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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