Sanctuary of Echoes (Excerpt)

The Fabacher House

“I can’t tell you why your mother was the way she was,” Clayton Knight hesitated. And she felt quite certain that he was questioning the wisdom of continuing, or perhaps it was the wisdom of beginning at all. He turned away from her staring out of the long guillotine window on the far wall of his study. He seldom talked of her mother. None of them did, not she, nor Samuel, nor their father. In some skewed way, she believed they felt the silence, the unacknowledged absence would make it less real, less a part of their lives. But even at her young age she had begun to suspect that the unspoken could become a stronger presence, than if it were acknowledged. There, after all, was no invisibility in avoidance.

“She,” he began again, “well, in so many ways she allowed the world to crush her.” He frowned turning to Corey with a stern expression, one that quite truly did not in any way suit the very delicate nature of his subject. “Some might say she was gifted by God. I’m quite sure most of her life she considered it a curse — a curse that in the end took its toll. You must choose, choose not to let what she has passed onto you destroy you as it did her.”

A coldness wrapped around her, a fear that had no form, no substance, except what lies in abstract imagination. “But I’m not like her.”

And then his cool, silvery blue eyes softened for a moment into only what she could interpret as pity. “No, my dearest, unfortunately, you are far too much like her.”

It wrapped around her like a warm blanket as she crossed the threshold, a muffled warmth as though someone had thrown a heavy coat over her slight body. She breathed in deeply and breathed in the fragrance of faded flowers, roses that were just beginning to wilt.

“Are there any lights?” young Sebastian Morris’s voice behind her.

“Do you think that’s wise? If someone sees it, they’ll know we’re inside.” Quinn Murdoch, she felt, just on one side of her. But his presence was muffled, there was something stronger here, pulling her.

“So, what are we going to do? Stumble around in the dark?” Brae was perhaps a step behind on the opposite side. She’d felt her breath in her hair, but she’d also felt other breath, whispers surrounding her. Corey glanced around. The light from the fading afternoon could scarcely penetrate the heavy brocade drapes covering the long windows of this enormous room that they had stumbled into moments before. Her eyes carefully scanned its shadow-filled corners. But where she looked wasn’t dark anymore. It was filled with light from the blazing fireplace. It warmed all the hidden corners of the room, and the plush velvets of the furniture weren’t hidden now but exposed, luscious rich colors that only a moment before had seemed covered in dusty white sheets. She breathed deeply but was hard-pressed to still the trembling of her knees.

A hand on her shoulder sent a jolt through her body realigning her with where she was. “All right?” Iain asked, in his direct, jarring manner.

She glanced around. All was steady now, no fire, no uncovered furniture. Even the scent of roses had been quickly replaced with the musty smell of a house that had been closed off for some time.

She turned around, staring into a youthful face that seemed even more guarded now than when they’d first entered the house. But in the eyes, the dark green eyes, there was something else, an understanding between them that existed on a level which was imperceptible to anyone surrounding them. She nodded quietly and then walked further into the center of the room. It was different in layout from her father’s Esplanade house. But as her eyes followed the ceiling with its ornate molding, she recognized that the room was two large ones joined, a double parlor as it was once called.

“So, what are we doing? Taking a tour?” Quinn’s voice, trying to be funny. But Corey felt the trepidation beneath.

Quinn walked past her to the direct center of the room, beneath the huge crystal chandelier. Corey glanced up dazzled by its flickering lights, the reflections cascading across the finely polished floor. Then she squeezed her eyes shut and looked again. And it had disappeared, replaced by a heavy dark cloth that covered its former glory. She looked forward to Sebastian who was talking, but strangely she was only picking up his conversation in midsentence. “That’s the best idea, so this won’t be complete waste. We pair off. Go exploring and meet back here in about fifteen minutes.”

Brae’s voice, “You guys really didn’t plan this out so well, did you?” With exasperation, she continued, “We’ll play a little longer than that’s it. But pairs won’t work. There are five.”

“Yeah,” began a disgruntled Sebastian. “Quinn you—”

“Quinn, go with Brae and Sebastian upstairs,” Iain broke abruptly with a strong tone. “And Corey and I will look around down here.”

A little stunned, Corey’s eyes flew from Iain to Sebastian’s face. There was surprise, a hesitation on Sebastian’s part, but then in the end he held back, “Yeah, come on.”

Corey watched silently as Sebastian purposefully led his group up a grand curving staircase that she’d barely noted when they’d entered. On parting, Brae shot her a quick, perturbed glance, but it barely registered as she felt another curious tendril of warmth transverse her arm. It was pulling, drawing her. But she concentrated, anchoring herself onto the cold dusty floor that was the present.

She turned to Iain who had crossed to a large marble fireplace, still grand in its neglect. “Well, what do you guys usually do on these expeditions?” He turned round to her, an odd, bemused expression on his face. “Dunno, this would be the first,” and then a shrug. “The first like this anyway.”

She was feeling acutely uncomfortable for a number of multiplying reasons. “So, what did the original Marguillers do?”

He frowned, “Tried to control the church behind the scenes.”

Her turn to frown, “And the Templars?”

“Oh, fought the crusades, took control of quite a few things.”

“That’s not terribly helpful,” she murmured.

He rested his elbow on the mantle of the black marble fireplace, and again from the corner of her eye, she saw flames shooting out of its long dead ashes. “Sorry,” but he just stood there looking at her pointedly.

“What?” she asked, more than a bit bothered.

“I was just wondering when you were going to tell me what’s going on here.”

She crossed her arms in front of her in a mixture of discomfort and disdain, “What do you mean what’s going on?”

He smiled, “You see things too. Don’t you?”

Her eyes widened, “What do you mean too?”

And then he laughed, “I wasn’t sure, but I am now. Can you hear the music?”

Slowly, she shook her head. “No, not music.”

“But other things?”

“It feels warm.”

He nodded, “Yes, feels that way, cozy and music. But it’s all a trap. I knew it the first time I laid eyes on it. This is a really bad place.”

Copyright © 2020 by Evelyn Klebert