In this extract from The Weave, Richard an English author finds The Nonesuch Club and meets the inscrutable Oskar…
At night the maze of narrow streets and dark alleyways seemed forbidding. Tall houses on either side of the streets leaned drunkenly against each other, many with a first-floor storey overhanging the street below, looming, somehow threatening. He shambled around the deserted streets with no particular direction in mind and found himself approaching the church via the Rue de Penitents Blancs. ‘I’m white and I’m very penitent,’ he shouted wildly, ‘so what are you picking on me for?’
In reply a jagged shot of lightning ripped across the sky followed by the rolling crash of thunder. It began to rain – at first huge spattering drops and then a skin-soaking, flesh-numbing torrent. Another shot of lightning and the street lights flickered and died. Richard was plunged into blackness. Not a shard of light was to be seen – no glimmer through the closed shutters or lead-latticed fanlights, just blackness. ‘Oh yes, oh yes, very funny,’ he cried. He had forgotten that the thrifty council and citizens of Montain turned off the street lights at midnight during the tourist off-season and went to bed early.
He swivelled this way and that like a pointer dog casting for a scent. In the end he turned blindly to his right and slowly crept along the cobbled street. He muttered to himself. ‘If that was the Penitents’ Rue then I’m near the church and…’ but he was too befuddled. He gave up trying to work it out. Instead, holding his hands out in front of him he shuffled forward. At one point he was convinced he heard footsteps behind him and a flicker of fear grew. He tripped and stumbled on the cobblestones. Under the shelter of an overhanging roof he stopped and peered into the darkness behind him. He saw nothing. The rain poured off the roof spattering the pavement and splashing up the hems of his jeans. He looked behind him again and, in the flash of another lightning shot, thought he could make out a dark figure. Nervously, he began to shuffle forward again. He took just a few steps when he felt a touch on his shoulder. Whipping round, a trailing tendril of wisteria hanging loose from a house wall brushed his face. Thoroughly unnerved he panicked and turned down a side alley. He had no idea where he was. Again he felt a touch on his shoulder and he broke into a blind run, stumbling and splashing through the stone gutter that ran down the centre of the alleyway.
Then he saw it… just a glimmer of greenish-blue light ahead. Gasping, he half-ran towards it. He stood in front of huge wooden gates.
Above the gates an old-fashioned oil lantern glowed dimly. On one of the gates a large bronze knocker in the form of a grotesque spider glimmered in the light. He hesitated then reached out for the knocker. One gate opened. He blinked nervously as a man appeared holding a large black umbrella. All he could make out of him was that he was tall and wearing evening dress. Before he could speak a voice, smooth and respectful, addressed him.
‘Do come in, sir, and shelter. It’s not a night to be out.’
And that’s all for now, folks. To find out what happens to Richard watch out for the book… out 16th November.