“I know this was my idea, but I take it back. This was a stupid idea,” Rachel said. She unloaded her fifth roll of microfilm and jammed it back into its box. Mary was sitting at the other microfilm reader. She was on her sixth roll.
“No, it was a good idea. You’re just tired.”
They were in the basement of the Snyder Public Library in the microfilm section. The Snyder Daily was only on microfilm. They hadn’t gotten around to digitizing it yet, much to the two girls’ dismay. After the reference librarian had shown them how to work the readers, Rachel and Mary had gotten to work. So far, it had been a long and boring process.
“I am tired, which means it’s time for a break,” Rachel said. “Want to get something to eat?”
“No, I want to keep working.”
“Come on, we’ve been at this for two hours. Your eyes are going to shrivel up like prunes if you don’t take a break.”
“Now I’m hungry.” Mary shook her head. “No, I want to stay here. You go and take a break. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“OK. Do you want me to bring you back anything?”
“No, go on.”
“Mary-” She tried again.
Mary waved her off. “Go. The sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll get back.” Rachel nodded and went towards the stairs.
Mary turned back to the microfilm machine and began scrolling through the pages. In the March 23, 1994 issue, she found a brief obituary for Richard ‘Ricky’ Moore. She looked through the rest of the paper and found the news story on the second page of the local section of the paper. “Hello, Mr. Psychopath AKA Ricky,” she whispered to herself as she began to read the article.
Tragedy struck a small home on Berkmire Street last night around nine o’clock. Neighbors called police when they heard a series of gunshots from the white ranch house. When police arrived on the scene, they found the bodies of Richard and Julie Moore. Detectives say that it appears Richard Moore shot Julie, his wife of four years, twice in the chest and once in the head before turning the gun on himself. Neighbors said the shooting horrified them but that it did not necessarily surprise them. Police had been called to the home several times before that night due to noise complaints caused by violent arguments between the couple. Investigators speculated that the couple weren’t happy and that the husband may have been abusive, but no charges had ever been filed. Police were not offering any conclusions as to why Moore may have killed his wife and himself. No suicide note was found.
The article wasn’t that encouraging. It only gave her the basic story of what had happened, but it was proof for Cy, to show him that she wasn’t making this up. He did have a ghost in his house. She searched through later issues for a follow up on the murder/suicide but didn’t find anything. The newspaper must have thought the story was done.
She began putting away the boxes of microfilm. As she was shutting the drawer, a box of microfilm popped out and dropped to the floor. She bent to pick up the box. When she had the box in her hand, a soft voice whispered, “May 5th, 1995, section B, page 2.”
“Thanks, Mr. Fletcher, but I found what I needed.” She put the box back, but it popped out again as she tried to close the drawer.
“Did you hear me, Mr. Fletcher? I said I found what I needed.” Mary picked up the box again, but as she moved to put the box back for the third time, the drawer slammed shut.
The reference librarian stuck her head around the corner to check on her. Mary waved her hand as if she’d caught it in the drawer. “Sorry,” she mouthed. The reference librarian nodded and went back to her desk.
Mary sat back down at the microfilm machine and loaded the roll that Mr. Fletcher seemed so keen on. “Fine. Show me what you want me to see.”
The roll began unwinding, and the pages whirled across the view screen. She gulped as she got a twinge of motion sickness.
Mr. Fletcher was the original librarian for the Snyder Public Library. He had worked for the library until he died; at least that was what everyone thought. He still corrected shelving, put needed materials in people’s paths, and helped discourage bad behavior. People trying to ‘borrow’ books without checking them out, inevitably tripped before even reaching the security gates, and the books would mysteriously fall out, even out of sealed bags. He’d helped her a few times find books for school projects, so she knew he wasn’t a bad spirit, though today he was being irritatingly helpful.
The microfilm stopped abruptly. On the view screen was a picture of Cy’s house. She skimmed the article, and her jaw dropped.
A gas explosion had occurred two years ago in the home, causing a small fire that partially destroyed the building. A single woman had been living there at the time. The incident severely burned her. Mary got a sick feeling in her stomach. She could just bet that Ricky had sparked the incident, literally. She printed out that article too.
“Thank you, Mr. Fletcher,” she whispered. In response, the drawer for the microfilm quietly slid open.
She had just closed the drawer when Rachel returned. “Back to the coal mines,” her friend announced.
“You can put your canary away. We don’t need to dig anymore.”
“You found something?”
“Yeah.” She handed over the freshly printed sheets. Rachel skimmed them.
She gave a low whistle. “Welcome to psycho-city.”
She gave the articles back. “So Ms. Exorcist, you got a plan?
Mary shook her head. “I don’t know. I think it might be a good idea to talk to this woman, who lived in the house before. She had to have seen or felt something while living there. After that, I guess I’ll talk to Cy.”
“What if Cy doesn’t believe you?”
Mary looked down, not liking the idea. “Then I’ll have to do something on my own.”
“Well that’s all hunky-dory, except for one thing,” Rachel said.
“There’s not enough ‘we’ action. You’re not doing this alone.”
“Rach, you don’t need to be involved.”
She shook her head. “If you’re involved, then I’m involved.”
“But I don’t even know what I’m doing. If you’re involved, it just means two of us are in trouble instead of one.”
“I don’t mind being in trouble if it takes some of it off you.”
“This won’t work.”
Rachel looked at her in disbelief. “And your plan will? Come on, even Batman had a sidekick.”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “And he died, remember?"
Before leaving the library, Mary found Terri Kuwalchek’s address, the previous owner of Cy’s home, simply enough in the phone book. It was a real stroke of luck that she still lived in town. Mary knew that a face-to-face meeting with the woman would be better than something over the phone or through email, after all calls could be blocked, and emails deleted. A person at the door was a little trickier to avoid. Rachel borrowed her dad’s car to drive them to Ms. Kuwalchek’s current address.
Terri Kuwalchek lived in a quiet apartment complex on the outskirts of town. Mary got out of the car with a touch of nervousness. She hadn’t come up with a script yet of what to say. It’d been only an hour since finding the newspaper articles.
“Rach, are you sure we shouldn’t wait a day before doing this?”
Rachel beeped the automatic locks. “Mary, the sooner we have all the facts, the sooner we can go and tell Cy. Delaying is not of the good. Delaying is synonymous with Ricky.”
“But what am I supposed to say? Hi, Ms. Kuwalchek, do you remember that house you lived in that exploded? Yeah, did ya know it was haunted? Oh, you did? Do you happen to remember anything specifically about the haunting? We’re going to do an exorcism. It’s a school project for extra credit.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“She’ll slam the door on us!”
“Fine, leave out the bit about extra credit.”
Mary rolled her eyes and stomped up the stairs.
Ms. Kuwalchek lived in a corner apartment on the second floor. When they arrived, Mary took in the absence of a doormat and any door decorations. It was starkly naked compared to all the doors around it. It looked like no one lived there. She pushed the doorbell and let out a sigh of relief when she heard movement on the other side. The door opened a crack with the chain still drawn. A suspicious eye looked out at the two girls.
“What do you want?”
“Are you Terri Kuwalchek?”
The sliver of face bobbed up and down.
“My friend and I would like to talk to you, Ms. Kuwalchek. My name’s Mary, and hers is Rachel. We’re friends of someone who lives in your previous house 1118 Berkmire Drive.”
“Tell your friend to move out now. Don’t stay there another moment.” The door began to close.
“Why? What’s wrong with the house?” She asked, but the door closed.
Mary looked at Rachel, and her friend shrugged her shoulders. If Ms. Kuwalchek refused to talk to them, they couldn’t do anything. They turned to go but stopped. They heard the chain to the door being drawn off. They turned back.
The door opened fully.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with that house, but it did this to me." They saw the half of her face that the door had hidden. It looked like melted wax.
