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"Windermere Paranormal Research."
"How are you doing? What's it like heading your own paranormal team?"
"To be honest, it's not as much fun as it looks from the lower echelons."
"I'd love to chat with you for a while about that, but I've got a really big case and I was wondering if you'd like to help me out."
"Sure. Things have been slow around here. What do you need for me to do?"
"We've been asked to investigate the Winchell Hotel, outside of Ballard, Vermont. From what little they've told me, the paranormal activity isn't so bad that there should be much danger. But the location is so large, that I feel that I'm going to need as many investigators as I can gather."
"You're going to travel all the way to Vermont for a job?"
"Yes. They've offered to pay for our travel expenses and they've also offered all of us accommodations at their hotel for the duration of the investigation. It seems that the paranormal activity is costing them customers, so they have plenty of room."
"So, it's not too dangerous, they're paying our expenses AND we get to stay in a grand hotel in Vermont? I'll have to talk to Max about it, but I'm pretty sure that he'll be able to get away."
"Good. It will be nice to have some time to catch up on things."
"Yeah. Go ahead and count us in and let us know where and when you need us."
"I'll get back with you as soon as I've talked to everyone else, so I can give you the details."
"Thanks for thinking of us, Alana."
"I think about you every day. I'll be calling back soon."
* * * * *
"Oh! Hi, Alana. Did you need to talk to my dad?"
"Yes. But be sure to stay close. This might end up involving you... is Lorra there?"
"Yeah! Lorra and Malika are both here! Do you have a job for us?!"
"Let me talk to your dad."
* * * * *
"I'm guessing from the excited chattering girls surrounding me that you might have a case for us." Kerry chuckled.
"There's a case, but I don't know if it's going to be practical for you, with your job."
"Since I transferred in, I didn't lose my vacation time, so I can take a few days off, if I need to." Kerry said frankly.
"I'd hate for you to give up your vacation time to work for me."
"I can think of four girls, right off the top of my head, who would look upon this as the PERFECT vacation."
"Let me just lay it out for you, and you can make your own decision." Alana said in prelude, then continued, "I've been contacted by the owner of a grand hotel in Vermont that dates back to the early 1800's. They've been having a little ghost problem and, from the sound of it, they stumbled across a paper that I wrote a few years ago and wanted to know if I'd like to do a serious investigation. They're willing to pay for our travel expenses and provide room and board, while we're there. The hotel is enormous, so I thought that I'd try to get as many investigators as possible, to cover the most ground."
"Would it cause a problem if I brought a few 'non-investigators' along?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Are you thinking of bringing Teresa and Zoe?" Alana asked curiously.
"I have a feeling that Zoe might be tagging along with the older girls. I was actually thinking of Teresa and Mike. He's been having some trouble at college and decided to take a semester off." Kerry said gravely.
"That explains your mood at our last few meetings." Alana said knowingly.
"Yeah. Things have been a little bit tense around here." Kerry reluctantly admitted.
"Bring him along. Who knows? Maybe he'll get interested and join in." Alana said casually.
"I wouldn't count on it. He's been depressed and withdrawn since he arrived. But... go ahead and count us in. Even if there are a few hoops to jump through, I'm pretty sure that we'll end up going."
"Let me know if you run into any obstacles." Alana said with a smile.
"Are you going to call Qaiser and Zuny, or would you like me to?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"This is going to involve the kids missing a few days of school, so I think it's best that I talk to them. And that way I'll be able to answer any questions that they might have."
"Yeah. That's probably best. But if anyone asks, be sure to tell them that I requested that Van be allowed to go with us. He's still a little insecure and I wouldn't want for him to feel like he's only being included out of a sense of obligation."
"I'll be sure to let it be known that he's essential to our plans."
"Thank you, Alana. I hope that Qaiser and Zuny will be willing to go along with it." Kerry said seriously.
"They will or they won't. We have no real say in the matter. We'll go ahead and make our plans once they've made their decision." Alana said thoughtfully.
"Will you call me back when you know?" Kerry asked hopefully, then explained, "I'm not going to talk to the girls about it until we know what we can do."
"I know that all the girls are going to be hounding you until you tell them what we've talked about, so I'll be sure to call you back as soon as I have an answer." Alana chuckled.
"Thank you." Kerry said gratefully, then whispered, "Hurry."
* * * * *
"Good afternoon. Osmani residence."
"Qaiser? It's Alana. Do you have a minute to talk?" Alana asked hopefully.
