New Winslow S7E60

Olivia had just turned the OPEN sign on when she heard Andrew coming down the stairs from his apartment. “Good morning!” she called as she made her way across the empty storefront and back behind the counter.

He rounded the corner from the back and her question about the unplugged phone she’d found when she got here went silent as she looked at him. “Did you sleep at all?” she asked instead.

Andrew shrugged. He’d clearly made an effort to look like he was ready for a day of work, shaving and brushing his hair. But there were deep shadows under his eyes and he looked a little distant, even as he poured a cup of coffee.

“I’m fine,” he said. “It was those phone calls again, they were coming every fifteen minutes for a while.”

“All night?” Olivia asked, horrified.

“Until I unplugged the phone. Sorry about that, I’ll fix it now.”

He moved to go out back, and Olivia stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “It’s fine,” she said. “I got it a few minutes ago. Someone was calling here all night?”

Andrew nodded, his movements jerky. “I called Iris,” he said. “Around three. And, I don’t know, um, I guess I fell asleep a little before you got here.”

“Go back to bed.”

Andrew started to protest, but Olivia held up her hand. “No,” she said. “It’s probably going to be slow this morning and Noah will be in later. That’s a fucked up way to spend a night and I’m sorry I didn’t know about it.”

“I didn’t tell you.”

She felt a little silly in the face of that very obvious statement, but pressed on. “Go get another hour of sleep. Preferably twelve, then come down. I mean it, I have this under control.”

He looked too tired to argue with her as he glanced over her shoulder toward the entrance, as though a horde of thirsty people were going to break down the door the second he walked away. “You’re sure?”


She sounded like she was sixteen, the vowel stretching out petulantly. It worked though, he laughed and walked out back with his paper coffee cup in his hand.

Apparently everyone was having a rough morning. Hers had been nothing out of the ordinary, just a pissed off Mia joining her here while she set up. Her original plan had been to ask Noah if he’d drop her off at daycare for six. But Olivia had a feeling he was coming down with something. She hadn’t talked to him since before he’d left to move boxes at the general store yesterday. Instead of joining her and Mia for dinner, he’d stayed upstairs. Which he was perfectly entitled to do, of course, but when she’d gone up around seven to check if he wanted food, she’d found him asleep already. Outside of the time, there was nothing out of the ordinary about it, so she did her best not to give in to temptation and check for alcohol in the house.

This morning, he’d still been asleep when she left. So rather than wake him, she’d packed Mia up a little early and started the opening process at the Limerick with her daughter curled up on a cushioned sofa against the wall. Noah was going to be irritated too. He’d insist she should have woken him up. But it was fine. Mia had gotten a muffin out of it and Olivia had gotten the shop open on time.

And now she’d just wait for customers.


There were a few in the first hour, mostly teenagers trickling in before going to their summer jobs. They were good kids. Loud, tired, and doing their best to appear as the adults they saw themselves as. She could see it in the number of black coffees she poured for serious looking kids who talked like Noah at half his age. It was charming in a way that made her nostalgic.

So nostalgic, in fact, that when Cleo walked in the door about forty minutes after open, it almost didn’t register. The kids were gone by this point and the building was empty, though she knew another small wave would come through soon.

“Cleo!” Olivia called from where she was wiping down the condiment bar, which was scattered with Splenda packets. “What are you doing here?”

“Just picking up some stuff for my mom over at Mrs. Stevenson’s,” Cleo replied, coming over for a hug. “I figured I’d stop in and say hi on my way back out of town.”

She didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned that she wouldn’t be able to get back out. But Olivia wasn’t about to comment on it.

“Are you here alone?” Cleo asked her.

“For a little bit,” she said. “Andrew was on, but apparently he was getting creepy phone calls here all night, so I sent him back up to sleep for a little while. And Noah’s sick. Maybe? I’m not sure. But he’ll be here later. Come on, come get a coffee.”

She led Cleo over to the counter. “What do you want?”

“A latte?” Cleo asked hopefully.

She reached for her wallet and Olivia shook her head as she set up the espresso machine. “You got some time?” she asked. “I was about to take a break before the next round of teenagers comes in.”

A moment later they were sitting on the couch, where Mia’s sleeping bag was still crumpled. “How’s your mom?” Olivia asked.

“Thriving,” Cleo said. “Honestly, she loves it there. It’s such a relief.”

“I bet,” Olivia said, picking at the scone she’d taken, but now realized she didn’t want. “I’m glad to hear that. And it must be nice having her so close.”

“Yeah,” Cleo said, her smile fading a little. “I’ve been over there a lot. The apartment is very quiet. But it’s going to be even worse…”

She took a sip of her latte instead of finishing that sentence. “You alright?” Olivia asked.

Cleo nodded, then shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “It sucks not having them here and it’s going to suck even more when they get home and we’re all awkward around each other again. But I don’t even want to think about it right now. What were the creepy phone calls? The same ones we’ve all been getting?”

“Yeah,” Olivia said. “It’s ridiculous. I’m so mad, but I feel helpless to do anything about it. Short of confronting Baxter, but that could make things so much worse. They still think Noah is the connection, and I said do what you have to, but I’m terrified something’s going to happen with him again. So’s Andrew. I doubt Iris has even considered anyone but herself. But I’m going to talk to Noah tonight and see if anything happened the other day when they were back at her store. I feel like he would have told me, but I think he’s getting sick. So he probably forgot.”

She was rambling and she knew it, but the idea of Andrew here alone and dealing with those calls pissed her off to where she could see where Noah’s recklessness was coming from. She didn’t agree with him, obviously, but the temptation to just go to Charles Baxter and threaten him with a knife this time was getting more and more tempting. Even though she knew it would only cause problems.

“I’m just tired of all of it,” Olivia said. “I want it to be done. Andrew needs to be able to leave town if he wants to. Noah needs…God, I don’t know where to begin with that one. And I just need to be able to keep the shop running. If I can do that, I’ll be happy.”

She smiled, aware she’d just poured out far more of her feelings than she’d intended to. But it was Cleo. If she was going to dump out all of her emotions on someone, of course it was going to be Cleo.

“Do you want any of this?” she asked, moving the plate with the scone on it closer to Cleo just as the door opened and a new customer walked in.




Leave A Comment

3d book display image of The Vanishing House

Want a free book?

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?

Get Your Copy Today>>