"Are you alright?" Jack asked as he held his wife in his arms.
"I think that I was able to get away in time. I don't feel like it got a firm hold on me." Kyla said as she returned his hug.
"I'm sorry that I didn't take what you were saying more seriously. It's just that being able to photographically document a paranormal event, from beginning to end like this is monumental. It could change everything." Jack said frankly.
"I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing." Kyla said honestly, then expanded on it by continuing, "I'm afraid of what's in that painting. I'm afraid that you might be playing into its hands."
"So, do you think that it might be trying to manipulate me into letting it out?" Jack asked cautiously.
"I haven't been able to gain any insight into its intention toward you. It might be coaxing you to let it out or it might be trying to draw you in." Kyla said carefully.
"How sure are you? I mean, I know that sometimes your insights can be a bit tenuous or easily misconstrued." Jack asked as gently as he was able.
After a moment to consider, Kyla carefully said, "I can't tell you anything about its intent. The only thing I could sense was when it focused its attention on me."
"Have you been able to determine what it is?" Jack asked cautiously.
"No. The only thing I can tell you for certain about that, is that what you and I are seeing is what it wants us to see." Kyla said thoughtfully.
"So, we don't know what it is, what it wants or why it's inhabiting the painting in the first place." Jack summarized.
"I don't think it's inhabiting the painting, I think it's using it as a portal."
* * * * *
As they walked into the conference room, Derek went immediately to the laptops to check on the live video feeds.
"Is there anything we can do?" Mike asked as he and Norville stopped inside the door.
"No. This should just take me a minute." Derek said as he began typing.
"What's he doing?" Norville asked in a whisper.
"All of the different teams set up cameras, just like we did. Derek is making sure that all the cameras are recording." Mike explained, then asked, "Do you want to see?"
Norville nodded enthusiastically.
Mike led the way around the conference table and stopped behind Derek's left shoulder, where he had a good view of all the screens.
Norville stopped behind Derek's right shoulder and looked on in awe at all the different windows.
"Those are my sisters." Mike said as he pointed at one window in particular.
"What's she doing?" Norville asked as he pointed at another screen.
All of them, including Derek, watched as Marsha knelt in the middle of a room with a dagger in her hand and began to go through the motions of slowly drawing a pentagram in the air. There wasn't any sound playing, since the sounds from so many video streams at once would result in nothing but gibberish, but they could clearly see that Marsha was saying something.
Derek typed something quickly on his laptop before saying, "We still have a job to do. We need to get back and set up our other camera."
"But what was she doing?" Mike asked cautiously.
Derek stood then began walking to the door as he said, "That's a good question."
* * * * *
Before Kerry could react, Teresa had already opened the door and was looking out, using her night vision DVR.
"Do you see anything?" Kerry asked from behind her.
"No. I thought it might be the girls." Teresa said quietly.
Kerry took his audio recorder off his belt and turned it on before saying, "This is Kerry and Teresa. We're in room thirty-three twelve. We've just heard what sounded like footsteps running in the hallway. I'm leaving the audio recorder outside the door, then we're going back into the room to wait and see if we hear anything else."
After nudging Teresa out of the doorway, Kerry knelt down and placed the audio recorder just outside the door.
Once Kerry was back inside and had the door closed, he quietly said, "Let's just be quiet and wait. If we hear footsteps or knocking, we won't open the door. The video camera and the audio recorder should pick up whatever it is so that we can identify it in the evidence review."
"But what if it's the girls?" Teresa asked with concern.
"Then they can call us on the walkie-talkies or they can say something when they're in the hallway." Kerry said reasonably.
"So all we have to do now is wait and listen?" Teresa asked to be sure.
"Yes. Unless the girls call us for something, we'll just wait here until Alana calls an end to tonight's investigation." Kerry said simply.
"How long does it usually take for her to call it off?" Teresa asked cautiously.
"That all depends on what's going on. If there's activity, she'll usually let it run longer. If nothing's happening, then she'll sometimes cut it short. There's really no way to predict it." Kerry said frankly.
"What's that?" Teresa asked suddenly.
Both silently listened to a knocking sound in the distance.
* * * * *
Time passed slowly as Toni and Zoe waited for something to happen.
Occasionally, one or the other of them would snap a picture, but there weren't any elevated K2 readings or any sounds to indicate that anything supernatural was present.
Toni finally broke the silence by saying, "I think that we've done everything that we can do here."
"I'm not too tired. We can do more." Zoe said quickly.
"There's nothing to do. If a ghost shows up, the camera will record it. If you're up to it, you can take K2 readings while we walk to where Mom and Dad are investigating." Toni said reasonably.
"Yeah. If we get yellows, can we stop and talk to the ghost in the hall again?" Zoe asked hopefully.
"Yes. I promise."
* * * * *
"So, what should we do next?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Go back to room three one three three and make sure that everything's still recording." Lorra said simply.
"No. I mean about the 'brat' ghost?" Malika explained.
"Nothing. We'll just go back and check on it tomorrow and try again." Lorra said simply.
"I think we should put a camera in there tonight. It did stuff when we weren't there and stopped when we were, so if we put a camera in there and leave it, we should have the best chance of catching something." Malika said reasonably.
Lorra thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah. Okay. Let's do that."
"Do you want for me to go down and get another camera?" Malika asked cautiously.
"Sure. If you don't mind going by yourself, you can go do that while I check on things back in three one three three." Lorra said decisively.
"I don't mind going downstairs... but you don't want me to set it up by myself, do you?" Malika asked cautiously.
"No. When you get the camera, come back to three one three three and get me. Since the 'brat' is violent, neither one of us should go into three one six four alone." Lorra said firmly.
* * * * *
"Any idea of what we should do now?" Charity asked quietly.
"Shhh. Wait for it." Max slowly whispered.
As she waited, Charity took the opportunity to be sure that her camera was on and ready to be used, her audio recorder was recording and her handheld DVR was positioned nearby so that it could cover the most area.
Charity checked her K2 and IR thermometer, but neither showed any indication of things being anything other than perfectly normal.
Although Charity wanted to get up and seek out activity, her trust in Max kept her sitting and waiting in the darkness and silence.
* * * * *
As Alana left the A wing, she unaccountably felt the sensation of paranoia ease. So far as she could tell, nothing had changed. The atmosphere in the B hallway was not in any way different than it had been in the A hallway, but the difference in what she was feeling was like the difference between night and day.
She once again checked her K2 meter and was once again told that there was no measurable electromagnetic activity anywhere around her. Although she had the utmost confidence in Derek's diligence and capabilities, she still resolved herself to verifying that the meter was functioning properly.
As she quickly stepped into the intersection of the B, C and D wings, it was as though another layer of the all consuming fear that had been gripping her suddenly fell away.
Although it had been her original intent to return to the room where Marsha was investigating, presumably to check on her progress, Alana decided to, instead, explore the C wing to see if she would experience anything along the lines of what she had felt in the A and B wings.
With her K2 meter in hand, Alana slowed her pace and did her best to get back into the proper frame of mind for an investigation.
* * * * *
"So, now that you've felt it, what do you think that we should do?" Van asked anxiously.
"Honestly, what I'd like to do is call Alana or some of the others in here to deal with it." Hunter said quietly.
"But..." Van said in a slow, leading tone.
"But we can't do that. This is our job. They're trusting us to investigate this thing, so no matter how gross it is, we're going to do it." Hunter said, sounding quite a bit more confident than he felt.
"Okay. I'm with you. But what are we going to do?" Van asked reasonably.
"Well, I guess that since what we're going up against is kind of a 'feeling' thing, that we should probably fight it with another 'feeling' thing." Hunter said thoughtfully.
"You lost me." Van said honestly.
"I'm saying that you need to get your glow stick on. If we can surround ourselves with light and protection, then maybe it won't be able to do anything to us."
"But you already did that protection ritual thing..."
"Yeah. But that was just a little, light weight, say-it-but-don't-really-mean-it, all purpose kind of a thing. This time, we need to amp it up and really get behind it."
"What do we do?" Van asked uncertainly.
"This time when we go back in there, we'll use our protection to actually protect ourselves." Hunter said simply.
"What if that doesn't work?" Van asked cautiously.
"I don't know. Then I guess we run away like a couple of scared little girls." Hunter said weakly.
After a moment to consider, Van finally said, "Sounds like a plan."
"Do you need to do anything in advance to ramp up your glow stick?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"No. Do you need your Holy Water?"
"I've got it right here." Hunter assured him.
"Then let's do this thing." Van said as he stepped forward and opened the door.
Hunter crowded in, so that he was able to walk into the hotel room at Van's side.
There was a moment when both of them thought that perhaps whatever had inhabited the room might have left. But then they were both hit with a jarring force of intense negative emotion.
Hunter immediately began to recite his protection spell as Van concentrated on the light within him and visualized it growing stronger and brighter to combat the vile darkness that was pressing in against them.
Van was startled when he felt Hunter touch his forehead and it took a moment for him to realize that Hunter was anointing him with Holy Water.
The only sound in the room was Hunter's continued chanting in a language that Van didn't understand.
They were surrounded in cold and darkness, yet the negativity before them felt like a tangible thing.
Feeling another surge of negativity assaulting him, Van reached within himself and brought forth even more light to combat the darkness.
Suddenly, there was silence.
Hunter had stopped his chanting.
"Do you feel that?" Hunter finally whispered.
Van raised his briefly forgotten DVR and did a quick survey of the room before quietly saying, "I think it's gone."
* * * * *
"How are you feeling?" Jack asked with concern.
"Better." Kyla assured him.
"Do you think that you're in good enough shape to go back in there?" Jack asked cautiously.
"I don't know. I'll go back in with you, but I can't promise that I'll be able to stay." Kyla said honestly.
"You're more important to me than this investigation. If you go in there and decide that it's too much, I'll leave with you." Jack said firmly.
"But you shouldn't have to give up your investigation because of me." Kyla said quietly.
"Nothing is more important to me than you are. Besides, Alana has plenty of investigators who can handle this. All she'll need to do is make sure that whoever she assigns to replace us isn't psychically sensitive." Jack said seriously.
"Maybe we could ask her to team you up with someone else." Kyla slowly suggested.
"Let's go back in there and see how things go. If it's too bad, we'll talk to her about it and see what she wants to do." Jack assured her.
"Okay. I'm ready."
* * * * *
"Are we going back to 'the bad room'?" Norville asked as they walked away from the conference room.
"No. We're going to the kitchen." Derek assured him.
"You know where that is, don't you? Why don't you show us the way?" Mike asked pleasantly.
Before Norville could answer, a voice from behind them called out, "Norville?"
All three turned to see Oliphant standing in the hallway behind them.
He wasn't near any of the intersecting hallways and Mike briefly wondered where he had come from.
"Hi, Pa. Derek and Mike said that I could help them. That's alright, isn't it?" Norville asked hopefully.
From the look on Oliphant's face, he seemed to be poised to deliver an unpleasant verdict to his son.
"Norville was just going to show us where the kitchen is, so that we can set up a camera in there." Mike quickly interjected.
"And he's been filling us in on what he knows about the different hauntings." Derek added.
"You wouldn't be minding if he tagged along, then, would you?" Oliphant asked them cautiously.
"Norville's been a big help already." Mike assured him.
"Well, as long as you're helping our guests, I suppose that's alright." Oliphant said slowly.
"Thanks, Pa!" Norville said happily.
"Since you're staying up late to help our guests, just sleep as much as you need to. Me and your ma will see to things in the morning." Oliphant said with a warm smile at his son.
"I will. But when I wake up, I'm going to want to tell you and Ma all about what we did tonight." Norville said excitedly.
"As long as the work gets done, that will be fine." Oliphant said with a smile.
Norville ran to his father and gave him a firm hug.
