NP9– His World (Completed)



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 installment, Ian recalls a conversation with Elaine in which she confesses her worse fear in the form of an unrelenting suitor with telling  red-blotched hands.

          Tring, tring! The telephone jived on its stand. Boswell jolted from his reverie.

         Stacks of bills and the Chadwick Estate ledgers laid sprawled across his desk in the small, dim office, acting as stages to meandering specks of dust. Piles of unattended duties had conglomerated into a jungle of paper and ink—a far cry from his usual tidy nook. But the current events had taken their toll on the aging butler. He had shown no signs of slowing down any time soon until exactly eight days ago at six forty in the morning his ever-synchronized internal clock had ceased to tick. Holed up in his office, Boswell locked the door on the pretense of work, yet as soon as he shuffled over to his chair and heavily sunk into it, his mind wandered, tracing every memory of Elaine. The allegro tick-tock of the clock had turned into the incessant rumble of doldrums. Though his efficient presence was sorely missed, the household generally kept its distance leaving him to grief and time, not realizing that for Boswell time had stopped.

         Tring, tring! Again, the telephone rang, abrasive and unyielding.  

          Dreading that the call might force him to emerge from his cave, Boswell hesitated before picking it up.

          “Gifford Boswell, butler of the Chadwick Estate,” he answered.

          “Boswell, sir,” Ian’s voice sounded over the line in an urgent tone, “I need your help.”

          The butler’s jaw trembled.

          “I may know who killed…her,” his anger boiled through the speaker. “Come to the jailhouse.”

          Boswell heard the click of the receiver on the other end and he slowly hung the telephone back on its box.

          His thoughts swirled around the central word her of what Ian had said. She was all he had ever dwelled upon for the past fifteen years. The dreams of the elderly man had been tied to her in every way. Elaine had been a kite blowing in the breeze holding him up. Now that she was gone, he wilted. She had been his world, and now his world was shattered. With the slightest snip of the scissors, Boswell’s world had come crashing down like a glass globe suspended by a silk thread.  

          Yet, despite the overwhelming thoughts of Elaine, he also mulled over Ian’s predicament. Since he was hired, everyone had stood aloof from the gardener for his enigmatic if not black looks. To further discomfit the household, this impenetrable young man possessed eyes seemingly capable of piercing into the dimmest corners of your soul. Nevertheless, as head of the household staff, Boswell had made a point of getting to know the newly-hired gardener, and though he did prove to hold a wrapped wrath, Boswell learned to respect Ian for his radical honesty, perceptivity, and restraint in speech. Moreover, over the past month, he had sensed a spark of protectiveness from the young gardener to his protegee—little recognizing the soft flame for what it was. Despite witnessing his dark moods, the butler was positive Ian Donald could never have committed such a heinous crime. The persistent whisper in the back of his head affirmed it.

          Nonetheless, Boswell was reticent to pay his visit to the jailhouse. For the first time since the investigation, someone had brought up the topic of Elaine to his face, but he had reeled back from the encroachment on his sacred grief.

          Sharing his sorrow promised healing, and Boswell wasn’t ready to piece together his world.

* * * * *

          A breath of breeze careened around the butler’s cottage, wrapping it in a cool clutch. The roof swayed, and the floor boards creaked, as if they, too, missed the presence of Elaine.   

          Boswell gazed out the large windows from the living room as the wind rippled the roses on the sill and daylight melted into darkness. Standing, he wandered aimlessly through the door of Elaine’s old room and sunk into the plush chair at her desk. He plowed his thinning hair with his hand, catching the distressed reflection of himself in the vanity mirror before him. He was a broken man.

          A white corner of paper stuck out from one of the drawers, and Boswell pulled at it until it came free. He held a crisp white envelope, clean from any scrawled address. Hardly hesitating, he tore the edge of the envelope and perused the contents of the letter inside.

          The butler’s thoughts began to focus as he grasped the words spilling into his consciousness. His eyes grew wide and his hands shook. The rumble of doldrums increased to the pounding of his heartbeat, resounding in his ears. His breath came out in gasps.

          Boswell set the letter down, reread it, and laid it aside once more. Upon impulse, he drew the drawer open and found three more letters—all crisp white and unaddressed except one. Racing through the contents of the two similar letters, he snatched the remaining grey envelope and peered at the scribbled address. The handwriting differed from Elaine’s even, rounded cursive. Gnarly figures were scratched onto the envelope. The purport of those figures revealed an address in Glasport, the same small town not far from where Miss Guthrie’s School for girls was established. When Boswell tore through the content of the letter, his face blanched and he stilled.

         Slowly, the butler rose from the chair. With every step his pace quickened as he headed for the front door, grabbing his coat and hat. Stuffing the bundle of letters into a large coat pocket, he hurried down the gravel path and out the back gate of the Chadwick Estate. A bus would leave for Glasport at eight in the evening and Boswell intended to be on it. After verifying his hunch, he would visit the jailhouse as Ian had requested.

          One thing was to refuse to see Ian when he knew he had no information to impart; another was to withhold from an unjustly accused suspect information which could secure his innocence—especially when the same evidence uncovered the true murderer.

* * * * *

         Cold cement walls rose on either side of Boswell as followed the police officer down the dusky corridor despite morning’s light. The jingle of jail keys and the sound of approaching feet urged Ian to raise his head.

          “Boswell!” As Ian spoke it, the word held a faint hope after a despairing yesterday.

          “Ian,” the butler remained calm.

          They waited until the officer had disappeared through a doorway out the jail row corridor.

          “Sir, I have something to tell you…” Ian hesitated as though taking in the elderly butler’s grievous state.

          “I know,” Boswell finally spoke, painfully. “Richard Matthias Farrell.”


5 thoughts on “NP9– His World (Completed)

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