Dr. Paine inhaled sharply. “Every carrion eater in Cairo must be here to see their unholy queen,” he said.
Lucy looked surprised at Dr. Paine’s hostile tone.
“Don’t mind him,” Beau said. “Dr. Paine had a bad experience at an Arkham cemetery once.”
“Ghouls tried to eat me,” Dr. Paine said. “Disgusting beasts – they feed on human flesh you know.”
“They are my loyal subjects,” Lucy said. “You will do no harm to them and I will see they do not harm you. Do we understand each other?”
Both Nellie and Beau leaned away from the two. Lucy and Dr. Paine’s eyes locked on each other.
“Yes,” Dr. Paine said at last.
“Very good,” Lucy said.
Nellie knew vampires and other monsters considered Lucy their queen after Lucy had destroyed Lilith’s corporeal form in a fight at Stone-henge in 1893. Though she had always thought Lucy conducted herself with a high-minded arrogance, she had never seen her as imperious until now. Beau too was caught off-guard by Lucy’s demeanor.
“We shall go inside now,” Lucy said. “My friend keeps rooms here for mortal guests, but I beseech you not to stray from them no matter what you hear or see. You will be safe from the Germans and the Egyptian authorities here.”
Dr. Paine stepped warily from the car and heard a swell of grunts and barks rise from the creatures gathered in the shadows. The sound rose even louder as Beau and Nellie stepped out, but the moment Lucy’s door opened, the roar stopped. The shadowy figures prostrated themselves on the paving stones.
Dr. Paine gripped the handle of the Luger in his pocket tightly. Should the ghouls rush him, he would take as many of them as he could, but he would not empty his gun. They would not capture him as the fiends had so many years ago in Arkham.
Lucy stepped to the rear of the long black automobile and opened the boot lid then joined Beau, Dr. Paine and Nellie at the entranceway. At the top of the stairs, she turned and spoke in an unknown language and was answered by a multitude. Lucy seemed to glow from the exaltations of her followers.
With a final wave, she turned and entered through the doorway. Dr. Paine stood to the side and watched the ghouls emerge from the shadows into the light under the street lamps above the automobile. The hideous figures lifted three Germans from the trunk and immediately began to tear the bodies apart with their teeth. At least one of the Germans was still alive and the pain brought him back to consciousness. The German’s agonized screams echoed down the dark street. Then to his horror, Dr. Paine realized the others were alive, too. In the hoarse gasps between the Germans’ shrieks, Dr. Paine could hear the flesh being ripped from their bodies followed by the crunch of bones and even louder, piercing screams.
One of the ghouls looked up from his feast and his eyes met Dr. Paine’s. The yellow fangs of the ghoul dripped red with blood. Beau and Nellie stood to either side of Dr. Paine. “Come inside, Doctor,” Nellie implored.
“I wish I had my shotgun,” Dr. Paine said fiercely. Nellie looked at his blanched face. She felt sickened by the sounds behind her. She tugged at Dr. Paine’s arm until he followed her inside.
In the entrance hall, torches cast an orange glow over the stonework. Nellie had a sense of not being inside a building, but inside a tomb. Spider webs covered the ceiling and shadows seemed to sway with no regard to the flames of the torches.
Lucy led the three down a hallway lit by torches in wall sconces. Nellie held the grip of her luggage tightly with one hand and reached out to take Dr. Paine’s hand with the other. There were open doorways off the long hallway they traveled, and from some Nellie thought she caught from the corner of her eye movement in the dark recesses. She hurried until she was directly behind Beau, who followed Lucy as she came to a simple, wooden staircase up to a narrow corridor with a row of wooden doors on the right and a blank wall on the left. Oil lamps were set in recesses in the wall, but the far end of the corridor disappeared into shadows.
“Nellie, this will be your room, Dr. Paine in here and Beau here,” Lucy said. “Please make yourselves comfortable. You are invited by the Scarlet Lord to dine with him this evening at midnight.”
Beau began to speak, but Dr. Paine interrupted him. “Do you expect us to have appetites after seeing that exhibition from your ‘loyal subjects’ outside?” Dr. Paine asked.
“Yes,” Lucy said.
“Could you not have shown mercy and made certain the Germans were dead before handing them over to those creatures?” the Doctor asked.
“No,” she said coldly.
Lucy turned towards the stairway, paused at the top and said, “I shall call upon you shortly before midnight to escort you to the dining hall.”
Dr. Paine, Nellie and Beau looked at each other without speaking before stepping into their rooms.
Nellie opened the solid, wooden door to a room with a simple divan for a bed and a candle for light. The stone block walls and spartan furniture reminded Nellie of the bed chamber at a monastery where she had once seduced a monk. There was a wash stand with a water pitcher next to it. She opened a heavy-looking ward robe and put her clothes away. Then she poured water into the basin and washed her face. There was a tap on her door and she jumped, turning suddenly and reaching for the Luger with trembling hands before she recognized Dr. Paine’s knock.
“Come in,” she said.
Dr. Paine entered. “Sorry,” he said, noticing her expression. “I didn’t mean to startle you. This place has me on edge, too.”
“I’m beginning to think we should have taken our chances with the Germans at the hotel,” Nellie said. “Are we guests or prisoners here?”
“My worry is we are the main course for dinner,” Dr. Paine said.
Continue to Chapter 8