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11 September 2013 @ 07:00 pm
death comes to haslewood hall - chapter five [whitechapel au bigbang]  
Chapter Five
Chandler didn’t wake until the sun high was in the sky.



He blinked, taking in the strange surroundings. Oh right, this wasn’t his bedroom. Propping himself up he looked down on the mop of dark hair that was spread across chest. He could feel the warmth of the other body seeping through his shirt. Heaven. His arms were still holding the younger man whose bed he shared. He was touching Kent’s soft skin when a loud knock sounded against door.

Chandler instantly panicked. He quickly jumped out of the bed, waking Kent rather abruptly and rushed towards the door. And then he remembered that he had locked it from the inside last night. After taking a deep breath he asked: »Who is it?«

»Miles, sir. It’s Miles. Would you mind opening up for me? I am to check on all the guests. See that everything is alright.«

Oh great. Miles! Chandler bit his bottom lip and turned to face Kent. He was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes and yawning. No doubt the young baronet didn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation.

Well, at least it was only Miles, Chandler tried to reason with himself as he opened the door. Only his steward. Only…

»What is this?« Miles squawked as soon as he got a glimpse of Chandler standing in Kent’s chambers looking…well looking like he had just gotten out of bed.

Chandler closed his eyes for a second and counted to 10. He did not want to see the expression of shock on his servant’s face.
»Miles, please step inside. We wouldn’t want you alarming anyone, now would we?«

Miles frowned but did as he was told. Inside the room, he quickly looked from Chandler to Kent and then back again.

»I suppose it’s none of my business, but I’d still like to have a word with you, sir.«

Chandler sighed. Of course Miles would want to talk to him about this. With his father gone, Miles sometimes liked to step in and give parental advice from time to time, no matter how often Chandler made it known that he didn’t care for it. 
      
»Yes, in a moment. Meet me in my room in ten minutes. That should give us enough time to get dressed.«

He blushed as he tried to avoid Miles gaze. Kent hadn’t said a word. The poor lad must be mortified, Chandler thought.

»Of course, as you say, sir.«

Only after Miles had exited the room, did Chandler dare to look at Kent. They were both blushing, although nothing had happened for which they should feel shame. Well, nothing except sharing a bed and sharing a kiss obviously, which thankfully Miles didn’t know about.

Chandler tried to make himself presentable, although there wasn’t all that much that needed to be done, as he had slept in his shirt and hose.

»Good luck,« Kent said quietly, pulling the blanket closer towards him. »I’m guessing that talk won’t be very pleasant.«

Chandler had to chuckle. »No it won’t, that I can guarantee. But it’s nothing you have to worry about. Get dressed and head down to breakfast. I’ll join you shortly.«

Kent nodded and Chandler headed towards the door. »Oh, and you are alright, aren’t you?« Chandler asked, suddenly recalling what had also happened last night.

»Yes, I’m fine. No need to worry.«

Chandler tried to believe him, although he could still see the bruising around the young man’s neck. He knew the bruises were going to look worse in the coming days.  But Kent was alive and breathing and that was all that mattered.

Chandler had just slipped into his jerkin when Miles entered his room.

»Sir, I know you’re the Lord of Haslewood Hall and the Secretary…«

Miles stumbled over the words, trying to recall the full title of his master.

»Secretary and Keeper of the Seal of the Council of the North,« Chandler offered helpfully. Miles snorted.

»Yes, anyway, what I’m trying to say is you have a responsibility. People in your position always have. And therefore I must say that I found it most disturbing to find you in bed with the young baronet this morning. You, an engaged man. A role model for many men in the parish and…«

Chandler raised his hand before his steward could go on. »Miles, I have to let you know that nothing happened. Between the young baronet and myself, I mean. Nothing. I only shared the bed with him because he was shaken by the attack. That was all. We just slept next to each other. I promise.«

Miles looked taken aback, but then slowly nodded.

»Well I suppose the lad could use a bit of comforting after what happened to him last night. Have you taken a closer look at him this morning?«

»I have and I’m glad to say that the injuries aren’t too bad. Mostly bruising around the neck and some back pain. I dread to imagine what might have happened if I’d waited to go to his chambers last night.«

Chandler didn’t allow himself to think about that horrifying scenario. Recalling Kent lying motionless on the bed, barely breathing, was more than enough to cope with at the moment. Still, Miles had to know what had happened. So Chandler tried to fill in the gaps as best he could. He told him everything he remembered, every small detail he recalled, which sadly, wasn’t very much at all. It had all happened so fast. In the end Miles came to a simple conclusion:

»Well, at least we know it’s not Calvin. I checked in on him earlier and he’s still safely locked away in the downstairs room.«

Chandler nodded, sighing in relief. One less suspect on the list. Suddenly he remembered something else about the night before, something, which changed his mood almost instantly.

