Disclaimer: Cat has never taken part in an illegal activity...

Rather, Cat has never made money out of doing anything illegal.

This chapter is only partially betaed, so if there's any typos, I'll be sure to clean them up right away.

Shades of the Past

By Bat the Wood Elf

Chapter 1 –Haunted House

She barely had time to get her luggage out of the car before the cabbie drove off, leaving behind a suffocating mixture of dust and carbon monoxide.

"Thanks. No really, thanks a lot." Rosette coughed as she waved a hand in front of her face. The cabby's crap attitude was a welcome distraction from the house, which was in worse condition than the pictures had suggested. She held them up in front of the house for a comparison. The pictures showed an aging, yet respectable centenial home. The real thing was something else.

It was dilapidated. Rosette's heart sank at the prospect of cleaning this dump. This wasn't what she had signed up for. The house, a little too small to be called a mansion, was dark and loomed over her ominously. Its state suggested years of neglect and abandonment. The windows were boarded up in an effort to discourage vandals, not that it did much good. A lot of the windows showed evidence of being hit by projectiles, and the façade had endured years worth of spray paint. The yard was overgrown and despite their evident foliage, the shrubbery and garden looked dead, choked by weeds.

Rosette glanced at her surroundings with a halfhearted amusement. She then looked down at the pictures Mr. Black had given her. "These pictures were definitely modified. Who would have though that the old man was acquainted with Photoshop?"

At least there wouldn't be any shortage of work. And Joshua would be joining her tomorrow; so she could play the weak female card and make him most of the hard stuff. Never mind that she could easily beat him up and he knew it. Hurray for delegation.

She found the key in her bag and tried to open the main door. The lock mechanism, thankfully, was still in good condition and an audible click was heard. The door itself, on the other hand, wouldn't budge. She groaned and put her bag down. After repeatedly slamming her shoulder into it, the door finally opened easily without so much as the creak of rusty hinges. Rosette glared at it as she retrieved her luggage from outside. It made no sound as she closed it, as though it were a brand new door with newly oiled hinges. She rubbed her throbbing shoulder. It would probably be blue the next day. She allowed herself a small groan of annoyance and surveyed the room.

Like the outside of the house, the interior was in a sorry state. All the furniture was covered with graying drapes, the windows were boarded from the inside, letting little ribbons of light filter through and hit floating dust particles. Everything was covered in a thin blanket of dust and cobwebs, yet somehow managed to retain some of its former grandeur.

"In its prime, this house must have been something." Rosette muttered to herself as she fumbled though her tool case. "Too bad that must have easily been over a century ago."

An even finer example of days gone by was the manor's owner, Mr. A. Black, who was ancient in his own right. The old man had to be well into his nineties, but was a manipulative old fiend. Rosette had applied for the position of housekeeper and had somehow been suckered into restoring the whole house.

"First thing I'll do when I go back to New York is get the most expensive Thank You card I can find. Second thing I do is make Mr. Black choke on it." She sneered to herself as she pulled out her crowbar. "A little poetic justice never hurt anyone."

Rosette made her way up the creaky stairs to the second floor. Portraits lined the walls along her way, with somber looking gentlemen staring back haughtily or looking as though they were bored. The last painting caught her attention. While all the other men were dark with fair skin, the last boy had long, almost platinum blond hair tied back in a loose ponytail. She could have sworn she recognized that superior smirk from somewhere, but she just couldn't quite place it.

Rosette dumped her bag in the nearest bedroom and went back downstairs to pull off the sheets covering the antique furniture.

After that, she began attacking the boarded windows. Massive clouds of dust rose up as the boards hit the floor. By the time she reached the second room, visibility was zero, despite the newly opened windows. Coughing, Rosette escaped outside through the back door. With a sigh, she flopped down on the stone steps and enjoyed their coolness against her warm hands. The fresh air wasn't too bad either. She then flopped back and rested her sweaty back against the cool stone, closed her eyes and rested for a bit.

When she opened her eyes again, the sun was setting. She looked around, startled.

"Damn it! I didn't think it was so late. Looks like I wont have the time to clean up a bedroom for myself. Wonderful. I do so love sleeping bags."

Getting up, she stretched and heard several vertebrae crack. Wincing, Rosette rubbed her eyes groggily. She looked around to try and orient herself.

Tree. Tree. Barn. Tree. River. Black Manor. Dust cloud.

"Oh yes. That's right, I'm in cleaning hell." She muttered dryly. She glanced back at the setting sun for a bit before turning to go back inside.

However, as her hand reached for the handle, she felt a shiver go down her spine and halted mid motion. As though her body was more aware of what was going on than her psyche, she slowly turned to look at the newly un-boarded windows of the library. There, through the dirty pane of glass was the pale hue of candlelight.

Rosette didn't have any matches. Nor did she own a lighter.

Tightening her grip on her crowbar, Rosette began to evaluate her options. If she ran away right now, she would only loose her self-respect. Whoever had lit the candle might have come in though the front door that she had left open for the dust, and they would know she was there and might be prepared and dangerous. It would be in her best interests to run away.

On the other hand, no one messed with Rosette Christopher. Four out of five people who picked a fight with her had reached that consensus. The remaining 20 percent were still unconscious in a hospital. Besides, if Joshua arrived and saw her hiding in a corner, or up a tree, she would never be able to live it down. But more importantly, she hated running away.

Steeling herself, she made her way through the empty halls towards the library. Her hands were beginning to feel sweaty, so she had to adjust her grip on the crowbar a few times. The darkening sky lengthened the shadows in the house, making the newly uncovered furniture look dangerous. On her way through the house, her heart stopped beating several times when her imagination started creating movement in the shadows. Despite her earlier assertion of self-confidence, she sincerely wished that the sky would open up, and that God would lend her a 9mm. After several tense minutes in which the sky did not part, Rosette grumbled and made a rude upwards gesture before reaching for the library door. Without giving herself time to hesitate, Rosette pulled one of the doors open.

And saw nothing.

The room was dark and there was no physical signs that there had ever been a light, and by association, a person there. The light was gone. She searched the house thoroughly afterwards, but there was no evidence that there had ever been anyone other than herself there.

That night, Rosette slept crowbar in hand, with the door to her room bolted.

Reviews are the only known cure for procrastination.