A freelance journalist investigates the supposed murder of a rich man. Largely Unfinished.
A man walked through the woods. This man was named Hugh Crawford, he was a rich man. He owned an old mansion that had been in his family for generations. Despite the many troubles he has staying in the mansion, it is a possession that had been in his family for centuries, it was the pride of the Crawford’s and he would not be the one to give it up.
When he felt stressed and wanted to escape from worldly pressures, he would go for a walk through the woods that surrounded his dwelling. It’s effects were calming to him. It was an infallible escape from reality for Hugh, an important aspect of his daily life.
He reached the edge of the forest. Before him was a field of grass stretching into the horizon. It was getting late now, though Hugh never carried a watch with him during his walks he could see that the sun was close to setting.
Looking up at the darkening blue sky, Hugh noticed a few early rising stars. They were very vague with the sun still dominating the heavens. He kept his gaze fixed on the sky, he didn’t want to go back home. He didn’t want to abandon this Earthly paradise in favor of the stressful ‘real world’.
A star in the sky grew increasingly brighter, Hugh noticed, though the sun was not going down at the same speed. Soon it had grown too big to be a star, and he noticed this. It grew closer.
The object in the sky, as it was now confirmed not to be a star, grew ever closer. Then it crashed to the Earth. A brilliant trail of fire followed the burning object in its decent to the ground. It crashed with great force and briefly shook the ground.
Hugh looked closer at the object, and walked towards it. Then his memory went blank. The next thing he knew, he was sitting up in his bed in the dark and early morning.
After this incident, he started complaining of being disturbed during the nights. He lost sleep, and those around him could notice it. He claimed to have been haunted by ghosts or spirits. In his desperation, now beginning to fear going to sleep, Hugh visited a woman in the town that claimed she was psychic. She had worked with hauntings such as this before, though not on such a scale.
The house was very old and held many memories of past times, she said. There were likely many spirits. She offered her services to him, to aid him in expelling these mysterious beings, in exchange for a price. Hugh agreed and they set to work immediately.
According to the psychic, Maria, Hugh made some ‘rather rash’ decisions and angered the spirits further. Maria noticed the increased activity in the house immediately. Despite her efforts to calm the ghosts, they were truly enraged.
Within a week, one month after Maria had first began helping Hugh and in total ten weeks since Hugh’s strange experience in the woods and his memory blank, Hugh was found dead in his home. It was Maria who discovered the body, she entered the mansion, intending to pay Hugh a visit and see how he was coping. On the floor, in his bedroom, his bloody corpse lay, the room drenched in his blood and his corpse badly mutilated.
Police were called to investigate, and I came along for the ride. I’m a journalist. I don’t work with any one network; instead I get stories and give them to whoever offers the most. I’m a freelancer, I always have been. This story seemed like it would get me a significant amount of money, the classic murder mystery. How wrong I was.
Sure, had I sold it, it might have made money if there were a company that didn’t think me mentally deranged. But once the deed was done, when I left that house for the last time, making money was the last thing on my mind. It was a groundbreaking experience, but not one to be shared lest you be labeled as a lunatic the rest of your existence.
I arrived by my own car at the town in which Maria lives, and Hugh used to live. His mansion overlooked the town, standing on a lush green hill, roughly one hundred meters out from the nearest house. It wasn’t dissimilar to a medieval castle overlooking its surrounding village. The mansion itself was old but well kept, and the town less well kept, still old.
I parked my car at the empty parking lot nearest to the town square. At the town square, two police vehicles were parked and standing outside them were four policemen most likely discussing some aspect of the case, though I couldn’t hear them and knew nothing about how on-task they were so they could well have been discussing which restaurant to get lunch at.
It was around lunchtime, too. I checked my wristwatch. 11:46. I didn’t feel hungry yet. I walked over to the police. Addressing the group of them in general I asked, “You’re on the murder case, right? I’m Jim Kay, journalist.”
“Need a good story. Classic murder mystery… what kind of journalist could resist?”
“It’s not been confirmed a murder. Where did you even get that from anyway? He probably just died of a stroke or something. You journalists… always playing it up… blowing it all out of proportion.”
This man seemed to have some kind of grudge against journalists. I was about to give him a piece of my mind when another stepped forward and spoke to him. I could make out quite clearly what he said. “Don’t be so aggressive. He’s a civilian, just like any other. Don’t let your personal experiences get in the way…”
I joined the conversation, “Sorry if I offended you, I didn’t mean to. I was just asking…”
“We have strict orders. No media, this is a sensitive case, that man meant a lot to this town, not least due to his… sizeable contributions to this town’s economy. Please move on, find another story, we simply can’t allow you to get in the way. If you do stay and get in the way, we will be forced to make you move on from this town. It’s our orders, we can’t make any exceptions.”
After having made it plain and clear that I wasn’t going to get the inside story, I was, admittedly, a little annoyed. However, this cop had shown respect for me, and for this I too respected him.
I walked off. I wasn’t sure where I was heading… just out of sight of the cops. I’m not a story hound as you may expect a journalist to be. I don’t relentlessly hunt down a good story like paparazzi hunt a celebrity; I don’t bypass laws to get to the good parts of a story. I’m respectful, perhaps more so than other journalists. Regardless, this story had massive potential. I was attracted to it; perhaps I somehow knew it would change my life forever.
Wandering down a pedestrian walk by the side of the road, I looked back at the policemen. They were quite far in the distance. I’d walked for some time stuck in my own mind, ignorant of the world around me. I stopped outside a small café. The smell of chips awoke my appetite.
I ordered a medium chips and tea at the counter, and took a table outside. I never really got hooked on to coffee. Always been a tea man I suppose.
Time passed by, I finished my food but remained at the table. People passed in and out of the café around me, others walked down the street, many cars passed along the road in front. I sat and observed the rush of the world around me. I was in a calmed state, a pondering mindset. Sometimes I’d sit for hours, wandering the depths of my mind, stuck in one massive day dream. I barely noticed the world outside my own mind, and people from the real world never really noticed me. I just blended in.
At one o’clock I left the café. I decided to rent a room at a hotel, stay the night and find out what becomes of the death in the morning. Any new discoveries might be released to the media; the trip to this fairly isolated town may end up having not been such a waste.
I found my way to the hotel, there is only one in this town, apparently. I booked a room, went to it, unpacked my stuff. I didn’t have much, I never intended on staying. Luckily I brought a book to pass the time. There were no Televisions in the hotel.
I lay down on the bed and relaxed for a moment. When I grew bored of that I sat up, grabbed my novel and began reading. It grew late and I fell asleep.
I awoke. Instead of instantly rising to my feet, checking the time and getting ready for the day, I remained lying on my back. That night I had had the strangest dream. It seemed so real, too. I just couldn’t remember what it was. I lay motionless trying to remember it. Perhaps it was important… a vital message from my subconscious; though it most likely wasn’t of very much importance.
The longer I lay and the further I pursued the lost dream, the more it seemed to fade. It was soon completely lost to me. I rose from the bed. My book fell from the sheets. I must have fallen asleep last night and didn’t both putting it on the shelf.
I picked it up. The bookmark had fallen out. Damn. I picked the bookmark up off the floor, stood and put both book and bookmark onto the shelf beside the bed. I got dressed and readied myself for the day.
Unzipping my bag, I repacked it with all my stuff. Last night I made the decision to leave and look for another story if there were no new developments today. My money was starting to run low, I didn’t want to run dry.
Outside the hotel, I looked around, wondering where to go next. My stomach rumbled. Breakfast. I headed in the direction of the café I had eaten at the day before. I didn’t really remember where it was exactly, only the general direction. I headed down streets that looked or seemed familiar to me. I soon made it to the café.
Outside it there was a stand offering today’s issue of the local newspaper for free. I took one and went in to order some food. Toast and coffee. Muffins. Bacon and eggs. I weighed up which I wanted the most for a moment, then ordered. They said it’d take a while, they gave me a metal stand with a number on it and I sat at my table from the day before waiting for my food.
I opened the newspaper without looking at the front headlines. Flicking through, I found nothing caught my attention. Nothing interesting seemed to happen in this place. I suppose that was why they only mentioned the murder on the first page.
The murder I did not notice until I was thoroughly bored with flicking through looking for something of interest. I finally looked at the first page and saw it. It was not the murder of Hugh. That was old news, everyone knew it; publishing it again would be pointless. It was a fresh murder. Maria was found dead in her home. The same Maria who Hugh had turned to with his apparent ghost problem.
This was an interesting turn of events. It would be very strange if it happened to be a coincidence that these two people died in a small space of time and had not been murdered. There was definitely something going on. Perhaps these two knew something they shouldn’t and needed to be silent. Perhaps Hugh’s ghost problem was a cover story. Or maybe not.
On the same cover page was a smaller article about Hugh’s possessions and his having no heir. He wasn’t a very social man, apparently and he had no family. There was no one vaguely close to him in this world. Who would inherit his fortune? Classic.
The thing missing was a suspect. Sure, the mansion hadn’t been set foot in since Maria found him dead, so the place couldn’t have yet revealed any evidence.