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MURDER, INDEED!

A gloom settled over Bellview Manor for some years. A gloom embraced by a dark history. One that, to this day, still lingered like an old wound. Its history forever enveloping its occupants with a dark grip.

Bellview Manor stood strong. Unlike most manors in the area, it was an impenetrable fortress tucked away into a mountainside. With walls that stretched seventeen feet high. Nothing human was capable of entering or leaving its stronghold without a struggle. The manor itself was pieced together from old stone brought down from the mountain that dominated its skyline. Making the house much like its recent owner—stubborn.

Only few people have seen the manor in its old state of existence before Ripley Luder bought the Manor ten years ago. He was a happy man with a wife and a daughter. He would do anything for both of them. Protect them from all dangers. The Manor was run down and needed to be rebuilt in some parts. Its walls made of hard mountain stone. Ripley remembered even today when he first touched the walls of the house. The walls were cold to the touch, but there was an energy that vibrated from them…an old energy too complicated to explain.

“Are you happy,” he asked Eleanor, his wife. She smiled as she looked around at the house and its grounds.

“It needs some happiness,” she commented. Ripley grinned and then caught the eye of his fifteen-year-old daughter, Nina. She smiled back at him with approval. Nina liked anything that Eleanor disliked. It was a mutual game of distaste between them. One that had carried on too long at times and toward destructive means. Ripley could recall a prom dress being torn to pieces by both women as they disagreed with the gentleman who was going to carry her to the event. Eleanor was dead set against it and was determined to keep her daughter home and succeeded in the task.

“I’m hoping we can give it that happiness you are talking about,” he smiled again. He pulled Eleanor to his side and kissed her cheek. She nudged him with her elbow as if to remind him that Nina was present and that she was not having any of his affectionate touches displayed for her to witness. He groaned with displeasure. Angry now he took the key to the house and opened it’s hollowed out rooms to them. Rooms barely seen by anyone other than the previous family and its realtors. A musty smell filled their noses as one by one they entered the house’s main room. The Greeting area that would someday soon greet their guests when they had parties. Ripley saw potential with the area. In his head, he saw bright gold floors and walls that captured the rays of the sun and held it. He smiled at the vision he saw, but quickly noticed Eleanor’s cheap expression hidden with distaste as always. Nina looked at them both and then ran off without looking back at them. “Nina, do not go too far. The place could still be dangerous.” Nina never responded and was gone into another room. He could hear her footsteps as she stomped up the old stairs to the second floor. “The house has potential…” She did not respond. She started to look around as if she were taking it in.

“Do you even have anything to say?” He was irritated at that point. She turned her back to him as she looked at the room some more. She then sighed only to turn and face him.

“I guess I could make do with what you have given me. I am not too happy about the move here. I loved our home in Mansfield. It is not cold and dull like this place.” She held herself with her arms as she shivered. He approached her taking her by the arms. His hands rubbed her arms gently as he smiled and tried to kiss her, but she turned away.

“I hope to make this the brightest place for all of us. And I hope that you will forgive me one day for what I did to you.” She looked down at the stone floor. She did not want to talk about it, and yet she brought the subject up with how she had been acting. She did it to herself, but how could she pretend to not be upset with him. It would be a lie—like the one he told her.

She shook her head in compliance to his words. “Yes…we will make it the brightest place for all of us.” She finally looked up at Ripley and managed a smile to her lips. She leaned in and kissed him. This made Ripley happy. He was finally getting to her. Finally…

A good year or two past without problems. Friends and family came and went. Time passed, until one spring evening on their way out to visit friends in Maine tragedy struck the Luder family. One that would etch itself in Ripley’s mind forever. It was a bizarre event that came under investigation and even at one time accused Ripley as a murderer. He was shocked and overwhelmed. Murder, indeed!

It was an accident…he knew it had to of been. He remembered everything that happened up to discovering Eleanor lying face down outside the house. She went to check on the young saplings she recently started to grow. They were delicate trees and needed attention. She, at one point, was about to cancel her trip with Ripley so she could stay with them. The thought of coming home and discovering them dead would have been a waste of time and money for her. Besides she was determined to see them grow and bring a personality to the garden she had planted. The garden she bragged about to her friends and family.

And now she laid facedown in her own garden. The scene was unbearable to look at. Ripley cried and called 911. The police moved up to the Manor quickly along with an ambulance. They took his statement and before he knew it, the press carried him on a whirlwind of accusations and hate. They tried to take Nina away from him, but she was seventeen and believed in her father’s innocence. A few months past and a report was released stating that Eleanor Luder’s death was an accident. The report showed that her ankle had been broken, which would explain the angle of the garden tool the stabbed into her. She must have stepped into a hole from one of her digs, which made her fall forward on to the tool.

With that behind him, Ripley continued to raise his daughter and live his life. Even though Eleanor’s death still lingered over him, which kept him from leaving the house. He stopped inviting friends and family over. He secluded himself in his castle for years. He hired a butler as he became older. George was his confidant and did everything he could to protect his employer. Deliveries to the house were made on a consistent basis. To get out for a drive was to circle the house in the town car or to go upstairs to the tower, which housed a panoramic view of Bellview Canyon. With the years passing and everyone changing or passing away—something woke Ripley.

A hand or a shadow of something long ago pulled him from his slumber. The wind outside blew and whistled throughout the house. One of the windows must have not been closed well. He would call George and have him look for it. He reached over and tugged at the old phone and tapped the receiver twice for it to buzz. George answered.

“George, there is a window open somewhere in the house. I can hear the wind whistle. Will you look for it old man?” George mumbled in compliance and then he hung up. Ripley smiled and placed the phone back onto its cradle. As he moved his hand, he hit something. Whatever it was tumbled to the floor lying flat making a breaking noise. Ripley surprised slid out from under his covers and carefully lowered himself to the floor. He leaned over and picked up what fell. His hand shook as he turned the old frame over. It was a photo of Eleanor. It was one from their wedding day. He continued to stare at the photo as tears started to stream down his cheeks. He rubbed the photo with his thumb, which caught the edge of some broken glass. He shook and dropped the frame as he started to bleed onto the photo. He placed his thumb to his mouth and sucked on it.

He took deep breaths as he felt something rush through him. Something at the time he could only call—life. His misery pushed everyone away and the truth of what happened that night haunted him. Eleanor’s death was no accident and he knew it. He knew it because he saw someone that day in the garden with her. He heard voices. Arguing. His hands shook as he listened and then it all ended quickly. She was dead and the person she was with ran. Ripley knew who it was. He knew the whole time. After all those years of being persecuted by the press…why not just tell them the truth? He could not answer the question with just one answer. There were too many answers. Misery welcomed him with open arms. Happiness lay just a few feet away. Death was an option to escape. The truth burned deep like a hell pit of pain. How could he bundle all his conflicting emotions into one answer? Summing up what was left of his existence was not possible—was it? Was he capable of healing the wound that still festered in his soul? Now there were more questions. His stomach turned with pain as he cried some more.

Ripley walked over to his window. The tall rectangular window stood almost as tall as the walls in his room. He unlatched the wooden window coverings and opened it to let the moonlight in. It cast its eerie soft glow across his face, making his eyes appear dark and knowing. He looked out into the darkness of his fortress. The fortress, which became his prison. It came to him that night what he needed to do…it woke him like a spirited hand. His beloved—yet emotionally distant—wife called out to him from her grave. It was time. It was his calling. Wake up she said to him in his head. Find my murderer. You know whom it is…you do know who it is…

And his emotions finally told him the one word that was elusive to him over the years. The summation of everything he was feeling that would bring him to the light—Revenge!

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