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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

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BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
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For a moment Simon seemed to waver. All his faith in De Richleau's judgment, knowledge, and love for him urged him to agree, but at that moment Mocata's musical lisping voice cut in upon the silence, calling from the landing just below:

‘Simon, the others have come. It is time.'

‘Coming,' called Simon, then he looked at the two friends with whom he had risked his life in the ‘Forbidden Territory.' ‘I can't,' he said with an effort, ‘You heard, it's too late to back out now.'

‘Then let us remain, please,' begged the Duke.

‘No, I'm sorry.' A new firmness had crept into Simon's tone, ‘but I must ask you to go now.'

‘Very well.'

De Richleau stepped forward as though to shake hands then, with almost incredible swiftness, his arm flew back and next second his fist caught Simon a smashing blow full beneath the jaw.

The action was so sudden, so unexpected, that Simon was caught completely off his guard. For a fraction of time he was lifted from his feet, then he crashed senseless on his back and slid spread-eagled across the polished floor.

‘Have you gone crazy?' Rex exploded.

‘No, we've got to get him out of here, save him from himself, don't argue! Quick!' Already De Richleau was kneeling by the crumpled body of his friend.

Rex needed no further urging. He had been in too many tight corners with the Duke to doubt the wisdom of his decisions however strange his actions might appear. In one quick heave he dragged Simon's limp form across his shoulders and started for the stairs.

‘Steady!' ordered the Duke. ‘I'll go first and tackle anyone who tries to stop us. You get him to the car, understood?'

‘What if they raise the house? You'll never be able to tackle the whole bunch on your own?'

‘In that case drop him. I'll get him out somehow while you protect my rear. Come on!'

With De Richleau leading they crept down the first flight of stairs. On the landing he paused and peered cautiously over the banisters. No sound came from below. ‘Rex,' he whispered.

‘Yep.'

‘If that black servant I told you of appears, for God's sake don't look at
his eyes. Watch his hands and hit him in the belly.'

‘O.K.'

A moment later they were down the second flight. The hall was empty and only a vague murmur of conversation came to them from behind the double doors that led to the salon.

‘Quick!' urged the Duke. ‘Mocata may come out to look for him any moment.'

‘Right,' Rex, bent double beneath his burden, plunged down the last stairs, and De Richleau was already halfway across the hall when the dumb servant suddenly appeared from the vestibule.

For a second he stood there, his sallow face a mask of blank surprise then, side-stepping the Duke with the agility of a rugby forward, he lowered his bullet head and charged Rex with animal ferocity.

‘Got you,' snapped De Richleau, for although the man had dodged with lightning speed he had caught his wrist in passing. Then, flinging his whole weight upon it as he turned, he jerked the fellow clean off his feet and sent him spinning, head-first against the wall.

As his head hit the panelling the mute gave an uncouth grunt and rolled over on the floor, but he staggered up again and dashed towards the salon. Rex and the Duke were already pounding down the tiled path and in another second they had flung themselves into the lane through the entrance in the garden wall.

‘Thank God,' gasped the Duke as he wrenched open the door of the Hispano. ‘I believe that hellish crew would have killed us rather than let us get Simon out of there alive.'

‘Well, I suppose you do know what you're doing,' Rex muttered as he propped Simon up on the back seat of the car. ‘But I'm not certain you're safe to be with.'

‘Home.' ordered De Richleau curtly to the footman, who was hiding his astonishment at their sudden exit by hastily tucking the rug over their knees. Then he smiled at Rex a trifle grimly. ‘I suppose I do seem a little mad to you, but you can't possibly be expected to appreciate what a horribly serious business this is. I'll explain later.'

In a few moments they had left the gloom of the quiet streets behind and were once more running through well-lit ways towards Mayfair, but Simon was still unconscious when they pulled up in Curzon Street before Errol House.

‘I'll take him,' volunteered Rex. ‘The less the servants have to do with this the better,' and picking up Simon in his strong arms as though he was a baby, he carried him straight upstairs to the first floor where De Richleau's flat was situated.

‘Put him in the library,' said the Duke, who had paused to murmur something about a sudden illness to the porter, when he arrived on the landing a moment later. ‘I'll get something to bring him round from the bathroom.'

Rex nodded obediently, and carried Simon into a room in the Curzon Street flat, memorable for the unique collection of rare and beautiful objects which it contained. A Tibetan Buddha seated upon the Lotus; bronze figurines from ancient Greece; beautifully chased rapiers of Toledo steel, and Moorish pistols inlaid with
turquoise and gold; ikons from Holy Russia set with semi-precious stones and curiously carved ivories from the East.

As Rex laid Simon upon the wide sofa he glanced round him with an interest unappeased by a hundred visits, at the walls lined shoulder high with beautifully bound books, and at the lovely old colour prints, interspersed with priceless historical documents and maps, which hung above them.

De Richleau, when he joined him, produced a small crystal bottle which he held beneath Simon's nose. ‘No good trying to talk to him tonight,' he remarked, ‘but I want to bring him round sufficiently to put him to sleep again.

Rex grunted. ‘That sounds like double-dutch to me.'

‘No. I mean to fight these devils with their own weapons, as you will see.'

Simon groaned a little, and as his eyes flickered open the Duke took a small round mirror from his pocket. ‘Simon,' he said softly, moving the lamp a little nearer, ‘look upward at my hand.'

As he spoke De Richleau held the mirror about eighteen inches from Simon's forehead and a little above the level of his eyes, so that it caught and reflected the light of the lamp on to his lids.

‘Hold it lower,' suggested Rex. ‘He'll strain his eyes turning them upwards like that.'

‘Quiet,' said the Duke sharply. ‘Simon, look up and listen to me. You have been hurt and have a troubled mind, but your friends are with you and you have no need to worry any more.'

Simon opened his eyes again and turned them upwards to the mirror, where they remained fixed.

‘I am going to send you to sleep, Simon,' De Richleau went on softly. ‘You need rest and you will awake free from pain. In a moment your eyes will close and then your head will feel better.'

For another half-minute he held the mirror steadily reflecting the light upon Simon's retina, then he placed the first and second fingers of his free hand upon the glass with his palm turned outward and made a slow pass from it towards the staring eyes, which closed at once before he touched them.

‘You will sleep now,' he continued quietly, ‘and you will not wake until ten o'clock tomorrow morning. Directly you awake you will come straight to me either here or in my bedroom and you will speak to no one, nor will you open any letter or message which may be brought to you, until you have seen me.'

De Richleau paused for a moment, put down the mirror and lifted one of Simon's arms until it stood straight above his head. When he released it the arm did not drop but remained stiff and rigid in the air.

‘Most satisfactory,' he murmured cheerfully to Rex. ‘He is in the second stage of hypnosis already and will do exactly what he is told. The induction was amazingly easy, but of course, his half-conscious state simplified it a lot.'

Rex shook his head in disapproval. ‘I don't like to see you monkey with him like this. I wouldn't allow it if it was anyone but you.'

‘A prejudice based upon lack of understanding, my friend. Hypnotism in proper hands is the greatest healing power in the world.' With a quick shrug the Duke moved over to his desk and, unlocking one of the lower drawers,
took something from it, then he returned to Simon and addressed him in the same low voice.

‘Open your eyes now and sit up.'

Simon obeyed at once and Rex was surprised to see that he looked quite wide awake and normal. Only a certain blankness about the face betrayed his abnormal state, and he displayed no aversion as De Richleau extended the thing he had taken from the drawer. It was a small golden swastika set with precious stones and threaded on a silken ribbon.

‘Simon Aron,' the Duke spoke again. ‘With this symbol I am about to place you under the protection of the power of Light. No being or force of Earth, or Air, of Fire, or Water can harm you while you wear it.'

With quick fingers he knotted the talisman round Simon's neck and went on evenly: ‘Now you will go to the spare bedroom. Ring for my man Max and tell him that you are staying here tonight. He will provide you with everything you need and, if your throat is parched from your recent coma, ask him for any soft drink you wish, but no alcohol remember. Peace be upon you and about you. Now go.'

