5 Tales of Mystery And Love: Five Books Omnibus Summer 2018 - Alfred Bekker - ebook

5 Tales of Mystery And Love: Five Books Omnibus Summer 2018 ebook

Alfred Bekker

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5 Tales of Mystery And Love: Five Books Omnibus Summer 2018 This omnibus includes the following Books: Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): The Tomb of the Pale Lord Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): The Eerie Castle Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): House of Uncanny Shadows Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): Mistress of the Crows Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): The Moon Witch Dark rituals between monastery walls and a cruel moon cult - a young woman sees to bring light into the darkness and gets to feel the powers of the moon-witch and has to fight for her love.

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5 Tales of Mystery And Love: Five Books Omnibus Summer 2018

Alfred Bekker

Published by Alfred Bekker, 2018.

Table of Contents

Title Page

5 Tales of Mystery And Love: Five Books Omnibus Summer 2018

Copyright

The Tomb of the Pale Lord | by Leslie Garber

The Eerie Castle | Leslie Garber

Copyright

House of Uncanny Shadows | Leslie Garber

Copyright

Mistress of the Crows | Leslie Garber

The Moon Witch | Leslie Garber

Copyright

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5 Tales of Mystery And Love: Five Books Omnibus Summer 2018

This omnibus includes the following Books:

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ALFRED BEKKER (LESLIE Garber): The Tomb of the Pale Lord

Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): The Eerie Castle

Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): House of Uncanny Shadows

Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): Mistress of the Crows

Alfred Bekker (Leslie Garber): The Moon Witch

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DARK RITUALS BETWEEN monastery walls and a cruel moon cult - a young woman sees to bring light into the darkness and gets to feel the powers of the moon-witch and has to fight for her love.

Copyright

LESLIE GARBER IS A PEN-NAME OF ALFRED BEKKER

© by Alfred Bekker / Cover Tony Masero

2018 of the digital edition by AlfredBekker/CassiopeiaPress, Lengerich (Westphalia)

www.AlfredBekker.de

[email protected]

The Tomb of the Pale Lord

by Leslie Garber

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A YOUNG WOMAN FALLS under the spell of occult powers as she assumes the position of steward of an estate - and the mysterious pale lord casts his dark shadow over her...

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COPYRIGHT

LESLIE GARBER IS A PEN-NAME OF ALFRED BEKKER

A CassiopeiaPress Book: CASSIOPEIAPRESS, UKSAK E-Books and BEKKERpublishing are Imprints by Alfred Bekker

© by Author COVER TONY MASERO

© of this issue 2018 by AlfredBekker/CassiopeiaPress, Lengerich/Westphalia

www.AlfredBekker.de

[email protected]

1

The wind howled lamentingly around the ancient walls of Dellmore Manor. shutters clattered. It was well after midnight.

Edward Gaskell opened the heavy wooden door and stepped outside.

The wind was pulling on his clothes. He was shivering. He looked out into the storm-filled night.

His gaze glided looking around. Bizarre shadows danced on the grey walls of the outbuildings.

Gaskell hesitantly stepped down the five wide stone steps of the portal.

Like a blurred spot, the moon stood in the sky and shimmered through the fast moving clouds. Like dark shadows, the gnarled, grotesquely overgrown trees rose. Grey fog had risen from the nearby lake. He crawled across the floor in thick swaths.

New and new ghostly figures and faces seemed to form in the wafting mists. A raven's cry penetrated the sounds of the wind for a short moment.

Then Gaskell saw the figure...

It stood out as a dark shadow against the light grey fog. The passage was sluggish. An icy shiver came over Gaskell when he recognized the silhouette of a tricorn...

My God!, it sears through him. His pulse was racing.

"Gaskell!", a voice thundered through the night. "Gaskell, stop, you fool!"

Gaskell turned halfway around. Someone had stepped on the portal. Through the open door light fell on a tall, lean man whose hawk-like face gazed Gaskell in awe.

"I've seen HIM, Sir Wilfried!" Gaskell shouted. "I'm sure. Over there..."

"Come back, you lunatic!"

"No!" Gaskell replied in a firm voice. "I want to know what's going on!"

"Gaskell, no!" Sir Wilfried reached out his hand. He took a step forward, but only ventured to the first stage of the portal. Then he stopped as if frozen to a pillar of salt. His face had turned as pale as ashes.

Even Gaskell froze.

The figure with the tricorn approached. The moon lit up a pale face. The eyes were wide open and expressionless. They seemed to look glassy into nothingness. The curls of a powdered wig swelling out from under the tricorn. A dark mantle hung around his shoulders and almost reached the floor.

"The pale lord...", Sir Wilfried whispered.

His voice vibrated. The bony fingers held on to the stone handrail.

"Who are you?" Gaskell asked the dark figure. "What's all this about? I saw you through the window..."

The dark one didn't answer.

His empty gazeless eyes were on Gaskell.

He shivered to the very depths of his soul.

He took a step back. He felt a strange heaviness in his legs. Cold crawled up his back.

A cold he had never felt before...

"No," Gaskell whispered while the horror gripped him.

Something changed in the face of darkness. The thin-lipped mouth opened. With a hissing sound a bright white mist came out of his mouth and shot at Gaskell in a fountain.

Gaskell staggered a step back. An unspeakable cold captured in. His gruesome death scream screamed through the night as he sank to the ground. He remained motionless on the ground.

The pale lord lowered his head.

The moon bathed his lean dead face in a pale light.

Sir Wilfried stepped back to the door.

"No..." he whispered.

The pale lord raised his hand.

The neighing of a horse. The silhouette of the high-legged mount stood out in the fog in the dark. The horse galloped towards the pale lord and then stopped.

The pale lord swayed towards the mount, swung into the saddle. He turned his head. For a moment his empty eyes seemed to be looking at Sir Wilfried. This one was paralyzed. Fear crawled up his back like a cold, wet hand.

Then the rider tore around the reins of his horse and let it gallop directly into the fog. But even before the fog had really swallowed him, he seemed to become transparent. It dissipated. Only the clatter of hooves could still be heard for quite some time and made Sir Wilfried shiver to the core.

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2

The windscreen wipers simply couldn't provide a clear view. Rebecca Jennings sat behind the wheel of her coupe and looked exertedly through the windshield.

It was getting pretty late.

The twilight had first settled over the country like grey cobwebs and now it was almost completely dark.

Lightning flashed brightly from the low, dark clouds.

The rain just pelted down.

Admit it at last, Rebecca thought. You're lost!

The road was very narrow. She was in bad shape. One pothole followed the other. It ran through a piece of forest, which made the view even worse.

Rebecca Jennings took a deep breath.

A delay was anything but a successful start in her new position!

But it could not be changed.

