Here's a sample of our latest book, A Watch of Weeping Angels Book Three in the Devecheaux Antiques and Haunted Things Series by me (M.L. Bullock) and fellow author A.E. Chewning.
Tugging at my new accessory had become a hard habit to break. These gloves were the only things that kept me from running away from my job and newfound circle of friends. They had come into my life rather unexpectedly and I didn’t want to leave them. Placing the gloves on my hands had become as natural as brushing my teeth in the morning. My new ritual kept me sane amid the chaos of just being me. Who would have thought that a pair of gloves would be my saving grace? It was a part of who I was now. Another weird element to all that is Aggie Kelly.
Detra Ann was sending me on this dreaded task--more like a wild goose chase, something that had become a regular thing. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that she wanted me out of the shop. I really couldn’t blame Detra Ann after everything that had happened since I got there. I mean the tea set and then the freaky radio. Trouble seemed to follow me, especially with this gift of mine. Maybe I was being unfair. Yeah, probably.
This task was a little different though and seemed risky, especially for someone like me. Cemetery statuary wasn’t something that I wanted, or needed, to hang around. Smoothing out the wrinkle that ran across the top of the glove I couldn’t help but worry about the minefield I was about to step in.
The old iron gate hung off the rust-covered hinges; it was covered with vines. But for their tight clinging, they would not be standing upright. The green vine roof attempted to wrap the stone gate that surrounded the property and hid some of what was left of the old crumbling mansion. Unsuspecting travelers casually driving past this hidden gem day after day would never know that it was even here. Kind of creepy, like a scene from a B horror movie. Or an A. Definitely an A.
Man, I should have insisted that Patrice tag along.
Bricks were lined up in a semi-circle that led me to a portico that had seen better days. Cracks ran up the side of the off-white stucco walls and the same vines that held the old iron gate together, worked its magic here too. The old mansion surely would have fallen to the ground by now, if it weren’t for the protection of the vines and the years of paint that clung to it like glue. Like a rotten old mausoleum. I shivered at the appalling scenery.
What have you gotten me into now, Boss Lady?
Staring up at the old mansion, I couldn’t help but feel I must have done something terrible in a previous life. Why else would Detra Ann send me to this ticking time bomb?
Before I had a chance to really examine that possibility, the cherry on top of this nightmare sundae appeared. The old man stood in front of my car, glaring in at me. His steel blue eyes, cloudy from the years, met mine. He smiled and it was not soothing at all. Mr. Glass looked at me as if he were a hungry predator that had just trapped his prey. An old vulture maybe. With that scrawny neck and the strange red coloring of his skin, that was an apropos comparison.
Everything inside of me screamed, “Get in the car! Put it in reverse and get out of here as fast as possible!” But that would not be professional, would it? Nevertheless, nothing about him seemed warm or inviting. I was so glad that I sent a text to Phoenix with the address and a message that if he didn’t hear from me within the hour to call 911. He sent back an LOL but I made sure he knew I was serious.
Reluctantly relinquishing my desire to make a dash for the car, I extended my hand to the old guy. “Good morning Mr. Glass. I’m Aggie. Detra Ann sent me to have look at the statuary you spoke to Henri about.”
Mr. Glass refused my handshake by sticking his aged hands into his faded jeans pockets. The smell of some type of oil lingered around him. Motor oil? “Yeah, I guess you’ll do. At least you’re easy on the eyes,” he grunted. “I’ve been waiting here for thirty minutes.” This was not going well already.
“Yes, I almost couldn’t find the place. My apologies.”
Looking me over and hesitating at my breasts he said in a rough voice, “Let’s get on with it. I haven’t got all day.”
“Okay. I’ll follow you,” I replied, sticking my hands in my well-worn sweatshirt. To my relief we traveled around the old creepy mansion and into an unusually well-kept garden area. It certainly didn’t match the run-down appearance of the house. Who would keep a garden up but not a mansion? There was no historic preservationist living here, that was for sure. Garden enthusiasts, yes. Restoration guru? Very unlikely.
I wondered what priceless art and artifacts clung to life within the crumbling walls and if old Mr. Glass would even consider letting me have a look at them. Curiosity was going to kill this cat if I wasn’t careful.
Get a grip Aggie, one thing at a time.
Mr. Glass pulled at the old wooden doors, breaking them free from the ivy that had started to encase them. He pulled an old brick from the ground and propped one side up, shedding some light into space.
“Here they are. Come have a look see. I know the Devecheauxs said they couldn’t take them all, but as you can see there’s plenty to choose from.” His lips parted into an unattractive smile made worse by exposing pockets of missing teeth. Glass resembled a badly carved Halloween pumpkin. “Take your pick. You’ll see that it’s an excellent collection. Nothing like it anywhere around these parts.”
Rows and rows of headstones and statuary filled the old musty warehouse. Some were covered with moss and others cracked and chipped. Intricately carved statuary stood guard, like the terracotta warriors armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Their stone features were hidden within the dark shadows. I was immediately enchanted. Running my gloved hand across the lettering on one of the stones, “How long have you had all of these?”
“Like I told your boss, my parents had to remove them. The city wouldn’t let them keep them on the property after they began moving the bodies. These statues have been in the family for well over fifty years,” he licked his cracked lips. “I need to sell them in order to have the rest of the bodies removed. The city decided to renege on the agreement. They won’t cover the costs. Can’t sell the old house without doing so. People get awfully jumpy when you tell them there’s bodies buried on the grounds.”
I tried to smile, “I guess they would.” The thought of all of the people buried nearby on the property and this old guy having them removed, I suspected unceremoniously, made me want to slap him and knock the rest of his teeth out. I don’t know what he was doing but I didn’t feel good about this. I knew Detra Ann and Henri would not approve of his little plan.
“Do you want to take one or not?” he huffed, “Can’t stand here all day gawking at them. Although,” he dropped his voice to a purr, “I wouldn’t mind hanging out with a pretty little things like yourself somewhere else.” He stepped closer to me and pawed at my shoulder playfully.