"I have more minutes than I know what to do with, to be honest. It will be a great relief when I am recovered to the point that I can walk, again." Qaiser said honestly.
"So, is it for certain? You are going to completely recover?" Alana asked hopefully.
"Yes. Zuny has been applying every treatment with the greatest of care, and I have no doubt that it is due to her diligence and determination that one day soon I am going to walk again." Qaiser said sincerely.
"That's wonderful, Qaiser." Alana said happily, then hurried to continue, "The reason I'm calling is to ask if it would be possible to borrow your children for a few days."
"Would this have to do with your paranormal research?" Qaiser asked cautiously.
"Yes, but from all accounts, it's not anything dangerous. The reason that I'm asking is that we're going to be investigating a hotel in Vermont. The location is so big that I'm going to need as many people as I can gather to investigate it. So I thought that your children might enjoy going on a little trip." Alana said honestly.
"When would this be?" Qaiser asked cautiously, having the feeling that Alana was leading up to something.
"This weekend." Alana said quickly, then cautiously added, "Well, we'd leave here Thursday and investigate Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
"Does this mean that Irfan and Malika will be missing school on Friday and Monday?" Qaiser asked cautiously.
"Yes. I'm afraid so." Alana reluctantly admitted, then quickly added, "But it would be a great chance for the kids to get away for a few days and do something that they enjoy. Opportunities like this don't come along every day."
"I suppose that's true. I regret that I wasn't able to provide more of a holiday for my children this year. If it weren't for the efforts of Toni and Lorra, I doubt that we would have acknowledged Christmas at all." Qaiser said distantly.
"From what I saw, your kids ended up making some new friends. I get the feeling that that means more to them than any present that you might put under a tree." Alana said frankly.
"Yes. And I know that they would both enjoy going with you. Let me know the dates when you're certain of them and I'll get things arranged with their school." Qaiser finished seriously.
"They'll only be missing Friday the 29th and Monday, the 1st. We should be back in plenty of time for them to be rested and ready for school on Tuesday." Alana assured him.
"Would you like for me to call Irfan to talk with you?" Qaiser asked with a smile in his voice.
"No. I'm sure that Kerry would like to be the one to invite him." Alana said honestly.
"Should I be concerned about the way that my son seems to have adopted Kerry as a surrogate father?" Qaiser asked quietly.
"I think that Van is a teenager who's trying to work some things out and Kerry is willing to help him. I'm sure that once Van has found his answers that things will be better than ever between you." Alana said reassuringly.
"I suppose that I should be grateful that he's found someone to help him. I don't even know what questions he has, much less the answers he needs." Qaiser said frankly.
"Don't worry. Van and Malika are wonderful children and all of us will work together to see that they have everything they need to grow into wonderful adults. But for right now, you and Zuny should focus on recovering and let the rest of us help out with the kids." Alana said seriously.
"Yes. Thank you, Alana. We will do that." Qaiser said calmly.
* * * * *
"This is Alana. How are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm fine. Do you need to talk to Jack?"
"In a minute. I haven't talked to you since the Osmani investigation. How are you two doing?" Alana asked with concern.
"We're doing fine. Thank you for sending over your case notes. I don't think there's been a night in the past month that I haven't caught Jack reviewing them." Kyla said happily.
"It was his case to begin with, so he deserved to be included in the resolution." Alana said frankly, then continued, "But I thought that since you guys dropped that investigation on me, that I might take the opportunity to return the favor."
"Do you have something bad?" Kyla asked anxiously.
"No. Not at all. Just something big. We've been asked to investigate a hotel in Vermont, but from the size of it, I'm going to need to call in some extra people to cover all the different locations." Alana said frankly, then asked, "Are you interested?"
"Vermont? That's quite a way to go..." Kyla said uncertainly.
"The client is willing to pay our travel expenses and provide room and board for everyone while we're there." Alana added seriously.
"When would this be?" Kyla asked cautiously.
"This weekend. We're planning on leaving Thursday afternoon and returning Monday morning." Alana said simply.
"We don't have any jobs lined up for this weekend and it would probably do Jack some good to work with a team again." Kyla said consideringly.
"Even though I'll still be in charge of the overall investigation, I understand that he's used to being his own boss, so I'll do my best not to step on his toes." Alana said seriously.
"Thank you. He can be a little pig headed, but he really is a good investigator." Kyla said quietly.
"I know." Alana said with a smile, then added, "I have some other calls to make. Be sure to call me back if he flips out or has any questions. If I don't hear back from you by tomorrow, I'll send you an email with all the details."
"I'll keep an eye out for it." Kyla assured her.
* * * * *
"Have the girls driven you crazy, yet?" Alana chuckled.
"Yes! Please tell me that Qaiser and Zuny said that it was okay, so that I can go ahead and fill them in." Kerry begged.
"Yes. And just to bring you up to date, I'm expecting Charity and Max, you and the girls, Jack and Kyla, and of course, Derek and Marsha." Alana said seriously.
"Are we going to be driving up in a caravan?" Kerry asked curiously.
"Let me do some investigation into our options. At first glance, it looks like we're going to ship the bulk of our equipment and travel by train. But it's too early for me to say for sure. Once I have everything pinned down, I'll send a mass email to everyone with all the details."
"Sounds good." Kerry said thoughtfully, then quickly added, "I'm about to have a revolt here if I don't hurry up and tell them what's going on."
"Could you do me a quick favor before you go?" Alana asked suddenly.
"Sure. What?" Kerry asked seriously.
"I still have a few more calls to make. Would you call Van and invite him along?" Alana asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I'd be happy to."
* * * * *
"Alana? We didn't have a meeting tonight, did we?"
"No. But I got a call about a job in Vermont, this weekend. So I'm calling everyone to make sure that they're available." Alana said frankly.
"Vermont? In January? We aren't doing a reenactment of 'The Shining' are we?" Marsha asked cautiously.
"No. At least, I hope not. The owners of the hotel are having some ghost problems and were hoping that our team could investigate. I've already called Jack and Charity's teams to ask if they'd join us. Apparently, the place is huge, so we're going to need every able bodied person with a K2 meter in hand." Alana said seriously.
"What's the name of the place? I'll do what research I can before we get there." Marsha said seriously.
"It's the Winchell Hotel outside of Ballard, Vermont." Alana said immediately.
"When will we be leaving?" Marsha asked slowly.
"I'm intending on us leaving Thursday afternoon, but I still have to look into the arrangements. Once I've got it all ironed out, I'll email you the details." Alana said professionally.
"That will work." Marsha said seriously.
"Good. Call me if you have any problems with the arrangements." Alana said quickly.
* * * * *
"Hi, Derek. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Alana asked cautiously.
"Mario Kart. I was losing, anyway. What's up?" Derek asked pleasantly.
"There's been a request for us to do a job in Vermont. We'd leave Thursday afternoon and return Monday afternoon. How does that work around your schedule?" Alana asked carefully.
"Friday's no problem at all, and I think that if I talk to my professor in the morning, I can probably get my work for Monday ahead of time. What's the job?" Derek asked curiously.
"A hotel in Vermont is having some ghost problems, so they asked us to investigate. The place is so big and the hauntings are so spread out, that I've called in a few extra people to help us." Alana said frankly.
"Is Charity coming?" Derek asked hopefully.
"Yes. She already said that she would." Alana said with a smile.
"What about 'Giganta'?"
"Derek! Be nice!" Alana warned.
After a moment, Derek reluctantly said, "I'll try. But there are things in my paleontology class more interesting than her, and they've been dead for two hundred million years."
"She was the most qualified candidate to take Charity's place. That's why I hired her." Alana said seriously.
"Well, how about next time, you find people that you like, then hire the most qualified one of them?" Derek suggested.
There was a moment of silence, then Alana quietly said, "I may just do that."
"So, is she being a heinous bitch to you, too?" Derek asked with surprise.
"No." Alana said simply, then quietly added, "She's just not Charity."
"Yeah." Derek said in resignation, then thought to add, "When you've got everything pinned down, why don't you give me a yell and I'll arrange for the equipment to be shipped."
"I thought about asking, but I didn't want to put you to the extra trouble." Alana said carefully.
"It's worth a little extra trouble for us to have everything we need, when we need it." Derek said frankly.
"Thank you, Derek." Alana said sincerely.
* * * * *
"Good afternoon. Osmani residence."
"Hello, Qaiser. This is Kerry. I take it that Alana already talked to you about the kids coming with us to Vermont for the weekend. Is it really alright with you?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Considering that you're going for the purpose of seeking out ghosts, I feel that I should be a bit concerned. But after all that you and your team have done for us, I can't imagine them being in better hands. Besides, I think that both of them could do with a change of scenery." Qaiser said carefully.
