Hellesdeon Part 2

by dantewilde

Night had fallen on Harry’s mansion and Christopher and his host sat up drinking whisky from the glass. The fire opposite them was dying and the embers crackled habitually. Christopher’s breaths were deep and slow as he replayed the conversation with Leonardo over in his head, then thought of the other things he should of said. Harry was being absent minded as he sipped the brown liquid. He thought  but of nothing in particular and as habitually as the embers crackled, he sipped from his glass. Leonardo, such a wonderful boy, and a boy with intelligence and patience you don’t normally seen in a child his age. Can you not see that Harry? Christopher had watched while Leonardo had helped in perfecting his sisters handwriting. The adults had then gathered near the window as the children played outside and Leonardo, with effortless patience had taught her a game he’d just invented. Her name, what is the little girl’s name?  Christopher looked toward Harry with the intention of asking, but stopped. His demeanour had transformed since Maria and the children had left for bed, he now looked utterly alone amidst a internal tempest that had no reprieve.

“More whisky?” he looked toward Christopher, the rings beneath his eyes had deepened as the night had turned into the early hours of the morning.

“No, thank you.” Christopher held aloft his half full glass and his mind drifted back to the boy. It is to be expected that such a brilliant young mind should come of Harry and Maria. But to live in the shadow  of such a great man, is truly unfortunate. “Potential, potential!” he said aloud without realizing he verbalised his thoughts.

“Christopher?” The old man became temporarily bashful, then stroked his beard in thought.

“Leonardo, Harry, has much potential. He is very intelligent. He could be a scientist, an architect! What does he wish to do?”

“Yes, Christopher, he does. Leonardo wishes to take after his father.”

“To be rich and supply revolutionaries?”

“To be entrepreneurial, to use his mind to make money.”

“He does not want to be like Da Vinci?”

The comment caught Harry off guard;

“I have discussed that with him and although he holds Da Vinci in high regard, he has told me that he does not wish to emulate him.” The formality of Harry’s response surprised Christopher.  Both men sipped their whiskys. Does he know his son?  Christopher squashed the thought but it tried to rear its head again.

“Harry” he started “I must sleep, goodnight” he emptied his glass and stood up.

“Christopher, old friend, it is great to see that you are better. Rest well.” Harry rose and the two men embraced before Christopher placed his glass on the table and made his way upstairs. Harry sat again and poured himself another whisky, if only Christopher, if only. 

Christopher pulled the heavy bed spread back from the mattress. Then undressed himself. His beard brushed against his chest as he looked down towards his pale body. His muscles had begun to deteriorate and his taught skin began to sag and crease. The large scar that ran up his right side and was pink and fleshy. He climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. The weight of the blankets pressed down on his naked chest. It’s heaviness and warmth was foreign. He breathed deeply and slowly. His shoulders shifted on the mattress and he sank he a little. It was a large departure from the wooden shelf he was used to. His body felt warm, yet instinctively he pulled himself into the fetal position and tucked his hands into his chest in an attempt produce as much heat as possible. The nights in Hellesdeon were bitter cold and the slats of the bench had worn away at the skin on his back as a result of his turning. He ran his fingers down his spine feeling the rough skin. The comfort of his bed and the children’s toys in the room were far from his mind. He could feel the coolness of the Hellesdeon nights in his blood and their savagery on his spine. He closed his eyes in submission to the emotional pain and after a long while he drifted into into a restless sleep.

The night was cold as was the one before it and as would be the ones after it. Christopher turned on the wooden slats and felt the wood bite at his skin. He bled and felt it grow cold as it pooled beneath him. His body shook violently and his short hair was still wet, it felt as though ice crystals had formed on the strands. He closed is eyes and willed the pain to the stop. With his fork he’d scratched faint lines, counting the days, into the wooden slats. The number of strokes was six. It was after the sixth day, the treatments had begun and he’d lost count. Taken from his room he was shifted through the dark corridors by candle light and kept in a smaller room. Then removed for treatment and returned and then eventually returned his original room. The amount of treatments varied at any given time. The process had become routine and in between the periodic beatings by the orderlies, he had given in to confusion and had become disillusioned with the concept of time. He knew one thing, when he wasn’t in treatment or being beaten and when he was. The orderly had pounded relentlessly on his door before it was opened and he was dragged from the bench by two sets of firm hands.

