The Messenger looked at Cowl. “Listen to me," he said. "This prostitute––Virginia Duckworth––gave birth to a son she named Alex. Michael was, indeed, the father of the boy although he denied it and Virginia could never prove it. So she raised Alex by herself and young Alex kept the Duckworth name. Are you following this?”
Cowl nodded, listening intently.
“Alex Duckworth grew up, married and sired a son of his own. His son’s name was Charles. Charles Michael Duckworth––your father.”
Cowl’s eyes grew wide but his expression seemed otherwise blank as if the Messenger had just spoken in a foreign language. He shook his head. “What did you just say?”
“Let me put it to you another way. William Bentley Moorehouse was your great-great-grandfather.”
Cowl sat straight up. “What? You gotta be shittin’ me.” He shook his head, trying to absorb the shocking revelation. “But wait a minute. If all this is true, then why did you first choose Michael Moorehouse as the Chosen One?”
“It was all a game, a ruse perpetrated on Michael by the spirit of Crowley. Crowley despised Michael and Michael had to be eliminated anyway so that you could take your rightful place as the owner of the Manor because you, Rye Cowl, are the true Chosen One.”
Cowl slumped back into the chair and stared at the amorphous, mysterious figure of the Messenger. “This is a hell of a lot to take in, I hope you know.”
“Oh, but there is even more to learn about your new home here and about your great-great-grandfather.”
Cowl was overwhelmed but fascinated at the same time. He let out a deep breath. “Okay. Lay it on me.”
The Messenger explained that by the time William Bentley Moorehouse had designed and built the manor, he had abandoned the Druid practices he’d grown up with and had joined something called the Mystic Order of the Old Ones.
Cowl shook his head. “The Old Ones?”
“A mystical order that followed the teachings of the Necronomicon.”
Cowl’s face lit up. “The book I found in the shed?”
“But why hide it in the garden shed, of all places?”
“Under the circumstances,” the Messenger explained, “it was a good place to keep it hidden and yet have it accessible for use during the ceremonies and rituals that were held right here in this room––the Inner Sanctum.”
“Here? Right here? What kind of––?”
The Messenger moved, ghost-like, across the room. “This way,” he said, beckoning Cowl.
Cowl got up and followed until the Messenger stopped directly in front of a tall bookcase.
Cowl looked puzzled. “I give up. What’re we doing here?”
“Grab hold of the right edge of the bookcase and swing it toward you.”
“You gotta be kidding me. Another secret room?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
Cowl swung the bookcase outward. Behind the bookcase was a large walk-in closet. On one side was a row of hooded robes––eleven white and one black––all neatly draped over crimson, velvet-covered hangers. On the opposite side were shelves containing a variety of strange objects: red glass goblets encased in ornate metal holders; candles of various shapes and sizes; a silver dagger; a string of beads; a wooden flute; some copper bowls; something that looked like a very old clock but with odd symbols in place of numbers; three small, leather-bound books and other paraphernalia the likes of which Cowl had never seen in his life.
“These,” the Messenger said, “belonged to William, your great-great grandfather. He had become an adept of the highest order, a master of the magickal arts. The Inner Sanctum was built to serve as a secret room for the rituals he performed, sometimes alone and sometimes with the members of his branch of the Order of the Old Ones. That was the reason for the tunnel. The tunnel was how the members of his group could come and go in the middle of the night without being observed by the neighbors. William’s remarkable success as a trial lawyer was due as much to his use of magickal workings as it was to his innate abilities––perhaps even more so.”
Cowl shook his head in amazement. “No shit? Did his son, Michael, know about all this?”
“Only toward the end of his father’s life. William didn’t trust his own son and, in fact, he blackmailed Michael into silence once Michael became aware of his father’s secret. He told Michael he would not bequeath to him the house or even a penny of his fortune unless he swore to keep the secret. Michael did keep the secret, of course––not so much for the house, obviously, but for the money.”
“And Mrs. Moorehouse, Michael’s mother? What happened to her?”
“Ah, yes, Mrs. Moorehouse. Poor thing. She died a year before her husband, William, passed away.”
“She knew what her husband was into and she didn’t like it. Hated it, actually. She threatened to expose him. But of course that couldn’t be allowed to happen.”
“So what did happen?”
“Mrs. Moorehouse had an unfortunate accident. Tumbled down the stairs right here in her own home. Broke her neck. Very sad.”
“Pretty convenient accident.”
“Hmm… And all this stuff… It’s all mine now, right?”
“It belongs to you now, yes.”
Cowl brushed his hands across the row of hooded robes. He grinned and reached for the black one. “Well, then, let’s see how this baby fits, shall we?”
He slipped into the robe and turned to the Messenger. “So, how do I look?”
“Like it was meant to be, of course.”
Cowl laughed and brought the hood up over his head. Instantly, his body convulsed with a spasmodic shudder as if he’d stuck his finger into a high voltage socket. Mercifully, it was over in a split second. He ripped the hood off his head and stumbled backward, his eyes wild with terror, spittle dripping from his lips and down his chin. “Jesus Christ!” he yelled. What the hell was that?”
An amused chuckle issued from the Messenger. “Call it a confirmation.”
“A confirmation! Of what, for Christ’s sake?”
“The Old Ones are pleased. Your initiation has begun.”
Excerpt Monday: Ash: Return of the Beast by Gary Val TenutaLarry Johnson
The BookTown Team consists of the Mayor and his Deputy Mayor. We do our best to bring the best, new and evolving information where the indie publishing world is concerned. If you want to write a guest article contact us at BookTownUSA@gmail.com.