#8
WELCOME TO BLACKWELL – PART 4

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BLACKWELL GRANGE – CONNECTICUT – JUNE 1926

In her bedroom, Miss Brenda Dove pours a glass of gin and quickly swallows it. Having been recently accused of being an alcoholic, it’s probably not the best choice… But the day has been long and the lifestyle of Blackwell Grange is not as charming as it once seemed.

“Hugh has a daughter.” Miss Dove thinks aloud, “Hugh has an ex-lover. What else does he have?”

 Fivel is playing safely in the adjacent bedroom. Miss Dove glances through the doorway. His sweet smile warms her heart as she returns to her room. She pours another glass of gin.

“Still having drinks in private, I see?” Mr. Green enters the bedroom holding the Shotgun , “I’m happy to see you and Dr. Black aren’t sharing a room.”

“What on earth have you got that thing for?” Miss Dove’s eyes fall on the Shotgun. She chuckles a bit and then finishes her second glass, clearly not intimidated by Mr. Green’s presence.

“Tell me, how did my Pistol manage to make its way out of my bag?” Mr. Green asks, opening the loaded Shotgun and taking out two shotgun shells.

“I have no idea.” Miss Dove says

“I don’t really believe you, Brenda.” Mr. Green tosses the shells to her, “I know the type of snoop you are. You probably took my suitcase directly from the Butler and rummaged through it on your way upstairs.”

“You have an active imagination, Mr. Green.” Miss Dove smiles, “Yes, I am a snoop. But there was no gun when I checked.”

“I guess someone beat you to the snooping.” Mr. Green lowers the Shotgun.

“A man broke into the house.” Miss Dove blurts out suddenly

“When?” asks Mr. Green

“Last night.” Miss Dove sits down on the edge of her bed, dropping the shotgun shells onto the blanket beside her.

“Did you get a good look at who broke in?” asks Mr. Green

“No.” Miss Dove says

“Would this person need a gun?” asks Mr. Green, “What did Dr. Black do about it?”

“Sgt. Gray came and searched the place.” Miss Dove says, “They think I’m crazy. They think I was drunk.”

Mr. Green looks at the glass that Miss Dove is drinking from. He leans the Shotgun against the bed and rushes over to her bedside drawer. Upon opening it, he pulls out John Boddy’s Revolver .

“I guess you wouldn’t need to steal my Pistol.” Mr. Green admires the Revolver, “Where and when did you acquire this lovely piece?”

“I’m borrowing it.” Miss Dove says

“For how long?” Mr. Green turns the Revolver over in his hands

“Indefinitely,” Miss Dove shrugs

Mr. Green takes the Revolver over to the desk by the window and begins to take it apart. She counts the six bullets and lays them in a row.

“What are you doing?” asks Miss Dove

“I’ll be borrowing this Revolver until my Pistol shows up.” Mr. Green says, “I’ll leave the Shotgun with you. You can either keep it in place of the Revolver or return it to the Lounge. I don’t really care.”

Mr. Green begins to fit the pieces of the Revolver back together, loading it in the process.

“It’s John’s Revolver.” Miss Dove says

“Thank you,” Mr. Green grins, “I’ll be sure to keep it hidden when he’s around.”

“Thallo,” Miss Dove stops Mr. Green from leaving, “You aren’t here for…”

“Don’t be silly, Brenda.” Mr. Green cuts her off before she can finish, “The last thing I need is someone weighing me down.”

◄♦♦♦►

In their guest suite, Miss Scarlet and Mr. Clay pull back the top blanket and slide into the red silk sheets. Mr. Clay unbuttons his shirt and leans forward to kiss Miss Scarlet. She half-heartedly kisses him back.

“You seem distant,” Mr. Clay notices, “Is something the matter?”

“Do you love me?” Miss Scarlet looks up into his eyes

“Vivienne,” Mr. Clay hushes her, “I want this weekend to be about us. I want us to explore each other’s minds. I want to true get to know you. Can you honestly ask if I love you, knowing that?”

“I just feel like you flirt around.” Miss Scarlet brings her knees to her chest

“And you don’t?” asks Mr. Clay, “What about that guy at the train station? You practically had your hands down his pants just to show power over some unpleasant man in the other line.”

Miss Scarlet’s mind instantly flashes with the memory of the man slipping between the train carts. All she can see is that look of fear in his eyes the second the man realized he was going to die. The rage and anger that the man had built up against young Vivienne vanished the minute his foot slipped. She wonders if anyone has found his body. There was nothing but grassy countryside around them when he fell… But his family, his friends, his whole world is out there wondering why he never made it off the train.

“Vivienne,” Mr. Clay sees her blank stare, “Are you listening to me?”

“I’m sorry,” Miss Scarlet closes her eyes, “I just don’t feel very good right now.”

“What’s wrong?” Mr. Clay asks

Miss Scarlet puts her hands over her stomach, “My stomach hurts. I think I drank too much.”

“I thought there was no such thing as too much.” Mr. Clay sighs as he watches Miss Scarlet disappear into the adjacent bathroom. Miss Scarlet closes and locks the door behind her.

◄♦♦♦►

Nurse Silver exits the Family Crypt and takes off her bloody surgical clothing. She quickly buries the soiled garments in the small ditch along the side of the crypt. She pulls a small bottle of amber liquid from her pocket. She cringes as she buries it with her clothing. She kicks gravel and dirt over the area, scattering rocks and enough dirt to make it look discreet. She looks up at Blackwell Grange and steadies herself, smoothing out her nanny uniform. She takes a deep breath and begins to walk across the dark lawn between the Rose Garden and the back of the Ballroom.

Tears begin to roll down Nurse Silver’s face as she processes what she has just helped Professor Plum do with Ben Black the Fifth. She walks more briskly as she hears howling in the woods. She reaches the Ballroom doors to find that they are locked.

“Dammit!” Nurse Silver looks back towards the Rose Garden and Family Crypt, “Maybe the Conservatory door is unlocked.”

Nurse Silver moves along the perimeter of Blackwell Grange. When she reaches the large glass octagon, she sighs in relief.

The dark has always scared Nurse Silver. Ever since she was a little girl, she always feared the dark and what could be lurking in the dark shadows. Even the dark corners of the hallways and bedrooms give Nurse Silver the feeling she’s being watched.

She opens the Conservatory door with a deep sigh. She sits down on the wicker chair near the large windows. The damp, cold smell of the Conservatory brings her a nostalgic feeling.

Mr. Clay passes by the door in the Hall.

“Edward?” Nurse Silver calls out

“Irene, I didn’t see you in here.” Mr. Clay comes back and enters the Conservatory

“What are you doing up?” Nurse Silver asks

“Vivienne wasn’t feeling well.” Mr. Clay says, “I figured I’d get to know the Billiard Room.”

“You could get to know the Conservatory.” Nurse Silver motions around

Mr. Clay glances at the snakes, lizards, and piranhas that are spaced between the plants in their according terrariums and aquariums.

“I’d rather go to the Billiard Room,” Mr. Clay says, “It’s a little cozier in there.”

“Why not,” Nurse Silver stands up, “You may be good at Tennis, but I know a game you aren’t good at.”

Nurse Silver leads Mr. Clay out of the Conservatory and into the Hall.

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In the Family Crypt, Professor Plum goes to a small table and drops the cloth-wrapped Lead Pipe down. There is long, painful moaning coming from Mr. Ben Black the Fifth , who remains strapped to the long metal table. The fragile man is flexing and trashing his hands and feet in their restraints. Professor Plum takes off his surgical coat and rolls up the sleeves of his purple undershirt.

“Hush now.” Professor Plum turns his attention to Mr. Black, “Little brother, we’ve done it.”

Mr. Black shakes his head frantically. His eyes are tightly shut.

“When our father, Benedict the Fourth asked me to work on you I didn’t think we would get where we have gotten. You want to kill them don’t you, Ben? You need to kill them. You feel the itch… the desire to end their lives.”

“No, no, no!” Mr. Black closes his eyes in fear

“Ben.” Professor Plum says softly, “It’s all a red herring.”

Ben Black’s eyes instantly dilate.

“They all deserve to die.” Mr. Black speaks calmly and trance-like

Professor Plum reaches forward with his left hand and touches the pale, cold skin of his half-brother.

