Turner by Karl Drinkwater (a 2nd excerpt)

Lord John crossed the garden of Plas Dof, the large house overlooking Pentref Bychan.

In a corner, by the high garden walls, was a clump of yew trees surrounding a marble mausoleum. Most of his ancestors had been entombed below it, sealed in forever. Do Gooders or Realists, it didn’t matter in the end. Their bodies were metaphorical worm-food.

But the Ynyr Fychans decided they didn’t want to lie forgotten, so they left means by which people could come and pray at their tomb – misguidedly and egotistically expecting that people would. The small man lifted a rusting grid in front of the mausoleum, crushing some large snails in the process. Others were stuck to the underside of the grid. He moved it to one side, into the long grass which was being pounded down in the rain.

The man lowered himself, and stood up to his waist in a square concrete hole, about two feet on each side, which the grid had covered. Then he turned on his torch. A yellow beam extended down to his feet. He knelt on the wet, slimy stones; around him snails and slugs were on the move. Other creatures disappeared into cracks when the light passed over them.

He crawled on his hands and knees along a claustrophobic tunnel below the ground. His shoulder nudged a snail, which fell with a crack, and his knee crunched the shell as he passed over. After a few feet he reached steps leading down to an echoing chamber and paused to brush the spiders’ webs off his head. He was glad his body was compact.

The floor of the wedge-shaped room was wet, since water ran down the steps and pooled blackly at the narrow end. The rear wall was old brick, with occasional gaps left so people could peep through at the coffins and pay their respects.

Or not.

His torch shone on the hole he had made in the lower right of the wall by removing bricks. He crawled through that into a chamber beyond, where his ancestors had thought they would never be disturbed.

They would be disturbed tonight, though, that was for certain.

It smelt musty, with undertones of decay, damp, mould, urine and vomit. He took a lighter from his pocket and lit the candles he had placed in niches and next to coffins. One candle had been balanced in the eye socket of an ancestor whose coffin lid was open. Then he turned off the torch.

A muffled sound came from the corner. He carried a candle over, revealing a man chained by his wrists to a ring set in the moss-covered wall. The man was dressed in tracksuit bottoms and an FCUK T-shirt. A gold chain hung round his neck, and he had a gold hoop in each ear. His hair was cut short, flat on top, with tramlines round the sides. His face was bruised and his clothes damp and slimy; silver gaffer tape covered his mouth. He eyed the new visitor warily, and tried to say something but it just came out as “mmns” and “nnnghs”.

“There is no point speaking to me. I can’t understand you. Even without the gag, your Manchester accent was horrible, verging on incomprehensible. Anyway, I’m here now. Sorry you have had to wait, but at least you are no longer in a sack, eh? After all, you are important to me, and now is your time. The only time you will be useful in your pointless, ignorant life.”

Lord John moved to a chest and opened it. The hinges protested with a squeal. He rummaged amongst the contents, which rattled and clanked together, then withdrew a foot-long rusty iron spike with a sharp point. He held the tip in front of the man’s face, making him flinch away, but Lord John followed him, always holding the spike where the man could see it.

“Don’t get too hopeful that the importance means you will be spared, though.”

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