I unknowingly dropped the sharp art utensil, and quickly picked the book up from the ground. It was bound in black, worn, leather and the pages were yellowed. It was entitled: The Hidden Doctrine. There was an odd symbol on the cover similar to a Greek letter. The initials underneath read A.P.
I brushed away the dirt then shined my light on the pages. Along with much text there were symbols, hexagrams, illustrations of demons, what looked to be instructions on how to do spells and rituals throughout.
I swiftly stepped out of the triangle to leave the cavern. A noise came from behind, echoing throughout the room as if something had fallen from the ceiling, a rock maybe.
I turned around, shining the beam and saw the grisly features of the women giving me their lipless smiles and sunken faces. At first, I thought the sound was rats but saw slight movement in the darkness against the back wall.
I moved the beam to that area of the rocky wall, and it stirred and shifted. The stone swelled, taking shape. Two eyes became visible out of the rock, glaring at me. I saw the whites of the eyes and black irises. The shape on the wall took a 3-D, frieze-like effect and a face became defined, the irises clearer. Its head was tilted down, but it looked up at me. An entire black figure, roughly six-foot tall, stepped out of the solid rock, two horns protruding from its head.
Wasting no more time I immediately turned, running down the dark corridor with the book in one hand and the flashlight in the other. My footsteps rang loud in the tunnel as I ran upward on the slope of the path paying no attention to the rats at my feet. Not once did I look behind. The light from the basement ahead made its way through the dark corridor as a glimmer of hope.
I stepped back into Sandy’s art studio in the basement, put the flashlight and book on the floor and pushed the brick door to the passage forward until it shut completely. The brick wall was back in place, blocking the entrance.
I scanned the room for something to put against the wall. The large wooden table in the center of the room. I gathered strength and shoved the large, heavy table against the brick wall as its legs skidded loudly against the cement floor.
I picked up the book and flashlight and ran out of the studio shutting the heavy, wooden, door to the room behind me. Remembering there were a few unused padlocks in the enclosed back porch, I ran upstairs to fetch them. I left the book and flashlight on the kitchen table and stepped onto the enclosed back porch. The padlocks were lying on a small table, the keys on a ring next to it.
I darted back down to the basement, put one lock in the latch of the wooden door to Sandy’s art studio, locking it. I then ran back upstairs to the first floor slamming the basement door. I securely fastened that door with the other padlock then added both keys to my personal key chain.
I sat the sanctuary, in the white wicker chair to catch my breath, realizing what I’ve uncovered beneath the house. Elena was right, she warned me. The house is bad. The hand in the closet in the attic, the black formless mass that hovered in Sandy’s room upstairs, and the spirits of the dead women, it was all real.
Most people would just go to the police about the three dead women in the basement. Let them handle it right? No, that would prevent me from continuing my search for Sandy. The cops in Ravensgate are not even handling Sandy’s case right. I decided to go to the authorities on the dead bodies later.
I needed to know what’s going on first with what happened to Sandy. Although the corpses in the basement freaked me out, it’s not scaring me enough to move out of the house or leave Ravensgate.
I put some pieces together. Sandy sculpted three busts of three women. I looked at the bust on the table next to the grandfather clock. She was the first woman with the dark hair I saw walking in the hall upstairs the other day.
I stepped into the living room, studying the bust on the fireplace mantle next to the large painting of the house. Her head off to the side, she was the one with the auburn hair that led me to the basement, showed me the bodies.
I went into the dining room and looked at the white marble bust on the end table. She had a different expression than the other two. Her hair was short and resembled the silhouette of the girl that walked past the circular window in the attic.
Sandy knew something. These sculptures were of real women, the dead ones under the house. Could the three dead women in the basement have something to do with the previous owners of the house, Manuel and Elise Hall?
I sat back on the couch in the living room and fell asleep from exhaustion. It was almost noon the next day when my eyes opened. Groggily, I put on a pot of coffee. Sitting at the kitchen table were the weird book and flashlight were, I remembered Dale Ortman told me that Elise lived at St. Mary’s orphanage as child.
I retrieved my laptop and searched for St. Mary’s Orphanage on the web while drinking coffee. It was in the next county over just as Dale said, in a town called Dartmouth. The orphanage had an interesting history, built in 1909 and caught fire about fifty years ago, many children were burned alive but some survived when the fire was extinguished.
I called the number listed online to see what information was available and was directed to Catholic Children’s Services. From there I was able to talk to someone from St. Mary’s. I told the woman on the other end that I wanted information on public records about a child that lived there in the past. She said that information wasn’t available over the phone so I would have to pay a visit. I made an appointment for later that day in the afternoon.
I put the book I found beneath the house in my black book bag and brought it with me as I took a drive along the expressway to the city of Dartmouth.
The afternoon sky was dull and gray. I remembered the decayed faces of the three women under the house and the demonic figure that stepped out of the wall.
My disturbing thoughts were interrupted my cell phone, it was Karl Lansley. He wanted to touch base and told me that Beverly was preparing for the psychic reading of my house. He wanted to talk in more detail over steak.
I informed Karl that something strange happened but chose not to tell him the details of my encounter in the cellar yet. We arranged to meet the next night in Ravensgate at 8:00.
The drive was about an hour before entering Heritage County and wasn’t long before I reached St. Mary’s, a large, reddish-brown building. It was three stories high and reminded me of a school.
The property was surrounded by a black, metal fence. A statue of the Virgin Mary rested on the freshly cut front lawn and there were instances of stain glass windows along the building. A cross hung above the entrance of the door.
The laughter of children was heard on the right side of the building. Little girls and boys played in a small area containing a jungle gym and slide.
I parked along the street, entered the black gates and walked down the long walkway toward the building. A tall, slender, nun stood in the front doorway, her back to me, holding the door open. She spoke to someone inside and wore a conservative skirt and jacket but no habit. Her straight, long, dark brown hair reached her lower back. She turned her head, hearing me approach, and gave an inviting smile. She was in her early thirties, blue eyes and pretty.
“Hello,” she said, as I came closer. “Can I help you?”
Her voice was soft and feminine. I introduced myself and mentioned my appointment.
“Yes, I spoke with you over the phone. I’m Sister Victoria, follow me.”
She led me down a long hall, my reflection visible in the spotless floor. They probably made the children scrub it until their knuckles were raw. Roman Catholic images adorned the corridor along with portraits of saints, priests and nuns, probably ones who used to work there.
At one point on the wall was a large bronze crucifix, four-foot high, and on it a well sculpted Jesus.
We entered a small room, the obvious administrative department. There were four wooden desks and a top of each were antique computers; the monitors large and bulky. Another, older, wrinkled nun, sat at one desk.
“Mother Superior,” Sister Victoria said as she walked to the desk. “This is Cole Mendoza, he has an appointment with us today.”
“Mr. Mendoza, please sit down,” Mother Superior said dryly, making no eye contact as she typed. She opened the palm of one hand directing me toward the chair.
Mother Superior stopped what she was doing, and Sister Victoria sat at another desk at the back of the office and started working at her giant, vintage computer monitor. The chair squeaked as I sat down in front of Mother Superior’s desk.
“When was the last time your computer network had an upgrade?” I asked.
“Our computers are old but work just fine Mr. Mendoza… so, what brings you to St. Mary’s this afternoon?”
“I’m looking for records on a child that was raised here about thirty years or so years ago. A girl.”
“Do you think you are by any means related to this person?”
“No, I’m not.”
“May I ask then for what particular reason you’re searching for information on her?”
“I’m doing research on Ravensgate and of some of the people used to live there. I was led to believe that one particular person was admitted here as a child.”
“Do you have any documentation with the woman’s name on it? A marriage license or something of the sort?” she asked.
“No, I don’t”
“What’s the name of the child?”
“Elise. Singleton was the adopted last name. I don’t know the last name from birth,” I said.
Mother Superior’s demeanor changed, she paused then began to type away on the archaic machine. Only after a few seconds she stopped and spoke.
“I’m sorry, there’s no information that such a person by that name was ever admitted to St. Mary’s,” she said.
“Are you positive?” I responded.
“Yes, Mr. Mendoza, I am. Even If such a person were admitted here, there’s no way of possibly knowing. You see, there was a fire here many years ago long before we began storing information on computers. Many of the files we’re burned and along with them any knowledge contained.”
“I understand, but this is very important, maybe there’s another way…”
“There’s nothing we can do for you. Now then, I have a lot of work to do and I wish you a good day.”
“Isn’t it possible that other records exist at some other location or…?”
“Good day Mr. Mendoza,” Mother Superior replied with an increased tone and eyes glued to the computer screen.
That went well, I thought. I said nothing as I left my seat and headed for door. Sister Victoria looked at me with her pretty blue eyes and waved good-bye as I walked past her desk. I smiled back. Too bad Victoria was nun.
Somewhere along the expressway back to Ravensgate it dawned on me. Mother Superior said a fire burned the records. The information online said that the fire happened fifty years ago. According to Ortman, Elise was a resident there about forty years ago, after the fire. Her files couldn’t have been burned because the fire took place before she was admitted. Either Dale Ortman, the internet, or Mother Superior was lying.