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Page 77

Deep down, I had expected the Indigo Room to be empty.

By then, the idea that someone continued to sneak into Baneberry Hall seemed more like wishful thinking than possible reality. People didn’t break into homes only to ring bells and turn on record players. Nor were those things caused by mice or a draft or even snakes.

Something else was going on.

Something unexplainable.

Passing under the chandelier, I saw it was inexplicably lit, even though it hadn’t been earlier that morning.

I hit the switch, darkening it once more, and continued to the kitchen. I was halfway down the steps when a chorus of bells rose from the kitchen, prompting me to run the rest of the way. Inside, I saw that every bell on the wall trembled, as if they had been rung at once.

Also trembling was Maggie, who no longer sat at the kitchen table. Instead, she crouched against the wall opposite the bells, pressing herself into a corner. Terror glistened in her eyes.

“He was here,” she whispered.

“Mister Shadow?” I whispered back.

Maggie gave a single, solemn nod.

“Is he gone now?”

She nodded again.

“Did he say anything to you?”

Maggie looked from me to the wall of now-silent bells. “He said he wants to talk to you.”

* * *

? ? ?

That night, I dropped the Ouija board on the kitchen table, where it landed with a thud so loud it startled Jess from the glass of wine she’d been staring into. We hadn’t talked much about what happened with the bells because Maggie was always with us. But now that our daughter was in bed, I was able to give Jess a full report, followed by the retrieval of the Ouija board.

“Where did you get this?”

“I found it in the study.”

“And what do you intend to do with it?”

“If Mister Shadow wants to talk, then I think we should try it.”

Jess glanced at her wine, looking as though she wanted to down the whole glass. “Seriously?”

“I know it sounds stupid,” I said. “And borderline ridiculous.”

“I think it crosses that border, don’t you?”

“You’re the one who walked through this place burning sage.”

“That was different,” Jess said. “It was just superstition. What you’re talking about is—”

“Ghosts,” I said. “Yes, I’m suggesting that Baneberry Hall is haunted.”

There it was. The word we had tiptoed around for days. Now there was no way to avoid using it.

“You know how crazy you sound, right?”

“I do, and I don’t care,” I said. “Something strange is happening here. You can’t deny that. Something we won’t be able to stop until we know what we’re dealing with.”

Jess’s face rippled with indecision as she stared at the box. When her mind was made up, she took a gulp of wine and said, “Fine. Let’s do this.”

The Ouija board was older than I had initially expected. Far different from the one I’d used as a teenager, when my friends and I would get high and try to scare one another. It was an actual board, for one thing. Solid wood that thunked against the table when I removed it from its box.

The varnish gave the wood an orange tint. Painted across it were two rows of letters, arced on top of each other like a double rainbow. In a straight line below them were numbers.

1234567890

The upper corners each bore a single word. YES in the left corner, NO in the right. Two words ran across the bottom of the board.

GOOD BYE

Just like the board, the planchette also differed from my youth. It wasn’t plastic, but real ivory, one end tapered to a point.

I lit a candle, set it on the table, and turned off the kitchen lights.

“Romantic,” Jess commented.

“Can you please be serious about this?”

“Honestly, Ewan, I don’t think I can.”

We sat across from each other, taking opposite sides of the board. We then placed our fingers on the planchette, ready to begin.

“Is there a spirit present?” I said, addressing the area above the kitchen table.

The planchette didn’t budge.

I asked again, this time intoning the words the way a medium would do in the movies. “Is there a spirit present?”

The planchette slowly began to move—a stuttering slide across the board to the word in the upper right corner.

NO

I looked across the table to Jess, who could barely contain her snickering. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t help myself.”

“Please keep an open mind,” I pleaded. “For Maggie’s sake.”

Jess grew serious at the mention of our daughter. She knew as well as I did that this was about Maggie. If there were ghosts at Baneberry Hall, only she could see them. Which meant she’d continue to do so until they left.

“I will,” she said. “Promise.”

Once again, I asked if a spirit was present. This time, the planchette jerked forward—so hard I thought it was going to slide entirely out from beneath my fingers. They stayed with it, though, following it to the word in the upper left corner.

YES

“You need to be more subtle than that,” I told Jess. “Stop pushing it.”

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