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Thread: Werewolf (Reprising for Halloween)

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    Registered User DATo's Avatar
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    Werewolf (Reprising for Halloween)

    Werewolf

    by

    DATo



    Late upon a rainy, winter evening in 1874, in keeping with their weekly custom, a group of eleven distinguished friends were gathered at the Junior Carlton Club for gentlemen at 30 Pall Mall, London. Numbered among them was a former lieutenant of calvary, now a retired colonel, who had participated in the storied charge at Balaclava and had lived to tell of it. There were also present a current member of Parliament; a widely acclaimed playwright; a former, English, world sculling champion and the standing commissioner of Scotland Yard, Sir Charles Amberway. The assembled men were all deeply bonded and devoted friends through years of association.

    "When are you going to tell us the true events of the story, Amberway?"

    "To what story do you refer, my dear Eberly?"

    The smiles and subdued laughter of the men casually seated before the enormous hearth were proof that every man present was precisely aware of the story to which Matthew Eberly was referring.

    Sir Charles Amberway raised his hand and gestured to the young, uniformed man standing in the corner. "Oh, I say, Johnny! Scotch and soda if you would be so kind. There's a good chap."

    "Immediately sir." replied the quickly departing club attendant.

    "Eberly, my good man, I shall tell you the story when you are old enough to hear it."

    "Good God, Amberway! My hair is white, I walk with a cane, and I require twenty minutes to piss. Just how much older must I be in your discriminating judgement?"

    This remark brought open, raucous laughter from the other men marked by an occasional "Hear! Hear!"

    Sir Charles took his time to light his pipe while staring into the faces of each member of the assembled group severally. As he did so a hush fell over the group and their smiles began to wane. Was it possible that on this evening and in this room Sir Charles would finally divulge what had happened on that fateful Friday night of November 19, 1869?

    "Oh, yes, thank you Johnny. You didn't forget the bitters?"

    "No sir. Never. You always require bitters with your scotch and soda. I remembered."

    "Brilliant boy! You are a credit to this time-honored establishment. My dear young man, would you think it unkind of me if I were to ask you to leave the room for a time?"

    At these spoken words a palpable effect not unlike an electric current coursed through the gathering of assembled men. Even Malcolm Price, the quintessential emotional stoic, radiated anticipation as he very slowly lowered his glass of gin and tonic to the table beside which he was standing while never diverting his gaze from the face of Sir Charles.

    "Just as you please sir. And would you like me to close the door as I exit?"

    "You are indeed a brilliant boy. Did I not say so? You anticipate me! Yes, please close the door as you depart and please be so accommodating to request of the master steward that we not be disturbed."

    "Very good sir."

    Sir Charles took a drink from the cocktail tumbler and then peered into the amber liquid thoughtfully before lowering his arm to the uppermost thigh of his crossed legs. He then turned his head slightly to gaze vacantly at the gently burning logs of the fire. The room was absolutely hushed but for the crackling sound of burning wood and the incessant soft patter of rain upon the room's towering, draped windows.

    "We have been chums for some two and a half decades have we not? I know that there is not a man in this room who would not willingly give his life for another. You wouldn't like to see your old Charlie-boy thrown to the jackals would you? What I am about to relate is classified under the Official Secrets Act. You must therefore consider yourselves bound, upon our sacred and cherished friendship ... to silence.

    "You all know the essence of the tale, the events of which took place two years before my induction as commissioner of The Yard. Three inspectors, including myself, were sent to investigate the gruesome Shropshire Hills murders. During the course of the investigation my two companions were killed in a manner which made the identification of their bodies problematical. I was found senseless, lying prostrate in the center of a road which the natives refer to as Tooking's Tack. I was covered in blood, though no injuries to my body could be established and I was found to be clutching tightly an ancient, black-bladed broadsword which was later expertly dated to the fifteenth century. The locals, when interviewed by The Times, expatiated upon a demonic beast of regional lore as the perpetrator of the crimes; but the official judgement, as presented to the public by The Yard and confirmed by Whitehall stated that my companions were killed by an anarchist bomb blast, thus patently accounting for the severe mutilation of the bodies. I was confined to hospital for what was termed 'nervous disorder'. You men know my mettle, do you not? Is it often that a former officer of the Coldstream Guards and recipient of the Victoria Cross for valor a suspect of nervous disorders? But I tell you truly gentlemen, my nerves were indeed in a state of shambles for long on three fortnight.

