THRILLER by Stephen Davis

 Introduction
Setting: Redesmere wood in Cheshire.
Tim of year: November. 
There was something eerily beautiful about the moon in winter. The fascinating way it would sneak between the trees in the late afternoon and evening, shining majestically as it did so, making its welcome presence felt in this most picturesque of settings. 
Few visitors frequented this area at night, save for the occasional passing car or people walking their dogs, making the remoteness of the forest the perfect cover for…………..MURDER.
A walk in the woods
Paul and Mary Kelly, a recently married couple, sometimes went walking through Redesmere wood which was close to where they lived. In daytime the wood and its delightful lake were a picturesque picnic spot for walkers and families, but at night this environment could appear quite spooky, where the mysteries of darkness held many gruesome secrets. 
Paul and Mary had been dining with Mary’s sister Julia in the ‘Steak and Kebab’ restaurant in the village of Prestbury which was situated in the south of Manchester. 
By 4pm the three of them had all finished their meal, and after saying goodbye to friends they began their usual walk through the woods, only on this occasion Julia felt a little more adventurous and recommended they take a different route, as their usual walk always followed the same sequence. 
‘Hey, there’s an old house somewhere in this forest, let’s see if we can find it’, said Julia. 
The time was now 4.30pm and daylight was slowly beginning to fade, which left an incomprehensible atmosphere in this quiet little forest, where time seemed to have stood still for centuries. 
‘Must we change our route tonight? I have heard some horrible rumours that there is an old graveyard somewhere around here which is reputed to be haunted’, said Mary. 
‘Don’t talk silly’, said Julia, ‘there’s only been the odd ghost seen from time to time, and you did agree to change course’.
‘A ghost’, shrieked Mary. ‘Now, you know I’m afraid of ghosts. I have read a number of ghost stories over the years and they have always scared me, so let’s have no more talk about ghosts tonight’.
‘Sorry’, said Julia, laughing away to herself, ‘I didn’t mean to alarm you, but we must keep on the move, otherwise we will never find the old house’.
Continuing their walk through the wood, the rustling of the trees in the light to moderate breeze along with strange noises caused Mary to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that someone or something may be shadowing them.
‘Listen, I can hear something?’ said Mary, rather nervously. 
‘Yes, what can you hear?’ asked Paul.
‘I don’t know for sure’, said Mary, ‘but I do know that I want to be out of here right now as this place is starting to give me the creeps’.
‘But we have walked a long distance and I don’t know the immediate way back to the pub’, said Paul.
‘What! Do you mean to say we’re lost?’ Said Mary. 
‘That seems about right’, said Paul, and there won’t be any park rangers here to help us at this at this time of night either’.
‘Is that all you can say?’ asked Mary.
‘Well, what else do you expect me to say?’ said Paul.
‘Julie, can you not help us out here’, said Mary.
But for now Julie remained tight lipped. 
By diverting from their usual route, the trio had by now realised that there was no immediate way out of this massive woodland, which was described by a horror stricken Mary as an oversized maze. They had to accept that they were now trapped in this most hostile of environments. 
An old house and a light in the window. 
Suddenly, a bright light emerged which appeared to come from the window of a large sized house. 
‘Look’, Paul suddenly said, ‘there’s a bright light shining through those trees’.
‘Yes, I can just see it’, said Julia, ‘seems to be coming from that house in the distance. Come on, let’s go and investigate’. 
‘Oh must we’, said Mary, again rather uneasy. 
‘Yes we must, don’t be such a spoilsport’, said Julia, ‘there’s no time like the present, so let’s go and have a look at it’. 
But since it was now completely dark, they could currently see very little else apart from the light itself.
However, on making a closer approach to the house, Paul had quietly mentioned to Mary that he would have expected her sister Julia to be much more apprehensive than she appeared to be in this type of situation, as surprisingly she was quite placid. He then began to wonder what exactly, if anything, she might know about the history of the house, what secrets did it hold, who might the present occupiers be and who has lived there in the past. 
As they walked closer, a curious stillness seemed to envelop the atmosphere. The group had now to accept that it would not be easy to find their way out of the vastness of the forest, therefore, seeking refuge in this mysterious house seemed to be the best, and in fact the only option available to them in their current circumstances. 
A local warning
As they carried on walking towards the house, Mary once again had the feeling that someone might be shadowing them, and on turning round, much to her astonishment, she was confronted by a shabby looking old vagrant who had apparently been following closely on their trail. 
‘Don’t go anywhere near that house’, said the old wanderer.
‘Why ever not?’ asked Paul.
‘Because, my good people, that house is haunted by evil from its past history. Once you enter its interior, you will never come out of there alive. I’ve lived in this area all my life and we locals call it: The House of the Blessed Spirits, meaning, that because of the strange occurrences which happen there on a nightly basis, the house is simply not fit to live in’.
‘Go away, you’re just trying to frighten us’, said Mary.
‘Alright, but it’s “haunted, haunted” I say,’ the old man repeated as he began to walk steadily away. Eventually his voice faded and once again the party were left to their own devices. 
The walk continues.
Ignoring this warning, all three continued their journey. As they approached the front steps of the house they first encountered an old oak panelled door with an oriental style brass handle and two grotesque looking lion marble statuettes situated on either side. Mary immediately felt a strange sense of apprehension about this macabre old building, which according to a plaque on the wall had originally been built in the Tudor period, known then as “Eton House”. 
‘I’m turning back’, said Mary. ‘I don’t feel at all comfortable nor safe here and I’m certain that I saw the shadow of a man in one of those upstairs windows’. 
‘Oh no you’re not,’ said Paul, rather assertively, ‘you’ll never find your way out of here without us. It is just not a sensible thing to contemplate Mary and I will not allow you to attempt such an undertaking’, Paul continued. 
‘But we cannot just walk inside the house and expect to be made welcome. For a start, we don’t know who lives in there and whoever they are they might be quite hostile to strangers’, Mary continued. 
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out’ said Paul, about to knock on the door.
Ancient architecture, particularly the attractive Tudor style chimney pots, outside walls covered with ivy and creepy looking towers were the principal characteristics of this mysterious old house. The chimney pots themselves actually reminded Paul of a recent visit he had made to Hampton Court palace whilst on a holiday visit to London with friends.
On Paul’s first attempt at ringing the doorbell there was no answer, but following a second attempt the large oak-panelled door slowly began to open, creaking eerily as it did so. 
Inside the house.
Paul and Julia walked nervously into what appeared to be a most bizarre residence, followed by an even less confident Mary. 
The first items of interest were a series of mediaeval style tapestries mounted on the walls which were illuminated by 8 Victorian gas lamps. However, at this moment in time, no sign of life was to be seen anywhere within the building. 
‘This house is certainly very old’, said Julia. 
‘Yes, I would imagine possibly built in the 18th Century’, said Paul.
‘Oh, years before that’, said Mary. ‘I remember seeing that rusty plaque outside containing some Latin inscriptions, which to me gave an indication of 10th Century’. 
‘Oh look, there’s a door open, let’s have a peep inside’, said Paul.
They then entered what appeared to be a small study room, complete with writing table, pen and ink, reading lamp and typewriter. The room was heated by a log fire and the table was full of journalistic style papers with a cigarette still smouldering. 
‘Well, there’s obviously been someone working in this room recently’, said Mary. 
‘Yes, but don’t touch anything’, said Paul.
The fireplace, which was designed in an elaborate Edwardian style, particularly caught their attention. With a series of miniature golden gargoyles surrounding it, this fireplace was certainly exquisite.
Paul had also observed a large bookcase situated on the right hand side of the room, housing books by distinguished Victorian writers such as for example, Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 
They then noticed a second door which led into a dining room. On entering, Mary was quite taken up with the dining table itself as it contained two sets of 3 lighted candles at each end.
By now a strange stillness was beginning to embrace the already spine-chilling atmosphere, and if things were not bad enough for these weary travellers, they suddenly heard a loud bang, and the door in which they had entered the room had suddenly closed behind them.
‘Well’, Mary shrieked out, ‘that’ll teach us to walk into a room without invitation. What do you two propose we do now’? she asked, absolutely terrified with fear.
To make matters worse, the lights were beginning to flicker on and off too, which brought the room into semi - darkness for a good few seconds. 
There was definitely something very mysterious about this house and it soon became obvious that they had become trapped within this lonely environment, and were somehow convinced that they were not alone. Who else was present here, what was the past history of the house, were evil spirits at work, and most importantly, what was to become of this innocent trio who had originally set out on a walking expedition but had been hoping to seek salvation for the evening. 
Paul was still somewhat concerned as to why Julia offered little help towards recommending an escape route when she supposedly knew the forest so well. 
Evening
The time was now 7pm, and the door by which they had entered the room was slowly beginning to open, creaking most annoyingly as it did so. Their attention however, was now focused towards a couple of portraits which they soon discovered were perhaps representations of previous occupiers. 
The group had now been in the house for almost 1 hour. They were somewhat confident that someone else may be in there with them, but as they glanced down the passage there was still no one to be seen, no movement and no sound.
‘There must be someone else here besides us’, said Paul. ‘The front door could not just open on its own, could it’?
‘It would seem that the old vagabond we saw earlier could well have been right about this place being haunted’, said Mary. 
‘But there’s no one else here’, said Julia. 
‘We just don’t know that’, said Paul, ‘we’ve not searched the whole house yet. You two stay here whilst I go and have a look upstairs’.
‘Oh, do be careful Paul’ said Julia. ‘I’m frightened and just want to go home’. 
But were these words spoken by Julia actually sincere?
‘I will be careful, really I will’ said Paul. 
‘Calm down Julia’. ‘Remember, we’re all in this together. Are you sure you don’t want me to come up there with you Paul?’ asked Mary.
‘No, ‘said Paul, ‘you stay here with Julia. I’ll be alright by myself’.
As he began to climb the old medieval staircase, Paul began to feel an even greater sense of mystery about this house. The lighted Victorian gas lamps which were positioned all the way up the stairs revealed some fine portraits of what appeared to be images of local ancient mariners. He wondered what stories they could communicate about the modern day inhabitants of this lonely old mansion. He also noticed by the top of the stairs a fine illuminated calligraphy manuscript written in copperplate. But there was definitely something strange about this place, especially when doors kept mysteriously opening and closing. 
19.8.18
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First encounter with danger
On reaching the top of the stairs, Paul was most surprised to hear some 1940’s music coming from a room next to where he was now standing. As he nervously opened the door, he immediately came across an old fashioned gramophone in the right hand corner of the room, but once again the door suddenly closed behind him. As he ran outside of the room there was still no one around and by now he was beginning to fear for the safely of Mary and Julia who he expected were still downstairs. As he walked further down the corridor, a large figure of a man suddenly made an appearance from a side room. 
Paul suddenly found himself to be face to face with this mysterious looking stranger who was wearing a shabby black overcoat, tweed hat and gloves. 
‘Who are you, and what are you doing in this house’, asked the stranger in deep voice.
‘Well, I was just about to ask you the same question’, said Paul. 
‘Don’t be impertinent, I asked what you are doing here,’ said the big man.
Paul had literally frozen at the sight of this extraordinary individual and didn’t quite know what to say. He was literally fearing not only for his own life, but was naturally deeply concerned as to what might become of Mary and Julia. He wanted to make a run for it but suddenly found himself trapped against a door by this giant of a man who sent immediate shockwaves through Paul’s system. In fact, he was in such a nervous state of mind that it took about 2 minutes before he plucked up the courage to speak a second time, but speak he eventually did. 
‘Allow me to explain’, said Paul. ‘My wife, my sister and myself became lost in the nearby forest, so we decided to take shelter in this house for the night’, said Paul, most apprehensively. 
‘So you’re not alone’ said the mysterious character. 
‘No’, replied Paul, still shaking with fear.
‘Well, since you have entered this house under false pretences, you had better follow me’, said the stranger’.
‘What do mean under false pretences, and where are you taking me? I have already explained, we lost our way in the forest, and were just hoping to take refuge here for the night’, said Paul.
‘We’, said the stranger, ‘how many of you are there.’ 
‘As I have just said, as well as myself, my wife and sister who are downstairs’, said Paul. 
‘Come with me’, said the stranger.
Paul went along as instructed, and walked back under escort down the creepy flight of stairs. 
On his arrival back down the stairs, his companion accompanied Paul back into the same room where he had earlier left Mary and Julia, only to find that his worst nightmare had finally come true. Mary and Julia had both disappeared, and even worse, he turned round to find that he was now being held at gunpoint. 
‘My wife and sister’, asked Paul, ‘where are they?’
‘Don’t be alarmed’, said this enigmatic character, they have been taken to a safe place’.
‘What safe place?’ asked Paul, ‘I demand to know what has become of them?’
‘Calm down and all will be revealed in good time, but for now you must follow me.’
Both men were now back in the main hallway, shouting loudly at each other. This altercation between the two of them continued for several minutes.
Eventually Paul calmed down, but no sooner had he done so when he suddenly began to hear voices. 
Second encounter with danger
From a dark narrow passage under the stairs appeared Mary and Julia, both blindfolded and accompanied by another man, this one wearing dark glasses and a large brimmed hat. 
‘Thank goodness’, said Paul, giving the two of them a tight hug, ‘Are you two alright?’ 
‘Yes, we’re fine’, said Julia.
‘Oh no we’re not’, said Mary, ‘don’t talk silly Julia, we’ve been held prisoner in that broom cupboard and I demand we go home straight away’.
‘Keep quiet’, said the man wearing the dark glasses, ‘listen to what we have to say, you are not going anywhere, so don’t even think of trying to make a run for it’.
‘Do as we tell you and you will come to no harm’, said the portly
It was at this point that the two strangers introduced themselves as Ebenezer and Montague, and that they were employed as two local farmhands. 
‘What do you want from us?’ asked a nervous Paul.
‘I repeat, just listen to what we have to say,’ said Ebenezer.
‘OK, we’re listening, so get on with it’, said Mary.
‘You have been brought here because’……
‘Yes, go on’ said Mary. 
But before Ebenezer could continue, Paul made a sudden but appropriate interjection. 
‘Wait a minute, what exactly do you mean when you say we were brought here, and might I also ask by whom?’ said Paul?
‘Silence Kelly’, said Montague.
‘Hey, it’s Mr Kelly to you two villains. How do you come to know my name anyway?’ asked Paul.
‘Never mind about that’, said Montague, ‘just listen to what we have to say’.
‘Alright’, said Paul, ‘say what you will’.


