“Voices in the Coalbin” from Death Wears a Beauty Mask by Mary Higgins Clark
This was a great one.
Mike and Laurie met, married, and life was good. Mike a junior partner in his father’s law firm and Laurie a well-known soprano opera singer. They had a nice home which they were decorating.
But then that all changed. Every night she has the same nightmare, these people trying to take her and make her sing with them. She is afraid of everything and everywhere. She was raised by a hypochondriac, abusive grandmother who tried to have her fear everything. Laurie tried to break it, but it looks as of it has a firm grip on her.
Her therapist told Mike that it would be nice to go away somewhere. So he decided that they should go to his grandparents cabin in Milwaukee. Mike has all these great memories from his childhood but when they get there is it all gloomy and dark. It turns out there is a cold storm overhead.
They start looking through the house trying to sort what they might want from the cabin before it sells. As they search through the closets, Mike finds an old Victrola. He winds it up and starts playing Chinatown. A song that Laurie remembers from childhood.
Laurie freaks out when she hears it
And it turns out that her grandmother used to play that sing and she told her the voices were trapped in the coalbin. Laurie never went in the basement and coalbin ever again, and she still hasn’t since.
The two go down to the coalbin, Laurie feeling strong. And then the two go to bed.
The next morning Mike wakes up happy, and sees that Laurie is gone. He searches everywhere but the last trace was Laurie’s footsteps in the basement.
They find her body, she drowned in the river. But when they do the autopsy they find coal dust.
And later, when Mike is going through the house again-he listens to the Victrola-and hears Laurie’s voice on the record.
Great story, great ending.
For more from Death Wears a Beauty Mask, go toDefinitely, A Crime of Passion
For more Mary Higgins Clark, go to Stowaway
For more short stories, go to Zero Hour