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Mystery

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

“Guilty.”


A strangled gasp escaped my lips – Lilia! My own sister – a murderer? The idea made no sense to me, no sense to me at all. None of the evidence had seemed to fit… Lilia had always been sweet, a kind and considerate older sibling I would have never changed for the world. And to kill Maverick, so unexpectedly? They’d been married four years, had dated since sophomore year of high school and were inseparable. Or at least they had been. If Lilia had been a murderer, and had wanted rid of her beloved, she’d had many opportunities before. In fact, the only scrap of proof that prevented me from standing up and yelling at the judge was how they’d been heard rowing by a neighbour, Samee Radmor, the night before. Lilia had been seen storming out of the house, only to return the next morning – where minutes later, she’d called the police after finding the body of her husband bloodied on the kitchen floor. I refused to believe Lilia had got frustrated and simply thought to end his life. I’d angered her many times as a child, and the coping mechanism she always used was to leave and take a break, then come back later and reassess the situation. I’d always admired her for that. But resulting to death? Over a common row, too? It just didn’t fit my sister’s character.


Lost in thought, I realised the court was already beginning to stand, a steady flow of people leaving the room. I clenched my fists: how could they just leave like that, without delving deeper? They didn’t even consider any other suspects! I was fuming at the injustice, fuming that my sister was being taken away. I glared stubbornly at the back of the jury members' heads, refusing to move–


“It’s not official, yet, you know,” Maev Neesom, my best friend, said from behind me. “We have about a week until the official verdict and sentencing by the judge is made–”


“Are you sure?” I whirled around, staring at her intently. “Seven days? But I thought they just announced her guilty!”


“Yes, they did, but they’ve got to consider the sentence with the judge,” Maev continued calmly. “A week – seven days – will probably be about right. And although they won’t look into the proof any further, and will still consider Lilia guilty, we can, and they’ll still be able to change the verdict in that time, we can make an appeal, she won’t be locked away until–”


“That’s seven days for us to prove her innocent, then!” I declared fiercely. “And I mean us, Maev. You may have never gotten on that well with Maverick, but you’re Lilia’s friend just as much as I’m her sister, so you’re helping.”


When she just nodded, I added: “We’ll have to start at the crime scene. Tomorrow. At the Abberton family home. Alright?”


Maev nodded again.


We assessed the scene the next day, just like I’d said. However, just as I’d expected, the police had filed through everywhere looking for evidence on the murderer, and little was left for us to examine. They hadn’t cleaned up the scene, and a nasty dried splotch of blood was left on the kitchen floor. A thick, sharp knife was set aside above the dishwasher. I shuddered, imagining the horrible situation… the murderer perhaps running in on Maverick from behind, the knife clasped in their hand… and then they were plunging it between his ribs…


The more I thought about it, the more I was sure Lilia hadn’t done it. Divorce would have surprised me enough, however, at least it made sense with my sister’s personality. If she and Maverick hadn’t gotten along, she would have thought about it for a while, then maybe finally concluded in settling for separation. But murder… I didn’t think any amount of proof could persuade me the judge was right in convicting Lilia guilty.


I was desperate to give my brother-in-law justice, to not leave his beloved wife locked up in jail for years, to give the murderer the rightful punishment. I wanted to know who could possibly have wanted the gentleman dead – he’d always treated Lilia with such love and care, and I’d always respected that. I’d never had wanted my sister with someone who didn’t respect her. Perhaps that was it. Perhaps, maybe, the neighbor Samee had killed him for that exact reason: his affection for Lilia. Perhaps Samee had been in love with Lilia, but Lilia had always been loyal to Maverick, so the simple answer was to remove him from the picture.


When I expressed my feelings on the subject, Maev seemed quite intent on believing I was right. I incredibly glad to know she felt the same about the injustice given to Lilia too and couldn’t see my sister being a murderer either. She seemed increasingly annoyed every time we spoke of the jury, and confidently stated her mistrust in Samee.


“Isn’t it awfully suspicious that he just heard them rowing?” she fumed on the second day when we had hopelessly returned to the Abberton house again. “Like, what neighbor just listens out to the couple next door? A neighbor that was planning the perfect time to march in and murder the husband!”


“I mean, rowing usually implies it was quite loud, especially if they were angrily shouting.”


“Yes, but through the walls?” Maev went on, pacing the kitchen. “No, unless they were in the garden… perhaps they were, but it just seems awfully suspicious, you know? I never heard much of the Samee guy before this, maybe that’s why. Lilia just wanted to leave him out of conversations, as he was constantly hitting on her.”


I had to admit she had a point. Although we failed to find any proof to back up Samee as murderer or prove Lilia’s innocence on the third or fourth day, every other hour Maev seemed to think of a new reason behind Samee’s murderous intentions and enjoyed rudely cursing the jury who dared not look into the case sooner.

By the fifth day, I was starting to give up. Regularly returning to the Abberton house was pointless, and really just depressing at this stage. I was so used to being in it, welcomed with a sisterly hug from Lilia and a friendly handshake from Maverick, knowing it was going to be a good night in. Taciturn it was, constantly hitting me like a lightning bolt when the realization hit me that Maverick would never walk this house again, and if Lilia did, she’d do it alone. Even if Maev and I managed to free her, she’d have still lost her husband, and I could hardly imagine how different life would be. I couldn’t think where else than the house of the crime would make sense to look. If we were real detectives, perhaps we could examine Samee’s place for proof of his unrequited adoration for my sister. There were too many ifs; the idea of actually freeing her began to seem almost unimaginable.


I decided to do what Lilia would’ve done if it were I accused: take a break, then come back and reassess it. The deadline of Maev’s predicted seven days was dawning dearer and I knew I had to keep my head level if I wanted to get anything done. In the hopes of a routine calming myself down, I took to the shops to get some general chores done.


