“The Cannibal Killer” – Part VI: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes, June 18th, 2016

*Authors’ Note:  Sorry for the delay between posts.  We work for the county and are currently winding down the fiscal year which runs from July 2017-June 2018, so we’ve been run off our feet.  But things will be calming down in another few weeks so please bear with us.  In the meantime, here is a lengthy entry to help make up for the lack of posts.  We hope to get back on our more regular posting schedule before July is out.  Thank you for you patience – Allan and Helen Krummenacker

madness

    “Nadine!” I screamed and rushed to her side, while my boss and our back up started moving slowly towards our suspect. The Cannibal Killer was still on the ground having spasms, and seemed to be completely unaware of our presence.

      I carefully rolled Nadine on her side and studied the knife handle which was all I could see. The bastard and really rammed it in deep. Luckily, I knew from past experiences that it would take more than a knife in the back to stop Nadine. Even if the guy had struck where her heart should be it would’ve failed, because her body would’ve moved the vital organ or created another to keep her going. For all the similarities between her and the vampires of legend, she was something more.

      Still something wasn’t right. Even though her eyes were open and staring right at me, she didn’t speak. And the look on her face… what was happening?

      That’s when I noticed her bare shoulder and nearly threw up. It took me a moment to get myself under control. I’ve seen a lot of injuries in my line of work, including what our perp had done to his other victims… but none of them had still been alive at the time. The bastard had literally taken a bite out of her.

      But the thing that was getting me was the fact that the wound was… doing things. The ragged edges of the wound kept moving, as if they knew they should be reaching across to their counterparts to seal the injury but couldn’t. Instead, they simply kept waving about likes streamers attached to a fan… only bloodier.

      I was almost grateful when I heard the sounds of a struggle breaking out behind me… almost. Before I could turn, one of my fellow deputies landed hard beside me and Nadine and rolled.

      Whirling I saw I saw our perp was back on his feet tossing both my boss and another deputy aside as if they were a couple of five year olds. Then instead of fleeing the scene, the guy just stood there… laughing.

      “Oh… Joanie,” he called and turned in my direction, only his eyes were fixed on the prone form of Nadine in my arms. “I’m not finished with you, not by a long shot!”

       Before he could take a single step I raised my gun and fired.

       I saw the pocket covering his heart explode as the bullet hit. The impact knocked him back yet he managed to keep standing. For a moment he stared at the hole in his jacket dumbly, as the cloth slowly turned dark then stopped. Then to his shock, and mine, the stain slowly began to shrink.

      Immediately the true horror of our situation hit. The guy had eaten and swallowed of not only a piece of Nadine but the Sangui-Sapio life form from that Para-Earth she’d landed up in back in 1862. And just as it had changed Nadine from a simple human into a pseudo-vampire in order to save her life, it was now doing the same to the maniac standing a few yards away from me. But the change was only beginning.

    Our psycho staggered and fell to his knees. His eyes were glassy-looking and he seemed confused.

      This was our chance! I started to get to my feet when Sheriff Parkes waived me off as he and three more officers, who had materialized out of the darkness, descended on the Cannibal. They were able to grab his arms and cuff them behind his back without the slightest bit of effort. In fact, they well into the process of removing other weapons he had secreted about his person before he seemed to realize what was happening.

       Then he laughed.

      Something about that sound made all of us back up and draw our weapons. “On the ground! Or you will be shot!” my boss warned.

       For a second no one spoke or moved.

      Then the killer began to murmur and giggle, “Now I get it… you were right, Joanie. I wasn’t man enough for you before. How could I be… you had a secret but wouldn’t share it with me. But now I know it…”

      “I said don’t move!” my boss repeated cocking his weapon.

   But the Cannibal didn’t listen, instead he turned towards where Nadine lay and whispered almost sweetly, “…Because I taken from you. But it’s not enough, I want it ALL!”

      In flash he was on his feet, snapping the handcuffs behind his back in the process.

      But we were faster and opened fire.

     At point blank range, every one of our shots struck home and I watched as the Cannibal jerked with each impact. But he never went down. Instead, he lashed out with superhuman strength and speed. His first blow sent Sheriff Parkes sailing over Nadine and into the pond beyond her, while another sent our backup rolling a good twenty yards in opposite directions.

     Instinctively, I started to turn towards the pond, but my superior was already getting back to his feet, bellowing, “Stay where you are, protect Collins!”

      He was right. At this point I was the only one left to keep the super-powered Cannibal from reaching his target.

     Weapon raised, I wracked my brain for ideas as our perp started towards me. Bullets weren’t going to stop this guy, but maybe one in each of his eyes would at least buy us time to regroup…

     Suddenly, Nadine appeared between us. Arms outstretched she stood protectively in front of me.

     I could see her shoulder was finally healing, but it was doing so slowly, as was the spot in her back where the knife had been. Her entire frame trembled for a moment and I feared she might collapse, but she held her ground and spoke.

     “You’re scared… confused. This isn’t what you expected,” she said gently.

     The Cannibal Killer chuckled, “No I’m not, Joanie. I’m seeing things clearer than ever before. This is how come you never stayed dead. You kept coming back over and over again, taunting me, laughing at me. But now I know how you did it. And now you can’t stop me. No one can! I’m like you… only better.”

     Now he started moving towards us, yet Nadine didn’t move. Instead she gently reached out a hand and said gently, “We both know what you really want.”

      That made him stop as he stared at her stupidly at her for a moment.

     Behind him, the two deputies he’d thrown were getting to their feet and regrouping so silently, if I hadn’t seen them I’d have never known. Still I kept a poker face, so as not to give anything away.

     Yet, without looking away from us the Cannibal Killer pointed at them saying, “And don’t expect them to stop me Joanie… because they’re going to be the warm up act. Once I’m done with them and the one behind you, I’m going to start on you and not stop…”

      “You’re in pain,” Nadine cut in, “Don’t let it hold you back, let go.”

     “YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE ONE IN PAIN JOA… UNGH!” Suddenly, the killer froze and began to jerk uncontrollably like a marionette whose strings had gotten tangled.

      “I wasn’t talking to you,” Nadine smiled and took a step toward him.

     The look in the Cannibal’s eyes changed from hungry rage to horror as she drew closer.  

     Just then the other two deputies rushed forward and tried to tackle him from behind. At the last second the killer spun, grabbed each of them and threw the pair directly at us.

    Unfortunately, Nadine was not fully recovered. In spite of her attempt to catch my fellow deputies, their combined mass and speed knocked her back into me and the four of us went down in a sprawl. By the time any of us were able to get up, the Cannibal was already gone.

night

TO BE CONCLUDED….

“The Cannibal Killer” – Part III: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes June 18th, 2016

For the record, I’ve always admired Uncle Nate but after tonight my respect for him has gone through the roof. When I got his e-mail last night telling me he was on the way to help deal with the monster who’s been terrorizing our town, I was relieved. But when he showed up… no, wait. I need to take a few steps back. I’ve got to tell this story right.

      Besides telling me he was on the way, the e-mail listed a time and place for us to meet tonight. It’s an out of the way pub here in town called “Draughts“, which is where we normally get together. It’s a nice little place run by a father and son who, like me, are part of Nate’s extended family. Big Frank and Frank Jr. are good people and they know just about everyone here in town. They also know what you like to drink, so when I walked in a glass of my favorite brew appeared on the bar before I finished settling my ass down on the stool.

Bar scene

      I started to pull out my wallet and Big Frank shook his head, “Nate’s already got you covered tonight,” he told me with a knowing smile and wandered off to take care of some other patrons.

      Glancing around the room I saw a number of familiar faces and a couple of others I didn’t, like the pretty blonde down at the end of the bar. I knew she wasn’t from around here, a face like that everyone would know and remember, but by the same token I could also tell she wasn’t a ‘working’ girl either. For one thing she seemed absorbed in reading her Kindle, for another no one was hitting on her. A few of the guys I went to high school were looking her way and shaking their heads. Clearly they’d been shot down and were still trying to figure her out, but I had other things on my mind. Like where was Nate?

      After about thirty minutes there was still no sign of Nate anywhere. So I pulled out my phone and dialed the number I had for him, but after four rings it went to voicemail. Looking over at Big Frank who was talking to the blonde at the end of the bar, I caught his eye and gestured to him. After sharing a laugh with the girl, he came over and asked, “Need a refill?”

     Shaking my head I replied, “Nah, I’m good right now. You told me earlier Nate’s covering my drinks, so that means you’ve seen him. Do you know where he is? He was supposed to meet me here I’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of him.”

      “That’s what you think,” he replied mysteriously.

     For a moment I started to get annoyed and then I remembered, Nate can take many forms and might be keeping a low profile for reasons of his own. Immediately, I scanned the room again for anything unusual.

     One or two people had left, and a young couple had appeared and were enjoying a quiet drink in one corner, but otherwise everything seemed the same. Then I started to take in the smaller details like was there any kind of hazy film in the air, or a “Red Mouse” (he loves to use those to spy on people or place), but there was nothing. Not even a black dog hanging around underneath the pool table, which he used one time which helped me and the team bust some drug dealers. But there was no joy in Mudville, once more it seemed I’d struck out.

     Shaking my head, I turned back to talk to Frank only to find the pretty blonde from the end of the bar was now on the other side of the bar slipping the flash drive I’d brought for Nate into not a Kindle but a tablet.

     I stared at her for a second and was about to protest when my eyes caught my reflection in the mirror of the bar behind her. I could see myself perfectly, but even though she was right in front of me there was no sign of blondie. Blinking I shook my head and muttered aloud, “Na…”

     “-Dine,” he cut in without taking his/her eyes off the screen. In the mirror’s reflection I could see he was flipping through the pages I’d scanned of the case at an incredible pace. It was like watching the character Quicksilver, from Marvel comics, going through a volume of “War and Peace”.

       After my initial surprise passed I leaned in closer and hissed, “I know you’re busy reading those files I scanned for you, but we might want to relocate to another area where there’s not a mirror where everyone CANNOT see your reflection in!”

      That got Nate. He/she… aw hell I’m going to call Nate her for the rest of this entry. It just makes things easier.

    Nadine’s eyes finally locked with mine and she muttered, “I thought we had that mirror replaced…” and quickly got out from behind the bar. We paused to retrieve her jacket and bag from the end of the bar. As we passed my old buddies shooting pool, I saw the looks of disbelief they were shooting me. I hung back briefly and leaned in to tell them, “Turns out she digs guys who wear uniforms.”

get-romantic-make-out

     As they shook their heads I followed Nadine to a secluded booth in the corner. But as I did, I found myself checking ‘her’ out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Now I’d known for years that my ‘uncle’ could change form, but what I was seeing before me was beyond words. The way her hair fell, how she walked, every little gesture… I could swear I was in the company of a real woman.

    After we got settled in, she finished looking over the files and her face took on a troubled expression much like the ones I’d seen at work. “Now you know why I called you in,” I told her breaking the silence.

     She nodded. “Yeah, this one’s a real bastard.” Looking up at me she continued, “I think you’re right about the military training. I don’t know if he actually served or if the guy has been part of a para-military group, but he definitely knows what he’s doing.”

     “We’ve been thinking the same thing, much as everyone hates to admit it,” I told her. “The idea that someone we might know has been doing all this is just…”

     “Sickening,” she finished, “I know. I’ve been down this road before. When I was a kid, before I ‘changed’ we had a psycho running loose back in Pointer. Turned out to be someone we all knew and thought the world of… but that’s another story. From what I’ve seen in your files, this guy likes to abduct his victims and keep them alive for a few days before he’s done with them. Tell me, is there anyone missing right now that you know of?”

     “Not at the moment, which is why Terri tried acting as a decoy,” I explained. “We were hoping to lure him out. Our boss had people positioned all over the park, yet he still got to her and KNEW who she was!”

    “Which is why he tried killing her right there on the spot instead of kidnapping her,” Nadine nodded. “And yet he still got past everyone… which makes me think he’s a local. He must’ve known ways in and out of there to get away.”

     “We’re not that big a force,” I pointed out, “And things got chaotic when we saw how bad Terri had been hurt…” then stopped as she shook her head.

     “Plus, someone was burning rubber leaving the area, which threw you all off.”

     I nodded, “Turned out to be someone who’d heard her screams and instead of coming to help her, they took off while phoning it in. They had no idea we were already on the scene.”

     My face must’ve betrayed something because Nadine reached over and gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll get this guy and put a stop to him once and for all, I promise.”

     I smiled back at her. “I know you will.”

     “WE will!” she corrected me and stood up. “Shall we get started? He’s out there and I came all this way looking my best just for him.”

     Standing up I followed her out of the bar and didn’t say anything until we were outside and out of earshot. “Do you really think your ‘disguise’ is going to lure him out?”

     “He has one type of girl he’s been going after. Blonde, young, good-looking, and with a lot of self-confidence.”

woman

      I paused in mid-step. “Okay… we knew about the first three but what about that last part?”

   Turning she replied, “A cheerleader, a local actress, two ‘working’ girls, all of them exude confidence and self-assurance. And so did your partner Terri.”

     It suddenly dawned on me, “So you’re thinking our boy has a thing against women who remind him of someone in particular. Who may be alive or already dead for all we know. And if she’s dead, he might have even done it himself, but once wasn’t enough.”

     “Exactly,” Nadine agreed and gestured, “Now let’s start with the park. He’s struck there a few times including the other night. If nothing happens I’ll spread myself out by mist or bat to see where else someone might be lurking. You keep your distance while I take the lead.”

     “And how am I going to know if you find the bastard?”

    She smiled and held up a closed hand. After a few seconds she opened it and there was a red mouse looking up at me expectantly. “Take him, he’s our link.”

     As I held out my hand, she transferred the critter into it and that’s when I noticed she was missing a finger. Then I remembered, she couldn’t make more of herself than there actually was. Her mass never changed when shape-shifting, so all she had a limited amount to work with.

     She must’ve noticed the look on my face for a moment later a new finger grew.

     As I put her little companion in my chest pocket, I gave her a questioning look.

    “I took a little off the waist and thighs,” she told me.

   Smiling I nodded and I let her lead the way. Of course I remembered to keep a good distance between us like she’d said. After all, we wanted our prey to come after her. And if he did, boy would he be in for a rude awakening. Nadine could handle herself and twenty of him even on a bad day. Still, we had to be careful. Even the best laid plans could go wrong.

park2

     She reached the park without incident which made me suspect if anything was going to happen, it would be in there. As it turned out I was right.

     For she got no more than forty feet in before a figure leapt out of the shadows…

TO BE CONTINUED…

E-mail from Deputy Michael Rhodes Dated June 17th, 2016 – “The Cannibal Killer” Part-1

Author’s note: Due to health issues I didn’t have time to prepare a good Halloween tale, so I’ll be re-running one of our more ‘scary’ tales. Please enjoy…

****WARNING THIS STORY MAY BE TOO INTENSE FOR SOME READERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF RAPE, VIOLENCE, OR LOST SOMEONE TO A VIOLENT ACT.  PLEASE DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU THINK THIS STORY MAY CAUSE YOU UNDO MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL ANGUISH.**** 

Dear Uncle Nate,

I know it’s just been a month or two since you were last out this way, but bad things have been happening.  REALLY bad things.  Right now we’ve got the townspeople, the Mayor, hell even the Governor clamoring for an arrest and so far we’ve been coming up empty.  

We almost got him last night but his ‘victim’ had to come first.  It was my partner, Terri McCloud.  You’ll remember her of course.  She had dinner with us that one night.  But even if she wasn’t my partner, I’d have still put her first.  She’s one of us and you watch out for your own, especially when they wear the same uniform as you.  You told me that a long time ago. I was too young to fully understand what you’d meant back then, but when I enlisted in the army, your words came flooding back and I finally got it.  

Of course, I’m not in the army now, but I still wear a uniform and so do my fellow deputies, like Terri.  And right now we’re up against something, or someone, who seems almost inhuman.  How else can you describe a rapist who also eats parts of his victims?  You don’t expect someone like that to show up in small town like this.  Not to say we don’t have our share of death, violence, drugs, etc.  We may not be the big city, but we have a lot of the same problems.  But a maniac like this?  No!  Nobody is ready for a serial killer to show up.  And this one is smart, which makes him even more dangerous. 

According to a profiling expert who came in to advise us, killers like this one don’t announce their arrival, not right away.  Oh no. They’re subtle at first.  An attempted mugging or a sexual assault, then they possibly lay low for a while to see what happens.  Did they leave any evidence behind?  How good a job of keeping their face hidden from the victim?  Then he’d wait and see what far we’d take to find him… sort of scoping out how overstretched we were, that kind of thing.  

