I rush upstairs with Mrs. Caldwell close behind. It takes a moment for Reese and Mr. Caldwell to react, whereas, Drew’s way ahead of us.
I head in the direction of the scream and peer inside a bedroom. A thin girl, white as bed linens and dressed much like myself in a long, black skirt and ebony organza blouse, convulses on the bed. A few feet away from her, a younger girl stands slack-jawed—her gaze fixated on the ceiling. She’s a chunky little thing with pink, healthy cheeks. She glances at me while pointing at the ceiling. A few stuffed animals circle the room above us. They drop to the floor as I enter.
The mother gasps at the sight, covering her mouth with her hand. “Lizzie,” she cries. She runs to the older girl and sweeps her frail daughter into her arms. Lizzie trembles. Her eyes roll back down so that the pupils are showing instead of the whites.
I mouth to Drew, “What did you do this time?”
Drew crosses his heart. “I swear it wasn’t me.”
The older girl Lizzie stops shaking then bolts upright. She seems unaware of her previous state and grins when she sees me. “You’re the new girl at Plymouth High everyone’s talking about. You’re here for the ghost.” Lizzie breaks from her mother’s grasp and gets up. When she falters, I grab her shoulders and help her back to bed.
“I need to ask you a rather personal question,” I say, curious what my peers are saying.
“Sure,” Lizzie says. She hugs a pillow one-handed, gesturing with the other for me to sit next to her.
I bite my lip because my next question isn’t always well received. “Are you on your period?”
“Why would you ask that?” Thankfully, Lizzie appears interested, not appalled. She brushes back her dyed black hair shadowing her face.
Mrs. Caldwell taps my shoulder. “We’re on the same cycle, so Lizzie should be…”
I sit down on the bed next to Lizzie. “Poltergeists are noted for creating havoc. Throwing and moving things. They often manifest when a girl goes through puberty and usually when she’s menstruating. Many believe the paranormal activity is caused by the teen’s emotional turmoil being transferred to kinetic energy.” I swallow a laugh when I glimpse Reese taking notes.
“I’m causing the disturbances?” Lizzie asks, tugging my hand.
“There’s another spirit here,” Drew says. “It’s probably both.”
“You may be responsible for some of what you’re experiencing, but I believe there’s another entity here as well,” I say.
“Does her kinetic energy cause the convulsions?” Mrs. Caldwell sits next to Lizzie and smoothes her daughter’s hair.
“It can.” I really have no idea. This is beyond anything I’ve encountered.
“The doctors couldn’t find any explanation for her seizures,” Mrs. Caldwell says. “Lizzie hasn’t been eating much lately. I’m worried about the girls, especially Lizzie.”
“Mommy, I don’t want to stay here anymore,” Ellie says, still glued to her spot.
The temperature suddenly plummets in the room.
“It’s cold.” Ellie takes a hesitant step toward the bed while watching the ceiling. She creeps toward us then snatches a blanket from the end of the bed. She drapes it over her shoulders and shivers.
Mrs. Caldwell wraps an arm around Ellie. “We’re leaving the house for a bit while the investigators work.”
The young girl appears relieved by her mother’s words.
Reese and Mr. Caldwell stand outside the room as if it has been quarantined. Reese scrawls hurriedly, probably writing every word in his notebook.
Lizzie clutches my arm. “He’s here.” Her whole body tenses.
“Who?” I ask.
“He wants something, but I can’t understand him,” Lizzie says, digging her fingers into my hand. “His voice is all garbled.”
“We’ll figure out what he’s saying,” I say.
Mrs. Caldwell stands, holding a protective arm around Ellie who clings to her mother. “We should get going.”
Mr. Caldwell comes into the room and helps up Lizzie. Reese and I trail behind the family. Lizzie pads behind the others. She looks over her shoulder and grins at me.
Drew catches up. “How cute. You have a groupie.”
I fall farther behind. “Lizzie’s too thin,” I say to Drew.
“She looks worse than me, and I’m dead,” Drew says.
Reese slips. He catches himself against the wall. “Oh God.” He seems really spooked.
“It’s just water,” I say.
Lizzie backs up. “We’ve been finding puddles all over the house since the ghost showed up.”
That’s odd. “We’ll clean it up,” I say.
Downstairs, Mr. Caldwell grabs a coat for each of the girls. “Are you okay?” he asks Lizzie.
“Yeah, Daddy,” Lizzie says, though she doesn’t look well.
The two girls walk outside. Lizzie wobbles a bit but manages to make it to the car.
Mr. Caldwell nods in my direction. “So that’s the girl Lizzie’s been copying her dress code from,” Mr. Caldwell says so that I’m sure to hear. “I don’t want her influencing our daughter. She probably uses drugs.”
Not hardly. Pagans practice holistic medicine, though it could be because it’s cheaper than doctors for my mom.
Mrs. Caldwell pushes her husband out the door. On her way out, she says, “Thank you.”
Reese stands behind me. He looks pale for a black guy.
“Don’t worry,” I say, shaking his arm. “You get the gear. I’ll clean up the water.”
“You aren’t scared?” he asks.
“Ghosts don’t scare me. Humans do.”
“What does the water mean?” Drew asks.
I shrug. “Don’t know,” I mouth, so Reese doesn’t think I’m talking to myself.
As Reese goes outside, I grab a towel. After I finish, I walk out to the van while Drew remains upstairs. Organizing the gear seems to have calmed Reese. We unpack cables and haul equipment into the house.
“We run cable to the bedrooms and kitchen to monitor the active sites, right?” Reese asks.
“Sure.” Though I rarely need the evidence, it’s good to show the clients.
After Reese painstakingly unrolls the cable, he securely tapes each section of it to the floor.
“If you went any slower, you wouldn’t be moving.” I take a spool of cable and unroll a trail behind me.
“What if one of us trips on it?”
“I’m not going to be running through the house.” I turn on the digi-recorder in the kitchen before heading toward the stairs.
“Shouldn’t we first try debunking the paranormal activity by checking the plumbing and electrical?” Reese asks.
High electromagnetic field readings can cause feelings of dread or nausea, and air in pipes can often explain weird noises that occur in a house.
“They already checked the plumbing,” I remind him.
Reese ignores me. He walks toward the cellar.
“You sure are anal,” I say.
Reese opens the door leading to the basement and waits for me.
“All right,” I say. “I’m coming.”
“My grandmother always says, ‘Any job worth doing is worth doing right.’”
“Did she also tell you that if you don’t get the job done, you won’t get paid?”
We go downstairs. Even though the house is over three hundred years old, PVC and copper plumbing run along the ceiling. The electrical box has copper wiring instead of the cheaper aluminum used before I was born. I did learn a thing or two from the plumber and electrician I ghost hunted with in New Orleans.
I grab Reese’s EMF detector and take several readings. “No fluctuations or high EMF. The electrical is well insulated, so let’s go.”
Reese grabs my arm. “What about that?” He points at the only rusty pipe. It extends the length of the cellar and disappears into the foundation of the house. The pipe would cause major damage should it burst.
“We’ll tell the Caldwells to replace it.”
He pushes his glasses up on his nose, making him appear even dorkier. “We need to be thorough, so we get paid.”
“We will,” I say. “Just chill.” And give me a breather.
We head back upstairs to set up video in the kids’ bedrooms plus one in the parents’. When we go back down the hall, I look outside through the picture-framed window in the living room at the van holding the monitors.
“My mama would kill me if that got stolen.” Reese stares at the equipment that must’ve cost him a fortune.
“Where did you get the money?”
“I worked for the local chocolatier in town.”
“That sounds like my kind of job. Why did you quit?”
“I want to hunt ghosts,” he says.
“And leave the chocolate factory? Well, we can’t afford to have your equipment ripped off. You want to observe while I investigate?”
