What’s Around the Bend?

The HandI’m back. If this isn’t terrifying enough, then you might want to know what’s right around the bend?

Or maybe not…

It’s summer and we’re drowning. Between edits, writing, wrestling the kids, scaring away squirrels, photographing spiders, and planning for our vacation, I’m building an Ark. Seriously, when is this rain going to end?

We’ve cleaned out the laundry room, re-painted the floor, and added new shelves. It’s looking rather spiffy. We’ve had six trees taken out of our yard. (Take that, squirrels!) We’re getting set to have our roof replaced, buy new furniture, re-paint the house, and about a million other things that make my head spin.

We’ve celebrated birthdays,  had picnics, watched fireworks, enjoyed nights around the fire with the neighbors, and have gone to a baseball game. Overall, we’re working around the raindrops and making the most of summer fun.

Now that I can access my blog again, I’m trying to come up with a posting schedule that I can stick to. During the summer months, two days per week is probably a more realistic goal than three. So far, I’m planning a short free write on Tuesdays and a continuation of the A to Z challenge (Ghosts in my Attic) on Thursdays. In fall, the schedule may change with a possibility of a Paranormal Romance Blog Hop on Wednesdays. We’ll see.

I’m always open to host fellow authors with interviews and new book announcements. Contact me if you’re interested!

A while ago, I finished the first draft of Commitment. When I finally felt brave enough to send it to my kindle to read, I cringed. I loved the beginning and hated almost every part after that. I suppose there is something to be said for planning before sitting down to write? My MC is completely unlikable and downright laughable in places. And the plot? Oh, don’t even ask.

Soooo… I did a plot overhaul and outlined the story from beginning to end. I thought about the back story a little more. I actually gave my antagonist a reason to exist (although admittedly, it could be better). I’ve tried to make my MC more human and likable. I’m working through my rewrites and hoping to finish them by the end of summer. I love the story. I just need to figure out why I’m telling it.

I’ve got a million and one other ideas burning in the back of my mind waiting to be written. As I sit here with Lego crazy going on around me, I know I will figure out a way to get words on the page … somehow…

I’m currently reading Ghosts, 2014 Edition by Noel Hynd and Writing the Paranormal Novel, Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements into Your Story by Steven Harper. If you’re looking for a good read, check them out! I’m enjoying both very much.

On Tuesday – where does the mystery tunnel lead? I hope you’ll join me to find out. Look for my latest ghost from the attic, Jonathan, next Thursday. He can’t wait to meet you.

See you around the bend…

#ScintillatingSunday Hopeless Peril, The Kiss

scintillating sundayGreetings! Well, what do you know… I have finally resolved the wordpress issues that have kept me away since mid-April. Okay, so they kind of resolved themselves once I finally updated my browser, but I’m ecstatic to finally be able to access and post on my blog again. (It’s the little things.)

What better way to dive back into my blog, than to do it with a big splash. It’s summer, after all, and summer is hot. While my main writing focus is paranormal,  romance often sneaks its way into my stories so I’ve decided to give the Scintillating Sunday blog hop a try and share some spicy stuff.

Tthe rules are simple. Eight words, eight sentences, or eight paragraphs of our choosing, so long as they are “scintillating”. I hope I can live up to that. Want to join in the fun? You can find the rules and the sign up for next week on the main blog page HERE

.Enjoy my snippet and be sure to sample the other participants as well. No doubt, you will not be disappointed.

My snippet comes from my current work-in-progress, Commitment.. Whether or not this snippet survives the edits is yet to be determined. ;-)

**

          What difference would one kiss make? Her lips could sweep over his and then he would disappear just as he’d done before and nothing in her life would change. She would still be in the same hopeless peril with the same lonely future staring back at her. She didn’t need Kent in her life. She didn’t need any man but for some reason, she wanted him.

Olivia closed her eyes and lifted her lips to his, a surprisingly easy distance to close since he’d lowered his face in anticipation of this moment. His arms pulled her in and the passion flared. Lips parted, he invited her to taste him and she did so, gratefully. She sank into his arms and crushed her chest against his, feeling the heat and the strength envelope her. Time stood still while they tempted each other with their lips and tongues and then just as abruptly, he let her go.

“What are you doing?” he whispered breathless, the desire evident on his face as he searched her eyes for some meaning or motivation behind what had just happened.

“I don’t know.”

He sighed and glanced at the clock before slowly stroking the top of her arm. She had so many thoughts in her head but she couldn’t seem to put any of them in logical or coherent order so she simply stood there waiting for him to say or do something, to make the next move.

“Is this your way of getting back at Haley?” he asked.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re mad at her for sleeping with Ryan so now you’ll try to sleep with her brother.”

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#AtoZChallenge Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? Isabella

Businessman hand holding a Crystal BallLet’s be clear about one thing. Isabella is not a ghost. Well, at least not yet. As far as I know, she just likes to pretend she is. I’m not going to say she is crazy either, but maybe she is just a little bit.

I followed her from one room to the next beginning on the main level of the house and then eventually working our way up the staircase to the bedrooms. She made a lot of sounds as we moved and sometimes she hummed or chanted softly, but none of that really made sense to me.

Finally, we stopped at the foot of the attic steps. She turned and looked at me. Was I supposed to lead?

“That is where they stay,” I said indicating the door, although being a highly recommended psychic, I had sort of expected her to know that already.

“I want to go up and take a look around,” she announced after an awkward silence. I ignored the warnings in my head screaming this was a bad idea and nodded. Slowly she ascended, one step at a time.

I probably should have followed but I couldn’t. My feet kept me firmly rooted where I stood as a wave of nausea struck me fiercely. Isabella opened the door and disappeared into their domain. Too dizzy to stand, I collapsed onto the bottom step to rest my head in my hands. I counted, forcing myself to breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Time barely passed, or at least it felt that way, before I noticed her standing at the bottom of the steps looking down at me. On shaky legs I attempted to stand.

“Well, what happened? What did you sense? What can I do?” I whispered because I was too afraid that they might hear me. I glanced up and felt relief as I realized that Isabella had at least closed the attic door behind her.

“There is definitely an energy here,” she said making no attempts to lower her own raspy voice. I cringed.

“Yes, but what do you think?” I wasn’t paying a psychic to tell me I had ghosts. I knew that much already.  “How do I get rid of them?”

“Not them. I only sense one entity in this house and I really don’t get the feeling you need to fear. It isn’t malevolent.”

“One? That can’t be right. I’ve spoken to at least eight of them already.”

She raised one eyebrow as if she couldn’t believe me or that I dared to question her professional assessment.

“A spirit can make you believe many things but I assure you, there is only one.”

I sighed heavily. Isabella obviously wouldn’t be of any help to me and I’d just spent one hundred dollars to do nothing but potentially anger the ones that didn’t want me to go poking where I didn’t belong.

“Anyway,” she continued, “I will perform a simple cleansing ritual and burn sage in all the rooms, especially the attic. This will send the energy back where it belongs and you will be free to enjoy your home.”

“Does that cost extra?”

Raised eyebrows again. “Ms. Ingram, do you want me to fix this problem or not?”

“Of course. It’s just that –”

That I think she’s clueless. Likely.

“– that I’m a little short on money at the moment.”

“No worries. I’ll give you a special discount. You are a friend of Sylvia’s, after all.”

“Thanks,” I muttered as I followed her back down the staircase and into the living room. She went to her large bag and started rummaging for things. At least she came prepared, I thought.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked.

“That would be nice, thank you.”

She’d pulled out bundles of what I could only assume must be sage as I went to the kitchen, grateful to get away from her and the heavy perfume she wore. Strong scents gave me a headache and this lady was sending me straight to migraine territory. Then again, maybe it had more to do with the fact that I was no better off then where I’d started with the ghosts.

I leaned against the counter waiting for the kettle to boil. Perhaps I was being too hard on her? For all I knew, whether there was one ghost or twenty in my house, this sage thing just might do the trick and I could avoid putting the house up for sale. Being the only one remaining in my family, I had been feeling kind of guilty ever since making that decision. The house belonged to me.

I belonged to the house.

I shivered for no apparent reason at all.

I could hear Isabella humming as she moved through the house doing her work and another strong scent hit my nose, what I could only assume must be the burning sage.

“Geez, watch the crazy lady burn down the house and my luck, I still won’t be rid of the ghosts,” I muttered under my breath as I poured the boiled water over the tea bags.

