The Spectre of Granley Lodge (Finale)

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The dawn had broke and the first rays of sunlight splashed across the tall spires of Granley Lodge making them appear as sparkling magic wands. It was the day of All Hallows Even, the day before All Saints Day – the day better known worldwide as Halloween. On this day in times past the inhabitants of the Lodge would be preparing for the annual public fete held within its grounds, but this day would bring no such merriment. Instead, the air was thick with another type of brooding anticipation – not the happy kind, but a dark foreboding suggestive of things to come. The Lodge stood waiting: silent, a silent expectation as if by all the ages it had seen had somehow made it conscious, self aware, already knowing the events that would unfold within its historic walls.


The previous day had been challenging for Chase; it was a day of reckoning, a day when he had methodically laid out everything he knew, everything he thought he knew, and every speculative notion that had ever entered into his thinking concerning Petherton, the spectre, and the fate of Celine. To his way of thinking they were all bound together and inseparable, each waiting for the time when their respective destiny’s converged allowing the end-game to reach its conclusion, a conclusion he hoped to engineer favourably for Celine. Convincing his aunt that the ideas he had were valid was the easy part; she had never wavered in her own beliefs and had long been vindicated by them, but getting his aunt to play out the role he saw her having to do was problematic at best. In effect, his plan involved placing Celine directly in harm’s way – playing from a scripted set of actions enabling Petherton to feel that his plan was foolproof. The one element in the whole affair that boded well for the plan was surprise. There was no way that Petherton knew, or even suspected that Henry Chase would be in the area plotting against him; watching his every move. Adding to this advantage was the fact that Petherton would not be aware of the supernatural activity which had been witnessed, noted, and recorded on film over the past several days. Chase felt sure that Petherton had done his homework surrounding the legend which in turn gave wings to his flight of fancy. Then after further consideration, Petherton devised the plan he intended to execute this very evening; the one thing he couldn’t know or comprehend was that he had taken for granted a legend which ultimately would work against him and not for him. His entire plan hinged on placing blame for Celine’s demise on the spectre, but in doing so he had overlooked one thing; he was dealing with forces that were real rather than a convenient superstition which suited his murderous needs.


When Chase had finished his rather lengthy discourse and allowed time for it to sink in, the only thing left was to see if Celine would agree to take part in his risky scheme. Celine understood all too well that if she chose not to go through with it her situation would remain the same, and that her life would be forever in danger all the time Petherton was around. Her two options were as clear as daylight: agree to go through with her nephew’s plan, or decide not to and face the hidden consequences thereafter. The two choices were equally terrifying in Celine’s mind, but she asked herself if she wanted to spend the rest of her life constantly looking over her shoulder not knowing what the next day would bring? The deciding factor in her decision to go ahead with the plan was that Chase had made it clear that there was no way – given the circumstances, that he would leave Celine alone and would remain at the Lodge at all times but hidden away from Petherton.


Ingrid, although also terrified by it, was inclined to agree with Chase and his master plan. In her own mind there was no other way she could see that would rid Celine of her living hell, and after watching the video provided by Chase gave her new belief that he did indeed know what he was talking about and that his plan was valid, but at the same time highly risky. In late afternoon when she had to leave for work and, knowing full well that she couldn’t play any part in the scheme, she insisted that Chase supply her with regular updates as to what was happening at the Lodge; she wouldn’t leave until Chase had reassured her that he would do exactly what she asked of him. She left in a cloud of doubt and worry, but the one comfort she took with her was: if anyone could protect Celine from harm, then that person was Henry Chase.


