She was in the attic, lit candles in her hand. While the others were in the drawing room, she had slipped out and come up here, curiosity stronger than caution and common sense. Philip had shown her every part of the manor, except the attic. Why? Was there something up there that he didn’t want her to see or know about about? It had been where his older brother, Raymond slept. Raymond. She shuddered when she thought about him. She had never met him but had heard stories about him that made her blood run cold.
Apparently Raymond had brutally murdered his wife, Estelle before he vanished. Some people believed that he was dead while others believed that he was locked away in an asylum. She preferred to think of him as dead. Poor Philip to have had such a brother. No wonder the subject was so painful for him.
She hated attics. They were always so cold and dark. She wished they didn’t exist. She could find no purpose for them. This one, though was different. It was once used as a bedroom and study. There was a three panel window, flanked by paintings on the walls and in front of it stood a desk and a chair. On the left was a cot and on the right was a large chest. She looked at the chest, wondering what was in it.
Curious, she took a step toward it and as she moved, something caught her eye. She shone the light on it. It looked like a feature. She stooped down and picked it up to examine it closely. It was a feature from a lady’s hat. Whatever could it be doing here? Did it belong to Raymond’s wife? She slipped it into the pocket of her skirt and stood up. She continued toward the chest when she froze.
She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and she jumped to her feet. Someone was in the attic. She could sense it. The hand holding the candles began to shake. Heart thudding, she stood there, terrified to look around from whence came the unmistakable sound of footsteps…
“Constance?” It was Philip.
Almost weak with relief, she swung around to face him as he strode over to her, holding a lamp. “Oh, Philip,” she cried. “It’s you I heard. I thought someone else was in here with me.”
He studied her. “You look pale,” he remarked. “Are you all right?”
She nodded. “Yes, yes. I’m quite all right, now that you are here.”
“What were you doing in here?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, Philip. I was simply curious.”
He reached out and touched her cheek. “I am to blame. I should have brought you here when I gave you the tour of the house and then you would not have had to come here alone and be scared out of your wits. Do you forgive me?”
She smiled. “There is nothing to forgive, Philip. Beside, I don’t like attics. I find them to be very unpleasant.”
“So, I have no reason to believe that you will come up here again.”
“You have my word that I shall never set foot in this attic again.”
He smiled. “Very well then. Your parents were inquiring after you. Why don’t you go downstairs and join them? I shall be there shortly.”
“Very well, Philip.” She turned and quickly left the room, thankful to be out of there.
As soon as she was gone, Philip closed the door and turned as a tall figure stepped out of the shadows. Holding up the lamp, he stared into the face that was very much like his own. “What were you going to do if I hadn’t come in when I did?” he demanded.
“I was going to warn her about you.”
“It is a good thing for both her and you that you didn’t.”
“Raymond, you can’t get away with this.”
A frightening expression came over his brother’s face which made him recoil. There was a maniacal look in his dark eyes. “But, I have, my dear Philip. Everyone thinks I’m you, including your precious Constance and as long as they do, no harm will come to her. Now, if you will excuse me, I have guests. Goodnight, Philip. Sweet dreams.” He turned and walked out of the room. This time, he made sure to lock the door after him.
Philip sank to the floor and buried his white face in his shaking hands. Please, God, don’t let him get away with it any longer. Expose him for the fiend that he is and save my precious Constance.
Hours later when Constance and her parents got home, she remembered the feather she had found. She took it out and showed it to them. Her father, Chief Inspector with Scotland Yard, examined it closely. “Where did you find it?” he inquired.
“I found it laying on the floor in the attic. It looks like it belonged to a lady’s hat.”
“It looks very much like Estelle’s hat. I was with her when she bought it. She was very pleased with it.”
“You’re right, my Dear. She was wearing it on the night she was found dead in her husband’s study.”
Constance frowned. “If she was found dead in the study in the home she shared with her husband, Raymond, how do you account for this feather showing up in the Whitmore’s attic?”
Her father scratched his head. “That, my Dear, is something we will have to look into. In the meantime, don’t mention the feather to anyone, not even to Philip.”
“Very well, Father. Goodnight.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Goodnight, Mother.”
“Goodnight, Dear.” After she left, Mrs. Bennett turned to her husband who was studying the feather, his brow deeply furrowed. “Don’t be stay up too long, Charles” she advised. “Even Scotland Yard’s finest needs his rest.”
He absently nodded and she left him, her dress rustling as she moved. The house was quiet. Only the sound of the grandfather clock ticking was heard. He went into his study and closed the door. He sat down at the desk and turning on the lamp, he stared at the feather. What was it doing in the Whitmore attic? Why wasn’t it found on the same premises where the murder took place?
Was it possible that Estelle was murdered at the Whitmore residence and then taken to her home to implicate her husband? But why? Who would want to implicate Raymond in his wife’s murder? It couldn’t have been his brother, Philip. Philip was in the West Indies at the time of the murder. And the murder weapon had been found in the pond, wiped clean. It was the silver letter opener which Raymond had given Estelle as a wedding present. From the very beginning this case had baffled the Chief Inspector and now here was a clue which could very well turn out to be a red herring or a break in the case. Only time would tell which one it was.
This is in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday’s photo prompt: Remains. For more details, click here.