[See Part 1]
I was having trouble convincing the portly dame.
“I assure you, Mrs Grenville, I was simply minding my business when a building block went hurtling toward my head.”
“Sarah was a gentle child, Mr Harding.”
I inspected the wound once more. It was still raw. “Mrs Grenville, there is a hostile entity in this room. It does not want me here. It does not want you here.”
My eyes fell on the portrait of Sarah on the wall. With her golden curls and puckered pink lips, she did not look sick. “What was the manner of her illness?”
“And she came to you after her parents were killed in a housefire, correct?”
Mrs Grenville bristled. “If you are suggesting that Sarah had anything to do – ”
“Please do calm down, Mrs Grenville. I am suggesting no such thing. I simply want to see the child rest in peace, as I am sure you do.”
Mrs Grenville gave something of a huff and turned her gaze from me.
“If you are ready, Mrs Grenville, I would like to hear more about Sarah’s illness. Were the fits ever violent in nature?”
“No! Well…” She hesitated. “Occasionally during the course of a fit she would strike out at the person next to her. But that wasn’t Sarah’s fault.”
“Did any of the other children sustain injuries?”
“Bruises mostly. There was one case of a black eye.”
“And did anything trigger the seizures?”
She thought for a moment. “They were mostly random, but heat did bring them on. We made sure to keep her room cool. Oh we were so careful, Mr Harding! But that day…” Tears welled in her eyes. “We tried ice packs, cold water, everything…but the poor child… it was just too much.”
I handed her a tissue. I waited for her to settle, but she was determined to keep talking.
“Her father had a touch of the illness himself. It hit him later in life. A brilliant man, such a tragedy. He was an archaeologist. He’d travelled to Egypt, Babylon, so many wondrous places. The police believed it was one of his fits that caused the fire. Only poor Sarah escaped that night.”
I leaned back in the tattered armchair I’d taken up home in. It was all beginning to make sense to me. The strangeness in the room, the voices conversing, the manner of the child’s death.
I reached into my suitcase and brought out a very different piece of equipment to those I had been using. I held the vial of holy water to the ceiling and waited. I was not surprised when it began to quiver.
I put the vial back in my case and folded my legs. “Would you like to hear my theory, Mrs Grenville?”
“This century, if you don’t quite mind.”
“There are indeed two entities in this room. The first is the child Sarah. As for the second…” I paused. “I believe that when Sarah’s father travelled to these ancient places,he brought something back with him. Something quite sinister. Such entities cannot enter this world save through a human host. They feed on the suffering of mankind.”
“A demon,” Mrs Grenville breathed.
“A demon,” I confirmed. “The night of the fire the demon most likely intended to kill everyone in the house except for his host, but something went terribly wrong. To survive it had to transfer into Sarah’s body and leave her father to die in the house.”
“Are you saying Sarah was – ?”
“Possessed, yes. I do not believe she nor her father ever suffered from epilepsy. When such an entity is distressed it often causes the host to enter a seizure-like state, similar to that of the illness. I do not believe Sarah was ever ill. It was the demon that died that wretched day, taking the host along with it.”
Mrs Grenville had become quite distressed. I leaned over to comfort her. “There is a way,” I said. “If you follow me to the parlour, we -”
But it was not meant to be.
As I was speaking, the door slammed shut.
One by one the bolts on the window latched into place.
Mrs Grenville looked at me wide-eyed.
We were trapped in the room with an entity that wanted us dead.
(To be continued)