Miss Penny Dreadful introduces:
“The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler”
Part 3 The Stone of The Sons of Horus
“…Merci pour le cadeau!”
“Lockhart! This way!” A hissed whisper from my far left.
I darted, goggles askew, the Stone of Horus bouncing on my hip, towards a large, circular, stone, building. Doppler could be glimpsed in the shaded doorway. There was a strong odour, ammonia like, I didn’t really want to go and hide in there, but we couldn’t really outrun these men. I knew de Cavellier was fast. And I didn’t fancy my chances with the bludgeoning Butler.
“What on earth?” I gagged.
“Pigeons” replied Doppler “Monsieur’s pigeon coup”.
“An antiquated guard tower, I think.” I replied.
It was a huge, crumbling structure, some twenty odd metres diameter, perhaps twice that in height, with a rounded top and what appeared to be obstructed windows up one section. The door was locked, rusted and crusted with filth. I heard shouting from the open window of the villa, I would bet he was calling for backup and ordering Half Ear to let loose the dogs, I scooted round the wall looking for a secondary egress, leaving Doppler messing with the lock. Upon my return a new and even more horrendous stench greeted my nostrils, some kind of acid, Doppler had burned part of the lock away and so we heaved against the dark square until we could cram through into the gloom beyond.
Inside the smell almost burnt the hairs inside ones nose. Pulling down my night vision goggles (or should I say, Professor Nitros’ goggles), I bid Doppler remain still whilst I surveyed. Behind us, through the door we’d barely jammed shut again, I heard The Frenchman calling, his voice closing in on us. Before us was a mess of rubble strewn about the floor, timbers had collapsed from above, we stepped on pigeon corpses, too many pigeon corpses. I caught a flash of movement high above, could be disturbed birds. I could hear voices now right outside,
“Come out of there, it is dangerous.” Came the cry from de Cavellier.
A few fallen rafters and stones weren’t going to chase me back out into his Butlers bludgeon.
“Madam, I implore you!”
Implore all you like, I thought, I had the Stone in my possession and I didn’t intend to lose it this quickly. An indistinct rasping, a faint breeze as of something moving in the dark beyond; why couldn’t I see anything? The door behind us was being shoved now, Doppler put her back against it as I scanned the room, a sudden presentiment made me point my gun, and something shrieked ahead, I fired, putting myself between Doppler and whatever this thing was. It was a times like this I remembered that Theodora Doppler was still in essence, a child. I felt her level her sonic pepper box over my left shoulder.
“Get out!” I hissed.
She fired. The flash briefly illuminating some hideousness, a face, taught and pallid in the spark, anaemic eyes and something at its back flapping like a tattered cloak – wings?! As the dark returned as suddenly, half blinded, my left ear ringing from the explosive shot, I pulled the trigger, something smacked the weapon from my hand, and I felt my wrist give. I was frantically pushing my back against Doppler, urging her back out, even if it was into the arms of the bludger, this was a nightmare like nothing I had seen or heard of in my life. Someone was trying to push the door open wider as Doppler was leaning against it in terror. I fumbled with my bullwhip, transferring it to my left hand and pulling my old Kentucky pistol from my waistband, desperately wishing I had come more heavily armed, but, I didn’t know we would be up against some monstrosity, some fiend from Hell as it seemed.
I was catching brief glimpses of the creature now, but even with the night goggles it seemed to evade perception, like it wasn’t all there, or it was not warm blooded. I lashed out as it moved in then out of range, it seemed to be able to move at unnatural speed, it was definitely a bi-ped, but beyond that I knew not what it could be. I was barely aware of the exhortations behind me, when Doppler seemed yanked away. I was alone with the beast, I knew I only had one good shot with the pistol. I skirted around the wall trying to breath steadily; a creeping, crooked figure crossed my field of vision, head turned towards me, I could swear it was playing with me as a cat plays with a mouse, I struck out with the whip, I thought I struck it, then it was gone.
Although I still had a high pitched ringing inside my head, I could now hear Doppler shouting to me from outside, I kept my back up against the wall and began to edge back to the door. As I felt the cool night air on my left, I also felt a hot, foetid breath on my right cheek. Ever so slowly, I brought the pistol to waist height, turned to face the leering, grey maw and fired, it staggered with the force but seemed otherwise unharmed. I was roughly grabbed by my left shoulder as a finely attired male shoved me, unceremoniously out the door and stood his ground in the tower of filth.
Outside, still dark, there was de Cavellier holding a rifle, he was without coat, his snowy shirt, loosed at the throat clung to his damp shoulders and arms like a spent lover. The Butler with his bludgeon in one hand and a large net in the other hovered close to the entrance of the tower. Two gents, guests I supposed, held a lamp each and small blaster pistols. De Cavellier gave me a strange look, a mix of anger and, sorrow? The Butler and de Cavellier advanced to the doorway, from inside we could hear scuffles, shouts, commands. I grabbed Doppler, clawing the goggles from my head, checking she was unharmed. Her face was ashen with terror, but she seemed physically fine.
“What, was it?” she gulped.
“I’ve no idea, a nightmare. Look sharp, keep it together and follow my lead.”
Inside the tower with de Cavellier was the Butler and a guest, the remaining two gents seemed bewildered by the whole thing and remained with lamps raised, pistols aimed at the door, they were completely focused on the noises emitting from the tower. As I began to back away, de Cavellier chose this moment to emerge, he spoke sharply to the two guests who advanced cautiously towards the tower.
He spoke sharply in English, turning on myself and Doppler in the act of trying to creep away undetected,
“Have no idea what you have done. Do you realise what you could have unleashed? Never mind that you have stolen from me!”
He rested his rifle over the crook of his arm, he was panting and dishevelled, in the chill morning air a gentle steam rose from his perspiring physique. There were indeterminate sounds issuing from the tower doorway behind him. He took a step towards us, pointed accusingly at me,
“And you, madam! How could you bring a petit fille along on your escapade?”
I clutched Doppler’s hand, giving it a certain squeeze. As the Frenchman continued his tirade, Doppler and I both focused on a spot beyond him, Doppler raised her arm slowly, pointing, mouth open, horrified. De Cavellier spun around, rifle raised.
Realising he had been duped, de Cavellier was torn between chasing us, shooting us or remaining to assist his staff and friends in their hideous clean up.
I knew he wouldn’t shoot…ever!
To be continued….