Moonbroch #AtozChallenge

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Moonbroch; a halo around the moon which presages an approaching storm. 

Lottie threw the duvet back and got out of bed, giving in to her insomnia. Without fumbling around trying to light a candle, she crossed the bedroom in darkness. She went to the window box and moved the heavy curtains away from the window itself. A cold draft raised the hairs on her skin that wasn’t covered by the long, sweeping white nightdress.

She sat down, comfortable against the plump cushions and quilted seat underneath her. Pulling all of her long, golden hair over to her right shoulder, Lottie played with the gentle curls. First, she straightened them, then twisted the ends around her fingers before throwing the whole lot back over her shoulder.

Lottie looked out of the window into the night which stretched like a never ending sea. Below, the  gas lamps that normally lit the short driveway and gate were out. The moorland beyond, which she couldn’t see, was quiet. It was rare anyone travelled after sunset but on nights of the full moon as it was tonight, nobody left their homes.

The clouds in the sky parted, the moon shone down, casting a dim light which was just enough for Lottie to see by. She watched the moon, noticing the halo of light that surrounded it and how the clouds were lit by the glow. It was a magnificent sight.

An echoing wolf howl broke the stillness. A shiver, that had nothing to do with the cold, ran through Lottie. She reached out to clutch the side of a cushion then tried to move away from the window. Another howl, closer this time stopped her movement and she looked out again.

There was something moving in the darkness of the moor.

Lottie told herself they were just shadows cast by the moon and that the howling only seemed nearby because it had echoed. She put the cushion into her lap and played with the tassels to help calm herself down.

I should go back to bed. Light the candle and read my book until I feel sleepy, Lottie thought.

A movement made Lottie turn her head. Down, next to the gate, a huge grey-black shaggy furred werewolf was standing there in the moonlight, looking up at her with massive yellow eyes. The breathe caught in Lottie’s throat, she became still, frozen by fear that was racing through her blood.

The werewolf threw his head back and let out a mighty, long howl.

From the darkness, another werewolf, slightly smaller and with a light grey fur coat padded towards the gate and joined the first werewolf. They howled together and another werewolf, shorter this time, with a red-grey mixed coat appeared. Then it seemed, more and more werewolves kept coming forward, till at least a pack of twelve stood by the gate.

The first werewolf moved, rising on it’s long, twisted hind legs to stand taller then a man and let out a short howl. He launched himself, trying to get through the gate. He’s long front legs and muzzle fell through the bars, the rest of his body slammed against the metal frame. The gate violently shook but held. The werewolf tried repeatedly, hitting the gate harder and harder as his frustrations rose.

The other werewolves had been pacing around, waiting for the first to break through the gate. They moved in and out of the moonlight, like black ghosts. However, they soon got bored of waiting and began throwing themselves at the gate too. Jaws snapping, claws scrapping, legs flaying and their desperate snarling and howls crying out.

Lottie, fear totally over coming her, screamed and threw herself down to the floor. She tried to get up, but the nightdress was twisted around her legs. Tears of pain and fear wet her eyes. Lottie screamed again louder then before, knowing the noise would awake someone in the house.

Outside, Lottie heard the gate continue to shake and the werewolves, snarling and trying to scramble through.

Finding her feet, Lottie crossed the rug covered floor and opened the door. Light from a left on gas lamp in the hallway stung her eyes and she took a moment. Going over, she stood in the glow and tried to calm herself down.

The swinging of a door opening made her jump and Lottie looked up the corridor to see a bobbing candle in the darkness.

‘Who’s that? Lottie?’ her older brother’s voice asked.

‘Yes. It’s me, John,’ Lottie answered, her voice sounding breathless, ‘there’s werewolves at the front gate!’

‘What?’ John cried and he hurried over to her.

‘I couldn’t sleep, so I looked outside and they saw me!’ Lottie explained.

John rushed into her bedroom, his bare footsteps loud.

Lottie peered around the door frame after him and watched as her brother came to a stop at the window and swore loudly.

Turning away, John came back to her, ‘go to mother’s room. Lock the door and stay there together.’

Lottie nodded and hurried away. She ran along the corridors, her night dress flying out behind her. A few gas lamps lit her way but Lottie knew how to get to her mother’s room without being able to see the way. Up a small staircase and she was there, knocking on her mother’s door, declaring herself and begging entrance.

Her mother, Isabella, opened the door, candle in hand and the light dancing off her loose, long golden hair. Lottie rushed in, closing and locking the heavy wooden door behind her.

‘There’s werewolves outside!’ Lottie shouted.

‘Do your father and brothers know?’ her mother questioned.

Lottie shook her head, ‘Just John knows. He told me to come here, tell you and for us to stay here together.’

‘We should prepare for attack,’ Isabella said, ‘Let’s light candles and the fire. Then get dressed.’

They moved away from the door. Lottie went to the fireplace and began stacking coal and wood on top of the ashes all ready there. Her mother began lighting candles around the room. 

‘Shouldn’t we go to the cellar?’ Lottie asked.

‘There is a passageway from here to there, under the trapdoor by the window.’ 

‘Like in my bedroom?’

‘Yes. Your grandfather’s idea after that horrible night when werewolves got in and roamed through the house,’ Isabella spoke.

‘They killed grandma, uncle William who was only four years old and two maids,’ Lottie picked up, the story having been burned into her memory from the countless retelling of it, ‘the butler’s son, dad’s butler now, has bad scars from trying to protect the other servants.’

‘And it’s how your father lost his  left foot,’ Isabella finished.

Lottie nodded, ‘they trapped all the werewolves in the East wing and burnt it to the ground.’

‘And ever since then, your grandfather and father have trained everyone how to prepare and defend themselves from werewolf attacks; how to fire a gun and fight with a knife. Even you, my only daughter, despite my wishes, have been taught all of that too.’

‘I know,’ Lottie said quietly as she finished setting up the firewood.

She lit a match, placed it into the fireplace and watched the flames quickly beginning to burn the wood. Lottie stood up and joined her mother in the middle of the room. They hugged tightly and her mother kissed her forehead.

A gun shot rang out, followed by shouting men’s voices.

Lottie jumped, gasping and turning towards the door.

‘Let’s get dressed,’ her mother cried as she grabbed Lottie’s hand and pulled her towards the wardrobe.

Yanking open the doors, Isabella pushed through all her dresses and to the back of the wardrobe. She pulled out two sets of men’s clothing; shirts, large travelling jackets, trousers, long woollen socks and knee length leather boots.

Helping each other, they dressed quickly then tied their long hair up in buns.

Then from underneath her bed, Isabella pulled out a rifle, two pistols, ammunition; sliver bullets, and four daggers. They were just like the ones Lottie had under her bed.

Isabella handed her daughter the two pistols and two of the daggers, without saying anything but with a determined look set on her face.

Lottie put one of the daggers in each boot then loaded the pistols and placed them with the rest of the ammunition in the deep pockets of the jacket. Her mother did everything the same.

Ready for anything, they sat down on the bed facing the door and listened to the sounds of fighting raising from the front of the house. Gun shots, male cries and shouts mingled with the howling, snarling and painful cries of the werewolves.

A few minutes later, they heard the clattering of claws across bare floorboards, snarling, snapping of jaws and sniffing from underneath the door. Then the door shook as something huge hit it.

‘Get behind the bed,’ Isabella whispered, nudging Lottie.

The girl did as she was told, drawing the pistols and the ammo from her pockets. Whilst her mother stood up, cocked the rifle and aimed it at the door which was badly shaking as the werewolf tried to get in. The wood began splitting, cracking around a hole in the middle and a large black nose followed by a grey muzzle poked through.

Isabella stood her ground, the butt of the rifle against her shoulder, her eyes fixed along the top of the barrel. Her finger brushed the trigger, waiting for the right moment to fire.

The first werewolf from before burst through the door, using the force of it’s body to break through the hole. Bits of wood flew everywhere and the chaos, Isabella fired.

The shot was loud, deafening herself and Lottie, there was a burst of flame followed by smoke and the werewolf let out a painful cry but didn’t go down. Instead, he leapt through the air and before she could get away, the werewolf landed on Isabella pinning her to the bed.

Lottie screamed, got up and fired at the werewolf without aiming. Both bullets hit the werewolf’s bent neck and sank in deep. The werewolf growled deeply, showing off blood stained teeth, froth dripped from it’s mouth and the werewolf moved up onto of Isabella, trying to reach over to snap at Lottie.

Isabella punched the werewolf’s stomach, grappled the beast and rolled onto the floor with him. Disappearing out of Lottie’s sight. Snarls and her mother’s cries rose, claws and boots scrapped across the floor. Isabella tried to grab one the daggers in her boots but her hands were full of fur as she tried to keep the werewolf’s mouth away from her face.

Shaking, Lottie dashed around the bed and aimed the pistols again. However, she realised that she couldn’t fire as her mother was wrestling with the werewolf and the risk of shooting her was too great. Lottie held her ground, her mind running through everything she could possible do.

Lottie dropped the pistols, pulled the daggers from her boots and waited until the werewolf was on top of her mother. Then Lottie jumped on top of the werewolf, bring the sliver daggers down into the werewolf’s fur. The blades slide into the skin then the body of the beast, going right up to the hilt.

The werewolf let out an anguish cry and twisted to the side. Lottie didn’t let go of the daggers in time and the werewolf fell on top of her. Lottie kicked with both legs, used the force to pull the daggers free then plunged them down to the side of the werewolf before he could get up again. There was a crack of rib bones as the blades drove in and the werewolf’s head snapped around and he’s teeth closed around Lottie’s lower leg.

Lottie screamed in pain then gun shots from the pistols rang out. The werewolf twitched then became still, the jaws loosing on Lottie’s leg. The werewolf’s blood pooled across the floor.

Isabella dragged Lottie away and towards the trap door then down the hidden passageway and into the cellar. Lamps and candles were all ready burning down here and all the female servants were gathered around makeshift beds or the old dinning room table.

Upon seeing their mistresses, the servants hurried to help and hear the tale of the fight. The leather boot and woollen socks had saved Lottie’s leg which was badly bruised but thankfully the skin hadn’t been broken. Once it had been cleaned and treated, Lottie rested in one of the beds and fell asleep.

Voices woke her later and Lottie found that all the men had joined them in the cellar. she listened to some of their talk but finally, she rose and asked, ‘what happened?’

Her mother, father and three brothers turned towards her.

‘It’s over,’ her father replied, ‘we killed them all.’

‘Thank God,’ Lottie answered.

‘And you,’ John spoke, ‘if you hadn’t been awake and seen them at the gate we wouldn’t have had enough time to fight them.’

‘And you fought so bravely against the werewolf that attack us,’ Isabella added.

‘Yes. All the training paid off,’ Lottie said, ‘I’m glad it’s over now.’

 

 

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The Cowboy Ghost #SundayWritingPrompt

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I couldn’t sleep, my operation was tomorrow and my head was all over the place. I slipped from the hard hospital bed and drew the thin curtains around so I wouldn’t disturb anyone. Turning on the lamp which blinded me, I dug around for my Ipod and headphones.

Music might not help me sleep but it might calm me. Putting the headphones on, I scanned through the Ipod till I found natural sounds music. Relaxing waves of the ocean filled my ears. I lay back and let them carry me away.

I pictured a white sand beach, hot sun, palm trees, ice cold coconut and pineapple juice drinks. The sea was a dazing bright blue with just a touch of white on top of the waves. I was sitting on a chair basking in the sun, next walking along the shore, feet getting wet.  then I was swimming in gently tumbling waves.

I smiled, feeling all drifty-dreamy.

The song changed to the rattling of something….the neighing of a horse? Oh, was I riding a horse on the beach? How nice!

The creaking of a wooden sign blowing in the wind, a crow cawing and the beach scene changed to being in a desert.

I reached, keeping my eyes closed, to stop the track and re-play the ocean one but then a handsome, rugged man floated to my mind and my finger stopped.

The man, a stereotypical wild west cowboy, was riding a brown horse into a wooden built town. A strong wind was blowing, stirring up the top layer of desert sand. A storm was to be coming. The cowboy got off his horse and looked around, the town seemed to be abandoned.

I decided that whatever was happening here I didn’t want to know. I tried opening my eyes but they felt too heavy to do so. I fumbled my fingers across the Ipod but I couldn’t find the right button to press. I sighed, give up and carried on listening to the track with scenes playing out in my head like a movie.

The cowboy was stood in the wild west town, listening for signs of life. He heard tinkling piano music coming from the saloon. Walking over, his spurs clicking, boot steps heavy, the music grew stronger and he started to hear laughter. There where people here after all! He stepped up onto the porch, it creaked under his weight then he opened the saloon doors which screamed on disused hinges.

The music and laughter stopped. The place was empty!

The cowboy looked around and saw a thick layer of dust everywhere. He went over to the piano, boots and spurs loud in the silence and pressed down a few keys, out of tune wheezing notes sounded. That wasn’t the music he had heard before.

The cowboy walked out, confused. A rumble of thunder sounded, the wind was getting stronger, sweeping the desert sand about. Next door, was a motel. He walked in, wondering if he could get a room for the night. He went up to the counter and ring the bell once then repeatedly. Nobody appeared and dust lay here too.

He headed back, collected his horse and wandered through the town. It started raining and the sky was growing dark. The cowboy didn’t really want to spend a night here but he felt there was no choice now.

A church bell rang out, he stopped and counted, ‘one, two…three, four…five, six…seven, eight…’

He went to the wooden church and tried the door but was locked tight.

The rain started falling heavily, the thunder rumbled again and in the distance, the now black sky was light up by a fork of lightening.

The cowboy’s horse stamped her feet and neighed nervously.

‘It’s all right, girl,’ the cowboy said as he rubbed her muzzle, ‘Looks like we got to stay the night. Let’s go back to the saloon.’

Hurrying through the rain which was fast turning the dry sand to mud, the cowboy turned behind the saloon and found a stable. It was rotting like the rest of the buildings but still standing for the moment. They went inside and found dry but moldy hay.

The cowboy lit a lantern, casting light to see by. He made his horse as comfortable as he could then sat for a few minutes. He fell into deciding if to stay the night in the stable with his horse or not. Would the beds in the saloon be more comfortable?

He decided to go and see. The cowboy got up, taking his bed roll, the lantern and whatever else he needed. He headed outside, braving the storm to get back into the saloon.

The cowboy pushed open the door and went in with rain dripping off his leather hat, coat and pants, sandy mud clumping his boots and smell of the storm thick in his nose. The saloon was as empty as before.

He went behind the bar, found some bottles of whisky and took them upstairs. His boots stomping as the wooden steps squeaked. He pushed open the door of the first room with his foot and looked in. There was just a single bed, side table and a curtained window.

He went in, placing the lantern down on the side table and got himself comfy. Boots came off, jacket too. He uncorked one of the bottles with his teeth and took a few swings. It wasn’t great whisky but it tasted okay.

He made the bed, settled in and pulled a book out of his belongings. Drink in one hand, Bible in the other, he listened to the storm raging outside. The wind was doing it’s best to bring down the wooden buildings, there was so much creaking and snapping. The rain was like a whip, lashing about. The thunder was rumbling like the empty belly of a beast and sometimes lightening would flash up the curtain covered window.

The cowboy began to doze off. Warm, comfy, whisky hazy.

A pearly piano note broke through the storm, quickly followed by more as someone played fast across the keys.

The cowboy stirred. The Bible slipped to the floor with a slap. He awoke and listened, frowning at the piano notes he was hearing but knew he couldn’t possible be.

A woman’s laughter echoed, wood creaked, long skirts swishing.

The cowboy smelt hints of perfume.

Voices rose and fell, chairs scrapped the floor, metal cups clanked and the piano music came impossibly fast.

The stairs creaked once more, lighter this time as if the person upon them was bare foot and weighed little. A gentle girly laugh and ruffle of skirts outside the cowboy’s chosen room made him believe he was no longer alone.

The cowboy snatched up the lantern and got to his feet, drawing one of his guns, he went to the door but it squeaked open before he could touch it.

All the noises stopped, silence hit him painfully but the cowboy stood his ground.

The door swing then was thrown against the wall with a loud bang.

The cowboy just had time to make out the woman – tall, fair haired, huge blood red dress- before she launched herself at him and sent them both tumbling to the floor. The cowboy shot his gun, the bullets hitting the ceiling and causing wood and dust to rain down on them.

The woman’s hands wrapped around his throat. He felt ice cold, dead fingers choking the life out of him. He struggled but her grip was too powerful. She bashed his head against the floor, he felt waves of dizziness and nausea. The cowboy tried to smash her with the gun but he lost his grip and the weapon skidded away. He grabbed her with his hands, fingers fisting the silky dress and slipping through the material.

The cowboy’s head smashed into the floor and he heard a deafening crack,  blackness washed over him.

Outside, the rain poured off the roofs of the wooden buildings, the wind howled through empty rooms, the thunder echoed as lightening flashed over the church tower and set the wooden cross ablaze.

 

My eye lids fluttered and I came back awake. The glaring lamp above me stung my eyes. I pulled my headphones off and rested a few minutes. My mind felt strangely blank but then bits of pieces came back to me.

I couldn’t hear any weather. There were the sounds of other hospital patients’ sleeping and shifting on scratchy sheets. Nurses’ hushed footsteps and whispered voices reached me.

Heavy footsteps with a slight metal jingle crossed the floor. The curtain around my bed fluttered and I got ready to explain to the nurse why I was awake.

The curtain carried on moving as if someone was running their hands over it looking for the gap to part them. It got faster, a huge rippling all over which was more like the wind then a person.

A spike of fear hit my stomach, what was going on?

Hands appeared, reaching through then the fingers bending to find the edge of the curtain.

‘Thank, God,’ I whispered, ‘I’m sorry for being awake, I’m having trouble sleeping.’

The curtain was violently yanked back, I jumped, almost tumbling from the bed, ‘there’s no need for that!’ I cried, scrambling in the blanket.

Then I saw him.

The cowboy from my dream! I heard his boots and spurs hitting the floor, the cracking of his leather jacket and pants. His hat was down, half covering his face, I could make out a strong jaw line covered in black stubble. His throat was badly bruised, some of which were outlined like finger marks. He smelt of stormy air, burning wood and old whisky.

‘He’s not real. You’re still dreaming,’ I whimpered, clutching the sheet to my chin like a scared child.

I heard a rumble of thunder, a clash of lightening, rain hitting the window like stones and a desert wind howling down the ward. I wanted to turn to the window to look but something held my gaze fixed on the cowboy.

There was a plop, plop sound and despite myself, I looked over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Black blood was pooling around the cowboy’s boots, it was falling from the edge of his coat.

‘What do you want?’ I demanded.

He took his hat off and put it to his chest as if in an old fashioned greeting. I saw his face fully but it was just a skull! Deep hollowed, black eye sockets, no nose, high cheek bones, wide jaw and two rows of clenched together gold teeth.

I fought for breath but couldn’t get any in. My body went numb and I so badly wanted to tear my eyes away but I couldn’t!

The cowboy turned slowly, spurs scrapping the floor. He showed the back of his skull which had been totally smashed in. There were chunks missing and cracks running along like crazy paving.

I screamed and screamed.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/sunday-writing-prompt-campfire-ghost-stories/ and also, Sound Effects: Night In A Ghost Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sch7HyYANiI with thanks).

Window #FridayFictioneers

Amber stopped outside her new apartment block and debated how to carry the pram her two year old daughter, Daisy, was in up the front steps.

‘Look, mummy!’ Daisy cried, pointing at an above window.

‘What is it?’

‘A smiley lady,’ Daisy answered.

Confused, Amber looked but saw nothing, ‘where?’

‘There!’

‘I don’t see anything, sweetie.’

Amber grabbed the pram and half heaved, half dragged it backwards up the steps.

‘Bye-bye,’ Daisy spoke, waving.

Peering upwards again, Amber saw the moving of a curtain in a second floor window as if someone had just been standing there.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/02/13/15-february-2019/ with thanks).

Under A Starry Sky #3LineTales

three line tales, week 155: an old truck in a ghost town

The night sky was awash with bright white dots of stars which shone down on an abandoned town nested in tall hills which helped to further block light pollution from the surrounding alive towns that were miles away.

This place, in Kenize’s and Brock’s opinions, was the best to see this formation of stars at this time of year, even though the abandoned town was eerie and Kenize was sure the other night, she had heard little girl singing and playing skipping rope.

With stars to concentrate on, there was no time for ghost hunting, but Kenize still couldn’t shake the feeling that they were not alone in the abandoned town, something was watching them work, something that wasn’t going to let them leave, ever.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/01/17/three-line-tales-week-155/ with thanks).

The Witches’ Pots #TwitteringTales

Three ancient hags sat around a fire, stirring their black pots which they added things too and whispered over.

‘Tail of rat dropped in this potion for a diplomat.’

‘Eyes of gnome dissolved in this lotion for Jerome.’

‘Tongue of duckling tender in this poison for the king.’

 

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/01/15/twittering-tales-119-15-january-2019/ with thanks).

Siblings #3LineTales

three line tales, week 154: people skipping over stones in the water

Ghosts have been a normal part of my life since I was born but it’s a secret as no one else can understand and they’d think me crazy.

Sometimes, I try to help the ghosts to move on and other times I leave them be, as in the case of the brother and sister on the beach, who I think drowned, they refused to believe they were dead or needed help.

I felt sad leaving them as the setting sun turned the sea golden but there wasn’t much else I could do when they didn’t want to go.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/01/10/three-line-tales-week-154/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Foundations #WeekendWritingPrompt

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The monastery remains were haunted. By day, it was a nice walk around the foundations in the middle of the park but come night a sinister feeling fell. Nothing living, not even teenagers, hung about the crumbling walls, they belonged to the dead.

I had seen the shadow monks whilst at the bus stop, waiting for the last bus of the night. I ignored them and they ignored me. The story was; if the ghost monks saw you, they would kidnap you. I didn’t believe but at night anything was possible.

 

(Inspired by; https://sammiscribbles.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/weekend-writing-prompt-88-foundations/ with thanks).

The Murder Mystery Party (Part 4)

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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.’

‘Just try.’

‘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.

The Murder Mystery Party (Part 3)

 

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Jarrett’s voice faded but the word dead seem to echoed.

A man, wearing a simple black mask, pushed forward from the crowd, calling out, ‘I’m a doctor, let me through!’ He reached the first step of the grand staircase and turned to look back at us, ‘I am sure everything will be fine,’ he said calmly.

‘Fine!’ Jarrett shouted, ‘she is dead, I tell you, look!’

He ran downstairs, stopped four from the bottom and showed us all his blood stained hands. There was a shocked gasp from the crowd.

A woman cried out and fainted, far to my right, a few people caught her. Voices whispered, fading in and out. I didn’t catch what any of them were saying clearly. I could see the worry, disbelieve and shock on the faces nearest to me though. Everyone was acting really well!

A young man pushed through, he was wearing a green mask just around his eyes. He spoke out, ‘I shall assisted you, Doctor Guilford!’

‘Thank you, Kingsley,’ the Doctor said, with a nod.

‘Let me through,’ a man’s voice called from somewhere at the back, ‘I am Chief Inspector Macklain! What has happened here?’

He was dressed in a proper dinner suit, complete with white handkerchief in the top pocket. His mask was black but he had pulled it off to reveal a face a lot older then his years, he had seen a lot of police action. His hair was thin with too much worrying and he had a large drooping moustache that was going grey. His dark eyes roamed the party as if seeking out the murderer all ready.

‘Louisa is dead!’ Jarrett wailed and stumbled down a step.

‘It’s all right, old boy!’ Doctor Guilford spoke.

‘I will get to the bottom of this,’ Macklain added as he came to the front of the crowd.

‘Me too!’ Am Jarrett’s younger brother, Crispin,’ a teenage male called out from the side.

He walked over and joined Doctor Guilford, Kingsley and Macklain at the bottom of the stairs. I noticed he was dressed differently from the other men. He was wearing white trousers, a red and white pinstriped jacket, a red bow tie and a white shirt. He had blond hair and his mask was gold colored.

‘Oh, I want to help too!’ I cried, putting my hand in the air and doing a little jump.

People glanced at me then I moved forward.

‘What can you offer, madam? Are you a nurse?’ Doctor Guilford asked.

‘No, but I’m a mortician.’

A ripple of stiff laughter came from the crowd.

‘Okay, an assistant mortician, newly qualified, as some of you know,’ I added.

‘I am sure we will be fine without you,’ Macklain said.

‘No, I am helping!’

Pulling a childish face, I hitched up my dress and stomped over to the staircase. I went up, feeling everyone staring at me as if I had announced some great evil. Reaching Jarrett, I took him in. His half white half black mask was askew, his face flushed and his body shaking.

‘Led the way,’ I demanded.

Jarrett nodded and walked up the stairs, I followed and so did the men. At the top, I snatched up a sliver candelabra but found as Jarrett walked down the left corridor that electrical wall lights were on. Still, I felt the candelabra was giving me some kind of power, so I clutched on to it.

Walking by, I could see the storm was still raging outside. Rain coated the windows, the wind was howling like a wounded wolf, the thunder determined to make itself heard and the lightening strobe flashing. It felt like the perfect night for a horrible murder in a spooky castle miles away from anywhere else.

An excited but nervous chill came over me. What was going to happen next? Who would the murderer turn out to be?

Jarrett led us back to the hallway I had first met him on then off to the left, up a flight of stairs. We were all silent through this walk. At the top, he paused at the first door which was wide open.

‘I can not go in,’ he said, ‘I can not see her like that again.’

‘Stay here then,’ I said and handed him the candelabra.

Stepping into the room, I saw it was a total mess. Bedding was strewn everywhere as were clothes, books with were flung about, a few rip pages here and there, there was also glass on the floor and damp stains on the rugs. The overwhelming smell of lots of perfume hit me full in the face.

Where was the body?

I looked harder and saw on the other side of the four poster bed, the back of a limb hand, fingers curled inwards, raised up like a tried child trying to answer a question in class.

‘Do not touch anything,’ the voice of the Chief Inspector said from behind me.

I stepped to the side and let the men in. The Doctor and Kingsley walked carefully around the other side of the bed. They began speaking in low voices.

Being careful not to walk on everything, which was really hard, I joined them and stared down at Louisa.

She was laying at a strange angle, her upper body slummed against the bed frame. Her right hand was raised, blood trailing down her arm. The left arm was fallen at her side. Her eyes were open, fixed on some point ahead, a startled expression on her pale face. Her lower body was sprawled out across a scrunched up rug, her legs wide open and only one shoe on her foot. The other shoe, I spotted poking out from under a pillow.

She was wearing a dark green dress with a large bow at one side but it was blood spattered. Her blonde hair was loose about her face and the bed, there were flecks of blood on the strands. There was also a pool of blood around her left arm which when the Doctor held it up, I saw a slash across the wrist.

‘Doctor?’ Macklain asked.

I jumped a little, being so focused on the body I’d not even noticed the Chief Inspector moving to my side.

‘Her neck has been broken,’ Guilford answered, ‘her wrists cut as if to make it look like suicide. There is bruising around her throat, hand marks and also bruises to her arms.’

Macklain nodded.

I opened my mouth but the words didn’t come out. I wanted to say what a good actress Louisa was or was it a good life dummy? And also how great the murder scene had been set up but it felt all too real.

Sick rose in my stomach, I made a whispered, ‘excuse me,’ and walked out.

Standing in the hallway, I took a few deep breaths then noticed that Kendell had joined Crispin at Jarrett’s side against the wall.

‘Louisa?’ Kendell uttered.

I gave a quick shake of my head and turned away. My stomach was rolling over, ‘where’s the nearest bathroom?’

Kendell took my hand, led me down the steps, passed two closed doors then into a white bathroom.

I went to the sink, ran the tap and splashed water on my hands, arms and face. The cold water helped remove the nausea and shock. I also took a few handfuls of water to wet my dry mouth.

‘That was too real,’ I uttered, ‘she looked like a real body. I wasn’t expecting that. How did you do it?’

‘I…did not do anything,’ Kendell said stiffly, her voice still muffled by the feather mask.

I turned to her, water dripping off my face. She handed me a white towel which I used.

‘Who do you think murdered her?’ I asked, ‘wait, I’m not allowed to ask you because you probably know,’ I laughed.

Kendell looked hard at me.

‘Unless you don’t either, because you hired the actors?’

‘Actors?’ Kendell questioned, ‘there are no actors here.’

A loud knock at the door interrupted us. Kendell flung it back and the Chief Inspector was standing there.

‘I am sorry to intrude, but I need to question everyone. Please come to the dinning room now,’ he said.

‘Of course,’ Kendell answered.

Macklain turned away and she followed him. I dropped the towel on the hand rail and trailed after them. We went back the way we had come, finally down the grand staircase and into the dinning room, where I had gotten my glass of wine before. It was now gone from the table I noticed.

‘Please be seated,’ Macklain spoke.

Kendell sat down at the head of the table. I took the only other empty chair to her left. Beside me was Jarrett with his mask off, looking extreme pale and upset. He was also handsome, but now was not the time. Next to him, his brother and the rest of the chairs were filled out with other guests, all still had their masks on.

There were a few men standing around, looking at different things in the room as if they found a great interest in them. I noticed how they avoided looking at anyone else.

‘What is your name, Miss?’ Macklain questioned.

I looked at him, realised he was addressing me and replied, ‘Jane Walker.’

‘Mr Pitney says he found you wondering the hallways before his wife’s death, is that true?’

I thought for a few moments then said, ‘yes, I was lost trying to find my way down to the party.’

‘What time would this have been?’ Chief Inspector Macklain asked.

I pressed my lips together and tried to remember what my phone screen had said. The numbers wouldn’t come to me.

‘Do you recall at all?’ Macklain pressed.

‘Well, it was after seven when I arrived, I remember seeing that on my car’s clock but then when I came down to the ballroom, I heard it was almost nine. I didn’t think that much time had passed though!’

‘Yes, it was almost nine, Chief Inspector, when Miss Walker joined me,’ Kendell spoke stiffly, ‘ I can not tell you want time she arrived at.’

‘And you, Mr Pitney, what time do you think it was when you meet Miss Walker in the hallway?’ Macklain questioned.

‘It was around half past eight,’ Jarrett said gently.

Macklain rounded on me again, ‘do you remember hearing anything at that time, Miss Walker?’

I wiggled in my seat, feeling the pressure of all this questions. I didn’t realise this was going to be so intense! It was meant to be a game after all!

‘Let’s see,’ I spoke, ‘I remember hearing shouting, an argument, maybe? I followed the voices then I heard a door slam.’

‘What was the shouting about?’ Macklain shot at me.

‘I never heard any clear words.’

‘Did you see Mrs Pitney?’

‘No.’

‘Then what happened when you met Mr Pitney in the hallway?’ Macklain inquired.

