Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and eighty-fourth piece in this series. This week’s is a 492-worder by Stephen Lodge.
The Height of the Storm
They stood in the study of the great house, looking out of the large window towards the back patio and the deep woodland beyond. Susan and her brother, Tony, were piecing together the events of the previous night.
The moon had been full, the storm at its height, lightning, thunder, torrential rain. Mother aged ninety but well built, had been in bed, heavily sedated and restrained. She must have awoken and persuaded the maid to release her from the restraints, despite Susan’s strict instructions.
Mother drew strength from these storms. Once free from the ties that bound her, she strangled the maid, threw open the French windows and proceeded out onto the rain-lashed patio, then wandered off into the woods.
Susan’s husband, Gary, found Mother lying like a crumpled tissue near the cabin in the woods, sound asleep with a peaceful smile on her face, as he set off to bury the maid. This was the third maid Mother had strangled.
“I don’t know how long we can keep a lid on Mother’s behaviour, Tony. The maid agency are getting suspicious for a start and now this.” She passed him an envelope. “It came in the mail.”
“Blackmail?” Tony wailed. “No, wait! This is Uncle Lionel’s writing.”
Inadvertently, they looked at the uppermost window on this side of the house, where Uncle Lionel lived with that dreadful wife of his, whose name they couldn’t remember. They’d stayed there since his last scheme had failed, when the train he had hired to shift diamonds across some border plunged down a ravine, sabotaged by Lost Omelette Tribesmen.
Tony could tell Susan was at the edge of her temper, her legendary composure gone. “This is Lionel trying to finance another dopey scheme. Ooh, I want to just march up there and kick him and his ghastly wife Jazziebel, Jobetta… Jonoria.”
Tony shook his head. “I thought her name began with a vowel.”
Gary made his way up the patio towards the house. He was covered in mud and used the shovel as a walking stick. He was after all nearly seventy.
“I’m too old for this, Susan,” he told her, when in earshot. “Your mother has got to stop killing the staff.” Tony gave Gary the letter.
“This is Lionel’s writing.” Gary said, confirming Tony’s thoughts. “See it often enough on those stupid yellow notes he leaves everywhere.” He read it aloud, laughing. “Leave 50,000 cash inside the cabin. Tell no one. I saw what you did the other night in those woods.”
“Of course the idiot saw what happened in the woods the other night. I asked him to help me with the body. The second maid was a heavy lass. Let barking dogs lie, darling. I took a precautionary photo on my hand phone of him and Lily helping with the body.”
“Lily?” Susan asked. “Who’s Lily?”
“Lionel’s wife.” replied Gary.
Susan and Tony both shook their heads. “No, that’s not her name.”
I asked Stephen what prompted this piece and he said…
Drawn from the desire to build a story around a sprawling British mansion, from a bygone age, peopled by family members who appear to be totally out of their depth coping with a dominant matriarch within the grounds and little idea what goes on in the outside world.
Christmas is one of the times of year that I miss the UK the most. My thoughts are with family and friends there, so a good time for a story set there.
Thank you, Stephen.
Stephen Lodge is a wandering minstrel from London, now based in Singapore. He is responsible for a number of published short stories, plays and skits, poems/lyrics and has co-written a film screenplay.
Steve spends most of his time writing, acting on TV, theatre and in independent films, playing in a band and doing comedy improv.
- and guest blogs about short stories on this blog: Alberta Ross, Jane Hertenstein, Helen M Hunt, Morgen Bailey, Sarah Grace Logan, Warren Bull.