The Murder Mystery Party (Part 1)

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I glanced at the Sat Nav as the female voice told me, ‘you have reached your destination,’  then out of the car’s front window. There was nothing but this single track country lane and tall hedges either side.

‘I’ve not reached my destination!’ I snapped.

Driving on, I looked for any sign that I was close. In the full beam headlights, I saw a red arrow pointing onwards and words I didn’t catch.

‘Just little further then. You can do this, Jane,’ I said.

My grip on the steering wheel was tight, my knuckles had gone white a few miles back. I was praying there was nothing coming towards me. The wind was reaching gale force, I could feel the car rocking and the tops of the hedges were beginning to sway drunkenly. Rain drops splattered down once more and I put the wipers on.

The hedges dropped on my right, a tall red brick wall topped with black spikes came into view, half sheltered by trees left to grow wild. I breathed out then in, relaxed my hands and body. I moved my feet over the pedals and slowed the car down.

More wall, more trees, it seemed never ending. The wall dropped lower, the trees gone, replaced with hedge that once had been groomed into shape but was now untameable. I slowed down further, almost to a crawl, I didn’t want to miss the turning after all of this!

A large white sign; Toski Castle jutted out at me from the side view. Huge black open gates that looked like they had come straight out of Hell appeared. They were attached to giant grey stone pillars, upon which sat leering monstrous gargoyles.

I stopped the car and looked through the gates. A dark road led upwards, trees over shadowing it, there was no sign of a building. I glanced at the Sat Nav and saw the little imagine of a car driving through space with a red question mark over it.

‘There’s nothing else for it,’ I said aloud, ‘and if it’s the wrong address then maybe they can tell me the right one.’

I indicted and drove up the driveway. The full beam headlights showed over grow lawn strips on each side, bushes and trees acting as a double boarder. I went down a steep dip, over a small hill and saw a large arched gate house like bridge structure ahead. Through this which wasn’t lit up, was another two hills and the entrance way.

This structure was far grander then the little gate house, it looked like two smaller stone castle towers connect by a high arched bridge. There were glass windows in both towers, though no light shone. I wanted to stop and make it out better but I didn’t want to be any later then I all ready was.

Driving through, I came to the actual driveway of the castle. The road was clear on both sides, gravel had been laid down to create areas to park and little security lights placed low down aided in parking nicely. There were no cars. I recalled in the letter I had received along with the invitation, something about that being the over-flow car park.

I drove on, under another small bridge also sided by stone towers and into the area before the castle. This was a large square of gravel, walled in by ten foot high, large stone sides. Dim lights give hardly any chance for me to full understand the structure. I parked in the left up corner, noticing the lack of other cars.

The car’s dashboard clock told me it was almost seven-thirty PM, the party had all ready started. I looked out of the window but couldn’t make much out in the dim light. Maybe, I was in the wrong place after all? But how many other Toski Castles where in Lancashire? None that the internet had said.

I got out of the car and grabbed my things; handbag, large rucksack, suitcase and my sky blue masquerade mask. Locking the car, I walked up six steps to archway, behind which the castle rose. It was hard to tell in the darkness how impressive this place was. The photos I had seen online showed a Victorian manor house in the style of a romantic medieval castle.

Security lights lit the way but I wondered why there were no lights coming from the windows, of which there were many. Maybe, it had something to do with the spirit of the party and the curtains had all been drawn? There was just enough light to see that the castle looked like something out of an old movie. It give the imagine of having been around for hundreds years but it was only like hundred and fifty odd years old.

The ‘fake’ castle had been neglected and saved often but some parts were still crumbling. The dark walls held tales of mystery and murder, making it just perfect for my best friend Kendell’s New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery Party.

Stepping into the courtyard, I looked for any sign of party noise and movement. Perhaps, I had come to the back of the house instead of the front? Though it didn’t seem likely. I turned around and around, feeling a slight fear that the darkened windows were watching and judging me.