‘I told him I was lost and asked if he could help me find the party. He did so,’ I answered.

‘Did you seem him again afterwards?’

‘No. He went back upstairs. I was with Kendell the whole time then, until I heard screaming and I joined everyone with going to the entrance hall,’ I explained.

Macklain paced away from me, went behind Kendell’s chair then came back again and went behind Jarrett and said in a low voice, ‘where did you go, Mr Pitney?’

‘Back to my bedroom,’ he answered, ‘I wanted to apologise to…to Louisa….’ he took a deep breathe then carried on, ‘when I got to the room, the door was open and she was…dead!’

‘What had you been arguing about, sir?’

‘Nothing! It was nothing!’ Jarrett shouted and slammed a fist into the table.

We all jumped.

‘Quiet, brother. Be calm,’ Crispin spoke and laid his hand on top of Jarrett’s fist.

Jarrett stared at me, hate in his eyes.

‘It was you,’ he hissed.

‘Me?’ I questioned, putting a hand to my chest.

‘You were jealous I was married!’

‘What? I don’t even know you!’ I responded then laughed nervously.

‘She would have had the time to go back,’ Kendell declared, ‘it would have only taken a few minutes!’

‘I? Kendell! What are saying? I had nothing to do with it!’ I cried.

‘It would have been easy for you, especially as no one knows who you are!’ Kendell exclaimed.

My next words died on my lips. I looked around the room with wild eyes.

‘What do you mean, Lady Whitwood?’ Macklain inquired.

I frowned. Lady Whitwood? Kendell’s last name was Steveson. Had she given herself a character name for the murder mystery game? Perhaps, everyone else had done to and that’s the other reason why I didn’t recognise anyone.

Kendell took a deep breath and accusingly said, ‘Miss Walker is a stranger amongst us! I did not know her when she came to the door, though she was dressed for the party. When I made inquires after her no one admitted they knew her.’

I froze, not sure what to reply to defend myself with, nor where any of this was going. I had a strange feeling that the murder mystery game had gone wrong somehow.

‘I know who she is!’ Jarrett shouted, ‘my childhood sweetheart! She followed me here, tricked her way into the party and murder my poor wife!’

Scrambling to my feet, I stood up and screamed, ‘that’s not true!’

Jarrett and Crispin also got to their feet.

‘She does sort of look like your old sweetheart,’ Crispin added, thoughtfully.

‘She is Jane Duneshaw! Arrest her, Chief Inspector! She is the murderess!’

‘No!’ I cried.

To be continued….

The Murder Mystery Party (Part 2)

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I walked into the bedroom, the light from the candelabra didn’t show me a lot. I looked for a light switch on the wall but couldn’t find one. I turned on two lamps either side of the double, four poster, red velvet curtain bed and another lamp over a little writing desk. There were other candles dotted around which I decided to light.

With that, I could see the medium size room; the bed with side tables and bedding box at the end against one wall, an empty fireplace and a small door in the wall opposite. On the left wall where the door was, stood a small oak wardrobe in the corner. On the last wall, a small window and the writing desk. The wallpaper was old fashioned flowers on a cream background and the floor was covered by four or five dark rugs.

I dumped my stuff, took off the masquerade mask and went to the little door. Opening it, I walked in and found a tiny bathroom. There was a sink with a mirror above it, toilet and a small bath. It would do for two or three nights. I wasn’t a fan of baths though so maybe I could find a bigger bathroom with a shower in it to use?

Going back into the bedroom, I started unpacking and noticed how quiet it seemed. I could hear some of the candle wicks crackling as they started burning, the wind and the rain rattling the window and myself moving stuff but I couldn’t hear the sounds of the party. Not thinking about how I was going to find my way back down the grand staircase, I got what I needed out and set the rest aside.

I looked at my phone and saw I had no signal, not even enough for an emergency call to be made. I put the phone in the small blue beaded bag I’d brought with me. I could look for signal if I needed it later, but I knew in castles it was unlikely, all that thick stone blocked out things.

Taking of my wet dress, I went to the wardrobe. Opening the door caused the wooden hangers to rattle. I grabbed one, hung my dress up then searched for a plug socket for my hair drier. I found one next to the bedside table, though I had to unplug the lamp. Switching the hair drier on, I give my hair a quick dry, I had been to the hairdressers that morning for a twenties bob style and didn’t want to mess around with it. Then I dried my dress.

Halfway through the hair drier cut out. Frowning, I checked the plug and it was still work. I shook the hair drier and spent a few minutes trying to get it back on but it was dead. Giving up, I tossed it on the bed and slipped the dress back on. Over the top, I put a paler blue cardigan on. I re-did my makeup, placed a few other things inside the bead bag, put the mask back on and was ready to go.

A rumble of thunder caused me to pause. I looked over at the window, there was only darkness and rain splatter.

‘A thunder storm?’ I spoke aloud, ‘that wasn’t forecast.’

As if in answer, a flash of lightening struck and the thunder rumbled again. I shivered and opened the bedroom door. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see. Tutting, I turned back and picked up the gold candelabra Kendell had given me. Then realising I couldn’t leave the other candles lit, I blew them out and turned off the lamps too.

Just by the glow of three candles, I began to make my way along dark corridors. The storm came into full force as I walked. I could the wind howling, making things creak and groan in the castle, rain hit the windows causing them to shake and every few minutes the thunder would rumble like the hungry stomach of a giant followed by a flash of white lightening.