“We should stick together.” Reese purses his lips. “I’ll drive the van into the garage. We’ll connect the cables through the door leading into it.”
“Good idea.” I’ll give him that much.
After Reese pulls the van into the garage, I close the garage door. We finish plugging the cables into the computers in the van then go back into the house. I clean up the plate Drew pitched and throw the shards into the trash.
“You didn’t even flinch when that happened,” Reese says.
“It wasn’t our ghost.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll explain later. Are you ready for lights off?”
Reese nods, though he looks uncertain. Probably wants to triple-check every cable. After we shut off the lights, I turn on my flashlight.
“Let’s do Lizzie’s bedroom first. I’m pretty sure that’s where our spirit lurks.”
“How can you be so sure?” Reese asks, the hair on his arms standing erect like soldiers.
There’s no sense telling Reese. It will only upset him and possibly botch our investigation. I climb the stairs to Lizzie’s room with Reese trailing behind me.
While we hang in the room, I turn on the digital voice recorder.
Reese walks around the room with the EMF. “I got a spike of two-point-zero.”
High EMF readings can indicate a spirit’s presence.
“Do you want to tell us your name?” he asks. “Why are you here?”
“It went back down to point-one,” he says, appearing bummed.
Drew comes into the room then sits on the bed beside me. He’s probably been up to no good. Reese takes more readings at the other end of the room while encouraging the ghost to respond.
“Dork,” Drew calls Reese.
For the next half hour, nothing happens unless I count Reese tearing up and sneezing every time he passes through Drew.
“Let’s go to Ellie’s room,” I say, stifling a yawn while getting up. I hate this part of the job where we sit and wait and sometimes nothing ever happens.
“Maybe there isn’t a ghost,” Reese says, leading the way this time.
I look at Drew. I can tell by the fact he’s not begging us to leave that we have a presence here. “Spirits sometimes take a while to warm up to us humans.”
Drew laughs at my remark. “Warm up to? How about cool down?” He bumps into me on purpose, reminding me of how cold he is as his iciness ripples through me.
“I don’t want to know them on a first name basis,” Reese says. “I just want to get paid, hopefully catch a few EVPs or an apparition on tape and get out.”
EVPs are great evidence to show the client. Electronic voice phenomena, the recording of the dead, often occur at low frequencies the human ear has difficulty discerning.
“It’s not just about the money,” I say. “We’re helping the family, and the spirit needs our assistance in crossing over. They’re better off that way.” I think. Legends say if the dead don’t cross, they may get stuck here or much worse, though I’ve seen a few crossings that didn’t go well.
“How do you know?” Reese asks.
I don’t really. “My grandmother always told me they need to go into the light.”
We camp in Ellie’s room. Drew paces. I can tell something’s up. Reese sneezes, spraying a fine mist.
“Ew.” I back out of the way, then not so gracefully, I land on the floor in another puddle of water. “What the…”
Reese gasps. “It’s blood.”
“No, it’s not. It’s just water or the kid wet the floor.” I find a towel to mop it up.
Drew throws his hands up in the air. “Stop what you’re doing,” he yells at something I can’t see or hear. His voice grows louder. He pushes his hands out as if shoving someone.
Drew flies across the room, crashing into the wall. A ghost has to prepare himself to go through walls and some never master the hang of it. A ghost who can’t has to wait until a door is left open and even then they can be trapped by an invisible barrier.
“What happened?” Reese asks, his hands trembling while pointing the flashlight at the wall where Drew hit.
“You okay?” This sounds dumb asking a dead guy.
Drew nods and gets up.
“I’m okay,” Reese says. “You?”
“Please tell us your name,” I say. “What happened to you?”
Drew screams, “Leave the kids alone.”
He’s so helpful sometimes. I snarl at Drew because he’ll only tick off the ghost. As usual, he completely ignores me. An invisible arm hurls a stuffed elephant at Drew.
“Is that all you got?” Drew asks in a mocking tone.
