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"Is that it?" Charity asked hopefully.
"No such luck." Alana said tiredly.
"It's less than ten days until Halloween. Remember, this is our holiday season." Derek said, obviously trying to inject some cheer into the conversation.
"People see a few jack o'lanterns and all of a sudden every time a floorboard creaks, they're sure that their house is haunted." Charity said wearily.
"Let's just tough it out. We're almost done." Alana reassured her, then continued, "Case number 20151022F, our contact is named Lorraine Hyde. She called on us regarding a friend of hers who just moved into a house that she's sure is haunted."
"Seriously? Let me guess, creaking floorboards and an unexplained feeling of being watched." Charity said tiredly.
"Actually, no. Keep in mind that what Lorraine told me is second hand, but... just listen. There are some elements of this that caught my attention." Alana said seriously.
"It's your show." Derek said simply.
"Right. Let's see. To start with, it appears that the house already has something of a reputation for being haunted." Alana began.
"Just like ninety percent of the houses in Massachusetts." Charity interjected.
Alana didn't dignify the statement with more than a glance in Charity's direction, then she continued, "The Hinton family moved into the house three weeks ago and almost immediately, started on renovations."
"Okay. So far we have a known haunted house and renovations, that's two red flags." Derek said seriously.
"Lorraine, she goes by the name Lorra, made contact with one of the members of the household to find out if they've experienced any paranormal activity. Antonia Hinton, who goes by Toni, reported hearing whispering voices that sounded afraid." Alana said carefully.
"If every person who thought they heard voices was actually experiencing a haunting, we'd be up to our necks in ghosts." Charity said frankly.
"Granted. But typically, when people are telling ghost stories, they talk about the ghosts saying something ominous. Lorra said that Toni only hears panicked whispers and faint running footsteps." Alana said carefully.
"There's the creaking floorboards." Charity said quickly.
Alana smiled, despite herself, then asked, "Happy?"
"Yeah, I am if we're almost done. Believe it or not, I really do have a life outside of this place." Charity said honestly.
"I'll believe that when I have verifiable evidence." Derek said with a grin in her direction.
"One last detail, then we can make a decision." Alana said quickly.
Derek and Charity looked at her expectantly.
"Lorra and Toni are both thirteen years old." Alana said simply.
"A pubescent girl, a haunted house AND renovations? No wonder you wanted us to look at this one." Derek said frankly.
"It's just whispers and creaks." Charity said firmly.
"It's possible that the girls just got spooked." Alana conceded, then continued, "But it looks like we have all the ingredients needed to spawn a paranormal event. That's all I've got. Do we investigate?"
"Investigate what? Hearing voices? There's a pill you can take for that." Charity said flatly.
"I say we start a case file and mark it as 'active'. We can check back with them after Halloween and see if things have settled down." Derek said thoughtfully.
"That sounds reasonable to me. Charity?" Alana asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I guess. But I'm still betting that this is all because that little girl got her first taste of estrogen and didn't know how to handle it." Charity said sourly.
"That's it. I'll see you tomorrow night. We're going to be investigating the haunted bridge, south of town." Alana said as she gathered her files.
"All my friends get to go out to dinner and a movie on Friday nights. Me? Noooooo. I get to hang around an old bridge, waiting for 'ghosties' to show themselves." Charity grumbled.
"If you hate it so much, you don't have to go. We can cover it without you." Derek said frankly.
"I fell for that once. I took a night off and you collected evidence that I couldn't debunk, because I wasn't there." Charity said seriously.
"Don't you trust me?" Derek asked with a knowing grin.
"Not as far as I could throw you."
* * * * *
"Before we look at the new potential cases, I have one to look at from last week." Alana said seriously.
Charity and Derek both looked at her cautiously.
"Case number 20151022F. To review, Lorra contacted us about the Hinton family moving into a house that was rumored to be haunted. Then they started making renovations." Alana said carefully.
"I remember this one. I'm still claiming estrogen poisoning." Charity said simply.
"I received word today that Toni and Lorra had an incident last night where they actually SAW an apparition. Perhaps the most telling thing is, from what Lorra said, the apparition also saw them."
Charity let out a long sigh before asking, "What did the ghost do?"
"It said something, then disappeared." Alana said seriously.
Derek waited for a moment. When Charity didn't ask and Alana didn't volunteer it, he finally asked, "What did it say?"
"Lorra said that she couldn't make it out, but according to Toni, it said, 'I can't be here', then it faded away." Alana said carefully.
"So we have a ghost that doesn't believe in ghosts?" Charity speculated.
"Possibly. But I think, more importantly, that this may have just escalated the case from being a purported residual haunting to an active one." Alana said carefully.
"Is that it? Is that all that happened?" Charity asked cautiously.
"Toni's reported hearing the whispers and footsteps every night, but that was the only report of a visual manifestation or any indication of awareness." Alana said seriously.
Charity nodded thoughtfully.
"Do we want to investigate?" Alana asked carefully.
"No. A couple of giggly girls gave each other the creeps and thought that they saw something." Charity said in a voice that didn't seem to be entirely sure.
"Actually, I don't think there's enough to justify our participation, either. But if I were you, I'd keep that file handy. It looks like it's heading that direction." Derek said seriously.
"It's four days until Halloween. If it's going to happen, I'm guessing it will be soon." Alana said before closing the folder.
* * * * *
"What's the emergency?" Charity asked as she rushed into the office.
"Miss Lessing, it's nice to see you again. I've been praying for you."
"Thanks, Father Francis, I can't tell you how much that means to me." Charity said flatly.
Father Francis laughed at the response, then turned when Derek hurried into the room.
"The van's loaded. Can you tell us what this is all about, now?" Derek asked hopefully.
"Father?" Alana prompted.
"I received a call last night from some rather distraught people, I believe you know of them, a Mr. and Mrs. Hinton." Father Francis said carefully.
"We've heard of them. What's going on?" Alana asked cautiously.
"They told me that their house was haunted and that they wanted my help. I could tell that they were in distress so, of course, I hurried right over. It was my intention to sit and talk with them quietly for a time, to reassure them and help them find some sort of peace. However, when I arrived, I encountered a presence unlike anything I've ever experienced before."
"You got a creepy feeling?" Charity guessed.
"I believe the correct terminology for what I experienced is 'diabolic confusion'. As soon as I entered their house, something began assaulting me, making it impossible for me to think clearly." Father Francis said seriously.
"We've been hearing about a possible haunting, but we didn't have any reason to believe that it had escalated to that point." Alana said carefully.
"I don't claim to know much about your business and beliefs. But this seems to be more in your realm of expertise than mine. When the older girl, Toni, said that she and a friend had been in contact with you, I thought that I would let you know what I had encountered and allow you time to investigate. While you are doing so, I can prepare my spiritual defences so that I will be available to help, should you need my assistance at some point." Father Francis said carefully then got up from his chair.
"It's sounding more and more like we might." Alana said gravely.
"Do you really think it's for real?" Derek asked cautiously.
"There's only one way to find out." Alana said seriously.
"When a person dies, that's it. The end. I don't know what they're experiencing in that house, but I seriously doubt that it's anything spiritual." Charity said frankly.
"Miss Lessing, I very sincerely hope that you're right." Father Francis said firmly before leaving the room.
* * * * *
"How do you want to handle this when we get there?" Derek asked as he started the van.
"Since I haven't had direct contact with the family before, I think that I should talk to them to make sure that they will allow us to do an investigation. If they agree, then I'd like for Charity to do her preliminary environmental sweep while Derek sets up a command center. Once I've gotten the basic information from the family, I'll start doing EMF readings with the K2 meter to see if I can locate any hot spots and I'll scout locations for cameras as I go." Alana said thoughtfully.
"Do you have any theory as to why this escalated so quickly?" Derek asked cautiously.
"What's tomorrow?" Alana asked him frankly.
"You can't seriously believe that Halloween has anything to do with this at all." Charity said in astonishment.
"No. I don't believe that it does." Alana said simply, then paused for a moment before continuing, "But unlike you, I don't already believe that it doesn't, either. I'm willing to wait and see where the evidence leads me."
"There it is." Derek said as he pulled up in front of the house.
A light flashed three times in one of the upper bedrooms before the window went completely dark.
"Do you think that means that they know we're here?" Derek asked nervously.
"There's no such thing as ghosts." Charity said firmly.
"Right." Derek said before opening the door.
* * * * *
"Mrs. Hinton, my name is Dr. Alana Travago from Fallwell Paranormal Research. Father Francis stopped by our office and suggested that we might be able to help you."
"It's really you! Thanks for coming!" One of two girls said as they appeared from behind the woman standing in the doorway.
"Lorra?" Alana guessed.
"Yeah! I can't believe that you're really here!" Lorra said excitedly.
"We do our best to help out when we can." Alana said to her, then looked back to Mrs. Hinton inquisitively.
"Excuse me, Dr. Travago, but are you serious? Do you really think that you can help us?" Mrs. Hinton asked cautiously.
"Please call me Alana. To answer your question, maybe. If you will allow it, we will investigate what is happening here and try to make sense of it. I really can't say much more until I have a better idea of what we're dealing with, but if it's at all possible, we'll try to make things better, if we can." Alana said carefully.
"How much is this going to cost?" Mr. Hinton asked as he walked up behind his wife.
"We're a non-profit doing paranormal research. We're funded with grants and donations. We don't charge anything." Alana said seriously.
A shriek sounded from inside the house and Mrs. Hinton suddenly yelped, "Zoe!"
Alana waited outside the doorway, wanting very much to investigate what was happening inside the house as she watched Mrs. Hinton dash away.
"We just have to say 'yes'?" Mr. Hinton asked cautiously.
"That, and allow us to bring in some equipment so we can try to document what is happening. Hopefully, that will allow us to make sense of all of this." Alana said simply.
"Alright. Please, just make it stop." Mr. Hinton said anxiously.
"Can I help?" Lorra asked hopefully.
Alana smiled at her, then took a device off her belt and said, "This is a K2 meter. It measures electromagnetic fields. If you want, you could walk around the first floor of the house and take readings for me. Keep track of anyplace that has a reading outside the green range and let me know what you found when you're done."
"Really!? Thanks!" Lorra said as she accepted the device.
As Lorra began to walk away, Toni moved to follow.
"Toni, I believe that you will probably be the best source of information on what's been happening up to now. Would you join us for a talk?" Alana asked cautiously.
"Yes, Ma'am." Toni said quietly as she stopped.
Alana turned to her team and said, "Go ahead and get started while I conduct the interview."
Charity and Derek were primed and ready to move into action.
* * * * *
Alana walked into the house and it was easy to see that they were still in the midst of unpacking as well as renovation.
In the living room, most of the walls had been stripped down either to the studs or the masonry, which had previously been hidden behind drywall or plaster. There was a large brick fireplace, which appeared to be original to the house and was obviously non-functional, taking up one wall at the far end of the room.
From the look of it, the demolition had been completed and the debris cleared away, but they had yet to begin reconstruction.
As Alana walked further into the house, she noticed that the dining room appeared to be a storage area for boxes. No demolition appeared to have been done in the room, but it also appeared not to have received more than a quick sweep, as far as cleaning. Fortunately, in the next room the kitchen table and chairs were available for their use.
The kitchen proper was a smallish space and Alana could imagine that cooking in there was more of a chore than was necessary due to the cramped and confused layout. From the age of the house, Alana guessed that the current incarnation of the kitchen had been wedged into an area that had originally been designed for some other purpose. There were no signs of renovation being done, although, in Alana's opinion, it was the room that probably needed it most.
At the other end of the room, Mrs. Hinton was sitting at the kitchen table, holding her youngest daughter on her lap, doing her best to comfort the distraught child.
"Is she alright?" Alana asked with concern.
"Zoe felt something touch her leg. She's fine." Mrs. Hinton said in a soothing voice.
"Hello, Zoe. My name is Alana." Alana said gently.
The girl didn't make any move to acknowledge the statement.
After a moment, Alana opened her notepad and finally asked, "Toni, can you start at the beginning and tell me what's been going on here?"
Toni looked at her parents nervously for a moment, then quietly said, "It started last week. I kept hearing whispering and footsteps. No one else said anything about hearing them, so I didn't tell anyone."
Alana looked from Mr. to Mrs. Hinton and asked, "Did either of you notice any whispering or unexplained footsteps?"
"I might have." Mr. Hinton said quietly, then explained, "I just figured that it was an old house settling or something like that. I never gave it much thought."
Alana jotted down a note, then told Toni, "Go on."
"I guess what happened next was that Lorra found out where I was living and started asking me if there was anything strange going on. She said that this house was haunted." Toni said carefully.
"So you told her about what you had been hearing?" Alana asked speculatively.
