I thought in today’s blog I would return again to my horror novel ‘Evil Deeds’ and provide another excerpt from it. The following passage has Ellen Franklin coming across her husband’s lifeless form following his barbaric murder at the hands of Robert Jacobs the land agent:
20th September, 1847.
It had been a desperate discovery which Ellen Franklin had made as she finished the row of potato seeds which she was planting. For as she looked up from completing this endeavour, she could see no sign of her husband.
‘Where’s he gone off to?’ she wondered. ‘He wouldn’t have just disappeared without telling me where he’s gone. And if he’d come back to the house, I would have been sure to have heard him. How odd! Whatever is he up to? But, wait. What’s that I see in that field over there. Why, that’s the very one he was working in a few moments ago. It’s a strange-looking object that’s there now, but I can’t quite make out what it is. It’s almost like a….like a…body…that’s’….”James!!!”
The sight of a man lying prone in a field some distance away had set her mind whirring in a confusing, transfixing turmoil of agitation. It couldn’t be, could it? ‘Oh, please God,’ she had prayed as fervently as any prayer she had ever offered up in the course of her life. ‘Please don’t let that be James, I beg of you.’
But despite her beseeching, almost wailing pleas to her great saviour, it was indeed her husband who lay motionless on the ground as she approached. As Ellen neared his body, she felt a shiver of apprehension course through her own frame. Why was James’s head covered in that red colour. Almost like paint. But no, that’s not paint, that’s blood!
“Oh no! Don’t let this be happening!” Ellen roared in a deeply anguished tone. Running over to her husband and kneeling down beside him, she pushed him over so he was staring directly skywards. Or at least he would have been if he had been alive. But then the last vestiges of the mortal James Franklin had departed his body the moment Robert Jacobs had heaved back his cane and clattered repeated blows on his cranium.
Tears now streamed down the woman’s face as the magnitude of her discovery slowly hit home. She had lost a rare man in her husband and her children had lost a wonderful father. But who had done this terrible deed? she wondered. Who had it been that had robbed the family of its guiding light?
It was just as these haunting thoughts were running through her mind that she heard a scamper of urgent feet and shrieking exclamations from behind her. She turned round and to her horror found her children standing over her. It was with much grief that the three children nestled down in their mother’s arms.
Only a few days before, the whole family had shared an embrace in Emily’s room. Now, the family numbered four, not five. James Franklin would no longer share any embraces with his family, for he had gone on to pastures new.
This scene had been played out two days previously and the memory of that horrifying occasion now took the time to tug at poor Ellen’s heartstrings. Oh, what it was to be a widow at such a comparatively young age! And to lose a dear husband in such a tragic and brutal way.
Since James’s death, Ellen had moved heaven and earth to seek out the villain who had left the family even more destitute than before. Oh yes, before they had been poorly off. But at that stage it had only been financially. Now they had to suffer a dreadful emotional hardship.
For losing a husband and a father was far more serious to the stability of the family than losing a home and a living. The last two ills could be remedied by the prescription available from any notable landowner. These positively abounded throughout the country. Hardly an acre existed throughout the far-flung land of the British Isles in which such a personage did not reside. But how do you ever recover from losing someone who was so close to you in heart and body that you felt when he died you also lost the fight for life? That is not an easy position to be in and Ellen felt the loss of her husband far more than words could ever say.
But life had to go on. And to allow the Franklins to forget the past and try to move on into a brighter future, Ellen felt it was imperative the guilty party was found. She must locate the culprit responsible for cutting her husband’s life off in its prime.
But where was this personage to be found? Ellen searched high and low for clues to his identity. She asked around in the nearby farms. Had anyone witnessed the violent act of James’s death? Could anybody come forward and point out the guilty party to her?
The answer to both these questions seemed to be in the negative until she came by some very interesting information. It was Alfred Mayhew, a nearby farmer who had been a valued friend to James who came forward with these details. He had noticed Robert Jacobs, the hated land agent, walking past his farmland on the day of James’s murder and had furthermore noticed he was headed in the direction of the Franklin property.
He had thought at the time that Jacobs was just tying up the loose ends of James’s contractual obligations to Sir Edward and so didn’t think much of it. However, since hearing of the savage nature of James’s death, he felt that the land agent had had something altogether more sinister on his mind as he had strode in that even measured stride of his in the direction of his intended victim.
This item of supposed evidence did not completely convince Ellen of the man’s guilt, despite the fact that she was well acquainted with the thinly-veiled hostility which co-existed between her dead husband and the land agent.
“But James’s injuries, Alfred. Did you not hear of the heavy bruises and cuts that were to be found all over his face and head? How could this have been done by such a one as Jacobs? For he was certainly not a match for my husband physically. Where James was robust, muscular and as tough as nails, Jacobs is of a slighter build altogether. How then, could such a man have caused the damage you say he did? Besides, it appeared from the heavy nature of James’s facial injuries that he had been bludgeoned to death. Where would Jacobs have acquired a heavy club or any other deadly weapon? A man in his lofty position in the district would not be likely to be noticed in public wielding such a dangerous instrument.”
“No, I grant you, Ellen,” Alfred had been quick to agree. “That is most unlikely, but then he had no need of such a conspicuous tool to commit his grisly trade. Why, he had the very thing in his hand when I saw him walking in the direction of your property on that very untimely and sad day.”
“Then why didn’t you stop him, if it was so obvious that he was meaning to do harm?” Ellen was visibly frothing with venom at what she clearly viewed as Alfred’s lack of support for her husband. She couldn’t understand why such a close friend would turn his back on another in such a way. What possible reason could he have for acting so hypocritically?
At this point, Alfred had raised a hand to acknowledge Ellen’s words. “Yes, I have no doubt you view me in a very bad light just at the moment. But I can assure you that all is not as it seems. For you see I have good reason to maintain that I had no preconceived notion that this Jacobs fellow meant your husband any harm…”
“But how can you say that? Surely it must have been obvious from all you have said!”
“Indeed, it was nothing of the sort, I assure you! However, if you do not mind my saying so and with all due consideration at what must be a very distressing time for you, the tool which Jacobs used for his heinous deed should be all too obvious to you.”
Ellen had looked astonished at receiving this testimony by Alfred of the land agent’s guilt. “But I don’t understand,” she returned with a snarl. “How could it have been obvious to me? You seem to forget, I did not see Jacobs approach my husband, nor did I thank God, witness the savagery of James’s death.”
“No, that would most certainly appear to be the case. But please, Ellen, do not think badly of me for my apparent scepticism with regard to your person. I only say you should be aware of the weapon which the ruffian used because Jacobs is known to go nowhere without it. For it is as much a part of him as his embittered character, his feeling of superiority over us farmers and of his sophisticated appearance.”
“Whatever do you mean? Why, he carries nothing around that…”
Suddenly, Ellen cut herself off as a realisation struck her with the same force as if she herself had been on the receiving end of a bludgeoning blow.
“Oh, my Lord!” she whispered in barely disguised horror at the truth her husband’s farming compatriot had unearthed on the subject of James’s murderer. “You’re right! He did have his weapon on his person all the time. You’re talking about that infernal cane he always carries around with him. The one he seems to think gives him a measure of aristocratic charm. Of course, nothing would be able to hide the fact that he is a working class man like yourself with ideas above his station.”