“Ms. Anges tends to those new to the manor. She administered me as a child, but her allegiance transferred to Henry when he came to live here some years ago,” Beatrice swipes at her tears. Batson offers her a handkerchief. She nods her thanks and cleans her face. Murder and Suicide, such a messy business. Beatrice must strive to avoid it.
Batson considers Beatrice. The whole affair is highly unusual. There hasn’t been a murder in one of the large manor houses in many generations. Such atrocities are left to the lower end streets. Everything about this place seems a little off, but some things are clear. The murder was an impetuous act of emotion. Anger, passion, lust, Batson has seen them all. It would be convenient if he could wrap both deaths up and return to his usual more comfortable beat. But something about that solution seemed too simple.
“Did Sir Lochley have any enemies?” Batson asks, working on a hunch.
“Henry was always a kind, bright man. He carried a compliment on his lips for everyone he met. And he’s retired from any business dealings years ago,” Beatrice adds.
Batson nods but his face drops.
“Thank you Miss Lochley, I believe I can proceed from here on my own,” Batson says.
“So soon? Of course Captain, please let me know if there’s anything I offer you to help,” Beatrice murmurs, eyes downcast. Her lip twitches but she wills the errant smile to stay clean off her face.
Batson takes her hand, it’s forward, but he’s compelled to reassure her.
“We will find who did this to Sir Lochley and we will bring them to justice,” he swears.
Beatrice nods and allows a single tear to roll down her cheek.
“I have complete confidence in your ability Captain.”
Batson shifts under her gaze. He wishes he had the same belief. At least the serving woman’s suicide gives him a culprit to pin it on, if all else fails. He should interview the rest of the staff, ensure Miss Beatrice’s safety first. That she’s still alive and unharmed suggests the killer had no ill intent towards her, a jilted lover perhaps? But no, people of this station don’t commit crimes of this magnitude over base emotions like jealousy and they have no need of money. It will be a baffling case.
“You should eat and get rest Miss Lochley, recuperate your strength,” Batson encourages.
“Thank you Captain, but I fear I can’t rest right now. Perhaps a walk in the garden to calm my nerves if you think it’s safe?”
“Madam, we’d have left immediately if there was any indication of danger.”
Beatrice dips into a small curtsey. She leaves the gore behind and walks into the rising dawn light. Her mind wanders over the past day, replaying her kill and all the events since.
Before long, Beatrice is at the decorative Greek temple. She stares at the lamps on either side. Grandfather, spared no expense when he commissioned it. Footfalls echo across the marble entryway. She walks to the inner sanctum and kneels before a statue of Hera.
An odd choice, Beatrice thought. Of all the gods, Grandfather could choose, Hera seems underwhelming. A Goddess often proclaimed powerful but rarely seen in action. And what good did her strength ever do her? She, like all the rest, submits to Zeus’ might.
Warm mass presses against Beatrice’s hands, arms, shoulders, and head. If forced to describe, Beatrice would claim it was like a person wrapping themselves around her and making her support their weight. But Beatrice is alone and instead of the force pressing externally, this pressure comes from within rising out of her. The strangeness passes into a kind of terror, it’s like her soul is leaving her body. She wants to run but an external force is heavy on her brain, willing her remaining kneeling. Beatrice’s body trembles with exertion.
“Just wait, it will be over in a moment little one,” a feminine voice echoes.
Beatrice believes it’s meant to be comforting, but the whole process is too unsettling such a simple salve. What’s worse, why are these sensations almost familiar? Like a mirror reverse of something that happened weeks ago. Beatrice struggles to pull the thought closer, but it’s not forthcoming.
“There, that’s better isn’t it,” the voice soothes.
She’s right. The warm weight retreats and Beatrice is on her own. She collapses before Hera’s statue, a trembling mass. But for all her bodily troubles, Beatrice’s mind is clear for the first time in months.
“I must thank you for the ride. It’s always cathartic to help women murder their tyrants that dare to name themselves Husband.”
Flashes are coming back to Beatrice. She’d planned to remove this temple, but they told her the cost out of her budget. She settled on removing Hera’s statue. When questioned, Beatrice explained she didn’t want to look at a statue that reminds her of her own bondage. Beatrice didn’t deign to explain how a woman might view an arranged marriage. How Herny wanted her, but she never had the chance to feel the same desire. Those details were for Beatrice’s heart alone. A bout of dizziness befell her, and then the next weeks are a fog.
Henry! He’s gone, murdered with her hands, though not her will. Never her will. Beatrice didn’t get to choose to marry him, it was a sick parallel, she didn’t get to choose to murder him either.
“You,” Beatrice stammered.
“I did you a favor, child. He limited you. Gave you an allowance that kept you leashed to him like a dog when this estate comes from your family. With my strength, my power, I freed you. Your indecision, your resentment, your compromised soul none of it was a match for me.”
Beatrice flushes. There is part of her that’s enticed by Hera’s claims. Uncertain if the cost if worth the gain, Beatrice hesitates.
“You have time and space to learn what a great gift I gave you.”
The nod is slow and tear filled. Her large bed empty and cold fills Beatrice with loneliness, there is no way to go but forward.
“Thank you,” she whispers, bowing low.
“I do not require thanks, I require work. Bring me a pair of peacocks I may observe in the gardens, and fresh laurel every full moon. Do this and I will bless your home and make you powerful within it.”
Beatrice nods, she need not hear about what could happen if she refuses. Hera’s possession offers a myriad of tragedies to her quick mind. She picks herself up off the ground and heads to the exit.
“And Beatrice,” the voice calls, “never again question my strength or plan to remove me from this place. I will make your current loss look like a child’s punishment if you cross me again.”
Beatrice’s blood stalls even as her heart pounds. She flees the temple, and runs mindless through her gardens, falling to one of the many benches. As she sits in the warm sun, she cries over her foolish words and careless thoughts. The world is full of strange and horrible consequences.
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Want more? See Patrick O’Kelley’s Ending or Christopher M. Palmer’s Ending