The truth revealed.
‘You have been transported to this ancient house because we have good reason to believe that you have certain information relating to a former occupant by the name of Baron Melrose, who lived in this house around 10 years ago.
‘Baron Melrose, we don’t know anyone of that name and furthermore, we don’t want to know either’, said Paul. 
‘Oh, but just a minute Mr Kelly, we are both confident that you know exactly who Baron Melrose is’, said Ebenezer. 
‘I still want to know how you come to know my name’, said Paul.
‘Alright, we’ll tell you. For the past two years, Montague and I have been doing some personal research on you Mr Kelly, and following our investigations and subsequent findings, we have discovered that 10 years ago to this day a robbery took place right here in this house. 
Our explorations have consequently led us to a nearby cemetery, where we believe that a 6 team criminal gang managed to unearth an invaluable ceramic rose bowl, the price of which was at the time thought to be worth around £10,000. 
This exquisite antique bowl belonged to none other than the highly respected Baroness Melrose, wife of the late Baron Francis Melrose, Marquess of Cornwall. In his day, Baron Melrose, who passed away within these ancient walls 10 years ago, was buried in the adjacent churchyard. Baron Melrose was a very wealthy glass merchant whose business concerns were formally based in the Seville area of Spain, which is where the rose bowl in question was assumed to originate from. 
Finally, we believe that the last pieces of the jigsaw have now been unravelled, and we have at last concluded that it was you, Paul Kelly, who masterminded and subsequently arranged with your fellow collaborators to carry out this most daring of robberies’. 
‘That’s totally absurd’, said Paul, who on hearing this ridiculous accusation against him, rejected every word of it. 
Here we have an attractive Middle Eastern Rose Bowl, considered to be of special unique quality, and Paul Kelly accused of stealing it from a local graveyard. Can this be for real, one might ask? 
‘How can you be so sure that we are in possession of this bowl anyway and how did you know that we would be arriving here today’, asked Paul. ‘As I explained earlier, we ended up in this miserable old house by pure accident, having become lost in the forest with no idea how to find our way out. Also, what right and on whose authority do you have to question me in this way?’ 
‘But you were not really lost, Mr Kelly’, said Ebenezer, still wearing the sunglasses as a means of shielding his eyes. ‘We believe that you planned to return to this house with the wicked intention of re- entering the graveyard in order to steal more precious treasures from the tombs of other deceased residents’, he continued to say. 
‘What’, said Paul, ‘you’re now accusing me of stealing more treasures from tombs, why, I have never heard of such rubbish. I have the most impeccable record and would never dream of doing such a thing, my wife and Julia will both confirm that. 
However, at this moment in time, Paul’s wife was nowhere to be seen, but his sister Julia had suddenly made a long awaited re-appearance.
‘Paul, what’s going on’? She asked. 
‘Julia, thank goodness you’re back with us. Listen, these two men who you see in front of you are imposters. We’re going to find a policeman and you too mischievous criminals are coming with us’, said Paul, now as determined as ever to bring these two wrongdoers to justice. 
‘Oh, are we’, said Montague. 
‘Yes, you are’, said Paul.
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you Paul’, said Julia.
‘Oh, what do you mean and why ever not?’ said Paul.
A visitor to the house
But before Julia was able to answer, their attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of screeching car brakes outside.
‘Listen, someone has entered the driveway’, said Mary, who had now made her return.
‘Where have you been Mary, I have been worried about you, and who can that be outside?’ Paul nervously asked. 
‘Well, I don’t know’, said Mary, delicately, seemingly to be in a kind of trance, which indicated that she may have had some kind of traumatic experience, but for now their concentration was focussed on who was about to enter the house. 
Footsteps, becoming louder by the second were heard advancing further towards the house, but the tall trees were blocking the view from the window, no therefore no-one was able to see exactly who emerged from the car. 
They then heard a key slowly begin to turn in the door and, as the group silently waited the person(s) presence, who should appear through the door but the Baroness Melrose. 
‘Who are you people and what are you doing in my house?’ the baroness naturally enquired.
‘So you are the Baroness Melrose’, said Paul, with a natural degree of nervousness. 
‘Yes, I am Baroness Melrose, but what of it, I repeat, who are you and will someone please tell me what is going on in here’, she asked.
But before anyone was able to answer, the two imposters, who had been in hiding, suddenly appeared Taking hold of a canister, they suddenly released a cloud of gas into the room before running out of the house, leaving both Paul and Mary totally breathless. 
When they regained consciousness some 20 minutes later, they found themselves to be in the room all alone. 
‘What happened?’ asked Mary, and where have Julia and the Baroness disappeared to. There was another lady here who called herself Baroness Melrose wasn’t there, or have I been dreaming?’
‘No, you were not dreaming,’ said Paul, ’but I have a splitting headache and feel as though I might have just been drugged.’ 
Paul was naturally still feeling very sleepy from this ordeal, but nevertheless managed to rush towards the door, only to find it to be locked. 
‘Oh no, the door, it’s locked again’, said Paul.
‘Let us out, let us out’, shouted Mary, but to no avail, as no one came to their assistance. 
A policeman enters the house.
As Paul reached for the window he found that also to be locked. They had now been inside this dismal room for almost 1 hour without any food or water. Eventually the door did slowly open and much to their immediate delight, a policeman was standing outside. 
‘Hello officer, thank goodness you’ve arrived’, said Paul. ‘We have been held prisoner in this old house for the best part of 2 hours by a couple of heartless criminals’.
‘Criminals sir, what did they look like and where do you think they might be now’? The policeman enquired.
‘Well, all I can say is that they rather eccentric and were dressed somewhat peculiar in outlandish clothing but I don’t know where they are now, they simply ran out of the house’, said Paul in a state of utter confusion.
‘Come on sir, I need a better description that that, were they armed at all?’ 
As Paul was doing his best to further describe these two strangers, he could not help but feel somewhat uneasy about this particular policeman. For one thing, he noticed that the policeman had no registered police number shown on his coat lapel, which somehow generated a degree of suspicion in Paul’s already apprehensive mind. But was the worst still be to come? 
As the policeman picked up the story of the disappearance of the precious rose bowl, he continued to question Paul, whilst a panic stricken Julia suddenly emerged from a secret room under the stairs. 
‘Officer, I assure you that I have done nothing wrong’, insisted Paul. ‘My sister will substantiate my innocence and will be more than happy to provide me with an excellent character reference, won’t you Julia?’
But Paul’s request was met by a sudden wall of silence.
‘Come on Julia, please say something in my defence’, said Paul. 
But Julia continued to ignore this request to speak in Paul’s favour. 
‘Sorry Paul, I’m afraid that I’ll have to admit that I have led you all the way from the village to this old house under completely false pretences’, spoke a nervous Julia. 
‘What do you mean false pretences, explain yourself Julia, whatever are you talking about for goodness sake you silly woman?’ 
‘All that matters is that you are put away behind bars for your previous terrible deeds’, said Julia.
‘Terrible deeds! What am I supposed to have done’, asked Paul, now raising his voice.
‘You had better come with me sir,’ said the policeman.
‘No, you wait just a minute. Julia, what are you up to, come on, answer me you scheming bitch’. 
‘Come along sir please’, said the policeman, ‘you are under arrest on suspicion of grave robbery’.
‘Grave robbery, whatever do you mean?’ said Paul.
‘You’ll find out soon enough’ said Julia, ‘but I can tell you one thing right away Paul. I wasn’t drugged at all, I was only play acting, but you were drugged, and you fell for it every bit of the way.’ 
‘Come along sir, please’, the policeman repeated, but suddenly he became distracted when a panic stricken Mary, accompanied by the two imposters, came back into the room.
‘Paul, so here you are’ said Mary.
‘Yes, I’m here’, said Paul, totally exasperated by this time.
The policeman appeared to be somewhat taken up with Mary.


A confrontation with the Baroness Melrose
Paul, absolutely panic stricken, now saw his opportunity to make an escape attempt. He ran out of the house and into the garden, but before he was able to reach the outside gate he found himself face - to- face with the Baroness Melrose. 
‘So it was you who stole that precious rose bowl from my deceased husband’s grave’, she said, slowly pulling out a small pistol from her handbag. ‘Come on, admit it, you thieving scoundrel. How could you even contemplate such a terrible action?’
‘Please don’t shoot, I’m innocent’, said Paul. 
‘Innocent! Oh you just try stopping me. I know all about your little game and have waited years for this moment to arrive, she said. 
‘What little game’? Paul asked.
‘You know very well the value of the rose bowl’, said the Baroness.
This dramatic altercation between Paul and the Baroness continued for several minutes, but Paul suddenly noticed that although she was still holding the gun, she did not appear to be looking directly at him. He then concluded that someone was lurking in the shadow of the trees. But who was it, he wondered? 
For a few seconds the Baroness’s attention was unexpectedly diverted as she heard the sound of a small stone being thrown to the right hand side of where they were both standing. 
It was at this moment that Paul saw his chance to snatch the gun from her hand, but on doing so he suddenly stumbled over a loose rock in the garden and subsequently fell partly over and into the large fish pond, leaving the Baroness to deal with the unexpected visitor herself who was still hiding in the trees. 
‘Who’s there’? She shouted, ‘answer me now.’
As a grim shadow began to slowly emerge from behind the trees, the baroness found herself unexpectedly facing someone who was all too familiar. The man who appeared out of the darkness was none other than her husband, whom she had assumed to be deceased. 
What on earth are you doing here?’ the Baroness asked. 
‘You obviously never expected me to turn up again did you, especially back here of all places?’ Baron Melrose said. 
‘No, I have to say that I thought you were dead,’ said the baroness nervously. 
‘Yes, but as you can see I’m very much alive. I have been listening to everything, and am here to see you brought to justice for instigating the stealing of my precious rose bowl. I saw two men running out of the house earlier. Who were they, and who were those other people who claimed to be lost in the woods? What a load of rubbish that was. I believe them to be accomplices of yours. That rose bowl was priceless and you very well know it. You and Julia were hoping to frame Paul Kelly for the theft which you planned to carry out in your own mischievous style. I see a gun in your hand, but you won’t use it, because killing is not your kind of thing, is it?’ 
‘How do you know all this?’ she asked her husband.
‘Never mind how I know’, said her husband. ‘As I said, I want justice, and won’t be satisfied with anything less.’ 
‘That’s enough’, said the Baroness, ‘you are nothing to me now and I am not afraid to use this gun if I have to’. 
I don’t think you will’, said the Baron, walking closer to his wife.
‘Don’t come any further’, she said. 
Whilst the baron advanced closer towards his wife, she continued to walk backwards and away from him, taking herself step by step further into the forest. With the gun still firmly in her hand and pointed directly at her husband, another shot was suddenly heard, but it was not baron Melrose who had been hit, surprisingly it was his wife. 
Unbeknown to anyone, Paul always carried a pistol with him, and on seeing that the baroness was about to commit attempted murder, Paul decided that enough was enough and it was time for him to take drastic action. Just a single shot and the Baroness was laid on the ground. The police had already been called and the criminals were quickly apprehended and taken away for some lengthy questioning. 

In conclusion
In his younger days Baron Melrose had become quite infatuated with a 24 year old Spanish gypsy girl by the name of Michaela, the younger daughter of a highly respected Basque nobleman and business associate living in Zaragoza in the Aragon region of Spain.
On a number of occasions during their relationship, the baron had irresponsibly discussed the value of a beautifully decorated glass engraved Middle Eastern Rose bowl, the possession of which he had himself acquired from a commercial contact in Cairo. The baron had also talked about a possible transfer of ownership to an Italian foreign investor.
When the affair abruptly ended, Michaela returned to live back in her former Spanish roots where she met an English girl by the name of Julia Rheims, a student of Spanish flamenco dancing who lived nearby. Julia was the sister of Mary Rheims, who had since married Paul Kelly, an English stockbroker who lived in Cheshire. 
However, like many of her travelling associates, this gypsy had an evil streak in her blood and was out to avenge her former lover who she blamed for the ending of their relationship. There were several options open for her, one of which was to reveal the secrets of the precious rose bowl. She knew that she would never be able to have the bowl for herself, but on discovering that Julia and the Baron’s new wife were planning to steal it, Michaela very quickly developed the idea of placing a sinister gypsy curse on anyone who attempted to take possession of it. 
With Julia as her main accomplice, the Baroness had learned that Paul and his wife regularly went for a walk in the nearby forest close to where they lived. Julia frequently walked with them, but on this particular evening her recommendation that their walk should follow a different route was for nothing other than illicit purposes. Paul and his wife were both in agreement with this change of plan, and a delighted Julia was much comforted by the fact that, on taking them right into the heart of the forest at night, neither of them would have any idea as to how to find their way out and back home again. They would become totally lost in the vastness of the woodland. 
For the plan to succeed, Julia led the two of them to an old country manor house which she had carefully selected herself. Her fellow collaborators would be waiting for further instructions on her arrival. However, little did they realise that they had accidentally fallen for the gypsy’s curse, and their wicked plans were destined to fail. 
The Baroness and Julia had been the main instigators of the plot, with the policeman and the two strangers acting as sidekicks in this carefully planned and very daring robbery.


Final consideration, 
When darkness falls, the power and strength of gypsy blood appears, where evil forces are lurking around every corner. 
Stephen Davis
Date story created: 3.1.2015
Words: 5,681
Reviews: 27.1.2016/10.8.18/12.8.18
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Introduction
Setting: Redesmere wood in Cheshire.
Tim of year: November. 
There was something eerily beautiful about the moon in winter. The fascinating way it would sneak between the trees in the late afternoon and evening, shining majestically as it did so, making its welcome presence felt in this most picturesque of settings. 
Few visitors frequented this area at night, save for the occasional passing car or people walking their dogs, making the remoteness of the forest the perfect cover for…………..MURDER.
A walk in the woods
Paul and Mary Kelly, a recently married couple, sometimes went walking through Redesmere wood which was close to where they lived. In daytime the wood and its delightful lake were a picturesque picnic spot for walkers and families, but at night this environment could appear quite spooky, where the mysteries of darkness held many gruesome secrets. 
Paul and Mary had been dining with Mary’s sister Julia in the ‘Steak and Kebab’ restaurant in the village of Prestbury which was situated in the south of Manchester. 
By 4pm the three of them had all finished their meal, and after saying goodbye to friends they began their usual walk through the woods, only on this occasion Julia felt a little more adventurous and recommended they take a different route, as their usual walk always followed the same sequence. 
‘Hey, there’s an old house somewhere in this forest, let’s see if we can find it’, said Julia. 
The time was now 4.30pm and daylight was slowly beginning to fade, which left an incomprehensible atmosphere in this quiet little forest, where time seemed to have stood still for centuries. 
‘Must we change our route tonight? I have heard some horrible rumours that there is an old graveyard somewhere around here which is reputed to be haunted’, said Mary. 
‘Don’t talk silly’, said Julia, ‘there’s only been the odd ghost seen from time to time, and you did agree to change course’.
‘A ghost’, shrieked Mary. ‘Now, you know I’m afraid of ghosts. I have read a number of ghost stories over the years and they have always scared me, so let’s have no more talk about ghosts tonight’.
‘Sorry’, said Julia, laughing away to herself, ‘I didn’t mean to alarm you, but we must keep on the move, otherwise we will never find the old house’.
Continuing their walk through the wood, the rustling of the trees in the light to moderate breeze along with strange noises caused Mary to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that someone or something may be shadowing them.
‘Listen, I can hear something?’ said Mary, rather nervously. 
‘Yes, what can you hear?’ asked Paul.
‘I don’t know for sure’, said Mary, ‘but I do know that I want to be out of here right now as this place is starting to give me the creeps’.
‘But we have walked a long distance and I don’t know the immediate way back to the pub’, said Paul.
‘What! Do you mean to say we’re lost?’ Said Mary. 
‘That seems about right’, said Paul, and there won’t be any park rangers here to help us at this at this time of night either’.
‘Is that all you can say?’ asked Mary.
‘Well, what else do you expect me to say?’ said Paul.
‘Julie, can you not help us out here’, said Mary.
But for now Julie remained tight lipped. 
By diverting from their usual route, the trio had by now realised that there was no immediate way out of this massive woodland, which was described by a horror stricken Mary as an oversized maze. They had to accept that they were now trapped in this most hostile of environments. 
An old house and a light in the window. 
Suddenly, a bright light emerged which appeared to come from the window of a large sized house. 
‘Look’, Paul suddenly said, ‘there’s a bright light shining through those trees’.
‘Yes, I can just see it’, said Julia, ‘seems to be coming from that house in the distance. Come on, let’s go and investigate’. 
‘Oh must we’, said Mary, again rather uneasy. 
‘Yes we must, don’t be such a spoilsport’, said Julia, ‘there’s no time like the present, so let’s go and have a look at it’. 
But since it was now completely dark, they could currently see very little else apart from the light itself.
However, on making a closer approach to the house, Paul had quietly mentioned to Mary that he would have expected her sister Julia to be much more apprehensive than she appeared to be in this type of situation, as surprisingly she was quite placid. He then began to wonder what exactly, if anything, she might know about the history of the house, what secrets did it hold, who might the present occupiers be and who has lived there in the past. 
As they walked closer, a curious stillness seemed to envelop the atmosphere. The group had now to accept that it would not be easy to find their way out of the vastness of the forest, therefore, seeking refuge in this mysterious house seemed to be the best, and in fact the only option available to them in their current circumstances. 
A local warning
As they carried on walking towards the house, Mary once again had the feeling that someone might be shadowing them, and on turning round, much to her astonishment, she was confronted by a shabby looking old vagrant who had apparently been following closely on their trail. 
‘Don’t go anywhere near that house’, said the old wanderer.
‘Why ever not?’ asked Paul.
‘Because, my good people, that house is haunted by evil from its past history. Once you enter its interior, you will never come out of there alive. I’ve lived in this area all my life and we locals call it: The House of the Blessed Spirits, meaning, that because of the strange occurrences which happen there on a nightly basis, the house is simply not fit to live in’.
‘Go away, you’re just trying to frighten us’, said Mary.
‘Alright, but it’s “haunted, haunted” I say,’ the old man repeated as he began to walk steadily away. Eventually his voice faded and once again the party were left to their own devices. 
The walk continues.
Ignoring this warning, all three continued their journey. As they approached the front steps of the house they first encountered an old oak panelled door with an oriental style brass handle and two grotesque looking lion marble statuettes situated on either side. Mary immediately felt a strange sense of apprehension about this macabre old building, which according to a plaque on the wall had originally been built in the Tudor period, known then as “Eton House”. 
‘I’m turning back’, said Mary. ‘I don’t feel at all comfortable nor safe here and I’m certain that I saw the shadow of a man in one of those upstairs windows’. 
‘Oh no you’re not,’ said Paul, rather assertively, ‘you’ll never find your way out of here without us. It is just not a sensible thing to contemplate Mary and I will not allow you to attempt such an undertaking’, Paul continued. 
‘But we cannot just walk inside the house and expect to be made welcome. For a start, we don’t know who lives in there and whoever they are they might be quite hostile to strangers’, Mary continued. 
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out’ said Paul, about to knock on the door.
Ancient architecture, particularly the attractive Tudor style chimney pots, outside walls covered with ivy and creepy looking towers were the principal characteristics of this mysterious old house. The chimney pots themselves actually reminded Paul of a recent visit he had made to Hampton Court palace whilst on a holiday visit to London with friends.
On Paul’s first attempt at ringing the doorbell there was no answer, but following a second attempt the large oak-panelled door slowly began to open, creaking eerily as it did so. 
Inside the house.
Paul and Julia walked nervously into what appeared to be a most bizarre residence, followed by an even less confident Mary. 
The first items of interest were a series of mediaeval style tapestries mounted on the walls which were illuminated by 8 Victorian gas lamps. However, at this moment in time, no sign of life was to be seen anywhere within the building. 
‘This house is certainly very old’, said Julia. 
‘Yes, I would imagine possibly built in the 18th Century’, said Paul.
‘Oh, years before that’, said Mary. ‘I remember seeing that rusty plaque outside containing some Latin inscriptions, which to me gave an indication of 10th Century’. 
‘Oh look, there’s a door open, let’s have a peep inside’, said Paul.
They then entered what appeared to be a small study room, complete with writing table, pen and ink, reading lamp and typewriter. The room was heated by a log fire and the table was full of journalistic style papers with a cigarette still smouldering. 
‘Well, there’s obviously been someone working in this room recently’, said Mary. 
‘Yes, but don’t touch anything’, said Paul.
The fireplace, which was designed in an elaborate Edwardian style, particularly caught their attention. With a series of miniature golden gargoyles surrounding it, this fireplace was certainly exquisite.
Paul had also observed a large bookcase situated on the right hand side of the room, housing books by distinguished Victorian writers such as for example, Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 
They then noticed a second door which led into a dining room. On entering, Mary was quite taken up with the dining table itself as it contained two sets of 3 lighted candles at each end.
By now a strange stillness was beginning to embrace the already spine-chilling atmosphere, and if things were not bad enough for these weary travellers, they suddenly heard a loud bang, and the door in which they had entered the room had suddenly closed behind them.
‘Well’, Mary shrieked out, ‘that’ll teach us to walk into a room without invitation. What do you two propose we do now’? she asked, absolutely terrified with fear.
To make matters worse, the lights were beginning to flicker on and off too, which brought the room into semi - darkness for a good few seconds. 
There was definitely something very mysterious about this house and it soon became obvious that they had become trapped within this lonely environment, and were somehow convinced that they were not alone. Who else was present here, what was the past history of the house, were evil spirits at work, and most importantly, what was to become of this innocent trio who had originally set out on a walking expedition but had been hoping to seek salvation for the evening. 
Paul was still somewhat concerned as to why Julia offered little help towards recommending an escape route when she supposedly knew the forest so well. 
Evening
The time was now 7pm, and the door by which they had entered the room was slowly beginning to open, creaking most annoyingly as it did so. Their attention however, was now focused towards a couple of portraits which they soon discovered were perhaps representations of previous occupiers. 
The group had now been in the house for almost 1 hour. They were somewhat confident that someone else may be in there with them, but as they glanced down the passage there was still no one to be seen, no movement and no sound.
‘There must be someone else here besides us’, said Paul. ‘The front door could not just open on its own, could it’?
‘It would seem that the old vagabond we saw earlier could well have been right about this place being haunted’, said Mary. 
‘But there’s no one else here’, said Julia. 
‘We just don’t know that’, said Paul, ‘we’ve not searched the whole house yet. You two stay here whilst I go and have a look upstairs’.
‘Oh, do be careful Paul’ said Julia. ‘I’m frightened and just want to go home’. 
But were these words spoken by Julia actually sincere?
‘I will be careful, really I will’ said Paul. 
‘Calm down Julia’. ‘Remember, we’re all in this together. Are you sure you don’t want me to come up there with you Paul?’ asked Mary.
‘No, ‘said Paul, ‘you stay here with Julia. I’ll be alright by myself’.
As he began to climb the old medieval staircase, Paul began to feel an even greater sense of mystery about this house. The lighted Victorian gas lamps which were positioned all the way up the stairs revealed some fine portraits of what appeared to be images of local ancient mariners. He wondered what stories they could communicate about the modern day inhabitants of this lonely old mansion. He also noticed by the top of the stairs a fine illuminated calligraphy manuscript written in copperplate. But there was definitely something strange about this place, especially when doors kept mysteriously opening and closing. 
19.8.18
START HERE NEXT

First encounter with danger
On reaching the top of the stairs, Paul was most surprised to hear some 1940’s music coming from a room next to where he was now standing. As he nervously opened the door, he immediately came across an old fashioned gramophone in the right hand corner of the room, but once again the door suddenly closed behind him. As he ran outside of the room there was still no one around and by now he was beginning to fear for the safely of Mary and Julia who he expected were still downstairs. As he walked further down the corridor, a large figure of a man suddenly made an appearance from a side room. 
Paul suddenly found himself to be face to face with this mysterious looking stranger who was wearing a shabby black overcoat, tweed hat and gloves. 
‘Who are you, and what are you doing in this house’, asked the stranger in deep voice.
‘Well, I was just about to ask you the same question’, said Paul. 
‘Don’t be impertinent, I asked what you are doing here,’ said the big man.
Paul had literally frozen at the sight of this extraordinary individual and didn’t quite know what to say. He was literally fearing not only for his own life, but was naturally deeply concerned as to what might become of Mary and Julia. He wanted to make a run for it but suddenly found himself trapped against a door by this giant of a man who sent immediate shockwaves through Paul’s system. In fact, he was in such a nervous state of mind that it took about 2 minutes before he plucked up the courage to speak a second time, but speak he eventually did. 
‘Allow me to explain’, said Paul. ‘My wife, my sister and myself became lost in the nearby forest, so we decided to take shelter in this house for the night’, said Paul, most apprehensively. 
‘So you’re not alone’ said the mysterious character. 
‘No’, replied Paul, still shaking with fear.
‘Well, since you have entered this house under false pretences, you had better follow me’, said the stranger’.
‘What do mean under false pretences, and where are you taking me? I have already explained, we lost our way in the forest, and were just hoping to take refuge here for the night’, said Paul.
‘We’, said the stranger, ‘how many of you are there.’ 
‘As I have just said, as well as myself, my wife and sister who are downstairs’, said Paul. 
‘Come with me’, said the stranger.
Paul went along as instructed, and walked back under escort down the creepy flight of stairs. 
On his arrival back down the stairs, his companion accompanied Paul back into the same room where he had earlier left Mary and Julia, only to find that his worst nightmare had finally come true. Mary and Julia had both disappeared, and even worse, he turned round to find that he was now being held at gunpoint. 
‘My wife and sister’, asked Paul, ‘where are they?’
‘Don’t be alarmed’, said this enigmatic character, they have been taken to a safe place’.
‘What safe place?’ asked Paul, ‘I demand to know what has become of them?’
‘Calm down and all will be revealed in good time, but for now you must follow me.’
Both men were now back in the main hallway, shouting loudly at each other. This altercation between the two of them continued for several minutes.
Eventually Paul calmed down, but no sooner had he done so when he suddenly began to hear voices. 
Second encounter with danger
From a dark narrow passage under the stairs appeared Mary and Julia, both blindfolded and accompanied by another man, this one wearing dark glasses and a large brimmed hat. 
‘Thank goodness’, said Paul, giving the two of them a tight hug, ‘Are you two alright?’ 
‘Yes, we’re fine’, said Julia.
‘Oh no we’re not’, said Mary, ‘don’t talk silly Julia, we’ve been held prisoner in that broom cupboard and I demand we go home straight away’.
‘Keep quiet’, said the man wearing the dark glasses, ‘listen to what we have to say, you are not going anywhere, so don’t even think of trying to make a run for it’.
‘Do as we tell you and you will come to no harm’, said the portly
It was at this point that the two strangers introduced themselves as Ebenezer and Montague, and that they were employed as two local farmhands. 
‘What do you want from us?’ asked a nervous Paul.
‘I repeat, just listen to what we have to say,’ said Ebenezer.
‘OK, we’re listening, so get on with it’, said Mary.
‘You have been brought here because’……
‘Yes, go on’ said Mary. 
But before Ebenezer could continue, Paul made a sudden but appropriate interjection. 
‘Wait a minute, what exactly do you mean when you say we were brought here, and might I also ask by whom?’ said Paul?
‘Silence Kelly’, said Montague.
‘Hey, it’s Mr Kelly to you two villains. How do you come to know my name anyway?’ asked Paul.
‘Never mind about that’, said Montague, ‘just listen to what we have to say’.
‘Alright’, said Paul, ‘say what you will’.


