The Doll

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Home is Not Always Welcoming

Home is Not Always Welcoming

Living in the hotel ended up being for eight months. In that time, Cat recovered much of her strength because the hotel had a full gym and I kept her doing her physical therapy every two days. They also had a masseuse on call and I had her take care of Cat on the odd days between exercises. The woman was a marvel and helped Catherine more than the exercise did.

The fire inspector came to the hotel to give us the report.

“How did you get anything of Harry out of the car, if you did?” I asked the fire inspector.

“Even a car fire is not hot enough to burn through human bone. They were brittle and great care was taken to remove what we could. He was wearing a ring and we didn’t know if you would want it or want it buried with him, so we kept it in evidence.”

Elizabeth looked at Cat. Harry was her twin and the ring he wore was a birthday present to him from her when they turned seventeen. It was a man’s birthstone ring.

“I don’t want it back.” Cat said.

“Have someone put it in his grave, please.” I told him.

“It was pretty well melted with the stone in a blob of gold, anyway.”

That comment was more than Cat could take and she went to her room.

“Sorry … I’m sorry I upset her.” The man apologized.

“She was probably remembering. Harry was her twin. We watched his car explode.”

“I am so very sorry for your loss Miss VonMurkin. It must have been awful to lose your whole family like that. We in the fire department knew you and Cat didn’t do this. Neither of you had the strength to do what we found.”

“How did they start the fire in the Chapel?” I stayed on point.

“They tore up a few hymnals for kindling and then soaked them in lighter fluid. We got there before the bodies were severely burned. It was fortunate that they started the fire so far from the pews. The ends above your parents feet burned before the fire reached the bodies. From where the fire got to the wall adjacent with the house, was a mystery to us. We couldn’t find any accelerator but it might have been a back draft because you left the adjoining door open.”

“Was it the fire department that tore open the wall to get Fred out of the laundry shoot?”

“No, that was the police department. They found his lower torso in the laundry room and the dried blood on the shoot end so they found where they could dig him out of the wall.”

“Did … did I tear him in half pulling on his feet?”

“No, dear, he was cut in half, not torn. If it was caused by the rope you probably would only have pulled his feet off, not cut him from the hips. No … that was done with a very sharp blade. Darling the last time you heard him, was the last he ever spoke. He’d bled out before you got to the cellar. You didn’t hurt him.”

“Thanks for that comfort. I didn’t kill his twin, either, but I was there when the lathe started again.” I confessed and shuddered at the memory of Ted’s head flying off his body.

The Fire Examiner reached across the table and patted my hand. There wasn’t anything he could possibly say. “The police did say someone was trying to get him untangled before the lathe killed him.”

“Thank them for small favors, but they still accused me of killing five of my family members!” I spat out.

“I testified on your behalf Miss VonMurkin. There was no way you could have done any of that damage if the victims were conscious and Fred fought being shoved in the laundry shoot. The marks on the wall proved that. He was big enough that unless he was unconscious you could not have gotten him in that narrow space. The evidence proved neither you nor Catherine had the strength to subdue your family. And you testified that Ted was alive when you got to him.”

“That effin’ little monster … I don’t know how a two foot tall doll could do what was done to my family, Chrissie may have knocked Catherine out and tied her hands and feet behind her, she was subtle and sneaky like that. But the power that little monster could wield … the psychokinesis it was capable of producing was beyond awe inspiring.”

“You gave us a fight about getting you away from the furnace door. We finally got you calmed enough to get your feet off the door just in time. You stopped fighting when we moved Catherine. Still, your feet were blistered and red for a few days.”

“I didn’t notice … the cracker factory said I was unresponsive for seven days but I remember I could walk as soon as they let me up.”

“The police went through that furnace with a fine tooth comb, even had a man get inside and check the flue for evidence. Only thing they couldn’t explain was a few twigs, they thought, turned out to be tiny human bones, and the residue of some kind of gum which they couldn’t identify because it was badly scorched.”

“The forensic test done on a similar doll at the hospital said it had bits of Amber, which is actually a gum not a stone. It will melt if it is burned.”

“Did they give this information to the police?” He asked as he wrote it on the report.

“I believe they did. The entire investigation from the hospital, with many expert opinions, proved Cat and I had nothing to do with it, it was all done by a malevolent spirit that I hope has gone far, far away.”

“Well, I’ve been through the house and in the furnace room several times and never got the willies so I think it left. Up the chimney and gone.”

“Good riddance.” I stood up and the Fire Inspector did as well. I walked him to the door of our hotel suite and thanked him for the report. When he was gone I went to Cat’s room and found her lying down.

“May I join you?” I asked softly.

Cat reached for my hand and I lay down next to my sister and just held her.

I did go to the old Victorian, once, along with the manager of the firm who was going to bring it back to code so we could sell it. I just could not bring myself to go inside. The fire department could not save the old Birch and it had been cut down. I was told that it was forty–eight percent burned through the main truck so it was a hazard. The grass around the gravel drive where Harry’s car had burned was still black as well. The manager tried to get me inside but I refused, repeatedly, and told him I didn’t care what they did to bring the place back to a condition in which we could sell it, just clean it out, fix it and let me know when it was done. I told him I really didn’t care if they had to tear it completely down. He assured me that not much damage was done to the house itself, they just were going to have to haul a lot of junk out. I told him the only thing I wanted salvaged were photo albums and any pictures on the walls of any of the family except the youngest girl. I never wanted to see Chrissie’s face again.

But even the realtors would not try to sell without both girls going through the house with them, so Catherine and I finally had to go through the empty house at least one more time.

“Bess, I don’t want to do this. I’m less afraid of ghosts than I am of memories.” Cat told me as we drove up to the Victorian.

“I know Cat … me too, but they assure me that most of the rooms are just white now, the Chapel is devoid of religious stuff and it’s just white, the broken stained glass window was replaced so it looks like the rest of them, the wall they took out to get the rest of Fred was restored to it’s original condition, all the duct work was replaced from the second floor down, there isn’t much of anything to remind us of the family. None of the furniture or anything, just white or paneled walls, and clean floors and ceilings.”

“OK … I can do this … but don’t you dare ever let go of my hand.” She agreed but still didn’t sound happy about it.

“Cat, you really are a lot stronger, emotionally, than you give yourself credit. I know you couldn’t come back from that coma by yourself, but as soon as you heard my voice you came back to me. I can’t do this alone either.” I smiled and took her hand, in the car, after I parked at the far end of the semicircular drive.

It was spring and there was new growth all around the house. Someone had trimmed the bushes and the new growth was like a light dusting of bright green on the dark leaves of the mature branches, tour mother had planted jonquils and narcissus before the bushes and they were just starting to open. The house, from the outside, looked almost new. The pall of tragedy that they expected to hang over the house was not there.

The realtors, a husband and wife team, pulled up to the walkway to the house and greeted the girls on the gravel drive.

“Morning Amanda. This is my sister, Catherine VonMurkin.” I introduced Cat to the lady, who shook both of our hands.

“My name’s Martin.” The man introduced himself when he came around the back of the car with the for sale sign in his other hand. He shook both our hands as well.

“It’s really all cleaned and new looking?” Cat asked sheepishly.

Amanda took Cat’s shoulders in a friendly way. “Yes, Miss VonMurkin, we made sure there was nothing but the walls, floors and ceilings left here before we brought you in. It’s a law in this state that when the kind of work that needed to be done here is finished the owners of the building must approve what’s done before it can be sold. We’ve walked through every room and looked in every closet and it’s absolutely empty, even all the stuff in the attic is gone.”

Catherine visibly squared her shoulders. “OK, let’s do this.”

I was proud of her and took her other hand.

It was just an empty house. It wasn’t as beautiful as their parents made it, but then, this was what would sell. There were a few upgrades to the kitchen we hadn’t expected and the huge boiler furnace was gone, replaced with an efficient heat pump type that ran on natural gas. No ghosts, not a lot to remind them of the happy years we spent here. More importantly, no real reminders of the tragedy that happened here. Cat and I both remembered what we found in every room where one of our siblings and our parents were killed but the rooms, themselves, were not reminders. Still, at that, we couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

“Catherine … do you want some water?” Amanda asked her as she leaned against the realtor’s car to catch her breath. Catherine nodded her head and Amanda got a fresh bottle of spring water out of the back seat of her car for her.

I was almost as upset, but not quite. The fact that the old boiler type furnace was gone was the greatest relief as far as I was concerned. If that old boiler with my shoes melted into the door was still there, I was sure I would have lost it and if I wasn’t strong Catherine would have crumbled, too. We both survived our last look at the Victorian.

“What are you going to tell prospective customers about the history of the house? Does the law say you have to tell them a family was murdered in this house?” I asked Martin.

“The law doesn’t say we must tell, but my ethics says I do. However I’m not giving a lot of details. Besides, your family wasn’t the first to die in this house. I don’t sell houses without a thorough history. Eleven people have died in this house since the day it was built in eighteen fifty three.”

“Yeah, but how many of them were murdered, viciously.”

“I admit … only your family.”

“You have to tell them the family was murdered only four years ago. Do you know if the house has been spiritually cleansed?”

“Yes, I do know that it was, before the reconstruction was done.”

“By whom?”

“I don’t know his name but he is a Roman Catholic priest and a professional exorcist.”

“Someone famous?”

“Yes, the priest who worked with the “Paranormal State” people.”

“Father Robert Bailey.”

Yes, that’s him.” Martin said then searched his valise and came up with a card for the priest. “He said if you wanted to know if he found any trace of the … evil, to call this number or write to the address and he’s send you his report.”

“Thanks Martin. I asked if the house had been blessed and cleansed because I felt nothing at all in there. Just my own memories.”

“Good. That’s good, Bess. We were hoping this wouldn’t be all that terrible for you, but like I said, it’s a law in this state that those selling a house have to look over the renovations before it’s put up for sale.”

“Well, the builders did a beautiful job and it looks ready to move into. By the way, who is keeping the grounds so nice, I noticed even the grass out back is cut.”

“We have a regular grounds keeping crew on retainer to keep places looking kept up. Nothing turns off a prospective client more than if the place looks abandoned. We even have light timers so the house will appear occupied and the security system is wired to the police department and the video feed goes to my office.”

“What are you asking for the property … that’s a lot of expense for an empty house.” I was shocked.

“Asking price, for this size of a property and the fine restoration is three million but the upkeep isn’t costing as much as you might surmise.”

“OK, I don’t know much about the value of property these days. I never knew much. The garage was restored as just a garage, right?”

“Yes, when you and Catherine decided you didn’t want to be on the property we had a new roof put on the garage and power washed the concrete floor, that was all we had to do but paint it.”

“Then go ahead and list it. I’m satisfied and Cat doesn’t care.”

There were papers for both of them to sign and when the property sold the cleared profit would be added to their bank account sometime after ten days after the sale. The girls shook hands with the realtors and got back in their car and drove away.

“That was easier than I expected.” Catherine said when they were a little more than half way to the hotel where they still lived.

“The house was blessed and cleansed, spiritually, before they started the renovations … when the affected materials were still in the house, Cat.”

“Who blessed it?”

“Father Bob Bailey from Paranormal State fame.”

“You’re kidding?”

I handed her the card.

“I’ll be damned.”

“No … we’re not, Cat. That’s my point. I’m going to contact him and find out what he may know about why that thing couldn’t affect me.”

“What do you mean?”

“It reached out and broke both your legs and I felt it touch me, the power was so damned strong, but it couldn’t hurt me. I don’t think it was just the rage I felt. It … could not … touch me, like something else was protecting me. We understand the promise of Christ and I’ve read the entire Bible maybe twice from cover to cover but we never had any formal spiritual training, but that thing could not touch me. I want to know why.”

“He’s a Roman Catholic priest … he may not be able to tell you exactly what was the reason.”

“But he might be able to direct me to someone who can. Both the Warrens are gone now or I’d ask Elizabeth Warren. However I’m sure Father Bob would know who else he’d consider an expert in this.”

“But you’ve never demonstrated the least bit of psychic ability.”

“No, that’s true … but you are.”

“Oh no, you aren’t dragging me into this shit again! If I never run into another evil spirit for the remainder of my life I’ll be happy.”

“Cat … I can’t do it without you. How the hell many thousands of those damned dolls are out there? How many other families are in the kind of danger we faced? Can you really, in good conscience, let this happen to anyone else?” I asked just after I pulled into our slot at the hotel and I turned the Rouge off.

I stared out the front window at our hotel room door and not at Cat. She was going to have to wrestle with her own conscience about this.

“You’re right, Bess. I can’t.” Cat said very softly and reached for my hand.

We only sat in the car a few minutes then went into our suite at the hotel.

While Catherine made us some lunch, I looked at the card for Father Bob. His address was given as Pennsylvania, which made sense since the people who were the initial investigators on the show were all going to school in State College Pennsylvania and I figured they met him there somewhere.

“Don’t do that right now … we’re not going to live in the carriage house on the property and it’s really stupid to stay here much longer paying this exorbitant price. Find us an apartment somewhere.” Cat called to me.

I went out and bought a newspaper from the main office. I looked through the ads and wasn’t happy about anything I saw there.

“Cat … what do you think about us moving to Pennsylvania … right now?”

She didn’t say anything so I turned to look at her, she was looking at me. “Is that where Father Bob lives?”

“Yeah.”

“Write to him first and see who he suggests you contact. It may not be in Pennsylvania.”

“OK it’s just that nothing jumped out at me from the paper.”

“This is s small town, Bess. Maybe we should look in the city.”

“I couldn’t live in a city … too noisy.”

“Clear the table, lunch is ready.”

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