Monday, May 25, 2015

Blurred Edges Chapter Seven

The savory smell of bacon is the first thing that came to Claire’s conscious senses, along with the warmth of the bed. Rolling over and nestling deeper into the goose-down pillows, Claire patted around for Marten in search of body heat. All she found was empty, cool mattress beneath the thick comforter.

Of course, she thought somewhat bitterly, someone has to make the bacon.
Sitting up while rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Claire looked around the room for any sign of Marten. The lights extending from the walls in fancy upward curves were on, meaning that the electricity had finally kicked in; so that must mean Marten was in the kitchen.
“Wherever that is,” Claire grumbled, reaching over to her nightstand to grab her medicine bottles. Unscrewing the top to one of them, she shook out a blue pill and swallowed it dry. She repeated this two more times before braving the world outside her warm cocoon by thrusting her legs into the open air. Bare legs quickly lost their warmth as she danced across the floor looking for her discarded jeans from yesterday. Pulling them on, she winced at how cold they were and prayed that her body would warm up sometime soon.
Buckling her belt, Claire looked off to the side where the door to the nursery was. She wondered if she’d been hallucinating when she’d seen all of the strange things she’d witnessed last night. Walking over to the door, she twisted the knob and slowly creaked it open, peeking her head inside.
The same bookshelves were present though now they were mostly empty. A fine layer of dust covered the room, save for some smudges on a table in the center of the room that matched her hands. Looking around, she frowned at how empty the room felt. Last night it had been brimming with books, the floors and walls clean of dust with a nasty looking pentagram painted on the ceiling. Now the ceiling was bare plaster, marked only by cobwebs in the far corner of the room.
“I need to get a regimen for my medicine,” Claire said shaking her head. “I can’t go around seeing things and work on this house, it won’t come out right!”
A metallic clang behind her made her issue a small shriek as she spun around, only to see Marten in his grey hoodie and black jeans, holding a tray with a platter of bacon and two mugs, with a carafe of coffee, if the smell was any indicator.
“Claire, you okay?” Marten asked eyebrow raised.
Breathing heavily, Claire held up a hand and shook a finger at him. “Don’t sneak up on me in this house!”
Marten laughed. “Why, is it haunted?”
Claire looked at Marten for a moment, considering whether it would be smart to tell him what she saw. “Not that I know of,” she said after deciding not to, “I just don’t like getting startled is all.”
“Whatever,” Marten said, shrugging his shoulders. He set the tray on the bed and turned to her, bending down to grab her hoodie before tossing it to her. “Here. It’s supposed to be a cold day and the heating in this place is done by a fireplace. I’ll be chopping wood for the majority of the day while you stay inside and begin cleaning the rooms we’ll be using.”
“Can we choose a different bedroom?” Claire asked, putting on her glasses before pulling on her hoodie.
“Afraid not. Most of the other rooms are in really bad shape, bad enough to force us to call in some carpenters.” Marten said with a grimace, picking up a piece of bacon. “Between the carpenters and the cleaning supplies we’ll be using, that’ll hit us hard in our budget.”
“We’ll just have to make the dollars stretch more than we’re used to, that’s all.” Claire reasoned, walking over to grab two slices of bacon for herself. Chewing thoughtfully, she motioned over to the nursery. “That’s a library by the way though it isn’t very well stocked unless you count dust bunnies.”
“There’s a main library on the second floor a little deeper in the mansion. One of our listed tasks is to keep that place clean and in good condition for the client, seeing as he mainly bought this place so he could have somewhere to do research.”
“What’s he do?” Claire asked, nibbling her second slice of bacon.
Marten shrugged. “No clue, but he paid the down payment for our services in cash. Could be a drug trafficker for all I know, but I’m not going to pry.”
“So should I call the carpenters today and tackle the kitchen, or should I walk around the house and take inventory of what is around?” Claire asked.
“Definitely take inventory. We could sell some of these old vases and paintings to increase our budget. The client just wants the books to remain here, so don’t even bother taking inventory of them. He said they would already be organized from the previous owner.”
“The previous owner? Wasn’t that like fifty years ago?” Claire asked.
“Something like that, yeah. But he’s certain that the previous owner kept the library in order, so I’m going to just take him at his word and work on the stuff that’s broken.” Marten said as he reached for another slice of bacon. “Besides, we’ll have more than enough to worry about just getting new carpets, drapes and paint for the place.”
“He e-mail you what he wants yet?” Claire asked, referring to the document Marten sent all their clients. The document contained samples of paint, different styles of drapery and carpets, and accessories that could be added to the home.
“Yeah and his choices couldn’t be stranger. He wants red walls and black carpets, with a whole bunch of end tables for his own collection of sculptures. Apparently he has a big statue that he’s going to ship us in the next two weeks, so we’ll need to get the foyer up and ready for something big.”
“So we’re painting and laying down carpet there first then?” Claire asked, flipping through the contact list on her phone, looking for the supplier they used.
“Looks like. I called around town and got some laborers to come up and help clear away anything that’s fallen down or looks dangerous. They should be here at two.” Marten said, grabbing another slice of bacon while pouring a cup of coffee. “Here, have a drink. It’s hot, so be careful.”
“Thanks, I could use some caffeine.” Claire said, gingerly taking the porcelain cup in her hands. The warmth seeped through the white ceramics and heated her cold digits wonderfully.
“So let’s get started on the foyer. I can use some of the lumber that fell from the ceiling for the fireplace, seeing how useless it is now.” Marten said, pouring himself a cup of coffee. “It’s almost eight now, so we’ll clean what we can and then let the workers from town pull out the rest of the trash from the house.”
“Sounds good,” Claire said, sipping her coffee.
They spent the next twenty minutes making small talk, discussing how they were going to go about cleaning out the house. Claire was surprised to learn that there was an indoor greenhouse that needed some major work if they were going to plant any flowering plants there before their employer showed his face. Between that and the indoor swimming pool and hot tub that had turned into fetid ponds, Claire was annoyed at the world when they exited the bedroom and began their descent into the foyer.
Looking around, she held up her hand with the spider bit, looking at the bandage. “I wonder if there are more spiders like that one from yesterday around the house?”
“I’d like to think not, but in all likelihood there are,” Marten said as he walk around the edge of the wrecked chandelier. “I got a pair of brooms and some garbage cans we can use to clean up the broken glass, c’mon.”
By nine thirty they’d cleaned up the majority of the destroyed chandelier, leaving only the golden filigree and chain that held it up coiled in a heap in the middle of the cracked tile. Fetching her IPad, Claire took photos of the damage and sent a quick e-mail to their employer, asking what kind of tile he’d like to replace the damaged ones in the foyer, along with a list of varying styles and colors of tile.
They then spent the next hour pulling down portraits, dusting them off, and taking stock of their value using the video camera on the IPad, before sending the file to an art dealer out of Boston that could sell the works at auction within a weeks’ time. They carried the portraits deeper into the house, setting them up in an abandoned room next to theirs. Throughout their morning, Claire felt as if someone was watching them, but every time she looked she didn’t see anything other than dust floating in the air.
Only once did she catch any sight of anything, and that was when they were going through the bathroom checking the pipes to see if they pumped fresh water or not. After pulling back the curtain, Claire screamed and jumped back, knocking Marten over as she attempted to get away.
Inside the shower of their bathroom was a desiccated hand that, when she pulled the curtain back, twitched at her as if it were about to jump. 

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