“Steve, it’s Jon here, we have the place! We have the place, can you hear me?!”
“Jon, my watch says it’s five o’clock in the morning. Can I call you back later to have your precious news?”
“Steve, why you prefer to sleep? We can jump on the car so that I can show you the grandeur of our empire, the new gem, the diamond, the pearl! Steve the pearl!!”
“Jon you better go back to smoking, since you quit, you look weird and probably the withdrawal causes you insomnia and delusion.”
“You’re the same spineless all the time, Steve, fuck it; I don’t need you anymore, I will do myself and enjoy alone the privilege and the glory.”
Jon Hastings was the chief developer and the maximum enthusiast inside Belmont Holdings, a company working at the top levels in the HoReCa industry. The last turmoil was the need to have a new site, where to develop a five-star diamond, with spa, fitness center, gym services, and all the modern comforts and standards. In Jon’s mind, there was a small cinema too, for special guests.
Steve Hammond was the man of financial support. In some sense, the break of Jon, the man with the numbers. The one who looks at the potential, and, defines the lines of the investments. Deciding if feasible or not.
That morning very early, almost half an hour before the opening of the offices, Jon Hastings arrived at the headquarters, breathless and anxious in his blue suit and mahogany leather shoes, his briefcase helped him to balance his speedy step towards the main entrance.
He arrived at his office, under the suspicious gaze of the cleaning team who was ready to leave.
He sat at his desk and started the first call: “Hi Adam, it’s Jon Hastings here, can I speak with Will of the architects’ team?”
“Hi Jon, he is not here yet, if you need something anyway, I can try to help you.”
“I was wondering if he was happy to come with me for a survey of an area. I think I have the right place for the new Belclave, Adam. We need to be fast and determined, I think it will cost nothing in terms of money, but the potential of the place is amazing, Adam, extraordinary. Before lunchtime, I’ll obtain all the info needed.”
“Oh that’s great Jon, have you spoken with Steve about it?”
“I tried earlier this morning, but the moron was too lazy to hear me out.”
“This morning? It’s half-past seven now. What time was Jon?”
“Around five Adam, I know…but I went there last night, at the place, I couldn’t sleep, so I went to have a look around. It’s superb, and I want it at any cost.”
“Can I ask you where and which is this marvelous place, there are not many places around here, with the right features we need for the Belclave.”
“Do you want to now it? Really? Can you keep this secret for a while, till I define some particulars of the bargain?”
“I will, for sure, Jon!”
“Good, my dear friend, the place is over the hills, in a breathtaking frame. There’s a little town village just a few miles from what I will call a mansion, an amazing mansion, surrounded by plenty of beautiful gardens and buildable space, where we can build the rest we need. Swimming pools, spa, etcetera. The mansion is in a horrible state, it has been a rock venue ages ago, from the few news I have, one night it caught fire, and all the structure was shrouded in a huge blaze. This is not important for us, the facade is perfect, it looks just charred by the flames, I pointed my torch through the massive front doors, today deprived of their original stained glass, and apparently, the huge entrance, the gigantic staircase, and, some pillars are intact.”
At the other end, there were some endless minutes of silence.
“Adam, you still there?”
“Yes, Jon, I am. For lord sake, you’re talking about the old Charybdis?”
“The Charybdis, the old goth-rock venue, former Dunrow Mansion…that place is haunted, Jon, stay away from there, the fire you mentioned, was a colossal blaze occurred at a Halloween night of thirty years ago. All the attendees, the band, the crew died that night, trapped in the mansion. Just Rita Moore, the club’s owner, and Sid the gardener/keeper survived. They were outside in one of the gardens, digging up some hidden bags with money and drugs. This was said about.
Do you remember Brian Jennings and the Black Widow Project? They are the famous names that died in the blaze. It was said that Sid the gardener, at the time the assistant of Rita Moore, is still living in the orchard behind the mansion, he seems to be a deformed mad man. The people from the nearby village called him the dead keeper. It’s a bad idea, Jon. Who is a bit into the rock history, or more simply has a past as a night goer, will remember that horrible story. At the village there’s a pub called “The Wagon,” Rita Moore owns that pub now, she is in a constant state of stupor, sitting at the last table near the bar. Go there, and, have a look at what that place can cause.”
Jon started one of his thunderous laughs.
“Oh, Adam, my boy! You are so into the witches world, so spooky my friend! Do you know what? A good reason to unveil our super diamond, on a Halloween night, with a huge masquerade party!!”
