A murder happened in the apartment block and ever since the screams of the woman could be heard each night.
A murder happened in the apartment block and ever since the screams of the woman could be heard each night.
The detective stood on the empty platform, casually smoking a cigarette and watching the steam train rolling in through the heavy down pour of rain.
This was the moment he had been waiting for. The carriage doors open, steam billowed and the hunt for the murder was finally over.
(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2019/03/12/twittering-tale-127-12-march-2019/ with thanks).
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.
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.’
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?’
‘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….
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….
Yestreen; during yesterday evening.
Finishing the washing up, I moved on to drying. I heard my wife moving around and it sounded like she was tidying the dinning room. I really hoped she was going to go out soon, I needed to phone Bob, Bill and Jim. My memory from yesterday evening was hazy and I needed them to confide in.
Putting the dried plates, cutlery and tea things away, I chased down the idea to question my wife about today’s activities. She was suspicious about me enough. I turned off the radio and went into the dinning room to get my newspaper, I hadn’t finished reading it. My wife had moved it and herself into the sitting room.
I settled into my favourite armchair and took the newspaper from the side table where she had placed it. The TV was on some drama show my wife liked and she was looking through her small diary. I turned the newspaper pages loudly and buried myself once more in the articles.
‘Perhaps,’ my wife said slowly, ‘I’ll go and visit the vicar’s wife. Though, everyone else is probably doing that. Their daughter was in my school, you know and I am a key member of the village council now.’
I nodded, tried of her reminding me about that.
‘Are you going to the allotment?’ she asked sharply.
‘What, darling?’ I asked, lowering the paper.
‘The allotment, dear. Are going today?’ my wife pressed.
‘Yes, yes!’ I cried, she had just given me a great idea and the perfect cover.
‘I’m not deaf,’ she tutted.
‘No, sorry, love. I had forgotten you see…I was going to show the lads my…erm…lettuces! I should give ’em a bell and remind them,’ I added.
Tossing my newspaper down, I hurried to the phone and called them one after the other. Bill, Bob and Jim were all confused at first but I talked them into it without giving away anything. Then I hurried to change and gather my things whilst trying to keep yesterday evening out of my head.
‘I’m off then, dear,’ I called from the front door.
‘Here,’ my wife called from the kitchen before hurrying down the hallway.
She give me a thermos of tea and a plastic box containing sandwiches.
‘Remember, be back before five. I’m cooking lamb chops,’ she stated.
We kissed goodbye and I left quickly. I hurried down the street, caught the local bus and went to the edge of the village. Getting off, I walked down the lane to the allotments’ gate. It was unlocked and as I walked to my patch, I could see a few other people moving about. Luckily, they were all too far away to over hear me.
I unlocked the wooden garden gate and stepped into my fenced allotment. In neat rows where growing all kinds of veg. I walked up down, checking them in the glowing sunny day.
‘Just a little water,’ I mused.
Soon after I’d done, that my friends arrived. We greeted each other and showed them the few things that were really coming up now.
‘What is that about really, Gerald?’ Bob asked.
‘The news this morning,’ I whispered, ‘did you see it?’
‘Of course! The whole village knows about the murdered vicar!’ Bill said loudly.
‘Hush!’ I hissed, ‘look, I don’t remember much, so I wanted to know if any of you saw anything in the church.’
They fall silent in thought.
‘We heard a scream, a thud and someone running out the other door,’ I said to jog their minds.
‘Yes, then we ran the other way,’ Bill put in with a shrugged.
‘We thought we’d be caught too, remember,’ Jim added.
‘I was too drunk,’ Bob announced with a scrunched up face.
‘And we didn’t…None of us saw the vicar?’ I asked.
They shook their heads.
‘We going to the police?’ Bill questioned.
We all looked shiftily at each other.
‘Why? What can we tell them?’ Bob cut in.
‘I don’t know….That we heard something and saw a figure but we didn’t know what had happened?’ I suggested.
‘Then they’ll want to know why we didn’t check the place out,’ Jim replied.
‘And what we were doing there,’ Bill tagged on.
‘Maybe, we should keep mum,’ Bob spoke out.
There was a muttering of agreements.
‘If they ask though…?’ I broke in.
‘Then…we weren’t there,’ Bill declared, ‘we were in the pub and everyone there can confirm that. When we left we dropped Bob off then went our separate ways.’
I flashed back to this morning. I’d rather face down a policeman then my wife.
‘So we agree then?’ Jim said.
‘Look at those clouds,’ Bob spoke, ‘don’t like the look of ’em.’
