What ever happened to Cousin Felix? -26 Brentwood Avenue
A wolf howled, the sound low and haunting. Soon, it was joined by more voices. Dear Felix looked at me, his eyes wide. The night's festivities had just ended, but the staff and the man of the house remained in the gardens, soaking in the moonlight and the stories of the stars. All others had returned to their homes around the village. It was growing lighter out, but the moon still held its proper place. Exhaustion had taken hold of many of us prior to the sounds of the wild animals but now we were all alert.
Whispers had broken out among the rest of the staff. I assumed they were discussing the different superstitions they had heard concerning a wolf howl near daybreak. Meg would no doubt sprinkle salt around the perimeter of the home before going to bed and all doors would be locked. I pat Felix’s knee. "It is fine, sir. They are leaving."
"We were told they were all dead."
"But isn't it beautiful that some found a way to survive, sir?"
"I suppose you may be on to something Genevive, but that sound. It is so archaic, so terrifying."
"Yes, all those things," He stroked his chin. I wondered where his mind was, but I knew he would tell me. I waited for his words while waiting for another sound from the wolves.
"Perhaps this means another adventure."
"There is always another adventure waiting."
"We lead a party to search for the wolves."
"And do what then?"
"May I speak freely sir?"
"Genevieve you never have to ask such a thing. Please do."
"I commend your interest in the wilds and your easy nature. However, many of the men of your party are not of the same spirit. They will not observe. They will destroy and kill and there will be no more to hear, no more to see, and no more to dream about. Perhaps this is best left as a secret of the estate. Just yours."
He took my hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze. "And yours my dearest "
I smiled as he relinquished my hand. We sat in silence for a short time waiting for the continued sound of the animals. Many of the other staff members had run inside, suddenly intent on finishing their tasks or getting ahead on chores for the following day. I had little left to do and no desire to go inside and leave Felix alone with his thoughts. He was an intelligent and kind man, but often his thoughts ran in circles until he found a way out of them. His escape was usually a ramble through the woods or a spur of the moment party held in the gardens or in the library. He had an array of interesting friends that he often called upon to share their history when he was lost within himself. He very rarely left the estate and had no story of interest to share himself. He just had the beauty of the home and the artifacts left by his ancestors, a noble breed indeed. I imagined that if I had been born into a family with some worth, he would have made me his wife instead of his maid. But he remains a bachelor and I simply work.
"It is beautiful here."
"Yes sir, it is. Rather quiet now."
The wolves hadn't made a sound for some time and I was growing increasingly tired. I wondered what he was waiting for.
"The silence here is different than the silence inside."
"Inside we don't hear the voices of nature, here it is always there, we just can't make out the words."
"A poet you are," an unknown voice came from the woods, startling both Felix and I.
"Who goes there?" Felix stood; he was tall with long arms.
A woman stepped from the trees, her dress dirty and torn. She was young with thick locks of dark hair. Her eyes were brown, almost black, but her skin was the color of moonlight. I didn't move from my seat to greet her, but Felix seemed excessively alarmed.
"I am Emily,I have been lost. There was an accident but I don't know where. I've been walking."
He took her by the shoulders, observing her condition as I did the same from my seat. The gardens suddenly felt different, the energy shifting away from the peaceful sphere that I knew. There were tears in her eyes.
"Were there others? I can send my men in search."
"They are dead."
"You poor thing. Please, spend the night and tomorrow we can return you to your home. Genevieve please assist our guest."
I didn't want to, but I rose to my feet and smiled. "Yes sir. Please follow me miss."
I lead her into the house, watching her features out of the corner of my eye. Her dress had been stitched together in many places and the hair that had appeared so beautiful outside now looked knotted and was full of twigs and dirt. Even her cheeks had been smeared with grime. I wondered how long she had truly been outside, but wouldn't ask. I would keep an eye on her. Sometimes, Felix was too kind for his own good.
“You may wash in here and when you are done I will show you to one of the spare bedrooms.”
“Are there many?”
“Yes. Felix Lupine is one of the richest men in town. He inherited his family’s fortune.”
Emily smiled, a rather toothy grin. “How pleasant for him.”
“And those he cares for. He shares his wealth with many.”
Emily nodded and walked through the door to the servant’s washroom. I wouldn’t allow her into Felix’s private quarters, no matter how fine she may pretend to be. There was something amiss, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
While I was waiting outside the door, Felix paused on his way to his private living quarters. Only a few of us were allowed within that area of the house, and I was lucky enough to have been in there many times cleaning and discussing life with him. The family tapestry was just through the entrance door, a large hanging cloth that showed all members of his family including his favorite cousin that lived just down the street. He also frequented the parties held by Felix and never overstayed his welcome. He was one of my favorites, but perhaps that was because he was the only family that continued to speak with Felix after he inherited the estate.
“How does she seem Genevieve?”
“She seems fine sir.”
“Please do keep an eye on her. There’s something about her.”
