Five Sisters

By, Melanie S. Pronia

 

Chapter 1

 

 

            Kneeling down, Martie looked at how precisely Lynn, who was the newest and sixth member of the crew, had laid the wall paper which was cream white with the palest of green bonsai plants printed on it.  Martie stood up and carefully glanced around the room with pride and satisfaction, her crew had done a wonderful job!  The small Chinese restaurant was both elegant and inviting with its Oriental reds and bamboo accents, and it was only the third project that Five Sisters Renovation & Cleaning had completed.  The project had only taken them a month when they had quoted the owner six weeks, which meant they would get the bonus he had offered upon early completion.  Martie just hoped that they would get their next project soon or money would get tight and plans would need to be adjusted.

While Martie thoughtfully circled through the building once more just to make sure that everything was absolutely perfect as their reputation depended on it, the rest of the crew was standing tiredly outside by the van, some of them enjoying the time and company with a cigarette or quiet conversation.

            Martie locked the front door of the restaurant and turned with a beaming smile to look at her girls.  Not only were they the perfect crew with all of the individual skills and personalities that they brought to the table, but they made for one hell of an awesome coven as well!  She felt strong with the power of the team as she approached them and nearly didn’t stop herself from squealing and jumping around girlishly with happiness. 

            “We rock!” she stated proudly, “now let’s get the hell out of here!”

            Martie was happy to let Cynthia drive the large economy van as she herself hated to drive and most specifically, drive on busy highways.  Cynthia smiled at Martie and popped in a Stone Sour disk setting the volume on low so that just she and Martie would able to hear it.  With so many people in the vehicle, they all had different musical tastes and most of them were busy in conversation.  It was dark out when Cynthia eased the large, dirty, white van into the side driveway and everyone crawled out quietly gathering their bags and trying to race the others to the two showers that the five bedroom house they rented offered, without anyone else being the wiser to it.  The house had originally just been home to Martie, Daphne and Cynthia, but when the business and coven started up, it had just made sense for the girls to all share the large house.  Cynthia enjoyed the attic space with its single front window all to herself which she kept spotless. Because it was the highest point of the house and reminded her of the two story houses up home in Philadelphia where she was from.  The rest of the girls were happy to let her have the cramped space and enjoyed continually joking about the dwarf who lived up there, as Cynthia was barely five feet tall and about ninety nine pounds on her heaviest days.

            Martie decided that it wasn’t worth a fight, the shower would still be there when the rest of them were done with it, and thanks to the huge hot water heater so would the hot water.  She walked into the large brightly lit kitchen with small planted pots and fresh herbs from their garden hung upside down to dry.  A glance in the refrigerator showed that it was brimming with all of the typical girly foods but it also had its share of heartier foods, a few bottles of wine, and a few different types of beers.  Martie found herself suddenly thirsty for a beer and pulled out the ice cold bottle before sitting down in the heavy wooden chair and pulling her feet out of her work boots before she curled her legs into it.  It was not long before Daphne entered the kitchen and smiled more at Martie’s beer than at Martie herself,

            “Yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about!”  She grabbed herself a beer and sat across from Martie at the table before raising her bottle in toast, “we did a damn fine job!”  Martie was more than happy to meet the well deserved toast before taking a gulp of her beer and sighing in contentment.  She watched Daphne’s hand tug at the tassel on the table clothe.  Daphne had beautiful hands, chocolate brown with thin, but long, delicate fingers and naturally long nails.  Daphne noticed that Martie was staring at her hands and laid them flat on the table modestly, with a sigh.

            “I’m telling you, you could have been a hand model.”

            “Yeah yeah, where do you even find a job doing that,” Daphne snickered at her, but her yellow skin lit up around her high cheek bones with surprising modesty.

            “Yeah, good point.”

            Michele walked into the room with her still wet, waist length blonde hair,

            “Showers open if you’re quick enough,” she smiled around the unlit joint pursed between her lips.

            “No it’s not!” they could all hear Cynthia yell from the second floor.  The three of them looked at one another and laughed loudly.

            “I just hope that Bridgette and Lynn don’t take too long in the shower, you know how those two are,” Martie said before taking a drag of her cigarette.

            “They better not be doing that in the shower right now, I feel dirty and don’t want to wait all night!” Daphne said, her eyes lighting up with mirth.

            “Well while we’re waiting, we should think about dinner. I don’t know about you guys but I’m starving,” Martie stated.

            “Yeah food sounds good, but who’s turn is it to cook?” Daphne asked.

            The three of them looked at each other tiredly,

            “I’m not sure.  Maybe we should just order pizzas.”

 

*****

 

            Martie stepped out of the shower happy to be clean and feel human once again.  Her black cat, Nyx, brushed against her still wet legs, her long silky fur tickling Martie into laughter as the beautiful cat stared up at her with bright green eyes and meowed for attention.  Martie picked up Nyx and stroked her fur before gently setting her back down.

She wiped at the fogged up mirror with her hand as best as she could and glanced at herself as she became visible in the mirror.  Her long, auburn hair lay in wet waves down her back and her pale, but bright green eyes looked more tired than she felt.  She brushed out her hair and put on a silky but simple teal shirt and shorts pajama set before heading down to join the others and hoping that they had left her some pizza.

            The girls were crowded around the large oak dining room table that had seen many better days but it’s size alone made it valuable to them and with the hand embroidered table cloth it didn’t look so bad.  They were all freshly showered and looked relaxed with their various assortments of drinks.  Martie was happy to see that one of them had been sweet enough to put two pieces of pizza aside on a paper plate for her and guessed that it was either Cynthia or Daphne.

            Martie grabbed a fresh beer and scooted her chair closer to the table intent on gobbling up her pizza in silent glory.

            “You know it’s a new moon tonight?” Bridgette asked, her bright green eyes shining with mischief.

            Martie tried to hide her smile from her youngest convener, “It sure is.”

            Five faces were staring expectantly at her, when finally Daphne said, “Well?”

            Martie appeared to ignore them as she slowly enjoyed her pizza letting the cheese stretch out before she bit it.

            “Martie!” Cynthia finally said in exasperation.

            Martie looked up at her innocently, staring into her dark brown eyes,

            “Yes?” she did her best to sound naive.

            Daphne smiled and slowly put out her cigarette before saying with a put on long southern drawl, “Martha darling,” and pretending to stop short at the rage in Martie’s eyes.  All of them burst out laughing, including Martie herself.

            Finishing off her last bite and purposely taking her time, Martie finally glanced up coyly, “Are any of you wearing bras?”  This question brought up a roar of excitement as six women scattered from the table in several different directions, because they knew that no bras, especially those with underwire, were to be worn during ritual.

            The backyard was dark under a moonless sky and fully alive in the chorus of remaining frogs, crickets and cicadas that sang in the early September night holding out before the colder months would come to silence them.  Each woman stood silently in front of a tall pillar candle, the color of the candle matching the color of her summer cape.  Their silent circle was formed around a large wooden pentacle made of cut oak tree branches that matched in size.  In the heart of the pentacle was a black, cast iron cauldron burning small flames of fire.  The cool grass felt good under Martie’s bare feet as she walked in a slow circle around the circle of her coven holding her athame out against any negative elements.  Coming full circle, Martie knelt to put the sharp blade of the knife into the earth and stood back up waiting.

            With hands raised up to the sky, long platinum hair cascading down her back, Michele called, “Guardian Tower of the North, element of earth, of hooves and home, I call upon you and ask for your guidance, come be with us this night.”

            Cynthia raised her hands up, her shapely short legs straddling the ground,

Guardian Tower of the East, element of Air, winged and free, I call upon you and ask for your guidance, come be with us this night.”

            Lynn who had been chosen for the west tower because she was from Tacoma, Washington stood proudly and for the first time with the coven called upon her tower,

            Guardian Tower of the West, element of Water, creatures of water and sea, I call upon you and ask for your guidance, come be with us this night.” Her short buzz cut of blonde hair appeared nearly silver under the stars.

            Guardian Tower of the South, element of fire, spirit and soul, I call upon you and ask for your guidance, come be with us this night,” Martie solemnly requested.

            Each woman then bent down to retrieve their athame from the earth and raised it high to the sky, their voices a strong oneness,

            “Mother Nature, Great Mother, our shining deity, we call you now and request your presence, come if you will.”

