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American Fantasy Mystery

Marcus Trent seated himself in the Taxi. He had his overnight bag with him.

“Can you take me to 1445 Ross Avenue, please. Amli Fountain Place”

The taxi driver headed off down the road. The early morning rush had dissipated, and Marcus didn’t anticipate any hold-ups as he settled for a less stressful ride than when he first arrived in Dallas.


He hated being in the city. The wide-open spaces surrounding the Ranch where he lived suited him better.


It surprised him when his daughter Victoria invited him to her apartment, even though she had promised at the exhibition that she would finally discuss things with him. She had rarely ever rung him. Connecting with her had felt strange and nerve-wracking after so many years. Her Aunt and Uncle had filled him in occasionally as to what she had accomplished. Her career as an artist had gained momentum. She had made good use of the opportunities they had given her. They had spared no expense with her education, and she had spared no expense in situating herself with the best her hard-earned money could pay for. She lived in the manner she had been raised, which had also been a blessing after her mother’s tragic passing. In many ways, Marcus felt out of her league and left out, though he could never have given her the life she had been able to enjoy.


Some of her artwork had given him insight into the secrets she had concealed from him. The biggest secret being she had lived before. He felt pride in her as any father would, but it was more than this. Now, he had been invited to visit her.


Presently, the Taxi pulled up outside the apartment building. Marcus paid the driver and asked him to return at 2pm so that he could take him to the airport. It would give him plenty of time before his flight to Amarillo.


He exited and lugged his duffel bag beside him as he headed toward the luxury apartment building in the Arts District. The glass prism towered above him. He entered the lobby and made his way to the reception. A call was made to Victoria, and she gave Marcus a message to come up to the 20th floor. Victoria met him as he left the elevator, and though she didn’t hug him, she shook his hand and smiled warmly.

“Come along,” she said, and he followed her. She hadn’t dressed to show off her svelte figure today, but she oozed elegance even in jeans and a shirt. Her long black hair cascaded down her back.


The light from floor-to-ceiling glass windows struck him when he entered. Victoria led him down a passage into a spacious modern kitchen with marble tops and modern appliances.

“What will you drink?” she asked. “Go make yourself comfortable.”

He walked over to an easy chair, part of a luxurious cream leather suite. A two-sided panorama of surrounding buildings, grey-stone and glass pillars punctuated with blue, took his breath away.

“A cup of Earl Grey, no milk or sugar, please.”

In little time, she brought him his drink and one for herself. She sat on the sofa beside him, curled her legs to the side, and held her cup with both hands. Still like a little girl despite her 25 years.


He looked to his other side, beyond the dining area, and noticed the large alcove for painting. A sizeable canvas on the easel had much of an abstract painting brushed onto it, predominantly greens, blues, and reds. A swirly design.


He remembered her description of a Hawaiian sunset. “I went to the beach to paint after a busy day, saw it, and reduced it down to its essence – how it made me feel. Then, what did that feeling symbolize? You can’t get Art at first glance. It isn’t like that. You need to absorb it and ponder thoughtfully. Think about the emotion behind it. You need to assess the balance of the colors and how they work together. Naturally the painting is centered on the sun which is slipping below the horizon. Hence the lines. You can see fronds of green palms, the kaleidoscope of shades in the sky – orange, red and yellow. And it reflects in the sea where it breaks up the ripples in a multitude of reflected prisms.”

 “So, that is your studio,” he said.

“Yes, the painting I’m working on at the moment is commissioned. Someone spotted one of my larger paintings in a Hotel foyer, fell in love with it, and asked me to paint one in specific colors to match their home décor. I have lots of my paintings in places on display round here and people either buy them or ask me to do paintings for them. The exhibition you saw has been a huge success. I also teach Art at various places in the city. It’s a busy life.”


His eyes lighted on a bookcase with photos and ornaments tastefully placed. He saw an old camera. A Fuji 6x9 Professional GW690III. It sat next to a Box Brownie camera.

“I see you have a couple of old cameras.”

“Yes, Dad. Actually, I took the Fuji from the Ranch years ago. I never got round to asking you for it when I left in such a rush.”

“Come to think of it, I haven’t seen it for years. Never recognized it.”

“It’s one of the reasons I have something to tell you. Just a moment.” She leaped up and went to the kitchen, where she opened a drawer and withdrew an envelope. “Have a look at these. The camera had a film still in it. I got them developed."


Marcus took the 24-odd photos out and looked through them. Some were photos of a woman probably in her sixties and another much older woman. The background looked like where he lived. One had the Ranch house in the background. Others were interior shots. Definitely the house he lived in, though, in the past. Before the renovations. He would ask Genny back home if she recognized the women. Then he found two photos taken of the pages inside a book. He could just decipher the dates and names in lists. He knew this book. An old family Bible.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked. “This – this is what I wanted to tell you about when I saw you for all of ten minutes, years ago . . .”

