The Titanic Locket, p.1Suzanne Weyn
For my terrific readers. You rock!
WELCOME. You have arrived at the Haunted Museum. It’s a place where dreams are made — bad dreams! Ghostly phantasms float. When you least expect it, a hand grabs your throat. A jar falls and unleashes an ancient curse.
I opened the Haunted Museum many, many years ago. And I’ve been adding to its special displays for longer than I can recall.
Some say the museum has become a worldwide chain — just an entertaining fraud for the amusement of tourists.
Others see something more mysterious, more sinister within its walls.
Either way, no one escapes unaffected by what they find within the museum. The items that touch your hands will come back to touch your life in a most terrifying manner.
Take, for instance, the case of two sisters, Samantha and Jessica Burnett, who are about to embark on a cruise into a ghostly past thanks to a peculiar locket they first see at … the Haunted Museum.
Founder and Head Curator
THE HAUNTED MUSEUM
I CAN’T BELIEVE we just arrived in England and we’re leaving already,” twelve-year-old Samantha Burnett grumbled as she and her sister, Jessica, only eighteen months older, wandered the darkened halls of the Haunted Museum.
Their parents had booked the family on a cruise liner during the girls’ spring break from school. The Titanic 2 was a replica of the original Titanic, from the four huge funnels to the famous grand staircase. The Burnetts had come to England just so they could board at Southampton, the port from which the first Titanic had sailed in April 1912. This cruise would follow the exact route the Titanic had charted from England to America, with stops in France and Ireland.
With time to kill before their departure, Jessica had insisted on seeing the nearby Haunted Museum, located a block from the ship. “This brochure says they have a special Titanic exhibit. It will be educational. Maybe we’ll learn something cool about the Titanic.”
The word educational had worked its magic with their parents and they’d given their permission. “Be ready to leave as soon as I text you, though,” Mrs. Burnett insisted. “I don’t want to miss the boat!”
“We will,” Jessica had agreed.
Samantha had never been in a Haunted Museum before. But so far her impression was that it was a sort of cross between Madame Tussauds wax museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and The Haunted Mansion at Disney. In the front entrance hall alone, they’d seen a motion-activated talking skeleton dressed to be the pirate Long John Silver, a moldering mummy who bolted into a sitting position from his sarcophagus, the ax supposedly used by the infamous Lizzie Borden in 1892, and the alien who purportedly crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, back in 1947.
Deeper inside they came to a table featuring an amulet of a beetle encased in amber. “Wouldn’t that be cool to wear?” Jessica commented as the sisters stared down at it. She reached forward to touch it.
A female guard dressed all in black stepped abruptly out of the corner. “Please don’t touch!”
Startled, the girls clasped each other’s arms.
The woman pointed to the sign over the doorway. It was lit from behind by a small bulb.
DO NOT TOUCH ANY DISPLAY.
She then pointed to two more of the exact same signs arranged around the room.
“We get the point,” Jessica whispered to Samantha as they nodded.
“See that you do,” the guard insisted firmly.
The girls moved away quietly. “How did she even hear that?” Jessica whispered.
Samantha shrugged. “She gave me the creeps. Let’s leave.”
Jessica grabbed the sleeve of Samantha’s cotton sweater. “But there’s still forty minutes till we need to head back. Look, here’s the Titanic exhibit. Come on.”
Life-size mannequins, dressed in the fashions of 1912 — the year the cruise ship Titanic sank — stood in glass cases lit from within. Samantha read the names of the different figures: Molly Brown, American, philanthropist (saved); Benjamin Guggenheim, American, millionaire (drowned); W. T. Stead, British, journalist and publisher (drowned); Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Strauss, American, owners of Macy’s department store (drowned). Samantha stood back, taking in the apparel each mannequin wore: Molly Brown’s wide, feather-brimmed bonnet and parasol; Benjamin Guggenheim’s long-tailed jacket and ankle-high, buttoned boots; the pinned ascot worn by W. T. Stead; Mrs. Strauss’s beautiful print shawl and her husband’s rounded, black bowler hat.
“Look at this, Sam!” Jessica called, waving Samantha over to one of the life-size figures: a well-dressed man walking a dog with tightly curled fur. He wore a flat straw hat with a round brim and smoked a pipe.
Samantha brushed aside her dark bangs as she stooped to study the model of the Airedale terrier straining at the leash. “It looks so real.” She smiled up at her sister. “Cute dog, isn’t it?”
Jessica nodded. “This is John Jacob Astor,” she read from the information card glued to the case. “He was an American billionaire who went down with the Titanic.”
“And the dog is named Kitty!” Samantha read over her sister’s shoulder. “Oh, that’s funny.”
“It says here that John Jacob Astor opened up all the kennels before the ship sank so that the dogs would have a chance to survive,” Jessica continued. “No one is really sure if that’s true or not, though.”
Samantha thought about it a moment. “I hope it’s true. That was a nice thing to do.”
“I know you love animals,” Jessica commented, smiling.
Samantha gazed at their reflections in the case’s glass. Here in the low light she could see why people sometimes mistook her and her sister for twins. But Jessica was the outgoing one with the dazzling smile and quick laugh. Samantha was also friendly but didn’t quite make the same big impression as Jessica.
“See how our reflections are hovering right next to Astor?” Jessica noted. “We look like ghosts!”
“He’s the ghost, not us,” Samantha objected. Something about Jessica’s words had caused gooseflesh to rise on her skin. Maybe it was just the too-cold air-conditioning.
They continued on into another room and examined objects that had been salvaged from the sunken ship: eight hundred cases of shelled walnuts; five grand pianos; a fifty-phone switchboard; an ice machine from C Deck; a Model T Ford; sixteen trunks marked with their owner’s name, Ryerson; a cask of china dishes; a case of gloves from the Marshall Field’s department store.
“How big was this ship?” Samantha asked as she perused the seemingly endless collection.
“Huge,” Jessica answered. She was intently studying a case filled with jewelry that had gone down with the ship: diamond necklaces; sparkling ruby brooches; an emerald bracelet; gold earrings of various designs, including a drop pearl that shone moon-white.
“That’s a lot of bling,” Samantha commented as she came to Jessica’s side.
“Look at this silver locket. Isn’t it beautiful?” Jessica remarked. Samantha looked to where Jessica pointed at a table displaying the less valuable jewelry. The locket was closed and etched with a lily design. “I’m dying to know wh
Looking quickly from side to side, she snatched the locket from the display.
“Jess!” Samantha hissed under her breath. “Don’t!”
“I just want to see what’s inside.”
“We’ll get into trouble,” Samantha insisted.
In a flash, Jessica pried the locket open. Samantha peered over her sister’s shoulder to see. The pictures on either side were faded and chipped beyond recognition. “I bet the water did this,” Jessica whispered.
Samantha spied a figure moving across the room toward them. It was the woman guard who had scolded them before.
“Put it back,” Samantha urged her. “Quick.”
“What do you mean?” Samantha asked in a nervous whisper.
A look of alarm shot across Jessica’s face. “I can’t open my hand.”
The woman was getting closer. She was definitely heading for them. Seized with panic, Samantha slapped Jessica’s hand hard.
The locket fell, open, back onto the display table.
With a lightning movement, Samantha shut the halves closed. “Let’s get out of here,” she insisted, pulling Jessica with her through the first door she found.
Samantha kept one anxious eye on the door of the gift shop they’d hurried into. Was the woman coming in to scold them for touching the locket? The Haunted Museum seemed pretty serious about their no touching rule. Even the gift shop had signs that said: YOU BREAK IT, YOU’VE BOUGHT IT and DON’T TOUCH UNLESS YOU INTEND TO BUY.
The woman guard appeared in the doorway. Her eyes darted around the shop.
She was searching for them! Samantha was sure of it. Grabbing Jessica by the hem of her T-shirt, she pulled her behind a high display of plastic swords, replicas of those used by the murderous Attila the Hun and his marauding army. “We’re going to get caught. Why did you have to touch that locket?”
“I wanted to see what was inside,” Jessica defended herself. “You touched it, too.”
“Just to close it!”
“Well, she’s not looking for us,” Jessica insisted, peering above the sword display. The sisters kept low as they tracked the guard’s movements from their hiding place. It seemed like she was looking for something. They both heaved a sigh of relief when the guard left by a side entrance.
“I told you there was nothing to worry about,” Jessica said, stepping out from behind the sword display.
“Let’s get out of here before she comes back,” Samantha said urgently.
“She won’t,” Jessica scoffed confidently. “She’s already decided we’re not in here.”
“I hope so. Let’s go.”
“Not yet. I want to see what they have in the gift shop.”
Samantha sighed, not even bothering to argue. Jessica was crazy about gift shops, and Samantha knew they’d be there for at least another twenty minutes. She decided to make the best of it and look around. She was admiring a counter displaying stuffed Airedale puppies when her phone vibrated. A quick check revealed that she had a text from her mother.
We’re waiting outside. Ship is leaving soon. Please hurry.
Turning in a circle, Samantha located Jessica at a counter across the gift shop. “Come on. We have to go. Mom just texted me. The ship is leaving.”
Samantha’s phone buzzed again. This time she didn’t even bother to check it. “Come on. If we miss the ship, Mom and Dad will ground us for life. You know how they hate it when …”
Samantha’s voice dwindled as she realized that Jessica wasn’t paying any attention to her at all. What she was looking at interested her much … much … more.
JESSICA’S EYES were locked on a boy across from them who was studying a model of the Titanic encased in glass. He was lanky, with longish sandy-blond hair, and dressed plainly in black pants and a denim work shirt. Even from across the gift shop, his sparkling blue eyes were striking.
Samantha had never seen such a good-looking boy. How old was he? She decided he couldn’t be more than fifteen.
At first he was so engrossed in the Titanic model that he didn’t notice the sisters staring at him. Then, as though he felt the touch of their eager glances, he lifted his head, turning his face in their direction.
What a brilliant smile he had! Samantha returned it, her eyes shining. There was a definite connection between them. She had never felt it with any boy before, but this electric thing that had zapped back and forth was all she’d ever imagined.
Glancing at her sister, Samantha saw that Jessica seemed to think he was smiling at her. Jessica tossed back her lustrous dark hair, lowered her lids, and quirked her mouth into a flirty half smile.
Samantha slid her eyes back to the boy, trying not to appear obvious. Which one of them was he smiling at? She’d been certain he was smiling at her, but now she wasn’t as sure.
This time Samantha’s phone rang. Once more, it was her mother. Samantha accepted the call without even saying hello. “We’re leaving now, Mom. Promise.”
Samantha turned to tell Jessica they had to go but Jessica was already hurrying across the shop, making a beeline for the same door by which the boy was departing. Was he also going to be on the Titanic 2?
If so, Samantha didn’t want her sister talking to him. “Oh, no, you don’t, Jess,” Samantha mumbled as she quickly followed. “He smiled at me first.”
“This is ours!?” Samantha squealed happily. “We have our own room!” The Burnett family stood in a small cabin marked 266. It had a round porthole window, two twin beds, and a wardrobe.
“We’ll be right next door,” their mother explained. “See, there’s even an adjoining door.”
“I love this cabin! It’s so old-fashioned,” Jessica said gleefully, throwing her suitcase on one of the twin beds.
“This ship is an exact replica of the original Titanic,” their father said.
“I hope the rudder isn’t the same,” Samantha worried. She held up one of the pamphlets on the table. “This says they now think the ship sank because of a design flaw in the rudder.”
“This ship is actually state-of-the-art,” their mother said. “It only looks like the original. Believe me, I checked before we booked this trip.”
A man in a crisp navy-blue uniform knocked on the open cabin door. “Mr. and Mrs. Burnett?” he inquired.
“That’s us,” Mr. Burnett replied.
“I’m Joe Rodgers, ship steward. I have some bad news and some great news.”
“Well, maybe that’s good,” Mr. Burnett joked. “What is the bad news?”
“We accidentally double booked your room, two-sixty-five.”
“You’re right. That’s bad,” Mrs. Burnett said.
“But the great news is that we can upgrade you to a suite in first class.”
Mr. and Mrs. Burnett’s eyes lit excitedly. Then Mrs. Burnett frowned. “But we’ll be so far from the girls.”
“Oh, that’s not a problem!” cried Jessica. Samantha knew what her sister was thinking. No “Lights out!” No “Keep it down in there!” No “This place is a mess!”
“We’ll be fine,” Samantha confirmed.
“See? They’ll be okay,” Mr. Burnett said to his wife. “And we’re not that far away.”
The smile returned to Mrs. Burnett’s face. “Girls, you’ll have to text me every hour,” she told them.
“We will,” the girls singsonged.
“I’ll show you to your new room,” Joe Rodgers offered. “Someone will come to pick up your bags shortly.”
With a wave to their daughters, the Burnetts followed the steward out. When they were gone, Jessica did a quick, celebratory salsa step. “We won’t see them again the rest of this trip. It’ll be as if we’re on our own.”
Samantha had to admit that not having their parents watching their every move did make this cruise seem more exciting. She flopped backward onto her bed, while Jessica continued her happy dance.
Samantha noticed a scratching sound from behind the wall at the head of the two twin beds. “What’s that?”
Jessica listened intently. Scratch. Scratch-scratch. Scratch. “I don’t know.”
Samantha put her ear to the wall to hear it better. Something was behind there, moving. It didn’t scurry like a rodent, but she definitely heard movement and … breathing.
“Could it be Morse code?” Jessica wondered.
Samantha looked at her quizzically.
“It’s a code of dots and dashes. People use it to communicate with either a telegraph machine or lights. Or tapping.”
“You think someone behind the wall is sending us a secret message?” Samantha asked doubtfully.
“I don’t know,” Jessica admitted.
“I don’t know, either. But it’s kind of creepy.”
In the open doorway stood a frowning, pale woman in a long green velvet dress, wearing an enormous feathered hat. “Dead or alive?” she inquired in a flat voice.
Samantha sat up on her bed as she gaped at the woman.
“What did you say?” Jessica asked.
“Dead or alive?”
“Uh, alive,” Samantha answered. “We’re alive.”
“Don’t be so sure,” the woman said ominously.
THE PALE woman in the large hat and old-fashioned gown stepped into the room and glowered at them. “Who knows who will live and who will die?” she spoke with an eerie singsong. She pointed her finger back and forth between Jessica and Samantha. “Maybe you will drown! Or you!”
The Titanic Locket by Suzanne Weyn / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes