by Pam Sears
Do you believe in ghosts?
|“Hey, Mazie, those two kids’re back.” Erin nudged her cousin and pointed to the dock at the back of their grandparent’s property.
Two little figures sat there, one draped in red and the other in white, and only the wind stirred their …cloaks? Sheets? What? Mazie sat on the back deck of the house with her cousin and squinted, trying to bring the figures into better focus. All she saw were a couple of fuzzy spots that seemed to shift side-to-side slightly.
“You sure, E? That it’s a couple of kids, I mean.” She clarified. She was near sighted and had trouble seeing things at a distance without her glasses or contacts. She’d left her contacts at home and she was feeling too lazy to go back in for her glasses.
“Yeah, they show up every now and then. Don’t seem to cause any problems so far. Just hang around on the dock, sitting with their feet over the water, then up and disappear after a while. No one seems to see ‘em show up or see ‘em leave.” Erin frowned.
“I’m not real happy they’re playing on Grampy’s dock. If they get hurt their parents could sue.” Mazie frowned. “And where are their parents, I’d like to know. Or their babysitter or whoever should be watching them?” She added, getting a little irritated at the so-called responsible adults who should have been watching the kids. “Kids that little can get hurt, lost or kidnapped just walking by themselves.”
Erin shook her head. “I’ve never seen an adult whenever I’ve spotted them. If they didn’t look so little I’d think they escaped their parents or whoever just to mess with ‘em.” Then she grinned conspiratorially at Mazie. “Remember the trouble we used to get in?”
“Used to?” Mazie snorted so hard she nearly slid off her chair.
“Yeah, yeah. Still do.” Erin waved a hand. She sat and stared at the dock for long, silent moments before shaking her head. “They never do anything. Just sit there.”
“Maybe we should go down and check on them.” Mazie pushed reluctantly to her feet. The Lake House was the one time she got to truly relax from her job and she wasn’t excited about doing anything that didn’t include doing nothing, but she couldn’t ignore two vulnerable kids.
Surprisingly Erin looked uncomfortable. “I’d rather not.” She admitted reluctantly.
“What? Whyever not?” Mazie gestured. “Those two could fall in and drown before we got to them. At the least they could get hurt if they hit the water wrong.” She glanced at the fuzzy spots of color. “I don’t like them sitting there without an adult.”
“We’re right here.” Erin pointed out, trying to sound reasonable.
Hands on her hips Mazie faced her cousin. “What’s going on, E? For real? You don’t like seeing kids left alone, either. Neither of us have ever seen a positive outcome of unsupervised children in our jobs. What makes you think they’ll be any better off?”
Erin sighed. “I’ve tried to approach them before. They usually disappear on me before I can get to them. And I don’t like going out on the dock right after seeing them.”
“Why?” Mazie was puzzled. She’d never seen this reaction from her normally daring cousin.
“I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s just… it’s really, really uncomfortable out there. Like something doesn’t want me to see those kids up close or something.”
Mazie scowled. “Erin Alana Pepperidge, if you’re trying to set me up for a practical joke,” she began only to be interrupted by Erin’s vigorous headshake of denial.
“I swear, Cuz, it’s just plain creepy out there for a few hours after those kids are spotted.” She was still watching the dock and now rubbed her hands up and down her bare arms.
Mazie studied her then glanced back at the two spots. “Fine. For now. If they’re still there after dinner I’m doing something about them.”
“You’re welcome to try but they won’t be.” Erin shook her head. She looked up at Mazie, then back to the dock and nodded. “In fact, they’re already gone.”
Giving her cousin a deeply suspicious look Mazie glanced back but both bright spots were gone. “Not sure I believe anything you’ve told me in the last ten minutes.” She muttered, then lifted her wrist to check her watch and grimaced.
“Great, now I’m going to be late to meet Greg for dinner.” She sighed. “I’ll be checking when I get back that those two aren’t still hanging around somewhere. Maybe I’ll see if a report has been made on two little kids wandering around unattended while I’m in town.” She warned.
Erin simply nodded her agreement and Mazie left to dress for her date.
“You’re sure there were two toddlers on your grandparent’s dock?” Greg frowned thoughtfully at Mazie.
She shrugged. “Not a hundred percent, no. I wasn’t wearing my glasses and Erin’s been known to pull pranks on me.”
She expected Greg to chuckle or at least smile at that but he continued to frown down at his water glass, tracing the condensation.
“Greg?” She pressed.
“Hm?” He glanced up, then shook his head. “Sorry, just a… strange thought.”
“Care to share?” She tilted her head at him and he shrugged, sitting back, looking strangely uncomfortable. He was the town sheriff and was rarely uncomfortable about anything.
“It’s just, there’s a bit of an Urban Legend around here about twins who died out at the lake.” He finally explained.
A small smile tilted Mazie’s lips. “Greg, cops see and hear all sorts of weirdness on our jobs. I doubt you’re going to shock me with anything you want to share.”
“Not trying to shock you, or anyone.” He admitted. “But it’s a little sad. Even after all these years it can get to you. And it’s an old enough tale none of us would have been alive when it happened.”
She studied him for a minute and could see the sadness but also something else in his eyes that he didn’t seem to know how to express.
“I promise, I won’t laugh or make fun of any tales. Or any emotion the tale evokes. I’ve seen my share of sad situations, too.”
He gave in with a sigh. “The story goes that Parker Westman built a home of native stone on the West side of the lake. He was an amazing architect and was able to blend the house in with the surrounding area so it was nearly impossible to spot.
“He brought his family there for two months every Summer; wife, son and twin daughters. The son was old enough to already be interested in girls and the twins were only four years old.” He gave her a bittersweet smile. “They were a surprise to their parents on several levels.”
She smiled back but remained silent. Silence always got a story told better than questions.
“Their last summer here the son, Jamie, met a girl and they hung around together a lot. He would have been about sixteen or seventeen at the time, I believe.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Point is, he was more interested in this girl than his sisters and he usually doted on the twins.
“One afternoon Jamie’s parents went to a party at the Lake Lodge leaving him in charge of the twins. He wasn’t supposed to have anyone else over when his parents were out but…” He trailed off and Mazie nodded.
“How many teens obey that rule.” She grimaced in agreement. “I take it he invited his new girlfriend over? And they somehow lost track of the children?”
“Story of many an accidental drowning.” He confirmed. “But it seems the girl didn’t come over alone. No one ever managed to clarify if Jamie invited the other kids or if they came with his girlfriend but they ended up having a small party of their own. It wasn’t until one of the other girls saw the silk blankets floating in the water -one red and one white- that anyone realized there was a problem. Jamie ran down to the dock, screaming for his sisters, and flung himself into the lake but there was no one with the blankets.”
Mazie waited a moment, then blinked. “That’s it? They saw two blankets and Jamie jumped in the water and that’s all he found?”
Greg nodded. “They called the Sheriff at the time who had searchers come out and try to dive into the lake but it’s deep out there, even close to shore, and no trace of the twin’s bodies were ever found. Just the blankets.”
“But…” she paused then pointed out the obvious. “But that could mean the girls had been kidnapped.”
“True. And it was a matter that was seriously looked into but they came to the conclusion the girls had drowned when those blankets started showing up on the dock at odd times. Sometimes just as a heap of material. Other times appearing to be draped over tiny bodies sitting on the edge. Not everyone saw them but everyone who did see them swore the blankets were hollow and the dock was creepy to walk out on once they disappeared.”
Rubbing her arms to suppress a shiver Mazie sat back. “I almost wonder if you and Erin didn’t plan all this to pull a joke on me.” She murmured.
“You can ask any of the locals about it. It’s a tale that’s been around for the last hundred years at least. Swallow Lake’s very own ghosts.” He half smiled, then shrugged. “It all depends on what you do and don’t believe. I still bounce back and forth between belief and skepticism. Nights like tonight, with someone who’s job is to be as skeptical as me, I lean toward the “maybe” side of the story when you tell me you saw… something.”
Giving himself a brisk shake Greg smiled a little more fully. “So, what do you want for dinner?”
Mazie sat on the back deck, staring out toward the dock, as she considered what both Greg and Erin had told her about the Westman twins. She was still half inclined to believe the two of them had set her up for a prank but she couldn’t quite shake the feeling of “otherness”, as she called it, while sitting out here near the water. Could there be truth to the story? Had a set of twins died out here over a hundred years ago and their spirits remained behind, too young to understand how to cross over, as they say? Not everything was easily explainable.
Sudden determination had her standing and striding down the deck stairs. There was no way she was going to be taken in by a prank pulled by Greg and Erin. She’d never live it down back in the city if her fellow officers found out and they definitely would find out. Erin would make sure of that. The rat.
On the other hand, if the supernatural happened while she was standing right there….
She’d probably wet her pants, she snorted in silent amusement at herself. She dealt with crazies, angry spouses, abusive adults, screaming kids but dealing with ghosts was a whole ‘nother story and the Academy didn’t train you for that.
The path from the deck to the lake wasn’t exactly curvy but it wasn’t all that straight, either. There was just enough of a curve near the end to put the dock out of sight for a few moments as you approached. As Mazie cleared the curve and the dock came into sight she paused, her breath hitching. Sitting on the dock, facing away from her, were two little figures. One draped in a red silk blanket and one in white. Neither moved except when a breeze came up to flutter the cloth. Hesitantly she approached and a feeling of dread began to surface. She really, really didn’t want to get too close.
She paused at the edge where path and dock wood met, staring at the unmoving figures for a long moment. She cleared her throat but there was no reaction.
“Kids?” She called. “It’s not safe out there without an adult.” She tried.
Still no reaction.
She needed to check on them because, if it really was kids, they could get hurt. Still, she hesitated.
Until she realized what she was doing and she gave herself an angry shake. Greg and Erin had set her up for this. The feeling of dread was all in her mind, planted by her trickster of a cousin and reinforced by Greg. She didn’t hesitate out of true dread but imagined fear. Squaring her shoulders she stepped onto the dock and headed for the red and white figures, calling out to them again. Just in case.
“Girls, this is no place to play by yourselves. I don’t know where your parents are but you need to come with me so….” She trailed off as she squatted down and was finally able to look at the faces of the silk-draped figures.
Except there wasn’t a face. In either blanket. No bodies, either. Both were hollow and only the edges fluttered in the breeze.
Startled, shocked, Mazie shot to her feet but her balance was off and moments later she performed a graceless belly-flop right off the dock and into the murky water. As surged out of the water, icy shivers rippling through her, she heard hysterical laughter and looked up to see Erin standing behind the “twins”, holding her gut as she howled with laughter and pointed to a dripping Mazie. Greg stood next to her an amused if slightly sheepish grin on his face.
“So, I w-was r-ri-right.” Mazie chattered, wrapping her arms around herself and glaring wetly at the two. “Y-you di-id se-set up a pa-prank on m-me.”
“I’m sorry, Cuz. I couldn’t resist.” Erin gasped, tears ruining her make-up as she tried to control her laughter. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to leave it alone.”
Mazie began carefully working her way out of the water, slipping on the algae covered rocks but managing to keep her balance. She glared balefully at Greg who met her at the water’s edge to offer her a hand.
“You mi-might n-no-ot want t-t-t-to g-ge-get too c-close r-right n-n-now.” She warned.
“C’mon, Mayz. I’ll help warm you up. You weren’t supposed to fall into the water.” He continued holding out his hand, giving her his most boyishly winning smile.
“No.” Erin agreed, finally gaining some control then losing it again. “But it was the fu-fun-niest th-thiiiing!” She howled, once more doubled over.
Mazie’s eyes narrowed and she took a step toward Erin who wisely backed up, even up on the dock and supposedly out of reach, but continued laughing.
“C’mon, Mayz.” Greg coaxed. “Let me help you out of the water and we’ll go back to the house and get you warmed up.” He coaxed
She allowed him to pull her out of the lake even as she continued to glare at Erin. “S-so there n-never w-was an Urban L-legend about d-drowned t-t-twins.” She muttered under her breath, working to down the shivers.
“Well, no, there really is.” Greg corrected as he carefully guided her back toward the path to the house. “The whole story was true, so far as it goes. But there’s speculation that maybe Jamie snapped and drowned the twins himself, seeing them as getting in the way of being with his new girlfriend. Or that the girlfriend drowned them for a similar reason. All sorts of theories abound and no one knows the truth except those who died.”
“But they make for great entertainment, especially around Halloween.” Erin chuckled. “And I know how much you cops love Halloween.”
“You are s-SO g-going to p-pay for this.” Mazie swore as she stepped up and onto the path leading back to the house.
All three of them did, staring in shock at one another, the sound of childish giggles floating clearly from the dock followed by a double splash and, a few moments later, a loud wail of denial.
Greg swallowed, eyes bulging as he tugged Mazie up the path. “And, sometimes,” He rasped. “The entertainment value goes right out the window.”
Both women nodded, eyes darting around as they hurried back toward the house, childish giggles still following them.