Harold had, however, misjudged Pauline. He was back at Harvest Mills Cottage, packing together a few shirts and sweaters in preparation for his move to old man Knight's place, when the telephone rang.292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡLlM8D0OgpO
"Pauline? I thought you were ignoring me, just like the rest of the Peabody archaeological club."
She laughed. "I didn't want to upset them. Come on, Harold, I've been logkeeping for them for months now, they depend on me. But I think Michael's being very stuffy about this copper vessel you're supposed to bring up from the hole. I mean, if it really has anything to do with all of these hauntings, then I think they should winch it up right away."
"You and me both," Harold told her. "But you heard what Michael's reaction to that was. And he was the guy who said he would always be my friend. I think I'd rather have Supay for a friend. At least with Supay, you know where you are."
"Did Michael really promise you that he would bring up that copper vessel especially quickly?"
"He implied as much. As soon as humanly possible, that's what he said. I knew it couldn't be raised in two minutes flat, even when the wreck was located. But there was never any suggestion of years. It's too urgent for years. One way or another, that demon has to be brought up out of there, and fast!"
Pauline was silent for a while. Then she said, "You're going over to Tewksbury tonight, aren't you?"
"If you can wait until 9 or 10:00, I'll come over and see you. But I've got to finish inventory first."
"9 or 10:00 is fine. Make it as late as you wish."
He finished packing: then he took a look around the cottage. The bedrooms were empty and silent; and there was a strange closed atmosphere about them, as if they actually knew that he was leaving. He walked along the upstairs corridor to the bathroom, and collected his toothbrush, and stood for a moment and examined himself in the mirror over the basin. He looked very tired. There were purple smudges under his eyes, and his face looked strangely sly, as if the decision he had made to free Supay had somehow affected him physically, like the portrait of Dorian Gray had been altered by the corrupt and profligate life he had led.
He took his suitcase and went downstairs. He made sure that the water was turned off, and the empty icebox left to defrost with the door open. Then he went into the sitting-room and checked that he hadn't left anything behind. He was even going to take the painting of the George Badger with him, in case there was anything in it which old man Knight might have overlooked before he sold it.
He still wanted to go to stay with Colin Knight at Tewksbury, despite the fact that he had resigned from Michael's diving team. In fact, it was more critical than ever that before that he should learn as much as he could about Supay and the George Badger, because he was now determined that if Michael was going to refuse to bring up the copper vessel, then he would have to bring it up himself. Regardless of his inexperience as a diver; and regardless of the laws of salvage and wrecks.
He made sure that the log fire was out, and then he switched off the sitting-room light, and prepared to leave. But he was just about to close the door when he heard that whispering again, that soft, obscene whispering. He hesitated, listening. Then he stared into the darkness of the sitting-room, trying to make out if there was anything or anyone there. The whispering went on: coaxing and salacious, the whispering of a pederast or a voyeur, the whispering of a sexual killer. He looked towards the fireplace, and he was sure that he could see two dim scarlet glows among the logs, like the eyes of a devil.
Harold hesitated, then he switched on the light. There wasn't anyone there! The fire was dead, cold; without cinders or sparks. He glanced around the room quickly, then he turned off the light again and closed the door. He knew then that as long as the cottage was haunted this way, he could never go back. There was too much evil here, too much cold commotion. He may not have been at any physical risk, but if he stayed here much longer he would every likely go mad.
He went through the hallway and picked up his suitcase. As he did so, a familiar voice said, "Harold."
He turned around. Nancy was standing at the top of the stairs, her bare feet floating just a few inches above the second tread. She was still dressed in her white funeral robes, which silently fluttered as if they were being blown by an updraft. She was smiling at him, but there was something about her face which was even more mummy-like than ever.
He turned away. He was determined not to look, not to listen. But Nancy whispered, "Don't forget me, Harold. Whatever you do, don't forget me."
For a moment or two, he stood where he was, wondering whether he should speak to her: whether he should encourage her, or reassure her that he was going to save her, or whether he should tell her to return to hell. But it was probably not her at all. It was probably nothing more than another of Supay's sinister apparitions; and there was no point in talking to that.
He went out, shut the door behind him, and locked it. Then he walked away from Harvest Mills Cottage with as much determination as he could; promising himself that he wouldn't go back there until Supay had been raised from the harbor, and fulfilled for him its side of the bargain they had made.
