The Trunk in the Basement
Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Helen Chilcott
Word Count :57000
Publication Date :2010-09-15
Series : Trunk in the Basement#1
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-55487-228-2
Wealthy parliamentarian, Kenneth Stokes, discovers his illegitimacy when the woman he believes is his mother receives a blackmail demand from Molly Millar, the Stokes’ former cook, and commits suicide rather than tell him the truth. Vulnerable to ruin if the secret leaks, Kenneth seeks out Molly who threatens to expose him unless he buys her silence. When Molly tells Kenneth that Herbert Stokes is not his real father, a scuffle ensues, during which Molly is fatally injured. Learning of Kenneth’s paternity Herbert rejects him, suffers a heart attack and loses his memory. Kenneth sends Herbert on a recuperative cruise hoping his memory will return at sea. Molly’s ghost threatened revenge against the entire Stokes family and plagues Herbert, who believes he has lost his mind. Halfway across the Atlantic, Herbert sees death as his only escape from madness. But will he take it? And can he take Molly’s ghost with him?
Herbert had never felt such bewilderment. He tried to imagine how Molly smuggled herself aboard Strathmorgen. Perhaps Kenneth had a hand in it. Since falling ill, I suspected the man of subterfuge, trying to take over the Stokes fortune. He could have enlisted Molly’s help, offered her a share to play her part. The woman who’s already proven herself devoid of scruples would have jumped at the money. Because the alternative is so unthinkable, the more I consider it the more plausible it sounds. Kenneth and Molly are conspiring against me.
But why send me away to do it when they could have achieved it as well at home? Perhaps they thought this the safer way. Too many people at home to question Molly’s presence. The housekeeper for one, whose eyes and ears don’t miss the smallest incident. If Kenneth were not in the arena, his implication would be improbable. I could point the finger of accusation, but if Kenneth were not there, being seen to participate in the plan the presumption of his innocence by police, and anyone else who matters, would be probable.
Herbert’s heart tightened. Of course I’m wrong. Kenneth could never do such a thing. My memory is returning. Although I still have blank spots, I suspect these contain more of the same good things I’ve recalled to date. Even though Kenneth is not biologically mine I haven’t lived with the man all his life without getting to know the inner Kenneth and the things making him the honourable person he is.
Because Kenneth knows the estates will become his, he has no reason to betray me. No reason at all, unless he believes his illegitimacy will exclude him from the inheritance. There’s ample proof he’s not a Stokes, no birth certificate, no pre-natal records.
No, thought Herbert without conviction. No one else is to blame. I am falling apart. The truth is inescapable. My illness is real and not the result of some wicked scheme.
Nauseated by his confusion, Herbert’s body hummed with exhaustion. But he still found strength to pick up the brandy bottle by the neck and smash it on the chest of drawers. “This can’t be right. I don’t want to do it,” he whispered before becoming breathless again.
Molly gave him the perfect murder motive, the threat of disclosure blood money couldn’t buy off. Kenneth was right. My life will be ruined. There’s no place to hide from the shame in London, where everyone in society knows everyone else’s business, and gossip spreads like disease.
“Molly, yours is the plan of a sophist, not a common whore. Had you help with it, or did you work it up on your own and get lucky?” Because the peril of its success snapped at his ankles like a terrier, he tried to drop the bottle, but couldn’t force his mind to unlock his hand. He tried to back away, but his feet moved forward as if he’d been pushed.
“Ye’ve no control no more, Master Stokes. For whatever ye wants to do I’ll make ye do ut other.”
Not sounding to come from her direction Molly’s words jangled in Herbert’s head.
“I know what ye’re thinking, how could such a low person as meself with no learning work ye into such a corner? Someone ye thought ye’d got rid of all those years back, paid off so handsome to lay low and keep mum, come up again and cause ye and yer family so much grief. But even in thinking it ye is wrong. I’m not ut stupid trollop ye takes me for. For haven’t I been able to show ye some surprising things. The big wave war a thing of sheer beauty, war it not? And didn’t ye really feel ut cold of ut sea as ye sank? And do ye not love ut fishy smell what follows ye about like a lost pup? Ah, no. Stupid I aren’t, Master Stokes. Ye really thought yer precious Mistress Vale war dead in her bathroom, did ye not? And at this very second ye wonders if ye’re losing yer mind, are ye not?”
Yes, in a moment I’ll wake from this hellish nightmare like I have woken from all the others.
* * * *
“But ye’ll not wake, Master, because this ain’t no dream. I’m going to finish ye and then finish yer precious Kenneth and them what come after. Ye is both coming to the dark place where ye sent me, the same dark place ye keeps seeing at my bidding, sees in me eyes, sees in the Mistress’s room behind her, sees all about ye when ye’re frightened. It’s cold here, Master, cold and deep and got no end. I know there’s others here but I can’t see them, nor can they see me. I can ’ear them talking and wailing and moaning, yet I can’t talk to them. They touch me but when I reaches out for them there ain’t nowt but empty space. I’m so hungry I feel like me belly is turning inside out, so thirsty me tongue sticks to itself. I never been so hungry and thirsty but there’s nowt to eat nor drink here.”
She paused. “When I goes to lay down there’s nowt to lay on but darkness, and when I fall asleep there’s those here what shakes me awake again. Can ye imagine what it’s like never sleeping, being awake till ye feels like ye is going to drop with it but not being able to find nowt to lay on? I’ll tell, ye, Master Stokes, it’s bad. Ye feel like ye want to die. Ye wish for it. Ye try and pray for it, but then noise rattles round in yer head and grabs yer prayers and squashes them. It’s scary in here. Ye can’t see it nor touch it, but ye can sort of sense it moving about ye. It gets in yer head and laughs at ye. An ’orrible cackling laugh bouncing between yer ears. I don’t want to be here, Master Stokes. It’s worse than ut hell I heard about in church. There’s no fire and brimstone here. No demons. No infernal heat. Nothing.”