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8 Souls

8 Souls

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8 Souls

4/5 (1 Bewertung)
245 Seiten
3 Stunden
May 6, 2019


Spending the summer across the street from the famous Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa isn't something Chessie Carpenter is looking forward to. But when she runs into David Higgins at his father's hardware store there's something about the cute boy that feels so familiar. If only she could pinpoint why.

When the "ghost squad" she calls to help her deal with the spirits invading her room turns out to be David and his friend, Mateo, the three sort out the clues that would explain the century old murder mystery. But the closer Chessie gets to David, the more everything she learns points to him somehow being involved. As her time in Villisca runs out, Chessie must figure out the ties that connect her, David, and the spirits haunting the Axe Murder House before it's too late...for all of them.

May 6, 2019

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8 Souls - Rachel Rust


To the Moore family and Stillinger girls.

Chapter One

I have a secret.

It’s not about a crush, or an embarrassing moment, or anything exciting I did without permission. It’s not someone else’s secret that I’m keeping in confidence.

It’s my own secret. One that visits me every night.

There are two parts to this secret, and I’ll tell you both, even though you’ll think I’m crazy. Not that I’d blame you for that.

The first part is this: I’ve had the same recurring dream ever since I was little. We’re talking every single night for as long as I can remember dreaming. Seriously, every night. Whenever I close my eyes, there it is.

The dream varies a little, but there’s always one same detail: the house.

The house is a two-story farmhouse with a front porch. Small and not too impressive. In the dream, I’m always standing on the road in front of the house, just staring at it. Sometimes, there are dead bodies and blood. Other times, the entire scene is quaint, non-bloody, and peaceful. Occasionally, the house appears in new condition, as though it’s just been built, painted bright white with an outhouse to the rear and a dirt road in front. But sometimes, the house is older, rotted gray in color, with an asphalt road and modern cars parked on the street.

One time, the house appeared blurry, as though seen through tearful eyes. The only thing I had been able to make out clearly was a blue, 1950s Chevy parked along the front curb. One of those big, bulbous cars that looks impossible to drive. But that had also been the night I drank beer for the first time at my best friend Kaylee’s seventeenth birthday party.

Right after dreaming about that old Chevy, I woke up and puked all over my shoes. I’ve stuck with soda since then. Soda doesn’t mess with my dreams or make me have to explain barf-crusted sneakers to my parents.

I ended up blaming Kaylee’s dog for the vomit, and my parents believed me. They’d been too busy making very important phone calls to very important clients to pay much attention to their hungover, barefoot daughter. They’re both attorneys. Make of that what you will.

My recurring dream isn’t always pleasant, but other than the mental weight of carrying it around, it’s never caused any serious problems.

Well…okay, maybe that last part is not quite true.

One time, I let my secret slip a little—and I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office.

That happened ten years ago, when I was seven years old. My school had required an evaluation after my art teacher expressed concerns about an assignment I had turned in.

We were supposed to draw our dream house. Most of the kids drew mansions. Big, palatial structures with grand pillars and red sports cars parked outside. Kaylee had drawn a castle, complete with a tall tower and a moat of bright green alligators. Billy Maxwell, the boy who always wore flannel shirts, had colored a cabin by a lake.

My art teacher had liked those pictures. Mansions, castles, and lake cabins didn’t send people to a shrink.

I had drawn my white farmhouse. Nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned farmhouse, but my teacher hadn’t liked the blood oozing down the side. Nor had she been pleased with the images of chopped up children in the windows.

I was young back then and didn’t understand why everyone had freaked out, or why there was now a Crazy Doctor file labeled with my name, Francesca Chessie Carpenter. I had done exactly what my art teacher had asked—I had drawn a picture of my dream house. My literal dream house.

And now at seventeen, I keep my secret wrapped up tight. Not even my parents know I’m still having the dreams. I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how much I’d like to tell people, no matter how much I’d like to share the burden of the bloody house, I need to keep my mouth shut about the images that float through my head while I sleep.

I once naively believed that everyone has recurring dreams—like maybe everyone has their own unique dream house or their own bloody tale that visits them each night.

