Night Wind Rising - Part 1
By Reinaldo E. Grandal
"Well, I think the house is
haunted," Clayton said.
The wind howled and I rubbed my forehead. "Let's go," I
said. We got out of the car and stepped up to the Cape Cod's front door.
The house had been as impeccably kept as the neighbors', as
normal a dwelling as could be expected in this suburban town. The fresh, white
shingles, the tasteful black trimmings, the half-acre of groomed lawn, sculpted
shrubs and flower gardens that embraced it, all told any passerby who cared to
listen and believe that the house had been staid for many years and would be
for many more, and that nothing out of the ordinary, much less anything as
shaming or scandalous as a haunting could occur here. Not here.
I knocked. We waited. I felt a chill, set down my bag,
pulled up the collar of my down vest and looked up at the evening sky. A veil
of thick clouds was drawn across the full moon's face. I tried telling myself
that the house would probably not be haunted, that I would be able to find an
easy solution to whatever was occurring in this house and quickly get back to
Rome; my intuition and unquestioning acceptance of the tenets of Murphy's Law
told me not to count on it.
Vaughn opened the door slightly, sidearm drawn, toothpick
cradled in the corner of his mouth. He gave us the once-over and silently
ushered us in.
Ana Martinez sat on the living room sofa. Images of war in
the Persian Gulf played across the television screen. As Martinez rose, Vaughn
sat back down and returned his gaze to the set.
"Ramos King," I said, taking her hand.
She nodded. "Your room is down here," she gestured down the
hall. "Lombardi will be here shortly." She had the classically severe Spanish
look, with pale skin, intense black eyes and ebony hair drawn back into a tight
bun. She might have been an Andalusian contessa.
"Thanks," I replied.
"Get settled. I will fix you a drink."
Clayton accompanied me halfway down the hall, stopped and
looked up at me, fidgeting. "Excuse me," he said, going into the bathroom and
shutting the door behind himself.
I went to the bedroom, closed the door behind me, laid my
bag on the bed and paced to the window. Watching the Hudson's currents roll and
tumble with noticeably increasing intensity, I found myself fascinated by the
gothic forebodings of an oncoming storm until some small debris borne by the
wind pinged off the glass and knocked me out of my reverie.
Stepping away from the window, I removed my vest and threw
it on the bed. As I continued to stretch my legs, an odor seamlessly caught in
my throat, a repulsive sweetness that reached down and twisted my innards. I
gagged, coughed, had to inhale again, and it was gone. The temperature where I
stood was noticeably lower than in the rest of the room. Goose bumps rose on my
arms and legs. My testicles shriveled into me.
I looked around the room for a portrait or photograph
because I felt the subject's eyes following me, scrutinizing me. There were
none, but the feeling lingered. There was a taste of battery acid at the back
of my tongue.
I withdrew from the "cold spot," sat on the edge of the bed
and, seeing an ashtray on the night table, pulled the Marlboros from my vest
pocket and smoked. This calmed me somewhat, gave me a haven outside of space
and time to collect myself. When the feelings of overwhelming dread at last
subsided, I went back down the hall and into the kitchen, where Ana Martinez
handed me a vodka.
"Please sit down," she said, and I took a seat at the table.
She put out her cigarette and paced before me. "What have they told you?"
"Lombardi and Clayton? That the place is a spook."
"I mean about me."
I shrugged. "Not much."
She nodded. "You are not an agent."
"I'm a consultant, a parapsychologist."
"Yes. Lombardi tells me you have been highly recommended by
the Anglican Church and the Vatican. She showed me a paper you had submitted to
the Society of Psychical Research. You maintain the existence of ghosts."
"Yes," I answered her cautiously.
"I do not believe in such things."
"Well, I'm beginning to," Lombardi said.
I turned as Jennifer Lombardi entered the kitchen.
Lombardi had rung me at my office in Vatican City more than
a week ago, soliciting my assistance in what she termed "a matter of a haunted
house" and, once I had agreed to help, informing me that Clayton would collect
me at Kennedy. Now, I admired her. She was slim, with light brown hair that
fell in loose curls over her shoulders, and her big, round glasses magnified
the intensity and loyalty in her blue eyes. What most impressed me, though, was
the Agency section chief's strictly-business approach to what anyone else in
her position would at best have dismissed as esoterica.
"You noticed the cold spot in your room?" she asked me.
"Yes," I said without hesitation.
She poured herself a vodka and sat across the table from me.
"There have been other occurrences." Something was knocking at the door to her
unqualified cloak-and-dagger world. She needed someone objective to listen and
not laugh at her, not dismiss the whispers and moans in the dark or the odor of
decayed flesh or the light touch of cold, dead fingers on her bare shoulder in
the still of the night as childishness. She needed someone to answer the knock
at the door, open the door, look into the unforgiving stare of the dead and say
to her, yes, you were right.
Martinez continued to pace. She absently played with a ring
on her right pinkie, a thin silver affair set with a small onyx, but otherwise
remained solidly in control of herself.
"The whispers," I started to ask Lombardi.
"Has anyone else experienced these things?"
"We all have," she answered. "Colonel Martinez and Vaughn
"How much do you know about hauntings?" I asked.
"Only what I've read of your work."
Vaughn walked into the kitchen. He was tall and lanky, with
light blond hair. He gave the impression that he was wound much too loosely for
the spy business, yet one instinctively knew that his friendly blue eyes missed
nothing. He found vodka, damned protocol and poured some into a glass.
"Do you know what poltergeist activity is?" I asked her.
I lit a cigarette. Martinez passed me the ashtray. "It
usually involves adolescents, sometimes adults. Grief, guilt or anxiety build
up mental energy in the person to such an extent that the energy manifests
itself physically. It's called 'psychokinesis.' Dishes fly across the room,
furniture moves by itself. The manifestations are sometimes striking. It's a
purely physical phenomenon that doesn't involve spirits. Once the source of the
psychological upset is dealt with the disturbances cease."
Martinez stopped pacing. "Who here would have such guilt?"
Lombardi swallowed some vodka. "You had quite a history
before you decided to defect, lady," she smirked, looking directly into
Martinez remained coolly silent.
I remembered the smattering of background information I had
received concerning Martinez, formerly Colonel Ana Martinez de la Cruz, hard
core Party member, confidant and advisor to the Great Bearded Wonder. She had
been only fourteen when she had led Castro's executioners to one of the gusanos
who had provided theinitial information that had led to our confirmation of
Soviet missile sites in Cuba. His name was Constantino Martinez Lopez. Her
Lombardi turned to me. "How quickly can you ascertain
whether the house is actually haunted?"
"I'm having some instruments brought here from Duke
University. They won't be here for several days."
"What can you do in the interim?"
I thought for a moment and answered, "We'll need a medium to
perform a seance."
"Oh shit, Lombardi," Vaughn exclaimed.
We ignored him. "I've never performed a seance, nor am I
able to. I don't have the talent. But I know who can help us," I said.
"Why don't we just relocate her?" Vaughn suggested
"Fucking right," Clayton said as he entered the kitchen. He
removed his glasses to wipe them with his necktie, and I saw that the brown
skin of his brow was dotted with tiny beads of perspiration which I did not
bother to attribute to the building humidity. Here was a believer.
"We stay put until we figure this thing out..." Lombardi
"We've already combed the house and property," Clayton
protested. "We know security hasn't been breached. The place is definitely
Saying nothing, I rose, went to the telephone, picked up the
receiver and dialed.
Lombardi remained composed. "We're stuck here until a new
identity's set up for her, anyway." Her voice was condescending.
"What's this 'we' business, Chief?" Clayton countered.
"You're not stuck anywhere."
"I shouldn't be holding your fucking hand, Clayton." As I
waited for someone to pick up, I watched Lombardi start to lose her patience.
Martinez seemed amused. "But I've told you I'd see it through, and I intend
"I surely regret that this bullshit ceremony is necessary,"
I couldn't help thinking that the feeling was mutual.
After several rings, someone answered, "Hello."
"Julio," I responded, "this is Ramos King. I require a
"Where?" he asked.
I gave him the address.
After several moments he simply said, "Tomorrow evening.
I looked at Lombardi. "Nine-thirty, tomorrow evening? No
"Agreed." I hung up.
I finished my drink and left the glass on the table. "It's
Martinez clasped her hands behind her. "Rest well." Her face
was set like steel. An expert poker player would have envied her.
"Goodnight," I said.
When I entered my room, I hesitated. I slowly approached the
"cold spot" and felt nothing. Relieved, I sat on the edge of the bed and