“I’m not sure I will take it so lightly Jon, apart from the cursing history, it’s the theatre of mass murder. Not the place for relaxing and luxury. Anyway, I will let William know about your call, of course, I won’t say a single word about what discussed.”
“Thanks a million, Adam, I’ll talk to you soon. Bye now.”
When Adam hunged up the phone, he was pervaded by some massive shivers across his back. He felt something horrendous coming up.
At Jon’s office, somebody knocked at the door, and entering the room saying: “Here I am pal, sorry but this morning I was disconnected, too early, my friend.”
“No bother Steve, take a sit I have a lot to tell you, we have a long way to go.” Jon’s laugh exploded boisterous throughout the corridors, while Steve was closing the door.
The couple had an intense meeting of about two hours, in which one couldn’t hear a mouse stir. When they left the office, they were in their overcoat and briefcase, apparently ready to go.
“We’ll have a look at a couple of places on the hills, a survey for our new project. It won’t take long. If you need me, call me on the mobile as always.” Jon said absent-mindedly, to Clara, his secretary.
“Ok, no problem, Mr. Hastings, I will.”
The couple rushed to the lift, headed to the subterranean parking lot.
When the car exited the parking, the windshield was hit from a lash of dense rain, the city was sunk in a deep grey surreal atmosphere, while the whip of the rain impetuous, blended the outlines of the buildings scattered in their heights in the lower menacing clouds.
The Lexus raced through the periphery road, headed to the freeway to the hills. During the ten minute journey till the exit, Jon was busy on a business phone conversation on speaker, and Steve was looking outside the soaked countryside, where the only different color was the green of the natural elements, the rest was grey, he felt not so well, he was cold, having continuous shivers.
The blue Lexus took fast the exit for what everybody in town and the small villages called the Hollow Hills.
Jon was driving fast and sharp, the roads getting tighter and tighter. The couple arrived at the first village and parked nearby a pub called “The Wagon.” Steve was puzzled, he waited until Jon ended his conversation and then he asked: “So, why are we here?”
“I told you the story about the mansion, didn’t I? So this is the pub owned by the former owner of “The Charybdis” aka the burned-out rock venue. Adam told me the story that I mentioned to you, he said to me about her, and he recommended a visit to this place, to see the effect of the curse of the mansion. So we are here closer to the site, and I don’t want to pass up the chance. It made me curious.”
“Oh c’mon Jon I’m not interested in these Halloween bullshits, we need to go for the survey and go back to the office, I have piles of things to do. I don’t want to waste my time, and, to be honest with you, I’m not quite sure about it. This place is creepy and looks abandoned from the will of God. It’s not the right place; it’s horrible and rotten.”
Jon went weird, his eyes looked plunged in his orbits, with dark circles, but the gaze was shiny and deep like the maelstroms of the mythology.
“Listen to me now” – Jon’s hand grabbed the steering wheel while his knuckles went pale white from the grip – “I want to get this deal at any cost, dead or alive. Is that ok? For that reason, I have been awake for several nights and days. This visit is just entertainment. And of course a part of – spicy variety – I need it for my launch campaign. It’s all right. Be a good boy.”
Steve was puzzled and more strained every minute.
They went out of the car, while a thick drizzle was coming down, in a muffled countryside.
The pub facade was an old glazed tile one, some benches, two barrels were side by the side of the door. Two huge wagon wheels overhung the entrance, the walls between the first and the second door were covered in playbills of dark-rock and gothic bands.
Steve let Jon go in first. Jon opened the second door, and what appeared was a traditional pub, nice and cozy. The dim lights and a few patrons.
The couple was heading to the bar, when a voice, a deep hoarse voice, interrupted their walk.
“Are you here for your appointment? I aspected two usual naive. But no. We have two big fishes here.”
The two looked one to another. The voice came from a corner, where a very old lady was sitting with a bottle of scotch and, nevertheless the smoking ban, an ashtray was on the table with a packet of twenty-five.
Jon always believing himself the smartest guy of the planet said: “Since when there is need of appointment to enter a pub?”
Jon laughed noisily.
The woman dressed in total black, with a large shawl moved one of her skinny and pale gray hands; the lady behind the bar came on the floor immediately and looking at them, said: “Rita always recognizes people, and why they are here. So if you are here for a pint or some food, you’re welcome, otherwise, please leave the premise now. She’s already in great distress. She doesn’t need more.”
