The Haunted House – Part 9

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 SEPTEMBER 8, 1972

“Bernard when are you going to give up on that fool idea,” Betsy asked.

“It’s not a fool idea,” he muttered. He’d been trying to build a time machine since he was a kid. Granted, after years of physics classes and reading a library of research, his attempts had become much more sophisticated.

“Sure, love.” Betsy leaned down to where he was hunched over and kissed his neck. “I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning. Do you mind putting the garbage cans out before you come to bed?”

He finally looked up. “Is it Monday already?”

She laughed, “It is.”

“I’ll be darned.” He set down his screwdriver and went to take the cans out to the curb. Years later he would swear he’d only been gone for 30 seconds. He hadn’t even had time to pick up one of the cans, let alone drag it down the long driveway to the curb.

There was what sounded like a huge explosion from inside. All the windows in the house shattered and cascaded to the ground. He raced across, crunching the glass with his slippers, terrified of what he would find inside.

There, blown clear from the office door and down the hall was Betsy lying in a crumpled heap. The door to his office was open and a dim blue light scanned across the door.

“What happened?” he shouted, racing to Betsy’s side.

He tried to wake her, but it was too late. She had blood running down the side of her head and wasn’t breathing.

By the time the ambulance came, the blue light had faded. They assumed she’d fallen down the stairs and he didn’t correct them. Maybe he should have.

When the police came they thought it was him. Accused him of atrocities that he’d never thought of, let alone done. He loved her dearly. He was lost without her. But they arrested him anyway. But with no evidence to convict, he was released to his now empty home.

It took some time to realize that every time he entered his house he was jumping forward a month in time. He rarely left his house anyway so people didn’t immediately notice he’d been gone. It wasn’t until the bill collectors showed up that he realized he’d missed months of payments in only a few days.

But for the first time since Betsy had died, he felt the dark cloud of hopelessness lift. He’d done it! He’d created a time machine of sorts. If he could create something to take him forward, then surely he could invent something to take him back. He could save her!

The Haunted House – Part 8

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Sarah returned to the house the next day ready for a confrontation. She walked up the driveway, but stopped short when she saw a van parked in front of the house with the name Modern Knights emblazoned across the side.

“I thought I fired you?” Mr. Shultz said, standing in the doorway signing the invoice from the security company.

“Excuse me?” the man in front of him asked.

“Not you,” Mr. Shultz said, flicking his hand at the man as though waving away a fly.

“I came to get my job back,” Sarah said.

He laughed. “Not a chance.”

“If only you could figure out how to get back, then you could undo everything.” Sarah said, smiling slightly.

Mr. Shultz signed and handed back the pen and clipboard to the security installer. “I don’t have time for your riddles. You realize that I’m doing all this,” he gestured to the man and the van in front of him.”Because of you. Again.”

Sarah smiled. “Yes. And I did notice the shutters when I arrived earlier. They’re lovely. I’ll bet they keep out any more would-be campers.”

He frowned at her. “Is there anything in particular you came to say, or just your general desire to force me to continue to increase my security?”

The security system installer looked back and forth between before ripping the paper of his clipboard. “Have a nice day.”

“I just wanted you to know, I know. I figured out what happened to my missing months. Why you don’t seem to age.” She smiled as the van drove away behind her.

“Really?” he licked his upper lip. “Am I supposed to be scared at this point? Terrified that you’ve unearthed some deep-dark secret?”

She just smiled back.

“Because you haven’t. You ran away last time and blamed me. Police came, interviewed me, searched my house. Did you know that? Now you’ve been fired for being an absolutely terrible assistant and what? You’re going to blame me for that too?”

“No,” Sarah said. “Not at all. I’m going to blame the time portal you’ve created in the doorway of your office.”

He gave a loud, barking laugh. “You’re insane!”

“Perhaps.” She smiled. “But you need me. See, I’m willing to bet that that time portal only goes one way. So you keep jumping forward, but you have no way to get back. Which means if something goes wrong during the month you’ve jumped, you can’t undo it. You need someone taking care of things while you’re gone. Who are you going to trust? Like I say, you need me. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Then she turned and walked away.

The Haunted House – Part 7

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It took some time to calm her mom down when she got home, Thankfully,her mom’s friend Bernice had stepped in and come over every day Sarah had been missing. The downside was that she was forced to answer an avalanche of questions.

She decided to use Bernice’s extreme curiosity to her advantage. Together, they began to do some research on the history of the house and just who Mr. Shutz was.

There were a multitude of articles in the local paper during the 70’s about the supposed murder of Betsy Murphy and the disappearance of her husband Bernard. Initially, Betsy’s picture was splashed across the front page. Then as the story lost steam, it fell deeper and deeper into the back pages and most often came without a picture.

But then, in a local interest piece, exactly one year after the murder, the paper did an anniversary piece. This time, the picture featured both Betsy Murphy and her husband Harold. Although the photo was a bit grainy, he was the spitting image of Mr. Shultz. How was it possible? He was the same age in the photo from the ‘70s as when she saw him both when she was a child and the other day.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Sarah said to Bernice as they were discussing everything over tea. “Maybe Mr. Shultz is their son?”

“They didn’t have any kids that anyone knew about.” Bernice said. “Not unless they were hiding him in the basement. Maybe he’s their nephew?”

“Maybe,” Sarah said. “Pretty strong resemblance for a nephew.

“Well, you already know my theory,” Bernice said, folding her hands on the table of in front of her.

“What? That’s he’s really Bernard Murphy’s ghost? Get real, Bernice. There’s no such thing as ghosts. And even if there were, he was far too real and opaque to be a ghost.” She frowned.

Bernice just shrugged her shoulders again. “There’s a reason that house is believed to be haunted all these years. Mark my words. He’s a ghost.”

But Sarah wasn’t listening anymore. Something had just snapped into place. She had another idea forming.

She stood up suddenly from the table and announced she had to go. Her idea fit both the mystery behind the ageless man and her missing two months, She had to go back to the house.

The Haunted House – Part 6

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Déjà vu hit hard and she was instantly thrown back to when she was a child. She turned around to see Mr. Shultz sitting in a chair staring at her through the open doorway.

He stood slowly and walked towards her, but stopped on his side of the door frame. “I knew I should have fired you the moment I saw you.”

She stood frozen in the office. She couldn’t understand how he had appeared so suddenly and quietly and with a chair that definitely hadn’t been there when she first walked in.

“No matter,” he said. “You’re fired now.”

She couldn’t be fired. She was so close to having answers. She didn’t move.

“C’mon. Time to leave. Chop-chop.” He clapped his hands as he motioned her through the door.

When she still didn’t make a move to leave, he sighed in impatience. “Seriously, Sarah, this is the second time I’ve caught you breaking into my office. Don’t make me call the police,” he said, quietly.

She narrowed her eyes and walked towards him. “So you do recognize me?”

He shrugged. “Not at first. But once you broke into my office again, you triggered a memory. Clearly Andrea didn’t do her research on my new assistant as well as I paid her to.”

“What happened to me?” she asked. “Why can’t I remember the time I was gone.”

He shrugged. “You tell me. You broke in, then you ran away.”

“I was a gone for a month!” she said. “How do you explain that?”

“What you do with your time, and where you spend it is none of my business. Now go.”

“Alright, let’s talk about you. That was twenty years ago! Explain how you haven’t aged a day!”

“Suntan lotion and great skin care.” He smiled while simultaneously glaring with his eyes

She glared back at him as she walked by him. “I will figure out what happened to me.”

“I hope you find the answers you’re looking for, but they simply aren’t here.” He shut the front door firmly behind her. Then, she heard the bolt snap shut.

As she walked home, a feeling of dread slowly fell over her like molasses dripping down, dragging her heart to her toes. She’d been fired. She’d never been fired before. And she still didn’t have any answers.

The phone in her purse started buzzing. She yanked it out and saw her text messages, emails, and voicemail blinking. The numbers slowing racking up with each ping. The last time her phone had done that was when she’d gone to Mexico and come back into the country. Her phone had gone ballistic trying to catch up on two weeks worth of missed messages.

But she when she looked at the screen now she barely registered the increasing tally. She only had eyes for the date. It was exactly one month later than she thought. Somehow, she’d just lost another month. A smile slowly spread across her face. Maybe she was closer to some answers than she thought.

The Haunted House – Part 5

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Standing in front of her was the man from her nightmares. She has never forgotten his face. He, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to recognize her. While he appeared to have stayed the same age, she has grown up and didn’t look much like she did as a child.

He snapped the note off the door and skimmed through the letter frowning more and more the further he read.

She stood there awkwardly twisting her hands in front of her, unsure what she should do.

Finally, he said, “I suppose you were the best Andrea could find?”

Sarah just stared back in shock.

