A Troublesome Interlude

Alice opened her eyes and looked at the clock on the wall. Three a.m. She slipped out of bed, careful to make no sound and took a white veil out of her closet and put it over her head. Creeping down the hall she stopped at her sister’s room and put her ear to the door. She could hear soft snoring. She let herself in and went to a corner of the room and sat down with her back to the bed.

She began chanting in a soft voice.

“Forty whacks. Forty whacks. Forty whacks.”

The stirring from the bed told her she was having the desired effect. After a few minute she could tell her sister was awake.

“Who are you? What do you want? Apparition, why do you haunt me?”

“Forty whacks. Forty whacks. Forty whacks.”

She heard the sound of the bedclothes being pulled up and she continued her chanting in a low, soft voice. After a time there was no further sound and she got up and slipped out of the room and went back to her bed and slept.

In the morning she went to the dining room for breakfast.

“How did you sleep last night, Lizzie?”

“Not well. The apparition came again.”

“Well, not to worry. It’s probably nothing.”

“How can you say such a thing? It’s happened every night for two weeks!”

Alice buttered some toast and spoke again without looking up.

“Did you know father has given more property to Abby’s family?”

Lizzie grimaced.

“Why did he marry that dreadful woman? I wish mother were still alive. We were so happy.”

Alice shook her head.

“I swear that woman has poisoned his mind. Speaking of that, did you get that hydrogen cyanide I asked you to pick up?”

“No, Eli wouldn’t let me have it. Said it was too dangerous. Couldn’t you clean the cloak with something else?”

“I suppose. I do hope father doesn’t go through with giving away the summer home. It belongs to you and me.”

“What? Not the summer home? He wouldn’t!”

Alice shrugged and took another bite of toast.

“We’ll see.”

Lizzie was beside herself. Alice watched her out of the corner of her eye.

“I overheard father saying Uncle John is coming this week to preside over the transfer of the house. I’m going to miss it, Lizzie.”

Lizzie jumped up from the table and ran to the stairs. Soon after that Alice heard her door slam. She took her dishes into the kitchen and handed them to the maid.

“Bridget, have you seen father anywhere?”

“No Alice, I haven’t seen him yet today.”

Alice went out the back door and headed for the wood shed. She returned a short time later with a bundle wrapped in cotton.

That night she awoke again and looked at the clock. It was three a.m., time to put the finishing touches to the matter at hand. She went to the closet and got out the veil and put it on. Stopping once again at her sister’s door she listened. Creeping inside she took an item out from behind her back and laid it on the bed.

Taking up her position in the corner she began chanting.

“Forty whacks. Forty whacks. Forty whacks.”

Soon there was stirring from the bed. Lizzie said nothing. She listened to the chant and an image began to form in her mind. As if the apparition could read her the chant changed.

“Both of them. Both of them. Both of them.”

After a few minutes Lizzie fell back into a fitful sleep. Alice slipped out of the room and went back to her bed.

August 4th dawned hot and humid. Lizzie woke and sat up in bed. The first thought she had was that the apparition had come again. A strange calm descended over her as she spied the object lying at the foot of the bed. She knew what was expected of her. It all made such perfect sense. She got up and dressed and went to her stepmother’s room.

When she emerged she was covered in blood. She descended the stairs and walked to the sitting room. There he was, her father, napping on the sofa. She walked over and raised the hatchet. The first blow cleaved his skull and split his left eyeball clean in two. She continued until her strength was gone. She went to the basement and cut the handle off the hatchet and cleaned the blade. She took off her clothes and put them in a bag along with the handle and threw them in the incinerator.

She made her way back to her room, careful to avoid meeting anyone. She dressed and went back down to the sitting room. She looked at her father’s mutilated body and went to the door and called out to the maid in the kitchen.

“Bridget, would you come here please? It seems someone has murdered father.”

Alice heard the maid’s scream and nodded in satisfaction.

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