I’ve had this desire to get back to writing some horror again, and in that vein I started developing a story tentatively titled The Affairs of Mrs. Blackwater, which will likely be my homage to the old school Hammer Horror and Universal monster movies. Below is my first jab at the opening chapter of the story, which has been nudging me for the past few days to be written.
Hope you enjoy, and let me know how I’m doing and what you think? Would you read it? Does it have your attention? What’s your favorite Universal monster movie (Dracula, Wolf Man, Frankenstein, etc)?
Godfrey Townsend entered the office of Manchester and Townsend, and found the remaining owner of the original partnership, Luke Manchester greeting him with a smile.
“Godfrey, how good to see you.” He gestured to his office. “A word?”
“Yes, sir.” Godfrey recited his usual response. “May I?” He began to remove his overcoat, which was dripping from the rain being dumped on Whitechapel without mercy. “A moment to dry off?”
Manchester nodded sternly and retreated to his cold office.
Townsend deposited his hat and coat on the rack, and took up near the fire that was nearly all but ashes. He picked up the poker and bent over to stoke it some. The coals were still hot, and he moved them around a bit, encouraging them to do their purpose. He found a few logs to the right of the mantel, and laid them neatly above the coals and attempted to get warm. It was a nearly fruitless task, as the office just did not hold heat. And the cold streets of Whitechapel rolled their brisk air under the doors, around the window panes, through the ceiling and even down the chimney.
Standing there his mind wandered from him, as his eyes met a portrait on the mantel. It was a small oil painting, a likeness of his grandfather, who was the founding father of the firm. His name now relegated to second place behind Manchester, and would likely remain so. Manchester was a crude business man, and Townsend always had trouble understanding why his grandfather ever went into business with such a man. It was his father, Robert Townsend, who had found himself in debt, who allowed himself to foolishly give up 25% of his half of the firm. Manchester had told him, it would suffice as a loan while he paid off the debt that was breathing down Robert Townsend’s neck. That in a year or so, he could easily buy it back and become half owner once more. But Robert Townsend had underestimated the shrewd and greedy nature of Manchester, and he found this out when he went to buy back his piece of the pie. Manchester simply sneered at him and said, “I’m not selling at the moment. Sorry.”
Townsend took a deep breath, not sure what to expect from Manchester on this damp morning. He was sure of one thing, it wouldn’t be getting back the 25% his father fizzled away.
He picked up his messenger bag, dusted the rain off the side with his sleeve and entered Manchester’s office.
“Have a seat, boy.” Manchester just loved to call him boy. He smiled a wicked grin behind his white beard. “I’ve got an important task for you. Are you up to it?”
“Yes, sir.” He sat and held his messenger on his lap.
“Well, pen and paper. Write this down.” Manchester also loved making him take notes, as if he were just some messenger boy writing a note to deliver to the cook about how many eggs to use for breakfast.
Townsend took out a quill, ink and paper. He sat the ink on the edge of the desk, popped the top off and dipped immediately. “Ready, sir.”
“There’s an old bird up in Wolfedale.” He stopped and sneered over his small, round lenses in their wiry frame. “Have you heard of this, boy?”
“Right. Well, this bird has had an account with this firm since its first year of establishment. And, up until last night, was an excellent client.” When he spoke, he looked around the room as if he had an audience.
“What happened? Did she drop the account?” Townsend asked.
“No. She died.”
“Oh, well, sorry to hear that.” He tried to be empathetic, afraid Manchester was going claim he really liked the old woman.
“Good riddance, really.” He picked up some warm tea and took a sip. “But…”
“But what, sir?”
“She was rich… filthy rich… and lousy at accounting.” He sighed long and hard. Then he spoke fast and sharp, like a ball from a canon. “I need you to ride to Wolfedale, and check into their Inn for a few days while you sort out the affairs of the late Mrs. Blackwater.” He raised a file from his a drawer and placed it on the desk between them. “This will give you the address, and some background to her account with us.” He bit his lip. “I never could get her to come in and write up a will, the stubborn old bird. Even sent one of our agents down there once.” He stopped again.
“Well, what happened?” Townsend asked.
“I didn’t get that will.” He leaned forward on to the desk, resting his heavy arms across the file, still unwilling for Townsend to look at it. “I’m going to be honest with you, Godfrey.” Which meant he was about to lie. “This isn’t going to be easy. A lot of paperwork to sift through, no doubt. But, it is very important to me that you do this. And that you do it well. It’s a test in a way, to see if you’re ready to take on some more responsibilities around the firm. What, with your piece of the partnership, it stands to reason you should.”
Townsend could see that it pained him to admit he owned a piece of the company. “I’ll do my best, sir.”
“You won’t.” He spoke sharply. “You’ll do better than your best. Because I’ve seen your best, and it wasn’t good enough.”
“Quite right, sir.” Townsend hated these conversations, and always looked for the easy way out, which usually involved agreeing to a lot of things he didn’t agree with. “When shall I start with the Blackwater account?”
“Now, boy!” He finally released the file from his arms and sat back up in his chair. “I’ve already sent a telegram ahead of you to reserve a room at the Inn. The owner is a friend of mine, treat him nice, and tell him I sent you.”
“Yes, sir.” He rose to his feet and turned to leave, but Manchester called him back for one more thing. It was his standard practice to intentionally forget something.
“Oh, yes.” Manchester said. “And one more thing…” He opened a drawer and pulled out a revolver. He dropped it on the desk for effect. “Do you have a pistol, boy?”
“Well, then take this one. It’s old, but it gets the job done.” Manchester smiled a queer sort of smile.
“Why would I need a gun, Mr. Manchester?”
Manchester’s eyes darkened and he leaned forward once more. “Because there are all manner of beasts in those woods near Wolfedale, and you will want a proper companion.” He patted the revolver.
For once, Townsend had to disagree, though it came out as a whisper. “I don’t like guns.”
“Trust me, boy, when you have to decide between a wolf chewing the flesh off your bones and pulling a trigger… you’ll choose the trigger every time.” He gestured the pulling of a trigger with his finger as he spoke.
Townsend caved, and took the revolver with six rounds in its chamber. He gently placed it in the bottom of his messenger and headed back out into the Whitechapel rain.