Drury manor volume 1, p.1
Drury Manor: Volume 1, p.1
By George Esler
Copyright 2014 George Esler
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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody.
Table of Contents
Note to the Reader
Episode 1: Henry’s Punishment
Episode 2: Helen’s Gambit
Episode 3: Seth’s Fall
Episode 4: Henry’s Favor
The Story Continues
Other Books by George Esler
Connect with George Esler
Note to the Reader
The following story originally appeared on my blog in a serialized format, with new installments posted weekly. It has been compiled here for the first time as a single novella. This eBook contains Episodes 1-4. If you wish to continue reading Episode 5 and beyond, you may view my blog to find those. Additional compilations will be made available in eBook formats like this one upon completion of future episodes. Check out my website for the latest news and information about future installments.
I wasn’t exactly in the best of moods when I finally laid eyes on Drury Manor, so my first impression could hardly be called objective. Even so, I immediately hated and distrusted the place, particularly the way it loomed against the backdrop of the night sky and sneered down at us. Uncle Milton guided the black Mercedes along the twisted drive that led up to the old estate, past rows of gnarled trees and chipped gray statues. It was all I could do to unclench my jaw and let down my shoulders. Uncle Milton would scold me if I broadcast my disdain so openly.
After we traversed what felt like many miles of winding path, we pulled near the front of the house and Uncle Milton killed the engine. The driveway made a horseshoe shape around a cracked fountain, and despite the dark I could tell it had not seen use in many years. The leather seat creaked under my uncle as he turned to face me; I sensed his gaze on me but I continued to stare out the window as though utterly fascinated by the inky blackness of night that surrounded us.
He cleared his throat. “This isn’t a punishment, Henry. You understand that, right?”
“Is that what you tell yourself?” I muttered.
“Damn it,” he said. “You don’t have to make this so difficult. I know you feel like your whole life is over. But you’re only sixteen years old. In another sixteen years you’ll hardly remember or care about any of this.”
His eyes searched me up and down for any sign of acknowledgment, but I determined to stare out the windshield and not give him the satisfaction. Finally he looked away, agitated, and I chanced a sidelong glance in his direction.
He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, looking much older than his forty years. I could swear his face picked up a few extra lines on the drive here. Even his hairline looked like it receded farther back on his head. I didn’t wait for his next peacemaking attempt, but rather threw open my door and stepped out into the all-encompassing night. A chill bit my exposed flesh and I pulled my coat tighter about my neck.
A wide, steep stairway led up to a massive column-supported portico. A lanky man, who I took for the butler, waited there with his hands clasped behind him, chest puffed out, head cocked back, staring down the length of his nose at us. A frail-looking boy of about twelve stood farther back, half-hidden from view.
The butler descended the steps. He never quite looked directly at me. I only had one bag, which he hefted over his shoulder without question, as though he was well accustomed to carrying things.
“Evening.” The butler nodded at Uncle Milton and then started back up toward the portico. We followed at a short distance.
I had a few moments to appreciate the sheer size of the mansion. There were dozens of windows, balconies everywhere, and sloping eaves jutting out high over my head. The limestone surface of the walls drank up what little light there was, and an aura of sadness hovered over the place, like a pouting child who had been denied the love of his parents.
My skin prickled and I stopped short. Something didn’t feel right. Actually, nothing about tonight felt right, but this sensation went beyond that. It was as if a sinister gaze had locked onto me, telegraphing itself, wanting me to feel it. The flesh of my spine tingled as though a critter with hairy, undulating legs crept along my flesh. I scanned the rows of windows, but it would have been impossible to tell if a person loitered within any of those darkened frames. The feeling passed as abruptly as it came. I pushed my fear aside and tried to trudge along as though nothing had happened.
I glanced back at the fountain. I don’t know why. Something about it just demanded another look. I stared at the cracked, peeling stone structure. Perched atop it, like a grim gargoyle defending its keep, loomed a statue, sculpted in the likeness of a child angel. It had the most horrendous wide-eyed expression carved onto its face, like it had been frozen in a moment of complete and utter terror. Those eyes seemed to stare right at me, warning me. I shivered, collected my bearings, and went on my way.
The butler whisked us inside to a wide circular foyer, where he set down my bags. I followed him past a winding staircase, through a set of double glass-paned doors, and down a short corridor that opened into a spacious sitting room. A fire crackled and popped in one corner, bathing the room in its soft orange glow.
“Master Esau will see you momentarily,” the butler said, and slipped from the room so fluidly that he might have never been there at all.
The young boy remained with us. He stepped forward, licked his lips, and shuffled uncertainly from one foot to the other. Uncle Milton did his best impression of a friendly face, offering a stiff smile that did little to soften his gruff demeanor.
“What is your name?” Uncle Milton said.
A brief hesitation followed. Then, in a soft croak, the boy answered.
I sank into a recliner beneath a picture window through which only inky blackness could be seen. A sofa ran along the opposite wall. Thick tomes with old-fashioned binding rested along both of the two bookshelves. Paintings adorned the walls, each depicting a scene from nature in subdued hues.
Trevor turned his attention to me. “What’s your name?”
“No offense kid, but I’m not interested in being your friend.” I folded my arms over my chest and watched the flames lick the edges of the fireplace.
“Henry, be polite,” Uncle Milton scolded.
Undeterred, Trevor came and sat on the sofa across from me, his expression eager. The glow of the fire brought out the freckles on his face and caused his red hair to look ablaze.
“I can’t wait to show you around,” he said.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Uncle Milton watching me, so I nodded and smiled, looking Trevor full in the eye. My uncle seemed satisfied with that response, and he crossed the room to peer at the volumes on the shelf. He craned his neck, gazing intently. He all but forgot that we existed. I knew that feeling from experience.
Trevor waited until he was confident that Milton was no longer paying attention to us. Then the boy turned back to me. A smile played at his lips, and his entire wispy frame virtually pulsated with a wave of excitement. He leaned closer, as if to share a big secret.
“You know this place used to be an orphanage, right?” he whispered.
“A long time ago. Before my dad was even born. And he’s old.” Trevor giggled at his own lame joke. I waited for him to continue, even though I wasn’t particularly interested. The mirth melted from his features and he got that animated look in his eyes again. “When we get upstairs, I’ll show you where their rooms were. The orphans, I mean.”
“Great.” I didn’t care if Trevor noticed me rolling my eyes. He gave no indication one way or the other. Uncle Milton was still in his own world, clearly engrossed in his perusal of the books on the shelf.
The gleam in Trevor’s eyes became colder. He licked his lips and then ran his tongue along the line of his teeth. From the floor above, I distinctly heard the pitter patter of little feet. Judging from the sound of it, several small children were playing up on the second floor. Trevor’s eyes fixated on the ceiling and then he stole another glance at me.
“Like I said, I'll show you where they lived. And if they like you, they might even let me show you where they died.”
Unless I was mistaken, Trevor had just informed me that if a group of dead orphans decided they liked me, they might allow him to show me where they died.
I don’t know what I would have said to him had the door to the sitting room not creaked open at
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