Chapter 35: Contents
Chloe, Alex, and Aaron stood stock-still, staring at the open lid. From their angle they could not see what the box held. Aaron was the first to approach, Alex close behind. Taking the box from his father, Alex carefully set it down on a small, spindly table. The three men looked at the contents while Chloe hovered well back from them.
“What is this?” Aaron wondered, holding up some rolled-up burlap.
“Careful,” Alex warned, taking the material from Aaron. Fibers scattered from the deteriorating cloth. Cautiously he laid it on the table, slowly unrolling it. A delicate ring appeared, its silver tarnished, but the green gem still shone magnificently. Next to be revealed was a fine golden bracelet, then a large ring with a family crest engraved in it. Alex held his breath as he continued to unroll the fragile fabric. Several military medals clinked out, but Alex did not know their origin. The last secret to be revealed was a silk ribbon. It was stained in several areas. Realizing Chloe wasn’t nearby, Alex turned to see her staring at the floor.
With a shaking hand, Alex held out the ribbon to her. Aaron and Arthur stood well back. She could feel the sorrow in their eyes. “Is this yours?” Alex asked.
Chloe’s fingers caressed the ribbon. “I think so. It was nothing special. It was in…” Her hand slipped into the pocket of her coat, retrieving the ghostly twin. Alex placed the ribbon overtop of the phantom one. Just like the earring and the shoe, Chloe became a bit more whole. “This is not my necklace,” she stated, a single tear leaking down her cheek. “He took so much from me.” Before Alex could say anything, she disappeared, her soft crying slowly fading down the hall to the conservatory.
“Damn it!” Alex punched his hand. “I thought for sure we’d find it!”
“I know, man, and I’m sorry, but we need to figure this shit out.” Aaron held the medals out to Alex and Arthur.
“That is a Vietnam service medal; I have one of those,” Arthur explained, holding up the slightly greenish brass medal. “I think this is a Korean one.” He held up a blue ribbon with another round medallion hanging from it.
Alex puzzled at the medals, scratching his chin. “That makes no sense. Edgar didn’t serve, and I think he was dead by the time Vietnam started, maybe even Korea, so what the hell?”
“What are these last three?” Aaron held them up to the light.
“That is a Second World War victory medal, an American Campaign medal, and this last one is an Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal.” Arthur examined the ribbons closely.
“So what, Edgar started killing soldiers?” Aaron asked.
“Only if he was a time traveler. Remember, he was dead by the midfifties,” Alex replied.
“So where did this stuff come from?” Aaron demanded.
“We know Chloe has to stay in this house,” Arthur interrupted. “We don’t actually know Edgar has to.” They found themselves staring at the ceiling, looking toward the back bedroom. “I mean, what if, since he’s the killer and the one who made the deal, he isn’t stuck here?”
“Alex, maybe you need to find Chloe and that little demon thing,” Aaron whispered. “See if you can get some answers.”
Alex nodded, only half-listening, his mind searching for reasons for the medals to be there and how he would find out how to return them. A thought hit him so hard, he threw out a hand to steady himself against the wall. Alex breathed his idea as if speaking it could make it true. “What if Edgar possessed people?” Alex fell back against the wall, legs shaking. “Europe, the Pacific, Asia…how in the hell could we even find his victims from wars?” He rubbed his eyes, distracted by the insurmountable task that may lie ahead.
Alex jumped. Doubled over, hands on his knees, he tried to calm his breathing. “Oh man, Chloe, you startled me.”
“I’m sorry for that too.” She smiled sadly at him. “I didn’t know what to expect when the box was opened.” She paused, confused. “I mean I was happy that I might be free, terrified that I was going to be, then so disappointed. I don’t know.” She was searching his eyes for understanding.
“I know how you feel,” Alex sighed, looking away. “I wasn’t sure I was ready to lose you…” A blush crept over his face. “I mean…um,” he stuttered. She looked shocked for a moment. Alex tried to apologize but was met with a shy smile. “Chloe, I—”
“You humans are so disgusting,” Kerlvin sneered. “I guess this would make you a necro…no…phantasmaphile.” He snapped his long bony fingers as the word came to him. A spark shot up; the air held the taint of sulfur.