Chapter One

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"What do you think?" Derek Brandt fiddled with the camera settings as he spoke. "This is a notoriously haunted location. Allegedly."

"Yeah, a little too notorious," Gus, the team's tech guru, called from the edge of the parking lot as he walked the perimeter, taking readings of the temperature and electromagnetic field activity. "The Hex House is one of the first stops for every teenager wanting to scare his girlfriend and every amateur ghost hunter in the tri-state area. This isn't exactly new to us."

"Well, it is to me, and to my channel." Derek stepped toward Chris. The whine of the zoom lens warned her it was time for her closeup. "Now say hello to the YouTubers, beautiful."

She gave him a wary look. He lowered the camera, but it didn't make his face easier to see. Still, she could hear the exasperation in his voice. "Chris, come on."

"Gus is right, you know. This place might have been haunted once, but I think the spirits have moved on. I've never run into anything here. It's an empty parking lot."

"Yeah, an empty parking lot on top of a basement where women were enslaved with some kind of voodoo magic. You're telling me there's nothing?"

"Sorry, babe. I don't know what else to tell you."

"What about you, Gus? Are you getting anything?"

"Nada," he called from across the lot.

Derek sighed. But rather than calling it quits, he raised the camera. "Well, we're here. We might as well make the most of it."

Chris suppressed the urge to suggest they pack it in and go get pancakes. She knew this was important to him and wanted to be supportive. After all, the man had tanked a promising career in TV journalism for her. She owed it to him to help him salvage his career through his YouTube channel. Besides, that dogged determination of his was one of the things she loved about him. "Fine. What do you want me to do?"

"Talk about this place. Tell the viewers what happened here."

"All right." She chewed her bottom lip, thinking of what to say before putting on her best announcer voice. "This parking lot was once the site of an old mansion-turned-duplex known affectionately as the 'Hex House.' In the 1940s, it was the center of a local scandal when Carolann Smith, the middle-aged woman who lived here with two younger women, was discovered to be keeping the two of them prisoner in her basement.

"Bizarrely, the women would leave and go to their jobs every day, but always return to their basement prison as though the mistress of the house had some kind of Svengali-like hold over them. They even signed all their paychecks over to her. They lived on rations and slept on orange crates while she lived in luxury. When the police finally raided her home, they found furs, expensive clothing, and cosmetics—even a new car.

"After her scheme was discovered and the women were rescued, they claimed that Smith had also beaten them regularly for 'religious purification.'' Chris made air quotes at the camera. "

Along with a house full of luxury items, authorities also found books on mesmerism, magic, and the occult.

"The house stood vacant until it was demolished in the seventies. The basement still exists underneath this parking lot. It doesn't get a lot of use now, but back when it was used regularly, people reported car lights turning on and off on their own, horns going off at random, and a general spooky vibe."

Bound Spirits by Jean Marie Bauhaus (Chapter One Only)Where stories live. Discover now