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LoaMR: Chapter I: Unforgotten Murder 1 (Reworked)

by MailicedeNamedy


In the small community of Sehlingen was a villa.

To the utter amazement of all those visitors who had strayed there, this villa was the eyesore of the farming village. The mighty building had been abandoned for many years and was decaying in the shadow of the market square. Like a compost heap, the building was rotting inside and out and was shunned by all its inhabitants.

It had stood empty for over fifty years. The people of Sehlingen did not talk about it, it was like a thorn stuck in their village. It could not be removed. It was like a deadly disease or a leper, it was shunned and ignored. But it was part of the village and therefore part of the community. The grounds of the mansion were closed off, letting nature do its work there in silence.

Over the course of time, the hedges around it had developed into an untamed monster. Ivy grew over partly withered leaves, spiders and insects inhabited the many brittle holes in the low entrance wall. The wall crumbled everywhere, the left statue of the column was missing from the entrance gate, while the right one lay broken on the ground. A thick branch of the oak tree that stood next to the entrance had smashed a granite swan into its component parts. The storm that was responsible had scattered the tiles of the roof in the front garden.

Anyone standing in front of the entrance and inspecting the mansion could not help but notice that the windows were almost broken everywhere. Shards lay inside and outside. The entrance door was smashed, torn curtains blowing in the wind and the draught turned them into ghosts. Squeaking doors and creaking wooden boards foreshadowed disaster for whoever heard them in the night.

The splendour that this property once enjoyed when it was built within two years was long forgotten. The eleven or twelve rooms were dirty, the damp upholstery and furniture were mouldy, the interior furnishings lay scattered from the entrance to the attic. The filthy, rape-yellow exterior was already blended into a cinnamon-coloured, disgusting tone.

Today, the mansion is no longer entered by anyone. Fearing to be cursed or even killed by a supernatural power, the old people used it to scare the children.

The storm could not have done it all on its own. The people of Sehlingen are guilty of one thing. They were not responsible for building it, but they were responsible for its decay and wanton destruction.

After all these years of decay, only recently did a young man named Léonard appeared who intended to call the villa his own.

***

Léonard slowly got closer to his goal.

He had been working towards this for a long time. As part of the renovation to put everything in order, he managed to reap the fruits of his labour, at least on this day. The last cobwebs were removed as he stowed a sack of yellowed leaves, punctured blankets, and broken roof tiles in a corner. The broom, all grey and damp from the leaking roof had served its purpose and was to be disposed of as well. He knelt for a while beside the old, reddish-brown cherry wood cupboard. He read the partly torn and mouldy notice that someone had stuck on the still intact door. Apart from the numerous dead spiders, it was the only interesting thing in the attic.

It didn't really look any cleaner. But at least it now looked as if someone lived here. Léonard inspected the holes in the ceiling and felt the support wood. He had no desire to have the roof repaired and considered not abandoning the attic altogether.

His tidying up had no particular reason. Maybe he just wanted to take his mind off things a bit. In any case, his arrival in the village was not the best. Everyone immediately looked at him when he drove his car into the front garden of the mansion and suffered a flat tyre.

He had only been there for a day, but the people of Sehlingen already knew that Léonard was a young man looking for a quick buck. They immediately avoided him, not without letting him in on it by standing in front of the property and letting their curiosity play with them. Who would want to enter this disgraceful place?

The rain had eased in the morning. The sun cleared the clouds and the temperature rose.

Léonard strolled downstairs after closing the chamber door. The past that lurked within these walls was still alive. Arriving in the foyer, he was startled at the sight of the rubble and the missing furniture. He thought he was seeing boyish pranks when he visited the rest of the rooms, but after a while he gradually realised that all the residents had taken part in destroying the mansion internally. The façade smelled of charred paper, romantic landscape paintings became cruel acts of war and the destroyed cupboards and tables were victims of an insatiable beast. The buffet lacked plates and cutlery, the divan in the reception room lacked loins.

It gave him an ounce of motivation after the inspection. He had started with the attic, as there was the least to do there.

He just didn't expect to have to clean up so much. Léonard knew about the resentment of the locals and the resentment towards the mansion. He couldn't resist going to the market that morning to buy some fruits. By then he had already noticed the washerwomen on the wall, staring at him suspiciously. Some gossiped in a loud tone that he could overhear.