Looking up, I saw there was a bank of dark grey clouds rolling in. The sun seemed to have dimmed too. There wasn’t meant to be any rain today, but it seemed no one had told the clouds that.
‘I’m off,’ Bill said, ‘I’ve left Molly with the grandkids.’
‘I should mow the lawn before it rains,’ Jim spoke next, ‘Anne’s been getting on my nerves about it.’
‘I..got…’ Bob trailed with a scratch of his head.
‘It’s fine. See you all later,’ I said and waved everyone off.
Watching them all leave, I wondered if we had done the right thing. But what would we really told the police? And surely, because we all intoxicated they couldn’t really take our word? I shuffled around the bed where my carrots were, debating what to do.
‘Did we really witness a murder?’ I muttered.
I tried hard to recall what I’d seen but it was all shadows and dust. Deciding to go home, I finished my tea and packed everything up. As I waited for the bus, spots of rain fell. It seemed I had left just in time. My thoughts were still stormy like the sky when I got on the bus then off it at home.
My wife wasn’t in, I guessed she was still out visiting the poor vicar’s wife. I put the TV and lamps on then sit in my armchair. I couldn’t settle though. Finally, I reached for the phone and called the local police station.
‘Hello, I’d like talk to someone about the vicar’s murder….I have some information.’
Yestreen; during yesterday evening.
‘This says he was killed yesterday evening,’ came my wife’s voice from, behind the newspaper.
I grunted, shuffled my own paper and turned the page.
‘Up at that old church in the glen!’ she added.
Grunting again, I reached around and felt for my teacup. My fingers clinked against the bone china and I groped for the handle. Finding it, I raised the cup and brought it to my lips, taking a few mouthfuls of tea.
‘Dear? Weren’t you up there the other night?’ my wife asked in a pondering voice.
I chocked on my tea little then coughed loudly to cover it up. Setting my teacup back on it’s saucer and my newspaper down beside it, I looked at my wife. She was looking fine in her Sunday best dress which she had worn to church earlier. Her grey hair was curled tightly and pinned up. There was a puzzled expression on her wrinkled face and a demanding look in her blue eyes.
‘What? Er, no. Course not. No where near!’ I spluttered.
Her face hardened, turning into the pinched and knowing look she had been famous for as the headmistress of the girl’s high school years ago.
I felt a wave of guilty school boy in my belly. There was no lying to my wife. I had to be careful now.
‘Oh, maybe we did a little,’ I said, trying to wave it all a way.
‘What did you do?’ she asked sharply.
I shrugged before replying, ‘just stayed at The Woodsman pub, talking and drinking. Played some darts, arranged that golf rematch with Bill. Then four of us went for some fresh air and we took Bob home. You know, he lives close to there…’
I smiled and picked up my teacup again. Dropping my eyes to the small table as I drank, I saw the reminds of our Sunday breakfast; greasy plates, empty toast rack, jar of jam, bottle of brown sauce, the teapot with it’s knitted cosy on, the small jug of milk and the sugar bowl.
My wife ruffled her newspaper again and looked down at it, ‘no details of how he died,’ she muttered under her breath, ‘police still investigating and asking for witness….Who would kill a vicar?’ she said loudly.
‘No idea,’ I answered and got to my feet.
I began cleaning the table, avoiding my wife’s staring eyes. Gathering up the plates and other things on the tray, I went into the kitchen. I put things away then began washing up. My wife had left the radio on and there was some song from the sixties playing. I hoped she didn’t come in here and went out instead. I tried to remember if she was visiting anyone today.
Washing the plates, my thoughts turned to yesterday evening. I hadn’t told her the whole truth. We had been up in the church, we had all been drunk and fancied a laugh. It had been Bob’s idea really, he had a spare key to the door but it had been Ernie who’d come up with the ‘joke’.
At the wooden front door though, we had heard voices shouting, a scream then a thudding noise from within. Bob had flung open the door and we had piled in to see a shadowy figure fleeing through the back door.
To be continued…
Greyson got the hotel room were the murderer had stayed. The supervisor had thought it was funny he’d request that number as everyone else refused to stay in that room. It interested Greyson though, not from a supernatural point but a psychological one. Sitting on the bed, he got all the papers he had gathered about the murderer and her victims. He re-read everything carefully, thinking over the facts and figures. It was a twisted case but being in that room helped him to put everything together. Perhaps, there was hope Greyson could help her now.
My mother had been buried under the gardeners’ compost heap just like my step-great-uncle had always told me. I could see bits of creamy bone and scraps of dark red dress coated with damp soil and roots. Her death wasn’t a secret any longer but now I was about to join her.
(Inspired from; http://sachablack.co.uk/2017/07/05/writespiration-123-52-weeks-in-52-words-week-27/ with thanks)
Going out in a hail of bullets and under the wheels of the ten ton lorry was the only way to go. Well, I didn’t have any other choices really because there was no way I was going to jail. The murders they had pinned to me would have meant total life imprisonment and that wasn’t an option.
Committing suicide had also not been an option up until that point, to be honest. I don’t know, maybe, I was thinking I’d dodge the bullets or they’d hit non-important places and that I’d just avoid the lorry’s wheels like they do in the movies. But nope, my number was up.
Once the heavy crushing pain had faded and blackness had come I knew it was the end. When I next opened my eyes, I was standing at the side of the motorway, looking across at the scene. There were flashing red and blue lights everywhere and the sirens were so loud that they blocked the rushing traffic. Though of course, most of the cars were stopping now and people were taking in what had happened.
Police swarmed the scene; searching my fancy BMW, whilst others blocked the view of my body wedged under the lorry. The driver of which was hushed off to one side into a police car like a sleeping baby. The police officers’ whispered voices came to me; is he really dead? The serial killer? The one the papers nicknamed The Red Shadow? He killed ten people we know of, but there maybe hundreds more. Yes, he’s dead. You can see that, can’t you?
I turned away, wondering what to do. Surely a pit to Hell would open up underneath me? I’d be sucked down and spend all eternity being tortured by demons. But I didn’t believe in that.
To the left of me, I saw a black shape peeling itself away from the trees. Ah, the grim reaper coming to claim my soul!
‘Wait….What are you?’ I spoke, the words tumbling from my mouth before I could stop them.
‘I am your reaper, deary,’ replied a sweet old granny’s voice.
Stunned, I just stared. There before me was a small old woman- eighty or ninety odd-she had a hunched back and skin was as wrinkly and folded as one of those weird dogs. She was dressed in a long flowery pink dress, pink handmade cardie and was holding a large blue handbag. Her hair was dyed a strange blue color and she had large glasses perched on the end of her nose.
‘When you are ready, if you’d like to follow me, sweetie,’ she spoke out, ‘you just take as long as you need, okay? No rush.’
I glanced back at the scene behind me. Cars were parked up now and an ambulance had just pulled off the hard shoulder and was trying to get in close so they could collect my body without the public seeing. Police were all ready trying to stop people from coming over.
‘Oh, I think I got some peppermints here. Somewhere,’ the granny said and began searching in her handbag.
‘No, it’s fine,’ I said, ‘who are you really?’
She looked up at me, hand still in her bag, ‘I’m your reaper, deary, come to take you to the other side.’
‘But…I was expecting demons! Devils! A black cloaked skeleton! Black, fire wings!’ I cried.
The old woman chuckled, ‘everyone believes that, but no. We take a different form every time. Everyone is different you know and often they need to be handled differently too.’
‘Do you know who I am?’ I spit.
‘Were. Sweetheart. Who were you?’ she asked then, ‘oh, here are the mints. Care for one? Go on take a handful.’
‘No,’ I stated as I waved my hands and stepped back, when she held out a pink and white stripped paper bag towards me.
‘Not a fan of mints, huh?’ she added with a wink, ‘I got something else in here for you then…’
‘I don’t want anything! Just, let’s go!’ I yelled.
‘Now, now, don’t get upset. I’ll fix it. There now,’ she said and held up a tube of my favorite childhood sweets; lemon sherbet.
She pressed it into my hand, a large smile on her face.
I looked at it in shock then opening the lid, I tossed the white power into my mouth. It tasted just as I remembered; sour and sweet, fizzy and lemony.
‘All better? I knew that would help, petal,’ she said.
I nodded, feeling for the first time in years the sensation of tears in the corner of my eyes.
‘Are you ready to go?’ granny asked.
‘Yes,’ I mumbled out.
She held out a hand which was more like the gnarled, dry root of a dead oak tree.
I took it, feeling no heat or coldness against my own hand.
With her other hand, she patted the top of mine, ‘there, there, deary. It’s all okay now.’
‘So…no demons? No Hell?’
‘Stories!’ she laughed, ‘to scare people. There is no Hell or Heaven. Just the sky.’
I looked up and saw above me the darkening sky.
We started raising towards it. Leaving everything behind. The air rushed around me and as we met the sky, I savored the last taste of sherbet on my tongue.
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And to the North there dwelled strange creatures indeed...