Clarissa ran the shower making sure it was on a high temperature and undressed. Nothing like a hot shower to revive her spirits and get her creative juices flowing. She’d made several calls around the town trying to get to Brandon Clifford or someone who worked for him but her search had not produced any results. She couldn’t help wondering if he was also a recluse and trying to keep his presence in the town hidden.
She stepped her small slender curved figure in to the shower and rising steam vowing not to let Brandon Clifford escape her. Holding her face up to the shower head she let the hot water dance over her fine smooth porcelain aristocratic features. She didn’t see the tall dark shadow sweep across the room at speed, not until it seeped like a dense black fog through the glass encasement. Clarissa opened her eyes sensing a presence and screamed. She pushed herself back against the grey tiled wall unable to escape through the door as the black mass began to shape and take form. Finally the ghost stood before her blocking the door. Clarissa’s heart began to pound. A strong sense of claustrophobia engulfed her. Her eyes darted back and forth between him and the door looking for a way out past him. He wagged his finger at her and tutted at her.
“There is no escape,” he told her menacingly.
She looked down at the long knife in his hand with wide eyes. Her hands pressed back on the wall at the side. She shook her head at him.
“Please. Please don’t hurt me,” she begged.
He moved closer making her let out a frightened sob despite her resolve to compose herself as much as was possible in the situation. Maybe she could negotiate with him.
“Why do you want to hurt me? What do you want? What is it you need from me?” she pleaded.
“He can’t have you. You belong to me.”
The ghost raised the knife. Clarissa put her hands up to defend herself but the knife had already been thrust deep in to the centre of her stomach. She heard herself scream. There was no pain just numbness and disbelief. Crying loudly she glanced down at her stomach to confirm the reality she feared. Blood poured thick and deep red from the wound down over her thighs to spiral down her calves. It merged with the clear water, muddying it as it flowed along the white shower tray and down the plug.
The ghost twisted the knife inside her and this time the pain was keenly felt. Clarissa let out another scream and felt her legs buckle underneath her. She clutched at her stomach after he pulled the knife out of her and found her knees suddenly hitting the surface of the shower tray. The hot water beat against her back but it barely registered in her mind. All she could think of was dying. A far distant memory sprung in to life.
She was wearing a long black dress and struggling to breathe. Around her neck was a thick rope that burned the tender skin on her throat. Her legs kicked violently in to thin air. The memory was so vivid, so real Clarissa forgot her predicament in the shower and sank in to the memory as though she were really there.
Looking upwards Clarissa could see the rope was wound around the branch of an oak tree. The ghost stood in front of her watching her hang. He walked towards her and thrust the knife he was holding in to her stomach and then twisted it inside her body just as he had done in the shower. A loud scream echoed helplessly from her lips. But this time it was in unison with a hurt male cry. The ghost turned his head in the direction of the voice and the memory dimmed. Clarissa found herself back in the shower.
The ghost towered over her small crumpled bleeding form as she desperately tried to plug the wound with shaking hands. His brown eyes narrowed and the cruel smile of satisfaction made her want to vomit. He was watching her die just as he had done in the memory.
Her mind was cloudy. She couldn’t think straight. Panic had overcome all of her senses. It was so hard to breathe. Every breath entailed a mammoth effort and involved the heaving of her injured body. But all of a sudden a persistent ringing noise broke through the fog to reach her. It was the doorbell. As in the memory the ghost turned his head in the direction of the noise and cursed. She cried with relief when his image suddenly vanished.
Clarissa knelt whimpering on the floor of the shower knowing somehow she had to summon the courage to move her injured body. She was dying and if she didn’t do something she wasn’t going to make it. Maybe it was already too late but she had to try.
Once more she forced herself to look at the wound to rouse her in to movement but when she glanced down it had gone. The water was running clear and there was no blood coating her stomach or body. Clarissa rubbed her stomach to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. It had all been an illusion. The doorbell continued to ring. Whoever it was wasn’t going away. She wiped her tear stained face with her hands and forced her quivering body to stand. Reaching for her robe she covered her wet body and ran to the door, eager to make contact with someone, anyone, after her experience. Opening the door she stared at her visitor in surprise. It was Brandon Clifford.
“Good morning, Ms. Harding. I hope you don’t mind me calling on you. Although it looks like I have caught you at the wrong time,” he smiled sweeping his eyes over her wet figure in the robe dripping water on to the kitchen floor. “My name is Brandon Clifford.”
“Yes. I know who you are.”
Brandon raised one dark eyebrow and viewed her intently. Clarissa felt heat rise in her cheeks and found herself unable to meet his eyes for the odd sensation of bashfulness engulfing her.
“Ok. I have a business proposal for you. Can I come in or would you prefer me to come back later so you can get dry.”
“No. I was just in the shower. I will be fine. Come in.”
She gestured to a seat at the kitchen table.
“Can I get you some coffee? Tea?”
“No thanks. I haven’t got time.”
He’d sat in the chair in front of her lap top. She reached over and closed it, sliding it away from him along the table. The action produced another infuriating amused smile from Mr Clifford. Clarissa sat down on the opposite chair, across the table resisting the urge to blurt out her request to obtain a visit to Goldwater Island, curious to find out what he wanted from her first.
“So how can I help you, Mr. Clifford?”
Clarissa watched Brandon Clifford’s striking blue eyes drift towards her chest and linger there. Disturbed she glanced downwards and noticed the robe was gaping in the middle revealing the gentle curve of one breast. Her cheeks warmed as she hurriedly pulled it closed and once more she was unable to meet his eyes when he spoke.
“I hear you are trying to get on my Island.”
“Then you will know why.”
“Yes you are investigating the murder of the American Sarah Elliott and her family in 1893. I saw you taking photographs of the Island this morning.”
Clarissa twisted in her chair.
“I hope you haven’t come here to use some strong arm tactic to persuade me not to write the book. It won’t work. I don’t scare easily and I never give up.”
Brandon chuckled and shook his head at her. Clarissa’s back straightened. She narrowed her eyes and viewed him with tense features.
“Cute. I’m sorry. No I wouldn’t dare dream of asking you to stop. That is not what I am here for. I assure you. I told you, I have a business proposal for you.”
Clarissa folded her arms and met his eyes directly.
“So what is it?”
“I want you to continue writing the book and investigating the murders. Come to the Island and stay at the house. Be my guest for as long as you need. Milton Taylor left a lot of historical documents relating to the Elliotts I believe you will find useful.
Clarissa smiled. Inside she was jumping with excitement and her horrific experience in the shower dulled in her thoughts for a moment.
“I would like that very much. Thank you.”
“Good. I will pick you up tomorrow around 8.30. I will take you for breakfast to a lovely quaint little restaurant I know by the lake before we go over to the Island on the launch.”
Brandon stood up.
“That sounds idyllic,” she couldn’t help but coo. “I have wanted to visit Goldwater Island for a very long time. I used to come here on holiday as a child and it has always fascinated me, well before I even thought of writing the book.”
Brandon gave her a knowing smile that made her feel a little uncomfortable.
Why do I get the feeling you already know that? It’s eerie. It’s as though you know what I am thinking and feeling before it even comes out of my mouth.
The Billionaire headed for the door but suddenly stopped and turned around to face her once more.
“By the way, be warned, the old house is supposed to be haunted. I say supposed to be because I haven’t heard or seen anything yet even though I am assured by everyone I eventually will. It won’t be the past you are just investigating but some old ghosts as well.”
“I’m not scared of ghosts,” she said it firmly hoping she would be heard by the spirit. “Ghosts can’t harm you. It is only the living who can do that.”
Her gaze met Brandon’s. He was studying her closely yet there was a faraway wistful look in his eyes. She felt her cheeks warm.
“I hope you are right,” he told her softly before leaving.
Clarissa closed the door and frowned, considering his words. He hadn’t appeared sure but she was living proof.
If only I could tell you.
She turned back to the table and gasped. In the middle a small delicate glass vase filled with a posy of pretty blue forget me nots had appeared.
Around mid afternoon, Clarissa decided to take a trip in to town. The rented cottage proved to feel stifling and claustrophobic after the morning’s events and after Liz’s continual nagging for her to seek help from a Psychic Medium, she finally found the will to leave her lap top and go out in to the world amongst the living.
