Victorian Dreams Pt. 01byOrexis©
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of people, places or events is purely coincidental and not the intent of the author.
This is a copyrighted work. Any republication, or use in part or in whole without the authors written permission is a violation of copyright laws of the United States and other countries.
© Copyright 2003, 2004, Charles F. Johnson
This work is lovingly dedicated to Mac who's disappointment when the plot took a negative turn in my first attempt inspired me to try again, resulting in this completed work.
Though we are no longer together, sweetheart, I dedicate this to you as you continue to inspire me.
My love is still committed and unconditional. I love you, Baby.
* * * * *
Haley Baxter was an intelligent young woman. At 22 she already had earned a bachelors and a Master's degree in architecture and Interior design, respectively.
She was intending to pursue her Doctorate when she discovered an opportunity that couldn't be passed on, so she decided to put any further educational pursuits, on hold.
She had been driving through the rural Texas countryside, trying to get over her anger at not getting accepted for her Ph.D. for the fall semester, when she discovered a huge three-story Victorian home on five acres of land for sale. As she drove she thought back to the conversation she had had with Carla, her roommate, in the sparse two-bedroom apartment the young women shared.
"This is ridiculous." Haley ranted as she slammed the letter from the admissions office down on the kitchen table.
Carla picked it up and read through it quickly. The Letterhead and seal of the University of Texas prominent on the top of the engraved stationery, and rather officious sounding in its content, though obviously a modified form letter.
"Haley, they didn't say you weren't accepted, just that you can't start in September because the class is full. They have invited you to reapply for the class beginning in January and have waived formal application and only ask that you send them a letter expressing a desire to pursue your doctorate starting in January."
Carla's attempt at consoling her friend was ineffective.
"They give their reason as the postmark on my application was later than the others they had already accepted. Don't grades count for anything? I have a 3.66 from my bachelor pursuits and a perfect 4.0 on my Master's. I mean it isn't like I was late sending it in, I just didn't send it in as early as some of the other applicants."
"Haley, when they have a crop of applicant's that are equal in most respects, they have to use some other criteria to rank the applicants. My guess is the academic credentials of the other applicants were equal to yours. And you are already in the class starting in January if you just write the letter telling them you are interested."
"I understand that, Carla, but I can't afford to sit out a semester. My parent's trust for my education is already drying up and to pay living expenses for a semester while not enrolled will use it up, if I can even draw on it without going to school. Their will on the trust was pretty adamant about it being used for education expenses only."
Haley felt her whole world was suddenly falling apart, as she called the trust attorney to clarify the conditions of her trust.
"No Miss Baxter, the trust won't be able to pay your living expenses while you await the start of your doctoral program. Your parent's direction on the use of the funds was specific and clear on this point. It pays all expenses including your room and board while you are pursuing your education. You aren't authorized to draw from it otherwise until age 30 then you can receive a disbursement of any balance left in the trust." The trust attorney advised.
"But I am pursuing my education, I am just awaiting the start of the next phase of it to begin is all. I have already been accepted for the spring semester. What if I extended my Master's program and took a couple of extra courses this fall? "
"Miss Baxter, that would only satisfy the terms of the trust if you were required to take the courses to complete your Master's program requirements or as mandatory preparation for your doctoral pursuit, but you already have your Master's and have already been accepted for your Ph.D. in the spring, so we couldn't justify it without potentially committing fraud. We are probably stretching the terms a bit already, paying for your apartment and a grocery stipend rather than dormitory and meals through the University. If it weren't that you were actually saving money over the cost of dormitory room and board by having a roommate, we would probably be viewed as being in violation of the trust terms if it were ever challenged in court."
"So will I have to go through the application process all over again?"
"No if you send me the letter the University sent you, I can order the trust to hiatus payments until January and not order a cessation of the process. This way in January they will start all over again, and mid fall semester you can draw your tuition and fees when they are due."
