Chapter 8

Tears streamed down my face and my body convulsed with sobs.

“He’s gone,” Jack said without any emotion or pity.

“Why?” I managed to ask through the pain.

“There you go asking stupid questions again,” he groaned.

“I need to understand why you wanted Carol to kill him.”

“Carol pulled that trigger all on her own,” he said, not looking at me.

“Liar,” I yelled and staggered to my feet. “Why couldn’t you just let me be happy?”

“With that?” He asked, pointing a disdainful finger at Byron’s dead body.

“Yes.” I hugged myself, trying to keep the shivers rippling through my body under control.

“He was scum,” Jack said and stood up. “You’re in shock. You need to drink something sweet. We’ll discuss that maggot,” he tilted his chin in Byron’s direction, “when you’re calmer and more rational.”

He put a finger on my lips and made a shushing sound when I wanted to protest.

“Come along.” He guided me into the kitchen and put the kettle on again.

“I see Carol’s found my little surprise,” he said with a grin.

“What surprise?” I asked through a clenched jaw.

“Go have a look.” He crossed his arms, gestured with his head towards Carol and the glass patio door.

I could tell from where I stood that something wasn’t right with the view. There should have been a mist covered valley, but all I could see was darkness. I watched as Carol opened the door and slowly made her way out onto the wooden deck.

Jack’s laughter was deep and echoed in the darkness that enveloped the cabin. We were cut off from the rest of the world, trapped in a place of Jack’s creation.

*

Carol almost jumped out of her skin when she realised that Sarah stood next to her on the deck. She hadn’t heard Sarah come outside. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Sarah held the gun in a loose grip, almost unconsciously.

“Stop looking at the gun,” Sarah said, not looking at her. “It’s not going to help you now.” Then she flung it out into the void.

“Why the hell did you do that?” Carol shouted.

Sarah just looked at her and gave her a slow, sad smile, shook her head, turned away, then walked back inside the cabin.

With a stomach in knots, she followed Sarah, knowing that Jack was waiting for her.

“We’re just short one more, and the party will be complete,” Jack said, with a glass of red wine in his hand and a grin that showed off his sharpened teeth. The look on his face made her want to throw up. Whatever games he had in store, they wouldn’t be much fun, and by the end of them, she would probably be dead. Doomed to be his plaything for eternity, tormented just like Kevin.

*

The mist cleared when Michael arrived at the entrance to Crystal Springs. The guard on duty thrust a clipboard through the window. He was instructed to fill it out and then drive through to reception to check-in.

“I’m not checking in,” Michael said through the knot of nerves in his throat. “I’m going to number two.”

“Number two?” The guard asked with a frown.

“Yes, number two. Is there a problem with that?”

“No sir,” the guard said, looking over his shoulder at another guard sitting in the guardhouse. “Are you expected?”

“Yes.” He didn’t think explaining the situation to them would do him any good. All that would happen was that valuable time would be wasted. Time Sarah and Byron didn’t have. After a short, loud, interaction in what sounded like Zulu, the boom was lifted, and the guard gestured towards the left.

It was a quick drive to Sarah’s cabin. It barely took him a minute from the gate. He recognised Sarah’s new car, A Citroen C2 and Carol’s blue Ford parked next to it. There wasn’t any room for him to park, so he stopped behind them, parking both cars in. There was barely room on the narrow road for another vehicle to drive past. He would probably get a fine or towed, but he didn’t have a choice.

The sun filtered through the pine trees as he climbed out of his car. Stretching after the long drive, he locked his door using his remote and looked around to see if anybody was around. Maybe somebody had seen Carol arrive, or had seen them leave together. But the place seemed to be deserted.

He could see a few other cars parked in front of the other cabins that lined the mountainside, facing the valley below, but not a soul stirred. It was too quiet. Not even the monkeys chattered, and the birds were silent.

Swallowing the lump in his throat, he made his way towards the cabin. As he took a step on the wooden stairs that led onto the deck, he noticed something lying in the shrubs. Thinking it might belong to Sarah, he ran through the long, wild, grass – some of it waist high – and climbed over a rock.

There was no way he should have been able to see it from where he originally stood, at the foot of the stairs. The gun was nestled between a rock and tall grass. Picking it up, it was ice cold to the touch.

He didn’t know enough about guns to be able to determine what make it was, but he knew that it was a revolver. Having a firearm might come in handy. Any protection was better than none. Putting the weapon in his pocket, barrel first, he picked his way through the shrubs and long grass, back to the cabin.

The wooden stairs were wet and slippery. The loafers he’d worn to the office were not made for running in long grass or on slippery stairs.

The moment he set foot on the deck, it was as though someone had thrown a black curtain over the sun. The only light to guide him to the door was the outside light that shone over the sliding door. His skin crawled, and the hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he reached for the door handle and slid it open. A twisted, pain-filled scream erupted as he stepped inside.

*

Bael screamed till he was hoarse. It hadn’t taken long. The demon responsible for his agony only laughed. He was proud of himself for making the powerful Bael soil himself. He told Bael this as he cut once more and pulled Bael’s skin from his muscle-tissue and sliced through tendons. Lilith had taught him well. Soon he would be tearing flesh from bone.

“Are you bored yet?” His tormentor asked him over the sound of Bael’s screams. “Because I’m bored.”

Bael stopped screaming. Surprise at the unexpected question was stamped across all three of his faces.

“You see,” the other demon said. “I’ve been taking lessons from Jack, and he’s come up with some interesting mental techniques. Would you mind if I practised them on you?” He asked as he put the scalpel down on the wooden table next to him. Bael watched as the younger demon strolled around to his heads and placed a cold finger on the forehead of his human face. There was a tingling sensation, and then everything went black.

Bael was blind and had no feeling in any of his limbs. He tried to wiggle his fingers and toes, but they wouldn’t respond to his command. All he could hear was the other demons breathing. Bael held his breath as he waited for something, anything to happen.

“Jack and our mistress have spent many an hour together honing their skills and discussing the best methods of inflicting pain in all possible ways, not just physically but also mentally and spiritually. Jack is one of the Queen’s favourites, and I’m his apprentice. Do I need to explain to you how badly you screwed up when you tried to put a stop to what Jack is doing on the other side?” Bael’s tormentor’s voice reverberated throughout all three of his brains, giving his words an echo effect. Then there was silence.

Bael tried to speak, but his facial muscles were frozen. His tongues were no longer there. He was a prisoner in his own body, unable to talk or scream or move. He waited for Jack’s apprentice to say something more, to taunt him further, but there was only that dead silence.