Agnes was a skeptic. She knew that about herself and she generally embraced it. She was a woman of science, someone who believed in facts and reason. So this fad of spiritualism that had completely engulfed the otherwise worldly city of Boston left her baffled.

However, she was also a loyal daughter and a grieving sister. So when her father told her that he’d hired a medium to contact the spirit of her dead brother, Agnes had pushed her hesitation and disdain aside in order to be there for her father. She knew that he would not be convinced to drop this plan and not invite this con artist into their home. So all she could do was attend the charade and try to stop the medium from squeezing her father for any more of the family fortune.

Their Beacon Hill home was lit warmly as the medium, a small man with watery eyes, and his young assistant came in out of the freezing wind. Agnes’s father greeted them with almost inappropriate levels of cheer while her mother, withdrawn and silent these days, watched from the doorway.

Mr. Bacon, as he said his name was, turned his focus on Agnes. “Hello, my dear,” he said in a soft, compelling voice. “You are uncertain of what we’re doing here tonight, aren’t you?”

Had her contempt shown on her face? “No, sir,” she lied, glancing at her father.

“No, it’s alright, it’s alright,” he continued. “These modern arts can be strange and confusing to some. But I promise you, this evening you will be reunited with the lost, er…”

“Samuel,” her father finished.

“Our son,” her mother added softly from the other side of the room.

Mr. Bacon nodded. “Yes, Samuel,” he finished. “And you will see that death is not an ending, but simply a doorway.”

Agnes was torn between tossing this man out onto the cobblestones outside or telling him exactly how she felt in front of his young, beautiful assistant. But for her father’s sake, she simply nodded. 

A short time later they were seated around the table in her father’s parlor. The room was dark save for a single candle that was reflected in the mirrors around the room. In the shadowy glow, Agnes’s father looked so hopeful that Agnes’s heart hurt.

Samuel wasn’t here. She didn’t know where Samuel was now, but it wasn’t here. 

Mr. Bacon started on some pseudo spiritual garbage and elaborate rituals that made Agnes’s head pound. She was furious as she watched, as he pompously called upon the spirits, as his silent assistant sat uselessly beside him.

This was a con. This was nothing but a con.

The assistant leaned in and blew out the candle, leaving them in a silent darkness. “Are there any spirits here with us?” Mr. Bacon said. “Are there any spirits who wish to speak?”

There was nothing but the sound of the wind for a second. Then a quiet rap made Agnes jump. 

“Are we in the presence of a spirit?” Mr. Bacon said. “Rap again if you are here.”

Another rap, this one more confident. “Spirit, appear before me,” Mr. Bacon said.

His voice became more distant, as though he were speaking from a dream. “I see a spirit before me…a man? A young man…with brown hair? No, blonde, perhaps? Or brown.”

As though the entire family didn’t have brown hair, Agnes thought. 

“Are you Samuel? Samuel, I can feel your presence, but it’s weak.”

Agnes’s father gasped and her mother took a shaky breath she could hear in the heavy silence. “Samuel, can you hear me?”

Another rap. It seemed to be coming from under the table, but then she heard another, somewhere deep in the darkness.

“Samuel is here,” Mr. Bacon said. “He is here and he has a message for you.”

“Yes, yes, please,” Agnes’s father said, his voice tinged with desperation. 

“Samuel, I cannot hear your message,” Mr. Bacon said. “Please, your presence is fading.”

“No!” her mother cried.

The hairs on Agnes’s neck stood up as she realized she was on unsteady ground right now. There was an energy here, an electricity that perhaps, was more than she was accustomed to.

“Samuel, come back to us!” Mr. Bacon called, his voice booming over the wind outside.

Agnes’s hands were still flat on the table as he had instructed at the beginning of the evening. Suddenly the table rocked violently beneath them. Her mother screamed and her father cried.

“Samuel!” her father called. “Sammy! He’s here!”

“Samuel has a message for you,” Mr. Bacon said as the table continued to rock beneath his hands. 

“Yes, yes, please!” her father said.

“Samuel says…don’t worry about him. He’s in the embrace of the Lord now. As soon as his body fell on the battlefield, an angel sweeped him up and into the Light.”

Tears stung Agnes’s eyes. This couldn’t be real, could it? Could Sammy really be here right now? 

A soft breeze over her shoulder, caressing her hair. She jerked, keeping her hands on the table.

“He says he can’t stay, he needs to return to the Light,” Mr. Bacon said.

“No, please stay!” Agnes’s father called.

Her mother was sobbing, her hitching breaths painful to hear. Agnes wanted to go to her, but she knew if she took her hands off the table, the spell would be broken.

“His voice is faint now,” Mr. Bacon said, his voice soft in the darkness. “He’s…I believe he’s gone.”

The table went still beneath Agnes’s hands. The tears were now streaming down her face as well as Mr. Bacon’s silent assistant relit the candle.

“The spirits have returned to the spirit world,” Mr. Bacon said. 

Agnes lifted her hand from the table and wiped away the tears on her cheeks. That had been…had she been wrong? Perhaps this was all real. Mr. Bacon was no con, but a vessel through which the spirit world could contact the living?

“We are done here for tonight,” Mr. Bacon said.

They were all rising now and her father rushed over to shake Mr. Bacon’s hand. “Thank you, sir, thank you,” he was saying. “You’ve given my family a great gift and I will be seeking your services again.”

Mr. Bacon nodded solemnly. “I am but a conduit for the spirits, their servant,” he said. “I would be happy to return any time. My schedule is quite full, but you can contact me to make an appointment.”

Agnes turned away as her father ushered Mr. Bacon into the hallway to discuss payment. Her mother followed silently after, her body trembling.

The silent assistant was turning the gas lamps back on. The light caught the woman’s heavy ring. Was she married? She couldn’t be more than sixteen.

The assistant saw Agnes watching and ducked her head, hurrying past. Grateful for a moment alone to process her feelings, Agnes paused and gazed at the table.

The table her brother, who had fallen dead on the field in Gettysburg, had just rattled to show his presence.

Then she noticed something on the underside of the table. Frowning, Agnes kneeled down and looked.

It looked like a thin wooden block, barely thicker than a matchbook. Had her father bought the table that way?

It held firm the first time Agnes tried to pull it off, then released with a pop.

It could be a matchbook, if not for the large groove in the front. What on Earth was this?

The sound of footsteps. Agnes looked up and saw the girl, the silent assistant, standing in the doorway. Her eyes widened as she saw what Agnes held. 

Agnes’s mind was whirring. She glanced at the thing in her hand, running a finger over the notch. Then she saw the ring again and it all slid into place.

The heavy ring. Big enough to hold the locking mechanism to slide into the groove. It’d be quite easy to make the table shake as long as the lock’s adhesive stood fast.

And to think, for a moment she had actually believed.

The girl caught her eye and Agnes could see she knew that Agnes knew.

“Please don’t tell, he’ll kill me!”

Agnes stood silently, trying to get her rage under control. It was a con. Mr. Bacon had come in, conned her family using their grief as a weapon and-

Her family. Her parents would be devastated if they found out. Her father had already almost died from his grief, taking this from him might be the final straw. 

Agnes ran a finger over the notch again and considered what she should do.

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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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