This short story has four protagonists – Beatrice and Ophelia, two elderly spinsters who live in a lonely cottage on the outskirts of town; Amadeo, their brother, now widowed, who had been living with them for the last five years and ‘Butcher Billy’, a local bully, who was known to prowl the night for stealing, beatings and other types of crime. He was also suspected by the Police of the murder of the local postmaster, but they did not have firm evidence in order to proceed against him in Court. There was no doubt that Billy was capable of killing anybody who stood in his way.
‘Butcher Billy’ had passed by the cottage many times, making plans how to enter and rob the three elderly siblings living there. He first wanted to deal with Amadeo who slept in the bedroom near the pathway. During his observation visits, Billy could hear his coughing and movement. Once he had dealt with Amadeo, then his sisters would be no problem.
He noticed that the front door was well boarded up. Then he glanced anxiously at the window. Not a sound disturbed the night as he reached into his back pocket. He grinned as he moved silently to the window. The catch offered little resistance as he opened it and silently slid inside.
He could now hear heavy breathing. A floor board creaked as Billy crept towards the bed and the sleeping figure turned on his back and grunted. ‘Butcher Billy’ paused over the bed and withdrew a long-edged knife from his coat sleeve, raising it slowly over his head with both hands clasped firmly around the hilt. His wild eyes flared as he looked up at the knife which he brought down with force.
Beatrice twisted and turned in her bed, unable to sleep and fearful of every sound. Her imagination began to play tricks with her and shadows, cast by the street lamp outside her bedroom, made her recoil and cover her face with the bed sheet. The sudden clutter of the dustbin lid made Beatrice jump out of bed and she quickly slid her feet into her slippers and reached for her dressing gown. The passage was dark and she shivered as she eased her way along. She tapped gently on Ophelia’s bedroom door. “Are you awake?” she called out softly.
A few seconds later the bolts were drawn and the door creaked open. Ophelia was awake. “What are you doing here? What’s happened?” she exclaimed. “I heard sounds coming from inside the house, there must be an intruder,” Beatrice said obviously in a state of fear. “I’d better wake Amadeo to have a look around,” said Ophelia sighing.
Beatrice’s face took on a frightening look. “Don’t leave me on my own, I’m terrified”, she pleaded. “Well, you’ll have to come with me then,” replied her sister. Both sisters made their way to Amadeo’s bedroom in slow measured steps, one after the other. Both took courage from being together.
The women, still in their nightclothes, slowly went into the corridor. Coming to Amadeo’s bedroom, they knocked on his door. “Are you Ok Amadeo?,” called Ophelia. There was no reply. It was chilly in the semi-dark corridor. There was no sound now. The sisters knocked on the door again, but there was still no answer. Even a third knock did not provide a response. The two sisters waited but their brother’s room remained quiet. Then they began to get extremely worried.
“He could be ill or something”, said Ophelia. She slowly turned the doorknob, took two paces forward with caution and peered inside into the bedroom. Her sister was following close behind. “Oh my God! Oh my God!” she gasped, her hand going to her mouth.
Beatrice peered from behind her sister. Her piercing scream rang through the cottage, sheer horror etched in her ashen face. There on the bed, with a knife embedded in his chest, blood oozing all over, was the body of ‘Butcher Billy’.