Library of the Occult (Part 5)

“Mr. Smythe? Hey, whoever. I’m locked in here. Please unlock the door. Please,” her request being more pathetic than she intended.

A key entered the lock. The door swung open and she saw a man. It wasn’t Mr. Smythe. He wore all black including slicked back dark hair, a black pointed beard over a narrow sallow face with dark beady eyes that cast a menacing evil look. “Who are you?” he growled at her, grabbing both her arms.

“I’m a guest of Mr. Smythe. He was supposed to be back to let me out hours ago. I’m doing research for my thesis. Let go of me! NOW!” she answered with rising anger outweighing her fear.

“That bastard Smythe! What are you looking for? How much did he tell you? Did you find it?” he screamed, eyes growing larger as he started to shake her.

“None of your damn business if he told me anything.” Then in a slow deliberate voice said, “ NOW. TAKE. YOUR. DAMNED. HANDS. OFF. ME. I WILL. NOT. ASK. AGAIN.”

He just glared at her, tightening his hold, snearing, “I know he’s trying to break the spell. Tell me what he said, Bitch! Did you find it? Tell me!” He began to shake her.

She stared him in the eyes, “Okay asshole! I warned you!”

Emma did not appear to be a formidable woman, with her five foot six inch slight build and unruly shock of curly blond hair. Wrong. She took three deep breaths, centering her focus, relaxing her body. Completely relaxed, she said very calmly, “Sorry,” and brought all her now focused energy into the quick upthrust of her arms between his, breaking his grip, simultaneously releasing a quick but deadly centered kick to the man’s groin. Her kick was dead on. He looked at her in surprise, then bent over blowing out a breath, his eyes bulging, like they might blast out of their sockets. His hands moved to his groin area. Freed from his grasp, Emma did a quick step back and executed a snap kick to his nose, hearing bone crack, seeing blood immediately spurting out. Not finished, she did a quick spin on her right foot, left leg cocked to release another quick and devastating kick to the side of his head, sending him to the floor in a crumpled heap retching and gasping for air. Then he went limp and his breathing slowly began to quiet. Good. Guess I didn’t kill the asshole. I warned him.

She dragged his limp body all the way into the room, calmly gathered her things, closed and locked the door behind her. There was no one behind the reception desk. Wondering what happened to Miss Pritchard, but not really caring, she left the building, locked the front door, dropped the keys through the mail slot and walked back to her hotel wondering what had just happened.

Remembering Miss Pritchard had her lodging information, she checked out of her hotel, fearful that that guy might know more wackos and send them looking for her. She went three London blocks where she found another hotel. While more upscale and expensive than she wanted, she didn’t care. She knew she’d be safer there.

Securely in her room, she ran a tub of water with some bubble bath from the array of soap and lotion provided by the hotel, She got two of the small bottles of chardonnay from the mini bar and settled in to soak away the day. 

Her brain finally settling down, she thought back to growing up in Salem, Massachusetts and her early childhood obsession with the Salem Witch Trails that took place there in the late 1600s. From her early years she had read any book on the subject she could find. She had studied history in college with the sole purpose of going on to earn a PhD in history with a focus on witchcraft so she might dispel the myths surrounding it, especially with the myths surrounding so called witches.

Two bottles finished, she showered off, dressed and went out to a nearby pub for some dinner. Famished, she downed a huge order of fish and chips and two pints. Satiated and slightly tipsy, she went to her room, stripped and fell into bed, soon enjoying a dreamless sleep.

To be continuied . . .

Library of the Occult (Part 4)

Her heart was racing both with anxiety of being locked in the room along with the fact that this what she had traveled thousands of miles to get a look at was laying in front of her. She dove in, found the chapter she was looking for and began taking copious notes and taking pictures of some of the more important pages, especially those with old wood cut images. Time flew. She checked her watch and it was now well over an hour since Mr. Smythe had left her. So she continued on researching this book. Time passed. Two hours and nary a sound. She was getting nervous. He’s old. Maybe he forgot. But Miss Pritchard knows I’m here.

Her anxiety level continues to rise. She got up and checked the door. Locked. She was a prisoner. She knocked loudly. Nothing.“Anybody out there? I need to leave now.” She checked her cell phone, no service. Frantically she began to pace around the room like a caged animal, looking for what, she hadn’t a clue. Maybe a spare key? She checked under the table, under the chairs, everywhere. Nothing. She went to the window. Secure with bars on the outside. Walked back to the table she mindlessly tapped on the walnut panels on the wall with her knuckles. Tap, tap, tap. Bonk. Tap, tap, tap. One panel had sounded hollow. She rapped on all the others. Solid. She went back to the hollow sounding one. Maybe it’s a secret passage. I saw somewhere some of these old houses had secret passages. Maybe it might be a way out of here. 

She felt around the trim boards and felt something like a button that clicked when she pushed on it. The panel opened. A cool blast of thick musty air greeting her surprise. She opened it. Stairs faded into blackness, stairs that led down to where? Freedom? She felt around and found a light switch and a soft yellow glowed showing the old wooden stairs leading down to a to a landing. She got her things and carefully started down hoping against hope she might have found a way out of her prison.

After the landing the stairway turned and lead down another flight to a doorway. Hmmm, two flights. She calculated she might be in the basement. She peeked through the doorway into a stone walled room about twelve feet square. The one piece of furniture, a table sat in the center covered with some old looking manuscripts. She didn’t bother with them being more interested in a doorway out. She saw door in the stone walls but it was sealed with bricks and mortar. She ran 0ver and pounded and pushed on it but it was solid. She pounded on it yelling , “Help! Is anyone out there? Please help me!” Dead silence answered her.

Frustrated she felt tears start to come. No! I can’t cry. Stay focused. The manuscripts caught her, laying open on the old wooden table like they were left in haste. She could tell they were old, very old. She knew she shouldn’t touch them but curiosity got the best of her and she pulled a pen from her bag and carefully separated them so she could see them better. They were in Latin, written in an old script including several crude woodblock prints. She had studied both Latin and Greek exactly for this reason, to translate old texts as originally written, not from somebody else’s translation. The titles roughly translated to something like “Spells for Rapid Aging” and the other “Reversing Aging”. 

Distracted momentarily from her dilemma, she pulled out her cell phone and took all the photos she thought she might need to do a thorough translation later, if she ever got out of this prison. Getting the documentation she wanted, but feeling even more defeated, she glumly walked back up the stairs. She had just closed the secret panel when she heard keys jingling outside the door.

To be continued . . .

Library of the Occult (Part 3)

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to scare you”, she said, her own eyes wide with surprise. A cold shiver ran down her back.

“You were so quiet. I was deeply engrossed in this study on herbal tinctures to combat hexes, I didn’t hear you. I’m sorry for startling you, young lady. Are you looking for something particular? I am quite familiar with this library and might be able to help.”

He had kind eyes and seemed nice so she explained her dilemma about needing to see a chapter in Full Moon Rituals, by Reginald Smythe for her doctoral thesis and that it was in a restricted room.

“Oh, yes my dear. I know that book. Miss Pritchard is very protective of her domain here. I may be able to persuade her to let you see it,” he said with a warm paternal smile. “Let me go talk to her.”

“I’m so sorry to bother you with this. Really. I’m interrupting your own research.”

“It is of no matter. I need to get up and move about for a moment to keep my old body from seizing up completely. I have been sitting here for far too long.” He slowly and carefully raised his thin body, using his arms to help him get to his feet. He spent a few moments steadying his balance, rolled his shoulders and smiled at her, “There, that should do it. I shall return momentarily,” and he slowly walked towards the doorway. 

She heard him muttering to himself, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep going if I don’t find that bloody formula.”

As she watched him walk away, she wondered how old he really was, much older than her grandfather as she had first guessed. She waited at the top of the stairs and heard his raised voice, “I have perfect right to let her see that book! Please remember it was mine, if your memory might be deserting you.”

The woman replied angrily, “My memory is NOT deserting me and please keep your voice down, Mr. Smythe. She may be listening.” 

Emma’s heart began racing and perspiration began to form on her forehead. Mr. Smythe. No. It can’t be him. He’s been dead over fifty years. Smythe is a common enough name in England. Isn’t it? But he said ‘It was mine . . .’ They were now whispering but she knew they were arguing. This was a bad idea. I should get out of this place. It’s starting to creep me out.

A minute later the whispers ceased and she heard the jangle of keys. She saw ‘Mr. Smythe’ coming slowly up the stairs and she regretted him going down. It looked so difficult for him as he slowly moved up the steps. He finally managed to reach the top, stopping to catch his breath.

“I’m so sorry, Sir. The stairs looked very difficult for you. I shouldn’t have . . .”

He raised a hand to quiet her, “It is jolly good. I need some exercise. The truth is, I am not as old as I look. There are circumstances that have gotten out of control, but I shan’t trouble you my problems, my dear girl. Pay no heed. Come and follow me.”

Her heart was racing from both fear and anticipation. Her instincts were telling her to turn and run down the stairs and get away from this place as fast as she could. This was getting stranger by the minute. She should not have come here. But she had come this far and to see this damn book which now seemed to be within her reach. She followed him down the hallway to the right.

