"Make it fast," ordered Tyee, and Patterson backed up the boat, engines beating slow astern, while Piper and Harold leaned over with billhooks and drew the copper vessel closer. The surface of the vessel was heavily corroded, and time had turned it a dark, poisonous green, but all the same it was remarkable how long it had lasted underneath Lobster Bay.403Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡKmljG0YEjL
There were copper rings along either side of the casket, which probably had been used for fastening the ropes to hoist the casket on board the George Badger. Some of the rings had been eaten right through, but Harold managed to hook one that was intact, and then Piper actually swung herself off the stern-rail, and stood on the floating casket while she ran a rope through it.
"There's no point in heading straight for Salem," said Harold. "The police will catch us before we've gone half a mile. How about making for the wharf at Ol' Spithead?"
Patterson revved up his diesels. "They'll likely catch us anyway," he said, "but it may be worth a try. What do we do when we get there? That damn coffin-thing is far too big for anyone to lift."
"There's a ramp there, and a boat-winch. Maybe we can drag it ashore with that."
"And then what? The police will be all over us by then."
"I don't know. Maybe we can borrow a truck. Just give it a try, will you/"
"Sure I'll give it a try. I'll give anything a try. I'm just asking if you had a plan in mind, that's all."
"I'll think of something, all right?!"
"You're the man."
Even before they had covered 1/4 of a mile, however, it was clear that the police boat was going to head them off long before they could reach the Ol' Spithead shoreline. Patterson was pressing his lugger to go as fast as it possibly could, but he wasn't keen on burning out his bearings, and the huge green casket that they were towing behind them was nothing but sheer dead weight.
"You must go faster," insisted Tyee, but Patterson shook his head.
Now the police boat was within earshot, and they killed their siren and began to curve around in front of their bows, neat, fast, and unavoidable. One of the officers was already balancing his way along the deck with a loud-hailer, and another stood behind him with a carbine.
"Okay, slow down," Harold told Patterson. "There's no point in getting shot at."
Patterson eased off his engines, and the lugger began to dip and drift towards a slow rendezvous with the waiting police-boat. The copper vessel caught up with us, still propelled with its own inertia, and bumped noisily against their stern.
"Come out on deck with your hands on your heads," ordered the police officer. "I want all of you right where I can see you."
He began to walk back along the deck, but he had barely gone three paces when he suddenly gripped his stomach, and fell out of sight.
"What happened?" asked Patterson, standing up on the foredock to get a better view. "Did you see that? He just kinda keeled over."
The second officer, the one who had been carrying the carbine, suddenly ran to the police-boat's cabin. Then their pilot appeared, carrying a towel and a first-aid kit.
"What's happened?" Harold shouted. "Is everything okay?"
The second officer glanced up at them, and then waved them away. Harold turned to Paterson and said, "Pull up alongside. Come on, quick!"
"Are you kidding?" said Patterson. "This is our chance to get away."
"Pull up alongside!" Harold ordered him. He shrugged, spat, and turned over the engines so that they nudged up against the trim hull of the police-boat.
It was only when we actually touched their boat that Harold saw the blood. It was sprayed all over the deck as if someone had been painting the boat red with a firehouse. The second officer appeared again, his shirt splashed with gore, his hands bloody.
"What happened?" Harold asked him, in horrified awe.
"I don't know," the policeman said, in a shocked voice. "It was O'Hara. His stomach just blew open. I mean it just blew open, and everything came out, all through his shirt."
He stared at Harold. "Did you do this? Did you shoot him or something?"
"You know damn well we didn't."
"Well---go back to Salem---you got me? Go back to Salem and report to police headquarters. I gotta get O'Hara to the hospital."
The pilot came past, his shirt stained red with blood. He was very pale and he didn't say anything; but went straight to the wheelhouse and started up the police-boat's engine. Within a minute, the police-boat had angled away towards the harbor, its siren wailing, leaving the lugger and its attendant casket alone on the incoming tide. Harold looked at Tyee, and Tyee looked back at him.
"We will continue to make for Ol' Spithead," he decided. "Once they have recovered from their shock, those officers will alert the police at Salem that we are coming, and we will be arrested if we go back there. Let us now tow this burden of ours onto the wharf, and I will rent or borrow a car and go back to Salem Harbor to bring the refrigerated truck."
"Will Supay be safe for all that time, without refrigeration?" Harold asked him.
Tyee looked astern, at the floating casket. "I do not know," he said solemnly. "For all I am aware, that officer on the police-boat---Supay could well have been responsible for that."
Piper glanced at her father. "Dad," she said, "let's get that damn thing to shore, huh?"
Patterson nodded. "It doesn't carry anything catching, does it?" he wanted to know. "It's not diseased?"
"Not in the conventional sense," Harold told him. "But let's get a move on, shall we? The longer we stay out here, the more dangerous it's going to be."
They passed the Angel Hill Cemetery and then turned in towards the boat ramp at Johnson's Jetty. It had once been a fashionable place to launch your pleasure boats, back in the 1930s. There had been a restaurant there, and a cocktail verandah, and lights strong out along the pier. But these days the buildings were sagging and deserted, and all that remained of the cocktail verandah was a rotting deck on which dozens of skeletal beach-chairs lay heaped as if consigned to a mass grave.
Patterson brought the lugger in as close as he could, and then they untied the casket and let it drift up to the weed-slimy boat-ramp on the persistent flow of the tide. With a little prodding from the billhooks, it lodged itself listlessly against the lower reaches of the ramp, and then Tyee and Harold jumped off the lugger into the sea, and swam and waded ashore.
Harold climbed ripping wet to the top of the ramp, and tried out the winch. Fortunately someone had kept it greased and in tip-top shape, and it didn't take long to unwind enough cable to reach down to the casket's rings. As soon as he was sure that they had the casket secure, Patterson gave them a toot on his whistle and began to steer his lugger out into the harbor again. Harold didn't blame him, even though he probably faced imminent arrest. Even two months in jail is preferable to having your intestines blown out.
Tyee and Harold said nothing as they worked the handles of the winch, gradually edging the huge copper vessel up the concrete ramp. It made a shifting, grating sound as they inched it upwards, and there was a terrible hollowness about it, a slight rumbling, like very distant thunder. Harold sweated and gasped at the winch-handle, and tried not to think what the creature within this ponderous vessel was really like, and what it might conceivably do to me.
It took them almost thirty minutes, but at last the casket had been dragged right up to the top of the ramp, where they covered it with two tarpaulin sheets which were usually used for protecting boats during the winter. Tyee looked out across the harbor, but there was no sign of the police on the coastguard, or even of Michael and Hubert and the rest of the George Badger fellowship.
"Now," said Tyee, "I shall go back to Salem and collect the refrigerated truck. You must stay here and guard Supay."
"How about if I collected the truck, instead? You can't say that you're exactly unnoticeable---six-foot Narragansett in a wet quilted jacket."
"They will not notice me," said Tyee, with quiet confidence. "I have a technique which the Narragansett developed centuries ago to hunt wild animals. It is a way of making oneself invisible to other people, even though one is there. A strange technique, but it can be taught."
"All right, then," Harold said. He didn't really like the idea of waiting beside this monstrous burial-casket, but he really didn't have a choice. "Just don't be too long, that's all; and if you do get arrested, tell the police where I am. I don't intend to spend all night out here, with nobody but Supay for company, not while you're eating steak-and-eggs in the Salem City jail."
"Now you are afraid," smiled Tyee.
He walked off between the derelict restaurant buildings towards West Shore Drive. Harold sat down on the jetty and looked cautiously at the corroded copper vessel in which George Badger's Incan demon had been imprisoned for over 290 years. Harold turned around to tell Tyee to bring him a half-bottle of whiskey while he was away, but he was already gone. He had disappeared. He tried to make himself comfortable, and propped one leg up on the tarpaulins which covered the casket with false casualness, as if it were simply a rather odd-looking boat that he happened to own.
It was only noon, but the sky was strangely gloomy, as if Harold were looking at it through dark glasses. A wind was rising, too: a wind that hadn't been forecast. It ruffled the gray waves of Salem Harbor, and whipped the dead leaves and collected rubbish on the sagging cocktail verandah. A salt-faded sign above the restaurant still said Hook & Catch, Lobster, Clams, Steaks, Cocktails. He could imagine past summer nights, with Dixieland bands and men in straw hats and girls in shimmering flapper dresses.
Harold tugged up the collar of his jacket. The wind was really cold now, and the sky was so dark that some of the cars on the opposite shoreline were driving with their headlights on. There was probably a storm brewing up, one of those heavy North Atlantic numbers that made you feel as if you were caught in a rain-boat at sea, even though you were sitting in your own living-room.
Then, he heard that singing. High, faint, and eerie. It came from somewhere inside the abandoned restaurant, a thin controlled voice that made the hair crawl up the back of his neck as if it were electrified.
"Oh, the men they sail from Ol' Spithead
To fish the savage waters...
But the fish they catch are naught but bones
With hearts crush'd in their jaws."
Harold stood up, and walked across the decayed cocktail-deck, looking up at the restaurant. He had to jump once or twice across missing planks; and beneath the deck he could see dripping darkness, where crabs scuttled. He approached the restaurant and went right up to the front door. It was locked, and the glass was so thick with years of salt and grime that he could barely see inside.
The song was repeated, louder this time; in the same cold, clear voice. It was definitely coming from inside. Harold looked around to make sure there was nobody watching, and then he kicked in the door with three or four hefty kicks. The door was held only by a cheap rimlock, which splintered away from the frame; and then it shuddered open and stayed open, almost as if it were inviting him inside. Come in, Mr. Winstanley, terror is served.
He walked carefully inside. The floor was laid with bare splintered boards, dusty and littered with old newspapers and odd fragments of green linoleum. A revolving fan hung from the ceiling, in between two frosted glass lampshades. On the far wall was a wide mirror, spotted and speckled with dirt. He could see himself standing in the restaurant like a long-dead man in a stained old photograph. He took two or three steps forward.
"Harold?" she whispered. He turned slowly around, and she was standing behind him. Her face was almost completely mummy-like now, and it was fixed in a grisly grimace. "Harold, you must set me free."
"How can I do that?" Harold asked. He watched her as she glided around the room, her funeral robes silently flowing. "I've brought you up from the bottom of the sea. What else do I have to do?"
"Break the vessel open," she whispered. "The vessel is sealed with bonds that I cannot break alone; the bonds of the Holy Trinity. You must break the vessel open in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Just as it was sealed."
"I still have no guarantee that I'll get Nancy back alive and in once piece."
"This is a world without guarantees, Harold. You must simply trust me."
"You can trust me to rupture your stomach, like that man who tried to stand in your way. Or to explode you, like George Badger. I may be imprisoned, Harold, but I still have substantial strength."
Harold said, hesitantly, "I just want to know, that's all----I mean, what you're asking me to do..."
Nancy glided towards the mirror. Like the classic movie vampire, she made no reflection. But she walked straight through the mirror until she was standing in the reflected room, watching him, and there was no image of her on his side of the mirror at all.
"You must believe," she said, and then she faded.
He stood in that abandoned restaurant for a long time. Now was the moment when he had to make his decision. He had already seen how cruelly and how callously Supay could destroy people; and how could raise the dead and sent them to slaughter the living. Yet he knew all this time that he wanted Nancy back with him with a desperation that had somehow transcended love. It had become a matter of proving to himself that miracles could really happen.
Since Nancy had died, Harold had witnessed some extraordinary and scary things. But somehow they seemed to him then to have been nothing more than terrifying tricks. It was only when he could hold Nancy in his arms again that he would really believe in powers that were far greater than human experience could testify to, or human imagination encompass.
It didn't occur to him, of course, that more than at any other time since Nancy had died, he was now very close to a total emotional collapse. When he thought of the way in which he persuaded himself that Supay should be set free, he went physically could, and would likely do so from now on.
He left the restaurant and walked back across the cocktail deck. It was so dark outside that he had forgotten it was only just past noon. The corroded green casket was still lying on the boat-ramp, under its draped tarpaulins. On the far side of the ramp was a locked cupboard marked FIREHOSE. He walked around the casket to the cupboard, examined its rusted hinges, and then gave it a good kicking with the hell of his shoe until the left-hand door split, and he was able to wrench it open. Inside was a mildewed hose and just what he had been seeking: a long-handled ax.
He walked back to the casket, and pushed aside the tarpaulins. The casket seemed larger than it had been before: green and bulky and silently sinister. He touched its scaly side with his bare fingers and he felt curiously repelled, almost as if he had unwittingly put his hand on a giant snake in the dark. Then, upon impulse, he swung the ax and dealt the side of the casket a tremendous blow with the blade.
There was a deep, reverberating boom, and the casket seemed to shudder. He felt the place where the ax-blade had struck, and he could tell that it had bitten quite deep, and nearly penetrated the metal. The copper couldn't have been more than 1 inch thick to start with, and the corrosive salt of the sea had reduced it be more than half.
Harold swung the ax again. "I release you," he panted, as the blade banged into the top of the casket. "I release you in the name of the Father."
Harold struck again. "I release you," he changed. He could hear his own voice distantly in his ears, as if he were someone else. 'I release you in the name of the Son."
Above him, the sky was threateningly black. The wind started to shriek across the harbor, and the waves rose so high that they were flecked with foam. It was nearly impossible to see the farther shore, and on the Ol' Spithead shoreline itself the trees were bending and writhing like souls in agony.
Once more he raised the ax, and once more he brought it down on top of the casket. "I release you!" he shouted. "I release you in the name of the Holy Spirit!"
There was a screech that could have been the wind or could have been something else altogether: the screech of a despairing world. Before his eyes, the dark green copper casket cracked, and gaped open, and then cracked again, scales of corroded metal dropping to the concrete boat ramp. A dry, fetid smile arose from the open vessel, the smell of an animal long dead and decayed, a giant rat found between the floor-boards of an old house---a baby discovered in a chimney.
In front of Harold's eyes, the Devil-In-Gold was exposed, lying inside is casket. The horribly withered and wrinkled being that was Supay was 10-foot-tall, purple-skinned, and clad in yellow-ochre robes. Its huge head was topped with long, black hair with two obscenely sharp horns protruding from the scalp. Two round golden earrings dangled from its pointed ears, and it wore golden bracelets on its wrists, hence the name Devil-in-Gold. As it turned to look at Harold with huge, infinitely evil eyes with turquoise pupils, it slowly opened its mouth, revealing razor-sharp teeth, like the teeth of a great-white shark. It began to speak.
"Now," whispered a voice that was as thunderous as a church-organ. "Now my reign can begin again. Now I can garner all those souls that my spirit has craved for. And you, Harold Winstanley, will be my high priest. That is your reward. You will stay with me always, as my right-hand side, interpreting for me my every demand, seeking for me those souls which will assuage my appetite."
"Where's Nancy?" Harold shouted at it, even though he was utterly terrified. "You promised me Nancy! Just like she was before the accident, unhurt! Alive and unhurt! You promised!"
"Patience!" boomed Supay. "There will be time for that; all in good time."
"You promised me Nancy and I want her now! Just like she was before the accident!"
"So be it!"
The wind was howling so loudly that Harold could barely hear what the demon said next. But then he heard a screaming, somewhere close to the old restaurant building. It was high-pitched, terrified, the sound of a woman in total fear. Harold made his way around the casket, steadying himself against the wind by holding onto the railings beside the boat-ramp, and stared out into the darkness.
There she was. Nancy. It was really her. She was standing by the restaurant door, her hands over her face, and she was screaming, on and on and on, screaming and screaming until Harold couldn't bear to listen to it any longer. He made his way across the cocktail deck again, ripping his socks on a loose board, and went up to her, holding her shoulders, shaking her.
She was real, alive. She was wearing the same clothes that she had been wearing on the night of the accident. But no matter how hard Harold shook her and shouted at her, he couldn't get her to take her hands away from her face, and he couldn't get her to stop screaming. In the end, he turned away from her, and struggled back to the broken casket, where Supay still lay, grinning, his evil grin exposing those horrifying sharp shark-like teeth, a grin neither loving nor humorous, only the expression of death.
"What have you done, you son of a bitch?!" Harold shouted at it. "Why won't she answer me? Why's she screaming like that? Goddamn you, if you've hurt her..."
"She is not hurt," whispered the demon. "But she thinks that she is about to be hurt, just as she did in the seconds before her accident. Nevertheless, she is safe, and well, and alive."
"And terrified!" He yelled at it. "For God's sake, stop her screaming! I can't live with her that way!"
"You wanted her just as she was before the accident," Supay reminded him. "That is the way she was. You can have her no other way."
"What are you trying to tell me? That she'll always be screaming? That she'll always be terrified that she's going to have a crash?"
"Always and always," grinned Supay. "Until the day she returns to the region of the dead."
Harold looked back towards the old restaurant. Nancy was still there, screaming at the top of her voice, her hands pressed over her eyes. She had been screaming for nearly five minutes now, without stopping, and he knew that Supay had tricked him. It had no power to restore the dead as their loved ones had known them: it had only the power to take them back to the moment when they were first fatally doomed. That was the moment when their spirits were first consigned to the region of the dead, and that was the boundary of Supay's domain.
He felt tears springing in his eyes. But he was strong enough and willful enough to pick up the ax which he had dropped beside the green copper vessel, and carry it with him back to the restaurant. He put it down beside Nancy, and took hold of her again, and begged her to quit screaming, begged her to take her hands away from her face. But he heard in the back of his mind the soft coldness of Supay's laughter, and knew that it was hopeless.
"Nancy," he said, trying not to listen to the screaming. He held her tight, trying to reassure her, trying to protect her from the fate which had already happened to her, and from which he couldn't save her, no matter what he did.403Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmGFJbfOD0s
The screaming went on and on.
At last, Harold stepped away from her, and without looking at her, picked up the axe, and swung it straight down between her hands.
Blood spurted out from between her fingers. One leg jerked uncontrollably. She turned and staggered, and then fell. He threw the ax as far away as he could into the wind, and then he walked away from Nancy without looking back.403Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡH45YfE886K
He passed Supay's casket. He didn't turn to look at Supay either. He headed for the highway, between the old restaurant buildings, walking at first, and then jogging.
"You cannot escape me," whispered the demon. "I assure you, Harold, you cannot escape me."403Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡqahcomnBGW
He reached West Shore Drive, and looked around in the noontime darkness for a car, or a track, or any sign of Tyee returning. It was then that he saw the pale figures in the distance; figures in rags and tags, like the beggars coming to town. He stared at them for a long time before realizing who they were. There was a whole company of them, shuffling and decaying and blind.
They were the dead of Ol' Spithead, the corpses from the cemetery. The servants of Supay, searching for fresh blood and human hearts, anything to strengthen their newly-released lord.
Harold began to run.ns 18.104.22.168da2