PROLOGUE

"Hey kids! What do you know about this place?"

The five surprised kids stopped their game of catch and turned to look at the woman in the car as their baseball rolled away. Her head and left arm was hanging out of her window as she leaned against it, waiting for an answer from the children. There were two other faces looking back at them from the backseat of the car and the head of another one turned away from them. So the lady had three kids of her own.

"It's a pretty nice house," Janine shouted back from her position down the street, turning to look at the house behind her.

The other four rolled their eyes. They knew exactly what she was going to tell the lady, judging from that sentence. Janine liked to exaggerate stories, but what she told were pretty good ones. Especially when the stories included the house on the hill…

The girl sitting in the passenger seat leaned across her mother's lap. "It's for sale right?"

The kids sniggered as Tommy called back, "It's always been for sale."

The lady began to get impatient, but she tried to hide it. "Well, what else can you tell me about this house?"

The kids shuffled their feet. Was someone actually going to move into that place? Janine shuddered.

"Well, it's really cheap. The thing's huge! Anyways, I'll tell you what I know."

She slowly walked over to the iron gate, a smile on her face. "There's a rumour going around that this place is haunted."

The kids snorted. Janine and her stories.

Everyone turned to look at the manor perched at the top of a hill, separated from the world by an eight foot tall iron fence at the bottom of the hill. The manor was a beautiful piece of architecture, built in grey stone with tendrils of ivy climbing up one side of it. There were four marble columns that embellished the façade of the manor and continued through the balcony on the second floor until it reached the roof. From their position at the bottom of the hill, everyone could see the many windows that seemed as though they were staring back at them. The girl in the passenger seat fell out of her seat when she tried to get a closer look. Everyone turned their attention away from the house to look at her except for Janine.

"That's the house!" she exclaimed.

Janine flicked an annoyed glance at her before continuing. "My mom says the house is really old. Older than this city, which she says is at least three centuries old. The people who built it were also cousins of the founders of the city. They had kids and those kids grew up and had their own kids. My mom said that this house belonged to that family until someone died in an accident."

She paused for breath and looked straight at the girl in the passenger seat. She found an attentive pair of eyes staring back at her and felt appeased.

"Leila's great-grandfather was the mortician who handled the son's body. He said something to her once about how the son of the owner fell down the stairs and broke his neck. My grandma says that the family disappeared the day after the funeral."

Leila confirmed Janine's story with an earnest nod. "Poor guy."

"A few months later someone else moved into that mansion but they moved out really quickly, saying that they didn't like the mansion after all. And then more people moved in but they moved out just as quickly. This happened for ninety years until... Are you moving into that place?"

Janine stopped and smiled sweetly at the lady. "Thanks for asking. That'll be five dollars."

The girl in the passenger seat frowned as her mother reached into her handbag.

"Just kidding! Have a nice day!" Janine swung around and returned to her sniggering friends as the woman shrugged and drove away.

Janine gave the house a last look before she turned back to the others. "Shut up."

Ryan looked at her. "So you gave them a new story, huh?"

Everyone turned to look at her. It wasn't like Janine to tell a story about the house without mentioning the murder that happened there.

"I didn't like that girl sitting next to the lady. I just wanted to do them a favour. Let's play ball!" Janine ran off to look for the ball as the other kids got back into play position at the bottom of the hill in front of the manor.

I sat and watched all of this from the safety of a tree branch next to the iron gate. I heard everything and it was entertaining to hear what they said. Janine's brash behaviour has grown on me, and I'm glad I have someone to scare people away for me. But sometimes it gets so lonely in the dark halls of my ancestors I can't help but hope to have someone to entertain.