“Leanne! Shut your face! Let them in; they need some comfort before to die.”
The young Leanne moved a step backward making a bow with the head.
“Jon, I wanna go now! Now! For fuck sake, we are working here; we are not paranormal investigators, I hate this place!”
Jon raised his open hand in a calm down invitation and turned his head towards the lady, his eyes more and more hollow and vitreous.
“Have a seat you two. I think you need to know something before your appointment.”
The two sat at a round table, just a couple away from her.
Once on the chair, Steve noticed that the woman apart from her pale grey skin, typical of ages of excesses, and the teeth charred by smoke was not that old as she appeared.
Two pints of stout arrived at the table.
“Sorry I don’t drink while I’m working” – Steve said politely – “and you, Jon, you’re driving as well.”
Jon seemed hypnotized, and the gaze of the woman was worth more than a thousand words. Steve accepted the drink.
“My name is Rita Moore as you well know, and there’s no need for descriptions or any further explanation. You know the story so well.
Only a few things are missing, and the only person who can talk about this is me.”
“How do you know about us? Who is your informant? Did they promise you money? I can do better, much better. The place is mine.”
Jon went mad at the idea that someone was attempting to steal the deal from his hands.
Steve raised his hands and arms at the sky, upset.
“Don’t promise money, Jon, here I’m the wallet, and there’s no money extra for a rotten, cursed wreck.”
“Stop this pantomime!” – Rita was fuming – “I don’t get a shit about your money villain idiots, you’re here to die, do you know that? Soon or later it will happen, the Charybdis is a serious matter, it is the place by which someone is taking their own revenge, revenge on the business, on the money, on the filthy behavior of the night goers, on the media and everything is related with the spotlight, and commonly called entertainment and often luxury. Of course, my club was not luxury and even less colossal money, but it was a bat cave, a place in the darkness, where everything happened, everything. It was chosen to end up an era, to finish the cult, blatantly. Your plan represents the luxury and again some kind of filthiness.
All the businessmen hiding in the hills with young girls, and the spa, restaurant…it will end up in disgrace. He won’t allow it.”
“Who are you talking about? Delusional witch!”
Jon was watching at her with disdain.
“You can call me as you wish, tubby white collar, but I know the story, I know the truth.”
“So tell us, one for all. I really can’t wait to go.” Steve was feeling sick.
“Before to have the Charybdis, I was a groupie, like a million others, I was well introduced in the industry, and, my preferred bands and tour buses, restaurants and venues, were the one belonging to the gothic scene. I loved those black-dressed vampires, with baritone voices and this creepy doom rock. In that environment, I met him. He was the lead voice, the lyricist and the mentor of the Black Widow Project, a band who was gathering, progressive rock, electro-dark-romantic and gothic.
They were famous as the Bauhaus or the Sisters of Mercy, but more obscure and less commercial. This man, Brian Jennings, wanted the Charybdis for me. He gave the name at the club, inspired by the Greek Mythology. He organized the mass-murder that night. And he will kill again; he has no age and no time. He can wait, the place is in decay from thirty years, but he chose it for his executions, and you are the next big deal for him. For too long he settled for fans, squatters who occupied the venue’s ruins, and fanatics who camped in the back yards.”
The couple was puzzled.
“How do you know about us?” Asked Steve.
“I know everything,” Rita answered evil.
“So you’re saying that a sort of serial killer is using the place to commit murders, and, that after the blaze he kept killing everyone arrived or stayed around the ruins? And this guy is supposed to be that kook of a junkie of your friend? For what I read about, he died in the blaze, or he overdosed before it, and he was too stoned to escape.”
Jon was having enough.
“This is what they said. But not the truth. Brian is around, and Sid who lives in the orchard is his servant.”
Jon stood up in a fit of anger, inviting the poor Steve to follow him without hesitation; he was no longer on track, Steve was against it from the beginning.
“Before you go, have a last look at the place where you decided to die. From the right perspective. Leanne, show to these gentlemen what I avoid to see every day.”
Rita stated the order.
“We are not interested Ma’am; it’s enough” Steve was trying to avoid any further way down to the damnation.
“I want to see it!” stated Jon.
Leanne went quickly to the table, inviting the two gentlemen to follow her. They went across the large kitchen smelling of fried and old burned oil, and then through an old door, into the backyard. The heavy rain was falling. – “There” saying Leanne spreading her arm and index. The couple raised their heads, and on the top of the hill, overhung the scenario, they saw the burned mansion. It was the first time for Steve, who was getting retching.
“I’m going to have it! It’s mine! Mine! You stupid vendors of idiot superstitions!”
Jon took Steve from an arm, and quickly going to the pub floor, saying: “Thanks Ma’am for your spooky stories, I’m sorry if it makes you cry, but I’m the man who will make that place one of the best superstar hotels of the history. Sorry about that, no place for junkies or sorcerers like you.”
“God bless you, fool. You’re a dead man walking.” Rita said in a breath.
The couple went out of the pub, the sky was almost black, and the rain was unceasing, merciless.
Once in the car, Steve tried to have a logical explanation of the madness they just experienced, but the other was too eager to go and see the place where his dreams would come true.
He drove the huge Lexus like a mental, over the small roads to the mansion, taking the hairpin turns at high speed, Steve was severely concerned and scared. At one point, on a short backstretch, Jon sped up like a mad man, and, suddenly, something similar to a weird animal came up from the side ditch, crossing the road.
The Lexus jabbed it, in a turmoil of tires squeal and smokey brakes on the wet floor.
Once the car stopped, the two went out.
“What the hell was it?” Steve said.
There was nothing on the road, just a modest slipstream of blood.
“It was a monkey for sure!” Said Jon laughing.
“What the hell are you talking about?!? Have you pissed off your brain? When and who has ever seen a monkey in this bloody place?!?”
Steve was every minute more upset.
“I don’t know pal, a bear, a dog, whatever. It doesn’t make any difference.”
“Let me see behind that bush. If it is a poor animal, it probably needs help. I don’t want to let it die.” Steve moved slowly towards the thicket.
“Ok hurry up, mother Theresa, I have to go there.”
Said Jon lighting a cigarette.
Steve put his head into the bush, just to see if any animal was hidden injured, a minute passed, a noisy rub of blades was heard, and straight afterward, Steve, screaming and shouting like a fool.
Jon ran to find him; he was holding his head with the two hands.
“Jeez lord, jeez lord!!!” Steve was out of mind, steady as a stone, the face covered in a sprinkle of blood.
“What the hell!?!” Jon put Steve in a standing position, with a great effort. Steve was unable to talk, shaking with the eyes out of the orbits.
Jon put him inside the car, he was skeptical, but he started to have enough of that. He was cursing the day he decided to lead Steve to this place. But he had no other options.
“Ok now we go for the survey, and with God’s will, this day is over; may I know what happened behind that bush?”
Steve was silent, intent on cleaning up his face. But suddenly he said: “It was a monster, deformed, horrendous, with two huge blades, looking like machetes. It was monstrous, dressed up in rugs.”
“If you’d be interested, it must have had a big butt; it destroyed a headlight and a part of the grid in the impact, this survey is costing me a lot, under any point of view.”
Jon was exhausted and incredulous.
They arrived over the old gate of the Charybdis, on the top, there was an inscription of wrought iron: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
Jon didn’t notice that night, that the gate looked like the one of a cemetery, passing through a small orchard, less prominent than the one behind, they arrived nearby the façade.
Finally, the mansion was in front of Steve; he wasn’t impressed, just sick.
The façade was blackened and smeared with quotes from the black magic cult such as: “So mote it be.”
“This place is horrible; I can smell the stink of the people’s burned flesh who died in the blaze. Do me a favor, talk with the CEO about it. If he makes the decision, I will deliberate the founds myself. Now please, take me back. I feel like I need to go home for today. Please.”
Jon understood that it was too much. He needed to be alone, strong of his own skepticism.
– Soon they will understand, once the project will be done and beautiful. –
He drove back to the headquarter, and after he left Steve nearby his car in the parking lot, they would no longer see each other, till the day. The big one.
From this moment, everything was paused in some sense. Mystery and imagination were no longer on the surface, black magic, gothic cult, accursed musicians were all dismissed. The CEO approved, Steve from the offices of the financial development did what he promised, and the works started a few weeks later.
Nothing went wrong, except for a few building companies that failed during the works; and then a couple of deaths, due to the unsafe scaffoldings for which a company went to court. Lastly, the discovery of an old cemetery, during the excavations for the swimming pool.
