The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Nine.

Mercy stretched her muscles as the hot water of her shower cascaded down her back. She rubbed her shoulders and leaned her head under the spray, soaking her hair and reducing the cascade to a trickle. The red brick dust from the debris felt gritty to her touch. She let the water wash over her, and as much as she’d love to just soak; the old tank bladder held a limited amount of hot water. Just quick showers until a larger bladder was installed. She smiled and imagined herself soaking in a nice bubble bath in a claw-foot tub.

She wrapped herself up in a huge bath towel and pattered to her bedroom. Good thing the construction guys were gone for the day. Maybe she’d get them to work more on the upstairs. Having the bathroom so close to her sleeping area was nice, but being on the first floor was too exposing. She grabbed a second towel from her duffle bag and rubbed it over her hair. The sound of the breeze in the trees and soft bird calls lulled her into a tranquil calm, but her relaxation was interrupted by memories of the moving shadow from upstairs. She lowered her arms and wrapped the second towel around her shoulders. Sunlight dimmed brightened in the room as clouds passed overhead, edging on a feeling she was being watched. Mercy hesitated, looking around the sparse room. She wandered over to the window and drew back one of the curtains.

Relax. No one’s here.

The lake was like a mirror and reflected the bright colours of the evening sky. Birds chirping and the sound of a distant motorboat engine carried on the breeze. Not a sound of workers. She was completely alone on the property.

She grabbed some clothing from the bag and paused. The smell of Jasmine engulfed her it was strong. She hadn’t noticed any plants growing on the property. Not even in the overgrown garden on one side of the house. A cool gust of air swept through the room. It was a deep cold, like a winter chill. She went to the window and pushed it closed. The temperature grew colder to the point the air crackled as frost formed on the corners of the window, and slowly crept across the surface. Heat from her body escaped as wisps steam from her skin. She touched a frost vein and stretched across the mirror. It melted on contact. The frost moved quickly, covering the entire window in seconds. Her hands shook as she wiped away a small area.

Mercy gasped. The glass’s reflection held the image of a woman. The same woman from town, and she stood by the bed. Mercy turned but she was alone. She wiped away more frost. Her body trembled, part from fear, part from the cold. A larger portion of the window now reflected the room, and the young woman. She stood and watched Mercy. Not moving. Not breathing. Just staring.

Mercy held her breath and stared back, taking in as much detail as she could. The colour of her short party dress was at odds with the ash-grey colour of her skin, and the long dark hair was pin straight and slightly messed.

“Who are you?”

No answer.

“Why are you following me? What do you want?”

A gentle smile lit up the spirit’s pale face. Mercy relaxed, but kept focused on the spectre. “You don’t want to hurt me, do you?” She spoke calmly. Trying to keep her fear contained.  “Otherwise you would have by now.”

Her bathroom door slammed shut. Mercy glanced quickly at the door and then back at the mirror. The young woman was directly behind her now. She froze as a cold penetrated her towel. Goose bumps puckered her skin. She looked into the reflection of the ghost’s opaque eyes. Instinct said she should be frightened but there was calm to the atmosphere and Mercy’s courage grew. “What do you want?”

The spirit smiled slightly and raised her hand.

“You want to touch me?”

The spirit’s hand moved closer to Mercy’s shoulder. The touch was an odd sensation of a painful cold followed by soothing warmth; like placing an ice cube on your skin, followed by a warm washcloth. Both felt good. Tingling spread out along her shoulder blade and a jolt of excitement raced through her. Mercy’s apprehension faded as the sensation spread along her the muscle. The ghost pulled back and the sensation melted away.

Overwhelmed, Mercy gently caressed her shoulder and gazed at her reflection. “That wasn’t so bad.”

The spirit hovered behind and raised both arms. Mercy mimicked the movements. The spirit moved toward her and the cold chill settled along her back, inching moment by moment forward, through her. The light tingling grew into a more forceful numbness and caused her to tremble, but was quickly replace with the comforting warmth and calm. Mercy closed her eyes as it spread across her body. Every part of her felt alive as the jolt of excitement grew into a wave of anticipation. After a few moments the warmth dissipated. Mercy opened her eyes. The frost on the mirror was gone, and so was the scent of Jasmine, but there was something about the colour of her eyes that was different. They were more of a pale green now than hazel, and she’d never felt so alive and so full of energy.

“Now what?”

She thought about calling Stephen and Hector. No, they wouldn’t believe her, would they? Did she have to tell someone? Couldn’t this be her little secret? She was alone in the house so who would know?

She went for the bag and removed the silk dressing gown. Thomas had bought it for her last Christmas, and was one of the few things she kept from him. The cool fabric felt nice against her skin as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and tied the gown around her naked body. She went back to the window and admired herself in the reflection.

“I think I need more silk in my life.”

She rummaged through the duffle bag and grabbed a pair of panties. She unfolded them, and then stopped. No one was here. She could just forget the undies. It’s her house. Why shouldn’t she walk around with just a dressing gown? Who would care? She combed her damp hair with her fingers, threw open the sash on the housecoat and headed for the living room.

Excitement pulsed through her with every step she took as the silk brushed against her skin. Giddiness swept over her. She felt . . . naughty and she couldn’t stop smiling as she sauntered down the large staircase to the front hall. The worn wood floor was cool in bare feet, and she thought about running back up to her room and putting on a pair of socks, but socks would just ruin the mood.

The kitchen windows were open and soft sounds from the lake touched her ears. She placed her hands on her hips, forcing the housecoat to gather behind her back. She smiled as she traced the edge of the center counter with her finger. Maybe she’d paint this room in the nude. It would keep her clothing from getting paint smears. She strolled into the living room and stood in front of the wrought-iron mirror. It still sat in the crate, and it reflected a slightly angled reflection. She never really looked at her body before. She turned from side to side, examining her long torso form all angle. A little on the pale side but all in all, not too bad. Maybe a little colour would do her good.

