Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Mystery at the Castle. Chapter Three: The Past is Present

Welcome again to the latest of our collaborations that we call the Progressive Story Project. These stories are so much fun both to write and to read. The way they work is simple, a group of writers craft a story not by collaborating with each other, but by, one by one, adding our own piece to what those before us have written. The end result is one cohesive story.

Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story presented by www.BakingInATornado.com | #blogging #collaboration

This time the story is called Mystery at the Castle. So far I've posted two chapters including the contributions of 9 writers. Be sure to read them before picking up the story today.
Chapter One: Friends for Life and 
Chapter Two: Suspicion 

As usual, the author of each section is to the far right of their contribution. For more of their writing, be sure to check out their blog, linked by their names.

Mystery at the Castle, a Progressive Story Project, one piece of fiction written by a group of bloggers, each contributing to but not controlling the story | Graphic property of and story resented by www.BakingInATornado.com | #blogging #collaboration

Chapter Three:


Jill, Kath and Ash stared at the body on the ground in front of them. Kath and Ash looked at each other, confusion and fear shining in their eyes. They then turned to Jill, who was just standing there, a look of utter shock animating her normally unreadable face. She looked up at her two best friends, and back at the dead body.

"This is so not good," Jill said, her normal blankness returning to her face. "I am so sorry. This is not what I was expecting when I asked you to come with me."

"Well," Kat chimed in, "I would certainly hope not. Who is this? Do you know him?"

"Yeah," said the now crouching Jill. "I have known him nearly my whole life. It's my stepbrother Mikey."

"Your what??" squeaked Ash. "You have a stepbrother? Since when?"

"Since I was two," Jill said as she stood back up and faced her friends. "Before Robert became my stepdad, I had another one, Barry, who had five sons. My mom and he were married when I was two, and it lasted until I was six. Barry and four of his sons lived with us. I never knew the fifth son, beyond knowing he existed. After my mom was finally able to rid us and our life of him and his boys, she ended up marrying Robert. He had actually been her divorce attorney. Barry did not quietly exit stage left. In fact, it was quite loud and messy. At times it was downright terrifying."

"Where does he play into this?" Kath asked, turning to look at the dead body laying just feet away.

Ash walked over to a nearby wall and leaned against it, her face still showing signs of shock. She thought she had known Jill better than she knew herself. She suspected there were secrets she kept about her childhood, but she certainly did not think it would be anything this big. This was crazy. This was front page news. This was a mess. She returned her attention back to Jill and Kath, who had walked over to where she was leaning against the cold cement wall.

"Well, he was my oldest stepbrother Mikey. He was almost eleven when he moved in with my mom and me," she paused looking at her friends, her face showing the guilt she was feeling for dragging them into this mess. "Dom was the second oldest. He was eight and so quiet you barely knew he was there. Joey and Vinny were the babies. I say babies, but they were still older than me by three years. In the beginning the change was not too bad. All the boys were in school, so my mom and I still had plenty of alone time. I guess things went downhill when Barry got a new job, where he worked from home, and he really turned into a dictator. He controlled my mom and me with an iron fist, and he let his boys do whatever they wanted. Every few weeks, they would all go on a trip, and it would just be mom and me. We lived for their trips. They would go visit their youngest brother. He was the same age as I was, and their mother had been able to retain custody. I never met him, and they never really talked about it. I know his name was John Phillip. I always thought it was weird they always went by shortened names, but the baby brother was always John Phillip. Anyway, once my mom was finally able to get the divorce finalized, I heard Barry and the boys moved back to Maine, to be closer to John Phillip. I heard stories over the years, about the boys getting into trouble, and had heard they all got it all straightened out for the most part. Except for Mikey. Good ole Mikey." Jill stared at Mikey's lifeless body, and you could tell he was anything but good.

"What led to the divorce?" Ash the always nosy investigative reporter asked, as she stared at Jill, glancing briefly at Ash.

"Barry was always a bit controlling," Jill started quietly. "I really never liked him. Other than Dom, I really did not like the boys either. Things were not actually too bad until Barry began working from home. That is really when everything went downhill. He became beyond controlling of my mom and I. We were kept on short leashes. Of course the boys did not have leashes. they also never got in any serious trouble, no matter what they did. Mikey got away with the most. Things got weird, and he did some awful things but I really never saw him in trouble, ever. He started being super controlling of me. It really got bad once I started Kindergarten. He appointed himself my guardian. He would walk me to school and home from school. I don't know how he did it, but he was always around me at school. He would get mad if I played with boys at recess. If he did not like a friend, I was not allowed to play with them. I hated it. My teacher noticed, and she tried to tell Barry what she had been seeing once when he picked me up for a doctor appointment, but Barry told her to mind her own business. A while into the school year, I asked Mikey to leave me alone, told him he was not my Dad. He told me of course he was not my dad, but one day I would be his. I was confused by what he meant, and then he told me I would marry him one day."

Kat cut in, "Ew! What a total creep! I cannot imagine anyone saying that to their stepsister, especially their five year old stepsister! He never touched you, did he?"

"No," Jill said with absolute conviction in her voice. "My mom definitely would never have let that happen. I was so upset after Mikey told me I was going to marry him. The first time Barry and the boys went to see John Phillip after he had said that to me, I told my mom that I did not want to marry Mikey. She wanted to know what I was talking about, so I told her what Mikey had said and what he had been doing. That was the day we met Robert. It took a year, but my mom divorced Barry and saved me from anything Mikey would have done. The first few years were great. We had a rough patch when I was in seventh, eighth and ninth grades. Mikey began stalking me. He kept his distance, for the most part, but he always managed to make his presence known. He got in big trouble, right before the end of my freshman year, and I never saw him again. I received the occasional creep letter and I am fairly certain they were from him. I never saw him, though. Until tonight." Her voice trailed off, and she glanced over at Mikey's body.

"Well," said Ash, concern coating her voice. "What do we do now? I mean, we should probably call a lawyer."

"Why a lawyer?" asked Kat, fear showing in her voice and on her face.

"A lawyer," chimed in Jill "because there is no way we are getting out of this unscathed. There is no way anyone will believe we ended up at an abandoned warehouse, in the middle of nowhere, and just happened upon a dead body. We are screwed. I am so sorry, ladies. I had no idea this was going to happen."

"We just need to make sure we make it out of this," Kat said, her normal confidence returning to her voice. "Not only unscathed, but completely scot free of any accusations and suspicion. We did not do this, and I damn sure am not gong to let this ruin any of our lives. Especially not you, Jill. This jerk caused you enough trouble already."

"I agree," Ash said, grabbing her friends' hands and squeezing them tight. "No way is this jerk going to bring any of us down. That is why we need to make sure nobody ever learns we were here. We need to do this right, and we need to do it quickly."

That was the night that not only solidified their friendship, but made them the Tres Amigas, closer than any of their other sorority sisters. It was the night they all gained a secret, a big dark secret. One that had seemingly remained hidden. At least until now.
Sarah Nolan 
{{back to present day, a few hours later}}

Jill sat by the window, staring out at the dark sky. The feeling in the pit of her stomach was not unfamiliar. She knew that something big was about to happen, something she couldn't control. She closed her eyes, willing the premonition to come. Call it a sixth sense, but she could always tell when something was off. Thinking back to conversations she'd had previously with Kathryn, she tried to figure out who was responsible for her death. She kept coming back to Phil, Kathryn's possessive boyfriend. They'd never met him . . . evidently he didn't approve of Kathryn having friends other than him. Jill knew that Kathryn coming here was going to be an issue with Phil. Was he capable of murder?

Getting up, Jill headed to Kathryn's room in search of her phone. Finding it on the nightstand, Jill sat on the bed and punched Kathryn's birthday, knowing it was her passcode. She looked at the call list but it revealed nothing suspicious. Same with the text and Facebook messages. So far, she wasn't getting anywhere with her phone search. She looked at the wall, wondering what else she could check.

Then it hit her . . .

She pulled up the photo gallery and searched through her pictures, stopping when she saw a picture of Kathryn with a familiar looking man. The face staring back at her caused the memories she'd boxed up to come busting out of their housing. While it wasn't actually Mikey, it was eerily similar. Putting two and two together, Jill surmised that Phil was actually John Phillip.

Her ex-step-family was coming back to haunt her again.

Jill knew it was crazy, but she had to confide in someone. Taking her phone out of her pocket she pulled up "favorites" and then stopped. Did she dare tell anyone? Steph was the quiet one, shy, introverted but very insightful. All the girls were close but no one knew that Steph had become her confidant several years earlier when all the trouble happened with Barry and his boys. Well, the boy really and especially Mikey.

Taking a deep breath, she punched Steph's number. It rand and rang, hmm, no answer. While she was contemplating her next move, the door opened. Startled, she jumped up. Now she stood face to face with the great mystery, Phil.

She froze, he did for a moment, then he demanded, "WHO the hell are you and WHY are you in Kat's room? I demand you tell me right now!"

Oh dear lord, that voice, he sounded just like Barry and Mikey, her suspicion was right. Phil was John Phillip! She felt faint, she felt weak, flashbacks of horrible threats and screams from so many years ago came rushing into her head . . . deep breathing, calm yourself, she tried to gather her thoughts before she spoke and in came Detective Schmidt.

"Well, what do we have here? The guilty parties trying to cover up evidence? Lovers meeting behind the back of a girlfriend and best friend? So, who do we have and just what are you two up to?" Detective Schmidt asked.

"LOVERS? Have you lost your ever loving mind?" Jill spewed out far too loudly and quckly.

Phil looked at her, cocked his head and then a slow very creepy sadistic smile spread over his face. She knew it, he was just like Mikey and he knew who she was.

All of a sudden the room became crowded, the girls who had been held up in Melissa's room, all came rushing in. Now here stood Ash, Charly, Jenn, Heather, Steph and Melissa all looking with questioning eyes at Jill and Phil. The Detective seemed the most interested in this scene.

Officers Jones and Baylor joined the group. "This is the victim's room, we need to know WHY each of you are here, and exactly WHAT is going on."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ For the conclusion of this story, be sure to read Mystery at the Castle, Chapter Four: Reckoning ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Before you go, don't forget to check out today's recipe: 

An easy winter meal, Delmonico Ham Casserole is a deliciously cheesy dinner that preps in minutes. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner
Delmonico Ham Casserole 
An easy winter meal, Delmonico Ham Casserole is a deliciously cheesy dinner that preps in minutes. | Recipe developed by www.BakingInATornado.com | #recipe #dinner

Baking In A Tornado signature | www.BakingInATornado.com | #MyGraphics

Delmonico Ham Casserole        

8 medium sized new potatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2/3 cup half and half
1 TBSP sweet hot mustard
1# pre-cooked thick cut ham
1 green onion, sliced
4 oz jar of pimentos, drained
3/4 cup asparagus, steamed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 X 11 pan Whisk together half and half and sweet hot mustard.
*Slice all potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Layer half of them into the casserole dish and sprinkle with half of the green onions and pimentos. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with about 1/2 cup of the shredded cheddar. Drizzle 1/2 of the whisked liquid over the cheese.
*Next evenly distribute the ham and asparagus into the dish, then another 1/2 cup of the cheese.
*Layer the remaining potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle the rest of the liquid, the remaining cheese, then green onions and pimentos. Sprinkle with paprika.
*Cover with tin foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours.


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