"Do you think it will cause any problem with their school?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"No. I've already spoken with them. They'll both have some work to make up when they get back, but I've been assured that since it's so early in the semester, they shouldn't have any difficulty making it up." Qaiser said seriously.
"Good. I've already told Malika, since she's here. Would it be possible for me to speak with Van for a moment, so that I can invite him, too?" Kerry asked hopefully.
"Before you do that, I was wanting to ask you something." Qaiser said cautiously.
"Sure. What can I do for you, Qaiser?"
"I get the sense that my son has formed quite an attachment to you. As you may know, my relationship with my son has been a bit strained, for some time now. I was curious to know if you might have any advice about how I might be able to rectify things with him." Qaiser asked hopefully.
"Well, yes. For some reason it seems that Van has determined that he can trust me. While he's never said much to me about you or his relationship with you, I can tell you from my own experience as a father that a boy his age needs acknowledgement and approval." Kerry said carefully.
"Approval of what? He hasn't achieved anything worthy of note and he seems to do his best to avoid contact with me whenever he can." Qaiser said frankly.
"I'm not saying that you've done anything wrong. I'm saying that a time will come when Van will come to you and present some sort of an accomplishment for your approval. I just want to be sure that you understand how much it will mean to him if he gets it." Kerry said imploringly.
"I've done nothing wrong?" Qaiser asked cautiously.
"Well, you're a father. So of course you've done something wrong. We all have. And if you haven't, then Van would probably be all bent out of shape because you're 'too perfect'. You want to know what's wrong with your relationship? He's fifteen. That's it. But the good news is that sooner or later, he's going to snap out of it. I just want to be sure that when he does, you're ready to give him what he needs most."
"My approval." Qaiser said quietly.
"Right. And that's something I can't give him. When the time comes, he'll go to you and either ask for your approval or he'll demand it." Kerry said frankly.
"If I may ask, how did you handle it when your own son got past this phase?" Qaiser asked cautiously.
"I'll let you know when he gets there." Kerry said honestly.
"I wish you good luck, when that time comes." Qaiser said sincerely.
"You, too." Kerry said with a smile.
"I'm going to put you on hold for just a moment and call Irfan to the phone, so that you may extend your invitation."
"Thank you, Qaiser. And remember to call me if there's anything I can do to help. I may not have all the answers, but I should be able to commiserate with you over the questions."
"I will keep that in mind. I'm putting you on hold, now."
* * * * *
"Van, it's Kerry."
"Oh! Hi! What's going on? Do you have a case? Do you need my help?" Van asked hopefully.
"Actually, yes, we have a case. And, yes, we need your help." Kerry said with a smile.
"Really?!" Van asked disbelievingly.
"Yes, really." Kerry said warmly.
"Do I need to come over? Should I call a cab?" Van asked quickly.
Kerry laughed, then said, "No. It's not an emergency. Calm down and I'll fill you in on as much as I know about the case."
"Okay. Just tell me what I have to do." Van said quickly.
"Alana was asked to do an investigation at a hotel in Vermont. Apparently it's a big place and she's going to need all the help that she can gather. Alana and I have already talked to your father about this, and he's said that you and your sister can come along, if you want to." Kerry said carefully.
"Yes! This is going to be awesome!" Van said happily.
"Alana is making the arrangements right now. As soon as she fills me in on exactly what's going on, I'll get back with you so that we'll know when you have to pack and where I'm picking you up from." Kerry said seriously.
"When are we going? How long are we going to be gone?" Van asked excitedly.
"We'll leave Thursday afternoon and we'll return the following Monday." Kerry said slowly.
"Wow! We're really going to do an investigation for the WHOLE weekend?!" Van asked happily.
"That's the plan." Kerry said warmly.
"What about Hunter? Can he come with us, too?" Van asked hopefully.
"I don't know. If you want, you can call Hunter and get him to talk to his moms about it and I can call Alana. That way, when they talk to each other, they all will have had time to think about it." Kerry said frankly.
"Yeah. I'll call him now. Thanks again, Kerry! We'll do a good job! I promise!" Van said joyfully.
"I'll talk to you later, Van. And I'll see you on Thursday."
* * * * *
"Fallwell Paranormal Research."
"Alana, this is Kerry. I just talked to Van and he asked if Hunter could join us this weekend. Do you see any problem with that?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"I don't know how his mothers will feel about him missing school. But I suppose that it wouldn't hurt to ask. In fact, I'll even invite them along, too. I don't think that we'll need an exorcist on this job, but they might enjoy getting away for a weekend." Alana said thoughtfully.
