IN THIS EPISODE: …Paul is about to be sacrificed, and the full moon is rising…
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CHAPTER 36 – Wolf Trap
Paul Shaw (Longmire) – The Duprix Waxworks
First Night of the Full Moon
Paul awoke to a world of pain that seemed to emanate from the back of his skull.
Who hit me?
The answer to that question became apparent as soon as his eyes came back into focus:
Vincent Duprix stood nearby, garbed in some kind of weird robes, talking to someone that Paul couldn’t see (or maybe talking to himself). What he was saying, didn’t seem to make any sense. In fact, Paul wasn’t even sure he was speaking English; he almost seemed to be… chanting.
Where am I? Paul wondered.
It looked like the chamber… No… the waxworks… in one of the mummy display rooms. And were those two of the mummies nearby? Paul had to crane his head back to see them.
But they shouldn’t be here; they should be downstairs in the Cushings’ display. And, wait…
Am I on the altar?
Paul tried to get up, but he couldn’t. He was lying, spread-eagled on his back, and his wrists and ankles seemed securely bound. He began to sweat.
“What the hell…?” he muttered.
Vincent, who had been looking at the mummies, turned to him. “Awake, now, are you, Mr. Shaw? Good. Good! I wouldn’t want you to miss what comes next.”
“What comes next? What are you talking about? Why am I tied up?”
“You’re tied up because this seems a fitting punishment—to me, at least—for the man who’s been sleeping with my wife.”
A cold chill ran through Paul. “Look,” he said, “I don’t know what’s been going on here, or what you think has been going on between me and Victoria—”
“‘Think,’ Mr. Shaw? Oh, no. We’re far past thinking at this stage. I know what you’ve been up to. Did you think you’d get away with it? Well you won’t—and neither will she.”
Paul tried to look around the recreated crypt, but it was difficult to do, lying on his back. “What about Victoria? Is she here? Where is she?”
“No, Mr. Shaw. She’s not here. To tell you the truth, I don’t quite know where that shrewish little scamp is at the moment, but it hardly matters. I might have used her in this little ceremony, but you were far more handy.” He grinned, a spark of madness flickered in his blue eyes, and he chuckled. “Do you like that, handyman? It’s a little joke. Not very good, I’ll admit, but very probably the last joke you’ll ever hear.”
“Now, wait a minute…” Paul said. Sweat was pouring off him now, and fear clenched his stomach—fear that the wolf could rear its bloodthirsty head at any moment, as well as fear at what Vincent might have planned. “What you’re doing is dangerous,” Paul insisted, “more dangerous than you can know. You have to let me out of here. I don’t know how long I was out. The moon could be rising any time now—”
“Oh, yes, the moonrise. We’re counting on that,” Vincent said. “It’ll be here in another few minutes.”
Paul pulled at his bonds again, but they were stout leather; there was no chance he could break them. His heart drummed, loud and rapid, in his ears. “Then you have to let me go! I won’t be responsible for the consequences, if you don’t!”
“Let you go, Mr. Shaw? Oh, no. That’s not part of the plan at all, is it?” With this last, Vincent seemed to be talking to someone else now—one of the mummies? “No. That’s not part of the plan. What? Yes, I suppose we should be starting now.”
“Starting?” Paul blurted. “Starting what?”
Vincent grinned insanely at him. “Starting the resurrection of Queen Bastiti, of course! The stars are right, the moon is right, and all it requires is a little blood… Your blood, Mr. Shaw.”
With that, he withdrew a golden ceremonial dagger, set with red stones, from within his weird robes and slashed quickly across each of Paul’s wrists.
“Aaaaaah!” Paul screamed. “What in hell do you think you’re doing?!”
“Why, I’m sacrificing you, Mr. Shaw—sacrificing you so that my queen can live again. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to chanting my incantations. It wouldn’t do to have gone through all this trouble, only to fail now… Nebet… Nebet…”
“You’re crazy!” Paul cried, but Vincent had turned back to the mummies and was no longer listening to him.
Paul glanced at his wrists, at his blood leaking down the altar. Fear tingled through every inch of him, and his heart pounded in his sweat-drenched chest. He could feel his life slowly slipping away, and he remembered a legend—God, he hoped it was a legend—the gypsies had told him:
“A werewolf who is slain while a man becomes a werewolf forever!”
If that were true, he’d come back and track down and kill everyone he ever loved in life. That was the Curse of the Werewolf!
God, please don’t let it be true, he prayed. Just let me die. Let me find peace, at last!
Just a few yards from where Paul lay bleeding, Vincent seemed to have finished his chant.
He picked up a golden bowl from the base of the altar, where Paul’s blood had been collecting, and held it high.
The bowl began to smoke.
“The time has come!” Vincent cried. “In the names of Seth and Nephthys, Rulers of Darkness, return to this mortal coil, my queen! Arise, Bastiti, Most Magnificent Ruler of all Egypt!”
There was a flash and a huge billow of white smoke, and Vincent dropped the bowl to the floor.
And then—impossibly—one of the two mummies standing in their sarcophagi beyond Vincent moved!
But it wasn’t the sensual mummified form of the queen that took an awkward step from its resting place. Rather, it was the tall, wiry figure of the other mummy: the architect Sethotep.
“What?” Vincent gasped, staggering back, seemingly confused.
A deep voice, rumbling like the start of the landslide, emanated from the cracked lips of the reanimated mummy.
“B-but it’s not supposed to be you,” Vincent stuttered. “It’s supposed to be her—m-my queen!”
A smile creased the living mummy’s ancient face. “Did you think I’d have you resurrect her and risk you not doing the same for me, mortal? Oh, no. I have not existed for millennia by being so foolish.”
Vincent shuddered as the towering monster laid both crumbling hands upon his shoulders and gazed at him with its burning, green eyes.
“We shall resurrect my queen, you and I,” the mummy of Sethotep said, “and we shall return her to her full glory. But first, we must mix the ingredients we need to make this ancient body of mine supple and whole once more. I may have the strength to topple this puny mansion from its foundations, but what good is strength if one does not have vitality?”
“Y-yes,” Vincent stammered. “What good?”
“And, of course, we need more blood,” Sethotep concluded.
“M-my blood?” Vincent asked nervously.
“No, fool! Nor that of your paltry victim. We need blood worthy of a queen!”
“Y-yes. Of course.”
Paul’s head swirled, and he felt ready to black out. He knew he must be imagining all this. Surely, none of it was possible: living mummies… raising people from the dead… Vincent as high-priest-cum-magician… It was a dying man’s delusion, all in Paul’s mind.
Already, his eyes were having trouble focusing; moment by moment, he could feel his life slipping away.
…Please let me die… in peace…!
Paul closed his eyes.
But then he felt it: his skin, tingling… cold fire running through him, from his toes to the top of his head.
The full moon was rising!
He couldn’t escape the curse. Even death couldn’t save him from it. It was too late!
“Paul…!” someone whispered from close to his head.
Paul’s eyes sprang open. “Opal!” he whispered back.
She was crouching by his shoulder, hidden from the still-conversing Vincent and his mummy by the slab of the altar.
“I’m going to free you,” she said.
“No!” he whispered urgently. “Leave me alone! Get out! Get out while you still can!”
And then he felt the hairs standing on the back of his neck… growing on his arms… his face… all over his body, as the terrible power of the moon surged through him, and everything that was Paul Shaw Longmire became subsumed into the beast.
TO BE CONTINUED…!
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