The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The vast Yorkshire moors were no longer billowing with heathers like the last time I came, but instead sleeping quietly beneath a thick white blanket. My breath steamed up the window as I leaned over to drink in the scenery. I have never seen anything as pure as this winter country, having been running away from the cold and the snow for almost all my life. As we rounded the bend, the front of the train came into view and its steam puff clouded my sight with misty white.
The old train pulled up to the station, slowing jerkily then shuddering to a stop. Swinging my briefcase off the shelf overhead, I stepped out of the carriage and onto the concrete path of the platform. People rushed past me off the train, pushing each other out to the exit and into the afternoon light. Outside the station, beside a rustic metal sign bearing the name of the station, I spotted the Ellie’s bobbing red head. She helped me escape the pulsing crowd of tourists, and pulled me towards her car.
“It’s quite horrific, Nora,” she said as she drove us both towards an older mansion.
“I know, you sent me the photos,” I replied.
“There’s extra stuff that we found just fifteen minutes ago,” she told me, “The Polaroids are in the front compartment.”
I reached forward and took the bunch of photos from inside the compartment. It took me a while to decipher the words captured in the picture, but eventually I got there.
“Catherine Earnshaw? Catherine Linton? And Catherine Heathcliff?” I asked Ellie, “Don’t tell me they were written on the windowsill.”
“You got it, girlie,” she told me as she turned into the driveway of Lamorna Mansion, “I told them to test the ink to see whether it matched the pen found in his pocket. We’re still trying to compare the handwriting; the specimen on the windowsill is a tad shaky.”
Ellie parked the car at a crazy angle in front of the main entrance, and we both rushed up the steps. It was a moment of déjà vu when Ellie pointed me to the room near the gables, up a winding and dark staircase. All right, it was not déjà vu as such, but the scene reminded me heavily of a book I’ve read many times, first at high school and then over and over again as an adult. Stepping over the police tape, I entered the crime scene and shuddered involuntarily. The huge window opposite the door was flung wide open, and half-melted snow seeped from the windowsill towards the bookshelves on the other side. There was a bed placed right beneath the window, its pale sheets stained with blood. And on the bed, with arms spread wide, was a dead man soaked to the bones.
“Heathcliff,” I whispered, taking in the billowing curtains and the devastation of the room.
The lights overhead flickered as I gingerly stepped over to the man, trying hard to not erase any unseen evidence. Slipping on a pair of gloves, I bent down to investigate the wound below the man’s chest. It seemed as though the murderer’s knife had punctured his stomach, slowly but surely draining away his heart’s blood. But this arrangement, this creepy scene taken from a nineteenth century novel had been done by none other than this dead man before my eyes. His fingertips were still dipped in his own blood, and jagged lines drawn by the half-dried substance was visible on the shutters.
“It’s his handwriting,” said Ellie from the door, her hand holding several Polaroids of this new evidence, “And the ink on the sill is from the permanent marker in his pocket.”
I nodded my thanks and moved over to inspect the scribbles on the wooden sill, the part of this whole murder that mystified and excited me most of all. Like in the photos I saw a few moments ago, the repetition of the three names covered the little protrusion. It was another scene taken out of that famous book, the one that was coming back to haunt me then. This was the part where Lockwood stayed the night at Wuthering Heights, and found the ghost of a girl called Catherine. I was sure that this murdered man (Mr Summers as I knew him from the case report) had left this puzzling message for a reason. Perhaps to lead us to the murderer, or maybe to reveal the killer’s motives. Well, here was the inscription on the windowsill. What did that have to do with anything?
The familiar and delicious scent of old books coming from the shelves lining the walls tugged at a part in my memory, and I scoured my mind to try and find something useful. Lockwood had read the inscriptions, just as I had. But what else happened in that scene? Slowly it dawned on me. Lockwood had read Cathy’s books. Or rather, her added notes to the blank pages and margins in her dry novels. Perhaps that was what Mr Summers meant by pointing me towards this scene. Was it as simple as that? Finding his copy of Wuthering Heights on the shelves and flipping through for any handwritten notes?
“Ellie, I think I deciphered the message,” I called to her from inside the room, and added as she rushed in, “Scan the shelves and if you find Wuthering Heights, give it to me.”
We worked through the two enormous shelves, combing through hundreds of spines for the one I needed. The novel was located at the top of the corner shelf, and I snatched it from Ellie’s hand the moment she got hold of it. Frantically flipping through the pages, I found nothing.
“Go through all the books,” I ordered, “Get everyone in here and look for any book that has added footnotes or pictures.”
I flipped through Wuthering Heights again carefully as the whole crew searched through the shelves of books. Nothing, not even a tiny symbol or added mark. It turned out there were quite a few books with handwriting in it. The pile on the desk grew to about a dozen possibilities, and wearily I searched through them all. Most were merely reading notes, but a copy of Lord Byron’s anthology revealed an interesting line.
“The chained spirits, there you will find”
Ellie had come to aid me in the search, scanning through her own pile of books. It had become darker without us noticing it, the thin twilight slanting through the window. Desperate for a break, I stood up and went for a walk around the house. Ellie eyes were glinting with excitement by the time I got back, her hands holding up a leather-bound tome. She pointed to a tiny line of writing curled around the huge cursive ‘T’ that started the third chapter. It read:
“Beneath the sky where heather twined”