Monday, January 7, 2013

Secrets of the Dead: Chapter 1


Prologue
 

She stood in the silence of the house, a tiny figure in white. The air around her was still now; it hadn’t been so moments ago. The turbulence had rocked the walls, shook the foundation, but she’d won in the end. A small victory she knew, and one that would not last long. Another would come, another would bring their family here, but she feared it would not be the right one

For so long she’d waited for someone to come and free her and her family from the endless torment that had befallen them. Yet still they remained, locked to this place, locked to the secrets that had destroyed them all

His anger was one she knew not to tangle with, yet she had for so long now. She would not allow his sick obsession to ruin another female’s life when he’d ruined so many. It was time to put a stop to it all

She’d forced this family out like she had so many others before, and she would continue until the right one came along.

She stood in the silence of the house, a tiny figure in white. Death had claimed her many years ago, but she still remained, longing for someone to come and release the secrets of the dead.


Chapter 1

 

The sun beat down on the black sedan creating a sauna like atmosphere inside the car. Jessie wiped the sweat from the back of her neck and cursed the mechanic that had sworn to her he’d fixed her air-conditioning. The heat wave currently suffocating them wasn’t giving any indication of letting up anytime soon. Sitting in a muggy vehicle, with no air, stuck in a traffic jam due to someone’s car overheating, only added to Jessie’s already tense nerves. She had an appointment to make and she was close to running late.

Not that it had been her choice to take the assignment. She never should have answered the phone when it rang; she should have let the answering machine pick it up. But she’d scooped it up before checking the caller ID, her mistake. So now she was sitting in a sweltering car, hating the heat and the idiots who wailing on their horns—like that would help get things moving along.

If only she’d had more guts when her boss had called to demand she take on this assignment. If only she’d argued more when he’d explained that it would only take three days out of her vacation. If only never got you anywhere. She’d taken the assignment, end of story.

A haunted house. Those words always made Jessie laugh. Why was it that people could believe in something as absurd as spirits coming back after death to torment? When you died, you died, that was the end, or so Jessica believed. The owners of this house she was on her way to investigate claimed that spirits possessed their property, forcing them to flee. It was absolutely absurd, but she was going to spend the two nights her boss demanded in the house and prove them wrong.

Jessie had been with Hoax Busters Investigations for four years now and had been on more crappy assignments than she could count. And she was damn tired of it all.

They were hired mostly to investigate claims of fraud and misrepresentation, as well as compensation claims that weren’t on the up and up. And, occasionally they were also called in when a house was suspected of paranormal activity.

There were rumors that her boss, Dylan McCray, wasn’t exactly on the up and up either. But they were only rumors; she had no facts to prove them right, even though she despised the man and hated the crap he always handed her. That was one of the reasons why Jessie was looking for a better job. If everything went well, this would be the last time she would have to deal with her boss and the garbage assignments he always sent her on.

Hired by Danbury Realtors to investigate claims that the house they’d put on the market was haunted, she figured it wouldn’t be too hard, considering there was no such things as ghosts. Oh, she knew there were people who vehemently argued that there were, but she didn’t believe it.

C.J. Dowling came to mind.

Now he was a piece of work. The man actually made a living investigating supposed ghosts. They’d run into each other on occasion, working the same investigation, and every time she met up with him, she had the same reaction.

Irritation.

She wondered if he’d been called to this house. It was the sort of thing that would be right up his alley. She was pretty sure he’d heard about it. If Hoax Busters had heard of it, C.J. must know of it.

Apparently the owners had contacted the local TV affiliate with their story of spirits invading their home, forcing them out, and the real estate company was having a hard time selling it now. Go figure.

So, she was on her way to the house to meet with the real estate agent who was waiting for her with the keys. That was, if she ever made it out of this damn traffic jam.

Swiping the damp bob of hair from her face, Jessie waited impatiently for the traffic to start moving. She could feel the leather seat beneath her and knew that if she tried to stand up, it would stick to her clammy body. God, she wished for rain.

Impatience getting the best of her, she did as so many had done before her and wailed on the horn, dramatically waving her hand in the air in a show of frustration. All that did was piss the other drivers off and get some rude obscenities shouted at her. Ignoring them, she turned her music up and tried to be patient. Hell, she was never patient. So she slipped her cell phone from her purse and checked for messages.

It was going to be a long day.

~

Enjoying the cool air blowing over his face, C.J. Dowling sat in his truck, smoking casually while he looked over his notes. He was a meticulous man, and it showed in his work. With the laptop open on his lap, he made sure he was ready for the job. He was always ready for the job, who was he kidding, but he always double checked just to be certain.

It was just past one in the afternoon, the temperature outside was only twenty degrees Celsius, but the humidity made it feel much worse. The heat and humidity was typical of a Vancouver summer, and July 1999 was proving to be a scorcher. It made him damn glad he was in a cool vehicle. It was unfortunate that the house he was sent to investigate didn’t have central air.

He’d been called three days ago by the owners to investigate claims of spiritual activity in their home. Reports of voices and screams were reported as being heard by every member of the Conner family. It especially bothered the wife, who also claimed of being touched and caressed by something or someone. C.J. didn’t doubt their claims, but he was here to prove it and to deal with it as best he could.

He was a Paranormal Investigator working for the Spiritual Realm, a company dedicated to investigating paranormal activity and to rid properties of any spirits still clinging to this life. C.J. had an inside track on the spirits, being a medium or Spiritual Contact as he preferred. If there was a ghost about, C.J. Dowling could sense it simply by entering the property. It had been that way for him for as long as he could remember. The dead spoke to him, and he listened.

Shutting the vehicle off, in turn cutting off the nice cool air, he opened the door and was blasted by a wave of heat. Doing his best to ignore it, he grabbed his laptop, slung his overnight bag over his shoulder, then headed to the house.

Standing before it, C.J. admired the beauty of the home. There weren’t many like it that were still standing today. Built in the early nineteen hundreds, in an area that had once been called Blueblood Alley, where only the upper class could afford to live, it had survived a fire and countless storms that had battered away at the paint, but it was still standing. An early Victorian house with a touch of modernization, and no one wanted to live in it because it was supposedly haunted. What a shame.

Unlocking the front door, he knew the instant he entered that the claims were accurate. This house was definitely possessed by spirits.

~

Pulling into the driveway, Jessie saw the white truck and knew instantly who it belonged to. Irritated by the heat and having had to wait in clogged traffic for nearly an hour, put Jessie in less than a jovial mood. Receiving a message from the realtor stating he wouldn’t be able to make it after all and would leave the keys in the mail box pissed her off. Slipping out of the muggy car, the warmth of the afternoon sun snapping out at her as it hit her skin, Jessie fumed. What the hell was he doing here?

Grabbing her overnight bag, she trudged her way to the front door. Blowing air over her face, she reached out for the door just as it opened. She snarled her greeting. “Dowling.”

“Jessica.”

 “What the hell are you doing here?” The guy grated on her nerves, always did. He was so cocky, so self-righteous.

 “Working. What are you doing here?”

 “I’m here on assignment.”

“Assigned by whom?”

Danbury Realtors. I was supposed to meet the agent here, but something came up and he had to cancel. He left a set of keys in the mail box.”

“Hmmm, interesting. Oh, well.”

“Oh, well? What the hell does that mean? Dowling?” She called out his name as he moved towards the truck. When he didn’t stop, she hurried after him. “Dowling!”

 Pulling the box with his equipment out of the truck, C.J. replied evenly “Yes, Jessica?”

Oh, how his calm nature annoyed her. In all the years she’d known him, she’d never seen him raise his voice or a hand in anger. How could one person manage to be so damn calm all the time? “What did you mean by saying, oh, well?”

