There was an eerie silence and the only person alive was standing with shaking legs and in a state of shock. The pitter-patter of raindrops on a windowsill, rhyming with every sound my heart makes, speeding up with every breath. The loud rumbles, the clouds were making and the thunder striking somewhere, made me realized how much I wish right now that I had stayed at home.
The elderly guard was lying dead with blue tainted lips. I stood there. Frozen. Looking blankly at the portrait right in front of me and all I could think was how much my mother resembles the one in the portrait. Wishing the possibilities running in my head to never be true.
All I could gather from the scene and all I could question was, Why did the woman in the portrait resemble my mother? Did my mother had anything to do with the murder of my best friend, Leo? Was she the murderer? What was her part in this?
Given the circumstances, I wish someone just pinched me and I could wake up from this hideous nightmare. Or for once, I could feel my legs and run from the terrible view of my best friend lying in the pool of blood and forget whatever I saw.
LIFE. The only thing a human mind cannot predict. Sometimes it’s the only thing we try to figure out but end up tangling into it.
Leo is somewhat life. I mean I can’t predict or understand what is happening. At one point it’s like she is hiding so much from me but then when we talk it’s never that way. It could have been my mind playing games with me.
I tried so much to get something out of her but everything in vain.
72 hours earlier.
“Hey Chloe, do you remember your dad’s funeral?” she asked plainly. I was astonished. What? “Uh, yeah, why?” I asked. “Oh nothing, just asking,” she said blankly.
Sometimes I wonder if Leo was asking me to figure something out. Maybe a riddle?
“Chloe you know your mother had a si…” she stopped abruptly.
“You were saying something?” I thought I heard her say, sister. No way, my mom was the only child. But what if?
I reached home, thoughts clouding my mind. Wondering was Leo trying to say something. “Uh, mom, you were the only child right?” I asked sheepishly. “Yeah, Chloe why?” She was busy doing something on her phone.
RING! RING! CHLOE? CHLOE!?
I suddenly whooshed back into reality. My mom was staring at me as if she saw a ghost.
“Your phone” She looked at me puzzled.
“Hey Chloe, is your mom home?” it was Leo AND she was asking for mom. Maybe she did knows something. Anything?
Mom took my phone and walked away from me. Maybe they both knew something I didn’t. Or maybe they were just planning my birthday party! YES! “I am such a jerk,” I thought to myself and laughed loudly.
My mom came back to hand me my phone. “Chloe I’ve to go. Maybe it’ll get late, don’t keep waiting.” She smiled at me.
Something was wrong with that smile. Maybe it was the light playing games or my mind. But what I saw was a drop of tear near the rim of her eyes.
Maybe the coming days would change my life forever. Maybe?
“Sorry, Chloe got a hell lot of work. Can’t make it in time.”
Leo and I have been friends since 7th grade. Been together long enough to become each other’s diary. We had known each other’s vulnerabilities, desires, goals, and whatnot. We had zinged at our first meeting at a mutual friend’s birthday.
BIRTHDAY. Today was mine. And my best friend messages me saying she is can’t make it. And so I canceled the plans.
Leo has been acting all weird since she hung out with Crazy Patty and going on so-called night trips to the Old Mansion House. We have known crazy Patty for doing dark stuff throughout high school. And now Leo was all like her. A Goath. And it for sure creeps me out.
The Old Mansion House has a history of ghost sightings and people say, whoever spends more time there, becomes like the guard of the old mansion house. But Crazy Patty and Leo wanted fun, so they visited the Old Mansion.
I came home right after school and my phone beeped. “Hey, Chloe, I will be working late tonight. Sorry. Raincheck.” “Ugh, mom!!! Not you too!” I shouted on top of my lungs. Since my dad died of cancer, I and my mom had shared a bond we never thought we would be sharing. And since he died, I could rely only on two people. Leo and my Mom and today both bailed on me.
It was past 10 pm when the doorbell rang. I started to get up when a thought crept my mind. ‘Who would be there at this hour?’ a shiver ran down my spine.
I grabbed the nearest object I had and went towards the door. I was about to close the door when I saw a packed box. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. I was happy that someone at least remembered my birthday but was wondering who would it be. Anyway, with a huge smile on my face, I picked up the box. Wondering what would be inside it, I darted into the house. “Light,” I thought. I was beaming.
I settled the box onto the counter and tore the wrapping. A box inside a box? I opened the top and removed the newspaper paper shreds. I jumped a mile away and threw the box onto the floor. A finger.
Someone’s finger. I became numb. A senseless feeling crept inside me. Click Click! “Who’s there! Come out!” I shriek. I ran and locked the door and windows properly. “911, what’s your emergency?” the operator asked. “T… Th.. there is someone clicking pictures outside my window and… and there is a parcel with someone’s finger inside.” I babbled. I was crying. “Ma’am don’t worry, our team is on the way.”
I kept looking at the finger. Something was odd about it. The nail was painted midnight blue. Leo. “Hey, Leo, where are you? are you safe?” I was hysterical and was screaming. “Woah Chloe calm down, I am with Patricia. Why? What happened?” She was unusually calm. “N… Nothing. Just checking in” For one thing I was sure, Leo was safe. I felt something odd about her voice as if she was crying but the way she talked didn’t felt like she was. This finger didn’t belong to her. Knock, knock! “Who’s there?” I shouted standing in the kitchen with the baseball bat. “It’s the CPD, you called about 10 minutes ago” I calmed down a little. I opened the door and showed the way towards the finger.
The forensics took the finger and one of the lady officers stayed till my mom arrived. My mom darted inside and hugged me asking was I okay, what happened.
Who knew this birthday would be the turning point of everyone’s life and the last birthday I ever celebrated.
“Goddamnit, Leo! Pick up the damn phone!” I was screaming on top of my lungs. “Language lady” Mom looked up from the newspaper giving me the old lady look. “What happened?” she asked, folding the newspaper and taking the coffee mug in her hands. “Leo isn’t picking up the phone… oh, here she calls”.
(On the call)
“What the hell is wrong with you Leo? Why weren‘t you picking my call?” I burst. “God, Chloe I was taking the bath! Sorry got to go, Patty is waiting and yeah I won’t be coming to school today. Have some work. doesn’t wait. okay bye” she said briskly and cut the call. Woah. I was astonished and angry at the same time. Mixed feelings. One of my traits.
I reached school, and everything seemed alright. I was in my history class when I received a message from Leo. Sorry, Chloe, we can’t hang out together anymore. I’m sorry. Can’t explain. Sorry. No explanation? Another shock. Tears streamed down my face. I hurriedly packed my bag and went out of the class. Why has my life fallen apart suddenly?
I just wanted someone to just slap me and tell me it’s a nightmare. I ran to the place where Leo and I used to go. Another mistake. Patty and Leo having snacks. Why?
I ran. Just ran. And I don’t know why I ended up at the gates of Old Mansion-house. The old guard running towards me with a wobbling stick in his hands. I sprinted off as fast as I could.
I reached home, panting. As I was about to open the door, I saw a shadow on the window. “Mom?” Why is all this happening? I picked up the bamboo stick lying in the front yard and opened the door quietly. “Mom?” I asked again, meekly. No one. I must be hallucinating. RING! RING!. I jumped startled. An unknown number. “Hello, Ms. Chloe Baker speaking?” I was totally confused. “Y… Yeah.. why?” “I’m Detective Espiranza. Can you please make your way to Alameda Street? Your mother’s car was found wrecked here.” “Oh. Ok. I’m on my way”. For once, I didn’t know who to call. For once I was blanked. I couldn’t feel a thing. I tried calling Leo once, but she didn’t pick. Knock, Knock. “Aunt Carie.” I started crying hysterically. “What happened?! Why do you seem so scared, child?”
The neighborhood aunty asked, terrified. “M… mom” and I started crying again. We rushed to the spot where the Detective asked. It was my mom’s car. “We only found the car. She is missing. So we can’t say if she is alive or…” The detective trailed off. Dead. I completed the sentence in my mind. Aunt Carie took me back to my home, and we waited for any news from my mom.
All my life, I have wished some people to never leave me, but destiny always plays its role. First dad, Leo and now mom. Sometimes it feels it’s better to stay away and unattached from people. The best way you won’t get hurt, but then it hits; this is life. We tend to attach ourselves even when we don’t want to and get hurt, and that hurt sometimes makes us feel alive.
The detective called to tell that no trace of my mom has been found until now. BEEP! I checked my phone.
A message from Leo. ‘Sorry about your mom. Just messaging to tell I’ll be changing school with Patty. Sorry for all this. May you get through this as soon as possible. Sorry.’ That’s it? “Damn it! Damn this world! You can’t just drop a bomb and say sorry Goddamnit!!”
My whole life felt like a huge mess. And in my heart, I knew Crazy Patty was behind this. I was feeling so much anger building inside me and I knew I had to take it out and on whom. I rushed out, grabbed my bicycle and started towards Leo’s home. Crazy Patty will be there. I blasted inside the house and marched up to Leo’s room. Yes! My chance. Patty opened the door. SLAP! A hard one. Patty stared at my wide eyes. I then marched up to Leo, “Before you speak any bullshit further, listen to what I have to say. You suck Leo! We had been friends for like 4 years? and you bailed me out for this crazy? What do you think, huh?
You can’t just be in someone’s life for one minute and then vanish in the next just because you aren’t happy! And you dare to send the messages?? No explanation? You suck! And you Patricia! Whatever black magic you did on my friend, I swear I won’t leave you if I found out you were behind all this!” After speaking my heart out, I darted outside, tears streaming down my eyes. I didn’t even wait to listen to them, not to Leo’s mother. I came home wishing there may be some news from my mother. But no. No news.
36 hours have passed and no news of mom. Why are you playing these games, God!?
“CHLOE! CHLOE!!” Leo’s mother was shrieking outside my house. “What happened Aunt Beth??” “It’s… It’s Leo, she hasn’t come home from yesterday evening” She was crying. “Did… did you checked at Patty?” “Yeah I did, she doesn’t know either” Clearly, she has no idea nor did Patty. We called 911 and asked them to locate her. They told us to wait for a few hours until they find something. No lead with her too. Why have our lives suddenly fallen apart? First Mom and now Leo too?
It’s been 2 days, no news of mom or Leo and everyone is freaking out. Having known Leo and Patty all my life, my gut feelings said someone has to be the reason behind all this. Patty? Maybe. Life was playing another game and I have no clue how to pass this test or situation. I felt tired. And for once after dad’s death, I wished to die.
The whole school was buzzing with the news of Leo and my mom’s disappearance. Some were blaming Patty, and some were saying its God’s plan. It was choking to be in the midst of all this.
I was so frustrated and angry at Patty that I wanted to make her blue. I stormed into her home and started demanding for her but when I saw Patty’s mother crying, I was startled. “What happened Aunt Princy?” “Its Patty, she is missing” saying so she started crying loudly. “Why didn’t you report to the police?” “I know what you guys talk about my daughter at school. But she has nothing to do with your mother or Leo. I swear it on my life!” I was stunned. Shocked. Now Patty is missing too. What on earth is happening!
I was at my home when I felt I was being followed. I glanced back; a kid from my neighborhood was walking briskly towards me. “You walk quite fast you know?” He smirked. A rhetorical question. “Why were you following me?” I asked confusingly. “Oh yeah, that some old hag asked me to give this to you and asked me to tell you that he was sending gifts to warn you and to look for what you are looking” Saying so he ran away. What? Again a box. But this time it was a little heavy. My first instinct was to take it to the police station, so I ran towards it. I rushed inside and asked for Detective Espiranza. When he saw a box in my hand and the terrified look on my face, he snatched the box and called his team. They opened the box and this time it shook them too. A thumb with blood-red nails paint. The first thing that hit me was the color of the nail paint. My mother applies the same color and the day she went missing, she applied it. I felt the floor beneath me shaking. And I fainted. When I opened my eyes I was lying on the bench and Detective Espiranza was sitting next to me with a distressed look on his face. He was holding a picture. “Are you okay? Will you be able to look at this?” He waved the letter and Polaroid film toward me. I gestured yes.
