Ben had to ask around before he could finally find Love Dale. But as he neared the house, he saw another car, outside the gate. A bright red Ferrari, with a K near its number plate – and Ben could never forget this car. But what was Kyle doing here?
Ben had been casually browsing through radio stations when he heard Kyle admitting to proposing Hayley Smith, and that Mia was his ‘past’. He knew there was something fishy, and he never trusted the guy. But when he came to know that Mia had disappeared completely, without even facing the media, declaring it was all over, he knew something was wrong. And that was when he had called her up. And he had decided that he will give her a surprise visit.
But the fact that Kyle was here didn’t feel right – he definitely did not come to get her, or apologise to her. So he parked his car a few metres away and walked to the drive, without making any noise. He sneaked in and hid behind a tree, where he could see Kyle, and his companion. Kyle’s companion had a camera, and it was obvious that the guy was from some channel.
“This is the address, but the house looks empty.” Said Kyle.
“Yes, I think she has gone out. Anyways, just ring the bell.” Said his friend.
Kyle rang the bell, and after a while they heard some noise. A young girl opened the door, and said,” Browns residence, how can I help you?”
Kyle and his friend, both were quite taken aback at this. Even Ben doubted if he was in fact at the wrong house after all.
“Oh! I’m sorry, but I think there has been some sort of misunderstanding. I mistook this to be my friend’s address.” Said Kyle, and they left.
Ben was confused. Maybe it was the wrong house after all. I should probably call her up. He was about to leave, when he heard a noise – that of something falling into water. He rushed to the lake, but didn’t find anybody. He walked over to the ledge, to get a clearer view, when he saw something in the water.
When he realized what it was, he did not hesitate to jump into the lake.
The bright white light finally faded away, and now Mia could see the blue sky. And then she saw Ben’s worried face looking down at her. He helped to the bench near the lake, under the shade of a huge tree, and they sat quietly for some time.
Finally, Ben asked.” How did you end up in there?”
“It’s a long story.” Mia replied.
“Well, I’m in no hurry to go back.” He said.
“I don’t know Ben, what if you won’t believe me? You’ll most probably think I’ve gone crazy.” Mia said.
“Well, yes. I guess I might think you’ve gone crazy, believe me I already sort of do, after whatever just happened. But then, I’m your friend, and so whether I believe you not, I’m with you. Whatever it is.” He replied.
Mia took a deep breath in and let it out. “Where do I start…?”
After she was finished narrating each and every incident, she looked at Ben. He looked thoughtful. Thank god, I thought he will laugh at me. At least he is thinking about it.
“Well Mia, I’m not sure what this is, but we’ll find out. But before that I think we should get into some dry clothes.” He said.
He went over to his car, and brought it in and parked it near Mia’s car. Mia had opened the door and helped him with his luggage.
A few minutes later, Ben was on the sofa. Mia was making coffee in the kitchen. Ben didn’t know what was going on – whether all that she had said was true, or maybe she had really lost her mind. But he knew that she needed someone to be there for her, for support – and he didn’t want to make it worse for her. Mia handed over a cup to Ben and sat down beside him.
“So, how come you are here? That too all of a sudden like this?” Mia asked.
“Well, I wanted to give you a surprise, but then I was surprised to see Kyle over here.” he replied.
“Kyle?” asked Mia, astonished.
Ben did not notice the astonished look on her face, and he continued talking, “You know, I was thinking how he got your address, and I think it must be that agent who showed you this house.”
“But why?” she asked.
“Well, that letter you’d written to him, somebody leaked it, and it became breaking news. He came here with some reporter, which means he came here to do damage control – he didn’t come for you.” Ben replied.
“Ohh…I have been spending my day reading.”
“Well, even then, you’re lucky that the girl opened the door and –“
At this, Mia was totally confused, she interrupted him, “Wait! What girl? There is no girl here.”
“What do you mean? The girl who helps you out here? She definitely didn’t look like the owner of the house. And she opened up the door from inside.” Ben said. He was still not serious about this.
“Ben, I am all alone here, I had told you so over the phone that day. And I told you, I was about to go out, and I had locked the door.” Mia said in a grim tone.
“S…sooo… who was the girl I saw at your door?” Ben asked, his face pale.
“It must be her.”
Ben no longer had any doubts on whether Mia was imagining things. When Mia said she had locked the house and there was no girl – she was all alone- he didn’t know what to think. They called up Mia’s lawyer, to trace back its previous owners. By the time her lawyer would gather all the information, they thought- why not go to the library?
From what Mia saw that day, she was sure that it was around ten – fifteen years ago.
“Something bad happened here, and I’m sure it must have come in the newspapers. I know it is a little far-fetched, but let’s get out of this house for a while, it has started to freak me out.” Said Mia.
“Well, I’m not sure we will find anything in the library, but then we can give it a shot.” Ben replied.
They went to the library, and searched for around two hours – but they found nothing on the girl. Then finally they found something: a family was found dead in the lake. While it has not been clear what they were doing in Love Dale, but the house had been untouched. According to the investigation head, the driver lost control of the vehicle and it fell into the lake. Nothing more.
“How can this be? Nothing on that girl at all – it is almost as if she doesn’t exist.” Said Mia thoughtful.
“We don’t even have a name!” Said Ben.
“Wait a second, Ben – we do have a name. Remember what you told me? When Kyle came with his friend, the girl opened door and said something.” Said Mia.
“Browns residence!” They chorused.
Ben was about to type it in the search column, when Mia interrupted,” Wait a second Ben.”
The Browns, murder, Love Dale.
And what filled the screen was definitely not what they had expected.
Family found dead under mysterious circumstances – read the headline. There was picture with it, and Mia recognized the man from her vision that day. Near him stood, his wife, not much younger than him. And then there were two kids- a boy and a girl. The caption read: The Browns: Dr.James Brown, wife Ashley Brown, and children Daniel and Daisy.
But no sight of that girl. She was not part of that family. Maybe she worked there?
The Browns were found dead at their home, Love Dale, early morning on 17th February, by the newspaper boy. The police are not sure as to what happened, but they are trying their best to nab the murderer. Immediate neighbours claim they heard no noise whatsoever. The incident is believed to have taken place at midnight.
Dr.Brown’s body was found near the lake, while Mrs. Brown was found dead in the kitchen. The children, Daniel (17) and Daisy (11) were found dead in their bedroom. The incident has left the local police baffled, as nothing has been stolen.
“Do you think she did all this?” asked Ben
“I don’t know Ben, I thought she was the victim, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe she did. But we cannot be sure. Hey, look at this”, she said, pointing at a follow up of the murder.
The Browns did not have any domestic help at their house, and the milkman and the newspaper boy were the only two people who went to Love Dale regularly.
“Dr. Brown and his wife was quite well known and also respected by everyone in this neighbourhood. And the children were a quiet bunch. The whole neighbourhood is shocked as to who would do this to the family.” Says Mrs. Greggory, neighbour and friend of the Browns.
The next article was even more surprising.
According to the post-mortem report, the killer hit the children with a blunt object, and they died within minutes due to their head injuries. The report also stated that Mrs. Brown was stabbed multiple times. The police have discovered the knife used to kill Mrs. Brown and the blunt object with which the children were murdered. The police could find only Dr.Brown’s fingerprints.
“How can this be? The whole family was there, and this girl is invisible? No one knows her, no records of such a girl at all? I don’t know what happened to her, but what if it happened before the Browns shifted into the house?” asked Ben.
“No Ben, that can’t be, because from what I saw that day, it is evident that she lived inside that very house, and the man talked to her. Whatever happened, happened after they moved in and before this.” She said.
“But –“started Ben
“Wait a minute Ben. I just remembered something. The man had said – if you want to be a part of this family. That means she was not a part of their family at all! “She said.
“But then, who is she? How did she end up there with them?” asked Ben.
“I don’t know.”
They had dinner, and returned to the house. Mia didn’t have any plan in particular, but she knew that only the girl could tell her something. She was not even sure anymore, if the girl was in fact the victim or the culprit.
They had just entered the house, when Mia’s lawyer called.
“Well?” asked Ben.
“The Browns bought the house from the original owners. And around seven years ago, a businessman bought it, but he died months later. He stayed in the house only once – he was here on business. He sold the house to a doctor and his wife. The doctor killed himself, and the wife was under psychiatric treatment. The house then went to the bank. That’s it.” She said.
Mia slept in her room while Ben was given the guest room. Ben was fast asleep when the rain woke him up. He got up to close the window, when he thought he saw someone, among the trees near the lake. He looked carefully, but couldn’t see clearly. He took his flashlight and went out. He checked both the cars – locked and untouched. He aimed his flashlight at the trees – nobody. He went over to the lake, but didn’t see anybody. He turned around and stood face to face with the girl. Startled he fell back, but when he looked up again, she was gone. His flashlight fell down beside him, throwing light on something floating in the lake. He picked up the flashlight and aimed at it.
“Oh my God!” was all he could say, as he saw the body of Dr. Brown in the lake, his face twisted. He got up and went towards it- it was still there.
The night’s deadly silence was broken by Mia’s scream. He ran into the house, and searched for her in her room, and the drawing room but could not find her. Finally, he found her, in the kitchen – unconscious. The kitchen’ floor had a hole, and she had fallen into some sort of basement.
Mia woke up to the sound of the grandfather clock striking two, again. She walked to Ben’s room, but panicked when she saw blood flowing out from the room. With all her courage, she opened the door, but instead of her guestroom she saw two beds, drawings, books, and two children – a boy and a girl – lying dead in a pool of blood.
She ran away from there into kitchen, and drank some cold water. She had just put the water back, when she saw a lady leaning over the sink. As she went closer, she realized the lady had blood all over – probably dead. She knew this was all because of that girl.
“Where are you?” she said taking a step backwards.
“Why don’t you just show yourself?” she asked.
She heard a noise behind her, that of a door opening. And then, two small pale hands grabbed and pulled her into the floor. She screamed.
She saw the girl again, in the kitchen. She was weaker, and there marks all over her body. She was badly hurt, but was still made to do all the work all alone. Then the kids came in, angry.
“Where the hell is our juice?” Daisy screamed at her.
“But- but I am busy cooking lunch” she replied.
At this, the boy became even more furious, and caught hold of her hand, almost crushing her wrist.
“You better have my juice ready in ten minutes” Daniel said before leaving.
She walked into the drawing room where Mrs. Brown was talking into the phone. It was quite dark – all the windows were closed. Suddenly it became darker and darker, and suddenly she found herself in a room she didn’t quite recognize.
She saw a grandfather clock to her right, and a cot in front her. The room was small, with no windows or ventilation. Then she saw the girl climb down a ladder, entering through what looked like a trapdoor. She laid down on the bed and started weeping. She fell asleep a few minutes later. Mia looked at the clock – it was three in the morning.
And then everything just dissolved into blank space, and she was wide awake. She realised she was in that same room. The trapdoor in the kitchen opened to this tiny space where that girl lived. Ben helped her get up, and they started looking around. The room was intact and dusty – nobody knew about the trapdoor.
She saw a small suitcase near the bed, it had the owner’s name in it – Lily. Mia opened the suitcase – a few clothes, a small teddy and a diary. She had closer look at the diary – Little Angels Orphanage.
“Ben, come look at this.” Mia called out.
Ben and Mia were on their way to orphanage – Ben was driving and Mia was reading Lily’s diary.
“This is really bad Ben. She was adopted when she was eleven. For a year they stayed in the same town. Things were smooth – except for the kids. The kids were not happy with her entering the family. Then they moved into Love Dale, when things started to change. The Browns did not let her into the family – Dr. Brown said she had to prove herself. Do her chores, and fulfil her responsibilities. Slowly, anything and everything became her chore. Her sole responsibility.” Mia told Ben.
“But then how come no one came to know she existed?” asked Ben.
“They locked her up in the room whenever there was a visitor. Once she made some noise by mistake, and they bet her up bad for that. They even starved her. They even tied her up and gagged her, whenever there were important guests were coming over. Poor thing. I don’t think she got any time to write her diary after this last entry.” Said Mia.
There was nothing much left of the Little Angels orphanage. The two storeyed building looked older than it should and was in desperate need of complete renovation. There spotted an old lady speaking a young man. As she saw Ben and Mia, she excused herself and approached them.
“Yes, how may I help you?” she asked.
A few minutes later they were sitting in the lady’s office. She was the head matron.
“We lost quite some amount of data in a fire a few years ago. But I managed to find this picture we had taken on a Christmas before Lily was adopted. ” She said, handing over the photo to them.
“Lily was well behaved, and a quiet girl. She kept to herself most of the time. So, we were happy that she got a good family – the Browns. She was also very intelligent and wanted to study and become a doctor. I used to visit her, but then a year after she had been adopted, they moved into this beautiful house they had bought. Lily was very excited about it. But since then, I haven’t heard from her.” Said the head matron.
As Mia unlocked the front door, she and Ben were taken aback – it was not the same Love Dale they had left. Everything was so different. Old fashioned.
“Is it just me, or..???” asked Mia.
“Nope” replied Ben.
The house looked empty. They walked into the kitchen, where they saw Lily, and Daniel, down in her room. Daniel was clearly trying to take advantage of Lily’s situation, and misbehave with her.
“I have to finish my chores. Please leave me alone” she said trying to break free from Daniel.
But the grip only seemed to tighten. She tried to walk away, but he wouldn’t let her. Then suddenly it turned into a struggle between the two. She slapped him and ran away, to the ladder, only to see a furious Dr. Brown at the other end.
“How dare you!!” he shouted.
He climbed down the ladder and started beating her with his belt. She cried out loud but Dr. Brown was not ready to listen to her. She tripped over something, hit her head on the wall and fell down – blood all over the floor. Silence.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Brown, and Daniel were waiting in the kitchen when Dr. Brown came out of Lily’s room. It was raining heavily.
“Is she dead?” asked Mrs. Brown.
“No, not yet. There is little chance that she will make it. But for that we will have to hospitalise her. Otherwise she will definitely die. By the way, where is Daisy?” Said Dr. Brown.
“She’s asleep in her room.” Said Daniel.
“Well, anyways we can’t hide her here forever. We had to get rid of her one day or the other. Hospitalising her would be risky wouldn’t it?” said Mrs. Brown.
“Yes, it is. She will try to escape like before, and if she succeeds, then the respect and the status we enjoy in the society will be gone. And we will be in jail. It is better to get rid of her. But how?” said Dr. Brown.
They were standing beside the lake. Dr. and Mrs. Brown were standing on the ledge. They put Lily in a big heavy trunk, and added a few stones to it. And then, they dumped it into the water. They stood there watching the trunk sink. Ben and Mia also walked over to the ledge and watched in horror.
The clock struck two, startling all four of them. Dr. and Mrs. Brown walked into the house.
Suddenly Lily’s head popped out from the water.
“Oh my God, Lily. I am so sorry. How could anyone be so cruel to a little girl? “Said Mia.
“For two years they tortured me, until they finally dumped me into this lake – alive. I couldn’t even run away, with the doors closed all the time, and the windows had grills. It was horrible.” She whispered in the rain.
“Is there anything we can do?” Asked Mia.
At this she looked up at them and smiled – and their hearts skipped a beat.
She caught hold of their feet, and dragged them into the water with her.
Mr. Brown woke up to the sound of somebody sobbing. He went over to the kids room following the sound. He went near Daisy’s bed, and put his arm on her shoulder. But when she turned around, he saw Lily.
“Leave us alone !” He shouted, hitting her with whatever he could get hold of.
Then he turned around only to her again. He hit her again. Harder. He closed his eyes and shook his head hard. He opened his eyes and saw his children dead in a pool of blood.
“Nooooooo…. What have I done!” He said.
He searched the house for his wife, and saw her dead in the kitchen. He pulled out the knife – she had been stabbed . He held her tight and cried.
“Your turn” He heard her say.
He ran out of the house, towards the road – and maybe get some help. He ran and ran. But he never made it.