THE RAVENSGATE CHRONICLES: UNHOLY AWAKENING
In the morning I awoke on the sofa, my back sore from sleeping on an uncomfortable piece of furniture. As I sat up and stretched, sunlight shot through gaps in the living room curtains, aggravating my eyes.
I recalled last night’s dream: the decaying hand reaching out from within the darkness of the attic closet, the silhouette of the woman walking past the window, and the strange UFO in the night sky.
It was my first night in a Victorian, much larger—and creepier—than anything I’ve ever lived in. When traveling for work, I would sometimes have odd dreams when I slept in new places like motels. This was normal for me.
I yawned and saw the business card I left on the coffee table from the Center for Paranormal Investigations. No, it wasn’t a dream. I picked it up. Sandy might have just gotten creeped out because of living in a new place. Probably why she thought to hire a ghost hunter.
On the way to the kitchen to make breakfast, I stopped in the room at the back of the house with all the plants: Sandy’s sanctuary. She never put an aquarium in there like she said. Instead, sitting on the table next to the huge grandfather clock was another white bust of a woman. I hadn’t noticed that one before.
In the kitchen while cooking chorizo, potatoes, and eggs, I heard a noise in the hall. I turned off the stove, peeked out into the hall, and saw mail sliding through the slot in the front door. Sandy still received mail. I looked through it. Most of it was junk, coupons and crap.
Among the mail was a small catalog from a local new-and-used bookstore in town, the Red Fawn. The paper listed books that were on sale and Top new picks for Sandra Breyer. Most of the books chosen for Sandy were about ghosts, paranormal, and psychic phenomenon. Sandy never had any interest in such nonsense before, or so I thought.
I remembered the paranormal books on the shelves upstairs in the study. I made my way up to have a look at them. They had titles such as True Hauntings, Psychic Ability, Men in Black, and The Mothman Prophecies. On the middle shelf, I removed a book called The Michigan Dog Man, Werewolves and Humanoid Canines.
I looked through the empty space between the books and saw a greenish color at the back of the shelf. There was something behind the row of books. I removed them from the shelf and found a teal-colored daily planner that was either hidden or had fallen behind them. I took it and put the other books back.
I skimmed through the planner. It was empty except for a few entries where Sandy recorded when she went to church or made her way down to the Red Fawn Bookstore to meet with Wendy and the book club. It seemed that Sandy had made friends. It might be a good idea to find out which church she attended. If I were to get to know the people Sandy knew, I’d get an idea of what she did when she was here.
After breakfast, I put the planner in my black leather book bag, then made my way into town to check out the bookstore on Main Street. People walked up and down the short strip of quaint businesses and shops. Among them were a small art gallery, a diner, an ice cream parlor, a few bars, a hardware store, and an antique shop called Marcia’s Vintages.
There was also a small café called the Coffee Nook, and the Red Fawn was directly across the street from it. I found a parking space along the street in front of the bookstore and went inside.
Chimes clanged as I opened the door and shut it behind me. The store was musty with creaking hardwood floors. Shelving units almost reached the ceiling, and many used books were covered in dust. Some of them were rare and expensive. A few customers skimmed books within the aisles. The register counter was in the far left at the back of the store.
A thin, attractive woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair, in her mid-thirties and wearing glasses categorized a pile of books on the counter. She wore a dark blue dress and smiled when she saw me.
I stopped in the history section, then made my way to the magazine rack near the register counter and perused an issue of Men’s Health.
“Hi, is there anything I can help you find?” asked the woman from the counter.
“Yeah, maybe you can. Where is your metaphysical section?”
“That would be next to religion,” she said. “It’s small, but we do have a variety. It’s this way.”
The woman stepped away from her mountain of books and walked toward the other end the store. I followed her to some shelves that were built into the wall.
“A friend of mine was into this type of stuff,” I said. “She was a part of the book club here.”
“Her name doesn’t happen to be Sandra, does it?”
“Yeah, it is. You know Sandra?”
“I do. She was the only one in the book club interested in this subject. She’s a friend of mine as well. You’ve heard, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, I know. She’s missing.”
“It’s got many people around here worried.”
“That’s understandable. I’m new to Ravensgate myself.”
“Oh yeah? Where are you from?”
“Detroit. I have to say, I like this town. I’ve recently taken up residence in the house that Sandy lived in,” I said.
The woman looked concerned. “How long have you been in the house?”
“Only for a few days or so. I…”
“Come with me, I need to talk to you,” she said.
She scanned the store, then walked behind the counter and through a door into a small office. I followed. She waited for me to enter, then shut the door behind us.
“My name is Wendy,” she said as she sat behind the desk. “Please, have a seat.”
“I’m Cole,” I said as I sat in the chair in front of the messy desk.
“It’s a pleasure to meet a friend of Sandy’s.” Wendy briefly paused before she spoke again. “That house, it isn’t safe. I tried to warn Sandy before something bad happened, but she was intent on staying.”
“Tell me, did Sandy say anything to you about what was going on in her life before her disappearance?”
“The house is what happened. It has a bad history. I don’t know the details, but Sandy said something about ghosts in the house. She came here looking for books on the supernatural. I helped her as much as I could. We became friends when she joined the book club and came to meetings.”
“Ghosts? Tell me about the house. What’s wrong with it?” I asked.
“It’s a bad house. A married couple lived there before Sandy. They were involved in awful things—exactly what, I’m not sure. Whatever they were into, it left a wicked residue in the house. After the couple left, the house was empty for a while, then Sandy moved in. When she came up missing, I suspected it had something to do with the house, but of course I can’t be sure.”
“You wouldn’t by chance know which church Sandy attended or any other place she frequented, would you?” I asked.
“No, I’m sorry. We spoke many times, but I don’t know much about her other activities.”
The ring of the bell from the front counter put our conversation to a halt. A customer was ready. Wendy got up and took a business card from her desk.
“Please, be careful, Cole. If you need anything, contact me,” Wendy said.
I left the Red Fawn slightly satisfied. Ghosts, never really believed in them. Something happened to Sandy, but it wasn’t supernatural.
I opened the door to my Jeep and glanced across the street into the front window of the Coffee Nook. Sitting at a table by the window was the groundskeeper. Stoic, he stared at me through the glass. A truck passed by, and when I looked again, he wasn’t there.