People swore our house was haunted. They said it used to belong to an absolute beast of a man who practiced all sorts of filthy debauchery. As the story goes, he died violently after being caught with the wives of several gentlemen, all of the women stark naked, in his parlor.
Debauchery wasn’t hard to believe. Most of the man’s possessions were still there when we moved in—he had no family to speak of—and several of the bedrooms possessed an assortment of highly unusual items and tools. That the man was a beast, however, I somehow wanted to deny. The portrait that remained in our library was too well-groomed and handsome. It was not the picture of a beast.
My husband, Henry, cursed my curiosity and disposed of every last piece, despite my delicate suggestion that we should at least be more practical and sell the items possessing metal. The money would have done us good, but Henry claimed no God-fearing person—especially not one of the fairer sex—would want any part of those deviant contraptions, and that was the end of it.
That night, as Henry lay snoring loudly in our bed, sleep eluded me. I couldn’t stop my mind from racing. It was desperate with curiosity about the man who had formerly owned the place, and the purpose of all of those things. Was it possible he had left some record of his dealings, a journal or something, in the library?
Not much later, I snuck down the stairs. I could have sworn I saw a shadow bending over on the wall at the exact moment a chill brushed my legs beneath the hem of my chemise. I refused to cry out because Henry claimed that all women were silly, prone to dark imaginings and over-stimulation. Obviously, he believed it—aside from his brief attempts to make a child he gave me no stimulation at all.
Once in the library, I was pleased to find that the moonlight shone in through the windows and the air had warmed a bit. It was a good thing, too, considering it continued to brush against me, over the contours of my chemise, like fingers—ones particularly fond of the curve of my bottom and the slope of my breasts—as I scoured the shelves for some clue.
After thirty minutes or so of finding nothing aside from proper books and a great deal of frustration, I sank down against the back of a broad leather chair in surrender.
“I suppose I will never know,” I sighed, “what he did to all those women. But the man was far too beautiful to be remembered as a beast.”
Apparently, I’d said the magic words because the man himself appeared—a very solid apparition, indeed—and proceeded to show me exactly why he was both.