Abridged Fourth Instalment

Abridged Fourth Instalment

Foreword

Welcome to The Interactive Novel, the novel that allows you the reader to decide what happens during the novel.
At the end of each weekly instalment will be at least one poll where you will decide either:
• What happens next
• A setting
• A character to be introduced
Whatever option receives the most votes decides what happens. To take part, read the instalment below and then make your vote.

Vote closes for the Fourth Instalment on

Thursday 22nd November at 8am GMT


Friday, 21 September 1860

I perched on the edge of the stage. The Professor sat beside me with blood stained hands. Behind us lay the steward. Only his legs and feet were visible beneath our jackets.

 The auditorium doors opened and in marched a procession of detectives. In charge was Chief Inspector Finch, a hard-looking man with silver hair and goatee. While the other officers began to take statements, he walked along the central aisle towards us.

 “What a rotten bit of luck that you got caught up in all of this Arthur,” Finch said.
He knelt by the porter’s head and lifted the corner of my jacket off the man’s face.

 “So, we are dealing with a homicide as well as robbery,” Finch said dropping the coat. “Unlucky sod that it happened to hit him.”

 “It wasn’t just bad luck,” I piped up. “He was holding a cursed artefact at the time.”

 Both men looked at me with disproval. Professor Ashcroft shook his head.

 “Nigel, it was the bullet that killed him, not a curse,” the Professor snapped.

 “This artefact. Where is it?” Finch asked.

 The Professor looked around. “It appears to be missing.”

 “The robber’s must have taken it,” Finch said. He looked up at one of the constables, “leave a statement and then your free to go.”

* * *

Returning to the Professor’s house I was instructed to find Mrs Cooper and have a meal sent up to his study.

 “Is that blood on your shirt?” Mrs Cooper said in greeting.

 “There was a robbery at the auction house. A porter got shot. The Professor and I tried to…” I couldn’t finish my sentence.

 “Are you alright?” Gertie asked.

 “Its been a long day. Professor Ashcroft would like hot food sent up to his study.”

 I retreated to my bedroom. I was just writing about what had happened in the auction house when there was a tap at the door.

 Gertie stepped into my room. “Tough day? Do you want to talk about it?”

  “Do you believe in curses?”

 “Nigel, we have seen the dead come back to life. There is nothing in this world I don’t believe in.”

 “The porter was holding a supposedly cursed artefact when he was shot.”

 “What happened to the artefact?”

 “It was stolen.”

 “Then you can forget all about it. Would you like another mystery to think about?”

 She passed me a torn piece of newspaper.

“Brown. 22 Pear Lane.” 

 “So, what is the address for?” I asked

 “I don’t know, it was wrapped in the folds of the blanket that Anne Farmer wore last night. I bet she left it here for us to find. We need to go to that address and find out why.” She had that stubborn look in her eye which meant I had as much chance of telling the sun not to rise as convincing her to change her mind.

 “I will go and check it out in the morning.”

 “I’m coming too and don’t tell me no because it might be dangerous.”

 I would never tell her, but I was glad for the company. Not wanting to look relived I signed with resignation.

 “Very well if you have to come along.”

Saturday 22nd September 1860

 Marked down as part of the slum clearances for the construction of the new underground railway, Pear Lane was mixture of dilapidated buildings and boarded up workshops. The street ended at a knacker’s yard. Thick plumes of foul-smelling smoke rose from its chimney filling the air with the stench of burnt flesh from rendering down horses.

 “Are you sure you got the right place?” the cab driver asked.

 “This is it,” Gertie said scrambling down from the cab.

 With no choice but to follow I paid the driver and clambered down on to the street.

 Lights from candles glowed faintly through the filth entrusted windows of some of the buildings. We passed a mangy looking cat. It gave us a baleful glance then returned to watching a scrawny pig snuffle through a pile of rubbish.

 Number twenty-two was a narrow two-story property. The downstairs window was boarded up while the upstairs window had a hole in the corner of the smoke blackened glass pane. There was no light inside and the property looked abandoned.

 Gertie thumped heavily against the door. The door buckled under the pressure and swung open.

 “Hello?” There was no response. “Guess nobody is home. Let’s have a quick look.”

 It was almost impossible to see anything in the gloom in the house. I took out a candle from my coat pocket. In the orange light the corridor ended with a ladder going up through a hole in the ceiling to the second floor above. There were two doors leading into the downstairs rooms.

 Several stained mattresses and rags covered the floor. The other room downstairs was also filled with bedding. With nothing downstairs there was only upstairs to check. I stuck my head up through the hole and froze.

 There was a man in the room. He lay on his stomach with his feet pointing towards me. He didn’t move. Something wasn’t right.

 “Hello,” I called out.

 The man didn’t respond. There seemed to be something sticking out of his back.

 Expecting the worse I climbed up through the hole in the floor. With the candle in my hand I approached the man. It was the hilt of a knife sticking out of his back.

 “Is he dead?” Gertie asked climbing into the room.

 I moved closer to the man’s head. He had thinning ginger hair. His eyes were open.

 “Nigel, he’s got something in his hand,” Gertie said. She was standing over his outstretched hand.

 “Don’t touch anything,” I said.

 I was too late. Using the tip of her shoe she pushed the arm turning it over to reveal his clenched fist. The man held the last thing I had been expecting.

 He clutched the Amulet of Nergal.

Saturday, 22nd September, continued.

“He’s one of the robbers,” I said.

“Anne sent us here to find him,” Gertie said. “She knew about the robbery. She must have foreseen it.”

“I’m not sure she can see the future,” I said with little conviction. “Why would she send us here?”

“To find the amulet. We have to take it.”

“It stays here. It is not ours to take. Even if it was do you really want that thing. Everybody that has it ends up dead.”

She looked at the amulet warily as if it might leap up and strike her.

The front door crashed open, hitting the wall with a thud. There were voices from the floor beneath us. We looked at each other in fear. We were no longer alone in the house…

What happens next is up to You!
The choices with the most votes will decide what happens next, so choose wisely from the options below.

 

Vote closes for the Fourth Instalment on

Thursday 22nd November at 8am GMT

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