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Chapter Twenty Seven

Clutching the printed out image that he felt sure answered the puzzle that had been set out by the clue David walked triumphantly out to the cafe. In the corner he spotted his friends clutching on to cups of coffee while they waited patiently for him.

Jeff glanced over as he spotted movement coming from the room that David had disappeared into and felt relieved that his friend was on his way back to them. Standing he walked over to the counter and waved through at Steve to announce that they were ready for their food.

Steve saw a figure appear at his counter and knew instinctively that it was one of his present customers. He glanced through a discrete window that allowed him to peek into the room he used for his internet cafe. The man that had been sat at the computer had left and was clearly back with his friends. Brushing flour of his hands he waddled out to them knowing that he already had two food orders but keen to see if he could get a third from them.

David joined Jeff at the counter fumbling in his pocket to pay for the internet service as Steve appeared. Spreading out a handful of coins on the table he looked up at the portly man who seemed to be waiting patiently for him. The note pad in his hand indicated that he expected more than just payment for the computer as he stood there smiling calmly.

He looked over at Lisa who had remained at the table and was casually pushing a knife and fork around in front of her. His friends had clearly already ordered and from her actions were waiting for him before eating. Looking up at the board displaying the specials behind Steve’s head he felt his stomach telling him food was long overdue.

Peering discretely down at his arm he turned his wrist calculating how long they had left knowing they were on the brink of finding the Vultures home. He had given them 48 hours and they had found what seemed to be the final clue within half that time. If he had found the right symbol which he was fairly sure he had it wouldn’t hurt to eat and even if he hadn’t it looked like his friends were eating anyway.

He contemplated the idea of continuing on his own now he was so close to potentially finding the man that held Anna captive. It almost felt like it would be rude to leave his friends now they had followed him so far. Without them he would not have been able to answer the clues that had got him to the position he was in. Switching his gaze between the table and the board he acknowledged to himself that he needed these two with him and selected a meal.

Satisfied that he had managed to increase his order Steve wondered back into the kitchen leaving the small pile of change on the counter. Turning to his grill he moved the burgers that had been slowly cooking off the heat leaving them on the side as a backup for any ungrateful late night customers. He didn’t need to know these customers to know that they deserved better treatment than the late night rabble he was anticipating.

Gripping the folded print out David made his way over to the table and pulled a chair over. He placed the piece of paper on the table and opened it out presenting it to his friends. Both of them stared at it not fully understanding its significance to the quest he had been researching for.

Lisa was the first to pull it over to herself reading the description that sent chills down her spine. She was aware that a lot of symbols that were used in the modern day had different meanings in their past or in different religions. She still couldn’t forget the day she had found the original meaning behind the Swastika but this symbol surprised her even more.

Since her childhood it had always been a symbol that had been used by organisations that were trying to preserve the world. The darker intent behind what she was now reading put a new spin on it that she felt uncomfortable knowing. Sliding it back across to Jeff she was relieved when the food arrived distracting her thoughts.

Jeff glanced over his plate unable to resist the food that had just arrived and been placed in front of him. Casually he made his way down the description having accepted that nothing about the day was going to be as expected. He choked as he read the alternate names for the symbol but managed to hide his surprise behind his hand.

Accepting the paper back from his friend David made his way through the meal hungrily as he tried to picture how the symbol would look on the map. There were too many different options to be sure which way it was even meant to be placed. He recalled how in religion the cross was usually marked top to bottom and then across a person’s body.

There didn’t seem to be any logic behind which way the cross bar was signed but the priest always started at the top. If he was to use the same principal then the top of his symbol should be at the devils mount. Then again his broken cross was inverted so maybe the devils mount was at the bottom making the vultures rest at the top.

He tried to visualise the road and knew that there were only two turnings off, one that led to Webbe’s water and the other Sybils woods. In his mind he retraced the journey knowing that he hadn’t seen any buildings along the road. The alternative was that the road from Devils mount to the Vultures rest marked the left and right points of the cross. If that were true it meant that either the road to Webbe’s water or the woods held the location they were looking for.

Folding the paper he slipped it into his pocket and continued eating eager to get a look at the map. He glanced at a second item that was being slid casually over to him as he bit down into his burger. He glanced out of the top of his eyes at Lisa and Jeff knowing that they were waiting for his consent to the idea they had silently presented to him.

Since leaving the house that morning he hadn’t considered what they were going to do for the night. In his mind the only focus was on how he was going to get Anna back within the time frame that had been set for him. He could picture searching through the night but now he had seen the terrain that they were working around he knew that wasn’t a practical option. If he had been in a better frame of mind he would have asked Phil about accommodation at the Vultures rest but it felt awkward going back there now.

Opening the small leaflet he studied the details of the bed and breakfast that they had presented to him. It was local to their current location making it practical and the privacy of a room would make plotting the map easier. If they did book in there for a night there was nothing stopping them getting an early start and continuing their pursuit.

He gazed casually at the details admiring the pictures of the bedrooms that seemed very homely. If they were going to stop somewhere it may as well be in town as anywhere else and this place seemed comfortable. Stabbing his fork into a chip he handed the leaflet back to Jeff and nodded his approval of the idea and the place they had found in his absence.

Paying for the meal David watched his friends leave as he thanked Steve for his help. Steve smiled back at him offering him the internet time and printing as a complimentary service. It had been almost a year since he had seen a table that saw so appreciative of his services at the weekend. Nodding to himself as David walked out he muttered about how it was people like that which made his job worthwhile.

Jeff led them down the small roads towards the location marked on the back of the leaflet. The small fence that marked the edge of the front garden held a decorative sign confirming that they were in the right place.

In the dusky light he looked at the building admiring its well-trimmed vinery that led up to the row of windows above the door. The bright white facia gave the impression of the owners being proud of their building and eager to keep it maintained. The deep black door with heavy brass decorations contrasted with the bright paintwork but kept its homely look.

Stepping out of the car he led Lisa up the path with David following close behind. Knowing that his friend was going to want to study the maps he had grabbed them from the car and held them tight under one arm while gripping Lisa’s hand lovingly in the other hand. Peering over his shoulder at David he smiled before turning and knocking at the door.

“Do you have any rooms for the night?” he felt nervous as he spoke seeing a short older lady answering the door

David felt a smile forcing its way on to his face as he saw reflections of his mother in the lady that had greeted them. Without hesitation she opened the door welcoming them into what looked like it was formerly her family home. He could see memories of a time when there were several members of her family filling the rooms scattered in pictures around the hallway.

Pulling hard against a reluctant drawer handle she placed a large book on the oak table and thumbed through to her reservations for the evening. Carefully she read down the list of expected visitors counting them as she mentally allocated them rooms.

Will a family room suit you or would you prefer separate rooms? Her sweet voice carried through the hallway as she spoke.

David watched as the lady’s finger ran down the list trying to remember how many rooms he had seen listed in the leaflet. He turned to Jeff and Lisa as the suggestion of a family room was made and was pleased to receive their nodded agreement. The privacy of a single room was something he had not relished the idea of preferring to reduce their costs not add to them. One by one they signed the guest book before being shown up to their allocated room.

Two double beds filled the room that was pleasantly decorated and filled with furniture that possibly belonged to one of the owner’s distant relatives. Each item seemed individual which gave the rooms a pleasant feeling instead of the usual production line furniture associated with hotels.

David didn’t waste any time in finding a surface to review the map while his friends settled into the room. Digging his hand into his pocket he pulled out a hand full of coins and placed four of them on the places that they had found the clues.

Grabbing the clue that had inspired the symbol he had assessed as being the one he needed he placed it in the top corner of the folded map. Line by line he reviewed the details ensuring that he hadn’t missed anything that might tell him which way up this symbol was supposed to be drawn. The Vulture had made this clue the longest one of all but as he read down the lines he realised it didn’t actually say a lot. Everything about it pointed at him finding a symbol which he hoped he had now discovered.

Pausing for a few second he pondered over the idea that he might have missed something when he was searching on the computer. The page he had opened had shown him a range of different symbols all linked by the words he had written into the search engine.

Most of the other options had been easy to dismiss as they had been too complex for the limited amount of places they had been to. Nero’s Cross made the most sense as it pointed to four different places which matched the number of clues they had followed. Then again they had started at home and the Vulture had proven to them that he knew where they lived.

Quickly he traced the map from the area that held the four coins towards where he lived. There was a considerable distance between the closest point and the street he lived on but that didn’t mean it wasn’t part of the riddle. He thought back over what he had seen online acknowledging that there had been a few five pointed symbols but all of them were equidistance points. Shaking his head he dismissed the idea of home being the first point focussing on the symbol he had chosen. If he was wrong he would have to go back to the café and look again but hopefully luck was on his side this time.

Glancing round the desk he was using he spotted a copy of the bible sitting waiting to be read by the next room users. He smiled as he realised the irony of having a symbol of religion on the same work surface he was using to crack a clue about the occult. In a way both areas were so closely linked but followers of either one would not be seen in the same room amicably together.

Focussing on the map he drew a mental picture of the symbol omitting its outer circle and just using the lines that made up the broken cross. If he had selected the correct sign he knew that the circle would connect the four points he was focussing on but it would only draw a perimeter line. The cross was going to be of more relevance to him as hopefully the point where it intersected would lead him to the Vulture.

Slowly he followed a straight line from the devils mount to the Vultures rest questioning himself again about whether the pub was actually the location he needed. So far it was the most likely place they had been to unless the Vulture was referring to the cabin that was in Sibyls woods.

He glanced over at the woods for a moment visualising the circle that would create the boundary of their marks. Maybe the circle was significant after all as it might cross through the location that was known to be the abandoned home.

In many ways the old witches’ home would make a lot of sense as a location that could be used to hide someone. Nobody had willingly entered the place in years making it an ideal location for and abduction. Slowly he followed the edge of his imaginary circle around nodding in partial relief as he realised that the location of the hut was beyond the edge.

Quickly he focussed again on the road looking for any turnings that he had not seen or any locations that could have a home attached to them. The road from the pub to the mount was too open to have any unseen hiding places and the only roads leading off it were the ones he had travelled down.

Reviewing his options he decided that the lack of options in between the mount and the pub made these the arms of his cross. That meant the place he was looking for was either on the way to the woods or on the way to the lake. Turning the map carefully he focussed on the central point knowing that his symbol had to go through it. The road that led to Sybils woods didn’t go through the middle of his cross even though the place that he had found the clue did. Quickly he looked down at the road that led to Webbe’s water feeling adrenalin flow through his body as he realised this was his best option.

Midway between the main road and the lake he spotted a small lane that drifted away vaguely towards Devils mount. Checking the rest of the road he confirmed that this was the only place where a path took them away from the route they had followed. He tried to picture the location in his head finding it hard to visualise it but knowing it was his best guess.

“I think I have found him” he turned in his chair filled with excitement

Peacefully laying together on one of the beds Jeff and Lisa had drifted off to sleep exhausted after a long day.

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