~ PART NINETEEN ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Eighteen? You can catch up *here*.
“I screamed when I saw him come out of the mist.” Fred explained.
The slight, slim man beside him smiled sadly. He had on a long waxed coat and rubber boots. His fair hair stuck up in spikes from the unnatural elements.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes…at first.” Fred continued.
Then, we knew who it was, without his further explaining.
“Mr Sedgewick?” George said astounded.
“Yes, yes, it’s me; but please call me Tony.”
“But, I saw your body.”
“I’m not alive – you’re quite right. Without locating my body, though, I cannot escape.” Tony Sedgewick said.
I smiled warmly at him. “But, I know where it is buried.”
Together, George and Fred carried me in a ‘fireman’s lift’ as we journeyed to the oak tree. We arrived there in surprisingly little time and – my husband and Fred insisted – with little physical effort. The moon couldn’t penetrate the unearthly darkness, however, the tree, wide and thick and marked with time, was illuminated from behind; by a pure white light. The mist – Elizabeth’s mist? – now silent and still, as if with bated breath, framed the tree: presenting it, inviting us in to further explore its secrets.
Pendleton was the first to venture forward – unafraid and inquisitive. Sedgewick, with his sad smile and being appropriately dressed for outdoor rambles, held back. He stared at the ground at the base of the tree.
It was apparent to see that the earth had been recently disturbed. Not solely by the hooves of the small wild horses – which had imprinted and overlayed themselves dozens of times – but by…something else. You couldn’t say that it was human.
“We cannot dig with our hands.” George said.
Fred neared the tree, looking this way and then that way. Almost immediately, he triumphantly raised something large in his hands. It was a piece of the tree bark that had dropped off onto the ground – except it wasn’t rotten. He set it, angled, against a nearby tree stump and smashed his foot into it, snapping it. Now practically divided into two, the discarded bark had become two robust shovels.
“Wait,” I said, leaning against my walking stick, “Fred, there’s something I need to ask you…”
Fred turned to me, his face expressionless. “What is it, Maggie?”
“George and me, we were in your room earlier, getting your stuff together for leaving…”
“That’s good of you both. But, what do you need to ask me?”
“Is it true what you said about you and Tony being friends?”
“Maggie…?” George intervened.
I seemed to hear the soft breeze whisper words.
I retrieved from the pocket of my jacket, the business card I had found earlier in Fred’s room.
“My card?” Fred asked.
I nodded. My confused feelings must have been plain on my face.
“Yes, we’re friends. We even have that bromance thing.” Fred smiled, as if looking back at the happy memories. “My job has nothing to do with me being here: I had to help Sedgewick.”
I looked to Tony Sedgewick. Or, rather, the ghost of the man he used to be. He nodded in acquiescence.
“Maggie, what’s all this about?” George asked.
“Nothing is what it seems here, is it? Even us.” I sighed. “I found Fred’s business card this morning, whilst we were in his room. At first, of course, I assumed his story of him being friends with Tony was a fabrication. I was thinking whatever he says, we can no longer trust him.”
“Because he was here, working undercover as an investigative journalist. And, that his ‘friendship’ was a ploy to get us to help him. That we were being lied to – used.” I lowered myself onto a boulder- it made a perfect seat for weary souls.
George’s eyelid twitched. “Some might assume that I, in my capacity as a police detective – a DCI – was sniffing round. But, I see what you’re saying Maggie: It’s the point that he may have lied to us.”
“You’re the police?” Fred laughed at the irony. Then, one by one we all did.
“I think we should get on with un-digging my grave.” Sedgewick said.
George and Fred worked well as a team. In no time, really, they had dug four feet down to find the shrouded body. It had been wrapped in a once white bed sheet.
Embroidered in dark red, in one corner was the name:
Despondently, Sedgewick peered in at himself. Part of the sheet had been turned back by George to identify his face. Before that, only George had cast his eyes over the broken body; respectfully pulling back the entire length of the sheet so only he could see. “Thank you – all of you – for helping me. When the authorities know where I am buried I can be given a proper send-off. And, be freed.”
My thoughts turned to Elizabeth who had died so young and had been forcibly parted from her Love for over a hundred years because of the Tall Man. Now, she was free. The spell of her segregation broken because I had returned to her the ruby ring, William had given her in their engagement. It had all seemed dreamlike, beginning with the terror in the dining room.
I suppose I had expected Sedgewick to disappear back into his body in a dramatic kind of way; instead, after George had re-covered the face with the sheet, he remained with us. The marshy soil was again, shovelled, to cover the body.
The bright white light faded away. The mist around the area dissipated.
We walked on, the five of us. Back down the boardwalk, going east, in search of answers.
Black Shuck howled. It was so far away that the sound meshed with the faraway crashing of the North Sea waves.
~ To be continued! ~
Photographs and digital manipulation by me, 3rd May 2016, Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
My day out at the Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
Writing prompt: Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Writing inspiration: A strange dream. And a little Hotel California.
What’s a Short Story Series?: A short story written over several parts, around 1,000 words for each part.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.