“I’ve studied them and recognized some of the initial names. They are relatives from the past. I also recognize the names at the end . . . Look carefully. My mother’s name, ‘Victoria Rose Trent’, is there. Auntie Ruth’s name is there too. Their mother Genevieve is there. Genevieve is my grandmother. I didn’t know that. You living at the Ranch with her is such a coincidence.”

“So, my Genny, the one I work for, is your grandmother? Unbelievable.”

“There’s more. Genevieve’s mother’s maiden name was Powell. My Auntie Ruth’s is Stone. It goes Charlotte Bronson, Evelyn Powell and then Genevieve Stone. Genevieve married Jeremy Stone. According to the information in the photos, Great Grandma Evelyn had a brother Edward Bronson. I want to tell you about something which happened to me that time when I stayed with you in my teens.”

“Vicky, I had been looking forward to you finally staying with me on the Ranch, and you got on with the girls, staying for the Summer so well. Genny loved you. I couldn’t believe it when you suddenly wanted to leave, and we had to drive you to Amarillo the following day and send you off on the plane. No explanation. Nothing. I knew something had happened.”

“Something sure did. It was that sleazy guy there, Luke Bronson. His name isn’t in the photo you are holding. He claimed his father was Oliver Bronson. They were shocked that you were there with Oliver’s Aunt Genny due to your criminal record. His father had you investigated. I believe they feared you would marry Genny for the estate, even though she is older. Now that the Ranch is a going concern, I believe it is an inheritance issue, more than your jail time. Oliver’s name isn’t on the list, but I believe Oliver is the son of Edward Bronson. Edward must have distanced himself from the family because there is no mention of any of his children or grandchildren. Likewise, they don’t know about Rose and Ruth descending from Edward’s sister Evelyn. Recognize that name? I guess they named her after the earlier Evelyn.”

“So why did you leave in such a rush?”

It all started with Luke. I had no idea he and I are distant relatives. He couldn’t keep his eyes or hands off me.”

“That isn’t surprising,” said Marcus, her father, rolling his eyes and sighing.

“One evening he caught me alone in the study . . .”

***

Victoria stood looking at the old books on the shelving in the study. The door shut behind her.

“Oh, there you are darling Vicky.” Luke’s voice sounded thick and menacing.

She always felt uncomfortable with him, but before she could leave, he gripped her tightly, wrapping his arms around her from behind.

“I have you alone now, finally.”

It felt like a hug by a bear with a meal on his mind.

Vicky knew how to release herself. She dropped towards the ground, and as he lost balance, she turned, and in a trice, groin kicked him with her knee and had him floored face down while she sat on him, his hands held uncomfortably behind his back.

He moaned in pain . . . “Geez, how did you do that? What’s wrong with a hug?”

“I’m not your darling and you don’t have permission to call me Vicky, let alone hug me. I'm not on the menu.”

Most people were shocked to see her in action. A sylph-like woman but so strong and agile.

“Let me go.” He twisted and puffed.

“Only if you keep your hands to yourself.”

“Why would I want to torture myself again? I only wanted to steal a kiss.” His voice sounded peevish, like a complaining child. “We would have been great together.”

I didn’t give you permission to even touch me, you moron.” She got off him but let him scrape himself off the floor.

His eyes narrowed. “You’ve really done it Miss Victoria. You know who I am? Genny is my Great Aunt. You are just the daughter of an ex-crim. My father can throw your father off this Ranch as quick as anything. I don’t know how your father got into Aunt Genny’s good books. She needs to be told the truth and I’m just the one to do it.”

“You can save your breath. My father has worked here for years and told her about himself right from the start. He didn’t bring me up. My Uncle Jack and Auntie Ruth did. They own a much bigger Ranch in Dallas and deal with the likes of you and your family all the time. You carry on, and they’ll have you and your father off and out of here before you have time to squeal.” It sounded ominous, although she had no idea if Uncle Jack would lower himself to help her father. Neither did she want to stick around and get embroiled in any backlash. None of her business. She figured that if she left, he might believe she intended to go home to Uncle and tell him about the threat. Not telling her father what happened may also save a furor about it.


She studied Luke’s face. Though there seemed to be an element of shock plastered there, his eyes smoldered dangerously. If looks could kill. Yes, she should leave.

***


Marcus’ mouth opened in shock. “So that’s why you left in such a hurry? You were running away? Were you frightened for your life or something?”

“Knowing my luck, that is always on the cards, isn’t it?” She shook her head as if remembering past grief.

