W. R. Haley
For disclaimers see Part 1
Feedback: Is welcomed and appreciated. Any constructive criticism will be embraced. I can be contacted at Ghstwrtr8@aol.com Please enjoy!
Autumn called Annie late Saturday afternoon and told her to clear her calendar for the next week. She decided that since Stephanie’s friend was coming to try to help them she would take the week off to be there. After she hung up she looked at the blonde woman who slept on the pull out couch in the small guesthouse.
After Stephanie had calmed down Autumn took her home. She decided that they would not stay at her house until Colin got there. She felt they both needed a good nights sleep. The incident at the lake had frightened Autumn. It was one thing to hear footsteps and banging on the walls, but it was another to almost lose Stephanie. The other woman was too important to her to lose now. She went over to the bed and gently brushed back a lock of Stephanie’s short blonde hair.
“I love you Stephanie, and I’m not going to let anything hurt you,” she whispered. A soft knock on the door called her attention. Opening it she found Michael.
“Hey, how is she?” he asked softly. Autumn stepped outside and closed the door, leaving it open just a crack.
“Okay. She’s pretty shaky right now.”
“I’ll bet. Is there anything I can do?”
“Yeah, can you stay here with her? I need to go to the house and get some clothes and things. I also want to check the barn again.”
“Sure,” Michael agreed. “What are you looking in the barn for?”
“Annie thinks Jane’s journal may still be at the house. There is a bunch of stuff in the barn, so I am hoping Jane’s papers will be there. Stephanie thinks that Jane’s spirit can’t depart because her killer was never brought to justice. She thinks there may be a clue to his identity in Jane’s things.”
“Autumn that happened almost 60 years ago. Whoever killed her is dead!” Michael pointed out.
“Probably. But Stephanie thinks it’s important. She thinks that if we have the information maybe her friend Colin can help Jane depart,” the two shared a look, each not sure if they should believe it.
“How long will you be gone?” Michael finally asked.
“Not long, I’ll probably be back before she wakes up.”
* * *
Autumn had made her way deeper into the barn, making a second aisle. There were a few more boxes between her and the back wall. She hoped that one of the remaining boxes would contain what she wanted. Autumn looked at her watch. She had been searching for the last two hours and was anxious to get back to Stephanie. She moved a box revealing underneath it a locked trunk.
Autumn managed to pry open the trunk and looked inside. On the top were some carefully folded linens. Autumn moved those aside, beneath them were some hardback books. She took them out of the trunk and stacked them to the side. With a cry of triumph she saw some envelopes bound with a ribbon. There were five or six bundles and under the bundles was a leather bound book. After a quick examination of the brittle, yellowed pages, she realized it was Jane’s journal. Autumn pulled them out and looked through the rest of the contents in the trunk. There was a music box and a jewelry box with nothing in it, a few framed faded photographs, one of Jane and a man and a woman, presumably her parents, one of the house and one of Jane and Allison on a blanket under a tree sharing a picnic lunch. The two were smiling at the camera and looked very happy. Autumn felt a pang of sadness for the two women. The trunk also contained a few other knick-knacks. She quickly repacked the trunk and shut the lid. Smiling slightly she gathered up the letters, the journal and the photograph of Jane and Allison.
Stephanie was awake and talking with Michael when Autumn returned. She quickly kissed Stephanie and sat down next to her on the couch.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, brushing a lock of Stephanie’s hair out of her eyes. Stephanie captured her hand and placed a small kiss on her palm.
“Better,” she answered, her eyes though were still a little haunted. She saw the bundles in Autumn’s hands. “Did you find them?” she asked. Autumn’s eyes lit up.
“Yes, I found them in a trunk in the back of the barn,” Autumn set the bundles down between them.
She handed Stephanie the photograph of the two women. Stephanie looked at it and looked at Autumn before handing it to Michael; he did the same, each surprised at the resemblance between Allison and Autumn.
“There are some letters and here is Jane’s journal. Do you feel up to looking through them?” she asked both Michael and Stephanie.
“Yes, let’s see if we can figure out what is going on.” Autumn nodded and handed each of them a bundle of letters while she herself kept the journal. The three of them settled down and began reading.
“I think that Jane and Allison were lovers,” Autumn said sometime later.
“I think you are right, I have some of Allison’s letters and they seem awfully friendly,” Michael agreed.
“What does the journal say Autumn?” Stephanie asked setting down the letter she was reading.
“June 10, 1923,”Autumn began. “I have just had the most delightful surprise. Little Allison Richter has just paid me a visit. She is hardly the little girl that had gone away to school those many months ago. Allison has grown into a beautiful woman of nineteen years. We had a wonderful visit, catching up on the events of our lives. She quite literally took my breath away. She is going to come by tomorrow and we are going to go for a walk around the lake. I can hardly wait.”
“June 18, 1923, I have been much too busy to write my thoughts lately, but I find I must sit and put them down. I am very confused and my thoughts are scattered. But one thing is very clear to me; Allison Richter is the most beautiful of women. The sight of her takes my breath away. I long to talk to her, to touch her, to hear her laughter as it bubbles forth. Her smile lightens the day like a fresh ray of sunshine. I find myself counting the hours until I can see her again. I long for our quiet walks when we link arms and walk hip to hip along the banks of my lake. My heart pounds in my chest when she leans closer to me, her bosom pressing into my arm. I am sure she can hear my heart. If she does, she does nothing more than smile at me, her eyes warm, her smile secretive as if she knows something I do not. No one has ever made me feel like this. I like the feeling but I am full of trepidation. I am afraid this is but a figment of my imagination and these thoughts and feelings are not real. Oh, what would I do if I awoke to find that her presence did not bring me such joy? I find that her mere presence is as necessary to me as air. I know that is trite but nonetheless true. Is this what love feels like? Does love make you feel that every moment away is torture? Is it love to think of her first? To want to share even the smallest detail of my day with her? I think I am in love. In love, how strange that sounds. I never thought I would be in love. In love, how strange that sounds to my ears. In love with little Allison Richter.”
