In May, I will have the honor of being the Author Guest of Honor at Morphicon in Columbus, Ohio. I have been asked to write a short fantasy story leading up the convention that will be published monthly in their newsletter. One month after the story has been published, I will release each chapter here publicly.
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
When my old friend, Robert DeMolay called to say he had inherited a house, I at first suspected an April Fool’s joke.
Evidently a lawyer for an obscure relative had searched high and low for the nearest relative of the deceased. Robert told me his sudden benefactor was a great uncle that he had never met and, as Robert was an only child with both parents deceased, it appeared ownership of Yew Manor was now his.
My friend told me that he would like me to accompany him to inspect the property. I immediately agreed, but knowing Robert’s style of driving, I also offered to drive.
After making phone calls to ensure that first, my employer, and then my fiancé approved of my sudden vacation, I loaded a hastily-packed suitcase in my 1964 Volkswagen Beetle and made the normal thirty-minute drive to Robert's apartment in twenty-five. Robert had already inked out our journey on a roadmap from Baltimore, Maryland to Yew Manor outside of Columbus, Ohio. He estimated a journey of eight hours not counting stops.
"So tell me," I said, as I settled back into the driver’s seat, "What are the particulars of this specific windfall?"
In the confines of my Volkswagen, Robert sprawled his lanky frame over the passenger seat. He scratched at his thinning blonde hair and shrugged.
"When we reach the house, my uncle's lawyer will be there and give me more information. I have no desire to move to Columbus, so I'm expecting a quick turnaround dumping the property on the market.
“You know me. Misogynist bachelor. Dedicated hermit. I’m happy in my apartment so after I get all the papers signed, we’ll return to Baltimore immediately."
The journey to Ohio passed without incident, but as we approached Yew Manor even Robert began to sit up and take notice at the sudden change of scenery as Ohio's flat, farming landscape gave way to a large forest of what had to be first growth timber.
Concerned that I might have taken a wrong turn, with a quick check of the map, my friend assured me that we were on the right track.
“Make a right at the next intersection,” he said. “The lawyer told me it was marked with a Private Property sign.”
Having a morbid fear of being lost I was delighted when we found the road as described. Fifty feet further, we encountered a large, ornate, iron gate blocking the path with a late-model Studebaker parked next to it.
As I slowly brought my own car to a stop, a dignified gentleman opened the Studebaker's front door and raised his hand in welcome.
Robert opened his own door. Standing and stretching the kinks from his muscles, he nodded at the man. "Are you Mr. Franks?" he asked.
"Yes, and it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. DeMolay,” he said with a smile. "I trust you had a good trip?"
"I brought a good friend to keep me company," Robert said. "May I present to you, David Sanders.” The lawyer and I exchanged a friendly handshake.
"Yew Manor is right up the road," the lawyer explained. "Please follow me in your car."
From his pocket, the lawyer produced a key and opened the gate as Robert and I returned to our car.
As we drove into sight of Yew Manor, both of us gasped in surprise. A three-story mansion in the Georgian style of architecture appeared amidst the trees bordered on the front and sides with a manicured lawn.
The road we followed split into a circle that led to the manor’s ornate portico. Entranced by the sight of Robert’s new home, I would have run into the back end of the lawyer’s Studebaker if my friend had not hastily brought my attention back to my driving.
Getting out of our car we continued to stare at a mansion maintained in a state of perfection.
The lawyer held out his hand, more keys dangling from his fingertips. "The will specifically states that I do not have permission to enter the home. As the arbiter of your late great uncle's will, I hereby turn over ownership of Yew Manor to you. The will states that your great uncle left instructions and a personal note for whoever inherited his estate. You will find them in the den which I believe is behind the second door to the right as you enter the front room."
Leaving us with his business card and the assurance that he would always be at our disposal, he got into his car and left us in front of the mansion.
"Amazing," I said. "Can you believe your fortune?"
Robert shook his head in stunned disbelief. "I must be dreaming," he whispered.
"Then it’s the first time two people experienced the same dream," I said.
Robert made his way up the steps to the front door and, after finding the right key, he swung the door open into an architectural style from years long gone.
The polished floor glistened from the chandelier. A sweeping staircase led up into the second floor. Closed doors stood on both sides of the room.
Robert shook his head. "I feel like a child on Christmas morning."
“Maybe not Christmas yet,” I said. I pointed at the second door to the right. "As the old cliché goes, let's not count our chickens before they hatch. Your great-uncle might have some serious restrictions on your inheritance."
The door opened into a small den revealing a décor of oak, mahogany, and black leather furnishings from the late 19th century. A large polished wooden desk dominated the back of the room, and the view from the large windows provided an artist’s perspective on the small garden outside. Behind the desk, recessed bookshelves featured leather-bound volumes and various knickknacks.
The top of the desk was empty with the exception of a large sealed envelope.
Eagerly, Robert tore the envelope open while I satisfied my curiosity with the bookshelf.
"My God!" I said in stunned surprise. "Robert, what is this?"
I pointed to a small framed photograph featuring an elderly man and a female companion standing side-by-side in front of Yew Manor. The companion stood clothed in a yellow sundress, its only human aspect.
Robert stood next to me and shook his head in surprise. "That looks too detailed to be a costume. It must be trick photography. Rabbit women do not exist. "
Behind us, a feminine voice spoke.
"I assure you that no trick photography was involved. Your uncle’s secretary was my mother.”