 

Chapter 2

 

 

            The nine a.m. alarm clock buzzing seemed entirely too early for Martie as she rolled over and rudely smacked it.  She shrugged into a light silk robe and scowled at herself in the antique oval cherry wood mirror that had been her grandmother’s.  Her footsteps heavy with fatigue, Martie followed the smell of fresh coffee to the kitchen.

            Cynthia who was almost always up before everyone else, sat at the table alone pounding away on her pink lap top and barely glanced at Martie.

            Martie clapped her hands together at the sight of the beautiful, hot, dark coffee.

            “Oh small blessings, I love you!” She whispered.

            “Who the coffee or me?” Cynthia asked with her thin left eyebrow cocked up defiantly.

            “Both?” Martie asked turning to glance at Cynthia.

            “Well I made this brew that you so seem to love and I don’t even drink the shit,” she said taking a delicate sip of her Dr. Pepper.

            “Than I shall love you more! Cyn, blessings to you!” Martie gave Cynthia a short hug before sweetening her coffee to blonde hazelnut perfection and sitting down heavily at the table.

            Martie held her crystal coffee mug in both hands and inhaled the smell as much as she consumed the brew.  Cynthia was staring at her trying not to laugh, but finally closed her lap top and tapped her small fingers on the table.  Her long, dark brown hair was pulled back in a tight pony tail and she was already neatly dressed.

            “So,” she said to break the silence.

            Martie stared at her in confusion for a moment, cleared her throat and finally said,

            “So, we need a new project to come up, like yesterday.”  As one of her oldest friends Cynthia was intuitive enough to see what Martie was easily able to conceal from most others.  She was worried.

            Before either could respond, the house phone, also the primary business line, since all of the women had their own separate cell phones rang loudly, jolting Martie up.  Martie quickly tried to clear her throat to rid herself of her morning voice as she raced towards the phone in the living room.

            “I can get that,” Cynthia shouted from the kitchen right before she heard Martie’s professional greeting, Five Sisters Renovation and Cleaning, this is Martha speaking.

            Cynthia stood in the doorway watching Martie talk on the phone, she reached for a floral designed note pad next to the phone and with a purple gel pen quickly started writing details down.

            “Yes sir, I can be there in three hours, thank you, I look forward to meeting you!” Martie nearly knocked the phone over, she banged it down so hard.

            “Who was that?” a grumpy voice called from the foot of the stairs. Martie and Cynthia turned to see Daphne standing there sleepily in her purple robe.

            With both Cynthia and Daphne now staring at her, Martie paced in crazy, sporadic circles.

            “That?” Martie asked pointing to the now silent phone.  She spun around quickly, “That was Mr. Jason Tierney!”

            Daphne rubbed at her eyes, mumbling, “okay and?” While Cynthia stood with her arms casually crossed waiting for her crazy friend to make some sense of the situation.

            Martie calmed herself enough to quit moving for just a moment.

            “Mr. Jason Tierney is the new owner of the Palm Breeze Inn in Palatka!”

            Daphne’s eyes were suddenly free of their previous lethargy,

            “You’re kidding?” from her excited voice, it was obvious that she hoped that Martie wasn’t kidding.

            Martie made her way to Daphne by jumping and bounding, her face lit up with an excited smile,

            “No, I’m not kidding!” Cynthia watched the two women embrace and dance around enthusiastically.

            “Okay, great we got a new project,” even though she had tried, her voiced lacked the enthusiasm shared by the other two.

            Suddenly, Michele nearly sprinted down the stairs, her long legs taking them two steps at a time.

            “Did I hear you say something about the Palm Breeze Inn?”  The look on her face was incredulous but hopeful as her dimples danced in and out with her hesitant smile.  She went on timidly, “As in the former Willcraft Manner?”

            “Oh god, I’ve gotta get ready,” Martie said racing up the stairs passing Bridgette and Lynn who were staggering down, “Who wants to go with me and who’s going to take the van to get painted,” her voice called down fading in distance and distraction.

            When Martie reappeared downstairs forty five minutes later, she looked like a changed woman.  Gone was the robe cloaked, scatter brained coffee lover. In her place there stood a young, professional woman who wore a straight pencil line black shirt and a red, ruffled blouse while holding a black leather brief case.  Her make up was perfect and her hair lay in silky, molten waves.  Her silver pentacle necklace had been traded out for an oval malachite stone, for luck and in her ears she wore her spiral star earrings for added Irish luck.

            Daphne stepped toward her and handed her a garnet red traveling coffee mug.

            “While you were getting ready we decided that Cyn would take the van in. I will get some badly needed housework done, Bridgette is making roasted sausage, peppers and onions for dinner and Lynn will be stuck to Bridgette’s hip, hopefully making us another fabulous but fattening dessert and Michele will be going with you.” 

            Hearing Michele behind her, Martie glanced up the stairs.  The first thing she noticed was the legs, long, tan legs that seemed to go on for lovely, luscious miles.

            “Oh, it’s so not fair,” Martie muttered.

            “What, would you rather I not go with you?” Michele started to turn around, the hurt instantly apparent in her eyes.

            “Oh god Michele it’s not you, it’s those damn legs of yours!”

            Michele glanced down at her legs covered briefly in a frilly white peasant skirt that stopped just above the knee.  She was blushing when she looked back up at her, but said,

            “Hey, when you got it, use it!” She walked seductively the rest of the way down the stairs wearing a white and silver top with a flirty hint of cleavage and smiled at her admirers like a queen.

            “I’ll drive,” Michele said dangling her keys in front of Martie and turning to give each of them a quick peck on the cheek.

            “Okay,” Martie said and smiled, “Hopefully we’ll be back with great news.
Thanks guys, love you!” Martie quickly followed behind Michele’s exit on her short legs.

 

*****

 

            Martie and Michele arrived back at the house at one thirty in the afternoon. To their disappointment, Cynthia wasn’t back with the van yet but the house was spotlessly clean with wonderful aromas wafting out from the kitchen.  Other than freshly hung herbs, the kitchen appeared to be empty.

            Martie set down the briefcase and glanced at Michele,

            “I wonder where everyone is?”

            “I don’t know, but this kitchen sure smells good!”  Michele bent over and peaked in the oven.

            “I love Italian food, my people got it right!” She said in near worship before closing the oven.

            “Hey Michele, thanks for going with me, and thanks for driving.” Martie said behind Michele as she poured herself a filtered glass of tap water.

            “Oh not a problem, I had fun, and that house, that house is fabulous!”

            Martie sipped the water and glanced out the back window.

            “There they are!”  She said heading toward the French door that opened up to the back yard.

            Daphne, Lynn and Bridgette were bent over a small green plant in the backyard. When they noticed Martie, they quickly jumped up as if caught red handed.

            “Oh thank the gods, you’re not Cyn!” Bridgette yelped.

            Martie circled around them trying to get a closer look at the freshly planted fauna.

            “Why?” Michele asked sitting down in the wicker chair to stretch out her long legs.

            “We just planted a Buddleia.” Bridgette answered smartly. When Martie still looked confused, Bridgette continued. “It’s a butterfly plant, it attracts butterflies and we planted it for Cyn,” she stopped short before continuing with, “because, you know.” Her voice faded off softly.

            “Oh! Oh, that’s so sweet! She’s going to love it!” Michele said when Martie seemed unable to speak.

            “What’s so sweet?” Cynthia asked standing with her back to the back door smiling inquisitively.

            Everyone turned to look at her.  First she glanced from each of their faces to the next face.  Then she stepped closer to see what the three women were surrounding.

            “Oh! Is that a Buddleia?” The smile of joy that lit up her face was returned by all of them.  She knelt down to look closer, “It’s beautiful, it will attract all types of butterflies.”

            “We planted it for you,” Bridgette said, for once being smart enough to know when to not elaborate.

            Tears shown in Cynthia’s eyes as she tried to stay composed.

            “Thank you, you guys, that’s really thoughtful.”  She lowered herself to a chair and closed her eyes for a moment envisioning the perfect, tiny face of her still born son.  It was Cynthia’s belief that butterflies were the spirits of the loved ones who have passed on, and she absolutely loved butterflies.

            Nyx took opportunity of the emotional moment and jumped into Cynthia’s lap before looking her dead in the eye.  Cynthia snuggled Nyx up to her face and enjoyed the kindness of the cat’s love.  For a moment she had nearly forgotten that she had just returned with the freshly painted company van and was excited to show the rest of them it. She jumped up quickly,

            “Oh, I brought the van back!  It looks so great!  You guys have got to see it!”

            Gone was the dingy, dirty white van, in its place was a shining black van with a large red star and five smaller black stars in the red one.  The words, Five Sister’s Renovation and & Cleaning hovered beneath the five black stars.

            “There should be six stars,” Bridgette mumbled quietly. Martie turned to stare at her,

            “Bridgette, the name is five sisters.  I couldn’t have put six stars.” Martie said.

            “Well actually it does have six stars if you count the big red one,” Cynthia said from behind Lynn.

            “Well that’s okay, I came in late and you all already had the business name picked out.” Lynn said smiling as she lit up a cigarette.

            “I still they should be pentacles and not solid stars,” Daphne snickered sarcastically.

            Martie laughed and socked her playfully on the shoulder,

            “Oh yeah, I’m sure we’d get all kind of business that way in the bible belt of Jacksonville, Florida!”

            “Can we say business discrimination?” Lynn spat out.

            Michele piped up then, “Oh no the witches are coming! The witches are coming! Be scared, be very scared!”  They all enjoyed the relaxing moment together before hearing,

“Ha ha ha! I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” Martie screamed out in perfect imitation of the Wizard of Oz.  The six of them laughed in unison and piled back into the house.

 

Chapter 3

 

 

            Early the next morning with the sun still weak in the sky, the crew packed up the freshly painted van and two personal vehicles as well.  Although they were all still pretty tired, each woman couldn’t wait for her first up close glimpse of the notorious Palm Breeze Inn.  For three months they would live there as they did the renovations.  They had many supplies to bring with them, both business and personal.  Nyx was the last thing to be packed up. She tiredly curled on Martie’s lap and would likely sleep through the entire drive as they had dared to interrupt her nocturnal schedule.

            Martie stared at the house as Daphne carefully backed the van out the drive way.  She was hoping that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office would check on it three times a day as they had said they would with every shift change and she was glad that she had purchased the timer switches for the lights and a radio.  She would have to send one or two of the girls back once a week or so to check on the house.  It was a huge, old rag tag house, but it was their home and they loved it with it handsome but eclectic character built in the traditional Tudor style.  She tried to force herself to stop worrying about everything so much and glanced at Daphne.

            “This having six people thing actually works out pretty well!” Martie said shifting her position while trying not to disturb Nyx.

“Two women to each vehicle with plenty of space to move.”

            “Yeah I just hope that Michele and Cyn do alright together, I don’t get the vibe that they are too friendly with one another.” Daphne said before making a left hand turn from Park Street to US 17.

            Martie sat up quickly and looked at Daphne,

            “Really? I’ve never noticed that.” She asked in surprise and paused before saying,

            “I’m surprised Cyn’s never mentioned anything about it to me with her big mouth.”

            “Oh yeah, watch them together and you’ll see it.”

            “Hm, I will. Go figure they’re both Italian and from up north.  Thank god it’s only an hour drive then.”

            Daphne flashed her light brown eyes at Martie for a quick moment,

            “Michele is Italian, for real?”

            “Oh yeah, you’ve seen her tan, and that blonde hair comes from a bottle, babe!”

            Daphne enjoyed a big laugh and slapped the staring wheel.

            “Maybe I should go blonde,” she snickered, “What do you think, Martie?”

            “Um no,” Martie snapped her mouth shut quickly and looked away.

            Trying not to laugh, Daphne asked,

            “Well why not?” Unable to stop herself, Martie finally started laughing with her.

            “Um, because you’re black and beautiful with your natural hair.”

            “Sing it sister, sing it!” Daphne’s musical voice rang out loudly, enjoying not having to share the company of her best friend for a change.

 

*****

 

            “Now slow down a bit, it’s a hidden drive.  Michele and I passed it the first time we came out,” Martie directed Daphne while staring hard at the left side of and endless tree line. “Oh, there it is, you see that gully?”

            “Yeah I got it,” Daphne said deftly turned the van onto a bumpy dirt road while the two vehicles following her did as well.

            “Okay, it’s about half a mile down with a few other drive ways that branch off, but we continue straight and we’ll run right into it.” Martie was leaning forward excited to witness Daphne’s first reaction of the historic home.

            “Well now, that wouldn’t be very bright, to run right into it, I mean, we’re a renovation crew, not a construction crew.” Daphne giggled.  “And so much for the new paint job!”

            “Oh stop it, you smart ass!” Martie laughed back.

            “What? I’m just saying, that paint job put a hurtin’ on the books.” She leaned forward and took a deep breath, “Oh my god Martie!”

            A combination of nerves, excitement and tension balled up in Martie’s gut.

            “I know, she’s beautiful!”

            Several tall Coconut Palm Trees rushed a hundred feet up toward the blue sky lining both sides of the wide gravel drive in perfect, symmetrical intervals that led straight to the proud three story southern Antebellum mansion.  The pale sea green paint was pealing and the white wrought iron looked tired, but the building itself had a presence all it’s own as its gabled roof loomed in shadow over the drive way.  Huge, Spanish moss draped Live Oaks held their own southern charm farther into the yard and all the way back to the shining blue hint of the Saint John’s River.

            “Wow, look at this place! It looks like an old plantation home straight out of New Orleans or something!”  Daphne whispered in reverence.  Each story of the house had huge wrap around porches supported by white Greek pillars.  The house it self was perfectly balanced with the same amount of windows and doors centered equally on each floor.  The most definitive character of the house were the two domed windows on either side of the double French doors on the third floor that looked like eyes staring down forbiddingly at both friend and foe.

Daphne spared a quick glance at Martie not wanting to take her eyes of the place,

            “Does the inside look just as good?”

            “Better!”

            Bridgette startled both Daphne and Martie by banging her palm against Martie’s window.  She was smiling and jumping around with excitement.  With dark golden blonde hair, Bridgette was tall and built like an Amazon woman with very generous and feminine endowments.  It was funny to see her dance about knowing the young woman was as strong as an ox.

            Martie opened up the door of the van and was nearly knocked over when Bridgette rushed her for a quick hug.  After her hug, she pulled Nyx from the van who wanted to be put down immediately so that she was able to satisfy her own feline curiosity.

            “This place is great! Look at it!”  Bridgette said before she spun around in delight while everyone else was slowing gathering towards the front steps.

            The women waited impatiently on the large front porch while Martie unlocked the front door.  Cynthia took the time to observe the house up close.  The ornate frieze ran along the house carved in an elaborate Celtic braid. It was a bit worn out but with some sanding and detail paint it would look as good at it had when it was new.  The white wrought iron railing and fencing was bumpy and scarred with age, some of it could be cleaned up but a lot of it would need to be replaced where there were deep spots of rust.                                        

            The double front doors were stubborn to open as they loudly rattled on their hinges.

            “Some of the house is pretty clean where there was recent construction you’ll only find saw dust and a little bit of trash here and there, you know how construction crews are,” Martie said glancing over her shoulder as she entered the over one hundred year old building. “Where there wasn’t any new construction, there a lot of cob webs and spider webs, I even noticed some rat droppings in a few rooms on the second floor when I was here yesterday.  The first thing we’ll need to do is a good cleaning and then take stock in what needs to be repaired, replaced or touched up.” Martie stopped talking when she realized that none of them were really listening to her.  The women stood in the grand parlor in total silence and amazement as they looked around.

            Martie couldn’t help but laugh at them when she said,

            “Go, look around, explore!” They didn’t need anything further prodding as some headed in the same direction, others in a different one.  Martie could hear them talking quietly as if they were trying to be polite in a church or library.  Three months of living there would change that very quickly, she thought to herself.

            Martie stood quietly, looking around herself.  There was a wide staircase with mahogany banisters and steps that flared out dramatically at the base before becoming narrower as they went up to the second floor.  From the second floor there were two staircases on opposite sides of the house.  On each upper floor were landings that ran the entire length of the house and over looked the first floor.

            “Boo!” Cynthia said from behind Martie.  Martie didn’t jump, but glanced at her.

            “So do you think it’s haunted?” The question was not meant as a joke but was completely serious as Cynthia looked into Martie’s eyes.

            Martie looked around for a moment longer before answering,

            “I don’t think so,” she replied sounding uncertain then turned to face Cynthia and sighed, “I don’t know.”

            “Yes, it is,” Martie and Cynthia turned to look at Bridgette who stood there rubbing her hands over her arms.

            “You think,” asked Daphne who had joined them in the room.

            “Can’t you feel it?” Bridgette was insistent.

            Turning to face her, Martie said,

            “What I feel is a building that has a rather violent history and has stood abandoned for many years.  Of course it’s going to feel a bit spooky, but that doesn’t mean it is haunted.”

            “But I still feel ‘something’ here,” Bridgette said quietly.

            “I think she may be right,” Michele spoke up.

            Martie took a moment to gather herself.

            “Well there may be something here.  We’ve all heard the stories. But for now, let’s do a base cleaning.  Don’t unpack any personals yet unless you absolutely have to.  Remember I saw some rat dropping.  We just need to get the shop vacs and brooms and then we’ll see how extensive the insects and pests are.” Martie started towards the front door,

            “Oh yeah and if we plan to eat tonight, the kitchen needs to be a priority, I’ll start on that.”

            “I’ll start on the bathrooms.  At least one of them needs to be a priority as well.” Daphne stated.

            “Absolutely,” Cynthia added.

            Several hours later, the girls were gathered together stretched out on blankets on the hardwood floor.  They were eating what they had packed for lunch that morning.  There was the selection of tuna fish or ham and cheese sandwiches, fresh cut fruit, potato salad and potato chips with bottled water and soft drinks. 

            “Well here’s the run down guys.  Thanks to Daphne, we now have two usable bathrooms.  The kitchen is done, but the oven doesn’t work and only two burners on the stove work.  A lot of the appliances in this place are dated and we’ll have to let Mr. Tierney know which ones need to be replaced so that we can get a price list ready for him.” Martie took a sip of her drink.

            “I did see a lot rat poop upstairs, so we’ll have to be careful, but I didn’t see any actual rats so maybe they’re all gone, but we’ll definitely have to spray.” Lynn said pausing with a bite of her sandwich.

            “Just about all of the faucets need to be replaced because they’re stripped, but some of them will just need new washers,” Mentioned Daphne.

            “Has anyone had that chance to look at the gardens out back?” Cynthia paused before going on, “they’re in awful shape, but the layout is fabulous and it will be fun to bring them back to life.”

            “There are a few doors on the third floor that are locked, unless we have a key or can get one from Mr. Tierney; we’re going to have to remove the hinges.” Michele added.

            “When I contact him tomorrow, I’ll see if he has any extra keys for us.”

“I noticed that there aren’t any smoke detectors anywhere, we need to get them in tomorrow.” Lynn pointed out.

            “Oh speaking of smoking, as of tomorrow there will be no smoking in the house. Once we get up the new wall paper, carpet and flooring, I don’t want it to smell like cigarettes.” Martie waited for the grunt from her crew but was pleased when there was none.

            “What is he going to do with the place when we are done with it,” Bridgette asked almost shyly.

            “Oh, he’s going to reopen it as the hotel,” Michele piped up.

            “I don’t think I’d want to pay to stay here,” Bridgette said visibly troubled.

            “That’s the great thing babe, we don’t have to pay. We are being paid to stay here,” Lynn said slapping Bridgette’s thigh playfully.

            “Well actually we’re getting paid to work here, so,” Martie stood up and stretched loudly, “let’s get back to work.”

            Quietly Martie photographed each room in the house as well as the exterior and the gardens from several different angles for her ‘before and after photos’.  She made sure to stop and note all of the improvements or replacements that needed to be done.  Taking her time outside, she eventually made her way to the stables which had been newly rebuilt to work as an unattached bar for the future guests of the hotel and it was very appropriately named, Good Spirits.  The bar would have a red velvet Berber carpet and the walls would be done in a dark green raised panel wainscoting.  Jason Tierney had purchased a huge brass chandelier with large iridescent bulbs that imitated the animation of large flames.  The huge mahogany bar lended a sense to the properties original history with its classical appeal.  Martie could almost visualize a loud, happy scene in the future bar.  As she reluctantly locked up the bar, she was excited about making it come to life.

            Enjoying the warm weather and the breeze rushing in from the beautiful Saint John’s River, Martie then walked over to the boathouse more out of curiosity than anything.  They had been instructed to do nothing with the boat house, but she wanted to see what it was like anyway.  Unlike the potential of the future, Good Spirits, the boathouse was simple and exactly what you would expect of a boat house.

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