Sister Victoria stood facing me, as I sat on the bench looking up at her. A large moon behind her silhouetted her slender figure.
“Glad you could make it,” she said, “I wasn’t sure you would come.”
“I didn’t expect you to be one to leave notes on people’s cars, Sister Victoria.”
“I called you on your cell, Mr. Mendoza, but hung up when you answered. I realized at the last second it was probably a bad idea. The call could have been monitored by the orphanage. I decided to choose a different means of getting hold of you.”
“Call me, Cole. What’s this all about? Don’t nuns have curfews or something like that?” I asked.
“It’s not important. What is important is that I have information for you,” she said as she sat down on the bench next to me to my left.
“I’m not sure if you remember, but I was in the office when you spoke to Mother Superior,” Sister Victoria said. “Yeah, I remember.”
“I overheard the whole conversation. You were inquiring about Elise Singleton who was admitted to St. Mary’s some years ago.”
“Yup, I was.”
“Instead of helping you, Mother Superior, gave you an icy disposition. She has her reasons… Elise has a past shrouded in ill fortune and some of it was brought to these parts when she arrived at the orphanage. Mother Superior wants everything to do with Elise forever forgotten. I understand why but some of the ill fortune remains and needs to be resolved. How long have you lived in Elise’s house?”
“How do you know I live there?
“You left us your information, remember?”
“Right. Not long, I’ve only recently moved in.” I said . Sister Victoria paused, looked out at the water, then back to me.
“This is why I’m here tonight, Cole; I’m just trying to do what I believe is right. When I learned that you were living in Elise’s house, I knew that you could be in danger. You see, Elise went missing not too long ago and so did another woman who moved in after her. I feared you could be next.”
“I know the missing woman who moved in after Elise. She’s a friend and I’m trying to find her, that’s why I moved in after her. I need to learn more about Elise’s history, maybe it can help me find my friend.”
“Then all the more reason to give you this,” Sister Victoria said as she reached into her black overcoat. She pulled out an old, manilla envelope and handed it to me.
“This is a copy of Elise’s file,” she said. “Usually there’s a long process before something like this is given but maybe there’s something significant in here for you.”
I peeked into the file and sorted through a bunch of papers.
“I think you should know, if you don’t already, that there is a supernatural force that has connected itself to that house and Ravensgate itself,” Victoria said.
“Yeah, I know. I’ve experienced strange shit there. Can you tell me a little about Elise before I read the file?” I asked.
“Yes, but I can’t stay much longer. I can tell you what I know. According to Mother Superior, Elise was a bright and intelligent little girl, a good Catholic that learned the rosary quickly. Mother Superior was fond of her, in fact they remained in touch even after Elise left St. Mary’s.
Later in life as a woman, Elise inadvertently became involved in wicked things through her husband. Mother superior tried to help, sacrificed much, but failed. Now she wants the negative forces surrounding Elise’s situation to be forgotten. But it can never be forgotten if it’s never resolved.”
Sister Victoria stood up from the bench with her hands in the pockets of her coat.
“I hope you find your friend,” she said. “I’ll do what I can to help you if you need anything. Keep in touch.”
She handed me a white business card with nothing on it but a hand-written email address which consisted of random numbers and letters, spelling nothing in particular. A phone number as well.
“This phone is not connected to the church in anyway. Call if you need to. I want to help.”
“Thanks, Sister. For everything,” I said.
Before walking away, she reached into her coat again and pulled out a metal crucifix with a sculpture of Christ on it. “Here, take this. It may be of some assistance.”
I accepted the gift with a deep appreciation and Sister Victoria silently walked away. I took a few moments to contemplate what just happened. I got up from the bench, walked to the wooden railing by the water and leaned against it again. The moonlight glistened against the soft waves. I looked around, noticing that the park was now empty.
I peered to my right at cluster of trees off in the distance. I was sure I saw someone standing in between two trees at the edge. Somebody was watching. The figure blinked in and out of the darkness.
I walked away from the railing and headed back through the park towards Main Street. I kept an eye on the spot where I saw the figure and within seconds it stepped out from between trees into the open area. I couldn’t make out any features; it was a shadowy outline of a human shape.
I don’t know how long the person had been there but probably saw Sister Victoria give me the file. The person turned, facing me as I continued strolling along. I slightly increased my speed and I glanced behind me to check the figure’s status. He was following me. If it was the groundskeeper, then it was showtime.
The crucifix and file were in my left hand. With my right, I reached inside my inner jacket, grasping the handle of my piece. He walked faster in my direction. I picked up the pace, looking around for other people, the park was empty.
Once more I looked behind; the figure was even closer, it glided towards me fast, no feet on the ground. It was solid black, but not like a shadow, it was solid, like a real person. Moonlight bounced off the shoulders. Yellow dots for eyes became visible on its formless face and I could make out horns at the top of its head.
I gripped the gun handle tighter, pulled it out of the holster then turned around pointing the barrel at the thing directly.
“Stop!” I ordered and received no response as it moved closer. My heart pumped rapidly, and I began to squeeze the trigger. Laughing was heard off to my left about forty yards away. A group of teens came out from a cluster of brush but didn’t see me. In front of me was nothing, the thing was gone. Quickly, I concealed the weapon in my jacket, back in its holster before the kids noticed me. They goofed off loudly as they approached the clearing.
I put the cross and file into my jacket, zipped it up, then headed back to my car. The teenagers carried on obnoxiously from behind. As I approached my car, parked on Main, I saw a man wearing a dark, gray overcoat standing in front of the passenger’s front door. As I got closer, he moved out of the way.
“This park has a curfew at 10:30,” he said.
“Oh, yeah?” I looked at my watch. “10:27. What business is it of yours?”
He opened the wallet he held in his right hand and flashed a detective’s badge. He obviously didn’t see me holding the gun earlier, when I was deeper inside the park.
“I’m Detective Mason. Just here enjoying the park I take it?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You’re new to Ravensgate. You move into the big old house on Arkham Road?”
“Yup, sure did.”
“You know, the woman who lived there before you was nuts. Why live in such a big house all by yourself?”
“I’m up here trying to get away from things for a while. You know, solitude. Am I under investigation, Detective Mason?
“No, Mr. Mendoza, you’re not. We here in Ravensgate just like to make sure new residents enjoy their stay.”
