Marjorie lifted the ring that dangled from the brass wolf’s head knocker and tapped it firmly against the door twice. The wolf regarded her with suspicion, then retreated as the door yawned open.
A tall ghost of a man stood before her in a crisply pressed ash-colored suit and a matching complexion. She seemed almost like a child by comparison, in a long powder-blue dress and a white hat, the top of which was just level with the tall man’s chest. He looked down at her with a morose expression that might have been the only one he had.
“Yes?” he said curtly, in a voice that rumbled within the depths of the manor.
“Good afternoon. My name is Marjorie Haversham. I’m the – ”
Before she could finish, the tall man intoned “Come in,” and stepped aside, motioning for her to enter.
Marjorie stepped into Richardson Manor, looking around in awe. She was greeted by a large atrium, from which cavernous hallways stretched to the left and right. It was a tapestry of scratched dark wood and faded red velvet. At one time, the interior of Richardson Manor would have looked very majestic. After the many misfortunes the family had suffered, it was little more than a ruin.
“I will inform Master Richardson of your arrival,” the tall man said in the same even tone he had employed since opening the door, and promptly ascended the stairs.
Marjorie gazed upon the portraits and other assorted paintings that adorned the walls. Rich, lush colors struggled to be seen under layers of dust. The same could be said of the disused furniture; Marjorie was certain that any attempt to sit down would only result in acquainting her with the floor rather quickly. Almost as quickly as the Richardson family had fallen from grace.
Family patriarch William Richardson had built himself a vast fortune off his father’s meager savings, also garnering plenty of respect along the way. His wife Fiona was of wealthy blood herself, and bore him three children. Alexander, the oldest, went on to join his father’s business after finishing his studies. Beatrice married one of Alexander’s friends and did little else of note. And young Malcolm was not yet of an age where he could do much. They lived a life of prosperity and power until Alexander got too ambitious and ended up losing more than he could afford.
Struggling with mounting debts, Alexander became a drunk. Beatrice suffered a miscarriage and her husband’s subsequent infidelity, and Fiona took ill, seemingly never to recover. The downward trajectory of the Richardson family ultimately ended in flames. Fires blazed in the upper rooms of the manor one night, like a beacon signaling the end of their dynasty. Nobody knew who had set it. Was it an irate creditor whose anger outweighed his financial desires, or had one of the Richardsons reached the end of their tether? All that remained were questions.
“Good evening, Miss Haversham.”
Marjorie turned to see William Richardson descending the broad staircase that led down to the atrium, looking as dapper as he did at the height of his good fortunes. She realized that the other members of the Richardson family had also populated the hall while she was lost in thought, and were all looking at her with a mixture of anxiety and annoyance.
“I hear you’ve come to evict me from my home,” William Richardson boomed, in a voice that was pleasant but didn’t quite hide the aggression bubbling behind it. “I am afraid we have no intention of moving.”
Marjorie let out a small sigh and started to open her bag. This would not be an easy exorcism.