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Silverwood – Part 9

‘Come now, Erika, you must have been devastated when, once again no man showed up at your door!’ chuckled Robert as he passed the pepper sauce to his wife.

‘I wished for a real man. I doubt there are any of them left…although…’ she threw Mr. Porter a glance.

‘I can’t believe father is working again on Christmas!’ said Victor to his mother.

‘Well, you know how your father is. He finds these kind of festivities futile,’ responded Francis.

‘But it’s Christmas supper! Can’t he just for once…’ spat Victor then sighed. Uncle Hendrik rarely left his office. No one knew what he was doing up there but no one dared disturb him. As for Francis, I doubt she missed his company.

The Christmas supper was a special time for the Silverwoods. All children were sent to sleep and supper was a time for the adults only. It was Mr. Silverwood’s favorite moment of the holiday. He sat at the head of the table self-satisfied and proud as a king on his throne.

The room sparkled with candle lights, decorations and all the warmth and beauty to create a white and gold fairytale Christmas ambiance. The snow outside delighted everyone mischievously glittering as it covered the tracks of what had happened four days ago.

Mrs. Darts and her girls stood aside, tall and obedient, waiting for any new orders while everyone else drank and ate as though this was a normal family.

‘At last,’ sighed Lidia sitting next to Mr. Porter who I must admit, looked dashing tonight. He wore a sky blue shirt and a grey vest bringing out the beauty of his features, his hair combed on the back and his eyes glistened in the candle lights. ‘All I wanted for Christmas was…’ continued Lidia. Mr. Porter jumped and I could only assume Lidia had done something to him under the table. Her husband, Oliver, who sat next to her, suspected nothing of course.

I sat quietly in my chair listening to their chatter.

‘Since her son ran off, she’s been staying in her room barely eating or drinking, the poor creature,’ I heard Cora whisper from across the table to Victor’s wife.

‘Imagine discovering your child is a murderer!’ added Charlotte.

‘I heard Tom hired a few men to find him,’ Francis said to Arthur.

‘And he’s been living with us under the same roof, imagine that!’ added Fred.

‘Once I saw him snap a rabbit’s neck and then throwing it away in the grass. Just throwing it away!’

So many whispers, so many discussions. It’s easy to blame the obvious yet I doubted the obvious. If Benjamin was the killer, had he killed his own father and my mother then? No one mentioned their deaths, as though those were purely accidents. Wouldn’t it be easier to blame Benjamin for killing his father as well? But then, of course, they would have had to admit to another murder.

Mr. Silverwood stood up. The room went silent.

‘Fire,’ he said holding a candle in his hand. ‘When a candle is at its last flame, you can take it and pass on the flame to a new candle, a new life, a new time. And so the same fire that burnt on that dying candle has been passed on, burning brighter and stronger,’ he blew the candle out. ‘A single flame is so precious and fragile. And yet, if you borrow some flame from another candle,’ he relit the wick with a new candle on the table. ‘It is restored. One candle may fade yet the fire remains, for fire is everywhere. A fire’s strength lies not in its singularity but in its existence as a whole.’ He watched the fire in the hearth, his eyes glittering. ‘No matter how much rain, snow or wind may come, fire will always burn. Fire…is indestructible.’ He rose his glass and we all followed. ‘Happy Yule!’

‘Happy Yule,’ we all shouted, some more enthusiastic than others.

Supper was followed by a party. Music, dancing, drinking, smoking and more chit chat of course. Aunt Helena who had been quiet at the supper table was now waltzing with her husband, Tom. Both of them shining in their carefully chosen clothes and perfect apparel. Lidia stood close to Mr. Porter, close enough for him to have a full view of her chest. Not only was her dress daringly low cut, but the back of the dress rested just above her bottom showing off more skin than all of us put together. She was whispering in his ear while he drank champagne, his face unmoved. Because of the music, I couldn’t hear the whispers, which was for the best of course. His eyes faced me and I smiled apologetically.

‘Will we be the only ones dancing, tonight?’ shouted aunt Helena with her arms wrapped around Tom.

‘I dare you, auntie!’ jested Victor looking like a movie star in his sparkling navy blue suit. He was smoking a cigar chatting with Fred with no intention of dancing.

Robert and Cora joined aunt Helena followed by Arthur and his wife. Eric had brought a date, a beautiful blond girl in a stylish grey dress with a perfect red lip smile. Mr. Silverwood had allowed visitors of course, for these special days but the rules always applied. He watched amused as she asked Eric to dance. Eric’s dates always amused Mr. Silverwood especially because they were without fail so temporary.

Lizzie hadn’t been allowed to stay at the party though she had been present at the supper. It must have been because of last year’s little incident when she drank too much and attacked one of the servers with the fire poker.

Oliver asked Lidia to dance but she refused. In that exact moment, Erika seized her opportunity and invited Mr. Porter to dance. Which made Lidia pour her fury on poor Oliver who had apparently ruined the moment.

‘Would you like another glass of champagne, Miss Victoria?’ asked Christopher, the new…butler. He was Richard’s son and the grief was there in his eyes, no matter how much he smiled.

‘Thank you, Christopher,’ I said. Benjamin, Christopher and I have all lost a parent and yet we stood here pretending to be jolly and happy as though it was obligatory on Christmas day. Perhaps the others were acting for Mr. Silverwood’s sake but I knew that deep down in their hearts, they simply did not care.

‘Will you be so kind to save me, even if it’s just for one dance, Miss Cane?’ Mr. Porter was standing before me, offering me his hand.

‘I’ll do my best, Mr. Morgan though I’m afraid you can’t escape the inevitable.’ Lidia was staring at us while Oliver was still apologizing to her for something that was entirely not his fault.

‘My week is passing quickly,’ he whispered while we danced. ‘And there is much to unveil.’ His hand was warm and comforting as he held mine.

‘I demanded one week in order to convince you.’

‘I was convinced since the first night, Miss Cane,’ he said. ‘Though not your family nor the murder of the butler convinced me.’

I stared in his eyes confused.

‘It was detective Stall. I disliked him the moment I laid my eyes on him. His gaze and smile untrustworthy.’

‘He convinced you because of his gaze and smile?’ I asked confused.

‘No. I remembered him. He visited my father a few days before he died. Miss Cane, I believe this man has something to do with my father’s death!’ he said.

Mr. Porter. Please, don’t take that path! You will not be ready. You will not like what you discover!

‘Miss Cane,’ he continued as I watched him anxiously. ‘I believe my father was murdered and I’ve believed it for quite some time. My father hadn’t just asked me to help you. He wanted me to find his murderer as well!’

To be continued….

Silverwood – Part 8

My fear that Mr. Porter’s identity would be revealed with the arrival of the police, had quickly faded. In fact, detective Stall and sergeant Penny hadn’t thrown Mr. Porter a glance since their arrival.

Detective Stall was a scrawny tall man, pale face, white moustache and greyish eyes with no emotion or light. His long bony fingers probed the blooded note.

‘It’s clear who did it!’ stated Tom. ‘Benjamin said those exact same words this morning!’

‘Do we know Benjamin’s whereabouts?’ asked sergeant Penny. His voice resembled a hoarse rooster’s crowing, edgy and sharp. He was a stubby young man, red haired and freckled. His blue eyes turned to detective Stall who hadn’t said a word since he came in.

‘He must have fled! spat Francis. ‘Of course he has!’

‘How many have seen the note?’ detective Stall spoke for the first time with a grave and low voice.

‘Just us,’ responded aunt Helena. ‘Including Robert and Victor who were here a moment ago. Robert has sent everyone to their rooms and the guards are making sure no one’s roaming around. Also, they’re looking for Benjamin.’

Detective Stall put the note in a handkerchief and kept it in his jacket pocket. It was only now I noticed Mr. Porter staring intently at detective Stall. I had of course, told him before that detective Stall had investigated both my mother and my uncle’s deaths. Sergeant Penny had been present at my uncle’s case too but when my mom died detective Stall had come with his partner, detective Lone, who had promoted over the years to chief inspector.

‘Could we…cover that?’ asked Francis as she looked at the hand lying in a wooden box on the table, the lid at it’s side.

‘Yes, of course,’ replied sergeant Penny and put the lid on top. They had investigated the crime area, examined the body, had taken us to the living room, put the hand in a box and with that their job was almost complete…I remember how fast they had been before though this case took longer…There had been a hand removed from its body and a note shoved in the palm.

Detective Stall walked around the living room though not inspecting anything.

‘Victor is searching for Vera, Benjamin’s mother, detective Stall. Surely she will lead us to him,’ said aunt Helena.

