The Widow’s Shadow - Part 4
“What the hell...”
Miranda and Sara looked at the two men as they both looked towards the doorway, the echo of the shot reverberating through the closed door. They looked at each other, then at Sara. Who stared back at them with her eyes wide in fear, struggling in the ropes around her body as her legs rubbed together and her firm nipples glistened with sweat.
“We ought to...” One of the men turned to walk to the door, but those were the last words to escape from his lips. Miranda watched as he slowly dropped to his knees and then fell forward, a red stain seeping down his back from the knife that had been used on him by his partner.
“Never turn your back on a rival,” he panted before turning and grabbing Sara under the arms, dragging her behind the recliner that Cassie was lying on. She pleaded “PLSSNNN” through her gag as she watched him pull his stocking mask off, the scar down his cheek catching her eye as she felt him roughly kissing the side of her neck, his hands pressing firmly into her chest as she felt him roughly moving her flesh around.
The heat was building in her now, as she moaned in encouragement, almost egging him on as she looked up at the ceiling. She could hear the struggles of the other women in the room, but for now she could only hope they remained as they were - and unable to interfere.
“You are one hot little bitch, do you know that,” she heard him say, and as she looked up she watched him pulling his overalls down his body, and one look down told her the effect she was having.
“First, I take you,” he said as he pulled down her panties, stroking his fingers inside her passage and making her moan out loud before he put them to his mouth, “then the others, and then you all get to enjoy your last moments together.”
He knelt down and started to kiss her clit, his tongue probing past the entrance as Sara threw her head back and screamed out. She started to shake with passion as he worked her, and then forced himself in, pressing forward and down as hard as he could while she blocked out all other sounds, all other distractions, and focused on him...
The room smelt of cordite, sweat, and fear as Anne stood in the doorway, trying to make sense of what was happening. She could see the four women, their heads covered with pillow cases and bound around their necks - two on the floor, and two on the bed, one naked. She could smell the fear they were experiencing, and wanted desperately to tend to them, but something else was getting her attention.
On the far side of the room, near a window, stood a masked and armed man, pointing his gun at the glowing white man she had seen in the kitchen. The fear in his eyes was plain to see, as he mumbled “I shot you - I shot you - why are you not dead?”
The figure stared at him, and started to walk forward as the armed intruder shouted “Keep back - keep back or I’ll kill them, I’ll kill them all.” Anne’s training kicked in at that point, over riding everything else as she aimed at him and said “Don’t move a muscle, you bastard, or I’ll shoot.”
Lucinda turned her head sharply at the sound of the new arrival, one familiar to her as she said “Jntdncmb?” Anne said quietly “Good evening, Your Ladyship - I will be with you directly, once I’ve dealt with...”
“Die,” the armed man said as he aimed straight at Anne, but she fired off first, hitting him in the shoulder as he recoiled backwards. She watched as he let the gun drop to the floor, then turn as the glowing figure walked slowly, deliberately towards him. His face turned ash white as he looked at him, whispering “No - get away” as he stumbled backwards, and then tripped over Angela and stumbled back.
Anne jumped forward, but she was unable to stop him as he crashed through the window, his scream echoing until there was a dull thud from outside. She looked out of the window to see him lying face down on the ground, his head to the side at an angle it was never meant to be.
“Whtsgngnnn,” Lucinda called out from the bed as Anne walked over, holstering her gun as she bent down and released the older woman from her hogtie. The figure watched from the doorway as Anne removed the tie from around her neck and pulled off the pillow case, Lucinda looking round as her sight was restored.
“Are you all right, Your Ladyship,” Anne said as she looked at Lucinda, checking for any wounds. Once she was satisfied, she went to the dresser and looked in the drawers, returning with a pair of scissors that she first used to cut the tape away from her head, then the hose before she eased the pair of soaking panties out of her mouth.
Lucinda lay still for a few minutes, gathering her breath and her wits before she said “Is he...”
“I don’t think he survived,” Anne said as she started to untie the older woman. “Is this the rest of your family?”
“Yes,” Lucinda said in a hoarse voice, “but I don’t understand - why are you here? What’s going on? And who are...” Her voice trailed off as she looked for the first time at the man in the doorway, and said quietly “It’s you - Horatio Holderness.”
The figure nodded as Anne finished the task of releasing Lucinda and helped her to sit up, fetching a dressing gown and putting it over her shoulders. As she held the robe around her, Anne went round and removed the hoods from the other three women, Susan sobbing and saying “stvr,” as she looked into Anne’s eyes.
“I pray it is - if my friend has managed to take care of the rest of the gang.” That made Lucinda turn sharply and say “The others - where are they?”
Anne looked to the door and watched as the figure turned and walked away, leaving the room in darkness until she walked over and turned a light on.
“Agent Duncombe - what’s happening?”
Anne looked out of the window and saw Barry Hampton kneeling next to the dead body. “I heard shots, and...”
“One down,” Anne called out, “and given the lack of response to the shots, I’m guessing the others are subdued as well. I’m going to need you to fetch Brian and Chloe up here - the Holderness women are safe, and I’m going to check on the others.”
Barry looked up and nodded as he went back down the driveway, while Anne turned back to Lucinda.
“We need to take care of you four first,” Anne said, “Do you think you can help me to free the others? DCI Hampton is outside, and the house is surrounded.”
Lucinda nodded, gathered herself together and said “Anne, Angela, Susan - this is Special Agent Anne Duncombe from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I do not know why she is here, but we met last October, and she is a good friend of Heidi and her friends. There will be time for explanations later - right now, we need to free you, and we need to give thanks for her.”
The others looked at the blonde haired agent and nodded, as Lucinda and Anne started to remove their gags and ropes.
“Oh baby, you are so good....”
Sara closed her eyes and moaned as she felt the cock of her attacker filling her passage, driving her to a peak of ecstasy as he drove harder in, both oblivious to anything else that may be happening. She was dimly aware of the sound of glass breaking, but as he body erupted in an orgasm of pleasure she felt the man responding in kind, and her mind was filled with only one thought.
“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” was the only thing she heard as he gave all, and then pulled out, letting her fall to the floor as he stood up and looked at her. “It’s almost a pity you’re going to die,” he said as he knelt next to her, “I could...”
Sara looked back at him, the warmth enveloping her whole body as if he was still inside him, the glow in her eyes piercing through his as he stared back. She watched as the colour slowly drained away from his face, and he started to shake.
“Oh god - no, you cannot be serious,” he said as he looked at her, “What the fuck are you, some kind of monster? I... I won’t let you do that, I won’t let you eat me!” He stood up and backed off, his face white as Sara sat herself up and looked at him, her head to one side as he saw her lips break into a smile under the band of tape around her head.
“NO - for the love of all that is holy, don’t do this to me. I’m sorry, I’m sorry - just please spare me,” he screamed out as he backed away, his hands out to try and stop whatever it was he was seeing. “PLEAS....”
As Sara looked up, his eyes seemed to roll into the back of his head and he dropped to his knees, revealing Cassie Craig standing behind him, pure hate in her eyes as she watched him tumble to the floor. “Fngbstrddsrvdtht,” she mumbled through her tape gag as she looked at Sara.
“Rulrt,” she said as she knelt next to her, and for a moment Sara was actually scared of what might happen - before a bright white light shone from the doorway. Cassie shook her head and then turned to see the ghost like figure standing there. Turning back, she peeled the tape away from Sara’s mouth and removed the cloth that was silencing her.
Sara shook her head, and looked at the figure, saying “They’re safe,” before she turned to Cassie. “I have no idea who you are,” she said quietly, “But you need to see to the rest of your family. Go - I will be fine.” She could feel a strange peace filling her, the passion subsiding slowly as she knew that the other women would be safe with her in the room.
“Sara - are you in here,” she heard Anne call out, and looking up she saw Brian and Chloe standing in the doorway, with Anne behind them.
“Mon dieu,” Chloe said with her hands to her mouth, “What has happened here? Are they...”
“Brian,” Anne said quietly, “Take Chloe into the kitchen and release the woman you will find in there. Then tell DCI Hampton he can come up.” As she entered the room, the figure turned and nodded to Sara, smiling as it slowly faded away as if it had never been there.
“Good evening, Mrs Craig,” Anne said as she knelt next to Miranda and cut away her gag, “I don’t know if you remember me but...”
“Agent Duncombe,” Miranda croaked as the cloth was taken from her mouth. “The others...”
“Very badly shaken, but they are alive,” Anne said as she watched Cassie walk over and start to untie Connie and Jennifer, “The ordeal is over.”
“What about the men?”
Anne walked over and checked the four bodies. “Not your concern,” she said quietly as she returned. “Number one priority is to get you all to hospital and let the police deal with them.”
“Who are you,” Cassie said as she finally removed the last of her gag, “and what the hell was that guy on about, don’t eat me?”
“Explanations later,” Anne said as Barry Hampton came into the room. “George came round - I’ve left him in the kitchen with his wife,” he said as he looked round. I’m going to bring the ambulances and cars up in five minutes - mine is waiting outside.”
“Barry,” Miranda said as she stood up and massaged her arms, “those men were going to kill us, but then we were saved - but how? And - no offence, but why are you here, Anne?”
As she was speaking, Anne had untied Sara and helped her to put back on her jacket and skirt. “When I figure it all out, Miranda,” he said quietly, “I’ll let you know. Right now, and I know this is going to sound awful, but these two women should not be here - let me get them away.”
“We want to thank them,” Cassie said as she helped Jennifer to stand up and held her, “Whoever they are.”
“We’ll stay local,” Anne said quietly, “Lucinda and Miranda know me. I promise we will explain everything - when you are ready to hear.” Taking Sara’s arm over her shoulder, Anne walked her out of the room, as she heard DCI Hampton call into his radio “All units, move in as my car leaves - and get me four ambulances as soon as possible.”
Walking into the kitchen, they looked at Mr and Mrs Bridges as they sat, their arms around each other. “It’s over,” Anne said quietly, “and everyone is safe. We have to go.”
Mrs Bridges nodded and said “Thank you” as Anne led Sara out, Chloe and Brian following behind. They reached the car and got in, Brian driving as they went down the driveway, passing a fleet of police cars and ambulances as they headed up.
“How do you feel, Sara,” Chloe said as she looked at her friend.
“Calm, surprisingly,” Sara said, “and as if I could sleep for a week.” She closed her eyes and rested her head against Brian’s shoulder as they headed to the police station.
Three days later
Sara looked at herself in the mirror, wondering if she was dressed in the right way to meet a Lord of the Realm. She was wearing a light pink blouse under a grey jacket and skirt, natural hose and black heels.
“Ready,” Anne said as she appeared in the doorway of the hotel room, dressed as always in her work outfit. “The car is waiting downstairs.” Sara nodded as she followed Anne down, meeting Chloe and Brian in the lobby of the hotel. Brian was also smartly dressed, in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, and highly polished shoes, while very unusually for Chloe she was wearing a white summer dress with a pale blue cardigan.
They walked out and into the waiting car, as they were driven through the country roads and turned into the driveway of Holderness Manor. In the bright summer sun, it looked very different from their last visit, and as they stepped out of the car they could hear the sound of children playing somewhere.
“Welcome,” Lord Holderness said as they walked into the lobby, “Welcome. Thank you all for coming - this way please.”
He escorted them into the library first, where four men were waiting - Alexander Holderness, Simon Bowden, John Craig and Dave Brown. “Gentlemen,” Lord Holderness said as she closed the door, “before I take them through, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all four of our honoured guests personally for the role they played in the events the other night. Without them, this would be a very different place, and we would all be much sadder.”
“It was nothing, Your Lordship,” Anne said quietly, “We were glad to help end their ordeal.”
“Nevertheless,” John said as he came over and embraced them all in turn, “Thank you - thank you for our wives and our children, for our future.”
They turned to see Mr Bridges standing there, a plaster on his forehead the only sign of what happened. “They are ready to receive the two women now,” he said quietly.
