THE HAUNTING OF HILLCREST MANOR book 1

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Chapter 8

It was just after dawn when the servants begin to show up for work. Louise was already in the kitchen preparing the morning breakfast. She looked up and was glad to see them. It had been a very scary night and she didn’t get much rest due to the commotion that was going on in the house. “Commotion,” she thought to herself. More like destruction. It scared her so much and wished she could leave but she had made a promise to the late Lord that she would remain here, no matter what happened. She hoped that Elizabeth could help them. Someone had to. None of them could take much more of this. And it was increasingly getting worse. Someone was going to end up dead. And she knew who that would be.

Nicholas and Elizabeth had come into the dining room and had requested to have their breakfast served there, which surprised Louise, immensely. His lordship hardly ever ate in the dining room, especially breakfast. But maybe this was a good thing. She was so pleased to have seen them both unscathed this morning, after all that she heard last evening. Quickly she made her way to the dining room with trays of bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, jam, and of course freshly steeped tea. “Will there be anything else you’d be needed?” She asked.

“No, this is plenty. Actually I don’t think I can even eat this much,” Elizabeth said, with a forced smile on her face. She was trying not to let the events of last evening upset her. She had to put on a friendly, easy going personality for Nicholas’s sake. There was so much to do before nightfall again. There has to be some record, somewhere in this house. She felt it.

Suddenly they heard a loud scream come from the hallway. Instantly they jumped up and ran toward the scream. It was Louise, standing in the hallway, staring at the wall.

“What is it? What’s the matter?” Elizabeth asked, as she wrapped her arms around the distressed servant.

“Look!” She replied, pointing to the wall.

Elizabeth’s eyes quickly scanned the writing on the wall. “Oh my god! Nicholas. Do you see this?” She asked, in horror.

He looked at the wall and read the message. He backed up a few steps, not believing what he just read. DIE, NICHOLAS, DIE. Was written in all capital letters in what looked like blood. “Who could have written this?” He muttered in disbelief. “Why would someone want him dead? What had he done so badly in his life that this … thing thought he deserved … death?”

“Nicholas, there has to be more information written down somewhere in this house. And I intend to find it. I’ve already have searched the study yesterday when I found the bible. But that was all I found. I think today, I’ll start looking in all the rooms upstairs. Maybe I’ll find something there.”

“I’ll go with you.”

“No, I think it would be better if you stayed downstairs. But there really isn’t any place in this house that you’ll be safe. We found that out last night. But I think you’ll be safer downstairs with the servants. Don’t you?”

“If you say so. But I don’t feel right in letting you put yourself in such danger for me. I just don’t know what to do. I guess my only choice is to follow your instructions. But it just doesn’t feel right to me. You’re a woman and ….”

“Don’t start that nonsense now, Nicholas. I have some protection from this evil spirit with the amulet. You saw that last night. I am also not related to your family. So the best course of action for us to take is for you to stay downstairs and I’ll go upstairs and see what I can find. It’s imperative that I find something. I’m sure one of your ancestors had to have keep some kind of record. I can feel it. Now I must find it.” She said, that with such confidence that Nicholas couldn’t disagree with her logic. She was such a remarkable woman with the most extraordinary gifts, he had to take her at her word that she knew what she was doing.

“All right. I’ll stay downstairs, but … please be careful, Elizabeth.”

***

It had been hours since Elizabeth started her search, but up till now she had found nothing. Nothing at all. Disappointment was all she could feel. There was only one more room to search and that was Sarah’s. She made her way down the hallway, knocked on the door and then entered. Sarah was as usual, sitting in the bed. A smile on her face when she saw Elizabeth.

“I hoped you were okay … last night, Sarah. But … since you didn’t come to me than I assumed that you were safe.”

“Yes, Elizabeth. I know this spirit doesn’t like me very much but … it doesn’t seem to mind me being here.”

