A READING EXPERIENCE

Weekly Serials 

P.I. Carson

"Captive Soul"

 

By Ben Kesp

Parts 7 - 11 COMPLETE

Copyright © 2020 Ben Kesp

 

All rights reserved. No part of this serial may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author.  

 

Part VII

 

Despite his initial disagreements about having to meet another lady arranged by his sister, Henry is surprised how much he enjoying the evening and the company of Emily Mason. She is an intelligent lady and enjoys the thrill of a challenging conversation. A man could easily get lost in her large brown eyes as they seductively draw him in. Returning to the moment he is not at a loss of what to say with her.

“I must say, Emily, I have really enjoyed our conversation but there is still the matter of your concern and your business here in Moran Glens,” Henry asks placing his attention on her once more.

“Science.”

“Science!”

“Yes.  It is the future.  The way forward.”

“We are not exactly living in the dark ages at the moment.”

“Are we not? We are in an era of modern science and the practices of the old ways must either be disproved or brought forward into the light for what they are.”

“And what are these old practices you speak of?”

“You are curious about this subject, Henry Carson?” Emily smiles. “You might find some of my ideas somewhat out there or even going beyond the realms of what you might believe science is.”

“I make no judgement until I hear your thoughts,” Henry responds.

“The area that sparks my attention is witchcraft with many people still believing in the concept of it.”

“Witchcraft!  You certainly have my attention now.”

“People fear what they do not understand. Science is a way for helping people rid those fears.”

“So is witchcraft a science?”

“It cannot be said that it is with guarantee but look at what we do know.  Certain people possess knowledge that we do not understand.  This knowledge allows them to understand the working of nature, the natural elements of the world, the cosmos and the planetary movements.  They understand how to work with herbs, create potions and cures, nothing more than the working of science and creation of chemical substances.”

“And if you cross a witch, are they not suppose to put a spell on you,” Henry chides.

“As an educated man you are seeing witchcraft as nothing more than superstition and myth but there is far more to it and I am here to collect information.  I want to know more about it from a human level.  What scientifically is it that allows certain people to possess such knowledge? Is it something genetic or is there some part of the brain function active at a level that does not in others?”

“Fascinating theories and I believe worth further investigation.”

“I am not saying that I believe the concept of witchcraft is wonderful.  There are certain elements that I question scientifically.”

“For example?”

“The killing of animals in ritual sacrifices to appease the nature spirits.  Often it has been reported the practitioners of these rituals gain knowledge by either leaving their physical bodies or through elemental beings of energy that spring forth from the ritual fires entering the minds of those participating and this is how the knowledge is passed on.”

“From mother earth herself,” Henry adds.

“Many witch hives have in the past worshipped the mother creator as a female deity,” Emily states holding her gaze on Henry. “Perhaps I have bored you enough with my talk of science and witchcraft for one night.  I do apologise.”

“On the contrary, I find it fascinating and I have not noticed the night slip by.  We have been so engrossed in our conversation that many of the guests have started to depart,” Henry answers observing the large dining table now much quieter and many guests having moved towards the door leading to the spacious entrance hall. “I do hope you can find what you are looking for and if I can be of any assistance please do let me know.”

“I thank you and I might just do that,” Emily smiles catching sight of Abigail approaching.

“If you will excuse me my dear brother, I must take Emily for a few moments,” Abigail interrupts placing her arms around Emily’s shoulders.

“Please.  I will step outside.”

Henry stands and moves towards the entrance hall, smiling at guests as he walks on.  Stepping outside the front door, he descends the grand stone entrance steps and makes his way towards his awaiting carriage.  The voice of his sister calling him brings him to a stop.  Smiling he embraces her hug, that twinkle ever present in her eye.

“What a glorious night,” she states linking her brother’s arm. 

Signally to the coachman that he would be leaving shortly, he takes a short stroll with Abigail towards the front gardens of Carly Court.

“Now be honest, did you have a good night?”

“I would be deceitful if I said I did not enjoy the delightful company of Ms. Mason. She is an interesting and intelligent lady with a witty sense of humour and her beauty has no flaws.”

“Let me see your eyes,” Abigail states moving her brother to face the lanterns lining the entrance to the manicured lawns. “There is something amiss.  I believe you enjoyed the evening but there is more.”

