Passing through the grand gates of the Abbot Manor, a sense of ominous melancholy started seeping in every corner of my heart. It was a grandiose estate of the wealthy Abbot family, nestled in the heart of Warwickshire, right on the cusp of an enigmatic forest.
The manor had been devoid of its inhabitants for a fortnight as the tragic news of Lord Abbot's bizarre death had sent the entire retinue on a hysteric flight. The grandeur of the manor seemed as if mourning its master's grotesque end, with its rampant adornments appearing cold and lifeless right from the uncanny gatekeeper's caricature to the painstakingly detailed twin Gargoyles guarding the mansion door.
The Inspector Gregory, known far and wide for his uncanny intuition and erudite approach to his investigations, had been summoned by the anxious kin. As Gregory arrived at the deserted Manor, his innate instinct signaled him of the convoluted riddles that lay ahead. He was spectacularly shrewd when it came to intertwining the shadows of the unseen with the seen.
"What makes the Manor special?", Gregory murmured to himself as he dwelled deeper into the inexplicable. Treading through the cold medieval stone corridor, he arrived at the late Lord’s study. Through candlelight, he discerned something unusual on the mahogany desk, a leather-bound journal with its pages suspiciously turned over. Gregory's heart raced as he flipped through the turned pages. The last entry of the journal sent a chill down his spine.
“Thy Mansion bore witness to an unspeakable truth, Thy secret passage was the escape route. Thy metal serpent guards the crypt, Thy truth will soon be told if the serpent is stripped.”
Gregory had dabbled enough with riddles in his career to know exactly where to look. The so-called ‘metal serpent’ had to be symbolic of something. Thinking over the Lord’s words, Gregory returned to the manor’s entrance where he noticed two brass door handles configured as serpentine, twins but one inverted. One serpentine handle had a rubbed off shine, hinting its frequent use.
Gregory--with a swift turn of the handle and a slightly forceful push--stood in awe as he saw a stone stairwell descending into the chilling cold darkness. As he dared to take a step forward, his feet met a metal toolbox, filled with antique surgeon tools. With the toolbox as a grim omen, the tension escalated.
Delving deeper into the secret passage, he encountered a crypt, where a musty smell assaulted his senses. Being a man of the law, Gregory remained undeterred. As the candlelight flickered and danced on the cold crypt stones, his gaze fell upon a painted portrait lying on the ground. On closer examination, he stepped back in shock. The eerie portrait was not lord Abbot but of the long lost son, James Abbot, who was allegedly assumed dead in a shipwreck five years ago.
"In heaven's name, we assumed him drowned," whispered Gregory, horror etched in his voice.
Just as he was about to leave, he noticed a scrap of paper neatly tucked under the portrait. It read:
"The truth at last. I, James Abbot, am alive. The shipwreck was a plan to ensnare the fortune I was denied. My father’s greed cost me my life. Alas, how the tables have turned. From this cold crypt, he shall never return."
Victor Gregory had his answer. The suicidal death of Lord Abbot was naught but a ruse. It was murder, plotted and executed by the long lost son under the shroud of darkness, as a calculated revenge.
The following day, Gregory closed the investigation with his conclusive evidence and unwavering deduction. The Manor’s eerie silence was finally broken by the horrifying revelation that echoed through its stolid edifice, creating ripples of shock across the country.
The grand Abbot Manor was an embodiment of a sinister façade, narrating a grim tale of greed, deception, and revenge, where the shadows of the unseen had finally intertwined with the seen.