Story by Russell Hemmell
Illustration by Jihane Mossalim
A rainy day in Rome is like a rainy day in every other city in the world, with one difference: locals do complain. As if the Romans believed they were entitled to permanent sunshine and fair weather. Well, maybe they are, after all. This city is stunning, Ewine thought, observing the streets from the café’s glass window.
Ewine glanced at the man. A tall, well-dressed guy, with an American accent and a polite expression. “Yes?”
“Sorry to disturb you. May I sit down?”
“Do I know you?”
“No. Your editor gave me your name.”
“I see. Please have a seat.” Her boss was becoming more talkative by the day.
“Thanks.” He took out the drenched raincoat and ordered a coffee.
With that accent, she thought, he must be from New England or nearby.
“Apologies for this blunt approach. My name is Williams. Francis Williams, from Boston, MIT,” he said. “I won’t take much of your time. I know the kind of articles you write – you investigate unusual facts and legends, trying to assess the truth about them. I found your rendition of the Poveglia’s case fascinating. You seemed almost to believe ghosts haunted that derelict Venetian island.”
“Maybe I do.”
“And then you proved it wasn’t the case, in a convincing way. What I’m going to talk about is not so different,” he continued, ignoring her interruption. “There’s a remote town in the North-West of the UK, haunted by ghosts.”
“Ermyn. A small place in the Lake District. Ever heard of it?”
“There have been claims of paranormal activities in this town for decades. I think it would make an excellent story.”
“And you’re offering it to me?”
“I’d like to hire you to do some research about Ermyn. You’ll report your findings and give me your informed opinion about the veracity of those claims. You can do whatever you want with the story.”
She observed him with curiosity. “There are hundreds of places like that in the UK. Houses, castles, cemeteries, churches, you name it. I’d say there are more ghosts in the British Isles than investment bankers in London. Why are you so interested in this one?”
“You’re right about the lack of originality. But you see, this is not your ordinary haunted town.”
“Those ghosts show up to terrify inhabitants and occasional visitors only once a year.”
“In April. I’ve heard a few weird stories, and local people are ready to swear some visitors have been not just scared.” He sipped his coffee. “They’ve been killed.”
“You don’t believe ghosts murdered them, do you?”
“The local press supported those claims.”
“Sensational press always tries to make ordinary deaths appear supernatural. UK tourist boards have been doing it for years and with excellent results. Spooky sells.”
“This is the reason why I’d appreciate your take on this place. A good, historically accurate research like the articles you write.” He smiled at her, but his pale, green eyes remained cold.
“I can’t imagine why an MIT scholar is interested in a ghost town case,” Ewine said.
“I’m part of a real estate development consortium dealing with tourist facilities. This is one of the locations we’ve been considering, and I want to make sure my money is well invested.”
She remained in silence, wondering if the American was as crazy as he sounded.
“Do you know that Chesterton’s sentence, Miss Stewart-Miller- the traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see?”
“No.” She replied, trying not to sound too sharp.
“I need to make sure the selected location is attractive for both.”
Ewine shook her head. “You can’t possibly think there’s something true in those stories. If you’re right, and somebody was killed there, either we’re talking about common criminals and what you’ve to hire is not a historian, but a private eye.” She smiled. “Or, in the other case, you’d need an exorcist. Not me.”
“You’re probably right. Still, a good investment, won’t you agree?” He made a gesture of dismissal with his elegant hands. “Investigate this case for me. I’ll pay all your expenses and a fee for your work.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Good. Before making up your mind, there’s a condition you need to be aware of,” he said. “I’ll need your report to be delivered on April 8. Exactly 41 days from now. This is the only non-negotiable clause in our deal.”
“What if I haven’t discovered anything meaningful by that day?”
“You’ll hand me whatever you’ve found.”
Without waiting for a reply, he put a business card in her hand. “I’ll be in Rome until tomorrow. If I don’t hear from you, I’d assume you’re not interested. In both cases, it has been a pleasure to get to know you.” He stood up. “Goodbye, Miss Stewart-Miller.”
— ♦♦♦ —
As soon as he left, Ewine opened her laptop and googled the name of the town. Ermyn. A village located in the Lake District on the road between Ambleside and Kendal, less famous than other locations in the area. She was not a stranger to the Lake District herself – she and her brother had spent there all their school holidays, and she had already written about the area.
She went back home, deciding to postpone her dinner and get more information about the village first. At a first glance, Ermyn looked exactly what she had told him, plain vanilla haunted location, but a more accurate search showed that the tiny, hidden town wasn’t so boring after all. There were not one but two haunted spots in the area -a cemetery and a spooky pub, and some of the stories described supernatural activity of various kind. Ghastly appearances and people scared to death, too -in two cases, literally: they had died of heart attack. There had also been a few fatal accidents in the last twenty years, tourists, the newspapers wrote, and, in the weirdest case, a guy had been found in a pond of mud after heavy rain, chocked by the swampy vegetation. The police had excluded murder.
“Here Ewine. Listen, I’ve carried out some research about the town you mentioned. I thought it was going to be a rather dull assignment, but actually-”
“May I have your reply, please?”
There were a few instants of silence from the other side. “Thank you, Miss Stewart-Miller. My attorney will be in touch.”
The phone went dead.
Two days after, Ewine was contacted by a law firm from Worcester (MA). She was offered a deal -expenses and a fee so high that she had to ask twice to be sure of having heard correctly. Money was to be paid in two installments, and she was free to conduct the investigation with the modalities and terms she deemed suitable. Mr. Williams required regular updates on the status of her research and a final report on the day of the expiration of the contract. When could she start the assignment? Immediately?
— ♦♦♦ —
“My name is Stewart-Miller, Sir. I’m here to do some research about Ermyn’s cemetery-”
“I know who you are – the journalist.” The old schoolteacher looked at her sneering. “For you, there’s nothing true in ghost stories.”
“No disrespect intended -it’s just that every time things had proved to be more menial and less supernatural.”
The man stared at her with hostility. “I read some of your articles, young lady. I wouldn’t know about the others -but in Ermyn, people die for real.”
“Yes, tourists during thunderstorms.”
“Not only tourists. Local people, too.”
Uh-oh. “So why the police don’t do anything it?”
“What the police can do against the damned souls that inhabit this place?” He turned his head, indicating the west-end side of the village. “If you’re serious about discovering what’s going on, you should start from there.”
“The haunted pub near the West Gate?”
“That’s a tourist trap. The haunted place is the cemetery.”
“The one in the garden of St. Gabriel’s church near the town centre, I presume.”
“No. I’m talking about the old graveyard outside the village’s perimeter, abandoned centuries ago,” he said. “And you must be careful, miss. The day is near.”
“The cursed day in which all hell gets loose, every year since I can remember. And I remember many.”
“Yes, your own private Halloween – April 7,” she said. “What’s happened in that day?”
“I only know that in that day the vengeful ghosts of Ermyn come out to exact retribution from the living. You’d better be gone by then.”
I haven’t the remotest intention to do so, she thought. The man had been the third person repeating that version, apart from the cemetery’s detail and the local deaths. Contrary to other places where ghosts existed in their own parallel universe, scary encounters apart, in Ermyn’s case everybody was positive about the necessity to be careful.
April was the chosen month for supernatural phenomena, and she had for a moment thought that might be due to some sort of connection to Walpurgis Night, on April 30. But the incriminated day was April 7, where the suspected ghost-provoked deaths regularly occurred, even though nobody seemed to know why that day was so special. Halloween had a tradition and a reason, and so did Walpurgis Night. What was Ermyn’s?
She decided to visit the famous cemetery. It was already April, she snickered, so she could reasonably expect some degree of demonic activity. After a quick dinner, she went out. It was cold and damp, and the persistent, chilly wind gave her shivers. Ewine walked past the borders of the village, through an old wooden gate, and headed toward the graveyard about half a mile away.
