Harold dropped Michael and Hubert off at Michael's house on Chenoweth Street, and then drove directly to Salem Hospital, a gray squarish complex in concrete blocks off Jefferson Avenue, and not far from Mill Pond, where George Badger had once lived. The sky had cleared, and there was a high thin sunset, which was reflected in the puddles of the parking-lot. Harold walked across to the hospital doors with his hands jammed into the pockets of his jacket, and hoped to hell that Claudia Wildman was making a reasonable recovery. He should have insisted that she and Bruce stay away from Harvest Mills Cottage. A warning hadn't been enough. Now the woman was blind and it was all his fault!356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡjLZAbUQozl
Harold found Bruce sitting in the waiting area on the 4th story, his head bowed, staring at the polished vinyl floor. Behind him there was a lithograph of a pelican by Basil Ede. Bruce didn't look up, even when he sat down next to him. A soft chime sounded, and a seductive telephonist's voice called, "Dr. Ramsdale, pick up the white phone please. Dr. Ramsdale."
"Bruce?" Harold said.
He raised his head. His eyes were redrimmed, both from fatigue and from weeping. He looked about 100 years older, and he was reminded of what Colin Knight had said about the man who had sailed on the Bradburn. He opened his mouth, but somehow his throat seemed too dry to say anything.
"What's the latest," Harold asked him. "Is she any better. Have you seen her yet?"
"Yes," he said. "I've seen her."
Harold was about to say something encouraging, but then he realized that there was something wrong about the way he'd spoken, some flatness in the intonation that didn't quite ring true.
"Bruce?" he asked him.
Unexpectedly, he reached over and took hold of Harold's hand and held it very tight. "You just missed her," he said. "She died about twenty minutes ago. Massive cerebral damage, caused by intense cold. Not to mention shock, and the physical trauma to the eyes and face. The cards, as they say, were stacked against her."
"Oh God, Bruce, I'm sorry."
He took a deep, sad breath. I'm a little giddy, I'm afraid. They gave me something to calm me down. What with that, and the tiredness, and the shock of it all, I guess I'm not much good for anything right now."
"Would you like me to take you home?"
"Home?" he stared at Harold questioningly, as if he didn't know what "home" was anymore. Home was just a building now, filled with unpossessed possessions. Rows of dresses that would never be worn again; racks of shoes whose owner would never return. What does a single man do with a drawersful of lipsticks and stockings and brassieres? The most painful part of a wife's sudden death, as he had discovered for himself, was clearing out the bathroom. The funeral had been nothing compared to clearing out the bathroom. Harold had stood there with a wastebasket full of nail varnish and hair conditioner and skin-toner, and cried his eyes out.
"Oh, don't blame yourself for it," said Bruce. "You warned me explicitly enough. I somehow thought---well, I somehow thought that Nancy would be benign. At least to her mother."
"Bruce, I saw her later myself. She tried to kill me, too. She's not Nancy, that's what I was trying to warn you about. Not the Nancy that either of us used to know. She's like a kind of addict now, can you understand what I mean? Her ghost can't rest until she claims another life, to help feed the force that's controlling her."
"Force? What are you talking about, force?"
"Bruce," Harold said, "this isn't the time or the place. Let me drive you home; then you can get some sleep and tomorrow we'll talk it over."
He glanced around over his shoulder, towards the room where Claudia must have been lying. "She's there?" Harold asked him, and he nodded.
"I shouldn't leave her, he said. "It doesn't seem right."
"You won't be leaving her, Bruce. She's gone already."
He was quiet for a very long time. Every line in his face seemed to have been etched in gray; he was so numbed by exhaustion and tranquilizers that he could barely stay upright.
"Do you know something, Harold?" he said. "I don't have anybody now. No son, no daughter, no wife. All that family that I thought I would see growing up around me; all those people I loved. They're all gone, and now there's nobody but me. I don't even have anybody to will my gold watch to."
He drew back his cuff, and unfastened his watch, and held it up. "What's going to happen to this watch when I die? Claudia had it engraved, you know, with my name; and what she said was, 'Some day, your great-grandson's going to wear this watch, and he's going to look at your name engraved on the back, and he'll know who he is, and where he came from.' And do you know something? That boy will never be."
"Come on, Bruce," Harold told him. "I'll go check with the doctor, and then I'll take you home."
"Are you going back to---that place tonight? Harvest Mills Cottage?"
"I'll stay with you if you want me to."
He pursed his lips, and then nodded, "I'd like that. If it's not too much too much trouble."
"No trouble, Bruce. In fact, I'm glad to have an excuse not to go back there."
They left the hospital, and walked across the parking lot to Harold's car. Bruce shivered in the evening wind. Harold helped him to climb into the passenger seat, and then they drove out through the suburbs of Salem, southwards towards Boston and Dedham. Bruce said very little as the drove; but stared out of the window at the passing traffic, ad the houses and the trees and the darkness of the falling night, the first night he had known for 38 years which he couldn't share with Claudia. As they approached Boston, the lights of airplanes circling Logan Airport looked as lonely as anything Harold had ever seen.
The house at Dedham had been passed down by Wildmans for four generations, father to son, and although Bruce and his father had both worked in Salem, they had kept up residence in the old Dedham house for tradition's sake. For some years, Bruce's father had also rented a small apartment near the center of Salem, but Claudia had insisted that Bruce should drive the 25 miles home every evening, especially after Bruce's father had been seeing "women" at the Salem apartment, and that items of underclothing had been discovered under the bed.
It was a huge colonial house set in seven acres of ground; the original 41 acres having been parceled up by succeeding generations of Wildmans and sold off for property development. White-painted, with a peaked five-gable roof, it was approached by a curving driveway lined with maple trees, and in the fall it looked so picturesque you could hardly believe it was a real dwelling. Harold remembered how impressed he had been the first time that Nancy had brought him back there: and Harold thought how much better it would have been for the Wildman family if Harold had turned around that morning and driven all the way back to St. Louis, non-stop, day and night, anything to save them from the tragedy which had visited them these past few weeks, and from the fear which he knew was still to come.
Harold parked the car outside the front door and helped Bruce to climb out. He gave Harold the front door key and the latter let them both in. The house was still warm: the Wildmans had left the central heating on last night because they had walked out of the house with every expectation of coming back. The first thing Harold saw when he turned on the hall light was Claudia's glasses, lying on the polished hall-table, just where she had left them only 24 hours ago. Harold looked up, and saw his distorted face in a circular gilt mirror, and behind him, Bruce looking shrunken and strange.
"No. 1 priority is a big Scotch," Harold told Bruce. "Come on into the sitting-room and take your shoes off. Relax."
Bruce fastidiously hung up his coat and scarf, and then followed Harold into the spacious sitting-room, with its waxed honey-colored floors, its Persian rugs, and its mellow 19th-century furniture. Over the wide fireplace hung an oil-painting of old Suffolk County, in the days before Century 21 Realty and weekend cottages and the Massachusetts Turnpike. Beneath the painting, on the mantle, there was a collection of Dresden figures which had obviously belonged to Claudia.
"I feel numb," said Bruce, easing himself down into his armchair.
"You're going to feel numb for quite a while, I'm afraid," Harold cautioned him. He poured two large whiskeys out of Bruce's heavy crystal decanter, and handed Bruce one. "It's your mind, defending itself from the shock of what's happened."
Bruce shook his head. "I can't believe it, you know. I can't believe any of it. I keep thinking back on what happened last night, the way that Nancy appeared like that, and it seems like a horror movie, something I saw on T.V. Not real!"
""I guess it all depends on what you mean by 'real,'" said Harold, sitting down opposite, and pulling his chair a little closer.
Bruce looked at him. "Will she always be there? Nancy, I mean? Will she always be a ghost like that? Won't she ever rest?"
"That's one of the things I want to talk to you about," said Harold. "But not now. Let's save it for tomorrow."
"No," said Bruce. "Let's talk about it now. I want to think this whole thing out, to think about it and think about it until my mind gets sick and tired of thinking about it, and I can't think about it any more."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"Probably not, but it's what I want to do. Anyway, who cares about what's a good idea and what's not? I don't have anybody. Have you thought about that? I have a ten-bedroomed house, and nobody to live in it but me."
"Drink your drink," Harold instructed him. "Let's have another. I need to be partially drunk to tell you about this."
Bruce swallowed, shivered, and then handed Harold his empty glass. When Harold had poured them both a refill, he sat down again and said, "As far as I know, there's only one way in which Nancy's spirit can be put to rest. Even that isn't certain. I've been hard pressed to keep on believing in all this myself, because the more I find out about it, the weirder it gets. I think the only reason I've kept on believing it is because four or five other people believe it as well: three guys I know from the Peabody Museum, and a girlfriend of theirs.
"This morning we went up to Tewksbury, and talked to Mr. Colin Knight. You know Mr. Knight? Well, you've heard of Mr. Knight, I'm sure. Mr. Knight's been making a study of psychic disturbances in Salem and Ol' Spithead, and he agrees with us that the probable cause of all these manifestations like Nancy's and Mr. Donald Baylor's is---well, is---something that's submerged in an old wreck off the Ol' Spithead coast. The wreck of a ship called the George Badger."
"I don't understand," said Bruce.
"I don't either, not completely. But apparently the hold of that wreck contains a thing like a giant mummy, which was brought to Salem in the late 1680s from Peru. The mummy was said to be a demon called----just a minute, I have it written down here----Supay. The lord of Ukhu Pacha, the region of the dead. It was supposed to have been Supay's power that created all the havoc that led to the Salem witch-trials; and even though it's sunk beneath the ocean, and several feet of bottom-mud, it's still affecting the dead of Ol' Spithead, and refusing to let them rest."
Bruce stared at Harold as if he was completely mad; but Harold knew that the only way in which he could convince both him and himself of the real danger of Supay was if he kept on and described what needed to be done as rationally and as calmly as he could.
"The wreck of the George Badger is going to have to be located," said Harold. "Then, when we've located it, it's going to have to be raised, and the copper vessel containing Supay removed, and taken to Tewksbury for old man Knight to deal with."
"What can he do that nobody else can?" Bruce wanted to know.
"He won't say. But he strongly advised us not to try to tackle the demon on our own."
"Demon," said Bruce, skeptically; then looked at Harold narrowly. "You really believe it's a demon?"
"Demon is kind of an old-fashioned way of putting it," Harold admitted. "I guess nowadays we'd call it a psychic artifact. But whatever it is, and whatever we call it, the fact remains that the George Badger seems to be the center of some extremely intense supernatural activity; and that the only obvious way of finding out what it is, and how to put a stop to it, is to raise the wreck."
Bruce said nothing, but finished his second glass of whiskey and sat back in his chair, exhausted and tranquilized, now half-drunk. Harold didn't suppose he should have been giving him booze on top of sedatives, but for his money he needed all the numbness he could get.
Harold said, as persuasively as he could, "Even if the wreck isn't what we think it is, raising it off the seabed will still be a profitable enterprise. There'll be all kinds of archaeological spinoffs, as well as souvenirs, book rights, television rights, that kind of stuff. And once we've raised the wreck, it could be put on public show during restoration, and we could make quite a steady income out of admission fees."
"You're asking me for money," Bruce surmised.
"The George Badger can't be raised without finance."
"How much finance?"
"Michael Trotter---he's one of the guys from the Peabody---he guesses five to six million."
"Five to six million? Where the hell am I going to get five to six million?"
"Come on, Bruce, most of your clients are business people. If only twenty or thirty of them could be persuaded to invest in raising the George Badger, that would mean only about $150,000 each. It would give them the prestige of being involved in an historic salvaging operation, as well as the chance to write it all off tax-wise."
"I couldn't advise anybody to put their money into raising a 300-year-old wreck that might not even be there."
"Bruce, you have to. If you don't, Nancy's spirit and the spirt of hundreds of other people are going to be damned and cursed for all eternity; never resting; never finding peace. And if all these recent events have been anything to go by, the power of Supay is becoming stronger. Colin Knight believes that the copper vessel in which it's been lying for all these hundreds of years may be corroding. The plain fact of the matter is that we have to get to Supay before Supay gets to us."356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡyVAt66Znj0
Bruce said, "I'm sorry, Harold. It can't be done. If any one of my clients gets to hear why I've asked him to invest $150,000 in a salvage operation, if any one of them suspects that I've done it to lay a ghost----well, there won't be any doubt about it. My reputation will be finished and so will the reputation of my partnership. I'm sorry."356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡoY0fPa4Rar
"Bruce, I'm asking you this for the sake of your own daughter. Don't you know what she's going through, what she must be feeling?"356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡWqVMsPMKcD
"No," said Bruce. Then, "Let me think about it tomorrow. Right now I don't know what the hell I'm doing or thinking."356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNcnu9PFK7v
"Okay," Harold said more gently. "Do you want me to help you get to bed?"356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡws859Ngn3X
"I'll just sit here for a while. But if you want to get some sleep, don't let me stop you. You must be as tired as I am."356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡP99F8JyGCs
"Tired?" Harold asked him. He didn't know whether he was or not. "I think I'm more scared than tired."356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡhFmuNH4lRP
"Well," said Bruce. He reached out and gripped Harold's hand; and for the first time since they'd bet, Harold felt that there was a bond between them, father and son-in-law, even though they had both lost everything that was supposed to keep them together. "I hate to say it," he said, "but I'm scared, too."356Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡcj22MxX4tN