Lizzie sat in a corner staring at the fire in the hearth. Tom and aunt Helena were sitting comfortably on the couch as the detective and I stood near the piano. Francis sat on a chair holding a glass of port.

‘How did Benjamin do it?’ asked Mr. Porter breaking the silence.

Detective Stall gazed at him. ‘Pardon?’

‘How did Benjamin kill the butler?’

‘Well, that’s why we’re searching for him, aren’t we, so he can explain it to us all, Mr….I haven’t quite caught your name.’

‘Morgan,’ said Mr. Porter with cold eyes.

‘Yes, and he is…’ asked detective Stall turning to Tom and aunt Helena.

‘He’s the new assistant,’ said aunt Helena fatigued.

‘Though that’s not much of a use now…’ added Tom.

‘How so?’ I asked.

‘Due to this…incident, we’ll probably suspend all classes. Mr. Morgan is no use now.’

‘That’s Mr. Silverwood’s decision,’ I snapped.

‘Yes, and I do wonder what Mr. Silverwood will decide knowing Mr. Morgan broke one of his essential rules.’

‘A murder had taken place!’ I barked.

‘Now, now, enough! We have visitors,’ interrupted aunt Helena as though the police had come for tea.

The door burst open and Robert came in, his face serious. Behind him, Vera and two guards. They escorted her in the living room and left.

Robert watched us triumphally ‘Tell them what you told me!’ He asked her. She’d been crying a lot, her face red and drained.

‘Benjamin left the estate,’ she said, her voice exhausted.

‘Aha! The murderer! Fled like a coward!’ spat Tom.

‘He left after having an argument with his grandfather!’ she protested, her voice shaking, ‘he left this afternoon before…’

‘Of course he made you believe that! He was covering his tracks for God’s sake!’ shouted Tom.

‘Wasn’t Victor supposed to fetch Vera?’ asked Francis confused.

‘Oh, what does that matter?’ jumped aunt Helena. ‘Robbie was faster!’ she said looking proudly at her son.

‘Good, you’re coming with us for some questioning,’ stated detective Stall.

Vera shook her head, her face completely white. ‘I’m not going with you,’ she responded, ‘I’m not!’

‘Afraid you don’t have much choice,’ added sergeant Penny.

‘No,’ she shook her head as she slowly retreated, her back hitting the door. Robert stood close by watching her with threatening eyes.

‘No!’ she shook her head hysterically and cried.

‘It’ll be all right, Vera. It’s not the end of the world. They’ll just ask you a few questions,’ said aunt Helena.

‘Why?’ Vera’s words drowned in tears, ‘Why didn’t anyone ask anything when Arthur died? Why?’

‘Let’s calm down, now!’ suggested Tom who rose up.

Vera’s knees were giving up. She was going to fall any moment now.

‘Take her, sergeant Penny!’ ordered detective Stall.

‘You’ll use force on her?’ interfered Mr. Porter. ‘She’s about to faint!’ he shouted and hurried to Vera. He caught her just in time before she collapsed to the floor. Then he helped her over to the couch across from Tom and aunt Helena, and sat down with her.

‘If you want, you can come along too, Mr. Morgan!’ hissed detective Stall.

‘Why not question her here, detective?’ I asked.

No one reacted.

Detective Stall measured me with his eyes. Did he even remember me? Did he? My hands formed fists as my face changed, this time intentionally.

‘Vicky,’ said Robert, ‘Vicky…don’t…’ He cleared his throat, the panic in his voice fading, ‘Don’t tell the detective how to do his job,’ he smiled uncomfortably.

‘Very well, then,’ responded detective Stall. ‘Very well. Tom, perhaps you can provide us with a warm room and some tea to make the madam comfortable?’ he gave Vera a weary look.

Vera unfortunately was whispering to Mr. Porter, the poor fool unaware we could hear it all. To me it was a fact what she had just said, but Tom, aunt Helena and Robert’s faces changed. Lizzie, who surely had heard it, paid no attention to it. Francis dropped her glass. Which, to me was a complete surprise. I didn’t know Francis could…hear…

My heart dropped when I saw detective Stall’s face. He…he had heard it too. Impossible, he…him? That meant that he was…

‘This place is cursed, Mr. Morgan,’ Vera had whispered, ‘It’s not the house, it’s the people…They aren’t people, Mr. Morgan. They only pretend to be.’

Silverwood – Part 7

  • Victor – Hendrik’s son / Hendrik – Edmund Silverwood’s son
  • Helena – Edmund Silverwood’s sister
  • Tom – Helena’s husband
  • Robert – Helena and Tom’s son
  • Francis – Hendrik’s wife
  • Edmund Silverwood – Mr. Silverwood, the owner of the estate
  • Lizzie – Helena and Tom’s daughter
  • Victoria – Catherine’s adoptive daughter / Catherine – Edmund Silverwood daughter
  • Nathan Porter – private detective, also undercover as Andrew Morgan

‘Good God, what is he doing?’ barked Victor watching the detective analyzing the body. Mr. Porter had grabbed one of the lanterns and was now shedding light over Richard’s neck.

I turned my attention to aunt Helena who had been scolding me for the last few minutes. Robert returned to the house, searching for something to cover the body, Tom was inspecting the area and Francis…smoked.

‘When Edmund gets word of this, he’ll…’ growled aunt Helena.

‘Richard was his favorite butler,’ I said.


‘Mr. Silverwood said that once. Richard was the first one to come to his aid when he fell of the horse, remember? He carried him into the house on his back and sat with him that entire night. I was fifteen and we were all…’

‘Victoria!’ she spat. ‘I’m talking about the boy! What do we do about the boy?’

‘Are you a detective, Morgan?’ chuckled Victor.

My heart dropped.

The detective was still examining the body. I should have intervened. He was risking exposing his cover yet, the reason why he came was to investigate, was it not?

‘This man’s throat has been…torn out!’ said the detective as he watched us suspiciously. ‘What dogs have managed that this time?’ he hissed, his eyes fixed on mine.

‘Perhaps wolves,’ said aunt Helena calmly. ‘We’ve got wolves roaming around, Mr. Morgan. I don’t see why this is any of your business. You should go home immediately. We’ll have someone…’

‘You’re right!’ said the detective. ‘This is not my business. This is police matter!’

Victor’s eyes widened, Francis lit another cigarette her hand trembling yet her eyes on the detective. I took a step towards the detective and stopped. What can I possibly do to prevent him from divulging his true identity?

‘Police?’ said aunt Helena her face unmoved.

‘With all due respect, madam. A dead man’s lying in your gazebo, his throat torn and his hand missing, somehow ripped off from the wrist…Shouldn’t someone call the police and the coroner?’

‘We handle things differently here at Silverwood, Mr. Morgan. You wouldn’t understand, being an outsider.’

‘No one will call the police then?’ insisted the detective. My heart was pounding. If he was going to reveal his identity the consequences…there was no telling what they would do to him.

‘Tom will take care of it, Mr. Morgan. This is none of your concern!’ said aunt Helena. She was extremely calm and calculated.

The detective threw me another glance. I shook my head. Whatever he wanted to say next, I begged him not to do it.

‘Nothing,’ puffed Tom as he returned. He was a solid man, tall and broad, clean shaven though he’d been wearing a beard most of his life; an appearance to which I had grown more accustomed to. His dark hair revealed that he was younger than aunt Helena yet you could barely see any difference.

‘Tom, do see to the police! Mr. Morgan here is growing impatiently,’ stated aunt Helena.

‘Ah, Mr. Morgan,’ said Tom as if he’d forgotten the detective’s presence. ‘I suggest you go home. This is a family matter now. We’ll have someo…’

‘I’d rather stay!’ responded the detective.

I felt the tension rising in the air yet they were all keeping it under control.

‘This is no time for…’ barked Tom but had no chance to finish.

‘If the police arrives they’ll want to interrogate everyone present. If I leave now I’ll be breaking the law by fleeing a crime scene.’

‘Crime scene?’ shouted aunt Helena.

‘Rather informed for an assistant, aren’t you?’ spat Tom.

‘All right, then! I’ve had quite enough of this!’ hissed aunt Helena. ‘It’s chilly and we wouldn’t want Mr. Morgan here to catch a cold! Let’s call for the police in Tom’s office without alarming the others.’ She turned around and walked away heading the house. Francis followed her just as Robert returned carrying a blanket.

Victor muttered something under his breath and hurried towards the house as well. ‘Come Vic!’ he called. But I noticed that the detective was not planning to retreat.

‘After you, Mr. Morgan!’ said Tom standing between the detective and the body.

Robert covered the body while the detective watched. They were tampering with the evidence, I bet he thought yet he said nothing. Perhaps he was cautious after all and was determined in keeping his identity hidden. Little did he know that, with this decision he was keeping his life safe as well.

‘The police should have been here by now!’ complained Francis.

Tom had called the police half an hour ago, his exact words being ‘There’s been a little accident with our butler.’

We all stood in Tom’s majestic office. We as in the detective and I, Victor, aunt Helena, Tom and Francis. Robert decided to stay with the rest in the dining room and keep an eye on anyone who wanted to go out. As far as we knew we were the only ones aware of the tragedy.

I was nervous about the police arrival. What if they’d recognize Mr. Porter? Or perhaps it would be for the best for he would be able to leave with the police and escape before the others become…hostile.

‘No need to be so alarmed, Francis. It’s a simple procedure, nothing more. They will check the body, take it away and that’s that!’ stated Tom sitting at his expensive desk. The entire room screamed of Tom’s authority and influence. Though usually a quiet man, tonight he had spoken more often than I’d ever heard him. Perhaps it was because aunt Helena had been present at the scene. Uncle Albert’s case had been different. The guards had found him first then I…and with my mother, Richard had held me in his arms hiding my face away yet I had seen her…

‘Right, Vic?’

‘What?’ I asked confused.

‘We keep the dogs to drive the wolves away, now that the dogs have been put down the wolves appeared again. Richard always checked the premises before locking up,’ said Victor as if trying to convince me.

The detective watched Victor with clear doubt.

‘Who’ll see to my roses now that Richard is gone?’ jumped Francis. ‘We need a new butler, his son perhaps. Willy, Billy or something…’

‘Quiet Francis!’ spat aunt Helena.

‘Don’t talk to my mother like that!’ barked Victor.

‘Watch your tone, boy!’ hissed Tom.

I sighed as I watched them all quarrel. I just hoped they’d keep it at that and not start throwing fists or worse…Benjamin had growled during brunch, and Benjamin was…a pup compared to Tom and Victor. What would happen if they lost their temper? Or worse, if aunt Helena lost her temper?

The detective seemed quite composed. But, there was a reason for that. Something distracted him. His eyes on the door. I watched the door open slowly. Blond locks revealed themselves as I saw Lizzie stick her head in.

‘Mo…mother?’ she said but no one heard her. She entered the room quietly as the rest of them continued arguing.

Lizzie turned to me, her face puzzled and yet a smile formed in the corner of her mouth. She held her hands close to her chest. One of her hands was stained with blood.

‘What happened?’ I asked her. The others went still.

‘I found a hand in the living room,’ she simply said. She didn’t find it scary at all, her face rather excited. ‘There was a note in the palm,’ she continued as she opened her blooded hand.

The detective reached Lizzie before Tom and picked up a bloodied note.

‘You should be ashamed!’ said the detective.

‘Ashamed for what?’ asked Francis.

‘That’s what the note says,’ added Tom, now at the detective’s side. ‘You should be ashamed!’ repeated Tom.

‘Didn’t Benjamin say those exact words at brunch?’ added aunt Helena.

‘Wolves, you said?’ added the detective watching everyone in the room.

Silverwood – Part 6

He must have noticed something in my eyes for he backed away slowly, his face puzzled. Perhaps my eyes had taken a different shade and my face had changed despite my intentions.

‘Mr. Porter,’ I whispered. ‘Please view the journals, all will be revealed in time.’ Of course I had omitted certain…details in the journals yet the information within them was sufficient to paint an accurate picture of Silverwood’s twisted past and present.

‘Miss Cane,’ he said hiding whatever had startled him before. ‘My ability to trust has become my weakness lately. You’ve brought me here, you…’

‘Trust me!’ I insisted vulnerably. ‘Trust me, I beg you! The rest will follow.’

He avoided my gaze and took a few more steps back. ‘The last person who urged me to trust her…’ He was referring to his last case, the woman who had been his lover and turned out to be the murderer. Of course, how could he trust me when he had been surrounded by lies?

He took the journals and headed the exit.

I followed him.

‘I’ll find my way back, Miss Cane,’ he shouted without looking at me. ‘Ah,’ he stopped in the doorway. ‘Yes, of course, one of the rules. I may not roam freely!’ he added bitterly.

I came to his side and gave him a warm smile. ‘We’ll take a shortcut this time.’

‘How did the tour go?’ I asked after the silence had settled longer than I could have tolerated it.

The detective looked grim and sank in thoughts yet he did manage to answer. ‘Victor, your cousin seems…’ The dimly lit hallway held an unusual echo. Perhaps I wasn’t used to hearing a voice in these lonely corridors.

‘Extravagant?’ I asked assuming the detective sought his words.

‘Disturbed,’ added the detective with a dark tone.

I wasn’t sure what Victor had done during the tour but it was certainly not the time to talk about it. The detective’s eyes were less welcoming than the dark. ‘Then it’s up to me to offer you a proper tour,’ I forced a smile though he didn’t see it.

‘I don’t need a tour!’ he said. ‘I’d like to inspect everything that is related to your mother and uncle’s death. The murder scenes, their rooms, their whereabouts…anything!’

‘Yes, of course,’ I responded.

‘Though I must say your cousin and uncle considered their deaths accidental.’

‘My cousin and uncle couldn’t care less about my mother and uncle, Mr. Po…Morgan,’ I said realizing I should watch the way I address him when we weren’t alone within safe walls. ‘No one cares…’

‘His son seemed quite upset,’ added the detective. There was something in his voice…was he thinking about the growl he’d heard in the brunch room? Or did he believe he’d imagined it?

‘Benjamin’s reaction startled me too,’ I added, ‘I am not sure what triggered it. He wasn’t that close to my uncle.’

We stopped as we came close to the secret door leading to the guest room.

I reached for the key and paused.

‘Yes, well…’ continued the detective. He noticed I wasn’t moving. ‘What is it?’ he whispered.

‘Why not? I heard a muffled voice. They must have been on the other side of the guest room, in the hallway. I couldn’t quite make out whose voice it was but it was a man’s. ‘We can’t! And that’s that!’ responded a woman’s voice. Lidia? ‘I’ll handle it! Don’t worry about it!’ said the man. ‘Oh, if…’ said the woman, ‘if only we..’ They stopped talking, their footsteps fading away in the hallway. Something must have startled them.

I quickly opened the door and hurried through the chamber to the hallway. By the time I got there they’d already left.

‘What is it?’ the detective had followed me, his eyes filled with concern.

I watched the end of the hallway. ‘I thought I heard two people conversing, one of them sounded like Lidia,’ I said. The detective said nothing. Of course he hadn’t heard them, how could he? But, the walls were thinner than he assumed, thinner…for certain ears.

We reached the detective’s chamber in awkward silence.

‘I’d like to know who was around when your mother and uncle…’

‘You’ll find it all in the journals,’ I whispered. ‘I’ll see you at dinner, Mr. Morgan,’ I said my attention still on the conversation I heard earlier. Was it Lidia? Who was the man? Certainly not her husband.

Dinner, what a cacophony! The children were present of course and we all sat at a long sparkling table, food served and wine pouring constantly. Someone had turned on the gramophone though the music was damped by the excruciating chatting and laugher.

Robert and Cora were boasting with their three sturdy boys. Fred sat quietly with his wife Anna, though their son and daughter chatted noisily with Lidia and Oliver’s two girls. Oliver smiled and drank, clueless as ever. It was certainly not his voice I’d heard in the hallway. The voice belonged to a young man and Oliver, well, he was well over fifty. There was a twenty years age difference between him and Lidia who, surprisingly was missing.

Arthur was also present with his wife, Gloria and their two boys and daughter. Arthur was uncle Hendrik’s oldest son and resembled his father the most. He was calm and calculated, his hair and moustache always trimmed perfectly and his clothing impeccably dashing. Victor sat with his two daughters. His wife, Charlotte, was not present. She was expecting soon and skipped dinner quite often to rest.

The detective sat between Erika and Lizzie. Lizzie kept staring at her glass of wine, her blond locks covering her face. She was a pretty girl, green eyes and oval face but so strange…extraordinarily strange. Erika’s features were quite masculine with a wide and thick jaw and thin lips though her eyes fixed the detective’s every move with quite an interest.

Eric was absent though he often hated these kind of gatherings. He was uncle Hendrik’s youngest child and unlike Arthur, seemed the opposite of his father. Quite a rebel, a lady’s man and though not as handsome as Victor he had beautiful dark eyes and high cheekbones.

Mr. Silverwood’s seat was empty as a sign that even though he was missing no one was allowed to sit in his chair at the head of the table. The two seats directly next to it were for his son, uncle Hendrik who was never present and for his sister, aunt Helena who gracefully occupied the seat, wearing a frothy low cut purple dress, her hair sparkling too, decorated with elegant hairpins. Tom’s seat was empty but surely he was somewhere around. Francis had just taken a sit, on the chair across from Tom’s, hanging her short sleeved fur coat over the chair. No sign of Benjamin or his mother, Vera.

‘To our guest!’ Robert stood up holding a glass of wine, looking condescending in his dark brown fancy suit. The rest of the table followed. The detective nodded raising his glass as well. ‘Let’s feast in your honor!’ added Robert. Chuckles and murmurs went across the table.

‘That’ll be enough, Robert,’ said aunt Helena who began eating meticulously. Robert gave his mother a surprised stare but sat silently in his chair.

Erika chatted with the detective while Lizzie played with her food. I sat on the other side, facing the detective, the seat next to me, at the end of the table, empty and the one next to me occupied by Fred who kept adjusting his glasses while eating.

Victor stood up, threw the detective a glance as if checking if he were still here and left the dining room.

Steak was served and I watched Lizzie eating her rare steak with her bare hands, her hands dripping warm blooded sauce. Aunt Helena gestured to one of the servers. He quickly came at Lizzie’s side grabbing the steak out of her hands and taking her plate away. She whimpered her eyes immediately on her mother. She quickly wiped her hands off, stood up and left. Whether the detective had witnessed the moment, he did not show it.

Victor came back in the dining room. His face looked…troubled? He whispered something to his mother, Francis. I couldn’t see her face but I noticed aunt Helena’s face. Both women stood up and hurried after Victor. The others didn’t seem to notice anything. I slowly stood up and followed.

I found them in the main entrance hall.

‘I don’t know, he was lying…’ Victor spat to aunt Helena. Francis held her hand over her mouth.

‘Just let him there!’ said Francis. ‘It’s none of our concern!’ she added anxiously.

‘You’re being ridiculous, Francis!’ added aunt Helena with a cold, steady voice.

‘What do we do?’ asked Francis.

‘Go back to dinner, Francis! I’ll handle it. Victor, fetch Robert!’ ordered aunt Helena.

I quickly hid behind a door as I watched Victor hurry back to the dining room. Francis followed him with small nervous steps. Aunt Helena remained in the hallway sighing.

Her husband, Tom appeared out of nowhere and she immediately hugged him.

‘What happened?’ he asked her studying her face. She was about to say something when Victor had returned with Robert at his side. They all went out and I followed them quickly.

It was dark outside and the wind blew cold and bitterly. They were heading the gazebo. I hurried too, my heart beating faster.

Someone screamed. Panicked, I ran towards the gazebo.

They all stood there looking down…I approached apprehensively, the scene all too familiar. I wanted to close my eyes and see nothing. I wanted to be out of this nightmare. Last time it was uncle Albert. This time it was…

He was lying in the middle of the gazebo in a pool of blood, his throat had been torn out, one of his hands missing.

It was Richard, our butler. Wh…why? Why?

‘Damn it, Vic!’ spat Victor, his face filled with panic. I couldn’t quite understand what he was talking about until I noticed they were all staring at someone over my shoulder. Mr. Porter, the detective was staring at the body.

‘Dear God, child, what have you done?’ barked aunt Helena.

Richard was dead but that wasn’t their biggest concern.

“Rule number one. Visitors may not leave the house after dark.”

Silverwood – Part 5

Edmund Silverwood. An enigma when it came to his past, a ghost if it weren’t for the portraits hanging in the house. He rarely made an appearance though his invisible mark was clearly imprinted in every corner of the estate. Whenever he did attend a dinner now and then, everyone came, putting their best foot forward. For what? To inherit his fortune, one might think but, no…As I said, Silverwood was…different.

Mr. Silverwood stood in the doorway leaning on his black cane. Tall and thin, dressed in a smart black jacket covering a waistcoat with a subtle garnet embroidery, he gazed upon the entire brunch room. His presence chilled the chamber, the fire in the hearth burning fearfully now.

‘The dogs have been put to sleep, Edmund,’ said aunt Helena coldly.

‘And yet, I still hear them barking!’ spat Mr. Silverwood. ‘Why is that?’ His hoarse voice echoed through our hearts.

‘I apologize, it’s…’ Vera trembled looking at her son, ‘he’s so clumsy, he had no idea we had…’ she threw a glance at Mr. Porter. Benjamin just stood there, his bloodied hand wrapped in a cloth, avoiding Mr. Silverwood’s gaze.

‘Clumsy…’ stated Mr. Silverwood thoughtfully. ‘Clumsy is not something we afford in this house!’

No one moved. The tension rising. Even aunt Helena, his own sister, looked anxious though her face seemed steady, controlled, her skin perfectly smooth and white as marble and her ash hair lifted up in a bun as always.

I hadn’t noticed Mr. Porter leave my side. When I saw him, I hurried to stop him but…

‘I’m Andrew Morgan!’ he said cheerfully offering Mr. Silverwood his hand. ‘The new assistant!’ he added.

I arrived at Mr. Porter’s side. I could do nothing but witness the conversation.

Mr. Silverwood inspected the detective with his out of ordinary amber eyes. I heard a few nervous whispers behind me.

‘The what?’ spat Mr. Silverwood.

‘The new assistant,’ repeated Mr. Porter his hand still hanging in the air.

Mr. Silverwood laughed. A full, honest, hearty laughter. ‘Bold,’ he said. ‘Bold and direct!’ he added. ‘Do you know who I am?’

Mr. Porter lowered his hand. He understood by now that Mr. Silverwood had no intention in a polite handshake. ‘I’m assuming the king of this impressive realm?’ he responded to my surprise. He was cheerful and calm. Perhaps his ignorance worked in his advantage.

‘Indeed!’ stated Mr. Silverwood satisfied of the comparison. ‘Do you like hunting, Mr. Morgan?’ he said as he stared into the detective’s eyes. He was jesting, of course, testing, ridiculing…

‘I can’t say I’ve ever experienced it,’ answered the detective sensing the subtlety in the question though impossible to know the true meaning of the mockery.

Mr. Silverwood grinned, his perfectly white teeth showing. ‘Come boy!’ he said to Benjamin. ‘We need to talk.’

Benjamin moved reluctantly. I would have done the same if I were him. His mother, Vera, watched him restlessly.

‘We will meet again, Mr. Morgan,’ said Mr. Silverwood as he left the room, Benjamin following him like an obedient puppy.

It took several moments for the brunch room to regain its spirit. Mr. Porter was still watching the door, analysing it, as though Mr. Silverwood was still there. Then he watched me, his eyes filled with questions.

An arm over his shoulder startled both of us.

‘Well, Morgan! Let’s end this dreadful episode by going on our well deserved tour!’ said Victor. ‘Fred, are you coming?’

‘Yes, yeees,’ Fred came along. He was thin and a bit crooked, his paces small and hurried. He adjusted his glasses and blinked nervously as he gave the detective a nod.

‘Good, God!’ shouted Victor talking to the air, ‘we’ll need some strong drinks afterwards!’

‘Victor,’ I said.

‘No worries, there, darling! We’ll leave the boring parts to you!’ With that the three of them left the brunch room, the detective giving me one last glance before he was gone.

I remained close to the doorway wondering if this had been such a good idea. What if I had overestimated Mr. Porter and Silverwood was going to be his downfall? What if he had questions I couldn’t answer? His father…his father…did he know? Did he…

Someone pushed my shoulder and I staggered. Erika had passed me by. ‘Vicky’s brought a dead assistant!’ she said in a cheerful voice as she left the room.

I didn’t wait for the rest of them to begin with their remarks. I stormed out and sought shelter in the only place that felt safe.

We had a few libraries in the estate but my favourite and the one I worked in was the one on the left wing. It wasn’t close to my room but I had a shortcut I always used to avoid any unpleasant encounters…and to be frank, almost all encounters here were unpleasant.

One of the guest rooms, at the end of the hall where Mr. Porter’s room was located, had a secret door that led to a hallway. It was usually locked but thanks to Richard, I had a spare key. The hallway dim and cold but preferable, connected the central wing leading to the sleeping quarters which the workers occupied during harvest time but which was empty most of the year.

Exiting the sleeping quarters, up the stairs and down the hall lay the library, ‘Nicholas’ carved above the entrance. Mr. Silverwood’s late son had died at the age of 16. He had loved books and plays. Mr. Silverwood had built this library in the memory of his son. That must have been one of the few gestures that proved Mr. Silverwood had any emotions.

The library had a few spiral staircases and one upper floor all set in a warm harmony. The many amazing and various books shined in the favourable light brought by the large windows.

I sat at my desk, unlocked the middle drawer and took out my journal. I had important information to write down. Today, Benjamin’s reaction had startled me. The look in his eyes, anger, fury as he said the words ‘you should be ashamed!’ Was he angry that we talked of other things aside the death of his father? Yet, he never seemed fond of uncle Albert…why the sudden rage? ‘You should be ashamed…’ it could have also been projected towards one person. Robert, perhaps? They couldn’t stand each other.

My journals held many moments similar to today. I had been keeping one since my mother’s death and strangely I have always believed they will be read one day by the one who will put an end to all of this. Perhaps William had given me hope the day he gave me the letter to pass on to his son. Perhaps I had put all my faith in his son, Nathan Porter and I was afraid he might not succeed. Or worse, he might not believe me.

I prepared a stack of journals filled with events, episodes, quarrels, rumours, grudges, pasts…all that may be of use one day. They rested on my desk awaiting their reader. Though, I wasn’t sure he’d want to read them. Maybe he would find them ‘biased’ and would like to form his own clean opinion.

I prepared my lesson for tomorrow. I used to enjoy uncle Albert’s classes of Mythology and Monsters. I attended them with enthusiasm and full attention. He had a magnificent way of story-telling capturing the entire audience. Now, I had to take his place. Dear uncle, what happened to you? I suddenly felt 10 years old again, sobbing on the first floor of this library, hidden behind book shelves, torn of losing my mother. 18 years ago. 18 long years. The commotion of that night still vivid in my memory. She adopted me when I was five and five years later I lost her. No! She was taken away from me! Taken by a monster. Just like Albert was.

I hadn’t heard him come in. He walked slowly while the candle lights danced shyly as he passed them by. His face was beautiful, his eyes dark, deep with things I did not know. He had suffered too in his life. He had seen things too and yet…he hadn’t seen it all, not yet.

‘Quite a family you have,’ he said ad he touched the cover of an old book lying on a table. He opened it, flipped a few pages then slammed it shut as he looked at his surroundings. ‘This place…’ he continued, ‘it’s a maze!’ He spoke calmly yet I sensed a tension.

‘How did you find me?’ I asked doubting Victor would have included libraries in his tour.

‘Richard,’ he answered. He avoided my gaze as he walked around. ‘These walls have ears?’ he asked me as he studied the staircases and ceiling.

‘The library is safe,’ I stated.

He watched the door which was at a fair distance now and approached my desk. ‘Explain to me the rules, Miss Cane!’ he said. I wasn’t sure what had happened on his tour but I am sure Victor had made a few unpleasant remarks. Fred undoubtedly tried to be kind, too scared to reveal anything that may raise suspicions.

‘First of all,’ I said looking at the pile of journals, ‘that’s for you to read.’ He looked at them but did not approach. ‘Keep them close, I beg you. They are my lifetime observations.’ He nodded. ‘Second of all, we must prepare for the classes tomorrow. You need to know what to expect. Though, I will accompany you to each class to guide you. But only tomorrow. After that you will have the chance to investigate freely and I am sure the teachers will be more open to talk to you without my presence.’

He leaned over, his palms resting on my desk. ‘The rules, Miss Cane!’

I stared in his eyes. He was anxious, angry? Irritated? ‘Very well,’ I added as I stood up and walked around the desk. ‘Rule number one. Visitors may not leave the house after dark.’

‘Why not?’ he asked.

‘Mr. Silverwood’s rules, Mr. Porter, not mine. Any visitor seen outside the house after dark will be expelled from the estate. Rule number two. Visitors may not wander through the estate without an escort.’

‘Why?’ his eyes spat fire as he watched me. He approached me, the distance between us uncomfortable. I took a step back. ‘Mr. Silverwood does not like strangers to poke around his estate.’

He crossed his arms, his eyes narrowing. ‘Rule number three,’ he said. Had he heard the rules already? What had upset him?

‘Rule number three,’ I continued, ‘you may not feed the dogs or bring your own pet to the estate.’

He said nothing, only stared, his eyes piercing through mine.

‘Rule number four,’ I almost whispered it. ‘No silver is allowed.’

‘Now that’s curious! Why would anyone have such a rule?’

‘Mr. Silverwood is allergic to silver…’ I avoided his gaze. ‘Many of his children and grandchildren have inherited his affliction.’

The detective shook his head in disbelief.

‘Rule number five. No visitors allowed without the approval of Mr. Silverwood himself.’

‘You brought me here, without the consent of Mr. Silverwood and without telling anyone about your decision!’ he spat.

‘They wouldn’t have accepted it if I had.’

He smirked but it was clearly a gesture out of irritation.

‘Mr. Silverwood was well aware of the fact that I needed a temporary replacement for my function. He agreed I’d find a suitable replacement as soon as possible. Trust me, if Mr. Silverwood had opposed, you would have been forbidden to come in the first place.’

He sighed angrily.

‘I don’t understand why this can be problematic to you,’ I added.

‘It’s hard to investigate when all eyes are on me!’

‘It’s easier in fact! You’re everyone’s favourite subject now and everyone wants to talk to you!’

‘Are you more familiar with my job than I am, Miss Cane?’ he asked stepping closer. Was this his way of intimidating me?

His eyes narrowed as he observed my face. ‘What is this place?’ he whispered to me. ‘What is it that you’re not telling me?’

Silverwood – Part 4

The news of Mr. Porter’s arrival had travelled throughout the entire estate…of course, if Victor and Lidia knew, the entire estate knew.

I realized the news had in fact turned into a prodigious event the moment I heard the agitation coming from the brunch room.

When we entered the room, all eyes were on us, on Mr. Porter to be more precise.

Four of uncle Hendrik’s children were present, including Lidia and Victor. Uncle Hendrik himself was not present, that would have been the shock of the year. But, his wife, Francis, the mother of all gossip, could not have possibly missed the chance. Aunt Helena and her three children attended too and in a corner I spotted uncle Albert’s family as well.

They weren’t all sitting together of course. There were six tables and a buffet, the brunch room resembling a luxurious restaurant. Candles burned on each table and a warm fire rested in the open hearth. The buffet table wasn’t only filled with sandwiches and pastries but also with champagne and vodka for those who enjoyed an early Bloody Mary…I knew all too well who those were.

‘So the rumours are true!’ shouted Robert. He was standing at his table with no intention of approaching us. Plump and tall, wearing a moustache and his usual superior gaze, cousin Robert’s entire existence depended on how much he boasted with his fortune and his so-called unique intellect. ‘Why, Victoria, you never seize to amaze me, darling!’ It was in a negative sense, of course.

‘Ignore him!’ Victor hurried towards Mr. Porter. ‘You must sit with us!’ he said and brought us to a table where Francis, his mother and Charlotte, his wife sat. I watched Lidia shooting Victor a resentful glance as we passed by her table. I noticed she had kept the seat next to her reserved as promised. On her other side, the seat was occupied by her always so clueless husband, Oliver.

‘Stealing him already, dear nephew?’ shouted Robert from across the room.

‘We want to play with him too!’ added Lidia chuckling though her eyes spat fire.

‘Truly now, Lidia! I think you have enough to play with already!’ spat Erika, her single sister who, thankfully, sat at another table.

‘Perhaps Victoria wants to play alone with him!’ stated Robert, the only one still standing. He shared a table with his wife, Cora, who always agreed with him and with Fred, his brother. ‘Well, Victoria,’ continued Robert, ‘a handsome man as your assistant, you’ve planned it all too well! Our little Vicky may be more devious than she looks! She might even get married after all!’ He laughed heartily. No one in the room joined him, except of course for his wife who giggled like a hyena.

‘And break your heart?’ I shouted back. ‘I wouldn’t dare!’

His smile faded. ‘Stop talking nonsense, girl!’ he cleared his throat. ‘I’m your uncle!’ and with that he sat down. Robert had always fancied me and no matter how many times I rejected him, he always insisted by making the most inappropriate gestures but today I had embarrassed him.

I felt all eyes on our table. The brunch room had never felt more crammed. Usually only a few attended brunch but today, clearly, it was a special day. Most of them weren’t even eating, they had just come to stare at the new assistant as if he were some kind of new monkey in a zoo. Perhaps he was, a monkey in a zoo filled with lions. And those lions were, to my surprise and apprehension, more bored and curious than I had anticipated.

Mr. Porter and Victor had engaged in a conversation or better to say Victor, had begun his interrogation. The detective was fortunately well prepared.

