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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

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BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
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‘I doubt it. Hey! Taxi!' De Richleau waved an arm.

‘He can't have more than five minutes' start.'

‘Too much in a fifteen minute run.' The Duke's voice was grim as they climbed into the cab.

‘What d'you figure went amiss?'

‘I don't know for certain, but there is no doubt that our poor friend is completely under Mocata's influence, has been for months I expect. In such a case Mocata's power over him would be far stronger than my own which was only exercised, in the hope of protecting him, for the first time tonight. It was because I feared that Mocata might countermand my orders, even from a distance, and compel Simon to return that I placed the symbol of Light round his neck.'

‘And when Max took it off Mocata got busy on him eh?'

‘I think Mocata was at work before that. He probably witnessed everything that took place in a crystal or through a medium and exerted all his powers to cause Simon's neck to swell the moment he got into bed, hoping to break the ribbon that held the charm.'

Rex had not yet quite recovered from the shock of learning that so sane a man as De Richleau could seriously believe in all this gibberish about the occult. He was very far from being convinced himself, but he refrained from airing his scepticism and instead, as the taxi rattled north through Baker Street, he began to consider the practical side of their expedition. There had been eight men at least in Simon's house when they left it. He glanced towards the Duke. ‘Are you carrying a gun?'

‘No, and if I were it would be useless.'

‘Holy Smoke! You are bats or else I am.' Rex shrugged his broad shoulders and began to wonder if he was not living through some particularly vivid and horrible dream. Soon he would wake perhaps; sweating a little from the nightmare picture which De Richleau had drawn for him of age-old evil, tireless and vigilant, cloaked from the masses by modern scepticism yet still a potent force stalking the dark ways of the night, conjured into new life by strange delvers into ancient secrets for their unhallowed ends; but wake he must, to the bright, clear day and Simon's chuckle, over a tankard of Pirn's cup at luncheon, that such fantastic nonsense should centre about him even in a dream. Yet there was Tanith, so strange and wise and beautiful, looking as though she had just stepped out of a painting by some great master of the Italian Renaissance. It was no dream that he had at last actually met and spoken with her that evening at Simon's house, among all those strange people whom the Duke declared so positively to be Satan worshippers; and if she was flesh and blood they must be too.

On the north side of Lord's cricket ground, De Richleau stopped the taxi.
‘Better walk the rest of the way,' he murmured as he paid off the man. ‘Simon's arrived by now and it would be foolish to warn them of our coming.'

‘Thought you said Mocata was overlooking us with the evil eye?' Rex replied as they hurried along Circus Road.

‘He may be. I can't say, but possibly he thinks we would never dare risk a second visit to the house tonight. If we exercise every precaution we may catch him off his guard. He's just as vulnerable as any other human being except when he is actually employing his special powers.'

Side by side they passed through two streets where the low roofs of the old-fashioned houses were only faintly visible above the walls that kept them immune from the eyes of the curious, each set silent and vaguely mysterious, among its whispering trees; then they entered the narrow, unlit cul-de-sac.

Treading carefully now, they covered the two hundred yards to its end and halted, gazing up at the darkened mass of the upper stories which loomed above the high wall. Not a chink of light betrayed that the house was tenanted, although they knew that, apart from the servants, thirteen people had congregated there to perform some strange midnight ceremony little over an hour before.

‘Think they've cleared out?' Rex whispered.

‘I doubt it.' The Duke stepped forward and tried the narrow door. It was fast locked.

‘Can't we call the police in to raid the place?'

De Richleau shrugged impatiently. ‘What could we charge them with that a modern station-sergeant would understand?'

‘Kidnapping!' Rex urged below his breath. ‘If I were back home I'd have the strong-arm squad here in under half an hour. Get the whole bunch pinched and gaoled pending trial. They'd be out of the way then for a bit, even if I had to pay up heavy damages afterwards, and meantime we'd pop Simon in a mental home till he got his wits back.'

‘Rex! Rex!' The Duke gave a low, delighted chuckle. ‘It's an enchanting idea, and if we
were
in the States I really believe we might pull it off, but here it's impossible.'

‘What do you figure to do then?'

‘Go in and see if Simon has returned.'

‘I'm game, but the odds are pretty heavy.'

‘If we're caught we must run for it.'

‘O.K., but if we fail to make our get-away they'll call the police and have
us
gaoled for housebreaking.'

‘No–no,' De Richleau muttered. ‘They won't want to draw the attention of the police to their activities, and the one thing that matters is to get Simon out of here.'

‘All right.' Rex placed his hands on his knees, and stooping his great shoulders, leaned his head against the wall. ‘Up you go.'

The Duke bent towards him. ‘Listen!' he whispered. ‘Once we're inside we've got to stick together whatever happens. God knows what they've used this house of Simon's for, but the whole place reeks of evil.'

‘Oh damn!' Rex muttered contemptuously.

‘I mean it,' De Richleau insisted. ‘If you take that attitude I'd rather go in alone. This is the most dangerous business I've ever been up against, and if it
wasn't for the thought of Simon nothing on earth would tempt me to go over this wall in the middle of the night.'

‘Oh, all right. Have it your own way.'

‘You'll obey me implicitly, every word I say?'

‘Yes, don't fret yourself…'

‘Good, and remember you are to bolt for it the instant I give the word, because the little knowledge that I possess may only protect us for a very fleeting space of time.' The Duke clambered on to Rex's shoulders and heaved himself up on to the coping. Rex stepped back a few yards and took a flying leap; next second he had scrambled up beside De Richleau. For a moment they both sat astride the wall peering down into the shadows of the garden, then they dropped silently into a flower-border on the other side.

‘The first thing is to find a good line of retreat in case we have to get out in a hurry,' breathed the Duke.

‘What about this?' Rex whispered back, slapping the trunk of a well-grown laburnum tree.

De Richleau nodded silently. One glance assured him that with the aid of the lower branches two springs would bring them to the top of the wall. Then he moved at a quick, stealthy run across a small open space of lawn to the shelter of some bushes that ran round the side of the house.

From their new cover Rex surveyed the side windows. No glimmer of light broke the expanse of the rambling old mansion. As the Duke moved on, he followed, until the bushes ended at the entrance of a back yard, evidently giving on to the kitchen quarters.

‘Have a care,' he whispered, jerking De Richleau's sleeve. ‘They may have a dog.'

‘They couldn't,' replied the Duke positively. ‘Dogs are simple, friendly creatures but highly psychic. The vibrations in a place where Black Magic was practised would cause any dog to bolt for a certainty.' With light, quick, padding steps he crossed the yard and came out into the garden on the far side of the house.

Here too every window was shrouded in darkness and an uncanny stillness brooded over the place.

‘I don't like it,' whispered De Richleau. ‘Simon can't have been back more than a quarter of an hour at the outside–so there ought still to be lights in the upper rooms. Anyhow, it looks as if the others have gone home, which is something. We must chance an ambush.'

He pointed to a narrow, ground floor window. ‘That's probably the lavatory, and most people forget to close their lavatory windows, come on!'

Silently Rex followed him across the grass, then gripping him by the knees, heaved him up until he was well above the level of the sill.

The sash creaked, the upper half of the window slid down, and the Duke's head and shoulders disappeared inside.

For a moment Rex watched his wriggling legs, heard a bump, followed by a muffled oath, and then clambered up on to the sill.

‘Hurt yourself?' he whispered, as De Richleau's face appeared, a pale blot in the darkness.

‘Not much, though this sort of thing is not amusing for a man of my age. The door here is unlocked, thank goodness.'

Immediately Rex was inside, the Duke squatted down on the floor. ‘Take off your shoes,' he ordered. ‘And your socks.'

‘Shoes if you like, though we'll hurt our feet if we have to run, but why the socks?'

‘Don't argue, we waste time.'

‘Well, what now?' Rex muttered after a moment.

