Kachima Spiritby Marilyn Meredith
Madeline Kennon, a young widow, along with her two children, Norman and Wendy, move into an old Victorian house in Ojai, California in an effort to begin life anew. The house is haunted by several ghosts. Norman, the collector of all things horrible, is delighted. The ghost of a Chumash Native American woman disturbs Madeline's dreams. As she tries to solve the mysteries of their new home, she becomes involved with an intriguing stranger. But it is Norman's policeman friend who saves her from the fate that befell the Indian maiden years before.
- Mundania Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.41(d)
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Madeline Kennon knew she wanted the house from the moment Flossie Elliott, the real estate agent, maneuvered her big, white Cadillac over the rise and down into the vale. The old Victorian perched on an isolated knoll was certainly out of place in the southern California foothill setting. Ancient oaks, a few stately pines, spiky yucca and scrubby chaparral surrounded it.
"What a lovely old place... looks perfect for you and your family." Flossie drove carefully into the small dirt lane which served as a driveway.
Not wanting the woman to know she was interested for fear she might raise the price, Madeline said, "Goodness, look at the garage... only room for one car." She didn't bother to mention she only had one car, her Volkswagen bus which she seldom parked under cover anyway.
Madeline climbed out of the car and studied the outside of the house. She couldn't help smiling. A steeply pitched roof topped the second story. A brick chimney jutted from each side, and in the center a pointed gable held a double-arched window. The front door protruded slightly from the lower half of the front pavilion, and a covered porch ran the full length of the house with stairs leading up to it from either side.
"I can just picture you sitting there sipping your morning coffee." Flossie picked her way through the uncut grass, taking care that the thistles didn't snag her deep purple polyester slacks. "Let's see what the inside looks like."
No wonder she was eager, the stout woman had been showing houses to Madeline for the last two months, and she knew she'd been a frustrating client because nothing up until now suited her. She wanted to move awayfrom Los Angeles and everything reminding her of her previous life. It wasn't because she hadn't been happy, on the contrary, life with her recently deceased husband had been close to ideal.
Don's fatal automobile accident a little more than a year ago had devastated her, his memory haunted their home. Despite her two children, she felt lonely and purposeless. She desperately needed new surroundings in order to recover.
Because she'd received a large insurance settlement from Don's estate, and combined with the sale of their home, a new beginning was possible.
Most of the homes Flossie had shown Madeline had been satisfactory, but reminded her too much of the ranch style house she wanted to leave behind. She'd seen several Spanish type bungalows with heavy tiled roofs and white stucco walls and lots of wrought iron, but somehow they hadn't appealed to her.
Earlier that morning, when she'd called the real estate woman to see if she'd located any more property to show her, Madeline recognized annoyance in Flossie's voice.
"As I tried to explain to you the last time you were here, Mrs. Kennon, I've shown you every decent house that's for sale from Casitas Springs to Wheeler's Gorge. Everything else listed is out of your price range or unsuitable."
Disappointed but not willing to give up, Madeline said, "Maybe one of the houses you think is unsuitable might be exactly what I want. Why don't you show me some of those?"
The woman agreed, though reluctantly, to meet her in the afternoon and take her to the less desirable properties. Flossie had certainly been correct in her estimation of the first place she'd driven Madeline. Not only was it unsuitable, it was uninhabitable. In such a state of disrepair, Madeline doubted the crumbling building could be salvaged by the handiest of persons, which she wasn't. And she began to wonder if Flossie hadn't been right after all, and they were both wasting their time.
Before taking Madeline to what she called "The Weightman place," Flossie explained, "This next one is an older home and though it's supposed to be in good repair it's been empty for quite some time. It's in rather an isolated area and the neighbors are reported to be rather eccentric, but you might find them interesting."
The less than complimentary description had heightened Madeline's curiosity. Interesting neighbors might perk up her boring life.
While waiting for Flossie to unlock the front door, Madeline admired the four stained glass panels set into the oversize front door. Flossie flung it open and stepped aside to allow Madeline to enter.
As she entered the dusty, large foyer with a wide staircase and a door to the right, and an open arch to the left, an oddly discomforting sensation settled over her. It was like a compulsion almost, that she had to have the house. She certainly didn't want the real estate agent to know what she was feeling. She might raise the price.
Madeline peered into the room to her left which was dominated by a large fireplace. Another arch led to an old fashioned dining room, complete with built-in buffet and glass-fronted China closet. "Hmmm, no carpets or drapes," she said.
"But the floors are hardwood. Cleaned and waxed they'll be beautiful," Flossie countered and opened the door on the right, ushering Madeline into a large, sunny room, two walls lined with shelves. "This will be perfect for you, Madeline. You told me you needed a big room for your hobbies."
Flossie was right. It was large enough for her bedroom furniture and her loom, with plenty of storage for her yarn and craft supplies. Madeline found it difficult to murmur a noncommittal, "Um huh."
Flossie waddled across the floor and opened another door. "And here's the downstairs bathroom."
Peering in, Madeline exclaimed, "Goodness, it's ghastly, and the bathtub is a relic." Though the room desperately needed paint, it wasn't all that bad. The sink wasn't chipped, only dirty. An attempt had been made at modernization with the addition of cabinets, and Madeline could live with the old-fashioned green tile with black trim. Actually, she'd always wanted a claw-footed tub. She tried not to smile.
Reaching for the handle on the toilet, Flossie pushed down and it flushed with a rush of water. "It works." She sounded surprised.
"That's something anyway." Madeline swatted at a cobweb protecting another door leading out of the bathroom. "Bet the house is full of mice."
"Didn't you tell me your little girl has a cat? Surely it'll take care of the mice."
Flossie was right, Bandit would make short work of the rodent population. Madeline already imagined the house scrubbed and polished and filled with her own belongings.
"This room will be perfect for your daughter," Flossie said.
She was right, it would be perfect for Wendy, but Madeline said, "It's kind of small."
Flossie made an exasperated sound, and pushed open the next door. "Wow. You're going to love this."
The kitchen ran the full width of the house and had obviously been recently remodeled. A brick fireplace and windows lined the back wall, and oak cabinets and fairly modern appliances finished off the other end.
"It's definitely a pleasant surprise."
"And to me too, there's nothing in the listing that even hints at the extent of the renovation." Flossie picked her over-bleached hair with her long, purple fingernails.
They didn't find any surprises upstairs. The windows in the front gables were the only ones of any size and they opened onto the hallway at the top of the stairs. Doors on either side led to two drab rooms with a tiny bathroom between them. "I bet your son would enjoy the privacy up here."
"Yes, Norman definitely would like having the whole top floor to himself." It might be exactly what was needed to bring her fifteen-year-old son out of the dark mood he'd been in ever since his father died.
"So what do you think, Mrs. Kennon?"
"I don't know." Madeline frowned though she wanted the house, had to have it. "It seems pretty remote out here. Might be dangerous."
"I'm sure you'll be much safer here than you are in the city." Flossie tapped her foot impatiently. "Besides, I don't have anything else to show you."
"Well... if this really is all you have." She gazed around again. "I'm hoping new surroundings will make a difference to my children."
"I can assure you, this is the best buy around. I'm sure it'll suit your family just fine. Why don't we go back to my office and talk?"
For a brief moment, an almost suffocating yearning to remain right where she was settled over Madeline. She shivered, and the feeling quickly dissipated. "Yes, let's."
Madeline feared the price of the house might be more than she could afford, but it was surprisingly low. "Are you sure that's right? You did say it was on two acres, didn't you?"
"Yes, but it's such rugged terrain, unsuitable for much of anything."
Madeline realized she hadn't even looked at the yard. However, it didn't matter what it was like because she already considered the house hers.
The escrow closed quickly, surprising even Flossie, who called to report it to Madeline. "And you may move in any time you want."
The Kennons traveled the 101 freeway through Ventura, driving past the ocean, sunbathers on the beaches basking in the June sun. Seven-year-old Wendy turned to her mother, dark pigtails flying. "Will we be able to see the water from our house?"
"We'll be close enough to come to the beach whenever we want, but we won't be able to see it because our house is on the way to the mountains." Madeline had deliberately not given her children any details because she wanted to surprise them.
As they left the main freeway and took the turnoff toward Ojai, Wendy became more and more animated. She read the signs aloud, and pointed out the sights that interested her, while hugging her black-and-white cat.
"Foster Park... can we go there on a picnic someday?"
"Lake Casitas, oh boy. Can we take a boat ride?"
"Look, those people have a horse in their front yard. Can we have a horse?"
"I saw a squirrel. No chasing squirrels, Bandit...."
As she babbled on and on, Madeline knew her decision to move was a good one. Even Norman, who wasn't saying anything, seemed interested in the changing scenery as he peered out the windows of their old, but reliable bus.
Madeline made the left hand turn from the highway to follow the winding road to their new home. She had to concentrate on her driving to avoid the potholes, as Wendy continued to verbally point out the sights.
"Look at that funny little gingerbread house."
Farther up the road, a young woman with long, straight blonde hair blowing over her shoulders, and a colorful skirt billowing around tanned legs stood beside a mailbox and waved.
"Hi," Wendy called out. "Look, Mommy, the lady's waving at us."
The steep hill ahead required Madeline to shift gears, and as she drove over the top, she said, "There it is, kids, that's our new home."
Wendy bounced up and down in her seat, clutching the squirming Bandit.
Norman ran his fingers through his dark brown hair, and said solemnly, "It's better than I expected."
Madeline stared at the old Victorian. She once again felt drawn toward it, but in a more ominous manner, almost frightening. For the first time, she wondered if she'd made a mistake.
Copyright © 1999 by Marilyn Meredith
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