“He must have heeded your threat because he and his father never bothered Genny. She would have given them an earful if they had. I had done a great job in bringing the place back from the brink. I suggested how she could diversify and make a living as well as save the Ranch. We got funding and made it a boot-camp for wayward girls each Summer. Once we tamed them, they settled and had the time of their lives. So many things to do outdoors. Gardening, caring for the horses, mucking out the stables, riding, walking, visiting the ghost town."

"How has Genny coped?"

"She loves the company. The staff do all the chores, so she's had fun for the first time in her life and had time to do lots of crafts. Before I forget, she knitted you a lovely grey and pink scarf, in case I had a chance to give it to you. I’ll get it out of my bag in a minute.”


“I know why you went out there in the first place. It used to be your home long ago.”

Marcus looked nostalgic. “I know you don’t feel the same way I do. You love your life. But me, I just want to go back in time.”

“You are always my end and my beginning.”

“You are always mine as well. It’s why I’m so happy we can talk like this. I know about Olivia and Rowena being related to my Charley, my Charlene. I found out when I looked at the births, marriages, and deaths in the old family Bible. You have photos of the pages.”

“So, you already knew!”

“I always wanted to tell you. Our conversation came to a dead end at the time, as you know. Literally and figuratively. Since that horrible time you didn’t want to see me.”

“I just wanted to live. There is more I have found out. I went to England last year and did a bit of investigating. I went back to where we lived long ago. Or at least where Rosheen, Roland, and Anna lived.

“When I studied our original family in Medieval times, I discovered something remarkable. Centuries ago, Lady Rosheen lived at Wadeley Keep with twins called Roland the Red (due to his red hair) and Anna. It sounded so wrong. So, I went into the earlier history of Wadeley Keep, the castle that used to stand in that area of England. A pile of ruins now. A Lord Tytus lived there with two children called Roland and Anna. He and Roland had blond hair, and Anna had red curly hair. They are the ones we know. The tale of woe was that Roland and Anna were abducted, along with their visitor from another castle.

“Years later, this Lady Rosheen returned home on a sailing ship. She confirmed her abduction with Roland and Anna, had married Roland apparently, and given birth to twins. She named them Roland and Anna after their namesakes. She inherited Wadeley, no questions asked, though Roland never returned. I’ll repeat it. He never returned. That’s recorded history. We know the truth now but are experiencing an alternate reality. We know that our lives will end badly. And we know that will repeat.”

“Isn’t it too late to change anything? The curse happened, has continued to happen, and nothing will stop it.”

Victoria sighed. ‘I know you have worked this out. I’m Rosheen, and this time, I’m your daughter, Victoria. Let’s get this Island business over with. We need to go back there to fix things together.”

“Aren’t you scared?”

“This is the only way I can think of to get our finite lives back on track. We need to do what we should have done right from the start.”

“For now, I have to get back to the Ranch. They need me there.”

“You could always train up someone to take over from you. For now, I have to complete my obligations, but I have been looking at boats to buy one for us to go away in. Come to my P.C. and I’ll show you. It’ll take a while to organize everything, but you will never be happy until we do this.”

“Why now, when you are perfectly happy with your present life?”

“I want to do this for you. Then you’ll have no regrets. In your own way you have always tried to help me.”

Marcus stood up, and his eyes glistened with tears.

Victoria faced him. “Here, give me a hug. I’m sorry this talk has taken so long to happen. Thank you for your patience.”

“Thank you so much for our chat and for helping me, daughter.” Marcus gave her a huge hug. He felt a glimmer of hope for the first time in so long.

THE END

February 08, 2024 10:13

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17 comments

Helen A Smith
09:28 Feb 14, 2024

First of all, the main characters shine out here, Kaitlyn. I can clearly visualise them. You have done a good job of fitting in with the prompt. I can see why Victoria acted the way she did. It all makes sense. The descriptions and scene setting are also great. My only slight criticism is maybe there are too many characters mentioned for a short story if you are entering it for the competition. Obviously, as a follow up or follow on, that would not be the case. Somebody critiqued one of my stories that way. I wasn’t crazy about the comme...

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09:49 Feb 14, 2024

Thank you for reading and for your critique. The problem with writing a story about a novel I want to write, is perhaps to want to include the whole idea of the different aspects in it. But you are correct. I needn't add the points that make a short story too complex. Makes it read like a chapter rather than a story. It's just that when you know characters so well, some of them for years and years, everything about them, what has happened to them adds to the present. It's why Marcus felt such angst and why Victoria could leave the past in th...

