Chapter 26: House work
The front room was unrecognizable. The walls were clean and repaired, the floors sanded and stained. The ancient rug and furniture completely cleaned and restored. A beautiful new light hung from the ceiling with brand-new outlets and switches throughout. The work went fast with three men working and a fourth helper always around. Alex’s father took the longest to get used to be observed by the pale gray girl in the long coat. She would spend most of her time in Alex’s company. Arthur would hear them talking about the years following her death. “Well, Dad says the celebrations in 1976 for the bicentennial were amazing,” Alex was explaining as Arthur entered the hall. Looking left and right, he could not see whom Alex was talking to. His heart jumped as her face appeared out of the wall to the young man’s left.
“The wood looks rather eaten here,” she explained as Alex walked over to make a mark under the smiling face. “Oh, hi, Arthur.”
“Chloe.” He nodded. “I was wondering if I could have a word with my son.”
Chloe materialized through the wall, a quizzical look on her face. If she had a question, she did not ask. Alex watched her disappear down the hall before looking questioningly at his father. “Alex, I don’t think this is fair,” Arthur began. “Chloe is a great help, but”—he rubbed the back of his neck as he searched for what to say—“she doesn’t belong here.”
“Dad, she has more of a claim to this house than we do,” Alex argued.
His father raised a hand to cut him off. “That is not what I am saying. I mean here in this existence.” He blew out a breath. “We need to find a way to let her…pass on.”
“But that is what we are trying to do.” Alex then went on to explain about the meeting with Kerlvin and the tokens. Arthur was horrified at the thought of a demon holding back a being of pure anger in the back bedroom as they restored the house. Alex explained that the finding of the tokens would send all of them on their way. He explained what happened when he returned the earring.
“What about the shoe you found in Granddad’s old stuff?” Arthur asked.
Slapping himself in the forehead, he said, “Holy shit! I forgot all about that,” Alex exclaimed, and then he apologized to his father for the language. Arthur laughed with a shake of his head.
Before he could tell his son that at age nineteen he was allowed to swear, Aaron burst through the front door. “There’s another one!” he cried. Doubled over, gasping for breath, he held out a hand telling them he had more to say. Chloe appeared in the hall, causing Aaron to shriek. Hand on his heart, he fell against the wall. “Oh, it’s only you.” Chloe’s face crumpled into irritation. “Listen, sorry,” Aaron spoke, still trying to get his breathing under control. “I was out back. You know, inspecting the fence and noting the property line.” Alex disappeared into the next room, returning with a bottle of water. Aaron took the drink, finishing it in a couple of seconds. He looked up at the expectant eyes. “Right, well, I was by these trees when I heard a voice. At first I thought it was you.” He pointed at Chloe. “But then I saw her. Her hair was shorter, and I could see…” He swallowed, closing his eyes tight as if trying to rid them of the vision. “She had been shot, at least twice. Once in the chest.” He pointed to his own, close to his neck. “You could see the stain on her bare skin and the wound.” He tipped the empty bottle up; a single drop hit his tongue. Chloe swooped out of the room. Quickly she returned with another bottle, handing it over. “Thanks.” He took a couple of gulps. “I could see the hole in her head. When she saw me, she started screaming at me, calling me a murderer.” Aaron took a deep breath. “I tried to tell her it wasn’t me…” A strange look crossed Aaron’s face. “How did you do that?” He was staring at Chloe.
“I didn’t kill her,” she sputtered.
Aaron was now looking at the bottle in his hand. “No, I mean this.” He held it out to her. She stared at it, confused. She looked at the others and saw they were also staring at the clear plastic vessel. She reached out. Her hand passed right through the bottle. Frowning, she tried again.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. Chloe concentrated. She had done this once before when she knocked over the bust in the conservatory. “Give me a second.” She tried again, and again her hand passed right through. Frustrated, she tried once more. Aaron’s hand moved when Chloe’s contacted the bottle. She took it from him, marveling at in her grasp. She cried out in a whoop of joy.
Congratulating Chloe, Alex then asked the question on everyone’s mind. “Do you know who this other girl is?” The bottle hit the floor with an empty thud. Chloe’s attention was now on Alex.
“I don’t know. I haven’t left this house in something like eighty years. I have no idea how long I was alone at the bottom of the well.”
“Well?” Arthur asked.
“Yeah, Chloe’s body is in a well under the floor in the conservatory,” Alex explained as if this was common knowledge. He ignored his father’s sputtering. “We need to figure out who she was.”
“And how many others are out there.” Chloe agreed.
Aaron and Arthur watched the interaction, Alex turned to the door. He grabbed Chloe’s hand. Instantly she was shocked by the feeling. At the door she pulled free. “I can’t, remember?” She stared past him out through the opening.
“Right, sorry.” He touched her face gently. “Aaron, come on, I want to meet your new girlfriend.” Aaron looked stricken. Arthur began to protest. “We need to find out who she is and what she is missing.”
“I’d say the back of her head and any patience for me,” Aaron protested.
“Dude, I need you to show me where she is,” Alex explained. Looking over at the frightened look Chloe wore, he stepped in front of her, blocking the view of the porch and lawn. “Chloe, can you stay here and help Dad with some of the wiring?” She nodded, moving closer to Arthur.
“I don’t want you boys doing anything foolish. She lashes out, you run. You got that?” Arthur ordered. The boys had passed out the door when Chloe called after them.
“That is sound advice. If she is like me, she will be trapped in one place.” She couldn’t see the pained look on Alex’s face. “If she turns out to be like Edgar, run; just run. He is pure anger now.”
The sun was already making its descent below the trees when the two men stepped off the porch and took the turn toward the woods. “Maybe this should wait until tomorrow,” Aaron whispered. Alex shushed him.