History student Alex Palmer is thrilled when his girlfriend, Claire Ryan, buys an apartment in Belle Vue Manor, formerly a Victorian lunatic asylum. But as Alex begins to discover the dark truth about the asylum’s past, he, Claire, and their friend Marianne find themselves on a nightmarish journey. Each will face the deadly consequences of the evil that began with the construction of the first Belle Vue Manor by an aristocratic French émigré in 1789, as well as the cruelty and satanic practices that continued when it became an asylum for the insane. As the two strands—past and present—unfold, Alex uncovers a supernatural mystery where revenge is paramount and innocence irrelevant—without being aware of the price he, and those around him, will pay. ©️ Crystal Lake PublishingView More
EPILOGUEThe woman joined the queue serviced by a male immigration official. She’d already caught his eye as she sauntered across the concourse. Lucky break for her. The man had ‘dupe’ written all over him.After a tiresome wait, she was next in line. While he dealt with the elderly couple at his window, she reached into her bag and rummaged around: purse, brush, mobile phone, solicitor’s letter confirming she’d inherited, amongst other things, Moira’s apartment at Belle Vue and the two other properties it had been necessary to acquire for the plan to work. Her fingers kept moving until they felt smooth calfskin. She pulled out the passport holder and held it ready in her hand.The old-timers shuffled off to the next staging post and the man turned toward her. As his gaze met hers, she licked her lips ... slowly. She moved forward, pleased to note he wore an expression like all his Christmases had come at once. Perspiration ran down his face. With this air conditioning?
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVENMonday, 18 May Alex collected a torch, pen knife, and a box of matches to take with him to Belle Vue. Thoughts of Claire, and how she’d faced her death alone, darkened his mood. As did his uncertainty about giving Miss Bradigan’s words any credence.His journey to the chapel was uneventful. A few nods in the car park to a couple of residents he knew by sight, but no one he needed to speak to. The brightness of the afternoon sun lingered though it was past four. As he opened the heavy oak door, the gloom of the interior pushed its way out to the porch. He stepped inside, registering the drop in temperature. The chill made the hairs on his arms stand to attention. He moved farther into the chapel. Surrounded by silence, he stood alone at the back of the pews. His awareness of this solitude stretched his nerves further.Alex took out the scrap of paper on which he’d jotted Miss Bradigan’s instructions and scanned his notes. He walked along the central aisle, turn
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIXMonday, 13 December, 1869 Adelaide pulled her cape tightly round her shoulders and began the short walk from her residence to the main asylum building. The darkness and fog made it almost impossible to see. The gas lantern she carried was of little use. Like a blind woman, she edged forward relying on habit to find her way. If anything, her nerves rather than lack of sight slowed her progress. Every few feet she would stop to check nothing was following her. As she shuffled forward again, Adelaide turned her head one way then the other for the same reason.Mary Grady’s letter had chilled her to the bone. It arrived the day after she’d overheard Nottidge and Callahan talking. That night she’d gone to bed worrying so much Samuel had commented on her distraction. He’d complained she had barely said a word to him all evening and hadn’t given him so much as a goodnight kiss. Let him sulk, she thought. She had curled into a tight ball at the edge of the bed and thought
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVESunday, 17 May After a full day of revision and numerous rounds of beer in the Union bar, Alex and Paul sat at a corner table in the Bengal Tiger restaurant, waiting for their order to arrive. A contented hum from the many diners mingled with the low, but distinctive tones of the background sitar music. Two waiters drew up with a laden trolley and began placing numerous dishes in front of them.“I’ve got to say this, Alex,” Paul said. “When you started seeing Marianne, it was like I was pushed out of the picture.”Uh oh, this didn’t sound good, Alex thought, wondering what had triggered this topic. Conscious the delivery rate had slowed somewhat, Alex used eyebrow semaphore to signal Paul to hold until the waiters had finished. His mate, however, seemed oblivious of the additional audience and continued.“I’m friends with lots of girls, but to get a special spark is rare for me. You can sleep with someone, but you know something’s missing, and it’s that spar
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOURMonday, 29 November, 1869Johnson Nottidge felt good this morning. Having slept soundly last night, he woke refreshed at nine, with an all-too-rare sense of anticipation of what the day might bring. He leaned back against the leather of his wingback chair, closed his eyes, and contemplated some of the activities he had planned for the evening. It was arrivals day, too, so he was keen to learn if the latest delivery threw up any interesting specimens. Cocooned in his luxurious office, away from the cacophony of madness, the crackling of the fire was the only accompaniment to his contemplation.Little in this world bothered him: losing at cards, Fortnum’s running out of his favorite port, being present when Samuel Fishburn moaned about another Asylum Board inspection, even his father threatening to disown him. These were mere pin-pricks of irritation, but nothing that might interrupt his lifelong pursuit of satiating his every whim. When the local newspapers report
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREESunday, 10 May Alex stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil. His mobile rang, breaking his scrutiny of the St. Alban’s skyline at night through the distortion of a rain-spattered window. He slid the phone from the pocket of his sweatpants and checked the number before answering. No name listed.“Hello?”“Is that Alex Palmer?”“Speaking.”“Hi, Alex. It’s Debra Edwards.”The kettle switched itself off, but he ignored it.“Thanks for returning my call. Is Marianne with you?” he asked.“No. Why?”“I haven’t heard from her for over a week. When did you last speak to her?”“Must be two or three weeks ago. She was still in a strop because I didn’t want to come and see the apartment. And given her moods these days, Alex, I hate to say this, but she’s probably avoiding you. Had you thought of that?”He laughed. “It did cross my mind, but I’ve emailed her, left phone and text messages asking her to let me know she’s okay.” Alex paused and swallowed.
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWOMonday, 15 November, 1869The weather was dank and overcast. A suitable morning for a hanging.Johnson Nottidge stood next to the Governor of St. Alban’s Gaol as the man took out his fob watch and looked at it for the third time in as many minutes. Frederick Butt held it out for him to see and tutted. The man’s nerves were obviously getting the better of him. 7:45 a.m. Still, a quarter hour to go. Nottidge’s excitement rose. The thrill of watching Mary Grady die would be an experience hard to equal.The gibbet dominated the small prison yard. They stared at it, Nottidge with fascination while Butt wrinkled his nose with distaste. There being another hanging at Maidstone that day, William Calcraft, the General Executioner of Great Britain, was unavailable, but one of his assistants had stepped in. By all accounts, Ernest Ruggles was efficient at his job. So far, Nottidge had to agree, the man, in addition to his fee, had negotiated with Butt to keep the clothes an
CHAPTER THIRTY-ONESaturday, 2 May The morning after his celebration with Marianne, Alex left her sleeping as he crept out of the apartment. Before they’d finally dozed off, Marianne had mentioned meeting him in the Union bar at about one. Nothing had been confirmed. He needed to take a pile of books back to the library first, then he’d contact her and decide how to play the ‘take a breather’ conversation.Jeff Reichenberg was in the hall. To judge from the dampness of his hair and sports gear, he’d just finished a strenuous workout. After a few words of greeting, Alex made his way down the stairs to the main foyer. The man had given him a strange look. It made him feel awkward as though he was somehow letting Claire down by being seen leaving Marianne’s. Last night had been as wild as ever. After that first shock and her reaction, it could have all gone horribly wrong, but she’d taken the champagne from him and clad in that outfit, led him willingly to the bedroom. She then did th
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