The roads had become narrower and narrower and the signs had become increasingly sparse.

She had been driving around this godforsaken area for an hour and a half since leaving the highway from London. And she wasn't sure if she had come a few miles closer to her destination by now.

Another flash of lightning.

Thunder followed shortly afterwards. The storm must have been nearby. The rain increased once more in intensity. The wind bent trees and bushes mercilessly in its direction. A crackling noise even drowned out the engine. A thick branch broke out of the crown of a gnarled tree. He crashed, way too fast for Rebecca to react. The branch swept over the hood of the coupe, slid a piece up the windshield and then slid sideways onto the road.

The horror was deep.

Rebecca felt her pulse beating up to her throat.

My God, that was close, it crossed her mind. She was happy when she left the woods behind her.

She would have given a lot in this moment if this hellish journey had been over!

A sign showed up.

Rebecca slowed down, slowed down and read the faded letters.

Kerryhill, 3 miles.

At least something!, Rebecca thought. She stopped, looked at her map. Kerryhill was apparently so small that it wasn't even listed. But maybe there was a gas station or an inn where she could ask for directions.

She went on.

A little later, the dark tower of a weathered church appeared. She stood there as a threatening silhouette. Overgrown trees rose above the adjacent cemetery. A handful of houses were grouped around the church.

That was Kerryhill.

A place, hardly a village to call.

There was no gas station, but an inn called KERRYHILL INN. Rebecca parked the coupe in front of the weather-beaten house. The rain had eased a bit, but at the top, in the clouds it was still grumbling.

Rebecca hadn't thought of an umbrella.

She opened the door of her car and ran as fast as she could to the entrance of the KERRYHILL INN. The young woman's shoulder-length brunette hair was already wet on her head when she reached the entrance. The door was protected by a moss-covered stone arch. The door was made of dark wood and seemed to be centuries old.

Rebecca tried to push down the handle and she flinched.

She stared at the grotesque wooden lion face that looked at her with hatred. The lion's face held a dark metal ring with its teeth, which was probably meant to be tapped.

Rebecca opened the door. She stepped into a semi-darkness room.

The rain pelted against the small, butzen-like panes.

Apart from the host, there were only two men in the taproom. One was sitting at the bar, the other at a table in the corner.

Rebecca went to the bar. The host was a tall, hollow-cheeked man. He stared at her like a living spirit.

"Good evening," Rebecca said.

"Good evening, ma'am," the host growled.

Rebecca immediately felt the eyes of all those present. As a stranger, you must have immediately attracted attention here.

That was not surprising.

"What do you want, ma'am?" asked the host. His face remained completely expressionless. A thunder crashed, however, deafeningly. The light in the room flickered for a moment. Rebecca flinched involuntarily.

"I'm afraid I'm a little lost," she said. She wiped a damp strand of hair off her face.

"Where are you going?"

"Dellmore Manor!"

"Oh!"

The three men changed meaningful looks.

Finally the landlord asked: "Then you are the new caretaker?"

"Yes," Rebecca replied in astonishment. The world here seemed to be very small and news apparently got around quickly.

"You look very young for the job!", the host then said. He seemed used to expressing his thoughts very unvarnished.

Rebecca took a deep breath.

"Well, I admit it's my first job. But I learned my profession. "I am convinced that I can manage a manor - and if Lord Dellmore had disagreed, he would hardly have hired me!"

The host shrugged his shoulders.

"None of my business," he growled.

"As I said, I'm a little lost... Perhaps if you would be so kind as to tell me the way..."

"You drive along the road to a fork in the road. There it goes on left, then past a lake. It's almost silted up, more of a swamp than a lake. Anyway, you won't be able to miss it anymore. Dellmore Manor is on a hill, the road goes right there."

"Thank you... Can I use your phone? Because I'm late and I want to..."

"The phone doesn't work right now! Must be the storm."

"Thanks anyway."

"Happy birthday, ma'am!"

Rebecca turned back towards the door.

She had barely reached her when the sound of a hoarse voice made her flinch.

"Don't go to Dellmore Manor," the voice muttered.

Thunder followed - like a tremendous drumbeat.

Rebecca stopped. She pulled back her hair and looked at the table in the corner. The man sitting there was older, his face wrinkled. In the watery blue eyes it flickered restlessly. He got up even though his beer glass was still half full. Then he grabbed the dark stick he had placed against the back of the chair. On the handle was a carved dog's head. The old man swayed towards Rebecca. Then he stopped and looked at her for a few moments.

"Do you know what happened to your predecessor?" The old man giggled.

Rebecca swallowed.

She suddenly felt a clear discomfort in the stomach area.

"I don't know what you're talking about, sir," she'd say a little stiff.

The old man grimaced.

"A man before you named Gaskell was a caretaker at Dellmore Manor... He's dead, ma'am!"

"What's all this talk about?" she asked a little harsher than she had originally intended. "And above all, what does all this have to do with me?"

"Dellmore Manor is a cursed place, ma'am," the old man said in a subdued tone. "A place of death and damnation... Evil stories entwine around this manor..."

"Don't scare the young lady with your horror stories!", the host interfered.

"It's the truth," the old man whispered. His gaze literally drilled into Rebecca's eyes. A shiver came over her involuntarily. That's just the gossip of a quaint old man! she tried to talk herself into it. But her feeling was different... The discomfort remained.

"Stop it, Kelly!" the host shouted. "Shut up!"

The old man shrugged his shoulders.

"No one wants to know the truth..." he muttered. "Nobody..." He turned around again and swayed to his table. The stick clattered on the parquet planks.

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3

A little irritated Rebecca went out again into the darkness.

Lightning flashed in rapid succession across the sky. One roll of thunder followed the other. The rain pelted down with undiminished intensity. Rebecca jumped to her car, ripped open the door and sat down as quickly as she could. She started the car. Then she reset the coupe and drove off.

After some time it reached the fork in the road of which the host had spoken.

Rebecca went left.

The car barely reached more than walking speed. Left and right was the darkest night. The road became narrower and worse. The asphalting finally gave way to paving. Rebecca looked strained into the night.

According to the description of the landlord, she hadn't really expected that the route would take so long.

The weird old man named Kelly kept on thinking about her all the time. A LOCATION OF DEATH AND DAMMNIS - that's what he said about Dellmore Manor. She still shuddered at the memory.

Rebecca accelerated a little when she saw the lights appear in the distance. Some buildings on a hill stood out in the dark.

This must have been Dellmore Manor, whose walls now looked like dark shadows.

Finally, she thought.

Relief has already germinated in her.

But the next second she had to brake sharply.

The car slipped over the rain-wet paved path before it finally stood.

Rebecca took a deep breath.

Her heart was pounding.

Fascinated, she looked out into the darkness. In the middle of the narrow street the figure of a rider rose.

It almost seemed as if he appeared out of nowhere.

Now he was illuminated by the bright headlights of the coupe, which seemed to impress him in no way. He stayed in the middle of the road and made no attempt to clear the way.

Rebecca sensed a feeling of unease. A clear pinch of fear interfered. And wonder.

My God, what kind of weirdo was that? she was thinking. The rider looked as if he had jumped out of a costume movie. His clothes corresponded to those of an eighteenth-century landed nobleman.

A three-cornered head, the powdered wig whose hair was tied together in the neck with a bow, the dark coat around the shoulders, under which the flashing rows of buttons of his skirt looked from time to time...

Rebecca saw nothing of his face. The brim of the tricorn cast a shadow on it so that it looked only like a dark spot.

What does she want from me? She drove a little closer to him to make it clear that she wanted to pass.

The rider didn't move.

He looked like a still. Suddenly Rebecca became incredibly cold. She began to tremble. The rider now approached.

Rebecca swallowed.

What does he want? It sears through her.

A flash cut the cloudy night sky.

The horse became restless, stood on its hindquarters. And for a short moment the rider's face stepped out of the shadow of the hat brim.

Rebecca was caught in an icy shower.

It was as if a cold hand reached for her heart and wouldn't let it go.

This face...

Like a dead man's face, the young woman drove through it.

Pale, pale and with an empty gaze...

The rider pushed the horse forward. Close to Rebecca's coupe he galloped along the road. Rebecca went after him. The dark mantle blew after him like the black wings of a ghostly, feathered mythical creature. And then all of a sudden he wasn't there. As hard as Rebecca tried, she couldn't see him.

Strange oddball, she thought.

But the discomfort in her stomach area remained.

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4

A short time later she reached the Dellmore Manor manor on a hill. Anyway, everything spoke for the fact that she was right here. The walls of the main house rose up dark. There were a few outbuildings for stables and staff.

Rebecca parked the car in the immediate vicinity of the mighty portal. It was still raining very hard.

She got out, hurried up the five wide stone steps and then stood in front of the large, double-wing wooden door a moment later.

She knocked on the door.

She couldn't find a bell anywhere.

She knocked a second time. In some rooms of the country house she had seen lights on, so she assumed that someone was also in the house.

Besides, she was expected - even if perhaps not at this late hour.

Rebecca listened. Nothing could be heard.

While knocking, her hand had slipped over a strange elevation on the wood of the door. She felt about it again. It was too dark to know exactly what it was. Probably some elaborate carving, she suspected.

Now she heard dragging footsteps on the other side of the door.

Someone released a heavy latch.

A moment later, the right wing was opened a crack.

"Good evening," said Rebecca, looking into the expressionless face of a bald man who was a butler according to his extremely conservative and correct clothing. The butler towered over Rebecca by one and a half heads, although he had a slightly bent posture.

"Good evening," he said.

"I'm in the right place - Dellmore Manor!"

"That's you."

"My name is Rebecca Jennings..."

"You are expected."

The butler opened the door completely and Rebecca entered.

She went into a high, almost reverberant reception room. Dark landscapes hung on the walls. The lights were dim. Sometimes it flickered after violent thunderclaps.

"Please follow me," the butler said.

His voice sounded unexpressive, almost automatic.

He led Rebecca up a wide staircase, then along a sparsely lit corridor.

The butler opened a door.

Rebecca entered a room whose walls were almost completely filled with bookshelves. One thick, leather-bound tome stood next to the other. Many of the spines were covered with a fine layer of dust. The fireplace was on fire. It crackled.

"Sir Wilfried will see you in a moment, Miss Jennings," the butler explained.

"Good."

"Do you have anything else you want until then?"

"Yeah, my hair got pretty wet. Maybe if you had a towel..."

"Of course."

The butler left the room with an expressionless face.

A short time later he returned and handed Rebecca a white terry towel. She dried her wet hair and noticed a movement from the corners of her eyes. Part of the book wall slipped aside. Only now did it become visible that there was a second door behind it, through which a lean, tall man with a hawk-like face stepped.

His age was difficult to estimate, but he had clearly exceeded fifty. His posture seemed very dignified, almost a little stiff. There was something aristocratic about all his behaviour.

He shook hands with Rebecca.

"Good evening, Miss Jennings. I'm glad you found us after all."

"They are..."

"Sir Wilfried Dellmore."

The hint of a smile scurried over the pale face of the Lord of Dellmore Manor. His hand felt cold as ice. Rebecca shivered involuntarily.

"I'm sorry, it's not really my way of being late," she said, "especially not at such an important appointment. After all, you don't take on a new position every day."

"It's all right, Miss Jenning. Nobody holds a grudge against you. Would you like a drink?"

"No, thank you."

"I suggest you give Walter your car keys. Then he can take the luggage to her quarters."

Rebecca turned to the butler. With his face motionless, he stood there, almost like a wax figure. First she gave him back the towel, then she said: "The car is open."

Walter said nothing back.

He just nodded. A gesture that almost approached a bow.

Then he turned towards the main door and left the library.

The side door through which Sir Wilfried had entered, however, had closed by itself. She fell into the castle with a loud clack.

Sir Wilfried grimaced.

"One of my ancestors had this door built in," he then explained. "You know, in the eighteenth century, these things were all the rage..."

"Well, I must confess, I was a little surprised."

"I had no intention of scaring you, Miss Jennings."

"Of course not."

"You had trouble finding your way here?"

Rebecca nodded. "Yes, you could say that. I was already quite desperate, but fortunately they could help me in Kerryhill..."

Sir Wilfried watched her very closely. Rebecca flinched inside when she noticed this. Lord Dellmore's gaze was of hypnotic intensity. In his eyes it flickered restlessly.

"These are rather secretive and superstitious people there," Sir Wilfried said. Then he shrugged his shoulders. "But the people of Kerryhill will probably say the same thing about me!"

"Just before I reached Dellmore Manor, I had a rather strange encounter," Rebecca said.

"Oh, yeah?"

Sir Wilfried raised his eyebrows.

"A horseman - dressed like a costume ball. He was standing in the middle of the road and at first it seemed as if he wouldn't let me drive on..."

Sir Wilfried's forehead folded.

"What happened?"

"Nothing. He rode off and disappeared into the night. Do you have any idea who did this?"

"There are a number of strange creatures in this area. Eccentric is a friendlier word for it..."

Sir Wilfried stepped up to one of the high windows and looked out into the darkness. It seemed almost as if he was looking for something.

Finally he turned around again. He swallowed.

"It's late," he said. "You'll be tired. If you want, Walter will show you your quarters. And if you're still hungry or thirsty, he'll prepare anything you can make in our kitchen."

"Thank you."

"Tomorrow, I will brief you on your task. You'll soon find your way in. Mr Gaskell - your predecessor - did a good job."

"I heard he had passed away..."

Sir Wilfried's face. It was now a rigid mask.

"Did they tell you that in Kerryhill?" he asked.

Rebecca nodded. "Yes."

"Mr Gaskell has actually passed away. What else did they tell you?" His tone was urgent. Rebecca was irritated.

"That was all," she reported. "There was an old man... Kelly!"

"A gossip. You shouldn't give a penny for what he says!"

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5

When the butler Rebecca led her to her room a little later, the thunderstorm had eased outside. Only now and then a slight rumbling of thunder could be heard. The rain slowly ebbed away.

The room was very large. The furniture consisted mainly of fine antiques.

"If you wish something, please ring," said Walter, the butler.

"Thank you."

Rebecca discovered her suitcases before the bed.

She went to the window. Trees and hills stood out as dark outlines. The rain had stopped and the moon shimmered through the clouds as an oval. From a distance there was still a soft roar of thunder.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to retire now," Walter explained.

"Of course I don't mind."

The butler's very formal manners took some getting used to for Rebecca.

The butler had almost reached the door when Rebecca's voice stopped him again.

"Say, were there actually many applicants for the Dellmore Manor stewardship?"

Walter turned around. His face did not reveal a hint of what was going on inside him. His lips were a thin line.

"It's best to discuss these things with Sir Wilfried," the butler returned reservedly.

"You want to be discreet, I understand."

"It's one of the most important characteristics of my profession, Miss Jennings!"

"Of course, Walter! "But I don't think that's a matter of secrecy, so to speak!"

Rebecca's traits showed a winning, albeit somewhat dull smile. She was tired.

Walter held her eyes for a moment, then he said, "As far as I can remember, you were the only applicant, Miss Jennings."

"And why is that? This is an excellent opportunity for every newcomer to the profession! And it is well paid! Even a business economist with several years of experience in his job could be completely satisfied with it!"

"I can't comment, Miss Jennings!"

This time he was ironclad. He turned around and left the room without saying a word. With a muffled sound the door fell into the lock.

A strange place this is! it crossed Rebecca's mind. Everything here seemed so old and abandoned... A damp musty smell seemed to adhere to the entire estate - as did the gloomy mood from which everyone seemed to be affected. Rebecca is now included.

It's bad weather!, the young woman tried to convince herself. No wonder, if one gets cloudy thoughts in this weather!

But deep down, she began to suspect that it wasn't.

She thought of what she had already experienced today.

Pictures appeared before her inner eye. The old man named Kelly with his gloomy hints and the flickering, watery blue eyes. Again and again Rebecca had to think of this pair of eyes.

What had spoken of him? she had it on her mind.

Fear? No, more than that...

Silent horror.

Rebecca thought of the dark horseman with the tricorn who had terrified her. Even now it still ran cold on her back, when she only saw him in her imagination.

Don't worry so much, Rebecca!, she tried to tell herself. You're tired as a dog and exhausted - and maybe you just don't understand the rednecks of this area well enough. After all, there are a few eccentrics everywhere. Even in cosmopolitan London...

Rebecca yawned.

She knocked the blanket aside - and screamed with all her might!

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6

It only took a few moments for both the butler and Sir Wilfried to fall into the room.

"What happened?" Sir Wilfried asked with a worried face.

Rebecca stared excitedly at the opened bed.

Her eyes were widened in horror. A big lump was stuck in her throat. For a few moments she was incapable of producing even a single sound.

Then she took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry," she said then. "I shouldn't have yelled so hysterically, but when I knocked the ceiling aside..."

Sir Wilfried looked at the bed.

A handful of bones were to be seen there, which had been folded into a pentagram.

"These are rabbit bones," Sir Wilfried stated objectively. He turned to Rebecca. "It's me who has to apologize, Miss Jennings. I had no intention of frightening you."

"But - what is this?"

"I can only guess," Sir Wilfried explained. "You see, our chambermaid Gabrielle is very superstitious. I assume she just meant well - in her own way..."

"Well-meant?", echote Rebecca uncomprehending. "It's disgusting!"

"Of course. Walter, get this stuff out of here and get a fresh sheet."

"Very well, sir," the butler replied in his usual expressionless manner.

Sir Wilfried approached Rebecca. Their fright had meanwhile given way to a good portion of anger. "I will confront Gabrielle, I promise you."

"What kind of superstition attaches this Gabrielle?" Rebecca asked.

"I assume she wanted to protect you from the influence of evil forces," Sir Wilfried explained. His smile seemed artificial. "You know, a curse is supposed to be placed over this house and its inhabitants." His voice became a little quieter, now sounded almost brittle. "And maybe she's right," he added gloomily. His gaze now seemed turned inwards. The eyebrows narrowed sorrowfully.

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7

Despite her tiredness, Rebecca did not find a restful, deep sleep. Again and again she tossed and turned, woke up bathed in sweat from confused dreams and then sat straight as a candle in bed.

Her pulse blew up to her throat, she trembled with fear and remembered every time darkly a gruesome circle of fantastic mythical creatures that had appeared to her in her dream. Informal monsters, out of which suddenly arms grew, wide open mouths with sharp teeth, fiery eyed beings, which seemed to consist of nothing but pure darkness...

But only one of these figures could Rebecca remember in all details afterwards.

To the dark rider with the tricorn - the rider she had met on her way to Dellmore Manor.

Again and again she tried to find sleep.

But their efforts were in vain.

It was well after midnight when the rattling of a shutter made her start. A flood of unclear dream memories surged in her head as she knocked the blanket aside and slowly realized that she was awake now.

She ran her hand over her face, stroked her shoulder-length brunette hair on her neck. Barefoot and in her white nightgown she went to the window.

For a moment she saw in her inner eye the face that she had seen in her chaotic dreams.

The pale face of the dark rider!

The look in his dead eyes made her shiver.

She tried to shake off the thought of that face that she literally pursued.

It's been a bit much for you lately, hasn't it? A slight feeling of dizziness gripped her. She thought for a moment she was losing her footing.

Then she reached the window.

She supported herself with her left hand against the frame. It wasn't raining outside for a long time. The cloud cover was even torn open in some places. Here and there were stars. Fog crept up from the lowlands in thick swaths. They were frighteningly similar to the formless creatures that had populated Rebecca's dream world.

A hard rattling tore her finally into the here and now, as she believed. The wind knocked the shutter against the wall. Apparently the bracket had come loose. Rebecca opened the window. A cool breeze blew in. Goose bumps formed on her bare forearms.

She leaned out.

The sound of a galloping horse made Rebecca stop in the middle of the movement.

Even before the dark equestrian figure could be seen through the wafts of mist, she had guessed that it was HE. The moonlight dipped the rider with the tricorn into a pale light and made him appear unreal and eerie.

He bridled his horse in front of the main house of Dellmore Manor.

For a moment he looked up at Rebecca's room.

That pale dead face, the young woman sears through it.

Nameless horror gripped her. Her gaze met the dead, staring eyes of the rider.

He must have a very good mask! she thought shuddering. But the discomfort she felt could not be dispelled.

The rider got off and left his horse.

The animal stood there like a statue, so rigid and dead.

The pale rider walked up the five steps of the portal as measured.

Then he knocked on the door.

"Sir Wilfried!" he shouted. "Open the door! You know you can't hide from me!"

A dreadful laugh followed, which finally ended in a ruckling sound.

And then Rebecca saw something that almost drowned her out.

The man with the three-cornered hat seemed transparent.

The handrail of the stone stairs was clearly visible through it. He stepped forward and then simply walked through the door as if it were not there at all.

In the next moment, the gloom was gone.

Only his horse still stood there, motionless like a statue.

Rebecca was trembling with fear.

What's happening here? She was in despair.

On the one hand there was this apparition - she didn't have a better word for it at the moment. An apparition that could not be explained, at least not with what reason accepted.

And on the other hand, the fear of maybe being insane.

What you saw CAN't exist, she hammered herself in. It's impossible. An illusion or...

The onset of mental illness.

She swallowed the answer she had given herself. It was too plausible to be dismissed. After all, she would by no means have been the first to announce the impending insanity through strange phenomena.

My God, what am I gonna do?

For a moment she remembered old Kelly's words. Maybe this was indeed a cursed place.

Anyway, Rebecca couldn't remember ever having suffered from delusions or anything like that before.

The young woman had no time to think about it any longer, for at that moment a gruesome cry was screaming through the dark walls of Dellmore Manor! A scream, so hoarse and desperate that one could believe that it penetrated directly from hell into the realm of the living.

––––––––

8

For a few moments Rebecca had been paralyzed. Then she closed the window, left the room and went out into the corridor. Silently her bare feet glided over the cold stone floor.

Finally she reached the entrance hall.

When she looked down from the top of the stairs, Sir Wilfried saw her lying on the floor.

The butler leaned over him.

"What happened?" Rebecca asked as she walked down the stairs.

Walter turned around in a jerk.

His otherwise motionless face expressed astonishment.

"You, Miss Jennings?"

"I heard the scream..."

"Sir Wilfried has suffered a heart attack. I already called the doctor. Dr. Harris is on his way over."

Rebecca approached Lord Dellmore lying on the ground.

He breathed heavily. Walter had opened his shirt collar and the buttons on his vest. Apparently Sir Wilfried hadn't even been to bed, despite the late hour.

Sir Wilfried moaned something.

Walter tried to help him up.

Rebecca looked around.

"Where's the man with the three-cornered hat?"

Both Walter and Sir Wilfried considered Rebecca with a look that the young woman did not know how to interpret.

"There's nobody here," Walter claimed.

"I saw him," Rebecca replied. "Through the window of my room..."

The neighing of a horse shrieked through the ghostly silence.

Then the patter of galloping hooves could be heard.

Rebecca ran for the door.

I have to know! She was searing through it. I need to know if I'm crazy or if I can still trust my senses!

She hadn't reached the door yet, and suddenly she stopped. She froze and looked with her eyes wide open at something dark lying on the floor. It was in the shade, so she hadn't noticed it at first.

A pentacle!

It was made of bone, just like the one she had found in her bed.

Rebecca heard the sound of the galloping horse fading. She snapped forward, pushed the heavy latch back and opened the door. It was cool and humid outside.

The wind that penetrated her thin nightgown like nothing was icy.

Barefoot, she walked over the cold stone to the first step of the portal.

She was presented with an almost ghostly scenery. The flowing fog seemed like a formless mass from which ever new mythical figures seemed to form. Figures that seemed to have emerged from the realm of their nightmares.

Stressed, she stared into the darkness.

The sound of the horse's hooves was lost.

For a moment she thought she could see a black outline shimmering through the light grey wafts of mist. But she wasn't completely sure she wasn't imagining it.

As hard as she tried, there was nobody to see.

"Miss Jennings!" Walter called her.

She didn't pay attention to the bald butler. Instead, she continued down the ice-cold stairs. The cold rose her legs and after a few moments caught every fibre of her body. She pressed her lips together.

Then she looked at the floor.

Through the open door enough light fell outside to see the hoof tracks in the softened ground.

Rebecca walked straight towards it, then bent down and felt with her hand for the depressions.

I'm not crazy, she thought. There could be no doubt about what her hands felt! She had seen a rider and these were without a doubt horse tracks!

"Miss Jennings!" called Walter. She heard his steps hurtling down the stone steps. The butler grabbed her by the arm and pulled her up. "Come in!"

"How dare you!"

"Listen..." He took a deep breath and stagnated. For the first time Rebecca saw something like a movement in the butler's face.

He's scared, she thought.

His eyes evaded her gaze. Walter looked out into the night like he was looking for something.

Something or someone.

Then he looked at Rebecca seriously. "You'll catch your death, Miss Jennings!"

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9

Walter had taken Sir Wilfried to the salon. He was lying there on a divan brought by an ancestor of the Lord of Dellmore from India. Rebecca quickly put some clothes on.

A pair of jeans and a sweater. Sleep was out of the question now anyway.

Rebecca was just finished when she heard a car drive up.

She looked out the window. It was an suv. The tall, dark-haired man who had got out of the vehicle had a doctor's bag in his hand. Rebecca estimated him to be no more than thirty years old.

The front door opened. The butler stepped out and exchanged a few words with him.

Rebecca went down to the reception room.

The first thing she noticed was that the pentacle made of rabbit bone had disappeared. Someone had cleared away the bones for whatever reason.

A corridor led to the salon. Walter waited there.

"What about Sir Wilfried?" Rebecca asked the butler.

"Dr. Harris is examining him now," Walter reported.

Rebecca looked at the butler for a few moments.

"Did you really not see the man with the tricorn?"

"Miss Jennings, I'm not in the mood for jokes right now."

"Bones were lying on the floor near the door. It was just like the night I opened my bedspread. The bones formed a pentagram..."

"Miss Jennings, my thoughts are on my reign right now. Nowhere else. I pray for Sir Wilfried to survive. "I don't want to reprimand you, but I have to say that I am very surprised by your questions!"

His voice clang like ice.

Rebecca knew instinctively that she was trying to run into a wall. Of course, in vain. But she also felt very clearly that there was some dark secret within the ancient walls of Dellmore Manor. A secret about which she perhaps knew better, she did not want to endanger herself. A tingling sensation was noticeable in her abdomen. It was an unpleasant feeling of tension.

What a place I've come to here, it crossed her mind.

Finally, the door to the salon opened.

The young doctor stepped out. The soft light that prevailed in the corridor underlined the evenness of its features. His eyes were green. Her colour reminded Rebecca involuntarily of the sound of the sea and the smell of seaweed.

"Sir Wilfried has been lucky," said Dr. Harris. "I gave him a medication. I'll check on him again in the morning. "Anyway, it's not a heart attack..."

"That reassures me very much," Walter explained.

Dr. Harris looked over at Rebecca.

For a moment their eyes met and seemed to merge for moments.

Harris then approached Rebecca and shook her hand.

"My name is Jim Harris. I have my practice here in the area," he explained.

He smiled.

And the look he gave Rebecca went right through her, as did the sonorous sound of his deep voice.

"I'm Rebecca Jennings, the new administrator of Dellmore Manor!"

"I'm glad to hear that," Harris smiled. "I suppose we'll run into each other a few times in the future. I am Sir Wilfried's family doctor - and unfortunately he needs my help quite often."

Harris held Rebecca's hand for a moment longer than would have been necessary. The young woman felt a pleasant shiver run up her arm.

"What happened to Sir Wilfried?" Rebecca asked.

Jim Harris raised his eyebrows.

"I suppose something frightened him, Miss Jennings..."

"The Rider!", Rebecca noted.

And Walter immediately explained: "Miss Jennings believes she has seen a rider, but I think her overexcited senses have played a trick on her. It is only today - under certain difficulties! - arrived here and..."

"I know what I saw!", Rebecca fought back. "And there are hoof prints outside the house!"

"Well," Harris said a little evasive. "Sir Wilfried will soon be better. Maybe you could ask him yourself what scared him so much!"

"There was a rider here! He got off his horse and went to the door. Then he knocked violently..." Rebecca broke off. Anything she could have said would have seemed absurd to her if someone else had said it. The man with the tricorn had penetrated the door, had mysteriously become transparent...

Like a ghost, it crossed Rebecca's mind.

"You wanted to say something else, Miss Jennings?" Harris asked.

Rebecca shook her head.

"It's okay," she muttered.

Harris looked at his watch. "I suppose we'll all meet again soon anyway. Then I'd like to talk to you in more detail, Miss Jennings - if your time allows. After all, you'll have to get used to your new position..."

The butler showed Harris to the door.

Rebecca followed them. Together they went down the stone steps that led down from the portal.

Rebecca suddenly stopped as if frozen.

Her gaze was looking for the ground.

The deep hoof marks in which she had recently placed her fingers had disappeared. It's like she never existed.

"What is it, Miss Jennings?" asked Harris, who had noticed the change that had happened with Rebecca.

He went to her, saw the despair in the young woman's face, but did not understand her.

"Nothing," Rebecca muttered. "It's nothing..."

She forced herself into a dull smile.

Jim Harris replied.

For a moment her gaze sank into his sympathetic green eyes. She took a deep breath.

"See you tomorrow," Harris said with a dark timbre that had a downright electrifying effect on her.

"See you tomorrow," she whispered.

––––––––

10

Sunrays and the engine noise of Jim Harris's SUV woke Rebecca up the next morning. Her first thought was that she was too late. For some reason, the alarm clock she had set hadn't rung.

Hastily she began to get dressed. For a moment she lingered at the window and looked out.

The grey wafts of mist that had risen from the lowlands and the nearby lake during the night had evaporated.

A friendly autumn day had begun.

But despite the sunshine there was a strange gloom over the surroundings of Dellmore Manor. The trees had grown together and looked like bizarre sculptures. The green of the extensive lawns looked dull, the water of the small lake grey and musty.

Beyond the lake was a hill with a group of trees. Even at a distance it could be seen that the lightning must have entered some of the thick, overgrown trunks. Rebecca's eyes became narrow. A grey wall she thought she recognized on the hill.

Rebecca went to the salon a little later.

The butler had already uncovered breakfast there.

"Good morning, Miss Jennings," he said. "Please sit down. Do you put sugar in your tea?"

"No, thank you. How is Sir Wilfried?"

"He needs a little more rest, but I think he'll brief you on your assignment later in the day, Miss Jennings."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"May I pour the tea now?"

"Gladly..."

Rebecca's gaze was captured by the series of large-format portraits that adorned the high walls of the salon. She approached the portraits. A long line of men and women whose resemblance to Sir Wilfried Dellmore could not be denied. A kind of ancestral gallery of his ancestors...

The image of a pale, lean man made Rebecca freeze in terror.

No, she thought. This can't be happening!

She had to swallow involuntarily.

The man in the picture was dressed in a foppish, colourful rococo suit. He held the tricorn with elegant casualness in the left, while the right was supported on a stick with golden decorations.

It was the face that tied Rebecca up like that.

Pale powdered features, almost as pale as a dead man's face. The skin looked like parchment. The bloodless lips were a thin line.

"Miss Jennings..." said Walter.

"Who is this man?" she asked.

"This is the portrait of Sir Malcolm Dellmore... He lived over 250 years ago."

That's him, it sears her. The rider she met twice yesterday. She was absolutely sure.

The features were the same.

That's impossible!, a admonishing voice in her announced itself. You're on a fine line, Rebecca...

You are standing right in front of a dark abyss...

A shiver gripped her.

What's happening to me? She was thinking about it. Why am I seeing things that can't exist?

Rebecca turned around and sat down at the breakfast table. Walter moved the chair for her.

Jim Harris has now entered the room.

"Would you like some dinner, Mr. Harris?", Walter asked.

"No thanks," the doctor replied. "But I won't say no to a cup of tea."

"Very well."

Harris approached the table where Rebecca was sitting.

"May I sit with you?"

"Of course."

He sat down in one of the delicate upholstered chairs, which were undoubtedly antiques. A little later Walter arrived with a cup of tea. Afterwards he retreated discreetly.

"What prompted a young, fun-loving woman to move to this desert?" Harris asked.

"The job," Rebecca replied. "When you arrive fresh from university, you are not usually offered the opportunity to manage an estate on your own responsibility. Such an opportunity must not be missed..."

"That's an argument. Well, maybe you'll bring some life into this grey wall."

"And you, Mr. Harris?"

"Call me Jim."

She smiled. "If you call me Rebecca."

"I insist!"

