A CHRISTMAS GHOST STORY
Christmas was nearly over, over as soon it had begun almost. The house was still full, however, of assorted Uncles and Aunties and rarely seen cousins, and they showed no signs of going. Gary, being the only teenager present, was about as bored as he could be and quietly slipped out the back door. The neighbourhood was still new to him as he and his parents had only been here a few weeks, so he thought a little exploration may relieve the boredom.
Not far from home there was a leafy lane which appeared to lead nowhere in particular, but new as he was, he had picked up the local gossip about a haunted house at the end of this lane and the thought of giving it the once over both thrilled and scared him. He ambled down the lane, kicking piles of leaves into the hedge as he went, it seemed to go on forever but after a few minutes he found himself standing by a pair of rusty wrought-iron gates. He pushed them open and made his way across the overgrown garden, through which he could see the house, a unremarkable grey stone building, not your classic haunted house look at all. He peered through the glass on the front door, it certainly looked empty, although he had heard there was some sort of caretaker who looked in from time to time. He just had to go in now he had got this far and if he should happen to come across anyone, could explain himself away easily enough.....new kid in town....got lost etc. No big deal.
The sky had darkened and the first drops of rain began to fall, that made up his mind for him.....he tried the door handle, it turned easily and the door slid open, he was pleased at this, at least the crime of breaking and entering could not be added to trespass if things went wrong. There were a few sticks of furniture around, but little else other than cobwebs. This caretaker could not be earning his money with his cleaning skills he thought, that's for sure. Now he was in here, he was disappointed, it was just an old empty house,neither exciting or scary. He tried the upstairs rooms, all perfectly empty and lifeless, Outside a storm was raging, thunder rolling around and the interior of the house was being illuminated by lightning flashes. The rain was hammering on the roof and windows,now, Gary might not have been scared by the house, but he sure as hell was not going out in that weather. He descended the stairs and as the lightning flashed he could see a man at the bottom. Oops found out.
" Sorry Mister, I was out walking and got caught in the storm and ran in here out of the rain". He thought he sounded convincing.
The man, an old man, took some time mulling this over and seemed to accept it. " It's ok kid, no harm done" he said.
" You must be the caretaker" Gary said.
" That would be me, I flit in from time to time, just to keep an eye on things. You must be new here, local kids tend to keep away".
" Yeah, I heard, haunted or something I think it's supposed to be".
" And you, kid, you're not scared ?"
Even if he was, Gary was not about to admit it.
" If its a ghost story you're looking for, I can help you there, come in the drawing room with me, we'll light a couple of candles and I'll tell you about it".
Gary hesitated and almost unknowingly took a step backwards.
" So you are scared, kid " the caretaker mocked.
" No Mister, not me" said Gary, his bravado returning.
They settled themselves into two old dusty armchairs and as the storm raged outside, the old man started his tale.
" Long time ago, this house was owned by two sisters, both elderly and both spinsters. They had virtually no family save for the odd niece and nephew scattered all over the country.One of the nieces, Emily Wade, came here for an extended holiday and met a local guy, John Burnham. They saw a lot of each other during the time she was here but all too soon, the visit was over and she headed back to Rochester in Kent. They wrote to each other and vowed undying love, and counted down the days until they could see each other again, which would be on her next visit".
" Excuse me, but why didn't this Burnham guy go to Kent to see her ?"
" Pressures of work kept him in town, he was very single-minded and despite his words of love to Emily, he was happy to be patient, knowing she was his. In time of course, she came back and they took up where they had left off. She was all for marriage but he was fighting shy of the idea and kept her hanging on. Inevitably it all cooled down between them, she was tired of waiting whereas he was happy enough to throw himself into his work knowing she was always there for him. She wanted to break off this so-called 'engagement' but he was adamant he would not let her go, she was his."
" A few weeks passed during which they hardly saw each other and one fateful week, Burnham had to travel up country to attend a funeral of a family member, he was going to be gone for seven days at least. This was an immense relief to Emily who no longer had to fear, at least for a week, his unannounced visits and unknown to Burnham she had another admirer, who would be just as happy to see the back of him for a week.You can imagine what happened, Burnham came back early and caught Emily and her lover together, in the room above us actually, kid"
" What happened ?" Gary was well and truly hooked now.
" Simple, he murdered her".
" And the lover ?"
" The lover was never seen again, kid. The police put two and two together and decided that the lover was also the killer hence his disappearing act. No one had seen Burnham return to the area, so he quietly left and re-appeared two days later to be met with the awful news about Emily"
" So then, it's Emilys' ghost that haunts the house". Gary said.
" No you smart-ass kid, no its not. Emily has never been seen or heard since, in this house or anywhere. But.... oddly enough, John Burnham also died in this house, upstairs in Emilys' old room. By this time, the two spinster sisters had also died and the house was empty. Burnham had an incurable disease and came here to die....by his own hand, and that, kid, is that".
Outside the storm was still continuing, the wind was shrieking and the rain falling steadily.
" But its not even a ghost story, and you promised me a ghost story. It's not even a very good murder story Mister, it doesn't make sense for one thing".
" In what way ?" asked the caretaker.
" If the police thought the lover killed Emily and this Burnham had some sort of alibi, like not being in the area, how come you know so much about it, how come you know he killed Emily ?"
" Thats easy, kid. I am John Burnham ".