From the Author: My doesn't that sound official. Here goes. The boys don't and doubtfully ever will belong to me sob. I only take them out for exercise. I am paid only in reviews and the warm fuzzies that they produce.

Warm thanks to my muses Pookwana and my beloved brat K.T. the opinionated. A lovely young lady calling herself Laws of Chaos has been kind enough to attempt betaing this story. May God grant her strength to deal with my foibles.

This story is loosely based on Stephen King's Red Rose and probably a bit of every other spooky movie I've ever seen. Now for the warning. If you're squeamish, don't handle insects, blood, sudden death, moldering corpses, nasty people and the other worldly type things this story isn't for you. I've tried to mark the really troubling spots so a reader can skip that part if it hits your not for me meter. All I can say for myself is that my computer sits next to the TV and it became possessed.

Retirw

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PETRIE'S FOLLY

Chapter 1

Josiah finished his morning prayer and opened his eyes, looking out over the lovely garden. What a beautiful morning, Lord. Thank you. He climbed to his feet and stretched. I have time to work in Hannah's garden a bit before my first patient this morning. The big man carefully trimmed a few plants and gathered up the dead leaves and dying blossoms.

Folks would think I'm crazy, Josiah ruefully shook his head as he moved closer to Hannah's dreaming spot. "Little Sister, have you left a message for me this morning?" Josiah's eyes widened as he took in the myriad blooms laid out on the marble stepping stones. "You wrote a whole dissertation! I'll be right back; I need to get your book. I don't know the meaning of half of these plants."

Josiah hurriedly returned with a notepad, pen and book. Sitting down cross legged he studied the lay out of the blooms. "You know, this would be so much easier if you'd just write it down, don't you? I know, you talk your way, I talk mine. Let me see; I know this, an iris. I don't need the book for that one. You have a message for me. A red rose with a white poppy twined around it. The rose is in full bloom; that makes a difference in the meaning. I know that means beauty. So what does it mean with the white poppy united with it. Sleep? Sleeping beauty? Hannah, what are you trying to say? The yellow carnation is disdain or regret and it's twined with another white poppy. So someone regrets, or will regret, the sleeping. Slow down, the poppy is pointed down, that means the meanings reversed. Someone will regret waking the beauty. Is that right, Hannah?"

"Okay now for the next bunch. Forget-me-not. That's an easy one. What kind of plant is this wrapped around it though?" Josiah thumbed through the old book. Deadly nightshade? Josiah compared the picture and the plant in question. That's what it is. It means a lie or falsehood. "Forget me . . . ? Hannah?" A leaf fell off the forget-me-not followed by another. "No? Some plants do mean more than one thing." Josiah turned to the page on forget-me-not. Oh it can mean true love. "So, Your saying a false true love?" Guess I'm right on that one. "Lying with a pink carnation and yellow rose. A woman's love -a jealous woman's love."

On to the next bunch. "A white rose? Fear. You're afraid?" Does this mean I have another stalker? "Thank God," Josiah breathed in relief as a leaf fell indicating no. "Now this next bunch is a puzzle. Rhubarb? Little sister, that's not a flower. Goldenrod, monkshood, and columbine." Josiah studied the pages of Hannah's book. Rhubarb means advice. "Alright Hannah I'm paying attention." Be cautious, danger is near and . . . folly? "Is that a dig at me, little sister?" Josiah asked with a laugh.

Now for the last bunch. "Parsley: useful knowledge. The great yellow daffodil means chivalry sounds like trouble. So, I'm headed on a quest? Where did you get this one and what is it? Arbor vitae? Unchanging friendship, so I'll find a few friends along the way. Just my kind of lost cause, don't you think, Hannah?" Josiah smiled widely before gathering up the book and his pad with the message written on it. "I'll study this later. I've got patients waiting for me now."

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The green-eyed man's intense stare unsettled Cletus Fowler, attorney-at-law. "What did you just say?" Chris Larabee demanded, casually leaning against the doorjamb.

"After much review and research I have determined that you are the heir to Petrie's Folly, it is a large property in the edge of Boulder."

"I know what it is," Larabee growled.

"There are several investment companies interested in the property. It would be in your best interest to sign the paper work and claim the property ASAP. There are no back taxes due, as there is an annuity to provide for upkeep," Fowler continued, undaunted.

"I don't want it." Chris closed the door in Fowler's face.

"Mr. Larabee, please reconsider! The estate is worth close to twenty million dollars," Fowler bellowed through the door.

The door swung open suddenly, causing the lawyer to jump back. "I don't want it. That damn place eats my family," Chris snarled.

"I'm aware that there have been . . . incidents in the past. You do not need to reside there to inherit. You can sell the property immediately after the paperwork is signed."

"Go away," Larabee ordered coldly.

When Fowler seemed determined to hold his ground, Chris shrugged, stepped back and as he shut the door firmly, ordered. "Ugly, eat him."

Fowler heard a hair raising growl and turned slowly to see a black dog, roughly the size of a small bear, watching him. "Good dog, good dog," the lawyer breathed faintly, backing slowly toward his car. Ugly lunged as Fowler leapt and raced for the car, just managing to pull his legs in before the huge dog charged into the door, slamming it closed.

Now what? The will strictly states that a directly descended, male Larabee must inherit. If I can't get this idiot to take the property, I'll lose close to a million dollars of legal fees! The whole thing will revert to the state after this man is dead. Fowler fumed to himself as he drove away.

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"So that's the situation Ms. Travis. I thought as such a long standing friend of the family, you could try to convince Mr. Larabee to accept his inheritance," Cletus Fowler sat across the desk from the blond.

"Chris is nothing if not stubborn." Mary smiled faintly. "This is the old Petrie place? It was a wonder in its heyday," she mused. "Is it really haunted like they say?" She looked slightly curious.

"Well . . . there have been a few reports over the years you know. Several unexplained disappearances as well," Fowler shook his head. "Of course nothing has ever been proven."

Mary's grey eyes held excitement.

Now to set the hook. "The house still retains all the old documents. I understand that Mrs. Barbara E. G. Petrie kept very thorough journals. One could even consider them black mail," Fowler laughed softly. You, my lovely newspaper reporter, will just have to investigate. The story of the century. It would establish your career internationally. Of course, Mr. Larabee will go along to keep you out of trouble. He's done so in the past, especially so since your husband died.

"If you would please try to convince Mr. Larabee to at least discuss the situation I would be in your debt," Fowler stood up and offered his hand before leaving the office.

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Two weeks later a reluctant Chris Larabee sat in Fowler's office signing the papers that made him the owner of Petrie's Folly.

"May I congratulate you, Mr. Larabee," Fowler held out his hand.

"I don't want the damned thing. It's the only way I have of controlling what happens in that damn house. At least I can maintain some kind of safety measures this way," Larabee sighed, rubbing his forehead in an effort to relieve the headache forming there. The same ache that always came when he thought of Petrie's Folly and the missing bodies of his stepmother and little brother. Once the legal shit is done, I'm burning the damn thing to the ground. It'll make a hell of a funeral pyre.

"I'm certain that this is for the best," Fowler smiled faintly as he escorted the burdened man out of his office.

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After Mary Travis left the clinic, Doctors Josiah Sanchez and Nathan Jackson - the first a psychologist, the second a general practitioner, sat silently.

"We could sure use forty thousand dollars," Nathan spoke, looking at the shabby room they were sitting in.

"Yes, we could. I'm not happy at how we've been approached though," Josiah rumbled.

"She sure danced around an outright threat to expose us as mentally disturbed now didn't she," Nathan huffed.

"That she did," Josiah agreed. "Nothing slanderous but enough to make folks reconsider donations and grants. After all a spirit writer as a councilor? Nathan, ghosts write messages using my hands," Josiah snorted.

"Sounds real balanced, doesn't it," Nathan grinned faintly. "Me I'm just an old-fashioned faith healer. Let me lay my hands upon you and cast out that sickness in the name of the Lord. Let us pass the plate for that tithe. Amen," Nathan gave an impressive parody of a traveling faith healer.

"So are we going to do it?" Josiah smiled.

"Do you like biscuits? Of course we are. On our own terms though. No dog and pony show," Nathan grumbled.

"Hannah said it would be dangerous." Josiah looked over at his old friend.

"She says what to look out for?" Nathan asked as calmly, as if Hannah hadn't been dead these last twelve years.

"A false true love and a jealous woman. Then something about someone, I got the feeling it was the jealous woman, regretting waking a sleeping beauty." Josiah smirked.

"Why can't that woman just leave a message on the answering machine?" Nathan huffed.

"Because Hannah likes to be cryptic. That's why," Josiah chuckled.

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"Ms. Travis, your newspaper is willing to offer remuneration on the order of twenty thousand United States dollars to merely spend a weekend in a mansion in Boulder, Colorado?" The dapper chestnut haired man narrowed his stunning emerald green eyes.

"Yes, Mr. Standish, that is exactly what the Chronicle is offering. The mansion is rumored to have psychic phenomena. We are assembling a crew of mixed scientists and proven 'talents' to investigate the truth of those rumors," Mary Travis answered calmly.

Ezra cocked his head and offered a dimpled smile, revealing a glint of gold filling. "Ms. Travis, I am simply a conman. I am very good at convincing wealthy little old ladies that they are conversing with their dearly departed. Your attempts to pressure me into attending your little soirée are of little threat. If your paper were to expose me as a charlatan, dear lady, the gullible would still flock to me for readings. I would receive such influx of true believers; I would be obliged to raise my . . . expenses."

