Friday, July 12, 2013

The Darkest Hour - Chapter 1

Ivy Mae Carter
“What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
- T. S. Eliot

I look down at the soiled paper in my hand. It was a torn obituary of Louisa Court at one point. Now, it’s just a smudged mess of ink and parchment. The words are barely readable and I’m glad I no longer need them. This is the right place – I am certain this time.

The destruction surrounding the room is the only clue I need. Someone – or something – has been here searching for something. I’m guessing it was a less than happy ghost looking for the item she must be holding onto. I’m just not certain what the item is or where she may be.

According to the people I interviewed (presumably for a school project), Mrs. Court had spent the past two years in a retirement home on the outskirts of town. She hadn’t been to her house but a couple of times in those two years, but it was still listed under her name anyways. She wouldn’t let anyone in the family sell it, despite their attempts.

I look around the mess and try to figure out what she had been searching for. The jewelry boxes on top of the dresser are askew and the drawers are all pulled out. I can’t tell you if anything is missing because I’m not familiar with this room.

“There’s one item missing,” the voice of the girl next to me breaks through my thoughts. I forgot that I had to use a classmate from school as a way in. I’ll have to write an article about the mysterious break in for the school paper, but that’s okay if this brings me a step closer to helping out Louisa Court.

“What item?” I ask Sarah Donovan, who is one of six granddaughters of Louisa Court.

“Her wedding band,” she says, approaching the jewelry boxes. “It was always kept in the top drawer of the third box and now it’s gone.” She looks into the now empty drawer. “My mother was going to keep it for herself. It was the only item she wanted.” I see tears welling up at the corner of Sarah’s eyes. “And now it’s gone.”

“Who would want to steal her wedding band?” I play the part of the good reporter and ask the expected questions even though I already have a hunch of my own about who the thief may be. The only thing that doesn’t make any sense to me is why – why would Louisa Court steal her own wedding ring?

“That’s what we would like to know.”

“When is the funeral?” I ask Sarah, looking down at the soiled obituary. I can no longer make out the date for the funeral. It was the one thing in the obituary that I didn’t think I would need. My original plan was to have this mystery solved before the funeral took place.

“Today at 3 o’clock,” she replies, looking at her watch. “So, in a couple of hours.” She looks around the room once more. “I actually should probably go get ready if you don’t mind.”

“Of course,” I reply, trying my best to sound sympathetic. The truth is that I think this is the first time Sarah and I have talked since elementary school. “Thank you for letting me take a look around.”

“It’s not a problem,” she replies, sidestepping clothes that are strewn on the floor. “I can’t wait to see the article.”

“Neither can I,” I say with a smile before showing myself out. This hobby definitely keeps me on my toes.

* * * * *

“Ivy!” Sarah says, approaching with a smile. “I didn’t know that you were coming to the funeral.”

“I felt I should see the whole story before I write it,” I explain in a hurry. I have on thought on my mind – getting to the casket and taking a look inside. I nod politely at Sarah and head towards the casket as she greets family members. Lucky for me, the viewing is open casket.

Chills shoot through my bones as I approach the ornate wooden box. The funeral is being held in the oldest of churches in Nuitville – the one that sits atop a hill surrounded by a graveyard. It’s the perfect place to find a lingering ghost. I stare down at the face in the box. The paper hadn’t included a picture with the obituary and what I see shocks me.

Staring back at me is the made up face of an old lady. I stare for a moment envisioning the face without the layers of make-up and realize that I saw an exact duplicate on my way through the door. The ghost of Louisa Court had been standing at the entrance when I walked through the door and I hadn’t even noticed!

I turn and walk briskly back to the church entrance. Standing to the side, all alone, is a solitary woman with a bent head. I walk towards her, ready to soothe her fears and help her move onto her next place in life. She wouldn’t be the first ghost I’d helped move on.

As I approach her, she turns and stares at me. I hold her glare for a moment before walking closer. I am inches away when she rises from her chair and heads into the church. I follow behind her, watching her motions and wondering where she is headed. It is not until we pass the second stain glassed panel that I see the glint of gold in her hand. She was the burglar of her own house.

She heads straight for the casket and I follow slowly behind her, hoping I don’t appear too suspicious amongst the tears and reunions taking place. I watch silently as she reaches into the casket, ring in hand. A few seconds later, her arm is withdrawn and the ring is missing. Her purpose is clear to me now – she wished for the ring to go with her to the grave.

* * * * *

Creative Commons License
The Darkest Hour by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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