I felt strong hands gripping mine and pulling them back. I tried to wiggle out but I was too confused by what had just been said to realise fully what was happening.
‘I am arresting you for the murder of Louisa Pitney,’ Chief Inspector Macklain declared.
I felt a bit of metal on both my wrists, I went to move and he had handcuffed me!
‘Wait!’ I shouted, ‘this isn’t right! I had nothing to do with it! This isn’t how the game was meant to go!’
‘We will have to lock her in her room, Chief Inspector,’ Kendell announced, ‘the storm is too bad for any of us to leave.’
‘And have a murderer under the same roof as us?’ Crispin yelled.
‘Do not worry, I have the only key to that room. She will not get out.’ Kendell cut in.
‘Let me go!’ I cried, ‘you’ve got this all wrong! I didn’t do anything!’
‘Come along now, Missy,’ Macklain spoke.
He started to drag me out of the room, I tried to kick him and anything else I could. I struggled hard against him moving me. Doctor Guilford and Kingsley came to assisted him and with three men dragging me off, I couldn’t fight the all them.
Still screaming my innocence, they half carried me half pulled me, upstairs and along all the corridors and staircases to my room. Kendell followed behind with a determined air. I tried to appeal to her but she wouldn’t listen.
At the door, the Chief Inspector released me from the handcuffs whilst Kingsley let my right leg go to open the door then they flung me inside like a sack of potatoes. I hit the floor hard in the darkness, bashing a knee and biting my lip. I flayed about then sitting turned to face the four of them standing in the doorway.
‘How could you?’ I cried, ‘that was too much!’
‘Not enough for a murderer like you,’ Macklain snapped.
‘I didn’t do it!’ I yelled.
Scrambling to my feet, I flew at them but hit the closed door instead. Macklain had slammed it shut before I could reach it. Hammering my hands and fists on the door, I screamed like a mad woman, repeating over and over for them to let me out and that I didn’t do it.
Sometime later, exhausted, I sank to the floor, my back to the door. My face was soaked with tears, my hands blooded. I curled up and tried to collect myself. It was all meant to be a fun game but it didn’t feel like it anymore, it felt too real to be anything else.
I wiped my hands and face on my dress, not caring anymore. Slowly, I got up in the dark, I felt my way around and turned on the lamps. My stuff was still on the bed, so I took it off. Then remembering the little bathroom, I went in there and cleaned myself up. I also took off my clothes and changed into the fleece pajamas I had brought. Whatever happened next, I’d had enough for one night.
I got into the bed but I couldn’t sleep, so I lay there my mind turning over things.
More time passed. I heard the sound of footsteps and whispering voices outside. A key was turned in a lock and a door creaked open. People moved into the room.
I turned my head to see and saw Doctor Guilford and Kendell coming to the side of the bed.
‘I’m not playing anymore, Kendell,’ I told her, ‘and if you’ve come to apologise to me I’m not accepting it.’
I made to roll over but my body was too stiff and tired to move.
I heard a clicking and glanced to see what it was. Kendell was holding an old fashioned black leather doctor’s bag and from it Guilford was pulling out a needle and small glass bottle of clear liquid.
Panic flood me, making my body jerk into action. I scrambled up the bed, my back hitting the headboard.
‘What are you going to do with that?’ I shouted.
‘It will help you sleep,’ Guilford said, as he drew the liquid into the needle.
‘No! You are not sticking that in me!’ I yelled.
I made to fling myself across the other side of the bed and towards the floor but before I could, with the expertise of a doctor use to patients running, Guilford had stabbed my arm with the needle.
I cried out and flopped down on the bed, breathing hard.
‘There, she will not be any trouble now,’ Guilford announced.
I sat up, stared at the tiny needle mark which was fast fading then looked at them both, ‘what was that? Why are you doing this?’
Guilford and Kendell didn’t answer, they turned away and out of the door once more. Locking it behind them.
I felt waves of sleep drifting over me. I settled down in the bed again, my eyes closing and unable to fight, I fell into a heavy sleep.
I was standing in the hallway by Jarrett and Louisa’s half open door. My hands were weighed down, handcuffs? No, a black metal bucket full of coal. I placed that on the floor and looked inside the room.
Louisa was at the dressing table, adding finishing touches to herself. She was currently trying to put on a pair of pear drop earrings. Jarrett was storming around the room, shouting at her and Louisa in turn would shout back at him.
‘How could you? I knew it was a mistake to come here!’ Jarrett yelled.
‘These are your friends, not mine,’ Louisa snapped back.
‘You always blame everything on me! Well, I am not the one having an affair, am I?’
‘Remember the Anderson’s summer garden party? You got blind drunk and kissed everyone! I had to drag you away before the police were called!’
‘I did not make love to anybody!’ Jarrett roared.
‘I would not describe it like that….’ Louisa responded, coldly.
Jarrett huffed about, ‘I should never have married you. I know you only did it for the money.’
Louisa turned to him, ‘and what are you going to do about it?’
Jarrett stopped moving, he was facing me, though he didn’t seem to see me. I saw his face change colour to a deep red, his cheeks and chest swelling. He flexed his hands, balled them into fists then opened his fingers into claws.
He spun and launched himself at her. Louisa screamed but was too slow to get away. Jarrett landed on top of her, his hands aiming for her throat but because she was sitting down he missed and they tumbled to the floor together.
They fought wildly, like mad cats, Louisa screaming loudly, trying to get away and Jarrett stopping her, grabbing at her. The room became chaos, items and furniture flying everywhere. Then Jarrett cornered her, his hands wrapped around her throat. Her hands beat at him but she didn’t have the strength.
I heard the breath catching in her throat, her last struggling and I saw how transfixed Jarrett was, the hate consuming him, his hands squeezing.
My fingers curled around the door, I wanted to burst in and stop him but I was frozen.
Louisa flopped in his grasp. Jarrett let her go and she sank to the floor. Jarrett stumbled back, looking at what he had done but no shock crossed his face. He walked around the floor, scattering more things then from somewhere, he took out a small knife and went back to Louisa. He slashed her wrists, dumped the knife and breathing hard came towards the door.
Grabbing up the bucket, I fled down the hallway and into an empty room at the end. I snapped the door shut behind me and press my back to it. I tried to stop my fast breathing, to be quiet, I prayed Jarrett hadn’t seen me, that he wouldn’t come for me next.
My eyes fluttered open, everything was out of focus and my mind was foggy. I tried to look at the ceiling but my head hurt too much. I shut my eyes and tried relaxing, I controlled my breathing, counting as I breathed in and out. I could feel my heart racing and there was an edge of panic in my body.
It took a long while for me to be calm. Opening my eyes, I saw the ceiling clearly above and as I listened I could hear nothing but myself.
Getting up, I all but crawled to the window, my body ached all over. Outside, it was a clear morning, the sky a winter grey and weak light battling the last of the night’s shadows around the castle.
I rubbed my neck and hobbled into the bathroom. Even though, I wasn’t a fan of baths, I took one. The water felt so hot and soothing, like nothing from the night before had actually happened. I lay in the tub, drifting and breathing in the cooling steam. When the water started to cool too much, I got out and wrapped in a towel, searched for some warm clothes to put on.
Once ready, I went to the bedroom door. Flashbacks from last night rolled through my mind. I took a deep breath, stepped up and tried the handle.
It turned and the door opened with no problems.
Confused, I walked out and looked around. The corridor was still and silent. Walking out, I didn’t focus on remembering the way, I just went. The castle seemed dead, time had stopped and I was like Sleeping Beauty, though now awake and wondering what had happened.
I made it to the grand staircase. Going down, I looked through all the rooms and found them similar to last night; most ready for a large party to take place. In the dinning room, the fruit, wine bottles and glasses were set up on the table untouched. In the kitchen, food was prepared to be served or re-heated. There was also sealed boxes of wine on the floor. In each fireplace, wood logs and coal were stacked up ready to be lit.
I got an odd feeling that something really wasn’t right here. I went back to the entrance way and stood looking around, feeling utterly baffled.
I heard noises from outside, a distant car engine? Voices and footsteps, someone laughing and heavy things being put down. Keys jingled then turned in the front door lock. The double doors opened.
A group of people were stood there, some held boxes. For a few moments their faces were happy and excited then they spotted me and their expressions changed to shock, worry and confusion.
‘Jane?’ Kendell’s voice asked.
She handed the box she was carrying to her someone else and stepped forward.
I looked at her, Kendell was wearing black jeans and a cream blouse. I tried to picture her in the white frilly dress and swan feather mask from the night before. It was hard to tell but she didn’t look as slim and her hair was a darker sliver.
‘Jane, what are you doing here?’ Kendell question.
‘I came last night,’ I replied in shaky voice.
‘Last night? but the party is today. How did you get in?’
‘You let me in,’ I answered.
Kendell glanced back at her husband, who shrugged then she turned to her other side and at a man who was holding a bunch of keys in his hand.
‘I wasn’t here,’ Kendell spoke, ‘are you feeling okay, Jane?’
I rocked back on my feet, my head swimming. I touched my hot forehead then twisting around, went and sat down heavily on the third step of the grand staircase.
Kendell came over. She sat on the step beside me and wrapped her arms around me. I hugged her tight, breathing in the fresh damp air and warmth off her body.
‘Tell me what happened,’ Kendell requested in a low voice.
I wiped my face, a few tears had fallen.
The group of people had abandoned their boxes and come over to us. Kendell’s husband sat down on my other side. With a quick glance I realised the other people were bar staff, waiters, kitchen staff and the man with the keys an owner of the castle.
‘It’s all right, Jane,’ Kendell said.
I took a shuddering breath, ‘I don’t know where to began. I’m not sure what happened now.’
‘Well, when I arrived there was a party going on and everyone was dressed in nineteen- twenty clothes and had masks on. Like your invite said,’ I began.
‘There was no party here last night,’ the owner interrupted me.
I stared in shock at him, ‘but there must have been! There were people here!’
He shook his head.
Kendell grabbed my hand, ‘go on,’ she uttered.
‘Then the murder happened!’ I continued, ‘and I thought the game had begun. But things went horrible wrong. I was accused of being the murderer! I got arrested and locked in my room, then a doctor injected me with something and I fell sleep. I had this dream, I think and I saw the real murder happen and who actually did it. Then I woke up and was walking around the castle but everything was like nothing happened.’
Kendell pressed her lips together and studied me hard.
Her husband patted my knee in sympathy.
There was a small cough and a teenage girl with dyed red hair, dressed in blue jeans and a red uniform t-shirt stepped forward.
‘There was a story my grandma told me,’ the girl in a soft voice said, ‘about an unsolved murder that happened in the castle in the twenties. It was on a stormy night, a day before new year’s eve, during a masqueraded party.’
I felt sick and faint, my vision began to swim.
‘Because the killer was never found, though the husband, I believe, was suspected, legend says that party haunts Toski Castle to this day still,’ the girl finished.
I tried to swallow the bubble in my throat. I still couldn’t think clearly. The silence pressed hard down, nobody daring to even breath and everyone watching me.
‘It was the husband,’ I whispered finally, ‘he killed his wife, Louisa.’
‘There wasn’t enough evidence against him, grandma said,’ the girl explained.
I looked down at my hands, they were shaking. What had happened last night? Had it been real? A dream? Had I really seen ghosts reacting an unsolved murder from the twenties?
I don’t know but even today I am still haunted by that night.