Excerpt from Bad Memories

“Have you seen the exhibit yet?” Kell asked. “It hasn’t opened to the public, but you know Alistair over at the Lowcountry Museum pretty well. I figured he might have given you an early pass.”

I shook my head. “No, but I heard that the exhibit was in the works,” I replied. Kell led us through the partially-completed displays. I saw glass cases with soldiers’ uniforms from the First World War, military gear and weapons, and medical equipment that would have been used when the building was a hospital. In other displays, I glimpsed letters, official documents, photos, and journals, and off to one side in an alcove was a small movie screen for video.

Near the entrance, a large plaque held the text of a famous poem about the war’s casualties lying beneath fields of poppies. And in every room, artists had brought their own interpretation to the theme, with paintings, sculpture, and textiles of red poppies.

It looked like a great exhibit, except for the warning prickle that raised the hair on the back of my neck. I glanced at Teag, and he gave a nod, showing that he felt the power, too.

“There have always been rumors about the old hospital being haunted,” Kell said, comfortable in his role as tour guide. Elsewhere in the building, I could hear carpenters and the sound of power tools as the workmen finished up for the evening. A few museum employees locked up the display cases they had been working on and gathered their things.

“I’ll close up,” Kell said as the construction workers came downstairs. They nodded and headed out, and suddenly the old building seemed too quiet.

“As I was saying,” Kell began, and just then, we heard someone coming down the stairs from the second floor. Teag and I turned, expecting another workman, but no one emerged from the stairwell. When we turned back, Kell gave us a knowing smile.

“Spooky, huh?” he said. “This kind of thing has been going on since the museum decided to renovate the building for the exhibit. Footsteps. Cold spots. Glowing orbs. Lights that turn on and off by themselves, and doors that open and close. Oh, and at least two different ghosts that look real enough people have tried to talk to them,” Kell added.

“Was that why they called you in?” Teag asked.

Kell shook his head. “Nope. Museum folks are used to a fair amount of ghost stuff. Comes with the territory. But then, things escalated.”

I peered up the empty stairwell when we passed, but no one was in sight, and I repressed a shiver. My right hand went to the agate necklace I wore, grounding myself by touching the protective gemstone. Around my left wrist, I wore a stained and worn old dog collar, wrapped a couple of times and buckled. It belonged to Bo, a golden retriever of mine who passed beyond the veil a couple of years ago, but whose spirit remained close as a loyal protector.

Kell led us into one of the small rooms toward the back of the building. It had exposed brick walls that still showed the wear of more than a century. On one side, a World War I-era metal hospital bed had been set up with a mannequin dressed like a wounded soldier lying beneath a military-issue blanket and sheet.

In the middle of one wall hung a display of old-time photos, and when I looked more closely, I saw that they were all doctors who had served at the Navy hospital. A similar photo display showcased the nurses assigned to the hospital during the First World War. And on the far wall, a somber document listed the names of all the soldiers known to have died in the hospital during World War I.

A glass case stood over to one side, shattered as if someone had given it a good kick.

“Your ghost did that?” I asked.

Kell nodded. “My folks are pretty sure it’s a different spirit than people have reported before. There’ve been sightings of a woman in an old-fashioned nurse’s uniform walking down the hall. She disappears halfway down the corridor, always in the same place. Then there’s an older man in a long jacket who walks from room to room. We think he’s a doctor, still making his rounds. Those two have never hurt anyone or bothered the exhibits.”

“What about the patients?” Teag asked. “Did any of them… stay behind?”

As if on cue, we heard the clatter of a metal pan hitting the wooden floor. A moan sounded from somewhere upstairs.