Based on that idea, I’m starting to suspect he’s had military training and have mentioned this several times to our boss.  He wasn’t so sure about that theory at first, but after the fourth attack he started coming round to my way of thinking and so have the others.  Problem is, we still don’t have much to go on. 

To make matters worse, he knew who his target was last night.  He KNEW Terri was a deputy gone undercover.  How do I know?  She told us while they were rushing her to the Emergency Room!  She’d suffered massive blood loss from multiple stab wounds.  She never got a look at his face, but heard him muttering about “her being out of uniform after dark…” during the attack, but that’s all we got.  She’s been unconscious since they brought her out and we’ve got men on the door to her room.  They’re checking EVERYONE who comes in to make sure they’re hospital staff.  Hell, they even stopped and searched a priest who claimed to be from her brother… which he was.

Right now she’s the only victim to survive, and I’m worried we might not be enough to keep her, or anyone else, safe.  That’s why I’m e-mailing you Uncle Nate.  You’re the only one I know who can probably help take this guy down.  Everybody here has been doing their best to try and catch him, but he keeps getting past us and as I said he never leaves any evidence behind.

I know I’m breaking all the rules asking you to come in and help, and I haven’t told my superiors or even my partner about you.  But I don’t want to see anyone else wind up like Terri or the others.  Please let me know what you decide as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Michael

E-Journal of Nathaniel Eoghan Steward – October 23rd, 2019 “Red Fang” – Part III

Otto raised one bushy eyebrow and asked, “Nathan, what did you do? Come clean, now.”

“I got hurt during a hunt,” I replied distractedly, as I pulled up a new tab on the computer and began searching for the nearest flight to Alaska. There was one leaving that evening from Columbus, Ohio. I could easily make it if I started getting ready right away. Booking a seat on the plane, I got up and began making for the door only to find both Otto and Isabella blocking me.

“You do know I can easily mist past the two of you,” I pointed out.

“Are you so sure?” asked Otto, pulling out an oversized fireplace bellow. It took me a moment to realize the bellow he was holding was the one I kept next to the fireplace. As usual, I never heard or saw him grab it. He’s a sly one, let me tell you.

Knowing the clock was ticking for me to get to Ohio I told them, “Fine, follow me upstairs and I’ll explain while I pack.”

That got them to let me pass, and the three of us headed upstairs. I told them all about my visit with my friends in Fairbanks and how I’d headed for the Boreal Forest after leaving them.

As we reached my bedroom Isabella headed straight for my closet and pulled out a couple of suitcases, one of which was almost as big as her. Not that she had any trouble handling it. Since I accidentally infected her my Sangui-Sapio (a story for another day), she has the same strength, speed, and weaknesses I possess. And although she has the body of a child, unlike me she has been growing at the normal rate of any 12-year-old girl. Though I suspect, that like me, this will slow down considerably once she reaches adulthood.

In the meantime, Otto urged me to continue my tale and I complied.

Since they already know about my tendency to ‘go native’ when I’m up in Alaska, I was able to gloss over that part quickly. Finally, I got to the part about meeting up with the pack of wolves, and how I’d won their confidence with my mist trick.

“Since the hours of night are so long at that time of the year, I wound up staying with them almost a week,” I explained. “Since we were making kills pretty regularly, there was plenty of blood to keep me sated. Plus, it was pretty cloudy at the time, and we were keeping under the tree canopy a lot, which made things even easier for me to stay in wolf form.”

“Sounds like you were having a lovely time,” Otto nodded pleasantly, as he sat on my smiling. “So, when are we going to get to the ‘Oops’ part of your story?”

I stood there holding a stack of underwear in my hands, and just stared at him. “What makes you think there’s an ‘Oops’ part coming?”

“Because it’s clear from your reaction to the article that you suspect you accidentally infected one of those wolves with your Sangui-Sapio companion,” he answered calmly.

“Psychology?” I asked.

Otto shook his head. “No, more like I know that look you get whenever you’ve goofed something up,” he teased, then his expression became serious. “So how did it happen? You’re usually very careful about not ‘sharing’ your gifts.” His eyes darted to Isabella ever-so-briefly before looking at me again.

As I mentioned before, infecting my sister had been an accident. It had happened back in 1863, shortly after the Sangui-Sapio and I had formed our bond. I hadn’t learned about the mistake until decades later, mistaking her for a ghost at first.

Anyway, I resumed my packing and my tale. “It was the last night I was with the pack. We were hunting bison. Shortly before I met the pack they had lost both their alpha and beta leaders. With me appearing on the scene, they’d had more successes with their hunts and were beginning to eye me as a new leader. Too many failed hunts and they’d be in trouble. Luckily there was one young male who was showing a lot of promise and I was trying to support him, so to speak. Follow his lead and all, kind of thing.”

“And how did he take it?” Otto inquired.

“He wasn’t exactly thrilled about me, but he knew I was effective in helping bring down prey so he tolerated my presence. But during that last hunt, errors were made. He wanted us to go after one of the younger bison. Unfortunately, I could tell already that the herd was keeping a very good defensive ring around their young. No matter how much the pack harried them, they wouldn’t break rank. That is, except for one older bull who at that point was wide open.”

As usual Otto was already ahead of me, saying, “Let me guess, our young alpha saw this as an opportunity to firmly establish himself as leader. Am I correct?”

I nodded. “Oh yeah. Mind you he was a good hunter, but I could see he was going to be seriously outmatched.”

“So, you jumped in to try and help him?” my sister asked.

“That had been the plan,” I winced, “I didn’t want to make him look bad, but I knew he couldn’t take that bison alone. So, I zipped ahead and challenged the big bull myself, giving the alpha a clean shot at the throat. Unfortunately, the bull was faster than either of us expected and he gored me something fierce, got my blood all over his face and neck. A second or two later, the alpha nailed him in the throat and the three of us went at it. The pack arrived moments later, attacking the bull’s rear and sides. And that was it for the bull, we brought him down. But looking back, I suspect that some of my blood was on the bison’s throat where the alpha struck. Which means it didn’t return to me when we called my blood back.”

“You called your blood back?” Isabella repeated with a frown.

“Whenever I bleed, either me or Sangui-Sapio can call the blood I spilled back into me through the skin. Unless something prevents it from reaching me, like being ingested for instance,” I explained.

“Like the Cannibal Killer you fought three years ago?” Isabella continued.

I nodded. That guy had lived up to his name and had taken a bite out of me, along with a chunk of the Sangui-Sapio. He’d been injured in our fight before he bit me. And since the Sangui-Sapio’s first instinct is to preserve life, it went to work pretty quickly on him, making the guy nearly as strong and hard to stop as me.

As if reading my thoughts Otto spoke again. “If this is indeed the case with the wolf, why is the creature taking a humanoid shape? From what you’ve told me in the past, the Sangui-Sapio normally just adapts to its new host’s form. It only tries to shapeshift the body briefly, in or to protect or help the new host. Otherwise, the host appears to be normal. Yet, according to the article, the creature seems to have taken on a humanoid shape and was having rough time of it. Now, why would a wolf do that?”

Once more I thought back to the dream. In it, I was having trouble keeping my wolf form. “I don’t know,” I replied, finishing up my packing. “Which is why I have to get up there as quickly as possible, before that poor creature accidentally winds up infecting another animal or even a person.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Lisa’s Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: “My Christmas Ghost Story” Part-V

For a moment I said nothing as I gathered my thoughts. Finally, I breathed, “If this were an old movie, this is the point where I’d ask what you meant was going to happen. But I already know. You mean that sweet little boy I met upstairs is about to experience his death at his sister’s hands all over again, don’t you?” 


Mr. Billings gave me a sad smile. “I’m afraid so. Ever since that terrible night, the family and anyone within these walls will hear the entire scene play out and ending with bloodcurdling screams.” 

I winced, I couldn’t help myself. The thought of that sweet boy I’d met being murdered at the hands of his own flesh and blood. All for the love of a man… wait, ‘follow the money’.


Turning away from the fire I turned to my host and asked, “Mr. Billings, what became of Miss Madeleine and her young man? Did they get away?”


My new friend shook his head sadly. “No, they did not. Nor did they ever marry, not that the scoundrel ever intended to follow through on that promise to Miss Madeleine.”


