New Winslow S8E5

Cleo didn’t get the job. The interviewers didn’t say anything, but they didn’t have to. It was all obvious in the way that the group looked at each other over her resume, a copy of which sat in front of each of them. She sat on the other side of the conference room table, her nylons digging into her waist underneath the smart skirt and blouse that only ever came out of retirement for job interviews. And as she got up to leave, shaking their hands, she knew she’d never see this group of anonymous men ever again.

Her phone buzzed as she walked out of the tall glass building and onto the busy Boston street. It was a keyword alert saying she’d gotten a writeup on a website she would have killed to be featured on two years ago. It wasn’t a full story, more of a quick Hot or Not feature that had her album listed as a viral hit the teens were all over. Cleo couldn’t tell if that meant hot or not, but clearly the teens were the ones that were pushing her sales and streams. So regardless, she was going to side with the teens here.

So she could confidently say she was famous on social media. Still not really a money maker, but that was all in the licensing right now. And she had a couple more offers to share with Jude this week, so hopefully that plan would continue to work out. That last deal had covered her rent in a way that released an incredible amount of her tension and fears. Her mother was covered for a little while and Cleo had some wiggle room for herself. Not enough to quit looking for a new job, but enough to breathe. And maybe if she got lucky, these licensing offers would become a steady stream of income for her. Maybe she wouldn’t even need a day job.

Cleo actually laughed out loud at that thought as she walked down the street toward the Green Line. It was a beautiful sunny day and hopefully it stayed that way, because she was going to be transferring from the Green Line to the bus to get back home. So there was likely going to be a fair amount of waiting around in between. She could try walking home once she got to the end of the B Line, but her shoes weren’t really great for that. Next interview, she’d pack some sneakers and be prepared.

And maybe for the one after that. And the one after that.

The sky was cloudless and even if it was a little hot, the breeze kept it from being uncomfortable. Cleo passed by groups of people on the sidewalk as she went, college students and tourists mostly, not thinking about much until her phone rang.

“Hey Liv.”


“What’s going on?” Translation: Oh God, what now?

“How’d your interview go?”

Cleo laughed. “Tanked it,” she said. “No doubt.”

“Shit, I’m sorry.”

“Thanks,” she said, joining a large group of people crossing the street against a green light. “Maybe the company sucked anyway and I would have been miserable there.”

She could hope and tell herself that. “How are you?”

“Well, the town council is trying to intimidate us into believing that the fire wasn’t arson,” Olivia said. “I should have seen this coming. But they’re trying to pin it on Noah.”


“Yeah. They’re claiming he did the electrical work. Nothing’s going to happen, he’s got it all in writing and two copies of everything in his apartment, so he’s covered. But fucking Jean McNamara and some guy who might have been just wearing a cop costume showed up at our house this morning.”

“Oh my God.”

“I have to believe it means we’re close,” Olivia said. “But it doesn’t seem like they were targeting Andrew. I could see some surprise on her shitty face when I said he was in there and it seemed real. But Cleo, they’re really trying this. And they’ve done it before, both Andrew and Noah said they were approached a while back about Iris. So apparently rumors are a common part of their arsenal.”

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” Olivia admitted. “I told the guys I’ll work with them. I’ll tolerate Iris long enough to solve this and get Andrew to safety. So even if we can’t expose them, we can at least get him out and figure it out from there.”

“I’ll be back in a couple days,” Cleo said.

“You don’t have to.”

“I know,” Cleo said. “But I want to. I’d come back today, but-”

“Your mom, I know,” Liv said. “It’s alright, I swear.”

Cleo rounded the corner, spotting the entrance to the Green Line a little ways up the street. “We all went to the shop today,” Olivia said. “I managed to save what was in the safe, but everything else is a loss. Andrew’s living room literally collapsed down into the cafe.”

Cleo shuddered. “How is he?” she asked.“We haven’t talked yet today.”

“Decent. He’s got some meds and Dr. Degas had him in to check him over herself. Nothing’s broken but he’s feeling it.”

“We’ll figure it out,” Cleo said, unable to think of anything more useful to add to the conversation.

There was a pause, just long enough for Cleo to wonder if maybe one of them had lost service. But no, she was in Boston and Olivia was on her landline. And then Liv spoke again.

“Can I tell you something?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“I think Noah’s going to try to go headlong into this again,” Olivia said, to Cleo’s lack of surprise. “He got hurt last time and has tried to convince all of us that it was no big deal. But it clearly was. Even Iris hasn’t offered to do it again.”

“Do what exactly?”

“I don’t know,” Olivia admitted. “I know that she hypnotized him and he was okay with it, which is fucking astonishing. But it’s for Andrew, you know? And apparently whatever they were trying to do with it worked. But it hurt him and that’s what got him before that Vivien woman did. And he keeps saying it’s fine, but it’s clearly not fine. So I think this is going to be harder to deal with now.”

Olivia groaned and Cleo considered if she should call Noah after this call was done.

 “You know him,” Liv continued. “He’s not going to just sit back and let Andrew get hurt again. But doing whatever they were doing could potentially hurt him badly, so I really don’t want him to do it. And I know Andrew doesn’t either.”

“No, of course,” Cleo said as she reached the train station entrance. “And he’s so stubborn.”

“Honest to God,” Olivia said with a laugh. “I’m actually going to Iris’s goddamn shop with them tonight so maybe I can pin him down if he tries something.”

“Should I talk to him?”

“I don’t know,” Olivia said. “He hasn’t said anything, it’s just a gut instinct. It’s fine. I’ll let you go. Give your mom my love.”

“I’ll see you the day after tomorrow, when her appointments are done.”

“I’ll be here.”

Of course she would. Olivia had always been there and this was going to be no different. Cleo hung up the phone, then walked into the station, heading down the staircase to the trains below.


Andrew got a call late that morning saying both that he could have his belongings back and it was safe to go back to the Limerick. Or, at least it was safe enough for them to salvage what they could. It was his property after all, technically nobody could keep him off of it. At least he was pretty sure of that.

God, he owned property in New Winslow. He owned burnt down property in New Winslow. Burnt down because the town council – or at least its ancient, horrible president – wanted to keep Andrew from discovering the source of the curse keeping him trapped within the town boundaries.

He hated this place.

But now here he was, moving carefully toward what remained of the Limerick building as Noah watched his every move for signs he might collapse. Which was fair enough, Andrew knew that was certainly a possibility. His body still hurt all over, worse than it had yesterday. And matters weren’t helped when he got there and the first thing he saw was that the wooden rafters and most of the interior of the second floor had collapsed into the shop. That was where he’d been sleeping, right where that pane of glass had shattered. Andrew was pretty sure that he was looking at the burnt remnants of his bedroom right now. Not that he could have possibly slept through those alarms.

Liv was staring at the mess and if he wasn’t in so much pain, or under the influence of so many painkillers, Andrew would have told her that they could manage it if she needed to leave. But he knew that she’d never agree to that. “It’s gone,” she said softly as they stood on the worn sidewalk outside the caution tape fluttering in the summer breeze. “They destroyed it.”

“Andrew, you should stay out here,” Noah said. “You can go rest in the truck if you want.”

Andrew glanced at him and Noah just looked steadily back. He didn’t want to have this fight and frankly, didn’t actually want to go back inside the building. But Liv lifted the caution tape and headed into the remnants of their shop before he and Noah could start to argue. Noah hurried after her and Andrew moved much slower, stepping over the wrecked threshold.

There was debris all throughout the ruined shop and Andrew found himself dazedly calculating whether they’d be able to clear it themselves. No, not a chance. But insurance would cover that, at least he hoped it would. Olivia moved determinedly through the wreck of the dining room, going out back through the scarred door behind what was left of the counter. Noah stayed where he was, looking around the space. He stared at something that Andrew took a moment to realize was his couch, twisted and burned in the corner.

“It’s alright,” Andrew said, putting a hand on his arm.

“You okay?” Noah asked.


It came out sarcastic and tight, but Noah laughed slightly even as he stared at the couch. “Shit,” he said. “They came after you.”

“They didn’t know I was here,” Andrew said. “Remember? Jean McNamara apparently looked like she wanted to throw up when she found out I was in here. Liv said so.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Noah said, eyes still locked on the couch. “They could have killed you. Or he could have. And if they’re covering up for him, then they’re just as bad.”

Dammit. Andrew recognized this tone. It was the one that came before Noah did something reckless. It always had, even when they were kids. “Let’s just see what we can save,” Andrew said, as though there was going to be anything at all worth saving.

He staggered toward the glass case, where shards had scattered over all of the sample pastries that he’d told himself he’d remember to throw out in the morning. Now the glass sparkled on the cupcakes like deadly sprinkles. “Want one?” he asked Noah.

Maybe it was the painkillers making him act like this, numb and on the edge of hysteria as he looked at the sparkling glass on Liv’s carefully made pastries. But before Noah could say anything or try and make Andrew go outside, Olivia was back. She held the petty cash bag and the deposit she’d planned to bring to the bank in the morning.

“The safe was fine,” she said, holding back tears. “It looks like it was fireproof after all. But the entire back is a lost cause. We should leave.”

Andrew agreed. Even being here right now was creeping him out, like visiting the scene of a death. His own potential death at that. Tomorrow maybe he’d feel the loss of this business that he and his friends had put so much into and only had for less than six months. But he hurt all over and they were going to Iris’s later, where there was the potential for things to get more intense. So he wanted to go back and sleep for a little while before then.


Despite everything, Olivia somehow found herself at loose ends  when they got home. Andrew fell asleep pretty much as soon as they arrived, dropping onto her couch with a grunt of pain and moving just enough to take off his shoes before passing out. Noah disappeared upstairs for a shower and Sammy, her mother’s longtime partner, arrived moments later to drop off Mia. She’d called Cleo and Cleo had told Olivia she’d be back in town in a couple days. So there was plenty of time to do nothing.

But even as Mia settled into her own bedroom with some books and Olivia took a shower, she couldn’t get herself to focus on anything that would be productive. All she could think was that it was all gone.

There was no going back. Even if insurance covered the cost of the building and everything within it, the fact that they’d been able to buy it in the first place was a miracle. They couldn’t afford to rebuild from scratch, so Andrew could recoup his loss and they’d move on. She’d get another job, something that would put her back to working for someone else. And it would be even worse this time because she’d had a taste of working for herself and as part of a team she loved. But she wasn’t going to have much of a choice this time. 

She might even need to go back to Keegan’s. Maybe she could beg Bret for her job back. 

No, Cleo would murder her if she did that. Olivia made a promise that she wouldn’t go back, and she didn’t break promises to Cleo. But what else was there in town? The general store? Did they ever hire? House of Pizza? Maybe one of the offices in the area needed a secretary. She’d never been a secretary before, but she’d done data entry in college and worked as an assistant to one of her professors for a while. And she’d been a manager at Keegan’s for years. That would look good on a resume, right?

Olivia was spiraling and she knew it. But her options were limited around here. Like she’d said when she quit Keegan’s, she couldn’t find something far away. She’d told Andrew that she was relying on free childcare and wasn’t going to take advantage of that by getting a job an hour and a half away. But they didn’t live somewhere that was crawling with job opportunities. Not that anywhere was these days, but rural central Massachusetts especially so.

She’d talk to the others about it. They all needed to figure out work, so at last she wouldn’t be alone.

Andrew was still asleep on the couch as she passed by him on her way to her bedroom. He was back with them, of course. He didn’t even need to ask, of course he’d be living with her and Noah again. And especially with him and Noah being whatever they were now, (a good thing, a very good thing. Not at all something to worry herself about.) he likely wouldn’t really be living on her couch this time. But if he had wanted to leave the duplex before, then he was going to be unhappy to be back. Even if he was upstairs with Noah rather than down here with her.

But maybe he’d be happy up there. And since she still couldn’t get the image of that burned apartment out of her mind, it was a relief to keep reassuring herself that he’d gotten out.

And maybe the curse would break sooner rather than later. She’d have to see how tonight went, maybe it would be worth swallowing her fear and working with Iris again. They could break the curse and then all of this would be over. As long as nobody was hurt trying to do so.

She got dressed and sat down on her bed for a moment, taking a second to breathe and try to bring down her racing heart rate. There wasn’t time for a panic attack. It would all work out somehow, it had to. She just needed to breathe.

 Then her bedroom door creaked open. “Hi, Mama,” Mia said, announcing her presence as she came in. 

She crawled up on the bed and into Olivia’s lap, nestling in against her chest as she popped a thumb in her mouth. Olivia rested her forehead against the top of Mia’s head for a moment, trying to relax and just focus on the sensation of her daughter in her arms.

“Wuv ooo,” Mia said around her thumb.

Olivia kissed her. “I love you too, baby.”

Mia tugged on Olivia’s sleeve, then slid back down to the floor, pulling her sleeve again. “Come.”

“What’s up?”

“Come!” Mia insisted.

“Baby, is everything okay?”

“I show you.”

She took Oivia’s hand and walked her out to the living room as Olivia wondered what could possibly happen next. Mia pointed at Andrew, who was still asleep on the couch, his head turned away from them. “Andwoo.”




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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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