The truth revealed.
‘You have been transported to this ancient house because we have good reason to believe that you have certain information relating to a former occupant by the name of Baron Melrose, who lived in this house around 10 years ago.
‘Baron Melrose, we don’t know anyone of that name and furthermore, we don’t want to know either’, said Paul. 
‘Oh, but just a minute Mr Kelly, we are both confident that you know exactly who Baron Melrose is’, said Ebenezer. 
‘I still want to know how you come to know my name’, said Paul.
‘Alright, we’ll tell you. For the past two years, Montague and I have been doing some personal research on you Mr Kelly, and following our investigations and subsequent findings, we have discovered that 10 years ago to this day a robbery took place right here in this house. 
Our explorations have consequently led us to a nearby cemetery, where we believe that a 6 team criminal gang managed to unearth an invaluable ceramic rose bowl, the price of which was at the time thought to be worth around £10,000. 
This exquisite antique bowl belonged to none other than the highly respected Baroness Melrose, wife of the late Baron Francis Melrose, Marquess of Cornwall. In his day, Baron Melrose, who passed away within these ancient walls 10 years ago, was buried in the adjacent churchyard. Baron Melrose was a very wealthy glass merchant whose business concerns were formally based in the Seville area of Spain, which is where the rose bowl in question was assumed to originate from. 
Finally, we believe that the last pieces of the jigsaw have now been unravelled, and we have at last concluded that it was you, Paul Kelly, who masterminded and subsequently arranged with your fellow collaborators to carry out this most daring of robberies’. 
‘That’s totally absurd’, said Paul, who on hearing this ridiculous accusation against him, rejected every word of it. 
Here we have an attractive Middle Eastern Rose Bowl, considered to be of special unique quality, and Paul Kelly accused of stealing it from a local graveyard. Can this be for real, one might ask? 
‘How can you be so sure that we are in possession of this bowl anyway and how did you know that we would be arriving here today’, asked Paul. ‘As I explained earlier, we ended up in this miserable old house by pure accident, having become lost in the forest with no idea how to find our way out. Also, what right and on whose authority do you have to question me in this way?’ 
‘But you were not really lost, Mr Kelly’, said Ebenezer, still wearing the sunglasses as a means of shielding his eyes. ‘We believe that you planned to return to this house with the wicked intention of re- entering the graveyard in order to steal more precious treasures from the tombs of other deceased residents’, he continued to say. 
‘What’, said Paul, ‘you’re now accusing me of stealing more treasures from tombs, why, I have never heard of such rubbish. I have the most impeccable record and would never dream of doing such a thing, my wife and Julia will both confirm that. 
However, at this moment in time, Paul’s wife was nowhere to be seen, but his sister Julia had suddenly made a long awaited re-appearance.
‘Paul, what’s going on’? She asked. 
‘Julia, thank goodness you’re back with us. Listen, these two men who you see in front of you are imposters. We’re going to find a policeman and you too mischievous criminals are coming with us’, said Paul, now as determined as ever to bring these two wrongdoers to justice. 
‘Oh, are we’, said Montague. 
‘Yes, you are’, said Paul.
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you Paul’, said Julia.
‘Oh, what do you mean and why ever not?’ said Paul.
A visitor to the house
But before Julia was able to answer, their attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of screeching car brakes outside.
‘Listen, someone has entered the driveway’, said Mary, who had now made her return.
‘Where have you been Mary, I have been worried about you, and who can that be outside?’ Paul nervously asked. 
‘Well, I don’t know’, said Mary, delicately, seemingly to be in a kind of trance, which indicated that she may have had some kind of traumatic experience, but for now their concentration was focussed on who was about to enter the house. 
Footsteps, becoming louder by the second were heard advancing further towards the house, but the tall trees were blocking the view from the window, no therefore no-one was able to see exactly who emerged from the car. 
They then heard a key slowly begin to turn in the door and, as the group silently waited the person(s) presence, who should appear through the door but the Baroness Melrose. 
‘Who are you people and what are you doing in my house?’ the baroness naturally enquired.
‘So you are the Baroness Melrose’, said Paul, with a natural degree of nervousness. 
‘Yes, I am Baroness Melrose, but what of it, I repeat, who are you and will someone please tell me what is going on in here’, she asked.
But before anyone was able to answer, the two imposters, who had been in hiding, suddenly appeared Taking hold of a canister, they suddenly released a cloud of gas into the room before running out of the house, leaving both Paul and Mary totally breathless. 
When they regained consciousness some 20 minutes later, they found themselves to be in the room all alone. 
‘What happened?’ asked Mary, and where have Julia and the Baroness disappeared to. There was another lady here who called herself Baroness Melrose wasn’t there, or have I been dreaming?’
‘No, you were not dreaming,’ said Paul, ’but I have a splitting headache and feel as though I might have just been drugged.’ 
Paul was naturally still feeling very sleepy from this ordeal, but nevertheless managed to rush towards the door, only to find it to be locked. 
‘Oh no, the door, it’s locked again’, said Paul.
‘Let us out, let us out’, shouted Mary, but to no avail, as no one came to their assistance. 
A policeman enters the house.
As Paul reached for the window he found that also to be locked. They had now been inside this dismal room for almost 1 hour without any food or water. Eventually the door did slowly open and much to their immediate delight, a policeman was standing outside. 
‘Hello officer, thank goodness you’ve arrived’, said Paul. ‘We have been held prisoner in this old house for the best part of 2 hours by a couple of heartless criminals’.
‘Criminals sir, what did they look like and where do you think they might be now’? The policeman enquired.
‘Well, all I can say is that they rather eccentric and were dressed somewhat peculiar in outlandish clothing but I don’t know where they are now, they simply ran out of the house’, said Paul in a state of utter confusion.
‘Come on sir, I need a better description that that, were they armed at all?’ 
As Paul was doing his best to further describe these two strangers, he could not help but feel somewhat uneasy about this particular policeman. For one thing, he noticed that the policeman had no registered police number shown on his coat lapel, which somehow generated a degree of suspicion in Paul’s already apprehensive mind. But was the worst still be to come? 
As the policeman picked up the story of the disappearance of the precious rose bowl, he continued to question Paul, whilst a panic stricken Julia suddenly emerged from a secret room under the stairs. 
‘Officer, I assure you that I have done nothing wrong’, insisted Paul. ‘My sister will substantiate my innocence and will be more than happy to provide me with an excellent character reference, won’t you Julia?’
But Paul’s request was met by a sudden wall of silence.
‘Come on Julia, please say something in my defence’, said Paul. 
But Julia continued to ignore this request to speak in Paul’s favour. 
‘Sorry Paul, I’m afraid that I’ll have to admit that I have led you all the way from the village to this old house under completely false pretences’, spoke a nervous Julia. 
‘What do you mean false pretences, explain yourself Julia, whatever are you talking about for goodness sake you silly woman?’ 
‘All that matters is that you are put away behind bars for your previous terrible deeds’, said Julia.
‘Terrible deeds! What am I supposed to have done’, asked Paul, now raising his voice.
‘You had better come with me sir,’ said the policeman.
‘No, you wait just a minute. Julia, what are you up to, come on, answer me you scheming bitch’. 
‘Come along sir please’, said the policeman, ‘you are under arrest on suspicion of grave robbery’.
‘Grave robbery, whatever do you mean?’ said Paul.
‘You’ll find out soon enough’ said Julia, ‘but I can tell you one thing right away Paul. I wasn’t drugged at all, I was only play acting, but you were drugged, and you fell for it every bit of the way.’ 
‘Come along sir, please’, the policeman repeated, but suddenly he became distracted when a panic stricken Mary, accompanied by the two imposters, came back into the room.
‘Paul, so here you are’ said Mary.
‘Yes, I’m here’, said Paul, totally exasperated by this time.
The policeman appeared to be somewhat taken up with Mary.


A confrontation with the Baroness Melrose
Paul, absolutely panic stricken, now saw his opportunity to make an escape attempt. He ran out of the house and into the garden, but before he was able to reach the outside gate he found himself face - to- face with the Baroness Melrose. 
‘So it was you who stole that precious rose bowl from my deceased husband’s grave’, she said, slowly pulling out a small pistol from her handbag. ‘Come on, admit it, you thieving scoundrel. How could you even contemplate such a terrible action?’
‘Please don’t shoot, I’m innocent’, said Paul. 
‘Innocent! Oh you just try stopping me. I know all about your little game and have waited years for this moment to arrive, she said. 
‘What little game’? Paul asked.
‘You know very well the value of the rose bowl’, said the Baroness.
This dramatic altercation between Paul and the Baroness continued for several minutes, but Paul suddenly noticed that although she was still holding the gun, she did not appear to be looking directly at him. He then concluded that someone was lurking in the shadow of the trees. But who was it, he wondered? 
For a few seconds the Baroness’s attention was unexpectedly diverted as she heard the sound of a small stone being thrown to the right hand side of where they were both standing. 
It was at this moment that Paul saw his chance to snatch the gun from her hand, but on doing so he suddenly stumbled over a loose rock in the garden and subsequently fell partly over and into the large fish pond, leaving the Baroness to deal with the unexpected visitor herself who was still hiding in the trees. 
‘Who’s there’? She shouted, ‘answer me now.’
As a grim shadow began to slowly emerge from behind the trees, the baroness found herself unexpectedly facing someone who was all too familiar. The man who appeared out of the darkness was none other than her husband, whom she had assumed to be deceased. 
What on earth are you doing here?’ the Baroness asked. 
‘You obviously never expected me to turn up again did you, especially back here of all places?’ Baron Melrose said. 
‘No, I have to say that I thought you were dead,’ said the baroness nervously. 
‘Yes, but as you can see I’m very much alive. I have been listening to everything, and am here to see you brought to justice for instigating the stealing of my precious rose bowl. I saw two men running out of the house earlier. Who were they, and who were those other people who claimed to be lost in the woods? What a load of rubbish that was. I believe them to be accomplices of yours. That rose bowl was priceless and you very well know it. You and Julia were hoping to frame Paul Kelly for the theft which you planned to carry out in your own mischievous style. I see a gun in your hand, but you won’t use it, because killing is not your kind of thing, is it?’ 
‘How do you know all this?’ she asked her husband.
‘Never mind how I know’, said her husband. ‘As I said, I want justice, and won’t be satisfied with anything less.’ 
‘That’s enough’, said the Baroness, ‘you are nothing to me now and I am not afraid to use this gun if I have to’. 
I don’t think you will’, said the Baron, walking closer to his wife.
‘Don’t come any further’, she said. 
Whilst the baron advanced closer towards his wife, she continued to walk backwards and away from him, taking herself step by step further into the forest. With the gun still firmly in her hand and pointed directly at her husband, another shot was suddenly heard, but it was not baron Melrose who had been hit, surprisingly it was his wife. 
Unbeknown to anyone, Paul always carried a pistol with him, and on seeing that the baroness was about to commit attempted murder, Paul decided that enough was enough and it was time for him to take drastic action. Just a single shot and the Baroness was laid on the ground. The police had already been called and the criminals were quickly apprehended and taken away for some lengthy questioning. 

In conclusion
In his younger days Baron Melrose had become quite infatuated with a 24 year old Spanish gypsy girl by the name of Michaela, the younger daughter of a highly respected Basque nobleman and business associate living in Zaragoza in the Aragon region of Spain.
On a number of occasions during their relationship, the baron had irresponsibly discussed the value of a beautifully decorated glass engraved Middle Eastern Rose bowl, the possession of which he had himself acquired from a commercial contact in Cairo. The baron had also talked about a possible transfer of ownership to an Italian foreign investor.
When the affair abruptly ended, Michaela returned to live back in her former Spanish roots where she met an English girl by the name of Julia Rheims, a student of Spanish flamenco dancing who lived nearby. Julia was the sister of Mary Rheims, who had since married Paul Kelly, an English stockbroker who lived in Cheshire. 
However, like many of her travelling associates, this gypsy had an evil streak in her blood and was out to avenge her former lover who she blamed for the ending of their relationship. There were several options open for her, one of which was to reveal the secrets of the precious rose bowl. She knew that she would never be able to have the bowl for herself, but on discovering that Julia and the Baron’s new wife were planning to steal it, Michaela very quickly developed the idea of placing a sinister gypsy curse on anyone who attempted to take possession of it. 
With Julia as her main accomplice, the Baroness had learned that Paul and his wife regularly went for a walk in the nearby forest close to where they lived. Julia frequently walked with them, but on this particular evening her recommendation that their walk should follow a different route was for nothing other than illicit purposes. Paul and his wife were both in agreement with this change of plan, and a delighted Julia was much comforted by the fact that, on taking them right into the heart of the forest at night, neither of them would have any idea as to how to find their way out and back home again. They would become totally lost in the vastness of the woodland. 
For the plan to succeed, Julia led the two of them to an old country manor house which she had carefully selected herself. Her fellow collaborators would be waiting for further instructions on her arrival. However, little did they realise that they had accidentally fallen for the gypsy’s curse, and their wicked plans were destined to fail. 
The Baroness and Julia had been the main instigators of the plot, with the policeman and the two strangers acting as sidekicks in this carefully planned and very daring robbery.


