Part 5: Phonecalls
Chapter 3: Phonecalls
I realized that while I had turned the rest of the manor upside-down, I had paid little attention to my own room. Wanting to remedy this, I turned away from the door.
The theme of eerie paintings was as constant as always, even in my room. I considered taking this particular one down.
It appeared as if a doctor used to sleep in this room.
True to my suspicions, I quickly located the doctor's bag, next to the fireplace.
I grabbed the stethoscope, which seemed to be the only useful thing in the bag.
Moving the stethoscope revealed some of the doctor's diagrams--the first was a rather grotesque depiction of some bizarre creature's anatomy. I knew then that I would never understand what it depicted.
Glancing at another painting, I moved towards the desk upon which I had placed my typewriter; and began rifling through the drawers.
... At least the house was well-stocked with alcohol.
I peered into the nearby wastebasket, and found a crumpled sheet of paper.
Why is it that I can't concentrate? Crumpling pages like this... I'am getting worse, I the whisperings! They're killing me! They cannot be real they cannot bereal barred the doorway but still can hear them in my dreams. How to get rid of it? If it was only that simple... but tearing it apart would force me to admit its otherworldy nature. No! It just can't be possible... I can't allow these thoughts to cross my mind... But I can really hear them... so clearly. Have I really lost it? It just can't be that I'm experiencing exactly what James did. It has to be influence. How else to explain that every time I walk past the gallery the whispers grow louder? They're luring me inside... it wants me closer. I can hear them again... yes the tortured soulds of the fallen now suffering for eternity a chant next room I know for sure its source now, I can't fool myself any longer are those drums?? oh please for Christs sake, dont let it be drums I have to document this I have to keep going because if James was right...
may God have mercy on our souls
'Barred the doorway'... I wonder what had distressed the writer so much.
Would this house never cease to disturb me in one way or another? Teasing me... giving me only sneaking, fleeting images of the mystery hidden within its walls! Who wrote that scrap of paper... and more importantly, why? I hesitated, unsure as to whether or not I ought to walk past the gallery on my way downstairs; but almost as if to prove a point to myself, I decided to do so.
I strode past the doors of the gallery and heard nary a noise. Perhaps I was only allowing myself to be carried away by the ramblings of a lonely madman. With decor such as this, it would be no surprise that the previous occupant of the house was... disturbed.
Certainly interesting subjects, especially that last squid-like creature. I made my way downstairs, and to the phone to call Jerry about the electricity.
M: Jerry, it's me.
J: What's up, Michael?
M: Everything seems to be fine... except, the lights don't work.
J: Oh you don't have to worry, I forgot to tell you. I had an electrician, one that I trust, to meet you there this morning. You know how a lack of power can be a recurring issue in old places like that. He should be arriving soon.
M: That's good to know. I'll set up my stuff and let you know how everything does later.
J: Perfect! Have fun.
M: Sure. Oh, also, do you know anything about the previous inhabitants of this house?
J: Not much, just that they were some strange individuals. There's also the murder...
M: You're kidding me! A murder?
J: An old fashioned murder. You'd probably love the details but sadly I don't know very much. It's old history really, although it caused quite a stir there in Rothbury. It seems the owner, Jay Blackwood I think, went mad and killed his wife. I do remember the date though: May 1963.
M: James... James Blackwood according to the stuff I've been reading.
J: Oh so you're already turning the place upside down. I should have thought so.
M: There's enough material for a whole series of stories here, you know!
J: After you finish your book, my friend!
M: Yeah, yeah... but it can never hurt poking around a little.
J: Would you just get back to work? Call me if you need anything!
M: Alright, goodbye.
I also called Barbara, my assistant, to check on how things were going back in London.
B: Hello, Arthate productions.
M: "Arthate productions?" What in Heaven's name was that?
B: Oh, hi boss! I was just fooling around.
M: Well, don't. I don't want people thinking I'm some kind of studio. And don't call me boss!
B: I'm sorry... but it's just that I haven't had anything to do all day, with you gone.
M: I told you it was going to be that way, girl. But I still need you there... I just hope you're not being bored to death.
B: Oh, no. I'm keeping myself amused.
M: That's great, but don't lower your guard. As soon as I publish my new book, that place is going to get riddled with phone calls and hundreds of fan mail.
