MONSTERS OF MEN
Monsters of Men
Copyright © 2017 by Sandra Madera
Ebook Edition License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be altered, re-sold, or given away to other people. This story is FREE and does not require payment. If you’re reading this book and did not download it from SandraMadera.com or other legitimate online bookstore, please download a legitimate copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
As I attempted to open my eyes, I found it difficult to raise my eyelids which obstructed my vision. They hung heavy like dark curtains that had been drawn to block out the world, leaving me stranded in the dark void of my mind. Endeavoring to free myself from this dark prison, I tried hard to focus, willing my body to obey my commands, but my eyes rolled back, out of my control. The darkness beckoned me to return to the comfort of unconsciousness. It would have been so easy to give in and drift back into the sleep state from which I came. Yet, my mind hadn’t prevented me by waving an imaginary red flag, warning me of danger. Fighting the need to sleep, I rolled onto my stomach and lifted my head, wanting to inspect my surroundings. Having no control, it bobbed in the air like a buoy would in water.
With my thoughts jumbled, it was difficult to hold onto a cohesive thought; all except one faded before I could register them. One that told me to move. I extended a hand, hoping I could use it anchor myself before cranking my torso up into a seated position. Preparing myself to summon all the energy I had left in my body, my fingers dug in… and I gasped. To my surprise, I recognized the feel of the cool earth, damp and squishy, under my grasp. The textured strips of foliage scraped against my skin like thin sheets of paper.
Alert, my eyes shot open.
After a bit of a delayed reaction, I turned my head and focused hard on my hand, realizing that I had gripped a few blades of grass. The cold ground was sparse, but I managed to lay in the only small patch of greenery that had sprouted out, despite the bitter temperature, surrounding my sprawled body in a bed of foliage. Scanning the area with new-found awareness, I saw that I was lying on a patch of land. The terrain around this patch was quite rocky, leading towards a steep cliff that overlooked a small beach.
I recognized the sound of waves crashing against the sand as I glanced across its inky darkness, overcome with an eerie sense of foreboding. My heart began to flutter, a nervous tick of the body. My expirations became short. Something wasn’t right about this place, and my subconscious mind was urging me to run and hide.
Abrupt in my movements, I sat straight up, and in that moment, my brain was inundated with tiny electrical signals from my nervous system. I was momentarily blinded by a flash of white-hot pain that jarred all of my senses, causing me to break out in goose flesh. I waited for the pain to subside, and after a moment, the pain reverted to a pounding ache that was manageable but ever-present.
Inspecting my body, I saw that I was wearing nothing more than a cotton nightdress that had been discolored and torn by the earth beneath me. My eyes drifted further down my body, and I noticed that the skin on my creamy white calves had been marred by unsightly purple bruises of different sizes and shapes. As I extended my hands to examine them, I caught a glimpse of the exposed flesh of my arms which were also bruised and scratched.
Clutching my head with my hands, my fingers grazed an elevated bump on my forehead which I knew was the root of my pounding headache. Confused, I tried to recall how I became injured. When my mind drew a blank, I felt a growing desperation in the pit of my stomach as tried harder to remember anything about myself at all, finding that my memory began when I woke up a few minutes earlier. Everything else was lost.
Having no idea who I was or where I lived, I felt alone, a stranger to myself. Shivering, I couldn’t imagine anything more frightening than being no one at all.
Reclining so close to the shore, the breeze off of the water seemed cooler as it caressed my bare skin. My toes curled and dug into the earth, searching for warmth. Cradling my torso and rubbing my arms in an attempt to create heat through friction, I looked for a place that would provide cover from the elements.
Squinting as I inspected the space around me, under the darkness of a moonless night, I saw the faint outline of a dirt path. I had no clue where it led, but after my eyes adjusted a bit more, I noticed a massive structure that sat on the top of a hill like a phantom fortress. Although its exact size and shape was obscure, blending with the night, the building appeared to be a large and foreboding mansion.
Its windows were dark, save for one, which was lit by a faint orange glow. I focused on that window as if it were a merciful beacon, guiding me towards the warmth of safety. I climbed to my feet, ungraceful in my movements, struggling to coordinate my limbs.
Like a fawn taking its first clumsy steps, I swayed as if I could feel the rotation of the earth and this, somehow, affected my capacity to stand up straight. I knew that my body’s inability to cooperate with the demands of my brain would result in a lack of coordination, the bump on my head attributed to this momentary dysfunction. After a concerted effort between my brain and my body, I managed to get my limbs to flow and work in unison. Looking down the winding trail, I hoped it would lead me towards the manor on the hill, the only place in the vicinity where I might find food and lodging for the night.
After a time of walking in slow but determined steps, I stumbled upon a fork in the road where a wooden sign had been erected. In big, bold, handwritten letters, it told me that Wincliff Manor was to the right and the beach was found down the trail to my left.
Glancing to the right, I saw that earth was steep. Looking down at my bloodstained feet, I didn’t know if I could make it up the hill with nothing to shield myself from further injury, but I didn’t have a choice. Cradling my body against the chill in the air, I sucked it up and made my way towards the manor.
After a mile-long hike, stumbling over broken tree limbs and sharp-edged rocks that were sprinkled along the path, I stood before the imposing Gothic structure. Glancing up at its stone facade, my eyes swept over dozens of arched windows which framed panes of stained glass. The angled roof was covered in slate shingles and had decorative elements such as gargoyles which were perched on several ledges, glaring down at me. Their toothy smiles evoked images of demons in my head, causing a sense of unease to come over me like a blanket of uncertainty.
Hesitant, I walked towards the front door, taking in the medieval appearance of its pointed arch and iron fittings. Holding my breath, sealing in the nervous energy that radiated off me, I held up my fist and worked up the courage to knock on the wooden surface. Although the knock was weak, the sound was deafening, breaking through the stillness like thunder. Shifting my weight from foot to foot, I hoped that whoever answered the door wouldn’t turn me away.
After a moment of waiting without a sign of life, a growing sense of desperation spread up from my belly, nagging at me. I knocked again with increasing urgency. I stepped back and toward a nearby window. Looking for movement, I tried to pierce the darkness inside. Nothing. My eyes drifted to the latch in the door. I licked my lips, wondering if I should try to gain entry.
Coming to the conclusion that I’d die from continued exposure, I tested the latch and was able to pop it open with ease. Taking a single step forward, I allowed the door to swing open. The creaking of its metal hinges, grinding against one another, was the eeriest sound I had ever heard.
“Hello?” I called into the foyer, my voice breaking.
When there was no response, I entered and closed the door behind me. With a bit of hesitation lingering, I followed the warm, orange glow that escaped from an adjacent room. Crossing the threshold, I saw that a lit fireplace in the front parlor.
Attracted to it, I rushed further into the room and stood before of the fire, warming my hypothermic extremities. When the blood in my veins began to thaw, I shivered, a moan escaping my lips as began to move my stiff joints. After the initial pain subsided, I sensed my blood flowing again. With a sighed of delight, I stretched my hands towards the flickering flames.
Glancing upwards, my eyes caught a picture resting on the mantel. Tilting my head, I withdrew my hands from the warmth of the fire and picked up the frame, my eyes sweeping over the image. Ripping my gaze away, I glanced up at a hanging mirror and smiled with the recognition that the child in the picture, standing before a small group of adults, was staring back at me in my reflection. Yes — I was older and beat up with large, purple bruises covering my forehead and chin, but the similarities were still there, especially when I swept my matted locks away from my face. Then the floodgates opened, and memories poured into the forefront of my mind.
“Adeline,” I whispered to myself. “My name is Adeline Wincliff.”
Looking at the other people in the picture, the scene appeared happy, smiles frozen upon every face. I recognized the dark-haired couple that held hands behind me. They were my parents. Caught in mid-wave, my mother was dressed up in a beautiful sundress that blew in the breeze of the early spring. Standing tall and confident, my father wore slacks and a collared shirt. Beside him, my grandfather posed with a hand on his shoulder, wearing his usual dark pant suit. My grandmother was knelt beside me, her arms wrapped around me like a protective cocoon.
This picture comforted me as much as it pierced my heart. The snap was the last image I had of my parents before the accident which claimed their lives, leaving me the sole heir to the Wincliff fortune. After that, my grandparents raised me within the walls of our ancestral home.
The Wincliff Manor stood on a private island in the waters of the Saint Lawrence River in Thousand Islands, New York. With the water as much of a barrier from the outside world as the stone facade, I spent the rest of my childhood alone, isolated from human contact, except for my grandparents and house staff.
“Money creates a lack whether you have too much or too little. Wealth hoards and creates greed in that you can never have enough. Poverty covets and steals what it doesn’t have,” I recalled my grandfather saying as he sat in his favorite chair, smoking a pipe.
“If I have to question the intentions of everyone I come in contact with, I’ll never trust anyone.”
His blue eyes burned into mine. “Trust no one, Addy. You were born into a legacy — our name means something outside these walls — and your inheritance has made you a target. Money can make monsters of men.”
But, being young, I did trust; I trusted everyone, even those who didn’t warrant it. Naive, I believed people were as they portrayed themselves to be. Since I felt stifled from lack of real connection to people, I wanted the freedom of being off the island. I wanted to be around others my age, and as soon as I could, I did succeed in reaching the mainland, sneaking out in search of a good time. Getting involved with shady characters at local dives, I met Henry Houser and, through him, my best friend, Jessica Walthers.
Returning the picture frame to the mantel, a chill ran up my spine. The house had never been so quiet. It was quite unnerving. Sensing that something was amiss, I stepped towards the threshold, moved into the kitchen, and froze in place.
My heart stopped, quivering in my chest for a moment.
My breath caught in my throat.
My knees weakened, and I shook uncontrollably.
I struggled to understand the information that my eyes had registered.
Peering into the darkness, I noticed a large mass on the floor. Unable to hold myself up on unsteady legs, I collapsed. Kneeling beside her, I brought my hands to my mouth and held in a sob. “Grandma June?” I called out in little more than a whisper, my voice trembling.
My grandmother was kind-hearted, being very affectionate and giving towards everyone around her. She the glue that held my family together after the death of my parents, taking over the role of a mother and confidant for me. She understood my need for freedom, my need to connect with others.
“If we cage her, she’ll run further away when she gets a taste of freedom, and then, she’ll never come back home,” I overheard her tell my grandfather, time and time again.
I felt confident with my grandmother’s support, but when she met Henry, however, all of that changed. Her dislike was immediate. She sensed something about him that I was blind to. Sure, Henry was a bit older and had gotten into trouble in the past, but he claimed that he was a reformed man. I believed him, not that it mattered with all the fun we were having. Still, I’d never seen my grandmother dislike someone so much, agreeing with my grandfather concerning my relationship choice, but I kept seeing Henry. I found a partner in crime, and we sought out the seedier side of life together, hopping from one rave to another, taking one substance after another.
I reached out and shook her prone body. “Grandma?”
Her cheek rested on the cold tile, and her face was directed towards me. I noticed her eyes were dilated. Her glassy stare was blank and fixed on a spot on the wall. Her mouth was hanging open as if silenced in mid-scream. My eyes shifted as I examined her, noticing the knife lodged in her back.
I inhaled, choking after the sharp intake.
As I backed away from the body, my bare feet slipped on the tiled floor, my quaking limbs made it hard to get away. I began to sob, tears flooded my eyes, running down my face. My nerves frayed, I covered my eyes and attempted to wrap my mind around what was going on. Feeling the need to hide, I sank into a dark corner of the room and cradled myself in a fetal position, confused and scared.
Running my hands through my hair, my nails scrapping against my scalp as my mind raced with all sorts of questions. I shook my head, keeping my eyes sealed tight. I tried, but I couldn’t erase the image of my dead grandmother.
Wiping my tear-stained cheeks, I was jarred out of my thoughts by a shrill scream. My attention was drawn to the front hall. The woman cried out again, her voice echoing throughout the house.
“Please! I don’t know where she is!”
My heart stopped.
I stood up, my eyes wide with recognition.
The voice was that of the head housekeeper. Being my grandmother’s right hand, Ms. Leigh had been apart of the household since I could remember. Having grown children with their own lives, she devoted herself even more to her job and my family. She tended to my grandmother’s needs herself and, also, organized all the staff’s duties. She was a good woman, treating everyone, whether above her station or below, with kindness, and here she was now, begging for her life.
With my feet tangling beneath me, I found it hard to walk and stumbled towards another doorway, heading out of the kitchen. Moving through short hall in the back of the house, I stopped at a fork. I held my breath and peeked around the bend, getting a view of the foyer.
The maid’s strangled screams were followed by the sound of splintering wood. Without warning, her body landed with a crack, hitting the marble floors with force. She must have been pushed from the landing above. Broken spindles landed beside her motionless form.
My breaths were increasingly jagged, bordering on a high-pitched crow. My heart fluttered with a superficial pulsation, its rhythm feeling erratic. Trying to be as quiet as possible, I stepped away from the doorway and back into the darkened hall.
“What are we going to do now? The plan can’t go forward if she’s alive.”
I recognized Henry’s voice and was jarred. My hands slipped past my temples, and I growled, grabbing clumps of hair into my fists. Was Henry behind this? Did he kill the maid? Did he kill my grandmother? Did he do this to me, beat me and leave me for dead? What exactly happened? Why can’t I remember?
Although I was aching and lacked the strength needed to fight, I felt the blood in my veins grow hot as my anger was sparked by a sudden realization. Henry used me, having secret motives to get close to me, and I let him in. I granted him access into our lives. I introduced him to my grandparents. I invited him on the island and instructed the staff to welcome him. His presence on the island wouldn’t have been met with suspicion, and he used that to infiltrate my home, killing everyone. Why? Why would anyone do something so evil?
I could hear my grandfather’s voice in my head. “The one thing you can rely on from others is that they’ll live to disappoint you, they’ll always put their own selfish interests above yours.”
“Not everyone lies, cheats, and steals,” I responded, knowing that he’d been bitter after experiencing his share of betrayals.
“Desperate people do desperate things. Greed’s a great motivator.”
Coming back into the present, I noticed a butler that had been hiding in the dining room revealed himself and tried to make a run for the door, tripping over himself as he ran.
A gunshot rang out.
The butler collapsed only a few steps from freedom.
After a moment of silence, I heard a woman say, “No one gets off this island alive. Everyone who can identify Adeline must die.”
Upon the recognition of the voice, the world around me shifted. It was Jessica. Her tone was rougher, crueler than I remembered, but there wasn’t a doubt.
I met Jessica through Henry over the course of heavy binging. She was a vivacious, curvy blond that had a one track mind, and it was usually fixated on having fun. On a superficial level, we clicked right away, although we were opposites from personality to upbringing. Jessica had connections and scored us fake I.D. cards which got us into some shady places. That made her cool to me.
My thoughts dangled between rage and confusion. It floored me that she was involved and calling the shots. I trusted her. Was I so naive? It didn’t dawn on me that she was anything less than genuine. Still, I couldn’t figure out what motivated this violence.
Holding my head in my hands, flashes of images raced through my mind. I was asleep when I heard what sounded like thunder. An outage caused the lights to go out. As this was a common occurrence, I thought nothing of it until screams broke the silence. I soon realized that I hadn’t heard thunder at all. They were gunshots.
Without a second thought, I ran into the hall and attempted to find my grandparents, but there was someone on the landing, standing between me and the staircase. I struggled with a hooded assailant, exchanging punches as he tossed me into a wall. He latched onto my neck and lifted me off the floor. With my free hand, I slapped the hood off of him, managing to reveal his true identity. Taken aback, I gawked into Henry’s crazed eyes right before he pushed me down the stairs.
I cursed my bad judgment. The bruises throughout my body made sense. My boyfriend tried to kill me, and my best friend was the ring leader in this home invasion.
“I’m going to check the dock,” Jessica said, snapping me out of my thoughts “She could’ve tried to get off the island.”
“With the way she landed, she couldn’t have gotten far,” Henry told her.
“She shouldn’t have gone anywhere at all! She should’ve been dead!” Jennifer shouted, her booted footsteps boomed as she descended the stairs. “Help me find her, and I’ll do the rest.”
I snuck a look into the foyer as Jessica stepped out of the front door, recognizing her dark outline. Knowing that I should seize the opportunity to escape, I shifted my vision and saw my grandfather’s study. It dawned on me that his gun case was in there. Without further hesitation, I hobbled into the room and grabbed the first gun I could find, a .45 revolver. Holding it up, I studied it as much as I could, unsure how to use it.
It occurred to me that Henry must have started his search. The sound of doors slamming and glass breaking became background noise as I plotted my revenge, seething with anger. Maybe killing someone would be easy with a gun, especially someone who deserved it. It’d only be a matter of time before he found me, and my advantage was gone. I had to move, but I didn’t. As I held the gun, my own survival came to mind.
“I raised a fighter, not a victim,” my grandfather’s voice echoed in my head.
Still clumsy on my feet, I walked into the foyer and began to ascend the steps. With my progress hindered by injury, it wasn’t long before I was out of breath and heaving. My muscles ached and cried out for rest, but I continued moving, although slower than I intended.
Reaching the landing, I shuffled past the broken railing and followed the sound of Henry’s frustrated voice. Down a corridor, dim light poured into the corridor from my grandparent’s bedroom. I paused as I heard him. He was taunting me, daring me to come out of hiding. He had no idea that I was coming up behind him.
My palms were sweating.
My breathing increased until it was nothing more than a shallow inspiration.
The room was in complete disarray. Small pieces of furniture were toppled over, splintered and broken; other ornaments were strewn across the hardwood floor. While the rods which held them still hung from their fixings, the drapes appeared to have been torn down from the windows, lying in puddles of fabric on the floor. The bed linens were turned down, and a crystal lamp had been shattered into tiny shards that were sprinkled across every surface.
Henry stood in the middle of the chaos, breathing heavy.
With an unsteady hand, I held up the gun and pointed it at the back of his head, watching the barrel shake in the air. “Looking for me?”
He spun around, acknowledging me before noticing the gun. When it dawned on him that he didn’t have the upper hand, his eyes widened, and his thick, black brows arched upward. He raised his hands in surrender. His hazel eyes locked onto me, and he attempted to give me his most charming smile, although I could see through it now. Everything about him was fake. “What’re you doing, Addy?” he asked, keeping his tone light. “You know you’re not going to use that gun.”
“I’ll shoot if I have to,” I warned him.
He listened, going completely still. “You should be dead.”
“I couldn’t die without first taking you with me, sweetheart,” I retorted. “How long have you been plotting this?”
He clicked his tongue and gave me a disingenuous smile; it was the most genuine expression he ever showed me. “Bitter, darling?” he quipped, becoming serious when I pressed down on the hammer. “From the beginning. Jessica came up with this… brilliant plan. I mean, who knows Adeline Wincliff outside of this island? No one knows you! No one can identify you. You’ve been hidden away, sheltered behind these walls. It’d be so easy to take over your life and spend all of your cash.”
He used me, and the knowledge made my nerve endings burn with white-hot heat when he made light of it. Without thinking, I pressed the trigger. It clicked, but it didn’t fire. After my initial shock, I realized the cylinder was empty.
Realizing he had the advantage, Henry lunged at me.
Without warning, I heard a loud pop, a gunshot.
I gasped and watched as Henry’s face changed from anger to one of surprise. Within a matter of seconds, he collapsed and went completely still. Shocked, I watched as a red mark grew on the back of his white shirt. Blood. It pooled, a growing puddle by my feet.
Seeing movement, I looked up from the body and caught a glimpse of my grandfather as he exited the closet. He took two steps before his legs buckled beneath him. “I’ve been shot,” he said, clutching his shoulder. “They got me when they first broke in.”
I grabbed a sheet that was on the floor and ripped it, rushing towards my grandfather. I wrapped the fabric around his wound, stemming the bleeding. “I’m going to get us out of here.”
“There was a girl,” he told me, handing me his pistol.
“I’ll handle her, and then I’ll come back to get you.”
My grandfather’s need for medical attention was a great motivator, and running on pure adrenaline, I had the energy boost I needed to handle Jessica. I left him and sprinted towards the dock with renewed vigor. The pain of my muscles had faded away, and all I could think about was escaping the island.
When I reached the dock, I was relieved when I didn’t see Jessica. I thought that if I managed to get to the mainland, then the police could handle her. I couldn’t afford to hesitate. When I climbed into our speed boat, I tried to start it but found the motor had been dismantled.
Looking across the dock, my eyes caught a small metal boat with a motor at one end. It must have been the vessel that Henry and Jessica rode in on. It wasn’t in the best shape, but it would have to do to get my grandfather to shore.
“You didn’t think I’d be that easy, did you?” Jessica asked, standing behind me. “Drop the gun.”
I turned and did as instructed, the gun rolling across the slick floor. After making eye contact with her, my eyes couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She looked like a different woman, wearing light contacts and dying her hair dark. She could’ve almost been my twin. “What’s this? A new look?”
“Don’t you like it?” she said with a hint of a smile, holding a dagger in her hand. “I’m Adeline Wincliff.”
Narrowing my eyes at her, I shook my head. “Merely a cheap imitation,” I countered.
She glared at me, holding the blade close to my neck. “Do you think this is a joke?”
“No,” I answered, backing away. “So, this was your plan all along; get close, kill me, and take my identity.”
“With all the stories you told me about your life, I could play the part of orphaned heiress. My mommy and daddy croaked, and I had to grow up in this big house all alone,” she mocked me, doing her best impression of a spoiled child as she drove the tip of the blade closer.
My blood boiled over. Without thinking, I charged at her, and we struggled for control of the knife. She was strong, and it was hard to release the weapon from her grip. Digging my nails in her hand, I tried to loosen her hold, but without warning, she kicked me with her boot.
I heard a crack.
My knee buckled.
I hit on the floor, landing hard. I shut my eyes tight and cried out, beginning to feel the ache of my body once more. Testing my leg, I was thankful that it wasn’t broken, but it hurt like hell.
As I opened my eyes, I saw Jessica towering over me, a manic look in her eyes. She held the knife up as if triumphant, ready to stab me. Before she got the chance, I swept her legs out from under her, and she landed next to me. The knife flew through the air, landing with a splash in the water.
I crawled across the boat, looking for the gun.
Jessica reached for my legs, latching onto them as she crawled up my body.
I spotted the gun under the built-in seats. I reached out, desperate. The tips of my fingers grazed the metal handle.
Noticing my attempts, she dug her nails into my flesh and pulled at my hair. Through gritted teeth, she taunted, “What was it that my grandpa used to say? ‘The will to survive….’”
When she was almost completely on top of me, I moved my arm and elbowed her face with as much force as I could muster.
She cried out, blood splattering out of her nose.
I flipped her over in one swift movement and reached for the gun. I aimed the weapon at her. I sat up and backed away from her, wanting to put as much space between us as possible. I knew that I was capable of anything at that moment. I shook with all kinds of emotions, thinking of only my own survival.
Hunched over, she cupped her nose with her hands. When she realized that she had lost control, her eyes were seething with hatred. She removed her hands to reveal a stream of blood that ran down her face. Her lip curled, and she let out a growl of frustration.
“The will to survive would make murderers of us all,” I said, finishing the quote and pulling the trigger.
[ * * * ]
Thank you for reading “Monsters of Men”. For more information on upcoming novels, releases, freebies, promotions, etc., please join my mailing list by entering your email in the mailing list box on http://www.sandramadera.com and http://sandra-madera.blogspot.com or emailing me directly at [email protected] Also, don’t be shy and add me on social media. I love hearing form you. Tell me what you thought about my latest short or other ebooks by commenting online, submitting reviews or sending me an email. I read everything I am sent and do try to get back to everyone I can. Thanks!
Monsters of Men
Weeping Willow – Part One
Weeping Willow – Part Two
Novels and Trilogies:
Lament: A Restraint Novel
Malcontent: A Restraint Novel
Wicked Voices (Coming Soon!)
Adeline Wincliff had been sheltered all of her life and wanted her freedom. After falling in love, she thought that she finally had a taste of how life was meant to be lived. But her partying ways left her open to those who conspire against her. Someone wants her fortune, and they are willing to kill to get it.