I took a step back. “I have to go.” I backed away, forcing his hand away. “I’m afraid the two of us hanging out is not going to happen today or any other day. Try touching me again and you might join the other bodies buried here.”
“I guess you just can’t take a little playing around,” he winked as he dug a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket and began flicking his lighter. “Suit yourself but you’d be hard pressed to put me in the ground. I’m a vet, little girl. I’ve seen plenty of action.” He huffed as he patted his jacket pocket again. Wait, did he have a gun? “I can protect myself.”
What a creep!
“There are people who know I’m out here and if you want to sell these items, I suggest you just give me a minute. Alone.” I insisted through clenched teeth. I couldn’t spend one more minute with this guy. A row of decrepit angels watched us. Did I see one move? What was that?
“Make it quick,” he replied, walking out of the warehouse towards the mansion.
Finally. My hand released from the fist that I had unknowingly created. The nerve of that weirdo. Okay, Aggie. Get it together. You’ve got a job to do. Get it done and leave!
Most of the statuary was just too big to carry in my little car. As much as I wanted to take them all from this horrible man, there was no way that was possible. We would, unfortunately, must take more than one trip to free these precious memorials from the grasp of such a horrible creature. His irreverence was mind boggling. Obviously, his parents taught him to view these items as a mere nuisance and nothing more.
My heart sank as I scanned the room. I began snapping photos. There was a palpable heaviness within the darkness. Even with the door propped up, no amount of light could dispel the sadness within these walls. Out of my peripheral I caught a glimpse of a small cherub statue laying on its side. Small enough to put in my car and carry. It was perfect for me to take back to the shop.
The little cherub was solitary, no headstone seemed to go with it although the roughness of the underbelly of the statue seemed to indicate that it had been attached to something at one point in time. I’d have to come back with Henri or even Phoenix to do any further investigation. I’d been there long enough by myself with old man Glass. The thought did cross my mind that I could take him, but I had a feeling that he had more secrets hidden on these grounds. He would protect them at any cost. I am sure whatever weapon I had couldn’t match a bullet.
My gloves protect me nicely and would allow me to detect where this little angel came from. I had no vision, no breathing hard. Nothing. Thank God for small favors. Who knew a little piece of fabric could save me from a world of trouble? With the angel in my grasp and a collection of photos on my phone I left Mr. Glass’ place without so much as a goodbye.
I couldn’t get that rotting mansion in my rearview mirror quick enough. Detra Ann would be getting an earful from me as soon as I got back to the shop. I hope she will be happy with my choice. There was just something about the sad little cherub. I couldn't leave it there unprotected in that awful place with Mr. Grabby Hands.
I can’t say why but I arranged it in the seat next to me like it was a small child. An unexpected tear rolled down my cheek as I sped down the drive and onto the road that would lead me back to the store.
What just happened? I wasn’t seeing anything, but I had all kinds of feels.
Disgust. Revulsion. Anger. Sadness.
Mostly sadness and this time it was not my own.
Time to get out of here.
Janie smothered a giggle as she raced up the crooked staircase. Robbie was right—this staircase did have a kind of funhouse affect. Janie had been at the Wayland Manor more than a dozen times, so she knew what steps to skip and where to walk without making a sound.
The docent—her name was Amanda--liked Janie but she trusted the teenager a bit too much. Janie liked Amanda too and she did not want to let her down. Although she had done that a few times. Like forgetting to lock the back door and setting the alarm off.
The older woman was one of the few people that did not take her at face value. Meaning Amanda did not treat Janie like a child. She paid no mind of her baby face and petite stature. Janie wished with all her heart that her parents would take a cue from Amanda.
Janie was nineteen and she liked her job with the Mobile Historical Society, but she resented the fact that she did not get paid much and she never got to do the speaking tours, but she did like it. She aced her public speaking course, why wouldn’t they give her a chance?
Fine, if she had to make a scene, she would. Janie needed a break. Wouldn’t it be great if she could lead a tour at Oakleigh or Bragg Mitchell? The Wayland place had plenty of history, but no one was really allowed to talk about it.
Crazy, huh? Well, if Janie was not allowed to give an oral history, she’d be the best damn actress on this tour. The best non-speaking actress ever. Like her Aunt Valerie always said, “If you want something bad enough you had to take risks.”
Most girls her age dreamed of leaving her hometown and making it big in a much bigger city and she was no different. Honestly, she didn’t know what she wanted to be. Being an actress would be a dream come true, but it was just a dream and not likely to occur. Maybe she should be a teacher? A professional violinist? Neither of those were likely either. She never achieved first chair violinist. Not even close.
But today was one of those quarterly paranormal events, the kind that was immensely popular with the weirdos. Okay, not all weirdos. Some of Mobile’s snobby families liked the spooky stuff. They did not go around wearing goth clothes or black lipstick but they loved hearing about hauntings and murder and mayhem. The Wayland Manor had that in spades, but again, they were strongly encouraged to keep that part of the history on the down low. However, knowing Mobile’s history more than others on her team, she knew the old stories. The juicy ones that involved cousins eloping and the murder of a nun. Imagine that? A nun was murdered, tortured right here on this property. And then there was the little girl. The poor dead girl whose body was found in the strangest way. She could also tell the people on the tour how old Mr. Hollinger really got his money.
Yeah, it wasn’t just the Wayland Manor that had its creepy places. How about the Angel Bridge and the Boyington Oak.
The truth was that ghosts and goblins did not turn Janie on at all. She didn’t believe any of that stuff, but she did believe in keeping her job, as goofy and mindless as it was.
Okay, she coached herself. This was simple enough, step out of the master bedroom and exit to the smaller bedroom when the guests made their tour upstairs.
Her costumed appearances would startle people, but she was a real living person. If she played her role correctly she might even frighten a few.
Janie never imagined she’d become a paranormal reenactor. This job was like working in one of those haunted houses that popped up in the Mobile Festival Center every October. Only this was steadier work and there weren’t angsty teenagers rolling their eyes at you, or otherwise doing naughty things. At least Janie didn’t have to tote an ax covered in fake blood or don a hockey mask.
But no, the Mobile Historical Society would probably not approve of my intentional scare idea. They would not approve of her powdered wig and the dark circles painted under my eyes. She was not originally hired to do basic tour guide stuff, not this kind of work at all. However, when the opportunity arrived, she did not hesitate. Janie was mean to be an entertainer. To bring the history of the Wayland Manor alive.
Ooh…just the thought gave her chills.
Normally, she would stick to the routine without question. From one room to the next and then up the stairs to the attic, stomp around a bit and then scurry down through the servants’ entrance and light a lamp in the barn. Go there and wait for the docent and the tour group.
But not tonight.
Janie wanted to give the tourists a real thrill. Mostly because Tony Edwards was on the guest list. She had crushed on him hard when she was college, but he never noticed her. Not in any significant way. Once Tony pointed out that Janie dropped a pencil near her desk but that was the limit of their communication. He didn’t even offer to pick it up for her. She mutely did it herself and by the time she collected it, Tony had left the classroom.
Until tonight. He would know me. He would remember.
Janie had even taken the trouble to powder her hair white and she donned the vintage wedding veil. Every time the fabric touched her skin it made her itch. She blew it away and fiddled with it until she positioned it exactly right.
Waiting for the right moment to reveal herself was the hard part.
For this new scare tactic to work she needed to step out at just the right time. Janie would hear the footsteps of the dozen or so people trooping up the stairs and then she would move, as ethereally as possible, from room to room, walking from one closet to the other.
The closet in the master bedroom had a secret chamber behind it. Janie would slip inside one and wait there on the dusty bench until the tourists did their exploration.
They would never find her. Not until her big reveal at the end. Janie would introduce herself when the tour ended. That way Tony would know it was her. Maybe she would be able to clean up a little before then. Powdered wigs were not that flattering. She appeared quite horrible really.
Janie silently closed the small bedroom door and then tiptoed to the closet. The door squeaked a little but not so loudly that anyone would notice it. She hoped anyway. Even if Tony thought she was lame she really did not care. The only thing that mattered was that he noticed her.
She could hear the docent welcoming the guests now. Are we ready to step back into the past? It is my pleasure to lead you back into the past of this great house, the Wayland Manor. Back in the early 1800’s, long before there was this fine house on the property, it was a farmhouse, before the Way lands the Owens family worked this land. There were seven in that family, Horatio and Angelina Owens who had five children. Unfortunately, only one of the Owens children survived, a girl named Greta.
Janie sighed as she listened to the somewhat familiar muffled speech. She’d have a small lamp in her hand, it helped add to the ambiance. There would be other lamps too, positioned around the house to make the experience that much spookier and more genuine. She was indeed sharing more of the scary side of this story with the visitors. Man, why did she pick today to be long winded?
People who worked in the house said that the Owens family haunted the Wayland Manor, much more so than the Waylands. But then again, Janie wasn’t sure. She never saw anything at all. Nothing paranormal in any way shape or form. Kind of disappointing but it was the truth. Sure, there were places in this house that were chillier than others—cold spots are what the ghost enthusiasts called them. Hadn’t they ever heard of a draft?
A few dark corners were not evidence of the paranormal.
“Come on, Mrs. Sutherland. I’ve got to pee,” she whispered to herself.
And she did indeed need to visit the bathroom, in a big way.
Why did this always happen? Janie’s nerves got the better of her every time. How ridiculous to be this excited about pretending to be a ghost. She tugged at her tight, high dress collar. The cameo felt crooked and probably needed adjusting but it would just have to wait.
As people began walking up the steps. She hurried out of the closet, and waited by the door of the room, it had been left ajar. When she heard her cue, she deliberately stomped across the hallway in her old-fashioned boots. They were a bit tight, but she did not plan on wearing them long. As expected Janie heard someone gasp as she moved smoothly across the landing, but she did not linger.
Keeping her face blank, she fought the urge to smile at them. Janie hurried across the long hall and entered the master bedroom. Naturally, the docent would save the master bedroom for last, there were other rooms to see. They would pause and tell her they had witnessed something, a ghost perhaps. They would mostly certainly be curious about what they all had just seen. Surely the docent would realize that she was only trying to improve her role. Not deliberately trying scare anyone to death--only frighten them a little.
In case Amanda did change her routine and come in here first, Janie raced toward the master bedroom closet. To her surprise, it would not budge. The handle felt stiff, immovable.
Why? She had opened this door many times without any worries whatsoever. Crap! She needed to get inside!
Janie banged on the door lightly and then to her surprise the door popped open. Hmm. Maybe it was the humidity. That could be the reason. Whatever the reason, she had to hide. Opening the door, she slid inside and arranged her skirts so no one could see them from outside.
Yes, this was going just as planned. Keeping silent would be the hard part. She could hear Amanda repeating the story about Billy Fowler and the murder of his sister, the nun. Did Billy kill her? Nobody knew but it was rumored that Mr. Fowler hid her skull here at the house. Just rumors. A horrible rumor but that was all it could be.
Why was she thinking about this now? She’d heard Amanda’s polished story so many times but it did not bother her like it did today. Today, it’s like it got under my skin.
Janie froze with her hand on the doorknob. She planned on peeking out, watching their faces, especially Tony’s. He would certainly never forget her after this. Janie planned on making a memorable impression.
Get out now. Oh crap! Had someone else gotten in here?
“Hello?” Janie whispered into the dark. “Is somebody there?” The closet was empty. There was absolutely nothing inside. No hangers, or clothing, no storage at all. Just the secret door at the back of the closet.
He didn’t speak again; Janie heard a hiss. A strange hiss. Like the kind you hear when you stab an inflated pool toy. Suddenly my teeth began to chatter. It had dropped at least twenty degrees in this tiny closet. How in the God’s name was that possible? There wasn’t even a vent in here, there were only AC vents in the main rooms. Not the closets.
“Hello?” Janie began to plead with the emptiness. The black emptiness that reached for me, yes hands were coming. She could see the hands, two of them, small hands. Dirty and pale. No make that pale and gray, like they belonged to a dead child. The hands were not reaching for help—they were reaching to hurt.
To hurt her—maybe even kill her.
Janie snatched the veil off her head and threw it into the blackness. Then she could see him. The boy--he couldn’t be more than nine or ten—his head was on backwards. As if someone had twisted it, broken it. His mouth moved again, a strange hiss accompanied the scream.
GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!
She struggled with the door, never taking her eyes off the dead, mangled boy. With a wild shriek of her own she tumbled out of the closet as the hands rushed away from the dim light and once again hid in the darkness.
Janie screamed endlessly and when it was over, when Amanda was standing over her, speaking silently to her, the crowd gathered around her as she sobbed.
Eventually her legs found the strength to work, she found her voice and she left Wayland Manor. Believe it or not, Tony volunteered to drive her home. It turns out he did remember her, even with all the powder and antique clothes. They did not talk as he drove, except when he needed directions.
And when she got home, she couldn’t get out of the car. What if the boy was in her closet? What if it followed her home? What if…
Then Tony kissed her and she remembered real life. Yes, this was real life. Despite the horrible thing that had happened to her it was hers to live. One thing was for sure though.
She would never return to Wayland Manor again. Never.
Looking forward to the next Carrie jo book? Here's the first chapter! It's coming soon, y'all!
Prologue – Mary Fairbanks
I stepped out of the chilly coach and descended into the freezing darkness. My worn boot made a crackling sound as it touched the packed snow. My destination appeared as unimpressive as my departure point, Summiton, Virginia. Although it had an exotic name, Biloxi, Mississippi lacked urban sophistication too. Wooden sidewalks, rickety facades nailed on to the front of poorly built buildings. I had an eye for this sort of thing, my father had been a master carpenter. Sadly, this place was nothing more than a clump of wilderness with poor lighting and all the unpleasant smells that accompanied unwashed humanity. Did they slosh urine in the streets here too? I cast a watchful eye above me but the building behind me was cast in shadow.
The other travelers departed without any pleasant goodbyes. We had not so much as exchanged pleasantries during our trip, so I had no idea what their names were which was simply fine with me. Easier to keep a low profile and avoid questions that may expose me later. Managing light conversation had never been my strong suit. I preferred discourses on interesting subjects, not idle chit chat.
Instead of exchanging pleasantries with absolute strangers, I spent the hours memorizing all the details I could remember about Mary Fairbanks. I could not fail in my recollection. I had stolen her future, taken it for my own. I chewed on my fingernail, a worrying habit of mine and ignored the disapproving stare of the only other woman in our party. Eventually I met her stare with one of my own and after a brief eye roll, she stared at the opposite window.
My plan was to hide my accent, as best I could, and assume the identity that I had stolen without being discovered. Mary Fairbanks was not an Irishwoman but in my letters, I never spoke about my heritage—or more precisely Mary’s heritage. It would be difficult, but I would explain it, if pressed to. I should not like to be found out as a criminal. At least until I was wed. That was the goal here. To marry John Lancaster. I had fallen in love with him, you see. I do not know how such a thing could be possible, but it was a fact.
The strangest thing was how accidental it all had been—from the first letter to his proposal. Yes. What I had done was nothing less than criminal, but I felt little remorse for seizing the opportunity.
Just as he promised, John Lamar Alexander sent a coach ticket and spending money for the journey. This would not be the longest journey I have made; it would be many days, depending on the weather. Whatever the cost, I would be Mrs. Alexander.
Yes, I had every intention on marrying the fine man. I would have a happy life. Funny to think that my former employer, Mary Fairbanks thought she would snare him, rob him blind, no doubt. No woman like Mary Fairbanks could ever become a good wife. Thankfully, she had a short attention span and did not like to write. After the third letter, she didn’t even bother reading them. Mary was content enough to let me “run a game” on the unsuspecting Mr. Alexander but it was not a game to me. He and I were meant to be together. He was my path to happiness.
My prose, my answers intrigued him. He had fallen in love with me, he declared finally. Mary thought the whole thing was very funny in a crude sort of way. If I had allowed her to follow through, she would have shamed him. He would have had a whore for a wife.
I was no whore.
By the time I slid the ticket into my dress pocket and walked down that first flight of steps I was resolved to this course of action. Mary Fairbanks was a drunkard, an unashamed fool--a blemish on society. No two people were more dissimilar than she and I.
Bad things happened to women like me in Summiton. Eventually, I would have no choice; Mary made that clear. She expected me to join her in her ill reputes, to follow in her high heeled boots and become one of the many cast off prostitutes that littered the streets of Summiton. It did not take long for the stained hands of the coal miners to stain a woman. I had seen many pretty young women come and they never left.
Only in a hearse. The bloody stains they left behind would last far longer than any remembrance of them. The most pitiful of the, the least fair, the weak eyed or toothless serviced the poorest of the coal miners. They disappeared into those pits and never re-emerged. I shuddered at the thought. Not only would they die, but their souls would be stained forever. Not merely with inky, blank coal, but they had soul stains. I believed we had a soul. Mine was not perfect but I wanted to keep it as clean as possible.
The fight to keep my virtue had been truly dreadful but I was coming to John Alexander a virgin. Thankfully I excelled at drinking games. Raised on rye whiskey, it was easy enough for me to defeat even the most thirsty drunkard.
For as long as I can remember, I have been small of statue. Smaller than most. Even at eighteen I measure slightly over four feet tall and had no mature feminine attributes. I looked more like a doll, like the paper dolls I love to cut and snip. The oldest of five children, I never grew tall and spindly like my brothers. My mother often joked that I was a changeling, born of the fairy folks, traded at birth for the real Vienna Fitzgerald who was no doubt as fair and as tall as my siblings. I was never offended by my mother’s attempts at humor. I thought my brothers were great fools, although of a better sort than these greedy, lascivious Americans. You are better than that, Vienna.
Forget that name! You are Mary Fairbanks and this is your one chance for happiness. Finally, you’ll have your lucky break!
Although I am small of frame, I do have many good qualities, I reminded myself as I rode for hours in the rickety coach. I reviewed each one of them, so I would know what to say if things turned badly and I had to make a case for clemency.
Yes, I am clever, resilient and hardworking; these were attributes that have helped me in the past. However, like most young women there were times when I would have traded all those attributes for corn silk hair, an ample bosom and luminous blue eyes.
Rather than spend my life sulking over my short stature and general lack of beauty, I chose to enjoy the obscurity my height offered me. People tended to overlook me, to speak of things that they should not, all because I was small, rather childlike. For reasons beyond me, adults tended to talk about the most atrocious things in the presence of children. Or childlike people. That was me, an eternal child.
“Some men,” Mary Fairbanks would whisper in the darkness, “would give a gold mine to spend the night with someone like you, Vienna.” Meaning, childlike, I assumed. Inexperienced. Helpless. She always appeared green with envy while telling me this information. The thought of laying with any man repulsed me.
Only out of necessity. Only if I married. This man, this John Lamar Alexander, he would expect such intimacies but for marriage, to a good man, it seemed a fair trade. I have never been a slave to my emotions or physical impulses, and I would not start now. However, the real Mary Fairbanks cared nothing about her self-respect or dignity. She was for all intents and purposes a whore and not a particularly good one. She got ripped off often, beaten on occasion or drank so much she was easily robbed after her work.
I met her almost a year before I coldly robbed her myself, taking her ticket to her new life with me. I betrayed her too. It was freeing to leave that life behind.
“Vienna, dear. Be a lamb and roll me a cigarette or two. Your little fingers roll the tightest cigarettes.” I did that every day between washing her clothes and cooking her meals. “Think about how rich we would be if you helped out.” Her helping out meant to give my life to prostitution. When she was sober, I politely refused. Later, when she was completely sotted, she would smack me with her hand or hit me with her hairbrush, but nothing would convince me to take up her profession. Not even the threat of poverty or homelessness. No matter how hard she beat me I would never do that. My poor dead mother would roll over in grave.
Besides, it all seemed so foolish. And from what I had witnessed, coupling with a man looked uncomfortable and unpleasant. I had no desire to end up disease-ridden or pregnant or worse--dead. Despite my distain for her occupation, it was because of it that I survived that first winter here in Summit, West Virginia. I had been promised work, I came to Summit by way of a newspaper advertisement. A store needed “willing hands” but by the time I arrived there was none to be had for me. The store burned to the ground a week before I arrived. I applied for other positions, but it was always the same.
“Go home. You are too small for this kind of work. How can you possibly sew with those tiny fingers? You are absolutely grimy. I can see the grime from here.” The woman had been rude beyond words. I was cleaner than most, my nails and hands impeccable but there was no persuading her. I left heartbroken, disappointed and hungry. So very hungry.
And then I met Mary.
She had been patient at first but now Mary’s expectations were becoming more aggressive. I would not be able to say no to her forever hence my need for a hasty departure. And then it all came together. The idea, then a plan and then the opportunity.
Yes, it did seem as if fate once again smiled upon me! I had to take the bull by the horns. Make fortune work for me. Yes. Fortune would continue to lead me to the happy life that I dreamed of so long ago in Ireland. It was the luck of the Irish that I trusted in, and my ability to persevere.
Snow began to fall as I stood clutching my black bag. The others were gone. I was all alone. I tucked my hat down over my ears and waited. Surely whomever expected me would arrive soon.
Where are you, John Alexander? Where are you? You cannot leave me here. Please, let this be real. Let this all be real. I have risked everything. Everything! What else is there for me?
But no one stepped out of the darkness to claim me. A flickering lamp above the sidewalk did not offer me much light but it was enough to see I was by myself.
“John Alexander? Mr. Alexander?” I whispered into the crisp air. The only answer was a heavy falling of snow.
All the world grew silent.
So go ahead. Ask me again.
“What do you do for a living?”
I write ghost stories.
Ah, that felt good. Good to get it off my chest at last.
People usually fall into two camps when they hear my confession. The first group of folks are the paranormal enthusiasts like me. They can range from lightly interested to deeply invested. It's always interesting to speak to people that like the same things that I do. But to say that everyone believes the same thing I do would be rather presumptuous of me. But I'll talk more about that in another blog post.
The second group of people are usually pretty put out. Some because they know I am a follower of Jesus yet I also believe in ghosts. Why that’s a problem for folks, I couldn’t say except their religious leaders have told them that everything that you can’t see is demonic. (Just as a side note: I am into relationship, not religion.)
To the folks that say the Invisible World is the world of demons I say, “Hogwash!” But I know that for most religious folks, it’s a done deal. I won’t change their minds and they won’t change mind.
But you’ve come too late to tell me that I’m wrong. I've had too many encounters and done too much research (80 books) to have such a closed mind. To those people I would say to them read Matthew 10, true disciples of Jesus were given the power over unclean (dead human and demonic) spirits.
If you do the word study using the appropriate reference books like a Strong’s Concordance you'll understand that Jesus was telling the disciples that through his name they had authority over unclean human and demonic spirits. A dead person--one that's not at rest but wandering around looking to get into mischief is an unclean spirit. Some just need help.
I don't know why the church is so against the paranormal when the book that they proclaim to withhold uphold as God's word is full of paranormal activity.
