After her encounter with the ghost, Alex didn’t experience any strange phenomena for the next two days. She also didn’t tell Vanessa about what happened. That would have freaked her out, and she didn’t want to worry her friend more than she already had.
“Lex, I think the guy Dave called just drove up,” Vanessa said.
Alex had been staring out at the backyard gardens. Though she couldn’t see it from the house, she was looking in the direction of the nameless grave. “What guy?” she asked being pulled from her daydreaming.
“The guy who’s going to look at the basement.”
“He’s here? Perfect. Finally, we can go find out what’s down there.” Despite the ghost’s warnings, she wanted to solve this great mystery. If there was something dangerous in the basement, then they would have to figure out how to get rid of it. Besides, if it was an animal, she didn’t want its rotting carcass down there forever.
She ran to the front of the house with Vanessa on her heels to welcome the inspector. He was younger than she’d been expecting and introduced himself as Trevor. Together with John and Dave, the five of them went to the door that led to the basement. It smelled as bad as ever.
“Wow,” Trevor said in disgust. “That’s a strong stench. You weren’t kidding.” That last he directed at Dave.
Dave only shrugged in response.
“You have the key?” John asked.
“Yes, right here,” Alex said pulling it out of her pocket. “I’ll entrust this to you.” She handed the key to Trevor and smiled. “I would have gone down myself, but everyone was vehement in their discouraging.”
“Good thing,” Trevor said returning her smile. “Old houses like these don’t generally have the friendliest basements. Many people get hurt accidentally. Since we don’t want that, I would suggest you don’t come down until it’s been cleared. That goes for you as well,” he added to Vanessa.
“I don’t want to go down there at all,” Vanessa said. “Ever.”
Alex watched Trevor insert the key, holding her breath as she waited for the door to open. She half expected the creature from her nightmares to jump out and kill them all. Of course, it didn’t. There was nothing that came out except a wave of the putrid stench of whatever lay within.
“Go back to your work, ladies. We’ll tell you everything that happens when we’re done,” John promised through his protective face shield.
Fighting back her curiosity, Alex agreed.
“Maybe we can help with doing some weeding in the back,” Vanessa suggested. “That will give us plenty to occupy our time until they emerge from the unholy depths.”
“Unholy depths?” Alex said with an amused snort.
“It’s an appropriate name. Are you going to join me outside or what?”
“Well, it’s that or driving myself insane sitting in front of this door.” She scrunched her nose at that. “Considering the smell, I choose your idea.”
“Gee, thanks,” Vanessa said, rolling her eyes.
They worked in the gardens making absent small talk that neither cared about. Both were equally eager to know what was happening in the basement. So, after a couple hours passed and Helen came out to say the men were finished, they practically tripped over each other in their rush back inside. They found the three men sitting at the table in the dinning room each holding a cup of coffee under his nose.
“Ah. That’s so much better,” Dave sighed as he inhaled deeply the scent of the coffee.
“That bad down there?” Alex said taking a seat across from them. She was somewhat surprised the stench hadn’t clung to them too horribly. If anything, they smelled minorly of dust and old, stuffy spaces.
“Well, it wasn’t too bad, actually,” Trevor said. “There were just a few spots where the smell was strong. Thankfully, no one threw up.”
“Not yet,” Dave said looking a bit green.
Alex felt bad for him, but she wanted to know what they’d discovered. “So?” she asked leaning forward. “What did you find?”
“Well,” Trevor said taking a sip of the coffee. “Let me start by stating it was filthy.”
“And unfinished,” John added.
Trevor nodded. “Smaller than I thought considering the size of this place. There were plenty of dead rodents and insects down there. A dead snake, too, surprisingly enough. Though I guess I can’t blame the poor creature for taking advantage of an easy prey source. Lots of feces. We also found some items stored down there that had probably been there since this house was built.” He glanced at Alex’s questioning expression and continued. “Papers, mostly. None of them legible.”
“Except for those blueprints,” John said pointing to a roll leaning against the wall.
“I felt like we were being watched,” Dave said glumly. “Like we weren’t wanted down there.”
Trevor nodded. “That’s not unusual in places like this, Dave. Though I’ll admit, it was creepier than normal down there, that’s for sure.”
“Did you open the blueprints?” Vanessa asked eyeing them curiously.
“Only briefly,” John admitted. “We could open them now if you’d like.”
Alex stood up and grabbed them before anyone else could even think of moving. She unrolled them with John’s help. “Wow. These are the original plans? It’s amazing!”
“Hmm,” John grunted. “Look at this.”
“What is it?” Vanessa asked trying to peer over Alex’s shoulder.
“That can’t be right,” Trevor said.
“Do you see this?” John said pointing at the page. “This area here is marked out as a part of the basement, but the space actually ends right here.”
“What does that mean?” Alex asked.
“Well,” John said scratching his head, “it could be as simple as the contractor deciding not to bother excavating that space to save some money. Or it could be that a section of the house was sealed up at some point. Either way, these blueprints will help a lot for our renovations.”
Alex glanced in the direction of the basement door. “Will we be able to open the wall?”
“Perhaps. But not right away. There’s a lot of work that will need to get done.”
“I wouldn’t recommend going down there,” Trevor added looking directly at Alex. “I can see that you want to. Don’t.”
Vanessa laughed at her. “You just met, and he already knows you so well.”
She glared at Vanessa. “Fine. I won’t go down. But you can’t stop me from wanting to.”
When everyone had left, Alex went to stand before the basement door. It was locked again, and both John and Trevor had refused to let her keep the key. Vanessa had taken it with her instead. That left her curiosity so much stronger. She wanted to know what it was about the basement that had the ghostly woman so panicked. She was sure it had something to do with the hidden section of the house.
As she was thinking about this, something cold brushed her cheek. Shuddering, she turned slowly to find the ghost standing behind her. The woman looked angry and scared. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
The ghost pointed at the basement.
“They had to go down there,” Alex tried to explain. “Nothing happened. And there wasn’t anything down there except dead animals and their feces.”
The young woman shook her head vigorously. Then she floated over to the table where the blueprints were still spread out. She pointed at the page.
Alex walked over to see that she was pointing at the hidden space. “Something is there?”
The ghost nodded.
Her response was a shake of the head.
“Listen to me. I’ve read the accounts of what happened in this house. Do you know what I found?”
The ghost looked at her, almost curiously.
“Nothing,” Alex said flatly. “Absolutely nothing. No one knows anything. All I found was that you’re the granddaughter of a lord who was kidnapped by a man no one knows, and he locked you away in here before disappearing. Then, one day everyone heard screaming and found you dead. That’s your story.”
The ghost glared at her and pointed at the blueprints again.
“This,” Alex said copying the motion, “doesn’t tell me anything. I want to know the truth. I want to know what happened to you.”
The woman stared at her. She seemed defiant, but then she relaxed in defeat. Slowly, she nodded and motioned for Alex to follow her. She led her to Alex’s bedroom and pointed at one of the dressers.
Alex opened the top drawer. “There’s nothing here.”
Seemingly annoyed, the ghost made a motion as though writing something and then placing it in the drawer. She then looked at Alex expectantly.
“Um,” Alex said in confusion.
With an exasperated expression, the ghost acted out the movement again.
“You wrote something?” Alex asked.
The ghost nodded.
“And put it in the drawer?”
This time the woman seemed satisfied when she nodded.
“Okay. So, where is it?”
The ghost simply pointed down.
Alex immediately understood. “Oh. It’s in the hidden room, isn’t it?” She paused to think of what to do. “I’ll have to get the key from Vanessa. But that still doesn’t help with getting into that part of the house. There’s just a wall.”
Hesitantly, the ghost pointed at herself.
“You can show me how to get in?”
Alex felt excitement at the prospect of what was going to happen, but also dread. The ghost was clearly afraid of something. That did not bode well. Still, she was going to go to the basement and solve this mystery once and for all. “Tomorrow night,” she said to the ghost. “Promise?”
The nod was slow.
It was settled. Now, all Alex had to do was get the key from Vanessa.