As she walked around the small old Lakeside town nestled between the hills in a valley she couldn’t help feel as though she were being watched and followed. It had to be the ghost. Determined not to let his stalking frighten her she did her best not to keep looking for signs of his presence. After some diligent searching and a detour in a book shop, Clarissa found a Psychic Medium to consult in the back of a crystal shop in one of the old eighteenth century buildings next to a coaching inn.
The surprisingly large shop was filled to the brim with Angel & cards, Angel ornaments and crystals. Somewhere a Sandalwood incense stick burned relaxing the atmosphere in the building. Flycatchers of all different colours and sizes hung down from the ceiling over tables and glass cabinets filled with green, pink and purple crystals. Glancing around, Clarissa was convinced just about every type and colour of crystal was represented. Lovely as they were, it made the place look a little cluttered and she itched to tidy it up.
The shop was warm and inviting. She felt safe and prayed the cold chill feeling usually surrounding her from the ghost could not follow her in. Looking back, as the woman had led her in to the room at the back, she had spied the ghost standing outside the window looking in. On making eye contact with her he moved to the door. Clarissa held her breath. But when he tried to move his transparent form through the glass door he hit a solid wall. Clarissa gave him a triumphant smile amused by the blind frustration tightening his features when he tried to repeat the process. It was like watching a vampire in a movie attempting to cross the threshold of a house he hadn’t been invited in to. The shop was protected. Turning her back on him she followed the woman.
Clarissa sat down on one side of a small trestle table on a black wicker chair complete with a purple cushioned seat and another for the back. The chair made a crunching sound every time she moved making her resolve to sit still. The whole room was painted and dressed in spiritual purple and black. The pretty woman in her thirties, a trifle younger than Clarissa’s early forties even though anyone would pitch Clarissa as the younger one had something of the witch about her. She was friendly and Clarissa immediately warmed to her feeling at ease.
Candace picked up a pack of tarot cards up from the black velvet cloth covering the table. They were black too and had white pentagrams on the the back of them. She gave them to Clarissa.
“Give them a good shuffle.”
Clarissa did as she was told and after some extensive shuffling she handed the pack back to Candace. The Medium spread them out on the table cloth in a fan shape next to a lit lavender candle. Clarissa inhaled deeply loving the soothing scent and made a mental note to buy one and burn it before she went to bed that night to help her sleep.
“Now choose five of them.”
Clarissa was surprised when she could see small pin pricks of white light guiding her as to which cards to choose. Both confused and intrigued she followed the guidance of the small lights and picked the cards the lights landed on.
She was unable to see the pictures on the cards as Candace turned the first of them over. To see them she would have to peer over and she didn’t want to appear rude. Anyway, she doubted whether or not she would be able to decipher the indicate meanings from the beautiful pictures on them.
“Have you had a reading before?” Candace asked her.
“A girl at University once used me to practice reading on with tarot cards. But she wasn’t very confident. She said she couldn’t read me at all. It was like I wasn’t there. I don’t think she was any good,” she smiled.
“No,” the Medium shook her head but Clarissa didn’t miss the confused expression on her face.
It crossed Clarissa’s mind to tell the woman everything about what had been happening first but she decided to see what she came up with first before she blurted out her SOS.
Candace looked down at the first card.
“I see you have two men in your life.”
“Yes you do. One is from your distant past and the other is new. The second seeks to protect you.”
“There are no men in my life. At least no one I am having a relationship with.”
“That is false. You are lying to yourself.”
Clarissa’s back straightened with annoyance. She was about to remonstrate with Candace when she spoke again.
“There is a man in spirit. He will not leave you in peace.”
“Yes. Who is he?”
“I don’t know. But he plays with darkness.”
The woman shivered.
“His energy makes me feel very cold.”
Clarissa whirled around in her chair.
But she could see nothing.
“You mustn’t fear him anymore, I am being told. The second man is here now. He will keep you safe. He has been searching for you for a very long time. Trust him. He is present in your life purely for you. He asks if you like the Forget Me Nots he gave you?”
Clarissa’s thoughts drifted back to the small vase of Forget Me Nots back on her kitchen table. She smiled fondly and to her surprise felt the unexpected onset of a blush.
“Yes. Thank you. They are very pretty.”
Part of her was relieved there was someone declaring they were there to protect her and if she was honest she was flattered by the attention even if it messed with her resolve to remain alone and keep a ban on men in her life.
“I can’t get a name for this man. He tells me they are your favourite wild flowers. You used to pick them in the meadow just outside the farm you used to live in with him as a child in a previous life.”
At first Clarissa could only remember picking wild flowers with her mother in the English countryside. But slowly the image began to transform in to another hazy memory. She was no longer a thirteen year old but a girl of ten dancing and skipping through the meadow. The green English countryside turned more yellow in its colour. A boy slightly older than herself held her hand and laughed at her. She tried to see his face but it was always mysteriously turned from her. It was brief and fleeting, the happy feeling accompanying the scene in her mind fading quickly leaving her back in the room with her fear of the spirit.
Candace turned over another card and contemplated the picture on it.
“This man loves you intensely. I would even go as far as to say he believes you belong to him and he does not want you to be with anyone else, even a living person. I have never come across this before. How strange! But it is such a warm loving energy. I wouldn’t be frightened of it.”
Clarissa raised her eyebrows.
“I don’t intend to belong to anyone. Can you tell me anymore about the dark energy around me. Who is he? What does he want?”
It was time to turn over another card. Candace screwed up her nose as she looked down at it. The lavender candle burning in the middle of the table in a purple holder flickered strongly and then became still.
“I can’t see who he is. Both men are hiding their faces from me for some reason. This is very confusing. Spirits usually want to show you their face, eager for you to recognise them. I think a lot of information is deliberately being held back from you. This is a problem you must work out for yourself for some reason. It is all I can think of. Both men have been with you all of your lives.”
Candace paused and revealed the fourth card. Clarissa’s heart began to pump hard and fast with anxiety when she saw the woman’s face pale and then turn ashen as though she had been slapped across the cheek with the colour.
“The dark energy is very angry with you. I don’t like him at all. He is very strong. There is deep evil around him. I don’t think I want to delve any further.”
“Please you must. I have to know who he is and how to get rid of him. I can’t keep living like this.”
The candle flickered again and this time didn’t stop. The familiar coldness which indicated the ghost’s presence grew stronger and filled the room from behind. Clarissa trembled. She closed her eyes hoping somehow that when she opened them again he might have disappeared.
Why didn’t I keep my stupid mouth shut?
“I don’t think you will ever be able to get rid of him. He has always been with you. The last life you were together was in the late 1800s in the United States. Don’t ask me anymore.”
Candace took a breath as though she were finding it difficult to breathe.
“We have to stop the reading. I can feel him here. It is all around my throat. My God he has a rope around my neck. He hung you.”
Clarissa watched the ghost materialise behind Candace. She was right. He held a hangman’s noose around her neck and was pulling it tight.
“Stop it,” she screamed.
“Naughty girl. She isn’t going to be able to help you. I am with you forever, honey. Get used to it,” he told her with a grin tightening the rope even more.
“I can’t breathe. My shop is well protected. He shouldn’t have been able to get through. It’s you. He’s attached to you,” Candace panted clutching her hands at her throat. “You brought him in here. I want you to leave now. I can’t breathe.”
Clarissa stared frozen to the spot with horror watching the ghost strangle the Medium.
“Do as she says, Clarissa. There’s a good girl. Or I will kill her. Believe me I can. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating me. I was just playing with you in the shower.”
“Leave please and take him with you,” the woman begged.
Clarissa scrabbled to her feet and ran from the room. She heard the ghost call after her.
“By the way my name is Hendrick. James Hendrick. Time to start remembering me, Clarissa.”
It was late but Clarissa didn’t want to stop working on the book. If she kept writing and focused on her work she could block out the day, her pain and the ghost. Her hands shook as they travelled fast across the keyboard typing up the notes she had made at her last visit at Goldwater’s Archive. Frustrated tears welled and trickled down her cheeks. Still she kept going. Adrenaline was pumping fast and was keeping her tiredness at bay but she couldn’t evade sleep forever. Eventually it would catch up with her. It was already 2am.
Something, maybe a feeling, impulse or even a need drew her eyes towards the vase of Forget Me Nots sitting on the table. She picked it up and studied the intricate detail of the tiny flowers with their delicate blue petals and shiny yellow centres. A warmth spread over her body and relaxed her tense shoulders lowering them to their normal level. She remembered Candace’s words about their being another spirit being present to protect her. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. Whether she liked it or not she needed some rest even if she only managed to doze off for an hour.
Sleeping in her bed seemed a daunting prospect but then the sofa was lumpy and extremely uncomfortable for sleeping on. She would have to brave it. A creaking noise caught her attention. Clarissa’s head shot up from the flowers seeking it out. Nothing. She let out the breath that caught in her throat. It was so dark in the kitchen despite the gloomy light and now she’d stopped typing she could hear every movement and groan the eighteenth century cottage made. It didn’t help that the wind had picked up outside. It whistled around the walls and blew a draught through the keyhole in the door. Rushing back to the cottage after seeing Candace the air had felt heavy, hot and humid. The swollen dark clouds ploughing across the sky to hide the sunshine had threatened both rain and the promise of a thunderstorm. She hoped it wasn’t going to kick off now.
Clarissa rechecked the door to make sure it was still double locked. It was a futile act it wasn’t like she could keep Hendrick out. She put her half finished mug of tea in the sink and reluctantly made her way up the small winding stairs to the bedroom. There must be a way to get rid of Hendrick. She would never give up. She couldn’t afford to or she would go mad.
Clarissa switched on all the lights upstairs and dressed for bed, her eyes darting back and forth across the bedroom watching for signs of Hendrick’s presence. It wasn’t until she was brushing her teeth did she hear the first rumble of thunder. She shuddered. So there was going to be a storm after all.
Brushing her teeth in the harsh electric light emanating from around the rectangular mirror above the sink, Clarissa fancied she could see shadows behind her in the darkness. Every moment she waited for Hendrick to appear and pounce. It was exhausting and tiredness suddenly began to creep up on her. It warred with her need to keep her body and mind on constant alert. This was what the bastard wanted.
Taking courage from her determination not to let him win she walked back in to the bedroom, past her suitcase already packed for the morning and got in to bed. Out of the blue, bright white light lit up the whole room swamping the dim light from the two lamps on either side of the bed on nightstands. Clarissa tensed and waited for the noise to follow. The thunderclap was loud and strong enough to make the whole cottage vibrate with the noise. Clarissa immediately reached for the small brown bottle at her side filled with anti-anxiety medication and for a glass of water she’d left there from the night before. Dismissing its age she swallowed the tablet with a large gulp of water and then stretched over to the opposite side to retrieve her electronic tablet.
Sitting up in bed she distracted herself from the approaching storm by going online. She glanced at the Forget Me Nots and decided to do a search to see if they were a symbol for some sort of psychic message. Clarissa found a Youtube video.
“Forget Me Nots were a symbol of love enduring through death and beyond for the Victorians,” the presenter said.
A tear formed in her eye. Lovingly she stroked her stomach remembering the swell that had once dwelled there.
“I will never forget you,” she whispered down at it.
The room illuminated once more. This time it was stronger. Everything had become visible as though it were daylight. Her jaw clenched. The storm was getting closer. She covered her ears to block out the sound and then came up with the idea of listening to one of her audiobooks. She played them often to help her sleep. Three flashes of light came in quick succession prompting her in to movement. She snatched the string of headphones from the side and quickly plugged them in. Snuggling down she started to listen to one of her favourite fun SyFy adventures to block out the frightening noise. The soothing Scottish lilt of the author coupled with the effect of her medication beginning to take effect allowed Clarissa to drift off in to a light sleep.
A while later she woke with a start sitting up in bed with a small cry. The storm was directly overhead and raging. Her eyes scanned the room automatically for intruders. For a moment she was sure she could see something moving around at the bottom of the room but she couldn’t be sure. She would need to put on the main light.
Moving to get up she was brought to a quick stop when after a strong piercing flash of lightening, all the lights she’d left on upstairs to give herself the illusion of feeling safe went out. Thunder crackled and ripped through the air intensifying the sudden frightening claustrophobic black all around her making her feel vulnerable.
This time she was damn sure something moved in the corner of the room. She swore she could make out the outline of a man and there was an odd odour of smoke. Her heart threatened to leap in to her throat. A ball of white energy streaked through the room lighting it and confirmed her suspicions. Hendrick’s cruel smile came in to view. He leaned casually against the wardrobe and took a drag from a cigarette. He lowered it to flick ash on to the carpet before inserting in to his mouth again. She realised he had been there all the time watching her ever since she’d first gone to bed.
As the room darkened again the urge to run overwhelmed her and pushed her in to action. Throwing off the covers as she pulled out her earplugs her legs were in mid swing off the bed when Hendrick appeared by her side. The room became daylight again. Hendrick immediately placed the burning end of his cigarette on to her the soft flesh lining her bare thigh just below her night shorts, paralysing her movement.
Clarissa screamed with the hot sting but her distress was lost underneath the thunder. Her cries induced Hendrick to push it down further and to move the end around to spread the pain and increase the burn. Vainly she tried to remove his hand scratching at it with her nails but it just made him laugh.
Eventually the ghost stood and tossed the cigarette butt to the floor. Clarissa held her thigh and rocked back and forth to soothe her pain. She wiped at the tears streaming down her face. But a new terror was to consume her. She heard the sound of material rustling. When the light hit the room again Hendrick was undoing his trousers. Before she could run he grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back down on the bed mounting her quickly.
Clarissa fought him with every once of strength she had. Her fists pounded at his arms even as she wondered how he had enough energy to attain physical form. His naked penis rubbed at her thigh making her want to vomit. She cried out in terror.
Hendrick was clearly annoyed with her refusal to bend to his will and lying still. He raised himself off her to deliver a sharp slap to her face dazing her. She was done for. But then the silhouette of a man appeared at the side of the bed. He lunged for Hendrick and dragged him kicking off her body and threw him down on the floor. Hendrick stood quickly and the two men began fighting crashing in to the door and finally the wardrobe at the bottom of the room.
Clarissa sat up searching them out in the darkness. Another sheet of light permeated the bedroom and showed the men fighting. Clarissa strained to see her rescuer’s face but it was too quick and she could only see that he had shiny black hair cut to his neck and he was tall like Hendrick. He was also clothed in a Victorian frock coat that had connotations of the English upper class. He delivered a hard punch to Hendrick’s jaw. As the light faded on both of their images vanished and the room was still again. To her relief the lights came back on.
Clarissa rested her body back against the headboard and put her hand to her head trying to calm herself. Her thigh was throbbing. Hobbling she made her way to the bathroom and fumbled around in a drawer to find some antiseptic cream to cover the wound with. Now if she could only stop shaking. Returning to the bed she noticed the room felt warm, pleasant even. The constant cold chill she felt in there had disappeared. Now something calm and secure filled it. It was the same feeling she’d experienced when picking up the vase of Forget Me Nots downstairs in the kitchen. Wanting to surround herself with more of it she picked up the vase and held it to her chest as though it were some kind of shield protecting her.
An unfamiliar sense of contentment swept over her soothing the pain she endured from her thigh and the fear in her mind. Remaining sitting up, she pulled the covers around her and allowed her tired eyes to close as she clutched at the small vase. Growing more and more relaxed after her ordeal and realising she was no longer alone in her fight against Hendrick, thus allowing Clarissa to begin to fall asleep. Just before she slipped in to her dream world her eyes flickered open. At the bottom of her bed in the shadows her protecting ghost stood watching her closely with folded arms as the storm started to recede. He was guarding her, she could feel it. His strong energy swirled around the room and for the first time she believed nobody including Hendrick could get near to hurt her anymore. She wanted to sit up and talk to him, see his face and learn about him but sleep claimed her tired body.
Clarissa’s guard moved forwards. He sat on the bed next to her and took the vase of Forget Me Nots out of her hand to place them on the nightstand. Slipping his arm around her back he lowered her down on to the bed to rest her head on the pillow in a more comfortable position. After tucking the covers around her he turned his body to lie on the bed next to her. His arm wound around her middle pulling her towards him and with a quick loving kiss of her forehead he closed his eyes and fell asleep with her.