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Helen A Smith
10:21 Feb 14, 2024

I know exactly what you mean about the characters and agree with a lot of what you say. The characters feel like part of you, especially if you’ve known them for a long time. The difficulty is the judges will just look at each story in its own right, not as part of a chapter or novel. I’m trying to learn to let the short story characters go and separate them from the novel I’ve been working on, with varying degrees of success. None of it matters if you are entering it as a story that is part of a series each week, but not to be judged as pa...

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18:54 Feb 14, 2024

I realize the Judges have criteria. Sometimes a story is a story and you have to be true to the story. When I ran the story through Grammarly (paid version) I'm more interested in general accuracy but when I looked at 'holes' it asked why Victoria said this or that. I reasoned, 'what the heck', and added in snippets of what I understood to be the back story. I will take care in future because Grammarly does prefer to work with larger writing projects. Sometimes filling in what appears to be a hole can leave a patch that has too much in it fo...

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Helen A Smith
20:48 Feb 14, 2024

Yes. Whether he enters or not, Graeme Kinross is a great writer. I’m not sure how you know who has or hasn’t entered. Keep staying true to what matters to you. I’ve enjoyed your stories and what you write about is right up my street. I think one of the best things about this site is that for the most part we are all trying to help one another, but it’s not always easy. It’s hard not to get discouraged sometimes, especially when you put your heart and soul into a piece. I know I do. I’ve not come across Grammarly. A friend of mine got A...

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11:45 Jul 08, 2024

This is in reply to an old comment of yours. I've found that clicking on 'contests' is a quick way to press on the particular weeks prompt from the week the stories are in. You can choose. The whole list comes in graded as to the winning story, shortlists, and followed by the whole list according to the number of 'likes'. I use this as another way to gauge how many of my favorite writers, and those I follow, are in for that particular set of prompts. You can also specify which of the sub prompts of 5 you want to see in a list. This is useful...

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Alexis Araneta
15:38 Feb 12, 2024

This was very beautifully written, Kaitlyn. You made me feel like I was in the story with your words. Great job! To be honest, I also didn't know what to write for Retro week (on the other hand, my mind has been churning out ideas for this week's Sugar Rush theme. I decided to publish two of them. Will wait for other weeks to publish the rest if I have the time.) . Sometimes, ideas come a little later. You did a great job with this, though.

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20:47 Feb 12, 2024

Thankyou so much Stella. Will definitely read your offerings. Getting it right with the prompts is difficult sometimes. I have written stories and then realized they missed something stipulated in the prompt. Oh dear. Sometimes the feedback is that I should have entered the story anyway. Not just put it in as a story because I felt it was lacking for the competition. Mirror Image Ghost, for example. Could have kicked myself. Once I did enter a story and it was rejected on a technicality. My first rejection. So I tweaked it and changed the ...

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Alexis Araneta
23:12 Feb 12, 2024

Yes, exactly. At first, I didn't enter because I thought my stories were still need something more. Now, I realise entering means them being discovered by more people and getting more feedback. "Who is this Girl" sounds like a wonderful read.

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20:01 Feb 13, 2024

You are correct about entering and receiving more feedback. Critique circle is a great way to widen out too. Some Writers/Authors have so much feedback and so many followers they don't enter anymore. Its great that it isn't compulsory. Only one of my stories I personally decided not to enter because to make it long enough I had to include another short little related story. two stories in one. Later I took the short one (About a cat called Charlie) and made it into a full story of it's own. Sometimes I complete a story and though I put it ...

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Alexis Araneta
23:16 Feb 13, 2024

Oh that is true, though. You can go back and add/correct things if you don't enter.

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Mary Bendickson
20:41 Feb 08, 2024

Something out of a larger piece of work? Lots of layers here to understand. Thanks for liking 'Another Brick in the Wall'.

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22:37 Feb 08, 2024

Thanks for reading. Lots of reasons for this one. I looked at the prompts and couldn't decide which one to write to. The time one. I preferred the idea of going forward in time, not back. So not that one. The retro item? Couldn't think of a story to introduce this at the start, and have it as a main focus, so not that prompt. Then the one about someone who isn't nostalgic about her past at all. Yet it is an angst story? Grief in the past. Regrets in the past. Tragedy in the past. Mmm. But a character who isn't nostalgic and it has to be 's...

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Mary Bendickson
23:04 Feb 08, 2024

Thanks for clarifying for me. Yes, most of my stories come about slowly. Then I run out of time and rush them along. Probably shows. Anyway, I thought this was very good.

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01:22 Feb 09, 2024

Thanks Mary. Reassuring, as I believe I have confused you with complex stories at times.

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Mary Bendickson
01:29 Feb 09, 2024

I am a simple kind of person. Also, I try to get so many stories read each week because there are so many talented writers on here I may not spend enough time on them to fully appreciate.

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