I woke again to ragged weeping and groaned. I had to get up at five and drive an hour and a half to work. Every night this week the weeping had woken me. I got up, threw on my robe and opened the bedroom door. Just like every other night, it sounded as if it was coming from my left, down the hall toward the stairs. I sighed and padded barefoot along the polished wood floors.
My best friend Mandy thought it was a ghost when I told her about it two days ago.
I snorted. “There’re no such things as ghosts.”
“Seriously, Bridget, haven’t you ever watched Ghost Finders on TV? They find ghosts all the time.”
Mandy believed everything she saw on the internet or saw ragged weeping. “I’ll figure it out.” I wish I felt as confident at two in the morning as I had at lunch in broad daylight. The sound quieted. I stared around the hall, faint moonlight coming in the window at the end. I went back to my bedroom and got the mini-flashlight and the wooden bat I kept handy by the bed. I opened every door on the hallway. Spare room, closets, bathroom, guest room, all were quiet. Downstairs I did the same, opened every door, listening, shining the light inside. No ghosts revealed themselves.
In the kitchen I listened to the appliances. There was just quiet humming, no ragged weeping sounds. I turned on the kitchen light and started the water in the kettle for a cup of tea. Some chamomile would help me get back to sleep. Two-fifteen in the morning, I sighed as I checked the clock over the door to the dining room. The house was so quiet I could hear the gas feeding the flame on the stove.
Maybe the noise was coming from the basement, the water heater or furnace or something. I shoved myself to my feet and opened the basement door. As basements in old houses go, this one was pretty clean and not too scary. In the daylight, anyway. I went down the creaky wooden stairs and walked around. The washer and dryer were silent. The water heater was quiet under its insulated blanket. The furnace made no noise but I noticed the fuel oil gage read a quarter full. I made a mental note to have the furnace guy come and do a service and to get the oil delivery guy to fill the tank before September.
I stopped at the end wall. Built-in rough wooden shelves stretched across three-quarters of the wall and held a variety of things I didn’t know what to do with and some things left over from the previous residents. I stared at the contents of the shelves. I should just have a yard sale and get rid of this stuff. The sound of weeping made me jump. What the hell! Where is that coming from? I backed away from the wall, swallowing hard. There was nothing on the other side of the wall. That was an end wall, just dirt on the other side. The weeping grew louder. I could see a furnace duct running along the ceiling right over the shelves. That’s why I could hear it up in my bedroom. The duct work carried the sound.
The kettle in the kitchen started screaming. I ran up the stairs, turned it off and dialed 911. It was going to be tough to explain.
Long past time for me to get up the police finished demolishing the shelves and uncovered a secret door. I watched from the steps. The cops didn’t want me in the way. I didn’t want to get too close.
Four officers in SWAT gear opened the door and went into the room I could only just glimpse. The men called out and others went in. “Clear, Clear, Clear,” I could hear them calling out. The officer in charge listened to the comms in his ear. He turned to a sergeant nearby. “Call an ambulance. Someone’s alive in there.”
I went back up to the kitchen and made a cup of Earl Grey tea. I was going to need the caffeine. An hour later they brought the stretcher up the stairs, through to kitchen and out the back door. I saw a woman, hair wild around a pasty-white, emaciated face, covered with a blanket. The lieutenant came up after the stretcher.
“What, who?” I babbled incoherently.
He sighed. “Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. She was a research assistant and lover, thirty years ago, to a Doctor Spark. He convinced her to stay with him in the secret room where they were doing experiments. There’s enough LSD down there to stone New York City. There are crates and crates of MRE’s. They’re tapped into the house electricity and water and sanitation.”
“Why did they do it?”
“She wasn’t clear. But the doc died, probably three years ago.” He looked at her. How long have you been here?”
I shrugged. “A year. But the weeping didn’t start until a week ago.”
“A psychiatrist is going to have to figure this out but people don’t do well all alone. She broke, I’m thinking.”
I could hear a buzzing in his ear. “Roger that,” he said. “They’re bringing the body up now.”
I nodded and moved to the far side of the kitchen, my hands wrapped around my tea mug. The medics pulled the gurney up the stairs and through the kitchen. The body seemed small under the sheet. Desiccated, I assumed. My phone rang. “Bridget, you all right? You’re not here yet.”
“I’m fine but I’m not going to be in today. You will not believe what’s happened here. I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
Mandy tried to get more details but I told her I was busy and hung up. No, this was going to be very hard to believe.
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