The unmistakable sound of heels could be heard strutting on cobblestones followed by a deep sigh as a bag dropped to the ground. The handle clicked and the woman walked towards what she hoped would be her saving grace, but in fact was her final resting place.
She walked up to the giant studded oak doors, running her fingers over the studs she examined the intricate designs carved into the wood. She noticed the faded letters MS engraved on the border of the door. She flicked her long blonde hair over her shoulder, pulling an antique doorbell. She could hear movement on the other side as footsteps echoed from within. The brass door knob twisted and opened revealing a tall man dressed immaculately in black. His laughter lines creased as he smiled.
“Welcome to Ravencroft Manor,” he announced, as he stepped aside allowing her in.
The echo of her heels on slate stone filled the foyer as she made her way up to the large oak desk in the centre. The woman looked at the bell sitting on the red leather inlaid oak table and grinned. Ding! The sound echoed as she pushed the bell. From the back of the foyer came a man swiftly. He stood at the desk looking into the woman’s hazel eyes.
“I was taking care of something in the gardens,” he explained, staring at her.
“I called in earlier,” she said lifting her right leg backward, adjusting the strap on her high heel. “I’m Melanie.”
The man ran his index finger over the bookings to find her name and looked up. “Found you,” he replied retrieving a large book from under the counter. “If you don’t mind just signing yourself in…” he gestured to her.
She smiled as he handed her a quill. “How authentic,” she said mockingly as she signed her name. She noticed the name above hers was smudged out. “I didn’t get your name…” she said, pushing the book back over to him.
“I’m Peter,” he introduced himself, as the man dressed in black came and stood beside him, “and this is Stuart. He will take care of whatever you need.”
Melanie opened her bag, pulling out cash. “I will be staying until my sister has her place up and running,” she explained, putting the cash on the desk.
Peter opened a drawer, pulling out an ornate bronze key. He passed it to Melanie and nodded as he picked up the money. Melanie saw something out of the corner of her eye and looked up at the grand marble staircase as a shadow seemed to disappear into a passageway.
“Will you be taking the lift or the stairs?” Stuart asked as he came from behind the desk to take her luggage. Melanie pulled her bag back as Stuart tried to take it from her.
“I’m fine carrying my own bag,” she insisted, taking a step back.
Stuart nodded. “Very well,” he answered turning towards the lift. “You are on the third floor; best we take the lift,” he instructed.
Melanie quickly responded, “Yes. But I will take the lift alone.”
Peter’s blue eyes widened slightly as they met with Stuart’s. Melanie appeared nervous. She looked at her bag, as she tightened her grip on the handle.
“I will come down later when Tieckey arrives,” she told them warily.
Peter nodded, “Your sister is catching the 2pm flight to the island.”
Melanie’s mind seemed preoccupied. Her lacy peach mini skirt ruffled as she strutted off to the lift. Peter looked at Stuart. “I can’t wait to see how this turns out,” he chuckled, as Melanie climbed into the golden lift.
Melanie shut the lift’s cage door, noticing four buttons to choose from. She pushed the third one and felt the lift jolt slightly before going up. As she passed the second floor the lift stopped, revealing what looked like a frail young boy with a hemp sack over his head standing at the end of the corridor. His head was twisted to the side like a dog when it hears something. Melanie began hitting the ‘3’ for the lift to move as the boy started walking forward toward the lift. The lights in the corridor began to flicker and go out. With each step he got closer to an increasingly anxious Melanie. The lift jolted as it began ascending; the boy was now running toward the lift. She threw herself to the back of the lift and realised that the boy was gone. She let out a deep breath as her heart stopped racing. She could hear laughter as the lift reached the third floor.
“Idiots!” She shouted, realising it was someone playing a prank on her. The lift opened and Melanie got out. Long corridors stretched to either side of her. She looked at the number on her key. “Three, one, five,” she said to herself, as she walked down the corridor to the right.
Paintings of the Manor filled the walls, dating back to the 1500s. Melanie paused at a painting of a group of men and women dated 1735. She thought they seemed soulless; there was no expression in their faces and their hollow eyes portrayed a vacancy of the mind. Melanie turned around and stood in front of her door. She put the key in and unlocked it. She pushed the door open, dragging her bag in behind her. Melanie pulled it up and put it on the four-poster bed. She lay down for a minute to catch her breath. Looking at the carved ceiling, her eyes slowly began to close. It was probably that cocktail before I got on the plane… she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
Down in the foyer, the sunlight pierced through the expansive window panes. The luxurious regal red curtains swayed slightly with the breeze as Peter walked in from outside. He looked to the left of the foyer and smiled, admiring himself in the gilded mirror. He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair, examining the fine auburn strands that the sunlight made visible.
Walking through to the rear of the foyer, he opened a door that led to the kitchen. He passed through the kitchen, making his way down a long corridor, until finally reaching the large glass door to the gardens. He opened the door and stood at the top of the stone steps. He looked down at the cobblestone paths running into the Ravencroft Manor’s hedge maze.
Peter walked down the stairs and leaned against one of the monstrous stone gargoyles. He looked up at the windows, to a grand audience of guests staring down at him from their rooms. He rolled his eyes as he followed one of the paths into the maze. A few feet in he could hear footsteps running on the opposite side of the hedge.
Peter smirked as he knew the maze inside out. If one didn’t know any better, they would have thought he was there from its inception. Peter ran forward taking a sharp left, and then he turned, and with alacrity squeezed through a secret passage on the other side, ending up in the middle of the maze.
There, in the centre of the maze, stood a tall crypt, gargoyles posted at each corner, as if protecting what lay inside. The ravens watched him from where they were perched above the crypt, as Peter stood there scrutinizing how the years had not been kind to the tomb. Out of the depths of the maze walked a woman, her long black hair flowed as effortlessly as her ivory summer dress.
“Are we to always meet like this?” she asked Peter, as his eyes stayed transfixed on the crypt.
“The names have even corroded away,” Peter observed, finally looking at the woman. Her skin was pale; her eyes were so brown they almost looked black.
She nodded. “Not everything can last forever,” she whispered, giving a weak smile.
“If only that were true,” Peter responded, with a note of sadness in his voice.
Peter walked to the stone bench in front of the crypt and sat down. He looked down at the left sleeve of his black shirt and brushed off some of the fine conifer leaves. The woman came and sat beside him.
“You do realise who has booked into the Manor?” she asked. Peter nodded, affirmatively. “Do you think we can pull it off?” she asked.
Peter looked at her. “Without a doubt” he assured the woman, as she stood up and started walking away. She turned and looked back at Peter.
“Until later Peter,” she said, as she walked off barefooted into the maze. Peter got up and made his way back to the Manor.
He could hear the phone ringing as he entered the back door. He made his way swiftly into the foyer and picked up the old brass phone.
“Welcome to Ravencroft Manor, this is Peter speaking,” he answered.
A familiar voice on the other side replied “I need you to run an errand for me, before midnight.”
“What now?” Peter asked. Just then he heard the lift jolt as it started to ascend the lift shaft. “I will get back to you later,” he assured the person on the other end. He put the phone down as he heard people talking in the lift above. He straightened his work clothes and stood tall behind his oak desk as the lift began descending.
Back in room 315 Melanie awoke to the sound of a woman crying; she got off the bed and lay her ear against the wall. The woman in the next room was sobbing so badly that Melanie knocked on the wall. “Are you okay?” she asked loudly. The crying turned into wailing and Melanie could not help herself. She opened her door and entered the corridor. She stood in front of room 316 and paused for a minute as the crying slightly eased. Melanie knocked on the door and it creaked as it slowly opened.
“Hello?” Melanie called out, entering cautiously. “I’m from the room next door!” she shouted. As Melanie entered, confusion filled her mind. The room was basically empty, the carpets were ripped up and she was standing in dust from walls that had been sanded down. A photograph hung lopsided from a wall and a few ruined chairs lay scattered within the room. Only her footprints were visible in the dust. She was clearly the only one that had entered the room. She turned to the bathroom to find the bath badly stained. The smell of mould and dust choked her as she studied the state of the room. The room is a mess, but where did the crying come from? she thought.
Melanie spun around as she heard something behind her. A woman dressed in the same black staff uniform as the men downstairs stood before Melanie with a peculiar look on her face.
“Can I help you?” she asked a startled Melanie.
Melanie smiled, “I thought I heard someone in this room,” she explained, as the woman put down her cleaning materials and brushed some dust off her black pencil skirt.
“This Manor is very old,” she explained, as she walked over towards the old curtains. Dust filled the air as the woman yanked open the curtains. She turned back to Melanie, “you will hear all kinds of things in Ravencroft Manor,” she said smiling. Her blue eyes were mesmerising.
Melanie smiled as the woman continued, “You would swear the Manor had a life and soul of its own, with all the moaning and groaning it can make.”
Melanie put her hand out, “I’m Melanie,” she introduced herself, as the woman shook her hand.
“I’m Antoinette,” she smiled, “but everyone calls me Netty.”
Melanie frowned. “You are the only other staff member I’ve seen, besides Peter and Stuart,” Melanie said, as Netty laughed.
“Sometimes it feels like there are only a handful of us here.”
Melanie walked back towards the door, “I’m so sorry for interrupting you,” she apologized.
Nettie’s thick curly brown hair bounced as shook her head, “Not a problem at all,” she assured Melanie.
“I’m sure I will see you around,” Melanie said as she walked out the door.