To my mind, the God that saves you through the blood of his own Son is definitely a God who observes the paranormal.
I know I sound all rant-y today but I just wanted to talk about my truth.
For many of you, it will be hard to reconcile the two but to me it's not hard at all. I'm totally comfortable with the journey that I'm on and feel as if it's one lead by God. If you read any of my books you know I don't get preachy or even religious. I write about paranormal investigations and supernatural subjects because they interest me. I'm not afraid because I'm protected.
I write ghost stories not because I'm obsessed with death but because I appreciate life. And I appreciate the lives that have gone before me.
How dare we not remember the dead?
Should we summon them up from there a restful repose? Of course not. No. I don’t summon anyone.
Should we capture them or harm them or disturb them in any sort of way? Absolutely not.
But I don't agree with ignoring or pretending that all of these experiences that people of been having over the decades and centuries are completely fictitious. So why not talk about them? Why not write about them?
I write ghost stories.
That's my truth and I hope you're okay with that. But even if you're not, no hard feelings. But here's my truth—I believe in ghosts and I'm no longer going to hide it.
All my best,
What about you? Do you believe in ghosts? Tell me about it in the comments below. (No arguments, please.)
On August 3, 2019, my best friend and fellow investigator Victoria and I headed to New Orleans to celebrate her birthday. Unlike many folks, binge drinking and staggering down Bourbon Street wasn’t on our agenda. (Although we did take lots of pictures that night and enjoyed a muffelatta and other treats.) As always, we were going in search of ghosts, or at the very least unique and atmospheric architecture. To our surprise, it was the Sachmo Festival and the place was packed from the French Market to Chartres Street. Undeterred, I mean this was the bestie’s big day, we grabbed a few pieces of equipment and drove to the Lafayette Cemeteries, the oldest cemeteries in the area. Unbeknownst to us, the Catholic Church stop-blocked us at the entrance. We were not allowed to go inside without paying the $20 admission fee (each) and we had to be guided by one of their guides, so no paranormal investigations. We could enjoy their stories about the dead.
That made me sick.
I understand trying to protect the resting souls of the two Lafayette Cemeteries but… I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. So we got back in the car and went to the St. Vincent de Paul Cemeteries No. 1 and 2 which weren’t far away. These two plots are located on Louisa Street, near Robertson in the St. Claude neighborhood of New Orleans. Often confused with another set of cemeteries with the same name located Uptown, these cemeteries were likely the parish cemeteries for the Catholic church of St. Vincent de Paul, located on Dauphine Street in the Bywater neighborhood. The precise founding date of this cemetery is not clear. Some sources say the property came into use as a burying ground in the 1830s, but we can’t be sure.
Famous duelist, swordsman and bullfighter Pepe Llulla founded this cemetery. Through his lifetime, Pepe Llulla dabbled in many different business ventures. He purchased real estate and ran a logging company. For some time, he staged bull fights in Algiers. Can you imagine? He is best remembered as the proprietor of the “Louisa Street cemeteries,” now known as the Vincent DePaul Cemeteries which he most likely purchased in the 1840s.
Back to our investigation. Tori and I were up against some serious heat, the heat factor was in the 100s and there were a few times when we had to stop and cool off. There are no trees for shelter in either of the cemeteries, just perfect rows of mausoleums and graves. There is white stone everywhere and some fine marble, all the graves were heart-wrenching and beautiful.
Our visit to #1 was quiet. Nobody was awake, or if they were they didn’t want to talk with us or interact at all. (Many of you followed along with us through our videos. If you didn’t get a chance to see them the videos are still on my Facebook page.)
Yep, it was pretty quiet until we got ready to leave and go to #2. As we were exiting #1, an older woman with kinky brown hair and a white dress warned me, “Don’t go over there. They’re all crazy!” But it was hard to take her seriously because she was also laughing at us. She was quite the character. (I’m a medium, in case you were wondering.) I didn’t engage in conversation with her except to say, “Thank you.”
In the car between our walks, Victoria and I reviewed our EVPs (nothing at all on those) and we did a quick vid while we cooled off. A few minutes later we grabbed my digital recorder, our cell phones and headed off to the second location.
The lady in Cemetery #1 wasn’t wrong. The energy in the Cemetery #2 was frenetic, moving and unsettled. We went to the left immediately and it didn’t take long to encounter one particular ghost that didn’t want us around. He was male, that was all I gathered before he shut down on me and began getting physical. He was not very tall but he did have a bad attitude. He punched me in the gut repeatedly until I had to make him quit. Tori immediately began sensing his energy too and we followed him to see if we could make contact. Clearly, he wanted no part of that. He had a cane or a sword or something which he poked me with in the top of my foot. I had to pause and make him stop again and then he moved a few rows over. We slowly walked behind him and you can see in one of the videos a translucent person move between Tori and I but to be fair, that image could also have been the heat. And it was so hot the heat shut our phone down a few times. Or something did.
We did catch a stellar EVP which I’m including here. You’ll hear a man’s voice around: 23. (Turn up the volume or listen with headphones and tell me what you heard.) Personally, I think we encountered Pepe Llulla. I think Pepe is still watching over the dead at the St. Vincent DePaul Cemetery, the cemetery he purchased and managed for many years. We offered to help Pepe but he didn’t want our help. There was one other man awake in the cemetery but he steered clear of us and I could only see him as a shadow. It was a unique experience and one that I will never forget.
At It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. Nobody else was around, except one guy who had been sleeping in the cemetery. He exited the area as we arrived. We found rubbish around one of the graves and he was wearing a backpack. There were used needles, empty drink cans and other assorted garbage in a few places. And there was a tree that had fallen and been cut up on the far side of the cemetery that nobody had bothered to remove. I felt terrible for the poor souls that rested there.
Beside this terrible oversight, the Church Street Graveyard was beautiful, peaceful and quiet with the exception of two experiences. As we walked along the far right side of the property, near where the Masons and indigents were buried (which I discovered later), I “felt” a woman who was awake and not happy about our presence. She was buried with her husband and two children all of which she was trying to protect. I got the impression, from the candle stubs and other items around the area that not everyone was honoring the “stay out of the cemetery after dark” rule. I apologized for getting too close and we continued our walk. We took lots of pictures, did some EVP work but didn’t see or hear much besides one other entity, a female with a bad attitude. I felt her immediately as she pushed me away and later discovered that Tori and I successfully captured a voice on one of the audio files.
Here’s the clip, if you would like to hear it. At :42 was when I walked into the lady. :50 is when she speaks. I'll tell you at the end of this post what I think she said. I don't want to influence your listening skills.
Some notable residents of the Church Street Graveyard include Charles Boyington, Joe Cain and James Roper, the man who built Oakleigh Historic Home, the inspiration for Seven Sisters. It's a small area, only four acres but those that rest there have been there a long time. If you come to Mobile and decide to visit this historic location bring some beads for Joe Cain and lots of respect. They'll thank you for it.
PS. I'm hearing, "I hate you," at the :50 mark. What did you hear?
It's been a busy week for me, but then again, all weeks are and I kind of like that. I'm not one to veg out for days on end. Vegging out for just a day is hard for me. Unless I'm sick. Then of course I can't do much of anything. But thankfully, I'm as healthy as a horse and I'm brimming with creative ideas. Yep. I'm a creative junkie. I love writing, creating book covers and working on side projects like my upcoming Indie Author Roadmap. It's going to be an expansive course hosted on Teachable. If you've thought about writing a book but don't know how to get started this course is for you. Make sure you visit my Workshops page and add your name to the list to get notices about the course.
Speaking of loving the creativity, I began a new poem. I don't write poems often but it was on my bucket list for this year. Here's the beginning of my new poem, SHE STEPS LIGHTLY. I plan on including it in the new Lost Camelot book, The Last Queen of Camelot.
Lightly she steps
the candle at rest,
in the palm of her hand
Downward she goes
soil beneath toes,
into that darkest land
Oh, lady fair
with flowered hair
why come you to hear to die?
Life you should seek
not love so bleak
leave before endless night
Never she swore
we loved before
and we must love again
Embrace me then
you may step in
but never will you leave
Don't judge. It's a work in progress. In other news, I finished Wreath of Roses which is now with my editor. I cried at the end, I ain't even going to lie about it. Not because anything horrible happened but because it is the last of the Seven Sisters series. Even if Carrie Jo and Ashland investigate another house all the ghosts of Seven Sisters have finally been put to rest. I'm simultaneously happy and sad. I hope you love it too. It releases on March 1, 2019.
Now I'm working on my side projects but I'm also beginning The Ghost of Joanna Storm, the last of the Morgan's Rock trilogy. It will also likely have a bittersweet ending but it's time to give Megan her happily ever after (maybe?). Let me know what you think about my poem in the comments. Also, check out my Workshop page and be sure and add your name to the mailing list if you're interested in learning more starting your writing career.
Okay, no joking. Last question.
I've got so many books coming your way this year. Here's a slideshow of some (not all) of them. Which ones are you must excited about? Let me know in the comments section.
Some time last year, (2018) a friend of my husband's invited us to visit the fire station in downtown Mobile; it's known as the Central Fire Station. Knowing that I enjoy writing about ghost stories that feature the city and county of Mobile, I think Don, that's our friend, wanted to get our take on what was happening there. Or at least share his love for the historic lamdmark. As a former employee at the fire station, Don had experienced quite a few strange things in the old building, as did some of his coworkers. Needless to say I was ecstatic about the visit. But as a sensitive I did my best not to delve too deeply in the lore before my walkthrough. I prefer to pick up the paranormal details from the places I visit independently and then confirm what I'm seeing/sensing/feeling with actual historical facts. I admit that I'm late in coming to terms with the fact that I am a sensitive but now that I understand my weirdness has a name I've decided to embrace it. (But please don't ask me to do a reading. I can't. Don't know how and don't want to. I scan places, not living people.)
However, as much as I wanted to do the walk through without contamination it was impossible to avoid hearing about the alarm board incident. So full disclosure. Somewhere around 2010, as best as I can establish, the Gamewell Alarm System lit up. This massive, wall sized system was used to summon firemen to specific stations around the city. It was installed in 1925 and used until about forty years. Telephones and computers made such antiquated equipment unnecessary. At some point the batteries in the system were removed and the board was disconnected from any electrical source. That didn't stop it from lighting up one evening and it stayed lit for days. To make things stranger the two lights that came on were the 10 and the 4. (10-4, good buddy?) As I said, the board stayed on a few days and eventually went dark again. The board remains on one of the upper floors but as far as I know there hasn't been a repeat performance. Needless to say I didn't pick up anything near or around the board. I must say though it is a shame that the equipment is being housed in better conditions. What a great addition this would be to a museum!
Other paranormal reports at the station were phantom footsteps on the top floor and in the fire watch area on the roof. Don's office was once at that floor, he's since retired, and he related to us how one secretary moved her office to his floor, presumably to prevent having to walk up and down the stairs multiple times a day. But the phantom footsteps got too much for her and she decided to move back to one of the lower levels. She's just one of dozens who claim the place is haunted. The fire station is well kept but it is clearly an old building which adds to the charm of the Central Fire Station. Don told us that a paranormal group came in to investigate but they didn't record any evidence.
They were completely wrong. The place IS haunted.
Here's what I got.
I started "listening" on my way to the fire station. The first person I made contact with was a woman named Carla. She died not long ago and considers herself a caretaker of the fire station. She was adamant that I not "cast the fire station in a bad light." She said it was a good place with good people in it. I agreed with her request. I got the impression that she was a little nosy, more so now since she could eavesdrop on conversations without anyone noticing her. She had a son that she was very proud of and he was either a fireman at the station at one time or worked at the location. I got that she had short brown hair that she liked to color it blonde and she had thin eyebrows. After I assured her that I wasn't interested in writing anything negative about the fire station she left me alone but she did follow me around during my walk.
