Authors: Susan Griscom
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Psychics
Maia took Addie’s hands in hers and faced her, the two women looking so much alike they could almost be twins. “Addie, what happened to your dad was hideous. Perhaps we’ll never really know the truth. Your dad wouldn’t want you to live in fear.” Maia paused. “Are you still having nightmares?”
Addie wanted to say no. She didn't want to talk about the nightmares that began ten months ago, after the morning the police came to the door and informed her they’d found the body of her father, Professor Richard MacKenna, in the woodsy area behind their home in upstate New York. It had been two long, agonizing days since Addie and Maia reported him missing. The police called it an accident, claimed a bear attacked him as he walked through the woods. Addie refused to believe them. Something lured him out there—something much more sinister than a bear. No, she would never accept what the police said and she wouldn't rest easy until she knew what happened to him.
Addie lowered her head and sighed. “Yes.”
“I think my nightmares might have something to do with dad’s mur ... I mean, the way dad died.”
“Of course they do. You’re going through a very difficult time. I just wish there was something I could do.”
Addie smiled. “I know. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do. Don’t worry. I’ll beat the nightmares on my own.”
“I know you will. Remember what I said about staying alert, especially tomorrow. I heard you’re going to a campfire on the beach tomorrow night with some of the kids around here. It sounds fun, but just be careful. Oh, by the way, I think Jared is a nice guy.”
Addie tried not to let it bother her when Maia—only eleven years her senior—referred to people Addie’s age as kids. After all, she was twenty-six years old; she and Maia were more like sisters than aunt and niece. Maia was the closest thing to a mother Addie had ever known, though, so she allowed Maia the privilege of treating her like a child once in a while.
“Yes, well, he sort of caught me off guard when he asked me to go. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” she confessed.
Maia glanced at herself in the mirror and fiddled with her hair. “Just go out, have fun. Oh, by the way, did you meet the new lieutenant yet? Nice man, and handsome too.”
Addie nodded and smiled, mostly for Maia’s benefit.
She left the bathroom feeling relieved to find out Chief Thompson hadn’t mentioned anything about her near accident that morning, which meant the man probably wasn’t going to press any charges. Still, she couldn’t get the similarity of the two deaths—her father’s and the dead woman’s—out of her mind. Add to that the mysterious man and she thought she would go crazy. Stepping behind the bar, Addie looked over at the corner table, but he was gone.
Addie walked to her truck after closing up, rummaging through her purse for her keys, wishing she could see better. It was dark on this side of the parking lot. She'd make sure to tell Gerry to replace the light tomorrow. Finally she placed her hand on the little ball connected to her keys, unlocked the door and jumped in. The lights came on immediately, a nice feature Gerry installed not too long ago. She started the truck and the headlights blasted across the lot. She looked up and froze. There he was. He stood on the other side of the gravel parking lot talking to old Bart. He turned and their eyes met. She watched as Bart’s hands flung left and then right as if he were giving directions to several different places, while the mystery man’s gaze remained riveted on her.
Addie wondered what Bart was pointing to and what sort of conversation the two men were having. Sitting in her truck, she realized she held her breath and let it out. She’d have to find a way to quiz Bart about him tomorrow. Bart Calloon hadn’t missed a lunch at the Cliff Hanger since his wife passed away three years ago. Addie was certain he’d be there tomorrow as well.
She revved the truck engine and it roared as she backed out and turned the truck toward the street, skidding a little more than intended. Glancing in the rear view mirror, Addie saw the man listening to old Bart but his eyes were still tracking her.
Addie tossed and turned all night, dreaming of a dark haired man wearing an old beat-up leather coat lying face down on the side of the road. She pulled her truck over and got out to help him. It was just before dark and a thick mist covered the ground, making her steps difficult on the spongy terrain, as if she were walking through a bog. When she got closer to him, he lifted his face up, and frowned. “An evil force has come. A demon lurks.” He raised his hand up in a gesture to stop her.
“What? What evil force?”
“Beware, it follows you now,” he warned, pointing behind her.
She turned, but saw nothing behind her. When she turned back, he was gone.
She awoke with a gasp, exhausted and drenched with sweat. A grey light seeped in through the slits of the white lace kitchen curtain and the tick of the clock droned on the table beside her. It was only seven in the morning. She could sleep for another hour. Settling back on her pillow, she closed her eyes, then quickly opened them, realizing she was freezing. She tugged at the blankets, bunched up half on the floor and the other half tangled up in her legs, and pulled them up, tucking them under her chin. She thought of the man and yesterday’s encounter with him, thought of her nightmares. Something tied them together, why else would she dream about him? No longer interested in sleep, she grasped the locket she wore around her neck—a twenty-first birthday present from her dad, who said it would keep her safe—and held it as she slid out of bed and headed for the shower.
Addie switched on the single light embedded in the middle of the bathroom ceiling and drew back the seashell shower curtain. The water soothed as it flowed down her face and she stayed under longer than normal, hoping to wash away the remnants of her dreams. Stepping out of the tub, she wrapped a towel around her head and another around her body. She stared into the mirror, into her own eyes, searching for some hidden clue, as if the shower had cleared her mind to reveal a reason for the tormenting hell she fell into every night. No such luck.
She turned away from the mirror and remembering the campfire, opted for a pair of jeans instead of the usual black pants. Then, thinking about Darcy’s suggestion, she put on some makeup. Pulling on a pair of black boots, she grabbed a black sweater, rather worn with frayed cuffs, but still her favorite, and hoped that would be enough under her jacket to keep her warm. Campfire or not, it would be downright frigid at the beach.
Why did I agree to go?
Maybe Darcy was right and she should have refused, but it was too late to back out now.
Since she got up so early, she took her time dressing and did a bit more primping than usual. Not feeling hungry, she poured some coffee and stood gazing out the small window above the kitchen sink. She found herself lost in the view of lush hills and the way the trees flanked up the side, each one higher than the first, and thought of mountain lions. Something caught her eye down in the small courtyard next to the parking lot. Ed Lewis, her apartment manager, seemed to be fiddling with a sprinkler or something and glanced up at her window as if he sensed she was there, which sort of gave her the creeps. He waved and Addie found herself waving back. She turned away and shrugged. The guy was probably just making sure she was okay. He really was a sweet little man, always ready to help. Darcy said he was a new manager, much nicer than the old one, and a whiz at fixing things. She’d see him periodically at the Cliff Hanger, having a few beers or eating dinner—usually alone. He kept to himself most of the time and she wondered if he was just shy or preferred the solitude. Considering he was a funny-looking, scrawny little man with unruly wiry-brown hair, she figured not very many women would find him particularly attractive.
She acquired the apartment a month ago when Maia and Gerry started to get serious. Gerry—being the ever overprotective-near-uncle—had been against it. He didn’t like the idea of Addie living alone, but when Addie accidentally walked in on them one night during an intimate moment, he changed his mind. She used a little of the money from the trust fund her father had set up for the first month’s rent. She barely made enough money to get by but vowed to make it on her own without tapping any more of the trust fund. Her newly found independence was important to her; a late bloomer some might say, but she didn’t care.
She headed for the door and looked around to make sure everything was in its place. Her apartment was essentially one room, with a counter dividing the living room from the kitchen. It was small but adequate, all hers, and she loved it.
Thirty minutes later, Addie walked into the Cliff Hanger Bar and Grill, grabbed her apron from its hook, and strolled behind the bar. Gerry turned toward her, grinning.
Addie grimaced at him. “What?”
“Ah now, there you are, don’t you look lovely, Addie.”
Addie turned back toward the register, tying her apron around her waist. “You don’t need to sound so surprised.”
“Sorry, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing you with much makeup before. You’ve always been a beautiful lass, but now you’re ... striking,” he said.
She turned and caught her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. She had to admit, the soft rosy color she’d added to her cheeks did bring out a sparkle in her eyes.
Gerry chuckled as he watched her. “Addison, you’re a beautiful woman, and what makes you more beautiful is, you don't even know it.”
Addie blushed. “Well, I ...”
“Just accept the compliment.” Darcy walked behind Addie. “Gerry’s right.”
“Fuckin’ A, I’m right.” He smiled and opened a bottle of Heineken, setting it on the bar in front of old Bart.
With a sheepish grin, Addie started slicing limes for the cocktails. She remembered her plans to question Bart today, but he and Gerry seemed to be engaged in a long conversation about whether or not the Oregon State Beavers would beat Cal next week. She needed some time alone with Bart so she could ask him about the man he was talking to last night.
Addie searched around the dining area for some sort of distraction that would pull Gerry’s attention away from old Bart.
Jared became her unknowing savior as he poked his head out the kitchen doorway. “Gerry, could you give me a hand with moving these boxes?”
“Sure. Excuse me, Bart, duty calls.”
“No problem, you go right ahead, I’ll just sit here and gaze at this pretty new bartender you have.” He gave Addie a wink.
“Hey, Addie, you look different ... nice,” Jared said, before going back into the kitchen.
“God, I wish everyone would stop making such a big deal about my appearance.”
She stepped over to Bart and leaned in close. “Hey, I saw you talking to a man outside around closing last night. Do you know him?” Her voice was hushed, almost a whisper.
“I might.” He grinned and took a sip of his beer.
Bart was a charming man, not really old, but he referred to himself that way, so people just started calling him old Bart. He had a knack for telling wonderful stories and was always ready to share one.
His deep blue eyes twinkled when he smiled and Addie felt certain he must have been very handsome in his younger years—was still handsome. He had a full head of hair, mostly black with small traces of silver scattered throughout. He wore it long to his shoulders, usually pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck, but today, it hung down in thick, soft-looking waves.
“Well, who was he and what did he want?”
“Oh, he wanted to know if I knew anything about the cliffs we have around here.”
“Why did he ask about the cliffs?” Addie placed her elbow on the bar and her hand under her chin, leaning in closer to hear.
“Oh, well now, you wouldn’t know, would you?”
“No, I guess not. What do you mean?”
Bart told stories with such conviction, you never really knew if they were true or not, and she had a feeling this was going to be a good one.
“You see ... there’s a story of a horrific dark and powerful monster capable of great destruction.”
Yeah, this is going to be good
. Addie straightened her back and listened.
“Well,” Bart went on, “he roams the cliffs at night in search of a powerful crystal, killing anyone or anything in his path. You see,” he wiggled his finger for her to come closer, “the crystal is guarded by the most prestigious member of an ancient secret society. If the monster finds that crystal and kills the protector, he can steal the guardian’s special powers ... probably kill all the other members as well, draining their powers from them, which would give him enough strength to control the entire world. He has slaughtered many over the years. They say if you stand out at the cape, you can hear the dead whispering warnings. Some people claim his last victim’s body washed up on the shore several days after she’d gone missing—mangled beyond recognition. Some say he only appears during a full moon. Others disagree, saying he’s always searching and roaming the cape, taking on many different forms, from a gigantic wolf with demonic features to a humungous bear with claws the size of ten-inch blades and some say—”
“Bart, stop.” Gerry appeared next to Addie, placing his hand under her chin and closing her gaping mouth. “I won’t be having you scaring my bartender with foolish stories. She has enough bad dreams to contend with now.”
“I’ve lived here for nine whole months. Why is it I’m just now hearing about this?” Addie demanded.
“Because, Addie, you’re too susceptible to nightmares. Nobody should be filling your head with this bloody garbage. It’s just an old fable,” Gerry said, giving a stern glance toward Bart.
“Well, I did say it was just a story, now. Some people believe and some don’t.” Bart chuckled.
“Addie, don’t let him scare you,” Darcy chimed in. “That old legend has been around ever since they named this place Whisper Cape. People walk the paths along the cliffs all the time. Nothing bad ever happens to them.”