|Posted by Kent Whittington on March 23, 2012 at 7:25 PM|
A new short for my readers. :-)
To Whom Shall You Inquire?
by Kent Whittington
“You have a very serious problem here, doctor.”
“I know that, Mr. Abraham,” Doctor Winscombe replied with perhaps less tact than he had originally intended. Being a man of science and a prominent physician in and about the London community, Doctor Edward Winscombe could hardly admit to the supernatural, whether it be in theory or in practice. Surely in his own mind he could not believe in the existence of ghosts, specters, haunts or things that go bump in the night? It just wasn’t cricket!
After the events of the previous day, however spiritual or natural, something had to be done. Whatever this thing was had decided that it would manifest itself in the middle of tea with his good friend, Lord Ransom, knocking over tables and shattering gas lamps in the parlor as well as causing objects to be propelled at dangerous velocities at the two men while quite nearly beheading Winscombe’s housekeeper, poor Mrs. Prescott. It was then that Lord Ransom had recommended the Order to him.
“Order?” Doctor Winscombe had said, “What are these people then? Some divergent sect of religious fanatics? Spiritualists perhaps (a type of people Doctor Winscombe had little regard for)? One of the many secret societies such writers as Doyle might write about in his detective mysteries? Surely, my good fellow, you seriously do not mean to recommend lunatics to me, do you?”
He remembered Lord Ransom laughing as he replied, “My dear doctor, The Royal Order of Hunters is nothing like that at all, at least not in full. The members of this Order are more akin to men of science who also employ spiritualistic techniques in the practice of eliminating threats of a supernatural nature.”
Doctor Winscombe had scoffed at his description, saying, “Magicians, you mean to say, Lord Ransome?”
“If you prefer the term, sir, then yes, I suppose that you could call them that. It is as fine a moniker for them as any.”
Winscombe scowled, “Ah, but if I were to to take your recommendation, your Lordship, then should I not consider myself the laughing stock of all of London?” Lord Ransom had smirked at the remark, adding nothing more to the conversation. Driving his point forward, Winscombe added, “Besides, what do I really know of spirits? Perhaps what we experienced was nothing more than the shaking of the earth beneath our feet? Perhaps a shifting of the land?”
“Perhaps,” Lord Ransom said, acquiescing to the good doctor, “although I myself felt no shaking to go along with the commotion. For now, doctor, may we agree that we shall think upon it no longer if that is your wish. But do try to keep an open mind, won’t you? The Order does come highly recommended in matters spiritual.”
“Why, by the Queen, of course,” said Lord Ransom as if it were a known fact, “The Royal Order of Hunters owes its fealty to the throne, and has ever since the Dark Ages, I suppose.
Later that evening, after having pushed all thoughts of tea, Hunters and spirits aside, Doctor Winscombe would have forgotten about the matter completely had it not been for what had occurred in his bedchamber that very same evening.
Just as the good doctor had slipped between the covers of his bed and eased in for a good nights sleep, the apparition manifested. A pale, gaunt specter emerging from head to full-torso only, the phantasm had the form of a woman who had been half starved to death. Fully emaciated, the creature stood at his footboard, a free floating entity, eyes hollow and black, its mouth agape in a silent scream.
“Wh-who are you?” Doctor Winscombe had remembered saying, barely able to form the words for the fear that had unexpectedly chilled his soul. In response, the haunt pointed toward him and screamed, a horrible, unearthly wail, sending the entire room into disarray and upsetting everything, including Doctor Winscombe’s nerves! With a frightening roar, the fire in the hearth flared to dangerous levels, threatening to set the room alight in its passing as the apparition rose up into the ceiling and disappeared. Doctor Winscombe had become so frightened by the ordeal that it took him a good hour to compose himself enough to call for Mrs. Prescott.
Doctor Winscombe slept no more that night.
The very next morning, a drowsy and highly distraught Doctor Winscombe called upon his friend, Lord Ransom, imploring him to contact the Order on his behalf Lord Ransom replied to Winscombe with haste, informing him to expect a Mr. Johannes Abraham and his associate at three o’clock that afternoon.
