Chapter 12: Sweet Ella

The sound of chirping crickets echoed in the cemetery when Devlin returned to his final resting place. Filled with trepidation from Sierra’s inquiry about the hidden key, he walked up the steps towards the chained door to the mausoleum. There, he caught a glimpse of Ella from the corner of his eye. She wept softly as she read an inscribed dedication on the polished surface of a memorial bench, which glistened in the moonlight.

“This is a memorial to the Woodbine Hurricane of 1938,” she said between sobs. “The storm claimed the beloved lives of two members in the Lloyd family at Brooke Manor, and two members of their household staff.” She wiped her tears away and said softly, “Mother and father, it has been 75 years since you died.”

Unnoticed, Devlin watched quietly and patiently until she finished her tribute.

“I’ve missed you dearly.” She bowed her head and whispered a prayer.

Then, Devlin walked over cautiously to avoid frightening her.

“Sweet Ella, why are you still here?”  he asked.

She turned to him and wiped more tears from her eyes with a white handkerchief that she held in her hand. He reached out and hugged her.

She smiled and said, “Master Devlin, my son will be here to get me shortly. Did things go as planned today with your picnic?”

With a look of contentment, he replied, “Chantal told me to thank you for the delicious food.”

“Did she like the scotch eggs?”

“She did.”

“They were Christa’s favorite. She preferred them to sandwiches.”

“I remember. Today went as well as could be expected. We had a breakthrough. Chantal shared intimate thoughts about her dreams of me.”

“Do you mean she knows about your past?”

“Yes and no. She never saw my face in either dream.”

“How did she feel about that?”

“She would like to have a visual picture of my face, but I’m not ready for that yet. I need to draw her closer to me, and know she would be willing to join me forever.”

“Master Devlin,  it saddens me that you had so little time to build a life with Christa. You missed out on so much. Earlier this evening, I sat here and thought about the life you lost when you saved mine during the storm. I made a promise to do all I can to help you find happiness and everlasting peace within your soul.”

“Ella, you don’t owe me anything, I…”

She interrupted him before he finished his sentence. “I was only six years old, but I will never forget when you found me crying near my mother’s unconscious body as storm waters crashed into the walls. You picked me up and ran to your mother on the second floor where you placed me safely in her arms.”

“Ella, I would do it again.”

“Of course you would. That was not enough. Then you went back downstairs to save my mother but she had already died from a head injury.”

“I could not give up hope,” said Devlin.

“My mother died without ever knowing my father drowned in the stables,” said Ella with a melancholy look on her face.

“I was not as fortunate. I knew of Christa’s death when I met my fate.”

“By then, it was too late for you to save yourself,” she continued.

“Yes, more tidal waves crashed into the walls, and the staircase buckled from the pressure and collapsed,” he  said.

“I covered my eyes when you fell down into the flood waters to your death. It was the worst day of my life,” said Ella.

“Does your son know anything about my history?” asked Devlin.

“No, he only knows his grandparents died at Brooke Manor. Your death was too traumatic to discuss with anyone. Why do you ask?”

“I met him once, when Sierra and Chantal first arrived. Sierra met with him today. He provided her with information about the cemetery. He mentioned a few details about the deaths of some of my family members, including me, and something about a hidden key.”

“When my son asked me to tell him what I knew about the cemetery, I told him that your father hid the key to the chained gate of the mausoleum . I wanted to dissuade him from visiting your crypt. He does not know the names of the persons buried there.”

“Ella, is the key really hidden?”

“Yes. It is in a secret panel in the wall of the bedroom that has the private office in it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“That room was given to Sierra to use, to do her restoration work. She’s anxious about learning as much as she can about the mausoleum, and knowledge of the key has increased her curiosity even more.”

“One day your eldest sister, Lynette, sent me into the private office to get a book off the large oak desk. It was the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and she had promised to read it to me. Suddenly, I heard the door open unexpectedly. It was your father. I saw him but he did not see me because I hid quickly under the oak desk. I saw him take a key from his coat pocket. Then, he pressed a button on the front side of the desk, which opened the wall near the window and revealed a secret panel. He took out a cigar box, and placed the key to the mausoleum gate inside the box. As the panel closed, he made a vow  that you and Christa would rest in peace forever.”

At that moment a car pulled up. The motor stopped, and a car door opened, then closed. The sound of footsteps were heard.

“Master Devlin, Leslie’s here. I have to go now. In all my 81 years, I’ve never told anyone what I saw,” she said.

“Sweet Ella, no worries,” he said. “I’ve found solace in your words.”

“Good night Master Devlin.”

“Good night Ella.”

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