“Can you tell me about your roommates?”
Elsa laughed. “I’m not going to tell you any of their secrets. Or mine.”
My employer nodded. “That’s fine. I’m just looking for a general overview of who lives here. Can you list them for me? With no secrets, of course.”
She leaned back. “Well, you’ve met Mary. She brought you into this, right?”
“She came to see us last night. Apparently the… ‘mysterious’ events around here had been getting worse?”
“More threatening, not more mysterious.” She made a face. “Somebody has been coming into our house, at night, and leaving weird footprints and threatening messages and stuff like that. The mystery is who it is, and why. It’s not anything… occult or anything like that.”
“So, I gather you’re not one of the people who advocated bringing in a ghost hunter?”
Elsa rolled her eyes. “I don’t believe in ghosts, and I don’t believe we have a ghost, and, even if I did believe we had a ghost, I wouldn’t believe Manfred would be qualified to hunt down anything other than a free drink or a gullible female.”
“Who was in favor of calling someone in — who did believe that you have ghosts?”
“It was mostly Kim, at first. I thought she was kidding, but then the weirder things got, the more insistent she became, and the more the others started to go along with her — at least to think it was a possibility. She did a bunch of research about the history of the house, but I don’t remember the details.”
“Kim. I don’t believe we’ve met her.”
“She wasn’t home last night. She spent the night with her…” She made an awkward face.
“On the island?”
“Oh, no — at the college.”
“Okay. So, there’s you, and Mary, and Kim. And we’ve met Jo, and the woman who was with her, the taller woman.”
“And Becky, who’s pre-med. Who did the examination of the body.”
“Becks. She’s around somewhere.”
“So, that’s six in all. And four of you were here last night, in the storm.”
“And how long have you lived here?” my employer asked, lighting another cigarette.
“I’ve been here the longest, of the girls who live here now. I’m a junior, and I’ve always lived here, in the house. I… My parents both went to Claremont, and I knew the area, and as a legacy I got a good deal on tuition, but the dorms…”
My employer nodded slowly. “They are not designed for wheelchairs.” She frowned. “Thinking about it now, there are steps and curbs and…”
“It’s an obstacle course. One of my classes is in a building where I have to have a classmate come and open the back door for me — it’s the only way I can get into the building. And one of my classes was moved… Anyway, you get the idea. But this place is a dream. The previous owner broke his leg once and he had ramps put in everywhere. They even took out all the thresholds.” She gestured at the three steps down from the deck to the muddy path beside the house. “On the ground floor, those are the only steps anywhere.”
My employer looked up at the second floor. “How many bedrooms are upstairs?”
“Five — three across in the front and two in the back. Or so I’m told.”
“The ones in the front are smaller?”
“Yes — they were for the children, I think. The back on the right, up there, is the ‘master bedroom’ — or whatever it’s called when there’s no master in the house — and the other one is around the same size as the ones in the front. The ‘master bedroom” is the only one with its own bathroom.”
“It must get pretty chaotic up there with four girls sharing the one bathroom.”
Elsa laughed. “Not my problem. I have the littlest bedroom, off the kitchen, but it has a little bathroom of its own. Sometimes one of the other girls comes down to see if they can use it.” She shrugged. “Sometimes I let them, and sometimes I don’t — depends on my mood.” She grinned.
Elsa looked at the table in the middle of the deck, which currently contained one apple and one banana. She looked at my employer, and then at me. “Have you eaten?” she asked. “Why didn’t we invite you to join us when we were having breakfast?”
My employer smiled. “I really couldn’t answer your second question.” She shrugged. “We are, after all, interlopers, not guests.”
“Well, you were invited, right? Mary invited you — that makes you guests.” She looked at me. I attempted to appear stalwart and well-fed.
She gestured in the direction of the kitchen. “Would you like something to eat? Or maybe some coffee?”
I gestured at my employer, and she smiled. “Some coffee would be very welcome. We were up rather early this morning. And something to snack on would be pleasant, if that’s possible.” She gestured at the fruit on the table. “In addition to the fruit that someone liberated earlier.”
Elsa headed off toward the kitchen. I thought of offering to help, but it was her home and I didn’t want to imply that she couldn’t manage.
I moved my chair around to face my employer, and she looked up at the sky. “Please keep track of the time today, by the way,” she said, “and make sure you know exactly when the island will be cut off from the mainland. I do intend to sleep in my own bed tonight.”