“Wow,” whispered Michael.
“What else does it say?” Stephanie asked moving closer to Autumn, curious about Jane’s thoughts. Autumn smiled and kissed the top of her head before going back to the journal.
“July 25, 1923, I have not felt like writing lately. My thoughts have not been pleasant. Or to say they have been pleasant but I have been too much of a coward to put them down. If I put them down then that will make them more tangible and real. And if they are not real I ask? Well then I would be cast into a despair so complete I may never come out. They have to be real. If they aren’t than I shall be lost. What would I have to look forward to? My thoughts of course have been on Allison Richter. The very mention of her name makes me smile. Her name conjures up visions of her sitting on a blanket nibbling on a piece of cheese, laughing at some wry observation I have made. I say it just to make her laugh, for when she laughs she is the most exquisite creature I have ever seen. So I say outrageous things to make her laugh, just so my heart can stop in my chest for long moments at a time.
“I am drawn to her. She pulls me ever closer to her. I am a fly caught in her web. She doesn’t even realize she has bewitched me. Or maybe she does know what she does to me. Is it too much to hope for that she may actually return my feelings? Could she feel the same? Could she love me? Oh the very thought causes my head to spin. What would I do? Why, I would rejoice to the Heavens, for surely God and His angels would be shining on me.”
“How romantic,” sighed Stephanie. “She must really have loved Allison.”
“Sounds like it,” Michael agreed. “Read on, Season, we want more!” he laughed. Autumn chuckled and turned back to the journal.
“July 30, 1923 Allison came for supper tonight. We lingered over our meal. Neither of us wanted to leave. Business has kept me from spending time with her. She does not seem to mind, but I do. Every moment I am away from her is torture. My life only has meaning in her presence. Everything else is irrelevant. Only Allison and the time we spend together is real.
“I think she may feel the same. My heart stops as I write this. My dream coming true! Lately I have noticed her touch lingering. Her eyes have watched me, a strange fire burning in their depths. Is that the same fire that burns in mine when I look at her? She has found many excuses to come by my home at odd hours. We have begun to breakfast together and take early morning walks along my lake. I believe she loves Harbour House and its surroundings as much as I. Can I dare to hope?”
“August 10, 1923, Being with Allison has become unbearable. When I am with her my heart aches to touch her, to feel her. I long to take her in my arms and press my lips to hers. To press by bosom into hers, to make her feel like she would die from wanting me. I know that society would condemn me for these feelings. Is that why I wish to distance myself from her? Am I afraid of what others would think of us? Is my good name worth never being with the one I love? Sometimes the answers to these questions frighten me; they keep me awake into the early morning hours. My reflection haunts me as the answers swirl in my mind. They shout at me in the secret recesses of my soul, taunting me with more questions and answers I wish not to hear.
“So I stay away. I let others come between us. I pretend not to notice her pain as I selfishly remove myself from her company. She doesn’t say anything but I can tell that she doesn’t understand. She thinks she has done something to displease me and I ache with despair. I long to fall to my knees and bare my soul to her. Her pain cuts through me like a knife. My soul bleeds for her. I must find the answers I seek. I must search my soul and decide if her nearness, her friendship, her friendly love is enough for me. I must decide soon as her suffering silence is breaking my heart.”
“August 20, 1923, Allison’s brother Robert has returned. A more odious man I have never met. Allison brought him with her for our luncheon today. Or rather, he invited himself to our luncheon, following Allison to my home. He is very arrogant and I detect a cruelty to him that I feel will be directed at Allison. I cannot explain my trepidation, only that I do not trust him. I fear his presence here does not bode well for her.
“As for Allison, the light in her smile was missing today and I realized how much I look forward to her smiles. Allison was strangely subdued. She rarely spoke unless a direct question was asked of her. She kept her eyes downcast. Her manners were very ladylike and impeccable. Not that they were not always, but today even more so. The freedom we enjoyed with each other was missing. I have discovered that is yet another thing I have missed. We were unable to speak privately as Robert made no attempt to leave. They left right after luncheon, Allison trailing behind Robert as they walked toward home. I fear that my carefree Allison is lost to me. How ironic. Just when I have the answers to the questions that have plagued me, she is lost to me.”
“August 21, 1923, Robert Richter came by this evening. He was alone, and I could tell he had been drinking. His breath was foul with whiskey. I had no choice but to invite him in and offer the hospitality of my home. He stayed but an hour and spoke of things I had no interest in, such as his plans for a business and his dealings with the businessmen of Mason. I sat of course politely and nodded in the appropriate places. All the while I was wishing he would leave. Finally he did take his leave and I walked him to the door. He looked at me his eyes bright, a smirk on his face. He smiled as if he had a secret that he thought I would find amusing. Robert bid me goodnight and left. After locking the door I hoped he would notice I did not invite him to come again. Hopefully he will take the hint.”