But he couldn't resist one last look at the blind and shuttered face of the house that had once been their home, Nancy's and his. It looked so derelict and abandoned, as if the malevolence that now infested it had begun to rot the very structure of the roof-beams, the very substance of the plaster and the brick. He turned on the car engine, and drove off down Harvest Mills, his wheels bouncing in the potholes and ruts.
He was only halfway down the lane when he saw Andy Curtis, beating at the bushes along the left-hand side of the lane with a walking-cane. He drew up beside him, and put down his window.
"How goes it, Andy?"
Andy glanced at him, and carried on thrashing at the bushes.
"Oh? You're speaking to me again?" he said, crossly.
"You've been forgiven," Harold told him. "Lose something?"
"You haven't heard?"
Andy came over to the car and leaned on the roof. He looked as tired and anxious as Harold did, and his nose was running. He passed him a Kleenex from the glove compartment, and he noisily blew. Then he said, "We lost Tracker."
"You lost Tracker? What do you mean, you lost Tracker?"
"Just what I said. We lost him. He went out yesterday afternoon; said he was off to see his brother Johnny. Well, that's crazy, of course, 'cause Johnny's dead. But we ain't seen Tracker since then, and everybody's out looking for him."
Harold sat behind the wheel of his car, and thoughtfully bit his lip. So Supay had claimed Tracker Miller as well. I knew it. And although Harold wasn't going to tell Andy as much, because he didn't want to discourage him from searching, Harold knew in his heart of hearts that Tracker was already dead, in the same way that Mrs. Donald Baylor was dead and Wilbur Price, too.
"I'll keep my eyes peeled," Harold said. "I'm going over to Tewksbury for a while, but I'll be back."
"Okay," said Andy; and as he drove away he went back across to the hedgerow, and carried on beating at the branches in his attempt to find his old stud-poker partner, dead or alive. Harold felt deeply depressed as he reached the highway, and turned south on to West Shore Drive. The power of the demon was hanging over Ol' Spithead like an Atlantic thunderstorm, dark and menacing.
It was dark by the time he reached Tewksbury, and drew up outside the wrought-iron gates of old man Knight's home. I rang the bell and waited for Tyee to open up for me, watched as before by the ever-attentive Doberman pinscher. If he'd ever seen a dog with an appetite for human flesh, that dog was one. He could hear its claws clicking on the shingle driveway in carnivorous impatience.
As it was, it was Sarah Prentiss who had called off the dog and came to open the gates for him. She was wearing an ankle-length satin dressing-gown in electric blue, with a white boa collar. Her hair was pinned back with diamante combs. She looked like Jean Harlow in Dinner At Eight. The only trouble was, Harry didn't feel very much like Wallace Beery.
"You decided to take Mr. Knight up on his offer?" she said, lifting one of her thinly-plucked eyebrows, and locking the gates behind him.
"Are you surprised?"
"I'm not sure. I would have thought you were the kind of man who would have preferred to stay at a Holiday Inn."
He followed her up the steps to his suite of rooms. There was a large drawing-room, furnished with comfortable but stuffy old sofas and chairs, and carpeted in dark brown. On the walls were oil paintings of the Dracut County forests and the Miskatonic River; and next to the fireplace there were shelves packed with leather-bound volumes on geology and physics. There was a decent-sized bedroom, with a brass bed, and a huge gilt-framed mirror on the wall; and next to the bedroom there was an old-fashioned bathroom, with a shower that had obviously been dripping steadily for years, if the green stain on the tiles was anything to go by.
"I'll tell Mr. Knight that you have arrived when he has finished his afternoon sleep."
"It's already evening. Does he usually sleep this long?"
"It depends on his dreams. Sometimes he will fall asleep during the afternoon, and not wake up until early the next morning. He says he does as much work in dreams as he does when he is awake."
"I see," Harold said, setting down his suitcase.
Sarah said, "You may call me if there as anything that you need."
"I'm fine for the moment. There's just one thing, though: a friend of mine is visiting me later this evening. Miss Pauline Champion. I hope that's going to be all right."
"Absolutely. Tyee will admit her."
"Tyee isn't here right now?"