Her two eyes met and Rebecca enjoyed that moment. Careful, she thought. You're just losing your head... She liked the young doctor. His charisma was sympathetic and the sound of his voice seemed to have an almost magical effect on her. Rebecca was a little confused. Inside her there was a pretty big confusion of different sensations. But one thing was already clear to her: she felt very comfortable in Jim Harris' presence.

"You haven't answered my question yet," she said. "I suppose being a country doctor in what you yourself called a wasteland isn't exactly what you dream of when you start studying medicine!"

Jim smiled.

"This may be... I first worked in a London clinic. Then my father died and I came back here - to where I grew up. I took over my father's office in Kerryhill. I was basically just like you, Rebecca."

"In what way?"

"It was a chance for me that a doctor my age usually doesn't get so quickly. An own practice..."

"I understand."

"Of course I also took over my father's patients..."

"Like Sir Wilfried!"

"They say it."

The conversation splashed along. But Rebecca enjoyed Jim's presence and the sound of his voice. She was fascinated by the view of his sea-green eyes. She felt completely comfortable at that moment. Maybe for the first time since she entered Dellmore Manor. For a few moments she could forget the dark aura that seemed to hang over this place.

Finally, Jim Harris looked at the watch and stood up.

"I'm sorry, Rebecca. But I have to go now. Patients are waiting..."

"Of course."

"I hope to see you again soon."

"You're welcome, Jim!"

He took her hand. And again he held her for a moment longer than necessary.

––––––––

11

The morning was more or less uneventful. Sir Wilfried was not yet ready to take care of his new caretaker and so Rebecca explored the property on his own.

Again and again she looked at the wall that was on the hill on the other side of the lake. She asked Walter what it was about.

"There is the family tomb of the von Dellmore family," the butler explained with an expressionless face. "For centuries, the bones of the Lords of Dellmore Manor have been buried there." After a short break he added: "I hope you are a little impressed, Miss Jennings! As far as you can see now, the lands belong to Sir Wilfried. But I'm sure you'll get an overview of all this."

"Does Sir Wilfried have children?" Rebecca asked.

"No, Miss Jennings. He is the last of the Dellmores..."

In the afternoon Sir Wilfried Rebecca was received in the library. He was just absorbed in reading a thick tome. Carefully he turned the fragile pages.

When Rebecca entered, he looked up.

"I'm sorry I couldn't take care of you sooner, Miss Jennings. But sometimes things happen that none of us can predict..." His gaze got something turned inside out. He seemed almost distraught.

What is it that frightened him so?, it crossed Rebecca's mind.

Rebecca's gaze caught on the opened leather foil that Sir Wilfried had on his knees. Rebecca noticed some strange signs. Pentagrams, hexagons, animal heads...

Sir Wilfried closed the book. He got up and put it in his place on the shelf. On the spine of the book, Rebecca read the title. MAGICAL RITUALS stood there in gold-worked letters to read. Rebecca's gaze glided along the row of leather-trimmed spines. She tried to read the titles. Yesterday, when she first entered this room, she hadn't noticed. But now her interest grew from moment to moment.

Countless volumes on occultism and supernatural phenomena were on the shelves. Plus books on the practice of black magic, necromancy and raising the dead.

"You're interested in occultism?" Rebecca asked.

She was thinking about the bone pentacles.

"If you want to call interest in the unusual so - yes!" A smile suddenly played around Sir Wilfried's thin lips. "And you?" he asked. "How do you feel about those things our science hasn't explained yet, because it's basically been on its way for centuries, ignoring an entire level of existence!"

Rebecca evaded.

"You know I studied business administration," she said.

"Certainly."

"And business economists are said to be extremely sober."

"Too bad, Miss Jennings. What a pity... I don't really believe you, though."

"Oh, no?"

"Maybe I know you better than you know yourself, Miss Jennings."

"I don't think so..."

"We don't want to argue. I'm not strong enough yet. Besides, I don't want to upset you in any way." A slightly mocking move now appeared on his face. "After all, I would have to find me a new caretaker..."

Rebecca took the opportunity to talk about her predecessor, whose fate she still knew nothing more than gloomy hints and rumours.

But nothing concrete.

"I hear Mr Gaskell has passed away very suddenly..."

Sir Wilfried's face has changed.

"Yes, that's true," he admitted.

"Was he sick?"

"Many a man already carries the seed of his downfall within him without even knowing it."

Sir Wilfried looked into nothingness as these gloomy words came over his lips in a husky voice. A jolt went through his body. He turned his head. "Mr Gaskell died of heart failure," he muttered. "But let us no longer speak of these things..." He forced himself to smile. "Let us turn to the present. I'll show you Gaskell's study, where you'll be residing from now on. Then I'll introduce you to the staff."

Sir Wilfried rose.

She followed Sir Wilfried, who led her down a long corridor leading into the west wing of Dellmore Manor's main house.

The office he then showed her seemed very representative. The desk was artfully decorated and undoubtedly worth a fortune.

"This was Gaskell's office," Sir Wilfried explained. "He was a very meticulous man. I'm sure you won't have any trouble finding your way around these documents."

"I think so, too."

"Sir Wilfried, may I ask you something?" Rebecca looked very seriously at the last of the Dellmore family. Sir Wilfried looked back. His eyebrows contracted between his eyes, giving his face a hawk-like appearance.

"Ask!", he then demanded.

"What was it you saw last night?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Sir Wilfried stated. The vibration of his voice revealed the uncertainty.

He turned his gaze.

"What frightened you so much that you..."

"Don't ask me that again, Miss Jennings," Sir Wilfried replied brusquely. "Just do your job and don't worry about anything else. Have I made myself clear?"

Rebecca nodded.

"Yes," she muttered. "That was clear."

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12

For the rest of the day Rebecca did not see Sir Wilfried. He did not keep his promise to introduce them to the employees. Instead, Rebecca was forced to visit the various farms belonging to the Dellmores estate on her own. There was one brewery in particular, which generated most of the revenue.

Little by little Rebecca also learned to find her way around the area. During the day it was a lot easier than in the dark.

It was early evening when Rebecca returned to Dellmore Manor. The twilight had already settled over the surroundings like a grey shroud. The first wafts of mist crept up from the lake.

Fear rose in Rebecca. Again and again she looked around strenuously. But there was no sign of the mysterious pale horseman that night.

Rebecca left her car near the portal and got out.

In front of one of the illuminated windows on the upper floor she saw the silhouette of Sir Wilfried's tall figure. He had raised his arms. His hoarse voice muttered strange words. He spoke so loudly that fragments of it could still be heard outside.

A strange man, it crossed Rebecca's mind. She had attended a seance with friends during her studies. But this had been more or less a party gag. None of the participants had taken this seriously or really believed in the presence of supernatural powers.

But with Sir Wilfried it was something else.

For him the occupation with occultism seemed to be a kind of obsession.

For a moment Rebecca watched the gesticulating shadow figure.

Then she went up the stone steps of the portal.

A young woman with a chin-length page cut came through the door. Rebecca had never seen her before. Under the thin raincoat looked the black uniform of a chambermaid.

That must be Gabrielle, Rebecca thought. The Gabrielle suspected of putting the bone pentacle in Rebecca's bed.

"Good evening," Rebecca said.

The young woman said nothing. She just stared at Rebecca, then pushed past her and hurried down the stairs.

The strange words Sir Wilfried uttered were mixed with the sounds of the wind.

The young woman stopped, turned around and then shouted: "Miss Jennings..."

"Yes?"

The maid breathed heavily.

"This is a place of misfortune... Leave him while you still can!"

"You're Gabrielle, aren't you?"

"Yes."

She hesitated a little about the answer. She stood there like a root. Rebecca went down the stairs to her.

"Did you put the bone pentacle in my bed?"

She looked at Rebecca with her eyes wide open, but gave no answer.

Rebecca took that as a confession. "Explain to me the meaning..."

Gabrielle turned around, took quick steps towards one of the outbuildings, behind which she then disappeared.

"Gabrielle!" Rebecca called her. She didn't respond.

A moment later the engine sound of a car could be heard.

"Gabrielle is a bit odd," the butler later explained to Rebecca as he served her the diner in the salon. "She lives in Kerryhill and is considered a little crazy. Probably no one else would give her a job. But Sir Wilfried is a kindhearted man."

Rebecca began to wonder whether Sir Wilfried really did this out of charity - or whether he had simply not found anyone else willing to work at Dellmore Manor.

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13

It was very late when Dr. Jim Harris came back to Dellmore Manor to check on his patient.

Rebecca sat in her room and was absorbed in last year's accounts.

Rebecca put the balance sheets aside and ran down into the spacious reception room. Jim couldn't miss them here. She felt joyful expectation in herself. A tickling, tense feeling that made her almost completely forget the busy day she had behind her.

A feeling no doubt caused by Jim.

The doctor's visit to Sir Wilfried did not last long.

Accompanied by Walter, the bald butler with the motionless trains, he came down the stairs.

Jim Harris smiled when he saw Rebecca.

The look in his sea green eyes made her heart beat faster.

"Hello, Jim," she said.

Jim came up to her, grabbed her hand and replied: "I was afraid I wasn't going to see you again tonight..."

"If that's all your fears are, Jim!"

They both laughed. Rebecca noticed that he was still holding her hand.

And then she felt something was wrong. A second later, she knew what it was.

His laugh!, it sears through them. It's not as easy as it should be...

She looked at him for a moment.

Then Jim turned around briefly to the butler standing like a statue and then said: "The patient is doing well according to the circumstances, Walter. I think I'll check on him again tomorrow..."

"Sir Wilfried said it wasn't necessary," Walter replied abruptly.

"I can't remember Sir Wilfried graduating in medicine," Jim replied with a wink.

Then he jokingly added: "Walter, don't be so heartless and take away my only excuse to meet this charming young lady!"

Jokes of that kind somehow didn't seem to be on Walter's wavelength. Not a single movement could be seen on his face.

Rebecca said, "I'll escort Dr. Harris to the door..."

"As you wish, Miss Jennings," was the cool response.

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14

Together Rebecca and Jim descended the stone steps of the Dellmore Manor portal a moment later.

Meanwhile it had become quite dark. The moon bathed everything in a pale light.

A cold wind blew across the country and made Rebecca shiver involuntarily. Searching, her attentive gaze glided around.

Don't lose your mind, she tried to tell herself. There's no one there...

They approached the doctor's suv.

Suddenly Jim stopped.

The moonlight reflected in his eyes.

His hand gently stroked her chin with incredible tenderness.

"I like you, Rebecca," he said. "You're a fascinating woman..."

A lump was in her throat. She was incapable of making a single sound.

Jim then continued in a muted and very serious-sounding tone: "I would like to give you some urgent advice about Sir Wilfried... Sir Wilfried and all that is connected with these musty walls..."

He raised his eyes to those windows on the upper floor behind which Sir Wilfried's shadowy figure was still visible. Now he did not call for strange incantations in long-forgotten languages. And he did not raise his arms like the shaman of a superstitious Stone Age people. He just stood at the window and seemed to look out into the darkness.

He is watching us! Rebecca was driving through it as she felt the goosebumps spreading on her body.

"Do you believe in curses, Jim?" Rebecca asked.

"No. But madness - that's a reality..."

"You mean..."

"Be careful, take care of yourself and pay attention to every detail that seems strange to you." Then he looked at her for a moment. "Good night," he added.

"Good night, Jim."

"We'll talk another time. With fewer ears to listen to us..."

"Okay..."

Rebecca watched Jim's suv for a long time before he was finally swallowed up by the darkness.

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15

The next day Rebecca worked in her office for the morning. In the afternoon she visited the Dellmore Manor brewery again.

When she was on her way back to Dellmore Manor in the late afternoon, she met an off-roader on the road to Kerryhill, which she knew only too well.

It was Dr. Jim Harris's car.

Jim held the car right next to her coupe. Rebecca also stopped. The side windows have been lowered.

"It's good to see you, Rebecca," he said with the stunning smile and the incomparable look in his sea green eyes.

"Hello, Jim!", Rebecca replied.

"You've been exploring the area a little?"

"This is part of my new job. "I have to get an overview, after all."

"I see. I live very close by, by the way. If you want, you can get a cup of tea from me...

If you ask me, it's high time."

"Well..."

"Please! I need to talk to you, Rebecca..."

His voice suddenly had something serious, urgent.

Rebecca wondered what that meant. She finally nodded. "Okay, Jim."

"Turn around and follow me! Like I said, it's not far!"

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16

Jim's house was on the edge of Kerryhill, just in sight of the church and the picturesque cemetery. On the upper floor were the living rooms, the lower part of the house was almost completely occupied by the practice.

A young woman with red blond hair and freckles greeted Jim. She was in a white coat and was obviously his receptionist. Rebecca gave her a suspicious look.

"This is Miss Jennings, the new administrator of Dellmore Manor," Jim Harris briefly explained.

"A patient?"

"Not yet. At the moment, thank God, she's doing quite well," Jim replied. The receptionist didn't think it was very funny.

Then she reported: "Guy McMohan was just here. He asked if they could come back later for his cow. Unfortunately, your phone was out of order..."

"I guess the battery's dead," Jim replied. "Was there anything else?"

"No."

"Then you can call it a day, Sally."

"Whatever you say."

Before she left, she gave Rebecca another disparaging look.