New Winslow S7E59

The phone was ringing downstairs in the shop. Andrew was alone in his flat, it was two in the morning, and that damn phone was still going. Every fifteen minutes on the dot, the phone would ring. The first time, he’d staggered downstairs to get it, thinking there was an emergency and for whatever reason, the others weren’t calling his mobile. Then he’d answered to that squeaky laugh and threatening voice that Iris had described calling her shop, like a demented, helium-filled puppet shrieking at him to stay safe, Andrew, stay safe. He’d hung up and gone back upstairs, but the phone rang again fifteen minutes later. Then fifteen minutes after that.

It had been about three hours by now and he was so tense that he wouldn’t have been able to sleep even if the ringing phone wasn’t going to keep screaming up at him every quarter hour. In the few minutes he had been able to drift off earlier, he’d been listening for it without realizing and jerked awake about two minutes before it rang again.

Another shrill ring of the phone pulled Andrew out of a filmy dream and he had his mobile in his hand before he realized what he was doing. As it rang, he felt like an asshole. At least until Iris answered, not sounding the least bit sleepy.

“I had a feeling you were about to call,” she said. “Are you alright?”

“The phone’s been ringing downstairs every fifteen minutes with those assholes,” Andrew said. “I don’t want to disconnect it because it might fuck it up for tomorrow if I do it wrong. And I’m so tired but I can’t go to sleep, it’s just loud enough to keep me up. They’re saying my name, Iris. It’s just ‘stay safe, Andrew’ over and over.”

“Can you go stay with Noah?”

“I’m afraid to leave.”

He admitted it without thinking, letting the implications settle in as the room seemed to grow a little darker around him. He couldn’t know if someone was watching the building, waiting to catch him alone outside in the dark. This was New Winslow, there wouldn’t be people downtown at all hours. If someone was waiting out there with a crowbar, Andrew didn’t stand a chance.

Whatever happened to that person that had clearly been watching him and Iris last autumn? Andrew didn’t believe for a minute that they were truly gone. It could have been Rosalind Alderidge, raging helplessly against them. Or it could have been Baxter or someone working with him, posing a much more physical danger.

“I’m sorry for calling,” he said. “It’s two in the morning, even if you knew I was going to call, I shouldn’t have.”

“No, of course you should,” Iris said. “You’re, um, you’re my friend.”

Why did that little statement touch him to where he was going to cry? It must be the tension and the lack of sleep. “What do I do?” he asked, the question coming out small and scared.

“You’re sure you don’t want to disconnect it?” she asked. “I don’t think they’d mind if they knew why.”

No, of course Noah and Liv wouldn’t be mad if he unplugged the phone downstairs. It must have been paranoia induced by the lack of sleep making him think like that. “I have to go downstairs to do it.”

“Is it secure?”

“As much as the flat is.”

“I’ll stay on the line with you.”

Again, tears pricked his eyes as he got up and made his way through the living room and down the stairs. “I’ll plug it back in tomorrow,” he said. “Or I’ll ask Noah to help me.”

“He will,” Iris said. “He, um, he likes you a lot. How long have you been…”

She trailed off as Andrew opened his door and peered out into the red tinted darkness of the back hallway. “That’s an excellent question,” he said, flipping on the fluorescent light.

“Sorry, was that weird?” Iris asked. “I don’t really, you know, date or do any of that.”

“No?” Andrew asked as he walked through the now-silent backroom toward the phone. “Is there any reason?”

“I’ve just never been interested,” Iris said, and he was grateful for the distraction as he got closer to the phone, which had never looked more malicious than it did now, nestled peacefully on the wall. “I knew I was ace since I was a kid, but I also never had any romantic feelings for anyone. I tried dating just because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, but it just felt…weird. You know?”

The phone rang again and Andrew shrieked, a little too close to his mobile. “Sorry!” he said, reaching out and yanking the cord at the bottom of the phone’s cradle.

The ring cut off abruptly and Andrew hurried back the way he’d come. It felt like he was being watched, though whether it was real or imagined, he had no idea and wasn’t going to test it. “Going back up to my flat,” he said, closing and locking the door behind him.

He hurried up the stairs like a child waiting for a monster to grab his ankle and he was sure the clattering of his feet on the wooden staircase was obvious over the phone. But his heart was pounding, and he didn’t have it in him to be embarrassed, not after hours on end of phone calls coming in every fifteen minutes, each designed to threaten him with words or silence.

“The door is locked, I’m back upstairs, thank you, Iris,” he said as he got to his room. “I won’t keep you up any longer.”

“I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m not sleeping anytime soon, anyway.”

“It’s nearly three,” he said.

“I know,” Iris replied with a laugh. “But I had too much caffeine earlier. I wanted to get some inventory done, so I drank a coffee at six. That used to be no problem, but apparently it isn’t anymore.”

“A whole coffee? Ms. ‘I can sleep anytime’? Have the ravages of time reached you too?”

Iris laughed. “You’re four years older than me, so don’t even start.”

Andrew scoffed, but he was still feeling shaky as he climbed back into his bed. Like a child again, hoping that if he was under the covers, the monsters wouldn’t get to him. Not that he could run far if they were to come.

And that just set off the trembling again.

“They’re going to kill me, Iris.”

The silence stretched just a beat longer than was reassuring. “I don’t think they will,” she said finally.

“Is that your opinion or do you see it?”

“Honestly, a bit of both,” Iris replied with a slight laugh. “Occasionally I can see signs of death, but I’ve never seen it with you.”

“That’s good, at least,” he said. “What is it, like something in their aura?”

“It’s hard to explain,” she said, settling into the explanation like they were just hanging out chatting between customers. “It’s not so much that I’m seeing something, it’s more of a vague feeling. And it isn’t always like death. It’s more that it’s something bad. I didn’t recognize anything with Roman and I think he got sick of me stressing about it afterward. And I didn’t see anything at all with…with Vivien. But sometimes I don’t know what it is until after.”

“Not sure that’s promising, iris,” Andrew said.

“No, I know, sorry,” she said. “But also, I just don’t see it going that far. He’s going to try to scare us into shutting up, but none of them actually want to risk going to prison. They’re too comfortable where they are and there’s only so much privilege in those positions.”

That part actually made Andrew feel a bit better. Of course the president of the New Winslow town council wasn’t going to try to murder him. He was going to threaten it, but Baxter had always been bluster, right? Andrew had never had him as a teacher, he’d avoided taking biology throughout high school. But the others had complained about Baxter throughout the years.

The silence downstairs made him realize how bone-deep tired he was. He’d almost fallen asleep several times during all of those calls, but now the building was just quiet, the doors were locked, and the charms were all in place.

“Hey, Iris?”


“Were you saying you dated guys in college?”

Iris laughed. “Not very willingly,” she said. “But there was this one guy, Griffin. He was nice enough, I guess. But he was really into me and I wasn’t into him at all. And my friends kept pushing him on me.”

Andrew put the phone on speaker and set it down beside him as he took a sip of water from the cup on his bedside table. “So you caved?”

“Of course I caved, I was eighteen. I wanted to focus on honing my skills, but he kept wanting to take me to Applebee’s.”

“The audacity.”

She laughed and Andrew lay back on his pillow, looking up at the wooden ceiling beams above him. “How long did you date?”

“About three weeks?” Iris said. “He wouldn’t leave me alone. I mean, texting me every hour and getting sad when I didn’t text back. Was that normal? Was I just being a jerk and not answering messages fast enough?”

Andrew shrugged as though she could see. “Beats me,” he said. “I didn’t have good enough internet for instant messaging here, then got Skype in college. Do you know what it was like trying to teach Noah how to use Skype?”

He yawned. “Still, every hour seems excessive.”

“I thought so too,” Iris said. “He’d never get mad, just sad. Sometimes he’d post sad song lyrics on his Facebook page after I hadn’t answered. I once sat an exam and came out with three missed texts and some devastating lyrics.”

“His own?”


Andrew closed his eyes. “He sounds like a jerk, honestly.”

“Now that I’m older, I think so too. And I just wasn’t interested. He’d kiss me and I’d be like, gross. I finally broke up with him and he was heartbroken for a week, then got another girlfriend. I never bothered dating again.”

“Hey, if you’re not interested, you’re not interested,” Andrew said.

“He dated my roommate the next year.”


“God, I wish I was joking. I kind of think he did it as some kind of revenge. But I’m keeping you up, aren’t I?”

“Nah,” Andrew said. “I’m still…it’s way too quiet here. Tell me about the roommate thing.”

“She was so sweet,” Iris said. “And he wasn’t too kind to her. It was obvious he was dating her to make me jealous, all of our friends saw it. But she had never had a boyfriend before, and unlike me, she really wanted one. So they started going out and she was just in love with him.”

“Poor girl.”

“Where did you go to college?” Iris asked.

“Me?” Andrew responded through a yawn. “St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.”

“Oh, I knew a girl who went there.”

“Yeah? Yeah, there were a fair number from the States there.”

“Her name was Erin Donahue. She was in my homeroom in high school, so you were probably out of school when she got there.”

“The name isn’t familiar,” Andrew said. “Though, to be honest, I’m not sure what I would have done if I ran into someone who knew about the New Winslow curse all the way over in St. Andrew’s.”

Iris laughed. “You’d have something to bond over, I guess.”

“I suppose. Where did you go?”

“Keene State. I stayed within an hour of here.”

“Yeah, so did most of my friends,” Andrew said. “I’m the one who left, came back, left, came back, then never left again.”

He meant to keep his tone light, but the bitterness seeped in at the very end. “Tell me about your school,” he said, anxious to keep the shadows at bay a little longer. “Was that where you learned about magic?”

“No, it’s where I learned about business management,” Iris said. “The magic part was much more self-directed.”

“How’s that?”

Andrew already knew some of the story, but Iris’s voice took on a gentle storyteller cadence as she began to tell it again. It was coming up on four in the morning now and he knew Olivia would be arriving to open the shop in a little while. But for now it was dark, and he was alone. And Iris’s voice made that all a little less ominous.

He lost track of the conversation from there, listening to the story, falling out, then coming back in. “Are you still there?” Iris asked, after he wasn’t sure how long.

“Hmm? Yeah, then what?”

The phone wasn’t ringing downstairs anymore and even if he’d firmly decided he didn’t like this flat and wished he hadn’t moved, it was at least a little less scary and lonely with another voice here. He fell asleep a few minutes later, Iris still talking to him nearby.


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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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