“The doctor has another round of treatment in mind.” He was told as he was dragged through the dimly lit hallway and into one of the treatment rooms. Christopher closed his eyes; the journey to the room had felt longer than usual. Usual? He did not even the meaning of the word. His only constancy was pain…and the voices. The orderlies dropped his limp body onto the floor and he rolled his head to the side. There was a voice behind him, commanding and familiar with a disarming warmth.

“Christopher, I have spoken to the other doctors and we have all agreed that trepanation is the next best move in curing you.” Christopher vaguely understood the term, he knew, it involved the brain and a type of surgery. Think, think, where have you heard it before?  He urged himself. Then it flashed and his entrails froze. He pissed himself.

“However,” the doctor began again reveling in his dramatic pause “we have elected to try you on another round of treatment. This round will employ different methods to what we have used on you before.” Christopher felt numb.

“On the bed” the doctor commanded the Orderlies.

“Now Christopher” he began as the old man lay face up staring fearfully at the ceiling. “There is hope for you, hope in the Lord and prayer to the Lord. The other doctors and I have decided on a plan for your treatment, with the trepanation as a last resort. We have sent for a priest and he is to preform an exorcism. It is here in Hellesdeon that we are attempting to unite the divine with the scientific, under strict guidance from the church, of course.” The doctor spat the last words as if repulsed by the vote to acknowledge the presence of the church within the walls of medicine.

“Doctor, he’s here.” An orderly gingerly opened the door and the priest walked in brandishing his crucifix. “Doctor, are you, or are you not a man of God?”

“I am a man of medicine.”

“Please leave, may God save your soul with his good graces.”

The doctor left the room and slammed the door behind him. The priest stood over Christopher;

“Good Morning my son. Today is a day of God, together, with his grace, we will exorcise the demons that have come inside you. First, I will baptise you.” The priest took a small bottle of holy water from the inside of his robe and baptised Christopher. “The father, the son and the holy ghost” he crossed himself and looked into Christopher’s eyes “you need not fear, the spirit of God is strong within me.” He stood back and placed his palms face down over Christopher.

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the eyes of God, I command you exit the body this man and leave him to peace.” The priest heard the demons laugh deep within his skull, Christopher clenched his eyes shut. The priest began again “Jesus, I ask that you create passage for the demons dwelling inside Christopher Woods to leave on their own accord and be accepted into your arms.” Nothing. The priest pressed one hand down on Christopher’s chest and another on his abdomen, then began to loudly pray to God and worship his Holiness as he aimed his head to the sky.

Christopher woke in Leonardo’s bed with a start. Sitting bolt up right his chest burned and he was out of breath. Sweat dripped down his face and he shifted himself around to lean against the wall. The cool was welcoming. As he regulated his breathing, his ears strained to hear footsteps outside his bedroom.

“Hello?” His voice was gruff and weak “who’s there?” the footsteps stopped and were followed by a timid knock.

“Good evening sir, it’s Leonardo, can I come in?”

“One minute.” Christopher responded as he climbed from the bed and hurried to dress himself.

Leonardo stood at the door holding a low burning candle as Christopher opened it and welcomed him in.

“I thought you’d be asleep at this time” he said, not knowing what time it was.

“It’s hard to sleep in my sisters room. And… I’ve been thinking about the conversation we had earlier.”

“And what is that you’ve been thinking about?”

“When you spoke to father about me, that is how he always reacts. Unless I am to be like mister Da Vinci, he has no interest in me. I do not want to take after him, I want to be a poet. Like the great Lord Tennyson” the boy beamed as he finished the sentence.

“And you can be a great poet” Christopher answered him hesitantly. “If you work hard and persist, you can be a great poet. Would you like me to talk to Harry?” Leonardo climbed onto the bed.

“What do you do?”

“Sorry?” Christopher’s attention had lapsed as he fought off the torrent in his mind.

“What do you do? Are you an artist? A poet? A writer? An actor? Are you like father?” Christopher considered his answer for a long time. He was an artist. He used to be an artist. Now he did not remember. His works had not been seen by any save himself and the boy’s father.

“I am a -“ he stopped and cut himself short a patient at Hellesdeon? What are you thinking?  “I am a” he began again “I am a puppet maker.” Leonard’s jaw dropped open and then slithered into a smile that creased his eyes. The gaps in his teeth made those remaining look like fangs.

