[October 16th, 1873]
Dark, ominous gray clouds hung low in the sky, blending in a seamless smudge into the distant waters of the North Sea to the east. No rain fell, though the air was heavy with the grim threat of it, adding a bite to the already chill, coastal wind. Rough, low rolling hills spanned to the north, south, and west, covered with irregular patches of Hounds Tongue, Bronze Sedge, and Pheasant’s Tail Grass. The foliage was windswept and lifeless in the October malaise and slate rocks, yet there lingered a promised beauty to the land that gave a quiet sense of hope for Spring.
Along the northern horizon, a black silhouette, no more than a dark line in the failing evening light, was visible to only the keen eye. This barely distinguishable shadow was Scarborough Castle, and the rough northern boundary to the expansive Westmoore Estate. The southern edge of the property lie just beyond, now only a mere half-mile from where a lone, horse driven cart was plodding its way northward along the meandering, coastal-cliff road.
Fixing his steely gaze against the wind, Callum Vaughn appraised Westmoore Manor once again. The stone structure was sprawling, proud, and dignified looking, with high walls buttressed to handsome turrets at the major corners. Its ancient, martial design was evident to the former infantry officer, and Callum could easily envision some minor lord crowding his men-at-arms to the battlements, calling for them to rain volleys of arrows into defenseless attackers in the lowlands. Behind the front of the manor, which faced east towards the sea, there stood a handsome stone and lumber stable, along with a pair of wooden sheds. Callum suspected these to house the horse feed, grounds keeping equipment, as well as wood for the manor’s kitchen and fireplaces.
Callum adjusted the black, tall bowler hat on his head before scratching at his cheek with a gloved hand. A breathy sigh escaped his lips. Fritz, Callum’s ebony Shire horse, turned his head around in the harness to look at his master with shining, knowing eyes.
“Don’t give me that look, Fritz,” Callum said, pointing a finger at the massive draft animal. “You’ve been talking too much to Constance, lately.”
The horse snorted, and tossed its mane. Callum narrowed his eyes. “Some loyal friend you are. You know how important this is to me. Lady Westmoore deserves to know what happened to her brother. She’ll be reasonable.” He paused for a moment before adding with a dismissive shrug, “She’s not going to try and kill me, Fritz.”
Fritz turned his head forward to face the road. His massive hooves crunched the pea gravel drive that marked the last quarter mile to Westmoore Manor. Callum harrumphed at the animal’s silent skepticism.
“I do hope you’re pleased with yourself, my dear Constance.” The ghost hunter called into the wind.
Callum couldn’t see his spectral partner at the moment, even with his highly gifted eyes. He knew she was within earshot, however. His gifts could at least sense that much within the invisible plane of ether.
“Fritz had no complaints until you bent his ear,” He continued to Constance.
Despite all the supernatural abilities granted to him by the Hindu shamans following the massacre of his company, one gift they had not granted him was that of zoolingualism. Though he could sense and understand the emotions and expressed thoughts of animals, Callum couldn’t converse with them in a literal sense. His very deceased counterpart, on the other hand, spoke with Fritz plenty.
“Well? Nothing to say for yourself?”
He pulled his charcoal black overcoat moodily about himself, the pair of specially crafted revolvers moving at the sides of his ribs. For a ghost hunter, he was dressed handsomely and precisely beneath his overcoat in a woolen suit of ash--the habit of precise dress being an affectation left over from his days in uniform. The moustache he wore likewise was impeccably trimmed, and remarkably orderly given the weather. In Callum’s mind, he was a consummate professional, and even given the nature of his work, looking the part of the gentleman was a warranted touch.
Looking up, Callum gazed fully now upon the grand oaken entrance to Westmoore Manor. What awaited beyond was yet unknown, and he felt a thrill of anxious excitement ripple up his spine.
I truly hope she doesn’t fancy me dead. He thought, thinking of Lady Georgiana Westmoore as he pulled Fritz up to a stop at the base of the entrance stairs.