Episode 1, Chapter 5

It may be that in some more enlightened time, perhaps nearly a century from the date of our narrative, the near perfect beings reading this will be shocked to hear that Reggie climbed behind the wheel with two glasses of beer still sloshing about in his stomach. Such delicate and spiritually elevated beings may be consoled a bit by knowing that a werewolf’s metabolism runs, on average, four times faster than that of a man’s. So on the plus side he had iron laws of biology to keep him and his passengers safe.

On the minus side, however, was the fact that sitting directly behind him were two persons of such utter incompatibility that the tension could be cut with a piece of wet paper folded into the shape of a knife. Neville sprawled across the back seat with the day’s purchases while the putative journo perched like a mistrusting falcon on the jump seat that folded out of the Packard’s door.

Reggie had a glass partition he could roll up that separated his driving cabin from the passenger compartment, which might have helped. Sadly it was a specific feature of the Packard Eight line that a small silver speaking horn was mounted below the partition, allowing a passenger to issue commands to the driver through the glass. It was through this contraption that Reggie was able to listen to the roaring silence that passed between his two charges.

No, they did not speak. They were far too busy sizing each other up.

So it was with some relief that Reggie turned up the long drive to the front of the Hall. He jumped out to hold the door for his passengers, then grabbed up the goods they’d bought in town and followed both his employer and his potential enemy the short distance to the front door.

A word is required, now, on Grimbly Hall.

One may be forgiven for imagining some Victorian pile with looming towers and a mansard roof missing some shingles. Grimbly Hall was nothing of the sort. It was instead a gracious home constructed in the Greek Revival style, with a portico out front and a cupola that doubled as the dome of an observatory. One whole wing shimmered with ivy. Another had been torn down to make room for a glass-lined conservatory. What had formerly been stables had been converted to a garage for the Packard Eight.

It had been built in the previous century by a man named Septimus Grimbly. Hence the name.

Grimbly was the seventh son of the seventh son of a whelk-catcher, who had been born on the Orkney Islands in Scotland. It being the soot-stained and sleeves-rolled-up part of the Nineteenth Century, Septimus had ended up in short order becoming a wealthy New York City banker. Like many born into poverty and then thrust into riches, he found himself possessing more capital that common sense, and he developed varied and intriguing tastes, as we shall see. Grimbly spent much of his adulthood planning and overseeing the construction of the house, which took far longer than expected. As a result he lived in the Hall only a few years before he died. Local rumor held that he had spent so much money and time on the place that he had come to haunt it out of pure stubbornness and spite. A rumor which had led Pinemonters to shun the place for years and which had driven down the sale price, even though it didn’t happen to be true.

“Thirty-eight rooms,” Neville said, lifting one arm in a sweeping gesture as he led his dinner guest toward the main entrance, “the last time we counted, anyway. Isn’t it just grand?”

Van Heusen shrugged and pushed past Neville into the cool of the foyer. He studied the statues there—nymphs in suggestive rather than prurient dishabille—with a jaundiced eye. Then he jumped as an unseen hand took his hat and spirited it away. “In the name of all that’s holy,” he grumbled, but as Neville entered the mummy’s hat was similarly removed.

“Don’t mind Hughes,” Neville said. “He was the butler here when he was alive. You’ve heard, I’m sure, that ghosts are the spirits of those who had unfinished business in life? Perhaps you’ve also heard that a servant’s work is never done. It would be a tragic combination, I suppose, if he didn’t seem to enjoy tidying so much.”

The Hall was haunted, oh yes, but not by old Septimus.

“No need to dress for dinner tonight, I think,” Neville said. “This way.”

About David Wellington

Author of horror, fantasy, and adventure novels.
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