Chapter 1


Chloe stared at the road ahead. "Are we there yet?" A voice from the passenger seat asked.

"No, Sophie, we aren't." She said. The map lay on the space between the seats. A red light gave her ample time to look at it. "Hang a right just past the graveyard and head straight until you reach the iron gates."

The radio crackled. An eerie breathy voice came over.

As you approach our Happy Home,

After decades of neglect and dust

We would like to welcome you

We have matters that we must discuss

Chloe and Sophie just looked at each other. Sophie's hand tried to turn the tuning knob.

"Why won't it work?" she asked.

The singer just launched into a chorus.

Come to a place where time stands still.

Forbidden knowledge, have your fill.

The music abruptly shut off once Chloe saw the iron gates. She parked the car and got out. Sophie got out as well. Chloe cursed under her breath, muttering something about radio interference. A second car pulled up as well. Two men got out of the car.

"Creepy organ music? I didn't know you liked that stuff." the shorter one asked.

"I do not!" The taller one replied. "I just turned a corner and get bombarded with that!" He then realized Chloe and Sophie were staring at him. "Oh, uh, you too?"

"Ours came with lyrics." Chloe said. She pushed open the gate. "Well, welcome to Peachtree Asylum."

The shorter of the men, Mike, looked around nervously. He approached a freshly-planted flower bed. "Well, I expected a little more gloom."

Monty walked to his brother's side. "No time to smell the roses. We have business to attend."

Mike just pointed to the flowers. "It's obvious that they're someone still here."

Chloe shook her head. "We're trying to flush whoever's living here out." Sophie thumbed around in her bag and took out a thick folder. She handed it to the brothers.

Mike thumbed through the case file, muttering something.

The four approached the stone door. Mike paused to admire another patch of flowers. Monty had to drag him away.

Chloe came face-to-face with the Gorgon-head door knocker. She grabbed the ring and gave it a knock.

The door creaked open. Chloe turned to her stunned friends. "I didn't do it that hard."

Mike looked inside. "No one's home, bye!" He turned and walked off. Monty grabbed him by the shirt collar.

The four made their way inside the foyer. Sophie made her way to a burgundy armchair.

Chloe walked towards the back of the room. A huge painting lay against the wall. Two candle holders, still stained with wax, lay on either side of it. A serious-looking blond man stared back at her through pair of horn-rimmed glasses. A fancy necktie, a dark vest, and a high-collared dress shirt completed his look. A gold plaque below the portrait read "Doctor Phillip Peachtree". Chloe fished out her flashlight, trying to get a better look at it. Something was scratched into the wood below the painting. 1821-1865.

The brothers paused to examine a series of books on a shelf. Monty coughed. A thick layer of dust covered the shelf. He paused to wipe off the cover. Etiquette for the Modern Lady. Monty slipped the book back on the shelf.

Sophie remained in the armchair. She shone a flashlight beam on something immense and wooden sitting a few feet away. A piano? Its ivory keys had yellowed over the years. A well-worn book of sheet music lay on the seat.

Mike smelled something. A china plate, laden with sweets, appeared on the table beside Sophie. He rushed over, dropping his flashlight.

"No!" Monty screamed. Mike had grabbed a couple bits off the plate. He stuffed one into his mouth.

"Try it! It's good." Mike said. He handed his brother a cookie.

Monty reluctantly ate it. Sophie and Chloe each took something off the plate.

Chloe chewed, then swallowed. She shuddered, tasting something off.

Mike suddenly fell to the floor. Monty gasped, then went to his knees. He pressed two fingers to his brother's neck. "He still has a pulse." Whatever was in the cookies took him next.

Sophie fell out of the chair, almost knocking over the table. Chloe looked down the hall. A wooden door on the far left side of the foyer creaked open. She passed out a few seconds later.

Soft footsteps came towards them. The swish of robes scraping on the carpet became more noticeable. Chloe felt a clawed hand feel her wrist.

"They're still alive, my lord," an eerie voice said.

"Excellent," a deeper voice replied. "Take them in."

"With pleasure."