Being inspired, maybe – 50

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

"This is as far as I go.  From here, you're on your own."

"You're not coming?"

"No.  My job was to get you to this point.  What happened from here, that's up to you."

A small wiry man by the name of Giles, no first name or salutation, just Giles, answer an advertisement I put in at least fifty newspapers, trying to track down the last remain member of the Burnacott family.

Having just been made the last junior partner in the legal practice, Gerhardt, Gerhardt, and Wilmington, my first assignment was to find any remaining family members of the Burnacott family, now that the oldest member, referred to by Mr Gerhardt the elder, as 'old man Burnacott' had died and left behind a small fortune.

In the fifteen months I'd been searching, not once did I realise I was not supposed to find anyone. 
Perhaps if Gerhardt had told me that from the outset, I may have not tried so hard.

Little did I know this was meant to be a fool's errand, that Mr Gerhardt had not wished me to find anyone simply because the practice would keep administering the family assets, all the time reaping huge fees for doing so.

Finding an heir would most likely lose that account, one that had been keeping the Gerhardt's and Wilmington's in a rather expensive lifestyle for many, many years.

Such was the import of the conversation I'd overheard in the executive washroom several weeks before the big 'break' in my search, a letter from a neighbour who believed the person I was looking for lived in 'the big house' near a village in rural England.

Mr Gerhardt had looked extremely displeased when I told him of the discovery, then reluctantly authorised my expenses to go and meet this potential heir.

On the other side of the world, and what seemed to be a million miles from anywhere.

"How will I get back to the city?"

"I'm sure the owner will bring you back once you've told them."

Regrettably, I'd mentioned the reason I was looking for a Burnacott, and suddenly I found myself in a negotiation for the information, my guide, a woman by the name of Angelica Wishbone, realizing there was money to be made.  A thousand pounds no less.

I watched her get back in her car, then drive off, leaving me alone in the silence of the country.

A mile walk to the house, and no, she would not take me, or pass the gateway.  Private property, she said. And, aside from that, the property was haunted, so they said.  She didn't say who 'they' was.

It was a stately manor house, fallen into disrepair.

A huge place with two wings, three or four stories high, made of sandstone and covered by ivy.  The front was a cleared space with gravel recently laid, and up to the edges, overgrown grass and bushes.  The garden, if there was one, had not been tended to in years, but it was just barely discernable.

In its time, it would have been magnificent, and worthy of comparison to the best created by Capability Brown.

I went up to the front door and pulled the rusted metal handle which I presumed was for the bell.  The doors were solid oak, so there was no way of knowing if anything happened inside.

One minute, two minutes, five minutes.  

I waited.


I shrugged.  The only sign of recent activity was the gravel area, and that might have not been all that recent.  Whoever lived there, once, may not any more, and what I was seeing was the death throes of a once magnificent estate.

If anyone was living there, and they were related to Burnacott, it seemed the inheritance would not be all that significant considering the value of the property that I could see.

I turned, and went back to the gravel driveway, taking a last look at the property.

And heard what I believed to be the sound of a gun, a double barrel shotgun if I was not mistaken.  Followed by a voice, female, young.  "Who are you, and what do you want here?"

I turned.

Immaculately dressing in hunting gear, minus the horse, was a woman in what I guessed was mid-twenties, old fashioned styled hair, pale complexion, but determined look on her face.

I tried not to show alarm.  "I'm here to see the master of the house, Mr Burnacott."

"There is no master of the house."

"Mistress then, you perhaps?"

"You haven't answered my question, who are you?"

"Lionel Sanders, from the legal practice, Gerhardt, Gerhardt, and Wilmington.  I am here to discuss the last will and testament of one George Alexander David Burnacott."

Just then I heard the sound of the doors being opened, a long screeching sound, of hinges that hadn't been used in a while, and turned.

A grey-haired man, similar in looks and build to Burnacott came striding towards me.

"Who are you?"

He stopped just short of me.

"As I was explaining to the young woman behind me..."

"What are you talking about.  There is no one behind you."

I turned.  It was true, the girl had gone.

"There was..."

"Describe her."

I did.

"Oh, you met Ailsa.  She lived her two hundred years ago, died in a hunting accident, sometimes turns up to frighten people.  A ghost you might say."

"She looked real enough."

"I dare say, but not real I assure you.  So, who are you and what do you want?"

© Charles Heath 2019


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