Berkley Street Prequel

Chapter 1: Meeting the Andersons

“Now, Carl,” Mr. Anderson said, “could you please refresh my memory as to what your qualifications are for the job at hand?”

“Certainly, sir,” Carl said. He focused his attention on Mr. Anderson rather than the beauty of Mrs. Anderson’s hazel eyes. “You are seeking someone capable of interacting with the dead. I have the ability to do so. I can hear them, I can speak with them. I have worked for the Hancocks in Boston, the Rockefellers in New York, and the Kenyons in Providence. I have successfully communicated with the dead in their homes and succeeded in negotiating peace between the two sides.”

“Peace?” Mrs. Anderson asked. The sound of her voice, delicate and musical, wrapped around him sensually.

“Yes madam,” Carl said, hiding his reaction to her.

“You can’t get rid of them?” Mr. Anderson asked with a frown.

“No sir,” Carl said, shaking his head. “Most of them can be talked into leaving, but there are always some who will never quit a place. It is why I refuse to say I can free a home of the dead. Whether they stay or go, it is upon them. Some can be forced, but they can usually make their way back. And if that happens, it is never pleasant.”

Mr. Anderson frowned. “This is not exactly what I wished to hear, Carl.”

“I am sorry, sir,” Carl said, his hopes crashing. “I will not lie, though.”

Mr. Anderson’s frown slowly changed into a smile, and he nodded. “I would rather it be so. You think you can, what is it, negotiate a treaty of some sort with them?”

“I can only do my best, sir,” Carl said. “And I do not accept payment until a job is complete.”

“I can respect such a policy,” Mr. Anderson said, “but it is unnecessary for us. We are comfortable, in regards to personal funds, so I will pay you upfront. You need to live, sir. When can you start?”

“Tomorrow morning,” Carl said, barely able to contain his excitement. “Tomorrow morning I will begin if the time is good for you.”

“It is,” Mr. Anderson said. “Just be prepared, Carl. Be prepared.”

Chapter 2: In the Kitchen

Carl sat at the servant’s table at the back of the large kitchen. A steaming cup of strong black coffee sat in front of him as did his notebook and pencil.

The giant grandfather clock in the center hallway struck the hour.

Six AM, Carl thought. Sunlight filtered in through the windows over the sink and highlighted the metalwork on the large stove which occupied a great portion of the left wall. The housekeeper stood across the table from him, a tall, beautiful woman in her early fifties.

Elizabeth, Carl reminded himself. Elizabeth Grady.

She looked as though she brokered no-nonsense amongst the staff, and she reminded him of some of the sergeants he had served under. She was, Carl felt certain, extremely competent and respected.

“Mrs. Grady,” Carl said, smiling. “Would you do me the honor of sitting down?”

A flicker of a smile passed her lips, and she nodded her head slightly.

Carl stood up, waited for her to sit, and then he resumed his seat.

“May I ask how long you have been employed by the Andersons?” Carl asked.

“Yes, of course,” she said, her voice carrying only the slightest hint of an Irish accent.

“I have been a member of the Anderson staff since Mrs. Anderson married Mr. Anderson twenty-two years ago. Before that, I was Mrs. Anderson’s maid.”

“When did the Anderson’s move into the house?” Carl asked.

“Nineteen thirty-two,” she replied.

Carl glanced around. “Do you know how old the house is?”

She shook her head. “No, but her bones are old. Long before the war of the rebellion, though not as old as the revolution.”

Carl jotted the information down, looked up at her, and said, “Mrs. Grady, you do not strike me as a woman given to flights of fancy.”

“Indeed, I am not, sir,” she said proudly.

“I will believe you, regardless of how bizarre or queer the story might sound to you in your retelling,” Carl said gently. “So please, do not hesitate to tell me everything.”

“Well, sir,” she said, her face tight, “I must say what I have experienced is disturbing. I’ve children of my own, and I know the sounds they make. Do you understand?”

Carl nodded.

“Good.” she leaned forward and whispered, “There are dead children here, sir. Two at least, perhaps more.”

“Do you know their names?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, fidgeting nervously for the first time. “A little girl, named Eloise. A little boy named Thaddeus. They are not wicked, sir, and I would not see you drive them out.”

“It is not my intention to drive them out of the house,” Carl said reassuringly. “I seek only to establish peace between the living and the dead.”

“Well then,” Mrs. Grady said, “it is not the children to whom you should speak.”

“Who then?”

“Whatever lurks within the root cellar,” Mrs. Grady said, casting a fearful glance at the pantry door. “I don’t let my girls go down into the cellar unless they’re in pairs, and unless a third is at the ladder with a lantern.”

The fear emanating from the woman was palpable.

“Have you gone in the root cellar?” Carl asked.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I try to go myself if something is needed, and I bring Mary with me. She’s the strongest. Occasionally though I am busy, and one of the others accompanies her. But not the cooks.”

“No?” Carl said.

Mrs. Grady shook her head in disgust. “They’re afraid, the cowardly things. Too afraid. Especially after what happened to Emily.”

“What happened to Emily?” Carl asked.

“The things in the root cellar did,” Mrs. Grady said, leaning back in her chair. “You see, Emily would stand in the pantry and mock the girls for their fear. She would mock the things in the root cellar, saying they’ve no power in the light of Christ. I told her, as good a Catholic as I try to be, even I know there are things which the Good Lord does not rein in. And some of those things are in the root cellar.”

“Did she continue to mock them?” Carl said.

Mrs. Grady nodded.

“What happened?”