The secret of Lowenthal Manor

Submitted into Contest #64 in response to: Set your story in a Gothic manor house.... view prompt

4 comments

Mystery Contemporary Fiction

“So Miss Jones from the start can you tell us what happened” the officer at the station asked politely. And I began my story from the day I first came to the manor.

I stood there soaking in the heavy rain while Richard pulled out my suitcases from the car trunk. Richard the family’s driver looked quite older than someone in his early fifties. Richard placed my suitcases next to me one by one and opened the umbrella to protect me from the rain; I didn’t but didn’t refuse his kind gesture. I stood there staring at the magnificent manor in front of me while Richard tried to manage my suitcases and umbrella all at the same time. I took the umbrella from him so he only had to carry the suitcases. I wanted to carry my own luggage but it somehow offended him that I even try. He looked so miserable carrying the bags then again I didn’t want to offend him either.

I had done my research on the manor when I came across the job opportunity, there wasn’t any particular information about the house or the owners but there were pictures which mostly showed the manor surrounded by lush green gardens and pathways and a fountain fit for the royal family. But in person even under this heavy rain I could tell the manor was in ruins.

Richard carried my bags up the stairs and left without any word. I stared at him as he took the car and left me at the gate without a clue of what to do next. I built up the courage and knocked on the door as hard as I possibly could. It took a few minutes for someone to open the door and I’m glad it’s a woman because unlike Richard she welcomed me with a big warm smile. She walked me through the main hall into the drawing room.  The lavish drawing room with its 19th century décor looked as if it were never used. I took a few steps towards the center when the woman stopped me.

“I apologize but seeing that you’re soaked I can’t let you any further. Please don’t mind but it’s the house rules. I’ll inform Sir that you have arrived. Please wait here” with that the woman left me alone in the lavish drawing room.

I stood there awkwardly since I couldn’t sit but I knew I’ll have my chance later so I didn’t linger on that thought any longer than I should. But still I was a little curious so I walked towards the joint dining area which is the exact moment the drawing room doors opened again and a man in his 30s walked in. As soon as he walked in the air around the room seemed heavy, it felt as if the authority was radiating from his body. He took a set on the sofa and I followed suit but before I could sit I saw the woman from the corner of my eye signaling me not to sit and I obeyed.

“I’m Sir John Luis Lowenthal III and Miss Jones…” he began but I cut him off.

“Please call me Mal” I said with a smile.

“Miss Jones, I’m aware you don’t have any experience with this kind of job but living in this house at the position of a house keeper, you, like all other employees have to adhere to the house rules…” he said with all the authority he had “…The rules are simple, 1- keep the house learn at all times, 2-Breakfast, lunch and dinner are at fixed times so be there on time, 3- outsiders are not allowed, if you need to meet someone meet them at a nearby café and 4- 10 PM is curfew so all the doors and windows should be locked. Also stay out of my study. Are we clear?”

 “Uhh… Yes” was all I could muster up at this point.

“Miss Stone will show you to your room and you can start from tomorrow” he said that and left.

At that moment Miss Stone, the woman from earlier entered, took me by my hand and rushed me to my room. As I enter I was hit with a musty smell, which was unbearable but I could ignore that since the room itself took my breath away. It had everything, a king size bed, a bay window, a chandelier, I could stay here forever and I might if I follow all the rules. 

I settled in quickly in my new room and for the next few days followed the rules. But I got the feeling that Mr. Lowenthal didn’t care about the rules himself since I’d never seen him at dinner or lunch or even around the house. He either stayed in his study or went into town for as few hours every day. That was also when Richard wasn’t home and Linda (Miss Stone) went to the café nearby.

Curiosity got the better of me as always so as soon as everyone left I had gone looking around the house. I took in every picture, I looked through all the rooms and closets and one thing is certain, no matter how the outside looked the inside of the manor was perfect. It took me a month to go through the whole house except the study; of course, it was part of the rules. And I’d stop snooping around as soon as someone returns; I didn’t want anyone to know I was snooping.

 It was a particularly normal day, Mr. Lowenthal had just left with Richard and Linda was getting ready to leave. I waited anxious for her to leave so I could lock the doors and this time look through the study. I had butterflies in my stomach from all the excitement. Linda gave me a hug as she did everyday and left, as soon as she was out of sight I locked the door and rushed to the study.

