Fane’s Cove isn’t the average coastal town- not with wandering apparitions, disembodied voices and poltergeist activity occurring on a regular basis- but the residents are used to it. As far as they know, it’s simply always been that way.
Somehow, Cadence McKenna can’t shake the feeling that the seemingly-normal new resident, Gray Addison, is hiding something stranger than all of the town’s odd happenings combined and she’s determined to find out what that is – by any means necessary.
- Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
- Part 8* | Part 9* | Part 10* | Part 11* | Part 12* | Part 13*
- Part 14* | Part 15* | Part 16* | Part 17* | Part 18* | Part 19*
- Part 20* | Part 21* | Part 22* | Part 23* | Part 24*
“Huh,” Grey says, as his gaze combs the dusty, expansive shelves of the Archives. “Maybe I should have just let you do this yourself, and then begged for the information afterward.”
I roll my eyes at him and let out a breath. Sure, it’s a joke. But in my mind, his words are another reminder that he hadn’t wanted me helping in the first place, which is not what I need right now.
I haven’t told him about that weird red-eyes thing that happened in the wee hours of this morning. I figure that will only give him a new reason to rethink this. True, trying to back out now will mean he breaks his promise to me, but I have to remember that I don’t actually know him very well.
I don’t have any real cause for believing that he has a problem with not keeping his word.
On the bright side, nothing notably weird has happened since then, so . . . a few spook-free hours is a nice change of pace.
“Oh, no,” I say briskly as I scoop my hair into a ponytail and bind it high on the back of my head with a black band. “I believe I said that I would keep it to myself if you try to exclude me.”
His bright eyes narrow and he gives a little sneer. “You are lucky you’re cute.”
“I know.” I sigh wistfully. “So . . . .”
“So?” He looks honestly mystified.
Frowning, I hold out an arm toward the mass of cluttered shelves. “Bust out the journal so we can get started?”
“Oh, right! The date.” Grey hangs his head sheepishly as he swings his backpack off his shoulder and up onto an old, unused desk beside the door.
The room is awkwardly silent as he fishes for the journal, then delicately extracts it. He always handles the book like it’s super-fragile, even though it is actually pretty sturdy for how old and worn the old, cracked, leather binding and soft, woven-feeling pages are. We both might be a lot more at ease if my mother—when she’d pulled me aside after a short, but tense car ride—had lowered her voice a bit more while commending my taste in boys.
Neither Grey nor I have brought up the issue of that near-kiss in the stairwell, but I think my mom’s observation has made not thinking about it more difficult.
He carefully turns the pages for a quiet moment before he nods. “Okay, 1843. Bridgette says that she got the letter from Jack . . . she doesn’t give an exact day, but the month was June. I, uh, I don’t know how long mail deliveries normally took back then.”
He looks to me for a chime-in.
I shrug helplessly. “Sorry, me, neither.”
“Hmm, ‘kay; well, let’s assume that it could have taken anywhere from a few weeks to a month, but we don’t know when in the month this was. Maybe we start with mid-May and work our way forward?”
With a heavy sigh, I stroll along the shelves, looking at the year labels affixed to the bottom of each shelf. “Or, just to play it safe, we include the entire month of May. We have no way of knowing if the letter was delayed for any reason.”
The farther along the shelves I go, the more lax the semblance of organization gets. What starts out as large, neatly ordered boxes becomes antiquated crates, until there’s no type of container at all, just the oldest papers simply stacked in uniform piles. One would think the more aged, delicate periodicals would receive more care, but I guess Fane’s Cove really does have some sort of disconnect with its past.
“It’s amazing you guys can keep anything intact around here,” Grey says, joining me beside the eighteen-forties section, as though he knows what I was just thinking.
With a frown, I step forward and climb up the shelves to reach the highest one. I inspect the first paper on the highest pile to the left, hoping that the barely-existent filing system follows some kind of logical order.
“What’cha doin’, monkey girl?”
“Well, I’m trying to see how much of a mess we’ve got on our hands.” I glance down over my shoulder at him to find that he’s not looking at my eyes. He’s not even looking above my waist.
“Enjoying the view, Mr. Addison?”
As he lifts his gaze to meet mine, a faint wash of red tints his cheeks. “Sorry.”
“I’ll just . . . opt to take it as a compliment,” I say with what I imagine is probably the dorkiest big grin of embarrassment ever. I nod toward a bunch of old metal folding chairs stacked in a corner. “You wanna grab one of those so you can help me up here, maybe?”
“Fine.” He playfully rolls his eyes before he turns and heads over to grab a chair. “Make me do my fair share, why don’t you?”
“I didn’t bring you here just to be eye-candy,” I say quietly to myself.
Not quietly enough, I realize, as he asks, “What was that?”
“Nothing!” I return my attention to the newspapers and resume my inspection.
Thankfully, the piles are organized chronologically, and not just placed up here in a neat stack, so I turn out to have January of 1843 in front of me. Everything smells musty in an odd, dry sort of way and my disturbance of the papers kicks up a small plume of dust. Waving the cloud away, I hold in a cough. Once I’m certain I’ve got my lungs under control, I start to gently shuffle through several of the yellowed issues, to be certain that the order of the first bunch isn’t a fluke.
Grey climbs up next to me, but the chair doesn’t allow him to get up quite as high, so he rummages through the next shelf down. “I’ve got the spring months over here,” he says after a moment. “March, April . . . May.”
“Sweet,” I let go of the shelves and drop to the floor. “Start passing ‘em down.”
We—sneezing and probably covered in a film of dust to match everything else in the archives—choose to sit at a desk in the far end of the room, so that my mother won’t immediately hear us, should she decide to be nosy and wander casually past the stairwell door. We’ve decided to err on the side of caution and start as far back as April, splitting the papers evenly between us.
The pages feel coarse and thickly textured beneath my fingertips; well, compared to modern papers, anyway. Strange, ’cause I thought they’d be all worn, delicate. Like the ones in Bridgette’s journal.
Grey and I are quiet again for a long, long, while as we scan through issues in our respective stacks. I’m sure he finally gets what I’ve been trying to tell him about Fane’s Cove, now that he’s got these pieces of our history laid out before him.
The devil sighting reports are odd; well, at least I think they are. I find them interspersed throughout the issues, as though they’re just any other story. A small flood after a rain storm, oh look some lady found the Fane’s Cove devil peeping into her window. The Jansen boy made a miraculous recovery from pneumonia . . . hey, this farmer saw the creature bounding through his field.
I’m still a little awed that these sightings seemed so normal that our ancestors treated them like anything else that touched their day-to-day lives. Maybe that’s not so different from how we treat spooky incidents now.
“So,” he says after we’ve each made it through about half of our piles. “Help me out here.”
“Hmm?” I glance over at the paper in front of him, thinking he must be talking about something he’s read.
I refrain from looking at the time, but I’m starving. I can only hope Mom sneaks down that staircase soon to announce that she’s ordering lunch; I don’t even mind that it’ll just be a ruse to check in on us.
“There isn’t anything special about this place, but all this creepy stuff is always going on. Why doesn’t anyone seem to want to leave?”
I raise a brow and shake my head as I go back to my paper. “What are you talking about? People move away.”
“Yeah, but just a few, and some of them come back. I don’t get why this place isn’t a ghost town.”
Giving him a lopsided frown, I just sigh. He’s been to fully populated towns that experience devil sightings on a regular basis, but we’re the ones he doesn’t get? “I don’t know. Maybe it’s easier to stay here and hang onto the hope that Fane’s Cove might become normal someday than to move to some place new and hope you get the hang of normal.”
His forehead crinkles as he nods and goes back to reading.
I guess that line of thinking has just never occurred to him before.
Back to the words in front of me, I run my finger along the newsprint as I go, to keep my place. I read over the obituaries, just in case, but I don’t feel like I’ll find anything there. The feeling isn’t rational, just one of those niggling vibes that I should know to listen to by now.
Niggling. I don’t even say words like that, but that is how grandma used to describe the little pushes. I never found the term fitting ’til recently, I guess.
Every now and again, I come across a story recounting eyewitness testimony of what the locals apparently called The Jumping Black Flash. I have the sense that this should be familiar to me, but all the name does is kick off the very similarly titled Rolling Stones classic in my head.
“I don’t believe it.” Grey’s voice comes out as a quiet rush of whispered sound.
I want nothing more than to drop what I’m combing through and go read over his shoulder, but I don’t want to get my hopes up; for all I know, he could be not believing anything eventful that might have happened here. “What is it?”
He raises a hand and makes a shushing noise.
Frowning, I sit back and fold my hands on top of my paper as I wait.
After a while, he lifts his gaze from the page in front of him and simply shakes his head at me, wearing a bewildered expression. “You are really starting to freak me out.”
I feel my face fall. “What the hell did I do?”
“Remember when you said only one event ever happened here?”
I have to think for a minute before I have an answer. “The Town Hall fire?”
Grey purses his lips and then does this funny up-and-down flick of his eyebrows as he nods. “Well, it says here that someone died in that fire.”
I blink rapidly a few times; this is news to me. In fact, as far as I know, this would be news to everyone. “Town Hall was supposed to have been vacant by then.”
Giving a second, shorter nod, he forces a small gulp down his throat. “I’ll give you three guesses who it was, and the first two don’t count.”
“Jack.” Something about this tugs uncomfortably at the pit of my stomach.
“Jack,” he echoes.
“I don’t understand.” I realize only now that I’m clasping my hands so tightly that my fingertips have gone numb. I say as I open them and start flexing my fingers, “What was he doing there?”
He lifts a shoulder in a half-shrug. “According to local authorities? . . . He was setting the fire.”
“What the hell for?”
“They list it as a random act of vandalism.” He sends the paper skittering across the desktop with two fingers. It sails past me and the pages scatter as they flutter to the floor. “They didn’t even write him an obituary.”
Shaking my head, I slip out of my chair and kneel on the floor.
“Taking this a little hard, aren’t you?” I venture as I retrieve the pages and gently shuffle them back together. “These papers are really old.”
Seriously, I’m surprised none of them tore.
“Sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry, but he’s probably frustrated, so I let it go.
I sit down and flip through the paper.
“You know what?” I let the words tumble out of my mouth as they pop into my head. “People around here only seem to really remember stories from the mid-eighteen-hundreds on. No devil sightings from then on, either.”
“You mean no Jumping Black Flash stories.”
“Yeah, that, but hear me out. Mid-eighteen-hundreds, Jack dies in a fire he allegedly set for no apparent reason and then, no more devil stories, which only lines up ’cause Jack supposedly was their devil. I mean, there’s not even an obit for him.”
“Are we thinking he was murdered?” Grey asks, his brows shooting up his forehead.
“Maybe. It fits better than random arson, right?”
“Sure.” A quick, humorless smile curves his lips, there and gone in a second. “Except that there’s still something that doesn’t fit.”
I’ve just found the article in question and I start skimming through it. “What’s that?”
“They never found his body.”
A cold trickle drips along my spine at his words as I look up from the paper. “Then how could they be so sure it was him?”
He sits back and folds his arms across his chest. “I’m more curious about who would bother to put up a headstone if there’s no body in that grave?”
I nod slowly, adding more to the already very unsettling question looming over us. “And what’s that supposedly empty grave doing hidden in a section of the cemetery that predates it by almost two hundred years?”