Growing up had been a happy and secure time for the sisters. Even though they were identical twins, their parents always treated them like the individuals they were. There had never been phrases like ‘the girls are ready’, ‘those two are so cute’, or ‘they want ice cream’. Mother and Father always made sure to refer to them by name. It would be ‘Louise and Sylvia are playing together’, ‘Sylvia and Louise, dinner is ready’, or ‘Louise and Sylvia would love to attend the party’. They also made the effort to interchange the names so one would not appear favored over the other. When both their parents died in an automobile accident, the sisters’ lives were turned upside down.
They were only 7 years old when it happened. Their father had picked up the family car from the shop that morning where an oil change had been done, as well as all new brakes installed. There had been a squeaking sound on stopping, and always believing it was better to be safe than sorry, their father had arranged for total replacement of the braking system. No amount of money, he had said, was too much when it came to the safety of his family.
Louise and Sylvia had been left with their next-door neighbor’s daughter, high school sophomore, Jeannette, while their parents went out for dinner and dancing at the Country Club on that fateful Saturday night. There had been a lot of smiling and waving as their parents drove away; such was the positive dynamic of the family. Less than an hour later, Jeannette took the telephone call that their car had gone over Winston’s Bluff, and crashed and burned on the rocks below. The investigation of the accident included an inspection by the State Police reconstructionist, and his conclusion was that the brake lines had been cut. It was no accident, his report stated. The couple had been targeted and murdered, and thus began the end of the free and unfettered life the sisters had known.
The family’s attorney assumed control of their father’s estate, which was quite considerable. The girls had never wanted for anything, but since their parents hadn’t discussed matters of finance with them, they had been unaware of their father’s substantial wealth. He had provided well for his children, ensuring all was divided equally between the two, to be managed on their behalf until they reached the age of 21. Once they had attained legal age, all funds and property were to be turned over to Louise and Sylvia to use, and/or dispose of, at their discretion.
All those years between 7 and 21 however, found the young girls confined and monitored twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year by their court-appointed guardians. Since a dark cloud hung over their parents’ death, no one wanted to risk any attempts on the lives of the twins, so a normal childhood was out of the question. Louise and Sylvia were sent to boarding school until the age of 18, where they were granted no privileges whatsoever, to be followed by three years of finishing school, to insure they would emerge as well-rounded, sophisticated and cultured adults. Since, during all those years, nothing in the way of risks to their safety had surfaced, they were permitted to return to their home, and both were awarded unrestricted access to their inheritance. Their attorney had suggested the house be sold and the profits shared, but the sisters decided to make the house once again their home, and arranged to have it completely upgraded and remodeled in keeping with current trends. Once drawing up and finalizing their own wills was complete, the attorneys who had maintained their trust heard nothing further from the sisters, nor did any of their professors or schoolmates. It was as if the two of them had closed and locked their lives against the world. That is, until Devon knocked on their door.
The sound startled them both since no one ever came to their home to visit. Purchases were all made by telephone and carriers were instructed to deliver the orders to the back door and then immediately vacate the area. Accounts were always paid by check on time and in full by mail, so all retailers complied. Word spread however and rumors abounded, as rumors tend to do, that those old, spinster sisters who lived all alone in that great big house up on the hill were clinically insane, and would certainly capture, cook, and eat any passers-by who happened to intrude upon their solitude. None of those stories were true, of course, and Louise and Sylvia had heard them when delivery men chatted as they dropped items at the back. Neither of them sought to try to salvage their reputations however, since townsfolk were not to be trusted. All knew the women were filthy rich, and intended to remain so; therefore, any attempts at friendship or companionship were viewed as attempts to defraud or swindle. In the early years after their return, any and all invitations for fraternization were summarily rejected, and it didn’t take long for all in the area to cease and desist.
Devon Fontaine was a transient who survived on his looks and his charm. In each new town, he would locate and woo the resident recent divorcee or widow, accept all the new clothes, jewelry and cash she would offer, then before she was able to see him for what he really was, he would hit the road. The possibilities were endless, since Devon found that every small town had a local middle-aged rich woman who was lonely for the company of a young and handsome fellow, and he fit that role to a tee. When he got off the bus in Fairvale, talk was rampant about the aging wealthy evil twins on the south side of town that were to be avoided like the Black Plague. Devon filtered out the evil references and chose only to focus on aging, wealthy and twins. Two for the price of one, he thought. Brace yourselves, ladies. Santa Claus had come to town for you both.
Entrancing them both however, was not to be. He found Louise easily agitated and flighty, which caused him great annoyance. Sylvia was calmer, on the intellectual side, and more worldly than he had imagined. He quickly eased his way into her home, her life and her bedroom. While the sisters remained noticeably vacant from town, the young man, who seemed to have wound his way into their lives, was a frequent visitor. All the shops knew him on sight and accommodated his every request. Sylvia had telephoned all the businesses personally and opened accounts for him without limit. He was to be indulged, she instructed, at any time, and provided with anything he desired. The locals wondered what spell this young man had cast upon their elusive neighbor, but accepted her money without question or judgment. Business was, after all, business. All wondered if perhaps a wedding was in the cards for one of the twins when the gruesome accident occurred. It was never explained why the young man would venture out onto the roof after dark in a storm, but the result of his fall was quite obvious. He had been impaled on the wrought iron fence that surrounded the property, several spikes piercing his chest and abdomen. How he had fallen sideways from such a height defied logic, but the town’s sheriff chose to simply let the dead rest. Why distress his lady love any further when nothing would be gained. Accidents happen. Case closed.
After Devon’s closed casket funeral, Louise noticed Sylvia out and about in the wee hours of the morning. Sylvia would wander the large property, all the way back into the wooded area, then return shortly before dawn, tramping mud and dead leaves from the front entrance all the way upstairs into her bedroom. Louis feared the purpose of these nightly journeys since the newspapers delivered to them often reported individuals passing through town as missing. They would be seen one day and missing the next. It was confirmed they had not just left the area, since their suitcases and belongings remained in their hotel rooms. It was as if they had simply got up, walked away and disappeared, never to return. Days would pass, then weeks, and they were never seen again.
It was happening with such regularity that Louise wondered if perhaps her sister might have something to do with these mysterious goings-on. Sylvia would make, and receive, telephone calls at odd hours, and always spoke in hushed tones. Louise ventured out to the garage and found shovels and hoes were covered with the same mud and debris as Sylvia’s footwear. Louise began to fear for her own safety. If her sister was responsible for somehow luring these people out to their property, then, for whatever reason, murdering them and disposing of their remains, if Sylvia knew Louise was curious and figured out what she had been doing, what would prevent her from dispatching Louise in the same way. Louise decided it was time to stop looking the other way and being afraid of her own shadow. The time had come insure her own survival, no matter the cost. Today, she would confront her sister and Fate willing, would emerge the victor.
When Sylvia awoke from her nap, she found herself struggling to sit up. When she lifted her head, she saw that her hands and feet were tied to the headboard and footboard respectively, of her bed. Standing over her, holding a large knife and glaring coldly at her was her sister Louise--quiet, nervous, easily confused, sister Louise.
“What are you doing, Louise?” Sylvia tried to keep her voice soft and calm. Louise‘s hand that was holding the knife was shaking terribly. “Are you having some problem that I can help you with? Talk to me, my beloved sister. Whatever it is, I can help you.”
‘I’ll bet you want to help me,” Sylvia responded. “You want to help me into a hole six feet under the ground, right?”
“What are you going on about, dear? You’re not making any sense. Are you trying to say that I would somehow want to hurt you? Now, you know that’s not true. You know in your heart that all I’ve ever done is try to protect you. You know that, don’t you?”
Louise was confused.
“Protect me? From what? From whom? I know you wander the woods with shovels and hoes and you’re all muddy when you return. You’re out there killing people and then burying them on our property, aren’t you? It’s all over the news, Sylvia. It’s you, isn’t it? Tell me the truth. I’m next, aren’t I?”
“Oh my God,” Sylvia said, tears filling her eyes. “Louise, how can you think such a thing. You know it isn’t me doing any of those terrible things. Please. Focus. Try to remember, sweet one. It is you, Louise. It is you now, and it has always been you. When it comes to burying them, yes, that is me. But, I’m only doing that to protect you from the authorities. You are the one doing the killing. You must know. You must remember.”
Louise lowered the knife. What was Sylvia saying? Why was she spewing such nonsense?
“Oh, no,” Louise said, fighting back tears of her own. “You can’t seriously be trying to blame all this on me. I’ve never…I mean, I wouldn’t…I couldn’t…”
“Louise, Louise, Louise, it all began when you were a child. Think back. You were always trying to charm Father to get your way and getting between he and Mother. When Mother told you to stop behaving so seductively toward your own father, and Father began to pull away, you knew you had to get rid of them both. We both wanted to watch the man work on the car, don’t you remember? Father thought we were trying to become independent young ladies and learn how to fend for ourselves if our vehicle broke down, but that was the case only for me. You wanted to know how to disable the car, make it uncontrollable. You specifically asked the mechanic about the brakes when Father went for a cigarette. I heard you. He told you one had to be careful so as not to sever the brake cables. If that happened, he told you,, the brakes would not work and the driver would not be able to stop in an emergency. Surely, you remember.
