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[list]It was a cold winter night, and a subtle, imperceptible silence had fallen over the town.

[list]On Christmas Eve, the bell tolled and I heard the crescendo of delicate footsteps by the door. I stood up from my velvet divan near the fireplace. Annabelle, I presumed, as she was the only woman I knew who would be awake at this time of night. Two pressured knocks followed the halt of the footsteps; it was indeed Annabelle. I covered my eyes and then opened the door.

[list]“You look lovely today, Anna.” I said.
A look of utter surprise crossed Annabelle’s face: her pale eyelids widened and petal lips parted.
[list]“How on earth did you know?” I stepped aside as she entered my house.
[list]“I heard your footsteps, light and quick, a woman’s most likely. You’re the only woman I know who would be up this late, especially with that bell toll…” Anna slipped out of her fur coat and handed it to me. She seemed troubled, but I couldn’t figure out why.

[list]I’ve known Annabelle since my youth. She has become a well-known soprano across these parts, as I preoccupied myself with detective work. Annabelle always made time to visit me, despite her profession. At that moment, I thought I wouldn’t be alone on Christmas Day.
[list]She wanted me to stop being this way.
[list]If only I could.
[list]I told her I couldn’t help who I was.

[list]“I’m the only woman you know, Harry, unless you count Madame Ivy across the street,” Lines formed around the corners of her emerald eyes as she laughed. She often masked her worry with humor.
[list]“You knocked louder than usual, is something wrong?” I said, as Annabelle folded her arms and then pursed her lips.
[list]“Oh, you’re good...a bit too good at times. I spoke with Alexander before I left and he thinks this might be another murder.” she said. I stroked my chin and sat back down on the divan. I thought it was bloody time for a pipe.
[list]“’Tis as good a time as any,” she sat next to me and watched the billows of smoke escape from my pipe.

[list]I wondered if Annabelle believed in ghosts. I scraped the thought for now and contemplated on the murderer.

[list]There’s been a bell toll for three consecutive Tuesday nights, but this particular one was on a Monday. Why would the murderer choose to kill a victim a day earlier than usual? It was quiet the conundrum. Annabelle’s mellow voice chimed into my thoughts. It occurred to me that, at the time of my thought induced trance, Alexander has made himself welcome inside my home. He stood to her right.

[list]“…the work of the Iris, no doubt! Ah, Harry, you’ve finally come to your senses!” he exclaimed. “I expected you to be at the crime scene already- still thinking about the time, eh?”
[list]“I think you’re both on the same page now,”
said Annabelle.
[list]“I was just telling Annabelle here that it could be the-“
[list]Iris. Do you think they’re a group rather than a person?”
I said. The papers have painted him as a twenty-something man with a knife for a hand. Hardly realistic, but people will believe anything. Annabelle picked up a newspaper and read aloud its contents, “The Iris strikes again… his latest victim, Ms. Ivy Blackwood, a window living in- oh my God.” She turned to me, her face stricken with grief. Alexander rushed to her side.

[list]I couldn’t help who I was.

[list]“I’ll be across the street. Alexander, watch over her.” I strode across the street, and police cars lined the outside of Madame Ivy’s home. The exterior has stayed the same since my schoolboy days: bright violet Morning Glories adorned the trellis of the stone pathway, and the cream colored curtains swayed with unease like forgotten ghosts. Annabelle and I used to visit Madame Ivy on Wednesdays when tea and biscuits awaited us on the whitewood porch. I felt guilty for all of the Wednesdays I missed, the biscuits I never ate, the tea I never drank, and the stories I never told her.

[list]I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Annabelle.
[list]“Do you think she’s still here with us?” she said.
[list]She did believe in ghosts.

[list]On Christmas, the bell tolled again and I heard no footsteps by the door.

Eternal Rebellion
Community Member
Eternal Rebellion
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