Thorn Hill Manor

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

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Fiction Horror Romance

Trigger warning: sexual assault on a minor

 

Sheriff William Johnson should have been in his bed sound asleep at one in the morning on this steamy July night but that wasn’t happening. If he had gotten a total of six hours of “Rest” in the last seventy-two, it would have surprised him. The events of the last three days precluded any peaceful slumber.

It had been over fifteen years since anyone had died by anything other than natural causes or a farm-related accident in Gerald County’s little corner of Texas. The events on the evening of June 27, 1954, had upset everybody’s applecart.

That was the night that fifteen-year-old Edwin Andrew Hale had escaped from his attic prison in Thorn Hill Manor. He then brutally killed his father, the rich and powerful Timber Baron, Edgel Hale, and the butler, Robert Hutchins.

He spared his younger sister Penelope however, and she was found sobbing and lovingly holding his body after Edwin succumbed to a gunshot wound inflicted on him during the attack. Apparently the focus of horrific abuse by the alcoholic Edgel Hale, the boy had been driven insane and left his confinements to mete out his revenge.

Ever since then Bill Johnson had spent most of his restless hours either in his office or, like tonight, walking the darkened streets of the small town of Silverthorne. He was letting his mind tick off every step that had been taken in the investigation for the umpteenth time when he saw the light was still on in Doctor Martin Lewis’ office on the upper floor of Lakeyard Hospital.

***

“Well Doc, whaddaya think happened the other night at the Hale House?” Sheriff Johnson asked while presenting a shot glass to be filled with some of “Kentucky’s Finest” Doctor Lewis had offered him. “I understand that you asked Judge Akins for more time to finish your report.”

“Yeah Bill, I’m just a country doctor and I’m in way over my head with this. I’ve called a friend of mine from the Coroner’s Office in Dallas to give us a second opinion.”

Johnson sat down in the chair in front of the doctor’s desk and sipped some of his whiskey. “I thought it was a pretty straightforward case and that was all?”

“It probably is but, on closer examination of the bodies, I got more questions than answers.”

“Can I ask what you’re talking about?”

Martin Lewis sat down behind his desk and began spreading out the autopsy photographs and notes before him. “Let’s start with the most obvious cause of death. Edgel Hale had his hair parted with a fireplace poker within a minute or so of his raping little Penelope.”

“That scum-sucking Son-of-a-Bitch!” The Sheriff exclaimed only slightly slurring his words. “He deserved to die a long, slow, and painful death for doing that to his own daughter for God’s sakes!” Leaning forward in his chair, Johnson looked over at the Hale family portrait on the doctor’s desk. “How is Penelope doing, Doc?”

“She’s bad off Bill.” Doctor Lewis said quietly. “She fades in and out, saying things that didn’t make much sense until I looked deeper into things.” Noting the questioning look on the county’s Chief Law Enforcer, Lewis continued, “She talked, for instance, about a beautiful black-haired angel that kissed Eddie and then kissed her on the cheek before flying away.”

The Sheriff had a sudden, choking spasm as he desperately tried not to spew his last sip of whiskey in the Doctor’s face. “The Hell you said ‘Black-Haired Angel’ just now?”

“Yeah, why?” Lewis asked as he winced at Johnson’s distress.

The steady tapping of the shot glass on the wooden arm of his chair seemed to sound in time to Sheriff Johnson’s speech and thoughts. “My deputy was at the movies Saturday night when Edwin Hale showed up with his date. Marty described her as ‘A very pretty girl with coal-black hair.’ He said her name was Mary Lee Anderson and that she was from New Orleans.”

“Holy Shit Bill! You need to try and find her ‘cause she might be the only one with half a mind left who will be able to put the rest of the puzzle together.”

“Damn it! You mean there’s more to this than what I’ve been made aware of?”

“Yup! Check this out.”

Johnson took the black and white picture of the shaved side of Bobby’s head and instantly noticed what appeared to be five partially healed individual cuts. “What am I looking at here?”

“Those are on each side. Wounds that on first glance appear to have been inflicted by large, curved and scalpel-sharp claws. Like the talons of a big bird of prey.”

“You mean like a hawk?”

“Note the number five. If it had been a bird, there would have been four cuts.”

Taking another look at the marks on Bobby’s head, the Sheriff asks, “How about a giant bat?”

“What? What the hell you talkin’ about?”

“Something Edgel said when he crashed his Caddie the other night. I just thought it was the rantin’ of a crazy-ass drunk. He said it was a ‘Giant Bat’ that caused him to lose control and crash. Now I’m gonna hafta go look for a giant bat and a black-haired angel out at the Hale’s!”

“Aw shit Bill!” The Doctor smiled for the first time since the Sheriff’s arrival and said, “You can if you want but, I seriously doubt you’ll find anything you ain't’ already seen. Besides, that’s not what killed Robert Hutchins.”

“Okay, what did then?”

“The hook on the same poker that caved in Edgel’s skull. Apparently, Edwin caught Bobby in the neck ripping open the Carotid Artery. He bled out shortly after that.”

“Yeah, it’s really hard to blame Eddie for doing things the way he did. Speaking of which, what about that boy?”

After a moment of silence, the old physician reached down beside his desk and lifted a bedpan with a towel over it. Placing the object on his desk, he speaks with a feigned, half-hearted Announcers voice, “And here, ladies and gentlemen is Edwin Andrew Hale! Or what’s left of ‘im.”

“What the Hell ya’ talking about you old coot?” Johnson rumbled in his deep baritone voice.

“Old Coot, huh? Well, you were there when we put Eddie on the gurney, right?”

“Yeah.”

“By the time I got to him for the exam, it was late in the night, a little over twenty-four hours after we rolled him into Pa’s cooler. Now, you know it takes a lot to get me rattled, right?”

“Yup Doc, I’ve seen you handle things that woulda sent younger fellers to Upchuck City!”

“Thank ya’ Bill...I think! But let me tell ya’, I like to have shit my dyin’ turd when I pulled the sheet back! All that was there was a kind of Edwin Hale shaped husk! Like those shells that thirteen-year locusts leave behind.”

“Doc, if I didn’t know you better, I’d swear this was some kind of joke you’re pullin’!”

Lewis stabbed the air with his forefinger in the Sheriff’s direction. “I’m tellin’ ya Bill, this is a No Shit Situation we have here! I mean to tell ya’, when I just barely touched it, Poof, it turned into the pile of dust that I gathered up and put in this here piss pot!”

The doctor watched the Sheriff’s face as it twisted with the thoughts that were going on behind it. When he was finally able to speak, Johnson asked, “Is that what your buddy from the coroner’s office is coming here for?”

“That and some of the other strange stuff that I told ya’ about. This is crazy in a whole hell of a lot of ways, Bill.”

“This is Silverthorne Doc. This place gives a whole new meaning to the word Crazy.”

***

“Now don’t you worry about me getting you in trouble with your Pa, Miss Odette. He won’t hear a word from me about anything you might have to tell me. Okay?”

“Yes sir.” The pretty fifteen-year-old girl dressed in a pink sweater and matching poodle skirt quietly said.

“Good! Now, I know you snuck outta the house for your date at the movie theatre with Mark Taylor cuz my deputy saw ya’ll there and I have already talked to him. What I want to hear from you is your version of events. When was the last time you saw Edwin Hale?”

“It was the night before...At the theater. He was with that girl. She was nice enough I guess but a little standoffish.”

Johnson smiled broadly as he asked, “You were jealous of her weren’t you?”

“Yeah.” The girl responded softly. “That mean old Edgel Hale kept Eddie and Penny away from us ‘Townies’. His kids were too good to associate with us!”

“Do you know what that girl’s name was?”

“Uhm...I think it was...Oh yeah, it was Mary Lee Anderson. She spelled it, M E R R I L E E though, which is weird.”

“Was she nice?”

“Yup, sure was. They musta snuck out to be with each other because there was no way they coulda been together otherwise.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Eddie’s daddy wouldn’t have gone along with His Son courtin’ a sickly girl like that!”

“Whatta you mean ‘Sickly’?”

“She was a very pretty girl and all. Long black hair and a pretty face. Mark noticed that she filled out that blouse she was wearing pretty good for her age. She was just so thin and pale lookin’.”

Johnson laughed and said, “Leave it to Mark Taylor to fixate on that sort of thing!”

Odette angrily crossed her arms over her own chest and huffed, “Can we move on here?”

“This was the night before...Edwin did what he did?”

There was a long pause before Odette’s response that coincided with a tear starting to drop from her eye. “Yeah, the night before he killed his dad and Bobby.”

***

Sheriff Johnson’s original plan had been to go home after leaving the office to try and get some much-needed rest. To assist that respite from his tumbling mind, he stopped at Pa’s Bar and Grill and purchased a fifth of whiskey. That plan changed abruptly when he got the call from Betty at the office.

“Base to Sheriff, over.”

“You got ‘im. What now, Betty? Over.”

“A man just called and said that the subject of our Wanted Poster wants to meet you after sundown in the gazebo at the Hale House. Over.”

”Got it. Johnson out.”

So now he sat in that small building waiting for the mysterious Merrilee Anderson to make her nighttime appearance. As the red horizon of the evening made way for the starlit skies of night, Johnson hears what sounds to him, like a flag fluttering in a heavy breeze. Then, he takes notice of a kind-of grumbling purr coming from the dark in front of him. A sinister shape separates itself from the shadows and glides through the opening and into the gazebo. As the figure edges into the faint light of the kerosene lamp, it becomes more defined.

There now stands a teenage girl whom, Johnson notes, looks just like the Wanted Poster that had been drawn from witness descriptions. Long, charcoal-black, and wavy hair framed her face, ending six to eight inches below her shoulders. The wide and dark wings that were her eyebrows accentuated the paleness of her complexion. The flickering light from the lamp danced in her hazel eyes. A petite, round nose sat above an elegant, bow-shaped mouth that lifted slightly at the corners. It was a face that suggested a kind of mask, hiding some underlying mystery.

The exposed parts of the rest of her body looked unhealthily pale and thin. A loose, white blouse was tied in a Granny knot under her rib cage. A scandalously bare midriff above faded dungarees rolled up at the ankles revealed white socks and a pair of Saddle Shoes. “It is totally out of place and unladylike to be dressed like that.” The Sheriff thought to himself.

“You must be Merrilee?”

The girl smiled and said, “That’s me. You must be Sheriff Johnson?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

The girl’s smile changed quickly into a frown as Merrilee said threateningly, “I am not your mother! A simple ‘Yes’ would have been sufficient.”

Taken aback by the seemingly disrespectful statement coming from the girl child, William Johnson simply said, “I must say, Miss Merrilee, you are much prettier than what I imagined a blood-sucking fiend from hell would be.”

“So you know what I am?”

“Yup! But don’t worry, I’ll keep the silver crucifix and wood stakes put away, for now.” 

“How brave of you.” Merrilee said with a sneer.

“I’ve seen too many times what true horror us humans do to each other to be afraid to face the likes of you. So let’s cut to the chase. Whatta ya want?”

With a blink, the human eyes of a teen girl were replaced with the pitch black orbs of an undead creature. As Johnson’s vision is pulled inexorably into thoughts not his own, the feeling of falling backward envelopes his brain. As he mentally reaches out to grasp hold of anything to stop his freefall, his sight clears. He is now somehow aware of being in another place and time. Specifically, the evening of June 27, 1954.

***

For a change, Merrilee’s minion, Howard, was glad for the extra strength and speed his mistress had given him when he was turned. The dense thicket of trees and thorny underbrush between the Sexton’s house and Thorn Hill Manor had flown by as he ran to Edwin’s side.

After Merrilee had jumped screaming from her bed, the mental images that she thrust into Howard’s brain negated the need for words. It would still be several minutes before the sun descended below the horizon enough to safely allow her to also be with her love in his most desperate hour.

As the last thin ray of light from the falling sun glinted off an uncovered section of the windowpane, the charged atmosphere crackled around her. Merrilee grimaced as the stinging became a more intense, searing flash of pain. The second her blistered skin stopped sizzling, she dropped low to all fours and in a flash, the girl was standing in the front hall of the mansion.

As another wave of nausea and dizziness hits Edwin, he collapses into the arms of Howard and is slowly lowered to the floor. Internal bleeding is making it increasingly difficult to breathe. His vision clears slightly and he looks back at his girlfriend.

From deep within her throat, he hears the sound of a low snarling. The sound abruptly ceases and a hideous scream explodes out of the mouth of the transforming girl. A long, slightly curved pair of fangs extend from the upper jaw. The mask has melted away as heavy brow ridges cast shadows over the eyes of an enraged demonic predator, and they are fixed on Penny.

Edwin’s voice was a murmur only audible to the hypersensitive hearing of the Nocturnal. “Merrilee...I love you. Please...don’t hurt. Not...her fault.”

Ducking her head into her chest, she slowly begins to regain her human appearance as Merrilee pulls herself into a ball of agony. Her whole body shakes with an uncontrollable tremor as she feels her heart breaking.

With the monster gone, Penelope moves quickly to wrap her brother in her small arms. Penny’s tears dropped off her cheek and onto Edwin’s increasingly pale lips. “Eddie, you told me you would never leave me! Was that a lie?”

Howard’s own face was wet with sorrow as he glumly said, “The time is close Mistress. It is now or never.”

With her hand, she reaches out to touch Edwin’s. “My sweet love, I know this is selfish of me but, I can’t lose you!”

With his last ounce of strength, Edwin Hale barely opens his eyes. When they slid in Merrilee’s direction, she could literally see the life emptying from them. The words, “Do it” bubbled out of his blood-filled mouth.

***

Jolted back to the present, Johnson reaches back to his hip and touches nothing but the leather of an empty holster.

Edwin glides from the shadows and holds up the Colt Revolver. After six cartridges hit the deck Edwin says, “I just feel better knowing that we would be long gone before you could reload.”

“Here is the deal, Sheriff,” Merrrilee says with a low, voice. “Your investigation ends here. In return, the good people of this county will have nothing to fear from our predations.”

“What about the ‘Not-So-Good’ people?” The Sheriff barks back.

Edwin Hale explains, “Penny is still among you all for now. It will be your job to make sure that no one causes her any more suffering than has already been inflicted on her. Keeping her happy will be the only protection anyone in Gerald County will have against us.”

Johnson had been in a lot of tight spots during his Law Enforcement career. Getting intimidated into silence by a pair of teenage Vampires was beyond his ability to reference past experiences. As he now saw it, the only viable option was to give in to their demands and pray that it will all work out somehow. “I’ll make sure that nothing bad happens to Miss Penelope, Eddie. All I can do and hope is that I can trust you to keep your end of the bargain.”

As he saw the boy and girl smile, he added, Can I have my pistol back now?”

The End

 

October 22, 2020 18:53

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