    "Upon arrival in the Shropshire Hill district, and within the immediate vicinity of the perpetration of the murders, Campbell, Higgens and I separated to question the local inhabitants and take depositions of information in their possession which could aid our investigation. There were ubiquitous allusions by one and all to a beast of medieval folklore - a tale that had been passed to their progeny by ancestors for untold generations. An ancient temple ruin of indiscriminate historical significance three leagues to the west of the hamlet on Burway Hill had also figured prominently in the myth. There was evidence that a small but vibrant community had once existed in the vicinity of the ruins - a community which had been inexplicably abandoned.

    "Owing to the diabolical nature of the legend no one had heretofore ventured to establish a homestead near the site of the ruins. But a recently retired merchant of self-made wealth, still in the prime of life, had decided to move his family from the hectic pace, squalor, and teeming metropolis of London to the Shropshire Hills where they might live surrounded by the peace, beauty, and serenity of the Welsh countryside. He scoffed at the prevailing superstition and hoped as a result of same to secure land at a bargain price. For a bit of fun he brought his family, as well as supplies and two servants. His intention was to camp at the temple ruins for several days on holiday while exploring the environs to determine a suitable building site for his prospective estate. On what has been determined the second night of their stay the entire group, including three children, had been viciously slaughtered.

    "During our interviews we learned that one of the outlying homesteads was said to include a member who had recently seen a mysterious apparition which many believed to be at the heart of the yarn. We certainly did not attribute credence to the mythological explanations of which we had been informed, however, we concluded that perhaps a description of any significance at all might be helpful in leading us to the murderer, or murderers. You will readily appreciate our deflated expectations when the witness proved to be a small boy of seven years; but, blast it, there we were, and there too was he, so we decided to perform a perfunctory examination of the child before leaving. With the lad's mother and father in attendance I began my inquiry.

    "Would you be so kind as to tell me your name young man?"

    "Me name is Thomas Albert Helms sir. Me front tooth is loose and mum says I will get a sweet if I place it under me pillow when it come out. A genie will come an .... "

    "I'm sure your mother is quite correct Thomas. Now, can you tell me about this beastie-thing you saw on the moor?"

    "E' were black sir, like this." The boy scampered to the coal scuttle and lifted a piece of blue-black coal. "An E' walked strange to look at 'em when E' was a'standin up but could run quite fast, to be sure, when E' runned on both E's 'ands and feets. An sometimes E' would sing and go 'AhhhOOOOOOOOoooo'! I could see em good cause the moon was big and round and there was lots-a light about to see with."

    "And when exactly did you see the beastie?"

    "It were the night of Ma's washing day. I snuck out me chamber window to catch me up a frog at the pond. If mum or da ha’ saw me they would have hided me a good one too, but I know how to be real quiet and not nobody can see nor hear me."

    "When you last saw the beast in which direction was he moving?"

    "The boy stood stiffly and pointed to the wall on the west side of the house. The ruins lay precisely in that direction, a league and a half beyond the wall.

    "I thanked the boy while patting his head and we left the house, but not before asking the mother to tell me upon what day she performed her laundry tasks. We returned to the town where we had taken temporary residence at a modest hostel and I noted the day upon which the last full moon had occurred on a calendar which hung upon the wall of the common room. The last full moon had indeed occurred on a Wednesday - 'Ma's washing day'. Verily this part of the boy’s story was on the mark. Was it coincidence, or had the child actually seen something on the moors that night?

