The cab driver turns around in his seat. ‘There it is, Ladies. The Bayou Oaks Mansion!’ Both Granny and Missy try to catch a glimpse but the heavy snowfall makes it difficult to distinguish anything.
The cab makes a U-turn and stops. ‘It’ll be 40 §.’ Granny pays while Missy excitedly jumps out and starts heaving their heavy luggage out of the trunk.
Missy looks at the looming mansion. ‘Wow… It’s big.’
Tramp sniffs in the air and growls. Granny frowns. It doesn’t look like the vision in the palantír at all. ‘Yes. Big and… in need of renovation.’
‘What about all the luggage? We can’t carry all this the whole way up to the house!’
‘Why don’t we use magic? I know we aren’t supposed to, but the cab is gone, and a part from some deep frozen squirrels, there’s no one around to see us.’
Granny knows Missy is right – for once.
‘Hexuut, pexuut, mexuut – lift luggage into the master suite!’
Together they walk up the drive way.
‘Look at that! I think I saw someone in the window up there!’
‘A ghost? Or a squatter?’
‘I don’t know – maybe it was just an animal taking shelter from the storm…’
They stop on the porch.
‘There’s not even a door!’
‘It must be freezing inside!’
Suddenly Tramp barks and runs into the entrance hall, up the gigantic staircase! Granny and Missy look at each other. ‘After you…’
‘It’s not that bad.. The house seems to have potential.’ Granny tries to stay optimistic. ‘We can’t very well return to Midnight Falls now, can we?’
‘Why not?.. Look at the floor! There are cock roaches! Yuk!’
‘Beetles, Missy. Not cock roaches… And a Grey never gives up!’
‘Who said a Grey never gives up? I’m a Grey and I want to give up! Right now.’
‘Tut tut tut, Missy. Let’s change into something more comfortable and explore the house.’
Granny gets her way – as usual.
‘This painting is gorgeous. Don’t you think so too, Missy?’ I wonder why it’s still hanging here, why hasn’t it been stolen?
‘Yes… But that woman is ugly! I wonder who she is – was?’
‘I don’t know, but we’ll try to find out later. Let’s split up.’
The kitchen is a disaster.
So is the dining room.
The winter garden is overgrown…
… And the porch is littered by rubble.
‘I think the garden was nice… sometime in the 19th century…’
‘Why don’t we go outside and have a look?’
Granny points to the roof. ‘The roof seems to be OK.’
Missy nods. ‘I know, when the covering’s OK the rest of the reparations are… peanuts!’
‘I better check it out though…’
Said and done. And the roof isn’t OK…
‘Missy! You better come up here and have a look!’
Missy looks surreptitiously around her… It feels like someone is watching…
The sisters circle the old house and seen from above, the mansion seems to be in even worse shape…
Back inside, they continue exploring. ‘Missy! I’ve found a ladder!.. MISSY!?!’
Curious, Granny starts to climb.
Where is she? Just like her, calling like a madwoman and then – pffuit – nothing!
‘Yoohoo! Up here! This will be the perfect spot for the palantír.’
Cursing, Missy climbs up the ladder too. Why not taking the staircase, like any other normal person. Or the elevator! But there’s of course not even an elevator in this gutter filled jumble of a house…
Granny has proceeded onto the landing. ‘Hurry, Missy, this must be the master bathroom… There’s a…’ Oh my! Butterflies! I love butterflies! Butterflies? These are moths, Granny…
Suddenly Granny’s phone rings, it’s Shasta calling from Monte Vista.
‘Oh, yes. The flight was… relaxing. Long, tedious but relaxing… The mansion? What mansion? Oh, the ghost house! I mean the house… It’s very big… and scary. Oups! Did I just say scary? I mean cozy of course! … Some minor reparations…’
Granny doesn’t like lying, but she doesn’t want her daughter to find out about her huge mistake neither…
While Granny’s on the phone, Missy checks out the master bathroom – and almost falls through the floor!
While talking to Shasta, Granny has entered a small, blue bedroom. ‘Goodbye… Yes, I’ll keep you updated… Kiss Rowan from me. Bye!’ This will be Taïga’s! It even looks like the same bed! Luckily I brought her Kashmir bedspread…
The view over the garden is nice… we’ll just have to fix the windows and change the curtains… ‘
‘Granny!’ Missy seems distressed.
Missy is in a tiny nursery.
‘Bad vibes! Really bad vibes!’
Granny can feel something too…
… It seems to emanate from the little teddy bear! Granny stoops to pick it up…
… But when she touches it, the room starts to spin and she is drawn into blackness…
Luckily Missy’s is there to cast a protection spell before it’s too late. She doesn’t pay attention to Minuit, who rapidly sneaks away – red eyes glowing.*
*See Chapter 34 – Alastar has arisen.
‘Thank you, Missy! I don’t know what happened…’
‘Are you OK now?’
‘I think so. I feel a little shaky…’
‘Maybe we should wait until tomorrow to get started on the furniture downstairs. Or I can do it myself?’
‘No. I’m all right.’
Downstairs, Tramp growls menacingly at Granny when she tries to move his food so she can cast a spell on the sofa. Bizarre… He’s never growled before…
‘Missy! Where are you? Tramp is growling at me!’
Missy rolls her eyes… ‘Coming…’ She looks over her shoulder at the palantír before leaving the kitchen, ‘We’ve got unfinished business…’
‘Ah… there you are. Tramp growled at me! Can you believe that?.. Now, what do you think of this sofa. Have you got any suggestions for the color?’
Missy answers grumpily: ‘No… Just brighten it up a little.’ Well, she didn’t want my help… Just because she considers my taste is…
‘As you wish!’ Granny gets into position…
Do I really have to stand here and watch my sister prove her interior-design-superiority over me?
‘Sim… sala… BIM!’
No, I definitely don’t have to stand here… I think I’ll go back and check on the palantír…
But Missy stops in her tracks. She forgets her jealousy and watches worried how Granny almost fall with exhaustion.
‘Are you all right?’
‘I don’t understand… I think I must sit down a while…’
‘Let me help you…’
Granny gropes for support and sits heavily on the sofa…
… While Missy starts a fire to warm up the room – and Granny…
Granny feels sheepish. A simple spell like that and she’s totally exhausted. Never happened before. Never!
Granny breaks the silence. ‘It must be the journey.’
‘The journey? Really?’
‘No, I suppose not. I’m afraid it’s something more… powerful… You said it yourself – bad vibes! Remember?’ Missy nods. ‘You’re the specialist in dark magic, Missy. Why don’t you tell me what you think happened up there?’
Missy starts hesitantly, ‘I felt a presence…’
‘A ghost?’ Granny inquires.
‘Maybe… I think we need to exorcise the whole mansion!’
‘You’re right… But I’m too tired now… I need to rest first.’
‘You’re right. Together the purification ritual will be stronger… Just stay here, I’ll fix the bedroom! You remember what mother used to say: Sleep away your troubles…’ Missy is happy to be in charge for once.
‘Don’t use magic, Missy. It might not be safe!’
‘You’re the boss!’ She pep-talks to herself in the mirror and then hurries upstairs.
Changing the linen is no trouble at all… This is minor magic, it won’t wake up any evil forces… Anyway – it was in the nursery…
But of course Granny has something to complain about. ‘I was more thinking of fixing the shattered windows…’
Missy seems to discover the shattered windows. ‘Don’t worry about the windows, I saw a screen – a very nice looking screen – somewhere… I’ll get it!’
Granny pulls on an extra pair of socks, and keeps her robe on, and when Missy comes back with the screen she’s already snoring lightly…
At midnight, Minuit enters the kitchen, triggering the palantír to come alive, illuminating the surroundings with a malevolent red glow…
Granny shivers. Last night they put up a screen in front of the shattered windows to diminish the chilly draught, but the fire must have died during the night and the room is freezing. Granny blows on her fingers, ‘Wake up, Missy. We’ve got some exorcism to do before breakfast!’
The purification ritual begins in the nursery…
“Demon’s soul hides
Behind an innocent’s face
These witches’s magic
Out of this place…”
Afterwards Granny walks through every single room, trying to catch a whiff of the evil sensation that blacked her out last night… Nothing… It seems it’s gone… I’m glad it was concentrated to the nursery… Now let’s get started with the next step…
‘Good morning, Miss Grey speaking. Can I please talk to M. Burns? … Yes, it’s about some minor reparations… Oh, I see… next week!?! … But… No, I will call you back. Thank you… Goodbye.’
I need to change tactics. Granny looks at her phone, and taps in the next number on her list. ‘Good morning, Miss Grey of Bayou Oaks speaking. I need a competent team for a major renovating project… Yes… Yes… Of course… ‘
At 10 sharp, a battered truck rolls up the driveway and stops in front of the house.
‘M. Schmidt! We’re sooo happy you could come this morning…’ Granny gushes.
Buster whispers under his breath to his fellow worker, Dirk: ‘Do they know Halloween’s over?’ Dirk snickers.
The sisters overheard Buster’s comment about their clothes. ‘You can go ahead and visit,’ Granny says, ‘My sister and I will change into something more appropriate.’
Missy chirps in. ‘We’re rehearsing, you see. We’ll give a fancy dress party to celebrate! When the renovation is finished of course… Would you like to come?’
Granny takes a firm hold on Missy’s arm and steers her towards the stairs. ‘Go ahead gentlemen. We’ll be right back.’
Benjamin shudders. OK, they might be a little… excentric, but this house is a gold mine! He starts giving orders to his team. ‘First the bottom floor, then upstairs. We’ll just check what’s supposed to be done, and start the smaller reparations right away. Then we’ll see with the… ladies… how they envision the renovation. You know, colors and such… Oh, and Jamie – you can start cleaning immediately!’
Granny drags Missy into the little nursery and shuts the door. ‘Are you crazy? A party?’
‘Well… I said fancy dress! To explain our outfits?’
Granny rolls her eyes. ‘OK. Let’s change into something more inconspicuous. From now on we’re just two retired ladies – two ordinary retired ladies. No magic. No brooms. And not a word about any party…’
The following weeks are busy.
‘How are things up there, Buster?’
‘I think we’ll have to repair the landing, but the mounting ring seems all right…’
Jamie is hard at work – polishing the parquet and cleaning out tons of cobweb.
Buster and Dirk clear out the rubbish on the porch.
‘We’ll need a shoveling machine in the spring to take care of the garden.’
‘I wish we had one now – to clear the inside!’
All the plumbing is taken care of…
The kitchen appliances are repaired…
… the wall papers and paneling are changed, as are the windows and doors… The sound of hammering and sawing fills the house and it smells good of fresh paint and wood.
The transformation is spectacular and the Grey sisters are delighted!
Just look at the overgrown bathroom…
… transformed into a relaxing haven! The only things missing are the Christmas decorations – and Taïga!
Part I – End of Chapter 43