I watched as a bolt of lightning zipped across the sky, followed quickly by another and then a third. Thunder rolled, starting softly at first as if coming from a great distance and then rising to a quick crescendo of almost earsplitting sound. The wind pushed my car along the road and I cursed myself for being so stupid as to be out on a night like this.
If that call hadn't come in, I wouldn't be here.
No, that wasn't exactly true. If I hadn't been so greedy and certain that the buyers would love the house and be ready to put a bid on it right away, I wouldn't be here. How could I have known that the house, once the scene of a horrendous family murder, would have been seen in the newspaper worldwide and now every Tom, Dick and Harry who lived off of morbid thoughts would want to see it.
It was a nice house, now that the blood and gore had been cleaned up. But, by law, I had to disclose all problems involved: leaky pipes, foundation problems, multiple murders. Buyers had the right to know.
I wished I had the time to bang my head on the steering wheel in frustration but at that moment, a huge gust of wind hit my car sideways, sending it hydroplaning out of control on the slick roadway. I fought the wheel, not even having time to work up a good scream before finding myself almost sideways in the drainage ditch next to the road.
"Dammit!" My hand hit the steering wheel with more force than I had intended and I cursed again, shaking my fingers to relieve the pain.
I looked up and down the roadway illuminated by another bright flash of lightning. Of course, no other idiots were out on a night like this. Everyone was tucked in safe, checking out Halloween candy and putting kids to bed after washing off sticky costume makeup. I was stuck. I reached into my purse and grabbed my cell phone, flipping it up and turning it on, all the while sending forth prayers that I would find a signal. Not a single bar showed on the screen and when I tried to dial out, I didn't even get a recording.
The rain beat down on the roof of my car, sounding louder and louder as I sat and tried to figure out what to do. Sitting in the car was getting damned uncomfortable. The seat belt was holding me in place, but it was also biting into my skin. I knew this drainage ditch filled with water during the fall rains and wondered if I would end up swept away, drowned because I didn't want to walk a ways in the rain.
"To hell with it," I sighed out loud, hitting the button that kept me belted in. As the seat belt let me loose, I started to slide sideways managing to wedge my hand into the steering wheel and put my foot on the other seat. The door was heavy and didn't want to open at this angle but giving it a huge shove, I finally got it far enough that I didn't think the wind would slam it back down on me.
Just getting the door open and standing in that opening was enough to get me soaked. A toss had my purse landing on the road and then I grabbed the extra jacket I kept in the car and pulled myself out. Sliding around on the side of the car I pulled my legs out until I could reach the shoulder of the road with my feet. A quick hop and I was standing on solid ground once more.
Now I was cold, wet with the rain plastering my hair and my clothes to my body, and I was starting to shiver. I turned and shoved the car door closed, threw on the other coat over my wet clothes, grabbed my purse from where I had thrown it and started walking. Someone would come along sooner or later and I could get a lift into town.
I walked for fifteen minutes, telling myself the entire time that someone would come, the road was pretty well traveled. I would find a house and someone would let me in. Lightning flashed overhead as the storm continued in its fury. I stumbled on wishing that I hadn't worn these shoes. They were heels, about two inches tall, which might not be much, but walking on uneven gravel that was slick and wet was hazardous in even the best shoes. It was all vanity. The shoes were cute and looked good with my house selling outfit of short black skirt, white shirt and red blazer.
Now my legs were wet and icy, the skirt drenched. My shirt was completely transparent, showing the lacy wet bra I wore under it. The dye from the blazer had run, red rivulets trailing down the front of my shirt as if some ax murder had stuck me with a knife and I was bleeding to death. My hair was matted in wet tendrils that had escaped the neat bun I usually wore it in and my makeup was trailing down my face. I was a mess.
Finally, after another ten minutes of walking while I cursed the road, my car, my shoes, my job, the weather and anything else I could think of that could be at blame for my misery, I saw a light in the blackness. A spurt of energy burst through me at the idea of a warm house, a phone to call for a wrecker, maybe even a towel to dry off a little with. I was tired of water dripping into my face, or cringing every time thunder boomed or lightning flashed. I wanted to quit shivering and sit down.
I hurried my step and ran up the front walk of the house, reaching the doorway before really looking at it.
Confusion filled me for a moment. This wasn't right. There is no way I could be back here.
I stepped back and shielded my eyes looking up at the house and out to the grounds around it.
The For Sale sign was in the yard, the door was closed and locked tightly. No lights were on inside. But I had seen a light. I know I had.
Well, practicality took precedence over mystery right now. I needed to get out of the rain and cold and if this was the best I could do, well, it would work until the rain stopped. I dug into my purse and found the keys on their little metal tab. My hands were shaking so hard it took me three tries before I finally got the key to go into the lock and turn. I closed the door quickly behind me, feeling a little relief just at being out of the rain and the wind.
I'd been in the house enough that I knew the layout even in the dark. The electricity was out, probably due to the storm because it had been working when I had been here earlier. So how had I seen that light? Had I left a light on in the house and then before I got here, the power had gone off? That explanation would work. I didn't believe in ghostly lights that lead stragglers in the storm to their dooms.
There was a flight of stairs heading up to the four bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second floor. I headed up to go to the bedrooms remembering a blanket that had been left in one of the smaller rooms. I had to stand on tiptoe to reach the top shelf and the blanket and as I tugged on it, something fell that had been stashed on top of it. I ignored it for a moment as I quickly shed my clothes, wrapping the rough fabric around me to get warm. I took them in the bathroom and strung them over the curtain rod in the shower to dry. Getting out of the dripping clothes made me feel better and I got curious about what had dropped.
Going back into the bedroom, I found the object, a book, on the floor of the closet. I pawed through the massive purse that I carried everywhere and came up with my cell phone. Flipping it open gave me a little light and I pulled the book closer to my face, sliding down the wall to get comfortable while I tried to make out the words on the cover.
It was a journal, more specifically, the diary of one of the girls who had lived in the house. I flipped open the first page and settled down to read.
It started out with the usual teenage girl stuff, clothes and dates, who was fooling around on who. Her eighteenth birthday party and the trip to Florida that they were planning to make over spring break. That kind of thing. I found myself chuckling at some of the opinions she had about some of the girls that she went to school with, enjoying the barbed comments.
The last few entries were different though. The tone of her writing had changed. The second to last entry in particular sent shivers down my spine that definitely didn't come from the cold.
"Mom and Dad don't trust me anymore. I can see it in there eyes. They think I'm either lying or crazy. I don't blame them. I'm not sure if they aren't right. I can't sleep anymore. I stare across the room at that closet and wait for the eyes. Mom doesn't see them, she thinks I want attention and Dad's decided that I'm trying to get away with something. And then there's David. How could I have thought that he really loved me. I think about death, diary, all the time. I think that maybe that's the only way that I'll be safe from him."
The last entry was dated on Halloween night. The night that the murders had happened. One year ago tonight. The thought gave me a start. I knew about the murders. Anyone who read the papers or watched TV had at least heard of the name Saint and had some idea of what had happened. I knew the family had been brutally slaughtered. The realty agency I worked for had hired the cleaners to come in and I'd been sent the first day to let them in. I'd had a glimpse of the horror, the blood splattered walls and soaked carpets before I left the cleaners to do their work.
But I had forgotten that the anniversary was tonight. A strange creepiness claimed me, making me glance over my shoulder at the darkened interior. I suddenly wished I'd stayed in the car. Bruises and floods might be preferable to the icy fingers that were tip toeing over my nerve endings right now.
.... There is more of this story ...