"Tell me, can you remember if it sounded like the voices were always saying the same thing, or did it sound like people having different conversations?" Alana asked cautiously.
"The same. It sounded like it was always the same, over and over." Toni said thoughtfully.
Alana made another note, then asked, "What happened next?"
There was a sudden flash of light and the lightbulb over the sink exploded.
Zoe made a quick yelp of fear and clutched her mother more tightly.
Alana looked around to be sure that nothing else was happening before asking again, "What happened next?"
"Um, I um... I think it was Tuesday when Lorra was here and we were in my room. I was talking to her about what was happening when we saw this guy walking by the open door... he was about our age... maybe a little bit older. He was wearing a white shirt and dark pants. Lorra and I were both frozen. The guy stopped all of a sudden and turned. Then he looked right at us! He said, 'I can't be here', then he just kind of broke apart and was gone. I mean, he didn't walk away, he just kind of dissolved into nothing, right there in front of us." Toni said quietly and it was clear that she was still shaken by the memory.
"If I remember correctly, Lorra didn't hear it, but you did. Is that right?" Alana asked cautiously.
"Yeah. She heard him say something, but she couldn't make out what it was." Toni confirmed.
A loud clanking, like something banging against the water pipes, started sounding in the room.
"Is that your people doing that?" Mr. Hinton asked loudly, to be heard over the din.
"I doubt it." Alana said anxiously.
"What's making all that noise?" Lorra asked as she hurried into the room, still carrying the K2 meter.
"I'm not sure. Would you go into the kitchen and see if there are any elevated EMF readings?" Alana asked seriously.
"Yeah. I guess." Lorra said hesitantly, but forced herself to walk into the dimly lit room.
Alana looked to Mr. Hinton and asked, "When did things get bad enough for you to realize that there was a problem?"
As suddenly as it had started, the clanging stopped.
"Last night. From the sound of it, I thought we were being robbed. I kept hearing boxes being moved and things being knocked over." Mr. Hinton said frankly.
"Did you see anything?" Alana asked as she quickly wrote down some more notes.
Mr. Hinton looked to his wife and waited.
"I did. I don't know what it was. I only saw it out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked directly at it, there wasn't anything there." Mrs. Hinton said nervously as she held her youngest daughter a little bit tighter.
"Can you give me any kind of a description, even a vague impression?" Alana asked hopefully.
"It was blacker than midnight and it was big." Mrs. Hinton said with a shudder.
"Could you tell for sure if it was or wasn't a person?" Alana asked cautiously.
"If it was a person, it was someone wearing the scariest costume I've ever seen." Mrs. Hinton said firmly.
"I got a 'yellow' reading in here by the sink and an 'orange' reading in the living room, next to the couch." Lorra said as she handed the K2 meter back to Alana.
"Thank you. That was very helpful." Alana said appreciatively.
All of a sudden, it was pitch black.
Before anyone could react with more than a whimper, Alana had the flashlight off her belt and turned on.
"We can't live like this. I'm a nervous wreck." Mrs. Hinton said past her tears, barely visible in the light from the flashlight.
"I know. And it's probably going to get worse, before it gets better. How would you like to get away from this place for the night so that you can relax? My team and I will stay here and do our investigation and you can have a break from the stress." Alana asked carefully. The sound of movement in one of the other rooms caught her attention and she had to fight the urge to turn the flashlight in that direction to investigate.
Mrs. Hinton looked at her husband hopefully, barely able to see him in the meager light.
"Please don't think that I'm ungrateful for the offer, but how can we leave you alone in our house? We never even met you before today." Mr. Hinton asked seriously.
"I can give you my business card and you can look us up in the phonebook to verify that we're an established business. If you like, you can call Father Francis and he can tell you what he knows about us. Or, if you'd rather, you can stay while your wife and children go to the hotel. It won't effect our investigation either way, I was just thinking that you might like to be away from the chaos for a little bit." Alana said frankly.
Without warning, the lights came back on. Alana looked around to survey her surroundings before turning her attention back to Mr. Hinton.
"Take the girls and go to the hotel. I'm going to stay here." Mr. Hinton told his wife seriously.
"Can I stay, too?" Lorra asked hopefully.
"I don't think that's a very good idea. Your parents are trusting us to see that you're kept safe." Mrs. Hinton carefully explained.
"We should still be here tomorrow, when you get back from the hotel." Alana said as she reached into her pocket and took out what looked like a business card.
"The address to the hotel is on this card. Give the card to the desk clerk and the room will be charged to my account." Alana said as she handed the card to Mrs. Hinton.
"I don't know how to thank you for doing this." Mrs. Hinton said as her eyes welled with tears.
"You just did."
* * * * *
It took a few minutes for Mrs. Hinton to pack a few things for her and the girls. Alana stood back and watched as Derek carried various electronics in from the van and down a hallway toward the back of the house.
Once they were alone, Alana quietly asked, "Mr. Hinton, do you know if you have any occult devices in the house?"
"You can call me Kerry. And what do you mean by 'occult devices'?" He asked curiously.
"I'm asking if you have anything like tarot cards, an ouija board, voodoo dolls or anything else like that in the house." Alana asked seriously.
"No! God no! No one in this house..." Kerry trailed off, then looked toward the dining room anxiously.
"What was that?" Alana asked cautiously.
"My son, Mike, he's at college, back in Minnesota, where we're from. He went through kind of a dark phase, a while back. It's possible that there might be something like that packed in the things that he left with us." Kerry said reluctantly.
Alana made a note, then carefully said, "It's unlikely that something kept in a box and not actively being used could be responsible for all of this. I just have to ask, to try and get a sense of what we're working with."
"Environmental shows clear; No carbon monoxide, no radon, no excessive EMF." Charity said as she walked into the kitchen.
"Good. Would you go into the living room, by the couch and see if you can track down a high EMF reading?" Alana asked hopefully.
"Yeah. Sure." Charity said before leaving the room.
"I don't know if I said it before, but thank you for doing this. We've never been through anything like this before and didn't know where to turn." Kerry said frankly.
"This is what we do. We help people with problems like these, and along the way, hopefully we'll be able to eventually collect enough evidence to prove what things like this really are." Alana said seriously.
"I never believed in anything supernatural before." Kerry said honestly.
"There's nothing wrong with that. I believe in what I can see, hear, touch and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. That's what drives me and keeps me doing this. That being said, I'd better get to it. Do you think you could show me around and point out where activity has taken place?" Alana asked hopefully.
"Yeah. Most of it's upstairs." Kerry said as he stood to lead the way.
Before Alana could join him, the lights had gone out again.
Alana turned her flashlight back on, then said, "I have a feeling that this is going to be a very long night."
* * * * *
They remained in place and watched as Charity, working by flashlight, made a circuit of the living room, taking EMF readings.
When the lights came back on, Kerry reluctantly led the way toward the hallway.
"I guess the first thing would be, at the top of these stairs." Kerry said anxiously.
The hallway that led to the staircase had been completely gutted and cool air, from the basement below, caused gooseflesh to rise on Alana's arms.
The staircase, itself, was mostly intact. With the exception of a few missing balusters, everything seemed to be sturdy enough, although, the stairsteps creaked with every step.
"That's where Toni said that she heard the footsteps." Kerry said as he stopped at the top of the stairs and looked around for any evidence of something out of place.
Alana took the K2 meter off her belt and began taking readings of the area.
"What's that?" Kerry asked curiously.
"It's a K2 meter. It measures fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. Some paranormal researchers theorize that spiritual entities are actually made of electromagnetic energy, and whether they're physically manifested, or not, they still emit electromagnetic waves wherever they're present." Alana explained as she moved the meter around and watched the lights carefully.
"Are you getting anything?" Kerry asked nervously.
"No. At least, nothing that can be distinguished from the normal EM fields you'd find in any house." Alana said seriously.
"The first room is going to be Mike's. We're remodeling it, so there's nothing in there, right now. Over here is Toni's, that's where she saw the ghost." Kerry said as he gestured toward a doorway, further down the hall.
As Alana approached the doorway, she suddenly stopped.
"Is something wrong?" Kerry asked in panic.
"Just an EM spike. Nothing to worry about." Alana said calmly as she backed away, then moved closer, to see if she could reproduce the reading.
"I'm set up, are you ready for me, yet?" Derek asked as he walked up the stairs.
"Get with Charity and see if she was able to pin down a location in the living room. I'll be done here in a few minutes. Do you have any tape on you?" Alana asked as she continued to try and zero in on the anomalous reading.
"Here." Derek said as he approached and held out a roll of blue masking tape to her.
The lights suddenly went out again.
"Just to confirm, were you having any electrical problems before yesterday?" Alana asked as she turned her flashlight on again.
"No. Not even a flicker. But we did have an evaluation of the property done before we moved in and they said that the electrical wasn't up to code, so at some point we're going to have to have the whole thing rewired." Kerry said seriously.
The lights came back on and Alana found that she had more things to carry than she had hands to carry them.
"Would you hang on to this for me?" She asked as she handed her flashlight to Kerry.
"Derek, we're going to need a camera at the top of the stairs, looking down this hallway... and probably one at the other end, looking back. Also I'm going to need one in this bedroom, make sure you get a good view of the door." Alana said as she handed the blue tape back to him.
"No problem." Derek said as he started pulling tape off to make an 'X', to mark the first location.
"And since there have been reports of auditory phenomena, we should set audio recorders in all three locations." Alana added thoughtfully.
"Got it." Derek assured her.
Alana then turned her attention to Kerry and asked, "Where else?"
"Up here, the only other place anything's happened is the master bedroom. That's where my wife saw... whatever that was." Kerry said nervously as he pointed to the far end of the hallway.
"Lead the way."
* * * * *
"Do you know where Mrs. Hinton saw the apparition?" Alana asked as she looked around the bedroom.
"She was standing right where you are and saw the thing standing in the doorway." Kerry said as he took another step away from the door.
"Okay. We'll set up another camera in here, and a voice recorder as well, just to be safe." Alana said decisively, then asked, "Would you ask Derek to come in here?"
"Yeah." Kerry said nervously, then edged his way through the door and into the hall.
Alana noticed the condition of the room. There were boxes stacked along the walls and from all appearances, the room had been cleaned, but there was no indication that it was being remodeled, yet. From the way things were organized, she suspected that they intended to get another room finished, then move in there while the master bedroom was being done.
"What did you need?" Derek asked as he rushed into the room.
"A blue 'X' here, focused on the door and, if you've got it to spare, another one to surveil the entire room." Alana said thoughtfully.
Derek thought for a moment, then said, "If you don't need the live feed, I can use a DVR camera for the surveillance and we can check the footage later."
"Yeah. Do that." Alana said seriously, then turned to Kerry and asked, "Were there any other locations where events have occurred?"
"That's it, up here. But down in the dining room, no one saw anything, but we heard all kinds of movement." Kerry said nervously.
"Can you cover that, Derek?" Alana asked hopefully.
"Yes. If you don't mind, I'd like to use the infrared camera in there, just in case we're dealing with something in that wavelength."
"That's fine." Alana said as she started toward the door.
A low, ominous growl sounded from near the door, which caused Alana to freeze in her tracks.
"What the FUCK was that?!" Kerry screamed as he backed further into the room.
"That's what we're here to find out." Alana said as she held up her K2 meter. The meter lighted all the way to the red zone for an instant, then just as suddenly, reduced to nothing.
Derek immediately started snapping pictures in the direction that the noise had come from.
Suddenly, the lights went out and they were standing in near complete darkness.
"Kerry, you've got the flashlight." Alana reminded him, trying to sound calm.
Before Kerry could figure out how to turn the flashlight on, Derek had his own flashlight lit.
"Derek. Don't forget the audio recorder in this room." Alana said firmly.
"Yeah. I'm pretty sure I'll remember." Derek said, sounding to be scared half out of his wits.
"Let's head downstairs and get started." Alana said firmly, then looked up as the lights came back on.
"Yeah. Right behind you." Derek said nervously.
* * * * *
"How are things going down here?" Alana asked as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
"Fine. There's nothing wrong that a good electrician couldn't fix." Charity said frankly as she clipped her K2 meter onto her belt.
"Come into the kitchen so we can sort out our battle plan." Alana said seriously.
"We heard a growl." Derek said with a slight amount of braggadocio in his tone.
"You probably should have eaten something earlier, when you had the chance." Charity said with an eyeroll to illustrate how unimpressed she was.
Alana looked at Kerry and quietly said, "You have kids. You know how it is."
"Actually, mine are aged far enough apart that bickering was never really an issue." Kerry said frankly.
Alana looked from Derek to Charity, then turned to Kerry and said, "You're lucky."
* * * * *
Once they were all settled in around the kitchen table, Alana turned to Derek and asked, "Where did you locate tech?"
"The back porch. It seems to be out of the way, but close enough to get a strong signal. And even though it's not heated, it's enclosed, so it should be fine for our needs." Derek said seriously.
"Charity, did you come up with any interesting readings?" Alana asked curiously.
"Interesting, yes. Verifiable or reproducible, no." Charity said seriously.
"What did you get?" Alana asked cautiously.
"I kept getting EM spikes. But I didn't really identify any 'hot spot' locations. The spikes seemed to be random and when I'd go back and check the same spot later, it would be stone cold." Charity said frankly.
"I had an EM spike upstairs and Lorra had one in the living room." Alana said thoughtfully.
"It sounds to me like this whole place is a hot spot." Derek said frankly.
"It's looking that way." Alana said slowly, then turned to Charity and said, "With things escalating the way they are, there's one more thing we can try, to lay the groundwork. I already know how you feel about this..."
"Oh sweet Jebus. Don't tell me you're considering bringing in some woo-woo nutjob to 'help' us." Charity said miserably.
"Listen. While I don't believe in a lot of what psychics claim to be able to 'sense', I can't deny that they sometimes are able to pick up on things that I can't explain. This house is active and seems to be getting more so. In my considered opinion, the best way we can bring this matter to resolution and leave this nice family in peace is to employ every resource at our disposal before this ends up getting any worse." Alana said firmly.
"You're the boss." Charity said unenthusiastically.
"And I'm going to be counting on you to see to it that we don't take what the psychic says too seriously." Alana added with a smile.
Charity gave her such a look that Kerry couldn't help but laugh at the expression.
Alana looked around the table, then said, "Let's do this."
* * * * *
"How are things looking in here?" Alana asked as she walked onto the back porch, with Kerry following a step behind.
"Everything's set up. All the cameras are transmitting. What do you think of the angles?" Derek asked as he moved out of the way of the monitor.
Alana looked the various video frames over critically before saying, "Looks good. Mrs. Batton should be here in a few minutes. I'd like for you to stay out here and keep an eye on things. After she's done her initial walkthrough, I'm going to see if I can get some EVPs."
"No prob..." Derek began to say, then froze.
"What?" Alana asked cautiously.
"Something just moved in the master bedroom." Derek whispered.
"Play it back." Alana snapped.
Alana and Kerry watched silently as Derek pulled up the recording and played the video on his screen.
Regardless of the temperature on the back porch, a simultaneous chill went up all their spines when they saw a black blur dart across the doorway.
"Mark that for later review. I need to get inside or Charity is going to end up greeting Mrs. Batton." Alana said frankly, then thought to ask, "By the way, where is Charity?"
Derek switched his screen back to the multi-view of all the cameras and said, "At the kitchen table, double checking that all the audio recorders are fully charged and properly functioning."
"Good." Alana said with satisfaction, then thought to ask, "Are you going to be warm enough out here?"
"I brought my coat. I'll be fine." Derek assured her.
"Let's go." Alana said to Kerry quietly, then led the way back into the house.
* * * * *
"What's an EVP?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Electronic Voice Phenomena. Some paranormal researchers believe that spiritual entities are in... sort of another dimension. When they communicate, it isn't always perceptible to the human ear. By using electronic voice recorders, it's possible to amplify the sounds so that we can actually hear them." Alana said carefully.
"Do you believe it?" Kerry asked curiously.
"I've used the technique before and we've been able to hear things that we didn't hear at the time of the recording. But, just because I can't explain where a mysterious sound came from doesn't automatically make me believe that it's supernatural in origin. I take these things on a case by case basis and try to evaluate each thing on its own merits." Alana said carefully as they walked into the dining area of the kitchen.
"We're all set here." Charity said as she looked up from her work.
"Why are you using the old 'tape' recorders?" Alana asked curiously.
"For contrast." Charity said simply, then explained, "Derek's your tech guy. He's the one who's always willing to accept that the latest and greatest technology automatically does a better job than the previous technology. But I think audio cassette recorders, with their lower level of sensitivity can be a more effective tool, sometimes. I get the feeling that the digital recorders are so 'good' that they have the capacity to pick up things from outside and make us think that we're hearing something inside the house."
"It won't hurt to try." Alana said with a shrug, then turned at the sound of a knock on the door.
"Kerry, be careful not to say anything to Mrs. Batton to give her any idea of what's going on. I'm not sold on psychics, to begin with. But if she walks in here cold, not knowing anything, and comes up with something useful, I might consider it to be slightly more credible." Alana said as she led the way to the door.
"Should I put the kettle on, so we'll have some hot water for her tea leaves?" Charity asked sourly as she followed.
"If you wouldn't mind." Alana said with a wink at her.
Charity rolled her eyes and stopped in the hallway, within view of the front door.
* * * * *
"Mrs. Batton, thank you so much for coming on such short notice." Alana said pleasantly.
"You've piqued my curiosity. I haven't been in this house in nearly twenty years." Mrs. Batton said as she was ushered inside.
"I didn't know that you'd been here before." Alana said honestly.
"Oh, yes. Mr. and Mrs. Cloyd moved in here just after their second daughter was born... they needed the space. Lovely people. Such a shame." Mrs. Batton finished quietly, then seemed to notice Charity.
"Charity, dear. I do hope that your bleak worldview hasn't dragged you into a pit of despair about your meaningless existence." Mrs. Batton said playfully.
"No more than your make-believe fantasy has caused you to have faith in a reality that is based on unjustifiable nonsense." Charity responded with a smile.
"Give me a hug." Mrs. Batton chuckled as she walked down the hall.
Charity's uncaring facade gave way for a moment as she gently hugged the elderly woman.
Alana waited for the hug to break up before quietly asking, "Would you like to walk through the house and see if you can get a sense of the place?"
Mrs. Batton glanced around before saying, "We should start upstairs."
Alana turned to Kerry and said, "Let Mrs. Batton lead the way. We're just going to follow along and listen, for now."
Charity turned on her mini audio cassette recorder, then nodded to Alana that she was ready.
* * * * *
"Oh, dear. This isn't good." Mrs. Batton said as she reached the top of the stairs.
"If it were something good, we probably wouldn't have called you." Charity said frankly.
Alana flashed her a disapproving glare, reminding her not to interrupt the psychic during a walkthrough.
"Write this down, Alana. Fear and despair. There's a hopeless inevitability to it." Mrs. Batton said carefully.
Alana quickly jotted it down on her notepad.
"Over here..." Mrs. Batton said as she walked to Toni's bedroom door, then turned and asked, "May I?"
"Yes. It's fine to go into any of these rooms." Alana confirmed.
Mrs. Batton stepped inside the room and looked around before saying, "This was 'his' room."
"Who is 'he'?" Alana asked carefully.
"It's a hard sound... A hard sound for such a soft boy... A gentle soul..." Mrs. Batton said ruefully.
"Can you tell us his name?" Alana asked quietly.
"Puh... no... Kuh... no, not that harsh." Mrs. Batton said, then turned suddenly to look back into the hall.
"Oh, my. Of course." Mrs. Batton said with a smile.
"What is it?" Alana asked in a whisper.
"Daniel, that was his name. This was his room." Mrs. Batton said with certainty.
"Daniel what? We need to know his last name." Alana urged.
"Daniel Quartermaine, of course. This is the old Quartermaine house." Mrs. Batton said as though it were obvious.
"Do you mean like Alexander Quartermaine?" Alana asked carefully.
"Yes, but a more distant relation. They inherited the name but not the money. They were proud of that name, so proud. Too proud, perhaps." Mrs. Batton said thoughtfully.
"Who is Alexander Quartermaine?" Kerry asked quietly.
"One of the founding fathers who settled here, back in the sixteen hundreds." Alana said absently.
"It's not his fault." Mrs. Batton said carefully, as though she were listening to something across a great distance.
"What's not his fault?" Alana asked carefully.
"I don't know. He's retreated. But he wanted me to know... no, he wanted for you to know that whatever's happening here, he's not causing it. I think he's worried that you're going to blame him for something." Mrs. Batton said with concern.
"I'll keep that in mind." Alana said seriously.
Mrs. Batton looked around curiously for a moment, then asked, "What's that?"
After straining to listen, Alana quietly asked, "What's what?"
"This way." Mrs. Batton said as she walked past Kerry and into the hallway.
"You've got something nasty, here." Mrs. Batton said with determination as she walked to the master bedroom.
"Define 'nasty'." Alana said carefully.
Mrs. Batton stopped just short of putting her hand on the doorknob and said, "Whatever has you worried enough to call on me is in this room. And it knows we're coming."
"Oh! Please!" Charity exclaimed.
Mrs. Batton smiled fondly at her, then the smile fell away as she opened the door.
* * * * *
"It's cold." Kerry said, as if no one else had noticed.
"Charity?" Alana prompted.
Charity took a gun shaped device off her belt and pulled the trigger on it before looking at the LCD display and saying, "Fifty-two point nine degrees."
"This room is always warm, usually too warm." Kerry said quietly.
"It's an old house with turn of the century windows. That's going to happen." Charity said frankly.
"Kerry, could you step a little to your left? You're blocking the camera." Alana asked quietly.
"Oh, sure. Sorry." Kerry said as he moved.
"What's that smell?" Alana asked cautiously.
"It smells like something's rotting... but I left my sneakers downstairs in the entry closet." Kerry said quietly.
"Charity?" Alana whispered.
"It's not me!" Charity immediately defended.
"What's the temperature now?" Alana asked impatiently.
"Oh, um. Forty-six point two." Charity stammered.
Alana glanced toward Mrs. Batton and found her staring sightlessly at the far wall of the room.
"What do you see?" Alana asked her in a whisper.
"Who are you?" Mrs. Batton asked in a low, angry voice.
Everyone silently watched and listened for any sign that something was going to respond.
"Tell me your NAME!" Mrs. Batton screamed at the blank empty space before her.
There was another long moment of silence, then Mrs. Batton seemed to wilt as she quietly said, "It's retreated."
"What was it?" Alana asked cautiously.
"I need to sit down. Let's go downstairs." Mrs. Batton said weakly.
"Let me help you, Felicia." Charity said with concern as she hurried to Mrs. Batton's side and gently put an arm around her.
"Thank you, Dear." Mrs. Batton said gratefully, then quietly added, "Why don't you come over to my house for Sunday dinner? My nephew will be in town. You two might get along."
"I have a feeling that from the way things are going tonight, that I may be busy." Charity said gently as she helped Mrs. Batton to walk slowly down the hallway.
"We've got movement in the dining room." Derek's voice said from Alana and Charity's radios.
"Why don't you fix Mrs. Batton a nice cup of tea while I check that out?" Alana asked Charity with a smile.
Charity rolled her eyes a little, but didn't say anything.
Alana, followed by Kerry, hurried past Charity and Mrs. Batton.
When Charity reached the top of the stairs, she extended her elbow so that Mrs. Batton would have it to grip as they descended the staircase.
* * * * *
"Derek, what did you see?" Alana asked firmly as she walked toward the dining room.
"A cloud or an undefined blur of something. With infrared, it's not always easy to know what you're looking at." Derek said frankly.
Alana turned to Kerry and said, "I need for you to stay completely silent. I'm going to be doing an EVP session, so I need to minimize the number of possible audio distractions."
"I'll just watch and listen." Kerry said quietly.
"Thank you." Alana said with a smile, then stepped into the dark room filled with boxes.
* * * * *
Alana carefully placed her digital audio recorder on a box and quietly asked, "What is your name?"
She consciously waited for several seconds to give any entity that might be present an opportunity to answer before asking, "Why are you here?"
She waited again, as she looked around the dimly lit room, trying to spot any sign of movement.
"Do you know that you're dead?" Alana asked carefully.
To her left, a box suddenly shifted and the stack of books on top of it began to fall.
More out of reflex than thought, she caught the falling books and tried to right them.
"Did you just move those books?" Alana asked seriously.
After a few seconds had passed, she finally asked, "What do you want?"
She waited for a long moment, then picked up her recorder and left the room, with Kerry following a step behind.
* * * * *
"How are you doing, Mrs. Batton?" Alana asked as she approached the kitchen table.
"Much better, now." Mrs. Batton assured her as she held a cup of tea in both hands.
"Can you tell us anything more about what was up in the bedroom?" Alana asked cautiously as she sat down.
"It was an inhuman, I'm certain of it." Mrs. Batton stated firmly.
"What's that?" Kerry asked curiously.
"Some people call them demons. Supposedly, it's the spirit of a being that's never been alive or walked the earth." Alana said carefully.
"I get the sense that it's only just recently arrived here and hasn't decided to make this its home." Mrs. Batton said thoughtfully.
"What about the other spirit? You called him Daniel." Alana asked carefully.
"He's a sweet boy, I believe it was his fear and despair that I was feeling earlier." Mrs. Batton said regretfully.
"So, you believe that we have two spirits, one that's human and another that's inhuman?" Alana asked to confirm.
"There's more, at least one other spirit, but his presence is so... indistinct. I really can't tell you more about him." Mrs. Batton said as she tried to focus on the vague feeling.
"Thank you again for coming to help us, Mrs. Batton. We appreciate your insights." Alana said sincerely.
Mrs. Batton chuckled, then said, "Don't play games with me, Dear. I know that you don't believe a word of it."
"I don't believe every word of it. There's a difference." Alana said honestly.
"If I've been of any help at all, then I'm glad." Mrs. Batton said warmly, then began to stand as she continued, "But I need to get back to the house before Lucas worries himself sick about me."
"I hope we didn't keep you out too late." Alana said as she walked with Mrs. Batton down the hallway.
"It's fine, Dear. I'm always happy to help." Mrs. Batton said as she reached the door.
"I'll help you out to your car." Charity said as she stepped forward.
"Thank you, Dear. I still don't understand how someone who doesn't believe in anything can have such a kind heart." Mrs. Batton said as she took hold of Charity's arm.
"The way I see it, I have one life, right here and now. I'm not going to waste one minute of it on hate." Charity said as she led Mrs. Batton out the door.
* * * * *
When Charity returned to the kitchen, she asked, "So, what are we doing now?"
"I'd like to go over what we've collected so far." Alana said decisively, then keyed her walkie-talkie and said, "Derek, we're doing a review in the kitchen. Can you step away for a minute?"
"Sure, everything seems to be quiet, for the moment." Derek said cheerfully.
Kerry got up from the table and said, "I'm making some tea, would anyone else like some?"
"Yes. Thank you." Alana said absently as she reviewed her notes.
"Yeah. Thanks." Charity said with a smile in his direction.
"Active house." Derek said as he walked into the kitchen.
"I'm making hot tea. Would you like some?" Kerry asked pleasantly.
"Oh, yeah! That sounds great! Thanks." Derek said as he dropped onto one of the kitchen chairs.
"So, did you see anything else on the video?" Alana asked seriously.
"There was a shadow in the girl's room, but I couldn't rule out headlights reflecting off something as a car drove by." Derek said with a shrug.
"So we've got a black blur in the master bedroom and a red blur in the dining room, right?" Alana asked to be sure.
"Basically, yeah." Derek agreed.
"Charity, what was your assessment of the psychic walkthrough?" Alana asked cautiously.
"Mrs. Batton walked through the house, got a creepy feeling, heard some voices, got another creepy feeling, then decided that she needed to fix me up with her nephew." Charity said frankly.
"So, in your opinion, as far as evidence goes, we haven't gained anything." Alana asked to confirm.
"No. Good spirit, bad spirit, creepy feeling... that's about it." Charity said unenthusiastically.
"We've also got a name. Derek, when you get back to tech, see if you can pull up any information on Daniel Quartermaine. If so, see if you can verify if he ever lived in this house. And I suppose, while you're at it, you could see if he died in this house. That would be good to know, too." Alana finished with a smile.
"You're not really taking her psychic act seriously, are you?" Charity asked disbelievingly.
"No. But of all the things that she claimed to have 'sensed', there was only one thing that had any possibility of being verifiable, so I'm asking Derek to check it out." Alana said simply.
"Okay. I can actually see that." Charity grudgingly agreed.
"Here you go." Kerry said as he sat a tray of filled tea cups on the table.
"Thanks, man. I appreciate it." Derek said as he immediately took one of the cups.
"It's almost midnight. Typically, this is our best chance to capture evidence. I was thinking that each of us could take a hand-held video recorder and a digital audio recorder and go to a different room and try to collect as much video and audio evidence as we can." Alana said seriously.
Charity and Derek were both nodding their agreement.
"Kerry, if you wouldn't mind helping, we could outfit you with everything you'll need to participate." Alana said hopefully.
Before he could answer, the lights suddenly dimmed and three pops sounded from upstairs.
Everyone waited for a moment, until the light over the kitchen table returned to its regular illumination.
"If you'll tell me what to do, I'll help however I can." Kerry said, and sounded to be more than a little shaken.
"You're going to have a walkie-talkie, an audio recorder, a handheld video recorder and a flashlight. If you don't have any objection, we're going to turn off the power at the main so that we'll know that there's no background noise interference, like the furnace kicking on. Then we'll each sit and wait, recording whatever happens." Alana explained carefully.
"If you turn off the power, the refrigerator and freezer will stop." Kerry said cautiously.
"As long as we're not opening and closing them, they should hold their cold for as long as we're doing this. We'll turn the power back on as soon as we're finished." Alana assured him.
"I guess so." Kerry said reluctantly.
"Good. Then let's go and get everyone their equipment. There's a good chance that if anything's going to happen, this is going to be when." Alana said hopefully.
* * * * *
Once everyone was outfitted, Alana led the way off the back porch.
Of course, Derek remained behind, so he could monitor all the remote video cameras.
Alana led Kerry to the dining room and told him, "There was some slight activity recorded in this room, but nothing that appeared to be dangerous or malicious. If you'll just stay here and record anything that happens, I'll announce it when we're done. Call in if you have any problem at all and one of us will help you."
"I think I'll be okay." Kerry assured her.
Alana accepted him at his word and led the way out of the dining room.
"Let me guess, the kid's room?" Charity asked as they walked.
"That's right. I'm taking the master bedroom." Alana confirmed as she opened the door to go down to the basement.
"Even though I don't believe in all that spiritual mumbo-jumbo, I still do my best to record everything that happens. Someday, you're going to have to trust me." Charity said frankly.
"I do trust you. But if anything happened to you because I allowed you to take the greater risk while I was playing it safe, I'd never forgive myself. If you don't like it, you can start your own paranormal group. On this one thing, I'm not backing down." Alana said firmly.
"Maybe I'll start my own group someday. But not today." Charity finished with a smile.
"Go on ahead, I'll be up as soon as I've cut the power." Alana said warmly.
* * * * *
"Radio check, is everyone in place?" Alana asked seriously.
"Derek in Tech. Everything is good, here."
"Charity in the girl's room. You're coming in loud and clear."
"This is Kerry in the dining room. Radio's working fine."
"Good. From here on, it's radio silence. If you're in any danger, call. Otherwise, keep it quiet. I'll make an announcement when we're done." Alana said firmly, then clipped her walkie-talkie to her belt.
* * * * *
The room had been dark to begin with, but when Alana shut off the power, Kerry found himself sitting in nearly complete blackness.
The one little light in the room came from the handheld video recorder's LED screen.
When he picked the camera up and looked at the screen he was surprised to find that the camera was equipped with night vision and could see every detail of the room as if it were lit by the noonday sun.
A sound at the far end of the room made Kerry suddenly turn the camera in that direction.
Nothing seemed to be out of place, and the room was silent as a tomb.
After a few more seconds of quiet, Kerry checked the camera's controls to verify that it was, in fact, recording.
Once he was assured that everything was working as it should be, he made a slow visual survey of the room with the camera.
A few minutes later, he decided to try what Alana had done earlier.
"What is your name?" He said into the empty room.
Of course, there was no response, but he did as Alana had done and waited to give the ghost or spirit or whatever an opportunity to answer.
"Did you live here?" Kerry asked cautiously.
The sound of cardboard scraping against cardboard made him suddenly turn to try and discover the source of the sound.
When he looked carefully, he noticed that one of the boxes seemed to be in a slightly different position than it had been. Of course, he couldn't be sure. It could just be his mind playing tricks on him.
"Is there something in one of the boxes that you're looking for?" Kerry asked cautiously.
Again, there was no response.
"Knock on one of the boxes if you understand me." Kerry said anxiously.
He waited for a long moment and was about to ask another question when he suddenly heard a loud knock on the box right next to him.
Kerry quickly turned the camera to where the sound had come from and found nothing out of place.
"Thank you. I feel better knowing that I'm not just talking to myself." Kerry said nervously and his fear could clearly be heard in his voice.
"Just in case you didn't know, I can't see you or hear you. But I can hear it when you move something or knock." Kerry said frankly.
The sound of something landing on the floor at the side of the room caused Kerry to turn his camera in that direction.
There lay a book in what had previously been a clear walking path between the stacks of boxes.
Before he could think of what else to say, another book fell onto the one that was already on the floor.
"I saw that. I can see what you're doing. I just don't know why you're doing it. Why are you here, scaring my family?" Kerry asked plaintively.
* * * * *
Charity sat alone in Toni's bedroom and waited in silence.
While she didn't expect anything to come of their night's investigation, she was part of a team and was willing to go along with Alana's plans, if only to prove that all the paranormal nonsense was nothing but hysterical people trying to explain away perfectly normal and understandable phenomena.
"What is your name?" Charity asked dutifully.
The first few times she had participated in an investigation, she still felt enough uncertainty in her beliefs to expect a response.
"What are you doing here?"
She froze in place when she heard the low creak of the bedroom door.
She knew that she had closed it firmly when she entered. She wanted to tell herself that it was Derek, just messing with her, but she knew better.
For all his goofiness and non-scientific beliefs, Derek was a consummate professional when it came to paranormal investigation.
Reluctantly, she pointed her camera toward the doorway and her breath caught when she just barely caught a glimpse of a head peering around the edge of the door.
"My name is Charity. I just want to talk to you for a minute. What is your name?" Charity asked carefully, trying to keep her hand steady as she focused the camera on the door.
The single eye that could be seen around the edge of the door looked directly at her, then the head withdrew.
"Wait! I'm not going to hurt you! I just want to ask you some questions!" Charity said as she ran to the door and pulled it open.
She used her camera's night vision to look up and down the hallway, but no one was there.
Charity could feel the adrenaline coursing through her as she slowly walked back to Toni's bed and sat down, trying to reconcile what she had just seen.
* * * * *
Alana carefully scanned the room with her night vision camera to confirm where everything was located.
She decided to settle into the low cushioned chair that was located by the door, so that she could have a good view of the spot Mrs. Batton had been looking at.
Once she was sure that all her electronics were recording, she carefully said, "What is your name?"
The silence that followed wasn't a surprise, but then she remembered the way Mrs. Batton had asked the same question.
"I am speaking to the entity present in this room. Announce yourself." Alana said more firmly.
Still, there was no indication that any being other than herself was in the room.
Thinking to try another approach, Alana stood and quietly began to recite from memory, "Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls."
A low guttural growl sounded at the far side of the room. A moment later Alana was only vaguely aware that something had happened until she felt herself crashing into the bedroom door.
* * * * *
"Everyone, Alana's been attacked. She's in the master bedroom!" Derek called over the walkie-talkies.
Charity dropped her camera and turned on her flashlight as she ran down the hall.
"Alana? Are you alright?" Charity called as she approached the door.
"Alana! Answer me!" Charity screamed as she realized that the door would only open about an inch. It was being blocked from inside.
"What?" Alana asked incoherently.
"Alana. Open the door and let me in." Charity said firmly as she heard footsteps on the stairs.
"What happened?" Alana asked as she slowly opened the door.
"That's what I'd like to know. Get out of there and let's see if you're hurt." Charity said firmly.
"I need to turn the electricity back on." Alana said distractedly.
"Don't worry about that. I'll get it." Kerry said before dashing away.
"Thanks... what was his name, again?" Alana asked blearily.
"That was Kerry. This is his house. Now come on. We're going downstairs." Charity said as she guided Alana to walk with her.
"How are you feeling, Alana? Does anything hurt?" Derek asked anxiously.
"My head. I must have bumped it on something." Alana said confusedly.
"The bedroom door. You did that when you were knocked off your feet and flew about four feet back." Derek said as he focused the beam of his flashlight ahead of them on the stairs.
All of them were relieved when the lights came on.
"Did you get anything on the recording?" Alana asked as she tried to focus her attention.
"Are you kidding? When I saw you being attacked, I didn't stop to do an instant replay, I went to help you." Derek said with a bit of annoyance in his voice.
"Sit down and take inventory and I'll make you some tea." Charity said as she encouraged Alana to take a seat.
"I'm burning." Alana abruptly gasped.
"Where?" Derek asked with sudden panic.
Alana slowly lifted her blouse and revealed three angry scratches diagonally across her midsection.
"Oh my God!" Derek gasped at the sight.
"I don't think God had anything to do with this." Alana said as she stared at her stomach disbelievingly.
* * * * *
"What's wrong?" Kerry asked when he noticed everyone gathered around Alana.
"Something clawed her." Charity said absently as she tried to concoct a 'reasonable' explanation for what she was seeing.
Derek took a digital camera out of his pocket and was taking multiple pictures of Alana's injury from different angles.
"The skin's been broken, we need to clean that up." Kerry said as he walked toward the kitchen.
"You don't need to bother. We've got a first aid kit in the van." Alana said distractedly.
"Don't worry. I've got three kids, I know how to handle scratches." Kerry said simply as he went to the sink and started running hot water.
When Derek felt that he had all the pictures he needed, he quietly asked, "What do you want to do next?"
Alana was still considering the question when Kerry approached with a bowl of hot soapy water and said, "This may sting a little."
"You really don't have to..." Alana began to say, but stopped when her words didn't deter him.
"I just need to clean this, then I'm going to put on some antiseptic. Don't worry, it's the kind that doesn't sting." Kerry finished with a reassuring smile.
"Thanks." Alana said to him, then looked at her teammates and said, "I think we've done enough investigation for one night. It's time for all of us to dig in and start reviewing evidence."
"Aren't you going to do something to get rid of the demon?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"We need to gather as much information as we can about what just happened so that we can devise a plan to combat it. Derek, start on the review of the remote videos. Charity, start on the audio recorders. I'm going to start reviewing the DVR cameras." Alana said decisively.
When Kerry was finished spraying the antiseptic on the wound, he quietly said, "Hold on, I'm going to get you a gauze pad."
"Thanks." Alana said to him appreciatively, then looked at her teammates with question.
"I think this might be too big for us to deal with." Derek said honestly.
"We won't know until we've tried." Alana said seriously.
"I can't believe this." Charity said absently.
"I'm not asking you to believe anything. I'm asking you to review the evidence and make judgements based on what you can 'prove'." Alana said firmly.
Charity blinked a few times, then quietly said, "Right. We need to look at the evidence."
"Hold still." Kerry said, then carefully placed a gauze pad on Alana's belly and taped it down.
"Thank you, Kerry." Alana said appreciatively.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Kerry asked as he sat the tape and scissors on the table.
"If you want, you can work with Charity on the review of the audio recorders. It's really time consuming." Alana said seriously.
"Just show me what I have to do." Kerry said immediately.
"Derek, did you bring an extra set of headphones?" Alana asked as she glanced at him.
"Um, yeah. Come with me and I'll get you set up." Derek said distractedly.
* * * * *
"I think I've got something." Kerry said suddenly, breaking the long silence at the kitchen table.
"Let me hear it." Alana said as she paused the handheld DVR camera and set it aside.
"I'll back it up." Kerry said quickly, then handed it to her.
Alana put on the headphones and listened carefully.
"What was that?" Alana asked curiously, then rewound the recorder and increased the volume before listening again.
"What is it?" Charity asked in a whisper.
"I couldn't make it out, but when I asked, 'What's your name?', I think something answered." Kerry said anxiously.
"Benjamin." Alana said suddenly.
Kerry and Charity looked at her expectantly.
"The voice said 'Benjamin'." Alana said in amazement.
"So, not only did you get an EVP, but you received an intelligent response to the question that you were asking?" Charity asked cautiously.
"Hold on." Alana said as she froze in concentration.
Kerry and Charity waited with anticipation as Alana continued to listen.
"You asked, 'Did you live here.' and the voice responded, but I can't make it out. Maybe Derek can clean it up on the computer and make more sense out of it." Alana said as she stopped the recorder.
The sudden darkness wasn't a surprise. All of them waited silently and no one even bothered to turn on a flashlight, knowing that the lights would come back on in a moment.
"That's really annoying." Charity finally said into the darkness.
When the lights suddenly came back on, Alana said, "If there's an intelligence at work here, then I'm sure that that's the point."
Charity sullenly nodded, then reluctantly said, "Up in the girl's room... I saw something."
"What?" Alana asked curiously.
"Just review my handheld, right at the end." Charity said quietly.
Rather than push further with her questions, Alana picked up the handheld DVR camera that Charity had been using and began to review the end of the video.
"What!? It's an apparition!" Alana said in astonishment.
"I didn't want to believe it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner." Charity said repentantly.
"We're all a little overwhelmed, right now. Don't worry about it." Alana assured her, then turned the camera's LED screen so Kerry and Charity could see it and played the video again.
Kerry's mouth fell open when he saw the image of a young teenage boy peeking around the edge of the door.
Charity closed her eyes and pulled her hands under the table to hide the fact that they were trembling.
"Alana, I was just reviewing the video from upstairs and..." Static began to crackle and completely blocked whatever else Derek had been trying to say.
Glances flew around the table, and as they stood in unison, the lights went out again.
"We need to get out of this house." Alana said firmly as she turned on her flashlight.
"You're not giving up, are you?" Kerry asked anxiously.
"No. But we can't do our work under these conditions. We need to gather our evidence and take it back to the office so we can review it there. Once we've had a chance to calmly and rationally sit down and review everything, we can consider what to do next." Alana said as she led the way to the back porch.
"Yeah. Calm and rational sounds really REALLY good right now." Charity agreed.
As they opened the door to the back porch, Derek jumped. All of them noticed that he was white as a sheet and shaking uncontrollably.
"What's wrong?" Alana asked cautiously.
"I saw something... it had teeth!" Derek fought to say.
"Gather what you need. We're leaving." Alana said firmly.
"But... you've got to see this! It had TEETH!" Derek implored her to understand.
"Derek! Snap out of it! Gather your essential equipment. We'll look at everything back at the office." Alana said firmly.
It took a moment for Derek to collect himself, but he was finally able to say, "I just need the external hard drives. Everything's backed up there."
"We need the DVR cameras and the audio recorders from the kitchen. Would you guys go and get those while we get this together? We'll meet you out at the van." Alana said decisively.
Charity and Kerry looked at each other, but neither made a move to leave the security of their group.
"Stay together. Grab it and go." Alana said seriously.
"Come on." Charity said quietly and put a hand on Kerry's arm to urge him to go.
Kerry took a step, then stopped, "My wife and the girls, they're going to be coming back here in the morning."
"We'll leave a message for them at the front desk of the hotel. Go on." Alana said assuringly.
It took a moment, but the words finally seemed to sink in.
Alana watched Kerry and Charity leave the room, then turned to Derek and asked, "Do you need anything from inside the house?"
"Absolutely not!" Derek said as he rushed to disconnect the cables from the hard drives.
"Give me something to carry, I'll help you." Alana said anxiously.
Derek thrust a handful of tangled USB connectors and power cords in her direction.
"Almost done?" Alana asked hopefully.
"In more ways than one." Derek muttered as he picked up a stack of three large capacity external hard drives in his arms.
* * * * *
The ride in the van had been tense and silent.
Everyone seemed to be doing their best to process everything that had happened in the past few hours.
When they reached the office, Alana finally broke the silence by saying, "Derek, connect your hard drives and copy the files to the server. Charity, start popping the DVDs so Derek can get us copies of them, too. Kerry, if you're willing to help, we're also going to need copies of all the digital audio files." Alana said decisively.
"Yeah. If you'll show me what to do." Kerry said uncertainly.
"If you can drag and drop, you can do this." Alana said to him with a reassuring smile, then added, "We'll deal with the audio cassettes, after."
It seemed to take a minute for her words to sink in, but soon, everyone was dedicated to working on their assigned task.
Apparently, all of them needed to be told what needed to be done, 'here and now' because they were still so overwhelmed by all that had happened.
* * * * *
"Look at this." Derek said from his computer as he looked at the large flat screen TV that more often than not served as a backup monitor for their conference room.
Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and turned their attention toward the big screen.
The scene displayed was simply that of the master bedroom. There wasn't anything the least bit frightening and yet, every person in the room got a chill up their spine at the sight.
The fact that out of the still nothingness, something suddenly appeared was enough to make all of them jump. But the... creature, for lack of a better term, was horrifying in its own right. There weren't any earthly terms to adequately describe what they were seeing.
The head was smooth, whether naturally or slicked down with some vile substance. The snout or possibly beak, protruded from the middle of what was most likely its face. But the most prominent and, by far, the most disturbing feature was the snarling teeth, almost like those of a dog or a wolf.
Before the image had fully registered, it was gone.
"Play it back. Freeze it." Alana said quickly.
It took a moment, but Derek was finally able to get a freeze frame of the image.
"Screen cap that." Alana said as she stepped closer to get a better look.
"Got it." Derek said absently as he stared at the image.
"So, that's what we're dealing with." Alana said carefully.
"What is it?" Charity asked in wonder.
"I believe that this is what is commonly called, a demon." Alana said frankly.
"It can't be..." Charity tried to say, but the words fell flat.
"I'm not making any claims about it being supernatural, but the evidence before me has convinced me that, whatever it is, it does exist." Alana said reasonably.
"I guess it doesn't do any good to say that you don't believe in it when it's right there in front of you." Charity reluctantly agreed.
"We still need to go through all the rest of the evidence and see if we can glean anything else from it. Once everything's been collected, we'll look at what we've got and decide what to do next." Alana said decisively.
"What can you do to stop something like that?" Kerry asked disbelievingly.
"At this point, the only thing I can suggest is to use the methods that have been reported to be effective in the past." Alana said carefully.
"What does that mean?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"She's talking about an exorcism or a cleansing." Charity said quietly.
"That's just what we're talking about at this point. Hopefully, when we review the evidence, we'll be able to find something that will reveal another option." Alana said firmly.
"I can't imagine what that would be." Derek said frankly.
"Good. Because you're not here to imagine. You're here to scientifically study and verify what we've encountered, without conjecture. We'll only fall back on imagination when all other avenues have been exhausted." Alana said seriously.
"Speaking of exhausted..." Charity said with a pleading look.
"Get your files copied to the server, then if you need to close your eyes for a little while, you can go into the other room and lay down on the couch." Alana said simply.
"Slavedriver." Charity muttered sourly, then smiled at Alana to take any sting out of the words.
"Kerry, I called and left a message for your wife. I told her that when she checks out, that she should come over here to get you." Alana said absently as she looked back at the big screen.
"Thanks." Kerry responded as he watched the files copying from the digital audio recorder.
* * * * *
A knock on the door caused everyone to look up.
"I got it." Charity said tiredly as she forced herself to get up from the computer where she had been sitting for hours.
"How are you doing, Kerry?" Derek asked across the room.
"I'm being as careful as I can, but I'm not sure that I'm catching everything." Kerry said honestly.
"You're doing fine. When this is all over and we're ready to close your case file, we're going to go back through everything again, sometime when we're all well rested and there's no time constraint." Derek assured him.
"Daddy!" Zoe crowed as she ran into the room.
"Good morning, Angel. How are you doing this morning? Did you have a good sleep?" Kerry asked as he hugged his youngest daughter.
"We stayed at a really nice hotel! It was big and pretty and smelled really nice!" Zoe said enthusiastically.
"That sounds wonderful." Kerry said, then looked to his wife, who had just entered the room, and asked, "How are you, this morning?"
"Is everything okay at the house?" Toni asked cautiously.
"Not exactly." Kerry reluctantly admitted.
"Things are a little more complicated than we first suspected." Alana interjected.
"Is it really bad?" Mrs. Hinton asked cautiously.
"It shouldn't be quite as bad during the daylight hours. It would probably be safe if you wanted to return." Alana said, more to Kerry than his wife.
"Maybe we should just move." Kerry said anxiously.
"I can't be sure, but there's a possibility that it wouldn't help." Alana said regretfully.
"Why not?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"We need to finish our evidence review before I can really discuss that with you, but I promise that, when we're done, I'll explain as much as I can." Alana said carefully.
"Can Toni and I help?" Lorra asked hopefully.
Alana seemed to be ready to refuse her offer, out of hand, but caught herself before she did.
"Do you think there'd be any problem if Lorra and Toni stayed here and helped us?" Alana asked Kerry curiously.
"No. There's no way I'm letting Teresa and Zoe go into that house without me, but if Lorra and Toni stay here, I won't have to be worried about them." Kerry said honestly.
"Toni, why don't you get your dad to show you and Lorra what he's been doing so that you can take over for him. While he's doing that, I'll get a laptop set up so that you can both help." Alana asked with a grin.
After a moment of consideration, Toni broke into a smile and said, "Yeah. Sure."
"Good." Alana said with satisfaction, then turned to Kerry and said, "As soon as we're done with our evidence review, I'll drive Toni and Lorra over to your house and fill you in on what we've been able to come up with."
"Thank you for all that you're doing." Kerry said sincerely.
* * * * *
Once Mr. and Mrs. Hinton were gone, Alana quickly checked with the girls to verify that they understood what they would be doing, then left them to their work.
After watching nearly an hour of video footage which chronicled absolutely nothing, Alana was surprised to hear Toni suddenly say, "I heard something."
"What was that?" Alana asked as she paused her video and turned her attention to the girls.
"Listen. I think I got something." Toni said happily.
Alana moved to where she could reach the keyboard and located the waveform pattern on the display then placed the cursor right in front of it.
Toni handed her the headphones and waited expectantly for her reaction.
The amplified voice of Charity, asking 'What is your name?', made her wince at the volume, but then she carefully listened and was able to hear a faint response.
Alana increased the volume to maximum and slowed the playback slightly, then listened again.
After a few more passes, Alana reached awkwardly around Toni and wrote on the notepad, "Daniel."
"That was a good catch, I almost couldn't make it out. Make sure that you log the timestamp so that we can go back and listen to it again in the review." Alana said with a smile.
"Was that really a ghost?" Lorra asked in wonder.
"A lot of people would make that assumption, given a lot less evidence." Alana said carefully.
"What does that mean?" Lorra asked curiously.
"It means that we don't automatically jump to the first conclusion. We collect as much evidence as we can, then we look at what we've got and try to figure out what's the most reasonable, natural explanation for it." Alana said seriously.
"And if there isn't one?" Lorra asked cautiously.
"Sometimes, we have to admit that we just don't know. But it isn't until we can verify, without a shadow of a doubt, that something is breaking the physical 'natural' laws of our reality that we'll even consider calling it supernatural." Alana said carefully.
"How often does that happen?" Lorra asked seriously.
"Not often." Alana said before turning to go back to her investigation.
* * * * *
"What happened last night?"
"I'm not sure. I saw things last night that I can't explain." Kerry told his wife honestly.
"Should we move somewhere else?" She asked cautiously.
"I've thought about it, but I'm willing to give the paranormal team a chance to fix things before we take that step." Kerry said seriously, then continued, "Listen, Teresa, I couldn't, in good conscience, sell this house to someone else, not the way it is. And we can't afford to get another house unless we sell this one. Right now, the only thing I can think to do is let the paranormal team try to help us. If that doesn't work out, then we'll have to consider other options."
"We could go stay with my mother, at least until you've decided what you want to do." Teresa said urgently.
Kerry pulled into the driveway, then stopped for a moment to think about it.
Finally, he quietly said, "I have a job here. I really can't afford to give it up. Let's see what the paranormal team comes up with when they're done with their investigation. If this thing looks like it's going to drag on, then you and the girls can fly out to your mother's until I can get this all sorted out."
"Why is this happening to us?" Theresa asked in a whimper.
"We might think about asking them about that when their review is finished." Kerry said frankly.
"Are we going inside or not?" Zoe asked indignantly from the back seat.
"Yes, honey. We're going in right now." Kerry said to his daughter with a smile.
* * * * *
"I think that's got it. I've finished all the remote video." Derek said tiredly.
"The DVR video is just about done, too." Alana said as she looked up from her screen.
"We've still got two more to do." Lorra said quickly.
"With two of you doing it, that shouldn't take long." Derek said with a smile at the girls.
"Charity? How is your cassette tape transfer going?" Alana asked curiously.
"Next time I say I want to use magnetic tape, just smack me, alright?" Charity said miserably.
"Can I? Can I? Me! Me! Me!" Derek called as he bounced in his seat.
Alana was just tired enough to find that funny and let loose a good long laugh.
"So, what do we do now?" Lorra asked cautiously.
"When you're finished, we're all going to sit over there at the table with Charity and since everything's been copied and converted to uniform data files, Derek's going to bring up whatever each of us has been able to find on the big screen, so we can all look at it together." Alana explained patiently.
"We'd better hurry, then." Lorra said as she returned to her work with renewed dedication.
* * * * *
"What happened here? Did someone break in?" Teresa asked as they walked into chaos. Zoe was held close to her mother's side as she stared in wonder at the ransacked house.
"I'd pity them, if they did." Kerry said as he automatically started moving the furniture back into place.
"What's that smell?" Zoe asked with a scrunched up face.
"Either a demon or my sneakers." Kerry answered, mostly without thinking.
Fortunately, his daughter wasn't listening. Her question had been mostly rhetorical.
"Did those people do this?" Teresa asked cautiously as she hugged her daughter close, as much to comfort as to be comforted.
"No. Whatever it is that they're trying to get rid of, did this." Kerry said frankly.
"Should we even be in here?" Teresa asked nervously as she looked around.
"I don't think it's as bad in the daytime... even so, you couldn't pay me enough to go into our bedroom, right now." Kerry said frankly.
"What did you see?" Teresa asked hesitantly, obviously afraid of the answer.
"Just think of your worst nightmare, and you're halfway there." Kerry said seriously.
"If we can't go into the bedroom, what are we going to do about our clothes? How are we going to live like this?" Teresa asked anxiously.
"We won't have to. I promise. Let's wait for the team to finish their investigation, then we'll listen to their findings and decide what to do next. Until then, I need some sleep." Kerry said frankly.
"How can you sleep at a time like this?!" Teresa asked incredulously.
"Mostly because I didn't sleep at all last night, not even for a minute. Please, just let me sleep until they're done with the evidence review." Kerry almost begged as he walked to the couch and sat down.
"What am I supposed to do while you're sleeping?" Teresa asked as she looked around.
"I don't know. It's Halloween. Maybe you and Zoe could do something for that. After all, we've already got the haunted house." Kerry said as he rested back and closed his eyes.
* * * * *
"Before we begin, I'd just like to explain a few things to Lorra and Toni." Alana said as she took her seat at the table.
Both girls turned their attention to her.
"First, I'm going to define some terms. That way we all know that when we say something like 'ghost' that we're all talking about the same thing." Alana explained carefully.
Toni was looking on with interest, but Lorra was nearly bouncing with anticipation.
"I suppose that I'll start with 'ghost'. We commonly use that to describe the manifestation of a once living being that is now departed. Most commonly, we use the word 'ghost' to describe the spiritual manifestation of a person, but animal spirits are not unheard of." Alana said carefully.
"When I was little, we had a cat that died and I never saw a spirit or anything." Lorra said thoughtfully.
"Some people believe that when a living being dies, that some sort of spirit emerges and crosses over to another spiritual realm. Be that limbo, heaven, hell, elisia or whatever, it's a completely different realm. The ghosts that we see on the earthly plane are the rare few who didn't cross over, for whatever reason." Alana explained.
"And no one has ever been able to prove that any of the spiritual stuff exists outside of people's dreams and nightmares." Charity said frankly.
Alana nodded, then said, "Which is why we're here, trying to either prove that such things are real, or provide natural explanations for what people are experiencing."
"So you don't believe in ghosts?" Lorra asked uncertainly.
"I don't believe or disbelieve. I do my best to look at the evidence and find the most reasonable explanation." Alana said seriously, then continued, "Next we have 'poltergeists'. They're said to be mischievous and sometimes malevolent spirits with the ability to move things and even hurt people."
"Is that what we've got in our house?" Toni asked with concern.
"I don't know, yet. Maybe you can help us answer that question when we review the evidence." Alana said frankly.
Toni looked at Lorra nervously.
"Next we have 'demons'. They're said to be spiritual creatures that were never alive and have never walked the earth." Alana said carefully.
"Where do they come from?" Lorra asked in wonder.
"If you look at the various mythologies, they each have their own creation story and many of them talk about the origins of angels, demons, spirit guides and the like. For the purposes of what we'll be doing, it doesn't really matter where they came from. What we need to determine is if we've got one and if we do, what to do about it." Alana said seriously.
"Now, the last thing before we begin. Since ancient times people have claimed to encounter supernatural entities. Through the ages, they've concocted various ways of dealing with them, with varying degrees of success. Once we've determined, to the best of our ability, what we're dealing with, then we'll look at those traditions and see which solution best fits our needs." Alana said carefully.
"So you don't have a proton pack that you can use to zap them away?" Lorra asked with a smile.
"The proton pack only restrains them until you can get them into the trap." Derek said seriously.
Charity couldn't contain her grin as she rolled her eyes.
"No. We don't have anything like that. Let's look at the evidence and see what we've got before we start worrying about what to do next." Alana said with a smile.
"Just poke me if I fall asleep." Charity said as she turned her attention to the big screen.
"I'll do it." Derek said with a grin.
Charity turned an icy glare on him and quietly said, "I'll break it off."
* * * * *
Teresa took her daughter into the kitchen to begin the task of making iced halloween sugar cookies in the shape of pumpkins.
Although she wasn't really in the mood, it made her feel slightly better to busy herself with the mundane task.
There was a sound, like something being dropped, upstairs.
"What was that?" Zoe asked her mother curiously.
"I don't know, baby. Just keep stirring." Teresa said as she tried to reign in her emotions.
"Are we going to go and live with grandma?" Zoe asked as she began to stir again.
A sudden thump sounded from the dining room, but Teresa did her best not to react as she said, "I don't know. I don't know much of anything, right now."
* * * * *
"Derek, do you want to start with the audio?" Alana asked as she turned her attention to the big screen.
"Sure." Derek said quickly, then looked back to the table and said, "Good work girls. You catalogued these just right."
A waveform pattern filled the big TV/monitor, then after a glance to be sure that everyone was ready, Derek hit the button to play the first audio file.
"I muted this to some degree so that the questioner's voice wouldn't blast us out." Derek explained before Charity's voice came over the speaker, rather loudly, saying, "What is your name?"
There were a few seconds of silence before a quiet, whisper of a voice responded, "Daniel."
"Were you able to find any records of Daniel Quartermaine?" Alana asked seriously.
"Not much. We might have better luck looking for records at the public library or the county courthouse. But anything before 1790 is pretty much a shot in the dark. All I managed to come up with is a cemetery record that seems to match." Derek said frankly.
"Mark that for further investigation." Alana said decisively.
Derek nodded, then quickly typed a text note on his small screen.
"Next?" Alana prompted.
"Everyone flinched at Kerry's bellowing voice asking, "What is your name?"
What followed was a quiet, yet very clear, "Benjamin."
Derek held up a hand, indicating that it wasn't finished.
Everyone listened carefully and watched the waveform moving on the screen.
Kerry's loud, distorted voice asked, "Did you live here?"
Then, barely audibly, a voice responded, "This is my job."
"Wow! Okay. Good job on cleaning that up." Alana said frankly.
Derek smiled at her praise.
"So while we're looking for Daniel Quartermaine, we also need to be looking for someone, from the same timeframe, named Benjamin, who used to work in the house?" Charity speculated.
"If we could find a connection like that, it would be ideal. But I'm not going to hold my breath." Alana said frankly, then asked, "Any more audio?"
"There's a few, but only one that I've been able to do anything with." Derek said, then started the next audio file playing.
"I have to leave."
"I love you."
"I'll go with you."
"That's what they kept saying outside my bedroom!" Toni said suddenly.
"So, that's the residual." Alana said thoughtfully, then turned to Derek and asked, "Where was that from?"
"That was the digital recorder at the top of the stairs." Derek answered professionally.
Alana nodded as she made a note.
"I'm just going to play through the rest of these, back to back. I couldn't make any sense of them, but if something sounds familiar, just tell me and I'll stop and replay it." Derek said before playing another set of clips.
For the most part, it was just incomprehensible whispers, but at one point Lorra quickly said, "Stop!"
Derek stopped the playback and moved the slider back to the beginning of that segment of the clip.
"Can we listen to this one, then the 'I love you' clip? I think it's the same thing, just at lower volume." Lorra said seriously.
"Yeah, just let me queue it up." Derek said as he turned to face his computer.
Everyone watched as Derek manipulated the two clips in horizontal windows, one above the other. After a little squeezing and stretching, he was able to get the waveforms to almost match up.
"I have to leave."
"I love you."
"I'll go with you."
Then the second clip played and it was easy to tell that even though the words weren't understandable, the pitch and inflection were identical.
"Nice catch, Lorra. You have a good ear." Alana said seriously.
"That audio came from the recorder at the other end of the hall. It's virtually the same timestamp as the first." Derek said carefully.
"Is that all the audio?" Alana asked to be sure.
"Yeah." Derek said then clicked something on his keyboard and the screen filled with a blurry dark image.
"What are we looking at?" Alana asked curiously.
"This is one of the digital photos I took after we heard the growl in the master bedroom. This is the only one that showed anything besides a door." Derek said frankly.
"I can't make out any detail." Alana said carefully.
"That's as good as I could get it. Either it was moving quickly or it just looks like that. If you'll look in the background, the image of the door isn't the least bit blurred, so it's not camera movement." Derek explained.
"Any other photographic evidence?" Alana asked as she wrote down another note.
Derek hit a button and a picture of the scratches on Alana's belly filled the screen.
"I don't have anything to point out in this one, but I thought it was important to remember that whatever it turns out to be that we're dealing with, here, we have to keep in mind that it can hurt us." Derek said seriously.
"It hurt you?" Toni asked in surprise.
"Yes. I was using religious provocation and it lashed out at me." Alana said calmly, hoping to minimize the event.
"I didn't know that a ghost could really hurt you." Lorra said in wonder.
"Remember what I told you when we started. 'Ghost' is the term we use for something that was once alive. I would be willing to tentatively accept that Daniel and Benjamin might be ghosts. But whatever did this..." Alana said as she pointed at the large screen, "I would guess is more likely a poltergeist or a demon."
"What's the difference?" Lorra asked curiously.
"Actually, depending on who you ask, there isn't one. Poltergeists are thought to be a 'class' of demon. They're usually very powerful and fairly troublesome, but their reign of terror usually only lasts a few weeks to a few months. Demons... well, let's just say that they tend to stick around a lot longer." Alana said carefully.
Charity looked at Alana expectantly, but when she didn't continue, Charity added, "And poltergeists usually appear when there's a pubescent girl, or sometimes a menopausal woman, in the household."
Alana flashed Charity a warning look, but didn't contradict her.
"I could have caused this?" Toni said in realization.
"No." Alana said firmly, then explained, "At least, from what I've witnessed, the evidence doesn't bear out that assumption."
Charity looked at Alana curiously.
"If the 'entity' were somehow being fueled by Toni's hormonal state, then it would stand to reason that it would be weakened in her absence. I think I can safely say that what we encountered last night was, if anything, gaining in strength." Alana said seriously.
Charity considered Alana's words, then began to slowly nod in agreement.
"So, it's a demon?" Lorra asked cautiously.
"Given what we've seen so far, that seems the most likely conclusion. But let's see what else we've come up with." Alana said, then looked to Derek expectantly.
Derek nodded, then hit a key on his computer.
The screen filled with a psychedelic rainbow of colors, forming the image of a room filled with boxes.
"Freaky." Lorra said under her breath.
"This is infrared of the dining room. Just watch." Derek said as he watched the image on the big screen.
Everyone was silent as they waited for something to happen.
Suddenly, a red blur moved on the screen.
"Freeze it." Alana said quickly.
Derek tapped the spacebar on his keyboard and the image stopped.
Alana stood and walked to the screen as she said, "The entity is moving between the boxes. You can see a clear delineation where its lower half is blocked out."
"I think I see a nose." Toni said tentatively.
"Where?" Alana asked as she looked back at the image.
Toni walked to the screen and pointed.
"Back it up and slow the playback." Alana said as she carefully watched the screen.
As everyone watched the replay, Alana slowly said, "Yes. And I can make out the eye ridge. I think we can safely upgrade this from 'unknown blur' to 'possible apparition'."
"If you liked that, you're going to love this." Derek said enthusiastically.
Alana and Toni took their seats again as Derek started the next video.
Although the video seemed to be meandering around the room aimlessly, the sound of a creaking door caught everyone's attention.
When the camera focused on the door, everyone stared in wonder at the clear image of a young teenage boy peeking into the room.
"My name is Charity. I just want to talk to you for a minute. What is your name?"
The boy looked directly into the camera, then ducked back behind the door.
"Wait! I'm not going to hurt you! I just want to ask you some questions!"
Everyone watched the video jump and jiggle as Charity pulled the door open, then watched as it searched up and down the hallway, finding nothing.
"That's a 'Class A' piece of evidence." Alana said in an impressed tone.
"Yeah, and the investigator did a really good job of keeping it calm and professional." Derek said with a sincere grin at Charity.
"Excellent work." Alana agreed, then looked around the room and asked, "Any comments?"
"That's not the same guy we saw." Lorra said reluctantly.
"Do what?" Alana asked with surprise.
"She's right. That's not who we saw the other night." Toni confirmed.
Alana thought for a moment, then carefully said, "Since we have an audio file of Charity asking the entity its name and receiving the response, 'Daniel', I suppose that what you two might have seen was Benjamin."
"Here's another angle." Derek said before starting the video.
Everyone watched as the stationary camera, which had been focused on the door, caught the door opening and the boy's head peeking inside.
"Have you had a chance to check the hallway cameras for this timestamp?" Alana asked thoughtfully.
"I thought you'd ask." Derek said with a smile, then started the next video in his queue.
"There!" Lorra said as she pointed.
Only the vaguest outline of the boy's upper body could be seen as the door started to open.
"If I hadn't seen the view from inside the room, I wouldn't accept this as evidence of anything." Derek said frankly.
"What about the other hallway camera?" Alana asked curiously.
Derek hit a key, then said, "Even worse."
They all watched the door open slightly, then a moment later, Charity barrel into the hall, looking frantic as she scanned around with the video camera.
"Any thoughts before we go on?" Alana asked the room in general.
No one seemed to be inclined to answer, so she nodded at Derek to continue.
"Girls, brace yourselves. This one's hard to watch." Derek warned.
"We're not little kids." Lorra said indignantly.
Derek glanced at her with a dubious expression, then started the video.
Everyone watched as Alana slowly stood.
"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle..."
Alana had to fight to continue watching, but since her memory of the incident was still so foggy, she knew that she needed to.
Whether they wanted to admit to it or not, every person in the room felt a chill when the low raspy growl sounded.
Then, suddenly, Alana was literally thrown off her feet and propelled four feet back, into the bedroom door.
"Replay that in slow-mo." Charity said in a firm, professional voice.
Derek turned to his computer and restarted the video at half the normal speed.
"I want to see if we can see what did this." Charity explained.
"I think we know what did it." Derek said frankly.
"No, you're assuming that you know..." Charity trailed off as the video reached the point of the attack.
"I can't see anything." Toni said cautiously.
"There may not be anything to see. I just want to be sure." Charity said as she kept her focus on the screen.
When the video had finished, she shook her head in defeat.
"What about the DVR?" Alana asked seriously.
"Coming up." Derek said, then started the next video.
Everyone watched as the same events replayed, but from a different angle.
"Look over there." Toni said as she pointed.
"At what?" Alana asked curiously.
"Back it up, I think I saw something over there, by the wall." Toni said seriously.
Derek quickly restarted the video then watched with interest.
"On the left side of the screen, you can barely see it." Toni said in a low voice.
When the video reached the point just after Alana had said the prayer, everyone watched as something seemed to come into being, for just an instant.
"Back it up. Freeze it." Alana barked as she got up from her chair and moved closer to the big screen.
"There." Derek said as he did his best to capture the image she wanted.
"The head of a bird, and the teeth of a wolf..." Alana said carefully.
"What's that?" Toni asked in confusion.
"It's kind of a long shot. I'm trying to guess at how a primitive person would describe this... thing. What I'm hoping is that I'll be able to find a historic incidence of someone encountering another one of these and, with any luck, find out how they defeated it." Alana said carefully.
Lorra looked at the vague image on the screen and seemed to be trying to make sense of it.
"What's next?" Alana asked as she went back to her seat.
"Last one. After this, I've got a whole bunch of little orbs and flares, but nothing significant." Derek said as he started the last video.
When the 'creature' popped into view for just a frame or two, everyone jumped, even those who knew it was coming.
"Let's see the screen cap." Alana said firmly.
The screen filled with a still image that was the stuff that nightmares were made of.
"That's in my house?" Toni asked in amazement.
"It seems so. Now we just have to figure out what to do about it." Alana said frankly.
* * * * *
"Are we going trick or treating tonight?" Zoe asked hopefully.
"I don't know yet. We'll see." Teresa said distractedly.
"I want to be a princess." Zoe said happily.
"We've already got your costume. You're going to be that pink ninja ranger thing that you picked out." Teresa said as she fought to focus more of her attention on her daughter.
"I want to be a princess!" Zoe said firmly.
"Keep your voice down. You'll wake your father." Teresa stage whispered.
"I want to be a princess." Zoe demanded.
"Honey, you're six years old. I think it's time you understood something." Teresa said seriously, "The movies and fairy tales lied to you. Princesses aren't all beautiful, they aren't all happy, and they don't always get everything that they want."
Zoe looked at her mother with confusion at the statement.
"I'd rather you be a pink ninja thing because at least then you're someone who can take care of herself. A princess is a boring, useless thing to be. I want you to be someone strong and independent, not ever needing for someone to 'rescue' her." Teresa said thoughtfully.
Teresa snapped out of her thoughts and smiled before saying, "The cookies should be cooled down enough, let's start icing them."
* * * * *
"I'm scared." Toni said frankly.
"I know. That's perfectly reasonable, given the circumstances." Alana said as she fought to keep her sleepy mind on her driving.
"Have you decided what you're going to do about the demon, yet?" Lorra asked from the seat behind Toni's.
"I still have a few things to check out, but I have a general idea." Alana said evasively.
"You look really tired." Toni said honestly.
"I am. But all I have to do is tell your parents what we've found and then I'm going to get a few hours of sleep."
"Thanks for letting us help." Toni said sincerely.
"You did really good work. Maybe, when this is all over, you two could help us with evidence reviews, if you'd like." Alana said as she pulled onto Toni's block.
"Really? That'd be great!" Lorra said happily.
"Sure. You take the work seriously and you do a good job. Evidence review is a long difficult slog at the best of times. We'd be happy to have the help." Alana said as she pulled the van to a stop.
"Could we, maybe, go on investigations with you, too?" Lorra asked hopefully.
"Let's save that discussion for some other time. Right now, we have a job to do." Alana said before getting out of the van.
* * * * *
"Hello, Alana. Please come in." Teresa said as she stepped away from the door, with Zoe almost glued to her side.
"Thank you. I've just come by to give you the summary of the evidence we collected last night." Alana said as she fought to force a smile past her exhaustion.
"Are you going to get rid of it?" Teresa asked hopefully as she put a hand on Zoe's shoulder.
"Yes. At least, we're going to try. But we're going to need to arrange a few things first. We'll do that tonight." Alana assured her, then asked, "Where can I set up my laptop?"
"Is the kitchen okay?" Teresa asked uncertainly.
"That will be fine."
"I'll wake Kerry, he'll want to hear this." Teresa said quickly, then dashed away, Zoe following a step behind.
"It smells like someone's been baking cookies." Lorra said with a smile.
Alana noticed Toni's expression of distraction.
"What's wrong?" Alana asked curiously.
"Is all of this my fault?" Toni asked quietly.
"Why would you think that?" Alana asked as she divided her attention to get her laptop ready to use.
Toni glanced at Lorra, then quietly said, "You said that someone... like me, could kind of 'summon' a poltergeist, right?"
"Something like that. Some people speculate that the changes in your body at this time in your life can sort of supercharge your psychic energy, which can attract spiritual entities." Alana said carefully.
"And what if someone like me was really worried or afraid about something? Could that make it even worse?" Toni asked cautiously.
"I suppose it could. If you take the psychic 'rush' from an unstable hormonal state and compound it with additional emotional stress, it could conceivably amplify the effect." Alana said speculatively.
"If that stress was gone, then would it fix it?" Toni asked reluctantly.
Alana thought for a moment, then carefully said, "No. At least, I don't think it would get rid of anything that's already here. But it could weaken it, depriving it of its primary source of power and it would also reduce the likelihood that another such entity might be attracted in the future... theoretically speaking, of course."
"Did you come up with anything?" Kerry asked hopefully as he walked into the kitchen.
"A few things. I think you're aware of most of them, but it paints more of a picture when you can see them all in a row." Alana said as she brought up the audio playback program on the screen of her laptop.
"Mom, Dad, I'm gay." Toni said firmly.
"What?" Teresa asked with confusion at the non sequitur.
"I'm a lesbian." Toni said with a tremble of fear in her voice.
There was a long moment of silence, then Teresa carefully asked, "Are you sure?"
"She doesn't have to be sure." Kerry said, before Toni could formulate a response, "If she feels strongly enough about it to 'come out' to us, then she's sure enough."
Kerry then turned to his daughter and said, "But just so we're clear, this isn't carved in stone. If, as you grow, you realize that your 'interests' have changed, we'll be fine with that, too."
Toni stared at her dad for a long moment, trying to comprehend what he was saying. When she finally deciphered his answer as being acceptance, she turned and looked at her mother with concern.
"Your father's right. Be who you are and we'll be here when you need us." Teresa said decisively.
"That's so cool." Lorra said with a smile.
Both Kerry and Teresa turned their attention toward her and had matching inquisitive looks.
"She's just a friend. I told her before she spent the night, but we're not..." Toni faltered before she could finish.
"I'm glad you've got a friend who accepts you." Kerry told his daughter assuringly.
"It's not like it was back in the stone age. No one thinks it's a big deal." Lorra said frankly, then added, "No one our age, anyway."
Kerry chuckled at the statement, then looked to his daughter and said, "I'm glad that you told us, but you picked a really interesting time to do it."
Toni glanced at Alana, then said, "It's possible that I might be the cause of all the trouble that we've been having. Me being all worried about how to tell you and how you'd react might have..."
