English: Haunted house in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

An overactive imagination.  That was the thought that went through Mercy’s mind after her scene at the police station.  One chance discovery and she goes around thinking she’s an authority on the subject.  It had to be more than a coincidence?  The names were the same as the ones in her dream.  It all seemed unresolved and there was only one place that could lend any more clues to this.  She headed back out towards the house.

Returning to the scene of the crime.  She could envision the six paneled window from the street.  Now all that stood there was a rotting piece of plywood.  The history of the property deed had told her that the house had never been sold.  It was handed down from generation to generation and now the only legal claim was to a real estate company who had been sitting on it for fifteen years without a sale.

It seemed strange to never have been sold in all that time.  The house itself was now long beyond repair.  The night had begun to set in and the little light that had seeped through yesterday when she was in there would be gone now.  The only source of light Mercy had, was a keychain flashlight and three emergency road flares.

She took the three flares from the trunk and went inside.

Mercy twisted the flint cap and watched the flare light up.  The initial glare blinded her immediately; the safest place to put it would be on the brickwork of the fireplace.

The flare cast shadows into the corners of the room, but made for a better light then there had been before.  The ball of light that she had first witnessed had been brighter, but it hadn’t really illuminated anything.

There were no furnishings left or anything to show that the house had once been lived in.  The area around the house had been growing wild for over five decades.  The list hadn’t mentioned who had last occupied the house, but the officer had mentioned something about a little boy dying forty years ago.

A tingling feeling crawled up her spine as she heard little feet scurrying around in the next room, or behind the walls.  She looked around waiting for some miracle to happen again.  Maybe the body had belonged to someone else who had witnessed the crime.  Maybe the Lady of the house was so cruel that she had the slaves who had carried out her commands killed to prevent them from telling anyone.

The thought frozen in her as she walked into the next room.  The ball of light had gone into the fire place.  The Countessa had been thrown into the fireplace.  That could be what the spirit was trying to tell her in that foreign language.  The body in the wall could have been a witness or even the body of Charles Marsh himself, still looking for his lover.

It was all starting to make sense.  His spirit had been looking for her and she had died in the fireplace.  The Lady may have killed him and blamed it on the slave uprising.  He had died during a slave revolt.  It was finally beginning to add up.  Maybe the spirit of the body of the Countessa was in the fireplace.

She suddenly realized that she was beginning to sound like one of those bad T.V. shows about ghosts and ghost hunters or even worse a Scooby Doo cartoon, but she couldn’t deny that she had been called down here for a reason.  She had been led to this body across six states.  Something was here and was calling her.  She squeezed the little piece on the flashlight keychain and its little light bulb lit up a small area inside the chimney.

A chill ran through her body unabated.  The idea of bugs and vermin living up there were a whole lot scarier than a body.  The only thing that could be seen with certainty was a century’s worth of dirt, bugs and spider webs.  The thing probably didn’t even open at the top anymore.  She knew one thing for sure now, if anything was up there, it was staying up there.

The stairs looked rather rickety and part of the roof had caved in on top of them.  She decided to brave the steps and clear a path through the debris.  Something told her that there was something up those stairs.  It was that same feeling that had made her come here to begin with and now it wanted her to climb these steps against her better judgment.

She screamed as the stairs gave way beneath her and she crashed down into the basement level below.  A pile of debris from the collapsed roof followed her down.  Her ankle and wrist screamed in pain, and the flare sparked freely off to her side.

Her left hand sought out the warm dampness on the side of her face.  Even in the flickering light dancing from the flare she could see that it was blood.  She reached over and picked up the flare before it started a fire.  She tried standing up, but her ankle gave way under her weight and she screamed in pain.  She could hardly clutch the flare in her right hand, but she needed her left to crawl.  It was her only way to move.  She could see a light coming towards the basement door.  It was growing brighter and coming towards her.  This is what she had come to see, the final clue.  She pulled herself towards the steps leading up to the first floor.  The light shined down, it didn’t come from a ball of light, but from a beam.

“Oh my God!  What are you some kind of nut?  You’re damn lucky this whole place didn’t fall on top of you!  I told you to stay out of here!” 

Mercy recognized the voice as belonging to Huckleberry Hound.  She tried to craw in his direction.  He was being careful about coming down the steps.

“I can use your help!  What I don’t need is the sarcasm!” 

He jumped the last two steps and tapped them with his flashlight to check their stability.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, are you alright?”

                 He came towards her, shining his light on the floor to check for any obstructions.

“Do you need an ambulance?”

Mercy didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, but her ankle was more than likely broken and she didn’t have much choice.  She tried to push herself up and her wrist gave a loud painful crack.  She screamed:

“Yes!”

                He came over to her and pulled out his radio.

“This is unit six reporting!  I need a rescue unit over to the old deserted house on Hanover Drive.  I have a severely wounded woman here!  Over!”

A garbled response came back to him.  He took the flare and smashed the lit end against the ground until it went out.

                “Alright Ms. Hope, let’s pray this heap holds together long enough for us to get out of here.  I had a feeling that you would come back here and then I saw your car outside…”

                His frustration mounted as he stumbled over his speech. 

                “Damn woman, you think I told you to stay out of here because I don’t like you?  Didn’t I tell you what happened to that little boy?” 

Mercy just sank back her head against the floor.   The pain in her ankle and wrist had gone numb.  It was no point arguing with him.  When you’re right, you’re right, and apparently he was right.

“Well, maybe one good thing will come out of this.  Your injury will probably force the town to tear this place down once and for all.”

Mercy looked up at the collapsed remains of the stairway that she had fallen through.  A light came from under the remains of the third stair.  It cast a dull light against the side wall.  There must be a shelf under it.  It had blended in so well with the framework, that no one could tell it was there.  It faced opposite the line of sight.

“Look, up there, it’s a ghost!”

The officer shined his flashlight up at the concealed shelf and got up to take a closer look.  The light faded.  The shelf contained a small book lying flat and wrapped around it several times was a long drop pearl necklace that looked as though it would be worth a fortune.

“What is it?  Let me see!”

Mercy reached out with her left hand and the officer handed her the book.  He shined the light back on the shelf trying to find the source of the light he had seen.  The book was a diary of the Countess Marie De’Marco.  Mercy carefully slid the pearl necklace off the book.

She gave the book back to the officer and he flipped to the last page.  It was not written by the Countess, but by Charles Marsh.  It gave an identical account to what Mercy had seen in her dream.

“Your book belongs to Charles Marsh.  He wanted everyone to know about the murder of his lover, the Countessa Marie De’Marco.  Those pearls belonged to the Countessa.”

Mercy ran them through her left hand feeling the polished smoothness of them.

The officer looked down at the way she was handling the pearls.

“I suppose that if anyone deserves those, it would be you.  This book ought to be in a museum or something.  I’ll turn the book over to the university, but I guess you can go ahead and keep that necklace, but if anyone asks, I never saw them.” 

“The pearls must have been a reward for anyone who finally served justice for his lost love.  His spirit must have felt a sense of urgency since the house is about to fall apart.”

Mercy coughed and the officer came closer.

The ambulance pulled up outside and the paramedics rushed in.  The officer yelled at them to be careful coming down the steps.  One paramedic came down while the other stayed upstairs.  They loaded Mercy on the stretcher and carefully lifted her up to the paramedic above.

As they loaded her in the back of the ambulance and the officer claimed the book from her.  He closed the door and they raced off the nearest hospital.  The paramedic was already beginning to access the damage.

The officer was getting into the cruiser when he heard the final snap and groan.  Something had finally given way and the house collapsed in on itself in a huge crash.  It seemed to last for several minutes as all the debris and dust settled to the ground.  He gave a silent salute of true belief and climbed into his cruiser.

“Rest in peace, Mr. Marsh.”