THE BENOCK CHRONICLES
*Time is like a stream of water on an endless sandy beach. Sixty-five million years ago two meteors slammed into the Earth, one in the Indian Ocean, another in what is now known as the Gulf of Mexico. The vibrations the world made shifted the sands of time, and smaller streams grew from it. History has a way of being rewritten when things like this happen. This is only one time line, there are many more.*
I got the email about an hour before I left my desk, right before I pressed send on my newest fluff story. The email was short and to the point;
“If you want the story of your life be at my house, 9113 Cottingham, at 7pm – James Benock”
First off, I didn’t even know who this guy was and I knew that part of town wasn’t the city’s best. After spending thirty minutes Googleing him, I discovered he was old, rich and a hermit. I immediately thought of Howard Hughes. I was a little off. There were no pictures, just a small bio that didn’t list his birth date, and the city of his birth didn’t even exist. He was European by descent and had a net worth of over $200,000.00. And it looked like he didn’t spend any of it, from the condition the townhouse was in.
The dark two story townhouse looked like a frontage for a horror film from the sixties, chipped steps of stone leading up to a dark walnut double door. Tattered curtains hung in the darkened windows; I know I saw one move as I pulled up. As I climbed the worn out steps I had the feeling I was being watched, but I couldn’t tell from where.
After knocking on the door, an old brass knocker, chipped and worn with the head of a wolf, it was finally opened by a skinny tall bald man with a deep voice, “Are you Brandon Hutchins?”
“Yes, I am. Mr. Benock asked me to stop by. He thought I may be…”
“Yes Sir, you’ll have to wait in the den if you don’t mind. Mr. Benock should be down shortly. This way please.”
The old man ushered me into the dark foray and I followed him down a long hall way through a solid oak brown door. As I entered, my eyes caught some movement from another room, the hugest dog I had ever seen sat curled up on a worn out pad, his head watching my every move. A chill went up my spine, as its tongue came out and licked its lips. I had the feeling he was hungry – and I was hoping I wasn’t for dinner.
The deep voice echoed again through the still house, “Please wait in here Sir. Mr. Benock will be back shortly.”
I was early, the note said 7pm and it was only 6:45, but he should have been here waiting for me. “Where did he go, if I may ask? His note…”
“He went out…for a bite. He will return before 7.” With that, the butler shut the door and left me alone with my thoughts.
The room he had shoved me into was a small library with a fireplace and two overstuffed chairs in the center. The only light came from the burning embers, but it was enough that I could sturdy the sea of books and photos lined haphazardly on the bookshelves sunk into the walls.
It was a sea of old leather bound books mixed with first edition paperbacks. The spines worn down and cracked like old wood on a dried out dock.
The pictures were interesting, from sketches drawn on yellowed parchment to black and white photos from the civil war and following every era to the present. With the fireplace the only light in the room, it was difficult to make out every detail in the pictures.
An antique pipe rack sat on the table next to one overstuffed chair, all were discolored from use, but the one that caught my eye was a meerschaum pipe with a bowl carved like a wolves head. The pipe must have been as old as the rack, the white had long since turned brown through the use.
My thoughts were so preoccupied that I jumped when the door opened and a jolly voice greeted me with a laugh.
“I’m sorry I startled you Brandon, I’m James Benock. Hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
With the lack of lighting in the room I couldn’t see his face well, but his body was of medium build, tall, about 6 feet, and his hands were not as dark as I expected, but seemed tanned. Their grip on mine as we grasped hands was strong and almost overpowering. I noticed the scent of musk when he entered and after crushing my hand he gently led me to one of the chairs in the center of the room.
He sat across from me, in the shadows, and crossed his legs. For what seemed like an hour, but I knew was only closer to 10 seconds, all we heard in the room was the sound of the fire crackling in the fire place. It must have been the flames that cast the red reflection in his eyes, thou I couldn’t see his face clearly, I made out some distinct features. A thick hairy brow shaded the eyes, the hair appeared to extend across the bottom of his forehead. He wore a dark smoking jacket over a darker turtle neck shirt and dark slacks – the lighting refused to help distinguishing the colors.
Once he finally spoke his voice was deep and throaty.
“Do you mind if I light up?” he asked me as he reached toward the small table next to his chair, grabbing the meerschaum wolves head pipe.
“Not at all, those are nice pipes. That wolf looks fantastic. I don’t think I have ever seen a meerschaum pipe that dark.”
“It belonged to…a relative of mine. He had a passion for wolves and had this carved especially for him.”
“That’s cool, but I know you didn’t ask me here to talk about pipes.”
Striking a wooden match, he slowly brought it up to light the crown of tobacco for a second before he tamped it down and relit it for a third time. The acrid smoke filled the room; just a touch of cherry covered the musky odor I noticed earlier.
Between light puffs on the stem he managed a few words. “I have noticed your stories in some of the tabloids. I like your subject matter, ghosts, monsters and myths. I thought you would be interested in writing my biography. I read your book; your writing is very good, it was hard to put down.”
My last book sold two copies, one went to my mom. “Oh, you’re the one. What makes your life so interesting that I would want to write it? I have a few things on the shelf already. Most people don’t go for biographies now days. And besides, I write horror, werewolves, vampi…”
“Precisely Mr. Hutchins, that is why I asked you here. I’m getting tired of hiding, changing everything, disappearing. I’m running out of names.”
The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Another nutcase. Just what I need to get my writing discovered.’ I would have walked then, maybe I should have, but I stayed and listened.