The detective asked me to see the picture and try to gather anything if I could. I couldn’t. The picture itself was a gruesome one and all I could focus on were the expressions on the faces of Leo and Patty. They were terrified. The detective called Leo and Patty’s parents and informed them of all the matter. I asked the detective if I could take the picture with me. He nodded and asked me to look into the picture again if even a bit I can gather anything.
I was exhausted. God, why do you expect a mere 17-year-old girl to take all this!? I reached home and I just drop down onto the floor and all I could do at that moment was to cry. My life was suddenly falling apart and I have no idea about whom I can blame. Not Patty. Not Leo. No one. I picked up the Polaroid and took a look and was about to drop it on the counter when I thought I saw something. I glanced at the picture once more. Yes. Maybe I know this place. If I’m right, this could lead me to them! I immediately called
Detective Espiranza and told him what I knew. He told me to meet me at the place right now. I ran, grabbed my bicycle and started paddling at a speed I never did. I reached the spot. The detective was there, waiting for me. “Are you sure it’s this place?” He questioned. “I’m not 100% sure but yeah I think so” I replied. My art class. Leo and I took art classes when we were 9 years old. It has shifted to a new place so this old one could be used for a crime since it has been locked down past 3 years. We rushed inside hoping to find anything. No one. It was a dead lead. I was becoming more and more hopeless by each passing minute. We were about to leave when the detective saw something. Bloodstain. Dried blood. They were here!
I always thought there was some meaning in the way the world is built. The grains of sand and the pores on the sponge. The different smells of every house and the different vibe from each person. The way the rain fell and the way the clouds burst. There was always some meaning in everything and maybe today I found one!
There was mud around the spot the0 detective spotted the blood. He looked towards me and nodded. A ray of sunshine amidst the black clouds. He quickly took the sample of the mud and called the forensic team to get ready. He sounded hopeful. I was smiling and had happy tears. In 2 days I felt my world falling apart and now had a ray of hope.
The detective dropped me home and asked me to lock the doors properly and have a nice sleep because maybe tomorrow we could find my mother, Leo, and Patty.
That night I slept like a dead. No nightmares; no screams. Nothing. It was 11 a.m. when my phone rang. The detective called to tell us that the mud that we found can only be found at cold, humid place and in the town we live, there are only 3 places where we can look. All abandoned mansions. And one of them was the old mansion house. The detective asked me to stay away from looking into this because of any danger that can happen. I can’t just sit!
KNOCK! KNOCK! I opened the door and one lady officer was there. “Detective Espiranza asked me to look after you till the case is solved” She smiled sheepishly. GREAT! I wanted to cus the detective, and I knew where I had to look but how would I escape her eyes?
The detective hadn’t called yet, so I assume they got no lead.
I couldn’t escape her eyes until 6 p.m. when she drifted into a nap. That’s my chance! I sneaked out of the backdoor. Grabbing my bicycle and started paddling towards the only place that creeps me out in the whole town. The Old House Mansion. This time I was 100% sure that I will find them there.
I reached the old mansion house around 7:30 pm. I snooped into the mansion through the backdoor. Leo told me the guard never locks that. The atmosphere inside the old mansion was scary. I was soaked since it was raining and I was shivering profoundly. The hall had a sinister aura. I gulped and made my way towards the stairway. I was about to climb the first when I thought I heard a squeak behind me. Abruptly I turned back; flashing my torchlight. No one. My heart was pounding so fast that became difficult for me to take long breaths. I reached the top. Fresh blood was spilled over the carpet. Who would it be? The trail of blood leading me to a closed room. My heart was saying to just run back and let detective Espiranza solve the mystery but my mind was telling me to open the door, and I listened to my mind and pushed the door. That moment traumatized me for life. The old guard was lying dead with a blunt hit on his head and his eyes popped. Gruesome. Automatically tears started streaming out of my eyes and I stepped back and closed the door. I melted onto the floor and as much as I tried I couldn’t erase the old guard’s body covered in blood from my mind. ‘Calm down Chloe! You got this’
I stood up, wiped my tears and entered into the room. I couldn’t control my tears. I was about to come out of the room when I stopped. It was like a thunder has struck me and I was drowning in a river at the same time. I turned around and was suddenly facing the portrait hung above the desk. My mother. It felt like everything inside me collapsed. How was my mother’s portrait here? As I collapsed, my hand felt something wet. Blood? Yes, it was blood. I looked in the direction of the trail of blood. And this time, my heart escaped my throat. It felt like the whole world fell
apart. Leo. And she was dead. Lying in a pool of blood, eyes staring blankly into the thin air.
I frantically hurried overhead and started shaking her “Leo! Leo come ‘on!”. But in vain. She was dead. I searched the place around her, I just knew I had to find something. Anything that would help. I nearly thought my mother was behind all this. SHREAK! Patty!
I ran towards the voice I heard. And that was the point when I lost myself. Dad.
I knew in that instant that my whole life was a lie. My dad whom I thought to be dead for 15 years was alive and standing right in front of me. And he was hovering over someone. Mom. There was an adrenaline rush inside me and I threw myself into him. It has to be someone else. It has to be because my mom was standing right in front of me! The woman I saw lying on the table was groaning with pain because she has been stabbed. MOM. “Wh..What are you doing here!?” “I thought you were dead!” The woman standing in front of me came charging onto me and knocked me off and stabbed the woman lying on the carpet. “You saw everything now we have to kill you too. And of course, your friend too” She wasn’t my mother. She was my mother’s twin sister. As much as I appreciated having an aunt, at that time I was glad I didn’t know her before.
In the distant, I could hear the police sirens and I looked up to my aunt, I passed a winning smirked and fainted. “Chloe, get up I need you,” Patty said wistfully. I opened my eyes, The CPD hasn’t reached here. How? My aunt was smiling slyly. “Now now, what do we do with these two?” She started laughing like a maniac. “I’m sorry Chloe, but to have a future with Beth I need you and your mom to never exist” My dad, kneeling beside me said to me. We both were bruised. I was in half senses, BANG! Patty crumpled beside me. No! No! No! Patty was dead. There was an urge inside me to knock my aunt out.
They dragged me and Patty to the room where Leo was lying. Not there! I knew I was about to die and to save myself I have to do something. When they left me in the room and went to get mom’s body, I crawled up to the Old guard and searched him for anything that could be used as a weapon. The iron rod! I hid behind the door and as soon as I saw my aunt entering. WACK! Dead. A hard blow on her head and she fell. “NO!!” My dad screamed, “I will KILL you!” He came charging towards me, BANG! BANG!
Patty wasn’t dead yet! I was crying and laughing at the same time. But my 2 seconds of happiness got washed away when she dropped onto the floor and took her last breath. I was the only person alive standing amidst 5 dead bodies. Detective Espiranza came rushing into the room with his team but he was late. I looked at him blankly and indicated his female partner to take me downstairs.
What happened in the old mansion house before I came in will forever be a mystery, because the people who knew about this were dead. How Leo and Patty came into this crime is also a mystery and so is how my mom ended up here. How my dad came out of his grave is a mystery.
Some things are better left the way they are for if you dig into them, you may uncover secrets you never wish to think.
After all this, my whole life had been changed. My best friend, Patty and my mom are dead. My dad is now dead. The woman in the portrait in the old mansion was my Aunt Beth. All I knew is that my life will never be the same again. I was vulnerable again.
After 2 days
Since I was a juvenile, Leo’s parents adopted me. They had always treated me just like Leo, as their daughter.
“Hey Chloe, there is a letter for you,” Dad said. I choked into my food. I could feel my ears getting hot and my heart beating fast. I picked the letter and opened it. It said, “Maybe, you would want to know what exactly happened.”
Someone else also knows about the case! But who? Maybe the same guy who was clicking my pictures?