Monday, January 28, 2013

Secrets of the Dead Chapter 6


Chapter 6

Given the fact that he had missed lunch, busy with his research and monitoring devices, C.J. decided to make a big meal for dinner. Though the storm had passed, the power had yet to return, so he lit some candles and had been relieved to find a kick ass BBQ just out the back door on the deck. Gabbing two steaks from the freezer, which was still cold enough that it would hold the meat for several hours still, if the power didn’t return, he set them on the BBQ.

While they broiled, he made a salad, judging that this would be the last of the vegetables for them as some of them were beginning to turn. The potatoes still seemed fine, so he wrapped them in foil and set them on the grill.

It didn’t take long for Jessica to resurface. “Dinner should be ready in, say, two minutes. I found some wine.

It’s not cold but it’s still good, if you’d like a glass.”

She did, and poured a full glass. “Storm didn’t last long.”

“No, but it managed to cool things down.” He flipped the steaks. “How do you like it?”

“What?” Her eyes flickered to his lips.

“Steak, how do you like it?” He’d seen where her eyes had wandered. He wondered why, if she was feeling something for him, did she always step away whenever they were close.

“Oh, oh…” she stammered. “Well done.”

Smirking, C.J. decided to play with her. “I’m still feeling keyed up from the storm. I really need some sort of a release.” He turned to her, giving her a sultry look. “Care to join me?”

“What? No, my god, C.J., how dare you ask such a thing.” Rattled by his come on, she gulped down more wine, then refilled her nearly empty glass.

He so loved getting her riled. “I meant a swim, Jessica.” He nudged his head towards the backyard pool, smirking.

Her eyes narrowed in on him. “No, thank you.”

“Your loss. Dinner’s ready.” Grabbing the plates beside him, he dished out the steaks and potatoes, then set them on the patio table. “Bon appetit.”

“Mmm, this looks delicious.”

“Thank you.” He cut into his steak, the juices seeping out. Lifting the slice to his lips, he watched as she ate. She had a sexy Cupid’s bow sort of mouth, with dimples at the sides that sunk in more when she ate, or smiled, which he rarely saw. “What do you enjoy doing, Jessica, for a past time?”

“I like to run, mostly late in the evening. I enjoy tennis, and I love to curl up with a good book.”

“What sort of book?”

“Anything really, I just love to read.”

“Are you into thrillers?”

Her eyes lifted to his. “I have to be in the mood for it, but yeah, I like a good scare.”

His lips curved in a sly smile. “Then why is it you get angry with me when I scare you?”

“Because you’re being a jerk.”

He smiled slyly. “Scaring a person gets the adrenaline pumping; it’s good for the heart.”

“My heart is just fine. What did you use to marinate the steak?”

“Lemon juice and salt. Do you like it?”

“Yeah, it’s moist and has a slight tang to it.”

“You like tangy food?”

“I’m not stepping into your trap, Dowling.” She polished off the potato and nearly half of her steak.

“What trap?” he asked innocently.

“The one you always set for me in hopes of catching me off guard. What do the initials stand for, Dowling?”

She shifted it to focus on him.

 “You tell me.” Finishing off his plate, shoving it aside, he lifted his glass of wine, enjoying the conversation.

“Uh uh, we’ve already played that game. What do they stand for?”

“Tell you what, I’ll give you the second letters to both my first and second name, and if you guess them correctly,

I’ll do dishes. If you don’t guess them, you do the dishes.”

“Deal.”

“A.”

“For both first and second,” she reminded him.

“Both my first and second names have A as the second letter.” He leaned back and lit a cigarette. He was going to enjoy watching her do the dishes.

“How many guesses do I get?”

“Two.” He blew smoke into the still muggy night air.

“Two. Okay.” She tapped the table with her fingers.

“Cameron, Jack.”

“Nope on both. Last one.

She frowned, trying harder. “Calvin…James.”

“Wrong on the first, Calvin.” He shook his head as he stood. “Enjoy doing the dishes, remember, power’s out so the dishwasher is non-functional.”

“Wait, you said wrong on the first, what about the second?”

He took the steps down from the deck, smiling. “It’s James.”

“Give me one more shot,” she called out as he moved through the grass towards the pool. She frowned when he shook his head. “Come on.”

“Have fun, Jessica.” Slipping his shirt over his head, he tossed it over a lounger, then kicked off his shoes.

Annoyed and frustrated, she stood to clear the table.

As she scooped up their plates, she saw him shimmy out of his jeans. Intrigued, she continued to watch, then gasped when he pulled his boxer shorts down and tossed them with the rest of his clothes. She turned her head away, embarrassed, then slowly, turned back, peeking, as he jumped into the water.

Fanning her face with her hand, she headed inside to start the dishes. The guy had a pretty damn good physique, and his ass wasn’t so bad either.

Filling the sink with hot water, she watched as he swam laps in the pool. She was mesmerized by his movements, turned on knowing he was completely naked under that crystal clear water. Swallowing her lust, she continued cleaning the dishes.

She shook her head clear several minutes later when she heard her name called.

“Jessica, want to bring me out a towel?”

Drying her hands, she headed for the closet to retrieve a towel. Should have thought of that before you dove, naked, into the pool, she mumbled as she headed towards the pool. “Here.” She held the towel out, trying not to look at him. The way the sun was setting, it fell on the pool, making it almost like glass. She could see his nudity—however distorted by the waves of water.

“You should take a dip, it’s incredible.”

“I’ll pass, thank you.”

“Your loss.” Reaching up for the towel, he grabbed her hand and yanked her right into the water.

She gasped, came up furious, wiping the damp hair from her face, glaring at him. “You bastard.” The towel she had brought him floated off in the water.

“You looked rather warm, thought you needed to cool down.”

“Yeah fine, but not with my clothes on.” She backed away from him, not trusting him one bit.

“Feel free to remove them.”

“I think not.” Because she knew he would try something, she hoisted herself out of the pool, shaking the water from her body and damp clothes as she walked towards the house.

“You don’t know what you’re missing, Jessica.”

With a very undignified gesture, she lifted her right hand and saluted him one finger style as she walked to the house.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Secrets of the Dead Chapter 5


Chapter 5

 

The saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but it didn’t say anything about a human. So Jessie set out to check the lower part of the house. She imagined owning a house someday, possibly this size, or bigger. She would have children, and of course a husband, and they would be endlessly happy.

And fairy tales really did come true. Berating herself for living in a dream, she examined the collection of books in the shelves on the lower level. They were children’s books, in a wide range of titles and ages. She’d had books similar to these in her youth and had been found often enough curled up in bed reading the day away as a teen.

She loved to read, to escape in the story and dream the day away with a good romance. Unfortunately, happily ever after were only in fairytales and romance novels.

But it didn’t hurt to dream.

Her last relationship had ended in a bang, with her calling the cops on the belligerent bastard after he had smacked her in the face during an argument. The relationship before that had been as fulfilling as a walk through a dark forest, void of trees. She just didn’t have luck when it came to men. And without a man, there were no children, unless she had in vitro, but that was only an option if she hadn't met Mr. Right by the time she was nearing her late thirties. She still had ten years before that was an option.

She mused over the cute Barbie dolls dressed in the modern fashions, and all the amenities that came with Barbie these days. In her day, the damn doll didn’t even have bendable arms and legs. Now, not only was she able to bend, but she had a career as well as a family and a wardrobe even the richest female often ogled over.

The toys for the boy were just as impressive. It seemed this little man enjoyed playing with trucks, cars and airplanes, and there were plenty to go around. It was obvious the lower level was designed for the children.

Turning the door knob that led to the lowest level, the cellar, Jessie hesitated briefly. Cellars were known for creepy crawling insects and bugs. Did she dare go down further simply to satisfy her curious need to investigate every corner of the house?

Looking down at her sneakers, she decided it would be okay, as long as she kept a close eye on the floor for any creepy little bugs that might be lurking about. Clicking the light on, she took the wooden steps down, the scent of mustiness filling the air. One washing machine and one dryer sat off to the back of the cellar. Aside from that, there were boxes, old furniture and useless items that should have been tossed long ago. Why did people have a need to collect junk?

Again, curiosity got the best of her. She bent down to peek into one of the boxes.

The lights went out.

She screamed. Standing up, she realized she had no idea where the stairs were. There wasn’t a window in the room to let in any of the sunlight scorching the outside with its heated rays. Calming herself, she turned to find her way towards where she hoped the stairs were. Jumping at the sound of the creaking stairs, she nearly bit her tongue. “Dowling?”

An ice cold hand touched her shoulder and she jumped, letting out an ear splitting scream. Turning, she made a dash for what she hoped was the stairs and hit a brick wall of a chest. She stumbled back with the force, then felt the hands grab hold of her arms to steady her.

“Let me go,” she demanded.
 
“Fine. I was just trying to help.” C.J. clicked his lighter on, illuminating mostly his face. “Power’s out.”

“You think?” she snarled at him, her thundering heart finally calming. “Why do you enjoy scaring me?”

He shrugged; a sly grin on his face. “It gives me a thrill, what can I say.”

“Well I wish you would stop it. And why the hell are your hands so cold?” She shivered remembering the iciness she had felt on her shoulder.

“They’re not cold, feel.” He laid his palm on her shoulder, then let out a yelp when the flame singed his other hand. “Damn it, that smarts.”

“Very funny, Dowling. Get it back on.”

“It’s too hot, give it a moment.”

“Oh, grow up. Give it here.” She reached out for where she thought his hand was and knocked the lighter to the floor.

“Way to go.”

“Oh, shut up and help me find it.” She knelt down, pausing at the thought of tiny little bugs possibly scurrying on the floor.

“Man, you have some attitude.” Lowering down, their heads bumped together.

“Watch it.”

“Sorry, a little blind here. So, tell me, what made you scream after the lights went out?”

“You know perfectly well why I screamed.”

“Enlighten me, Jessica.”

Terrified that some slimy insect was going to touch her hands, she moved them carefully as she searched for the lighter. “You snuck down the stairs just as the power blinked off and grabbed my shoulder.”

“I did, huh? Got it.”

She was never more grateful for light than she was when he clicked the lighter on. Even if it made his face look ghoulish. “You know perfectly well you did.”

“I will admit I was coming down the stairs to see what you were up to, just as the power cut out, but I didn’t touch you until we rammed into each other.”

Her body warmed being this close to C.J. She remembered their brief kiss the day before and her body reacted in the most normal of ways. She was definitely feeling arousal. She jumped up, then took a step back, telling her body to calm down. “Nice try, Dowling, but I’m not that stupid.”

“If you say so, Jessica.”

“Stop calling me that.” The lighter clicked off and her body tensed. “Get it back on.”

“It gets pretty hot you know, but thank you for caring.” She jumped when he grabbed her arm. “Relax; I’m just leading you to the stairs. Did the hand that touched you feel anything like the one I’m holding you with now?’

She felt him step up and figured they were at the stairs.

“No.”

“Warmer, colder?”

“Colder. And no, it wasn’t a ghost. Jesus, Dowling, get over it already.” She saw the light from the window on the next level and breathed a sigh of relief. At least there wouldn’t be any bugs here to spook her.

“Why are you stubborn?”

“I’m not stubborn, I’m a realist.”

“A realist that believes in a God she can’t see.” He took the rest of the stairs to the upper level.

“You know, for someone who says they were raised to believe in God, you sure sound like an atheist.” She followed after him.

“I do believe in God, but I also believe in life after death.”

“Then how can you say that God didn’t create life as we know it?”

He turned to her, tilting his head to the side. “I never said that.”

“You did so, yesterday, in the living room when you were preaching to me about Jesus walking on water and blah blah…”

“I was just having a conversation with you, trying to see where you stood.”

She wanted to scream. “See, this is why I avoid talking to you. I never understand what the hell you’re saying and then when I think I do, you turn it all around on me.”

“Do I now?”

“Yes, yes you do,” she fumed.

“And here I thought were just having a rational adult conversation. I’m sorry if I speak above you, Jessica, I’ll try to dull it down for you.”

With a muffled growl, she glared at him. “That’s not what I said, and you’re doing it again. I’m not the one with the problem, you are.”

“I never said you had a problem,” he countered smoothly, lifting a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lighting it up without his eyes ever leaving hers.

“Yes, you did, you said you had to dull—oh god, I’m stepping right into your web again, damn it.” Throwing her hands in the air, she marched up the stairs. He was infuriating.

~

Still vibrating from her conversation with C.J., Jessica searched her bag for her cell phone. The guy was driving her to the brink of insanity. Playing jokes and pranks on

her, making her think there were spirits here, then turning everything she said around to make her look like a fool.

Growling, finally finding her cell phone, she pulled it out and turned it on.

Glancing down she saw undetectable signal and fumed. “How the hell can you not find a signal?” Standing up, she moved to the window, but still it wasn’t connecting. “Stupid phone.” Tossing it on her bed, she dropped down then flopped back. Staring at the ceiling, she tried to calm down.

~

With the power still out, C.J. looked over his meters and gadgets, checking the thermometers for any changes.

He was damn glad he brought a large supply of batteries.

If the power stayed off for long, at least he would still have his equipment.

A boom of thunder rattled the windows, and glancing up, C.J. saw the rain as it began to fall. It was about time they got some rain. This heat wave was driving everyone nuts.

He’d had that familiar tingle when he’d stepped into the cellar, a tingle that told him there was a spirit present.

If Jessica didn’t want to believe it, that was her choice, but he knew what he felt, and he’d felt a presence. Who it was, he couldn’t be sure, but he could speculate. Darius Smithers.

There had been no other traumatic events in the house, other than the fire in nineteen thirteen, so it stood to reason if there was an entity, or entities, it had to be the Smithers family. And it stood to reason that if they were still around, there was something keeping them here.

What he needed was to search the archives again and get more information. Booting up his laptop, grateful for the battery, he frowned when he couldn’t access the internet. The rumble of thunder clued him in that possibly there was too much distortion in the air for the laptop to access an outside line. In the distance, his EMF detected the electricity from the lightning. Years of experience, and his own senses, taught him how to differentiate between an average energy spike causing his meter to react and that of a spirit.

Leaning back, slipping a cigarette from his pocket, he sat patiently, waiting for the storm to take its course. When

Jessica stepped into the room, he acknowledged her with a tip of his head.

“About time we got some rain.” Moving to the fridge, she grabbed the half empty bottle of pop, and poured herself a glass. “What are you working on?”

“Nothing at the moment. The storm seems to be messing up my internet connection.” So she was speaking to him.

 “Yeah, my cell isn’t working either. But the rain is nice.” She moved to the window, opening it to allow the cool rainy air to enter the house. “Smells good.”

“I love the smell of rain.” Tapping out his cigarette, he moved in beside her to watch the rain as it fell on the ground. “There’s something incredibly stimulating about a good storm.”

“You can almost feel the energy of it vibrate inside your body.”

“Yeah, I feel the same way.” Their eyes met, held for a moment until his flicked to her mouth. “Nothing like a good storm to get the juices flowing.” Lifting his hand, he tucked the stray hair from her face behind her ear.

“I better…I have…” She turned abruptly and fled the room.

Lowering his hand, sighing deeply, he continued to watch the lightning split the sky and the rain douse the dry ground.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Secrets Of The Dead: Chapter 4


Chapter 4


 “Holy hell you’ve got lungs.” Giving his ears a rub, C.J. glanced at Jessica, clad in a very skimpy set of undies. He’d been heading to the washroom when he’d heard the commotion coming from her room. Seeing her half naked reminded him he wasn’t wearing much more. “What’s the matter?”

“There’s…there’s bugs…bugs in my bed.” Practically standing on tip toes, she pointed frantically to the bed behind her.

Frowning, C.J. walked to the bed; lifting the covers he examined the linens. “I don’t see any bugs here.”

“Well there were, maybe they crawled on the floor.”

Letting out a deep sigh, C.J. got down on all fours and checked the floor. “There are no bugs here, Jessica.” He stood, turned to her. “Tell me exactly what you felt?”

“A bug, or bugs, crawling up my thigh, along my stomach. One even bit me.”

“Show me.” He stepped towards her and drew a curious glance when her arms came up protectively over her breasts.

“No, I can’t. It bit me, just trust me.”

“Well, no offence intended, darling, but if I were a bug I wouldn’t mind taking a casual walk over something as fine as that display.” His eyes shifted from hers to slide seductively over the fine curves on her body.

 Stop drooling, Dowling.” Grabbing the blanket, she covered herself. “What the hell are you doing in my room anyway, and half naked at that?”

It was a shame she was covering up that luscious body. “I heard some commotion in your room and thought maybe you were in trouble . The gentleman in me had to make sure you were okay.”

“If you truly were a gentleman, you would have put something on over your boxers. I’m fine, so you can go now.”

She was a stunning beauty, even more so with no make-up and her hair disheveled. “It’s rather chilly in here, mind if I check the temperature?”

“Yes. I like it chilly. Good night, Dowling.” She made a dramatic gesture with her hand indicating he should leave.

