These characters belong to me alone. The story is based on true events. This concerns a haunting that took place in New Orleans. There is a loving lesbian couple living in the house. There may be some showing of affection between them, perhaps even sex. If this offends you or is illegal in your neck of the woods, then scat! You others sit back and enjoy.
A Haunting in New Orleans
My thanks to Bookie for helping me catch my typos.
The story you're about to read is true. Names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent. Do you believe evil has an address?. . . . I do.
Tommie stared in awe at the old mansion with its broken shutters and peeling paint. "Ummm, Jillian, how did you find out about this place?"
"Don't you love it? I was just driving around the neighborhood, looking for "For Sale" signs, and there it was, all abandoned. I peeked in the windows. It doesn't seem like anyone has lived here in a very long time. But, it's so charming. So, I took a chance, went to the courthouse and looked up the owners, called them and they said to make an offer. So, can we?"
"Can we what?"
"Make an offer."
"Don't you think I should see the inside before we make an offer?"
"Yeah. Sure. Of course. I picked up the key." Jillian pulled the key from her pocket. "Let me give you the grande tour." The petite blonde trotted up the front stoop onto the veranda, her partner shaking her head and slowly following behind.
The massive front door creaked open, letting out the stale air and drawing in the sunshine of the cool fall afternoon. Jillian ran around opening windows and drawing back curtains until the old house shone with light and dust motes.
Tommie stood in the doorway taking it all in. A large crystal chandelier hung over the dusty cypress floors of the huge round foyer, with a widely arched staircase to her left and a set of original pocket doors to her right that opened to the living room. "Wow!" Tommie exclaimed in a stage whisper.
Jillian took her hand and pulled her into the living room. The fireplace had been converted from coal to wood, a sign that the house had been lived in at least within the last thirty years. Beyond the living room, through another set of pocket doors, was the dining room. An eight foot tall door led out of the dining room into a hall connecting it to the kitchen, a half bath and the back door. Or, you could step back through the living room to the foyer, which also joined that hallway.
"Before I show you the kitchen, you've got to see the study." Jillian directed Tommy back into the foyer and a short way down the hall to an eight foot door on the left. She opened the door and stepped back so Tommie could get the full effect.
"It's impressive." Tommie stated, as she slowly entered the round room. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling in ornate cypress bookshelves, which surrounded a fireplace with a huge marble mantle to protect from fire. Directly across from the door was one long, narrow window, its stained glass still intact.
"Awesome, isn't it?" Jillian said.
"I've only seen rooms like this in the movies. I can see Sherlock Holmes smoking his pipe in a wing-backed chair at the fireplace. Honey, we can't afford this house." Tommie stated.
"You don't know that for sure. The owners seemed very anxious to sell, like they wanted to get rid of it. I can't imagine why. It will be beautiful once we spruce it up."
"Well, let's just say it has potential. Now, where is the kitchen?" Tommie inquired.
Jillian led her partner to the kitchen door and grimaced. "Now, Tommie, I want you to keep an open mind. This is the only room that really needs a bit of work."
Tommie blew hot air out of pursed lips. "No! No way! We'd have to tear out the entire kitchen and start from scratch. It's gonna cost us at least $15,000.00 just to make it functional. The cabinets alone will cost nearly that."
"Not if you make the cabinets. That is what you do for a living in that dark, dank warehouse of yours." Jillian complained.
"But, Jillian, people pay me good money to make custom cabinets." Tommie groused.
"So, you can't take a few weeks to build cabinets for your own family? That would save us a bundle, right there." Jillian explained, then looked up into baby blue eyes and batted long golden lashes.
"Awww, man. Jillian! This house is a disaster area and we've only seen half of it. "
"Actually, you haven't even seen that much yet. Come on, Tommie, before you say "No" at least let me show you the rest of the house."
Tommie shook her head, placed her hands on her hips, then gave in. "Ok."