Final consideration, 
When darkness falls, the power and strength of gypsy blood appears, where evil forces are lurking around every corner. 
Stephen Davis
Date story created: 3.1.2015
Words: 5,681


Introduction
Setting: Redesmere wood in Cheshire.
Tim of year: November. 
There was something eerily beautiful about the moon in winter. The fascinating way it would sneak between the trees in the late afternoon and evening, shining majestically as it did so, making its welcome presence felt in this most picturesque of settings. 
Few visitors frequented this area at night, save for the occasional passing car or people walking their dogs, making the remoteness of the forest the perfect cover for…………..MURDER.
A walk in the woods
Paul and Mary Kelly, a recently married couple, sometimes went walking through Redesmere wood which was close to where they lived. In daytime the wood and its delightful lake were a picturesque picnic spot for walkers and families, but at night this environment could appear quite spooky, where the mysteries of darkness held many gruesome secrets. 
Paul and Mary had been dining with Mary’s sister Julia in the ‘Steak and Kebab’ restaurant in the village of Prestbury which was situated in the south of Manchester. 
By 4pm the three of them had all finished their meal, and after saying goodbye to friends they began their usual walk through the woods, only on this occasion Julia felt a little more adventurous and recommended they take a different route, as their usual walk always followed the same sequence. 
‘Hey, there’s an old house somewhere in this forest, let’s see if we can find it’, said Julia. 
The time was now 4.30pm and daylight was slowly beginning to fade, which left an incomprehensible atmosphere in this quiet little forest, where time seemed to have stood still for centuries. 
‘Must we change our route tonight? I have heard some horrible rumours that there is an old graveyard somewhere around here which is reputed to be haunted’, said Mary. 
‘Don’t talk silly’, said Julia, ‘there’s only been the odd ghost seen from time to time, and you did agree to change course’.
‘A ghost’, shrieked Mary. ‘Now, you know I’m afraid of ghosts. I have read a number of ghost stories over the years and they have always scared me, so let’s have no more talk about ghosts tonight’.
‘Sorry’, said Julia, laughing away to herself, ‘I didn’t mean to alarm you, but we must keep on the move, otherwise we will never find the old house’.
Continuing their walk through the wood, the rustling of the trees in the light to moderate breeze along with strange noises caused Mary to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that someone or something may be shadowing them.
‘Listen, I can hear something?’ said Mary, rather nervously. 
‘Yes, what can you hear?’ asked Paul.
‘I don’t know for sure’, said Mary, ‘but I do know that I want to be out of here right now as this place is starting to give me the creeps’.
‘But we have walked a long distance and I don’t know the immediate way back to the pub’, said Paul.
‘What! Do you mean to say we’re lost?’ Said Mary. 
‘That seems about right’, said Paul, and there won’t be any park rangers here to help us at this at this time of night either’.
‘Is that all you can say?’ asked Mary.
‘Well, what else do you expect me to say?’ said Paul.
‘Julie, can you not help us out here’, said Mary.
But for now Julie remained tight lipped. 
By diverting from their usual route, the trio had by now realised that there was no immediate way out of this massive woodland, which was described by a horror stricken Mary as an oversized maze. They had to accept that they were now trapped in this most hostile of environments. 
An old house and a light in the window. 
Suddenly, a bright light emerged which appeared to come from the window of a large sized house. 
‘Look’, Paul suddenly said, ‘there’s a bright light shining through those trees’.
‘Yes, I can just see it’, said Julia, ‘seems to be coming from that house in the distance. Come on, let’s go and investigate’. 
‘Oh must we’, said Mary, again rather uneasy. 
‘Yes we must, don’t be such a spoilsport’, said Julia, ‘there’s no time like the present, so let’s go and have a look at it’. 
But since it was now completely dark, they could currently see very little else apart from the light itself.
However, on making a closer approach to the house, Paul had quietly mentioned to Mary that he would have expected her sister Julia to be much more apprehensive than she appeared to be in this type of situation, as surprisingly she was quite placid. He then began to wonder what exactly, if anything, she might know about the history of the house, what secrets did it hold, who might the present occupiers be and who has lived there in the past. 
As they walked closer, a curious stillness seemed to envelop the atmosphere. The group had now to accept that it would not be easy to find their way out of the vastness of the forest, therefore, seeking refuge in this mysterious house seemed to be the best, and in fact the only option available to them in their current circumstances. 
A local warning
As they carried on walking towards the house, Mary once again had the feeling that someone might be shadowing them, and on turning round, much to her astonishment, she was confronted by a shabby looking old vagrant who had apparently been following closely on their trail. 
‘Don’t go anywhere near that house’, said the old wanderer.
‘Why ever not?’ asked Paul.
‘Because, my good people, that house is haunted by evil from its past history. Once you enter its interior, you will never come out of there alive. I’ve lived in this area all my life and we locals call it: The House of the Blessed Spirits, meaning, that because of the strange occurrences which happen there on a nightly basis, the house is simply not fit to live in’.
‘Go away, you’re just trying to frighten us’, said Mary.
‘Alright, but it’s “haunted, haunted” I say,’ the old man repeated as he began to walk steadily away. Eventually his voice faded and once again the party were left to their own devices. 
The walk continues.
Ignoring this warning, all three continued their journey. As they approached the front steps of the house they first encountered an old oak panelled door with an oriental style brass handle and two grotesque looking lion marble statuettes situated on either side. Mary immediately felt a strange sense of apprehension about this macabre old building, which according to a plaque on the wall had originally been built in the Tudor period, known then as “Eton House”. 
‘I’m turning back’, said Mary. ‘I don’t feel at all comfortable nor safe here and I’m certain that I saw the shadow of a man in one of those upstairs windows’. 
‘Oh no you’re not,’ said Paul, rather assertively, ‘you’ll never find your way out of here without us. It is just not a sensible thing to contemplate Mary and I will not allow you to attempt such an undertaking’, Paul continued. 
‘But we cannot just walk inside the house and expect to be made welcome. For a start, we don’t know who lives in there and whoever they are they might be quite hostile to strangers’, Mary continued. 
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out’ said Paul, about to knock on the door.
Ancient architecture, particularly the attractive Tudor style chimney pots, outside walls covered with ivy and creepy looking towers were the principal characteristics of this mysterious old house. The chimney pots themselves actually reminded Paul of a recent visit he had made to Hampton Court palace whilst on a holiday visit to London with friends.
On Paul’s first attempt at ringing the doorbell there was no answer, but following a second attempt the large oak-panelled door slowly began to open, creaking eerily as it did so. 
Inside the house.
Paul and Julia walked nervously into what appeared to be a most bizarre residence, followed by an even less confident Mary. 
The first items of interest were a series of mediaeval style tapestries mounted on the walls which were illuminated by 8 Victorian gas lamps. However, at this moment in time, no sign of life was to be seen anywhere within the building. 
‘This house is certainly very old’, said Julia. 
‘Yes, I would imagine possibly built in the 18th Century’, said Paul.
‘Oh, years before that’, said Mary. ‘I remember seeing that rusty plaque outside containing some Latin inscriptions, which to me gave an indication of 10th Century’. 
‘Oh look, there’s a door open, let’s have a peep inside’, said Paul.
They then entered what appeared to be a small study room, complete with writing table, pen and ink, reading lamp and typewriter. The room was heated by a log fire and the table was full of journalistic style papers with a cigarette still smouldering. 
‘Well, there’s obviously been someone working in this room recently’, said Mary. 
‘Yes, but don’t touch anything’, said Paul.
The fireplace, which was designed in an elaborate Edwardian style, particularly caught their attention. With a series of miniature golden gargoyles surrounding it, this fireplace was certainly exquisite.
Paul had also observed a large bookcase situated on the right hand side of the room, housing books by distinguished Victorian writers such as for example, Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 
They then noticed a second door which led into a dining room. On entering, Mary was quite taken up with the dining table itself as it contained two sets of 3 lighted candles at each end.
By now a strange stillness was beginning to embrace the already spine-chilling atmosphere, and if things were not bad enough for these weary travellers, they suddenly heard a loud bang, and the door in which they had entered the room had suddenly closed behind them.
‘Well’, Mary shrieked out, ‘that’ll teach us to walk into a room without invitation. What do you two propose we do now’? she asked, absolutely terrified with fear.
To make matters worse, the lights were beginning to flicker on and off too, which brought the room into semi - darkness for a good few seconds. 
There was definitely something very mysterious about this house and it soon became obvious that they had become trapped within this lonely environment, and were somehow convinced that they were not alone. Who else was present here, what was the past history of the house, were evil spirits at work, and most importantly, what was to become of this innocent trio who had originally set out on a walking expedition but had been hoping to seek salvation for the evening. 
Paul was still somewhat concerned as to why Julia offered little help towards recommending an escape route when she supposedly knew the forest so well. 
Evening
The time was now 7pm, and the door by which they had entered the room was slowly beginning to open, creaking most annoyingly as it did so. Their attention however, was now focused towards a couple of portraits which they soon discovered were perhaps representations of previous occupiers. 
The group had now been in the house for almost 1 hour. They were somewhat confident that someone else may be in there with them, but as they glanced down the passage there was still no one to be seen, no movement and no sound.
‘There must be someone else here besides us’, said Paul. ‘The front door could not just open on its own, could it’?
‘It would seem that the old vagabond we saw earlier could well have been right about this place being haunted’, said Mary. 
‘But there’s no one else here’, said Julia. 
‘We just don’t know that’, said Paul, ‘we’ve not searched the whole house yet. You two stay here whilst I go and have a look upstairs’.
‘Oh, do be careful Paul’ said Julia. ‘I’m frightened and just want to go home’. 
But were these words spoken by Julia actually sincere?
‘I will be careful, really I will’ said Paul. 
‘Calm down Julia’. ‘Remember, we’re all in this together. Are you sure you don’t want me to come up there with you Paul?’ asked Mary.
‘No, ‘said Paul, ‘you stay here with Julia. I’ll be alright by myself’.
As he began to climb the old medieval staircase, Paul began to feel an even greater sense of mystery about this house. The lighted Victorian gas lamps which were positioned all the way up the stairs revealed some fine portraits of what appeared to be images of local ancient mariners. He wondered what stories they could communicate about the modern day inhabitants of this lonely old mansion. He also noticed by the top of the stairs a fine illuminated calligraphy manuscript written in copperplate. But there was definitely something strange about this place, especially when doors kept mysteriously opening and closing. 
19.8.18
START HERE NEXT

First encounter with danger
On reaching the top of the stairs, Paul was most surprised to hear some 1940’s music coming from a room next to where he was now standing. As he nervously opened the door, he immediately came across an old fashioned gramophone in the right hand corner of the room, but once again the door suddenly closed behind him. As he ran outside of the room there was still no one around and by now he was beginning to fear for the safely of Mary and Julia who he expected were still downstairs. As he walked further down the corridor, a large figure of a man suddenly made an appearance from a side room. 
Paul suddenly found himself to be face to face with this mysterious looking stranger who was wearing a shabby black overcoat, tweed hat and gloves. 
‘Who are you, and what are you doing in this house’, asked the stranger in deep voice.
‘Well, I was just about to ask you the same question’, said Paul. 
‘Don’t be impertinent, I asked what you are doing here,’ said the big man.
Paul had literally frozen at the sight of this extraordinary individual and didn’t quite know what to say. He was literally fearing not only for his own life, but was naturally deeply concerned as to what might become of Mary and Julia. He wanted to make a run for it but suddenly found himself trapped against a door by this giant of a man who sent immediate shockwaves through Paul’s system. In fact, he was in such a nervous state of mind that it took about 2 minutes before he plucked up the courage to speak a second time, but speak he eventually did. 
‘Allow me to explain’, said Paul. ‘My wife, my sister and myself became lost in the nearby forest, so we decided to take shelter in this house for the night’, said Paul, most apprehensively. 
‘So you’re not alone’ said the mysterious character. 
‘No’, replied Paul, still shaking with fear.
‘Well, since you have entered this house under false pretences, you had better follow me’, said the stranger’.
‘What do mean under false pretences, and where are you taking me? I have already explained, we lost our way in the forest, and were just hoping to take refuge here for the night’, said Paul.
‘We’, said the stranger, ‘how many of you are there.’ 
‘As I have just said, as well as myself, my wife and sister who are downstairs’, said Paul. 
‘Come with me’, said the stranger.
Paul went along as instructed, and walked back under escort down the creepy flight of stairs. 
On his arrival back down the stairs, his companion accompanied Paul back into the same room where he had earlier left Mary and Julia, only to find that his worst nightmare had finally come true. Mary and Julia had both disappeared, and even worse, he turned round to find that he was now being held at gunpoint. 
‘My wife and sister’, asked Paul, ‘where are they?’
‘Don’t be alarmed’, said this enigmatic character, they have been taken to a safe place’.
‘What safe place?’ asked Paul, ‘I demand to know what has become of them?’
‘Calm down and all will be revealed in good time, but for now you must follow me.’
Both men were now back in the main hallway, shouting loudly at each other. This altercation between the two of them continued for several minutes.
Eventually Paul calmed down, but no sooner had he done so when he suddenly began to hear voices. 
Second encounter with danger
From a dark narrow passage under the stairs appeared Mary and Julia, both blindfolded and accompanied by another man, this one wearing dark glasses and a large brimmed hat. 
‘Thank goodness’, said Paul, giving the two of them a tight hug, ‘Are you two alright?’ 
‘Yes, we’re fine’, said Julia.
‘Oh no we’re not’, said Mary, ‘don’t talk silly Julia, we’ve been held prisoner in that broom cupboard and I demand we go home straight away’.
‘Keep quiet’, said the man wearing the dark glasses, ‘listen to what we have to say, you are not going anywhere, so don’t even think of trying to make a run for it’.
‘Do as we tell you and you will come to no harm’, said the portly
It was at this point that the two strangers introduced themselves as Ebenezer and Montague, and that they were employed as two local farmhands. 
‘What do you want from us?’ asked a nervous Paul.
‘I repeat, just listen to what we have to say,’ said Ebenezer.
‘OK, we’re listening, so get on with it’, said Mary.
‘You have been brought here because’……
‘Yes, go on’ said Mary. 
But before Ebenezer could continue, Paul made a sudden but appropriate interjection. 
‘Wait a minute, what exactly do you mean when you say we were brought here, and might I also ask by whom?’ said Paul?
‘Silence Kelly’, said Montague.
‘Hey, it’s Mr Kelly to you two villains. How do you come to know my name anyway?’ asked Paul.
‘Never mind about that’, said Montague, ‘just listen to what we have to say’.
‘Alright’, said Paul, ‘say what you will’.


The truth revealed.
‘You have been transported to this ancient house because we have good reason to believe that you have certain information relating to a former occupant by the name of Baron Melrose, who lived in this house around 10 years ago.
‘Baron Melrose, we don’t know anyone of that name and furthermore, we don’t want to know either’, said Paul. 
‘Oh, but just a minute Mr Kelly, we are both confident that you know exactly who Baron Melrose is’, said Ebenezer. 
‘I still want to know how you come to know my name’, said Paul.
‘Alright, we’ll tell you. For the past two years, Montague and I have been doing some personal research on you Mr Kelly, and following our investigations and subsequent findings, we have discovered that 10 years ago to this day a robbery took place right here in this house. 
Our explorations have consequently led us to a nearby cemetery, where we believe that a 6 team criminal gang managed to unearth an invaluable ceramic rose bowl, the price of which was at the time thought to be worth around £10,000. 
This exquisite antique bowl belonged to none other than the highly respected Baroness Melrose, wife of the late Baron Francis Melrose, Marquess of Cornwall. In his day, Baron Melrose, who passed away within these ancient walls 10 years ago, was buried in the adjacent churchyard. Baron Melrose was a very wealthy glass merchant whose business concerns were formally based in the Seville area of Spain, which is where the rose bowl in question was assumed to originate from. 
Finally, we believe that the last pieces of the jigsaw have now been unravelled, and we have at last concluded that it was you, Paul Kelly, who masterminded and subsequently arranged with your fellow collaborators to carry out this most daring of robberies’. 
‘That’s totally absurd’, said Paul, who on hearing this ridiculous accusation against him, rejected every word of it. 
Here we have an attractive Middle Eastern Rose Bowl, considered to be of special unique quality, and Paul Kelly accused of stealing it from a local graveyard. Can this be for real, one might ask? 
‘How can you be so sure that we are in possession of this bowl anyway and how did you know that we would be arriving here today’, asked Paul. ‘As I explained earlier, we ended up in this miserable old house by pure accident, having become lost in the forest with no idea how to find our way out. Also, what right and on whose authority do you have to question me in this way?’ 
‘But you were not really lost, Mr Kelly’, said Ebenezer, still wearing the sunglasses as a means of shielding his eyes. ‘We believe that you planned to return to this house with the wicked intention of re- entering the graveyard in order to steal more precious treasures from the tombs of other deceased residents’, he continued to say. 
‘What’, said Paul, ‘you’re now accusing me of stealing more treasures from tombs, why, I have never heard of such rubbish. I have the most impeccable record and would never dream of doing such a thing, my wife and Julia will both confirm that. 
However, at this moment in time, Paul’s wife was nowhere to be seen, but his sister Julia had suddenly made a long awaited re-appearance.
‘Paul, what’s going on’? She asked. 
‘Julia, thank goodness you’re back with us. Listen, these two men who you see in front of you are imposters. We’re going to find a policeman and you too mischievous criminals are coming with us’, said Paul, now as determined as ever to bring these two wrongdoers to justice. 
‘Oh, are we’, said Montague. 
‘Yes, you are’, said Paul.
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you Paul’, said Julia.
‘Oh, what do you mean and why ever not?’ said Paul.
A visitor to the house
But before Julia was able to answer, their attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of screeching car brakes outside.
‘Listen, someone has entered the driveway’, said Mary, who had now made her return.
‘Where have you been Mary, I have been worried about you, and who can that be outside?’ Paul nervously asked. 
‘Well, I don’t know’, said Mary, delicately, seemingly to be in a kind of trance, which indicated that she may have had some kind of traumatic experience, but for now their concentration was focussed on who was about to enter the house. 
Footsteps, becoming louder by the second were heard advancing further towards the house, but the tall trees were blocking the view from the window, no therefore no-one was able to see exactly who emerged from the car. 
They then heard a key slowly begin to turn in the door and, as the group silently waited the person(s) presence, who should appear through the door but the Baroness Melrose. 
‘Who are you people and what are you doing in my house?’ the baroness naturally enquired.
‘So you are the Baroness Melrose’, said Paul, with a natural degree of nervousness. 
‘Yes, I am Baroness Melrose, but what of it, I repeat, who are you and will someone please tell me what is going on in here’, she asked.
But before anyone was able to answer, the two imposters, who had been in hiding, suddenly appeared Taking hold of a canister, they suddenly released a cloud of gas into the room before running out of the house, leaving both Paul and Mary totally breathless. 
When they regained consciousness some 20 minutes later, they found themselves to be in the room all alone. 
‘What happened?’ asked Mary, and where have Julia and the Baroness disappeared to. There was another lady here who called herself Baroness Melrose wasn’t there, or have I been dreaming?’
‘No, you were not dreaming,’ said Paul, ’but I have a splitting headache and feel as though I might have just been drugged.’ 
Paul was naturally still feeling very sleepy from this ordeal, but nevertheless managed to rush towards the door, only to find it to be locked. 
‘Oh no, the door, it’s locked again’, said Paul.
‘Let us out, let us out’, shouted Mary, but to no avail, as no one came to their assistance. 
A policeman enters the house.
As Paul reached for the window he found that also to be locked. They had now been inside this dismal room for almost 1 hour without any food or water. Eventually the door did slowly open and much to their immediate delight, a policeman was standing outside. 
‘Hello officer, thank goodness you’ve arrived’, said Paul. ‘We have been held prisoner in this old house for the best part of 2 hours by a couple of heartless criminals’.
‘Criminals sir, what did they look like and where do you think they might be now’? The policeman enquired.
‘Well, all I can say is that they rather eccentric and were dressed somewhat peculiar in outlandish clothing but I don’t know where they are now, they simply ran out of the house’, said Paul in a state of utter confusion.
‘Come on sir, I need a better description that that, were they armed at all?’ 
As Paul was doing his best to further describe these two strangers, he could not help but feel somewhat uneasy about this particular policeman. For one thing, he noticed that the policeman had no registered police number shown on his coat lapel, which somehow generated a degree of suspicion in Paul’s already apprehensive mind. But was the worst still be to come? 
As the policeman picked up the story of the disappearance of the precious rose bowl, he continued to question Paul, whilst a panic stricken Julia suddenly emerged from a secret room under the stairs. 
‘Officer, I assure you that I have done nothing wrong’, insisted Paul. ‘My sister will substantiate my innocence and will be more than happy to provide me with an excellent character reference, won’t you Julia?’
But Paul’s request was met by a sudden wall of silence.
‘Come on Julia, please say something in my defence’, said Paul. 
But Julia continued to ignore this request to speak in Paul’s favour. 
‘Sorry Paul, I’m afraid that I’ll have to admit that I have led you all the way from the village to this old house under completely false pretences’, spoke a nervous Julia. 
‘What do you mean false pretences, explain yourself Julia, whatever are you talking about for goodness sake you silly woman?’ 
‘All that matters is that you are put away behind bars for your previous terrible deeds’, said Julia.
‘Terrible deeds! What am I supposed to have done’, asked Paul, now raising his voice.
‘You had better come with me sir,’ said the policeman.
‘No, you wait just a minute. Julia, what are you up to, come on, answer me you scheming bitch’. 
‘Come along sir please’, said the policeman, ‘you are under arrest on suspicion of grave robbery’.
‘Grave robbery, whatever do you mean?’ said Paul.
‘You’ll find out soon enough’ said Julia, ‘but I can tell you one thing right away Paul. I wasn’t drugged at all, I was only play acting, but you were drugged, and you fell for it every bit of the way.’ 
‘Come along sir, please’, the policeman repeated, but suddenly he became distracted when a panic stricken Mary, accompanied by the two imposters, came back into the room.
‘Paul, so here you are’ said Mary.
‘Yes, I’m here’, said Paul, totally exasperated by this time.
The policeman appeared to be somewhat taken up with Mary.


A confrontation with the Baroness Melrose
Paul, absolutely panic stricken, now saw his opportunity to make an escape attempt. He ran out of the house and into the garden, but before he was able to reach the outside gate he found himself face - to- face with the Baroness Melrose. 
‘So it was you who stole that precious rose bowl from my deceased husband’s grave’, she said, slowly pulling out a small pistol from her handbag. ‘Come on, admit it, you thieving scoundrel. How could you even contemplate such a terrible action?’
‘Please don’t shoot, I’m innocent’, said Paul. 
‘Innocent! Oh you just try stopping me. I know all about your little game and have waited years for this moment to arrive, she said. 
‘What little game’? Paul asked.
‘You know very well the value of the rose bowl’, said the Baroness.
This dramatic altercation between Paul and the Baroness continued for several minutes, but Paul suddenly noticed that although she was still holding the gun, she did not appear to be looking directly at him. He then concluded that someone was lurking in the shadow of the trees. But who was it, he wondered? 
For a few seconds the Baroness’s attention was unexpectedly diverted as she heard the sound of a small stone being thrown to the right hand side of where they were both standing. 
It was at this moment that Paul saw his chance to snatch the gun from her hand, but on doing so he suddenly stumbled over a loose rock in the garden and subsequently fell partly over and into the large fish pond, leaving the Baroness to deal with the unexpected visitor herself who was still hiding in the trees. 
‘Who’s there’? She shouted, ‘answer me now.’
As a grim shadow began to slowly emerge from behind the trees, the baroness found herself unexpectedly facing someone who was all too familiar. The man who appeared out of the darkness was none other than her husband, whom she had assumed to be deceased. 
What on earth are you doing here?’ the Baroness asked. 
‘You obviously never expected me to turn up again did you, especially back here of all places?’ Baron Melrose said. 
‘No, I have to say that I thought you were dead,’ said the baroness nervously. 
‘Yes, but as you can see I’m very much alive. I have been listening to everything, and am here to see you brought to justice for instigating the stealing of my precious rose bowl. I saw two men running out of the house earlier. Who were they, and who were those other people who claimed to be lost in the woods? What a load of rubbish that was. I believe them to be accomplices of yours. That rose bowl was priceless and you very well know it. You and Julia were hoping to frame Paul Kelly for the theft which you planned to carry out in your own mischievous style. I see a gun in your hand, but you won’t use it, because killing is not your kind of thing, is it?’ 
‘How do you know all this?’ she asked her husband.
‘Never mind how I know’, said her husband. ‘As I said, I want justice, and won’t be satisfied with anything less.’ 
‘That’s enough’, said the Baroness, ‘you are nothing to me now and I am not afraid to use this gun if I have to’. 
I don’t think you will’, said the Baron, walking closer to his wife.
‘Don’t come any further’, she said. 
Whilst the baron advanced closer towards his wife, she continued to walk backwards and away from him, taking herself step by step further into the forest. With the gun still firmly in her hand and pointed directly at her husband, another shot was suddenly heard, but it was not baron Melrose who had been hit, surprisingly it was his wife. 
Unbeknown to anyone, Paul always carried a pistol with him, and on seeing that the baroness was about to commit attempted murder, Paul decided that enough was enough and it was time for him to take drastic action. Just a single shot and the Baroness was laid on the ground. The police had already been called and the criminals were quickly apprehended and taken away for some lengthy questioning. 

In conclusion
In his younger days Baron Melrose had become quite infatuated with a 24 year old Spanish gypsy girl by the name of Michaela, the younger daughter of a highly respected Basque nobleman and business associate living in Zaragoza in the Aragon region of Spain.
On a number of occasions during their relationship, the baron had irresponsibly discussed the value of a beautifully decorated glass engraved Middle Eastern Rose bowl, the possession of which he had himself acquired from a commercial contact in Cairo. The baron had also talked about a possible transfer of ownership to an Italian foreign investor.
When the affair abruptly ended, Michaela returned to live back in her former Spanish roots where she met an English girl by the name of Julia Rheims, a student of Spanish flamenco dancing who lived nearby. Julia was the sister of Mary Rheims, who had since married Paul Kelly, an English stockbroker who lived in Cheshire. 
However, like many of her travelling associates, this gypsy had an evil streak in her blood and was out to avenge her former lover who she blamed for the ending of their relationship. There were several options open for her, one of which was to reveal the secrets of the precious rose bowl. She knew that she would never be able to have the bowl for herself, but on discovering that Julia and the Baron’s new wife were planning to steal it, Michaela very quickly developed the idea of placing a sinister gypsy curse on anyone who attempted to take possession of it. 
With Julia as her main accomplice, the Baroness had learned that Paul and his wife regularly went for a walk in the nearby forest close to where they lived. Julia frequently walked with them, but on this particular evening her recommendation that their walk should follow a different route was for nothing other than illicit purposes. Paul and his wife were both in agreement with this change of plan, and a delighted Julia was much comforted by the fact that, on taking them right into the heart of the forest at night, neither of them would have any idea as to how to find their way out and back home again. They would become totally lost in the vastness of the woodland. 
For the plan to succeed, Julia led the two of them to an old country manor house which she had carefully selected herself. Her fellow collaborators would be waiting for further instructions on her arrival. However, little did they realise that they had accidentally fallen for the gypsy’s curse, and their wicked plans were destined to fail. 
The Baroness and Julia had been the main instigators of the plot, with the policeman and the two strangers acting as sidekicks in this carefully planned and very daring robbery.