‘Put your shoes on again and the socks over them, then you can run as fast as you like.' As Rex obeyed the Duke went on in a low voice. ‘Not a sound now. I really believe the others have gone, and if Mocata is not lying in wait for us, we may be able to get hold of Simon. If we come up against that black servant, for God's sake remember not to look at his eyes.'

With infinite care he opened the door and peered out into the darkened hall. A faint light from an upper window showed the double doors that led to the salon standing wide open. He listened intently for a moment, then slipping out stood aside for Rex to follow, and gently closed the door behind them.

Their footsteps, now muffled by the socks, were barely audible as they stole across the stretch of parquet. When they reached the salon De Richleau carefully drew aside a blind. The dim starlight was just sufficient to show the outlines of the gilded furniture, and they could make out plates and glasses left scattered upon the buhl and marquetry tables.

Rex picked up a goblet two-thirds full of champagne and held it so that the Duke could see the wine still in it.

De Richleau nodded. The Irish Bard, the Albino, the one-armed Eurasian, the hare-lipped man and the rest of that devilish company must have taken fright when he and Rex had forcibly abducted Simon, and fled, abandoning their unholy operations for the night. He gently replaced the blind and they crept back into the hall.

One other door opened off it besides those to the servants' quarters and the vestibule. De Richleau slowly turned the knob and pressed. The room was a small library, and at the far end a pair of uncurtained french-windows showed the garden, ghostly and mysterious in the starlight. Leaving Rex by the door, the Duke tiptoed across the room, drew the bolts, opened the windows and propped them wide. From where he stood he could just make out the laburnum by the wall. A clear retreat was open to them now. He turned, then halted with a sharp intake of breath. Rex had disappeared.

‘Rex!' he hissed in a loud whisper, gripped by a sudden nameless fear. ‘Rex!' But there was no reply.

5
Embodied Evil

De Richleau had been involved in so many strange adventures in his long and chequered career, that instinctively his hand flew to the pocket where he kept his automatic at such times, but it was flat. In a fraction of time it had come back to him that this was no affair of shootings and escapes, but a grim struggle against the Power of Darkness, in which their only protection must be an utter faith in the ultimate triumph of good, and the use of such little power as he possessed to bring into play the great forces of the Power of Light.

In two strides he had reached the door, grabbed the electric switch, and pressed it as he cried in ringing tones: ‘
Fundamenta ejus in montibus sanctis!
'

‘What the hell!' exclaimed Rex as the light flashed on. He was at the far side of the hall, carefully constructing a booby trap of chairs and china in front of the door that led to the servants' quarters.

‘You've done it now,' he added, with his eyes riveted upon the upper landing, but nothing stirred and the pall of silence descended upon the place again until they could hear each other's quickened breathing.

‘The house is empty,' Rex declared after a moment. ‘If there were anyone here they'd have been bound to hear you about. It echoed from the cellars to the attics.'

De Richleau was regarding him with an angry stare. ‘You madman,' he snapped. ‘Don't you understand what we're up against? We must not separate for an instant in this unholy place, even now that the lights are on.'

Rex smiled. He had always considered the Duke as the most fearless man he knew, and to see him in such a state of nerves was a revelation. ‘I'm not scared of bogeys, but I am of being shot up from behind,' he said simply. ‘I was fixing this so we'd hear the servants if there was trouble upstairs and they came up to help Mocata.'

‘Yes, but honestly, Rex, it is imperative that we should keep as near each other as possible every second we remain in this ghastly house. It may sound childish, but I ought to have told you before that if anything weired does happen we must actually hold hands. That will quadruple our resistance to evil by attuning our vibrations towards good. Now let's go upstairs and see if they have really gone, though I can hardly doubt it.'

Rex followed marvelling. This man who was frightened of shadows and talked of holding hands at a time of danger was so utterly different to the De Richleau that he knew. Yet as he watched the Duke mounting the stairs in swift, panther-like, noiseless strides he felt that since he was so scared this midnight visitation was a fresh demonstration of his courage.

On the floor above they made a quick examination of the bedrooms, but all of them were unoccupied and none of the beds had been slept in.

BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
5.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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