~ PART THIRTEEN ~
Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Have you read Part Twelve? You can catch up *here*.
A young man with good looks that ventured on the pretty, olive-skinned and black hair flopping in one eye, stood before us. He wore lightly soiled farmer’s clothes – loose trousers and tunic and earthy scuffed shoes. He seemed to have just stepped out of the field, from the middle of his labour. With the back of a hand, he wiped away a trickle of sweat from his brow.
He was the first to speak. “Mary says you’re looking for me. Why, might that be?”
He spoke with the broad Norfolk accent – one of the dialects that told he had spent the entirety of his quarter-of-a-century life in the immediate area of Ternton, presumably working the land for the majority of it.
So, how had he died so young? Or, did some ghosts emerge as their former vital young selves?
“You are William? Elizabeth’s former love?” I asked him.
To my surprise, he didn’t seem the cocky young man who went around breaking girls’ hearts as I had at first assumed. His composure was solemn, and his eyes seemed sad.
I went on: “She said to tell you that she waited for you at the window. She always looked for you, every night. But you never came. She said she waited until death took her.”
“Her father never approved of us. He said I was beneath her.” William said, meeting my eye.
“Is that how you died? Did Elizabeth’s father kill you?”
“No, no. It wasn’t like that. He didn’t care for me, but even he wouldn’t have resorted to murder.”
“Then, how come you’re dead, looking like that then?” Fred interjected.
George tapped Fred’s elbow. “I think it’s better if one person talks to the ghost – we don’t want to scare it off!” He whispered to him.
“Me? Scare off a ghost!” Fred muttered under his breath.
William took a step back. “Who are you people?” The anxiety showed in his eyes; I was worried he would bolt like a horse and we’d return to Elizabeth none the wiser. Then we could forget about locating the missing body of Sedgewick.
“Please stay…for Elizabeth’s sake.” I said gently, pleading with my eyes. “We are guests here, but we won’t be staying longer than is necessary.”
He sighed. “There used to be a man who cared for the grounds of the house,” William inclined his head slightly, to indicate the hotel. “it was he who killed me. He lured me here, into the Rose Garden. I was expecting Elizabeth not an axe to my head.”
I felt sorry for William and the separated lovers – although, I was selfishly relieved I didn’t have to see a gory rendition of William’s ghost.
“Why? Why would he want you out of the way?”
“I know he wanted me out of the way…to harm Elizabeth.”
“William, I don’t understand…”
“Don’t you see?” William said, his voice now raised, ignited by the old anger. “He wanted her for himself, but she didn’t live long enough for that to happen. Her father didn’t realise what an evil man he was.”
“Not only did he kill me, and in turn cause Elizabeth’s death, but he kept her spirit confined to her bedroom, and me outside the house. We cannot even be together in death!”
I dare a quizzical glance at George who, as equally as puzzled, slowly shook his head.
“She did not need to send you here with that message of hers: I already know she loved me and goes on loving me – as I do her. I also know that her father locked her inside her room because the groundskeeper warned it would keep her safe from me. But the reality is, the threat was always closer. It was him her father should have been cautious of, not me.”
“Who was this, William?” I could barely whisper the words. I feared I already knew the answer.
“Robert Wexford. But we never called him that, Elizabeth and I. We named him The Tall Man.”
Just before he left, William handed me something to give to Elizabeth.
I had so much wanted to ask him about the Black Shuck stories, what he knew or thought, as I had the indelible impression of him being a forthright and honest soul.
Somehow, amidst the conversation, Mary had disappeared. Undetected, like a ghost.
The box hedge characters, of fairy tales and animals, were very safely dormant. The enormous leafy rabbit, again, perched high, overlooking the sundial, from behind the dense border of roses. The sweet and delicate fragrance of the yellow and white roses carrying on the quiet breeze as if it were any normal day.
The three of us walked back in mostly stunned silence. Each of us, certainly questioning within our own minds how The Tall Man could still be very much present today.
George, walking a little ahead, paused at the closed front door of the hotel Unicus. His hand hovered above the handle. “Are they all ghosts?” He said in hushed tones.
It was too late to see if Elizabeth’s ghost was about in her secreted bedroom. Mary – feeling very solid of flesh and blood – took me by the arm, and ushered us into the dining room for the dinner that had already been brought through.
~ To be continued! ~
Photographs and digital manipulation by me, 3rd May 2016, Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
My day out at the Great Yarmouth Row Houses.
Writing prompt: Our experience at the hotel wasn’t what we’d imagined it to be.
Writing inspiration: A strange dream. And a little Hotel California.
What’s a Short Story Series?: A short story written over several parts, around 1,000 words for each part.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide right