The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Sixteen.

As they walked closer, a motion light flashed to life, illuminating unsuspecting flying insects and a light mist that wandered the ground. The weather-worn siding was a pale grey in the light. A pang of sympathy washed over her as she glanced at the cracked split window sills. A few of the panes of glass were missing. Mercy thought about her manor and how it must have looked like this for so long.

“It’s going to cost a small fortune to fix this place up,” Charlie said, as he walked toward the front. “I’ve gotta bring in safety inspectors before anything can start. Make sure the building is structurally sound before any of my guys go in.”

Mercy followed behind. “I never know where to start on projects like this.” She ran her finger gently over the worn wood of the shed. “Thomas would have a plan in place before putting a bid in.”

“What’s the name of your company?”

“Seville Construction.”

“Seville? As in Thomas Seville?’

Mercy frowned. “You know him?

“I went to school with him.”

Mercy was shocked. “He lived here?”

“Just for high school.” He crossed his arms. “Clyde, Tommy and I used to hang together.” He briefly looked up at the sky. “You know, your ex warned me about Eva. Said she wasn’t my type. I should have listened.”

“People don’t walk around with their flaws written on their foreheads,” she said, looking up at the stars. “Otherwise I would have known Thomas was a cheater.”

“He cheated on you?”

“With his secretary.”

“That’s so weird.” He made a strange face, waving his hand in the air. “Tommy was always such a…”

“Loser?”

He burst out laughing. “No. He was that invisible kid no one really cared about. I did a lot of sports, Clyde was good with his hands, and Tommy was…”

“Thomas.”

He shrugged. “Yeah. No other way to put it.”

She followed him around to the back of the house. The moon arched low in the sky and reflected on a tranquil lake. A few lights on the other side dotted the horizon, and were the only indications that they weren’t alone.

Mercy hugged her body. “This place is beautiful.”

“Yeah, but get a look at the house.”

She turned away from the lake. The back porch roof sunk deep in the middle and part of the wood railing and floor were missing. Boarded up windows and crumbling foundation rounded off the building.

“Who has the money to fix up a place like this?”

Charlie put his hands on his hips. “Some musician. He bought the place from the original owners and wants it as some kind of retreat for after tours.”

“I hope he’s rich.” She turned and looked out over the small lake. “But it is a gorgeous view.”

He faced the lake. “Yeah, and you can’t build houses on the lakeshore now. The whole area is protected as a provincial park. Makes any homes up here really valuable.”

She gave him a quick wink. “Well they picked the right guy for the job.”

Charlie kicked at the ground. “Thanks.”

They walked back to the car, arm in arm and stopped by the front of the vehicle. Mercy leaned against the car and stared out over the water. It was so peaceful here. So tranquil. No boats or cars, just the sounds of the woods and the water as it lapped against the shoreline. “This place would make the perfect retreat,” she said. “This guy was lucky to get it.”

“Luck had nothing to do with it. The family’s been trying to unload it for decades.”

She looked back at the house. “You’d think they’d keep it in better shape.”

The motion light flickered and movement caught Mercy’s eye. A shadow just beside a pile of debris by the barn moved. She squinted and absentmindedly took a step toward it.

He frowned. “What is it?”

“I think someone’s here.”

“Where?”

“On the far side of the barn.”

Charlie cautiously walked toward the barn, and the motion light flickered with more intensity. The shadow moved again, this time from the opposite side of the barn.

Mercy pointed. “Charlie, careful. Someone’s on the other side too.”

He stopped and backed up. “We know you’re there.” His loud voice carried across the property. “This is private property. Get outta here now before I call the cops.”

A breeze came from behind them. Mercy shuddered in the sudden temperature change. A putrid smell of rot surrounded her and she turned toward the house.

The body of a blonde woman stood a meter from her; the face rotted out with torn clothing barely hanging on to an emaciated torso. Mercy froze. Caught in the stare of a skull with no eyes. Bony hands reached out and grabbed her by the throat. She opened her mouth to scream and a flash of bright light engulfed her.

***

“Mercy?”

Mercy opened her eyes. She was on her back lying on the ground. “What happened.”

He helped her to stand. “I don’t know. You screamed and when I turned you were on the ground, passed out.”

“For how long?”

“Five minutes, maybe.”

He took her by the arm and helped her to the car. “Come on, let’s get you home”

Her body trembled as she walked. Was that another ghost attached to her? Was she attracting them to her now? No, this wasn’t a friendly spirit. Maybe it didn’t want her there, but if it wanted solitude why did it only attack her? Why not Charlie? Her legs felt weak as she climbed into the passenger seat and she rested her head against the back against the headrest. The sound of the Mustang engine caused her to sigh heavily as he drove off. Her body ached. Something didn’t ‘feel’ right. She turned and glanced out the back window. The dark-haired spirit from her home stood where she had been, and there was a slight sympathetic smile on her face. Mercy faced forward. She’d had the spirit in here when she was attacked. Was that why she was assaulted? Maybe the other ghost knew she had the spirit inside her? The white light. What was that? Her mind reeled with questions that had no answers.

Movement from the old house caught her eye and her gaze fell on a window on the second floor. Something moved away from the window and out of sight. She glanced over at Charlie. He focused on the road ahead, his face stern and hard.

So much for a first date.

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Fifteen.

“Yeah, Clyde was pretty pissed. I’ve never seen him so mad.” Charlie started laughing. “His face was almost the same colour of his hair.”

A cold chill ran through her. “Clyde?”

“Just this grease-monkey I went to high-school with. Clyde Rowe.” He took a sip from his glass. “As bad as I thought my life was after she left, wasn’t nearly as bad as his. Rumour was, she really did a number on him. She made all these promises to him start up his own business, and then ran off with the loan money and his car. He was on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars and no way to pay the bank back.” His expression turned sympathetic as he raised his glass to his lips. “He lost everything.” Charlie shook his head and raised his glass. “To our ex’s and their new lives, where ever they may be.”

The waitress returned a few moments later and they ordered some food, along with a couple more drinks. There were a few more drinks with dinner and for desert as well. Conversation was light. They steered away from anything that might direct them back to the topic of their ex’s. It was the first time in a long while she remember feeling good about her life, and with a dinner companion like Charlie, things were looking up.

Mercy studied Charlie as he spoke. He was everything Thomas was not. He was a gentleman and polite and seemed genuinely interested in her. After dinner, they walked slowly across the parking lot to her car. The setting sun turned the horizon a bright red and Mercy’s mind raced with idea’s to stretch the night out.

Charlie’s cell rang. He shook his head. “Figures.”