For some reason she felt a slight chill up her spine when Netty replied, “I have no doubt.”
Melanie walked back to her room and shut the door, locking it behind her. Her phone lit up on the bed; she had three missed calls from Tieckey. She pulled a chocolate biscuit out of her bag and nibbled on it as she slid the phone open and tried to call her sister back, but it went straight to voicemail. Melanie looked at the time; it was 1pm. I may as well take a bath she thought, realising that Tieckey was clearly on the plane and well on her way.
Melanie walked into the bathroom, slipped off her heels and got undressed as she ran the water in the roll top bath. She stood in front of the mirror and looked at the scar running over the upper left side of her chest. She had flashbacks of her family surrounding her as the ambulance men were reviving her. Melanie walked over to the bath and turned off the taps; she slowly climbed into the hot water and lay back, closing her eyes.
Her trip to Black Mountain had been planned for months, with her sister buying the pub on the island, she felt it would be good to be there. It was almost as if it was calling her. After she got the call from one of the islanders about a missing family member, Melanie took it as a sign that she needed to be there. After all, she was a detective and Melanie always got to the bottom of any mystery. But there was something odd about the entire set up. The way her sister Tieckey came across the pub, was by pure chance, online, and by the same token, the fact that she got it for almost fifty percent cheaper than the going rate. It was all very odd indeed.
At the same time the recurrent dreams of Black Mountain were beginning to plague Melanie. Her client did send her photographs but it was as if she had been there before. All these things filled her mind as she heard Hazell Dean’s ‘They Say it’s Gonna Rain’ ringing on her phone. She laughed as she lay back in the bath. That was the ring tone for her sister, because when they were younger, they had won a championship drum majorette competition to it.
The song ended as Melanie jumped out of the bath, wrapping the white towel around her. She walked into the room and picked up the phone. Another missed call from Tieckey. She flung the phone down, as she turned to the bag she had protected earlier. She slid open the zippers on either side and lifted the top open. Melanie took out a pair of skinny jeans and paired it with a lace top.
She sat on the bed putting on a pair of heels as she looked into her bag. Within it lay photographs of a missing person.
They were supposed to come to the island, but for some reason they were never registered entering the island, although Melanie had photographs showing otherwise. She pushed the file aside and looked at the adoption papers at the bottom of her bag; she covered the papers with clothing and zipped the bag back up. Melanie touched up her hair and make-up and walked to her door.
She figured that everyone would think she was solely on the island for her sister’s new business venture. What she didn’t realise was that more people knew who and what she was than she had bargained for. As she opened the door Netty was walking by, she smiled at Melanie as she walked down the corridor. Melanie watched Netty enter one of the rooms as her phone rang again.
“Hello,” she answered. It was her sister.
“Where are you Mel?” Tieckey asked.
Melanie could hear a lot of background noise coming from Tieckey’s end. “I’m in the Manor,” she replied. “Where are you?”
Tieckey’s voice became slightly garbled on the phone and Melanie could not make out everything she was saying.
“I’m at the pub…” Tieckey huffed and the call was cut off.
Melanie could hear people downstairs as she pushed the button to call the lift up.
Down in the foyer Peter ogled at two lively young men who exited the lift. They were so boisterous. The olive-skinned guy came up to the desk, his curly hair was as brown as his eyes. He smiled at Peter.
“Do you have a map of the island?” he politely asked, as his friend behind him was telling him to hurry up.
Peter pulled open one of the drawers and took out a map of Black Mountain island, as the lift started ascending.
“This has everything you will need,” Peter declared, handing the map over to the young man.
“Diego!” the other one shouted, standing by the front door.
Diego turned around with the map in his hand “Christian!” he shouted back.
They both laughed as Diego ran in a zig zag pattern to his friend. Peter shook his head as they slammed the door shut on their exit.
Peter looked at the guest log; Diego and Christian were at the Manor on a break from college. Peter again adjusted his uniform as the lift began descending.
Outside the front of the Manor, Diego and Christian were looking at the map. Christian’s physique was that of a rugby player, while Diego was slimmer, with the body of a football player. Christian pulled the map out of Diego’s hand.
Christian ignored him. While Christian was mumbling over the map, Diego looked up and noticed that there were many ravens looking down at him from the rooftop. He gave a shudder as Christian walked up to him.
“They are just birds Diego,” he said, as Diego ripped the map out of his hands.
“The Amusement Park only opens at 6pm, so where should we go until then?” Diego asked.
The boys were looking to have some fun, but trouble always seemed to follow these two around. “Let’s go look at the abandoned mines,” Christian suggested, trying to make his voice sound spooky.
Diego’s face lit up. “Great idea,” he concurred. “To think, all those miners died down there.”
Christian nodded, “You mean were murdered,” he said with a mischievous grin.
