Devil's Cove (Tortured Souls)(9)

By: R.C. Matthews

Willie had blinded her. Perhaps it was unfair to lay that charge at his feet. An infection had taken her sight, but he had held her face down in the sand and rubbed it into her eyes. She should’ve ignored his disparaging comments about her mother. But he wouldn’t stop taunting her, screaming over and over that her mother belonged in the nuthouse. After years of listening to the whispers and jabs at her beloved mother, she’d lost control and attacked him with her ineffectual fists. And how Willie had reciprocated would forever plague her mind.

Grace’s throat closed up at a flash of memory. Seawater filled her mouth and choked off her air supply. She couldn’t breathe. Her eyes were on fire, filling with a molten heat no icy North Sea waters could douse. And then, in a trice, the vision was gone. Air flooded her passageway, and she balled her fists, taking a gulping breath.

Brother Anselm claimed she was lucky that day, for she hadn’t died. But Grace knew it was not luck. No, she had been saved by the heroic actions of a young man of at least fifteen years. He’d come storming across the beach on his white steed and leapt on Willie, tearing him away. Her savior had beat Willie within an inch of his life, to be sure. And God help her, but Grace hadn’t cared. Willie was a horrible bully, forever tormenting her simply because he could.

“So you finally showed your true colors,” Willie sneered now. “Killed a young girl and then tried to pawn it off on an evil spirit. Don’t think I haven’t heard about what happened with Mrs. Evans. The poor woman went stark raving mad when you led Brother Anselm right to your murder victim in the forest outside the Evans’s cottage.”

Grace bit her bottom lip and silently cursed. She would have to confess her sin to Brother Anselm on Sunday, but she had reached her limit. May the Lord forgive her for what she was about to say. “You’re a bloody idiot! That child had been dead for weeks. I gave the constable her mother’s name. I’m sure they will discover the truth soon enough.”

“We’ll see about that!” Willie cried. “You try to make people believe you’re good by exorcising the demons from their homes, but I know you’re like your mother. Bad to the bones, through and through. She killed those people at Devil’s Cove Manor.” He lowered his voice, and the stench of his breath gagged her. “We all know it. Why else was she the only one to walk away?”

His chuckle filled the empty space between them, the depth uneven and sickly to her ears.

“Enjoy your last meal while you can,” he continued. “The caretaker will be here to collect you soon. People are real scared of you now. Dug your own grave, you did, finding that girl’s dead body. And may you rot in the asylum. Or better yet, I hope you go as insane as your mother and prove your evil nature. She killed the last caretaker, you know. Hanged for it, she did. Her blood runs through your veins, Grace. Remember that.”

Bile rose to her throat, and she reached for her napkin to staunch the flow. She wouldn’t embarrass herself that way, nor give Willie the satisfaction of knowing how much his threats terrified her. Her father had been scared witless of her mother, whispered about the wild yet blank stare in her mother’s eyes, and with a heavy heart, he’d committed her to the mental institution. Even Grace had heard her mother stalking about their living quarters, murmuring nonsensical words. It was disturbing, to say the least. Did the good people of Devil’s Cove truly see her the same way despite all her efforts to the contrary?

A choking sound broke through her thoughts, and she stilled.

“Is this man bothering you, Miss Grace?” Captain Limmerick asked, his voice low and on edge. “I’d be happy to remind him of the importance of good manners, if you’ll accept my earlier offer.”

She clenched her jaw and gripped the edges of the bench seat. How she wanted to say yes and teach Willie another lesson! There was no doubt the captain would deliver a thorough beating, imparting a clear message. But she couldn’t bring herself to say the word, because moving into Devil’s Cove Manor was out of the question. Whatever was there may have driven her mother over the edge. And as much as she tried to ignore it, her mother’s insanity might be as hereditary as her powers as a medium. If Grace inherited the one, she may also be bound to the other. She couldn’t risk going to Devil’s Cove Manor. Brother Anselm must get her out of the tavern before the caretaker came, if he came at all.

“I thank you, but no,” she said, rubbing the knot forming at the base of her neck. She placed her hand on the table, inviting Brother Anselm to calm her with his soothing touch. All she asked for was a quiet existence, the small comforts of the home Brother Anselm provided, and the peace of mind she received when the cool breeze of the ocean greeted her.

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