Decker and I were in my sitting room. It was midafternoon, and the light from the sun passed through the windows. I’d missed work, and I was in no condition to try to get there. I was holding my bourbon in my hand, having a sip, still wondering about what had happened. I felt a tingling in my arms, and it traveled into my hands and out into my fingertips. I stretched my fingers and flexed them, trying to get the tingling to stop.
I should get up and get ready and go to work, though by now they’d have someone else covering my route. You’d think that my worries would be about that thing that was inside me. But actually, I wasn’t worried about much right then. I took a sip of the bourbon.
Decker leaned forward and was looking at me for a moment, and then his gaze shifted to the floor. “You’ll recover soon enough.”
I took another drink, this one a little longer than the last.
“Just give it some time, that’s all you need,” he said.
I took another drink, then set the bourbon down on the table. “What was that thing, Decker? Tell me.”
He shook his head. “All that racket, all that pounding on that wall in the cellar. You just couldn’t leave it alone could you, Mr. Stockhelm?”
He gave a quick nod.
“What are you talking about? What I was doing?”
“The cellar, the draft that you felt. It was no draft. It was a vengeful spirit, one that I had trapped down in that tunnel nearly a decade ago.”
“You said that draft came from your house.”
“I lied.” Decker rubbed his chin. “But you were drawn to that spirit, and then you started making that hole. I knew I had to come over here and see what was happening and put a stop to it.”
“Spirits don’t exist.” I leaned forward and looked over at Decker, shaking my head. “That doesn’t explain anything—it doesn’t explain what happened to me. Tell me, what happened to me?”
Decker adjusted himself like a businessman might do when he’s about to negotiate a deal, and then he breathed heavily. “I delve into the supernatural. I’ve been doing it for fifty years, maybe more. I don’t know, I’ve lost count. The things that go bump in the night, the creature that hides under your bed or inside a closet or under the stairs, those are the things I search for, and when I find them, I deal with them.” He looked me straight in the eye. “In your case, not only was there the vengeful spirit that I had to deal with again down in that tunnel, but also a demon had possessed you.”
“Well, that’s awfully convenient.”
“Were you planning to go out last night? Cause when I got here you looked awful cozy.”
“What made you want to go out?”
“That letter from the postmaster.”
“Are you sure?”
“I think so.”
“Why did you go to the Harken? The Holly is just down the street.”
“I don’t know. When I went to the Holly, I felt uncomfortable.”
“You were sent to find that demon.”
I was trying to wrap my mind around what Decker was telling me, but even though I recalled what I had experienced, I was equally having a hard time believing. “This is absolutely insane. You mean to tell me you talk to spirits and banish demons?”
“How do you explain what happened to you?” He said professionally.
“I don’t know. How do you explain it?”
“I just did.”
My mouth opened slightly, and I rolled my head. “And that’s it? That’s all you’re going to tell me?”
I had a flash being in the dark, and my skin tearing. I took a quick drink of bourbon.
“You realize the suffering, the pain that I had to go through?” I said, the hurt in me bubbling to the top, causing my voice to pitch higher. “This would have never have happened to me”—I stopped myself, trying to keep my calm—“this would have never happened if you weren’t snooping around my house.”
Decker edged to the end of his seat and looked directly at me. “If I hadn’t snooped around your house, you’d still be possessed and who knows what else you might have done? Think about Miss Newberry, or have you forgotten so easily?” He tapped the side of his temple.
I gripped the arms of the chair. “No, I haven’t forgotten. I know exactly what happened to me, or at least I remember what happened to me. It didn’t happen to you, it was me.”
Decker sucked in a breath and let it out. “And you profess that if I hadn’t bothered to investigate what was happening in your home that you would somehow be better off?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
Decker ran his thumb under the lapel of his coat. “Let me tell you now. If I had not come over here, if I had not investigated your home, inquired into what you were doing, then it’s safe to say that you would either be dead or running rampant and murdering innocent people in this city.” He brought his hands together, clasping his left over his right and resting them in his lap. “And I could not allow that on my conscience.” He tilted toward me, getting as close as he could without coming out of his chair. “Do you understand me?”
I shut my eyes for a second to clear my mind. Maybe I wasn’t thinking straight. Maybe he was right about intervening. “So are you saying this is all my fault? Because of some spirit that you believe lured me into my cellar?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying. The spirit was the least of our concerns. What I’m saying is that you are susceptible to the supernatural. And being susceptible led you to the situation you found yourself in.” Decker’s eyes were unflinching.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I sat back in my chair, pressing into the cushion.
“I’m not going to sit here and explain everything to you. Here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to get up, and I’m going to go back to my home. I will be there for maybe an hour or two. I have some other dealings that I must attend to, but I will hold off on those. If you feel that you need to come over and discuss this further, then let me know. When those two hours are gone, I will move on with my life, and you can do the same. Does that suit you?”
My head lowered, my shoulders sank inward, and I slouched in my chair. I raised one hand and gave Mr. Decker a wave.
Decker didn’t hesitate and left the room immediately. I heard him go out the front door, and then I heard the door shut.
I took the bourbon in my hand and drank. I stared off in the distance, letting my mind drift just for a moment. I was tired of trying to figure out what or why everything had happened. I got up and walked to the kitchen and retrieved the lantern, and on the way back to the sitting room I drew all my curtains, shutting out the light. Once all the lights were out, I lit the lantern and went back to my sitting chair.
I placed the lantern on the table next to me and adjusted the wick so that the flame would burn low, then reached for the bourbon and took another drink. The lantern’s flame flickered. I could barely make out my heavy bag, and I couldn’t see past the opening to the right heading to the hall. I stared out into the shadows, thinking about what had happened.
There was a sound coming from the hall. The wind perhaps?
I took another drink.
There was a new sound as if the front door had opened, and I wondered if Decker had come back. Maybe he forgot his pipe again? I quickly searched the table but it wasn’t there, and then I realized that what I’d heard was not the door opening. What I’d heard was a faint clink clink clank in my head. I shuddered at the thought. Clink clink clank. There it was again.
I was staring into the black of night at the edge of the room. I thought someone was there.
Clink clink clank.
I reached over and turned the lantern to its lowest point. A mere dim. I remained still.
Clink clink clank.
Inside me, a gripping fear crept into my soul and I began to wonder if the creature had returned.
Clink clink clank.
I took another drink and closed my eyes. It was nothing. It had to be nothing. Everything was gone, taken care of.
I reached over and turned the lantern to a point where the flame disappeared.
Darkness fell on me.
Clink clink clank.
It came back to me in a flood—the Harken, the alley, Miss Newberry, the body, the flames, the blood, the tunnel, but mostly I remembered the pain.
Clink clink clank.