Chapter 33: Unexpected
While Alex tried to find out how and why Edgar’s victims were bound to where they died, work continued on the house. Alex collapsed into a musty overstuffed chair. Wiping his brow, he took a long drink of water. Snow swirled around outside the windows, but the house was warm, almost too warm. A fire was crackling in the fireplace next to the Christmas tree Alex had insisted they put up. The set of Harry Potter books he had given to Chloe was already half-read. He was listening to his father and Chloe shouting back and forth. She was in the walls while he was down in the basement. Together they were running new electric lines. While this was happening, Aaron and Alex had been trying to move the massive cast-iron stove in the kitchen.
“Why can’t we just resurface it and leave it where it is?” Aaron complained.
“Because it is not original to the house, and it is rusting to pieces,” Alex sighed, handing over a bottle of water. “As much as I would love to leave it there, it’s got to go.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
In the wall behind the chair Alex sat in, Chloe smiled. Aaron loved to complain, while Alex patiently explained why they did things. She had heard this many times over the last few months. It never ceased to entertain her.
“What’s the holdup?” Arthur called, shaking Chloe out of her reverie. Focusing her attention back on the cable, she resumed pulling it through the wall. As she went she disconnected the ancient knob and tube wiring that Arthur was pulling back. It made a distinct scraping sound as it was pulled through the old wood and plaster. It took a few moments for her to realize the section of wall she was in was completely clear of the old wiring. The scratching continued.
“Kerlvin?” she softly called. “Is that you?” Standing perfectly still, Chloe waited. Panic rising quickly, she said, “Oh God, not rats.” She breathed. Her shoulders relaxed. “You’re dead. How can they hurt you?” She laughed. It died quickly with a bang from the other side of the wall. “Kerlvin, you are not funny.” She dropped the cable as she floated through the wall. Expecting to be in the main living room, she was shocked to find herself in a very small room. Through the dim glow that surrounded her ethereal presence, she could see a star carved into the floor. It was surrounded by symbols she had never seen before. Deep in the shadows, barely visible in the dim light, was what looked like an altar. A chill followed by shaking anxiety crept down Chloe’s ghostly spine. “Alex!”
Water spurted from Alex’s lips, the bottle rolled away, leaving a trail of water through the construction dust. Aaron called after him as Alex called out for Chloe. Turning the corner, she materialized through the wall. “What? What’s wrong? Are you OK?” She did not answer, just pointed to the wall.
“I think I found it,” she stated simply. Her eyes never wavered from straight ahead. Alex’s head swiveled between her face and the blank wall. She didn’t look at him. Aaron skidded up next to him.
“What’s going on?”
The door to the basement flew open. Arthur thundered up the stairs. “Chloe? Are you all right?”
Chloe seemed to realize everyone was staring at her. She turned slowly to face them. “I found something. Something behind that wall.” She pointed to where Alex was already running his hands over the peeling wallpaper. “It was like a shrine or altar or something. I think I found Edgar’s tokens,” she explained, her voice betraying no emotion. Arthur and Aaron just glanced between each other and Chloe. All the while Alex was searching the wall. Ripping some of the faded paper from the wall like an excited kid on Christmas, he whooped, causing everyone to jump.
“Found it! Yeah, bitch! Thought you could hide from me, mutha—”
“Alex!” Chloe and Arthur shouted in unison. Aaron snickered. Alex spun, staring at the others, confused.
“What’s the problem? Check this out.” He pushed the small knot in one of the exposed panels of old wainscoting. A hollow click filled the hall, followed by a creak. A split appeared in the wall amid a shower of dust. Alex turned slightly to see what the others thought. Aaron shrugged. Arthur was impassive. Only Chloe wore a look of deepest concern and fear. He smiled reassuringly at her. Turning back to the door, Alex felt the desert in his mouth. The tang of the dust and must on his tongue. The secret door protested his efforts with its creaking but was no match for his strength. Light spilled into a space that hadn’t seen light in years. The room still held darkness even with the illumination.
“What the hell is that?” Aaron asked over Alex’s shoulder. He was pointing at the pentagram on the floor. Alex avoided stepping on the star as he reached for the ornate box set on the brownish stained altar. He ignored the fur, feathers, and bits of bones that littered the foot of the stone. Trembling fingers reach for the box. A deep steeling breath was inhaled as the box was slowly lifted. A clear space in the deep dust stood like a shadow where it had been. As quickly as possible yet painfully slowly and cautiously, it was carried out into the hall. Arthur was now peering into the recess.
“Going to clean the crap out of this space and turn it into a closet.” A deep frown crossed his face. “The only hell to come out of here from now on will be stuff to clean the hell out of this house,” he growled as the hidden door again was barely seen in the wall closing with a thud.
“Dear God, Dad, that was terrible.” Aaron laughed weakly.