Fifth Instalment of the Interactive Novel

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:

Whatever option receives the most votes decides what happens. To take part, read the instalment below and then make your vote.

Voting closes for the choices at the end of the Fifth Instalment on Thursday 29th November at 8am GMT

If your new to the interactive novel or what a refresher what has happened previously find a quick reminder below or read all the other instalments at http://www.theinteractivenovel.com

Previously in the Interactive Novel

After a terrifying encounter in a haunted house Nigel Briggs, assistant to Professor Ashcroft debunker of the supernatural, decides to resign. Before he can write his resignation letter he is summoned to the professor’s study where a girl, Anne Farmer, who hints she can foresee the future, requests his help. Moments latter a doctor from an asylum restrains her and takes her away. On leaving Nigel asked how the doctor managed to find her. The doctor reveals Anne had caved Nigel’s name and address into the walls of her cell.

The next morning Professor Ashcroft requests that Nigel accompany him to an auction. Going under the hammer is a supposedly cursed artefact (the Amulet of Nergal). However, the auction is interrupted by some armed robbers. During their robbery a porter is killed, and the amulet vanishes.

Returning home after the auction Nigel is handed a note by Gertie (a servant in the professor’s house). Gertie believes the note was left by the mysterious Anne Farmer. The note is an address of a property in a slum district of London. Exploring the property, Nigel and Gertie discover the body of one of the robbers from the auction house. In his hand is the cursed amulet.  Suddenly the door burst open and somebody enters the property…

Find out what you voted for with the next instalment below.

Saturday, 22nd September, continued.

I rushed over to the filth encrusted window. I rubbed my sleeve against the glass removing enough of the dirt to look outside. A pair of constables stood in the middle of the road holding back a crowd. Dressed in rags and patched up garments the crowd had been drawn from the slum houses along the street. The men, women and children were all jostling to watch the scene unfolding in front of them. I wondered in how many of the adjacent properties there were criminals hunching beneath the sills waiting for the police to leave before showing their faces. 

Drawing the crowd’s attention was a Black Maria parked outside the house. The Black Maria was a solid wooden box on wheels. With no windows and only a back door the carriage was designed for transporting criminals. Another constable sat at the reigns waiting to haul us off to prison.

My heart lurched into my throat. Had one of the inhabitants along the street seen us break in and rushed to the police? If so, the police were being heavy handed for a simple breaking and entering. I looked at the dead man lying a few feet away. They must have had a tip off that this was the hideout for the robbers.

 “It’s the police,” I whispered to Gertie.

“What do we do?” she whispered looking at the man at our feet. Neither of us wanted to have to explain what we were doing beside a dead body with a knife in his back.

The police were still searching the ground floor. Only once they were certain nobody was hiding below would they search upstairs. We had a matter of seconds before they climbed the ladder.

I glanced again out of the window. We were two stories up. We were trapped. If we tried to climb down the police would be waiting for us. If we tried to climb on to the roof we would be spotted.  Beside fleeing would only be misinterpreted as an indication of our guilt.

I racked my brains trying to think of what to do. I could only think of one option.

“Up here,” I cried out.

There was shouts from below acknowledging my cry.

Gertie gave me a questioning look.

“Remember we have done nothing wrong. Just tell the truth and we will be fine, Follow my lead,” I said.

We held our hands up beside our heads, palms open showing we had no concealed weapons. The ladder creaked. We looked at the hole in the floor and waited.

A constable cautiously climbed up through the hole. He spotted us first then notice the body between us.

“Oy you pair stay right there,” the constable barked. Without taking his eyes off us he cried out to the officers below. “I’ve got what looks like a dead man up here and two possible suspects.”

The constable scrambled up into the room followed by two more constables and a detective. The detective pointed the revolver in his hand at us. Two of the constables rushed towards me. My arms were yanked roughly round my back. I was then shoved face first against the wall. One of the constables held my arms while the other patted me down.

“Lets him go,” shouted Gertie. “You’re hurting him.”

