61, Rosebury Avenue
Written by MM
This work was last updated October 8, 2020
Sometimes, someone just finds you. And sometimes, that person becomes your family. It can be that person you puked on during a party that became your best friend. Or the lonely neighbour who shares your passion for beetles. Maybe a ghost haunting your room.
That is what Agrippa Friend found when she moved into 61, Rosebury Avenue with her parents. Standing at the foot of her bed, the ghost suddenly appeared out of thin air to stare at her with contempt only old ladies could muster. And that lady looked very old indeed, something straight out of the 19th century.
“My name is Elsbeth Hawkins, and I have been murdered in this very house, in this very room. Investigate with me, find the murderer, or I shall haunt you.”
It was not the first time Elsbeth Hawkins appeared in front of an unsuspecting human. She had made that very reasonable request to every proprietor of her old room. At first, she had asked politely. When that failed, she had turned to bargaining, and after hearing too many ludicrous offers, she had resolved to threats. Nothing had yielded results yet, and she was growing restless, thus causing poltergeist in the house frequently.
But Elsbeth needed not worry this time; Agrippa was a simple girl. Her personality consisted in hating her name, loving her parents, and devouring detective stories.
“Sure, sounds fun,” the girl replied, already thinking of how she would create the raddest blog on Tumblr to document the search, complete with mood boards to set the a e s t h e t i c s.
On the very first night their search began, asking Google such things as what to do with a corpse or how to hide a body, or finding an excellent article depicting the 10 Best Ways to Kill Someone. The Internet was truly a magnificent source of knowledge, thought Elsbeth, while Agrippa prayed to not see the police at her door.
After much research since they both had a lot of free time (Elsbeth because she was dead; Agrippa because she never did her homework), they had completed their own Crazy Wall–or Agrippa had. Spanning two walls, one with a full map of Ottawa filled with pins noting potential body locations, and the other listing possible suspects ranging from family to neighbours to that dreadful Margaret from book club, Agrippa’s wall was a work of art. Sadly, all this passion went to waste when the criminal himself walked in mere days later.
It was Agrippa’s father who opened the door to the stranger, a certain Peter Cross. After a teary declaration on how this was his dear Nana’s home and wishing to see it one last time, Agrippa’s parents let him in. They loved dramas and this one seemed straight out of a movie.
Sitting while sipping tea, Cross babbled for an hour about the house, how lovely it was still one year after the disappearance of his great-grandmother, until suddenly, he marked a pause.
“Would it… Could… Excuse me, I’m about to make a very strange request,” he finally said. “Would you sell me the house, please?”
Uneasiness settled over the living room. Elsbeth, who had gone to Ghost Land to inquire with “old friends” (she had never explained to Agrippa how it worked), chose this time to reappear. Her eyes grew wide as they fell on the portly man. Something seemed to click inside of her. Facing each other, Agrippa could see the vague resemblance in the nose shaped like a hawk. But where Cross had a face like butter, Elsbeth’s was all lines and intensity. Glaring down at him from her four feet seven inches, she looked immense and murderous.
The temperature dropped into a foreboding chill.
“You cumberworld, pathetic excuse of a human being!” Elsbeth muttered, advancing towards him. A shame Agrippa didn’t have a camera to record this incredible poltergeist incident. She would have become famous, first to prove without a doubt the paranormal. Instead she was forced to hang on the sofa as it rattled angrily like a bucking horse.
“Sell you the house? Over my dead body, over my corpse! I should have known as soon as I saw you, with your face looking like an arse! You loiter-sack, you leasing-monger!” The window exploded with her outburst. She was spitting ghostly spit on his face, but the poor chap could feel nothing, see nothing except the chaos destroying the living room.
Finally, the house quieted, and the temperature returned to normal. Elsbeth replaced her skirts in a most mundane manner. “Excellent work, Agrippa. We found him. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a murder to plan.” She promptly turned around and climbed the stairs.
“We’re very sorry, Mr. Cross,” said Mrs. Friend, shaken. “We understand where you come from, but we are quite happy with the house and have no intention to sell it.” The last part sounded more like a question.
“I understand,” he replied as shakily, “It was an unreasonable request. Thank you for your time.” And he left as if death chased him.
“Brainstorm time!” said Agrippa, showing her new essential tool for an investigation: a white board.
They could think of nothing.
Suddenly, Elsbeth clapped her hands. She pointed at Agrippa with a satisfied smirk. “We fabricate evidence.”
Agrippa looked at her in horror. “That’s terrible!”
“No shooting down ideas during brainstorm time; your rule,” Elsbeth reminded her. Agrippa ignored her and went on, “First, we don’t have the material or the knowledge to make it look convincing, and second, that’s a crime. What about me, huh? What if they arrest me?”
“Maybe…” She twirled her marker pen in her hand. “Maybe we can call the police. I tell them the whole story, they interrogate Peter Cross, they find something and voilà! crime solved.”
“Child, nurses will shove pills down your throat until you hallucinate for real.”
Agrippa gasped. “What if this is an hallucination?”
“You are a bit late with that realization, sweetie.”
They did try to call the police at a public phone. To avoid possible consequences. Which turned out like the best idea they had had yet when a tired receptionist answered with “You think I’m stupid? Listen girl, you try another prank call and there will be cons–” Agrippa hung up before hearing the rest.
They were researching hypnosis at 2 am when they heard a strange sound coming from outside.
“Did you hear?” Agrippa asked.
“Before you accuse me, I must tell you ghosts don’t break wind.”
“No, it sounded like a clang.” Just as she said it, a muted clang resonated, followed by a curse.
They peeked through the window. A shadow shifted in the darkness of the night. Hurrying without making the old floor creaked, they made their way down to the kitchen, where Agrippa grabbed a pan.
“Stop making a ruckus!” whispered Elsbeth.
“I need something to defend myself. Not everyone has the luck to be immaterial.”
“Why not a knife, then?”
“I want to knock them out, not injure myself. First-timers with a knife usually cut themselves.”
Agrippa had abysmal grades, but unparallel knowledge about everything involving crimes. Late at night after another useless day in their investigation, she consoled herself by thinking that at least, if she failed in becoming a police officer, she would probably make a good criminal.
Squinting her eyes in the dark, Agrippa crept towards a glint at the end of the backyard, heard a repetitive, muffled sound, and before she could wonder about the nature of the sound, got a mouthful of earth directly in her face.
Shocked, she spit back clumps of grass. When she looked up, the clouds parted and the moon highlighted the figure: it was Peter Cross, a shovel in hand.
Agrippa screamed, dropped the pan on her toe, screamed a pitch higher. Cross launched at her, two hands on her neck, squeezing, squeezing. As she was dying, Agrippa sobbed. She would never know find how the Sopranos ended, after years of avoiding carefully any spoilers. What a wretched world this was.
Before she could see her life pass before her eyes, the pressure against her throat released, and Cross fell to the side with a grunt. Pan in hands, Elsbeth looked like a vengeful grandmother on a killing spree.
She spit on him. And this time, the spit materialized and landed right in his eyes. This did not defeat him, however. He got up with a growl, ready to fight, but stopped dead in his tracks when he saw his opponent.
“Impossible. I-I killed you, I know I did,” he was mumbling like a mad man, like someone who had seen a vengeful ghost. “Your body, it’s there! You’re dead!” he shrieked, gesturing at a mound behind him.
“You can’t kill me, ungrateful child,” Elsbeth said, and knocked him out cold with the most elegant swing of the pan.
Both ladies stared at his motionless body. Agrippa rubbed her sore neck.
“What was he doing?” she asked.
“Moving my corpse,” Elsbeth replied, emotionless.
Further away, something white gleamed through the shadows of the hole. Agrippa almost fainted, but she didn’t. Future police officers could not faint. And Elsbeth would mock her endlessly.
“I should call the police,” Agrippa said. Elsbeth nodded but none of them moved. They gazed, transfixed, at the stain of white. Sadness washed over Agrippa like a cold tide, leaving her empty.
“This is goodbye, then,” she said.
“Aren’t you going to do the ghost thing? Like, burst with light, remember what a good life you had, say a moving speech and then join your husband and children in heaven?”
Elsbeth frowned. “He had a face like Peter. Suffice to say I do not miss him.”
“And I would not go to heaven.” Something else was meant there, but Agrippa did not get it. She stayed quiet.
“Go wash up, you are covered in dirt, it’s unsightly.”
Agrippa smiled. “You care too much to go, don’t you? Think I can’t do it on my own?”
“Child, I know you cannot do it on your own.”
Elsbeth nagged her all the way to the house, adding unnecessary comments during the phone call to the police, and stayed with her through the whole process, right until she went to bed.
Agrippa, like the strange child that she was, was not scared after the event. Rather, she was scared she would lose her friend, her snarky, mean grandmother figure.
The next morning was the happiest morning of all.