Ruby started her car when the vehicle in front of her began to move. She looked out the side door window and saw Ethel sitting in her old gray sedan a few cars over. She waved, and Ethel waved back. They had exchanged phone numbers while sitting on the ferry’s deck after Ethel nearly pleaded for Ruby not to accept the job at Vrolok Manor House and to go back to the mainland. However, Ruby was on a mission, and no seer was going to tell her what to do. Besides, she did not believe in fortune tellers. Nevertheless, she was happy to have someone she could visit while on the island. Even though Ethel seemed a little eccentric—to say the least—-especially with her warning of doom and gloom, she liked the elderly woman and would make a point of visiting her while in Maryville.
Turning her attention back to the slow-moving car in front of her, she followed it out of the ferry, over the ramp, and into the parking lot. The agency had emailed her that Victor would be waiting for her and that he would be standing by a black Cadillac. She looked around at both the parked cars and the ones’ driving out of the lot and onto the paved road leading into downtown Maryville. That was when she spotted the old Monastery of the Holy Ghost, looming above the village that sat at the foot of Monks Hill.
Ruby gasped. The sight was awe-inspiring. It was though she had landed on an alien spaceship that had risen from the depths of the deep cold water of Lake Michigan. The Gothic cathedral with its high steeple and spire seemed to be reaching toward Heaven. But the dark gray granite—almost black—of the buildings inside its great stone curtain walls and corner towers made it appear more like a prison for the damned than the abandoned convent it once was. According to Ethel, it was not abandoned but rather housed deviant monks and peculiar people who were more akin to evil than anything holy.
Of course Ruby knew there were people inside the outer walls, that was where she was going to be living, at least for a little while. However, she was not sure about Castle Moldovan and the buildings within the inner ward. She would find out about all that soon enough and inform Ethel that there was nothing to worry about.
A car horn blasted, and Ruby slammed on the brakes; she had almost rammed a car turning into her lane. When she refocused her attention on her driving and the rushing people around her, she saw a black Cadillac with a tall, thin man, dressed in slacks and a tie, standing next to it. That must be Victor Vrolok, she thought, as she turned the steering wheel in his direction on the far side of the lot.
Safely out of the flow of traffic leaving the ferry, she pulled up next to a blonde-haired man who was staring at her. She rolled down her window. “I’m Ruby Rush; are you Victor Vrolok?”
With a British accent, the attractive middle-aged man said, “Yes, my name is Victor, and I am pleased to meet you. My mother, Lady Vrolok, is expecting you.”
“I’m pleased to meet you as well,” Ruby said, happy she found him without much difficulty.
Victor watched as a car approached. “Maryville is a haven for tourists in the summer. I suggest we make our way out of this zoo and retreat to the manor house. Please, follow me.”
Ruby smiled and nodded as she watched Victor get into his car and then drive it forward until he was ahead of her.
He seemed okay, she thought as she followed him into the busy downtown area of Maryville. It was similar to Black Water, yet smaller with an old-world feel. The shops definitely catered to the tourists with flags, sidewalk sales, and outdoor seating areas at the various cafes. The village would be a fun place to visit during her time off.
Then Ruby saw the Feathered Peacock on the lower floor of what appeared to be apartments on the two levels above it. That must be where Ethel will be staying for the summer. Then she saw Ethel walking up an alleyway from what appeared to be a parking area behind the building. Ruby wanted to tap her horn to get Ethel’s attention but was afraid Victor would think she was honking at him. At least she knew where Ethel would be when it came time to attend one of her classes.
Ruby was happy, maybe staying here would not be as terrible as she thought it would be. Aside from the fact she would constantly be on the lookout for her brother, it would be a nice change of scenery.
Victor steered away from the downtown area as he began to ascend a narrow, unpopulated road that curved up the back side of Monks Hill. Her car labored as it climbed the steep incline, drawing the magnificent castle closer. Finally, it leveled out, and she saw a couple of cottages by the massive closed metal gate. There was an old rusted car parked next to one of the tiny houses that appeared to have had a thatched roof at one time, just as a French house in Normandy would have had. “I bet that’s where Patty is staying,” Ruby said aloud.
The entrance gate swung open, and Ruby followed Victor inside. No sooner had she driven within the walls, when the gate swung closed behind her. She would have felt trapped if it were not for the view of the Gothic village before her. She saw a sight that few people got to see—the private commune. The manor house was like a palace surrounded by what appeared to have once been stables for livestock, a vineyard, and various other buildings, having long ago been deserted. Past the forsaken houses and barns was another wall, that appeared to circle the towering cathedral like a bullseye, making it difficult to see what lay on the other side.
In one way, Ruby felt like she had entered a magically enchanted realm, where shiny armored knights would soon be riding up on their war horses after fighting bravely to win a neighboring castle. She imagined herself as a fair princess with a pearl-and-diamond tiara and a long flowing white gown, being kneeled down to by a handsome, chivalrous knight who had just saved her and the kingdom.
But then an ill feeling came over her as she parked next to Victor in front of the rambling three-story manor house. Part of her felt privileged to be accepted into a social status above her own, but the other part of her made her wish she had heeded Ethel’s recommendation never to set foot on Lucifer’s Island.