"I told Van to talk to Hunter about it and to tell him to ask his parents, so that way they'll have a chance to think about it before you contact them." Kerry said seriously.
"Good idea. I'll go ahead and give them a call." Alana said warmly, then thought to ask, "Have you talked to Teresa and Mike about going, yet?"
"Yes. Teresa's excited about getting away for the weekend and Mike... well, he said that he'll go." Kerry finished quietly.
"Maybe a change of scenery will do him good." Alana said assuringly.
"I hope so. I'm running out of things to try with him." Kerry said honestly.
"Just remember that while we're there, you'll be with friends. We'll all help you." Alana assured him.
"I'll try to keep that in mind." Kerry said gratefully.
"I'd better call Merryl. Hang in there." Alana said warmly.
"You, too. Goodbye."
* * * * *
"Ash? It's Alana."
"Hunter was just telling us that you're going to be doing an investigation in Vermont." Ashley said frankly.
"Yes. It sounds like a standard haunting, but apparently the hotel is enormous, so I'm trying to gather as many investigators as I can. When we asked Van, he wanted to know if Hunter could be included, as well." Alana said honestly.
"I get the impression that he's interested." Ashley said with amusement.
"If you or Merryl would like to go along, that would be fine, too. The client is paying for travel expenses and providing room and board." Alana said seriously.
"When would this be?" Ashley asked cautiously.
"We'll be leaving Thursday afternoon and returning Monday afternoon."
"I have to work, but I'll ask Merryl." Ashley said frankly.
"Will there be any problem with Hunter missing two days of school?" Alana asked cautiously.
There was a long pause, then Ashley slowly said, "Well, his grades have been reasonably good. I suppose that if he promises to make up any work that he's going to miss, that I could probably..."
Alana took the phone away from her ear at the sound of a clatter.
It took a moment, but Ashley finally came back on the line and said, "Hunter would like to accept your invitation."
Alana laughed, then said, "Good. That's going to make Van very happy. As soon as you've talked to Merryl, call me or send me an email. I'm making travel arrangements for everyone."
"Yes. She should be home in a few minutes. I'll have her call you back."
"Good. As soon as everything's finalized, I'll send a mass email with all the details." Alana said with a smile.
"We'll be waiting." Ashley said warmly.
"Goodbye, Ash. Say goodbye to Hunter for me."
* * * * *
"Fallwell Paranormal Research."
"Alana? It's Merryl. Ashley was saying that you needed me for a job this weekend."
"No. It's nothing like that. We're going to be doing an investigation at a hotel in Vermont and I wanted to invite Hunter to go with us. I just thought that if you were interested, you might enjoy coming along." Alana said simply.
"Oh? Is it just a simple haunting?" Merryl asked curiously.
"Yes. That's what it sounds like. But the hotel is large enough that I need to call in a few extra people to cover it all." Alana confirmed.
"Is there any reason for you to believe that there's going to be anything dangerous?" Merryl asked cautiously.
"There haven't been any reports of anyone being harmed, it's mostly just auditory and the occasional vague apparition." Alana said seriously.
There was a long silence, then Merryl finally said, "Every motherly instinct that I have is telling me not to let Kyle out of my sight. But I suppose that it's just about time for me to start loosening the apron strings. As much as I would like to go, just to keep an eye on him, I think that it will probably be best for him if I stay home this weekend."
"I promise that we'll take very good care of him and make sure that he comes back to you safely." Alana said warmly.
"I'd appreciate that." Merryl said frankly.
"I'll be sending out a mass email with all the details once everything has been arranged." Alana said seriously.
"We'll keep a lookout for it." Merryl assured her.
"And, just so you know, the address of the hotel will be in the email. If it turns out that you feel that you need to join us at some point during the weekend, for whatever reason, it wouldn't be a problem." Alana said more quietly.
"It may not be a problem for you, but it probably would be for Kyle. He needs his freedom." Merryl said reluctantly.
"Everything's not always about what he needs." Alana said simply, then added, "The offer's open. Just keep it in mind."
"I will. Thank you, Alana."
"I hope you two enjoy your weekend. Bye."
It's nice to see a new story in this series. I find myself becoming very involved with the people in these stories.
It seems that with each new case we learn more and more about all the different groups.
I'm waiting with worms in my mouth. (baited breath) Grin.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher