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"What can we do for you, Alana?" Charity asked for both of them.
"This is only if you want to, but while I was investigating my area, I encountered something that I can't quite explain. I would like a second opinion to help sort out exactly what it was." Alana said seriously.
"What did you see?" Derek asked curiously.
"I didn't see anything. What's more, I didn't get even a single 'blip' on my K2 meter." Alana carefully explained.
"Then what did you experience?" Charity asked curiously.
"Fear. Dread. Paranoia. Terror. I can't describe it any further than that. The whole thing was very primal. At the end, I thought I heard someone, a man, say, 'I got you' but I was so overwhelmed by that point that I can't swear that I actually heard anything." Alana finished quietly.
"I'm guessing that since there's no EMF detected that you want for us to go up there and look around for 'non-standard' sources of paranormal incidences." Derek ventured.
Alana nodded her confirmation.
"I can see why you'd ask Derek, but what do you want for me to do?" Charity asked seriously.
"I've seen the way that the two of you brainstorm and feed off each other's ideas. I honestly believe that working together, you'll have the best chance of unearthing whatever's haunting those hallways."
"Haunting? Do you believe that it might be a revenant?" Charity asked curiously.
"No. Not as far as I can tell. I meant the word 'haunting' more figuratively."
"Got it." Charity said firmly.
"I'll just need a minute to grab my gear and I'll be ready." Derek said before dashing away.
* * * * *
"Is there something more to this than what you're saying? You wouldn't normally ask anyone to follow behind you and second guess what you've already investigated." Charity said frankly.
"The only significant thing about this investigation is how deeply I felt the impact of it. Add to that the benefit of having another independent witness and the tools to adequately measure the environment, and I think you'll agree that this is the wisest course of action." Alana patiently explained.
"Okay. Yeah. I get what you're saying. It just feels weird, like you're devoting extra resources to this investigation because you have a personal stake in it."
"I would do exactly the same thing if any member of my team wanted a second opinion on their investigation." Alana said self-assuredly.
"I suppose I knew that." Charity relented, then thought to ask, "Should we ask Max to go with us?"
"No. There's no way that I would want to be responsible for sending someone who was sensitive into that." Alana said simply.
"Yeah. Plus, Max hasn't built up his defenses like Felicia has." Charity said more quietly.
"I wouldn't even ask Mrs. Batton to go into a place that volatile. I think it has the potential to cause serious damage." Alana said honestly.
"Where are we going?" Derek asked, loaded down with equipment.
"The sixth floor, the A and B wings." Alana responded.
"Where are you going? I don't know what I'm doing here." Mike asked in a panic as he hurried to Derek's side.
"Alana needs some specialty tech deployed. I already asked Kerry to help everyone with their evidence reviews until I get back. Alana will also be down here if you need help with anything." Derek said frankly.
"Oh. Would you like for me to go with you to help?" Mike asked cautiously.
"The best help you could give me right now is to kind of keep an eye on Norville for me. I have a feeling that he could easily be overwhelmed by so many people at once." Derek said seriously.
"I'll make sure he's alright." Mike promised.
"Good. We'll be back before you know it." Derek said, then glanced at Charity to gauge her readiness.
Charity gave a single nod, then turned to leave.
Derek immediately followed, leaving Mike and Alana standing together.
"Mike, your father has been through the evidence reviews enough times to know what he's doing. I would really appreciate it if you could help him out, just like what you were doing with Derek."
"Um, yeah. I'll try." Mike said grudgingly.
"He's been your age. He understands how it is. Just give him a chance."
"What do you know about it? What did he tell you?"
"Nobody told me anything. I can just see what's in front of me."
"Okay. But I can't promise anything."
"I just don't want for you to miss out on this chance to share this adventure with your father."
"That's what this is all about, isn't it?"
"I don't pretend to understand Kerry's motives, I just know that he loves you and wants for you to be happy."
"Yeah. Well, that doesn't seem to be working out too well."
"He can only do so much... excuse me, I think Toni and Lorra need me." Alana finished hurriedly before dashing away.
Mike considered her words for just a moment before noticing Norville standing alone, looking lost.
* * * * *
Although Mike was reasonably certain of what he was going to do, he nonetheless procrastinated as much as he could before finally acquiescing to the inevitable.
"What do we need to do first?" Norville hesitantly asked as Mike approached.
"I think we're going to help my dad get everyone else set up, then we're going to start investigating the evidence that we gathered." Mike said uncertainly.
"Okay. But what do we need to do?" Norville asked with frustration.
After a long hesitant moment, Mike finally admitted, "I don't know."
"Oh... Me neither. Let's go ask your dad!" Norville finished happily.
Norville's unabashed enthusiasm finally broke through Mike's reluctance to ask for his father's help.
* * * * *
Before Mike and Norville could make their way across the conference room to Kerry, they were intercepted by a group of girls, led by Mike's younger sister.
"Mike! Are you going to be reviewing evidence, too?" Toni asked excitedly.
"We probably will be in a little while. Right now we're going to see if we can help Dad. Derek got called away and left Dad to help everyone else with their Tech stuff." Mike carefully explained.
"Lorra knows a lot about the Tech stuff. If you need someone else to help you out, you could ask her." Toni said with pride for her friend.
"Really?" Mike asked as he looked at Lorra with surprise.
"Yeah. Well, I haven't had a chance to use everything yet, but I know what most of the equipment is and what it's supposed to do." Lorra said seriously.
"You're one up on me then." Mike admitted, then continued, "If I run into trouble, you'll be the first one I call."
The look of pride at being acknowledged and respected by someone so many years older made Lorra nearly glow.
Although Mike noticed, he thought it better to continue on to his original objective.
* * * * *
"Dad, Derek asked me to help you out if you needed it." Mike informed his father as he and Norville approached.
"Great. I can use the help. Just follow along behind me and see how I get each person set up with everything they need to do their reviews. Once you get used to the process, you can start helping people too." Kerry said seriously.
"What about Norville? Is there something that he can do?" Mike asked hopefully.
"How about you watch me as I get Toni started? Then you can demonstrate for Norville, if you want."
"Okay, yeah. That sounds good." Mike cautiously agreed.
Kerry then looked past Mike at his daughter and asked, "Where do you want to do your work?"
"At the table over there, unless I need to be next to a computer." Toni said frankly.
"Nope. You and I are going to transfer all the video and audio that's been collected onto a laptop for you to use while you review. Once you've finished reviewing that, we'll look into doing a retrieval run for the stationary cameras and audio recorders." Kerry explained seriously.
"What about our handheld DVRs?" Toni asked curiously.
"You can transfer those files for yourself. If you need any help, Mike or I can help you." Kerry assured his daughter.
"I'm pretty sure Lorra knows all that stuff, but we'll call you if we get stuck." Toni said contentedly.
"Remember that when it comes time to do the retrieval not to go off on your own. We're going to send a group to gather everything at once." Kerry said firmly.
"Okay, Daddy. We will." Toni finished with a giggle.
Kerry responded with a smile. While, in his opinion, his daughter was doing an excellent job of maturing into a fine young adult, it did his heart good to see an occasional glimpse of his little girl.
"What do we need to do?" Mike asked his father cautiously.
"Watch while I start the download, then I'll watch you start the next one." Kerry said seriously.
While Mike had expected his father to be a bit gentler with him, he wasn't actually bothered by the 'no nonsense' attitude.
He watched as his father slowly, yet competently, went through the steps to download the remote camera files.
"Did you get that?" Kerry asked to be certain.
"Yeah. I think so." Mike responded cautiously.
"Then why don't you help Lorra and Malika get started while I help Van and Hunter?"
"We have some files to download too." Mike reminded his father.
"Yeah. As soon as we get everyone else going, we should each have time to take care of our own."
"Can I help you do anything?" Norville asked hopefully from over Mike's shoulder.
"Sure, just follow along and watch what I'm telling Malika and Lorra to do. We'll be doing the same thing as them when everyone else has started their downloads."
* * * * *
As expected, Malika and Lorra didn't need much instruction. Mike didn't do much more than outline the steps for them, but he still felt that the little bit that he did was necessary to help Lorra and Malika focus on the more important tasks.
Once he and Norville had everything downloading, Mike carefully explained, "While we're waiting on the files to copy, I need to talk to my dad for a minute. Because even though I understand what we're supposed to be doing here, I've never done it before and I don't want to screw it up."
"Okay. I can watch this and I'll come and get you if it does something that seems like it's wrong." Norville said carefully.
"Sounds great. I'll be back in a minute and hopefully I'll have a better idea of what all we're supposed to be doing."
* * * * *
"Dad? Got a minute?" Mike cautiously asked, reluctant to interrupt.
"Sure. What's up, Mike?"
"I just don't know what you expect us to do." Mike reluctantly admitted.
"I watched while you were helping Malika and Lorra. You did fine." Kerry said assuringly.
"Yeah. I got the technical stuff covered. I just don't know exactly what we're supposed to do with it. I know that we're supposed to be looking for ghosts, but I don't really know what that means. What exactly are we supposed to be doing?" Mike asked urgently.
"You're supposed to review the audio and video for anything out of the ordinary. That might mean something going 'bump' in the distance or it might mean a headless entity somehow saying 'Boo!'." Kerry explained to his son.
Mike thought about that for a moment before finally saying, "I think I actually understand what you're trying to say."
"Good. If you'll get your evidence review started, I'll help the other teams as they arrive. When everyone is ready for a break from the investigation, we'll probably go as a group to retrieve evidence from the locations."
"So Norville and I should get started, huh?"
"Yes. There's no telling how long Derek and Charity will be investigating. The more you can accomplish while they're gone, the better. I'm sure that Derek will appreciate not having a backlog to tackle when he gets back." Kerry explained.
* * * * *
"Any thoughts before we start?" Charity asked as the doors closed, leaving them standing together in the strangely formal elevator illuminated by antiquated incandescent bulbs.
"Just that it's good to be working with you again."
"I meant any thoughts about the investigation."
"I know what you meant. Before we started, I just wanted you to know that I've missed having you on the team."
"How's Marsha doing?"
"She's a heinous bitch, but she seems to know her stuff when it comes to the lore and the Tech." Derek grudgingly admitted.
"Sounds about right." Charity said under a chuckle.
"As far as your original question, I have a pretty good idea of how Alana typically investigates. If she says that there weren't any EMF readings, I think that it would be a waste to devote too much time to covering that same ground again. If you wouldn't mind, I was thinking that you might focus on measuring the light wavelength oscillations and other disorienting visual manifestations. While you're concentrating on that, I thought I'd do something similar with the audible spectrum to see if I can detect anything that might impact a person's emotions or sense of well-being."
"I'm not sure why, but from what little Alana described of her experience, it kind of whispered ULF to me." Charity said cautiously.
"That sounds about right. Ultra Low Frequencies have been credited with spawning paranormal incidents like what Alana described. I have the equipment to measure that, with me, so we should be able to confirm or rule it out fairly easily."
"I'll help you, and if it turns out that there's no ULF, I can work on the light oscillations." Charity said seriously.
"Yeah. Sounds good." Derek said as the elevator came to a stop.
"It's good to be working with you again, too." Charity admitted as the elevator doors opened.
Derek smiled at the timid admission as he followed her into the bitter cold darkness of the sixth floor.
* * * * *
"Mike, can you help me for a minute?" Norville reluctantly asked.
"Sure. What do you need?" Mike asked as he paused the video file playing on his laptop and took off his headphones.
"I thought I heard something, but I couldn't hear what it was." Norville said in a conflicted tone.
As he said the words, several people around the room looked up from what they were doing with interest.
"Back it up and let me hear it." Mike said as he scooted a chair beside Norville's.
"Like this, right?" Norville asked uncertainly.
Mike watched for a moment, then finally said, "You did that perfectly. Give me your headphones and let me hear what you've found."
Norville quickly took off the headphones and scrambled to hand them to Mike.
"Calm down, buddy. You're doing fine. Now let me see what you've got there." Mike said warmly, then thought to ask, "Which camera is this from?"
"It's from the camera I was carrying. That's the one you wanted me to do, isn't it?" Norville answered easily.
"We have a couple to look through, I just wasn't sure which one you started with."
As soon as Mike had the headphones on, Norville pressed the keyboard control to play the audio/video file.
Mike listened carefully, then suddenly reached up and paused the playback as he asked, "What was that?"
