When Tara Reed inherits her grandmother’s house, she shudders at the ugly lawn ornaments she finds, one which is even politically incorrect. Although she plans to eventually get rid of them, she decides to leave them until her friends come for a visit so they can all have a laugh. Little does she know there’s much more to these statues, and to her family, than she can imagine. When the sheriff, Jake Tyler, tells her the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s death, she begins to wonder if there’s something strange going on at her house. When her friends come for a visit, Tara realizes they are all being hunted by something supernatural. Tara and her friends fight for their lives in this tale of magic and horror. Will any of them survive the creatures that have been brought to life by one man’s selfish purposes? Will the sheriff be able to save Tara, or will she have to depend on herself for survival? Find out in this chilling story of terror, friendship, and love.
Her first impression of the property when she pulled up in the driveway was “tacky”. She stopped her 10-year-old Pontiac Grand Am in front of the house and got out of the car. Looking around, she realized she’d need to make lots of changes made after she moved in. She knew her grandmother had been a little eccentric, but this was ridiculous.
Sitting right beside the stone walk leading to the front door was a hideous garden gnome. It looked like it was made of painted concrete and was much larger than those she had seen before. And what was that over there beside the oak tree? A lawn jockey! How politically incorrect could a person get? That was going to be the first thing to go.
Tara climbed the steps to the small front stoop and opened the door with the key that her grandmother’s attorney had given her the day she found out she had inherited the house. She had been shocked. She knew she was the least favorite of the grandchildren, mostly because she didn’t adhere to “the rules”, which said she had to have a real eight-to-five job and bring home a regular paycheck. Her grandmother frowned on her lifestyle, insisting she should have grown out of the starving artist stage a long time ago. It didn’t matter that she was talented and would, hopefully, someday make a good living on her paintings. It would just take time. Tara wondered if her grandmother’s disapproval was partly because she was more like her grandmother’s twin sister, Sophie, who had died at a young age. Sophie had also been a painter, and her grandmother hadn’t approved. Or maybe she was really just jealous. Anyway, she was grateful for the house because she had been on the verge of being evicted from her apartment for nonpayment of rent. Along with the house, she had been given an allowance that would pay for the utilities and upkeep of the house, but not much more.
She sighed as she looked around the drab living room decorated in mostly browns and tans. It hurt her artist’s eyes. But things could be changed when she began to make more money. The house felt damp and too warm, so she turned the thermostat down, and the air conditioner kicked in. She looked around the house, peeking into the kitchen and dining area. She was surprised the appliances were almost new stainless steel. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
She went out to the car and got her bags before going upstairs. Glancing at the garden gnome, she gave a little shiver. ‘How ugly!’ she thought. She noticed that there was also a birdbath with a fountain that was spewing out water with a gurgling sound. She was surprised that it was actually hooked up to the electricity. It was almost as if her grandmother had just been here.
Tara lugged her bags up the stairs and then looked into the three bedrooms up there, deciding to take the largest one. Odd…it looked like this one was a guest room. She could tell which one was her grandmother’s because a lot of her things were still there. She was glad because she really didn’t want to stay in the room where her grandmother had died. How morbid that would be.
She looked outside and saw that it was getting cloudy and a little windy. The leaves were writhing on the tree limbs, some of them falling to the ground in the blustery current of air. She gave a little shudder, even though it wasn’t cold in the house. She opened up the window to the room she had chosen, and the breeze blew her long, black hair back from her face. She looked down into the back yard and saw that there were some lawn ornaments back there as well. She saw a frog and a giant dragonfly in the dried up flower garden. And there was a turtle in the corner of the small patch of ground that used to be a garden. She heard wind chimes, and looked toward the side of the house and saw several chimes of different shapes and sizes. Who was this person who had been her grandmother? Could she really be related to someone with such awful taste in décor?
Tara decided she needed to find something to eat. There wasn’t anything in the house yet, so she would have to spend money she couldn’t really spare to go out to a restaurant. She unpacked her bags and put everything in the closet and the drawers, and then went back out to her car and turned the key in the ignition. The engine made a whirring noise, but didn’t turn over. Oh, great, now I’m stranded here with no food. She tried a couple more times, and the engine started on the third try. She breathed a sigh of relief and took off down the driveway.
Tara slowed the car when she got into town and looked around, trying to decide where to eat. Wasn’t there a Taco Bell or something so she could get something cheap? The town was probably too small to have any good fast food chains. What kind of name was Road’s End anyway? She was almost to the end of the main street when she spotted a sign that read “Aunt Rosie’s”. How original. She pulled into the lot and turned off her engine, praying that it would start back up again when she left.
She walked into the diner and every head turned to look at her. It was so quiet she could almost hear her own heartbeat. Ignoring the stares, she slid into the nearest booth and picked up the menu that was wedged between the salt and pepper shakers and the ketchup. She saw there was a decent priced cheeseburger listed.
“What can I get you?” asked a waitress that had appeared by her table. The woman had tired looking eyes and was wearing way too much makeup, but there was a pleasant smile on her face.
“I’ll take the cheeseburger and a Coke, please,” said Tara.
“Want fries with that?”
She really was hungry. “How much extra are they?”
“Well, since you’re a brand new customer, they’re on the house,” said the waitress. Tara saw that her name tag said “Janice”.
“Oh, I couldn’t let you do that,” Tara protested.
“Nonsense,” said Janice. “We have to show visitors that we’re a friendly little town. So, are you just passing through?”
“No, actually, I’ve moved into my grandmother’s place. She left it to me when she died. It’s the house up on the hill a few miles past the south end of town.”
Janice gave her an uneasy look. “Mrs. Tanner’s place?”
“Yes, that was my grandmother.”
“God help you, child,” said Janice as she walked away.
Tara frowned. What in the world was up with that? Was there something wrong with her grandmother’s house?
Janice brought Tara her order, put it down quickly on the table, and hurried off as if she were afraid that Tara would try to question her about her reaction to the mention of her grandmother’s house. Which she would have, of course. Tara decided to let it go and chalk it up to the eccentricities of a small town. She bit into her cheeseburger and gave a moan of delight. It had to be the best burger she had ever tasted. And the fries were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Even though Janice had made her feel strange, the food was worth it.
When she was finished, she left a good tip, even though she couldn’t afford it, and went up to the cash register to pay. A gray haired lady with kind brown eyes took her money. She smiled at Tara and said, “I’m Aunt Rosie. Welcome to our little town.”
“I’m Tara Reed. I’ve moved into….”
“Oh, I know where you live, honey. You can’t keep secrets in a small town like this. I want to apologize for Janice’s behavior. It’s just that some funny things happened up at that house. But I’m sure everything will be fine.”
“What? What kind of funny things?”
“Now, don’t you worry your pretty little head over things like that. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Well, I wasn’t afraid…at least not before.”
She turned and walked out of the diner, shaking her head at the peculiarity of the people in this town. She got into her car and turned the key. The engine wouldn’t start. Drat! She tried several times. Frustrated, she got out of the car, slammed the door, and kicked the front tire.
“Is something the matter?”
She turned and saw an attractive man in his early thirties wearing a sheriff’s uniform. He was smiling at her and she blushed when she realized he had seen her little temper tantrum.
“My car won’t start,” she said.
He held out his hand. “I’m Sheriff Jacob Tyler.”
As she shook his hand, she studied the tall, lean man. The blond streaks in his light brown hair seemed to glow in the bright sunlight, and his blue eyes sparkled as he looked back at her.
“Nice to meet you, Sheriff.”
“You can call me Jake. You must be the lady who moved into the Tanner place.”
“Yes, Mrs. Tanner was my grandmother. My name is Tara Reed. I’m sorry to inconvenience you, but is there any way you can help me?”
“It’s no inconvenience, Ms. Reed. Pop the hood and let me take a look.”
“Thanks. And call me Tara.”
“Okay…Tara,” he said with a grin.
Jake messed around under the hood and then he said, “Try it now.”
The car started up on the first try. “What did you do?”
“Oh, I just wiggled a few wires. But you need to have a real mechanic look at that car. There might be some things that need to be tightened up or fixed. You don’t want to get stranded.”
Yeah, like she could afford that. “Thanks, Sheriff…Jake.”
“No problem. It was nice to meet you, Tara. Maybe I’ll run into you again sometime and we can have lunch at Aunt Rosie’s.”
“That would be nice. Thanks again.”
Tara closed the door and drove toward home.
When she got back to the house, she decided to give the house a thorough once over. As she passed the garden gnome, it looked almost as if it were watching her. This thing really creeped her out. She reached out to turn it around to face the other way and realized it was heavier than she thought. This one was really made of concrete. She tugged on it a little harder.
“Ouch,” she exclaimed as she jerked her hand back. She looked at her finger incredulously as she saw a tiny drop of blood well up and start dripping onto the ground. She looked closely at the gnome and saw a little pinpoint sized spot of blood on the face. But try as she might, she couldn’t see a single thing that could have caused her injury. The surface of the concrete was smooth as she ran her hand cautiously over it. Something about touching the garden gnome made her feel slightly nauseous, so she turned away and hurried up the steps of the porch and let herself into the house.
She looked in the bathroom cabinet drawer and found a small Band Aid to cover her little wound, and then she started exploring. She made her way into the front living room and looked around at the furnishings. She was going to have to liven up this room. Maybe all it needed was a few colorful pieces so she wouldn’t have to change the furniture. She couldn’t afford to do that yet, anyway. Maybe someday when her paintings started to sell. She was having them shipped to her here and she hoped the freight company would be careful with the crates she had them shipped in.
She moved back to the den and was a little more pleased with this room. It was cozy with a comfortable looking sofa and chairs in a charcoal gray. The coffee table and end tables were cherry and were in good shape. And there was a fireplace! She would love to sit here before a crackling fire sipping tea and reading a romance novel.
She went upstairs to see if she could find a room with good lighting for her painting. She found the perfect one, a small unfurnished bedroom that contained a lot of boxes. There was an east facing window so she could paint in the morning light, which was her favorite time of day to create her art. She was curious about the boxes, but that could wait. She needed to check the bathroom adjoining her bedroom to make sure that the hot water was working, the toilet was flushing, and all that important stuff.
She went into the bedroom she had chosen as her own and found sheets in the closet to put on the bed. There was a beautiful patchwork quilt in there, too, and she decided to put it on the bed. She was pleased to find that the pillows seemed almost new and were nice and plump. After she had made her bed and checked out the surprisingly modern bathroom, she felt like she was settled in. It was time to call her best friend, Camryn.