The tea was delicious. I would expect no less from such a prestigious family. Across from me, Robert Maladar’s gaze drops the temperature in the room, the fireplace roaring not even enough to warm me. While I’d like some more nice hot tea, I feel it best I not push the hospitality of my host. How much longer until-
“Mr. Branner, I’m sure you’re aware of the general ills plaguing this house; furniture moving without a seen hand, voices that come from nowhere, blood emerging from the walls. This phenomena has been afflicting my home for some time.”
He stands, and walks around the room as he speaks. A servant moves quickly, taking his cup. The precision is truly spectacular.
“I called in various specialists to deal with it, but I was told the same thing each time. A spirit had taken hold and was too powerful to remove. Those… parlour magicians, false psychics and swindlers treated the symptoms without curing the disease. And my estate has been devastated.”
I remain seated but follow him with my eyes around the room. As he picks up a small statue from the mantle, I feel my pocket move. My hand immediately moves to hold whatever is in there.
“In light of some of the more recent and gruesome events, I asked my staff to leave. Return to their homes. I would have even paid them. Some took the offer. Many didn’t, and for that I’ve been appreciative. Unfortunately, that’s many more lives put in danger because of me and I won’t have it!”
His voice raises in anger, shaking the statue in trembling hands. In turn the vibration in my pocket increases and I finally feel what has been causing it. I forgot about the talisman. But why would it react now?
“If it costs me everything, I will protect those in my home from this monster! I refuse to let it win!”
The doctor cuts himself off, taking a deep breath. I didn’t think he had such anger. Had he not regained control just now, it’s likely he’d have destroyed that statue. As he calmed himself, the vibration in my pocket ceased. Could it have been reacting to him?
He takes a deep, but smaller breath before continuing.
“It wasn’t until two things happened that I found hope. First, I started investigating these supernatural occurrences myself. By luck, I stumbled upon a paper written on ‘ecto-based infestations.’”
“How strange,” I respond. “I had submitted that paper to the college years ago. I never expected it to be republished elsewhere.”
The doctor nods.
“My man Mr. Patrik had brought me dozens of books, anything that might have information. It was pure luck that we found your research on a deceased spirit, unable to move on.”
“However, it was not luck that identified the spirit, was it?”
My words, spoken out of turn earn me a glare. I must do better to silence my thoughts.
“No. It was not luck,” the look in his eyes softened. “It is that of Lady Lafayette Maladar.”
I expected a powerful emotion from him when I brought up his dead wife. However, I assumed it would be anger at me.
He loved her so much, the mere mention of her presence is enough to drive him to such sorrow.
Or is it perhaps due to my solution for such a haunting?
“Dr. Maladar, despite what you’ve seen and read, this does not appear to be a normal haunting.”
There’s a glimmer of emotion in his face. It was only there for an instant, but it was there. This is why outsiders shouldn’t gain an interest in this part of the world. I wish that paper could be retracted from every book. This man read but a portion of my research, early research at that, and came to his own conclusions. He prepared himself for the second and final death of his wife, only for the possibility of hope. Hope that may still be false.
“While the events perpetrating this place have shown similarities to a haunting, many other clues point to something else.”
I stand, attempting to assert my authority on the matter.
“Yes, ghosts can move furniture, and inadvertently taunt the living. However, they do not summon demon spirits. Most importantly, they do not cause damage to the foundation of the residence they occupy. The earth’s energy is what allows them to remain here.”
“I-I didn’t know what… I don’t think… I assumed.” The doctor flabbergasts.
He takes an uneasy step back, a servant pulling a chair around behind him. He plops right down on the seat, never considering it wasn’t there.
The people he hires are unbelievably loyal. For one who puts up the façade of intimidation, it’s amazing how much they love and respect him. I’ve seen glimpses of it, but he must be a truly different man behind closed doors.
Though that begs the question. If this is what I suspect it to be… who would wish something so horrible upon this man?
“You’re a physician, so you must understand how I feel. Please just describe the symptoms, and I will diagnose the cause.” I give a weak smile, one that is not returned.
He is still coming to terms with the idea that this might not be the spirit of his wife. Whether that is a completely reassuring thought to him, I can’t say.
“I need you to tell me everything that has happened,” I plead. “Even the smallest detail that seems out of place. And I will request unlimited access to the grounds and personnel. There are many things this might be, but there is a chance this is…”
“…something strong. Something taking a deep hold.”
He looked up, eyes not even trying to hide his true feelings. He is distraught. He is scared. And he is hopeful.
He gestures and the servant leaves the room, presumably to notify whomever is in charge of my permissions.
“Thank you, doctor,” I graciously say. As I cross back to my chair, I detour to the statue on the mantle. Even this close, the talisman doesn’t move. Was it truly him then?
I take my seat, relax my arms on the rests and give the doctor my undivided attention.
“Now please tell me, where did this all begin?”