A man stumbles upon a deadly item left behind by a ?madman?
| Deadly Inheritance
Jack carried the last of the boxes into the secluded cabin and began to unpack. He'd leased it for the summer in an attempt to finish his novel. He hoped the seclusion and beauty would recharge his over-worked batteries, and help him conquer his writer's block. It would be quiet enough with just his Golden Retriever, Rex for company. It boasted a huge living area and two bedrooms, one overlooking a lush valley filled with wildflowers and a small stream below the sharp drop-off of the mountain on which the cabin sat. This would be his office.
"Here's your key Mr. Baxter, call if you need anything," Joe, the elderly caretaker said as he pocketed the lease check.
"Sure thing, thanks for the help with the boxes. Has the phone company installed my lines yet? I really need to use the fax later."
"Nope, promised to be out here by Monday though. With any luck, you won't need an ambulance or anything."
"That's not good enough, I need them here today! My cell isn't getting any reception up here either. I guess I'll have to go down into town and call later," Jack complained. "What was that crack about an ambulance anyway?"
"Oh, nothing much Mister; it's just that the last feller who leased this...well he didn't want a phone, but had an accident."
"What kind of accident?"
"Well, no one really knows what happened, but he fell off the cliff out back. Seems like he just jumped straight off, but the weirdest part of it was what they found in his bedroom."
"What was that?"
Joe took off his hat and scratched his head through thin white hair. "Blood. But not his type they say. There was writing all over the room too; stuff like, 'I won't forget,' and 'You will all pay.' Weird stuff; nobody could figure out what he meant by it."
"So you leased me a house where someone went nuts and killed himself?" Jack asked incredulously.
"Well, strictly speakin', he didn't kill himself in the house. But that's why you got it so cheap; nobody that's heard the story will stay here. The owners are traveling somewhere in Europe, and leave the leasin' and fixin' to me. The old hens in town think it's haunted, but I think that guy was just plumb crazy. I've been here workin' on it for years, and I ain't never seen no ghosts or weird stuff. Well, 'cept for that feller anyway." Joe hitched himself up into his pickup truck and started the engine.
"Great. Ghosts, well maybe they'll help me write a best seller," Jack nervously joked and whistled for Rex.
Jacked listened to the pickup rattle down the dirt road thinking about the story the old man had told.
"No such thing as ghosts; probably just some nutjob that went off the deep end." He said and began to unpack.
Jack was glad the cabin came furnished, and would only have to buy groceries. One side of the huge living room held a massive oak desk and a small file cabinet. The wall facing it held an impressive fireplace which took up most of the wall. A leather couch, recliner, two small oak end tables and an oak coffee table balanced the rest of the room. Through a doorway near the desk, the small kitchen lay. The bedrooms and bath were off a short hallway near the fireplace.
Jack moved the file cabinet into his bedroom office, preferring to use the smaller desk there with the valley view. An hour later, after unpacking his computer and writing materials and setting up his temporary office, he went into town for groceries and to call the phone company.
That evening, Jack built a roaring fire to ward off the early summer night's chill and ate dinner on the recliner. Comfortable, he grabbed his notebook and a pen to start on the first draft of the tenth chapter. He always did the first draft on paper.
Staring at the fire, an idea came to him for the scene he'd been struggling with for the past few weeks. He wrote steadily for several hours before his pen started to run out of ink. Impatient at having to go look for one in the myriad of boxes in the office, he started opening drawers in the big desk. He dug through dozens of loose paperclips, odd scraps of paper, markers, a receipt book and countless other forgotten junk. Finally, he found an elegant silver pen. He hooted in triumph and hurried back to his work, not noticing the name inscribed on it.
He worked late into the night and awoke in the morning stiff and sore from having fallen asleep in the chair. "This is some of my best writing yet. I think I'll treat myself to a hot shower, a big greasy breakfast and a hike before I start again," he told the retriever as he let him outside.
Leaving the door open for Rex, he took his shower and started frying bacon and eggs.
"Yeah, you get some too buddy," He said as he tossed several strips of bacon and an egg into the dog's large bowl on top of the dry dog food.
A little after noon, Jack and Rex returned from their long hike, and Jack fixed lunch.
"OK Boy, go find something to do while I work, and I'll take you for another walk after dinner if you behave." He scratched the big dog behind his ears and settled back down in the recliner with his notebook and new silver pen. Rex licked his hand and lay down at Jacks feet, facing the large desk on the other side of the room and gave a low whine.
Dark shadows crept across the room when Jack pulled himself out of the story because of Rex's insistent whining and gentle tugging of his pant leg.
Ruffling the dog's thick fur, he stood up, stretching. "Wow, sorry old boy, I guess I lost track of time. Well, what do you say...dinner first or a walk?"
Rex barked and ran to the door. "OK, a walk it'll be," Jack said laughing at the dogs dancing antics as he waited impatiently to relieve his bladder.
After the long walk, Jack made them each a steak and baked potato for dinner. Both were hungry after the hike and an hour of playing fetch. Rex loved to fetch; he'd fetch anything you threw, no matter how far, for hours on end.
"Time for me to work again fella; go to bed." Jack said and pointed to the big dog pillow in the corner. Rex padded over to the pillow and whined.
"Go on, playtime is over." Rex lay down, but didn't take his eyes off Jack.
Jack wrote until the moon rose high and even the crickets stopped their night concert. He flipped the last page of the notebook over and found that he'd filled it. Pleased with his night's work, he placed the notebook face down on the small pile of other completed notebooks. He never looked at completed pages until the second draft. That's when he would transfer them onto his computer.
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. Jack took Rex for an extra long hike after breakfast through the immense woods. This time they followed a path several miles long to the valley below his cabin. They lunched on store bought potato salad and fried chicken near the stream.
Jack lay on the bank watching Rex splash in the water and chase squirrels as he daydreamed about finishing the book. Finally, after three years, his masterpiece would be completed. "Only one more chapter old boy, then I start the second draft." Rex gave a short bark, seemingly in approval, and ran off again after some hapless creature.
"C'mon, let's start back; I wanna finish it before dinner." Rex followed him up the winding trail, fetching sticks as Jack threw them. As they neared the cabin, Rex lowered his head and growled.
"What's wrong, you smell an animal?" Jack asked, thinking about bears and other large woodland beasts. Could there be bears or mountain lions around the cabin?
Rex's fur stood on end, his ears pinned back as he started to snarl and show his teeth. Jack had no weapon, so he grabbed a large branch a little thicker then the fat end of a baseball bat, and walked cautiously towards the cabin.
He found the door ajar and pushed it further with the end of the branch. "Hello?" He called. A thump from one of the bedrooms sounded in answer.
"Come out of there now, or I'll call the cops." He shouted, silently cursing to himself when he remembered the phone wouldn't be on until tomorrow, and his cell was useless.
"I've got a dog here that'll tear your throat out if I send him in there after you!" He waited, listening, but no sound came from the back rooms.
Slowly he started down the hall, Rex at his side, still growling. He approached the first bedroom, but Rex stared down the hall at the other. Jack moved across the hall, sweat dripping down his face; he was sure the intruder would hear his thunderous heartbeat. He peered around the corner, but saw no one. Jack stepped into the room and found the culprit. A large, furry raccoon sat on the small desk in his office, its paws wrapped around an open can of peanuts.
Rex charged into the room barking and snarling at the bandit, who promptly dropped the can on the floor and bounded out the open window.
"Some intruder; you sure scared him off, Rex." Jack said and laughed. Rex still growled at the desk though. "It's gone, boy, there's only paper and my pen up there now."
When Rex wouldn't calm down, he picked up the silver pen and held it out. Rex growled and backed away. He shook his head at the dog and tossed the pen back onto the desk.
Jack made himself a snack, and sat down to finish the story. Two hours later, he let Rex out and fixed cheeseburgers for dinner. He gave Rex a burger and headed into the office to begin the second draft of the story. Rex lay in the doorway growling, but not entering.
"What's your problem? The raccoon is gone. I have to work, so shut up or go to bed." Rex quieted, but didn't leave, and Jack began to work.
Jack transferred the first few chapters onto the computer; later he would work on the rest. The first chapter that he transferred, he found several things that needed fixing and re-wrote almost the whole chapter. Usually, he waited a few days in between drafts to look at it with a fresh eye, but tonight he was too excited to wait.
Halfway down the fifth page, he noticed a word written in dark red pen. "This."
"Why in the world did I highlight that? He asked aloud. "I don't remember even finding a red pen or doing it. Weird." He continued to copy the pages onto the computer, editing as he went, until he found another odd marking in red. This time it was two words, "Is my."
"OK, now I'm losing it. What the hell was I thinking?" he told the now whining dog. Jack edited several more pages before finding a whole paragraph written in red. This time the words made no sense; they had nothing to do with his story at all. It seemed to be part of a will. The words, "Last will and testament" were repeated over and over and a few names and items were scattered about the paragraph.
"I must have written part of a dream or something, this has nothing to do with a story about a family camping," He said, frustrated and beginning to worry. He quickly scanned the rest of the pages, finding more of the dark red ink on each page. The last chapter and a half were completely red. "What, was the pen dying and wrote red instead of black?" He had never heard of such a thing, but it was the only answer he could think of. Jack picked up the pen and tossed it into the garbage can beside the desk.
He continued to try and transfer/edit the work, but the red ramblings made no sense, and he had a difficult time remembering what he had written, or meant to anyway. Also, the nonsense on the pages worried him. The last chapter was the worst; the words seemed angry and taunting. Phrases like, "You'll get nothing, you ungrateful, scheming, illegitimates," abounded. It seemed to be part will, and part hate letter. To whom? And from whom? The last line of the page made the hairs on the back of Jack's neck stand up and an icy shiver race down his spine.
"With my dying hand, I decree this, and curse my entire estate and my alleged progeny. Forever yours in Damnation, Gerald E. Wainscott III." Were the last words written.
Jack swiped the beads of sweat from his brow, and threw the notebook across the room. It made no sense. "I didn't write that trash!" He went to the kitchen to get a cold drink; he was suddenly very hot, as if he had a fever.
"That's it. Maybe I'm just sick. Fevers can make people irrational right?" he asked Rex. Assured of his sanity again, he went back to the office to turn everything off and get some aspirin from the drawer. He'd work tomorrow after a good night sleep.
He opened the top drawer and froze in shock. There sat the silver pen he had thrown out. The golden letters on its side glared, as if mocking him. "Property of Gerald Eaton Wainscott III," they read.
"Oh, no. That's not possible!" Jack yelled.
Rex barked loudly behind him and the lights went out.
"Oh yes, my sniveling boy, it is possible," came a voice from the darkened hallway.
Confused and suddenly afraid, Jack groped for the bottom desk drawer where he kept a flashlight. He'd been told that storms can brew fast up here and the lights often go out. As he tried to find the light, the first crack of thunder shook the cabin, and a tree fell nearby from the lightning strike just before the tremendous clap.
Rex snarled and snapped in the doorway, but Jack didn't know if the dog saw anyone there or not.
"Who are you? What the hell do you want?"
The disembodied voice laughed, and seemed to be in the room now, instead of the hall. Jacks sweat slickened fingers found the flashlight and he fumbled it twice before managing to turn it on. He swung it wildly around the room, but could see no one.
Something cold slapped against his back and he jumped, twisting around, but still saw nothing. He backed towards the hallway, away from whatever had hit him. Rain pounded the windows and lightening split the sky, lighting the room. It was empty, but for the furniture and a small dark puddle near the desk where he'd been standing.
He backed out and tripped over Rex, who continued to snap and snarl at the shadows.
"Let's go boy, we have to get out." Jack turned and ran into the living room. As he started for the door, he saw that Rex wasn't with him. "Rex, come!" he screamed over the noise of the storm raging against the cabin walls.
Rex didn't come, and Jack was torn between going after the dog, and running for his car. He called again, and this time heard whimpers from the hallway. Swearing to himself, he ran back to the office doorway and saw the big dog lying in a dark pool, a gleaming silver pen sticking out of his neck; the silver pen. "Oh god, no. No, No, NO!" He forced the rising bile down his throat and hefted Rex to his shoulder, throwing the pen down and crushing it as he ran for the door.
He groped the handle, but it refused to turn. Thunder boomed outside again as Jack fruitlessly yanked at the door. It was locked, and he had no idea where he left the key. "Kitchen, maybe it's in the kitchen!" Panicked, he ran through the living room, slipping on a puddle and crashing to the floor with Rex atop him. He laid the whimpering dog aside, and reached for the fallen flashlight. Before he could grip it, a piercing pain stabbed his right hand. Lightening illuminated the room and glinted off the pen.
Jack screamed, and tore the pen away. A confused memory struck him of crushing the pen in the other room. Clutching his oozing hand, he ran for the counter and the key ring which lay there. He ran back to Rex, and tried to lift him, but couldn't; his right hand was useless.
"You will pay. You will not get what belongs to me," The Voice thundered.
"I don't want anything from you, I didn't do anything! I just want to leave," Jack yelled. "That is not possible. You have taken what is mine. Thieves and schemers must pay!"
The frying pan Jack used to make the burgers earlier flew across the room, missing Jack by scant inches. Jack fled the kitchen and ran to the locked door.
After fumbling it several times, he almost cried at the soft click of the tumblers as they slid home.
He ran to his car, flinging open the door as pain shot through his lower back. He reached around and pulled the hated pen out of his body once more. He threw it as far as he could with his left hand, and fell into the car, slamming the door shut.
After botching his first few attempts to put the key in the ignition, he finally got the engine started and threw the car into reverse. The tires spun on the wet gravel and he tore down the driveway backwards.
With a sickening crunch and scrape of metal he lurched to a stop.
"A tree, I hit a frigging tree!" He screamed and smacked the steering wheel. Jack got out and tried to move the obstacle, but it was by far too large. He climbed over it and ran down the rain slicked driveway, but saw the pen lying several feet in front of him. He turned too fast and slipped, falling hard on his hip. Jack stumbled to his feet, once again feeling a stab; this time in his left thigh, just above the knee. He grabbed for the pen, but it came out on its own; to stab him again, higher up the thigh. Then his arm as he groped for it.
Jack fell to his knees and crawled for the car again, slithering over the tree behind it. "It can't get me in the car," Jack kept thinking over and over; it became his mantra.
Finally reaching the car he dove into the seat, pulling the pen out of its latest target; his right hip. He slammed the door shut and looked out to make sure the pen was outside; there it lay, in a puddle, a foot from the front tire.
He pushed the gas pedal to the floor and for a moment, thought the tires wouldn't get enough traction, but they finally caught and he sped forward. He remembered seeing an old access road that lead down the mountain in the other direction, but its overgrown track had a chain crossing it. "Tough, it can't be worse then the driveway, I'll drive through the chain if I have to," He mumbled.
He saw the bend just ahead to the access road, but just before the turn, a bright, burning pain screamed from the back of his neck. It raced down his back to his legs like a fiery razor. Jack screamed and saw the cabin fly past and the cliff rushing to meet him as he tried to lift a hand to the pen in his neck. Jack saw the earth give way beneath his car as it plummeted; he threw the door open and leaned out. He hit the side of the cliff and bounced like a toy down the side. He never saw the fiery explosion when the car crashed into the valley.
Joe helped the young lady load the last of Jack's things into a Suburban. "If there's anything else I can do for ya, just call OK? I'm real sorry for your loss Ma'am."
"Thank you, but I just want to make sure I've got his things, and be gone from this place. I still don't understand what happened here. Can you explain it to me? The sheriff acted strangely and wouldn't tell me a thing," Ann said.
"Well, I don't rightly understand it all myself, but I reckon as his sister, you got a right to what I do know," Joe replied. "When the phone man came to hook up the lines, No body opened the door, so he looked in the windows. He saw the dog lying in the kitchen floor with holes in its neck. He radioed for his dispatcher to call 911 and went in to look around. He found a lot of puddles. Some blood, but mostly water, which is weird, 'cause we ain't had no rain here in weeks and there wasn't no running water flooding the place either."
Joe shifted his feet and twisted his hat nervously. "When the sheriff got here, they started searching around and found Mr. Baxter and his car down in the valley. He wasn't in the car though, so he didn't burn up with it. It didn't look like anyone else had been here, but the sheriff can't account for the holes all over the-erm all over Mr. Baxter."
Ann bit back a sob as she though about the picture the caretaker presented of her late brother.
"Well, I hope the sheriff investigates this and sends me his findings as he promised. In the meantime, I'm going to look around one last time and make sure I've got all of Jack's things, and then I'll be going back to New York."
She held her hand out for Joe to shake, and then added, "When can I expect the check for the remainder of Jack's lease?"
"Oh well, the owner will send that to you. He said he'd personally handle it and expect to hear from him in the next week. His name is Gerald Wainscott the fifth."
Ann jotted the name down and said goodbye to the caretaker. In the cabin, she grimaced at the mess, and steeled herself one last time against the dark stains on the floor. In the living room, she found a pair of shoes that she had missed, and in the bedroom Jack had used as an office she found an elegant silver pen stuck in the rungs of a spiral notebook in the bottom desk drawer.
"Now how in the world did I miss that?" She wondered aloud, slipping the notebook and pen into her shoulder bag.
( contest Entry )