This issue Diana deals with a ghostly Inn keeper. Ho hum…
This issue Diana deals with a ghostly Inn keeper. Ho hum…
Diana and I Ching are trying to drive their car through a heavy snow storm which appears to be getting worse. Suddenly up ahead they spot two travellers standing by their car which has driven into a ditch. They pull up alongside the stranded men and ask if they can be of assistance. The men reply that they have a dead battery and cannot get the car out. The temperature is dropping fast and Diana suggests they get in.
As Diana sets off again she switches on the radio for a weather report. She switches on just as a news bulletin is going out about two convicts who have escaped and are considered armed and dangerous. Before Diana can react she finds one of the men in the back seat pushing the barrel of a revolver against her head!
He tells her that she must do as he says and orders her to carry on driving. She complies but adds that with the worsening weather she is not sure how much farther they can get. As the car battles its way into the ever deepening snow their progress becomes slower and slower until finally the vehicle runs out of fuel.
Disembarking she tells everybody that this is the end of the road and the convicts order the Amazon Princess and her Chinese mentor that they will proceed on foot. As Diana replies that they will not make much headway in the blizzard they suddenly spy the lights of an old Inn far in the distance. Prodding her with his gun one of the convicts tells her to lead the way towards the shelter.
As they walk towards the Inn Diana notices a sign which reads “Inn of the White Horse”. The name rings a bell but she cannot place it. At last they reach the front door and Diana knocks. The door opens and they are greeted by a beaming, cherubic old woman who invites them into the warmth. As they all step inside it is almost like stepping back a hundred years. Inside the large main room they see a giant fire place warming the lovely old fashioned room. The old lady introduces them to two other figures – her son, Lemuel and another lost traveler by the name of James Arnett.
The convicts whisper in Diana’s ear not to try anything and that they will rest here until the storm lets up. She reluctantly agrees and notices that I Ching has an odd look on his face. She asks him what the matter is and he replies that he senses a terrible evil here. She whispers that it is probably just the two escaped convicts that are unnerving him but he insists it is something else.
Everyone then introduces themselves to each other. James Arnett is a writer and the two convicts reveal their names to be Joe Collins and Marty Fellman. They ask if the old woman can bring them some food and she instructs her son, Lemuel, to oblige. As he brings in some wine and bread there is another knock at the door. The old woman answers it and sees a little old man tightly clutching a briefcase, who has also broken down and is looking for a phone. She says that they have no phone but invites him inside to warm up.
As the man joins the others at the dinner table I Ching whispers to Diana, asking her if she feels the evil here yet. She nods and says that there is something not quite right about the Inn. Just then their conversation is interrupted by another announcement on the radio, which states that police are looking for a bank embezzler who has taken half a million in cash from the local bank. The subsequent description of the fugitive exactly matches the newly arrived old man! Before they can hear anymore though the radio’s battery dies and the two convicts discuss amongst themselves that this guy has a half a million in cash on him right now! Again all eyes fall on the little man who constantly clutches his briefcase.
Diana wanders over to the window and sees that the storm outside is getting even worse. She realises they are stuck here in this strange place for the time being. She ponders the Inn’s name again and tries to remember why it seems so familiar. Just then the old man gets up with the briefcase and says he would like a room so he can get some sleep. The old woman again instructs her son to escort the little man upstairs and as they go, Lemuel volunteers to carry the bag for him but the man declines.
As they watch him go Arnett tells Diana that the strange little man certainly fits the description of the bank embezzler. Diana though suggests he not discuss it in front of the others. However the two convicts over hear Arnett’s comments and realise that the writer has also noticed the similarity too. Marty tells Joe to keep the others occupied downstairs while he goes up to relieve the old man of his bag. Marty then stands up and pretending to yawn, tells the others that he is going upstairs for some shut eye too. As Diana starts to get to her feet intending to follow, Joe orders her to sit down while waving the gun hidden under his jacket. The Amazon Princess helplessly obeys as Joe strikes up a “friendly” conversation with Arnett about what sort of writing he does.
Meanwhile upstairs Marty quietly opens the door to the old man’s bedroom and creeping up behind him, draws a flick knife and stabs him! As the convict then eagerly opens the briefcase he hears a noise from a darkened corner of the room and asks who is there. A voice responds that they are the only ones who do the killing around here!
From downstairs everyone hears Marty’s cry and as they look up to see what the matter is they see a terrified convict running from the bedroom. Marty suddenly stops and appears to be struggling at the top of the stairs with something only he can see. He then plummets through the banister and crashes to the floor below. Joe quickly checks his buddy and finds him dead!
Diana decides to investigate what had scared Marty so much and accompanied by Arnett, who is concerned for her safety, they climb up the stairs. Carefully opening the door to the bedroom they see the old man lying on the floor next to his open briefcase. He moves slightly and they realise he is still alive. They ask him what had happened and he weakly replies that someone had stabbed him from behind, saying something about half a million dollars. He does not know what they were talking about as he had simply been trying to escape his nagging wife of thirty years.
The old man then lets out a final gasp and passes away. Diana and Arnett turn to the contents of the briefcase, wondering why, if it had not contained the stolen money, he had been clinging onto it so desperately. Diana looks sadly down at the personal possessions now scattered across the floor – a passport and brochures for sunny, exotic locations.
As they walk back downstairs the others ask what had happened. Diana tells them the old man had died and the Inn keeper asks if it had been due to a heart attack or something. Diana responds “In a way…his heart did stop beating.”
I Ching then suggests to Diana that they take Arnett into their confidence and Diana explains that Joe and Marty are two escaped convicts – and that Joe is still armed and dangerous. Arnett says they they need to get in touch with the authorities but Diana reminds him that there is no phone and the police would not be able to get here in the storm in any case. They are on their own.
Joe then confronts them and realising that Diana has told Arnett what he really is, he warns them he still has a gun and not to try anything stupid. He then demands to know what had happened to his pal. Diana replies that somebody – or something killed him!
Joe then asks if it had been the old man and Diana snarls that he is still upstairs, lying dead after Marty had killed him, alongside the briefcase which did not contain what the convicts had hoped for! The convict decides to look for himself as the Inn Keeper announces that she has put a brew on as nobody seems to want to sleep tonight.
The convict then climbs upstairs and checks the room for himself, finding the contents of the briefcase to be just as Diana had said. Just then he hears from the gloom the voice again. Before the terrified Joe can scream he is grabbed by the throat…
Meanwhile downstairs the old woman brings a tray full of steaming mugs out to her guests. She says this will help them sleep until the storm is over and they can get the Magistrate out here. Diana is puzzled by the Inn Keeper’s odd use of the old word “magistrate”. The old woman continues that everything will be fine by the morning and urges them to drink up. Just then Diana glances at the mirror on the wall and is shocked to see that the tray appears to be floating on its own – the old woman has no reflection!
As Arnett and I Ching take their mugs and prepare to take a sip Diana cries out for them to stop and knocks the mugs from their hands. She quickly points to the mirror and and explains that the old woman is a ghost and the drink was probably poisoned! She adds that she also now remembers about this place.
Diana tries to make a grab for the old woman but her quarry disappears before her eyes, leaving her simply clutching empty air. At the same moment Joe’s lifeless body comes tumbling down the stairs. Behind, Lemuel lumbers down and seeing that the guest have not drunk the potion, he grabs Diana around the neck and squeezes.
As the Amazon Princess struggles for air she finds she is unable to grasp his hands to tear them away from her ever constricting throat as he seems to be fading into nothingness! Suddenly I Ching raises his cane and swings it at Lemuel, striking the brute and sending him flying across the room. A thankful Diana asks the Chinese Man how he had managed to hit the ghost and Ching explains that they had similar Inns in his native China, which many an unwary traveler stopped at for the night – never to be heard from again. His Silver-headed Cane, together with an old spell he knew, had made Lemuel become solid again.
Arnett suggests that it is safer for them all to go outside – storm or no storm! As the three of them gather their coats and prepare to venture out Lemuel and his mother reappear pointing old fashioned pistols at them. Lemuel tells them that the more lives they take during the only chance they have to appear – during storms like this – the more often they will then be able to appear, storm or no storm. When they have taken enough souls they will be able to appear at will, do their work, then disappear.
The ghosts then tell their captives that they can take a minute if they like to say a prayer. Looking into the face of the gloating pair, Diana can stand it no longer. She refuses to die without a fight and moving at lightning speed, she lashes out with her foot, knocking the guns from their hands and causing them to fire into the ceiling. Before they can reload them, Diana leads I Ching and Arnett towards the door but the Chinese Man holds her back momentarily. He grabs one of the gas lamps and tells her that if they leave, the ghosts can still come back on another stormy night and trap others until they finish their quota.
He then shouts an ancient Chinese Chant and throws the lamp against the far wall where it shatters, erupting into flames. They then run outside and I Ching says that the ghosts cannot follow as they are forever bound to these premises. They dive for cover as the alcohol inside ignites and the Inn explodes in a fireball. They hear the screams of the ghosts slowly fade and I Ching tells his companions that the flames will lay the curse of the evil Inn to rest forever.
Next morning State troopers with the aid of a snowplough finally find the shivering trio huddled in their car, almost covered in snow. The police officers state that they are lucky to have been found alive. Diana overhears a news broadcast on the radio in one of the cars, telling of how the bank embezzler had been caught, the two escaped convicts were feared dead and how a local wife has reported her husband missing, having found a note saying goodbye.
Diana is about to explain what had really happened but I Ching recommends that silence is prudent in this case. Arnett agrees, saying that there is no trace of the Inn or the bodies inside – and who would believe them anyway? The Amazon Princess reluctantly agrees as the three say their goodbyes and go their ways, reflecting on the night’s strange events.