The Ghost of Mr. Kidd – An old short story

So this was an old short story I wrote for English 3. We were supposed to base the assignment on the writing style of an author.

 

Gloomy darkness encased the land, darkness so dark it denoted death. Indeed, even the tall, broad-shouldered and muscular amateur detective, Flambeau, shivered as the icy cold breath of night brushed the nape of his neck. Flambeau’s ironic little companion trotted along beside him, an innocent looking bundle of a hat, umbrella, and coat which, tossed around by the playful wind, appeared almost unmanageable by this sprawlingly contradicting specimen of humanity. He was entirely unaffected by the night’s foreshadowing of all that is dark and dangerous. This strange man’s hat gave the impression of a clerical man, and his umbrella and cloak did not bother to contradict it.

The clerical man and his friend were on their way to the ferry from which they had come to visit some friends of Flambeau’s. A curve in the serpentine road brought them to face a great pile of agate grey stone. The Kidd Mansion resembled one of those castles seen in fairy tales that shroud themselves in dark and puzzling secrets. Yet, despite its foreshadowing of mystery, there was a strange light of attraction about it that drew both Flambeau and Father Brown, which was the simple name for the straightforward, sacerdotal man. They stood before the rusted gates, which never had been repaired by their last owner.

Flambeau put a hand forward and pushed the gate open. The gate swung wide, as if revealing something it had long been waiting to divulge.

“It is a shorter route to the ferry this way, and as the mansion is supposed to be deserted, I don’t know why we shouldn’t pass through,” Flambeau said, as if trying to rationally explain his unaccountable actions. Then, as both of them turned to walk down the overgrown paved stone path that well nigh resembled a Roman road, a faint scream riding through the air pierced their ears. It seemed as though the faintness of the scream was what made it so sardonically stand out, or perhaps it was simply their high-strung nerves. Either way, both jumped slightly, like a burglar who has been surprised in his criminal conduct.

Before they recovered, the front door to the mansion swung open violently, and a blood-bespattered man tore down the path, raving like a madman. He cried out, voice gurgling as he struggled against the blood that whelmed up his throat, threatening to choke him:

“Help! The double-crosser! Murder!” Then he slumped down in Flambeau’s arms; dead.

For a moment, both Flambeau and Father Brown stood there, too surprised to say anything, then Father Brown bent over the man, now lying on the ground where Flambeau had dropped him. The murdered victim lay there in a bedraggled heap, like a rag doll that’s owner has gotten tired of. Then straightening, Father Brown said to Flambeau in a brisk tone:

“Let’s go inside, I think this should be explained.”

Both entered through the open front door. The first few rooms they entered lay bare, the overstuffed furniture covered in dust and cobwebs. This made the study they eventually entered stand out all the more. Unlike its counterparts, the study was neatly dusted and cleaned. A desk stood in the middle of the room, sticking out like a sore finger as the area around it was completely clear. Soot lay scattered on the carpet, and the roof was tinged slightly with black. A chair stood behind the desk and behind the chair was a fireplace. A poker lay in the fireplace, which soon drew Father Brown’s attention. He looked into the fire pit, then up the chimney.

“Flambeau, the fire, it’s burning and there’s an odd compartment up the chimney.”

“What? This house was supposed to be deserted. Who could have lit that? Look at this! A policeman’s baton. I wonder how it could have gotten here.”

“Yes,” Father Brown said absentmindedly, eyeing a few drops of clear liquid on the desk. He sniffed it and his brows seemed to clear as a dawn of realization swept over him. He turned to the wall, stained an ichor red by drops of blood. He wiped some of it with his finger. “It doesn’t make any sense,” Father Brown muttered to himself. He turned to Flambeau. “Why is this mansion haunted?”

“The owner, Horace Kidd committed suicide. When the police came over to inspect, they soon returned saying that the mansion was haunted. They said they had been visited by his ghost. Horace had discovered a vein of gold on the estate. It is generally believed he killed himself because of threatening messages he had received from an anonymous person. He had no living relatives at the time of his inheritance except for his twin brother, who was an actor.”

“An actor! Did you say an actor?”

“Yes, why? Is that important?”

“Very important. Flambeau, I think we have stumbled upon an evil secret. We’ve searched all the house except for the cellars. Let’s head to the cellars now. I believe we will find something there.”

The two men turned and left the room. Father Brown was in the lead, impatiently descending the spiraling stairs, followed more austerely by Flambeau. Inside the cellars, there was a lighted lantern, dangling from a hook mounted in the wall. Father Brown did not seem surprised to see it there. He removed it from its perch and walked through a doorway. What Flambeau saw on the other side astonished him in no slight degree. There, chained to the wall, was a man, but the most astonishing fact was that the man resembled the dead man they had stumbled upon in every degree!

“Flambeau, I present to you Horace Kidd. Here, grab those keys and help me unshackle him will you? There! Now, Mr. Kidd, if you please, we’ll have to hurry if we are to catch the criminal.”

“Yes, I’ll have revenge on my brother for this!”

“‘Revenge is mine, saith the Lord,’ and your brother is already dead. No, the person we are looking for is the man who killed your brother. Quickly now, which way to your treasure?”

Under the guidance of Mr. Kidd, they entered through a secret partition in one of the cellar walls and found themselves in a moderate sized chamber. Horace rushed over to a pile of bags. A limb, white and ghastly, protruded from underneath a portion of the pile. It was not long before Flambeau had moved the bags. There, on the ground, lay a dead man, crushed under the weight of the gold bags, a knife still clutched in his hand.

“The wages of sin is death,” Father Brown said solemnly, as they transported the dead man out of the house.

***

“I still don’t get what happened,” Flambeau said, as the two of them stood, leaning over the railing of the ferry.

“It was quite simple really. Landen, I believe you told me that was the name of Horace’s younger brother, heard that his elder twin had come into a fortune. Being low on money, he decided to cheat his brother out of it. He sneaked quietly back from abroad and confronted his brother. However, he could not hunt for the treasure with reporters and the like daily flooding in to question his brother about the treasure, so he decided on an obvious method for chasing them all away: Changing the mansion into a haunted location. He did this by chloroforming his brother, I saw the chloroform on the desk, then sending his accomplice, the dead man we found, to call the police, saying that Mr. Kidd had committed suicide. When the police came, before they could inspect the body, Landen released the smoke he had cleverly stored up inside the special compartment in the chimney. It clouded up the room, obscuring their vision. Then, dressed in his brother’s clothes, Landen, with a little application of his acting skills and his acting blood, its trace which I found on the wall, pretended to be a ghost. His accomplice then created a general panic causing everybody to flee.

“That’s the first part. After that, knowing that this guise of a haunted house would not last long, Landen tortured his brother using that poker we saw in the fire; I saw the marks on Horace. Soon Horace revealed the location to the treasure, but Landen’s accomplice had been eavesdropping and headed there first. Landen then placed Horace in the cellar we found him in and entered the secret room. But Landen’s accomplice ambushed him and slashed him up as we saw him when he ran out of the mansion. This I deduced from Landen’s last words before he died. Then, you know the rest, Landen’s accomplice died while shifting the gold bags, and that was the end of the story.”

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