“Our playmates at school having all those unexplained injuries when they were with you. You must remember all those so-called accidents. The headmistress took me aside and asked if you had ever been evaluated psychologically, and I told her never--that there was no reason for such a thing. There was nothing wrong with you, I told her, but deep down I knew there was. You were a danger to others even then. Why do you think I made sure to keep everyone away from here when we returned? I thought, if I can keep an eye on you, I would be able to prevent anyone else from being hurt. But you found a way. You would sneak out of the house and go into town and find various men to bring back here and you would promise them bliss and then kill them. The only reason I was out in the woods was to bury them so they would never be linked back to you.
“Dear sister, I never wanted the authorities to come and take you away. You would never survive in prison. I thought, if I can just cover up whatever you do, perhaps some day, you would realize what you were doing and seek help or just stop. But now, you are accusing me? Think, Louise. Try to remember. It is you, beloved. It has always been you.”
Louise’s head began to throb. She dropped the knife and sank to the floor, sobbing.
“What about all those midnight telephone calls you were making, Sylvia? All that whispering during the calls that you made and the calls that came in? Did I imagine those too?”
“Of course, love. The only telephone calls I ever made were for groceries or other things we needed in the house. We have never received any telephone calls, Louise, Who would call us anyway?
“It was me, wasn’t it,” Louise felt dizzy. “I have been doing terrible things and I have no memory of any of them. Did I kill Devon too? Please tell me I didn’t murder the man you loved.”
Sylvia nodded, and motioned for Louise to untie her.
“Yes, you had to get rid of him. You couldn’t allow anyone else to come into this house and discover your secret. But, I forgive you, Louise. It’s not your fault. It is your illness. You have no control at times of your actions and I understand. But we have a decision to make. Now that you know what you’ve done and the extent of your impairment, how can we move forward? We cannot continue as we have--you continuing to destroy lives and me continuing to try to salvage ours. If the courts understood how ill you are, you could avoid prison and they would send you to a hospital where you could be treated and helped and hopefully, someday even be released. Should we go and see Sheriff Hanlon together, Louise? I’ll explain everything to him and I’ll get in touch with Mr. Jerrod too. You remember Mr. Jerrod, don’t you? He was Father’s attorney, and he would know all about defending you the right way and making sure you were declared incompetent and committed to a hospital. You want to get well, don’t you, Louise? Don’t you?”
Louise untied her sister and agreed to accompany her to the police station. It was best, she thought. She couldn’t go on being the monster behind the mask. She had almost killed Sylvia and would have, if Sylvia hadn’t opened her eyes to the truth.
There was no trial. The attorney, Mr. Jerrod, was wonderful and so understanding. During the hearing, the judge showed great compassion and told Louise he believed it would be best for all concerned if she was declared legally insane and ordered indefinite commitment to the state hospital. There, he told her, she would receive the most up-to-date drugs and treatment with the hope of someday exorcising the demons that haunted her psyche. Sylvia had agreed to show law enforcement where all the bodies were buried and she was not charged as an accomplice. The judge commended her for never deserting her sister in her time of need and while he did state she should have notified the authorities when she first noticed how disturbed Louise was, he said he understood why she felt she couldn’t betray her. Louise was taken away in an ambulance and Sylvia returned to the house, ready to start living the life she felt she was entitled to, and that was so long overdue.
She decided to wait a couple of months before requesting control of Louise’s portion of their inheritance. If Louise died, or had been murdered, all her money would have gone to those forest people Louise loved. All of it would have been used to breed more squirrels or some other crap that Sylvia didn’t understand or care for. Louise had always been such a pushover for nonsensical causes. Besides, if Louise had died, Sylvia knew she would have been under an umbrella of suspicion for the rest of her life, and living that way was not an acceptable arrangement. The only way to get everything and walk away free and clear was to have Louise either declared legally incompetent or get her convicted of a felony. Without any real evidence, Sylvia knew there could be no conviction, but she knew it would be very easy to convince mentally frail Louise that her mind had eroded into something monstrous.
She had to get rid of Mother and Father since she had overheard them one night discussing Sylvia’s unusual behavior. Children had reported seeing her injure their pets and their parents had informed Sylvia’s parents. Devon was just collateral damage. The little bit of cash she’d allowed him to spend was nothing compared to what awaited her now. He was fun for awhile, but she needed another victim to blame on Louise. The traveling salesmen she’d lured to the house were gravy--more bodies to pile on her sister.
Soon she would have control of it all and she knew exactly what she would do. First, she would sell that mausoleum of a house and its contents. Then, she would take the cash and travel the world. Maybe she’d find someone like Devon again--young and handsome, and have some fun for awhile. When she grew tired of him, it would be a simple task to toss him over the side of a cruise ship. She would also agree to review and sign those consents from the State Hospital so they could begin administering shock treatments to Louise. They felt it best to clear her mind so she could begin her long-term care with a clean slate. Sylvia agreed. That definitely was the way to go.
Sisters. They sure can turn out to be your best friend after all.