Saturday, April 10, 2010

To site Stambovsky v. Ackley

Tessa yawned and looked longingly out at the long thick grass growing in the paddocks beyond the doorway she was standing in.  Her parents were intently looking at the fireplace the real estate agent was showing them.  Her stiff boots pinched her feet and she wished she were able to pull off the hot sweater her mother had insisted she wear that day. 
“You’ll be sorry when the wind turns icy cold and you don’t have it.”  Her mother had her back to her then, as she did now, but Tessa could tell her lips were pursed as tight as a cats wotsit. A tiny giggle threatened to escape her lips as Tessa thought of her mothers lips and puffed the hem of her sweater to drive air up underneath to relieve the heat. She was bored after looking at half a dozen houses that day and wished her parents would just say yes to one of them so they would have somewhere to move into soon.  Living out of her grandmothers modest semi detached was beginning to sour relationships between all concerned. 
This house was the best they had seen as far as Tessa was concerned. She longed to pull off her clothes and run through the grass; flopping into the thickest part and laying on her back to look at the fluffy clouds as they passed overhead. She sniggered imagining the look her mother would give her when she discovered the naked lass.
“And was this home originally built here?”  her mother enquired.
“Not at all. You probably noticed that the stumps are fairly new. This was a farm house on an orchard a few miles up the road, but moved her in the ‘40s. Its had a number of owners in that time and as you can see, have all put their mark on the decorating. What this place needs is a family who want to make it their home.” The smooth suit oozed its gleeful marketing pitch.
Bradley Johnston looked over his notes again and pulled his glasses from his face rubbing the bridge of his nose intently. The heat and the pressure of having to find appropriate accommodation was beginning to wear him down . “So tell me again. Why is this place, with its 10 acres in semi rural farmland; close, but not too close to all the amenities of a town, clean, tidy and by all looks of things, not in need of a major renovation; so .. cheap?”
The sharp suited real estate agent shifted his weight uncomfortably and carefully avoided looking at the couple. “Truth of the matter is, that the current owners never felt at home here. Never really settled. She wanted to find somewhere with more facilities.  City folk is my guessing, too good for the countrylife and people. Not saying you folk are like that of course.”  Maria Johnston smiled warmly and assured him otherwise. “If you’d like to follow me upstairs, I’ll show you the bedrooms.”
The summer wildflowers waved in the breeze amongst the long grasses. Their molten colours fluttering as their perfume wafted into the house. All beckoning Tessa to run outside and join them. Tessa wiggled her toes inside her boots and wondered if mother would miss her for a few moments. A quick movement in the grass caught her immediate attention. A slender teenage girl swung her arms as she waded through the grass; stopped and stared up at Tessa. Before she could wave or cry out to her, the girl twirled and bolted, her long plats flying behind her as a a wily wily stirred up the grass behind her; obscuring her exit point.
“Tessa, come and look at the bedrooms!”
Tessa started up the stairs, trailing her hand along the smoothed wooden hand rail and wondered how many others had done just the same over the years. The front door closed quietly; the wind dropped and the house paused. 
It was dark on the landing; but Tessa could hear broken murmurings of conversation from one of the rooms. Her fathers strong voice was negotiating a price with the Real Estate Agent who seemed keen to close the deal quickly.  Glad to at last have a permanent home, Tessa pushed her had against the wooden door to let herself in to what she assumed would be her room.
The room was small and dark, the density of the air sent a shiver up her back. Tessa bumped her leg against the bed as she crossed the floor to open the curtains and screamed as a mans face loomed close to the glass. She stepped backwards, overbalanced and fell backwards onto the bed, landing abruptly onto a sleeping form.  The clean shaven man pulled a short barrelled eight gauge shot gun to his shoulder and fired twice through the window. Glass shards exploded throughout the room, leaving the gaping jagged smile of the remains, jutting dangerously below the mans tear streaked face. 
Tessa scrambled atop the bed and pulled the bed clothes from the still figure. The teenage girl from the fields lay bleeding over her white sheets. The plats tangled now in blood. Tinkling of glass alerted Tessa that the man was now climbing through the window with his gun. Tessas heart thumped out of her chest as she fell out of bed and tried to reach the door. The man stepped past her and knelt beside the bleeding girl; weeping and smoothing her fringe. He carefully reloaded his shot gun, placed it under his chin and squeezed the trigger. As his body hit the floor beside the bed, the door opened and two pyjamaed figures burst in.
Tessa crawled out of the room, screaming and crying for her parents. In her haste to escape, she slid down the stairs and landed with a heavy bump at the bottom. Bradley was the first at her side and picked her up gently, taking her into the kitchen area, placing her onto the large country table. Tessas eyes opened to a squint.
“Is she hurt?  Did she break something? Tessa, are you alright?” Her mothers concerned face loomed dangerously close to hers. The mouth pursed as tight as she’d ever seen it.
Tessa griped her father and began to sob. “Upstairs Daddy. Didn’t you hear it? They’re both dead. I saw it.”
“Upstairs?  Whose dead?”
“The gun. Didn’t you hear the gun? He killed her and he killed himself.”
“Tessa, There’s no-one upstairs. We’ve just been around everything. Theres no gun. either.”
“But Daddy. The man with the gun. He shot her. I was there. Didn’t you hear me screaming, didn’t you hear the gun?”
Bradley cupped his large hands over her forehead and traced his fingers down her face, wiping her tears away.  “ Tess, all we heard was you falling down the stairs and you crying. Thats all.”
“Would you like me to get an ambulance?”  A mobile phone was produced and eager well meaning eyes watched Tessa sobbing on the table. The sharp suit seemed a little crumpled now, lines softening and starch fading. 
“I’m ok. Just fell. But the girl. The man. They’re dead.” Tessa sat up and pointed up the stairs.
The Real Estate Agent flicked his phone shut, fluidly popping it into his shirt pocket. The door to the pantry closed quietly. “ Tessa, there’s nothing you can do for them.”
Bradley searched the face of his pursed lipped wife to the pale, frighted one of his daughter. “What the hell is going on here?”
‘I’ve not disclosed entirely what the house and land encompasses.”
“Meaning?” Tessas mothers eyebrows pursed, threatening to collide with one another.
“The house was moved in the ‘40s. Away from an orchard a few miles up.”
“You told us that.”
“Reason it was moved was the family sold up. Moved away. Couldn’t bear the guilt, the looks from other folks.”
“Go on. Still doesn’t explain all of this.”
“It was normal during war that swaggies and homeless or out of work men travelled about and worked for no wages, collecting only food and board and them would move on after a few weeks. One such young man came to that orchard. After a while instead of moving on, he stayed on with the promise that he may marry the eldest daughter at the end of the war. From all accounts they were in love. Old Mr Peterson worked that lad hard and long hours.  When the war ended Old Peterson told that lad he  did not have permission to marry his daughter and he tried to pay the lad off and to tell him to be on his way. The lad got hold of a shot gun one night; climbs up to her window  and shot her while she was in bed. He climbed in and then shot himself. Peterson and his wife and kids sold up soon after that. The house was empty for years until it was moved here. You’ll see from the deeds its been bought and sold more times that a tramp on a Saturday night.”
“Why?  What happens?”
“The girl. She shuts doors, closes windows and is seen running. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of someone like Tessa who sees the whole scene, but pretty much someone in the fairly hears gunshots or screams most weeks. Well - that is until they are sick of it and sell up.”
“So the house comes with a ghost. Is that what you are saying?”
“Bon a fide. Just ask your daughter.”
“I’d expect a considerable discount on that asking price.  Aren't you aware of Stambovsky v. Ackley? Where is the contract?  I’ll adjust it now.” The suit smartened up a little and pulled out the manila folder holding the contract. A pen materialised in his hand and clicked open.
Tessa and her mother mirrored an expression which left Bradley in no doubt to its meaning; but left him stifling a giggle as he thought about cats.


Story inspired by the [Fiction Friday] prompt at Write Anything and submitted to JM Strother’s #FridayFlash via Twitter.

 "A child walks in to a resident haunted house and is transported to another time."


Adam Byatt said...

Had to google the legal precedent regarding the title.
Loved the story. Great pacing and so very visual.
Quite an effective piece.

Walt said...

I enjoyed reading this. The murder / suicide scene was very descriptive and fast paced. The only thing it left me wondering was just how big of a mess an 8 gauge shotgun would make (I've shot a 10 and the slugs were pretty big).

Good stuff, thanks for the read.

Anonymous said...

:) excellent story