“In the morning when she awakes please come get me at once. I would like to discuss things with her. See if we can get her home.”
“Where do you believe her home is?”
“I’m not sure. I will ask tomorrow.”
He walked away, glancing over his shoulder, but not at me. He was looking at the doorway, awaiting Emily’s exit. But still, the door remained closed. He was long gone before the door finally opened and the woman emerged again. She had tried to make her gown appear less tattered, but her efforts were in vain. Her hair was tied in a long braid that almost touched the floor now that it was wet. Around her neck was a beautiful silver necklace with a large ruby pendant attached. It was a beautiful gem, it was a wonder I hadn’t noticed it before. Perhaps it had been tucked away. She would have been smart to do so during her travels.
“I can show you to your room now.”
Emily smiled and gave a nod. I led her down the hallway and passed the servant’s quarters. We climbed a flight of stairs and passed the ballroom. The five rooms on this floor were all for visitors as Felix didn’t have a family of his own yet. There were rumors that he may never have one. After all, he was becoming quite an old bachelor. Thirty-seven and never wed. The last woman he had dated had died of consumption and been buried on a cold rainy day with only Felix and I in attendance; her entire family had been taken by the illness. I missed her, but enjoyed my time with Felix unbothered.
“This is a beautiful home.”
I nodded. “I am very lucky.”
“Is there a lady of the house?”
I paused with my hand on the doorknob, preparing to leave her to rest after her ordeal, but her blunt question caught me off guard. “Not at the present moment.”
“Shame. He is a very handsome man indeed.”
By handsome, she no doubt meant rich. Not many people had found Felix particularly attractive, his features were more awkward than anything. They made him all the more endearing to me. His ears were too large for his face and his eyes were deep set. His height was abnormal, he had to duck through all but one doorway on the estate and he was rather thin. I was sure he was strong, but it was the strength you could not see. He did not have the square jaw bone or prominent cheekbones that his cousin boasted, his features were rather lackluster.
“I suppose he is.”
“Miss, I’m not very tired. Would you sit with me and speak to me about him? I would like to learn about the man that owns this home and something tells me you know all there is to know.”
I felt my cheeks flame, but couldn’t be rude. In his house I needed to follow his rules and his number 1 rule was to be polite to all guests, no matter who or what they were. This particular woman was still a mystery, but the jewels she wore hinted at wealth or a career of crime. I closed the door behind me and moved to sit beside the bed.
“His name is Felix. His parents died fifteen years ago and left the estate to him in their will. He was the only child, so it made sense. He once had a brother, but he died at a young age. He was thrown from a horse. You will find that Felix would rather walk than take a carriage anywhere and he never rides though the estate does have a stable and carriage house as well as horses. His parents didn’t encourage visitors to the home very often, but since it became his possession there is rarely a time when there isn’t a member of the higher society here. He loves entertainment and parties and inviting people in. It may be his home, but he has it open to everyone. He has the most beautiful gardens, I’m sure he will show them to you tomorrow. They were his mother’s pride and joy and he has continued the tradition of expanding upon them every year. If you have a favorite flower, tell him. If it doesn’t already grow here, it will be planted within the year.”
“And what did he plant for you?”
Emily’s smile faded and she toyed with a loose string on the blanket that I had been intending to mend. “Oh my.”
“They’re beautiful flowers don’t you think?”
“Yes, of course. Quite the history behind those.”
“Every flower has a history, that is something he can teach you better than I.”
“I am sure. I’m suddenly not feeling very well. I would like to go to bed I believe.” While I spoke she had grown increasingly awkward. Her fingers now gripped the side of the mattress as though she were in immense pain and her jaw was clenched tightly. Her eyes flicked this way and that, never remaining on one location for very long.
“Do you need anything?” I walked to the door, pausing to look back at her.
“Please close the curtain. I don’t wish to see outside.”
I did as she asked. “Anything else?”
“Leave. I need silence.”
Her voice was sharp, her eyes large. I exited the room quickly, swinging the door shut behind me. I considered locking it from the outside, but the keys to these chambers were kept in Felix’s private area and I didn’t wish to intrude. Besides, it was clear that she was suddenly ill. In the morning if she didn’t appear to be feeling better I would call for a doctor.
She was an odd individual indeed and her interest in Felix made me uncomfortable. He liked odd things more than the mundane, he desired adventures and treasures. His life had been spent in one location for too long and I could tell he was itching for a change of scenery. Perhaps what he really needed was to add a new face to the scenery he saw every day. Despite her personality, Emily did have a very pleasing appearance.
The next morning, two hours later, I awoke and began my chores before the others had even left their rooms. Throughout my slumber, I had frightful dreams, all ending with the death of our master and then the rest of the home.
My intention was to go to Emily’s room first and wake her. I worried she still needed a doctor. However, I found when I arrived at her door that she was gone and the door itself hung loosely on its hinges. They had been torn from the wall and the wood of the door had long gauge marks. The bed was a mess, the blankets strewn around the room and the curtains had also been torn from their hooks.
The rags from Emily’s dress were tangled among the blankets and I feared if I spent too much time within the room I may find her mangled body.
Something terrible had happened while the house slept. Perhaps there had been truth to my dreams of a giant beast tearing through the home and ripping out Felix’s throat before he could even scream.
The closer I drew to Felix’s private chambers the more destruction I saw, the more my anxiety grew. My fingers tingled, my tongue felt as though it were swelling. I could feel sweat dripping down my back despite the cold temperatures.
The house was too quiet. There was no one moving about, no voices traveling down the halls. The home had never been this still. It felt…dead.
When I reached the door that would bring me to Felix’s private chambers, I froze. The door was still closed, the lock still in place, but something had chewed a large hole in the wood. Or, had clawed a large hole through it. With hesitation, I got on my hands and knees and crawled through the opening.
The space beyond was unrecognizable. The paintings were destroyed and the tapestry I had marveled over was in tatters. I kept walking until I reached the dining area. The ancient table was flipped and the legs in splinters. The chairs were all smashed, their cushions torn and their stuffing spread around the room. My legs felt weighed down, they no longer wished to move forward, but I needed to know what had happened, where Felix was. He hadn’t come to greet me, he hadn’t made any noise. Even this side of the home was quiet.
A sudden wind ripped through, rustling my skirt. I looked up from the scuffed wooden floor and found that the door to the grounds was wide open. A bushy gray tail had just made its way out the door. My heart thumped loudly in my chest.
We had heard the wolves.
How had they gotten in? The door was open, not destroyed.
How had this happened? The doors should have been locked! Why hadn’t I thought to check last night before sleeping?
I ignored the voice in my head and ran to Felix’s bedroom. There was no longer a door and part of the wall had also been destroyed. I feared the weight of the upper floors would come down upon us. But in Felix’s room there was no body, there was no Felix. There was instead only a wolf. A dead wolf. Laying on its side, its shaggy coat splayed around it, its brown eyes open wide. A pool of blood had oozed out of its throat. There was a single bloodied human footprint beside it. But Felix was nowhere to be seen. His nightwear was torn and on the ground a few feet from the dead wolf. They were also bloodied. My heart sank with what this most likely meant.
Felix would not be returning.
I quickly closed the door to the grounds and then returned to the servant’s quarters. Almost every room seemed to have been attacked, but mine had been spared. I didn’t know how or why I had been so lucky. But here I found the true carnage left behind. My co-workers, my adopted family members, had been massacred. There were limbs missing from bodies, blood drying on floors and on other furniture. The cook still clutched a kitchen knife in his hand, he had never had a chance to attack the predator that had come for him. There were large bite marks on his throat, so deep I could see the bone that held his neck in place. My stomach squirmed.
I was a servant. I was the only survivor. The wolves were dead according to our leaders. This would look bad, very bad.
I sat upon the floor, staring at the lives that were lost, thinking I needed to escape, but how? My heart was here. This was my home, it had been since I was a young girl. But Felix. Dear Felix. Where could he be? Had the wolves carried his body off with them?
Suddenly, anger replaced the fear and sadness that had filled my core. The animals had done this, they had destroyed everything. And so, I would destroy them.
I returned to Felix’s quarters and took from his armoire a pair of pants and a shirt. A dress was not a logical choice to wear in the wild, by the end of my task it would look worse than Emily’s. Behind his bed he kept a gun. I took that as well. He kept it cleaned and loaded. I had seen him caring for it many times, it was a nightly task for him, something he did each night before sleeping.
It hadn’t helped him in the end.
But it would help me.
I walked through the door to the grounds and trudged through the gardens, holding the gun tightly. The barrel was pointed at the ground, my finger sitting loosely on the trigger as I listened for any sound. The gardens were quiet, but there were marks in the dirt where nails had sunk in. They were heading towards the forest.
That’s where I would go as well.
And that was the last time Genevieve Port saw the Lupine Estate. It remained a mystery what happened to Emily and Felix. They were the only bodies missing from the estate.
You can read more about Felix and his family by picking up a copy of "26 Brentwood Avenue & Other Tales" by Katrina Thornley. 1 of the featured stories in this collection is "The Strange Case of Cousin Felix". It is a tale from the point of view of Genevive's favorite cousin, the only family member that continued to talk to poor Felix.
Katrina Thornley is a nature poet and novelist that resides in Rhode Island. She has two poetry collections currently published, a novel, as well as a short story anthology. Her poetry collections "Arcadians: Lullaby in Nature" and "Arcadians: Wooden Mystics" were inspired by a local park and life in her small rural town. You can find them on Amazon now!
About the author
Katrina Thornley is a Rhode Island based author and poet. You can find Arcadians: Lullaby in Nature and Arcadians: Wooden Mystics on Amazon now. Her debut novel Kings of Millburrow is now available!