Alana noticed that Toni was having trouble finding the words and jumped in, "I can't say that Toni is the cause or even a contributing factor in what's been happening in your house, but if she were, her 'coming out' and you reacting as well as you did may have just deprived the entity of a much needed source of psychic energy."
Kerry walked to his daughter and gave her a firm hug.
"Let me go ahead and show you what we've found, so I can get some sleep before we have to fight this thing." Alana said as she turned her attention back to her laptop.
"What's a lesbian?" Zoe asked her mother quietly.
"A girl who loves other girls." Teresa said simply.
Zoe seemed to consider that for a moment, then turned her attention to the laptop's screen.
* * * * *
"The files you're about to see and hear have been edited and computer enhanced to make them a little bit easier to understand. We have the raw files saved, back at the office, if you ever want to see the completely unedited versions." Alana said professionally.
She glanced upward at the sound of a thump from upstairs, then started the first audio file.
"This one came from Toni's bedroom." Alana hurried to add before the sound played.
"What is your name?"
"When the psychic walked through the house, she said that one of the spirits she sensed was named Daniel Quartermaine. Supposedly, he's a distant relation of the Quartermaine family that settled this area." Alana said seriously, then pressed the button for the next audio clip.
"What is your name?"
It sounded like something bumped against the dining room wall. Alana glanced in that direction and waited a moment before she continued.
"We don't have any leads on a Benjamin in this house, but so far we've only been able to do Internet research. Once we've been able to look at the village and county records, we may be able to find more information." Alana said seriously, then started the next recording.
"Did you live here?"
"This is my job."
"That might indicate that Benjamin was a member of the household staff. This is all speculation, but it's a place to start looking." Alana said, then started the next one.
"I have to leave."
"I love you."
"I'll go with you."
"This came from the top of the stairs. Toni said that it was what she kept hearing being whispered, over and over." Alana said carefully.
"They were lovers." Lorra said thoughtfully.
"With a conversation taken out of context, we can't automatically make that assumption." Alana warned.
"Daniel lived in this house and Benjamin worked here. They were in love, but because they were master and servant, they couldn't be together." Lorra said distantly.
"And because they were both guys." Toni added simply.
"Yeah. They used to burn witches here. I seriously doubt that they'd be okay with a gay couple." Lorra said with a nod.
"Keep in mind, this is all speculation on our part. We need to base our conclusions only on the facts." Alana warned.
Toni and Lorra both nodded their agreement.
Alana pressed a key on the laptop and the rainbow hued image filled the screen.
"If we're working under the assumption that Benjamin and Daniel are the ghosts of people who used to live here, then it would stand to reason that this is a picture of Benjamin." Alana said carefully.
"Is that the dining room?" Teresa asked uncertainly.
"Yes. And that's also where Kerry caught the EVP of Benjamin." Alana confirmed.
"Why do you think he's making all the racket in there at all hours of the day and night?" Teresa asked as she moved closer to get a better look at the screen.
"Because it's his job." Lorra said suddenly.
"What was that?" Alana asked curiously.
"If Benjamin was a servant in this house, it's his job to keep the place neat and clean. Maybe that's why he's moving stuff. He's trying to clean it up." Lorra speculated.
Alana considered for a moment, then said, "That's quite a leap in reasoning, but until we've got a better explanation, I'm inclined to go with it."
Lorra smiled proudly at the announcement.
Alana pressed the button and waited for the reaction to the next video.
"Oh my God!" Teresa exclaimed.
"That's Daniel." Toni told her mother.
"Yeah. Benjamin's got black hair." Lorra added.
"I can see him... I mean... how..." Teresa stammered.
"This has to be one of the best pieces of evidence that we've ever collected." Alana said honestly.
"I can't be here." Toni said suddenly.
"What was that?" Alana asked curiously.
"When Benjamin stopped at Daniel's bedroom door, when Lorra and I were in there, he said, 'I can't be here.'" Toni said quickly.
"I suppose that does kind of fit in with your 'forbidden love' theory." Alana said in a considering tone.
"But they're together now." Lorra added quietly.
Alana was about to start the next video, but caught herself.
"You might not want Zoe to see this one, it might give her nightmares." Alana said frankly.
"Come here, Angel. Why don't you show me where Mommy hid the cookies?" Kerry asked his daughter gently.
Zoe ran to her father, happy to be receiving his attention.
When Alana was sure that they were far enough away, she started the video.
Everyone watched as Alana was knocked completely off her feet and thrown into the bedroom door.
Teresa brought up a hand to cover her mouth as she stared at the horrific sight.
"It's a nasty one." Alana said, then brought up the still image of the 'beast'.
Teresa began trembling uncontrollably as tears started sliding down her cheeks.
"We made cookies!" Zoe said proudly as she carried a plate of iced sugar cookies toward the table.
Alana casually closed the laptop before Zoe could get close enough to see the image.
"So, have you decided what we're doing?" Kerry asked seriously as he returned to the gathering.
Alana glanced at Teresa, who seemed to be trying to gain control of her emotions.
"I think, for this to work, we're going to need to have Toni here, and of course, you'll need to be here, Kerry. It would probably be best if Zoe were out of the house..."
"We're going trick or treating!" Zoe said happily before snatching another cookie from the plate.
"There will probably be some Halloween parties in the area, it might be good to stop in and check those out, too." Alana said in a leading tone.
Teresa caught on to what she was saying and nodded her agreement.
"I'll get in contact with Father Francis and we'll set up a time for everyone to meet here. I'll call you with those details as soon as everything's been arranged." Alana said, mostly to Kerry.
"Can I come, too?" Lorra asked hopefully.
"I think that it would be a great help if you were here to lend Toni your moral support." Alana said with a smile.
"Make sure to call your mom to be sure that it's okay." Kerry told her seriously.
Lorra nodded her agreement.
"Okay. If no one has any questions, I'm going to make the arrangements, then I'm going to get some much needed sleep." Alana said seriously.
"I don't know how you do it." Kerry said honestly.
"Sometimes, neither do I." Alana chuckled as she picked up her laptop.
* * * * *
"Mr. Hinton, it's good to see you again. How are you?" Father Francis asked when the door opened.
"With all that's going on, I suppose I'm doing as well as I can be." Kerry said frankly, then quickly added, "Please, come in."
"I've been preparing since we last spoke. Rest assured, we will emerge victorious." Father Francis said confidently.
"I'm really glad to hear that." Kerry said honestly.
As they entered the living room, Father Francis noticed that Alana, Derek and Charity were all present, as were Toni and Lorra.
"Where are your wife and younger daughter?" Father Francis asked cautiously.
"They're out trick or treating. Teresa's going to keep them away until I call and tell her that we're finished." Kerry said frankly.
"Good. I'm glad that you thought to do that." Father Francis said with a smile.
"Do you know where you'd like to set up?" Alana asked curiously.
"That depends. Is there one area of the house that the demon tends to frequent?" Father Francis asked cautiously.
"The master bedroom, upstairs at the far end of the hallway." Alana answered seriously.
"Then I believe that I could set up here, then do a cleansing in each room, ending with that bedroom. That should reduce the possibility of it evading us." Father Francis said thoughtfully.
"I like that plan." Alana said with a nod.
The ring of a doorbell caught everyone's attention.
When it was obvious that no one else was going to do it, Toni said, "I'll get it."
Lorra automatically walked with her to the entry hall.
"Trick or treat!" Three kids chorused.
"Here you go." Toni said as she put a fistful of candy into each of their bags.
"Thanks!" One of the kids said happily, then the group ran, as one, down the walkway to a waiting car.
"Do you remember when life was that simple?" Lorra asked as she turned to walk back inside.
"You mean, two weeks ago?" Toni asked with a grin.
Lorra thought about it for a moment, and finally said, "It seems longer."
* * * * *
"What's that, you've got there?" Father Francis asked when he saw something that looked like bundles of weeds, tied with twine.
"Sage. I don't know a lot about your christian hocus pocus thing, but I've heard that this stuff helps when you're doing a cleansing." Charity said frankly.
"Typically, we use incense, but since I didn't think to bring any, I suppose that smudging with sage will suffice." Father Francis said consideringly.
"Is it going to hurt anything if I record what you're doing, Father?" Derek asked cautiously.
"I can't see any reason why it would. That is, as long as you don't interfere." Father Francis said thoughtfully.
"I just plan to stay in the background and watch." Derek said seriously.
* * * * *
It took a while for Father Francis to get everything in order, but finally he began the cleansing and blessing ritual to dispel any forces of evil from the house. As he went to each door and window, he marked it with holy water and said a special invocation to secure it against any who would intend harm.
Alana walked with the priest, carrying supplies, and seemed to instinctively know what he needed before he had a chance to ask for it.
Charity followed along with her bundle of sage, slightly smoking, to cleanse the air of each room they passed through.
Derek had his DVR camera in hand, documenting every step of the way.
Kerry, Toni and Lorra followed along, uncertain of their importance in the ceremony.
* * * * *
When the doorbell rang, Lorra would hurry back to the front door to attend to the trick or treaters, since they had been told that Toni might be needed and that Lorra was there for moral support.
Upon completion of the first floor, the entire party ascended the stairs and began the entire production again, this time starting with the room that would be Mike's, when he visited.
When they moved on to Toni's room, both she and Lorra had the same thought. They were worried that what the priest was doing might somehow harm or expel Daniel or Benjamin. Neither of them wanted for the young lovers to be forcibly removed from the house.
However, neither of them had the will to interrupt the Father as he continued on with his marathon blessing.
* * * * *
Finally, after what seemed to be an incredibly long time, they reached the last room of the house.
The feeling of foreboding and dread as they walked in was unmistakable.
The temperature in the room was a good twenty degrees cooler than anywhere else in the house and even though the lights appeared to be functioning normally, the room seemed to be dark and had the sense of being uncomfortably confining.
Throughout the house, Father Francis had conducted his blessings and prayers in English. But as soon as he stepped into the master bedroom, he immediately switched to Latin.
Alana was on alert, determined that the thing that had attacked her before wouldn't get a second chance.
Charity was obviously afraid, but forced herself to continue on and confront the thing that only the day before she was certain didn't exist.
Derek stood just inside the bedroom door with his DVR camera in hand, documenting every moment of their encounter.
At a certain point during his blessing, Father Francis made an urgent summoning motion to Kerry, bidding him to come forward.
"Mr. Hinton, you're the master of this house. You need to exert your authority as such and command this evil to leave." Father Francis said quickly.
Before Kerry could open his mouth, a growl started which escalated into a roar.
Kerry, Alana and Father Francis were all impacted by an unseen force at the same time. It wasn't enough to knock them off their feet, but all three had to fight to maintain their balance.
"I'm the one who brought you here. Now I'm sending you back." Toni said as she stepped forward, to her father's side.
"Listen to me! I deny you! You can't have any more of my power! I'm cutting you off!" Toni screamed.
"I'm the head of this household! You are not welcome here! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" Kerry finished with a yell.
As soon as the words were out of Kerry's mouth, Father Francis stood forward and forcefully said, "Exorcizamus te, omnis immunde spiritus, omni satanica potestas, omnis incursioinfernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica, in nomini etvirtute Domini nostri Jesu Christi, eradicare et effugare a Dei Ecclesia, ab animabusad imaginem Dei conditis ac pretioso divini Agni sanguini redemptis."
An anguished howl filled the room and all present, except Father Francis, covered their ears at the horrific sound.
The sound seemed to go on and on, but one by one the people in the room realized that the sound was becoming more distant.
As soon as it had faded completely, Father Francis jumped into action, performing the cleansing ritual he had done in all the other rooms of the house. As soon as the last syllable left his mouth, he took the holy water from Alana's hand and blessed the windows and door of the room.
Everyone was standing, more or less in shock, when Father Francis finally finished speaking and the room fell into silence.
"Do you feel that?" Lorra asked in a whisper.
"What?" Toni asked as everyone turned to listen with interest.
"Before, it was like being deep in a cave, now it feels... like freedom." Lorra said, obviously having difficulty finding the words.
"Is it over?" Kerry asked cautiously.
Alana thought for a moment, then carefully said, "There's no way that I can promise that it is. But as far as I can tell, and from everything I know, I'd say that we've gotten rid of the thing that we've been calling a demon."
"What about Daniel and Benjamin?" Toni asked with concern.
"I don't know, we'll just have to wait and see if they're still here. But, if they are, do you want them to be?" Alana asked curiously.
Toni looked at her dad uncertainly.
"This is their home, a place where they'll always belong and always be accepted." Kerry said seriously.
Toni smiled at the answer, then said, "You might have trouble getting Mom to go along with it."
"I think that if I talk to Benjamin and get him to stop bumping things around in the dining room, that she'll be fine with the rest, given enough time." Kerry said thoughtfully.
Before Toni could respond, the doorbell rang.
Trick or Treat!