Mary opened the door to the guest room and stepped in. She looked around and observed the room. There was a fancy chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The fireplace was lit and a homely fire was burning. There were two couches and an armchair surrounding a small table with cookies, a tea tray, and a basket of rolls. The walls were cream colored and lined with candles. The room had a warm look to it.
Mary took a deep breath. She smiled to herself as she remembered that she was going to be away from home for two weeks. She was glad to be away from her selfish brothers and sisters. Being the middle child (the 4th of seven) was hard. She rarely got any attention, her older siblings belittled her, and her younger ones stole her things.
Sometimes being a middle child did have its positive sides. Mary had been one of the few people who had been selected to represent their families in a competition to inherit money from a rich, old man who knew their ancestors.
“Frederick Lowood?” Mary’s mom had said. “Hm….the name sounds familiar. Well, I probably should let you go. We might need the money in the future.
Mary went over to a couch and sat down. She took a letter out of her pocket and read it over.
To the Fairfax family.
Parents and Guardian of Maria Fairfax,
I would like to invite your daughter, Maria Isabella Harrington Fairfax to Hunter Hall. I will be dying soon. I have no heir, so I hope to leave my estate, my 82 million dollars, and my business to one of my friend’s descendants. You may not know about this, so I will take the time to tell you. Your ancestor, Henry Fairfax, was a business partner of mine fifty years ago and a dear friend. I have asked for the company of 4 other potential heirs, each from the age of fifteen to twenty-four. I hope that you consider this opportunity for your daughter to get a good start on business, since it is hard for females to find high positions in business. A coach will be waiting for Maria outside of your home on Friday, at 4 in the afternoon.
With best regards,
Mary tried to imagine Frederick Lowood and how he was like. Did he wear monocles? Did he have a mustache or a beard? Was he a tall man or a short one? She ended up imagining a short man in his seventies with a white beard and glasses with a squeaky, commanding voice. She giggled to herself.
The fire burned with fiery redness as Frederick Lowood stared intently at it. His eyes were shining from the color of the fire. Along with the malicious glint in his eyes and his intent face, he looked almost evil. Suddenly, the sound of hoof beats and carriage wheels reached the old man’s room. He looked out the window to see the faint light of a lantern that was casting a light on the building and smiled a smile that would send chills down a grown man’s back. He gripped his diamond cane tightly as he began staring intently at the fire again, this time with a determined look. So they had finally arrived, at least one of them. Soon, he would have his revenge.
“Finally,” he whispered to himself, in a crazed tone. “I’ll finally have revenge on the people who have wronged me fifty years ago. I’ll never forget…”
Frederick Lowood would never forget the five people who had brought disaster to him all those years ago. Even thought they were already dead, he would take revenge on them through their descendants. He would make them experience the pain he had been feeling for the past forty years and much more.
“You’ll see…all of you….you’ll regret it….all of you…for what you did to me. I’ll never forgive you. I’ll make your suffer. I’ll make them suffer…even I if have to rip their hearts out,” he said, a little louder. “I won’t turn back now, when everything’s going according to plan.”
Indeed, the blackened heart of this man was already too tainted and filled with evil for forgiveness. The only thing it was good for was fueling his anger and encouraging his revenge. It had corrupted his mind for too many years for him to turn back now. He looked at the large grandfather clock at the corner of his room. It was exactly 7:15, which meant the guests would all be here in fifteen minutes. It was almost time for the first big fiasco.
There was a knock on his door. A maid entered.
“Sir, one of the guests is here. A girl named Maria Fairfax?” she said.
“That’s nice,” the old man said, trying not to show his anger at the reminder of Henry Fairfax. “Show her to the visitor’s room.”
The maid nodded and exited. Frederick Lowood sighed. He felt a little sorry for the maids and butlers who were all part of his giant game tonight. They had never done anything to him, but it didn’t matter. No matter what, no one was going to escape this building alive.
Mary tapped her foot as she stared around the room. She knew she should have taken her book with her before the maid carried her suitcase up to her room. She glanced at the grandfather clock. It was 7:20. Did she come too early? Feeling a little antsy, she got up and paced up and down the room. Finally, she decided to explore the mansion. After all, the maid didn’t tell her that it was prohibited. She hesitated as her hand touched the door handle. What if Mr. Lowood came in to check on her? What if she found out a secret of his and was sent away without the inheritance.
“I should go…” she muttered to herself. “Just down the hall.”
Suddenly, the door flew open, knocking Mary back. Stumbling back, she fell onto the floor.
“Oh, so sorry,” a sarcastic voice said.
Mary looked up to see a girl a little older than her. She had brown curls and green eyes. There was an imperious look to her. Towering over Mary, who looked small and insignificant on the floor, she looked like a queen. Mary got up and dusted herself off.
“It’s fine” Mary said.
Something about the look the girl gave her made Mary guess that the girl didn’t need her forgiveness. Mary noticed that there were other people behind the girl.
“Move it,” a low voice said. “Kids these days….always standing around with that blank look on their face.”
“It’s not my fault,” the girl said, walking past Mary. “She was standing in front of a door. Who are you calling a kid? You’re only four years older than me, Clarence.”
“That’s Lord Clarence to you,” a man with raven hair and icy blue eyes, from whom the low voice belonged to, said.
He followed the girl in. Behind him two others came shuffling in. One was a young man who also looked a little older than her. He had the girl’s green eyes and brown hair. Mary immediately assumed that he was the girl’s brother. He had a less imperious look. The other was another man who looked around the same age as the raven-haired gentleman. He had sandy, blonde hair and grey eyes. He walked into the room with a strut. His head was held high and he stared down at everyone. Mary wondered if his eyes hurt from looking down like that sometimes.
The young man with brown hair came over to Mary.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “Georgiana can be a little intimidating sometimes, but you’ll get used to it. I’m Wesley James, her twin brother. Who are you?”
“You can call me Mary,” Mary said.
“Stop joking around and sit down, Wesley. Don’t talk with the competition, especially competition like her,” Georgiana said. “Oh! How nice of Mr. Lowood to leave food for us.”
“Georgiana, be nice,” Wesley said.
“Fine, but don’t get too attached to her. We’re not here to make friends. I don’t expect to be here for long. There’s no doubt he’ll leave the inheritance to us.”
Lord Clarence snorted, making Georgiana shoot him a death glare.
Suddenly, there was the sound of thunder and glass breaking. Then, the room was plunged into darkness. Someone screamed.
“Georgiana?!” Wesley’s voice came from the corner of the room.
“I’m here,” Georgiana squeaked. “What was that?”
“Thunder,” Lord Clarence said. “But it’s not raining outside.”
Suddenly, something or someone brushed past Mary. Mary’s eyes had adjusted to the dark enough to see the glint of a dagger. She backed up quickly and crashed into a table. There was a knock on the door, and to Mary’s relief, the door opened, revealing a maid with a candle.
“Is everything alright?” she asked.
Mary scrambled to the maid.
“There was someone with a dagger! He was trying to get me!” she shouted.
Suddenly, Georgiana let out a piercing shriek, causing everyone to look at her. She pointed at the other end of the room, where the dead body of the sandy haired man laid. The maid almost dropped her candle on Mary as she gasped. The man had been stabbed multiple times in the heart with a dagger. His face, which was slashed across with the dagger, had a shocked and fearful look on it.
Mary tried to cover her eyes as Lord Clarence went over to examine the body.
“He’s dead,” he said. “He looks slashed up pretty badly.”
Georgiana fell into hysterics and began screaming at the maid.
“WHAT IS THIS? I CAME HERE FOR AN INHERITANCE, NOT TO DIE. GET ME OUT OF HERE! I WANT OUT!” she screamed, grabbing the frightened maid by the shoulders and almost extinguishing the only light source.
Mary pulled Georgiana away.
“Calm down,” Mary said. “You’re scaring her. The murderer probably isn’t in the room right now.”
“How do we know? What if you’re the murderer?!” Georgiana accused.
“Me?! I was the one who saw the murderer!” Mary argued. “None of us had anything to do with this. We didn’t move from our spots. The murderer probably got out through the windows or a secret passage.”
Georgiana slapped Mary’s hands away and composed herself.
“Wesley, we’re going,” she said.
“What? But, someone got-“
“I SAID WE’RE GOING!” she yelled.
Suddenly, it started to rain heavily. The windows filled with rain and the room was silent except the pitter patter of the rain on the windows.
“But, miss, there are no carriages outside anymore,” the maid said. “They all left five minutes ago.”
“WHAT?! No! Let me see Mr. Lowood!” she demanded.
The maid nodded, too frightened from the gruesome display at the other end of the room and by Georgiana’s shrill voice. She opened the door wider and everyone walked out. Mary hurried, afraid to be the last one.
Mary felt like crying as she followed the maid up the winding stairs. Every light in the mansion had been snuffed out. She stayed close to the maid, who held the only bit of light left. She kept glancing back at Wesley and Lord Clarence, who were at the back, talking in low, serious voices, afraid that they were going to fall victim to the murderer’s dagger any second. Suddenly, the maid stopped, causing Mary to bump into her.
“Oh my….” she began.
Mary looked over the maid’s trembling shoulders and almost threw up at the scene before her. Scattered on the stairs were dead maids and butlers, with organs ripped out. Mary couldn’t scream. Something was lodged in her throat. She was shocked. She looked back to see Georgiana’s unconscious body slumped against Wesley and Lord Clarence, who looked equally as shocked.
The maid began to sob. Mary took the candle from her hand and moved it away from the dead bodies.
“Wesley……” she said. “Who would do this?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Obviously Lowood,” Lord Clarence said. “I knew it.”
“What do you mean?” Mary asked. “Have you met him before?”
“I wouldn’t say met… Last summer, I discovered a hidden attic in the mansion I inherited from an ancestor that died recently. It turns out that the mansion belonged to Frederick Lowood, but he was in debt with my ancestors and a few other business partners. He committed some crimes and was forced to pay his debts by giving up his property. They took away everything from him. Even his most trusted friends betrayed him. That was not enough, though, so he went into hiding. I read some of his journals and they listed some sick ways of getting revenge. I came here today to confront him about it,” Lord Clarence answered.
“You came to a crazy man’s mansion just like that? Even after reading his ways of getting revenge?” Wesley asked. “Are you stupid, Clarence?”
Lord Clarence stiffened. “I received a letter from him, saying he would like to pay my ancestor’s debts and that he was sorry he waited until after his death. It was convincing then.”
“Wait, what were the names of the people who he was in debt with?” Mary asked.
Lord Clarence pulled out a few folded pieces of paper from his pocket and read them.
“George Gamble, Nathan Pearle, Cynthia James, Louis James, and….Henry Fairfax…” Lord Clarence read.
“What? So he gathered us here to get revenge on us? But we weren’t the ones who drove him into debt” Mary said.
“No, you weren’t, but you sure are annoying, so I suppose I should get rid of you as well,” a voice said.
They all looked up to see an old man dressed in a suit with a diamond cane.
“You see….there is no way, any one of you can get out of here alive,” he said.
“LOWOOD! COME DOWN HERE AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN!” Lord Clarence shouted.
“That wouldn’t be fair, though. An old man like me against a young man like you? I think I’ll play this the easier way,” Lowood said. “Gamble is already dead and now the little girl over there is going to die as well.”
“Georgiana?” Wesley called, shaking his sister. “Georgiana, wake up!”
“You can drop her. The poison in the rolls has probably taken effect already. Too bad she was being too excited or else she wouldn’t have died as quickly,” Lowood said.
Lord Clarence growled and ran after Lowood, who disappeared from the stairwell. Wesley was shaking Georgiana.
“Mary, I don’t think she’s breathing. What am I going to tell my parents?” he whispered.
If we get out of here alive, they both thought, but no one mentioned it.
“I’m really sorry, Wesley,” Mary said. “Are you taking her with you?”
Mary cursed herself for being so shallow at a time like this.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to ask the last question. Of course you can take her with you,” Mary added.
“No, I’m leaving her here,” he said. “We should go find Clarence now.”
They laid Georgiana down, gave her a quick goodbye, and ran after Clarence. Mary could see the silent tears creeping their way out of Wesley’s eyes as they hurried up the staircase.
The rooftop is slippery in the rain, Clarence Pearle thought as he tried to locate the old man among the stone gargoyles. He was careful not to make any sloshing sounds.
“Nathaniel was such a serious and cold person. It wasn’t a surprise that he turned against me, so I suppose I’ll make your death the least painful.”
Clarence whirled around to a clicking sound and the mouth of a gun pointed at him. Suddenly, the rooftop trapdoor opened, distracting Lowood just enough for him to slam into the enemy and wrestle the gun from his hands. Wesley and the girl appeared. I pointed the gun at Lowood, who glared at me and took off to the other side of the roof. He disappeared down a trapdoor before I could shoot the brains out of his head. I opened the trap door and jumped in.
Mary she ran after Wesley in her soaking wet dress. Frederick Lowood and Lord Clarence had run down a path of wooden stairways from another trapdoor on the roof. Mary didn’t want to be left behind.
When they got downstairs, Wesley opened a door, leading outside, where Lord Clarence lay in the rain. Even the heavy rain couldn’t hide the pool of blood that was coming from his head.
“Clarence!” Wesley shouted, running towards Lord Clarence.
He turned to Mary, who was frozen in place.
“He’s been hit in the head by a sharp object!”
“I—I got him with the gun….when we were fighting for it. He’s shot. He’s somewhere around here…” Lord Clarence croaked.
Mary scanned the area. She noticed a figure stumbling behind the trees.
“There he is!” she shouted.
Wesley took off after him.
“Wait!” Mary shouted, but they had already disappeared into the forest.
“Girl, take the gun!” Lord Clarence shouted.
Mary knelt by Lord Clarence.
“Take the gun and get him. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Just go!”
Mary grabbed the gun, which was resting by Lord Clarence and ran into the woods. She found Wesley and Frederick Lowood grappling at each other by a cliff.
“Wesley!” she shouted. “Get out of the way!”
“Shoot the gun, Mary!”
“But you’re in the way!”
“Just do it!”
Mary closed her eyes and shot blindly. When she opened them, she saw that she had successfully hit Lowood. He grabbed onto Wesley and they both went tumbling over the cliff. Dropping the gun, she ran, far from the old mansion, far from the ravine, and far from the echoing screams of the old man.
Irene Chan, Age 13, Grade 8, Mark Twain I.S. 239 for the Gifted and Talented, Silver Key