The following morning Larry decided to drive over to the hospital and see how the mystery girl was doing. He arrived at the hospital shortly before twelve and quickly found the doctor who had examined her after she had been admitted the evening before.
“She’s quite a remarkable young woman,” the doctor said as they walked down the hall. “I’m surprised she held up as long as she did.”
“What do you mean by that?” Larry wanted to know.
“Well, from what we could see, she had that membrane in her throat for quite some time, maybe even over an hour. She should have died within minutes.” The doctor shook his head. “What happened to her was a miracle.”
“Well,” Larry said with a half-smile, “we don’t live in such a normal house, either.”
They reached the room and the doctor stepped toward the door and put a hand on the doorknob. “Mr. Mitchell,” he said quietly. “She can’t talk. She does use what seems to be sign language to communicate, but unfortunately no one is here who knows it.” He shrugged quietly. “It probably has something to do with the membrane she had stuck in her mouth. She still seems rather subdued, so I don’t think you should stay too long.” Larry nodded and the doctor opened the door. The girl was laying in the white bed, seemingly reading a book. She looked up as Larry entered.
“Hi,” he said. She waved back, paused for a moment and the signed.
Who are you? Larry translated quickly. The doctor looked at him a moment, surprised.
“How’d you know that?” he asked.
“I took lessons during a seminar at my old church,” Larry said. “It was part of a summer training program for the youth group. We sang songs in sign language.” He turned back to the girl. I’m Larry Mitchell , he signed quickly. A look of surprise sprang into her hazel eyes. What’s your name?
Her right hand began to move, slowly spelling out her name. Erin . She paused for a moment, smiling to herself. I think I might have gotten a bit of laryngitis. I can’t speak.
That’s okay , Larry signed back. “We haven’t told her yet, but she might never speak again,” the doctor whispered into his ear.
“That seems almost cruel,” he said to the doctor, who just shrugged.
Erin’s hands began fluttering again. Why am I here?
Well, Larry signed back. My brother found you in his room last night, unconscious. We called the paramedics and they brought you here. He stopped. I must be getting a little rusty at this, he said to himself. Erin nodded, thinking.
Where do you live? she wanted to know.
The haunted mansion in Druin , he signed back. A look of recognition came into her eyes. What were you doing there, Erin? he asked.
I, she paused thinking about what she wanted to say next. I don’t know.
I don’t know.
“I should have expected that much,” Larry muttered to himself.
What should you have expected? Erin asked.
“That you didn’t know what you were doing there,” he answered.
She cocked her head. Well, she signed, maybe I do. She settled herself a bit and looked uncomfortably at the doctor. Could you ask him to leave?
“She wants you to leave, sir,” Larry said turning to the doctor.
“All right,” the man said stepping out the door. Larry followed the doctor with his eyes. As he turned back towards the bed, he noticed something mounted on the wall: an oblong white box with a lens protruding from it. Why do they have a camera in here? he wondered.
Thank you, Erin signed. She paused for a long moment, before moving her hands again. I’m not sure when it all started, but it was some time last spring. No, it was right after the exams. I was kidnapped by two people. I don’t remember who they were. They caught me from behind when I was returning home from school. She paused for a moment. I was knocked out. When I came to I was in a little room somewhere. There was an old man in the room. He was dressed in black, and his hair was white and messy. But his eyes! She shivered momentarily. They were something else, so mad and wild.
The ghost! Larry signed quickly.
Erin shook her head. No, not a ghost, he was a man.
Was there a wheelchair? Larry inquired, suddenly thinking of the old man he had met the night before. The description matched him, too.
No, but he told me that I was there for a purpose and that he would keep me there until I could help him with something. It must have been several months. This lady brought me food. She always seemed very sad, wanting to talk to me, but not daring to. She smiled to herself. She was very nice to me. It was last night, I guess, when the old man came back again. He had a syringe with him and gave me a shot in the arm. I blacked out and when I came to I was in the back of an ambulance with a massive headache and no voice. She shrugged. Maybe my voice will come back sooner or later.
Why are you telling me this? Larry signed back to her.
I don’t know why, she signed, but I trust you. That’s why I guess.
Did you tell the police? he asked. She shook her head.
I just got free. I’ve been asking for them, but nobody here knows sign language.
How do you know it? he wanted to know.
My mother’s nearly deaf, was all she signed.
“Ah, hah,” Larry remarked, jumping at the sound of his own voice. Thank you, he signed. I’ll go and talk to the police for you, if you like. Erin nodded and he took his leave. Boy, I’m going to have quite some time convincing them of this, he thought as he opened the door, almost walking into the doctor.
“Oh,” he asked. “Are you through already?”
“Yeah,” Larry said. “Why do you have a video camera in that room.”
“Standard equipment. Every room has one.”
“Oh,” was all Larry said.
On the way home from the hospital, Larry decided to stop in at the diner/general store in the small center of Druin. The bell jingled above the door as he entered. Nick, the owner’s son and one of Larry’s few new friends, was standing behind the counter.
“Hey, Larry,” he called.
“Hi, Nick,” Larry said as he walked up to the counter.
“Heard you found Erin Frasier in your brother’s bedroom the other night.”
“How’d you hear that?” Larry asked, surprise showing all over his face.
“News travels fast around here, son,” came another voice from behind him. He turned around to find himself looking at a fairly tall man with a clerical collar. The man’s hair was silver and deep brown eyes hid behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. His mouth was turned up at the corners in a friendly smile as he extended his right hand.
“I’m Father Matthew Reid,” he said, shaking Larry’s hand. “And you must be Larry Mitchell.” Larry nodded, dumbfounded. “Won’t you join us?” the priest asked motioning towards a table.
“Yeah, sure,” Larry said, finally regaining his speech. He looked over his shoulder at Nick, who winked at him and went back to rearranging the cans on the shelf. Larry followed Father Reid over to a table where a black man was seated. The man stood up as the other two came to the table. He was tall, much taller than Larry’s six feet, and Larry wondered if maybe he was a basketball player. He was well built, his black hair cut short, and he had a mustache.
“This is Pastor Alex Jenkins,” the priest said to Larry.
“Hey, Larry,” the dark-skinned man said, gripping his hand energetically. “How’s it goin’?”
“All right,” Larry said with a smile as they sat down around the table. “Mr. Druin told me about you,” he said a soon as they were seated, “and I was thinking of looking one of you up.”
“Well, I guess we saved you the trouble,” Pastor Jenkins said, flashing an ivory smile.
Father Reid leaned forward. “I heard you’ve been having trouble with the ‘ghost.’“
“How did you know that?” Larry asked. “We haven’t told any one other than Mrs. Lundin.”
“Well, it’s just hear-say,” the older man of God said, leaning back in his chair, “but we wanted to see if maybe we could help you, if you really did have some trouble.”
“Thanks,” Larry said with a smile.
“Would you tell us about it?” Pastor Jenkins asked.
“Sure.” Larry couldn’t explain it, but he really felt at ease around these two men. Each was from a different denomination, Father Reid a Catholic and Pastor Jenkins an Evangelical, and yet they were good friends. I like that, Larry thought as he began his tale. He told them about the first encounter up in the attic, the beast in Marian’s room, the crazy piano music, Mr. Druin’s wild tale, and finally finding Erin (what was her last name?) Connor on the floor in his brother’s room. The two men of God looked at each other for a moment.
“It’s strange that the beast showed up so quickly,” Father Reid remarked. “It usually doesn’t show up until several months after a family moves in.”
“I haven’t heard about that beast, Matt,” Pastor Jenkins said.
“That’s because you only have heard one story, Mr. Druin’s. He doesn’t mention it unless he’s asked.” The black man nodded at his friend’s comment.
“Is it true that the beast kills people, sir?” Larry asked the priest.
“Yes,” Father Reid said sadly. “But it only happened once, and that was when I was a child.”
“What do you think about this ghost?” Larry asked.
Pastor Jenkins shifted his weight a bit. “I believe Mr. Druin has already told you the answer, but I’ll repeat it again. I believe it’s a demon, and a powerful one at that. The story goes that your house has been the site of many occultic happenings, so naturally there will be at least one demon there, if not many.”
“Hence the things in the chest,” Father Reid added.
“Right,” Alex Jenkins said, nodding. “Father Reid has been called to bless the house several times, but each time he did the family had had enough and left a few weeks afterward. If the physical presence of a Christian isn’t there, then there is no reason why the demon can’t come back. Are you familiar with the passage where Jesus talks about the demon being cast out and then coming back in with seven worse ones, because the person didn’t accept the Lord?” Larry nodded. “Well, at least I believe that it’s the same way with the house.”
“I don’t only believe it, Alex,” the priest interrupted, “I know it.”
“Yeah, any way, the demon tries to scare them out. I’ve heard stories of the people there agreeing to become part of a cult surrounding the house, but each of them died soon after that.” The black man leaned back in his chair. “You see, the people never had enough courage to get rid of the things you found in the attic. That way there was a physical stronghold left in the house and the demon could come back as soon as they left.”
“If I’d known about those things before this, I’d have burned them with my own hands,” Father Reid said, eyes flashing.
“You think we should do that?” Larry asked.
“Yeah, but pray first,” Pastor Jenkins said, leaning forward again.
“Prayer is a most powerful weapon,” his silver-haired friend said, nodding. “If you have it, along with God’s Word, you are invincible.” He looked at Larry seriously for a moment. “Maybe we had better pray now,” he suggested.
“Yes, let’s,” Larry said. The three bowed their heads, and prayed.