Leona Garth leaned forward expectantly.
"How much longer...sir?"
The man waiting at his desk looked up from not a long distance. He consulted his wrist timepiece as if he was a professional.
"I can't say," he whispered as if his voice were joining with the wind outside. "Maybe another half hour. Ten minutes at my best guess--" He blinked at her before he returned to either disordering or straightening things in his bag.
Leona was mute. She glanced at Frank's closed eyes. She could only barely tell that he was still breathing. This was enough to make her smile.
She could barely describe the amount of time that it was taking to own her cousin's estate. It was taking so long. He must've been far bast eighty, for all that she knew. In her youth, she had shared fears of him living past her, the same as he lived past all of his other relatives.
"I have to go get water." The doctor's voice intruded her thoughts as if they were shattering glass. "To solve this problem--"
He haunted to the door, playing with a hypothermic needle.
Leona did not hear him. She was surveying the large bedroom that was full near to the top of gloom. At its dark nature with the shades drawn.
Once the doctor left, the door closed. The still figure in the fancy, grandiose four-poster bed stirred.
She jolted back to reality with a start. Franklin Turner raised himself slowly onto one elbow, with what looked like a painful effort.
His eyes were born into her, looking like they knew all of her secrets, with a clear mock.
"Why--no, Frank. I was only wishing to jump to the day when you are all better again."
"Ha!" the man that was already limp cackled with laughter. "Get well soon! You know, you remind me of a vulture, Leona. Get a front seat to my death. You make me sad. That car accident. Smashed ribs...complications that you can't imagine. I bet I would've outlined you too, if--"
He starkly ended his statement there, lips soundly still moving. Leona held a frown until she noticed that slower and more fluttery, it was suddenly difficult to keep from smiling.
No one knew just how Franklin Turner had earned his large fortune. He had always been a scholar, going to all the places that people hadn't yet dreamed of venturing. Knowledgable in things like archaeology. Suddenly, without warning, as a middle-aged man, he had struck it rich. Now, in his final (one can only hope) years of life, he lived all alone, a gloomy recluse in a lonely old house, tempting his relatives to visit him.
Leona's anticipatory gaze quickly surveyed the room. This old house with good bones, everything, would be hers soon.
She glanced at a ring that lay on her Uncle Frank's finger. A rather big, gorgeous diamond. Thoughts were interrupted once again with Frank's chuckle.
"Ah, you're a greedy woman, Leona."
"No, I mean, but--"
"I don't even like greedy women."
Leona's words failed her, once more. His fortune would soon be hers, she would only need to endure a few more mocking insults.
She blinked. Startlingly, Frank was twisting off the ring on his finger. He was handing it to her.
"Here, Leona." His deathly grin was only mocking in the slightest bit. "Take it. It is only a small token of my esteem. Now, don't thank me--"
He made a small, genuine gesture before sinking back into his pillow.
"You're going to take it once I'm dead anyway, so why not take it now?"
"Franklin! Really, I had no idea what--"
"Take it," Frank said softly. "It has brought so much aid to me." His shoulders jumped in a shrug with silent laughter.
Leona gazed at the expensive ring. Startlingly, it was not a diamond. A large ruby crystal, gleaming lambently in the fading light. Set in a magnificent silver base, surrounded by odd symbols.
"What do you mean helped you?"
Her uncle appeared deaf to her beckoning. His eyes didn't move their gaze from the ceiling. His lips were trembling steadfastly. "My spirit," he murmured, "I fear the deal wasn't...quite...just..."
No honest response.
Leona gazed bewilderingly at him. Frank's eyes were closed.
Benjamin Garth was still in the parlor when his wife emerged from the fragile with death bedroom. He had eyes dashing with guilt, while he hid his cigar.
"Ben! He's dead. H's finally dead. Did you hear him? This house, his money, it's all ours now." She was joyous.
"Uh--okay," said Benjamin, though inwardly he was stunned and warned of the dangers of his own wife's callousness.
The doctor returned from the kitchen with his hypodermic filled.
"What happened? By chance, did you say that he was--"
"No more," said Leona, hardly being able to restrain her pride in everything that she now owned, until the doctor completed the necessary formalities and finally left.
Benjamin Garth heard the front door slam with surprising speed behind the physician, and felt very sorry for him, having to deal with his wife in her current mood.
"Benny!" Leona's voice was very shrill.
His other half suddenly used her nose with suspicion. "Cigar smoke. How many times do I have to tell--"
"Sorry," Benjamin responded nervously, afraid of what would happen next.
"Let's see. There's this ghastly old living room. Full of gloom. We'll have some chintz curtains to replace those black ones. The whole place needs a remodel...Maybe later we can sell it."
"Yes, my love."
"Now you will quit your bookkeeping job," imagined Leona. "We'll live here in paradise, for the time being."
Benjamin Garth nodded meekly. Ever since he had married this beauty ten years ago, he had only but lived a dog's life. Do this and that. Don't smoke in the house. You should know that it is bad for my asthma. Now, she would have all the money. Only making his life all the worse.
He beheld her tall, ungainly personage moving about the doorway explaining, criticizing, and especially planning.
Benjamin sighed as he traversed into the study. It was a large dark place, with the oddest paintings on the walls. Everything was an outline once someone saw the dusted desk piled high with books near the center of the room.
Benjamin looked at these books. Old, and crumbling with mildew. He paused with amazement. He opened but one of those closed books. His gaze quickly turned into a frown.
"Of course it's greek," he muttered with disgust. He had taken four years of this ancient language in college. He thought that was enough. He squinted, aiming to decipher some of the words on the page before him...
Benjamin Garth turned very pale. He slammed the book shut in a flash, moving away from the desk speedily, rubbing his hands together, as if somehow they were dirtier now than a second before.
"The-The Necro." he blinked, as he was still stunned. Carefully, he turned the cover over and looked once more at the first page.
Small and as delicate as a glass, it read:
Greek Trans. Abdul Alhazred.
Benjamin Garth did not open the book fully once more. He recalled what he had read, shivering, not sure how to take it.
He continued to parouse the other books with his eyes. Another caught his eye.
De Virmis Mysteriis. Prinn.
There was a little slip of paper poking out of that one as a bookmark. Cautiously he opened it. He didn't grin. This piece was also in Latin, which he had expected, with penciled translations outlining the sides. On the piece of paper lay the sketch of the words:
Never accept a gift from a demon. Steal it, buy it, earn it. Do not accept it, either as a gift or as a legacy.
The word legacy was underlined in a thick red pencil.
Benjamin Garth looked at some of the strange hieroglyphics that accompanied this, licking his lips.
He looked at his surroundings of the ominously dark study and got out of there fast.
"Yes, my angel," he responded, wiping some of the stressful sweat from off his brow. Leona looked at him darkly, with eyes of darts.
"Here I go remodeling this place, and I turn around to find that you have wandered off somewhere. At just the right time, I say..." she halted mid-sentence.
"Do you hear that?"
Her husband swallowed with anything but ease. "No, sweetheart, I-"
The sound had it's caution less repeat. It was the slight tinkle of the doorbell.
Benjamin and Leona stared at one another.
"The doctor," muttered Leona, grabbing at a frayed strand of brown hair. "He has phoned the undertaker, probably to rid us of the corpse."
Benjamin opened the door hesitantly. He blinked in his nearsightedness before stepping back.
The visitor standing on their new doorstep straightened his body before bowing. He was inexplicably aged and was clothed completely in pinstripes.
Benjamin stared entirely entranced by his flowing auburn beard.
"Afternoon." their apparent visitor stepped into their room, smiling disarmingly at Leona.
Leona slightly blushed the feeling of disarming in her breast. "What would you like, sir?"
"I-" the man has only smiled, surprisingly at Benjamin. "I was wondering about Franklin, is he-"
"He's departed," Leona interrupted. "Passed from us about ten minute ago."
"That is a pity then. Ten minutes, you say? Never expected him to last so long. Beat Father Time by a near three hours. Hardy fellow, that Franklin. I was-um...seeing what the delay was." One hand was stroking his scarlet red beard like a snake.
Benjamin Garth took one startled step back with surprise. This fellow had a discomforting note to his dark, enchanting eyes and he did not like the way he was looking at the house or anything for that matter.
"What's your name?"
"Mine?" The man's eyes were clouded with mystery. "Sat-nevermind, it doesn't matter anymore. I managed all of Franklin's affairs for him."
"Of course. It was a great deal through myself, Madame, that dirty, old Frank earned things like this house, his money." His sight moved over the room with speed, fishing themselves on the ring that Leona now wore on her left index finger with a smirk.
"What a beautiful ring."
"Huh?" Leona questioned, now uncomfortable as if her ship were sinking quickly and she was seconds from death, joining Uncle Frank all too quickly.
"I remember giving Franklin that ring, all those years ago. It is how he received much of his help, believe it or not." Leona immediately put up her defenses.
"Well, it's mine now. He gave it to me. See?" she snapped, much like a turtle.
"I meant no threat if he did truly give it to you" The stranger's shoulders vibrated slightly as if he were caught in a soundless laugh. "Rather, that is good. Lively fellow, that Frank. Always one for the laughs. Well, don't stop me from warning you..."
"What do you mean warning?"
"Yes. That is truly Franklin's...ring. It really should stay with him, into the eternities."
"Are you trying to threaten me?"
"No, dear, I never would do that." Again came that intimidating smile that could be compared to a serpent with the way that he stroked his beard. "The house was in the contract we made. I plan to take that too..."
Benjamin Garth wasn't listening with his ears. He shook aghast by the apparent shape of the man's head. The two little curls he had at his brow almost looked like horns. And his shadow behind him was discomforting too.
His wife remained at her own self-composure though. "What is it that you want?"
"Oh, nothing...right now." Their guest smiled at them both enchantingly and repeated his bow that was so classy, he wondered what it truly meant. "I have what I was looking for. I hope you have a good day."
They both stood in silence as he walked, almost glided as a tricky wave that would become a tsunami to the front door.
"Well, I never!" said Leona. "Trying to frighten me into giving up this ring. Ben, see him out of our property. I don't trust him."
Benjamin walked to the window, hoping he wouldn't look back to see him through the glass. The apparent stranger that was familiar in the most discomforting way was nowhere to be found.