Closer Than Cousins Ch. 03bySabledrake©
Uncle Chet's face underwent a bizarre series of contortions, and Swan suddenly had the impression that he was trying with all his might not to burst out laughing.
"Cousins …" Kit said in a feeble squeak. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Cousins can marry. Even first cousins."
"It isn't that simple, Kit," Uncle Chet said. "I'm afraid there's much more to it than that. Marriage is out of the question."
"What?" Swan asked.
"I suppose I should have been truthful with you," he said. "But I never expected anything like this. I don't know why. Inevitable, really. Cooped up in this house with no one but each other, and … well … I should have foreseen it."
"Truthful about what?" Kit asked, pale with dread. "Why can't we get married?"
"You're not cousins," Uncle Chet said. "Not … not just cousins, at any rate."
"You'd better explain," Kit said.
"It starts with your mother, Kit. With Mindy. Nineteen or so years ago, she brought her college boyfriend home for the holidays, to meet her family. Mindy was already carrying you, though no one knew yet. Well, as it happens, her boyfriend …" Uncle Chet looked down, drummed his fingers on the table, then looked back up, his gaze moving from Kit to Swan. "Her boyfriend seduced Mindy's sister, Renee. Your mother, Swan."
Swan's mouth made a small O as comprehension dawned.
"No," Kit said. "No, you're not saying what I think you're saying."
"He fathered both of you."
"No!" Kit shouted.
He threw a helpless, appealing look at Swan, but she could only stare back at him in surprise. Memory and recent sensation sent a rush of color to her cheeks. The tender parts of her, which had been aching in pleasant recollection of the morning's love, now throbbed like a shameful reminder.
"So you are cousins, yes," Uncle Chet said. "But you're also half-siblings."
"Kit … is my brother?" she whispered.
"We can't be," groaned Kit. "She can't be my sister. She can't!"
"Oh, why don't you tell them all of it, Hollister?" growled a harsh, strange voice from the doorway.
It was the man Swan had seen in the gardens. Up close, he proved to be near Uncle Chet's age, with a mass of unkempt curly hair that showed considerable grey through the brown, and a build that made Swan instantly certain that he had been, long ago, a dancer. But his face was lined, his cheeks sunken. That proud dancer's build was diminished, but an intensity of emotion blazed in his dark eyes.
He wore gardener's gloves, and held a pistol. It was pointed at Uncle Chet.
"Who in the hell are –" Uncle Chet had leaped up from his seat despite the gun, but faltered and peered closely at the intruder.
"You're him, aren't you?" Kit extended a trembling, accusatory arm. "You're our father!"
A humorless bark of laughter escaped the man. "I could have been hers," he said, jerking his head in Swan's direction. "I loved Renee. I would have married her, if her family hadn't been so opposed to the idea. I was only her dance instructor, not nearly good enough."
"Gregor Parks!" Uncle Chet said. "Of course! But what are you doing here? I thought you were in prison."
"You thought so because you put me there," Gregor said. "It's amazing what enough money and influence can do. It can even get an innocent man sent to jail on false charges. But now I'm out, Hollister. I'm here."
Bewildered, Swan and Kit moved to hold each other like Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods. Kit recoiled at first, as if his skin couldn't bear the touch of hers, not now that they both knew the truth.
Cousins, yes … but also brother and sister. In blood as well as in spirit.
"All right, you're out," Uncle Chet said. "What are you going to do? Kill me?"
"I spent almost twenty years in prison," Gregor said. "The way I see it, fate owes me at least one. That's you, Hollister. But before I shoot you, I want you to tell them the rest of it."
"Go ahead and shoot me."
"Don't think that I won't," Gregor said. He cocked the pistol and leveled the barrel at Uncle Chet's face.
"The staff –" Uncle Chet began.
Gregor laughed. "Most of them have today off. You forget, I worked here. My father was Pinewood's butler, until you destroyed him by what you did to me. Wednesday is traditionally the servants' day off at Pinewood. It's been that way for over a hundred years. Some things never change."
"Uncle Chet –" Kit said.
"Is that what they call you?" Gregor asked. "Uncle Chet. Go on. Tell them."
"You … you mean you aren't our uncle?" Swan asked.
"Oh, he's your uncle all right," Gregor said. "He's also your father."
"That's impossible," Kit said.
"How did you know?" Uncle Chet asked.
"Renee wrote to me," Gregor said. "I didn't bother showing the letter to anyone else, since by then you'd convinced them she was insane. But I believed every word. You seduced her sister, you raped her, and you killed their parents – your own father and aunt. Then you let them die but kept their babies to raise as your own. Am I leaving anything out?"
Uncle Chet grinned. "Actually, yes. I seduced Aunt Paula, too. And I even got my father to fuck Mindy. But I didn't rape Renee. She enjoyed it. You should have heard how she moaned and whimpered when she came."
The gunshot was a colossal flat thunderclap in the enclosed space. Swan didn't hear her own scream, or Kit's shout. But she saw, in relentless clarity, Uncle Chet's skull blown apart.
His lifeless body toppled to the floor. One eye was obliterated. The other was fixed on the ceiling.
Gregor lowered the gun. "There."
"Are you going to kill us?" Kit asked evenly, doing his best to shield Swan.
"I should." He looked at them with mingled pity and revulsion. "You'll turn me in to the police."
"You wore gloves," Swan pointed out.
"But it wouldn't be the first time they listened to a Hollister over me," Gregor said. "Think about this, though. With him dead, I'm the only one who knows about you two. If I go to jail, I'll tell the world. It'll be in the papers. It'll be on television."
Kit closed his eyes and shuddered.
"And … if not?" asked Swan.
"If you let me walk out of here," Gregor said, "I'll never say a word."
"All right," Kit said. "But leave the gun so we can claim he shot himself."
"I'm glad to see that you're not as crazy as your father." Gregor set the gun on the table beside the fruit bowl.
As soon as he turned to head for the door, Kit snatched the gun up, aimed, and pulled the trigger. The thunderclap shattered the day again. Gregor was pitched forward in a loose, bloody tumble. He hit the wall, rolled, and ended up on his back. His expression of utter shock slowly relaxed into the vacant, slack-jawed mask of death.
"Kit!" cried Swan.
"You heard him," Kit said. He looked at her, and there was a light in his eyes that now made her think of wild sun-dazzle on tropical waves. "He was the only other one who knew. He would have talked. Or blackmailed us. I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life with that kind of a threat hanging over my head."
"You shot him!"
"We'll say that he came in here, raving, and killed Uncle Chet. Then tried to kill us. In the struggle, I got the gun away from him and it went off."
"Will anyone believe it?"
"It's like he said. We're Hollisters. We're Hollisters twice over. Of course they'll believe us."