End Of The Road
Part Sixteen (Conclusion)
For disclaimers see part one.
A special thank you goes out to my beta reader Mountain Girl.
As always this is for Heather.
New York City, 1897
"Small, I have to be small," Willie silently whispered as he curled into the corner by the stove. If his Uncle Henry couldn't see him then he would be spared a beating. Willie worked long hours, despite his youth, in a factory not far from the tenement where he lived with the man whom he had been told was his uncle. He was never certain that the man was truly his uncle, then again he had been shuffled around his entire life unaware of his age and never knowing his parents. Now all he wanted was to be invisible. Each night he hid in the kitchen seeking a place where he could sleep unnoticed, and his battered body could rest. Loud footsteps alerted him that Henry was coming. He climbed into the cupboard. He was happy that he was so small and could fit in the tiny space. The footsteps grew louder; Henry's grumbling alerted the boy that the large man had been drinking. Willie slipped deeper inside the cabinet praying to be small. ‘Small, small,' his mind fearfully repeated over and over again until he was pressed up against the back wall of the cupboard.
Henry failed to realize that the boy was buried in the back of the cabinet and Willie slept. It was all he desired, to sleep without enduring a beating or worse. He stayed tucked in the back of the dingy cabinet shivering night after night until one night he stayed instead of leaving just before dawn to work at the cannery, cutting his tiny fingers and burdening his frail body any further. No one seemed to notice that the boy was missing. Willie slept peacefuly his body silently giving out.
Henry had moved on the apartment torn apart the boy's body discovered. These events were unnoticed by Willie who stayed on simply seeking to be small and find a warm space where he could sleep. For years no one noticed him as he hid in the shadows. Everything changed for him the day the blonde lady came to look at the apartment. He tried to hide, but she saw him and spoke to him.
He was afraid at first when she told him he didn't have to be small or need to hide. He was startled and wary of the strange lady. He lurked in the shadows as she moved her belongings into the very different looking home that he had once feared returning to each evening. Shawn seemed to be nice, chatting away, encouraging him to come out and play. Soon she had won him over, allowing him to play, teaching him games, and all she asked was that he didn't enter the bathroom or her bedroom when they were being used. He liked her, although at times he didn't like some of her friends, so he would stay away whenever they were about. Willie liked when Faith was around mostly because she was fun and she made Shawn laugh. Then she went away, now she was back and this made Willie very happy.
Stewart, Massachusetts October 2003
"Somehow I'd thought it would be bigger," Carey commented wryly while she and Rishi unloaded his equipment from the rented Chevy. "You know after all the hype," she added each of them studying the aging manor. Whispering Pines may not have been as foreboding as she had feared it would; the old homestead still filled her with an uneasy feeling.
"Wait until we go inside," Kyle stammered as he checked his camera.
"Kyle," Freddie, who was acting as the director on the shoot, cautioned him. Freddie was eager to get her feet wet. The young, dark skinned woman had literally jumped at the chance to act as the second unit director on the shoot. "Now we don't know if anything is going to happen," she offered light heartedly in an effort to calm the police officers.
"You haven't been here before," Kyle fussed grabbing an extra battery pack.
"You've been here before?" Carey eagerly inquired.
"Yeah I was on the team last Halloween," Kyle confessed with a hard swallow. "I saw the whole freak show up close and personal. I thought, when I signed on for the second unit, I wouldn't have to go back in there."
"What exactly is a second unit?" Carey inquired intrigued by the young cameraman's agitation.
"Well you know when you watch a movie or a television program and the lead is riding through the woods or something like that and you can't quite see the actor clearly," Freddie began. "That stuff is usually filmed by the second unit. We're the smaller crew that films the extra bits so the main crew can work on more important aspects."
"We're filler," Carey teased Rishi who snorted in response. "That would explain why there are only four of us."
"Five," Freddie corrected as a late model SUV pulled up the lengthy driveway. "Miss St. James, I'm Freddie Stillman," she earnestly greeted the brunette as she climbed out of her car.
"A pleasure," Delia offered as she shook the younger woman's hand. "Detective Jessup," she warmly greeted Carey.
"Miss St. James, it is nice to see you again," Carey politely responded. "This is my colleague, Dr. Kapoor. He is with the CSI division."
"Doctor," Delia greeted the scientist brightly. "I hope the two of you can find something that will finally help."
"We will do our best," Rishi promised as he unrolled a copy of the original plans for the large home.
Carey studied Delia and Rishi carefully looking for some clue that the two might be distant relatives. There were small similarities in their features and mannerisms that might be a link, still she could just be imagining it. "I've gone over all of the old case files and I would like to start with retracing the steps the original witnesses went through on the morning in question," she finally offered to the others.
"This is wrong," Rishi noted studying the old blue prints carefully.
"What do you mean?" Carey questioned peering over the smaller man's shoulder looking from the old blue prints up to the house. She couldn't understand what was bothering her friend. "It looks the same."
"It isn't," Delia interjected. "Whoever drew up those plans did not build this house."
"How can you tell?" Carey inquired completely confused, her untrained eye missing what the others could clearly see.
"Little things," the architect tried to explain. "The house is bigger for starters, the front porch is different and there isn't a widow's walk. See?" She added pointing to the plans. "Though I could understand skipping that I doubt Anna would have been pacing the walk waiting for the Captain's return. If I had to guess I'd bet the real designer was Benjamin Willis. He was a ship builder and had connections to the family. The design is similar to other houses he built. My only guess is that he was fired during construction and a new designer was brought in."
"Fascinating," Freddie sighed wearily. "We need to get started before we lose the light. Kyle started filming. We should get some shots of the garden since the sheriff thought the bodies were buried there."
"They weren't," Carey cut in. "Fine, why don't we retrace what happened. The staff arrived on the morning of October 31st, 1916. They wouldn't have entered through the front door. They went around the side of the house," she began as Kyle lifted his camera and started filming her. The others followed as she led the group around to the side of the house. "Ned Brown and Terrance Landry, the only men on the staff, headed around this way. Terrance went straight to the barn."
"It was torn down before I was born," Delia supplied. "From what I understand it was ready to collapse."
"Ned went to the woodshed to collect the tools he would need for the day," Carey continued as they passed the rickety shed. "It was locked as always, the only thing Ned noticed at the time when he unlocked the shed was that his axe was missing. The other members of the staff all maids, Miranda Wilkins, Sara Hawk, Raquel Summers, Freda Martin and Stacy Connors continued toward the back of the house. They passed by a doorway that led to the kitchen. Suddenly, the side door opened and then slammed shut.
The group stood, paralyzed, staring at the door. "What the hell was that?" Rishi stammered.
"Did you?" Freddie began eagerly.
"Yes, I got it," Kyle responded his body trembling.
"Well that was fun," Carey finally sputtered after a long silence. "Moving along," she choked out urging the group to continue. "The women went to the back of the house passing the garden," Carey explained as they stood looking over the barren area. "Wow," she whispered.
"What?" Delia questioned.
"Nothing, it is just that you can see the graveyard from here," she noted. "On the morning that Horatio Stratton died his son stood here while they dug up the garden. He would have seen his father's funeral. So much pain," she noted as they turned towards the house. "The women entered through the servant's entrance."
"Down here," Delia offered guiding the group towards a doorway. She unlocked the door and allowed the group to shuffle past her down a staircase into the basement. "This was the mudroom. The staff would hang their coats on these pegs and leave their personal belongings down here."
"Beautiful woodwork," Freddie noted as they looked around the small room.
"This way," Delia encouraged leading the entourage through another doorway and into the barren basement.
