Whispering Hills Murder (EBOOK)

Wendy Meadows Cozy Mystery Whispering Hills Murder (EBOOK)

Whispering Hills Murder (EBOOK)

Travel Writer Mystery Book 4
Regular price $3.99
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Can Patricia unmask the killer and solve this sinister mystery? Or will she wind up as the Dead and Breakfast’s next victim?

A creepy old manor, spine-chilling supernatural rumors, and a murderer stalking the shadows…

Roped into visiting the infamous Dead and Breakfast, a spooky horror-themed vacation spot, Patricia McKay is expecting a stay filled with excitement and a few good scares. But after a vicious snowstorm descends and traps the guests inside, her visit begins to take a far more sinister turn.

Stuck in the old manor and sleeping in the very same room where a gruesome murder took place years ago, the horrors of the past rear their heads when a new dead body is discovered. Patricia soon finds herself caught up in a deadly murder mystery. With nobody to rely on but her strange host, she must unravel the clues and unmask the killer lurking in the shadowy halls – before it’s too late.

But in the creaky old Dead and Breakfast, the rabbit hole goes deep. As she tumbles further into her investigation, Patricia must sleep with one eye open. With a murderer afoot, ghost stories are the least of her worries…

Can Patricia unmask the killer and solve this sinister mystery? Or will she wind up as the Dead and Breakfast’s next victim

Chapter 1

“A what?” Patricia McKay asked as she munched on an apple while standing outside of an old barn with her cell phone tucked into one ear. A light snow was falling, and Patricia was eager to get back inside her warm farmhouse and find a hot cup of coffee.

“A Dead and Breakfast,” Edna, Patricia’s boss, repeated in a determined voice. “It’s a…well, think of the board game Clue.”

“Clue?” Patricia asked, feeling frozen snowflakes landing on the tip of her nose. The snow brought back memories of a dangerous mystery she had survived while being stranded in a snow-covered desert in Arizona. “Edna, I came outside to feed my milk cow, not talk about some silly…whatever it is.”

Edna rolled her eyes. Inside her mind she saw Patricia dressed in clumsy farm clothes and holding a pitchfork. Patricia was actually dressed in a heavy green winter coat covering a brown dress, but to Edna the fashion statement matched hillbilly farm clothes. “You’re becoming dull,” she complained, walking back to her cluttered desk and plopping down on the edge. 

“What? I’m not dull,” Patricia insisted.

“Patricia, I’m wearing a very stylish gray dress. What are you wearing?” Edna asked.

“Well….” Patricia lowered a pair of beautiful eyes down to the green coat she was wearing and gulped. “I…my old coat and a brown dress—”

“And I bet your autumn-colored hair…hair that is so beautiful, by the way…is just dangling loose in the wind, right?”

Patricia raised her left hand and touched her hair. “I…well, yes.” She gulped again and then quickly focused on the old milk bucket whose handle was stashed in her right hand. “Look, I have a cow to milk.”

“No, you have an assignment,” Edna corrected. “I want you to drive to Ohio and spend a week in the Dead and Breakfast.”

“Drive?” Patricia asked as a gust of icy wind blasted her beautiful face. Patricia threw her eyes up at a dark, cold sky and watched the snow fall. “Why can’t I fly?”

“Because the airlines and I are having a squabble right now,” Edna snapped. “The company account was overcharged by five thousand dollars and until I get a refund my travel writers are state-bound and road-bound.”

Patricia winced. “Edna, I was due to travel to Europe in two weeks—”

“Change of plan,” Edna confirmed in a stern tone. “You’re going to spend a week in Ohio and then write about a new bed-and-breakfast we’re going to put on the map.” Edna hurried behind her desk and sat down in a black desk chair. “Look, kiddo, I’m the world’s biggest mystery fan. I love the game Clue…the movie, not so much. When a friend of mine told me about this bed-and-breakfast, I knew a gold nugget had been dropped in my lap.”

Patricia sighed. Edna was a kooky boss who sometimes veered off the road to see the world’s largest ball of yawn. It appeared, Patricia thought, that Edna was about to send one of her—not to brag—finest travel writers to write about a dorky attraction that no one would ever care about. But Edna was the boss and the boss issued the paychecks. “So much for seeing Poland,” she sighed. 

“Forget Poland,” Edna insisted. “You’re going to Ohio. Now go pack. I want you on the road first thing tomorrow. You’re due to check in on Thursday.”

“But…that’s two days away.”

“You better make tracks, then,” Edna demanded and then dropped details into the air. “You are to drive to Whispering Hills, Ohio, and check into the Dead and Breakfast on Shadow Lane—”

“How appropriate—”

“Hush,” Edna snapped and then rolled her eyes again. “If I didn’t love you more than my own daughter, I would fire you.”

“You’ll never fire me,” Patricia sighed. “And you’ll never divorce your husband no matter how much you complain about him, and you will never disown your daughter for becoming a ‘therapy clown,’ as you say, instead of a ‘real’ doctor.”

Edna made a sour face and then shrugged her shoulders. “You’re right,” she said and then continued. “You’ll spend six days and seven nights at the bed-and-breakfast.”

“And?” Patricia pressed.

“Well—” Edna paused and then nibbled on her lip. “I…kinda promised the owners you would help them create a murder mystery…write out a script for them while you’re there.”

“You promised them what?” Patricia dropped the milk bucket she was holding. “Edna—”

“Come on, kiddo, it’ll be fun. You’re a great mystery writer, and you’ve solved some hair-raising murders. Besides, you’ll have six whole days to write out the murder mystery—”

“In exchange for free lodging, I’m sure,” Patricia stated in a sarcastic tone.

“Well….” Edna winced and then eased forward. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Patricia moaned. “Edna…I….”

“Have bills to pay, right?” Edna answered in a voice that pushed Patricia into a tight corner. She added in a motherly voice: “I sign the paychecks, remember?”

“Thanks for twisting my arm,” Patricia fussed and then simply lowered her head. “Okay…Okay, Edna, you win,” she caved, speaking as if someone were attaching her to a torture device. “I’ll go to this so-called Dead and Breakfast and write out a silly murder game plot for you…but I want a bonus.”

“You’ll get paid your regular pennies. No bonuses will be issued until the airline refunds my money!” Edna declared and then hit her desk with a hard fist. “No one cheats Edna out of her pennies, kiddo.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.” Patricia rolled her eyes. Edna was cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge refusing to pay a few extra pennies for a piece of bread. 

“Watch it,” Edna warned.

Patricia winced. “What’s the address, boss?”

“That’s more like it.” Edna grinned. “Put 181 Shadow Lane into your GPS. Remember the town?”

“Whispering Hills.”

“Good girl,” Edna said. “Whispering Hills is in northern Ohio next to Lake Erie, so dress warm…but not like some backwoods hillbilly.”

Patricia felt a cold chill run down her spine. It was the middle of January and Edna was sending her to northern Ohio to a frozen town scarred by torturous winter winds that roamed Lake Erie. “I’ll dress warm,” she promised. “I guess I better go milk my cow and then make the needed preparations…and I guess I better call Brian. We had a date set for tomorrow.”

“What do you see in that guy?” Edna complained, not for the first time. “Every guy in the world would cut off their right leg just to get your phone number, and you’re settling for a hillbilly cop.”

A grin touched the corner of Patricia’s mouth. Brian wasn’t a hillbilly cop, but she always found Edna’s exaggerations amusing. “Look, Brian is a good man, and we’re to the point in our relationship where he finally accepts my career. Things are…good between us…and I’m happy.”

“Good grief,” Edna said, “you are a strange one.”

“Am I?” Patricia asked as her mind suddenly ran to Ireland. Her last assignment had ended with her being caught in a strange mystery that didn’t exactly end; the case was left practically unsolved. But at least no one was killed and Patricia was glad for that. “I guess I might be strange. Maybe that’s why Brian likes me.”

Edna bit down on her tongue. She didn’t have the time or the energy to fuss about Brian Johnson. “Look, kiddo, let’s get back to business,” she demanded. “Your job is to write a great murder mystery for Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Graves—”

“Graves?” 

“Yes, Graves,” Edna popped. “I agree, the name fits the Dead and Breakfast.”

Patricia pulled her coat closer as falling snow grew stronger. “Okay…so I write the mystery—”

“And then write a great piece about the Dead and Breakfast,” Edna instructed. “I want to put this place on the map.”

“But, Edna…I write humor pieces, remember? Why me? Why not send Heather?”

“Because Heather couldn’t write a mystery if she sat down on a toilet with a hand floating in it with the killer’s name attached to it.”

“That’s…gross, Edna,” Patricia stated in a disgusted voice. “No visuals, okay?”

“You’re a great humor writer,” Edna explained, “and you’re also a great mystery writer. You’re going to write a fun bed-and-breakfast mystery. So use your skills in humor and mystery to write a piece of work that will attract people from all over the globe.” Edna drew in a deep breath. “Look, I’m a huge mystery fan. I love mysteries…. I play the game Clue as often as I can with my husband…even though he cheats, the rat. Why, I eat, sleep, and dream of the game Clue—”

“Exaggerating, aren’t we?’

Edna wrinkled her nose. “Look—”

“Just tell me the real reason you’re so keen on this. I know you love strange attractions, but my gut is telling me you have a hidden agenda,” Patricia spoke in a careful tone. “Come on, spill the beans.”

Edna hated it when Patricia spotted the cards she had hidden up her sleeve. “I’m going to fire you one day.”

“No, you’re not,” Patricia replied. “Just tell me, what’s the game…besides Clue?”

“Okay…all right….” Edna bit down on her lip with angry teeth. “There’s a new attraction opening up in Oregon…a chain of bed-and-breakfast themes—”

“Mystery themes, I’m assuming, right?”

“Well…yes—”

“And Joan Tralles got to the golden nugget first?” Patricia asked.

Joan Tralles was Edna’s business enemy, a woman Edna was always at war with. Joan owned her own travel magazine and was always trying to destroy Edna.

“And I’m guessing the gold nuggets you claimed fell into your lap required a little digging, right?”

“So, I called an old friend and asked a few questions—”

“You called Pete in research and told him to find you the closest mystery bed-and-breakfast,” Patricia corrected. 

“You’re fired.”

“I’ll go write for Joan,” Patricia threatened.

“You’re rehired. Go pack and be on the road first thing tomorrow.”

Patricia grinned. “Okay, boss, I’ll accept the assignment and help you fight Joan,” she promised. “I’ve never liked Joan Tralles that much myself. She’s a bit of a snot.”

“You bet she is,” Edna claimed and then hit her desk again. “Joan stole Oregon away from me, but we’re going to turn Ohio into a gold nugget! Now…go pack. I have to call the airline and threaten them with a lawsuit.”

“Go get ’em, Edna,” Patricia laughed and then ended the call and hurried to call Brian. Brian answered on the first ring. “Brian—”

“Our date is off because you’re going on assignment, right?” Brian asked, sitting in his warm office reading over a case file. 

Patricia felt her heart break. “I’m going to Whispering Hills, Ohio, for a week to write about a place called Dead and Breakfast.”

“What?” Brian said. He lowered the case file in his hand and made a strange face. “Is this a joke? It’s the middle of winter, Patricia. Why would Edna send you to Ohio? Ohio is snowed in—”

“I know, I know,” Patricia said and then quickly explained the reason for Edna’s impulsive assignment. Brian listened and then shook his head as she continued. “I have bills to pay—and hey, at least I’m staying in the country, right? And…I was thinking…maybe you could accompany me? Might be fun. We could take my new spruced up motor home.”

Brian thought about Patricia’s 1978 Winnebago and then smiled. “I guess I did go overboard,” he confessed. “But that’s behind us.”

Patricia reached down, picked up the milk bucket she’d dropped, and hurried into the barn. “Yes, it is,” she promised, walking toward a wooden stall housing a sleepy milk cow named Betsy. “So, you’ll go with me?”

“I can’t, Patricia. Wish I could,” Brian stated in a miserable voice as his smile faded. “The state is breathing down the department’s neck about an old case that took place last year. Seems like someone dropped the ball down in Atlanta and wants to pin the blame on us. But I’m not going to let that happen.”

Patricia paused outside the wooden stall and glanced around the shadowy barn as the smell of cold hay filled her nose. “I…understand. Work is work,” she said in a disappointed voice and then quickly added, “Your work is far more important than mine.”

“Not true.”

“Yes, it is,” Patricia insisted. “Brian, you’re a cop; I’m a travel writer. Do the math and you’ll see the true answer. But hey, I’m not putting my job down. I love my work, but I understand that protecting our community from a bunch of bureaucrats is far more important than spending a week at some silly bed-and-breakfast.” 

Brian picked up his mug of coffee and took a sip. He respected Patricia for respecting his job. “I’m sure you’ll have a good time, Patricia. And it’s like you said, you’re not leaving the country, so it’s not like you’re really leaving me. And who knows, if I get this mess cleared up in time, I might be able to drive up and join you.”

“Maybe,” Patricia stated but didn’t get her hopes up. “I’ll miss you. I was really looking forward to our date tomorrow night.”

“I was too,” Brian replied as Patricia’s beautiful face consumed his mind. Oh, how he loved that woman…deeply. “When you get home, we’ll pick up where we left off, okay?”

“Promise?”

“I promise,” Brian said with a smile.

Patricia felt a gentle smile touch her heart. I guess someday Brian and I might end up husband and wife, she thought, then said out loud, “Well, I came out to the barn to get some milk from Betsy…uh…can you feed her while I’m away?”

“Don’t I always feed all of your animals while you’re away?” Brian teased.

Patricia blushed a little. “I guess you do…and without getting paid too,” she tried to joke. “I guess Old Betsy can pay you with her milk?”

“Old Betsy would kill me if I tried to milk her,” Brian laughed. “I can feed that cranky old cow but that’s as far as I go and—” Brian heard someone knock on his office door. “Hey, the chief is here. I have to go. I’ll call you tonight, okay?”

“You better.” Patricia sadly ended the call. She looked into the stall and spotted the milk cow chewing on some old hay. “Well, girl, it’s freezing cold, I’m about to go to some lame bed-and-breakfast, my boyfriend is busy with his work, my boss is insane—and you’re chewing on hay. I’d say the situation is pretty normal considering it’s my life.” Old Betsy raised her head, looked at Patricia, and simply swished her tail a few times. “I guess that means I can get some milk, huh, girl?” Patricia sighed and then went to work as her mind settled down onto her new assignment. “Dead and Breakfast…good grief.”

* * *

“It’s freezing,” Patricia mumbled under her breath as she swung her SUV into a snow-covered parking lot and bravely dashed into a Denny’s that appeared to be deserted. A chubby waitress, who looked to be no older than sixteen, glanced up from a sleepy counter, lowered a strange-looking cell phone, and forced a weak smile onto a face polluted with bitterness and hate.

“I’m a little lost. My GPS stopped working on me,” Patricia stated as she began shaking snow off her pretty pink coat. “I’m trying to find Whispering Hills.”

The waitress stared at Patricia with sour eyes. Patricia was beautiful and slender—the type of woman the waitress despised. “Whispering Hills is the next town over,” she told Patricia in a cold tone, hoping to get rid of the woman. “Just stay on Highway 16 for about another mile and turn onto Route 5.”

Patricia nodded. “I thought I was close,” she said and then studied the deserted Denny’s. “It’s getting late. I think I’ll order a coffee and a cheeseburger for the road along with a side of fries.”

The waitress fought the urge to roll her eyes. “It’ll be a few minutes,” she told Patricia and then wandered away to a sleepy kitchen, leaving Patricia alone. 

“Nice girl,” Patricia whispered. “Looks very happy.” Resisting the urge to allow her mind to offer any clearer observations attached to human nature, Patricia glanced around the Denny’s and sighed. “This area is under a blizzard watch and here is yours truly standing in this dive…far from home…preparing to eat a greasy burger and down some coffee that was probably made yesterday. Yeah, life is grand.”

Movement caught Patricia’s eye. She spotted an old couple stand up from a booth. Patricia, having assumed the Denny’s was devoid of customers, was shocked to see the old couple begin walking toward the front counter. She quickly put on a pleasant face and offered a warm wave. An old man waved back and then began donning a thick gray coat. “I see you’ve been trapped into eating at this horrible place as well.”

“Horrible indeed,” an old woman said with a frown as she slipped on a heavy blue coat. “I may end up in my grave sooner rather than later.”

“Now, dear,” the old man pleaded with his wife, “let’s not talk that way.”

The old woman shook her head. “I’m seventy-two years old and you’re seventy-four. We’re not young chickens, you know.” The old woman motioned around with a wrinkled hand. “We stopped to get a simple cup of coffee and to rest our old bones a little before driving on. We made the horrible mistake of ordering a simple hamburger plate. First the meat was undercooked and then the meat was burned. If you want my advice…run.”

“Well, I admit we had to send back our order a few times, and the chubby waitress wasn’t very pleasant. But Jesus teaches us to be patient and loving, dear,” the old man reminded his wife and then smiled at Patricia. “Where are you heading to, young lady?”

“Oh…I’m driving to Whispering Hills,” Patricia explained and then quickly called out. “Cancel the cheeseburger and fries…and the coffee.”

“Smart girl,” the old woman told Patricia and then asked: “Why on earth are you driving to Whispering Hills?”

“Awful place,” the old man stated and then shook his head as if someone was pinching his arm. “Horrible people…sour town…sour land. The whole place is no good. Me and the wife make it a point to drive around Whispering Hills when we drive to visit our grandchildren.”

“I…the photos I saw online look…pleasant,” Patricia struggled to claim. She was exhausted from a very long drive with very few stops in between. Now she was being told that Whispering Hills, the town she was doomed to be trapped in for six days and seven nights, was…sour. 

“Photos are deceiving,” the old man warned Patricia. “Whispering Hills is a cursed town…cursed from the inside out.”

“Cursed?” Patricia asked. “I don’t understand. The research I conducted on the town—quick research, I’m afraid—didn’t result in anything horrible. Whispering Hills appeared to be, at least to me, just another small Ohio town.”

The old lady spoke up before her husband could. “The town is cursed, young lady. Stay far away.”

“People have died there,” the old man added in a low, creepy voice. “I grew up in Whispering Hills until I was sixteen, when my parents finally got enough smarts to move away. I know what goes on in that town. I know the secrets…I saw people vanish.”

Patricia felt a silent moan leave her heart. “I’m a travel writer. I’m afraid I’m on assignment,” she confessed and then checked her coat. “I’m due at a bed-and-breakfast, and I’m already running late. I was supposed to arrive at noon but my GPS stopped working. Looks like I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“Turn around and go back home,” the old lady warned Patricia and then reached out and grabbed the younger woman’s gloved hands. “My husband is right…people die in that awful town.” With those words the old man reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, tossed the money down onto the front counter, and then grabbed his wife’s hand. “Whispering Hills is a cursed place,” the old lady said.

“Cursed.” The old man nodded and then hurried his wife out into the snowstorm. 

Patricia walked to the front glass door, watched the old man help his wife into a gray SUV, and didn’t move until the SUV vanished into the storm. “Cursed. Great, just great,” she said and then pushed her way out into the snow just as the waitress stationed herself back behind the front counter wearing a hateful expression. Patricia tucked her head down against the cruel wind, fought her way back to her tired SUV, and crawled into the driver’s seat. “Time to call Edna,” she said and hurried to fish out her cell phone from her cold green purse. 

“Where are you?” Edna snapped, picking up on the first ring.

Patricia didn’t answer at first. Instead, she watched the heavy snow beginning to turn into a thick white blanket on the front windshield. “My GPS stopped working on me. I got lost, but I’m back on track. I should be in Whispering Hills within the next hour.”

Edna picked up a blue pen and began tapping it against her desk. “I’m a lady who works long hours, kiddo, but let me tell you, waiting for you to call is worse than working a sixteen-hour day. You really had me worried. Why in the world didn’t you answer my calls?”

“My cell phone lost reception until about half an hour ago. The area I’m in is under a blizzard watch,” Patricia explained as she watched the front windshield turn white with snow. “Edna, look…I just ran into two people who claim Whispering Hills is a cursed town—and I’m apt to believe them. Nothing has gone right for me so far on this trip. First, I had a flat, and then the oil light on my SUV came on, and then my GPS stopped working. On top of that, my hotel reservation last night was misplaced and I was forced to hunker down in a hotel that wasn’t exactly…kosher. I’m tired, hungry, and I just want to turn around and drive home.”

“Nothing doing,” Edna snapped. “You’re almost to Whispering Hills. You might as well stick with it!” Edna threw down her pen. “Patricia, we’re not going to let Joan win; do you hear me? Now, I admit that Joan has the high ground right now, but I have faith that you’re going to turn a lame bed-and-breakfast into a real hit! We’re fighting for the underdog!”

“You’re a nut,” Patricia told Edna in a tired voice. “I love you like a mother, but you’re a nut—and I must be a nut for agreeing to take this insane assignment.” Patricia shook her head. “I better get on the road before the storm shuts me down for good. I’ll call you when I arrive at the B and B.”

“That’s my girl,” Edna said and then quickly added, “Just a side note. I did some checking and there have been a few murders in Whispering Hills in the past. More than you’d expect for a town that size.”

“What?” Patricia gasped. “Edna—”

“Just more flavor to add to your article,” Edna insisted. “You know the old saying: ‘Take a lemon and make—’”

“Bleach!” Patricia snapped and then leaned forward and began banging her head on the steering wheel. “Why do I work for her…why?”

“I heard that!”

“Yeah, I guess you did.” Patricia grimaced and raised her head. “I just keep reminding myself I have bills to pay.”

Edna grinned. She loved Patricia’s spunk. No other travel writer working under her command had the nerve to back talk her, but Patricia…Patricia was special, not to mention brilliant. “Get on the road or you’re fired.”

“I’ll happily accept being fired and stand in the unemployment line,” Patricia assured Edna and then sighed. “Then again, I have my animals to feed.”

“Call me when you arrive,” Edna said, grinning as she ended the call.

Patricia put her cell phone away, hit the wipers, waited for the windshield to clear, and then cautiously got her SUV moving. “Cursed town, murders, Dead and Breakfast—I can’t imagine what kind of nightmare I’m about to walk into.”

Resisting the urge to drive back to Georgia, Patricia aimed her SUV toward Whispering Hills, clicked on the radio, and carefully drove through a raging snowstorm that showed no signs of letting up.

The storm front is expected to become worse overnight. People are advised to stay off the roads and stay in their homes,” a concerned-sounding news reporter spoke into the SUV. “Wind gusts are expected to reach eighty miles per hour. Up to three feet of snow is expected to fall before morning. The wind chill is expected to drop below minus ten degrees. Folks, we’re in for a whopper of a storm.”

“Great,” Patricia said in a nervous voice as she fought her way through the storm, barely managing to stay on the snow-covered roads. For a short while, Patricia actually believed the winds were going to throw her SUV off the road and trap her in a deep snowdrift. But somehow—by grace alone—the SUV managed to stay on the road without being turned into a frozen, twisted heap of metal that some tow truck driver would have to haul away. “Easy now…just stay on the road…focus on the road,” Patricia whispered as the last of the daylight was swallowed up by a vicious night. “Just focus on the road.”

Over an hour later, after nearly missing the turnoff for Whispering Hills, Patricia drove through a dark, cursed town that held a low growl underneath its murderous closed eyes.

“Now…where is 181 Shadow Lane?” she asked, slowly driving down a deserted main street that didn’t have a single lamppost offering light to the frozen sidewalks and closed stores hugging the street. “Power must be out in this area…how am I going to find the bed-and-breakfast?”

A pair of headlights appeared behind Patricia’s SUV and then blue and red lights began flashing and whining into the night. Patricia looked into the outside mirror and saw a cop car almost on her bumper. She rolled her eyes and eased to a stop. A minute later a young officer stepped out into the storm and approached the driver’s side door. Patricia rolled down her window. “Saw you take the turnoff,” the cop called out over the howling winds. “Saw your license plate. Are you lost?”

Patricia looked up into a handsome face that took her off guard. But the face also seemed filled with a hardness that made her feel uncomfortable. She had expected to see an older, overweight cop, not a young man who reminded her of a daring soldier in an old war movie. “I’m due at a bed-and-breakfast that’s located at 181 Shadow Lane. My GPS quit working,” she explained. 

“181 Shadow Lane?” the cop asked and then shook his head against the winds. “You must mean the old North place.”

“I…guess. I mean, if that’s the bed-and-breakfast.” Patricia reached into her purse and pulled out an address book. “Yes, the place I’m due at is located at 181 Shadow Lane.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t call the old North place a bed-and-breakfast…more like a nightmare,” the cop said, looking doubtful. He then introduced himself. “My name is Gary Horne. What’s your name?”

“Uh…Patricia McKay,” Patricia stammered, shocked when the officer suddenly become personal. No “Officer,” just “Gary Horne.” “I’m a travel writer on assignment. I’m here to write about the B and B.”

“Well, Patricia,” Gary said, seemingly unaware of the cold, “the storm watch we were under has now turned into a warning. We’re about to be pounded with some major wind and snow. Power is already out in this part of town. You better follow me and I’ll drive you out to the old North place. Drive slow and drive careful. Winds are really picking up.”

“I…okay, thanks…I’ll drive carefully.” Patricia rolled up her window and waited for Gary to get back into his patrol car and then take the lead. She eased off the brake and followed a pair of glowing headlights that led her through a dark, creepy town and that eventually turned into a very spooky countryside that, unbeknownst to Patricia, was lined with countless graveyards. 

Patricia kept checking the gas gauge. Her SUV was now down to a quarter of a tank. “If we don’t arrive soon I may be walking,” she worried, following Gary at a slow crawl. To her relief, about half an hour later—what in normal weather would have only been a few minutes—Gary turned down a long dirt driveway that was covered with pristine snow. Patricia followed and didn’t stop until the headlights attached to her SUV splashed onto a large, creepy manor that reminded her of a funeral home.

She gulped. “I guess this is it.”

Gary jumped out of his patrol car and ran up to the SUV. Patricia reluctantly rolled down the window, flinching against the frigid wind.

“Not many people visit this old place,” Gary said. “Rumors are an insane killer built it…don’t know if that’s true or not. All I know is that this place had been sitting empty since 1974. Not sure why the Graves bought this place. They’re not even locals.” Gary had to holler over the howling winds to make sure Patricia could hear him. “Anyway…if you encounter any trouble, just give the police a call and I’ll come running.”

“I…sure. I’ll definitely do that,” Patricia said.

Gary tipped his black police hat at Patricia, ran back to his car, jumped in, and drove away, leaving Patricia staring at a spooky manor that seemed filled with sleeping nightmares that were slowly beginning to wake up.

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