B: That's the spirit, boss! I know your new book is going to be a huge success.
M: Of course it will... as soon as I find a proper ending. And stop calling me boss!
B: As you wish boss. Oh sorry!
M: Thanks, goodbye.
B: Good luck!
With that settled, I put the phone down and headed outside to check and see if the electrician had arrived.
As I stepped outside, I realized just how cold and gloomy it was inside the house. Outside, the air was fresh, and a soft breeze ran through my hair. I felt serene, tranquil as I paced toward the gates, content to leave the ominous home behind me. The stillness was comforting, for once--but the absence of anyone at the gate worried me.
I went to the gate as Jerry had instructed, but there was no sign of an electrician...
Nobody! I turned to look at the mailbox, to see if a note had been left.
Well, that certainly wasn't a smooth start...
Mr. Carter asked me to fix a power problem in your residence. I was told to meet you at the gates, but after several minutes you still did not appear. I waited as long as I could but when I saw no signs of you, I felt I must leave.
Please contact Mr. Carter immediately when you get this note.
To say that I was frustrated would be a massive understatement. Disappointed, I made my way back to the house, doing my best to keep my eyes off its lugubrious facade. I had to call Jerry.
J: Carter Properties.
M: Jerry, we have a problem.
J: What happened?
M: The electrician missed me! He left a note in the mailbox.
J: Bloody hell! He was supposed to meet you at the gates early this morning. I thought he was just being late. Why don't you go check the fuses yourself? Maybe it isn't that serious.
M: I don't know. I'm not very good with that kind of thing.
J: Michael... even my grandmother could improvise a fuse. Just go and look, and let me know if you see anything burned.
M: As in black spots?
J: Yes. Black spots.
M: Alright, I'm on it!
I made my way to the kitchen.
The door to what I assumed was the basement, was locked.
Where else would the fuse-box be? As I pondered my options, I had a sudden stroke of genius. Smiling at my own wit, I strode into the room nearby, the one filled with photographs.
Stepping to one of the drawers, I pulled it open and rifled through with the intention of finding a photograph I had seen earlier.
It was an old picture of the kitchen I had just left.
Surely the key would still be there? I walked back into the kitchen.
A key holder. Except there weren't any keys hanging from it.
But it never really is that easy, is it?
Discouraged, I turned to leave the kitchen and call Jerry once again (how pathetic I must have sounded!).
Something caught my eye, however, as I moved to open the dining room door...
Yes! Surely the very same pot in the photo now was placed beneath that window! I peered inside it, but found it too dark to see anything...
Pulling the curtains to one side, I allowed some light to stream into the passageway.
The golden rusty key was quite heavy.
Success! I felt as though I had gained at least one victory against the wicked house. Grasping the key firmly in my right hand, I walked back to the basement door.
The golden key fit nicely into place and unlocked the door.
... My bravado seemed to vanish almost immediately as I stepped into the basement. Never have I had such a sudden desire to leave a room in my life. I had to press on, however.
A poster greeted me as I walked in and turned towards the steps leading down, to my right. Hesitating at each step, I made my way down.
It was terribly cold and damp in the basement...
Shivering, I quickly surveyed my surroundings.
The interior of the boiler was as dark as the mouth of a wolf. In any case, I didn't want to spend too much time near it.
I had had enough. I turned around and frantically sought the fuse box. I had to get out of this place.
I opened it up.
There appeared to be nothing wrong with the fuses.
Flipping the fuses led to nothing. Cursing my luck, I bounded up the stairs... I was happy that I had at least left that terrifying basement. The feeling of discomfort, however, simply refused to rise from my weary shoulders.
I made my way back to the phone.
M: Jerry, all the fuses seem to be fine. I think the problem might be a little more complicated than that.
J: I see...
M: What should we do now?
J: Go get some candles!
M: You're joking, right?
J: No... I'm not! I'm calling this guy right away, and I'm afraid he won't be able to stop by until tomorrow. He was already driving there today as a personal favour.
M: There must be something you can do! I don't feel comfortable walking around this place with dim lights, I barely know it... I left my sense of adventuring back in London. I have work to do.
J: Then do it! What else could you ask for? Now you have the chance to experience first hand one of your period pieces.
