CH. 9


I unknowingly dropped the sharp art utensil and quickly picked up the book from the ground. It was bound in black worn leather, and the pages were yellowed. It was entitled: The Hidden Doctrine. There was an odd symbol on the cover similar to a Greek letter. The initials underneath read A.P.

I brushed away the dirt, then shined my light on the pages. Along with much text, there were symbols, hexagrams, illustrations of demons, and what looked to be instructions on how to do spells and rituals throughout.

I swiftly stepped out of the triangle to leave the cavern. A noise came from behind me, echoing throughout the room as if something had fallen from the ceiling, a rock maybe.

I turned around, shining the beam, and saw the grisly features of the women giving me their lipless smiles and sunken faces. At first, I thought the sound was rats, but then I saw movement in the darkness against the back wall.

I moved the beam to that area of the rocky wall, and it stirred and shifted. The stone swelled, taking shape. Two eyes became visible out of the rock, glaring at me. I saw the whites of the eyes and black irises. The shape on the wall took a 3-D, frieze-like effect, and a face became defined. Its head was tilted down, but it looked up at me. An entire black figure, roughly six feet tall, stepped out of the solid rock, two horns protruding from its head.

Wasting no more time I immediately turned, running down the dark corridor with the book in one hand and the flashlight in the other. My footsteps rang loudly in the tunnel as I ran as fast as I could upward on the slope of the path paying no attention to the rats at my feet. Not once did I look behind. The light from the basement ahead made its way through the dark corridor as a glimmer of hope.

I ran back into Sandy’s art studio in the basement, put the flashlight and book on the floor, and pushed the brick door to the passage forward until it shut completely. The brick wall was back in place, blocking the entrance.

I scanned the room for something to put against the wall. The large wooden table in the center of the room. I gathered strength and shoved the large, heavy table against the wall as its legs skidded loudly against the cement floor.

I picked up the book and flashlight and ran out of the studio, shutting the heavy wooden door behind me. Remembering there were a few unused padlocks in the enclosed back porch, I ran upstairs to fetch them. I left the book and flashlight on the kitchen table and stepped onto the back porch. The padlocks were lying on a small table, the keys on a ring next to it.

I darted back down to the basement, put one lock in the latch of the wooden door to Sandy’s art studio, locking it. I then ran back upstairs to the first floor, slamming the basement door. I securely fastened that door with the other padlock, then added both keys to my key chain.

I had to get away from the horror in that evil house. I ran out the front door, locked it, and jumped into my car. I started the engine to find a motel. I wasn’t staying in that house. I pulled out of the drive and headed down Arkham Road realizing what I’d uncovered beneath the Victorian. Three dead women standing upright in glass cases, and a thing coming out of the rocky cavern wall. What the hell did Sandy get herself into?

Wendy from the bookstore was right, she warned me. The house is bad. The hand in the closet in the attic, the black formless mass that hovered in Sandy’s room upstairs, and the spirits of the dead women. It was all real.

I continued down Arkham Road under the dark night sky trying to make sense of it all. Should I go to the cops about the bodies in the basement? Most people would and then forget it. Let them handle it, right? No. Going to the police would prevent me from continuing my search for Sandy. The cops in Ravensgate were not even handling her missing case correctly. I’d go to the authorities on the dead bodies later. I needed to know what happened to Sandy first and muster the courage to do it.

The spirit of the woman led me to the basement. They were showing themselves to me. What if there was more they wanted to tell? What if there was more to communicate from the other side? That meant I couldn’t just leave.

If I stayed in a motel or left Ravensgate, I wouldn’t get any more information from the spirits. I had to go back and stay in that godforsaken house if there was a possibility of finding Sandy. It was settled. I turned the car around and headed back to the Victorian.

I parked in the driveway and paused in the driver’s seat for a moment to pull it together. Finally, I left the car, went back inside, and walked to the back of the house, making sure the padlock was still on the door leading to the basement. It was.

I stepped into Sandy’s sanctuary and sat in the white wicker chair to put more pieces together. Sandy sculpted three busts of three women. I looked at the bust on the table next to the grandfather clock. She was the woman with the dark hair that led me to the basement, showed me the bodies.

I got up from the chair and walked to the living room, studying the bust on the mantel next to the painting of the house. Her head off to the side, she was the one with the auburn hair that walked past the study the other day.

I went into the dining room and looked at the bust on the end table. She had a different expression than the other two. Her hair was short, and she resembled the silhouette of the girl that walked past the circular window in the attic.

Sandy knew something. These sculptures were of real women, the dead ones under the house. Could the three dead women in the basement have something to do with the previous owners of the house, Manuel and Elise Hall?

I sat on the couch in the living room and fell asleep from exhaustion. It was almost noon the next day when my eyes opened. Groggily, I put on a pot of coffee. Sitting at the kitchen table where the weird book and flashlight were, I remembered Dale Ortman told me that Elise lived at St. Mary’s orphanage as a child.

I retrieved my laptop and searched for St. Mary’s orphanage on the web while drinking coffee. It was in the next county over just as Dale said, in a town called Dartmouth. The orphanage had an interesting history. Built in 1909 and caught fire about fifty years ago, many children were burned alive, but some survived when the fire was extinguished.