With the plan in place and everything agreed upon Chase would spend the night in the bedroom adjacent to Celine’s. The bedrooms, both connected by huge double doors which allowed access to each other, gave a modicum of comfort and security to Celine at a time she needed it most. In the past, when they were still alive, his parents had used that bedroom when they came to stay and Celine liked nothing more than the opportunity to jabber away with her sister when they woke in the mornings. All the furniture had been covered up with dust sheets which reinforced its neglected, unused look, but all Chase would need was the bed for one night’s stay. Celine had the keys for the bedroom and the door giving access to the corridor was permanently locked; this would facilitate the need for secrecy giving little chance that Petherton would ever discover that Chase was hidden away within it. When evening came, and long after the dinner service was finished, Celine waited for her staff to leave then gathered up some food for Chase to nibble on, that way he wouldn’t have to go to bed with an empty stomach. They spent a few hours talking in Celine’s bedroom making sure their voices were muted to a whisper; even though Petherton’s room was down the corridor they would take no risks that he might hear them. Chase had spent that conversation on nothing but reassuring Celine that by tomorrow night the nightmare would be over. He went over the plan again and again until Celine told him to stop because she was sick of hearing it and could think of nothing else and, if he went on anymore about it she wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. They both turned in at 11:00, Chase left the connecting doors open on Celine’s bidding, and her bedroom door was securely locked. Before he settled down Chase remembered to phone Bradley with an update; he told him to switch the cameras off and because they had done their job, he could come and remove them at his own leisure. When he finished the call, and as a further measure for maintaining secrecy, he put his phone in silent mode.


Chase gave way to sleep quickly; he had been up for most of the previous night and all day, and with his master plan repeating in his mind, he drifted off and had dreams of heraldry, knights in shining armour, and damsels in distress who looked like Celine in all her youthful beauty. Celine had lain in bed staring up in the darkness at the ceiling, she convinced herself that she wouldn’t get any sleep – constantly tossing and turning in wakefulness, but this was not the case. Perhaps because Chase was in the next room; a living presence offering protection at a time when she needed it, or for whatever psychological reason, she found herself sinking deeper and deeper into the realm of dreams until finally succumbing to it. Just before she fell into sleep her eyes briefly flicked open and she had a semiconscious glimpse of a figure hovering over her bed looking down at her. She mumbled something incoherent then turned on her side and slept.


When morning came the business at the Lodge carried on as normal. Petherton went to work at his usual time which was no surprise to Chase, whatever he had planned would take place this evening – of that he was absolutely certain. Celine went about her own daily affairs and put on a brave face but Chase could tell just how apprehensive she really was, so throughout the day he never let her out of his sight, the only exception being when she went to the ladies room. Their conversations were short, and at times awkward and false; they were both feeling the slowly building tension of the evening’s anticipated events. In the early afternoon they had a walk around the grounds to get some much needed fresh air; Chase used this time to give Ingrid a quick call to give her his promised update and told her that he would phone again later on. During the walk Celine’s mood began to lighten and she became more like her old self again; Chase felt gladdened by this apparent change in his aunt and hoped it would stay with her even if for a short while. All too soon the evening approached and the early dark of October descended upon the Lodge like a falling black blanket , and Chase imagined that Children all over the local community would be dressing up to go trick or treating. The night of Halloween had finally come. As 6:00 neared, Chase made himself scarce and went upstairs to the spare bedroom, but not before he had one final word with Celine just to make sure she remained on the same page as him. Unknown to Celine, Chase doubled back and went downstairs and silently slid down the right hand side corridor and entered a walk-in service cupboard and waited. A short while later the front door of the Lodge opened and Petherton came through it. Chase observed proceedings through the gap of the cupboard door which was slightly ajar, he waited for Petherton to go upstairs then slithered out from the cupboard like an unseen and unheard mouse and followed him up but at a safe distance. The game was now definitely on.


He heard the sound of Petherton’s bedroom door unlocking followed by the door opening then closing. Chase hopped up the stairs taking two steps at a time until he came to the landing; he silently crossed the short distance to Celine’s room and entered. As the door opened he spotted Celine at her dressing table getting ready for dinner, she saw the door open through the mirror and let out a gasp only to find Chase walking in.


“Henry!” She said, in a reproachful whisper. “What are you doing skulking about?”


Chase carefully closed the door then walked over to where Celine sat.


“Sorry, Aunt Celine,” he whispered, looking mildly guilty. “I was touching base with you know who. I needed to know where he was.”


“I could have told you that, Henry,” she was looking at him through the mirror.


“I know you could, but I had to see it for myself.”


“And now that you have?” Celine dabbed her cheeks with a blusher while staring at him.


“Nothing,” he said, innocently. “What time do you go down for dinner?”


“Seven.”


“Ok. From here on in do everything that you normally do, and do not do anything out of the ordinary no matter what.”


“Yes dear,” Celine said, rolling her eyes. “For the hundredth time, yes!”


“Good,” he said, supportively. “Whatever happens just go with the flow no matter how odd or different it may seem to you. And don’t be concerned if you can’t see me around from now on. I’ll be about but not in plain sight to anyone, so don’t go looking for me either in person or by eye movement. Can you do that?”


Celine stood up and turned to face him shaking her head. She fell into his arms and tightly embraced him; her body was trembling ever so slightly.


“No,” Celine said, in a choked up voice. “I don’t think I can go through with it.”


Chase kissed her on her forehead and pulled away far enough to look her in the eye.


“Aunt Celine. Nothing’s going to happen to you, you’re just going downstairs to dinner, that’s all. Petherton’s not going to try anything while the staff is still here, and in any case, don’t forget that I’ll be watching closely. As soon as the dinner service is done, just carry on as you normally would do on any other day. Stick to your habits.”


Celine stared up at Chase and nodded.


“Yes, Henry. You’re right of course, but I just want this whole damn affair done with. I can’t go on with this gloomy cloud hanging over my head anymore.”


They both paused when they heard the sound of dull footsteps on carpet pass by outside. Petherton was obviously heading downstairs to dinner.


Chase checked his watch: 6:55pm. He returned his gaze to Celine.


“Right. One more thing. Give me the master key to the spare bedroom; I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be needing it at some point tonight.”


Celine walked across to her bed and opened a side table drawer, picked something out from it and returned to Chase dangling a key on a chain in front of him.


“Here,” she said, and gave him the key.


He took the key and looked hard at his aunt.


“Are we doing this? It’s now or never.”


Celine breathed deeply in an attempt to calm and compose herself.


“Yes, dear. We are doing it. But only because you’re here, I couldn’t do it by myself.”


“Just remember, you’ve got more inner strength than you know or realise. It’s time to dig a little deeper and pull it out. . .ok?”


Celine closed her eyes and nodded with determination.


“Right. I must go or I’ll be late.”


“Remember,” said Chase, as Celine headed for the door. “I will never be far away.”


She paused at the door and looked at Chase for a few seconds, said nothing, then exited the bedroom full of silent trepidation.


Chase waited a moment or two then followed her out into the corridor. As expected everything was still and quiet. He reached the top of the stairs and listened. . .? The pathway was clear so he made his way downstairs and paused at the bottom. Smells of cooking wafted up his nose making him feel hungry; he ignored it and crossed to the right corridor leading off from the hallway. The right corridor housed the main dining room and adjoining that was a service entrance and walkway for the hired staff. He lingered for a while being fully aware that the waiter would soon pass by with a service trolley, but that act in itself would make a noise so he would have some warning. He stood by the dining room doors and listened – straining his ears to pick up any audible conversation but he heard nothing. The sound of wheels rolling on a soft carpeted surface drew his attention away and he quickly backed off round the corner and out of sight. The waiter came up the corridor, stopped when he reached the doors, walked round the trolley and swung open the dining hall doors. He pulled the trolley through the opening then proceeded with the dinner service. The doors were left fully open and seeing an opportunity Chase reacted like a greyhound out of the starting blocks and pinned himself against the wall then peered through the aperture between the door and its frame. The dining room being of grand design, had a long, highly polished table at its centre, Celine sat to his left at one end, and to the right but out of his field of vision sat Petherton. He dwelled for as long as he dared, and after satisfying himself that things were running on target he slipped away back upstairs to Celine’s room.


Once inside he gave Ingrid another call to tell her how things were going, but warned that it was highly unlikely that he would have another chance to phone her again. She understood but didn’t like the idea of it one little bit. Chase made his apologies and hung up then refocused his attention on the matter at hand. He entered the spare bedroom and walked over to the door, from his pocket he pulled out the key Celine gave him and pushed it through the key hole and turned it; the lock responded and clicked open. He tried the door and it opened smoothly without any hinge squeaking or other such tell-tale noises, he then slid the key through the other side of the lock just to make sure it worked properly, and it did. He closed the door and locked it, then pocketed the key again. Returning to Celine’s room he looked back through to the spare bedroom, it looked like it had never been disturbed with everything replaced just as he had found it last night. He happened to notice a set of heavy drapes which spanned across the double doors acting as a sound proofer, he closed the doors leaving one slightly ajar, then pulled the drapes across them and inspected his handiwork. Nodding his head slowly and satisfied with this timely addition to the plan, he went outside to the corridor and unlocked the spare bedroom again and entered. He crossed the room to the double doors – mainly as an acid test, and checked that the drapes stayed in place and that any draft caused by opening the door did not disturb them. All being good, he left the room and locked it. In his own mind and way of thinking, he felt confident that Petherton would pay Celine a visit sometime shortly after dinner and put in motion his endgame, knowing full well he dare not try anything all the time the staff remained; he had to wait until they left so that he and Celine were all alone. Chase felt sure he was one step ahead of him.


At 7:50pm Chase stood at the top landing overlooking the hallway below, he watched as the chef opened the front door and left; only the waiter now remained, but he would also be leaving just as soon as he had cleaned up and put the kitchen in order for the next day. Chase estimated it would take him about half-hour. He had to wait now and be patient; he daren’t go downstairs again until he knew what Petherton’s next move would be. Just after 8:00pm he observed Petherton cross the hallway and walk down the left-hand side corridor, this could only mean that he intended to spend some time in the lounge. Two or three minutes later Celine appeared and headed straight for the staircase. She looked up and spotted Chase standing there, and with a quick nervous look behind her she raced up the remaining steps to join him. She gestured at him not to speak but ushered him into her room with haste.


“Henry. . .he said that he has something important to say to me,” said Celine, while closing the door as he passed through.


“I thought he might,” he replied in a low voice. “What did he say exactly?”


Celine concentrated for a moment.


“He said it was now time to end this charade and move on with our lives.”


“Anything else?”


“Yes. He also said that he wanted to show me something. He’ll come to get me at nine.”


“Did he mention what and where?”


“No he didn’t,” Celine said, shaking her head.


Chase began to pace up and down deep in thought. He stopped when a thought popped into his head.


“I think I know what he intends to do,” he said, his eyes widened at the thought.


“What, Henry? What is it?” Celine’s eyes registered fear.


He pointed upwards with a finger.


Celine looked bewildered, not knowing what he meant.


“He intends to take you to the loft and push you over the balcony. . .that’s it! He means to lull you into a false sense of security by going through the family history and records kept up there, and then blind you with sentimentality. And when you’re off guard he’ll strike.”


Celine looked horrified.


“How can you be sure,” said Celine, staring at him intensely.


“Because it’s the simplest thing he could do without leaving traces or evidence behind. Occam’s razor. Ever heard of it?”


“Oh! I see,” said Celine, realising what he meant.


Chase looked at his watch: 8:38.


“Time is short,” said Chase, seriously. “I can’t linger around here anymore. Are you still willing to play this out to the end?”


Celine took in a deep breath, she looked nervous as hell.


“You’re not going to let anything happen to me are you?”


Chase walked over to her and held her hands in his.


“Aunt Celine. I promise no harm will come to you. It might get a bit scary but take comfort in the fact that I’ll be there too, ready to act. I need you to be strong for just a little while longer.”


Celine closed her eyes and breathed deeply, and then once her eyes opened again Chase knew she was ready.


“Right. I have to go.”


Celine watched as Chase left the room. She was comforted by his presence, but at the same time she was as close to understanding what mortality meant as any living thing could given her circumstances.


Chase paused when he silently pulled down the door handle and opened the door. There was no sound to be heard, no footfalls, no dull thudding; everything was still and quiet. He slipped out and inched towards the landing and looked down to the ground floor. A quick glance at his watch told him the time was 8:45pm. Something made him turn sharply and look behind him, and for the briefest of moments he could have sworn to the fact that he saw something glimmer down the corridor, but now there was nothing. His heart began pounding in his chest when he realised it could have been Petherton, but in truth he thought he knew what he had just seen. A wry smile spread across his face at the idea. He turned his attention back to the staircase and sent out his senses to track any sign of movement. He didn’t have to wait very long until he heard soft footfalls from downstairs. He instinctively moved back down the corridor, he passed Celine’s room and went all the way down until he came to the corner of the east wing. Here he waited still as a statue listening to the approaching footsteps. The footsteps stopped followed by a knocking sound, a door opening, a few muffled words, and a door closing again. Chase hurried back being as light of foot as he could, he reached the spare bedroom door and carefully unlocked it then silently slipped inside. After taking great care when closing the door he crept across the room and stopped at the slightly ajar set of double doors and strained his ears. To his relief he could clearly hear all that was being said.


“. . .come to my room before so why now?” Celine’s voice sounded nervous.


“It’s more a matter of honour than anything else,” said Petherton, in a greasy tone.


“I don’t know what you mean, Edward.”


“They say that time is a great healer, and by the same token wisdom is the great eye opener to give clarity to an otherwise clouded vision,” explained Petherton.


“Edward. . .you still speak in riddles. What do you want?” Celine’s voice now sounded stronger, more self assured.


“I have seen the error of my ways in how I have treated you over the years. I have come to settle up and make amends while I still can. There is something I need to show you which will help explain what I mean.”


In the spare bedroom, from the other side of the doors, Chase clenched his fist and grimaced after hearing the voice of a snake hiss out its bile and bullshit. He needed to contain his anger for a little while longer.


“Then show me it!” Celine demanded, sounding cross.


On hearing this Chase nodded encouragement from the other room.


“I am afraid that what I need you to see is not able to come to you, you must go to it,” said Petherton, sounding as oily as ever.


“And where is it,” asked Celine, sounding impatient.


“Be so kind as to follow me to the loft and all will be revealed,” said Petherton.


In the other room a bolt of electricity shot up the back of Henry Chase. He was right in what he thought. His one hope now was that his aunt could hold herself together long enough to see it through.


“Ve. . .very well, Edward. I will d-do as you ask,” said Celine, sounding nervous again.


“Thank you,” said Petherton.


Chase waited until he heard them leave the bedroom then hastened over to the door and listened. His memory of the Lodge and his great times as a child exploring it were perfect and still intact. He knew exactly where the door which led to the loft was situated. In the middle of the east and wings stood a door, a door that when opened exposed a wooden staircase which gave access to the very large loft space above. The loft, although little used, housed a great many Chase family trinkets and treasures, and what Petherton’s subterfuge was to entice Celine up there he could only guess at.


The sound of their dull footsteps passed by, Chase gave them a few seconds then carefully opened the door and poked his head out just as they disappeared around the corner; he silently slid out of the room in hot pursuit. He reached the corner and poked his head round again and saw them both standing next to the door which Petherton was unlocking. He held his hand out gesturing Celine to go first, and then followed her up the stairs. Light suddenly spilled out from the doorway and splashed up against the walls of the corridor. Chase shot down the corridor being as quiet as humanly possible with the speed that he was going at and stopped when he came to the doorway. He peered around and looked up as Petherton reached the top and vanished from view. With his heart now pounding in his chest once again he gingerly placed a foot on the first stair and began climbing up one by one. The light which Petherton had turned on was now directly above his head making him feel vulnerable and exposed; this was a dangerous time for his plan and if he was to be discovered now, then all would be ruined. Another light came on from somewhere and a dull glow now emanated from the left side of the attic.


Petherton began talking and Chase noted that by the volume alone he sounded at least twenty-feet away, this gave him the confidence to proceed to the very top and find a suitable hiding place – providing any existed. He reached the top and laid flat on the floor and craned his neck to see what was happening. His view was blocked by a huge wooden packing crate with a dust sheet draped across it, he looked around and saw that there were several of them placed in a line to his left, some of them had gaps large enough for him to fit in between. He gathered himself up into a crouch and moved into one of the gaps and listened.


“. . .and so I realised something that had not occurred to me before,” Petherton was saying.


Chase heard the sound of the balcony doors being opened; this was soon followed by another light being turned on. Every sinew in his body now contracted ready to recoil like a spring being suddenly released while under pressure.


“Oh, and what was that,” Celine said. Her voice sounded nearer to Chase than Petherton’s did, this was a good thing but, it also meant that Petherton would be facing in his direction, so if he intended to move from where he was it would be tricky.


“Here,” he said.


Chase heard Petherton walk to the right and the sound of cloth being removed from something filled his ears.


“I found this painting a while back; it’s a portrait of your grandfather and his family at the time. It’s a fine painting, I do not know who painted it but it’s a fine painting nonetheless. Looking at this made me realise something. It made me realise that I do not really belong here. Celine, I am moving on. The divorce will be seamless and smooth, I guarantee it. No nastiness or grief, just a quick and simple separation with no strings attached. The Lodge is yours and always will be I have no right to encroach on that. Why don’t you come over here, there’s something in the painting which you can only see from a particular angle. The balcony is an ideal place from which to view it, when you see it for yourself you will understand what I have been talking about.”


Chase tightened up, ready to pounce at any given moment.


“I can see it f-fine from here,” said Celine, her voice sounded fragile.


“Oh come now, indulge me one last time. It’ll be worth your while,” Petherton said, his voice a measure of evil intent.


“No. I d-don’t think I w-want to,” Celine said, her voice sounded shrill, panic was setting in.


Then came the sound of a scuffle, Celine was being forcibly moved toward the balcony.


“Stop it,” Celine said, squealing in fear. “Leave me alone you bastard!”


“Come and look at this fucking painting you messed up puny bitch,” spat Petherton.


Chase sprang out from his hiding place with lightening speed, ready to put pay to Petherton’s scheme. As he revealed himself the lights began to flicker and sparks fell to the floor scattering in all directions as they landed. Then came the familiar sound of electricity shorting out and the noise of frying circuits. The lights continued to flicker but now more violently, pulsing like strobe lights in a discotheque making movements appear all jerky and unnatural.


Celine was now screaming in unbridled terror as Petherton tried to drag her to the balcony.


“Henry!” She screamed.


Chase lunged at Petherton but was driven back by an unseen force; he fell backwards and landed on the floor with a stunned look on his face. He quickly gathered his senses and stood up again, just as he did that a high pitched noise filled the attic, a deafening sound which hurt his ears. By this time Petherton had released his grip on Celine and was covering up his ears in pain. Celine dropped to the floor and scrambled toward Chase. It was then that they both saw it manifest before them, a greyish figure appeared out of nowhere and seemed to merge with Petherton, enveloping him while emitting a horrendous shrieking sound. Petherton let out a blood curdling scream of terror then suddenly fell silent and became still.


The spectre then darted at Chase and hovered over him menacingly, Celine buried her head in his arms; she was far too frightened to look. The high pitched sound stopped and the entire attic fell silent leaving a ringing noise in their ears. As Chase looked upon the ghostly form hovering above him, a face slowly developed into view. Their eyes met momentarily and Chase felt a sense of benevolence wash over him and all fear left him. The Spectre of Granley Lodge then dissolved and Chase was left staring into empty space. The lights in the attic returned to normal, and the only physical evidence that betrayed its presence was the dead body of Edward Petherton who had died with a contorted look of absolute terror fixed upon his face.


“We’re ok, Aunt Celine,” Chase managed to say, softly. “It’s over now.”


Celine hugged her nephew tightly and sobbed uncontrollably.


EPILOGUE


Granley Lodge had once again made the news headlines but for all the wrong reasons. Yet again another mystery death had occurred there leaving the police completely baffled as to the cause of death. Just like her grandfather, Albert, back in 1912, she had been detained while an investigation of a possible murder was carried out. The returning post-mortem details revealed nothing about how Edward Petherton had died. No marks were found on the body, no poisons, no foreign bodies or anything else covering the air-ways. The one and only sign of trauma was the contorted look of terror on the face of the corpse. The coroner was forced to conclude death by cardiac arrest probably caused by shock or misadventure. That was the official verdict, and after taking their sworn statements which revealed no discrepancies whatsoever when compared, Celine and Chase were released with no pending charges, and the police superintendent leading the investigation ended up being severely reprimanded by a higher power for insulting such a well respected dignitary of the local community and was duly demoted for his outrageous audacity. Granley Lodge had notched up another mystery death to add to its collection, but there were some people who knew different, some people who knew the real truth behind the mysteries, and trying to convince an unbelieving world of the existence of a guardian spectre would be a futile life’s vocation in itself – this fact drove Chase in his decision not to submit the video evidence in his possession.


The time soon arrived when Henry Chase needed to return to his insurance business and resume the running of it. He had accomplished everything he had set out to do regarding the salvation of his aunt Celine, but not without a little help from the corporeal and incorporeal – that always made him smile when he thought about it. Celine had been freed of her chains and became a force of nature once again, and she looked years younger as a result. The bond between aunt and nephew had been strengthened beyond any measurable degree, and anyone trying to mess with that would be blissfully unaware of the perils they would visit upon themselves.


Celine stood at the entrance of Granley Lodge while Chase went to retrieve his car from the garage. Standing next to her was a tearful Ingrid; she didn’t like endings of any sort. Chase pulled up and got out of the car. Three weeks had now passed since the events inside the attic took place, and Ingrid still remained in a state of shock over it all, but as Chase had told her: ‘you had to be there to believe it.’


He walked up to his aunt and gave her a farewell hug.


“Goodbye Henry, darling,” she said, with a tear in her eye. “I can’t thank you enough, and I can’t love you as much as you deserve.”


“I wouldn’t say that,” he replied, laughing.


He turned to Ingrid who was doing her best to hold it together.


“Goodbye Ingrid, but not goodbye. We’ll meet again soon.”


“Goodbye Henry. And thank you for all you’ve done for Celine.”


She hugged him with tears streaming down her face. She pulled away and ran into the Lodge.


Celine rolled her eyes. She knew the reason.


“Have you yet to check out of the hotel?”


“Yes,” he replied. “I’ll settle up and then off to Portsmouth I go.”


“Well drive carefully, dear. And I’ll see you soon.”


“Goodbye Aunt Celine.”


He hugged her again then got in his car. He waved as he passed by and headed down the drive to the open road. Celine looked on, waving.


Once at the hotel he settled his bill and had his belongings brought to his car, he said farewell to Walter and tipped him again then jumped back in his car. Just as he turned the ignition on he got a text message from Ingrid. He opened it and read it.


My dear Henry. Please don’t be a stranger; I couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing you again. Ok? Love Ingrid.


Chase smiled as he shoved the car in gear and set off, homeward bound.


THE END


Disclaimer: any similarities in names to persons living or dead are purely coincidental and are fictitious characters invented by the author.

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