The second encounter I had was in the station. I saw a man pushing a broom. He wasn't wearing a shirt, just old fashioned pants, suspenders and boots. He apologized for being bare chested but he said he was hot. That keeping the place clean was a hot work. He was pushing a broom and cleaning the floor and I got the impression that he did this constantly. He was clean shaven with short hair, except for his mustache which he took great pride in. I would say he was in his late twenties or thirties but I think he was older when he died. He was kind of frenetic and had a lot of energy. I got that he died from a fall and that he struck his head. In life he was dedicated to his purpose. People might hear him knocking brooms around because he's kind of clumsy. He hasn't quite got the hang of handling his death. He isn't aware that he's bothering anyone. I got that he died in the 1870s. He stays mostly on the bottom floor. He likes to be close to the action.
The third person I encountered was a man on the top floor. He hardly noticed I was there and doesn't like for people to see him. He was a much older dead person, he died sometime in the 1830s. He doesn't like the thing on the roof, which he describes as a creature. He thinks the creature is trying to get in and this man feels that it is his job to keep it out. The man stays on the top floor and runs up the stairs whenever he hears the creature on the roof. People would hear him walking on the top floor and in the cat walk. He didn't want to talk to me and I couldn't get his name or anything else about him. If he's on the stairs when people come up he makes himself really flat against the wall to avoid detection. However, sometimes people see him as a shadow, when he can't get out of the way fast enough.
On the first encounter, I have no verification about the lady named Carla. I believe her that she feels connected to the place but I have nothing to prove she was ever there. In regards to the second encounter I know who this was. Don took us to the "break room" to meet some of the guys and I was surprised to see a painting of the man that I saw downstairs.
No wonder I saw him pushing brooms around! That had been his original job as a young man at the station. Housekeeping would have been one of his duties. The injury to his head could either have been from a fall from the buggy (he was clumsy for sure) or the stroke which would have most certainly been a head injury.
I don't know who the third person was that I met but I got the feeling that he wasn't limited to that one building. And he's certainly "at war" with something that only he can see.
So that's it. If the opportunity comes about that I can investigate the place more fully I will. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I do plan to write about Fire Chief Sloan and the man on the top floor in one of my Gulf Coast Paranormal books. The title is The Ghosts of Phoenix No. 7. It won't be out until later this year but I'll keep you posted. I will be dedicating this book to the First Responders of Mobile. It was an honor meet so many of them. (Did you know Mobile currently has twelve women serving as firefighters? How awesome is that?
My Favorite Memory of 2018!
AKA My Cousins Are Going to Kill Me For Posting This
It’s that time of year, y’all. The time where forward-minded folks like us assess the past year’s progress and usually decide to make changes to what we do, how we behave or what we eat. It’s all very promising when you’re proverbially standing on the precipice of January 1, 2019. The world is waiting for you and I; all our hopes and dreams are right at our feet, the possibilities are endless. I love the feeling of a new year. I love it. Almost as much as the feeling I have when I begin a new book. I adore both of those experiences. And in past years I was right on board with all the other Resolution Makers. But not this year. I’m spending more time on the review of 2018. I guess you could call it Counting My Blessings before moving on. Don’t get me wrong, I have a plan and things I want to change. I love goal setting. I followed the 2018 plan for myself and although I didn’t get 100% of the results I hoped for—wow! 2018 was a remarkable year for me.
I walked my first 5k. That had been a bucket list item so bonus to me for achieving that. Have I mentioned how much I love St. Jude? I think I’m going to go for it again this year. It didn’t matter that I was practically dead last crossing that finish line. I did it!
I slow danced with the Mister. In public. On multiple occasions. We were involved in so many wonderful events this year, so many opportunities to slow dance. And we did. And I loved every minute of it and I love him. He’s My Imperfect Cowboy, even with his bad jokes and his two left feet. He still looks a treat in a pair of jeans and those eyes…
Yep, My Imperfect Cowboy. (Hey, that sounds like a book title. Please don’t steal it, fellow writers. LOL)
But hands down my favorite memory of 2018, was our cousin Christmas party. I had no idea that I missed this so much until I was with them again. I reunited with family members, cousins, I hadn’t seen in ages. We had our first reunion and it was a blast. I love my Viking Cousins and I’m so glad that there are so many amazing people in my family tree. I look forward to the future. And I'm glad to say that I spent plenty of time with my "squad," including a my "most bestest."
Another cool 2018 adventure? Actually I had several paranormal adventures. My spooky friend, Victoria and I walked through Old Cahawba this year, as well as visited a local cemetery. It was exciting and a blast. Not to mention the ghost hunt tour in Mobile. It was great ghost hunting with the ten of you ladies. I hope we can do it again soon.
I guess the reason I’m telling you all this is to encourage you. Not to brag on myself. I encourage you to look back at your year and look for the good things. Don’t let 2018 be a complete write off. Welcome the Do Over that 2019 brings but don’t dismiss the many blessings you have enjoyed.
Some of you will have endured significant losses in 2018. It’s never easy losing people you love. Trust me, I know this. I lost my little brother in 2017 to MS. What a cruel way to die. But I have to move forward and so do you. Look for the good things and remember those too. Let grief do its work but keep your eyes on the horizon, my friend.
Hint! Want to see how great your life is? Keep a planner and write in it every day. Make THAT your resolution. It’s a great tool to use when you need to go back and remember all the good that happened to you. Your heart and mind and soul deserves to be reminded of all the sweet moments that you've experienced. It can be easy to forget during times of adversity.
And if nobody else says it I sure will. “You are loved and celebrated. Make 2019 the best year ever! You can do it!”
- Monica Leigh (M.L.) Bullock