Clarissa didn’t make eye contact with anyone as she travelled down Hallow’s Alley, and she ignored the gossip that brimmed in the near distance as she passed through. She was determined to get productive tasks done today, and she knew she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate if she got into another contentious exchange! It was very hurtful to get blamed for the atrocities she strove to prevent, but it also grew quite maddening to constantly point out the truth to those who were willingly blind to it! It would only deter her from saving the afflicted to continually listen to their ill opinions, so, in an effort to do what was right, she decided to shut her eyes to the unflattering actions that befell around her! She couldn’t help having some awareness of the proceedings though, and she used it for extra motivation to get the answers she needed to put a halt to Alastor’s sinister plot as soon as possible!
When she walked into a building labeled as The General Post, Clarissa saw three men twiddling their thumbs behind the counter, but after they noticed her presence, they all ran out of her range of sight! She walked up to the counter and waited for a least one of them to return. When none of them did, she exasperatedly sighed before calling out, “Excuse me!” She could see a few people sorting out letters and a couple of individuals pouring over some notes by a wooden hand press, but no one even glanced up at her when she reached out to them! More loudly, she repeated her same line, “Excuse me!” Everyone maintained their imperviousness to her. She nearly used the employee entrance to retrieve what she needed for herself, but then…
“Sorry about that, Miss Harbin!” an older man came out from the back and merrily greeted her. “You know how hectic it can get when you’re the only post for miles! So many farmers need to come in and use our services… Anyways, enough about us! How can we help you?” He had given her an unusual amount of friendliness, which Clarissa could only have assumed stemmed from a fear of incurring her supposedly supernatural wrath! She found that to be a cumbersome new development, but regardless of his motives for the camaraderie that he provided, she was glad to have assistance in this matter and intended to use any benevolence that came her way to her advantage!
“I need some information,” Clarissa let him know. “It’s for… an unusual subject…”
A flicker of fretting traipsed across his face upon hearing this revelation. “You don’t say!” he tried to cover his nervousness as he chuckled. “What… What sort of subject would that be?”
Clarissa hesitated. He clearly already feared that she would probe into a subject related to dark magic, and if she relayed the topic of her request to him, that would have probably only encouraged the ridiculous rumors against her! She reminded herself that the sole route out of the defamation against her character was to collect more clues about the dilemma, so she resigned herself to the fact that this was going to cause more chatter about her true nature and asked the fellow, “What can you tell me about ghosts?”
Evidently, the entire facility had been eavesdropping on their conversation because, all of a sudden, their activity came to a screeching stop! When they became cognizant of her awareness regarding their movements, they resumed their conduct as though nothing had happened. The gent at the counter politely answered her, “We have stories about ghosts, but they’re mere fairy tales!” He paused and added, “Right?”
“I wouldn’t know! I’m attempting to sort out fact from fiction myself! What do these narratives depict?” Clarissa inquired.
“Oh, there’s a variety of accounts describing many different experiences!” he replied somewhat edgily. “Was there something more specific you were after?”
Clarissa queried him, “Is there anything in these books that explain how to get rid of evil spirits?”
The man obviously found this question strange, and even though it seemed to haunt him a bit to do so, he mulled it over for a minute. “None of the anecdotes mention any individuals expelling the specters from a certain area! Most of the encounters result in the persons involved moving out of a house or diverting from a particular sector, no one has ever thought about removing them! Who wants to stick around a place where such spooky incidents occurred?”
“Well, what if they don’t have a choice?” Clarissa posed to him. “What if they have to stay in their abode but they don’t want to keep the ghost around?”
“Why would somebody inhabit a residence that a ghost has chosen to set its roots?” the man puzzled.
Clarissa told him, “I doubt anyone would choose to live with a spirit! The spirit chooses them!”
The man wondered, “Why do specters suddenly opt to deal with the victims that appear to be randomly chosen? Or is it so random? What do they do to invite such horror to their quarters?”
“That’s the ticket, isn’t it? How do ghosts come about at all?” Clarissa deliberated. “Souls die every day, but most do not linger in the physical world once their bodies have expired! So, what makes these select few remain on Earth?”
“Hmm… That sounds like something to bring up with Pastor Absalom!” The man gazed at her as though he hoped that his suggestion would tempt her into vacating the premises.
Clarissa conveyed to him, “I adore talking to Pastor Absalom! I’ve known him most of my life, and he’s always been a great aide when I’m in need! However, at the moment, he’s nursing a painful injury, so I can’t discuss this with him at the present, which is a problem since I need a solution immediately!” The man shrugged at her, so she rather bristly appealed to him, “Can you give me all the literature you have on ghost lore then?”
The man obliged, “Absolutely!” As he gathered the material for her, he commented, “You know, so few women know how to read that it feels kind of funny to loan out books to one!”
After Clarissa retrieved her accoutrements, she retorted, “A lot of funny occurrences have transpired in our borough recently, Mister Basker- I hardly think that a lady with a reading ability is so noteworthy after enduring that!” Mister Basker didn’t have a response to that, but as Clarissa took her exit, she could hear that he had a lot to chat about with his peers!
As Clarissa traversed across the town square, she kept her head held high to maintain the premise that the miscreants at The General Post had not succeeded in ruffling her feathers, but privately, she was outraged! She had done nothing wrong to warrant such mistreatment- all of this suspicion was based on unfounded opinions! She strove to ignore the ignorance, but when she had to approach the perpetrators of this drama directly, it made her furor flare! She despised that so many people’s vitriol had swayed their sense of logic and propelled them to unjustly target her! It was completely unfair! She could feel passersby staring at her as she travelled by the church, but she did not engage with anyone who may have been a part of that garrulous circle. She couldn’t! With her white-hot temper brimming just beneath the surface, she knew that if she allowed anybody else to get under her skin, she would have wound up acting like the witch they accused her of being!
When Clarissa passed by The Golden Nook Brew, she intended to zip past it with as much haste as she could muster in order to avoid the loudmouth named Elmira who dwelt within its walls, but then she heard a crash emanate from within the coffeeshop that compelled her to pause! She truly believed that another one of Alastor’s lethal attacks was underway, so she steeled herself up to intervene! In the precise instance that she inwardly grumbled about these assaults occurring on a daily basis, she beheld a horrific scene, but no the one she had been expecting! Gabrielle was cowering on the floor as Oceanus was repeatedly smacking her! “How dare you behave so clumsily!” Oceanus bellowed. “Don’t you dare waste my money again!” Clarissa couldn’t stand to see a woman who had been so nice to her receiving such unfair pain and misery, and she was ready to unleash her animosity on that reprobate, but before she could set foot on their property, a more permanent remedy to this issue popped into her thoughts! She swiftly scurried to her dwelling to prepare for her scheme…
Oceanus sat down at a table in his café slightly winded, but he picked up his composure when he detected the sounds of a visitor. His face fell when he realized that the entrant had been Clarissa! “Oh, it’s you. Have you come to apologize?”
“Better! I’ve come to do business with you!” Clarissa plopped a considerably sized sack of coins onto the surface in front of him, and she smirked at the level of animation that swept over his face as she presented her offer- she could tell it would prove hard for him to refuse her preposition!
“Have a seat,” he begrudgingly invited her. Once she had situated herself in a chair across from him, he petitioned her, “What are you after? A share of my inventory, I presume? I must warn you, I don’t fancy the concept of endorsing a rival! Although, your enterprise has been pretty destitute of customers, so I suppose that it wouldn’t hurt to permit you access to my ware!”
Clarissa almost found it amusing that he adopted the assumption of her lacking practicalness prompted her to buy stock for clients that she didn’t have, but she refrained from bringing up any tidbits that might repel him. She did need to allude to something along those lines to make her case to him though, so as politely as she could, she canvassed him, “Has commerce stayed steady for you this past month, Mister Montgomery?”
Oceanus’ expression soured upon that reference, but he immediately wrangled a smooth veil for his agitated emotions, “Ah, you know how it is! Profits fluctuate quite frequently! May I examine the contents of this purse?” She gestured his admittance to him, and Clarissa could see through his nonchalant guise- the authenticity of her payment pleased him! He glimpsed back at her and affirmed, “This seems like more than enough for a small slice of my warehouse! Are you aiming to buy me out?”
“No, I’m aiming to buy her out!” Clarissa indicated to Gabrielle, who had been covertly perched behind the coffee bar. Clarissa didn’t know who looked more surprised by her proclamation- Gabrielle or Oceanus!
“My dear, my laborer is not for sale…” Oceanus refused out of perplexion.
Clarissa anticipated a little resistance, so it did not daunt her at all. “Everything is for sale if you name the right price!” Oceanus still seemed reluctant, so she scooped up her coinage and began to set it back in her satchel. “Well, perhaps this brewhouse is doing well enough that you don’t need this capital…”
Oceanus’ visage grew distressed as he watched her bag distance itself from him, and prior to Clarissa’s departure, he relented, “Alright! You’ve got a deal!”
“Splendid!” Clarissa grinned and resumed her previous position.
“Pardon my leave while I draw up a bill of sale,” Oceanus regarded Clarissa.
Clarissa informed him, “Actually, I have one here!”
Oceanus raised an eyebrow at this, but he didn’t see any cause to not accept it. As she signed the document, he conversed, “I can imagine that running your tavern would be taxing to take on alone, but are you busy enough that you truly need assistance?”
“My late husband left me a considerable fortune, and it’s mine to do with as I like!” She handed him her quill and willed him to make this arrangement official, and thankfully, he did! He returned the paper and the pen to her, and she bade him, “Pleasure transacting with you!” He curtly nodded, and then she directed Gabrielle, “Come along!” She cautiously followed Clarissa out, and when Clarissa esteemed that they were out of earshot of Oceanus, she dove into her satchel and handed Gabrielle a piece of parchment.
“What’s this?” Gabrielle peered at the sheet.
Clarissa proudly notified her, “Your release! Gabrielle, you’re a free person now!”
Gabrielle gazed at her in disbelief. “What?”
“Here’s your reparation!” Clarissa handed her another sack of money that she stowed in her bag. “Buy yourself some property and live a lifestyle of your own choice!” It slowly dawned on Gabrielle of her improved status, and she stared at Clarissa with extraordinary gratitude! But before she could thank her…
‘You snake!” Elmira shrieked. “You took away our property for no real reason! You only meant to inconvenience us!” Clarissa aspired to protest against her accusations, but soon, several witnesses to this spectacle chimed in with their own criticisms! She couldn’t get a word in edgewise! She observed Gabrielle clearing away from the tumult, and she decided to do the same.
Clarissa had never been more grateful to return to her empty house! Both of her plans failed miserably, and while earlier, she held such high hopes of moving ahead, she bitterly denoted that she appeared worse off than ever! She began to solace herself with the acknowledgment that circumstances could have been far less favorable- at least she didn’t have to contend with that vengeful spirit! Suddenly, she tripped and tumbled by her front stoop! Prior to her having the ability to pick herself up, her fingertips touched something cold…