"Well at least I don't have to go through that lengthy justification process again. I think if my parents were still living they would continue to pay my living expenses while I await the start of my doctoral program." Haley was clearly frustrated again.
"Miss Baxter, your parents aren't here to authorize a deviation, and the only thing we have is the instructions they delineated before their death.. I'm sorry but the courts won't allow me to deviate from those. Besides, you are likely to exhaust the trust before you finish your matriculation as it is, it might be wise to take a more conservative approach to the trust. If the stock market recovers from its current doldrums your trust might start to grow again."
"Thank you Mr. Hobbs, I will send the letters so you can set it up as a hiatus rather than a cessation." Haley hung up the phone and was still fuming when Carla returned from her job as a waitress at IHOP.
"Did you call the trust attorney, Haley?" she queried after removing her apron.
"Yeah, but he just confirmed what I thought already. I am going to have to get a job, because the trust won't pay through the fall even though this wait to begin is required by the University." Haley's frustration surrounding the situation began rising again as she explained it to her roommate.
"Well, Haley, you can just get a job through the fall then, and start using the trust again in the spring."
"Yeah I know Carla, but it still upsets me, I am going for a drive, I will see you later."
Haley was driving through the beautiful Texas countryside when she topped out a rise in the roadway and saw the house there in front of her in a curve in the road.
The site was located on a scenic vista that overlooked a beautiful wooded valley in the Central Texas hill country. The beauty afforded by the panoramic view, made Haley feel it would make a perfect Bed and Breakfast once it was restored. The house was dilapidated and in bad need of restoration, but could be put back in good shape with diligence and effort, a little 'sweat equity' she reasoned. Haley wasn't afraid of the work the place would require.
Actually, she looked forward to putting some of her education to good use. She had no way of knowing the sweat equity that she would have to put into the place would include placing her soul on the betting table every time she played a hand.
The sign with the name of the realtor hanging on the fence was so weathered it was hard to read the information. Haley garnered what she could, then drove into the nearby town, and went through a phone book to try to determine what business was listed on the sign. When she called the realty company she thought matched the weathered wording on the sign, she was met with an almost cool reception.
"Heart of Texas Realty." A young male voice replied to the ringing of the phone.
"Hi, yes, my name is Haley Baxter, are you the agents for the house out on 388 about 5 miles east of Rockville?" Haley queried.
"Yes, we are." Was the reply.
"Can I arrange to get a tour of the property?"
"I can't schedule that, but I can have the broker contact you if you are interested. She is the only one who handles that property and I am not at liberty to schedule her time."
"Do you know what the asking price is?"
"Miss Baxter that property has been on the market for nearly ten years and an offer has never been tendered on it. The price is being renegotiated at this time, and I will have to have the broker, Mrs. Abbot, call you."
"Thank you, I can be reached at area code (204) 696-3654. Please have the broker call as soon as possible." The frustration of having received so little info was apparent in her voice.
"I'm sorry miss that I couldn't give you more info, I will see Mrs. Abbott gets the message as soon as she comes into the office." The young agent rung off the line.
Haley immediately began two efforts. First was to find a job, and second was to research the place. She had to have a job anyway, but now in light of an apparent altering of her plans for the immediate future, it was much more significant. She decided she wouldn't put too much effort into the research on the house, figuring there must be something wrong if the property had been on the market so long without an offer ever being tendered. She would soon find out why.
Dressed smartly in a tailored suit, Haley entered the high rise and went to the tenth floor. She signed in to see Mrs. Cooper the Manager for Human Resources at Jacoby & Jacobs Architectural Design. They had eagerly agreed to interview her after hearing of her academic credentials when she inquired about the job in the classifieds. Haley had no trouble finding the job. Her education coupled with a demand for those in her chosen field made the first ad she responded to a spot on match.
A smartly dressed lady with an Ichibod Crane-like scarecrow thin body approached her as she sat in the reception area of the human resources department with the completed application on a clipboard in her lap.
