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Supped Full with Horrors Part 2 - The Trail to Islington

Posted by Max_Writer , in Call of Cthulhu, Campaign Log 16 July 2017 · 209 views

CoC 1-6e

* * *

 

Friday, June 25, 1613, saw the Globe Theater showing The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, a macabre, tragic play that began as a love story of a Duchess who married beneath her class, and ended as a nightmarish tragedy as her brothers undertook their revenge, destroying themselves in the process. It was originally shown at Blackfriars in 1612 and remained very popular.

 

Dr. Whitewood took his wife to see the play, meeting Godfrey there.

 

The play did very well, as always. Hawksworth had a major role and did excellently as one of the brothers, even more so than usual. Jaimes did not do well with his violin, he felt, as he couldn’t stop thinking about Clancy Bottom. He actually broke a string in the second act and had to play the rest of the act on three strings, which was not only difficult but impossible. He pulled it off adequately. None of the audience seemed to notice but the actors and others at the theater did, and saw Jaimes’ face get redder and redder with rage as the play progressed. Godfrey actually heard the string break.

 

Word spread like wildfire backstage and the other actors gave Jaimes a wide berth. He had broken a string during a performance once before and, when one of the actors had tried to console him, he had beaten the man about the head and shoulders. Now they knew better.

 

Hawksworth sought out Godfrey and Dr. Whitewood after the show.

 

“It was a fine performance, Hawksworth,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Fine!?!” Hawksworth said.

 

“Very fine.”

 

“All right. If you add the ‘very’ to it, I might accept it.”

 

“I’ll go buy you a drink.”

 

Abigail Whitewood loved the play and fawned over the actor. She told Hawksworth how wonderful a job he had done, noting several things in the play and even commenting upon them as if Hawksworth had actually done them to the other actors.

 

“Say ‘Money can’t buy that,’” Hawksworth whispered to Godfrey.

 

Dr. Whitewood had noted, since their children had died in 1609, his wife loved tragedies. She seemed to enjoy watching terrible things happen to other people. But he was happy when his wife was happy.

 

She took Hawksworth aside.

 

“Except for this friend of my husbands,” she confided in him. “If you could get rid of him, I would appreciate it. He sat and farted and burped the entire production. It was either him or my husband, and I won’t believe that of my darling, Everett.”

 

Hawksworth looked over at Godfrey, who had a mug of ale in his hand.

 

“Whitewood, I think you should escort your wife home and then we should go to Islington,” Hawksworth said to the Doctor. “Because right now it’s probably a good time to pursue this Bottom.”

 

“You might want to grab those optimistic lads while you’re at it,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Who?”

 

“Those two boys who were looking for Bottom.”

 

“Oh! The other two: the stagehand and the musician. Of course. I don’t want to talk to the musician though. You should talk to the musician!”

 

“I did him to …”

 

“Your wife had questions about the play. I will escort her home, answer all of her questions, she’ll be satisfied,─”

 

“Oh, she’ll love that.”

 

“─you talk to the musician and … yes. You’ll talk to the musician.”

 

“I’ll meet you at Islington.”

 

Godfrey and Hawksworth locked eyes.

 

“Yes, Whitewood,” Godfrey said.

 

“Yes, Whitewood!” Hawksworth said. “You go get the people of the names I do not know.”

 

“I’ll meet you in Islington then,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“If your survive,” Hawksworth muttered.

 

He turned to Godfrey.

 

“Godfrey, would you please help me escort Whitewood’s wife home?” he said.

 

The other gentleman agreed and they quickly left.

 

* * *

 

Jaimes, still furious, was restringing his violin when Dr. Whitewood came into the backstage area with a grin on his face. As Dr. Whitewood approached him, he saw the man looked angry. The broken violin string was under his foot and he kept grinding it into the floor.

 

“Young Jaimes!” Dr. Whitewood said with a smile. “Lovely performance out there … as usual.”

 

“What?” Jaimes growled. “Is it? Whitewood?”

 

“Well … we were looking into the-the Bottom thing and we actually learned something at the Mermaid,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Wait,” Huddleston said, slipping out from behind a flat. “You know something about Mr. Bottom?”

 

“Uh, yes,” Dr. Whitewood said. “We were at the mermaid and the barkeep saw him leave with a … weird gentleman. We have a lead in Islington. So, Hawksworth is on the way there after he drops off my lovely wife.”

 

“Oh!” Huddleston said.

 

“If he’d paid me my sixpence … this wouldn’t have happened!” Jaimes said.

 

“Uh …” Huddleston said.

 

“Well?” Jaimes grunted. “What are we to do now?”

 

“I guess we’re going to Islington,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Islington,” Huddleston echoed.

 

“God damned Islington,” Jaimes muttered.

 

“I’ll certainly come with you to Islington,” Huddleston said.

 

They both looked at Jaimes. He felt their eyes on him like metal burning into his soul.

 

“Well,” he finally said. “Fine. When we find him, I’ll give him …”

 

His growl turned into incoherent muttering.

 

“If he’s not dead already, he will be!” he finally ended, closing the case.

 

They went Jaimes’ attic apartment and he left his violin there, replacing it in the case with his blunderbuss, which barely fit, before they headed off to Islington.

 

* * *

 

Hawksworth and Godfrey escorted Mrs. Whitewood to the doctor’s home. She talked the actor’s ear off, very appreciative of the macabre, tragic play and his part in it. She seemed loathe to part with him but he had to go on his way. The two men headed for the Islington on foot.

 

Islington was more a dormitory village or a borough than an actual village. Part of London, technically, it was formed in the Middle Ages as an overnight stop for cattle on the way to Smithfield. However, by the early 17th century, most of the last was given to aristocratic families and it had grown into a village spreading along Upper Street and Lower Road. The fields there housed farms that also provided forage and shelter for passing herds. By 1590, there were nine taverns clustered in the area.

 

The rural atmosphere, with access to the City and Westminster, made it a popular residential area for the rich and affluent. Many fugitives and recusants were often harbored at the local inns, however.

 

Just south of Islington proper, Clerkenwell was seen as harboring a great number of insolent people and habitations of beggars, illegal in London, and people without trade, as well as stables, inns, alehouses, taverns, garden-houses converted to dwellings, ordinaries, dicing houses, bowling alleys, and brothel houses. Clerkenwell contained a notorious brothel quarter on Turnbull Street. Clerkenwell Gaol was also there, a new structure used to house prisoners on short sentences.

 

Hawksworth asked about a man with a velvet hat. Godfrey asked about a Littleton or Lordlyson.

 

In that time, the other three had been asking about Clancy Bottom, with Dr. Whitewood asking about Hawksworth and Godfrey as well.

 

What all of them noticed, even before they found each other, was mostly discomfort, especially about the man whom Clancy Bottom had met with: the man with the velvet hat. Many people looked uncomfortable and then quickly left the questioners. What they eventually learned was of a Lord Simon Loddington at Loddington Hall just northeast of the village proper. However, people didn’t seem to want to talk about him though they were able to get directions to the place.

 

They were also able to learn, though it was not easy, that Lord Loddington was not well thought of in Islington. He and his family mostly kept to themselves and there were some strange rumors of their sightings in local churchyards not long after burials and of some supposedly decadent connections in Clerkenwell either to brothels or to some of the less-than-savory folk who lived there. It was said no visitors had been to the house or grounds in years and the locals had taken to calling the place The Strange House. The Loddingtons had fallen on hard times, letting the servants go one by one over the years.

 

It was several hours before they found the others in Islington, late in the day. They decided to return to London that evening and planned to meet at Loddington Hall the following afternoon.

 

* * *

 

Saturday, June 26, 1613, saw the Globe performing Warriors Without Sin, a history by Gabriel Pettwood about the Spanish Armada sailing against England in 1588 only to be destroyed by the faster English ships and the storm that blew them north into the treacherous waters around Scotland. The main characters were the Spanish and the title was ironically what they referred to themselves as. The crowd loved it as there were many battles and sword fights and the Spanish lost in the end.

 

They had more rehearsals that afternoon and, in the late afternoon, all five of them met on the road that ran by Loddington Hall northeast of Islington. Jaimes apologized to Huddleston for his manner the day before.