M: Oh very funny. Try getting that guy over here as soon as possible.
J: Don't worry, I will. Make sure you find some candles before it gets too dark.
I had but turned to go to the dining room when I realized that during my earlier exploration of the manor, I had not found a single candle! Frowning, I sat down and called Jerry once again. I was beginning to grow increasingly more distressed.
M: Jerry, I'm freaking out! I couldn't find a single candle inside this place!
J: You're kidding me! I can't believe it... did you look well?
M: Yes, every single room, drawer, box, cabinet... nothing! No candles!
J: Alright, listen: the town isn't too far away. Not more than twenty minutes' drive. If you can't find some candles there, I'll eat my hat.
M: You'll eat your whole closet! This is getting on my nerves.
J: Come on, it's just a quick ride. You know how to get there?
M: Yes, I saw it on my way here. Did you call Mr. Busy Electrician who couldn't hold on for just five more minutes?
J: Yes, he'll be doing me another special favour and will be going there tomorrow afternoon, It's the best he can do... you have to bear in mind it's Sunday! Will charge extra, of course.
M: I don't care! I have no power! I'll get him myself if he doesn't show up!
J: Calm down! Drive to the town before it gets too dark. You won't be able to find your way back if it does.
M: Yeah... I had to buy some food anyway.
J: There you go! Godspeed. And drive safe!
The thought of getting out of the house was becoming increasingly more attractive.
I almost ran outside, but stopped to check the time first.
The time was 4:00 P.M.
It was no surprise the electrician had left. How many hours had I been busy searching the manor?
The fresh air greeted me once more as I stepped outside. I almost ran to my car.
Swinging the door open, I threw myself inside and strapped my seatbelt into place. I slipped the ignition key into the car, turned and twisted it... and continued to sit there in silence.
The car would not start! It was only then that I realized I had left the lights on... The car battery was dead.
While this succession of unfortunate events must seem humorous to my reader, you can only imagine how frustrated I was at the time. Even writing it all down makes my hand shiver!
Scowling and swearing in the most creative ways I have done in years, I turned to go back to the house... until I paused. It was, as I have said before, serene outside. I decided to try and calm myself down by strolling through the manor's grounds.
I turned right before the fountain to walk towards a garage of sorts.
There was no way I could open it with my bare hands.
I was met by a pair of imposing wooden doors, chained together. I could do nothing to open them then. I turned around and walked past the fountain to the pathways on the other side.
The one that led straight took me to a greenhouse.
The door to the greenhouse was stuck, possibly due to the rusting on its hinges.
Gradually, I was beginning to run out of options... I turned back towards the bifurcation in the path.
This time I walked down the other way.
This led me to a chapel, whose photo I had seen in the photographer's room earlier.
The massive doors leading to the interior of the chapel were locked.
I had no more options but to walked into that forsaken house and... well, yes. Call Jerry.
M: Jerry, you won't believe this. It's insane. My car is dead.
J: What?! Are you sure? Have you checked its pulse?
M: I'm not joking, it's gone.
J: My friend... this completely refefines the term 'suspension of disbeliefe' you sometimes use for your stories.
M: Ha ha, very funny. Listen, can't you just come up here and pick some on the way?
J: Michael, look at the time! I can't drive to Northumberland right now.
M: But Jerry, I can't spend the whole night without one single source of light. I barely know this place and I won't be able to find my way. Heck, I don't even know if it's rid of ghosts yet...
J: Are you a sleepwalker Michael? You lie down on the bed, you sleep, you wake up and you'll have tons of bright light then.
M: That's hardly helpful!
J: Hold on a minute. It's not my fault if the electrician missed you for a few minutes, there aren't any candles in a three storey mansion, and your car's battery is low.
M: OK, OK, listen... when will you be coming back to Rothbury?
J: I'll be arriving home early tomorrow morning and I'll come for you shortly after. We'll drive to town, stock yourself up, and then spend the rest of the day in your garden drinking some beers while we wait for Mr. Electrician. Sounds like a plan?
M: Yes Jerry, but isn't there something we can do now?
J: I'm afraid not. Sorry, I really took all the precautions to make your stay there as comfortable as possible, but I guess sometimes things are just meant to go wrong.
