Another Reaps007 remix of Depeche Mode…
The door of the dumb waiter slides back, and the first thing I see is a pair of yellow eyes and fangs in a furry gray face, bared and ready for action. But it’s only for a split second, because it vanishes into fluffy fragments as Carvery pulls the trigger.
I have to stifle my scream, partly in awareness of the proximity of Carvery’s gun which has just half-deafened me – only half, because he has abruptly pulled my head into his chest and covered my ears with his free hand at the same time.
The smoke clears, and it turns out that what I first thought to be a snarling werewolf, is merely a blue fox-fur. It hangs benignly in front of the opening, between a mink coat, and a snow-white fur, of possible endangered-species origin. Both now rather singed beyond elegantly controversial wearability.
“Who puts a dumb waiter in the back of a cloakroom?” Carvery wonders, as he releases his arm-lock from around my head, his self-control in the face of potential danger astounding. “Or a lady’s closet? Is it for the dry-cleaning?”
“Maybe an escape route for illicit lovers?” I suggest. “Who would otherwise be caught in the act?”
He gives me a pat on the shoulder. I flinch, automatically, until I realise he’s indicating for me to get off his lap.
“That’s not a bad idea,” he agrees. “Guess you’re not as retarded as you look.”
I elbow my way off him abruptly, and out of the tiny box.
Noooo, my traitorous hormones protest, denied. I try to ignore them, focusing my thoughts of male companionship on the reassuring memory of Mr. Wheelie-Bin again, and his understanding silence at the body farm. My brain can’t handle all these animated men at the moment, walking around and talking of their own free will, with their ulterior motives and psychopathic tendencies.
Carvery slides out of the dumb waiter in turn, and nudges the ruined fur coat aside. Beyond the rows of hanging furs, there is indeed the back of a slatted closet door, not unlike the one the zombie Homer N. Dry occupied earlier, dressing up in his mother’s clothing.
“Looks like a bedroom,” he says, peering through the shotgun-damaged slats. “Come on.”
He pushes the door ajar, and we sidle out, warily. Yes – by all appearances, and the smell of lavender beyond the shot powder stink – it’s Crispin’s mother’s suite once more. The familiar pink and white silk is a stark contrast to those dark secret tunnels.
“I know this room,” I tell Carvery. “We’re up on the second floor.”
“Hmmm,” he says, noncommittally, and opens a small drawer at random, finding a book inside. “Do zombies usually read Barbara Cartland?”
“I couldn’t say,” I reply. “But I think it was their mother’s apartments.”
“Is she still around too?” he asks. I shrug, unable to answer that one – dead, undead, or any other way. Carvery replaces the book and seems to case up the rest of the room, at a brief glance. “Well, wherever she is, it looks like she’s really into cock.”
“Huh?” I’m alarmed. Can men tell so much from a woman’s choice of décor? What else can they surmise on purely innocent appearances?
Ohhh… the pet cockerel is snoozing, one eye half-open watching us, in the middle of the bed. His feathers are all preened, and he looks completely at home.
“That’s Crispin’s pet!” I say, enormously relieved. “Maybe he can help us find the others… Here, chicky – where’s Crispin? Crispin?”
“What are you now, the Cock-Whisperer?” Carvery demands.
“No, look,” I say, as the cockerel yawns and stretches, rising up onto his feathered legs. “He understands. There’s a good ickle chicky – take us to Prince Crispin…”
“Sarah, you need help,” Carvery mutters, as the bird struts regally off the bed, heading for the doors. “Seriously.”
“Come on,” I urge. “Let’s follow him.”
“You mean, I follow you,” Carvery corrects, shouldering the shotgun again. “While you chase cock.”
“If it leads me to Crispin, then I’m better off than just hanging around in his mother’s bedroom,” I point out.
Carvery looks upwards, thoughtfully.
“You’re probably right,” he concedes. “Ceiling’s too low in here. Nowhere decent to hang you from.”
Well – at least that was pretty much what I expected from him.
“I’m following him,” I say. “What you decide to do is your problem.”
I head after the cockerel as it slips out of the doors to the suite, back out into the second-floor corridor. Behind me, I hear Carvery sigh irritably, and move to follow.
The cockerel jogs along, past the abandoned ironing-board and bits of RC Spitfire, and vaults the tripwire. It glances back as if to check our progress, before continuing across the landing into the opposite wing, ignoring the stairs.
“Don’t reckon much on Mrs. Frittata’s housekeeping,” Carvery remarks, stepping over the ironing board. “Looks like I did the guy a favour.”
“Oh, no – that was us, earlier…” I start to say, and he gives me that You’re-so-fucking-weird-I-don’t-know-what-to-think look. “It’s a long story. Mind the wire. And watch out for any marbles rolling around on the floor.”
“Someone’s definitely lost their marbles,” he grunts, navigating the tripwire without having to double-check.
We continue in the path of the cockerel, as it hops determinedly along the corridor into the hitherto unexplored wing of this floor. At the far end, it turns right – and bobs its head expectantly at a large, green baize-inlaid door.
“I think he wants us to go in here!” I announce.
“Maybe it’s only where they keep the chicken-feed,” Carvery chuckles, but still levels the gun barrels, before I try the door. My logic being that a cockerel wouldn’t knowingly stroll directly into danger…
The door swings silently inwards, not even an ominous creak. And the cockerel runs in happily, onto deep wool carpet.
“Great,” Carvery says. “A completely empty room. Maybe he just wants somewhere new to crap.”
“It’s not empty,” I tell him. “It’s a portrait gallery…”
I’m drawn in by the sombre decorum of the dark, silent room. The mahogany walls are hung with dozens of individual portraits, going back how many centuries? But they can’t all be of the Dry family, because they’ve only been here for three generations…
The most recent seem to be nearest the door, and the first is so clearly of Crispin, ante-mortem, that I gasp.
So-oooohh Mr. Darcy!
He was as stunning before as he is now, I find myself thinking. Or is that the wrong way around? Just – stunning… I could have stared happily into those forget-me-not blue eyes forever, but with a deliberate turn of my heel and a private gulp of embarrassment at my own thoughts, I move on.
Ah. Homer, obviously. In men’s attire, but sitting cross-stitching a sampler, beside a large floral arrangement. And as my gaze scans downward – yes – very fetching Jimmy Choo stilettos, Homer…
Curious, I go to look at Mr. Dry Senior. He looks academic and serious, both of his eyes intact behind those spectacles – that leather diary tucked under one arm… My hand goes to check it at my waist, unconsciously.
And then Grandfather Dry, evidently as big a fan of poultry as his grandson…
“Ah, I see this one’s showing off his cock,” Carvery Slaughter interrupts my private artistic musings. “Bigger than the one currently trying to shag the cushions on that armchair in the corner.”
I avoid looking where he points, all too clearly able to hear the amorous clucking of the cockerel.
“These must be the previous owners further along,” I say, curiosity getting the better of me, and hurry onwards. “Oh – no – no, no…”
“What?” Carvery asks, and catches up at his own pace. “Yeah, what about it?”
“Can’t you see?” I cry, waving an arm up at the drab gray face in the painting. “The previous owners – they were zombies!”
“The current owners are zombies,” Carvery replies, deadpan. “Or had that issue escaped your attention?”
“But they weren’t always zombies!” I moan. “You can see – they were normal before. But these older ones – just look at them. The gray skin – and the lifeless eyes!”
“Look like regular old portraits to me,” he remarks, licking a finger, and running it down the dull, dingy painted canvas. “Could use a clean-up, perhaps.”
“It must be something to do with the house!” I insist. “Maybe there’s a curse…”
Carvery’s hand covers my mouth, stopping me in my verbal tracks.
“Sshhh,” he hisses in emphasis, and jerks his head towards the last painting, on the far wall.
A giant painting. Of a ship. Maybe an early migrant transport, or a slave trader. The figurehead is a snarling totem of a demon, and the sails are blood-red.
Am I imagining it, or is that the creak of timbers in its rigging?
And as the cockerel’s ecstasy with its favoured tapestry cushion reaches a crescendo, the surface of the painting billows…
Trailer for the first in the CS Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series, fan posting 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords