*I thought I would try my hand at a ghost story. While not my usual genre or style, it was fun to write! I especially enjoyed the research that went into it to make it as authentic as possible.
This story will be given in parts, as it is a bit long and still needs a little work.
I try to use all of my own photos, but this proved difficult for this piece, so the featured photo is from aboutbritian.com
Also, my editor is usually not on duty for my blog posts. If you happen to find any errors in spelling or grammar…I’m sorry! I do what I can, but often miss things. Thanks for your patience!
I truly hope you enjoy reading my first ever ghost story!
by Kristy Gherlone
“I need me a couple of you Peelers to go down to the new Hackney manor and have a look over,” Chief Constable called out to his men. “Captain Hackney is off at war and no one’s seen hide ‘ner hair of the missus in quite some time.”
“We’ll do it.” Tom Barclay, a third year on Bow Street, readily volunteered, nudging his trainee, who gave him a look of inquisition.
“Take yer truncheons and look smart then,” Chief Constable advised. “Steer clear of Alsatia tonight, unless you want to be training a new one again tomorrow.”
“What did he mean by that?” Samuel Lester asked nervously, adjusting his top hat.
“Word has it, there’s to be a raid in Alsatia tonight. It’s to be a rough one, I hear. I thought this might be a little kinder to your training,” Tom explained with a chuckle, “and my disposition.”
The Hackney manor was quite a few blocks from the station. The heels of their shoes clicked and echoed as they hurried over the cobblestone walkways.
Set back from the main road, the Hackney Manor had been built not even a year ago, and was quite a spectacle. It was rumored that Captain Hackney had it built to suit his wife’s specifications, and by the time it was completed, had eaten up a good portion of his wealth.
Tom had heard from his own gossiping wife, that Mrs. Hackney intended to fill the giant estate with children. Her plan was already underway, having just given birth to her first. It didn’t surprise him at all that no one had seen her. She was probably holed up in maternal bliss just like all the new mothers he’d known.
“Well, here we are now,” Tom said as they approached the main gate. “Everything from here looks to be in order. The gate seems secure,” he noted, rattling the iron bars.
“So we can assume there ‘twasn’t a break-in at least,” Samuel concluded with a fair amount of confidence.
“Ah, but can we?” Tom asked, raising his eyebrows. He reached up and unlatched the gate. “In this business, it’s better not to assume anything.” He opened it and motioned Samuel through.
The manor was dark as they approached. Not a candle was lit in any window. Tom found that to be at odds as, at that hour, most of London would be enjoying their evening meal.
“Mrs. Hackney?” Tom shouted, knocking firmly on the front door. “Mrs. Hackney, this is Constables Barclay and Lester. Could you come to the door please? We’ve been instructed to look in on you.”
“No servants?” Samuel whispered, genuinely surprised. Surely a manor as such would require a few willing servants.
“From what my wife tells me, Mrs. Hackney wouldn’t tolerate them.” He knocked again.
Receiving no answering reply, Tom turned the knob and walked in. “Mrs. Hackney?”
The smell was the first thing that Samuel noticed. For such a new place, it contained the stench of the dredges of London. It was also cold and very quiet. He shivered and held his jacket sleeve over his nose with a grimace. “Smells like rotting tripe in here.”
“It’s not rotting tripe you’re smelling, I’m afraid,” Tom said with remorse. “If I’m not mistaken, you’re about to have a lesson I’d rather you avoided.”
“Oh?” Samuel asked with cautious curiosity.
“I’ll take the upstairs, you check around down here,” Tom ordered.
“What am I to be looking for?”
“You’ll know it when you see it,” Tom said. It was turning out to be a most unpleasant task. He almost wished he’d gone on the raid instead.
He took the stairs two at a time, and as he expected, the smell worsened as he ascended.
It didn’t take him long to find Mrs. Hackney. The door to her bedroom was ajar. He entered and found her lying motionless, the bed covers drawn up around her chin. He shined the light over her face. It was blue and bloated. It was hard to say just how long she’d been like that.
At that moment, Samuel entered. “What is it? Is she…?”
“Samuel stay here and don’t touch anything. My wife tells me she gave birth recently. There’s a chance…” But even as he said it, he knew there was none. It was too cold. Given the temperature and the lack of attention, the baby wouldn’t have survived long.
Tom ran off down the hallway opening every door until he found the baby’s room. It was obvious even at first glance that it had expired. Poor little thing was lying on its side completely without covers.
He walked over to the crib and reached out to turn it over. He choked back a sob. The sweet little thing still maintained a pout as if the only thing it had ever done on the earth was suffer. The little nappy covering its behind had been soiled before death, but had long since dried into a crusty mess.
He didn’t know why, but he picked up the baby and cradled it in his arms. He tried not to imagine just how long it had cried in agony from cold and hunger before it succumbed.
Sighing deeply, he placed it gently back into the crib. He took a moment to collect himself before returning to Samuel.
“Did you find the baby?” Samuel asked hopefully.
Tom nodded gravely. “We’ll have to have a look around. There must be a way to contact Captain Hackney. ‘Tis unfortunate, but he’ll have to be informed.”
“There won’t be a need,” Samuel said. “I didn’t touch anything, but couldn’t help noticing that letter there on the nightstand,” he said, motioning towards the paper.
Tom went over, and holding the torch high, began to read.
We regret to inform you that your husband Captain John Hackney has been killed in duty….
Side note: This week I received word that a short story I wrote has been accepted by Short Fiction Break! It(Ice Cream or Moxie) will appear on Aug 2nd. Additionally, The Mystery Tribune read another story of mine(Thief) and requested it for their magazine. It is featured in their magazine now!