top of page

Chapter 13......... The Violinist

Blood trickled down Silas’ chest. It felt like it could have been sweat but it was sticky and itched and his head was spinning too much to worry about it. He forced the shaking muscles of his neck backwards again, eyes glazed over. If he didn’t, the heretic’s fork would pierce straight through his jaw, straight into the roof of his mouth. Maybe straight up into his brains. No. It wasn’t long enough for that. Was it? Maybe it was. The room shifted suddenly like he’d missed a step on a staircase, and he flinched.

Maybe he could tell Lord Carson that he…

You’re going to die, his mind told him. His knees felt like someone had pounded nails into the joints. Blood kept trickling down his chest. He realized he wasn’t breathing and pulled in a shallow breath, which made the room spin.

He could tell Lord Carson that it had been his idea to go get a marriage license. Faye wasn’t to blame… Did that make sense? He stopped breathing, confused for a moment. No, it wasn’t about the marriage. It was the book.

That blasted book.

Who had given it to him? The violinist. The violinist had given him the book. And he was not supposed to tell Lord Carson that.

But why?

You’re going to die, his brain told him. The fork cut into the soft skin under his chin and he yanked his screaming muscles back again. He needed to tell Lord Carson that he…

Blood trickling down. He needed to breathe. The room spun, twisting and morphing. Like the book had. Like the book had? Books didn’t twist or morph. That wasn’t real. It couldn’t have been. Why couldn’t he concentrate?

You’re going to die, his brain reminded him.

“Gaines, would you take this to the post?” Lord Carson asked. The sound of his voice jolted Silas out of his mental fog for a moment. He could only see Carson out of the corner of his eye. He was holding out a freshly sealed envelope. “And bring back anything else that’s arrived today.”

Gaines took the letter, bowed, and walked out the door. Lord Carson shifted the papers on his desk and picked up a page, reading it in the candlelight. He nodded, signed at the bottom, and set it to the side. Silas realized with dismay that Carson was going about his normal business activities as if nothing were out of the ordinary. He tried to swallow, winced, and his eyes glazed over again.

He could take this for maybe half an hour longer, and then he would pass out. His head would tip forward into the fork and he could almost hear the crunch it would make as it speared through his jaw. Crunch. Fear rushed like a liquid into his chest and he forced it back down again. They didn’t want to kill him. It sounded as if they weren’t allowed to. He forced his brain to think, ignoring the pain and the headache and the screaming muscles and the incessant ticking of the clock in the corner. Someone should smash the blasted thing.

There was one more thing he could try. Yes. He’d make something up. It wasn’t a long-term solution, but it would make the pain stop.

“His name…” he strained to talk. His throat was so dry he could only manage a hoarse whisper. “Benjamin Flanders… accountant from the south.”

Lord Carson looked up and thought a minute. “I can have my men look into it, but I must warn you, if I find you’ve sent us on a wild goose chase, I will have you put back in the heretic’s fork for the full twenty hours.”

Silas felt his heart freeze and the world go spinning. “Never mind,” he said.

“I thought as much.” Lord Carson looked back down at his desk. “Waters should be back any time now with your wife.”

With who? Oh. Faye. He’d like to see her.

No, he wouldn’t! Not here. Why were they bringing Faye? He pulled at the ropes around his wrists. He couldn’t feel his hands or feet anymore. His knees ached. It felt like someone had pounded nails into the joints. The world swayed.

Maybe Silas should tell him about the violinist. Surely the man would be in hiding by now. It most likely wouldn’t hurt to tell them who he was.

And if he was wrong, he might cause someone a tortured and agonizing death. But it wasn’t fair. What did he have to do with any of this?

Time blurred together and he stopped being able to register his surroundings. Even the incessant ticking of the clock in the corner faded away. You’re going to die, you’re going to die, you’re going to die. Where did he leave his hat? Must tell father that Faye wasn’t to blame.

He wanted to pass out now. But his body adamantly clung to consciousness. It did, however, begin to shiver uncontrollably. He couldn’t stop it. It wasn’t him anymore. He wasn’t his body. He forced his head back. Blood was trickling slowly down his neck.

“The violinist,” he croaked. “It… was the guest violinist. The… foreigner.”

Lord Carson looked up and took his glasses off, shaking his head. “Mr. Lawrence, I don’t like this situation any more than you do. But one more lie, and I will leave you there until you starve to death.”