Léonard liked this attention and couldn't help smiling as he lit a cigarette and wished the group of gossips a good day.

***

The village pub was always well filled. The cheerful music of the accordion, the shouting of card players and the clinking of glass amidst the ceiling fogged with cigarette smoke was the everyday situation in this dimly lit room.

When Léonard entered the pub that evening, it was silent for a brief moment. Motionless, the musician stared at him while one of the card players tried to make one of his cards disappear under the table. Léonard grinned and greeted every single table he passed before coming to the counters. At first he stared at the painting of a hunter hanging behind the liquors before whistling confidently to call the host to him.

The music of the accordion began anew as the innkeeper glared at Léonard, talking to a man who, with his bowler hat and suit, didn't really fit into this pub.

Léonard whistled a second time when the man in the bowler hat came up to him and introduced himself as Mayor Krautmann. The young man was surprised but very pleased that no one less than the head of the village came to him.

"I suppose you don't take orders."

With a wave of his hand, he called the innkeeper over.

"Two wheat," the mayor demanded in his gruff voice.

"And a match." Léonard grinned and tried to hand the innkeeper a cigarette, which he refused to accept.

"Come with me," the mayor ordered when they had their glasses and a pack of matches.

Léonard followed him into a gloomy corner opposite the card players. For a moment, Léonard remained silent. He watched the scene while the mayor looked at him, hoping he would say a word.

"You moved into the villa," he said after the silent seconds.

Léonard raised his glass and wanted to toast. Krautmann didn't seem to want to understand his humour.

"Exactly."

Krautmann squeezed his eyes tightly shut and eyed Léonard's clothes while he lit a cigarette. He finished it with relish before continuing. The mayor had not yet taken a sip of his beer but was waiting to hear more than this word in reply.

"It's my villa. I inherited it."

Léonard clearly recognised how the mayor shuddered at these words and the bowler hat almost fell off his head. The moustache vibrated even seconds after Léonard's revelation. Krautmann tried to grab his glass, succeeding only after several attempts.

"I don't suppose you know what this mark of shame is all about," he tried to explain calmly. "If you have indeed inherited this monstrosity, it means you are related to this de Waarfay guy."

Léonard nodded.

"It's nice to know he's still remembered. That de Waarfay guy was my grandfather," Léonard smiled, "That's why I love these small villages. Everyone knows everyone."

With a mock manner, he tossed a cigarette to the mayor. He took it and put it in his pocket with his tissue.

"I don't suppose you know that your grandfather is wanted."

"He's dead," returned Léonard curtly, "Shall I give you the address of the cemetery?"

Krautmann slammed his fist on the table. Before he could shout anything, Léonard continued.

"Now that this matter has been cleared up, why don't I ask about the people responsible for putting the villa in this mess?"

Léonard blew smoke in the mayor's face. Krautmann turned all red. Even his moustache and bowler hat seemed to turn red. For a moment he stood in front of the table, about to throw his beer glass at Léonard when cheering rang out from the table of card players. The cheater seemed to have won and shouted into the room that he was paying for all the drinks. Léonard kept his eyes on the mayor and counted to ten with him in his mind to get down a bit.

With a fake smile, he tried to turn the situation in his favour.

"When you leave the village, I am willing to speak to the priest to have your sins forgiven."

Léonard laughed out loud.

"Doesn't he already have enough to do with the sinners in this village?" he asked, coughing. "I just want to play a little detective and do some investigating of my own."

He stood beside the mayor and tossed him some coins.

"I thank you for the invitation. Help yourself to some liquor before you go to sleep. And don't worry, I won't accuse anyone of emptying the safe in my library."

Léonard strolled through the pub and went to the card players, where he introduced himself with an elegant bow and placed the cheater´s card on the table.

"You seem to have lost something earlier."

Léonard laughed and made his way out of the pub before he could witness the coming minutes.

"Have a good evening, gentlemen," he said with a wave.


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57 Reviews


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Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:14 am
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quitecontrary wrote a review...



Heya! (am I putting off homework to read more? Of course I am! ;))
This is very different from your original first chapter, and while I liked both, Léonard's character is much better portrayed here. I don't want to do a super long review, so I'll just hit the changed plot points. First off, I was slightly disappointed we didn't get to see Léonard drive into the town. I liked the way you set up Sehlingen in your original chapter and then slowly weaved Léonard in, but in this one I almost feel like Léonard was a part of the town when he's first introduced. It's not a big worry, but maybe a small bit of the car scene would help us understand who he is, even if it's just expanding on the flashback.
Secondly, I really liked that you added more depth to the characters in this chapter. The life in the village isn't necessarily more vibrant, but it has much more character and the townspeople don't all blend into one another. The last scene is also very powerful in the way that it shows Léonard's confidence and disdain for the village people. I haven't gotten to your most recent chapter yet, but this description solidifies my idea of Léonard as a self-inflated character with a very cool demeanor. I almost wonder what would happen if he got mad...?
I think that's all that caught my eye! As always, you've done a great job with your poetic descriptions of the mansion. One last thing I kind of wish you kept in was more description of the cliffs and the woods, but it's probably a good idea to tackle those when the characters actually interact with them :D I think at one point I told you it didn't make sense to introduce the cliffs especially if they won't be touched upon for a couple chapters, but I did love reading those descriptions when you wrote them!

Happy writing!






Thank you for your review as always! The cliff thing in particular is something I want to add later, when it becomes a bit more relevant. Otherwise, I think it was a bit too much information at the beginning.





That makes sense! I suppose I just can't wait until it finally shows up ;)



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Wed Apr 07, 2021 1:36 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review! I've grown accustomed to seeing chapters of this in the green room, and I think I've reviewed one... maybe? I don't think I've ever read the beginning in depth, though, so I'm looking forward to it! Anyways. On with the review!

I really enjoyed reading this piece! It's a very engaging beginning. I like the two different parts of it, where you start by describing the house and then go on to introduce your main character, Léonard.

One of my favorite things about this piece was your descriptions and the overall... vibe (I think that's the word I'm looking for) you created. The beginning is one of my favorite parts I think. The way you describe the manor... it's really very skilled. I love the way you personify the plants around it, calling the hedge a "monster." It painted this clear visual in my head of the gnarled branches and leaves. Nice work!

One thing I wondered about was the characters' goals. I had a little trouble following what each character wanted and what the main problem was. This led to a bunch of questions that kind of distracted me from enjoying your lovely writing. What is Léonard doing in Sehlingen? Why does the mayor seem to resent him? What did his grandfather do? What sins does he need forgiven? What is he investigating? By solidifying these things and making them straightforward, you can throw in more subtle things later on. I get that this is supposed to be a mystery, but if everything is vague/a mystery, the reader just gets confused. However, if you make one thing clear, the reader is going to build off of that and want to keep reading. Mysteries aren't about keeping everything vague; they're about defining a question and letting the characters and readers try and figure it out.

Specifics

"Two wheat." the mayor demanded in his gruff voice.


This is small, but I noticed you put a period after "wheat" when it should be a comma.

"And a match," Léonard grinned and tried to hand the innkeeper a cigarette, which he refused to accept.


Since "grinned" isn't a dialogue tag, you actually need to put a period after "match."

Overall: nice work!! You're a very talented writer, and I look forward to reading more of the revised versions of this piece!






Thank you for your review!



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Wed Apr 07, 2021 12:41 am
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orbiteliza wrote a review...



Hi! I'm here to drop a review. I'll organize it into what I liked and what I disliked, but I didn't dislike much.

May I start this by saying that I am so into your story! Your description skills and vocabulary are just...phenomenal. It feels so seasoned if that even makes sense. From the get-go, I was intrigued, with the fresh one-sentence hooks and the immerse descriptions of the places. I'm kind of already terrified of whatever is happening in the villa. Also, the mayor is very sus. Foreshadowing? Who knows. Anywho—your descriptions are definitely your strength. I felt like I was there, truly.

So, for the bad. There really is no bad. I'm thoroughly impressed by how well-edited this is, and the pacing of it is well done. My only complaint is minor—some of the dialogue isn't feeling exactly how I think you'd like to portray it. As an example, "I don't suppose you know what this mark of shame is all about!" he tried to explain calmly." The exclamation mark gives, well, an exclamation or shouting feel. It's not really a big thing though. Just something I noticed. Stellar prose easily makes up for this.

Overall: I felt like I was reading a mystery book from Barnes and Nobles. Or historical fiction. Something like that. It was good. The description was phenomenal. The dialogue could be edited. It's still good. Verdict? I'm hooked! Keep writing and uploading.






Thank you for your review!




To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.
— Allen Ginsberg