Another in the "What would you do?" questions.
As the scene opens a young wife in Mid-Victorian New England has recieved a letter and a plea - coupled with a warning from her husband. He is on a desparate mission to recover an object of great and terrible power that has been stolen from his keeping. The thief has also murdered a companion and robbed the young man of all of the funds with which he had been entrusted to persue the criminal.
So now he is forced to ask his teenage wife to secure the remainder of the money and bring it to him.
But he also must give her a warning. There is something else besides the money in the dark cellar. Something that does not like being disturbed.
Excerpt from The Scrimshaw: Coming in the Fall of 2008
"This brings me to what I must ask of you my loyal wife. Were there some other way - but there is not. I am now bereft of all of my funds as the thief Tanner left me not a single coin. I have been forced to borrow the price of a train ticket to New Bedford from innkeeper Hows. I swore to him that I would repay him but he would have none of it. He said to just bring the thieving black dog back to Sudbury to stand trial for the murder of John Twin-Hawks. I promised to do all in my power to bring him to justice. And that is where I need your help my dear one. You must go into the room in the cellar where I keep the scrimshaws, which I know you despise, as please believe me - so do I! There, go to the northwest corner of the room and pull up the third floorboard from the right-hand wall. You will find a strong box containing a portion of the gold eagles. You must bring them to me in New Bedford so that I may continue my pursuit of Tanner.
Once you reach New Bedford, take a goodly room at the Bristol Hotel down by the harbor. It is there I will come to you.
One final instruction. Nay – a plea from one who loves you more than his own life. Leave today my love. Do not linger another hour in the house on Skaket creek.
Upon finishing the reading of this letter, go straight to the house. Pack your valise. Then while the sun still shines through the cellar window upon the scrimshaws, go to that room and retrieve the gold. But I implore you. Do not tarry! You must be out of that house and away before sunset. I fear that in his selfish and cruel greed, Tanner has set something in motion that only the hand of God with my poor help, can set right.
Come to me with all speed, my own dear wife.
Your devoted and loving husband
Fiona's hands trembled again. But this time she was afraid that no amount of willpower could stop them.
The pages fluttered from her fingers into the sand. She reached down absently and gathered them up. Then stuffing them into the damp pocket of her still wet dress, she started up the path to the house. She looked up at her home, but for the first time with fear. A dark cloud passed over the sun, plunging the house into wavering shadows. It looked somehow - sinister. As though there was a dark and brooding presence waiting there. Something evil. Waiting. Waiting for her.
She thought about the noises she'd been hearing at night recently. A shuffling and a creaking sound. But now they no longer seemed like the normal, friendly sounds of a new house settling on its foundation. They seemed dark and - evil.
Calling on the last remains of her Scotts/Irish courage, she walked quickly into the house. She threw clothes into her old carpetbag and hurriedly rushed down the stairs without even bothering to change her sea-stained dress. The worst part was entering the cellar room.
Clutching her tiny gold crucifix in one hand and reciting the Lord's prayer in a continuing litany, she quickly found and pulled up the floorboard. She grabbed the strongbox, tore it open and up-ended its contents of gold coins into her carpetbag walked to the door. She had just reached the threshold when a wind from nowhere blew it shut - right in her face. She reached out her hand, slippery with the sweat of cold fear and turned the handle. It wouldn't budge.
No. Oh no!
Once again a spiteful cloud passed over the sun and the room was thrown into shadows. The creaking noise began.
"Oh sweet merciful Mary - Mother of God," she prayed, "Please help me. Don't let me die here - in this awful place, I pray you. My husband needs me. I must go to him. He needs me. And you know sweet Mary, that I - I – am, and will be - needed. Oh please - help me!"
The tears poured down her face as the sounds of creaking timbers and rising wind became louder. "No! Please!" She gave one last desperate tug on the door handle it. And it turned.
Still blinded by tears and goaded by terror, she fled blindly up the stairs, out the back door of the house and into the carriage shed. She threw the carpetbag into the surrey, dragged their old mare into the harness traces and frantically urged the poor old horse into a trot.
"Come-on old Bess. Please girl. Run, yes run! That's a good old girl,” she sobbed gratefully as the horse picked up speed.
She didn't look back as the ocean wind blew the sandy dust away from the surreys tracks. But all the way down the dirt road, she could feel the stare of something evil. Watching her leave. And waiting.
Shadow of Innocence
Kunati - April 2007
Ric Wasley has spent almost forty years wandering through corporate board - rooms and honky-tonk bars. He now divides his time between writing mystery novels – Shadow of Innocence & Acid Test - McCarthy Family Mysteries – and observing the really ‘juicy parts’ of the human condition
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