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All Hallows Eve: A Saint Maggie Short Story
Chapter 3: The Medium
Once Maggie had found Josiah Norton in the crowd, she led him back to their table, explaining that they were interested in taking part in a séance. After giving them effusive thanks, Josiah led them out of the Grand Ballroom and into the hotel’s massive reception area.
“I have obtained the services of a medium, whom I have been told is quite reputable,” he was saying.
“What’s her name?” Eli asked.
“Mrs. Knightsbridge.” He led them down a hallway to their right. “I realize I am taking extreme measures to employ such a person, but I just don’t know what else to do.”
Eli considered the other man’s words. “You did make sure that the occurrences here weren’t the work of a prankster or the nighttime imaginings of easily-frightened people?”
“I did. And, Mr. Smith…” Josiah turned to face Eli. “The people who reported the goings-on were sincere. In fact, some told me that things have happened in broad daylight. Voices. Books flying off shelves. Water glasses breaking. It’s all very disturbing.”
“Oh, dear,” Maggie replied. “How frightening for your guests.”
“Yes, indeed.” Josiah hesitated before adding, “Actually, there’s more. This is the first time I have told anyone about this. The staff who work in the stables have told me that they’ve felt cold breezes pass over them, even in the heat of summer. And one stall in the stables spooks the horses.”
“What do you mean?” Eli asked.
“They cannot find a horse who will submit to going inside it.”
Frankie whispered to Lydia, “That’s not good.”
Lydia nodded in agreement.
Josiah continued, “The stable hands have no idea what causes the horses to be afraid of that one stall. But they fully admit that they, too, feel uneasy in the area.”
Eli’s dark eyebrows knit in a frown. “Where are the stables located?”
“At the back of the property. Nearest First Street.”
Eli met Maggie’s eyes. “That’s where my print shop was.”
Maggie’s whispered, “Oh, no. It can’t be.”
This, of course, did not pass Josiah’s notice. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s just…” Maggie stopped, but then pushed on. “Well, it’s just that something happened there in 1861.”
“What was it?” Josiah wanted to know.
Maggie opened her mouth to tell him, but Eli stopped her with a hand to her arm. ”No. Don’t tell him.”
“Why on earth not?”
“Because I don’t want Mrs. Knightsbridge to get any more information about this hotel and the buildings that were there when you owned the property. People sometimes say things unintentionally, which a medium can use to piece together knowledge about a location or a situation. We want to make sure that Mrs. Knightsbridge is as ignorant about this place’s background as possible, so we may see whether or not she really is in touch with the spiritual realm.”
There was a silence on Josiah’s part, until he murmured, “Yes, I can see where that would be logical.”
“So are we agreed not to give her any more information than she needs to know?”
The group, including Josiah, assented.
Josiah then over walked to a closed door labeled “Private Dining Room” and knocked. He glanced over his shoulder at the others. “Mrs. Knightsbridge insists on privacy so that she may prepare.”
“Hmm…” Eli muttered, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Within a few seconds, the door opened to reveal a pleasingly plump woman in a cheerful, teal gown. Her strawberry blond hair was arranged neatly in snood at the back of her neck and she was smiling warmly at the group. “Ah! Welcome, Mr. Norton! Welcome to you all! Do come in.”
The room was dark, with the exception of a single candle at its furthest end that had been placed upon a cloth-covered round table. Maggie understood that the little table was where the séance would take place.
“Mrs. Knightsbridge,” Josiah was saying, “these are my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Dr. Frost, and Miss Blaine.”
“I am pleased to meet you.” She tipped her head. “What has Mr. Norton told you?”
“He spoke to us of the odd occurrences taking place here,” Maggie replied. “And, since we are friends of his, we thought we’d like to come with him to this… séance.” She found it hard, and a bit blasphemous, to say the word. It just didn’t feel right.
As Eli’s eyes gradually became adjusted to the gloom, he noted that the regular dining tables had been pushed aside and against the walls. And then he spotted something unusual: a tall cabinet positioned near the séance table.
He said, “Excuse me, Mrs., Knightsbridge, but that cabinet. Is it yours?”
“Oh, it is, indeed,” she cheerily replied and motioned for them to follow her to the round table. “It is my spirit cabinet. A portal, if you will, through which spirits travel from their realm to ours.”
Eli held back a skeptical smile. “You don’t say.”
“Elijah,” Maggie whispered. “Behave.”
“I shall, my love. I shall.”
Mrs. Knightsbridge indicated the table. “Please take a seat.”
They arranged themselves on six of the eight chairs there. Obviously, Mrs. Knightsbridge expected a group – and most likely that was because Josiah had told her he would be bringing other people.
Eli’s newspaperman instincts began kicking in, telling him that this situation indeed would make an interesting story, perhaps even an exposé.
Mrs. Knightsbridge removed the spare seats as she said, “If you will, please space yourselves around the table so that you are evenly distributed.”
There was some shuffling as they rearranged themselves and then waited quietly for more directions.
Frankie was excited and wondering what would happen next. Would they see a spirit? Would it be someone she knew? Would there be celestial music? A guitar or a piano, perhaps? Or maybe table knocking. She scarcely could wait.
Lydia, meanwhile, was dubious about the proceedings. Seated beside Eli, she peeped at her stepfather and fellow skeptic.
Despite the dim lighting, Eli saw her and threw her a sly smile. Lydia immediately saw that he was up to something and answered him with raised eyebrows. He responded with a slight nod, indicating that she was correct. Lydia nodded in reply, her way of saying, “Fine. Just don’t upset Mama.”
Maggie was the only one feeling any anxiety. Perhaps Emily was right, she ruminated. Perhaps they shouldn’t be part of such a thing as a séance. And, regardless of what time of the year it was, maybe it was wrong to attempt to contact the dead. What if All Hallows Eve really was the time when the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest? And what if someone really did come through? Someone who was dead? Some who –
Maggie blocked the last thought, praying, Lord, protect us. Please!
Mrs. Knightsbridge’s gentle, alto voice broke the silence. “Are all of you ready to begin?”
The group replied with a variety of nods.
“Excellent. Now, if you all will place your hands upon the table so that you are touching the hands of those sitting beside you.”
They did as they were told.
Seated to the other side of Eli, Maggie felt their pinkies come into contact. When her husband gave her finger an affectionate tap, Maggie looked over at him. She could see Eli’s face, although it was distorted by flickering candlelight and shadows. But she clearly saw his smile and somehow got the impression that he winked at her, too. Both of which, calmed her jittery nerves.
“Now,” Mrs. Knightsbridge was saying, “once we begin the séance, do not break contact with one another, as it will break our connection with the dearly departed. Also, no matter how shocking or frightening things may appear, please know that you are perfectly safe here, as long as you remain at the table.”
Maggie’s mouth suddenly became uncomfortably dry.
“Shall we begin?” the medium chirped. “Excellent! Let us pray the Lord’s Prayer to settle our minds, hearts, and souls and prepare the atmosphere for our departed brothers and sisters. Let us pray: Our Father, which art in heaven…”
As they chanted the well-known prayer, Maggie’s heart continued her own prayers for her family’s protection.
Why did she have this pervasive sense of foreboding?
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder