A Matter of Faith
Precious and few are
the moments we two can share(aaarre)
Quiet and blue, like the sky, I'm hung over you(ooouuu)
And if I can't find my way back home
It just wouldn't be fair
Precious and few are the moments we two can share
Emma was lying on the sofa in the parlor. She had in earbuds and was lying listening to the dulcet sounds of Climax, singing along in her slight flat off-key contralto.
She had been considering. She had given this next step considerable thought. Everyone who was interested was being prepped to go into the Red Room. There was Neal. There was Colin. There was Clarissa. And there was Rory.
The group had prepared the little acifidity bags sans odor for protection.
Jefferson and Leroy were standing by, ready to man the van and keep track of what ever happened in the room. Archie and Millie was also standing by to do whatever might be asked of them.
Emma had gathered the group at the kitchen table. “Listen, I think I want to try something first before the whole group goes in that room.”
“What are you thinking, Emma?” asked Jefferson. He knew her well enough to know that she had something else in mind.
Emma hesitated, “I would like to go in there with Rory and spend a little while.”
“Why?” asked Neal.
“I want to get a better sense of what we’re going up against.”
“But whatever’s in there has already hurt two people,” protested Colin.
“I know. That’s exactly why I don’t want to risk the entire group. Rory,” she turned to the young woman. “You up for this, going in there . . . just with me?”
Rory closed her eyes, took a deep breath and then nodded. “I’m in.”
“Then it’s settled. The rest of you will get your chance, but let’s see what Rory and I can pick up first. Colin, I want you standing by outside the door, in case . . . well, just in case.”
The equipment was checked and double checked. Emma had decided that for this go-round, minimal equipment was necessary. She and Rory took EVP recorders, a static meter and a data logger. There was an infra-red camera already set up and Emma didn’t have it taken down. There was also a closed circuit camera set up so Leroy could monitor them down in the van. At the last minute, Emma had also suggested to Rory that she might want to bring her heavy coat.
Emma had decided she and Rory would make an attempt at the room at nine o’clock that evening. In the meantime, she returned to the diary.
It was difficult. Working side by side with the man.
It was difficult. Having two meals a day sitting across the table from the man.
It was difficult. The long carriage ride once a week back and forth into town, sitting in the confines of the carriage with the man.
It was difficult.
There was some very small satisfaction that the man was suffering just as she was.
It was late afternoon. They were in the library. Belle had finished balancing the books and had just updated the cross index for correspondence. It was now well into the Maine summer and it was very nearly hot. Belle had pulled her hair up off of her neck and had unbuttoned the top few buttons of her blouse. She had gotten herself a glass of well water and a cloth. She would from time to time put a corner of the cloth into the water and then wipe her face and neck with it in the attempt to try to stay cool. She would from time to time run the cloth down the front of her chest and tilt her head back¸ savoring the coolness of the cloth on her bare skin.
After she had done this several times, Master Goldark gruffly addressed her, “Must you do that?”
“Sir?” she asked him, confused.
“Half undressing yourself in front of me and . . . and . . . and draping that wet cloth on yourself.” He wasn’t looking at her.
Belle looked down at the two buttons she had unfastened. “So sorry, sir. I lost my head in the heat.”
“Are you being impertinent?” he asked sharply.
“Oh no, sir. I would never address you with anything except respect and obedience to your every whim.”
He glared at her as she sat with a demure smile on her face. “Liar,” he called her.
He was whispering now. “You know you are driving me mad. You know I want nothing more than to finish unfastening all the buttons on that starched prissy blouse. I want nothing more than to remove it from your ripe little body. I want nothing more than to put you on that table and bend you back upon it and kiss you into submission.”
“You want to kiss me?” she asked him in a soft voice, not looking in his direction.
“You must know that,” he told her. “I want to press my lips to yours. I want your perfect little mouth to open to mine and I want to feel your lips soften under mine as I take and plunder those little rosebud petals. I want to put my hands on your body, to feel your curves yield to my touch. I want to step between your legs and . . . “ he stopped talking.
Belle ventured a look at him. The man was clenching his hands and breathing heavily. His eyes were almost entirely black.
His words tumbled out of him in a rush, “I want to put my hands between your legs and inhale the fragrance of your arousal and I just know that you will taste even sweeter there than your mouth does and, oh god, you are so innocent you don’t even know what I’m talking about! I want to caress you and teach your body what it means to respond to a man and I want to bring you pleasure that you have never experienced and I want to. . . “ he didn’t finish, instead, he closed his eyes and took several deep breaths in the vain attempt to calm himself.
“So,” she began slowly. “You feel it too. I want nothing more than for you to kiss me, to touch me, to hold me in your arms. . . to teach me.”
Their feelings for each other were not going away, were not lessening.
He continued, “But it cannot happen. I will not dishonor you. I . . . I . . . have done many reprehensible things in my life, but I have never taken a woman with any dishonorable intent. You . . . Belle, you are an innocent. I would not ruin you.”” he whispered these words to her.
Belle sat quietly. “I would never ask you to violate your code of honor. I would never ask you to violate your marriage vows. You would not be the man I have come to love if you would do such things. But I don’t know that there will ever be another man that I will feel for as I feel for you,” she told him, now looking at him. “If ever. . . if ever. . . there is a way for us to be together, know that I would be . . . willing.”
Gold borrowed her cloth and wiped his forehead. He was sweating and trembling.
“Are you all right?” Belle asked him. This looked like something else besides the heat, beside the passion.
He shook his head. “I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather. Sick to my stomach, weak, probably just a little summer ague.” He waved her off.
But Belle had become concerned. She knew of Cora’s reputation. She began to search his library, his medical books, his herbalism books. She had begun to suspect . . . no, it couldn’t be.
But what if it was? What if, what if poison was being used?
But what poison? And how was Cora getting it into Master Goldark?
It was nine o’clock and Emma put the diary aside. She had begun to feel for the two would-be lovers – trying to walk the high road but being tempted, so tempted. And now the concerns regarding poison, entirely likely, she had thought.
The EVP’s from Cora had implied the two had been shacking up, but on the attic tape supposedly from Rumach he had waffled, not answering if he had gotten around to bedding the girl.
She stood with Rory outside the door of the Red Room. Rory had her spirit bag around her neck and was carrying her jacket.
“Where’s yours?” she asked Emma, touching her own spirit bag.
“Oh, I never bother. I’m armed with my puny faith,” Emma responded.
“But you don’t have belief in this type of thing?”
“Exactly,” Emma smiled and opened the door of the Room. It was dark and. . . very cold. They stepped into the room.
Emma used the walkie talkie. “Colin, check the temperature in the hallway. There feels to be a big difference between the temperature in the hallway and here in the room. I’m checking the temperature in here now. . . “ she checked the data logger. “It’s fifty degrees in here,” she told Jefferson.
“Colin, I’ll have Archie bring you a data logger and you can let us know what you get,” Jefferson’s voice came over the walkie. “We’ll get a report back to you in a moment, Emma.”
“Well, Rory,” Emma said turning to her young protégé. “Sometimes ghost hunting involves more than fancy equipment.” She gestured to their heavy coats and both women put on their jackets.
“Yeah, this isn’t something I would have thought to bring with me if you hadn’t told me to.”
The two women looked around the darkened room. . . they could make out the bed, armoire, mirror, table with two chairs, portrait, oriental rug. Emma took a deep breath noting that when she breathed out the air frosted. The temperature had dropped a few more degrees.
“Let’s sit down and get comfortable,” she directed the younger woman over to one of the chairs that was set at the small table. Emma busied herself with setting up the equipment. She had brought several additional sets of batteries. Emma then joined Rory in the other chair.
They sat quietly a moment, allowing their eyes to adjust to the dim light.
Emma was first to notice it. She sniffed the room.
“Do you smell anything?” she asked.
Rory took a turn at the air. “A sickly sweet perfume?” she ventured.
“Yeah.” She turned on the EVP recorder. “Are you here, Cora? Is that your perfume we can smell?”
The two women waited.
“We’re trying to get a picture of what happened here, Cora. Right now, there are a lot of people around who think you tried to poison your husband because he was having an affair with Belle French, but he switched the wine glasses on you, killing you,” Emma began. “Is that what happened? We’d like to get your side of what happened.”
“She’s here,” Rory said suddenly. “I feel a woman’s presence.”
Emma glanced at both the static meter and the data logger; the static meter was spiking. “Well, Cora, I’m so glad you’ve come to join us. I’ve got a recording device here that will let us hear anything you have to say. I’m Emma and this is Rory.”
“She’s mad,” Rory shared.
“Are you angry that we’re here or are you angry at someone else?” asked Emma.
“I don’t think she likes you,” Rory said to Emma.
“I’ve been reading Belle’s diary,” Emma spoke up. “She thought you were a very beautiful woman.” Emma paused.
“She envied you your husband,” Emma also shared. She paused again.
“Was he doing the help, Cora? Was that what put you over the edge?” Emma asked. “Or did he fall in love with the girl?” Emma paused again. “Men are pigs, Cora. I would think a woman of the world like yourself would know that. . . . . . Or. . . or were you in love with him? . . . . . . . And if you couldn’t have him, then nobody could.”
Emma and Rory were abruptly both pushed out of their chairs, Rory landing on her hands and feet, the spirit bag torn from around her neck. Emma staggered but quickly righted herself. The static meter had lit up. Rory managed to stand but staggered again. “She’s pushing me!”
Emma addressed Cora raising her voice, “Does it help you to beat up on people who come in this room? Does that make you feel less angry?”
The pushing subsided and Emma helped Rory back into the chair. “What are you feeling Rory?” she asked the sensitive girl sitting down beside her.
“She’s confused along with the anger. And scared. She feels like we’re threatening her. That’s why she wants us to go.”
“We’re not here to hurt you Cora. We want to get your side of things. We aren’t going to be leaving Cora, not just yet, anyway,” Emma got up. “I’ve heard that you can move the furniture in this room.” She walked over to the armoire. “That you can make this heavy thing move along the floor.” She walked over to the bed. “I’ve heard that you can make this bed jump up and down. I’d like to see that.” There was nothing.
Rory was looking around the room when her gazed locked on the mirror. “Dr. Swan. Do you have a flashlight?”
The two women walked over to the mirror, their breathing fogging around them. Emma glanced at her data logger. The temperature had dropped to forty.
Emma pulled a flashlight out of her utility pouch and handed it over. She watched as Rory walked up to the mirror, turning on the light. Rory turned on the light and pointed it at the mirror. Emma remembered the mirror had been set in ornately carved dark wood; the mirror itself was beveled along the edges. The old surface was clouded, having lost some of the silvering on the back of the glass over time.
Expecting to see distorted reflections of themselves, Emma was started to see a figure of a woman looking back at them. Rory gasped and dropped the light . It rolled along the floor. Emma retrieved it and pointed it back at the mirror.
“Nice,” said Emma unshaken.
“Dr. Swan? That doesn’t scare the shit out of you?” Rory was obviously terrified.
“It’s an old mirror. You shine a light in it, stand in a darkened room, the imperfections can make you imagine that you’re seeing anything, Rory. It’s a distorted reflection, just a reflection. It’s not like it can reach out and hurt us.” Emma was unmoved and her matter-of-fact response comforted Rory.
“Dr. Swan,” the walkie talkie squawked. It was Colin. “I’m in the hall. It’s seventy-two out here in the hallway.”
“Thanks Colin,” she called back to him. “Leroy,” she called out while she had the walkie on.
“Yeah, Emma,” came the prompt reply.
“We’re getting an interesting image in the mirror. I’m taking a couple of pictures, don’t know if they’ll amount to anything. You picking up anything on the infra-red?”
“Not really, at least to the casual eye. We’re recording and we’ve got the mirror in the viewer, so we’ll be able to go over things frame by frame later,” Leroy told her.
“Cora,” Emma called out. “You’ve been able to drop the temperature, push us around some and maybe, maybe that’s you in the mirror. I’m going to need something a lot better to really document that you’re here. Can you make a noise, knock, move something?”
She and Rory waited.
There was a vague knocking sound.
“What was that?” asked Rory. “Did you hear something?”
“Uhmmm. Could have been the house creaking? Come on, Cora. Show me your stuff. Move something.” Emma challenged the entity.
And the doors on the armoire opened.
“Not bad,” Emma was complimentary. “Can you close them now?”
The doors slammed.
Emma nodded in appreciation. “Thank you, now that was nice.” She continued, “The story is that there’s a curse keeping you here. Is that right? . . . Did you cast it? . . . “
The doors opened and slammed again.
“OK” Emma said. “I think we have enough for tonight. Come on Rory.” Rory didn’t have to be asked twice. She quickly followed Emma out.
“What did you think?” Emma asked her as soon as they closed the door behind them. Colin was right there for them.
“You two ok?” he asked.
“We’re fine,” Emma told him. “What did you think?” she asked Rory again.
“I felt a lot of anger, incredible anger. But there was something else. Confusion, fear? I’m not sure.”
“Well, she didn’t come after us like she did with Clarissa and Colin,” Emma agreed.
Emma and Rory reconnected with everyone in the downstairs parlor. They were all sitting around in comfy chairs drinking coffee, tea or chocolate.
“Well. You two did all right,” Jefferson told them. “Nobody got hurt. Hopefully, you got some good EVP’s.”
“Dr. Swan?” Archie asked hesitantly. “When we used the Spirit Box in the library, we got responses in real time. Is there any reason why you don’t want to use the Spirit Box in that room?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“There’s a reason,” she said shortly seemingly focused on her hot chocolate.
“Emma,” Jefferson began softly. “Why don’t you share?”
“OK. I don’t know if you really want to hear this, but you asked for it.” Emma took a deep breath and forcibly exhaled before beginning, “I had a friend order one of these boxes. They’re not expensive, less than a hundred bucks. You can get one off the Internet.”
She paused another moment before going on. “Understand this person was pretty level headed and had never had any issues, any phenomenon in his home whatsoever. Just out of curiosity, he turned it on in his home. Just to see, understand?”
She took a sip of her chocolate and didn’t say anything for a moment. “He heard some. . . thing call his name . . . several times. He got spooked, turned it off and didn’t think any more about it. Then things began to happen in his home. Doors slamming, footsteps, appliances starting up, lights turning on and off, pictures getting placed face down on the display table, lotsa generally creepy stuff. He had the place blessed and the activity got worse, like he’d pissed it off.”
Emma sat another moment before continuing, “He finally moved, but the activity followed him. It got more violent. He’d be hit, scratched. Something would lie down next to him at night and he could feel the cold fetid breath of whatever it was breathing on his neck. He told me, at one point, that he felt the Spirit Box must have attracted something that wasn’t originally in his home, but once it was invited in, it chose not to leave and attached itself to him.”
Emma stopped telling the story.
“What happened?” Millie asked.
Emma hesitated and struggled. “He died in a mysterious fire. The arson investigator said the fire was one of the most intense he’d ever seen.” Emma got up from the table. “I am reluctant to use the thing unless I know the environment is fairly benign. It’s a damn dangerous device.”
She left the group to go into the kitchen to get herself something to drink.
The group members looked at each other.
“Well that was frightening,” Jefferson finally said. “I think that if Emma doesn’t want to use the Spirit Box, then . . .”
Colin finished, “We shouldn’t use the Spirit Box.”
Emma had found an old bottle of some off-brand tequila in the kitchen. She poured herself a couple of fingers and downed it. She poured another couple of fingers and sat down at the kitchen table. When she looked up, Neal was standing in the door.
“Got another glass?” he asked.
She gestured toward the cupboard. He fetched a glass, sat down and poured himself a drink.
“What do you think really happened here?”
“I think that Goldark and sweet Belle finally gave into temptation, the wife found out, went ballistic and poisoned the lovers and somehow in the ensuing chaos, Goldark managed to off her. Cora probably died with some harsh words on her lips. She doesn’t want the lovers to pass over and maybe, just maybe she’s willing to hang around to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
“I had the sense that you had no real faith in this paranormal stuff. You have a reputation as quite the skeptic.”
“I don’t know. The paranormal explanation is that somehow that Rumach is trapped in the attic and Belle is trapped below stairs, in the library and outside of the house. Close but never together, never connecting, unable to pass over. And Cora is between them, a nasty, vengeful spirit.”
Neal took a swig of the tequila and winced. “What do you really think is going on?”
Emma considered. Took another drink. “We’re all crazy. We hear the stories and our brains fuck with us.”
Neal took another swig and nodded, “Maybe.”