New Winslow S5E22
Iris didn’t technically need to be at the Countess today. She had her own apartment, with plenty of space for her to work. And despite searching multiple times, there were still no other books that seemed useful for figuring out the curse. But after her adventure with Rosalind Alderidge the other night, she wanted to dig into the history of the Alderidges and the McBrides as much as she could.
There wasn’t much information about the Alderidge family in the Countess’s collection. There were a few books that mentioned them, but it seemed to always be a generation or two before Rosalind. One mentioned the daughter of a man, but it wasn’t her. At least Iris was pretty sure. Barlow was mentioned as well, but all the mentions of him seemed to fade out before the formation of the Quabbin Reservoir. Which was very odd, considering he was a prominent businessman at that point and the intentional flooding of four towns was an important moment in the region’s history. So why did Harbinger talk about him, but nobody else?
As she expected, there was plenty of information in the Countess’s library about the McBride family. Jacob, the father, a prominent sea captain who’d retired westward to build the house of his dreams. His wife, Angelica, was a well-known philanthropist. One son, William. Dead at eighteen and clearly still haunting this house, though he wouldn’t talk to Iris.
That was driving her nuts. Even now, sitting in a bedroom on the third floor, below the space where the most activity occurred (and where she got Olivia possessed the first time, a guilty voice kept murmuring) she had heard the faint footsteps making their deliberate way down the hall. She knew the route too and could imagine it in her head. From one room near the end of the hall, eight steps down, then into another room, where they disappeared. She knew that this did point toward it being an echo, but every so often, there was another little detail that she just couldn’t shake. A slight trembling of the floor. The faintest whisper that she couldn’t understand. There was always something, and it changed each time.
“How’s it going in here?”
Iris jumped and spun around to where Missy was standing in the doorway. Her buzzed blonde head shone in the afternoon sunlight and she was smiling warmly at Iris, who had forgotten she’d left the door open. “Good,” she said, trying to still her racing heart. “It’s good.”
“No luck, huh?”
She laughed. “Not even a little.”
Missy stepped into the room, the old floorboards creaking as she walked toward the antique desk Iris occupied. “What exactly are you looking for?” she asked.
“Rosalind Alderidge,” Iris replied. “Really, just anything about her.”
“Are you trying to make yourself sick again?”
Iris knew the spark of irritation was unnecessary. “I’m just trying to find out why I couldn’t reach her,” she said. “She was there. She saw me too. But when I tried to…”
Missy picked a dead leaf off of the potted plant beside the desk. “I’m pretty sure this is the last of our collection that you haven’t read,” she said. “And you said the archives weren’t very helpful?”
“I’m not sure,” Iris admitted. “Andrew found the house. But now that I know the woman I’ve been dreaming about is Rosalind, I need to know why. And why when I tried to talk to her it ended like that. And if I can’t reach her, then maybe I can finally reach Billy McBride here.”
“We’re still not convinced he’s actually here,” Missy said.
“I know,” Iris said, not able to mask her frustration anymore. “But don’t you hear the variations? It’s just enough. He’s young, he’s confused. He’s probably scared. So, of course he’s walking the same path each time.”
“You can keep trying,” Missy said. “But don’t hurt yourself.”
Again, was unspoken in her tone. Iris let it hang there between them.
An hour later, Iris was fried. She stood up and gathered the books in her arms. Now that she’d officially gone through every book they had that was connected to New Winslow, she wasn’t feeling any closer to an answer than she had before.
All she knew so far was that the Alderidge House was connected to the curse. In some way. Charles Baxter’s grandfather had tormented the woman who owned it. Then the house had burned down. But there were no signs that he’d bought the land after the fire. The Countess had been next door until shortly before the fire, then moved when Barlowe had purchased the land. The curse was connected with the Alderidge family, as was the McBride family, if only by the fact that the boys were friends.
She was still feeling off from her encounter last night, so Iris was looking forward to going home, eating some hot soup, and going to bed. Andrew was working at the shop until eight, he had all of that under control. She still wasn’t on speaking terms with half the people she knew, but that was her own fault and there was nothing she could do about it now. So she was going to go hide from the world for a bit.
That familiar feeling pricked the back of her neck as she slid into her car. Even with the December chill, this was more. Someone or something was watching her. Iris spun around and glared into the darkness of the Countess’s grounds. There was a thick layer of snow on the ground, untouched except for some squirrel and rabbit tracks across the yard. But nothing was there.
She turned on the car, waiting for some stupid trick of Roland’s to pop up again. But there was still nothing. Instead, the feeling persisted, those eyes boring into her. Anxiety grew in her chest, her stomach swimmy as she tried to focus on driving down the long driveway toward the wooded road ahead.
Fifteen minutes and she’d be home in bed, behind a wall of protections. She was fine.
But the feeling persisted the entire time she was driving, and it was hard to resist checking the rearview mirror every few minutes for someone behind her. Hell, someone in the backseat. That was how close the feeling was.
She parked outside the shop and hurried inside, startling Andrew as he was helping a customer. She gave him a wave, then motioned that she was heading upstairs. He nodded, and she hurried behind the door.
The feeling was gone now.