This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 1145 words.
June 1898. Madame Enecsu becomes involved.
The June sun was hot that Sunday morning, and Patrice was flustered by the time he found the address in that unfamiliar district. The house was respectable, not at all what he had expected. The door was opened by a young woman wearing a white shirt, and a pair of man’s trousers. Her nose was sharp, and her eyes cold. Patrice took off his hat. “Madame Enescu? You are not expecting me, but I was given your name by Madame Rosa, the Spanish lady”. Pulling the door wider, the young woman spoke in heavily-accented French. “Come in and wait. I will see if she is free to see you”. She showed him into a small parlour, and he stood respectfully, rolling the hat in his hands.
When she arrived she was also nothing like he had expected. He had imagined a crone, someone toothless and wrinkled. But the woman was strikingly beautiful, with olive skin, and shining black hair drawn tightly back over her head. She gave the appearance of a Flamenco dancer, with her voluminous skirts, and carefully-applied cosmetics. “Please sit, Monsieur. I take it you have need of my talents?” Patrice leaned forward on the small wooden chair. “Madame, I do not know who else to turn to. My daughter has a sickness of the mind, and is uncontrollable. The doctor suggested an asylum, but my wife and I will not hear of it”. The woman snapped open a black and red fan, and began to flap it rapidly around her neck. “Tell me all, Monsieur”.
Patrice related the whole series of events, then sat back on the chair, his eyes moistening. “So do you think you can help us?” She looked at him over the fan, and spoke through it too, her words precise. “I am originally from Romania, Monsieur. But I have lived in Paris a long time. Such a wicked place has need of the skills taught to me as a young woman in my country. I will have to come and look at your daughter, with my assistant. If you wait for us to prepare, then we can go today. Time is of the essence. But I warn you now, my services do not come cheap. Are you a man of means?” He swallowed, unsure just how much she was talking about, but not wanting to ask her price. “I am but a humble toy-maker, Madame. But my wife and I have savings, and she has some of her mother’s jewellery that can be sold”.
He stood up as she did, and she turned as she left the parlour. “Then go and secure a cab, Monsieur. Tell the driver to wait, and I will be out soon”.
It took less than five minutes to flag down a cab, but they did not emerge for a further fifteen. He had already had to promise the driver a generous tip, to get him to wait. Despite the heat, Madame Enescu was wearing a heavy black cloak and bonnet, and the young woman who followed carrying a leather bag was dressed in a belted man’s raincoat, and wearing a large cap. The journey back to his home was awkward. The women remained silent, and any attempt he made at conversation was stopped by the younger one, with a wave of her hand.
Inside his house, they virtually ignored Adele, simply nodding at her greeting, and effusive thanks. Taking off her cloak, Madame Enescu sniffed the air, and turned to her assistant with a knowing look. “You must leave us to our examination of the girl. You understand that? No interfering, whatever you hear from her room”. They both nodded, and watched as she walked off to Patricia’s room, without asking where it was.
For two hours, Patrice held on to his sobbing wife as they listened to the sounds coming from behind the door of their daughter’s room. Madame Enescu’s voice could be heard speaking in German, another language that they presumed was her native Romanian, and French too. Other voices were heard. Patricia’s plaintive tone, the voice of a man, laughter, and swearing in German and French. Foul swearing, obscenities, and blasphemy as well. Adele flinched at every word. She had never heard such things voiced out loud. Then there was the sound of hammering, like nails being driven into wood and plaster. When the door opened, the masculine-looking assistant emerged, holding her cap and the leather bag. She nodded for them to go in.
Patricia lay on the bed. She was calm, and her eyes were open. The foul smell had gone, and Madame Enescu stood at the side of her, red-faced and looking overheated. All around the room, crosses had been fixed to the walls. They were Orthodox crosses, like those Patrice had seen on Russian Icons. She waved them back out of the room, and followed them to the kitchen table. Her assistant remained in the hallway, looking bored. “You have some water perhaps. Or wine, for preference?” Adele took down one of the best glasses, and Patrice opened a bottle of Bordeaux he had been saving for Sunday lunch.
As she sat at the table gulping the wine, she looked up at them with a matter-of-fact gaze. “The girl is undoubtedly possessed. I have managed to calm her for now, but I doubt things will stay quiet for long. You must on no account let her touch your face or head, do you hear me? Take great care as you wash her, and feed her. The evil is warned now, and will try to leave her”.
Patrice stared wide-eyed at this confirmation of his greatest fear. “There is a demon inside her, Madame?” The woman smiled, and shook her head. “Bless you Monsieur, but no. Demons do not inhabit the living. This will be a rogue spirit. A thrill-seeker. Someone trying to live on in the bodies of others. It seems your daughter was chosen by chance. She was likely in the right place at the wrong time”. Adele swallowed hard. “Is she lost then? Can you help her?” Finishing her wine with a slurping noise, she smiled again. “Not lost. Well not totally, I can help her, but I will have to come back another time.
Now, some jewellery was mentioned?”
The inheritance from Adele’s mother was inspected with an experienced eye. Much of it was discarded onto the table, and when she had finished, five items remained in the simple wooden box. A necklace, three brooches, and a gold ring set with precious stones. “I will take these five things for now. But when I come back on Monday evening, I will require one thousand francs in cash. You have that amount?” Patrice nodded gravely. It was almost all they had in the world.
“Of course, Madame. I will have the money waiting for you”.