To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him
Just to see him smile, makes my life worthwhile
To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him
And I do (and I do) (and I do).

I'll be good to him. I'll bring love to him.
Everyone says there'll come a day when I'll walk alongside of him
Yes, just to know him is to love, love, love him
And I do.

Why can't he see? How blind can he be?
Someday he'll see that he was meant for me.

Emma sat in the parlor with her entire crew. They could hear the old tune coming from Ms. Nolan’s record player that sat on top of a file cabinet in her little office.

Emma had made several difficult decisions. Neal had asked to join The Investigation and, as he was essentially her employer and had a legitimate vested interest in The House, she had reluctantly agreed . She had firmly stipulated that she was in charge of The Investigation and he would be required to follow her every instruction to the letter. He had immediately agreed to her restrictions. After additional deliberation, she had also invited Ms. Nolen into the group discussion. She felt that Ms. Nolen had a lot of prior experience with investigators and it was possible that she might have some heretofore unrevealed information that might help things proceed.

At Emma’s request, Leroy went first. He was going to share some of the things he had picked up on the EVP’s and the cameras. He started with the Baseline Recordings, taken from the recorders that Emma had left before the team had arrived.

He shared the one EVP from the Library that had come through on the baseline recordings, “Hello, Emma. Welcome.” It was an extraordinarily clear EVP and everyone had agreed with what was on the tape.

Leroy shared that the baseline recorder in the basement hadn’t really picked up anything. There might be sobbing sounds, but it was too unclear to make any real decisions.

And the baseline recorder in the Red Room hadn’t picked up anything. Absolutely nothing.

Now for the new recordings. Beginning with the library, he began to share that they hadn’t picked up anything on the cameras. The only stuff that had proved interesting were the responses they had gotten on the Spirit Box, responses that everyone had already heard. When they had turned on the strobe light, everything had gone flat. . . nothing. . . not a whisper.

“All right Leroy. You know we’re all wanting to hear what was going on in the Red Room,” said Colin, saying aloud what everyone was thinking.

“Yeah, ok. You remember when you went in the room the static meter had lit up. We were also running the data logger and it recorded the temperature in the room dropping twenty degrees in a thirty second span.”

“What’s a data logger?” Neal had asked.

“It records variations in temperature every two seconds. People often report that it gets cold right before an event. The theory is that the spirit is drawing energy from the atmosphere, including heat energy, to help it manifest,” explained Emma.

“So dropping twenty degrees that quickly?”

“Is interesting,” was all Emma would say.

“And before you started asking questions, we caught an EVP,” Leroy shared.

Neal gave Emma a light punch, “Exactly what is an EVP?” He’d been hearing the term and was at a loss.

Emma responded, “Electronic Voice Phenomenon. The recorder will pick up on sounds that the human ear might not hear.”

Leroy played the recording, “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzhooorrruuu?zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

“Leroy, put that on a loop and everyone listen. Now, people write down what you heard,” Emma directed and then collected the responses. She read through them, “One hundred percent, ‘Who are you?’”

“Now there’s nothing until Archie asked the question “Did your husband kill you so he could marry Belle French?” Then all hell started breaking loose. We got this on the infrared camera. Watch.” Leroy began showing the Q&A and pointed out the three investigators. He then pointed to a place right next to Clarissa, the shortest of the three figures. “Watch this.” A blue splotch in roughly the shape of a person appeared next to Clarissa.

“What the hell is that?” asked Neal.

“Cold spot,” Emma answered.

Leroy continued, “The EMF meter was going bonkers at this time.”

The team heard Clarissa as her hair was pulled and her back was scratched. When Colin stepped in, they saw the blue figure envelope him and they heard him curse when he was scratched.

And then Archie asked, “Is that you hurting my friends?” and the blue figure rose up above the trio.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” Neal was watching open-mouthed.

Leroy turned and told the group, “We caught another EVP.”

They listened and when Archie asked, “Do you want us to leave?” the recorder caught zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzIzzzzzzzzzzzzwantzzzzzzzzzzyouzzzzzzzzzzztoz zzzzzzzzzzzzdiiiezzzzzzzzzzzz.

Leroy’s voice had come over the recordings next telling the trio to get out of the room.

“Wow,” said Neal again, speaking for the entire group.

Emma again had everyone write down what they had heard and again there was unanimity: I want you to die.

“Yeah, wow is right,” agreed Emma. “Now, we also know that at least three other teams have run a Geiger counter in that room and picked up higher than expected gamma radiation measures."

"What does that mean?" asked Neal.

Emma hesitated. "The general consensus is that higher than expected gamma radiation measures are indicative of a portal, a gateway into another dimension that . . .things can come through."

"All right then," Neal responded, obviously uncomfortable.

Emma looked back at her group of investigators. "All right, team. What do you want to do?”

“What are our choices?” asked Clarissa.

“Well, we can always pack up and leave. We wouldn’t be the first,” Emma told her. She mulled over some other options, “We could ask for a blessing to see if we can’t get rid of this bitch.”

“Why not perform an exorcism?” asked Neal.

Emma shook her head, ”You exorcise a possessed person, you bless an infested house,” she explained.

Mary Margaret spoke up, “We’ve already had several blessings. Each one seems for help a little while but then the activity returns . . . worse than ever.”

Emma nodded, “Well another option is that we can go in and confront her again, but we’d need to be armed.”

“Armed?” somebody asked.

“Protected. There are different things to do to protect yourself from . . . “ Emma hesitated, searching for the best word, “the Unseelie . The best known is the Christian cross. Wiccans use a pentagram of silver. You can also make an amulet and put something ‘repellant’ together. There are some herbs that can be used. My ‘ghost’ suggested hazelnut, mistletoe¸angelica, salt and iron.’

“Your ghost?” asked Neal.

Emma ducked her head and sighed, “Yeah, I met a woman out in the Poison Garden that Ms. Nolen assures me is the ghost of Belle French. The woman didn’t look like any ghost I’ve ever heard of. She looked as substantial as anybody here and interacted with me without any weirdness.”

“As yes,” Neal said. “Belle French.”

“You know her?” Emma asked.

“Know of her. Some time ago, I came into a handful of Rumach’s papers where he mentioned hiring a woman to clerk his paperwork for him. Something to do with her father’s debts. I wouldn’t have given the old boy the wherewithal to actually hire a woman. I always suspected he had some hanky-panky in mind and was using the clerking job as a cover.”

“Perhaps, but she actually did work as his clerk,” Emma told her ex. “I have been reading her diary and it recounts what you had said first – that her father had debts and she went to work for Rumach to help pay them off. Whether they ever got to any hanky-panky I don’t know yet, I’ve still got a ways to go with the diary.”

“Get out! You have her diary!” Neal was surprised. “That’s awesome. I wonder how it gee-haws with Rumach’s papers.”

“We’ll have to share,” Emma said without thinking things through.

Neal nodded. He hadn’t missed it, this was an opening, an opportunity to spend time with Emma.

Jefferson was watching this discussion. “This is just peachy, guys. But what do we do about the Red Room?”

Emma grimaced at Jefferson. “Yeah, right, I forgot what we were focused on. The last option I was sharing is that we protect ourselves and then go back in and confront the negative energy.”

“So it’s leave or stay?” Archie asked. “Or bless and leave or bless and stay?’

“That’s the short version,” Emma agreed.

The group looked at each other.

“Please stay,” Ms. Nolen said. “I think whatever is going on in that room may be getting worse. I’m afraid it’s going to get out of that room. I’m getting desperate.” She turned to the group, “ Any help, any help you can give me would be appreciated.”

Millie finally asked, “How dangerous can it get?”

Emma responded slowly, “Well, if you believe other accounts of what can happen when people come into contact with this type of energy . . . or entity . . . it can get pretty damn dangerous,” she said. “We’ve already had two of our group injured by being scratched. Whether it could get worse, I have no way of knowing, but I would think we would want to be prepared that it might.”

She paused, “There is also the theory that sometimes negative energies can attach themselves to a person and follow that person, perhaps possess that person.”

“Do you believe in such things, Dr. Swan?” asked Colin.

Emma paused again, “I’m always skeptical. I think some people are susceptible to negative vibes and difficult experiences and if they are, they might get traumatized enough to develop some problems.”

“So what do you think the negative energy or whatever you want to call it, in that room is?” asked Neal.

“Hell if I know. But it is one of the meanest things I’ve ever encountered,” Emma said honestly.

“I’m not in for this,” said Archie. “I’m a semi-believer and I’m afraid of getting in too deep.”

“I’m not in for this either,” admitted Millie. “Some things are better left alone.”

“Well, Jefferson?” Emma asked.

“We’ve been together awhile, Emma. You know I will support you, no matter,” he paused. “But. . .”

“Go ahead, Jefferson.”

“I think this is bigger than anything else we’ve ever encountered. This thing is nasty. I’m happy to hang on and help Leroy, but I don’t want to go into that room.”

Emma nodded. She turned to another team member, “Rory, how about you?”

Rory considered, “I’d like to go in and check it out. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay though.”

“You want to go in?” Emma asked. “But that hadn’t worked out well before. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. I want to try it again,” Rory assured her. “Maybe with some protection and if I can have Jefferson or Colin outside the door.” She smiled at the two men.

“Let me think about this, Rory,” Emma told her. “I don’t want to risk your safety.”

“I’d like to be a part of this,” Neal spoke up. “If you have a group to go back into that room, Emma. It’s my house and I’d like to get rid of anybody who’s taken up residence but who’s not paying rent.”

Emma had to smile at that. That was the kind of attitude she needed.

Clarissa spoke up. “I come from a family of very brave women,” she began slowly. “They’ve supported different causes and I can tell you my female ancestors have been arrested on every single continent fighting for their causes.”

“Including Antarctica?” Neal couldn’t help but ask.

Clarissa gave him her shy smile. “Technically it was just off the coast. Greenpeace, my grandmother, crazy woman,” she explained to Neal. She then continued, “I have never been very brave.” She paused and looked away from the group. “I’ve always been afraid and it’s taken me some effort to move away from home even. I just wanted to spend my life with books, reading about other people’s adventures.”

She looked back at the group with shining eyes, “But now I have a chance to do something, something out of the ordinary, to face danger, to be brave. “ She licked her lips. “I’m in. I want to go after this woman or devil or whatever is in that room. No one, nothing, has a right to mistreat and harm other people.” She looked at Emma, “I’m in.”

“Me, too,” Colin spoke up instantly.

“All right, then,” Emma said. She had a core investigational group. “But, before we go back into that room, I’d like to check out the attic,” Emma told the group. “I know Ms. Nolen hasn’t had any reports from up in that room, but Clarissa felt something and something happened to me in that room. Let’s rest up and regroup tomorrow night. Those of you who don’t want to go into the Red Room will help Leroy in the van.”

Belle and Rumach Goldark had mutually decided to keep their distance from each other. They had each decided, without any discussion, that they would maintain a strictly professional relationship. They dressed formally and addressed each other as Master Goldark and Miss French. Belle kept her eyes down and did everything she could to keep her mind on the job, only the job. She quit asking him questions, avoided any controversial topics and tried to keep her responses to “Yes sir” or “No sir” and the occasional “I’ll find out, sir.”

But there were still gestures. Belle continued with collecting flowers for the downstairs, but now, now, she would place a single red rose in the arrangement that she would set on his desk. It would be the only arrangement with a red rose.

Oh and there was another time, as they were about to go out to collect rent, Belle realized that she had forgotten her gloves. Not that she needed them in the summer months, but gloves were something without which a proper lady would not leave the house. She returned to the library and saw them on the table at her place. Before she could retrieve them, she saw Goldark pick them up. Slowly, he brought them to his face, smelling them and then, looking up, looking her directly in the eye, he brought the gloves to his lips.

Belle felt her face heat up. She knew intimately how those lips felt. Her palms tingled as if he were pressing his lips to them rather than to the fabric of her gloves. Slowly, he lowered them away from his face and held them out to her. Wordlessly, she took them.

They tried to talk about parting company.

Goldark talked late one morning with Belle, “I’m wondering if you should return to your father’s house.” This was not easy for him to say. He didn’t want her to go away.

“Are you dissatisfied with my work?” she asked him, trying not to sound upset. Part of her had been expecting this, expecting him to try to handle their relationship by denying it existed, by sending her away.

It would be the smart thing, the right thing to do.

“Of course not. I am concerned about . . . about . . .” he flailed around for words, “what will happen to you if you continue working here. There’s no future for you here. I can give you nothing.”

“So,” Belle looked down at the ledger she had been double-checking as if these numbers contained the secrets of the heavens, “you would see me married to some other man?”

Goldark had closed his eyes and was rubbing his head in his hands, “I don’t want that! You know that! But . . . Belle . . . people are beginning to talk, they have been talking about us . . . that I’m . . . I’m taking liberties with. . . taking advantage of you, enjoying your favors. . . having you in my bed,” he finished . “If you stay here . . . with me . . . I’m afraid. . . . I’m afraid that everything they’re saying. . . about us . . . that it will become true.”

Belle sat quietly, “Maybe I want it to become true,” she said softly. She stood, “What you and I could have together. . . “

“Society, the church, the law forbids us being together,” he told her shortly. “The last thing I want to do is hurt you, to dishonor you. We cannot be together. We shouldn’t be spending time alone together.”

She dropped her head, “I know. I know.”

They heard someone clear their throat and both turned. It was Madame Goldark dressed in an exquisite golden silk and velvet embroidered robe. It clung along her curves. How long she had been standing at the doorway of the library, they couldn’t know.

She smiled at them, “I thought I would join . . . my husband,” she emphasized the words looking at Belle, “for lunch.”

“I have work to finish up,” Belle said quickly. “I’ll get something to eat when I’ve finished here, sir.” She turned away and sat back in her chair.

Goldark considered for a moment, looking his wife over. “Of course, my dear,” he said, agreeably. Damnation.

“You two seem cozy,” Madame Goldark remarked as they walked to the dining area.

“We’re tired,” Rumach responded to his wife. “Miss French has been working with the household accounts and the rent receipts have come in which is always a lot of work.”

“I’m sure,” Madame Goldark shared. “She spends a lot of time doing work for you.” She smiled at him, “Rumach, darling, I want you to look at a problem I’m having with my large mirror. Will you be able to come up to my room later, this evening?”

“Of course, my sweet,” he responded. He sat quietly with her in the informal dining room, picking over his food.

“Are you feeling all right, darling?” she asked him.

He hesitated, “Just tired,” he answered.

“I’d like to have dinner with you tonight, my darling,” Cora said to him.

“Of course,” he said absently.

Rumach sat quietly at the dining room table after Cora had left. Damn! Damn! Damn!

For the rest of the afternoon, he and Belle did not speak. Finally, he excused himself early, sharing he would be dining with his wife in her room this evening. Belle nodded. She finished her sums and, wrapping a shawl around her shoulders, went over to the kitchen, not because she was hungry, but feeling she should eat something to keep her strength up.

She took a slice of bread and some of the soup that Mrs. Potts always had on the stove. She ate it there in a kitchen corner and took herself back to her small attic bedroom. She couldn’t stop herself when she was going up the stairs to her room. She walked by Madame Goldark’s door. She could hear Madame Goldark.

“You know I’ve told you that I don’t care if you amuse yourself with the entire female staff. You can dally with them in shifts, for all I care, but I won’t tolerate you having a mistress, especially not under the same roof you’ve put over my head!”

Belle could hear a low, indistinguishable response.

“Well, you two looked very, very close. Some talk has reached me. I didn’t want to listen to it at first, but after this afternoon, well, I’m surprised I didn’t find you with the girl splayed out on the table while you were having your way with her. Or are you just buggering her? Perhaps having her take you down her throat so as not to risk an unwanted brat? ”

There was another low response.

Belle fled. So Madame Goldark suspected there was something between them.

Belle was trembling. She managed to ready herself for bed early, intending to do some reading. She sat on her bed in the dim light, but realized that she wasn’t attending to her reading. She was listening. She was listening for his footsteps, his footsteps coming back in his bedroom, his footsteps coming back into his bedroom indicating that he had not spent the night with his wife.

There were no footsteps.

Ashley had come in, exhausted as she now often was from the stress of her pregnancy and dealing with Madame Goldark. She was chatting, how Madame had wanted her to take special care with her hair, with her clothing, with her undergarments. She clearly was about to try to gain the attention of her husband. The room had been cleaned and set up for an intimate meal, including wine.

Belle heard all of this and said nothing. She was trying to hold herself together. This woman was his wife. She had every right to the man’s attentions. Belle had no rights where he was concerned. Ashley had fallen into her bed and soon drifted off. Not wanting to wake her, Belle got herself up. She stopped by his room downstairs and seeing the door opened, she peaked in. The room was empty.

The door to the Red Bedroom was closed.

She could not hear any voices, any sounds from behind the door. Part of her wanted to listen, but part of her was afraid of what she might hear.

She fled.

She went on downstairs. She stopped a moment in the library, but the room was permeated by his presence, his smell, so many reminders of him, including the cup she had chipped that he had kept for reasons she did not begin to understand.

It would never do for her to remain here.

She went on down to the basement, to the dungeon room he had first shut her in when he had brought her into the house. It reminded her of what a harsh, unyielding, inconsiderate man he could be. She had since placed blankets into the room, had placed a tinder box on the table, had installed a small coal brazier and had finally kept it stocked with dried fruit and other things to eat, if not for herself, for the next girl he decided to lock in there.

She lay down on the bed and covered herself with the blankets on the bed. She curled up into a ball and allowed herself to begin to cry, hot tears running down her face, soaking the pillow. She cried and cried and cried. There was no hope.

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