A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 7

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while travelling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.


If it had been Jackerby in charge and not Johansson, I had no doubt I’d be at the end of a firing squad now.

Jackerby was not Army, nor a man of honour.  His gait, his manner gave him away, despite the fact he was out of his usual uniform.  I suspect now I had been taken care of, that would change, and we’d get to see his true colours.

After leaving the hall, I was escorted downstairs to the cellar, and where I knew there were a number of rooms with iron gated fronts, places I suspected, in olden days, enemies of the castle were held, enslaved or executed in these cells.

There were several male prisoners is the first two cells, awaiting their fate, one which would not include escaping to the other side, but perhaps something a lot worse than death.

At the end, there was another corridor, and several smaller cells, where second from the end, I was roughly shoved by one of the guards.  He was going to add the butt of his rifle to the back of my head for good measure, but Jackerby stopped him.

I was sure it wasn’t out of respect for Johansson.  It appeared that Johansson needed me for something else.

After the door closed I yelled out, “All the rooms upstairs filled?”

“Yes.  It’s high season.”  So Jackerby had a semblance of a sense of humour.


The room, if it could be called that, had a camp stretcher, a seat, and a bucket.  The light came from a burning torch out in the corridor, an interesting touch that electricity had not made it down this far.

The floor was cobbled, and, like the walls, damp.  There was an overbearing odour of mustiness in the room.

It was also cold, so these cells must be located not only under the old castle but underground.  That meant centuries of history, and probably a ghost or two.  I was sure terrible things had happened, down in these cells, not just back then but also recently.

Outside the wall, I could hear the sound of running water, so the back wall must border onto the stream.  And there must be a gap, or hole somewhere for the sound to reach me, but it was too dark to see.

When night fell, it was going to be a lot worse; the light wouldn’t be affected, but it was going to get a lot colder.  As it was the torchlight from the passage barely made an impact, and it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust.  And I was sure there were rats, just waiting for the dark to come out to play.

I moved the seat to beside the door and sat down, trying to make myself comfortable, in a position where I might hear them coming if they came back.

Then a voice quite near, said, “What are you here for?”


© Charles Heath 2019

One thought on “A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 7

  1. Hi Charles ! More of your mystery story. Still very eirie atmosphere with always a drop of humour. I love the question/ending. Do you write serially in magazines ? Wouldn’t it be great if we came back to weekly episodes in the local paper, Dickens’ style (I think I’ve already made this comment, I apologize if it was to you !).
    Thank you for liking my posts: promise, practice, and sunshine blogger. I seemed to have completely missed your A to Z challenge. Are comments still open ? Slowly catching up !
    Have a pleasant week. March weather in May, here ! 17’ C, windy, showers, cool easterly breeze. Off to Barcelona (Sitges) this evening, long weekend Ascension holiday in France ! The weather should be sunnier but not above 20 degrees ! Whereabouts are you ? Canada ? East or West ?
    Take care

    Liked by 1 person

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