30: The House of the Soulless
“You ready?” asked the raven, before vaulting over the balcony and into the courtyard below. A moment later, his pained cry reached out into the night. “I’ve done my fookin’ ankle in!” he said, straining through obvious pain. “I—I’ll keep these bastards occupied, all right? You get that bloody rifle!”
Several of the living corpses had started to move in the shadows. Dante glanced around the balcony for anything that might draw their attention away from his friend, but there was nothing besides a solitary potted plant. Below him, Joel lifted his weapon and fired his first shot. Two more followed, alongside a stream of vulgar expletives. Dante, taking stock of the situation and his chances, fled inside.
The room with the sniper rifle wasn’t far away, but every second Dante wasted was a second in which Joel could fall foul of a horrible fate. He found the incomplete picture and slammed the pieces he had collected into the frame, then started to move them about until they formed the image of a naked man with four outstretched arms. The piece depicting his legs was still missing.
Dante shook his head. This was a stupid idea, a childish game. Who in their right mind would lock a weapon behind such a convoluted puzzle? Grabbing a paperweight from a neighbouring study, he tried to smash open the case containing the rifle, but to no avail. He had to find the final piece, and if he didn’t find it soon…
He stumbled from one room to the next, throwing aside furniture and rummaging through every desk and drawer he could find. It didn’t make sense. None of this made sense. Whoever had lived in this mansion had no interest in logic. It was almost as if they knew some hapless fool would come searching for various innocuous items and arranged their living space accordingly. These were people who locked doors with keys they hid inside revolving statues, themselves sealed behind some obtuse puzzle involving a rusty old medal and a crowbar.
Then Dante crashed into a room he hadn’t seen before — and caught the immediate attention of a hunched, blood-soaked corpse with fire for eyes. Turning its attention away from the eviscerated body it had been feasting upon, it started towards him. Dante sidled around the edge of the room, keeping the furniture between him and the beast. He could feel his heart pounding, his blood pumping. This was as real as anything could be. One wrong move and he would find his own innards spread across the walls. He had to be cautious. He had to be clever.
His mother would know what to do. Ophelia Orpheus would close her eyes and focus all the world into a moment, then return certain of victory.
Drawing a deep breath, Dante closed his eyes…
And what is it with mansions and crazy puzzles??