“I have sensed that, also. That’s why it was best for you to stay here instead of coming down to the study, with us. Would you mind if I looked around your room, Sarah? I promise I won’t mess it up, I’m just looking for something.”

“I don’t mind, Elizabeth. Look all you want. Do you think you’ll really find something in here?”

“I sure hope so. I have looked in all the other rooms on this floor.”

“Have you looked upstairs?” Sarah asked, innocently.

“Upstairs? I didn’t know there was an upstairs to this house.” She replied, now anxious to find out more about the upper floor. Maybe that’s where she’ll find the answers she’s looking for. “How do you get upstairs? I haven’t seen any other staircase?”

“It’s at the end of the hall, behind the door that is always locked.”

“Why is it locked? That seems a bit strange to block off a staircase to an entire floor.”

“It’s always been like that. My great-grandfather locked it many years ago, before my father was even born. No one is allowed to ever go upstairs. It’s forbidden.”

Elizabeth stared at Sarah for a few minutes, taking in this new information. “Why would anyone block off an entire floor of a house? I need to find the key. That may be the heart, of this house.”

“Oh Elizabeth. Please don’t go up there. That’s where the evil presence lives. I’m afraid for you. It is mean and … cruel.”

“Don’t worry, Sarah. I’ll be careful.” She said, as she whirled around and left the room, now needing to find the key to the door that led to the upper floor. She made it downstairs in record time, searching for the housekeeper. She would have to know where the key was kept. Finally she found her in the kitchen, as usual, preparing their next meal.

“Louise,” she said, somewhat out of breath. “I need the key to the room that leads to the third floor. I need it as soon as possible!”

Louise’s eyes grew large.“Oh, mum. No! You can’t! No one goes up there. It’s forbidden. It wouldn’t be safe. Oh my … you can’t … you just can’t!”

“Louise, I must go. I think that’s the heart of this house. And … that’s where I’ll find the answers I’m looking for.”

“I know you’re probably right … but I’m afraid for you. No one has been up there in so many years ….”

“I’ll be careful. Don’t worry yourself now. I have to do this. Nicholas’s life depends on it. I don’t know if I can protect him for much longer. It will kill him! I know it! This evil spirit must be stopped and I think that I’m probably the only one that can.” She said, that with such confidence that Louise just shook her head in agreement. She knew deep in her soul that someone would save this family from total annihilation.

“I’ll go look for it right away for you, mum. If that’s what you really want to do.”

“Yes … it is.”

The housekeeper disappeared for what seemed an eternity but soon returned with the key. She handed it to Elizabeth, hanging on to it a little longer before releasing it.

“Thank you, Louise. Please don’t worry. I have my amulet that will give me some protection.” She said, it more for herself than the housekeeper. With the key in hand she went back upstairs to the formidable locked door. She stood in front of it for a few minutes and then placed the key in the lock and turned it. It took more pressure to unlock this door probably because it has been so many years since it had been opened. She heard a click and the door opened with a billow of dust coming out from it. Coughing, she regained her composure and entered into the hallway. There was a staircase there that was covered in cobwebs. She carefully made her way up the staircase until she reached the third floor. How many years has it been seen anyone has been up here, she thought to herself. Every two steps she took she ran into more cobwebs. Now I know why the spirit is so angry, I would be angry too if I lived in this mess. This is not the time for jokes, Elizabeth thought to herself. There has to be something up here. She could see that there was a very large bedroom with a drawing room to one side. She opted to look in the drawing room first. That would be the logical place to keep a diary or log book of some kind. It had once been a beautiful room, she could tell by the furnishings. This had to be a woman’s sitting room. It was all done in a rose color hue but time had not been kind to it. Or the fact that it had been neglected for so many years. What a shame, she would love to have a room as beautiful as this one. She started looking at the various bookcases that were around the room. Someone had good taste for book selection, for she recognized many of the authors of the books. It took her awhile to finally finish her search of the room. But no luck. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. If I had a diary, where would I keep it? I wouldn’t want anyone to read it so … I would put in somewhere safe but easy to get to. Hum. She continued her search in the bedroom. She could see the four posted bed was draped with mosquito netting made of the same rose color hue as the furnishings. Her eyes moved past the bed and saw a small table with a drawer in the front of it. She pulled it open. Her eyes grew large as she found what she was searching for. A diary. She opened it up and on the first page was the name Mary Blackwood. She was so fascinated with the diary she didn’t realize how cold the room had become. From right behind her, a large bellowing roar was so loud that it made her drop the diary and cover her ears. She could feel the hot breath of the evil spirit on her neck. His foul smell was making her sick to her stomach. All she wanted to do was run, but she felt trapped. He was all around her. She quickly reached down, grabbed the diary and ran as fast as she could down the stairs and back into the second floor hall. She whirled around and slammed the door shut. Turned the key and locked it. Then leaned against it for a moment, closed her eyes, thanking god for helping her get away from that … thing. I must find a quiet place so I can read the contents of this diary. She went downstairs and decided to sit on the terrace so she could get some fresh air after breathing that awful stale air up on the third floor. She was glad when she saw Nicholas was already on the terrace so she hurried over to him to show him what she had found.

