A hot August haze hung over the early morning hours, as I sat perched on a kitchen stool, tea in hand, watching our host clean the rather large, concrete swimming pool in the backyard. The day would be a hot one.
I had arisen early – a habit of mine instilled by a military father – and knew that it would be hours before the rest of the guests awakened. We had stayed up late last night, drinking and listening to tales of how this old estate was haunted.
We hadn’t actually known the caretaker who invited us here, but came as friends of friends. My boyfriend and I were intrigued to see the place, whose owners were vacant for most of the year. It was a big old mansion, set back a respectable distance from the road, with a winding driveway and a huge expanse of green lawn bordered all around by high, well-trimmed hedges.
“The owner has a wooden leg,” our young host, Mike, told us the night before. “Don’t be surprised if you find it in odd places. The ghost likes to move things around.”
I’d found the peg leg just that morning, propped up on the stair rail just outside our door.
Ha, ha, funny, Mike, I thought. I wasn’t buying the ghost story.
The house looked like something out of Gone With The Wind with a double sweeping staircase and a balcony on the second floor landing overlooking the massive marble foyer. We’d had the tour last night, all except for one wing, which Mike said was a separate apartment and, therefore, kept locked. Two double doors separated this part of the house from the rest, and I remember feeling disappointed that we didn’t get a peek.
Mike was tall and lean, with distinctly defined muscles from all the physical work he did, I assumed. He had long, sandy brown hair, that fell in a dishevelled way about his shoulders. I was admiring the view when I heard a knock at the front door. I glanced at the clock on the wall: not quite 7:00 am.
Although there were large panes of glass, uncovered, flanking the heavy front door, I couldn’t see who was knocking. I glanced through the dining room window towards the parking area to see if a new car had arrived, but only the three that had been there from the night before were in sight.
Maybe paper delivery? I wondered as I opened the door. No one there, and no paper either. I shrugged, thinking maybe I’d confused what I heard and returned to my tea.
Not five minutes passed when I heard it again – distinctly the sound of the front door knocker. Again, no one there. I couldn’t imagine that anyone could have knocked and ran – there was nowhere to hide – so concluded it mustn’t have been the front door. I tried the doors to the separate residence, thinking maybe they were the source of the sound. Still locked. Mike had said the occupants were away, but they might have returned last night without us knowing, I speculated. I glanced upstairs; no sign of life. Mike was in the backyard, so if a guest had gone that way, surely he would have seen them.
When it happened a third time, with the same result, I decided to catch the prankster by setting myself up in a corner of the dining room, where no one could see me, but where I’d be able to see anyone coming or going from either inside or outside the house.
All was still except for the sound of knocking – clear, distinct, definitely coming from the front door. I called for Mike.
“Just the ghost playing a prank,” Mike shrugged nonchalantly. Apparently, he was used to it. “Have you seen the leg yet?”
“Well, I did, but I thought maybe you….”
The knocking came again and we both glanced towards the front of the house.
“You really think it’s a ghost?”
“I know so. Remember the gun cabinet I showed you last night?”
We had partied in the recreation room in the basement, beside the locked gun cabinet, so yes.
“Come with me.”
I followed Mike downstairs and sure enough the guns were rearranged – neatly, but unmistakably in different places then the night before.
“Well…” I said, still unconvinced. “You could have a key….”
“No key, here!” Mike protested. “This happens all the time.”
“Why do you stay here if it’s haunted?”
“Pay is good, digs are great. The ghost seems harmless. Why not?”
We were just arriving back in the front foyer when the double doors separating the two dwellings flew open startling us both.
“What the heck?”
Mike and I stood frozen, waiting for something else to happen, but apart from a clear view of the mystery apartment, there was no other movement.
“That’s a first,” Mike said regaining his composure and closing the doors. “I don’t have a key for those either, so I guess they’ll have to remain unlocked until the owners come back.”
I was certain I had checked the doors earlier and they were locked. I was starting to get an eerie feeling.
I decided to join Mike in the backyard as he finished his morning routine. I’d had enough frights for one morning.
Let someone else answer the front door, I decided.
Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.