“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Abigail said.
“You broke my trust,” Thomas said. “They were his children. His! You thought I wouldn’t know? You broke…”
“I broke nothing. We had an agreement. We’ve had several and you are the one who has broken each one in turn.”
“Liar! You have been an unfaithful bitch and have lied and cheated since the beginning.”
“Me? Take a look in the mirror, sir, if you want to see the one who has lied and cheated. We had our agreement and I upheld my end from the beginning.”
“Shut up. You are the one who started it by cheating on my brother, Johnathan.”
“I never cheated on Johnathan, not once. Yes, I did fall in love with Samuel the minute I laid eyes on him, but I was willing to live my life as a loving wife to Johnathan. I had promised him. I did not lie or cheat, and I did love him in my way. We would have been very happy together and I would have eventually forgotten Samuel. I did love Johnathan.”
“Of course you did. Bitch. I took him out of your way for you. You are responsible for his death.”
“Me? That is just you changing history. You killed your brother to satisfy your greed. You wanted to be the heir. You wanted the mill. You wanted the house. You wanted it all, and your brother was about to gain everything and you couldn’t stand it. Don’t mix me up in your treachery.”
“Don’t deny it, you wanted him dead.”
“I will deny it! I went into deep mourning and cried for weeks. I lost my appetite. I…”
“Oh, poor little you. Bitch. I saw the looks you gave Samuel. I knew he returned them. I saw how much you loved being mistress of the house. I knew that if I removed Johnathan I would have you trapped.”
“You knew no such thing.”
“How long did it take you to cave into my demands? A month? Two? It was so easy because you wanted him dead and were glad I had done it for you.”
“Lies again. You threatened me. You blackmailed me in every way possible. I hated you more than anybody, as much for killing Johnathan as for any other reason. I was so happy that your agreement meant that I would never be forced to share your bed. Which, of course was another lie.”
“No, no, don’t try to change this. I’m still mad at you for making me kill my beloved brother. I loved him. Yes, I wanted the mill and the house. Yes, I wanted it, and I deserved it. Sure, he was less than a person and deserved death. But I only did it for you.”
“That doesn’t make sense, and you know it. And the older Johnathan, your father. How are you going to blame his death on me?”
“Are you saying I killed him? I was talking reason to him and he attacked me. You know it. The old man should have given me my due and I was telling him. He attacked me. He is only dead because of that. Don’t blame me for his death.”
“Listen to you. How many have you killed? And do you justify them all?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“And it has always been you breaking the agreement.”
“Why did you run Samuel out of the house after Margret was born?”
“There were some that already talked about Martha. I didn’t need more with Margret. I needed to keep him out, to keep people from talking. And you who call me a murderer, I did not kill him, did I?”
“No, but you killed his children.”
“Martha and Margret are still alive the last time I looked.”
“I am talking about little Tom and Abby. They were Samuel’s children as much as the two older girls.”
“You lie! They had the stink of manure under their fingernails, born of that uncouth laborer. How dare you sleep with such a vile boy?”
Abigail slapped him. “How dare you accuse me of sleeping with him? I kept my promise and you broke yours and killed the children I had with your brother. He hates you almost as much as I do.”
“How deceitful you are. You even fooled my mother. She thought they were Samuel’s children too, but I know. I could smell the barnyard on them. You broke your promise in the worst possible way. That is why I had to force myself on you. Don’t think I enjoyed it. After that pig farmer was done with you, it was like copulating with a sow.”
She slapped him again and stared at him with an angry eye. He laughed and walked away. He grabbed something that was leaning against the wall by the door and walked back. The imprint must not have been perfect, for the object in his hand was hazy.
“It wasn’t the beggar brat’s kids that upset me, though,” he said. “It is that you then had his kids.”
“After George was born you told me that my bed was my own and I could sleep with anyone I chose. Anyone. You told me I could have children with the devil himself and you wouldn’t care.”
“I might have said that, but I didn’t realize that you really would sleep with the devil. And then you want to show off his children to the world and tell them that they were his. The world would have known your shame and my shame. It would have destroyed everything that I’ve built.”
“That you built? If it wasn’t for him it would have crashed down around you long ago. You have destroyed yourself. And he is a saint compared to you. He…”
I realized that he was swinging the iron bar as she was speaking. It crunched into her side with a sickening crack. I knew her arm was broken, as well as several ribs. Abigail crumbled to the floor. I took a step closer, knowing I couldn’t do anything, but instinctively wanting to help. Thomas raised the bar again.
“Mother!” Both Thomas and I turned to the door. Martha came running into the room. Thomas’s eye flashed. Abigail temporarily forgotten, he strode towards his daughter, bringing the bar back up into position.
Thomas had just begun to swing the bar when he was hit. Samuel had come charging in and pushed the older man. The swing went wild as Thomas staggered back. Before Thomas could recover, Samuel punched him twice in the face, a left and a right. Thomas started swinging the bar in front of him to block the blows.
Hearing a whimper, I turned from the fight. Martha was trying to help her mother. Abigail was only able to sit on the floor because Martha was propping her up.
“Run,” Abigail said. She coughed and spit blood. “Run.”
The words seemed to echo, but louder and deeper. “Run, Martha, run.”
I turned. Samuel’s left arm was hanging useless at his side. He didn’t look steady, so I assumed he had taken at least one blow to the body.
“Run!” he called out again.
Samuel tried to dodge the next blow, but he was hit and went down. Thomas immediately came straight down on his head.
“Samuel!” Martha yelled.
Thomas was to her in three quick strides. With both hands on the bar, he swung again. Martha pushed back, but the blow was aimed at Abigail’s head. Although she was obviously dead, he struck her head a couple of more times, then turned towards Martha.
Martha turned and fled. She was amazingly fast, despite wearing the now gory party dress.
Thomas charged after Martha, but slipped on some blood and brains, causing him to fall as he was leaving the ballroom. His arm caught the banister, preventing him from going head first down the stairs. Thomas listened to the footsteps of his fleeing daughter for a few minutes before turning back to the ballroom. Without thinking, I followed.
The middle-aged Martha showed up at my side as I entered the room behind Thomas.
“You know the rest. He planted the bodies at the fire, you know. There is proof, but you need to find it. I can’t tell you, but it will be staring you in the face.”
She turned young for a moment and gave me a lewd wink, then returned to the respectable middle age woman.
I turned at the noise in the ballroom. Thomas opened a window and shoved Abigail’s body out of it. He went over and started to manhandle Samuel’s body.
“Many have seen what you just witness, but no one has taken action. You need to act, so this doesn’t play out every night.”
“Others have watched this?”
“I need the living to see this so that one of you will act on it. Many have sat through part of it, a few all of it. My brother saw all of it, including the part you have yet to see, and went mad and killed himself. But then, a woman relative left as the ball guests were leaving and said that she knew that Alexander killed everyone, there was no need for her to stay any longer.”
“Yes. And there have been others. But none have help. Perhaps because, as I implied with George, this is only part of the story.”
“What is the other part?”
“You have to witness it yourself, like you did this. You need to go to the carriage house.”
“Uhm, couldn’t it be somewhere else? Perhaps I can stare down a charging bull or try to stop a locomotive with my hands? Why the carriage house?”
As she stared at me she turned into the beautiful teenage Martha. In a flash, she was covered again in her mother’s blood and brains. I stepped back, feeling nauseous.
“You watched this,” she said, pointing to the ball room and then to her soiled party dress.
“And I’m going to have nightmares.”
“You watched this and know. The carriage house is the same, but the tale is darker. You need to expose the truth and rescue them. Please, do it for them. Do it for me. Do it for Lyndsey. Just, please, go and witness it so that you can put an end to it.”
I bowed my head. I would do it.