The Will

From the day Colin had received the letter from the solicitor telling him of his aunts death and that a substantial sum of money and her old house had been left to him in her will, he had dreaded this moment. He made the long journey to the small town solicitor to be handed a set of old worn keys, signed the documents making everything legal and now here he stood, outside a worn out, old and shuttered up old house.

Colin had not been here since his childhood and his memories of the house were not what he would ever call warm and welcoming, the house had always scared him, as did his now departed aunt. She was strict; never letting him play with any of the toys his mother said he could take on his yearly visits. This aunt was his mothers’ only living relative. The sisters were the only living relatives after an unspoken about incident had taken place before his birth. Colin had never known his father and his mother and a scary old aunt had been his entire family. His mother had insisted on the childhood visits but they had stopped before his teens and he had not seen or heard from his aunt since, that was twenty years ago!

Colin stood on the porch, not wanting to enter; his mother never came on those yearly visits. Now standing on the porch to his aunts old house he was wishing his mother was still alive so that she to would be standing on the lonely porch with him. The garden was unkempt, it had not seen a fork in years and the grass stood high even the path leading up to the house was overgrown as if it had not been walked on in years.

Finally, he put the key in the lock, turned it and opened the door. Standing on the threshold memories of his old aunt came flooding back. The smell of cooked vegetables strong as ever, why do old peoples houses smell of cooked vegetables he asked himself as he took that first step into the hallway. He closed the door and walked slowly to the kitchen, it was the one room apart from his bedroom that he had known intimately. He had never been allowed in any other room on his childhood visits. The kitchen had not changed in the preceding twenty years, everything had a place and in its place it was put. Neat cup hooks with neat rows of cups hanging, a picture of wild deer hanging on the wall over the kitchen table, all just as he had remembered from his childhood visits.

Then with horror memories came flooding back of one visit in particular. He had become adventurous on this visit, which also turned out to be his last. He remembered going into another bedroom and in that bedroom had been nothing but another door on the far side of the room. Standing thinking about it he remembered his aunt coming in shrieking at him to get out. Never to go in that room, being almost dragged down the stairs to sit in the kitchen whilst his aunt gathered his few things together then calling his mother to come and pick him up.

His mother had been furious on her arrival, she had bundled him into her car, throwing his bag of toys and clothes in with him and not talking on the journey back to her apartment in the big city. His mother had scalded him so severely when they arrived home that the memory of it made him want to leave this old house and never return. Perhaps it was better his mother was not with him now, she would be telling him to just sell the house and leave.

Colin still stood alone in the kitchen, looking back into the hallway where the staircase led to the bedrooms, the old and faded sofa pushed against a wall in the hallway had letters and newspapers thrown onto it. Probably from a visit by the solicitor at some earlier date, his aunt would never have allowed such tardiness. He had to go and look in that room now; he had no choice, after all these years, the fuss over his entering that room all those years ago. It had been empty he was sure.

Up the stairs he climbed, he could still hear his aunts’ shrieks in his ear as he reached the top, the room he was looking for was now straight in front of him, and the door became an imposing barrier to a long forgotten memory. The door opened with the slightest of squeaks and on entry it was just as he remembered, empty apart from another door on the far side of the room. He walked across the room expecting to find nothing more than an empty cupboard behind the door. The door was locked.

Colin got the set of old keys from his pocket, there were only two keys on it, the front door key and what he had assumed would be a back door key. He tried the key he had not used to gain entry to the house assuming incorrectly that it would unlock the door. What now he thought, he then tried the front door key and to his surprise the key turned and the door creaked open. His heart now pounded, the door opening at the turn of the key had made him jump back, he now wished he had not bothered but he had come this far, what could be behind the door, it had opened as if something was leaning against it. He took the step required to reach the door and flung it open. Nothing fell out at him and Colin took a deep relieved breath and looked inside.

To his utter amazement there was another staircase, it looked as if it led into the roof of the house. Colin never remembered seeing windows in the roof from outside, but then he had never really been allowed to explore outside and he had no real memories of the back garden because of this. He went up the winding staircase, light coming in from skylights in the roof. As he climbed Colin could smell decay, not that the rest of the house smelt much different but this was a different sort of decay smell, mouldy decay.

Colin reached the top of the stairs and wretched at the scene before him, the room was decorated with old and tattered party decorations, cobwebs where everywhere. In the middle of the room was a large table, set out as if for a banquet, eight chairs surrounded the table and in those chairs sat eight skeletons dressed in formal suits and dresses, now slumped into the mould encrusted, festered food that adorned the table. The hair on the skeletons had grown into the food and mice, rats, maggots and any other pests that had obviously found the food and bodies lay dead all over the floor.

The knock at the door surprised Colin; he had been off work since his discovery a few weeks before. Colin answered the door to find a smartly dressed young man flashing a police badge at him. Colin invited him in and led him to his kitchen where the smell of coffee was strong but fresh. After offering coffee to his guest Colin invited him to sit and joined him at the table.

“First of all I hope you feel a bit better Mr Goff” said the young officer. “It appears that you stumbled on a mass poisoning of your whole family”.

“Pardon?” replied Colin, stunned.

“It appears that everyone in the loft room was murdered by your aunt, she must have administered poison to them in the food. Our forensics people have found high concentrations of aconite in the remains of the food and in DNA samples taken from the human remains.”

Colin sat looking into his coffee, unable to comprehend what he had just been told.

“Aconite is an ancient and deadly poison, perhaps better known as wolfsbane, it can kill within minutes of ingestion” the officer continued “Once ingested the victims feels numbness and could be dead within minutes, which appears to be the case here”

The officer went to say more but Colin put his hand up as a gesture for the officer to stop; he did not want to hear anymore and sat silently trying to absorb what he had been told. Then it dawned on him, his mother had known!

“Mr Goff” the officer intruded on his thoughts, “Mr Goff, there is something we need from you.”

“Yes, what is it?” Colin was now swimming in his emotions.

“We need a sample of blood from you. All of the remains found in the room appear to be from people over the age of fifty at the time of their deaths but one is of a young man, in his twenties”

©2009 Trevor Litchfield
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