IN THIS EPISODE: …Paul sinks deeper into trouble and finally reveals his terrible secret…
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CHAPTER 31 – The Breaks
Paul Shaw (Longmire) – 1951 Fisher St.
Wednesday: Evening of the First Night of the Full Moon
Paul broke away from Victoria’s kiss and stalked down the servants’ hallway toward his room. His mind swirled with conflicting emotions: lust… anger… fear… betrayal…
What was he doing?! Kissing Victoria in the hallway like that—kissing her at all—was madness. Even if they’d been in his room, it would be so easy for someone to catch them. This house was big, but it wasn’t that big, and sound traveled in strange ways in the old place.
Laughing quietly to herself, Victoria followed Paul. She slipped in behind him as he tried to slam the door and close her out.
“You can’t get away from me that easily,” she purred.
“I’m leaving,” he stated. He glanced at his wall calendar, at the days X-ed out leading up to the full moon. Monday. It’s only Monday. He still had plenty of time. Better to leave a day early than an hour late, even though he’d promised Victoria one more day.
“You’ve said that before,” she noted slyly.
“I know. But this time, I mean it.” He began throwing clothes into his valise. The weight of the chains in its bottom reassured him, gave him confidence. He was doing the right thing.
She came up behind him and put her arms around his waist, trying to impede his progress. “You said you were leaving on Tuesday,” she said. “Yet, here it is Wednesday, already, and you’re still here.”
Paul stopped dead, his body suddenly ice cold.
“What?!” he gasped.
She held him tight and pressed herself up against him. “One might almost think there’s something here that you like.” She rubbed her body sensually against his back.
He spun on her, grabbing her by the shoulders, the fire of madness creeping into his mind.
“What did you say?!” he demanded.
She smiled seductively at him. “I said, maybe there’s something here that you like.” She unbuttoned the top of her dress, revealing the pale curves of her breasts.
“No, not that!” he said frantically. “The day! What day is it?!”
Victoria looked slightly confused. “Why, Wednesday, of course. Wednesday always comes after Monday and Tuesday.” She pulled open his shirt and kissed him on the chest.
Paul barely even felt it. Heart pounding, he looked at the wall calendar. Monday…! By the marks he’d made, it should only be Monday!
“Though with all the fun we’ve been having,” Victoria continued, “I can’t blame you for losing track.” She pulled his shirt wider and gave his left nipple a soft bite.
He pushed her away from him; she landed on her rump atop the bed.
The curse had gotten to him again! He’d lost track of the date! It was Wednesday—the first night of the full moon! How much time did he have left before moonrise? He couldn’t even be sure of that!
He began wildly shoving his things into the suitcase once more. Where could he go tonight? Where would be safe? He could try to turn himself in, have the police lock him up…
But they would never believe him. And the curse hadn’t even let him confess, the last time he’d tried it; he’d ended up walking in circles, never reaching the police station, until the full moon appeared, and then…!
Victoria rose from the bed, teeth gritted, hazel eyes ablaze. “Where do you think you’re going?!”
“I told you. I’m leaving.”
She grabbed him by the shoulder. “Oh no you’re not! I’m not done with you yet.”
Paul shrugged off her hand, though her fingernails bit into the fabric of his shirt.
“Yes, you are,” he snapped. “We’re finished—like we should have been days ago. We never should have even started this crazy affair!”
“I’ll tell you when this ‘crazy affair’ is over!” she fumed. She grabbed his shirt and tried to pull him to her. “I could still have you arrested! I could call the police, tell them details—”
“I could tell them details, too!” he said, cutting her off, though his stomach clenched at the thought that she might carry through with her threat. “I could tell them all about this torrid little liaison—and while I’m at it, tell your husband, and the newspapers, too. I bet that would make fine reading for tomorrow’s editions: ‘Waxworks Lovers Carry On In Secret—Famous Artist Cuckolded!’”
The confabulated headlines seemed to hit Victoria like a slap, and she backed away, toward the doorway.
Paul seized the opportunity, sprang from his packing to the door, and opened it.
“You wouldn’t dare!” she said, though the fear in her eyes told him that she thought maybe he would.
“Try me and see!” he said, pushing her toward the open portal. “Goodbye, Victoria!”
He stepped toward her menacingly, and, surprised, she staggered back over the threshold.
He slammed the door in her face.
“And don’t come back!” he called. “Let me pack and get out of here, before it’s too late!”
“Oh, it’s too late, all right!” her voice replied, seething, from the hall.
Paul put his shoulder to the door. It had no lock, and he expected her to try and push her way back in, but she didn’t. And after a moment, he heard Victoria stamping off toward the front stairway.
Good, he thought. I don’t have much time.
In fact, the clock atop his meager nightstand had stopped. Clearly, when he’d forgotten to cross off the days, he’d forgotten to wind it as well.
