New Winslow S6E46

Iris had said it was strange out here, but Andrew hadn’t realized exactly how strange it was. He’d wanted to see the space for himself, but the idea of going into the woods of New Winslow was entirely unappealing, even if it was to get a bit more context about the curse’s origin. However, here he was. The March wind whistled past his ears as he got out of the car where it was parked on the side of the road. She’d warned him to pull over when he reached the space where the road turned to gravel and dirt. Or, in the aftermath of some recent snow, mud. He’d worn his worst shoes, since it wasn’t like he’d brought boots to New Winslow. And God forbid he buy a pair. Noah had offered to lend him some, but Andrew knew he’d step out of them at the first patch of sticky mud.

He also knew damn well why Noah had offered to join him, even if Noah didn’t say it. But now, a few days after his interaction with Baxter at Town Hall, Andrew was still grateful for company while he was out here away from civilization. Especially very tall company that discreetly carried a knife in his pocket on a regular basis.

Noah was much better dressed for the occasion than Andrew. While Andrew had on his nice – if slightly singed – peacoat (his only coat because again, God forbid) for their little jaunt into the woods, Noah was wearing the same leather jacket he’d had since they were probably twenty-two. And, like the truck, he clearly wasn’t the first owner. A patch stuck out on his elbow as he jammed his hands into his pockets and glanced up the road.

“Yeah, I’ve been down here,” he said.

If it was anything like the reasons Noah had been in the woods on the other side of town so many times, Andrew didn’t want to hear about it. But instead of saying anything else, Noah started walking.

“Hey, wait up!”

Andrew hurried after him as Noah kept pace on the muddy road. There was a determined look in his eyes as he went, like he knew exactly what he was going to find down here and he needed to get to it. Which was weird, considering that when Andrew had invited him to go look at the space where the Alderidge house had been, Noah hadn’t said anything about knowing the area. But now he was walking like he knew exactly where he was going.

“Almost there,” Noah said.

“No kidding,” Andrew replied, jogging slightly to keep up. “She said it would be coming up on the right. There’s two lots that are empty. Well, rather, there’s six of them. But only the ones on the right-hand side of the road are referenced with the hotel that Baxter’s fucking family wanted to build. Who would want to build a hotel out here, anyway? We’ve got one. And it’s terrible.”

“It was the Quabbin Reservoir going in,” Noah said, sounding completely normal, yet still walking with a determination that Andrew had not expected. “They announced they were going to flood some towns out here along the Swift River to build it, but they didn’t say which ones. So of course, the businessmen were going around taking advantage of the situation. Take the hotel, like you said. You build a hotel and they don’t choose your town? Then you now have a hotel in a quiet, scenic area. Make it a vacation destination for rich people. They do choose your town? You squeeze all the profit you can out of your hotel for as long as you can, then sell it off to the commonwealth at a higher price because you made the land more valuable.”

Andrew turned to look at him, but Noah didn’t slow down. “And you say you don’t have a head for business,” he said.

“It’s common sense,” Noah replied. “How would these shitheads think? How would my mother think? If I want to squeeze money out of an inevitable situation, what do I do? That’s all. Liv’s the one with the head for real business. I just poured drinks and threw people out of the bar.”

Andrew wanted to argue with him, to repeat that Noah was so much more than that. But then he saw the empty lots coming up ahead.

“Here we are,” he said, motioning toward it.

They passed a vacant lot overgrown with brush and trees, then he stopped in front of the empty space he’d come here for. The Alderidge house had made its mark on the land, but Andrew assumed all the houses in this area had. This had been the upscale side of New Winslow, an idea that still sent an unpleasant mocking thought through him. Andrew wasn’t proud of it, but no one could argue he was wrong, at least these days. If there had ever been an upper class in New Winslow, the building of the Quabbin Reservoir had done its best to eliminate that.

But for all the mansion’s remaining mark, the surrounding land was starkly empty. The trees grew up around the edges of the property, curling around the worn stone walls and across the muddy ground. But nothing grew in the center of the square parcel of land that had been cut out from the woods a century and a half earlier. The cellar pit was entirely filled in now, the snow making it nearly level with the rest of the land while crumbling stone lines with uncomfortably sharp edges still designated where the foundation of the house had been. Andrew wondered if he’d see smoke damage on the remaining stones if he got close enough, then dismissed that as a flight of fancy.

“Look at this,” he said. “It’s like it burned down yesterday.”

Noah didn’t answer him, and he turned to see that this was because Noah wasn’t beside him anymore. Andrew looked down the mud road in alarm. The New Winslow curse couldn’t make people disappear, right? It could only make them stay. But maybe that was just the east end of town. The west end did different things.

Then he spotted the red of Noah’s beanie about a hundred yards away in the plot next door to the Aldridges. He was pretty sure that was the McBride property, the house that had been taken away to make that creepy bed and breakfast Iris was so fond of. Noah was standing at the edge of the property with his back to Andrew.

“Noah!” Andrew called over, waving widely to catch his attention. “It’s this one!”

Noah didn’t answer him, so Andrew started hurrying over. These wealthy families thankfully hadn’t cared about having acres of rolling hills, so it was as easy a walk as it could be with slush building up in his shoes. “Noah!”

When he approached Noah, Andrew could see he was watching the overgrowth as though waiting for something to crawl out of it. “Noah, what the hell?” Andrew demanded breathlessly as he got closer. “Didn’t you hear me calling you?”

Noah jumped, then turned guiltily toward him. “Sorry,” he said. “I just had the weirdest… sorry.”

“Weirdest what?”

Andrew waited for Noah to continue as he tried not to show how out of breath he was. Maybe he should take Noah up on some of those offers to go running. The fact that Noah’s usual running partner had recently gotten out of the hospital after a heart attack notwithstanding, it might be a good idea to get more movement in.

“I swear I’ve seen this place before.”

“We’re still in New Winslow, mate. You probably have.”

Noah glared at him, but there was no heat behind it. “No, but like, it was different. There was a house here. Maybe when I was a kid.”

“There haven’t been any houses here since the 1920s,” Andrew said. “This is the other property Barlow was looking to buy. In fact, this one was an easy sell.”

Noah turned back to the woods, then looked at him again. “Probably nothing,” he said. “Come on, show me what you wanted me to see.”

Andrew started back toward the Alderidge property, looking behind him to make sure Noah was following this time. “So Iris sent me out here just to check around,” he said. “You know, look in the cellar divots for a stack of moldy paper on the off-off chance that some lady was buried here instead of the cemetery and completely waste my… mate?”

Noah was still behind him, but he was rubbing his forehead, grimacing in pain. “Noah, are you alright?”

He nodded, still pressing the heel of his hand hard into his forehead. “Fine,” he muttered as Andrew came closer.

“We don’t need to do this right now,” Andrew said, gently taking Noah’s elbow. “Let’s go back.”

“No, you need-”

He broke off with a hiss of pain, and Andrew made the decision for both of them. “Come on,” he said, moving them both back toward the road. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Noah said, stumbling slightly as he moved away from Andrew’s grip, missed a rock on the ground, and nearly took them both down. “Sorry. I was fine and then…it’s just a headache.”

The car was far enough away that Andrew was tempted to leave Noah here and go get it, rather than make him walk. But before he could suggest it, Noah was hurrying toward the car. “It’s just a headache,” he repeated, dropping his hand from his face. “I probably haven’t had enough water today.”

Anyone else, Andrew might have made a joke about the amount of Diet Coke and coffee he was drinking instead. But the last thing he wanted to do was wreck their day even more than it currently was, so he stayed quiet for the too-long walk back to the car.

Noah seemed a lot better when they got back, assuaging most of Andrew’s gathering, likely overblown concerns about an aneurysm or stroke. He got in the passenger seat and began rifling through the glove compartment as Andrew got in on the driver’s side and turned on the car. He found a small bottle of pills, tipped a few into his palm, and dry swallowed them.

“That’s mostly fresh,“ Andrew said, nodding toward the half-finished water bottle in the center console. “If you don’t mind my germs.”

Noah laughed and took the water, drinking a long sip as Andrew tried not to watch. “Feel any better?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Noah said. “It still hurts, but it’ll be fine before work tonight.”

Andrew pulled the car out onto the road and considered whether that argument was worth starting.




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The Northern Worcester County branch of the Foundation for Paranormal Research is one of the organization’s top investigation and cleanup teams. So when a case comes in involving a century of mysterious disappearances, they figure they’ll be done before their lunch break is supposed to end. Investigators James and Amelia go to the site while their coworkers remain behind. But in seconds, Amelia vanishes in the cursed house and the others are forced to find her with no help from their bosses. Will they be able to get her back or will the house claim one final victim?

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