'Cause the love that you gave that we made wasn't able
To make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me you'd hold me
Until you died, til you died
But you're still alive
And I'm here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It's not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know
Emma read on in Belle’s diary.
Rumach Goldark did not return. Not that morning. Not later that day. It was evening when Billy came to the Inn. He had a note.
“Belle, my love, my life,” it had begun.
Belle felt her heart sink. Something had gone terribly wrong.
“I cannot explain but I cannot be with you. You cannot come to me. Please, please my love, go on to Philadelphia. There is a house there and there will be money. Know that if I can ever join you, I shall come to you.”
Belle looked at Billy.
“What has happened?”
“I don’t know, Miss Belle.”
“Yes, you do,” Belle knew, she had no doubts, Rumach would not have failed to come to her if there was anything he could. This was something to do with Cora. “Cora did something. She did something to stop Rumach from going off with me. What did she do?”
Billy couldn’t look at her. “I’m sorry, so sorry. Miss Belle, you should go to Philadelphia like Master Goldark told you. You’ll be safe there. She won’t be able to hurt you there.”
“Hurt me? What can she do to me? What did she do to him?”
Billy was shaking his head. “I’m so sorry, Miss Belle. Miss Cora is a powerful bokor. She learned black magic in Barbados and Haiti with her first husband.”
“Billy!” Belle began. “I’m an enlightened young woman. I can’t possibly believe in magic! ?” she protested.
“Believe, don’t believe,” Billy shrugged his shoulders. “She has put a spell on Master Goldark. He cannot leave the house.”
“Then, I’ll go to him,” Belle said decisively. She was not ready to believe this mumbo jumbo. Cora must have done something else to Rumach to stop him from leaving the house, from coming to her. He could be imprisoned, hurt. She had to go to him.
She grabbed her wrap and began out the door. Billy stopped her.
“Miss Belle, Master Goldark say he know you will try to come to him. He asked me to stop you. To tell you, if you love him, if you truly love him, you will stay away. He will come to you if he can.”
Belle stopped. Billy had spoken so quietly. He looked so sincere and. . . so afraid.
“Please, please Miss Belle. Do not go. She’ll feed your soul to the Baron.”
Belle didn’t know who the Baron was, but she recognized Billy’s sincerity. He was genuinely afraid for her.
“Can you take a note to him?” Belle finally asked Billy.
He hesitated but soon enough, nodded. “You’ve always been good to me Miss Belle, teaching me to read and do sums. Master Goldark, too, always nice to me. Do you know, he saw how good I was with animals and gave me my own horse? It was a little filly that they didn’t think would live. He told me if I could keep her alive, she would be mine and he keep his word to me.”
Belle had not known this but it certainly sounded like something Rumach would have done, done quietly, without fanfare. “That’s little Ayida?”she asked him about the pretty little mare that he had trained to do tricks. The horse was the sweetest tempered animal she’d ever encountered. “You did a good job with her, Billy.”
“I like working for you two better than for Miss Cora,.” Billy admitted.
Belle went back to the small desk in the room. She scrounged around and found some paper, an ink well and a poor quality pen. She struggled but managed to write, “I love you. I trust you. I will wait here for you.”
The note was open when she handed it off to Billy who saw her words and shook his head. “He won’t like this. He loves you Miss Belle. He wants you to be safe.”
“I’ll wait for his answer,” Belle told him.
“What the hell happened when he went back to the house?” Emma asked. There was nothing in Belle’s diary, nothing in the legal papers, nothing in Goldark’s ledger.
Emma sat in the parlor. She looked up toward the stairs. Cora or Rumach?
She looked back down at the diary. Oh Belle, why didn’t you go to him?
Were you right staying away?
Did you ignore his wishes and go to him anyway?
Emma got up and walked out of the parlor.
And there sitting on the staircase, dressed in her usual blue skirt and white blouse was Belle French. She sat with her feet on the tread just below where she was sitting. A book was in her lap.
“I come here to read, to read aloud sometimes,” she said wistfully. “I always fancy that he can hear me.”
“You can’t go up the stairs,” Emma said, suddenly realizing this was part of the curse. “And he can’t come down.”
Belle didn’t look at her. “He always seemed to enjoy having me read to him. He would seek out books that he thought I would enjoy and, after a long day, he would sometimes have me read . . . in the evenings sitting in the library. I confess,” she said with a slight smile, “there were times that I would intentionally lose one of our chess matches just so we could spend a quiet hour together.” Belle looked at Emma. “It was . . . stimulating.”
“He told you not to come back,” Emma said gently.
“He was afraid for me. He didn’t want me harmed.”
“But you did come back?” Emma asked.
“Not for a very, very long time,” Belle explained. “I came back when I was about to die. I had lived a full life, but a lonely one—what other man could ever compare to my first love? I was in my eighties and not doing so well. I knew my time was close. I came back here with my daughter. I visited his grave for he had passed long before me. I went into the house. I had things that I needed to . . . that I needed to put in the library. And that’s when it happened, it finally happened.”
“Wait a minute?! Your daughter? Was that his daughter?” Emma asked catching Belle’s small comment.
Belle looked down at her book and sighed. “He had passed on long before me. Yet he was still trapped in the attic where she had confined him. He couldn’t leave, you know.” Belle seemed to be talking as much to herself as to Emma.
“So you came back here. . . to die?” Emma wasn’t feeling that the conversation was going two ways.
“Be careful, Emma. There is something else in Cora’s room.” The bright blue eyes directly met Emma’s green eyes.
“How can I break the curse?” Emma asked. “How can I help you?”
“When the time is right, ask your Mister Neal to come and get me. Miss Clarissa . . . she will be able to get Rum.”
“Get you? For what?”
“When the time is right.” Belle looked at her. “You will know.”
“What do I need to do? Belle, help me,” Emma pleaded with her.
“Mirrors are interesting, aren’t they? They reflect. . .what. . .is. . .there.”
“Belle, please. What did you do when he told you not to come back to the house? Did you ever find out why he didn’t come back to you?” Emma was hoping for more information.
As she watched, Belle looked at her, the woman’s bright blue eyes twinkling, her smile -- kind and concerned.
And then she faded. On the stairs where she had been sitting was the book she had been looking through. It was Alice Through the Looking Glass and it was opened to the page with the Tenniel sketch of Alice kneeling on the fireplace mantel in front of a mirror.
Emma picked up the book. Damn. Another full-bodied apparition and nothing to prove it. For all she knew, she could still be lying back on that uncomfortable sofa in the parlor, lying on that sofa, sound asleep.
“What up?” Neal asked coming in, carrying hoagie sandwiches on paper plates. He handed one off to Emma, “It’s a pastrami. I remember that was your favorite.” He noticed the book. “What’s up with the book?”
“Nothing, I just found it on the stairs.” She didn’t share her experience but did take the sandwich and mindlessly took a bite. Cora or Rumach? Which one of them might be forth coming? Which one might be willing to tell her what had happened?
“What are you thinking of doing?” Neal had asked her noting her faraway look. They had gone back into the little kitchen area and had been joined by Leroy, Clarissa and Colin, all with hearty sandwiches.
“Talking with Cora,” Emma told him taking another bite of her sandwich.
“Much dangerous?” Neal questioned.
“Much. Very much,” Emma confirmed. “I think I want to get Colin to stand by.”
Colin perked up. “I’m in,” he said quickly.
“Are you sure?” Clarissa had laid her hand on Colin’s shoulder.
Colin turned towards her with a gentle smile on his face. “Dearest, I’m sure. We talked about this, remember. We signed on for the experience. And it’s especially important to you that we go through with things,” he said to the pretty young woman.
"You too,” she whispered back to him.
Emma had noticed the exchange but didn’t say anything.
“When do we go up there?” Colin asked. “Tonight?”
“Nah, let’s go ahead and do it when we finish eating,” Emma told him.
“Shouldn’t we wait an hour or something?” asked Neal.
“That’s for swimming dear,” Emma told him gently.
After they had finished their meal, Emma spoke to Neal and Colin, “Why don’t you and Neal go and get the Spirit Box, an EMF and a data logger? The camera’s already set up and we can get Leroy to monitor us from the van.” Leroy headed out to the van to monitor the activity in the room.
“Sure,” Neal was already up and Colin joined him.
Once they had left, Emma turned to Clarissa. “You know more about this than you are sharing,” she said flatly to Clarissa.
Clarissa nodded. “I had a lot of doubts when I came here and I’m still not sure, but. . . “ Clarissa hesitated. “My family comes from Philadelphia. I come from this long line of free-spirited, strong-willed women. They’ve never been ones to follow social conventions.”
Emma sat down. She had an idea of where Clarissa was going with this.
“I was also told about one of my great-something-grandmothers who moved to Philadelphia in the late 1700’s. She set up one of the first schools that trained women to be clerks or secretaries. They prided themselves on their skills and their high moral character. Her last name was Gold and the young women that were her students all held themselves to ‘The Gold Standard.’ Her graduates were very sought after by important businessmen. I’m pretty sure this woman was Belle French but I couldn’t figure out how she would have ended up back here as a ghost.”
“She came back here to die,” Emma told her.
“Did she?” Clarissa had not known this neither had Emma until a couple of moments before.
“So you think that Rumach Goldark is your great-something-grandfather?”
“I don’t know. Mrs. Gold had no husband but she did have a daughter who took over the school. Her daughter was Aramita Gold. She was one of the early suffragettes, an active abolitionist, a wild woman. She was involved with the transcendentalist movement and good friends with Amos Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
“You do come from an interesting family, Clarissa,” Emma observed.
“Yes, it’s a heavy burden. They’re all known being involved with some cutting edge movement.”
“I’m just a librarian. I’ve never wanted to be ahead of my time. I got involved with your class because I thought maybe it would give me something to set me apart from others. It would be my signature move, maybe,” she gave a sad laugh. “And maybe, when I heard this was to be your investigation, I thought maybe that I could find out about my ancestor.”
“Neither Belle French nor Rumach Goldark have approached you here?”
“Just that one maybe episode in the attic when I thought someone touched my hair.”
“Which ended up being significant. No one had ever reported any activity in the attic before you and, I’m beginning to believe there is a for real and for true ghost in that attic,” Emma shared.
“Do you think he recognized me?” Clarissa asked. “I mean, I didn’t feel threatened. Whatever was there just patted my hair. . . like your grandfather might do.”
“Maybe so,” agreed Emma. Neal and Colin came back in, carrying the requested equipment.
“Neal, will you stand by outside the door?”
“Of course,” he agreed immediately.
All four went up the grand staircase.
“Good luck,” Neal told them. “We’re just a loud call away.”
Colin pulled Clarissa in and gave her a quick, rough kiss.
“Take care of yourself and Dr. Swan,” she told him.
“I will,” he promised her.
And in they went.
Immediately, the room’s temperature shifted and Colin felt the cold air.
“Does the drop in temperature mean that she’s here?” he asked in a whisper.
“Or there’s a really bad draft in here,” Emma waved him off.
She turned on the Spirit Box.
“Cora!” she called out. “Cora! I need to talk to you.”
“Dr. Swan?” Colin was looking beyond her at the mirror. There was a dark shape forming in the glass.
Emma turned, “Is that you, Cora? This Box will enable you to talk directly to us. Please, will you answer some questions for us?”
“Did you put a curse on Rumach Goldark?” she asked.
“He deserved it? Because he had annulled your marriage and then married Belle French?” Emma thought she was getting close.
“Did you try to poison him?”
“Did he switch glasses?” Emma asked. Had Cora tried to poison her errant husband and he had switched glasses?
This made no sense. What price to pay? “Did he give you the poison you meant for him? And when you realized it you . . . you evoked some kind of curse?”
“Dr. Swan?” it was Colin. “Something . . . .else is here. The data logger just went off the top.”
The mirror image had faded and a dark shape began to coalesce in front of the mirror.
Emma turned off the Spirit Box and began backing towards the door.
“Colin, follow me. We need to get out of here right . . .” Emma abruptly went flying backwards slamming into the wall and then, as if something was dragging her, was pulled by her feet towards the center of the room. Colin, dropped his equipment and dove towards her shoulders, attempting to grab Emma and pull her back from whatever was pulling her forward.
Emma kicked out and swung the Spirit Box, throwing it, at her unseen assailant. Colin, seeing her actions, secured his grip on her arms and pulled harder . . . to no avail. The tug of war continued for a moment with Emma continuing to kick out at her unseen assailant and Colin trying to pull her away. Without warning, as suddenly as the assault began, whatever it was that had grabbed her . . . let her go. Emma scrambled upright and she and Colin, abandoning their equipment, made a mad dash for the door, throwing it open and pitching out of the room, landing in a heap on the other side of the door. Neal, who had been standing on the other side of the door, slammed it shut. He and Clarissa were immediately by the sides of Emma and Colin.
“What happened?” asked Neal. “It was all quiet and then we heard a ruckus and then the door came open and then you two came flying out.”
“Ask Leroy,” Emma said breathlessly. “See if he was able to get anything recorded.” She was panting and sweating. Neal was looking her over.
“Emma, it looks like you’ve been hurt,” Neal was most concerned. He helped her up into a sitting position.
“Nah!” Emma winced when she tried to stand up. “I’m just a little bruised.”
“Like hell, you’ve got some broken ribs!” Neal looked over at Colin. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Colin was receiving attention from Clarissa who was fussing over him. “I wasn’t the one getting knocked around. Dr. Swan looked to me like she was hit pretty hard.”
Emma glared at him. Neal made up his mind, “You and I are going into the ER. No arguments.”
Emma wasn’t happy, but didn’t feel well enough to fight him on this. Before she allowed him to lead her out, Emma asked Colin, “Did you smell something right before we got out of that room?”
Colin considered, replaying the events. “Yeah, right as whatever had you let go, there was a strong smell of cigars and . . . I don’t know, like we were in a skanky bar at three in the morning? Is that important?”
“Maybe. . . yeah,” Emma told him.
Clarissa reassured her. “We’ll get with Leroy and have a report for you when you come back.”
Emma had two cracked ribs. The ER people also took x-rays of her shoulders, concerned that she might have a torn rotator cuff, but both shoulders checked out all right. She was given some heavy duty pain killers and sent home, after being told to take it easy. At her insistence, Neal took her back to Goldark Inn.
Emma was feeling groggy when they driving back.
“Hey Neal,” she told him. “I want you to make a couple of stops. It’s kinda important.”
“Whatever I can do,” he reassured her.
“First, we need to get some really dark rum.”
“Emma, you aren’t supposed to drink with those pain pills,” he cautioned her.
“Not for me,” Emma’s speech was slightly slurred. “I also need you to stop and get some nice cigars.”
“Maybe we can do that tomorrow or when you’re feeling better. Neal didn’t think she was making much sense.
“No, no, no. It’s important. They’re a gift for somebody.” Emma was starting to drift off but pulled herself awake. “Please, Neal. Rum and cigars. Very important.” Emma seemed to be increasingly agitated.
Neal didn’t say anything but pulled into a drug store to pick up a couple of cigars and a liquor store for the rum. He was puzzled but agreeing to get the items seemed to help calm Emma down.
When they arrived back at the house, the sun was beginning to go down. Emma was stumbling and mumbling but insistent.
“Let’s find out what they found on Leroy’s tapes,” Emma leaned into Neal who supported her as they walked back into the Inn.
“We’re baa-aack!” Emma announced loudly as they walked back into the house.
“Pain medication,” Neal told the others, offering a quick explanation regarding Emma’s behavior.
“Whacha found?” Emma asked Clarissa.
“We’ll have to go out to the van,” Clarissa told her. “He’s got some interesting footage, that’s for sure.”
Neal helped Emma back out of the house and out to the van.
Leroy was there. “Are you drunk?” he asked Emma first thing.
“Pain pills. Really, really good pain pills,” she told him.
“Okee dokee,” Leroy shrugged. “Not too much at first except for the blue spot in the mirror. And they played through Emma talking with Cora and getting the first couple of answers related to the poison, the obscure message about there being a price to pay and then the curse.
He got them to the point that Colin called out, “Dr. Swan? Something . . . .else is here. The data logger just went off the top.”
Leroy stopped the tape. “Look here. In front of the mirror we can see the dark entity that attacked Emma. Notice that the image in the mirror is gone.”
Leroy ran the tape forward through the assault. On the film they all saw the black shape rush forward and then Emma looked like a rag doll being thrown backwards. Then the black shape was at her ankles and they could see Colin dropping his equipment and trying to grab Emma at her shoulders. Emma swung the Spirit Box, throwing it and the black shape momentarily pulled back. “Now look in this other corner,” Leroy directed their attention to another part of the screen.
“There’s nothing there,” Neal said. “It’s absolutely black.”
“Let’s look back on this tape a little,” and Leroy rolled the tape back. “Look at the corner now. You can make out part of the curtain and part of the armoire in the shadows.” Leroy ran the tape forward slowly. “Now look, it goes completely black and then. . . ” The dark shadow holding Emma pulled back and Emma and Colin made a mad scramble to the door.
“Now this is interesting,” Leroy told them. “The camera was still on. We can see the first black shape, the one that attacked Emma, coalesce just a bit almost into the shape of a person and then it floats back into the mirror. And the second shape just stays there in the corner for a while and then it fades away very slowly.”
Neal, Emma, Colin and Clarissa all sat back.
“Dr. Swan, what were those things?” Clarissa finally asked.
“Some kind of energy; they’re cold spots,” Emma replied. “They both look like entities.” She remembered what Belle had told her – that there was ‘something else’ in Cora’s room.
“Exactly what?” Neal asked. “The one that grabbed you came out of the mirror. My guess is it might have been Cora. But the second entity? Who? What was that?”
Emma rubbed her head, “Leroy, look through the tapes again. See if you can see anything else in that room.” She thought a moment and said quietly, “I think it could have been Cora who was the dark entity that attacked me. But there’s that something else that materialized and Cora fled back from it.” Emma sighed.
“So bad-ass Cora is afraid of this second entity. Should we be pleased or scared?” Colin asked.
Emma shook her head, “I’m going to need to go to sleep for about fourteen hours. We’ll come back after that and tackle this.”