“A Puppet Maker!” he exclaimed.

“Quietly, quietly” Christopher urged him.

“Are you able to show me? Can you? Can you? Please?”

“I am sorry. I can’t. I do not have any puppets.” The boy’s face sank into the shadows. He pulled himself further onto the bed and look disillusioned. Christopher remembered his socks Of course!  He lifted his right foot and lay his leg across his knee then removed the sock.

A puppet, a puppet! Why did I choose puppet maker? What was wrong with Blacksmith? Think Christopher. He looked up at Leonardo and the candle flickered put your hand in the sock and move your thumb towards your fore finger, then away from it. Up and down. Speak. Move it, and speak.  There was another voice in his head and for the first time in five years he did not question its wisdom and did as he was told.

“Hello there!” the sock puppet burst into life and Leonardo crawled forward on the bed, toward the last of the light. He was smiling again.

“I am Da Vinci, not the artist, or the genius, but the sock puppet. Da Vinci Sock, is my name. I am here to tell you, that although the man I am named after, is greater than I could ever be. It does not stop me from being the best sock puppet I can be! In fact, I draw inspiration from his greatness in order to make myself better and stronger!” Christopher moved the sock puppet around the candle he now held in his right hand. The shadows tango’d on the walls and Da Vinci the sock puppet danced with them.

“I am Da Vinci, the great sock puppet” he sang. Leonardo beamed. He lay on his back and held his stomach which ached with laughter. “I am Da Vinci the great sock puppet!” he sang alongside Christopher who guided the puppet in an awkward dance around the flame.

“Do you know?” Da Vinci said, “what the greatest sock puppet needs?”

“What’s that?” Leonardo asked.

“He needs lots of sleep if he is going to be great. Da Vinci the genius slept a lot.”

“Da Vinci is always asleep!” the boy caught the joke and his wit surprised Christopher.

“Who wants to be great?” Da Vinci the sock puppet asked.

“I do! I do!” the boy cried.

“And what do you need?”

“Lot’s of sleep!” he almost bellowed, then remembering the time of night, cut his words off. Leonardo pulled himself onto his knees and wrapped his arms around Christopher “thank you for letting me meet Da Vinci, the great sock puppet! Can he play tomorrow?”

“We’ll see, we’ll see. Now, off to bed!” Christopher gave the boy the candle and he listened as he walked down the hallway. Then, removed Da Vinci the sock puppet from his hand and replaced him on his foot. Harry peered out of his bedroom door and down the hall. The sound of the two laughing had woken him and he waited until Leonardo returned to his sister’s room before he retired back to his own bed.

Christopher passed the night immersed in nightmares and curled into the fetal position. When woke he was still in is clothes and Da Vinci the great sock puppet lay half off his foot. Harry had lain awake for an hour after he’d watched Leonardo leave Christopher’s room. Leonardo, spent the night sitting on the edge of his bed. The sleeves of his bed clothes rolled up to the elbow and burning a trial up his forearms with the candle. The physical pain no longer made the twelve year old boy cry and by dawn he had completed his ritual enough times to start the day. Christopher, Harry, Maria and Leonardo’s sister, Constance, breakfasted at the large table on the second floor of the house. Their feast was exquisite. Leonardo, in long sleeves, Harry skeptical of Christopher and Christopher tormented by his thoughts and bothered by his concerns for the boy, did not speak. Each of them feigned interest while Constance told the table of her dreams and her plans for the day. The monotony of chewing had begun to dawn on Christopher when Maria spoke.

A welcome reprieve from the silence and the little girl’s tales she placed her tea on the table;

“Christopher, Harry and I have a lunch with Oliver Swanbourne, he sent a message this morning to inform us of a great break through he and Alfred have made-“

“Uncle Oliver!” Leonardo and Constance chimed into the conversation.

“Yes Uncle Oliver, now, quiet you two.” Maria’s tone was disturbingly different  to the night before. She was a strong woman and Christopher sensed a hint of shame in her asking for help. From an ex-patient at Hellesdeon, nonetheless.

“You would like me to mind the children?” His voice was warm and sailed across the table. In that moment, Maria’s unconventional beauty had struck him and he was prepared to assist with anything.

“Yes, I would appreciate that immensely” she became relaxed and her eyes smiled.

