Day 2

Our first full day at Baneberry Hall began bright and early, mostly because none of us slept well the night before. I chalked it up to being in a new place with its own set of night noises. The clicking of the ceiling fan. The eerie scratching of a tree branch against the bedroom window. An endless chorus of shifts and creaks as a summer storm rocked the house.

I even heard noises in my dreams. Strange ones that seemed to be coming from both above and below. I dreamed of doors slamming shut, drawers being yanked opened, cupboards closing and opening and closing again. I knew they were dreams because every time I woke up, certain there was an intruder in the house, the noises would end.

Maggie had them, too, although I suspect it was more her imagination than actual dreams. She entered our room a little past midnight, clutching her pillow as though it were a beloved teddy bear.

“I heard something,” she said.

“So did I, sweetie,” I said. “It’s just the house. Remember how I told you the apartment sings a song at night? This house does, too. It’s just a different song than the one we’re used to.”

“I don’t like this song,” Maggie said. “Can I sleep here tonight?”

Jess and I had already discussed the likely possibility that Maggie wouldn’t want to sleep in her room. She was young and unaccustomed to change.

“We’ll allow one night in our bed,” Jess had said. “I know it sounds a little harsh, but she’ll need to learn to sleep in her own room.”

Since Jess was sound asleep—my wife could sleep through an earthquake and an alien invasion happening at the same time—the decision was mine. Tonight would be the night.

“Sure you can,” I said. “But just for tonight. Tomorrow you’ve got to stay in your own room.”

Maggie snuggled in next to me, and I tried once more to sleep. But the dreams returned. All those noises. I couldn’t tell where they were coming from. And they’d always be gone when I woke.

The only instance when the noise seemed to be more than a dream happened just as dawn was beginning to break. I was fast asleep when I heard it.


It came from the floor above. So loud that the ceiling shook. And forceful. Like something heavy hitting the floor.

Jolted from sleep, I sat up, gasping. I cocked my head, my ear aimed at the ceiling, listening for any additional sounds. All was silent. It had been a dream after all, just like the others.

Just to make sure, I looked to Maggie and Jess, wondering if they, too, had heard it. Both were still fast asleep, Jess curled around our daughter, their hair intertwined.

I looked at the clock. It was 4:54 a.m.

I tried to go back to sleep, but the dreams had made me jittery and fearful that, as soon as I closed my eyes, the noises would begin again. By the time five a.m. rolled around, I gave up and went downstairs.

As I descended the staircase to the first floor, I saw that the chandelier had been left on overnight and was glowing oppressively bright in the faint grayness of early morning. So there was a wiring problem. I made a mental note to ask Hibbs if he could take a look.

Reaching the first floor, I went to the light switch just off the vestibule and flicked it off.

That was better.

I continued on my way to the kitchen, where I made coffee. Jess was up an hour later, groggily kissing me on the cheek before going straight for the pot of java.

“You wouldn’t believe the strange dreams I had last night,” she said.

“I would,” I said. “I had them, too.”

“And Maggie? I assume there’s a good reason she’s still in our bed.”

“She was scared.”

“We can’t let her make a habit of it,” Jess reminded me.

“I know, I know. But this is a huge change for her. Think about it—that cramped apartment is all she’s ever known. Now we bring her here, to a place with ten times the space. Think how intimidating that must be for her. Even I’m intimidated. All night, I dreamed that I was hearing things.”

Jess looked up from her mug, suddenly uneasy. “What kind of things?”

“Just random noises. Doors. Cupboards. Drawers.”

“That’s what I dreamed about, too,” Jess said. “Do you think—”

“Those sounds were real?”

She responded with a nervous little nod.

“They weren’t,” I said. “I’m sure of it.”

“Then why did we both hear them? Maggie probably did, too. That’s why she was scared.” A stricken look crosses Jess’s face. “Shit. What if there was an intruder? Someone could have been inside our house, Ewan. Did you check to see if anything is missing?”

“Half our stuff is still in boxes. As for everything that came with the house, I wouldn’t know what’s missing and what’s not. Besides, the front gate was closed and the door was locked. No one could get in.”

“But those noises—”

I pulled Jess into a hug, her body rigid with tension and her coffee mug hot against my ribs. “It was nothing. We’re just not used to so much house, and it allowed our imaginations to go wild.”

It was a solid explanation. A logical one. Or so we thought. Although Jess’s fears would later come to be fully justified, at the time I believed what I was saying.