CH. 5


Was I being followed? I crossed the street and walked into the café. Customers talked, studied, and drank coffee.

The groundskeeper was gone. I walked toward the back of the café where the restroom was.

The cute redheaded barista nodded and smiled as I walked past the counter. “Can I help you?”

“No thanks, just going to the restroom,” I said.

I checked the bathroom, and he wasn’t there either. Maybe my mind was playing tricks. I took my cell phone from my jacket pocket as I left the Coffee Nook and walked back to my Wrangler. I dialed Dale Ortman, the previous owner of the house. I had questions about the groundskeeper. How long had he been looking after the place? Who was he? Ortman’s phone rang, but he didn’t answer.

I went back home, and it was quiet in the house, unlike my first night there. No creaks in the attic, no weird dreams. I was beginning to think I had made a mistake moving to Ravensgate. I had no real leads.

After handling some work in the study, I went downstairs to grab a bite. In the main hall I passed the living room and again noticed the bust of the woman on the mantel. There was something about her.

Curious, I walked up to the fireplace, picked up the bust, and studied its features. It was about ten inches tall and made from a white marble, perhaps. Sandy was good at carving from stone. The woman’s features were distinct and beautifully crafted. She was a pretty woman, and the shoulder length hair, eyes, and face were extremely realistic.

I was interested in the other two busts and went to look at them. The one in the dining room was made of the same material and just as detailed but had a completely different face and a short haircut, something like the fairy Tinkerbell. She looked young. The last one was in the sanctuary, on the table next to the grandfather clock. Her hair was long. The melancholy expression on her face made this bust stand out the most.

I strolled through the house to look at the paintings. They weren’t Sandy’s handiwork. The paintings were the same ones I saw when I first visited her. There was no particular theme—some were scenes of nature, others of people in public places, and others, still life.

The one that most struck me as odd was the one above the fireplace, next to the bust on the mantel in the living room. Someone had painted the very same Victorian house that I stood in. It was signed Tabitha K., as were many of the other paintings. Whoever lived in the house before Sandy, maybe this married couple that Wendy mentioned, had a thing for this artist.

The next day I headed down to Detroit to deal with issues with my security company. Business kept me out of Ravensgate during the next week, but it wasn’t long before odd occurrences began happening when I came back. I saw something that I can’t explain.

One night, I came out of the study upstairs, walked into the hall to go to the bathroom, and peered into Sandy’s bedroom. The door was open. I never left the door open. I glanced into the room and saw something near the ceiling above the bed. It was black, shapeless, and hovering in midair. It was shiny and reminded me of tar, or a rippling black garbage bag.

I paused and watched it for about five seconds. There it floated, changing the shape of its dark mass. I walked toward the room, and the closer I got, the further it rose upward until out of view. When I entered Sandy’s room it wasn’t there. I looked around, and nothing was out of the ordinary. I didn’t know what it was, but I shut the door and never saw it again.

I had to have imagined it. Doors swing open from drafts all the time, and the dark mass could have been a shadow or trick of light. I explained it away, but it still bothered me.

The next evening after dinner I sat upstairs in the study again, looking over new clients in the database. The hall outside the study was dark. I sat immersed in my work.

Then the silence was broken by a muffled gurgling sound that came from the attic through the ceiling above. Nervously, I sat in my chair staring at the ceiling, listening to what sounded like someone being drowned to death.

Out in the hallway, from the right of the open study door, I heard footsteps. Peering into the shadows of the hall from my chair at the desk, she slowly stepped into view of the doorway. The woman paused and tilted her head, giving me a sideways glance. Wavy auburn hair fell to her shoulders and she wore a flowing green gown. With striking green eyes, she gave me a strong glare which conveyed a look of concern. I was transfixed. After she knew I saw her, she sustained her piercing gaze as she walked past the doorway out of sight.

I immediately recognized her face before she disappeared. It was the face of the bust in the living room on the fireplace mantel.