Ladies, Gentlemen, Minions! Spotted Writer is BACK! After several months of working and the pursuit of a few new writing projects, I come to you with a Halloween special. My dear, sweet friend Megan and I have co-written this story from a writing prompt I found a year ago. This is part 1 of 3 of our still untitled brainchild. It is still a work in progress, but we are very passionate about this project and wanted to share its spooky contents with you for Halloween 2016. Read, enjoy, be scared!
Manor Mystery Part 1
Fog clung to the windshield as Abigail Irving drove down the city streets, weaving in and out of traffic. She was used to the sounds of car horns blaring and the hustle and bustle of downtown Syracuse, but today she didn’t have it in her to endure it all. The sound of the soothing voice of a woman filled her car, spouting off self-empowering words and Abigail tried to absorb them desperately as she drove out to the suburbs.
Today is the day. You are a strong, confident woman who can do anything you set your mind to.
“I am a strong, confident woman who can do anything I set my mind to!”
Abigail chanted the phrase again and again until she reached her destination. She slowed her car to a stop in front of a glorious Victorian house, the last of its kind surrounded by identical lots of modern townhouses. The house stood four stories tall with historic brick and the most beautiful stained glass windows shining through again the thick, misty air.
In the front yard stood that daunting “for sale” sign that had the fate of her future embedded into it. Abigail knew that if she couldn’t sell this home today that her life would be in shambles. Her sales were a fraction of what they used to be. Had she known her no-good ex-husband would be an abusive, jealous bastard, she never would have let him manipulate her, destroy her confidence, her life.
The minutes dragged by as Abigail waited for the Lahey’s to arrive, so she decided to head inside to check on the final clean-up job. Her stomach churned as she walked, accompanied by a sharp pain in her abdomen. She dug her fingernails into her palms to divert the pain and tried to keep balanced in her tall heels.
If there is one thing out of place I’m going to kill Rick. Those alimony checks barely pay for groceries anymore.
As she stepped through the heavy oak door, swatches of muted blues and creams bathed the sun room in a milky glow. The high-arched entryway was trimmed in a deep mahogany that greeted the house’s guests. Abigail shut the door as lightly as possible, but the weight of the oak caused a small tremor within the foyer. When the house settled again, she heard a loud thud come from one of the upper floors.
“Just what I need,” she complained. “Squatters. If you don’t come down, I’m going to call the police.”
She tramped up the staircase as loud as possible to scare whoever was hiding upstairs. Around the corner to the right of the final landing, Abigail smelled something rotten coming from the master bedroom.
Son of a bitch, they left food in here too. Those slimy rats are going to jail.
Her stiletto pumps clacked as she ran to the end of hall, where the bedroom door was ajar letting a wave of decay into her perfect home. Just as she was about to walk in, the doorbell rang downstairs.
The sound of the doorbell echoed throughout the house and rang hollow through her bones. It seemed to ring for eternity as sweat saturated her palms. Abigail hurried back down the stairs toward the door, but froze when she passed a gold-rimmed mirror in the hallway. She stopped for just a moment to fix the out of place strands of hair.
“I am a strong confident woman.”
And with that, her hand closed around the cold, brass doorknob and turned it to the right.
“Please, come in,” she said in her most professional tone.
A young couple was waiting outside under the cover of the front porch since the morning fog had turned into a steady, chilling rainfall. They ran into the foyer, shaking off their coats to reveal a petite, well-groomed brunette with designer clothes to match her expensive-looking purse. This had to be Mrs. Lahey, who looked ready for the runway, and Mr. Lahey looked like he had come from the boardroom, cell phone with never-ending battery included. He took no notice of the interior or that his heeled dress shoes were tracking water onto the antique wool rug just inside the entrance. Abigail would have to distract them with some coffee while she got a towel, and took care of the smell upstairs without them knowing.
“Welcome to Devinshire Manor, built in 1901 by Tennison Devinshire. Let me take you through to the sun room before we tour the rest of the house.”
The Lahey’s followed Abigail as she led them towards the sun room, pointing out recent renovations and historical decor as they walked.
“Now this is the sun room.”
As the Laheys stepped into the room, even Mr. Lahey pulled the cell phone away from his face and stared in awe of the centuries-old craftmanship. Beautiful custom windows spanned across the room, letting in tiny beams of light peeking through the clouds. Hand-carved wood furnishings were elegantly placed and fresh flowers made the air smell sweet. After taking in the sights, Mr. Lahey’s gaze quickly returned to his phone screen as if something more wonderful was contained inside.
“Isn’t it just beautiful?” Abigail inquired.
“It’s quite lovely – though, I do wish it were a bit larger,” Mrs. Lahey responded.
The non-committal response shook Abigail and she knew she had to step up her game. The two mouths she had to feed and little bodies to clothe were only going to get bigger. 4-year-old Dara and 7-year-old Felix rarely left her with enough funds on her card for a frappacino. And her debt was beginning to pile up. This sale meant everything to Abigail. She had to provide for this family she was left to raise. No one else would do it for her and sometimes she spoiled them to make up for having to file a restraining order against their father. .
“Next we’ll see the living and dining area.” Abigail said as she stepped out of the sun room, which was on it’s own level along with a library and coffee nook.
She gestured towards the hall, leading them down a small staircase onto the next level toward the living room.
“How many places does the table hold in the dining room?” Mrs. Lahey asked, her voice whiny and high-pitched. “Because our dinner parties bring in dozens of the city’s socialites as you know.”
Mr. Lahey grunted in agreement, typing away on his phone with both of his manicured thumbs. Abigail walked them through the swinging door to the dining area, where a long mahogany table had place settings to seat well over a dozen.
“This antique mahogany long table seats 14 comfortably, and will be a discussion piece for any of your gatherings. It is an original piece for the…”
Abigail’s sentence ended abruptly as another thump came from the upper floors, this time it was directly overhead on the west wing of the house. She wasn’t going to close this deal with whoever was upstairs making that foul smell. She had to close the deal—whatever the cost. Mr. Lahey looked up from his phone at the dining room ceiling as if the intricate ceiling tiles explained the sound.
“Just the noises of a century’s old house, no need to worry. With the restoration complete, the house will settle down nicely.”
Abigail thought hard about the best way to stall. Then she remembered the scones the sellers had left yesterday when dropping off the spare keys.
“Please, feel free to move forward into the kitchen and help yourself to some freshly baked scones and a latte while you look around. I’ll just be right back. ”
Excusing herself, Abigail made her way towards the stairs and made the climb up as quietly as she could. As she moved down the hallway, she felt a cold draft escaping through the open door to the master bedroom. She was relieved to hear the steamer on the Espresso machine making noise from the kitchen.
Good. They’re distracted.
She gripped her hand around the edge of the door and pushed it open gently. Before she could see anything – the draft from the open window carried the most awful stench, permeating her nose. Abigail felt her stomach clench just before she began gag.
Abigail found nothing on the other side of the door. Nothing to explain the smell, except for the open window. Without a moment’s hesitation, she tiptoed towards the farthest end of bedroom, and shut the window. The drapes wavered back into place casting a burgundy hue across the four-post canopy bed that overtook the room. She sighed with resolve, knowing that one crisis had been averted.
Once I’ve sold this place, I think a mani-pedi wouldn’t hurt the budget too much.
As silently as she stole away from her potential buyers, she returned to find Mr. Lahey munching on his second scone, his face glued to an iPad, which she assumed was for his important work material. Mrs. Lahey, on the other hand, sipped her espresso in the breakfast nook, already on the phone with someone discussing the price of fine china to replace the sets currently in the dining room because they “looked worn and overused.”
Well, at least that’s a good sign.
Abigail plastered on her fake facade, full of smiles, and got back into business mode. She continued the tour with a quick viewing of the lower level and the Laheys seemed content with the carport and theater area. Abigail noticed the side glances they flashed each other from time to time though, which were rather unsettling to say the least. Abigail thought back to her queasiness earlier and couldn’t help but fear the worst.
Oh, I really hope I’m not pregnant – that would be the end of my career and my life right now.
She hadn’t seen or heard from her lover, Jacob in almost a month despite numerous attempts to reach out to him. She decided she had better pick up a pregnancy test on the way home just to be safe. The Laheys asked a bunch of boring real estate questions and then they made their way to the staircase to view the top level. The top level of the manor held the Master bedroom, bathroom, several spare bedrooms, as well as an expansive outdoor balcony.
“Please, do watch your step,” Abigail warned as they climbed up the narrow staircase towards the top level. Upon reaching the top, the Lahey’s peaked in each room with mild interest, barely tolerating Abigail’s extensive speeches on the history of each room.
“What’s that smell?” Mrs. Lahey asked. Her upturned nose scrunched further up her narrow face. “It smells like…like…”
The Lahey’s looked at each other and then at Abigail with a displeasure so intense that her heart nearly jumped out of her body and onto the floor. Her palms began to sweat again, but she took a quick breath and focused on the first answer that came to mind.
“A garbage truck,” she said without missing a beat. “The windows were open a moment ago, and let a draft of air through.”
Mrs. Lahey cleared her throat loudly as she left the room, Mr. Lahey close behind. Abigail walked them to the door, confirming that they would be in touch with her within a few days and handing over a business card for further reference.
“Call me if you have any more questions,” she said after they closed the door of the manor in her face.
That was a close one. Rick needs to get down here right now and fix whatever that smell is.
A call to her clean-up guy, Rick, left her with fifteen minutes of investigation before he arrived. She raced up the stairs again, making a straight shot for the master bedroom, where the spoiled meat smell was now pouring from every inch of the room.
She made her way to the bed immediately, getting onto her hands and knees. There was no rotten food or trash underneath the bed that may have been missed. She pulled herself up to sit on the bed and put her head in her hands, sobbing in frustration and letting herself break just for a moment.
Enough crying. Pull yourself together, Abby.
She wiped the tears away with her hands and stood up to resume the search. Making her way over to the master bathroom she searched the shower, behind and inside the toilet, in every drawer and cupboard and found nothing. She came back out and began to search all of the closets. She opened up the first closet which held nothing but some towels left behind by the previous owner.
Making her way to the walk-in closet she pulled open the door and she screamed as someone reached out to grab her.
To be continued……