New Winslow S6E62

By mid-afternoon, Mia was getting restless. Olivia had to keep her away from the equipment, but the gated off play area was not as appealing for the toddler as she’d hoped it would be. Though she should have known that nothing could compete with knives and ovens when it came to excitement. Still, the books and snacks had helped for a while, but now it was time to go.

Olivia didn’t mind the break, though. She scooped up Mia and picked up her diaper bag, heading out front. Andrew was behind the counter now, tying an apron over an outfit that was far too nice for this job. “I’ll be back before close,” she said, Mia on her hip with sticky fingers tangled in her hair.

He nodded, looking up from the page he was writing on. “We’re not meeting tonight,” he said. “Take your time.”

“Have you seen Noah?”

“Yeah, there was a window with a broken frame in the basement. He’ll be back up in a minute, he says. Though that was fifteen minutes ago.”

Again, that flash of fear. Warranted or not, she had the urge to go check on him. Mia wasn’t going to let go of Olivia long enough to leave her with Andrew, so she just shifted Mia’s weight, set down the diaper bag, and hoped the creaky stairs wouldn’t cave in beneath them.

She felt almost guilty when she got downstairs and Noah was, in fact, repairing the loose window frame. “Hey Liv,” he said, as though he suspected nothing.

“I’m heading out for a little bit,” she said as Mia waved sleepily at Noah. “I’ll be back before close.”

“Yeah, yeah, take your time.”

He leaned in to wave back to Mia and the smell of spearmint on his breath made the band of dread that had been circling around her lungs tighten. She knew he wouldn’t put everything at risk like that. But the familiar scent choked her anyway.

“Oh my God.”

In the dirty light coming in the broken window, she could see that Noah looked suddenly horrified. He spit the gum into his hand, then looked awkwardly around for somewhere to put it.

“It didn’t even occur to me…” he started, and she realized he’d made the exact same connection she had when she smelled his breath. “I’m so sorry.”

And now she felt like an asshole and her daughter was getting progressively heavier. “It’s fine,” she said, aware that they were treading on very delicate ground.

“I got dust in my mouth and it was just in my toolbox,” Noah said. “Shit, what am I doing?”

She glanced over at the toolbox, which was open on a small broken table. She’d seen that fucking flask in there, hadn’t she? When Noah had spent weeks doing drunken repairs around the house, all of which had just caused more damage. She hadn’t said anything, she knew he was well aware of the damage and fixing it when he thought she wasn’t looking. And the flask wasn’t there, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to search the whole toolbox right now.

It was the second day of a business they’d decided to open. A business where they also had to consider their third partner, who was upstairs right now managing the space. Noah looked trapped, like he had no idea what was the correct decision here. And to be honest, she wasn’t so sure either.

“It’s fine,” she said as he looked around the cluttered, filthy basement. “It’s just gum.”

“It’s not just…”

He set the chewed gum on top of his toolbox. Olivia wanted to put Mia down, but there was no safe space to do that. So instead, she just gently ran her free hand down Noah’s arm. He looked at her. “It’s okay,” she said.

She didn’t mention the fact that she was uneasy down here in the dark, her focus on their conversation interrupted by the fact that she didn’t know if there was an exit. There had to be, otherwise it wouldn’t fit the fire code. Which meant they had an unprotected entrance to their space. Andrew’s charms should be enough, but it would need more security. And now she was getting distracted by what she knew was her own trauma as she tried to focus on his.

“We’re all a mess,” she said lightly.

It worked. Noah gave her a small, crooked smile. “It’s been a hard few days,” he admitted.

“Can I help?”

He shook his head, and she tried not to be disappointed. “I think I just need to do it,” he said. “Working helps. I’ll wash my hands, then go up and swap with Andrew so he can do prep work. I think this is good.”

He looked at the window one more time. “It’ll hold for now,” he said. “I’ll fix it completely tomorrow.”

She tried not to let that fear out. It was good enough, nothing was getting through. And nothing that she was afraid of could be stopped by a simple glass window, anyway.

She followed Noah upstairs as Mia rested her head on Olivia’s shoulder. As they got back into the shop, she saw Andrew talking to someone at the counter. Then she caught sight of familiar long, red hair as Jude turned and grinned at them.

“Congratulations!” he exclaimed. “This place looks amazing!”

He came over and embraced Noah, standing on his toes to lean up and kiss him on the cheek as Noah bent to meet him. Noah flushed a little. “I’m filthy,” he said, letting Jude go with some obvious reluctance.

She couldn’t help glancing at Andrew, who was suddenly intent on what he was writing as Jude gave Olivia a hug, too. “I can’t stay long,” Jude said. “I wanted to give you guys space yesterday, but had to come see it today. It looks so nice. Which of you decorated?”

Noah pointed to Olivia, who couldn’t help the burst of pride. “I love it,” Jude said. “I’ll be back tomorrow, Sarabeth is going to love it here.”

“So that’s going well?” Noah asked.

Jude’s smile softened. “It’s great,” he said.

Oddly, Noah looked more at ease up here talking about the end of his not-relationship with his not-ex than he had before. Olivia didn’t quite get it, but she wasn’t going to say it was wrong. Not if he was happy.

Jude stayed and chatted for a few more minutes, during which she could see Andrew begin to loosen up somewhat. Jude teased him a little about how his outfit was still perfect, while also complimenting the ad campaign Olivia knew Andrew had spent weeks on.

“We should get lunch soon,” Jude said to Noah as he was capping his coffee. “I know you’re busy, so whenever works for you. There’s a new place up by me if you feel like driving.”

She could see the tension radiating off of Andrew again and it seemed surprisingly intense considering they all knew Noah and Jude weren’t involved anymore. She went over to him as Noah walked Jude out of the shop.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

“You know they’re not-”

“Cleo’s moving.”

His words stopped whatever failed pep talk she might have had half-formed as it came out of her mouth. “What?”

“She told me yesterday, I’m sure she’s going to call you today. Her mom is moving into assisted living near Boston, so Cleo and Edie are going to go back to be with her.”

Olivia wasn’t surprised, though she couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to go through the stress of moving twice in a year if they could help it. Finally surrendering, she set Mia down on the floor, where she immediately sat down and took off her shoes.

“Mia, sweetheart…” she started, quickly giving up as she turned back to Andrew.

“I’m happy for her,” Andrew said, staring down at the shining counter.

“We’re going to get you out,” Olivia said. “How can I help? I want to help?”

She knew tossing this on top of her pile of current responsibilities probably wasn’t a good idea. But there were no good ideas and if she could help him, then maybe she’d feel better too. “Liv, you don’t have to,” he said.

“But I want to,” she insisted, straightening up a small display of candy she’d tried and honestly hadn’t liked.

“You might have to work with Iris.”

Her stomach turned. “I know.”

“I don’t want you to do this if it’s going to hurt you.”

Everything hurt, but if she said that, there was no way he’d let her help. “I’ll be fine,” she said. “I want to help.”

He smiled at her, and she could tell it wasn’t entirely faked. “We’re not doing much magic right now,” he said. “That’s all… Iris is trying to contact a spir-”

Her whole body tensed, and Andrew’s face dropped. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“No, I am.”

Shit, none of them were doing well today and it was day two. They still had three days open this week, and she hadn’t made a schedule for both their shifts and their mental breakdowns. She laughed slightly and, like he’d read her mind, Andrew did too.

You don’t have to do everything, she reminded herself sternly. Then they were interrupted by the bell indicating a customer was coming in.




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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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