"It sounded like a woman or a kid to me." Norville anxiously explained.
"Yeah. But what did it say?" Mike asked, even as he moved the slider back to replay the segment.
The video didn't reveal anything at all as Mike carefully listened to the replay.
Mike quickly paused the video, then called across the conference room, "Dad. I think we're going to need your help for this."
"I'll be right there." Kerry said as he took off his headphones.
"I can't be sure that this really is anything, but it could be." Mike explained to his father as he stood to offer his chair.
"That's actually the whole point of what we're doing right now. Let me listen to what you've got, then I'll show you the steps that we take to filter and enhance things to get the most out of them." Kerry explained as he took the offered seat.
Mike waited anxiously as his father carefully listened.
"Okay. First thing we're going to do is make a copy of this segment of the file. That way we won't have to worry about messing something up when we start trying different filters." Kerry said seriously.
"What should Norville and I be doing? Do you want for us to go back to reviewing?" Mike asked cautiously.
"Are you kidding? This is the payoff for everything else we do. We freeze our butts off and get scared half out of our wits for the chance to actually prove something that no one else in the whole history of the whole history has ever been able to prove." Kerry said enthusiastically.
Mike wasn't used to seeing his father so animated. For as young as Kerry was, being so excited made him appear to be that much younger.
Kerry held up one finger to indicate his need for silence, then started making adjustments to the playback program.
Mike and Norville waited with anticipation, hoping beyond hope that Kerry could make some sense out of the muffled sound.
"Come here. Look at this." Kerry said as he indicated the laptop's screen.
Mike was surprised to see the video highlighted in stark amber.
"I'm going to replay the clip while listening to it. I need for you two to watch the screen for anything out of the ordinary."
"But we already watched it. Nothing happened." Mike cautiously explained.
"I know, but now try it with this filter on. It might be able to show you something that you didn't see in the default lighting." Kerry said frankly.
"Okay." Mike finally agreed, obviously not seeing the point.
Kerry raised the volume quite a few notches before starting the playback.
Mike and Norville watched in silence as the truncated video played out before them.
"Who's that?" Norville asked as he pointed at the screen.
"Shhh." Kerry hurried to say, then used the trackpad to scoot the playback slider back slightly.
"Did you find something?" Mike hesitantly asked.
"Shhh." Kerry repeated, then hit play again.
Mike and Norville shared a look between them, but were able to remain silent.
"Alana. I need you over here." Kerry said seriously, almost as if he had forgotten that Mike and Norville were even present.
"What is it, Kerry?" Alana asked apprehensively.
"You need to hear this." Kerry said darkly.
"Dad? What did you find? What's going on?" Mike asked anxiously.
"Hold on just a minute while Alana listens to what you've found. I wouldn't want to tell you the wrong thing and get you worried over nothing."
"Is there something to be worried about?" Mike asked with escalating anxiety.
"Shhh. Give Alana a minute to listen, then we'll all know." Kerry assured his son.
Alana glanced at Kerry uncertainly as she put on the headphones, then focused her attention on the screen as she started the playback.
Without a word, Norville scooted in between Mike and Alana.
As the playback progressed, Norville reached forward and pointed one of his beefy fingers at a particular spot on the screen.
Just as Alana seemed to be about to say something, she froze with her mouth slightly open as she listened.
Kerry slowly nodded, knowing that she had caught the same thing that he had.
When the clip stopped, Alana looked toward Kerry with question.
"So, is that what I thought it was?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"If you're asking if that was a declaration, then yes. I believe it was." Alana said very precisely.
"What's that? Is it something bad?" Mike asked reluctantly.
"First of all, it's nothing too terrible. There are certain patterns that we recognize and label. The words spoken to you are something that we call a declaration. It's kind of a statement of intent which heralds the beginning of a possession." Alana carefully explained.
"Possession? Who's possessed?" Mike asked in escalating panic.
"Calm down, Mike. It isn't like it sounds. This is more like pre-possession."
"Okay, but who's possessed? There were three of us there so it could have been talking to any of us. Right?" Mike asked anxiously.
"It was definitely directed toward you, Mike." Alana said with an air of certainty.
