73 comments

Drama Fiction Crime

The old grandfather clock, invisible in the darkened dining room, whirred and clunked through its gears just before chiming eleven times. 


As the last tone faded, the innkeeper heard a creak. 


This was not the groan of the country house settling. For 42 years, the murmurs and sighs of the aged walls and floors had woven themselves into the innkeeper’s consciousness. She knew those noises as intimately as she knew the pops and clicks of her bones.


No, this was the squeak of one Early American floorboard being pushed against another. The kind of push that could only come from a footstep.


Betsy looked up from her secretary desk and toward the north end of the house. The Butternut Room, she thought. That had to be the source of the squeak. She raised an eyebrow and stared into the hallway, as though her sight could penetrate the darkness, see through two floors and into the Butternut Room. She had closed that entire third floor five years ago, after Albert had died, feeling the strain of hosting a fully booked bed and breakfast alone. The Victorian chairs and four-poster beds in the Pecan, Walnut and Chestnut rooms now sat shrouded in sheets and shadows. 


“Bit of a mystery we have here, Frannie,” she said to her Jack Russell who had cocked her head at the creak. “Stay - I’ll be right back.”  


Frannie turned in her bed and lay down as Betsy made a final note in the reservation book, smoothed her skirt and began her trek up the stairs.


The two-hundred-year-old steps were narrow and uneven. Betsy’s 80-year-old knees creaked like the stairs. Sconces along the walls offered little light and heavy shadows darkened her path. But never one to be dissuaded from her purpose, she made meticulous progress, eventually facing the oak door with the hand-painted sign that read “Butternut Room” with the swirls and flourishes of fine calligraphy.


She worked the key into the lock and pushed the door open. The light from the hall cast just enough of a glow for Betsy to see the outlines of the covered furniture. She took a few steps inside and looked around. Aside from a mustiness permeating the room, nothing seemed amiss. Betsy sniffed again, wondering if she had caught a wisp of cigarette smoke, but dismissed it as stale air. She closed the door and began her descent to the first floor.


Had Betsy spent a bit longer studying the room, had she taken three more steps inside, she may have noticed the sheet covering a set of antique Dutch fireplace tools had slipped to the side. Had she inspected more closely, she may have realized the fire iron was missing. And had she then turned around, she may have seen a man hidden behind the open door, clutching the iron and poised to strike.


That was Thursday. 


On Monday, after saying goodbye to the weekend guests, Betsy started her weekly routine. She was on the second floor, stripping beds and gathering towels for the cleaning woman. Frannie trotted behind her. Moving from the Willow Room to the Sycamore Room, Betsy hummed and considered what she would say at her book club that evening. That’s when she heard a thud and a crash.


This time, she didn’t take even a second to contemplate the ceiling. She dropped the bedspread, hiked her skirt up above her ankles and climbed the stairs as quickly as she dared. Even in the brightest of mornings, the staircase remained dark.


She heard groaning behind the door of the Butternut Room and fumbled for the key. Pushing the door open, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The curtains remained drawn and the window faced the mountainside, keeping the room in shadow. A man writhed on the floor near the fireplace and Betsy saw the stand for the fireplace tools knocked on its side. 


“I’m dying….I’m dying,” the man moaned.


Betsy took in the scene before saying,


“Sir! Can you tell me what’s wrong?”


He held up his left hand. The thumb was covered in blood which ran down his wrist and stained the cuffs of his denim shirt. 


Betsy raised an eyebrow.


“Is that your only injury?”


He moaned something that sounded like “Yes.”


“For heaven’s sake,” Betsy said, grabbing the sheet that had covered the fireplace tools. “Sit up and give me your hand. Mind you don’t get blood on the chairs or bed.”


“I’m dying,” the man groaned again. 


“My good fellow, you are not. You have cut your thumb and it is bleeding because that’s what thumbs do. Sit up. We’ll stop the blood and clean you up.”


“I can’t look at my blood. It makes me dizzy,” he mumbled. 


“Well, I never heard of such a thing,” said Betsy. “Look here. You will sit up and give me your hand. Otherwise, I will have to call an ambulance, but we’re so far out of town, it will take at least 30 minutes to get here.”


The threat of the ambulance seemed to strike the man and he sat up immediately. Eyes averted from the blood, he leaned against the hearth and offered his injured hand to Betsy. She pulled a small accent chair to him and sat on it, putting on the reading glasses that hung on a chain around her neck. She studied the wound, wrapped it with a portion of a sheet and applied pressure.  


“It’s just a scratch. I daresay you’ll need stitches, but you’ll live. How did you do this?”


“I was trying to cut an apple and my knife slipped.”


Betsy noted a slight drawl in his voice that sounded local to the mountain folk. Still obscured in the shadows, she could only see he had a scraggly beard that reached down to his chest, long hair tied back in a ponytail and a hook-shaped nose.


She released his hand and peered at the wound.  


“It’s stopped bleeding. Come downstairs and we’ll clean it and dress it. Then you can tell me who you are and why you’re in the Butternut Room.”


He rose to his feet and Betsy could see he was long and angular.


“That’s ok ma’am. I’ll just be on my way.”


“Nonsense. You’ll come with me. That cut will get infected.”


The man stiffened at the order and tightened his fingers around his knife. But his legs were wobbly and head still reeling from the blood, so he followed her downstairs.


Betsy directed him to the sink, heated a kettle of water on the stove and put a plate of cookies on the table. She inspected the wound by the window, for the morning light hadn’t reached this part of the house yet.


“You should get someone to look at that. You may need stitches.”


“No doctors,” he mumbled. 


Betsy studied him, her brown eyes intent on his face as he looked down at the floor. She guessed he was in his 40s but moved as though held together with rusty nails. Something tugged at her memory.


“Do we know each other?” 


“No ma’am.”


“Well, sit. Have some tea and cookies. Now, tell me your name.”


He coughed.


“Lu- it’s Luke,” he said in a way that told Betsy it wasn’t his real name.


“Have you been living in that room?”


He nodded, not meeting her eyes.


“For how long?”


“ ‘bout a year.”


“A year? How did you manage that?”


He mumbled into his tea.


“Luke,” she stated, enunciating the “k”. “You must look people in the eye and speak clearly. Now tell me. How did you get into my house and stay hidden for an entire year? That is quite remarkable.”


He looked at her. Despite layers of dark circles under his eyes, red rims around them, webs of wrinkles and bushy brows, his pale irises were intense, almost glass-like. That familiarity nudged her again. 


“I used the window. Climbed up the tree, over to the roof and into the room. You didn’t lock it.” He paused. “You should’ve locked it.” He stared directly at her, almost challenging.


Then Betsy knew. She’d seen that stare in newspaper photos, on the local news. She’d seen those same eyes in his father. Everyone knew everyone else in this town.


“Luther Beck,” she said.


He didn’t speak, but a stiffening of his shoulders told her she was right.


It had been over twenty years ago when four people in the local Bags Family Grocery had been murdered. Two shot and two stabbed, putting their one-stoplight mountain town on the map. It didn’t take police long to track down the local kid with pale eyes who had been dating one of the victims. Luther’s trial ended as quickly as a trial can with an easy conviction and consecutive life sentences. Of course Betsy remembered the tragedy. It had been such a shock to the town. But the inn was humming back then, fully booked every weekend. Two teenage daughters kept their days full and one week blurred into the next. Luther Beck faded into the town’s history. 


Then six years ago, he resurfaced in the headlines. Tunneled out of prison and to freedom. A manhunt ensued, and then faded as other more pressing cases took priority.  


But now that Betsy connected the face with the memory, the pieces fell into place. 


“Your father knew where you were hiding,” she said.  


“In them mountains,” he said, gesturing behind him. 


“He heard that I was closing up the third floor,” she continued. One person’s business was everybody’s business in that town. “So you waited for the right time and moved in.” She paused, looking over her glasses at him. “Well, you certainly were quiet and neat.”


“You’re gonna call the cops,” His words were hard and brittle. 


Betsy held his gaze.


“Should I?”


A soft clicking on the floor made both of them turn. Frannie trotted into the room, short tail beating back and forth. She was smiling as only dogs can and stood on her hind legs, placing her paws on Luther’s shin. For the first time he smiled and reached down to stroke her.


“Hi there, little girl.”


Betsy watched him scoop her easily into his lap.


“Frannie knows you. She barks at every stranger.”


“We spent a lotta time together. When you were out, I’d come down and old Frannie was always happy to see me. You forgot to fill her water dish a bunch of times.” He nodded over at Frannie’s bowls. Betsy tried to see this self-confessed murderer moving through her house, sitting with her dog, for over a year. His eyes softened as he murmured to Frannie and she nestled into his lap, rubbing her nose on his thigh.


“No,” she said.


“No, what?” he asked.


“No, I will not call the police. You may stay on as a handyman. Fences need repairing, bushes need trimming. I will pay you a small wage. You will stay away from the guests. You will not draw attention to yourself. Should you violate any one of these conditions, I will turn you in. Is that clear?”


Luther stared at her.


“Mr. Beck. Is that clear?”


“Why would you do that?”


Betsy stood up from the table.


“Everyone deserves a second chance.”



Luther accepted her deal and, over the next weeks, a weight seemed to lift. He walked with a purposeful stride. He began to speak of a future. Every so often, his mouth turned up in the faintest hint of a smile. Betsy watched him closely, noting that he moved carefully throughout the property, staying in the shadows, hovering on the edges. 


The only hint of disagreement came over the curtains in the Butternut Room. Whenever Betsy entered to gather the bedclothes and towels for laundry, she opened them. Whenever Luther entered, even on the sunniest of days - especially on the sunniest of days - he closed them.


He joined her for supper most nights. They peeled and cut vegetables in a comfortable silence and discussed the next day’s chores. Luther always made sure Frannie had water in her bowl. Some evenings, they would sit together on the porch listening to the cicadas. On cooler nights, they would sit in front of the fire, leafing through newspapers and magazines.



Then, the trouble started.


One Tuesday morning, Luther came late to breakfast. Betsy had already cleaned the kitchen and was about to drive into town for groceries.


“You’re late,” she stated as Luther walked down the stairs. He didn’t respond. “Mr. Beck,” she began, but then stopped. His face was deathly pale and eyes red as though he’d been crying. “Are you unwell?” 


“Headache,” he muttered. 


His headache did not lift. Over the next weeks, he completed his chores, but he didn’t appear for meals. He said little to Betsy and even Frannie couldn’t tease a smile from him. His already lanky frame grew boney and face haggard.


One afternoon, Betsy sipped her tea in the living room and sat on the antique Chesterfield sofa waiting for Luther. When she heard him clomp onto the porch and open the screen door, she called.


“Mr. Beck, may I see you please?”


Luther appeared in the doorway.


“Have a seat,” she said, gesturing to the wingback chair.


He slouched in the chair, staring through her.


“Mr. Beck, something is going on with you. Can you tell me what it is?”


“I’m fine.”


“You’re not. You’re not eating, you’re not speaking.”


“So what?”


“Mr. Beck, as astonished as I am to find myself saying this, I am concerned for your welfare. I cannot help you if you can’t tell me what’s going on.”


He stood up and walked out.


“Mr. Beck!” Betsy did not shout, but her voice stopped him. She stood up. “You were not dismissed.”


Luther stiffened and gripped the doorjamb until his knuckles turned white. 


He whirled around and lunged toward her.


“You want to know what’s wrong? Well I’ll tell you, lady. Nightmares, Nightmares all day and all night. I can’t sleep, can’t even close my eyes because you know what I see when I do?”


“What?”


“Blood. Blood everywhere. Dripping, oozing. The bodies...all four of them...and the others, just ….so much blood….so much damn blood.” He squeezed his head between his hands as though he could force the images out of it. 


Betsy lay a hand on his arm and he pulled away as though he’d been shot. 


She cleared her throat.


“You’ll have a decent supper tonight. Tomorrow we’ll find help for you.”


“No...no...no…” Head still between his hands, his voice changed as though he were speaking to someone else. “This all started with you...you and your help….your suppers and breakfasts….your money...your jobs…..your curtains...those goddamn curtains you keep opening…”


He looked up at her, face shadowed but eyes glittering with hatred.


“What do you mean?” asked Betsy. “It’s a new start. Did you plan on hiding in the dark forever?”


His voice turned low and hard.


“New start….second chances. What the hell? What in the goddamn hell, lady? That don’t exist, not for me. I never had none of these nightmares, none of this in my head ‘til you started on with all your talk about that shit.”


His face was just inches from hers, but she stood her ground.


“For heaven‘s sake, Mr. Beck. If you want to leave, then leave.”


A noise somewhere between a roar and a wail erupted from him and he grabbed her, squeezing both hands around her throat. She struggled to pull away but he was no match.


“Why’d you have to leave that window, unlocked, huh? Why’d you have to give me a job and food? Why didn’t you just leave me alone? Goddamn it lady. GODDAMN IT!”


She gurgled and tried to push him, but already the life was draining from her. 


In the next instant, Frannie ran into the living room growling and barking with shrill yips.  


Luther pushed Betsy away and onto the couch, panting. He stared at her a moment, choking on a strangled cry.


“No….oh...no….no...no….”


He tore out of the room and slammed through the screen door. Betsy could hear his footsteps racing across the porch.


Summoning the last of her strength, she crawled to the stairs and stumbled up to the Butternut Room. She pushed the door open into the dark and made her way to the window. Peering through the curtain, she had a clear view of the mountainside and spotted a dark speck along the treeline. She followed him until he disappeared in the shadows. He would not return. Of that, she was certain. Still, she reached up and locked the window. Then she drew back the curtains completely. Light flooded the room.


May 07, 2021 20:19

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73 comments

Kristin Neubauer
20:25 May 07, 2021

Author's Note: This story explored a few things that have been on my mind lately. One is the paradoxes that are part of so many of us. The duality of conflicting feelings that exist within our minds. The other issue that interests me is complex trauma and the the idea of the defenses that people have as a way to protect themselves. Here, we see Betsy's kindness lowering Luther's defenses and exposing his vulnerability....which allows the trauma of the murders to rise to his consciousness. The whole process is fascinating to me. Oh, and th...

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Daniel R. Hayes
05:15 May 08, 2021

Wow Kristin! This was brilliant. This had me hooked from the very first powerful sentence. So many things to talk about in this story. With Luke, I felt bad for him in a way. He was a murderer and was suffering from PTSD, but I think he got used to being isolated and comfortable with the darkness in his mind. That darkness was his safety net in a way. It's strange to think what people can get used to in life. When Betsy gave him a second chance, it was too much for him, and although he tried, the darkness was to strong to let go of. I c...

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Kristin Neubauer
14:19 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Daniel - that means a lot coming from you - knowing that you read all my stories (I still can't believe you managed that!) You really picked up on so many of the themes I was getting at in this story. The complexity of people is something that has me so fascinated these days and I'm bound to keep exploring. I appreciate your reading - your words have made my day!

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Daniel R. Hayes
16:13 May 08, 2021

The complexity of people, and how and why people do things is a very interesting thing to explore. I think this topic will help you create more wonderful stories and characters. I can't wait to see what you write next!!! :)

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Arwen Dove
21:33 May 07, 2021

Absolutely brilliant story! I enjoyed reading!

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Kristin Neubauer
13:43 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much for making it through - and the kind words!

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Nainika Gupta
15:20 May 09, 2021

Hi Kristin! Oh wow, I loved this story :) It was really brilliant and I loved how the title tied into the story - you honestly have the best titles I think. There were a lot of deep topics that you covered in this story, and I think you perfected them. I have a lot of respect for you! I did catch a couple of grammar mistakes - take 'em with a grain of salt and all I want to do is help generate ideas :) 1) "The old grandfather clock, invisible in the darkened dining room, whirred and clunked through it’s gears just before chiming eleven ...

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Kristin Neubauer
20:22 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much, Nainika! I really appreciate the compliments and catching all those mistakes! I don’t know how many times I read it and still didn’t see them. I have time to fix, so I am going to tackle them now. I really appreciate you taking the time to help me in such detail!

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Nainika Gupta
21:04 May 09, 2021

My pleasure! Ha, no worries, I hope you didn't mind :)

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Kristin Neubauer
14:44 May 10, 2021

Mind???? Are you kidding? I so appreciate your help! First of all, I clearly admire what a great writer you are and love any advice I can get from you. Second, it takes a lot of time and effort to go through a story (especially a long one) in such detail as you did and to write out the comment. You have done me a great favor - and I am so grateful for it! Thank youuuu!

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Nainika Gupta
20:05 May 10, 2021

Aw, my pleasure :)

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A.Dot Ram
04:41 May 08, 2021

There's something old timey about this one. Maybe it's the way Betsy talks. It's a very distinctive voice. Also the furnishings, but i love all of the specific references to pieces. It builds the world inside the b&b. It also had a timeless quality. Could have been today or 50 years ago. Your areas of fascination are really interesting and well explored. I definitely got it that Betsy's kindness opened up a wound. Yes, that's probably how it would go. I like how you tied it to light and shadow for both characters. They both had good arcs i...

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Kristin Neubauer
14:00 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much! It's funny that you picked up on the old timey feel of that. I hadn't been consciously thinking that, but I had in my head many of these short stories from the early 20th century. I'm also so glad you saw the kindness opening the wound....I talked this out with a psychologist friend ahead of time and hoped I managed to make it clear. There were two other things I wanted to accomplish in this story. One, was that I wanted it to be atmospheric. I wanted the reader to really feel this dark country house with its history...

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A.Dot Ram
15:23 May 08, 2021

I got very curious and read through quickly.

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Shirley Medhurst
17:10 Jun 20, 2021

WOW, Kristin, you fit so much into this very short story. I was hooked from the start. 1st of all, I loved the 'tongue in cheek' humour of the man thinking he was 'dying' from a bleeding thumb; then I thought it was going to be a lovely yet simple inspirational tale; then came the gruesome twist of the man's psychological trauma; & finally, he just 'upped & ran away' - talk about the unexpected... I loved it - Bravo!

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Kristin Neubauer
11:13 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you so much, Shirley! I can’t say that I’m always happy with how my stories turn out, but this one felt satisfying. I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do. I’m glad you liked it too and appreciate the comment!

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Shirley Medhurst
19:56 Jun 21, 2021

👍 😉

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Shirley Medhurst
19:56 Jun 21, 2021

👍 😉

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Shirley Medhurst
19:56 Jun 21, 2021

👍 😉

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Rohit Mukundan
06:30 Jun 11, 2021

That was such an interesting interplay of characters and setting. I was half expecting one of those old school short story twists like when we finally see through the window the grocery store will be there in the distance and she'd just forgotten the view. But I like this idea of how kindness can be cruel it it forces you to confront your demons when you're not prepared to deal with it and come out the other side.

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Kristin Neubauer
18:44 Jun 18, 2021

Thank you so much! I so apologize for the late reply. I've been buried under schoolwork and regular work lately and unable to read anything or catch up. I really liked writing this one and turning the idea of kindness on its head. I appreciate you reading!

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Kanika G
06:50 Jun 06, 2021

Hey Kristin, hope you're well. I came to your profile looking for a new story. I would love your feedback on my latest two stories, one of which (the latest) is historical fiction. Thanks! Look forward to your new story.

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Rayhan Hidayat
22:42 May 22, 2021

Kristin I hope you’re doing well! This is not only a clever take on the prompt but a harrowing exploration of the criminal psyche. Just because you’re a bad guy, it doesn’t mean you’re a “bad” guy. Good stuff!

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Kristin Neubauer
14:38 May 30, 2021

Thank you so much! I am sorry for my late late reply but I really appreciate the kind words - especially coming from a writer who has such high standards for yourself. The idea of opposite concepts existing in the same person/situation at the same time is really fascinating to me. If I manage the write anything other than an academic paper or a news story, I’ll probably keep exploring that theme for awhile.

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Rayhan Hidayat
20:37 May 30, 2021

That would be awesome to see, but obviously dont let Reedsy get in the way of work/school! I forgot who said it, but there's a quote that kinda goes, "The human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about." I'm down to see you put that on paper!

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Kristin Neubauer
00:13 May 31, 2021

What a great quote - it encapsulates what I’ve been toying with for this week. I really want to write it - I hope I can manage to do it. Thanks! I love quotes 😊

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Rayhan Hidayat
22:07 May 31, 2021

No worries, and it seems to be Reedsy custom to put a quote in your bio anyway haha

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Frances Reine
13:48 May 15, 2021

Sorry I'm extremely late! But I enjoyed your characters extremely. They couldn't be more colourful and complex. And what a marvellous use of the prompt. I enjoyed this even more after reading your note. Got to interpret it wholly and it gets even better. I'll definitely give this one a second read just for the sake of joy. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
18:02 May 15, 2021

Thank you so much, Frances! I've been late on so many stories that week .... some weeks are just like that. I wish we could spend all of our time writing, reading and critiquing, but there's always work and school! I really appreciate you taking the time to read it and offer such a lovely comment. I've been working on another story (not for Reedsy, but for a little local neighborhood blog that a friend runs) and I am realizing that between "Tyranny" and this new one, that I am really interested in exploring these themes of complexity and...

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Kanika G
11:16 May 11, 2021

Hey Kristin, this was a great story! I loved how the first 2-3 paragraphs set the mood for the entire story even before Betsy was introduced. It was very intriguing and I couldn't wait to read on what happens next. The writing is superb and the descriptions are very evocative. The characters are believable and realistic. As the other comments point out, I like how you've used the prompt in a very unique way to create a deep and meaningful story. I loved it! Well done!!

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Kristin Neubauer
13:53 May 11, 2021

Thank you so much, Kanika! I really appreciate you comments - especially about setting the mood. Creating sort of an intangible, atmospheric sense was important for me with this story, so I'm glad it came across. I see you have two new stories out! I am about to go cover a Senate hearing right now, but I will certainly read and comment on both your stories between today and tomorrow. I am looking forward to it!

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Kanika G
15:13 May 11, 2021

Thanks Kristin! 😊 You're a very talented writer and I enjoy reading your stories very much. Have a great day ahead!

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Kanika G
16:20 May 11, 2021

I think it's a great technique that you base some of your main characters on people you know. I suppose it simplifies the character-building process and makes your characters believable. I'm going to try this with one of my stories soon!

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Jade Young
10:50 May 11, 2021

Hey Kristin This story is so hauntingly beautiful. As someone who suffers from PTSD, i could really empathise with Luther and how he felt both comfortable with and horrified by the "darkness". I loved how you used the light and dark as symbolic aspects of his life. Reading the dynamic between Luther and Betsy was so striking and hauntingly complex. It added the perspective of someone who cares about people with PTSD--with people trapped in the "dark"--which I felt you captured really really well. It makes Luther's "darkness" seem all the mo...

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Kristin Neubauer
13:49 May 11, 2021

Thank you so much, Jade.... I really appreciate your valuable insights, especially knowing that you are struggling with PTSD yourself. Trauma and the response is so complex and can affect every aspect of life. In my journalism job, I see many of my colleagues who have suffered serious trauma. I hope you are getting the right support for you. I consulted with a psychologist friend on this story to make sure I was approaching this in the right way. Though I am studying mental health now, I am still only a student and there are many ways I...

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K. Antonio
15:58 May 09, 2021

I loved your main characters voice, she talked in such a way that reminded me of how old fairy tales give voice to older characters. The descriptions in the beginning were really nice, the first line drew me in very quickly. If I hadn't read the story's tags I would have assumed this piece was going to involve a murderer (funny thing though, it did xD. Just no one in the present time ended up dying). I really enjoyed the prose!

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Kristin Neubauer
20:46 May 09, 2021

Thanks so much! My elderly friend Sandra was the model for Betsy. She has such an interesting way of communicating .... seemingly detached, very matter-of-fact, unflappable.... also very kind caring but never sentimental. She also was raised in an aristocratic family and always maintains such genteel manners. An interesting person!

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J Sagar
12:58 May 09, 2021

The description was so powerful, I honestly thought this was longer than 3000 words. The setting reminded me of Supernatural, the TV series. Another great story! (I'm inspired by this to write a crime story now.) A few typos I noticed (in case your story hasn't been approved yet): -Two ands in "..webs of wrinkles and and bushy brows..." -"Betsy tried to see this self-confessed 'murder' moving..." -"He didn’t speak, but he a stiffening of his shoulders told her she was right" Thanks for writing!

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Kristin Neubauer
20:13 May 09, 2021

Thank you so much for pointing out those typos! I don’t know how many times I’ve read this, caught other typos .... yet still didn’t see the ones you pointed out. I fixed them - I appreciate it! Also, thank you for your very kind feedback. I thought it was over 3,000 words too - it felt so long. But it was 2,600+ .... it felt longer than that!

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H L Mc Quaid
13:45 May 08, 2021

Nice, very engrossing storytelling, and well-written. I liked the play of dark and light, the description here was wonderful: She knew those noises as intimately as she knew the pops and clicks of her own bones. One small thing. This phrase seemed oddly specific, "..this was the squeak of one century-old floorboard..." And then later you refer to "two hundred-year-old steps". So maybe just say "..the squeak of a centuries-old floorboard.." And of course, I appreciated the exploration of the human psyche, delving into 'identity' and how pe...

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Kristin Neubauer
14:45 May 08, 2021

Thanks so much! And thank you for noting the floorboard issue - yes, that does sound weird. I'm glad you picked up on it and I'll fix it. I spent far too long on that one sentence, which - of course - means that something will go wrong! I appreciate you making it all the way through (it was so much longer than I usually go)....and taking the time to comment!

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H L Mc Quaid
16:52 May 08, 2021

I didn't notice the length--i was pulled along through the story. :)

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Thom Brodkin
11:26 May 08, 2021

This was such a good read. It reminds me Of some of the stories I read as a youth. There is heart and feeling in it and more layers than I can count. It’s a study on forgiveness as consequence at the same time. It’s a masterful story written masterfully. Fantastic read. I loved it.

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Kristin Neubauer
13:01 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much! Anne also mentioned that it had an old-timey feel to it. I think some of those short stories from the early 20th century were in my head as I wrote this, even though I wasn't consciously gearing it that way. Mainly, because it was so long, I wanted to keep some element of suspense running through. I wanted to give the reader a reason to stick with it. I hope I managed that. I appreciate you taking the time to go through it!

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Thom Brodkin
13:35 May 08, 2021

It didn’t feel long. In fact it flowed so well it was over before I knew it. You set the right tone, built believable characters, and set it in the right place and time.

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Yolanda Wu
09:05 May 08, 2021

Oooh, I really enjoyed this story! So exciting that you posted another one so soon. I loved the beginning with the description of the bed and breakfast, how you emphasised that everything was old, including the main character. I loved Betsy, and how straightforward she is, especially the part where she was dealing with Luke and his bleeding thumb. I thought the exploration of conflicting feelings and complex trauma to be really fascinating in this story. The way in which the giving of a second chance to Luke only sank him deeper into his tra...

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Kristin Neubauer
14:25 May 08, 2021

Thank you so much, Yolanda! This was a really interesting story for me. I wasn't sure I'd finish, but I really wanted to, so I pushed myself. I'm glad you picked up on Betsy's straightforward character. She is exactly like my friend Sandra, the elderly innkeeper who ran the Conyers House. Funny story: Sandra always used to leave her door unlocked, day or night. I never understood that. Finally, I asked her "Why do you do that?" "Well, what if someone needed to get inside?" she said, as if I were crazy. I was like, "Ok, but what if s...

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Yolanda Wu
00:24 May 09, 2021

Sandra sounds like such a great person! I think you captured her really well in the character of Betsy. Sometimes we've just got to push ourselves to finish a story even when we don't want to.

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Thom Brodkin
13:18 May 15, 2021

Hey it's me again, begging for a read. :-) I just posted one called "Thirteen Roses." It's actually a story I wrote for a prompt a few weeks ago but was too late to post. I think it fits the prompt this week and I'd love to know what you think.

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