“The Black Mountain mines had been abandoned for more than 300 years,” Diego explained. “After the fire broke out and killed the miners, a lot of speculation went down that it was a cover up for something much more sinister.”
Christian hopped onto a moped, saying, “I don’t need a history lesson Diego.”
He put on his helmet and threw the other to Diego who almost dropped it. They both laughed as Diego climbed onto the moped next to Christian’s. He folded the map and put it in his pocket.
“On your marks…” Christian said revving the moped. They spun off racing out of the large Manor’s iron gates.
Peter watched as Melanie climbed out of the lift; her blonde hair bounced as she flicked it back almost in slow motion. He grinned to himself as she stood before him.
“Hi Pete,” she said.
To which Peter shook his head. “The name’s Peter,” he corrected her.
She narrowed her hazel eyes and smiled. “My sister has ended up at the pub,” she explained to Peter, while adjusting the front strap of her lace top revealing what looked like a tiny red devil tattoo above her left breast.
Peter nodded. “Yes,” he acknowledged. “She called in earlier. I have the note here,” he said, pulling it out from his diary. He passed the note to Melanie, saying, “Tieckey has gone straight to the pub and will arrive at the Manor later.”
Melanie asked Peter if there was a driver to take her to the pub as she was waiting for news on her rental car, to which Peter nodded.
“You’re in luck,” he told her. “My partner Stuart is going to the docks.” He explained, “It’s not even a minute’s walk from the Marina, and, if you go outside now, I will instruct him to pick you up.”
Melanie thanked him as she turned towards the doors.
Peter stopped her, as he asked “Is Tieckey her real name?”
Melanie turned back to him, “her real name is Lorraine, but she was so tiny as a child that everyone nicknamed her Twiggy.”
Peter seemed amused, “then how did it turn into Tieckey?” He asked.
Melanie grinned. “I couldn’t pronounce it so I called her Tieckey,” she answered, as she began walking towards the large oak doors. Melanie looked up at the large crystal chandelier as she walked towards the entrance.
“Have a good day Mel!” Peter sneered.
To which she replied, “You too Pete!”
Melanie pulled open the door and walked out to the front of the Manor. She made her way down the stairs and onto the cobblestones, then over to a monstrous water feature that towered in the centre of the drive. She ran a hand over the weathered cold grey marble, turning her hand to find grey flecks on her fingers. On further inspection she realised that the marble was actually white and had not been maintained for what looked like years.
Melanie walked around the circular fountain examining the marble sculpted ravens. It was as if the unkindness of ravens were in flight, spiralling up towards the heavens. Melanie took a step back as she heard a car driving out from the side of the Manor. She looked at the top of the sculpture and noticed a gargoyle wearing a crown. The water flowed from his eyes and mouth. Something about the water feature became creepy, just as Stuart pulled up at the side. He smiled at Melanie who began walking towards him.
“I didn’t realise the Manor made this kind of money,” she teased, as she tapped her finger on the silver Rolls Royce.
Stuart turned the ignition off and opened the car door; he walked over to the passenger side and opened it for Melanie.
“Why thank you, kind Sir,” she joked.
“What Rolls is this?” she asked, barely giving him time to get in. Stuart turned the ignition on and put on his seat belt.
“This is a 1959 Silver Wraith,” he explained, pulling away.
As Stuart drove through the iron gates Melanie felt a cold chill up her spine again. Stuart glanced over at Melanie and then focused back on the road. Melanie looked at his hands as the sunlight rested on them, they were pale and had clearly been worked hard over the years. Stuart took a left turn down a twisty road, the sun was smothered by dark clouds as they continued onwards.
“These roads are bumpy,” Melanie complained, as Stuart nodded.
“The island needs a lot of care and a lot of work,” he explained, while driving on a dirt road that made its way through some forestation. The rain began to fall as Melanie peered into the forest; the sunlight tried to pierce through the thick clouds without success. Melanie was engrossed in the darkness within the forest. Suddenly the Rolls Royce began to splutter, then it jerked and stalled. Melanie noticed a shadow close to the edge of the forest, but within the blink of an eye it was gone.
“What’s wrong with the car?” Melanie asked with a slight panic in her voice.
“Do you know the legends that come with this island?” Stuart asked Melanie, as he turned the key and started the car.
“I’ve heard a few,” Melanie admitted, not letting on too much.
“People say the island soil is sour.” Stuart continued, “Cursed.”
Stuart drove from the forest towards the village.
Do you believe in curses?” Melanie asked, as she looked at the village.
“We all have a cross to bear,” Stuart sighed. “We all have some form of curse in our lives.”
Melanie stayed silent, as her mind pondered on the information she had read about Black Mountain. From the rumours of evangelistic cult killings in the mines that were covered up… to the Voodoo…and necromancy, the list was endless of the terrible things that had happened on the island. Then the children, she thought, all those children just vanishing from the orphanage. Melanie looked up at the Police Station as a short man stood outside with his arms folded. He had a dark brown mole on his right cheek. He stared at her as they drove past. So many shops she thought, as they made their way through the lively village.
Stuart took a turn down a steep hill with a view of the ocean in front of them.
“What’s on that piece of land?” Melanie asked, pointing to the southeast isle just off of Black Mountain.
“That’s Black Mountain Prison,” he replied. “It is situated on Waldrom Isle,” he concluded.
Melanie had read up on the prison while she was doing her research; a lot of the inmates had committed suicide, and even though there was not a lot of crime on Black Mountain island they opened their prison doors to other prisons outside of the island that were at full capacity.
“Is there a lot of crime on the island?” she wilfully baited Stuart.
Stuart stopped at the stop sign and looked at her. “You have so many questions Melanie, but why do I get the feeling you already know all the answers?” he asked, as her pale cheeks turned slightly pink.
“I’m just trying to make conversation,” she lied.
“There are a few prisoners in there.” Stuart continued, “It keeps the warden busy.” Stuart pulled up at the docks.
Gulls were in a frenzy, fighting like lunatics on the boardwalk. Melanie thanked Stuart as she opened the car door and got out. The smell of fish and guts infiltrated her nose. She frowned slightly as Stuart pointed to the side.
“Follow the walkway and you will find the pub,” he instructed her, as he walked off to one of the open market stalls. The sunlight returned as the clouds began to dissipate.
Melanie looked at the wooden slats and noticed a lot of the wood was stained red. Probably fish guts, she thought, as she began walking up a few wooden steps to the right.
Melanie made her way past a few men. She turned, giving a death stare to a rather chubby man with black hair who thought it was a good idea to whistle at her. She turned again and proceeded forward. From around the corner she heard something familiar. Not a laugh and not a giggle, but a combination of both, sweet yet wicked all in one. Melanie smirked to herself as she walked around the corner of a large empty pub.
Her thick black wavy hair glistened in the sunlight as she spun around to Melanie.
“Tiecks!” Melanie said smiling.
“Hey Mel!” she replied, running over to her sister.
“You do realise those jeans were made for a seven-year-old?” Mel joked, as Tieckey spun around. The sisters were built small, but when it came to breasts, Tieckey got both her and Mel’s share.
“So?” Tieckey gushed, “What do you think of the size?”
Mel walked past her into the back of the pub. “Who were you laughing with?” Melanie asked, quite confused.
“I was on the phone,” she giggled as she pushed past her sister. “Look at this…” Tieckey pointed proudly to the large oak bar table.
The windows of the pub were leaded stained glass, as if they belonged in a chapel. The scene was of a woman in a robe succumbing to a large red beast.
“That’s a bit creepy,” Mel admitted and they both laughed.
The ceilings were full of mould and the dust was heavy.
“It should be up and running within a week or two,” Tieckey said enthusiastically. Tieckey suddenly screamed, as her heel hooked in between two wooden slats on the floor. She fell face down onto the ground.
Melanie could not contain her laughter as she helped her sister up. She pulled at the heel stuck in the slat and ended up ripping the slat right out.
“This wood is rotten,” she stated the obvious to a very dusty Tieckey. Tieckey looked down into the exposed part of the floor, she put her dainty hand in the hole and pulled out what looked like a moth-eaten piece of paper.
“What is it?” Melanie asked, as Tieckey turned it over.
“26, 12,” Tieckey read out loud, as she pointed to the bottom right corner of the paper. There was a faded symbol of a snake eating its own tail, “how weird” she mumbled, as both of them were startled by a knock on the pub’s doors.
Tieckey walked to the darkly stained doors and unbolted them swinging them both open. In front of them stood a woman, tall and slender. She smiled at Tieckey and Melanie.
“Hello,” she greeted the girls. Her voice was calm and welcoming.
Tieckey giggled as she invited the stranger into her barren pub. As the woman walked in Melanie could not help but admire her physique. Her legs are so long and slender, Melanie thought to herself as the woman smiled again at both of them.
“I heard the new owner was in today,” she stated, looking first at Tieckey and then at Melanie.
Melanie pointed to Tieckey. “The one and only…” Melanie joked, as Tieckey wiped some dust off her tiny nose.
“I’m Lorraine,” the woman introduced herself to the girls.
Tieckey giggled once again, “my real name is also Lorraine but everyone calls me Tieckey…” she began to explain, but she was interrupted by Melanie.
“Yes, yes, don’t bore us with the details.”
Lorraine looked down at the dust settling on her black heels and cobalt jeggings.
“I love your leopard print blouse Lorraine,” Melanie complimented her style, as Lorraine looked at the freshly made hole in the floor.
“Thank you Melanie,” she said still looking at the hole. “What happened here?” she asked inquisitively.
“Rotten floor boards,” Tieckey replied, as Lorraine pushed her deep merlot coloured hair behind her ear.
“I’ve been thinking of cutting my hair short like yours,” Tieckey claimed, trying to make conversation.
“Well I just wanted to come and meet the new owner,” she said, ignoring Tieckey’s last statement. She opened her bag and pulled out a card, handing it to Tieckey. “I own Wickedly Delicious,” Lorraine added, as Tieckey turned over the card.
Wickedly Delicious was the island’s patisserie, and what the girls did not know, but would find out at a later time, was that Lorraine used all kinds of unusual and eccentric ingredients in her bakes. Lorraine winked at the girls as she turned to the door.
“I must be off,” she announced. “I have a consultation for a wedding cake which they need this Friday,” she explained hurriedly, as she walked towards the doors. “Oh,” she paused looking back at Tieckey, “I like the name Tieckey,” to which Tieckey smiled. “Plus this island isn’t big enough for two Lorraine’s,” she concluded, winking at her before walking out of the pub’s behemoth doors.
“Bye!” Tieckey and Melanie said collectively.
Tieckey looked at the card. It had gilded edging that looked as if it was done in icing with a blue background. A gust of wind swept into the front doors as the smell of rain filled the air. “The weather on this island will take time to get used to,” Tieckey complained, as the dust on the pub floor stirred in the air.
“It’s like it can’t make up its mind,” Melanie replied. “Time for us to get back to the Manor.”
They shut the heavy doors and bolted them before they made their way through to the back of the pub.
“What are you calling the pub?” Melanie asked her sister as she clicked the old padlock shut.
“The original name was The Crimson Heart, but I’m changing it to Ye Black Rose,” Tieckey explained, as they walked out the back and into the smattering of rain.
“I really like that name,” Melanie smirked, as she turned her sister’s arm over revealing the black rose tattooed on her wrist. “I wonder where you got the idea from?” she teased. Suddenly their attention was captured by lightning running through what looked like giant steel curtains hanging in the sky.
Thunder roared as the heavens opened, drenching the two screaming girls. They ran as fast as their heels could take them to the first shelter they could find. They stood under the canvas of a fish merchant, as Stuart walked past with an umbrella. He handed it over to Melanie who then introduced Tieckey to him.
“Are you needing a ride back to the Manor?” he asked, to which the girls both nodded eagerly.
They made their way to the car, only for Tieckey to realise she had left her luggage in the back of the pub.
“Not a problem,” Stuart assured her, as they got into the Rolls Royce. “We will stop there now and I will collect it for you.”
Melanie jumped in the back with Tieckey. “That’s chilly,” she gasped as her legs pressed against the cold leather seat. They drove off towards the pub. The rain was coming down really hard. Stuart pulled up at the side of the pub and switched off the engine as Tieckey handed him an old-fashioned key.
“He seems a bit odd,” Tieckey commented, as Stuart disappeared behind the building to retrieve her luggage.
“Wait until you meet his partner,” Melanie mumbled under her breath, twirling her index finger by her temple insinuating he was crazy. They both laughed as the thunder roared again.
“The mobile reception is terrible here,” Melanie remarked looking at her phone. Tieckey agreed, as she had tried to get hold of Melanie a few times earlier that day.
“It’s only half five and it’s so dark,” Melanie said, as Stuart finally came out of the pub bringing two luggage bags that he put in the boot. He apologised for his tardiness as he got back in. Stuart pulled away and they began their journey back to Ravencroft Manor.
On the other side of the island, Diego and Christian were also caught in the storm. They had just made their way to a heavily secured gate at the now abandoned mines.
“How are we going to get in?” Diego asked Christian, who was already scouting out the height of the fencing. Diego shuddered every time the thunder roared. The rain was pouring down so hard that the moped’s tyres were beginning to sink slightly into the mud. Christian looked through the gate.
The overgrown path, now drenched, proved no one had been there in a very long time. Christian looked at the ground and picked up a rock.
“What are you doing?” Diego shouted, as Christian struck it against one of the locks. Christian ignored Diego, as he repeatedly struck down on it, but with no success.
“Be aware that this is not a safe area.” Diego read the sign out loud, “Inhalation of smoke due to the fires underground can be lethal.”
Diego looked at a drenched Christian. “Let’s just go,” he pleaded. “You know the stories about the fires in the coal mines…” he continued on to the uninterested Christian.
“Shut up!” he snapped at Diego, who then began to get stressed out.
“Christian!” he shouted. “Let’s just go.” he implored his best friend.
Christian was tenacious but even he knew when to admit defeat. “Let me push you over the top of the fence?” he teased Diego, who shook his head.
