What do you do when you find out the man of your dreams may just be a creature out of a nightmare? That's what Ryan must decide when he invites Adrian to be his housemate.
He heard it again. An agonized scream coming from somewhere down the hall.
The first time it happened Ryan was certain it was part of some horrible nightmare whose details he couldn't remember. Still, feeling stupid but not wanting to take a chance that might have been real, he called the police. They came, searched the house from cellar to attic then told him in no uncertain terms that he was the only one in the house besides his cat, Constable.
"And no sign of forced entry," the lead officer said. Then he'd grinned knowingly. "Of course it could have been a ghost. Old houses are supposed to have them you know."
"And secret rooms and graves in the basement. Yeah, yeah. Trust me there's nothing like that here, including ghosts," Ryan had replied sarcastically. Not the best way to make friends with the cops he'd realized seconds later when the office scowled at him before turning on his heel and leaving with his partner right behind him.
So the next time Ryan had heard the scream—two days later—he went on his own search, starting with the other bedrooms along the hallway. There was no sign that anyone had gone into any of them since the cops had been there. He could tell because a fine layer of dust covered the furniture. Meaning I'd better get out the dust mop. Or not. I don't use these rooms, or half the others in the house, so why bother for a bit of dust?
The house was large. Much too large for one person. But he'd inherited it when his aunt had died at the ripe old age of ninety-five. Since he'd been about to be kicked out of his apartment for non-payment of rent, he'd figured he could do worse than move into a place that wouldn't cost him a dime. Especially since along with the house he'd also gotten a fair amount of money. It was being held in trust—doled out sparingly by her lawyer—but it was enough to keep him in food and pay the utilities if he was frugal.
The third time he'd heard the scream he searched again with the same results. Whoever or whatever was causing it hadn't shown their face. He was beginning to wonder if it was his imagination. Or—best case scenario—there was air in one of the ancient water pipes and the sound of it escaping just seemed like a scream.
That had been two days ago. Now it was happening again. With a sigh, and a grumbled, "Can it, would you?" he rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.
* * * *
Adrian pounded his fist into his open hand in frustration. What the hell will it take to make him move out? Do this every damned night?
He paced back and forth, tempted to scream again out of pure frustration. He wanted the guy gone. This was his house, not some ne'er-do-well punk's who thought he'd fallen into the gravy. Nope, wrong way to put it. Was riding the gravy train? Yeah. Whatever. It was still his home and the fact the man had inherited it wasn't fair. Not at all.
He knew he could enter the man's mind and order him to leave. But that would be tantamount to treating him like a slave. That he was unwilling to do under any circumstances. Ever.
"If only Ms Abigail had other family," he grumbled. "Some nice old-maid sister or niece who would take care of the place. But no-o-o she didn't, and so she willed it to what's his face. The out-of-work… punk. Ryan whatever."
Twenty-to-one he doesn't know which end of a broom to use, if he even knows what one is. And a vacuum or a dust rag… Of course I could do some cleaning I guess, but then he'd know I was here. Not good. Not at all.
Adrian glared at Ryan's closed bedroom door, tempted to open it and shout "Boo". He resisted only because he really didn’t want the guy knowing he had a housemate. Instead he went back to the windowless room hidden behind the wall at the end of the hallway.
He'd helped built the house, and secretly put in the wall—which shortened the length of the second floor by eight feet—just before the Civil War. It was his wedding home, and as a stationmaster for the Underground Railroad he needed a place to house the escaped slaves who made it to the town of Kennett Square until they could safely continue their journey north to Canada and freedom. He'd done such a good job with it—and with the stairs that led from the room down to two secret entrances in the basement of the house—that to this day no one had found them. Now he resided in the room—as he had since his 'death'. At night he took advantage of the rest of 'his' house, either visibly or cloaking his presence as the situation warranted.
The house had remained in the family to this day. Fifty years ago Ms Abigail inherited it when her parents had died. She was the stepdaughter of Adrian's son Michael, who had had no children until his second marriage. And those children were only his because he'd adopted them after marrying the widowed Mrs Bella Connors. Adrian had died before Michael was two and the ownership of the house had passed on to Adrian's wife, and then to Michael when he was of age, thus remaining in the possession of the Devoe family until Ms Abigail willed it to Ryan, who was her nephew by way of her sister, Michael's other, younger, stepdaughter.
I suppose he's family too, damn it. Even so, he has to go.