A Man Of Many Talents
Deborah Simmons

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Shrieks, loud and shrill, echoed through the old hall, sending Abigail up from her chair in an instant. She knew they could mean only one thing.

The specter was out and about.

Hurrying in the general direction of the shrieks, now joined by the sound of running footsteps, Abigail entered the foyer just in time to see Mr. Wiggins, the prospective buyer of the property, rush past her toward the doors.

"Mr. Wiggins! Please, wait!" Abigail called, but the gentleman only glanced in her direction, his face pale, his expression one of absolute terror. Although she suspected there would be no reasoning with him, Abigail was not about to concede defeat.

"Mr. Wiggins!" she called again. Stepping outside, she gave chase, but encumbered by her skirts, she stood little chance of reaching the man at the speed he was going. Pausing to retrieve his fallen hat also slowed her, so that by the time she finally neared him, he was already climbing into his carriage.

Abandoning all decorum, Abigail flung herself at the window of the conveyance. "Mr. Wiggins, if I might have a word with you about the property," she said, a bit breathlessly.

"I have no interest in a - a haunted house!" he sputtered, out of breath himself. "Do you know what I saw in there?"

"Well, I gather-" Abigail began.

Mr. Wiggins cut her off. "It - it was a ghost, a disembodied spirit swooping through the air right towards me! Why, it nearly attacked me!" he claimed. No doubt, that explained his headlong flight from the place, as well as his shrieks.

Although Abigail tried, once more, to gain his attention, Mr. Wiggins turned his head away and shouted for his driver. She had just a moment to thrust the man's hat through the open window before the carriage rolled into motion, leaving her standing in the drive.

"He was not attacked! Why, what nonsense!" A female voice, sounding rather bemused, came to her ears, and Abigail turned to find her cousin Mercia behind her. The elderly woman had been giving Mr. Wiggins a tour of the house, but obviously was unable to keep up with him, for she only now reached Abigail's side.

"Sir Boundefort simply made contact with us," Mercia said. "It was quite thrilling! Why, Mr. Wiggins ought to feel privileged. I certainly don't know why he left so suddenly."

"And at such speed," Abigail said, dryly.

"Yes, he did seem to be in quite a hurry, didn't he?" Mercia said. "Perhaps he had some other pressing appointment."

No doubt, his next stop would be an angry meeting with her bailiff, Abigail thought as the vehicle carrying away her hopes raised a cloud of dust before disappearing into the distance. For a moment she was disheartened, but she swiftly banished the sensation. If only she could banish the specter as easily, she mused, and the thought gave her pause.

"This situation cannot continue," she said aloud. Unfortunately, today was not the first instance in which a grown man had run past her, out the door and away in broad daylight, but she vowed that it would be the last.

Ever since her arrival at Sibel Hall, Abigail had heard rumors of a mysterious specter, supposedly the spirit of some long-dead ancestor rising from his grave to make an appearance. The ghost, apparently manifesting itself as a wispy, white form, had already driven off most of the servants, the bailiff, and a previous interested party.

But the fright's reign of terror, or at least, its reign of annoyance, was soon to end. Abigail didn't care whether the thing was a relative or not, she was in desperate straits. She needed to sell the Hall, and she had suffered enough interference from its resident haunter. Any further dallying on her part would only result in the property acquiring an adverse reputation, making its eventual sale impossible. Therefore, she must act, before it was too late.

"What do you intend to you, dear?" Mercia asked.

Abigail's mouth tightened. Having already exhausted nearly all potential avenues to deal with the problem, she knew that only one possibility remained.

It was time for the Last Resort.