Readers, here’s a short fiction selection from my book, Rest In Fleece: Ghosts, Tall Tales & Horror Stories. Enjoy this creepy tale, and if you like it you might check out my amazon page at the link below, where most of my books are but 99 cents!
“Damn, this listing’s getting stale,” thought Lee, a somewhat harried realtor. She knew that every month on the market eroded a home’s saleability. (Lee had a weakness for realtor-speak). She’d inherited the listing from another agent, who had worked the property carefully and comprehensively.
The curb appeal was undeniable: a pretty Spanish territorial. The barrel tiles added charm and the elegant, custom wrought iron front door welcomed the visitor. The stucco had just been redone. The landscaping was nice enough, and the yard quite well-kept, enclosed by a high wall. The interior of the home was immaculate and had not even required staging: the current furnishings were of high quality and the rooms were well-designed. So why hadn’t it sold?
A drive-by was in order, thought Lee. She got into her Audi and headed for Druid Lane in Underwood, a suburb, but a community that was set off, at a distance. It was part of the best school district in the city and was considered very nice area, if a bit inconvenient, due to its separation by a river, a bridge and a series of hills. It couldn’t actually be seen from town.
As she drove over the stream, Lee had an odd feeling. She was intuitive. Something was out of balance. Lee was a Libra. The signature scales of her sign were to her more than a mere symbol. Balance was all. If she sensed something amiss, it always presented as a vision of the scales, with one side weighted down. And this is what she saw in her mind’s eye as she crossed over the water. She looked at her GPS. No matter how often she came to this area, her keen sense of direction would abandon her and she’d find herself wandering, befuddled. However, she let her logic override her sense of confusion and drove on. Yes, here we are, she thought. The Lethe River, and now Wood Road.
There were rumors about the hills. There was a kind of urban legend about them. One day after work, Lee had stopped for drinks with some other realtors. George had had a few and was rambling on, as one will. He said once he had been so lost in those hills he nearly hadn’t made his way out.
“I should have listened to the old guy,” he added. You know, Mr. Charrone, that older man who lives by the water, before you get to the bridge? Well, he told me the hills had a miasma about them.”
Mr. Charrone had said that the native American people had avoided the place. Centuries ago, when European settlers arrived, they gladly stayed where there would be no conflict with the local tribes, remote as it was in those days. Underwood area developed rather on its own, apart from the rest of the growing city to the east. It remained prosperous but small, and had no direct access from the freeway or the main highways. The only way in and out remained Wood Road.
In her car, Lee pulled up the second of the hills. The surrounding forest was green, rich with moss and overgrowth. She wondered whether one might even walk through it. There seemed no space for even a small pathway. The sky overhead, while still sunny, darkened, and Lee was immediately plunged in shadow. Her car began to drift. Not meander off the road, but drift: it moved, but silently, with the engine no longer engaged, it felt as if it actually floated. She tried her brakes, which also had no effect. She was only a passenger now. Someone or something else was driving.
Her car rolled its way down the road (faster than Lee would have driven) and through the woods. Lee became more terrified by the moment: she feared she might die. After a time, though, the woods thinned out, it became lighter, and the car once again was just a car. Looking up, Lee saw Underwood, like a large feline, basking in the midday warmth. Sunlight shrouded the cluster of homes and buildings. City of God, she thought briefly.
Somehow she’d been brought here. How? Why? Lee pulled over at a Starbucks for a coffee and a scone. She sat at an outside table to think. For one thing, this place. In all her years in the business, she’d never sold property here, even though it was considered her agency’s territory. Why, she wondered, had so few done business here? It certainly looked prosperous.
Then Lee wondered how it was she’d got the listing in the first place. Agents don’t just hand over saleable properties to other realtors. That would be giving away money. And, why Lee? She was not the most senior broker in the office. Opening her laptop, she looked into the property files.
Ah, here it was. The last agent to list had been Gilbert Gamesh. Yes, Gil had . . . what had happened to Gil? She assumed he’d transferred out. Lee would look into it. She returned to her car and followed her directions to the house on Druid Lane.
Lee walked around the yard, and all looked undisturbed. Opening the lockbox, she got the key and let herself in. On the table in the foyer were several cards from other realtors who had been by. She looked through them.
My, some looked quite old. Here was Gil’s card. Gilbert ‘Gil’ Gamesh, Broker. (The name sounded Persian, thought Lee). Sibyl Wise, Associate. Kat Abaysis, Broker. Percy F. Fahni, Realtor. Interesting: each appeared to have come from her own branch office. But ‘way before her time there.
Scooping up the cards, she walked through the house, making sure all was in order. While things looked fine . . . but that was the thing, Lee thought. There was a surface calm about the whole day and this particular place that felt as it if blanketed something quite dark and fearsome.
She looked quite carefully through each room of the house and then, in the office, she saw what looked like parchment, a quill, and an ink bottle. It was all set out as though someone had been, just now, writing. These decorators (Lee shook her head). Personally, she found this display a tad precious.
She had decided to put the parchment away in a drawer when she noticed what it was. Some kind of list. Each name she’d read on the cards also appeared on it. Some of the ink had faded, so it was hard to read. Wait. Surely not. She took out her glasses to be sure. There it was, her own name, at the end! What? Was this someone’s idea of a joke?
Had she not had such a ghastly trip in, Lee might have laughed. What to do now? She decided to press on with the job at hand. The listing ad had looked a bit tired, so she took new photos with her camera. Amazing how well kept the place was. Perhaps the cleaners had just been in.
As she peered through the lens for another shot, something caught her eye. The fireplace. There were ashes there. Quite recent ones, from the look of it. There was the faintest smell of smoke in the air. Something told her to turn around at once and go home whilst she still could. She wanted to. But she had professional concerns. Had some unauthorized person been here? She was responsible as the agent: the owners were absentee, she’d understood. Lee picked up an andiron and prodded at the ash pile. As she did so, she saw something glisten.
She scraped away the debris and saw a gold ring, the kind with the monogram initial. She picked it out, and with a tissue from her bag, wiped her hands and the ring. It was a heavy, fine men’s ring. The initials were GG. Gil? Lee went to the kitchen for drink of water. She was feeling lightheaded. She saw a mug on the counter with the words Perce Fahni, Realtor of the Year. Clearly she needed to get back to her office and do some research. And out of here. She saw a wisp of smoke from the fireplace, turned on her heel and ran out of the house, pausing only to lock it. She quickly settled herself in her car, locked her doors, and drove home. Fortunately, this ride was without incident.
The following day, Lee attended a broker’s open house in another part of town. She saw some colleagues she knew slightly, and went up to say hello.
“Say,” she asked, “remember that broker from our office, Gil? Where did he get off to, I’ve wanted to ask him something about his old listing.”
“I thought he went to Sicily to retire,” said one. “No, no, it was Crete,” asserted another. Yet a third agent thought Gil had got a condo on the Aegean, a lower level one. No one knew for sure. Gil had become the stuff of myth.
Afterward, Lee returned to the office and sleuthed a bit. Sibyl Wise had been a top-achieving agent, she’d made oodles of money and then . . . what had become of her? Lee got into the old file cabinets and found papers with Sibyl’s name. But how odd. They were dated 1922.
Lee wanted to pass the Druid Lane listing to someone else, but found no one available to take it on. She was thus obligated to show the house when, out of nowhere, she received a call from another agent.
“Hello, Lee? Hi, I’m Sy. Oh, Sy Riss. I’m calling about your Underwood listing. My clients are just dying to see it. Can you meet us there today?”
This was the last thing Lee wanted to do, but perhaps there would be a commission out of it. She did need the money.
“Okay, Sy. I can be there at one. Um, you sound familiar. Can we have met?” she asked.
“Perhaps. In any case, we shall meet soon. See you at one,” Sy said, and rang off.
A bit later she drove to Underwood. Her car behaved normally and she felt no apprehension this time. She pulled up to the house (it really was such a pretty place, she couldn’t account for it sitting unsold for so long). There was a black Cadillac Fleetwood in the drive and the wrought iron front door was ajar.
Lee went in to join the others. Sy was showing a tall, well-dressed couple into the living room.
“Afternoon,” called Lee.
“Oh, Lee. How good to meet you, heard so many great things. Meet Demi and Dis Dionne.”
Greetings were exchanged forthwith. Demi and Dis were a tall, elegant-looking couple. Lee’s intuition told her there was something foul lurking beneath their pleasant and attractive façade. But she would never know. She smelled just a hint of ashes as they approached. Then she became dizzy, and all she saw was black.
A couple weeks had gone by, but no one at the Peers Simmons Real Estate Agency had seen Lee. So unusual, people said. Lee was such a worker and almost always came in at least once during a day, no matter how many showings she had scheduled. No one had been in her home for some time, it appeared (this was later, after the missing persons report had been filed), and no one had seen her since she left for her last appointment. That house on Druid Lane. People were slightly concerned, but no one had known her all that well, and as time passed, people assumed she had just transferred across town, or maybe to Dana Point. She’d mentioned moving to the beach someday.
Gil, Sibyl and Perce were at the fourth hole at the Oaktown Arbor Country Club. Gil had just hit a beauty with his 3 iron, ‘way into the green, close to the hole.
“Nice one, Gil,” said Perce. They got into their cart.
“I love it here,” said Sibyl. “Oh, look!” she added. “Here’s Lee!”