New Winslow S8E7

Cleo’s phone rang as she was pulling off of Route Two and onto one of the many wooded back roads of Central Massachusetts, roads that she could never name, but could navigate in her sleep. She turned down her music and answered over the sound of her slapping windshield wipers. “Hello?”

There was a pause and she immediately regretted how fast she’d answered an unknown number. After several weeks of threats and insinuations flooding her email inbox and text messages, then Andrew’s stories about people calling him and Iris, and now a fucking fire that almost killed her best friend, she knew better. She was literally on her way to drop off some stuff for him with Noah because nearly all of Andrew’s clothing had burned up. This was a terrible idea. And she was about to hang up just as someone spoke.

“Shit, sorry,” the woman said in a Scottish accent. “I thought maybe they were messing with me. Is this actually Cleo Rodriguez?”

“Who’s asking?” she said, stopping for a red light with no one else around for miles.

“Sorry,” the woman said again. She sounded young and possibly more nervous than Cleo. “My name is Sophie Stewart. I’m putting together a small music festival in Glasgow and- I’m sorry, I just can’t believe this is actually your number. I truly thought Tyler was fucking with me.”

Cleo laughed. “No, this is truly me,” she said. 

“I played a show with a band from Boston the other night, The Blossom Step,” Sophie said. “They said they were friends of yours.”

That sharp pang was all too real. “Tyler gave you my number?”

“No, their drummer. Um, Edie, I think? Well, anyway, I’m part of a team setting up a festival next winter,” Sophie said. “And he mentioned you and I told him what a fan I am of your music and how I’d lose it if you could play. And I-” She gave a slight laugh that made her sound even younger. “Sorry, I’m nervous.”

Cleo laughed too. “Don’t be,” she said. “I’m driving alone in the rain. Tell me more about the festival.”

Over the next twenty minutes, Sophie went over the details of the music festival she and a local group were putting together. They had a bit of a budget, nothing major, but they could cover Cleo’s flight over and lodging and would definitely have more coming in so that they could actually pay for her time.  So long as their fundraising campaigns worked out, that was. It was all very exciting and by the end of the conversation, Cleo was chatting with Sophie like she’d known her forever. 

“Hey, I have to get going,” she said as she pulled into the Countess’s parking lot. “And I’m definitely going to lose cell service soon. But I’m interested. If you can email me the details, I’d appreciate it. And I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Great!” Sophie said, just a little too loudly. “Um, thank you again! And sorry for calling your personal phone. But thank you!”

They disconnected and Cleo tried her best not to scream with excitement, at least not loud enough to scare Noah, who was waiting in his truck beside her. It was like the call had unlocked something in her creative brain and so many fledgling ideas for performing and touring were spilling over, ready to be examined. She got out of her car as Noah got out of his, then threw her arms around him, nearly knocking him over. It wasn’t until she had spilled all the details of Sophie’s call that she remembered why she was actually here. 

“Here’s all of Andrew’s clothes from my storage locker,” she said, pulling a large trash bag out of her back seat. “Some of this stuff was in my apartment for years, he probably won’t even recognize all of it.” 

Noah tossed them in the passenger seat of his truck. “He’ll be happy,” he said. “He’s been living in the two outfits he left behind and my clothes. Thanks for meeting me.”

“No problem. Sorry for not bringing them all the way back to town. I have to bring my mom to the doctor this afternoon so I really-” 

“Of course,” he said. “Is she alright?”

“Pretty good, actually,” Cleo replied. “She said to tell you hi.”

“I’m glad she’s alright.”

Looking at Noah more closely, she realized he didn’t look great. He looked like he hadn’t been sleeping well, which made sense given everything Liv had been talking about earlier. She was about to take the risk and ask if he was all right, but then there were footsteps on the gravel behind her. “Hey Cleo, what’s up?”

Roman was walking over, looking better than he had the last time Cleo saw him. “Hi,” Cleo said. “Just dropping off some stuff for Andrew.”

“Yeah, great. He’s going to need it. By the way, congratulations on the new album. My son played a couple songs in the car the other day. And I’m pretty sure he’s listening incessantly on his headphones too.”

Cleo laughed, her face heating up. “Thanks,” she said. “I’m going to be playing some shows out here this winter. Mostly eighteen plus, but I want to try to get an all-ages show somewhere if that’s something he’d want to go to.”

“He’d absolutely love that,” Roman said. “Let me know if that works out and I’ll get him there.”

Noah looked uncomfortable as he stood between them and she thought suddenly that the last time the three of them had been alone was last Christmas Eve. And they were all probably thinking about that now. 

“We should hit the road,” Roman said to Noah. “I can drive.”

Another little reminder she hoped no one else noticed, but knew they had. Instead of saying anything, she gave Noah another hug. “Thanks for bringing him those,” she said. 

“It’s fine,” he said, briskly rubbing her back before they separated. “I’m seeing him after the meeting, so…”

As if they weren’t currently living together. But there were only so many sensitive subjects Cleo could poke at right now. So she just said goodbye to him and Roman, then got back in her car, where ten more email notifications were waiting for her on her phone.


Coffee was one thing. But Olivia had to feed her kid and she didn’t have the energy to go grocery shopping yet. Going back to the general store made her want to vomit. So instead, she found herself at the House of Pizza at lunch time, clutching Mia’s hand and reminding herself that this place probably had more spiritual security than her own home did.

As she scanned the menu (as if she didn’t know it by heart), Mia was scrabbling at the rack of chips with her free hand. “Mia, sweetheart, no,” Olivia said.


“I see the chips. We’re getting pizza.”


Fuck it. “Fine,” Olivia relented. “Get two. Can you count one, two?”

Mia grabbed four, dropped three, and handed one up to Olivia. Olivia shook her head, then scooped the others off the floor, putting two back.


Isabel Rivera’s voice behind her nearly made her drop the chips this time. Olivia spun around and there she was, gorgeous in a tight t-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap in place of the beanie. “Hi,” Olivia said, aware of how she hadn’t showered yet today and that this was definitely the shirt she’d slept in last night.

“I heard what happened,” Isabel said. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m so sorry.”

Now that Olivia was mostly secure in the fact that Andrew was safe and wouldn’t disappear the second she turned her back, the grief of losing the Limerick was working its way to the forefront, bright and sharp in her chest. Isabel’s hand landed on her back and despite everything, the weight of it was reassuring.

“Was anyone hurt?”

Olivia nodded and she could see Mia looking up at her, even if she was blurry through the tears forming. “Andrew,” she said. “He’s alright, but he was there when the fire broke out.”

“Have they told you what happened?”

Olivia lowered her voice. “I don’t want to get you involved.”

Isabel looked confused and Olivia was tempted to tell her everything, but that would be purely selfish, wouldn’t it? She barely knew Isabel on a business level, let alone on a personal one. But the decision was made for her as Isabel leaned in closer. “Did someone set it?”

She didn’t look gleeful, or like she was getting in on the hot gossip. Instead, she looked horrified. Olivia nodded, then shook her head. “Yeah, but we’ll figure it out,” she said. 

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

She shook her head again. “No. We’re closed, we can’t salvage the building. They let us into the space yesterday, but we could only save a few things.”

“I’m so, so sorry.”

“Hey Isabel. Oh, Olivia, hi.”

Charlie Gulbenkian was beside them now, leaning down to give Mia a high five. Her tiny hand was barely the size of one of his fingers as she hit him full force and he pretended to fall back in pain. He stood up, towering over all of them. “I’ll sign for the delivery, Celine’s out for a bit.”

Isabel handed him her clipboard and he scrawled a quick signature, then handed it back. Watching this was painful and Olivia was actually grateful when Mia opened a bag of chips. “Mia,” she scolded.

Charlie laughed. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I’ll put them on my order.”

But he was already pulling two dollars out of his wallet. “I got it,” he said, waving her off.

“Charlie, no.”

He ignored her protests. “I need to talk to you for a sec,” he said instead. “Do you have a few minutes?”

She had all the time in the world, apparently. Isabel put her clipboard in her bag and again, laid a hand on Olivia’s shoulder. “Your account isn’t going anywhere,” she said. “I know you’ve got a lot going on and if there’s anything I can do to help, I will. Not just with the shop. 

She stood there for a second, then leaned in to hug Olivia. Olivia was caught off guard for just a second before she sank into the embrace. Isabel smelled good, some kind of woodsy scent that enveloped her, and she could have stayed here all day with this person she barely knew. But then Isabel pulled away. “You have my number,” she said. “I mean it.”

She smiled at Mia, then headed out the door.

“Let’s get your order in, then can we talk for a minute?”

Charlie looked more serious than she’d ever seen him. They quickly put in for a few pizzas, then Charlie beckoned her toward the nearest table while the kid at the pizza bench, a teenager she didn’t recognize, started making the order.

“Listen,” Charlie said, leaning his elbows on the table as he spoke quietly. “I’ve been hearing some weird things.”

“About the fire?” Olivia asked, dread pooling in her stomach.

Charlie nodded, then looked around quickly. “A cop and some lady from the council came to talk to me.”

“What about?”

“If I did any work on the Limerick building. I told them I didn’t, but it was weird. He was…something was off about all of it. I’m not sure he was-”

“A real cop,” Olivia finished, glancing over to where Mia was sitting on the worn carpet beside a nearby empty booth, picking at the fabric. “He came to the house yesterday and yelled at Noah. Said he’d done the electrical work and we were lucky not to be in trouble. Even as Noah was saying he’d call the electrician to clear things up.”

“Yeah, it was my buddy Ryan that did the work,” Charlie said. “He’s licensed, he’s been an electrician for, like, five years. He said the wiring issues were simple and fixed them in a day.”

“They’re covering it up,” Olivia said. “Someone burned it down. The regional fire department was saying arson up until yesterday when it became electrical issues and entirely a town matter. But there was gasoline in the front of the shop. Someone broke a window, poured in gasoline, and ignited it. The county told us that before the town got involved. And the only reason they’d cover it up is because Baxter did it. Or someone he hired.”

“I knew it,” Charlie said. “They’re spreading that other story, but I’m not stupid. And the way they’re trying to…”

He shook his head. “Anyway, I hope Noah knows that no one who matters actually believes that bullshit.”

She hadn’t spent a lot of time considering that part yet, not since trying to shove her visit to the general store firmly out of her mind. And now the idea of bringing it up with Noah added another layer of nausea to the whole situation. “Thanks,” she said. “I know he’ll appreciate that.”

“But the thing I was going to say, I swear I know that guy. The cop, I mean. He’s Randy O’Shaunessy, we went to high school together. And when I realized it, I said to him, I said, ‘Randy, when did you become a cop?’ And he gets all flustered and tried to act like this wasn’t who he was. But my sister dated Randy for a little while, I know him. And I know he’s got family on the council.”

The door opened and a customer came in, effectively ending the conversation. Charlie went to the front register while Olivia stayed where she was, watching Mia and pointedly ignoring the spirit she saw out of the corner of her eye, lingering in a corner booth.




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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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