As the clock in the hall chimed three the doorbell rang. Mrs. Prescott answered the door and let the Doctor’s guest into the house. Asking the two to wait in the foyer, Mrs. Prescott entered the parlor where Doctor Winscombe had sequestered himself, saying, “Doctor, there is a Mr. Johannes Abraham from the Royal Order of Hunters and his...associate here to see you, sir.”
“Associate, you say?” Doctor Wiscomb had asked.
“Yes sir, and if you ask me, the whole thing is a bit unorthodox. Imagine! A lady dressing like that!”
Curious as to her meaning, and eager to greet members of the Order, Doctor Winscombe said, “Show them in, please.”
Mrs. Prescott exited the room to return moments later leading the doctor’s guests into the room. The man, who was obviously Mr. Abraham, was a gentleman, roughly in his twenties, dressed in a nondescript brown suit and vest, an auburn coloured ascot, dark brown waistcoat and bowler. His shock of dark hair threatened to overwhelm his hat as he removed it from his head, although in contrast he sported an immaculate mustache and goatee. Winscombe smiled as he was introduced to Doctor Abraham. Everything about the young man said ordinary, aside from a large brown satchel he carried with him, very similar to the physician’s bag Winscombe carried when going to visit his patients..
His young companion, on the other hand, was a contradiction in terms. While her features were as beautiful and striking as any woman of high birth, everything she wore spoke of decidedly American male affectations. She wore her red hair long under a cowboy hat that sported what appeared to be an odd set of goggles upon its brim. She wore a dark waistcoat, similar to her companions, but rather than a fashion befitting a lady, the woman had chosen to dress in a man’s white collared shirt and dark brown leather vest (forgoing a tie, the doctor had noticed for some reason) and, of all things, loose fitting leather trousers and cowboy boots. On her waist, Doctor Winscombe noticed a leather belt, slung low on her hip. It had slots sewn into the strap for what appeared to be bullets, although the projectiles she sported appeared more as shining metallic capsules with small nodes atop them rather than bullets. Was she carrying a gun as well?
The good doctor was momentarily distracted by the woman’s appearance, a fact that seemed to please her if one were to note the her expression. Abraham, seeing the effect his companion had on the doctor, cleared his throat and said, “Doctor Winscombe?
“Mr. Abraham,” Doctor Winscombe had said, recovering remarkably fast and rising to take the man’s hand, “so good to make your acquaintance, sir.”
“A pleasure, doctor. May I introduce my associate, Isabella Stanton.”
Isabella Stanton held her hand out demurely in stark contradiction to her appearance, “A pleasure to meet you, doctor.”
He took her hand, noting their accents in addition to their attire, “You are an American, I presume?”
“Yes sir,” she replied, “my family hails from Pennsylvania, but I’ve spent much of my life on the American frontier.”
“Hence the attire,” Abraham added.
“Ah, yes,” Winscombe said, “Please, I will hope that you will pardon my reaction to your appearance. It’s rather unorthodox for a woman of means to go around in men’s attire even in your United States, is it not?”
“Forgive me, Doctor Winscombe,” Stanton said, “I would normally not dress this way, but these clothes are solely for the work that Johannes and I do.”
“Spiritual evictions, such as that which you require from Isabella and myself, demand the utmost freedom of movement. For Isabella to run about in a dress would be problematic, not to mention outright dangerous.”
“Your accent is slight, sir, but do I detect a touch of Germanic?”
“Very good, doctor,” Abraham said, genuinely impressed, “I am a native of Strasbourg, though I have been a citizen of the British Empire for some time now and have been slowly losing the accent. I usually believe my accent so slight now as to be nearly undetectable, but you surprise me in this! You have quite a knack, doctor.”
“I have traveled extensively in my youth during my studies abroad,” he said. “Can I offer you and your companion a drink, sir?”
Abraham shook his head. “For myself, no, thank you doctor.”
Stanton’s face lit up at the offer, “I wouldn’t mind.”
“Sherry, or perhaps you might require something stronger?” Doctor Winscombe said, noticing the scowl that suddenly swept Abraham’s face.
“I would enjoy a brandy, if you have it, please.” Stanton said, ignoring her companion’s disgust.
“What gentleman would not?” As the doctor poured a brandy for Stanton and himself, Abraham said, “please forgive me, doctor, but I feel that I must apologize for my companion. Isabella has never been one to pass up a spirit, either non-corporeal or alcoholic. I myself prefer to work with a clearer head.”
“Yes, please do forgive him, doctor,” Stanton replied taking the drink from the doctor’s hand, “Johannes would prefer the two of us sober during our outings.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right, Miss Stanton, is it?”
“Missus, that is. At least it is formerly. My husband was a lieutenant aboard the Virginious.”
The doctor’s eyes widened, “The Virginious you say? Terrible business that. Blasted Spaniards! You must have been quite young when he passed. My condolences to you, madame.”
“Yes, terrible business indeed,” Abraham replied solemnly, “but, be that as it may, we are here to work, not to socialize.”
“Yes,” Doctor Winscombe replied, “quite right you are. Won’t you please sit down?”
Johannes Abraham took the comfortable looking, plushly padded chair across from where Winscombe had been sitting only moments before, resting his satchel in his lap and leaving his companion to take the settee. Isabella Stanton draped her body across the seat, thoughts of her departed husband haunting her memory, but determined to enjoy herself and her drink until the work actually began.
“Ah,” Abraham said, enjoying the feel of the large, comfortable chair, “very nice. So, doctor, please do tell us your tale.”
“Am I to believe that Lord Ransom has not informed you of my plight then?”
“Just the opposite, Doctor Winscombe,” Stanton chimed in, “but we prefer to hear our clients personal accounts.”
“Yes,” Abraham added, “second-hand accounts often lack some truth, and the more the story is told, the worse the actual details become until the tale becomes wholly incongruous with the actual events.”
“Of course,” Winscombe said, who then proceeded with his narrative of the events that had transpired the previous evening. Unfolding the details before them he then added, “you must understand that this is all rather speculative. I have read the accounts of the popular spiritualists and even taken part in a seance or two, only to decry them as fraudulent in the end. I personally have never believed in the world of spirit, but how to explain what has occurred here in my home?”
“Interesting,” Abraham said, preferring to stay on the subject of the doctor’s, alleged haunting rather than his personal beliefs, “and you say that the first event took place here?”
“Right in this very parlor, sir, yes,” Winscombe replied.
Abraham nodded and rose from his chair. “Isabella, if you would be so kind, my dear?”
“As you say,” Stanton said, rising, “let the show begin.” Stanton removed the strange, green-lensed goggles from atop her hat and fastened them over her eyes. Aside from the green lenses, Winscombe noted other lenses of varying sizes, thickness and colors attached to the sides of the goggles by miniature armatures. Stanton, he noted, wandered about the room, flipping the strange lenses down or up as seemed necessary.
“Anything?” Abraham asked.
“Nothing yet, Johannes. I’m getting some flashes here and there, but nothing concrete.”
The doctor’s interest was peaked, “Mr. Abraham? If may ask, what are those things on her face?”
Abraham smiled, “I call them spectrometric spectral detection goggles, doctor.”
“Johannes’ own invention, doctor,” Stanton said as she surveyed the room, “they magnify and measure light, heat and spectral energy. They also look quite lovely on my hat.”
“Spectral energy, did she say?” Winscombe asked.
“Yes, that is correct. With those goggles we are able to detect spirits.”
“Remnants of spiritual energy actually,” Stanton chimed in, “usually when we have arrived, it is almost always after the fact. These goggles allow us to trace the spirit in question.”
Abraham added, “Stanton has a keen eye, doctor. I designed the goggles to modify what she could already see.”
“She can see spirits?”
“Spirits, entities, ghosts,” Stanton said, “I have been able to see the dead ever since I was a young girl. Usually it’s no more than their ectoplasmic remnants however, hence the need for the gog--” Stanton stood stock still, staring intently at the ceiling corner behind Doctor Winscombe.
“Isabella? What do you see?” Abraham demanded.
Stanton’s voice became a whisper. “It’s there, Johannes,” she said, pointing at the spot, “A woman. By the goddess! Johannes, It’s a--uh--” She hesitated, and it seemed to Winscombe that she was holding something back, although now was far from the time to inquire as to what it was, “ it’s sitting there, on the ceiling watching us. Careful, now.”
Abraham opened his satchel and produced a small device. It was black and metallic with brass corners and what appeared to be a crystal ball mounted atop it. Abraham moved slowly toward the corner and gently placed the device on the floor below it.
“What is that thing?” Winscombe demanded, “What’s going on?”
“No questions now, please doctor,” Abraham replied, “the work we do now is quite delicate. Any disruption could prove detrimental.” Abraham backed away from the corner asking, “Is it still there?”
“Yes, but it seems to be curious about the trap now.”
“Trap?” Winscombe asked.
“Good,” Abraham said choosing to ignore the doctor, “that is as it should be. Perhaps we won’t need the guns this time after all.”
“Guns?” Winscombe cried out, suddenly remembering Stanton’s holster, “you intend to fight this thing with guns? In my home?”
From Stanton’s perspective, the ghost, who had until then been slowly reaching out to the trap, suddenly jerked its spectral hand away, startled by Winscombe’s outburst. Whether or not it understood the implications of what Winscombe had cried out was unknown, yet the ghastly entity, sensing danger, bolted straight up, passing through the solid ceiling into the room above.
“Damn!” Stanton cursed, “it’s running!”
Stanton was on the move before she answered, “upstairs!”
Abraham retrieved the trap and as he rushed out the door he said to Winscombe, “You have a very serious problem here, doctor.”
“I know that, Mr. Abraham,” Doctor Winscombe replied as he followed with perhaps less tact than he had originally intended, “but I wish to point out that if it is your intention to fire weapons at whatever this thing is, that simply will not do!”
Abraham stopped abruptly, causing Winscombe to nearly rush into him, “Doctor Winscombe, we are professionals I assure you. Unfortunately We did not have the time to discuss our terms for your investigation, so let me make something very clear to you. Isabella and I have been doing spectral evictions for many years now and at each one my one sole requirement is that the client does not interfere! Your outburst in the parlor just now may have aggravated your problem tenfold.” Abraham turned and rushed up the stairs behind Stanton.
“But what do you mean by aggravate? Abraham! I demand that you answer me this very minute!”
Abraham kept moving and as he reached the top of the stair said, “It knows it is being hunted now, doctor! This spirit, as you have described it, is a powerful entity, quite capable of wreaking havoc upon your home, your life, and the lives of those who live here as well, and made more dangerous now by its desperation. So I say again, doctor, please leave us to it!” Both men suddenly turned then toward the narrow stretch of hallway as there came a loud series of crashes followed by a scream. Stanton flew out of one of the rooms and was subsequently slammed hard into the wall. She lay on the carpeted floor prone until the Doctor and Abraham drew near enough to assist her.
“Isabella!” Abraham cried, rushing to her side.
“I’m alright, Johannes,” she said weakly, “just a little dazed ‘sall.”
“Left through the window. Johannes,” she said clasping her hand in his own, “I know what she is! She will return.” Stanton turned to Winscombe and through haunted eyes said, “I know it!”
“Return?” Winscombe said, “you did not evict it?”
“No,” Abraham chimed in, “it is as I said, doctor, we must be allowed to proceed as we know best if you wish this horror of yours to end. Isabella, are you certain about the specter?”
“I knew it the first time I saw its face. Johannes, do you remember our investigation in Cumberland last year?”
“Cumberland? Yes I remember. An apparition haunting a farmer’s home. But that was a--” Abraham stopped in mid sentence as the realization dawned upon him, “Isabella! Surely you don’t mean...”
“Yes, Johannes, the very same.”
Winscombe’s panicked curiosity could no longer be contained. “What is it? Mr. Abraham, Mrs. Stanton, I beseech you, please! What is this creature haunting my home?”
Abraham released Stanton and rose to meet the good doctor’s eyes, his expression both concerned and sad, “My dear Doctor Winscombe. I’m afraid the news is rather dire.”
“No!” Stanton said, desperately clutching Abraham’s trouser leg, “You mustn’t tell him!”
“He has a right to know, Isabella,” Abraham said and helped Stanton to her feet. She was still unsteady from the impact as Abraham held her up and said to Winscombe, “As I was saying, doctor, the news is rather dire. What is haunting your home is not an average spirit. The haunt is a powerful entity and extremely dangerous. Irish myth and folklore speak of it as an omen of death.”
“Death?” Winscombe said aghast, “whose death?”
“It could very well be yours, doctor. I’m am both afraid and saddened to say that you are a victim of a bean sidhe. It has come for you.”