“That’s the down side to owning your own business,” Mercy smiled. “You’re always on the job.”

“This won’t take long.” He brought the phone to his ear. “Good evening, sir. I’ve been waiting for your call…Yeah, I’ve got everything lined up if he approves of the price…Well, some of the things he asked for were pretty pricy. I had to go to Toronto and Montreal to find suppliers…Well, you could do that, but I guarantee you won’t get a better price, and I employ only craftsmen from the area. Saves you from bringing in guys from other cities and having to pay for their motel and other expenses… That’s right… Good. Glad to hear it sir. Have a good evening then.” He ended the conversation and grinned. “What a great way to end the night.”

“I take it your bid was accepted?”

“Yup.” Charlie put his cell back in his pocket. “I’ve been after that contract for months now. And the fact I got it tonight just makes it all that much sweeter.” He took Mercy into an embrace. “Perfect dinner with a beautiful woman, and a job that’ll keep my guys going until next spring. Can’t ask for much more than that.”

Mercy laughed as he twirled her around. Maybe it was all the wine, but her head felt dizzy and she threw her head back as he spun her around. She wrapped her arms around his neck and looked into his eyes. They were the most beautiful shade of blue she’d ever seen. Her heart skipped a beat as he stopped twirling and held her tight. His lips were so close, so full, she wanted to kiss him, run her fingers through his hair. Her excitement grew as his gaze softened and he pulled her closer. Her heart raced. Mercy closed her eyes as he and leaned forward…

A car horn blared from the road and was followed by a slew of whistles and shouts. Both stepped back from each other. Mercy’s legs felt weak as her embarrassment fuelled her awkwardness.

Charlie growled. “Nice way to kill a mood.” He took her hand and led her to the car.

“I had a great time tonight,” Mercy said.

“So did I.” He opened the car do for her.

“Are you all right to drive?”

“I only had a couple.”

He shut the car door, leaving Mercy to her thoughts. 

Quick! Think of something else to say. Don’t let the night end now.

Charlie got in the driver’s side.

“So what else does this town do for excitement?”

“Not a hell of a lot.” He started the engine. “It’s almost ten. Everything’s closed, except for a few bars.”

“Did you want to go for a drink?”

“I’d love to, but I have to work in the morning.”

Damn!

They pulled out onto the empty street and headed out of town. The road grew dark once they crossed the town line and the headlights barely reached the gravel sides. Mercy’s nervousness grew as one silly idea after another popped into her mind. She was so close to that kiss. Just one more second! She ran her tongue over her lips. They felt dry. She opened her purse and searched for some lip gloss. If she was going to kiss Charlie, she wanted them to be soft and supple. She flipped down the vanity mirror. Mercy gasped as the face of the spirit stared back at her. She was wearing the same outfit as Mercy with her hair styled the same way. It was Mercy, but with a different face.

“Did you want to do something next week?”

Mercy turned her head. In her reflection, the spirit turned her head as well. “I have friends coming in for the long weekend. Could we do something before that?”

“I can’t,” he said. “I have to take my mother to Toronto for a doctor’s appointment, and now that I’ve got this job, I’m going to be gone most of the week.”  A worried look appeared on his face. “But don’t worry, I promise this new job won’t interfere with my work at the mansion.” A mischievous grin creased his face. “Did you want to see it?”

“See what?”

“The other job?” He didn’t slow as they came to her driveway. “It’s an incredible place, not that far from here. Just up past the Lake on the Mountain.” He looked bashful. “If you’re into it?”

Mercy smiled. “Sure, I’d love to.”

Her stomach flipped as they continued on down the highway. She wasn’t too sure how romantic this detour would be, but at least she would be spending more time with him. She looked at her reflection in the vanity mirror. The spirit was still there, and Mercy smiled and applied some lip gloss.

They drove toward the ferry, but turned up a side road and drove up the steep incline. You could see part of the hill from the front of the mansion but Mercy never thought it was all that huge. The road was dark with just a few streetlights along the roadway. The sound of crickets overpowered the engine as they turned down a roughly paved road. Mercy looked skyward. There were so many stars. Maybe that’s why they called it a mountain.

Charlie slowed down and turned into a gravel driveway that wined through tall trees. The outline of a large house was dark against the evening sky, and sat quiet near a calm lake. Several yards away, and old barn, worn from years of neglect looked as though it would fall at any moment. The smell of damp vegetation was strong as they got out of the car. The house wasn’t much bigger than the mansion, but looked in worse shape.

Mercy stared straight ahead as she got out of the car. “Wow, and I thought my place was in rough shape.”

Charlie came around to her side. “Everyone around here calls it the old manor house.” He headed toward the dark building. “Hasn’t been lived in for decades. The only reason it’s still standing is because the historical society would go into convulsions if the owners tried to tear it down.”

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Fourteen

Mercy never really liked the colour purple, but the short cocktail dress she found in the pile of clothing from Estelle was a nice shade, and oddly comfortable considering its snug fit and low back. She turned sideways to get a better view of her reflection in the full length mirror. This wasn’t something she never would have picked out for herself, and she was completely out of her comfort zone with the style, but for some reason it just worked.

The sound of Charlie’s truck coming up the laneway pulled her attention away from the mirror. She checked her phone. He was right on time.

“Punctual. That’s a good thing.”

She did a quick turn in front of the mirror once more before checking the reception on her cell. She wasn’t letting that problem happened again.

Charlie was already at the front door by the time she made it across to the foyer. She draped a wrap around her shoulders and opened the door. Her heart skipped as the freshly-shaven smile of her date greeted her. His hair was still wet and partially slicked back and he looked even better in the nice dark-coloured dress shirt and slacks.

Her eyes wandered along his body, taking in as much of him as she could. “Well, don’t you clean up nice?”

He chuckled and nodded. “Thank you, and might I add, you look incredible yourself.”

Mercy walked past him, and then turned back and winked. “I always do.”

Easy, don’t get too cocky, spirit.

He followed her down the stairs to the yard. “As a matter of fact, you look too good to be riding around in my beat-up old truck.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I do.” He snorted. “I should have borrowed my sister’s car.”

Mercy smiled. “Then why don’t we take the Mustang?”

Charlie’s brow rose. “Really?”

“Sure, why not?” She stepped closer to him. “Beautiful things are meant to be ridden.”

Stop it!

Charlie bit his bottom lip. “If you say so.”

He followed behind as she walked to the Mustang. Her face felt hot. She needed to exercise more control over this spirit.

She stopped at the passenger door.

“Here,” Charlie said, and reached for the door handle. “Let me get that.”

Mercy smiled. Not even Thomas did that for her.

She handed him the keys. “Careful. She’s a little touchy on the breaks.”

He nodded. “I noticed that the last time.”

The town of Hallowell was busy for early evening, but Charlie found a nice parking space close to the restaurant. People out on the patio ogled the car, and for a moment, Mercy toyed with the idea of not giving it back.

She shook her head. No. It goes back

The lineup was short at the door, and it gave her a chance to do a quick scan of the patrons. Mostly tourists and Mercy felt very over-dressed.

She tugged at the back of her dress. “I think I wore the wrong outfit.”

Charlie flashed a smile. “Don’t be silly. I think your outfit is fine.”

A hanging light over them suddenly went very bright. Both Mercy and Charlie looked up.

“Electrical problem,” he said, shielding his eyes from the bright light.

Mercy examined his features in the light, suddenly realizing that his shirt was the same dark purple.

“You’re wearing a purple shirt?”

He looked down at his outfit. “Yeah, it’s the only nice shirt I own.” He looked awkward. “I don’t dress up that much.”

She smiled and ran her hand along his chest, feeling the material. “Well you picked a good colour. It looks really good.”

He looked sheepishly at her. “I didn’t buy this. It was a gift.”

“From your mother?”

“Uh…my…wife, actually.”

Mercy’s heart dropped.

“Your wife? Wait, you’re . . . married?” 

He looked sheepish. “Sorry, I should have said ex-wife, but it just doesn’t feel that way.”

A young teen girl seated them in a quiet table away from the bulk of the restaurant. The piano bar at the far end played a haunting melody, and the mood would have been relaxing with candles on each table, had Charlie not dropped this bombshell on her.

Mercy took a few deep breaths to regain her composure.

He leaned toward her. “Okay, yes I was married, but she ran off with some guy about seven years ago and I haven’t seen her since.”

Mercy frowned. “Seriously?”

“Yeah.” He looked uncomfortable as he shifted in his chair. “I knew the guy she left me for, an old high school friend.”

Mercy empathized. At least Thomas cheated with a stranger. “That has to hurt.”

“At first yeah, but then when I started divorce procedures, I learned she left him too.” He gave a short chuckle. “He told my lawyers she just didn’t come home one night and he didn’t know where she was.” He looked past her. “When no one heard from her for three months, I filed a missing person’s report.”

“Did she ever come back?”

He shook his head. “I had to wait seven years and file her as deceased.”

The waitress came over to their table and placed two menus’ down. “Can I get you something to drink before you-“

“Please!” Charlie said. “I’ll take whatever’s on tap.”

“I’ll take a glass of white house wine.”

The waitress nodded and walked away.

Charlie moved his menu to one side. “So, can we just start this conversation over, unless you have some awkward story about your ex you’d like to share?”

Mercy chuckled. “You know that car you drove here?

“It’s his?”

“Yup.”

“He let you have it?”

It was Mercy’s turn to look awkward. “Actually, I borrowed it.”

“Borrowed.” A crooked smile appeared. “Why do I have a feeling that word has two meanings?”

Mercy tried to look innocent. “Well, if you want to get technical…” She crossed her arms on the table. “I needed a way to get here and he pissed me off so I decided taking his pride and joy was the best way to get back at him.”

“Ouch. Remind me not to piss you off.”

She lowered her head. “Yeah, but it was stupid. I thought hurting him as much as he hurt me would make me feel better, but it backfired.”

“Revenge never works the way you want it to.”

“I didn’t even see what it was doing. Not until Paul told me about his son.”

Charlie nodded. “Oh yeah, that’s a mess and a half. Spent a lot of hours as a sounding board for him.”

“It was his heartbreak that woke me up. Here he was, telling me how they’re acting, and five minutes later, I’m doing the exact same thing.” She shook her head. “How mature is that? I’m giving it back. The marriage didn’t work out and I accept that and I’m moving on.”

The waitress came back and placed their drinks down. “Do you still need a few minutes to look over the menu?”

“Yes, please.” Charlie said.

The young girl nodded and walked away.

He shrugged. “All water under the bridge now. I just wish I knew where she was.” A sly smile crossed his lips. “Not that I don’t feel a bit vindicated that she left her boyfriend too. Especially when I found out she ran off with his car.”

Mercy giggled. “Sometimes there is justice in the world.”

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Thirteen.

The afternoon sun was hot as Mercy stepped out the front door with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge. She’d spent the last few days inside hiding from the summer heat but as Thomas was coming out to exchange vehicles, she wanted to make sure his pride and joy was looking her best. She dropped the bucket and stared at the Mustang. Who was she kidding? She’d spent the last couple days feeling like shit. Her fight with Thomas in front of Paul was the last thing she wanted to do. What the hell was she thinking? Paul didn’t need to see that, not with what his son was going through. Plus, she’d promised herself she wouldn’t be that vengeful person, and yet that’s exactly what she felt like. So much for starting anew.

Mercy inhaled deeply. The woodsy scent helped to clear her mind. That was it. No more being bitter. Today was the start of a whole day and she was going to be a whole new person if it killed her. Today was full of opportunities and she wasn’t going to waste any more time in a self-destructive mindset, and the best way to do that was make time for her.  

The red paint on the Mustang held flecks of sparkle and shone in the sun. It didn’t look like it needed a washing, but there was some dust and dirt around the wheel wells. Not to mention she felt after ‘borrowing’ it, the least she could do was make sure it sparkled when she gave it back. This was Thomas’ baby; always had been. Besides, the Mercedes was better suited to her.

She put the bucket on the ground next to the front tire and dipped the sponge into the water. Maybe if Thomas saw that she was cooperating he would too and stop fighting her about the company? Mercy scoffed. Yeah, fat chance of that happening, and not that she thought about it, did she really want the business?

She leaned over the hood of the car to scrub up near the windshield. A cool breeze played with the small strands of hair she didn’t get up in a ponytail and sent a shiver through her. The breeze felt good, but a little too cold for such a hot day. Another shiver ran through her. She stopped and stared at her reflection in the window. Something didn’t feel right. She looked into the window, checking the reflection for any sign of the spirit, but all that was around her were several construction workers staring. One in particular made her heart skip a beat as he headed toward her.

She turned and smiled at him. “Hey Charlie. How are you today?”

“Hey.” Charlie looked uncomfortable. “Could you do me a favour?”

“Sure, what?”

“Could you maybe not wash the car right now?” He glanced back at his men. “You’re a bit of a distraction and I need them focused on the job.”

Mercy’s face went hot. “Sorry. I didn’t think I’d be bothering anyone.”