The door of the study creaked when I opened it. It was an enormous room with floor to ceiling bookshelves and an old fashioned ladder to reach the top shelf. Between the shelves was a window that overlooked the garden while other windows were covered up by curtains. The study table sat near the open window, it was neatly set with all the books and paper in their places. I reached to the nearest shelf and touched the first leather bound book, it was an autobiography of some British guy so I had placed it back.

I was so captivated by the books and the interior that I had lost track of time and heard the main doors unlock. Linda always came back first and if she saw me here I’d be out of the house. Yes she was sweet and an amazing person but she hates when someone except Mr. Lowenthal broke the rules, she would tell on me as soon as he came back. I went to the study door and opened it just enough to see if Linda was in the hall and she was, so the only other option was to wait for her to leave.

I waited for 5 minutes or so but Linda remained in the hall way, I didn’t know what she was doing but she wasn’t leaving. That’s when I heard the main door open for the second time, it was Mr. Lowenthal, I could hear him order Linda.

“Miss Stone, bring my tea to the study” he had said in a monotonous tone.

“Yes Sir” Linda said that with a wide smile.

I rushed to the only place I could think to hide, behind the curtains, one furthest from the study table. Even though there was a curtain there were no windows behind it, just a plain stone wall. This was odd the whole house was either wood or cement, this was the first time I was any stone walls in the house. Mr. Lowenthal hadn’t entered the study yet so I had time to position myself, I pushed myself further into the wall but I felt as if the wall kept moving further back.  When I finally looked back at the wall I could see a gap between the wall and the book shelf. I figured it might be a secret hiding room and the perfect place to stay until Mr. Lowenthal went out again. So I pushed the wall further quietly and there was enough space so I slipped behind the bookshelf.

I placed the wall back into position sat behind the bookshelf. Mr. Lowenthal went about his work and then Linda arrived with his evening tea and snacks.

“Miss Stone has Miss Jones shown any interest in the house?” he said in a monotonous tone.

“Yes, Sir, she tours the house daily and explores all the rooms” Linda explained.

“Yes but remember it is your job to make sure she doesn’t poke her nose where it doesn’t belong, we don’t need another incident on our hands”

“I understand Sir”

Linda left after that weird conversation, I didn’t understand what incident and why should Lindsy keep an eye on me. I had to know but first things first, I had to get out. I couldn’t go the way I came so I started to look around and it was easy to figure out this was not a room but a passage way. So I started walking, the passage way was narrow but wide enough for me to walk. The passage went on forever and there were small holes in the wall that I could see the house from them. When I came across stairs I started to climb because it was probably the safest, no one came to the second or third floor so I could easily slip out from there. I skipped the second floor and went to the third but the stairs went on like there were more floors. To my surprise there was another floor. The passage led out to a room which looked like an attic but from inside the house there was no way to get to the attic.

The attic was different from the house, it gloomy and dusty and filled with boxes of old thing and furniture. It had no windows and only a small bulb for the light. But I couldn’t stay here with everyone in the house so I took the stairs back to the third floor and started pushing the wall, it didn’t move. Before giving up and heading back to the study I gave decided to push a wooden frame on the wall. It didn’t move so I tried pulling it and it moved. I pulled it even further and made enough room to get out. When I was out I placed it back into position and walked away as if it were a normal day.

I went down stairs talked to Linda for a while, we had dinner later and at 10 we both went our separate ways. I stayed awake in my room thinking about that conversation in the study and the secret passage way and the attic. Everything was weird but I had to know about the incident, my curiosity had always gotten me in trouble but I still had to know. So around 1 AM when I was sure everyone is fast asleep, I slipped out of bed and quietly made my way to the third floor. I moved the painting and climbed up to the attic. I use my phone torch to light the room, I moved past the boxes and the furniture. I opened the one with news papers, the newspapers date back to 1800s and most of them had front page news about the manor. I skimmed through the ones about the parties and the business success but news in the later 1910s shows some kind of downfall in the family. The family business was not going well; the workers went on strikes, which went on till 1960s. But after that Mr. Lowenthal’s grandfather took over the business started to flourish again.

By the time I came to 1960s it was already 4 AM so I placed the papers back and went to bed. In the afternoon everyone left just like clockwork and I went back into the attic. I was also able some old dairies. The newspapers had mentioned a missing person’s report in the family in the 90s but had no further details. So I went through the dairies, specifically one belonging to Matilda May Lowenthal, the same name of the girl who went missing in the 90s.