Final consideration, 
When darkness falls, the power and strength of gypsy blood appears, where evil forces are lurking around every corner. 
Stephen Davis
Date story created: 3.1.2015
Words: 5,681

Introduction
Setting: Redesmere wood in Cheshire.
Tim of year: November. 
There was something eerily beautiful about the moon in winter. The fascinating way it would sneak between the trees in the late afternoon and evening, shining majestically as it did so, making its welcome presence felt in this most picturesque of settings. 
Few visitors frequented this area at night, save for the occasional passing car or people walking their dogs, making the remoteness of the forest the perfect cover for…………..MURDER.
A walk in the woods
Paul and Mary Kelly, a recently married couple, sometimes went walking through Redesmere wood which was close to where they lived. In daytime the wood and its delightful lake were a picturesque picnic spot for walkers and families, but at night this environment could appear quite spooky, where the mysteries of darkness held many gruesome secrets. 
Paul and Mary had been dining with Mary’s sister Julia in the ‘Steak and Kebab’ restaurant in the village of Prestbury which was situated in the south of Manchester. 
By 4pm the three of them had all finished their meal, and after saying goodbye to friends they began their usual walk through the woods, only on this occasion Julia felt a little more adventurous and recommended they take a different route, as their usual walk always followed the same sequence. 
‘Hey, there’s an old house somewhere in this forest, let’s see if we can find it’, said Julia. 
The time was now 4.30pm and daylight was slowly beginning to fade, which left an incomprehensible atmosphere in this quiet little forest, where time seemed to have stood still for centuries. 
‘Must we change our route tonight? I have heard some horrible rumours that there is an old graveyard somewhere around here which is reputed to be haunted’, said Mary. 
‘Don’t talk silly’, said Julia, ‘there’s only been the odd ghost seen from time to time, and you did agree to change course’.
‘A ghost’, shrieked Mary. ‘Now, you know I’m afraid of ghosts. I have read a number of ghost stories over the years and they have always scared me, so let’s have no more talk about ghosts tonight’.
‘Sorry’, said Julia, laughing away to herself, ‘I didn’t mean to alarm you, but we must keep on the move, otherwise we will never find the old house’.
Continuing their walk through the wood, the rustling of the trees in the light to moderate breeze along with strange noises caused Mary to conclude, rightly or wrongly, that someone or something may be shadowing them.
‘Listen, I can hear something?’ said Mary, rather nervously. 
‘Yes, what can you hear?’ asked Paul.
‘I don’t know for sure’, said Mary, ‘but I do know that I want to be out of here right now as this place is starting to give me the creeps’.
‘But we have walked a long distance and I don’t know the immediate way back to the pub’, said Paul.
‘What! Do you mean to say we’re lost?’ Said Mary. 
‘That seems about right’, said Paul, and there won’t be any park rangers here to help us at this at this time of night either’.
‘Is that all you can say?’ asked Mary.
‘Well, what else do you expect me to say?’ said Paul.
‘Julie, can you not help us out here’, said Mary.
But for now Julie remained tight lipped. 
By diverting from their usual route, the trio had by now realised that there was no immediate way out of this massive woodland, which was described by a horror stricken Mary as an oversized maze. They had to accept that they were now trapped in this most hostile of environments. 
An old house and a light in the window. 
Suddenly, a bright light emerged which appeared to come from the window of a large sized house. 
‘Look’, Paul suddenly said, ‘there’s a bright light shining through those trees’.
‘Yes, I can just see it’, said Julia, ‘seems to be coming from that house in the distance. Come on, let’s go and investigate’. 
‘Oh must we’, said Mary, again rather uneasy. 
‘Yes we must, don’t be such a spoilsport’, said Julia, ‘there’s no time like the present, so let’s go and have a look at it’. 
But since it was now completely dark, they could currently see very little else apart from the light itself.
However, on making a closer approach to the house, Paul had quietly mentioned to Mary that he would have expected her sister Julia to be much more apprehensive than she appeared to be in this type of situation, as surprisingly she was quite placid. He then began to wonder what exactly, if anything, she might know about the history of the house, what secrets did it hold, who might the present occupiers be and who has lived there in the past. 
As they walked closer, a curious stillness seemed to envelop the atmosphere. The group had now to accept that it would not be easy to find their way out of the vastness of the forest, therefore, seeking refuge in this mysterious house seemed to be the best, and in fact the only option available to them in their current circumstances. 
A local warning
As they carried on walking towards the house, Mary once again had the feeling that someone might be shadowing them, and on turning round, much to her astonishment, she was confronted by a shabby looking old vagrant who had apparently been following closely on their trail. 
‘Don’t go anywhere near that house’, said the old wanderer.
‘Why ever not?’ asked Paul.
‘Because, my good people, that house is haunted by evil from its past history. Once you enter its interior, you will never come out of there alive. I’ve lived in this area all my life and we locals call it: The House of the Blessed Spirits, meaning, that because of the strange occurrences which happen there on a nightly basis, the house is simply not fit to live in’.
‘Go away, you’re just trying to frighten us’, said Mary.
‘Alright, but it’s “haunted, haunted” I say,’ the old man repeated as he began to walk steadily away. Eventually his voice faded and once again the party were left to their own devices. 
The walk continues.
Ignoring this warning, all three continued their journey. As they approached the front steps of the house they first encountered an old oak panelled door with an oriental style brass handle and two grotesque looking lion marble statuettes situated on either side. Mary immediately felt a strange sense of apprehension about this macabre old building, which according to a plaque on the wall had originally been built in the Tudor period, known then as “Eton House”. 
‘I’m turning back’, said Mary. ‘I don’t feel at all comfortable nor safe here and I’m certain that I saw the shadow of a man in one of those upstairs windows’. 
‘Oh no you’re not,’ said Paul, rather assertively, ‘you’ll never find your way out of here without us. It is just not a sensible thing to contemplate Mary and I will not allow you to attempt such an undertaking’, Paul continued. 
‘But we cannot just walk inside the house and expect to be made welcome. For a start, we don’t know who lives in there and whoever they are they might be quite hostile to strangers’, Mary continued. 
‘Well, there’s only one way to find out’ said Paul, about to knock on the door.
Ancient architecture, particularly the attractive Tudor style chimney pots, outside walls covered with ivy and creepy looking towers were the principal characteristics of this mysterious old house. The chimney pots themselves actually reminded Paul of a recent visit he had made to Hampton Court palace whilst on a holiday visit to London with friends.
On Paul’s first attempt at ringing the doorbell there was no answer, but following a second attempt the large oak-panelled door slowly began to open, creaking eerily as it did so. 
Inside the house.
Paul and Julia walked nervously into what appeared to be a most bizarre residence, followed by an even less confident Mary. 
The first items of interest were a series of mediaeval style tapestries mounted on the walls which were illuminated by 8 Victorian gas lamps. However, at this moment in time, no sign of life was to be seen anywhere within the building. 
‘This house is certainly very old’, said Julia. 
‘Yes, I would imagine possibly built in the 18th Century’, said Paul.
‘Oh, years before that’, said Mary. ‘I remember seeing that rusty plaque outside containing some Latin inscriptions, which to me gave an indication of 10th Century’. 
‘Oh look, there’s a door open, let’s have a peep inside’, said Paul.
They then entered what appeared to be a small study room, complete with writing table, pen and ink, reading lamp and typewriter. The room was heated by a log fire and the table was full of journalistic style papers with a cigarette still smouldering. 
‘Well, there’s obviously been someone working in this room recently’, said Mary. 
‘Yes, but don’t touch anything’, said Paul.
The fireplace, which was designed in an elaborate Edwardian style, particularly caught their attention. With a series of miniature golden gargoyles surrounding it, this fireplace was certainly exquisite.
Paul had also observed a large bookcase situated on the right hand side of the room, housing books by distinguished Victorian writers such as for example, Oscar Wilde and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 
They then noticed a second door which led into a dining room. On entering, Mary was quite taken up with the dining table itself as it contained two sets of 3 lighted candles at each end.
By now a strange stillness was beginning to embrace the already spine-chilling atmosphere, and if things were not bad enough for these weary travellers, they suddenly heard a loud bang, and the door in which they had entered the room had suddenly closed behind them.
‘Well’, Mary shrieked out, ‘that’ll teach us to walk into a room without invitation. What do you two propose we do now’? she asked, absolutely terrified with fear.
To make matters worse, the lights were beginning to flicker on and off too, which brought the room into semi - darkness for a good few seconds. 
There was definitely something very mysterious about this house and it soon became obvious that they had become trapped within this lonely environment, and were somehow convinced that they were not alone. Who else was present here, what was the past history of the house, were evil spirits at work, and most importantly, what was to become of this innocent trio who had originally set out on a walking expedition but had been hoping to seek salvation for the evening. 
Paul was still somewhat concerned as to why Julia offered little help towards recommending an escape route when she supposedly knew the forest so well. 
Evening
The time was now 7pm, and the door by which they had entered the room was slowly beginning to open, creaking most annoyingly as it did so. Their attention however, was now focused towards a couple of portraits which they soon discovered were perhaps representations of previous occupiers. 
The group had now been in the house for almost 1 hour. They were somewhat confident that someone else may be in there with them, but as they glanced down the passage there was still no one to be seen, no movement and no sound.
‘There must be someone else here besides us’, said Paul. ‘The front door could not just open on its own, could it’?
‘It would seem that the old vagabond we saw earlier could well have been right about this place being haunted’, said Mary. 
‘But there’s no one else here’, said Julia. 
‘We just don’t know that’, said Paul, ‘we’ve not searched the whole house yet. You two stay here whilst I go and have a look upstairs’.
‘Oh, do be careful Paul’ said Julia. ‘I’m frightened and just want to go home’. 
But were these words spoken by Julia actually sincere?
‘I will be careful, really I will’ said Paul. 
‘Calm down Julia’. ‘Remember, we’re all in this together. Are you sure you don’t want me to come up there with you Paul?’ asked Mary.
‘No, ‘said Paul, ‘you stay here with Julia. I’ll be alright by myself’.
As he began to climb the old medieval staircase, Paul began to feel an even greater sense of mystery about this house. The lighted Victorian gas lamps which were positioned all the way up the stairs revealed some fine portraits of what appeared to be images of local ancient mariners. He wondered what stories they could communicate about the modern day inhabitants of this lonely old mansion. He also noticed by the top of the stairs a fine illuminated calligraphy manuscript written in copperplate. But there was definitely something strange about this place, especially when doors kept mysteriously opening and closing. 
19.8.18
START HERE NEXT

First encounter with danger
On reaching the top of the stairs, Paul was most surprised to hear some 1940’s music coming from a room next to where he was now standing. As he nervously opened the door, he immediately came across an old fashioned gramophone in the right hand corner of the room, but once again the door suddenly closed behind him. As he ran outside of the room there was still no one around and by now he was beginning to fear for the safely of Mary and Julia who he expected were still downstairs. As he walked further down the corridor, a large figure of a man suddenly made an appearance from a side room. 
Paul suddenly found himself to be face to face with this mysterious looking stranger who was wearing a shabby black overcoat, tweed hat and gloves. 
‘Who are you, and what are you doing in this house’, asked the stranger in deep voice.
‘Well, I was just about to ask you the same question’, said Paul. 
‘Don’t be impertinent, I asked what you are doing here,’ said the big man.
Paul had literally frozen at the sight of this extraordinary individual and didn’t quite know what to say. He was literally fearing not only for his own life, but was naturally deeply concerned as to what might become of Mary and Julia. He wanted to make a run for it but suddenly found himself trapped against a door by this giant of a man who sent immediate shockwaves through Paul’s system. In fact, he was in such a nervous state of mind that it took about 2 minutes before he plucked up the courage to speak a second time, but speak he eventually did. 
‘Allow me to explain’, said Paul. ‘My wife, my sister and myself became lost in the nearby forest, so we decided to take shelter in this house for the night’, said Paul, most apprehensively. 
‘So you’re not alone’ said the mysterious character. 
‘No’, replied Paul, still shaking with fear.
‘Well, since you have entered this house under false pretences, you had better follow me’, said the stranger’.
‘What do mean under false pretences, and where are you taking me? I have already explained, we lost our way in the forest, and were just hoping to take refuge here for the night’, said Paul.
‘We’, said the stranger, ‘how many of you are there.’ 
‘As I have just said, as well as myself, my wife and sister who are downstairs’, said Paul. 
‘Come with me’, said the stranger.
Paul went along as instructed, and walked back under escort down the creepy flight of stairs. 
On his arrival back down the stairs, his companion accompanied Paul back into the same room where he had earlier left Mary and Julia, only to find that his worst nightmare had finally come true. Mary and Julia had both disappeared, and even worse, he turned round to find that he was now being held at gunpoint. 
‘My wife and sister’, asked Paul, ‘where are they?’
‘Don’t be alarmed’, said this enigmatic character, they have been taken to a safe place’.
‘What safe place?’ asked Paul, ‘I demand to know what has become of them?’
‘Calm down and all will be revealed in good time, but for now you must follow me.’
Both men were now back in the main hallway, shouting loudly at each other. This altercation between the two of them continued for several minutes.
Eventually Paul calmed down, but no sooner had he done so when he suddenly began to hear voices. 
Second encounter with danger
From a dark narrow passage under the stairs appeared Mary and Julia, both blindfolded and accompanied by another man, this one wearing dark glasses and a large brimmed hat. 
‘Thank goodness’, said Paul, giving the two of them a tight hug, ‘Are you two alright?’ 
‘Yes, we’re fine’, said Julia.
‘Oh no we’re not’, said Mary, ‘don’t talk silly Julia, we’ve been held prisoner in that broom cupboard and I demand we go home straight away’.
‘Keep quiet’, said the man wearing the dark glasses, ‘listen to what we have to say, you are not going anywhere, so don’t even think of trying to make a run for it’.
‘Do as we tell you and you will come to no harm’, said the portly
It was at this point that the two strangers introduced themselves as Ebenezer and Montague, and that they were employed as two local farmhands. 
‘What do you want from us?’ asked a nervous Paul.
‘I repeat, just listen to what we have to say,’ said Ebenezer.
‘OK, we’re listening, so get on with it’, said Mary.
‘You have been brought here because’……
‘Yes, go on’ said Mary. 
But before Ebenezer could continue, Paul made a sudden but appropriate interjection. 
‘Wait a minute, what exactly do you mean when you say we were brought here, and might I also ask by whom?’ said Paul?
‘Silence Kelly’, said Montague.
‘Hey, it’s Mr Kelly to you two villains. How do you come to know my name anyway?’ asked Paul.
‘Never mind about that’, said Montague, ‘just listen to what we have to say’.
‘Alright’, said Paul, ‘say what you will’.


