“Did you shut the door?” asked Joe.
“Of course I did, do you think I’m stupid?” answered Greg.
“It’s bad enough having to work on a night like this.”
“Did you drive in?” asked Greg.
“Yeah, I would not walk,” said Joe.
“You live near enough, I didn’t have a choice,” mumbled Greg.
“Aargh, look, the light is on in the accounts department.”
“That’s Polly, she’s new,” Greg’s eyes lit up.
“How can they force a girl to work on a night like this? Especially a new member of staff. A brilliant manager she has,” said Joe.
“She messed up an order from a new advertiser.”
“How come you know so much?” asked Joe.
“Yesterday I took her out for a drink,” grinned Greg as he waved to her through the glass dividing wall between accounts and editorial department. “Her name is Polly if you are interested?”
“I’m more worried they have changed my alterations as marked. Hopefully, all is correct. And you must get on and finish the last empty slot, the quicker you get writing, the quicker we can file this lot at the printers!”
“And then, feet up for a day or two?” asked Greg.
‘The Advertiser’, boasted it hit the streets every week, without fail, even during World War II. Tonight would test that. Snow piled across the main street of the small town, the weather forecast promised more. The local paper had celebrated its one-hundredth year in publication earlier that summer, to great fanfare. Joe had worked there for eleven years he was now senior editor, and Greg, births, marriages and deaths reporter, just two years.
“I couldn’t get into the underground car park. The security guy said it would be okay to park outside, ‘no one is stupid enough to work this weather’. He is mad, that guy, you know?” said Joe.
“He is a bit odd, I agree. At least he turned up!” laughed Greg.
“You had better get that marriage story finished, then we can all go home,” said Joe.
“Can you believe it? The groom is seventy-two, the bride is twenty-five,” laughed Greg.
“Yeah, and he owns seven of the newsagents that sell our rag. So make it complimentary,” said the editor.
“Have you seen the state of him?”
“Yes, I have met him. Obnoxious man, but runs a profitable business,” said Joe.
“He must be well and truly minted, how else could he get a girl like her,” Greg passed the wedding photo across the desk.
“Just get on with it… What the hell?”
The normally noisy heating system suddenly silenced.
“Great, now we’ll freeze,” said Greg.
“I’ll check with security,” Joe buzzed the internal phone. “No answer?”
“He’s probably gone to check the boiler,” said Greg.
“Now what? The lights are flickering. Don’t say the power will go off?”
“Can I sit with you guys? My room is dark and my computer has gone off,” asked Polly.
“I’ll see security,” said Joe as he marched to the door.
“I was going to make you a hot drink, but your kettle is not working,” said Polly.
Greg flicked the switch, “No power.”
The key lights went out. Security power kicked in and a dim orange glow illuminated the office.
“How romantic, pity we can’t share a bottle of wine,” grinned Greg.
“Stop it, I’m scared,” said Polly, pushing Greg’s roving hands away.
“No sign of that bloody man,” moaned Joe as he burst back in.
“Where can he be? Did you check the toilets?” asked Greg.
“I’ve been to his guard’s cubicle, I’ve checked the boiler under the building, and yes, I even shouted for him in the bog,” answered Joe.
Greg tried the office phone, “Dead. Anyone got his mobile number?”
They shook their heads.
“Let’s get on, do what we can. I’ll read through these proofs, while you two search the building. Okay?” ordered Joe.
“Is the light good enough for your proofreading?” asked Polly.
“It’ll do, when the power comes back we can finish and go home.”
Joe pleased with himself as he had already printed out all the articles, he still preferred the old ‘blue pencil’ for marking literals and grammar mistakes. Head down, he started flicking through papers, hunting errors.
He was losing track of time, checking his watch, “Where have they got to?”
The door creaked, slowly opening, Polly tumbled through and collapsed to the floor, blood splashed the tiles.
“My God, what has happened?”
Joe rushed to her.
“Mmmur muublrrr,” she mumbled.
Joe held her gently, checking for wounds.
“Where does it hurt?” he asked.
“Eeeer,” she made no sense, couldn’t get a word out.
“Whose blood is this? You are unharmed,” said Joe.
Polly curled into a ball and wailed.
Joe looked around and nervously crept towards the door. Polly grabbed his leg. Hugging with all her strength, forcing him to remain with her.
“Polly dear, we can’t stay like this. Come with me, we must find Greg.”
Shaking her head and holding him tighter.
“I must go, are you coming or not?” he asked again.
Slowly she released her grip, he helped her up, now crouching and arm in arm they moved towards the door. Joe opened it and peered left and right. He took a step into the corridor, Polly collapsed and curled into a ball rolling up against the door.
“Stay there then, I’ll look around,” said Joe.
She was quivering and mumbling incoherently. Joe stepped towards the stairs. He pointed up; she nodded.
He needn’t ask as blood splattered each upward step, Joe nervously moved on.
Peering over the handrail and looking down, he gasped.
He rushed down to the crumpled body of the security man. He was upright and on his knees; the joints unnaturally broken, the man’s calves were flat on the ground in front of him, feet pointed upwards.
“My God, whatever happened?”
The guard’s arms were broken at the elbows, like his legs they were at an impossible angle. Joe then looked at the man’s head, the right ear was on his left shoulder. Joe tasted acid puke in his throat as he gagged before running up the stairs.
“Where is Greg?” he asked himself.
Slowly he moved up and up. Step by step. He listened for the slightest sound, nothing, silence.
“Greg, where are you?” he whispered as he reached the end of the bloody trail. A step further, the blood continued under a door. He stood outside the MD’s office, the lock smashed. Joe breathed deeply, then pushed the door open. Something was stopping the wood. He pushed harder as he looked in. Greg’s head rolled across the carpet.
Staring open-mouthed, Joe felt stuck in time and place, motionless for a moment.
Shaking with fear, he forced himself forwards, towards the stained soggy mess of the carpet. Greg’s body bent in two, stuffed under the desk. Gripping the edge of the desk, he gawped at his friend.
Suddenly, without warning, Joe felt himself lifted then slammed onto the floor. His teeth shattered like a starburst as his head bounced like a basketball on the gym floor. The sounds of flesh ripping and bones cracking failed to stop Joe thinking of next week’s lead story.
‘What Happened At The Advertiser,’ the headline flashed in his mind. ‘Full details in next week’s edition’ ran the sub-head, he would edit no more.
Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.
In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.