She tried to rush over to me, but the remaining constable stepped in to her path. She wasn’t restrained. Instead the third held his truncheon over his head almost daring her to give him an excuse to use it.

“Stay where you are,” growled the constable.

Gertie looked at the detective pleadingly. He was studying the dead man.

 “We didn’t do anything,” Gertie said.

“Doesn’t look that way to me,” the detective said. He pointed his revolver at the knife. “It looks like you stabbed him in the back.”

“We didn’t do it,” Gertie insisted.

The detective knelt beside the body. He pressed his fingers against the man’s throat felling for a pulse. Finding nothing he rose back to his feet. “And you just happened to find him like this?”

“Yes,” I said through gritted teeth. The constables were making no attempt to be gentle as they held me pressed against the wall.

“Let me guess the knife just happened to jump in to his back?”

“Somebody else stabbed him,” Gertie said. “It wasn’t us. We don’t even know who he is.”

The detective didn’t look convinced. Spotting the amulet he frowned. He reached out for it. “What have we got here?”

“I wouldn’t touch that if I was you,” I warned.

“Is that a threat boy?” he said.

I shook my head rubbing my face painfully against the yellow plaster that shed away in small flecks.

“Then keep your mouth shut unless spoken to.”

The detective prized the amulet for the dead man’s hand. He walked over to the window and held it up to the light. Staring at it as if transfixed he rubbed his index finger along the surface of the amulet. He yelped and withdrew his finger. He waved his hand flicking specks of blood on the floor. A sharp edge had torn his finger tip open. Looking at me as it somehow was my fault, he pressed the bleeding finger between his lips.

“Get them both down to the station,” he mumbled sucking on the cut.

Gertie and I were manhandled to the hole in the floor. Climbing down the ladder I took one last look in the room. The detective was still by the window sucking his bleeding finger while he continued to stare at the amulet in his hand.

* * * *

At the police station Gertie and I were separated. I was thrown into a crowded cell full of thieves, thugs, and drunks. There was already a hierarchy in place amongst them. The senior criminals were sat on the two benches against the back wall of the cell. The drunks and lower ranking criminals either sat on the floor with their backs against the bars or paced around the cell. The cell stank. A full bucket of human waste sat in the corner, its contents spilling over on to the floor. The criminals didn’t seem to mind. As the barred door was shut, they looked at me with their predatory eyes. They knew I didn’t belong. Easy pickings.

“There has been a mistake,” I called out to the officer sat at the end of the hall. “I should be waiting in the reception.”

“Shut up boy, or I will go for a break.”

I glanced at the men around me. They were looking at me like wolves would eye up a tasty rabbit. The officer was the only one keeping them from devouring me.  Understanding the threat, I fell silent.

I pressed my forehead against the cold bars. I wondered if Gertie was facing similar conditions. We were in a right mess. I had made a brief statement on my arrival at the station, but the constable hadn’t looked overly convinced by my claims. It was possible we were going to be charged with murder. I just had to have faith that as long as Gertie and I kept to the truth we would be released.

“Oy little dandy,” one of the men hissed. Holding on to the bars I turned around. The speaker was a bald man with an ugly scar across the side of his face. “I like your shoes.”

I looked at my feet. The polished black leather stood out from the shabby boots and scuffled shoes of the other men. One of the men was even bare foot.

“I think they might be a bit small for you,” I said.

He stood up from the bench and crossed the cell to me. All the other men were watching in interest. The scarred man held out his filthy hands. “I will be the judge of that. Hand them over.”

* * * *

A couple of hours after arriving at the police station I was taken from the cell. Behind me I left a pair of shoes, my tie, jacket, waistcoat, cufflinks and hat. Their new owners looked on pleased as I was led away.

I was taken to an interrogation room in the back of the station. Apart from a table with a stool on one side and a pair of chairs on the other the bare bricked room was empty. I was told to sit on the hard stool to wait. Dressed in only my shirt I was cold. I rubbed my arms trying to get warm.

The door opened and in walked the detective that had arrested us. He had a bandage over his finger. Accompanying him was Chief Inspector Finch. Finch looked at me with surprise.

“Well if this isn’t a turn up for the books?” he said sitting down opposite me. He glanced down at his notes for my name. “Well, Nigel, does Arthur know where you are?”

“No, sir.”

“I didn’t think so,” he said. He nodded his head to the other detective. “This is my associate Detective Moore. As you can imagine we have a few questions for you. Do you know the identity of the deceased?”

“No sir, but I suspect he was one of the robbers from the auction house.”

“Do you now?” Finch said frowning. “And what makes you think that?”

“He was clutching an artefact that had been stolen from the auction.”

Finch frowned and looked over at Moore.  “I didn’t think we found any stolen items in the property?”

“Not that I have heard of, sir,” Moore said. Subconsciously his hand moved to rest on his jacket pocket. “But I will check with the other officers.”

Moore glared at me almost willing me to contradict him. I had watched him pick up the amulet. I wondered if the amulet was in his pocket right now, below where his hand rested. I opened my mouth to accuse him, then thought against it.

“Do you have something to say?” Finch asked.

I shook my head.

“Well Nigel it seems like you are mistaken. We have nothing to connect the deceased with yesterday’s robbers. The deceased is a Mr Peter Boden. He was an escaped patient from Elmwich Asylum. We had a tip off he was hiding at the property. Mr Boden was extremely dangerous. He had a previous history of…”

“Sorry, sir, but you did say Elmwich Asylum?”

Finch scowled. “I’m asking the questions Nigel. Now is there any relevance for your interruption?”

“Could be, sir. Miss Stubbs, the girl I was with, is a maid in Professor Ashcroft’s house. On Thursday evening an escaped patient, a Miss Anne Farmer, from Elmwich Asylum arrived at the Professor’s house demanding help.”

“So the asylum has poor security. What has got to do with you being found standing over a dead man?” Moore asked. His face had gone pale and sweat was beading on his forehead. Was he worried I would give him away for stealing the amulet.

“Guards from the asylum came and took her away. Yesterday Gertie found a note left by Miss Farmer. It was an address for the house where you found us.”

“What did the note say?”

“Just the address and the colour brown.”

“Is that your alibi?” Finch said sceptically. “You found a note and out of curiosity you went to investigate it and then you happened to stumble upon the deceased?”

“Yes.”

“I have another theory,” Moore said. He was sweating heavily. He didn’t look well at all. “You believed that Mr Boden was a robber from the auction. He had stolen something from you and you wanted it back. You found out where he lived and went to confront him unaware you got the wrong man. When he could not hand over the stolen item you stabbed him in the back, didn’t you?”

“No, it didn’t happen like that,” I insisted. “Ask Gertie about the note.”

“We will do,” Finch said. “So, enlighten us Nigel and tell us what you think happened?”

“Both Mr Boden and Miss Farmer were patients at Elmwich Asylum. Perhaps Miss Farmer wanted us to find Mr Boden. She might have worried he would get involved with the wrong people or was a danger to himself and others. She must have known that we would find him in Pear Lane so left the note.”

“There is a lot of speculation and not a lot of facts,” Finch said. “And why would she come to you of all people? Surely if she was worried about Mr Boden she would come to the police?”

“I don’t know. But you can ask her. She is back at Elmwich Asylum.”

Finch rose out of his chair. Moore staggered to his feet. He swayed slightly as if standing was an effort.

“Make yourself comfortable Nigel,” Finch said. “We are going to talk to Miss Stubbs and make some further enquiries.”

* * * *

It was early evening when Detective Moore returned. If anything his condition had worsened. He was sweating profusely, and his speech was slurred as he stated I was free to go. Staggering he led me to the reception where Professor Ashcroft was talking to Finch.  Smiling and joking the Professor didn’t look furious, he looked to be enjoying himself. To one side Gertie stood looking at her feet. She was uncharacteristically sheepish.

“You look awful,” Finch said as Moore staggered over to them.

“I think I’m coming down with something, sir” Moore wheezed.

“Get yourself out of here,” Finch said. “You’re not good to me if you can barely stand.” Moore stumbled away, and Finch turned to me.

“Right young man you are free to go. Professor Ashcroft here has vouched for you. He confirms your statement about the patient from Elmwich asylum. Miss Stubbs has also provided the note from Miss Farmer. Do not think this means you are completely off the hook. We will continue our enquiries and we may have further questions for you. Don’t plan on going on any trips. Good night Arthur.”

Finch left. Without a word the Professor spun on his heels and marched out of the station. Gertie and I followed him into the cab. It was an uncomfortable journey back to the Professor’s house. The Professor sat brooding, his fingers interlinked in front of his face. His good humour had been an act for Finch. Gertie and I sat in silence not daring to speak.

“Nigel my study,” the Professor said as we walked through the front door. He dropped his coat and hat into my arms.  “Miss Stubbs, I believe Mrs Cooper would like to have a word with you.”

Expecting me to hang his coat before following, he marched up the stairs.

“Looks like we are both in for it,” I said once I heard the study door shut.

“Least we are not going to jail. There would be nothing left of you by the end of the night,” Gertie said with a smile. I gave her a scathing look. “Nigel, I’ve been thinking about the note Anne left.”

“Now is not the time,” I said heading for the stairs.

She grabbed my hand.

“Listen, what if Anne knew where to find the dead man and the amulet because you will tell her.”

“You mean as in the future?”

“Yes.”

“Let me understand this. You’re suggesting that at some point in the future I will tell a patient at an asylum to leave a message that takes me to Pear Lane. Where we will be suspected of murder and arrested. Then through some miracle we are released without charge. Why would I do that?”

“You don’t know yet. It happens in the future.”

I smiled and shook my head. “I’ve got to see the Professor. Good luck with Mrs Cooper.”

 “I’m going to need it. I didn’t ask for permission to go out.”

I made my way up to his study. The Professor sat behind his desk. He had poured himself a large glass of whisky. I lowered myself on to the stool opposite him. From the floor below there was the muffled shouts of Mrs Cooper. Gertie was certainly getting an earful.

“Mrs Cooper is furious,” the Professor said taking a sip of his drink. “I am not happy either. You and Miss Stubbs are developing a worrying habit of getting into trouble. Mrs Cooper thinks it is Miss Stubbs who is the ringleader. I am not so sure.”

“It was me, sir. I asked Gertie to accompany me to the house. She didn’t want to come but I begged her as I didn’t want to go alone. It is all my fault not Gertie’s.”

“I am glad you are finally taking responsibility for your actions. Now what have you got yourself involved in this time Nigel? I sometimes wonder if you make it your life’s mission to frustrate me.”

“No sir…”

He held up his hand. “I am not in the mood for your excuses. I want to know everything. No keeping secrets.”

I told the Professor about Gertie finding the note, visiting 22 Pear Lane and my suspicion that Peter Boden was involved in the robbery.

“The police do not think the late Mr Boden was one of the robbers. They did not find any missing possessions.”

“He had the Amulet of Nergal in his hand when we found him. I saw Detective Moore pick the amulet up. I think he stole it.”

The Professor swirled the whisky around his glass.

“Those are serious allegations to make. Do you have any proof he took the amulet?”

“No, sir. That is why I did not tell Inspector Finch.”

“So, you are capable of prudent thought.” He drained the glass. “Now Nigel I suggest we draw a line in the sand over all this. Let us forget all about the amulet, the robbery and Miss Farmer. They are matters for the police. Just thank your lucky stars I have some influence and managed to persuade Chief Inspector Finch of your innocence. Now are we in agreement to put this ghastly business behind us?”

“Yes sir.” I said with every intention to comply.

Except unknown to me at that moment, circumstances beyond my control were conspiring to draw Elmwich Asylum and the cursed artefact back into my life.

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

Voting closes at the end of the Fifth Instalment on Thursday 29th November at 8am GMT

 

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