I checked behind each shelf that contained the snuff film archives, but found nothing. I went and sat down on the basement stairs. Maybe what I was looking for wasn't something tangible. Maybe it was supernatural.
I noticed a water heater in the back corner of the basement that I hadn't paid attention to before. There weren't any pipes running to it, so I figured it must be an unused one that they just didn't bother to remove.
I went over to it, looking at the panel screwed to the front that contained the heating element.
The screws were loose.
I went back to the house. I needed to get back to my screenplay, but I couldn't let this mystery go. Something was going on and I had to find out what. After all, something made every man that moved into this house turn into a killer. I had to make sure I didn't suffer the same fate. But something was compelling me to stay there.
I went around the house again, looking for cracks in the wall, anything that could be a hiding place. I found nothing, so I went back down to the basement.
Maybe it was there.
The old man got up and laid his money on the counter and started to walk to the door, then stopped and turned around.
"Maybe Mrs. Finch is trying to tell you something, son. Maybe all the answers you seek are right within the walls of that house."
He turned and opened the door, the bell clanging as he exited.
I looked at the door for a few seconds. Maybe he was right. Maybe all the answers I sought were in the house.
I got up, turning back to Mo. "I'll see you later, Mo."
"I certainly hope so, Teddy."
"That was her, Mo. I dreamed about a woman I'd never even seen. She came to me for some reason."
"Teddy, you listen to me. You get your things and you get out of that house. You need to get someone with a bulldozer to raze that damned thing to the ground. It's evil. You hear me?"
I grinned, "Mo, a house can't be evil. It's an inanimate object."
"Yeah," Mo said as she wiped a towel across the counter, "well that inanimate object belonged to Betty Finch. And she obviously wants it back!"
I laughed, "Mo, you're too much!"
He crunched his last piece of bacon. It crumbled and bits rained down onto his plate.
"She was a small woman. Fiery red hair. Very pale."
I slumped onto the counter. I felt like I'd been slugged in the gut. That was her. The one I dreamed about. That was Betty Finch. I was barely cognizant of what he said after.
"But she was a real sweet woman. She didn't deserve all that happened to her. Losing her husband and then losing her own life to that stupid hippie girl. No reason for it at all, if you ask me."
His voice sounded like a gravel road and he never even looked up from his plate of eggs.
Mo looked at me, "That's Mr. Morgan, Teddy."
I got up off the stool and walked to the end of the counter and sat down beside him. He was scraping up the last of his eggs with his fork. It screeched across the plate like a swooping pterodactyl.
"When I was a young man I worked at the factory where her husband had his accident. I saw her a few times there."
"What did she look like?" I asked with grim anticipation.
"Yeah, that happened years ago. What did you want to know?"
"I wanted to see a picture of Betty Finch. I need to know what she looks like."
"Teddy... I can call you Teddy, can't I?" she asked.
"Of course you can."
"Teddy, you're getting too curious about it. It's drawing you in."
I shook my head, "Mo, I had a dream last night about a woman cooking in my kitchen.. I need to know if it was her."
"Teddy, get out of that house now!"
The old man at the end said, "I know what Betty Finch looked like."
She came up and put her hand over mine, "I'll be with you in a minute, hon."
I nodded as she went down the counter, checking on all the patrons. Most were wrapping up their meal and getting ready to leave. All except for an old man at the end of the counter. He was still munching on scrambled eggs and bacon.
I waited until it was just the three of us in the place before I spoke to Mo.
"Mo, I went to the newspaper. I wanted to check the archives, but apparently it was lost in a fire."
"Okay, thank you, sir. I appreciate your time," I said, shaking the old man's hand. It felt like a block of ice.
"You're welcome, young man. Come back if you want to talk again."
I nodded and left. I swung back by Mo's. There were still a few cars there but I went in anyway. The bell rang as I opened the door, and the smell of burnt food permeated my nostrils.
She came from the kitchen when she heard the bell, smiling when she saw me. I smiled back and sat down at the counter, which was still greasy.
"Others thought that Mark Finch killed her in revenge for his mother's death, but he rarely ever left his house. He was strange after his mother died, but I never pegged him for a killer."
I really wanted to see a picture of Betty Finch. I had to know if she's the woman I dreamed about. A short, redheaded woman with very pale skin. I had to know.
"Do you remember what Betty Finch looked like?"
He shook his head, "I'm afraid not. That was so long ago, you know, and I didn't really know of her until she died."
It was nice to know there were at least a few decent people in town.
"What happened to the girl that killed Mrs. Finch? Is she still around?"
I knew from what Mo had told me that she disappeared on the first anniversary of Betty Finch's death, but I wanted to hear it from him.
"Abigail Lewis? Well, that was a strange one. She vanished one year after the accident, never to be found again. Some folks think she ran off to San Francisco, she was one of those hippie types. Weeping Springs wasn't hip enough for her, you know?"
"I understand the girl that killed Mrs. Finch didn't do any jail time, is that right?"
He chuckled, "Her father was on the town council, his wife was head of the P.T.A., and they were best friends with the mayor and his wife. That girl could've taken a gun and shot Mrs. Finch through the head in the middle of the town square and she wouldn't have faced any charges. I was just a cub reporter at the time but I wrote an editorial about what a travesty it was, and the editor at the time would not print it."
"That's a shame," I said. "I really wanted to find out some things."
The old man chuckled, "Son, I've been at this paper since I was 14. I can probably tell you anything you want to know."
I saw a glimmer of hope.
"Do remember a fatal car accident that happened on November 7, 1966?"
He nodded with a frown. "Sure do, Mr. Martin. That was Betty Finch. Poor lady. A stoned teenage girl rammed into her car and killed her. It was worse for her son Mark. He'd lost his father several years before that, and then his mother."
The old man looked like he was in his 70's or 80's. He was a bit slumped over, with thin gray hair and thick glasses. He smiled as he approached me.
"Can I help you, mister?" he said with a squeaky cracking voice.
"Yes, sir. My name is Teddy Martin. I just moved to town and I was interested in some of its history. Does your paper have an archive?"
He shook his head, "Used to. There was a grease fire several years ago at the restaurant next door and it spread to our building, took out our whole archive."
Mo's was bustling with the breakfast crowd so I decided to wait until it thinned out a bit before I stopped to talk to her. I went to the edge of town where the local newspaper, The Weeping Springs Gazette, was located. I went inside to see if they had an archive. I wanted to read the papers regarding the death of Betty Finch.
I walked in and was greeted by a young girl behind the counter. I asked her if I could see the editor-in-chief.
She buzzed an office and an old man came from the back.
I jerked awake, sweating profusely. The sun was piercing through the curtain-less bedroom window. I shook my head and got up, staggering to the shower. I turned it on cold, stripped and jumped in.
Was that Betty Finch I just dreamed about? I don't even know what she looks like. I'd have to find a picture of her. I would be more than a little freaked out if I recognized her from my dream, a woman I'd never seen.
I needed to see Mo and find out if she knew where I could get a picture of Betty Finch.
There was fog inside the house. It looked like the dry ice we use when making a horror movie. I was wandering aimlessly through the house, from room to room. Only it was furnished. It looked like early 60's period decor. I heard singing, a female voice, coming from the kitchen. I moved through the fog toward the kitchen and saw a woman there, cooking. I could smell steam and heard sizzling. I kept walking toward her. I had a deep sense of dread. She turned, smiled and said, "The job isn't finished, my son."
Only she wasn't my mother.
The first night in the house was a little scary, I have to admit. I played some music on my computer while I was working just so I wouldn't hear every blasted creak the house made.
The writing was stale. I'd done it before. It would probably be a big hit, but I was bored with that.
I stayed at it until about 2 am and decided to try to sleep. I tossed and turned on the new bed, which felt like a mortuary slab. I couldn't shut my mind off.
But somewhere in the early morning I dozed off.
I got the furniture delivered and had it set up. Just a bed, nightstand, and computer desk. I went to the local supermarket and bought all the things I usually eat when I'm working on a new screenplay: chips, dip, beef jerky and soda. Not exactly the healthiest diet in the world but I generally only have writing sessions a couple of times a year. I don't eat garbage all the time.
I went to Mo's again for dinner. And she begged me not to stay overnight in the house. I said it would be okay.
She said it wouldn't.
"Can you email me all the info you gathered, Becky?"
"Uh, sure, boss. I'll send it right now."
"Thanks. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Okay. Are you..."
I ended the call. I was really tired. I went in to the motel room and crashed onto the bed.
When I woke up the next morning I remembered a dream about being in that house, watching those movies. I kept hearing footsteps on the floor above the basement. But that was all I could remember.
I got up, showered and dressed and went to buy a bed and some furniture for the house.