The Netherwalker [The Witch-Walkers #1]

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Chapter 03: Beware the Windows

Francis remembered another person who could see him, besides Penelope.

He recalled a boy passing through the street one day with a girl who looked to be his sister.

That boy had looked straight at Francis through the window when the two had come to explore the house.

The ghost was sitting in Penelope’s room across her bed and watching her as she slept in peace. He took in a deep breath and closed his eyes and the scene appeared before him…

“Hey, Cat, there’s someone inside!” he said, a frown forming on his forehead and confusion clear on his face.

The little girl beside him looked up. Her gaze followed his, towards the window overlooking the front yard. By her expression, Francis was sure she was wondering about her brother’s sanity.

She turned back to him and shook her head. “Sorry, no. You must be imagining our neighbours even before they come… you know how they say, ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’?!” And with that, she went off into giggles.

He hit her on the head. “I’m not imagining!” he insisted. “I do think there’s someone inside – it could be a burglar. Shouldn’t we go in and see that he doesn’t get away?!”

Completely sobered up by now, the girl sighed and glanced at her brother, saying, “All right, but I sure bet you’re wrong.”

“Whatever,” the boy seemed satisfied that she gave in. Like the gentleman that he was, he led the way to the front door. The girl looked behind her, as if assuring herself that nobody was watching them. The bright afternoon sunlight reflected off the road and met her gaze. Looking relieved, she turned back around and followed her brother.

How wrong she was…

Francis watched as they opened the door and stepped inside. They were the second batch of visitors that day, after the first one who had bought the rotting house.

Once he was inside, the boy’s gaze flitted towards the front window, where he had seen Francis.

“You,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

Francis thought: ‘You think you’re brave?’ Well, you’re wrong. Aloud, he said, “I live here.”

It was at this response that the boy’s eyes widened, shock evident on his face. “What?!”

“You heard me,” replied Francis in a nonchalant manner and turned back towards the window. He only wished for the brother and sister to walk away without being too curious.

Only, what he had not expected was the boy to walk towards him, as though Francis was a regular boy.

Well, he was… except, he was dead.

“Who are you?” asked the boy. “Are you here for something nasty? If so, I’d warn you to leave this property right now.”

“I see,” Francis said. “But, I already told you: I live here.”

“That you did, all right. But, you don’t actually mean it, do you?”

Francis’s gaze darted from the boy to the sister and back to the boy. The girl was eyeing her brother with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Well, I do,” replied Francis, unfazed. “Would you mind leaving me now?”

At that moment, the girl happened to turn towards the window. A moment later, her eyes widened, shock written all over her face.

She reached out to tug at her brother’s sleeve, eyes still fixed on the glass. “Eth, I think we’d better leave this place… You’re right, there is somebody here… Look at that reflection on the glass window over there!” She gulped. “I think... I think this place is... haunted!”

“Cat, I can actually see the guy himself!”

“Oh well…” her voice trailed off and she gulped.

The boy turned towards Francis.

“All right, we’re leaving. But, if we hear that you’ve caused the new-comers trouble, you’re out of here. Got that?” His voice sounded deep and dangerous, reminding Francis of... well, himself.

He had better agree to that condition, lest things got ugly.

“All right,” agreed Francis. “You got yourself a deal.”

A grim but satisfied expression on his face, the boy held his sister by her shoulders and led her away.

It happened a long time ago – almost a year had passed since – but, Francis could never forget the way the lad’s eyes gleamed in the darkness – as though he knew some secret that even the ghost himself didn’t know. What could it have been? No matter how much he thought, Francis could never make sense of it.

And to-day, he only knew one other thing about the lad—his name, Ethan. Ethan Adams. The Adams family was a big name back in the olden days, when Francis was still alive. They were known to be very secretive and always kept to themselves, but word was they had some sort of shady business.

And his friend, Penelope, was friends with not just one Adams, but two – Ethan’s sister, Caitlin. She apparently didn’t see anything wrong with them, but he did. She did not realise the kind of danger she was putting herself in by being sociable with them.

And he determined to keep her safe—away from the Adamses—at all costs.

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