Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!
I heard from a lot of you that loved Part I of this little tale, but many of you asked the same question. What is Pluff Mud?
Pluff mud, sometimes called plough mud, is much like the city of Charleston, SC. It’s got a beautiful silvery sheen on top of its rich brown and gray color. The smell is like no other, organic and sweet with decay. Made from the spartina grasses, crabs, and other dead matter, it could even be called the life blood of the Low Country, collected from the marshes to revitalize depleted fields. One step could cost you a shoe. The wrong step can pull you in deep like quicksand; the more you fight the faster it sucks you into its murky depths.
Now on to Part II of the Pluff Mud Seance
Amber loosened her leather corset enough to be able to breathe. It wasn’t really her thing, but coupled with the extra silver bangles and chains on top of the flowing black skirt and white lace top, she had the look her guests would expect. Gotta look the woo to do the woo.
Customer service and all.
Viola would give her hell for the unladylike appearance, but that was the least the old gal would complain about. Her eighteenth century sensibilities weren’t likely to modernize any time soon. At least it was better than the sixties when her own mother had tried to lecture the spirits on the women’s lib movement.
The gravel crunched in the driveway under the wheels of the mini bus. It would be a tight fit, but they had twenty-six coming in for the house tour, half that for the séance. The other half of the ladies would sit in the parlor sipping punch and gossiping about the ones who’d crossed the forbidden threshhold.
Widow McCalister would put her ear against the door in case her husband decided to come through. He usually sent a polite decline. If she wasn’t coming into the room, he wasn’t either. Missus Fergus would loudly bemoan her fears about being so close to the devil’s work and lead a round of prayer. Then she’d dig into the Cheerwine pound cake with an air of earned disdain, saving all others from its rich evilness.
Amber had taken care of the problem this year, and gotten a second one to put out when the ceremony was over.
She doused herself in a last cloud of sage incense and scrambled to the hold the doorway open.
The ladies had already broken up into the two groups. Miss Fergus, a good Presbyterian woman, proudly clutched a rosary in front of her like a child would hold a handful of candy, the cross dangling and leading her way through like she was on her way to face Dracula. Amber greeted the octogenarian, and deftly wrapped the beads around her hands properly.
“Oh goody.” Lula Rose chirped in Amber’s ear. “Miss Reverend DuBose is here, and she brought Chrys… Chrysemums… Chrys…”
“Chrysanthemums.” Amber glanced at the specter only she could see, and turned back to the wraithlike wife of a preacher, taking the vase of flowers and putting it on a side table. “How kind of you, and always good to see you again.”
“My favorite.” Lula Rose’s hand passed through the blooms. “Chrys…”
“Chrysanthemums.” Viola stood in the way to force the rest of the guests to walk through her presence, giving more than a few of them a chill they attributed to the evening. “And anything with a flower is your favorite.”
“It was a thoughtful gesture.” Lula Rose grinned.
Amber closed the door behind the group packed into the parlor. She recognized all but a couple of the youngest ladies, new additions to the club. And at youngest, she figured at least mid-sixties. Two others that had been regulars were obvious in their absence. Maybe they’d make themselves known in other ways this night.
She dimmed the electric lights housed in the hurricane lamps dangling from the near garnet walls, casting a warm glow on the Daguerreotypes, tintypes, glass prints and ambrotype photographs, mixed among painted portraits and other family artifacts from nearly two hundred years of family history.
Amber started into the history of the plantation, “Welcome all, especially those of you who have never visited Sand Crane Hall before.”
“Why are you two still putting yourselves through this?” The spirit of Constance Todde materialized beside her cousins, leaving the audience unaware. She looked very much like the day she’d died on her sixteenth birthday. “Especially you Viola. This is undignified. Letting her drag your names through the mud like this.”
“Here we see the two heavily courted sisters, the demure Viola, skilled businesswoman… “ Amber held up a fuzzy black and white picture, “and the lithe athletic Lula Rose, amateur botanist.”
Constance whispered into Viola’s ear, as if it mattered on the etheric plane, “Here it comes.”
“And here we have the sisters with their beloved cousin, Constance Todde. This picture, in fact, was taken mere hours before the incident.” Amber swept her arm in front of a large print of the three girls sitting on a bench in the flower garden. “You can see here, a basket of hibiscus and jasmine with which Lula Rose was preparing tea for the party.”
“She even wraps the story framing you, so very nicely.” Constance stroked Lula Roses’ hair.
Amber picked up a pitcher of fresh floral tea, placing it on a tray, and walked from guest to guest giving them their own cup. When everyone was served, she took her own cup, and sipped at its lightly sweet contents. “They drank the tea, and snacked from a basket of treats.”
Amber worked her way around the room to where artifacts from the time were placed to allow her to circulate, and keep her audience on its toes. She picked up the model of a flat bottom skiff. “Five of the most eligible bachelors , all vying for the attention of the Todde clan, took one of the family boats intending to paddle Constance on a trip through the Cypress on the main river.”
“Or trying to get a little more personal attention.” Constance got nose to nose with Viola, and licked her upper lip. “Especially the Wilkins boy. The one you had your eyes on? That day he was just trying to get a peek by sitting next to me in the boat.”
“Most believed it was just a tragic accident. A few whispers of something darker when Oleander blooms were found among the florals.” Amber held up a freeze dried Nerium Oleander bloom from the garden. “Some just like this from the local garden.”
Viola sniffed back, “You were well known for your garden, and that your blossom had been picked many times.”
“Some time that warm fall afternoon, the boat overturned, and all were lost. The bodies were never found, as they got pulled into the pluff mud.” Amber gave a knowing nod, “There was never any evidence of wrongdoing. But the Todde sisters Lula Rose and Viola, well let’s just say the well of suitors dried up.”
The room full of ladies shared nervous laughter.
“Jealous, dear cousin? ”
“You mean, since you’re the one who poisoned all those poor boys?” Viola refused to look at Constance. “And left us to take the blame?”
“It’s not like I planned to drown myself.” Constance’s fingers danced in a wave as she faded back into the wall.
Come back for Part III tomorrow!