Rishi and Carey studied the hard cement floor looking for some sign that the floor had been disturbed. "Might be a good place," she reasoned as Kyle filmed as much as he could. They followed Delia up a small staircase where she unlocked another door and they followed her into the main house. "That was the Captain's study," she explained as the others gaped at the magnificent workmanship. "Down here," she led them past the study through a hallway that opened up in the main room and foyer. "The dinning room is over there and that hall leads to the kitchen."
"The staff said they entered here and found Captain Stratton sitting by the fire right over there, smoking his pipe, looking completely calm," Carey narrated. "Then Miranda left the others who went about their duties. No one knew anything was amiss until they heard Miranda screaming in the kitchen. The entire staff, even the men who had been outside, rushed into the kitchen. All the witnesses claimed that the room was covered in blood. Miranda made a statement to the effect that it looked like the walls were bleeding. The Captain never joined them or reacted. Most of the staff, with the exception of Ned and Stacy, fled. So who wants to see the kitchen?"
"I'd rather not," Kyle gulped.
"You have to," Freddie fumed.
"Uhm, before I take you in there, is anyone here gay?" Delia questioned.
"I beg your pardon?" Freddie barked.
"Hold on," Kyle cut in. "She is asking for a reason. Whatever that thing is it was really focused on Shawn and Faith."
"Most of the more violent events have happened in the kitchen and if you're gay it will attack you," Delia explained. "So, again, if anyone is gay I suggest you stay behind."
"Anyone?" Carey questioned. "No? Okay then let's see the scene of the crime."
Everyone was tense as they stepped into the infamous kitchen and each held their breath waiting for something to happen. Delia looked around, nervous, and pleased that the room was warm. "An eighty year old crime scene," Rishi noted as he set his kit down. "Lot of dust. Why didn't they fix the woodwork?" He questioned examining the multitude of cuts in the cabinets and flooring.
"Bastard was probably proud," Delia hissed. "Dr. Kapoor, do you think you will be able to find anything?"
"A lot of years of dust and cleanings, hard to say," he concluded as he began measuring the deep marks.
"Film him for a bit," Freddie instructed. "Then why don't you show us the rest of the house? We can come back to film more of the Doctor after we get the whole tour."
"What else did the police report say?" Delia prompted Carey.
"Nothing much," Carey explained. "The sheriff was denied access to the house for weeks. When he finally got a warrant there was nothing to see except the marks made by a sharp object. Most of the staff quit on the spot and Anna and Catherine Stratton were never seen or heard from again. The day after their disappearance Captain Stratton burned or sold their belongings including the furniture from the bedrooms. The only other reports were of strange happenings."
Rishi went about his work; the others watched him briefly before heading off to see the rest of the house leaving the captivated Rishi behind. Delia explained each room as they ventured further, wandering about, until they were in Catherine's room. "No dust," Carey noted. "Just like Anna's bedroom."
"I know," Delia agreed checking her watch. "I think this is the longest I've ever spent in this house. Normally by now something totally freaky would happen."
"What do you consider freaky?" Carey gaped. "Doors slamming all by themselves, and two rooms that have sat empty for over eighty years and not one sign of time passing doesn't qualify?"
"Not in this house," Delia shivered.
"Carey!" Rishi screamed from below.
"What the hell?" She whispered as her friend screamed her name over and over again until he burst into the room. "Rishi?"
"Now that is more like it," Delia snickered.
"What happened?" She questioned her friend who was pale and trembling.
"Kitchen," Rishi choked out wiping the beads of sweat from his brow. "I was on the floor trying to see if I could get a sample when I heard a voice. I thought it was one of you. When I looked up there she was. Her body didn't go all the way down."
"A woman that is good," Delia tried to reason.
"Good?" Rishi bellowed. "She was misty and her body didn't go all the way to the floor. How is that a good thing?"
"Trust me, it could have been him," Delia eerily supplied. "He isn't very nice. What did she say, where is my son or get out?"
"Neither," Rishi choked.
"Hold on," Carey cut in opening the file she had been toting around. She pulled out the copy of the picture of Anna and Catherine she had made from the family photo. "Was it one of these women?"
"Oh this is great," Freddie gushed nudging Kyle closer to film the encounter.
"Her," Rishi sputtered pointing to one of the women in the old photograph.
"Catherine," Delia concluded. "What did she say?"
"He's afraid of you," Rishi quivered.
"That's a new one," Delia retorted thoughtfully.
"How can you be so cavalier about this?" Rishi demanded.
"Years of practice," Delia tried to explain. "The first time I came here doors opened and closed, voices told me to get out, and I saw the Captain who said I was worthless just like my Grandfather. I was fifteen and I peed my pants. If, for some reason, that sick bastard is afraid of you, then I'm happy you're here."
"I think we need more film of the kitchen," Freddie whispered.
"What?" Rishi questioned with a hard swallow.
"We'll go together," Carey reassured him wrapping her arm around his shoulder. "I've never seen you like this not even when we found that severed body in a dumpster."
"Seeing dead people doesn't bother me," he trembled as they made their way back down the main staircase. "Having them speak to me is completely different. Oh my God," he shrieked.
"What?" Carey questioned as they entered the foyer.
"My kit," he choked pointing to the large metal case that was locked and sitting by the now open front door. "I left it open in the kitchen."
"Are you sure?" Freddie questioned with a nervous voice.
"Yes!" Rishi barked. "Look I am very careful about my equipment; I bolted out of the kitchen as soon as I saw whatever it was that I saw. I was working, my kit was open, and I left it there because I was scared. I saw her and started screaming for Carey and ran out of there looking for her. I don't know if I can do this."
"If you don't, then he wins," Carey whispered softly while guiding him towards his kit. "I want to run too, but we can't. No matter the reasons why we are here I can't let a murderer just walk. If you leave, I'll understand."
"No," Rishi gulped. "I can do it," he added with a new sense of conviction.
"Nice digs," Rishi joked as he approached Carey who was lounging on the balcony of the inexpensive motel they were staying at.
"No kidding, huh," Carey laughed. "I thought show business would be more glamorous. How did it go at the crime lab? I can't believe that the St. James family was so eager to offer up their DNA."
"They were nice people," Rishi agreed. "I have to admit visiting their house was a lot easier than spending time at the ancestor home. That place was beyond creepy."
"So how many samples of DNA are you processing?" Carey quipped curious to see if her friend had included his own sample. "There was the mother, Delia and Andrew and, of course, the stuff you found at the manor."
"And mine," he admitted. "I have to know. As for the small specks I found at Whispering Pines, after all of this time I doubt there will be anything readable. The gashes in the wood are consistent with an axe, no doubt about it."
"And the axe has been missing for over eighty years," Carey sighed.
"Why would he do that?" Rishi questioned. "I mean, I had heard he was a son of a bitch, but why hack up his wife and sister?"
"From what I've heard they were romantically involved," Carey explained.
"No kidding," Rishi laughed. "Well that might set a man off especially one who is already unbalanced. How did you know about that?"
"Dr. Williams' book," Carey confessed. "I read parts of it last week. According to her and Faith, the women were lovers and Horatio found out and killed them."
"We'd be in a better position if we could find the bodies," Rishi theorized. "Match the gashes to the wounds on the bodies. The basement maybe? Or he could have just dumped them at sea."
"He wasn't sailing that much by that time," Carey explained. "I checked. He was getting on in years and was reduced to short cargo trips years before that. Most of hisso called trips had been a ruse for him to sneak off and spend time in Rhode Island drinking and patronizing prostitutes. I'm surprised though, I mean in modern terms he really wasn't that old."
"Then again he probably began his life on the sea at a very young age," Rishi concluded. "Back then it wasn't uncommon for boys as young as six or seven to be signed on as members of a crew."
"Okay," Carey processed. "So, he was sailing as a child and by the time he hit puberty he picked up all of the bad habits, drinking, cavorting and being a general jackass. Then he decided he needed an heir and married a teenager. I so don't like this guy."
"Me either, but I'm biased," Rishi countered with a rakish grin.
"When I was going through the old police reports there had to be at least a dozen reports that he beat his wife, and no one ever did anything about it," Carey bitterly spat out.
"Different times," Rishi reasoned.
"Bull shit," Carey sneered. "It all comes down to the fact that he owned half the town."
"What happened today?" Rishi stammered. "I have never seen or experienced anything like it before."
"I went through the same thing in Salem," Carey offered in an effort to comfort her old friend. "I thought I was losing my mind and I didn't see or experience half of what happened today."
"I have to be honest. I thought the whole haunting stories were a load of crap," Rishi timidly began. "That woman, I mean she was there, but she wasn't. What do you think she meant is he afraid of me?"
"Probably," Carey smirked. "Could be because of your skills as a scientist or perhaps he knows that you are one of his descendents. This is going to be a very strange experience. Speaking of which, I think there is something you should know. Faith Charles is my sister."
New York City, 2003
"What?" Shawn queried in an amused tone as she brewed a pot of coffee very aware of the impish child watching her every move.
"Faith stay?" Willie quietly questioned.
"Yes, Faith is staying," Shawn smiled boldly feeling truly happy for the first time in years.
"Good," Willie giggled amazed by the strange machines in the kitchen. "Do you think she will play checkers with me?"
"Maybe some day," Shawn shook her head with a wry grin.
"Some day?" Her lover yawned as she padded her way into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around Shawn's body.
"Willie wants to know if you will play checkers with him," Shawn explained as Faith nuzzled her neck.
"You do know that is weird don't you?" Faith muttered snuggling closer to Shawn's warm, inviting body.
"Depends on your point of view," Shawn murmured enjoying the feel of Faith's hands caressing her body. She yawned loudly surprising the both of them. "I hate jet lag."
"Hmm," Faith moaned softly. "Why don't we take our coffee in the bedroom and try to catch up with the time change?"
"Is that all you have in mind?" Shawn taunted her lover playfully.
"No," Faith slyly retorted. "We don't have that much time together before Halloween. You know what that means."
"Back to Whispering Pines," Shawn grumbled shivering at the thought of returning to the old manor. "Don't let them talk you into going back into the kitchen."
"No problem," Faith exclaimed. "I'd rather walk through fire."
October 30, 2003
"I said no," Faith glared at Althea. They were back in Stewart standing outside the one place on earth she had hoped to never see again. The exterior of Whispering Pines was a flurry of activity. Althea had the cameramen rushing about shooting Shawn, Carey and the St. James family. Faith was very clear when it came to her duties, she was the host and she had a rider in her contract that clearly stated she would not set foot in the kitchen. Thus far no one had entered the house. Faith was dreading the moment she would need to go back in there. Now Althea was trying to charm her into doing a set up in the kitchen. "I give a damn how good it will look on film, no way, no how. It is in my contract so don't even go there. This time I'm the host; all I do is chat for the camera."
"Excuse me ladies," Carey interjected. "I don't mean to intrude, but I'm cold, I'm tired and after the gallon of coffee I drank, I need to hit the ladies. Now I understand there is a lot of hurry up and wait with these things, but are we going to get started anytime soon?"
"Seriously we've been here for hours," Rishi added.
"My apologies," Faith cut Althea off. "I'm being difficult."
"Fancy that," Carey quipped. "How are you?" She added in an effort to make peace.
"Good, except our boss here is hell bent on doing the forensic shoot at the scene of the crime," Faith groaned offering her younger sister a shy smile.
"The kitchen?" Rishi gulped. He had returned there a few times and each time he encountered or felt something that frightened him.
"Ah, been in there have you?" Faith beamed. "Wait, you should have been fine. Never mind, Althea it is in my contract I'm not going in there. You can shoot these two in there, I'll do the interview right here on the porch or in the main room by the fire. I'm assuming you already sent the boys in to light a fire so it will look pretty."
"What happened to you?" Rishi gulped amazed by this woman who seemed like she could take on anything without batting an eye, yet was terrified at the prospect of going into the kitchen.
"Jasper?" Faith called out. "I know you have the clip from last year prepped would you mind running it for our friends?"
"No problem," Jasper readily agreed.
"Wait," Althea argued her ire growing with each passing moment.
"Althea," Faith slowly began while Jasper set up a small monitor and replayed the scene from last year for the others. "I know the kitchen is a hot spot that will look fabulous on camera, but you seem to be forgetting that every time I went in there last year I was attacked."
"This sucks," Althea huffed.
"What is it that it was saying?" Carey inquired as they rejoined them.
"Sinner," Faith spat out in response.
"Someone has to go into the kitchen," Althea finally demanded.
"I'll go," Carey volunteered. "I will explain our findings and then Rishi and I can go over everything with Faith in another room. We have pictures and lots of documents, it will be fine."
"Althea I know you want the same freak show you got the last time," Faith pleaded. "Either you accept the terms of my contract or I'm out here."
"And if she goes I'm certain Dr. Williams will follow," Carey brightly added.
"Absolutely," Shawn piped in as she joined the agitated group.
"Fine," Althea finally conceded. "Jasper, Detective Jessup we need to set up. Now!" She barked tired of wasting time. "Freddie, I want you to do a second set up in the main room with Charles and Dr. Kapoor to have them discuss the DNA and everything else."
"He's afraid of you," Shawn whispered. "I'm sorry. I'm Dr. Shawn Williams," she quickly introduced herself.
"Dr. Rishi Kapoor," he timidly responded. "I'm the forensics geek."
"Yes," Shawn nodded as Faith watched the man shifting nervously.
"What did she mean?" She finally asked. "When she said that he is afraid of you?"
"How did you know about that?" Rishi shyly questioned.
"That is what she said," Shawn began. "In the kitchen the first time you were here. He is because you hold a secret that would disgrace him."
"I beg your pardon?" Rishi stammered.
"The answer is in the envelope," Shawn offered vaguely. "I'm sorry I didn't mean to pry it just happens."
"Oh you're the psychic," Rishi laughed trying to make light of the situation. Faith smiled slyly knowing that, despite his attitude, the scientist believed in what Shawn was saying.
"We should go inside and get this over with," Faith suggested offering Rishi an escape from the conversation. "Why don't you go over your findings with me and we can work on how to do this for the camera."
"I'd appreciate the help," Rishi stammered. "I'm not good with people, having a camera in my face isn't something I'm looking forward to."
"Trust me after a couple of seconds you forget it is there," Faith reassured him as she hesitated by the front door. She blew out a terse breath glancing over her shoulder her body calming as she spied her lover following closely behind. "So Doc, what's in the envelope?"
"Oh, Uhm, just the DNA results," he muttered looking shyly away as they finally stepped into the manor.
Faith held her breath for a moment waiting for something to happen. She sighed with relief when the only activity that greeted her was the film crew trying to get ready. "Whenever you are ready Miss Charles," Freddie beckoned guiding the tall reporter to her mark in front of the main fireplace. "I'll hold up the cue cards."
"Don't bother," Faith smirked. "Just start filming."
"But?" Freddie tried to argue.
"Trust me Althea will love it," Faith smiled brightly catching a curious look from Shawn, who was lingering behind Kyle, who was balancing a heavy camera on his shoulder. "Anytime you are ready."
"Fine," Freddie grumbled rolling her eyes certain that her boss was going to freak and they would be forced to re-shoot the entire set up. "Action."
"Good Evening, I'm Faith Charles," the tall brunette confidently began. "One year ago today I was invited to film a Halloween special here at Whispering Pines, the former home of Captain Horatio Stratton and his young wife Anna Stratton. That night my job was to prove that nothing out of the ordinary was happening in this quaint New England Manor. That night I encountered something I had never experienced before; it was a terrifying ordeal, one which I will never forget. Tonight we are, once again, seeking answers to what happened in this house over eighty years ago. Joining me are Dr. Shawn Williams, a professional ghost hunter who was with me the last time I set foot in this house, Detective Carey Jessup of the New York Police Department, Dr. Rishi Kapoor who is a member of the NYPD CSI Unit, James Simmons a professional naysayer, as I once was, and our original film crew, well those of us who were brave enough to return. Even now I am not certain I want to be here and I refuse to enter the kitchen of this once stately home. Why you ask? Eighty years ago the staff that had worked for the Stratton family for years entered the stately manor. They found Captain Stratton sitting by this fireplace relaxed and smoking his pipe. Nothing seemed amiss until Miranda Wilkins, the maid, entered the kitchen and discovered it covered with blood. Most of the staff fled the house never to return again. Mrs. Anna Stratton and her sister in-law, Catherine, were never seen or heard from again. Or were they? One year ago I entered that kitchen and was attacked by something I could not see. What happened in this house eighty years ago? That is what we are here to find out. Dr. Kapoor?"
"Cut!" Freddie gleefully called out. "Wow that was perfect."
"Not quite," Althea cut in after entering during the filming. "Hold on Faith, I like it. But I just need to change a couple things. First your grammar sucks, and add the part about the murders last, and I want you interview Detective Jessup first, then Dr. Kapoor. Also I want you to add that a second film crew tried to investigate last spring and was driven out of the house. You can't go into detail. Then we are going to edit in what happened last year to you and Shawn."
Faith rolled her shoulders as Althea quickly scribbled some notes. She waited patiently while Althea went over them again and again. "We'll cut after you say that is what we are here to find out. Bobby I'll need a couple of chairs set up in front of the fire," she instructed her PA.
"Okay, that will work," Faith conceded, once again taking her place in front of the fire. "So, I do the spiel, and then interview Carey, Dr. Kapoor, James Simmons and Shawn last?"
"On five," Althea nodded seemingly pleased by the way things were going.
Faith repeated her introduction with the changes Althea had made. It was easy since it was almost exactly what she had just said. The only things troubling her were the way James Simmons, this year's naysayer, was glaring at her from a far corner of the room, and that the house seemed almost too quiet. After her first visit she had been on edge waiting for all hell to break loose, so far nothing had happened.
Once she had completed the introduction Althea bellowed, "Cut!" Then she demanded that a set of chairs be put in place. Faith glanced around nervously feeling uncomfortable.
"How are you holding up?" Shawn whispered as they waited for the chairs to be set up and everything double-checked with light meters.
"I hate dressing up," she teased her eyes still darting around nervously. "Before I could be comfortable."
"You're doing fine," Shawn reassured her while gently stroking her arm.
"I don't know," Faith whispered. "It is just like last year only with more people. Everything is quiet, and I know that it isn't going to stay that way. Last year when I first arrived I thought what is the big deal? Then Milo went screaming into the night and I was slapped. The serene setting isn't fooling me this time it is scaring the bejesus out of me."
"Everything isn't quiet," Shawn softly corrected her. "They're here, and he isn't happy. Something is keeping him at bay. It won't last. Once we start searching he is going to freak out."
"You still think that they are in the house?" Faith tersely questioned while Althea waved for her to take her place.
"Yes," Shawn wearily responded. "I just don't have a clue as to where in the house. If I did we could get the hell out of here."
"That would be nice," Faith murmured her pulse quickening as the memory of last November first invaded her senses. She and Shawn had wrapped up the shoot and spent the entire weekend in bed getting to know one another.
"Charles!" Althea barked.
"Coming," Faith snapped in response.
Faith took her place in one of the chairs that had been placed in front of the fire while Carey did the same. "What do I do? I'm not accustomed to doing interviews for the camera," Carey stammered while fidgeting.
"Relax," Faith smiled pleased that Carey was more concerned with having to speak in front of camera than dwelling on the past. "I ask questions and you answer, it is that simple."
"Oh, easy for you to say, you do this all the time," Carey fussed trying to balance her notes and files.
"You'll be fine," Faith laughed. "I've reviewed your notes so I can sound like I know what I'm talking about and, remember, you can always shoot me if I annoy you."
"I'm feeling better already," Carey barked with laughter. "Damn I never thought I'd be sitting here talking with you. After this is over are you heading back to New York?"
"As a matter of fact I am," Faith blushed slightly.
"I take it that you and Dr. Williams have ironed out your differences," Carey smirked.
"Oh yeah and I promised to not skip the country without telling her," Faith happily supplied.
"She'd probably appreciate that," Carey scowled playfully. "So how do we start?"
"I will introduce you, go over your credentials, and start asking about the investigation," Faith carefully explained. "We really should include the early reports of spousal abuse and then you can just explain what you did and what you've discovered."
"That sounds easy enough," Carey blew out with relief. "Uhm, just one thing we can't mention is the case that Shawn worked on in New York. My department is very leery about it getting out that the case was solved by a psychic."
"Fancy that," Faith snorted knowing that Althea must be pissed. "No problem. Now sit up straight and, when in doubt, we can stop filming. Ready?"
"Thanks," Carey offered warmly.
"Are we ready ladies?" Althea grumbled.
"Feel free to shoot her too," Faith muttered before flashing the agitated director a bright smile. "Yes we're ready oh great one."
"You're such a pain in the ass," Althea snickered. "On five,"
Faith confidently introduced Carey explaining her years as a homicide detective for NYPD, and then she turned towards Carey and asked how she got involved with the case. Gently she eased the nervous woman into discussing her findings. Carey proceeded slowly finally warming up to the situation. She covered everything and had just begun discussing the fateful morning when the staff fled the manor when the power suddenly shut down.
"Hate it when that happens," Faith snarled as the crew grumbled with disdain. "Something I've gotten used to. Seems the little buggers just love draining batteries."
"I don't think that is what happened," Shawn tersely supplied. "The fire is out as well."
Faith's eyes darted around nervously as she suddenly realized that the temperature in the room had dramatically dropped. "Oh crap," she whispered her body tensing as she spied her breath leaving puffs in the air. Suddenly the front door slammed open, the windows rattled, and a loud boom filled the room. She braced herself preparing for the worst spying her younger sibling clinging to her chair. "Welcome to Whispering Pines," she offered placing a comforting hand on Carey's arm in an effort to keep the policewoman from fleeing.
The crew scurried about searching for the problem that had caused the power to shut down. Shawn shrugged on her coat in an effort to fend off the sudden chill that had filled the room. She shook her head amazed that, despite the numerous times the crew had experienced a sudden power loss, they were still checking the generator in the van. Shawn scowled at the way Freddie kept Faith busy. Normally Shawn was fine on her own, but being here filled her with an overwhelming need to stay close to her lover.
"So got a deck of cards?" Carey offered playfully shoving her hands in her leather jacket.
"I'm sure if you ask the crew one of them usually carries a deck," Shawn laughed noticing the similar gestures Carey shared with Faith.
"Yeah picked up on the whole hurry up and wait thing back in Salem," Carey tried to joke the troubled look in her eyes revealing her true feelings. "Faith really seems to be on top of things."
"Not really," Shawn sighed watching her lover. "This place," her voice trailed off.
"I couldn't help noticing that you are trying to stay very close to her," Carey pointed out. "In Salem and New York you seemed fine to venture off."
"I don't like this place," Shawn grimly confessed. "There is trouble brewing. This little power failure is just the beginning. Oh course I just bet you're going to disagree aren't you Jimmy?" She taunted the older man as he approached them.
"Yes," he snorted with boredom. "Don't you think it is possible that the power went down because of all the lights and cameras the crew is running off of one generator? Of course it might have been easier if the family had the power turned back on for this. James Simmons," he offered to Carey who frowned at his tone of voice.
"Carey Jessup," she politely responded. Shawn snickered knowing that the detective picked up on Jimmy's attempt at acting suave in a lame attempt to impress her. Then again he was always hitting on her and Faith ignoring the fact that they had made it perfectly clear they weren't interested in him.
"If I can be of any assistance," he continued oblivious to the way Carey was rolling her eyes. Granted Jimmy hadn't said or done anything still women know when a man is hitting on them.
"Dr. Williams has been more than helpful thank you," Carey sighed stepping slightly away in an effort to create a little space between her and the older gentleman. Jimmy ignored Carey's attempt and closed the gap between them forcing Carey to move away bumping into Shawn as she tried to get away from Jimmy.
Shawn barked with laughter when Carey brushed against her. "What is so funny?" Carey inquired as Shawn bit down on her lip.
"Nothing," she lied with a smirk.
"As I was saying," Jimmy prattled on. "If you need help learning the ropes I am available."
"I'm fine," Carey growled.
"Back off," Faith barked as she approached the group.
"Faith, my favorite brunette," Jimmy smiled up at her. "It is so nice working with you again although I am disappointed that you sold out."
"I haven't you lowly jackass," Faith growled in the identical manner her younger sibling had just done. "Now shoo," she added waving at the annoying man. "Go on!"
"Okay now that he is gone," Carey slowly began. "What was so funny?"
"What you were thinking," Shawn confessed. "At times like this I'm so glad I carry a gun."
"Can I borrow it?" Faith merrily inquired.
"No," Carey dryly retorted with a slight smile. "Is he always so charming?"
"Yes," Faith grumbled. "Even after I threatened to castrate him. He took it as a come on. The power is back up. Are you ready to give it another try?"
Shawn watched as the siblings went back to the chair in front of the fire. The hair on the back of her neck prickled, as she felt suddenly uneasy. Carey seemed calm as she explained her findings. She ran through the list of spousal abuse reports, the witness statements and the Sheriff's findings. "They searched the basement," she whispered her stomach churning as strange images assaulted her. She was only vaguely aware of Carey explaining that a team from the Massachusetts State Crime Lab had indeed searched the basement earlier that week. "Not there, not the garden," she whispered stepping away from the others so her voice couldn't be heard during filming.
She stumbled out onto the porch burying her face in her hands the images coming quickly, much too quickly for her to decipher. She could see a backhoe digging up a garden then the police crawling around the basement searching for some small clue that all was not what it appeared to be. There was another image, a drawing, each time it slipped away just as quickly as it appeared.
"A sketch, diagram, what are you?" She struggled as her eyes drifted toward the back of the house. Beads of sweat formed on her brow as she watched him pouring kerosene over the shards that had once been beautiful furniture. Shawn fought against the bile rising in her throat as he grabbed another canister dousing the remains of their clothing and furniture and, then trailing the kerosene off towards the garden.
She watched in horror as a man pestered the Captain with questions as he set everything a blaze. "Why are you burning their belongings if they are coming back?" Shawn whispered the words that were echoing through her mind.
"At the time everyone was under the impression that Captain Stratton was sailing to far off places," Carey continued having finally relaxed in front of the camera. "The truth was he mostly sailed from Hayden Wharf, located in town which was owned in part by the Stratton Family, up to Cape Ann and down to Newport. His career at this point was less than stellar. Many times when he left his family he didn't have a voyage scheduled at all. He spent a great deal of time in Rhode Island patronizing houses of ill repute. This would explain why he could return often to surprise his wife whom he was convinced was unfaithful."
"And was she?" Faith prompted.
"There is no evidence that there was another man in Mrs. Stratton's life," Carey carefully explained. "There is also no evidence he could have disposed of his wife's or sister's body at sea given the limited area he was allowed to travel."
"You brought in a CSI expert from New York and worked with the Massachusetts crime lab have you found anything to suggest that there was a murder?" Faith encouraged with a slight smile amazed by her younger sister's capability.
"The kitchen, the witness statements, and of course, the fact that neither woman was ever seen or heard from again leads me to believe that both women's disappearances were suspicious," Carey concluded. "Plus, by all accounts, Mrs. Stratton was completely devoted to her son and never would have abandoned him."
"Have you or the team of experts found anything to support your conclusion?" Faith questioned hoping that they had found something, anything that might help bring Anna and Catherine peace.
"No," Carey grimly confirmed. "The garden was excavated after the Captain's death, the grounds searched just last week, and the basement and house checked up and down, and still we have no evidence, other than the damage in the kitchen that a crime has occurred. If this crime happened yesterday and not eighty years ago with the available evidence no charges could be brought."
Faith continued with the interview knowing that she had to ask certain things so Althea could tie in the film that had already been shot the previous week. She also had to get Carey to talk about the strange occurrences she had witnessed while investigating the house. Next she interviewed Rishi who explained that the DNA discovered in the kitchen was unreadable, but the tool markings of the gashes were consistent with an axe that would have been manufactured around the time of the women's disappearances. Interviewing Rishi was an arduous task as the man was nervous in front of the camera. Unaware that Shawn was outside enduring a traumatic scene while she peppered Rishi with scientific queries sensing if she could get him to talk about the scientific aspects the man would be much calmer. Getting him to talk about what happened in the kitchen proved to be an unnerving experience for her and the director.
Finally she let Rishi climb out of his chair and proceeded to interview Jimmy. He proved to be a much easier subject albeit annoying one. He prattled on and on about the history and how yes he was certain that based on the evidence a heinous crime had occurred, but no the house wasn't haunted since such things do not exist. He refused to budge from his convictions despite Faith presenting him with her own experiences and the experiences of others.
"Cut!" Althea cried out when it looked as if Faith and Jimmy were about to come to blows.
"Fine you pompous ass," Faith snarled tearing the small microphone from her body. "I know what I saw."
"And I know what I haven't seen," Jimmy snidely countered.
"Where is Shawn?" She asked suddenly filled with a sense of panic. She bolted from her chair and began searching for her missing lover. The bile rose in her throat when she discovered Shawn standing in the middle of the yard shaking and gasping for air.
"Shawn?" Faith's voice echoed the smell of burning flowers choking Shawn.
She gasped sharply her eyes finally focusing on the vision of Faith standing in front of her caressing her shoulders. "Put the fucking camera down," Faith barked.
"I'm good," Shawn choked out trying to catch her bearings. "It's okay," she meekly offered trying to calm her lover. She blinked with surprise when she discovered everyone standing around her. She glanced up at the sky noticing that the sun had dropped dramatically. "What time is it?"
"Six thirty five," Althea timidly offered. "We've been filming for a couple of hours. Do you think you could go on camera and tell us what happened?"
"Althea," Faith snarled.
"Down girl," Shawn almost laughed. "Yes, I can go on camera. Whenever you are ready," she brushed back her hair and plastered a smile on her face trying to calm her co-workers. She blew out a terse breath as the camera started rolling. "I saw a series of jumbled images," she began in a professional tone. "The garden being dug up, a team of policemen searching the basement, and then it changed. The Captain was smashing furniture right here, while another man, his lawyer, Russell something questioned him."
"What was he questioning him about?" Faith encouraged.
"Why are you destroying their belongings if they are on a trip?" Shawn conveyed. "All the while he was shredding their clothing. He repeated that his wife was away on a family matter. Then he doused everything with kerosene."
"Detective Jessup explained that in her interview," Jimmy grumbled. "It was in the police report that he sold off or destroyed their belongings."
"He didn't just destroy their belongings," Shawn spat back. "He used every drop of kerosene he had available, lit a huge bon fire torching not only their beds but the garden as well."
"Convenient that you can't prove that," Jimmy snickered.
"Was I that annoying?" Faith whispered fighting against the urge to grab Shawn and get the hell out there.
"At times," Shawn teased hoping to ease the tension.
"Maybe," Faith began and Shawn held up her hand.
"We have to try," she cut off her lover after sensing Faith's need to keep the blonde safe. She looked down at her wrist and rubbed the bracelet that was warm. "Yeah you know," she muttered. "There was something else. I keep seeing a diagram or picture I can't get a read on it. I just know that it is important."
"A photograph?" Delia questioned in an effort to prompt the blonde.
"No," Shawn shook her head the faint image still plaguing her. "It
is a drawing; technical in style, very faint, all I know is it is wrong."
"Wrong?" Delia pressed. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know," Shawn blew out. "Just wrong that is all I know."
She looked past the crowd spying Anna standing by the kitchen door. "Help us," she pleaded her eyes filling with tears then she vanished. Shawn rubbed her throbbing brow, voices from the cemetery mixed together, suddenly nothing was clear.
"I need a break," she sputtered her body swaying.
"That is it," Faith announced as the camera shut off. "We're out of here."
"Faith," Althea pleaded.
"No, it is too much," Faith tried to argue. "You've been pushing her on back to back shoots for over a year, and I didn't help by dragging her back here. We're done."
"Faith," Shawn whimpered. "I can do this. I just need a little breather."
"Wow, this is certainly a major step up from last year," Shawn huffed as she glanced around the new and improved van. "I saw the old one out front, no wonder she hid this one out of sight. It is like a small television studio."
"It is," Faith smirked proudly. "Althea scored some major perks for this special. They can probably edit and put the entire project in the can right from here," she continued to explain as she led Shawn towards the back of the large vehicle. Shawn gasped as she opened the door revealing the small but comfortable bedroom nestled in the back of the converted RV.
"No wonder she isn't bunking down at that cheap hotel with us," Shawn groused.
"In Althea's defense she did put together the impossible project," Faith prattled on guiding Shawn down onto the bed. "You said you needed a breather. Take a nap and if you still aren't feeling good I meant what I said we are out of here."
"Stay with me?" Shawn sheepishly requested.
"Gladly," Faith beamed kicking off her shoes and curling up beside her lover.
She held the blonde in her arms pleased that Shawn quickly drifted off to sleep. Faith had known that this trip was going to be stressful. She almost feared returning to the manor, still in her heart she felt it was something that she needed to do. When she discovered that Shawn would be by her side she was elated. Now she wished that her lover had stuck to her original plan to stay as far away from Whispering Pines as possible.
Then again there was the nagging feeling she had experienced since her first visit. For some unknown reason she wanted to give Anna and Catherine peace. She often wondered if it was because she felt their pain and felt blessed to be alive at a time when homophobia, although was still alive, wasn't the extreme hardship for her as it had been for women like Anna and Catherine.
Shawn snuggled closer as she slept. Faith absently stroked her lover's hair as she pondered the question everyone was asking, ‘Just where do you hide your wife and sister's bodies after you hack them up?' The question plagued her since she initially assumed that the good old captain would have buried them in the garden or somewhere on the property. Police and family searched these areas for over eight decades and found nothing. Plus Shawn was convinced that the bodies were in the house. If she learned nothing from knowing Shawn she learned to trust the blonde's instincts.
Shawn was still sound asleep when Faith slipped from her grasp. She made a trip out to the rental car and then changed into more comfortable clothing. "Althea can bite me," she rationalized as she finished dressing in the large RV. She stepped out into the darkness to find the crew mingling about. "Give me a drag," she beckoned Carey who was lingering on the porch with Rishi and Delia looked over her shoulder.
"Sure," Carey agreed handing Faith the cigarette she was smoking. "I didn't know you smoked."
"I don't," Faith, grumbled spying the blue prints spread out on the floorboards of the porch. "I used to."
"Me too," Carey sighed her brow furrowing as she stared at the blue prints. "I had to bum that one off of one of the grips. I thought this was it but I don't see it."
"Okay I'll bite," Faith prattled on as everyone else seemed to abandon interest in the blue prints. "What are we looking at?" She questioned taking a long drag her head spinning slightly from the effects of not smoking for many years.
"I thought this was what Shawn was talking about," Carey explained her eyes widening curiously. "That first drag is a bitch isn't it?"
"No kidding," Faith coughed handing the cigarette back to her sister. "Now I remember why I quit. So what are these blue prints for?"
"This house," Delia explained with a heavy sigh.
"This house?" Faith questioned in disbelief. "I haven't seen a lot of blue prints in my day, especially a set this old, but no way this is Whispering Pines. First there isn't a structure on the roof, the porch is smaller and what is that?"
"The closet in Anna's bedroom," Delia tried to explain. "And you're right, these plans aren't accurate and, no we don't know why."
"What closet?" Shawn inquired as she approached the group.
"Hey how are you feeling?" Faith asked with concern.
"Much better," Shawn smiled slightly nudging her way between the group taking her place by her lover's side. "You were right I've been pushing myself too hard. I feel completely recharged."
"Good," Faith blew out in relief resting her hand on Shawn's shoulder. Shawn's body warmed from her lover's touch. "Well now I have to ask the same question, what closet? Shawn and I never saw a closet in that room."
"The door was closed," Delia offered with a shrug. "You must have noticed that the house, despite the years and neglect, still is in very good condition. Who ever built the house was a master craftsman. The interior is pristine."
"Except for the hatch marks in the kitchen," Shawn quipped finally glancing down at the plans. "That is what I saw. This is the drawing I saw in my vision."
"Come off it," Jimmy bellowed as he approached the group. "Who cares if there is a closet?"
"Bite me," Faith snapped while Shawn snickered at her lover's antics.
"Careful Babe he might just take you up on that," Shawn smirked. "Delia I never saw a closet door."
"As I was trying to explain," Delia grumbled. "The door is flush with the wall. You can't see it. You have to push on it to open it. The workmanship is amazing. The only reason I knew that there was a closet in that room was because of the blue prints."
"I've seen it," Carey interjected. "There are built in shelves and drawers. It is really creepy."
"As opposed to the rest of this place?" Faith sputtered.
"All of the drawers have been pulled out it looks like it was ransacked," Carey explained. "Like a house that has been burglarized only the thief didn't leave anything behind."
"Why leave so much space?" Rishi interrupted Shawn's thoughts. "Just for one closet it doesn't make sense."
"It wasn't meant to be," Shawn absently whispered as beads of sweat began forming on her brow. The images were bombarding her none lasting long enough for her to gain a clear picture. "I won't work for a man who beats his wife."
"Admirable but what has that got to do with anything?" Jimmy snidely inquired.
"Yo, Jimbo, focus here," Faith curtly informed him. "She isn't speaking for herself. Shawn, are you okay?"
"We need to go inside," Shawn explained, the hair on the back of her neck prickled she could feel it. "Better tell Althea."
"Are you sure that you are okay?" Faith repeated as Shawn fought against the wave of anxiety that was threatening to consume her. Jim raced off to find the producer. Shawn could sense that, despite his bravado, he was eager to finish up and get as far away from Whispering Pines as possible.
"This is not going to be fun," she mumbled. "I'm so close I can feel it."
"Okay," Faith slowly responded caressing Shawn's back.
"He can feel it too," she added in an ominous tone.
"Peachy," Faith whispered her hand never leaving the small of Shawn's back.
Shawn failed to respond her mind was filled with disturbing images. She tried to shut out the din from the real world and focus on the past. She was only dimly aware that the crew had set up and the cameras were about to roll.
"Anytime you are ready?" Althea anxiously suggested.
"Go ahead," Shawn absently responded. "This drawing is what I saw in my earlier vision." She explained bending over to pick up the old blue print. "Ms. St. James I need a quick lesson in early twentieth century architecture."
"I'll tell you what I can," Delia eagerly agreed.
"First, why would someone leave this much space between the rooms and the wall of a structure?" Shawn questioned fighting against the hostile energy that was surrounding her.
"They wouldn't," Delia confirmed as Shawn approached the front door. "Not then, and certainly not now."
"Do you think whoever drew this plan built this house?" Shawn pressed while reaching for the doorknob. She jerked her hand back when she felt an eerily cold gust of wind assaulting her.
"No," Delia confirmed as all eyes watched Shawn grasping the doorknob.
Shawn's body was filled with ire when the door refused to open. "Come on you bastard you can't keep us out forever," she hissed pressing harder against the door.
"Well this is getting us nowhere fast," Faith concluded after almost everyone took turns trying to break into the house. She glanced over at Delia St. James who was supporting a mildly amused look. "What?"
"If he doesn't want you to get in you won't," she sighed.
"Fine," Faith sneered with disgusted. "Any suggestions? It is cold, dark and, by the way someone is watching us from the upstairs window."
All heads jerked up gasping as they spied the shadowy image looming in one of the upstairs windows. "It isn't reading on film," Jasper growled tapping his camera in an effort to make it function properly.
"Of course not," Jimmy stammered. "It is just a trick of the light."
"What light?" Faith taunted him. "We have the only lights; there is no power in the house except for the cables the film crew ran through. Tell me you don't see her?"
They were standing toe to toe both of their faces turning red. "A pissing contest goodie," Shawn intervened slipping between the two of them. "Not going to help. Unless we can get inside this project is over."
"Don't even say that," Althea whimpered.
"Dr. Kapoor?" Shawn carefully began feeling slightly queasy. "I noticed you didn't try to help us. He's afraid of you, care to tell us why?"
"No," Rishi hedged as all eyes studied him. "Fine. There was a rumor in my family that we might be his descendents."
"I've heard that he had fathered children overseas," Delia piped in. "No one ever proved it. You matched the DNA didn't you?" She added brightly.
"Yes," Rishi nodded in response. "Yours, your brother's and your mother's and my own."
"And we're related?" Delia concluded with a warm smile.
"No question about it," Rishi confirmed blowing out a heavy sigh. "I am a living and breathing reminder of the Captain's dirty little secret."
"Not his only one," Shawn concluded. "The Captain had many secrets that would have led to his fall from grace. Granted in this day and age it isn't a big deal," she added noting the hurt look on Carey's face. "Still he isn't living in this century. Would you do me a favor and try to open the door?"
"I don't know what good it would do," he muttered moving his small body closer to the front door. Everyone was stunned when he turned the knob and the door easily swung open. "I don't understand," he gasped looking down at his own hand surprised how easily the door opened after so many people had tried to force it open.
"He's afraid of you," Shawn concluded. "Less and less with each passing moment, but for now we can get inside."
"Okay who is ready to go back into the funhouse?" Faith teased in an effort to lighten the mood only to have her efforts greeted by a collective stare. "Fine none of us want to go inside but we have to. Shawn where to?"
"Roll cameras," Althea instructed as the group huddled together and timidly entered the strange manor.
"Anna's bedroom," Shawn explained. "It is the safest room in the house, plus I want to see this closet."
Suddenly the lights blinked on forcing everyone to freeze. "I thought the power was off?" Jimmy scoffed.
"It is," Delia confirmed much to Jimmy's annoyance. "If we ever get out of here you can check with the power company."
Shawn smirked over at Jimmy as she finally began to ascend the staircase. Kyle followed closely behind her with his camera while Jasper followed the rest of the entourage. The front door slammed shut, the temperature suddenly dropped, and once again feet stopped moving forward as a group of nervous eyes darted around the empty house.
Shawn pinched the bridge of her nose, jumbled images invading her thoughts, doors opening and closing still nothing made sense. She continued climbing the staircase. In her mind she saw the Captain's return, and Catherine grabbing the gun. She had seen this before still nothing lead to the violent events of the following morning.
Shawn coughed out a small laugh upon entering Anna's bedroom the fire burning in the fireplace. "It is like they are waiting for us again," Faith noted absently. "Hey Jimbo got an explanation for this?"
Delia snickered along with the others as she stepped into the room and ran her hand along the wall. She pressed down opening the closet before stepping aside allowing Shawn and the other's to look inside. Shawn ignored the closet her focus locked on the wall.
"I have something to show you," she echoed the words invading her thoughts. "Hurry he's returned," she prattled on trying to grasp the words and images. "What trickery is this," she continued running her hands along the wall until she felt it. Her breathing grew labored as she felt the very small indentation that had gone unnoticed for almost a century. "This is the only room we could have found it," she concluded knowing that the Captain, for whatever reason, was unable to enter the bedroom. She pressed nothing happened. Pressing harder her body trembled as she felt the latch finally giving way.
"What the hell is that?" Delia sputtered when the heavy door finally swung open revealing a brick wall.
"A brick wall," Faith quipped bringing a small smile to Shawn's lips.
"A poorly built one at that," Delia conceded. "A back staircase built for a home that would house servants. Only the great Captain Stratton didn't want his help living in his house. I often wondered if the room Catherine lived in was built for a maid. This explains the gap in the wall. It probably runs the height of the manor and was designed and constructed before the Captain saw the plans if he ever bothered to look at them. The second architect probably tried to hide it hoping that the Captain wouldn't find it until after he had been paid."
"He didn't look at the plans," Shawn explained. "He commissioned the construction before he married. Upon learning that the Captain was opposed to servants roaming freely in his home he hid the stairwell as best he could. The original builder had done such a good job creating the hidden doorways it was easy. Imagine being alone night after night your husband away at sea, Anna explored her home and found this quite by accident."
"Fine so the second builder bricked up the wall." Jimmy grumbled. "And this means what?"
"This wall wasn't constructed by a craftsman," Delia snapped. "The work is sloppy. The person who slapped this together had no skills what so ever. They probably never built anything before this."
"Built by a madman late at night in an effort to hide his sins," Shawn brushed back the tears. "What trickery is this? That is what he said when he was spying on his sister that night. The room was empty, he stepped out the door to her room when he saw her slipping into her room from the hidden doorway. That is why he was spying on them in the kitchen the following morning. He saw the caresses and he knew. With complete calm he ducked out to the woodshed got the axe and murdered the both of them. You need to call the police. Tell them to ignore the doors in Catherine's room and the one in the corridor just outside of this room."
"Oh my God," Delia gasped. "There is one in the kitchen?"
"Behind the pantry," Shawn whispered pained voices begging for her help. "Don't bother with your cell phone," she instructed Carey. "Won't work try calling from the van."
"In the meantime," Faith hissed. "Until the cops arrive anyone got a sledge hammer?"
"What do you have in mind?" Althea questioned.
"Are you sure about this?" Althea sputtered half an hour later. "The police are on their way."
"Let them start with the kitchen," Faith growled holding the large sledgehammer Andrew St. James had handed her. Delia called her brother to bring tools while Carey called the local authorities. Althea quickly went about setting up cameras in both rooms. "That is where I'd start if I wasn't such a chicken shit about that room."
"Not to mention it is a crime scene," Carey grunted. "Wait for them."
"They have waited long enough," Faith argued feeling a sense of urgency. "This is the only room where he can't stop us."
"Rishi and I will be downstairs with the troopers," Carey agreed. "See you on the other side."
She paused when the entire house seemed to shudder. "I hope," Carey added under her breath.
"Me too," Faith concurred. "Ready?" She directed towards the St. James siblings each holding a large sledgehammer.
"All my life," Andrew asserted. "Let's do it."
"Shawn?" Faith questioned her lover who was looking on from the fireplace.
"You're safe," Shawn reassured her. "I don't know what will happen when you break through, but for now Anna and Catherine are right here watching. They want you do this."
"Tell them it is my pleasure," Faith beamed as Delia delivered the first blow forcing the wall to start crumbling.
"Yeah, crappy workmanship," she beamed as the three of them began tearing into the wall.
Shawn held her breath watching the wall crumbling. Anna and Catherine lingered in the corner silently urging the trio on. From below she could hear the sounds of the police hammering away. She spied another figure lurking outside of the room a dark angry force hissing as the wall fell. She rubbed the bracelet on her wrist as the cool silver warmed. "That's it," Delia announced the trio brushing dust and debris from their bodies while Jasper filmed the scene.
"Unbelievable," Jimmy whispered. "How did you know?"
"They told me," Shawn flatly responded stepping closer grabbing a flashlight.
"Who wants to go first?" Andrew squeaked out his face turning ashen as he glanced into the dark void.
"As eager as I am to find the truth," Delia slowly began. "I'm not thrilled with stepping in there."
"I'll go," Faith volunteered.
"I'm right beside you," Shawn added.
They stepped into the darkness an icy wind assaulting them as they fumbled inside the long forgotten stairwell. "Up is Catherine's room," Shawn explained as she tried to adjust her senses to the dim lighting. "That way is the corridor and down is," her voice trailed off. Her stomach became queasy images of blood dripping from the kitchen walls bombarded her. "God I can smell their blood," she choked out her body relaxing slightly from the feel of Faith's hand resting against the small of her back.
"You don't," Faith tenderly began.
"Yes I do," she blew out her voice quivering as she pushed forward. "From the sounds of it they haven't broken through the downstairs yet. It was so easy for him the only person who knew about the door was dead."
She could see it happening; the axe swinging their limp remains being tucked into the wall and Horatio bricking it up later that night. She pushed past the cobwebs as they began their descent. Guided only by the light from their flashlights and Jasper's camera they stumbled downward clinging to the wall and one another. Suddenly the stairwell was flooded with light the police finally breaking through the lower wall.
Shawn choked back her tears at the horrific sight of shattered bones covered by withering cloth. "Bastard," she whispered unable to look away.
"All this time," Delia sadly stated.
"Hold up," Carey called up from the entrance in the kitchen. "We need to process the scene."
"Knock yourself out," Faith blurted out. "I've seen enough."
"Jasper?" Shawn looked over her shoulder at the shaking man. "Can you finish filming?"
"I got it," he gulped.
The rest of them squeezed back up through the stairwell. Covered with dust and cobwebs they quickly stepped back into the bedroom. "The fire is out," Faith noted wrapping her hand around Shawn's shoulders. "Are they gone?"
Shawn smiled at the sounds of laughter that only she could hear. "No," she smiled brighter. "Come with me?" She invited the others taking Faith by the hand. They stood at the top of the staircase. Shawn's gaze fixed on the foyer.
"What is it?" Delia pressed.
"Your grandfather," Shawn explained looking down at the man standing by the front door. "He is waiting for them." Anna and Catherine lingered on the staircase. "Go to him," she quietly urged the women. The others blinked for a moment catching a glimpse of something they couldn't explain. The image passed so quickly all but Faith dismissed it as nothing. Shawn was the only one who saw them gliding down greeting Richard. The others jumped back when the door opened then slowly closed. Shawn was the only one who smiled. "Now they are gone," she sighed happily.
"Are they at peace?" Delia questioned later as they huddled in the foyer.
"Not yet," Shawn tried to explain. "Soon. After the police finish and your family can finally give them a proper burial then they will finally rest in peace."
"And him?" Andrew questioned eagerly.
"They tormented him before he died," Shawn slowly began. "Once he joined them in death he eagerly returned the favor. He isn't as strong as he was revealing his crimes have taken some of the wind out of his sails. He'll never leave, but perhaps Whispering Pines can finally be utilized. I can't guarantee that."
"Really?" Faith beamed. "Wait here."
"Faith, I wouldn't," Shawn called after the energetic brunette who was already sprinting towards the kitchen. "Fine," she sighed waiting for Faith's hasty return, which occurred a few short moments later.
"Fuck that," Faith snarled as she bolted back into the foyer.
"I know you wanted to tell him off for slapping you," Shawn laughed. "He is still evil and that doesn't change not in death and not by outing him as a murderer. He might be weaker, but he is still an evil son of a bitch, and nothing will ever change that."
New York City, December 2003
"I swear I will never get used to that," Carey commented as she watched the ornaments on the Christmas tree moving.
"Willie just likes to play," Shawn laughed while typing away on her computer. "I think that is it."
"So do I get a copy of this book?" Carey laughed.
"But of course," Shawn smirked. "Since we'll be working together more often."
"Is Althea still pissed you signed that deal with Court TV?" Carey smirked.
"Yes," Shawn grumbled. "Not much choice as your department has a better relationship with them than with Sunny Hill. I've agreed to still work with Althea just not as much. I prefer staying closer to home these days."
"Fancy that," Carey smiled. "How is my sister? I haven't seen her since the St. James family invited us to the funeral for Anna and Catherine."
"Busy," Shawn responded. "But enjoying not traveling as much either. She should be back soon; she's trying to find a Christmas gift for me. Bless her heart she is trying to surprise me with something."
"That must be a little futile with you," Carey noted.
"A definite downside to my gift," Shawn laughed.
"So you know what she is getting you?" Carey questioned.
"Yes," Shawn smiled. "She hasn't bought it yet, but I know. She's almost here. I'm glad that the two of you are getting along."
"Me too," Carey agreed. "A lot of wasted years we still aren't there yet."
"You're sisters you will always have your squabbles," Shawn informed her as she shut down her computer. "Speak of the devil."
"It is as cold as a well diggers arse out there," Faith announced as she stormed into the apartment. "Shopping for you is a bitch."
"My parents would agree," Shawn nodded thoughtfully. "Coffee?"
"Absolutely," Faith readily accepted as she slipped off her coat. "Hey Jess."
"Hi Faith," Carey smiled in response.
"Did you kids finish your homework?" Faith teased.
"Yes," Carey chuckled. "I just finished going over all of the crime labs findings and the final police report. Surprise, the bodies we discovered were that of Anna and Catherine Stratton and, yes, they met with foul play. The case is officially closed. It just sucks Horatio never stood trial."
"No kidding," Faith sighed as Shawn handed her a cup of hot coffee.
"He is in his own hell," Shawn offered. "Trapped at Whispering Pines his name always proceeded by the word murderer. His victims are at peace and he remains a tortured soul."
"He got off easy," the siblings snarled in unison.
"Hate to do this but I have to get going," Carey reluctantly stated. "I have to work tonight."
"I see Willie has been decorating again," Faith noted after Carey made her departure. "She isn't working tonight is she?"
"No," Shawn laughed as she curled up next to her lover. "She has a date. Rishi they've been together since Whispering Pines."
"And I thought it was us who made all that noise," Faith snickered.
"It was," Shawn blushed. "They switched rooms because of it. Frankly it grossed Carey out."
"Understandable," Faith cringed.
Shawn glanced over at her lover with a knowing smile. "What?" Faith playfully questioned.
"I think it is a good idea," Shawn smirked.
"Not fair," Faith laughed. "Okay so what is a good idea?"
"Leaving Willie out here to play with the tree while we slip into the bedroom," Shawn repeated her lover's errant thoughts.
"Hmm," Faith smiled as she stood taking her lover by the hand. "I'm glad you like the way I think."
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