I introduced my friends, and myself to Addison.
“Oh, so you’re Nancy?” She said.
She had short brown hair, and was wearing a purple hoodie and blue jeans.
“Yes, I am. It’s nice to meet you in person.”
“Same here.” She replied.
There was an awkward moment of silence before Addison spoke.
“Soooooo, what’s this about your mom locking you in the crypt, Jess?”
Jessalyn explained our situation to Addison, from her disappearance, all the way up to my call.
“Ok, first of all – woah. Second, what exactly are you going to do?”
Uh…I had no Idea. Capital N, followed by a capital O. N-O idea.
I’m really tired. Does it show?
“I think the only thing we can do is look for Clara.” Ned said. “And hope she doesn’t have any other tricks up her sleeve.”
“You’re right, Ned.” I said. “We’ll just have to find her and hope for the best, I guess…”
“Good plan – very precise.” Addison said, a healthy dose of sarcasm in her voice.
We started back to Thornton hall.
We had all just stepped onto Thornton hall’s front porch, when Colton rushed up to us.
“Jessalyn?! You’re b-back?! Where have you-”
Jessalyn came up to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
“I’ll explain everything later, Colton. But, I just want you to know that, as far as I’m concerned, the wedding is off.”
“Is it wrong for me to feel relieved?”
“Well…no. I want us both to marry for love – not because our parents want us to.”
“I’m glad that’s all cleared up.”
He shifted his weight awkwardly.
“So, uh…what are y’all doing?” He asked.
Once again, Jessalyn told the whole story, from start to finish.
I was getting so familiar with the story that, by the time I got back home, I was able to recite the entire story without leaving out a single detail.
Colton whistled. “Wow. I knew your mom was, you know, a little wierd – but that’s crazy!”
“So, are you going to help us look for her, or are you busy…standing?”
“No, I think I can re-schedule that. Just tell me what to do, and I’m on it.”
“Maybe we should split up.” I said.
We all agreed that it wold be the best way to cover the entire house – and basement.
“I call Nancy!” Ned said.
“Let’s go, Addison! Jessalyn said.
Addison, who was currently standing beside Harper, hurried over to Jessalyn’s side.
“Well, would you like to come with me Colton?” Wade asked.
“Well, blondie, I guess that just leaves you and I.” Harper said.
Bess rubbed the back of her neck, laughing nervously.
I could tell that Harper still creeped her out.
Harper and Bess were going to search the basement, Colton and Wade were going to search the grounds nearby, Jessalyn and Addison were going to search the 1st floor, and Ned and I were going to search the 2nd floor.
We parted ways and began our seperate investigations.
Wade and I were outside, searching the porch and the grounds surrounding Thornton hall.
This was the 2nd search party we’d had that day! It was weird…
“What drives a person to do things like this?” I said to myself.
Wade must have heard me, for in a moment he answered.
“It’s in her blood.” He said, looking around searchingly.
I raised an eyebrow.
“So, does that mean Jessalyn has some sort of secret dark side that I don’t know about, too?”
Wade smiled. I think that was the first time I’d ever seen him do that.
“No. Are you familiar with the idea that the Thorntons have always been split in two?”
I walked past the brush concealing the building where Charlotte had died.
“I’ve heard of it. I guess your kinda like the Jedi and the empire, huh?”
Wade followed me from behind.
“…Uh, you could say that…I guess.”
We walked through the overgrown grass, and over the mud puddles. Or, at least, I stepped over the mud puddles…I chose a bad day to wear a suit.
We stepped onto the porch of the half-burned building. As I did, a plank below me broke.
“Get used to it. This whole place could collapse at any moment.”
I pulled my foot up out of the hole in the wood, and cautiously entered the building, testing boards with each step.
I looked around. The room was small and dark, and shadows seemed to silently creep around every corner.
“Well, Clara’s not here.” I said.
“But I think she was.” Wade answered, pointing to the floor boards.
I stooped down to look at the place he had indicated.
“Heel marks.” Wade said.
“Apparently, her high heels punctured the less-sturdy of the boards.” I reasoned. “Not that that helps us at all…”
“C’mon, let’s go look somewhere else.” Wade said, as he stepped out the doorway.
I followed him out and down the overgrown pathway.
We hadn’t gone far when, suddenly, we saw the shadowy outline of a person heading straight towards us.
“Wade?” Came a woman’s voice through the fog.
Harper and I were down in the basement, looking for Clara.
Everything about this gave me the goosebumps – including Harper.
“I can’t believe you live down here.” I said.
“Me neither!” She cackled.
“What’s this?” I asked, as I picked up a dusty little journal off of a shelf near the entryway.
Harper rushed over to me and snatched the book away.
I noticed that a paper had fallen out. The name “Jackson” caught my eye.
I stooped down and picked up the paper.
Harper reached for it, but I quickly held it behind my back.
“Oh, c’mon! Can’t an old girl have any privacy in her basement without some nosy blond snooping in her stuff?!”
I ignored her.
I brought the piece of paper out from behind my back and quickly read it.
“Wow…I guess you really didn’t know anything at all about Jackson, did you?”
She took the paper, slid it back into her journal, and lowered her head.
“I dunno. Maybe she was afraid to tell me, maybe she didn’t trust anybody but the skeletons beneath the ground with her secrets, or maybe she was lying in her letter and he was acually a total weirdo.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’s not true! In her letter, Charlotte made Jackson sound totally dreamy.” I said, daydraming about what he must have been like in person.
“Hon, some girls can make any boy sound like the most wonderful man in the world when, in reality, he’s the exact opposite.”
She was right. I remember when George had set me up with this guy who was supposedly “cool and totally handsome”. Turns out he was a total geek who talked about nothing but technology for our entire date! I still don’t understand why George told me to go out with him. He and George would’ve made a much better match.
“Was Charlotte like that?” I asked.
“Well…no. She was never ‘boy crazy’ so, if she liked a boy, she actually liked a boy.”
I looked at her thoughtfully.
“So, why didn’t you ever settle down with a guy, have little frizzy-haired kids and, you know…not spend your life in a basement?”
She chuckled lightly as she sat down in the chair near me.
“In case you havn’t noticed, I have had neither the time nor the interest.”
“Now come on, Bessie, let’s go find Clara.”
I giggled as she stood up and led the way.
Addison and I were in the parlor, looking for mom or any clues as to where she might be.
“Jess, we’ve searched every room downstairs! She’s not down here.”
I was looking around observantly, hoping to find something – anything – that might help us.
“Just give me a minute.”
I looked over to the window and noticed something I hadn’t before.
Sitting on the windowsill was a pill bottle.
I walked over to the window and picked up the bottle.
“What did you find?”
“Well, that’s not so suspicious.”
“I guess not…”
I handed her the bottle, anyway.
“Woah, I hear this is some pretty potent stuff.” Addison said.
“Mom’s allergic to mosquitos. They drive her crazy! If she’s bitten, the bite really starts to swell up.”
“Oh, and I totally needed to know that.” Addison replied sarcastically.
She turned the bottle over and read.
“Hm…this is interesting.”
She gave me back the bottle, and pointed to the side-effects.
“Yep. Has your mom been having any?”
I thought for a moment. I hadn’t been spending much time around my mom for the past couple of days, but I HAD been spying on her.
She’d been acting really weird. One time, she had screamed, saying she’d seen Charlotte. Sure, Harper and I had dressed up as her a couple of times – but not that time.
“I think she might be hallucinating Charlotte! She’s seeing what – or WHO – she’s been thinking of this entire time! Her cousin, whom she killed.”
“Wow…” Addison said.
I hurried toward the doorway.
“Come on, Addie, we have to find her!”
Ned and I had reached the top of the stairs.
I knew it wouldn’t take us long to search the 2nd floor, but my woman’s intuition told me that Clara just might be in Charlotte’s room.
“You better stay by me, Ned – we wouldn’t wan’t to lose you again.” I teased.
“Ha ha, very funny.” He said, suppressing a smile.
We had reached the door to Charlotte’s room.
Ned reached for the door knob, but I quickly grabbed his arm.
I shushed him.
“Listen.” I whispered.
I was right. Clara was in Charlotte’s bedroom.
“Why won’t you leave me alone?!!!” She cried. “What else could I do? I had nothing – and you had everything!!! You were just going to give it all away!!!
I’d never have been able to afford what I’ve given Jessalyn with what little money my husband makes – and yet you insist on tormenting me just the same!!!”
I looked at Ned, and Ned looked at me.
“I never wanted to kill you! I loved you – but I’d had it!
Did you even bother asking me what I needed?! Did you ask me what I thought?! NO!!!
Well, I’ve had it!!!”
That was it. Ned and I were going in.
I thrust the door open, and walked in, with Ned following behind.
On the floor was a stack of papers. A journal sat atop the heap.
Clara had just dropped a match onto the stack of old, yellowed papers.