Someone in the House

Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels Page A

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Authors: Barbara Michaels
aside and sat down on the edge of the bed. Her face was ashen. “Anne, it’s me. Are you all right? What happened?”
    Something froze my tongue. It wasn’t bravado or strength of will, it was the sight of Kevin standing by the bed, his eyebrows drawn together in a frown. He was wearing pajama bottoms—out of deference to Bea, I supposed—and one hand was raised to his cheek.
    “You tell me what happened,” I said feebly. “I don’t remember.”
    “Thank God.” Bea’s body sagged forward. “I mean—thank God you can talk. I was afraid of concussion. That statue couldn’t have missed you by more than six inches. It was criminal carelessness to leave it just standing on the pedestal, it ought to have been anchored.”
    “I hope I didn’t break it,” I mumbled.
    Bea laughed unsteadily. “My dear child, it’s marble, and weighs over two hundred pounds. You are the one who might have been broken. Are you sure?…” Her hands fluttered toward me.
    I rubbed my forehead. “I must have hit my head when I fell. It’s a little sore, but there’s no blood.”
    “Thanks to that Orphan Annie mop of yours,” Kevin said. His stern look had relaxed. He lowered his hand to display an angry red spot on his cheekbone. “You hit me, you dirty rat. I shouldn’t have grabbed you up so suddenly. You must have had quite a shock seeing that statue topple toward you.”
    “It was a shock, all right,” I said.
    “I’m still shaking.” Kevin gave an exaggerated shudder. “That damn thing hit the floor with a crash like a howitzer; I was out in the hall before I woke up completely. And seeing you lying there, with the statue practically on top of you…. Don’t do it again, okay?”
    He patted my arm. I bit my lip and managed not to cry out or recoil. His touch made my skin crawl.
    Bea saw my reaction. Her eyes narrowed. “Go back to bed, Kevin. She’s not hurt.”
    “Sure you don’t want me to call a doctor? Okay, then. If you change your mind, don’t hesitate to wake me.”
    After he had gone, Bea ran her hands methodically over me, ending with my head. When I winced she parted my hair and looked closely.
    “It’s not even bleeding. You were very fortunate, Anne—physically, at least. What happened?”
    Her eyes begged for a reassuring lie. I tried to oblige.
    “I went down to get a book. I must have tripped and fallen against—”
    “No.” Bea sighed. “I’d like to believe it. But I saw your eyes when Kevin touched you. It has something to do with the sounds I heard, doesn’t it? Why didn’t you tell me before?”
    “There was nothing to tell. Nothing definite.”
    “Did Kevin hurt you? Attack you?”
    Her face was drawn with anxiety. I let out a harsh croak of laughter.
    “No, honey, Kevin is not a rapist. I wish it were that simple.”
    “Tell me, then. I have to know, Anne.”
    “I’m not sure I can describe it. But I’ll try.”
    My narrative was by no means as precise or smooth as the one I have written. Yet I think my halts and hesitations were even more convincing. Bea listened without interrupting. There was something steadying about her stillness and gravity.
    “I thought it was coming toward me,” I ended. “That broke my paralysis. I must have lurched to my feet and grabbed at the statue to steady myself. I was numb from sitting so long.”
    Bea nodded. “That makes sense. Unless…”
    My mind was so stretched by the uncanny that it was more receptive than normal. I seemed to catch the thought straight from her mind.
    “You mean—it—pushed the statue, trying to mash me? You don’t have to scare me any more, Bea; I’m already gibbering.”
    “I’m not trying to scare you.” Bea smiled faintly. Her face had a Madonnalike calm as she sat, hands quiet in her lap. “I’m trying to keep an open mind. I’m sure the idea is as repugnant to you as it is to me, but we’ve got to face the possibility that what we are dealing with is…”
    “Ghosts,” I said. The word came

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