That was all I needed to hear. Nodding I said aloud, “He only wanted her dowry, or her mother’s jewels in this case.”

Mr. Billings gave me a smile and nodded, “You have a very keen mind, Miss Lisa. You are correct of course.”


As he spoke another thought occurred to me. “Madeleine and her brother where here when their parents had their carriage accident. Does anyone know where her suitor was that day?”


“Well done, Miss!” my host exclaimed, beaming at me. “Alas, at the time no one had asked. However, his whereabouts were uncovered a year later at his murder trial.”


I did a double-take. “His trial? I thought Madeleine had acted alone when she killed her brother? Or did her boyfriend turn around and kill her after he got the jewels?”


Billings sighed and looked at the clock again. “I see it’s only 9:13, so we still have time. I’m afraid I didn’t tell you everything about the haunting because I didn’t want to upset you further. You see, it doesn’t end with Master Reginald’s final screams echoing throughout the manor. I’m afraid, there’s still more. But first, I must tell you the rest of what happened that terrible night. A servant had come back unexpectedly and heard the commotion upstairs and went to investigate. He’d just reached the top of the stairwell when the shouting was replaced by a terrifying scream. Recognizing the voice as that of his mistress’, he rushed to the playroom to find Miss Madeleine stooped over her brother’s body before the fireplace. She was in a terrible shaking the boy and screaming his name. Naturally, he thought she had simply come home and found her brother in this condition, so he drew nearer to comfort her. Unfortunately, she had no inkling that he had entered the room and was startled when he placed a hand on her shoulder. Whirling to face him several of her mother’s jewels, which she’d been clutching in one hand fell to the floor. Now, this man was a close confidante of Sir Peter and knew about his suspicions regarding Miss Madeleine’s suitor. And he had been present when Sir Peter had told his nephew not to give in to his sister’s requests for money or access to her mother’s jewelry. So when he saw them in her hand he realized what had happened. ‘Oh Miss Madeleine, tell me you didn’t…’ he began, but she cut him off shouting, ‘They were rightfully, mine. If he’d only told me they were here when I asked the first time I wouldn’t have lost my temper. I only meant to push him away… I didn’t mean for him to hit his head and…” but instead of finishing her words, she rushed past him and out of the room. In her panic, she turned the wrong way and instead of heading for the stairs, she wound up running towards the balcony that overlooks this room. She was so terrified of having been caught, she kept looking over her shoulder and never realized her mistake until she hit the bannister and…”

Here he turned to stare at a spot on the floor just a few feet from where we were seated. 


Now I fully understood. “After the screams she appears at the railing and falls to her death in front of anyone who’s in this room,” I breathed.


My friend nodded solemnly. “Which is why Sir Peter, and all his descendants have made sure no one is in the mansion during the hour between 9 and 10 on Christmas Eve.”


I blew out a breath and sat back in my chair. Now I understood the reason for the mass at the chapel. But I still had a few more questions. “Mr. Billings, you said her young man was hanged for murder a year later, correct?”


“That I did,” he nodded watching me carefully. 

“So they found out he was the one who had shot the parents’ driver leading to the crash that killed them?” I pressed.


“Yes, but that wasn’t what he was on trial for at the time,” my host explained. “You see, as I told you earlier, the young man had been engaged before only to have his fiancee’ die shortly before their wedding.”


I sat upright at that. “Unexpectedly?” I inquired.

My host nodded.

I continued, “Did he have any other fiancees who also passed away ‘unexpectedly’?”


Once more my host beamed at me. “Indeed he did. You see, some months before the carriage accident Sir Peter had been at a party with a an old friend who spotted the young man there with them. The friend had mentioned the young man’s misfortune but had referred to him by a different name. At first Sir Peter simply assumed his friend had been mistaken. But then he remembered his friend was a sharpshooter back in their regiment days. And the man had spotted the young fellow at a distance. That was what first raised his suspicions about his niece’s suitor. He began to start looking into the matter, but with letters taking time, it his investigation was not coming along as quickly as he’d like. Still, he had found out enough to tell his brother to not agree to the match until he could learn more.”


“But after Madeleine and her brother’s deaths, he finally got the proof he’d been looking for,” I concluded.


“Just in the nick of time too,” Billings told me. “He was already engaged to another young lady of considerable wealth with no family, who had recently become inexplicably ill.”