“August 26, 1923, Robert has come by each evening. I think he is courting me! How unbearable is that? He has not mentioned his intentions and I hope he does not. Allison has once again returned to our routine. We have breakfast in the mornings together and lunch in the afternoons. We take long walks or we sit on the porch and talk while knitting or sewing. Her exquisite presence is once more a balm to my soul. I have noticed that she is looking at me again; her eyes no longer are downcast. But there is something different in her manner. There is sadness in her eyes that was never there before. There is bleakness, a hopelessness in them that frightens me. She quickly masks it but I know that it is there. I have asked her what is troubling her and she denies anything is wrong. But I know she is lying. I long to take her in my arms and make what ever is hurting her go away, but she will not let me in.”
“September 1, 1923, I could wait no longer. My feelings can no longer be denied. I have told Allison how I felt. My pronouncement was met with silence. A soul shattering silence. My heart was breaking as she sat there and said not a word. Tears filled her eyes and she dropped her head into her hands, great sobs were wrenched from her. I fell to my knees in front of her in despair that I had caused such a great pain in my beloved. She did not say a word for many long moments. I was afraid that she would never speak to me. When she did it caused me to hope.
“You can’t love me,” she said tears streaming down her face. “I am not worthy of your love my dearest Jane.”
“But I do love you Allison, more than words can say. My love for you is the reason I am alive,” I insisted. I took her hands in mine and forced her look into my eyes so that she may see the truth in them. “You give me meaning, my love; everything that I am is because of you.”
“No Jane, I am tainted,” she sobbed.
“Allison, can you love me?” I asked afraid of the answer. She looked up horrified.
“Yes! How can you ask that? Don’t you know how much I love you? Can you not tell? I have been dying for loving you my dearest Jane.” My heart soared at these words.
“Then nothing else matters my love. All that matters is the love we share.”
“You do not understand Jane,” her tears came heavily. She fell into my arms and I held her as she cried like a brokenhearted child. Tears came to my own eyes and I held her. Slowly her story came out. My heart hardened and anger infused me. Not at her, but at Robert. That vile and insidious creature! Hatred ignited in my soul. If I were a man I would kill him. As it is I can only hold my true love as she cries for the innocence that was taken from her.”
“Oh my God!” Stephanie cried. “Do you think that pig of a brother raped her?”
“I think so. Annie said that there had been talk of Robert liking Allison a little too much,” Autumn told them.
“That’s sick. What happened next?” Michael demanded.
“Can I at least have something to drink first?” Autumn asked with a smile. Michael jumped up and got a bottle of water from the refrigerator. Autumn took it and drank deeply before setting it aside. The other two waited patiently for Autumn to continue.
“September 4, 1923, Robert came again this evening. It was all I could do to be polite to him. My anger threatened to consume me. Allison had made me promise that I would stay away from the situation, but it is hard. I look at his evil smirk and I want to kill him. It angers and saddens me that Robert has this perversion. That his evil foulness is free to pollute the air we breathe is an affront to decency. I am so worried for my sweet Allison. She insists that she can bring the situation to an end. I fear that she is saying this for my benefit.
“My father and his friends had whispered about the Richter’s. I wonder now if this perversion is a family affliction. I shudder to think of the women of her family that had to bear this burden. If society frowns upon my love for Allison, then they should condemn his perversion. But I fear that if the truth of our love were known that we would be the pariahs while he would be looked on as a redeemable soul. It is hard for me to reconcile with that fact. So here I sit, pretending not to know his vile nature, all the while my flesh curls at the thought of his touch. But I also take some comfort in the fact that if he is here he is not there, touching Allison. For that I will endure anything.”
“September 6, 1923, Allison and I are free! Robert is leaving in the morning on business. He will be away for weeks! I am ecstatic as it means we will not have to put on a brave face. I will not have to hide my loathing. I am planning an evening alone with Allison. I am unsure as to how to approach her. We have sworn our love for each other but I wish to move forward in the physical sense. Even though my body yearns to touch hers, I am unversed in the ways of physical love between two people, much less two women. I am afraid. But I am more afraid of not trying than I am of anything else. Maybe what my mind does not know, my body does.”
“September 8, 1923, Are the stars brighter? Is the world different tonight? It is! I know it is. For I have been to Heaven. And Heaven is in a woman’s arms. Heaven is Allison’s embrace. Last night my life began, everything else leading up to that moment was nothing more than a prologue. Where do I start? Do I start at dinner, where we lingered? Where our eyes were caught up in each other? Where we could not look away from the heat. Or maybe where our fingers would lightly touch. Or do I start at the moment my eyes gazed at the perfection that is my sweet Allison?
“Our first embrace was chaste almost sisterly, but there was nothing sisterly about our intentions. My fears about how Allison would react were unfounded as it was her suggestion that she stay, broached during supper. My heart stopped and I think I forgot to breathe. I wanted to end the meal right then but by sheer willpower I managed to get through the rest of the evening.
“After our meal we retired to my bedroom. I will never be able to look at that room the same again. It is where I burst forth from the womb. My hands trembled as I gently released her hair from its binds. It fell to cascade down her back. The curls sprang to life under my fingers as I ran them through her hair. Her eyes were warm as she watched my delight. She had a womanly smile on her lips, a smile so full of promise that my mouth went dry. I was rooted to the spot, my limbs refused to obey. I could only watch as Allison moved closer to me. We were so close that I felt her breath tickle my cheek. Our bodies were mere inches from each other. Her heat seared into me causing my heart to pound in my chest. I knew I was going to die, and I was not afraid, for if death took me then I would die complete, for Heaven could be no greater than her smile.
“Allison, my sweet young Allison took me in her arms. She was no longer the young girl I tried to convince myself she was. She kissed me then. And in that instant I knew why the Creator had given us lips. Her mouth moved silkily over mine, drinking my soul. A riot of colors burst behind my eyelids. My hands gripped her shoulders crushing her to me. Allison pulled back slightly and placed soft kisses on my lips, my chin, my eyes, moving along my jaw before coming back to my lips as if a bee to honey. Her tongue moved along my lips asking for entrance. She moaned, my lips parted. Her tongue snaked into my mouth, touching, tasting, and filling me with such desire. I became frenzied as I pulled her ever close. I suddenly could not get close enough.
“She stepped away and chuckled. My pulse raced at the husky, womanly sound of it. Wide eyed I watched as she deftly undressed me. I stood exposed to her eyes, all I have to offer bare before her. She smiled and gently stroked my cheek. My breath came in rough gasps as she in turn divested herself of her clothing. My knees grew weak and I fear I may have fallen at the sight of her pale womanly flesh. Her hair fell over her shoulders, gently grazing the tops of her breasts. They were full and my hands ached to touch them. Her womanhood was hidden under dark curls. She stood before me as Venus and I was lost. I knew then that I would do whatever she required of me just to gaze upon her loveliness.
“Allison took my hand and pulled my toward my bed. I fear I would never have found it if she had not lead me to it, so lost was I. She lay me down on the coverlet and looked down at me. Her eyes devoured me. I was a visual feast. She braced herself over me looking down at me, her eyes pinning me to the bed. She silently asked my permission. My lips were dry; I wet them with my tongue, I watched as her eyes watched my tongue’s journey. With a groan she lowered herself onto me and my breath was torn from my lungs at the first touch of her flesh on mine.
“Her mouth ravaged mine, taking from me her pleasure. Her fingers twisted in my hair pulling my mouth closer taking everything I had to offer. She moved from my mouth and tasted my throat, my chest, moving to my breasts. Her mouth suckled me and I cupped her head wishing nothing more than for her to stay right there. She moved ever downward. My breath was nothing more than ragged gasps. My body was no longer my own. It belonged to this slight girl who knew just where and how to touch me. I heard a voice begging, it was a moment before I realized it was my own. Her mouth moved to touch my womanhood. I was suspended in a moment of utter stillness, as my flesh grew accustomed to her touch. My hips then began to move of their own violation. My body strove for a release I could not name. Allison’s hands held me to her, laying me open for her tongue, her lips. A cry was torn from me as I felt my release ripped from me. I fell over a precipice of desire, of feeling. Allison held me there, catching me as I fell. My eyes were wide and unseeing as my body shook uncontrollably, her tongue lapped up my desire sending more shockwaves through me. Finally my breathing grew steady and I regained feeling throughout my body. Yet my center still throbbed and I wanted nothing more than to experience that feeling again. Suddenly I was filled with joy and laughter burst from me. I could not help it, I laughed so hard tears came to my eyes. Allison, chuckling softly moved up to hold me and I held onto her with everything I am. Once I regained control I pushed her down and began to show her how much I loved her. I was right. My body did know what to do.”
“Jane certainly knew how to turn a phrase!” Autumn said putting the journal down. She took another drink of water.
“Is it hot in here?” Stephanie fanned herself, grinning at Autumn.
“None of that now!” teased Michael. “I guess Allison knew what she was doing.”
“I think it’s terribly romantic,” sighed Stephanie. “It’s so tragic though. A few months later they were both dead.”
“I wonder how Allison felt,” mused Autumn flipping through the pages of the journal. Michael shuffled the letters in his stack.
“I think I can shed some light on that,” he said.
“My dearest Jane,” he read.
“Can you ever forgive me for wasting so much time? All day long visions of your lush body, lying before me, inviting me to taste your essence have been before my eyes. I never thought it could be possible to love anyone as much as I love you. My heart could just burst. I swear the sun is shining today for the first time. And for the first time in a long time I am looking forward to the future, a future that you have give me, my love. I will spend my lifetime thanking you for your gift to me, and a lifetime and more loving you. I must go for now my love. I will see you soon.
All my love always,
“So she felt the same,” Stephanie said as Michael lowered the letter. He picked up another one.
“I’ll say she did, listen to this one.”
“My dearest Jane,
I miss you ever so much. The days are long without you, the nights longer. Oh, when can we be together always? Robert was here earlier. I shudder at his touch. His roughness is nothing compared to your gentle sweetness. But enough of such horrid thoughts. Do you have any idea how much I love you? How my heart skips a beat at the sight of your precious face? How my world comes to a stop until you tell me you love me as well. I can bear anything as long as I have your love. Jane, I cannot bear to be apart from you. We must find a way to be together always or my life will end. To spend my lifetime away from you surely would be Hell. I must go now my love. I will see you soon. Miss me as much as I miss you.
All my love always,
“They were so much in love,” Stephanie said wistfully.
“It’s so sad they did not have much time together,” Michael shook his head and put the letter down. “As romantic as this is it doesn’t really tell us who killed Jane.”
“I think this might give us a hint,” Autumn said her eyes on the journal in her hand.
“April 15, 1924, Robert was just here angry and drunk as usual. I can no longer pretend. His vileness and perversion has tainted our lives long enough. I had to stop myself from confronting him. But now is not the time. Allison and I have plans. We just need a little more time. In a few days we will be gone from here. Far enough away that he will never find us. Just a few more days of pretending and then our lives will be our own. We will wake up each morning in each other’s arms and fall asleep wrapped up in each other. My life will then be complete. Our plans are almost complete. I will sleep tonight with dreams of Allison and our future together.”
“April 17, 1924, Robert just left. I am in a state of shock. He threatened Allison and I. Somehow he knows of our love. He says he has my letters to her. I have to think. Robert frightens me with his anger and with his perverted lust for Allison. He has continued to press his suit to me when I have told him that I would not marry him.
“I am afraid that he may hurt Allison. I could not bear that. Our plans are complete. We leave in two days. In two days our lives will start. He will never find us. I have purchased tickets to New York and from there we will travel to London where we will make a life together.
“Robert has insisted I marry him or else he will expose Allison and I. Allison, I know, would die of embarrassment if our situation were to become known in such a manner. But I refuse to give in to him. To spend a lifetime with his twisted, tormented soul would be a death sentence.
“His anger is so intense. It is almost palpable. I hope he does nothing rash. I am not afraid for myself, but for my Allison. In two days I keep reminding myself, we will be away from his anger, his lust and his madness.
“I spoke with Allison earlier today about our plans. In two days she will steal away from her home after everyone is asleep. She will be here sometime after midnight. She has been bringing over a few items that she cannot be parted with and my trunks are packed. We will buy everything else we need in New York before heading to London. We are as ready as we can be. I can hardly sleep for nervousness. Everything is so close I can feel it. It is late, I feel better after having written this. Seeing our plan written down makes it more real, more tangible. When next I write here we will be in New York.”
It was silent after Autumn finished reading. The three sat quietly each lost in their own thoughts. Jane’s words hung in the air, surrounding them. Her anticipation was evident, her hope for their future laid bare in the journal. Stephanie felt tears threatening to fall from her eyes.
“When did she die?” Michael asked his voice hoarse with unshed tears. Autumn cleared her throat.
“April 19, 1924.”
Monday was gray and overcast, matching Autumn’s mood. They had spent Sunday reading all of the letters and Jane’s journal. Autumn’s heart ached for the two lovers. She could only imagine their joy and then the despair each felt as they realized that their dreams were destroyed, all at the hands of Allison’s brother. There was no doubt in their minds that Robert Richter killed Jane.
“You know his family still lives here,” Michael said to the two women.
They were seated at Michael’s dining room table. Stephanie, despite still being a little pale showed no ill effects of her near drowning. Autumn’s eyes though still had dark circles and they held a haunted look.
“Really?” she asked. Michael nodded and took a sip of his coffee.
“They still have the family home behind yours. Granted they just own the lot and the house now. The rest of it had been sold off years ago.”
“Who lives there?” Stephanie questioned.
“If memory serves Robert’s wife and his grandson.”
“I think that’s who she is. She is very old, ninety or so I think. They married when she was about fifteen.”
“Bastard,” spat Autumn. The thought of a fifteen-year-old bride nauseated her.
“Back in those days Autumn it was acceptable to marry young,” Stephanie told her.
“He was still a bastard.”
“I agree!” Michael chimed in.
“So his wife and grandson still live there,” Autumn shook her head.
She could not imagine that they would have still wanted to show their faces in the town. Before Michael could answer a knock on the front door interrupted them. Autumn and Stephanie shared a glance. It was time.
* * *
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Colin,” Autumn said offering her hand to the tall slender woman.
Colin O’Shea was not what Autumn expected. She was tall and slender, with long chestnut brown hair that was tied back in a ponytail. Her hazel eyes burned with a fierce intelligence. Colin was about the same age as Autumn around 33, but her eyes looked much older, as if she had seen and done things that had aged her.
“Same here Autumn,” she replied, her voice low, softly modulated. She turned to the two people with her. One a short dark haired man, stocky, with friendly chocolate brown eyes and a woman with light brown hair and eyes who looked at those around her with a secretive smile as if she was laughing at a private joke. “This is Cookie,” she introduced pointing to the man, “And Megan. They are members of my team.”
“Cookie?” asked Michael amused. Cookie blushed and lowered his head.
“He has a fondness for chocolate chip cookies,” Megan answered her voice filled with good-natured teasing. “Besides, doesn’t he look that that Snackwell Cookie guy?”
“C’mon Megan,” he groaned and rolled his eyes.
“So Autumn, Steph tells me you have a problem,” Colin said turning to look back at the dark haired attorney. Her eyes bored into Autumn’s pinning her with their intense gaze.
“Yes, I think my house is haunted.”
“Can you tell me what kinds of things you have been experiencing without going into too much detail?”
“Sure,” Autumn related to her the things she had been experiencing since she had moved in.
Colin and Cookie both took notes while Megan went outside. Colin quickly explained that she didn’t want to hear anything that might inadvertently affect any readings she may get.
“So you “saw” the murder?” Colin asked interrupting Autumn. Her eyes grew even more intense and never left Autumn’s face.
“Yes, at first I thought I was having a particularly vivid dream until Stephanie saw it too.”
“When was the last time you saw it?”
“Friday night,” Stephanie answered. “That was the last night we stayed there.”
“Why?” Cookie asked. Stephanie related the incident at the lake. Colin looked startled at first before writing something down on the pad. She leaned back in her chair and looked between Autumn and Stephanie.
“Interesting,” was all that she said. “When can we go over there?”
“Whenever you like,” Autumn told her. Colin nodded and stood up, followed by Cookie. The others rose as well.
“The sooner the better.”
“Don’t you want to know who we think it is and why?” Stephanie asked.
“Not yet, I want us to get an impression first,” she looked at Autumn. “This could take some time.”
“Take all the time you need,” Autumn told her. Colin nodded again.
* * *
Autumn watched curiously as Colin and her two team members unpacked some equipment from their van. The talked quietly amongst themselves as they checked the equipment, putting in fresh batteries in the cameras and pocketing extras.
“Ready?” Colin asked Autumn shutting the back door of the van. Autumn nodded and led them toward the front door. “Okay, we are just going to walk around; you can follow us but please don’t say anything, if we have questions we will ask.”
“Okay,” Autumn agreed and unlocked the front door. She pushed it open and stepped inside. Autumn looked around for any sign of Jane’s displeasure. The living room looked as it did when they had left Saturday. She stepped aside and let Colin and the others enter.
Autumn followed them around as they moved through each room of the house. They talked quietly and pointed out things to each other. They found evidence of Jane’s temper tantrum in the kitchen. The cabinet doors were open and the contents strewn around the room and the sink was overflowing.
“It’s a hot spot,” Cookie said to Colin never looking up from the electromagnetic field detector in his hand.
He moved it around the room carefully. Colin nodded grimly. She told Autumn that the device he used was to monitor electromagnetic fields. Colin explained that spirits could sometimes manipulate the electromagnetic fields either by generating their own field or manipulating the natural field. Michael volunteered to stay behind and clean up the mess. Autumn smiled gratefully. The group moved into the living room, slowly walking through it.
The EMF detector Cookie carried made a lot of clicking noises at it moved over the rocking chair; he and Colin shared a look before he moved on. They spent a lot of time in the living room before moving down the hall. When they encountered the area where Autumn always felt the cold they moved through it a few times.
“It’s definitely a cold spot,” Colin muttered with a slight frown looking at the reading on the thermal scanner she held.
They moved through each of the bedrooms leaving Autumn’s bedroom for the last. Autumn stood in the doorway as they moved through the room. They spent a long time in there going over the room inch by inch, spending a lot of time in the area in front of Autumn’s bed and the window. Finally they seemed satisfied.
“Can we see the lake?” she asked. Nodding Autumn led them from the house and out toward the lake. They took more pictures and readings along the dock before they were satisfied. Colin looked up from the pad of paper she was writing on and her eyes found Autumn’s.
“Well?” Stephanie asked taking Autumn’s hand.
“There is some definite activity here,” Colin replied moving to stand in front of the two. She saw Michael making his way toward them from the house. “More activity than I thought would be here.”
“So what does that mean?” Autumn asked as Michael joined them.
“It means we stick around for a few days and see what we can do. Come on, let’s go back to the house and talk,” Colin answered.
The six of them moved away from the lake back toward the house. Behind them, unnoticed the water began to churn angrily as if something from the depths were trying to surface. Across the lake a man, hidden by the trees, stepped away before melting back into the trees to disappear from view.
The six of them settled themselves at Autumn’s dining room table. Autumn looked at Colin expectantly, hoping for some answer, some reassurances that this would all go away. Colin’s eyes were kind but offered nothing.
“Megan, why don’t you start,” she said turning to the woman to her left.
The brown haired woman held a hand to her forehead, her eyes closed and her head tilted back. She began to hum softly and rock back and forth. Autumn and Stephanie shared a surprised look.
“I see a glass,” she intoned. “A glass filled,” she paused. “A glass filled with liquid, it’s, it’s…” she paused dramatically. “It's filled with soda! And it’s sitting in front of me!” she collapsed with her head on the table. Autumn, Michael and Stephanie sat in stunned silence. Cookie snorted and Colin sighed.
“Megan, if you want something to drink just ask for it,” she said her voice resigned. “I’m sorry Autumn; this is just some of Megan’s humor.” The psychic sat up and laughed.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist,” she apologized. “But would it be possible to get something to drink before we start?” Stephanie and Autumn made quick work of getting drinks for them all.
“Megan,” Colin said to the woman. “And no humor,” she warned. The woman nodded and turned to Autumn all joking aside.
“I sense a presence here, a very sad, female presence. She lived here before she died and her family for sometime before that. She is very confused and upset right now. I think she died horribly here, in your bedroom. She is searching for something and she thinks she has found it but she is not so sure,” Megan finished before taking another sip of her drink. Colin looked at Autumn.
“So tell us the whole story now,” she told her. Autumn took a deep breath and gave them the complete story of Jane, Allison and Robert Richter.
“That makes sense,” Megan said nodding her head. “I felt another presence at the lake. It was probably Allison, but there was something odd about it though,” she frowned.
“Why odd Megan?” Colin asked.
“It didn’t seem old. It also seemed as if I was feeling the presence of somebody that was there with me,” She shook her head. “Maybe it was because I was so close to the water or something,” she dismissed it.
“Show them the picture Autumn,” Michael said.
Autumn looked at him before going to the table by the front door. She had set Jane’s journal, the letters and the photograph down when they had first entered. Autumn picked up the photograph, looking at it for a moment before rejoining the others. Silently she handed the picture to Colin. The chestnut haired woman looked at it, jerking her head up to look at Autumn in surprise. Colin handed the picture over to Cookie who whistled softly before handing it to Megan.
“Well, well well,” Megan muttered, putting the framed photograph down.
“We just recently found this,” Autumn told them. “I uh, I think Jane thinks I am Allison,” she said her eyes down on the table. She had not told anyone of the “dream” she had had of Stephanie making love to her. But after everything she realized she should. “And the reason I think that is because she has called me Allison. At Michael’s store and once at Stephanie’s.”
“At my house?” Stephanie asked surprised. “When did you see here there? You never said anything.”
“I didn’t see her. She, uh, she came to me in my sleep,” Autumn blushed deeply embarrassed by having to tell this part. She took a deep breath and keeping her eyes down quickly told the others about her dream. It was silent as the others digested what she said.
“I, uh, wow,” Stephanie finally said.
“I’m sorry Steph,” Autumn whispered sadly. “I am so sorry.”
“Why?” Stephanie asked frowning. “You thought it was me right?” she knew she should feel jealous and she did in a way but she also knew that this wasn’t something the other woman could control.
“Yes I did,” agreed Autumn raising her eyes to look at the woman next to her. Her gray eyes pleaded with Stephanie to understand, to not hate her. Stephanie reached across and took her hand giving it a gently squeeze.
“I understand Autumn,” she said softly. Autumn sighed and reached over, placing a gentle kiss on Stephanie’s lips. The sudden slamming of doors broke them apart. “Jane doesn’t like it when we kiss,” she told the others.
“Because she thinks it is Allison kissing you and she doesn’t understand,” Megan said.
“She thinks Allison is cheating on her and she is voicing her displeasure the only way she can.”
“So where do we go from here?” Michael asked.
“Well, we try to get Jane to realize that she is dead, and that Autumn is not Allison,” Colin stated simply.
“You make it sound so easy,” Autumn commented wryly.
“It can be just that easy,” shrugged Colin.
“When do we start?” Stephanie asked, not really wanting to have a ghost make love to Autumn again.
“Well, Autumn with your permission, I would like to get some more readings and maybe some video tonight and tomorrow we start convincing Jane,” Colin said. She hoped Autumn would let them document some of the phenomena. It had been quite sometime since they had seen this much activity at any one place.
“Uh, sure,” agreed Autumn.
Colin grinned then, transforming her face, making her look younger than her years. Autumn realized that Colin was very attractive and she cast a look at Stephanie, wondering if there had been anything between the two.
A few hours later Autumn barely recognized her house. The living room was filled with equipment. Video cameras were set up in the room and in the hallway as well as her bedroom. Sound equipment and motion sensors were placed strategically around the house. Autumn sat on the arm of the sofa watching as Colin and her team checked the equipment. She felt Stephanie come up behind her and place her hands on Autumn’s shoulders. Autumn reached up and placed her hand over one of Stephanie’s. The blonde moved closer allowing Autumn to lean into her, soaking up her warmth.
“Do you think we should set up something at the lake?” Cookie asked his boss swallowing the last of his cookie. Colin thought about it for a moment before shaking her head.
“Not right now, I called Jonathan and he and the others will be coming down tomorrow, we’ll do it then,” she told him.
“The others?” asked Stephanie.
“Yeah, the rest of my team. I think I am going to need them to get all the data I need.”
“So how are we going to convince Jane to leave?” Autumn questioned, unclear about that part.
“Honestly I don’t know Autumn. Usually we just document and leave,” Colin sighed.
“The few times I have been involved it’s been as an observer.”
“Do you have any ideas?”
“A few, but I will wait till Jonathan gets here, he is bringing some more stuff,” she replied naming her assistant. Autumn just sighed. Stephanie kissed the top of her head before laying her cheek on it.
“It will be okay Autumn,” she whispered. Autumn didn’t reply. “Everything will be fine.”
* * *
The night passed surprisingly quiet. Jane did not make her presence known in anyway. Even Autumn’s nightly vision was strangely absent. Despite the quite Autumn slept fitfully waking up often as if expecting some noise. When she did sleep her dreams were filled with memories of happier times for Jane and Allison, picnics and long walks. She woke in the early dawn hours, her eyes heavy with lack of sleep. Sighing she gave up trying to sleep and got up. Autumn found Colin in the kitchen sitting at the table a coffee cup of coke in front of her, reviewing some notes.
“Morning,” she greeted going to the refrigerator. She poured herself a glass of juice and sat down across from Colin.
“Morning. How did you sleep?” Colin asked putting down her pencil.
“Not well. I think I was expecting stuff to happen so I never really fell into a deep sleep.”
“Did you guys get any readings?”
“No, nothing, it was very quiet.”
“What does that mean? Does that mean she left?”
“Not necessarily. Sometimes the entities know what is going on and they lay low.”
“Really?” Autumn asked skeptically.
“Really,” was the firm reply.
“Have you really seen a ghost?”
“Yes,” Colin replied after a moment’s hesitation. “A few times. But usually most of our investigations show that there is a natural cause for the disturbance.”
“Do you think my house is haunted?”
“I think it is possible that you have a genuine haunting,” was Colin’s careful reply.
“Possible?” asked Autumn sipping her juice.
“Yes, there are different types of hauntings. Some are residual, which is like the vision of the murder, an event that just replays itself over and over again. You do have a residual haunting based on what you have told us. There are spectral hauntings, such as orbs, streaks, mists and ghost lights. Also there is the poltergeist.”
“Like in the movie?” Autumn asked. Colin chuckled and took a drink from her cup.
“Not really. A poltergeist is really just kinetic energy that manifests itself by moving objects, knocking and things like that. Usually it manifests around a pubescent teen, a girl for the most part. The theory is that the girl moving into puberty throws off the kinetic energy that moves things and such.”
“Okay, so what is a genuine haunting?”
“Well, a genuine haunting is pretty rare and it is simply the energy or “personality” of a person who once lived at a location and stayed behind in our world instead of crossing over to the other side. The spirit refused to cross over at the time of death. It lingers because of the emotions that tie them here. It could be any emotion from love to anger, or in the case of Jane, both. Sometimes they stay because they do not realize they are dead. Pretty much what you have here.”
“Lucky me,” Autumn said dryly. Colin chuckled again.
“So, how long have you and Steph been dating?” Colin asked drinking again from her cup.
“Before or after stuff starting happening?”
“After, I think,” Autumn frowned trying to remember. “We were just friends for a while before it moved on and stuff was happening before that. But once we got together it got worse.” Colin nodded having expected the answer.
“My team can’t get here till the end of the week, they are on another project,” Colin told her. “Will it be a problem if we still record until then?” Autumn frowned into her glass. “I would really appreciate it. The more information I have the better.”
“Okay,” Autumn agreed with a sigh.
“I know this is intrusive, we will try to stay out of your way as much as possible,” Colin told her sympathy filling her voice.
“It’s not that. It’s just that I want this to be over. I, uh, I’m afraid,” she finished her voice soft.
“Afraid? Of Jane?” Colin asked confused.
“I don’t know Colin. I just feel this sense of apprehension. Like something is going to happen.”
“Huh,” Colin grunted chewing on her bottom lip. Before she could answer Stephanie came into the room.
“Hey there,” Stephanie greeted the two. She kissed Autumn quickly before moving to the coffee pot. Stephanie poured a cup and held it up to Colin. The chestnut haired woman shook her head. Stephanie sat down next to Autumn.
“I was just telling Autumn that the rest of my team won’t be here till the end of the week,” Colin told the blonde.
“Not until then? Are you okay with this?” she asked turning to the look at the woman next to her.
“Sure,” Autumn answered with a shrug. Stephanie didn’t believe her but she knew that Autumn had made her decision.
A sudden slamming of a door surprised the three women. A low rumbling sound could be heard moving through the house, the windows started to rattle and the drawers began to open and close. Colin stood up and moved toward the door. The back door opened then slammed shut. The knives in the block on the counter started to shake and move up and down. Suddenly one shot out and embedded itself in the wall behind Stephanie, having missed the woman by inches. Her scream brought Autumn’s attention. Her gray eyes widened in surprise. Before she could say anything another knife shot out and landed with a thud in the wall.
“Autumn, get her out of here!” Colin shouted moving toward the two. A chair shot out from the table blocking her path. She moved to go around it when another slid across the room almost hitting her.
“Colin! Colin!” Cookie’s voice could be heard from the living room.
Sounds of other doors slamming drifted to them. The radio blared on, drowning out his voice. The window over the sink slammed shut before sliding back open only to slam shut again. The force of it broke the pane, the glass spraying into the room. A shard caught Colin in the face, just below her eye. She cried out and cupped the wound trying to stop the flow of blood.
Knives kept flying through the air, aimed at Autumn and Stephanie, soon followed by other utensils. Autumn tried to shield Stephanie, not wanting her to get hurt. They moved toward the back door. Pots and pans started to fly toward them, slamming into the wall with such force that they were dented. Autumn cried out in pain as a skillet hit her shoulder.
“Get out!” Colin shouted over the radio to them. The chairs and other flying objects kept her from getting to them. “Get out of the house now!” She ducked as a frying pan whizzed toward her. It hit the wall and fell to the ground.
“What’s happening?” Stephanie cried out from around Autumn’s arms.
The dark haired attorney managed to get them to the door. Autumn grabbed the knob and cried out, jerking her hand back. The doorknob had burnt her. She looked at her hand and saw the angry red burn. The pain throbbed up her arm. More and more objects began to fly at them; a knife narrowly missed her embedding itself deep into the doorframe. Stephanie’s scream spurned her to reach for the doorknob again; it burned into her already burnt flesh. Autumn gritted her teeth and yanked on the door. As soon as it was opened she pushed Stephanie through. They tripped down the steps landing on the ground.
“Are you okay?” Autumn asked sitting up her eyes raking over Stephanie looking for any cuts.
“I’m okay,” Stephanie answered her eyes round and glued to the door. The door had shut behind them and they could hear the objects still flying around in the kitchen. Autumn put her hand down on the ground to push herself up and hissed in pain. Stephanie turned to her. “Oh my God, Autumn what happened?” she asked gently taking Autumn’s hand in hers. Angry blisters were already forming in the palm. Autumn hissed again.
“The door knob was hot,” she told her. “It hurts,” she said, tears finally coming to her eyes.
“Oh baby, I bet,” Stephanie stood up and helped Autumn stand. “It looks pretty bad.”
“Hey, you two okay?” Colin asked opening the backdoor. It was silent behind her.
“Autumn’s hand has been burnt. Colin!” Stephanie cried seeing the bloodstain on her shirt and the blood on her face. “What happened?”
“A piece of glass cut me,” Colin told her. “It’s stopped now.”
“Is it safe to come in?” Autumn asked moving toward the door. Colin looked behind her into the room.
“I think so. Megan says it’s gone now.”
“Gone?” Stephanie frowned.
“It wasn’t Jane,” Megan said from over Colin’s shoulder. “It was something else. Something evil,” she shivered. “There was another presence here, an evil presence,” she shuddered. “I felt it right before everything started happening. It left right after you guys got outside.”
“Another presence?” Autumn’s face went pale at the thought.
“Who is it?” Stephanie asked.
“I don’t know,” sighed Megan looking behind her, her eyes troubled.
To be continued...
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