Something’s not right. It wasn’t merely last night’s…apparition, which tangled Jane in knots, nor even Mr Willcombe’s demise. It wasn’t death troubling her, but his death. And not solely because she’d dressed this morning, and gone to tell him…everything, only to find him already departed from this world.
Hours she’d tried unsuccessfully to shake that feeling deep in her bones, though industry had helped. There had been much to do; half the staff too busy whispering in corners to do it.
The guests had woken. The news of Mr Willcombe’s passing had been delivered by Mr Pierce, a hollowed-out Fred Willcombe by his side.
Jane had almost…dashed over there, and fallen to her knees, begging forgiveness. But she hadn’t the courage, and then—once the guests settled after making their farcical excuses for condolences—Fendrick had informed them they were trapped, for days at least. The rivers surrounding Aconite House—essentially, a natural moat—had flooded, becoming entirely impassable.
That’s when the real outrage started, two of the guests nearly fainting at being trapped in this house of death.
If only you knew, Jane had thought.
Eventually calm had been restored—Mr Pierce again—and now things were…back to normal; in appearance. And Jane thought, if she pretended hard enough, perhaps she would return to normal, as everyone else had, going about their duties, apparently unaffected. Jane had too, yet still, she felt…
If Jane had been superstitious, she might’ve thought the ghost of Mrs Willcombe came for her husband. It certainly felt…connected, yet not so simple. Even the spectre itself. Yes, it had troubled her last night, but this morning…there were things…not quite right. Details, which in the light of day, didn’t fit.
‘His heart,’ the doctor had said.
Jane’s frustrated sigh echoed in the linen cupboard. Resolved, a bundle of sheets in her arms, she marched off, determined to find the one man who might…
Think me completely mad.
The only one I trust.
Perhaps she was going mad. All these years…
Find Mr Pierce.
So she did, blessedly alone beside young Mr Willcombe’s door, guarding it. Leaning against the wall, arms and ankles crossed, as though he hadn’t a care, but she knew, felt, that wasn’t true. His gaze confirmed it when he glanced up at her, his eyes narrowing inquiringly, studying her to resolve the mystery born…
This morning, when he saw too much.
He waited for her to fill the silence.
‘Mr Pierce,’ Jane said, squaring her shoulders, screwing her courage tight. ‘Something isn’t right.’ His eyes narrowed again. ‘I cannot…explain it. Mr Willcombe’s death wasn’t right.’
‘Do desist, Mr Pierce,’ she said dismissively, pleasant, albeit confused surprise lighting his eyes. Catching him off guard....made her warm, and pleased, when all she should be, was focused, and sad. ‘I mean… I feel there’s something more going on.’
‘I know. And I know… My feelings, mean nothing. Still… I hoped you might…listen.’
‘You have my attention, Miss Powell. Instinct can be a powerful thing.’ Jane steadfastly ignored the low tingle spreading through her at the double entendre. ‘Perhaps you’d illuminate me as to why you believe something’s amiss.’
Taking a breath, Jane prepared herself.
In for a penny…
‘Last night, I saw the ghost of Mrs Willcombe,’ she said, and though Mr Pierce didn’t laugh, she felt she’d just dropped in his esteem; and hated it.
‘Don’t, please, Mr Pierce,’ she begged, and he softened. ‘I know what I saw. And I saw the ghost of a woman who’s been dead twenty years roaming the halls the very night the master died. Even the ghost itself… Something isn’t right, Mr Pierce.’
He scrutinised her, undoubtedly trying to determine whether he should fetch Dr Merrow.
Until finally, he saw something which swayed him to her cause.
‘I think you’d best tell me everything, Miss Powell.’
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