He wished she would reconsider because he could feel the presence and he knew if he took a thermal reading it would show several degrees below the actual room temperature. Oh well, what could he do if she wouldn’t allow him? “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” he said in closing, a slight smirk on his lips.

“Jerk,” she called out through the closed door. He knew it was mean, but he just couldn’t resist. Yanking her door open, he yelled, “Boo.”

She jumped, the blanket flying out of her hands. The look she gave him only added to his amusement. “Jesus, Dowling. That’s not funny.”

He shrugged arrogantly. “Was for me.”

“Get out.” Grabbing a pillow, she tossed it at the door, just as he closed it.

He really shouldn’t have scared her.

Laughing, he closed his door and went to bed.

~

 Morning came with all the glorious benefits of summer. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it looked to be yet another balmy day. Whistling a ditty, C.J. beat half a dozen eggs in a bowl while watching the tapes from the night before on his mini TV/DVD combo. He’d had an interesting night with dreams of fire, terror, and death, and when he’d awoken, he’d felt as if he had actually been in the dream. It wasn’t often that he had those sorts of dreams, but when he did, they were usually jumbled and hard for him to decipher. He’d written it down in his own journal and decided to try and figure it out later.

Despite the odd night he’d had, he felt rather upbeat.

Jessica, on the other hand, did not.

The instant she entered the room, he could tell she wasn’t in a chipper mood. Without so much as a glance his way, she marched to the coffee pot, grabbing a mug from the coffee tree and helped herself to the rich dark brew.
 
“Oh yeah, that hits the spot.”

“Rough night, Jessica?” he said without turning to face her.

“Apparently you slept well. Lucky me, I got the room with the bugs.”

C.J. noticed that she had showered, but had refrained from applying any make-up. Her eyes were oval and large and even without mascara to enhance them, her lashes were full and dark. She looked incredibly young without the make-up and even more alluring. “You found them?”

“No, the little bastards were cunning. Even after I changed the bedding, they still pestered me all night.”

“Then what makes you think they were bugs?” He poured the eggs into the hot skillet, the contents sizzling as they met the hot iron.

“What else could it have been?” Taking a chair, she sat with her cup, yawning into her cup.

Grabbing a spoon, he began to stir the eggs, commenting lightly. “An entity.” He ignored her snort in response and continued. “My readings overnight were quite interesting. There was a spike on the EMF and the temperature dropped several degrees just outside your room. And, I picked up a faint sound on the recorder as well.” It hadn’t been loud, but he could have sworn it had picked up the words, stop it.

“Did it ever occur to you that this place has power surges and that’s what spiking your EMF? And the drop in temperature is probably due to the air-conditioner kicking in?”

Setting the spoon on the cute ducky placemat on the stove, he put two slices of toast in the toaster while replying calmly, “This place doesn’t have central air and has never reported any power surges according to the power company.”

“You checked? And what do you mean there is no central air? I felt it last night.”

He turned to her, a faint smile on his lips. “I know, but it wasn’t from the air-conditioning.”

She rolled her eyes. “Then what else could it have been?”

“An entity.” She snorted again; he simply stirred the eggs. “Humor me, Jessica. Think outside your box. If it wasn’t bugs that were crawling over your skin, what else might it have felt like?”

Setting her coffee cup down, she let out a long breath. “Okay, if it wasn’t bugs…let me think.” She tapped the table as she thought. “I don’t know, bugs keep coming to mind.”

“Close your eyes.”

“Why?” she eyed him suspiciously.

“Just trust me for one moment.” He waited, then with a roll of her pretty green eyes, she finally closed them. Lifting his hand, being as gentle as possible, he slid a finger along her bare shoulder. She had incredibly smooth skin and he almost regretted having touched it. He’d kissed her and now he knew what her skin felt like. He wanted more. “Close?”

Her brow furrowed. “Maybe.”

“A close maybe?”

“Yeah, I guess. What’s your point, Dowling?”

“Since you didn’t do any research on this house before coming here, I’ll fill you in.” He went back to his eggs and toast. “It was built by a local doctor back in 1905. At the time he and his wife had one child, a female, two years old. His wife must have been pregnant at the time because another female was born shortly after they moved in. They had another daughter two years later, then finally a son two years after that.”

“Busy beavers.” She chuckled as she lifted her coffee cup.

“Indeed he was. There were a few newspaper clippings reporting his outstanding medical work, as well as a few rumors of… infidelity.” He scooped eggs into two plates, laying a piece of toast beside the eggs.

“A fascinating story.” She rolled her eyes, then sighed when he set the eggs before her.

“Several reports from previous women who have lived here have stated feeling someone, or something, touching them at night.”

“Uh huh.” She forked up the eggs, sliding it into her mouth.

“Or maybe it was bugs.” That caught her attention, as he had intended. “Sound familiar?”

She swallowed what was in her mouth before responding. “Are you implying some perverted ghost was in my room last night, touching me?”

 “You tell me.”

Snorting again, she picked at her eggs. “They were bugs, plain and simple. Entities,” she snorted again, then continued eating.

“My equipment read something last night at about ten o’clock, right around the time I entered your room.”

“So.”

“The temperature drop, the spike, the faint mumbling sounds my recorder picked up as well as distortion on my cameras all lead to the fact that there was a spirit active in the house last night.”

“Believe what you like, Dowling, but I was not touched by a ghost. Do ghosts bite, or pinch? I highly doubt it.”

“Some have been known to inflict a great deal of pain on a person. Did it leave a mark?”

Her eyes darted to her left breast. “No.”

“It bit your breast.”

“No,” she said quickly, her eyes flicking to his. “No, it was more like a pinch.” She laughed it off.

He smirked. “Hmmm, it roams your body, yet the only place it chooses to nibble on—or pinch—is your breast. Interesting.”

“You’re making it sound perverted and it wasn’t. Thanks for the grub.” She pushed from the table, taking her cup with her.

Smiling, C.J. leaned back in his chair and lit a cigarette. He had to give the spook credit, he knew a fine woman when he saw one.

 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Secrets Of The Dead Chapter 3


Chapter 3

 
She was the sweetest thing he had ever seen. Her fall of long sandy blonde hair looked lush and gorgeous. She had a face as delicate as an angel with eyes as blue as the sky on a bright cloudless day. The night dress she wore was a silky white and came to the tip of her tiny pink feet.

But C.J. knew this child was not with the living, despite her appearance.

“Who might you be?” he inquired, the cigarette he had placed in the ashtray long forgotten.

Lifting her tiny arm, she crooked her finger in a gesture for C.J. to follow her.

“Okay, where are we going?” But as he took his first step towards her, she suddenly spun, facing the entrance to the kitchen, then vanished. “Wait. Damn it.” He knew from feel that she was no longer with him.

“Talking to yourself again, Dowling?” Stepping into the room, Jessie was nearly knocked off her feet when C.J. ran past her. “An excuse me would have been polite.”

He came back into the room, moments later and ran directly to the camcorder sitting on the counter. Hitting rewind, C.J. let it run while he checked the EMF. There had been a significant spike in the reading and the digital thermometer had read a drop in temperature. Jotting it down in his note pad, he heard the tape stop. Setting the pad down, he turned back to the tape and pressed play, angling the screen to get a better view. “Damn.”

“Problem?” she asked comically, as she sat idly swinging her foot.

“The tape is scrambled.” Typical, it was rare that a poltergeist showed up on tape, but it was worth a try. The fact that it had recorded perfectly fine up until the moment she had appeared indicated it wasn’t the system.

“What a shame.”

His eyes lifted to her, anger registering in the deepening brown. He slipped a cigarette from his package as he responded. “Was there a reason you came back into the room, or do you just like to annoy me?” If she hadn't come back into the kitchen, he might have been able to get some answers out of the tiny apparition.

“Testy. I wanted a drink. Why do you smoke? It’s such a filthy habit.”

“Everyone has some sort of vice, this is mine,” he snapped at her, rewinding the tape for a double check.

 “What's the big hub bub anyway? Did you see a ghost, Dowling?” she mocked with a chuckle.

Letting out a deep breath, he lit the cigarette, drawing in a deep breath, then releasing a cloud of smoke in the air. “Yes, Jessica, I did see a ghost, but you scared her off. Doesn’t surprise me, you give off that sort of ‘vibe’,” he countered in his usual calm manner, the insult no less potent.

“Ha ha. Do tell, what did this ‘ghost’ look like?”

Resigned to the fact that she was a diehard skeptic, he decided to let it be, for now. “What do you know about this house?”

“I know it’s not haunted,” she replied snidely.

“Besides that.”

“Not much. I was hired to come in, scope out the place and report back with my findings.”

“Such as, your belief that it’s not haunted.”

“Bulls-eye.” She tapped her nose.

“So, you never researched it at all?”

“Why should I?”

“Well, it might be nice to know some history before passing judgment.”

 “I don’t need to know the history to decide if it’s haunted or not.”

Her attitude was typical of most people. “So how do you determine if the claims are factual or not?”

“I spend the night.”

“That’s it?” She shrugged. “So one night in a house is all the proof you need. No equipment, nothing?”

“I’m not a paranormal investigator, Dowling,” she said mockingly.

“Unbelievable. So there are no facts in your findings? You do know that’s not exactly scientifically sound?”

“I’m not a scientist. I do only what I’m told to do and nothing more. What can I say, I hate my job.”

Shaking his head, C.J. drew on his cigarette before speaking. “What if I told you that, in nineteen thirteen, the upper floor was ravaged by a fire that claimed six lives, four of which were children?”

“I would say that was pretty awful.”

“And after that fire, it was bought by the city, repaired and put on the market. I have documented accounts of people claiming the house was haunted as far back as nineteen sixty five.”

“What about the fifty two years between that? No one claimed anything then?”

“If it was claimed, it wasn’t documented.”

“So, what are you trying to say?”

“That perhaps this house is haunted by the spirits that died so tragically in that fire, back in nineteen thirteen.”

She snorted. “What proof do you have to validate that claim?”

“The little girl that visited me right before you showed up.”

“Little girl, huh, and what did she have to say to you?”

“As I said earlier, you scared her off.” With quick tapping motions he put the cigarette out in the ashtray. “But I believe she might be one of those children that died here all those years ago.”

“You believe, but what proof do you have, Dowling? Nothing, because there are no such things as ghosts.” She pushed from the table, leaving her glass behind. “I’ve chosen the room next to the washroom on the left. See you in the morning.”

He watched as she left the room, disappointed by her reaction, but prepared for it. It was hard to convince a skeptic, and most times he simply ignored them. He wasn’t sure why this time he felt the need to convince her.

Pushing from the table, he went back to his notes.

~

The room she had chosen had obviously once belonged to a female child. The d├ęcor was pink and frilly and so not like her. But, it was either this room, or the one with mirrors on the ceiling, which she figured had belonged to the parents, or a room with model airplanes floating from the ceiling and a race car for a bed. She could handle the frilliness for two nights, she supposed.

 The room was absolutely stifling, even with the window open. Stripped down to her bare essentials—a white silk and lace matching bra and panties—Jessica climbed into the silky pink bed with her notes. In the years since she had been investigating supposedly haunted houses, she had never once found any validity to the claim, and this house was no different. She made her notes, documenting the time and date and what she had done throughout the day, then set the file aside and stretched out in the bed.

Three more days and she would be off to her vacation and the job interview she hadn't mentioned to anyone. Over the past three years she had come to realize she wanted more in life than just investigating houses, debunking cases of fraud and writing a small excerpt in a small magazine. She wanted more.

Clicking the smiling Cinderella lamp off beside her, Jessie slid beneath the covers and told her mind to shut down. She did what she did every night to relax, and imagined laying on a beach, under a blanket of twinkling stars, the ocean waves soothing her mind. When she felt the sudden chilly breeze, she didn’t think anything of it and pulled the blankets higher.

Turning her back to the door, she tried to get comfortable. The faint creaking was heard vaguely over the crashing waves in her mind. Breathing deeply, sleep beginning to capture her, she didn’t notice the bed give beside her. Uncomfortable, she rolled onto her back, stretching her legs out, shifting the blankets with her movement.

Kicking the blankets below her thighs, trying to cool down, comfortable now, Jessie frowned at the sensation of something moving along her leg. She kicked out lightly, and went back to sleep. When the sensation tickled her belly, she swiped at it with her hand. When it moved to her breast, pinching the nipple, her eyes shot open. Jolting upright, flicking the light on, she couldn’t see anything that might have been responsible. Pursing her lips, she clicked the light off, then laid back down, trying to get back to sleep.

Rolling onto her side, facing the door, she released a long breath and closed her eyes. She felt it again, sliding up her thigh, over her hip and along her side. Bolting out of bed, she shrieked, swiping wildly at the bugs crawling over her flesh.

The light flicked on, she turned and screamed.