‘The Wraiths in the Woods’

By Phineas Redux


Description:— Connie Earlston comes to the quiet backwater of Potidaea, New Hampshire, USA, to write her latest bestseller. She meets Lys Barclay, owner of a small restaurant on the outskirts of the village, and together they investigate a strange occurrence presently affecting the local community.

Note:— This tale has been influenced by several of the stories of Norsebard.



Parker’s Place’ stood on the edge of the main highway through Potidaea, NH. 5 miles west of Lake Winnisquam and about 10 miles west of Laconia on the far eastern bank; a situation not as fancy as it might at first sound, the highway being in reality a small secondary road of no particular significance and the surrounding terrain thick forest with no main side roads of any substance. Although going under the pseudonym of a restaurant the business was really just another eatery on the way from one destination to another: though in this case having, at least, the kudos of serving excellent quality food well cooked at reasonable prices.

Who the original Parker had been, man or woman, no-one in the small community of Potidaea could now be found to enlighten the curious traveler; the establishment pre-dating all contemporary knowledge. Old Samuel Butterfield, some years since, had been heard one afternoon while in his cups to prognosticate that he had once met, as a small boy in 1948, someone answering to the Parker name; this woman allowing, so he said, she was the then owner of the eating-house—but no-one of any sense gave credence to the ramblings of ol’ Sam, he being known to have a life-long friendship with the rye bottle these many decades past. Indeed, several citizens had opined, behind his irascible back of course, that he had actually died some twenty-three years previously, but the untold gallons of rye he had consumed over the years was now keeping him in wonderful preservation notwithstanding such a minor change in his physical well-being.

When Connie Earlston, famed thriller writer—or such was her cherished dream—drove up to the wide dirt parking area in front of the restaurant around 10.30pm all she had in mind was the chance to relax after a long drive, cadge a cup of coffee, and sound out the owner or whoever served her on the general atmosphere of the village. It being just over a month now since she had signed the leasing papers for the ‘Robertson’ House on the outskirts of the north side of the community; and this the first chance she had found to actually drag herself away from the bright lights of New York and hit the wild untamed countryside of New Hampshire.

A cheap lease—and it had turned out an extraordinarily cheap example of its kind—had worked its magic on her tight finances, and here she was, eager to take up official residing rights in her new home. All she needed now was a little help in sorting out the normal problems associated with her situation: who could come in as daily dust-annoyer and housekeeper; finding out who was who around the area; and where the shops were and of what quality. All the usual things, in fact.

“Cup o’coffee, thanks.”

Connie sat on one of the stools by the counter on the right side of the main room, watching the tall young lady on the other side pad off to the end where the diabolical machine which made the brew in question resided. Connie, being lesbian, was a lifelong connoisseur of female beauty and took a second to catalogue the various points of this lady as she brought the steaming cup back to place it in front of her customer.

“Come far?”

“New York.”

Whee, some journey; make it all in that jalopy?” The woman nodded her head, surrounded by thick dark flowing locks, in the direction of the window looking out on the parking area.

“Jalopy’s right.” Connie grunted this with a small grin. “Thirty years old if a day, an’ don’t it know it.”

“Passin’ through?”

“Nah, come t’stay, would you believe.”

Oh, yeah?”

“I’m headin’ t’take up residence in the ‘Robertson’ House, if I can find the dam’ thing.” Connie pursed her lips as she sipped her hot and delightfully aromatic coffee. “The map my estate agent gave me ain’t exactly Government issue, more like a crayon drawing on a piece o’toilet paper.”

“The ‘Robertson’ place, eh.” The lady behind the counter leant her elbows on the surface comfortably and smiled at the young blonde before her. “Place’s well-known hereabouts; one o’the biggest homesteads in the village, as it happens. Be a change t’see someone livin’ there, finally. You gon’na live-in right away?”

“No, need to find a hotel, motel, or boarding-house for a week at least. I’ve organised a moving company to come up with all my worldly goods, but they won’t be here for a few days yet.”

“Reckon I can help ya there. I live not so far off, have a spare room I rent out now an’ then—wan’na take up residence with me for a few days? Charges so light ya won’t even feel ‘em!”

“Say, that’d be a great help, Miss,—er?”

“Lys Barclay, owner o’this joint.” Lys stretched out a long arm to grasp her customer’s hand in an iron grip. “Glad t’offer any little assistance, Miss, —er?”

Ha-Ha, Connie,-Connie Earlston, at your service.”

“Glad t’meet ya, Miss Earlston—”

Oh, call me Connie—never could stand formality.”

“An’ I’m Lys, t’everybody within a thirty mile radius.” She grinned, pointing an elegantly long finger at Connie’s cup. “Want a refill?”

“Nah, I’m fine. What I could do with, though, is a good set o’directions—the ‘Robertson’ hacienda, y’know.”

There were no other customers present in the long dining-room so the women could take their time. Connie had given the place a quick glance up and down on entering; what she saw being a wide extensive single room with a line of tables down one side with a short counter opposite, as you came through the entrance. Everything was spick and span and gleaming, and the whole place was filled with the rich flavour of good coffee.

“That’ll be easy enough.” Lys grinned again, as she did something unnecessary with a plate on the counter. “Potidaea’s just a main street, with a coupla off-shoots of no moment. Most o’the community’s spread out in single houses around the outskirts o’the main town—if ya can call Potidaea a town; which most don’t.”


Ah, right,” Lys smiled once more, then buckled down to business. “Go on along the Main Street the way you’re headed. You’ll come t’the end of the houses quickly enough; then ya carry on around half a mile till ya see a white roof standin’ up above the copses o’trees on your left side: set-off around three hundred yards from the trail. That’s the ‘Robertson’ House; you’ll see the small drive that leads right up t’the front door. Come back here when you’ve seen enough of the place, I can take you along to my place then.”

“Great.” Connie nodded happily. “I’m glad t’get some straight info at last; thought I’d have t’explore the whole region t’find the dam’ place. My real estate agent was so happy t’offload the place she didn’t stop t’give me precise directions. I went in her office, back in NY; two minutes later I’d signed the lease, then another minute an’ I was back out on the sidewalk, don’t know still precisely how. That’s it. Somethin’ fishy about the Robertson place, maybe, d’ya know, Connie?”

A short pause followed while Lys fiddled with a stray coffee cup; then she looked over the counter at her new customer with a slight frown.

“Well, seein’ as you’re about t’live in the place I suppose there can’t be any fault in tellin’ you about it.” Lys’s voice held a quiet almost worried note. “Y’see I’m by way of bein’ somethin’ of a amateur local historian. I likes to scrabble around in the county records at the Town-House in Laconia, across the Lake from here. The county centre, y’know, though not a big place by any reckonin’.”

“Local historian? That sounds just what I most needs at the moment.” Connie responding with one of her famous broad grins. “All the info that’s worth anythin’, an’ a great deal that isn’t, eh?”

Ha, that’s about the strength of it, lady.” Lys laughed easily, rubbing the countertop with a kitchen towel. “Get some of my stuff printed in the local paper, now and again. So, the Robertson place—it’s got somethin’ of a history, y’see.”

Another pause followed, Connie listening to the almost human hissings and spittings from the distant coffee machine at the end of the counter. Then Lys found her voice once more.

“The story goes that when this part of New Hampshire was first discovered and colonised by Europeans one of those immigrants was a Magician or Warlock by the name of Alfred Robertson.”

“What? A witch, d’you mean?”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Lys smiled at her customer’s expression. “I know what you’re thinkin’,—quite a lot’ta witches and such round these parts in olden times, seemingly?”

“Apparently more t’the square mile than usual, anyway, I’ll admit.” Connie smiled bleakly. “Sorry, go on please.”

“He had control, it was said, over strong supernatural Forces, and the result was a battle between these newly arrived Forces and the old local Native American Gods. The new apparently won, and ever since the area around Potidaea, NH, has reverberated with the ongoing evil influences of the unseen, un-physical, but deadly Wraiths.”

“Wraiths? What’re they?” Sound kind’a dangerous.”

“There are many local superstitions of monsters of an ethereal kind, known as Wraiths, inhabiting the woods and wild heaths around the community.” Lys nodded to herself as she brought these facts to light from her memory. “Several people have come to mysterious ends over the years, their deaths attributed to these Wraiths.”

“But no direct evidence,—of supernatural forces at work, I mean?”

“No, nothing certain in that line—just rumours and old wives tales; you can visualise the sort of thing recurring down the centuries.”

“So, what’s the history of the House itself, Lys?”

“The ‘Robertson’ House was built in 1885 by a descendant of Alfred, Henry Robertson.” Lys, finding herself on surer factual ground, opened up with an expansive air. “He too was suspected of harbouring evil Forces under his control; especially of trying to resurrect the old Wraiths, who seemed to have faded away almost to extinction by his day. Over the years his house and parties became infamous; until one evening in October 1894 everything came to a head and some sort of horror was unleashed on the guests, a kind of week-end house-party, in the House at that time. Since when no sign has ever again been seen of the House’s owner; but unquiet spirits continue to inhabit the building and its immediate surrounding forest, these Wraiths, driving a series of lessee’s away over the years; last one left the place seven year ago, in fact: house been empty as a result since, until your arrival t’day, Connie.”

Another quiet moment infiltrated the long restaurant as Connie mulled over these new facts, she sipping from her coffee cup meanwhile to aid ratiocination.

“Seven years?” Connie raised her eyes to Lys. “Can see why my real estate agent wanted t’offload the place so firmly on me. What kind’a place is it? Style, architecture, setting, an’ all that kind’a thing? Has it been looked after over the years? Ain’t a dam’ ruin, I hope!”

“The house stands on a low meadow on the banks of the Yellow Water River, around two hundred yards from the river’s banks; they bein’ some ten feet  in height.” Lys had these facts well to hand, sounding them off easily from memory. “The house dates from 1885, in the Hudson River Bracketed style comprising first, ground, floor, second ditto, and extensive attic, windows jutting out from a sloping tiled roof; has around twelve rooms besides a large kitchen. There’s a long open porch stretching the full width of the house front, with a waist-high guard rail, wooden pillars at intervals holding the sloping porch roof in place. A gravelly drive runs up to the front door from the road a couple of hundred yards away. The place is otherwise surrounded by arms of the outlying pine and fir forest coming down from the foothills. The pine forest and woods an’ copses are all over the terrain round these parts, as you’ll soon get t’know.”

“Hudson River Bracketed? Like that house in ‘Psycho’, y’mean?”

“—er, yeah, somethin’ like, I suppose.” Lys suddenly found herself a trifle embarrassed. “Haven’t you seen photos of the place, at your realtor, or what?”

“Nah, she seemed pretty hot on not lettin’ me see anything like that.” Connie shook her head. “Showed me some architects’ blueprints, but I couldn’t really make much of the place from those. Anyways, I’ll soon see the place for real; better be on my way. Thanks for the coffee; and the directions an’ history.”

Lys stopped her scrubbing of the clean counter and leaned over to put a hand out to the young blonde.

“Say, Connie, how’s about I come over an’ help ya settle in?” She glanced over her shoulder to the door of the kitchen. “Betty’s good for the evenin’, an’ Sarah’ll be comin’ in for the late shift in half an hour. I’d really like t’help ya out, if’n ya don’t think I’m bein’ pushy, of course.”

For a few seconds Connie looked at the dark-haired woman, then smiled.

“Mighty nice of you, Lys. If it ain’t no trouble I’d really like someone t’help blow the cobwebs away in the place. Sure it’s no trouble?”

“Nothin’ to it, gal. Just give me two minutes an’ I’ll be right behind ya in my pick-up.”



The house, on the two womens’ arrival, was all Lys had extolled it as being; solid, rather gloomy, looking cold on the inside from the spectators standpoint outside, and less than inspiring towards visitors in general  never mind new tenants.

“Well, so this’s it?” Connie feeling somehow let down. “Not as impressive as I’d billed it in my mind, I got’ta say.”

Showing all the outward details of its avowed style the building had a solid presence though coming with a curious cold aura and slightly menacing character.

“Doesn’t look welcoming, I give you that.” Lys admitting what could not be denied. “But it grows on you; at least it has on most folks roundabout.”

“What about the supposed ghosts?”

Ah, well,” Lys, as they stood on the gravel drive in front of the main door, shrugged her shoulders. “not exactly ghosts as such—Wraiths, like I said.”

“What’s a Wraith?” Connie deciding to be picky on the subject. “Describe one, please?”

From Lys’ changing expressions it was pretty clear she was caught between two opposing forces, sighing as she spoke once more.

“Nobody’s ever seen one that has a corporeal form—they show themselves as unformed clouds of, ah, er, well, just dark thick writhing clouds of raw pulsating energy.”

Connie pondered this unhelpful information for a few seconds.

“Anyone ever been harmed by one of these things?”

Again Lys seemed to have come up against a block in the road, taking almost half a minute before replying.

“Not so much harmed, if by that you mean physical injuries, but lots of folks have been scared out’ta their skins in various ways over the years. That’s why most of the tenants of this house have upped stakes and taken a hike before their leases were anywhere near concluded.”

Connie had a sufficient answer to this series of difficulties.

“These Wraiths, I bet, haven’t come across a lady from Queens before! They wan’na make an impression on me, they got’ta bring their A game’s all.”

Recognising defeat when it hit her in the solar plexus Lys smiled somewhat grimly and changed the subject.

“Shall we go in? You got a key? IF not we can hunt up Jane Gallienne at her house, two miles along the road.”

“Who’s she?”

Oh, she’s been the cicerone of the house these last five years.” Lys feeling much more comfortable in this area. “The lawyers engaged her then and she’s seen the place’s kept-up in general terms to a respectable level. No broken windows, wood rot, infestation of rats, hot an’ cold still running smoothly, heating not gone AWOL, that sort of thing.”

“What about the Wraiths?”

Uum, they’re more or less seasoned inmates by now.” Lys shrugging her shoulders as she watched Connie searching through her large handbag. “People surmise they’re fixtures in the house now; they renting space for the duration sort’a thing.”

Connie had finally found the set of keys given to her before leaving New York.

“OK, let’s hope Jane’s kept the lock’s well oiled. You telling me I’m gon’na have to put up with a houseful of these demented clouds of gas? Wriggling round the breakfast table as I eat my grits of a morning? Pulling my bedsheets off at night because they have senses of humour? Making sure the hot water pipes never work when most needed?”

“You’d be surprised.”

“Precisely what I don’t want!”

Inside Connie found herself in a large square lobby with several doors leading no doubt to various rooms. Lys went over to the right side where she flicked a wall-switch flooding the space with electric light. On the left a wide straight staircase led to the second floor, a solid wood bannister on the outer side. The floor where the women now stood was paved with alternating square black and white granite slabs. The furniture on view clearly original, appearing to date from the turn of the century; although the general atmosphere seemed to emanate a flowery scent.

“Someone’s washed the floor tiles recently.”

“That’ll be Jane.” Lys nodding agreement. “She keeps the place on its toes—for the Wraiths, and just because, as she often tells me.”

Har!” Connie warming to this as yet unseen lady. “Can’t wait to meet her. Is the kitchen just along this short corridor?”

“Yes, rather large.” Lys leading the way into the depths of the house. “This heap—sorry, house, was built so long ago it was in the age of a regiment of servants to each house. The kitchen, you’ll see, reflects this; it has three main rooms, as well as side-cupboards as big as rooms that were used as wine cellars, sculleries, and store-rooms. Look, here we are.”

The kitchen was indeed a revelation, one long main room with a line of high windows looking out on a wide cobbled yard; two white enameled sinks in line under these same, the central area taken up with a long deal table looking capable of hosting a banquet on its own terms. The near wall filled entirely from end to end with ceiling-high wardrobes and display units of dark wood containing the remnants of what had been enough cutlery to feed an army. Along towards the far end two doors led to other precincts as yet unknown, a door at the far end of the window side obviously leading out to the yard.

“Big enough for ya to have your breakfast in style?”

“I should say so!” Connie overawed by the scale of the place. “I’ll feel like a Princess every time I boil my grits.”

“Shall we explore upstairs?”

“Definitely!” Connie eager for more revelations. “You been here before?”

“Yeah, Jane’s showed me round a coupl’a times, so I know the layout.” Lys leading the way back to the main hall. “Don’t grab the bannister too hard, has a tendency t’wobble, scares folks who don’t know its peccadilloes.”

Upstairs Connie found herself on a wide square landing from which two doors and another short corridor led-off; a single window letting light in from the front of the house.

“Several rooms on this floor,” Lys going into chatelaine mode as she led the way. “The main bedroom’s behind the first door here, or at least that’s what Jane calls it. Oh, by the way, when you open any door to anywhere up here you have to lean hard and use all your strength. Jane thinks the house’s settled over the years and the doors warped some—so they’re stiff in their frames now.”

“That’s helpful.” Connie seeing the possibility straight-off. “Maybe have something to do with the haunted reputation it’s gained?”

“Couldn’t say.” Lys keeping her opinion of this explanation to herself. “So, here we are—what’ya think?”

The room, though more or less bare of any furniture, showed its regal nature in its width and ceiling height, which must have been at least eleven feet from dark floorboards to delicately detailed stucco ceiling—a point that immediately caught the new lessee’s eye.

Jeez, looks like something out’ta a Venetian palace!”

“Don’t it just!” Lys showing almost owner’s pride in the effect it had on Connie. “All the other rooms on this floor are the same—I mean, stucco ceilings, but all different styles and sizes.”

“Wonderful! You know, I’m warming to this place every second.” Connie grinning widely as she continued her examination of the room. “These Wraith things are gon’na have a battle gettin’ rid of me, I’m thinkin’. What’s upstairs again, attics you said?”

“Yeah, really another set of wide rooms in themselves.” Lys leading the way back to the landing, though having trouble closing the room door behind them. “Gim’me a mo’, this dam’ door takes the strength of a battalion t’pull shut; worse in Summer, can’t get it t’shut completely then for love or the other thing—there we are, so, attics? The stair’s at the end of this corridor, follow me.”

The corridor though short was dark as The Other Place itself, or so Connie thought as Lys led the way to the end. She could just make out the dark barrier of a door blocking the end of the passageway as Lys fumbled with a hand along the wall to her left searching for the light switch. Connie heard a series of clicks but of light from a bulb nary a splinter.

“Dam’ bulb’s bust again.” Lys grunting in disgust. “Once or twice a year, you’d expect same; but nearly every dam’ time at night ya try t’get some light—busted bulbs across the board. Jane’s had some snappy letters from the house lawyers over the years complaining about the amount of bulbs she deems needful; but what can she do? The lawyers just laughin’ in her face the few times she’s alluded to same. Anyway, the door’s not locked—watch your step, these used to be the Help’s stair so it’s basic to the nth degree; tin bannisters that’ll snap if ya grip them too hard, spiral all the way and the steps are narrow and high, try not to trip if ya can. No lighting in the stairwell, of course, just take my word we’ll come to another landing with an outside window eventually. Use your hand on the wall to keep your balance.”

For a moment, as they pursued their way up the unpromising set of stairs in the dark tower Connie was reminded of the heroines of her favorite tv series, one tall dark and handsome, the other petite blonde shockingly attractive and very handy with edged weapons; she smiling at this apposite reminder of present circumstances as she followed Lys upwards.

Finally the intrepid explorers found themselves on a third landing, much like those below though far less ornate, which Connie again noticed right off the tape.

“Looks like a farmer’s outhouse.” She giving her surroundings a cold glance all round. “Bare walls, dark messy gray colour—might’a been white once, in the last century. Ceiling that looks as if built in medieval times and, is this floor covered in linoleum? Old linoleum?”

“Yeah, cracking something terrible, as you can see—don’t trip over upturned edges. This corridor goes all the way along, from end to end, several doors on the inner side all leading to rooms of varying size. The nearer ones are small garrets, for the servants—just a single room about as big as a small prison cell. The corridor’s on the inner side of the house, so the rooms all have single windows looking out on Life on the outside, and providing much needed light for the poor old slaveys.”

“All gone now, though.” Connie making the obvious rejoinder.

Oh, yes, not a one left; you’re all on your lonesome here, lov—er, I mean Connie.” Lys smiling grimly as they walked along the narrow corridor. “At least the bulbs here seem t’be in order still, would’a been impossible for us if otherwise.”

“Maybe the Wraiths just want me to become acquainted with my new environment before they start playing tricks?”

Har, that’s the outlook, gal!” Lys much entertained by this remark. “Seen enough? No, wait a mo’, the larger true attics are just along here. Three of ‘em; two’re still ful’la debris from Ages past; too difficult to get rid of it all, especially out here in the wilds.—so it’s all just been left in situ. See, here?”

Connie, peering over her hostess’s shoulder as she opened the door beside them saw a dark room like the long upper room of a barn, bare walls and huge bare rafters greeting the eye of the interested beholder, though these were about the only things of note visible as a result of the floor being covered by a multitude of objects of all possible varieties, like a Circus’ storage tent left to its own devices for decades.

Jeez, what’s all this?”

“Probably the leftovers from the furnishings last used by ol’ Henry Robertson himself, once the best bits had been grabbed by the surviving legatees, I suppose.” Lys’s tone reflecting her disregard and disinterest in the scene before them. “All rubbish now, nuthin’ worth losin’ your sleep over, I’m sure. Anyway, the best bit’s to come. Ready for the Warlock’s set-piece?”

Connie stood back, looking at Lys with curious eye.

Oh, yeah! What would that be, then?”

“You recall I told you he, Henry that is, used to be a sort of wizard himself?”

“A vague memory, yeah.”

“Well, he, in his later years, seems to have become wholly wrapped in his studies and experiments in what for Politeness sake we’ll call the Supernatural and Esoteric.” Lys frowning as she recalled the details. “To such an extent, in fact, he had no scruples in showing-off his spells, chants and callings-up of Evil Spirits to groups of amazed, I imagine, and stunned spectators at nightly parties he used to throw for his weekend guests.”

“Sounds a barrow-load of fun! Why’d they, the guests, put up with such nonsense?”

Here Lys turned to look at Connie with a wry expression.

“Because he salted these shows with a heavy coating of sexual innuendo!”

Connie was intrigued by this revelation.

“How d’ya mean? What, orgies an’ all that? Sounds, er, charming! Find I’m warming to the ol’ reprobate!”

“Well, that sort’a thing, yeah; at least, from what I’ve been able to discover searching through masses of old papers and letters and newspaper reports from the time.” Lys sighing in disgust at this memory. “If you ever have the urge to become a local historian, Connie, don’t! Join the Fire Brigade or Taxi service or something instead; me knowing what I’m talkin’ about.”

“So, these dubious entertainments, what about them?” Connie still intrigued by her compatriot’s memories of the house’s past. “Take place in one of these rooms, did they? Anything left to show for it? I’m intrigued.”

Lys sighed again, but led the way further along the corridor.

“Along here. We’re at the end of the servant’s quarters now, from here on in its two long attic spaces; one filled with bookcases ful’la old tomes supposed to hold all the esoteric knowledge of the Ancients, whoever the hell they were. The other, well, you’ll see—this way.”

Walking past one door she led the way another ten yards further down the narrow corridor to the next and last door in line. Here she stopped for a moment, giving Connie a considering glance, then turned to open the door before stepping back again.

“Here, take a look in; see if you wan’na go all the way—or just stay out here, in safety!”