The diary started off with details of the girl’s childhood then gradually shifted towards her teen which was prominent with the way her hand writing changed. I could easily identify that a happy child was later a depressed teenager who lived in the shadows of her older brother John Luis Lowenthal. I didn’t know his sister went missing and if that was the incident then I hadn’t see the need to hide it. Still I read further, the last entry in the diary was of the day before she went missing was very disturbing and it went like this.

Dear Diary

Today I found out my family business has being unintentionally poisoning the worker in the factory. I confronted my parents and brother but they got angry told me to stay out of business matters. After dinner I heard them talking about covering up this event. I confronted them again but they locked me in my room. But late at night John unlocked my room and asked me to keep quite or we will end up on the streets. John looked so heartbroken but I remained adamant. John was furious with me but left so I entered the secret passage way that opened in my bedroom and made my way to the study where I knew everyone was. I stayed behind the bookshelf and heard their plans. They plan to silence me and go forward with the plans to blame a worker for the factory deaths. I’m going to tell the police

Whoever finds this and there is no further entry my family killed me.

Love, Matilda

There was nothing about her passing away in any of the other document, I couldn’t tell if she died or was killed. But before I could grab anything my vision went blur and everything went dark. When I came back to my senses I was tied up in room I’d never seen before, I could see Mr. Lowenthal yelling at Linda and Richard. My feet weren’t tied but my hands were so I started struggling to untie them but before I could all three of them saw me awake and came in.

“What do you think you were doing, going through my family things, how did you get to the attic? SPEAK UP” Mr. Lawenthal yelled at me.

“I’m sorry, please don’t kill, I won’t tell anyone you killed your sister” it’s all I could say before he grabbed me from my hair and threw me across the room and start kicking me.

“I killed her and who ever knows about her will die where she died” he said with an evil grin. All three of them left and locked the room from outside. I still struggled to untie my hands and with the pain it was harder but I got myself free eventually. I looked around for another way out but instead found a skeleton tied with chains. I couldn’t tell who that skeleton of was but I had a feeling it was Matilda.

Few hours had passed and I heard the door unlock, I placed my hands behind my back and pretended to be tied up. It was Richard who came with bandages and water.

“Can you get up” he whispered and I nodded.

“I can help you escape but you…” he continued “…I’ll get you out take my keys, the car is in the drive way, just make sure you get this to the police” he handed me an envelope and his keys and took me to his car. I placed the envelope next to me and started the car, that’s when I heard gunshots and saw Richard fall. He signaled me to drive and I did and I drove until I couldn’t see the manor any more. I didn’t stop and drove until I got to the here that’s when I opened the envelope and saw the contents. After that I gave the documents to you and sat in the waiting room.

“Miss your relative are here to pick you” another police officer had said.

“But what about the manor, will you see if Richard it fine?” I asked as they brought me to the front desk. What I saw next shocked me, Richard, Linda and Mr. John all standing in front of me.

“Miss Malinda your parents and your brother came to pick you” the officer told me.

“I’m not Malinda, I’m Mal, Mal Jones and these people are not my family. They killed Malinda. You have to listen to me” I yelled as Richard and John dragged me to the car.

“I’m so sorry about my daughter, she has an illness and she hallucinates every now and then that we plan to kill her. I appreciate it that you kept her safe until we got here.” Linda explains to the officer.

“We understand Ma’am, have a face trip home” the officer said as Linda joined her family in the car.

And Matilda May Lowenthal a.k.a Mal Jones was escorted back home once again on the day the sky cried. 

October 22, 2020 08:30

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

4 comments

Philip Clayberg
03:30 Dec 27, 2020

Wow. Your story definitely did *not* turn out as I thought it might. It's like the last scene in a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he meets Napoleon: one man in white says to another, "Hey, Pierre! I found another one!" And, as the two men drag Napoleon away, the latter says, "But I *am* Napoleon!" And one of the men in white says, "Sure you are, sure you are." That cartoon ended in a funny way, whereas your story certainly didn't. Will Mal try to escape? Or will she be "silenced" because of what she knows? I just hope she doesn't turn ou...

Reply

Aman Fatima
09:36 Dec 28, 2020

I'm really happy you liked it. And no Mal isn't crazy but yeah the manor being a suspicious place is in her head.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Deleted Account
16:39 Nov 26, 2020

That is a great take on this prompt. Never stop doing what you love, no matter what anyone tells you. <3 Keep improving and you'll get on the leaderboard someday! (Also, it's a pleasure being your first comment!)

Reply

Aman Fatima
05:02 Nov 27, 2020

Thank you

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply