Secrets and Ghosts

“The house once belonged to a powerful man from New Orleans. Power, but cruel. He was known to be a lady’s man, but no one ever stood against him on anything.” Rachel said, standing in front of the old house. She felt funny talking about the place. More so than now, owning the place. She still couldn’t believe the state had let her buy it. 

The crowd before her was quiet, only a few mumbles coming from near the back. She took a breath and pushed forward with her speech. “This place was once a beautiful building. My plan is to restore it to the showpiece it once was. I am here to talk to you about what I want to turn it into. This place is going to be a bed-and-breakfast. A Place that will help bring fresh blood into town. Thank you for coming out and for understanding why this is important to our town.” She finished. She turned from the crowd and walked off the stage. Her lawyer took her place, and she tuned out whatever he was saying. It wasn’t important to her. The front door was unlocked, and she pushed it open. 

The smell was as overpowering as it had been the last time she was there. Dust and stale air. Rachel walked through the house room by room again. Taking mental notes on the changes she wanted to make and how to make them. She wanted the place to look the same as it did when it was new. Climbing the stairs, she stopped at the base of the attic stairs. It was the only place she hadn’t been inside since she bought the place.

Rachel reached out her hand and traced the cool metal of the door handle. She was about to open it when a loud crash caught her attention. “Who’s there?” She called out.

Nothing but muted noises from outside filled the air. She took a breath and turned the handle. The door slid open with an ease that had the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. She stepped into the dim room. The only light coming from small windows at either end and what spilled in through the door. The room, unlike the rest of the house, was full to near on bursting with boxes, clothing racks, and old cloth-covered furniture. She picked her way across the room, stopping at a knee-high trunk that had been pushed against the wall. 

Brushing the dust off the top of it, she flipped the latch on it and pushed the lid up. The first thing she saw was a thick layer of blood-red velvet hiding everything from view. She lifted it carefully and felt her breath catch at the sight. Laying in the trunk was an old leather-bound book with the words ‘Spells and Rituals’ written on the cover in block letters. Moving the book to the side, she took a tally of the rest of the things in the trunk. It all looked to be things someone would use in witchcraft. 

“Hey, Rach? You up there?” John’s voice called from the bottom of the stairs. 

She lifted her attention from the trunk. “Yeah, just looking through the crap they left up here.” She stepped back and tapped the lid closed. That stuff wasn’t something she was willing to talk to her lawyer about at this point.

The sound of his heavy footsteps up the stairs had her turning to face him. “Find anything important or interesting?” He asked as he stepped through the door and into the attic.

She thought for a moment. “Not yet. Then again, I just started looking. Cleaned off the top of this trunk so I could take a seat while I look through things.” She lied. She didn’t want him looking in that trunk.

Together they took an hour and just looked over things. They found mostly old clothing and trinkets from decades before. There was nothing other than the trunk that she even thought for a moment about keeping. As they finished, he said as much, “I want to keep the trunk. I like the way it looks and it would work well in my office downstairs. Other than that, there isn’t much of value up there.” They walked down the stairs and found the crowd still gathered out front. 

John spoke up. “Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen.”

She stepped out of the way and watched as the crowd’s attention spun to John, leaving her all but invisible. “God, I wish I could do that,” she said quietly. She walked away, headed for her car as he talked to the crowd. Movement at the side of the house snagged her attention. She changed direction and aimed herself toward an overgrown path at the side of the house.

There wasn’t much room between the bushes and the wall of the house as she made her way along the wall. As she walked, the voices from the front faded again and she found herself coming out in an overgrown backyard. There must have been a time when it was manicured to within an inch of its life. Now weeds, roots, and vines seemed to be taking over. She walked down the stone path through the old flower beds and ducked under the low-hanging branches of the willow and cypress trees. 

Rachel felt she could have gotten lost in the paths if she let herself. She turned back to look at the house and noticed the lower deck would need to be replaced. The upper one looked more stable, her eyes were drawn to one of the second-floor windows. “What’s that?” She asked aloud. She moved closer. The shadow she had seen in the window moved out of sight. A moment later, another shadow appeared in the end windows of the downstairs. 

The thought crossed her mind to get a closer look when her foot caught on one of the overgrown roots. In the next breath, she was laying face first on the ground in the dirt. A voice stopped her from getting to her feet. “Leave it be, Rachel. This place is better off burnt to the ground than turned into anything that allows people to come here.” The voice was hard and cold. Something told her that voice wasn’t something she wanted to anger.

She spoke, choosing her words carefully, “Who are you?” She asked the first question that came to mind.

“I own this place.” The voice commanded. 

“You owned this place long ago.” She sat, pushing herself to her feet. “I bought it a few weeks ago. Why don’t you want me to restore it?” She asked, keeping her tone level and doing her best to not show fear.

“There are many things here that would make it dangerous for people to be here all the time.” The voice said. It no longer sounded dangerous, just resigned.

“You mean the shadows in the windows?” Rachel asked.

“Those and other things. The woman who first lived here had power. Some said too much power. She was a practitioner of VooDoo and witchcraft. You found the box in the attic.”

Rachel nodded without thinking about it. “So that book belonged to Abigail Norton. Is she still here?” She asked, moving to lean against the trunk of one of the cypress trees as she realized her right ankle was unhappy with her as it had been twisted when she fell.

The voice laughed. “Oh, she’s been gone a long time. It’s her sons you need to worry about. They are the ones who took her life and sent her away. I warn you about all of this against the better judgement of most of those here. They want to play and you look like a pretty little plaything to them.” 

As she looked at the building, she could see it now. There was something – she couldn’t call it a shadow – there next to the post holding up the second-floor deck. It looked vaguely human. She focused on it as she spoke. “So, what do you want me to do? This project is important to both me and the town. I’m going to finish it one way or the other.” She took careful steps, planning on confronting the thing next to the post. 

Her progress was stopped when two men stepped out onto the second-floor deck. They were dressed in clothing more suited to the past and since she could see through them, it wasn’t hard to tell they were ghosts. Before they could speak, she stiffened her back and raised her voice. “You must be Abigail’s sons,” she said.

The taller of the two took the lead. “I am Jefferson and this is my younger brother, Andrew. We own this property and are here to tell you to leave.” His voice was powerful. Much more booming than it ever could have been when he was alive. 

Rachel was done with this. She had been through more and dealt with more ghosts than the average person. After all both, her mother and grandmother had spoken with the dead all their lives. It was time to lay down the law. “That may have been true a couple of centuries ago. Now you’re just a couple of dead guys who are trying to bully the wrong woman. So, I’ll give you a choice. You and the rest of your dead friends can leave peacefully or by nightfall you will all be out of here one way or the other.” She continued to move toward the side of the deck and the stairs leading up to where they were standing as she spoke.

Andrew stepped back, almost seeming to shrink behind his brother. Rachel knew she was already ahead of the game. She only had to deal with Jefferson. Once she bested him, the rest would leave willingly and on their own. So keeping her chin up and her attitude turned to maximum, she took the last two steps and brought herself to stand directly in front of Jefferson. “Which is it going to be?”

He stood his ground. She could feel the anger pouring off him in waves. “This is my house. No simple woman is going to force me to leave it.” He spat the words at her, causing her smile to widen. She liked it when they thought they had the upper hand just because they were old and dead. This was going to be fun.

“It’s a good thing then that I’m anything but a simple woman.” She straightened her back and slowed her breathing. He wouldn’t be easy to best, but she could and would do it. 

He growled under his breath and straightened his jacket. “Who do you think you are, then?” He asked, looking down his nose at her.

This time, her smile was wide and held more than a little aggression in it. “Why, that’s easy. I’m your great-great-great granddaughter. And before you ask, yes, your mother’s magic still flows strong in my veins.” She raised her hands and put power into the intent already flowing through them. The power left her like a blast of wind and slammed into his chest. Before he could react to her words, he was the one sitting on his butt on the wooden slats of the deck. “Now, I will ask again. Will you leave willingly or do I move you out? Because if I move you out there will be nothing more for you than the darkness of the void.” She stood there, arms raised, ready to toss another volley at him, and waited. It didn’t take long.

“How can this be? Neither of us had any of mother’s magic.” He said without moving. It didn’t look like he was going to fight her. He just wanted answers now.

“Your mother’s magic was there. Blocked you and him,” she pointed toward Andrew, “from accessing any of it. She knew from the start the two of you were power hungry monsters.” She took a step forward, so she was standing directly over him. “Now, about you leaving.”

He didn’t open his mouth, just faded away with a nasty snarl on his face. She knew it wouldn’t be the last time they tangled, but she would be just as ready the next time. Eventually, she would get him out for good.

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