Home > Haunted House (Krewe of Hunters #35.5)(3)

Haunted House (Krewe of Hunters #35.5)(3)
Author: Heather Graham

And she knew the circumstances because she had the memories and information of the soul she had entered.

She was another person at the moment.

She even knew who she was this time…her friend, Brenda Riley.

And she knew that she had just purchased the home. She knew what Brenda did because, in a very strange way, she was Brenda. She saw with her eyes, felt her emotions. Knew her thoughts.

Which told her that the electricity wouldn’t be on until later. Unfortunately, the realtor handling the sale hadn’t thought she’d be able to get into the home until tomorrow. But, as it turned out, she had signed the last papers today.

It had been a lifelong dream to buy the amazingly historic home in the city she loved so very much. Mandy Nichols, the realtor for the absentee seller, had been wonderful, hurrying things along as best she could, knowing how much Brenda loved the house.

But this…

She was amazed that she hadn’t screamed. Maybe because—in the Halloween season—all kinds of pranks and shenanigans went on. Or perhaps, more likely, it was because all her breath was gone, and she had nearly passed out. And though her flashlight reflected off the white gleam of the skull and other skeletal remains stuffed behind the deteriorating false wall, she still hadn’t moved.

Because she was frozen stiff with shock and fear.

The house that had stood before had belonged to a woman accused of witchcraft. Not one who had been executed, but one who had died, nonetheless. Her family had left Salem, cursing the very ground. Sometime after their marriage, it was said that Ezekiel Johnson murdered his wife. And in the 1800s, Priscilla Alcott had, in turn, murdered her husband. And then, in the 1900s, Fisher Smith had been accused by the locals of being a serial killer after citizens of Salem, Peabody, and other nearby towns disappeared. Even in 2001, a ghost tour guide had vanished after pointing out the house, the ghosts of the dead who haunted it, and stating how the land itself had been cursed.

But this…

It had to be a prank.

A prank, a prank, a prank…

But it wasn’t. She had just leaned against the wall, and it had proven to be false with perhaps two feet behind it. And there, shoved against the old brick and structural beams held up by the jagged structure of the real wall, was the skeleton.

People had warned her. Most of them would be laughing as they considered the tales of the Brim House to be nothing but urban legends created with the use of a wee bit of history. A woman had died in the original home that had stood here during the infamous witch trials. She hadn’t been executed, but she had suffered so seriously from malnutrition and disease while being held in the crowded jail that she had just made it home after her relatives painfully scraped together the money to pay her jail fees, only to die shortly after.

Then, there had been the murder. A family member, luring an old enemy to the house…

So many tales.

Some true. Some purely fabricated.

Well, this—this skull and these bones—they were old. Very old, she thought. Because it was all held together with jagged brick and the remnants of whatever the person had been wearing. She couldn’t even tell if they had been male or female—not even in the strange glaring light and shadow of the flashlight.

She played the light beyond the eerie skull and bone and rotting bits of fabric on the thing and showed that more lay behind it, buried behind what no one had apparently known was a false wall.

The beams were old, lines of time etched into them. Perhaps old building markers, splinters of wood jaggedly sticking here and there on…no. Please, no.

More? Dear God, she could see…flesh.

She wasn’t about to look any further.

She found her voice and willed the paralysis of her fear to subside. With a terrified squeal, she turned and fled out of the den, hurried through the parlor, and rushed out of the front door to the colonial-style porch. She didn’t stop there, but she didn’t go to her car parked in the drive, either.

Mr. Flannery, her neighbor to the left, was clipping a rose from a bush. He was an older gentleman, and from what she had seen, he was still tender to his wife. The rose was likely for her. He lifted a hand to Brenda in a cheerful wave.

With a jerk, she returned the gesture. She tried to smile but couldn’t. He and Mrs. Flannery were all into it being October. Their yard held a gruesome, grinning demon. And several strange, lighted creatures with wild and crazy faces decorated the porch columns and all the bushes around the place.

That was it, surely…

Halloween. Her house. Someone had gotten in ahead of her. She was being pranked! The neighbors, maybe? Though it was a strange way to welcome her to the neighborhood.

Except, deep down, she knew that wasn’t the case.

And she needed to move. But she was still so shocked.

Ginger Radisson and her boyfriend Kenny stepped out of the house to the right of her new purchase. She’d met them while engaged in negotiations to buy Brim House. Nice people. Kenny was there most of the time.

They smiled and waved.

“Getting into the house, Brenda?” Ginger called to her.

She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to speak.

What if they had done it? What if her normal-looking neighbors were homicidal maniacs?

“I just stopped by,” she managed to call out. “Tomorrow—electricity!”

Kenny had gone all out in their yard for the holiday, too. Skeletons dangled from the two oak trees near the road. Jack-o’-lanterns had been strewn up the path to the porch. No witches flew about the yard, though—other neighbors were Wiccan, and she figured Ginger and Kenny were sensitive to the fact that the images might be offensive to them.

The couple got into Kenny’s little red sedan and moved on.

Down the street, she saw a man in his late teens or early twenties walking a medium-sized dog—a mutt, though a mix of what she didn’t know. The young man was the friendly type, too. He waved. She managed to wave back. Still frightened, she stayed glued to the sidewalk. She thought he might be Calvin Daily, the adult son of the Daily family, here to watch the house and the family pup while his parents visited his sister at college in California. The people here were friendly. Mr. Flannery had told her about her other neighbors and about many of the people living on the street.

But now…

Now, she found herself imagining that they were evil, like the tall fellow walking from one house down the block to another. A family named Matheson lived on the left. This was probably the dad.

She was letting herself panic and behave crazily and irrationally.

But she wasn’t going back inside the house.

She ran toward the main street ahead, the city green, the hotel that had been there almost forever, and the shops, restaurants, and life around it.

No, no, no…get a grip!

It was October. Haunted Happenings was in full swing.

Only when she was close to some semblance of teeming humanity, where surely dozens of people could not be evil, did she stop. Locals were still out and about or working, lots of tourists… She didn’t know everyone who lived in Salem, but she did know a lot of the staff at several of the restaurants. She knew many of the people giving their initial speeches to tourists flocked around them for ghost tours. And yet…

Haunted Happenings. The town was filled to the gills with everything creepy and…

Evil.

Still, she was around people. Lots and lots of them.

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