“Just that. Can you get the door for me? My hands are otherwise occupied.” He smiled at her brightly.

Growling, she pushed the door open for him, then stood in the way. “What are you doing?”

“Taking my equipment into the house.”

“Why?”

He shifted the box. “I need it to do my job. Excuse me.”

Snarling, she moved aside. “Today?”

“Yes, Jessica, today.” Setting it on the floor, he turned to get the box of groceries from the truck, then paused to look back at her. “Did you cut your hair? No, wait, you highlighted it. Looks interesting.”

Frowning, she touched a hand to her short red hair with blonde highlights. “What do you mean by interesting?” she asked, following after him.

“Just that. So how long are you planning on staying?”

“Staying where?” What was wrong with her hair? She liked it, everyone she knew liked it.

“Here.” He smiled at her over his shoulder as he walked back to the house.

He’d managed to fluster her mind and it annoyed her. “A couple of days.”

“Well, then, I guess we’ll be roomies. Door, please.”

“I’m not your fucking doorman, Dowling, get it yourself.”

“You look hot Jessica. Didn’t you have the air on in your car?” C.J. responded, giving the door a push with his hip.

“It’s busted. What do you mean, we’ll be roomies?” She followed him into the house, the door swinging shut behind her.

Setting the box down beside the other, he stood, running a hand through his hair. “I’ll be staying here for a few days. You should have it looked at.”

“Have what looked at? And there is no way in hell you’re staying here while I’m here, Dowling.” The guy was always running his hands through his sandy blonde hair, mussing up those soft waves so it looked like he’d just gotten out of bed. Okay, sure, it was nice hair, but did he have to keep drawing attention to it like that?

“The air in your car, and I will be staying here whether you like it or not.” He held his hand up to silence her protest. “I’m here on request of the owners, so therefore, I have priority. If you don’t like it, come back another day.” Turning, he knelt down and lifted the box of video equipment and carried it from the foyer to the living room.

Aghast, Jessie threw her arms in the air and marched after him. “You have some nerve, Dowling. I’m staying, you leave.”

He set the box down, turning to her. “Looks like you have a problem then, because I don’t intend to leave. Now, we can stand here and argue all day, or we can come to some sort of a truce and both do our jobs.”

Her eyes narrowed. There was no damn way she was giving up and leaving. Biting her lip, she nodded. “Fine, but stay out of my way.”

“Same goes, Jessica.”

“It’s Jessie.”

He simply smiled at her and turned back to his equipment without responding. “So, you’re here to prove there are no ghosts, I presume?”

“You got it, ace, but I wouldn’t overwork that brain of yours. You might need it later on.”

He didn’t bother to acknowledge her and began setting up the cameras. “Good luck.”

“With what?”

“Proving the lack of entities on this property.”

She snorted in response. “Not a problem, slick.”

Standing, C.J. held his hand out to her. “What do you say to a friendly wager then, Jessica?”

“It’s Jessie, and what kind of wager?”

“I bet you can’t stay here and leave in two days still a non-believer.”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s an easy one because I’ll win. What's the wager?”

“If you leave here in two days time, still believing there are no such thing as ghosts, I’ll buy you dinner.”

Her brow lifted. “My appetite’s a little more refined than burgers, Dowling.”

His brown eyes narrowed mockingly. “Tacos it is, then.”

“You’re a riot. And if I win?”

His smile was quick and looked oh so devious. “I’ll eat my shoes.”

“Deal.” She took his hand and the instant she did she found herself being yanked against him, his mouth pressed against hers in a quick kiss.

“What the hell?” she sputtered after yanking herself free.

He released her with a smile. “Just sealing the deal, darling.” Whistling joyfully, he grabbed the box of groceries and headed to the kitchen.

Flabbergasted that he would pull such a trick, Jessie huffed, spinning on her heels. Okay, so he had a nice mouth, but that didn’t mean she had to like him.

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