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Katelyn Vandersteen

The Lady

“You know, I got stuck with this job at my old precinct too.”

“What job?”

Mary waved her hand at the house sitting in front of them. It was an average two-story house with ivy climbing up the walls. None of the windows appeared broken, which was mildly surprising, and the yard wasn’t terrible either. The grass was overgrown but she was pretty sure she saw some wild strawberries hidden amongst the green. 

“Investigating the squatter house.”

Her voice was flat, and her short brown hair moved as she shook her head. 

“They always give it to the new cop in town.”

The annoyance in her voice faded as she turned to look at her partner. There was an amused smile on his face as she ranted. 

“I’m sorry. You’re the one that got stuck with the newbie. If anyone should be complaining, it’s you.”

Joe chuckled, his blue eyes dancing as they met her brown ones. 

“I don’t mind. It’s a nice break.”

The older man tossed his arm over her shoulder and tugged on a lock of hair teasingly. 

“We do a brief walk through of the place, make sure no one’s squatting or been murdered, and we can move on.”

Mary swatted his hand away with a laugh and ducked out from under his arm. She really had lucked out with her partner. An older cop with more experience and who was willing to be patient with her. He was a good man.

“Alright. Let’s get it done.”

The lock on the door was broken, big surprise there, and it creaked open when they knocked on it.

“Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We’re here to do an inspection on the house.”

Joe’s voice rang through the building with an odd echo. Both cops waited a moment before entering the building. The windows had such a thick layer of dust on them that the room appeared dark even though it was sunny outside. Joe removed his flashlight from his belt and flicked it on. 

“No one’s lived here in years, so the electricity hasn’t been paid for.”

Mary nodded in understanding and turned hers on as well. She scanned the room with it and made a face. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere. There was a couch to the side against the wall. It was hard to tell with all the dust, but she thought it might have been blue once upon a time. The other side of the room held several chairs, some of them broken, and piles of beer cans. She wrinkled her nose as she saw what looked like a used diaper. In another corner of the room she saw a pile of pear cores. They were covered in mold but still recognizable as pears. 

They passed a set of stairs that led to a second floor but continued past those into the kitchen. A glance around showed several rodent eyes glowing in the light of her flashlight. The creatures skittered away as the cops moved through the room. In the corner she noticed a pile of clothes and a set of eyes. A closer look revealed a mother cat and seven kittens staring up at her. Mary made a mental note to call the animal shelter once they left. She swung her flashlight away and frowned when she saw a full supply of cooking utensils. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dust, so she knew no one was using them even though they looked to be in decent condition. 

“How has none of this been stolen?”

Joe made a humming noise. 

“We don’t really know. There is no one around to stop them and yet everything is still here when the next inspection happens.”

He didn’t sound overly concerned about it and continued. Mary took one more curious look at the items, she even saw china cups, before following him. They passed through a hall with portraits on the wall and the female cop raised her flashlight to look at them. It was hard to tell through the layers of dust, but they looked like they all involved a woman. There were other people in the pictures, a man and an older set of people, but the only thing they all had in common was the lady. In one of them she was heavily pregnant and holding a bouquet of roses.

Next was a bathroom with some very questionable content on the floor. The young woman resisted the urge to cover her nose in disgust. It looked like someone, or multiple someone’s, had used the place as it was intended but since the toilet didn’t work had just used the floor. They turned back to retrace their steps to the stairs, and she blinked. Perched on the banister and staring at them was a raven. It tilted its head to look at them and Joe frowned. 

“That’s odd. Raven’s are extremely intelligent birds. I’ve never known one to get trapped in a building before.”

Mary nodded in agreement. She’d seen smaller birds get trapped before, but they usually panicked and flew around until exhausted. This bird just looked at them. 

“Maybe it lives here?”

Joe made a noise in acknowledgement.

“Well once we finish up with the house, we can see about finding a way to get him outside.”

Mary agreed and they continued moving. Halfway up the stairs she held her hand up and stopped. 

“Do you hear something?”

Joe, to his credit, held still and listened. He was just about to shake his head when a scream rang through the house. Both cops drew their guns and ran up the rest of the stairs. 

“STAY CALM. WE’RE ON OUR WAY.”

Joe’s yell vibrated through the air and echoed through the house. There was no response, but the screaming continued. The wails of a woman in pain. 

“There’s only the one way out of the house. Unless they go out the window, they are going to have to come through us.”

Mary nodded and tried not to grip her weapon too tightly as they manoeuvred their way down the hall. The screams seemed to originate from the room closest to them, the cops exchanged looks, nodded, and then kicked the door down. 

“What the- “

Mary’s gun dipped a little in shock as she stared. The source of the screaming was an older woman laying on a bed in the middle of the room. She appeared to be in labor, but something wasn’t right. There was no color to her, and she kept flickering, like a bad television signal. 

Mary exchanged glances with Joe who appeared to be just as confused as she was. The woman gave one last echoing scream and then sank back. Something small and still appeared in her arms and the lady sobbed.  

“My baby.”

The words where whispered and yet they seemed to echo off the walls in the room and fill the air with sadness. Two simple words and the amount of torment and agony in them was staggering. Mary had to hold back a sob of her own as the woman fell back. She flickered again and then disappeared. Mary stared at the now empty bed with wide eyes. 

“What the hell was that?”

Her voice came out in a whisper. She wasn’t sure why she was trying to be quiet. There was an atmosphere to this room that just seemed to demand it. 

“I don’t know.”

Judging by how quiet Joe’s response was he felt it too. Her partner moved over to stand closer to her and Mary holstered her gun before wiping at her eyes. The other cop’s eyes were a little shiny as well which made her feel better. At least she wasn’t the only one affected. 

She turned her head to look back at where the woman had been. The bed was covered in dust, like the rest of the damn house, and looked like no one had used it in decades. There was more dust covered pictures on the walls and an old grandfather clock in the corner. Dust covered it but she could see that the numbers were stuck at 7.

Mary was going to say something but then the woman flickered back into life and the screaming started again. She flinched despite herself. As they watched this woman give birth again the two cops shivered. The air in the room was freezing. 

“My baby.”

Mary felt a tear go down her cheek as the woman whispered those sad words again. She sounded like she was giving up, as if she had nothing left to live for. The lady vanished again, allowing the two cops to breath easier. 

“I think it’s time we leave Mary.”

She acknowledged his words with a nod but felt compelled to approach the bed instead. 

“Mary!”

This time his voice fell on deaf ears. Something was pulling her forward. She didn’t even flinch when the lady appeared this time. The new mother had long hair that lay in tangles around her head and sweat gleamed on her forehead as she screamed. She looked breathtakingly real and yet completely wrong at the same time. Mary was transfixed as the re-enactment of the birth happened again. 

“My baby.”  

The words were the same, but the emphasis was different. Mary looked up and locked eyes with the woman. She hadn’t realized how close to the bed she had gotten. 

“I’m sorry.”

Mary’s words were soft and sad. The despair in the lady’s eyes changed and suddenly she lunged. 

It was Mary’s turn to scream as the mother flew at her knocking her back. The lady’s hands entered the cop’s stomach and pain erupted there.

Cold and hot shivers. Agony spreading through her body with each push. There was no sign of her baby yet. Her baby. She had been at this for hours and her dress and sheets were soaked with blood. She felt tired, so tired, but her baby wasn’t here yet. She couldn’t stop until she held her baby in her arms. Her baby. Blood and agony and pushing and finally something was placed in her arms. She could have cried with relief. It was over. Looking down her breath caught. The face was pale and still. Her baby wasn’t moving. Her baby. No. She would do anything if it meant her baby would live. 

Mary screamed again as agony flared through her body. It was replaced by chills and then nausea. The young woman turned her head and vomited onto the floor. When she looked back up, the mother was standing in front of her. There seemed to be more color to her. Mary could see that the lady’s hair had been black and her eyes a dark brown. Blood stained the woman’s blue gown red in places but if she was in pain, she wasn’t showing it anymore. It was at this point that Mary realized this was the same lady as the one in the portrait downstairs. 

“My baby.”

The words were softly spoken and there was no despair in her voice this time. Instead there was joy and a sense of pride. The woman smiled gratefully at Mary and then vanished. 

“Mary!”

She flinched at Joe’s voice in her ear and turned to stare at him. He was gripping her arm and she realized that he must have been calling her name for a while. 

“Are you alright?”

Her head was spinning, she still felt cold, and her stomach was rebelling against her. 

“I’m fine.”

Her body betrayed her in the next second as her stomach rebelled once more by sending stomach acid out her throat. She tilted herself to the side to prevent it from landing on her or her partner. 

“I can see that.”

Joe’s voice was dry but also full of worry as he offered her a hand. Mary placed one hand on her stomach feeling the nausea swirl for a moment before accepting his offer with the other hand. He pulled her to her feet, and she swayed in place for a moment. 

“I still feel sick.”

Her voice came out weaker than she would have liked. Her head was swimming, she was cold, and she was still nauseous. She didn’t know what that lady had done to her, but she did not appreciate it in the least. 

“What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know.”

Her partner’s soft reply was far from comforting and she scowled at him before looking back towards the bed. There was no sign that a woman had ever been there. Though there was a disturbing stain on the mattress that was partially hidden by the dust. Somehow, Mary knew that the lady was gone for good. The room felt cleaner even though nothing had changed. It was easier to breath and for some reason felt like it was brighter too. It was as though a heavy pressure she hadn’t noticed before was gone now. 

“I think you should see a Doctor.”

“And tell them what?”

Mary glanced back towards the bed again before finally admitting it. 

“That I was attacked by a ghost?”

She had never been overly superstitious but what else could the lady have been? 

“I’ll go home but we are not reporting this.”

Mary was smart enough to know that she shouldn’t be working in this condition. Not when she still felt nauseous and was having a hard time standing, not when there was an unpleasant heaviness in her stomach. She refused to tell the other cops though. She was still new to the area and the last thing she needed was them thinking she was crazy. 

“Alright.”

Joe’s voice was hesitant, but he nodded. 

“It stays between us.”

Mary met his eyes, saw the worry there, and smiled. 

“Between us. I’ll be alright.”

She let him lead her out of the house, one hand coming to rest on her uneasy stomach. Neither of them noticed that the raven had disappeared.  

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