Yawning, C.J. poured himself a cup of coffee, grateful for the power that had come back on some time during the night. He wasn’t sure when it had happened as he’d been awake well past four in the morning. Deciding to take his coffee to the living room to watch over some of the night’s tapes, he sat on the sofa, looking a little worse for wear.
When he heard her footsteps on the stairs, he lifted his head to watch her descend. Wow, he thought, she looked like hell. “Rough night?”
“The worst. I can’t wait to get home and sleep in my own bed.” Setting her bag by the door, she rolled her neck.“It’s been a slice, Dowling, but I’m out of here.”
“So soon? I made coffee.” He stood, maybe too eagerly, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t ready for her to leave yet.
“Scared to be here alone, Dowling?”
“Hardly. I just thought we would have some coffee before you left.”
“I plan on grabbing a cup of Java from Timmie’s on my way home. When did the power come back on?”
“Some time after four, that’s when I dozed off.”
Moving in closer to her, he could see the bags under her eyes. “You really didn’t sleep well, did you?”
“I’ll do better in my own bed. Have fun…finding your ghosts.” She snickered as she reached out for the door.
Turning the knob, she gave it a good yank and nearly slammed her nose into the door when it didn’t budge.
“What the hell?”
“It’s locked.” He smiled lightly as he reached out to release the dead bolt.
“Right. Lack of sleep.” She excused and tried again.
Once again the door didn’t budge. “What the hell did you do to it?”
“I didn’t do anything to it. Let me try.”
“Of course, because a man can do it so much better than a woman.” She snorted and stepped to the side to let him try.
Giving the door a good hard yank, he frowned as he glared at it. “Hmmm.”
“The rain must have toyed with it. I’ll use the back door.” Grabbing her bag she headed through the house to the back exit, C.J. right behind her.
“What the hell?” Yanking on the door, she grunted when it refused to give. “This is insane.”
“I’ll try the patio doors.” They were glass, less likely the humidity had affected them. He soon came to realize that they too, wouldn’t budge. “Well, this is an interesting turn of events.” Amused by it, he turned to his machines to
check for any telekinetic activity that might have registered.
Glaring at the door, Jessie’s mind began to work.
“What time did you say you fell asleep?”
“Around four.” There was significant activity between six and just half an hour before Jessica had come down the stairs. Why hadn't he felt anything while he’d been preparing coffee?
Her eyes narrowed as her mind clicked. “You did it. What the hell did you do to the doors, Dowling?”
“Nothing. God, look at this reading. It’s incredible.”
Whoever had been here had been extremely active.
“Bull, you did something. Maybe glue them shut?”
He lifted his head, looking at her with astonishment
“You think I glued all the doors shut?”
“Wouldn’t put it past you. You’ll try anything to get a person to believe in ghosts. This is rich, Dowling.”
Standing up, straightening his back, he looked her square in the eyes. “And how the hell do you think I accomplished that grandiose feat?”
“I don’t know, maybe…maybe you went outside during the night and nailed boards across the doors.”
“The doors open inward, Jessica,” he said simply. She was stretching it just to believe in something that was impossible rather than accept what was plausible.
Her eyes narrowed as she snarled. “Okay, fine. You put Crazy Glue in the locks so they wouldn’t turn?”
“Right, because I always carry with me a healthy supply of Crazy Glue.” He rolled his eyes, then went back to his read-outs.
“Fine, then you explain it.”
He was more than happy to. “During the time after I fell asleep and right before the moment you came down the stairs, there was a strong source of energy in the house.
I believe that someone was busy last night, making sure we didn’t leave in the morning.”
“That someone being you,” she retorted snidely.
“No,” he replied calmly. “That being the spirits that inhabit the place.”
She chortled, resting her hip against the wall. “The spirits locked us in here? That is rich, Dowling, even for you.”
“Okay, miss smart ass, you explain it then!” Grabbing a mug, he poured her a cup of coffee, then pulled out a cigarette, sat at the table and waited to hear her rendition.
“It’s been extremely hot and humid for the past week; the heat caused the wood framing of the place to expand and then when it rained yesterday, it made it stick.”
His brow lifted and the corner of his mouth rose in a smirk. “Are you serious?” When she narrowed her eyes at him, he burst into laughter. “And you call me rich. That, my dear Jessica, was stretching it beyond far.” Flicking ashes into the ashtray, he continued to snicker.
“It could happen,” she snarled her response.
Still snickering, he put his cigarette out, then lifted to his feet. “Since you’re not leaving, care for some breakfast?”
“Whatever, but I intend to keep trying to get out.”
“What's the rush?” Pulling out the carton of eggs, C.J. began making French toast.
“I’m supposed to be going on vacation next week.”
She drummed her fingers on the table while C.J. cooked calmly.
“Where to?” he whipped the eggs while he spoke.
He turned, angling his head over his shoulder. “Why the hell would you want to vacation in New York?”
“I have an interview with a magazine company.”
He turned his entire body now, his face lighting up.
“No kidding, well, that’s great.”
“Yeah, I’m hoping. But first I need to get the hell out of here.” Pushing from her chair, she tried the sliding doors again, then giving up she moved to the back door.
She pounded on it, kicked it, yanked on it, then ended up swearing a blue streak at it.
“That is some mouth, darling. Here, sit; eat something before you exhaust yourself.” He set the plate down then walked to her when she didn’t move. “Jessica.”
She jerked her arm away, annoyed. “It’s fucking Jessie, okay?”
“Fine, whoa, chill out, sweetheart.” Keeping his hands raised, he waited for her to pass before moving to his own chair. He gave her a moment to calm down, watching as she stabbed away at her toast. Refreshing their coffee, he finally spoke up. “Why does Jessica bug you so much?”
“It just does.”
“There has to be a reason why. It’s a pretty name, it suits you.” He lifted his cup of coffee and waited for her response.
“Yeah, pretty.” She snorted, then lifted a forkful of syrupy toast to her mouth.
Eyes narrowed, C.J. gave that reaction some serious thought. She rarely wore dresses. He had seen her in a skirt on occasion, a very businesslike skirt with a jacket to match. She wore make-up, but nothing extravagant. He didn’t think he had ever seen her with lipstick on. Her hair was cut short, coming in just under her ears in a bob, and was highlighted with blonde streaks. She certainly didn’t act very feminine.
“Jessie is a very uni-sex sort of name. It can go either way, for a male, or for a female. Whereas Jessica is very feminine. Why don’t you want to portray your feminine side, Jessica?”
“I portray my feminine side, Dowling, what an asinine comment.”
“Oh, you look female, no doubt about that, especially in your skimpy underclothes.” He gave her a sultry sort of
look, to which she angled her head at him and gave him a snide glare. “But you don’t try to emphasize it. Makes me wonder why.”
“Why do you use your initials?” she retorted.
He smiled, pushed his empty plate aside. “Not Cameron. I don’t care for the man I was named after, that’s all.”
“Why? Was he a crook?”
“You said you were named after your grandfather.
Why don’t you like him?”
“Let’s just say we don’t agree and leave it at that.”
Standing, he took their empty dishes to the dishwasher.
“Okay, fine, I’ll tell you why I dislike Jessica if you tell me what your first name really is.”
He gave it some serious thought before replying.
“Why’s it such a big deal for you to know my name?”
“Why’s it such a big deal for you to know why I go by
Touché. “Fine, I’ll play. Carlton.”
“Carlton? What's wrong with Carlton?”
“As I said, it belongs to my grandfather. Your turn.”
“Oh!” She suddenly gasped. “Carlton Books. Holy shit, Dowling, Carlton Books is huge, world wide, and you’re an heir to that?” She whistled low.
He simply shrugged. He didn’t like being associated with anything to do with his grandfather, including his money.
“Why don’t you get along?”
He didn’t care for this game any longer. “That wasn’t part of the agreement. Your turn.”
She frowned, giving in. “It’s too feminine, like you said. It’s hard to be a respected reporter with a feminine name.”
“There are plenty of female journalists.” Taking the damp cloth, he wiped the table down, then the counter.
“Sure, but none of the deep or hard nosed jobs go to females. How many women do you see in the Middle East? Were there any reporting in Vietnam during the war?
I can’t think of any.”
“So you think using the more male version of your name will get you those hard nosed stories?”
“It got me the interview in New York.”
His eyes met hers with surprise. “They think you’re a male?”
“They did, when they first called me for an interview.”
Shaking his head in disbelief, he set the cloth in the sink. “Time has progressed; it’s not as sexist as it used to be.”
“Yeah, more women are working, but still, men get the harder jobs because they don’t think women can deal with the pressure. You want pressure, how about having kids, dealing with illnesses, tantrums, bills and everything else that goes with raising a family. Women stand up to that sort of pressure all the time, yet we’re still considered weak. Hell, we spend hours in agony just to bring a new life into the world, and we’re considered frail.”
“True, but lying to get somewhere in life isn’t the answer. You’re better than that, Jessica.”
“I didn’t ask for your two cents worth, Dowling.” Pushing from the table, annoyed, Jessica left the room.
He wasn’t too sure if he agreed with her logic, but who was he to tell her otherwise. Leaving the kitchen sparkling clean, he went to check the other cameras for activity.