This Old House Sitter

A cautionary tale of sex, drugs, and wickedly bad karma

And some of the residents, evidently, are scared. Drennan's next-door neighbor, the one who didn't want to discuss the goings-on when she called him from Chicago, still doesn't want to. "It's the duck's bill that gets it into trouble," he says darkly. "I see and I don't see, because I have to live here. There's some wrongdoers around. Next thing you know, I'll be floating down the canal. She's a good lady, but anything I told her would go against me."

While she's fixing up the house for sale, Drennan has moved back in. She says that through inquiries at local bars, she has discovered that many of her uninvited guests were neighborhood people she'd seen or heard about for years. She learned still more by sorting through the garbage they left in her house. She found a bag of syringes. Some snapshots. Several letters that were never mailed. These items, says Drennan, have instilled in her a certain empathy for the squatters, particularly the women, who evidently subsisted by selling sex for crack. One was pregnant and going through difficulties in a relationship. "I'm very sorry things had to happen like they did," reads one unsent letter. "You think I fuck you around. But I promise you I will make it up to you.... Jimmy please understand where I'm coming from. I'm ready to leave this house because if I don't I will kill me a motherfucker...here. So please do what you can."

If the woman did kill someone, muses Drennan, the victim's spirit most likely has joined the ghost of the house's former owner, an elderly woman who died there and who occasionally appears in the back yard. "Unfortunately I've had a life filled with such occurrences," Drennan confesses. "My karma ran out this time.

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