The teenagers stopped laughing and goofing off as they walked past us onto the sidewalk and took off.
“Good. Well I’d like to get home and get back to that solitude.”
“Of course. Solitude. See you around.” Detective Mason said then walked away down Main.
He knew my name. He was keeping tabs on me. On the drive back I checked my rearview mirror to see if he followed. He didn’t. Once home, I set the crucifix and Elise’ file on the living room coffee table. That thing in the park; it was some kind of demon. It looked like the thing that came out of the wall in the cavern beneath the house.
It reminded me of the secret passage in the basement and I felt uneasy. I needed to make sure it was still locked. I unfastened the pad lock to the basement door and went downstairs into the cellar. The door to Sandy’s studio was still locked shut. I opened it with the key and the large wooden table still rested against the wall blocking the passage entrance. Good. How I left it. I relocked the studio, went back upstairs, then relocked the basement door in the hall.
Feeling a little better, I sat on the couch, retrieved the manilla folder from the table and opened it. The papers listed Elise’s date of birth and where she was born which was about sixty miles west of Ravensgate. She was not yet one years old when she was admitted to St. Mary’s and didn’t come alone, an older sibling was admitted with her. Elise’s older sister was named Sandra Breyer.
I perused the documents given to me by Sister Victoria and learned that Elise Breyer was in fact adopted by the Singletons not too long after being admitted to the orphanage. The fact that she and Sandy were sisters explains the photograph I found in the attic and Sandy’s connection to the house.
I took the photograph of the party that took place so many years ago out of my book bag. Now I could see it, the slight resemblance between the two women. They have the same eyes. The sisters must have kept in touch either all their lives, yet Sandy never mentioned her to me. Sandy must have moved into the house after she learned of her sister’s disappearance.
If Sandy came to Ravensgate to find her sister, she probably would have investigated everything that Elise did. If I continued investigating Elise, I would likely learn more about what Sandy was looking for.
I picked it up the crucifix from the coffee table. I was never super religious but had a personal faith. Experiencing what I did in the house made me more aware that things exist that can’t be explained naturally.
I went into the main hall with the crucifix. There was a painting on the wall of an old garage with an antique model car inside. I never cared for it, so I removed it from the nail, set it on the floor against the wall, and put the crucifix up in its place.
I went to sleep that night in the house without any contact from spirits. I did however hear the loud, thumping noises within the walls of my bedroom this time. The rats in the walls, they had to be huge by the sound they made.
The next afternoon, Saturday, I sat in the study to continue reading The Hidden Doctrine over my usual coffee. Interrupting an interesting chapter how to reanimate corpses, there was a knock at the front door. I went downstairs to answer it.
As planned, Claire came by to look at the paintings to see which ones her mother painted. The weather had been getting chillier and she wore a green jacket. I asked her to hang it on one of the hooks in the foyer.
“Nice house,” she said as she followed me into the main hall. “It looks kind of familiar. I think I may have come here once with my mom when I was a kid.”
“Thanks. Coffee or something?” I asked.
She asked for tea, so I went into the kitchen and boiled water as she waited in the dining room next to the kitchen. Through the doorway of the kitchen I saw her walk up to the dining room wall, looking at a large painting of flowers.
“Recognize anything to be your mom’s?” I asked from the kitchen stove
“Yeah, this is great!” she said gleefully. “Her signature is on all her work.”
“What’s your mom’s name?” I asked.
“Tabitha Kensington. These are definitely some of her older pieces. Her style was not as developed in this stage of her career, but it’s still the same.”
I walked into the dining room with two hot cups of British Breakfast tea. She stood facing the wall staring at another painting of wildlife mountain scene. I warned her to wait a minute and let the hot tea cool on the dining room table before she drank.
“Wow, this is awesome. I didn’t know my mom did so much work,” Claire said stepping up to one painting of carriage pulled by horses with a couple riding in it. Claire happened to look down at the white bust of the women on the dining room end table.
“Did you buy this bust?” she asked.
“No, my friend Sandy made it actually. The one, you know, who lived here before me.”
“She’s an excellent artist too I see,” Claire said, “I really hope they find her.”
“Me too, there are more paintings in the hall and living room,” I said.
Claire turned around and walked into the main hall.
“Wow! I remember that one. May I?” she asked.
I followed her into hall to see the other pieces on the walls. Not all of them were done by Claire’s mom but most were. Claire noticed the crucifix on the wall but said nothing then stood in front of the painting of the vintage car I put on the floor which leaned against the wall.
“This one,” she said as she bent down to pick it up. “I remember when my mom was working on it.” A smile arose across her face.
“So how much do you want?” she asked. “Don’t worry about it, take some of them, on me.”
“No Cole, I’d rather pay. I…”
“It’s ok. Take them and surprise your mom.”
“Thanks so much. I really appreciate it,” she said then set it back on the floor against the wall. We then went into the living room. Claire stepped up to the fireplace, staring up at the painting of my house above it.
“My mom did this one too. Looks just like this house. Hmm, there’s something different about it,” Clare said taking a closer look at the artwork. I didn’t understand in what way but if it was different, I couldn’t tell.
“I hope you don’t mind,” I told her. “I’d like to keep this one for now. I’ve grown to like it.”
“That’s totally fine. These are your paintings. You don’t have to give any away that you don’t want.”
Claire noticed the white bust on the mantle and curiously touched its face with her index finger.
“You said your friend made these?” Claire asked.
“That’s right, there are three of them,” I said.
Claire looked at me oddly pointing at the bust, “I know this person.”
I was caught off guard by the comment. “Really? Who is that?” I asked, my curiosity sparked.
“This is Judith Doyle. She was a friend of my mom’s. Did Sandy know her?” Claire asked.
“I’m not sure. Maybe she did. Who is Judith?” I inquired.
“She used to be the curator of the Ravensgate historical museum, but it’s been closed for quite some time. You said Sandy made three of these busts?”
“Uh-huh, there’s one more,” I said tilting my head signaling Claire to follow me. We stepped out of the living room, then went down to the end of the hall and stepped into the plant-adorned sanctuary. Claire paused, studying the bust on the table next to the grandfather clock.
“You know who that is don’t you?” she asked.
“No, I don’t.”
“That’s Elise. It looks just like her, your friend must have known a few people from Ravensgate.”
“Yeah, that would make sense…the tea has probably cooled by now,” I said. After Claire pointed it out, I could see the likeness of the of bust was the same as one of the spirits I’ve seen in the house, and the woman in the pictures I found in the attic.
“What’s this?” Claire said pointing to the word “DOOR” etched into the white marble on the front upper chest of the bust.
“Oh that?” I think Sandy might have had relatives who had little kids or something. I think they might have written it there.” I said.
“Shame they did that,” Claire said. “Maybe it could be sanded down.”
We walked back into the dining room and sat underneath the crystal chandelier. Clare sipped her black tea then looked back at the bust she saw first in the dining room on the end table.
“Any idea who she is?” I asked.
“Not a clue,” she answered.
“You seem to know a little about Judith. Can you tell me a bit more?”
“Well, like I said, she was a friend of my mom and the curator of the Ravensgate historical museum on Pike Island.”
“Pike Island?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s not too far from here on the river. You can see it from the riverfront in the park.” Claire said.
Claire was right. I saw the island when I met Sister Victoria at the park by the river front. All I could really see were the trees on the island’s coast.
“Judith and my mother both taught art at the elementary school together when they were young. Mom later got a job teaching art at the university and Judith began working at the Museum. They would often meet for lunch or go to church together when they could.”
“Did Elise know Judith?” I continued.
“They could have, Elise went to the same church as my mom.”
“What church did they go to?”
“New Life Ministries, it used to be on Whitmore Street but closed down recently.”
“Claire, I need help learning more about how Sandy disappeared and might need to speak to your mom. She may have more information that might help find her. Do you think you can talk to her, ask her if I could meet with her and ask some questions?”
“I can give it a try. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I tell her you’re a friend of mine and that you gave me back some of her paintings an all..” Claire said as her attention was adverted elsewhere.
“What’s that,” she said looking at the bust of the unknown girl. She got up from the dining room table, walked to the bust on the end table.
“I didn’t notice this before.” she said.
“Notice what?” I said.
Claire pointed to the chest of the mysterious girl. Scratched in the white stone right beneath the collar bones was the word “Feast”.
The writing wasn’t the same as the writing on the bust of Elise. The word “Feast” had one capital letter at the beginning and the rest were lowercase. The word “DOOR” on the bust of Elsie was written in all caps.
“Yeah, I pretty sure I didn’t notice that word on the bust before,” Claire said.
“Oh, that. Yeah it was there. The kids. Like I said, I think they did it.”
“Yeah, shame.” Claire said.
We went back to the table to sit and got off the subject of art. Eventually Claire told me she was meeting with some girlfriends. She invited me to come but I asked for a rain check. I helped her carry three large paintings that her mom painted to her white Ford Fiesta. She promised to get in touch with me about my meeting her mom and went on her way.
I went back inside and into the dining room. I stared at the bust of the young girl. What did the word “Feast” mean? Was it because the bust was in the dining room and that’s where people eat? I guessed at anything.
In the living room, I picked up the bust of the woman who Claire recognized as Judith Doyle. No writing on her chest. She was attractive and looked to be in her, maybe, late twenties. Turning the statue over and looking at the bottom, I observed small letters carved into the one of the corners of the flat, white surface: JD by SB. Judith Doyle by Sandra Breyer.
Why didn’t I think of looking underneath the busts sooner? I ventured into the sanctuary and looked at the bottom of the bust of Elise: EH by SB.
I then went back into dining room and looked underneath the bust in there: CK by SB.
“And who might you be?” I said aloud. Last name starts with K. Kensington? Was this girl related to Claire and her mom? Claire didn’t know her or recognize her. Or did she and not want to tell me?
Claire mentioned the church that Elise, Judith and her mom, Tabitha used to go to. Wendy, the owner of the Red Fawn Bookstore also said that Sandy went to a church in Ravensgate. There weren’t many churches in the small town. If Sandy were investigating her sister, it was possible she went to the church that Elise went to.
Claire said that the church on Whitmore Street had closed down, but still wouldn’t hurt to pay a visit. I searched the internet and found the location of New Life Ministries in Ravensgate.
I put on my black jacket, left the house and took a drive into town; it didn’t take long to find the church. I parked my car behind a yellow pickup truck which was parked in front of the red, brick church. The door and window trim were painted white and a matching white steeple was built at the top of the building with a small cross at the apex.
The front double doors at the top of the steps were wide open. Two men carried boxes of items out from the church and loaded them into the back of the yellow pickup in front of me. I got out of the car when one of the men noticed me.
“Can I help you?” he said shoving a cardboard box in the back of the truck.
“Yeah, can I speak to a pastor or someone in charge?” I answered.
“Jeff’s inside. Go ahead on in. The office is the first door on your right at the end of the hall towards the back of the building.”
I thanked the guy and walked up the steps to the building. As soon as I stepped in, I saw the service area through the first door on the left at the front of the church. I walked all the down to end of the hall and the door to the office was open.
I peeked in. A man, in his fifties with graying hair and a small gut, wore a long-sleeved, button down, shirt was emptying the contents of a desk into a wooden box. With my knuckles I lightly rapped on the door.
“Hey there, can I help you?” the man said.
“Hi, I’m Cole. I was told I could speak with you. Are you the pastor here?” I asked.
“Come on in,” he said, extending his hand. I shook it. “I’m Jeff Johnson. I used to be. I don’t pastor here anymore. We don’t hold services any longer.”
“Moving to a new location?”
“Afraid not,” he said. “We’re shut down for good. But what can I do for you?”
“I came here to inquire about someone who might have attended here a short while ago. She’s an old friend of mine.”
With a bit of suspicion, he looked at me.
“Was she a member?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What’s the name?”
“Sandra Breyer,” I said. He obviously didn’t recognize the name by the indifference on his face.
“How long ago do you believe she attended here?”
“Probably about a six-months or so ago.”
He stopped filling up the box, set it on his desk then hunched over slightly to control the mouse of his computer.
“We do try to keep track of the people that attend services for demographic reasons,” he said as the mouse clicked away. He paused silently for a moment as he eyed the computer screen.
“Breyer, Sandra… yeah, she wasn’t a member, but she did visit us more than a few times.” The look on his face changed. “Breyer, yeah I remember her. Isn’t this the woman who moved into town and disappeared shortly after?”
“Yes, it is. She’s a friend and I was hoping to learn something that might be able to help in the case,” I explained.
“I gotcha,” he said.
“Do you think there’s something that you might remember? Who Sandy talked to or mingled with?”
The ex-pastor folded his arms and thought for a moment. “Sorry, I can’t really think of anything right now.”
“What about Elise Hall? Are you familiar with her,” I asked.
“Elise.” the pastor said and looked up to the right, “Yes, I am. She attended quite a while ago, before she left Ravensgate. She was buddies with Judy who was a member here. They often came to service together.”
“Judith Doyle. The curator of the historical museum?
“Yeah, that’s her. Other than that, I can’t think of anything. Sorry to hurry things along but I’ve got to get moving. I have to take a lot stuff to a storage facility before it closes.” he said.
“No problem. Thanks for your help.”
We walked outside together as he carried his box of things to his white Pontiac Grand Am which was parked in front of the yellow pickup which already left. I thanked him, went back to my vehicle and sat with my hand on the wheel, ready to drive off.
In front of me Johnson opened the trunk of his car and rearranged some items. As he put the box inside, it slightly tilted, and something fell from it landing on the grass near the curb. He didn’t see or hear it fall to the ground. It looked familiar. I waited for him to pick it up, but he didn’t. He just got into his car and drove away.
I stepped out from my vehicle to see if it was what I thought it was. I walked to where it landed on the street and picked it up. It was exactly what I thought it; a small, clear, crystal skull. It was just like the one I found in the attic of my house.
I put the skull in my front pocket and my cell phone rang in the other. It was Karl. I answered and he sounded worried.
“Cole, are you busy?”
“No, not really. What’s going on?”
“I’ve called to tell you that I’ve spoken with Beverly today. She said that she had a strange premonition last night about you in the form of a nightmare. She wants me to talk to you, but I don’t want to go into it over the phone. I’m in Ravensgate. Can I meet you later today if you can make it?” Karl asked.
“I’m in town right now actually. I can meet you now if you like.”
“Let’s meet at the Coffee Nook about fifteen minutes.”
I agreed and went straight to the coffee shop. Claire wasn’t working, she was out with her girlfriends. Karl came by on time and we sat down.
“So, what happened? What did Beverly say?” I asked.
“She said that you were in danger last night. She’s not usually wrong when she’s so adamant about something. Is everything alright?”
“I’m fine, but Beverly’s right. I’m not sure but I think I was almost attacked last night by something in the park. I thought it was a man at first but I don’t know what it was. It looked like some kind of demon. It disappeared into thin air so I’m not sure if even happened.”
“Beverly said there’s something menacing behind all this. If you continue staying in that house, it might night end well.” “Does Beverly know for sure? I mean, can she see the future?”
“No, but she can sense danger, call it a Spidey Sense. It could lead to a possible future. We just thought you should know.”
“I understand, thanks for the concern. I’m already involved in this and I’m willing to continue. Sandy has no one else looking for her.”
“You do what you have to. I’ve only known Sandy for a short time, and she’s a remarkable woman. I’ll help you with anything that I can.”
Knowing what I did about Karl and his interest in all things supernatural I thought maybe his only interest in Sandy’s case was because of supernatural connections. Maybe he’d get the glory of finding some definite proof of spirits to show the world. Or maybe I was wrong; maybe he was genuinely interested in helping find Sandy. I knew for sure he’d be interested in what I found fall from the pastor’s box.
“So, does this mean that the ghost hunt at my house is still scheduled?” I asked. “If you feel you’re involving yourself too deeply I’ll understand.”
“I’m still prepared to do that, but I’ll have to ask Beverly if she’s still game.”
I reached in my pocket and retrieved the small, glass skull.
“By the way. Ever see one of these. I meant to tell you about them the last time we met.” I asked and set the object on the table. Karl picked it up and studied it.
“I’ve heard of these. Crystal Skulls. They’re usually bigger than this, like the size of normal human skulls. Where did you get it?” “I found it on the street near a church. An ex-pastor dropped it” I said. “Interesting thing is, I found one similar to it in my attic.”
“Really? I’m not quite sure what the deal is but I know someone who might.”
“Nope. I’ll call him right now. He might be able to explain what this thing is about. I hope you don’t mind if I tell him that we’ll be doing an investigation of your house. He used to do them with me.”
“Who is he?”
“His name is Bill Shuttersworth.
“Sure, go ahead, if you think he can help, call him.”
Karl pulled out his mobile from his inner blazer pocket and dialed the number, someone answered. Karl explained the situation, as I looked out the Window onto Main Street. Dusk had fallen and streetlights adorned the avenue. I could easily see the telephone pole where the electrical line had snapped the night before, it had been fixed.
“Alright then,” Karl said, breaking my train of thought. “Thanks. Bye.”
Karl hung up and looked at me excitedly.
“Would you be willing to take a 30-minute trip north to visit my colleague, Bill? I mean, if you have the time,” he said.
“If he can answer questions, sure, why not,” I answered. “So, what’s the deal with this guy?” I asked.
“You’ll see. Bill is one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet.
We left the Coffee Nook. I followed Karl on the expressway up until we reached Brookmere where Bill Shuttersworth and his wife lived. Brookmere didn’t have as much open land as Ravensgate surrounding it but still looked like the boonies to me.
Eventually, we came across a small, ranch styled home in a modest neighborhood. The living room light was on as I pulled up into the driveway behind Karl’s car.
We walked up to the front door and Karl rang the bell. A few seconds later a short, thin, woman with long gray hair opened the door. Karl introduced me to Angela, Bill’s wife. She invited us in to sit down on the couch in the living room.
“My husband will be right out,” she said then she wandered into another room. I looked around the small, comfy, living room. Photographs of family members decorated the walls, children maybe. The dining room, living room, and kitchen were connected almost like one large room. A cross hung on the wall in the above the couch where we sat. A man stepped from the hallway into the living room and greeted us.
“Hey Karl, good to see ya!” the man said enthusiastically, extending his hand outward inviting Karl to shake. Karl and I both arose from the soft cushions of the couch and Karl shook his hand.
“So, how is the world of the paranormal these days? All went well in Ireland I presume,” he said.
“It put a strain on Beverly, but everything worked itself out and she’s good health. It’d be good to have you join us on an investigation again sometime again.” Karl said.
“Maybe. We’ll have to see. I need a break from that for a while. Good to hear Bev is well.”
Karl turned toward me. “Bill, this is Cole. Cole, Bill.” Karl said.
“Hey,” I said, shaking Bill’s firm grip. He wore black rimmed glasses, a blue button-down shirt, jeans and was maybe five-eight. His head was full of white hair and wore a neatly trimmed white beard. He invited us to sit back down on the couch while he sat in the armchair.
“So, Karl tells me you’ve happened upon strange objects,” Bill said. “Do you have them with you?”
“Just one,” I replied.
I brought the small crystal skull from my pocket and handed it to Bill. He examined it completely, rubbing his fingers across the face.
“Yes, I’ve seen crystal skulls before. There are many kinds from ancient cultures all over the world and carry different properties. Not too often I see ones this small, but I have before. These small skulls have a specific purpose. Although, any small object will usually do, a ring, a necklace perhaps,” Bill said.
He held up the translucent skull at the light of his living room lamp.
“This one was hand carved and looks to be really old. It’s called a Necroskull, a demonized or cursed object. Demonic entities are usually attached to these things. They’re used to create bad luck, if that’s what one would call it.”
“Great, “I said. “And I’ve been carrying one around in my pocket half the night and the other one in my book bag everywhere.”
“Some can be over a thousand years old. There was a case in England when a couple came across a few skulls just like this. There was a wolf-like entity attached to them. When it manifested it stood erect, its body of a man and the head of a wolf. It looked like the traditional werewolf of lore. It appeared in the couple’s house on a few occasions and even attacked them.” Bill said.
“What did the couple do?’ Karl asked.
“They got rid of the skulls by passing them to a collector along with the curse,” Bill said. “Where did you get this, Cole? Did someone give it to you?
“No, I found it on the street, someone dropped it.”
“A pastor of a church, an ex-pastor to be exact. He was clearing out some things from his church, moving them into his car and dropped it,” I said.
“Hmmm,” Bill said.
“Odd thing is,” I said, “I found another one just like it in the attic of the house I recently moved into.”
“I see. Yeah, that’s not good. You may want to further check your home for other such articles. Do you have any enemies?” Bill asked.
“Well, some, but not it Ravensgate. I believe the Necroskull was in the house when I moved in. What do you think I should do with the skulls then?” I asked.
“Get rid of them. Either throw them into a body of water or bury them. Whatever you do, don’t destroy them. That will only release any demonic entities and they may attach themselves to you. Have a minister or clergy person say a blessing; an exorcism over them before you get rid of them.” Bill instructed.
Immediately I thought of Sister Victoria, her being a Catholic nun should know the proper way to do that.
“If you decide to immerse them in a body of water, be careful what type. The current of a river might carry the object along and it might end up in a place where someone else might find it. Thing is, this type of Necroskull was created among the dead to enable its dark properties, probably in a cemetery. So too, it be should buried among the dead. From dust to dust so to speak.”
“I know of someone who could possibly bless them, a nun,” I said.
“She might be able to do the trick,” Karl responded.
There was a cemetery in Ravensgate. But before I could contact Sister Victoria I would have to hold on to the damned things.
“How do you know so much about these skulls? Avid reader?” I asked.
“I do read a lot, but I have a bit more experience in these things than most. I was involved in occult practices most of my life. I was born and raised into it, by my parents. I attained the status as a high priest in various orders at the zenith of my career. Today I am no longer involved in these dark practices, as Karl would attest, by the grace of God.” Bill answered.
“It’s true Cole, Bill could tell you some stories,” Karl said.
“There’ll be time for stories later. But now we attend to the matter at hand. How soon can you get in touch with your nun friend?” Bill asked.
Before I could answer Bill turned his head toward the picture window, got up from his armchair and walked to it. He stood there peering out in the dark of night and into the bushes and trees across the dirt road for a few seconds then closed the curtains.
“What do you see out there?” Karl asked.
“Movement outside, in the brush across the road.” Bill said. “I’m pretty sure.”
“What was it?” I asked.
“A shadow entity.”
“A shadow entity or shadow person. An evil spirit shaped like a human, usually male, solid black. This one has glowing yellow eyes.” Bill explained.
Is that what attempted to attack me in the park? Did he or…it…follow us to Brookmere?
“Get rid of the skulls as soon as possible,” Bill said.
He walked to the front door, opened it, stepped on the porch and scanned his surroundings. Bill’s white hair tumbled about as a breeze blew across his face. The wind became stronger and he grabbed a hold of the porch banister for support.
Our ears were filled with the shrill of the wind as the window began to tremble. Seconds later the room itself shuddered, the picture frames on the table, the cross on the wall, the kitchen cabinets, and glasses on the counter shook tremendously. Angela came running out into the living room from the hall, grabbing hold of the kitchen counter, supporting herself.
“What’s happening?” Angela exclaimed.
The lights in the house flickered on and off. Just as soon as the trembling started, it stopped, and everything was calm. Bill walked back into the room shutting the front door behind him.
“It’s alright, hun,” Bill said to his wife.
“What just happened?” I asked.
“That was a warning. Whatever you’ve gotten yourself into, it’s bad.”
“Tell him, Cole, about what happened in the park.” Karl said.
It didn’t take long to explain about my experience at the park and how I got there. That of course led to the topic of my search for Sandy, the house, and how Karl was connected. I didn’t want to bring anything else negative to the Bill’s house, so I decided to leave.
“Make sure you have a minister say a prayer over it, expel the entity attached, in Jesus’ name. Bury the stones in the center of a cemetery after the proper prayers are said.” Bill instructed.
Karl and I thanked our host and Bill left me his number before we left. Karl agreed to help me bury the crystal skulls the next night and he went home. I headed back to Ravensgate. On the way back I nervously looked in my rearview mirror to see if there was anything in my back seat, more than once. It was empty each time.
On the way back I saw a black sedan trailing me for a while. I couldn’t see who was driving due to the headlight glare of the car. To see if I was being followed, I made erratic lefts and rights. The black car tailed me. Whoever it was, probably followed me all the way to Brookmere.
After more erratic turns through various roads I was able to lose them before I got back on the express way and made it home. What the hell did I get myself into?
As soon as I got settled in at the house, I retrieved the business card that Victoria gave me from my wallet to see if she would do the blessing. I called but she didn’t answer. In a voicemail, I said I needed her help for something important but didn’t explain everything.
An hour later she called back. I briefly explained the situation but didn’t go into detail. I just asked if she could meet the next evening to say a blessing over some cursed objects and bury them with a friend of mine. She agreed to it, but I told her I’d give the time and place the next day. I told her I’d get a hold of her later. I was somewhat surprised that she agreed to do it, not knowing all of the information. There was something fishy about this nun. Nothing more out of the ordinary happened that night.
The following day around 11:00 a.m. I received an eagerly awaited phone call sooner than expected. Claire called and told me she talked to her mom, Tabitha. She was ecstatic to have received the paintings she did so many years ago.
Claire said her mom would be willing to speak with me over the phone or in person if I could make it to the college campus sometime after 3:00 p.m. when her classes were finished. I chose in person, so Claire gave me the directions to the university.
Since Clare recognized the busts of Elise and Judith, perhaps her mother would recognize them too. Maybe she would even recognize the faces of the young, unknown girl with the short hair. With the camera on my cell phone I took pictures of the faces of each bust.
I called Karl to make sure we could get together later in the evening to bury the crystal skulls in Ravensgate cemetery. We agreed to do it at night in order to not be seen. We decided to meet at the Blackstone bar and grill, downtown first around 10:00 p.m. and plan it out. From there, go bury the crystal skulls by 10:30 p.m.
I texted Sister Victoria and asked her to call me later that afternoon so I could give her the place and time. She texted back saying she’d call me around 6:00 p.m.
I imagined it would be difficult to escape from the orphanage on short notice. I was intrigued as to why she would help a total stranger like me, risk being caught. She seemed too helpful. What kind of nun illegally copies an orphan’s files and gives it to the first person who asks for it? I would accept her help but keep my guard up.
Before leaving for the college, I had a few hours to kill. I went into the back yard to do yard work. The fall leaves littered the lawn in yellows, oranges, and browns. I raked for about twenty minutes before I noticed them: more jagged rocks like the ones in the front lawn.
They are about five to six feet apart, ten inches high, and trailed behind and around the garage appearing on the other side of it. I went to the other side of the yard and was not surprised to see more rocks coming out of the ground there. They surrounded the whole property in a large circle. They rocks were getting bigger and taller, growing like grass.
I checked my watch with a little extra time to spare so I got ready to leave for the campus. The college town of is south of Ravensgate and takes about a couple of hours to get there. The campus is large, filled with plenty of educational buildings.
Parking was aggravating and after about fifteen minutes of searching, I found a spot that was a short distance from the art building. After trekking through the droves of bustling college students I entered the art building and searched for room 204, the number Claire gave me.
Through the halls I passed plenty of students carrying backpacks and books. I peeked into the classrooms, students worked on pottery in one class, which reminded me of Sandy’s work, others sat in rooms drawing. Room 204 wasn’t hard to find, second floor of course. The door was open. I peeked in and saw a woman drawing on a large black piece of paper on an easel with white charcoal.
Tabitha was medium height with light brown, short hair and Claire was her spitting image. She wore a blue and white dress that went down to her ankles, that fitted her figure nicely.
“Mrs. Kensington?” I said hoping not to startle her.
“Cole? You’re Claire’s friend.” she said turning her head toward me. “Come on in.”
I walked toward her and saw that she was drawing a giraffe.
“I used to draw superheroes when I was a kid. I was pretty good. Always wanted to draw comic books, never ended up doing that that though.” I said.
“Comic books are all the rage these days. You ever want to take a class to brush up on your skills let me know,” Tabitha said and put the charcoal down. “It’s good to meet you,” she said warmly. “Thank you for giving my old paintings to Claire. I’ve been trying to get a hold of my earlier pieces for some time now. I’ve almost forgotten I did work for Elise.”
“No problem,” I said.
“Now what can I do for you? I heard you’re looking for your missing friend and have questions about Elise.” Tabitha said as she sat down on a stool.
“Yes, I do actually. My friend, Sandy knew Elise. Did you ever meet Sandra Breyer?” I asked.
“No, I never met her. I left the Ravensgate years ago and haven’t seen Elise for some years before she and her husband left town.”
“I was hoping to learn more about Elise. Maybe it would give me leads on Sandy,” I said.
“I understand. Elise is a good woman but could be a little introverted. She kept to herself in church most of the time. When she heard I was an artist she asked if I’d do some paintings for her. She paid very well. Our relationship was only business. I wish I could tell you more.”
“I see, what about Judith Doyle? Did you know her?
“Judy was a friend, we studied art in college together. She used to be the curator of the Ravensgate historical museum. The museum has been closed for a while. The town couldn’t afford to keep it open. Taxes were used for more important things and people aren’t just interested in Ravensgate history anymore.”
“The museum is on Pike Island?” I asked.
“Yes, “she said. “Ferry’s used to take people there. The bridge is closed and blocked off. Nowadays the island is off limits to the public until it probably reopens sometime in the future, if ever.”
“Why did they put the museum on an Island?” I asked.
“It’s a part of Ravensgate’s history. Alexandar Pike came to Michigan from England in the 1800’s and founded Ravensgate in the early 1830’s, before Michigan became a state. He made a fortune in the fur industry and built his house on the Island. His family lived there for a few generations until they moved the business to New York years later. The Pike family donated the house to the town of Ravensgate and it was turned into a museum that documented its history. Tours used to be given of the museum until it closed.”
“What about Manuel, Elise’s husband?”
“He was a financial contributor to the museum for some time and sat on the board. I’ll be honest with you, Cole, Manuel was not a good man. He was involved in criminal activities and Judy knew about it. Judy once told me that she kept some type of evidence against him concerning some crime hidden in the museum. She said she was going to reveal it when the time was right, then she went missing.”
“Did she tell you where it was hidden?”
“No, never. But rumor is that Manuel had something to do with Judy’s disappearance, so he left the state and took Elise with him. Cole, I never told anyone about Judith mentioning hidden evidence in the museum. I have a daughter, you understand, I just want to stay out of it. But I think enough time has passed, maybe you can learn what has been happening in Ravensgate.”
“I understand completely,” I said as I pulled out my phone out of my pants pocket. “I was just wondering if you recognized any of these people.”
Tabitha looked at the pictures of Sandy’s white busts on my phone. I made sure that the etched words were not visible when I took the pictures.
“I do. That’s Elise,” Tabitha said. “And that one’s Judy. This is excellent work. Who sculpted them?”
“Really. Another artist.”
“What about this one,” I said, showing her the picture of the bust of the third and mysterious girl.
“No, I don’t know her. She looks quite young. I hope she isn’t another missing person.”
“Me too. Do you think it possible I contact you later, maybe over the phone if I have any more questions?”
“I don’t see why not.” she said. She gave me her number and I logged it in my cell.
“I’m sorry if I haven’t been much help. If you can use any information to help find your friend and maybe Judy too, then do so. But please, please do not mention my daughter’s or my name,” Tabitha asked.
“I won’t, I promise,” I said, reassuring her.
A small, balding bespectacled man stepped in the doorway of the room and knocked on the door.
“Excuse me, Tabitha. Your needed in the conference room,” he said.
“Be right down,” She said. I thanked her for her time and found my way out of the building.
Walking to my car, I now had an idea as to why Sandy had been in contact with Judith. She had important information about Elise’s husband, evidence of a crime maybe, that probably caused people to disappear. At the same time, all these women went to the same church and its pastor was leaving Ravensgate too. Maybe Jeff Johnson is involved in all of this?
I came home near 7:00 in the evening and still no call from Sister Victoria. I wondered if she’d be able to make it.
I searched the web for Ravensgate cemetery and found a full map of it. It was enormous, and I determined that the “heart” of it was in a section called Elk’s Rest. I put the crystal skull I found in the attic and the one Jeff Johnson dropped in the inside pocket of my black jacket.
I went to the garage behind the house and picked up a sturdy shovel. “This will do,” I said and put it in the trunk of my car. I also took the map of the cemetery, put the Glock 26 - 9mm in the holster of my inside jacket and headed for Blackstone bar on Main. I arrived a few minutes early before Karl. Shortly, Karl walked in and sat at the bar next to me and chatted for a bit.
“Ready?” I asked.
“Yeah, you have the skulls and a shovel?” Karl, responded.
“What about your friend, the nun? She coming?”
“She said she was, haven’t heard from her though. We’ll just go ahead of her. She can meet us there if she calls.”
I texted Sister Victoria and told her we were meeting at 10:30 but didn’t tell her where. I didn’t want that in a text.
“Ever been in a cemetery at night?” I asked.
“You’re talking to the head of the Center of Paranormal Investigations, plenty of times,” Karl said laughing. “I’m bringing a digital recorder. We might be able to get some EVPs.
“Electronic Voice Phenomenon. It’s sometimes possible to record disembodied voices in cemeteries or other haunted places.”
I wasn’t opposed to it, but I told him I didn’t want the part when we pray over the skulls and bury them to be recorded. We then left in each of our own cars and Karl followed me to the cemetery.
The cemetery was two hundred and fifty acres. The main entrance was closed by two large, black metal gates separated by a four-foot wall in length. One gate was an entrance, the other was the exit. We decided to avoid the main entrance so drove around the large perimeter in search of another way to get in. Most of the graveyard was surrounded by a black, iron barred fence with sharp points at the tip of each bar.
Smaller sections of the perimeter were surrounded with chain linked fence, about six feet high. Along one area of chain linked fence, we spotted a closed gate but weren’t sure if it was locked. We got out of our vehicles to check it. The padlock was indeed locked. I could easily hop the fence but by the looks of Karl’s size, I wasn’t so sure he could.
“Do you think you can hop over that?” I asked.
“If you would have asked me that question ten years ago the answer would be yes, but not tonight. Don’t worry the fence won’t be a problem,” he said. “Let’s find a side street to park on. Don’t want our cars to be seen alongside the graveyard.”
We went back to vehicles then parked on Tuxedo Street, which was a long stretch of dark, lonely road which ran perpendicular to the street the cemetery was on. Not one residential home was on Tuxedo which made it a perfect place to gain entrance to the cemetery without being seen. Instead of houses, there was a long series of small, brick, industrial buildings that were closed for the night.
As Karl and I walked toward the cemetery along Tuxedo, peering into the graveyard ahead, my phone vibrated in my front pocket. Caller Unknown appeared on the face of it. I answered and heard the soft, familiar voice of Sister Victoria.
“I got your text,” she said. “A bit late, I apologize. Are you still in need of my help tonight, it’s almost 10:30?”
“Yeah, if you can make it, Karl and I are at the cemetery now.”
“Yeah, in Ravensgate. I’ll explain when you get here.”
“Alright. I’m in Ravensgate, just tell me how to get there. Shouldn’t take me long.”
I gave her the directions as Karl and I waited in my car. In ten short minutes a pair of gleaming headlights appeared on the far end of Tuxedo Street in my rearview mirror. Soon after, a small blue Honda Civic slowed down and pulled up by the side of my car. I immediately noticed Sister Victoria’s pretty face in the shadows of her car. She backed up and parked behind me.
We all stepped out of the vehicles. Sister Victoria wore a rosary around her neck and this time her hair was covered underneath the habit. She wore her black, three-quarter length jacket she wore the other night and black pants. I introduced Karl and Sister Victoria, they took an instant liking to one another. I then retrieved the shovel out from my trunk.
I took a minute to explain the nature of what we were doing to Sister Victoria. How I found the skulls and how Bill explained to get rid of them. Sister Victoria agreed that we were doing the right thing. I grabbed the shovel and we walked down the street toward the graveyard.
“So how do we get in that monster of a cemetery?” Sister Victoria asked.
“Not a problem,” Karl said.
Sister Victoria and I followed the paranormal investigator across the street onto the sidewalk that surrounded the cemetery. Karl walked up to the chain linked gate. He reached into the inside pocket of his brown blazer and retrieved a small item, similar to a hair pin. Smiling, he looked at us and said, “I’ve been getting into cemeteries at night for over twenty years.”
Karl slipped the small object into the keyhole of the lock and within seconds a click was heard. He fiddled with the lock, took it off, opened that gate and stepped right into the cemetery. Sister Victoria and I followed then I shut the gate behind us leaving it unlocked.
Karl sauntered ahead further into the cemetery with Sister Victoria and I in suit. I’d never been inside a cemetery at night; it felt weird. Like I was invading hundreds of people’s privacy. The wind was chill and there were no lights inside. Everything was dark. Grass, trees and tombstones were scattered as far as I could see.
“Can I see the crystal skulls, Cole?” Sister Victoria asked as we continued walking deeper into the darkness of the graveyard. I reached in the inside pocket of my jacket and handed them to her. They glistened as a small beam of moonlight spilled brightly on them.
“Ugly little things,” Sister Victoria said. “We’ll take care of these tonight.”
I took out and unfolded the map of the cemetery from my back jeans pocket. Karl turned on his flashlight and shined it on the map. I located where we were on the map then guided my finger along the twist and turns of cemetery roads on the paper until we would come to the heart of it; Elk’s Rest.
“This is where we have to go, dead center of the cemetery,” I said.
With the shovel on my shoulder, we headed towards Elk’s Rest. A breeze caught my face. I was on edge while walking through the darkness of such a large and creepy place. The occasional sound of twigs breaking or movement all around us could be heard.
“The typical cemetery sounds,” Karl said, “Probably just rabbits and other animals.”
I looked at Sister Victoria, she looked fine, not a hint of nervousness. The dirt cemetery road twisted and turned as the gravestones became more abundant. The grass on either side of the road was covered in crosses, obelisks, and tombstones. Headstones became more condensed as we walked deeper into the cemetery. Dark, gray statues of angels and saints looked over us.
The wind rustled leaves of the trees above which sounded like the faint applause of some distant crowd. We then noticed large, dark, block-like structures among the gravestones: mausoleums, some were covered in vine.
“Perfect time to try to get an EVP,” Karl said. Karl removed a small digital recorder from his inner jacket pocket and began to record.
“We mean you no harm. If there is anyone here tonight, let us know,” Karl said.
“Give a sign if there is someone here who wants to communicate with us,” Karl said.
There was silence except for the sound of wind and our footsteps on the gravel of the road. Karl was about to speak again before we heard something behind a large, dark obelisk behind us.
We paused on the road and waited, looking into the darkness toward the sound. I was tempted to drop the shovel and reach for the 9mm from the holster inside my jacket. The rustling became louder. Something emerged from behind a cross-shaped tombstone. Two glowing yellow eyes appeared, and a dark blur moved quickly across the lawn and behind the closest headstone.
“Did you see it?” I asked my companions.
“It moved fast,” Sister Victoria said. The yellow eyes peeked out from behind the stone, this time attached to a small face. A bushy tail was on the other end of its small body. The small fox stood there watching us. Victoria let out a light chuckle and continued down the dark path.
For what felt like eternity, we walked, Karl interjecting his requests for signs from spirits with no audible answers. Finally, we came close to the center of the cemetery.
The road was lined with the mausoleums on either side, one after another. That road should have been named mausoleum strip. Each was a dark, dreary gray in the night, with two shut doors in front, some of which had windows.
Eventually the road came to a fork, one path left and the other right. A mausoleum sat on the center point, on the grass in front of us in between the two paths. A little behind the mausoleum was a large monument, a statue of an elk that stood on a base about six feet high, the words Elk’s Rest printed on the side.
“Here we are, the heart of the cemetery,” Sister Victoria said.
“Karl, could you shut off the recorder,” I asked. “I don’t want this incident to be on record.”
“Sure thing, Cole.” Karl clicked off the recorder and put it back in his jacket.
“Let’s get this over with,” I said.
We walked onto the grass of the cemetery from the dirt road, stepping behind the mausoleum which was centered in front of the fork in the road. We decided to bury the skulls behind the mausoleum.
Sister Victoria held the small crystal skulls in her hand, arm stretched out. With her other hand she grasped the cross from around her neck.
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the powers and principalities associated with these demonic crystal skulls be cast away,” she prayed.
The sound of whispers permeated the atmosphere, as if surrounded by a crowd of invisible people. It started soft but became louder. I could see in Karl’s eyes that he desperately wanted to record it.
“By the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all demons connected to these skulls be cast out! Into the pit!” Sister Victoria said loudly.
As Victoria prayed a red glow emanated from inside the small, crystal skulls within her hand. I pushed the blade of the shovel into the ground with my foot and started digging. The earth was hard due to the fall weather, but manageable. The whispering turned into faint murmuring surrounding us.
I continued digging and the Sister continued to pray, her eyes closed as if in a trance. The hole became deeper as I dug through clay, dirt and rocks. The murmuring became louder, but no recognizable words could be heard.
Minutes passed and Karl walked up to the freshly dug hole.
“What’s that? About three feet deep?” he asked.
“Looks about right. One foot more.” I said and kept digging.
Victoria closed her eyes and her prayer became more intense. The red glowing from the crystal skulls finally faded and went out. The murmuring ceased. Victoria opened her eyes and stopped the prayer. She handed me the skulls.
“Tetelestai. These are yours, you do it,” she said.
“Teteles-what?” I asked.
“Tetelestai. It’s Greek. It’s the final words Jesus spoke on the cross before he gave up his spirit. It’s often translated as ‘it is finished’. A better translation is ‘paid in full.’” Sister Victoria said.
I tossed the small, crystal skulls into the hole and refilled it with dirt all the way to the top. I packed up the last of it with earth until it was full and flattened it out.
“Here, I have something,” Sister Victoria said as she pulled a small plastic bag out of her jacket pocket. “Grass seeds,” she said and sprinkled them on the loose dirt.
Something then caught her attention. Silently, Sister Victoria walked a few yards further away from the mausoleum, into the dark of the cemetery. Maybe the eerie atmosphere got to her, she seemed a bit edgy.
“Is everything alright, Sister?” Karl asked.
“I just feel weird. I suppose it’s a normal feeling to have in a graveyard at night,” Sister Victoria said.
“Yeah, that and you exercised demons from a couple of cursed Necroskulls, that’s all. Other than that, everything’s fine.” I remarked.
“It’s something else,” Sister Victoria said then wandered deeper into the cemetery between trees and tombstones. Curiously, Karl and I looked at each other and followed her. A low humming sound began to emanate from somewhere in the graveyard.
“You hear that?” Karl asked. I nodded.
Sister Victoria slowed her pace at about ten yards up but continued ahead of us. The hum persisted, becoming louder the further we walked. Sister Victoria turned around facing us with her index finger over her lips for us to be quiet. She signaled us to come closer with her other hand. Sister Victoria slowly walked forward, keeping as quiet as she could until finally, she stopped, hiding behind a large mausoleum. Karl and I followed and met her at the crypt. Peeking from behind it, we saw them.