Tall Story (part 8) – Issue A5

Richard’s heart pounded as he and Audrey walked up the gravel drive and stopped at the huge, solid oak doors of Fedora’s mansion. As Audrey pulled on the purple velvet rope that hung just to the right of the doors, Richard glanced to the left and caught sight of the ornate railings that framed the small set of steps that he’d descended just a week or so ago. His thoughts strayed to the sight of Fedora lying motionless on the blood-soaked rug, apparently lifeless. He winced as he remembered the searing pain from his palm as he wrenched out the stem of the brandy glass.
“Welcome Sir, Madam. Your names please.” Richard was snapped back to reality by the sound of the butler’s voice – a weak, semi-baritone now in older life, but which still had echoes of a former strength.
“Mr and Mrs Cooperman,” said Audrey.
“Ah, yes. I believe Lord Chattering has been waiting for you. Do come in.”
Audrey, Richard and the butler walked sedately through the grand entrance hall towards another set of huge, solid oak doors. The butler pushed them surprisingly gently and they opened to reveal a scene lifted straight from the pages of a Dickensian novel.
The vast living room was quite dimly lit, no doubt an aid to promoting an atmosphere suited to the night. A roaring, log fire was spitting and sputtering in a box room of a fire-place, casting a flickering, orange glow over the thirty or forty guests that had already arrived. Their shadows danced and leaped across the lavishly-decorated walls where were hung cotton wool webs complete with rubber spiders, plastic skeletons covered in gore, white sheets made up to represent phantoms and grey-painted, balsa wood tombstones all slightly askew.
All manner of Halloween characters were present. Here is Frankenstein‘s monster, over there Dracula, to the left a passable attempt at the Invisible Man, on the right a pair of hobgoblins, by the fire, warming themselves, were a couple dressed as Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett and, of course, there were any number of witches and ghouls.
Richard looked about him, trying to make out a recognizable face amidst the made up throng, but it was proving difficult indeed.
“Ah, Mrs Cooperman. You’ve come as Catwoman I see, but then you do have the figure for it. Yvette Pestis – we met last week.” She held out her hand.
Audrey shook it and replied, “Oh, yes, I remember, Yvette – or should I say,
Morticia Addams? It seems to suit you. You had some information about my husband, I believe?”
“All in good time, dear. Let me show you where everything is. Oh, Richard, love the outfit, very you! If you’re looking for Ben, by the way, he’s over there by the mirror.”
“I should’ve known. Thank you, Yvette.”
Richard meandered through the partying crowd until standing behind Fedora. He tapped him on the shoulder forcing him to turn away from his reflection.
“Hah!” exclaimed Fedora. “Superman, eh? See yourself as a superhero, do you, Dick? Going to save the masses from extreme peril?” Fedora laughed.
“Well, with a name like Cooperman, I had little choice and as for saving the masses, if I can save my little corner of the world from you, that would be a start, you pretentious prick! I thought I’d done it last week, but here you are, larger than life and twice as conceited.”
“My, my! We have grown a pair in the last few days, haven’t we? That get up must‘ve gone to your head. Still, you’re a little more colourful than Lord Bowman over there, I’ll give you that. That zombie costume fits him like a glove, don’t you think?”
Richard looked Fedora up and down. “Take these from the hospital, did you?”
“Now, now! Thanks in no small way to you, Mr Cooperman, I can well afford to buy my own bandages. Incidentally, I suppose I should credit you with giving me the idea. As my head was already swathed in them, it was a short step to being completely covered.”
“Yes, short is the word.”
“Come now, Richard, let’s not get petty.”
“Petty? I should take this poker and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine!”
I’m sorry that my continued existence causes you so much concern, but as I think I mentioned at our last meeting, you’re in this thing up to your neck, so don’t get too cocky, Dick!” Fedora chuckled to himself once more. “Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I haven’t told anyone the truth of what happened the other night. As far as everyone – but a select few – knows, I slipped in the shower. However, if you’re thinking of trying anything, I should point out there are quite a few more witnesses this time.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t be sinking to your level again. I haven’t killed anyone yet and I won’t be starting now. And as for being up to my neck, I think you’ll find that my part in this whole sordid affair is quite minimal. So inconsequential in fact, that I’m sure the authorities will overlook my involvement in return for some very interesting information on a certain famous novelist and peer of the realm.”
(to be continued)

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