Dennis James Browne

This story is dedicated to the memory of my daughter, Tara, and my Mother

Copyright © 2015 by Dennis James Browne

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN 978-1-4951-4171-3

Visit dennisjamesbrowne.com




The Secret

Allison found it very difficult to keep the secret that a member of her own family was a killer.

It happened while she and her parents were visiting Uncle Stanford Patton, Aunt Esther and the twins in their upstate New York resort during that wonderful summer when she was still a happy, carefree child—before all those other terrible things happened.

Allison’s mother, Clare, was Aunt Esther’s sister, and that summer was the first time they had seen each other in years. The Patton Yacht Club and Marina was a beautiful waterside resort in Coventry Heights, a very posh development in upstate New York.

Uncle Stanford, a.k.a. “The General,” and Harry, Allison’s father, who was a retired banker , immediately hit it off by telling each other old war stories about their past and how they made their millions.

The Patton twins, Mary and Ann, were older than Allison, and were just starting college. Allison was immediately intimidated by the tall, austere pair because they rarely seemed to smile or laugh--unless they were around their father—and they treated their cute, bubbly visitor from Iowa exactly like what she was, a chatty little kid who was an unwelcome pest.

Mother and Aunt Esther were both born on the same day, June 21, and the day after they arrived, their husbands threw them a big birthday pool party at the Yacht Club with dozens of members and guests, music, catered food and a lot of presents—it was a beautiful, warm summer day and Allison had one of the best times of her life, laughing and splashing around in the pool with a lot of other kids her age.

But the next morning she was awakened by a loud clap of thunder. Everyone was asleep dark in the main house and the thunderclap—like a bomb explosion—shocked her awake and made her sit bolt upright in her dark, silent bedroom.

She quickly got out of bed and walked over to the window to see if there was a thunderstorm, but there was only the sound if distant thunder and the grounds appeared completely dry…

And that’s when she saw her.

Aunt Esther, all dressed in black, was quickly walking away from the house with something hanging from her right hand—what appeared to be a six pack of soda.

Allison stood at the window, more puzzled than ever as she watched Aunt Esther walk down the drive, cut across the lawn and then continue along the road up Baskin Hill toward the house where the old recluse, John Hatcher lived.

Neighbor Hatcher had been a major thorn in the side of Aunt Esther—and all the rest of the neighborhood—since his mother died. At one time, John Hatcher’s parents had been the star celebrities of Coventry Heights, with their lavish home at the top of Baskin Hill and old man Hatcher’s fabulous fleet of classic cars.

Every Sunday he and his wife could be seen slowly parading through town in some outrageously beautiful and expensive Rolls-Royce or Lamborghini, just to remind everyone else who was King of the Mountain.

But after the old man died, his wife followed suit a few months later, and for decades their son lived alone and surly on the sprawling estate at the top of Baskin Hill.

And over the years the Hatcher home and John Hatcher himself continued to deteriorate…

First there were the big trailer trash parties.

In some sadistic way, John Hatcher started attracting the exact opposite of all his rich blueblood neighbors—bikers, gangsters, sluts and hoes—the hairy, colorful—and, above all, very loud—outcasts of society.

At any given hour of the day, a Harley Davidson or a Winnebago trailer would pull into the drive, and their denizens would then stagger across the lawn to join the never ending party going on inside the Hatcher home.

As the partying and racket grew louder every week, cops were called time and time again, and court orders were even sought, but the Hatcher name still carried a lot of clout in the higher circles of Lady Justice, and the old recluse, John Hatcher, continued to taunt and infuriate every neighbor for miles…

But on that morning, as the sun started breaking though the clouds and Allison could see a greater distance, she noticed that the Hatcher estate was quiet as a tomb, and Allison couldn’t see a single light on anywhere in the big house at the top of the hill.

She continued to watch in silent fascination as Aunt Esther continued to walk up the hill, across the vast Hatcher lawn and quickly set down the six pack of soda on the front porch…

Then she turned and started her long trek back down the hill toward home.

But on the way back, something happened that suddenly made it alarmingly clear to Allison that Aunt Esther was up to no good…

The headlights of a car appeared coming around a curve some distance away—and as soon as they did, Aunt Esther quickly ducked behind a tree until it passed—

At that moment, Allison knew in her heart that Aunt Esther was up to something bad…

Very bad.

The next day Allison and her parents returned home to Iowa and a few days after that Aunt Esther called Mother and casually mentioned that her horrible old neighbor, John Hatcher, had suddenly died of a heart attack.



For months after her vacation in New York, Allison continued to go to school, make new friends and live what appeared to be a perfectly happy, normal teenage life…

But all the while she was carrying around her terrible secret about Aunt Esther—and the longer she kept this secret, the more she started to feel like a trapped accomplice to a murder…

But what could she do?

If she told her parents that Aunt Esther was a murderer, they would almost certainly be horrified and think she was crazy!

--After all, what evidence did she really have?

Only her own word that she saw Aunt Esther doing something that was at worst highly suspicious, or at best, just very eccentric and bizarre.

So right after Aunt Esther called, Allison went online to possibly find some clue about John Hatcher’s death…

But there was nothing—just a brief obituary and a short news story that said John Hatcher was the son of famous oil tycoon, Arlington Hatcher, was seventy-six years old, his house was in foreclosure, and he had died from a natural causes, a heart attack. He had no living relatives and his body was cremated.

Case closed.

Not a single word was mentioned about John Hatcher’s unsavory biker and other lowlife friends, how many times the cops had been called to his house because of his loud, wild parties, and how much all his neighbors hated him…

He was just another man who was old and alone, with nobody left to even mourn for him—


So for awhile Allison tried to make herself believe that she had imagined the whole thing, and Aunt Esther was just an eccentric, possibly even friendly neighbor who walked over a mile up a dark hill in the early morning to give a man she hated a six pack of soda…

No--the whole incident just didn’t make a shred of sense!

In fact, when Allison asked Mother what kind of a woman Aunt Esther was like, she just laughed and said that at times she was an extremely difficult big sister to grow up with.

First, she was a good looking, large girl who was as physically intimidating as she was smart—and she was also someone who was also very quick on her feet and could talk herself out of the tightest jams with the greatest of ease.

Her mother hesitated a moment, then made Allison promise not to tell her father about one incident she would never forget…

Allison smiled and promised.

Mother’s eyes lit up with a mischievous light as she then told Allison that one time right after school, the two of them went shopping at the mall, and on the way out of Macy’s a security guard stopped Esther for trying to steal a handbag.

The guard grabbed Esther by the arm, but then Esther looked up and spotted the security camera, which, luckily, was behind the guard and not in front of him.

She instantly barked out in her loudest, most intimidating voice—

“No, you little creep—I will NOT give you my telephone number! And if you don’t let me go this instant, I’ll have you arrested on the spot and file a complaint for assault!”

The guard as so stunned by the outburst that he immediately let go of Esther’s arm and just stood there with a pale, shaken expression…

Then Esther stormed on out the front door with a five hundred dollar Armani leather handbag.

Allison was shocked by the story--but not because of Aunt Esther. She was shocked because it meant that her own mother had done nothing to make her sister return a stolen purse and had been an accomplice to a shoplifting crime!

Then Allison quickly focused on the real point of the story, which was all she needed to know—

Aunt Esther had larceny in her heart and was certainly smart enough to carry out the perfect murder!

…And there was something else about Aunt Esther that Allison didn’t like.

At heart Allison always preferred to be by herself with whatever subject fascinated her at any given moment—fauna, flora, Aztecs, Mayans, Area 51, crop circles. In short, she was an intellectual explorer who spent most of her time reading, and she was also her class valedictorian.

But unlike most other girls her own age, Allison hardly paid any attention to her own looks--although most people considered her to be quite pretty, with her blonde hair, blue eyes and a big, innocent smile that lit up the whole room…

In fact, quite a few people thought Allison looked a lot like a young Marilyn Monroe.

On the other hand, looking like a young Marilyn Monroe had its downside. When strangers—especially boys—met Allison for the first time, they often mistook her bubbly personality and big, bright Marilyn Monroe smile as an open invitation to party from a dumb blonde—and sometimes Allison had to deliver some very harsh words to set them straight.

For example, when she and Mother and Father got out of the rental car in upstate New York and Aunt Esther saw Allison for the first time in person, she blurted out with a big smile—

“And this must be the darling little Bubbles!”

Allison’s face turned bright red, but she managed to smile back and give Aunt Esther a big hug.


Allison was absolutely sure of one thing. If Aunt Esther really were the perfect murderer, she had to put something in the six pack of soda that had killed John Hatcher—and that something had to be a very special poison that made him look like he died of a heart attack.

So Allison went on line and started to research exotic poisons and real life poison murderers…

And that’s when she came across the Mensa Murderer.

In Alturas, Florida, George Trepal was a computer programmer and Mensa member who lived with his wife next door to Peggy Carr, her husband and children.

But the neighbors Trepal and Carr didn’t get along—in fact, things heated up to the point where George Trepal threatened the life of one of Peggy Carr’s children.

Then Peggy Carr started to suffer from a mysterious illness. She went to the hospital and over a period of several months started to die a very slow, painful death in which her hair fell out and she lost the power to speak or even open her eyes.

In short, she was practically screaming out loud that she had been poisoned!

Members of the Carr family also displayed the same symptoms, but to a much lesser degree, and they all survived.

Doctors soon concluded that Peggy Carr was poisoned by thallium, a deadly substance used in rat poison, and investigators also learned that a pack of Coca Cola had been left by a person, or persons unknown on the Carr porch—and they found the remaining bottles of Coca Cola in the Carr refrigerator with traces of thallium still in them.

Eventually a bottle capping machine and a container of thallium were found in George Trepal’s house. He was convicted of murder and is now on death row, awaiting execution.

After reading the story about the Mensa Murderer, Allison was more convinced than ever that Aunt Esther had read exactly the same story and that’s how she murdered John Hatcher!

But Aunt Esther was a lot smarter than George Trepal. She must have used a poison that killed John Hatcher over a period of about a week and made it look like a heart attack—just long enough for him to also throw away all the soda bottles, and along with them all evidence that he had been poisoned.

But this new information put Allison in a worse position than ever. John Hatcher was pronounced dead from natural causes, cremated and long gone—and there were NO poisoned Coca Cola bottles left behind in his refrigerator!

Allison was right back where she started from—only worse. Now if she told her parents about what she saw Aunt Esther do that dark morning, John Hatcher’s sudden death, and the new information about the Mensa Murderer, they might be shocked, but even if they believed her, what could they do?

Call the police and accuse Aunt Esther of murder?

Based on what?

The wildly speculative testimony of a teenager (a blonde, who looked just like Marilyn Monroe no less) but had no real evidence of any poisoning--and a Florida psychopath who murdered his neighbor?

Allison shuddered to think what would happen to his parents, not to mention their relationship with Aunt Esther and the General--the last two people on earth anyone would want as enemies. And she also had no doubt that with the Patton millions behind her, Aunt Esther’s attorneys would make a fool of her sensitive, but wildly imaginative “Darling Bubbles,” and all charges against her would be dismissed before they even got off the ground.

In fact, Allison slowly came to the realization that the more evidence she collected that proved Aunt Esther was a murderer, the more trouble she would get into if she did anything with it!

Then another thought hit Allison like a sharp slap across the face—Aunt Esther was smarter than both George Trepal and her!

Everything pointed straight to the fact that she had committed the perfect murder, and the only person who knew she was guilty was not only completely handcuffed, but would probably never even see her again!


New Nightmares

The months flew by, and before Allison knew it, she was a junior in high school. The memory of Aunt Esther had faded to a bad dream, and now that she had a year left in high school, she was already preparing for college.

Allison’s parents were quite wealthy, but she still wanted to get a full ride scholarship on her own, and she wasn’t at all sure what college she wanted to attend. She knew that she wanted a career in law enforcement, though in what field she wasn’t quite sure.

The local police force offered an internship program for high school students that Allison signed up for, but it consisted mostly of paperwork, sorting files and being hit on by young officers. Although she finished the program, Allison wasn’t too keen on becoming a police officer.

Then Mother learned that she was pregnant again, and not long after that, she found out that it would be a baby girl. Even though they would be quite a few years apart in age, Allison was very excited about having a baby sister, and by New Year’s Eve, she was looking forward to the Big Birthday of little Diana, which was now only a couple months away.

“Dad, do you think it’s a good idea for Mom to go to a New Year’s Eve party?”

Allison’s father turned and looked at her with a smile.

“Don’t worry, Allie, she won’t fall dead drunk onto the floor like she usually does. I promise.”

Mother didn’t much appreciate her husband’s sense of humor.

“That’s not funny, Harry! You’re the heavy drinker in the family—and Allie, I’m not going to have a drop, I swear.”

Dad agreed.

“That’s right. If I hadn’t promised the Morrisons we’d go to their New Year’s Eve party, I’d much rather be right here at home, making money by whipping my little daughter at another game of Nine Ball.”

Allison laughed.

“In your dreams!”

Allison’s father was a world class pool player and since she was a small girl, Allison had learned how to play pool on the professional size green velvet Brunswick pool table in their game room. By the time she was tall enough stop using a stool to stand on, Allison had become a very sharp pool player in her own right, and even her father was impressed one day when she ran the table four times!

She waved goodbye as her parents walked out the front door.

“Be back by one!”

Mom smiled over her shoulder.


But Mother never kept her promise. On the way back from the Morrisons a drunk high school kid in a Camero hit them head on..

Allison’s mother, father and unborn baby sister were all killed instantly.

And less than a week after the funeral, Allison learned her second nightmare: Now that she was a minor who was all alone in the world, a judge ordered that the Patrick house be sold, and all cash, stocks, bonds and other estate assets would be managed by a court appointed trustee until Allison was twenty-one years old.

The judge also issued an order that until she reached majority, Allison Patrick must live under the guardianship of her only living relative…

Aunt Esther Patton.