“Not that there’s anything wrong with how you look or anything.” He flashed a smile and her legs went weak. “But I gotta stay on schedule.”

Mercy leaned against the car to keep from collapsing. “No, I understand. I’ll just pull the car closer to the house.”

“Thanks.” He turned, and then glanced back. “We’re still on for tonight? Right?”

Shit! She forgot about that! “Oh sure,” she said, and picked up the bucket.

“Good. How does seven sound?”

Mercy nodded quickly. “Perfect!”

Perfect?

He nodded and walked away.

She moved a few metres closer to the mansion. Anxiety filled her as she walked back to the car and got in. Her first date in years and she forgot about it. How could she forget about going out with someone as good looking as him?  She started up the engine and gripped the steering wheel tight. Damn!  

She parked the car closer to the house. Her stomach quivered. Did she even have anything to wear? Suddenly washing Thomas’ car wasn’t nearly as important anymore. She got out and picked up the bucket as she walked past. There was only one person she could think of that could help her out, and hopefully he would be able to calm her down.

She dropped the bucket in the kitchen sink and went for her cell phone. “Hey, Stephen it’s me. Call me when you get this. I really need to talk to you.”

Mercy disconnected the call and rubbed her bottom lip with her finger. Voicemail. Damn. It figures.

***

Mercy wiped the condensation from the mirror. That was the longest shower she’d ever taken. Half the time she just stood under the stream of water and tried not to think of horrible scenarios for the evening. She leaned closer to the mirror and examined her face. She considered herself plain looking, maybe not the kind of person who would go out with a guy like Charlie. Her hair had no style, and she didn’t wear much in the way of make-up. That night she let the spirit touch her was the first time she’d worn anything more than eyeliner, and Clyde seemed to like it.

Maybe that was a little too much.

She looked down at the odd assortment of cosmetics on the counter Estelle had dropped off in one of her ‘care’ packages. Some of it was in shades and colours she couldn’t pull off. Did Charlie like women who wore makeup? Some men didn’t. Thomas didn’t. Was Charlie like Thomas?

“Stop it. Charlie is nothing like Thomas.”

Her cell phone rang.

She checked the call display. “It’s about time. What took you so long?”

“Sorry sweetie,” Stephen said on the other end. “Lunch was nuts. Now what’s the problem?”

“I’m going on a date.”

“Good for you. And Mercy, for future reference, that’s not a problem.”

“It is when I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Where are you going?”

“Just out to dinner.”

“That’s it?” Stephen made a disgusting sound on the other end. “No movie or anything?”

“No. Just dinner.”

“What are you wearing?”

“I don’t know.” She looked over her lack-luster wardrobe. “I guess jeans and a blouse.”

“Oh, don’t you dare!”

“Why not?”

“How much do you like this guy, sweetie?”

She blushed as she pictured a nude Charlie walking out from the water. “I really don’t know him that well.”

“Okay, then how well do you want to know him?”

She smiled bashfully. “A lot.”

Then show him that.”

“How?”

“By looking nice for him.”

“That seems kind of sexist. Don’t you think he’ll like me in jean and a blouse?”

“Hopefully, but first impressions are everything-(crackle)-him to think he’s (crackle)…..”

Mercy moved the phone away from her ear. “Hello? Stephen can you hear me” The small call reception bars were barely registering. “Great.”

She pulled the towel off her head and stared at her reflection in the mirror through strands of wet hair. The smell of jasmine surrounded her and the air grew cold. Mercy parted her hair slightly and stared at the spectral image standing behind her. 

“Are you here to torment me? After the last time I let you use my body, I was sick for days.”

The spirit raised her hand and gave a small smile.

“I don’t know. I mean, I like the confidence, but . . .can I trust you not to get me into another one of those situations?” Mercy snorted. She was negotiating with a ghost.

She stroked her bottom lip with her top teeth. She did look good the last time but she needed to be in control.

Mercy held out her arms. “Okay, we’ll try this again, but I don’t need you making me act well, not like me.” She focused into the spirit’s dark eyes. “Understand?”

She closed her eyes as the spirit approached. She gasped at the icy sensation that raced through her body, but a moment later relaxed as warmth quickly replaced it. Slowly, she opened her eyes and stared at her reflection. Mercy smiled as confidence replaced her doubt. She dropped the towel and ran her hands down the side of her body. Looking at her reflection with new eyes; it wasn’t as if she was old or anything. She turned and walked naked out of the bathroom. Who need a towel anyway?

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Twelve.

It was almost night by the time she returned to the Manor. Her stomach felt better but her head still pounded. This was either the longest hangover ever had or a lingering side-effect of her ghostly encounter. She placed the grocery bags in the kitchen and leaned against the counter. Something poked at her; did Stephen try to call her? The island had good reception, so why hadn’t the call gone through. She went to her purse and checked her cell. Only one number logged twice and both were Stephen’s. She checked her messages and the frantic voice of her friend bellowed from the small phone. Maybe the bar was in some sort of dead zone, but if that were true, then his number shouldn’t have registered at all. She glanced at the time; 7:16. She hadn’t left the house until closer to 8:30, so why didn’t she hear his call? A shiver ran though her and the nauseous feeling returned. She grabbed a bottle of water and took a sip. Problematic cell phone reception would make this place harder to sell. Great. She had enough on her plate with her divorce and the house. Adding this little drawback was almost enough to make her throw the towel in altogether.

She walked out onto the back deck. The evening air was musty-smelling and cool as a pair of loons called out to each other over the lake. A sharp contrast to the heat of the afternoon.  Off in the woods, the last of the songbirds chirped in the growing darkness. She kept a close eye on the trees as she walked across the deck to the construction site on the other side of the house. Goosebumps ran up her arms as she turned the corner. The side light from her neighbours home cast a long shadow from the trees. She stared at the hole in the foundation. A few meters away is where the small excavator sat the night she arrived. The harness tapped against the metal frame, and a clang echoed in the quiet. She shivered at the flash of memory from that night and the arm that draped across her shoulder. No, it was the harness. She’d been tired that night and her eyes weren’t adjusted to the dim light. She crossed her arms and stepped back. It bothered her to be outside at night. The property felt different somehow. Before, it was just unfamiliarity. Now with the ghost, it felt . . . taken.

She stepped through the hole and into the darkness of the cellar. She picked up a nearby flashlight and shone the beam deeper into the room. Dust particles hung in the air as she moved the light across the dirt floor. Shadows loomed and stretched around her as she took a few steps toward the brick wall. Reflections from the flashlight against the metal from the old furnace twisted into distorted shapes as the light faded off into the dark.

