8: The big lie

The bear stood eight feet high, taller in death than in life. It loomed over them, roaring on two legs, arms outstretched, mouth gaping, teeth and claws lengthened on the journey from its Alaskan home. Once black eyes now shone blue with savage red corners. His fatal wounds had been disguised with sewing and makeup. As bad as he’d once smelt, at least it had been the stench of life, not mothballs.

Because the bear wasn’t real. It was as fake as the lie that would be told about it’s murder.

The beast was housed inside a gilded birdcage that stood in the centre of the Great Hall, a vast ballroom that would have been the pride of Foxglove in bygone days. Like all the many rooms, it was dusty, shuttered, spartan, it’s cobwebbed chandeliers unlit. The house had long lost it’s prestige with it’s care.

Leo ushered them in, his excitement growing like it was Christmas morning, but that enthusiasm wasn’t contagious. Jack was a bemused servant, Blake idly played with her phone, Toby smarmily nodded and smiled his crocodile grin, Ralph just wanted to lie down.

Jack understood why it didn’t impress as Leo imagined, he knew how the faux animal had been created. When he’d finally dropped the rancid carcass off, the taxidermist offered him a cup of tea before packing him off into the night. The man enthused profusely about the extensive process he would undertake on the animal, and the more he talked the more pointless it sounded.

It was nothing but the creation of artifice. The bear would be gutted, it’s muscles, innards and last remnants of flesh discarded. Only the hide would be used, stretched over a wire frame, with fake claws, teeth, tongue and eyes added to support the hoax. The taxidermist was a craftsman, skilled and obsessive enough to believe it an art. What a waste of life, thought Jack, sick to have aided the once noble creature’s demise for such a purposeless end, as a vanity project for a spoilt brat.

Rosie and Thomas, I did it for you. I’m here for you. Jack had to remember that when he heard Leo’s attempt at a showman’s spiel.

“It was pursuing a lone walker on the plains, when we picked up it’s trail. The man was already wounded, and had only survived so long by sheer luck. We tried to scare it away, but the bear had a blood lust that had to be sated. A single shot felled the giant, seconds before it ripped the foolish backpacker in two. We later found the remains of other missing travellers in it’s belly. A truly fearsome man-eater that would gorge no more. The Devil’s Bear.” They clapped, and Leo mock bowed, beaming in the artificial glow of their sham applause. “Ahem, it may need some work.”

It was just a big fat lie, and like all lies and liars, the louder they shouted, the more their audience just gave in and accepted it.

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