“I guess I am just consumed at the moment with the case I am working on.  My mind is on other matters.”

“Matters that are so strong, you cannot keep out of your thoughts for very long. I was speaking with Edmond this evening and he mentioned the case was not much of a case at all.”

“I believe there is more going on at Edenwood than what we can see.”

“And what does the lady who asked for your services think?”

“Ms. Charlotte Summers is a mystery onto herself.”

“You are smitten with her?” Abigail states, studying his eyes.  “I can see it in your eyes, your face.”

“You must be mistaken.  It is a case, just like any other.”

“Do you believe that? Can you be honest to say that it is?”

Henry holds his eyes onto his sister and he knows she speaks the truth.  He cannot explain the hold that Charlotte has over him and now questions has he become obsessed about her and the situation she finds herself in.

“Are you in love with her?” Abigail enquires.

Henry maintains his pose. “I cannot say it is neither love nor infatuation. I feel for her.”

“Feel for her situation, her loss, her sorrow?”

“It is difficult to explain Abigail.  It is like she is a woman who is not in control of her own life.”

“Perhaps this is how it is supposed to be.”

“The only time Charlotte is true to herself or she can reveal herself to others is through her writing.  She gave me a copy of her one of her stage plays.”

“What is about?”

“Lost love.”

“Her own?”

“I don’t know.”

“Be careful Henry.  The case will consume you or I should say Ms. Charlotte Summers will consume you.”

“Do not worry sister.  I found Emily Mason delightful and in fact I would like to meet with her again.”

“I am delighted to hear that for I know she liked your company very much this evening.”

“I will visit you soon.  Have a good night and remember do not worry.”

Abigail smiles and kisses him gently on the right cheek.  She watches as he steps into the carriage and it moves gently out the driveway of Carly Court.  The activity has quietened with nearly all guests having left.  Abigail spots Emily on the front doorsteps and beckons her over.

“Was that your brother I saw depart?”

“It was and he was most charmed by your company this evening,” Abigail replies. Gently linking Emily, she leads her further away from the front steps of Carly Court. “Emily, I would like to ask you to join me on a little trip.”

“Where are we off to?”

“I wish to visit someone,” Abigail answers not wishing to tell Emily the full truth but she needs to see Ms. Summers for herself.

Part VIII

 

Charlotte stands before the burning fire.  Each of the robed figures removes their hoods, revealing their identities.  She recognises them.  There stands Catherine the midwife, Ellie the seamstress and Mary the Reverend’s wife.  With Mrs. Woodridge and herself, it completed a circle of five, so it does not escape Charlotte that during all the years of her absence, her mother never found a replacement. The circle always had to have six members.

“I am here against my will,” Charlotte breaks the silence.

“Does one of us have you in chains Ms. Charlotte,” Mary speaks out asserting her dominance after Mrs. Woodridge.

“I do not wish to part take in any of this?”

“You continue to deny your birthright! Deny the sacrifices your mother has bore and not to mention the life your brother is enduring,” Mrs. Woodridge spoke sternly, her words laced with bitterness.  Charlotte knew she had always wanted to replace her mother but genetics had seen an end to that.

“If I could release my brother, I would,” Charlotte continues.

“Your brother can be released and you know it.  Take your rightful place and all will be right.”

“Frederick was willing to be in my rightful place. I was not.”

“He would never have the power that flows within your veins. It’s stronger within the female line as it always has been dating back to our distant homeland.  Your brother may be your twin but he is not you.  Embrace who you are.  You are the earth, the trees, the sky, and the elements of nature.  Open up and embrace the feelings coursing through your body.”

“I cannot,” Charlotte replies stubbornly now regretting having come but she knew she has little choice. Her life, her very soul is held by what she is.

“You allow your only brother, your twin, your comrade, to suffer.  You have tried to hide from it from spending time away, but you cannot anymore.  Edenwood Manor is yours. Your mother’s death has forced your hand,” Mrs. Woodridge continues. “We all have been tolerant.”

Charlotte remains silent.  Only the sounds of the crackling fire break the silence of the night.  “What will I need to do?”

“Commit to the circle and take your mother’s place as leader of the hive,” Mrs. Woodridge answers, her tone softening knowing she has bent Charlotte to her ways.