I had to collect a dress from the dry cleaners soon enough and decided that Lilia was likely to have something there too, and I could get that for her. Maev had decided to stay around the Abbertons’, lurking in the garden and outside in the hopes of catching Samee doing something suspicious she could use against him. I was genuinely beginning to believe she was right: Samee had hardly left his house in the five days we’d spent there and stayed completely locked up almost twenty-four hours a day, not even venturing into the garden. Perhaps he was aware of a murderer being on the lose nearby, as his next-door neighbor had been the victim – however, Samee would be one to believe Lilia guilty, as she had been determined so by the jury, and the only other explanation was that he was hiding from detectives such as Maev and I. Maev was convinced he had noticed our regular trips to the abandoned house and had figured we would sniff him out sooner or later unless he was extra careful. Yet, we’d seem like bias fools to hand him in and demand Lilia’s release with no evidence. Samee would seem as innocent as anyone, and if anything, we might look like we had a part in the killing.


“Er, hello – dry cleaning for Isobel Henry?”


“Yes, that’s it here,” the lady behind the counter said dully, hardly bothering to look at me. “Is that all for you, ma’am?”


“I also thought I’d check to see if my sister had any in, I could collect for her,” I added, trying to keep my voice cool. “Lilia Abberton?”


The lady sighed, sliding my dress onto the counter. “No. We have Maverick Abberton’s suit here, though. They related in any way?”


“O-oh,” I squeaked. It was strange to think the lady, so bored, probably highly awaiting her shift’s end, having no clue she was speaking about a dead man. “Er, yes, they’re married. I’ll take that for him, thanks.”


She slid a sleek black suit across the counter too, tapped a few things into a screen, I paid, then the lady nodded tediously, as if indicating I should leave her alone. I took the two items of clothing and quickly left.


I hadn’t realised how much it would shake me. It felt strange to think I was holding the suit Maverick would have once worn, full of young life, and had handed it in to be cleaned, having no idea he’d never receive it back. The morning he was found dead, everything changed. I remembered Lilia calling me up: it was almost noon, and as soon as I picked up, I knew something was wrong. She was sobbing loudly, and her voice shook as she explained what had happened. They’d just had a small argument, but it wasn’t resolving, and she had begun to entirely lose her temper, so she’d decided to leave and take a breather, only to come back to her husband dead… she’d really beat herself up about it: Maverick’s last thoughts of his high school sweetheart might have been resentment…


Maev claimed to have seen Samee installing extra locks into his front door, and she decided it was because he suspected they would break in to look for evidence and couldn’t risk them finding it. I just grumbled in reply, too disturbed by the memory of the call from Lilia… I went upstairs to the Abberton master bedroom to put away the suit, where it would probably lay untouched for years…


I was instinctively unfolding it to hang it neatly up on a clothing hook I’d found when I spotted a bit of paper sticking subtly out of a pocket. I pulled it out, a numb part of me hoping it may be some sort of evidence to who killed him, most of me just checking it wasn’t important before I chucked it away. An awfully familiar writing met my eyes: those distinctly curled c’s, the strangely elongated f’s…


Dear Maverick Abberton,

             I hope this reaches you well. I have warned you once before, but you did not listen, so here I try again. You are a fool to stay with Lilia. I have warned you of the consequences – and I feel no need to explain them again here, for you know exactly what I speak of – yet you continue to love her like there’s no tomorrow. You’re a tainted scoundrel, and you’re no good for her. She made a grave mistake four years ago when she married you in that beautiful church. I was there, I remember it. I could have sworn I saw regret flit through her eyes as she kissed you! I’m sure you would agree I am a much worthier fit as her spouse. This is my very last warning – very last, I assure you – and if anything, you’re lucky I even gave you one warning. Maverick, I will make those threats a reality if you do not arrange immediate divorce with Lilia and stay well out of the way as she quickly falls in love with me. I know how to get into your house. I’ve got it all planned out, you see, but I won’t have to go through with it if you just give me what I want. Once again, I remind you: your last chance. I know how to get into your house. I’ve got it all planned out, you see, but I won’t have to go through with it if you just give me what I want.

 MN”



Just this one letter allowed everything to fall into place. It all made sense now – she had loved Lilia, but the love had been unrequited, like she’d insisted Samee’s had been, and Maverick had stood strong in the way… as long as Maverick was alive, Lilia would never consider loving anyone else, but if he were to die, she could comfort her as a friend, and eventually, Lilia may get used to her company, and then just maybe…


It was just as horrible as thinking Lilia may have been the one to drive the knife between Maverick’s ribs. I’d trusted Maev; I’d had her working with me to prove Lilia innocent, when really, Maev knew all too well how innocent she was, and only wanted her free as her plan had been flawed. She couldn’t have Lilia in prison when she was supposed to be comforting her, and they were supposed to be falling in love. But why had Maev risked me finding evidence of her? How had she managed to accidently frame Lilia, when surely, she intended to frame Samee, or another neighbor, or even… me?


I couldn’t believe it, and I knew it was utterly stupid and reckless, but a part of me wanted Maev to just come up and give me every single bit of evidence possible that I’d misunderstood everything… Samee was indeed murderer, we had living proof… she had never written of murder in the letter, perhaps I was indeed just overly paranoid…


“Maev? Maev, could you come up here a sec?”


I heard her footsteps pound against the stairs as she jogged up, walked across the landing and opened the door.


“Yes?” she asked, smiling sweetly, the thick, sharp knife raised in her left hand.

September 30, 2022 19:39

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2 comments

Hope Linter
01:23 Oct 08, 2022

Wow, what a cliff hanger ending. A very tense and well done story.

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Zoë Page
11:56 Oct 08, 2022

Thanks! :)

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