Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Ruby's Letters - Excerpt
Emma and her men are working in an old Brooklyn Heights brownstone when she breaks through a hundred-year-old brick wall used to close up a fireplace. Ever since then, strange things start to happen...
“Okay, lunch is over, guys. I’d like to get this liner done before we call it a day.”
Emma took a swig of her coffee and tossed the remains of her salad into the trash. “In the meantime, I’m going to check the cellar coal bin to see what repairs that needs.”
“You want me to go?” Mike asked.
“No, I’ll check it out. Bart might need you up on the roof. He was having trouble with the winch earlier.”
Throwing her empty coffee cup into the trash, Emma made her way down the steps that led to the bottom-most floor.
Halfway down the stairs, the moldy air enveloped her. It was eerily quiet, except for the distant shouts of the working men and music.
As soon as her booted foot touched the dirt floor, goose bumps rose on her arms as she made her way over to the coal bin.
The room was mostly dark, the only light coming from the open hatch facing the street. She scanned the area with her flashlight. The room was the same size as the floors above, but since there were no interior walls, it seemed much larger. It was empty save for a few bits of coal and a stray broken chair and table. The cinderblock walls were a dingy gray and cobwebs hung in dramatic display.
Emma had been in hundreds of these cellars and never felt like this, her heart pounding, short shallow breaths. She scolded herself for being so silly.
A musky scent filled the room.
The aroma was rather pleasant, but the feelings it produced were not. The hair stood up on the back of her neck. Someone reached out to touch her.
She spun around.
She fell back with a heavy thud, her breathing shaky and rushed. “Mike? D-d-did you c-c-call me?”
No one answered.
Her body trembled as she rose from the earth. That voice hadn’t been a male’s voice, but a soft urgent whisper, distinctly female.
Swallowing hard, she leveled the flashlight again and aimed it at the bin.
“Stop it!” Emma cried. “C’mon guys, this isn’t funny.” Again no one answered. She listened closely and could hear her guys off in the distance.
“I swear, Ryan, if you’re doing this to get back at me for not turning over that newspaper, I will end you!”
Determined to get her job done, she turned back to the coal bin. She checked the mortar joints, noting they looked in need of pointing. She jumped back. Something rolled towards her. She cried out, but her cry turned into a self-mocking laugh as a mouse ran against the wall. The squeaking sound it made was oddly comforting.
Feeling much better, she continued her task. This will teach me to watch Ghost Hunters right before bedtime. She had no idea why Mrs. Morris would want to restore this old coal bin. It’s unlikely anyone would ever come down here. It would make for a good place for a wine cellar or maybe a place to store wood. If Mrs. Morris could manage to keep this place cool and dry, it would season the wood very nicely.
Her rodent friend let out a loud, painful squeal before it darted into the darkness.
Emma jumped to her feet, the air around her closing in, turning to ice. She could see her gasps of air, like puffs of smoke leaving her body and fading into the room. Gripping her flashlight, she once again scanned the room. The light flickered and died. How was that possible? She had only changed the batteries that morning.
She struggled to breathe. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a red mist. Despite the dim light, it glowed. It spread from a small orb, to take up the whole corner of the room.
Frozen with fear, she willed her legs to move, but they remained motionless. What is that? What’s happening? Every cell in her body worked on achieving one goal . . . getting out of there.
With all the strength she possessed, she forced her legs to move. Emma turned to run, but a dark figure blocked her way. She screamed.
“Hey, are you okay, boss lady?”
Emma wanted to weep at the sound of Carlos’s concerned voice. Her flashlight flickered on, the air grew warmer and the red mist disappeared.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” she answered, though her panting and pounding heart begged to differ. She couldn’t remember the last time her body shook so violently.
“Are you sure? You screamed when you saw me. I admit I make womans scream, but only inside the bedroom.”
Never in her life had she been so happy to hear his crude remarks. “I know, it’s just this house. I guess finding that body is making my imagination run wild.”
“You can use your imagination with me anytime.” He winked.
She smiled slightly. “I’m sure your wife would love to hear that.”
“You could tell her, but she will no believe you. She thinks I am—how do you say—perfection?”
Knowing full well Carlos would die without his Elisa, she simply nodded. “Close enough.”
His face grew serious and he put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Do you want I should check the bin myself?”
She shook her head. “I can do this. I was just being silly.”
“It is not bad to ask for help, boss lady.”
“I know. I’ve been told that before.” She licked her suddenly dry lips.
He groaned. “Oh, don’t lick your lips like that.”
Emma let out a pent-up laugh and shooed him from the cellar. The odd feelings and cold were gone, but she still finished as quickly as she could. Even though she couldn’t see him, she was certain Carlos hovered nearby.