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HomeSupernatural StoriesBlack Dog - Chapter 9

Black Dog - Chapter 9

Lockwood House is back in Imogen's ghostly hands, but at what cost?

First of all, Grace wanted a room with a sturdy lock on the door: the werewolf's victim must be secured in readiness for her painful and disorienting first transformation. They chose the guest bedroom which Olive had already cleared of most furniture and other obstacles and got Eli to move Olivia again, careless as if she was a sack of potatoes. Then Grace sent Eli out to find chains, and Imogen dissolved into tears again. Chains! The poor girl was - Imogen couldn't bring herself to even think the word 'dead.' And Olivia had always been a sweet, gentle soul. The idea of chaining her up as Grace suggested was just so unnecessary. 'You have to trust me,' the blonde girl had said, more than once, but Imogen didn't know if she could.

She'd tried her best to keep out of the way and put all this horrible mess out of mind, but it didn't work. She'd sat in the living room watching the clock and listening to the muffled voices from upstairs. Silently, she crept to the stairs to see what was going on. The door to the guest bedroom was open a couple of inches. Imogen peered in, unwilling to intrude. Olivia's interrupted efforts at decorating had given the room a bare, abandoned look, which wouldn't have been half so bad if not for the too-still body laid out on the bed.

Grace sat by Olivia's feet, contemplating the heavy length of chain in her hands, and the immense length more of it piled on the floor beside the bed. "I don't normally do this kind of thing," she said. "I don't know the best way. I mean, we could tie her feet, maybe, but a paw isn't exactly like a foot, now, is it? It'll just slip off her once she turns."

Imogen thought for a moment that the blonde girl must be talking to herself, but then she heard Eli's dry unpracticed voice: "Told you how you should do it.

"And I told you to get out of my sight," Grace growled. "We can't tie her too securely, or she'll have no room for the change. Hmm. Maybe a collar would work. And you have one handy, don't you?" She looked up meaningfully at someone out of view, and Eli approached the bed, pulling a dog collar and lead from his coat pocket. Grace stared at him in disgust. "He's not a dog, you know. He's not some tame thing that you can do what you like with." Grace fastened the collar around Olivia's neck. "Right, now fix the other end of the chain to the bed frame," she said. "No, no! Give her more slack than that! The door looks like it should hold up pretty well, but it, if it doesn't, then the bed frame should catch in the doorway like an anchor. Do you see? There, that's it. That'll have to do." She glanced over and caught sight of Imogen looking in. "Hello there, Mrs. Lockwood," she said, her voice suddenly turning sunny.

"It's Miss, actually," Imogen corrected her. "I never married."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to -"

"There's nothing to be sorry for about it," said Imogen sharply. "How are things coming along up here?"

"Everything's set up ready for tonight. All you have to do is wait. And relax, Miss Lockwood: she's going to be fine." Gently Grace shepherded Imogen away from the bedroom, then turned to glare at Eli. "Out!" she barked, watching him closely as he skulked past her and down the stairs. "I'm going to lock this door now, and I want it to stay locked until tomorrow morning," she warned. "If you need me, just call, and I'll be straight back here, fast as I can."

After Grace had left, Imogen sat down at the kitchen table Verity had scrubbed so spotlessly clean and heaved a great sigh.

"So," said Verity, "what do you make of her?"

"Grace? Reminds me of an old matron I used to know, except that she's young and very pretty, and a little too sure of the fact." Imogen hesitated. "She doesn't like Eli, does she?"

"I've no doubt there's a lot to dislike about Eli," said Verity, perhaps thinking of his careless handling of Olivia.

"Don't be too hard on him," said Imogen. "He's only human."

Verity's eyebrows shot upwards. "Only human? You know I don't like to socialise with the living."

"You know what I mean. None of us is perfect." Imogen looked down at her hands folded on the tabletop, the ropey veins that wormed across the tendons, the age spots and thin skin: her hands as she remembered seeing them last. Just as young Lizzy appeared as pretty as she had been when she'd last looked in the mirror more than eighty years ago. "Oh, if only I'd died young," she sighed. "What I wouldn't give to be like you and Lizzy and that girl Grace. I used to be pretty, you know."

Verity smiled and patted the air where Imogen's arm appeared to be. "You were beautiful." She yawned enormously, still looking nowhere near as tired as Imogen felt. "I could never be like Grace. I just couldn't do without my beauty sleep. How does she manage it, do you think? From what I gather, she up all night at full moon, but then in the morning she's fresh as a daisy." She frowned. "Wait a minute - I only said we should call Grace because I know next to nothing about werewolves, and of course you're a newcomer to our way of doing things." She darted a suspicious glance in the direction of the drawing room, where she knew Eli was and leaned towards Imogen to whisper, "He owns a werewolf."