“And my brother?”

“All will be undone.”

Closing her eyes, Charlotte inhales the night’s air. 

“There is one more matter to be dealt with and that concerns Mr. Carson.”

“What of him?” Charlotte replies sharply, surprised by her own tone of response.

“You desire him.  I can tell. You know what happens to thoughts that you cannot control?”

“I am in control.”

“Be careful or you will spell him,” Ellie responds.

“If she hasn’t already done so without her knowing,” Catherine answers.

“I have seen him linger at the gates of the avenue leading to Edenwood,” Mary adds. “He is a man in thought, thinking of his words before he greets you.”

“Stop this at once!” Charlotte responds sharply.  “I will deal with Mr. Carson. Keep away. I am here on this night to fulfil my duties to the hive. I am playing my part so you must play yours.”

Mrs. Woodridge raises her hand to silence any more discussion. “Let us continue with the ritual. Our God Elatha, father of Bres, the god of harvest, has been patient with us and we will commune with him soon on the arrival of the blood moon. At that moment, our thoughts and our energies will be amplified to lift the veil of this physical world to view and interact with the other world. Let us prepare for this ceremony to come.”

Charlotte casts her eyes on each of the women before her as they raise their hoods blocking out their faces.  She follows suit.

Joining hands, Charlotte closes her eyes and wills her body to relax.  She calls on past memories to surface and ignite that spark that she once knew but has hidden for all these years.  Slowly at first, the edges of her fingertips tingle as the sensation flows up her fingers and surrounds her hands.  She focuses, reaching out with her mind allowing the energy of her companions to flow up through her arms and onto her shoulders encompassing her head before it descends downwards through her body and radiates to her feet where it exits and joins the earth’s energy, intertwining her energy with the force of the land. Charlotte had forgotten just how strong and powerful the force of combining her energy with that of the earth’s, enhanced she knows by the stones that lie buried within the garden of Edenwood.

Awareness grows and the life of the world around her becomes apparent to her mind’s eye.  Visualising the shimmering of the energies growing in a circular pattern around their circle of enclosed hands, it expands, surrounding them, moving outwards and upwards. All becomes still.  Charlotte opens her eyes, her gaze falling on the flames of the fire, now frozen still in the moment. A green light gently bathes where they stand rising upwards from the earth within the circle of shimmering energy that encircles them.  Lifting her head upwards towards the darkened sky, the feeling of peace soothes her. Gently the whispers surround her, embracing her.  She is unsure where they are coming from but they are welcoming her. Soft embraces caress her cheeks, her arms and body.  She exhales deeply, revealing a smile, while, releasing years of negative emotions that are replaced with renewed energies from nature. The warm tears of joy caress her cheeks until she slowly closes her eyes once more.

As gently as the energy flowed through her body, it retraces its route untangling her from the earth and flowing out from her body through her clasped hands.  The sounds of the forest and the crackly fire return to her ears. She releases her grip from her companions and removes her hood to reveal each of the women standing before her staring at her.

“Your abilities are strong, Charlotte,” Mrs. Woodridge smiles. “God Elatha will come through strongly on the night of the blood moon and communicate with us and especially with you.”

Charlotte smiles unsure of how to respond, her body still filled with a sense of comfort, almost making her float. Catherine reaches for a bucket of water nearby and extinguishes the fire. Charlotte is expecting darkness to fill her vision but instead, her eyes see as perfect as if in daylight. Each of the women replaces their hoods and disappears. Standing for some time, Charlotte allows the moment of euphoria to linger keeping her eyes upwards on the moon and the stars surrounding it. Gradually the feeling fades and her thoughts return to her physical self and her situation.  Something special has occurred she will not deny it nor does she fully understand it.  She must return to Edenwood.

Part IX

 

Climbing the narrow staircase leading to the main hall of Edenwood, Charlotte places the lantern onto the shelf just inside the door.  Pausing for a moment, Charlotte listens.  The house is silent.  Soon Michael Walsh will be rising for the new day. Exiting the door from under the stairs she steps onto the long hallway gently closing the door after her. It is almost dawn and the morning light pierces the darkness of the hall. The night’s activities have left her exhausted and she will only get a few hours sleep but before she can move a voice from above startles her.  It calls her name a second time and she glances upwards to see her brother leaning over the banister staring down on her with a lamp in his right hand.

Confusion takes hold of her thoughts momentarily and she is unable to formulate any words but locks her gaze onto his eyes and then moves her stare to his lips that now no longer have their distorted look. His handsome features have returned.

“It is usually I who am not able to speak a sentence and not you and here you are now struck dumb,” Frederick states as he descends to the bottom step of the ornate wooden stair case.

Charlotte’s mind rushes with too many explanations. “How is it possible?”

“It is possible as you have finally after all these years, sister, signed the pact.  You have released me,” Frederick answers.   

Stepping back to the centre of the hall she holds her gaze onto him. “They gave their word! I did not believe them but thought it was their way to get me to join and take my place in the hive. If I knew this is what had to be done, I would have done it earlier.  You must believe me, Frederick.”

“You knew it Charlotte.  I may have appeared dump and a simpleton but my mind registered everything that was said. People spoke around me, especially mother and I understood her perfectly.”

“If so you also knew what she was and how she tried to force me to live a life I did not want.  You wanted the role and I would gladly have given it to you and even now I would not keep you from it.”

“I was not what they wanted.  The knowledge flows through your veins, through the female line going back generations of our ancestors. The men in the family were never knowledgeable to what has been going on for centuries but stood strongly by their wives protecting them with their status and wealth. Always the right men were chosen and this is how it has been. But you Charlotte, you changed everything with your refusal to accept who you are.”

“You knew of all of this?”

“I am no ordinary man.  I am your twin and I was silenced so not to speak of it.”

“Then why would they release the spell?”

Stepping into the hall next to his sister, Frederick inhales. “Do you know how good it feels to have my own sense of reasoning back, my ability to communicate, it is so liberating. I knew instantly what happened when the spell broke. It felt like a large chain was untangled and removed from my physical body.”

Taking her brother by the arms she locks eyes with his. “Tell me, Frederick, what did our mother do? Why did she kill herself?”

Frederick remains silent holding his gaze with his sister.

“Before I answer your questions, you do know that she wanted you to take your rightful place but she understood the risks.  Our mother knew that as long as you stayed away, I would spend the rest of my life like this and Edenwood Manor would have been destroyed.”

Frederick pauses and moves into the front reception room with Charlotte following him.

“What are you saying Frederick?”

“Our mother was torn, her mind in conflict, well of what was left of it in the end. She knew whichever decision she made one of her children would be living in misery, cast to live out the rest of our lives like that.”

“Tell me, please,” Charlotte begs him.

“Our mother chose to sacrifice me in order for you to live the life you wanted and to be free. This was a decision that was not popular with the hive as you can imagine.”

“I don’t understand.  Why did she never tell me this?”

“Our mother’s love for you was strong.  She could not as she was in a constant battle with the hive and especially Mrs. Woodridge,” Frederick replies stepping closer to his sister.

 “Do you remember the night we both were brought to the forest? It was on our sixteenth birthday.”

“Yes.  Every day.”

“We did not really understand it.  Mother stopped by the large stone in the garden and told us not to look.  We were brought as usual through the path leading into the forest.  The women were waiting for us when we arrived. You cried and I stepped forward to do whatever they had wanted of you.”

“I remember thinking how protected I felt with you beside me and how wicked our mother had been.  I also remember Mrs. Woodridge’s reaction on first sighting you.”

“The boy! What is he doing here!” Frederick changes his voice and accent. “She wanted me banished or probably struck dumb on the spot, which she later did.”

Moving towards the window, the rising sun now reddening the sky, Charlotte returns her thoughts to the current situation.

“Frederick, what happened to our mother?”

“From what I understand and from what I have overheard in conversations between my mother and Michael Walsh......”

“Michael Walsh!”

“Mrs. Woodridge used Michael to put pressure on our mother to get you to return home and take your place.”

“Michael knows about us, about what we do? Who we are?”

The words hit her hard and she paces towards the fireplace allowing the words to make sense. How could it be possible that all this time, their coachman knew everything about their secrets? She fights the temptation to dissect the news in detail for now. She faces Frederick and allows him to finish. 

“One of two things could have happened.  Either mother was unable to take the pressure any longer and committed the act she did or.....

“Or?”

“Michael may have committed the act for her.”

Emitting a short gasp, Charlotte sits in the nearest chair overcome momentarily on hearing the news.

“Our mother was desperate in the end.  She did not know what to do with you and the fear of losing her daughter, her son and the house. Michael knows everything that goes on at Edenwood.  He knows of the animal sacrifices. And,” Frederick gravitates towards his sister, taking hold of her arms. “It was Michael that wrote the letter to the police about the evil resting in Edenwood.”

Silence descends in the reception room of Edenwood Manor.  Charlotte locks her eyes with the old knotted rugs lying across the oak floorboards. She is unable to answer. Her brother has been returned to her and she has discovered that her mother truly loved her and possibly died trying to protect her. She fights back the tears of how she has wronged her own mother for so many years.  How could she have got it so wrong? The words come slowly to her at first.

“Frederick, we now have a situation.  The discovery of you in this way will raise questions.”

“From your Mr. Carson.”

“Leave him out of this for now.  You cannot hide away in the house for the rest of your life. But worse, I now fear what Michael Walsh will do if he knows we know.  Whatever Mrs. Woodridge gave him as part of the deal he is now happy and will probably say nothing as long as everything is as he believes.”

Charlotte stands and faces her brother. “Frederick, I want to end this. Our mother may have been vulnerable as she was torn in conflict over the two of us, but now we have each other and as you said you are no ordinary man.”

“Sister, what are you talking about?” Frederick asks now revealing a smile. “Are you planning a war?”

Holding his gaze, Charlotte for the first time in a long time feels the power surging through her body. Perhaps her encounter with Mr. Carson and her feelings for him are part of this new energy and the prospects of having her own future.  It may even be added to what she has just experienced in the woods and how the other women respect her power, maybe even fear it.  Now with her brother by her side, she is no longer alone. If she is a direct descendent of a long line of women who carry within certain knowledge and power, perhaps it is her time to wield it.  She needs to embrace it and truly understand it.  She begins to pace back and forth the room, the excitement taking hold of her body.

“We will need to act and quickly. I will handle Mr. Carson.  He will return in a day or two to close out the case.  He just needs an explanation for the animal corpses found under the shed.  I will have a story for him.  You will need to remain out of sight especially by day.”

“What of Michael Walsh?”

“You can still pretend you are the way you are by night if he minds you, but I will be here or have you sent to your room before I go out.”

Charlotte pulls back and steps towards the window. The early morning chorus of birds filters through to the room.  Staring out towards the plain lawn in front of the house, its dew covered grass now coming into view and with it Charlotte’s recent surge of confidence diminishes. She only has two nights before the blood moon.  She needs to think fast about how she can finally end the cycle and put an end to the hive of women.

“Do you really believe that Michael is capable of killing our mother? The woman he has served for all these years? I would never question his loyalty to our family,” Charlotte faces Frederick in the hope to understand her coachman’s thinking.

“We do not know what was passed between Mrs. Woodridge and Michael. Perhaps she wanted to expose you.”

“Either that or she has some hold over Michael and forced him to carry out such a deed,” Charlotte answers, the words strike her hard.  Does the coachman hate her? She grew up with having Michael Walsh around all the time.  He is part of her family. The words sit wrongly with her causing her to feel upset with a sickening pang resting in her stomach. For now, she cannot decipher it, but something seems amiss.  Whatever the reason, she will need to act quickly to control the situation from spiralling out of control and she will begin with Mr. Carson.

Part X

 

The morning sun has already climbed high on its skyward journey for the day when the black coach pulled by two dappled grey horses stops outside Edenwood Manor. Jumping from his position up front, the coachman opens the door for Abigail and Emily to alight.  The scent of wild jasmine fused with fuchsia strikes Abigail under the heat of the morning sun. Casting her eyes around, observing the plain lawn before taking in the sight of the grey manor house. Plain is the only word she can express in her thoughts about Edenwood Manor. 

Acknowledging with a nod to the coachman, she beckons for Emily to follow her and they move forward to the side gable of the house and towards the rear garden.  The sight of the sun dazzling off the array of flowers and colourful petals delights them both. The sweet scent of lavender and roses wafts towards them and Abigail cannot help but bending down and inhaling some of the inviting scents.

“How delightful,” Abigail exclaims. “I certainly would not have expected to find a garden so beautifully tended in comparison to how the front entrance of the house is maintained.”

“It certainly is unique, I must admit and most curious,” Emily replies now studying the garden before her.

“What is it?”

“I am not sure,” Emily replies bending down to touch the white stoned path before her as it twirls and spirals around the garden. “This is no ordinary stone.  It is quartz and it is…..”

“What? What is it?”

Emily moves from Abigail’s side and towards the large odd shaped stone in the centre of the garden now fused with its crop of flowers hanging over its top.

“Who did you say were the family that lives here?”

“The Summers family. Why?”

“I do believe I need to speak with your brother again.”

Abigail is not sure what her husband’s cousin is referring to and lets the comment drift while she puts her eyes to the end of the garden and an orchard with a heavy crop of apples waiting to be collected with some having been attacked by crows.  “Come,” Abigail whispers and gently takes Emily by the arm and leads her towards the orchard. While in awe of the selection of apples, a sound behind disturbs them and they turn to face Frederick Summers.

“Hello,” Abigail states slightly unnerved by his sudden presence.

“Hello.  Would you like an apple?”

“No thank you.”

Frederick moves past her and reaches for an apple. He wipes it off his shirt before handing it to Abigail. “Have an apple.”

Abigail takes the apple in her hand glancing at it briefly before returning her attention to Frederick.

“What are two very pretty ladies doing in my back garden?”

“I am here to visit with Ms. Charlotte Summers and you are?”

 “Frederick!” shouts a strong voice from Charlotte approaching from the centre of the garden. “Leave our visitors alone.  Please ladies, if you would follow me please.”

Abigail and Emily obey, following Charlotte into the hall of the house and towards the front door.  At first glance, the presence of Charlotte does not impress her.  Her clothes are drab, lacking any colour with no accessories insight.  She certainly does not reflect her position as lady of the manor. Abigail continues her study noticing Charlotte’s hair lacks shine and her face is plain and without any powder.

Charlotte remains standing placing her gaze on both women and remaining silent. Uncomfortable in the silence, Abigail breaks it. “My name is Abigail Carson Williams and this is my husband’s cousin, Emily Mason.  Henry Carson is my brother.”

“Why are you here Mrs. Williams?”

“I came to speak with you.”

“On what topic?”

“Are you always this serious? Perhaps we could have a chat and get to know each other a little. Is there someplace that we could sit,” Abigail asks glancing around for a nearby reception room.

“For whatever reason, why would we do that?” Charlotte replies, holding her stare on Abigail.

The curt reply is not what she expected however she remains firm in her stance. “Henry tells me you are a playwright.  Would I have seen any of your work?”

“I would think not.  I only write for a small theatre in capital, the work is never shown outside of the city.”

“Then I should travel to see one of your plays for myself.”

“Why would you do that?”

The woman before her is beginning to infuriate her and she questions how Henry is so smitten with her. Granted she has elegant features and with some new attire she would be very pleasant indeed but her looks are no replacement for lack of personality.  Then again, her brother did not always believe looks and beauty are the makings of a person.

“I’ll be honest, Ms. Summers, I wished to come here to see you for myself.  My brother has mentioned much about you.”

“Why would your brother talk to you about me?  Does he think of me beyond his role of me being his client?”

“You have no feelings for him? I believe he might have for you,” Abigail states not sure if she should have said the words but if anything it might get a reaction from the stoic woman standing before her.  

“Then your brother is a fool.”

“I beg your pardon!”

“Does your brother fall so easily for women?”

Abigail emits a laugh and quickly recovers herself. “On the contrary, my brother never falls for anyone that is why I came here to see for myself what kind of person you are. When it comes to finding a suitable woman, he can be the fussiest man in the country but there is something he sees in you that I will never know.  Good day, Ms. Summers. I think we have overstayed our welcome.” Abigail answers, moving forward towards the front door and exits to awaiting coach.

 Charlotte closes her eyes and exhales.  The words strike her deep within.  What she has hoped for, yet denied and blocked is a reality.  Mr. Carson does indeed have feelings for her. She too questions like his sister, what a handsome and dashing man like Henry Carson could possibly see in her?  The weariness wears on her heavily.  She is tired of keeping so many secrets.  For now, she pushes the notions of Henry Carson out of her mind, she has too many pressing issues to contend with.

##

 

The black stallion canters into the rear courtyard of Feathersons House. Alighting, Henry passes the reins to a stable boy who leads the horse away.  Entering the rear of the house through the kitchens, Henry moves towards the library to find his sister, with Edmond and Emily Mason.

“Brother dearest, we were about to send out a search party for you,” Abigail states moving towards Henry and placing a kiss onto his right cheek.

“If I had known I had company waiting on me I would have been here earlier and now on seeing the mixed company I have before me it adds confusion to the moment.”

“Don’t worry old boy, we are all here about the same thing,” Edmond replies.

“Now I am even more curious,” Henry replies seating himself next to the marbled fireplace placing his eyes on Emily and allowing a smile to cross his lips.

“I have a curiosity that needs to be satisfied Henry and I hope you can help me with it.”

“My dear Emily if I can satisfy you with your curiosity, I certainly will try, please, tell me.”

“I want to know more about Ms. Charlotte Summers, especially concerning her lineage.”

“You certainly have my curiosity, Emily.  Charlotte is the daughter of Harriet and George Summers. Her grandmother was Sarah Jane Milton, wife of Victor Westcott who built Edenwood Manor.”

“There is no Sarah Jane Milton, not in the sense of the name,” Emily replies moving her attention to Edmond.

“Under instruction from Abigail and Emily, I traced back the lineage and it is not what we were led to believe.  Sarah Jane Milton was an alias used by Costanza Rubio, who hailed from Spain, where she met Victor Westcott and married him.”

“I don’t understand,” Henry states sitting forward in his seat.

Emily stands, picking up an open book from the table next to her. Stepping towards Henry she places the book into his hands. The open page reflecting a drawing of a large odd shaped stone with six larger stones placed in a circular pattern around it. Between the outer ring of stones and the large centre stone are pathways in circular formations. 

“What I have seen at Edenwood Manor has to lead me to believe that Ms. Charlotte Summers is descendant of a long line of women originating from Spain who possesses a power feared by the Roman Catholic Church itself,” Emily states firmly locking eyes with Henry leaving him in silence. For now, with all of the new developments concerning the Summers family, he will ignore the reason why his sister and Emily were at Edenwood Manor but now he is glad they have been.  A further investigation will be needed on the grounds and forest to the rear of the property as the garden and strange centre stone had not escaped his attention either.

Part XI 

Henry paces in front of the white marbled fireplace. “So let me understand what you are saying, Emily, and please have patience with my understanding. You have been tracking a group of women from northern Spain that you believe possess knowledge so powerful that the Catholic Church in Rome fears.”

“The power is science,” Emily reiterates. “However, I do not believe the women coin the phrase as science but refer to the knowledge of workings of the cosmos and even the existence of life itself.”

“Henry, are you seriously going to humour such a story? I mean no disrespect, Ms. Mason, but we are possibly talking about a group of women, which Ms. Summers may be part of that practice witchcraft,” Edmond scoffs at the idea. “Whatever they do or do not do, our job was to investigate the burning of a shed containing valuable artefacts and we did that, and unsuccessfully I might add.  The case is closed.  We report our findings to the local authorities and move on. I never saw anything in this investigation to begin with.”

“Are you not curious, Edmond?”

“My curiosity does not involve getting myself associated with such practices as witchcraft.  I believe I am an educated man to know there is no such thing.”

“And what of the animal remains found beneath the shed? Do they not warrant a reason for their existence?” Henry adds, pushing his point across.  He admits the recent news brought by Emily to the case has invigorated his senses to know even more about Charlotte.

“You discovered animal remains?” Emily asks breaking Henry’s thoughts.

“Yes.”

“Then this only confirms what I suspect. Many of the practices carried out contain a ritual aspect, ceremonial.  What it really means, I do not know, or even if it has any scientific basis.”

“Unless bloodletting has some chemical reaction to the tasks they perform, perhaps we will never know,” Henry adds returning to his chair. “Edmond, you yourself observed a path leading from the rear of the Summers property and into the woods.  I will admit many things about Edenwood did strike questions in me.  The house and grounds leading to it are run down and still, the rear garden is perfect. The observation of an odd shaped stone by both myself and Emily, which is strikingly similar to what is contained in the book. Perhaps a further investigation of the grounds should be carried out.”

“The forest itself should be investigated along with the garden. There should be evidence of the six standing stones somewhere, that we have not yet observed,” Emily adds, her zest for the investigation now adding to Henry’s.

“Poppycock!” Edmonds states as he stands. “I am not having anything more to do with this part of the investigation.  If you wish to pursue such idle routes, please do, but I will have no part of it.”

“I understand,” Henry answers acknowledging his friend’s views. “I’ll see you on Saturday for the next hunt.”

“I’ll be here, bright and early.  Looking forward to it. Ladies, if you will excuse me,” Edmond acknowledges with a smile and departs the room.

“Emily, tell me more about this circular pathway that is at Edenwood,” Henry asks giving her his full attention.

“The pattern is referred to as a Triskele or Triskelion, a very ancient symbol dating back thousands of years.  From what I know it has been associated with the early Greek culture and later became popular in the Celtic Culture. The pattern itself is supposed to symbolise movement or motion and signify energies.  The motion is of cycles like in a revolution.  It has often been seen to represent life – death and rebirth, a combination of the spirit – mind and body.”

Emily moves to the book and points to the image.

“As you can see from its distinct three arms if you will, each are said to represent, the spiritual world, the living world and the celestial world. What I also found unusual is that the stone of the circular paths at Edenwood is made up of Quartz stone.”

“Is that significant?” Henry asks in awe with Emily and her knowledge on the subject.

“When we analyse the properties of stones, we do not fully understand all of the components, however, it is stated that white quartz has the ability to purify negative or low energies.  It contains healing properties and emits a feminine wave motion.”

“Science is fascinating and has many answers,” Abigail adds taking in all that Emily has said.

“Science does not give us all the answers, sometimes it is hard to prove why things are and how certain things work, but I believe with further studies we can expand our understanding of it which is why I believe we need to listen to women like Ms. Charlotte Summers who have this wisdom and not condemn them to the practice of witchcraft only to strike fear into people who are ignorant.”

“I agree,” Henry adds with a smile. “All of this has certainly added my interest in the Summers family.  It fuels many new questions, like why did Charlotte’s grandmother change her name and how many women are involved…..”

“I can also answer many of those questions,” Emily cuts off Henry’s trail of questions. “From my research and studies, all trace of Coztanza Rubio was lost in the late 1770s.  It was like she just disappeared.  At the time a council of men known to have worked closely with the Catholic Church in Rome were closing in on her. Her presence had become known to them and then like that she was gone and so was her hive of six.”

“Six!”

“Six women.  I do not know why, but over the centuries whenever the lineage of Coztanza became knowledgeable, evidence was always recorded as there being a group of six women connected to her.”

Inhaling, Henry stands and moves towards the window.  The sun is settling slowly to the west, casting the long shadows of the trees across the front lawns.  He has lost track of time with his deep discussions with Emily but his thoughts are never far from Charlotte.  He wishes to reach out and help her, release her from whatever grip she is held fast by. Henry believes Charlotte is keeping a dark secret but how can he get through to her. Returning his attention to his sister and Emily, he smiles.

“I only wish we could sit down and talk with Charlotte, but alas she is never going to discuss anything with us.”

“What about her brother, Frederick,” Abigail asks.

“Frederick! What can he tell us, he is put a simpleton.  Did you not see him at Edenwood?”

“Yes.  We both saw him, brother. He is no simpleton.”

“He was quite the dashing gentleman. Even, charming, I would say,” adds Emily.

The words strike Henry unsure of how to answer.  He cannot doubt what both his sister and Emily saw. 

“I do not understand how it can be, granted  I have not seen Charlotte’s brother, only from what I have been told but surely there is something amiss here,” Henry states and only silence is the response. It is time he makes a plan to return to Edenwood Manor but this time he will do so by night.

P.I. Carson - Captive Soul will take a break for a  while and will return in a few months. 

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