Sarah stared at him oddly, as if the question wasn't even worth a reply. Harold snapped open the latches of his case, and tried to look as if he was engrossed in taking out his slippers. Sarah said, "We usually eat at 9:00. Do you like beef?"
"Sure do. That'd be swell."
"Good. Meanwhile, please make yourself at home. Mr. Knight said you were to have unlimited access to the library."
"Thank you. I'll uh----see you later."
He unpacked his shirts and his underwear and put them away in the deep sour-smelling drawers of the bureau in his bedroom. Then he wandered around his rooms, picking up books and statuettes, and peering out of the windows. His drawing-room had a view of the back garden, which was almost a forest in itself. It was too dark to see it properly, but he could make out the distant shapes of 100-foot pines, and, closer to the house, a huge Osage orange. There was no TV in the room, and he made a mental note to himself to bring in a portable set tomorrow.
Just as the clock on his mantlepiece chimed 8:30 and he was sitting with his feet up on one of the sofas trying to get himself engrossed in Stresses in the Mohorovicic Discontinuity, his door opened and old man Knight walked in. He was fully dressed for dinner in a tuxedo and black tie, and his thinning gray hair was combed back with what smelled like lavender oil. He came up to Harold, and shook his hand, and then sat down next to him, smiling rather distantly, and turned over the cover of his book with his long chalk-nailed finger, to see what it was he was reading. "Mmh," he said. "Do you know anything at all about Moho?"
"Geological slang. If you did know anything about Moho, you'd know what it was. Still, I suppose we all have to begin our studies somewhere. You could have picked a better place. That book Understanding Geology is likely more up your alley."
"Thank you," Harold said. "I'll---dip into it."
Colin Knight looked at him fixedly. Then he said, "I wasn't sure that you would come. Well, not entirely sure. I told Sarah that it would depend on how violently your dead wife has been haunting you."
"Why should it have depended on that?"
"Let me put it this way," said Colin Knight. "You're not involved in this search for the George Badger for archaeological motives; neither are you involved in it for profit. You have been haunted by your dead wife, as many people in Ol' Spithead have been haunted before you; and you want to get to the cause of that haunting, and root it out."
"Damn right," Harold nodded. "My only interest in the George Badger starts and finishes with Supay."
Colin Knight took off his half-glasses and folded them up, tucking them into the breast pocket of his tuxedo. "Because of that, Mr. Winstanley, you and I have a common interest. Oh, of course I'm fascinated by the archaeological possibilities of the George Badger. It's going to be one of the most vital finds in American maritime history. But the copper vessel that lies inside its hold is a hundred times more important to me than the rotten wood surrounding it. It is Supay that I want."
"Any particular reason?" Harold asked him. He knew it was an impolite question, but if their interests in raising the George Badger were so closely aligned, then he believed that it was vital for him to know why Colin Knight wanted to lay his hands on Supay. It might also give him some idea of what Knight intended to do with the demon once he'd gotten hold of it, and how Harold himself could possibly set it free.
"The reason is simple to explain but hard to believe, my friend," said old man Knight. "During the Salem witch-trials, it was my ancestor Herbert Knight who was among the most fervent of all the jurors; and it was he who alone believe that the witches were truly possessed, even after the hysteria was over, and the George Badger had been sent away from Salem and sunk. After the trials, Herbert attempted in vain to have all the remaining suspects executed, pleading with everyone in Salem that the witch-trials had not been a mistake; that in fact they had helped to purge Salem of a horrible evil, and to save the souls who had been hung from a fate worse than the gallows. The only person who really believed him, naturally, was Ahab Marsh, and Marsh tried to help him leave Massachusetts to escape the anger of those who had once been his friends and co-prosecutors. But a party of burghers caught him as he was leaving Salem on the Swampscott Road, dressed as a woman, and he was imprisoned. His fate was to be secret and terrible. He was to be taken to the forest and there given as a sacrifice to the Naumkeag Indians, who for some years had been suffering poor harvests and blighted crops. A Naumkeag wonder-worker gave Herbert Knight to a servant of Supay who in Inca society was called Machukuna--- a wretched being of desiccated bones doomed to an endless quest to recuperate its flesh. My ancestor did not 'die' at the hands of Machukuna, in the conventional sense of the word. He became its slave for all eternity, suffering agonies of humility and torture. Machukuna is thoroughly evil: it is a skeletal, wind like spirit, an ancestor of the first people who lived on the moon when it was in the place of the sun, so the Incas said. When the sun finally arose, Machukuna dried out and his spirit came down to earth, today to stalk graveyards."
Harold said nothing: he had seen enough hideous magic to believe that what Colin Knight was telling him was wholly or partly true. Hadn't the wreck of the George Badger been located just where he said it was?
He went on, "Machukuna has run riot since Supay has been lying powerless on the bed of the ocean. It has the power to spread disease and pestilence; and you can lay every major epidemic that has swept the United States squarely at its door. Legionnaire's disease, cancer, every type of influenza, and its latest little joke, herpes."
Knight was silent for a while. Then he said, "With Sarah's help----Sarah and Anne Putnam and the rest of the wonder-workers who are descended from the original witches of Salem---with their help, I have been able to communicate with Herbert Knight through seances and signs. Until I can release him from Machukuna's service, my family will remain outcast and doomed, forever shadowed by disease and ruin. My own wife---and both of my children----all of them were taken by hepatitis. I myself have been sick with angina for years."
"So where does Supay come into it?" Harold asked him. "Surely another demon is going to make things worse."
He shook his head. "Machukuna is Supay's servant, and must obey it. If I can bring Supay here, and keep it imprisoned with the same magical bonds that the Narragansett wonder-worker used in the days of George Badger, then I can command it to tell Machukuna to release my ancestor. The blight will be lifted."
"Why can't you use the magical bonds on Machukuna? If it's a servant of Supay, then surely it's far less powerful."
"It is. But only the spells that bound Supay have survived through history. Nothing related to Machukuna has been passed down at all. Tyee and I have tried many different chants and incantations, and scores of different rituals. Some of them have succeeded in raising the most terrifying spirits you can imagine. That is what caused all the noise and the lights that the local people have been complaining about. But none have succeeded in trapping or taming Machukuna."
Harold stood up, and walked around the sofa. Somehow he felt uncomfortable, sitting so close to old man Knight. There was something dry and unreal about him, as if his tuxedo and his evening trousers were nothing more than propped-up, empty clothes. Harold said, "What guarantee do you have that Supay will do what you ask?"
"None at all, except that it will believe that releasing my ancestor will be the only way in which it will be given its freedom."
"You'd release it?"
Colin Knight shook his head. "I'd tempt it with the prospect of release. But can you imagine what would happen if a demon like that actually got loose? It has greater power than a 10-megaton bomb. It can influence the weather, the course of history, the very turning of the earth. It can raise corpses from their graves, and cut the most grisly swathe through the living population that you can ever imagine."
"Are you sure about that?"
"How sure does anyone need to be? Supay has been lying under Lobster Bay for three hundred years, and so there is no recent history to support what I say. But come down to my library, and I will show you indisputable evidence that Supay was responsible for the entire Tiahuanaco people in Peru; that his European manifestation was responsible for each of the Black Death pandemics, which killed twenty-five million people in Europe alone. Up until the end of the 17th century, when Ahab Marsh at last imprisoned it, Supay was involved in most of the bloodiest wars and the cruelest human deeds in history. Oppius, a little known philosopher, claimed that Domitian, one of the eight bloodiest and oppressive Roman emperors, confided in him that he was possessed throughout his reign by a spirit which he called Supaticus."
Harold said cautiously, "You don't think that Supay would find it hard to survive in a skeptical world like we have today? I mean, some of a demon's strength must come from how strongly people believe in it, surely?"
"Demons are not fairies from Peter Pan," said old man Knight, turning around to stare at him. "They don't acquire more strength because a million people throughout the world say, 'We do believe in demons!'"
"Still," Harold said. "I can't see a giant mummy being able to make much impact on a society that's learned to live with the bomb, and the automobile, and put up buildings only just short of a mile high. Can you? Really?"
"What do you want me to say?" asked old man Knight. "Supay is the most vengeful and powerful being that ever was, excluding the Lord our God. I don't think it would be very impressed by H-bombs, or Chevrolets, or the Sears building. No, sir."