‘Speak louder!’ shouted Lidia. ‘We can’t hear…’

‘They’re secretive already,’ added Robert.

‘Oh, for God’s sake, Robert!’ snapped his mother, aunt Helena.

The room grew instantly quiet.

Aunt Helena spoke softly, yet her voice dominated the entire room. ‘Welcome to Silverwood, Mr. Morgan! I am Helena Silverwood, Edmund’s sister and this room is filled with my children, nephews and nieces. This is my husband, Tom!’ Tom watched Mr. Porter but gave him no sign of welcome. Tom was mostly quiet but he was one of the most dangerous people I had ever known. Aunt Helena continued wearily ‘That obnoxious one over there is Robert and the well-behaved one sitting next to him is Fred. Those are my sons. My daughter, Lizzie, is the blond one over there staring at her plate, a bit timid for my taste but she takes after her father.’ Timid…Lizzie timid…that was not the word I’d use. ‘Over there we have my brother, Hendrik’s children, he never attends brunch but Francis talks enough for them both.’ Francis dared not look at her but I am sure she was fuming. Aunt Helena continued, ‘Victor and Lidia, you’ve met,’ There was no sympathy in that remark. ‘Erika is the bold lady over there and Eric is sitting next to her feeling quite uncomfortable with this entire gathering. Arthur is with the children, you will meet him later. Oh, and over there, alone and deserted, Vera, my late cousin Albert’s wife and their son, Benjamin. They’ve never fitted in,’ she added as though they weren’t present. She gazed upon the room and sighed. ‘There, now you’ve met everyone. Good luck remembering all the names and mind you, if you find us overwhelming, remember you are yet to meet the grandchildren, the little miracles,’ she spat, ‘ungrateful brats!’ She raised her glass of champagne and faced Mr. Porter. ‘Enjoy your stay, for as long as that might last…’

Aunt Helena’s words lingered within the room and for a few moments there was nothing but utter silence.

‘Well,’ whispered Victor eventually. ‘That was quite a welcoming speech!’ He wasn’t smiling about it.

One of Mrs. Darts girls served us coffee. I realized I hadn’t had the chance to put anything on my plate. Mr. Porter’s plate was of course full. Charlotte had made sure to fill up his plate the moment he sat at the table.

I reached the buffet but was immediately ambushed by Lidia and Cora.

‘Keep him away from Victor, you know how he is!’ whispered Cora as she pretended to choose a sandwich.

Lidia leaned over the buffet table and measured me with her eyes. ‘Where’d you find him?’ she asked.

‘When will he start?’ continued Cora. ‘Will he help me with my Geography test tomorrow morning? Oh, wait, he’ll probably be too weakened by Helena’s class first! Maybe we can reschedule Chemistry tomo…’

‘Oh for the Heavens!’ spat Lidia,’Does he know about the house rules?’ she hissed at me.

The house rules. No, he didn’t. Not yet but he needed to learn about them soon enough.

‘I’ll do it!’ hurried Lidia when she noticed I hadn’t answered. ‘I’ll explain them to him!’

‘Let Robert do it!’ jumped Cora.

‘Robert is as subtle as a brick!’ protested Lidia.

I silently filled up my plate, well…filled as in I took one sandwich and a muffin and returned to my table.

‘Then it’s settled!’ said Victor as soon as I sat down.

‘What’s settled?’ I asked.

‘Fred and I will give Morgan here a tour of the estate!’

‘Oh,’ I remarked. Was that smart?

‘Oh come, Vic! It’s better we do it. It’s not like you know the history of this place!’ Francis shot him a warning glance. I wasn’t sure why. Francis of all people never considered me as family. Or was she trying to show good manners in front of the detective?

‘History?’ Robert was suddenly leaning over our table. ‘Did anyone say history? I am the History teacher here. I think I’m the most appropriate for a tour!’

‘And do explain to him the rules…’ Cora interfered sheepishly.

The detective looked calm despite the agitation around him. I felt somewhat relieved. Of course, this was a great opportunity for him to begin his masked investigation. Yet, there were things he needed to know…the rules. They were important, certain parts of the house that were forbidden, the night curfews, the dangers…he had no idea.

A glass broke. Then, we heard a thud.

Benjamin had broken a glass in his bare hand and had slammed his bloody fist against the table.

‘Goodness!’ his mother shouted. Whispers and gasps flew across the room. Mrs. Darts’ girls hurried to his aid carrying water and a cloth.

I stared at him. He just sat there frozen, his eyes red, his hand trembling.

‘You should be ashamed!’ he said softly. He stood up ignoring the help around him. ‘You should be ashamed!’ he growled.


He did not shout, he growled.

It wasn’t a human growl…

The room froze.

I wondered if the detective heard it or perhaps thought he heard it. For the love of God, things were getting complicated sooner than I had expected.

‘Who’s been agitating the dogs this time?’ hissed a voice, cold, stern and extremely powerful.

We slowly turned our heads towards the exist and saw none other but the master of the estate himself, Edmund Silverwood.

Had I said complicated? This was going to be absolutely horrid!

Silverwood – Part 3

A week later. My visit to the city hadn’t brought me back alone.

I stepped out of the car with Mr. Porter, well, Mr. Morgan, at my side. He brought a small suitcase ready to spend the one promised week at the estate. Though, I hoped he wouldn’t run off after two days.

Richard, the butler and Mrs. Darts, the head of Housekeeping were on their way to welcome our new guest.

‘Miss Cane,’ Victor was however quicker to arrive on the spot. He was wearing his breeches and tall boots as he came towards us smiling. A handsome man, some might say, dark hair, warm smile, blue eyes yet a vicious, terrible gossip cat. ‘I see this time you’ve brought more than books!’ He gave the detective a confident strong handshake. ‘Victor Silverwood! A pleasure!’

‘Andrew Morgan!’ replied the detective with perfect acting. He even smiled as he said it.

‘He’ll be the new assistant,’ I added.

‘Oh, really? Why? What will you do?’ he asked me curiously.

‘I’m taking over uncle Albert’s lectures until we can find a proper replacement.’

‘Oh?’ he frowned. ‘Ah yes, good old Albert, what a shame, what a horrible way to go! Oh,’ he said facing the detective, ‘You don’t need to be frightened. We’re training the dogs properly this time!’ He winked at me. Had the detective known the true meaning of what Victor had just said, he would have understood that Victor’s remark was both cruel and repulsive.

‘Well, good to have you! Bear in mind I’m the least favourite teacher of them all. I assume it goes with the perks of being a Physics teacher. Though I can’t say Fred’s any more liked. Math teachers are the worst!’ he chuckled though no one did. ‘Well, see you around, Morgan!’ And he was gone.

‘He’s late for his horse riding appointment,’ I stated. ‘You’re in luck! Normally he’d ask you a thousand questions, most of them inappropriate.’

‘Next time then,’ replied the detective. ‘What was that about the dogs?’ he asked as he gaped at the construction before him.

The Silverwood estate swallowed by forests, the building standing tall and vast, a castle in disguise. The front overwhelming the eye with its gardens, flowers and decorations as though the king himself resided here.

‘Well, the dogs…’ I explained.

‘Welcome to Silverwood, Mr. Morgan!’ interrupted Richard taking the detective’s suitcase and the stack of books I had brought.

‘We hope you’ll have a pleasant stay!’ added Mrs. Darts with a warm smile.

‘We have new pups, ‘ I explained as we walked towards the entrance. ‘They’re in training now.’ Though that was not what Victor was referring to, not at all.

‘And Victor,’ added Mr. Porter. ‘Victor is…’ he was trying to remember. I had given him a copy of our family tree and a list of everyone living and working at the estate. ‘He’s Hendrik’s son, isn’t he?’ stated the detective.

‘Yes, Victor is my cousin.’

The house welcomed us…only the house. Everyone else was busy and the children were in class. Mr. Porter stared at the high ceiling, the fine crystal chandelier flaunting it’s elegance. The red and golden carpet presented two dark wood staircases each going its separate direction. And if that didn’t confuse a newcomer, there were also three hallways leading left, right and between the staircases. Five directions and this was only one of the estate entrances.

Richard took one of the staircases and the detective followed. He paused for a moment to study the beautifully carved wolves resting on the staircase posts.

‘I’ll give you a tour of the estate as soon as you’re settled in,’ I smiled as we ascended.

‘And after brunch!’ stated Mrs. Darts walking behind us.

Walking up the stairs we faced a stained glass window revealing riding hunters and dogs running at their side. The details became more vivid as we approached but we were soon distracted.

‘Who is this?’ A woman in her forties stood at the top of the staircase. She held a cup in her hand which I doubted was only coffee and she stared at the detective. Richard passed her by quickly.

‘I’m Andrew Morgan!’ said the detective as he shook her hand softly. She looked at me utterly bemused.

‘He’s my temporary replacement…’

‘Oh, really?’ she smiled.

‘Yes, well, until we find a replacement for uncle Albert…’

‘Ah…must you spoil the moment?’ Her freshly painted lips curled as she snapped at me. ‘Have you had brunch yet?’ she asked the detective, her voice sweet as honey.

‘We’re on the way to Mr. Morgan’s room. Once settled we’ll…’

‘Yeah, yeah,’ she interrupted me, waving me off. ‘We’ll be expecting you in the brunch room, Mr. Morgan. I’ll save you a seat next to mine!’ she whispered the last words as though this was an intimate moment between them. The detective gave her a nod. She didn’t move and kept staring at him intensely. He smiled and walked passed her. She shamefully stared at his behind as he passed her by. ‘My, my, Mr. Morgan…’ she whispered. She ignored me as I passed her by then hissed at Mrs. Darts. Lovely, just lovely.

‘That was Lidia, Victor’s sister,’ I said as we walked through the hallway leading to Mr. Porter’s room.

‘Is she a teacher too?’ he asked.

‘Ah no, she has other…priorities…’

‘Thank goodness,’ he replied. It was the serious manner in which he said it that made me chuckle.

Mrs. Darts hurried before us and remained at a door where Richard was standing as well. They awaited Mr. Porter as if some kind of festivities were about to take place. The detective entered and they followed in. I remained in the hallway. They were, of course going to give him an enthusiastic tour of the chamber as they did with all our guests…though lately we didn’t have that many.

‘Such a nice boy!’ said Mrs. Darts as she exited Mr. Porter’s room. ‘I would love to stay and chat but I must see to brunch! If left unsupervised for too long who knows what those girls might do!’ She was referring to the two girls that usually set the brunch table.

‘Thank you, Mrs. Darts!’

Richard came out of the room a few moments later talking to Mr. Porter. ‘Yes, a shame this time of the year, let’s hope they make it ’till spring,’ he then smiled and continued, ‘Get settled, should there be anything, make sure to ring the bell!’

‘I will, Richard, thank you very much!’ said the detective.

Richard gave me a friendly wink then left us.

‘This room is bigger than my entire apartment,’ said Mr. Porter in a few moments. I saw the surprise on his face. ‘Are all rooms similar?’

‘The family rooms are bigger,’ I smiled. ‘These are the guest rooms.’

‘All these rooms?’ he looked at the doors along the hallway, there must have been a dozen of them and this was only a part of it. ‘Where is your room?’ he asked.

‘On the other side of the staircase, end of the hall,’ I pointed out.

‘You have a guest room?’

‘Yes,’ I smiled though I knew what he was implying. ‘The upper floors belong to Hendrik’s family. Each family has her own private wing.’

‘Ah, I see.’ Though I wasn’t sure what he was referring to. ‘And, what about Richard and Mrs. Darts, can they be trusted?’

‘Richard is all right when it comes to secrecy. Mrs. Darts would only keep a secret if it doesn’t concern or affect Mr. Silverwood.’

Mrs. Darts was a cheerful yet authoritarian woman who only followed the rules and Silverwood’s wishes. Richard on the other hand was a gentle and even-tempered man but he didn’t mind breaking Silverwood’s rules now and then. They were both nice to me and helpful from time to time but that did not mean I could trust them.

‘I’ve noticed Mr. Silverwood is quite fond of dogs and wolves. Even my room has a few unique pieces.’

‘Hmm,’ I agreed, if only he knew.

‘Well,’ he smiled. ‘I guess I’ll prepare myself for brunch.’

‘I’ll meet you in the hallway when you’re done.’

‘Yes, that would be perfect. I can easily get lost in this place, I’m sure I will at some point,’ he chuckled.

I wasn’t escorting him to the brunch room because he might have gotten lost, I needed to be there when he’d face the others for the very first time. And something told me it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Silverwood – Part 2

‘Stay at the estate for one week and look into my mother and my uncle’s death. One week, that is all I ask.’

‘What if I find nothing conclusive?’

‘If in one week you find nothing, I will pay you and we will part. You will have my respect and gratitude for accepting the case in the first place.’

He watched me, the letter still in his hands.

‘But there is a condition I’m afraid I’ll need to insist upon,’ I continued. His dark eyes lay on the letter but surely he was listening. ‘You cannot tell anyone you’re a P.I. nor can anyone suspect you of this.’

Frowning he dropped the letter on the desk and faced me. ‘Meaning?’

‘You must stay at the estate under a fake name with a fake identity and investigate through other methods than the obvious ones.’

‘I’m all over the newspapers,’ he snorted. ‘They will know who I am by the time I set foot in their house!’

‘As I said, Mr. Porter, the estate is well sheltered from the rest of the world. No one reads the local newspapers and I doubt anyone cares,’ the last words came out in anger. I sighed.

‘But you are well informed, Miss Cane and you come from that estate.’

‘I travel to the city once a week. It is one of my weekly tasks…’ He did not ask for elaborations. He took the letter and put it back in the envelope. I understood that the reason why he wasn’t asking anything else was because he had simply…stopped listening.

‘I apologize, Miss Cane, but this entire…situation,’ he put the envelope in a drawer as though it’ll soon be forgotten. ‘I, as I said before, am drowning in other matters that need my immediate attention and I cannot dedicate myself to something that I may not be able to…as much as my father might have…’

‘Mr. Porter!’ interrupted his assistant. ‘The reporters are here!’

‘Yes, very well…’ He stood up still searching for his words. ‘I…I apologize but I cannot help you!’

With that, detective Nathan Porter exited his office leaving me with a rather bitter aftertaste, the realization that my only hope had just shut its doors in my face while I too was drowning.

Where to? What now? Find another detective? Who would understand? Who would believe me? And even if someone accepted the case, say for the tremendous amount of money I was offering, what guarantee that the person would be competent? And would that person be able to stay alive? William didn’t. Though it could have been too much of a shock to explain to the detective the strange circumstances of his father’s death. Or had his father explained something about that in the letter? Was the detective afraid? Or did he simply not care?

I can’t! I can’t go back and wait for the next tragedy to take place.

I took a paper and a pen I found lying on his desk and I left Mr. Porter a note. He was my only hope and I would do whatever necessary to convince him.

I sat in the hotel lobby. I came to this hotel weekly, spent one night and went back early morning. It was my only escape from the world I was unsuccessfully running from. Had it not been for these weekly excursions, I would have gone mad a long time ago.

I smoked a cigarette, perhaps my third cigarette in my entire life and drank a glass of scotch. Why did I feel so lost and alone? Perhaps this case wasn’t so much for them but for my own peace of mind. Did anyone care? Mr. Silverwood certainly did not. In fact he’d be furious if he knew I was doing this even though I was looking into his own daughter’s death. The others, well, they certainly didn’t want a detective to dig into their little disturbing lives, did they? As for the children…they sometimes acted more mature than their own parents. That did not worry me any less. They were suspects. They were all suspects.

‘May I join you?’

I rose my gaze to face…Mr Porter!

‘Yes, certainly,’ I hid my excitement. He read my note after all.

He unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat down. I watched his face, his features, so gentle and beautiful even. Yes, I could see now. He was different. At least his features were. They were much softer than his father’s who had appeared to be a hard man, hardened by life and experiences. His son still held a flicker of light in his eyes. William Porter’s eyes had been dead when I first met him but when he promised me he’d protect me, his eyes had caught life.

‘I don’t know why I’m here,’ stated Mr. Porter bringing me back to the present. ‘Curiosity or my father’s letter. You seemed very important to him. I am not sure how much I can do. If my father wasn’t able to solve it, there is little chance I can.’

‘Circumstances were different then. I was a little girl who had just lost her mother.’

‘Adoptive mother.’

‘Yes, I never knew my real parents. The Silverwoods adopted me.’

‘Your mother was…’

‘Mr. Silverwood’s daughter.’

‘But your last name is Cane.’

‘My mother kept her late husband’s name and passed it on to me.’

He watched me for a moment, he was frowning again. He didn’t trust me. Why would he?

‘I don’t recall reading about any…canine attacks in the last days. Your uncle, you said…’

‘I’m afraid the Silverwoods are not the type to be mentioned in the newspapers.’

He stared at me curiously. ‘Everyone is mentioned in the newspapers, there is no “type” involved.’

I smiled. ‘You are yet to meet them.’

‘If I take on the case,’ he pointed out.


‘And what do you think happened? Someone deliberately set the dogs on your mother and your uncle?’

I took my time to think of a suitable answer. ‘Perhaps, yes. The dogs were rather peaceful creatures and never attacked without a reason, much less the people they grew accustomed to. They always guarded the estate and all that lay within it.’

‘And yet, dogs killed your mother then…the same dogs attacked and killed your uncle a few days ago?’

Now, what was I going to say to that? ‘No, the ones that killed my mother were put to death. These were other dogs.’

‘And these other dogs have been put to death as well?’


‘Who is the owner of these dogs?’

‘They belong to us all but there are guards who spend more time with them.’

‘You suspect the guards?’

‘I suspect everyone, Mr. Porter. But for you to understand the situation, you must come with me.’

‘You must provide me with a list of everyone living in the estate and their occupation.’

‘Of course,’ I stated hiding my excitement. He was accepting the case. He was going to help me!

‘And your family tree, your mother was Silverwood’s daughter and your uncle was…?’

‘My mother’s cousin.’

‘A family tree, yes. I am sure it will be helpful, too.’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘And we must discuss how this is going to take place. You said I can’t go as myself.’


‘Do you have any name and cover in mind?’

‘As a matter of fact I do.’ He watched me questionably. ‘Andrew Morgan will be appropriate as your cover name. As for your occupation, you will be my temporary replacement.’


‘As the teachers’ assistant.’

He watched me blankly. ‘A teacher’s assistant? What estate has a teacher’s assistant?’

I smiled. ‘I told you, Mr. Porter. The Silverwood is a unique estate.’

‘There are teachers and students at the estate? Who are the students? Is it an Academy?’

I was enjoying his curiosity. ‘It’s a secluded Academy you may say and most of the students are Silverwood’s grandchildren.’

‘The children receive home school, I see. Who are the teachers? Who is the teacher I will be assisting?’

‘The teachers are also family, some are even the students’ parents. And you will be assisting all, Mr. Porter. You will be the assistant of all the teachers. There are seven of them and now I will become the eighth until we find a proper replacement for that as well.’

‘So, I will also be your assistant, then?’

‘Yes, Mr Porter.’

He smiled. It was more than a surprise to me. His face looked different when he genuinely smiled. Which made me smile as well. Perhaps he thought it was all a joke or perhaps he was just as eager to do this as I was.

‘And what about you, Miss Cane, what will you be teaching?’ he asked amused.

‘I’ll be teaching Mythology, Mr. Porter. Myths and Monsters…’

Silverwood – Part 1

His assistant told me I could wait in his office. He’d be in any moment now. So I had no choice but to sit patiently in the office of Private Investigator William Porter. Did I say William? I am mistaking him again for his father. This is his son, Nathan Porter.

The cheerful assistant offered me some tea. I accepted with a smile though these days I had little reason to smile.

He entered his office already frowning, preoccupied with other matters. I wasn’t sure he saw me sitting at his desk waiting for his attention. He resembled his father, his dark hair, a bit long at the back, his clothing, very smart for a detective and his calm character though I am sure very turbulent on the inside.

‘Miss Victoria Cane!’ I said when I realized he had no intention in introducing himself. I stood up and shook his hand.

‘Detective Porter,’ he replied, shaking my hand without looking at me.

The tea arrived. Mr. Porter, staring at it, slowly took a seat. He must have thought it was a shorter visit. Shorter than a cup of tea at least.

‘What can I do for you, Miss Cane?’ he asked though his eyes were on the morning newspaper lying on his desk.

‘Such a cliche, won’t you agree?’ I smiled. ‘A damsel in distress enters a P.I.’s office with an urgent matter.’ He replied with a vague smile. ‘How old are you? 29? 30?’ I asked as I drank from my tea.

He looked at me for the very first time since I’ve entered his office. Was the age thing a sensitive matter?

‘I’m 31,’ he answered suspiciously.

‘And already quite famous.’ His last case had been all over the news.

‘Yes, and frankly rather busy so if you could please…’

‘Yes, yes, of course. I will be as quick as I can,’ I lied. Haste and imprudence could ruin everything.

I took out an envelope and put it on the table, next to my cup of tea. It wasn’t his to read yet. His eyes focused on it.

‘When I was a child my adoptive mother died in a brutal manner. They, the police,’ I corrected, ‘never assumed it was a murder. But, three days ago my uncle met the same fate. Once more it is not considered a murder. I want you to look into the matter.’

‘How did they die?’

‘The,’ I hesitated. How was I going to explain this without making him run out of his office? ‘Dogs!’ I simply said. ‘Dogs killed them.’


‘Yes, dogs. We have dogs on the estate.’

‘Which estate is that?’

‘The Silverwood estate.’

‘I’ve never heard of it.’

‘It’s surrounded by nature and well hidden from the rest of the world, Mr. Porter. Well hidden and well preserved.’

‘Well hidden or not, if the police looked into it and found no traces that could lead to a further investigation then I doubt I can…’

‘I will give you more information if you accept the job.’

‘Miss Cane,’ he leaned over still sitting in his chair and I stared in his dark blue eyes. ‘At the moment I’m drowning in paper work and appointments. The case, I may have become famous for, did not end very well as you may have read and there are plenty of things to solve.’

‘Yes, the client was the murderer, the female client you had grown …acquainted with before the case.’ They had been lovers, the newspaper mentioned. The detective had fallen in love with his client and his own judgement had been clouded by the feelings he had for her. Or so the newspapers said. It seemed true. She was a beautiful woman just about his age.

‘Indeed. The case may have ended for the newspapers but for me…’ he was standing up.

‘You look like him,’ I had to say. He stared. ‘You look like your father.’ He was back in his chair. ‘I met him when my mother died. He tried to help but…the rest of the police had been quite stubborn and eager to close the case.’

I took the envelope still resting before me and offered it to him. It was sealed and I had kept it sealed for the last 15 years.

He took it and stared at it for a moment. He must have recognized the handwriting of his father on the back of the envelope. ‘For Nathan’. It simply said.

He gave me a quick troubled glance before the envelope absorbed all of his attention.

I finished my tea in silence as Mr. Porter read the letter. William Porter knew his son would one day follow his steps or perhaps he knew his son would become a man willing to help others, help me. I didn’t know what was in the letter. I just remembered William’s instructions.

I was a child who had just lost her only notion of a mother, alone and scared, crying at her grave when everyone else seemed to have already moved on even if only a week had passed. He had come to me, William, my knight and sat with me that entire afternoon though it was cold and bitter just as November months usually are. ‘Should anything happen to me, take this letter to my son! He will help you in any way he can, hopefully much more than I was able to.’ I was too young to understand that the detective had put himself in danger by helping me and was already fearful for his life. I was too young to understand anything. Now, I only hoped the man before me would be able to help me and keep himself safe.

Mr. Porter put the letter down and gazed at me. The letter must have affected him terribly for his eyes were red though his stare remained cold as ice. Or perhaps the letter contained more information than he could handle.

‘What exactly do you ask of me?’ he finally asked.


I never understood fear. Is it something that humans trigger based on their childhood memories? Or do they create this fear based on imaginative future events that will never take place? The fear of the unknown. Fear of death. Fear of losing someone. Fear of losing all belongings. But in the end they all die so why is their fear so strong that it pushes them over the edge?

And yet, so many things seem to push them over the edge. Love disables their ability to think, slows their reflexes and senses. Though, people in love look quite strange to me. They smile and laugh more than average. They seem…happy. But are they healthier? They eat and sleep less. Is it good to sleep and eat little?

Heartbreak also makes them eat and sleep less though some of them eat and sleep more. Sadness, depression, stress, these are all emotions that affect the human body. Do emotions control humans? Or should humans control their emotiones? Is that even possible? Is a healthy lifestyle one without love and heartaches?

Love, fear, frustration, jealousy, envy…how did people manage to create so many levels of emotions? Do they imitate their parents, their friends? Or do they become influenced by what they read in books and see on TV? How do all humans know how to be sad or happy without even trying? Do they sometimes experience emotions that they don’t understand? And are there any new emotions that they are yet to create, to discover?

I tried smiling once but my facial expression looked odd. ‘A smile should come from within’, my creator had said. But what is ‘within’?

Do I want to feel? Do I want to understand their emotions better? I am not sure what will happen if I do. Will I still be me?

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.”

― Horace Walpole

And yet, a life without emotions seems…empty. I imagine them living and dying without emotions. I am not sure I would still find them that fascinating. Their emotionless life would make them…well, would make them just like me.

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