»What is it?« Miles asked curiously.

»I just thought that we can also rule out the Duke as a possible suspect now.«

Miles frowned and waited for an explanation.

»The Duke is in no fit condition to running all over this estate, never mind the fact that Kent’s assailant got in through the window, meaning he had to have climbed up the wall. Somehow I don’t think Cazenove is up for such a demanding physical task. And when I pursued him, he was faster than me. Much faster. So I’m guessing it must be a young, agile man.«

»Well, this certainly is a setback,« Miles said looking grim.

»At least the magistrate is on his way this very moment. We’ve just had word,« he quickly added, trying his best to cheer his master up.

»Good. That’s something at least. We need to tell him everything about last night and show him the bruises on Kent’s neck. Perhaps he can figure out what sort of man could be capable of doing such a thing. Until then, I want you to gather everyone in the library.«

»Everyone, sir?«

»Well, the ladies, Buchan, Mansell and Kent of course. Let’s leave out the suspects and my fiancée. I fear this whole affair has gotten to her and I don’t want to distress her any further. Anyway we need to tell them about last night’s attack.«

»Understood.«

A few minutes later Chandler headed out into the hallway where he ran into Morgan who was heading down for breakfast.

»My dear, is everything alright?« She asked in a sweet, concerned tone of voice, touching his right arm gently.

He tried to smile, wanting to keep up the pretence of normality, but found he couldn’t.

»I fear not. I didn’t want to tell you, but since you ask, there has been another attack.«

She drew back as if in shock, her eyes growing wide with fear.

»Who?« She breathed.

»The young baronet of Hanbury House.«

»And is he…?« She didn’t dare utter the words. Chandler took a step closer and took her shaking hands into his own to comfort her.

»No, thank God. Only hurt, but alive. Very much alive. I managed to chase away the attacker before he could do any real harm.«

She seemed relieved, but there was something else in the way she looked at him. Her distress had vanished and been replaced by a much more severe expression.

»You saw him? Saw his face?« she almost whispered.

»No,« Chandler responded, slowly observing Morgan’s changing mood. For a moment she almost looked relieved again. It was only for a fleeting second, and then she was back to be being worried once more.

»Oh that’s awful, my dear. Simply dreadful! And you didn’t catch him?«

»No, not yet. But I hear the magistrate is finally on his way here, as we speak in fact. Perhaps he can shed some more light on the matter than we have been able to do.«

»Perhaps. Well, my dear, I’ll be down in a minute. I just have to check on Louis. He had another terrible cough attack in the night. I fear his condition has taken a turn for the worse. I might have to take him home today to fully recover.«

Chandler had forgotten about her brother. Louis was almost like a ghost, living under the same roof as them, but never really visible. Briefly he recalled that someone had seen him and Kent in the hallway before the attack. Had it been Louis? It seemed unlikely, so Chandler quickly dismissed that thought. Perhaps it had only been one of the servants after all.

»Whatever you think is best, my dear,« he agreed, feeling slightly weird about what Morgan had just said. Something was off, although he couldn’t put his finger on it.


The atmosphere was tense, reminding Chandler of the thick fog, which sometimes rose from the valley near Haslewood. Miles had kept true to his word and had gathered the guests in the library. Mansell was sitting in one corner of the room, quite out of spirits and sulking over the fact that his favourite suspect had turned out to be innocent after all. Lady Riley tried her best to cheer him up, without much success. Lady Llewellyn was examining Kent’s neck with the utmost interest, determined to learn what she could from the marks and Buchan kept pacing up and down the room, deep in thought.

Chandler stood by his desk, leaning his weight against it to give him some support.

»So basically we’re back to square one and don’t have a clue as to who might have committed these crimes,« Mansell said after a while.

Chandler met his gaze across the room and tried to remain calm.

»It looks that way.«

He felt like a total failure. One man had died and one had been brutally attacked, right here, on his own property, under his own roof! He had seen the perpetrator, had chased him across the grounds of his estate, but alas it had all been for nothing.

»I wouldn’t say that,« Miles argued, trying to stand up for his master. He turned towards Chandler and asked: »Sir, if I may explain myself?«

Chandler just threw his arms up as if to say, »Go ahead, don’t mind me!«

The situation couldn't be made worse anyway.

Miles turned back to the guests, waiting until he had everyone’s attention before be raised his voice.

»We know that the killer is familiar with the house and the grounds surrounding it. Otherwise he couldn’t have disappeared so easily last night, agreed?«

Buchan nodded in agreement. »That is a good point. It narrows our list of possible suspects down quite a bit, I dare say.«

»And you’re absolutely certain you didn’t see the face of your attacker?« Mansell asked Kent for the hundredth time. The poor lad almost looked ashamed of his inability to answer.

»No, I didn’t. Like I said before, he came at me from behind. I was asleep and when I woke I barely had time to register what was going on before I passed out.«

Chandler could hear the quiver in Kent’s voice. He couldn’t bear to hear it.

»Alright, that’s enough,« he interrupted, taking a step closer towards Kent. He knew that the young baronet didn’t need anyone to protect him, but Chandler couldn’t help himself. One look at Kent and he felt like it was his duty to keep him from harm.

»Kent has been through a lot last night. Let’s just leave it at that.«

Mansell sighed and then returned to his chair in the corner.

»There has to be something we’re missing,« Lady Riley said.

»Something we must have overlooked.«

»An important detail? « Chandler suggested. He wished there was something – anything at this point. He had already racked his brains earlier that morning, but he still hadn’t come up with an answer.  Perhaps it was worth giving it another shot.

»Let’s think back on the Gilles des Rais case,« Buchan suggested to the group.

»Why?« Mansell argued. »What good is a killer who’s been dead for decades?«

»Buchan, is there something you haven’t told us about him yet,« Chandler asked. »How did he manage avoid being caught? Were there never any suspicions? How did he get away with so many murders?«

»Had he been a simple man, say a farmer or a blacksmith, he would have been caught much sooner, I’m sure,« Buchan answered.

»The reason he managed to escape the law for so long was his social status. He was the Lord Protector of France, a man in a high position with a lot of power. No one dared to accuse such a man in public. And then there were also his friends and members of his family. They all knew what he was getting up to but decided to turn a blind eye. Some even helped him to get rid of the bodies.«

Chandler let the words sink in. For once everyone was silent. The wheels in his brain kept turning, over and over, and then he remembered something, which had seemed insignificant at the time. The faint aroma of thyme, the same scent he had caught a whiff of just before falling asleep the night before. What if…his mind began to gather, sort and process the information faster than he could form it into words. And then all of a sudden he had his answer.

»My God! I know who it is!« he cried out, jumping to his feet. »Buchan, thank you. I could have never figured it out without your help.«

Buchan smiled oddly, whilst Chandler made his way to the door.

»Wait, aren’t you going to tell us?« Miles demanded to know.

They were interrupted by the sound of the doorknocker.

»Miles, I think the magistrate has arrived. Will you go and see to him?«


In a rush to get away, Chandler quickly exited the library and then took two steps at a time, heading up to the first floor. When he reached the doorknob to the guest bedchamber, he lingered for a moment, trying to mentally prepare himself. This couldn’t go wrong. It had to end here and now. Taking a deep breath, he knocked.

»My dear, has the magistrate arrived?« Morgan asked in her sweet voice.

It pained Chandler to hear it, but he was determined to hide his true emotions for now.

»He has indeed, which is why I must ask you to come downstairs to answer some of his questions. You and Louis.«

Chandler poked his head into the room where her brother still kept to his bed.

»Oh, I am sorry, Louis is still very weak. I’m afraid you will have to excuse him.«

Chandler tried to remain calm. In a steady voice he continued: »I have done that ever since your arrival. Frankly, my dear, I’m growing tired of it.«

Morgan frowned, appearing to not understand what he was saying.

Chandler shrugged and walked into the room despite her plea to let her brother be.

As soon as he came close to the bed he could smell the thyme. There was a small branch on the nightstand. He picked it up, brought it up to his noise and inhaled deeply.

»For his coughs,« Morgan answered his unasked question, standing just behind Chandler.

»Ah yes, of course. Funny that’s exactly the same smell that was in Kent’s room last night when he was nearly strangled to death.«

Chandler spat out the last words, turning to Louis who met his gaze with a look of terror in his eyes. The coughing had stopped abruptly, giving even more weight to Chandler’s theory that it had all been for show.

He felt a hand on his arm. His fiancée’s. She gently guided his hand, the one holding the thyme twig, back to the nightstand.
»I’m sure that means nothing,« she said in a firm voice.

That was the last straw! Chandler spun around, gripping her wrists and pinning them against the wall. He knew she could feel the anger burning beneath his skin wanting to break freak.

»You knew, didn’t you? You knew all along what your brother was doing, that he was killing innocent people. And you covered for him, didn’t you?«

His voice was like thunder, making Morgan wince as she tried in vain to free herself from his grip.

»Let go of me!« she cried out.

»Not until you tell me the truth!«

Her face was flushed a deep crimson. Anger. That’s all it is. How could he have misjudged her so? Chandler chanced a quick glance at Louis who seemed to be frozen in horror, awaiting what his sister might confess. Morgan took a deep breath. Chandler knew he was finally about to get his answer.

»Louis killed the servant boy. And not just the boy. Louis is sick. He can’t help himself. He has killed a lot more, I don’t even know how many. But they don’t count. It’s normally servants, farm boys, and orphans. No one important.«

Chandler felt like he might be sick. He averted his gaze, not being able to look at his fiancée anymore. He tried to calm his nerves. No matter how much he wanted to lash out at Morgan, he was still a gentleman.

»But he doesn’t kill for pleasure, if that’s what you believe. Isn’t that right, Louis?«

They both turned their attention to her brother, the pale face on the bed, who remained silent.

»Why then?« Chandler demanded to know. He heard a voice twisted by pain and anger that he hardly recognised as his own.

»Because he has to silence them after he sodomises them. Or sometimes even before, it depends on how willing they are. Dead servants can’t talk after all. It’s his nature. You can’t blame someone for their nature. You have to try to understand,« she added, trying her best to sound sincere.

Oh, Chandler understood about Louis’ nature alright, perhaps better than Morgan could imagine, but that didn’t justify killing innocent people.

»Enough,« he barked. »I can’t believe you’re protecting him still.«

Morgan tried to turn her head away as if in shame.

»He’s my brother. My own flesh and blood. Of course I protect him. His life is worth more than any of the lives he’s taken. Much more.«

Chandler could feel his anger rising to critical levels. Like hot boiling water, it was ready to spill over at any moment now.

»And what about Kent? Did he deserve to die as well? Is his life worth less than that of your brother?«

He turned to Louis who looked as if he was slowly starting to panic. Still he said nothing, relying solely on his sister to defend him. What a coward! Chandler felt the wild urge to laugh.

»You know,« he said turning his attention back to Morgan, »all the while we were afraid of the killer, believing him to be some sort of horrific monster. And now what do we get? A scared, little boy hiding behind his sister.«

That did it. Before Chandler could react, Louis jumped out of bed and hurled himself out of the room, running for his life. Chandler let go of Morgan almost instantly and followed on his heels. He wouldn’t let him escape this time, not after all he had done. Chandler could feel the blood in his veins begin to pump faster and faster with each step. His breath came out in short pants as he reached the staircase and saw Louis almost at the bottom. No longer the weak, sickly brother, but a fast and strong young man. Chandler flew down the staircase. He suddenly spotted Miles and the magistrate standing in the front hallway, only a few feet away. Louis ran past them like a whirlwind, heading for the main entrance.

»Quick, don’t let him get away,« Chandler shouted. »He’s the murderer!«

All at once the whole house seemed to spring into action. Mansell, along with Kent and the two ladies came running out of the library, ready to join the chase. The magistrate and Miles were already running behind Louis, but the younger and fitter members of the party soon overtook them. But they were still too far behind the culprit.

Chandler followed Louis into the garden. It was still freezing outside, but he couldn’t feel the cold. His body was burning up with adrenaline and all he could focus on was the pale figure of the young man trying to outrun him. Louis took the same path he had taken the night before, only now he was heading in the opposite direction. If he stayed on this path, Louis could head straight into the woodlands bordering on the estate and disappear. Chandler couldn’t let that happen. He sped up, the sweat pouring from his brow. He pursued the young man relentlessly. Louis had done so much damage, caused so much pain and nearly killed a man Chandler cared for deeply, perhaps even loved? That thought surprised him, but it also gave him the energy he needed. Just a few more steps and Louis would reach the far end of the garden. Chandler had to slow him down, had to distract him somehow.

»Louis, it’s no use. We know what you did,« Chandler shouted. Almost at the end of the garden where the path led into the woods, Louis turned around to look in his direction. It only distracted Louis for a second, but it was enough. Having taken his eyes off the treacherous frozen path for a blink of an eye, Louis slipped on a patch of ice and went down hard.

»Louis!« Chandler shouted, seeing the younger man fall. But he was too far away to catch him. Time seemed slow as Chandler watched Louis’ head hit the ground. Then he heard an awful cracking sound.

The ladies screamed in the distance as they witnessed the scene.

Chandler skidded to a halt next to where Louis’ lifeless body lay on the icy path. He could see the blood gushing from his head. It was soaking into the ice, forming a deep crimson pool. By the time the others reached his side, Chandler was kneeling next to Louis to check for vital signs. Louis wasn’t moving. His eyes were closed. Chandler noticed that someone was touching his shoulder. He looked up and saw that it was Kent, meeting his eyes with a mixture of sorrow and relief. As Chandler glanced back at Louis, he realised that it was over. The breath of life had already left the body of the young man, but Chandler continued to watch as the blood spread into the white snow.


Epilogue - Master Post