"Can you own a werewolf, though?" asked Imogen, thinking of Grace's remark about the collar. "They're not just dogs, after all."

"Shh, dear, the name of the thing isn't important. He made me call Grace when he must know a thing or two about werewolves himself - more than he's letting on. Now there's a reason to dislike him if ever there was one," she muttered. "And did you hear? That fair-haired boy she brought with her - she called him Giles."

"You think he's the one who attacked Olivia?"

"Has to be. I've never seen him before, but with the same name, it's too much to be coincidence, don't you think?"

"He didn't look like a werewolf," said Imogen, although until a few hours ago she'd had no expectations at all as to what a werewolf should look like.

"That's the trouble," said Verity, scowling. "They never do."


With Olivia chained in the guest room upstairs and the house keys in Verity's purse, Verity suggested they establish a more secure foothold on the premises before Olivia awoke to her new life. It wasn't wrong, Verity argued, with it being Imogen's house in the first place, and eventually, Imogen agreed that she ought not have to give up her right to enjoy her home just because she was dead. With that in mind, Verity had offered to help her get to know her new community. It would be good for everybody to get together for a chat, with tea and cakes for those who could physically eat. The two of them split up to cover more ground - Imogen taking the churchyard while Verity ventured further afield - and met up again at lunchtime to compare notes.

Verity sat down at the kitchen table and opened a notebook with a short list of names. "So, did you have any luck?"

Imogen was reticent. "First of all, I thought it best to invite Grace. I know you don't like it, dear, but we may need her expertise."

Reluctantly, Verity agreed it might be a good idea to keep the pretty blonde werewolf close, for Olivia's sake. "She came back then, did she?"

"No, but you left her number on the coffee table."

Verity raised an eyebrow. "You called her on the phone?"

"Shouldn't I have done?"

"Well," Verity declined to answer. "I was more curious how, if you must know."

"It wasn't difficult to knock the mouthpiece and the receiver of the hook, and Lizzy helped me with the dialing." She looked guilty. "Although I'm afraid we managed to dial several wrong numbers first, and irritate several people who couldn't hear us apologising."

Verity stifled her amusement at the mental image, quickly returning her attention to her list. "So, let me see, I'll be here on Saturday, obviously. And if we can believe Grace, Olivia should be up and about by then. Who else?"

"I invited Lady Jane, but I'm afraid once we started talking, you know how it is. She mainly walks the churchyard, so I gather - misses her husband terribly - but I think I convinced her to come along and be sociable."

Verity had seen the ghost of Lady Jane once or twice before: a pale figure with a dreadful expression, intent on her path through the grounds. She didn't hold out much hope that such a ghost could be sociable, but she added the name to her list anyway, if only to pad it out. "I found one or two who might be able to but didn't want to commit to anything. The only definite one was Siobhan. She's a zombie."

"A zombie?" Imogen looked doubtful. "How exotic. Are you sure it's a good idea?"

"I'm sure it's nothing we can't cope with," said Verity, who didn't like to admit that she knew nothing more about zombies than she did about werewolves. Both had unpleasant physical qualities, and she'd been happy to avoid them when she could. "She's about Olivia's age," she added, encouragingly.

This thought pleased Imogen. "Olivia does need more friends her own age. What's she like?"

"Quiet. Serious. I didn't get much more than a first impression, really: she seemed to be in a hurry, but you get that with zombies. It's to do with how they're usually raised in order to do some task for whoever brought them back."

Imogen paused to take all this in. "Olivia's age? Oh, but that's sad, isn't it? So many people dying when they've scarcely had a chance to live." She sat down at the kitchen table, head resting in her hands as she gazed off into distant reaches. She sighed. "And Olivia herself, of course. She was only nineteen."

"Yes, but she hasn't gone anywhere, has she? She'll be up and about by Saturday, and all these new friends to meet."

Imogen chewed her lip. "Do you think she's going to be all right?"

"Grace says," Verity all but spat the phrase, "that given the timing and everything, there's a nine in ten chance she'll be fine." And what choice did they have but to believe her?

"But she will be a werewolf?"

"Well… yes. She'll still be technically dead, and she'll be a werewolf," Verity admitted. She didn't like werewolves, and couldn't think of anything about them to recommend to a friend, but "but at least that way you'll have the chance to talk to her again. She'll be able to see you. Won't that be nice?"

"Oh?" Imogen's expression brightened. "Yes, I'd like that."

She spent the rest of the day drifting in and out of the room where they'd left Olivia, checking anxiously on her. Feeling that Imogen had enough to worry about, Verity kept her own worries to herself, but while Imogen wasn't looking, she double checked the lock on the bedroom door.





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