The Virgin Goddess of the Hunt

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John spent weeks planning the intricacies of this operation. It may not have been an impregnable fortress or a high security facility manned by armed guards. Nor would he find any barbed wire, twelve foot high fences or moats to traverse. In fact, his plan involved little more than leaving a window unlocked before he left work.

Security was not a concern, however John did not want to be spotted during the raid. In a small city or town, people had no greater pleasure than to spread rumours. He guessed this had something to do with the lack of television, meagre newspapers, non-existent high arts and having a grand ole choice of one radio station. Was there a better way to relieve the monotony of one's day than airing someone else's dirty laundry?

After supper, he drove midway along Victoria Street before stashing the car behind some shrubs. John waited till dusk then grabbed a bag from the trunk. As he watched the vestiges of light fade from the land, the warmth of the sun gave way to a cold and hostile night.

Tonight was a new moon, so John found it difficult to make anything out. He relied mostly on memory and the sound of crushed gravel to lead the way. Once nearer to town, lights from the residences allowed him to make out the outlines of their properties, so he skirted along them like a cat burglar on the prowl.

The town was silent as a tomb, in stark contrast to the nightlife he encountered in the big cities. While moving through town, he made use of back alleys and used available cover to conceal his advance.

Every time he saw a silhouette or believed he could be observed, the barrister hid. Were these legitimate fears? Had they been nothing more than a trick of the mind? Had there been more going on than he was led to believe? At the height of the witching hour, he reached for his window, looked about, and used a crowbar to lift open the window.

The office was quiet since the boilers were shut down for the summer. Normally there were the familiar creaks, pings and knocks, all the sounds common to an inhabited building. At the moment, all he could hear was his own shallow breathing, a good sign since that meant he was the only one here, or so he hoped. Nonetheless he locked the window as a precaution.

John took a moment's pause to ensure he was not followed. Once satisfied the barrister slipped on a pair of soft-soled shoes then used a corner to conceal lighting his blackout lantern. For a moment the match gave the room a hellish hue before he brought down the assembly to produce a thin filament of light. It was not enough to read by, but enough for him to make out any obstacles while he made his way to the basement.

The basement held records for investigations and court proceedings in the county. He had been in that room frequently and found its records were a bit bizarre but nonetheless innocuous.

Tonight he wanted to find out what was stored in the adjacent room. The infamous room that had been referenced in Edward Locke's journal. The room that was marked Boiler Room on the door, however, there were no sounds emanating from the room. Nor did it explain why there were boilers at the far end of the basement.

The room with a door that had been painted shut long ago and locked with an old style key. Last month, John had used a knife to cut through the layers of paint. He wanted to see if disrupting the seal would arouse suspicion. When no one paid any heed, John knew it was safe to make an attempt.

Fortunately, Edward left him a copy of the key along with the journal. John was thankful he did not need to add a break and enter charge to his list of crimes. What secrets would he find hidden within?

Sure enough, the lock easily gave way, at least once a liberal dose of oil was poured into the keyhole. John moved inside then closed the door, a moment later he lifted the blackout mechanism which filled the room with light. He already knew there were no windows so there was no risk. At first glance, it appeared to be an exact copy of the records room down to the dimensions and arrangement of its filing cabinets.

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