The rain had returned with a vengeance by the time Chase reached the hotel, and the sky above appeared as a black blanket of doom. Walter stood at the entrance and when he spotted the Mercedes he waved the car down. This time Chase let him park the car after he was escorted to the entrance under the protective dryness of his trusty umbrella. Once inside, Chase pulled out the book which he temporarily stuffed down his buttoned up jacket to keep it dry and was pleased to see that it hadn’t got wet. The prints inside his inner pocket were also fine. Walter came back and returned the car keys, and having exchanged the usual pleasantries, went back to his post. At the reception desk Ingrid was busy talking to a couple who were settling their bill before leaving, so Chase stood patiently by inspecting his finger nails while she attended to them. The couple left and Ingrid grabbed the keys to his room and placed them on the counter in front of him.
“Had a good day. . .Henry. Or is it Mr. Chase?”
She looked at him with a playful expression on her face.
“What ever you prefer,” he replied, leaning on the counter with an elbow.
“I have to say,” she said, leaning over the counter to get closer. “Today has been the most fascinating day of my life. I know that what we were doing is serious, but even so I had a whale of a time, so thank you for that.”
“Glad to hear it. I suppose if anything, it was an education for us all. And I certainly learned more about my family than I ever have before.”
“Don’t I know it,” she said. “I only wish we had more time to discuss it further.”
“Well. . .tomorrow’s another day,” said Chase. “I shall probably spend the evening going through all that we gathered – and the book of course!”
“I wouldn’t mind reading it when you’re done,” enthused Ingrid.
“Sure thing. How long does the loan last for,” he asked.
“One week until it has to be returned, but I can always take it out again anyway.”
Chase handed her the book so she could take a quick look at it.
“Penny Tenys. . .I’ve heard of her before. I’m sure of it,” said Ingrid, as a frown developed on her brow.
“You have?” He sounded surprised.
Ingrid stared off into the distance in thought. That name had been bugging her as far back as the library when she first noticed it.
“Got it,” She exclaimed. “At school. . .years ago now, we did a project on local eminent people. You could choose anyone from a pre-selected list. My school friend chose Penny Tenys to write her essay on. She lived about five miles from the Lodge in actual fact, in a lovely little cottage with her family.”
“She died in 2009.”
“Really. . .oh, how sad.” Ingrid looked down at the book with a newly found reverence. “This is now part of her legacy then.”
“I guess,” said Chase, thoughtfully.
“Anyway,” said Ingrid, putting the book down. “I spoke to mother and she suggested that the three of us can use her home rather than the coffee shop, it’ll be a lot quieter with fewer distractions.”
“Where is her home exactly?”
“Above the coffee shop. It’s actually a house, but a house which had the downstairs converted to a coffee room. The living quarters are upstairs, it’s very nice.”
“I can well imagine,” said Chase, just as his phone beeped.
He pulled it from his pocket and studied the screen for a while.
“Ah! It’s from Bradley. I have some emails. I better get to my room and fire up the laptop.”
Ingrid couldn’t contain herself.
“Oh tell me what he’s doing here, Henry. Pleeeeze,” said Ingrid, beseechingly. “I want to know.”
“Maybe later once I’ve had a chance to see what he’s sent me.”
Ingrid grabbed a post-it pad then scribbled on it.
“Here,” she said,” peeling off the post-it and handing it to him. “My phone number. You can call that rather than use the phone here at reception. Deal?”
Chase couldn’t refuse. He took the pad from Ingrid and wrote down his own phone number then handed it to her.
“Deal,” he said. “Time permitting.”
“Fair enough,” she said, looking slightly disappointed.
“Ah. You have some customers,” said Chase.
A man and a woman came up to the desk with suit cases. Ingrid switched to reception mode and signed them in.
“Later,” said Chase. He picked up his keys and the book, gave a friendly wave of his hand and headed for the stairs. Ingrid gave him a – you’re not going to get away with it that easily – type of look while attending to the new guests.
Inside his room Chase neatly stacked the pile of prints on the desk and placed the book on top of them. He got the laptop, plugged it in and fired it up. After logging in he opened his mailbox and saw that Bradley had sent two emails, one of them had a video attachment. He opened the standard email first and read. . .
Arrived last night and have set myself up in a small hotel about 8 miles from the Lodge. (I was lucky to get in). It’s nearer than where you are so it shouldn’t prove too difficult for me to do my daily rounds. I spent today setting up my equipment and doing my best not to be seen. To the best of my knowledge all is fine and dandy on that front. I did a systems check and all eyes are open and transmitting normally. You will notice there are 3 links at the foot of this email, each link is a direct live-feed which can be accessed at any time. Copy the links to your phone so you can take them with you. Needless to say, the system is highly encrypted and secure so a password is needed. See below for details on how to log-in. You will also need to download the software to enable you to use and control the system – use the link below. All data is constantly recorded and being sent to the server for ease of retrieval – I have also provided a link to that. If you have issues with any aspect of the system, give me a call and I’ll talk you through it. The system is motion sensitive and set to trigger an alarm when it detects motion longer than 7 seconds. I have adjusted it so the motion of trees are negated and ignored but having said that, it’s possible the system may be triggered by violent or sudden movements. In addition to that, there is one caveat you need to be aware of. Because of the ‘bodged’ nature of the set-up, adverse weather, such as strong winds or driving rain might affect the system and have a detrimental influence over the stability of the network itself and, the odd bird or two might also offer unwanted interference. The other email I sent is a recorded example of what you should expect to see. That about covers everything and rest assured that my daily checks will rectify any problems that the weather, or the system itself throws out. Welcome to the intrusive world of my security cameras.
Catch ya later.
He read the email again to help soak up the information, when he was satisfied and understood everything he opened the other email and ran the video. The first thing that sprang to mind as the film ran was the picture quality, he wasn’t expecting to see such clarity from a camera so far from the building. With the zoom level set, there was slight juddering every now and then as a gust of wind hit the branch the camera had been attached to, but apart from that he had a gloriously clear view of the frontage to Granley Lodge. As Chase watched a caption appeared on the film telling him that the current view was from the central camera, the view then switched to the left of the building, stayed there for a moment, and then switched over to the right side. A black screen followed and upon it another caption saying ‘motion test.’ The Lodge appeared again, and from the front doors someone came outside and walked over to a nearby parked car; Chase recognised the woman as one of Celine’s staff, a cleaner. A few moments later a red flashing dot came up on the top right of the screen, this was followed by yet another caption: active alarm will signal red on screen and send an alarm to your laptop/phone. The film then faded to black and ended.
Chase was impressed by everything he saw and what Bradley had done for him. He watched the tutorial again and once more marvelled at the picture quality. He re-opened the first email and followed the instructions to download the software and log-in to the live feed. After a bit of head scratching and perseverance he managed to get the live-feed up and running with the software provided. A rainy darkness greeted him as the feed appeared on screen, but Granley Lodge, being lit up at night, loomed into view in all its glory. If Chase felt impressed before, he was even more impressed now by the ability of Bradley’s tiny cameras. He noticed a toolbox at the bottom of the screen, it had several functions on offer – mainly to do with which camera was currently showing, but there was another one that said: ‘night vision.’ He clicked on it and the image switched to one of high sensitivity where everything became exaggerated by the available light. Surprisingly enough he could still make everything out for what it was, and once he had watched it for a while, switched back to normal vision.
He checked the time: 17.55. An ideal opportunity to see and hear the alarm system in action. And sure enough, about five minutes later a dark coloured car pulled up at the Lodge. Chase felt his right hand forming into a fist as Edward Petherton got out and walked to the front door. A flashing red light popped up at the top right of the screen, and simultaneously an alarm sounded on his laptop. He nodded to himself in satisfaction of a successful test. As he continued watching, the light in Celine’s bedroom turned on and he saw a female form cross to the window and close the curtains. He knew it was his aunt; she must have come upstairs to avoid any contact when she heard Petherton return home. Ships in the night, he thought to himself.
Riveting as the spying game was, he pulled himself away leaving everything active and set up the system on his phone. Ten minutes later, and with everything done, he ran a successful test then put his laptop into sleep mode. He now had unblinking, sleepless eyes watching Granley Lodge.
After a quick wash and change of clothes it was time for dinner. When he reached the bottom of the stairs Ingrid spotted him and made a gesture telling him that she hadn’t forgotten their little deal and nor would she until he told her what she wanted to know. Chase made an exaggerated grin as he passed by, then with his right hand gave her the universal peace sign before entering the dining room. When he had finished dining he zipped back to his room to gather up the day’s collections – including the laptop, then went back downstairs to the lounge, found himself a cosy armchair next to a table, and settled down for some serious studying in the hope of learning something he didn’t already know.
The laptop was positioned on the table in such a way so only he could see the screen if he craned his neck; the pile of prints were placed next to it. His attention was now wholeheartedly given to the book. The book itself wasn’t that thick – one-hundred and eighty pages in all, divided into ten chapters. Chase began reading and became totally absorbed in an alien world (to him) of the supernatural where superstition prevails above all else. Chapter after chapter passed as he continued reading Penny Tenys’ account of all her research and her down to earth opinions and conclusions. Everything was fine and interesting – that is until he began reading chapter seven. Chapter seven, ‘The Meaning and Intent of Manifestation’ was like being hit full in the face by a flying brick, it made him sit bolt upright as if by an order from a drill instructor. Once he had finished the chapter he paused to reflect on what he had just read and, what he, Celine, and Ingrid, had learned that day. Somehow it all tied in together with what his aunt had recently experienced. If he was to believe in the legend and suspend his own disbelief for just one moment, then the facts as laid out before him led to one inescapable conclusion. His aunt’s life was indeed in danger but, was history about to repeat itself at Granley Lodge?
A sudden electric impulse shot through his brain and seeded an inspirational thought which then blossomed into a definite idea, a gestating truth. He now knew, or felt he knew, exactly what Petherton was up to, but most crucially, when. His mind was in overdrive, thoughts racing across neural pathways trying to find something that would refute the conclusion he had just reached. There was nothing.
It wasn’t a question of proof or the lack of it that drove Chase in his thinking, but more a question of timing, a cunning tool to coincide with the past. He picked up his phone from the table and noted the date: 29th October. His face, a stony expression of realisation slowly formed into a frowning smile. He relaxed back into the armchair with one predominant thought running in his mind – just like a meditative mantra. . .thank you Penny Tenys. . .thank you Penny Tenys. . .
He stared vacantly across the lounge, a few people were seated here and there, some alone, while others were in conversation with each other. Being deep in thought, he didn’t really notice any of them until he heard soft footsteps approaching. He turned his head at the sound and saw Ingrid. She had her coat on, and draped across one shoulder, her bag. Chase glanced at his watch, it had just turned midnight.
“You’ve been at it for hours, do you know that,” said Ingrid, as she plonked herself down on an armchair next to Chase. She casually looked at all the stuff on the table and seemed particularly interested in the laptop.
“It would seem so,” he replied. “I didn’t realise what the time was until just now. I started reading this book and lost track.”
“Good book then?”
“Yes. . .yes it is, for sure. You off home?”
“Yup. Another night over and done with,” she replied, letting out a sigh. “By the look of it you’ve nearly finished. Discovered anything new?”
Chase considered her question.
“Well. . .I can tell you that, everything we learned today is in this book, and more. Take the two burglars for instance. They were well known in the area for their criminal activities and the police tried to keep an eye on them, but in those times it wasn’t easy. The upshot of it all is they never had a third member of the team – there was always just the two of them. So their search for this elusive, mysterious person was never going to be successful simply because he didn’t exist in the first place.”
“And that leads us to think,” said Ingrid, cocking her head in thought.
“It leads us to think that the truth still lays hidden, waiting for such a time when it is exposed,” he said, matter of factly.
Ingrid frowned at Chase, she didn’t expect such an abrupt reply.
“Henry, I know I haven’t known you for very long, but that was a bit dismissive. Don’t you think,” said Ingrid, as tactfully as she could.
The expression on his face changed to one of guilt.
“I’m sorry, Ingrid. I didn’t mean for it to come out like that,” he said, apologetically. He cupped his head in his hands and rubbed his face. “It’s been a long day and I’m bushed. Sorry about that.”
“You’re excused,” said Ingrid. She gave him a kind smile. “Now tell me the thing I want to know, then I’ll leave you in peace.”
Chase didn’t argue or complain. He turned the laptop around so Ingrid could see the screen. She leaned forward slightly taking in the picture displayed before her. It took a few seconds for her to process the static image, but once she realised what she was looking at, sat back into her armchair.
“Ah, very cunning indeed. What is he, some kind of techno whiz-kid?”
Chase laughed, feeling he was now totally exonerated after his behavioural indiscretion.
“You could say that. He studied computing at university and now writes and installs software, and hardware for his own security firm. He knows his stuff.”
“So when you said, think of him as a computer program running in the background, you meant it quite literally?”
“Yes. . .a good example of telling the truth to people without them realising it.”
“You’re a crafty one you are,” said Ingrid, playfully. “So what’s it doing then?”
“Pretty much what you see,” replied Chase. “There are three cameras trained on the Lodge, each from a different angle. They are motion sensitive and will send out an alarm should anything cross their field of vision.”
“And have they. . .gone off?”
“I did a live test earlier when Petherton drove up and got out of his car – it worked fine. Apart from that, nothing else has happened.”
Ingrid studied the screen a little while longer then stood up and put her bag over her shoulder preparing to leave.
“Ok Henry, it’s getting late,” said Ingrid, casting a glance at a clock on the wall. “I have another million questions but they will have to wait. I need to get going.”
Chase stood up.
“How long’s the drive from here,” he asked.
Ingrid thought for a moment.
“Oh, this time of night about twenty minutes give or take.”
“Well, thank you for your help today, Ingrid. My aunt and I appreciate it, so. . .?”
Before he could utter anything else Ingrid had come over to him and planted a kiss on his cheek. Chase involuntarily blushed and just stood there – mouth agape.
“Get some sleep, Henry,” said Ingrid, walking away then turning back around. “I suggest that you contact Celine and arrange tomorrow’s meeting for ten rather than eight.”
Ingrid exited the lounge. Chase remained motionless – pinned to the spot, watching her gracefully walk away.
It took several seconds for Chase to snap out of his stunned state. He sat back down and looked up at the clock: 00.17. He yawned then started to gather up his things. A couple of minutes later a double beep sounded on his phone, his heart skipped a beat as his gaze shot to the laptop. The screen was normal and showing no alarm. He picked up his phone and saw that he had a message from Ingrid. He opened it.
I think it’s wonderful what you’re doing for Celine. It shows that you truly love her.
Chase smiled after reading the text message then pocketed the phone. He put the laptop in sleep mode then closed the lid and unplugged it from the wall socket. After double checking that he had all his things, he made his way from the lounge to his room.
Once inside his room he placed everything on the table and angled the laptop so it pointed directly at the bed, then opened the lid to awaken it from sleep mode. He climbed into bed and stretched out placing his arms behind his head staring up at the ceiling. Tiredness enveloped him but he still had some stuff to mentally process before succumbing to sleep. The one thing that weighed heavily on his mind was what to tell his aunt tomorrow? To openly tell her that he thought her life was in danger might tip her over the edge of her already fragile mental state and, in the knowledge of that, drive her somewhere dark and deeply depressive; he didn’t want to be responsible for doing that to her. The dilemma he was faced with had two simple choices: to tell her, or not to tell her? The balance tipped toward not telling her, but that would mean fabricating something that in itself might put her in danger. With that lingering thought playing in his mind and, still undecided, he reached across and turned his bedside lamp off; the room was then softly lit by the glow coming from the laptop screen. He rolled over and soon fell into a troubled sleep.
Celine was standing at her bedroom window – banging on it, desperately trying to get the attention of a man standing some distance away in the grounds. The man didn’t notice her at first, but as he looked around his eyes trained up at her bedroom. He began to run toward the Lodge which then suddenly zoomed out and away from him. He ran faster, but as he did, the Lodge fell back into the distance even more, becoming smaller and smaller. The man cried out her name in the darkness but no return came. He continued running and running until he slipped on some soft mud and crashed to the ground. He dragged himself up and looked around; he could see nothing but darkness. Out of the dark he heard a faint voice calling to him. The voice got louder and louder. . .henry, Henry, HEnry, HENry, HENRy, HENRY!
Chase woke with a start, not knowing where he was. In the soft-lit gloom he sat up in his bed and looked around. His phone was making a beeping noise, while across the room at the table, a flashing red light and another alarm sounded off. He sprang out of bed and raced over to the table. He sat down rubbing sleep from his eyes and stared at the screen. It took a moment or two for his vision to adjust, but when it did his jaw dropped at what he was seeing. . .or thought he was seeing.
In the few seconds that passed, Chase was captivated by the moving image displayed on his laptop. His attention was suddenly diverted to his phone, which by now had begun to beep. He got up and went over to the phone and picked it up. He had an incoming call from Bradley.
Disclaimer: any similarities in names to persons living or dead are purely coincidental and are fictitious characters invented by the author.