Readers beware! It’s time for another Halloween Round Robin from Choc Lit, back by popular demand. Five talented Choc Lit authors have been working collaboratively on a wonderfully spooky short story – The Ghosts of Maplewood Hall – which we will be sharing in five parts in the run-up to Halloween (with the final part falling on the big day itself!) Come back every day to read a new extract AND enter competitions to win chocolate & book prizes.
Each author taking part has no idea where their part of the story will go, which leads to a few spooky surprises along the way. But you’ll need to read on to find out more
The third author to contribute is Victoria Cornwall. Remember to read right until the end to find details of the competition.
A Round Robin is best enjoyed if you read each part in order.
THE GHOSTS OF MAPLEWOOD HALL – PART THREE BY VICTORIA CORNWALL
Patrick lowered his torch beam as he approached her. ‘Martine? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.’ He touched her hand and frowned. ‘You’re shaking,’ he said, giving her hand a mild squeeze. ‘James was an idiot for suggesting you stay here alone. ‘
‘Yes, he was … and I was an idiot for doing what he told me.’ Martine withdrew her hand from Patrick’s and fumbled with the end of the tape. Patrick was right – she was shaking, although she had a sneaking suspicion it was not only Sebastian’s apparition that was the cause of it.
Patrick attempted to help her, but Martine brushed him off and set about criss-crossing the door with a web of sensory wires. To her surprise she achieved it with amazing speed. Haunted houses – and a strong desire to leave a challenging situation – often turned her into an efficient worker.
‘I should have said something,’ said Patrick as he watched her work.
Martine stood back to admire her wired door that no person could pass through without setting off an ear-splitting alarm. ‘Not bad for a ghost hunting newbie,’ she said brightly, only too aware Patrick was standing just behind her. She felt much braver than only a few minutes before. Ghosts weren’t that scary, particularly if they were handsome and flirtatious too. ‘It was sensible of James to have someone posted by the door,’ she wittered on. ‘It just happened to be me.’
‘I don’t mean that,’ said Patrick. Martine’s senses switched to high alert and she stiffened. ‘I mean why I didn’t turn up at the restaurant the other night.’
The memory brought back the familiar flush of humiliation to her cheeks. She had spent the evening waiting for him to arrive, while the diners sitting around her threw sympathetic smiles in her direction and gossiped in hushed tones behind their hands. It had been their first date. The date she had dreamt of since she was ten. And it had turned into a disaster.
‘You didn’t even text,’ she mumbled.
‘I know.’ He touched her arm, but she immediately withdrew, hating herself for showing his non-appearance still bothered her. He reluctantly let his hand fall. ‘When I heard you scream just now I was …’
It was the diversion Martine needed. How could she have forgotten about Kate? ‘I wasn’t the only one who screamed. Kate did too!’ She grabbed Patrick’s torch. ‘We’d better go to the kitchen to see if she is alright.’
Patrick raised an eyebrow in surprise. ‘Who is this new brave Martine ready to take on the spooks?’
‘I’m not sure,’ replied Martine over her shoulder. ‘I am just finding out myself.’
They headed in the direction of the kitchen. Floating dust, illuminated by the beam of their torch, swirled around them as they passed through. At the far end of the passage they found two large doors. Martine felt Sebastian’s chilled breath on her neck as he whispered into her ear. She glanced at Patrick, who seemed oblivious to the ghost’s presence.
‘Which door do you think leads to the kitchen?’ asked Patrick.
Sebastian had told her and she had no reason to not believe him. ‘The left,’ she replied confidently as she reached for the handle.
Sebastian had been right. Beyond the old oak door was the derelict kitchen of Maplewood Hall – the alleged epicentre of all the paranormal activity reported over the past century. Martine and Patrick stepped into the gloom. The room was disappointingly quiet and empty. The moon shone through rain-stained windows, casting a harsh bright light onto the dusty tables, mottled copper pans and something dead and furry by the far wall. The floor was scattered with debris – a strange mix of autumn leaves, twigs and long abandoned kitchenware. A sudden movement in one dark corner startled them both. Martine automatically raised her torch as a weapon, but Patrick halted her in mid-swing.
‘Steady there, Lara Croft,’ laughed Patrick. ‘It’s only James.’
James walked briskly towards them, raking a hand through his tousled hair. ‘Kate’s gone. She said she felt someone tap her on the shoulder. One minute I was teasing her for being scared and screaming like a banshee. The next minute she was gone.’
‘Gone? Gone where?’ Patrick grabbed James’s shirt, ‘Where is she, James? If you have locked my sister in a cupboard as a joke I’ll …’
‘Why would I do that? What kind of bloke do you take me for?’
Martine left the men to their posturing and turned away. They were scared for Kate, but arguing about her wouldn’t help. Besides, Sebastian was talking to her again and his soft soothing tone, laced with a quiet chuckle, was enticing her to enter the pantry. She did not have the will to disobey. Patrick and James’s voices grew muted as she left them behind in the kitchen and entered the enclosed space of the inbuilt cupboard. At the far end was a small door. It seemed as if it was waiting for her.
‘Open it,’ whispered Sebastian’s seductive tone. She reached for the handle. It felt cold, yet turned easily in her grasp and the old rusty hinge silently opened. She stepped into an opulently furnished room basking in the white, hissing gaslight of numerous bronze wall lamps. Her friend stood in the middle of the room and at her side was a man. He was handsome, with a gentle curve to his lips and in his hand was Kate’s. He wore the same clothes as Sebastian, which were more in keeping with a time long gone by, whilst the room itself was as fresh and clean as if it was still used today. This part of the house was a stark contrast to the rest of Maplewood Hall, which relied on flapping tarpaulin to cover the holes in the roof and felt constantly chilly and damp due to the absence of electricity and a warm fire.
‘Can you see him too, Martine?’ whispered Kate, hopefully. Martine nodded slowly. Kate sighed with relief. ‘Thank goodness. I thought I was going mad. He wants me to—’
‘Help him cross over to the mortal world.’ She felt Sebastian’s presence beside her and tilted her head towards him. ‘So does he,’ she replied. As if she had asked him to, Sebastian grew more visible. ‘What are we going to do, Kate? What on earth are we going to do?’
Oooh, it’s beginning to get more than a little spooky now! Just what will Kate and Martine do? Kirsty Ferry will be telling us more tomorrow in the penultimate part of our Halloween Round Robin.
If you enjoyed Victoria’s writing, you can find her books available to purchase from all good online book stockists and retailers. Click on the image below for purchasing options.
To be in with a chance of winning a Victoria Cornwall paperback and some chocolate simply answer the question below (we hope you’ve been reading carefully!):
Where does Sebastian lead Martine as James and Patrick are arguing?
To enter, send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading ‘Round Robin comp 3’ by Thursday 2nd November. The winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 3rd November.