Here we are at Week 13 of the More Odds than Ends writing prompts. My prompt for the second week in a row came from Leigh Kimmel. And the prompt I submitted went to Kat Ross. My prompt: Warning that certain ground is sacred or accursed; that a house or city must not be built upon it—or must be abandoned or destroyed if built, under penalty of catastrophe. This struck me as something Jack, the free-lance curse breaker, might run across. In fact, one of his clients just might have given him this puzzle to solve.
Walking carefully across the neglected yard, Jack surveyed the clearly abandoned house. Toys lay on the front porch as if they had been dropped in the middle of play. An Adirondack rocking chair shifted slightly. The front door was closed, but the screen door swung lazily back and forth in the slight breeze. Captain whined and leaned into Jack’s leg his tail firmly pressed between his back legs. Jack glanced down at Captain’s whine and stopped, surveying the empty house.
“What is it boy? What are you getting?” Jack whispered to the big German shepherd.
Captain whined again and crouched down. Jack leaned down and keeping his eyes on the house released the leash clip. If anything happened, he figured Captain would make it back home and Monica would bring help.
He slowly straightened up and studied the house. It seemed empty, but something wasn’t quite right. There was a heavy, watchful feeling about it. He was exceedingly happy he had decided to investigate in the bright light of midday. He just had a feeling that any other time with little to no sunlight would be treacherous.
“Come on, boy,” he said to Captain and made his way back down the walkway and through the little gate at the sidewalk. The dog followed right on his heels. Stepping through the gate he carefully closed and latched it before looking up at the house again. Standing on the sidewalk he felt better, and Captain was no longer whining, but his tail was still down, and his eyes never left the little house.
Reaching a decision, Jack crossed the street. Only then did he raise his camera to his eye and focus its lens on the house. The camera had surprised him the other day with its ability to show things that the unaided human eye could not. He made sure he took several shots of the house, zooming in and with a wider angle. He put the camera back in his bag without looking at the digital images. Clipping the leash back on Captain, he turned and walked to the end of the block where he had left his car. Time to go home and do some research on the house.
Back in his office, Jack pulled the camera out of his bag and plugged it in to his computer to download the photos. Captain whined once and retreated into the main part of the house. Jack could hear Monica talking to the dog in a soothing tone and the sound of kibble pouring into the metal bowl. He turned back to the computer, took a deep breath and opened the first photo.
Staring at the picture, Jack’s jaw dropped. The yard and the front porch of the house showed at least ten shades wandering about. Not only was the house haunted, it was filled with ghosts. Monica came up behind him.
“What the hell? Where is that?” She stared at the photo on the screen.
“It’s that house on 47th; the one that’s been empty for about a year. That guy cursed in the troll doll, Geoffrey, wrote down that address for me, but he didn’t want to say anything about it. I don’t know why there are so many shades there, but I guess I’ll find out.” Jack looked up at his wife. “This is getting uglier.”
“No kidding. Please be careful.” She gave him a brief kiss on the top of his head and went back into the kitchen.
Jack pulled up his browser window and typed in the address of the house. “Holy shit,” he muttered when the search results came up. “That explains it.”
The first link on the search page was a two-year old news story on the developer who was building a house on a lot that was long thought to be cursed. According to the news story, someone had once tried to build a house on that lot over a seventy years ago. That family had been gruesomely murdered one night, but no culprit had ever been found. No one had wanted to buy the house after that, and the original house had fallen into disrepair and rumors it was haunted had followed. The story around the house grew to the point where people said it had been cursed even before the first house was build, but nobody knew why. Eventually, the city had torn down what was left of the house, and the lot had remained empty until two years ago when the developer in question had decided that weird local stories were causing a perfectly good piece of property to go to waste. He’d bought the lot from the city for a song (they didn’t want it either), ignored all the warnings from the locals and built his house. A year later, he and his family had fled in terror.
Jack raked his hands through his hair. Somehow this was connected to curses he had been breaking recently. But he was at a loss to explain it.
He shut down the computer, saving the photos to a separate thumb drive and detaching that drive from his computer. No point in risking anything. He carefully closed his office door and walked into the kitchen where Monica was making dinner.
“Crap.” He sat down and put his head in his hands. “That house was cursed, and it’s haunted. Now I just have to figure out the connection between it and the dolls. Why did Geoffrey give me that address and why wouldn’t he say anything about it?” He groaned.
Monica pulled a beer out of the refrigerator, opened it and set the bottle in front of him.
“Have a drink, we’ll eat dinner and then work on this puzzle.”
“Thanks. You’re the best,” Jack sighed.
I really have to write this whole story. There are missing bits between what is serialized here. I’ve got a series idea for this…percolating, percolating…