“Master Bennet will see you now, Mr Fisher,” the young butler announced with a false smile.
Mr Fisher felt an incredible sense of relief as he left the hallway lined with the trophies of Bennet’s hunting exploits. Surrounded by such morbid displays did not fill him with awe or fascination, but rather a nervous discomfort. Almost as if Mr Fisher were an unmoving witness to something evil, doing nothing to stop it, but unable to tear my eyes away.
Bennet’s office was much more laid back and fitting for someone of such his stature. A foreboding office, but a comfortable one. A decorative carpet large enough to cover the floor softened Fisher’s steps, but Bennet still heard him enter.
“Fisher, how are the guests?” Bennet called from a dark room to Fisher’s left. “I hope you’re not like the rest of those stuck-up stiffs, turning your nose up at the food that was prepared!”
“Certainly not, sir,” Fisher nodded towards the darkness. “The party is wonderful, the lights, the music and the food. Although…”
“I’m afraid everyone is wondering where their host is. We all expected to see you at the entrance, perhaps even a speech.”
“Oh, Fisher, you know that’s not my style.”
A snapping noise escaped the darkness, like that of a stick being broken. Bennet’s grunt was clear, which only caused Fisher’s brow to furrow and his concern to rise.
“Sir?” Fisher stepped forward. “Is everything-”
“Just fine, Fisher,” Bennet stepped into the light.
As expected, his attire was splendid, from head-to-toe. Fine shoes, onyx trousers, a deep jacket and startling white poet blouse. His face, clean-shaven and eyes keen.
“Final touches and all that,” Bennet explained. “I’m afraid I put the cart before the horse. I haven’t prepared myself nor my mask, while my servants have done a wonderful job in preparing everything else. Now, down to business before we return to the party.”
Fisher smiled, calm and ready for his questions.
“Now, the guests, how many do you suppose made it?” Bennet lit his pipe, taking small puffs to get the tobacco burning quickly. “I thought it was a tall order to invite so many.”
“Apparently not, sir,” Fisher explained. “Everyone could make it and with your reputation, they wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Really, Fisher, you make me blush. The servants?”
“All have their jobs it seems. The chefs work tirelessly, drinks are plenty and food even more so. It is clear that all are comfortable, easing themselves into their seats and enjoying this evening to its fullest.”
“It does my heart good to hear as much.”
Bennet smiled warmly and nodded happily. Mr Fisher knew what he was going to ask next, he always asked.
“You know you have my support all the way, Mr Bennet. Now, do you want to greet your guests?”
“Thank you, Fisher. That will be all.”
His final word was sharp and cold, but Fisher didn’t mind. It was simply his way when there was something else on his mind. Fisher still wore a calm smile, nodding towards Bennet before walking out of his office. Fisher knew Bennet’s eyes were studying him as he left, the wheels in his mind turning like a clock keeping time.
“I like the mask, Fisher,” Bennet called after me. “A wild cat...somewhat fitting.”
When Fisher walked back into the part side of the manor, he found people just as he left them. Drinking greedily, knowing full well that if they were to pass out they would be in good care. Everyone was among friends, treated like royalty. The stresses of their life long since melted away and now they were relishing in the luxury.
From room-to-room, everyone had found their comfortable seat to warm. Fisher soon found his place in the first room that Bennet would be entering. Two fat men sat by the fireplace, the warm light highlighting their rounded features. Three women chattered amongst each other, complimenting each other’s masks and insulting others.
As Bennet approached the room, servants vacated the room, the music’s volume rising ever so slightly. The fat men rose, as did the woman with a bit more grace, but Bennet held his hands up, bidding them rest. Fisher smiled softly, studying Bennet’s mask with everyone else.
It was horrifying. A real wolf's head, clearly butchered with its jaw torn from the skull. A set of horns, most likely that of a young stag, stuck out from holes above the eyes. It was vile and sinister, making one of the men’s stomach turn at the sight of it.
“Please, everyone, rest easy,” Bennet smiled, his lips barely visible, but expression clear. “It’s wonderful...so very wonderful! To see such dear friends, forgotten loves and inspiring peers.”
As he spoke, gathering everyone’s attention, Fisher approached the closest victim, drawing a serrated blade. With powerful, cruel intent, the knife slit the first aristocrat’s throat. Before anyone could realise, another victim hit the floor.
In the next room, a young woman with a feathered mask tried to leave to find a friend but was stopped by a butler.
“I’m sorry, Miss Atwood,” the butler told her coldly. “Master Bennet is greeting everyone room-by-room and wishes everyone waiting only a moment.”
The Atwood simply stepped past the butler who stumbled to catch her but didn’t give chase, afraid of losing the many others in the room.
“It will take only a moment, you old fart,” she replied childishly. “I’m sure Master Bennet won’t mind too much.”
Atwood skipped onward, peaking into the room where the first slaughter took place. It was quiet, the fat men slumped in their chairs and the three women spread on a single sofa. Not seeing her friend’s brightly coloured dress, the young woman didn’t look too hard at the still figures and moved on to the next room.
As Atwood pranced towards the next room, admiring the drapes and sparking lights, she saw a man stumble out of one room, wearing a wild cat mask.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” Atwood sped towards Fisher, who was deeply shocked to see the woman out of one of the many smoking and lounging rooms. “I’m looking for a good friend of mine, a Miss Lorena Littlechild?”
“L-Lorena Littlechild,” Fisher repeated, his shock breaking into uncontrollable amusement. “I believe she may be in this room, shall we?”
Fisher’s smile coupled with the shaking hand that gestured to the room he just left disturbed Atwood. For a moment, she believed him to be a bad drunk, but as she studied his mask and suit, making out the clear marks of blood, she hesitated. A scream soon escaped the room followed soon by the screamer.
A tall man was brought to the ground by Bennet’s tackle and immediately silenced by a knife. The evil that Atwood saw in the eyes of the horned wolf that Bennet wore was enough to make her faint on the spot. Fisher stared down at her crumpled form, raising his eyes from it to the heads that peaked around corners and out of the rooms adjacent.
“Mr Bennet, I believe the jig is up,” Fisher smiled with sinister humour. “A little sooner than usual…”
Another scream as the bodies were noticed, more as the blood spread across the fall. Bennet stood, with a bloodied dagger, eyeing every face. He was not angry.
“I prefer the chase,” a hushed whisper escaped the mask.
Pandemonium. Aristocrats, helpless and scared thanks to drinking and panic. Many fell on the smooth tiles, their heels and hard shoes aiding the killers. Fisher and Bennet’s cuts were quick, not meant to kill now, but to slow down. In the chaos, many discovered the doors were locked. Some discovered there were no windows on the first floor.
One had almost broken a lock before he was cut down by Master Bennet himself.
The bloodbath was loud at first, but within an hour it was silenced. Survivors hiding here and there, only to be found and promptly executed by the maniacs. The servants and chefs waiting in the kitchen, beyond a locked and barred door. Terrified of their master, the servants prayed they would make it through another one of Bennet’s hunts.
A few more hours later, the last scream echoed throughout the manor,
The servants unlocked the doors and began cleaning the manor, from top to bottom, saving the majority of the bodies on the first floor for last. Meanwhile, Fisher and Bennet took the register of the guests and began checking off names as they piled them together, checking beneath each mask.
“A fine night...a joyous night,” Bennet announced as Fisher read. He breathed deeply, ignoring aching muscles and injuries he sustained from those who fought back.
“Tuly,,” Fisher replied, crossing off the names. “A Matilda Parkes?”
“Yes, I got that one and a Lorena something. One of your additions to the list?”
Fisher’s voice trailed off.
“A-Atwood...that girl...she fainted,” Fisher murmured.
“Yes, I saw,” Bennet nodded. “How terrible we must have seemed at that moment.”
“Benedict, she is still alive.”
The two cruel men exchanged looks before rising from bloodied seats. With rapid movements, the two took sharp corners till they entered the same hallway once more. Only blood and bodies of the victims they crossed off the list, but no Atwood in sight. Looking further, they saw one of the doors to the outside was open. The darkness of the night with its cold air brought with it a terrible fear for both Fisher and Bennet.
“It’s only forest and mountain for miles,” Bennet reminded Fisher. “I will collect the guns, see if you can make out some tracks.”
Bennet left immediately for his room while Fisher ran towards the open doors. Opening them wide, he stared out at the forest. In a rage to see more clearly, Fisher tore his mask off and scowled. He heard footsteps behind him too late, turning on the spot to see the murderous intent in Atwood’s eyes as she drove an antique sword through his cold heart.
“Y-you monsters…” Atwood whispered at first, but her voice grew louder as confidence grew. She brought Fisher to the ground, twisting the sword, wrenching it from his torso and striking again and again with each word. “Demons...traitors...murderers!”
Fisher died with the first strike, but the words followed his spirit in its descent. Atwood glared a tired, fury into his empty eyes. It was the metallic click behind her that brought her back to reality. Turning around, her eyes rested on the bloodied figure of Master Bennet, although none of the blood was his.
“Remarkable, Miss Atwood,” Bennet aimed his rifle at her. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
The hammer clicked, but no bang, a notorious fault in the rifles making. Atwood sprang to her feet, Bennet drew his dagger. Despite him being an experienced killer, Atwood’s sword was more difficult to dodge. The blade ran through his centre, his dagger piercing her side. It was a test of wills and Bennet’s won at first.
Miss Atwood collapsed to the ground, passing on during the fall. Bennet fell to his knees, then falling onto his side. Unable to move, he stared at the feet of the many victims along the hall, the pools of blood. The dark eyes behind the evil mask grew darker as he died smiling, knowing that what happened that night would live on. That a part of him would live on.
And it still does.