Great. That’s going to get the spirit to open up.
Regardless of upsetting Reese, I stand and stab a finger at Drew. “Stop it. You’re going to scare him off.” Then he’ll only come out for the Caldwells.
Drew keeps yelling at the hidden specter. He glances sideways at me. In the kitchen, Drew was a big help, but right now, he’s getting on my nerves.
Reese flings himself at me. His eyes and nose are running. He’s sneezing up a tornado. Stuff I don’t even want to think about is flying everywhere.
“Who are you talking to?” he asks. “Can you see him?” His hands lock on my shoulders, but he’s shaking hard and spewing on me.
“Let go of me.” Before I puke. I rub against the bedspread to remove Reese’s bodily fluids. He is so disgusting.
That’s when our ghost materializes. He looms over us and has eyes that glow like a demon’s. Some of them do this to get you going, but that’s not what my gaze locks onto. It’s the gaping hole in his head I can see clean through. With the gust of hurricane-force winds, the spirit blows between Reese and me. It breaks Reese’s hold on me, and we’re flung backward. Reese lands on a mound of stuffed animals while I land in what smells like where the cat peed.
“What was that?” Reese asks, turning deathly gray once again.
“Our ghost,” I say.
“Should we go after him?” Reese asks.
“No, he’s long gone.” I glare at Drew who smiles cutesy at me. He is adorable regardless of his lack of judgment. “I’ll deal with you later,” I tell him.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Drew says smugly.
Reese says, “I thought he was gone.”
I gesture Drew to stay back. “Why did you choose ghost hunting when you’re allergic to them?”
“What are you talking about?” Reese asks.
I grab my head and shake it in frustration. “You have no idea? Every time a ghost is near, you slime me.”
Reese reddens. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. I guess I was caught up in the moment.” He wipes his nose with a tissue he retrieves from his pocket.
I’d feel guilty for embarrassing him if he wasn’t so nasty.
“How do you know this?” he asks.
I debate telling Reese. He’ll just think I’m crazy, then he won’t want to work with me. What a good idea. “Everyone has a reason for getting into this business. For some, it’s a personal experience, but I do it because I can see the dead.”
Reese is looking at me with awe instead of skepticism.
That didn’t scare him off. “In my case, it’s hereditary. All the women in my family can communicate with the dead in some fashion. Apparently, I’m as good as my grandmother. At least that’s what my mom tells me.”
“Does it bother you?”
I’ve never had anyone interested in my gift before other than freaks like myself. Most give me a wide berth after hearing me talk to ghosts, since they think I’m talking to myself. I’m not sure where to go from here. “I hated it at first.” I had waking nightmares, but then as I got older my grandmother showed me how to deal with the dead and help them cross over and stop pestering me.
“Wow. My grandmother told me she could see the dead, too. My mom never believed her. I always wanted to. You said ‘not our ghost’ earlier.”
“I have a friend who helps me out. He smashed the plate in the kitchen.”
Reese glances around the room. “Where is he?”
I point to the dresser. “Over there.”
Reese walks over toward Drew. His eyes tear. He scratches his nose. “I really am allergic.”
“Back off,” Drew says. “You better not juice me again.”
Reese’s face lights up like he’s been given backstage passes to Lil’ Wayne. “Way cool that you have a ghost friend. Is that how you get business when there are no ghosts?”
“No, like I said, if we can debunk, we do that. Sometimes the homeowners need a little push, and Drew is good at that. He also can see the spirits right away, whereas sometimes they hide from me.”
“Did he make all those noises we heard?”
“Only some of them. He sort of agitated the ghost. That’s how I know the entity won’t be back tonight.”
“Did he scare him off for good?” Reese asks.
“I wish it were that simple. It’s up to us now to find out why he’s still hanging out here.”
“How do you know it’s a he?”
“I saw him and I think he died violently.”
Reese gulps. “As in murdered?”
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Genre – YA Paranormal Mystery, Romance
Rating – PG-13
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