Published by Flame Tree Press on October 6, 2018
Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead... she doesn’t intend to stay that way.
I am really glad I am on the tour today, I was not able to read the book in time but I will be sharing my thoughts on this at a later date, which I am excited and nervous
One Night in October
The floorboards creaked as Candace crossed the room.
She caught and held her breath, then kept walking slowly, one careful foot at a time. Tentatively. Just like the rest of the house, this room was mostly dark. She worried with every step that something would run across her bare toes. Why had she worn sandals? A muffled red light warmed the far wall near the baseboard. Maybe warmed was the wrong word. The light from the hidden lamp didn’t warm, it bled up the wall from the floor. Nearby, just barely illuminated by the lamp, a woman lay prone, unmoving on a crimson velvet duvet. She wore a frilly white nightgown, which was spotted in dark splats. The reason was obvious.
Someone had slit the woman’s throat. The murder weapon lay nearby on the floor, the knife’s silver blade coated in dark red. A spray of blood bled down the wall beside her in visual opposition to the light that bled up the wall. It was a study in opposites…the only constant was the color.
She could see it everywhere. Pools on the floor. Spots on the walls. The room was dripping in red.
Candace shivered. What had happened here?
The house was disturbing as hell. They’d gotten that part right.
Something tapped her shoulder. Candace jumped.
Sara and Briana stood behind her grinning.
“What the hell!” Candace said. “Don’t do that.”
“Isn’t this place awesome?” Sara asked.
“There’s so much blood,” Candace whispered.
“That’s what makes it awesome,” Briana said. “And they got the color right too; it doesn’t just look like red paint.”
Candace shivered. “It’s horrible,” she said.
Sara laughed. “Scaredy cat. Don’t you want to reach out and touch someone? Like the witch?” She pointed at the bloody body lying by the door.
“No,” Candace said. “It looks too real.”
“Maybe it is real,” Briana said. Her hands gestured dramatically. “You’ve heard the stories. Maybe this really is a slaughterhouse, and the whole haunted house thing is just a cover. Can you guess what’s really going on down those creepy stairs in the basement?”
“You guys are mean,” Candace said.
“You think so?” Briana said. A wicked smile stole across her face. “How about if we let you finish the house on your own? That way you’ll get the full effect!”
“No,” Candace said. Her voice took on a note of panic. “You wouldn’t do that to me.”
Sara grabbed Briana’s hand and pulled her past the dead body and through the door into whatever horrors the next room held. “Sure, we would,” her voice echoed.
Candace raced after, but they were already gone from the next room when she passed through the threshold…and she didn’t know which way they’d gone. This room offered two choices of exit. A sign rested crookedly on the wall with an arrow pointing at the stairs leading down and out of sight. ‘Don’t Go In The Basement,’ it read. The words looked as if they’d been painted freehand, in blood, with a very wet brush. A figure dressed in a black cape and holding a long scythe detached itself from the wall near the basement stairs and began moving toward her.
A second staircase was on the other side of the room, but this set of steps led up. It too was flanked by a sign with drippy red letters, this one reading simply ‘Exit’.
Candace debated between the two. But only for a moment, as the reaper was between her and the stairs leading down. She began climbing the stairs leading up. ‘Exit’ was exactly what she wanted at this point.
The room at the top was strangely bare. The first thing she saw was the raw plank ceiling, with the beam crossing the room to form the center of the peak’s A frame. The next thing she saw was the rope tied to that beam. It ended in a hangman’s noose just a few feet from the floor. The loop at the end was swaying slightly.
Candace shivered. At least there wasn’t a body hanging from it. But why was it moving?
Something creaked to her left. The hair stood up on the back of her neck. Candace turned to look, but saw nothing. There was an old bureau there, with an oval mirror attached above it. The mirror was cracked. And it blocked her view of whatever was in the narrow end of the room beyond. Probably someone in costume waiting to jump out at her. In a rare moment of bravery, Candace decided to beat the haunted house people at their own game. She stepped around the dresser, prepared to confront someone in a gory ghoul mask.
There was nobody there.
The hair on the back of her neck began to tingle. The small space behind the dresser was a dead zone. A shuttered window marked the wall, but otherwise…the space was empty.
Candace walked to the window, and lifted the wooden shutter slats by an inch. The window looked out on the cemetery. Even in the dark, she could see the tombstones of Bachelor’s Grove in silent rows below.
Something creaked again.
She dropped the shutter and started to turn.
But someone grabbed her shoulders and gripped them tight. She struggled, but couldn’t turn.
“Wha—?” she began to cry.
And then a hand covered her mouth and yanked her whole body backward.
Candace slapped and punched at her captor, but her hands couldn’t make contact. The arms only tightened around her and dragged her off her feet.
Her upper body suddenly lowered. Her feet thumped down a few inches, and then her head was below the level of her toes.
She stopped struggling then and finally understood what was going on. There was a hole in the floor.
Or rather…a trapdoor.
That had been the creaking sound she’d heard. Someone coming up and through the door.
She had figured out one piece of this puzzle, but it was too late to matter.
Candace tried to scream as her head dropped down another stair below the level of the floor. A moment later, her feet dragged afterward, cracking painfully down the steps to follow her.
Her heels bounced off wood at least eight or ten times, and then the thumping stopped, and she was dragged across a floor.
She should not have walked around the bureau. Because now she had literally disappeared behind it. Maybe forever. This couldn’t be part of the haunted house attraction gimmick.
Something cold touched her wrist, and then clicked. The hands abandoned her for a moment, and Candace twisted her body until she could see the chain that now locked her to an old steel bedframe. A few feet away, she heard the creaking sound again.
The trapdoor had lowered once again.
Nobody above would have any idea where she’d gone. If Briana and Sara came back to look for her, they wouldn’t find a clue.
Candace opened her mouth to scream, but almost as soon as she made a sound, a hand closed solidly over her lips. The hand was cool and firm.
Her captor whispered softly.