The cemetery’s encircling wall in dark, massive brick stones had partially collapsed, and only the section around the wrought iron gate had remained standing in its entirety. The gate was intact too, and a heavy chain was hanging from the rusty grating. But there was no padlock: the gate was open. From where she stood she could glimpse inside the graveyard tombstones reclined on the grass, odd-looking crosses arranged with no order, and luxuriant willow trees. Shivering, this time more for the atmosphere than for the cold, Ewine walked toward the gate when a sudden noise made her skin curdle. A man, with a hard look on his face, was observing her.
“Bad idea to come here at night, Miss,” he said. “Things happen in this place.”
“So I’ve heard. Do you also know why?”
“Everybody knows. On April 7, the dead come back for vengeance, and in that day the whole Ermyn is dangerous, not just this old cemetery,” he said.
She squinted her eyes, trying to catch a better view. A thick mist had descended over the area, giving to the graveyard an even eerier look, if possible.
“Ghosts always had their favourite dwelling in this place.” He continued, his dispirited eyes fixed on some far-away point in the sky.
“Why are you here then?”
“I’m the gravedigger.” The man pointed his finger in the town’s direction. “In the new cemetery. Nobody buries people in this one since XVIII century. But sometimes, after the winter rains, burial remains resurface from broken tombs, and I need to put them to rest again. Like today.” He lowered his voice. “This place is evil. And it’s alive, Miss. Stay away.”
— ♦♦♦ —
“You’re the last person I’d imagined to see here.” Ewine couldn’t conceal her surprise. She didn’t try either.
“There are just three days left, Ewine,” her employer said.
She had immediately noticed something changed in his attitude. He was more relaxed, a slight smile on his face, and less formal than in their previous encounter. Even his appearance reflected it, and a smart casual attire had replaced the classic, expensive suit. He looked younger and charming.
“Francis. Until when are you going to stay?”
“Until the final day of your contract.”
“Worried I won’t deliver according to your expectations?”
“You’ve already met all my expectations. Not that I’ve doubted for a moment.” He brushed her cheek with his fingers. “But I’ve never been to the Lake District before. It seemed a good opportunity to visit.”
“So, in which category would you put yourself? The traveler or the tourist?”
“The mad scientist.” He laughed, and a glint passed into his green pupils. He extended her his hand. “I can’t wait to hear what you’ve found. Anything you can suggest for a start?”
“The abandoned graveyard. Ghosts or not, it’s a scary place by any standard.”
“I meant for dinner.”
She laughed too. “What about the haunted pub? It’s called The Bewitched Lakehouse. I’m sure it would be of interest -after all, they use the ghosts supposedly haunting Erwyn to make money. You can learn a few tricks from them.”
“Amen to that.”
— ♦♦♦ —
The 17th-century pub looked historical at Francis’s eyes but not to Ewine, used to establishments getting back to the Middle Ages and before. The owner, a young Scot Callum, explained to them that he and his associates were trying to make the Inn look like the one in the old village that didn’t exist any longer. They had set up shop in Ermyn only three years before, he continued, and business was flourishing.
“Which old village?” Ewine asked. “You mean the historical Ermyn?”
He looked at her with a funny, conspiratorial expression. “There was another town here. Centuries ago.”
“You mean the derelict houses on the old cemetery path?”
“No, no,” Callum winked at her. “People don’t like to talk about it.”
Ewine wanted to continue the conversation, but another customer waved for Callum’s attention.
“What was he talking about?” Francis said.
“I don’t know. I haven’t found anything in the archives,” she said with a frown. She was sure not to have overlooked anything.
The morning after, without waiting for Francis to wake up, Ewine went back to the pub.
“Callum, there was nothing in the archive in Windermere when I went searching for the story of Ermyn. No mention whatsoever.”
The young man smiled. “There wasn’t because the name was different. And you queried just Ermyn, right?”
Yes, and I haven’t even dreamt of checking out anything different. This is the oh crap moment all historians fear. “It was standard practice for towns in this area to change names. Take Windermere: before it was called Birthwaite. Not that pretty.”
“You don’t get it.” Callum lowered his voice. “The town I’m talking about was taken down to pieces, stone by stone. Everything, including the old inn we tried to recreate here. Only the old graveyard remained untouched, but it was abandoned to decay, and neglect over centuries had made it the scaring place it is now. The new town was built in a wider area that included the old village -under a different name, probably to erase the old one’s memory. And it was the right thing to do because that name had become infamous – not what you want for an ambitious new town.”
“How was it called?”
“Hexen,” he said slowly. “Before its demise, however, it was known by another name. That is, before disappearing in the ashes of history.”
“The Sick Town.”
— ♦♦♦ —
“Hello, Ewine. You were gone the whole day. I was wondering if the ghosts had kidnapped you by any chance,” Francis said, continuing to eat his dinner on the pub’s terrace.
“I told you that Ermyn gets back to the 18th century and that the nearest town is Windermere.” She sat down, excited.
“I was wrong. Until the end of the 17th century, this area was within the boundaries of a town called Hexen. But if you look at the map of the region of 1701 or local archives you won’t find any trace of that.”
“Hexen was wiped out by a strange disease. No survivors. The nearest towns, fearful of contagion, quarantined the area and razed the whole village afterward. It was about thirty years later that Ermyn appeared in the archives and on the maps, like the small village it is now, built on the ruins of Hexen. Only its old burial ground remains nowadays.”
“An entire town wiped out by a disease?” Francis observed, looking at her.
“It’s not as strange as it sounds. There’s even a famous precedent, during the Great Plague of London. Ever heard of Eyam?”
“I’m afraid not. I’m American.”
“Eyam was a small town in the Peak District, about 160 miles from the capital. One day in September 1665 the local tailor accepted a box of contaminated clothes from London, and the plague started ravaging the village. People panicked, trying to flee the town and escape the danger. But Mompesson, the village’s parson, encouraged them to stay isolated the city from the outside world, in order to prevent further spreading.”
“What an interesting tale,” Francis said. “What happened to them?”
“Of all Eyam’s 350 souls, 259 died of a plague. If you go there, you can still visit some of the old cottages.” She shrugged. “Yes, sort of creepy.”
“No. Moving, I would say.” He caressed her hand. “So, you say this is what has happened here.”
“How have you discovered it?”
“The pub owner. He came here to enter the haunted location business and found out about the old town. This morning I went to do some research after talking to him. Hexen has virtually disappeared from all local repositories, but I’ve found out that in Kendal there’s a regional archive that mentions it. Hexen was an ancient settlement, getting back to the 12th century. It had an uninterrupted history of a prosperous little town until the 17th century.”
“Was it the plague, like the village you mentioned?”
“I’m not sure. Sources mentioned an unknown disease. Maybe it was tuberculosis, not widely known at that time. And even the timing is uncertain. It’s possible that the whole story about Ermyn as a haunted location came back straight to that time and that it was linked to Hexen’s deaths.”
“How – did they believe the mysterious plague was sent by demons?”
“People at that time did not know how diseases spread, remember. The plague was sometimes blamed on malignant stars. Tuberculosis on vampires. Bacteria were unknown.”
“Not correct. A guy called Leeuwenhoek in the 17th century sent drawings of tiny things he saw in the water to your Royal Society in London.”
“Yes, that’s true,” she said, amazed by his knowledge about the topic. “But nobody believed it until the 19th century.”
“So, you think this mysterious disease is somehow connected with the ghost stories. Still…”
“I know. It doesn’t add up.” She hesitated for a moment. “Ermyn’s ghosts are far more recent – the beginning of 19th century at the earliest: one London’s doctor on holiday here, whose throat was slit near the old cemetery, is the first reported case.”
“Are there many?”
“I’ve counted at least eighteen.”
“A good investment then.”
“Except that these ones don’t behave like the other ghosts,” she said. “These ones apparently keep killing people. Everybody says that place is dangerous, especially in April. Maybe they’re not just talks.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts yourself.” Francis smiled.
“And I don’t.” She replied. “I’m going to Kendal and dig into the archives. And if I find anything weird when I’m there, I’ll head straight to the police station.”
“Yes. I want to check if anybody has actually died here of non-natural causes -and I’m not talking about ghosts.”
— ♦♦♦ —
After dinner, they went out for a walk, and Francis asked to visit the old graveyard, and they stood for a while in front of the iron gate – closed, she noticed. Francis didn’t say a word either and kept silent on their way back to the hotel. When they went upstairs, however, he kissed her and gently took her to his room.
Ewine tried to object. “My deadline is in just two days-”
“A few hours won’t make any difference. Or do you plan to keep me locked in this room until then?” He said, pinning her arms upon her head and started kissing her neck. “Everything will be fine, I know.”
The morning after she woke up at dawn. Francis was sleeping at her side, his breath regular, his arm around her waist. How strange it had been, Ewine thought, ending up in that way. Whilst she couldn’t deny he was attractive, there was also something intimidating about him.
She slipped out of the bed in silence and went back to her room. She had decided that, no matter what was coming out of the archives, a good chat with the police was essential. If what people kept saying was correct, and there had been real murders in Ermyn, well, police would have known about them, and possibly found a culprit more accountable than lost souls.
She reached Kendal’s regional archive and began with the oldest repositories.
What she found out left her dumbstruck. The story of Hexen was not what Callum had told her, or better said, that wasn’t the whole truth -it was worse.
There had been indeed a strange disease that took hold of the small town, where people had to fight a real emergency very much like Eyam. But it was different from Eyam, because the town had not isolated itself. It had been quarantined by its neighbours and left to die. Moreover, an old journal of the plague time that she was able to access strongly suggested that the mysterious illness had not naturally occurred in Hexen, but that it had been spread by contaminated goods, sent on purpose to exterminate Hexen’s inhabitants. The suspects were people from the nearby county, willing to acquire the area for building a new town and taking advantage of its better location on the lake. True or not, rich people from the neighbouring countryside had bought the land of the now-void town, razed Hexen’s buildings and founded what was to become a pretty resort destination in the Lake District: Ermyn.
The possibility conveyed in the journal was terrifying. Ewine ran a few searches about epidemics in the Lake District during the same period: none of them related to the Windermere Lake’s area. Whatever the causes, only Hexen had been affected, and the disease had stopped there.
Incredible, Ewine thought. She tried to double-check the horror story she had just read, but the only record that survived was the one in her hands. The anonymous writer had concluded his journal saying that “the memory of the Sick Town will be lost in time because no one will remember anything so awful. May the shame of that sin damn the souls of the perpetrators forever and ever, and their posterity, until the Angel of Death kills them all.”
If there are ghosts with reasons to be angry, should be Hexen’s ghosts, not Ermyn’s, she mused.
An idea started taking form in her head. A weird, unlikely idea, but one she could not chase away. She headed straight to the police station, not before leaving a message to Francis to not wait for her until night.
— ♦♦♦ —
“You think I’m crazy,” she said, searching for signs of skepticism in his eyes.
“I don’t.” He replied, sustaining her look. “It’s only that some details of your story don’t add up.” He said. “What you’re telling me is that a few deaths occurred in Ermyn aren’t caused by the ghosts of the past but by real and very alive murderers.”
“Yes.” She nodded, flustered. “Yes. I went to see the police. In the last thirty years, a total of 4730 deaths from non-natural causes has been recorded here. 79% tourists – the rest of them were locals. When I say “non-natural”, I don’t necessarily imply murder. But they’re all unusual, in a way or another.”
“I don’t know local statistics.”
“It’s a hell of a lot, Francis, consider how tiny the town is.”
“Have all been dismissed as accidental?”
“Good question. For what I’ve found out, most of them have been classified as such – you won’t find ghosts in a police record, will you? There were, however, suspicions from time to time, and not about demonic activity.”
“Because of a strange coincidence. They all happened on the same day.”
“I should not ask which day, right?”
“We’d better being careful.” She smiled. “It’s in two-hour time.”
They finished their dinner and walked outside, in the direction of the ancient graveyard. “Are you scared, Ewine?” He said, brushing her hair.
She took his hand and held it tight. “I don’t believe in ghosts, you know it. I’m sure this is the reason why you ask me to investigate this case in the first place. But what I think happened in Ermyn is creepier. I haven’t told you about it yet, but it’s related to Hexen’s horror story,” she said. “It’ll sound to you like a conspiracy theory, I know. Historians are prone to that. But I’ve thought it over, and I feel there’s something here the police had not grasped.”
“I’m a scientist -I like theories.” He kissed her, pulling her toward the road. “Tell me your theory while we walk in the old cemetery.”
“Come on. I don’t believe in ghosts, but that place is grim.”
“What better location to wait for the midnight?” His green eyes lighted up with a glint. “In my company, you won’t need to fear anything else,” he laughed. “Come on, let’s go. You don’t want to lose the local edition of Walpurgis Night.”
In the full moonlight of a cloudless night, that place seemed to Ewine eerier than usual. The rain had left muddy pools all over the path, and they could only advance with great difficulty.
They arrived in front of the gate, finding it open. He looked at her with a smile and made a gesture to go inside.
She stopped him. “Francis, I’m on something here.”
“You have all my attention,” he replied, gently taking her hand and walking past the gate.
She shuddered. That place was clearly starting to get on her nerves. “Let’s say I’m right. Let’s say all these deaths are murders. What if that anonymous journal was telling the truth, and there were people from the neighbourhood to infect Hexen’s inhabitants with a deadly plague to acquire their land?”
He observed her with an unreadable stare. “I still don’t see the link between the two, though. Are you suggesting the vengeful spirits of those killed by the plague went back from their grave to kill the inhabitants of their stolen land?”
“No, not their spirits. Their descent. What if after centuries they’ve discovered what happened to their ancestors, and they decided to get back and kill the perpetrators’ great-great-children -every year on the day of their massacre?”
“Yes. It was the day of Hexen’s first recorded death.”
They remained in silence for a moment. Then Francis laughed. “You could be a screenwriter. This would make a magnificent movie, Ewine.”
“There’s a weak point in your theory, though.”
“If this were a revenge from Hexen’s descendants on the culprits, they would chase them everywhere, not just here. Have you thought about that?”
“Yes,” she said. “But if my theory is correct, all happened for the possession of this land. It’s obvious that it is here; that vengeance, or justice, has to come. And guess what? All local people found dead belong to old families of this region – the ones I was able to check, at least. But I’m ready to bet their ancestors are among the ones who condemned Hexen.”
They kept walking. The place looked to Ewine even more even derelict than the previous day, with disheveled slimy headstones, collapsed vaults, and old artifacts surfacing from the mud.
“How have you thought about this hypothesis in the first place, anyway?” He asked, noticing her regard.
She looked at him, and her voice lowered. “Because I put myself in the head of the killers. Those patient, implacable, angry people who had the nerves to search back in time all their ancestry lines and reconstruct the history of the Sick Town. And that, silently, they have started taking out the descent of their grand-grandfathers’ killers one by one, during all these years.” Her regard went to a half-hidden tomb on the ground. Roots had grown up on the grave, and the smell of decay and wet terrain fluttered around. “Something so subtle and well-crafted that nobody in more than a century has figured out.”
“But you did, apparently.”
“Because you’re smarter than the others?”
“No.” She shivered again. “Because when you accomplish something so perfect, you want to be acknowledged -I know I would. I’d like somebody to know how good am I. Not just anybody, but somebody who can appreciate it.” Ewine went nearer to him, taking refuge in his arms. “When I was in Kendal, I made another research – on my own ancestry. My family comes from here. They were members of the local gentry. Leaving just a few miles away from Hexen.” She stared at him, a frightened regard in her eyes. “If all this is true, is it not an incredible coincidence I’m here now to unearth a possible mass crime of my ancestors?”
Francis kissed her with gentleness. “Maybe it’s no coincidence.”
He moved behind her, his arms tightening up around her head. She felt an intense pressure on her carotid artery and her vision became fuzzy, while she chocked out for breath.
— ♦♦♦ —
The lady was impeccably dressed, red high-heeled shoes and a white silk scarf on her blond hair. She extended her hand to him.
“May I help you?” He asked politely.
“I believe so. May I sit down?”
“Sure.” He pointed at the couch, smiling, and took away all the magazines scattered on it. “Please.”
“I won’t beat around the bush, Doctor. I’m not here for an appointment. My heart is perfectly fine. “
“I see. Do you want to talk about new treatments or drugs? In this case, may I suggest you book an appointment with my P.A….”
“I’m here to talk about your sister, Dr. Stewart-Miller. Ewine, isn’t it?”
He looked at her, his smile disappearing from his face. “Who are you?”
She waved her hand. “Please, don’t get upset.”
“You’re asking too much.” He replied sharply. “Do you know what happened to my sister?”
“I’m here exactly for this reason.” She said. “I may help you to find out the truth about her untimely death in the Lake District.”
“How do you know all these things?”
“I’m a private eye, and I have been hired to investigate the mysterious circumstances that surround her death.”
“By whom? Why?”
“An investment company in Boston. They did have in mind to invest in the town your sister was researching for her job, but they were rather upset at what happened. They want me to know what’s going on before putting any money into it.” She smiled. “Anything you can tell me?”
“If what you said it’s true, you should already know about the forensic. According to the police, she had a panic attack when she was walking at night in the old graveyard and got herself killed.” His mind went back to the first time he heard the police telling him that incredible story. His sister was investigating a haunted location (normal for her); and she had got so scared (that was not normal; no matter what they said) it actually caused her to have an accident. Her body had been found in the cemetery, her throat pierced from part to part by a protruding spike from a grate she had stumbled upon when leaving the place in a great hurry. She had bled to death in minutes.
“What did you make of it? Apparently, your sister was a convinced skeptic. I read some of her articles. I find weird she believed things she was so good to unmask in the first place.”
He appraised the attractive woman in front of him, her clear calm eyes and her relaxed attitude. “You’re right.” He said eventually. “What are you going to do? You know, it happened this period of the year, a couple of weeks from now.”
She smiled. “I’m going there, of course. I’ll personally check out. I’ve made this quick stop in London just to visit you. I thought you might be interested. I can you informed-”
“No.” He said, standing up and grabbing his coat. “I’m coming with you. Now.”
She smiled again and stood up too, leaning toward him. Her hand touched delicately his shoulder, remaining there for a second too long. “It was exactly what I hoped you would say.” She replied. “It will be a pleasure making this journey with you, Dr. Stewart-Miller.”
He nodded and started packing his stuff. Then he stopped and turned toward her. “I don’t even know your name.”
“Apologies. I forgot to introduce myself,” she replied, looking at him with her pale green eyes. “Williams. Katherine Williams.”
— ♦♦♦ —
Steel Horse. By Ville Meriläinen, Art by Cesar Valtierra
Don’t forget to check us out next week when we present “Steel Horse” by Ville Meriläinen. It’s the story of a love triangle…sort of. Admittedly, the characters are a bit unusual, one of them being DEATH. Then there’s Sam and Margaret (newly engaged). And finally, there is Maude, who is ever-so-slightly infatuated with DEATH. DEATH has taken Margaret because he’s in love with her. Now it’s up to Sam, reluctantly with the help of Maude, to rescue her. The problem is that Margaret is the certified adventurer whereas Sam…is not.