BY JEFFREY BLAIR LATTA
Then, too, I would be lying if I did not admit to being disturbed by the morning paper's report of the death of Mrs. Katherine Randall. Was she the "K.R." whom the reporter, Howard Noel, had interviewed? Her sudden death seemed, at the very least, ominously coincidental.
For these reasons, I abandoned the house after a quick breakfast, believing myself safer in the company of crowds. Yet, here I found my state of mind refused to allow me even a moment's respite. Again and again, I noticed faces in the milling throngs, too-pale, too-precise, almost like replicas of real faces.
Nor could I control a momentary shudder each time I passed someone with a camera. And when the two coincided, as they too often did, it was all I could do to stifle an exclamation.
The day wore on, and still I had no fixed goal in sight. The contents of shop windows reminded me that tonight was Halloween, a realization which further recalled to mind the invitation in my pocket, to the "festivities at Breakwater Park" at midnight.
And then, in a flash, I thought of the second strange "suggestion" in my uncle's letter:
Do not enter the hanging tower.
On his death bed, he had again mentioned this tower. Then, too, the reporter's notebook had included a reminder to investigate that same structure.
It was little enough, but at least it was something. Enquiring at the old Kingston and Pembroke train station in Confederation Park, now a tourist information centre, I learned that the "hanging tower" was a limestone building on Sir. John A. Macdonald Boulevard, so called because local legend had it that hangings had once been conducted there. In fact, this was not true, the real hangings having occurred in the building behind the County Court House; the "hanging tower" had actually served as a water tower. Or so I was told.
Accordingly, a short time later, an Amey's taxi dropped me near the tower. It was late in the day and the sun was nearly set. Thankfully, I had brought my uncle's flashlight.
The five story structure rose incongruous and alone, with no other buildings nor even trees nearby to detract from its rigid, oddly-haunting silhouette. Though the tower was ringed by many windows, all were blocked with wood, creating an uncomfortable image of concealment and closely guarded secrets; an aura compounded by the forbidding chain-link fence topped with barbed wire which surrounded the tower's base, and by the stern "No Trespassing" signs.
Dimly, I wondered why such precautions were necessary for an abandoned water tower.
Then, to my surprise, I chanced upon a hole cut through the fence with wire clippers. Though mystified, I shouldered through the break, only to make a startling discovery in the grass beyond.
It was a leather notebook. Retrieving it, I was further nonplussed to find it stained with a distinctly unwholesome red. Turning on my flashlight, I found more blood on the grass at my feet. With trembling hands, I opened the notebook, to confirm what the reader has no doubt surmised: it was the same notebook I had read in the library, belonging to the reporter, Howard Noel.
At first, opening to the same page as I had previously read, I then turned to the next, where I discovered an astonishing jumble of notes written in an unsteady hand that bespoke a startling emotional change since the previous entries.
At the top of the page, those two words -- Human sacrifice? -- had now been definitively crossed out and beneath was written Pen and Ad, indicating that what followed sprang from research into the library's infamous collection of the Kingston Pentagram and Advertiser.
As my eyes scanned the hurried and frequently illegible notations, I struggled to make sense of what I saw.
No one will believe this!!! it began. Hardly believe it myself!
Then: When did they arrive? Rev. Scone's unclear. 3 hundred years at least. Can't breed. Something about atmosphere. Use us. Intermarried. Must be a dozen families! Keep trying to produce Queen, to "clear the way", but something always goes wrong (eg. fire in Market Shambles). Sometimes under Breakwater Park, sometimes other "nurseries" (eg. Grant Hall, Market Shambles, Grand Theatre, etc). Presently under Park, but not room enough. Big!!!
Suddenly my blood ran cold to read what next appeared.
Ella Newcomb was human. Her son, William, married Nancy Marshal, took her name to escape link with father, John Newcomb ('alienist', ha!).
How can I convey the shock I felt to find my own last name, Marshal, unexpectedly connected with this bizarre affair? My discomfiture was all the greater because, while there were Marshals in Kingston to whom I was not related, I well knew that William Marshal was indeed my ancestor on my father's side. My concern steadily growing, I read on:
Trait is gender linked (ie. female). Males are "normal". Passed down through generations. Do they even know? What a story. Pulitzer!
Breathlessly I turned to the next page.
Investigate hanging tower! Must go home to bring the rest!!!
And there the entries concluded.
Standing there in the whispering darkness at the foot of that monolithic tower with the blood soaked notebook in hand, I felt a gathering sense of foreboding, even of horror. Was there truth to any of this? The notebook's author had gleaned his information from the scandalous Pentagram and Advertiser, whose publisher, the Rev. Darby Scone, had clearly been mad, ending his days locked away in the Rockwood Asylum. And, indeed, surely such ravings could be nothing but the product of a deranged mentality. And yet, taken in conjunction with the bizarre events of the past two days, I found myself hard pressed to laugh it off.
Again I read that final line:
Must go home to bring the rest!
What "rest"? Other reporters? And yet, were not those the exact same words my uncle had shouted in his delirium before his death? Then, too, the old woman (Katherine Randall?) had apparently told the reporter the same. Now, here it was again. What could it mean?
You may fault me for what I did next. After all, from the very start, my uncle had warned me not to enter the hanging tower. But, if an answer was to be found, where else might I look?
Quickly, before my courage could fade, I searched and found a door in the south wall, a door left unaccountably unlocked. Opening this, flashlight in hand, I warily entered the hanging tower...
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In the Dark of Kingston is copyright 1998, by Jeffrey Blair Latta. It may
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