Authors: Margaret Millmore
What Haunts Me
Ghost Killer Book 1
Copyright (C) 2014 Margaret Millmore
Layout Copyright (C) 2015 by Creativia
Published 2015 by Creativia
eBook design by Creativia (www.creativia.org)
Cover art by http://www.thecovercollection.com/
Edited by: Maxine Bringenberg 2014
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the author's permission.
The author wishes to acknowledge and thank the following people for their invaluable knowledge and assistance: Jim Fassbinder at San Francisco Ghost Hunt; and Tom Stanley and Eric Dooley for their invaluable input.
The author would also like to thank Bryan Millmore for that crazy little dream he had… not to mention his never-ending support.
Have you ever had one of those dreams that haunted you in your waking hours? Those surreal movies of the subconscious, playing out in your head while you sleep, so detailed and vivid that when you woke, you couldn't be sure if it was just a dream or a long lost memory, or a combination of both?
I had one of those recently, but instead of one night, it lasted for several days. Let me explain. I had come down with the flu, an occurrence so rare to me that I could count how many times I'd had it on my opposable digits. This flu came with all the usual insults; runny nose, sore throat, aching head, stomach issues, and of course, a high fever. I was walloped, knocked down, dragged out, and left for dead by this unwelcome siege on my body. All right, perhaps that was an exaggeration on my part, but who could blame me for that? Aside from a few mild colds, I hadn't been this sick since I was child, so I had no real reference point to judge by. Regardless, the illness and fever came with the additional side-effect of very vibrant dreams, making it one of the strangest three days and nights of my life.
When I fully awoke, having been in and out of consciousness for three days, I still had remnants of those dreams lingering in my head, but they wouldn't fully form. They were just bits and pieces. I had impressions of people, some that I'd known throughout my life, and some that I couldn't place, but were somehow familiar. It was these “familiars” that bothered me the most. They shared common traits that made absolutely no sense. They all wore vintage clothing ranging from the late 19
century to the 1980's, and they all wore round-rimmed glasses (think Harry Potter or John Lennon). The feeling that I had been pursuing them was there too, but also that they had been chasing me. All of it left a lingering sensation of fear and anxiety that I couldn't shake.
With the worst of it in the not-so-distant past, I was finally able to get out of bed. I took a much needed shower that helped to clear the cobwebs and set me on the path to complete wellness. After wolfing down two pieces of toast, I slowly began to feel as if all would soon be right in my world. However, the strange images from my dreams wouldn't leave me. They continued to haunt me throughout the day, and I couldn't help but feel that they weren't just dreams, they were real memories, which should have been an indication that all was clearly
going to be right.
* * *
Before we go on, I should tell you a little about me so you know who and what I am…or
, to be more precise. My name is George, I'm thirty-three, and I live in the lovely City by the Bay. Like most people that live here, I'm not from San Francisco…I grew up in the eastern part of Los Angeles County and migrated north after college. My mother, an emergency room nurse at the local hospital, died when I was a young lad, God rest her soul. My dad, was a librarian at the public library, is a great man, who did the best he could with his young, motherless son. When I was accepted into UC San Diego, Dad decided it was time to retire and take his modest public servant pension to Idaho, where the buck would go further, and where he could hunt buck depending on the season. So I went to college, majored in business, and come graduation time, I had no career direction to speak of.
My college roommate was the son of a rather successful San Francisco real estate broker. His father owned a lucrative firm and expected his spoiled progeny to join the ranks after graduation. Mike wasn't inclined to follow in his father's footsteps, but like myself, had no other pending offers. He convinced me that I should come to San Francisco and learn the boring world of residential real estate sales. So I did.
I didn't last long. It was cut-throat, and my co-workers were cruel and greedy and would do anything to undermine you if they could snag your sale. About a year later, along came another opportunity, a real estate development firm that offered a steady paycheck as opposed to a commission based salary. It also offered advancement if I should choose to work hard enough, which I did, and I did well.
I'd learned from my dad that saving money was the key to long term success. We'd never been wealthy, but by the time he retired he had owned our house outright for many years, and he had saved a bundle of cash to cushion his retirement and put me through college. When I came to San Francisco I lived modestly, renting a room in a three bedroom apartment in a not-so-great neighborhood, but the rent was low and allowed me to save most of my disposable income. By the time I was thirty I had enough to make a sizeable down payment on a comfortable one-plus bedroom apartment in a great neighborhood. The price would make anyone but a New Yorker cringe; however, it was a good investment by San Francisco real estate standards and it had parking and laundry, which was the equivalent of winning the lottery around this town.
I admit that I worked too much, generally nine or ten hours a day, six days a week. I did, however, manage to carve out time for my few friends, played a little tennis at the nearby courts, and played softball once a week, weather permitting, at the Presidio. So life was good. It would have been better if I'd had a girlfriend, but all good things in good time. So now you know who I was; I was nothing special, just your normal run-of-the-mill hard working guy.
* * *
Let's get back to why things were not
. Feeling better and slightly adventurous, I decided to go down to the building lobby for my mail. I hadn't picked it up in a few days and thought perhaps I should before the mail carrier left me a nasty message about a full box. My building was old, built in the mid-1920s, and loaded with Art Deco charm and design, and an elevator that was sometimes temperamental. Today it was working, a fact for which I was grateful. I was still a bit weak and not in the mood to hoof it up and down six flights of stairs.
When the doors opened into our ornate lobby, the first thing I saw was a man standing by the Edgar Brandt inspired wrought-iron console table that stood near the mail boxes. He was tall and lean, wearing Harry Potter glasses and looking around in a suspicious manner, as if he knew he shouldn't be there. His neatly tailored brown suit, white shirt, and matching brown tie were impeccable,
old-fashioned. Not that I was an expert on vintage apparel, but I knew a bit about men's fashion, and this was definitely not of recent design. He also had a fedora on, which I thought was odd too. Who wore those these days? The combination hit me hard; he looked like one of the people from my recent dreams.
As I approached the mail boxes, I kept my eye on him…he seemed suspicious. He never looked at me or in my general direction, but as I got closer, he appeared to shrink away just a bit, almost as if he was afraid of me. I felt like I needed to say something—we were the only two people in the lobby—but I couldn't think of what.
When we were just a few feet apart, he nervously nudged his glasses further up the bridge of his nose and scurried down the corridor toward the garage entrance. I waited for the squeaky sound of the door opening and closing, but it never came. With my curiosity peaking, I abandoned my quest for junk mailers and bills and headed down the hallway to see where he'd gone. The corridor only went one place, and that was to the garage, so I was surprised to find it empty.
I decided the building maintenance man must have finally oiled those old hinges and now they were squeak free. To test my theory, I grabbed the door handle and pulled, and the result set my teeth on edge. The hinges screamed loud enough to wake the dead. A little perplexed, but sure there was a rational explanation, I shook my head and headed back to my mail and then up to my apartment.
Now this was where the “not right” part came in. You see, as I was making my way back upstairs, I realized why he looked familiar. I had seen him—or someone very much like him—before, not just in my dreams, but in real life. It was the glasses and the demeanor and the not quite right clothes. These things hit me like a ton of bricks. (I didn't actually get that saying, I think if you were hit with a ton of bricks you'd be dead and wouldn't care anymore, but I digress.) In addition to this revelation, the snap-shots from my flu-induced dreams came to me in rapid-fire, and suddenly my mind began to fill up with memories, but they came to me like a movie…a home movie, to be exact.
The city I grew up in started out in the mid-1800s as a farming community. Agriculture and very slow growth sustained the area until the middle of the 20
century, when it exploded. Several colleges and manufacturing businesses came to call it home. Later, it became a nice little suburb for the LA working crowd. To accommodate this growth, neighborhoods were built, many of which sported Craftsman style bungalows with three and four bedrooms. We lived in one of those. Most of our neighbors were working-class families like mine, and others were old-timers who could still remember the farms and the history of the town's humble beginnings.
There was one particular old fella who'd emigrated from Ireland as a young man. He lived across the street and two doors down. My childhood best friend, Curt, lived next door to him and often mowed his lawn for extra pocket change. I'd help when I could, and as a reward Old Joe's wife, Mae, would give us lemonade on the porch and Joe would tell a story, usually from his homeland, but sometimes from somewhere else. Joe's accent was so mysterious, mostly because our area wasn't a popular destination for immigrants—aside from our neighbors to the south of course—especially from someplace so far off as Ireland. His accent was still thick all those years later, and it lent a sort of mystique to his stories.
One of his favorite stories was about the ghosts that lingered from days past. According to Joe, an accident had occurred at one of the orchards—a fire. The workers couldn't get out in time and several people were killed. You see, they used smudge pots in the winter to keep the citrus trees from freezing. It didn't get that cold in Southern California, but you'd be surprised how many frost filled nights did and still do occur in the depths of the winter months. According to Joe, the perpetrator was a known drunkard and often could be seen taking nips off his flask during the work day. Since it was winter, the staff was limited, but there were still several people working the orchards, making sure the trees were properly prepared to fare the chilliest season. The drunkard had been really laying into his flask on this particular day, and as they began lighting the smudge pots, he somehow managed to tip one over and it caught a wooden cart on fire, which then spread, killing several people before being extinguished. Joe was adamant that the ghosts of the orchard fire still haunted our neighborhood—the orchard in question was now the site of an elementary school a few blocks over, and many of the smaller houses in our neighborhood were initially built for those long ago farm workers.
Not long after Old Joe told that story, I started seeing them, the ghosts of the orchard fire. These people—some men, some women, even a few children—all wore vintage farm clothing, the women in long skirts, while the men wore lace up boots, long pants with braces, and long sleeved shirts, some in denim overalls. Most importantly though, were the glasses. All of them wore the Harry Potter round eyeglasses. I didn't see them all the time or everywhere, but often enough I suppose.
Sometime after that story and the subsequent sightings of the “ghosts,” Curt and I had gone to Bobby Wright's house. He lived on the next block over, and had just received a Nintendo game for his birthday and was anxious to show it off. When we entered the family room of Bobby's house, a bad 1970s addition to the traditional bungalow, complete with shag carpet and faux wood paneling, Camille, Bobby's little sister, was seated on a blanket in the middle of the floor. She was a sweet little girl of two or three, with more than moderate mental retardation. I never knew what specifically plagued her, but I once overheard my mother say that it was some sort of accident when she was an infant. She was surrounded by toys, but instead of playing with them, she simply sat and stared off into nothing, a thin line of drool running down her pink little chin.
While Curt and Bobby were playing a two-player game—I can't remember which one— I wandered over and talked to Camille. I didn't have any siblings, and at the ripe old age of nine, I still thought little babies and toddlers were cute and cuddly. I knew she wouldn't respond, but I tried anyway. At first, like always, she just sat there, but suddenly she reached out to me and in my shock, I reached back, picking her up and putting her in my lap. That's when I noticed the man standing in the corner. He wore dusty pants that weren't quite long enough to conceal his lace-up work boots, and a worn cotton shirt and braces. He was staring at little Camille with a sinister scowl on his face. Don't ask me why, but I knew the clothing was circa 1900; more importantly, he was wearing the round Harry Potter glasses (I thought John Lennon back then…after all, there was no Harry Potter when I was that age, but you get my drift).
Camille was looking in his direction, but I don't think she actually saw him. I do think she felt him though, and for some reason, I knew that I was the only one that
see him. I wasn't scared. I don't know what I was, but I gently put her down and walked toward him, grabbing a plastic toy golf club that was leaning against the couch as I went. When I was close enough, I jabbed him and he disappeared in a swirling grey mist. Turning around again, I saw that Camille was sitting contently on her blanket, and Bobby was waving me over to play my turn.
A few minutes later we were interrupted by Camille, who'd crawled over to us, demanding the attention of her older brother. She was a perfectly normal toddler; whatever had plagued her had disappeared along with the apparition. At that moment, I knew that I had saved her, but from what? And where had that memory been all those years? More importantly, why was I so positive that they
memories and not part of the previous days'/nights' dreams?
That memory faded and another one hit me just as hard. I was in college and a bunch of my buddies and I had gone to Coronado for the weekend. Coronado was on a peninsula located approximately five miles from downtown San Diego, connected to the mainland by a ten mile isthmus, and was considered an affluent resort city. It also happened to house a large and active naval base, and the famously haunted Hotel del Coronado.