Inheritance short story by Iris Carden
Settle in dear reader, while I tell you the strange tale of Jane, who received an amazing inheritance, but quickly found it wasn’t as good as it sounded.
Jane’s mother, Melissa, had never talked about her family, except to say she’d run away as a teenager and was never going back. Whenever Jane asked anything about them, her mother would refuse to answer. Whenever Jane asked anything about her father, Melissa would say he was not worth talking about.
As Jane grew up, all of the other kids she knew would talk about grandparents, or cousins, or aunts or uncles, or even brothers and sisters, and Jane would wonder about her own extended family, who they were, and what was so terrible about them that Melissa would never speak about them. But there was just her mother and her.
When Jane married Kevin, Melissa walked her down the aisle, and did all of the things a mother or father of the bride should do. Privately, she told Jane, that should she ever need to leave, she was always welcome back in her, Melissa’s, home.
Melissa said something similar again, when Jane’s daughter, Kirsty, was born. Jane had said, there was no reason she would ever need to leave Kevin.
Melissa had nodded knowingly, and said, “I certainly hope there isn’t, but if there ever is, I’m here.”
Jane wondered what had happened to her mother that made her so suspicious, so ready to believe things would turn out badly.
Eventually, Melissa was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and her health went downhill quickly. One of the doctors mentioned casually to Jane, how the scarring from old injuries had affected surgery and ongoing treatment.
At Melissa’s funeral, Jane reflected sadly, that perhaps it was good that Melissa had not suffered for long from the cancer and its treatment, but what had she suffered before that? What had caused such injuries that the aftermath could affect her later medical treatment?
Jane would not wonder for long, dear reader, as she would soon hear some news that would lead to answers for her life-long questions.
A month after Melissa’s death, Jane received a phone call from a solicitor. She was the only living relative, and therefore the heir, for Melissa’s father Hubert Greaves, who had died only a week after Melissa had.
Were there no other grandchildren? Jane had asked.
The solicitor hesitated a moment before explaining that even if there had been other grandchildren, she was Hubert Greaves’ only surviving child.
Jane was dumbfounded. Did that mean the woman she’d always known as her mother was really her sister?
When the solicitor confirmed that Melissa had been both, Jane began to realise why her mother had fled her family.
Along with a huge amount of money, Jane had inherited a huge amount of house. The house had been extended significantly, it appeared. A part of the ground floor, presumably the original house, had stone walls. A large part of the ground floor, and all of upstairs was brick.
On the day they moved in, Kevin joked about how he would have proposed to Jane much earlier if he’d known how much family money she was getting, and that he wouldn’t have to worry about how to earn enough for the family.
Jane pointed out that, apart from a brief maternity leave, she’d always been an equal part of supporting them financially.
She was torn about accepting the family money and the family house, since she had some idea of what “family” had cost her mother.
The first night there, they discovered the electricity was unreliable. Lights would flicker. An old radio suddenly turned itself on in the middle of the night.
Jane began to write a list of things that needed to be done to the house. First on the list was to have an electrician inspect the place and do any needed repairs. Next was to clean up the overgrown gardens. Then there would be a thorough cleaning of the house, and sorting through to decide what could be kept, what would be sold or donated, and what needed to be thrown out.
Exploring the house, she found a room which must have been her mother’s. There was a diary on the dressing table. Jane spent an afternoon reading about her mother’s life, leading up to the point where, at fourteen, she’d discovered she was pregnant with her abusive father’s child, and was planning to run away to protect her baby.
“And now, here I am, back in this house you fled,” Jane said quietly.
Kevin called from downstairs. He’d made an odd discovery. “The room sizes in this old part aren’t right,” he said. “I think there should be another room, but I can’t find a door.”
They searched the rooms of the old section of the house, there was no way to access an area that seemed to definitely be where a room should be.
Eventually, they went out to the overgrown yard, and found a locked door, in the brick wall, behind trees and overgrown vines. None of the keys they had been given matched the rusted lock on the door. Jane added, “Get locksmith to open secret door” to her list.
That second night, three-year-old Kirsty, insisted on sleeping with Jane and Kevin. She said the girl in her room was crying and keeping her awake.
Kevin checked Kirsty’s room. There didn’t seem to be anything untoward there, except that it seemed colder than the rest of the house. Strangely, he realised her room would have been directly over the hidden room. He told Jane about his odd realisation when he returned to bed.
Later that night, Jane got up for a drink of water. As she stood by the kitchen sink, she heard the sound of someone crying. As she walked toward the wall between the kitchen and the hidden room, the sound became clearer.
“Hello,” Jane called out. “Is there someone there?”
The crying continued.
How could someone be in that room? The lock was rusted. There hadn’t been any other entrance. Getting the door opened moved to the top of her list.
When she called the locksmith in the morning, he’d seemed quite abrupt, but he agreed to come first thing.
When he arrived, he said, “I have to tell you my wife was Mr Greave’s visiting carer for the last ten years. She wants to know about the family who spent all that time ignoring the poor helpless old man.”
“Well, we’re a normal family who didn’t know he existed, until a lawyer called me,” Jane answered. “My mother refused to talk about her family. Maybe the helpless old man your wife knew was different to the younger one my mother ran away from.”
The locksmith had the decency to look at least slightly embarrassed. He would go from embarrassed to horrified when he got the door open.
Inside there was a large cage, which had a human skeleton and a couple of old plastic buckets in it.
The police would find another ten skeletons buried in the yard. They would all be found to be teenaged girls, including Melissa’s older sister. They had gone missing from the area over many years, starting before Melissa had run away, and continuing on until age and illness had incapacitated Hubert Greaves.
And so, dear, reader, you will be pleased to know that Jane and her family left that horrible place immediately. When the investigation was complete, the building and garden were bulldozed. Jane gave the land to the city council, to build a park in memory of her grandfather’s victims. Jane, Kevin and Kirsty are doing well, and have put the horror behind them.
I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:
- Hey Siri
- Boxing Day
- Bloody Mary
- Eternal Spring
- The Best
While you’re here…
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Well…yikes! I was expecting to discover something about Kevin that Jane didn’t know…but wow! Love the indignation of Mrs. Locksmith….I can’t imagine what she and Mr. Locksmith are feeling after the grisly discoveries!
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Yeah, that one took a very dark turn.
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