Chapter 13: Taken
Donna greeted them when they returned to the house—or at least, greeted them in the Hallowdale fashion: a cold stare and a barely perceptible nod of the head. She’d washed Tom’s blood off her hands.
“We searched the village,” Alexander explained. “No sign of her.”
“She’s got to be somewhere,” John said. “Unless she walked out of the valley.”
“She was taken,” Donna asserted.
Donna seemed saddened by John’s confusion. “Let me show you somethin’.” She gestured to the fireplace and plucked a photograph lovingly from the mantle. “This was Kyle, our son. Would’ve been twenty-seven this year. You ask anyone else in this village, they’ll tell you a similar story. Everyone’s lost someone.”
“I don’t understand. My wife isn’t dead! Just missing!”
Donna shook her head sadly. “It’s happened like this for a hundred years. It’s her doin’.”
Instead of answering, she said, “The mansion you stayed in the first night used to be the mayor’s house, back before I was born, when this town was still alive. The mayor and his wife had two children, little girls, Lillian and—”
“The portraits,” John muttered. He remembered the hallway in the mansion with its faded paintings.
“Tell me honestly,” Donna asked, “when you were stayin’ there, did you experience anythin’ strange?”
“I…” John stammered, suddenly ashamed that he’d withheld the truth from this woman.
“Lillian was the first victim of that house. Now her spirit is trapped. We’ve all seen or heard her at some point. But Lillian’s not the only one. The others are here too, lingerin’.” She stroked Kyle’s portrait. “That’s why we stay, even though the place is dyin’, even though we know she’ll come for us one night.” Donna sighed and gazed mournfully at John for a moment. “I’m afraid she’s taken a likin’ to you. That’s why she took your wife.”
John’s breath caught. “Who took her?”