A/N: Just so you know, this story gives away whodunit in the book 'And Then There Were None', so I strongly recommend you read that brilliant story before reading this if you don't want to be spoiled. Also, this is written from Hugo's POV in case you're curious. Disclaimer: 'And Then There Were None' and all its creepiness and excellence doesn't belong to me; this one shot was written purely out of ATTWN obsession and I make no money off of this.
The minister is talking, but I can barely hear what he's saying. All I can hear is the rain splashing—no, crashing—upon Vera Claythorne's coffin, as though mocking it, sneering, Child murderess, child murderess, child murderess…
It was last week when I found out. I had come back after taking a trip to Scotland, hoping to make some money there. After Cyril's death, I had inherited his money, but wasted a load of it on drinking and God knows what else. Anyway, I had managed to secure a job there as the manager of an inn. The pay was little, but it was better than nothing at all. I decided to go home to tell my sister the news. I burst open the doors and gave her the wonderful news. I should've suspected something was wrong when I saw the look on her face. Normally, she's a very optimistic woman. After all, she was able to carry on when father left us, and when Cyril died—but not this time. She looked grim. I asked her, "What's wrong? Aren't you happy for me? Did something happen while I was away?"
And that was when she told me: "Hugo, I got a telegram from Scotland Yard last night. Remember that nice girl who used to work here as Cyril's governess—Vera Claythorne? Well, I'm afraid I have some distressing news…she committed suicide a few days ago during a trip to Indian Island."
I didn't believe what I was hearing. Vera Claythorne—dead? This beautiful woman, full of life and spirit, whom I once adored dearly…had killed herself?
"According to the telegram, she had gone to Indian Island for some reason or other—details are sketchy—and a party of boy scouts saw some distress signals coming from the island, but weren't able to arrive until the next day—but by then, it was too late. Vera, along with nine other people, was dead. The police were in a state of confusion over whom the murderer was until the master of the Emma Jane sent them a manuscript document from the murderer himself, who turned out to be some maniac bent on seeing absolute justice done to those who had committed crimes that were out of the law's reach…and it confirmed Vera hanged herself."
I didn't feel anything at all after hearing this. My entire body felt numb, frozen. My brain kept going, This isn't happening, this is all just a terrible nightmare your conscience has conjured up...
"Did the letter say why?" I asked softly.
"Well…vaguely, yes, but I don't think you're going to like it," said my sister uneasily.
"Please," I said. "I have to know."
She sighed, "According to the letter, the murderer had already met you during an Atlantic crossing and had a chat with you about how murder isn't what most people think and apparently, you told him about Cyril's drowning and told him Vera had deliberately allowed Cyril to drown. Dear me, I suppose I knew the poor girl let Cyril drown the entire time; I just didn't want to believe it. Well, in any case, the drowning, along with the other guests' past crimes, was brought up again and after a few days…she just couldn't take it."
No. Oh no. Dear God no…suddenly, I was beginning to feel the delayed pain. It started in my stomach and slowly crept its way up into my throat. That judge…the one I had become acquainted with during my Atlantic crossing…
It's my fault Vera hanged herself. This is my entire fault. She would've never gone to the island if it hadn't been for me. I can still make out her face: A sweet, loving, beautiful face, with lips as soft and delicate as freshly fallen snow…not the face of a murderess…
I loved Vera. I was crazy about her from the moment I first met her. I was willing to put with Cyril's constant teasing about how his governess was becoming my 'lady friend'; just as long as I got to be with her. I still remember the long walks we'd take together. We'd talk about a play or movie we had seen earlier that day or if we didn't see either, we'd just talk about things in our everyday lives before stopping down at the beach. I can feel the soft pressure of her lips against mine now. We never got the chance to actually have each other, of course; the mere thought of what we would do if someone walked in on us was too mortifying to think about.
Still, I loved Vera more than life itself. I loved her enough to want to marry her. Sadly, it could not be, because I hadn't a penny. The family fortune had gone over to Cyril. If he had been a girl, I'd be rich and married to Vera by now, we might have even started a family of our own. But alas, Cyril was a boy, and I had to wait until Cyril's death to be able to marry Vera. I was all right with it. Cyril was a really nice kid and I felt lucky to be his uncle. He was spoiled, but nice. I still remember his bright pink dimples, his bright eyes, and his squeaky voice: "Uncle Hugo!"
Cyril died on the day I had gone for Newquay to try to secure a job there so I could earn enough money to be able to marry Vera and support her. I should've never gone. I should've gone with Vera and Cyril to St. Tredennick and watched her like a hawk eyes its dinner. But no…I had to choose finding a job over my nephew's safety.
I didn't find out about Cyril's drowning until I returned from Newquay a few days later. Vera acted innocent, like she really tried to rescue Cyril, but…during the inquest, when Vera turned to look at me, all I had to do was take one look in her eyes and I knew what happened to Cyril wasn't an accident; she had let him swim out to sea and drown. Suddenly, all those feelings I had for her, all that love and willingness to be with her…was gone. She no longer looked beautiful, now she looked like a…like a murderess.
It's a funny word, 'murder'. I always used to think murder was just simply pushing someone off a cliff or slipping them a dollop of arsenic, but oh no…that day I learned murder was so much more complicated than that. I had fallen in love with a murderess. And to think, she appeared to be such a nice, sweet girl, someone who was caring and unselfish…all that was hypocrisy! Yet somehow, the look on her face told me she had did it more or less for me…after all, when Cyril died, I inherited the family fortune from him. Perhaps, perhaps, Vera had drowned Cyril for me, so we could finally get married and I'd be able to support her. Yes, murder is a very tricky business.
The emotions I felt next were complicated. Grief over Cyril's death, coupled with anger towards Vera for causing his death, yet somehow, flattered she had murdered him for me, then guilty over feeling such a way, and finally, pain…I knew I had to let her go. Vera may have drowned Cyril because she loved me and I loved her back, but what she didn't realize was that I loved that kid. Gone were hopes of walking through the front door hearing Cyril squeal, "Uncle Hugo! Uncle Hugo! Did you get me anything?" Now it would be a lonely, uncomfortable silence.
My sister was very nice about it. She sincerely believed it was all a tragic accident. She believed the lies Vera fed her and gently told her, "There, there, dear. It's not your fault. Cyril was a puny child; I don't suppose he would've lived to grow up anyway. The least you can do is learn from this mistake: If you ever take another child down to the seashore with you ever again, you'll remember to watch him or her closely, won't you?...Here, blow into this tissue…that's a good girl…"
I just wanted to scream at my sister for being so naïve, but decided against it. She was already in a lot of pain from losing her only child; the last thing she needed was for me to scream at her for it. I knew she would eventually figure it out in time.
After the inquest, I hurried off quickly, without saying a word to Vera. My instinct told me it would be less painful to end our relationship by speaking with her, face-to-face, rather than avoiding her, but I never wanted to speak to her again. That was the very last time I ever saw Vera. Now here I am, four years later, standing over her coffin.
Tears that have been locked inside for so long slowly pour down my face. Now I feel as though there is a huge weight weighing down my heart, sinking it closer and closer to my stomach. No matter what anyone could say to convince me otherwise, I'll always know in my heart that Vera hung herself because of me. She felt guilty because of me. I loved her. I still love her. The very last words I ever said to Vera—before leaving for Newquay and coming back to find everything changed—were "Goodbye, Vera. I love you." My God, I still love her!
Perhaps, one day, I'll eventually get over this and move on and find another woman whom I'll fall in love with and get married to and have a family with…but I'll never forget Vera Claythorne, both my lover and torturer.
The minister has finished his speech. As the coffin is slowly being buried, only two words escape my lips: