As we raced through the darkened corridors back to the Room of Visitation, I asked Janus how it was that my former employer knew both myself and poor Miriam – as far as I could determine, he had never met my wife.
“He may have been manipulating events all along,” said the sergeant with a heavy sigh. “For years and years, in fact. He may have ‘arranged’ for you to meet Miriam, for some nefarious purposes of his own. I have a good friend in the constabulary who will look into it if I ask him to…he and the doctor have met before.
“Now, here we are at the Room once again. Miriam needs you, Thomas. An old link still exists between the doctor and her - you must stand between them and break that link. With your great love for her.”
I think, at that moment, that I began to understand a small portion of what it is that Sgt. Janus does. With his unswerving love for humanity, he breaks the ties between here and…the other place and sends souls onward to their true rest. But though I was filled with that revelation, my frustration over being manipulated for years remained hot in my blood.
“Why did Miriam not tell me?”
Janus looked upon me kindly. “She could not. Her madness, you see. It must have been hell on Earth for her. But, now, you have the opportunity to right that terrible wrong.”
He opened the door to the Room and we both stepped inside. It was exactly the same as I had left it. Moving across the Room I immediately took the chair that I had vacated only an hour before and looked up at Janus for direction. He seemed pleased that I needed no urging to proceed.
“Miriam will come to you once more,” he said, moving about the Room and touching several objects, seemingly making minute adjustments or the like. “You are the key to her imprisonment. You are the light she will follow to find her way back to the path.”
With that he walked behind my chair and out of my view. I heard a door open, much as I had before in the Room, but again I wondered at that – there was no other door save the one that I could plainly see, the one through which we had come not minutes before.
Then, Miriam sat before me. This time not taking the chair opposite me, but kneeling at my feet, her head resting upon my knee and one hand stroking my leg. Oh, I nearly cried with anguish!
“Now, Thomas,” came the voice of Sgt. Janus, bodiless and ghost-like, “break the link.”
“But how?” I wailed, feeling the madness that crawled through Miriam, through her shade that sat in front of me. I wanted to reach out and touch her, but I remembered what she had said before: I could not physically embrace her.
“Part of you still works for him. Reject it. Reject him. Break the link.”
I looked down at my wife, my poor, lost Miriam. My feelings for her were clear, clear as cut crystal. My feelings toward my former master were clear – or so I thought. I believed that I had cut my ties with him ten years ago, but I saw then that all I had severed was what existed in the material world. My soul still rested in his hands.
Drawing on my still-heated love for Miriam, I cut the ties. I broke the link.
“Miriam! He cannot – will not – hurt you further! I will not allow it!”
Janus’ voice filled the room, strength in audible form.
“Go thee to thy rest, oh shade. Thou hast served well in life, now take thy reward…”
Unable to control myself anymore, I reached out to touch Miriam, but she was gone. And, I knew with a certainty, no longer lost.
I sat for a long time in that chair in the Room of Visitation, a part of me hoping that that shade would come back. Then, after many hours, I got up and rejoined Janus in his front parlor. When he saw me enter the area, he smiled and clapped me on the back, his sympathy evident despite his lack of words. I thanked him and told him I should be finding my way home, though I was unsure how I would achieve that goal, being without a motorcar or other transportation.
In the end, the sergeant insisted that I borrow his own auto. He made his apologies for not accompanying me, but he needed to stay at the house and continue to supervise its “cleaning.” He would send someone around later to pick up his car.
The car turned out to be a brand-new Hudson Phaeton. Driving it served to alleviate some of my depression.
As I rode along, down the long drive from Janus House and then onto Raynham Road proper, I looked out at the beautiful snow all around me and finally felt free. Free for the first time in decades. Since my childhood. I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off of me and that I could finally breathe.
It was over.
Or so I thought right up until the very second the other car appeared out of nowhere and crashed into me, sending the Phaeton tumbling over and over and down into a ditch…
TO BE CONCLUDED in Part 10.
All contents © Jim Beard 2012
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