He led her to the last door on the left, pulled out a keyring filled with ancient looking keys, selecting one and unlocking the old oaken door, elaborately carved with symbols of the occult, some she recognized from her research.  Others she did not. The ones she did know were for protection of the contents within. Mr. Smythe opened the door and ushered her into a room. It reeked of dust and smell of the old books in a single book case lining one wall of the otherwise barren room. The room was dimly lit like everywhere else she had been in this library. He led her to the one table and offered her a seat in an old straight baked chair, then walked over to the shelf retrieving a book which he brought back and, with apparent pride, offered it to her.

“Here is what you have come so far to see. Take your time, I shall return within the hour and set you free,” he said with a reserved chortle. “I must lock the door when I leave. Rules you know. We wouldn’t want to get Miss Pritchard in a huff now, would we.”

“No, no, of course not. Thank you. Please don’t forget me,” which was more a plea than a request.

“Of course I won’t forget you, my dear girl. As I said, I shall return within the hour.” He turned, went out. She heard the lock click.

To be continued . . .

Library of the Occult (Part 2)

Emma put on her brave smile, “Good morning. I’m wondering if you could help me. I’m looking for the book, Full Moon Rituals, by Reginald Smythe. I understand you have a copy here?”

The woman looked through an old card file and then disapprovingly back at her, “Yes. We do have a copy but it is in the restricted area and is available only to a few select patrons and you are not one. Good day.”

“But isn’t there any possibility of me somehow looking at it. I don’t want to remove it from library. There is one chapter I need for research for my doctoral thesis. Please?” her voice begging.

The woman peered over her glasses and gave her an even colder stare, sneering at her, “What do you not understand?! It is not available to you. You are not a select patron. There are only seven patrons allowed access to that room and I know them all. I am most certain you are not one of them. Now, good day!”

Emma didn’t know how to respond to the woman’s dismissal. She desperately needed to get a look at that book. She thought of another book, much less rare and asked if she might be able to look at that one. The woman again looked through the card file, then sharply at Emma, “Yes, you may. It is on the second floor.”She huffily gave directions where to find it. “Sign in here.”

Emma signed in, needing to give her name, address where she was staying, home address and phone number. She then had too show her passport and drivers license. The woman looked at her proffered documents, wrote down a long list of notes and then, reluctantly, allowed her in. 

Emma went to the stairs feeling the scrutiny of the woman burning like two hot coals into her back as she walked away. Her heart was racing, but she was in. Now she had to find the restricted area and figure out how to get in.

She walked up the old, once elegant winding staircase to the second floor and saw dimly lit hallways leading both to her left and right. She went to the left as she was directed. It smelled of dust and old books. She found the door and went in to an even mustier smelling room filled with three rows of bookcases heavy with books. There was no numbering system but she found the old, mostly leather bound books, were all neatly arranged in alphabetical order. She really had no use whatsoever for that particular one since she had already read the copy in the Harvard library, but she now had some time to hatch a plan. Around one corner of shelves were two old study desks from a forgotten era. A man was sitting at one. He was old, maybe like her grandfather’s age with long white hair that curled over the collar of his white shirt and tweed jacket. He had a big bushy white beard and below that she saw a black necktie. He looked up at her over his wire rimmed glasses with a startled look on his face. 

Library of the Occult (part 1)

Author’s Note: This is my first attempt at writing a little mystery. It was pretty darned fun. Here is the first of several parts.

Emma’s doctoral dissertation was in only four months. She still had one more chapter, a vital chapter, to do on her thesis, Occult Feminine Full Moon Rituals and desperately needed to research one book to finalize it. But only three copies existed in the whole world that she knew of, two in private collections and the other was in the little known Library of the Occult in London. 

Desperate, she hit up her father yet one more time for the airfare and  lodging for a trip to London. She was now twenty-seven years old and had been working on her higher education for nine years, seven of which were for her PhD at Harvard. His patience and support for her education was growing thin, but he still, not without her incessant pleading, consented. Her flight was now in final approach into Heathrow.

Early next morning, after a jet lagged sleep in a less than stellar hotel she found the library after a walk through a once elegant neighborhood of now old run down mansions turned into dingy apartment houses with any number of not yet opened pubs, tattoo parlors, and sad looking shops along the way. The library was a small, old dark, dreary, tired looking three story, probably one time manor for some nouveau riche from past times.

She walked up some decaying moss covered concrete steps to a large wooden front door, then into a musty dark foyer, hesitating for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the dim light. She approached a desk behind which sat a middle aged woman dressed in a high collared long sleeved black dress looking like something from the 1900s, held court. Her gray hair was tied in a severe bun as severe as the look she gave Emma.

To be Continued . . .