Chapter 25: Instinct Blindness

Later that night, there was a severe thunderstorm. Frightened by the streaks of lightening and rumbling claps of thunder, Chantal took her medication, changed into her pajamas, and kneeled down to say a prayer before getting into bed.

“Dear Lord, you’ve given me the strength to endure life’s unexpected challenges. Thank you for my sister, who has always been there to support me, and for the opportunity to build a relationship with Devlin. Please bless us all. Amen.”

She reached over to get her earplugs and was about to insert them into her ear to block out the noise from the bad weather when there was a knock on her bedroom door.

“Chantal, are you awake?”

“Yes, come in.”

“Dearest, you look tired.”

“I am.”

“Well, you had an eventful day. Try to get some rest,” said Sierra.

“Are you going to bed now?”

“Not yet, I will be up for a little while longer to review some details of the restoration work that still needs to be done.”

“OK sis, good night.”

Sierra walked over and kissed her on the forehead.

“Good night dearest.”

Then, she went to the private office in her bedroom. After lighting a vanilla scented candle, she sat down at the oak desk to look at the pictures that Devlin had given to her. They were images of the rooms at Brooke Manor in 1899. Under the bright light of a vintage Gooseneck lamp, she focused on the features and finishes of the mansion’s interior structures.

Suddenly, there was a loud clap of thunder. The lights flickered on and off while howling winds violently slammed the shutters in another room. Sierra jumped up from the chair, picked up the candle, and walked to Chantal’s room to check on her.

Great, she’s asleep and wearing the ear plugs, she thought.

Sierra stood in the hallway for a moment. “That noise appears to be coming from Devlin’s room, but there’s no way for me to get inside because he did not give me a key,” she said to herself.

Instinct blindness drove her actions, despite her conscious acknowledgement of the circumstances. In slow motion, she reached out and turned the doorknob. To her surprise, the squeaky door opened.

The wind surged through the window with a force so strong, the door slammed shut. With a haunted expression on her face, Sierra held the burning candle and cleared away the dust and scattered cobwebs. As she approached the window and closed it, she discovered extensive water damage and mold growth. There were splits in the rotted wood panels, and the baseboards along the interior wall had deteriorated.

The second floor may not be as safe as everyone assumed, she thought.

Sierra scanned the room for a closer inspection. She noticed the print of the painting, American Gothic on the wall. Then, she saw the Phonograph Tube Radio Record Player on the desk. She saw a record from 1935, on the turntable. The music was a waltz by Johann Strauss Sohn, titled, “Wiener Blut,” Op. 354. She found the power switch and turned on the phonograph to listen to the music.

Very nice, she thought.

With her vast experience of restoring buildings from different historical time periods, Sierra said to herself, “This room pays homage to a shrine during an era in the early 1900’s. Every detail lacks the touch of a modern man like Devlin, from the twenty first century.”

Then, she looked down and saw an opened photo album on the floor. A page contained the image of a couple in a newspaper article from the Woodbine Chronicle, dated on July 28, 1938. Sierra started to read the article aloud.

“Sections of Woodbine, including surrounding areas of Mystic Woods lay submerged in more than 8 feet of water when the destructive power of the killer hurricane produced a storm surge of 16 to 22 feet.  Notable deaths from the storm included William D. Lloyd and his wife Christa Lloyd, of the prominent Lloyd tobacco family at Brooke Manor. Married for six months, they were newlyweds, expecting their first child.”

Wait, this is the same article I read at the Mystic Woods Historical Society, thought Sierra.

She was about to look through the photo album when a mouse scurried across her foot. She screamed and ran out of the room.

“That’s it for tonight,” she said. “It’s time to get some sleep.”

She walked back to her room and went to bed.

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