NP4–Chapter IV

The last scene has been added! Btw, I’ve given up on chapter titles…Enjoy!




Summary: For the Love of Elaine, set in the 1930s, recounts the investigation of young and sweet Elaine Whitney’s murder, focusing on the contrast of love with lust and the effects of guilt. The main characters include Gifford Boswell, the elderly Chadwick estate butler and guardian of Elaine; Ian Donald, the estate’s young gardener and close friend/lover to Elaine; Richard Farrell, the Chadwick’s newly hired personal detective; and Vera Sloan, the bitter, tough-as-nails, platinum blonde with an unconquerable ambition to escape her life as the estate’s cook. In the last chapter, Detective Farrell explained his theory of the murder: her lover killed her. We also get to see a different side to Farrell and observe the slight tension between him and Ian. (Chapter I has been tweaked and thus some things might seem incongruent in this chapter). 


“Vera Sloan.” She recognized the detective’s grim voice and felt a chill crawl up her back like a centipede.

For a split second she wished she could race down the gravel path, out the back gate, and into the past to find herself in that miserable ten-by-ten room bursting with the screams and whimpers of two babies and four children of varying ages—back to when she was fifteen and carried little baby Thomas on her hip while two-year old Bea dawdled about her mother’s feet as she scrapped dirty diapers on the makeshift washboard. But, no, it was too late now, and fifteen-year-old Vera was buried under nine years of callouses. What was one more scar to her already disfigured face?

Her spine hardened into steel, and she sauntered into the living room. Squashing the black tip of her cigarette in an ash tray, Vera positioned herself on the couch next to Boswell, her face and attitude toward the beaten old man as unfeeling as winter frost to spring tulips.

Ian sat to the right of Boswell, Vera to his left. Detective Farrell dragged a chair from the kitchen table into the living room, its legs rasping against the wood floor, and fixed its back to the three suspects. He sunk into the backward chair, facing Boswell, and took out a pencil and notepad from an inner breast pocket.

“Let’s begin,” Farrell’s imperturbable voice cut the expectant silence.

He interrogated each person, beginning with Boswell.

“I—I took her in when she was two years old,” the old man chocked. “She is…was…” the words came out in a choked sob, “Jim the chauffer’s daughter. When he and his wife d—died in an automobile accident, I took her as my own. She’s always been my own little girl—even—even—after she came back from Miss Guthrie’s School this summer…” Boswell plowed his hands over his face and through his thinning hair.

Farrell took notes, oblivious to the elderly man’s pain, and shifted his focus to the left end of the couch.

“What was my relationship with Elaine Whitney?” Vera responded the detective’s prying questions with cold and calculating answers as the cold sweat trickled down her back. “I despised her—with every fiber of my existence.” Her eyes burned like molten silver as she returned the detective’s hard gaze.

The detective turned to Ian, and Ian observed the smoldering fire of determination in his stare.

“We talked at times,” the gardener shortly answered the same inquiry.

Detective Farrell raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Talked?”

“She liked to walk among the flowers. We would run into each other,” Ian stoically explained.

“Elaine Whitney had a jungle of roses here.” He jerked his thumb out the window behind him where cream rose bushes crawled along the window sill. “Why would she visit the estate’s main garden?”

“I planted those for her, sir.”

The detective raised both of his brows now. “Just how close would you say your relationship was to her?”

“We were on friendly terms.”

“On her side…On your side, Mr. Donald?” An almost malicious glimmer sparkled in the detective’s eyes now, as though he relished knowing some secret weakness of the grim man before him.

Ian swallowed. His tightly clamped lips twitched. “She had all the virtues of a woman expressed with the tenderness of child.” When his mouth closed, it shut with a finality which put the matter at rest.

“So I have heard,” Detective Farrell concluded. He bent his head over his notes as a half grin briefly crept across one side of his face. He paused before following with another line of questioning. “Where were you, Ian Donald, last night, September __?”

“Asleep, sir.” Ian seemed to have recovered his composure.

“‘Asleep.’ Where?”

“In my bed, in the shed to the west of the garden.”

“And after seven thirty that same evening, when Elaine Whitney was last reportedly seen walking among the living?” His question stung.

“I walked her home, sir. I had just dropped her off when we met on the path.” Ian’s voice took on sharper edge to match his gaze.

