Doctor Oliver Winston, a name the world knew well. Once a man I considered the pinnacle of scientific achievement, I now wondered exactly who he was. Theories and suspicions whirled about my mind as the facts of the past month began to pile up.
I kept to my room for the remainder of the day, tinkering with another one of my inventions. Combustibles were a market not heavily regulated, at least not outside the academic realm. By accident, I discovered that by mixing elements such as magnesium and potassium nitrate, I could make an explosive that does little physical harm while rendering the target both blind and deaf for a short while.
Pouring the mixture into a metal casing, I added a fast-burning wick and tucked the prototype into the drawer next to my pistol. By now the day was well along and dusk began to creep in. Throughout the entire day, the doctor spent his time behind the locked door, moving and shifting objects about. While I could not see him, I could hear him through the vents, cursing and ranting to himself. Tonight’s the night I figure out exactly what has been going on in this isolated hamlet.
Like an instinct, the moment the sun fell, and the darkness prevailed Doctor Winston left out the back door and headed into the forest, disappearing into the night. Nabbing the low light glassed from his study, I followed him, doing my best to mimic his steps as I navigated through the now barren woods.
Holding the glasses up, I could make out the faint impression of orange against the grainy green.
Aha! Found you.
Slowly but surely, I kept up the pace, following him at a distance and trying not to run into the myriad of obstacles placed at my feet.
Where in the world are you going?
I received my answer when the doctor arrived at a shack and went inside. It was small, with no more than a few people capable of fitting inside of it at one time, so what was he doing in there?
Stepping out of the shack, barely visible, was what looked to be a monster. While the light was low, I could see the outline of a suit, a jumbled mix of animal parts stitched together. Tusks jutted out the front while bear claws swung with every step. And it was tall, very tall. So, this was the creature all along? The doctor going around in a monster costume…but why?
Sauntering along, the doctor walked back in the direction of the lab, every so often letting out a haunting call and leaving scratch marks on the trees. Even though I knew it was a fake, the visual, combined with the sinister intentions, left me feeling week in the knees.
The doctor was now heading towards town, his pace steadily increasing.
What are you up to doctor? Why have you perpetuated this façade?
Stopping outside of a window, the doctor peered in, his breath fogging up the glass. Screams sounded out from inside as the residence looked at the wretched creature peering at them. With a wicked giggle, the doctor sprinted away, continuing his streak of terror. If not for the glasses, I would have lost his trail. Despite the suit, he could move like the wind, sneaking up on innocent pedestrians and scaring the life out of them.
I kept following until he finally made his way back into the woods, his pace now slowing. Removing the beastly headpiece, he let out a sigh, sending a plume of hot breath out into the freezing night. I could tell he was heading back to the shack and decided to split off and return to the lab before he could tell I was missing. If the doctor was responsible for the recent deaths, he will have the law to answer to. I will make sure of it.
Waiting in my room, I heard the back door close, followed by footsteps descending into the basement. With my ear to the vent, I listened to the doctor talk to himself, sputtering about and laughing as though he belonged in an institution.
“Who cares if they scream?” He mumbled, the sound of clinking glasses joining in his insane soliloquy. “If they scream, that means they believe. And why shouldn’t they? Have they not made my life miserable? Have they not taken enough of my work for their own credit?” Clacking and grinding rang through the metal vents, a strange smell accompanying the strange sounds. “Oh, Doctor Winston, you’ve done it again old boy. But wait…what will Mr. Taylor say? Nosey, he is so nosey. But a good poo sifter, a very good poo sifter.”
Please don’t be plotting to kill me, Doctor Winston.
“No need to tell him yet. He is a clever chap, clever indeed and we don’t want him getting suspicious now do we? Indeed not, for he still has use, just like the others he still has a use.”
Others? Like the other apprentices before me?
“But they were liars! Tattletales and liars, the lot of them! That’s why they sit in the ground, all alone out by that disgusting spa.”
Slamming the basement door shut, the doctor began to make his way upstairs. Throwing myself in bed, I closed my eyes just in time for him to creek my bedroom door open and stare at me through the crack.
Please don’t kill me…please don’t try to eat me…
“Asleep, he is asleep.” The doctor whispered. “Good, asleep is good. No need to be awake when you can sleep. A sleepy apprentice is a good apprentice.”
With his back against my door, he slid down onto the floor and within seconds began to snore. He stayed like that all night, up until the first rays of dawn peaked through the windows. I did not move a muscle, not even to go to the restroom. Heaven knows what he would do to me if I disrupted his slumber.
Rising from the floor, he let out a loud yawn and trotted back downstairs. Taking advantage of his absence, I ran for the bathroom and took care of some personal business. Later, with the both of us sitting in the common room, I tried my best to act as if I didn’t observe last night’s horrific crime spree.
“So, Doctor Winston, what project will you need my assistance with today?”
He glanced at me; his eyes heavy with fatigue. Taking a sip of tea, he sat the cup down and replied, “No assistance necessary my dear apprentice. I must admit, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Today will be a free day for you. A day for personal ventures.”
I know you didn’t get any sleep you maniac, neither did I.
“Well, that suits me just fine. I had a few errands I had been meaning to get around to.”
“Good on you Mr. Taylor. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I will lay down for a spell. Do wake me before noon should I sleep that late.”
“Will do Doctor Winston. Have a pleasant rest.”
As soon as his head hit his pillow, I headed out the door, eager to make my way to the Dupont’s estate.
Huffing along the path, I kept a steady pace until arriving at the outer edge of the property. I also saw more monster tracks, a sight that would have caused me great fear not a day before.
This is the doctors handywork. I wonder what he was doing all the way out here.
Picking up a handful of small pebbles, I began to chuck them at Miss Fontaine’s window.
Clink, clink, clink, I didn’t stop until the window swung open and a very unkempt young woman peeked out. “Mr. Taylor, is that you?”
Squinting, I tried to identify this scraggly haired stranger. “Miss Fontaine?”
“Yes, its me. Who did you think it was?”
Whatever you do Benjamin, do not comment on her appearance. “You just seem…different is all.”
Rolling her eyes, she replied, “What, you think a lady just looks powdered and primped no matter the time of day?”
Oh Ben…you fool.
“Not at all, good lady! I suppose the distance and lighting merely threw me off!” Good save old chap.
Giving me a sneer, she made her way down and opened a back door.
“Ah, thank you Miss Fontaine. And might I say how lovely you look this morning?”
“You can desist with the false flattery Mr. Taylor. You are not very skilled at hiding your facial expressions.”
“Apologies my dear. I suppose it never occurred to me just how much effort you ladies put into your dress and grooming.”
With her arms crossed and eyebrows furled, she said, “Yes, just one of many issues the men of this world have yet to acknowledge. All joking aside, why are you here?”
“Before I get into that, can we talk someplace out of sight?”
After leading me to the same room as yesterday, she turned the lock and lit a lantern.
Speaking softly, she asked, “Well, Mr. Taylor, what is it?”
With my eyes wide with excitement, I answered, “I know who the monster is.”
Miss Fontaine’s pupils expanded after I uttered those words. While appearing to be in control, I could tell she was overflowing with anticipation.
“Who is it?”
“The beast is non other than Doctor Winston.”
Her jaw dropped and she began to nervously pace. “Are you sure of this?”
“Very sure. I followed him last night and witnessed him don a monster costume. He then proceeded to terrorize the town for hours.”
She let out a chuckle and sat back down. “Well, what do we do?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know, inform an inspector?”
Shaking her head, she said, “No, the Dupont’s will just pay them off and that will be the end of it. What we need to do is get Miss Diana involved.”
“Ah, your secret contact. Are you sure she can help?”
Miss Fontaine began to rifle through her letters, tossing some to the right of the table and some to the left. “Absolutely, she gave me a set of instructions for arranging another meeting with her, I just need to find the paper it was penned on.” Pulling out a vanilla-colored envelope, she handed it to me and said, “Type that sequence into the phonograph.”
“You mean the one is Mr. Dupont’s office?”
Pulling up on a cloth, she revealed one that had been installed in the room.
“How did you get this?”
“Miss Diana had it set up for me when the Dupont’s were away. She told me if I ever needed to contact her, I should use this machine.”
Sitting in front of it, I began to type in the sequence.
Click, click, click.
Click, click, click.
Ten minutes of this and still nothing.
Click, click, click.
Twenty minutes of this and still not a single reply.
“Why isn’t she responding Miss Fontaine?”
“Perhaps she is away. Please don’t stop trying, I don’t wish to have to tinker with the device myself. All this new aged technology makes me uncomfortable. What ever happened to the beautiful simplicity of a letter?”
Cutting me off, she stated, “Just Anna will do fine.”
“Very well, Anna. And in like manner, just Ben will suite me fine.”
Smiling as she sat next to me, she cooed, “Alright then, Ben.”
Be still my beating heart.
I continued to type in the sequence as she sat beside me, hey copper hair cascading down her shoulders. It was…messy to say the least, however she had a natural beauty about her. One that needed no further doing up.
Catching me staring at her she began to smile. “What are you staring at?” she asked me as she kicked her dangling legs back and forth.
An angel perhaps.
“Just a beautiful woman is all.”
She looked away and her cheek began to turn red. “So, I’m just a beautiful woman to you then?” she asked in a teasing manner.
“Not at all Miss Font — Anna. Just one of many to be sure.”
Before our conversation could continue, a reply came through on the telegraph.
Click, click, click.
Anna brought her head closer to the machine. “What is she saying?”
“Well, from what I can ascertain, she telling me to meet her at midnight tonight.”
Click, click, click.
“She says to meet her in the cemetery…what cemetery?”
Taking out a local map, Anna pointed to it. “I think this is what she meant. There is an old graveyard just outside of town. Apparently, a lot of civil war soldiers were buried there. Eventually, it just turned into the local burial grounds.
“Great, nothing better than a spooky rendezvous in a boneyard. Let me just respond to Miss Diana and let her know I will be attending her macabre meeting.”
With a resounding final click, I sent the telegram. ns184.108.40.206da2