He returned to quickly shoving all his possessions into the valise.
He wasn’t sure what he’d do or where he’d go once he packed, but he had to get out of this place.
He didn’t have a lot of money, but maybe he could hire a cab, have himself driven out into the countryside, where he couldn’t hurt anybody…
But he knew that would be futile. He’d isolated himself in Lancashire, and the beast had still found some poor girl to kill… and then that poacher in Derbyshire as well. Somehow, no matter what he did, the monster always found a way out, a way to carry on its reign of murder and destruction.
I should have let Victoria call the police, he thought.
Maybe it wasn’t too late. Maybe if he didn’t leave, and made enough of a ruckus…
No. He didn’t have time to risk that kind of a ploy. Every moment he stayed put everyone in 1951 Fisher at risk—the Duprixes, the twins… and any other unlucky soul who might happen by. The sun hadn’t set yet, not quite, but that only meant he still had enough time to get away.
The door behind him creaked open. Paul wished he’d thought to prop the room’s sole chair against it.
He whirled, angry words bursting from his lips:
“Victoria… I told you—”
It wasn’t Victoria.
“Opal!” Paul gasped.
She stood in the doorway, looking lovely even in the dim evening light. Shadows framed her curvy figure, and her dark hair fell carelessly across her pretty face. Her eyes were red and puffy, clearly from crying, but her face looked angry.
“I know you were expecting your adulterous lover,” she snapped, “but it’s only me.”
He rose to his feet, hardly able to bear looking at her. Feelings of love welled up inside him, even though he knew it was no use.
“Don’t say it,” she said, entering the room and closing the door behind her. “I don’t think I can stand any more of your lies. I just came to tell you that I hope I never see you again, Paul Shaw.”
Paul blinked away the moisture in his eyes and turned back to his packing. “Well, you won’t have to. I’ve broken it off with Victoria. For keeps, this time. I’m leaving.”
“Good,” she said, though her voice cracked as she said it.
He turned to face her again, his heart breaking.
“I—” she continued. Then she burst into tears and rushed into his arms. “Oh, Paul!”
He held her tight, leaning his face against her head, tears streaming from his eyes into her silky hair. Her weeping stained his shirt, as she pressed her face into his chest.
“Why did you do it, Paul?” she sobbed. “Why did you lie to me? Why did you… sleep with… her?”
He shook his head. “I’ve made mistakes—awful mistakes. I-I can’t explain them all. But it’s like I’m caught in some horrible trap that I can’t get out of. This curse … I … I have to leave tonight—right now, or you and everyone else I care for is in terrible danger!”
“That damned curse!” she said, softly pounding her fists into his chest. “It’s just another lie! Another excuse to hurt people. Why don’t you just admit you’re making it up? Go away. See if I care. See if I care!”
“It’s not a lie,” he said, running his hand through her hair, holding her close. “The curse is real. I’m sorry. I’ll try to write if… when I get someplace safe… if I ever find what I need to break free of it.”
“Break free of what?” she asked, gazing up at him with her red-rimmed eyes. “What is it that’s wrong with you?”
“I’m a werewolf.”
The words tumbled out before he could even think to suppress them.
Opal’s mouth hung open. She stopped sobbing and stared at him.
“I know you won’t believe me,” he said. “But every night the moon is full, I turn into a monster—I kill people.”
Paul let her go and stepped back. “How did I become a werewolf? What does it matter? You don’t believe me—nobody does.”
“I need to know,” she insisted.
He couldn’t tell if Opal was still angry, but she no longer seemed the blubbering teenager she’d been moments ago. Her blue-green eyes were steely now, determined.
But determined to do what? To punch him once he finished telling his fantastic story?
No matter. He’d come this far. Now he had to tell her.
“There was this madman,” he began, “Count Zarkoff, a famous sportsman. He hired me as a guide to help him hunt wolves in Transylvania; that’s what he said, anyway. But when I slept, he injected me with the blood of a lycanthrope—a werewolf. I guess he’d bought it during an expedition in China.
“You see, it was me he really wanted to hunt. Regular game was no longer good enough for him.”
“Like that book I read in school,” Opal mused softly.
“Yes,” Paul replied. “Maybe he read it, too. Now he wanted to hunt the most dangerous quarry he could imagine—and since werewolves are hard to come by…” he said this last with bitter irony, “Zarkoff decided to make his own.” A grim smile cracked his lips. “Let’s just say the kill didn’t work out like he’d planned.”
“But, even if I believed all that…” Opal said. “Why you?”
“Because I am—or I was—a famous hunter, too. Zarkoff figured that a man like himself would make more challenging prey as a werewolf. My real name is Paul Longmire—Paul Shaw Longmire.”
Opal blinked, astonished. “Wait… Of the American Longmires?”
“So, you’ve heard of us,” he said bitterly.
“The Longmires are one of the richest families in the Western Hemisphere,” she replied.
“Well, I’m not,” Paul said. “My parents are dead, and my grandmother cut me off when… when I married my wife, Caliso, in the Philippines.”
“She was the wrong color.”
“But that’s not fair!”
“Grandmother never much cared what was fair, only what was proper.”
“But maybe now that… now that your wife is dead… Maybe your grandmother could help. Maybe with all that money, you…” Then her face hardened. “…Unless this is all another elaborate story.”
Paul shook his head. “I only wish it were. Look, it doesn’t matter whether you believe me or not. All that matters is that I have to get out of here tonight, before the moon rises. If I don’t, I’ll kill everyone in this whole damn building. You and your sister included.” He resumed his packing.
“What?” he snapped.
“Paul, look at me.”
He turned, and she took his face in her hands and stared into his eyes.
“Opal, I… I have to go!”
“Shut up and let me concentrate.”
Paul shut up.
For a long moment, her brilliant blue-green eyes remained locked on him.
When she finally let him go, she said:
“I believe you.”
“Yes. I may not have my sister’s gift for reading people, but I can tell you’re not lying.”
He laughed once. “So, either I’m a madman, or…
“Or you’re telling the truth.”
Paul took Opal’s small, soft hands in his own. He felt so large and brutish compared to her, but he also felt… grateful.
“Thank you,” he said. “Only the gypsies ever believed me, before. So, now that you know, you must let me leave. Let me finish packing, and I promise I’ll be on my way. I’ll never darken your doorstep again. But I have to get out of here and find someplace safe to stay.”
“Any place where there aren’t many people. I have some chains in my suitcase. They’ve been strong enough to hold the beast so far, but…”
“Then you could stay here,” she suggested. “We could lock you in the ice man’s freezer—if you don’t think the cold would kill you.”
“It’s harder than that to kill a werewolf,” Paul said. “But even locked in a closet, the wolf almost destroyed the flophouse room where I was staying last month. Even chained up, I might tear your exhibits to shreds.”
“Well, that won’t do, then,” Opal admitted. She pursed her lips, thinking hard for a few moments. “What about a crypt?”
“What crypt?” Paul asked.
“There are a number of abandoned crypts in Highgate Cemetery,” she said. “They’re not too far from Hampstead Heath. Topaz and I drove past the cemetery yesterday, when we were out with the boys, and our father took us there once on one of his little expeditions, when we were younger.”
“But how would I get there?” Paul said. “I guess I could try the Tube or a cab, but if anything went wrong…”
“Someone innocent could get killed. I understand.” Now that she believed him, Opal seemed filled with iron determination. She brushed away the last of her tears with her sleeve. “Well then, Topaz and I will just have to take you ourselves.”
“It’s really the only way. We can’t trust anyone else to do it.”
“But how? You don’t even have a car.”
“We’ll borrow one. Barry, or even Frank, is bound to agree if I ask… in the right way.” Her pretty eyes sparkled mischievously, reminding Paul of why he’d fallen for her in the first place.
“All right. I guess it’s worth a try. Find out when the moon rises, too, would you? I… The curse makes it almost impossible for me to keep track that kind of thing during this time of the month.”
A smiled tugged at the corner of her pretty lips. “I have times of the month like that, too. Finish packing. I’ll get Topaz and arrange for the car. Meet us on the first-floor landing, outside the door to the chamber.”
“But will your sister believe you?” Paul asked.
Opal nodded. “She can read me a lot more easily than I could read you. She knew that you and Victoria were having an affair, and I only found out today, when I saw you kissing on the back landing.”
A knot twisted in Paul’s stomach. “About that, I’m sorry, I…”
She shook her head. “No time for explanations now. Get packed. We’ll meet you downstairs.”
And with that, she swept out of the room, gently closing the door behind her.
“What a girl!” Paul whispered to himself.
He’d been such an idiot to muck things up the way he did. If he’d only told the truth from the beginning…
She probably wouldn’t have believed you.
But she was right. There was no time for recriminations or regrets now. They had to get to that crypt before moonrise, and heaven only knew when that might be. Already, the evening sun was casting lengthening shadows through the small, high window in his room.
He finished stuffing his meager belongings in the valise, pausing only a moment to cross out the correct number of days on his notebook calendar.
Maybe this time, I’ll be able to keep track, he thought—but he doubted it.
Maybe if Opal and Topaz helped, though…
But that was crazy. He couldn’t stay with the girls, whether here in the city or anywhere else. His being with anyone put them in constant danger.
“Time to go,” he said aloud, as if doing so would force him to action.
He rose, picked up the valise, and stepped out of his room into the hall.
As he did, something struck him on the back of his head, and fireworks exploded in his brain.
And when the fireworks faded, Paul sank down into darkness.
TO BE CONTINUED…!
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