“Anne, will you and your partner come with me please,” Lord Holderness said as he looked at Anne and Sara. “The others may remain here.” He led them out of the room and into the lounge where Sara had found the Craig women previously.
“Anne,” Lucinda said as she stood up when her husband brought them in, “I do not know where to begin with our thanks. If you had not...” She turned and looked at the other seven women sitting in the room, all casually dressed, all showing in their pale faces the stress of what had happened, Anne with her arm round Susan Holderness.
“I am just glad I was here,” Anne said as Sara walked round the room. “But if I am being honest, it was someone else who brought me here - a friend who said she had to be here.”
Lucinda looked at the back of the young woman looking round the room. “Ah yes - the mysterious woman who was captured with Miranda and the others. We must thank you as well.”
“Of course,” Miranda said as she stood up and walked over to Sara. “We never found out your name.” Sara turned and smiled at Miranda, as the others saw her face.
“It... It can’t be,” Susan said as she stared at Sara. “Lucinda, it surely can’t be...”
“It is,” Lucinda said quietly as she smiled, “You’re Sara Smite.”
Sara stared at Lucinda Holderness, then over at Susan, before saying “Yes, my name is Sara Smite, but how did you know that? Before the other day, I had never seen any of you before.”
“And yet, we know you,” Lucinda said as she took Sara by the hand and led her to one of the chairs, as Anne sat next to the Craigs. “We have known you for a very long time.”
“Grandma,” Angela said as she looked at the thin blonde, “Isn’t that the name of the woman you told me about - the one who left for America?”
“It is,” Anne Bowden said as she sat between her daughter and Susan, “Mother told me the story years ago, but how were you so certain it was her?”
“You need to show them,” Susan said as she stood up and walked to a nearby table. Picking up a small green jewellery case, she handed it to Lucinda, who took out a silver locket. As Sara and Anne watched, she pressed a secret switch which opened it, and handed it round the other women in turn. As each of them looked, they glanced up at Sara before passing it on.
“That night,” Lucinda said as Miranda looked at the locket, “the four of us who are from the Holderness family saw the Holderness Shadow clearly for the first time. We were not the only ones, were we Sara?”
“No,” Sara said quietly, “He - He appeared to us in the kitchen, so Anne and your housekeeper saw him as well, but I still don’t understand what...” She stopped as Miranda showed her the open locket, and the drawing that was held within it. It showed a young woman, with long dark hair that fell about her shoulders, but a face she recognised instantly.
“Only the Lady Holderness can open the locket,” Lucinda said quietly, “but we choose when to show the contents to the next in line - I showed Susan some time ago. Forgive me, Anne, but that is the tradition. I needed to show you all now, so that you can understand the tale of this woman, and how she is related to our family.”
“But...” Sara said as she looked round the room, “This is me - it’s the spitting image of my mother and grandmother, except for the hair colour. Lady Holderness...”
“Lucinda, who is this woman?”
“Her name was Sara Smite, and her tale is easily told. My family know it, but it is time you,” she said as she looked at Miranda, Jennifer, Connie and Cassie “heard the full tale.”
As Lucinda related the tale, Sara and Anne Duncombe listened intently, hearing for the first time the story of Horatio Holderness, the poacher and the wife he left behind. When she heard of the deathbed scene, Sara instinctively rubbed at the scar on her own hand, and looked down on it.
When she had finished, Lucinda looked at Sara. “My dear girl, tell me - what happened to your ancestor?”
“I’m not sure,” Sara said quietly, “I can tell you this. As far back as I can trace my family, some things have always been true. Each Sara has given birth to one daughter, and named her Sara. Each one has either not been married, or soon after the birth their husband has died. And each - each has at the same age had an injury to their hand that has left this scar.” She held up her hand to show the others.
Miranda looked at Sara, and said quietly “My dear, it would appear that whatever has happened to you and your family, it has been leading to the day when you came to this place again. We,” she said as she looked round the room, “Have reason to be grateful to the Shadow that protects the Holderness family. We now have someone else to be grateful to - a woman who made a blood oath, and her descendant who came to fulfil that promise.”
Sara sat back, and looked round the room again. “So, you are saying the dreams I had that drew me here were...”
