Mrs. Henderson waited and waited, tapping her heels impatiently and biting her fingernails down to the nubs. Her husband still hadn't returned from the attic. She had never been up there herself, and Mr. Henderson had always refused to talk about it, but if it was anything like the basement...well, she couldn't help but fear the worst.
In an effort to ease her troubled mind, she decided to take a nice, warm bubble bath and catch up on her favorite magazine. She dragged her weary body to the downstairs bathroom, shut the door and began to disrobe, paying no attention to the bulging, yellow eye that peeped at her through the keyhole.
"What's your deal, buddy? Do you like what you see?" She twirled around a bit, wiggling her lady parts. The eye squinted shut and disappeared. "Yeah, I didn't think so! You probably prefer the chicks with nine legs and antennae. Tch, stupid house..." She proceeded to plug in the stopper and turn the knobs.
After a few minutes, the bathtub was filled to the brim with warm, steamy...blood. "Gee, what a shocker," mumbled Mrs. H while pouring in some rose-scented bubble liquid. (She had taken many a bloodbath before, and once one gets past the smell and the stickiness, they're actually quite relaxing.) Then she grabbed the latest issue of Homeowner's Monthly and slid into the tub.
Mrs. Henderson loved this magazine because it featured normal people and their normal houses, where the only ghouls to be found were in the Halloween edition. It was her fantasy getaway. She hoped someday to be freed from the terrors of 66 on 6th Street so she and John could move into a real house, with un-haunted furniture and functional appliances. This was her dream.
"Hey, what the...?" Her eyes widened in horror as the pages began to transform. The cover morphed into a black-and-white photo of a young woman from the 1800s, judging by her rib-crushing corset and high-pinned hair. The caption read: "Young dressmaker killed in sewing accident at 66 on 6th Street."
At first she was furious over the loss of her magazine, but as she read on, she became utterly absorbed in the text. Each page contained a picture along with an obituary or police report for someone who'd died in the house. Men, women, children - there were a lot. "Jeez, no wonder this place is so messed up!"
Jill noticed the information was presented in chronological order. The dressmaker had obviously been the first, but who was the most recent death? She flipped to the last page, and there, in living color, was the Hendersons' wedding picture. Underneath it was a poem of sorts:
And those Hollywood nights
In those Hollywood hills
It was looking so right
It was giving them chills
In those big city nights
In those high rolling hills
Above all the lights
With a passion that KILLS
The time of death was listed as 6:66 PM, June 7th of the current year.
"Good gravy, that's tomorrow!"
Mrs. Henderson dropped the book into the blood and jumped out of the bathtub. She ran around the house buck naked, leaving bloody footprints all over the hardwood floors and screaming a Hollywood scream.
Meanwhile, in the dreaded attic, Mr. Henderson was pondering his next course of action. He could either submit to the evil mannequin's demand, or do nothing and suffer the consequences. He wasn't liking his options. He wondered what Jill would say right now.
"Just give the lady what she wants, John."
"Huh?" Startled, he whipped around to find his wife standing by the hatch, scantily wrapped in a dish towel and dripping with blood. "I thought I told you never to come up here!"
"Well, it's about time I did!" she said, crossing her arms in dismay. "I have good reason to believe that Miss Flanagan is plotting to murder us tomorrow evening if we don't comply."
Mr. Henderson scratched his head.
"Yes, though she used to be a dressmaker before she kicked it in some kind of accident."
At this point, the couple was stunned into silence by an enraged scream. Shirley was flailing her wooden arms about, knocking knickknacks off the shelves and stirring up a dusty storm. The house was shaking worse than ever.
"ACCIDENT? IS THAT WHAT HE'S CALLING IT NOW?!"
The humans tried to suppress her. They each grabbed an arm and wrestled the mannequin to the floor. She fell with a hard thump and then...began to weep. This was most unexpected.
"Go ahead, ruin me if you want! Smash me into little bits! I am already broken, so anything you do shall not matter. I will simply have to find another vessel to haunt, but my soul will stay chained to this - this horrid, wretched place. I cannot leave until my spirit is made whole again. Until my other half is released."
This new revelation was more profound than anything Mr. Henderson had previously discovered. He had been egging Shirley to spill the beans for months, but to no avail (and sustained some minor injuries in the process). Mrs. Henderson, of course, had no idea what was going on. She had never been interested in the why they were trapped here, only in the how they were planning to escape, never realizing that the two might be connected.
"Come, hoist me up," said Shirley, "And I shall tell you a story."