As night loomed near, Doctor Winscombe sat in his parlor finishing off the last of the sherry. Through an alcoholic haze he asked the two investigators, “Are you certain that this’s absolutely necessary? Am I actually to become bait for this creature, this-this banshee?”
“Yes, doctor,” Stanton replied, “absolutely necessary. The bean sidhe has marked you and will arrive with the setting sun. My actions drove it from the house and weakened it, but it will grow stronger once night has fallen and it will return with a vengeance.”
“But why me?’ Winscombe pleaded, “I am a good man! I am a healer, for God’s sake! Why do I deserve to be haunted by this thing?”
“I do not know, doctor,” Abraham said, “no one does, really.” Abraham took the trap from his satchel and handed it to Stanton who, in turn, placed it in Winscombe’s hands. “When you see the bean sidhe, doctor, you must wait until it comes to you. When that happens and only then will you need to rotate the crank on the trap.”
“Like this?” Winscombe said, turning the small crank on the trap about as he asked. Winscombe sat thoroughly amazed as two small doors in the base of the crystal slowly opened. The crystal, designed as an amplification device as well as a trap, illuminated the entire room in a greenish ghostly glow. Winscombe stared down into the crystal, there to be mesmerized by the sight of a small green flame, alight without any visible source of fuel. “Oh my...” he uttered in a whispered breath as the ghostly flame seemed to draw his senses into it.
Abraham quickly snatched the trap away from Winscombe and turned the crank, closing the aperture. “Please, have a care, doctor! This is highly sensitive equipment you have here, sir. If you had continued to stare into it, it might have killed you.”
“What is that thing, Mr. Abraham? What was that tiny light inside?”
“It is a ghost flame, doctor, a Will-o-the-wisp I managed to capture and trap in this device.” Abraham said. He handed the trap back to Winscombe and continued, “they are quite dangerous to mortal folk, actually when found in their normal habitat. They have the ability to mesmerize and draw in a soul. In a living creature such as yourself, sir, the Will-o-the-wisp would have to lead you to your death first before it could consume your spirit, usually by drowning as most of these creatures are found around swamp lands and bogs, but it can employ other means as well.” Abraham placed his hand on the trap’s crystal ball, “As an example, it might have convinced you to plunge both you, and it, out of the window to the street below just now in an effort to free itself and then feed upon your spirit once you had succumbed to your injuries.”
Winscombe held the trap a bit more gingerly than before, “How horrible! Why would you even wish to use such a creature?”
Stanton placed her hand on Winscombe’s arm, “Please understand, Doctor, the Will-o-the-wisp is a spirit devour. For all of their peril to mortals, they are equally dangerous to creatures of pure spirit as well, perhaps more so, for such a thing as this would destroy a pure spirit utterly.”
“The device it is contained in is perfectly safe,” Abraham added, “so long as one does not look directly at the ghost flame or remove the crystal before the aperture is closed. For a pure spirit encased in this fashion, the cold flame it burns is a lure, nothing more. As a spirit is drawn in by the flame, it becomes trapped within the crystal. There are thousands of facets to the crystal, which both confuse and frustrate the creature once it is trapped.”
“So you do not allow the spirits destruction then?” Winscombe asked, appalled that such a thing would even be considered.
Stanton’s voice was soothing and sweet when she replied, “No, doctor. Our order does not destroy these creatures. We...employ them in our research, rather, studying their nature so that we may better utilize our resources in future endeavors such as this. Please, doctor, be at ease. As Johannes has said, wait for the bean sidhe to come close before opening the aperture.”
“And do not look at the flame,” Abraham added once again.
As the hour struck eleven, Doctor Winscombe, tired of waiting, had dozed off as his lack of sleep from the previous evening finally caught up to him. Abraham and Stanton sat opposite Winscombe, placing a table between them and had begun a game of cards to pass the time, the only illumination in the room coming from a small gaslight placed on the table between them.
“I should think the waiting the worst of it,” Abraham said, playing a card, “Gin.”
“Bugger!” Stanton cursed quietly, “that is your third win a row.”
Abraham smiled, “fourth actually.” Abraham looked about the room, “anything yet?”
Stanton donned the goggles and looked about, “No, but the hour is late and midnight is approaching. It will be here before the first chime of the witching hour, I’m certain. Even spirits have rules to follow, as you well know.” Abraham dealt another hand and sat silent for several moments, contemplating his cards. With sounds of a swinging pendulum from a grandfather clock the only commotion in the room, the silence became unbearable to Stanton, who finally asked, “Johannes, why is it always the work for you?”
Abraham laughed quietly as he looked up, seeing that Isabella still wore the goggles, “Isabella, you know that I cannot take you seriously when you eye me with those things upon your face.”
Stanton pulled the goggles off and said, “I am quite serious, Johannes. Even in a lull such as this when all that we have before us is the waiting, you are at this very moment calculating odds and planning out the events to come. Do you not think of other things ever? Don’t you ever think of us?”
Abraham dropped his cards face down and rubbed his eyes, “Isabella, you know my true feelings for you, but this is my vocation, as it is yours. I, and you, are both priests in the Order. The work is our calling.”
“But you are a hunter, Johannes, as well as a priest, and there are no oaths of celibacy in the Order’s charter. Won’t you even consider that there could be more between us than being simply mere colleagues?”
“I have, Isabella. I think about it everyday. Please, my sweet, allow me time to come to grips with what it is that we do first.”
Stanton bowed her head and quietly said, “It’s because of what happened to her that you do this, isn’t it?”
Abraham placed his palms upon the table, “The werewolf incident was ages ago.”
“And yet it still haunts your dreams! You are not doubt aware that I have watched you sleep many times before during our investigations and your sleep is far from restful. You sometimes even cry as you sleep, Johannes. Your dreams are haunted by her.”
“I killed her, Isabella, and it haunts me all of my days for what I did.”
“Stanton reached across the table, taking Abraham’s hand in hers, “You had to, Johannes. Your wife was attacked and turned during the following moon. She killed your father, and would have killed you too if you hadn’t--”
Stanton’s voice cut off as a chill entered the room and the gaslight’s flame flickered and rose in response. Abraham said, “It’s here.”
Stanton replaced her goggles and surveyed the room, pointing, “There, Johannes! I see it by the window!”
Abraham cautiously moved toward Winscombe’s chair, waking him, “Doctor Winscombe, it’s time.”
“What?” Winscombe replied, shaking the cobwebs from his head, “The banshee?”
“Yes, doctor. Remember what I said. You must wait for it to get close to you before the aperture is opened. Do you understand?”
“Uh, yes. Yes, I understand. Open the aperture and do not look at the flame.”
Abraham smiled, patting the doctor on the shoulder, “Good man. You just might survive this yet.” Abraham turned to Stanton whose eyes stayed fixed at the window, “Isabella?”
“It hasn’t moved yet, Johannes. It’s watching us. I think it’s waiting for us to leave the room.”
“Bugger that,” Abraham replied, “If it wants Winscombe that badly, it must act soon, before its power wanes.” Abraham backed away from Winscombe, “Remember, doctor, only when it gets close.”
Winscombe’s growing dread was self evident as he said, “I-I don’t know about this, Mr. Abraham! I-I can’t do this!”
Winscombe wanted nothing more than to bolt like a mad man from the parlor in mortal terror, but Abraham moved to his side again, steadying him, “Get ahold of yourself, man! Just do as I have directed. You are perfectly safe so long as you follow my instructions. Do not move!”
Wincombs’ fear played across his face once more, but he gave Abraham a shaky nod and said, “All right. Yes,” and to himself said, “buck up, old man.”
“That’s the spirit, doctor.”
In a harsh whisper, Stanton said, “Johannes, It’s moving. I think it will manifest soon.”
“Good. Prepare yourself now, doctor.”
No sooner did the words escape Abraham’s lips as the bean sidhe coalesced in the moonlight. It hovered inches above the floor as it moved toward Winscombe. Its features were fuller than before, by the Doctor’s estimation, appearing less emaciated. It was dressed in a white shroud and its clothing and stark white hair moved independently of any breeze. the face of the creature had not changed at all, however. Still it seemed the same pale shadow; hollow, lifeless black eyes and mouth drawn forever open in a silent wail. Winscombe’s face turned deathly pale as it approached and he seemed to fidget as if he would flee the room if given half the chance, but it was that same fear, he realized, that had caused in him a sudden paralysis. He could not move, let alone stand and run. In a horrified whisper, he uttered, “Good God, the banshee!”
“No sudden movements now,” Abraham said to Stanton, “we don’t want to provoke the thing.”
“I know my job, Johannes.” she said, annoyed that he would remind her what needed to be done, being a seasoned professional like himself. From her holster Isabella drew her weapon, “draw yours.”
Johannes did as Stanton requested, producing his weapon from his satchel. Winscombe noted that the guns they each held were not of ordinary make. While styled like revolvers, the weapons were larger with a rounded chamber in which Stanton and Abraham began loading the strange capsules that he had seen on Stanton’s belt earlier that day. The barrel of each ended in a conical opening. Both flipped a small toggle on their weapons and a hum pervaded the room.
The bean sidhe turned suddenly at the noise, and realizing the danger it was in, let out a ghastly wail, causing the cards on the table to suddenly fly into the air, momentarily blinding the two hunters. A sudden whirlwind erupted, sending other objects flying into the air as well. Abraham and Stanton each huddled behind the chairs they had been sitting in earlier. “Isabella! are you alright?”
“Fine!” Stanton cried out, exasperated, “It senses the danger!”
“I know!” Abraham cried out through the maelstrom, “We have to force it nearer the doctor! On my mark!”
Abraham yelled “FIRE!” and he and Stanton rose and pulled their triggers, sending lightning shooting across the room to connect with the banshee, each using their weapons in an effort to corral and redirect the entity. As soon as one would fire, sending the creature in one direction, the other would fire, redirecting the bean sidhe ever closer to Doctor Winscombe and the trap.
“Now, doctor! Open the aperture!” Winscombe hesitated a moment, but fought for control as he made his hand turn the crank, almost forgetting not to look inside. Abraham and Stanton ceased fire and at the same time Winscombe noted the maelstrom had ebbed completely. Objects twirling about the room ceased their flight and fell back to earth, the room a shambles.
The bean sidhe had turned just as the greenish glow from the trap lit the room. Curious (and much to Winscombe’s discomfort), it moved still closer peering into the box. It tentatively reached out and seemed to sigh, mesmerized by the ghostly flame within. As it’s cold fingers made contact with the crystal, it sought entrance and was was drawn into the trap. With a sudden and final wail the bean sidhe was entrapped, caught within the multiple facets of the crystal trap.
Winscombe watched all of this a mere hair’s breadth from the bean sidhe and had once again accidentally peered into the trap as well, yet again being drawn in by it’s beauty. Abraham rushed to Winscombe’s side and snatched the device from his hands, turning the crank in the opposite direction and closing off the green flame. Letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding, Abraham then moved to his satchel, placing it on the table.
Stanton drew near him, “We’ve got it, Johannes!”
“Yes,” he said as he removed the crystal from its housing, “Doctor, come and have a look, if you will. It is perfectly safe now that I have secured the ghost flame.
Winscombe rose from his chair and joined the two hunters as they stared in amazement at the crystal. “This is the banshee then?”
Abraham stared at the swirling mass inside that was the bean sidhe, “Rendered harmless in quartz crystal for all time.” Abraham removed a square, velvet lined wooden chest from his satchel and placed the crystal within, closing the lid as he did so. Placing his weapon, the box and the trap back in the satchel, Abraham turned to Winscombe, “Commendably handled, doctor! Thank you. The bean sidhe will cause trouble for your house no longer.”
Winscombe composed himself and, straightening his jacket, said, “No, Mr. Abraham, it is I who should be thanking both you and Mrs. Stanton for your help.”
“You’re welcome, doctor,” Stanton said as she holstered her weapon and replaced her goggles atop the brim of her hat.
“Yes,” said Abraham, holstering his weapon as well and taking Winscombe’s hand, “and please do not hesitate to call upon us again should you ever require our services.”
Winscombe laughed, “Considering the disarray this spirit seems to have caused, that is one occasion I should hope to never have to consider. In all honesty, I can hardly believe the entire event occurred at all. It seems that I have finally awoken from a horrible nightmare. But please, is there any amount of compensation that I can offer in gratitude for what the two of you have done?”
“No. Thank you, doctor, really.” Stanton replied giving a small smile to Abraham, “It is our calling, and that requires no compensation at all.”
Abraham nodded his agreement to her statement and said, “We will take our leave of you now, doctor.” Abraham placed his hat on his head and both he and Stanton donned their waistcoats, “if there is nothing more you require.” Noting the hour had just now struck the first tolling of the midnight bell, Abraham tipped his hat and added, “Good morning, doctor.”
As the two turned to leave, a perplexed and frightened Mrs. Prescott choose that moment to enter the room, “Doctor, I heard the most terrible noise coming from downstairs and I--” She stopped mid sentence as she noticed the state of the parlor, “My word! What happened here?”
Abraham and Stanton let themselves out of Winscombe’s home and stepped out into the gas lit streets of the foggy London morning, hailing a waiting hackney cab parked along the cobblestone street. Once seated and on their way to the mother house, Abraham opened his satchel and removed the chest containing the crystal trap. Abraham opened the lid and studied the swirling vaporous mass that was the bean sidhe trapped inside.
“I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t tell him,” Stanton said, “I thought you said that he deserves to know.”
“It is my opinion, my dear Isabella,“ Abraham said, “that there are certain things that mankind is not meant to know, nor do I feel it is my place to tell him.”
“Perhaps,” Stanton said, “but did we do him a kindness in hiding it from him?”
Abraham sat back, exhausted from their ordeal and sighed, “I believe so, although I take no pleasure in it.”
One Week Later
Stanton had just returned from her morning errands to find Abraham unexpectedly in the library. She was dressed presentably this time, in a fashion befitting a lady of London high society. Other priests of the Order sat about in the library in conversations just respectably and conscientiously above a whisper, while others studied, practicing incantations or conceiving of rituals quietly under muttered breaths. Abraham sat alone in a corner chair, reading the newspaper by the morning light. The rustling of Stanton’s skirt as she moved across the carpet toward him brought him out of his perusal. Abraham looked up into her hazel eyes and smiled brightly, saying, “Guten tag, Fräu Stanton.”
“Good day to you, Johannes,” she said, returning his smile, “You’re not in the lab today. Have you no new projects for me to sample?”
“No, not today, I’m afraid. Truth be told, the sunlight dappling into the library this morning was so pleasant that I couldn’t resist.” Abraham’s smile faded as he said, “Have you read the paper today yet?”
“No,” Stanton said, understanding Abraham’s meaning immediately, “so, it’s happened then.”
Abraham didn’t answer, but instead turned the newspaper over to the section he had just read to show her the caption:
Prominent Doctor, Edward Henry Winscombe,
Mysteriously Murdered at Bedlam Asylum--Police Baffled
“I wish we could have told him,” Stanton said.
“One door closes, another opens,” Abraham replied.
Her answer came swiftly, but not by Abraham as the two were joined by Lord Ransom, the current high priest of the Royal Order of Hunters. “As the paper reads, Mrs. Stanton, my poor friend, Winscombe, died under mysterious circumstances.”
Stanton demurred, “Yes, your Lordship. I am deeply sorry for your loss,”
Lord Ransom nodded, “Thank you, Mrs. Stanton, and I should be glad to be the one to bare the happy news that the Order wants an investigation into the matter.”
Stanton read the paper as he spoke which quickly revealed Lord Ransom’s meaning, “Blood loss...puncture wounds? Johannes? Your Lordship, has this been verified?”
“The papers say it is the work of a deranged maniac,” Johannes replied, “however the coroner interviewed is a member of the Order. He has used the usual methods to test the body and confirms the account’s veracity.
Lord Ransom checked the time on his fob watch and gave the order, “There have been reports, unverified until now, of a bloodthirsty creature afoot in London prowling the streets near Bedlam and since Winscombe was your last client, it has fallen upon the two of you to investigate.”
“I’ll go get changed,” Stanton said with a smile as she turned to leave for her chamber.
“While I shall retrieve the stakes and the holy water,” Johanne added, returning his colleagues smile.
It has long been my intention to try my hand at a steampunk/horror tale. If one reads between the lines, it’s easy to see elements of Ghostbusters within the pages (the title being a Victorian equivalent of “Who You Gonna Call?”), along with a smattering of my other inspirational authors, Anne Rice and Jim Butcher. This is my first foray into the steampunk genre and it is my great hope that it is an enjoyable one.
Categories: Short Stories