She stopped by the hole made by the sledgehammer. There was something distasteful about this place. Dark and choking, as though the air was slowly evaporating. She hesitated before looking inside. A breeze blew across the dirt floor and she shivered. Something creaked behind her and she turned around and pointed the light across the room. Mercy’s pulse raced as another creak came from above her. Threads of old webs dangled in the breeze as a creak came from a few feet away.

It’s the house settling.

Or was it?

She’d experienced one ghostly encounter. Maybe this was another. After all, the deck hand on the ferry did say the entire island was haunted. That would mean more than one ghost. Question was, did they visit each other?

She smirked at the thought. Yeah, and they probably serve tea.

She turned to the hole. The outline of someone stood dark against the fading light of the evening sky.

Mercy screamed and shone her flashlight.

Paul yelped and covered his eyes. “Sweet Jesus!” The older man braced himself against the side of the foundation. “Miss Moreau. What the hell are you doing down here?”

Adrenalin raced through her veins and she placed her hand over her chest. “Me? What are you doing still on site?”

“I asked Charlie for some extra hours, so he asked me to clean up the place in case you decided to go roaming around.” He took a step inside. “You damn near gave me a heart attack.”

Mercy tried to conceal a grin. “Sorry, but I was expecting to be alone.”

Sort of.

He came and stood next to her. “What are you doing down here anyway?”

Mercy shone the flashlight into the hole. “Charlie’s worried about getting the heating duct in on time so I was just seeing how much work had to be done.”

A disapproving look cam over Paul. “He’s your foreman. You can’t be looking over his shoulder or second guessing him. Means you have no faith in him.”

“I didn’t say that.” She bent low and shone her flashlight into the hole. “You know, we could clean this out and set up as a root cellar. It would be a great selling point.” She twisted her head to one side. “I just wish I had a better view.”

Paul went for the sledge hammer. “Stand back. I’ll see if I can widen the hole.”

Mercy scooted to the exit and kept her light trained on the brick wall. The first blow knocked down a few bricks, but threw more dust into the air than widening the hole.

“Why do you need the overtime?” Mercy asked, as Paul positioned himself for another swing. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

The head of the sledgehammer cracked against the brink. “Trying to help my son pay for a lawyer.”

“Ouch. Criminal?”

The hammer impacted the wall again. “No. Divorce.”

Mercy’s posture drooped. “That’s too bad.”

“It’s all right. Was a shock at first, but the Missus and me are getting used to it.” He reached over and pulled on some of the bricks, letting them tumbled away.” Rotten thing of it is, he’s got two teenage sons, and we hardly see them now.”

“I’m sorry.”

Paul stepped back from the wall. “I’m more worried for my son. They were like three peas in a pod, you know. Now them and their Mum live up in Ottawa and he only gets to see them about once a month.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.”

“That’s what I told him.” Paul stood back and braced himself up against a nearby wall. “Here, is this better?”

Mercy shone the light in again and lit up the inside. “Looks big enough for shelving and other storage.” She took a step forward shining her light on the stone walls.

Paul grabbed her by the arm, pointing to the floor. “Careful I don’t like the looks of those floorboards.”

Mercy pointed her light down. “Yeah. Maybe.”

“I’ll get one of the guys to sure it up for you, since your so incline to walk around here without the proper equipment on.”

Mercy grinned. “Yeah, I should know better.” She gave him a sideways glance. “Look, it’s late. Why don’t you just go home? I won’t say anything.”

“Naw, I don’t work like that. I’ve only got another half hour or so of work Charlie wants me to do.”

“Screw Charlie,” she smiled. “Come and have some ice tea with me on the back patio.”

He looked torn. “I don’t know. If I don’t get this done—”

“I’ll cover for you.  Besides, I pay Charlie and he pays you so I say come and sit with me.” She tilted her head to one side, eyeing him closely. “You look really tired. I’m not sure I want you here this late.”

“I gotta admit, working late has me knackered, but I need this money.”

“Okay, we’ll consider this a well-deserved break. How’s that?”

Paul exhaled and then smiled. “All right.”

Only a thin streak of faded blue teased the horizon as Mercy showed her guest up to the back balcony. The wood creaked under her feet, reassuring her that what she heard before was nothing more than sounds old houses are supposed to make. Paul made himself comfortable in one of the patio chairs as Mercy filled two tall glasses with store-bought ice tea.

“It really is nice out here,” Paul said, as she placed a glass down in front of him. “Nights like tonight make a man forget all his problems.”

Mercy glanced out over the water. “Women too.”

“No what problems could you have?”

Mercy snorted. “I’m in the middle of a nasty divorce.”

Pall looked down at his glass. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I’m not.”

He brought the glass to his lips. “If you don’t mind me asking, why’d you take this place?”

“I don’t know.” She stared hard at the water. “My ex bought this for us. We were going to use it as a summer home. Someplace to get away from the grind of Kingston and just relax. I guess I’m just too sentimental.” She looked away. “I just . . . this isn’t where I thought I’d be at my age.”

“Where’d you think you’d be?”

She inhaled some of the cool night air. “Married with children, I suppose.”

“So why aren’t you?”

“Because I found it difficult to be married to a man who cheated on me.” She didn’t need to look at him to know he felt silly for asking.

His voice was low when he spoke again. “Sorry.”

She shook her head and smiled. “Don’t be. It’s just the way it played out.”

“Well, then maybe it’s a good thing. I tell ya, divorce is always hardest on the kids.”

Mercy nodded. “We talked about it, and he just said later.” She took a sip of her drink. “Now I wonder if he even wanted any.”

Paul relaxed in his chair “You know what I don’t get? How two people, who claim they loved one another, can be so vicious and nasty to each other? I mean, if you want to end your marriage fine, but at least be civil to each other in the process. To get all vindictive and petty…” Paul shook his head and gulped his drink.

“I take it you’re referring to you ex-daughter-in-law?”

He shook his head. “She was always such a nice thing. Never said a bad word about anyone, and now it’s like she’s this vindictive, hateful person.”

“You’re son must have really hurt her?”

“I don’t know what the hell happened. He won’t talk about it.”

“Maybe she wasn’t the person you thought she was?”

“I guess so.”

Mercy’s cell rang from somewhere in the kitchen. She took a quick sip from her glass before standing up. “Figures, just when I start feeling relaxed.”

Paul smiled. “Ain’t that the way it goes?”

Her cell sat on the far counter. Mercy glanced briefly at the call display. A scowl crossed her face as Thomas’ name accompanied the number.

Her hands trembled as answered the phone. “Hello?”

“Did you think you could get away with it?” Thomas Seville’s anger permeated each word. “Did you really think I wouldn’t discover that you stole my car?”

She rolled her eyes. “It took you this long to notice it was gone?

“That’s not the point!”

 “And I didn’t steal anything. I told your girlfriend I was borrowing your car for a while.”

“She thought you meant the Mercedes, not my Mustang!”

A sly grin creased her lips. “Well then, this is her fault.”

“I want my car back.”

“What? And leave me stranded out here without a way to get around? Hardly.”

A frustrated sigh came from the other end. “Oh don’t give me that bullshit. You’re just trying to get back at me for what happened at the lawyers office. Look, it’s not my fault if I put more into this company than you did. That’s just the way things are.”

“Don’t think just because you have new arm candy you’re entitled to more. Half the company is mine, whether you like it or not and you’re going to pay me one way or another.”

 I don’t know what kind of tricks you’re playing but I’m sick of it.”

Mercy’s temper flared. “My tricks? I don’t have any tricks Thomas, because I don’t play games with people. You’re the expert in that department, remember? You’re the King of head games.”

“Oh for shit’s sake, Mercy. Give it a rest. Our marriage was over long before I slept with Janice, and this petty attempt of yours to blackmail me into giving away half of my company is going to blow up in your face.”

A patio chair scrapped across the wood outside. Mercy stepped into the livingroom as Paul walked inside.

“I just leave my glass on the counter.”

Mercy covered her phone with her hand. “You’re leaving?”

“Yeah, maybe I should get back to cleaning up.”

The look in his eyes said everything and Mercy felt horrible. There was no way he didn’t hear her fighting with Thomas, and with the pain he was feeling about his son’s circumstances… 

Paul headed for the balcony. “I don’t feel right sitting here getting paid for not doing anything.” He gave her a quick nod. “Thanks for the drink.”

“Okay.”

Mercy exhaled. What the hell was she doing? Her brief conversation with the mistress tumbled into her mind. She didn’t specifically say she would take the Mercedes, but she didn’t say she wouldn’t take the Mustang. For all her talk about not becoming that woman, she was doing exactly what she didn’t want to do.

She traced the rim of Paul’s empty glass with her finger. She’d been so nasty to Thomas over the last few months, and maybe she had a right to be, but he made it clear he didn’t want to be with her anymore. As much as it hurt, as much as he humiliated her, if she wanted to be bigger than this, wanted to get on with her life, the best way to do it was to let it go. Did she really want the Mustang? What would she do with it? It was only a reminder of what they, and what was torn apart. She slumped over the counter. Suddenly things weren’t so unclear to her anymore.

Thomas’ angry voice came over the phone. “Mercy, are you even listening to me?”

Her lip trembled as she brought the phone to her ear. “Sorry, I had a guest leave.”

“You have no right-“

“I know,” she said, trying to hold back her tears. “And I’m sorry I took it. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.”

There was a long pause from the other end. “Fine. Glad to hear you’re finally seeing reason.”

Mercy snorted, but then swallowed to keep her throat from tightening.  “Look, if you want the car, then you’ll have to come out and get it.”

“Why can’t you bring it back to Kingston?”

“I have some big deliveries for the house coming and I have to be here.”

Another long pause. “Well, maybe I can loan it to you for the summer.”

“No, it’s your favourite car, and I don’t feel right keeping it anymore.”

Thomas sighed. “I wish you would have thought about this more before you took it.”

Mercy swallowed hard as a tear trickled down her cheek. Me too.  

Rustling sounds came from Thomas’ end. “Look, I can’t get away right now. There’s a big project I’m bidding on and I need to be in town sorting out a few other jobs if I don’t get this one. What if I come out in a couple weeks with the Mercedes and we trade?”

Mercy tried to smile. “Sounds good.”   

“Fine, then we’ll leave it at that.”

The phone disconnected on his end and Mercy broke down. It was over. It was truly over. She wiped away her tears. It was for the better. She knew it was. He didn’t want to be with her. What kind of a person forced someone to stay with them? Not someone she wanted to become.

She wiped away her tears and walked back out to the balcony. The evening was much cooler now, but Mercy she didn’t mind. She sat back at the table and took a few sips from her drink and looked out over the lake. She took a couple deep breaths and closed her eyes. A calm fell across her, and soon her trembling stopped. This was an ending for her, but not the end. This was a good ending and she had friends who were more than willing to help her with a new beginning. She smiled and closed her eyes. She would be just fine.     

Mercy stood and was overcome by the smell of Jasmine on the breeze. The hair on the back of her neck tingled and when she looked up at her reflection in the bay window, she wasn’t alone. She stood quiet for a moment, just watching the spirit. “No. I’m not doing it again. Sorry, but after what happened the last time, my ghost possession days are over.” She picked up her glass looked back through the glass doors. The spirit’s reflection was gone.

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Eleven.

Mercy didn’t want to move the next morning. The sun shone bright and the birds chirped their gleeful song but she just wanted to stay in bed and pull the covers over her head. Her head pounded and her whole body throbbed. She peered over the cuff of the bed sheet to the window. There was a smudge on the glass from her finger. Memories from the night before raced through her mind. The frost, the cold . . .

The ghost.

Was any of that real? She pulled her knees close. She was a different person last night, and she wondered if it had everything to do with her encounter with the spirit. She rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. She saw a ghost. She couldn’t deny it. It touched her; entered her body, but was it the cause of her actions? Did the spirit make her dress up and flirt with a man she barely knew? The corner of her lip turned as she remembered how Charlie’s hand felt on her backside, and the way her looked at her . . .

No. Mercy knew exactly what she was doing, and she loved it.

The faint ring of her cell phone came from the far side of the bed, and she slid under the covers and groped around for her purse. She didn’t even remember coming home. What was in those drinks? She found her purse under a pile of clothing on the floor and brought it up to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Wow, about time you answered,” the agitated voice of Stephen was loud on the other end. “Where have you been?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ve been trying to reach you since last night.”

She pushed herself into a sitting position. “I was out.”

“So you left your phone behind?”

“No.” She paused. “It didn’t ring?”

Stephen exhaled heavily into the receiver. “I thought something was wrong the whole night. The line would disconnect and wouldn’t go to voice mail. Hector had to talk me out of charging up there to make sure you hadn’t been murdered.” There was a short pause. “So, you’re okay then?

She thought about her encounter the night before. “Yeah, I’m good.”

“You sure? You don’t sound like it.”

Mercy collapsed back on the bed. “Just a little hung over, that’s all.”

“You? Hung over? I don’t believe it.”

An exhausted smile creased her lips. “It’s not that interesting.”

“Speak for yourself.” He paused and she could hear another male voice mumble in the background. “So, you went out? Hector wants to know if you have any revelling stories to entertain us.”

Mercy opened her mouth to speak, but paused. Stephen and Hector were her best friends. They’d been there for her over the years and were her rock through this whole divorce, but would they believe her? “Well, there is something.”

“What?”

The words caught in her throat. How could she tell them she’d been possessed by a ghost and almost had sex with a stranger?

“Mercy?”

“Never-mind. It’s nothing.”

“Damn. And here I thought I was in for a juicy story.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it.”

There was a long pause before Stephen spoke. “So, Hector and I were talking the other night, you know, when we couldn’t get in touch with you, and we decided on a date to come and visit.”

Mercy’s mood shifted. “That’s great. When?”

“The July first long weekend.”

A wave of excitement raced through her. “That sounds great. You have no idea how good it’ll be to see a familiar face again.”

“Island life that bad?”

“No, it’s just . . .” Her mind wandered back to images from the night before. “ . . .lonely out here. I don’t really know anyone.”

“So go introduce yourself.”

She glanced around the partially finished room. “I wish it were that easy.”

 “Chin up, sweetie. Just focus on the positive. When you sell that place, you can come back here and finally have a place of your own. Anyway, I gotta get to work. I’ll call later.”

“Okay, and Stephen…”

“Yeah?”

Mercy swallowed a couple times to rid the tightness in her throat. “I’m really glad you guys are coming up here.”

There was a pause on the other end. “Are you sure you’re okay, Hon?”

“Let’s just say I’ll be better once you’re here.”

The call ended and Mercy tossed the phone on the bed next to her. She threw back the covers and headed to the window. She touched a small drop of condensation that hung in the corner of the frame. Whatever happened last night she couldn’t deny she enjoy it. Her hands trembled and she took a deep breath to steady herself. She couldn’t take back what she did last night. What was done was done, but she couldn’t let it happen again. She’d seen enough movies to know these situations never turned out for the better. If there was a spirit here, she had to find some way to put it to rest. Despite what Estelle said, it would be hard as hell to sell a haunted house, even on this island. Last night was the first, and last, possession.

***

It was later in the afternoon when she pulled into the small grocery store in town. Her head still throbbed and now she had a nauseous feeling to accompany it. The smell of grease from a fast food restaurant made her not want to eat ever again. She was never a drinker. Now she knew why.

She sat in her car and watched the traffic. It was busy for the middle of the afternoon with a lot of pedestrians. She caught her reflection in the rear view mirror. The last time she’d been to town the spirit had shown itself, and she took a quick look around to make sure that was the case again. She adjusted the rear-view mirror. Standing behind her car was the spirit. Mercy threw open her car door and jumped out. The spirit was gone. Her pulse raced. It was following her, but why? What did she do to attract this attention?

“Ms. Moreau?” Charlie’s voice came from behind her.

Her stomach did a small flip. She took a few deep breaths. She turned and smiled. He was a few meters away carrying a reusable bag from the local grocery story. The material of an old rock shirt was thin and fit very snug. A jolt of excitement raced through her as she remembered his swim au natural. “Afternoon Mr. Sandal. What can I do for you?”

Charlie stopped a few feet from her, but didn’t make eye contact. “About last night-“

“Don’t worry about it.”

“No, I just want to apologize. You’re my employer and I shouldn’t have been so forward.”

“I told you. Don’t worry about it.”

“That’s just it. I have to. I don’t want what happened, or what didn’t happen to affect our working relationship.” He looked away. “I haven’t been myself lately. It’s just been a rough couple of weeks.”

She nodded. “No need to apologize. Sometimes life just gets stressful.” She chuckled. “Trust me.”

“Anyway,” Charlie relaxed a bit. “I was going to call you later today. About the house.”

“What about it.”

“It has to do with the labourers coming in.” He shifted from one leg to the other. “Look, I understand you owned a construction company and are used to doing things by the book, but we may have to break the rules if you want to stay on time.”

She frowned. “Break the rules how?”

“The union hall called and they can’t send any tin-bangers out until next week sometime.”

“What? Why not?”

“They’ve got the majority of them working on Queen’s campus.” He paused, looking squeamish. “That new edition to J-DUC.”

“So what’s are alternative?”

“Two choices, I can hire non-union workers or you wait until the summer’s over.”

She rubbed her forehead in frustration. “Can the furnace wait?”

“It can, but we’ll have to work double time in the fall to get that hole fixed before the cold weather sets in. If we get an early frost before the mortar dries, it’ll weaken the foundation and no amount of parging will keep it in place.”

Mercy thought for a moment. “Who’s got all the labourers? I know a lot of the owners. Maybe I can get one to let a couple go.”

Charlie winced. “Seville Construction.”

Mercy let out a frustrated exhale. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. They’re foreman has scooped up all the labourers for this job.”

“Damn you Thomas! I bet you did that on purpose.”

Charlie frowned. “Pardon?”

“Nothing” She clenched her jaw. “Fine. Do what you have to.”

He nodded and went to turn away. “Just so we’re clear on this, that means I’ll be bringing in non-union people.”

“As long as they keep their mouth shut, we’re good.”

He nodded. “And again, thanks for understanding about last night.”

She smiled. “It’s been a rough patch for myself too.” She paused. “At least you didn’t flash your workers.”

He snorted. “No, I just picked fights with people.”

“I’ll take the streaking.” She eyed him closely. He seemed more at ease now. “Anyway, thanks for coming to me about the labour thing instead of just going ahead. I appreciate it.”

“Sure thing.”

She turned slightly. “Is that why you were at the house last night when I . . .”

He hooked his thumbs in the front belt loops of his jeans. “Actually, I was going to ask you if you wanted to go out to dinner some time.”

Mercy was taken aback. “Really?”

The awkward look returned. “Oh I mean just to talk about your plans for the mansion.” He stumbled over his words. “Like you said, we’ll be seeing each other on a daily basis and I could get ideas right from the horse’s mouth.” His eyes went wide. “Not that I think you look like a horse or anything.”

She chuckled. “That’s a nice gesture.”

He gave her a sideways glance. “And after yesterday, I feel I owe you dinner.”

Mercy burst out laughing.

“So, what do you say?”

She smiled. “That sounds like a wonderful idea.”

“Great. How about Monday night? Town’s pretty quiet after the weekends. No long lineups at the restaurants.”

“Sounds good.”

Charlie nodded. “Then it’s a date.” He looked embarrassed. “Well, not a date, but…”

“We could call it a business dinner?”

“That sounds good too.” He took a few steps back. “I’ll talk to you later”

The grin stayed on her face for the rest of the day.

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

The Haunting of Mercy Moreau: Pt Ten

Saturday night in Hallowell was as dull. The town closed up at six leaving only a donut shop, one convenience store and a few restaurants-turned-nightclub-come-nine-pm open. Mercy’s anticipation of a good night was quickly heading south the more she watched the packed restaurant from her car. She wanted to hang out someplace fun, where she could unwind, maybe do some dancing. She pulled away from the curb and headed down Main Street. The traffic lights at the end of the road turned red just as she approached. She glanced off to the right and the row of newly built condo’s that faced the water. They looked dark and boring and reminded her of Corley Manor. No way was she going back just yet. The light turned green and she cranked on the steering wheel to the left. The road led out of town and didn’t look like much, but something about this road pulled at her to continue.

Large turn-of-the-century homes gave way to small subdivisions with newer homes, and a few business before the land became dark with trees. It was pitch dark before she realized there was not a lot out this part of the island. A few lakeshore homes and a gas station, but that was about it. Her excitement fizzled. Her night out wasn’t in the cards and the more she drove down the dark road, the more she just wanted to go back.

The road was narrow with steep ditches along both sides, and no safe place to turn around. She kept driving, hoping for a driveway or parking lot, when a billboard appeared from the darkness; an advertisement for a restaurant and bar just up ahead.

The place didn’t look like much, but judging from the loud music it was definitely a bar. She pulled in and parked next to the road. Her excitement returned as she checked herself in the rear-view mirror. Her gaze drifted away from her reflection and down a road that ran parallel to the parking lot. There was something familiar about this stretch of road; like she’d seen it before, but couldn’t quite put her finger on when.

The bar was a grungy on the inside as it was on the outside but it was fully stocked and at this point that’s all she cared about. A middle-aged woman with long brown hair came up to her. “What’ll ya have?”

“Rye and cola.”

The woman nodded and walked away.

Mercy twirled around on her stool, taking in the atmosphere of the bar. Two pool tables sat on one side, with a small dance floor on the other side, and a dozen or so round, wooden tables in between. The bartender walked back over and placed her drink on the table.

Mercy handed her a ten dollar bill. “Keep the change.”

She took a sip off her drink. The sweetness of the cola made the alcohol aftertaste palatable. She felt tingly after a couple more sips and figured by the end of this drink she’d be brave enough to take on the dance floor. Her foot moved to the beat of the music. She wasn’t into country, but the more she drank, the better it sounded. By the time she’d finished her third drink, country and western had become her all-time favourite.

She eyed the pool table a few feet away. She hadn’t played in years it looked like the players weren’t leaving any time soon.

She turned to the bartender. “You only have the two pool tables?”

“No, there’s a couple more tables in the back.”

An alcove at the back of the bar held four more tables and was lit with seventies style hanging lamps with panelling to match. She put her fourth drink on a small ledge that ran the length of the wall and grabbed the plastic rack. She racked the balls and went down to the other end of the table, picking up a cue along the way. She leaned over the table again and took aim at the center ball. With a click, it sent the pile off into other directions, but none of them disappeared into a pocket.

“You gotta hit the ball harder,” a male voice said from behind her. Mercy froze. She recognized Charlie’s voice.

She straightened up a bit. His long, blonde hair was slicked back and the black dress shirt and blue jeans fit snug against a muscular physique. Mercy clenched her jaw trying to contain her embarrassment from earlier.

Her gaze locked with his. “I don’t want to miss and ruin the table.”

Charlie kept his gaze on her as he walked to one side of the pool table and picked up the ball. A crooked smiled creased is lips. “Don’t worry, I’ll show you how it’s done right.”

He put the white ball down on the table and then walked behind and pressed up against her. He placed one hand on each of her hips and ran them up the side of her body. He lowered his mouth to her ear. The smell of alcohol was strong. “Bend over and lemme show ya how it’s done.”

She bent slightly, letting her hip slide close to him. “How’s that?”

He brought his hand up to her backside and gently rubbed the curve of her bottom. “Nice.”

She felt him get harder against her leg, and she smiled. Her fear dissipated and she wondered just how far she could take this.

She bent down and took the shot. The balls scattered but still none went into the pockets.

“Looks like I’m not hitting it hard enough.” She turned and pressed up against him. “Maybe it’s the way I’m gripping the stick.”

He smiled. “Maybe. Maybe you need some more practice. Why don’t we go somewhere more private and I can show you how to do it right.”

She draped her arm around his neck. “Whatever you say, Charlie-cat.”

He stepped back from her. “What’d you call me?”

Mercy blinked. “What?”

He shook his head. “Nevermind. I’m drunk.”

“You need a lift home?”

He exhaled, still looking confused. “Yeah, maybe.”

The night air was humid but she felt cold and damp. Her cotton tank top clung to her body from the humidity and the breeze carried the light scent of jasmine.

“My car is over there,” she said, pointing to the only streetlight in the parking lot.

“My truck’s closer.” He grabbed her by the hand and led her around the side of the building. His truck was parked a few feet from the back entrance. He pulled her close, crushing his lips on hers. His tongue was inside her mouth as he pressed her up against the side of the half- tonne.

A strong gust blew across the parking lot. The smell of rotting flesh filled her senses. Her stomach heaved slightly at the odour and she pushed against Charlie’s body.

“What the hell is that smell?”

He didn’t answer her.

The odour grew stronger and she covered her nose. “Stop for a minute.”

He pulled back. A look of anger and frustrated confusion all over his face. “What the hell are you talking about?”

She coughed slightly. “That smell. It’s disgusting. Do you have some dead animal in the back of your truck?”

 “What smell?”

“Are you serious? There was no way you can’t smell that.”

The light from the back door of the bar flickered as a small dirt devil whipped through the alley behind the building. Mercy’s attention drew to the outline of someone standing in the shadows of the tree line. The same form as from the house a few nights back. This time the outline was distinctly a woman. The ghost woman from her bedroom. Mercy froze as the spirit moved closer with jarred footsteps. She didn’t look like she did in the room, or even in town. Dark hair was matted against her skill with blood that trickled down one side of her face. Her eyes were set back with chunks of flesh ripped away from her face.  

Charlie stared off in the direction of the alley. “What the hell are you lookin’ at?”

 Mercy blinked and backed up along the side of the truck.

“Where you going? What the hell’s wrong with you?”

“I have to get outta here.”

She turned and hurried to her car as Charlie’s string of curse words dissipated into the night.

(To be continued . . .)

© 2019 Dark Conteur Collection of Works

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