Darkness of the Evening A novel

Louisiana, 1969.

Mary Sheppard is a woman with a past. When her Uncle dies, and leaves her his stately looking house, she and her children, move into the place where he grew up. Suddenly, over a period of a week, strange things start to happen that threaten their lives...and sanity.

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1. Darkness of the Evening-July 4, 1969

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I

The sudden death of John Sheppard, thirty, disturbed Mary. She hadn't been used to believe in nightmares. At twenty-eight, she had been a mother to Jacob, five, and Joan, four. He had died in a train accident last year during Halloween night, 1968. She broke down in tears afterwards. In the end, she saw the footage of Vietnam on her colour television, and wondered whether it was worth it was President Richard Nixon's fault for dragging America downward to his own, private, hell. "It's time to go", Mary said. Jacob walked near their 1966 blue van; Joan followed him to the passenger-side door. As they sat down on their black seats, Mary made sure they were wearing seat belts, then she closed the door. Then she opened the driver's-side door, and sat in her own seat. She closed the door, and put her seat belt on. She drove to the foreboding looking house, where monsters threatened to touch their souls with their cold hands.

II

The house was two hundred year's old. 

Mary saw an old man watching them.

She stopped driving.

She took off her seatbelt. When she did so, she opened the door. She walked down the path. "I'm Mary Sheppard. My husband was here, David Sheppard. He died last year. My children and I are looking after the house...". The man smirked. "I know, Ma'am. I was here when the Master died from a brain aneurysm. It was sudden...and unexpected. I'm Davis. I oversaw the house with my wife, Edna. She's taking care of the beds, and linen from the closet". Mary nodded. She walked to the other doors. She undid the seat belts. Jacob stared at the old man; Joan shivered. They didn't like him on first sight; they held their mother's warm hands.Davis, who stood over six feet tall, was like a hulking vampire who was deathly pale. Mary stood her ground. "Let's go, children", she said. Jacob, who wore a black shirt, walked near the front door. Davis opened it with his key. Jacob followed him inside; Joan followed her brother. She was wearing a red dress. "Mom, I'm scared". Mary took her left hand, and smiled. "There's nothing to be worried about, Joan". Joan watched the darkness of the dim hallway; she watched as Mary flicked on the switch. Bright light illuminated the thin halls. "This hall leads to the bedrooms; the other rooms led to the Dining Rooms; the other room leads to the attic. It's closed off. No one is allowed there; no one", David warned. Jacob, who wore a purple skivvy, shivered. "I hate attics", he said. Davis laughed. "Attics are full of secrets; a lot of secrets. Secrets that won't be aired in the public for a long, long, time". Jacob stopped near the first door. "Can I sleep here?", he asked him. "Yes. Your sister can sleep in the second room", Davis answered. Jacob nodded. He wasn't going to think he would see something sinister; he was wary of monsters that dragged him away into the darkness. Mary looked at the room. Inside there was a child's bed; a 1930's closet to the far right; and several old toys in a wicker basket from World War II. "You can play here, Jacob; you can talk to me if you need me. I'll be in my room upstairs with my wife. Our room isn't to be disturbed at night since we like to read, and listen to the radio in the evening. We don't watch television. It rots the brains", he told him. "Mom doesn't let us watch television", Joan said. Davis continued. "Now. I have to be with my wife; I have to eat breakfast. Good-bye!". Mary turned around. "Let's settle in before we have lunch in three hours' time", she said.

III

Jacob didn't see a fireplace.

His room was freezing. 

He walked out of the room.

"Mom. There's no heating".

"I'll fix it up", Mary said.

"Okay", Jacob watched her turn on the heater.

"You can be warm now", Mary said.

"Thanks, Mom".

She smiled at her son. He followed her to the Dining Room. Joan smiled at them. They sat down on several chairs, and ate cereal and milk from the fridge. Half an hour later, they decided to explore the old Mansion unaware of the dangers that lurked inside.

IV

Jacob stared at the room's windows. He saw a girl skipping near the old garden. He was nervous. He looked at her face. It was full of fresh dirt. Her fingers were overly long, as if she hadn't the time nor inclination, to cut them; her eyes were cloudy. She walked in a daze to the Catholic Church. "Are you alright?", Jacob asked. "Oh, I'm fine; I'm fine. I'm Anna Beth Collins", she answered. Jacob took her name into his memory. "I'm Jacob. I live with my sister and mother, in the Mansion". Anna Beth backed away from the Mansion. "I wouldn't sleep there. It's haunted". She grabbed a sharp rock in her small, right, hand; she threw it into the tiny pond nearby. Jacob was too immersed in his deep thoughts to notice the pond. "I don't believe in ghosts", Jacob stated. Anna Beth grinned. "No; no. There's no ghosts in Louisiana; there's just demons of Other Worlds". Jacob shuddered. "Demons". Anna Beth smiled. "Yes, demons. They'll possess you if you stay here. I have to leave, Jacob. Mother and father await me". She skipped through the Church's arched door...and into the old chambers where her room was.

V

Joan looked at her brother.

"Where were you?", she asked him.

"I met a girl. She says Louisiana has a lot of demons since we're near the Catholic Church", Jacob answered her. "Demons...I don't believe in demons. We have to tell Mom". Jacob nodded, and he sensed the cold weather course through his body as it begun to rain.

V

"Mom. A girl I met said that there's demons in Louisiana", Jacob said.

"There's no such thing as demons", Mary stated.

"Anna Beth told me so", he said.

"Who's she?", she asked him.

"She lives in town, in the Church", Jacob answered her.

"Well, she's welcome here", Mary told her son.

"Okay", Jacob said.

He then saw several people dressed in black hoods gliding down the arched roads...and nearly screamed.

VI

It wasn't fair. 

Toby Fletcher was concerned about the Church's influence in Louisiana. He had seen Reverend Liam Young, an Irish-American priest, wanted to get rid of Satan; he watched the worshipers were being involved in dark rituals; he was scared of the publicity which followed. He reached the arched doors which led to the gothic Mansion. Toby, who was thirty-two, and single, glanced at the new car in the driveway. He frowned. He wasn't aware of any new family here. The owner was dead. He saw Mary cleaning the statues in the garden. "Can I help you?", she asked him. Toby blushed. He remembered Tanya Fletcher, his thirty-one year old fiancée had died from carbon dioxide poisoning last summer in her 1963 brown Ford when President John F. Kennedy had died in Dallas, Texas. His death cast a shadow over America that couldn't be gotten rid of; he also remembered the death of Robert F. Kennedy last year in 1968, (a year of nightmares that couldn't be gotten rid of so easily). "Toby Fletcher. I worked for the Church. Not many people have lived in the Mansion because of the Satan's influence", he answered her. "Satan doesn't concern me. I don't believe in God, nor the Devil. I'm Mary". Toby glanced at her. "Satan works His magic in other ways", he told her. He nodded. "Would you like some coffee?", Mary asked him. "Yes, please", Toby answered. And he grinned.

VII

Anna Beth glided towards the arched halls. "I didn't think you'd upset your parents", Chad Harrison said. She turned around. "They know I'm here", she said. He grinned. "They're upset". Anna Beth didn't know what to say. She felt his demonic eyes on her. "Leave me alone", she told him. Chad, who was eighteen, looked around. He was focused on the huge altar in the middle of the Church. "Don't make them angry", Chad warned. He strode outside the Church's grounds...and disappeared into the gloom...leaving Anna Beth to shiver with fear.

VIII

Mary turned on the lights in the spacious kitchen.

She poured water into the kettle that was on the marble bench.

Then she added coffee into two mugs.

Toby looked at the kitchen.

"It's nice. It needs a lot of work", he said.

"This is the first day here", Mary said.

"I don't want to be a bother...".

"No, you're not. Besides, we hardly know anyone here".

"There's a lot of evil people in Louisiana who're intent on mayhem". 

"Mayhem".

"Yes, and more terror".

"Should I call the police?", she asked Toby.

"No; no. Not yet. Anna Beth's parents are devil worshipers".

"If there's a lot of bad people, I can take care of them".

"They could affect your children".

"Jacob and Joan are too young to be influenced by evil".

"They're at an impressionable age. I was like them when I was young back in the early nineteen-fifties. It's nineteen sixty-nine. And the World has changed since then".

"I want my children to grow up without any kind of fear. Your coffee's hot. Wait several minutes before it's warm. I'll add some milk". She opened the fridge, and added poured the milk into the mugs. Toby looked at the rain that came out of the sky. The sound of thunder boomed outside the mysterious Catholic Church...and he knew for certain his life was on the line once he left the Mansion.

IX

Jacob looked at his bedroom. He was looking forward to school on Monday. Today was Independence Day. He wasn't used to celebrating America's Day; he was used to reading books on the brown shelf. "Jacob, are you alright?", Mary asked him. "Yes, it's raining, Mom", he answered her. Joan walked towards the kitchen. "Mom, I'm scared of the thunder", she said.  Suddenly the Mansion's lights went out. And, seconds later, everything went dark.

X

Anna Beth cried.

"MOM! DAD! HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP...". She saw the faded, black cloaks of the Satanists holding silver candles in their pale hands; she saw their red eyes glisten in the gloom. "Come with us, child", the Dark Priestess said. It wasn't a calming influence. The order was final. Anna Beth was given a candle to hold in her hands. She was used to the wickedness the older woman exuded. She saw a girl was upset. "Karen, it's not too late...". Karen, who was thirteen, trembled. "It's tainted! Everything is tainted". Anna Beth shook her head. "It's not tainted; it's not tainted", Anna Beth said. "It is! ​I've seen the tainted succumb to the eternal blackness". Anna Beth saw the deep holes on the walls. She placed her candle in it. Then she walked down the cobbled steps to the bottom. Karen was beyond control. She was so upset she was in tears. "Calm down, Karen!", the Dark Priestess shouted. Karen, who was five foot four, glanced at the evil woman. "I don't want to be part of the rituals". Anna Beth sensed movement to her left. She saw The Dark Priestess walking to the altar. She carried The Satanist's Bible in her hands. And, seconds later, she invoked a ritual that would bring all demons to Earth.

XI

"It's not fair", Jacob said.

"Nothing is fair", Joan agreed with her brother.

"The lights must be on", Jacob sighed.

"It will be on", Joan stated.

They waited three hours before the power was back on.

XI

D. M. Knight, the demon hunter, looked at the Louisiana bayous. He was eager to get rid of the demons that had infected the city. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in the hot summer of nineteen thirty-five. It was six years after the 1929 Wall Street crash that had deeply affected his parents. After World War II ended in April of nineteen forty-five, all of Europe took another decade to recover from the Blitz...and the bombings that caused a lot of pain for everyone. By nineteen fifty-nine, when he turned twenty-four, he mourned the deaths of his parents who died at the hands of a satanic cult. After their funeral, D. M., (as he was called), became an American version of Matthew Hopkins, intent to getting rid of evil in its purest form. By nineteen sixty-six, (when he was thirty-one), he was renowned as the killer of Norton Westwood, III, the forty year old cult leader whose own deaths of thirteen people over a period of six years, made the newspapers. D. M. Knight was thirty-four. Demonic possession was a rare thing. Not many people were possessed. And the Catholic Church needed proof from Rome before they asked any exorcists to perform exorcisms. D. M. Knight grabbed his King James Bible in his right hand, prayed to God, and hoped that everything would work out for the best, as he reached The Firebrand Inn. He opened the front door, and went inside.

XII

Jacob stared at the window.

"Mom, can we have fish and chips?", he asked her.

"Yes", Mary answered him.

She picked up the telephone...and ordered them for their dinner. When everything was done, she opened the front door, grabbed her purse, and closed it. She then drove down the road to ​Louisiana Fish and Chips​. Fifteen minutes' later, she paid for the meal, then placed the bag in the passenger-side door. Then she put her seat belt on, and drove to her house before it was dark.

XIII

Toby greeted Mary.

"It's good to feed our hunger", he said.

"Yes", she said. 

She opened the front door with her key. Then she grabbed the fish and chips. "Here, let me help you, Mary". She smiled, and walked into the house. She locked up the door, and placed the food on the huge table in the Dining Room.

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