“We may never know,” Lucinda said as she stood up, “but know this - our families are now and forever in your debt. The promise your ancestor made has been fulfilled, but I hope you will consider yourself part of our family from now on.”
Closing the locket, Lucinda placed it n the jewellery case and closed it. “Come, Sara - there is something I want you to see. Miranda, will you and the others entertain Anne for me - I will not be more than an hour.”
“Of course,” Miranda said as Lucinda led Sara out of the door, and through the kitchen. As they went through, Mrs Bridges came in from outside and said “My goodness - it’s you.”
“Sara and her friends will join us for lunch,” Lucinda said with a smile, “Please prepare four extra places for us. For now, is Mr Bridges outside?”
“He is, Your Ladyship.”
Lucinda nodded and walked out of the kitchen, Sara following as they looked across the garden at the wood. “Mr Bridges,” Lucinda said as she saw him walking up, “Will you come with us to the lake, please? I wish to take our guest to the island.”
Sara and Lucinda stood quietly to the side of the marble building, Mr Bridges standing a respectful distance back, looking at the simple white cross on the ground.
“I don’t understand,” Sara said quietly, “I know this place - I saw this island in my dream, and the path from here to the house - but who is buried here?”
“Sara Smite - the poacher’s wife,” Lucinda whispered. “When she died, Bartholomew Holderness buried her here, next to the family that had adopted her child. I wanted you to see where she lies, and to give you the chance to lay these.” She handed Sara a small posy of flowers and stood back, as Sara knelt by the cross.
“This... This is a little surreal,” Sara sad quietly, “but I wanted you to know that Sara lived well, as did all her ancestors. I’m Sara - and I have a gift that I thought at first was a curse, but I take now as a blessing. It helped save those who saved you and your daughter - so thank you.”
Laying the flowers by the cross, she stepped back and looked at the ground for a few minutes, before turning and looking at Lucinda. “Thank you,” she said quietly as she took the older woman’s arm and walked off.
As they approached the boat, Sara felt an urge to turn round. As she did so, she saw two white figures, almost transparent in the early summer warmth. One was the man she had seen on her last visit, but the other was a thin, dark haired woman in a simple peasant dress, who smiled at Sara and nodded.
“Are you all right my dear,” Lucinda said as she looked at Sara. The younger woman turned round and said “Yes - I’m all right thank you. In fact, I feel as if I have come home.”
As they climbed into the boat, and Mr Bridges started to row back, the figures started to fade into the air, as if they had never been present...
As they emerged from the woods, Sara could see Chloe and Brian waiting on the path outside the house with Brian. They walked up the lawn, a smile on Sara’s face as she embraced her life partner.
“Lunch will be ready shortly,” Lucinda said quietly, “but forgive me if I keep Sara myself for a few more moments - there is one more thing I need to do. Anne, will you come with us please?” She escorted Sara back into the library, Anne following behind as she closed the door.
“As I said earlier,” Lucinda said as she walked to the jewellery box, “when Sara fled, she left behind these two items of jewellery.” She held up the locket and the gold brooch. “Now you have returned, I offer them to you - a small pittance that cannot even begin to measure the debt of gratitude we all owe you.”
Sara held the locket and brooch in her hand, before handing them back to Lucinda. “Keep them,” she said quietly, “Keep them safe for me. When you tell the legend, you now have a new part to add - besides, knowing I have family here can...”
The door to the room burst open and a young dark haired girl came in, a girl who bore a striking resemblance to Angela. “Grandma, Mrs Bridges asked me to... Anne Duncombe? What are you doing here?”
“You remember my granddaughter Alicia,” Lucinda said quietly as she closed the case, “and this is...”
“I’m Sara,” Sara said quickly, “Anne invited me to come to the UK with her and a couple of friends, and she was just introducing me to your grandmother.”
“Nice to meet you, Sara,” Alicia said, “Grandma, Lunch is ready. Did I see Chloe as well earlier?”
“You did,” Anne said, “she is one of the friends Sara mentioned. So what are we having - I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
“I am so glad we got the chance to visit,” Chloe said as they stood in the hallway, “and I hope I may have the chance to come again someday?”