The works had been blocked for some weeks. The archeologists stated that the bones found on the site were of the patients of an old Asylum before Dunrow family owned the mansion. There were no patients’ records and not enough info about the asylum activity, so the bones were transferred into an anonymous ossuary of a local cemetery.
Jon Hastings was more than proud, and just a few weeks separated his jewel from the day it will be unveiled.
Papers started a real battle to have the last interview with the man who was the chief of this enterprise: the man who fought the superstitions, the renaissance man.
During one of these interviews, Hastings revealed that the grand opening would be on Halloween night, to live up with the creepy expectations. It will be a masquerade night, with classical music tunes by an international orchestra, and, the utmost of luxury buffet ever. He said that most of the places were already booked, but he was pleased to accept any further reservations for the ball.
The days went by fast, and a request of reservation arrived from a foreigner country; the name looked strange, but Jon was too proud, he ordered his assistants to accept every one until the place was exploding.
The Belclave was finally ready, that night, the façade, renewed and illuminated looked creepy, but elegant. The elite of the financial, business and stardom world arrived, the music started with Paganini’s suites, people were wearing masks like noble vampires or fashion Frankenstein, Werewolfs in Armani ties everywhere, and the valet, with not enough arms to attend all the Bentleys, Porsches and Lotus!
At one point a black and chrome ’69 Impala arrived in front of the mansion. Just a single man dropped out, tall, he was wearing leather trousers, and what looked like a leather jacket with clasps on the side of the breast, a long black, double-breasted overcoat left open, his face looked shrouded in a black linen mask or maybe a balaclava, sunglasses and a big black fedora on his head — a sort of invisible man from Gotham City.
He entered the party alone.
Once the doors of the mansion were closed, the ball started, and the people gathered on the dance floor, to the notes of the most wicked classical tunes. At one point, a member of the orchestra started to cough, a deep cough, till he became purple, and the music was interrupted to assist him. After he seemed recovered, they started again, but the pianist suffered the same attack until the whole orchestra was coughing, somebody tried to open a window, but it was impossible, they were locked, or probably sealed.
When the orchestra started again, something made the director mad, the guys at the instruments seemed to not follow the sheet music, playing old rock tunes called “Mystery in the Belfry.” They started to play and play the same song again, and some blood was visible on the violins and the string instruments. The temperature was higher and higher, and a pure warmth turned into a hot hell unbearable heatwave.
Some ladies started to feel sick.
When a radiant and mysterious light arrived from the windows, it seemed to be a part of the night show, given that, a sort of deformed rug dressed monster was putting his face, open mouth and tongue against the window terrorizing the guests on purpose, they guessed. Only a few noticed that the tongue of the monster went smokey against the window, and the glass was glowing. More others felt sick, and suddenly that blinding light turned out to be a terrible blaze. Huge flames out in the garden, just underneath the windows. People started screaming, and the orchestra playing “Mystery in the Belfry” louder and louder, completely hypnotized and helped by the mysterious “invisible man.”
Once the crowd tried to escape, every single door and window was locked and untouchable because of the heat. A couple that was left out because of an inappropriate outfit said that quickly the new hotel became a sphere of fire, screams were heard together with that creepy tune. Just before the structure collapsed, a man wrapped in the blaze, with a big Fedora and an invisible face, approached the windows rising his arms to the sky.
The following morning the fire brigades were still working to quell the blaze, the papers were preparing titles about “The New Charybdis disaster.”
Jon and Steve were among the guests that night, no sign of them was ever found.
Rita accepted to go into the backyard to have a look.
Photography – Adam Jones, Ph.D. / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
James Marchiori is an Italian born, Dublin based poet and writer. He wrote his first verses at nine years old, and since then, being part of prestigious cultural organizations, he has been collecting various literary awards across Italy, London, Barcelona, and Prague. He’s also been awarded at the European Parliament in Brussels for one of his poems. At twenty-one years old he published his first book of selected poems and, by his 28th birthday, other two poetry anthologies and short stories were out. His professional career brought him around the world from London to Los Angeles and New York, but he never stopped writing and studying philosophy and literature always taking tons of notes with him, no matter where his job experiences were heading to. His last novel, ‘To My Beloved Heart’ is a tribute to the master, Edgar Allan Poe, his primary source of inspiration, and 2019 will also see his first English collected poems anthology; he’s also currently working on a crime story set in Dublin, Ireland, with fragments of gothic, occult and supernatural elements. Bohemia incarnate, a soul devoted to Surrealism and Poetry.