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#Free ~ "Dolls Watching" ~ an Excerpt from "The Ghost Chaser's Daughter"

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The "Ghost Chaser's Daughter" ~ 22 Short, Sinister Stories available where eBooks are sold.

Chapter Thirteen

Dolls Watching 

Several years ago I returned to the southwest to attend a reunion of old friends, some of whom I had not seen for a decade or more. Cassandra, my hostess, had been such a dramatic force and talented artist in college that I was looking forward to seeing whether or not she had changed. And, I was also eager to see the names, from so many years ago, that would be on her guest list.

After landing at Tucson International Airport, I picked up my rental car and drove out to the edge of town to the address that Cassandra had inked, in beautiful calligraphy, on parchment. How perfectly Cassandra, I thought as I pulled to an amazing white adobe home set against the backdrop of the Catalina foothills. The reflection of a blazing orange sunset in the windows across the front of the house made it impossible to see inside. But I knew that Cassandra had transformed the expansive dwelling from a ramshackle hacienda on the edge of town into a sparkling showcase. I stepped gingerly, but the crunch of white gravel on the path leading to her door gave me away.

“Emily!” Cassandra threw open her from door and cried out. We were off! Chattering, tumbling over our words, staccato, lyrical, laughing and so happy to see each other. In her forties, Cassandra was stunning. Her face was scrubbed clean of make-up with the exception of perfectly penciled eyebrows, black mascara, and red lipstick. She wore an off-the-shoulder white peasant blouse, and huge Taxco silver hoop earrings. Her skirt was stunning, a full, frilly black circle ringed in brightly colored ribbons. She handed me a glass of iced lemonade and we linked arms for a tour of her home.

“This is the old wing,” she said, explaining the architecture and the history of the house and pointing out the features. “It was built in the 1920’s by a carpenter from Guadalajara who lived here with his wife.”

I nodded. The house was a striking display of turn-of-the century craftsmanship. Cassandra had enhanced the ‘vintage’ theme with antiques and period furniture. It was like walking through a time-capture of life on the Sonora Desert in the 1920s.

“You’ll stay in this room, the old master bedroom.” Cassandra walked across the room and righted one of the porcelain-faced dolls arranged as a centerpiece on the iron-frame bed. The doll’s eyes closed, and then, as Cassandra moved it, opened again. The doll stared at us, expressionless. “I have a whole collection of these antique dolls. There are more in the living room. Don’t they look like they know exactly what is going on around them?”

“Lord, Cassandra!”

“Well, just set them aside if you want.”

I nodded.

“I hope you’ll be comfortable in this room. It faces the foothills.” She stood and watched as I inspected the room, no doubt waiting for my approval.

The bedroom, like the hacienda, was a masterpiece of old and new – Viejo y Nuevo. A flat screen TV, an old rocker made comfortable – and colorful – by the serape draped over the back. I walked over and brushed my hand across the woven fabric.

“Is this . . .?”

“Yes, a bullet hole,” Cassandra finished my sentence for me. “I found the serape wadded up under the dining room table.” Changing the subject, she asked, “Can’t you just imagine the history?”

“Hmmm,” I said. My overactive imagination was already at work.

The Mexican influences throughout the house were exaggerated with color and texture – eggplant walls and bright green pottery. Bougainville and barrel cactus grew in the interior courtyard.

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