Butlers and Suitors and Murder, Oh My!
Rain falls in a dreary drizzle, causing Miss Young to step closer to her long-time friend, Mr. Braxton. I watch closely as he pats her on the back. She curls in on herself, tears running down her cheeks just as the rain runs down the windows of the estate behind us.
“Alexander Young was a fine man. A hero of much renown, who saved too many to count from the unknown.” The preacher had been droning on for too long. I shoot him a hard look, but he doesn’t notice.
I sigh. Alexander Young, my master, is dead. Killed by an unknown force and found lying on the stone stairs leading up to the house. Some refuse to see the occult, but I know better.
So does Miss Young, which is why I wonder that she is standing so close to Mr. Braxton. Everyone knows there is something amiss about him. Any sane person can feel it as they walk by. A chill in the air. Fear rising up your spine.
Why doesn’t Miss Young feel it?
“We now lay thee to rest, Alexander Young, son of William Young, may you rest in peace, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
I almost snort. Unless God awards those that seek out evil, then Mr. Young is not going to rest in any kind of peace.
Miss Young dissolves into tears as the wooden box is lowered into the ground. Mr. Braxton puts his arm around her to comfort her.
How can she not feel it? Looking at Mr. Braxton straight on is like tracking a shadow in the dark. One second it is there, and the next it has slipped away so you have to find it again. He pushes your attention off of him. It makes me feel dirty. And angry.
Yet I cannot show my distress. I straighten and clear my throat. “Miss, we should get you inside.”
She nods, sniffs, and raises her head from Mr. Braxton’s shoulder. “Yes. Of course.”
I hold out my hand for her. It is not entirely custom for a servant to escort a young lady, but since I am the closest thing to family she has, I take the responsibility upon myself. She slowly disentangles herself from Mr. Braxton, before she gives him a smile and murmurs something in his ear. He nods, then hands her over to me.
In all the years that my family has served the Youngs, we have learned many things. First and foremost is to always keep a stony exterior. Miss Young slips her fingers into my palm, and my facade shivers. Even though I cannot feel the warmth of her hands through her damp gloves, a bright light heats my stomach, and the small smile she gives me pushes everything else away.
I bow to cover my reaction, then straighten and lead Miss Young up the stone stairs, through the heavy wooden door and into the house.
The entryway rises to a sweeping ceiling, held up by carved pillars. Large windows let in what little light comes from the day outside. Several lanterns hang from the ceiling, giving out a dull, orange glow.
The door shuts behind us, compressing the air and cutting off the solace of the world.
I stop, loathe to let go of the fingers in my grasp, but do so after only a moment’s hesitation. Now is not the time. I hold my hands out and gesture to her coat. “May I?”
She stares at me, as if she isn’t sure how to respond. Trembling hands reach to loose the hat from her hair. The rain hasn’t penetrated through, and her golden tresses remain lying in piles of luscious curls on her head. I take the hat when she offers it to me and wait for the coat.
I revel in the time it takes her to unbutton the front, taking in every movement. Every hint of the woman beneath. When she is finished, she reveals the slender figure beneath, clothed in layers of drab fabric—fitting for a grieving young lady.
What am I thinking? I shake my head and remove the coat from her shoulders when she turns.
“Thank you, Kane.” She turns back and puts a hand on my arm. “You have been a great support to me.”
I nod, unable to coax my vocal cords into making a coherent sound.
“My father would be grateful.”
I must respond. “Anything you need, my lady.”
It is only then that the traumatized, pale expression on Miss Young’s face slides away, revealing a small smirk and a glimmer in her eyes. She holds her hand, palm up, revealing a single hair. “I took this from Mr. Braxton.”
I blink. “You did what?”
“What better way to find out what he is?” Suddenly filled with energy, she picks up her sodden skirt and walks past me. The click of her boots echo through the house. “We both know he killed my father. He suspects you, even if you have that horrid haircut and wear your mustache askew on purpose.”
After a moment I follow Miss Young down the stairs into her father’s laboratory. She drops the hair into a round dish and moves to start a fire. “Come, Kane, we have much to do.”