New Winslow S7E33

The police officer somehow believed her. Iris didn’t know if it was the fact that they lived in a cursed town and were used to bizarre shit, or the way Vivien had clearly beat her up before incinerating herself. But the police had come to question both her and Celine and she figured she was about to get hauled down to the tiny police station and charged with murder. But none of it came. Instead, she gave the young, queasy looking cop a detailed account of what had happened as the other officer carefully tiptoed around the circle, noting the way the fire extinguisher spray had spattered throughout the surrounding area like it had bounced off of something solid. Which was exactly what had happened.

“We’ll be investigating, of course,” the cop said. “This is your property, right?”

Iris nodded, shaky. “Yeah,” she said. “I own up to the back of that wooden fence right there.”

She pointed to the rickety split-rail that was half-collapsing into the grass behind it. The property was tiny, only a few square feet. But Iris could imagine how much purifying she’d have to do to ever get that energy out of this space.

The county coroner had already come through and removed Vivien’s body from the center of the circle. Iris couldn’t help the way her eyes were still drawn to the scene though, the yellow tape fluttering around it. She’d tried to get to Vivien, to make her stop. But this time there had been nothing she could do. She wasn’t powerful enough to break through that circle.

The cops left and Iris went inside to pack an overnight bag. She was going to stay at a hotel up closer to Route Two rather than spend the night here. It would be a much longer drive back in the morning than she’d have if she stayed at the Countess, but the idea of going there tonight had made her queasy. The forty minutes to get back tomorrow would be worth it.

“Iris, are you going to be alright?” Celine asked after the police had left them alone.

Iris nodded. “Of course,” she said, as though it sounded in any way real.

“Do you have someone you could stay with?”

“The hotel is fine,” she said. “Don’t worry, I really am okay.”

Eventually she managed to convince Celine to leave. Celine had offered her couch and clearly meant it, but Iris was on edge and didn’t do so well with children. So that wasn’t a great option for tonight. Still, she appreciated the offer.

She drove silently through the woods to the highway, eventually reaching the little motel she’d stayed at the previous year when Roland had wrecked her shop. Sure enough, the same sleepy old man gave her the key to the same room. There was a new picture on the wall, this one of some boats in the ocean, which was nowhere near Athol, at least in Massachusetts terms. But Iris got into the room and immediately filled the old bathtub with hot water, salt, and herbs.

It had been a hot day, but the night had cooled off and the water felt good, not overwhelming. Iris tried to push aside all the gruesome visuals trying to shove their way into her mind as she bathed, focusing on cleansing off the energy. It wouldn’t change what had happened, and she was absolutely going to have nightmares tonight. But for now, she could do what she always did after a bad situation. Even if the bathtub was cracked and there were some unsettling stains, the ritual and the hot water settled her nerves just a little.

Celine was sure to have told Roman, she thought a little while later as she dried her hair and pulled on the pajamas she’d brought. But she needed to call Andrew and tell him. For his sake, not because she was feeling the silence of her solo room pressing down on her.

She tried his cell phone, but it went straight to voicemail. He didn’t have a landline in his new apartment, but she thought he must have better service than he’d had at Olivia’s house. She tried again a moment later, but still nothing.

Taking a deep breath, she dialed Olivia’s number. If Olivia hung up, she hung up. But the screams and flames were still lingering in Iris’s brain, so that wouldn’t be the scariest thing that happened to her tonight.

The call connected after a few rings. “Hello?”

“Olivia, it’s Iris. Please, is Andrew there? It’s an emergency.”

She blurted it out quickly, though the beat of silence afterward made her think maybe she missed the sound of Olivia disconnecting the call. But then Andrew was on the line.

“Iris, what’s going on?”

“Vivien’s dead.”

He took a sharp breath, and she heard him relay that information to someone beside him in a low voice, probably Olivia. “What happened?”

“She tried to break the curse.”

Iris leaned back against the headboard, shaking. “She came to my shop and said she was going to break the curse, since me and Celine couldn’t. She was out of control. And she contacted Rosalind Alderidge and taunted her. She-” She cleared her throat. “Vivien demanded she break the curse.”

“And Rosalind responded?”

Maybe it was the gentleness of his voice, but that was when the tears finally started gathering in her eyes. “Yeah,” Iris said. “But she put up a protective circle, and it was so strong that I couldn’t get to her. She was on fire and the extinguisher wouldn’t go through. It threw me off. Celine got there, I don’t know how she knew, but she got there right before the circle broke. Because-“

She didn’t want to cry. Iris tried to catch her breath long enough to finish telling him what happened. But it was too much. The smoke coming off of Vivien’s body. Even when she tried not to look at what was left, she’d seen too much. Celine tried to block her from seeing it, some kind of mom instinct kicking in the minute she got to the shop. But it had been inevitable.

“I can be there in a few minutes,” Andrew said.

She shook her head like he might see her. “I’m at a hotel,” she said. “Not the Countess, just one up by Two.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

She was kind of wishing she’d taken Celine up on the couch now that the idea of company had been presented, then taken away. But there was no going back now.


Andrew hung up the phone, then walked straight into the bathroom and vomited into the toilet. He hadn’t even realized he was going to until he found himself on his knees. Seconds later, Liv was sitting beside him, her hand on his back as he threw up again. She didn’t say a word, just waited with him until it was done.

“What happened?” she asked quietly a few minutes later as she walked him back out to the living room.

“She decided to break the curse.”

Andrew sat down, mouth still sour as he sipped a glass of water. “She, um, she went to Iris’s shop and smacked her around a bit, apparently,” he started dully, gazing at a fruit stain on the carpet. “Then locked herself in a protective circle and demanded Rosalind Alderidge break the curse. She also caught fire, but her circle was too strong and she trapped herself. She burnt up as Iris tried to get to her.”

Olivia put a hand to her mouth as a wave of cold washed over Andrew. There were too many implications. For him, for Iris. For the curse in general. And maybe it wasn’t just the contact. Maybe those eyes he and Iris had felt, the ones that had been unnervingly absent lately, perhaps those eyes were Rosalind sizing them up as well.

The front door opened, and he looked up to see Noah walking in. The smile of greeting on Noah’s face dropped immediately. After telling the story again, Andrew stared right back at the carpet, willing himself not to throw up on it. Noah’s arm went around him and Andrew fell against his shoulder, trying to close out the mental images that this was all creating in his mind.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said after a few minutes. “It’s…she killed someone. Vivien fucked up, yeah, but Rosalind Alderidge killed her.”

“Are you sure it’s Rosalind?” Olivia asked.

Andrew nodded, still pressed tightly to Noah’s side. “Yeah,” he said. “Iris tried the same thing, and I put out the fire.”

Olivia took a shuddering breath, but said nothing. Noah’s grip right now was comforting, but a little too tight. Andrew looked at him and saw that he also looked sick. “You alright?”


“Unless someone has a secret connection to Rosalind Alderidge, there’s no way she can get in here,” Andrew said, trying to regain some semblance of control. “This place is wrapped up tightly. Iris is going to come back tomorrow and we’ll figure out what to do from here. Slow and cautious has kept us safe thus far, but if Rosalind is lashing out, we may need to reassess. She’s only attacked when directly provoked so far, but-“

“But that doesn’t mean that won’t change,” Olivia finished.

“Right. And there’s no word from the son and this is the only contact we’ve had with the mother. The only direct contact has been with Billy McBride, and he’s only willing to talk if Noah is there. And not necessarily even then.”

Noah was still silent beside him and Andrew looked up again. “Noah?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah. Are you alright?”

“I’m alright, I guess,” Andrew said. “Celine was there tonight too, I’m going to give her a ring. Then… I’m not sure.”

He went to move, but Noah’s grip didn’t relax. Andrew gently disengaged, then went to the kitchen to use the landline.




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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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