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Members this is a new idea myself and Jessica have introduced to the 99.94 Club. In a nutshell we members pen a story together. It can follow any topic we all choose. One member starts the story and the next continues it and so on. I can tell you from experience this is a fun and enjoyable thread as our imaginations can take us anywhere we want. There is one ground rule that I think you will all agree on. No character is to be written out of the story without the express permission of that person. Jessica and I will kick off the first story and if any members then wish to join in feel free.
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Sounds good to me Richie, let's get our story going! 🤗
The more that join in the better. I have a vivid imagination so will enjoy participating.
Sounds good to me Richie, let's get our story going! 🤗
The more that join in the better. I have a vivid imagination so will enjoy participating.
Ok I will start the ball rolling Jessica.
Basic plotline: Our characters are Richard and Jessica Swanson. Having found city living/working too much of a financial strain a couple sell up and buy an old house in the English countryside. A house that contains some dark secrets.
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Richard Swanson walked into his bedroom and found his wife of 10 years Jessica closing a suit case on their bed. "We are all packed. I can hardly hold back my excitement. Our own country style English house." She ran to her husband and flung herself into his arms. "Darling this will be a new start for us."

"Yes sweetie, Lord and Lady of the Manor no less", he said mimicking an Eaton educated accent.
I have arranged for the movers to meet us at 11 as that should be about the time we will reach New Forest if we take the direct Motorway route south. I visited this beautiful forest with my parents as a child and promised myself I'd come back . Never imagined it would be to live"....
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Jessica imagined having afternoon cream tea with new friends that she would make, she was very sociable and would join in with many social events.

One thing bothered her though, she couldn't burden her husband with it, but there was something on her mind.
She wouldn't let her husband see the item she'd hidden in the bottom of her suitcase, it was for an emergency she told herself, she would find a place to stash it in their new house.

She emerged from her husbands embrace and smiled up at him, I can't believe we're actually moving, she said, this is our dream come true...
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"Our new home sweetheart, so pleased we chose the old English Tudor style", Richard uttered proudly as he drove into their driveway, ten minutes early too as it had been a smooth drive south.
The removalists had already arrived and had placed some furniture on the paving ready to take inside.

An hour later the couple stood and admired the new decor.
" I adore our large fireplace Richard. It will be so perfect for cuddling up close on cold winter evenings".
'You little minx" her husband replied jokingly.
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I've seen a fluffy white rug that will look beautiful in front of the fireplace, said Jessica to her husband, she knew he'd buy anything for their new home. She gave her husband an affectionate kiss on the top of his head then headed into the kitchen.

Jessica started to unpack the box containing kitchen items, Richard started to unpack one of their suitcases, her heart skipped a beat as he almost chose the suitcase she'd packed and hidden something inside the lining, just for an emergency, she told herself.
The next day Richard met the dean of his new college and was told that he was to be in charge of and lecture for their theatre and film department, with the offer for students of a minor degree in each subject. He was to start work in a week. Richard had always had an interest in the dramatic arts since his primary school days when he acted in plays, culminating in a special performance which was seen by family and friends at the end of year. After school he enrolled in a film and television school, performed in semi professional theatre all while still working. His lucky break came when spotted by a London West End talent scout during a performance of Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolff, he was offered professional theatre work which he did for three years. After that he ran his own theatre company taking it on the road which was hard but satisfying. He also did some film work in front of and behind the camera. Teaching the arts tho had always been his preferred profession and he found work at various small universities and colleges around the midlands, before he and Jessica decided city life was draining their finances and that they needed a change, a sea change by moving to the south......
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Jessica had fully supported her husbands theatre work and would enjoy cheering from the audience when she got tickets for all the performances he was in, the only thing that really bothered her was that he was a ladies man while on the stage, this made her jealous.

Jessica was a caterer, she worked for a large company, she was the manager and worked mainly from home, taking orders for large gatherings. She liked her job and that's how she met Brian, a strange quiet man who intrigued her, she didn't fancy him as she was devoted to Richard, but she did like the mystery that Brian radiated.....
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Jessica why dont you start up your own catering business. You now have the necessary know how and have told me you enjoyed it. I doubt you will have any trouble finding your clientele and you can work from home like last time. Makes sense and will give you something meaningful to do while I'm at work.

The following Monday Richard started his lecturing job at Brockelhurst College, a leisurely 35 minute commute just south of the forest. There were 28 students in his class, most were under under 30 but there was a man and a women in their middle age. He wondered why they would be doing the course at their age...
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Jessica was delighted at her husbands suggestion, I'll do just that, she replied, she already had contacts in the catering trade so saw this as a head start.

Monday came and Richard went to his lecture, that afternoon Jessica got cracking on making a list of people she would speak to regarding her new venture.

She heard Richard arriving home about 4pm, as she put the kettle on she felt something brush past her shoulder, it startled her but it wasn't the first time she'd felt something strange in this old house....
Richard closed the front door and after calling I'm home found a visibly shaken Jessica. What is it sweetheart.
Oh Richard there is something or someone in this house.
What do you mean?.......

Richard was to find out himself that evening after he had set their newly installed alarm system then turned off the liteing and started for the staircase leading to the bedrooms. He was stopped in his tracks by the vision of a female in a flowing white dress slowly descend the stairs, not on legs but gliding and only partially visible . Richard let out a sudden gasp and the vision vanished....
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Jessica found her husband shaking like a leaf clinging onto the bannister, what is it Richard? She shouted, but Richard was ashen faced and in shock, she led him to a chair and sat him down.
I've seen her, he gasped, a young woman in an old fashioned white dress coming down the stairs towards me, then she vanished into thin air. Truly, I dont believe what I saw.
Both husband and wife went silent, then Jessica remembered the secret item in her suitcase, maybe now was the time she should use it, or should she call her brother Terry first....
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Early the next morning Richard and Jessica's new neighbour widowed and sprightly old Mrs Grier came up their driveway with some of her home baked blackberry scones in a plastic tub and a bunch of her own grown roses in a vase and even a nice card to welcome her new neighbours. " Good Morning" she cried loudly tapping her cane on the Swanson's front door.

