Ashley looked out the window as the car turned into the long driveway.
Keith leaned towards Ashley and spoke in a soft voice in her ear. “This is the haunted house we’re staying in this weekend?”
“Not too bad, I guess,” Ashley said.
The neighborhood appeared old to Ashley, very old. Many of the buildings were over a hundred years old. The district contained numerous beautiful homes. Evident was the owners pride to restore their homesteads to their original glory. Other homes appeared in terrible disrepair, some on the threshold of condemnation. This house fell somewhere between luxury and dumpiness and seemed to Ashley to lean towards the decrepit end of the spectrum.
“With the right owner and some cheery landscaping, this has potential to be nice,” Ashley said. “At one time, this must have been a stunning mansion.”
The mansion, made of brown stones, towered three stories over a basement. Windows peeked from the ground below the first floor porch like watchful eyes following their every move. The house, narrow at the front, stretched long towards the back of the property.
“I read last year in school that taxation for a house built in the eighteenth century depended on how much frontage on the house,” Ashley said to Keith. “They built their homes with narrow fronts that stretched back to become massive places. In the Georgetown section of Washington DC, only the frontage of the homes appraised for taxation. There were many homes just wide enough in the front for the door and nothing else.”
The driveway ran along the right side of the house, flush against a two-story blue home in the adjacent lot. A vacant lot to the left of the house appeared just bulldozed with rubble strewn about the high weeds.
The right front corner of the house nearest the driveway rounded to a turret on the third floor. A circular balcony on the second floor wrapped around the windows. The stone gargoyles, which flanked both sides of the balcony, completed the home’s gothic theme. The stone guardians glared at anyone brave enough to look up. The left side of the house squared with a jutting with a balcony on each floor that ended in a sharp gable on the top floor. A widow’s walk connected the turret and the gable. Twenty feet back from the front porch, the house extended to the left for twice the width of the frontage, which looked like an addition to the original house but still a hundred years old. Stained glass windows adorned the newer addition.
“The house is so dark and evil looking,” Keith said.
“Architecturally, it looks spooky,” Ashley said. “Despite any legends of hauntings, it looks like something terrible could have happened here. I can imagine a restless ghost still living here today.”
“I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live here,” Keith said.
“And we have to live here the next couple of days,” Ashley said, and smiled at Keith.
Ashley’s body shivered when the car stopped in the driveway. A sense of dread spread through the pit of her stomach.
The car Ashley rode in made up the rear of the caravan. Passengers from the other vehicles exited before Ashley’s car stopped. The iron gate closed behind their car.
Ashley looked out the rear window and saw a lanky man, with incredible bright red hair. He struggled with all his weight to close the gate. In a neighborhood full of muted colors, he stood out with an orange T-shirt, blue jeans, and purple tennis shoes with orange shoestrings.
“He’s from California,” Ashley said.
“How do you know that?” Keith asked. “You’ve never been to California.”
“At least I think he looks how I expect a California person to look.”
The cars parked in the back of the property where the driveway ended at a large building separated from the main house, hidden by neglected overgrown shrubbery. A sign posted on the door read Carriage House, a two-story rectangular residence perpendicular to the main building. The garage dominated the first floor, with pull-down doors bays for three cars.
The passengers exited the cars and stretched their legs after the long drive from Hopkins International Airport. Ashley recognized all of the people except one. The group greeted each other as they walked up the driveway and around to the front of the house.
Ashley felt a chill and looked down at her arm to see goose bumps.
“Nervous about going into this haunted house?” The stranger said to Ashley, as he looked down at her arm. “I’m not quite certain what I’ll find in here either.”
Ashley’s Dad spoke from behind them. “You don’t really think this house is haunted, do you?”
“We haven’t even gone in yet and here you have an opinion?” The stranger said. “Not very scientifically objective, are we now?” His face broke into a mischievous smile, his brown hair blowing in the slight breeze.
“Oh, please,” Dr. Lyman said. “You’re talking yourself into it. Someone suggests it is haunted and you immediately believe it. People are so gullible.”
“And you are arrogant enough to suggest that I am one of those gullible people now, do you?” The stranger said.
Dr. Lyman stammered, unable to come up with a response. Ashley smiled as she attempted to conceal her pleasure. She never saw someone bite back at Dr. Lyman’s bitter comments, as she intimidated too many people. Ashley decided she liked this stranger and the way he carried himself.
The bright red-haired man shouldered his way through the group as they stopped in front of the porch. He gave Dr. Fran hearty handshake that seemed to jostle his entire lean frame. A huge smile adorned his narrow face and seemed truly glad to see the professor.
The sight of exotic red headed man next to the stodgy old-fashioned appearance of Dr. Fran Rogers amused Ashley. Between the bright color display of his client and Dr. Fran’s substantial paunch on his mid-section, the two could not have been less similar. Dr. Fran told anyone who with pride about his lemonade diet, which enabled him lose twenty pounds over the last few months. Ashley wrote in her blog that Dr. Fran owned the largest collection of drab brown ties in the world. Also noted in the blog, his lack of ability to wear his ties any further than halfway down his torso. Plaid pants completed the ensemble along with a beige shirt and tweed jacket. Dr. Fran called the color of his uncombed hair silver, which she noted he cultivated the mad scientist look with Einstein hair. His eyes appeared unnatural and large through the Coke-bottle glasses. An affable gentleman to a fault, it was a rare occasion when Dr. Fran’s voice raised in anger. Ashley remembered only a single instance of irritation from Dr. Fran. As a child, Keith and Ashley told each other ghost stories during a case to pass the time. Dr. Fran overheard them yelled at them in front of the entire team. He explained he feared they would spoil the scientific environment with such trash as ghost stories. As usual, neither her father nor Keith’s mother offered any defense.
Ashley had a theory as to why Dr. Fran never found a ghost: Because he was not looking for ghosts.
The red-haired man stepped up to the formal porch, which appeared as comfortable as a parking lot. Everything on the porch, including the benches, was made of stone.
“Nothing about this house looks happy,” Ashley said. She looked up and saw a large marble portico with stone gargoyles atop each column. Ashley stared at the hideous rock creatures and they looked back at her with malevolence.
At the top of the five stone steps were two massive red doors. A brass plaque set to the right of the door and it read Franklin Castle.
“It looks haunted,” Ashley said
“I wonder if that’s what started the whole legend,” the stranger said. “I wonder if most haunted houses have that reputation simply because of their appearance. I mean, have you ever heard of a haunted ultra-modern house?”
The front door emitted a tortured groan as the red-haired man opened it. He motioned everyone inside before he fiddled with the second set of doors. The group stood shoulder to shoulder in the dusty, small foyer. A rusted radiator to the right hissed hot steam into the humid August heat.
“Sorry, I promise the rest of the house is not blasting with heat,” the red-haired man said. “In fact, the house is always quite cool.” With a flourish, he opened the second set of doors to the main room. The doors slammed hard against the stoppers. People streamed into the dark wood trimmed main hall and peered around.
Everyone meandered into the main hall except Yvette.
Yvette Gonzales Richter, a long tenured psychic on Dr. Fran’s team, stood a slight five feet three inches tall with long dark hair. Dr. Fran referred to her as “The Anomaly” because she tested so high on his tests. She differed from the other two psychics in that she was unable to control her abilities. Experiences happened to her and images flashed in her mind. She could neither start nor stop her abilities, a victim of her power. When Yvette experienced a psychic episode, it was not pleasant.
Yvette stood in the steamy foyer and shook her head.
The man with bright-red hair stepped towards her. “What is it?” he asked, lines on his forehead creased.
She shook her head again with greater force. She grunted a few times before she mumbled. “I’m not going in.”
“What’s wrong?” Dr. Fran said as he passed through the door towards Yvette.
“I can’t go in, I just can’t,” she said. “There’s something here, something evil.”
“That’s why we need you,” Dr. Fran said.
Yvette sighed. “Okay, I’ll try.”
Dr. Fran hooked his arm under hers. As she stepped under the second doorway, she stumbled.
Tears rolled down her cheeks and she shivered. “I can’t do it. It feels like something doesn’t want me here.” She said, humming through the pause, before continuing quietly. “Or it wants me too much.”
“I need you to help us find an explanation,” Dr. Fran said.
“This is different,” she said. “This is real. This is dangerous.”
She turned and ran out of the house. When she reached the walkway outside, she turned to Dr. Fran, her eyes streaming tears and her face contorted as if in pain. “I’m sorry, I just can’t.”
She ran down the footpath to the driveway. Several moments later, a car pulled out of the driveway taking her back to the airport. The red-haired man opened the gate for her, struggling again as much as before.
Within a minute, her car sped down Franklin Boulevard.
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Table of Contents
Go to Chapter 4
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Table of Contents
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