While waiting for Katie to call her down stairs for what promised to be a wonderful old fashion roast, she sorted her notes into themes.
The upstairs rooms were fascinating; one in particular since Katie brushed her passed its locked door. Because Katie had chatted the whole time throughout the tour, she managed to ignore some of Maisie’s questions. ‘Perhaps they remind her of some painful memories,’ she whispered. She couldn’t wait to start typing a mystery that had collided with her jumbled thoughts.
The roast dinner was superb and Maisie had to finally insist she couldn’t eat another bite, but then Katie brought out the apple pie and cream. She sat now rubbing her rather full belly wishing she didn’t eat so much. ‘I hope Katie doesn’t expect me to eat like that every night.’ She smiled despite the ache.
With notes spread around the room, Maisie sat crossed legged on the bed and typed madly away on her laptop. She laughed to herself as memories from the day of exploring interrupted her thoughts.
It was almost midnight. She stretched her legs to regain movement to now stiffened joints. The enticement to step out onto the balcony was more than she could bare as a gentle breeze kicked up the hem of the curtains that hung from the glass doors. Outside the chill of the night stung her face. She rubbed her warm hands over her cheeks and allowed the peace of the night hug her.
The crash startled Maisie and she held the railing tightly with her hands that somehow found themselves outstretched. She instinctively bent her knees so she could see past a branch that protruded across one corner of the balcony. There, just like the night before was that same hooded figure but this time it seemed to be picking itself up off the ground. She was tempted to call out but fear seemed to mute her. The figure stood and brushed itself off. The sound of glass tinkled in the still night air. Focusing on the location she tried to memorise the distance from the gate to the bush where the figure had fallen before it disappeared into the darkness.
Maisie retreated to the warmth of her room and stood momentarily with her back to the double doors she had closed behind her. She quickly drew the curtains and climbed onto the bed. Who is it? It couldn’t be Katie. This person is thinner and appeared more agile. Do I ask Katie, again? She didn’t want to upset the friendship they had formed. What’s going on around here? She paced the room anxiously then silently open the bedroom door that opened into a dimly lit hallway. She listened in the silence but there was no sound. She had learned during the tour that Katie’s room was at the other end of the long hallway but there didn’t seem to be any light showing between the floor and the bottom of the door.
It felt like hours before she closed the door again but the clock confirmed it was only a few minutes. The adrenaline she felt on the balcony began to slip away and tiredness began to overwhelm. She laid on her bed fully dressed and dozed off.
There was no knocking on her door the following morning; just the sun shining on her face. She opened her eyes then let them close. With a jolt she sat up. Hadn’t she closed the curtains the night before? She shuddered and attentively peered out. Perhaps she didn’t. Or, maybe I’m spooked by the history of this place. Closing the curtains, she gathered her toiletries and headed to the bathroom.
‘Good morning,’ young Maisie’, Katie sing-songed when her only guest entered the kitchen.
‘Good morning, Katie. I wouldn’t have thought it but I’m starving this morning.’
‘Ah, the country air is working it’s magic.’
Katie was obviously in a very good mood this morning. She glanced at her watch. ‘So, shall we call this brunch?’
Katie looked up. ‘How about scrambled eggs and hash browns?’
‘Is that what I could smell coming up the hall?’
‘Probably but I’m also cooking up a stew for this evening—unless you will need lunch too.’
‘No thanks.’ She laughed. ‘Katie, did you hear a crash last night? Around midnight?’
Katie hummed while she cooked. ‘No. unless my snoring rattled some china.’ She snorted then continued stirring the eggs. ‘So, are you hungry or not?’
Maisie left any further questions about the incident alone and ate her hearty brunch. Swallowing her last mouthful down with the rest of her coffee she stood. ‘I’m going into town. Do you need anything while I’m there?’
‘No thanks. Don’t forget to call in to see Tom.’
‘I won’t.’ Maisie rushed upstairs to clean her teeth and grab her laptop. ‘That’s strange.’ She knelt down to pick up her notes that were now scattered on the floor. The door to the balcony was still closed and the only window in the room was too small for any breeze to disturb the pile of notes. She shrugged it off, grabbed her keys and headed for the car. She slowed her steps and looked toward the side gate. Something glittered in the sunlight. ‘Glass! So, I didn’t imagine it.’
‘MAISIE!’ Katie called from the front door. ‘You left your phone on the kitchen table.’
She jogged towards the waiting Katie with an outstretched hand. ‘Thanks. I’ll be back by the time your stew is ready to serve.’ She waved and hurried to the car.
With a quick glance in the rear-view mirror she released the brake but not before noticing Katie heading toward the gate with a brush and pan. ‘So, she did hear it. My instincts tell me there is something mysterious going on—but do I want to know?’
Tom was a rough but nice enough old guy. His stories were hilarious and a little scary. His belly would bounce up and down with his enthusiastic laugh. Maisie ask question after question and probably got more answers than she needed. She also doubted if any of it was true. After she read her emails and sent the necessary replies, her mind wandered back to the past two nightly events.
Maisie chose her words carefully. ‘So, is there any ghosts still around at Kelly’s Inn?’
‘Well now, that young couple that died in the fire could be still haunting the old place.’
‘Besides the fire, what about the family that we’re there prior to you knowing Katie and Stan? Maybe even later. Has anything else occurred there?’
Tom eyed her for a moment. He stepped around the counter and returned to his chopping block and smashed a meat axe through the carcass that he had placed there as she was entering the shop earlier.
The sound of the axe slicing the bone and the silence that settled afterward startled her. She was about to speak when Tom roared laughing.
Maisie smiled gingerly not knowing what else to do or say.
‘There was the incident with Stan’s little sister. Just fourteen she was.’ He rubbed his bristled chin. ‘Now what was her name?’ He slammed the blade down hard into flesh spurting a few droplets of blood onto his butcher apron. ‘Ah, yes Marjorie. She had a feisty spirit that one. Sneaky too. She would sneak out of the house at night to meet up with some boyfriend. Rumour has it that one night she just ran off with him, or so they say.’
Interest soared and Maisie dared further questions. ‘Do you think she still alive?
‘Could be alive. Could be dead. No one recalls if any young fella disappeared at the same time. There was nothing taken from her room.’ He pointed the meat axe at Maisie. ‘Did you know her room has never been touched since that night?’
Maisie sat still—thinking. ‘Why would that be?’ she finally asked.
‘I don’t rightly know and Katie is tight lipped about it.’ He paused; meat clever in mid strike. ‘I just thought of something. I do remember something about a blood-stained scarf had been found caught on that old garden gate out beside the Inn. Police were all over the place for weeks but nothing else was found. Marjorie simply vanished.’
To change the morbid subject, Maisie asked about Suzie, Tom’s wife.
‘She’s out the back in the kitchen.’ His smile was crooked. ‘Why don’t you go and say hello. She doesn’t get much company these days. Katie stops by when she’s in town. That’s about it.’
‘Thanks Tom, I will. Can I charge my phone out there?’
‘Sure. There’s reception if you stand on the step ladder near the pantry.’ He winked and returned to his work.
This was turning out to be an interesting afternoon. Suzie was a shy woman but it was obvious to Maisie that she enjoyed her visit. They talked about Kelly’s Inn, Katie and their years of friendship and about life in a little country town.
A handsome young man stopped by to visit with Suzie but didn’t stay long. She never did get to ask his name. There was no further conversation about Marjorie even when Tom closed up the shop for the day and joined them for a cup of tea.
Before returning to Kelly’s Inn, Maisie walked round the small town and explored lanes and the very few shops in the main street then got back into her car. At the fork in the road that would take her left back to the inn or right to the main highway, she stopped to talk to a man who appeared to be a farmer. He was a cheery bloke and gave Maisie some information on local places she might like to visit. She had thanked him and made the turn back to her accommodation.
From the inn to town was about twelve miles. It was only a few miles from town when she decided to take a walk down a narrow bush-track she had seen on her way to see Tom earlier that afternoon. She had left her camera back in her room but she could use her phone for a few shots if she needed too.
Maisie picked up a small broken branch and plucked off the leaves and smaller twigs and held it out in front of her. She giggled and began to use it like a sword. ‘I have you now!’ She spoke to the dense shrub and stepped onto the narrowing path swinging the crooked branch back and forth.
A bird squawked. It rustled the bushes and flew off to avoid the approaching stranger. Maisie looked up. ‘I won’t hurt you.’
After walking about ten minutes, she decided it was getting too late to be traipsing around unknown bushland, but as she turned to go something caught her attention a little off to the right. Using the sword, she carefully pushed back prickly branches of a huge shrub and crouched low. There in a small clearing was an old run-down cabin.
‘What are you looking at!’ a voice barked from behind.
Maisie cried out when the branches smashed back into her face. By the time she recovered from the fright the bushes around her were empty. There was no one there. The cottage door slammed shut. Maisie tossed her sword into the bushes and ran back to the car. She drove off without looking back.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019