Episode 10: A Ghost and an Omen

 Kerry knew it was only polite to finish dessert before pulling out her laptop to show Char her research, so she started with the general recap between bites.

“So, what I’ve learned so far: I found the journal of John Paxwood’s youngest daughter, Luella, when I was in the library–or at least one of her journals,” Kerry said. “If I could have checked it out, believe me, I would have, because there’s way more in there than I’m seeing just on the surface, but it’s all buried in the way that journals always are. There’s just dozens of entries full of all the normal teenage girl stuff, granted, late nineteenth century style, but still it’s crushes and social gatherings and family drama. Things that mattered to Luella in the moment, but don’t really matter much to me to understand the haunting. There are a few things I did get so far, though.”

By the time she got to the end of that, Kerry had finished the chocolate fluff that Char had made. She pushed her bowl aside to make room for her laptop so that she could display the notes she had taken as she spoke. She personally didn’t need them to remember everything she’d read, but Char would lean in to read over her shoulder, and that was always nice.

“The journal picks up not long after John Paxwood and his daughter Nellie both passed away, leaving Mrs. Paxwood and the other two Paxwood daughters behind and pretty much in charge of the family’s lumber fortune and John Paxwood’s legacy. I picked up on a few common threads so far. One: Luella was very, very certain that her sister Nellie was still around the house in spirit and wrote sometimes about feeling her presence watching. I found at least three journal entries so far with mention of Nellie’s spirit lingering, and the wording implies a literal lingering, not just Luella missing her deceased sister.”

“Okay, so it’s Nellie’s ghost who might be the source of the haunting?” Char guessed. “That means she must have died tragically in some way, doesn’t it? Usually tragic deaths lead to ghosts.”

“I’m thinking it might be. Luella only mentions a sickness that took both John Paxwood and Nellie, and I haven’t had time yet to look up the obits from the old Paxwood Chronicle yet. Maybe I could try for medical records, a death certificate? Not sure how much I can find about how people died a hundred years ago, but it might be worth pulling that thread and seeing if there was some kind of sickness all around the town at the same time–outbreak or one-off thing?”

“So, that’s one thing. You said there were two.” 

“A large black dog,” Kerry continued. “Which, as I’m sure you might remember, is–“

“A death omen,” Char chimed in. That one had been in popular media a couple of times, but it wasn’t just that.

Back when they were in middle school, Kerry had been looking into sightings of a dark wolf or large dog. They’d been almost entirely certain it had to be a death omen stalking someone at school, right up until Old Man Cyrus brought a half-starved black Labrador retriever into the Paxwood animal shelter and disproved that theory entirely. Kerry still remembered the immense sense of relief, knowing that no one was being stalked by an unavoidable death. In this case, though…

“So, we’ve got a mysterious sickness, a death omen black dog, and hauntings that continue to this day.” Kerry drew the threads together as she gestured to a few lines of notes she’d taken–dates of the journal entries that mentioned the sickness and the black dog, a couple pictures of the pages themselves. Then she flipped over to an older set of notes–her notes on dealing with ghosts. “There are a few things I think we should have ready for Saturday. The main thing is we should have salt with us. A lot of salt. Salt disrupts ghosts if they manifest, and ghosts can’t cross salt lines.”

“I bet I can borrow my mom’s membership card for the bulk restaurant supply store, and we can get a lot of table salt cheap that way,” Char offered. “Is there anything else? Silver, crosses, holy water?”

“Ghosts, not werewolves or vampires.” Kerry smiled, though. “I’ve read some differing perspectives on the usefulness of graveyard dirt in grounding a ghost, but I’m not so sure I want to be caught with a shovel in any graveyard. You know Officer Morgan would choose just the moment when I stuck the shovel into the ground and arrest me for grave-robbing.”

Char snorted. “So, we stick with salt for the ghosts. Should we be worried about the death omen?”

Kerry shook her head. “Not really, except…” She wasn’t sure why she hesitated. She hadn’t told Char about listening to the conversation between Ms. Anholts and that Silphium lawyer yet. Usually she’d tell Char just about everything when it came to an investigation, but something about the lawyer unsettled Kerry. She didn’t want Char anywhere near him. Especially if he were a vampire. Even if the impression she got was that Silphium wanted the house for more than just making nice with the city, it wasn’t worth bringing up right then. And it probably didn’t have anything to do with the black dog in Luella’s journal, besides.

“Except?” Char prompted, though.

“Nothing.” Kerry reached out and closed her laptop with that. “There’s not a lot you can do about death omens besides try to avoid situations that might be precarious to your health.”

Char raised an eyebrow, incredulous. “Like trespassing in a haunted house on a dare?”

“You got me there.” Kerry shook her head. “Nothing’s going to happen though. We’ll bring salt we probably won’t actually need, outlast that jerkface Cody, and see if there are any truths to the stories about the Paxwood House. Still a school night, though, and I should get home. The better an impression I leave with my mother, the more likely I’ll have my car keys back in time for Memorial Day weekend.”

Char nodded. “Right. And I should double-check that I finished all my science homework. Teachers, I swear, don’t get that students have lives.”

related 🧶 for ko-fi members – Kerry’s Notes for the Pixie-Bitten: Death Omens

Episode 10: A Ghost and an Omen

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