Simon stood up at once and looked from one to the other of them. ‘Good night,' he said cheerfully, with his quick natural smile. ‘See you both in the morning,' then he promptly walked out of the room.

‘He… he's not really asleep is he?' asked Rex, looking a little scared.

‘Certainly, but he will remember everything that has taken place tomorrow because he is not in the deep somnambulistic state where I could order him to forget. To achieve that usually takes a little practice with a new subject.'

‘Then he'll be pretty livid I'll promise you. Fancy hanging a Nazi swastika round the neck of a professing Jew.'

‘My dear Rex! Do please try and broaden your outlook a little. The swastika is the oldest symbol of wisdom and right thinking in the world. It has been used by every race and in every country at some time or other. You might just as well regard the Cross as purely Christian, when we all know it was venerated in early Egypt, thousands of years before the birth of Christ. The Nazis have only adopted the swastika because it is supposed to be of Aryan origin and part of their programme aims at welding together a large section of the Aryan race. The vast majority of them have no conception of its esoteric significance and even if they bring discredit upon it, as the Spanish Inquisition did upon the Cross, that could have no effect upon its true meaning.'

‘Yes, I get that, though I doubt if it'll make any difference to Simon's resentment when he finds it round his neck tomorrow. Still, that's a minor point. What worries me is this whole box of tricks this evening. I've got a feeling you ought to be locked up as downright insane, unless it's me.'

De Richleau smiled. ‘A strange business to be happening in modern London, isn't it? But let's mix a drink and talk it over quietly.'

‘Strange! Why, if it were true it would be utterly fantastic, but it's not. All this hooha about Black Magic and talking hocus-pocus while you hang silly charms round Simon's neck is utter bunk.'

‘It is?' The Duke smiled again as he tipped a lump of ice into Rex's glass and handed it to him. ‘Well, let's hear
your
explanation of Simon's bizarre behaviour. I suppose you do consider that'

‘Of course, but nothing like as strange as you're trying to make out. As I see
it Simon's taken up spiritualism or something of the kind and plenty of normal earnest people believe in that, but you know what he is when he gets keen on a thing, everything else goes to the wall and that's why he has neglected you a bit.

‘Then this evening he was probably sick as mud to miss our dinner, but had a séance all fixed that he couldn't shelve at the last moment. We butt in on his party, and naturally he doesn't care to admit what he's up to is in any way odd, so he spins a yarn about it being an astronomical society. So you, who've read a sight too many books, and seem to have stored up all the old wives' tales your nurse told you in your cradle, get a bee in your bonnet and slog the poor mut under the jaw.'

De Richleau nodded. ‘I can hardly expect you to see it any other way at the moment, but let's start at the beginning. Do you agree that after knocking him out I called into play a supernormal power in order to send him cheerfully off to bed without a single protest?'

‘Yes, even the doctors admit hypnotic influence now, and Simon would never have stood for you tying that swastika under his chin if he'd been conscious.'

‘Good. Then at least we are at one on the fact that certain forces can be called into play which the average person does not understand. Now, if instead of practising that comparatively simple exercise in front of you, I had done it before ignorant natives, who had never heard of hypnotism, they would term it magic, would they not?'

‘Sure.'

‘Then go a step further. If, by a greater exertion of the same power, I levitated, that is to say, lifted myself to a height of several inches from this floor, you might not use the word
magic
but you would class that feat in the same category as the ignorant native would place the easier one, because it is something which you have always thought impossible.'

‘That's true.'

‘Well, I am not sufficient of an adept to perform the feat, but will you accept my assurances that I've seen it done, not once, but a number of times?'

‘If you say so, but from all I've heard about such things, the fellows you saw didn't leave the ground at all. It is just mass hypnotism exercised upon the whole audience, like the rope trick.'

‘As you wish, but that explanation does not rob me of my point. If you admit that I can tap an unknown power to make Simon obey my will, and that an Eastern mystic can tap that power to the far greater extent of making a hundred people's eyes deceive them into believing that he is standing on thin air, you admit that there
is
a power and that it can be tapped in greater degrees according to the knowledge and proficiency of the man who uses it.'

BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
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