Devil's Cove (Tortured Souls)(5)By: R.C. Matthews
“It’s exactly as I imagined it would be.” He exhaled and strode into the room, turning in a circle with his arms outstretched. “The ideal place to meet the gatekeeper to Hell, wouldn’t you say?”
One month later …
A clap of thunder shook the ground, startling Grace for a heartbeat. She clung to the sleeve of Brother Anselm’s habit, fighting against the howling wind and rain as they navigated a narrow road on the outskirts of town. They had traversed this path many times, so she was confident she’d not stumble, despite her blindness. Her mentor had begged her to wait until the storm passed before venturing out. But when it came to assisting the villagers, she could be quite stubborn, and in the end he had conceded to her wishes after bearing witness to Mr. Evans’s bout of hysterics.
When they finally reached their destination, Mr. Evans ushered Grace inside. She immediately sought the comfort of the fire snapping in the stone hearth and stretched her fingers out while taking in her surroundings. The cottage was welcoming; warm air caressed her icy skin, the woodsy scent of cedar planks encircled her, and a pot of stew bubbled nearby. The rich aroma filled her nostrils, and her stomach grumbled in response, reminding her that it was almost time for supper.
“Foul weather this afternoon,” she said, willing her chattering teeth to stop.
“As foul as the evil spirit lurking within these walls,” Mr. Evans said. “Thank you both for coming right away. My wife is at her wits’ end, and my son is terrified.”
A woman shrieked, and booted footfalls raced over the wood planks before a door opened with a crash. Brother Anselm wrapped Grace’s hand over his arm and guided her across the room. Another howl accosted them, but this one belonged to a young lad who deteriorated into a fit of weeping.
A woman’s incoherent moans saturated the chamber, raising the hairs on the back of Grace’s neck.
“Lord help us,” Mr. Evans cried. “My wife is possessed. Do something!”
Grace strode in the direction of the woman while issuing orders. “Begin the prayers, Brother, and go stand before Mr. Evans and his son. Protect them as best you can. There isn’t time for our standard ritual.”
After reaching for the gold cross on a delicate chain around her neck, Grace pulled it over her head and took a steadying breath, filling her lungs to capacity. She blew the air out as she cleared her mind and gave thanks to God for bringing her to Mrs. Evans in her hour of need. Grace homed in on the location of the ghastly wails and held out the cross.
She opened her heart and mind to her Creator and called out in a clear voice, “In the name of our Holy Father, reveal yourself to me!”
Listen to me! My daughter lies in the forest, attacked by wolves. Oh, why won’t anyone listen to me?
Grace swallowed hard, momentarily shocked by the spirit’s revelation. It never ceased to amaze her that she could decipher what sounded like nothing more than garbled words to others. If Mr. Evans only knew what his unwanted guest had been trying to say to him!
Keeping her voice calm, Grace reassured the ghost. “I’m listening, and I promise I’m here to help you. Please believe me, I feel your sadness and pain. Tell me your name.”
“What’re you doing, Grace?” Mr. Evans bellowed. “Get that demon out of my wife’s body now! You’re here to help my wife, not that horrible creature. You’re as crazy as Willie Jackson claims! God help us, I should’ve listened to him.”
His voice cracked, and Grace drowned out his hysterics with practiced ease. She’d been labeled crazy so often it barely registered anymore. Right now she needed to direct all of her focus on the ghost inhabiting Mrs. Evans’s body.
I’m not a demon, fool! My name is Jacqueline Moore. I’ve cried and begged for his help for days, but he won’t listen. Let me guide you to my child, Grace. You must save her. Please save my child!
“I will help you,” Grace said, holding her hands out, palms up. “Release your hold on Mrs. Evans and then guide me to your daughter in your spirit form. Can’t you see that I am blind, but I hear you clearly? The others see you, and yet they hear only garbled moans. Let me help you. Release Mrs. Evans at once, and I’ll follow you wherever you lead me.”
You promise on your mother’s grave?
Grace nodded, ignoring the piercing stab of pain in her heart. Though dead for years, Grace still missed her mother’s loving presence, a fact that ghosts latched on to quickly.
A loud thump sounded in front of Grace, and the floor vibrated near her feet, where Mrs. Evans landed in a heap.
“Gwendolyn!” Mr. Evans cried out, and the rustling of his clothes indicated he ran to cradle his wife.