Authors: Ava Collins
Tags: #Thriller, #Romance, #Cozy, #Witch, #Mystery, #Paranormal
Death at the DuMond
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents, except for incidental references to public figures, products, or services, are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental, and not intended to refer to any living person or to disparage any company’s products or services.
© 2015 Ava Collins
All rights reserved. Worldwide.
No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, uploaded, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter devised, without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review
“DID YOU TALK to him after he died?” I asked. Clifton Bancroft raised an eyebrow and offered me a seat.
Roger DuMond III died in November on a Thursday. He was generally liked by all of the tenants of the DuMond Hotel, and his passing was considered a great loss. His death was the beginning of the unsavory situation we find ourselves in now. And my intuition tells me there are even more difficult times ahead.
Mr. DuMond was fair and generous, as landlords go, and kept the building well-maintained. A round, affable man, he was always quick with a joke and a smile.
I miss him.
The DuMond Hotel has a long and illustrious history. Built by Roger DuMond Sr. at the turn of the century, it was once the height of opulence. Over the years, the hotel has swung the pendulum from five star to flea bag, and back again. Now, renovated and converted to apartments, the DuMond has a quaint, old world vibe. It is rumored to be haunted, which I can certainly verify.
Mr. DuMond’s body was found in the office, slumped over his desk. The official cause of death was listed as a heart attack. Not considerably surprising, given his diet and exercise habits. But that didn’t stop speculation among the tenants. Mrs. Abbott, in particular, had her own theories.
For the police, it was an open and shut case. Actually, I’m not sure it was ever an open case. When a 65 year-old man—with high cholesterol and a history of heart disease—dies at his desk, holding a half eaten chili cheese dog, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together. Though, math doesn’t seem to be a strong point of local law enforcement.
If I’m not mistaken, Jake, the maintenance man, found Mr. DuMond’s body. I’ve always liked Jake, and he’s been very kind to me and my mother. Just last week, he replaced all of the latches on the windows in our apartment. He also fixed a toilet that wouldn’t stop running. Even though we’re getting evicted.
Jake stops by about once a week to check on us and make sure everything is in working order. I don’t know if he does this for all the tenants or not. I never thought it odd or inappropriate. Jake has always been a perfect gentleman. And let’s face it, he’s easy on the eyes. Mid twenties, dark hair, blue eyes, and well built. Think rippling biceps, tattoos, and washboard abs. I think my mother turns up the heat in the apartment when he’s working just to see if he’ll take his shirt off.
When Jake found Mr. DuMond’s body, the news spread through the building in a flash. It wasn’t long before all of the tenants were gawking and gossiping in the lobby. They all watched like vultures as they rolled Mr. DuMond’s body out on a stretcher. If there is anything the residents of the DuMond love, it’s gossiping about salacious scandals.
It’s been almost a month since Mr. DuMond died. Since then, Mrs. DuMond has taken over the management of the building. That is something nobody is happy about. Not even Mr. Bancroft.
I can usually find him in the model apartment. Nobody ever shows the model apartment, so it affords Mr. Bancroft a degree of solitude.
“So, did you talk to him after he died?” I asked, again.
“How would I talk to him after he died?” Mr. Bancroft said.
“Well, I’m talking to you, and you’re dead,” I said.
“Then perhaps you might have better odds of speaking with him.”
I really like Mr. Bancroft. He’s my favorite part of living at the DuMond. He was one of the original tenants, and has been here since the DuMond was first built. I’d say Mr. Bancroft is my best ghost friend. Actually, he’s the only ghost I know.
As far as I know, I’m the only one that can see or hear him. I guess that could mean that I’m totally crazy, but I’m pretty sure he’s not just a figment of my imagination.
Clifton Bancroft appears as a man in his early 20s with dark hair and always wearing the same tweed jacket. He’s very proper and dignified. Despite his young appearance, his manner is that of an older gentleman. I guess that’s because he comes from an era where manners and etiquette were of the utmost importance. Perhaps that’s why I feel compelled to refer to him as Mr. Bancroft. But lately I’ve taken to calling him Banksy. He doesn’t seem to mind. He reminds me of a young University professor, only slightly translucent. I must admit, he’s quite handsome. It’s too bad he’s a ghost. Not that I’m looking for a boyfriend. That’s the last thing I need.
My last boyfriend broke up with me because, well… As I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed an aptitude for certain things. A gift, if you will. A little bit of magic here and there. Nothing major. I can’t pick lotto numbers out of the air, and I can’t seem to do anything for direct personal gain. But I can seem to help others. And every now and then, I think I can understand what my cat, Newport, is thinking. It’s Newport’s world, we just live in it. Anyway, the whole witch thing was just too much for my last boyfriend to handle. After what happened, I don’t really blame him.
My grandmother always claimed to be a witch, but my mother tries to deny it. Ever since dad left us, my mother has completely disavowed the notion of magic. Dad was a practitioner of the magical arts as well. And my youthful indiscretions have solidified mom’s distaste for the supernatural. Anything magic related is forbidden in our home.
I have been specifically instructed not to practice any magic whatsoever. We had to leave our old town and move to the city in order to start over. After my little fiasco, people were starting to suspect something. Mom thought moving to the city would be for the best.
So, right now I’m working at Bill’s Burgers to help with bills and tuition. Although, it’s not nearly enough, especially with my mom’s current situation. And I’m trying to stay away from magic. Though, I must admit, that’s difficult to do.
I don’t know if talking to Bancroft counts as magic or not. It’s not something I can control. It’s a gift. I just have the ability to see him.
“Look, Hannah, I’m sorry to say, I really don’t have any interaction with the dead,” Mr. Bancroft said. “The moment they die, they either go up or they go down. And that’s that. Why I’m stuck here I don’t really know. It’s like I missed my train, or something.”
“Well, I just thought that maybe you might have gotten a few minutes with Mr. DuMond before he got on his train.”
“I’m afraid I’m in as much of the dark as you are, my dear.”
Bancroft paced around the room. The floorboards creaked underneath his footsteps. He seems to have some interaction with the physical world, but it’s mild. He can push doors open or closed. Knock books off shelves, or pictures from the walls. And if you stand where he’s standing, you’ll get a cold chill. But that’s about it.
“Mrs. Abbott thinks he was poisoned,” I said.
“Does she?” he said. “And how do you know that?”
“I have my sources.”
“And who does Mrs. Abbott suspect?”
“She thinks it was Mrs. DuMond,” I said. “Though she’s not entirely certain. I got the impression that her opinion of the residents of the DuMond is quite low. To hear her talk, you’d think the DuMond runs amok with thieves and murderers.”
“Mrs. Abbott may be correct on both accounts.”
“Now you’re just being dramatic,” I said. “The DuMond is not that bad.”
Mr. Bancroft shrugged. “One thing is for certain. Victoria DuMond is a vile and hateful woman. I’ve got half a mind to haunt her to death myself.”
“Oh, stop,” I said. Bancroft has a very dry sense of humor.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to defend her? Not after what she is doing to you?”
“I’m not defending her,” I said. “I’m just not going to wish bad things on her.”
“I’m not wishing anything bad. I’m just saying, if she happens to get startled and falls down the stairs, I’m not going to cry.”
“You can’t cry. You’re a ghost.”
“I cry on the inside,” Bancroft said. “You have to admit, she’s dreadful. Positively dreadful. The woman called in an exorcist to get rid of me.”
“Well, you’re still here.”
“Yes, but it was very uncomfortable. And there are still certain rooms I can’t go in anymore.”
“Well maybe you shouldn’t bang on walls and turn lights on and off at 3am.”
“I’ve got to have a little fun,” Mr. Bancroft said. “I’ve been here for over 100 years.” Mr. Bancroft looked sad. He sat in a chair and sulked. “It’s very lonely, you know. I see people come and go, but I just stay here. And I don’t think this is where I’m supposed to be.”
“Well, you’ve got me.”
Mr. Bancroft smiled.
“And I think, wherever you are, that’s were you’re supposed to be,” I said, with a smile.
“What am I going to do when you leave? That dreadful woman is evicting you. We’ve got to put a stop to that.” Mr. Bancroft stood up, regaining his determination.
“Banksy, I’ve got a week to come up with three months of rent,” I said, desperately.
“Do you want me to help you rob a bank?” Mr. Bancroft asked.
I think he was joking, but I’m not totally sure.
THE EVICTION NOTICE taunted me. A new one was taped to the door every day. Every day, I tore it down. It was Victoria DuMond's subtle way of pouring salt in the wound.
On the contrary, Mr. DuMond had been very understanding of the situation. I’ll never forget the day I spoke with him. I was crying my eyes out in a panic, telling him what was happening with my mother. He was very calm and reassuring, and simply said, “It’s not a big deal. Pay the rent when you can. Everyone falls on hard times. You’ll get back on your feet, and when you do, we’ll settle up.”
I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned. Overjoyed. Mr. DuMond believed in people. Something you don’t see a lot of anymore. But when he died, so did our arrangement. I think the first thing Victoria DuMond did after Mr. DuMond died was look at the books. She immediately demanded all of the back rent.
It wasn’t like she needed the money. The DuMond fortune was rumored to be close to a billion dollars. It made no sense that she raised everyone’s rent. It only made everyone loath her more.
I crumpled up the eviction notice and threw it in the trash. The thought of making a good luck charm and hitting the roulette tables in Baltic City sounded rather appealing. But too many things could go wrong. The way things were going, any charm I made could bring bad luck. And I already had enough of that. Most of the casinos in Baltic City are run by the mob. Definitely not a group that you want pissed off at you.