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Authors: Melanie Jackson

4 Impression of Bones

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Impression of Bones

by

Melanie
Jackson

 

Version 1.1 –
November, 2012

 

Published by
Brian Jackson at KDP

 

Copyright ©
2012 by Melanie Jackson

 

Discover
other titles by Melanie Jackson at
www.melaniejackson.com

 

This book is
a work of fiction.
 
Names, characters,
places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously.
 
Any resemblance to
actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights
reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

 
 
Chapter 1
 

“Everyone says
that Barclay Castle isn’t haunted, but I am of the opinion that everyone is
lying,” Juliet Henry said to Raphael James. “That tower is thick with gloom and
the acoustics make the wind sound like
voices,
and everything
feels … wrong.”

The mere
introduction of the subject had her skin trying to crawl off her neck.

“It actually gives
you the shivers?” Raphael asked interestedly. In his experience with the lady,
he was of the opinion that it would take a great deal to bother Juliet.

“Shudders
and screams and jumping—which thankfully no one else heard or saw.”
Her rational mind was outraged by the
suggestion that she was troubled by something supernatural, but facts were
facts. Juliet trusted her gut as much as her mind when it came to sorting the likely
but unproven assertions from merely feeble theories. But this time mind and gut
were in conflict. She might not believe in ghosts but her senses forbade being
alone in the castle tower. It was haunted, either by the sick thoughts of the
living or by the residue of the dead. Every breath she took in that tower room
made her feel increasingly unwell, and had there been a graceful way out of the
project she would have taken it.

“I’ll be glad
when Esteban gets back. If he is willing, I’d like him to look a little more into
the history of the place. It can’t be as clean as the PR people want us to
think it is.” This seemed like a nice, rational thing to do. It wasn’t strange,
like trying to find a priest to carry out an exorcism.

“It was a
reform school, yes?” Raphael went on cleaning his paintbrushes. “I imagine
there were a great many unhappy youths housed there.”

“And
before that a tuberculosis hospital where people were even more unhappy.
Everyone knows that old hospitals are
haunted,” she grumbled. Life on the outside had taught her humility about her
creative talents, but she had not been stripped of her factual understanding of
the value of her other faculties. “There used to be an old cemetery there
somewhere, but supposedly all the bodies were moved before it became a
reformatory, so I doubt it’s anything to do with that.”

Raphael
changed the subject.

“Tell me about
the room you’ve been assigned. It has potential?”

It had
potential if anyone ever saw it. There wasn’t anything Juliet could do to alter
the externals of the plain tower. Massive stones resisted all but the most
intrusive and expensive interference from humans. But she hoped to give the
inside a karmic remodel. It was badly needed.

Juliet had
agreed to take on the last room in a restoration project that was supposedly going
to raise funds for several local charities. Artists were paired with interior
designers and given rooms inside the castle to decorate/restore. After the open
house tours and hoped-for media blitz, the castle would then be sold and the
money divided among the charities. Most of the other rooms at the castle were
completed. Juliet was the last to join the project and therefore had been given
a room no one else wanted. She was beginning to wonder if it went unclaimed for
reasons other than inaccessibility.

Juliet had
been somewhat skeptical of the venture, especially since she was coming onboard
so late, but then she met Randolph Kingman III—Dolph to his friends and those
he would have disarmed—and Juliet had allowed herself to be persuaded by his
enthusiasm and salesmanship.
And by her recognition of the
fact that artists need a degree of fame.
For their egos but also to help
the bottom
line,
and those who said they didn’t were
lying or already famous. To achieve this, one needed the media and this project
could supply it.

What artists
didn’t want was criticism, especially from other professionals or critics, but
no one would grumble too much since this was for charity, and Juliet knew that
normally she would not have been asked to work on this type of project. It was,
after all, for more established artists, but Dolph had purchased one of her
Lake Tahoe landscapes on Raphael’s recommendation and decided to ask her to
participate. She had been flattered and there was no denying that the man had
an irresistible line of chat when he talked about commercial opportunities and the
benefits of participating in the venture. That she quickly discovered she was
being used as a way for him to get close to Raphael didn’t matter. The
brilliant but reclusive artist could make mincemeat out of
Dolph
Kingman anytime he wanted to and she knew she had his blessing.

However
appealing the notion of economic solvency, brought about because she became the
darling of the media, Juliet had known from the first that the project wasn’t
in her line and now she was repenting, especially after getting acquainted with
her interior design partner, the pathological liar Deborah Peters, who was
supposed to make Juliet’s vision become flesh, or at least upholstery. So far
she had required nothing of Deborah except that she
supply
a particular kind of canvas in eight-foot widths which Juliet was turning into
tapestries. Whether the woman with her fake British accent as thick as peanut
butter was seeing Dolph Kingman away from the project was another matter. If
she was, she was only one among the many, or so the gossips said.

“Is it that
bad?” Raphael asked when the silence had stretched on for a while.

Juliet shook
her head. Raphael had been away so there was a lot she needed to explain.

“I’ve been
reluctant to face the extent of the disaster. It’s one of the tower rooms, so
it’s
round except in one four-foot area where there might
have been a fireplace, though I don’t see how it could have been vented so
maybe it was something else. In any event it’s been closed up with stone tiles.
The walls are sprouting these hideous excrescences about every three feet just
above eye level. They are supposed to be angels. Maybe Neanderthal angels,
though mostly they look like pop-eyed toads. Anyhow, there is nothing to do but
cover them up as much as I can with tapestries and hope no one gets nightmares
from looking at them. They are high enough up that I think I will use them as a
brace for a shelf that circles the room. Cutting a curved shelf was a pain, but
there was nothing else to be done to cover the damned things, without being
accused of vandalism of a historic treasure.”

“Go on.” He
knew she wasn’t finished.

“You’ve seen
pictures of the castle, right? So you know it isn’t gothic, isn’t baroque,
isn’t even medieval. It’s just a kind of box with a round tower that is not
even very perpendicular. Working in a castle, especially in an aerie, is
supposed to be romantic. But it’s not. And the windows are so small that I had
to ditch the idea about doing an observatory, which is a shame because I would
have enjoyed painting some celestial charts and finding a brass telescope and
things.”

“And?”

Juliet paused,
wondering how to explain the psychic miasma that clung to her and how she found
herself forced to excessive ablutions when she came home in an effort to wash
the dirty feeling away. She supposed she could admit to resorting to strong tea
and scones which she shared with the cat in order to have some company once it
was dark.

Some people
believed that haunted houses could be cleansed. Juliet had thought about
borrowing a power washer and giving it a symbolic try. But that would mean
dozens of extension cords and leaking hoses and hauling the heavy machine up
the stairs.

And it
probably wouldn’t work anyway, if the ghost was not anchored to the room. There
were stories about some determined phantasms following their victims halfway
around the world. Water, even holy water, wouldn’t get rid of anything really
dedicated to its mission.

Not that she
believed in ghosts. Not really. It was just a feeling … one so strong it
amounted to a premonition of doom.

Raphael
waited. That was one of the things she liked best about him. He didn’t rush her
when she needed to think.

“It sounds
crazy and very California mystic, but the place gives off a bad vibe. And it
would feel bad even without the dark rooms and the moaning wind that comes up
every afternoon, though those don’t help. And there is a smell. I can’t pin it
down, but in the afternoon when it’s hot and the wind is blowing it gets worse.
I work in a constant state of alarm. Oh, it isn’t radon leaking out of the
ground. I already checked.”

“But this is
interesting. What was the room used for after the castle was moved?
A still room perhaps?
That might account for lingering
odors.”

“Who knows?
The castle is about nine hundred years old. It says in the brochure that the
room was most recently used as a private chapel for the teaching staff. I think
perhaps they tore out an altar or something and put in that fireplace. There is
a place in the flat part of the wall where the stone doesn’t quite match the
rest of the fortification. In fact, it looks more like tile than chunks of
stone. It’s quite bothersome since it protrudes enough to interfere with the
hangings. Maybe I can put a large painting over it.”

“And what will
it
be
repurposed as? You have a plan now that you’ve
seen it?” Raphael had been away and this was their first chance to talk since
she took on the project.

“A
yoga-meditation room.”

“Motivating.”

Juliet
grunted.

“It’s up about
four stories, has no electricity or plumbing, and the only access is an uneven
stair. Anyone who goes there will have to have tons of motivation. Besides,
they already have every other kind of room from a gymnasium to a solarium.”

“Have you had
any troubles with Dolph? He’s a good businessman but his personal life is a bit
of a three-act drama,” Raphael observed, changing the subject again. He knew Dolph
and was aware of his habits. Dolph had a collector’s instincts.
And not always for art.

Dolph, she
discovered after some investigation, had matriculated from a non-Ivy state
college that specialized in frat parties. She didn’t hold that or the III at
the end of his name against him. Her original dislike of him had had nothing to
do with him being a self-invented man and trying to set himself up as west
coast aristocracy. It was actually hard to say where the dislike had come from.
Intuition perhaps.
There was also the little matter of
his not knowing
Manet
from Monet and not really
liking either. Art was just a niche commodity market that he exploited.

Later, she’d
had more concrete reasons for distrusting him, but by then she was committed to
the project and she had turned a blind eye to his morally reprehensible
behavior.

But even with
one eye deliberately blinded, the other was working fine. Juliet thought about
what she had seen while coming down the tower stairs the afternoon of the day
before. Dolph had been rejected by one of the carpenters who had gone so far as
to reach for her hammer when he refused to desist. He had been facing Juliet, who
was standing in the shadows, and she had seen his face clearly. His usually
lacquered hair was disarranged and his brown eyes seemed suddenly flecked with
red sparks of anger, and in the throes of thwarted lust, unthinking enough to belong
to a killer. In that moment Juliet had found him inhumanly repellant and had
braced herself for violence. But the moment had passed before she had to
intervene and he seemed to leave the carpenter alone the rest of the day. She
had not come back the following morning and word was that she had quit the
project.

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