M: Apparently... alright, I'll be on my way then.
J: Call me back if you need anything. And Michael...
J: Just don't let this situation get on your nerves.
M: I promise it won't. Goodbye.
I thought for a moment, during that conversation, that things would descend into a pointless argument. I must credit Jerry's character, however: he remains jovial and optimistic even in the worst of situations. I did look forward to sharing those beers with him, but the prospect of spending a night in this house in the dark was hardly pleasant...
I turned away from the phone and looked at the time.
The time was 5:00 P.M.
It was early yet, and I didn't feel the need to sleep. However, there was little time before it would be dark, so I decided to occupy my time by heading up to the attic once more. The date Jerry mentioned earlier while talking about the murder had aroused my suspicion...
I looked for the date Jerry told me and found an interesting article...
Northumberland Daily Newspaper
Tuesday, 25th May, 1963
TERRIBLE NEWS SHOCKS THE COMMUNITY OF ROTHBURY
Mr. James BLACKWOOD, distinguished resident of this town and a widely acknowledge construction engineer, was accused yesterday by Miss Eva MARIANI, maid of the Blackwood family. While the nature of this situation is of the most unsual, given that Mr. BLACKWOOD is a highly respected gentleman, Miss MARIANI, an Italian immigrant and aspiring photographer, affirms to having a photograph that supports this accusation.
"I knew no one would ever believe me so I took a picture of him", she says. "I was supposed to be in town during the afternoon but I didn't have the need to... I mean, I didn't have any errands to do, so I was in my room and saw this shadow out in the garden. When I glanced through the window, I just couldn't believe my eyes... the Lady... Oh God, the sole thought of it sends shivers down my spine."
The photograph in question is in posession of the authorities, and it has bene revealed that it clearly shows Mr. BLACKWOOD burying a shape in his garden. "We can almost confirm that the shape is a body", says police chief William BAILEY, "but even if the image is not clear, this alone with Miss MARIANI's statement is enough to open a serious case against Mr. BLACKWOOD. Police officers are already heading to Blackwood Manor as we speak."
Up until this accusation it was believed that Mrs. Catherine BLACKWOOD was on a trip. "According to the information we recieved from the school where she teaches", the police chief continues, "a notice was sent to the teachers' department which stated that Mrs. BLACKWOOD had to leave on a sudden trip and that she would make use of her license to do so. Miss MARIANI's accusation puts Mr. BLACKWOOD in a very compromising situation. Even if we can't find anything in the garden, he has a lot of explaining to do."
The efforts of Dr. Christopher MILTON, one of Rothbury's most respected doctors and long time friend of the Blackwood family, to minimize the facts have been unsuccessful and the news is the subject of discussion throughout the whole town. Theories range from plausibile and well conceived to wild and crackpot ideas. But the question that keeps lingering on everybody's mind for which the answer has yet to be found is: why would a wealthy and educated mad cold heartedly murder his wife after 30 years of marriage?
Intringuing, to be certain! I was as puzzled as the police and the author of the article... why would James commit such a heinious act? His sudden madness, coupled with the writings in his journal began to make my mind race... could something have happened to him, down in South Africa? What had he discovered, and why had he killed Catherine?
I decided to leave the attic. Staying there and brooding in that dimly lit, musky place would only drive me mad. I went downstairs, to look at that door with the key in its lock once more.
This time, I snooped around and found a nice, wide sheet of old, messy newspaper on the floor! I slipped through the crack under the door and got to work.
After a bit of work, I managed to knock down the key with the help of the boring tool.
I removed the piece of paper and noticed that the key had gotten stuck behind the door! Whoever said that dumb technique worked?
... I gave up. The house was going to yield nothing more to me today; and to be truthful, I was getting weary. I was almost grateful for the opportunity to fall asleep early. As James said, all I had to do was sleep through the darkness, and I would be greeted by light in the morning. With a heavy sigh, I made my way to my room; with a weight in my stomach reminding me that I was far more nervous about the night than I admitted to myself.
It would certainly be one of the longest nights of my life. I must my pen down now, and rest.
* * *
Well, it looks like we've exhausted all the things to do today! There isn't anything else left to do but go to sleep... and that will all be in the next update.