"Have a good night, Norville." Oliphant said gently.
"You, too, Pa." Norville said happily, then ran the few feet back to rejoin Mike and Derek.
Mike smiled at his youthful energy and turned to say goodnight to Oliphant but was surprised to find that he was nowhere in sight.
"What can you tell us about the kitchen ghost?" Derek asked Norville as he began to walk again.
Mike looked behind them for a moment longer, then hurried to catch up to the others.
* * * * *
Both Kerry and Teresa had to fight not to open the door.
There was such a flurry of activity, they were both understandably curious about what was going on out there.
At times, there were running footsteps. Sometimes they heard knocking sounds. Just as had been reported, occasionally it sounded like a maid firmly knocking before entering the room. Once, they heard what sounded like slow heavy footsteps, as though someone were patrolling, up and down the hall.
"If we're just sitting here, not doing anything when we hear something, why are we here? Couldn't we accomplish the same thing being downstairs where there's heat and light?" Teresa asked reasonably.
"Yes. If I were in this same situation during another investigation, that's exactly what I'd do. But since we have to be available in case the girls need us, we really need to stay right here until Alana calls an end to it." Kerry said regretfully.
"Oh. Right." Teresa said in realization.
"You can go downstairs now, if you want to. I can wait on the girls." Kerry quietly offered.
"No. I really don't mind being here, doing this. I was just bothered by the seeming pointlessness of it." Teresa said frankly.
"Some of our investigations end up being entirely pointless. We'll investigate for two or three days and not only will we not collect any evidence, but we won't come across anything that's even remotely supernatural." Kerry said frankly.
"Is that what happened on that church investigation you were telling me about?" Teresa asked curiously.
"Yes. We spent two days following up on several reports of supernatural instances and we weren't able to find a single thing that was even the slightest bit creepy... well, except the preacher. Just the sight of that man could give you nightmares for a week." Kerry finished with a chuckle.
"Why do you do this?" Teresa asked cautiously.
"I don't know. Maybe it's for the excitement of exploring the unknown. Part of it might be to help people in need, kind of as a way to pay back for the help that we received when we needed it. And I guess another part of it could be just to do something that's a little unpredictable. I don't know how much sense it makes, but it seems to satisfy something in me to be a part of the team." Kerry said introspectively.
"You're happier than you used to be." Teresa said quietly, then added, "Somehow, I got the feeling that you might be trying to get away... you know, to spend time apart from us... from me."
"No. I never wanted that. I just stumbled into this thing and found out that I enjoyed being a part of it. Since I had the time and it wasn't hurting anyone, I went ahead and continued on with it. If you or the kids found something of your own that you enjoyed doing, I'd encourage you to do it, too." Kerry gently explained.
A sudden bout of knocking sounded, possibly from right across the hall.
"Do you think the girls are alright?" Teresa asked in a whisper.
"I'm sure they're fine."
* * * * *
"Is this it?" Zoe asked as she stopped in the hallway.
Toni looked at the nearest room number, then said, "Yes. This is the spot. Go ahead and see if you can find any high EMF readings. If you do, we'll stop for a few minutes and do an EVP session."
"Okay." Zoe said happily, then started slowly walking as she also kept track of her K2 meter.
Toni watched through her night vision camera, noticing that her younger sister looked to be every bit a paranormal investigation professional.
"Watch where you're walking, you're close to the wall." Toni quickly warned, worried that her sister was paying more attention to the K2 meter than the night vision camera in her other hand.
"I'm not getting any yellows." Zoe said with disappointment.
"Well, maybe the ghost went back to its room. But you told them that you'll be back tomorrow, so we'll check back then." Toni assured her.
"Even if we don't get any yellows?" Zoe asked to be sure.
"Yes. We'll do an EVP session even if the K2 meter doesn't react at all." Toni promised her.
"Okay." Zoe finally relented, then asked, "What now?"
"Now, we're going to meet up with Mom and Dad." Toni said simply.
"You're not going to make me go to bed now, are you?" Zoe whined petulantly, proving to Toni that Zoe probably did need to go to bed.
"That's up to Mom and Dad. But if they're busy doing their own investigation, maybe they'll let us help them, first." Toni said as she tried to inject cheer into her voice for Zoe's benefit.
"Do you think Mom's scared?" Zoe asked curiously.
"Maybe, a little. This is a new thing for her. New things are usually scary." Toni said as they started walking again, then thought to add, "Don't worry about Mom. Dad wouldn't let anything bad happen to her."
* * * * *
As Lorra walked into room 3133, she did a quick visual survey to confirm that nothing had changed in their absence.
Once she had made that determination, she turned on her flashlight and examined the wireless stationary camera and verified that it was still transmitting.
After that, she went to the stationary video camera that was a simple recorder. Although Lorra wasn't quite as familiar with the DVR, it only took a moment for her to determine that it was recording as it was supposed to.
She could easily see that the audio recorder was still recording, due to the red light.
"This is Lorra. I just came back to three one three three to make sure that everything was still recording. Everything seems fine. Malika will be back in a minute, then we're going to put a stationary DVR in room three one six four." Lorra said as she looked around with the flashlight one last time.
When she was satisfied that everything was as it should be, she walked to the door and turned off her flashlight, so that she could wait in the hallway for Malika to return.
* * * * *
To Charity, it seemed that the silence had gone on for an unreasonably long time. The fact of the matter was, patience wasn't one of Charity's strong suits.
For the most part, Charity remained still but with every minute that passed, she felt the increasing need to be up and 'doing something'. For her, investigating was an active process.
Charity picked up her night vision DVR and scanned around the room, yet again, and her focus finally came to rest on Max. Even with the green on green display, she had to admit that he was undeniably handsome. Beyond that, she knew that beneath his looks, he was an intrinsically good and gentle soul. Charity once again came to the realization that there wasn't anyone else she could imagine that she would want to spend her life with.
On closer introspection, Charity found that not only did she enjoy spending time with Max, but that when she was in his company, she felt good about herself. If she needed to be strong, he would be there to back her up with his encouragement. And in those rare instances when she was feeling vulnerable, she could count on Max to step forward and she could be assured that he would take charge. In essence, he could be strong without making her feel weak.
As she was staring at the image in the viewfinder of the night vision DVR, a movement drew her attention.
Behind Max, over his left shoulder, she caught a glimpse of an undefined mass, which appeared to be glowing in the night vision. It took every bit of self control that she had to keep from calling out, but she was able to remain silent as she moved her camera, ever so slightly, to focus on the misshapen cloud that appeared to be slowly approaching.
Without warning, Max turned his head slightly, and Charity realized that even though nothing was visible to the naked eye, he was aware of the presence.
* * * * *
Alana used her master key to open the door to room 6318.
When she stepped in, she was surprised to find Marsha sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor.
"Has there been activity in here?" Alana asked cautiously.
"No. Nothing's happened. It's been quiet." Marsha answered simply.
"Well, I've just finished surveying the A, B and C wings. Would you like to go and do a preliminary sweep of the E, F and G wings?" Alana asked seriously.
"If there haven't been any reports of activity, I don't really see the point. But since nothing's happening here, I might as well." Marsha said as she slowly stood.
"Even though I can't be sure that I was able to collect any evidence, I still think my walk was productive. Who knows? You might get something out of it." Alana said encouragingly.
Even though Alana's vision was limited by the night vision, she was easily able to detect a momentary 'whatever' look from Marsha as she gathered her equipment and started walking toward the door.
"Remember to call if you run into any trouble." Alana reminded her.
Marsha flashed the look at her again before stepping out the door.
Alana considered the reaction for a moment as she turned on her K2 meter, then finally muttered, "Bitch." before starting her investigation of their 'hot spot'.
* * * * *
"What's your name?" Hunter asked cautiously.
After a few seconds to allow the ghost to answer, Van asked, "What are you doing here?"
Hunter allowed a momentary pause, then asked, "Are you angry?"