I nodded. “Like I said before, follow the money. So he was only after wealth, not love. Which means Madeleine would’ve suffered a similar fate if her brother had given in to her requests.”


“Yes, she would have,” Billings nodded, “But it wasn’t just for money, if you get my meaning, miss.”

My eyes widened at that. “He liked killing young women?”


“Young women mostly, but because they were in his way he’d made an exception with her parents.”

“Oh that is sick,” I breathed and shook my head as the enormity of the tragedy upstairs hit me. “In his own way her brother was inadvertently saving her life, even if he didn’t realize it. Only to lose it at her hands, for a man who would’ve taken hers eventually. If only she’d known and now they’re both stuck… wait a minute. I was able to interact with Reginald earlier. And he told me Nathan had actually tried speaking with his sister… which means, they aren’t completely stuck playing out the tragedy.”


Mr. Billings rose to his feet and said gravely, “Oh, miss I know what you’re thinking, but it won’t work. Others have tried and failed. Master Nathan is only the latest. And while I admire his determination to try and free those two poor children from their torment, I don’t think it will work. Miss Madeleine is very obstinate when it comes to anyone telling her…”


“You’ve tried to intervene as well!” I exclaimed getting to my feet.

“Yes, I have,” he nodded sadly. “And I’ve not been able to get through to her, try as I might I just cannot get her to understand. She won’t listen…”


“Not to any man, she won’t,” I cut in, my mind was racing at this point. “Think about it, first her father, then her uncle, then her own brother? All men, telling her she couldn’t be with the man she thought loved her.”


“Miss Lisa, I see where you’re going with this but it’s dangerous,” my companion cried and glanced at his watch once more. “Master Nathan found that out the last time he tried.” 

This time he didn’t look over at the clock but at one of the large windows. I followed his gaze and saw this particular window looked out upon a three tiered fountain, with a finial top. It was rimmed with snow and ice, and brightly lit by strings of Christmas lights wrapped around its tiers. While it was quite pretty, I couldn’t understand why my new friend was staring at it. Suddenly, a figure falling from a great height, landed on top of the fountain amidst a shower of glass. I fell back with a scream, luckily Billings kept me from falling. After regaining my composure, I raced to the window and looked out at the fountain. 


There was no figure impaled on the the finial. Nor was there any sign of broken glass or footprints leading away from the area. Immediately, I thought back to my chat with Reginald when we were discussing Nathan “He had and accident. My sister…” “Miss Lisa?” Billings was at my side his eyes full of worry.

“She threw Nathan out the window of the playroom,” I breathed and then looked at him. “That’s what you mean by she’s dangerous. His attempt at intervening only got her pissed and she threw him out the window. Didn’t she?”


Billings nodded. “It’s 9:20, I really must get you out of here. Let Master Nathan deal with things, I believe he has a plan.”


“What plan?” I asked he led me out of the Great Hall and into foyer.

 
“I’m not sure, but there’s something his Lordship has been seeking for some time. If Master Nathan is here, no doubt he’s helping in the search. With it, they may be able to finally reach Miss Madeleine and help break the cycle…” the rest of his words seemed to grow more annoying as a wave of anger swept over me.


Without meaning to I suddenly snapped, “And you think only a man can bring me to my senses! How dare you, talk down to me. You’re just like every other man. Only my Cedric understands and listens to me. We actually have conversations and he encourages me to share my thoughts and feeling and discusses them with me…” I finally caught myself and shook my head. Such anger. Madeleine hadn’t just been frustrated, she was in a full blown rage! 


“You’re a sensitive,” my guide whispered, looking at me with a mixture of fear and wonder. “I had no idea. If I had realized it sooner, I would’ve never kept you here so long. We must get you out of here, Miss Lisa.”

But I was already sensing Reginald’s growing discomfort from upstairs. We were right next to the staircase and I couldn’t help looking up the steps. “She’s already with him, trying to be nice but she was growing impatient and he can sense something’s not right.” 

“Master Nathan…”


“Even if he has something, I don’t think she’s going to listen to him,” I interrupted.


Just then shouts erupted from upstairs and I could sense Reginald’s discomfort had now become full blown terror.


TO BE CONTINUED…