie moaning sound as it rushed through on its way towards the river. When they finally reached the well-lit high street Corbett breathed a sigh of relief, glimpsing over his shoulder he would have sworn that something stirred in the shadows.

The secluded square stood silent and empty, and the sheets of rain made the possibility of them being observed minimal at best. The faint glimmer of light showing through the windows of some surrounding houses came from narrow chinks in drawn curtains. Corbett dismissed the idea of alerting Jones to the fact the rear of Granger’s house could be accessed through the hidden laneway, to do so would point to the fact that he had more knowledge than he had shared with Jones. They parked the car on the main road and continued on foot to Granger’s front door; Jones took a leather wallet containing lock picks from his inside pocket and got to work on the door. All the while the detective worked, Corbett had the feeling of being watched, and he kept glancing over his shoulder at the darkened house he had awoken in the previous morning. “Got you!” Jones whispered and pushed the door inwards and he disappeared into the darkened interior without waiting for Corbett. The reporter had to force himself to follow the detective inside; something about this house gave him the creeps.

“Close the door.” Jones’s voice drifted to him from the darkness beyond, once the door was closed and locked, a beam of light from Jones’s torch lit up the interior of the hallway. Unlike the way Corbett had been on the night he came here, Jones did not seem in the slightest perturbed about breaking and entering. Corbett had an idea that this was not his first time gaining illegal entry to a building, he watched as Jones went from room to room making sure the curtains were drawn. Then as if it were his own home, Jones turned on every light in the downstairs part of the house. The parlor was lined by shelves on each wall, some of the shelves contained strange figurines depicting figures that seemed half human and half reptilian; these figures looked very old and gave Corbett the willies. The remainder of the shelves were filled with dusty tomes and hard-backed books. What titles he could read all dealt with esoteric subjects. Mr. Granger had an interest in occult and religious subjects; Corbett wished Jones would hurry up so they could get out of here.

Jones had no intention of overlooking anything and he worked slowly through each room, Corbett left him to it and wandered around picking up framed photographs and studying them. If he was ever to write about these events he needed to get some kind of insight into Granger himself, quite a lot of photographs covered Maurice Granger attending various gala balls and charity events. Granger was a tall broad-shouldered man with piercing blue eyes, all of the photographs on display showed him as a man in his mid to late sixties. Corbett recognized quite a few of the people photographed with Granger, and they were all high profile. A strange thing about these photographs was the fact that, no matter how high profile the people involved, it somehow seemed that Granger was the main attraction.

Corbett found it hard to reconcile the confident-looking man in these photographs, with the man who became a recluse and was dismissed by the police force as being deranged. There were just too many questions and not enough answers, and he decided then and there that he would have to let Jones know about the contents of the envelope he had found. There was going to be a hell of a lot of work involved in finding out what that key belonged to, and after all, Jones was a detective with access to information Corbett would be denied. Upstairs Jones began searching the bedrooms, and Corbett made his way to the study. He gave it a few minutes before calling for Jones, he handed the envelope containing the key but minus the four-digit number to Jones. Jones took the envelope from Corbett’s hand and treated him to a suspicious look, before putting the envelope in his pocket and continuing his search. Something about the study and the strange sigils scratched into the floor made Corbett nervous, he left Jones searching and he moved to the bedroom. There he found the photograph; it was a picture of a group of people in evening dress. A much younger version of Granger could be identified by his piercing eyes, and on his arm was a blonde woman. Even though he knew it could not be possible, Jack immediately recognized Sophia.

There was something extremely disturbing to see Sophia standing in a photograph that had to be decades old, looking just as young and appealing as the night she came to his bed. She was turned towards the camera lens with a mocking smile, and the longer he stared at the photograph the more he felt as if it was him that she was mocking. When Jones called that it was time to go, Corbett was more than happy to oblige. The damp air outside felt refreshing after being in the claustrophobic atmosphere of Granger’s house, Corbett paused on the pavement taking in deep breaths. But suddenly the hairs on the back of his neck began to tingle as if an icy hand had brushed his skin. Without a backward glance, he hurried after Jones who had walked ahead of him, by the time he reached the car Jones had the engine running. “Hurry up Corbett, we will go back to my place and have a look at that key you found.” Corbett was relieved when the square was a diminishing feature in the rearview mirror.

The Burgundy-colored Jaguar pulled slowly from the shadows and followed in the direction of Jones's car, Sophia hung back just in case Corbett spotted the car. She was not sure whether he would even remember what car she drove, but she was not willing to take the chance of being spotted. She was not particularly bothered if they managed to give her the slip, for she would sniff Corbett out no matter where he hid. She had lain with him and he was tainted by her essence, just like an animal marked its territory, she had marked him. Corbett had been of more limited use than she had hoped, but the fact he had teamed up with the other man gave rise to hope. Together they just might lead her to what she sought, and once she had it they both would die painfully. The thought of killing brought a surge of excitement to the blonde woman, and she smiled. Unknown to the smiling woman she too was being observed; Aharon stepped from the shadows and walked to where he had parked the big black motorbike. He was in no hurry because he already knew where both Corbett and Jones lived, he was sure he would find them at one or another address. He would find what he was sent for, and put an end to both men and perhaps the entity that took the shape of the blonde woman. Maybe then he would be allowed to be at rest.

Submitted: August 08, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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