A security light pinged on, making me jump. I laughed it off, now seeing the courtyard clearly. There was a pathetic little fountain in the center; a stone vase tipped above a small walled pond. No water was coming out as it had been shut off for winter. The stone slabs under my feet were dark and wet with rain, which was still falling. The wind had dipped some but only because of the shelter of the walls.

There was a flight of stone steps in front of me leading to a double wooden door. I made my way up and saw a red bell rope danging down. There was a plastic covered piece of paper attached.

I reached for it and read it in the security light;

Welcome to Toski Castle, guests. Please ring the bell once and remember to put on your mask before entering!

Resting my suitcase down, I put on my mask and pulled the rope once. The sound of a bell echoed loudly.

The front door creaked open, darkness spilling out. I felt a tingle of excitement, a rush of nervous and a touch of fear. In a flash, my brain went to horror movies where lost travelers in storms find castles full of mad people and unspeakable things!

The rain suddenly pelted me and not wanting to get my ballroom styled nineteen-twenties, blue party dress any more wet, I hurried inside.

‘Hello?’ I shouted into the darkness.

A candle flickered on to my left then more appeared, even on a chandelier above and soon the whole hallway and grand staircase ahead of me was light up. Both were breath taking! The hallway was full of wood – the floor and the walls all paneled in a dark chestnut, the ceiling was painted white and decorated with a heavenly scene.

The staircase banisters were huge trunks of oak and the bottom pillars held bronze statues of half naked woman holding up old fashioned glass vase for gaslights. A red patterned and gold tasseled carpet ran up the stairs which then divided into a left and right at the top. There on that wall, was a huge painting of a Napoleonic battle scene. Men in red coats and men in blue coats fighting on horse back in a muddy landscape.

‘Wow, this is amazing! Nice trick with the candle lights,’ I added and laughed.

Music, piano and other classic instruments, started playing from some hidden room. I heard the hush of voices but couldn’t figure where they were coming from. There seemed to be too many wooden doors leading off the hallway and all were closed.

I heard the swish-swish of skirts and turned to my right. A figure emerged, in a floor sweeping, white frilly dress with a low cut chest and long sleeves. Covering most of her face was a white feather swan mask and wisps of tightly curled sliver-white hair bobbed on her head.

‘Kendell?’ I asked.

The figure stopped.

‘It’s me, Jane. Sorry, I’m so late. The bad weather and the Sat Nav…You did say the postcode might let me down!’

I smiled and in the pause heard laughter and the clicking of glasses.

‘I see,’ a muffled voice answered back, ‘come, let me show you to a room so you can refresh yourself.’

‘Oh! That would be lovely,’ I cried.

Kendell picked up the skirts of her dress in one hand and held on to the banister with her left. I collected my things and followed her up the broad staircase, half wishing her husband or somebody else, even Kendell, had offered to give me a hand with my luggage!

At the top, we turned left under the terror-stricken eyes of soldiers and horses from the painting. From a nearby table, Kendell picked up a gold candelabra and three candles flames danced in the breeze she caused. Using it to light the way,  we went up a smaller staircase and on to a dark landing.

In the dim light of the candles,  I noticed the frames of paintings, doors and windows lining both walls. I wanted to talk to Kendell but climbing those stairs had seemed to take all the energy out of me. Instead, I followed the tail of her white dress around corners, up and down stairs, until we came to a door which was slightly ajar opposite a large window box seat.

‘Here, this one is empty,’ Kendell’s muffled voice said.

‘How many people did you invite?’ I gasped, ‘we passed so many rooms!’

‘Some of them are not suitable and others are not bedrooms. You will be satisfied with this one,’ she said rather stiffly.

‘Getting into character all ready! I like it!’

Kendell huffed, shoved the candelabra into my hand and strolled off like an insulted peacock.

‘Wait!’ I called out after her, ‘I’m sorry! It’s very good!’

She turned the corner, the tail of her dress floating out and was gone.

‘Been like that then,’ I uttered under my breath, though I didn’t mean it. I was tried, cold and that wasn’t the grand entrance I had imagined on arriving.

I opened the door to the bedroom fully and went in.

 

To be continued….

Boxing Day

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Heather looked into her new pug puppy’s bed. There was a small golden box.

‘What is this?’ she wondered.

‘He forgot to give that to you yesterday in the excitement of everything,’ her boyfriend Ben said.

Heather laughed, unwrapped and opened the box. Inside was an engagement ring. She turned to Ben who’d gotten down on one knee.

‘Will you marry me?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ Heather cried.

Christmas Day

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The sound of children’s voices talking woke Ellie up. She stirred, wanting to go back to sleep after staying up so late finishing off the Christmas preparations. The excitement of her children wasn’t going to allow her that lay in though.

Her bedroom door crept open, squeaking too loud to be ignored and Ellie felt her husband waking up beside her. She nudged him before flipping the duvet back and turning on the lamp. In the glow, she could see her two children standing in the doorway, red stockings clutched in their hands.

‘What is it?’ Ellie asked sleepily, even though she knew the answer thanks to their bright, smiley faces.

‘Christmas!’ they both shouted and dashed for the bed.

Ellie burst into laughter. Her husband groaned then woke up, realising what was happening as the kids began unwrapping presents.

‘Is this all from Santa?’ he asked, looking around in pretend awe.

‘Yes!’ the children answered then began babbling over what they had found in the stockings.

Ellie smiled, her whole body filled with happiness at seeing her children so joyful and this was just the start of Christmas Day, there was a lot more to come throughout the next few hours.

Christmas Eve

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The church bells rang out signalling the start of midnight mass. People walked or drove  over, some carrying presents or boxes of food for the poor. Snowflakes fluttered from the dark sky whilst fairy lights everywhere twinkled warmly. The fresh air was mingled with the scents of pine, hot cooking and frankincense.

In the church they gathered, singing hymns and saying prays by the flickering candle light. They celebrated the birth of a baby thousands of years ago that they believed changed the world for the better. With hearts full of joy and wonder, they wished for a Christmas of peace.

Shutting Out Christmas #TaleWeaver

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On the first of December, Frank closed his front and back doors for the rest of the month. If anybody knocked he wouldn’t answer, not that anybody was likely to call upon him. However, he did pick up the phone if his granddaughter rang to make sure he was still alive but it was only for her that he would answer.

For the last few years, that’s how Frank had treated December. He had come to see it as a a month to shut out and stay inside. The week before, he brought a large order of supplies making sure he had enough food, drink, firewood, coal, candles, batteries and books.

Elise, his granddaughter would come to visiting a few times, bringing with her whichever boyfriend she was with and fresh items. Frank would give her a ten pound note out of habit for Christmas. Then on the third of January, the day after the rush of New Year, when everyone would be back at work, Frank would head out to the shops at last.

He stocked up on another month of supplies and went back into hibernation. His granddaughter visiting once or twice with a few items. February saw a repeat of that because winter had set in deep and why bother trying to get through the snow and ice, risking accident? Frank thought. His granddaughter would come again, either with the same boyfriend or a different one, sometimes alone, crying over a break up or enjoying her brief moment of single life.

Frank didn’t mind, she was living whatever life she decided and he mostly wanted to be left alone. It was how things had been for the last ten years, ever since his wife, daughter and her husband had died in a car accident. Black ice on a ungritted road had been blamed. His granddaughter had only survived because she had been with him, too ill to go out shopping.

A few days into December, Frank sit in his cold living room, the small TV in the corner off, the curtains drawn, Frank watched the fire coming to life. He had all ready had something to eat and drink, now was his time to get warm and read for a few hours. Outside he could hear the wind and rain whipping up into a storm. He felt glad for the roof over his head.

Getting into the sleeping bag which would keep the chill off his body, Frank took the current historic war novel he was reading off the top of the pile of books on the side table next to him. He turned to his bookmarked page and began reading.

His thoughts though turned to all the madness happening outside right now that he was far away from. People would be crowding the freezing streets; shopping and eating, driving around, getting angry at each other and feeling the stress of Christmas. Homeless people, charity workers and money grabbers would be begging, their words mostly ignored. The rain would be icy cold, the wind bitter, Frank would catch hypothermia again and have to spend Christmas in hospital.

He was too old and tried for all that now. Christmas celebrations were fading memories for him and didn’t care for anymore. Frank was happy shutting it all out, losing himself in some books and letting the season pass him by in solitude.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/tale-weaver-199-open-or-shut-november-29th/ with thanks).

Thaw #writephoto

The hills were cover in snow and it didn’t look as if they were going to thaw anytime soon. The bad winter the weatherman had forewarned had had us all laughing but now he was the one in fits of laughter. We had all just had enough already, England wasn’t made for this kind of thing! Still, it had been the white Christmas written into every song and pleaded for by children. To me though, it just made the coming New Year and January feel even bleaker.

(Inspired by; https://wordpress.com/post/thestoryfiles.wordpress.com with thanks).

Christmas Eve

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The moon shone of the freshly fallen snow, making it sparkly like diamonds. The little girl sighed and felt the chilly night air deep in her lungs. She should be home, safely tugged in bed, waiting for Father Christmas to arrive, but she wasn’t.

The train station platform the girl stood on was empty expect for her and her mother. They were waiting for the midnight train which was bringing father back to them. Huddled in her new white cloak, the girl looked up at the clear sky and full moon. A shadow in shape she recognised passed by and she pointed excitedly upwards; it was Father Christmas in his sled!

The sound of a train broke the silence as it pulled into the station, black smoke pluming through the air. There was a hiss of steam and squeal of wheels as the train stopped before them. The girl clutched her mother’s skirts and half hide behind her.

The handful of carriage doors opened and only a few people got out. The girl saw her father coming towards her and broke into a run, tugging her mother to do the same. They embraced, all hugging each other and talking at once.

Safe in the arms of her parents, the little girl looked to the sky once more and thanked Father Christmas for the best present she could have asked for.

The Grotto (Part 1)

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The queue to see Santa at the small shopping outlet was far too long but my eight year old niece, Willow, had really wanted to see him. So, after we had eaten lunch and done some Christmas shopping, we had joined the hour wait behind the red ropes.

‘Haven’t you seen Santa four times already?’ I asked her.

Willow give me a hard stare, her arms folded across her chest and replied, ‘yes, but I’m on a mission.’

I couldn’t help but smile. She was trying to look serious but it didn’t work with the cuteness of the grandma made knitted rainbow bobble hat and bright pink puff coat with unicorns on it.

‘What kind of mission?’ I asked.

‘To prove he’s real,’ Willow said in a low voice.

I lent down to hear her better as she explained, ‘kids in my class say he’s not real and it’s their parents who buy all the presents. I though want to prove he’s real and I can only do that by talking to as many ‘Santas’ as possible.’

I nodded then said, ‘but you know all the Santas are like the real Santa’s relatives, right? The real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Willow pressed her lips together and puffed out her cheeks, ‘I know.’

The queue moved a little and a mother ahead of us stopped a passing male elf to ask how long it would be.

‘It won’t be much longer now!’ the elf cheerily replied, ‘and have you been good children this year?’

I turned to Willow who was watching intently. The elf was too tall and it looked like the green trousers, jacket and hat were far too small for him. He was clean shaven and he had short blond hair. He was wearing fake pointy ear tips, there was a bell on the end of of his hat and also atop each of his green pointy shoes. He had red blush circles on his cheeks too and though it was hard to tell his age, he couldn’t have been more then twenty-six – close to my own age. Actually, if wasn’t dressed like he was I would have found him attractive!

He walked down the line, chatting to adults and kids then he reached us.

‘I think my auntie likes you!’ Willow spoke out.

‘Oi!’ I snapped and give her pink fluffy lined hood a tug.

Willow giggled and beamed at me as I felt my cheeks go red.

‘This is your aunt? Why I thought you were sisters!’ the elf said cheekily.

‘Are you a real elf?’ Willow asked.

‘Of course I am! Fresh from the North Pole! Only the best elves get to travel with Santa.’

‘How much longer is it going to be?’ I asked.

‘Shouldn’t be-‘

‘No,’ I cut him off, ‘the real time. We have a bus to catch.’

Willow look at me in shock but I tugged her hood again to stop her from speaking.

‘Oh….erm….an hour or so. He’s really popular today! I’m sure you could catch another bus….’ the elf trailed with a wide grin, ‘he’s worth the wait!’ he winked at Willow then walked off.

‘Meanie!’ Willow snarled, ‘I’m not leaving till I see him!’

She crossed her arms and turned away from me, nose in the air.

I signed and looked around. The shopping outlet shone and glittered with lights and sparkly decorations. Christmas music was playing in the background but the noise of people made it hard to only make out a few louder notes. The window displays of the near by shops were trying their hardest to compete with one another and also draw customers into spend lots of money. With it being the third Saturday to Christmas, a lot of people were doing just that.

Looking back at the Santa’s Grotto which was shaped like a large igloo covered in glitter surrounded by presents and models of penguins, bears and reindeer, I just couldn’t bring myself to drag Willow out of the queue and leave. So, we waited an hour and twenty minutes watching the shoppers and the elves until we were next.

There were two female elves at the front, one was taking money and the other photographs. They looked like twins with their green costumes, blonde hair, blue eyes and too much make up.

‘It’s five pounds to see Santa and another five if you want your photo taken with him,’ the first elf explained.

I glanced at Willow and she responded, ‘just Santa, please.’

‘Are you sure, sweetie?’ the second elf asked, swaying the large camera around her neck.

‘Yes,’ Willow and I said together.

I handed over the note from my purse and lead Willow up the cotton wool pathway. The family that had been before us came out and we went in.

To Be Continued….

Scrap Yard Boy

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I couldn’t just leave him there. He was wet, cold, hungry and crying. I had no idea who had abandoned him or why but they must have been desperate to dump him in my scrap yard or maybe his parents hadn’t cared?

It was luckily my dog found him and that I had called so late at the yard to pick up something I’d forgotten. Heaven knows how long he’s been there for. He couldn’t have been older the two or three. He dressed for a winter walk and had an old bear with him.

As the snow started to spiral down, I gathered him up and put him in the trunk. He cried softly all the way, clearly tried but too scared to do anything else. Once parked outside the glowing warmth of my home, it took a few minutes to get him out.

My wife was waiting for me, a hot meal on the table and the TV talking away in the background. She was as shocked as me to see the boy. She took him to the bathroom, muttering mothering words. I ate whilst she cleaned him and found t-shirt and shorts to dress him in.

We had always wanted a child  but God had decided it wasn’t our fate to have our own. We had spent years in fostering and adaption though had recently had to stop due to old age effecting us. My wife had loved it and I knew she missed it greatly, so she wouldn’t want to part with the abandoned boy.

She bought him to the table and got him to ate some of the stew she had made and drink some warmed milk. He rubbed his eyes sleepily afterwards and she put him to bed in one of the little bedrooms we still had.

‘How could someone abandoned him like that?’ she asked.

I was putting another log on the fire, having washed and tided away the dishes, ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘ but we’ve heard all the stories before.’ I shrugged.

‘Well, he’ll have to stay now,’ she spoke.

I glanced at the clock and paper calendar on the mantle, ‘we’ll have to go and tell the officials. The offices will be closed for Christmas so we’ll have to do it in the new year.’

My wife nodded though I knew she wanted to suggest we don’t tell anyone about the boy. I couldn’t do that though and his life would be so much harder if he had to live in secret. Turning to the fire, I wondered how this had all come to be but I knew how I now wanted it to end.

(Inspired by; https://allaboutwritingandmore.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/daily-picture-prompt-334/ with thanks).

Door #3LineTales

three line tales week 97: a blue wooden door with a face

I passed the strange door everyday but I never knew what was behind it. I imagined all kind of things behind the blue wood; a collection of cars, a forgotten back door to a house, someone’s workshop or maybe nothing at all. Of course, with the big holes at the top I could have tried to look through and see, but that would have ruined my daily daydream.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2017/12/07/three-line-tales-week-97/ with thanks.)