"Jason McKinney," Mary smiled faintly.

Standish paled markedly. "I beg your pardon?"

"You really did speak with the dead then, Mr. Standish," Mary reminded softly.

"Your gathering is none of my concern," Ezra snapped coldly.

"You have an obligation though don't you, Ezra? If there are trapped spirits?" Mary smiled warmly as she stood. "Well be meeting at the Arm's Hotel at ten o'clock on Friday morning. Please be punctual Mr. Standish.

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Buck was so easy. Once he knew Chris was going, the man couldn't join fast enough to "guard Larabee's back". For heaven's sake, it's only a house.

JD Dunne, an offer to pay some of his mother's medical bills, a little college tuition, and bingo, he's in. Mary mused as she headed to the dinner to recruit the last of the talents she wanted.

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Mary entered the diner and walked toward a table where an older woman sat idly worrying her coffee cup. "Ms. Wells, my name is Mary Travis."

"I know who you are Missy, so what do you want with my boy?" Nettie demanded sharply.

"I want both of you to spend the weekend in a mansion in Boulder. In return you'll be paid thirty thousand dollars. That will go a long way in supporting Vin Tanner, won't it Ms. Wells?" Mary asked gently.

"Yes, it would go along way. Easy money never is! What's the catch?" Nettie asked calmly.

"The house is rumored to be haunted," Mary revealed.

"No, I'll find another way. I won't put my boy through a media circus," Nettie said flatly as she rose.

"Well, Ms Wells, now that you've retired, and at 18 Vin is no longer eligible for support through child welfare, how do you purpose supporting him?" Mary asked curiously. "Doesn't the state already want to institutionalize him? I understand he can be quite dangerous on occasion. A frail old woman trying to take care of such a powerful talent, one who is mentally unstable? There must be numerous research facilities that would be more than happy to provide for Vin in exchange for studying his abilities." Mary smiled coldly. "If Vin stays at Petrie Folly for the weekend, not only will you receive that check but I can guarantee the papers support in your effort to keep Vin under your care. Public opinion would be most effective in keeping the government from removing Vin from his home."

Nettie let out a deep breath and her shoulder's slumped. "Vin is rarely responsive to the outside world. What do you expect him to do for you?" Nettie asked shakily.

"Simply visit the house with me this weekend, nothing more," Mary swore.

"No media frenzy?" Nettie scowled.

"It's doubtful Vin would be mentioned in the article at all," Mary said.

"Alright. But, if you hurt my boy, there will be no place left on earth for you to hide," Nettie warned.

"I'd like to visit with Vin if possible this afternoon," Mary requested.

"Come on then," Nettie growled.

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"He was as good as gold. Just like always," an elderly black woman greeted Nettie as she returned home.

"Thank you for watching him for me, Elizabeth," Nettie sighed.

"I don't spend enough time with the child now that you're retired," Elizabeth shuffled over and stroked the gleaming auburn curls. "I gotta go now, sugar."

Once the babysitter had left, Mary moved closer to where the slender young man sat silently on the floor.

"Hi Vin, my name is Mary," the newspaper woman crooned.

Tanner continued moving his carved wooden horse across the rug.

At Mary's bewildered look Nettie sighed, "The doctors' say he's autistic. That means he doesn't connect with the real world. He's been with me eight years now. He'll just stay there playing with his horse till I move him. He's spoken three words in all that time."

"According to the reports he demolished a home and killed four people," Mary reminded.

"They hurt him," Nettie answered.

"You're a good looking young man, aren't you Vin?" Mary stroked the soft curls.

The horse halted in mid motion and was pulled protectively into the slender arms. Vin rocked faintly in place.

"He doesn't like to be touched," Nettie warned. Her worried eyes lingered on her charge.

Mary smiled as she spotted the faint flutter in the rug where Vin sat.

Kneeling down she waited impatiently.

Please don't see the pretty blond lady, child. She's got an ugly spirit. Nettie watched worriedly.

Mary's breath caught when Vin raised his head. Childish innocence was written on the beautiful face. For just a moment the wide sapphire eyes seemed to focus. Tanner's free hand lifted and touched Mary's golden hair. A sweet smile was born at the contact.

"Hi Vin," Mary said softly.

Vin covered his face peeking through his fingers and smiled happily.

"We're going to be friends aren't we?" Mary laughed.

Mary tried to catch Vin's eyes. Vin seemed to loose focus and picked up his horse and started moving it on the rug once more.

"We'll be leaving from the Arm's Hotel at noon, Friday," Mary said as she prepared to leave.