"How can you be so sure?" Kerry asked curiously.
"Norville spotted a vague mist rising up around Mike. Watch this." Alana said as she replayed the video of the clip.
Mike watched the scene in horror, then asked in a whisper, "Who is she?"
"What do you mean..." Kerry began to ask but was interrupted by Alana asking, "What do you see, Mike?"
"That ghost woman putting her arms around me." Mike said simply.
"That's not what the rest of us are seeing." Kerry told his son ominously.
"Can I see it again? I think I can almost see her." Norville asked hopefully.
"Yes. Of course." Alana immediately responded as she clicked 'play' on the media player.
Everyone fell silent as they watched the vague mist swirl itself around Mike for a brief instant.
After the video clip stopped, Mike hesitantly asked, "What did she say?"
"As near as I could make out, it said 'Don't ever leave me' while it was holding or hugging you." Alana said quietly.
"And you said that she's trying to possess me, right?" Mike asked on the verge of panic.
"Technically, yes. But this type of possession is more often referred to as an attachment. Rather than trying to overpower your spirit and take control of your body, it's more likely to follow you wherever you go and make your life miserable, wearing you down over time until you have no will of your own and eventually obediently follow its every dictate." Alana said professionally.
Mike looked on in horror at the description.
When Alana noticed his expression, she quickly added, "That is, if we did nothing to prevent it. I promise you, we'll see to it that that won't happen to you."
"Is that the same ghost who kissed him?" Norville asked curiously.
"That's a very good question. Maybe the two of you will be able to find the answer if you continue with your investigation." Alana suggested.
Mike stared at her for a long moment before quietly asking, "This isn't a game to you, is it?"
"It's different things for different people. For some it is a game. For others it's a method used to separate gullible people from their money. Some are desperate for something to believe in and others are hurt and alone, desperately seeking a way to reconnect with a lost loved one." Alana quietly explained.
"But why are you doing this?" Mike asked firmly.
"Because I want to know the truth. If I knew certain answers then I would be in a much better position to help so many people. Imagine if you were close to someone who was terminally ill and I could tell you, without a doubt, what happens next... how it all works. Just think about how much comfort that would bring all involved." Alana said passionately.
"I don't like to think about stuff like that. It makes me sad. Pa says that it's better for me to focus on the things that I can do something about and trust that when the time comes we'll all get sorted where we're supposed to go." Norville said frankly.
"I hope your Pa is right about that. But what if sometimes, just every now and then, someone doesn't end up where they're supposed to go? If that were the case, wouldn't it be a good thing if there were people around who could help them make their way to where they're supposed to end up?" Alana asked with a smile.
"Yeah. I guess so." Norville reluctantly answered.
"That's one of the things we're trying to do. If we find someone who's stuck in the wrong place, we try to help them get to the right place." Alana said happily.
"I thought that you didn't believe in these things." Kerry said with a look askance at Alana.
"Belief is a strong word with me. I have to have a LOT of evidence for me to consider something to be settled without a doubt. But until I have that evidence, I can entertain a variety of possibilities and react like a person of decency and good conscience to whatever I may have encountered."
"How do you mean?" Kerry asked curiously.
"I'm just saying that if I were to encounter a lost child spirit, even though I can't prove what it is or if it even exists, it causes no harm for me to behave compassionately and attempt to provide the spirit what it needs, which might be to help it cross over to rejoin its loved ones." Alana said seriously.
"I like the sound of that. You don't necessarily have to believe, you just have to be a decent person." Kerry said with a grin at her.
"Yes. Well, unless you have something else that you need from me, I need to get back to work on my own investigation." Alana said seriously.
"But what am I supposed to do about the ghost and the possession and all that?" Mike asked anxiously.
"The best thing you can do right this minute is continue your investigation and gather as much evidence as you can. Once you're done, we'll review all the collected evidence as a group and decide what steps can and should be taken to mitigate your situation as quickly and easily as possible."
"I'll show you how to catalogue what you've already found so that it will be easy to pull up when we do our review." Kerry said professionally.
"Thanks Dad." Mike said sincerely.
Alana smiled at the scene before her, then turned and went back to her own evidence review.
* * * * *
"So? What are you getting?" Charity asked impatiently.
"Nothing conclusive. I'm getting a slight ULF reading but it isn't enough to prove anything." Derek quietly responded.
"Well, I guess we can't expect to hit the jackpot on our first try." Charity said resignedly.
Derek looked at the readings on his instrument for a moment longer, then slowly said, "We may have hit that jackpot after all."
"How do you mean?" Charity asked cautiously.
"I wouldn't be surprised if what I'm looking at turned out to be the first data point in a significant pattern. Although these fluctuations are slight, they remind me of ripples in a pool."
"Which might suggest that there will be more of a concentration the deeper in we get." Charity said, completing the thought.
"If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to stop and do a quick reading and plot the data about every ten feet or so as we continue down the hall."
"I'm not disagreeing, but why so frequently?"
"That's just because of the way Alana described the intensity of her experience. Something that powerful tends to be more localized. If we spread out too far we might completely miss the epicenter of the occurrence."
"Okay. Yeah. But the other thing to work into your calculation is that there's no way I'm going to be able to concentrate on an investigation if I'm fighting down panic."
"I actually hadn't thought about that, but I can see what you're saying. I can handle it like this for a while, but if it keeps escalating, it might be necessary to break the investigation into periodic passes."
"Are you done here?" Charity asked firmly.
"Yeah. Let's move."
* * * * *
"I got one!" Toni suddenly bellowed, causing more than one of the tired investigators to jolt upright in their chairs.
"I'll help her." Kerry quickly assured the others, so no one else would feel obligated to do so.
A few looks were exchanged around the room, but no one objected.
Before anyone could go back to their investigations, Jack and Kyla walked into the room.
"Did you have any luck with the painting?" Alana asked curiously.
"Yes. Lots. All of it bad." Jack stated simply.
"What's wrong?" Alana asked with concern.
"The more I think about it, the more I'm ready to swear that that painting is nothing less than a trap." Jack said firmly.
"Nothing Mrs. Whitlow said gave me any reason to be overly concerned about it. I just thought you'd appreciate the opportunity to study something tangible and quantifiable." Alana said honestly.
"Thank you for thinking of me and I promise, I really do appreciate what you intended to do. However, regardless of intentions, we won't be able to continue our investigation. We'll be happy to investigate any other area you like but we won't go anywhere near that painting again.." Jack offered professionally.
"That shouldn't be a problem. We have no shortage of areas to investigate." Alana said frankly.
"Before we consider it settled, I just want to be sure that you know that if you decide to assign someone else to the painting, I recommend that it be someone without psychic abilities." Jack said seriously.
"I'll keep that in mind." Alana slowly assured him.
"I think it will probably be dangerous for anybody. Just because you lack the ability to go into it doesn't mean that it can't come out and get you." Kyla added to emphasize the danger involved.
"Um, Alana? I think you need to hear this." Kerry carefully interrupted.
"Is it something that can wait for when we reveal our findings?" Alana asked hopefully.
"No. I really don't think it can." Kerry said firmly.
Alana spared him an impatient glance before moving to Toni's side and accepting the headphones from her.
"Zoe was the one talking," Toni quietly explained.
Alana's eyes narrowed as she carefully listened to the background noise that was recorded between Zoe's questions.
After a long silent moment, Alana finally said, "It looks like there's a lot more going on here than we were led to believe."
"What is it?" Hunter asked anxiously.
Alana glanced around the room to assess the prevailing mood, then cautiously said, "It wasn't the words so much as it was the underlying intent. On the surface, the voice sounded like a lonely child wanting a companion to play with, but the intonation is off. There's a nuance behind the words that's much older... much darker."
"So you think that this is the spirit of an adult pretending to be a child?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Possibly. But it could also be an inhuman, a demon, either pretending to be a child or maybe even using an actual child spirit as something like a puppet." Alana said thoughtfully.
"Like bait." Kerry said darkly.
To Be Continued...
Ah, another chapter or file. It sounds as if things are getting pretty tense. It seems as if there may be some sort of evil spirit lurking around and it might be wanting to do harm.
Let's hope we can prevent it from doing that. As always, I hope there will be another chapter soon. Thank you, MultiMapper for another exciting chapter. Please, Sir, May I have some more?
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher