Claire and her friend Marianne are driving to see an apartment for sale at Belle Vue Manor, but Marianne has been negative about the property.
“It’s most likely nothing, but I want to tell you a few things about Belle Vue.”
Claire cast a quizzical eye in her direction.
“I’ve been there before,” she said.
“You never mentioned it.”
Marianne ignored the pout in her friend’s voice and continued. “I went there with Debs about eleven or twelve years ago, long before the developers ever got involved.”
As the memories flooded back, she stared unseeing out of the windscreen. “We’d just moved again and on our first day at school, Debs spotted a huge wreck of a building from the top of the bus. For some reason, it fascinated her. She kept bugging me about it and I gave in just to shut her up. I think Belle Vue closed in the fifties and by the time we got there, it was completely derelict.”
Claire pulled up as the lights changed to red. “And?”
“We squeezed through a broken gate. Everything was overgrown, but we found a path that took us to the back of the main building, to a half-open door, its lock ripped off. Of course, Debs said it was as though someone was waiting for us.”
“Sounds like she was winding you up,” Claire said, grinning.
Marianne scowled. “Anyway. We went inside. Two teenagers in an empty old asylum that looked like the set of a horror movie.”
Claire’s grin remained in place. “So, what happened?”
“Debs kept a running commentary like we were on one of those Murder Mystery tours. You know the type of thing, ‘The misery of the lunatics is trapped in these walls forevermore but, on a moonless night, their shadows…’ All the while, I felt like we were being watched. Debra must have felt the same since we stuck to each other like Siamese twins. The place was cold and silent except for our footsteps on the bare floorboards. Every now and then, we’d stop and hold our breaths, straining to catch any sound.
“Then we heard a door slam. Bang! You ought to have seen how high we jumped. We legged it out of there so fast, I got a stitch.”
Pause. Marianne looked across at Claire. “But that wasn’t what bothered me,” she said in a low voice. “Once outside, we followed the path round the main building and saw this chapel. Of course, Debs wanted to go in and, by now, I didn’t. While we were arguing, a woman appeared at the door. The chapel was half-side-on to us, so I couldn’t see if she’d come from inside or walked around it. Talk about a shock. It sure shut us up quick.
“She stared at both of us. From one to the other, as though sizing us up. Then she smiled, which believe it or not, was worse.
“‘Now, who will I choose?’ she said, in this snide tone. ‘You. Or you.’
“We stood there like two dummies, wondering what on earth she was up to.
“‘What’s your name?” she asked me, and when I told her, she laughed like it was some huge private joke.
“‘I choose you then,’ she said. ‘Your fate is now sealed, Mar-i-anne. Poor you, dying slowly is such hell.’”