“I remember—and after that?”

“I crossed the estate to my own room.”

“It was eleven o’clock and I found you asleep by the window—that window!” Boswell started from his grief and interjected. He stretched out a shaky hand, pointing in front of him. His eyes trembled with bewilderment.

“Elaine seemed ill. I simply waited until she had turned off the lights to ensure she didn’t need any help. I fell asleep waiting,” was his terse reply.

Silence shrieked. Despite the light streaming through the windows and the roses basking in the sun on the sill, a chill crawled along the three suspects’ backs and arms as though a frigid draft had seeped through the wooden floor boards.

“I see,” Detective Farrell commented nonchalantly. But the grin which had begun to creep along one half of his face now crept along the other in a disquieting conclusion.

“That is all.” And the detective rose to stride out the door.

As Ian stared ahead with grim expression and Boswell covered his face in grief amounted by confusion, Vera watched Farrell parade out the door. With the bright morning behind him, his shadow loomed long across the kitchen floor. She waited for him for to glance back. But he never did.

* * * * *


In velvet slippers, twilight crept along the path and up the entwining brambles. The sun still rested beneath the horizon, yet the moon and stars had long faded into the gloaming sky. Morning mist whirled around the prickly blades of grass and jagged rose leaves. In stillness, the whole world quivered with expectancy.

A week had passed since the events of that inquiry which had transpired in the butler’s cottage, and though each had resumed his own duties, they all seemed to be holding their breath, awaiting some appointed hour: in that hour, they would all exhale, letting loose a terrific gale.

Vera slipped out the kitchen’s back door and meandered down onto the estate garden paths. The morning mist curled around her feet, and she shivered in its cold touch, wrapping her coat closer against the thin robe beneath. The grey bags under her steel eyes gave away the secret of yet another sleepless night that week, with nothing but her overpowering thoughts to keep her company.

They weighed on her like a sack of coal. Pressing, pressing. With each passing day, the load of her thoughts grew heavier to bear. Or was it her conscience? She had not believed she still possessed a conscience, yet here it had reemerged to spite her. Here it pointed its finger at her. And Vera could almost picture the accusing hands enveloped in mist right before her. But then the mist would melt away to reveal the gnarly fingers of a protruding branch.

In the early hours of morning, before the day had chosen to rise and influenced by the inclination of her mind, the garden took on the semblance of a haunted wood. Was yonder shadow that of a man hiding along the bushes? Was the rustle of the grass brought by the step of some other wanderer? Was the cool breeze as sharp as a knife truly the frigid breath of someone behind her? Vera whirled around to find the phantasm vanished from sight and merely the disturbed fog whirling in confusion. Yet the ominous feeling still permeated the air, and at every turn, she expected to run into either Farrell or Ian. Expected. Hoped? But for now, her spine still remained intact in steel rigidity: either meeting would prove disastrous, and Vera had no intention to seek out such an encounter, no matter how much her mind and faint moral flame plagued her.

Unconsciously, Vera had wandered onto the gravel path leading to the west end of the estate, winding up to the gardener’s shack. The crunch of gravel at her every step measured the ticking seconds until morning, when that accusing finger would give her respite in kitchen chores.

She froze in the middle of the path. Had she imagined it? Or had she truly heard the grating of someone else behind her? She whirled around, but the apparition did not dissolve into the mist. Caught like deer, she stood paralyzed in the clouded headlights of an approaching car. Reacting, she dashed to the side of the path against the hedges. As the car drove past, she could have sworn the eagle-like profile of Richard Farrell, detective, was sitting in the passenger’s seat, and on the side of the car she observed a star, the police station emblem.

Vera followed from a distance, as the car crawled along the narrow path and jerked to a halt in front of the gardener’s shack. Two policemen knocked on the door with their fists. A faint light flickered on inside and Ian opened the door in pajama pants, one or two buttons on his shirt haphazardly closed. They exchanged words. Ian closed the door and reentered his room. Not five minutes passed before he stepped out, dressed in trousers and a shirt. One of the policemen pinioned his hands behind his back with hand cuffs, and they both led him to the police car where Farrell nonchalantly leaned, lighting a cigarette. They shoved Ian into the back of the car.

As Vera watched the car snake down the path, she spotted Ian’s face through the window—determination etched on every grim feature.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.