Tag Archives: Caretaker

2.38 Parlor Game No.1 – The Spirit Board

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(Laney’s design for the spirit board featured Morse Code…you know to weed out the undesirable tricksy spirits…)

Hunched over and walking backward around the picnic table, l concentrated on leaving an unbroken speckled line in my wake. A bemused Wood, who I caught from the corner of my eye, filching the last bite of baked beans off my plate, looked on. 

Wood: “You know, pouring salt on the grass is going to kill it, right?”

Me (concentrating on maintaining an even pour): “Between the dogs, sprinklers, and rain showers, the salt will wash away before any permanent damage is done, don’t worry.”

Wood: “But why are you salting the earth?”

Me (delivering the last words with my very best Count Dracula voice – which is still pretty bad): “It’s a two-for-one kind of deal. It keeps you safe from all the creepy-crawlies, and it’ll keep you safe from all the Creepy-Crawlies…”

Wood: “Safety first, that’s what you’re going with.”

Me: “Yup.”

Hiding my smile, I kept my eyes trained on the grains of Himalayan pink, Hawaiian black, and fresh hand-harvested sea salt sprinkling from the slit in the bag.

After a spot of investigation on the internet and a lengthy conversation with Joseph, I think we sussed out how The Woman In White was able to cross the spilled salt and attack me. The contents of the bag I’d grabbed from the supply closet that night in Nevermore weren’t precisely what I thought. Instead of pure rock salt Sam ordinarily ordered, this year, he bought a blend – equal parts gravel, urea crystals, and rock salt (of highly dubious quality). So between this less than stellar mixture and strength born of insanity – The Woman In White muscled her way across. 

We’re pretty sure.

Our lack of certainty on this particular point prompted me to use a salt blend Nevermore’s Residents helped me perfect but rarely use. 

The imperfect circle I’m drawing might be overkill, as Orin’s unknown Errant isn’t unknown to me. However, not knowing why Abraham Flared kept my hands steady and steps even while I finished my final revolution around the picnic table where Wood sat. 

Wood (sounding perplexed): “So what parlor game requires we sit within a ring of salt for safety?”

Me (walking back to the table and cramming the empty bag into my pack): “A spirit board.”

Wood (stupefied): “Ouija? Really? I can’t think of a single person I’m interested in contacting on the otherside.”

Me: “I know, but we’re not going to communicate with anyone there…”

With a flourish I placed the archival box, Aarti from the Historical Society lent me, in the middle of the table.

Wood (raising an eyebrow): “Okay…”

Me: “We’re going to try contacting the Grey Man.”

Wood: “Who?”

Opening the box, doing my best Vanna White impression, I flipped over formal photos, snapshots, snippets, and facsimiles. All the while explaining who Edmund Wynter was, his racket, the mystery surrounding his murder, and his notoriously active afterlife.

Me: “So what do you think? Want to give it a try?”

Wood (rolling his eyes): “I’m reconsidering my position on tiddlywinks.”

Wood loves all things weird and wacky but stands firmly in Houdini’s camp in regards to spiritualism. 

His wife, Laney, on the other hand, loves this kind of thing. In fact, she stitched me the spirit board I’d unfurled on the table years ago after I gave her first full tour of Nevermore. She wasn’t clear on exactly how it would help me with my duties as Caretaker, but she figured it was better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

(I didn’t have the heart to tell her spirit boards don’t actually attract their intended demographic.)

Me (trying for a reasonable tone while swallowing a laugh): “It might be our only chance to solve his murder…”

Wood: “Last chance?”

Me: “Sightings of him have dropped dramatically over the past twenty-five years.”

Wood (dryly): “Right. I’m sure the drop in sightings has nothing to do with the fact Wynter was murdered in nineteen-thirty-eight.”

Me: “We could ask him where he stashed his blackmail materials. If his wife or murderer didn’t already turn them to ash.”

Wood (momentarily forgetting he thought spirit boards were pure hokum): “You want to find Pandora’s Box? Think of all the trouble his blackmail ledger could cause, Wynter had access to every government record in Rye.”

Me (shrugging): “I wouldn’t read it, I hand it over to the police, they’d read it.”

Wood: “And Pandora only meant to sneak a peek inside that damned box. What if your great grandparents had something hushed up by Wynter? Wouldn’t you want to protect their memory? Or how about my Gran?”

A ripple of electricity arcing across my toes jolted me out of the hypothetical ethical pickle Wood’s question placed me in. Glancing around, I spotted a scowling Abraham standing in the entrance of the gazebo staring at me. Turning back to my Moon Bathing companion, I found the solution to two out of three of my burning dilemmas in the buzzing of his phone.

Me (snapping my fingers in inspiration): “Tell Laney you’ll call her back on video chat. She can help us break in the spirit board – you’ll get a boatload of husband points.” 

Wood, while muttering something about wishing Laney and I weren’t so close, answered his phone.

Wood: “Hey Twinkie, can you call me back on Facetime, please? Thanks…. Hey, where are you going?”

Me (getting up from the table): “The gazebo, my guy, just arrived.”

Wood (face lit by the glow of his phone): “Shout if you need me?”

Me (over my shoulder): “Of course! This shouldn’t take long.”

Stepping carefully over the ring of salt, I left Wood to catch Laney up with tonight’s entertainment. Walking past a glowering Abraham into the dim interior of the gazebo, he waited until I turned around and faced him before speaking.

Abraham: “I don’t care to be summoned, Caretaker.”

1.23 Is It Tresspasing If You Have Keys?

Version 2

The upside about driving for FLYT? My black uniform doubles as ninja gear or perhaps cat burglar attire, either way, I am tough to see at night (I prefer ninja btw). When Ben gave me my walking papers, he was so intent on wresting my cottage keys from my fingers he forgot about my ring of skeleton keys to Nevermore. Since old habits die hard, I never leave home without them, fortuitous in this case since I need to make one more stop tonight.

The Princess’s tires rolled quietly over the pavement away from Mr. Grindle’s house towards Ash and Second – unofficially known as the Nevermore Crossroads. 

The bane of my professional existence. 

Well, when my professional title included the word caretaker in it. Why? High schoolers insist on scaling the walls for the thrill (and bragging rites) of drinking atop the moldering bones of notorious criminals sent to the gallows and the poor souls who died by their own hand (when they started defacing the graves, I actively started discouraged them). Fortunately for me, the next foray by these teenage hooligans would be soon – the streetlight on the crossroads was out – thickening the shadows on both sides of the wall by a factor of ten. Which, at this moment, suited me just fine. 

After parking the Princess two streets down, I hugged the shadows (which was ridiculously easy) until I reached the Crossroads’ gates, where I used my master key to open the West one (the South one tended to squeak) and slipped thru. The moon, obscured by clouds, didn’t illuminate much tonight. So I pulled a small flashlight out of my purse and turned it on then started following the perimeter wall north. 

I felt the probability of my discovery pretty low. Little Ben loathed this corner of the property, even during the day, claiming it unsettled him, meaning he would not step foot here at night on patrol. Since the high school hooligans found another spot for their shenanigans this evening, they wouldn’t rat me out either. So unless some weird cult decided to take up residence in the past week, my trusty flashlight and I were fine. Plus I needed it to navigate, graveyards at night and obstacle courses share many painful similarities – only one has more atmosphere.

Pretty soon the cheap concrete markers of the condemned gave way to the more conventional marble ones of Rye’s working class. Just on the other side of this invisible border, I spied Joseph leaning against a headstone, the brim of his fedora giving him away (no statue in the entirety of Nevermore wore more than garland on their heads). And because my focus wavered from the ground level obstacles for a split second too long, my toe found the edge of one of the aforementioned marble headstones. On the upside, my foot forgot where Mr. Grindle had stepped on it repeatedly a half hour earlier. By the time I’d finished whisper yelling ‘Ow!’ and clutching my poor toes Joseph stood next to me.

Joseph (amusement coloring his voice): “You rang?”

Me (trying hard not to put too much weight on my injured foot): “Hardy har har.”

Joseph (his hands hovering near my elbow): “You should sit, give your foot a rest.”

Me: “No, I can’t stay that long.”

Joseph (sensing the tone): “Alright. What’s the news?”

Me (gingerly standing upright again): “Stalker.” 

Joseph, his full attention on me, waited for more words.

Me: I happened on her tonight while driving a fare. She claimed to have injured Mr. Grindle and was able to shift her gaze for a moment. 

Joseph (looking up at the stars): “You questioned her.”

Me: Yes, circuitously. I needed more information than just my fare’s name and address.

Joseph shook his head and started on a rant I knew would not paint me with flattering colors. I cut him off.

Me: “Look, I needed information, and I got what I needed. She is so focused on him she’ll forget me by tomorrow.” 

Joseph (obviously not happy): “What’s next?”

Me (wishing I could’ve burned that pink slip): “Spread the word among the Residents, no one wanders east of my new apartment or into downtown proper until I get this fixed.” 

Joseph: “No problem.”

He turned and started walking away. I knew his unhappiness stemmed from the risk I took engaging Miss 80’s glam. Drat.

Me (trying for levity): “Thanks, Joseph. Oh, and tell the Residents I am also looking into this Farm nonsense Ben is starting.”

Joseph touched the brim of his hat and disappeared from the circle of light from my flashlight. 

Sigh.

Home again, home again jiggety jig.