She strolled to the bevelled glass doors and opened them wide. The cool late afternoon breeze play with the sash on the nightgown. Again, a flash of frivolity struck. She looked out the window. Nice and sunny out and warm. Mercy opened the door wider and walked on the back terrace. The breeze played with her wet hair and she ran her hands through the strands a few times combing it out to dry. The gown fluttered in the breeze. Another though popped into her mind and she twirled the sash in her hand. A gust came off the lake and yanked the top of the dressing gown from her shoulders. Mercy bent her elbows, catching the top half in the crooks of her arms. Her heart raced as she sauntered naked on the balcony; the wind playing with the gown. This wasn’t like her, but she felt so good!

She took a few steps back and let her head fall back. The sun was still warm and the heat sent tingles through her body. It was liberating in a way she’d never felt before. At this very moment she felt at one with nature; at peace with her life for the first time in months. Not even the sound of a speed-boat off in the distance could ruin her tranquil moment and she turned to head back inside…

…and found Charlie standing a few feet away on the steps leading down up to the balcony.

Mercy inhaled quickly, but instead of feeling embarrassed, she lifted her chin and placed one hand on her hip, forcing the gown behind her. “What’s wrong? Never seen a naked woman before?”

She caught his gaze with her own. She’d seen him nude; it was only fair she return the favour. Mercy kept her focus on him and mentally dared him to shift his gaze lower. Her pulse raced, and a small voice inside her head urged her to cover up, but a louder voice told her to keep still.

Charlie turned his gaze toward his feet. “Guess I’ll be going now.” With a quick turn he walked away.

Mercy broke into quiet laughter as Charlie rounded the corner of the house. That was the most exciting thing she’d done in a very long while and she couldn’t help but give in to her giddiness. She hurried back inside and raced to the front entrance. Charlie’s truck moved fast through the trees and was almost to the end of the driveway.

Mercy crossed her arms. “Y’all come back now.”

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Eight

“Corley Manor is an old house,” Estelle said, as she opened the front door of the mansion. “And the ferry worker was right. This island is known for its supernatural side, but folks around here would rather focus on the winery and beach.”

Mercy cautiously took a step over the threshold. “I can understand why.” She leaned against the door frame and scanned the foyer. After the wine bottle incident, she decided to spend the night someplace else. “Thanks again for letting me stay at your house.”

Estelle turned and smiled. “My pleasure! It’s not often I get a house guest.” She took a sip from her take-out coffee. “You know, if this place is haunted, it could work to your advantage if you wanted to sell.”

“How so?”

The older woman feigned shock. “Are you kidding me? An old Victorian mansion on a prime real-estate is a good find. Add some history and a possible haunting, and you could get twice the amount you want for it.”

“People actually go for that stuff?”

“All the time. There’s something attractive about a tormented spirit.”

Mercy walked toward the kitchen. “Not when you come face to face with it.”

Estelle’s face lit up. “You saw the spirit?”

“Well, no, not really.” The memory of the moving silhouette filled her mind. “But something was upstairs with me. Shadows don’t act like that.” She walked into the living room where a large rectangular crate leaned against the wall. “What’s this?”

Estelle quickly went to the crate. “Oh good! It’s here. I was hoping it would have arrived before you got here.”

“What is it?”

“Open it and find out.” She glanced down at her watch and headed toward the exit. “I have a showing on the other side of the island. If you want to, give me a call later and we can continue this discussion.”

Mercy followed her out of the house. She still wasn’t sure if she wanted to sell, but this new incident was doubting her decision to stay. She flagged down a passing workman. “Excuse me, I need something to open a crate with.”

The young man shrugged. “Dunno, if we have anything. Maybe Charlie knows. Should ask him.”

Mercy exhaled. “Thanks.”

She walked toward a saw horse and a few carpentry tools nearby. There wasn’t a crowbar, but the claw end of a hammer would work too. The crate was taller than it was wide and she couldn’t imagine what Estelle would have bought that would fit those dimensions. She hooked the claw under a nail and forced the front of the crate open. Pieces of packing material fell to the floor and revealed a large mirror. The intricate iron-work was delicately crafted around the glass and she could tell from one look that this was not made recently. Mercy bent down in front of the mirror and ran her hand along the metal. A small smile creased her lips. Her gazed fell on her reflection. She stroked the skin on her face, trying to push out the few wrinkles she saw. The mirror reflected the entire room, including someone who peeked around the corner in the front hall. Mercy turned her head. Most of the foyer was full of construction material and the lone hall that whined through the floor didn’t have many places for someone to hide. She stood and walked toward a set of balcony doors that led to the back yard, keeping her gaze on the mirror.

Sheer curtains muted some of the afternoon light and she pulled them back and opened one side of the beveled doors. The afternoon sun made things uncomfortably hot and the cool breeze off the lake played with her hair and she inhaled the smell of lake water and ground cover; the fresh, crisp scent helped wash away her apprehension. She stepped out, turned to the house and leaned against the railing. The curtains blew back and forth through the opening. The off-white fabric was a stark contrast to the rotting window panes, crumbling brickwork and cracked siding that encompassed the back side of the house.

The sound of construction equipment echoed off the surrounding trees, shattering her moment of peace. Mercy ran her hand along the wood railing of the enclosed porch, taking a quick glance at the far corner of the property by the water’s edge. A sly smile creased her lips as she remembered Charlie’s naked torso . . .

Get him out of your mind. He probably has a wife and kids. Most good-looking guys like him did.

Heated words broke into her self-pity and the construction vehicles went silent. She looked at her watch; it was only ten past eleven. Experience told her the work didn’t stop unless something went wrong.

She rounded the corner of the house. Most of the workers stood around a gaping hole in the side of the foundation. Her eyes went wide as plumes of dust escaped from inside and gently floated into the air. “Holy shit! What the hell happened?”

Charlie stood just inside the hole looking inward. He quickly pointed at her. “Back off. You’re not wearing a hard hat or boots.”

She stopped in her tracks. The musty smell of stale air was strong. “I thought you said you’d braced the foundation.”

“We did.” He ran one hand through his hair. “That’s just dust from inside. Paul’s having problems getting the old furnace out, that’s all.”

She strained to look inside the hole. There were a few bricks lying close to the entrance. “So he demolished a wall?”

“He didn’t demolish it.” Charlie gave her an awkward look. “It kind of . . . collapsed.”

“Collapsed?” Mercy’s irritation rose. “You’re kidding. Is he that incompetent? Why is he even onsite?”

Charlie’s jaw clenched. “He’s not incompetent. It’s a tight squeeze in there.”

Mercy headed for the hole. “Then he should have been more careful.”

“He was careful.” Charlie blocked her way. “And I said, you can’t go in there.”

Paul Criddle walked out from the darkness of the cellar. He was the older gentleman Mercy had seen with Charlie when they met. He was still a few years away from retirement, and didn’t look impressed when he appeared next to his boss. “How the hell did they get that in there in the first place?”

Mercy crossed her arms. “What’s the problem?”

“There’s hardly any room to fit the new furnace,” Paul said, squinting at her. “Barely enough room to stand upright as it is.”

Mercy looked past the worker and into the darkness. “Well they got one in there.”

Paul snorted. “Be damned if I know how.”

A low growl came from Charlie. “We’re going to have to rip it out.”

Mercy held up her hand. “Hang on. You need a labourer in here to cut it out.”

Charlie took a few steps deeper into the cellar. “I know, and there aren’t any on the island.” He turned to Paul. “Call the Union Hall in Kingston. See if anyone on the list is available for a couple days.”

Paul nodded and stepped through the hole.

Charlie’s frustrated growl echoed of the inside walls as Mercy inched her way into the underbelly of the house. He frowned at her. “What the hell did I just say to you?”

“I used to run a construction company. I can help you figure this out.”

“Not without a hard hat.” He took a few steps toward her. “Look, Miss Moreau, I appreciate your interest, but I have this under control.”

Mercy placed her hand against an inside wall as she scanned the old furnace in its enclosure. “I never said you didn’t.”

He put his hands on his hips. “Good, then get out.” He motioned to her feet. “Do you know what’ll happen if an inspector gets wind of you being in here? I’ll get fined into bankruptcy.”

“Only if they can prove it.” Mercy stepped back from the wall. She ran her hand along the brickwork that wedged the old furnace in place. “What if you knock out another wall?”

Charlie snorted. “That’s a load-bearing wall. We knock that down and the whole house will collapse.”

She scrunched up her face. “No, I meant the inside one.”

Charlie came close and looked it over.

“It looks pretty new,” Mercy said. “I mean, compared to the outside walls.”

“Yeah, the brick’s not the same.” He stood back and examined the wall. “It looks like it was added on later. It might be able to come down.” He stood back and examined it more closely. “Sloppy work too.”

“Then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Charlie walked over to the exit hole. “Let’s hope not.”

Mercy moved back away. She’d seen odd things on constructions sites, but brick walls surrounding a furnace? That was a new one.

Charlie came back a few moments later with a large sledge hammer and a hard hat. He handed the hat to Mercy and motioned her to step back. He gently tapped the metal end of the hammer against the wall. “Sounds like it’s hollow in behind.”

“Hollow?” Mercy shook her head. “That’s right against the ground. How can it be hollow?”

Charlie raised the sledge hammer shoulder height. “Let’s find out.” He swung and hit the wall hard. The bricks on the impact site caved slightly inward as some of the mortar broke away. Another swing and more of the wall buckled. On the third swing, a gap one metre in diameter opened up. Air rushed into the space in behind, as the smell of something rotten filled the cellar.

Charlie covered his nose with his forearm. “Oh that’s nasty.”

Mercy coughed. “I’ve never smelled anything so horrible.” She bent down next to the hole and peered into the darkness.

“See anything?”

“No, it’s too dark.”

Escaping air blew past her and she felt uneasy on her feet. She stumbled back, but Charlie grabbed her before she fell to the ground.

“Easy, there.” He embraced her with one arm around the shoulder and pulled her close. “Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air.”

Mercy relaxed his chest as the dizziness melted away. She brushed a few strands of hair from her face and rubbed her temple. “No, I’m okay.” It was a lie, but she want to be dragged off the site like some ditzy blonde secretary.

Paul returned with a large flashlight. “Union Hall says they can send us a Labourer after the weekend.”

Charlie shook his head. “Never mind. Call’em back. We’ll take the wall down ourselves. Tin bangers come Monday and I’m not gonna pay them to sit around.”

Paul bent down and shone the flashlight beam into the small hole. “Whatever this is, it goes back at least five meters under the ground.”

Mercy covered her nose with her hand as she bent down and looked inside. “It could be a root cellar.”

Paul frowned. “You’re kidding?”

“Makes sense.” Charlie scratched his head. “A big, house like this would have one built right off the foundation so they could access it easily in the winter.”

Paul stood. “But why brick it up?”

Charlie shrugged. “Who knows.” He stood back and gripped the sledge hammer. “But the wall can’t stay there, so down it comes.”

Mercy jumped back out of the way of Charlie’s swing as Paul went back outside and brought in another hammer. With the two of them, the wall down was reduced to shattered fragments of brick within minutes. Mercy waved the dust away stepped into the newly exposed room. The smell of stagnant air was still strong as bushels of rotted vegetables lined one side of the metres long grotto. Several rows of shelves lined the opposite side and held large mason jars filled with pickled items. Mercy took a step forward, but Charlie grabbed her by the arm.

