The top of the path involved a steep incline. Lady S was a little out of breath when she reached the level part at the top, and Scott and Icewolf were a little wet due to the rain. Lady S’s brolly had kept most of her dry, although her feet were a little sodden.
“These shoes will be ruined.” She said, to nobody in particular. She looked at Scott. “I usually do walking in this weather in wellies, not evening sandals. Still, we’re here now.” She laughed, briefly.
“Ah, I see.” Scott responded automatically. “Looks a little spooky, this place, doesn’t it?”
Without answering, Lady Salinger-Wallis marched up to the front door and rapped hard with her left hand. “Hello!” she bellowed, “Is anyone home. Cooeee!”
She looked back at Scott and Icewolf despondently.
“Maybe if you try the bell,” Icewolf suggested, “It’s a large house and they may be in the back and not hear you knocking and shouting.”
“Good thinking, my dear!” Lady S looked around the door. “Where’s the bell?”
Icewolf pulled a draw cord which hung just inside the porch. They all could hear the bell ringing inside. A few seconds later, they could see what appeared to be a candle being carried toward them, through the window in the door. They heard a bolt being opened, a door chain being put on, and a loud creaking as the heavy wooden door opened partly, slowly.
A thin, pale, candle-lit face peered through the small gap in the door.
“Yes?” came a husky voice from inside. At that moment a flash of lightning illuminated the porch, causing the face to appear almost skeletal. Lady S, Icewolf and Scott all jumped in unison.
“Oh, I-I wonder if you could be so kind has to ‘elp us,” Lady S was somewhat flummoxed. “My tree’s fell asleep and the car’s hit the driver. The mobile phone’s in a hot spot and my feet are wet.”
Scott stepped forward, and gently moved Lady S to one side. “Hello madam,” he started.
“It’s sir, actually.” corrected the man inside.
“Ah, sorry,” Scott continued, noticing that the man had a short white beard which should really have given him a clue; although he hadn’t noticed it before. “What my friend means is we need some help. All three of us have found ourselves in tricky situations. My friend here needs to call her butler to get him to come out to her, my other friend back there, her car’s broken down, and my car is almost out of fuel. We’re all just at the bottom of the hill. Could we use your phone to call for help?”
“I see” said the man inside. “So you need your butler, you need fuel, and you need your car repairing. I see. Just a moment.”
The man closed the door, and through the window the confused trio could see the candle light moving away from them. Lady S glanced at Scott, who in turn glanced at Icewolf, who in turn shrugged and glanced at Lady S. They looked back through the window in the door, and could see the candle light returning. They heard the chain being removed, and the door creaked once again as it was opened wide. Instead of the man standing inside, there was now a tall, thin woman dressed in black, with very long, straight black hair that draped down over her shoulders.
“Do come in.” gestured the woman, as a clap of thunder caused them all to run inside the dark hallway.
“Thank you ever so much,” Lady S sounded eternally grateful as she gently manoeuvred Scott in front of her. Icewolf stood behind, but moved in front as the woman stepped behind them to close the door. Lady S then managed to make her way into the middle of the group.
“Follow me.” The woman asked, as she walked passed them and led them along the hallway to the dark room at the end. The candlelight flickered as she walked; revealing the walls to be covered with painted portraits, and all of the subjects had the same steely gaze. Lady S imagined the eyes following them as they walked along. She had an urge to laugh nervously, but managed to contain herself.
“Do forgive Daddy,” the woman said, “he usually gets our butler to open the door, but it’s his night off. And I must apologise for the lack of lighting. We’ve had a power cut, you see. It’s been like this for a few days now. The power company have been working on it for two days now, but they can’t seem to get to the cause of the problem.”
Music could be heard coming from the room they were walking to.
“If there’s no power, where’s that music coming from?” asked Icewolf out of curiosity.
The woman stopped and turned to face the group. “A wind-up radio. It’s all we have to pass the time. Please, step into the lounge.”
There was another candle on the mantelpiece on the wall opposite them, and Daddy was sitting in a chair beside the fireplace. The woman pointed a bony finger to a large settee opposite Daddy. “Please, take a seat. Would you like a drink? I can only offer you water, I’m afraid. We don’t normally have visitors, but when we do we usually make them feel very welcome. Don’t we Daddy?”
“We do, Devilla.” Daddy said, “That we do.”
Lady S sat at one end of the settee, Scott took the middle seat, and Icewolf sat at the other end. Their eyes were now adjusting to the candlelight, and could see that this room’s walls were also full of portraits.
“Family.” Daddy rasped. The music from the wind-up radio started to fade out. “Devilla,” Daddy shouted into the other room off the lounge where the woman had gone to get the water, “the wireless is going again.”
“OK Daddy,” Devilla’s voice could be heard over the running water; “I’ll wind it up in a minute.”
Lady Salinger-Wallis kept her eyes on one of the portraits opposite her. She hadn’t imagined it. The eyes on the man in the painting had definitely moved.
###TO BE CONTINUED
(This is a repeat presentation, originally posted in 2015)