Except now I know that I’m the only one. And I know the house in my dreams isn’t a figment of my imagination. It’s a real place.

I know this because I’m wide awake and standing right in front of it.

Chapter Two

I stand in my grandparents’ front lawn as scents of early summer swirl all around me—fresh mowed grass, endless beds of flowers, and a faint whiff of chlorine from the public pool a few blocks away.

I used to swim there when I was younger. It’s nothing more than a concrete hole in the ground—no slides or diving boards—but a decent way to escape the muggy heat. Plus, there’s a small shack just outside the locker rooms that sells ice cream sandwiches and slushies—the only true summer diet of any self-respecting little kid.

Chessie, my dad says to me as he lifts my suitcase from the trunk of our car.

Yeah? I swipe a brown curl from my sweaty forehead.

Grandma made lunch; come inside.

Okay. The agreeable word comes out, but I don’t move.

We’re in Villisca, Iowa—where my grandparents live and where my dad grew up. A tiny speck of a town in the southwest corner of the state. It’s five hours south of Minneapolis, home of my puked-on shoes, best friend Kaylee, and John Adams High School. Go Eagles.

Minneapolis is known for cold weather, professional sports, and Prince.

Villisca is known for murder.

But other than that, it’s a cute town.

For real.

Most of its houses have front porches and large maple trees surrounding them. Thick, knobby trees that have endured decades of Midwest weather. The streets are colorful in the summer with lots of gardens and flowers, and magical in the winter with Christmas lights and mechanical lawn reindeer. It’s like a made-for-TV movie set with people smiling and waving everywhere you turn.

My grandparents’ blue house is downright quaint with a white front porch, rows of marigolds, and a bright red Welcome sign hanging on the front door. But across the street, in stark contrast to the rest of the neighborhood, the graying, decrepit structure of my dream house stares back at me. It’s been abandoned for decades, the site of a grisly murder that no one in town likes to talk about.

And that’s the second part of my secret: A century-old mass murder has taken up residence in my head. It’s like my mind is linked to the gruesome crime. Every night, it creeps into my dreams. How not-awesome is that?

My parents have never found out about the second part of my secret. Back when I was seven, I had only confessed to the recurring dreams and left out the fact that the bloody house was a real structure, located just across the street from my grandparents. I had been afraid that if I told the whole truth my parents would never let me visit my grandma and grandpa again.

So, I kept my mouth shut.

The house is different in person than it is in my dreams. Smaller, less imposing. Less alive. I don’t see it very often in real life. Just every couple of years, whenever my city-loving mom allows a trip into the middle of nowhere. But she’s not here for this trip—and I don’t want to think about her right now.

From behind me, Grandma rushes out of her front door, swishing in billows of silk. She’s from Vietnam, and her clothing tells me she never left. But she’s lived in Iowa for, like, ever. Since she was in her early twenties, I think, right after marrying my Iowa-born grandpa. It’s hard to imagine what that move must’ve been like for her. Talk about culture shock. Back then, she had been the only person of color, and maybe still is, given this town’s lily-white demographics.

Her arms are outstretched, and I brace for impact.

Francesca, she says, slamming into me and squeezing me tight. Come in, come in, lunch is waiting.

I try not to frown—and fail. I hate, hate, hate when people call me by my full name. Francesca. My mom named me after her favorite law school professor. How dull is that? Francesca doesn’t even sound like a name; it sounds like something on a menu at a fancy restaurant—the kind of place that puts green leaves on their food and where I’m not allowed to rest my elbows on the table. I can’t stand places like that. And my nickname, Chessie, isn’t much better. It didn’t take long for boys at school to twist it into an immature taunt: Chesty. Which I’m not.

Grandma takes me by the hand. Her small frame smells of flour, and I wonder what she has in the kitchen. She loves to feed me. Whenever she visits us in Minneapolis, she brings me a platter of cookies and brownies. I truly believe she thinks my parents don’t ever feed me.

With linked arms, Grandma and I walk into her house. My new, temporary home.

It’s familiar, I’ve been here many times. But this time’s different because I’m not leaving. Not until the end of summer anyway. It’s the first week of June; school let out two days ago, and I get to spend the next three months in a small town that doesn’t even have a stoplight. Lucky me.

During the car ride down from Minneapolis this morning, my dad tried to reassure me that I’ll have a great summer, baking with Grandma, fishing with Grandpa.

It’s a nice thought, but I want none of it. I just want my bedroom in Minneapolis. I hold my misery inside, or else Dad will lecture me about how tough times make us stronger and that nothing in life is guaranteed—like having married parents.

But whatever.

Grandpa and Dad are waiting for us in the kitchen, both ten feet tall and super thin, despite bad diets. Aside from the black hair of his Vietnamese roots, Dad is the spitting image of my English grandpa. Right down to the dimpled chin. I always call it a butt chin while mentally thanking my mom for giving me her smooth jawline.

Hiya, Sport! Grandpa says, patting the curly brown hair on my head. I’m not sporty, so I’ve always wondered if Grandpa had wanted a grandson. But my dad is an only child. As am I. So a granddaughter is what he gets. You’re gettin’ tall, he says with a laugh.

I smile. Yeah, right. I’m barely over five feet. My dad may have inherited the height of my grandpa, but I got my height from Grandma, always craning my neck to greet faces around me. Being short sucks. I can’t reach my favorite yogurt-covered granola bars at the grocery store, people use my head as an armrest, and there’s almost always a condescension in their voice when they speak to me, as if height is correlated with common sense.

Grandpa sits at the table for lunch, running a hand over his bare, shiny scalp. When I was little, he used to tell me he went bald because he never ate his veggies. I’d always say I didn’t believe him, but I also gobbled up whatever disgustingly healthy thing my mom plopped on my plate. Just in case.

Tell me, Sport, Grandpa says as I sit down next to him. Any boyfriends back home?

Grandma glares at him. She doesn’t like teenage boys. She’d shoo them out of town with a broom if she could. She said these exact words to me once when I was about nine years old. I had laughed because boys were gross back then.

No boyfriends, I say with a smile, although having spent three years of high school boyfriend-free does not make me smile. Boys aren’t gross anymore. They’re sort of odd but interesting. They even smell good—when they don’t smell like dirty clothes.

It’s not that I don’t hang out with boys—I do. Or at least I try. I danced with Chase Gardner at the ninth-grade winter formal. I held hands with Nate Michaels while on a marching band hayride in tenth grade. And then there was the biggie—I kissed Kyle Chen this past winter at a New Year’s Eve party.

Yeah, I’ve only kissed one boy. And it took me seventeen years to do it.

It wasn’t even a good kiss. Kyle’s a trombone player in our school’s marching band, so you’d think he would have super talented lips with all that musical practice, right? No. He doesn’t. It was totally lame. There wasn’t even any tongue. Does it count if there are no tongues involved? Kaylee says it doesn’t.

A plate of diagonally cut sandwiches is placed in front of my face, knocking away all thoughts of Kyle’s mouth.

Eat, Grandma says. It’s not an option, so I take a sandwich. She eyeballs me. I take another.

Thanks, I say before biting into the first one. It’s good. Sliced turkey with some kind of homemade mayo spread. Could be a recipe from the Food Network. The woman loves her cooking shows.

After lunch, I drag my suitcase up the narrow hardwood stairs that squeak with every step and smell of polish. There are two bedrooms and one bathroom on the second floor. The bathroom is an ancient thing with pink tiles and a claw-foot tub. But it’s spotless and always smelling of bleach, thanks to Grandma’s slightly germophobic cleaning habits.

This is the first time I’ll be sleeping overnight at my grandparents’ house. During our previous visits, my mom always insisted on staying at the town’s one and only motel…The Cloud 9. It’s not a great motel. A single-story, L-shaped building with lumpy beds and itchy blankets. But my mom prefers crappy lodging to sharing a roof with her in-laws. Or at least she did. Fat chance she’ll ever visit this little Iowa town again.

My bedroom for the summer is my dad’s old childhood bedroom. Its layout is simple with a single bed in the center and a wood dresser next to the window. The window is framed with rose-patterned curtains and looks onto the front yard, facing the old, abandoned house across the street, with its dark windows—as lifeless as its former owners. No one’s lived in that house in over one hundred years. Not since its former family was slaughtered in their sleep. Bludgeoned with an axe. That’s how it got its not-so-creative nickname: The Axe Murder House.

My mom once called it a scar on the town. Seems about right. Logic tells me they should tear it down. But that sends a stab of pain through me. I don’t want anyone touching my dream house, no matter how macabre it may be.

I take another long look at the house before yanking the curtains closed. Outta sight, outta mind.

Except it’s never really out of my mind. I just wish I knew why.

Chapter Three

I spend the next half hour unpacking my things. It doesn’t take long to fill the dresser and closet with clothes and shoes. My mom insisted I bring nearly my entire wardrobe. You never know what occasions may arise, and you want to be prepared, she had said while slipping a pair of heels into my bag.

Mom can strut in the tallest and skinniest heels as effortlessly as a couch potato in slippers. It’s a power trip. When I was younger, she’d flick a finger under my chin, telling me to Look people in the eye, Francesca. Be in control. But she quit doing that after I stopped growing in seventh grade. I guess she gave up on me. Probably hadn’t been expecting such a short offspring.

I toss the heels into the closet. As if small town Iowa is going to offer me the kind of excitement that requires three-inch ankle breakers. I prefer flip-flops and Converse, no matter the occasion. And at this point, I wouldn’t need heels to measure up to my mom’s expectations—I’d need stilts.

I shut the closet door, but it doesn’t stay shut. I slam it harder. No luck. I jiggle the doorknob, trying to spring that little thingamajig out and into the doorjamb. But the damn thing won’t latch.


I turn back to my suitcase. The only thing left to unpack is my clarinet, Lucinda. She goes wherever I go, because my parents want me to practice every day. But this summer, they’re going to be nearly 400 miles away, too worried about their own messy lives to worry about their daughter’s clarinet mastery. I’ll practice when I want to practice. Maybe never. Maybe I’ll chuck Lucinda into the pool.

Screw ’em. I zip the suitcase closed and shove it under the bed—clarinet and

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  • (4/5)
    8 Souls by Rachel Rust follows Francesca 'Chessie' Carpenter who suffers from recurrent nightmares of a house, sometimes decrepit, sometimes new, but always the same and always beckoning of death. It's not just any house either. It's the Villisca Axe Murder House and her grandparents live right across from it. When she ends up being sent to Iowa for the summer so her parents can finalise a divorce, Chessie's dreams turn into something more. She starts having visions during the day, and spectral manifestations at night. The ghostly goings-on aren't relegated to just the Moore House either, but also to the death of a recently missing little girl. At her wit's end, Chessie contacts a local ghost hunting group, both the best and worst thing she could have done.The subject first drew me to this book. The Villisca case, as with most cold cases, fascinates me. Forensics is a love if mine, even though my hopes of a job in the field of forensic anthropology were thwarted by medical issues. The case is the same in this story, though the modern state of the house is not. Far from being decrepit and abandoned, the house is furnished and open to visit, preserved as a historical site. Ghost groups conduct investigations there at times. As I started reading, I rapidly fell into Chessie's world. The action is fairly fast-paced. While the haunting manifestations were creepy, overall, they weren't dangerous. Indeed, they were there to help and they tried to warn against danger. Chessie thought they were warning against David, when in truth they weren't. They needed her to help him. I don't want to give a major part away, so I'll avoid specifics. I did enjoy the hints of quantum entanglement threaded into the story, and that the major plot point was specifically *not* ascribed to God's punishment. It's that whole entanglement thing. (No pun on the publisher intended!) Overall, this was an awesome read! Highly recommended!***Many thanks to Netgalley and Entangled Teen Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. Reviewed as part of the Chapter by Chapter blog Tour.