Leaning one hand on the door lintel Connie looked into the room past Lys’s shoulder. At first glance it appeared to be empty but closer examination showed a number of dusty straight-backed wooden chairs scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the long space, as if abandoned at the climax of some long-forgotten dramatic exhibition. The room was around fifteen feet wide from the corridor side to the window-side where three high examples allowed a modicum of light even at this late time of night. Lys leaned further in the room stretching an arm sideways to flick a switch which flooded the space with a harsh cold electric light.

“What d’ya think?”

Connie, so pressed, gave the attic another more precise examination; just then noticing a high wardrobe-like wooden structure taking up most of the far end of the room, it seeming to have a series of high closed doors above lower squatter doors concealing contents Connie could only surmise about. But the most interesting, perhaps shocking, thing now revealed itself. On the bare central area of the dark floorboards Connie now perceived curious markings—circles, wavy lines, intricate angular designs hard to understand, and places on the floor apparently marked out as settings for long lost implements of what use could only be imagined. On the wall stretching both ways away from the door, and on the window wall, Connie saw what must have passed in their day for paintings, rendered in dull ochres, crimsons, reds now nearly black with age, all picked out with meandering white lines now turned almost entirely to a sickly gray. From the left side where the door was located, Connie leaning further in to see, the entire wall seemed to have been whitewashed from floor to ceiling, concealing whatever markings, illustrations or designs may have once disfigured them; but this covering wash stopped after around the first twenty feet, as if the cleaner had suddenly become discouraged and given up their attempt to hide whatever proto-murals had distressed them.

“What the Hell’s all this?”

“The Witches’ Coven, or Rites Chamber, is all!” Lys’s tone taking great. though muted, delight in this rather frightening fact. “Seems to’ve been the focus of Henry’s furthest flung nightmares, spells, incantations, and spells to wake the dead, or worse; all witnessed by a thrilled an’, who knows, willingly inclusive audience!”


“Yeah, my feelings exactly.” Lys nodding as she moved away from the door. “Shall I close it, again?”

“Yeah, please,—I’ve seen enough; don’t think I’ll ever go in there again, however long I stay!”

“Know the feeling, lady. OK, let’s go back downstairs; t’civilisastion again, eh, or what passes for such in this heap?”

“Too right, lead the way; that kitchen up t’producing a cup of tea and a biscuit before we leave?”

“Shouldn’t think so, better leave the celebrations till we hit my joint; that sound OK?”

“I’ll take it, sure.” Connie finding she had seen about as much as she wanted to of her new residence this late on her first night there. “A refreshing snack an’ a warm bed sound beautiful, after this expedition; think it’s gon’na take me weeks to clean the place up an’ make it habitable for the Modern Woman!”

Har, well, I’ll give ya as much of a helpin’ hand as I can; come on, let’s go  home,—t’mine, anyway.”


Lys’s house, a small but modern bungalow, sat at the side of the highway some three miles further west than the hamlet of Potidaea meaning it really was out in the wilds being surrounded by thick arms of the forest which covered this entire area; at least, as Lys remarked before ushering her new tenant into her pad, it was connected to the electricity grid which helped a good deal.

After parking their cars, Connie’s ancient 1996 Chrysler New Yorker sedan and Lys’s moderner and much more utilitarian 2011 Ford Ranger XLT pick-up, she led the way inside her home from home.

“Far distant from any neighbour, the nearest being a mile and a half away, the way I like it.” Lys snorting as she showed her new friend into the main living-room, “Don’t mind the cushions thrown everywhere, I’m a mess at home.”

“The way I like it, too.” Connie acknowledging the place’s friendly atmosphere.

“Come on, your room’s along here, hope ya like it.”

The room lay at the end of a corridor stretching the whole length of the house.

“My room’s at the further end.” Lys gesturing in that direction. “Kitchen’s the blue door half way along, bathroom’s the green door; feel free to use either or both as you wish.”

“Thanks, be a lot of comfort; didn’t fancy the idea of living in a motel or hotel for several weeks.” Connie nodding happily. “Place looks delightful.”

“Would ya like a bite of supper, can even rustle up a glass of wine if you’re partial?”

“Very much so, can I help?”

“Nah, you relax here, get your bearings while I whistle up a mess of potage. Nothing special, just a salad, cold meat an’ cauliflower and white sauce. You like cauliflower an’ white sauce?”

“Cauliflower’s fine, an’ as to white sauce, I ain’t never had enough!”

“My kind’a gal, see you in twenty; switch the radio on if you want.”

Left to her own devices, noises of cutlery and clinking of plates wafting through from the kitchen as Lys prepared their evening meal, Connie looked around taking in the details of the room.

Some sort of drama was under way on the channel the radio was tuned to when Connie switched it on; but she turned the volume low and let it run, feeling quite glad of the quiet murmur of other voices in the background. The room was rectangular, a clock on the wall at the further end being its only decoration, at the opposite end two medium-sized landscape paintings gave a warm look to the room; one long wall was almost entirely taken up with two wide windows now hidden by closed rose coloured chintz drapes while the opposing wall hosted a line of four curious brown tinted landscape etchings which looked as if they had a history behind them. For furnishings a low table, not quite knee-height, sat in front of a long sofa, while these necessities to comfort were rounded off by two chintz covered armchairs which looked specially made for the user to take long peaceful naps in. Taking a three month old issue of Vogue magazine from the table Connie settled on the sofa to pass the time in agreeable comfort while her supper was prepared. Just over quarter of an hour later Lys stuck her head round the door, smiling cheerfully.

“Grub’s up! Wan’na come through t’the kitchen?”

In the kitchen Connie instantly recognised it was home to the most up-to-date equipment, Lys already having set the table for a comfortable tete-a-tete between two happy diners.

“Ham fillets, cauliflower an’ white sauce, an’ green peas. Wine there, red—wan’na take the cork out, ‘screw’s on the table there?”

Doing as requested Connie had the wine bottle open in two shakes of the tail of whatever small mammal happened to be wandering nearby in the dark night, pouring two brimming glasses as Lys brought the main course, each plate steaming enjoyably.

“Dig in, Connie, I like t’see a happy eater at work; don’t feel embarrassed if’n you’re a messy eater, I am too; but I’ll try’n reign myself in seein’ I got a refined visitor!”

“Not so refined as you may wish!” Connie swinging with the ambient atmosphere. “Mmm, this smells delicious—here goes!”

Just under twenty minutes later, messy plates left at  the side of the sink for later attention, the two sat together on the sofa in the living-room nursing cups of China tea, Connie first to bring up something that had occurred to her about their earlier visit to the Robertson house.

“Y’know, when we were there nary a sign of any ghost—”


”Yeah, well, Wraith then.” Connie taking the hint. “But there weren’t any; not so’s I saw, anyway!”

Lys nodded knowingly as she settled herself more comfortably.

“Yeah, don’t worry, they’re there all the same. Just they don’t usually make an appearance till after midnight—the haunting hour, y’know.”

“That old bogie!”

“Well, stranger things have happened than you may imagine, Horatio!” Lys simpering quietly. “Don’t think I got that quite right, but it’s the thought that counts.”

“So, you’re saying I’ll meet the dam’ things sometime, walking along a corridor or into a room, or climbing those dam’ stairs?”

“Bound to, simply a fact of life.”

“How dangerous are they?” Connie covering a point of no small interest. “I mean, have they ever hurt anyone? Or, God forbid, killed them?”

Lys took a moment to consider this before replying.

“Well, depends on what you might call killing as such.”

Connie wasn’t having any of this namby-pamby avoidance technique however.

“Elaborate, please.”

Pushed to the wall Lys sighed and gave in.

“Well, there’re reports in the local rag of some sixty years since, sayin’ a Mister Graham, lessee of the house at that time, somewhere around nineteen sixty-two, had a face-off with one of the Wraiths who happened to be in situ in the main living-room when he wanted to relax and listen to his favourite radio show; the outcome being he was so terrified by its ensuing antics he ran all the way to Potidaea, though a portly fifty-five at the time, and once reaching there gasped out ‘The Wraiths, they’re building a portal—’, then gave up his own ghost moving on to, one hopes, pastures new and more inviting. Then there was the case of the two sisters, back in 1912.”

Lys having come to a halt in her reflections Connie was moved to refilling her teacup and offering the pot to her hostess.

“Nah, I’m fine.”

“What about these sisters? I’m all ears.”

Oh, well, if you insist.” Lys, though, obviously really perfectly willing to continue her catalogue of supernatural events around the dwelling in question. “Hope I’m not putting you off, by the way?”

“No, makes me more determined to stay, in fact.” Connie shaking her head with a smile. “I’m a hardy gal from Queens an’, I assure ya, if you can withstand Queens for twenty odd years you can take an infestation from the Other Side as a piece of cake any day.”

Lys regarded her lodger with a new respect, seeing Connie’s Amazon warrior ancestors reflected in her square jaw and gleaming green eyes.

“Well, if that’s the way you feel—so, Miss Esther and Miss Hildegard Kelly both, er, middle-aged, were scions of a family that ran an automobile factory in days gone by. Times, though, when cars were already a big money-spinner; to put it squarely, they were loaded t’the gills and beyond with the moolah that heals all wounds; they taking over the Robertson house with, I fancy, the idea of buying it in the long run—but things turned out badly.”

Connie sipped her tea, eyes riveted on Lys beside her.

“You tell a good tale—carry on!”

Hah, thanks.” Lys smiling again. “So, one sunny morning, the local girl who delivered the house’s milk in bottles—yeah, that still went on in those days—came calling and, getting no reply, took to going in the unlocked door and taking an uninvited impression of all the rooms on all the floors of the house, as young inquisitive gals do!”

“She found something nasty?”

“Didn’t she just!” Lys nodding agreement. “In one of the rooms on the second floor, no-one’s ever placed it exactly, Esther lay on the floor stabbed with a kitchen knife around fifty times—blood every dam’ where, y’know! That was enough for the gal, name unknown, she running all the way back to Potidaea like the late Mister Graham, though decades before his demise. The police thus contacted came along to do their investigations and found Hildegard in another room, back to the wall, knife in hand, blood-covered clothes, gibbering old nursery rhymes softly to herself; carted her off to you know where as a matter of course, and that’s where that tale ends.”

Connie remained quiet for a minute, digesting this scroll of disaster connected to her new home, before coming to the surface once more.

“This sister thing, might not have had anything to do with the gho—er, Wraiths, at all! Just a sisterly falling-out, like you read about in the papers all the time?”

Lys regarded her lodger with the eye of an old veteran.

“You really think so?”

Connie reconsidered.

“Nah, actually! Sh-t! What a series of tragedies; like something out’ta M. R. James.”

“Exactly, which brings up another, though relative, matter.”

Oh, what?” Connie intrigued by this side-issue.

“Inquisitive tourists!” Lys sighing again. “You’d be surprised at the amount of folks who feel it’s ingrained in their blood to trek out here with the single idea of viewing the scene of the crime, from the inside if possible, at all times of the year. Sent a couple packin’ just a month ago, over same. They wanted directions to the Robertson and, when I asked why, they came out with some bullsh-t about bein’ qualified ghost-hunters who were after their latest manifestation! Meant to write-up their adventures for some monthly magazine! Sent ‘em packin’ with a flea in their collective ears, but don’t know how much good it did—probably come back in another month, more determined than ever. Just, you should keep a wary eye out for these kind’a characters when you’re settled; they not being past walking straight into your living-room unrequested and starting asking questions about the Wraiths.”

Connie chuckled softly as this likely scenario was explained to her.

“Let ‘em come, I say!” She sniggering outright, nearly spilling her tea in the process. “I got’ta Browning Citori point four-ten shotgun, birdshot; reckon I could warm ‘em up wholesale before they knew which day of the week it was.”

Har! That’ll do the trick, sure! You’re my kind’a gal! Have I said that before? Bears repeatin’, though.” Lys wholly delighted by this stance. “Wan’na see your room, then?”

“Yeah, dead on my feet as it is. Thanks for the supper an’ tea?”

“Nuthin’ to it; this way, forget the cups, I’ll deal with them later, room’s just along here. You got jim-jams, an’ all the fixin’s?”

“Yeah, in a case in my jalopy, won’t take a minute to fetch it. Oh, beautiful!”

This exclamation the result of her first look at the bedroom allotted to her. It was square, high-ceilinged, a long three-setting window taking up most of the outside wall while the floor played host to a wide double-bed covered in a rose-pink coverlet with white silk pillows, the thick mattress seeming an impeccable example of its kind. Connie sighed in delight.

“This will do fine—can I stay here forever?”

Hah, wouldn’t say no, if ya mean it. But think of your empty Robertson house, pining an’ groaning for you to come and live there!”

“Groaning being the relevant nature of the beast, eh?” Connie, feeling at peace with the world, having her little joke.

“G’night, Connie—sleep tight.”

“Will do, ma’am!”


Three months of hither and thither, Connie settled in her home, a mass of cleaning taken care of, and a certain relationship having developed with her new friend and hostess; this coming to a head one evening three weeks into their combined partnership in Lys’ bungalow. A glass of wine, a calm atmosphere, jazz playing softly on the radio, both women leaning against the shoulder of the other on the sofa, a few gentle secrets murmured between them, and the rest of the night transpiring as both wished—setting-up a solid ongoing relationship which both found very much to each’s taste.

“Wan’na stay overnight at the ol’ hacienda?” Connie offering as they sat at breakfast in Lys’ bungalow one morning. “I had a new bed delivered two days ago—took the men, three of them, two hours to drag it upstairs into the appropriate room. I wanted to laugh so hard, but didn’t dare!”

“You offerin’, gal?”

Connie considered the matter, for all of half a second.

“Believe’s I am, ma’am!”

“Well, I takes ya up on your offer, wholesale retail an’ the other thing, is all. Bathroom pipes running sweet? Hot water available, I means?”

“Sure thing, lover.” Connie happy as a lark. “Don’t think the bathroom’s been modernised since it was put in, mind; but everything seems t’be working at the moment. You’ll love it.”

“If it don’t I got a way with a wrench’ll soon fix things.” Lys nodding amiably. “I’ll run the ol’ truck there after work t’day. How’s your latest thriller goin’? Gettin’ the plot sorted out yet?”

Connie gave a heartfelt grunt as she rose to help clear the plates away.

“Dam’ plots; I tell you Lys, if anyone says writing fiction’s easy as pie and they’d do same in an instant but they just never seem to have the time, well, they’re fools, is what!”

Hrrmph!” Lys nodding in her turn. “Read your last, by the way; found it in the bookstore over to Laconia last visit there a coupl’a weeks ago. Mighty fine work, lady; ful’la thrills an’ action an’ some quiet romance. Liked it, for sure; lookin’ forward t’readin’ this latest of yours, when it’s finished, of course.”

“With you panting in the wings so hard what else can a harassed author do but buckle down t’the needful then, dear!”



From the outside the house still looked much as it had done these seven years past; paint peeling over much of its surface, several windows clearly in need of a good washdown, small clumps of weeds growing out of the most unlikely and hard to reach corners and ledges, and a generally run-down aura still emanating from the whole: but inside all was wholly different, most of the main rooms on the first, ground, floor newly painted and wallpapered curtesy of a company located in Laconia who were just delighted to jump in and do their best, reasonable rates applying, of course. Old linoleum probably original from over a century ago torn up, wooden flooring and carpets replacing the old tattered regime; new furniture several decades and styles ahead of what it replaced making each room a place to delight in entering rather than as formerly, as Connie pertinently remarked to her new love one day, entering the portals of Newgate Prison when opening the door of almost any room in the house; and finally, the kitchen renovated to a state of modern efficiency rather than the utilitarian cold outmoded drabness of its former existence.

“Only got the dam’ bathroom, and associated offices, to go!” Connie remarking as she greeted Lys that evening. “Ha! See you came prepared! What’s that?”

“My favourite duvet’s, all.” Lys blushing sweetly as she leaned forward to give her new inamorata a kiss, the bulky object under her arm notwithstanding. “Find, from experience, I can’t sleep without it; just one of those things.”

“Well, let me lead you to the bedroom so it can take up residence too.” Connie enjoying the whole farcical situation. “You can stay the night, then?”

Oh, sure.” Lys nodding happily. “Won’t need to head out to the restaurant till midday tomorrow.”

“Great!” Connie taking Lys’s hand as they went up the stairs. “Almost a holiday, in fact. We’ll have a lovely evening, and then keep warm together in bed tonight.”

“Keep warm?” Lys laughing as they entered the bedroom. “Is that what it’s called these days? Oh, that’s a bed! Jeez, must’a cost a fortune.”

Connie grinned like the Cheshire Cat.

“I have contacts; contacts who owe big time. The result you see before your very eyes, dear.”

The item in question, as the women stood admiring its perfect proportions, was a Principessa DeLuxe Wide, nearly a third broader than a normal doublebed.

“You could billet a platoon on that!” Lys showing her appreciation of such modern conveniences. “Plenty of room to squirm around to your heart’s delight. I’ll just dump my duvet for the moment; come back later to spread it out.”

“Want a biccy an’ coffee meanwhile?”

“Just what I need after a long day serving truckers, darling.”

Ha! You get many truckers stopping?” Connie leading the way back downstairs. “Is the highway through Potidaea that busy?”

“Up north a’ways there’s a big industrial conglomerate and a business park—lots of different companies located there. About another thirty miles north-west. Turns out the Potidaea highway’s the shortest and quickest route for the trucks comin’ and goin’. That’s why I’m still in business myself, really. If I just relied on local custom I’d have gone under years since.”

“That’s interesting. OK, you just sit on the sofa while I bring the tea things through from the kitchen. What kind’a cookies or biscuits do you like?”

Lys sat back comfortably on the sofa considering the ins and outs of this serious problem.

“Let’s see, you got honey-cakes?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Oatmeal biccy’s?”


“Those delicious thin soft coconut-topped biccy’s?”

“Happens I do, yes.”

“Any little cakes with lilac-coloured icing on top?”

“Made half a dozen just yesterday.”

“Connie—marry me, at once!”



Later in the evening, around 10.30pm, they were cosily ensconced on the sofa hand in hand listening to a big band broadcast on the radio with the volume turned low and feeling everything in the world was just hunky-dory, then—


“What the hell was that?”

Connie put an arm round her lover’s shoulder to soothe the frightened fawn.

“Only the house settling. Around this time every evening you hear the place settling down for the night. Everything expands in the daylight and relative warmth, then cools down later at night. You’ll hear strange cracks and groans all through the night, really; just take no notice.”

Hrrph!” Lys hardly convinced by this explanation. “Talking of which—the Wraiths causing any bother, or have they settled for your presence too?”

“Couldn’t say.” Connie shrugging from her own comfortable position. “Haven’t had any what you’d call meetings with the things at all, to tell the truth; beginning to doubt there’s any such thing, to tell the truth.”

Oh baby, just wait; they won’t let you off that easy.”

Connie sniggered a little contemptuously.

“What do I do if I meet one of them? What are they likely to do, and how should I, oh, react on my part?”


“I mean, you’ve already said they as much as can’t actually do any real physical damage to anyone—just scare them witless, if the persons concerned are that way inclined.” Connie taking the pragmatic, not to say Stoical, attitude. “What if I just laugh in their faces? What then?”

Lys grinned at the obstreperous attitude of her new partner, gripping her hand with renewed love.

“Might try upping their efforts; see just how much scare you can take!”

Connie was up for this without effort.

“I can take more’n any semi-immaterial reject from the Supernatural can bring even as its best game, don’t worry. Living in New York, for an old hand like me, is a bit like living in Hades for real, after all. Any ghost, or Wraith, will need some pretty heavy-duty work to scare me; and even if I was scared I wouldn’t run—I’d just make dam’ sure I got even’s all! Nobody, or nothing, is pushing me out’ta my house without my consent, take that as said!”

Even as Connie made this statement of intent public a curious flickering light came through the partially closed drapes of the window to their left, catching the attention of both women in the dimly lit living-room.

“What was that? Lightning?” Didn’t hear thunder, or rain come to that.”

Lys, on the other hand, disengaged herself from her lover’s arms, rising to swiftly cross to open the drapes wider, staring out the window to the not distant enough forest surrounding the large house on all sides.

“Came from over Potidaea way, though not so far off as that.” Lys frowning as she relayed this information to Connie, who had now joined her. “Look, there it is again! Just a flickering light over the trees; you can see the treeline when the light shows.”

“Sort’a greenish!” Connie now studying the curious emanation intently. “Coming and going, can barely see it, really. What is it? Some kind’a fire, maybe?”

“Nah, would be much more orangey, if so, and there’d be gallons of thick smoke. See any smoke?”

Connie watched the continuing effect for another few seconds.

“Nope, just the pale light; is it coming closer, do you think? Seems it might be, far’s I can make out.”

Lys took a more specific examination of the still distant glowing light, rubbing her chin in thought meanwhile.

“Yeah, you could be right; seems to be focusing into a more stable unified state, and certainly moving in this direction. Still don’t know what it is. Connie?”

“Yeah? If it’s the police I can’t, no landline phone installed yet and my mobile’s bust—need t’buy a new one. I gave the company a call from Potidaea a few days ago but they said it’d take at least two weeks before they could get round to me.”

“My mobile’s battery’s so low at present it couldn’t cover sixty yards from here all round, I’m afraid; should’a powered it up last night. You sayin’ we’re on our own out here, presently, then?”

“Afraid so.” Connie beginning to frown in her own right. “Are we in any danger, do you think?”

“Shouldn’t imagine so.” Lys taking the path of positive thinking. “Possibilities—it’s some kind’a natural phenomenon, unusual but probably neutral in effect; or it’s the Wraiths, in which case we can look forward to a night of ghoulish scares beyond comparison; or it’s something unknown, in which case we can only take what comes and hope for the best. Connie?”

“Yes, babe?”

“You said you had a shotgun, that right?”

“Yes, Browning Citori; I got birdshot or single slugs, point four-ten—knock a dam’ elephant over at close range.”

“My kind’a gal!” Lys grinning for the  first time in several minutes. “I got a Colt forty-five revolver out in the Ford, gim’me half a minute to retrieve it, then we can prepare for the Siege of Paris all over again, OK?”

“Make it quick, don’t want you out in the wild longer than necessary, lover.”

“Won’t be a tick—get your shotgun in’ta play while you wait for my return.”

Huh! Begins to sound like a bad Western movie. OK, I’m on it; you move like greased lightning yourself, or that gal in Greek history, the one who ran after the Golden Apple.”

“Atalanta, silly gal, got distracted by the machinations of a man, wouldn’t you know! OK-OK, I’m on my way.”


Half an hour later and things seemed to have reached a partial climax; the greenish glow, now much more concentrated into a pulsing single unit, though still transparent and wholly immaterial, glowed amongst the nearer trees in front of the house though still hidden deep amongst the firs; their position causing Connie to go over some escape possibilities.

“We could make a run for the cars, drive like mad racers back t’Potidaea?”

Lys pursed her lips in thought, giving this and other possibilities full measure.

“Could try certainly, but what if that dam’ glow gets in’ta the engines an’ cuts ‘em off? We’d be stuck in the deep forest without shelter, at the dam glow’s mercy.”

“There’s that, sure.” Connie taking note of this uncomfortable outcome. “Don’t like the sound of that; we’ll stay here, for the time being—much safer.”

“With ya all the way.”

“What if it, the glow, just whooshes right in?” Connie not yet finished with her list of bad outcomes. “What do we do then?”

“Then we shoot the dam’ thing, much as I imagine it won’t do any good—but it might give us time to hit the cars and take-off for certain.”

“Yeah, suppose.” Connie hardly reassured. “I’m still thinking along the lines of it not being able to really do any physical damage. I mean, what can it possibly do? It ain’t electricity, at least not a dangerous form from what we can see. If all it can actually do is glow intermittently then we’re in clover, surely? And as to it’s scaring us? Well, I admit I’m a little put-out right now; but by God, if that thing tries anything like an actual attack I’ll kick its balls so hard it won’t be able to reproduce any more Glows for a hundred years, just watch me!”

From their position of vantage on the upper second floor hallway Lys leaned over to give her lover a kiss on the cheek that spoke volumes in the way of keeping her companion safe from all comers, whatever realm they might hail from.

“My kind’a gal, every which way!”

Suddenly, from behind them, a screechy scratchy scraping was heard, as of some heavy object being dragged across bare floorboards. Both women turned as one to investigate the noise though nothing was imminently to be seen along the otherwise dark corridor behind them.

“Light switch’s are on the wall to your left.” Connie presenting a strong face to the enemy, even though still unseen and unknown. “Bank of six, switch them all on, baby.”

Doing as requested Lys threw down the white switches as ordered flooding the hall and corridor with that most satisfying, calming, and useful of modern inventions—artificial bright light. To the far end of the corridor, some seventy feet off, another green glow, this one more green and intense than that outside could now be seen glimmering soft and loud in a much more rapid sequence than its familial neighbour outside.

God, another!” Connie first to react. “You’re right, the dam’ place’s infested by the dam’ things! What’s this one gon’na do? Go down an’ open the door for its friendly brother or sister outside?”

“Hope the dam’ not!” Lys shrugging as she fiddled with the nasty looking revolver in her left hand. “Your shotgun loaded?”

“Heavy buckshot, if it’s any way corporeal one shot should blow it apart!”

Mmph!” Lys turning to look out the window again. “God! It’s coming over the bare ground in front of the house! A glowing unformed mass! Looks like the battle’s about t’begin.”

“What’s our plan?”

“First, try not to let the dam’ thing in the house.” Lys making it up as she went. “You stay here an’ keep an eye on our friend down there at the end of the corridor; I’ll stand at the top of the stairs and if there’s any likelihood of the thing outside trying to enter I’ll blast it with my forty-five—see what that does.”

Mmm! A plan, not much of one, but all the same, a plan.” Connie perhaps that little too decrying of her partner’s attempts to carry them unharmed through a tight spot.

“Boy, what a gal! As someone may have said in the past—but I loves ya even more for it, lady!”

As this exchange went on Connie had ignored her lover’s request and crossed to the hall window instead to take note of what might be transpiring outside.

“That thing down the corridor seems to be holding itself in check at the moment. What’s goin—good grief!”

The cause of her exclamation was clear to both women as they gazed down from their vantage point onto the open ground in front of the house. The green glow outside, now much more a sentient solid mass, though still unformed and flickering stronger and paler in a slow sequence, had come to a halt some twenty yards from the front door—one might almost have thought to consider its next move. Lys and Connie awaiting this with baited breaths. So much so, in fact, they missed what was going forward behind them; before they could react in any substantial way they found themselves enveloped in a green glow of their own as the thing at the end of the corridor swiftly advanced unchecked to form not just beside them but enveloping them in its own glow too.

Lys turned to Connie with a wild surmise but suddenly felt some sort of inner presence in her mind—one of quiet tranquility that almost instantly made her fears fade away into insignificance. She could see, from he partner’s expression, something of the same was going through Connie’s mind also. Then the glow receded, the ball of flickering green light moving aside leaving a space of some ten feet between the women and it—though apparently not proposing to retreat further for the present.

“It’s not aggressive!” Connie first to come to her senses. “I felt—something! But it hasn’t any idea of hurting us; rather protecting us. Did you get that too, darling?”

“Yeah, its friendly.” Lys shaking herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. “It hasn’t any intention of hurting us, is what I got. Wants to protect us from the other thing outside, which does have aggressive intentions, apparently.”

Connie glanced across at the glow beside them, it writhing and expanding and collapsing in a curious flickering sequence that didn’t seem to have any logical basis.

“It seems a lot more—green than the one outside. Do you think that means it’s stronger?”

Lys considered this as being of more than mere idle conjecture.

“Let’s hope so; because I don’t think our bullets are gon’na be of much use as defence in the long run. The only thing’ll oppose that emanation outside is this one here beside us now. It seems to be friendly, however that’s contingent between something from another realm and poor ol’ us! Let’s just hope it’s got the balls to send it’s cousin runnin’ for cover, cryin’ for mercy the while.”

Connie had been keeping a close watch on the outside glow from the window and now saw some new activity there.

“Lys, it’s on the move! It’s coming for the main door. Right, we’ll both stand at the top of the stairs and, if it gains entrance, we’ll blast it, OK?”

“Suits me, baby. Oh, our glow’s got a plan of its own, look?”

The greenish glow, its flickering presence now even overpowering the ambient electric light in the hall, had smoothly slipped to the side stopping for a moment at the head of the stairs just as the women had planned to do—then it moved forward, slipping down the flight of stairs as if wholly unimpeded by the steep incline to stop in the centre of the main hall below. A moment later, as observed by the eager women now standing in the glow’s previous position at the stairhead, the entrance door of solid teak began to glow a dull sickly yellow in its own right, this rapidly turning to an even sicklier pale yellowish-green as the glow on the outside apparently began its assault determining to gain entrance.

As the inside of the door glowed an even stronger evil green the waiting glowing presence in the hall moved nearer the door before apparently enfolding the whole door within its partially spheroid boundaries. For what seemed half an hour but could actually have been no more than a few seconds the glow seemed to defy that of its own order on the other side of the door, then it retreated back into the centre of the hall just as the door ceased glowing and the women heard, from the outside, a horrible gibbering and wailing as of hundreds of souls in anguish in Hell screaming for mercy—a moment later and all was silent. Before the women could react further the electric light in the second floor hall and that downstairs flickered wildly going out for half a second before returning at full level power, revealing that the green glow that had so surprisingly protected the women in the house had itself disappeared. Rushing to the hall window Lys and Connie surveyed the landscape outside, but of the evil glimmering glow previously there nothing further could be seen, it apparently having been sent packing by its stronger rival.

My God! it’s gone.” Connie hardly able to believe her eyes.

“Just like our own friendly specimen.” Lys glancing all round and down the corridor leading to the other rooms on the second floor. “No sign of it at all.”

Connie gave a long sigh of pure relief.

“Looks like we’ve been saved by the bell in no uncertain manner. Who’d have believed it?”

“Dam’ strange, all round, that’s for sure.” Lys admitting the truth of their uncanny experience. “Well, that’s something t’scare the grandkids with as a Halloween story when we’re both old maids!”

“You bet’cha!” Connie no way behind in her astonishment. “What do we do now? Tell the local cops or newspaper people, tomorrow?”

“And be the cynosure of all idiocy for the rest of our lives as a result?” Lys on top of this silly idea. “No chance. What we do is keep stumm for all Eternity, is what. After all, you know, this might not be the only time we have to rely on that house-bound entity saving our bacon—remember, this’s one Halloween, but there’s untold numbers of same still to come, ain’t there, lover?”

Connie, assured the danger was over for the present, had set her shotgun down against the near wall, barrel up, she moving over to cuddle her lover as if for the first time.

Oh, it ain’t the last time, not by a long way, I know that. We’ve still got to figure out just what’s driving that thing outside, and what makes it want to come in here while the one that’s already in residence doesn’t want it’s other self doing any such thing.”

“Yeah, there’s that, sure.” Lys acknowledging the inevitable. “So, what you’re sayin’ is, we haven’t really started yet?”

“About sums it up, yeah. Want a cup of Ovaltine before we go t’bed? Don’t think we’ll be disturbed again tonight, from outside or in!”

“Suits me, baby. Bags I the left side.”

“Left side?” Connie all at sea. “Left side of what?”

“The bed.”

Oh—ha, you are a one, Lys!”

“Like’s my comfort’s, all!”


The next day Lys took the afternoon off from the restaurant.

“Lots of young women wanting jobs as waitresses round these parts. I’ve been thinking for a few months it wouldn’t be a bad idea to open a restaurant in Laconia, run by an under-manageress; get the local trade and that of the holiday-makers in the Summer—wouldn’t be a bad idea, I think.”

“You got the backing to do that?”

“Yeah, been in this business some years now, got a pile stashed.”

“Good for you,” Connie grinning as they finished their lunch in the kitchen. “so, what do we do now? Those green glows yesterday, they have anything to do with ol’ Robertson back in the 1890’s, you think?”

“Probably, though how exactly I don’t quite figure yet.” Lys taking the plates over to the sink. “What we got’ta do, why I’ve taken time off, is to go through that library of so-called rare an’ esoteric books up in the attic room. That one beside the larger room where the Satanic Rites apparently went on.”

“The scene of the crime, y’mean?” Connie having regained most of her sense of humor in the hours following their adventure the night before. “Whatever it was that went on that last night in the ‘90’s, that spooked the audience an’ allowed Robertson t’depart for pastures of a highly dubious nature, well, it must’a been a doozy, is all I can say. We really wan’na get involved in bringing something like that back for a second performance?”

Lys shook her head as she returned to hold Connie’s arm as they headed for the hall and the stairs to the second floor.

“We don’t know the spells, rituals, or incantations needed, thank Heaven! So not much chance of doing anything accidental of a dangerous nature; no, what we want to find are Robertson’s personal papers—diaries, notes, writings of any sort; see if they give any insight into what happened then and what’s happening now.”

Connie could see the down side to this as they ascended to the second floor then went down the corridor to the stairs leading to the attics.

“Trouble is, Lys, from what I’ve seen of the room over the last few weeks it’s just a junk-room filled with the debris of the ages. Sure, some books in a rickety old bookcase, but not more’n, oh, seventy-eighty at a push; and a table loaded with loose documents, pamphlets, and files gathering the literal dust of the ages. Not much chance of finding anything other than one hundred and thirty year old gas bills and complaints from his local butcher to pay overdue accounts.”

Har, we’ll see; is the room locked, by the way?”

“Nah, why should it be, just ful’la junk; anyone wants same they’re welcome far’s I’m concerned. Was thinking of making a giant bonfire in the cobbled yard behind the house, as a matter of fact—but’d probably take a week to burn all the paper an’ books up here.”

“Well, let’s look it all over first, might yet contain the key to the whole affair,”

Connie laughed as they stopped outside the attic door in question.

“Like the Rosetta Stone, y’mean?”


Inside the room revealed itself to be around thirty feet long by twelve or so wide. The corridor being internal the room, like the others in the attic, looked out on the front of the building—the two windows in this particular room being some six feet high and three wide. The drapes, though, had long since moldered to dust, ragged dirt encrusted remnants lying below each window like ruins lost in a Saharan desert.

“Mind you don’t disturb the mess there.” Connie wary from the start. “I’ve only been in a coupl’a times, but I kicked this pile of dust here and the resulting cloud nearly choked me—dust-storms ain’t in it.”

“Open a window, let some air in.”

Connie shook her head, as one who knew, had tried, and come to regret her actions.

“Can’t, both rusted to the frames; tried one again, brought the old drape rod down on my head, see there? Nearly knocked me unconscious!”

Ah, well!”