    "Comparing the information obtained from our individual interviews my companions and I concluded that the entire effort had been a waste of energy. Campbell suggested that we survey the temple ruins at night when the murderer might be inclined to be active on the moor, for surely he was using this structure as refuge from the elements, emboldened by the fact that fear of the legend would keep people away and thus insure his privacy. Higgens suggested that we wait for the next full moon, which would occur night after next. He suggested this for two reasons: the first, that the additional moonlight would help us see anything moving on the moor; and secondly, that there may be some routine or pattern which drew the murderer either to or away from his lair when the moon was full as was the case when the boy, we were now inclined to believe, had seen him.

    "As we sat together at the dining table Higgens remarked, 'Blimey Charles, the infant was describing a werewolf for the love of Saint Michael!' We all looked at one another blankly for a moment and then began to laugh heartily.

    "’No doubt his imagination has been influenced by overhearing the talk of his elders.’ Campbell replied.

    "In the late afternoon of the day which is the focus of my narrative the three of us set out on foot for we could persuade no one to drive us by cart or wagon to the location of the ruins which was the object of our journey. In time we nonetheless made our arrival, rosey-cheeked and breathing heavily as a result of our exertion. We then ascended a rocky path which led to the temple ruins which was found to be nestled in a small clearing surrounded by trees and woody undergrowth. The immediate effect of the scene before us evinced upon our collective sense an altogether dark and foreboding sensation enhanced by the approaching dusk. We entered the chamber which was a rotunda of perhaps thirty feet in diameter. Directly opposite the doorway which one entered after climbing several stone steps, was what could be inferred an altar made of solid stone upon the top of which was an overlay of precisely chiseled rectangular blocks forming the altar’s table top as-it-were. Investigators which had arrived before us had combed the area for evidence but found nothing.

    "’Gentlemen, the stones are manageable. Shall we give it a go?’ asked Higgens.

    "Campbell and I joined Higgens in moving the stones atop the altar, and to our astonishment found a cavity, and within the cavity was found the previously described black-bladed broadsword.

    "’How could they have missed this in the preliminary investigation?’ remarked Campbell.

    "’Amateurs!’ responded Higgens.

    "Even to anyone uninitiated to the facts surrounding the crime it would be obvious that this blade was not responsible for the massacre of the unfortunate family. It was certain that the sword had slept in the cavity at the time of the murders for the entire sword was wreathed, undisturbed, in spiderweb which had accumulated over untold ages. Taking the sword into our possession with the object of delivering it to Scotland Yard upon our return, Campbell carried it to the doorway and then, upon reflection of the long vigil remaining before us this night, placed it beside the doorway with the intention of retrieving it upon our departure in the morning.

    "Leaving the enclosure of the ruins we then employed a strategy we had calculated on the day prior. Each of us would take up positions forming a triangle, the equidistant points of which surrounded the ruins at a distance of roughly two hundred yards. Our plan was to signal by means of a constable’s whistle, one of which we each had in our possession. One blast would indicate that the subject of our search was in the immediate vicinity of the whistle blower. Two blasts would inform that the subject’s movement was directed in approach to the ruins. If the first signal was sounded the hearers would make haste in the direction of he who sounded the alarm; if the second, we would all converge simultaneously upon the ruins. In the gathering darkness we each hastened to our designated surveillance posts.

    "The silver-white light of the rising full moon provided illumination enough to easily read the face of my timepiece. I had now been at my appointed post for several hours. Checking my timepiece some time later I determined the time to be one, and one half hours past midnight. As I snapped the cover closed I heard the first report of Higgens’ whistle. Jumping from my blind I ran with all speed to the sound of what soon became a frenzied series of blasts, encouraged by the knowledge that Campbell was racing to the same sound. The night was then shattered by a series of explosions which I quickly deduced to be gunfire. Then came the first scream, a scream unlike any other, a desperate scream from the throat of one who had been injected into the very bowels of hell itself. My time in service to Her Majesty had inured me to the cries and screams of the wounded and dying - to the terror wrought by the incalculable carnage of war - but nothing in my experience had ever prepared me, had ever chilled my blood, like the high-pitched, piercing screams emanating from the direction of Higgens’ position.

    "I ran with increased determination, vaulting stones and bushes to come to the aid of my colleague and friend. Brambles tore at my face, twice I fell to the earth, and then I came upon the carcass of what was once Miles Higgens. It was as though he had been torn inside-out. His head and shoulders were covered by the bloody entrails of his viscera. His identification could only be ascertained by one of his prized, oxford shoes and small patches of the black greatcoat he had been wearing which were still visible amid the crimson and white butchery lying before my eyes. As I fought desperately in an attempt to maintain my senses there were more explosions and more screams which rivaled the first from approximately fifty yards in the direction of Jimmy Campbell’s position. Throughout my entire military service I had never faltered in the execution of my duty even under the most desperate circumstances, but now a terror I had never before known gripped me, choked me, dragged me away as with powerful steam-powered cables - away, away and away.

    "I found myself at the entrance of the temple, not knowing how I had arrived there, for I had run blindly in my terror from the unholy menace which I knew awaited me on the moor. I stumbled into the enclosure tripping on the uneven floor stones and then slowly and instinctively made my way to the altar, whether to ask an unseen god for protection, or to ask its forgiveness for abandoning my friends, I know not.

    "As I advanced my footfalls echoed in the icy air of the cavernous enclosure. I then experienced an eerie sense of an alien presence. Mechanically I glanced behind me. What I saw arrested all physical movement. My mind went suddenly blank. My legs became as wax candles softening beneath the blazing heat of an arid desert, threatening to melt and drag me down to the uneven tiles from which I knew I would never rise again. An enormous creature - a creature of no chronicled, zoological description, was crouching in the doorway through which I had entered. Its body was covered in matted, inky-black hair, its ears were erect and pointed, its snout elongated. Its overall appearance resembled the features of a canine but its cheekbones and eyes were decidedly human. It made no sound or movement, but its demonic eyes, which were locked upon my own, burrowed deeply into my very soul. A single line of saliva slowly, slowly descending from a bared and bloody fang was the only movement in the room.

    "In stupid desperation my mind raced to conceive a plan of action which could save me. I had only moments to react before the inevitable spring, and death. I slowly pulled the Webley Bulldog which had twice saved my life in the Khyber from the pocket of my overcoat. Raising it quickly I fired twice at the apparition before me. I saw blood spurt where the forty-five caliber projectiles hit their mark. Upon impact the creature made only the slightest movement and then, unbelievably, the bullets were purged from its body and fell with leaden thuds upon the tiles.

    "The creature made no movement, but looked beyond me to the displaced stones of the altar. Its eyes flickered and I sensed that the beast was collating, reasoning, evaluating ... something. It then began to warily advance several paces along the circular wall to my right while alternating its sight from the altar to me and then back again. Then, as if a decision had been made, it coiled itself to pounce upon my hapless body. I fired my gun till it was emptied with the same, previously described results as the beast rose on its hind legs and prepared to launch itself toward me. In an instant I reached for one of the enormous cut stones lying upon the altar and flung it with a new-found, superhuman effort in the direction of the creature as it sprang into the air. The altar stone struck the beast in the chest in mid-flight thus causing it to fall upon its side which allowed me time to scurry upon my hands and knees to the doorway in an effort to to escape, for I too had fallen in the opposite direction upon release of the stone ingot. As I reached the entrance of the enclosure my contortions struck the broadsword Jimmy Campbell had placed there only hours before and it fell to the stone floor. As the beast hurled itself upon me once again I lifted the sword with both hands, the pummel against my chest, the blade pointing skyward. The creature descended through the air upon me with its full weight impaling itself through its chest upon the black blade of the broadsword. All that now separated the snapping gnashing jaws from my face was the three-hands distance of the hilt of the sword. I could feel its hot breath upon my face. The human-like, fingered paws of the beast were groping to find my throat as it gave voice to a continuous stream of half-human, half-animal growls and screams. And then the effect of the broadsword became evident for the mighty heart of the beast exploded causing it to vomit a seemingly unending torrent of gore directly upon my head, shoulders and chest. It then spasmodically lurched backward disengaging itself from the sword, hopped several times upon its right leg as it fell backwards, and lay inert.