“Whoa, hold on. That floor doesn’t look very safe. You need to stay out of there until I can have one of my guys check it out.”

Mercy looked down at her feet and nodded. “Good idea.”

She turned and carefully walked toward the gaping hole that led back out. Her mind was in a fog and she stumbled a bit over the debris. Back in the sunlight, she wiped off some dust and mortar from her clothing. Her head pounded and she rubbed her temples to try and alleviate the throbbing. Maybe staying away from the construction was a good idea after all.

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Part Seven

“I’m telling you Stephen, this place is in worse condition that I thought.” Mercy spoke into her cell phone as she stared at the exposed lath in one of the upstairs rooms. “I don’t think my share of the company is going to cover the renovations. It’s just too extensive.”

“Then sell it,” a male voice said on the other end. “You don’t need this hassle right now. You have to focus on the divorce.”

“But this place could be so beautiful.”

“I wish I could see it.”

Mercy’s face lit up. “I have an idea. Why don’t you and Hector come for a visit? You can give me your opinion on whether I should keep it or not.”

“We’ve been thinking about getting away for a while.” There was a long pause on the other end. “Not to mention, it would be nice to see you doing something other than brooding over Thomas.”

“I’m not brooding.”

“Maybe not openly, but I know you still care about him.”

Mercy went quiet.

“Mercy?”

“Yeah, can we talk about something else?”

“Sure. So when would you like some company?”

“Any time. Apart from the construction guys, I’m all alone here.”

“I’ll talk it over with Hector and get back to you.”

Mercy turned and headed toward the stairs. “We can make a weekend of it. There are some excellent restaurants in town and wineries.”

“I wanna be rich now and own a big house on a lake.”

She chuckled softly. “Money can’t buy happiness, Stephen.” She paused as a memory of her and Thomas in a happier time. “Trust me on this.”

There was a distinct snort from the other end. “Says the woman who has no money. So what the town like?”

“Kinda cute. Real quaint.” She walked to a cooler sitting in the cut-away in the counter.  “It’s got some really interesting shops on the main strip.”

“Sounds provincial.”

She opened the lid and brought out a bottle of wine. “It has its good points, but it’s not the city.”

“Well, try to have fun anyway.”

“Don’t forget to talk to Hector.”

“I won’t.”

She tucked her phone into her back pocket and reached for a clear plastic cup. There wasn’t much left in the bottle, and she put the cup back down and drank from the bottle. Her gaze drifted around the kitchen area. This place would make a wonderful home, but maybe not for her. She took a swig from the bottle and strolled toward the huge gap in the wall that would house a picture window. Plastic covered it now; nailed into place. She headed back upstairs, bottle in hand. The old window at the far end of the hall held years of dirt on the glass. She put the bottle down on a pile of rubble and cleaned off a small portion of the window. The shadows from a late afternoon sun hung stretched out over the back yard. The air was cooler now as the afternoon heat dissipated to a more comfortable temperature. There was a small beach area directly in line with the back porch, and a lone person swam just a few metres off shore. She squinted to get a better look. The workers were gone for the day and she already had a trespasser. She pulled out her phone, but paused and let her fingers hovered over the digital keypad. She wasn’t sure, but in it looked like her trespasser was the foreman.

She lowered the phone and watched as he swam lazily through the water. A pile of clothing near a tree several feet from the water’s edge caught her attention. Skinny-dipping? She didn’t think people did that anymore. Her gaze drifted back to Charlie as he slowly waded toward the shore. The late evening sun sparkled of water droplets on his tanned skin as picked up his shirt. He was in better shape than she thought but the lack of sunlight kept her from getting too good of a look. A slight smile crept over her lips as the image of a nude Charlie filled in her mind. Not a bad thought to have for the night.

Crash.

Mercy jumped. A few feet away, the remains of her wine bottle lay shattered on the floor. Nothing else on the pile of debris had fallen; just the bottle. She bent down and picked up a few of the shards. She’d only had a couple sips. She couldn’t be all that tipsy. A chill blanketed her as a shadow of a person fell over the debris. The silhouette stretched from a dark spot at the far end of the hall near the top of the stairs. Her breath caught in her throat. She knew she was alone. She dropped the shards back away from the glass, as the shadow retreated toward the stairs. She stood slowly, staring in disbelief until it blended in with a dark patch on the wall. Her heart raced as she crept toward the stairs; her mind filled with memories from earlier today and the woman who disappeared on the street. The dockworkers’ voice filled rang in her head. He said the island was a dumping ground for ghosts. She thought he was trying to scare her. Maybe it was a warning.

She reached the top of the stairs and the dark patch. She crouched and ran her hand along the surface. It was new drywall; one sheet that ran the height of the room. It was cold; oddly cold considering the temperature, but the more she held her hand against the wall the warmer it became. She pulled her hand back and hurried down the stairs. It would take more than a bottle of whiskey to help her sleep tonight.

(To be continued . . .)

© 2018 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

 

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Six

 

(I changed the title as the MC is no longer possessed)

The main street of Hallowell consisted of three traffic lights, two donuts shops, an old town hall, and more antique stores than should be allowed for a small town. There were a few ‘Mom and Pop’ stores along the strip, mixed with chain retail outlet stores, a couple parking lots and a central park. Most of the side streets held refurbished homes and there wasn’t a building over two stories anywhere to be seen. The streets angled off in odd directions and black wrought-iron street signs gave the town a historical feel.

She pulled into a vacant parking spot along one of the side streets. Already the morning was heating up and she dreaded the thought of returning the mansion. With the construction she’d have to keep the windows closed to keep the noise out, and without an air conditioner the heat and humidity would become unbearable.

She browsed a few store windows, but didn’t see much in the way of anything she wanted. She stopped in front of a small department store, looking over the summer ware. A strong gust of cool wind brought some relief to the growing heat . . . and the sense she was being watched.

Mercy looked up into the reflection of the street from the store window. Nothing out of the ordinary, until her gaze fell on the reflection of a young woman on the other side of the street. Her hair was long and dark, with an intense stare focused directly on her. A chill through Mercy.

She turned to the street but the woman was gone. Mercy searched the crowds around her but with all the pedestrians, it was hard to pinpoint where the woman went. She turned back to the window and gasped. The woman stood on the curb direction behind her.

Mercy turned again, and again she was nowhere in sight. Her heart raced. “What the hell?

She hurried down the sidewalk. On second thought, a stuffy, overly hot mansion sounded really good right about now. A quick glance in a passing window revealed the woman’s presence again. This time much closer than before. Mercy twirled frantically, trying to find this stranger, but with each turn she saw nothing, until she looked at the reflection in the window.

She tripped over a sidewalk sign out front of one of the smaller stores and a pair of hands steadied her from falling.

“Are you okay?”

Mercy glanced up and into a familiar face of her waitress from the night before. “I’m fine. I didn’t see the sign there.”

Suzanne let go of her and pointed one finger. “I served you last night, didn’t I? Out at the Lennox Inn?”

Mercy’s hands trembled slightly. “Yes.”

Suzanne took her by the hand. “Are you sure you’re okay? You looked like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Mercy smiled and tried to calm herself. “No, I’m fine. Thanks.”

“Did you want to come inside for a moment? I can make some tea to calm your nerves.”

Mercy looked into the shop through the window. Rows of books, candles and stones lined shelves on the wall. “No, I need to get back.”

She stepped away from Suzanne and continued on down the street, taking a back glance to make sure…make sure what? That she wasn’t being followed by a ghost? She didn’t relax until she was sitting in her car with the doors locked.

The drive back gave her time to rationalize the experience. There was no way that woman could have disappeared so quickly. She must have been standing on the other side of the road and followed her. Mercy was just too spooked to see her. It had to be her imagination.

The afternoon sun beat down on the car as her car pulled up to the house. Mercy held her hand above her eyes blocking out the light so she could get a good look at the front of the mansion. Old turrets poked up from the roof and looked in desperate need of repair. Most of the siding was stained or pulled down exposing the lath underneath. The wood frame windows were brown with rot and there were some serious sagging in the roof. The house looked like something that would be haunted by a ghost.

Estelle appeared on the porch, and looked somewhat irritated as she approached the Mustang. “Good, you’re back.”

“Why what happened?”

The older woman waved in the direction of the outside renovations. “Another delay. Furnace won’t be here until tomorrow. Something about traffic delays on the 401.” She let out a heavy sigh and brought out her cell phone. “Another company to put on my ever-growing list of bullshit.”

Mercy got out of the car. “That doesn’t put us too far behind.”

Estelle kept here focus on her phone. “I know, but it’s a major job and I wanted it complete before I left for Wasaga Beach.” She glanced up at Mercy. “Charlie’s up-to-date on the change in plans. With his experience he knows exactly what needs to be done.”

“Where is he now?”

Estelle’s eyes lit up. “Oh that’s right. You haven’t been introduced.” She turned and motioned her to follow as she walked out past the front porch. “Sorry, with everything going on, I should have done this earlier.”

She followed the Estelle back around the side of the house where the underbrush came close to the foundation. They stopped near a group of men standing around by a pile of grey bricks.

Estelle cleared her throat. “Charlie, might I have a word.”

Two men turned and faced them. The first, an older looking man gave Estelle a frustrated look, while the younger male-the same blonde man who confronted her earlier about her car-nodded.

The blonde stepped toward them. “What can I do for you, Mrs. Macintyre?”

Estelle turned to Mercy. “This is Mercy Moreau, the owner of the property. Mercy, this is Charlie Sandell. The contractor I told you about.”

Charlie smiled and nodded to her and some of his sandy blonde hair fell in front of his eyes. “Nice to meet you.”

Mercy gave a slight, awkward wave. “You too.”

“I just wanted to introduce you both,” Estelle said, as she turned and headed back to the front of the house. “So I’ll let you two get acquainted.”

An awkward silence filled the area between Mercy and Charlie as the other woman hurried away.

Mercy crossed her arms. “I parked closer to the other side of the house. I hope that’s far enough away.”

Charlie smiled awkwardly. “Yeah, about that. Sorry for the whole moving your car without permission thing.”

“No, I appreciate it. Thanks.”

He smiled and looked away. “Well, you shouldn’t have to park there for long. Furnace should be here tomorrow and we’ll have it installed the day after.”

She tried not to stare, but she was captured by his smile. Her face went hot and she forced herself to look at the mound of brinks lying off to the side on the skid. “How much brickwork has to be done?”

Charlie looked a little taken aback. “I’m hoping not a lot.” He glanced at the house and then motioned her to follow him. On the far side of the backhoe stood a gaping hole in the foundation. “Right now we’re trying to keep the house from collapsing.”

Shock consumed Mercy. “What happened?”

“The last construction crew decided it would be easier to tear the whole side down to install piping and duct work.” He looked back at her. “This house was built good enough, but those assholes cracked the foundation and weakened the whole structure.”

“Are you re-enforcing the foundation or just rebuilding?”

He paused for a moment. “A little of both.” He smiled. “Estelle said you own a construction company. Why aren’t your guys out here working on it?”

“Because my ex is an asshole.”

“Ah.” More awkward silence.

The older man stepped up behind his boss. “Charlie’s one of the best restorers in the province.”

A look of embarrassment came over Charlie. “Paul, stop.”

“It’s true.”

“Well, you can’t do a good job unless you love what you’re doing.” He looked at Mercy with the same intense stare as before. “I love bringing new life back into old things.”

Mercy felt her face grow hot again and looked away.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to work.”

Mercy smiled, gave another quick wave, and hurried away. She couldn’t help but grin and rubbed her top lip with her finger to hide her smile.

(To be continued . . .)

© 2018 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt One https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bm
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Two https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bo
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Three https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bq
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Four https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bD
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Five https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bI

We Do Not Die

(I found this on a witch Facebook group. I tweaked the original to make it more personal. The original is posted below.)

We Do Not Die

I do not stand at your grave and weep,

For you are not there; you do not sleep.

You are a thousand winds that blow,

You are the diamond glints on the snow,

You are the sunlight on the ripening grain,

You are the gentle autumn rain,

When I awake in the morning hush,

You are the swift uplifting rush,

Of singing birds in circled flight,

You are the stars that shine at night,

I do not stand at your grave and cry,

You are not there,

You did not die.

 

Samhain poem.

The Possession of Mercy Moreau: Pt Five

TPOMMThe late morning sunlight gave the old manor house a completely different feel. The shadows that stretched out across the property the night before were replaced by defused sunlight and the sound of a soft breeze playing with the trees. Mercy did her best to push the frightful image of the arm from her mind, but one look at the yellow backhoe and the memory returned. The metal clip tapped gently against the arm of the bucket and she felt a little foolish. Being frightened by something so harmless.

She gave the excavator a wide birth and waited for Estelle by the front porch. The daylight illuminated almost two acres of thin saplings and dense underbrush. The grounds had grown wild with weeds and other native plants, and made the property look desolate and lonely.

Estelle’s Bonneville pulled up next to Thomas’s baby. A little too close and Mercy clenched her jaw as the Bonneville’s side mirror just missed the side of the Mustang. The woman looked out of place here with her fancy pant outfit and heels. Mercy looked away to hid her smirk as the woman carefully navigated the uneven ground to the house.

She held out her arms for balance. “I though Charlie’d have this flatten by now?”

“Maybe I should have a word with him about it?

Estelle gave her a sickening sweet smile. “No worries. I’ll do that.”

The approached the main door together, and for a moment, a sense of anxiety washed over her. She hadn’t bothered to check out the place last night, and was in too much of a hurry this morning to do it, so in reality, she was seeing this place over for the first time.

The old wooden door groaned as Estelle forced it open. The main foyer was partially gutted with the lath and parts of the frame exposed and led to two separate rooms and a hall. Mercy’s make-shift bedroom was straight ahead of the front door with the kitchen and dining area off to the left. Most of the floor had been insulated with just a plastic cover over top. The only rooms she could see that were ready to use was the room she was using and the kitchen.

Estelle eyed the bottle of wine as they walked toward the back of the house. “How did you sleep last night?”

“Fine. Why do you ask?”

“No reason. I don’t sleep well in strange beds. Never have.”

“I had no problem falling asleep.”

Estelle smiled. “Good to hear.”

The kitchen had been partially finished but without cupboards or proper counters. Drywall was on most of the walls downstairs as well as new windows. A small area had been cut into the counter by a back-facing window where the stove would sit. The room was a lot smaller than she expected, and the set of stairs leading to the second floor didn’t look very sturdy.

Mercy eyed the room carefully. “It’s going to take a miracle to bring this place up to code.”

“Not a miracle, just lots of money.” She turned to Mercy. “I’d take you upstairs, but Charlie said it might not be safe just yet.”

Mercy glanced at the tarnish ceiling tiles. “He’s checked it out?”

“The whole property. It was the first thing he did when he took over the project.”

“Still,” Mercy walked past her and to a set of stairs at the far end of the kitchen. “I’d like to see what’s up there.”

“Be careful.” Estelle touched her shoulder on the way by. “I don’t trust these floorboards.”

Each step creaked under Mercy’s weight. If it wasn’t for the large boot prints in the dust, she wouldn’t have felt safe heading up the stairs. The second floor wasn’t in any better shape with several rooms gutted to the frame. Chunks of plaster and old wood lay in piles scattered throughout the floor, with a second set of stairs leading toward the roof.

She leaned toward the stair. “Is there an attic in this place?”

Estelle’s face appeared at the bottom. “Attic or a spare room. The previous owners used it for storage, but you can make it whatever you want.”

Mercy took a few steps forward. The hall was stripped down to the old lath and plaster, and the musty smell was strong and mixed with a hint of rotting wood. The floor was sturdy enough to the second set of stairs, but a gust of warm air halted her approach. She glanced up at the ceiling, and through cracks in the board, could just see several holes in the roof.

“He knows about the holes in the roof tiles?”

Estelle’s heavy footsteps echoed off the walls. “And the plumbing, and the furnace, and the dozen or so other things that still need work.” She carefully made her way to Mercy’s side. “I know it sounds like a lot of work, but Charlie’s put this place back on schedule. It should be ready by winter at the latest.”

Mercy nodded and they headed back downstairs. She followed Estelle into the kitchen and rested against the old counter. The room was limited for lighting with just a couple small windows that overlooked the back patio and lawn. Tarnished tin tiles were centered in the middle of the ceiling right below an island counter  with two large gaps cut out.

Estelle did a short twirl in the center of the kitchen. “It’s not very big but you can get all the modern amenities in. New fridge and stove. A dishwasher and that area behind the stairs would be perfect as a laundry area.”

“It’s too dark.” Mercy glanced up at the ceiling. “It needs more light especially with the window being so small.” She walked over to the counter and looked out into the yard. The view was incredible. A perfect overlook of the lake and the mainland. Mercy stared off into the picturesque landscape. “I’m beginning to wonder if this place is worth putting money into.”

“You could always sell as is. Even without the house, you could get a lot of money just for the property.”

“Would the Historical Society allow that?”

“They’re pretty strict on things like that, but this place is still in bad enough shape that they could sign off on it.”

“No, I’ve seen worse places in Kingston.” Mercy’s face lit up. “Unless the foundation or structure-“

“Forget it. It’s solid. That was the first thing I asked Charlie when he came on.”

Mercy exhaled. “Damnit.”

Estelle ran her hand along the dusty counter. “I’m not sure when Charlie will have one of the upstairs bedrooms ready. You may have to spend the summer down here.”

“From the looks of it, I’ll probably be living on the first floor for a while.”

“All the heating ducts are in, but they still need to install more outlets on this floor.”

“What about the furnace?”

“I believe he said it was being delivered today.”

The slam of several car doors echoed from the front of the house. Estelle brushed the dirt from her hands. “That must be the workers. Let’s hope they get that furnace by the end of the day.”

Mercy nodded. “I’m going to run into town and pick up a few things for here.”

Estelle headed toward the living room. “I need to have a word with Charlie. I’ll see you later?”

Mercy nodded. “I’ll buy some alcohol.”

“It’s a date.”

Mercy let out another heavy sigh as she stepped out onto the front porch. Thomas never mentioned once about all the problems this site was having, but then, she doubted he cared. Too wrapped up with his mistress and whatever other bullshit he was doing.

She stepped down and stared at the empty space where Thomas’ Mustang used to be. Panic set in as she scanned the front yard. There were several pick-up trucks, and a small backhoe. Even Estelle’s Mercedes was parked, but apart from that, no other cars. Taking Thomas’s pride and joy as retribution was one thing, but having it stolen right from under her? He’d never forgive her and she’d be in debt to him even more. He’d use this against her somehow. Use is as evidence of how irresponsible she was. First stealing his car, and then letting it get stolen.

“Are you the owner of that sweet, red Mustang?” A tall blonde man strolled across the gravel driveway from one of the backhoes. He was as scruffy looking as they come with a strong jaw and deep set eyes, and wearing the unofficial work clothing of a construction worker.

“Yes,” she said, trying not to sound too panicked. “Please tell me you know what happened to it?”

He stopped a few metres from the steps. “Yeah, one of my guys found the keys inside and moved it around to the far side of the house.”

Mercy’s anxiety melted away with a long exhale. “Thank you.”

“Didn’t you see all the construction going on around here?”

“I know but I didn’t think you’d be here this early.”

He turned and walked away toward the side of the house. “Whatever. Try not to park in front of the house for the next couple of weeks. I’ve got some big shipments coming in and it’ll just get in the way.” He stopped a few feet away and turned back, running one hand through his long bangs. “Unless you want to pay for damages to that too.”

Mercy took a few steps away from the porch. “Okay.” She glanced back a few times as he yelled at the crew of men standing around. “And thanks again.”

He waved without looking back.

She snorted. Well aren’t you friendly.

(To be continued . . .)
© 2018 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt One https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bm
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Two https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bo
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Three https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bq
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Four https://wp.me/p1AAW6-1bD

The Possession of Mercy Moreau: Pt Four

TPOMMIt was early the next morning when the sun peered through heavy curtains and straight into Mercy’s face. She blinked a few times and opened her eyes. For a brief moment the unfamiliar surroundings caused her to panic. Her room at the inn was larger than the bedroom she shared with Thomas at the condo and waking up in a room that looked more like the real bedroom than a hotel room was slightly jarring.

She stretched out under the light blanket draped across her body. It smelled like the outside, and a gentle smile crept across her lips. She turned to the window, and the half empty whiskey bottle that stood on the cheap, metal table next to the bed. She squinted to read the label as the foggy memories of the night before filled her mind.

She relaxed back onto the bed and covered her eyes with her hand. “Oh yeah.”

A throbbing in the back of her skull increased with each moment, until her entire head felt as though something wanted out, fast. She drank more last night than she had in the last five years, but it was the only way to settle her mind after that scare at the backhoe. The image of the arm flashed in her mind. It had been an arm, she was sure of it, but there was no one on the property.

She pulled the blanket back and swung her feet out of bed. Nothing but rough corkboard for flooring and she put her socks and shoes on before heading to the window. A hangover she could deal with. A splinter, not so much.

The curtain-less window overlooked the Bay of Quinte, and sparkled a warm blue in the morning sun. Set against a backdrop of pine and forest green, this was not the sort of sight she was used to. Several boats drifted lazily on the water, gently bobbing up and down on the waves. The rotting window sill barely held flakes of paint, and she was careful as she pushed open the glass by the metal handle. The warm air rushed past her, bringing more sounds and scents from the nearby woods. She rested her forehead against the frame. The view was spectacular. She would get a good price for this place once it was fully restored. It might not have been her vacation place, but she was sure someone would scoop it up.

Her cell phone rang from across the room. She moved toward her purse she’s dropped in the corner, ad caught a glimpse of herself in the small ornate mirror on the wall. Her hair was parted to one side and the remains of lipstick were smeared around her mouth. Mercy swiped to answer the call. Just how much did she drink that night?

She ran her finger along the red smear as she answered her phone.

“Good morning, Miss Moreau. It’s Estelle McIntyre,” a woman’s voice said on the other end. “I hope I didn’t wake you up?”

Mercy wiped at the corners of her mouth with the shoulder of her shirt. “No, I, uh, forgot to set my alarm.”

“Well it was pretty late last night when you called.”

“Again I’m sorry about that.”

“Not to worry. I’m usually up late with paperwork anyway.” There was a pause on the other end. “I know it’s a bit early, but I thought we could have breakfast together and talk about the history and your plans for the manor.”

Mercy rubbed her forehead confused. “Manor?”

“Corley Manor.” Another pause. “You do know it’s protected under the Heritage Society. They want to know what you’re plans are for the house and property.”

Mercy sighed heavily. “I don’t know yet.”

“Don’t worry. I was surprised it’s still listed with them, considering the state it’s in. I told your husband—sorry, I mean your ex-husband about it last week. I thought he would have passed the information on.”

“No, he didn’t, but it explains why he was so willing to let me have it.”

“I’m afraid the Historical Society is going to be strict about this one. The original house was built in the early eighteen-hundreds.” There was some paper shuffling from Estelle’s end. “Why don’t we get together in about an hour and talk it over. We can meet at the Lennox Inn. It’s right by the ferry. You know where it is?”

“The place I was at last night?”

“Yes.”

“Sounds good.”

“Perfect. I’ll be there in the hour. They have a wonderful breakfast menu.”

Mercy ended her call and dropped the phone back into her purse. She hadn’t counted on the Historical Society weighing in on this project, but it didn’t surprise her either. It wouldn’t be that much of a hindrance. She knew from past experiences what they wanted and what they would accept. It might cost more for supplies and labour. She might need more than just Thomas’ car. She ran her fingers through her hair and scratched her head. A good shower would help her focus.

***

The Lennox Inn was surprisingly empty considering the parking lot was full of cars. She took a peek inside the main restaurant as she passed by the front desk. Her table from the night before was vacant and a shiver ran through her as memories from her encounter at the back hoe came to her mind.

The morning room was just off the main dining room and had a breathtaking view of the lake. The warm aroma of freshly baked goods filled the air and her stomach growled. Flowing plants lined the length of the window ledges and complimented the decor. Several white wicker tables draped in fine linen sat scattered across the room occupied by just a few people. The matching chairs were lined with cushions in a colourful spring-like pattern that matched somewhat to the table setting. It was very reminiscent of the Victorian era; a theme the inn apparently relished.

She sat at a small table near the large picture window. A young woman came over and offered her some coffee. Mercy nodded as she dropped the folder of the house on the table and pulled out a couple pictures. In the daylight, the pictures revealed more detail around the crumbling property. The foundation at side of the house needed some serious parging and the mortar in some of the brickwork would have to be replaced before she lost the entire wall. She stared at one spot in the image; the place where the backhoe stood when she visited the night before. Her mind drifted. How could she think that safety belt was an arm?

You could hear Estelle Macintyre before you saw her. The older woman’s boisterous voice echoed from the front lobby, and it was clear she was upset with someone. A robust middle-aged woman in a white business suit stepped up to the entrance of the dining room. Her salt and pepper hair was done up in a bun and she looked older than she might want you to think with the small amount of makeup she wore. Mercy smiled and waved. The woman nodded and dropped her cell phone into her handbag.

“That sounded intense,” Mercy said moving her folder from Estelle’s spot on the table.

Estelle let her purse and a manila envelope drop on the table. “Do I have fool written across my forehead?”

Mercy smirked. “Not that I’m aware of.”

“Then it must be visible only to middle-age men.” She flopped herself down across from Mercy. “Do you think they serve alcohol in here?”

“It’s eight in the morning.”

“Maybe not.”

Estelle calmed herself and turned to the picture window. “Isn’t this place beautiful? This was one of the first buildings on Hallowell Island. It served as an inn for a hundred years, until a fire all but demolished it.” She turned her coffee cup right-side up as the young waitress came back. “The entire community came together to rebuilt it.”

“It’s incredible.” Mercy motioned for more coffee. “I’d like the house to have this same feel to it. Beautiful way to wake up.”

“It’s a big business. People are looking for a connection to the past. More so as they get older.” She picked up the small breakfast menu. “I’ve had three middle-aged couples in the last week all ask me to find them older homes on the island.” She glanced over the top of the menu. “Too bad your property wasn’t ready. With its location and history, you’d make a fortune.”

“Yeah, about that.” Mercy picked up the photo of the crumbling house. “We’ve been at this for two years. How much more do you think I’ll need to complete it?”

A remorseful look washed over Estelle. “This is the most problematic project I’ve been involved with.”

“In what way?”

“For starters, I can’t keep workers on the job.”

“Why not?”

The older woman shrugged. “I wish I knew. Things go good for a couple weeks, and then out of the blue, that’s it. They’re gone. I’ve overseen other renovations to old buildings and I’ve never come across the problems like this.” She pulled out print-out from the folder and handed it to Mercy. “Plumbing leaks in new piping, equipment malfunctions, over-loaded electrical outlets, materials and tools go missing.”

Mercy lowered the sheet. Her heart sank as she read over each of the itemized incidents. “Why didn’t you inform Thomas or myself about all this?”

Estelle’s mood went dark. “I told your ex said he’d take care of it, but I never heard back on what I was supposed to do. And then I heard you two were having problems and I thought it was because of this place, so I kind of kept some of the reports back.”

Mercy rubbed her forehead. “He just decided to screw me around in other ways.”

Estelle stirred her coffee. “Anyway, when I didn’t hear from either of your for a few months I assumed you were working things out, so I took matters into my own hands. I don’t know if it was the company sending me their worse employees or what, but I’ve managed to find a contractor who’s a lot more competent than the others.”

“I hope so.”

Estelle waved to the entrance. “As a matter of fact, I was just speaking to a worker from the last construction company. Reminding him why he and his cronies weren’t allowed on the property.”

Mercy sighed. “More problems?”

“One of Charlie’s men caught them stealing copper fixtures for the pipes. Threw them all off the property.” She took a sip from her cup. “Don’t worry. Charlie’s local and he knows all the good workers on the island, and he’s put himself together a good crew.”

“So why didn’t you hire him in the first place?”

“You know the union rules. First on the list.” Estelle brushed away Mercy’s comment. “Things have been good since. As a matter of fact, we might get this project complete before the winter.”

Mercy chewed on her bottom lip. “I don’t know if I can finance it for that long. If Thomas doesn’t sign off on my share of the company soon, I may have to stop construction.”

Estelle raised her coffee cup. “Then let’s hope he’s a smart man.”

(To be continued . . .)

© 2011 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt One
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Two
The Possession of Mercy Moreau; Pt Three

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