The room in fact, on closer inspection by the women, showed as far less prepossessing or interesting than the reputation it had gained over the years from mere folklore. A single long table, looking as if a refugee from the kitchen downstairs, was piled from end to end with loose papers, wads of unidentified documents of all shapes lengths and colours, with piles of files taking up what space was left over. Against the opposite wall a single wide bookcase, admittedly rising to near the level of the ceiling, was packed with what at first sight appeared to be the debris cast-asides of a particularly bad rubbish-ridden second-hand bookshop.

Lys stepped carefully over the bare floorboards, odd abandoned objects that might once have been household items lying everywhere to trap the unwary visitor’s ankles.

God, I’ve seen ruins without roofs in better states than this place! OK, y’call this wreck a bookcase? Looks more like Captain Ahab’s cabin once the Pecquod had been residing in Davy Jones’s Locker for twenty year!”

Connie, glancing closely at the piece of furniture for the first time, could only agree.

“Yeah, ain’t in quite the good shape I expected. Bit of a mess, in fact; is that mold on the outside of that row of—er, things?”

Lys stepped up to the case, leaning forward to examine the row of faded slanted books indicated.

“Yeah, ‘fraid so, catch that smell, moldy as all get-out! But what can you expect? These certainly haven’t been touched in the last hundred and thirty years, for sure. What’re we lookin’ for precisely, anyway?”

Connie wasn’t quite clear about this detail herself.

Ah, yeah, well. Uum, anything interesting, I suppose.”

Lys turned a querying eye on her lover.

“Hardly helpful! Say, how’s about I start at this end, you take the other; mind your step there, what’s that thing on the floor by your right foot?”

Connie, looking down, kicked whatever it was aside with the edge of her shoe, trying as she did so not to damage her shoe or get dust on it.

God, place’s a g-d’d-m mess; a sh-th-le! Take a month t’clean it!”

Lys had an altogether more effective idea in mind.

“Dam’ that! Break open that window, dump everything, and I mean everything, out into the drive below, get a Refuse Company from Laconia t’bring two, no three, trucks t’remove the whole lot t’the furnaces. That’ll do the job!”

Connie raised sceptical eyebrows at this Gordian answer to the problem, but finding no immediate reply to hand gave in with just a weak nod.

“Suppose, but we got’ta go through it all first.”

“Yeah, that’s what worries me.” Lys still in no way comfortable with the approaching day’s work. “Can you catch anything, contagious I mean, from clearing out old junk-rooms or rows of skanky decomposing books, and what’s lurkin’ in ‘em?”

Connie considered this with some concern, the possibility never having occurred to her before.

“Good point; look, let’s step back for a coupl’a minutes, go back downstairs, root out the industrial strength cleaning agents I bought two months ago; they’re in the long room behind the kitchen. Then we can get rubber gloves, masks, a couple of brooms and dustpans, break the glass in one of the windows here, and we’re good t’go!”

Lys laughed outright.

“Lady, you’re one of a kind, and I’m dam’ glad I’ve met ya, tell the truth!”

What followed, of course, was a mutually satisfying kiss.


Nothing in the way of actual investigation was able to take place that day; the length of time taken in cleaning the worst of the accumulated rubbish from the room, making sure touching the piles of papers of all types as well as the majority of books in the high case wouldn’t result in Green Monkey Disease or something infinitely worse, and dusting the floor if such a term could be applied to simply rearranging the collected archaeological strata of dirt piled-up over the last one hundred and thirty years on the floorboards, finally resulting only in two wholly exhausted workers abandoning the enterprise with aching shoulders and backs some seven hours into the activity; Lys and Connie instead choosing a relaxing bath followed by collapse on the living-room sofa for the rest of the evening. The next morning finding them again both back in the Front Line, though hardly refreshed to any visible extent, staring round at the attic room in its new reincarnation.

“Can’t say I see much difference.” Lys putting into words both their opinions. “You?”

“Nah.” Connie muttering this through set lips and a forming scowl already creeping inexorably towards the borders of an actual snarl. “Lets take that piece of board down from the window, let some light an’ air in. At least the majority of the dust’s gone.”

“Most of the dirt still seems determined not t’move on, though.” Lys eyeing the room with less than a loving mien.

Huurph!” Connie miserably raising and lowering her hard-done by shoulders in preparation for the next step. “OK, lets get to it. What do we do now?”

An hour later, after a pause while they went downstairs to bring up two sturdy straight-backed chairs, they finally found themselves in charge of what, on a good day, might be termed a going concern. They both sat on the same, window side, of the table piles of files and loose documents more or less tidily placed by each’s elbows.

Yeew! Can still smell that liquid you used as bleach on the floor.” Lys wrinkling her nose. “What the hell was it?”

“Garner’s Top Quality Mimosa Grade A! Guaranteed to kill everything—warning, wear gloves at all times, if gotten in eyes write your will and despair!”

Ha-ha!” Lys relieving her feelings by way of a good laugh. “OK, lets get started, what we want is ol’ Henry Robertson, late of this same address, coming through with his life’s story in gory detail; what’re the chances?”

“Hardly any, I’d say, but what else plan have we got?”

“True, true. Papers, papers, papers; hell, who needs t’write all this? Ain’t they ever heard of computers, at all?”

“Eighteen ninety, darlin’!”

Ah, well, suppose that’s some sort’a excuse, yeah.”

Ten minutes later Lys thought she had struck paydirt.

“What’s this? Looks like a copy of a formal letter inviting someone to what he calls an Evening with the Other Side? Sounds suspicious as all get-out!”

“Who’s it addressed to?”

Lys leant over the yellowed piece of paper, scanning it with the eyes of an eagle.

“Someone called Dorothea Pickerling, strange moniker! Seems to have lived in Concord.”

“Long way to come for an evening’s entertainment?”

“Probably one of those famous weekend parties people used to have at country houses.” Lys well up on the social gatherings of the Upper Classes of days gone by. “Pity we don’t have her reply—maybe give an insight into what these party-go’ers were expectin’ to gain from attending these crushes.”

“What year was the letter written?”

“Lem’me see—September Eighteen Ninety-three, year before the Grand Debacle.”

Connie pondered this interesting snippet for a while.

“Go into any sort’a detail, does he?”

“Nah, just a formal invite’s all.”

“Pity, could’a been useful otherwise.” Connie sighing regretfully. “Look, I got something later.”

Oh, yeah? What?”

“This’s a lawyer’s letter, dated Eighteen Ninety-six, addressed t’someone called Timothy Robertson—”

“Must’a been a distant relative; Henry, of that Ilk, wasn’t married.”

Ah, well, a Mister Rankine here regrets to say he cannot give any information to the new owner about Mister Henry as there is nothing of any importance that he knows about said individual except, of course, for the matter of the trial in Eighteen Seventy-nine wherein said late Henry was had up on charges of initiating Activities and Rites of a nature liable to upset the natural stasis of local moral Society in the neighbourhood of Laconia, NH.!”

Wow! Burnin’ hot!” Lys all ears. “What happened? Does he say?”

“Hang on, there’s another letter from the same lawyer under this one.” Connie shuffling the pile of loose documents in front of her like a schoolteacher in a mad rush to get home of an evening. “Right, here, listen t’this! To Mister Timothy Robertson, on further enquiry it is my happy endeavor to tell you that the late Mister Henry Robertson, though taken up on serious charges of an nature wholly egregious to Society as a whole, was found not guilty, even though via a mere technicality of Law, so going free from incarceration! What about that? He had been suspected of, uum, Supernatural activities a few years before his, er, demise?”

“Sounds like everyone knew about him and his antics.” Lys considering the effects of this almost antique information emanating from an era long gone. “Maybe gave him, in certain circles, a reputation that’d draw crowds of the worst types to his gatherings later on?”

“Could be.” Connie once more sorting through the papers before her. “That seems to be all, sadly; you find anything yet?”

Lys had been industriously flicking through a pile of dirty soft-covered files meanwhile and had indeed found something of worth.

“This file here, seems to have been made after Henry’s death, or supposed same, anyway.”

All eager curiosity Connie leaned sideways for a glimpse of the document in question.

Oh, yeah? What’s it say? And to whom?”

“A series of newspaper cuttings on top, all about the shenanigans of ol’ Henry. Seems to have gained a reputation that made him newsworthy, at least locally.” Lys sifting through the file’s contents with an expert finger. “Ah, it’s been compiled by our old friend Timothy; about two years after he took up residence in his new home. Maybe took that length of time for the manifestations to start appearing?”

“He say how he felt about it? And what he thought was going on?”

Lys bowed over the file, reading quickly.

“Yeah, he does. Strange things started happening the first September he lived here, then the next year things really seem to have taken off, Timothy describing a strange green glow seen in the nearby woods of evenings. Lem’me see, talked about by the locals, some children playing in the woods scared by these glows flickering around them, police called in but nothing found. Timothy writing here that he’s now seen the glow in the house, in the attic, and’s scared as hell as a result.”

“Who wouldn’t be!”

“Called in the local Minister, lem’me see, nah, didn’t take, whatever the Minister did—glow still in residence to Tim’s discomfort.”

“Take more’n a few minister’s ramblings or incantations to move these dam’ green glows,—Wraiths, I mean. Know that now, anyway!” Connie admitting the reality of the situation.

Yes-uum,” Lys reading another set of documents within the file. “Ah, here we are—Tim says he’s fairly certain the green glow, the one in the house anyway, is Henry’s Spirit; the glows in the woods being the Demons Henry inadvertently set free during one of his imbecile Satanic Rites parties just before he too, Henry that is, was taken off to have his personal tour of the Other Side.”

“Serve the idiot right!” Connie taking no prisoners regarding this activity. “What can you expect? Dabbling in that sort’a thing like an amateur! Got his just deserts, ask me!”

“Doesn’t help us much, dear.”

Oh, well.”

Lys continued reading the dusty filthy remnants of paper from years gone by, pausing to wipe her dirty fingers on her jacket meanwhile.

God, I’ll have t’send this t’the nearest dry-cleaners after this! Right, Tim says here he’s tried everything; ministers’ bringing their best exorcism games to the situation, without any visible effect; he doing his own personal best, reading quotations from the Bible—”

“Lot’ta good that’d do!”

“—bringing in a local Native American to do something similar, but to the same eventual effect—nothing. Then finally, Tim explains, cleaning the place from top to bottom with the best most powerful detergents and bleaches available to mankind, from a shop in Concord, he says—”

“Losing his grip, obviously! Who wouldn’t, mind?”

“Gim’me room here, lover.” Lys carrying on regardless against all opposition and interruption. “Here we are, at the crux; he’s had enough, dated October Eighteen Ninety-eight, the Glows’ are all round the house, the Glow inside is flickering at his heels through every room like a dam’ hound-dog lookin’ for a treat or cuddle, the place’s cold as hell and Tim’s had enough! Last note here, he’s upping sticks an’ movin’ out an’ dam’ the place is his last word on the matter.”

Well, well, well!” Connie sitting back too as her lover closed the file. “That’s something; Tim and the Wraith, the one inside, didn’t make chums, like we’ve done with it. Wonder what the difference was?”

“Clash of personalities?” Lys grinning hugely as she looked at her heart’s love. “We on the other hand, being a modern couple who know what’s what and are capable of enfolding all-comers in our non-antagonistic loving arms, can see the good even in a dam’ green glowin’ Wraith!”

“Wish same was true!” Connie not convinced by this ineffectual moral sermon.

But something else had taken Lys’ attention as they sat in the cold still dirty room.

“Light’s fading from outside, bulb here’s dimming as we speak, and what’s this dim glow on the papers on the desk here?”

Both women stared around at their immediate environment for a moment then, as twins with but a single thought, turned to look back at the library’s door. Inside the room, between them and the door, the green vibrating unformed emanation was once more in residence; glowing this time with even more strength than it seemed to have had a few days before.

Oh, God! It’s back!”

Lys, placing a hand on Connie’s shoulder in a calming gesture, rose to her feet facing the thing.

“Can you hear us? What do you want? We’re friends, is there anything we can do for you?”

The glowing mass of apparently inorganic pure energy seemed to hover just above the floorboards though reaching to near the open raftered ceiling ten feet above. Mostly semi-transparent, it had an uncanny resemblance to a mass of liquid green soap, if such a thing was possible. Now, at Lys’ words, it vibrated with even more vigor as if indeed having understood the nature of her question. With a controlled swiftness it suddenly moved sideways towards the far wall of the document room, stopped at the wall dividing this from the next attic space, then seemed to slide into and through the wall without any visible resistance at all, vanishing in an instant, leaving both spectators mystified.

“Wish I could do that!” Connie putting into words something she probably felt she was only thinking.

“Idiot, come on!”

“Come on? Where?” Connie not in the mood for further esoteric expeditions.

“To the Rites Chamber, that’s where the thing is now, ain’t it?” Lys taking the pragmatic view though in trying circumstances.

“The Rites Chamber?” Connie horrified by this request. “I ain’t been in there since our first visit, haven’t done as much as wash the floor clean of all those dam’ signs an’ markings; meant to do it this coming week.”

“Maybe just as well; have a feeling the Wraith, Henry in spiritual form we hope, may still have a use for them. You coming?”

Oh, sh-t!” Connie rising to her feet, though reflecting in her hesitant demeanor an almost one hundred percent dissent to the coming change of scene. “Whole dam’ thing’s going sideways like a car off the train tracks! OK-OK, I’m coming! You lead the way, Stanley!”

“Very funny; just keep that level of humor goin’ darling, may need it a lot more before the day’s done.”



The Rites Chamber, as the women had early taken to naming the room where the arcane rites and rituals of Henry’s free time had supposedly taken place all those years past, was indeed still in the state it had first shown to the women on their initial arrival; that is dark, gloomy, walls decorated with incomprehensible markings and proto-images, floor ditto. A strange scent, as of ancient incense long broken down into its original though decomposing components, filled the nostrils of the women as they cautiously entered; the green glow, Wraith of Henry Robertson if they had figured the situation properly, as they expected apparently waiting on their arrival.

“What the hell’s it gon’na do?”

“Wait an’ see.” Lys shrugging her shoulders, though keeping a tight hand on her lover’s arm just the same. “We’re in, but that’s it. Don’t go any further, let the thing do its business, whatever it has in mind.”

As if on cue the shimmering mass of energy moved over to the main circle of markings on the floor, not quite a true pentacle but close, hovering near to the outer border but not going further across the intricately angled designs. After a pause of thirty seconds or so it moved away again, nearer the further wall, glimmering there in place as if now expecting some reaction from its human spectators.

“Does it want us to do something?” Connie frowning at the glimmering semi-spheroid of energy. “If so, I ain’t playin’.”

Lys regarded the unfolding situation for an appreciable time, taking note of all that could be of any import at all, before making any rejoinder.

“I think, maybe,—I think—”

Connie however couldn’t take the strain of this inconclusive attitude another second.

“Whatever, lover? Now’s the time, spit it out.”

“It wants us to go over to the floor design—”

“What? The pentacle? You out’ta your mind? I ain’t goin’ within twenty feet of that!”

“Pentacle? That what it’s called?” Lys turning to her partner and nodding in recognition of this archaic fact. “Well, whatever, that’s what’s indicated. Either we do something positive, or throw the towel in an’ go home. What ya think?”

Connie, put on the spot so specifically, sighed dolefully then folded.

Oh, God! Alright, if that’s what you think! You really think that?”

“Yeah, sadly, I do.”

God! OK, let’s get it over with. Anything nasty happens, I’m blaming you, mind.”

“Sweet of you; if so I’ll make it up after—”

“There’ll be an After? Glad t’hear it!”

“Connie, get a dam’ grip.”

Oh, alright; only ‘cause it’s you askin’, though. You goin’ first?”

Lys sighed in her turn then, like the warrior she undoubtedly was, stepped further into the room, keeping a wary eye on the green glow on the far side with every slow careful step—Connie following literally on her heels.

Reaching the outer border of the series of wavy and angled lines on the floor both regarded the layout of the wide design, searching for some form of logic or rationality in it’s curious form.

“Mean anything to you?”

Connie, so quizzed, unwillingly looked more closely at the intricate design and immediately gave up.

“Nah, nothing. Looks like the scratching’s of a drunk man, is all.”

“Must be something to it, all the same.” Lys taking note of the overall implications afforded by the designs’ simple presence at all. “It must have worked, back in the day, else this dam’ Wraith here, Henry we hope, wouldn’t be here or the one out in the forest nearby. Say, do you think the one outside wants to get in here, to access this pentacle for it’s own purposes, an’ ol’ Henry over there, or what’s left of him, wants to stop that happening?”

Connie took time to digest this theory, finding at last that it held merit of a sort.

“Could be; but how’s that help us? We want rid of both Henry and his alter ego outside; how’d we go about that?”

“By listening to Henry over there; or, at least, interpreting his needs logically so we understand what it is he really wants.”

Connie regarded Lys with a cool eye, clearly unconvinced by this wild surmise.

“And just how do we go about that, dear?”

Before Lys could form a reply further discussion was taken out of her hands, the green glow, Henry’s supposed Wraith as active as ever, moving back into the centre of the room causing Lys and Connie to take quick defensive action by scuttling backwards towards the door in no uncertain fashion. Standing just in front of their escape route the women then paused to again watch the movements of the unnatural entity still shimmering in the centre of the room.

“What’s on its mind now?”

In answer to this query Lys simply gripped Connie’s arm comfortingly, both waiting for the glow to do whatever next was on its mind, if it could be said to be in possession of such.

Ignoring its nervous spectators the Wraith hovered by the edge of the outer markings as it had previously done, then wavered somewhat erratically away across the room to stop at a small table on the far side, on which appeared to be a set of long abandoned paint-pots of the type used to contain wall paint. After a few seconds it again, in a curious quivering motion akin to a drunken butterfly in a gale, made its way back to the edge of the pentacle where it stopped, as if questioning the women as to their next move then, within barely half a second, vanished with such rapidity and completeness as to leave the women partially blinded for a moment by the sudden lack of bright light.

On recovering their wits both ladies found the room returned to its natural state of cold dirty abandoned indifference to the passing Ages, of the Wraith nary a sign nor smell remaining.

“It’s gone, again.” Connie feeling that announcing the perfectly obvious would in some way help matters.

“Youi don’t say!” Lys glancing all round, sizing up their present position before making any further move. “You coming?”

Connie, caught off-guard, nearly yelped her response, voice high-pitched in something close to fear.

“Coming? Where?”

“Back into the room, of course.” Lys apparently set on some form of action. “Let’s hit the pentacle again, an’ discuss the possibilities.”

“The only possibility I’m harbouring at present is that of how long’ll it take me to hit Concord and the Highflyer rail link to Portsmouth, baby!”

Lys stopped in her tracks, turning to her cohort with some asperity in her tone at this unnecessary back-sliding.

“What are ya, Connie? A backwoods Frontiers-woman with true grit who’d spit in a grizzly’s eye, or a—a—oh, something else?”

Nailed to the board so emphatically Connie found her only out was that of coming clean about her true nature.

Oh, OK; but mind, this’s all on you, lover of mine.”

Har! Bravery at last!” Lys sniggering gently while also giving her partner an encouraging squeeze on her arm. “Come on, let’s get t’grips with this thing; Time’s passing, an’ it’ll be suppertime soon.”

“Lys, I think you’re mad!”

Ha! Whatever! Come on.”


The further examination of the dirty broken pentacle marks did not lead to any clearer an interpretation of what the Wraith had in mind for the women to do, Lys making her bafflement plain.

“Can’t figure it out at all—unless the dam’ spectre wants us to kick-start the pentacle into working again! Faint chance!”

Connie, who had been peering across the other side of the room, came to brisk life at this off-hand remark.

“Lys, you Angel! You’ve hit it! It wants us to repaint the pentacle, so it can perform some esoteric rite or other and return to its natural environment. I bet that’s it!”

Lys, however, was less than convinced.

“Its natural environment, you say? But if that thing’s what’s left of Henry Robertson the Other Side ain’t his natural environment at all—this, Real Life, is!”

Connie deliberated over this viewpoint in deep concentration, giving it of her best.

“You’d think so, but remember, Henry’s dead now—has been these hundred and thirty odd years! His natural environment is that Other Place now, ain’t it?”

Brought up short by this laconic interpretation of events Lys gave it of her best too; finally nodding in agreement.

“Think you’ve hit it, lover. Yeah, it wants us to freshen up the pentacle with those pots of paint over there, or more contemporary paint—don’t suppose that detail matters much. Then it’ll perform some ghastly rite not seen since Medieval times—hope it doesn’t involve gore, specially not ours!—then vanishes back to the place it should never have left at all.”

Both women stood motionless and silent, considering the immense craziness of what they were about to do, and its likely outcome.

“Lys, if this ends in us both involved in some sadistic out-of-bounds crazy Demon sex stuff I’m goin’ t’hold you responsible.”

“Idiot, you’ve been watching too many of those old Hammer Films that’re on the telly late at night. Gim’me a break! Go an’ see if there’s any viable paint left in those pots, will ya?”

A quick check revealed the remaining dregs in the three metal pots on the table by the wall had long since dried up to a hard surface impenetrable to any tool known to Humankind; Lys making her disgust public.

Hah! That puts the tin can on that possibility!”

Connie groaned out loud at this feeble joke.

“Your grandma go on the stage in old times, and you’re remembering the jokes she used? If that’s the best you’ve got—don’t, thanks.”

Oh, if ya feel that way, ducks.” Lys not put out in the least. “So, its time-out then till we buy a few pots of Wisteria White, and brushes, cloths, paint remover, and those flat plastic trays you pour the paint in? Gon’na cost us a dam’ fortune; you know the price of tins of paint nowadays?”

Connie groaned again, clearly wondering if their relationship was going to be this agonising all the time.

“Lys, I love’s ya to bits; but exactly why, at this particular moment, escapes me entire!”

Lys, unworried by this infinitely small tiff, shrugged her shoulders, patted Connie on hers, and turned to the door.

“Come on, biccies and whiskey beckon downstairs, my treat. What’s on the radio this late? Anything jazzy? Ya got the TV t’work yet?”

“Haven’t thought of buying one yet.” Connie back to her usual calm temperament as she followed her heartmate to the head of the stairs. “Too engrossed in my latest manuscript—which, lady, if you’re at all interested, hasn’t felt the touch of my quill these four days past. Any longer an’ I’ll have t’take up one of those magazine adverts offering how to be a popular author in ten easy lessons.”

Ha! Wouldn’t do much good!” Lys immediately realising the doubtful interpretation this remark could afford to anyone nearby of a critical frame of mind back-tracked with verve and anxious repentance, hoping for the best.

“That’s t’say, you’re so good anyway, lessons won’t add anything to your innate genius, is what I meant.”

Connie frowned terribly at her lover’s back as they continued their descent to the ground floor, but as this was unseen by Lys all was well in the long run.

“Paint!” Connie keeping on track, even while winding down for the night. “Concord? Or Laconia? Or somewhere even further afield?”

Lys shrugged again as they entered the brightly lit kitchen.

“Laconia should serve, for all normal purposes, I’d say. After all, most of the customers coming an’ going to the shops there are local farmers or workers on the land in some other way. If said shops don’t have white paint by the hundred gallon barrel I can only think the World’s comin’ to an end for real.”

Huumph!” Connie by now more fixated on a revivifying drink and a sweet cookie than anything else of import. “Hope ol’ Green Henry upstairs keeps to himself for the remainder of the night. I want a cosy long sleep beside the lady I most like in that position, an’ nothing more exciting than that.”

“Puts me at some of a disadvantage; but I’ll do the best I can—always allowing we’re not both so half-sea’s over by bedtime neither of us can, er, you know!”

Huh!” Connie trying her best as they sat at the kitchen table to look like a snappy New England schoolmarm. “I never take more’n one glass myself, and if you try to empty the bottle well, I’m here specially to make sure you don’t, lover-gal!”



Two days later everything necessary to the advancement of Mediaeval Satanic rituals in the Modern age were in place in the long room of the attic in the former Robertson House. The faded dirty pentacle covering most of the centre of the bare floor had been enhanced by the addition of what the lettering on the three pots of paint hurriedly bought in Laconia boasted as being A1 White Rose White, guaranteed not to tarnish or fade over a period of one hundred years; though how the retail company thought they could back up this outrageous conclusion beat everybody.

Standing now in the finished room, admiring their handiwork, Connie was not pleased.

“Look at my fingers! Wore those dam’ rubber gloves all the time I was painting, and my fingers are still covered in ingrained paint, anyway. I’ll never get this dross out from under my nails.”

“Rubbish!” Lys, knowing her gal by this time, striding over this complaint with all the disdain it invited. “A few scrubs under the tap, with that bottle of industrial paint-remover we bought at Gardley’s Dry Goods, an’ you’ll be right as rain again. Think we’ve covered every detail? Haven’t missed anywhere, have we?”

Connie, still not in any way mollified, gazed round the room with a mien that would have made any self respecting Guardian Angel present step back a few paces just to be safe.

“Nah! And if we have, it can dam’ well stay missed. I having had it all ways t’hell with this g-d’d-m paint business. What time’s it?”

Lys, always endeavoring to calm the savage beast when met, gave forth with another bad joke after ostentatiously consulting the face of her wristwatch.

“Thirty minutes abaft the Witchin’ Hour, babe.”

Connie sighed in something very like despair at this thrust.

“You got any more like that up your sleeve, lover?”


“Well, keep ‘em there, save the World from dyin’ of atrophy of the Funny Bone.”

Oh, that’s nasty!”

“But fair; OK, what else do we need to do, before the night’s revels kick off? Always supposing ol’ Henry and his vibrating glow turn up at all. Wouldn’t it be funny if we’ve gone to all this trouble an’ the ol’ croak’s given up the ghost for real, leaving us high an’ dry?”

Lys grabbed her chance with both hands, metaphorically speaking.

“If that was meant to be funny, it was worse than my efforts, is all.”

Ho, lady!” But Connie didn’t have the chance to take this further.


“Yeah, I’m just beginnin’, mind.”


Jeez, what?”

“Is that a shimmering green glow coming from out in the corridor, under the door-foot?”

Connie turned to the door with the swiftness of an eagle falling on its prey, catching her breath as she regarded the door herself.

God! Yeah, it is. He’s dam’ well come back, after all, for the second show. How bad are things gon’na get, you suppose?”

“Well, we’ve lost our chance to flee the scene, as the cops say about robbers.” Lys shrugging as she grabbed Connie’s arm, dragging her bodily to the far end of the room, as far away from the central pentacle as possible. “Jeez, look out the window here, is that the other green Thing across there just hidden amongst the trees beyond the drive?”

One glance through the still dirt-encrusted glass assured Connie her partner wasn’t seeing things; in amongst the thick stand of firs about a hundred yards away a green glow shimmered like a silent smokeless fire.

God! We’re bein’ assaulted from two sides. What chance of escape do we have now?”

Lys pressed her lover’s shoulder comfortingly again.

“Let’s just see how things pan out; might work out fine if ol’ Henry out in the corridor manages to pull things off to his advantage.”

Connie shook her head.

“This’s gon’na be fun!”


The next scene in the unfolding drama began with the appearance, straight through the body of the door as if the solid teak was just a London pea-souper fog, of the green seven foot high and five foot wide spheroid of pure energy which the women had come to associate with the immortal remnants of what had previously been Henry Robertson.

God! There he is, in  person again.” Connie sounding like a hostess at a social Ball meeting someone she disapproved of. “Hallo! He’s gone again.”

The glowing ball of energy had indeed retreated the way it had come, only the shimmer still visible under the door from the corridor outside showing it had not disappeared for good.

“What the dam’s it up to?”

Before either could formulate a reasonable reply the glow again appeared through the door, though still not making any attempt to intrude further simply glimmering with an intense green sheen by the door.

“Is it pissed we painted the pentacle the wrong shade of white, or what?” Connie giving of her best guess.

Before Lys could answer it again disappeared back into the corridor, incomprehensibly leaving the women to their own devices for the second time. Half a minute passed, the only sign of the glow that coming through the crack under the door.

“Seems to be taking longer this time.” Connie frowning in her efforts to come to grips with what was going on.

“I got an idea.”

Connie turned to her lover with open eyes and a tremor in her voice.

“Well, don’t keep it a secret,—give!”

“Perhaps it wants us to go out in the corridor too? So it can take, er, guide us somewhere!”

Connie wasn’t having any of this frightening likelihood.

“Go somewhere! To Hell itself, you mean? Not dam’ likely, madam, on my watch! I’ve read Dante, y’know, so I’ll just pass on that if you don’t mind.”

But here Lys showed her steely inner being, pulling Connie by the arm as she made her way over to the door, making sure to avoid the still unused pentacle by as wide a margin as possible. She paused, one hand on the knob, then firmly pulled it towards her opening the door wide. Outside in the corridor they both saw, to their astonishment, the glowing energy form had already moved along to the head of the stairs shimmering there as if waiting for the women to follow.

“Think I was right.” Lys firmly taking command. “Wants us to follow it—come on!”

Seconds later as they both reached the stairhead the glowing ball was already almost at the bottom; another few seconds and it hovered over to the main entrance door, a solid affair made of six inch thick teak that Connie had found, because of its weight, difficult to open or close from the get-go of her first arrival. As the women stared down Henry, if the glimmering unsubstantial ball of energy were indeed he, shimmered away from the door to the right side some twenty feet off, clearly waiting for the women to join it once more.

God, here we go again!” Lys leading the way downstairs. “Beginning to catch the drift of its thought processes;—how about you?”

“Reserve my judgement, if allowed.” Connie not in a mood to agree to anything at the moment.

Standing on the cold slabs of granite that paved the main Hall Lys cautiously moved over to the door, keeping a wary eye on their immaterial Host the while.

“So, what’s next, baby?”

So accosted Lys looked from the door to the glowing energy ball and back to the door, frowning the while; then light dawned.

“I think it wants us to open the door. Either it wants out, or it wants that energy form outside to come in.”

Connie was against this from the start, grabbing her lover’s arm in a grip Hercules couldn’t have equaled.

“That’s crazy! That’d make two bloody glowing balls in the house, right beside us! Anything could happen. We could be electrocuted from two different directions!”

“Don’t think so, lover.” Lys having an entirely different outlook on the situation than her partner. “Come on, heave-ho; I know this dam’ door’s incredibly heavy. You grab the knob and pull, I’ll grab the edge an’ push when it opens a few inches. Say, look here?”

“What?” Connie uncertain what had caught her lover’s attention.

“This dam’ door ain’t wood; at least, not wholly—it’s wood cladding on a internal metal core, bronze, I think. That’s why it’s so incredibly heavy.”

Giving the thick door a really good examination for the first time Connie saw her partner was right; the wood on the exterior sides was only around two inches thick, the central core obviously some form of dark brownish metal, the high slim side facing the observers scratched across from top to bottom with familiar wavy and angled lines etched into the surface.

“I got it!” Lys seeing daylight at last. “Henry, when he actually was Henry, had this door covered in esoteric magic spells; probably affecting the substance of the whole house’s frame. The end result being that, now, Henry over there can’t get out while his energetic brother outside can’t get in.”

Connie paused in her efforts to drag the door even further open, taking a moment to catch her breath.

“Yeah-yeah, sounds plausible. That could be the answer. So, what’s he want, ol’ Henry?”

Lys had figured this aspect of the unfolding drama out to her satisfaction too.

“He hasn’t the strength or power to go back to the Other Realm by himself; he needs the accompanying power of whatever it is that’s outside. Probably the Demon or Demons he originally called-up all those years ago. Bet by this time they’re as willing to quietly go back to their home ground as Henry is.”

Connie considered this angle and found it wholly acceptable.

“Lys, you’re a genius. Let’s do it; only, when that dam’ thing outside comes in, an’ hopefully makes a beeline for the pentacle upstairs, I’m staying right here in the Hall; let ‘em get up to whatever shenanigans they want in the Rites Chamber, no concern of mine.”

Lys thought about this, frowned darkly, then grinned.

“With ya all the way, we stay here; let ‘em take their own passage to eternal doom or wherever by themselves—no concern to us, as ya say. Come on, heave-ho again, one more should do it. God, we got’ta change this door for something modern and a dam’ sight lighter, later.”


The door was hardly opened to its full width than all Hell actually broke out before either woman could take another breath. The green energy form a few yards from them, which Lys and Connie had so casually come to refer to as Henry un-incarnate, began shimmering faster and stronger than they had ever seen before. The green glow intensifying to that of an enormous emerald of the first water, it’s gleaming heart at the centre of the semi-transparent form like a black ball the colour was so intense there. At the same time from outside the women heard an unearthly wailing as of hundreds of mighty warriors crying to the Gods for mercy; an instant later the outer energy form, now as bright and active as its relative beside the women, swept into the hall, the door apparently now having no effect on its travels.

With no further ado both balls of unformed energy shimmered up the stairs, one behind the other, till they were lost in the dark corridor running off there. Moments later Lys and Connie heard a crash of breaking wood from even higher in the house, echoing down like the last Trumpet and the start of Armageddon.

“That’s one way of entering the Rites Chamber!” Connie having construed the source of the noise. “Break the door down in splinters rather than turning the knob and entering like a gentleman.”

Before Lys could find a suitable reply more noise made its way along the higher corridors to rush down, like water over a high fall, to the listening womens’ ears. Crashes as of warehouses full of furniture being destroyed by Vandals, queer rattling’s, wavering siren–like almost musical tremors in the air, and finally a bright pale green light apparently gleaming through the whole fabric of the house to dazzle the eyes of the women in the main Hall; then silence and darkness, before the ambient electric light came back on, offering to the harassed women a light barely acceptable as useful after the intensity of the two glowering energy spheroids. After which an unusual silence, as of that of Ages wearying their eternal way across immutable distances of interstellar space, engulphed the women making them feel as if they had been temporarily struck deaf.

“Can you hear me, Lys?”

Lys, so questioned, turned to her lover with wide open blue eyes.

“Yeah, I can—just, mind you. You?”

“Yeah, deaf for a while there, but better now.”

“Thank God for that!” Lys turning to face the stair again. “What’s next on our agenda?”

But Connie already had the answer for this query to hand.

“If by that you mean should we go up there and investigate, think again, madam! Nothing, and I mean nothing, will make me enter that dam’ room up there for Love, Money, Treasure beyond compute, or any dam’ thing else. Not till morning, anyway. If those Things have gone, good; if not, f-ck it!”

“Feel your pain, dear.” Lys taking her partner’s hand in a tender embrace. “What say we abandon ship here for the rest of the night? Go over to my place and hunker down for the Dawn?”

Connie, all played out, considered this plan and once more found it wholly acceptable.

“After all,” As she held hands with her lover on the way across the drive to their individual cars. “Tomorrow is another day. Heard someone say that years ago, can’t remember where or who.”

Lys refrained from enlightening her, just smiling gently as they parted company for the short time it would take for the two vehicles to reach her pad miles off in the encircling forest; it now apparently returned to being as friendly and non-threatening as it ever was normally.

The End.

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