Chapter 7

Written by: Ant Gavin Smits

Footfalls in the passage heralded another newcomer; the door crashed open and the old caretaker took a step inwards, shotgun held firmly in a thick right hand, torch in the other.

“What the devil is goin’ on?” 

Vanessa slumped to the floor as Damon ceased struggling with the transparent Lady Elizabeth and turned. All at once, the fire’s dancing orange glow dwindled and died, as if a hand had snuffed it out. 

“Thank god,” Damon exclaimed, seeing the old man’s craggy, shadowed face in the pulsing light cast by Vanessa’s black box. “Please help us.”

For a long second silence returned to the attic as the caretaker took stock. Damon shivered, then gasped as the man raised the shotgun—and then the torch, shining it directly at his eyes.

“Step away from Miss Vanessa,” the caretaker growled, in a much less-friendly tone than the one he’d used courteously on the hall porch just a couple of hours earlier.

What? Watch out for the undead! Damon wanted to shout. But he’d seen the rising shotgun’s twin tunnels and the warning died in his throat. “I—I don’t recall your name,” said Damon, stalling. His head jerked around, eyes searching for the murderous Lady Elizabeth, but his eyes had closed down against the glare and he couldn’t see her. Where was Archie? Bella? 

Vanessa clearly hadn’t seen the reincarnated figures; now Damon couldn’t see them either. He was afraid. 

“I’m Dawes,” the man said. “Step away. Stand against the wall.”

Damon didn’t move fast enough, apparently. The torch beam dropped; Damon’s eyes followed it and saw Vanessa prone, hemlock stems strewn around her body. But her head was lifting. Thankfully, she was alive. “Vaness—”

The torchlight disappeared. Dawes had switched it off and dropped it on the floor or in his pocket; Damon felt the pudgy hand at his collar, grabbing a fistful of his shirt. He was driven back until his hips met the window sill and his head hit the sash which rattled in the frame. 

Dawes brought his face close, his steamy breath exhaling in sharp jabs as he demanded an explanation.

“You were given shelter here. Why are you attacking Miss Vanessa? She don’t deserve to be molested by the likes of you—whoever the hell you are.”

“I wasn’t attacking her!” It wasn’t easy to speak with his neck constrained but Dawes had got it wrong. Where were those ghosts?

“Oh really? That’s enough leather to cobble dogs. I know what I saw.”

“Dawes!” Vanessa had struggled to a sprawled position and was getting up. “Let him go. Damon was protecting me.”

Damon felt the big man’s hand release. Dawes stepped back and helped Vanessa to her feet. 

“Protecting you?” Suspicion filled his voice. “There’s certainly somethin' strange afoot. Just as well it woke me, aye?” He took out his torch and switched it on. “You best both come back to my place for a drink. We’ll work it all out in the mornin'.”


What a beautifully visual chapter this is. So many questions left to answer in this thrilling story. The next writers are going to enjoy that. Well done Anthony.
Unseen talent afoot here as Ant pulls the story a little tighter, steering the plot on course smoothly. Donna is right. This chapter is visual and full of detail. Loved it, Ant.
Donna and Ray are on the money...great visual chapter. I just want to add that it had great pace and as the reader the narrative hooked me in and swept me along. Terrific work.