“No!” he refused, whilst getting on his moped. “I’m going back, with or without you.” Diego pulled off, shooting mud up against Christian’s cobalt blue jacket.
“Diego!” he shouted jumping on his moped and quickly chasing after him.
From behind the fence, between the thick overgrown foliage, lurked a shadow. It moved swiftly from side to side in a manic way. It grunted and screamed, sniffing the air as the thunder roared. It was joined by another shadow as a host of shadows began creeping out of the mines. A pale bony hand rested on the rock at the mine’s entrance, its yellow nails split and peeled backward as it dragged its fingers down the boulder. They scurried back into the mines as the boys rode off in the rain.
“Slow down!” Christian shouted, as Diego careered side to side in the downpour.
Diego was not having it; he was upset with Christian’s behaviour. The roads on the island were not that safe to start with and the storm made everything that much more treacherous. Diego had had enough of Christian’s controlling ways, he wanted to get back to the Manor and just chill out. The rain began to subside as did the wind.
Christian drew alongside the clearly upset Diego. “Pull over Diego!” he shouted, as Diego just ignored him. They ended up taking a back road on a different route to their original one; finally, Diego was forced to stop as he had reached a dead end. In front of them was a gate to someone’s property.
“What is your problem?” Christian snarled at Diego. They both switched off their engines, dismounted, and the boys stood nose to nose.
“Do you want to fight?” Christian challenged the now wild-eyed Diego. Diego’s button nose was blue from the cold and he was shivering even though he was adequately dressed.
They both turned to the sound of a woman humming a strange tune. But there was no one in sight. Diego felt uncomfortable as he buttoned the top of his jacket closed.
“I’m going back to the Manor idiot!” he shouted at Christian, as he got back on his moped.
The woman’s humming could be heard again but the boys could not see anyone else around. Diego looked up at the forest and he pulled out the map.
“This is the rear of Renshaw forest,” he mumbled to himself, examining the best route back to the Manor, before tucking the map back into his pocket. “I’m leaving,” he informed Christian as he turned his moped around.
The mud was thick and Diego struggled initially to pull away. Steering his moped towards the driest side of the path, he was then able to speed away; he didn’t look back at Christian as he rode off. Christian tried to start his moped but it wouldn’t start. He heard a faint growl as the wind picked up once again. He looked to the right into the long grass at the side of the road and saw a pair of glowing eyes. He hastily tried to start up the moped but it just wouldn’t.
“Diego!” he shouted, watching his friend ride off in the distance. Christian turned his focus back onto whatever was in the grass, the growling became louder as he tried again to get the moped started. He thought he heard a man scream, just as he finally got his moped started. In the side mirror he saw the pair of ochre eyes right behind him and then a set of sharp teeth grinding together. He pulled off on the muddy road but the wheel struck a rock; his moped jolted and he flew forward hitting his head.
Christian felt something warm running over his face as the rain started up again. He lifted his right hand, he had pins and needles in his fingers as he rubbed his forehead. He realised he was bleeding. His eyes became heavy as he heard panting followed by incessant sniffing. The humming echoed in his ears once again, before he passed out.
Diego began looking back while slowing down on the moped. “I can’t believe I’m even worried about him,” he said out loud, as he slowed down completely and then stopped. He was waiting for Christian but he was not coming; Diego felt uneasy realising he had stopped between the Renshaw woods on the way back to the Manor. Diego looked at his watch, it was already 6pm. So much for the Amusement Park he thought, as fine rain began to fall.
In the distance a set of headlights pierced the darkness, he moved his moped off the road as he waited for it to pass by. Hearing something behind him, he stared intensely into the darkness of the forest and let out a scream, as a conspiracy of ravens flew from within, making him almost fall over into the road.
The car hooted and stopped as Stuart rolled down his window; Melanie and Tieckey were so inquisitive they were practically hanging out of the back window.
“You fool!” Stuart scolded Diego, “You could have got yourself killed and caused a major accident!”
Diego apologised over and over again as Melanie and Tieckey giggled.
“What are you doing out here?” Tieckey asked the boy who was clearly rattled.
“I’m waiting for my friend Christian,” he answered looking at his watch again.
“Why don’t you just ride on?” Melanie urged him, remembering what she had seen earlier in the forest. But Diego shook his head.
“I think I will go and look for him,” Diego fretted turning his moped around. “He can’t be that far behind,” he tried to reassure himself.
“Be careful,” Melanie warned him, as she rolled up her window.
Stuart looked into Diego’s eyes, “I haven’t seen anyone on the road for miles, so maybe you should just get back to the Manor and wait for him to arrive.”
Diego shook his head once more, “I’m going to go and look for him,” he decided, starting the moped and riding back the way he came.
Stuart rolled up his window and drove on, as Melanie and Tieckey continued discussing what they were going to do for the rest of the evening.
Diego rode carefully down the windy wet road as his headlight began to flicker. Within a matter of moments, the light cut out, leaving Diego in utter darkness. He slowed down a little, but forged on regardless.
“Christian!” he shouted out, as he thought he saw someone ahead. But there was no one there. Suddenly Diego came to an abrupt halt; something was laying in the road ahead of him. His moped was still running as he tapped on the headlight, it flickered on and off frantically as he tried to see what lay before him. It looked like a person but he wasn’t sure. Diego kicked the stand down on the moped, balancing it as he climbed off. He could hear the rain hitting his headlight as he slowly approached what he thought was his friend.
“Christian?” he whispered, edging closer to what lay in the darkness.
He slowly took his helmet off, holding it in his right hand. He noticed that whatever was laying ahead began to move slightly. Diego’s heart began to race as he heard a slight groan.
He was a couple of feet away when the moped’s headlight began to flash again. He turned his head looking at the moped and then focused back in front of him. As the headlight flashed on and off, Diego could see what looked like a woman with long black hair laying in the muddy road, her arms were bruised badly. As he got closer the moped’s light cut out once more.
Diego heard something dragging on the road as he stood enveloped in blackness. He opened his jacket and pulled out his phone. His hands were trembling as he turned on the flash and focused the light in front of him. His breathing became shallow when he discovered the woman was gone. Diego turned around to run to his moped but he was shaking so much that he dropped his phone into the mud.
He bent down to pick it up and at that moment he could feel someone or something watching him. When he turned his phone over the flash revealed something terrifying before him. Diego shouted out as he slipped backwards landing on his haunches on the ground.
In front of him crawled a woman. She used her hands to pull her body towards him. She dragged herself up to Diego as he tried to stand up but he slipped once again in the mud. His phone’s flash gave off just enough light for him to see that her long white hospital gown was soaked in blood. Her face was covered with her wet hair.
Fear consumed him as her eyes glared back at him through the darkness. The faint light from his phone left Diego feeling confused and disorientated. He gasped as he felt her hands frantically grabbing at his legs. She was making a muffled sound and when she turned her head towards the light which was cast onto her face, Diego noticed that her mouth was sewn closed. It was sewn in a terrifying way. It was an abomination; a smiley face created entirely with stitches. Her skin had been folded and pleated just as a seamstress would do with a tailor-made garment.
Diego managed to push her backwards, but he barely made it to his feet before she grabbed his legs and tried to pull him back down. Mud splashed over his phone blocking the flashlight, but he kicked, blindly and repeatedly, trying to escape. Light flickered from his phone and he held it tightly before he felt her grip on his calf muscles. The strength in her arms was incredible and she yanked him back down to the ground. Diego screamed out as the woman grabbed onto his jacket. He lifted his arms to protect his face as her rough hands grasped at his mouth. She hit the phone out of his hand and tried to muffle his screams.
He felt around him for something to hit her with as she pinned him down and climbed onto his chest. It was difficult for him to make out her features, but as she pulled his jacket forcefully towards her, her wild eyes calmed momentarily as they connected with his.
At that moment he seized the helmet he had dropped, striking it against her head. He struck her repeatedly until her grip finally loosened from his jacket, blood seeping from her right eye. Diego quickly pushed the woman off of him and stood up.
Looking down at her, he frowned as he couldn’t understand what he was seeing. She had a manacle around her neck. She hit her hand down into the mud and tilted her head backwards looking up at Diego. Her knuckles were badly bruised and the skin was torn around them. He anxiously recovered his phone from the ground, just as the woman reached out for his leg once again. Luckily he managed to release her grip as she was too weak. Diego shone his flashlight onto her.
“Oh my God!” he shouted in disgust.
Her hospital gown had ruffled up, exposing hundreds of infected stitches. Diego wanted to vomit as blood oozed from the woman’s severed waist…
She groaned pitifully as Diego escaped her clutches and ran towards his moped…
He heard the clanking of the manacle and spun around to find that the woman was gone. He desperately shone the phone’s flash from side to side, but there was nothing there.
Diego thought he could still hear something dragging in the darkness. Before it could reach him again, he jumped on the moped and turned it around, riding off as fast as he could. His mind was in a frenzy as he wondered about Christian and what that woman or thing was.
In the darkness the woman crawled on the floor finding a shard of Diego’s visor from his helmet. She jabbed it into the side of her mouth cutting open the stitching.
“Help!” she shouted out, as the chains on her manacle pulled tight. She let out a scream as something wrenched her forcefully into the darkness. Diego rode as fast as he could. The rain began to pour down once again as he rode up the twisty road towards the Manor.
The Black Rose
A Trip to the Mines
A Long Night at the Manor