I am reposting this Halloween story that I wrote back in 2018. Please let me know if you find it scary… 🙂
This Story is inspired by the following word prompts:
Today’s things are: poison, noose, inheritance
The Strange Inheritance
It was an old cliché and they couldn’t quite believe their ears.
Aunt Elizabeth leaned forward and looked rather flustered as she asked the family solicitor to repeat himself.
“Yes, Madam. The terms of your Brother’s Will are quite clear. He has left each of you one hundred thousand pounds sterling if you spend the weekend in his old mansion by the lake” Said Mr McAllister in his emotionless voice, rather like a robot. Nothing seemed to surprise him, even the terms of one of his most eccentric clients. Old Joshua Van De Gaard was a miserly old skinflint but he had inherited a fortune and through wise investments and extreme parsimony had managed to double it before he died at the ripe old age of Ninety. He had left behind a spinster sister and a great-nephew and niece, James and Jennifer Coombes. The Inheritance was a large one, but the terms were clear. None of them will inherit a penny if they do not comply with Mr Van De Gaard’s terms.
Jennifer Coombes, a young woman in her late twenties, demurely dressed in black out of respect for an elderly relative she had never met, leaned forward to clarify that point.
“So, if any of us refuse to spend the weekend there, we all lose the money? Who gets it?”
“That’s right. Instead, it will, along with the residue after the house has been sold, be given to an organisation that Mr Van De Gaard was a member, The Order of the Black Rose. I’m afraid I know nothing about this group, it is one of those secret societies that you have to be inducted into to know anything about them. They do seem to be everywhere though, in every country and in every walk of life. They are quite ubiquitous.”
Aunt Elizabeth sounded close to tears when she spoke out “But that house is my family home. I grew up there. It should be kept in the family.”
James Coombes interjected “No fear. That monstrosity would cost a fortune to repair, it’s falling apart, it would be a noose around our necks. There’d be no money left. It is better we sold it.”
“It would indeed cost a lot to repair, but by Mr Van De Gaard’s Will, the house must be sold anyway, whatever you may wish. It is unlikely to sell for more than fifty thousand. As you say, it is in a poor state of repair. Are you all in agreement to spend the weekend of the 30th of October in that house?”
“But that’s Halloween weekend!” Jennifer exclaimed.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is Ms Coombes. Do you object?”
James answered adamantly for his Sister “No she doesn’t object. No one objects.” He glared at his Aunt across the table who blushed and shook her head “No, I don’t object either. If that’s what Joshua wanted then so be it.”
On Friday the 30th of October they all arrived at the house.
James pulled up in his car at the bottom of the hill and looked at the place. Several tiles were missing from the roof and the wooden clapper boards had not been painted in over forty years. It was an unloved house, looking rather like an invalid with very little chance of recovery. It had a veranda at the front and two bay windows either side of the front door. There was a three-storey tower on one corner with a pointed roof. A rusted weathervane creaked as it turned in the wind. It looked like a storm was coming. He drove up under the car porch at the side of the house. His Sister was arriving by train and catching a taxi from the station. He didn’t know how Aunt Elizabeth was getting there, but he didn’t care much. He’d never really liked her. His parents died when he was just six years old, Jennifer had been three. His Father had been a brute who’d beaten them all, but mainly Mother had been his punchbag. One day she put poison in his tea then drank it herself, leaving them on their own. Initially, they had stayed with Aunt Elizabeth for about six months then she took them to an orphanage. Come to think of it, he hated her.
As Jennifer got out of the train she spotted Aunt Elizabeth getting out of a first class carried and struggling rather with her old-fashioned trunk.
She ran up to her and said “Hi Auntie, can I help you with your bag?”
She only had a small bag herself, she believed in travelling light.
Aunt Elizabeth looked up but it took her a little while to realise who it was who was talking to her.
“Oh, it’s you, Jennifer. How nice. Thank you, my dear, that would be very kind of you. We can catch a cab together. I do so hate paying for a cab by myself, don’t you? It is a shame the house is a good thirty-minute walk away. In my youth, I would have walked it, but it’s just too far for these old bones of mine.”
Despite being just shy of eighty years old, she was still sprightly for her age. She didn’t suffer from rheumatism or anything like that. She could have walked it, but not with her trunk.
The taxi dropped them both off outside the house, but it didn’t linger. No one lingered outside this house, especially not with nightfall approaching.
Aunt Elizabeth sighed “Oh, it’s good to be in this place again. I have missed it so.”
Jennifer asked, “Didn’t you come and visit your brother much at all?”
“Oh no, dear. Joshua and I never got along, not even when we were children. He was much older than I was and we had another brother and a sister between the two of us. I was much closer to Emily, your grandmother. She died in childbirth, of course, giving birth to your mother. Edgar died too, no one quite knew how that happened.”
“What happened?” Jennifer enquired.
“He was found hanged in the cellar. No one knew how the noose got around his neck. His arms were tied behind his back, you see.” Aunt Elizabeth said and smiled oddly. “Yes, this promises to be an interesting weekend. It’s so good to be home.”
Just as they walked to the front door there was a bolt of lightning, a roar of thunder and the rain started pelting down. Inside the house, a puddle was building up on the hall floor as the water came in through a hole in the roof. The place smelled musty and damp.
Jennifer resigned herself to spending a rather unpleasant weekend.
End of Part One…
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 01/September/2018