Death’s Muse – 4 – The Scent Of A Trail

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William Shores had possibly been the first to be afflicted, but he did not fit the pattern. He had for several months been an inspired author of hymns, prayers and sermons, though he did not die. William having been the vicar of Holy Trinity, that was the parish church of Newton Howard. Holy Trinity having been founded in Eastill district, where the wealthiest residents of Newton Howard resided. It might though have been better for William had he died, for he had become a catatonic inmate of the Bellham Asylum.

Jacob had been chosen to investigate, William, rather than Gwyn investigate him, because Gwyn would soon be a deacon and that the smells and scents of Southward would be hard for Jacob to take, with his heightened sense of smell. Also there was that the current vicar might have seen Gwyn taking an interest as being interference from Bellham Minster. From various parishioners, Jacob learnt that William had been hardly the most inspirational of vicars, save for his last few months. Those from districts other than Eastill generally commented that he had little to do with them, but those from Eastill often said of him that he was a fine dinner companion and a solid preacher. Those of Eastill also said that they had come to expect his committal, as for in the months before his committal he had taken to preaching wild nonsense.

Rev Reginald Stalker, who like William did not originate from within Bellhamshire, was another preacher who sought out fine company and preached about everyone being born to their station in life. Arriving for his appointment with the Reverent Stalker, Jacob noted that the church spoke of the character of those who had had it built, Albert Howard for one, in that it lacked taste and decency and spoke of wealth and commerce. About its only redeeming feature was its shrine to the memory of Christian Howard. The manse was a solid detached town house, suited to a family with servants.

That which Jacob first noticed about the Rev Stalker was that his tailoring was well beyond the means of a vicar and his corpulence. On being shown into the vicar’s study, Jacob noted the picture of the Rev Stalker outside Stalker Brothers Linoleum Mill, in Kirkcaldy. From a few moments of talking with Rev Stalker, Jacob learnt that the Rev Stalker was a strong believer in the protestant work ethic and may only have earned his degree at his father’s expense, for he was hardly the brightest of people. He also smelt that the Rev Stalker’s professed faith was a lie, like so many of his kind. Rev Stalker had few good words to say about his predecessor and said his fate showed his lack of good character. When asked about the servants, and if he had kept on those who had served William, the Rev Stalker informed that some remained but he had no idea where the others were and cared less. Which Jacob’s nose told him was true. When asked why, the Rev Stalker offered, “They were wicked children who played with the devil’s toys and so beautiful they would tempt a saint.”

A little more was learnt from Rev Stalker and in Rev Stalkers company, but without him, Jacob learnt and smelt the truth of what he learnt. The Cook, Beth Baston, told about the three sisters who had worked there, Geniffer, Mary and Anne Waughton, who were lively and beautiful. Lead on by Aiden, who was the groom and a bit of a wild young man who William had sought to put on the right path, the sisters had, on Halloween, played with a glass to speak with spirits. Not long after that, Rev Shores was rarely out of company of at least one of the four, who he sought to turn fro temptation and became a better man and preacher from then onward until his demons consumed him. William had also written many poems in praise of Mary, the youngest of the sisters, of which the cook had kept one. Jacob made a copy of the poem.

The cook had kept a few of the Girls things, in case they came back for them. Most of these were unhelpful to Jacob, but there was a pair of shoes, for the youngest Mary, from these Jacob was able to gain a scent. That confirmed what he had suspected, that the girls where from an ancient family of the Wensel Valley. Their game to speak with spirits had raised real power and touched and changed them. As for Aiden, Jacob had few insights.

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