Ignore all chapter numbers. This is number one of the last minute installments of For the Love of Elaine….Enjoy! Your comments will spur me on as I complete the remaining story-line. 😀
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, Boswell discovers a couple of Elaine’s unsent letters and another letter from someone else. Reading these and tracking the last letter’s address, he uncovers Elaine’s murderer–under the alias of Richard Matthias Farrell.
A cluster of black-clad people stood around the freshly dug hole in the ground. The oak casket lay to the side, and to the front of the gathering a white-collared reverend led the funeral service.
“Elaine told me once of her favorite passage. It reads thus: Love is patient…” his voice murmured in the background through the discrete sniffles and open sobs of the company.
Vera watched a raindrop plop onto the burnished wood of the coffin and stiffly sidle down its surface onto a blade of grass. Turning her face to the sky, she scowled at the heavy clouds reflecting the color of her eyes. Even the heavens cried for Elaine.
She scanned the stricken faces in the crowd, her gaze resting on Boswell. Tears trailed down his sagging cheeks. Yet as she studied him closer, she realized the tears merely served to wash away his panic, for his eyes shone with a newly gained peace. She wished he would look her way, revealing the source of his peace; but as soon as the thought crossed her mind, she hastily vanished it and looked away. The last thing she needed was for Elaine’s father to look at her, bringing back the cacophony of disquiet to her thoughts—not as though it had dissipated.
“…It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” the reverend continued to read.
Desperately hoping for an escape, Vera scrutinized the surrounding cemetery. Rounded gravestones dotted the ground like toadstools. The occasional garland of bright flowers stood out against the grey stone. Only a few trees sprouted from the ground to lend their shade, and as Vera counted them, her gaze became rooted to one far-off birch—or more specifically, the figure beneath its branches. He was tall and gaunt, shrouded in a trench coat and donning a low-tipped hat. A crimson rose adorned his buttonhole.
Prodded by a deep-welled fear, anger seethed within her. Half of her considered barging through the shrouded grievers to rave in his face. The other half shook in fright. She doubted he would hesitate in slitting another’s throat just as he had slit Elaine’s; in fact, he had more reason to slit hers—but, perhaps, she would rather he did to set her out of her misery. As the thought shot through her mind like a poison-tipped arrow, she froze with the realization that she all but wished to die. Not now. Not with the weight of the unspeakable upon her shoulders.
“…it does not rejoice with wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth…” the reverend lingered on the same passage, the last word jolting into her consciousness.
Vera’s heart pounded, counting the time in dull beats. Because of the same unbearable weight she carried, she had to speak to Farrell. She needed to know the truth.
She began to shift her gaze from the figure under the birch-tree, yet, even at this distance, Vera felt his eyes locking onto her and observed a smirk creeping across his mouth. The same old centipede crawled up her spine.
“…Love never ends…” the reverend concluded.
* * * * *
With bent heads, the parishioners whispered their condolences to Boswell and trickled out the gate. At long last, only the butler and cook remained of the mourners—and the detective under the birch tree. Ever so still the latter two remained, Vera with her back to the elderly gentleman studying her the tip of her heels, the other staring coolly at him, his gloved hands stuffed into coat pockets. His face suddenly growing cold, Boswell caught sight of the detective. Farrell nodded, tipping his hat with a grim lift of the mouth. With a hasty glance at Vera, the mourning father turned away and slid through the gate.
“My dear Vera,” the detective’s chilling voice sounded behind her.
She inhaled deeply.
“It seems you wish to speak with me,” he concluded waving his hand towards the rest of the empty graveyard.
She spun around. “It was you, wasn’t it?” Her eyes burned with anger, disgust, and fear. “It was poison in that vial, right?”
In as instant, Farrell’s own eyes turned to stone. “Your accusations are too hasty. As I recall, it was you who poisoned our sweet Elaine.”
Vera’s face writhed, and she spat a foul word at him.
“It’s good to see you in such fine spirit. Here I had worried you might have grown quite wasted by the weight of your sin.” His cold smile could have frozen the ocean in summer.
“How dare you use my petty contempt for your atrocious purpose,” she hissed.
“But your motive and my motive were quite the same, Vera—both petty—for we only hated Elaine for who she was—not for any wrong done against us,” he watched her face blanche. “Now, what did I hear once? —He who is angry with his brother has already murdered him in his heart—yes, I believe, that was it…” Farrell let the words sink in.
Vera shook. “No, you’re wrong. We’re not the same,” she breathed with measured firmness. “I’m not a monster!” she bellowed.
He paused. The curl of his lip twitched, and the semblance of fear flickered through his stone eyes before recovering his nonchalant mask—his old smirk sidling into place. “A monster?”
“I’d suggest you take a look in the mirror.” The words harshly and desperately slipped out.
“And how, pray, do you suppose we are not the same abomination if our interiors are the same?” he pried, bleeding the angry flush across her face.
“—were the same,” she corrected, eyes wide. “Not anymore, not ever.”
“Ah, I see. Prithee, how do you propose to purge yourself of so awesome a sin and transform your putrid casket of a soul?” his words bit with mockery.
Vera stared straight into his dead eyes. “By confessing.”
Farrell stilled. “If you dare.”
One thought on “NP Final Installments 1”
Wow!! Abby, I cannot wait till you finish writing the novella! This is a thrilling and daring chapter where hurt and anger, fear and past actions, lose and morning all come out and mesh in a beautiful way! Wonderfully done!
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