Van looked down at his K2 meter, which didn't show any activity at all.
"I think we got rid of it." Van reluctantly whispered.
"Yeah. When we were doing our 'protection' thing, it felt like whatever it was kind of 'popped', you know, like a soap bubble." Hunter said uncomfortably.
"Do you think Alana and Kerry are going to be mad at us? I mean, we were just supposed to investigate and collect evidence. The only way we were supposed to get rid of something is after we were done investigating it." Van asked nervously.
"I don't know. I never had to worry about this with my moms. By the time we were called in on a job, the investigation was done and everyone already agreed that whatever it was needed to be gotten rid of." Hunter said quietly.
"Maybe it's not totally gone. Maybe it just went away because we were too strong for it." Van suggested half-heartedly.
"Yeah. Maybe. Let's try again." Hunter agreed.
"Are you still here? What's your name?" Van asked into the air.
"Come on! Talk to us!" Hunter urged.
* * * * *
"What happened?" Jack asked as they walked into room 5369.
It took a moment for Kyla to understand what he meant.
Jack turned on his flashlight and stepped closer to the painting to verify what he had been able to see with his night vision.
The shadow figure in the painting was gone.
"Can you sense anything from it?" Jack asked cautiously.
"No. Nothing at all." Kyla said slowly.
"Nothing, as in 'no presence' or nothing, as in 'nothing spiritual'?" Jack asked carefully.
"Nothing, as in 'nothing'. That painting feels just as bland and mundane as any other painting. In fact, I don't even feel anything like an echo of the passion the artist felt as he was painting it." Kyla explained.
"What do you think that means?" Jack asked contemplatively.
"I don't have anything to base it on, but if I were to guess, I'd say that the portal closed."
* * * * *
"Do you know where they usually see the ghost?" Mike asked as they walked into the kitchen.
"I never heard about anyone 'seeing' the ghost. All I've heard about is things happening around the kitchen... you know, like someone scooping out sugar for something and somehow it turns out to be salt." Norville said slowly.
"Do you know if it happens in one part of the kitchen more than another?" Derek asked as he slowly walked around with his K2 meter in hand.
"No. I don't know that." Norville said regretfully.
"Well, based on what you already told me, I think I'm going to position the camera here in the prep area. Would you guys mind doing a sweep of the rest of the kitchen?" Derek asked seriously.
"I know where the brooms are!" Norville quickly announced.
"I think he means a K2 sweep. That means that we walk around the room and see if we get any readings." Mike gently explained.
"Oh. Sorry." Norville muttered.
"It's no problem." Mike assured him, then asked, "Do you want to do the K2 sweep for us?"
"What do I have to do?" Norville asked cautiously.
"Go ahead and take the K2 meter off your belt and turn it on." Mike said instructively.
Using the night vision camera, Mike watched as Norville struggled to try and get the K2 meter with one hand while continuing to hold the DVR in his other.
"I'll hold your camera, if you like." Mike quietly offered.
"Thanks." Norville said with relief, then handed the DVR to Mike.
"Just push the button to turn the K2 on." Mike said patiently.
"Okay. Now what?" Norville asked happily as the K2 meter lit up briefly.
"Go ahead and take your camera back, then start walking around the room. If your K2 meter starts lighting up, stop and let me know and I'll help you." Mike said patiently.
Derek watched with a smile as Mike followed behind Norville, not crowding him, but remaining close enough to help, should he have need.
As Mike and Norville finally made their way into the back, to the dry storage area, Derek turned his attention back to the task at hand.
* * * * *
"Dad? It's Toni. Zoe and I are just about to enter the D wing. Is that okay? We're not going to be messing up anything that you're doing, are we?"
"No. That's fine. Is everything alright?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I think we've finished doing everything that we can do for now."
"Your mother and I are in room thirty-three twelve. We'll meet you in the hallway, by the camera."
"We'll be there in just a minute."
I am really enjoying this story. I like the way MM has moved us from one group to another and keeping us busy, thinking of what has been going on, in all the different locations.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher