Dare To Tell

by Tara Fox Hall

Urban single woman Jean Bane denies her dreams and ghostly visitations of impending death until a horrific active shooter event clarifies the messages as portents. In the aftermath, more ghosts visit Jean, saving her yet again in a car accident and asking for her to “come to Evergreen Hall”, to “bring it to justice”. Dreading their requests for aid, Jean ignores the ghosts and tries to go back to her former life. But after ghostly interference saves her life a third time, Jean leaves her boyfriend and friends for the small town of Blodgett Mills, to help restore the old estate called Evergreen Hall.

The new owner Carlton Fairhaven IV, real estate developer and recovering alcoholic, has grand plans for the family property, including transforming it into a bed and breakfast capitalizing on the Fairhaven family’s colorful history while downplaying the double series of murders of young girls decades before. But the crumbling mansion has ghosts of its own, many of which have witnessed or committed murder. When local young women began to go missing as they did ten years prior, Jean must decide if she dares to expose the hidden truth that has long festered within Evergreen Hall.


Chapter One

The man lay where the explosion had thrown him, the folded body shaking all over slightly, as if from cold. But the skin on his blistered fingers was smoking in the chill afternoon air. I reached out to touch him, horrified. He feels like warm, wet cotton fabric. A melted strawman…

Jean woke with a gasp, her first breath a ragged moan. She began to cough, drawing air in rapidly, then bolted out of bed and ran to the sink, scrabbling for the faucet handles. She slopped some water into a glass, then drank it down. It wasn’t real. It was a dream. It didn’t happen.

Returning to bed, she grabbed a pen and notebook by the side of the bed, then made some notes. White barn with peeling paint, one story. Two sheds to the back, making a courtyard of sorts, with a flatbed truck in the middle that didn’t run. I was making a fire on the flatbed of the truck, to burn up old bales, but got distracted. The phone was ringing. The man had stopped by, I looked out and saw the whole truck was on fire. I yelled at him he was too close. I was just opening the door when the gas tank blew, knocking the guy off his feet, his face still surprised. The flatbed of the truck is slammed up against the barn side. It hangs there for a moment burning, then the metal frame collapses back leaving just a few flames. “He was still alive,” she said aloud, finishing the notation and putting aside the pen and paper. “Another night, another horrific dream. Another note in my book of night horrors, and no end in sight.”

She got dressed, then fixed breakfast, still thinking. Your therapist told you to write down what you dream, to understand what you’re afraid of that keeps haunting you. You have to give it time.

Jean drove to work still debating her dream. She was just sitting down in her cubicle when a coworker Stephan came up behind her. “You look like the cat dragged you in.”

“Thanks a lot,” Jean snapped, tossing her purse in her bottom drawer. “Good morning to you, too, Stephan.”

“Sorry, I’m just concerned for you.” His expression was sympathetic. “I can’t deal with the old hag by myself, or the constant customer calls.”

The phone in Jean’s cubicle began to ring, insistent. “You were saying?” Jean said, reaching for the phone.


* * *


Jean sat bolt upright in bed, breathing hard. It was just a dream. A weird dream, sure, not real. Stephan’s ex-wife was in an accident two years ago. She turned on the light, then dutifully grabbed her pen and paper.

She was here in my bedroom, asking me to save her daughter. I couldn’t remember her name. She just kept saying the same thing over and over. “Save Angel. Save her from what?”


* * *


“You really should take some time off,” Stephan said, as he grabbed his coat and turned off his computer. “Old Grippe herself can’t argue that you need a good long weekend.”

“I can’t sleep, or I nightmare,” Jean admitted bluntly, turning off her own computer. “I don’t have any energy for anything anymore, Stephan. I’m lucky I live in a one-bedroom apartment with no pets and no dependents. I turned to therapy as a last resort and it’s not helping either.”

“Do you want to come out to the craft fair this weekend?” Stephan offered with uncharacteristic shyness. “Angel’s been looking forward to it all week. There’s supposed to be pony rides.”

“You’ve got the sweetest little girl,” Jean said, managing a smile. “But I really should spend the time job hunting. I meant to stay here at Spotlight Marketing only for a few years after college. Instead, it’s been five. I’m never going to get out of my one-bedroom apartment if I don’t put in some resumes.”

“You’re just vested, remember?” Stephan said. “Unlike me, that’s got another year.” A shadow passed over his face. “I was supposed to put Katheryn through school, then she was going to support us when I went to school. Instead, some drunk driver kills her a week from graduating. Then I find out she was planning to divorce me for her classmate.”

“I’m sorry,” Jean murmured. “You’ve had a raw deal.”

“We both have,” Stephan said gently, resting his hand on hers. “Your fiancée left you with no real explanation.”

“Don’t remind me,” Jean said lightly, pulling her hand away. His mention of his ex-wife had brought back her dream, and the pleading eyes of the ghost. Katheryn, that was her name. “Where’s the craft fair again?”

“At the Middle school gymnasium, tomorrow 10-5. We planned to go right when they open, stay an hour or two, then get a late lunch out.” He held out his hands. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Okay,” Jean said, immediately wishing she could call it back. Dating a coworker—because this was a date—was not a good idea. “How about I meet you there?” I can say I was sick and just not show.

“Great! Look for us near the pony rides!” Stephan paused for a moment, as if he might try to hug her, then left.


* * *


“Stop!” Jean shouted, waking in bed again. She turned on the light, then reached for her pen and paper.

A hand shot up and gripped hers, nails digging into her flesh as a head popped out from under the bed, the scalp askew and bloody, one eye hanging out on Katheryn’s face. “Save her!”

Jean woke with a scream, then carefully peered over the edge of the bed. Nothing was there. She lay back, breathing hard. Another dream of Katheryn asking me to save Angel, really two, counting that fake wake up at the end of the first. “What am I supposed to save her from?” Jean shouted, then pounded her pillow in frustration. “Why are you haunting me? We weren’t friends! I didn’t even know your name!”


* * *


Jean walked through the throngs of people, doubting again her choice to come after all to meet Stephan and Angel. I can’t take care of myself, I’m not ready to be a mother. She saw Stephan by the pony rides and made her way over to him. “Hi.”

“I wasn’t sure you’d make it,” Stephan said, his face breaking into a smile. “Hi.” He gestured to a little brown-haired girl. “This is her third ride.”

“It’s good she’s having fun,” Jean commented, watching the little girl beaming as she rode the pony around in a circle.

“There’s not much here,” Stephan murmured dismissively. “We’re probably going to take off soon. Did you want to join us for lunch?”

“Sure,” Jean said, again wishing she could bite back the words. She forced herself to smile. You need a little time off with people. Stop being such a hag, you’ll end up like Mrs. Grippe, a perpetually miserable woman who annoys everyone around her. “Where did you want to go?”

Stephan murmured something, but Jean ignored him, doing a double take. On the other side of the ponies, standing across from her, was Katheryn, her scalp still askew, eyeball hanging out, and her eyes pleading, looking from Jean to Angel, then back again.

I’m not dreaming. I’m awake.

“Jean? What is it?”

I’m awake. This is real.


Jean pushed under the rope barrier, then ran to the pony Angel was riding.

“Miss! You can’t be in here,” the ticket woman shouted.

Jean stopped the pony, the other riders protesting, one toddler starting to wail.

“Jean, what are you doing?”

“Get her down!” she said, turning to Stephan. “Hurry!”

Stephan looked at her for a second, then grabbed hold of Angel, lifting her down from the pony’s back. Angel began to throw a tantrum.

“You can’t leave the ride in the middle!”

“She’s my daughter and I’m taking her,” Stephan shouted, then hefted a crying Angel out of the rope barrier. Jean followed, her face flaming, aware of all the hostile stares from everyone around her.

“You want to tell me what just happened?” Stephan said, in between trying to comfort Angel, who was now pouting.

“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” Jean began, “But I saw—”

Shots rang out. Screams followed, then more shots. Stephan grabbed Jean’s hand and both of them started to run. They were at Stephan’s car, just getting in, when the first police cars streamed into the parking lot, officers jumping out with guns drawn. Stephan floored the engine, going over the grass, and onto the street.


* * *


“What happened?” Jean said, when they pulled up at his house and were safe inside.

“Angel, go play in your room while I heat up dinner,” Stephan said.

“I don’t want her to stay!” Angel said, then ran out of the room.

“Sorry,” Stephan said, as he turned on the stove. “She’s spoiled. And she doesn’t understand you saved her.”

“We don’t know what happened,” Jean said evasively.

“I know shots plus police response usually means an active shooter,” Stephan said, getting out some eggs. “I hope you like omelets.”

“Anything you want to make,” Jean said, sitting down at the kitchen table. “Your place is nice.”

“It’s single man bare bones with toys all over,” Stephan replied. “But thanks. Now, do you want to tell me how you knew something was going to happen?”

“Well, your dead wife came and warned me in dreams, and then she was on the other side of the pony ride, warning me at the craft fair.” Jean braced herself for a challenge.

“Thank you for saving Angel,” Stephan said, chopping up some vegetables and mixing them with the egg.

Jean blinked at him. “Aren’t you going to say anything else?”

“My daughter is alive and pouting in her room, and other kids maybe aren’t,” Stephan said, tossing in a handful of broccoli. “Why don’t you turn on the news or google the fair? They should have a preliminary report, if nothing more.”

Jean whipped out her phone, thumbing buttons. She put it down ten minutes later, her face white. “A man tried to kidnap his two kids, who were at the fair with his wife, her boyfriend, and her dad. He killed the two men, wounded the wife, and several other parents getting one of his kids. He shot several people who tried to intervene before the police got there. Several bullets went wild, killing one of the children riding, and wounding the pony it was on.”

“I thought of Katheryn as a bitch for so long,” Stephan whispered. “It’s good to know she gave a damn about Angel, even if she didn’t give a damn about me.”

“You believe me just like that?”

“I was there, I heard the shots. I’m safe and my daughter is safe.” Stephan gave her a grateful look. “I really don’t need to understand anything else.”


* * *


That night, Jean was afraid to go back to her apartment, but she forced herself to. You did what she wanted you to do. It’s not like she’s going to be lying in wait like a ghost spider. She looked around her apartment carefully, but nothing was out of place.

It was a long time before she got to sleep.

The next morning, Jean went into the bathroom, relieved at having no dreams. When she turned on the bathroom light, she let out a screech. Thank you was written in lipstick on the mirror in disjointed block letters.


"Dare To Tell" by Tara Fox Hall






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