“Oh,” Silas said, feeling only a mild sense of horror. Or it could have been amusement. Where had he left his hat? “It’s… true, though.”

“Mm,” Carson muttered.

Silas wished he could hurry up and die. That didn’t bother him at this point. Everything hurt too much.

Finally, the room started going black, then fading back in, then going black again. There was an awful sound coming from above him like a bell that, once struck, never stopped ringing.

Suddenly there was a loud crash and he jumped, stifling a cry as the fork punctured deep into his skin.

“Enter,” Lord Carson called, taking off his glasses and setting them on the table.

It had only been a knock? It sounded like someone had tipped a grand piano over. And now he was more conscious and that was a real shame.

Someone came in, shutting the door behind him. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Lord Carson,” he said. “But I heard something yesterday about…” he trailed off when he caught sight of Silas in the corner.

Silas squinted, not understanding. It was the violinist. He must be hallucinating.

“You… you’re the one…” the violinist looked back at Lord Carson.

“You know this man, Pierre?”

The violinist blinked and turned back to Lord Carson, walking to the desk. “Well, it’s what I came here to tell you,” he started as Lord Carson beckoned him to sit. “Before I left England, someone from the Order approached me with a copy of the Dascyleum Text and said that I was to bring it to Boston with me and give it to another messenger who would send it on to the top.”

Silas tried to understand. Wasn’t that the violinist? He’d given him the book. Why was he here?

“And you gave it to Silas Lawrence,” Lord Carson finished, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“I didn’t mean… I thought…” Pierre cleared his throat. “He came to the place I was meant to meet the agent and seemed to be expecting it. Given his relations, I assumed…”

“And what made you come to me now?”

“When I heard you were looking for a member of the Fellowship with the book, I thought you’d value this information.”

“Who ordered the transport?”

“I don’t know. A man gave it to me at the port in Liverpool before my ship departed. He didn’t give me his name.”

“And you believed him?”

“He had the sign,” the violinist said, pulling up his shirt sleeve. Silas couldn’t see what he was showing Lord Carson. “He had the sign and when I asked him for a cigarette, he replied that he only smoked on Hallow’s Eve, exactly like the code dictates.”

“I see.” Lord Carson glanced at Silas.

Hallow’s Eve, Silas thought. Heavens, he’d give anything for a cigarette right now.

“I waited just inside the backstage,” the violinist finished. “He came to retrieve the book there like I was told he would.”

Retrieve the book?

“No…” Silas whispered, forcing himself part way back to reality. “I didn’t… I was seeing a… student.”

Lord Carson and the violinist shared a glance.

“Thank you, Pierre. Would you wait outside?”

The violinist stood and Silas felt a dizzy sense of disappointment. He’d wanted to strangle him. Pierre nodded uncomfortably and stepped outside the study. Lord Carson regarded Silas a moment, then walked to him and untied the leather thong around his throat, taking away the fork.

As soon as it was gone, Silas bent his neck down and almost screamed at the pain of pulling the cramped muscles the opposite direction. His eyes watered and he blinked and collapsed into the wall to lean his head against it. The world went dark then he closed his eyes, or he closed his eyes then the world went dark. It was hard to say. He felt like he was going to be sick.

There was another knock at the door, but Silas had found a position that wasn’t excruciatingly painful and paid it no mind. Someone opened the door and footsteps walked inside, speaking in low voices. The door shut and a chair squeaked.

“Do you care to explain how this happened?” Carson asked, in a tone as cold as a knife.

“With all due respect, mi’lord.” Silas recognized Waters’ voice and looked up. “No one could ‘ha known four armed men would be there to stop us. But I don’t think Mrs. Lawrence or the others even knew the blokes. They seemed more surprised than we were. It must’a been Fellowship.”

Lord Carson shook his head. “That doesn’t sound like Fellowship. Are you sure you didn’t notice anything else?”

Waters scuffed his shoe on the carpet. “No. Soon as they’d escaped, the men ran off. Poor Beni’s dying, and Ferris might lose his hand. I swear it was as if they were waiting for us.”

Faye was safe. Relief flooded Silas so much he could have cried.

Lord Carson caught Silas staring. “It seems your wife has friends in interesting places. You don’t know anything about these grey men, do you?”

Silas thought about saying ‘no’ but decided to close his eyes instead.

Lord Carson leaned back. “This grows more and more curious.” He shook his head. “Just when I’m starting to wonder if you really do know nothing, something like this happens and makes me think you’ve been playing games with us all along.”