“I would love to mind them for you, it is the very least I could do.” You aren’t capable, you can’t watch over them without getting it wrong!  Christopher pushed his fingers to his temples and shut his eyes.

“Are you alright, old friend?” Harry’s voice took them all by surprised. It was the first time he’d spoken since he had sat down to breakfast.

“Yes, I’m fine. I have head pains. They are a side effect of the whisky on a non drinker!” He laughed then scanned their faces they have bought the lie, perfect. I will help Maria. 

“Very well, have some more toast.” Harry passed the plate of toast to Christopher and then fell back into silence. They ate their beans, potato cakes, toast, sausages and bacon and drank their coffee without a word. Constance left her meat and he mother looked toward her with understanding and wishful eyes. She too had pushed her’s aside and hoped Harry would not notice.

“Mummy?” Constance broke the silence. Their was a collective sigh of relief.

“Yes darling?”

“How long will you and daddy be gone?”

“Only a short while, just for lunch.”

“Can Leonardo and I come with you? Please?”

“I’m sorry darling, you need to stay here with uncle Christopher. Uncle Swanbourne wants to tell us about his work.”

“At the hospital?”

“Yes at the hospital.”

“Oh-“ Christopher stood as the word hit his ear drums and raced through his mind. He pushed his dinning chair away from the table.

“Thank you.” The knives and forks of each of the plates had been laid side by side and Christopher began to stack them on top of his own.

“Christopher, please, don’t. We will have the servant tend to the table.” Maria motioned for him to place them back down. They never refer to him by name, why is that? He is treated like a patient.

“Come” Harry stood “let us have a post breakfast cigar, then Maria and I shall be on our way, it is a long drive.” Christopher followed Harry out onto the balcony and Maria took Constance into to the bathroom, where she bathed while the men smoked. Leonardo was distant while he walked, unnoticed, to his room.

Do, I tell him about last night? Does he realise, just how much Leonardo needs his father’s affection? Christopher’s mind raced as he took the cigar from in between the fingers of his friend.

“Christopher, Maria and I greatly appreciate you minding the children. The servant will be here at all times should you need his assistance. Also. I am sorry for the mention of the hospital, I imagine it stirs many emotions, it was an honest slip of the tongue and were Maria here, she too would apologise.”

“It is forgiven Harry, I too am sorry. I should not have responded the way I did.”

“Never mind that. Oliver, is a friend of mine. We met while you were in the hospital. He does not work with the insane, but with the physically ill. He has recently made a break through with a new medicine, one that numbs a patients pain. Unfortunately, he would not say any more than that in his message. I have funded a large portion of his research. It is difficult to open people up to new ideas and dangerous to introduce them to ideas in progress. Because of this, he informs me of his latest discoveries and we discuss how to proceed. It has been many months since we’ve last heard from him and I began to fear he’d not been making any progress, or worse, had given up. He-“

“Harry?” Maria stepped onto the balcony. Harry’s cigar had burned away and he flicked the butt of it into the garden below him. Exasperated Maria sighed. Harry ignored it.

“Constance has been bathed and Leonardo is certain that he does not need one. Unfortunately, we do not have the time to tell him other wise. It is time we left.” Maria turned to  Christopher but he spoke first;

“I will talk to him” he said and smiled.

“Thank you Christopher. We will be home before this evening, I’m sure Harry has told you all you need to know.” She took her husband’s hand in hers and led him back inside. Christopher followed. Maria gathered her two Children on the front steps of the house and Christopher stood behind them as their parents climbed into the waiting hansom and they waved them off.

Christopher sat on the balcony with a tea in his hand and a book on his lap. Constance sat opposite him, leaning forward and listening attentively.

“Thank Heaven! The crisis

The danger is past,

And the lingering illness

Is over at last

And the fever called “Living”

Is conquered at last.”

Christopher read Poe’s poem “For Annie” stopping momentarily to sip his tea.

“Sadly, I know

I am shorn of my strength,

And no muscle I move

As I lie at full length

But no matter! — I feel

I am better at length.”

Constance sat enthralled by the sounds of the words as they rolled effortlessly from Christopher’s tongue, the rhythm hypnotised her. He stopped for a moment.

“Please Christopher, please continue!” He smiled at the little girl and began again;

“And I rest so composedly,

Now, in my bed,

That any beholder

Might fancy me dead–

Might start at beholding me,

Thinking me dead.”

He opened his mouth for the first letter of the next stanza and a gunshot rang out across the garden. Constance stood with a start, but Christopher’s soft eyes calmed her. Where did that come from? The horse’s stable? That bloody servant. I bet he’s killing birds again.

“It’s okay my dear, it was just the servant, he must be shooting birds in the garden.”

Another gun shot rang out.

“You see?”

“BBBut… the servant isn’t allowed near daddy’s gun.” Christopher froze. He could hear a set of footsteps descending the internal stairs on their way to the lower balcony where he sat with Constance. The servant burst through the door, his eyes wide and his face sheet white.

“Leonard…Leonardo! I… I can’t find him sir!” Christopher’s blood was now running cold through his veins and his heart beat like a block of ice.  He started from his chair and dashed through the door. Constance and the servant were in tow.

“Leonardo! Leonardo! Leonardo!” he called as he ran through the house. He stopped at his bedroom door and breathed for a second. He imagined the boy on the bed laughing at Da Vinci the sock puppet and then imagined the boy that stood in the shadows of his father’s eyes. He opened the door. The room was empty. He flew down the hall to Constance’s bedroom and opened the door. Empty. The servant placed his hand on Christopher’s shoulder as he stood in the door way.

“He is not inside sir, I have checked.” This was the second time the servant had spoken since Christopher had arrived and his accent was thick, though he could not place it.

“This way.” The Servant led them down the stairs and out the front door. They staggered onto the gravel; each of them gasped for breath. Christopher spun round. Constance! She was behind him, curled over gasping, her cheeks hot with tears.

“Take her inside.”

The servant hesitated;

“But-“

“Now!” He cut him off. The servant took Constance by the hand led her back up the steps. She was sobbing too hard and was too out of breath to protest. Inside the servant telegrammed Harry and Maria.

Christopher scanned the front gardens stable, stable, stable, it must be here!  His search turned up nothing. He turned and made for the back of the house. Once the stable was insight, he froze. His heart stopped. The door was open. The horses were in the garden. “Leonardo!” he made for the stable. It was larger than he’d anticipated. The front door gave way to an open area. On the left side, were three small bays, on the right side were three more. The expansive room was dark and the hay on his feet was disconcerting. He scanned the walls Lantern, lantern, lantern… There! He rushed into the first bay on the left and took the lantern from the wall. He fumbled in his pocket for matches. None. He looked at the switch on the lantern Gas? Yes, how? He turned it and gas began to leak from the chamber in to the air. Matches! Where? Christopher searched frantically, his eye caught a work bench in the center of the stable. He dropped the lantern. He squinted to the dark contents, searching, searching, searching. Nothing. Wait. Yes, matches! Matches in hand he came back to the lantern on the floor of the first bay, lit the match and brought it to the lantern. The gas exploded in a ball of fire. Christopher fell onto his back and lay in the hay with the image of the fire ball scorched on to his eyes.  His singed fingers burned and his heart raced. He closed his eyes and clenched a fist. His palms were burnt and he whimpered in pain. The wooden floorboards on his back, beneath the thinly layered hay, were comforting. His mind took him back to the wooden bench in Hellesdeon. His back ached and it distracted him from his burns. The cold outside and the dampness of the ground restored his sense of normality. He breathed deeply and slowly.

The air round him was thick, as was the air in his room in Hellesdeon. He lay in blissful silence and considered the time. It must be midnight the lamp above his door lit only the immediate area, and although he could not leave, it acted as a night light. He closed his eyes and for a moment he slept. His dreams were peaceful and he rested easily. He dreamed of his mother and his childhood, a normal childhood. He dreamed of the family holidays and of growing up with Harry, before the screams cut in. He tossed and turned and squeezed his eyes tighter, but still they came. Louder, louder. He turned his face into the wooden bench below him and still they came. Louder, louder. He opened his eyes and pressed his hands to his ears and gritted his teeth. Now he was awake, they grew louder. Louder, louder. Like tormented souls in the grasp of satan the screams would not relent.

“Leonardo!” he screamed and sat bolt up right. His hands burned and his vision was blurry. Christopher steadied himself against the side of the bay and staggered into the center of the stable. Where are you? “Leonardo!” he called again. Still he could not see the back of the stable. He rested for a moment and gained his bearings. “Leonardo?” His panic had reached a climax and hot tears welled in his eyes. He walked with his arms out stretched and found the end wall in the darkness. Then stepped on something. It was small, cylindrical and fleshy. He felt the length of it with his foot, slowly and gently. At the end was a shoe. Christopher moved his hands down the wall and came into a head of hair. Then further. He could feel the boy’s eyes, his nose, his mouth.

“Christopher!” Harry’s voice called from the front of the stable. Christopher stepped back and Harry and Maria hurried forward. The light from the lantern cast its self on Leonardo. The boy sat with his head against the wall and his legs outstretched. Propping his head up, was the barrel of his father’s rifle, the butt of which rested in the hay in front of his lap. His hands had fallen to his sides and there was a bullet lodged in the wall three quarters of an inch away from his right ear.

“Leonardo! My son!” Maria fell to her knees in front of him and pulled him to her breast. Before Christopher could speak Harry had turned the rays of the lantern onto him and plunged his grieving wife into darkness. His eyes were no longer hazel, but burned a deep red. His jaw was clenched and his knuckles were white around the handle of the lantern, extended at arms length.

“You!” Harry screamed at Christopher.

“No. Harry help Leonardo, please, Harry!” Maria wailed and ripped Harry back into the present. His anger evaporated.

“Help me with him” he leaned down to his mourning wife and she lay her son on his back on the hay “we need to carry him.” Leonardo’s parents stood over him. Then Christopher stepped forward and placed his hands beneath Leonardo’s back.

“I will carry him.” There was no protest from the other two and Christopher picked Leonardo up and held him close to his chest as Harry led the way with lantern.

The hansom carrying Leonardo’s body pulled through the gates of Harry’s mansion. A door slammed shut inside the house and an empty whisky glass sailed through the air, narrowly missing Christopher’s head.

Harry seethed, he was yet to cry. Christopher stood with tears burning his cheeks. The shattered glass had hit the wall only inches from the top of his head. Harry was drunk. He drank long from the bottle in his hand then picked one of his hunting knives from the table in his study.

“You killed my only son!” He cried launching himself toward Christopher. He side stepped and Harry drove the knife handle deep into the wall. He pulled out and turned again toward Christopher.

“You only had to look after him!”

“You only had to love him!” Christopher retorted, the words hung in the air. Harry fell to his knees. The bottle landed beside him and drained onto the rug.

“I did love him! I adored him! He was to be great, he was my favourite and yet. Why Christopher? Why?” Harry’s moment of clarity was short lived.

“I saw him! I saw you! It was you! You killed him!”

 You did it, it was your fault  the voices tormented him.

Harry continued;

“I saw him leaving your room, you must have hurt him! Why was he there? You were the only person to be alone with him and now he is dead! Satan is within you! They have not cured you, the demons control your every action. It was you, it was!” Harry was now on his feet.

“But Christopher, why? Why would you kill my beloved son? Was it? That you do not have one of your own?”

“I didn’t!”

“Spare me, your words are poison and they will not be spoken within this house!” Harry lunged again at his adversary. Christopher fell off balance and the knife cut through his clothes.

“You must believe me!”

“I believe no demon! You are possessed! You are a murderer! You are possessed! You are not cured! Back! Back! Back!” Harry had become maniacal.

“Back you will go! Yes, Yes, Back! Or into the pits of hell! You are a child murder! A rapist! A demon! God shalt not have mercy on your black soul!”

“Harry no, listen I can explain!” Christopher was on his knees and Harry paced him like a lion.

“Explain how you killed my son! Then, yes, do! Explain!”

“I didn’t!” Harry lunged forward and placed the blade of the knife to Christopher’s throat.

“They are coming for you, the doctors, to take you away until Satan himself comes for your life!” In a moment Harry had exploited Christopher’s greatest fear, more than death. Hellesdeon.

“Tell me Christopher! And I’ll let you go, give you a head start before I come after you with the dogs. If I find you, I will kill you, If the doctors find you, back! Back! Back! To Hellesdeon!” The madness had consumed him but Christopher could not see through his own fear.

“I..I!” he stopped, unsure of what to say. He hadn’t killed Leonardo, had he? If Harry said it, it must be true. The un-bandaged burns on his hands were raw and the skin had peeled away. Had he hurt himself trying to kill Leonardo? They had found burns on the boy’s arms.

“Killed him.” The two words fell like stones into a calm pool.

“How!?” Harry screamed only an inch away from his face. Christopher broke down. Almost inaudible between the sobs.

“I…tttook the ggun…and placed it between his legs…Thennn..I..bur..burr..burnt his arms to make it look like he did it himself. I…I.. Mmmade hhim ppull the tritrigger.”

“In his room what did you say!?” Harry’s hands were now shaking and he pressed the blade against Christopher’s throat. It bit the skin.

“That you hated him and it would be better if he died!” he forced the last sentence out of his throat in a scream. The back of the knife’s handle connected with his temple and all went black.

Christopher Woods woke on the side of the street. His right pocket had coins in that were wrapped in a piece of paper. His clothes were dirty, his head throbbed and blood had crusted on the side of his face. There was pain in his chest that grew in intensity with each deep breath. He opened the paper and read it aloud: “You have twenty minutes. I’ll be watching. Don’t let them find you! Three o’clock.” Christopher read the note again. Then scanned the horizon for big ben. He was in a city, but which city? Where? His scanned turned up nothing. He stood and stumbled, then placed his hands on the building in front of him and breathed deeply. What had he said? Run? Don’t let them find you? I’ll be watching? “Leonardo! No!” He screamed into the street around him and the cat stalking the pigeons was frightened off. He stumbled down the street with one hand clutching his chest as his breathing grew more laboured. The other held the gash on his head. A clock chimed mockingly in the distance. Was that ten or twenty? He thought to himself as he staggered on. The palms of his hands were still raw and more skin had peeled away. He rubbed his eyes. Breathed deeply. And continued staggering through the streets. As each footstep passed he became further and further and panicked. His head snapped and he turned at the smallest sound. Pigeons flew from roof tops and Christopher pushed himself against the walls, slipped down alley ways and hid behind crates. All the while, he stared, captivated by the sky that spanned endlessly above him.

The woman laid out her hands and the man filled her palms with coins.

“If you get this wrong. I will kill you.” The woman laughed and bared her naked gums and rotting teeth. She opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it again.

“You know exactly what you are to do?” She grinned.

“Repeat it back to me.”

“Do you want me to do this job or not?”

“Yes.”

“Then out, get out! Go!” she shooed him away with her hands. Exited the room and climbed the stairs. Upstairs she placed the coins in three neat stacks on  top of a bedside cabinet. She undressed, then strode to the wardrobe on the other side of the room and took out another outfit.

“Henry?” she screeched.

“Yes ma’am?” a voice came from downstairs.

“Up here, pen, paper, hurry!” Within moments the boy was upstairs with a fountain pen and a sheet of paper. The woman took it from him, then wrote a note on it and passed him a stack of coins. “These are for you, deliver this note to Hellesdeon Mental Hospital.”

“Thank you ma’am.” He turned to leave.

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry ma’am.” He returned to the old woman and took her mouth in his.

“That’s my boy. Now, go!” he turned and left the room.

The old woman pulled the door shut behind her and placed her hands beneath her robe. Then she turned to onto the street and into the crowd, with a song on her lips, she sang his name “Christopher, Christopher, Christopher.”

She did not walk for long amongst the alley ways, the mud, the excrement and the lepers and homeless before she came across a man that fit her description.

“Hello son!” Christopher’s head turned a near 180 degrees as the woman approached him from behind. “My! You’re hurt!” her eyes were disarming and her demeanour was maternal. When she extended her hand, Christopher took it and her palm was warm in his. With a long finger she stroked the crusted blood and looked deeply concerned. This will be easy she thought to herself.

“Come with me dear, I will clean your cut.” She dragged her palm from Christopher’s and he winced in pain. She looked down at the burnt hands exactly as he’d described. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry!” her facade cracked for a second “come with me, I can bandage your hands as well.And help with the pain in your chest.”

How could she know that? His head spun.

“Are you a doctor?” Christopher asked.

She thought back to the conversation she’d had with the man.

“No, I am a mother. A mother of five in fact. They have all moved away now.” She looked sad and Christopher, distressed and tormented by the voices said “thank you, I would very much appreciate that.” The woman smiled and took him by the hand, then led him down through the streets she had come from.

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