The Visitor

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An excerpt from my psychological thriller mystery called The Visitor.  This is a short story I wrote over the summer. :)

Let me know what you think!

-Ciera



Dr. Gerald Tate reclined deeper in his chair by the flickering fire.  His only company were the words that leapt off the daily journal in his hands.  The ink smeared and the letters jumbled as he tried to hide from his thoughts and concentrate on the local news.
“It’s foul weather outside, sir,” said Mrs. Perkins, the housekeeper as she drew back the curtains.  “I daresay your niece and nephew may be caught in a terrible storm.  I’m sure they’re at least five miles out.”
Dr. Tate nodded, though he almost willed what she said to be true.
“Shall I save your supper until they arrive?” she asked with her hands on her hips. 
“I’m not hungry,” he mumbled.
There was no arguing with him.  With a sigh, Mrs. Perkins quit the room and closed the door slowly behind her.
It was true that the weather was foul but it was its inclemency that offered a small ray of comfort.  His brother Henry was dead.  It had been nearly a week now and the vexation and confusion had not left him.   The announcement, delivered by the local parson, was still hanging ominously in the air.
Murder.
That word seemed beautiful in its oddly exotic, wonderfully novel way.  Henry was more than just dead—he had been killed.  The thought made Tate smile.  And yet, at the same time, he was disgusted by the fact.  Nay, it was not out of compassion, for even he himself believed the principle to have dissolved away from his very being.  No, it was nothing that even resembled empathy.  It was an unknown foreigner, an alien entity that now controlled him.  Was it jealousy?  Perhaps.  Was it resentment?  Probably.  But the only word that the doctor could think to call it was fury.
Someone had beaten him.  Someone else had done the deed first and it was this realization that had startled him the most.  He would never feel the last breath of air forced from his brother’s lungs.  No.  Someone else, some other thing had taken away his moment of revenge, his day of long awaited glory.  For it was not the tragedy that was tragic.  No, it was the realization that he did not have the honor of the task.
Throwing his papers to the floor, he rose from the chair and spat out every vile word he could conjure.  Tonight was to be the first time in ten years that he would see his niece and nephew, the children of that accursed brother.  He had hated Henry with every drop of his being.  He had cursed the day of his birth.  Even now that he was dead the hatred had not abated.  This undefined spur of emotion was now directed to the next two people in line.
And they were coming there to the manor.  He knew not why.  Surely, he had never shown any sign of paternal affection nor had he sought to instigate some unknown compulsory coercion for them to visit.  The thought tore at him, made him hate Henry all the more.
Fury.  Wrath.  Confusion.  Regret.  
But most all, he remembered.  He was filled with images, sounds, emotions he had once felt, once cherished.  It felt foreign but familiar.  He wallowed in it and for a moment felt contented by it.
“What’s done is done,” he said to himself.  Kicking the papers under his chair, he stumbled to the window and drew back the curtain.  
The world outside his parlor was black, though it could hardly be past five o’clock.  The storm was powerful and it seemed to promise a hope of retribution.  
Vengeance would have been his.  Had someone not beaten him.  He would have been able to carry out his own vile plan but now all those years had been wasted.  
He could still hear the voice of Mr. Bungard, the local head of security, when he stopped by the manor.
“We’re very sorry for your loss, Dr. Tate, sir,” came the man’s rough, uneven voice.  “But, considering the circumstances, we’re asking for your assistance in seeking justice.  The criminal is still on the loose, sir.  Will you help us?”
What choice did he have?
To deny the offer would raise suspicion.  But to assist would be ghastly and would be detrimental to his pride.  Still, seeing as he had a reputation to uphold, Dr. Tate obliged the request.
And now the children of his brother, were coming here.  And he would be expected to help solve the crime, help seek justice.  And isn’t that exactly what he wanted?  Justice?  Tate grimaced, wondering what it would be like when he beheld the murderer.  Would he be jealous?  Would he be grateful that the deed had been accomplished?
Turning away from the window, Tate stumbled over to the mantle and stared up at the painting over the fireplace.  It was this painted image that had cursed his sleepless nights, that had scarred his empty heart.
“Oh, Lucy,” he murmured, running his fingers through his thinning gray hair.  “What would you have me do?”
Just then, he heard the rattle of a distant carriage that whistled through the rain and sleet.  He watched as two figures dismounted from its interior and hurried up the front steps.
Presently, he heard voices in the hall and Mrs. Perkins returned with a smile on her old, wan face.
“They’re here, sir,” she announced.  “And, my, how they’ve grown into such beautiful young people.  Shall I show them in, sir?”
Dr. Tate turned away from the window and murmured sullenly that he wished not to see them.  
“But sir!” cried Mrs. Perkins.  “I don’t understand.  ‘Tis only fitting, seeing as they’re guests and all.”
“I know,” he said.  His voice rose an infinitesimal amount but it was enough to convey warning.  With a sigh, Mrs. Perkins turned and closed the door sharply behind her.
Dr. Tate heard a girl’s laughter and the resonating voice of a man still in his youth.
“Clint and Lillian,” he murmured to himself.  
How strange it was to hear laughter.  It sounded like small tinkling silver bells at Christmastime.  Oh, how he used to give anything to hear that sound.  It had once meant mirth and joy and a future of promise.  
Once, not so very long ago, he had known such happiness. 
In one bound, he was by the door.  He could just hear the soft whisper of the girl’s voice.  It was fluid and gentle with the seemingly effortless grace of a debutante. 
Dr. Tate had bound himself to his core, become intertwined around his sole purpose for so long that he had nearly forgotten the beauty of such a sound.  Suddenly he was a man again.  All the pain he had refused to release suddenly became of little importance.  He was not consumed by it. This new phenomenon seared through his skin, captured him body and soul.  He seemed to realize that his wretched indulgence had been merely in vain.
He strained to make sense of her words. 
She remarked on the style of the decor.  She mentioned how they had a safe journey. Then there was an interjection from her brother.  She laughed again.
What was it about her that made him feel young and alive?
Dr. Tate was no longer himself.  Heat shot through his veins.  He staggered away from the door.  That voice—that voice would not leave him.  It was that voice that had taken him captive so many years before.  It was that voice that had haunted him, refusing to give him peace.  And now here it was, manifested before him and only a few inches of wood separated them.
He suddenly felt the urge to see her and yet couldn’t bring himself to open the door.  With  a newfound rejuvenation, he stayed by the wall for several minutes, just waiting and listening.  At present, the party was dispersed and he assumed that the visitors were being shown to their chambers.
When the house was silent once more, Dr. Tate slowly stepped into the grand hall.  He was alone.  The servants had retreated into their quarters and the place seemed empty except for a soft illumination from the second floor.  Clint and Lillian had been taken to their rooms and Mrs. Perkins was bringing a dinner tray up to them. The doctor, usually inclined towards a cold extremity, longed to be in their presence.  It was curiosity, mostly.  Regardless of what it was, he felt compelled.  With his uneven step, he climbed the stairs and slid himself into his personal chamber.  There was a key hidden somewhere, locked behind memories he had forgotten to forget.  This key had been buried along with the past but now as he fumbled around in search of it, everything that was became what is.  The worlds diverged and meshed into one trancelike state in the present tense.
His fingers found the key in its old familiar place.  The brass was cold in his hands.  Slowly, he slid her into a small crevice in the wall, the door to a secret room known only to himself.  With a sighing groan, the portal opened and gave way to an enclosed closet of sorts, where he could hear and see all.  Unnoticed, he stood there, peering through the grate at an unfolding scene, for he became an unknown entity and the beholder of a greater power than he dared acknowledge.
And there she was, a woman and not a girl as she had always been to him.  There was a maturity that was undeniably intermingled with pure innocence.  Dr. Tate stood staring through the holes in the wall that had so many years ago exposed secrets.  She was smiling.  And it was such a lovely smile, too.  It displayed an ease, a joviality.
Lillian was perfectly unaware of this invasion.  Even when Mrs. Perkins had left her, she was calm and collected, for in her mind she surely had no need to fear.  Off came the traveling coat, revealing a slender frame in a cool, simple gown the color of butterscotch.  With a gentle touch, she began to unpack her few belongings onto the vanity.  At last, she seated herself in front of the antique mirror that adorned her table and the locks of her ebony curls that had been pinned on top of her head were let down to flow in long ringlets.
She was an angel.  She was the epitome of perfection, a goddess who captured the essence of femininity.  It had been many years since he had seen such a woman.
Presently, her brother came to her and wished her a fair night.
“I hope I may see my uncle tomorrow morning,” she said softly.  “I hope he fares well despite the terrible reason for our arrival.”
“He’s a strong man, Lilly.”
“Yes, but when he hears of everything, he will surely feel as you do, Clint.  He will seek vengeance.  You know as well as I that Father would never have wanted that.”
Clinton sighed and kissed his sister’s cheek.
“Everything will be alright, Lilly.    I’ll find the murderer both to seek retribution and to protect you.  I can’t rest knowing that there is a wild man on the loose and that we may be in danger.”
“Is that why you brought me with you?” Lillian inquired.  “To protect me?”
Clinton smiled meekly.  “Yes.  You’ll be safe here.  Nothing can harm you.  Besides, I figured that a change in scenery was only fitting.”
Lillian turned away from her brother and brushed her fingers across the soft wood of the table.
“This place seems so strange to me,” she said softly.  “Knowing Father grew up in this house and yet we’ve never been here before.  I find it odd that the two lived so close together all this time and yet never saw one another.”
“Past words can haunt people’s lives, Lilly,” said Clinton.  He leaned against the wall for a moment.  “But past actions can do even worse.”
“We’ll reconcile our two families, won’t we?” Lillian said softly.  She turned back and took a deep breath.  “Let us please make this visit here one of love and not one of hatred.”
“That is my intention.  We’ll do the best we can.  Father and Mother would be proud knowing that we’ve come here.”
“I wish they could be with us,” Lillian sighed, turning back to the mirror.  “I wish I remembered her...even a little.”
“Me, too,” Clinton said.  “But Father always used to say how you were just like her.”
Lillian smiled and the two bid each other a good night.  
With those words, the intruder left them in peace.  Dr. Tate had entered this unknown sanctum and yet it was another who left it.



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