“You’ve been told not to go in my office?”

She nodded.

“Alright, well, we’ll see how this goes then.” With that, he nodded his head, opened the office door and walked through, shutting it behind him.

No sure what else to do, she carried on with her day, while doing her best to keep an eye on the door in case he came back out. She didn’t see him all day. At 4 pm, just before she left, she knocked on the door.

“Mr. Shultz, I’m off. Is there anything else?”

Silence.

She knocked again. Still nothing. Tentatively, she tried the handle but found it was locked as was the secondary door. Shrugging her shoulders, she left for the day.

She didn’t see him again for another month. After that, he showed up every month, stayed for a few days, and then left for another month.

She had been working there for six months when she finally decided to break into his office. She had been through every other part of the house and had not found what she’d been looking for. She tried to tell herself that she didn’t care about this job and that it was all about finding answers, but she realized that she was enjoying it in spite of herself.

She spent an entire week researching how to pick locks on Youtube, and practicing on the other doors in the house. The last time she’d seen Mr. Schultz had been 2 weeks ago and she knew that it would be another two weeks before she saw him again.

Just to be on the safe side, she slipped off her shoes to walk as silently as possible towards the door. Her hands were shaking as she tried to pick the lock. It took her longer than usual and her hands were sweating by the time she managed to get the pins to align.

The door slowly creaked open. Standing just outside the doorway, she noted that it looked similar to how she remembered as a child. Papers and books were scattered everywhere. The odd drawings she had seen as a child, she now recognized as blueprints. But blueprints to what? She walked inside to get a closer look, but the moment she stepped through the doorway, the clutter vanished. Every surface was instantly swept clean and the books on the bookshelves went from haphazard piles to all standing erect and orderly.

The desk was cleared with only a couple picture frames on the surface. She reached out to pick one up, but she stopped short when a voice rang out behind her.

“Did you find what you were looking for, Sarah?”

The Haunted House – Part 4

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Things moved quickly after that dinner. The next day, Bernice knocked on their front door bright and early announcing that she was there to take Sarah over to the mansion to introduce her to Andrea, the assistant Bernice insisted Sarah was a shoo-in to replace.

Feeling somewhat eager herself, Sarah willing accompanied Bernice and found herself at the front door of the house that held so much mystery for her as a child. It looked much the same as she remembered. All of the windows were covered, although now it was with locked shutters rather than boarded with clumsy 2 x 4’s. She had a hunch that her childhood break and enter had a little something to do with this change.

The grass was freshly mown, the flower beds that lined the front of the house were weed-free, and the paint on the house looked fresh. Bernice strode up to the door and rapped the knocker. The door opened and she immediately introduced Sarah to the Andrea. Andrea peered at her over her thick-lens glasses for a few long, awkward moments. Finally, she nodded, reached out her hand for Sarah’s resume. She read through it thoroughly while they stood in the open doorway. So far she had not uttered a single word to either of them.

Finally, she lifted her head, nodded, and said, “I’ll be in touch. Thank you.” Then she shut the door. Sarah looked over at Bernice questioningly. Bernice just gave her a encouraging smile. “I think that went well.”

The next day Sarah was called in for an interview. The following day she was hired. The day after than she began training.

“It is important that the house is kept ship-shape at all times. You never know when Mr. Shultz will show up.”

Andrea took her on a tour of the whole house. Room after room was spotless and looked unused. They finished at Andrea’s office, now Sarah’s office. “We have a landscaping crew that shows up once a week. It is your responsibility to ensure they are paid. No one is allowed inside the house unless you’ve hired them and they are to be closely monitored. You are not to bring friends inside under any circumstances.” Andrea showed her all of the files and when things needed to be paid. “If you need Mr. Shultz to sign anything, you need to let him know at least a month in advance by putting a note on his office door.”

“Doesn’t he have email?” she asked.

“No,” Andrea said. They left the office and walked to the other side of the house to the room that Sarah had found as a child. She remembered where the hole in the wall had been. Now, instead of a hole, it was another door.

“Now, this is his office. You are not to go inside.” She stuck a note on his door then turned to her. “He already knows I’m leaving and I’ve explained who you are in this note so he’ll know who you are when he gets back.”

Sarah stared back confused. “Is he in there now?” she whispered.

“Of course not. Don’t be stupid.”

“But how’s he going to see your note if he’s not here?”

“Your job is to do what you’re told. He’ll see it. That’s all you need to know.”

They walked to the front door. “Alright, you have my number in case you need it. I’ll be in town for another couple of months and then I am off on an around-the-world-cruise. Feel free to phone anytime until then.”

With that she stepped outside leaving Sarah staring at the open front door, unsure where to start first.

Over the next couple of weeks she feel into a nice routine. She was always a quick worker and managed to get everything done in the mornings which left the afternoons free to explore and snoop. But after two weeks she was no closer to discovering the mystery of her missing month than before she started.

She had only one room left to search and that was the office. She stood staring at the locked doors trying to figure out her next move.

She still hadn’t seen any sign of her new boss when suddenly there was a great crash and someone muttering and cursing. The door flew open and out stepped the man from her past.

He was still oddly dressed in 70’s apparel and sported a thick brown mustache. He seemed to be the exact same age that he was before. He stopped short when he saw her.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”

She just stared, mouth agape, back at the man that had filled so many of her nightmares.

The Haunted House – Part 3

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PRESENT

Sarah slammed the car door and stood for a moment in her parents’ driveway staring up at the house she hadn’t seen since she graduated. She hated this town and the second she’d been able to leave, she hadn’t come back. Until now.

She was close with her parents, but they always came to visit her. But that had been before her dad died. She opened her trunk and pulled out the duffle bag she stuffed with her essentials. The rest of her things were coming by moving van next week.

Halfway up the driveway her mom, Elise, opened the front door and gingerly made her way down the stairs with her cane.

“Welcome home, hun!” Elise raised a shaky arm up to hug her.

“Hey Mom.” She kept her arm wrapped around Elise’s shoulder as they slowly shuffled back into the house. She felt her body cringed as she walked inside the house that had a felt like a prison all those years ago hiding from the gossip and prying eyes.

“Have you had dinner yet?” Sarah asked.

“Um, no.” Elise thought for a second. “No, not yet.”

“Okay, how about I cook us something.” She left her bag on the stairs to take up later and together they walked into the kitchen.

“Mom, were you cooking something?” Sarah asked, seeing that one of the burners was red hot.

“No,” Elise shook her head and sat down at the kitchen table. She clasped her hands in front of her and smiled at her.

Sarah turned the stove off and tried to quell the ache in her heart. Her dad had told her Elise was getting worse, but she didn’t understand just how bad it was until he was gone. He recently died of a heart attack and with her dad no longer around to keep things running smoothly, Elise seemed to be going downhill rapidly.

She opened the fridge and found half a jar of pickles and a carton milk.

* * *

An hour later, they were sitting in Elise’s favourite restaurant when a couple of her mom’s friends wandered over to their table.

“Well if it isn’t little Sarah! How long did you disappear this time?” Bernice chuckled.

Sarah gave a tight-lipped smile, but didn’t say anything.

“Don’t tease her, Bernice,” Jackie said, patting Sarah’s hand. “Some things are better forgotten.”

Sarah still didn’t know what happened to her for that month she disappeared when she was a kid. As far as she was concerned, it just evaporated. She couldn’t even pinpoint when the gap would have been. She remembered everything from the moment she turned away from Sam and everyone else to go into the house, to the time she ran back out and sprinted home. To her, nothing was missing in her memory.

Because of that, everyone thought she was lying. Some people thought she ran away from home to be with some boy. Others, like Elise, thought she’d been kidnapped, but whatever happened to her was so traumatic, she’d simply blocked it out. Still others just thought she was doing it for the attention and had purposefully disappeared for a month to make people notice her.

To her chagrin, the women pulled up chairs and continued gabbing with her mom. Sarah let her mind drift while they talked. It wasn’t until the end of the meal when the attention swung around to her again.

“I expect you’re looking for a job then, if you’ve moved here,” Bernice said, looking pointedly at her.

Sarah refocused on the conversation and nodded. “In the next few days I’ll start asking around to see who’s hiring.”

“Don’t bother. I have the perfect job for you,” Bernice said, a grin spreading across her face. “The mansion is hiring a new assistant!”

“What?” Sarah asked, confused.

“You remember that old fuddy-duddy who never tells us anything about what’s going in that house? Well, she’s retiring and she’s asking around looking to hire her replacement.” Bernice was nearly shaking with excitement. She reached out and clasped Sarah’s hands as Jackie leaned forward. “You could apply for it and tell us everything!”

Sarah sat back in her chair stunned. She had a different thought. Maybe she could go back and finally figure out what happened during that missing month. Whatever had happened, had happened in that house.