The Case of The Phantom Portrait Part 1

Emily Ryan: Housekeeper

The Case of The Phantom Portrait Part 1:

Bitty Knows the House

By Hasil McCoy

Emily and Bitty walked home from the Gypsy. The Gypsy may not have been the most well-stocked market, having overpriced-generic everything, but what it lacked in options, it made up for in logistics. The Gypsy Market was the perfect meeting point for Bitty coming home from the gym and Emily coming from the library, a meeting that happened more days a week than not.

The two girls walked together for a bit. A bus drove by and both Emily and Bitty waved, not seeing who the driver was, but assuming that it was Bull, the usual driver on this route.

Bitty, as usual, started talking. “You work, like all the time Em. Weren’t you supposed to have a car by now?”

Indeed, Emily was supposed to have a car, or at least that’s what she said she was working toward. She was eighteen and had been saving for two years, but cars were expensive, and so was rent and food.

“Yeah, I’m getting there. At least I’m saving, how close are you?” Emily asked, pitching it back to Bitty.

“I’m waiting for a sugar daddy.”

“Good luck with that.” Emily knew Bitty was kidding. It wasn’t uncommon that people mistook Bitty’s pep and openness as flirtation. “I’m not sure the gym is where you find the smart rich ones… at least in our age bracket. And I don’t even want to know what bracket you are shopping in, so I’ll move on. I did get a new job that pays really good, in the old part of town.”

“Oooo, one of the big fancy ones in the First-Lows?” Bitty asked. The First-Lows was a term for the streets in the south-west part of town. First presidents, low numbers.

“Yeah the wooden one on 2nd and Jefferson.” Emily said proudly, knowing if Bitty knew the area, she knew the house, and knew it was a fancy one.

Bitty did know the house. “No… Freaking… WAY!”

“What? God, what now.” Emily said. It also wasn’t uncommon that Bitty had some sexual gossip or financial misfortune to report on about people in town.

“That’s the freaking house!” Bitty yelled, giving Emily a playful push.

“Which House?” Emily asked, not truly wanting to know.

“That’s the house that Mama-Bitty was molested in!”

BItty’s family had many weird habits. One was an odd excitement in the misery of others, family members included. The other was their names. It’s not uncommon to find generations of men all going by their last name, not so common for women. Bitty’s real name was Elizabeth Bitman. But, she went by Bitty, the weird part was so did the rest of them. Emily had never really figured out which Bitty was which. This “Mama-Bitty” that was molested could be anyone of three or four of Bitty’s family members, at least the ones Emily knew of.

“Molested? Molested by who?” Emily Asked.

“Okay, maybe just accosted.”

“Okay, accosted. Accosted by who?”

Bitty finally got the point and continued. “Well, she says she was attacked by demons and that the house is possessed, but we figure that’s just old-fashioned trauma-speak for being molested by a hobo.”

“Oh, that’s terrible.” Emily felt genuinely bad.

“It’s a crazy story though!” Bitty felt genuinely excited.

“How can a house be possessed? I mean haunted sure, But possessed?”

“Remember that movie we watched with Hyram? NIght of the Demons? In that movie, if the air was stinky, and then smelled like roses or something, then it was possessed, not haunted.” Emily said.

“What’s the difference?”

Bitty got in her best spooky stance, fingers up like a nosferatu. “The movie said that ghosts are the spirits of people who died… but demons, demons are spirits that have never lived… or something like that.”

“Great.” Emily said, her mind wandering to snacks, peace, and quiet.

“Yeah. You have to come over. She can tell it to you. She’s a creepy old chick too. You know, you’ve met her. They should call her Creepy-Bitty.”

Emily was not interested. “Oh I don’t… I don’t want to bother her. I have some reading to do.”

“Oh whatever, you just came from the library where I think people go to read. Also,  you can’t go into the demon house without being prepared! It would be reckless. Either way, I have that sweater I borrowed and you can get it back.”

This caught Emily off guard. “One, returning a sweater? Are we Betty and Veronica? And two, I didn’t give you a sweater?”

“One, I don’t know who Whozit and Veronica are, and two, I stole the sweater a few days ago. But if you come over and listen to my creepy Grandma I’ll give it back to you.” Bitty pleaded, batting her eyes.

“Uh… okay?” Emily agreed, not knowing how to respond to the odd request.

Bitty was pleased. “Good, my mom said I had to spend some time with Mama-Bitty today. Now you can do it while I get cleaned up.”

Emily had been duped.

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