“Oh, it’s you!” Clarissa exclaimed as she stepped out onto her front porch. She gazed down at the friendly, black kitty, and it licked its chops as it eyeballed the contents of the small, white bowl in her hands. “How did you know that I had food for you?” Clarissa placed a hand on one of her hips as she stared at the feline incredulously, and as it blinked at her with a blank look on its face, Clarissa expressed her thoughts out loud, “I don’t know why I’m expecting an actual response from you!” She set the bowl down and told the cat, “It’s just a bit of potatoes and gravy. I hope you like it! I’m not really sure what you eat!” When she stepped away from the bowl, it sniffed the chow a little and then, to her delight, it began gobbling the meal down right away! “Oh good! I’m glad this is acceptable! I don’t really have any meat to spare! You see, I upset the butcher… Not on purpose! Actually, I did the right thing and helped him! But somehow, everyone thinks I’m the one invoking the ghost that’s possessing them and my rescues aren’t heroic since I caused them, but I did nothing of the sort! Nor would I ever!” She sat down on the stoop, and as her animal companion munched away happily, Clarissa chatted with it, “Do you know about the Hessian phantom that’s plaguing our village? I imagine you must! Well, I’m toiling away trying to save them from this murderous specter, but the more I assist with this matter, the more cause I am for their bane! It’s really quite frustrating, but one of these days, I’ll figure out how to defeat this villain! Then they’ll beg for my forgiveness after they realize what they’ve done! I bet the Hefersmith will be more than willing to supply me with a plethora of meat when that day comes! I promise you won’t want for hearty sustenance then!” She glanced at the creature who was eating, and she remarked, “Why am I telling you all this? It’s not as though you can understand me! And yet, somehow, I feel as though you are listening!” It paused its consumption to focus on her, and while she gave it a pat, she decided, “It you’re going to stick around, then you’ll need a name! What about Washington like the Continental Army’s great general?”
“That’s a female,” Drusilla stood in the doorway and indicated to the critter. “Lucy has a nice ring to it…”
Clarissa puzzled, “Lucy? Isn’t that your mother’s first name?”
Drusilla confirmed, “Yes. It seems like a fitting moniker for this pet because she’s here for our protection! Plus, I’m sure my father would like to know that I have a form of her guarding me!”
“He wants to keep you from physical harm, but why doesn’t he stand up for you when you undergo a verbal assault?” Gabby probed as she joined them outside.
“Public opinion matters to my father! It has to- it’s his public!” Drusilla defended him. “He’s a very logical man, so it didn’t take him long to figure out the truth of the situation. Can you picture the revolt that would ensue if he denounced the vast majority’s opinion?”
Gabby ceded to her point, “That does seem likely! I wish more people would see the light so that we didn’t have to put up with so much darkness!”
Clarissa encouraged the other two, “They will when we put an end to this saga, so we must do all we can to hasten that anticipated event! With that in mind, I propose we continue to rifle through the literature regarding supernatural encounters until the entire collection has been studied in order for us to eliminate them as a resource at the very least! At best, we may find another clue that could get us closer to eliminating this threat!”
“We’d get better answers if we consulted my mother’s old book on magical lore,” Drusilla put in. “Father hid it from me, but I think I know where he stashed it- it’s somewhere in his fiancée’s house!”
“Are you suggesting that we seek a favor from Oceanus?” Gabby queried. “He’s not terribly fond of us at the present…”
Clarissa added, “Neither is his daughter! She’s our most outspoken critic! I really doubt that she would grant us admittance to her dwelling so we can search for an object that her intended husband doesn’t want us to have!”
Drusilla argued, “She’s getting married at the end of the week, so I doubt very much she’ll actually be anywhere near the Golden Nook Brew!”
“Hmm… We may be able to persuade Oceanus to let us canvass the building if we convince him that he has a tool for witchcraft within his walls!” Gabby articulated.
“He might!” Clarissa acknowledged with a slight giggle as she envisioned Oceanus’ reaction when they communicated this to him. ‘I guess if he says no, it would still be worth the trip to patrol the area and watch for signs of Alastor! Okay, let’s head out!”
As the trio of women walked down Hollow’s Alley, the noticed someone nailing a fixture to the lamppost near the coffeeshop, and Drusilla wondered, “Why do I get a foreboding feeling about this activity?”
Gabby responded, “Because nothing unusual going on in this town has benefited us as of late!”
“That’s not true!” Clarissa refuted. “It was unusual for a soldier to find himself lost in Colfrith, but it seems like this occurrence came out to our benefit!”
“Twice!” Drusilla commented with a wry grin.
Gabby sparkled with interest upon hearing this tidbit. “Wait, is this pertaining to the man you said you were in love with?”
Before Drusilla could spill this gossip, Clarissa cautioned them, “Ladies…!” She gestured to what laid ahead of them, and the person attaching a large feature to the lamppost turned out to be none other than Elmira! The other two sobered up in an instant, and dread started to seep through Clarissa’s veins- their difficult task became even more complicated from that juncture going forward!
“There! It’s perfect!” Elmira declared as they approached her vicinity. Very curious about her handiwork, Clarissa and her company went behind Elmira to get a peek… When they beheld this this spectacle, they gasped! Clarissa’s heart nearly stopped upon seeing the dreadful subject- a portrait of Alastor! “Isn’t it lovely?” Elmira swiveled around to gauge their reaction.
“It’s… very lifelike!” Clarissa anxiously conveyed to her. She sincerely didn’t want to upset Elmira when they needed a favor from her, but she couldn’t prevent herself from becoming spooked by this art! It was so eerily realistic that she could’ve sworn that it had the ability to follow her movements!
Drusilla inquired, “Why would you display this in the public square?”
Elmira replied, “You mean other than the fact that it’s a brilliant masterpiece?” Drusilla didn’t say a word, but Elmira ignored that and went on, “Mister Derstreich cannot be here to see my wedding, so by positioning his picture here, he can still see a part of it! Pastor Absalom wouldn’t allow it in the church, and I’m assuming the proprietor of our reception’s venue won’t permit it in her establishment…” Clarissa folded her arms at the allusion to herself as though Elmira hadn’t been acquainted with her or realize that she was there, but she certainly would never let this compel her to assent to having his chilling image anywhere near her residence, so she did not disagree with her claim! Elmira gritted her teeth with an obvious displeasure to having no control over this issue, and then she returned to her original statement, “… He will have to contend with watching us exit the chapel and ride our carriage down the lane!”
“How… lovely!” Clarissa lied. “Listen, we stopped by because Drusilla left one of her belongings in your household…”
“No, she didn’t!” Elmira differed. “Everything in there is owned by the Montgomery family! Well, with the exception of a few odds and ends from my fiancé!”
Drusilla filled her in, “Actually, one of those objects is mine! I’m positive he brought it here in error! It won’t take me long to locate it, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll…”
Elmira got within inches of her blustered, “I hope you’re not referring to that tome about the occult!” From Drusilla’s surprised expression, she inferred the reality of the circumstances. “That is the purpose of your visit! How dare you come to me and ask me to aid you in your sinful ambitions!”
Drusilla denied that accusation, “Oh no, no, no! That publication was my mother’s! It has a sentimental value to me- I simply want it for comfort!”
“Don’t play me for a fool!” Elmira hollered. “I’ve heard accounts of the diabolic performances you’ve engaged in! I shall have no role in this practice!”
“Gadzooks! These sorceresses are recruiting!” a passerby exclaimed as he and his affiliate paused their gait to view this proceeding.
Gabby countered that, “For pity’s sake, we’re merely trying to get an implement to combat against this evil reign! We have no interest in partaking in any dark rituals!”
The other man centered around this slowly growing crowd bickered, “Oh really? So, what would you call the behavior you exhibit during these attacks?”
“Life saving!” Gabby spat.
“Perhaps, but what sinister ceremony evoked the life-threatening ambushes in the first place?” the man challenged her.
Gabby sardonically shot back, “Hmm… I don’t know! It couldn’t possibly be the traitorous spy who vowed to seek vengeance from beyond the grave!”
The man shrieked, “You have the audacity to besmirch the soul who only wanted to help our village!”
“How exactly did he help us, Corey?” Clarissa posed to him. “He did nothing more than attempt to sell our information to the British!”
“It would have been for our own good!” Corey ardently articulated. “We were on the wrong path due to this bid for freedom, and he needed to thwart our efforts in order to keep us safe!”
Clarissa laughed derisively at that concept. “Oh, yes! Our village has known nothing but safety since his arrival!”
His male friend who spoke up earlier warily warned Corey, “Don’t vex them- you’ll end up as their next victim!”
“Oh, this is so pointless! It does nothing to vie to open the mind of one who’s sealed his thoughts shut!” Clarissa motioned for Gabby and Drusilla to follow her back to the inn.
“Come back here, you snakes!” Corey yelled after them.
His cohort strongly recommended, “Please, let’s forget about them and go back to our errands!”
In a deep voice that made the trio of women immediately freeze in their steps, Corey bellowed, “No!” Clarissa, Drusilla, and Gabby turned around and saw Corey’s eyes darkening as he seethed, “They must get punished for their lawlessness!”
To everyone’s horror, Corey ascended into the air above them! The trio reached for their means of protection, but before they could lay a finger on anything that could have shielded them, Corey spread out his arms and emitted a strong gust of wind! They managed to grab onto the lamppost, but others were not so lucky! A powerful gale enveloped around him, and several people went flying! Many hit the shops adjacent to his proximity, and a couple of individuals did not move again prior to their impact! A few people, including Elmira, clasped onto the fencing around the java room, but their source of refuge showed signs of buckling!
“What do we do?” Gabby asked Clarissa.
“We pray!” Clarissa answered her. “That’s about all we can do!”
Gabby and Drusilla shut their lids, and Clarissa could tell that they were desperately beseeching the heavens to put a halt to this terror! Clarissa mimicked their move, and as she begged the universe for a remedy to this peril, she felt the force of this billowing air intensify! Her hold barely stayed fastened, but she refused to entertain the notion of her pending doom! She continued to implore the atmosphere to calm itself down refusing to bend to the premise of her or anyone’s demise!
All of a sudden, the blast shifted in the opposite direction! Clarissa and the other two opened their eyes, and they could see the tempest encircling Corey at a burgeoning velocity! He appeared to be suffocating from the typhoon’s effect, and Clarissa cried out, “No!” She raced towards him, and Gabby as well Drusilla closely tailed her! They surrounded him with salt, and in a flash, the turbulent draft flew upwards and away from their periphery! The trio assumed that they had saved him, however…
The fury that sustained his levitation left without returning Corey to the ground, and the second that it vacated his body, he let out a deafening scream as he plummeted back to the surface! Clarissa did not have the grit to watch what would inevitably come next, so she veered herself away from this sight and covered her ears! This posture didn’t muffle much though- she heard every bone inside of him break! She had no desire to observe his condition, and she harbored the hope that he may have survived the assault, but when blood trickled past her shoes, she craned her neck to verify his status and ascertained that he was no more!
A heavy silence befell the masses as everyone processed this scene. After a very somber minute, Elmira indignantly requested, “I say my marital vows in two days. Could you kindly refrain from your transgressions on that occasion?”