The first room Rick entered was open and spacious. It was like a porch, library and sitting room all in one. Three large picture windows flooded the room with light, providing a view of the cliff edge and beyond. Shelves along the walls were filled with stacks of hardcover books and magazines. Newspapers rested on a crystal-topped table. In the center of the room was a life-sized statue of a woman mending a fishing net that draped down from her hands. The fisherwoman gazed out at a fixed paint in the sea, a dreamy look on her face. Rick stared at it. Suddenly, she looked familiar to him.
“Nice room isn’t it?” asked Jason, appearing suddenly in the entryway.
Rick grinned. “Very,” he replied.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” Jason replied warmly. “Maybe you can help us find our way around-we still feel a little lost in all the rooms.”
They circled around the statue.
“Supposedly the previous owner insisted that this statue never be moved from this spot,” Jason told Rick.
“Really? That’s weird,” Rick commented
Jason shrugged. “I guess that was part of the deal, I don’t exactly know.” He added, “They say he was a little crazy.”
Rick nodded. “That’s what they say.”
Jason continued, “But I don’t see how he can have any say over what we do, now that he’s dead. I mean if he’s really dead…”
Rick frowned. “What does that mean, if he’s really dead?”
“It means that my brother has plenty of crazy ideas,” Julia’s voice broke in. She gave Rick a wry smile.
Though Jason and Julia were twins, their personalities were as different as the sun and the moon. Apart from the fact that one was a boy and the other a girl, Jason and Julia had the same light-colored hair, the same eyes, the same dimpled cheeks. But Julia was slightly taller and more athletic than Jason, as if she were in more of a hurry to grow up. And their minds-the way they thought about things-made them total opposites.
Julia plopped down into one of the armchairs near the statue of the fisherwoman. “I’ve been listening to Jason tell wild stories since we first arrived from the city,” she told Rick. “Father says he has an ‘overactive imagination’. Maybe someday he’ll write all his stories down and become famous.”
Jason blushed, embarrassed.
Rick sensed Jason’s discomfort. “I promise to read all your stories after you become famous,” he said with a smile. “But until then, do you think we could go exploring?”
Julia looked at Rick sharply. “You aren’t another explorer-type, are you?” she asked him.
“In a place like this?” Rick gushed. “Of course! Who wouldn’t be? I’d want to check out every room, every dark closet, find secret stairways and hidden trapdoors…”
Jason’s face lit up. “Can I tell you something?” he interrupted. “I think this house is…”
“Oh no! Please don’t start that again!” Julia protested.
Rick looked from Julia to Jason. “Go on,” he said. “What were you going to say?”
“I think this place is haunted,” Jason finished.
Julia squirmed in her armchair. “That’s right, folks,” adopting a voice like a radio DJ’s. “You’re listening to W-A-C-K-O, wacko on your radio dial! And the hits just keep on coming,” she joked.
Rick looked back and forth between the twins, realizing he was caught in the middle of an ongoing war between brother and sister. He considered how to answer without offending one or the other. He didn’t want to disappoint Jason, but he didn’t want to look foolish in front of Julia either.
The solution? Answer a question with another question: “Why do you think there’s a ghost?” he asked Jason.
“I’ve heard footsteps upstairs when nobody is here but me,” Jason explained. His eyes wide with and earnest. “But mostly, it’s a feeling. Just this weird sense I have about this house. Like there’s a presence watching us.”
“Oh please,” Julia groaned. “What will it be tonight? Chains in the hallway, screaming in the attic, or just furious flushing from the toilet?”
“Why don’t you ever believe me, Julia?” Jason complained. “I’m telling you, I heard footsteps on the second floor. I was downstairs. You were asleep. Everyone else was outside…”
“You have to know one thing Rick,” Julia interrupted. “Jason reads about this stuff all the time. Of course he hears ghosts. It’s all he ever thinks about-vampires, werewolves, zombies, and ghosts!”
Rick studies Jason. If Julia’s remarks upset him, you couldn’t tell by his face. In fact Jason wore a slight smirk, as if he enjoyed Julia’s comments. That’s when it hit Rick. It was like a dance the twins had been rehearsing for years. They knew every step, every beat. They had had this argument hundreds of times. Because…they liked it!”
“Jason thinks that Argo Manor is the home of a famous ghost,” Julia said, standing up and stretching. “Take a guess who it is.”
Rick felt a little shiver ripple through him. “Ulysses Moore,” he whispered.
Jason nodded. “Because he left something unresolved,” he said.
Rick looked at Julia. “What can I say?” she said with a shrug. “His elevator doesn’t run to the top. He’s got bats in the belfry. He’s my twin-and I love him-but he’s completely nuts.” And with that she swooped over and hugged Jason from behind.
Rick was still thinking about the ghost of Ulysses Moore. “Something unresolved,” he murmured. “Okay, let’s say that makes sense. I wonder what it could be?”
Julia’s eyes rolled. She plopped back down in her chair
“I haven’t figured that out yet, Jason answered Rick. “I need to learn more. “I’ve been in Kilmore Cove for less than two weeks. I don’t know this house very well yet.”
“No wonder,” Rick replied. “It’s enormous.”
Jason’s eyes twinkled. He had an idea. ‘Hey, let’s explore it room by room,” he suggested. “We can even make a map.”
“Oh what fun,” muttered Julia. “Hold on while I do the dance of joy.”
Rick paid her no attention. “I’d love to make a map of this house,” he blurted. “That would be fantastic! To be honest, I’ve explored this house practically every day-from the outside, that is. For me, it would be the greatest. Man, just being here with this statue and the books and you guys. All my life this place has felt like a magnet, drawing me here. Yeah, if you guys are up for it, “I’m all for exploring every inch of this place.”
Jason leaped up. “I’ll get some paper and a pen. Back in a second.”
He raced out of the room, leaving Rick and Julia alone for the first time.”
Julia looked out at the sea, washed with white-capped waves. “You never said whether or not you believe in ghosts,” she said. Her gaze fell on Rick’s eyes. Her expression became suddenly intense and serious. “My brother and I may be different, but don’t let that fool you. He’s my best friend in the whole world. Are you playing around with him, or do you really believe in this stuff?”
Rick leaned against the statue of the fisherwoman, which felt solid and surprisingly warm.
“My father used to say that ghosts exist.” Rick told Julia. He said that each of us has his own personal ghost. Everyone is haunted by something.”
Julia nodded. “So who’s your ghost?”
“He is,” Rick answered, his face turning hard. “My father. He died two years ago. And everyday he’s with me.”
They sat in silence, looking at the sea until Jason returned.