 

A tall wall ran around the main property. However, the gatehouse in the wall was empty and the iron gate hung open. Peering in, they saw the grounds were a mess. Weeds and tall grass were ever-present and the drive leading up to the hall was rutted and mostly dirt, though there were signs gravel long-ago covered it. Some of the windows of the house were broken or cracked. A few were fitted with pieces of wood to fill in for broken glass.

 

Hawksworth suggested only he and Godfrey approach the house at first.

 

“We will mention that there are others who wish to question him and maybe talk about Bottom,” he said. “But Godfrey is rich and I am an actor so I can play a part that supports whatever Godfrey will talk about. But, if there are five of us and one is a stagehand, no offense, and one is a musician, no offense─”

 

“Offense taken,” Jaimes said.

 

“─and yes, you are a medicine man but … I still feel like two is better than four. We don’t want to overwhelm this man. Five people come asking for a missing man - a little suspicious. Two friends of the missing man, not so suspicious. What do you think?”

 

“You don’t get paid that much more than I do,” Huddleston said.

 

“True,” Hawksworth conceded. “But I have people that know my name.”

 

“Much as I want you to shut your gob, you have a point,” Jaimes said.

 

“I agree with you,” Huddleston said. “Besides, this place is kind of big and a little bit scary-looking.”

 

“A little the worse for wear,” Jaimes agreed.

 

“Not a place I want to be,” Hawksworth said. “But … clearly, Clancy Bottom is worth it.”

 

Godfrey and Hawksworth walked up the drive.

 

“I’m your servant,” Hawksworth said as they approached. “I will play the servant and I will do whatever is necessary to prove that I’m the servant. You have the money. Convince this man that he should let us in.

 

They walked up to the house

 

“But I am not a servant, I’m just playing one,” Hawksworth reminded Godfrey

 

They knocked upon the front door several times and it was a while before they heard a bolt pulled back and the door opened with a creak. The man who answered had a darkish complexion and black beard and mustache. He was tall, standing over six feet, and dressed finely though Godfrey noticed his clothing was a little threadbare. He squinted at the two, eyes narrow, beady, and looking down his nose at them.

 

“Who are you?” he said shortly. “What do you want?”

 

“Do I have the pleasure of addressing Lord Loddington?” Godfrey asked.

 

“Who wants to know? Who are you, sir?”

 

“I apologize. My name is Peter Godfrey and I am just a humble banker and this is my servant─”

 

“Banker?”

 

“─Baldrick.”

 

“We owe no debt!”

 

“No no no. I’m not here about debt that you would possibly owe. I see by your lavish house here, you probably have no debts.”

 

“Oh, yes.”

 

“I am actually looking for a man by the name of Clancy Bottom. Uh … he … uh … owes me a great deal of money and you were one of the last people to be seen with him.”

 

“Clancy Bottom? Clancy Bottom?”

 

“Yes. Was an actor at the Globe, I believe.”

 

“Yes, I … uh … I-I did meet him … at the Mermaid Inne, which I frequent very often. I frequent it very often, yes? He wanted to speak to me about something that I’m an expert at: astrology. I … was charmed by him and so I invited him to stay for supper.”

 

“Do you know what happened to Mr. Bottom after─”

 

“Who is this!?!”

 

Lord Loddington pointed at Hawksworth.

 

“Hm?” Godfrey said. “Oh, this is my servant. Introduce yourself.”

 

“May I?” Hawksworth said.

 

“Yes. I gave you permission. Introduce yourself.”

 

“I am Ben Vinceworth, the servant of Lord Godfrey.”

 

“Ben Vinceworth, huh?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What do you wish with Bottom?” Lord Loddington asked Godfrey. “Are you friends of his?”

 

“No, I lent him money and I’m looking for him,” Godfrey said. “He disappeared some days ago. I’m searching around. You were just one of the last people he was seen with.”

 

“Oh, was I? I know of this Bottom. Perhaps you and your servant should sup with us. Have supper. We’ll speak then.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“If it is appropriate. You’re a banker, eh?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Lord Loddington looked the large man up and down.

 

“Yes, you should sup with I and my family,” he said. “Though we don’t have much, we do have some pigs and I can roast one up for supper.”

 

Hawksworth put his hand on Godfrey’s shoulder.

 

“I do not mean to speak out of turn,” Hawksworth said. “But you should also talk to him about the other lavish guests you have here in Islington, sir.”

 

“Yes,” Godfrey said. “I was getting to that.”

 

Lord Loddington glared at Hawksworth.

 

“Sorry,” Hawksworth said. “Sorry. Sorry.”

 

“Shut up, boy!” Lord Loddington said, stepping out and slapping Hawksworth in the face.

 

“Sorry!” Hawksworth cried out. “Sorry! Sorry!”

 

“Lavish guests?” Lord Loddington said. “Who are these lavish guests?”

 

“Oh, just some companions of mine that were helping me look for Mr. Bottom,” Godfrey said.

 

“Hm. You say they are rich as well?”

 

“Yes, there’s a doctor friend of mine and his two associates.”

 

“Ah. Why yes, send your boy to go fetch them. You may all sup with us this evening. You may have the run of the house while I go prepare the hogs.”

 

He looked at Hawksworth again.

 

“Go, boy!” he shouted at the man and pointed down the lane. “Fetch them!”

 

Hawksworth turned and ran towards the gatehouse.

 

“Mr. Godfrey,” Lord Loddington said, gesturing him to enter.

 

Godfrey entered the house, Lord Loddington closing the door behind him. The Hall was shabby with little of finery about it. It was also dirty and in disrepair, with the few things there covered in dust. The only clean item was a very large portrait of Lord Loddington with a woman and two young boys.

 

“You have the run of the house,” Lord Loddington said. “If you find a locked door, please respect my privacy. I will, of course, once your fellows arrive … I might be somewhat busy. If you hear a banging at the front door, you are welcome to open it. How many of them are there? Three, you say. Two companions and a physician?”

 

“Physician, yes,” Godfrey said, looking at the portrait.

 

“Very good. We shall sup in an hour or two. I will to the kitchen and prepare some pork. As I said, my family made its fortune in hogs, hog’s meat, and the like.”

 

“Very good.”

 

The man left the chamber. Godfrey looked around, uncomfortable.

 

* * *

 

Hawksworth came running around the corner of the gatehouse to the others, who were standing on the other side of the wall. He stopped, out of breath and sweating from the run.

 

“Mr. Hawksworth, what happened?” Huddleston said.

 

“What happened to Godfrey?” Dr. Whitewood asked.

 

“Where’s Godfrey?” Huddleston said.

 

“Bottom’s … murderer,” Hawksworth said between gulps of air.

 

“Excuse me?” Jaimes said.

 

“What!?!” Huddleston said.

 

“Is in that house,” Hawksworth said. “I swear it on God’s breath.”

 

They all looked at each other.

 

“What on Earth?” Jaimes said.

 

Hawksworth laughed.

 

“Godfrey’s in there alone,” he said.

 

He laughed again.

 

“Why’d you leave him alone?” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Because the man hit me!” Hawksworth said.

 

“Why did he hit you?”

 

“I was playing a servant. I couldn’t take the hit and then rebuttal. I had to run.”

 

“Oh,” Huddleston said. “Okay. Well …”

 

“I’m sorry,” Hawksworth said. “I’m sorry. It was a long run. I have not had to run for a while.”

 

Jaimes pushed past the actor and walked towards the gate.

 

“I have not had to run,” Hawksworth muttered again.

 

“Well, are we invited in, Mr. Hawksworth?” Huddleston said.

 

“Wait, hold on,” Hawksworth said to Jaimes.

 

He looked Dr. Whitewood up and down. The man wore very nice clothing with decorative fur and fine boots. He had his medical satchel. Hawksworth looked the others up and down. They wore simple clothing and Jaimes carried a violin case under his arm.

 

“Okay, here’s how it has to go,” Hawksworth said. “Me and Godfrey convinced him that Godfrey is looking for Clancy Bottom because Clancy Bottom owes Godfrey money.”

 

“That’s─” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“But!” Hawksworth went on. “Clancy Bottom also owes you money! Okay? Because Clancy Bottom needs money because he is poor … and a stage hand. No offense once again. It’s just how life is. Anyways!”

 

“Once again, you don’t get paid that much more than me,” Huddleston said.

 

Hawksworth shushed him.

 

“I don’t want them to know that,” he whispered to the man.

 

He turned back to Dr. Whitewood.

 

“Anyways, we need to convince him, Loddington, who we just met, that you are here for the money and these are your servants,” Hawksworth said. “You have to play servants. I know you’re not actors but just do your best. It’ll come naturally. It should. Maybe. I don’t know. Just don’t speak. Let Whitewood and Godfrey do all the talking. We’ll figure out where Clancy Bottom is because this man, in my personal opinion, has killed Clancy Bottom. I know it. Or is at least holding him because this man is creepy. I don’t like him.”

 

He looked them over.

 

“You got that?” he said.

 

“Yes,” Huddleston said.

 

“Servant,” Hawksworth said, pointing at Huddleston.

 

Then he pointed at Jaimes.

 

“Servant,” he said.

 

He pointed at Dr. Whitewood.

 

“You want money,” he said.

 

“I always want money,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“I will lead you because he sent me to find you,” Hawksworth said. “Actually, we should wait here for a little bit. It’ll be a little weird if I bring you back immediately like you were waiting outside the wall. Which you were. I would say half an hour.”

 

* * *

 

Godfrey waited several minutes and then started to wander about the house the opposite direction Lord Loddington had gone, looking for clues to Bottom’s location. He wandered deeper into the place, heading for the dining parlor. It was very plain with only a few old shields on the walls. Everything was very dusty as if the room didn’t see much use or cleaning. He continued on to the low parlor chamber and the inner chamber, still wondering where the finery of the upper class was in the dirty house. He found the stool house, which still seemed to be use and wandered by some pantries that must have lain some distance from the kitchens. He passed through a little room and to the beer and wine cellars. A few casks were there but again, the place showed a lack of use for some time. Windows looked out into an overgrown inner court as well. He had reached the inner chamber and stool house towards the back of the building and could see some outbuildings out the windows when he heard a banging on the front door.

 

He headed back to the front of the house.

 

* * *

 

The others had waited for some time before they went up to the house. Their long knocking was eventually answered, somewhat to their surprise, by Godfrey.

 

“And where were you?” Godfrey said to them.

 

“So, where is our host?” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Preparing supper. Apparently.”

 

“Preparing his own supper? And ours? That’s strange.”

 

“I would make no mention of it. In fact, I found flattering him brightens his mood a bit.”

 

They entered the dirty hall. The windows were covered in dust and the only clean thing in the hall was the portrait. Everything else showed signs of months if not years of neglect.

 

“If he has any servants he should …” Dr. Whitewood said, then laughed uncomfortably. “… get rid of them.”

 

No one opening the front door was out of the ordinary in and of itself.

 

“So, he left us free reign of the house?” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Yes,” Godfrey said.

 

“I think we could cover more group quickly if we split up into two groups,” Hawksworth said. “Whitewood and the servants, Godfrey and me, because I’m a servant … playing a servant, of course. But the only reason I say this is because if the servants are found alone, that seems a little suspicious. ‘Servant, what are you doing away from your master?’”

 

“I would advise against splitting the group up, actually,” Huddleston said nervously. “It’s just this is a big place. That seems like a bad idea.”

 

“I don’t think we’re going to find Clancy Bottom in this big of a place if we all stay together,” Hawksworth said. “Maybe. But I doubt it. I think we should split up.”

 

“Well, maybe not individually,” Jaimes said.

 

“Well, I know how Godfrey is with stairs, so we’ll take upstairs,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Okay,” Huddleston said nervously. “I’ll go upstairs with Whitewood.”

 

They parted.

 

* * *

 

Dr. Whitewood, Jaimes, and Huddleston went upstairs. They passed through a dining chamber and found a room on the second floor was locked with a very solid door. They continued through a passage room and other various rooms, some of them locked, to a Gallery where they found a middle aged, finely dressed woman. She was dour-faced and did not look kindly upon the strangers. She put aside her needlepoint.

 

“Ah,” Dr. Whitewood said. “The lady of the house, I presume.”

 

“I am Susan Loddington, yes,” the woman said. “The lady of the house. Who are you?”

 

“Oh, we are guests of your husband. He said we could sup.”

 

Lady Loddington looked over all of them carefully.

 

“Oh, they’re just my servants,” Dr. Whitewood said. “Pay them no never mind. I am Dr Everett Whitewood.”

 

“Susan Loddington,” the woman said again. “If my husband has welcomed you to my house, you are welcome as well. Are you staying for supper?”

 

“Yes, that is what he invited us to.”

 

“Then I’m sure I shall see you there.”

 

“Ah … yes.”

 

The woman went back to her sewing. They left her.

 

They found several chambers on the east side of the house were also locked. Behind one of the locked room, they thought they heard the noise of two children.

 

As they returned through the passage on the second floor, they found another young woman they had not seen before. She was very pretty though seemed cold and regal. She wore find clothing and had brown hair pulled back tightly behind her head. She was of average height, slim, and probably about 16 years old. She was working on a dress of some kind. She seemed surprised at their presence.

 

“Oh,” the girl said. “Who are you?”

 

“We are guests of the Loddingtons for supper,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“Ah. I am a Loddington. It’s so nice that they tell me what’s happening around here. Ellen Loddington. Pleased.”

 

She held out her hand and gently shook Dr. Whitewood’s hand. Then she held out her hand to Huddleston.

 

“Ellen Loddington,” she said. “Pleased.”

 

She held out her hand to Jaimes.

 

“Ellen Loddington,” she said as he took it. The she smiled and purred “Pleased.”

 

Jaimes frowned and pulled his hand back.

 

“Dr. Whitewood,” Whitewood said.

 

“Ah yes, Dr. Whitewood,” Susan said dismissively.

 

She turned back to Jaimes.

 

“And your name?” she said.

 

“Um … yes … I’m Francis Jaimes,” he said.

 

“Francis Jaimes, yes,” she said.

 

“They’re just my servants,” Dr. Whitewood said. “Pay them no mind.”

 

Susan stared at the handsome Jaimes

 

“Perhaps your servant could help me,” she eventually said, still staring at Jaimes. “I have need of some assistance.”

 

“Well, I don’t think that’s proper for me to leave him with you alone,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

She laughed.

 

“He’s a servant,” she said incredulously.

 

“Yes,” Jaimes said. “Nonsense. I will see to her.”

 

“All right,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

Ellen smiled at the man.

 

“If you come with me, I have something that needs moved,” she said, standing up and putting the dress she was working on aside.

 

“Yes, right away,” Jaimes said.

 

She led him back the way they came to the garden chamber on the front of the house. It was obviously her bedroom and several windows let in a great deal of light. She closed and locked the door behind her and then tucked the key away. She walked over and got very close to Jaimes, who had noticed the room was fairly clean. He backed away from her.

 

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

 

“Yes?” she said stepping closer.

 

“So …”

 

“Yes?”

 

Every time she said “yes,” she got a little closer to the man.

 

“What … would you need moved, exactly?” Jaimes said uncomfortably.

 

“Parts of my body,” she said.

 

She stepped very close to him.

 

“Well, I’ll have you know, this is unacceptable behavior for a lady!” Jaimes said, raising his voice.

 

“No, I’m the aristocracy,” she purred. “It’s fine. This is fine.”

 

“No!”

 

“It’s fine.”

 

A knocking came from the door.

 

“Miss Loddington,” Dr. Whitewood called from without. “Miss Loddington.”

 

“Do not speak,” Ellen whispered to Jaimes.

 

She turned away from him and walked to the door.

 

“I’m sorry,” she called through the door. “I can’t find the key.”

 

“Well, I’ll just have to get your mother,” Dr. Whitewood said. “I’m sure she has the key.”

 

Ellen sighed and rolled her eyes.

 

“Oh, here it is,” she said.

 

She took the key out, looked at Jaimes, and batted her eyes. She put the key in the lock and opened the door a crack.

 

“I’m sorry, this gentleman is trying to help me to move something,” she said to Dr. Whitewood.

 

“Yes, but I heard your mother calling you,” Dr. Whitewood said. “Maybe you should go attend to that.”

 

“She’ll be fine,” the girl said. “She should be in the kitchen, fixing dinner.”

 

Jaimes pushed past the girl.

 

“This is intolerable!” he said.

 

“Your man was inappropriate towards me,” Ellen said. “I believe that means that … things have happened in a very short time that will require a priest.”

 

Jaimes looked at the young woman, aghast.

 

“I have never!” Jaimes said.

 

“There was not enough time for that,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“I have never!” Jaimes said. “This isn’t! This …!”

 

Ellen walked over to Jaimes again and tried to put her arm in his but she grabbed her arm and twisted it. She cried out in pain.

 

“Francis, I suggest─” Huddleston said.

 

“If you know … what is best for you …” Jaimes said.

 

“Oh!” Ellen cried out. “You’re hurting me.”

 

She lowered her voice so only he could hear.

 

“But I kind of like it,” she whispered.

 

He let go of her hand. He looked at the girl and realized she wanted him for more than just sex. He guessed she was actually looking for a man to marry. The girl looked at him somewhat sadly.

 

“I’m afraid I still need your man,” Ellen said to Dr. Whitewood.

 

“For what?” Jaimes growled. “Haven’t you gotten it already?”

 

She looked at him.

 

“No,” she said. “If you’ll excuse us.”

 

“I’m sure it’s almost time for supper,” Dr. Whitewood said. “Come along servants.”

 

He turned and walked away.

 

“Yes sir!” Huddleston said, scurrying after him.

 

As Jaimes turned to follow, she grabbed the man’s arm again.

 

“Take me away from here,” she said quietly in his ear.

 

She looked at him pleadingly, let go of his arm and backed to the door of her room, closing it behind her. Jaimes thought on that. Then he hastened to catch the others.

 

“You may continue,” he said to them. “I will proceed to … show the miss … my violin.”

 

He turned and started to walk back.

 

“That’s hardly appropriate, Jaimes!” Dr. Whitewood said to the man.

 

“Are you sure about this?” Huddleston called after the man. “I mean, you could get in huge trouble.”

 

Jaimes stopped.

 

“I assure you, it is not … anything like that,” Jaimes said.

 

“I can’t prevent your death if the lord wants it,” Dr. Whitewood said.

 

“If someone catches you, then …” Huddleston said.

 

Jaimes turned and walked away despite their protests.

 

“Don’t lose your head,” Huddleston called after him.

 

They headed off to continue exploring the second floor.

 

* * *

 

Jaimes returned to the room, opening the door. He was relieved to see Ellen was clothed, sitting quietly in her bed almost as if she had expected him to come back. He sat on a stool not close to the bed and looked at the girl, who stared back at him.

 

“I apologize for my accusations against you,” she said. “But you seemed to be a man of the world who can take me away from here. And I need a husband.”

 

“I apologize for twisting your arm,” he replied. “I keep to myself and I don’t typically enjoy the company of others.”

 

“I can make my company very enjoyable.”

 

“You appear … as if you know more than what you let on.”

 

“I want to be out of this house.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I hate it here.”

 

Jaimes remembered that Ellen was not in the portrait in the Hall below.

 

“Why aren’t you in the portrait in the hall?” he asked.

 

“I wouldn’t sit,” she said. “I wouldn’t sit with this family. I won’t sit with that man. My mother. My father. These … pigs who call themselves my brothers. I want out of this house. I can make it worth your while. I’m rich.”

 

“I have no need for money.”

 

“Everyone needs money. I can please you. I know what a man wants and a I know what a man needs.”

 

“As you may have already guessed, that is not my interest. I want to know about you and why─”

 

“You’re interested in men then? You like the boys?”

 

“That is not any of your concern.”

 

“It is! Because if you’re a man who’s a man, you would take me away from here and I can give you a title.”

 

“That is not what I want and you shall not get it from me. Now what I need is information. I came here for one thing and one thing only which is to find this man who owes me sixpence.”

 

“Who is this man?”

 

“A Mister Clancy Bottom.”

 

“He was here some nights ago.”

 

“What do you know of him?”

 

“He’s gone. He left. He fled.”

 

“Fled?”

 

“He fled from me.”

 

“Why I don’t doubt that.”

 

“Am I not attractive? Am I not pleasing to the eye?”

 

“That is not the point here.”

 

“It is!”

 

“You can’t seduce men in such a way.”

 

“I have before. And now they’re gone. They’re always gone.”

