Annie and her mom, Carol search the attic at the family homestead, looking for clues.

A door slammed somewhere on the second floor below us. Mom dropped what she was holding and froze.

“I’ll go see who it is,” I said.

Descending the steps from the attic to the second floor was no mean trick. They were steep, narrow and rickety. Landing in the hallway, I looked toward the door to the first floor. A woman in a flowered dress with blondish gray hair rolled into some sort of buns was just passing through that door. She slammed it behind her.

I shouted for her to wait. No answer. I ran to the door, opened it and followed the stairs to the first floor. It was completely silent. Where had she gone? I called out to say who we were. There was no answer.

Returning to the attic, lost in thought, I collided with my mother. “Oh God, don’t scare me like that!” I blurted out. Why was I so unnerved?

“What did you see?” she said, ignoring my rapid raspy breathing.

“A woman. About your age. Dressed funny, flowery dress, odd shoes, strange hairdo.”

“Did she say anything?”

“No. Is she your tenant? She looked too old and certainly not pregnant.”

“This is going to sound crazy, Annie, but the same woman appeared last time I was here.”

“What do you mean, literally appeared?”

“Well, she disappeared, just like your lady. So, if she disappeared, she must have appeared.”

“Again, can’t fight your logic. Let’s get our stuff and go.” I hummed the theme from Twilight Zone.

I sneezed again, several times, as we packed up the contents of the trunk and bureau. I bent to pick up the last bundle under the slanted part of the roof when the door slammed again, much louder than before. I jumped, hitting my head on the eave. A piece of paper fluttered in front of me as my vision cleared. The big brown spider almost landed on my nose as she spun away at a new web. I pocketed the little piece of paper, scooping it from where it had landed on my shoe.

Searching the Attic for Charlotte Wheeler, Annie’s great grandmother and test pilot.

Avenger wins NYC Big Book Distinguished Favorite

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