    "The rest of the story you already know gentlemen. In some manner which I cannot fathom I made my way upon Tooking’s Tack, and there it was that I was found the following day, lying senseless in the road and still clinging desperately, despite my demented state, to the broadsword which had proved to be my salvation. The monster was found by the army of special investigators and agents sent from Scotland Yard who collectively descended upon the Shropshire Hills immediately after I was found. The beast was found in the temple, just as I have described him. Two years later, after my convalescence, I was appointed commissioner of Scotland Yard."

    "But the black sword Charles! What power could it have possessed to disable this apparently invulnerable monster?" Inquired Aston Renfrow III.

    "Silver, my dear Aston. Silver, blackened by centuries of unkind neglect." Replied Sir Charles.

    Matthew Eberly rose with difficulty from his chair and knelt beside the seat of Sir Charles, taking the hand of Sir Charles in his own.

    "Dear Charles, can you ever forgive me? Had I known the facts of the grievous experience you have just related I would ... I would never have taunted you. I would never, never have asked you to relive the troubling experience you have just described. My dear lad can you ever find it in your heart ...... "

    Mathew Eberly could not continue. The faces of the other men around the room displayed a variety of emotions. Some shared Eberly’s shame, guilt and embarrassment. Others sat or stood open-mouthed, their minds attempting to assimilate what could not be assimilated. By ones and twos they took their leave until only Sir Charles Amberway remained before the still crackling fire.

    "Johnny! Show yourself Johnny. I know you’ve been eavesdropping."

    The youngest club attendant, Johnny Mercer, entered the room and stood crestfallen before the commissioner of Scotland Yard.

    "Will I be arrested sir?" asked Johnny, with slightly trembling voice.

    "No." Replied Sir Charles

    "But the Official Secrets Act sir! I’m now guilty of a crime."

    "You are guilty of gullibility." said Sir Charles.

    "I ... I don’t understand, sir."

    "Eberly wanted a story, they all did. They’ve been waiting five years to hear it. So I gave them one. My friends were indeed killed by an anarchist’s bomb. In dying they saved my life for their bodies had inadvertently shielded me from the blast, though I still required hospital convalescence for some time afterward."

    "But the beast, sir ! The sword !"

    "The sword was real enough. An antique artifact. It was found quite by accident during the subsequent investigation within the ruins in exactly the place I said it was found, but Jimmy Campbell didn’t find it, the investigators did, but that is the total extent of its relation to the story."

    "And the boy sir, the boy who saw the beast upon the moor of that one night !"

    Sir Charles smiled broadly. "Oh, good Lord yes, Thomas Albert Helms ... little Tommy. When I got out of hospital one of the first things I did was to purchase for his birthday a lovely bull pup. A far more suitable companion for such a lad than a frog. Oh, Johnny, nothing more than the creative musings of an intelligent child whose fanciful imaginings had found an attentive audience."

    "But the family which was killed sir ... on the moor!"

    "A tragic case of mistaken identity by the same anarchist group. They thought he was an MP with whom they held a special grievance and killed both he and his family to make a political statement. Bloody bad business it was."

    "But why, sir? Why did you lie to them such as you have?"

    "I’m conducting a personal experiment Johnny. I’m estimating how long it will take before this story appears in The London Times as related by my very sacred, and very cherished friends."

    And then Sir Charles Amberway laughed long and hard. His laughter proved infectious for soon Johnny Mercer was doubled over with laughter himself.

    "Scotch and soda Johnny, and ......"

    "Yes sir. I shan’t forget the bitters."

  2. #2
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    Really well written, enjoyed it very much.
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

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