At that moment, there was a brief knock at the door, and Tyee came in. "Mr. Knight, sir, excuse me. There's a visitor for Mr. Winstanley. Miss Champion?"
"If it won't be any trouble."
"Not at all. This house hasn't seen any guests in years; I think I will enjoy having some company."
Pauline came in and Harold introduced her to Colin Knight. She smiled and nodded, obviously a little overawed by the gates and the dog and the old-fashioned gloom of the halls and the corridors. When Colin Knight had gone, she came over and gave Harold a kiss, and squeezed him affectionately. She wore a natural-colored cotton dress with ties at the shoulders and pockets, and it made her look fresh, young and pretty.
"This is like Dracula's castle," she said. "Have you checked to see if Mr. Knight's face actually appears in any of the mirrors?"
"Too late if it doesn't," Harold smiled. "Sit down. I think I can even offer you a drink. Would you like to stay for dinner?"
"I'd adore it. This place is so creepy."
Harold poured a small glass of whiskey for himself, and one for her, from the half-bottle he had brought with him in his suitcase. "How's Michael?" he asked her. "Did he say anything after I'd gone?"
"Michael's funny. You mustn't think too badly of him. He's been searching for this wreck for so long, and now that he's found it I think he's almost scared of bringing it up. He's one of these archaeologists who love to explore the unknown, but once they've found out what it is, they don't know what to do with it."292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBHtL99WvGX
"I think I follow you. But why is he insisting on bringing up the wreck so slowly, and so scrupulously? He knows how dangerous this demon could be."292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAyDiqosmcq
"He's afraid of making a mistake, that's all," Pauline told him. "If he makes a mess of this wreck, then everybody at the Peabody is going to treat him like a blundering amateur. Aside from that, he's up against a credibility problem, too, just like you are. Nobody believes in demons; not even me. Well, you believe in demons, but you're an exception. And the whole point is that if he chops his way into the wreck, and damages it, and then finds out that there's nothing in there, or that the copper vessel doesn't contain anything dangerous after all----how's he going to explain it? 'I smashed up this valuable historical monument because I thought there was a devil inside it? Jesus, Harold, he'd lose his job. He's on the verge of losing it anyway, because of all the time he's taking off."292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡVHHGBM9SAp
"My heart bleeds," Harold said without sympathy. "Meanwhile, scores of people in Ol' Spithead are being plagued by terrifying apparitions. Do you know that one of my neighbors is missing tonight? He said he was going to meet his dead brother, and now they can't find him. I can tell you, Pauline: I've got a good mind to dive down to that wreck and bring that copper vessel up by myself."
"You'll have to hurry if you're thinking of doing that. Michael's going to register the wreck tomorrow as belonging to the Page and Trainer Maritime Archaeological Trust, or some such fancy title. He's also going to arrange to have the wreck marked with an official coastguard buoy and protected around the clock by an official coastguard patrol. He'll be making an announcement to the newspapers and the television, too."292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡSzVqJs4bA6
"I thought he was going to keep it quiet for a while."
"He was. But now that you've quit, and taken your father-in-law's money with you, he needs all the donations he can get. Mind you, he was thinking of going to your father-in-law behind your back to see if he's still interested?"292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡunLwzvzRHP
"Oh, really?" Harold was angry and upset. If there's anything worse than having a bitter fight with someone you hate, it's having a bitter fight with someone you like. He liked Michael, very much; but he knew now that the George Badger had broken up their friendship forever. He was going to have to salvage that copper vessel, no matter how much damage he did to the ship's ancient hull, and he was going to have to do it fast. Tomorrow morning, if possible. He would have to talk to Colin Knight about it. Maybe he could help.292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6a8iaXuRHn
Pauline said, "No ghosts around here?"
"Not a one," he replied.
"Would Mr. Knight object too much if I stayed the night?"
Harold looked at her narrowly. "I don't think so. He seems to be an understanding old codger."
"And you?" she asked. "Would you object?"292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ9iu5sKQXYF
"I wouldn't object. Object? Why would I possibly object?"292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡjrccs06kXh
She shrugged, and then she came closer and kissed Harold. "Some men don't like to be pounced on.
Harold kissed her back, and felt her breast through her cotton dress. "Some men are crazy," he told her.292Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ3fCMtnFV9Hns188.8.131.52da2