Home > Heir to a Curse

Heir to a Curse
Author: Lissa Kasey

Chapter 1

 

 

The weary ache of grief stretching through the cab of my truck as I drove up the long curving road toward the house made my stomach churn. Through the trees I caught a glimpse of the spires atop the mansion, remembering how the first time I had seen them I’d been struck with awe. Now, after hundreds of trips up the drive, it didn’t make my breath catch anymore, at least not until the left side of the house came into view, and with it a smoke and fire damaged husk of where I knew the kitchen used to be. Even that couldn’t override the underlying sadness over knowing she wouldn’t be there.

“Fuck, boss,” I heard crackle to life from my earpiece.

“It’s worse than I thought,” I told Jerry, knowing Mike could hear as they were both in the truck behind me. Happy for the distraction from my own self-pity, we were here for a job. Today was assessment day, among other things, but I focused on the mess at hand. Assess the damage, estimate repairs, and begin planning for construction.

“Really does look like a castle,” Mike added. “Damaged by a dragon or something.”

“You’ve been reading too many fantasy novels,” I teased him as I pulled my truck up along the circular drive just past the door. A man in a suit waited on the doorstep. He was an older Asian man, hair peppered white, rail thin, and shoulders squared. He held a stack of papers, a tablet, and I knew, despite the mask covering the lower part of his face, it would be kind rather than stern.

“Masks on,” I told my crew. I turned off the truck and reached for my mask, looping it over my ears and adjusting the nose guard for a perfect fit. My best friend Addy had gotten a group of fellow moms together to sew dozens of the things, specific to size, for my guys, with a fun choice of print. Mine was Legend of Zelda. I think Mike had Mario Bros., and Jerry, the Smurfs, today. Once the actual work began, we had construction masks for dust and paint fumes. These were for walk-throughs, assessments and social safety etiquette in the middle of a pandemic.

I got out of the truck, grabbing up my own tablet to make notes and heading toward the door. The slam of Jerry and Mike’s truck doors let me know they weren’t far behind.

“Mr. Yamamoto,” I greeted. “Happy to see that you look well.”

The edges of his eyes turned up, letting me know he was smiling beneath the mask. His was more of the surgical type of thing than the fun medical grade ones with filter pockets we had. “And you, Mr. Frank.”

“Zach,” I corrected. “Always Zach.”

“Of course,” he said, though I knew he’d never use my first name. It wasn’t his way.

“These are two of my best guys, Mike Hartford, he’s my plumbing guy, and Jerry Mitchell, he’s my electrical guy. I thought I’d expedite things by bringing them along to assess the repairs.” I pointed out each of my men. Mike, a big black man who knew more about pipes than anyone I’d ever met, and Jerry, a tiny Latino man who had a gift for finding problems and fixing them even when no one else could.

“I have copies of the fire chief’s report,” Mr. Yamamoto said. “Let me show everyone in, and then you and I can go over paperwork while your men are looking over the damage?”

“Sounds good,” I said.

He opened the door and motioned us inside. We followed and I heard Mike and Jerry’s awe as we entered the foyer. The inside front hall of the house had one of those double staircases, wide and extending through both sides of the room. It was the sort of thing meant for balls and elaborate cocktail parties where a princess caught a glimpse of her prince for the first time. The whole house looked like something out of a movie rather than real life. However, I knew it had never been the fairytale mansion the family had hoped for.

Through the door to the left, in the side of the stairway wall, was the kitchen. The back of the house, on the first floor, I knew to be a sprawling dining room and living area large enough to entertain a royal family or emptied to become a ballroom.

Mr. Yamamoto opened the side door to the kitchen. The damage was worse than I thought. Fire had eaten away a lot of the sidewall, all the cabinets and appliances, and a good portion of underlayment of the floor, leaving it all unstable and dangerous to walk on. We all huddled just inside the doorway.

“Wow. I thought they said it only burned twenty minutes or so,” Jerry said.

“Yes,” Mr. Yamamoto agreed. “However, the fire chief said it burned really hot.”

“No idea what started it?” I asked, though I’d already reviewed a lot of the information provided after the fire.

“Unknown, possible accelerant, though none was found, possible wiring error, though again, none was found. The origin of the fire could not be determined,” Mr. Yamamoto said. He handed me the fire inspector’s report. I took it and handed it over to Mike. The two of them would go over it with a fine-tooth comb.

“Can you two start a workup while I go over paperwork?” I asked them, though unnecessarily. “Get me some measurements so I can order cabinets.”

“On it, boss,” Jerry said.

I motioned to Mr. Yamamoto to leave the kitchen and we stepped back into the foyer. He shuffled through a handful of papers. “Everything is signed and transferred,” he began.

“I heard from a cousin of hers,” I said. “He’s not happy.”

“Not his choice.” Mr. Yamamoto handed over the stack and a set of keys, each with a colored fob on the end. “Ms. Yang wanted the house and grounds to go to you. I believe her words were that her family had been ‘cursed with it for too long.’”

“She did mention a curse,” I said. Actually when I’d first met Sofia Yang almost twenty years prior, she had said that she was cursed. I’d been in my early twenties, and newly out of trade school, looking for a chance to make my way. She’d offered me work. And we’d created a lifelong friendship based on long conversations during those construction periods over the years. “She thought I might be able to break it.”

Mr. Yamamoto laughed a little. “She was an optimistic woman.”

“Right?” I agreed. “I think the curse was something about true love breaking through the shadows of the past or something. Sounds storybook-ish, and I’m a little old for true love.” At almost forty-five and still single, I doubted there would be some magical kiss to save us all. It hit me then, not for the first time, but just as painfully, that she was gone. Taken not by the virus raging across the country, but by cancer. I sucked in a breath and briefly had to fight back tears. “Sorry,” I said automatically, a little embarrassed about getting choked up.

“Nothing to be sorry for, Mr. Frank,” Mr. Yamamoto said. “I know the two of you were close. That is one of the reasons I never disputed her changes to her will. She wanted you to have the house. She thought you would finally bring it to the glory it was meant to be.”

“I can repair it, but we both know the history,” I said.

Mr. Yamamoto nodded. “Something always goes wrong. Fire. Water damage, storm damage. It’s why they whisper of ghosts and curses.”

“Or really bad luck. What about the house staff? Are they still staying here? What are they doing about no kitchen? Should I call out for food?” I wasn’t even sure I could. The house wasn’t exactly near the city. Buried in the woods of upstate New York, with only a single, long, winding road, it was meant to be a retreat, first for the family, and later a bed and breakfast for nature lovers and hikers. Neither had happened. Too much unrest. No sooner would construction finish than something else would go wrong, from more property damage, to deaths in the family.

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