A Few Revelations
you don't know what we can find
Why don't you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride
You don't know what we can see
Why don't you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free
Close your eyes girl
Look inside girl
Let the sound take you away
Neal had driven Emma back to the Inn and the two sung along with the words they knew from the old Steppenwolf standard. After downing a quarter bottle of tequila, Neal didn’t feel she really should be driving herself.
He walked her in and up to her room. “You are amazing Emma. I know I left you holding the bag, having to pay off some of my bills. I feel like rat turds. I feel like I owe you something.”
“Yeah, you should and you do,” she agreed.
He recognized that she was probably drunk, really drunk.
“What happened in that room?” he asked her.
“What? Oh that. Nothing much. It got cold, a couple of doors slammed. We got pushed. Oh yeah, we smelled a sickly sweet perfume and we saw the reflection of a woman in the mirror.”
“Jesus!” Neal exclaimed. “A woman in the mirror!”
“Yeah, pretty spooky. But neither of us got hurt. And nothing big happened, like the bed didn’t jump up and down and the armoire didn’t chase us across the room. We didn’t get scratched or bit.”
“May she was just screwing with you,” Neal suggested. They were standing at the door of her room.
Emma gave him a short derisive laugh. “Probably. Lulling me into a false sense of security.”
The two then stood at her door.
Emma had dropped her eyes. She really shouldn’t, she knew. She was way more than half drunk and pretty strung out from the stress of this investigation. She was also a bit turned on from reading Belle’s diary – all that delayed gratification, well, she hoped it was delayed gratification. All in all, not a good combination.
“Why don’t you come in?” she heard herself ask him. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Neal hesitated. “Emma, I’m not sure that’s the best idea.”
“What? We’re both adults.”
“Yeah, but you’re drunk and I’ve had a drink myself. If I walk you in . . .”
Emma nodded. The man was right. If he came into the room, they would probably end up in the sack together and then she’d be pissed at herself and at him.
“You’re right. Thanks. I appreciate you looking out for me.”
Emma shut the door behind herself. Damn him for turning out, this once, to be the gentleman.
It was late the next morning. Emma walked up to the diner for another good breakfast, although it was closer to lunch time. She realized she had left her car back at The Inn and was planning to catch somebody else before they headed back out. She had checked the parking lot and both Leroy’s and Jefferson’s vans were still there. She didn’t want to wake anybody up.
A shadow fell over her. Now, this felt familiar.
“If people see us having breakfast together, they will think that we shacked up last night,” Emma told him.
Neal smiled. “They might. But I would think that anyone who might have such thoughts would realize that if I had been fortunate enough to get you into my bed, then I would be keeping you there and not be up with you at the ass-crack of dawn to get breakfast.”
“Maybe,” Emma agreed. “Although last I checked, ten o’clock isn’t the ass-crack of dawn.”
“Close enough,” he said with a quick smile, “Got something for you,” he pulled out a small leather-bound notebook. It looked old.
“What is this?” she asked him.
“I went through some of Rumach Goldark’s papers. There’re tons of stuff to go through. They are missing things until about 1794 when suddenly everything got put into apple pie order. But then after that date things get totally messed up again like they quite trying.”
“1794? That’s probably about the time that Belle came on board and she would’ve organized all of his stuff.”
Neal nodded, “Could have been. This,” he held up the small leather-bound journal, “this is something you probably will want to see. It’s his rent receipt book.”
Emma looked puzzled. “Why would I want to see his rent receipt book?”
Neal smiled. He had put in sticky notes at different places in the book. He opened it to the first marker. “Well the man kept detailed records of his rental properties. He had a page for each client. When the page was filled, he would put a note at the bottom to go to page whatever and he would begin a new page.” He handed it off to her, “Here read this.”
Neal had put the sticky note on the account of the property for one Maurice French. Written along the side of the account was a note, “Have taken his daughter on trial as a clerk in an effort to defray his debts. Doubtful enterprise but she, at least, has the appearance of competency.”
Emma looked up at Neal. “This is fantastic! This corroborates the diary!” Emma looked down the page. “Oh my word! Here’s the place where he took off ten dollars of her father’s debt when he lost a chess game with her,” she looked closely at the entry.
“He wrote, ‘lost chess game, has to have been a fluke.’ That chauvinist!” Emma exclaimed. “He admitted he lost the game in his receipt book, but he wouldn’t admit it to Belle. He couldn’t deal with losing to a woman.”
“Read on,” Neal told her.
Emma went to the next marker and, “Here’s a note. ‘Won game, Delightful forfeit.’ Wow, now that was sweet when he had her read to him.” Emma read on, “Here, one of the five dollar deductions from when she beat him!” Emma looked up from the ledger. “He was rather verbose here, ‘Miss French won fair and square, have to acknowledge she is quite a talented player. What a precious treasure she is turning out to be.’ This is fantastic! Oh thank you Neal. This is very helpful.” She thumbed through a few more pages. “I wish the man had been a little more chatty. I would have loved to have heard more of his thoughts about Miss French.”
“I’ll continue looking through the papers, Emma. Most of them are copies of contracts, deeds to property, legal papers, that type of thing.”
“Thanks Neal. That would be great. I’m afraid I’m going to get to the end of Belle's diary and not have a clue what happened to her.”
Before she left the diner, Emma ordered some take out coffees and some sausage biscuits.
Neal walked her back to the Inn helping her with her take away orders. Leroy was already sitting in his van. Neal and Emma walked in and sat down. Emma dropped some coffee on him and handed him off a biscuit.
“Thanks darling,” Leroy took a bite.
“How’s it going?” Emma asked.
“Probably about what you’d expect. Quite a few EVP hits,” he handed some ear phones off to Emma and a pair to Neal. “Listen up.”
It was Emma’s voice, “Are you here, Cora? Is that your perfume we can smell?”
The voice was still Emma’s, “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. Is that what happened? We’d like to get your side of what happened.”
Another voice, Rory’s, “She’s here. I feel a woman’s presence.”
Emma spoke again, “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.”
Rory spoke, “She’s mad.”
Emma asked, “Are you angry that we’re here or are you angry at someone else?”
Rory spoke again, “I don’t think she likes you,”
Emma continued, “I’ve been reading Belle’s diary. She thought you were a very beautiful woman.”
Emma went on, “She envied you your husband.”
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Emma asked, “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?”
“Men are pigs, Cora. I would think a woman of the world like yourself would know that. . . . . . Or . . . were you in love with him? . . . . . . . And if you couldn’t have him, then nobody could.”
There were scuffling sounds, including the sound of Rory getting pushed out of the chair and Emma moving to help her up. Rory shouted, “She’s pushing me!”
“Does it help you to beat up on people who come in this room? Does that make you feel less angry?”
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Emma asked, “What are you feeling Rory?”
Rory answered, “She’s confused along with the anger. And scared. She feels like we’re threatening her. That’s why she wants us to go.”
Emma’s voice came through again, “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. I’ve heard that you can move the furniture in this room. . . . That you can make this heavy things move along the floor. . . . . I’ve heard that you can make this bed jump up and down. I’d like to see that.”
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It was Rory, “Dr. Swan. Do you have a flashlight?”
There was a long quiet pause while there were sounds of the women moving around in the room.
Emma voice came through, “Nice.”
Rory spoke next, “Dr. Swan? That doesn’t scare the shit out of you?”
Emma answered, “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.”
The walkie-talkie came through, “Dr. Swan, I’m in the hall. It’s seventy-two out here in the hallway.”
“Thanks Colin. Leroy?”
“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 so we’ll be able to go over things frame by frame later,” Leroy told her.
Emma called out, “Cora, 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?”
There was another pause.
Rory asked, “What was that? Did you hear something?”
“Uhmmm. Could have been the house creaking? Come on, Cora. Show me your stuff. Move something.”
There was a pause. Emma remembered that the armoire doors had opened.
Emma spoke, “Not bad. Can you close them again?”
There was the sound of doors slamming.
“Thank you, now that was nice. The story is that there’s a curse keeping you here. Is that right? . . . Did you cast it? . . . “
Emma spoke once more, “OK, I think we have enough for tonight. Come on, Rory.”
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Leroy turned to Emma. “That’s all, folks.”
Emma sat quietly. The last EVP hit her hard. “She was jealous. He’d fallen in love with a younger woman. It wasn’t just a fling. She was well and truly threatened.”
“She’d been scorned,” Neal supplied.
“Yeah, maybe so, but take a look at your mirror pictures,” Leroy told them.
“Good lord, what is that? It doesn’t look . . . human,” said Neal looking at the grotesque shape that the cameras had caught in the mirror.
“Not entirely,” Emma told him. “We have a narrow point here which could be a head and there is the suggestion of a body.”
“Wait,”Leroy told them. “This was just the first picture. She kinda comes at you.”
Leroy gradually advanced the film one frame at a time. The figure appeared to be coming closer and gradually took on the appearance of a beautiful woman.
“That’s the woman in the portrait,” said Emma.
“Wait,” instructed Leroy.
The figure gradually changed and became increasingly skeletal with a grinning skull face looming at them, mocking them. The mouth opened and the gruesome figure appeared to be laughing at them.
“Still think that’s imperfections in an old mirror?” Neal asked archly.
Emma sat in the parlor. She had gotten a light snack and was at the diary again.
Belle wrote of some increasing concerns related to Goldark’s health. He seemed tired and often would excuse himself, complaining of digestive upset.
Belle couldn’t figure out what might be going on for the man. They were eating the same things so she didn’t think it was the result of Mrs. Potts’s fine cooking. He didn’t have fever so an illness didn’t seem to be the culprit.
But it seemed to her that he was gradually getting sicker each and every day. Belle stressed concerned that perhaps the man had a cancer or such but he refused to consult a physician, claiming they were all quacks and frauds. Was he being poisoned?
Belle wrote of her now polite and superficial relationship with Madame Goldark. She had taken to assisting Cora in getting dressed when she rose midday. To Belle’s surprise, Cora expressed similar concerns to her about the man’s health, her face reflecting what appeared to be genuine concern for the man. She also solicitously asked Belle how she was feeling. Belle replied that she was feeling fine and Cora shared how grateful she was that Belle was there and was able to help Rumach with his accounts.
Cora had put on a lovely leaf-green silk dress that set off her high coloring. Belle helped her with the buttons that ran down the back. Cora had just tied her hair back with a dark green ribbon and her hair fell down her back in burnished red curls. She sat at her table in front of the window going through her jewelry box.
Belle, who had only a simple gold locket which had been her mother’s, was fascinated by all the glittering chains and jewels. Her interest caught Cora’s eye.
“I have been fortunate that so many of the men I know have seen fit to express their affections with diamonds and such,” she told Belle. “These are my favorite pieces.”
“They are beautiful,” Belle told her.
“But they are cold, especially the diamonds. This one is my favorite; it seems to have a degree of warmth to it,” she held up a ruby pendant set on a heavy gold chain. “Rumach gave this to me as a wedding present and I wear it most days.”
“It is lovely,” Belle assured her. “It is the one you are wearing in the portrait, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yes.” Cora turned her attention back to the jewelry box. “Today, with this dress, I’m thinking about this necklace,” she held up another golden chain, this one set with three green stones.
“Those are emeralds, are they not?” Belle asked.
“They are, but Rumach didn’t give me these. They were a gift from my first husband. As was this,” she held up a large broach, also set with an emerald and tiny clear stones.
“I’ve never seen you with that broach. It would look very good on your dress,” Belle told her.
Cora held it up to her shoulder and went over to the mirror. “I think you’re right. But I need help with it. The pin is on a spring and I can’t see to work it.” She looked over at Belle, “Would you help me with it?”
“Of course,” and Belle began to examine the odd back of the broach. Once she thought she had figured it out, she held it up against Cora’s shoulder strap for approval and then proceeded to slip the pin through the cloth. As she attempted to pull it close together, the pin sprang back and gashed into her finger.
“Oh no! That pin has always been difficult. Here my dear, hold this against your finger,” and Cora gave her a lacey handkerchief and put the offending broach back into her jewelry box. “I’ll just go with the necklace. I can do that myself. I need to have that piece to a jeweler to have a new back put on it.”
Belle bled onto the handkerchief and apologized for ruining the dainty finery, but Cora waved off her concern. “I’m the one to apologize, my dear. I knew it was a difficult clasp but my vanity got the better of me and you paid the price. Are you still bleeding?”
Belle looked at her finger and it seemed to have been staunched.
Cora took the handkerchief and began to walk out of the room. Belle followed her but did not join with Madame and Master Goldark for lunch, instead taking herself off to the kitchen.
Belle continued to write of her relationship with Master Goldark, still strained, still cautious, still very formal. They were careful not to get too close. They had begun to make excuses for not staying in the same room with each other but it wasn’t always possible for them to be apart.
And when they were together, they found themselves looking at each other, gazing, without words, the longing, the hunger, the sheer desire plainly present.
They were most careful in the carriage rides on Rent Collection Days to sit across from each other, to talk about mundane matters, the weather, the crops, the amount of fish being caught . . . anything except themselves, their feelings. When helping her alight or enter the cabin on the carriage, he would take care to touch only her fingertips.
He would, still, deposit her with her father at least once a month. She would usually spend the time reviewing and updating his books, catching up with gossip with her step-sisters, and discussing business and politics with her father. Goldark would finish his rounds and would come back by the house to pick her up before having Billy drive them back to the house.
One particular afternoon he was not in a good mood. There were quite a few of his renters who were coming up short and who wanted to trade fish for the roof over their heads.
Damn it! He’d been an idiot to start accepting bartered goods in lieu of cold, hard cash. Now just everyone thought they could hand over leftover produce, soured beer, rank fish, and tough venison when they didn’t have his money.
This was all Belle’s fault!
Peeved, he knocked on the door of Master French’s little home with its attached business that housed the printing press. He was surprised to hear a number of male voices.
What the hell?
One of Belle’s unattractive step-sisters opened the door and curtsied to him, “Hello, Master Goldark. Miss Belle is in our dining room. Won’t you come in?” She held the door opened waiting for him to enter.
He didn’t want to go in. He had a difficult enough time looking Maurice French in the eye. The man was convinced that he was debauching his daughter.
And he wasn’t far wrong.
He compromised, stepping just inside the door and glowering at the young woman. “Tell Miss French that I’m ready to go. She need hurry as the weather looks to be turning off and we’re losing light.” He would wait for her in the entryway. Belle was a sensible girl. She would be right out.
The woman curtsied again and hurried back out to the dining room where Goldark was definitely aware of several different male voices.
Were these the young men courting the step-sisters? Let one or both of them get married; it would one or two less for Maurice to support and would allow Goldark to recoup his loses with the man all the sooner.
He stood waiting, becoming increasingly annoyed. He was not one who was long on patience and he detested waiting on anyone, especially a female. Females, he had long ago determined, were most unreliable and often were late, an unattractive quality and not one that he had heretofore seen in his Miss French. What could be holding her up?
So when no Belle showed up after a half a moment, he advanced on the dining room.
There was Belle and two older women, one who had answered the door, the other, he assumed was the other step-sister. But there were also five young men, tall, dressed in the silliest of new fashions, all dancing attendance . . . on Belle.
He was furious, a red wall descending in front of his eyes. How dare they? What was she thinking?
He cleared his throat and Belle’s eyes immediately went to him. She smiled and stood up.
“Gentlemen, my employer is here to collect me.”
The gaggle of young men collectively groaned. They all protested, “But we haven’t finished our discussion.” “You had promised to tell us about Mr. Blake’s latest effort.” “When can we see you again?”
Belle just smiled at them and went toward Goldark. One particularly tall, rather handsome young man intercepted her. “Miss French, why don’t I bring you back to Master Goldark’s house later this evening or even tomorrow morning?”
Belle stopped and hesitated.
“We have work to do this evening, Miss French,” Goldark said, as a reminder. Not strictly true, since they usually held the rent receipts and Belle would go over them and make the entries into the books the following day.
And just who was this popinjay? Sniffing around his precious Belle?
“Oh Gaston, that is very kind of you, but I do need to leave. Master Goldark likes to keep to a tight schedule.”
“Surely he can spare you one evening?” the young man was persistent.
Belle gave him a brilliant smile and shook her head, “As Mr. Franklin said, ‘Time is money.’”
Goldark couldn’t repress a slight smile as he held out his arm to her and in quite the same manner that he had originally taken from her father’s house, escorted her imperiously out to his waiting carriage.
“Who were those pretentious fops?” he demanded to know as soon as they had taken their seats in the carriage.
“Why, Master Goldark, if I didn’t know better, you would almost sound jealous,” Belle had a slight smile on her flushed face.
“Nonsense, I just resent them taking up my precious time with their pointless pursuits.”
“They are friends of my step-sisters and they were all being nice to me.”
“Hah!” he told her. “They think you’re my mistress and were hoping you might stoop to grace them with your favors.”
Belle said nothing. The man was obviously in a bad mood, determined to be insulting and, she knew, reasoning would have no effect on him. She just stared at him at moment and sat back in her seat.
Was he jealous? She wondered. He had told her that he didn’t want to think about her in another man’s bed. Did he think he had a rival for her affections in this group?
“I want to get back home. I’m not feeling any better and everything is beginning to have a yellow halo around it,” he told her, irritated.
She was alarmed, “A yellow halo? “ She knew that meant something. But what? She couldn’t remember from all her reading.
As he had foretold, the weather rapidly began to turn off and they were caught in a thunderous downpour on their way back to the house. The afternoon had darkened to a twilight. Goldark stuck his head out of the carriage and called up to Billy that he might want to pull up under some sheltering trees and wait out the downpour. When he pulled his head back into the carriage, his hair and face were damp with rain.
He had just settled back when the carriage lurched, they heard a crack, and, without further warning, the carriage began to slowly tip over, throwing him into her.