Haley stood and held out her hand to greet the approaching lady.
"Yes, I'm Haley Baxter."
"I'm Cheryl Cooper, director of human resources, please step into my office. Would you care for some coffee or a water or anything?"
"No ma'am, I am fine, thank you."
The interview with Mrs. Cooper was generic and brief, and then she was taken to the office of Jason Jacoby, a partner in the firm and interviewed by him. His questions centered around the types of architecture she enjoyed, and though mildly technical, she got the impression he was more interested in seeming to make an effort, than in actually making one. When the interview concluded after only about 15 minutes of 'shooting the breeze' more than anything else, Haley thought she had said something wrong and had lost the job when Mr. Jacoby summoned his secretary to escort her back to the reception are of human resources.
A few minutes later Mrs. Cooper came and led here back to her office.
"Miss Baxter, Mr. Jacoby was impressed with your academic achievements, as well as, with your architectural interests. He feels you would be an asset to Jacoby and Jacobs, and has authorized me to offer you a position as architect."
Haley was surprised at the ease with which she had been hired as Mrs. Cooper slid an offer letter across the desk at her.
"Sign this and we can discuss your starting date."
Haley quickly glanced at the letter still a little stunned things had gone so well, and hastily picked up the pen Mrs. Cooper offered and signed the document, not really reading it.
"Mr. Jacoby has authorized a starting salary of $38,000 per year with full benefits to begin immediately, with no waiting periods. He has also authorized a signing bonus of 50%."
Haley was aghast as Mrs. Cooper laid a check for $19,000 on the desk in front of her. The pay to the order line filled in with her neatly typed name.
"Today is the 16th of June, you can start on Monday, July 7th. We see no need in starting immediately before the Independence Day holiday, so you can start the Monday after. The dress code is business casual so you can wear slacks if you like. No jeans, even designer jeans, except on Friday, which is casual day. We will need for you to attend an Orientation on one of the three Thursdays between now and then. Just notify my secretary of the day you would like to attend."
"Thank you Mrs. Cooper. The generosity of Jacoby & Jacobs is a bit overwhelming. " Haley stammered out her gratitude as she retrieved the bonus check and folding it carefully placed it in her small handbag.
"I will attend the Orientation this Thursday."
"Just advise my secretary as you are leaving.
As Haley left Mrs. Cooper's office she advised the secretary seated just outside the door of her plans to attend orientation the following Thursday.
"Welcome to Jacoby & Jacobs Miss Baxter." The secretary acknowledged as she jotted Haley's name into a day planner with a label across the front that read Orientations.
Haley had not only garnered her a job at a prestigious architecture firm, but a nice starting salary in the upper 30's and a signing bonus of half that amount.
She found the Orientation the following Thursday basically a waste of time. The benefits of the company were explained, and the dress code reiterated, both items covered already by Mrs. Cooper the day of the interview, so other than filling out the requisite W4 tax form and the I9 Immigration status form, it was a waste of a morning as far as Haley was concerned. Being young, retirement and medical benefits plan details didn't really interest her.
She soon found herself bored sitting around the apartment while Carla worked. Her new job with Jacoby & Jacobs wouldn't start for another two weeks. So she decided the research on the house and property wouldn't hurt her if the house turned out to be ok after all and the requirements at restoration were why it hadn't ever had an offer tendered. She would just have a head start.
Haley performed her due diligence on the property in her excitement before talking with the realtor, even though she had told herself she wasn't going to spend much time on that aspect of her plans to purchase the house until after she toured the house and talked with the broker to find out why it had never had an offer tendered. The job had been necessary to see her through the coming summer and fall semester while she awaited the start of her doctoral program in the spring semester.
She sat at the dining table in the small apartment her and Carla shared, the end of the following week and spoke of the results of her research.
"The local legends are the house is haunted, Carla. The original family all met unusual deaths, according to the newspaper accounts I was able to locate. The father, Christian Johansson, fell from the roof, a three story fall and broke his back on hitting the ground. If that wasn't enough, an ornament on the gables, a horned gargoyle, was apparently knocked loose and he fell on it, impaling himself." Haley recounted to her friend as they ate dinner.
"Why would anyone put a horned gargoyle on the roof?' Carla queried.
"The family was Swedish and fairly new immigrants apparently and the gargoyles were brought from Europe. The newspaper accounts are that the family had worked in a gypsy circus before immigrating and the gargoyles were apparently memorabilia from that experience."
"Even still, why would you want them decorating the exterior of your home? I mean really horned gargoyles! Becoming impaled probably serves him right for putting such hideous things on his roof." Carla quipped, not nearly as unfeeling as it might have sounded.
"Maybe he had come to his senses and was taking them down when he fell. They were European so how would we know why they were up there to begin with. I don't recall seeing them as still there now, so he must have fallen after they were removed. That is where it gets strange, too. " Haley remarked.
"He had been a tightrope walker in the circus and had worked high steel in New York City before coming west according to his daughter after the accident. The death certificate listed his death an accident, but the police reports called it a possible suicide, after the daughter protested he was no stranger to heights and wouldn't have fallen to his death.
The newspaper account says he told her as he lay on the ground dying, that before he fell he felt someone push him." Haley continued.
"Both the daughter and the mother protested he would not have committed suicide, and since the police found no evidence of foul play and the house was empty at the time except for the mother and daughter in the kitchen, the coroner had no choice but to list it a suicide/accident."
"Weird. You said they all died of unusual circumstances, what happened to the mother and the daughter?" Carla queried, obviously interested now, in the events her friend was depicting.
"The mother, Chirsty Johansson, drowned in the water well on the back of the house. The daughter, who was only 17 at the time, was allowed to stay in the house until what would be child Protective Services today came for her to place her in foster care until she turned 18. They found her burned to a crisp on the side of the house. She had apparently tried to burn the house down and had only succeeded in burning herself up. The can of coal oil she had tried to use was laying there too, and the house had black soot on the walls, from the attempt."
"Sounds like a basket of fruitcakes lived there." Carla replied, standing to take her dishes into the kitchen, returning with a dish of ice cream.
"You keep eating like that Carla and you are going to blow up like a blimp, girl." Haley commented at her friend returning with the dish overflowing with the chocolate ripple treat.
"At least I won't get impaled by horned gargoyles." Carla quipped humorously returning to the subject the two had been discussing.
"The newspaper accounts say the local Indians advised the Johanssons the property was a burial ground for the marauding Comanche tribe led by Ten Bears, and that anyone who lived on it would face the wrath of the Indian spirits and Gods."
"Sounds reasonable and like they knew what they were talking about." Carla pondered.
"It is so much hooey Carla. Spirits and ghosts are poppycock."
"Yeah well, how else to explain it?" Carla asked.
"You don't believe in ghosts do you Carla?"
"Not really, but they are a good 'scapegoat' explanation if you don't have another. If they all died, who owns the house now?"
"A third cousin on the mother's side, a John Bjork. He is the one who has it on the market."
"Why does he want to sell it, do you know?"
"No the broker hasn't called back yet, that is one of my questions for her."
"When do you think she will call you?"
"I don't know, she should have returned my call by now. I may need to call again or just give it up. I think the view from its promontory over the valley and the architecture of the home would make it an ideal bed and breakfast though. So I don't really want to give it up."
"Watch yourself Haley." Carla injected.
"You know how you get tunnel vision at times and can't see the forest for the trees. The investment of both time and money in this project could prove damaging if you go off on a crusade to succeed and it doesn't materialize."
"I know Carla, I have thought of that, but I also know if it does succeed, I can set myself up for life." Haley quickly countered.
She hadn't heard from the broker, so she called the real estate office a few days later and the broker was in. When she queried why the broker hadn't returned her call, the ladies reply was polite, yet simple.