He didn’t know what to do about her. Joshua Hunter sat on his couch, his hand covering his face. He knew his sister was asleep upstairs in a guest bedroom. Standing up, he moved to the other end of the room, his arms crossing in front of his chest. Even now, he couldn’t help but remember what Alison McCarthy had told him. That his sister desperately needed to see a professional psychiatrist.
She was right. He knew she was right. But it scared him. Doctors like that would call her crazy. They’d drug her up and make her brain dead and call her healthy for it. They’d lock her up with people that really were insane and tell her there was something wrong with her.
He changed direction when he reached the end of the living room, turning to pace the opposite way. But it was getting worse. Emily was getting much worse. She had come to his place in a screaming rage, in a nightgown, covered in blood, the skin around her wrists almost completely rubbed off. She did look crazy. Like a stark raving mad lunatic. No wonder he was so afraid of what the doctors would do to her. He was half-tempted to have her locked up himself.
He turned, pacing in the opposite direction once more. If he didn’t do something for his sister soon, there was no telling what would happen to her. Already she was starting to hurt herself and blame it on ghosts.
He heard a noise coming from the stairs. Turning to look, he saw his sister coming down the steps, her hands clasped timidly to her abdomen. She looked tiny. Skinny and frail. She had lost so much weight since the miscarriage. She used to be healthy, with a healthy glow and healthy weight. Now she was as fragile as a piece of glass. “Go back to sleep, Emily,” he said gently. “It’s too early.”
Six in the morning. He hadn’t slept a wink since his sister had come pounding on his front door.
“I’m sorry, Josh,” she whimpered. Tears hung in her eyes and light-colored lashes. “I’m sorry.” She came down the stairs, stepping closer to him. He had let her change into his clothing and out of her torn nightgown. Her wrists were wrapped with bandages he had offered her. Her neck was still red and streaked with bruised marks. She started crying. “But you just don’t believe me. No matter how many times I tell you. You never believe anything I say.”
Josh sighed. “Emily, how can you expect me to believe you when you’re constantly lying to me?”
“I’m not lying!”
“What about Bethany then?” he insisted. “Who’s Bethany?”
“She’s real,” Emily sobbed. “I didn’t make her up.”
He let out a loud groan, his hand moving roughly to his face. “Go to sleep. Please, go to sleep. I don’t have the energy for this right now.”
Emily had collapsed against him, her hands going to his shirt. Her eyes were wide and swollen red as she looked up at him. She looked so desperate and… completely insane. She tugged hysterically at his clothing, shrieking, “You have to believe me. You have to! I’m not lying. I’m not!”
“Please stop.” His voice had grown exasperated. “Calm down right now.”
“Call her then!” Emily cried. “Call Miss McCarthy. She’ll prove it to you!” She screamed the words. “I swear, she’ll prove it to you! She’ll show you I’m right.”
“We’re not bothering her anymore,” Josh said angrily. “Why can’t you just admit what really happened! I can’t take this anymore! I just…” He wrapped his arms tightly around her shaking shoulders. “I just need you to get better. Please. Get better.”
She fought against him, her nails digging into his cheek and scratching downward. “Just call her!” she cried. “She’ll prove I’m right. She’ll prove I’m telling the truth.”
He was at a loss. He didn’t know what to do anymore. He held her close, praying she’d calm down. “If I call her… and she proves there’s nothing there, will you go to the doctor with me?” Was it wrong to keep giving in like this? To keep giving into her delusions?
“Yes,” Emily said, tears streaming down her face as she nodded. “Yes. I’ll go. I’ll go. Just let her prove it. I want her to prove I’m not lying to you.”
What was he doing? Was he as crazy as his sister to humor her like this? To keep letting her get away with such abnormal behavior? He felt bad to drag Miss Alison McCarthy back into their family problems. He would pay her double this time. Hopefully, his sister would keep her promise and see the doctor with him when Miss McCarthy proved there was nothing to be afraid of in that house.
Alison realized with some discomfort that Joshua Hunter was obsessed with waking her up at painfully early hours in the morning. She awoke with a start at the sound of the phone ringing, realizing she was still on her couch. A spilled cup of coffee lay across her lap, indicating she had fallen asleep while holding it. Considering it could’ve been a lit cigarette that had fallen on her lap while she slept and caught her on fire, she readily accepted the trade.
She glanced around her as she crawled to her feet. Greg was gone. She wondered when he had left. Her hand reached for the phone and she brought it to her ear. “McCarthy’s Agency.”
“Hello, Miss McCarthy? This is Joshua Hunter. I had you come over my sister’s house a few days ago?”
She made a face. Like she was going to forget. What did he want anyway? “Mr. Hunter, how are you?”
“Sorry for calling so early. I know I say that a lot. You can call me Josh by the way.”
“Would it make you more comfortable?”
“You can call me Alison then.”
“That’s fine.” He let out a loud breath over the phone.
“Is something wrong?” Alison asked.
“No, it’s just… I hate to keep bugging you. It’s… my sister, Emily. She came over last night. She was hurt and ranting about her house trying to kill her. There was blood and bruises all over her.” He lowered his voice. “She sounded completely insane. I didn’t know what to do.”
Alison felt her eyes widen at the words. She thought of the shadowy image she had seen in the woman’s attic, remembering the bad omen. Death’s face. Was that what it had been trying to tell her? She bit her lip. Had she been wrong then? Was Emily’s house haunted, after all? “Is she okay now?”
“She’s… she’s all right. But… you’re going to think I’m idiot for this. I know it’s not good to humor her. But she’s convinced this ghost is real and trying to kill her. She… she really wants you to stop at her house one more time and take a look at it.”
Alison nodded. She wasn’t sure what to think. She felt as confused as Josh was. Was the ghost real? Was it made up? Why hadn’t she found anything when she had gone the first time? Not that she couldn’t be wrong… Maybe there really was a poltergeist there. It wasn’t like Alison was perfect. “I can do that,” she said quickly. “I’ll check again if you want.”
“I’m really, really sorry about all this. I should’ve taken her to a hospital a long time ago. Now I’m dragging you back into this.”
“Really. It’s not a problem at all,” she replied. She felt sincerely worried for the girl. She knew the whole thing could just as easily be made up, but considering her experience in the attic and with the mysterious mirror, it’d be stupid of her not to give it a second try. If something ended up happening to Emily and she got hurt or even killed, it would make Alison completely responsible if she didn’t take this warning seriously.
“Are you sure?” Joshua asked doubtfully. “I don’t want to cause you any problems. I can pay you double what I did last time.”
“That’s really not necessary.”
“I mean it.”
“Don’t worry about it. What time did you want me to go over?”
“She’s on her way home right now,” he said. “She’ll be home all day. She said any time you want to drop by. It’s up to you. If you’re free, of course. Any day you’re available would be great.”
“I can stop by today,” Alison agreed. She was still tired but she figured she could get some sleep later.
“Thank you. I really appreciate this. You have no idea how much this means to me. She promised me she’d go to the hospital after she talks to you. Emily… she trusts your opinion. She just needs to hear it from you before she can admit she was wrong.”
That was just the thing. Was Emily wrong? Alison wanted so badly to believe the girl was telling the truth. Josh said she had come home bloody and battered. If it wasn’t a spirit then that meant she had done it to herself. Alison didn’t want to think that. The shadowed face in the attic had been a warning. It had to be. She couldn’t let Death take Josh’s sister, not the way Death had already taken her own. She had to take this warning seriously.
“You’ve been really helpful, Alison,” Josh continued, his voice sincere. “Thank you.”
Alison nodded though he couldn’t see her. Her cheeks heated up. If only she could’ve gotten to know him in an outside setting. Right now it was all business. The very idea of romance was completely taboo under the current circumstances. They were dealing with a sick family member and she was sure dating was probably the very last thing on Josh’s mind right now. Despite that, she couldn’t help but want him to feel something for her. She couldn’t help but wish he’d try and get to know her. “You’re welcome,” she said finally. “I’ll let you know what happens.”
“That’ll be great. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye,” he said.
She hung up, letting out a dramatic breath of air. Who was she kidding? She was doomed to die alone. She’d become a genuine cat lady spinster with no family or friends. No wonder she had become so desperate. Her biological clock was ticking and convincing her to fall for every attractive male with a third leg that walked past her. Pretty soon she’d have no standards at all and would start picking up hobos off the street.
She was doomed.
Lifting a hand, she scratched her head, letting out a groan. Oh well. Time to get back to work. Like always. She made her way toward the bathroom. Her pants were ruined from the spilled coffee. It’d take hours of scrubbing and detergents to save them again. She headed toward the shower and gave a weary glance behind her. It looked safe. She began peeling off her clothes and climbed into the tub.
The shower woke her up a little. She made the water a little colder than what she usually liked and ran her face under it. Still, she was exhausted. She hated waking up early with a passion. The day didn’t normally even begin for her until around two pm. Grocery shopping even was usually done around midnight when it was dark and the air was cool. If banks and post offices were open all night she’d love to run those errands at one in the morning instead of one in the afternoon.
No one ever understood that about her. At least in the summer she could blame the heat and say it was the only time she could get anything done without having to be scorched by the sun.
A noise sounded. A loud thump in the center of her bathroom. Alison turned around, a bottle of shampoo in her hands. What was that?
She pulled back the curtain, letting out a yelp when she found a dumbfounded middle-aged dead man standing in her bathroom. He had a monocle of all things pressed to his right eye, an old fashioned brown suit hanging from his burley frame. A streak of white ran across the top of his ash-brown hair. “I do say, Miss,” he called. “By any chance, have you seen a young lad around nine or so somewhere around here?”
She narrowed her eyes, grasping the bathroom curtain and wrapping it tightly around herself. Who cared that it sent the stream of water from the shower splashing all over her floor. ‘Young lad,’ her ass. She was sick of this happening. “Get out!” she shrieked. The stupid pervert.
The man gave her a wide grin before vanishing before her eyes. He knew exactly what he was doing. She hated changing, she hated going to the bathroom, and she hated showering for this very reason. She had no privacy. Any stranger could just pop in out of nowhere at any time. It was frustrating!
She waited another second, the water was still rushing over her and the green shower curtain wrapped tightly around her. When nothing happened she began to pull it off of her and set it back into place against the tub.
“Are you sure you haven’t seen him?” the voice called again loudly from somewhere beside her toilet.
She screamed it this time. “I said ‘GET OUT!’”
The voice disappeared.
She glanced outside her shower once more. The bathroom was empty again. She let out a loud sigh, pulling her bottle of shampoo open.