Dirty Faces

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Chapter 18: On the Inside

Tommy shook his head. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this."

"Oh come on, now. You're just as curious as I am and you know it," Ginny said, looking through the cupboards in the kitchen of the abandoned house. There were still plenty of dishes in them, as well as a few rusty cans of pears and sweet peas.

"We should be swimming with the others," he mumbled.

"It's still early. There'll be time for that later on today." She carefully shut the cupboard door and turned around to confront him. "Now are ya gonna help me look, or are ya just gonna stand there with your hands in your pockets and gripe?"

He pursed his lips. "And what exactly is it I'm supposed to be helping you look for?"

"Anything that'll tell us...anything."

"Ginny, nothing happened here. You saw for yourself, there was nothing in those newspapers. It's all just a bunch of made-up stuff because folks around here got nothing better to talk about."

She considered his words for a moment, then walked past him into the tiny bedroom just off the kitchen to continue searching for clues. He may have been right; that may well have been the case, but she didn't think so. It just didn't feel right. She hadn't told him about the coincidences she had already discovered, and she felt a little guilty about that, but she wanted more to go on before she let him in on those vague leads he would probably just brush off anyway.

Ginny hadn't gone in the kitchen the first time she came in the house, so she hadn't noticed the little bedroom before. There wasn't much to it: a small, stripped bed and a stool that must have been used for a nightstand. While Tommy stood in the doorway with his arms crossed, she looked under the bed and lifted the mattress, but found nothing more than dust bunnies.

She turned to leave the room, intentionally bumping Tommy's shoulder as she passed through the doorway to cross the kitchen and continue her investigation in the dining room. Tommy let out an exaggerated sigh and followed her. While Ginny poked around the shelves of the china cabinet, he pulled open one of the drawers and sifted through its contents. "Nothing in this one. Just a junk drawer."

"No pictures or letters or anything with names or dates?" she said, peeking behind the modest plates on display in the cabinet.


"Check the other one."

"Sure thing, boss," he replied with a smirk.

When they finished in the dining room, they moved to the front room and combed through it, even digging between couch cushions and picking through the ashes in the fireplace. The bathroom didn't offer up anything either, aside from an old bottle of brandy in the medicine cabinet.

"Let's look up there another day," Tommy suggested as Ginny was about to start up the stairs. "We've been here a while already."


He hesitated. "Sure."



Ginny nodded and the two of them walked toward the dining room. "If only walls could talk," she mused as she looked around the big empty house.

"Let's just get outta here before they start doing just that," Tommy said. "Ghosts or no ghosts, this place gives me the creeps."

She was about to laugh at her cowardly comrade, but her smile quickly faded when they got to the window through which they had entered. Standing just below it was the Priest. He looked up at them with icy blue eyes, his mouth a thin, straight line, and his arms crossed.

To Ginny's surprise, he helped them back out the window and held Tommy up to close it before ever speaking a word. When he did speak, with his thick Irish accent, it was to the point. "Thomas, get on over to the house."

"Yes, sir," Tommy said, promptly obeying.

Then, the Priest looked down at Ginny with eyes that frightened her more than any secret that old house could possibly hold. "It would behoove you to do the same, young lady. Don't let me catch you children around this house again, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

The things Mama doesn't know, Kody thought when he heard the click he'd been waiting for. The padlock fell open and he placed the two bent paperclips back in his pocket. A life sentence as Jack's sidekick hadn't taught him nothing. He looked over his shoulder one more time to be sure no one was around before opening the door and stepping into the kitchen of the old gray house.

The unsettling, dank, closed-up smell of desolation assaulted his nose before he'd shut the door behind him. Even from where he stood, the emptiness felt overwhelming, and for possibly the first time in his life, he cursed his solitude.

He knew he didn't have much time, as Aunt Betty would be expecting him for supper straight after work, but he only wanted to see one thing. Passing through the doorway into the dining room, he was startled to find that a sturdy table, chairs, and a china cabinet had been left behind. And there were little footprints in the dust all over the wood floors. Ginny's only been in here once, he thought. Right.

Continuing through the archway into the front room, he took note of the furniture left there, as well. Unlike the haunted houses in the movies he'd seen at the theater, the furniture in this house had not been covered by dust cloths. It had just been left like it was, as if the people who had lived there had no intention of ever coming back to get it.

A couch and two chairs were arranged around an oval, braided rug, which lay in front of the tall fireplace. Above the intricately-carved, black walnut mantle hung a dingy mirror with spiderwebs crisscrossing the glass. Along the wall behind the couch was the bathroom. He peeked in to see the porcelain claw-foot tub, then continued on toward the front door, which opened up right in front of the staircase.

Standing at the foot of the stairs, Kody pulled the old photograph out of his back pocket, and felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

Well I'll be damned.

The stairs didn't look the ones in the picture; they were the ones in the picture. He returned the photo to his back pocket and pulled his working timepiece out. If he hurried, he could still make it to Aunt Betty's in time for supper. After he looked around upstairs.

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