Blythe raised her head half an inch and peeked outside. Freddie and Neila were hunched down in the bushes about ten feet away, looking for something. A wave of paranoia hit her. Were they ... spying on her?
"One year away from an all-expenses paid business degree, and he's turning his nose up at it," Neila moaned. "He could have gotten a much better job with a university education under his belt. We had such plans for him. What are people going to say?"
"Who gives a shit what they say?" Freddie stood to stretch. "Tell them to mind their own damn business."
"I can't do that as easily as you can," Neila whined.
No, not spying. They carried plastic ice cream containers and were picking berries.
Blythe watched them wander further up the laneway, until the wind caught their voices and she couldn't hear them anymore.
Her stomach roiled and she broke out into a sweat. Suddenly she didn't feel very well.
She eased herself to a standing position and took a step, but her head felt like a big ball of air. The floor came up to meet her and everything went dark.
A Few Dead Men
Sprawled on all fours, Darcy moaned. "Jesus." She rolled gingerly onto her side and stared up into Gio's blurry face. "I'm cursed."
Gio retrieved her glasses. "I think you are." She held up a black object. "You lost a heel and your glasses are broken."
"The shoes I got on sale. Go figure." Her Anne Klein designer glasses however, she'd paid a small fortune for. The lenses were intact but the rose-colored frame was broken at the left hinge. Darcy put them on and they hung off the bridge of her nose at an angle.
Gio hooked her arm in hers. "Come on, let's get you up."
Darcy tested her weight on her right ankle. No sprain, at least. She inspected her hands. They were badly scraped, imbedded with tiny bits of dirt and gravel. The force of the impact had shredded her pantyhose-clad knees, especially the right one which now sported a bloody gash and the mother of all runs.
"Ask me why I wore a dress," Darcy said. "Go ahead, ask me."
"Okay. Why did you wear a dress?"
"Because it's the closest thing I own to black that was clean. And because I figured dark colors are fitting for a funeral. To be respectful, right?"
They continued slowly down the road, Gio's arm still linked in hers and Darcy, half blind, hobbling on a shoe and three quarters.
"Right," Gio said. "Sounds perfectly reasonable."
"But this is Fergus's funeral. Who cares if I wear dark colors? Why should I respect Fergus? He didn't respect me. I should have worn my scarlet red sweater, my flashy silver belt and my white leather pants. At least then I'd have had some knee protection."
The Haunting of Hayley
She heard a knocking sound and got up to open the bedroom door. There was no one there.
The knocking came again, only this time it sounded as though it was coming from the floor below. Hayley flipped on the light switch and went downstairs, worried that maybe Eleanor had fallen again.
When she reached the hall she turned on more lights and pushed the bedroom door open wide enough to see inside. Eleanor was in bed asleep.
Another knock, loud and banging this time. Eleanor stirred. Hayley came all the way in the room so as not to frighten her. She moved to the dresser and flicked on the lamp.
"Eleanor, it's Hayley. Do you hear that knocking?"
Eleanor's eyes opened and she slowly sat up. Tufts of thick grey hair stuck out at all angles from her head. Without her dentures, her cheeks sunk in and her chin disappeared.
"Yes," Eleanor lisped, sounding different without teeth. "Where's that coming from?"
Hayley was about to offer to check out the noise by herself, until she realized doing that would be the equivalent of what the stupid, skimpily clad women did in scary movies.
By then Eleanor was halfway out of the room. "Probably just a broken shutter or something."
A broken shutter Hayley could handle. "It's all right, Eleanor. I can take care of it."
Eleanor ignored her and headed down the stairs to the main floor. Hayley trailed after her, secretly glad she didn't have to check it out on her own. It occurred to her then that maybe she wasn't really cut out for all of this Nancy Drew stuff. Collecting old books and meeting online was one thing; skulking around old houses in the dead of night investigating strange noises was quite another.
The Good the Bad and the Hair
"Boy it smells in here. Do you think it smells in here?"
He glared at me.
"Listen mister, I have to pee really badly," I said. "Could you untie me for just a second while I use the can? I promise I won't be long."
Still the man said nothing. I began to squirm like I had ants in my pants.
"Oh, oh, I really need to pee. I'm on these water pills you know, diuretics? I have high blood pressure. Anyway, when I have to pee I have to seriously pee, you know?"
He rolled his eyes, groaned and shoved himself off the chair. He untied the knots from the chair but left my hands tied behind my back. He squeezed my wrists in an iron grip and pushed me down a long hallway.
The bathroom was the last door on the end and consisted of a chipped sink, a grungy bathtub crawling with mildew and a toilet full of rusty water. If I made it out of this place alive, I was sure I'd end up dying from an infectious disease courtesy of the toilet seat. I decided to take my chances.
"Aren't you going to untie me?"
Instead of an answer, he put both hands on the waistband of my pants and yanked them down my thighs. The elastic band stretched but held firm. He did the same thing to my underwear.
Now I stood naked from the waist down, my pants around my ankles and my hands still tied behind my back, in front of an evil stranger.
Gone Groom Gone
"There," Callie said. "Didn't that shower feel better?"
"No. I feel like I'm betraying Nathan." Serenity yanked the tie tighter on her terry robe, sunk into the chair beside Callie and looked pointedly at Doreen, who was leaning against the kitchen sink eating a strawberry tart. "What's that?"
"Some pastries left over from the reception," Doreen said. She held out a box. "Here, try one. I've switched suppliers; they're incredible."
"I have no intention of eating food from my wedding reception until Nathan is here to share it with me."
"Suit yourself. But by tomorrow these will be stale."
Serenity heaved a melodramatic sigh. "I can't believe I'm back in this drafty old house, in this stupid town, instead of at the Rapture Inn, sitting in a Jacuzzi, drinking champagne and staring out at Niagara Falls."
Callie almost choked on her coffee. "Drafty old house? I know architects who are green with envy that we live in this house. It's the oldest stone structure in Bay County. Coursed rubble limestone with a slate roof."
"You and your rocks and decrepit buildings," Serenity mumbled.
"Stones." Callie pointed a finger at her. "Which, stacked on top of one another, built the house you grew up in. And it isn't decrepit. It's historic."
"And having a shower isn't a crime, Serenity," Callie continued. "I'm sure Nathan wouldn't expect you to wear your wedding dress for days on end."
"Days? You think he'll be gone for days?"