Ripped from the pages of an age-yellowed penny blood, the page stained and smeared, the cover lost and the author dead to time, yet from these half-writ fragments forms a story in the mind…
Peter wedged the crowbar into the crack at the edge of the door. He leaned on it, carefully at first in case the stone decided to crumble. But the door to the tomb seemed stuck fast, for even as he leaned more heavily on the crowbar it refused to budge.
“Shall I fetch Haldur to help?” asked Father McCafferty and like the words of a spell it seemed his mere suggestion was what finally caused the door to grumble open.
Inch by horrible inch, Peter prised his way into the darkness. When the door was open far enough for him to put his weight behind it he leaned on it heavily, flattening soil as he pushed it aside. The rectangle of light cast by Manuel’s reflecting mirrors hit Peter firmly in the eyes when he turned back to look at them. “It is done,” he said, squinting.
All three men stared into the confined box of the tomb. Now Peter was certain that he could smell death, although the smell seemed indistinguishable from dust and stone. The sarcophagus took up almost the entire space inside the tomb, a stone box within a stone box. There was a shelf on the back wall of the tomb upon which stood a pale statue of the Virgin Mary. As Peter moved away the light from the mirrors danced across her draping skirts.
There was no sign of Sammael.
They lit a gas lantern to illuminate the tomb. The priest held the lamp in one hand, while in the other he tightly clasped a crucifix that he kept pointed at all times towards the unmarked stone sarcophagus.
Manuel and Peter moved to opposite sides of the stone box where Lucille LaFey had been laid to rest. Peter did his best to try not to imagine what awaited them beyond that heavy stone lid. His mind conjured images of skin stretched tight across old bones. It was deathly cold inside the tomb.
Moving with almost agonising deliberateness, Manuel Churchill placed the sharpened cleaver atop the sarcophagus and instructed Peter to take it. Manuel went on to place a clove of garlic upon the shelf at the feet of the Virgin Mary. Beside the garlic he placed a sharp wooden peg and a wooden mallet with which to strike it.
“Do not be alarmed, Peter, by what you are about to see.”
In the doorway to the tomb Father McCafferty was shaking. The light from the lantern flickered. Behind the priest, the day seemed impossibly bright; almost painfully so. Father McCafferty was a crucifix-wielding silhouette outlined against that blinding brilliance.
“Help me shift the lid,” said Manuel, shuffling sideways so that Peter could push it without trapping him against the wall. Peter placed the cleaver at his feet, with the sharp edge pointing away. He gripped the lid of the sarcophagus and it shifted too easily, sliding aside with the sound of stone against stone.
“Hold up the lamp, Father,” said Manuel and Father McCafferty stepped forward to help illuminate whatever lay within the stone sarcophagus. Peter gasped at what he saw, while the priest gave voice to the boy’s name: “Sammael…”
Peter had no idea how the boy had managed to sneak into the tomb, surely the door alone would have been too heavy for him to open. The boy lay across the Lucille LaFey’s corpse, his face against her breast. The boy lay as still as the corpse, so still in fact that Peter feared the worst. “Is he..?”
Manuel shook his head. Reaching into the sarcophagus he lifted the boy away from the body and then dragged him out into the sunlight. The boy’s body was limp and extremely pale. There were red smears around his lips as though he had been eating berries.
And now too was the body of Lucille LaFey revealed. The body was plump and smooth-skinned, looking as though it had been dead for no longer than hours rather than decades. Her eyes were closed and her lips were turned up in what almost appeared to be a smirk. A thin line of dried blood ran down her chin.
“Peter,” said Manuel, stepping back inside the tomb and standing on the opposite side. “I’m going to need you to cut off her head.”