“Nicholas, look … a diary. I knew there had to be one. I found it in a nightstand ….”

“Hold on for a minute, look at you, you’re covered in cobwebs. Louise told me she gave you the door key to the third floor. I wish you hadn’t gone up there, alone. No one has been up there in god I don’t know how many years. You shouldn’t have gone alone. I am talking about your safety from creatures from our world, not the next. Who knows what animals have taken up residency up there?”

“I didn’t think about that … but I did find a diary. Look. It has a name on the first page. It’s Mary Blackwood. Do you know who she is?”

“That’s my grandmother. You say this is her diary?”

“Yes, it must be!” Now Elizabeth was really excited. Your grandmother’s diary. This is wonderful. Now maybe we can get more information about your relatives other than birth and death records. Maybe there is something in it that will give us a clue if there has ever been in her lifetime any really bad tragic events that happened here.”

“I think you may want to clean up a bit first before you start digging into this diary.”

Elizabeth for the first time since she went up to the third floor realized what a mess she was. There was cobwebs hanging from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. “Oh my god! I didn’t realize … I’m covered in spider webs. Yuk! I guess you’re right Nicholas. I need to get cleaned up first.”

“Good idea.”

***

It was getting late by the time Elizabeth returned after her grooming was complete.

“Will you care to join me for dinner, Elizabeth?” He asked, when he saw her.

“Yes, I’m quite hungry. I think I skipped lunch.”

“Then by all means, you need your nourishment.” He said lightly, but that wasn’t how he was really feeling. He was extremely worried about her, searching his house, alone. He decided he would not permit that ever again. He was the man of this house and he didn’t care how much danger it put him in. It wasn’t right for him to stay downstairs with the god damn servants when Elizabeth was placing herself in such danger. No. Never again. I won’t allow it. He thought to himself. He pulled the dining chair out for her and then took his own. Louise came right behind them with a delicious dinner that they dug into the moment it was set on the table.

“I didn’t realize just how hungry I was.” She said, wiping her hands off on her napkin.

“I sure didn’t use my ladylike manners tonight, did I?”

“No, but … it is nice to see someone really enjoy a meal that much.”

She felt embarrassed again. Why did he make her feel like this? She had never felt like this before with anyone. Why did she feel almost giddy inside when he was around? And when he held her in that warm embrace, she felt a fire go through her body like she had never felt before.

“Now, on a more serious issue, have you given any thought to what we’re going to do tonight? Last night was ….”

“I know. We can’t go through that again. I’m afraid we won’t be so fortunate. Whatever we decide to do we better decide quickly. It’s almost sunset.”

“There is an inn just outside the small village we passed on our way here. We could stay there. Or do you think that would make any difference?”

Elizabeth thought about it for a few minutes. “It is off the estate. The entity may not be able to travel that far. We would probably be safe there.”

“What about Sarah? I don’t want to put her in any danger.”

“The entity is after you … not Sarah. I think she would be safer here than with us. Just like last night. He didn’t bother her at all. He only came after you.”

“I see your point. Then it’s the village inn for us. We better get moving quickly if we are to make it there before darkness comes.”

They both jumped up and ran upstairs to gather what few things they would need for the night. They also wanted to check on Sarah and bid her goodnight as well, before they left.

Within twenty minutes they were on their way off the estate and on to the village inn. Elizabeth sat silently now realizing that she was actually going to stay the night in an inn with a gentleman. What would her father think? Would he think it was inappropriate for her to be doing this? Or would he understand the circumstances they were in? Well, she couldn’t think about that right now. The most important thing was for everyone to be safe and if this was the only way to accomplish it, then so be it.

Darkness fell just about the time they pulled up to the inn. They went inside quickly and asked the innkeeper for two rooms. Hopefully adjacent to each other. The innkeeper gave Nicholas a knowing wink, but he just ignored it. The fat old man didn’t know why they were staying there together and he really didn’t care at this point. But he was a little concerned for Elizabeth’s reputation. But they did get two rooms. That was the proper thing to do. Under the circumstances, that was the last thing on his mind.

Elizabeth felt relieved when she entered her room and changed her clothes. Hopefully she will be able to get a good night’s rest tonight. Which was something she hadn’t had since she arrived here in the Moors. So much has happened since she arrived at Hillcrest Manor it made her head spin. She never dreamed she would ever be placed in this kind of situation. With everyone’s lives dependent on her. She climbed into bed, propped herself up with a pillow so she could finally read the diary. Page after page she felt every emotion that her body could possibly feel. Happiness one moment, sadness the next, she couldn’t stop reading. Finally she came to the end. Oh my god! She thought miserably. Laying the diary down on the end table next to her bed, she rolled over, put her face in her pillow and cried herself to sleep.

Morning came and Nicholas was up at the break of dawn, ordered breakfast for the two of them and decided to see what was taking Elizabeth so long to come down for breakfast. Just as he walked over to the staircase he saw her coming down.

“About time you got yourself going this morning. Are you always such a late sleeper?”

“Well, I was finally able to get some sleep last night. Unlike all the nights I’ve stayed at your estate.”

“Now, now. Let’s not get testy.” He said, with a gleam in his eye.

“I’m starving so can we finally eat our breakfast now?”

“As you wish, your lordship, sir.” She said, laughing at his expression.

They ate without incident and were both eager now to return to Hillcrest Manor. In the coach Nicholas asked her if she had read the diary.

“Yes, I read the whole thing last night. Oh Nicholas. It broke my heart when I read it.”

“Did you find out any devastating incidents that could be the cause of our problems?”

“Yes. I think I understand some of it now. But something is still missing. I need to go back up to the third floor again. I think the answer is there. I just have to find it.”

“Please tell me what you read. I really need to know.”

“Well, it was your grandmother’s diary. She had fallen in love with a young man from the village by the name of Wesley Hall. He had asked her to marry him but when he approached her father, he said no. He was just a commoner and wasn’t good enough for his daughter. This left Wesley, devastated. They planned to marry anyway because your grandmother was so in love with him she would suffer the consequences of her father. That night, Wesley Hall came to the Manor House very late. He propped a ladder up against the house so he could help your grandmother escape from her third floor bedroom window without being seen. Well, he was seen by her brothers who knocked the ladder over, causing him to fall to his death. Your grandmother never forgave them for their treachery. She withdrew herself to her rooms and stayed there. Not ever wanting to come out. Her father wanted his only daughter to marry a proper suitor for her station, so he arranged a marriage for her, without her consent. A young man from London, a distant cousin, had a title but no properties. The money didn’t matter only the title did. He would leave them Hillcrest Manor so they wouldn’t have any financial problems at all. They had a very short engagement and were married within a few months. Your grandmother never got over the death of Wesley Hall. She loved him with all her heart and her family had killed him. She never believed their story that he died by accident. She did her duty though and had a son by her husband but theirs was such a loveless marriage. She retreated into the third floor and would not ever come out. She had her bedroom and sitting room there and that’s all she wanted. She would pass her days by daydreaming of what she and Wesley Hall could have had. Several years went by as she fell farther and farther into a melancholy state.

Nicholas, this is where it gets really strange. Her last entries were about Wesley Hall. She didn’t mention anything about being sick, or injured. She just stopped writing in her diary. Up till then, she was very adamant about keeping up a daily entry. So what happened to her? I don’t understand why she would just stop writing in her diary. It seemed like it was the only important thing in her life.”

“That is a bit strange as you said. I totally agree with you. It was out of character for her to stop writing so abruptly. So where does that leave us, now?”

“I don’t know exactly. But I think we need to find out what happened to your grandmother.”

“She is buried in the family cemetery if that would be of any use.” He said.

“Not really. It would tell us the day she died but we already have that in the bible. Sometimes the cause of death is written on the headstone. But first I want to go back to the third floor. To see if there is any more evidence up there. I didn’t have much time yesterday to investigate. I was looking for a diary. Now that we have it, we can look more closely at her rooms. Maybe we’ll find something. We need to find out why she stopped writing in the diary. It was too important to her to just stop like that.”

“Well, don’t you think we should at least check the bible to see the exact date she died?” He asked? “Before we go back upstairs?”

“Yes, I think you’re exactly right. That’s a much better course of action because then we would know the exact day she died and compare it to her last entry in the diary.”

“Well, I’m going with you this time. I don’t care about the dangers. I don’t want you to go up there by yourself again.” He held up his hand to stop her from replying to his statement.

“It’s settled. We’ll go together after we check on Sarah, is that okay with you?”

“Yes. If you insist. I can’t stop you.”

“What kind of a man do you think I am? To stay downstairs with the servants while you go into danger by yourself? Really? I did that once because you asked me to, but I will not do it again.” He was almost yelling at her by the time he had finished speaking.

“If it’s that important to you, then I agree with you.”

“Thank you, madam. I’m glad we have that settled.” They both became very quiet then, lost in their own private thoughts the rest of the way back to the Manor House.

Louise was waiting, impatiently for them to return. “I’m so glad to see the both of you, safe and sound.” She said. Following them back into the house. “Have you had breakfast yet, I can fix you something if you haven’t?”

“Yes, Louise. We did have breakfast at the Inn. But … if you could bring us some tea. That would be nice.” He replied, looking at the old faithful servant.

She turned around and sped away, back to the kitchen to brew them a pot of tea.

In the meantime, Nicholas and Elizabeth headed upstairs to check on Sarah, and put their overnight bags away. Knocking and then opened the door, they both entered Sarah’s room. They didn’t see her at first, but then they saw a lump under the covers in the middle of the bed.

“Sarah … are you alright?” Her father asked, with concern in his voice.

They could see the lump moving, now. Sarah stuck her head out from under the covers. She smiled when she saw her father and Elizabeth standing there, unscathed.

“Yes, father. I’m fine. I’m just so happy that nothing happened to you last night.”

“We’re fine,” Elizabeth answered. “We just wanted to say good morning to you, and make sure you’re okay.”

They left her room after a brief visit with her and went into their own bedrooms to put away their overnight clothes. Elizabeth wanted to also retrieve the bible, if it was still there, that she had left on her bed stand. Thank god it’s still here, she thought, to herself picking it up she headed downstairs to the terrace to meet up with Nicholas.

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