Fear spiked me, vanishing all other emotions and thoughts. I tried not to think of horror movies, supernatural things and anything unsettling. I concentrated on trying to remember the way Kendell had brought me. Was it left here or right? Down or up this staircase? Passed the painting of rearing white horse or not?

I heard shouting voices and stopped. I spun about, trying to decided where they were coming from but everything echoed in the castle. A door slammed, I jumped and cried out, the noise had been so loud it must be close by!

A figure appeared, stomping down a staircase. I couldn’t see much and scared, I tried to tug myself into a doorway.

‘Who’s there?’ a man’s voice called.

I peered out at him but still could only make out his outline. He moved forward and I almost made a dash back the way I had come.

‘I’m sorry,’ he spoke softer this time, ‘I didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Jarrett Pitney.’

‘Jane Walker,’ I breathed.

I stepped away from the wall and held the candelabra up. I could see him better now. He was tall man around six foot, with short black hair waxed back, the mask he wore was half black half white and came down over his cheeks, he had blue eyes and full pink, wet lips. He was wearing a black dinner suit with a white shirt, bib and black bow tie.

‘Are you lost, Miss Walker?’ he asked in a hushed voice.

‘I’m afraid so. Could you help me find the party?’

He nodded and held out his arm. I took it and without another word, he led me the correct way. A few minutes later, we were at the top of the grand staircase, the painted horses and men of the Napoleonic battle scene staring down at us.

‘You should be all right now,’ he said and dropped his arm from mine.

‘Thank you,’ I replied.

He turned and walked back the way we had come, the darkness swallowed him. I wondered how he knew the way without any light. Maybe, he knew the castle well? The sounds of music and voices drifted up to me.

I walked down the staircase and found that some of the doors leading off from the entrance hall where now open. Light was pooling everywhere and I could smell warm food and burning wood.

Putting the candelabra down on a table, I walked to the first open door and found an empty parlor. There was fire burning happily in the fireplace in the opposite wall, plush armchairs and two seater sofas were scattered about waiting to be used. I tried the next room and found six chairs around a circular table that was set up for afternoon tea. Another fireplace was light, on both sides of which where bookcases and portraits on the walls.

Stepping out, I followed the distance voices towards the back, behind the grand staircase. There I walked through double doors and found myself in a ballroom. A handful of people were walking about, only two couples were dancing and there was a small orchestrate on a stage in the far corner. The air smelt of fire smoke, winter spice and flowery perfume.

All the men were wearing fancy evening suits. The young women were in twenties flapper dresses and the older women more modest dresses. I looked down at my costume and decided it just fitted in. Staring into the ballroom again, there was no one I recognised but then it was hard with everyone wearing masks.

Feeling better, though wondering where everyone else was, I spotted Kendell in her white frilly dress and swan feather mask off to one side near a glass door. She was talking with a man in a blue dinner suit and both had wine glasses in their hands.

Thinking I could do with a drink, I looked around but saw no table or bar or waiter in which to get one from. So, I crossed the room and went to Kendell. As I neared I caught some of their conversation.

‘I did not want to turn her away,’ Kendell was saying in a low voice.

‘It could spoil everything! This has never happened before!’ the man snapped back.

‘It is almost nine O’clock, it will be over soon.’

I stopped, ‘nine O’clock?’ I cried, ‘I didn’t even realise I’d been upstairs for that long!’

Kendell and the man spun to look at me but most of their expressions were hidden by the masks. The man had dark brown hair and his mask like a leering red face.

‘Are you feeling better now?’ Kendell ask.

I nodded as the man sulked off.

‘I could do with a drink though!’

‘Of course,’ Kendell uttered.

She took my hand and placed it in the crook of her arm. Before I had time to tell her how odd that was, she was leading me out of the ballroom, down a corridor and into a dinning room set for around twenty people. There was a bowl of fruit in the middle of the table, a tray of glasses and few bottles of wine.

‘Help yourself,’ Kendell stated.

‘This is odd, didn’t you hire any staff?’ I asked.

Kendell didn’t reply.

I choice a red wine, uncorked it and poured myself a glass.

‘I guess it must have cost A LOT to hire this place out!’ I said then carried on, ‘especially, on New Year’s Eve! I hope I’ve not miss much. I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve always wanted to do a murder mystery game night and now you’ve made it happen.’

I took a few sips of the wine and turned to Kendell. She was gone.

‘Kendell?’ I called.

A long, high pitched scream echoed through the room.

Almost dropping my glass as I placed it on the table, I hurried back into the hallway. It was empty, so I dashed to the ballroom.

The scream came again, more desperate and female sounding. The ending was blocked by a loud blast of thunder.

In the ballroom, people had froze, looking towards the double doors then everyone left, talking in low voices about what could have happened. I joined the end of the group. More people came out from other rooms until about twenty-odd, maybe thirty of us were all gathered in the entrance hall.

‘This is it! The murder has happened!’ I said excitedly.

‘Murder?’ a woman’s voice said at the side of me.

I nodded and went to speak more but there came a rush of footsteps and Jarrett appeared at the top of the grand staircase.

‘She dead!’ he yelled, ‘my wife, Louisa, is dead!’

To be continued….