Not this again. “What if,” Silas said. His throat was so dry he couldn’t manage more than a whisper. “What if I fetched the book and brought it to you?” he coughed. “You know who gave it to me now. That’s what you wanted, right?”

Lord Carson frowned and tapped his fingers on the table. “Waters, where is Mrs. Lawrence?”

Waters glanced at Silas apologetically. “We’re working on it, mi’lord. They gave us the slip, but we’ll find her.”

“Byers, go join the other searchers.” The man sitting by Waters nodded and got up, leaving the study. “Waters, take Mr. Lawrence downstairs again. I’ll ask Count Evans what to do. Perhaps he will have a better perspective on this jumble of events.”

“Sure, mi’lord, and then I can go –”

“You are still on guard duty for the next month, if I remember correctly.”

Waters tipped his head. “Right, mi’lord.”

“Make it two, for your extraordinarily ineffectual efforts today.”

Waters looked like he’d been punched in the stomach, but he managed a tight smile. “Of course, mi’lord.”

“Go,” Lord Carson waved him away.

Waters walked to Silas and knelt next to him, taking out a pocketknife and sawing away the ropes on his ankles. He left his wrists tied and stood, pulling Silas to his feet. Silas blacked out. When he came to a moment later, Waters was dragging him out the door. Silas winced and caught his feet, which were still mostly numb, and tried to walk. His knees felt like someone had driven nails into the joints and they collapsed under his weight. Waters did most of the work as Silas leaned against him, pale, for support.

They shuffled down the hall and the huge front door, with heavenly light flooding through the windows, stood in front of them. There was a clear path to it, and the house seemed deserted. Silas glanced at Waters.

“I don’t suppose you could…” he coughed, gesturing to his hands.

“Soon as we’re downstairs,” Waters said.

Silas opened his mouth, but Waters interrupted.

“Everyone runs,” he said with an apologetic smile.

“Oh,” said Silas, staring at the windows in the door and the beautiful sunlight. It hurt his eyes to look at, but he didn’t look away until they stepped inside the stairway to the basement. It wasn’t as if it really mattered in the end. He wasn’t sure he could even walk on his own at the moment.

Waters shut the door behind them, closing them in darkness. The darkness was so much more oppressive than it had been before, and it felt like something inside Silas was dying. He bit his lip hard to keep himself from breaking into tears. Waters had to half-carry him down. At the base of the stairs, he took his arm from Silas’ and cut the ropes from his hands.

Without thinking, Silas turned and landed an elbow in Waters’ face as hard as he could manage. Waters howled and jumped back, drawing the revolver and bringing a hand to his nose, which Silas was vaguely pleased to see was bleeding. He didn’t wait for Waters to yell at him, but turned and limped slowly into the cell, collapsing onto the cot. Waters followed with a scowl and kicked the cell door shut.

“Dat was udcalled for,” he said, pinching his nose.

“Was it?” Silas whispered hoarsely.

His hands tingled as the blood made its way back into them.

“You cou-d hab broke’d id.”

Silas ignored him, staring blearily at the ceiling. He was exhausted. He couldn’t move a muscle. If he did, he was going to throw up. But he couldn’t close his eyes either because the moment he did, the world went spinning like a vortex. He laid there struggling between consciousness and vomiting for probably an hour. Eventually he could close his eyes without the world spinning.

Waters finally broke the silence some time later.

“That wife of yours,” he said. “She’s something. You’re a lucky man, you know that? I mean… wow.”

“Shut up.”

“She’s alright, you know. Like I told Carson, those men burst in on our conversation and in the commotion she and the other two ran off. She’s plenty safe.”

Silas didn’t respond.

“They’re going to believe you in the end. I know you don’t have anything to do with the Fellowship, and as soon as they figure that out for themselves, you’ll be back grading all the dull Latin papers your heart could dream of and never give us a second thought.”

“If you say so.”

Waters leaned back against a post and took out a pack. “Cigarette?”

“No,” Silas said, but he glanced at the pack and couldn’t help staring.

“Here,” Waters leaned forward and held one out to him.

Silas pushed himself up to take it and Waters lit it for him.

“I hate you,” Silas said, blowing a puff of smoke into the air and falling back onto the cot. “The whole lot of you.”

“I know.” Waters shook out the match.



7 views

My dear reader, I am sorry to say I can’t spare much time for letter-writing today, as a misunderstanding involving an important library...

bottom of page