My new lake home came complete with a stunning view, a septic system badly in need of repair, rotted windows, stained carpeting, and a wizened old troll living next door. The troll, whose name was Roy Davis, made our lives hell long after the other things had been repaired.
Until moving here to northwestern Wisconsin, I hadn’t actually experienced what some would call a presence; I shy away from the term “ghost” with all its over-the-top implications. When I retired, my significant other and I moved here because my dream had always been to live in a house on a lake. I never expected that in addition to the magnificent lake view, I’d have a neighbor who be such a problem that I’d actually considered moving out.
Roy Davis, a bent-over curmudgeon with buzzed gray-white hair, sour breath, and perpetually in need of a shave, made our lives miserable beginning with a fight over lot lines. His bitter accusations that we’d encroached on his property continued long after we’d paid more than $700 for a surveyor in hope of resolving the issue. The Troll maintained we’d hired an underhanded person to do the job. Nothing ever satisfied him.
The upper floor of our house has an open floor plan: living room, kitchen, and dining room, all open to each other and with windows facing the lake. One enters through the garage, and walks over a wooden floor for about twenty feet or so until standing in a small galley kitchen. My first floor bedroom is the only room closed off on that floor, and lies parallel to the entryway.
We’d been moved in for about a week the first time I heard someone enter our house during the night. Because of my bedroom’s proximity to the entry door, I heard the door open and then footsteps walking across the floor in the direction of the kitchen. I called out to Terry, thinking he must have come upstairs for some reason, but he didn’t answer me. I lie there, frightened, for what seemed like hours until hearing no further noises, fell back to sleep. When this repeated itself over the next few months I began to fear that the Troll had a key to our house.
It wasn’t long after moving in that we began to hear stories about his background. We knew he had a wife (we thought!) that he visited every day in a nursing home. His devotion to her, although touching, didn’t make up for how he treated everyone else. Even people who befriended him were subjected to his nasty nature.
According to the locals, a married couple, Eva and Wayne Davidson, had owned the house next door and also our home. More than thirty years ago, one of their adult sons came home from the armed services and brought a friend. That friend was Roy Davis. The two men, their names so similar, had met when they bunked near each other. Davis and Eva became close—how close, and if that friendship became intimate, no one seems to know—and Davis remained living with the Davidsons long after their son had left.
Wayne Davidson, after becoming frustrated with his wife’s relationship with his son’s friend who’d become a permanent fixture in his home, moved out of their home and into the house next door, the one we own now. He remained living there until he died, many years later.
The footsteps during the night continued, and, oddly, seemed to always take place at 2:30 a.m. I still suspected the Troll had a key to our house. Despite Terry’s insistence that Davis couldn’t possibly navigate in the dark well enough to leave his bed, much less traipse across the yards to come into our house, I insisted we change the locks.
When the night visits persisted. I became certain the night sounds were made by the restless spirit of Wayne Davidson, still agonizing over his wife Eva’s betrayal.
When Eva Davidson died, I thought I’d never hear the noises again, but her death made no difference. The Troll, who had a penciled copy of a will Eva had given him that left the house to him, managed to win ownership of the house after a lengthy legal battle with Eva’s heirs.
Wayne Davidson continued his visits. One night as I was falling asleep, in that murky state between being awake and asleep, I saw a man sitting in a chair at the foot of my bed. It terrified me, but I became convinced it was Wayne. After this apparition appeared, I asked people from the neighborhood what Davidson had looked like. I can’t say their descriptions proved he was the man I’d seen, but it sure sounded like him.
Once I accepted that Wayne meant us no harm, I quit worrying about him being here, and rarely heard his footsteps. Then the unexpected happened. Roy Davis, the Troll, whose spine was so warped that he slept in a recliner every night, was found dead in that very chair. I think I had my first actual feelings for the man. He’d worked so hard to gain ownership of the house he’d shared with Eva, and now he wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.
Since Davis’s death, I’ve heard nothing from Wayne Davidson. Nearly two years passed before the house sold again, and recently our new neighbors moved in. Is Wayne Davidson’s house, now free of the Troll, where he spends his time?
I’ll have to ask my new neighbors.
Marla Madison is a retired Federal Mediator, now working as an Arbitrator for the state of Iowa and the Federal Mediation Service. She's Not There is her debut suspense novel. Marla is working on a second in her home on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin where she lives with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter.
Contact her at:
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OCTOBER 8th GIVEAWAY:
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SHE'S NOT THERE
Is the rising number of abused women who've gone missing a statistical anomaly? Or is a serial killer targeting this vulnerable group of women?
When the Milwaukee Police Department refuses to investigate because no bodies have been discovered, Lisa Rayburn, the clinical psychologist who discovers the anomaly, is drawn into an investigation to discover the cause after one of her own clients goes missing. She finds herself forming an unlikely alliance with a former policewoman turned security consultant, TJ Peacock, and the husbands of two of the missing women who may themselves be murderers.
When TJ is attacked, and a woman looking remarkably like Lisa is found murdered, they know . . . someone is willing to kill to protect his secret.
Can they reveal the killer before he gets to them?