Keeping the Receipts
As he approached the castle, the spires rose into the sky like hands reaching up. The ancient castle had been a dot on the horizon, but now it became a great stone behemoth. Gaelic phrases carved into stones lined the road towards it, and a crumbling stone wall surrounded the stronghold, and a horse and carriage rattled toward it.
Diiiiinngg. A phone gave a notification that they lost signal, and Derek grumbled.
“Do you know if they will have wifi?” Derek complained. He didn’t want to miss any important work notices.
“In a 700 year old castle in the middle of the Scottish highlands? Unlikely.” Genevieve smiled. She had been planning for quite some time to make sure that the place that the two would have a break from from had no internet, and Fern Castle was perfect for this.
When they reached the front of the castle, the gates opened, and the carriage rode inside. The carriage was part of the experience, but certainly no carriage would have had air suspension when the castle was built. The castle was older than any other building in a long distance, and it had a certain mystical air to it, sparking images of ancient Scottish faery tales.
The two walked into the main room of the castle, and candles lit the way to a large table, which had been converted into a large desk, where an old lady was sitting, reading a book.
“Hello, you two. Mr. and Mrs. Rennick, I presume? ” She had a deep Scottish accent, and a kind smile. “How was your flight from Chicago?”
Genevieve groaned. “Well, there was a crying baby, a delay in the landing, and lots of turbulence, but my husband here slept right through it. I don’t know how he does it. What’s your name, ma’am?”
The old lady gave a hearty chuckle, and stood up. “My name is Cynthia. I hope that your stay here can make up for that flight. You shall be staying in the guest suite.” She picked up a folder off of her desk, and escorted them through the castle.
“So how long have you been here?” Derek asked. As he walked through the hallways, tapestries covered the walls, and sculptures of various people and creatures stood on pedestals dotting the pathways.
“Well, this building belonged to some historical society, but my husband bought it, and after he died, I have been taking care of it, and running it as a business that displays our heritage. Well, here you are. ” Derek caught a sad look in Cynthia’s eye, but didn’t think too much of it.
As the couple walked into the room, they were bedazzled by the giant bed, and the furniture, but what really caught Genevieve’s eye was the painting across room from the bed.
“Oh, it’s absolutely beautiful!”She exclaimed. “It doesn’t seem like a painting from an old castle at all!”
“Well, it isn’t. That is a painting by my husband of the hills around us. He took perspectives from each part, and weaved them together to create a panoramic. Really quite ahead of his time. Well, I’ll let you get settled in, breakfast will be at 9 am tomorrow.
As they went to bed, Derek hit his pillow, and immediately was out like a lightbulb. Genevieve, on the other hand, couldn’t get a wink. After waiting to go to sleep for what seemed like an eternity, she went to the restroom to get some water.
Creak, Creak, Creak. The wooden floors made so much noise that Genevieve even considered going back into bed, but she tiptoed all the way to the bathroom, where a cup was sitting next to the sink. Suddenly, she heard a noise behind her. Genevieve turned around to see a wisp of smoke trail around in the doorway, but she must have been seeing things. Genevieve got her cup of water, and tiptoed back to bed.
The next morning, Derek got up bright and early, and looked over to see his wife fast asleep. He chuckled a bit, got dressed, and went outside to see what the castle had to offer. The birds were chirping and Derek enjoyed himself to full extent. Maybe not being distracted by his coworkers was good after all. Then, the birds stopped chirping, and rustles of mother birds rushing to their nests were audible in the trees. Derek looked around, but couldn’t see any plane or car that could have scared them away. A large shadow, a muffled scream, darkness.
Not long after Derek, Genevieve woke up, and looked at the empty space next to her.
He must have gone to an early breakfast, she thought. She headed down the hall to the dining hall, but Cynthia was the only one there.
“Hello, darling. Is Derek still in bed?” Cynthia asked. Genevieve gave a her a confused look, and replied, “Um, no. He woke up before I woke. I was about to ask you if you had given him breakfast. Where else would he be?”
The two women looked at each other, one growing more and more suspicious of the other, and one wondering why she hadn’t retired yet. The air between them seemed to simmer with annoyance and skepticism, till finally, Genevieve took a deep breath, and said, “Look, I don’t trust you, but if you can’t think of anything that could help me find him, then I’m off to a pretty bad start.”
Cynthia held her head. “I understand why you would suspect me, because there isn’t anyone else for quite a distance from here, but I honestly do not know what happened to your husband.” Cynthia walked away, muttering to herself about why things always happen to her.
The wife was left alone, but she was determined to find her husband. Genevieve walked around the castle, checking each of the fantastic and grand rooms, but to no avail. Frustrated, she went outside, and walked along the main road, wondering maybe if Derek had fallen somewhere along it, but he was not weak in his legs. No cars would drive out here, but then what else could have happened?
A noise behind Genevieve startled her, and she whirled around to see an old man. But it wasn’t quite an old man, for his skin shimmered and became translucent when she looked directly at it.
The thing made a groaning noise. “Please, don’t be afraid. I don’t mean any harm.”
“Wha-wa- what are you?” Genevieve shivered, as the air around them was growing cold.
“I think the better question would be, who am I? And to answer my own question, which should answer your question, I am one Albert Boyd, husband of Cynthia Boyd. I am displeased that I had need to do this, but it’s amazing how little coverage the news gives to someplace out here. If someone is murdered, shouldn’t it be in the newspaper? I guess not, if they aren’t in a large city.”
“Murdered? Cynthia didn’t say anything about that!” Genevieve was shocked. Cynthia seemed like such a warm, caring person.
“Well, she clearly has laid low, but she will not succeed in getting away with this.”
“And what about my husband?”
“Oh yes, he’ll be fine, just knocked out. But you have to help me before you can get him back. You need to find a piece of paper that proves that my wife murdered me. It shall be in the dresser next to her bed. She is cutthroat, so don’t let her catch you sneaking around without a reason.”
“Wow. Let me guess: You will keep Derek as insurance that I won’t chicken out?”
“That indeed is the case. Go find the incriminating paper, deliver it to the local authorities, and see that she is arrested. I shall give Derek to you after you retrieve the papers.” The ghost tilted his head, as if listening to something from above. “I am afraid that my time here is limited, but I will come back when you come back. Good luck, Genevieve.”
Genevieve ran back to the castle, and snuck behind the castle to enter from behind. Searching for Derek had given here a good sense of the layout, and she snuck towards Cynthia’s room. She dug through the mounds of papers, till she grasped a receipt for some anti-freeze and a bottle of Gatorade. She poisoned him, the monster!
“Do you need anything, darling?” Cynthia’s voice dripped with fake sweetness that was now apparent, and she was watching Genevieve from across the room.
“Uh-um, I, um, wanted to see if you had any jewelry that I could wear?” Genevieve’s neck was dripping with sweat, and she looked around the room for anything she could call jewelry. She shoved the receipt in her coat pocket, and pulled an over-glamorous pearl necklace out of the dresser. “Ah, there is something I could wear.” Her heart was pounding in her chest, but Cynthia just said, “Looks nice on you,” and walked out of the room.
Genevieve fell over, and breathed a sigh of relief. Then, she jumped up, and checked to see if Cynthia had gone, then walked out towards the spot that Alfred the Ghost had been.
“Genevieve!” A voice behind her called her name.
Genevieve turned around and almost cried. “Derek, it’s so good to see you!” She hugged him, and then ran to their rental car. “Come on, we need to bring something to the police!”,
“Well, this vacation has been a bit of a downer for me, my head hurts, and it’s all rather blurry, so why not?”