Pitcher Plant: A Pacific Northwest Suspense
Melissa Eskue Ousley
Publication date: May 12th 2017
Genres: Adult, Suspense
When Tawny Ellis spots a run-down fixer-upper on the Oregon coast, she and her husband jump at the chance to own a cottage near the beach. But as the expensive repairs turn their dream home into a nightmare, their marriage unravels. And worse… something is lurking in the house’s dark past.
Tawny’s daughter has a new imaginary friend that bears a striking resemblance to a little girl who squatted in the house with her drug-addicted mother. These illegal tenants have been missing for years.
The house’s previous owner is enraged with Tawny, the same way he was with the squatters. As he stalks her family, Tawny suspects that she knows what happened to the last people who slept in the house. Her family might be next.
I was falling in love with this fixer-upper, but before we made an offer on the house, I had to check out the basement. I clicked on the light and stepped over the threshold, into darkness. Floating dust motes filled the air, dancing in the flashlight’s beam.
The room before me was expansive, running the length and width of the house. On one end was a wooden stall for firewood, still stacked with logs. They’d come in handy if we restored the fireplace, though I didn’t look forward to cleaning off the cobwebs covering them. The other end of the basement was stacked with junk and garbage, similar to what we’d encountered upstairs.
Everything was blanketed with a thick layer of dust. My nose was stuffy—all the dust triggering my allergies. I made a mental note to take an antihistamine when I got back to the car. Otherwise I’d be paying for this excursion tonight, when my sinuses were too clogged to let me sleep. I just hoped there wasn’t any mold down here. I’d heard horror stories from my neighbor about getting mold removed from her home. The procedure had been costly, and if we got this house, it’d cost us enough as it was.
I ventured a little deeper into the basement, shining my flashlight on the pile of junk. I could make out an old wooden trunk. Did that come with the house? Maybe I’d clean it up and use it for a coffee table.
The beam of my flashlight fell on a tattered ragdoll. The doll’s fabric face and its light brown yarn hair looked dingy. Its flower print dress was dotted with rust colored stains and black flecks. The flecks looked like rodent feces.
There was a rustle to my right, and I startled, swinging my light toward the sound. Given the state of the doll’s dress, I thought it might be a rat.
Suddenly the air was thick with flies. I clamped my mouth shut as they flew toward my face, waving my arms madly to keep them away. They crawled in my hair and buzzed in my ears, and I bit back a shriek. The beam of my flashlight flickered as I used it to swat the flies. I shuddered at the thought of it going out and having to find my way back to the stairs in the dark.
I stumbled back toward the corridor that led to the door of the basement, trying to see through squinted eyes, the cloud of flies, and the dying light of the Maglite. As I reached the passage, the buzzing sound eased, and the flies began to drift back to whatever attracted them to the basement.
I dared one last look, directing my beam to the offending corner of the basement. The dirt floor was carpeted with insects. Flies and other crawling things, though I was too far away to tell what they were. There seemed to be a small lump on the floor that attracted their interest. A dead rat, most likely, but there was no way I was going back to find out.
Melissa Eskue Ousley is the award-winning author of The Solas Beir Trilogy, a young adult fantasy series. Her first book, Sign of the Throne, won a 2014 Eric Hoffer Book Award and a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award. Her third book, The Sower Comes, won a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Her fourth book, Sunset Empire was released as a single book and is also included in the bestselling Secrets and Shadows box set, a young adult collection. Melissa lives on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, and a piranha. When she’s not writing, she can be found walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.