After breakfast, Stan and I left the house, thanking our host for everything. We were surprise to hear him bid us farewell.
“I do apologize for not introducing myself properly,” he said from the depths of the darkness. “Do have a safe trip back. Good luck.”
The chauffeur from last night was waiting for us as we walked down the steps. He greeted us as we climbed inside. He closed the door and slid back into the driver’s seat.
“Did you sleep well last night?” the chauffeur smiled at us through the rear-view mirror.
“Yes, it was, thank you for asking,” Stan responded for both of us.
“Mr. Jarsdel is a gracious host,” the chauffeur added. “I will take you to the nearest town, there you could catch a train.”
“That will be very kind of you,” Stan said.
The chauffeur started the motor and led away. The trip was a silent one. I could see Stan cursing himself for not having a notebook and pen to jot down his thoughts.
“Say, good man,” Stan was curious. “Where would you say we are exactly?”
“North of Bewley,” the chauffeur said, “South of Coxwood, East of Thirsk, near Bellerby or what use to be Bellerby.”
“Where are you taking us? Stan asked.
“To Thirsk,” the chauffeur said. “There you will find excellent restaurants, hotels and a train station.”
“Where is Charlestown?” Stan asked. “That was where we were heading originally…”
“Charlestown is West of here,” said the chauffeur, “but I would not recommend going there.”
“Oh, why is that?” Stan was more than interested.
“It doesn’t exist anymore,” the chauffeur said it in matter of fact tone. “It really wouldn’t be safe to go there.”
“What happened to it?” Stan was persistent.
“Charlestown was engulfed by a fire some fifty years ago,” the chauffeur said. “Nobody lives there anymore, just ashes and abandon homes. Questionable people have made it their home now. Only people that live in the night, as they say.”
“Is that so,” Stan rubbed his chin.
“If I may ask, sir,” the chauffeur glanced up at the rear view mirror. “How did you hear about, Charlestown?”
“I, uh, came about this book in an antique store,” Stan began. “It was about towns and villages that have survived the turn of the century.”
“I’m afraid, Charlestown didn’t,” said the chauffeur.
“What would you call the land Mr. Jarsdel resides in?” Stan was hoping to get an answer, but instead it was met with an icy silence.
“It’s best if you put this place out of your mind,” the chauffeur said. “Mr. Jarsdel, was kind enough to give you shelter, don’t mistake his kindness for weakness.”
With that said, the chauffeur drove us in complete silence thereafter. I could see Stan was mulling things over in his head. When we reached Thirsk, the chauffeur dropped us off at Mercur Hotel. Stan left me at the hotel while he went to the library. If I hadn’t been as exhausted as I had felt, I would have followed him. Stan was on the quest to something. He was gone for hours. In the meantime, I huddled under the covers waiting for him to return. It was only one in the afternoon, but it started to rain outside and the room had become dreary and cold.
My mind had returned to the last place we visited before boarding the train to Charlestown. Stan was distracted with the map in his hand as he walked down the street trying to find someone who would tell him how to get to Charlestown. His behavior was causing a bit of attention that, I myself, could not help but notice. The expression of the onlookers was of disgust and apprehension. They pretend to not understand him, some even avoided his path while many of them refused to answer him.
I walked a few steps behind him, pretending to be engrossed at the shop’s window displays. I fooled a few, but I also caught the attention of other strangers that overheard Stan’s inquest. They were curious and quietly slid beside me.
“Why is your husband interested in finding this place?” A man with a thick accent asked.
“He’s-he’s not my husband,” my heart palpitated. He gave me an odd glance.
“Why is he interested in finding this place?” He asked again.
“He’s- he’s a journalist,” I said. “He heard of Charlestown and was curious about it.”
“Nobody goes to this place,” the man said. “If death is what you seek. Nothing good comes from this place… All the evil in the world only lives there. It’s a bad place. You only bring misfortune onto your self if you go there, if you come back, not many do come back.”
“What do you mean nobody comes back?” My heart raced in agitation. “Are you threatening me?”
“I don’t threaten you, miss,” he said. “You seem a nice person… Him, he does not want to listen. He has been warned more than once, and yet he persists. You must convince him to not go. It’s a place of death and destruction.”
“He-he won’t listen to me,” I shuddered.
“Try harder,” he said. “For your own good, convince him.”
“May the Lord be with you, my child,” he signed the cross on his chest and left.
I should have told Stan what the man said, but Stan was obstinate and he would have thought it hogwash and even more determined to seek this place out.