by Dac Crossley
Here is the final entry from our Halloween mystery short story contest-this one won 2nd place. Check out our Terrific Tales section to see all those that have already gone up.
“Mr. Peters, this is a marvelous old house. I’ve driven past it, on the road, but it’s set so far back, you can’t see much of it. I had no idea. The house is so large and the interior – so well preserved. It’s hard to believe that it’s – how old did you say?”
“Eighteen ought eight. That’s when the original structure was built. Of course it’s been added to. My ancestors left Savannah and moved up the river. They established their plantation here, facing this tributary of the river. And it’s been in the family ever since.”
“Mr. Devlin, I am the sole surviving member of my family. As you can see, I am not a young man. I would like to think that my ancestral home will be preserved. I can’t think of a better way to do that, than to give it to your Historical Society. The Broadacres Plantation has more than 300 acres of good bottom land. Properly managed, it will provide adequate income for the maintenance of the property.”
“Call me John, Mr. Peters. And may I call you Harry? I hope, I believe, that we will have a long and pleasant relationship.”
“Very well – John. Let’s walk down the hall to the kitchen. I have some documents to show you, things you’ll want to take with you when you make your presentation to your Society.”
“Indeed, Harry. But just a moment. This quaint room to the side here – is it a library? May I have a look at it?”
“Later, John. Of course. I have some coffee on in the kitchen. I could use a cup. Could you?”
But John Devlin had turned from the hall and stepped to the middle of a small room. Only about eight by ten feet, it was surrounded on two sides by floor to ceiling bookcases which were filled with volumes. The far wall contained a single window, flanked on both sides by mirrors. Several comfortable chairs were arranged in the center of the room.
John Devlin rotated in the center of the room, peering closely at the walls and ceiling. “This is marvelous. This woodwork could have been completed only yesterday. So well preserved. This room is….”
“An original part of the house,” said Harry Peters. “The part first built by my ancestor. Come, John, you can see all this later.”
“But we have company.” John gestured towards a wing-backed chair in the center of the room. It faced the far wall. Someone, evidently a woman, was sitting in the chair; only her head was visible. Long strands of curly red hair hung down the back of the chair.
“Oh, my,” said Harry.
The woman reached carefully out to a table beside the chair. Her long bare arm deposited a book on the table. She slowly rose and faced the two men.
She was completely naked.
John stared at the slender form, its curves thrusting enticingly towards him. Her skin was very pale, with a dusting of freckles across her arms and shoulders. Her rounded hips tapered into white legs. John shifted his stare to her face. Green eyes twinkled over a pert, tip-tilted nose, all framed by her flaming hair. Her red lips curved in a smile.
“I’m Goody,” she said. “Master,” she added.
“Goody! Put some clothes on! I command you!” Harry waved his hands at her, in a dismissive gesture. “Don’t do this, Goody. Not now.”
The woman’s smile turned to a little pout. She shook her head, flinging strands of her hair about, and closed her eyes. As she stood still, arms at her sides, hands clenched, a soft mist settled around her body. Drifting delicately across her it began to coalesce. And slowly, her body became clothed in a shapeless long, gray dress. Her head was now topped with a small cap with a white border.
“I’m Goody,” she said again. Her small smile had returned.
Harry looked quickly at John Devlin, who was staring into the mirror across the room. Goody’s reflection, seen from behind, was still unclothed.
“Oh, Goody,” said Harry. He stamped his foot. “Go on, now. Leave us. Please!”
Goody stared into Devlin’s face, and began to fade. Her form gradually became transparent, and then drifted away like dust motes in the sunlight. Her eyes, staring at Devlin, were the last to disappear.
Devlin shook his head, as though not believing what he had seen. Harry took him by the elbow. “Come, John, let’s get that coffee now.”
* * * * *
They sat across from each other at the kitchen table. Harry had offered a pile of documents but John merely shoved them aside. His hand shook slightly as he lifted the coffee cup to his lips, where a grin of his own lingered.
“Yes, John, the house has a ghost. Goody Watkins. You’ve seen her in one of her better moods, playful. Sometimes she is not so pleasant.”
“Please explain her to me, Harry. She looked so real. And so beautiful.”
“John, she is very real. I don’t think she will bother you, though. You may never see her again. She only appears to male members of my family, and I’m the last one. Oh, sometimes she appears before clergy,” Peters added.“ Certain clergy.”
Devlin took another sip of his coffee. He looked across the table at Harry. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “This is unusual, isn’t it?”
“Do you think the Historical Society will refuse to accept Broadacres?”
“Hardly.” Devlin put down his coffee cup and smiled broadly. “I’ll have to tell the Board, of course. They’ll all be excited at the thought of getting a property with a resident ghost in it. Come to think of it, that just enhances the value for the Society. They may not even believe me. Until they see for themselves.”
“As I said, Goody probably won’t put in an appearance if I’m not there.”
“Tell me about her, Harry. Who is – was – is she?”
Harry Peters settled in his chair. “Goody Watkins was an indentured servant from England, acquired by the original master of Broadacres, Sir George Peters. My family’s oral history says that she – well, she corrupted him, whatever that means. Sir George and several of his sons. Finally, she was accused of witchcraft.”
“Witchcraft – as in New England? That was much earlier, wasn’t it?”
“Sir George brought in a preacher, a minister. A certain Reverend Wesley.”
“Wesley. As in John Wesley? Or his brother?”
“A Gideon Wesley. I don’t know if he was even a relative of the famous Wesleys. But one of those fire and brimstone types, according to what I was told. Called himself a preacher of the gospel. Don’t know what denomination he belong to. If any. But he went ahead and proclaimed her a witch. And had her executed. By stoning.”
“But wait a minute….”
“Remember, she was an indentured servant, next thing to a slave. And the ministry had a lot of influence, even the lay ministry. They stoned her to death.”
Peters stared out into space. “Family history is a little unclear. I think that Gideon Wesley believed in the use of large stones.” He shuddered slightly. “I’ve seen her appear with her head crushed. Quite horrible.”
“And she only appears to male members of your family?”
“So it would seem. We haven’t tested her very often. My great aunt brought a young minister home, a man she hoped to marry. He left in the middle of the night. We never saw him again.”
“Aha,” said Devlin.
“Oh, and the army. I must tell you about the army. A troop of Sherman’s came here during the unpleasantness. They told everybody to leave the house before they burned it. Soldiers carried torches into the house, but they soon ran out, down through the yard, and just kept running. My family history says the torches were found, extinguished. The drapes were not even singed.”
“Fascinating. What else do you know?
The jingle of a telephone interrupted them. Harry Peters walked across the kitchen and answered it. He spoke briefly, then turned to Devlin.
“I must go down and confer with my manager for a moment. Will you be all right here?”
“Surely.” Devlin pulled the stack of documents towards him. “I’ll just look through these.”
“You’re sure you’re all right.”
“Yes.” Devlin smiled after Harry’s retreating form. After a moment, he stretched his arms above his head and arched his back. He rose and stalked to the little library, where he seated himself in the wing-backed chair. Legs crossed, he carefully arranged the ceases in his trousers.
“Goody,” he intoned softly. “Goody.” Then louder: “Goody!”
Slowly the image of Goody Watkins materialized, standing beside him. She was still clothed in the gray dress but her reflection in the mirror was nude. “Yes, Master,” she said.
Goody’s white skin contrasted sharply with the dark red shape of Devlin, also unclothed in the mirror. He smiled at his own reflection, the pointed black beard now visible on his chin. Small black horns gleamed on his forehead. He reached down and tugged his caudal appendage into his lap.
“We will have some good times in this house, Goody. When I invite the Ministerial Association to have their meetings here.”
Goody Watkins licked her red lips.
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