“Did anything lead up to the explosion?” Mary asked. Her eyes searched desperately for something safe to focus on. She noted Ms. Kuwalchek’s limp brown ponytail, her faded blue sweatshirt, and the tiny silver cross hanging at her neck, but Mary’s eyes kept sliding back to the scarred half of her face. By some luck, the woman had been able to keep her left eye. It looked at Mary with a clear brown intensity.
Terri Kuwalchek stepped back and held the door open. “Come in. I’ll tell you what I know.”
Her living room was sparse to the point of having an unfinished feeling to it, like half the stuff that should be there wasn’t. Mary shuddered at the thought. She and Rachel sat down on the couch. Ms. Kuwalchek sat down in a recliner across from them.
“Before I begin, tell me what you know.”
Mary nodded. “We know that the house was once the home of Ricky Moore, who killed his wife and committed suicide, and when you moved into the house about three years later, a gas explosion occurred that burned you badly.”
Ms. Kuwalchek laughed. She covered the damaged side of her face with her hand. “Yeah, that’s obvious.”
“And since then, no one has stayed in the house for more than a few months. Everyone moves out quickly without giving a good reason why.” She’d picked up that piece of information from Gran, who kept an eye on the neighborhood. The fortuneteller was always on the lookout for possible new clients.
Ms. Kuwalchek nodded her head. It was her turn to speak. “That figures. You don’t want to stay there longer or else he gets you. I found that out the hard way.”
“Ricky,” Rachel breathed.
Ms. Kuwalchek turned to her and nodded her head again. “That’s right. Ricky. I don’t believe in any of that hocus pocus nonsense, but there’s something in that house. It was like it fed off me. I didn’t notice anything at first, but as time went by, I started not to feel right. I felt in danger in my own home. It was really bad in the basement. There’s something down there with eyes that stalks you. That’s where the murder/suicide took place. That’s where the explosion was. I’ll only tell you this one more time. Your friend needs to get out of there. You stay there too long, and Ricky gets you.”
“Thank you, ma’am. You’ve been a big help. We won’t take anymore of your time.” Mary got up. Ms. Kuwalchek showed them to the door.
As the girls were going down the stairs, Ms. Kuwalchek called after them. “Leave while you still can before he traps you. Like he trapped me. I haven’t left my home since what happened, and he’s probably laughing at me, the bastard.” Mary looked up at her, staring her full in the face, until the scars burned into her retinas. Ms. Kuwalchek retreated into her house and locked the door behind her. She wondered how long it would be before the poor woman had another visitor.
When they got back into the car, Rachel asked the question that Mary had been mulling over. “How are we going to tell this to Cy?”
Mary leaned her head against the car door window. Terri Kuwalchek’s face slowly morphed into Cy’s with the scars transposing onto him. “I don’t know.”
“Mary, how does someone get rid of a ghost?”
She rolled her head over to look at her. She’d never gone into real detail about her ‘condition’. Rachel had asked her about it, but she’d always fobbed her off with only vague details. The fact was she thought Rachel might reject her if she knew how real ghosts were.
“I only know how I get rid of them.”
“And how’s that?” she persisted.
Mary straightened in her seat and stared out the windshield as she thought how to answer. She’d never explained how it worked to someone before. “Every ghost I’ve come across is always tied to something. I think of them as anchors. If the anchor is destroyed, the ghost disappears. Anchors are usually something that was close to the deceased. Something treasured like a doll.”
Mary nodded. The doll had been real porcelain and a Christmas gift from Gran. She was the prettiest doll Mary had ever seen. Becca had thought so too, and Becca had never learned how to share. She’d told Gran that the scratches and bruises were from clumsy accidents, but she couldn’t think up lies for the bite marks.
“Yeah, Gran never got me secondhand toys after that.”
She shrugged. “Gran burned the doll, and the ghost left.”
“Did she go to Heaven?”
She shrugged again. “I don’t know where ghosts go when they leave. I just know they don’t come back.”
“So we need to find Ricky’s anchor and destroy it,” Rachel said getting back to the matter at hand.
“Yeah, and we know that it’s in the basement.”
Continue to Chapter 8