The Curse of Valdi by Wentworth M Johnson

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The Curse of Valdi

by Wentworth M Johnson

Chapter 1

Colette

‘Slowly pushing the nursery door open, I crept forward. A terrible foreboding flushed over me like a cold, wet, and sticky fog. The room had a hideous secret, which it intended imparting to me. Drawn by an eerie light I obeyed that loathsome presence, which forced my gaze toward the bed. A dead child lay there silent and blood covered.’

That's just part of one of the many stories in my journal from the days when I investigated Greystones. Each occurrence was different, and in a different part of the house, though the outcome remained a constant and repeatable theme; the entire staff would usually quit. There are more than thirty tales of usually gruesome and ghostly happenings at the old manor.

For example, ‘A mist, almost human in form, glided with deathly silence along the hall and into the kitchen. Cook fainted as I stood paralysed by cold gripping fear.’

Poor kid, I can remember the look on her face as though it were only yesterday. The Church is partly to blame, meddling fools. Even to the end as we buried that little girl, Fotheringay remained a pompous ass. He stood and prattled on as if he had overcome the evil himself, and he was the one that wouldn’t… Well it doesn’t matter now.

I’m Professor Barrington; my specialties are psychology and parapsychology. I first dabbled in this case way back in the nineteen fifties at the request of Giles Calbraith senior. The house, and indeed the grounds of Greystones Manor have always been haunted, with more mysterious deaths than all the streets of London put together. Calbraith called me in to investigate some of the mysterious happenings. I drew a total blank and discovered nothing useful until years later—well after the old boy died. It's very difficult to know just where to begin a story like this one. It goes back to the eleventh century in the days of the original Valdis family. Though quite probably it goes even farther back, say to the first century AD, when that stone, the Looking Stone came into existence.

Sorry if there seems to be some confusion, perhaps I should begin where the modern action started. It all began with that sweet little Colette, a thirteen-year-old girl from Canada. Born in Cambridge, Ontario – a sort of

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conglomerate of three small towns on the banks of the Grand River. She had no idea that the long dead spirits of her ancestors were beckoning to her from the grave. Until the spirits moved Colette lived the normal and simple life of a young schoolgirl.

At that time her father, Matthew Adams worked as an architect. His work often took him away from home for days, sometimes weeks at a time. Left to run the household unaided, Mrs. Katrina Adams diligently followed her husband’s wishes caring for the house and their only daughter. The family had normal everyday ups-and-downs as families do. Living in a new subdivision on the outskirts of Galt, the largest of the three towns perhaps had a hand in their problems.

Usually Colette would catch the school bus at the corner, but if father was asleep or away she would go with Hector Agnew. Hector was a lad who lived fast, a little too fast for Matthew's liking. He was a seventeen-year-old lad far too old for Colette. He drove a nineteen fifty-seven Cutlass convertible. “The kid's a hair brain,” Colette's father would often say. “He's sure to kill himself one of these days.”

With mental turmoil giving the ancient spirits a way into the girl’s psyche, her problems began that morning when Hector called. Colette found it difficult to resist him with his large overpowered automobile and mature good looks. Matthew Adams was away working on a construction contract in Toronto creating the perfect opportunity for disobedience.

By road, the distance to school is almost two and a half miles, while by the back lane it is only one mile. The bus and Hector always used the main road. If walking Colette would usually go via the lane. On this day, Hector along with Colette as passenger had driven almost to the school gates when a small foreign car pulled out in front of them. There was no time to brake, and with an ear shattering crash the Cutlass smashed into the flimsy Japanese car. The foreign vehicle was demolished, and the driver seriously hurt. The police booked Colette as a material witness.

That evening she returned home on the bus and her father awaited her to disembark from the school bus. She could see by the look on his face he was not pleased. He said nothing as they walked in total silence into the house.

“How did you get to school this morning, Missy?” he said closing the house door.

“You already know,” she said, “or you wouldn't be asking.”

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“I want none of your lip young lady. I have told you time and time again. Do not go with that punk in that car of his. He is bound to end up dead.”

“You don't understand,” she protested.

“Oh, yes I do. You are grounded for a week. Now do you understand?”

“I don't see why. I wasn't driving.”

“You were not even supposed to be there. If you wish to continue living under this roof you will live by my rules, okay?”

She turned and rushed to her room, slamming the door in protest of her unfair treatment. She was at that uncomfortable age when it would seem that the entire world had something against her. The teachers were never satisfied, her parents were never satisfied and nothing would flow as easily as it had when she had been younger.

Matthew Adams, usually a very patient man, quiet spoken and gentle, though when it came to his daughter he could feel the fire in his heart. He did not want her associating with any of the local punks. None of them were good enough for her, and they were all too old. Mrs. Katrina Adams adored her husband and always agreed with his decisions.

The following morning at breakfast father demonstrated his bad mood in his voice. He glared at Colette across the table. “How are you getting to school this morning?” he asked gruffly.

“Bus,” she hissed.

“Make sure that you get the bus and do not come home with that punk and his car.”

“Alright, alright. I don't see why you can't be cool like other fathers.”

School turned out to be a very bad day. Colette had too many things on her mind to concentrate on mundane stuff like English, or social studies. At the end of the trouble filled school day she needed a breath of fresh air to cool off and clear her thoughts. Walking home along the so-called back lane instead of catching the school bus would provide this fresh air.

The back lane, really a dead-end street with a footpath through the nut grove that led to Halt's Lane, a narrow unmade road with only one house on it. The house belonged to an ancient black Jamaican known locally as old John. Halt's Lane terminated only a quarter mile from the subdivision where Colette lived.

Just after the March break the weather turned fine though chilly. All the snow had vanished yet none of the trees were awake yet. She walked through the naked nut grove deep in thought. Life seemed so unfair; some of the other kids had cars  and  lenient  parents.  Old John's house looked a rundown place with two dead cars in the

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front yard. Almost unconscious to the world about her she walked passed old John's gate, which was not on its hinges.

“Evenin' girl,” old John said, appearing suddenly from behind the large sleeping willow tree near the drive entrance.

“Oh,” she said showing surprise. “I didn't see you.”

“What seems to be de trouble chil'?” he said in his quaint Jamaican accent.

“Nothing,” she lied.

John was old and had studied human nature for near a century. The girl's denial only prompted him to delve deeper. “Why don't you come talk to old John. Maybe I can put a smile on dat face of yours.”

Colette had known John just about all her life. He had always been old and always looked the same. “I don't think you can cheer me up, I'm passed that stage,” she said dolefully.

On his porch stood a very large patio swing seat. “Come chil', sit and talk with old John. If I can't make you smile, den, you make me smile.”

She walked with the old man up the steps and onto the porch. The swing was where he always gave advice to just about everyone who passed that way. “I hate my father,” she blurted out as she sat.

“Now den, dat's not a good ting. What could be so bad dat you tink dat way?”

‘Doing what?’

“Hmm,” John said stroking his chin thoughtfully. “What kind'a tings ain’t you supposed to do, dat your parents doon't like?”

“My boy friend has a car. It's a classic, really old. My dad won't let me ride in it with him. He says that Hector's doomed to die in a ball of fire.”

“Ah, well dere you are den. Your father doon't min' you havin' fun. But he doon't want you dyin' in a ball of flames with dat boy.”

“That's stupid.”

“You got’a tink like a dad, chil'. He loves you, 'cus you're his own daughter, so he imagine all sort of danger.”

“He just wants to control me, like he controls everything else. That's what he does, he controls everything, people, business, mom, everything.”

“You are young, you got the whole of your life ahead of you. Relax, enjoy tings as they is, doon't try changin' the whole world. If you respond to your dad, you see, he'll respond to you.”

“I wish that were true,” she said with a sigh.

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“You is still young chil' try to tink before you act. Just try to tink what tings will happen because you are actin' like you is actin'“

“You're beginning to sound like my teacher. How old are you John?”

“I is as old as my tongue and a little older dan my teeth.”

“That's silly. How old are you really. My Mom says you've got to be over a hundred.”

Old John laughed. “To tell de truth, I was born one minute after de end of de nineteenth century.”

“What does that mean?”

“I mean dat I am as old as the century, all but one minute.”

“You're ninety six then?”

“See how easy it is. I have lived so long, an' watched so many people I find it easy to figure dem out. You take it from me. Life will be much sweeter if you listen and do not try to upset the natural flow of tings.”

“I wish it was that easy,” she said thoughtfully, “but my dad is real hard to please. And what's wrong with Hector anyway?”

“How old are you chil' thirteen?”

“Yes.”

“Den dat's the reason. I know dis Hector, he's at least seventeen. He's almost a man, and you is just a chil'. You're daddy is only protecting you. Just like a good daddy should. Go home chil' thank your daddy and your mommy for just being who dey are. Try to remember the rules set out in de Bible. Honour your mother and your father.”

“I don't believe in all that crap.”

John was shocked. “You doon't believe in the maker of all mankind.”

“If you mean God, well, maybe, I guess so. But the Bible is so old it doesn't count for anything today.”

“Huh,” John admonished. “Dee situation is worse dan I tort. You is doomed chil'. For your own sake you should read dee good book. You will find all sort of advice in dere. If you open your heart, and your mind you will see dat God's word is dee same today as it was in early time.”

“I'm sorry,” she said, “I didn't mean to upset you. But I don't have a Bible. I don't think we have one in the house.”

“Come here after school tomorrow and I will have one for you chil'.”

Life was about to get even more intense than even she had imagined. The following morning Colette was awakened to the sound of the phone ringing. There was only one phone in the house and it was downstairs in the kitchen. Bleary eyed she hurried from her room and down the stairs in an attempt to get there before the phone stopped ringing. She entered the kitchen, father had just reached the telephone first. She stopped without speaking and leaned against the doorframe.

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“Hello,” Matthew said with the thing to his ear. “Oh! Hi. I am Matthew Adams,” he said then listened again.

Colette knew the call was not for her, but it could be about her. She waited in anticipation of another row with father. She wanted to do as old John had said and honour her parents, though it was awfully difficult sometimes.

“Why?” Father said into the phone, then he said, “Yes, why?”

It sounded like a very unintelligent conversation so Colette waited.

Matthew laughed, not a belly laugh, more of a loud snicker. “Edict?” he said. “I'm sorry I can't do that.”

The girl began to take notice and as yet Father had not seen her as his back was turned toward her. She listened intently trying to make sense of the one-sided conversation.

“Oh, well. Where do I have to go? What do I have to do?” Matthew said into the receiver. He listened for quite some time then replied, “Sure,” he listened again. “Okay, what's the address?”

He groped around the counter and picked up a pencil and paper. “Okay,” he commented, then chuckled a couple of times and said. “Norfolk Broads, eh!”

He listened again. “Thank you, I'll look forward to the Broads.”

Colette had heard enough, she didn't want to get caught listening in on her father's conversation. She figured that it must have been one of his rowdy friends. Banging the door with her hands she pretended to noisily enter the room, as though she had not known that the phone had been ringing. “Good morning, dad,” she said politely.

“Yes,” he said into the phone. “Yeah, sure, okay.” He put the phone down.

“Who was that?” she asked.

“No one important,” he said and left the kitchen.

Colette walked over to the telephone. The writing pad lay on the counter top but the page with the writing on it had been torn off. She looked at it and could clearly see the impression of a phone number. Jotting it down, Colette took the paper to her room. It was only seven o'clock and far too early to follow up with a little detective work.

It was a school day and so as not to create any further problems or friction, Colette caught the school transport. None of the girls on the bus were her friends and this added to the problem. It wouldn't be too bad if they were even in her class. Most of them were snooty farm types with far too much money and no brains. She looked around the bus at the  clowns sitting   there   all   with   gormless   expressions   on   their silly faces.

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Colette made up her mind that this would be the last time she would ride with these scarecrows.

Thank God it's Friday, Colette thought to herself. At least the problems would be over until Monday. At noon she slipped out of the school and headed toward the hamburger joint across the road, which had a public phone. With great trepidation, yet forced by circumstance she picked up the phone and dropped in the quarter. With the piece of paper containing the phone number in her hand the girl pressed the numbers, 528-5756.

It rang twice then a sweet young female voice said “Greening and Blades Law offices, good afternoon.” Colette slammed the phone down for new and terrible thoughts flashed through her head.

The rest of the day became a disaster, as she could not concentrate on anything so trivial as schoolwork. There were more important things to consider, the fact that Father was interested in broads and now a law firm. She thought hard on the subject; most of her friends were from divorced parents and they managed okay.

At the end of the school day Colette grabbed her coat and bag and began running. As she ran towards old John's place remembering that he said he would give her a Bible. She didn't really want one but didn't want to hurt his feelings either. On reaching the property old John was waiting. He had spotted her and walked to the gate.

“Here,” he said, holding out the book. “I have dee Bible for you. You should read it, an' learn from dee wisdom of dee past.”

She took the book from his hand and quickly flicked the pages over. “You are a wise and experienced person,” Colette said. “What would make a man go after other women?”

John chuckled. “Dat is a difficult question to answer, chil'.”

“So,” she said, throwing her weight childishly onto the porch swing.

“Well,” John said, trying to find the right words. “It usually mean dee man is unhappy. He look to some kind woman for comfort.”

“That doesn't make any sense,” Colette snarled.

“Oh yes, I am afraid it does. No matter how old a man is he need his mom, an' anybody who listen to de troubles and woes make a good mom.”

Colette thought about the words for a moment. There may be truth in what the old man said. Dad was having a hard time at home and at the office. He was always rowing with Mom. A tear reached the corner of her eye as she realized the disintegration of her family. “I hate life,” she snapped.

“No, chil', you don't mean dat.”

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“Yes I do.”

“Well, chil' life is all you got.”

She stared blankly into the gentle sprinkle of snow as the tiny flakes fluttered down in the near breathless conditions. “I hate everything, school, Mom, Dad, everything.”

“I don't tink you mean dat. You is angry, an' probably cold. When summer come, you'll be dere in dee sun enjouin' yourself.”

“If I should live that long,” she said jumping up and running off in the direction of home.

As Colette walked in the door she found herself facing Father. “Where the hell have you been? The school bus was here ten minutes ago.”

“I stopped off at old John's. He gave me this,” she said extracting the Bible from her satchel.

“I've told you before I don't want you around there.”

“Why?” she shouted in anger.

“I don't want you associating with Negroes.”

“I hate you,” she yelled and threw the Bible at him and then rushed to her room to get away from him.

“Come back here young lady and face the music.”

Rushing into her room and slamming the door she dropped her bag and dived onto the bed for a good cry. After a few minutes a gentle knock came to the door. Colette ignored it. The knock repeated. “Colette honey,” Mother said.

“Go away, I hate all of you.”

Mrs. Adams opened the door and walked to the bed where the girl lay face down. She sat on the edge of the bed. “He didn't mean it dear.”

“Oh yes he did. I hate him. I hope he dies,” she sobbed.

Mrs. Adams stroked the girl's hair. “Please, love, be good. We will have to work together. Father is having a rough time. We could even lose the house.”

“Why?” Colette asked sitting up.

“The last job your father worked on… well, they went bankrupt and he hasn't been paid. Now his half-brother Edmund has died. Please be nice. He's leaving soon.”

Colette wiped the tears from her face. “Leaving, for where?”

“He… well,” Katrina Adams had to think; she was not sure how to put it to the girl. “Well, he has to go to Edmund's funeral.”

“Where's that?”

“It's in England, Norfolk I think.”

Colette's eyes widened and burned with fire. “He's going to see some broads. I heard him on the phone. He's leaving us, isn't he?”

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Katrina stood up and looked down at Colette. “He's already left. He said we couldn't go. He got angry and left. We're alone, and any time now we may loose the house.”

“He called John a Negro. That's not nice. John is my friend; he's wise and kind. I hate Father.”

“Please Colette don't be difficult. He will come back, and I am sure he's not chasing any young ladies, your father's not like that, and John is Negro.”

“I heard him. I heard him. He said he wanted to meet these broads. I’m not stupid, you know. What else could it be?”

“Come dear, wash your face, let's put a bright smile on things. Daddy has gone to Toronto to catch a flight. You'll see all will be well in a few days. He's only gone to his brother's funeral. He has not run away.

Colette had never been anywhere or seen anything. She had been to Ontario Place with the school and Mom and Dad took her to Canada's Wonderland once, but that was it. It always seemed to be like the time they all got passports and at the last minute cancelled the trip. Mom wouldn't go without Father and of course he was far too busy. Lots of the kids at school have been to Disneyland and Disney World, but Colette had only dreamed of such things. The closest she had been to an international airliner was a visit to the viewing area at Toronto airport.

Now that Father has run off she decided to make the rules herself. No one was going to tell her what to do or how to do it. Even the teachers could go bury their head in the dust, especially that Miss Thompson. Colette lay on her back looking at the ceiling of her room. “Maybe,” she said aloud. “Just maybe this might be the turning point.” She mused to herself the freedom she would experience now that Father had taken himself out of the picture.

The weekend turned out to be miserable, Mother was mostly silent and sullen. The TV stank and it snowed all day Saturday and Sunday. Monday started as a bright new beginning as Hector picked her up for school in his beautiful and newly repaired car. There was no one to stop her. Hector represented freedom and excitement. No one told him what to do. Colette wanted to be like him, a completely free spirit.

Life definitely did look up for the young girl. Hector taught her to smoke, it was good, and it made her feel more adult. Weekends were wild and free. Hector would take her on long drives up north or to the Mennonite district. Colette felt that life was again worth living. She had not seen John for ages, nor heard from Father. Mom occasionally complained and said that Father would not be pleased.

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It was early June; Father had been away for over two months. She still lived in the same house, as somehow Mother managed to pay the bills everything seemed to smell of rose, when fate put an oar in once again. The problems began when she caught Hector kissing Cynthia Bromwell, the bitch with the money.

The second blow fell that very weekend. Hector had promised to take her to the conservation area where they could swim and frolic in the water. Suddenly he had car trouble and telephoned to say he couldn't make it. Colette would not have minded but, on Monday at school one of the girls mentioned that she had seen Hector at the park with that bitch Cynthia.

Colette faced Hector. “Where were you Sunday?” she asked bluntly.

He smiled. “Nowhere, why?”

“You were with Cynthia, you promised to take me out.”

“Oh hell,” he said. “You're just a kid, she's a woman. Just look at it from my point of view.”

“I hate you,” she said. “You are just like all men, I suppose she's your Norfolk broad.” She suddenly turned and marched away not wanting him to know she was crying.

The poor girl had no idea of the terrible things in store for her. The problem with Hector was merely the beginning.

“He… well,” Katrina Adams had to think; she was not sure how to put it to the girl. “Well, he has to go to Edmund's funeral.”