The truth revealed.
‘You have been transported to this ancient house because we have good reason to believe that you have certain information relating to a former occupant by the name of Baron Melrose, who lived in this house around 10 years ago.
‘Baron Melrose, we don’t know anyone of that name and furthermore, we don’t want to know either’, said Paul. 
‘Oh, but just a minute Mr Kelly, we are both confident that you know exactly who Baron Melrose is’, said Ebenezer. 
‘I still want to know how you come to know my name’, said Paul.
‘Alright, we’ll tell you. For the past two years, Montague and I have been doing some personal research on you Mr Kelly, and following our investigations and subsequent findings, we have discovered that 10 years ago to this day a robbery took place right here in this house. 
Our explorations have consequently led us to a nearby cemetery, where we believe that a 6 team criminal gang managed to unearth an invaluable ceramic rose bowl, the price of which was at the time thought to be worth around £10,000. 
This exquisite antique bowl belonged to none other than the highly respected Baroness Melrose, wife of the late Baron Francis Melrose, Marquess of Cornwall. In his day, Baron Melrose, who passed away within these ancient walls 10 years ago, was buried in the adjacent churchyard. Baron Melrose was a very wealthy glass merchant whose business concerns were formally based in the Seville area of Spain, which is where the rose bowl in question was assumed to originate from. 
Finally, we believe that the last pieces of the jigsaw have now been unravelled, and we have at last concluded that it was you, Paul Kelly, who masterminded and subsequently arranged with your fellow collaborators to carry out this most daring of robberies’. 
‘That’s totally absurd’, said Paul, who on hearing this ridiculous accusation against him, rejected every word of it. 
Here we have an attractive Middle Eastern Rose Bowl, considered to be of special unique quality, and Paul Kelly accused of stealing it from a local graveyard. Can this be for real, one might ask? 
‘How can you be so sure that we are in possession of this bowl anyway and how did you know that we would be arriving here today’, asked Paul. ‘As I explained earlier, we ended up in this miserable old house by pure accident, having become lost in the forest with no idea how to find our way out. Also, what right and on whose authority do you have to question me in this way?’ 
‘But you were not really lost, Mr Kelly’, said Ebenezer, still wearing the sunglasses as a means of shielding his eyes. ‘We believe that you planned to return to this house with the wicked intention of re- entering the graveyard in order to steal more precious treasures from the tombs of other deceased residents’, he continued to say. 
‘What’, said Paul, ‘you’re now accusing me of stealing more treasures from tombs, why, I have never heard of such rubbish. I have the most impeccable record and would never dream of doing such a thing, my wife and Julia will both confirm that. 
However, at this moment in time, Paul’s wife was nowhere to be seen, but his sister Julia had suddenly made a long awaited re-appearance.
‘Paul, what’s going on’? She asked. 
‘Julia, thank goodness you’re back with us. Listen, these two men who you see in front of you are imposters. We’re going to find a policeman and you too mischievous criminals are coming with us’, said Paul, now as determined as ever to bring these two wrongdoers to justice. 
‘Oh, are we’, said Montague. 
‘Yes, you are’, said Paul.
‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you Paul’, said Julia.
‘Oh, what do you mean and why ever not?’ said Paul.
A visitor to the house
But before Julia was able to answer, their attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of screeching car brakes outside.
‘Listen, someone has entered the driveway’, said Mary, who had now made her return.
‘Where have you been Mary, I have been worried about you, and who can that be outside?’ Paul nervously asked. 
‘Well, I don’t know’, said Mary, delicately, seemingly to be in a kind of trance, which indicated that she may have had some kind of traumatic experience, but for now their concentration was focussed on who was about to enter the house. 
Footsteps, becoming louder by the second were heard advancing further towards the house, but the tall trees were blocking the view from the window, no therefore no-one was able to see exactly who emerged from the car. 
They then heard a key slowly begin to turn in the door and, as the group silently waited the person(s) presence, who should appear through the door but the Baroness Melrose. 
‘Who are you people and what are you doing in my house?’ the baroness naturally enquired.
‘So you are the Baroness Melrose’, said Paul, with a natural degree of nervousness. 
‘Yes, I am Baroness Melrose, but what of it, I repeat, who are you and will someone please tell me what is going on in here’, she asked.
But before anyone was able to answer, the two imposters, who had been in hiding, suddenly appeared Taking hold of a canister, they suddenly released a cloud of gas into the room before running out of the house, leaving both Paul and Mary totally breathless. 
When they regained consciousness some 20 minutes later, they found themselves to be in the room all alone. 
‘What happened?’ asked Mary, and where have Julia and the Baroness disappeared to. There was another lady here who called herself Baroness Melrose wasn’t there, or have I been dreaming?’
‘No, you were not dreaming,’ said Paul, ’but I have a splitting headache and feel as though I might have just been drugged.’ 
Paul was naturally still feeling very sleepy from this ordeal, but nevertheless managed to rush towards the door, only to find it to be locked. 
‘Oh no, the door, it’s locked again’, said Paul.
‘Let us out, let us out’, shouted Mary, but to no avail, as no one came to their assistance. 
A policeman enters the house.
As Paul reached for the window he found that also to be locked. They had now been inside this dismal room for almost 1 hour without any food or water. Eventually the door did slowly open and much to their immediate delight, a policeman was standing outside. 
‘Hello officer, thank goodness you’ve arrived’, said Paul. ‘We have been held prisoner in this old house for the best part of 2 hours by a couple of heartless criminals’.
‘Criminals sir, what did they look like and where do you think they might be now’? The policeman enquired.
‘Well, all I can say is that they rather eccentric and were dressed somewhat peculiar in outlandish clothing but I don’t know where they are now, they simply ran out of the house’, said Paul in a state of utter confusion.
‘Come on sir, I need a better description that that, were they armed at all?’ 
As Paul was doing his best to further describe these two strangers, he could not help but feel somewhat uneasy about this particular policeman. For one thing, he noticed that the policeman had no registered police number shown on his coat lapel, which somehow generated a degree of suspicion in Paul’s already apprehensive mind. But was the worst still be to come? 
As the policeman picked up the story of the disappearance of the precious rose bowl, he continued to question Paul, whilst a panic stricken Julia suddenly emerged from a secret room under the stairs. 
‘Officer, I assure you that I have done nothing wrong’, insisted Paul. ‘My sister will substantiate my innocence and will be more than happy to provide me with an excellent character reference, won’t you Julia?’
But Paul’s request was met by a sudden wall of silence.
‘Come on Julia, please say something in my defence’, said Paul. 
But Julia continued to ignore this request to speak in Paul’s favour. 
‘Sorry Paul, I’m afraid that I’ll have to admit that I have led you all the way from the village to this old house under completely false pretences’, spoke a nervous Julia. 
‘What do you mean false pretences, explain yourself Julia, whatever are you talking about for goodness sake you silly woman?’ 
‘All that matters is that you are put away behind bars for your previous terrible deeds’, said Julia.
‘Terrible deeds! What am I supposed to have done’, asked Paul, now raising his voice.
‘You had better come with me sir,’ said the policeman.
‘No, you wait just a minute. Julia, what are you up to, come on, answer me you scheming bitch’. 
‘Come along sir please’, said the policeman, ‘you are under arrest on suspicion of grave robbery’.
‘Grave robbery, whatever do you mean?’ said Paul.
‘You’ll find out soon enough’ said Julia, ‘but I can tell you one thing right away Paul. I wasn’t drugged at all, I was only play acting, but you were drugged, and you fell for it every bit of the way.’ 
‘Come along sir, please’, the policeman repeated, but suddenly he became distracted when a panic stricken Mary, accompanied by the two imposters, came back into the room.
‘Paul, so here you are’ said Mary.
‘Yes, I’m here’, said Paul, totally exasperated by this time.
The policeman appeared to be somewhat taken up with Mary.


A confrontation with the Baroness Melrose
Paul, absolutely panic stricken, now saw his opportunity to make an escape attempt. He ran out of the house and into the garden, but before he was able to reach the outside gate he found himself face - to- face with the Baroness Melrose. 
‘So it was you who stole that precious rose bowl from my deceased husband’s grave’, she said, slowly pulling out a small pistol from her handbag. ‘Come on, admit it, you thieving scoundrel. How could you even contemplate such a terrible action?’
‘Please don’t shoot, I’m innocent’, said Paul. 
‘Innocent! Oh you just try stopping me. I know all about your little game and have waited years for this moment to arrive, she said. 
‘What little game’? Paul asked.
‘You know very well the value of the rose bowl’, said the Baroness.
This dramatic altercation between Paul and the Baroness continued for several minutes, but Paul suddenly noticed that although she was still holding the gun, she did not appear to be looking directly at him. He then concluded that someone was lurking in the shadow of the trees. But who was it, he wondered? 
For a few seconds the Baroness’s attention was unexpectedly diverted as she heard the sound of a small stone being thrown to the right hand side of where they were both standing. 
It was at this moment that Paul saw his chance to snatch the gun from her hand, but on doing so he suddenly stumbled over a loose rock in the garden and subsequently fell partly over and into the large fish pond, leaving the Baroness to deal with the unexpected visitor herself who was still hiding in the trees. 
‘Who’s there’? She shouted, ‘answer me now.’
As a grim shadow began to slowly emerge from behind the trees, the baroness found herself unexpectedly facing someone who was all too familiar. The man who appeared out of the darkness was none other than her husband, whom she had assumed to be deceased. 
What on earth are you doing here?’ the Baroness asked. 
‘You obviously never expected me to turn up again did you, especially back here of all places?’ Baron Melrose said. 
‘No, I have to say that I thought you were dead,’ said the baroness nervously. 
‘Yes, but as you can see I’m very much alive. I have been listening to everything, and am here to see you brought to justice for instigating the stealing of my precious rose bowl. I saw two men running out of the house earlier. Who were they, and who were those other people who claimed to be lost in the woods? What a load of rubbish that was. I believe them to be accomplices of yours. That rose bowl was priceless and you very well know it. You and Julia were hoping to frame Paul Kelly for the theft which you planned to carry out in your own mischievous style. I see a gun in your hand, but you won’t use it, because killing is not your kind of thing, is it?’ 
‘How do you know all this?’ she asked her husband.
‘Never mind how I know’, said her husband. ‘As I said, I want justice, and won’t be satisfied with anything less.’ 
‘That’s enough’, said the Baroness, ‘you are nothing to me now and I am not afraid to use this gun if I have to’. 
I don’t think you will’, said the Baron, walking closer to his wife.
‘Don’t come any further’, she said. 
Whilst the baron advanced closer towards his wife, she continued to walk backwards and away from him, taking herself step by step further into the forest. With the gun still firmly in her hand and pointed directly at her husband, another shot was suddenly heard, but it was not baron Melrose who had been hit, surprisingly it was his wife. 
Unbeknown to anyone, Paul always carried a pistol with him, and on seeing that the baroness was about to commit attempted murder, Paul decided that enough was enough and it was time for him to take drastic action. Just a single shot and the Baroness was laid on the ground. The police had already been called and the criminals were quickly apprehended and taken away for some lengthy questioning. 

In conclusion
In his younger days Baron Melrose had become quite infatuated with a 24 year old Spanish gypsy girl by the name of Michaela, the younger daughter of a highly respected Basque nobleman and business associate living in Zaragoza in the Aragon region of Spain.
On a number of occasions during their relationship, the baron had irresponsibly discussed the value of a beautifully decorated glass engraved Middle Eastern Rose bowl, the possession of which he had himself acquired from a commercial contact in Cairo. The baron had also talked about a possible transfer of ownership to an Italian foreign investor.
When the affair abruptly ended, Michaela returned to live back in her former Spanish roots where she met an English girl by the name of Julia Rheims, a student of Spanish flamenco dancing who lived nearby. Julia was the sister of Mary Rheims, who had since married Paul Kelly, an English stockbroker who lived in Cheshire. 
However, like many of her travelling associates, this gypsy had an evil streak in her blood and was out to avenge her former lover who she blamed for the ending of their relationship. There were several options open for her, one of which was to reveal the secrets of the precious rose bowl. She knew that she would never be able to have the bowl for herself, but on discovering that Julia and the Baron’s new wife were planning to steal it, Michaela very quickly developed the idea of placing a sinister gypsy curse on anyone who attempted to take possession of it. 
With Julia as her main accomplice, the Baroness had learned that Paul and his wife regularly went for a walk in the nearby forest close to where they lived. Julia frequently walked with them, but on this particular evening her recommendation that their walk should follow a different route was for nothing other than illicit purposes. Paul and his wife were both in agreement with this change of plan, and a delighted Julia was much comforted by the fact that, on taking them right into the heart of the forest at night, neither of them would have any idea as to how to find their way out and back home again. They would become totally lost in the vastness of the woodland. 
For the plan to succeed, Julia led the two of them to an old country manor house which she had carefully selected herself. Her fellow collaborators would be waiting for further instructions on her arrival. However, little did they realise that they had accidentally fallen for the gypsy’s curse, and their wicked plans were destined to fail. 
The Baroness and Julia had been the main instigators of the plot, with the policeman and the two strangers acting as sidekicks in this carefully planned and very daring robbery.


Final consideration, 

When darkness falls, the power and strength of gypsy blood appears, where evil forces are lurking around every corner. 
Stephen Davis
Date story created: 3.1.2015
Words: 5,681