"Great! Wait until you see the size of the bedrooms." Tommie followed her partner up the gracefully curved staircase to the wide cypress landing of the second floor. The twelve foot ceilings were covered in spider webs and the smell of stale air and mildew made Tommie turn up her nose. The four bedrooms and two full baths were quite large. Closets were scarce, but there was abundant space for wardrobes and armoires. At least the eight foot windows were not broken. All the floors appeared to be cypress, which Tommy figured was the only reason the house was still standing. 'Termites hate cypress.'
"Now, I've saved the best for last. Come on." Jillian hurried down the stairs, through the kitchen, down the rear stoop into the fenced backyard, and stopped in front of a garconier in fairly good condition. "Your new studio. You can sell the warehouse and work at home. It has to be 500 square feet and has 12 foot ceilings. There's a three quarter bath, relatively new, and a window unit that both heats and cools. . . So, what do you think?" Jillian looked up at her partner, her eyes twinkling with excitement.
"Now, Jillian, honey, this is an awful lot of responsibility we'd be taking on here. Getting the kitchen torn out, possibly replacing all the wiring, painting the whole house, inside and out. You know, that all costs money. The utility bills alone on a house this size have to be astronomical."
"But, it's so close to Loyola that I can ride my bike to work. You could sell the warehouse and use the money to pay for the renovation. And, I think the owner might take a ridiculously low offer. The house has been sitting here for a long time."
"That's another thing. Why has the house been abandoned like this? This is a very "in demand" area. You do realize that we are on Prytania. This is Uptown New Orleans. So, why wouldn't anyone buy this house unless there is something terribly wrong with it?"
"I can't answer that. Maybe it was meant for me. We could have it inspected. Then, if there is too much structural damage to support renovating, we walk away. Fair enough?"
* * *
"I still can't believe it's ours." Jillian stated as she gazed upon the boxes and boxes filled with their belongings, which were left stacked in their appropriate rooms by the moving company.
"I can. My back's killing me." Tommie groaned.
"Why don't we go upstairs, crawl into that nice new whirlpool tub we paid so much for and I'll massage you where it hurts." Jillian purred, running her fingers through her partner's long dark locks.
"Honey, I hate to say it, but I think a hot bath and back massage are all I'm up for tonight. I'm whipped." Tommie dragged herself from the sofa that was haphazardly placed in the living room and headed for the staircase.
"That's what I get for marrying an older woman." Jillian teased, then joined her partner. "Hey, are you picking up Scruffy from your Mom's tomorrow or am I? Or, should we leave her there until we get all this stuff unpacked?"
"Honey, I'm rather fond of our dog. If we wait until we're unpacked, she'll forget what we look like."
"You've got a point there. I'll pick her up after my 3 o'clock class and bring a pizza home for supper."
"Sounds good to me. I'll be unpacking the kitchen, then I'm afraid I'll have to start work on my new commission. You'll have to take over most of the unpacking chores after that. But, at least you'll be able to eat with real plates and utensils."
"Hey, you know what?" Jillian asked, a look of awe on her dirt-smudged face.
"What?" Tommie asked as she stepped out of her dirty jeans and sweatshirt and into the steaming hot water of the tub.
"This is our house. All freshly painted, wired and fancy new kitchen." Jillian stated with pride of ownership.
"I knew that. I'm the one that completed that beautiful kitchen in only three weeks. I've never seen so many dead cockroaches in my life as I did behind those old cabinets. The last owners must have been pigs. Gross!" Tommie made a sour face and shook her head.
"Yuck!" Jillian slid behind her partner, took the soap and began washing her back with strong, soothing strokes as Tommie moaned in appreciation. "You are one big knot."
"I know. Helping move my equipment into my new workshop was a trial. But, we got it done. I'm all set for tomorrow to get back to work. I've got to pay the painter, plumber, electrician and, let's see, who did I miss?" Tommie chuckled.
"I love you, Thomasina McKenzie." Jillian hugged her partner.
"I love you, too, Jilly. Now, let's go to bed."
* * *
"Oh, sweet Minerva!" Tommie exclaimed as her back balked at her efforts to crawl out of bed in the morning.
"Sore?" Jillian asked as she dressed for her day.
"Just a tad."
"You'll feel better once you've had your coffee. I'm glad I remembered to set the automatic pot before we went up to bed last night. I need my caffeine IV."
"I'll take mine with cinnamon and Advil." Tommie groaned as she slipped into her jeans and Mickey Mouse sweatshirt.
"You're getting old, my love."
"I am not. Forty is not old." Tommie complained.
"You are absolutely right, dear. Forty is not old. You're just a natural old curmudgeon. That's why you married me, to keep you young." Jillian hugged her partner. "Now, I've got to run or I'll be late for class. You have a great day. I'll try to make it home for lunch, Ok?"
"Ok. I'll miss you." Tommie leaned down to kiss her wife.
* * *
Tommie finished unpacking the kitchen and had broken the boxes down and stacked them in the back yard. After taking a coffee break, she ventured out to the new workshop and her next project.
Time passed quickly as Tommie concentrated on her measurements and saws, making certain each cut was smooth and perfectly angled. Looking at the clock on her wall, she realized it was time for a lunch break. She washed off the sawdust, grabbed her jacket and locked up.
'Alrighty, I think a spinach salad with a few lightly grilled jumbo shrimp will hit the spot.' Tommie turned on the grill and proceeded to create in her new kitchen.
Just as her gourmet salad creation was complete, Tommie heard her partner in the dining room. "Hey, Jilly. I'm glad you could make it home for lunch. I made a great salad." Tommie bellowed as she went to the dining room with the salad bowl to greet her partner. But, no one was there.
"Jillian? Honey, where'd you go off to?" Tommie set the salad bowl down and walked through the dining room to the living room, which she also found empty. She proceeded out of the pocket doors into the foyer, where she found her wife setting down her books. "Oh, there you are. I was starting to think I was hearing things."
"Hey, love. Something smells good. What has the maestro created for our lunch?"
"I told you, I made us a great salad with grilled shrimp. I love that grill on the new stove."
"You did? I guess I didn't hear you. But, it sounds yummy and I'm starved."
* * *
"Jillian, where is Scruffy?" Tommie inquired after their dog.
"She's been hiding under our bed ever since I brought her home. I guess she doesn't know where she is. She'll get used to it."
"That is really weird. She's never been the nervous type." Tommie stated as she got ready for bed.
"Considering that there are any number of breeds in our little girl's background, maybe there is a nervous Nellie in there somewhere." Jillian joked.
Tommie laughed. "I guess you're right. She'll come out when she's good and ready. But, I'm going to bed. Join me?"
"You bet. I'm beat." Jillian crawled into bed in front of her wife and fell quickly asleep.
* * *
Tommie awoke with a jerk to a cacophony of barking and growling coming from the first floor. "What the Hell is going on!?!" She exclaimed.
Jillian sat straight up in bed. "I don't know. Maybe there is a burglar in the house. . . Oh, Tommie, I'm scared."
"Don't be scared, honey. The burglar alarm would have gone off. I'll go check it out."
"No! Tommie, please call the police." Jillian was becoming frantic.
"Jillian, calm down. If it will make you feel better, I'll call the cops."
* * *
"We've checked out the house and grounds and haven't found any sign of an intruder." Officer Miller stated.
"Thank you, officer. I can't tell you how much we appreciate it. The dog's never acted that way before. We just moved here. I guess she's a bit upset by it all." Tommie said, as she watched her partner comforting their pet.
"No problem, ma'am. Better safe than sorry. I checked your alarm and it's working just fine. If you hear or see anything suspicious, don't hesitate to call."
"Thanks, again, officer." Tommie closed and bolted the front door.
"Yeah?" Tommie leaned against the door and yawned.
"I know. Let's just go to bed. We'll keep the door closed so the dog won't have a nervous breakdown and we can get some sleep."
The family retired to the master bedroom for a quiet night's rest.
* * *
Two weeks passed filled with unpacking and organizing. Scruffy stayed at Tommie's side at all times, except when she ventured into the living room or dining room. Then, the hapless canine would whimper at the door until retiring to the library, where her bed was kept cozy and warm by the fireplace.
Cognizant of her wife's disdain for surprise parties, Jillian carefully planned Tommie's birthday party with her partner's eager participation. They worked together in the kitchen, Tommie cooking and Jillian cleaning up the mess after her.
"Why is it that all good cooks leave total disaster in their wake?" Jillian jibed.
"Culinary genius like mine cannot abide such mundane chores. It stifles the creative juices."
"Uh. . .huh."
Guests began to arrive shortly after 7 p.m. A few teachers from the University, several members of Tommie's circle of antique dealers and artists, her best friend since college, Camille and her husband Seth. Tommie's brother, William, who ran the family antique store/art gallery/coffee house on Magazine street, and his pregnant wife Dana, a librarian at Loyola Law School, arrived late. The Merlot did flow as the food Tommie had worked so hard on for hours was devoured with relish.
"Thomasina, you are the best cook in New Orleans. You missed your calling. You could be the head chef at Commander's instead of toiling away, restoring the past beauty of antiquity." Camille complimented.
"I thank you, my friend. Has anyone ever told you, you sound like a drama coach when you're drunk?" Tommie chuckled.
"Do not." Camille, a drama coach at the University, whined.
"Ladies and gentlemen. We, the friends and family of Tommie and Jillian McKenzie decided to commemorate this historic occasion by pitching in our talents and monies to present them with a very special gift. Seth, will you do the honors? This will only take a minute." William, the spokesperson for the group said as Seth ran onto the veranda where the gift had been left earlier.
"Here it is. Happy birthday, Tommie." William and Seth both exclaimed.
"Wow! Oh, guys, that's incredible. Thank you so much." Tommie gushed as she admired the portrait Seth, a popular local artist and sculptor, had painted, and which the others had pitched in to frame for her. It was large and lovely and would fit perfectly above the mantle in the living room. The portrait was painted from a photograph William had taken of Tommie and Jillian at their sixth anniversary party the year before. They looked young and very much in love.
"Oh, Seth, it's beautiful." Jillian's tears slipped freely down her cheeks. "It's the best present we've ever gotten. Thank you."
"Hey, it's my present." Tommie jibed.
"Will you share it with me, then?"
"Yeah. If you're really nice to me tonight after these bums leave." Tommie joked.
"Eww, I've heard about girls like you." William teased.
"And, it's all true." Tommie cracked up, feeling the effects of her wine.
"Hey, Tommie, do you think you could put the heater on? It's freezing in here." Camille complained as her teeth were chattering.
"Honey, it really is cold in this room. There must be a draft coming from the fireplace flue." Jillian observed.
"I'll turn the heat up a notch and check out the problem tomorrow." Tommie said.
Seth stood up and announced. "I think it's time for us to leave these lovebirds alone. I have it on good authority that they have yet to christen their beautiful new home, if you get my drift. So, let us bid our friends adieu."
"You guys have been watching the BBC again, haven't you?" Tommie was going to complain of their leaving so soon, but thought better of it when she felt Jillian's hand gently graze her arse, causing a slow burn in her belly. It was true that they'd been too tired from unpacking and organizing the house to devote any time to their romantic life, but that was about to change, thanks to the wine and their great attraction for each other.
The hostesses bid their guests goodnight after everyone helped pick up the dirty dishes and the dishwasher was loaded. So, with a clean house, full bellies and growing lust, the lovers retired to their bedroom.
* * *
"Hi, William. What have you brought me?" Tommie greeted her twin brother, who had arrived in the van he used to transport the valuable antiques that their family was known for.
"Oh, you're gonna love this one, Sis. It's a Queen Anne, solid cherry, armoire, circa 1850. Dana and I found it at an estate sale in Lafayette. Wait till you see the patina on this baby." William ran around to the back of the van and showed off his great find.
Tommie jumped up into the cargo area, removed the canvas from the armoire and admired this new piece of the past. "It's beautiful William. Just gorgeous." She rubbed her hand lovingly over the cool deep wine colored wood, wondering what secrets it had to tell of the elegance and grace of a day gone by. "I've never seen one quite this ornate. Look at those lines. Whoever built this was an artist. I think you have a one of a kind here. Is it signed?"
"Yes, it is. On the bottom." William stated with pride.
"Wow. What's inside?" Tommie inquired as she gently turned the skeleton key and opened the doors. "Mmmmm, cedar. I love that smell."
"Yep. The whole cabinet is lined with it."
"So, what do you want me to do? All she seems to need is a good rub down and a fat price tag." Tommie grinned.
"I know, I was on my way to the shop to do just that, but I had to stop and gloat. I also thought you might be interested in copying it. This is a unique style. Our clientele should eat it up."
"William, I do like the way you think, little brother. Leave it here for a week, I'll make the molds and even rub it down for you." Tommie smiled, knowing her clients, who could otherwise not afford such a lavish piece, would still pay handsomely for a fine reproduction. And she made the best, using all the original woods. Few could tell the difference. She knew her work could bring a much larger price tag if she passed it off as the original antique, but she didn't have it in her to deceive. Still, she knew she was one of the finest "carpenters" in the city, if not the country, and her work was much sought after by the public.
After carefully unloading the armoire, Tommie invited her brother to stay for lunch.
"A baloney sandwich!?! Geesh, sis, as much as you brag on your cooking I thought I'd at least get a bowl of chicken gumbo." William's face fell in disappointment.
"You want chicken gumbo, you have to show up for lunch on Saturday. Mom's coming over with her new boyfriend."
"Oh brother. I think I'll pass. Who's that in the living room? You having the fireplace checked out?" William inquired, leaning through the kitchen door toward the living room doors.
"What? There shouldn't be anyone else here." Tommie strode through the dining room, which gave her a clear view of the entire living room, but saw no one. "You must be seeing things, William. There's no one here but us chickens." She shook her head and went back to eating her lunch.
"But, I could have sworn I saw . . . or maybe heard . . ." At that point Scruffy came running into the kitchen and jumped into Tommie's arms.
"Hey girl. Where have you been hiding? Want some baloney?" The dog ignored the offered treat as she shivered in her master's arms.
"What's wrong with her?" William asked.
"I don't know. She's been acting strangely ever since we moved." Tommie comforted her small companion.
"I think she saw whoever was in your living room." William stated emphatically.
"Oh, you're full of bull. If it will make you feel better, we'll search the house." Tommie sighed in exasperation and led the way through the hall and up the stairs, checking the study, bedrooms and baths with Scruffy cuddled close in her arms. Returning to the first floor, she stepped through the pocket doors and into the now fully furnished living room. As soon as she entered, Scruffy began to whimper, then bark and growl, apparently at the portrait above the fireplace.
"What is she barking at?" William asked, following the dog's gaze.
"I don't know. She hates coming in here. . . What is it, girl? What do you see that we don't?" Tommie walked toward the fireplace as her pet became more frantic. "Feel this." Tommie told her brother, while sweeping her hand back and forth. "It's icy cold here. . . Awww, shit! She peed on me." Tommie exclaimed, holding her trembling dog away from her body. "Go get me a towel out of the bathroom, will you? . . Scruffy, I'm gonna beat knots on your scraggly little head. What'd you do that for!?!"
"Here, Sis." William handed his very irritated sister a towel, then walked up to the portrait. Feeling the cold and shivering, he backed quickly away. "Now, that's weird. Sis, I think you've got a spook."
"Oh, you're as crazy as Scruffy." Tommie wrapped her pet in the towel and went to the kitchen sink to bathe her.
"Ok, but when you are chopped up into little pieces in your sleep, don't say I didn't warn you." William grinned and gave her a maniacal laugh.
"Go to work, William. I need to change clothes and get back to work myself. So, you coming Saturday?"
"Do I have to?" William pouted.
"Misery loves company. Don't you think Dana deserves a decent meal? After all, the poor girl is eating for two. Come on, give Mom a break. It's not like she's cheating on Dad. He's been dead for years. He doesn't care."
"I'll ask Dana if she wants to come and let you know. Ok?"
"Ok. . . See you Saturday." Tommie nodded goodbye to her brother as she had her hands full of wet dog.
* * *
"Here you are." Tommie said as she entered the study and handed her wife a hot mug of café' mocha. "I thought you were going to work in the living room."
"It's too cold in there. We have to have that flue fixed." Jillian complained as she set aside the papers she was grading to accept the proffered cup.
"It's not the flue. I checked." Tommie curled her long frame into the over-stuffed wing back chair.
"Then, what is it?"
"Well, William thinks it's a spook."
"Right. And, how did your brother come to this rather strange conclusion?"
Tommie hesitated a moment, not sure how her wife would react. "Well, something really weird happened today."
Jillian's interest was piqued. "I'm listening."
Tommie proceeded to tell the story of how her clothes got soiled.
"And, you think Scruffy peed on you because there's a ghost in our fireplace?" Jillian grinned, unable to hold back her amusement.
"I know how it sounds, Jillian. But, Scruffy definitely saw something that we couldn't, something that terrified her enough that she peed on me. And, what about the cold?"
"Honey, it's only cold there because something is wrong with the fireplace. Why don't you call Top Hat Chimney and have them come out for an inspection tomorrow? I'm sure there is a logical explanation for everything that happened today. Ok?" Jillian humored her partner.
Tommie smiled at her own superstitious nature. "Ok. You're right. It was just so real at the time."
"I'm sure it was." Jillian picked up her papers and continued to work with a small grin on her face at her wife's story.
* * *
"Gerard, this is my daughter, Thomasina, and her partner, Jillian." Mrs. Mckenzie introduced her new beau.
"Please, call me Tommie." The tall, dark haired, woman reached out and shook his hand.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Sir. May I get you something to drink? We have some fresh Café Mocha or perhaps you'd like something a little more potent, a brandy perhaps?" Jillian offered.
"Brandy sounds delightful. Thank you. I'm so glad someone finally bought this old house and fixed it up. It has been an eyesore in the neighborhood for much too long."
"You live around here?" Tommie inquired.
"Yes. I lived not for from here with my late wife for over 35 years. My ancestor built this house nearly 150 years ago. I admire your gumption, ladies. Taking on a project this size must have been daunting, especially considering the house's reputation."
Tommie's interest piqued. "Reputation? What reputation is that?"
"You mean to tell me you don't know? The previous owners didn't warn you? That was quite unethical of them. You now have the legal right to know the history of a property if there is a good possibility that it will affect the resale value before you spend your hard earned money." Gerard was incensed.
Tommie tried to be patient with the older man. "Sir?"
Tommie nodded and put on her most tolerant smile. "Gerard, what are you talking about? Is there something wrong with this house that my partner and I should know about?"
"I should say so. This is arguably the most sinister house in the city."
Jillian placed her hand on Tommie's knee. "Sinister? In what way?"
Gerard thought for a moment. "Let's see, there was a rape, a rape/murder, a fire, and a child was nearly killed in a fall from the second floor balcony onto the wrought iron fence below. She claimed she was pushed, but no proof was ever found. One owner even had an exorcism performed."
"Excuse me, but how do you know all this?" Tommie interrupted.
"My wife and I ran in the same social circle as the Dileo's. They owned the house from about 1955 to 1975. It was their son who tried to burn the house down. He said it was evil and had to be destroyed. That was after his little sister nearly died from a fall onto the fence out front. Martha, that was Mrs. Dileo's first name, had five heart attacks while living here. Such a pretty thing she was. They moved her out to the garconier after the last one because she could no longer climb the stairs. They finally sold the house when their oldest daughter was raped in the back yard. She fought him off and managed to escape. The next owner wasn't so fortunate."
Tommie and Jillian sat with their mouths hanging open in disbelief.
Tommie's mother broke in. "Oh, Gerard, quit teasing the girls. Next thing you know, you'll be saying this beautiful old home is haunted."
"It is . . . Hi, Mom." William piped up from behind his mother. He'd been eavesdropping on the conversation.
"Hello, son. Where is Dana?"
"Home, with a box of saltines. Morning sickness." William responded.
"Glad you could make it, dear. May I introduce Gerard Dubuisson? Gerard, this is Thomasina's twin brother, William."
"A pleasure, sir." William shook the older man's hand. "That was quite a history lesson."
"Gerard, you said the little girl fell from the second floor balcony onto the wrought iron fence, but that is not possible. She would have had to jump out nearly twenty feet." Jillian observed.
"I know. It never made any sense to us, but somehow that poor child landed on that fence." Gerard shook his head to get the memory of that day out of his mind.
"Martha called the house right after calling for the ambulance. We ran right over . . . It was a pitiful sight. I was afraid to lift her off, afraid she'd bleed to death, so we did our best to comfort mother and child until the paramedics and police got there. She kept saying the bad man threw her off the balcony. Poor child was delirious. She was only around five years old at the time. By some miracle she survived and completely recovered."
"Oh my God." Jillian held her wife's hand tightly.
"Gerard, do you remember the name of the couple who bought the house from the Dileos?" Tommie asked.
"No. I'm afraid not. They owned it for just long enough to paint the exterior before the poor woman was raped and murdered."
"Is there more?" Jillian asked with trepidation.
"Oh, yes. Around 1978, an English professor at St. Mary's Dominican College and her husband bought it. They completely renovated. It was so beautiful. Of course, that was over 25 years ago. We met at a fund-raiser. A delightful couple. So happy. They had a little girl, I believe. My wife and I were invited to their home a few times over the next five years and you could see their marriage deteriorate. Mary had lunch with the professor one afternoon and told me of their conversation. It was really the strangest thing. She said that her husband and she were fighting violently, which had never happened in the first ten years of their marriage, and blamed the house. Said it was evil; that they couldn't go into the living room anymore without arguing. I believe they went to the Church for help, and even had an exorcism performed. I don't really know what happened after that. The College went bankrupt after some poor financial advice, and the family moved up North. I don't believe anyone's lived here since. I'm afraid that's all I know."
"Thank you. That's plenty." Jillian managed to be gracious despite the sickening feeling in the pit of her belly.
"Wow! You guys are living in spook central." William exclaimed with a grin.
"That's enough, William." Tommie curtailed his enthusiasm.
"What did I do?" Her brother was clueless.
"Just, put a sock in it, will you? Can't you see how scared Jillian is?"
William looked at the stark white skin of his sister-in-law's face and felt like a heel.
"I'm sorry Jillian. This stuff is ancient history. I'm sure the house is fine now."
Jillian nodded, and gave him a weak smile.
"Oh, there I go, again, opening my big mouth and inserting both feet. I'm sorry, my dear. This truly is all ancient history, just like William here said. There's nothing for you to worry about. After all, you haven't had any bad experiences here, right?" Gerard tried to placate his hostess.
Tommie and William looked at each other.
"Have you?" Their expressions were not lost on Gerard.
"Well . . ." Tommie proceeded to relate the events centered around the living room and a very frightened little dog.
"And, William, you were here too when this occurred?" Tommie's Mother asked.
"Yes, Mother. I was. . . I'm sorry, Jillian, but the dog was fussing at something that we just couldn't see. Scruffy got so scared she peed on Tommie."
"Was the dog in the living room?" Gerard asked.
"Yes, in fact she was." Tommie said.
"In the living room, there was a portrait of Mrs. Dileo that hung over the fireplace. I remember it well. Mary said she always felt terribly uncomfortable around it. She told me that Mrs. Dileo would just sit and drink, staring at it. The poor woman suffered from melancholia. So sad."
"How awful." Jillian sighed.
"Now that you mention it. It was always cold in that room, even in the heat of summer. Strange . . . Would you ladies mind if I looked around?"
"No. Not at all. We'll give you the grande tour." Jillian led her mother-in-law and guest through the house as Tommie and William took the opportunity to speak in private.
"What are you going to do?" William asked.
"I'm going to ask Dana to do some research at the library and the newspaper archives. If what he's said is true, there will be records."
"That's right. Anyway, he's an old man. He probably has confused this house with some scary movie-of-the-week. Right?"
"God, I hope so." Tommie shivered.
To be continued in Part 2
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