 

“Well, you shall not any longer, especially not with me.”

 

“This Clancy Bottom: ‘I have a wife.’”

 

She sighed.

 

“He left,” she said. “You would have to ask my father for anything more. I don’t know anything more. He fled in the night. Smart one. Those that don’t flee, sometimes never leave.”

 

“And what would you mean by that?” he asked.

 

She stood up from the bed and walked to the man, who didn’t move. She leaned forward and whispered in his ear:

 

“Don’t eat the meat.”

 

Then she stood up straight, looking sadly down at him a moment.

 

“You may go,” she said coldly.

 

She walked over to the vanity with the mirror, sat down on the stool there, and started brushing her hair with a silver brush.

 

“Noted,” he said.

 

He didn’t notice the girl watching him in the mirror as he left.

 

* * *

 

Hawksworth and Godfrey found what they assumed was the kitchen. At least it was the direction Lord Loddington had disappeared to. It was locked, as were the surrounding chambers. They explored other parts of the ground floor. They found their way, eventually, to the chapel. It was dirty and dusty as if it hadn’t been used for years and, as they crossed to the altar near the front, they left tracks in the dust. They guessed no one had been in the room for at least a decade.

 

“Not very religious, eh?” Hawksworth said.

 

They noticed outbuildings and a neglected orchard behind the house.

 

They returned to the kitchen and Hawksworth put his ear to the door in an attempt to hear what Lord Loddington was up to. He thought he heard a man grunting and groaning painfully within. He went white.

 

“What’s wrong, man?” Godfrey asked.

 

“He’s killing a person in there!” Hawksworth whispered.

 

“What?” Godfrey said. “What!?!”

 

He pushed Hawksworth aside and put his own ear to the door. He was unable to hear anything himself aside from garbled noises.

 

“Do you hear a man being killed in there?” Hawksworth asked.

 

“I just hear normal noises,” Godfrey said. “Hawksworth, are you sure you─”

 

“What are normal noises?”

 

“Normal kitchen sounds. I don’t hear screaming. I don’t know. Do you usually scream when you’re cooking your dinner?”

 

“Get out of the way!”

 

Hawksworth pushed Godfrey aside and put his ear to the door once again. He couldn’t hear the groaning but heard a hacking noise as if someone were cutting meat.

 

“Well, he’s dead by now,” Hawksworth whispered to the man. “I was listening when he did the killing blow! I heard the gurgle. Well, now, then you started listening after the gurgle and I came back after the gurgle and now the man is dead. But I heard the initial ‘Oh, please help me!’ I heard that!”

 

“You didn’t say that before!” Godfrey whispered to him.

 

“Of course I didn’t. Because … I wanted you to hear it with your own ears, of course. Godfrey, just go in there and say ‘I’m hungry. I need something right now,’ and take a look.”

 

“I don’t want him to cook me next, if that’s the case.”

 

There was a click as the door was unlocked and then opened. Lord Loddington came out and stopped to stare at the two men standing there. He pulled the door closed behind him as Hawksworth tried to look around the man but stumbled and fell to the ground.

 

“I’m sorry,” Hawksworth said. “I’m so hungry.”

 

“Yes,” Lord Loddington said.

 

He reached back and locked the door behind him.

 

“I’ve prepared the hog,” he said when he turned back to them. “I’ll fetch my wife to cook it.”

 

“How many pounds was it?” Hawksworth said.

 

“Enough,” Lord Loddington said. “Why are you speaking?”

 

He slapped Hawksworth squarely in the face. The man let out a shout of pain.

 

“I’m sorry,” Hawksworth called. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

 

“I didn’t say you could speak!” Lord Loddington said.

 

He slapped the man in the face again.

 

“Your servant is quite …” He said.

 

“Oh, I know,” Godfrey said. “I’ve been meaning to …”

 

But Lord Loddington had walked away, leaving them. Once he was gone, Godfrey peered through the keyhole. He saw a kitchen beyond and could see a cutting table with meat upon it.

 

“Let’s wait by the kitchen door and see if we can take another look when the wife comes back,” Hawksworth said to Godfrey. “Or, why don’t you offer I help her with the cooking as a good servant would do?”

 

“Good idea,” Godfrey said.

 

* * *







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