When Mr. Smith Came to Tea — Part Three

Photo courtesy of Adina Voicu on Unsplash

He insisted on walking her back to her apartment. She expected him to come in and poke around, but he shook his head.

“Has anyone else been in here?”

“Since I moved in? No, I don’t think so. I added extra locks. No one else has the keys.”

He gave a quick nod. “Excellent. You should be safe inside, then. This is your sanctuary, your home. She won’t cross the threshold.”


“Diana Miller. I will inform Benedict that you are taking off tomorrow from work.” He held up a hand as she began to protest. “I will compensate you for the lost wages. I would like your assistance and, if you are going to work, you should be paid. That is, if you are amenable. I won’t impose.”

“… Yeah. Yes. Okay.”

“Very good. Eight tomorrow morning. I expect it will be dirty work.”


Despite Mr. Smith’s assurances, she slept with a chair jammed against the door and her heavy flashlight under her pillow. She wasn’t sure how long she slept, but when she cracked her eyes open, it was just after dawn. She washed at the small sink in her tiny kitchenette, and dug her grungiest jeans and sweatshirt out of the closet.

As good as his word, he knocked on her door at precisely eight. She flushed when she saw his nice, pinstripe suit and pressed white shirt and pinstripe tie with its green gem in the clip. She opened her mouth, about to ask for a moment to change, when he nodded in approval.

“Excellent. That will do nicely.” He held up a dull key with six written across it in elegant script. “I persuaded that annoying little man to grant us access to the top floor.”

She snatched her own keys off the hook and pulled the door closed behind her, turning the locks. “How did you manage that?”

“I told him that I would melt his eyeballs out of his head if he refused.”

Patricia gurgled. “Can — can you do that?”

He turned and headed towards the stairwell. “Yes.”

Her feet refused to move, and then she had to run to catch up. He was already at the door, holding it open as he waited for her.

“Can you teach me how to do that?”

He peered down at her, head canted to one side. “Possibly.” Then he was striding up the stairs, his steps remarkably quiet. She felt loud and clumsy behind him. “I must say, Patricia, that you have been remarkably blasé about all of this.”

“Not the word I would have used. More like … scared spitless.”

He made a sound which might have been a laugh, stopping on the top landing to study the door leading onto the sixth floor. “My comment stands. Few people today could accept the reality that we are prey to creatures longer of tooth and sharper of claw than us.”

“Maybe I just watched too many horror movies as a kid.”

Another sound which might have been a laugh. He pulled his silver wand thing out of his jacket, slipped the key into the lock, and cranked it around. The metal squealed, the lock giving way only reluctantly. Pocketing the key, he pushed the door open slowly, revealing a long hallway that ended with a large cracked bay window, a threadbare carpet, and walls covered in peeling paint. Old-style glass sconces lined the walls, and a single door stood in the middle of each. A large, dull brass 6A hung crookedly on the left-hand door; the door to the right was bare.

Mr. Smith stepped through, eyes sweeping the hallway, wand held firmly in his hand.

“Why’d you bring that along, if the thing doesn’t react to silver or mirrors?”

“It has other uses. Quiet, now.”

She tightened her jaw and glared at his back, following a few steps behind.

The door to 6A was closed, but unlocked. He pushed it open, revealing an apartment even larger than that of Mrs. King. Curtains framed a bay window opposite the door, filling the room with early light. The furniture was more up-to-date, but there was a thin layer of dust; holes in the dust showed where plates and bowls and books were missing from the shelves and tables. A large television set complete with rabbit ears stood to one side, the wall behind it covered in black-and-white and full color photographs.

He flicked the switch beside the door. The large light fixture in the ceiling flickered, then popped on. One bulb was dead, creating a dark spot behind the frosted glass.

Mr. Smith began a slow perusal of the room, sniffing and poking and licking. Crossing her arms, Patricia stood uncertainly in the doorway for a long moment. Eventually, she made her way to the wall of photos.

A woman, the same woman in every photo. Wedding in a small chapel, seated on a park bench with a book sticking out her purse, standing outside a movie theater, standing on a roof beside a small telescope, sitting on a couch with a book and her feet propped on a trunk. Patricia glanced over her shoulder, spotting the same couch shoved up against the far wall. She turned back to the photos, leaning in to study them. The wedding photo hung in the center, the largest, with a white satin bow attached to the top of the frame. The other photos did not seem to be arranged around it in any kind of order, but it was hard to tell. Her expression was the same in each.

“She was terrified.”


Patricia started, not realizing that she had spoken aloud. She swallowed, lifting one hand to lightly touch the glass. Beneath her fingers, Diana Miller stared out at her, book clutched to her chest, eyes a bit too wide, face carefully smooth; expressionless.

She jerked her hand back, fingers twitching, as Mr. Smith came up beside her. “She was afraid of him.”

“Who?” His voice was low, not accusing or confrontational, but inviting her to continue.

Patricia moved to the next photo (in front of the elephant pen at the zoo), and the next (outside a burger joint), and the next (on the roof again, seated next to a grill, scarf wrapped tight against the cold), fingers skimming. The same wide eyes and still expression, like a doe afraid to startle the wolf that was circling closer and closer. “The man who took these pictures. Her husband. Jonathan Miller.” Patricia swallowed hard and moved back a step, gaze taking in the whole wall. “How old was she?”

“Twenty-seven,” he answered, and she was not surprised that he knew. “And Mrs. King was correct. She did disappear on their anniversary. Their second, to be precise.”

The beginnings of rage twisted in her gut. “Did she try to leave?”

His voice was still low, but she could just make out the tinge of anger that edged his words. “At this point, there is no way to know.”

“But that’s why she’s here, right? Killing people? She’s … what … lashing out? She wants justice. She wants him to pay, but he’s dead, so he can’t.”

Mr. Smith was silent, studying her. “Perhaps. Come. We need to check the rest of this apartment, and then across the hall.”

She scowled, crossing her arms. “Well, if not that, what then?”

He pushed open one of the doors, revealing a closet. Several of the hangers were noticeably empty. “Difficult to say without all the facts. And, given how much time has passed, we may never have all the facts. I can say one thing for certain, though: that awful little man has been pilfering from the late Mr. Miller’s estate. There were at least two fur coats in here at one time; there are a few tufts of fur on the floor. There was likely a crystal platter on the coffee table, and that porcelain tea set in the cabinet over there is missing it’s sugar bowl and creamer.”

The beginnings of rage sharpened, poking into her chest. She could feel her heart starting to thud faster. “You think that’s what set her off? Her stuffwas stolen?”


She was really beginning to hate that word.

She paced in angry circles while he continued his slow examination of the apartment, wand at the ready. Living room, kitchen and dining area, all three bedrooms, both bathrooms. Seemingly satisfied, he gave her a brief nod and led her across the hall to the second apartment. When she moved to close the door behind them, he shook his head.

Wand held at eye level, he checked the knob, then pushed open the door to the unmarked 6B. It swung open almost soundlessly, with only the faintest creak.

Patricia blinked, peering over his shoulder, trying to see into the darkened unit.

Mr. Smith reached around, feeling for the switch on the wall. A click and a pop, and the dome in the ceiling snapped on, filling the living room with harsh white light.

The apartment was bare. No carpet. No pictures. No curtains. The large bay window was hidden behind a layer of stained boards nailed to the frame; there was a hole in the corner where they had been ripped out of the floor. In the center of the room sat a large trunk. A single dining room chair faced the trunk, its broad back a cheery rosewood, its cushion a dull ivory.

Patricia felt every hair on her body stand on end.

She knew that trunk. She knew that chair. From the photos. The pictures on the wall.

Her chest was starting to hurt. She forced herself to inhale, and realized that she was clutching the back of his jacket in one shaking fist. The material felt slick and heavy under her numb fingers.

“Still doing alright back there, Patricia?” Wand still raised, he never took his eyes off the trunk.

She nodded, found her tongue and her voice. “Yeah. Yep.”

“In we go, then.”

She matched his steps, his silent, hers scuffing and scrapping across the floor. She tried to pick up her feet, but her legs were stiff. He moved to the side, around the dining room chair. There was an indentation in the cushion; someone had sat there many times over many years, just … watching. Staring at the trunk.

Patricia shuddered.

She knew what was inside the trunk before he opened it.

The wedding dress had yellowed with age, and the fragile lace veil had kinked and torn. A satin flower on her right shoe had fallen off, disappearing somewhere beneath the stiff folds of her gown. Her skin was dry and brown and pulled tight, her hands curled into fists, her eyes sunken and empty.

Patricia slapped a hand over her mouth, stomach heaving, and pressed her face into his back. She almost whimpered, biting her lip when he pulled away and crouched.

He gently touched the lip of the trunk with one hand, tapped at the lock with his wand, frowned, sniffed. When it looked like he was about to lick something, Patricia snapped.

She slapped him in the back of the head. Hard.

“Ow!” He heaved to his feet, glaring at her. He rubbed a hand over the back of his head. “What was that for?”

“For — that! For — it’s disrespectful!”

He inhaled, rolling his shoulders, and lowered his voice. “I am being as respectful as I can, under the circumstances. I am sorry if this disturbs you. You are welcome to wait in the hallway.”

Patricia snapped her jaw shut so hard and fast that her teeth clacked. She shook her head, arms crossed.

She would not leave Diana Miller. She would not leave her alone, trapped in the dark.

She watched as he turned and crouched once more, hands and eyes and wand skimming over the wood and iron.

“So, what are you doing?” she asked, trying to make her tone curious, not accusatory.

“I am looking for signs of a curse. There does not appear to have been one. It was not magic that kept Diana Miller imprisoned here all these years. It was terror.”

Her face grew hot and her eyes prickled. “With him in here, gloating over her. No wonder she was too afraid to leave.” She scrubbed at her cheeks with the heels of her hands, angry when she realized that she was crying.

“Fear is a powerful prison.” He kept his back to her, and for that she was grateful. “It can keep one trapped in a place — with a person — she knows is dangerous. She forgets who she is, forgets her strength and pride, until all that is left is the fear.”

He still didn’t turn around.

She wanted to hit him again.

Silence, except for the low hum of the light and the flutter of birds outside the barricaded window.

“Hm,” he said.

“What does hm mean?”

“There is some dried mold in the bottom of the trunk, and the wood is slightly warped. It got wet, at some point. … You said it was cold when she stalked you in the hallway.”

“Yes. Why?”

“Mr. Miller reported his wife as missing on 24 November. Temperatures were freezing during the day all that week, and below zero fahrenheit during the night.”

“You think she died. Outside. In the cold.”

He gave a single nod and stood. He backed up a step, coming even with her, fingers still loosely wrapped around his silver wand. “That seems as sound a theory as any, given what little evidence we have. Perhaps she tried to leave him. Perhaps she burnt his coffee. Whatever the reason, however pathetic, he forced her into her wedding dress, shoved her into this trunk, and then left her outside in the cold to die.”

Patricia stared at the tiny, desiccated form, and the wedding band hanging loose around one finger. “And he got away with it.”


“And now he’s dead.”


“And she’s still here. And she’ll never get justice.”

“Yes. No.” He slid the silver wand inside his jacket. “Diana Miller will never see justice for her own murder. But perhaps she can know some measure of peace.”


The funeral was tiny. Just the priest, Mr. Smith, and Patricia. Diana Miller, it turned out, had been Catholic and Mr. Smith had a “discreet acquaintance” who fit the bill. Patricia knew little about Catholicism, but she warmed to Father Coughlin almost immediately, with his laugh-lined eyes and solemn voice.

They gathered around the plot with its simple and elegant headstone. Just her name and birth and death dates and a phrase in Latin that Patricia could not read. Mr. Smith wore a finely-cut black suit and shined shoes, the jewel in his tie gleaming. She wore her single black dress (dug out of the closet and laid over the radiator to get out the wrinkles) and a pair Mrs. King’s old black shoes and a saffron scarf to hold her hair out of her face. The service was short, and then the casket was lowered into place, and Mr. Smith was shaking Father Coughlin’s hand, and he was walking away.

Patricia paused long enough to thank Father Coughlin, too, and for him to invite her to Mass, and then she stumbled after Mr. Smith. She dodged around headstones, finally catching up with him as he opened the door to a very nice, very shiny, definitely imported sports car with dark windows and bright chrome.

“So, what now?”

He paused, one foot already inside the vehicle. “Nothing.”

She blinked. “Nothing? That’s it?”

“Most likely, yes. Diana Miller has been laid to rest according to the rites of her faith, and nowhere near the man who murdered her. All trace of her has been removed from the Haverstock. Nothing physically ties her to the building, anymore. You should all be safe.”

“But — she was murdered. And it was awful. Horrible. People should know what he did to her. Right?”

Mr. Smith studied her for a long moment, head slightly canted. She fought the urge to shift on her feet, uncomfortable. “Diana Miller has no living family. Jonathan Miller has only a nephew in Montana, who didn’t even bother to attend his uncle’s funeral last month. It would serve no purpose.” He climbed the rest of the way into the car.

“But — ”

“May I give you a lift home?”

“I …. ” How much was bus fare from the cemetery? “Yeah. Sure.” She stepped around the car and slipped into the passenger seat. The engine hummed as he accelerated out of the cemetery. She pulled the saffron scarf from her hair and bundled it in her lap; she wrapped it around her hand, unwrapped it, wrapped it again.

“If you are still interested, I have a book which will be of use to you. It was written by Katherine Dee in 1611 and — ”

“It’s not fair. It’s not right. People should care.”

He sighed, just an edge of irritation to the sound. “People do care, but there is a great deal for them to care about already. There is no one who can be held accountable for Diana Miller’s murder. At most, it would be a sad if interesting historical anecdote, nothing more.”

“But — ”

Patricia. Leave it be.”

She glared at him, trying desperately not to cry.

“As I was saying, I would be willing to loan you Katherine Dee’s text.” He pulled his fancy car up to the curb in front of the Haverstock. “It’s an introductory work, and should not take you more than a year to master.”

She shoved the door open — “No” — and slammed it behind her. She did not look back as she shoved through the plywood-covered doors.


Meghan and Gwen were arguing over how to split the tip for a large table. Patricia did her best to ignore them, concentrating on not falling off the step stool while she scrubbed out the oversized coffee maker.

Her own tip jar sat on the counter, shoved to the very back, behind the extra salt and pepper shakers. She had saved up enough over the last two days to buy a few hours on the library computer, and some stamps and envelopes. Surely one of the newspapers in town would want to know Diana Miller’s story, or maybe one of the local tv stations. All she had to do was type it up, print it, and mail it.

The bells jangled over the door. Meghan and Gwen were still arguing.

Tossing her scrub brush aside, Patricia clambered down and turned, fake smile plastered on her face —

“Mr. Smith.”

He paused, one dark eyebrow arched. “Still not comfortable addressing me as K or Kahurangi?”

She picked up a rag and started wiping down the counter in and around the cash register. “No.”

Another pause. “Very well.” He covered the last few steps from the front door, reaching into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a small red volume roughly the size of an address book. The cover was plain and there was no writing on the spine. “This should help you in putting the Mr. Rossi’s of the world in their place.”

She stared at the book, nose wrinkling slightly. Then she shook her head. “No. I’m good. I don’t need it.”

He blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

She straightened her shoulders. “I don’t need it. I can handle Rossi on my own. I’m not afraid of him. Not anymore.”

“I — ”

She tossed the rag down. “And you know what? You were a jerk. Yeah, I get that bad things happen. Lots of bad things. Maybe they can’t be set right. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t know about them. They should. Bad things shouldn’t be forgotten, swept away. They should be remembered. ’Cause that was a person that bad thing happened to, and she shouldn’t be forgotten either!”

The diner was silent.

Someone coughed behind her.

“Everything okay out here? K?”

He neatly slid the little red book back inside his jacket. “Fine. I am just being put in my place. Benedict, a good evening to you. Ms. Patrick.” A tip of his head, a quarter bow, and he was out the door and driving away in his fancy, shiny car.


She pushed through the front door of the Haverstock Building, a fresh gang tag bright against the aging plywood. The lights flickered overhead. She walked straight to the front desk, where Rossi hunched over one of his crossword puzzles.

He looked up and grinned. “Brav-r-eh.”

“It’s pronounced bravura. I’m taking 5D.”


“The unit that Maurice Tennant rented. Full kitchenette. Washer and dryer. I want it. Same price that I’m paying now.”

His eyes lit up and he leaned forward.

“In rent. There will be no extra compensation. None. I’ll pick up the key tomorrow.” She turned away, heading across the cracked tile for the stairs.

“Hey, now, just hold — ”

She spun back around. “No, I will not hold on. I’ll pick up the key tomorrow. Or would you rather a visit from the Department of Buildings and Safety? Four deaths in a month?”

“ — Now — ”

“I’m sure when they get here they’ll start poking around, asking questions. What will they find? Rats in the basement? Broken elevator? Rusted fire escapes? Bad lighting? What else?”

He gaped at her, sweat beading on his head.

“Tomorrow,” she repeated.

She pushed through the door and made her way up the stairs. Her heart was pounding and her mouth was dry; she felt a semi-hysterical laugh bubbling up her throat. She had to stop on the third floor landing to lean against the wall and hug herself. When her heart and breathing steadied, she continued up the stairs and through the door to the fourth floor, not even bothering to suppress the grin she could feel pulling at her lips.

She would have to tell Mrs. King. Maybe invite her over for a house warming. With tea. And ham —





Patricia froze, hand in her purse, fingers touching her keys.

Her breath fogged.


Her fingers twitched. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and slowly turned around.

Diana Miller, but not. Like two hazy photographs laid on top of one another. Foggy, wispy, the long train of her wedding gown pooling and then slithering across the floor. The veil hid her face, but Patricia caught flashes of bone, then flesh, then bone again. And her eyes. Black holes, then blue eyes, back and forth, back and forth.

Patricia licked her lips, feeling the cold against her tongue.

Frost crept up the walls.

“H-hello,” she whispered. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Hello, Diana. My name is Patricia. I found … I’m one of the people who found you. I was at your funeral. The headstone is nice. I’m sorry there weren’t more people there. It was terrible, what happened. Awful. What he did to you. That shouldn’t have happened. That should never happen, not to anyone.”

The ghostly satin crawled closer, stretching impossibly long down the hallway.

“I’m going to make sure that people know. I will. People will know how horrible he was and what he did and, more importantly, they’ll remember you. They’ll remember that you liked books — because you did, didn’t you? Those were all yours, not his.”

She fought the urge to run, breath crystalizing.

“No one should die like that, alone, in the dark and cold. You’re still cold, aren’t you? You’re just trying to get warm. You’re not trying to hurt anyone. You just want to be warm again.”

The satin train stilled, rippling in place. The wisps and tendrils that were all that remained of Diana Miller hovered closer, closer, swaying. Blue eyes stared at her from behind the veil, desperate and pleading.

… cold …

Patricia was not sure if she heard the word, or felt it.

She nodded. “I know. And I am so, so sorry. I — I know it’s not much, but there’s an oven in my new apartment. Now that I have one, I’ll be doing some baking. Try to make Granma’s sweet potato pie. You’re more than welcome to just, um, hang out … or, you know ….” Her voice trailed off.

A soft sigh, a grateful exhalation, and Diana Miller faded away. The frost on the walls evaporated, leaving wet patches.

Patricia almost collapsed. Sucking in air, she bent forward, bracing her hands on her knees. “Holy Toledo,” she panted, falling back on one of her Granma’s favorite expressions.

“That was impressive. And quite unexpected.”

She squeaked, lurching upright, and spun around. She stumbled, catching herself. “Damn it! Don’t do that!”

He smiled at her, actually smiled. “Empathizing with a spirit remnant. Not a tactic I had ever considered. I shall have to try that in the future.” His smile faded. “I came to apologize. You were quite right. I was being rude and disrespectful.”

“And a jerk.”

“ … Quite.”

A short pause.

“You realize you now have a haunted oven.”

She shrugged. “I can live with that. I’m throwing an apartment warming party in a few days. Sunday. You’re invited. You know, if you want to come.”

Another smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I should like that very much.”


The next day, she picked up the key for 5D from Rossi. He glowered at her through the security grille, ink stains on his lips. He tried to catch her hand as she reached for the key, but she managed to snatch it back, moving away a few steps.

“You know, the big penthouse is available, too. Got lots of room. Even comes furnished.”

Patricia’s lip curled and she felt her stomach twist. “No, thank you. And it’s not as furnished as it used to be.”

He gaped, mouth dropping open.

She spun and headed back up the stairs, all the way to the fifth floor. The fourth unit was at the end on the right hand side. The carpet was so thin in places that the floorboards showed through and the yellow wallpaper was vaguely brownish. The fridge was stained, but some bleach would take care of that. The oven was old, but functional, and there was a small stackable washer and dryer in the closet. There was even a half-wall with shelves to separate the bed from the rest of the living space.

She danced in a slow circle, hugging herself, smiling.

“You know, I don’t appreciate your attitude.”

Patricia froze, smile gone, her back to the door as fear tightened her chest.

“You’re gettin’ all snotty. Above yourself,” Rossi snarled. “All — all haughty.” Houf-tee.

She inhaled sharply and turned to face him. She caught his eye and didn’t look away, slowly shifting the apartment key out between her clenched fingers. “Haughty,” she corrected.

His face went red, the flush spreading across his forehead and down his throat. The ink made black blotches against his skin, like mold. His hands curled into fists, his arms shaking. “You — you worthless little whore.”

He lunged.

Patricia braced her leg and swung her arm up and back down. The key slammed into his cheekbone, ricocheted, caught the side of his nose. Flesh tore. Blood sprayed. He screamed and stumbled, hand coming up to his face. He stared at her in shock for an awful moment.

Then his face changed. His lips pulled back, baring uneven, yellow teeth. His eyes widened and an animalistic snarl erupted from his throat. Spittle flew from his mouth and he launched himself at her, charging across the room.

She shouted. Swung again. Missed. He slammed into her, forced her to the floor. He grabbed her hair, held her down, tore at her shirt.

Ice raced across the carpet. Icicles crept down from the moulding and the edges of the cabinets. The radiator hissed.

Rossi screamed. He threw himself away from her, frost gluing his clothes to his skin. Flesh ripped. His nose and his ears and his fingers blackened with frostbite. He fell away, crawling across the carpet, dragging himself into the hallway. Still screaming, he stumbled upright and fled.

Patricia pushed herself to her feet. Her scalp hurt and her ribs felt bruised. She heard the bang of the door to the stairwell and the bump and tumble as he half-ran, half-fell down the stairs.

She dropped back to the floor, head down, panting, and wrapped her arms around her knees.

She felt a brush of cold against her cheek.

She slowly lifted her head and smiled.

Diana, eyes the blue of a winter sky, returned her smile.


Sunday afternoon her small apartment was full of laughter and friends. Bennie actually shut the diner down for a couple of hours and brought a big platter of deep-fried mushrooms and fries. Gwen brought her some old, but still-good, bedsheets that she didn’t need anymore, and Meghan gave her a much-loved iron skillet and a couple of bread pans. Mrs. King brought bite-sized ham sandwiches.

Mr. Smith arrived with a smiling Father Coughlin in tow. The priest explained that he had considered a small statue of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, but thought a vase of flowers would be more appreciated. She thanked him and set the flowers on the window ledge by the bed, where they could get plenty of sunlight.

Wrinkling his nose at the mushrooms, Mr. Smith led her over to the corner by the refrigerator. Something jangled as he pulled it out of his pocket and held it out to her.

She frowned up at him in confusion. “What are those?”


She scowled.

“To the Haverstock,” he elaborated. “The front and rear doors, the basement and various maintenance closets, the front desk and office, and so on. If you are willing, of course.”

“… I ….”

“No doubt Benedict will be quite put out with me. He considers you one of his best servers.”

“You want me to run the Haverstock.”

He gave a brief nod.


“Shall not be returning. Ever.”

Patricia remembered his screams and his frost-bitten skin. She suppressed a shiver.

“You will be amply compensated, of course. And I expect you to oversee all the improvements to the building. The exterminators will be here tomorrow. They will start in the basement and work their way up.” His gaze wandered to the ceiling. “I expect will it take them at least a week. The plumbers and electricians and so forth will arrive day after tomorrow. I hesitate to guess how long they will need.”

She couldn’t seem to think of a response.

“As Mrs. King said, the Haverstock was once a good place to live. Perhaps not high class, but safe and clean and friendly. I would like to see it restored. With your assistance, of course.”

“Does the compensation go both ways?”

His voice was quiet when he answered. “I am not Rossi, Patricia.” When she nodded, he continued. “In my line of work, I sometimes require a place to rest and recover, undisturbed. Trusted acquaintances do, as well, such as Father Coughlin and his … group. I have ensured that nothing links me to the Haverstock. Therefore, it fits those needs.”

She considered the keys in his hand. The warble of televisions drifted through the walls. Pipes gurgled and the old heater gave a tired whoompthat vibrated through the floors. Bennie laughed at something Gwen had said, and Mrs. King was trying to foist another ham sandwich on Meghan.


She took the keys.

“You still have that book by Katherine Dee? And the whole building needs a paint job, you know. How do you feel about saffron?”

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has been published in a variety of venues, and a complete list of her publications can be found here.]