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Secrets on the Walls (Book 1)

By Lauren Massuda All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

Thrust from the comfort of their monotone lives by the untimely death of their grandmother, two young upper class sisters, Suzette and Sophie, face not only the harsh realities of life in Victorian England but also the task of uncovering the mystery of their grandmother’s death. When they begin to discover powerful forces at work right beneath their feet, events turn more fantastic and thrilling as the sisters are submerged into a mystery like no other.

Chapter 1


Birds welcomed spring with a cheerful song that glided about, and a gentle breeze played with the garden’s flowers. Cypress trees surrounded the garden, and rose vines draped over its bricked walls. Wrought iron arches led to the Montgomery mansion which sat on a hill overlooking the countryside. The sun sat behind the rolling hills, turning the grass into fields of gold.

Lady Emma Montgomery and her young grandchildren, Suzette and Sophie, were gathered around a table at the garden’s patio. The three were enjoying tea and pastries while also taking pleasure in the warm weather.

Emma sat at the end of the table, pouring Darjeeling tea for herself. She wore a lavender dress with a floral pattern stitched into the fabric. Her gray hair was wrapped in a bun, and pearls adorned her wrists and neck.

Suzette and Sophie dressed in a similar fashion, but their dresses were a lighter shade and bows were fastened around their waists.

Suzette, who was at the tender age of thirteen, had long auburn hair tied back by a ribbon. Her green eyes lit up when she took a bit out of a pastry, and proceeded to dab her lips with a napkin.

Sophie was three years younger with shorter auburn hair that drooped at her neck. She too was careful while eating as she wiped off stray crumbs from her dress. However, she found the chance to hide a biscuit to save for later. When Suzette was finished with her pastry, she cleared her throat and smiled at her grandma.

“Grandma, may we go to the park after tea?” she asked politely.

Emma set down her cup, in which it clinked delicately onto the saucer. “Have you two finished your studies?

Suzette and Sophie exchanged nervous glances and dropped their heads.

“I take that as a no?” Emma assumed.

The sisters quietly nodded their heads.

Emma pursed her lips and glanced up at the sky. “It would be a shame if we weren’t able to get out of the house during such a beautiful day. Do you girls think you could finish your studies by the next hour?”

Suzette and Sophie once again exchanged nervous glances.

“Likely not. . .” Suzette admitted.

Emma observed her granddaughters with sympathy. After some consideration, she smiled and clapped her hands. “Girls, you have my permission to take a break from your studies. It’ll be my treat.”

Sophie gasped. “Really? Oh, thank you, grandma!”

“But what about Ms. Plumlee? Wouldn’t she be displeased?” Suzette pointed out, raising a finger.

“She’ll understand when I talk to her. After all, you two deserve a break, but you must continue your work tomorrow. Does that sound good?” Emma kept a warm smile to assure the girls.

“Yes!” Sophie exclaimed.

“Wonderful. Now, what shall we do at the park?” Emma asked with almost as much excitement as Sophie.

Suzette pondered before saying, “Reading by the lake would be quite nice. I do want to finish my book.”

“I’d like to feed the ducks!” Sophie declared.

“Those are lovely options,” Emma commented.

“Do you suppose could grandpa come?” Sophie asked.

“Sophie!” Sue shushed, her expression immediately turned sour at her sister’s question.

Emma cupped her hand in her chin. “It’s not a good idea for your grandpa to go outside in his state. . .though. I do wish that he could, though.”

“Oh. When he gets better, we can all go to the park together,” Sophie said.

“That would be nice.” Lady Emma sighed and sat back in her chair. She looked like she was in the brink of tears but held them back. Suzette shot Sophie a stern look before turning back to her grandma.

“Grandma, if you don’t want to go to the park, we don’t have to,” Suzette suggested.

“No, no, it’s fine. I really do want to go out for a bit, and I know you girls do too,” Emma said.

“We could just go for a walk in the country and go to the park another time.”

Emma tilted her head. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yes.”

“Mmm, what about you, Sophie?” Emma asked.

“That’s alright,” Sophie answered, though there was a hint of sadness in her soft-spoken voice.

Emma inhaled and picked up her cup. “Well, let’s finish our tea then.”

The sisters nodded quietly and continued their meal. Emma observed them for a while, and then faced one of the window in the mansion. She could vaguely see the sunken figure of her husband sitting in his wheelchair.

Lord Hugh Montgomery was in a vegetative state, but no one knew exactly why. He could still twitch a couple fingers and blink, but that was the extent of his movement. The elderly man’s figure appeared smaller in that wheelchair, as if he was shrinking into it. It was hard for his remaining family to see him in that state. They all tried to convince each other that he would return to his normal, cheerful ways soon enough. But he had been that way for months now.

“Grandma?” Suzette called, bringing her grandma back to reality. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, my dear,” Emma chuckled, waving a hand dismissively. “My mind does love to wander off. Now, let’s finish up quickly so we can take our walk.”


“Sophie, Suzette, would you two mind telling your grandpa what we found on our walk?” Emma asked while they were all eating dinner. The sisters were sitting on one side of the table, while Emma and Hugh were on the opposite. Servants passed by to deliver more food or to take plates away. A caretaker was helping Hugh eat with a tube, an act that was a bit hard for the girls to watch but they wanted their grandpa to be present for dinner.

“We found a frog!” Sophie exclaimed.

“I believe it was a toad,” Suzette corrected.

“No, it wasn’t.”

“If it’s bumpy than it’s a toad.”

“Grandma, was it a frog?” Sophie asked.

“It was a toad, dear,” Emma answered, cutting through her steak and taking a bite from it.

“See?”

“Never mind, I’m calling it a frog.”

“But it’s not—”

“I found the frog by a pond and wanted to catch it but it kept jumping away from me,” Sophie remarked.

“You were bothering it.”

“I wanted to hold it for simply a second.”

“It did not want to be held and you did not know where it had been. Honestly, Sophie. Grandma, I cannot believe you allowed her to chase after it,” Suzette argued, she was cutting her steak a bit too fast but stopped before she ended up scratching the plate.

“There’s no harm in a little fun, dear.” Emma chuckled.

“I suppose, but Sophie could’ve tripped in a puddle of mud and Ms. Plumlee would’ve given her quite the scolding.”

“She gives us enough scolding already, but I was really close to catching the frog,” Sophie mumbled, poking her food with a fork.

“It was a toad,” Suzette corrected, rolling her eyes.

“But the frog was too fast for me so I stopped and was completely out of breath.”

“And since you were so tired we had to end our walk early,” Suzette said dryly.

“I’m sorry,” Sophie said, chewing her lip. “Could we go on another walk tomorrow?”

“We have our French exam tomorrow and that will certainly take a while,” Suzette reminded.

“Oh, right.”

“Should I Ms. Plumlee to delay it for another time?” Lady Emma asked.

Suzette shook her head. “No, it’s best to get something done sooner than later. Besides, the exam shouldn’t be that bad. You’re good at French, Soph.”

“I suppose it will be alright. . .” Sophie continued to lazily play with her food.

“You’ll do wonderfully, dear,” Lady Emma praised. “If you don’t pass, you simply have to try again another time, no harm done. No matter what happens, we’re still going to go for our walk.”

“But will we have time?” Suzette asked.

“I’m sure we will, do not worry, my dears.”

“Alright.”

“Grandma, what was a topic that was difficult for you to learn?” Sophie asked curiously.

“Hmm, I might have to think of that,” Emma said before something came up. “Oh, my mother wanted me to learn Latin. It was far too confusing and unnecessary.”

“But French is necessary?”

“Most certainly!” Suzette suddenly said with much enthusiasm in her voice. “It’s one of the loveliest languages in the world. Gentlemen want to court women who know French.” Suzette sighed and cupped her hands together. “I can imagine it now--having sweet conversations with my darling as we stroll through the park accompanied by our loyal dogs—”

“I thought you were allergic to dogs?” Sophie pointed out.

“I am, but it doesn’t mean I can’t own a few.”

“You would have to bring along a handful of handkerchiefs, but it won’t be romantic if you sneeze every few minutes.”

Suzette huffed. “Very well, I won’t bring the dogs, it would be troublesome if they try to chase a squirrel anyways.”

“It would be funny though.” Sophie giggled.

“No, it would be improper.”

Sophie frowned and turned to her grandma. “Didn’t you once told us that you disobeyed some rules?”

Emma chuckled. “Yes, I was quite the troublemaker in my youth. Society is so strict to us women, we’re unable to do the activities that we wish to do. I wouldn’t advise doing what I’ve done, but it’s better to do something different every once in a while. Doing the same old thing everyday can get tiresome, but don’t tell Ms. Plumlee that, she would be very displeased.”

Emma pressed a finger to her lips and smiled. Suzette and Sophie smiled as well.

“Did grandpa know that you were a troublemaker?” Sophie wondered.

“Yes, actually, it was one of the reasons we got married.”

“Really?” Suzette stared wide-eyed.

“Yes, your grandpa didn’t care that I broke some rules, rather, he admired me and treated me better than my own parents.” Emma took her husband’s hand and squeezed it. She started to get teary-eyed as she appeared to get lost in thought for a moment.

“Grandma?”

Emma blinked and turned to her granddaughter. “What? Oh, oh, excuse me, I didn’t mean to blank out like that.”

“Are you feeling well?” Sophie asked.

“Ah, I’m getting old, that’s all.” Emma weakly chuckled and Sophie and Suzette exchanged worried looks. Sophie then decided to change the subject:

“Grandma, could you talk about the evening dances you’ve gone to when you were younger?

“Yes, certainly!” Emma’s eyes lit up. “Everyone wore such beautiful dresses and the nights were so enchanting. . .”

As Emma continued to talk about the dance, Suzette remained concerned.


A few days later, Suzette and Sophie were in the parlor playing a game of chess. The girls sat near their grandpa who sat beside a window. Suzette was currently winning the game, while Sophie had lost a majority of her pieces.

“I don’t like this game anymore, Sue,” Sophie mumbled, fiddling with one of her remaining pawn pieces.

“You simply need to concentrate better, this is a thinking game,” Suzette remarked.

“But it’s boring,” Sophie whined.

“Would you rather be studying?”

“No, but can’t we do something else? Knitting perhaps?”

Suzette pursed her lips. “I’m not good at that.”

“Well I’m not good at chess.”

Suzette sighed. “Here, I’ll give you a chance to take out my pawn. You can use your bishop.

“That’s the one that goes diagonal, correct?”

“Yes, and so my pawn is in your bishop’s path.

“Oh. . .are you sure you want me to do this?”

“Yes.”

Sophie used her bishop to win her sister’s pawn, but now Sophie’s bishop was in the way of Suzette’s knight. At the acknowledgment of this, Sophie stared at Suzette worriedly.

“You’re going to take my bishop, aren’t you?”

“Indeed I am.” Suzette smirked.

“That’s not fair.”

“You should’ve been more aware of your surroundings and not listen to your opponent.”

Suzette knocked over Sophie’s bishop and snatched it away.

Sophie gasped. “How cruel, Sue! I’m not going to listen to you again if you’re just going to trick me.”

“See, you’re learning!” Suzette clapped her hands.

The girls continued their game until the door opened. The Montgomery housekeeper, Ms. Plumlee, marched in. She was a scrawny, elderly woman with a mole on her crooked nose.

“I thought you girls were studying in the library?” Ms. Plumlee crossed her skeletal arms and perked an eyebrow.

“We wanted to keep grandpa company. Besides, we’ve been studying for hours,” Suzette stated.

“You don’t get done until I tell you you’re done! Anyways, Sophie, I believe it’s time for your piano lesson.”

“Oh, right!” Sophie hopped off her chair and followed Ms. Plumlee out of the room. Suzette watched them go and then walked over to Hugh.

“Let’s go to the piano room, grandpa.”

Suzette took the handlebars of the wheelchair and rolled Lord Montgomery out of the room.


Golden light slipped through the Palladian window and spilled onto the floor, bathing the grand piano in its warm glow. Pasty keys jingled a soft, heavenly tune as ten fingers waltzed down the old instrument.

Sophie’s face was calm; there was no evidence of tension while she played. The room was hers and she tamed it well, providing a peaceful ambiance. The sun adorned her petite figure in a halo of light and made the pearls on her necklace glisten. Her smile also appeared to glow as she continued to compose her lighthearted music.

The piano room was furnished with opulent pieces of furniture that surrounded the grand piano. Oil paintings decorated the gilded walls, and the windows revealed the mansion’s garden.

Suzette and Ms. Plumlee sit at a couch while Hugh stayed by one of the windows. They listened to Sophie’s performance, but then Suzette whispered in Ms. Plumlee’s ear: “May I go see if grandma wants to join us?”

“No,” Ms. Plumlee hushed.

“But grandma loves listening to Sophie’s performance. She hasn’t been well lately and I’m sure the music will cheer her up.”

Ms. Plumlee huffed. “Fine. But if her Ladyship doesn’t want to join, leave her be.”

“Alright.”

Sophie continued her composition while Suzette exited the room. Suzette strolled down the hallway and the charming sound of the piano followed her. The music was quiet, but rung sweetly in the air. The light from the windows was now a deeper shade of gold with tinges of brown as they highlighted the panelled walls.

Suzette continued her way down the long hallway until approaching an archway. She entered the foyer where two crystal chandeliers hung from the high ceiling. The floor had a checkered design with the accommodation of a blue carpet covering the double staircase.

At the top of the staircase was a painting of a gazebo. The painting filled up a majority of the wall, and it practically glowed by the foyer lights. Suzette proceeded up the stairs and down the hall where the piano could still be heard.

Suzette finally stopped at a pair of double doors at the end of the hall. She knocked it and the door creaked open. Suzette stared into the darkness that leaked out from the room. Her body stiffened when the piano stopped and her ears met a terminal silence. Suzette held her breath and eased her feet into the room.

There were no windows in the chamber so Suzette had to rely on the light from the small candle on the nightstand. The light trailed to the bed and Suzette could distinguish her grandmother’s motionless body lying above the sheets.

“Grandma?” Suzette asked in a whisper. She lend out her hand and gasped at the unusual cold touch of her grandmother’s face.

“Grandma? Grandma, please wake up.” Suzette took Emma's shoulder and started to shake. But her eyes were closed and her features were calm. Suzette’s eyes then trailed to Emma’s right hand. There was a silver goblet curled in her loose fingers, containing remnants of red liquid that had stained the sheets.

Suzette reached for a pulse, but when she didn’t feel anything but the coldness of her grandmother’s skin, she screamed.

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