Why had no-one ever …

Today’s writing prompt and my response.

Day six and the last of this week’s challenge. The story starts here.
Why had no-one ever mentioned Mum’s twin?

Dirk and Hilary talked late into the night. Dirk didn’t understand why the police or any other authorities, hadn’t become involved, or why the press hadn’t turned up.

‘I guess no one knows, with no one leaving or arriving.’

‘Except me, and that was only through sheer dogged persistence.’ Dirk grimaced and Hilary laughed.

Her laughter nagged at him. There was something about her – the way she moved her hands, certain expressions, which reminded him of someone. He couldn’t think who, and in any case, there were more important things to think about.

‘I’d like to go back tomorrow,’ Hilary said. ‘Go to my house and see what’s been going on.’ She looked at Dirk. ‘You don’t have to get involved. You can drop me off and go home, wherever home is.’

Dirk found the idea tempting, but he also felt protective towards Hilary, having rescued her. ‘Let’s see in the morning. I’m bushed, need some sleep.’

The morning brought sunshine, and a surprise. Their hostess, who had put away her snootiness once Hilary was cleaned up, greeted them at breakfast with a smile.

She poured coffees for them, asking, ‘Have you been outside yet?’

Dirk’s heart gave a leap. ‘You mean …?’

‘Yes. The boot has gone, and The Boot is back. Welcome!

Large country hotel

‘It’s over?’ Hilary was already out of her chair and heading to the front door. Dirk followed.

Outside, they discovered a large, olde worlde, ivy-clad hotel, with a gravelled drive, sprawling neat gardens, and a large sign bearing the name and a picture of … Dirk blinked.

‘Yes,’ Hilary said.

The sign’s image was that of the boot they had seen when they arrived.

‘Whatever it is, or hopefully was, that caused all this, it preys on people’s minds.’ She clasped her hands – another gesture which sent vague recognition waves through Dirk’s mind. ‘Quick breakfast and then back to town?’

On the drive back, Dirk tuned the car radio to the local news, where Landharwich was the only topic. According to reporters, the whole town had suffered a kind of Rip van Winkle effect, with people waking up to find themselves in street doorways rather than their beds, and not remembering anything at all.

‘You remember,’ Dirk said.

Hilary hmmmd. ‘Perhaps you got me out in time.’

How this had happened was beyond anyone’s knowledge, although a variety of theories -primarily aliens and/or government mass drug experiments – were mooted and ‘specialists’ were already digging for evidence.

Dirk recalled Google’s insistence that he turn around as soon as was convenient. Google knew, and he was sure someone would ask it at some point.

Hilary directed Dirk to her house. She got out of the car, pointed to the windows, grinned. ‘The curtains are open. It’s a start.’

The house was also locked. Using a spare, hidden key, Hilary let Dirk in. He was happy to stay with her as she explored each room …

‘Hilary!’ Dirk stared at a photo on the living room fire’s mantelpiece. ‘Why do you have a photo of my mother? Where did you get it from?’

Hilary frowned. ‘That’s my mother.’ She picked up the photo. ‘Does she look like yours?’

‘Not look like, she’s identical, they could be twins.’

Dirk’s brain jolted. Hilary’s familiar gestures, her tone of voice, her laugh. ‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘where did your mother come from? What’s her story?’

An hour or so and two cups of black coffee later, Dirk had it sorted. ‘A twin! Why had no-one ever mentioned Mum’s twin?’ He shook his head. ‘Families!’

Hilary smiled. ‘And it seems,’ she said, ‘you and I are family. Cousins.’ She gave him a cousinly hug, stood back. ‘Do you know, the way we found each other is even more weird than what’s happened in Landharwich. Don’t you think?’

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3 thoughts on “Why had no-one ever …”

  1. When she arrived home the front door was wide open and several police were standing in the hallway.
    “What’s going on?” inquired Sue Thompson anxiously as she brushed past a young constable.
    “Sorry, miss, but you can’t come in here – it’s a crime scene,” he said.
    “But it’s my home, and what do you mean it’s a crime scene?” Her voice was becoming shriller by the second.
    “There’s a young woman in the lounge room and she has been murdered,” he replied, his voice deliberately devoid of emotion.
    “Oh no!” Sue screamed and the hallway began to swim as she crashed to the floor unconscious.
    When she awoke a few minutes later, an ambulance paramedic was fussing over her. “You all right, miss,” he asked. “You’ve had a bit of a nasty shock.”
    “What happened? Where am I?”
    “Your home, miss. Don’t you remember?”
    The events of the last few minutes came flooding back. A young woman in the lounge room – murdered. Could only be her sister Elisa. After all, she was the only other person who lived here.
    Sue struggled to her feet and, before anyone could stop her, rushed to the lounge room. Sure enough, there was the lifeless body of her older sister lying grotesquely on the floor and, from what she could observe, brutally strangled.
    Sue collapsed once more, anguished sobs wracking her slim body. How could this happen? Who could have possibly done this? The house was very secure, deadlocks on every door and window, not at all easy to break in.
    After about half an hour, Sue had recovered sufficiently well enough to talk to the police.
    What time did Elisa normally come home? Did she have any enemies? Was there someone who might have held a grudge?
    Elisa was a teacher, she told them, and normally home by 4.30pm every day from the nearby primary school where she taught fifth grade. She was very popular with both students and teachers alike and had no enemies, nor anyone with a grudge against her, Sue said – at a total loss as to why anyone would wish her harm.
    “Might have been a break in,” the interviewing detective suggested. “Perhaps when you feel better you can check to see if anything is missing.”


    Sue found herself aimlessly wandering in the shadows of Manhattan Bridge. So many homeless people, she didn’t even know where to start searching.
    After the police left, she carefully examined drawers and closets for any missing items – and the only possession she couldn’t find was an expensive diamond necklace, a family heirloom that Elisa had inherited from their mother.
    It had always been kept safely locked in a steel safe at the back of her sister’s wardrobe, but, when Sue checked, the safe door was ajar and the necklace gone. A ragged old scarf was beside the safe, no doubt dropped by the thief before he left.
    Sue could only surmise that somehow the man had broken into their home while they were both at work and Elisa had surprised him when she returned home after school. She could only imagine her sister’s horror at finding the thief in her bedroom and the terrible struggle that must have ensued as she tried to escape and call for help.
    Sue closed her eyes as she continued her wanderings, trying desperately to shut out the memory of Elisa lying stone cold on the lounge room floor.
    The ragged scarf she vaguely recognised. She had seen it on a homeless man near the Manhattan Bridge only a few days earlier while on her way to work.
    Before she informed the police of her find and suspicions, she thought a quick search of the area might turn up the culprit – he might even still have the necklace – saving them the time and trouble.
    “Hey, sweetie!” called out a ragged figure, his filthy fingers protruding from half gloved hands and stained, yellow teeth leering only inches from her face. “Care for a kiss!!”
    Suen recoiled in horror, pushing him away and stumbling in blind panic towards the bright lights of a nearby street.
    Not such a good idea after all. What on earth was she thinking? Better off leaving this to people better equipped to deal with it.
    The figure followed for a moment before, thinking better of it, turning back to his small piece of turf.
    Sue wailed in despair and, not caring what direction she was headed, rushed headlong into the night.


    The sound of a police siren intruded on her chaotic thoughts, bringing her back to reality. Of course – she had to go to the police station and report what she had discovered.
    “Don’t know what I was thinking – that I could find this person by myself,” she muttered, disgusted that she had even bothered to try.
    Sue entered her local cop shop and inquired after the detective who had interviewed her the previous evening at her home. Ed Bellamy was his name and he had been very understanding as she sat in the kitchen, still in total shock at her sister’s sudden and brutal death.
    “It’s all right,” he had said. “I don’t expect you to start checking for stolen items straight away. In fact, the paramedic wants to give you a sedative so you can hopefully get some sleep. Unfortunately, we have to take Elisa to the morgue to do an autopsy before we can release her into your care so you can then make funeral arrangements.”
    Now, as she sat and waited for Ed to appear, she was so grateful that he had not try to push too hard with questions to which she had no answer.
    A young mother walked into the station, daughter in hand, went to the counter and then occupied the seat beside her.
    She pulled out a story book to read to the girl, who must have been about five, to keep her occupied while they waited to be seen by one of the policemen.
    Sue couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder. It was an old favourite – “There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe. She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What To Do.” Sue knew it only too well and recalled how her mother had read it to her at bedtime when she was a little girl.
    She smiled as she recalled those happy times – Elisa and herself curled up in bed together as they listened to their mother’s dulcet tones bring the story to life.
    Ed Bellamy standing in front of her shocked her from her reverie. “Hullo Sue,” he said softly. “What can I do for you?”
    Sue followed him into his office where she told him about the missing necklace and the ragged scarf she had found near the open safe.
    She also admitted to wandering among the homeless under the Manhattan Bridge searching for its owner she remembered seeing a few days earlier.
    “Not a great idea,” he said. “What if you had been attacked?”
    Sue shuddered as the leering yellow stained toothed face flooded her memory. “I know,” she admitted, “very stupid of me.”
    Ed Bellamy thoughtfully rubbed his chin. “Well, we can test the scarf,” he said. “Who knows, it might contain DNA we can trace. Meantime, we will also put out an alert on the necklace to all the local pawn shops – just in case they try to dispose of it.”


    It was becoming very late and the detective offered to drive Sue home. “I don’t think it is safe for you to be walking,” he reasoned.
    She was too tired to argue and gratefully accepted the lift. Lost in thought, she gazed out the passenger window as the car sped down the dark streets towards her house.
    Suddenly, she saw a familiar figure warming himself by a small fire not far from where she had run into all those homeless people. It was the same man who had accosted her.
    “Stop!” she cried out to Ed, who brought the car to a shuddering halt.
    “What’s wrong?”
    “There! See there! That’s the man who tried to attack me!”
    Ed leapt out of the car and in several strides reached the homeless vagabond. “Hey you,” he said. “Come here, I want to talk to you!”
    “Wha..what do you want with me? I ain’t done nuffin.”
    “Nothing, eh? Isn’t this the woman you tried to attack earlier tonight?” Pointing to Sue who was climbing out of the car to join the detective.
    “Dunno what you are talking about,” the homeless man replied.
    “Oh yes, you do,” said Ed. “I’m taking you in for questioning.” He showed the vagabond his badge.
    The man looked slyly at Sue who was peering at his face with obvious disgust.
    “Don’t you look down your nose at me like that,” he said.
    “Why not,” she replied. “You are filthy and you smell terrible. How do you expect me to look at you?”
    The homeless man snorted and started cursing as Ed handcuffed his hands behind his back and bundled him into the back seat of the car.
    “I’m going to take him back to the station for questioning but I want you to come with me so I can keep you safe,” he said to Sue.
    Obediently, she hopped back into the front passenger seat and they made their way back from whence they had come.
    Ed marched the homeless man into the police station and ordered one of the uniformed policemen to take a saliva DNA sample for testing. He had a hunch that this man might know something about Elisa’s murder and the necklace robbery.
    Not something that they could determine tonight – but hopefully the results from the scarf and his saliva would be back in the morning.
    The homeless vagabond was taken away to be locked up for the night in the neighbouring detention centre and Ed once more turned his attention to Sue.
    “Now, I really do have to take you home,” he said with a smile.
    Sue was really grateful for all his help. They arrived at her house and she began to fidget anxiously.
    “Don’t you want to be here tonight on your own,” asked Ed. “I can take you to a motel if you like where you might be more comfortable.”
    “No, it’s all right,” she replied. “But I don’t suppose you would mind sleeping in the spare room.”
    The memory of her dead sister kept invading her thoughts and she just could not stop shaking.
    “Don’t fret,” he said. “I don’t mind staying if it means you will get some rest.”


    Sue woke the next morning to the smell of cooking. She had slept like a log, nightmare thoughts temporarily pushed from her brain as exhaustion overwhelmed her.
    Pulling on a dressing gown over her nightie, she made her way to the kitchen to discover Ed nonchalantly scrambling eggs, tomato and bacon.
    He turned and gave her a warm smile. “Bit of a challenge,” he said, “but I managed to rustle up some breakfast.”
    Sue noticed the eggs glistening in the flat frypan and smiled in return. “You didn’t have to do that,” she said. “However, I didn’t realise how hungry I am and that just smells delightful.”
    Over breakfast, the two of them discussed her sister’s murder and how Ed believed the homeless man he had locked in the cells somehow had something to do with it.
    “He mightn’t have done it,” he said. “But I’ll bet he knows who does.”
    After they had finished their meal and taken turns to shower and dress, Ed drove Sue to police station.
    By the time they arrived, one of his colleagues told him that the DNA results from both the homeless man and the old scarf had arrived and were waiting for him on his desk.
    The detective tore open the envelope – only to discover that they were not a match.
    “I need to question this guy more thoroughly,” he told Sue. “You can watch through the one-way window from the next room if you like.”
    Sue was grateful that he seemed so keen to involve her in the ongoing investigation. She watched as the interrogation got under way. There was something gratingly familiar about the hunched filthy figure seated defiantly on the other side of the table.
    Ed constantly shot questions at him until, unable to take any more, the homeless man wilted.


    He confessed to taking pity on a fellow homeless woman who was on the verge of freezing several days earlier and giving her the scarf for warmth. How it ended up at the scene of a murder, he had no idea.
    Ed called in a police sketch artist to obtain an idea of what this woman looked like. The homeless spent some time describing the person and, when he finished, Sue’s hand flew to her mouth in astonishment.
    It was the spitting image of her mother. But how could that be. Mum had been dead for the past 10 years.
    Sue told Ed about the strong likeness to her dead mother. Perhaps it was a doppleganger he said. It does happen. However, such a strong coincidence in this case with both the robbery and murder was too coincidental for his liking.
    “Did your mother have a twin?” he asked.
    “No-one has ever mentioned Mum having a twin – and I’m sure they would have if she had had one,” Sue replied
    “Only one way to find out,” he said. “We need to find this woman.”
    And so started an exhaustive search among New York’s homeless community. With Sue still dealing with her raw grief over Elisa’s death, it was several days before a police officer discovered the “scarf woman” in the back streets of Soho.
    Ed phoned Sue and told her the woman the homeless man had described had finally been found.
    Observing from the other side of the one-way window as she was ushered into the interview room, Sue gasped at the strong likeness to her dead mother. They could be identical twins.
    The story she told Ed sounded like a fantasy.
    She and Sue’s mother had somehow been separated at birth, neither ever knowing of each other’s existence, until one day this woman – christened Ellen – saw her twin sister from across the room in a department store.
    Stunned at how much they looked alike, she followed her home to her apartment on New York’s Upper East side.
    From there, it didn’t take long for Ellen to find out what had transpired all those years earlier. She wanted to approach her twin and tell her – but was too embarrassed to reveal how tough things had become for her.
    Unlike her twin who obviously had led a life of privilege, Ellen had struggled to make ends meet her entire existence.
    With considerable envy, she continued to observe the family for several years, watching as Elisa and Sue grew to adulthood.
    As Ellen grew older and the work opportunities dried up, she finally found herself on the street with nowhere left to go. Still, she did not approach her sister for help – thinking she probably would not believe her story, anyway.
    Instead, she watched and, observing where they kept the spare key to the apartment, would occasionally let herself in and become increasingly familiar with the life her sister and nieces led.
    It was on one such visit that Ellen discovered the combination to the steel safe – hidden in a bedroom drawer.
    Despite her parlous circumstances, she strongly resisted the temptation to take the jewellery she discovered there while her sister was alive.
    Ellen continued to observe the life her nieces led after her sister tragically passed away – the result of a hit and run effort by a drunken driver not far from where she lived.
    When they moved from the family apartment to an address closer to downtown Manhattan, she found the hiding place for the spare key and once more indulged in occasional visits.
    Living on the streets these past 12 months had brought Ellen to her wits end. The New York winter was more than she could bear and the temptation of taking the family jewellery to ease her suffering became too much of a burden.
    On the day of the robbery, she had taken off her scarf and just removed the necklace from the safe when Elisa came home.
    Surprised, Ellen panicked and rushed for the door – only to be tripped up by the younger woman.
    A monumental struggle ensued and, enraged, Ellen found her hands around Elisa’s throat. Before she realised what was happening, Elisa had stopped breathing, her face turning a ghastly blue colour and her body becoming limp.
    “I didn’t mean to kill her,” she said. “Something just snapped and, before I realised what was happening, she was lying there dead.”
    Tears streamed unchecked down Sue’s cheeks as Ellen’s story unfolded. The total futility of it all was more than she could bear and she collapsed to the floor, unconscious.


    1. Woven the elements well together! Poor Sue – losing her sister to her aunt, nasty!

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