Nothing in her nursing training prepared Tara O’Neill to be a ghost hunter --but then she came to Angelus.
Even as western Ireland welcomes in the twentieth century, events from long ago cast chilling shadows over Angelus House, scene of many dark and bloody deeds, where unexplained ‘accidents’ are threatening the life and sanity of Meade Castlereagan.
The villagers say the house is haunted; Meade’s husband thinks she’s imagining things; but Tara believes there’s something truly evil roaming the dark halls.
Can she convince anyone else before another murder is done?
Torn between her duty to her patient and the amorous attention of two attractive men, Tara grits her teeth, loads her derringer, and sets out to find The Angelus Ghost.
Word Count: 82,000
It must have been about an hour before dawn when I awoke, suddenly aware of something. There was a cold draft in my room and a dim bluish light seemed to be moving about at great speed. I fancied I could hear gasping breaths in the darkness. I could not stop the scream that came from the depth of my lungs and certainly proved to me that my breathing apparatus was all first-rate goods. In a few seconds, my door burst open and Jeremy rushed in with a candle, brandishing a fire-iron.
"What happened? Are you all right?" he demanded, coming over to the bed. I nodded, temporarily unable to speak. At last I was able to breathe again, although half-sobbing. "You're white as a ghost," Jeremy said, taking my hand and sitting on the edge of the bed. "What--"
Before he could continue the nursery door flew open and Sir Charles stood there, a night lamp in one hand and a riding crop in the other. Looking from Jeremy to me to the broken door, he said, "Now, really, Jeremy; this becomes too much! Must I hire useless crones to nurse my wife because none but they are safe from your wilful ways? "
"No, no, Sir Charles; it isn't what you think," I protested. "There was something in my room, something horrid. It was cold and draughty, and it smelled and it gave off a bluish light. Altogether nasty, whatever it was," I explained. Sir Charles and Jeremy started violently at this. Jeremy said "My dear girl, who's been telling you the family ghost stories?"
Sir Charles said, "Nonsense, superstitious nonsense. Stop frightening Tara, Jeremy. Go to your room and I'll have a look around here."
"If it really is the family haunt, wouldn't it be better for us all to look together?" said Jeremy in a mocking tone which did not entirely disguise his unease. He had been startled by my description of the nocturnal prowler.
Sir Charles was about to protest, when a thought came to me that I blurted out suddenly. "What about Meade? She'll be frightened to death by all this." It had not escaped my notice that Sir Charles had come to my room via the nursery, which must mean that he was sleeping in Meade's room once more. We all three paused for a second, listening. No sound in the dark house: my scream must not have been as loud as I'd thought. Throwing back the covers, I grabbed a shawl and followed Sir Charles into the nursery. He went through to the bedroom, returning in an instant, his face stormy. "Not there! "
Jeremy said, "Check the hall door--this suite is self-contained. I broke Tara's bolt getting in when I heard her scream, so Meade can't have left this way."
Sir Charles went back to the bedroom while Jeremy searched my room and I looked about the nursery. After ten minutes, we had to give up. We'd looked into and under everything and no trace of Meade could be found. We met again in my room, where Jeremy had lit all the lamps and stoked up the fire.
"Tara, tell me again, exactly what happened," said Sir Charles, gnawing a knuckle and looking grim. I repeated my story, which left none of us the wiser. He sighed and said, "Jeremy, rouse the servants--no, get Thomas to do it; then take a horse and go to the home farm and get the men from there. We must organize a search at once."
He strode out of the room, leaving me wondering what I could do. I paced the floor, then couldn't stand the tension any longer. Throwing aside my night-clothes, I put on my riding outfit and boots and hurried down the back stairs. With some effort, I saddled Tralee and clattered out of the yard. I had no clear idea where I should go or what I should do, but to stay at Angelus, waiting, would have driven me mad. A bloody smear on the eastern rim of night foretold the dawn. I turned Tralee towards the dim light and headed away from Angelus.
Less than a mile from the house, around the breast of the sloping green hill that protected it from the worst of the ocean winds, was the old family burying ground and beyond it, the ruins of an ancient monastery. I remembered that Meade had been found in the graveyard when she went missing the last time. It was worth a try now. From my seat on the little horse I could see that no one stood among the grey stones, now coming out of darkness one by one as the light grew. I walked Tralee all around the graveyard, but found nothing,
I headed for the ruined monastery. In daylight it was a rather pleasant place, but in the shifting, pre-dawn light, not a welcoming one. I dismounted and tied Tralee to a bush. I walked among the ruined walls and pillars, calling Meade's name. Once an owl answered me from high above, but no human voice responded. I began to feel chill and wished I had stayed in my room.
As I crossed the cloister garth, my foot struck something and I went sprawling full length in the damp grass. A large stone projected a bit above the edge of the turf. I got up and was about to pass on when something caught my eye. A scrap of something, a bit of old rag, protruded from under the stone. I sprang back. The tiny scrap spoke to my instincts of death and dark places better not thought about.
Against my will, I looked closer. Was it only my imagination, or did the scrap glow with a bluish light? Imagination, of course. Risking a hernia, I found a broken lump of stone nearby and dragged and tugged it into place atop the flat stone. If anyone had been coming and going from under it, he'd have a harder passage now. I must report this to Sir Charles at once. I ran for Tralee, mounted and headed back to Angelus.
As I again passed the Castlereagan burying ground, the mausoleum caught my eye. The heavy oak door appeared tight shut, but how could I leave without checking? I dropped Tralee's reins, knowing she'd stray no further than necessary to fill her belly with summer grass and walked up the path. I put my ear to the door. Was it my heart thumping or did I really hear something inside?
Gingerly, I pushed open the doors and stepped inside. The building was shaped like an 'L'. A stained glass window of the vilest Gothic Revival style gave the only illumination. It was cold and damp-smelling in the tomb. In the corner was a pile of leaves, swept in by the wind and pushed aside by a haphazard caretaker, no doubt. I looked about, not moving far from the doorway. Brass plaques and marble tablets listed the occupants of this grim dwelling, and ugly funeral statuary filled every nook.
"Meade? Are you in here, Meade?" I called, unwilling to go further into this uninviting place. Something rustled in the gloom at the far side, around in the leg of the ell. "Meade, come out, everyone's worried about you!" I called. Coward that I was, I felt a dreadful loathing of going into that shadowed corner. I took a half-step forward. My foot struck something and I looked down. It was a dead lamb--horribly dead, its throat gaping and one leg torn off. I gasped and stepped to one side. As I did so, something rushed out of the darkness and cold hands took me by the throat and threw me to the floor.
I fell back into the pile of leaves in the corner, half-fainting with fear, my nostrils choked with the loathsome stench I had smelled faintly in my room on the previous night. I had found the lair of the thing that haunted Angelus House!
This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 30 July, 2011.