Her own little thatched cottage next door on three acres was very hard to see from the road surrounded by its huge Oak trees and thick undergrowth with bushes, brambles, ivy... wild roses..

When inspecting their new home Richard and Jessica Swanson saw Mrs Grier's old spiked wrought iron main gates with strange Arty patterns, and maybe a small gate with a clean cobbled pathway to a stone sculpted mail box again with strange artistic patterns and a quaint weathered stone gargoyle atop it. That was hard to miss and the estate agent said Old Mrs Grier was very quiet, a bit eccentric and private. "No trouble." Her weed strewn driveway showed few signs of traffic. Yet the tall old ivy strewn stone walls could not hide the huge Oaks within, and just a glimpse of her cottage.
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Still a touch shaken by his encounter the previous evening with what he could only describe as an otherworldly entity , Richard was determined to find out what or who the vision was. During his lunch hour he dropped into the local library and went thru old newspapers looking for anything to do with their house. He discovered it was originally built in 1906 by a middle aged Welsh businessman called Daeved Penhalligon, who had started with a two roomed general store in his home town of Ledbury to build the business into a Welsh version of England's Sainsburys with stores in the capital Cardiff as well as in other cities and larger towns. Satisfied that he had gained sufficient wealth he sold the business at a tidy profit, met and married the daughter of a local parson, Alison Menzies, then decided to retire to the south of England and build Penhalligon Manor. Alison died of TB in 1911 aged just 28.
That was the extent of public news concerning Daeved and Alison Penhalligon.
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Perhaps Mrs Grier may be a long time resident of Lymington and can shed more lite on the Penhalligons. As it turned she had lived next door to Penhalligon Manor for 50 years. There had been plenty of rumors concerning both Daeved and Alison in the village.

Over tea and her freshly baked scones Mrs Grier told Richard what she knew of the Penhalligon couple. They had been happy and content for the first few years but Alison became restless and reclusive as her husband often left her alone when pursuing shooting and fishing weekends with friends. Several locals had seen Alison in the company of a mysterious young man near her family home. The assumption among local gossip was that they were having an adulterous affair. Shortly after that Alison contracted TB and died a year later. The grieving husband stayed on at the home but rarely ventured outdoors.

The town gossip was in fact correct. When Daeved found incriminating letters in one of Alison's dressing room drawers. he flew into a rage, stabbed his wife then buried her in a wooded area of the estate. He faked Alison's death from TB by replacing her body in her coffin with an orphan servant girl. This local lord of the manor was a double murderer and had escaped any form of prosecution.
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The home baked scones from Mrs Grier were delicious, Jessica hoped she would be able to get the recipe and produce them herself for her catering business.

Jessica had heard about the rumours of the old house she now lived in, she didn't like to be left alone but when her husband was out she'd get out her secret item that was still hiding in her suitcase. She couldn't get out of her head the poor orphan servant girl and Jessica was now on a mission to find any living distant relatives she may have had.

Jessica went to visit Mrs Grier on the hope of getting her recipe for her delicious scones, come in dear, said Mrs Grier, Jessica went inside and noticed a strong smell of mothballs, the hallway was long and had a tatty old linoleum floor, they entered the kitchen and on the wall in a dusty old frame was a picture of a lady in a white flowing dress....
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Mrs Grier straight away wrote down her recipe for her Blackberry scones for Jessica."You've aleady got a supply of the finest Blackberries Jessica. It seems some of my Blackberry Bramble bushes have climbed over the ancient wall separating us as neighours. Of course any berries on your side are yours. Down by your back right corner where my Roses have also gone wild hiding an old gate down there between our properties. My late husband Henry always kept it locked, and I still have the key. Never used it."
Jessica thanked Mrs Grier for the recipe and for allowing her to use the berries on her side of the garden. She opened her door and went into the lounge, she couldn't wait to read what Mrs Grier had written on the paper because it seemed much more than a recipe.
The old dear had written her a message.....

"You may be able to trace distant relatives of the orphaned servant if you talk to the old man who lives directly at the rear of your house ".

Jessica was astonished, how did Mrs Grier know she wanted to trace the servants distant relatives.
She should really be trying to fix up contacts for her new catering business but this was dominating her mind .....
Mrs Grier said:
"You take care now Jessica and Richard Swanson with taking on this big old home. It has a history.
It'd be nice to have refinned neighbours again. Here's a list of several local workers I know with my comments. Don't use Rob the Roofer; he's a right Rogue.
I certainly can't manage my place and mainly have left it to its own devices except for the odd tradesman. Darwin would have been proud of me..
The stories this house of yours could tell if its walls could talk.
I guess they'd first have to listen if they were to talk!"
Chuckling loudly at her own little joke Mrs Grier took Jessica's hands for support and deftly put a metal object, a key, into her right hand.
"Oh, here comes my dog Buster. I want to let him meet you both if that's ok? He's a mix of many breeds I'm shamed to say but the best of each."
Mrs Grier summoned Buster with just a few tongue clicks to come and sit by her side which ended up with Buster licking and sniffing Jessica's and Richard's hands while Mrs Grier made friendly noises.
"He's your friend now Jessica and Richard. He knows his smells, especially of truffles!"

More chuckling as Mrs Grier took her leave with Buster by her side. wagging his tail.

Looking at the cold brass key later Jessica saw its old thick but complex design. Also the words "Gates Key" engraved on its side.
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