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The Control Room

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What horrors will Bethany find when she’s hired to monitor an apartment building?
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Author: Troy H. Gardner
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Genre  Dark Fiction

Tags  Ghost, paranormal, modern, fiction, hauntings

Editor  Christine I. Speakman

Line Editor  Greta Gunselman

Cover Designer  Charlotte Volnek

Words  11576

Pages  55

ISBN  978-1-77127-416-6

Price  $2.50


 

Back Cover

After graduating from college, Bethany finds herself living back at home and facing a mountain of college loans.

To make ends meet, Bethany accepts a job watching live footage from a supposedly haunted building. The owner wants them to find evidence of the ghost he believes killed his daughter decades before.

As the days progress and Bethany spends more time watching the residents of the apartment, she finds herself drawn deeper into the history of the building and the lives of its people.

When strange occurrences begin stacking up, Bethany suspects something paranormal may be happening in the old apartment building after all. Can she distance herself in time, or has the watcher already fallen under the apartment’s spell?


 

Excerpt

“Hey,” a voice said from behind Bethany, causing her to jump in her seat.

“Hi,” Bethany said, turning around to find Glenda setting her purse down on the desk. “Didn’t hear you come in.”

“Inherited tracking skills from my people,” Glenda said with a smile, referencing her Native American background.

“My family’s French,” Bethany said. “So all I inherited is a love of cheese and artsy movies.”

Glenda sat at the vacant desk and turned her attention to the monitors while she said, “I’m horrible with names.”

“Bethany. I had to switch with Malcolm.”

“He’s fun,” Glenda said.

“Yeah, he’s great.” Bethany hoped she wouldn’t have any competition from the pretty woman sitting next to her.

“You like him?”

“He’s fun. And cute. And nice,” Bethany said with a quick laugh. “Okay, I guess I do.”

“You don’t need to worry about me,” Glenda said. “I’m engaged. That’s why I’m working here. To get a little extra cash for the wedding.”

“Cool.”

“What have I missed on our private soap opera?”

“Jesse seems to be pleased with his progress on whatever game he’s playing,” Bethany reported. “Emma and Nick are still in newlywed bliss, but I don’t know if it’s going to last much longer. And Russell made a rousing trip to the laundry.”

“Did he finish his portrait for the gallery opening next month?”

“Barely touched it.”

“Tsk tsk.”

“Malcolm said you’ve got some intel on the apartments,” Bethany said casually.

“Yeah, spooky stuff.” Glenda turned from the monitors to look at her one-woman audience. “The building had been abandoned until recently. The last residents left in the nineties. They reported lights turning on and off on their own. Thermostats moving overnight. Knocks on the doors. Unexplainable sounds.”

“Standard textbook haunting.”

“Except for the unsolved murders,” Glenda said.

“Besides the client’s daughter?” Bethany asked.

“She was the last person to live, and die, in Apartment Six,” Glenda said ominously.

“What happened to her?”

“The super had to unlock the doors. They found a bloody trail leading from the living room to the woman’s corpse in the bedroom. She was pale as snow and missing one hand.” Glenda cocked an eyebrow. Bethany had the distinct impression that her co-worker enjoyed telling the story.

“That’s horrible.”

“They never found the poor girl’s hand. Which is exactly what happened to other girls in nineteen seventy-six and nineteen sixty-five.”

“The same crafty killer?” Bethany asked.

“You think someone is behind three identical, insane-to-pull-off-murders spread out over thirty years?” Glenda asked. “I’ve heard about angry spirits reenacting their brutal deaths before. I thought for a minute that was the case.”

“But not anymore?”

“It started before nineteen sixty-five. Back when the apartment building was an operating textile mill. It was unsanitary, noisy, and dangerous. Low income teenage girls worked long hours.”

“Like Liddy?” Bethany asked.

“What’s a Liddy?”

“A book we read in middle school. Anyway, you were saying?”

“It wasn’t unheard of for the foremen to get handsy with the girls. There were reports of accidents and disappearances.”

“What sorts of accidents?”

“One of the girls lost a hand on the job.”

“That’s no coincidence,” Bethany said. She turned from Glenda to hide a cringe. Jesse still smashed buttons furiously in Apartment One and all else looked still.

“Then I found out about this bad ass who worked there.”

“Bad ass?” Bethany asked.

“Apparently this one girl got in a lot of fights. She was stabbed, beaten, nearly drowned, and set on fire. Nothing took. They called her the Cotton Devil.”

“‘Cause of the textiles?” Bethany asked as she pictured some scared young woman shoving a girl into industrial machinery.

“Yep.”

“What happened to the Cotton Devil?”

“No clue. Must be long dead by now,” Glenda said, a smirk crossing her face. “Maybe she’s out there in Apartment Six.”

Something crashed on the monitors. Both women jumped. Bethany quickly scanned the images, and found Russell sprawled out on the floor in Apartment Four.

“Did he just fall?” Glenda asked, catching her breath.

“When this job is over, we need to stage an intervention.”

Glenda laughed and leaned back in her chair, returning her attention to the job at hand. Bethany tried to focus on the monitors, but her mind drifted. She loved to design and craft wonderful clothing, but she never gave much thought to where the fabrics came from before they arrived on the shelves on her favorite stores.

Had she ever cut and sewn vintage fabrics that came from these mills? Had she ever benefited from the suffering of those girls? Had she ever touched something created by the Cotton Devil?

The hours passed slowly and Bethany made small talk with Glenda while they watched strangers sleep. Finally, Bethany beat the clock and said goodnight.

Bethany left the stuffy, old building and found the cool night breeze refreshing. She stood under a crooked streetlight and gazed up at the apartment building across the street. It felt strange to see it in person after logging so many hours looking at it through monitors. She stuffed her hands in her coat pockets and noticed her breath rising in front of her face.

“The Cotton Devil,” Bethany whispered through a grin.

All the lights on one side of the top floor flashed on and off. Bethany blinked, catching the still image of a young woman staring down through the window.


 

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