Rickie was running. Her breath came in painful gasps as she tried to stay ahead of the police car. One foot before the other. Keep it up, girl! She hurried through the streets of London where night was falling. The siren screamed. Was it really closing in on her?
She did not look back. It would only slow her down. She dove into a narrow alley and ran as hard as possible. Then she saw the house. She had seen it before. It always looked deserted and neglected, surrounded by its tangled garden full of thistles. She had often wondered about it. A property of this size – it must have been built in Victoria’s age – was worth a fortune nowadays. So why were there no people living in it?
In a fraction of a second she decided. Damn! Those wretched shrubs would not budge. And now she saw the blue light of the police car. She was not going to make it! They would spot her any second.
“Shit!” she sobbed. “Let me through. Please!”
All of a sudden unseen fingers grabbed her by the arm. Before she knew it she was pulled through the hedge. The branches that had formed a secure barrier before now gave way and even seemed to push her forward. She found herself in the safety of the garden when the police car shot by.
She looked around, puzzled. She could not see a thing. Yet she sensed the nearness of – something.
“Hello?” she whispered. “Anyone there?”
Rickie heard nothing. She kept waiting until she sensed the being was no longer there. Her breathing returned to normal. Her imagination was probably playing in overtime, she grinned. Ghosts did not exist. She must have found a place where the hedge was not so dense. In her panic she had not seen it before.
Now what? She needed a place to hide out. The police would be looking for her. Would she dare to try the house? Now that she was feeling brave again, she decided it would do no harm. She circled the property a couple of times while trying to figure out how to enter the house. Breaking a window was no option because of the noise. She could try to pick a lock with her pocket knife. The moment she put her hand against the front door it opened. She almost stumbled in. That was weird! Who would leave such a house unlocked?
Then, she sensed a nearness again. She got the feeling that someone – something – was watching her. The front door fell into its lock. She looked around, not yet sure as how to proceed.
“Who’s there?” she repeated. The air around her did not move. All she could perceive was the utter silence of the house. She waited five more minutes until she felt certain she was alone once more. She shrugged. If someone tried to scare her, they would have to do better. She did not scare that easily. Not after what had already happened to her. She would stay the night, and nobody would drive her out.
The hall was broad and lofty as far as she could judge by the dim light of the street lamps. She lowered her backpack and rumbled in it to find her torchlight. She always made sure she had batteries to feed it. Torch in hand, she wandered through the house, making certain no-one was hiding in the shadows.
The hall led to various rooms downstairs. There was a kitchen and pantry, a big dining room annex, living room, a toilet, and even a library. The furniture still seemed to be in place although covered up in dust sheets. When she climbed the stairs, she found four bedrooms, two with a bathroom en suite, and two smaller ones without. These had to use a separate bathroom further away down the corridor.
She chose the nicest bedroom for herself. It had a four-poster bed and windows that overlooked the garden. But what attracted her most was the splendid mirror above the dressing table. It was oval-shaped and quite big. She could tell it was worth thousands of pounds.
She dropped her backpack on one of the thick carpets, lay down her torch on the dressing table, and walked over to the bed. She grabbed a tip of the dust sheet and tore it off. To her surprise the bed was made up with fresh linen and had a duvet coverlet. She let go of a low whistle.
Who did live in this house? Why did they keep out of sight? Different questions popped up in her mind, but she was simply too tired to worry anymore. She kicked off her shoes, removed her upper clothing, and rolled into the bed. Within seconds she was asleep.
She did not wake up when light suddenly gulfed out of the mirror and set the room in an eerie light.
“You’ve returned to me!” a voice whispered. “I knew you would come!”