I called the number listed online to see what information was available and was directed to Catholic Children’s Services. From there I was able to talk to someone from St. Mary’s. I told the woman on the other end that I wanted information on public records about a child that lived there in the past. She said that information wasn’t available over the phone, so I would have to pay a visit. I made an appointment for later that day.

I put the book I found beneath the house in my black book bag and brought it with me as I took a drive along the expressway to the city of Dartmouth.

The afternoon sky was dull and gray. I thought of the decayed faces of the three women under the house and the demonic thing that stepped out of the wall.

My disturbing thoughts were interrupted by my cell phone. It was Karl Lansley. He wanted to touch base and told me that Beverly was preparing for the psychic reading of my house. He wanted to talk in more detail over steak.

I informed Karl that something strange happened but chose not to tell him the details of my encounter in the cellar yet. We arranged to meet the next night in Ravensgate at eight.

The drive was about an hour before entering Heritage County, and it wasn’t long before I reached St. Mary’s, a large, reddish-brown building. It was three stories high and reminded me of a school.

The property was surrounded by a black metal fence. A statue of the Virgin Mary rested on the freshly cut front lawn, and there were stained-glass windows along the building. A cross hung above the entrance.

The laughter of children rang out from the right side of the building. Little girls and boys played in a small area containing a jungle gym and a slide.

I parked along the street, entered the black gates, and walked down the long walkway toward the building. A tall, slender nun stood in the front doorway, her back to me, holding the door open. She spoke to someone inside and wore a long conservative skirt and jacket but no habit.

She had to be about 5’9″. Her long, straight, dark brown hair, almost black, reached the middle of her back. She turned her head, hearing me approach, and gave an inviting smile. She was in her early thirties, blue eyes and pretty.

“Hello,” she said as I came closer. “Can I help you?”

Her voice was soft and feminine. I introduced myself and mentioned my appointment.

“Yes, I spoke with you over the phone. I’m Sister Victoria. Follow me.”

She led me down a long hall, my reflection visible in the spotless floor. They probably made the children scrub it until their knuckles were raw. Roman Catholic images adorned the corridor, along with portraits of saints, priests and nuns, probably ones who used to work there.

At one point on the wall was a large bronze crucifix, four feet high, on it a well-sculpted Jesus.

We entered a small room, the administrative department. There were four wooden desks, and atop each were antique computers, the monitors large and bulky. Another older, wrinkled nun sat at one desk.

“Mother Superior,” Sister Victoria said as she walked to the desk. “This is Cole Mendoza. He has an appointment with us today.”

“Mr. Mendoza, please sit down,” Mother Superior said dryly, making no eye contact as she typed. She opened the palm of one hand, directing me toward the chair.

Mother Superior stopped what she was doing, and Sister Victoria sat at another desk at the back of the office and started working at her giant vintage computer monitor. The chair squeaked as I sat down in front of Mother Superior’s desk.

“When was the last time your computer network had an upgrade?” I asked.

“Our computers are old but work just fine, Mr. Mendoza. So, what brings you to St. Mary’s this afternoon?”

“I’m looking for records on a child that was raised here about forty years or so ago. A girl.”

“Do you think you are by any means related to this person?”

“No, I’m not.”

“May I ask then, for what particular reason are you searching for information on her?”

“I’m doing research on Ravensgate and of some of the people who used to live there. I was led to believe that one particular person was admitted here as a child.”

“Do you have any documentation with the woman’s name on it? A marriage license or something of the sort?” she asked.

“No, I don’t.”

“What’s the name?”

“Elise,” I said. “Singleton was the adopted last name. I don’t know the last name from birth.”

Mother Superior’s demeanor changed. She paused, then began to type away on the archaic machine. Only after a few seconds, she stopped and spoke.

“I’m sorry, there’s no information that such a person by that name was ever admitted to St. Mary’s,” she said.

“Are you positive?” I responded.

“Yes, Mr. Mendoza, I am. Even if such a person were admitted here, there’s no way of possibly knowing for sure. You see, there was a fire here many years ago, long before we began storing information on computers. Many of the files were burned, and along with them any knowledge contained.”

“I understand, but this is very important. Maybe there’s another way…”

“There’s nothing we can do for you. Now then, I have a lot of work to do, and I wish you a good day.”

“Isn’t it possible that records exist at some other location or…?”

“Good day, Mr. Mendoza,” Mother Superior replied with increased tone and eyes glued to the computer screen.

That went well, I thought. I said nothing as I left my seat and headed for the door. Sister Victoria looked at me with her pretty blue eyes and waved goodbye as I walked past her desk. I smiled back. Too bad Victoria was a nun.

Somewhere along the expressway back to Ravensgate it dawned on me. Mother Superior said a fire burned the records. The information online said that the fire happened fifty years ago. According to Ortman, Elise was a resident there about forty years ago, after the fire. Her files couldn’t have been burned, because the fire took place before she was admitted. Either Dale Ortman, the internet, or Mother Superior was lying.