Burleigh Hall

This is one of the two stories I wrote for my writer’s group for our Hallowe’en session. I don’t massively like horror so I found it hard to write anything at all, but hopefully this will be suitably chilling, even if it’s several weeks too late. There’ll be an update on all my writing and plans soon!

The following are sections from the diary of Detective Inspector James Miller, who was investigating a triple homicide at Burleigh Hall in Surrey. The entries have not been tampered with in any way and nothing has been changed in translating them from the original source to this publication.

Wednesday 28th October 1964

We got the old hall about four in the afternoon, after a drive of around an hour and a half. The hall itself is confined within the centre of a large wood, which circles almost all the house, except for the lake on the south east side. The hall is accessible from the road network only by a long dirt track, which winds through the trees and is wide enough for only one vehicle at a time. The hall itself is a mish mash of the original 13th century building and the conversion builds of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. This gives the hall a rather sinister character, though this was probably heightened by the dimming sun at the time of arrival, the overgrown garden of twisted and tangled weeds, the encroaching forest and the three victims hanging naked from nooses attached to the main porch, twisting slowly in the breeze. More than one constable emptied his stomach at that sight and I would have joined them, but we must keep up appearances.

The usual evidence procedures were followed and the house thoroughly searched. The victims were identified as Mrs Jane Browning, 52, Miss Emilia Browning, 25, and Miss Catherine Granger, 26. Each had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest and back, with claw marks across much of their bodies. The three women had come to Burleigh Hall with Mr Adam Browning, a writer who had recently bought the place for a song at auction. Of him, there was no sign and naturally presumption of the crime fell upon him. This suspicion was later heightened by the discovery that Miss Catherine Granger had been pregnant at the time of her death. Detective Sergeant Rickman insists that the baby was the writer’s and that the revelation caused him to slaughter both the mother of his child and his wife of thirty years. The murder of the daughter, Emilia Browning, seems to have come later according to the evidence, and this may represent a desire to silence any possible witnesses.

I disagree with Sergeant Rickman’s theory, however. It is useless to speculate on guesses at any rate, but it seems unlikely to me that a man looking to silence a witness would then hang all three victims out on the porch after killing them. This grisly display was the work of someone who intended the crime to come to light, and likely is the same person who provided the local constabulary with the anonymous tip off.

In the search of the house, a number of trunks and boxes were found, demonstrating that the family had moved in some of their possessions in the first instance and were likely awaiting delivery of the rest. There was also a large collection of valuable items – gold plates, goblets, jewellery, and precious gems, which was found under the bed in the master bedroom. Its presence may indicate some kind of struggle over the valuables, but I am unwilling to commit myself until the master of the house is found.

A man hunt was initiated in order to capture him and local constabulary advised to be on the look out. I determined that the man was likely to return to the house to retrieve the treasure and so have set up a rudimentary camp here, with other officers stationed in the small village nearby. Having them close at hand might be safer, but I do not want to have a large police presence and so ruin the trap before it’s sprung.

All there is to do is smoke and read. I found the diary of the seventeenth century owner of the hall, Lord Abraham Burleigh, the last of his family line. The entries grow more and more erratic after the premature death of his wife, Lady Elizabeth. If you ask me, he murdered her in a fit of rage and then regretted it after. I’ve seen that a dozen times. I had to stifle a laugh towards the end when he writes that the servants bells all range at once and then she walked in through the drawing room wall, clad in a raiment of darkness.

I stretched out for bed and thanked God we live in more enlightened times.

Thursday 29th October 1964

Still no sign of Adam Browning, but there have been sightings in the surrounding countryside. One officer had his hand on the man’s coat, but Browning slipped it off and ran away into the forest. He’s close by, I can feel it. I heard the front door open and close last night, but there was no sign of anyone by the time I’d got there. Something clearly spooked him. I’ve decided to stay a bit longer, maybe he’ll get brave again.

I made to call the constables in from the village to search the place again, but the telephone line was dead and I doubt I’d be able to find my way in the dark. I’ll go down tomorrow and ask them to come in discretely.

Friday 30th October 1964

The door out of the bedroom was locked when I tried it this morning. I can get into the bathroom next door, but there are no other doors out and the windows have been barred to stop vandals. The gold is still here, though. Why would Browning lock the door and not take the treasure? If he did kill the women, why leave me alive?

I was woken in the early hours by footsteps outside the room. I peered through the keyhole and saw shadows pass by, though I couldn’t make out who it was. The steps seem hardly heavy enough to belong to a man. The phones still don’t work. The radio is dead. I shan’t sleep tonight.

Saturday 31st October 1964

I managed to drift off around midday and woke again at about seven in the evening. The radio was still dead, but I managed to get a line over the telephone. The constables should be here to let me out in an hour or so.

There are bells ringing in one of the rooms below. There are faces in the wall. Jane, Emilia, Catherine, Elizabeth forgive me.

I’m sorry. I’m so very so-

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