As Penny closed and locked the door she once again felt crazy and more than a little out of control. What was happening to her? How could she feel this way when she knew damn well she had locked the doors to the cafe after Megan had left for lunch with her family. No way anyone got in the building. And yet.
Had she taken her clothes off in the cafe? Had someone been there all along?
She ran a tub of hot water and took off her clothes, stared hard into her bathroom mirror and saw the bruises on her hip bones and breasts. She had bite marks on her body. And her body hurt as though had been thrown around like a rag doll. Her panties were missing. And she was afraid she had been molested, but how?
She took a long time in the bath trying to wash away the ugly that she felt.
Then she remembered the name Firth and the boarding house. Somehow she felt stronger as she dried off, dressed and made her way to the computer in the living room. Penny spent the next few hours searching for anything she could find on the name Firth and who that was.
She found two listings for Firth in her town. The first was a physician and the other the owner of a boarding house and seamstress shop. Penny found out that a Dr. Firth had been a "ladies" doctor in the early 20th century and had been run out of town when it was discovered that he was experimenting on his patients with unnatural substances. None of the woman made complaints, it was their husbands that had brought the problem to the attention of the authorities. The women patients seemed to be sex fiends after their treatments with Dr. Firth. It later came out that he had been "fiddling" with his patients and whetting their appetites for more than their husbands were used to giving. The woman also had new appetites that were unlady like and considered obscene.
Many of those woman committed suicide because of the disgrace brought upon them and their families. But it was believed that just as many had been murdered by their husbands. The rest had moved away from the disgusting incident. The whole community had been affected by the horrors of Dr. Firths debauchery. When the men of the town had gone to the clinic to run the offending physician out of town, they found nothing of Dr. Firth there. They all assumed he had left town in fear for his life.
When Penny read the address of the clinic she didn't want to believe it. The address was that of Splendor House Cafe.
She couldn't call Megan yet. What would she say? She had to talk to someone though. So she decided to call Mela. She had also grown up with Megan and Penny, was a good friend and ally.
Mela was at Penny's front door in 10 minutes. The two of them sat at the breakfast room table for the next 3 hours. Penny just let all of it out and didn't edit a word. She felt the relief of communicating this hellacious burden with another being. She felt the anger at having been molested and the fear of it happening again. Her fear of insanity and second guessing herself. And all she had learned about her building and a former residents. She shared all this and then was quiet.
All Mela could do was hold Penny's hand and listen at first. Then she asked questions and pondered how this puzzle fit together. Mela reminded Penny that there was another group of friends that most certainly would have an idea of how to look at this situation. Some of the members of their drumming group were a loosely woven coven of sorts. All solitary practitioners of the craft but each with a mind and heart to help her with what seemed to Mela to be a possession of sorts. Penny at first was very hesitant to have anyone else know that there was anything wrong because of how it might impact her business and how it might .... And you mean make things better? questioned Mela.
Again the silence was all they shared. Mela promised that she would not divulge any of the details but did insist that these friends could at least help protect Penny from whatever it was that had abused her. To this Penny agreed instantly. This would need to be achieved by having access to the cafe so that they might clear the space and add their protections to the building.
Penny couldn't face going back there just now but told Mela to get the keys to the cafe from the pocket of her jacket which was on the hook behind the front door. But just as Mela got up to retrieve the key, Penny remembered she had left the keys on the counter and got them herself. Mela told her to hold tight and she would call everyone and set up a meeting for early in the morning. She would return the keys as soon as she was finished at the cafe and that Penny should rest. Before she left Mela smudged the house and Penny and sealed the doors against any outside forces. She also drew a protection rune on Penny's forehead, hugged her and left around.
Penny couldn't close her eyes to sleep so she sat and read until the morning light streamed through the window of her kitchen. She was startled when the phone rang and answered on the first ring.