I thought of Benjamin and my heart ached. This had to be the right decision.

When I returned to the living room, Isabella was humming her way up the main staircase.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” she called back to me.

Just as well I had nothing better to do. I set the two mugs of tea on the end table and made myself comfortable on the couch while I waited. Outside the blue sky promised a lovely day and I decided I should get out and take a walk. The fresh air would do me some good. I smiled watching the birds, hopeful. The sage had to work.

Isabella screamed.

The sound of it sent shivers through me and without a second thought, I raced up the steps to find her wide eyed and pale in the middle of the hallway trembling … like she’d just seen a ghost?

This should be familiar territory for a highly recommended psychic, surely.

A faint smell of burning filled my nose. This time it didn’t have the pleasant aroma of sage.

“What happened?”

“Your house — the g- g- ghost — I can’t —”

“What happened?” I repeated, annoyed that she couldn’t seem to communicate with me but before I could hear her response, I was distracted by a waft of smoke coming down from the attic. The door was wide open and I could see the flames begin to lick around its edges.

“Oh god,” I moaned.

Luckily, I’d kept a fire extinguisher on each floor just as a general safety precaution. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever figure I’d need it for a situation like this. I grabbed the nearest one and ran up the steps. Thankfully, the fire hadn’t spread far and I was able to put it out. I stood for a moment as I tried to catch my breath and assess the damage.

“I take it you didn’t like our new friend, Isabella,” I said to my ghosts. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were listening.

By the time I was sure the fire was out and I went back downstairs, Isabella was gone. She’d taken her bag, her bundles of sage, and disappeared.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be hearing from her again.

**

Click HERE to check out posts from the other A to Z Blogging Challenge participants.

#AtoZChallenge Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? Harriet and Heaven.

Woman Haunting CemeteryThe week was winding down and I’d worked hard making the house as presentable as possible for the real estate agent on Saturday. As a result, my muscles screamed in protest and although I wanted to finish repairing one of the cabinets in the kitchen, I decided a soak in the tub would be a better reward to end my day.

I’d always wanted a claw foot bathtub so when I first moved in to the house, I’d been excited to finally have one. Before today, I’d never stopped long enough to actually make good use of it but now, especially in light of the fact that my next place wouldn’t be nearly so fancy, I decided to enjoy it. I lit several candles around the perimeter of the room and scented the water with lavender oils.

Slipping into the tub, the steam rose into the air around me. It was a shame I couldn’t stay, I thought. A girl could get used to this. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t think about the ghosts but immediately, my thoughts went to them.

I’d never been a particularly religious person. The times I spent alone with my thoughts like this were probably as close as I’d ever feet to “something bigger” in my life and I’d always been okay with that. But now, it felt a little sad, not just for me, but for all the lost souls roaming the big, old house.

Was there such a place as heaven where we should go after we die? Would my ghosts never pass beyond the physical world to find their own peace in death?

Maybe they didn’t want my help? Maybe I’d have been better off leaving well enough alone? After all, some of them were guilty of horrible crimes. If such a place as heaven existed, then why not hell? Being trapped between living and dying may have been the better alternative. All the same, I felt as if I owed it to those, like Benjamin or George, that didn’t deserve the endless suffering they endured.

When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t surprised to see a shadow of movement from the other side of the room. Even in the privacy of my bath, I couldn’t be alone.

“You want to help us,” she said softly.

There they went again, seeming to know my thoughts and my actions even before I did.

“I feel like I should do something,” I admitted with a sigh. What that was, I had no idea. I tried to get a better sense of her form but this one preferred to stay just out of sight, almost hidden beyond the flickers of the candle flames.

“Do you want my help?” I asked her.

“I — I don’t know.”

“Don’t you want to rest in peace?”

“I’m afraid of no longer existing at all.”

I couldn’t offer reassurances when I didn’t really know what was out there beyond my attic for them. I watched the candles dance around me throwing shadows on the walls and ceiling. The idea felt hopeless. Lost.

Or maybe it was her that I sensed. Harriet.

“You don’t want to stay here trapped for the rest of eternity.”
“Maybe not,” she agreed, “But there will be others that won’t look too kindly on your plans.”

“I don’t doubt that. Not everyone has been quite so friendly.”
“There are others who will try to take your place.”

I closed my eyes again as if I could will away the fear that sank deep into my bones when I thought about the ghosts. It wouldn’t be easy. I was going to need help.

“You’re packing. You were going to move away,” she said.
“Well, it seems I might be here a little longer than I thought. My friend Jennifer and her husband can’t take me in right now. They’re expecting a baby.”

“This makes you sad?”

“No, not sad. Just …”

“Lost.”

“Do you know where you are buried?” I asked her, choosing to steer the conversation away from my ultimate demise.

“Not far from here.”

“Not in my backyard, I hope,” I said, my voice heavy with sarcasm which she clearly missed. She only sat in the corner staring in my direction. I couldn’t see her eyes but I knew she watched me, waiting for something, or simply enjoying the company. I didn’t know.

“I’m going to find a way to help you move on,” I said again, feeling more certain as I considered this possibility.

“You will join us.”

“I’m not going to give up that easily.”

I yanked the plug from the drain and sat as the water started to sink lower. I was so mesmerized by the shimmer of its movement under the candle’s glow that I didn’t move until the tub was empty. I grabbed my towel, wrapped it around me, and stepped carefully out onto the tiled floor.

I didn’t need to look for her to know that Harriet had disappeared. I blew out the candles and headed to bed. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

**

Click HERE to check out posts from the other A to Z Blogging Challenge participants.

#AtoZChallenge Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? George

Copa de vino tino con fuego de chimenea de fondo.The funny thing about hotels – they kind of expect you to pay for your stay. The fact that I’d maxed out my credit cards in order to buy the supplies I needed for my renovation project was not working in my favor right now. I’d tried three different hotels and all had requested a credit card in order to confirm my reservation. Unfortunately, although I inherited a house, I did not get any money to go with it. Finally, I gave up on my plan to stay in a hotel and went with the next best thing.

“I was hoping I could stay with you just until I manage a new place,” I said, trying not to sound so desperate.

“What’s wrong with the house?” Jennifer asked.

I looked up at the half painted wall in front of me and debated how much I should tell my former roommate, especially over the phone.

“Nothing,” I said, deciding that a confession of ghosts was probably more than Jennifer needed to hear right now. “I just don’t like living so far from everything.”

That much was true, to an extent. I’d always preferred the ability to walk anywhere I needed to go from our two-bedroom city apartment but the country had been a refreshing change. I think Jennifer wanted to say yes and help me but a lot had changed in the last six months. I don’t think she’d entirely forgiven me yet.

“I don’t think Jeff will go for it.”

“But you’ll ask him, right?” I pleaded.

Unfortunately, after I bailed on the apartment, Jennifer couldn’t afford to pick up both halves of the rent. Fate stepped in to rescue her. It turned out that Jeff had already bought a ring and was only waiting for the right moment to propose. My leaving her stranded made it the the right moment and Jennifer moved into Jeff’s house shortly thereafter. I know which of us got the better deal. Jeff was gorgeous, had a lot of money, and I was pretty sure his house wasn’t infested with ghosts.

As for me, well, I guess you could say karma came knocking.

I heard Jennifer sigh and after another hesitation she finally agreed to talk to her fiance, Jeff, about the possibility of my moving in with them. She would call me back tomorrow.

That left me with very little hope and at least one more night in the Victorian Mansion. I scheduled a real estate agent to come by on Saturday and get the house listed on the market so maybe I could at least expect a quick sale to give me the money to move somewhere else.

I paced the living room floor and watched the grandfather clock as anxiety coursed through me. My stomach twisted into knots. Maybe I should have told Jennifer the truth? She might have taken pity on me, even if she did them me insane.

“Give me a reason to stay,” I begged the empty room.

That’s how I met George.

It started with the roar of a fire as it sprang to life in the fireplace. I shrieked and sank into the shadows, ready to defend myself against random flying objects. I wasn’t at all prepared to defend myself from a stolen kiss.

When George stepped back, I blinked three times and simply stared. I’m sure my jaw must have hung open, giving me a less-than-attractive appearance. George didn’t seem to mind.

Music filled the room from some phantom stereo and although I didn’t recognize the song, I knew it came from the Big Band era. It was music I once loved as much as I loved dancing. George held out his hand, beckoning me to join him in a dance now and despite my initial fear, I couldn’t resist the invitation.

He may have been a ghost but George held me in a surprisingly strong grip. He led me through one dance and then another. It wasn’t long before I actually found myself smiling and having fun. Dancing brought me to life. George dipped me and brought me back, holding me close to his chest. If only George weren’t a ghost, I thought, because I would have loved to lay my head against his chest and listen to the beat of his heart.

When we’d finished spinning and twirling across the room and the music faded, I struggled to catch my breath. George indicated a bottle of red wine sitting on the small end table next to the couch. Next to the bottle stood two long stem glasses. I know I hadn’t left those there but since they weren’t being thrown at me or poured over my head, I wasn’t going to question it.

I poured us each a full glass of the wine even though I knew I would be the only one to drink it and I settled on the floor in front of the fire.

“Thank you,” I said when George sat down next to me. “I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.”

“Too long,” he agreed.

I looked at him curiously as I sipped my wine. How did he know it had been too long? How much did any of the ghosts know about me or my past?

He smiled. He would have been very handsome when he was alive, not to mention irresistibly charming – a dangerous combination.

“Do you have a sad story?” I asked him, not that I really wanted to know if he’d come to a tragic end or killed someone.

“Not really,” he said with a shrug but I sensed there was something he didn’t want to tell me.

“You look too young to have died from natural causes. An accident perhaps? Illness?”

He took my hand in his and I remarked at how unusually warm he felt for a ghost. He kissed the back of my hand and the room swayed a little. I was tired but I didn’t want the night to end.

“I suppose you could say that I died of a broken heart.”

“That is very sad. And tragic.”

I closed my eyes and leaned against the couch as the fire and the wine warmed me. At some point I must have fallen asleep. I spent the rest of the night dreaming of dancing with George and when I woke to sunlight streaming through my window, I realized I was somehow in my own bed, the empty bottle of wine on the bedside table next to a single red rose.

I sighed. Not all my ghosts were bad.

**

Click HERE to check out posts from the other A to Z Blogging Challenge participants.

#AtoZChallenge Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? Fred, Frank, and Fran

Spooky windowMy suitcase waited for me by the front door. I’d spent most of the night weighing my options and ultimately decided to pack what I needed to get me through a few nights in a hotel. Since my conversation with Edgar, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this whole idea had been a huge mistake. Besides, what did I know about renovating a Victorian mansion anyway? The fact that it had belonged to my family for so many generations and I was the last one of our kind left to inherit it just felt doubly tragic. Truly, I had no idea what I was trying to hang on to.

And then there were the ghosts.

To be fair, I didn’t completely believe Edgar’s warnings about a sinister evil inhabiting the house itself. As far as I knew, there was no such thing.

But then, I’d felt that way about ghosts once, too.

All the same, I was more likely to believe that he’d used this story to rationalize the brutal murder of an innocent man. I still didn’t understand why he or Agatha had felt justified in ending Roger’s life but I had no intentions of sticking around long enough to hear Roger’s side of the story. Enough was enough. I had my own problems.

I dipped the roller in the paint tray and gently rolled it against the smooth wall I’d been working on for seemingly an eternity now. Another reason this renovation idea had been so insane – I absolutely hated anything to do with actually, well, renovating. Painting topped this list. It was mind-numbingly boring and gave me too much time to think. What I really needed was to do something that would distract my thoughts from the house and its otherworldly inhabitants.

“If only I could coerce them into doing manual labor for me,” I said to myself and laughed softly.

I glanced back at my suitcase for the umpteenth time as if I expected it to magically disappear before I had the opportunity to finish this room. Anything at this point was possible.

I would leave, I’d decided, as soon as I finished what I’d started in the living room. Unfortunately, it was one of the largest rooms on the main floor and I’d barely managed to touch it. That left me more to do than I had hoped. Once this room was complete, I’d put the house on the market and never look back, what I should have done in the first place.

The furniture had been covered in heavy white sheets to protect it but when I could no longer endure the silence surrounding me, I got down from the step stool to uncover the small television that I’d brought with me just so I would have some background noise while I worked.

I skimmed the few channels that I could get but there was very little selection. I settled on old TV show reruns. At least they were lighthearted. Really, it didn’t matter much as long as it served to stop the endless conversations running on repeat inside my head.

“Spending too much time with the dead,” I said as I returned to work, “It’s unhealthy.” An episode of the Three Stooges came on in the background while I hurried over the wall.

Evil. Murder. Bodies in the backyard. Ghosts in the Attic. Betrayal. Desperation.

The antics of Larry, Curly, and Mo couldn’t drown out my internal turmoil.
I glanced over my shoulder in time to watch one of the Stooges hit the other in a chain reaction that was somehow supposed to be funny. I’d never been a fan but I smiled at their antics anyway. Maybe I’d never given them a fair chance?
I rolled the paint over the wall with more enthusiasm. This could work, I thought. But when I went to dip the roller into the paint tray, it was gone.

“What the …” I was sure it was there a minute ago. I stepped down and looked around the room but there was no sign of it anywhere.

Gently, I set the paint roller on one of the sheets covering an old couch and did a quick search in the other rooms of the house, even though I knew it was fruitless because I hadn’t left the living room in at least two hours. I returned to the living room just as Curly smashed a cream pie in Mo’s face. I shook my head at the absurdity of it.

Then Whack!

“Ugh!” I yelped.

The paint tray hit the floor with a clang as I put my hands up to my face in horror to wipe away white paint that was plastered against my face and hair. As I cleared my eyes, I noticed a young girl getting ready to knock me over the head with the roller. I managed to grab it just before it made contact with my scalp.

“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” I said, almost in tears.
Two others materialized next to the first and instantly they began hitting and pushing each other other almost mimicking the actions from TV.

“Seriously! Stop it right now!”

Ignoring me, they went about their fun, knocking over my step ladder and pulling the sheets from the furniture as they went.

I didn’t know what else to do so I walked over to the TV and slammed the off button. As soon as the Stooges disappeared from the screen, my uninvited guests flickered and disappeared from the room. I heard the echo of laughter and cringed as I expected them to reappear ready to hit me with something but after several minutes, I was left with only the silence and a huge mess to clean up.

Disgusted and now even further from finishing the living room than before, I marched up the stairs to take a shower. Ghosts were just no fun at all and I would never learn to be a fan of The Three Stooges.

**

Click HERE to check out posts from the other A to Z Blogging Challenge participants.

#AtoZChallenge Who Are the Ghosts in My Attic? Edgar.

Man leaning agianst a tree in a foggy park at night.The wind howled and rattled the single pane windows in the dining room where I sat staring at the steaming cup of tea on the table in front of me. Yesterday’s gentle rain had transformed into today’s raging storms. For the past thirty minutes the rain beat against my old house relentlessly and I worried the roof wouldn’t be able to contain it much longer.

This unsettled me for the obvious reason – the cost to replace it would exceed the funds I currently had at my disposable in my seemingly endless renovation project. But it also unsettled me for a less obvious reason – I might have to gather my courage and venture into the attic to assess the damage much sooner than I had planned. I had ghosts in my attic and so far, they were proving to be more than I had bargained for.

Another loud crash of thunder followed an almost immediate flash of lightning. I jumped. At this rate, I would need something much stronger to drink than tea.

The grandfather clock in the hallway chimed eleven times and the creak of the floor boards announced the arrival of my latest visitor from beyond. I wrapped my hands tightly around the mug to warm my fingers as the temperature in the room dropped several degrees. I didn’t have to look up to know he was watching me. I could feel his presence surrounding me even as he stood near the dining room entryway.

“You must be Edgar,” I said clearing my voice and looking up into curious eyes staring back at me. My stomach twisted in knots as I remembered Agatha’s chilling words only a few days ago. Her beloved Edgar had helped to bury Roger’s lifeless body in the backyard.

“Would you like to sit?” I asked when he didn’t move or speak. At least there were no dishes nearby in case he was angry and confused like Daisy had been. A quick scan of the room gave me confidence that I had little to fear from random flying objects.

“There is blood on my hands,” he said holding them out in front of his face and shaking his head, “No matter how many times I clean them, I can’t scrub them clear of the blood or the dirt under my fingernails.”

I couldn’t see anything more than the pale translucent glow of his hands and for that I was thankful.

“Why did you do it?” I asked him. “Why did you help her?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

He shoved his hands deeply into the pockets of his slacks and looked down at this feet. Outside the rain continued to beat the windows, fierce and demanding as though it threatened to break inside and wash us both away.

I shrugged my shoulders and took a sip of my tea to steady my nerves. I would probably never understand the lives any of them had lived but that didn’t mean I wasn’t willing to listen. “Try me.”

“Because I loved her more than life itself,” he said sounding defeated and distraught. I watched as the chair across from me slid gently away from the table and he sank his body into it wearily. “Because I used to believe that good triumphed over evil.”

“There are a lot of things we would do for love,” I said prompting him to continue even though I couldn’t accept that hiding a murder should necessarily fall under this category.

“She didn’t kill the man.”

“She hit him with a gardening tool.”

“Agatha would never do that. She was such a gentle soul. She never meant harm for anyone. She cared for that garden tirelessly. She fed the birds and other creatures that frequented our property.”

I sighed. Could a man be so blinded by love that he could never see his wife for what she truly was? It was an endearing and disturbing thought. Nature appeared to agree with me, breaking into another loud clap of thunder as the wind howled mercilessly against the window. I looked nervously in that direction. I’d purposely kept the drapes open so that I could see out into the storm. On a clear day, I would have a lovely view of the back garden but right now the world was nothing but a pit of darkness waiting to swallow me whole. Edgar followed my gaze to the window.

“I buried the body there,” he said, pointing, “Where the two oak trees bend toward one another. His body is between them.”

“Did you know Roger well?” The contents of my stomach churned and threatened to leave me at the thought of a body under the trees I had grown to love in my short time since moving into the house.

“Well enough to know he got what he deserved.”

“What did he do to deserve to be beaten to death and buried in your backyard? Did he try to hurt her?” Irritation brewed inside me and I glanced at the clock. I wanted answers but I didn’t want to entertain this particular entity any longer. Something about his presence unnerved me in ways greater than did the violent storm outside.

“Roger didn’t die by Agatha’s hand,” he insisted.

I said nothing, choosing to sip my tea and allow him the space to elaborate on why he believed this.

“Agatha was trying to save him. It wasn’t Roger that she’d been aiming to hit, it was — whatever that thing was —” Edgar dropped his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands.

I put down my mug and felt the chill again that I’d come so accustomed to associating with my visitors. This time it crept along my bare feet, wrapped around my legs, and traveled up around my shoulders. Everywhere it touched me made my skin erupt in goosebumps.

“What do you mean?” I said nearly choking on the words with a dry throat as I said them.

“We’d heard stories but never believed them. It’s this house, it’s cursed. It is as though it is possessed by the Devil himself. We never should have come here.”

“The house is alive?”

“It is true. We didn’t believe it at first either but — You would be wise to listen — before it’s too late because it will come for you, too. It will find a way.”

“Now you’re just trying to scare me.”

“Roger was a horrible man. He got what he deserved but Agatha, God rest her soul, she should never have been touched by such — evil. She never meant to hurt him.”

“She hit him. She told me so herself. She didn’t realize what she was doing or how many times she’d hit him. She never said there was something else with them in the back garden. She admitted to doing it, Edgar.”

“He was still alive when I came home and found the two of them. I had to end it, to put him out of that misery. I killed Roger.”

“You could have called for help. You could have saved him.”

“And I buried him where no one would find him.”

“Why not go to the authorities and tell them what you did? If it wasn’t Agatha who had actually killed him, then you could have turned yourself in. You could have stopped them from believing that Agatha was a murderer. She didn’t have to die believing she’d been responsible for killing a man.”

“I did what I had to do to protect her — from the evil. Agatha knows this.”

“No,” I said shaking my head refusing to believe in any of it. “No, no, no,” I kept repeating but when I looked back to the space where Edgar had been sitting, he was gone. Our twenty minutes was up and once again I was left alone.

Finally, the storm outside began to subside. I took my empty mug to the kitchen and returned to close the drapes in the dining room. Before I did, however, I tried to make out the two oak trees through the darkness. They looked to me like ominous shadows now rising from the ground under the light of the moonlight that had managed to break free from the heavy clouds. Between them, I swore I saw the figure of a man leaning against one of the trees, resting an arm against a shovel. The large mound of dirt at his feet suggested that he’d just finished burying something.

I yanked the drapes closed and shuddered.

**

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