“Father did horrible things to you.” Professor Plum looks at him sympathetically

“Father is dead.” Mr. Black says

“Yes,” Professor Plum nods, “And who is going to die soon and be with father?”

“Brother Hugh.” Mr. Black says

“That’s right.” Professor Plum says, “Benny, there is nothing we can’t do with the help of a little science.”

“Let me free.” Mr. Black begs

“I’ll be administering a numbing serum.” Professor Plum warns

“Brother Peter, you know that you will be the sole surviving member of this family.” Mr. Black recites, maintaining his trance-like stare and speaking manner

“Ben,” Professor Plum sticks him suddenly with the Syringe, “I am a very capable scientist. We aren’t taking any risks. I’m going to put you to sleep. When you wake up your limbs will be free. Find a weapon and begin.”

Professor Plum pushes the fluid into Mr. Black. He then proceeds to unlatch Mr. Black’s feet as the serum begins to take effect.

Mr. Black begins to feel woozy, tensing his legs and arms, trying to fight the sedative. His fight is in vain. His body relaxes fully as his eyes shut.

Professor Plum sighs in relief, unlocking his wrists.

Mr. Black’s eyes spring open suddenly and he grabs Professor Plum by the throat. Professor Plum struggles to reach for the Syringe as he feels Mr. Black gaining power over him.

Professor Plum is forcefully thrown across the Crypt. He collides with the small table, breaking it under his weight. He quickly feels his face and teeth to make sure he is unharmed. Mr. Black sees the Lead Pipe in the rubble that was once a table. He grabs it to wield at Professor Plum. The timid Professor shrivels up in fear and grabs at the wood around him, securing a broken table leg in his hand. Mr. Black charges up the stairs and out of the Crypt.

Professor Plum pants in defeat on the floor of the empty Crypt.

◄♦♦♦►

Madame Rose sits behind the bar in the Billiard Room with Mr. Green’s Pistol . She is alone in the room. The room is mostly dark, only being lit by the green lamp above the pool table. She aims the Pistol towards the fireplace as she moves around the room.

“He probably followed us.” Madame Rose whispers to herself in the empty room, “I know he did. We know he isn’t dead. The only reason he came after the shop was because of this stupid family.”

Madame Rose spins around quickly, aiming the loaded Pistol at the closed Library door. She then ducks beside the pool table, peering over the edge at the Hall door.

“He could be at any of the doors.” Madame Rose says, “We can’t wait for that to happen.”

The door to the Hall opens suddenly. Madame Rose quickly hides the Pistol under the pool table. Nurse Silver and Mr. Clay enter the room.

“Are you okay?” Nurse Silver sees Madame Rose squatting on the floor beside the pool table.

“Did you want to play a game?” Madame Rose asks, “I was just finishing a solo match by myself.”

“That’s alright.” Nurse Silver says, “Mr. Clay and I were actually just going through to the Library.”

Nurse Silver quickly leads Mr. Clay to the Library. Madame Rose sighs in relief as the two leave her alone. Madame Rose quickly retrieves the Pistol and resumes to practicing her stance and grip.

“We have to get rid of it.” Madame Rose says, “But where?”

◄♦♦♦►

In the Dining Room, Colonel Mustard sits at the head of the table with a cigarette and soda. Yvette paces back and forth with a Candlestick in her grasp.

“Someone attacked you and someone broke into Mademoiselle Brenda’s bedroom,” Yvette counts on her fingers, “I don’t like how zee weekend is shaping up.”

“I personally think that the ill-omened events are related to Miss Peach’s sudden arrival into her father’s life.” Colonel Mustard says

“Oui,” Yvette comes over to where Colonel Mustard sits, “Blackwell Grange has always felt safe and inviting. But now it is cold and dead.”

Colonel Mustard groans and stands up.

“Where are you going?” Yvette asks

“I’ve got to do something about it.” Colonel Mustard says

◄♦♦♦►

In the Hall outside the Study door, Miss Emily Peach runs into Dr. Hugh Black as he is exiting.

“Are you alright?” Dr. Black asks, comforting his worried daughter

“My mother…” Miss Peach says, “She wants me to leave everything behind and move here.”

“Is that what you want?” asks Dr. Black

“She didn’t make it seem like it was a choice.” Miss Peach says, fidgeting nervously

“Mrs. Meadow-Brook is a bit much.” Dr. Black says, “I’m sure you can see the reason I didn’t want you to meet her.”

“You said you didn’t know who my mother was.” Miss Peach says, confused

“I wasn’t exactly prepared for you to meet her.” Dr. Black says, “By the looks of your face, it doesn’t look like you were ready to meet her either. She excites easily.”

“I don’t know if that was excitement.” Miss Peach says

“Emily,” Dr. Black’s voice turns into a stern, authorities tone, “Don’t let anything your mother says affect the way you feel about me, your family, or your life back in Mississippi.”

“She kept asking about slaves.” Miss Peach rubs her shoulders uncomfortably

“She is nosy.” Dr. Black says, “I’m sure she meant nothing by it.”

“I just don’t know how to feel about any of this.” Miss Peach says

“Sometimes you can’t figure out your feelings. The more you try, the more stress and anxiety take over.” Dr. Black says, “Let your feelings figure themselves out. It’ll take time, but it’s better than worrying and missing out on the opportunity to enjoy our new relationship.”


◄♦♦♦►

In their guest bedroom, Jane Meadow-Brook pulls back the sheets while Miles Meadow-Brook stares out the window and over the Courtyard of Blackwell Grange.

“The sheets are so soft. You are going to love them.” Jane clasps her hands together excitedly, “My legs are killing me. There are far too many steps on that staircase.”

Miles doesn’t respond. He instead places his palm against the glass, watching a single flash of lightning brightens the distant horizon.

“Emily is so beautiful.” Jane says, “Her hair is so vibrant and wild. She’s like a powerful lioness. I admire her strength. Most mothers see their own strength in their daughters, but it’s different with us. Her strength comes from her upbringing.”

Jane begins to take down her hair.

“Slaves,” she continues talking, “Emily was raised by escaped slaves. The brutal power and tiresome struggles that they must have endured together are unimaginable. Part of me wishes I could have raised her, but the other part of me is happy that she got to grow up differently. I might have done a rotten job being a mother.”

“I want a divorce.” Miles finally speaks

◄♦♦♦►

In the upstairs Hallway, Miss Scarlet knocks on Mrs. Peacock’s bedroom door.

“Vivienne, what is it?” Mrs. Peacock answers the door in a loose, silky night robe.

Miss Scarlet walks into the room and sits down on the edge of the large blue bed.

“Are you okay?” Mrs. Peacock asks, “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I killed someone today.” Miss Scarlet’s eyes well up with tears

“What?” Mrs. Peacock’s face twists in disbelief, “Vivienne, what are you talking about.”

“That man at the train station.” Miss Scarlet says, “When I went out to smoke he came from the second class train cars. He tried to lunge for me and fell between the two cars.”

Miss Scarlet covers her mouth with her hands and tries to hold back tears.

“Shhh,” Mrs. Peacock hushes her, “It’s going to be okay. We’ll just keep an eye on the papers.”

“Why are you so calm about this?” Miss Scarlet throws her hands angrily to her side, “Is it true what they say about all your husbands? Did you kill my father?”

“Vivienne, I didn’t kill him.” Mrs. Peacock says, “Seizures and internal bleeding killed your father. James was a very sick man.”

“He always took his pills.” Miss Scarlet says, “If there’s anything I remember about my father, it’s that he always took his pills.”

“Sometimes medicine can’t do enough.” Mrs. Peacock closes her eyes, “I loved James so much. I don’t think I love any of my husbands as much as James. Maybe the Senator too, but James has always been in my heart.”

“But you’ve always been so calm about death.” Miss Scarlet says

“Vivienne, I’ve always accepted death because it’s a part of life. I’m trying to stay calm because I don’t know if I can protect you if you get caught for this. If you killed someone today, there is a chance that you may very well get caught.” Mrs. Peacock says, “I’ve used my power for the both of us up until the Senator’s death. Now I don’t know if there’s much more I can do. I have to keep my nose clean to save my own ass. The Senator’s death shook the whole nation – tax revisions, foreign relations, and the public economy were improved with his influence. Surely he would have been president in the next ten years. His voice was the loudest when we’d go to Washington. President Harding sent us roses when the Senator died.”

“He had a name!” Miss Scarlet grinds her teeth, “You always call him ‘the Senator’.”

Marcus, his name was Marcus. Does that make you feel better to hear it?” Mrs. Peacock motions for Miss Scarlet to get off of the bed, “Vivienne, I can’t tell you that everything is going to be alright because quite frankly it might not be. Does Edward know?”

“No.” Miss Scarlet stands up from the bed and walks towards the door

“It might be best to keep him out of it.” Mrs. Peacock says, following Miss Scarlet to the door

“He’s the love of my life.” Miss Scarlet says, “Maybe he can help me cope with this.”

“Vivienne,” Mrs. Peacock says, “I know you’ve had your doubts about Edward’s commitment to you. Coming from someone who has been married five times, allow me to offer you some advice: if you have doubts, they are there for a reason.”

“I think he’s cheating on me.” Miss Scarlet narrows her eyes

“Oh?” Mrs. Peacock remains aloof and contained

“Nurse Silver and Edward were certainly sending sparks flying earlier tonight in the Lounge.” Miss Scarlet closes her, “Then I peered through the keyhole and saw them together in the Conservatory. He left me alone while I went to use the restroom.”

“Vivienne, he hardly knows her.” Mrs. Peacock says, “I don’t think they’ve started having an affair.”

“He’s still with her right now.” Miss Scarlet says, “Even still, him acting this way confirms something that I’ve been suspicious of for a while.”

“You’ve been concerned about this for a while?” Mrs. Peacock asks, “Why did you never bring this to my attention before?”

“I had to make sure you weren’t sleeping with him.” Miss Scarlet admits blatantly

“You suspected me?” Mrs. Peacock feels her own throat tighten

“Only for a short while,” Miss Scarlet says, “It took me a while to realize how ridiculous that would be. The chances of him actually finding you attractive, goodness, I simply can’t even find a place to begin.”

Mrs. Peacock doesn’t quite know how to respond to that.

Miss Scarlet smirks, “Besides if you did sleep with Edward I’d kill you both. I know both of you are smart enough not to risk that. So there’s nothing to worry about. Edward is mine, and Nurse Silver is going to have a very unpleasant conversation with me in the morning.”

“Is she?” Mrs. Peacock blinks slowly, “Well, I do hope you settle your worries. After all, a man won’t stay with a girl who constantly doubts him.”

“You are sleeping with Edward.” Miss Scarlet folds her arms,

“Vivienne, that’s preposterous.” Mrs. Peacock laughs nasally, “You are my stepdaughter. You practically threatened to tear into my own flesh and blood if I laid a finger on him.”

“Practically?” Miss Scarlet repeats, mockingly, “Your lust for flesh and blood screams louder than your desire to be a mother, and you’ll pay for it. How will Dr. Black react knowing that you’ve whored and screwed your way into five marriages and countless men’s lives? All you ever do is uproot and destroy everything in your way! I used to joke when I was a child that I was Cinderella and you were the Evil Stepmother, but now I think it’s true. You are evil. You are only focused on getting what you want for yourself. We had so much money and you blew through it like the evil, greedy bitch you are.”

“Darling,” Mrs. Peacock tightens her lips, “If we are going to act uncivil, allow me to point out that I had Edward in my bed, in my body, and in my heart before he even met you. He was my tennis coach first. It just happened and continued to happen because it was pure, raw, and fun.” Mrs. Peacock smiles wickedly, “What do you want me to say? That I regret it? That I’m sorry? I’m not. I married five boring men and this was the first man that could have sex like… like Hugh.”

Miss Scarlet leaves Mrs. Peacock’s bedroom. The door slams loudly in Mrs. Peacock’s face.

◄♦♦♦►

In the Library, Mr. Clay and Nurse Silver sit on the sofa in the dark shadows of the room.

“You don’t love her at all do you?” asks Nurse Silver

“Vivienne loves me,” Mr. Clay lowers his head, “But I only try to love her because she needs me so badly. It’ll break her heart, but I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.”

“Edward,” Nurse Silver reaches out and touches his knee, “You need to go after what you need. You are too young to be imprisoned by someone else’s needs and demands. She’s draining you, living off of her stepmother and planning on living off of you. She’s not what you need. You are about to make a lot of money doing something you love. Don’t come home to a woman you half-tolerate.”

Mr. Clay looks at the frayed rug on the worn wooden floor.

“Dr. Black doesn’t know me.” Mr. Clay says, “How can he offer me a job? Everyone is so certain that I’ve got this, but he’s not even seen me play. We are going to meet tomorrow morning for my formal interview on the courts.”

“I wish you good luck.” Nurse Silver smiles happily, “You’ve got this job. I’m certain of that. Dr. Black wouldn’t invite you here unless he was already certain of you.”

The door to the Hall opens and Mr. Ash enters the Library. Nurse Silver and Mr. Clay quickly look up.

“Oh, hello.” Mr. Clay blushes awkwardly as the butler strolls directly towards the two of them.

“I’m afraid that I’m here to lock up the room for the night.” Mr. Ash says

“I didn’t realize how late it was.” Nurse Silver says

“Do you lock up all the rooms at night?” asks Mr. Clay

“Only the Library and the Study,” Mr. Ash answers, “Dr. Black has a lot of priceless little collectibles in the Study. Sir Benedict the Fourth always had me lock up the Library to keep the first editions safe. I suppose I just lock it up out of habit now.”

“Sir Benedict?” Mr. Clay furrows his brow, “Was he at dinner?”

“Sir Benedict was Dr. Black, Professor Plum, and Madame Rose’s father – Benedict Black the Fourth.” Mr. Ash explains the family history to Mr. Clay, “He died five or six years ago. He was quite fragile. Wheelchair bound. Seventy years old. He was quite a handful.”

Nurse Silver clears her throat and excuses herself, exiting the Library. Mr. Ash walks around the room with a key, locking the bookcases. Mr. Clay walks around the large table in the center of the room.

“Why was there never a Benedict Black the Fifth? It seems odd to name the next son Hugh.” Mr. Clay says

“There once was a Benedict Black the Fifth.” Mr. Ash says, “He died as a child. He was troubled boy. He murdered his nanny and poor sweet mother, Beatrice. Sir Benedict the Fourth was mortified that his six-year-old son killed Beatrice. It was so shortly after their daughter Margaret was born.”

“What happened to Benedict the Fifth?” asks Mr. Clay

“He was guilty of murder.” Mr. Ash says, “They were going to hang little Ben. We couldn’t let them dangle him up there in front of everyone. The Black family name was already soiled from the murders. An execution of one of our children…”

Mr. Ash chokes on his words.

“They gave him a strong poison on his last night at home before the trial.” Mr. Ash says, “He died in his sleep. He died here at Blackwell Grange.”

FLASHBACK – BLACKWELL GRANGE – 1876 – 50 YEARS AGO

Young Blanche Chaulkey and her fiancé Winslow White stand at the doorway of Benedict Black the Fifth’s bedroom.

Sir Benedict Black the Fourth holds onto his gold and ebony cane with a strong, dominant stance.

“Hugh and Rose are finally asleep,” Blanche responds

“Are we really going to do this?” Winslow asks, “To a child?”

“We can fix him.” Sir Benedict says, “We can fix my boy.”

“They’ll search the place for him.” Blanche shakes her head, “You know I’m a terrible liar.”

“We lock him in the crypt.” Sir Benedict says

“The crypt?” Winslow grabs Sir Benedict by the shoulders, “This is your child you are talking about!”

“I have four children under the age of six!” Sir Benedict shoves Winslow off of him, “If I think locking the one who murdered my wife away will protect the other three children, then we shall lock him away. You are my footman, not my confidante.”

“Madness can’t be cured,” Blanche says

“It may take time, but I am confident that Ben will wake up one day with his mind the way it is supposed to be.” Sir Benedict says

“And then?” Blanche asks

“And then he will be welcomed back to Blackwell Grange.” Sir Benedict says

TO BE CONTINUED