This week (5/52) seems more like a scene from the new series I'm planning, based on the short story I wrote for Week #2. (CLICK HERE if you haven't read This House is Clean.)
By the way, I think I'm going to call this para-cozy series the Haunted Fixer-Upper Mysteries.
And if you don't know what the Ray Bradbury Challenge is, CLICK HERE to read about it. Authors…would love for you to join me!
The writing prompt came from Shauna Philp's Wednesday Writing Prompts. I grabbed #8 from this page. Here it is…
“I never believed much of the stories they used to tell us as kids. Until one day when I was driving alone along Old Hurley road.”
Forgive me if this sounds morbid, but I'm kinda honoring my grandmother in this scene. More about that after the story. Enjoy!
Genre: Horror Mystery
Word Count: 936
Karen reached for the tea kettle.
“Now, now,” Mrs. Cunningham protested in her high voice graveled with age. She lethargically nudged Karen away from the stove. “You’re a guest in my house. Sit. Sit. I can do this.”
“I don’t want to be any trouble.” Karen was uncomfortable letting the feeble historian wait on her.
“No trouble a’tall.” She reached a trembling hand for the kettle, and blocked Karen from the stove with her body. “And call me Mildred.”
Karen frowned, but didn’t want to be rude. She sat at the dining table and pulled her notebook and pen from her purse.
“My mother lived to be a hundred-and-two.” Mildred poured the hot water. “She said the secret to long life was always keep moving. And every day she had a Manhattan at lunch.”
Karen chuckled. “Really?”
“I do the same.” Mildred dropped the tea bags into the cups with a devious grin on her thin lips.
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“This October will be my one-hundredth birthday.” She shuffled to the table, wobbling teacups on their saucers.
“Thank you.” Karen rescued her hot beverage.
“My pleasure. Honey, milk and sugar are on the caddy there.”
Mildred pointed to the tray on the lazy Susan at the center of the table. As Karen helped herself to some honey, the old woman sat in the head chair, using the arm rests to ease her fragile body into the seat.
Mildred sighed. “So, what can I do for you today?”
Karen flipped to a clean page. “Well, I’d like to know the history of the Bailey House.”
“Ohh.” Mildred smirked. “Thirteen Scream Street, huh? What interest do you have in that old place?”
“I’m renovating it.” Karen poised her pen over her notebook.
“Renovating it?” She cackled and slipped her finger through the dainty cup handle. “You might be wasting your money. No one will live in it.”
“I’m living in it right now.”
Mildred faltered, her teacup clattering to her saucer, eyes wide. Karen grabbed a handful of napkins to sop up the tea.
“Oh, heavens.” Mildred placed her cool hand on Karen’s, stilling her efforts. “I don’t think you want to be living in that house, young lady.”
Karen sandwiched the old woman’s hand between hers. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
Mildred lifted her chin defiantly. She sat back and clutched the armrests of her chair. “I never believed much of the stories they used to tell us as kids. Until one day when I was driving alone along Old Hurley road.”
“The crossroad to Stream Street?” Karen finished cleaning up the spilled tea.
She nodded. “I was the assistant librarian back then in the mid-nineteen forties. It was late autumn, so it was dark as I was driving home after a long day. When I stopped at the corner to look for traffic, I saw a little girl—probably no more than four or five—in a white nightgown playing in front of the Bailey house. Don’t know if anyone was living there at the time, but I thought it was late for a girl her age to playing outside. Especially on such a cold night. So I turned down Stream Street and parked along the curb.”
Karen scribbled furiously on her notepad.
“She was crouched on the lawn, picking flowers it looked like, but there were no flowers to pick. I leaned across the seat, cranked the window down and called out to her. ‘Hello, sweet pea. It’s awfully cold out,’ I says. ‘Shouldn’t you be inside?’ And that little girl stood, turned toward me and the front of her nightgown was dripping red with blood from the cut across her tiny throat. Her mouth opened and her eyes glowed white. And I screamed.”
Mildred covered her mouth with a quivering hand. Her eyes glassed with unshed tears. “I never went home that way again.” She cleared her throat and laced her hands across her stomach.
Karen stopped writing. “I’ve seen that little girl.”
“And you’re still living in that house?”
Mildred scoffed. “You’re a brave soul.”
“Who is she? Do you know?”
“That was probably Lucy Nell Bailey. Lulu. She was four years old when her mother Clara May slit her throat. She was the youngest of the three. Ada Belle was eight and Martin Clifford was six. Poor sweet babies.”
Karen wrote down the names.
“If you’re staying in that house, don’t sleep in the bedroom at the top of the stairs.”
Karen lifted her eyes from the page. “Why?”
“Because everyone who has slept in that room has done what Clara did.”
“Killed their children?” Karen huffed. “Well, I don’t have—”
“No. Jumped out the attic window to their death.”
An icy centipede of dread skittered down her spine. She shook off the fright, despite Mildred’s warning gaze.
“I promise, I won’t throw myself out the attic window.”
“Stay away from that room, and you won’t.” Mildred waggled a scolding finger.
When Karen left the house with a notebook filled with information and a belly-full of tea and cookies, she gave Mildred one last wave before ducking into her car. She tapped the glass face of her Android to call her head contractor.
“Hi, Jim? I’ve changed my mind about my room. When you guys move my stuff back to the second floor, put it in the bedroom at the top of the stairs. That’s right. See you tomorrow morning. Thanks.”
Karen tossed her phone to the passenger seat and headed to the Bailey House. Time to confront this haunting head on.
Oooooo! That's a little peak into what I'm planning for the first book in the series. That prompt just invited me to write up the scene and share it. I'll try not to reveal too much more of the story, but if you want to be informed when I publish the book, be sure to join my VIP Club. It's FREE!
Honoring My Grandmother
I used my grandmother's first name in this scene and she is indeed going to be one-hundred years old this October 2020! Can you believe that? She's still making her own meals and going with my mom (also named Mildred) to the Walmart for grocery shopping. Grandma also believes that the secret to a long life is always keep moving. And she has a Manhattan almost every day at lunch, too…no lie! LOL
Do you have some wisdom passed down from your grand/parents? I'd love to know! And what do you think of the series title Haunted Fixer-Upper Mysteries? Please share below in the comments.
Thank you for coming by and reading my stories.
That's my two pence…