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A week went by, then two, as Brenzel enjoyed her hosts’ hospitality. Winston, a retired banker, lived a very quiet life in the suburbs of Hampstead, just outside of London. Spending most of her days with Charlie, Bren felt as much a nanny as a house guest.

One chilly Sunday morning, for it was deep into autumn now, Bren arose early. The house, eerily quiet, seemed to barely breathe as she made her way down the stairs.

“Good morning, mum” smiled one of the maidservants as she entered the kitchen. “Do you fancy a bit of breakfast?” Eyes involuntarily darting to a fresh batch of rolls cooling on the countertop, Bren said, “Perhaps one of these?”

The smell and taste of the fresh-baked bread seemed heavenly as butter melted into her mouth. Happily, Bren made her way towards the sitting room, intent on savoring every morsel in private.



Coming through the parlor door, she stopped. Charlie, his small frame standing before a portrait on the wall, seemed to fill the room. “You know, I can’t remember her,” he said in a small, sad voice. Feeling drawn by compassion, Bren laid the roll on a silver plate, and kneeling down, put her arm around him. “So, I come and look at her in the morning,” Charlie continued, “I think she would have liked me.”

“Charlie,” Bren said quickly, “she would have loved you, I know I do. What was her name?” Bren asked, looking up at her face with him.

“Sarah,” he whispered, hugging her tightly.


Bren tried her best to avoid Governess Penchant after that strange night. Not thinking about it seemed best for the time being, because her stomach felt peculiar every time she thought about it. What had Charlie’s tutor been doing alone that night with those candles? How did she light them by just waving her hand over them? Was she a witch? Why did Bren feel so sensual around her? These and many other questions crowded her thoughts.

Penchant, on the other hand, seemed to seek out Brenzel’s presence. Though Bren tried to avoid the tall, dark mistress of the manor, Penchant seemed to have a knack for knowing where Bren would be at odd moments. Sometimes, Bren would meet Penchant’s piercing, green eyes and for a moment feel a quiver run down the back of her neck.

Charlie, to Brenzel’s dismay, grew distant and sullen. The happiness that was Bren’s first impression slipped away as if closed behind a heavy door. Though Brenzel assumed it was because Charlie missed his father and mother, she began to suspect it was something more.

A Hellion at the gate

Around midnight, a Hellion stood outside the back gate of the mansion’s garden without expression or movement. Rather than the name of a person, ‘Hellion’ designated what he was, or more to the point, where he came from.

A nondescript soldier from the underworld, under pardon from Hades by signed contract, Hellion cared nothing for anyone or anything except doing his duty. The perfect servant, his unquestioning obedience proceeded out of abject fear of failure. Failure meant immediate repatriation to hell, no mercy given, no questions asked.

Aware, in spirit, of the Hellion’s presence, Penchant exited the back of the house, making her way into the garden. Though austere during the day, her silhouette showed a certain gracefulness in the moonlight, sliding among the flowers.

Approaching the Hellion, Charlie’s mistress sneered, “I told you not to come here yet!”

“My apologies, mistress,” the big man said as he knelt, “I have a message for you – from Beauty.”

Penchant’s eyes widened, then narrowed, demanding “Where is it!” Hellion dutifully reached into his leather vest and withdrew an envelope with a wax seal inscribed Beauty. Hands trembling, Penchant broke the seal, opening the message which read,

“Dear Penchant,

I regret to inform you…”