“You will always be most welcome here,” Lucinda said as Suzie took her by the arm. “Come with us,” she cried out, “We want to show you something.”
“Forgive me,” Chloe said as she was dragged up the staircase by Suzie. “Please, come with us,” Lord Holderness said as he took Anne by the arm, and Sara walked with Brian into the library again.
She looked round the room - John sitting with Jennifer Craig, Simon with one arm around Anne and the other around Angela, Alexander hugging Susan. On the other side of the room Dave was sitting with Connie, and Miranda was next to Cassie as Lord Holderness sat with Miranda.
One other person was in the room - Barry Hampton, who was looking out of the window, but turned as Anne and Sara stood there. “Well,” he said as he looked at everyone, “I spent the morning with the Chief Constable, trying to explain what happened here the other night. Not the easiest of jobs, given I could not exactly mention the fact that the actual heroes of the hour were an FBI agent and a lady who is officially dead.”
Sara looked round the room, as Lucinda said “Barry told us of your situation, Sara - I am sorry about what happened to you, but at the same time...”
“At the same time,” Lord Holderness said “You saved all of them - and we are very very good at keeping secrets.” He looked round the room as he said this, watching as everyone nodded.”
“So officially,” Barry Hampton said as he looked round, “I answered the alarm signal and went in alone, to find the gang had argued amongst themselves and attacked each other, before one of them lost his senses and was felled by one of the group who somehow managed to escape.” He glanced at Cassie Craig as he said this, who nodded quietly.
“As a result,” he said as he looked round the room, “I have been promoted to Detective Superintendent and will receive an official award. Unofficially,” he then said as he looked at Anne and Sara, as the door opened and Mr and Mrs Bridges came in, “Unofficially, I would love for you two to receive some sort of award for saving nine lives that night. I guess, however, you will just have to settle for our eternal gratitude and thanks.”
“Not just that,” Desmond said as she put his arms around Lucinda, “Know that you are welcome any time, and that you are considered part of our family, now and forever.”
Miranda stood up, Cassie, Connie and Jennifer walking over with her as they embraced Sara and said “Thank you” in floods of tears. Sara was unable to respond, as the watch on her hand glowed a bright green...
Epilogue - two weeks later, Maine.
Anne drove up to the cabin and stopped the car, jumping out and walking quickly to the door as she rang the doorbell.
She looked round, waiting until the door opened and Sara looked at her unexpected visitor.
“Anne - I was not expecting you. Am I needed?”
“Not exactly,” she said as she held up a brown package, “I have a present for you. Can I come in?”
“Of course,” Sara said as she allowed Anne to come in, the two women walking to the lounge. “Brian is out getting some supplies at the moment, do I need him to be here?”
“No - but you can tell him about it later,” Anne said as she sat down. “I got an official letter today from Holderness Manor, and it contained two presents for you and a letter.” She handed the sealed envelope to Sara, who opened it and read the contents.
I know you asked us to keep and protect the items left behind by your ancestor, but Lucinda and I have discussed the situation, and Miranda has told us what happened to you. As a result, we have decided that while the locket will remain with us, you must accept this to pass on to your daughter or son.
Anne held out a small box, and opening it Sara took out the gold brooch. Holding it up to the light, she saw the spider in the pale pink emerald, and smiled.
We are also aware of your official position, and some of the reasons for that. Despite this, we do consider you to be part of our family, and as such we would be delighted to see you again, and your partner. With that in mind, we are sending Anne something that will prove most useful to you both.
We wish and desire to see you again, and look forward to that day.
“What does he mean,” Sara said as she looked at Anne who handed her a leather pouch. Slowly, she opened the pouch and took out the crimson passport inside.
“I provided the photo,” Anne said with a smile, “so forgive me for that liberty.”
Sara looked inside the passport, and smiled as she saw herself on the page, and next to it a name.
“You should know,” Anne said as she stood up, “that Chloe and I will be going over with some mutual friends to see them - they have asked for our help with something. Can I take a message back?”
Sara looked up, tears in her eyes as she said quietly “Just this - thank you.”
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