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DescriptionTwo reality-show ghost-busting teams versus one haunted house.
The first team to successfully exorcise the spirits wins the renewal of their television contract. It sounds like a pretty straight-forward competition, but something or someone at Harrington House has another agenda.
Over the course of a weekend, the two teams with their respective technical advisers, a supposedly impartial network executive, and the beautiful owner of Harrington House find it isn’t just the ghosts who are running amok. A killer is on the loose and if they don’t work together, they could all become permanent residents.
Reader Rating: Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Excerpt:It was just a house.
From the outside, the residence looked like any of the other recently built tract homes in the development. The only difference was the bright blue trim. Inside, tasteful furnishings decorated the rooms and attractive artwork hung on the walls. Everything smelled new, the chemical scents of the rug and paint vied in the air. By appearance, the house was typical; however, something set this house apart from the others on the block. Their job was to find out what.
Malcolm McFee felt as if he’d been waiting for this moment all his life. In reality, it had only been two long years of standing in Ben Yamamoto’s shadow on the set of Happily Ever Afterlife. Oh, Malcolm had his fair share of fame, people knew his face, greeted him by name in the grocery store. But, and this was a big one, if he proved capable of running an entire investigation by himself, he wouldn’t just be consulting for the show anymore. Ben had promised him a regular spot, which would give him what he’d always wanted, legitimacy and recognition as a true medium.
Upstairs, a baby wailed.
Malcolm’s gaze shot over to the home owner, Fiona Sinclair. Pretty and petite with a bulging midsection, she had to be at least eight months pregnant. He raised his eyebrows in an unspoken question aimed at no one in particular. He hadn’t been told details of the haunting. His twin sister, Monica, the co-hostess of Happily Ever Afterlife, had done the intake form and all of the preliminary research. Her carefully schooled expression told him nothing.
He glanced over at Fiona again. Her baby hadn’t been born yet. Was there an older child in the home? He studied her face and demeanor. She wore a frightened expression, however, her body language spoke not of fear, but of watchfulness. He didn’t sense the energy force of a spirit, yet something about her raised his suspicion. From her posture, he deduced she was watching and waiting for something. Not unexpected, as subjects experiencing a haunting often wore anticipation like a second skin.
Monica offered a chair to Fiona. “Would you like to sit down?”
“No. I want you to make it stop,” Fiona whispered. “I mean, that’s what you do. You make ghosts go into the light or something, right?”
Unwilling to give her any assurances before he knew the true circumstances of the case, Malcolm didn’t answer Fiona’s question, but instead, hazarded a guess. “Did the phenomenon start when you got pregnant?” In many cases, hearing a baby crying started the minute the pregnancy was discovered and continued to feed off maternal doubts and worries until the baby was born.
“No, all the odd occurrences began about a month ago,” Fiona replied. To Malcolm’s dismay, she looked straight up into the lens and smiled.
Even as Malcolm opened his mouth to speak, he noticed Ramon take his finger off the record button. Man, for an old geezer, he was quick on the uptake. He’d anticipated her interaction with the camera, known the footage would have to be edited out, and had stopped the recording instinctively. Although Ramon seldom spoke during any of the investigations and most people didn’t even notice him, he was an important part of the team. He documented eyewitness interviews and the walk-through of haunted areas and was also responsible for shooting still photos of each room, and setting up and taking down the sound equipment they used to document EVP, electronic voice phenomena.
Fighting a feeling of frustration, Malcolm tried to be ¬pleasant and failed. “Please don’t speak to the camera.”
When Fiona’s smile faltered, he added, “If you do, don’t worry. We’ll edit that section out for the show.”
“Oh, okay.” Fiona twisted her hands in her lap.
“So, this started one month ago.” Monica shot an irritated glance over at Malcolm. The smile she bestowed on Fiona was a sympathetic one. “Have you made any structural changes to the house?”
“No, but that’s when we decorated the baby’s room.”
“Is the furniture new or antique?” Monica asked. Her dark brown hair fell into her face and she pushed it back with an impatient movement before scribbling notes onto a yellow legal pad.
“Everything’s new.” Fiona craned her neck to see what Monica was writing in her notebook.
Good luck. Monica’s script, combined with the use of a modified version of shorthand, defied interpretation by even the most efficient secretary. He should know; they’d gone through four harried women since the show debuted two years ago. Now, as they prepared to start filming for the third season, Monica had been told she’d have to type up her own transcripts or risk the wrath of the network owner, Mr. Patterson. Malcolm wasn’t sure if the threat would induce her to write more legibly or not.
“So you correlate the phenomena with decorating the nursery?” Monica asked.
“Yes.” The words were affirmative, but Malcolm sensed Fiona was lying. Why?
Malcolm endeavored to read the atmosphere of the house. Perhaps something traumatic had occurred and the negative energy imprinted the events. Like a recording, the activity would play over and over again. The entities involved in a residual haunting activity were unaware of their actions, and did not react to the environment. Much like tire tracks on a dirt road, the imprints faded with time. He inhaled the clean scent of sawdust. Then, he got a whiff of fresh paint along with the assertion that something tragic had happened during the construction of the house.
He screwed up his face in concentration. Deaths sometimes occurred on job sites, but none of those potential occurrences explained the crying baby. Speaking of babies…
Malcolm found himself staring at Fiona. His psychic abilities were limited to interactions with the dead, although he occasionally got intuitive flashes. In his experience, spirits congregated around pregnant women. Mothers or other women who had been important in the expectant woman’s life gathered to support and celebrate the birth. There was no trace of any spiritual energy clinging to Fiona. Interesting…
“I’m going to start walking around and see what I can pick up,” Monica said, interrupting his thoughts.
“Good idea.” While he watched, Monica laid aside her pen and opened her capacious black shoulder bag. The first piece of equipment she extracted was an EMF meter. A popular ghost hunting tool used to detect unexplained electromagnetic fields often indicative of the presence of ghosts and spirits. With the meter in her hand, his sister began walking around the foyer. As she approached the staircase, he heard her gasp.
Surprised his usually unemotional sister would be taken aback by anything, Malcolm shot a glance at Monica as she studied the readout. She paced the perimeter of the room, approaching the same spot from different aspects as a dubious expression marred her pretty face. “I’m getting a huge EMF spike here at the bottom of the stairs. Malcolm, do you detect any spirits? Perhaps someone who might have had an accident or fallen here.”
He didn’t, but the absence of any visual confirmation didn’t mean no spirit lurked out of sight. The dead were often shy and only seen as flitting shadows. He’d not detected anyone so far, but refused to draw any conclusions from that. While Ramon snapped several photos of the area with a digital camera, Malcolm approached the staircase. If there had been a death here, the photos might pick up orbs, a vortex apparition, or some other anomaly indicative of a ghost or spirit.
The hair on his neck and arms stood on end. Feelings of dread washed over him. Such a strong physical reaction typically indicated a spirit’s presence.
Fiona’s gaze shot from Malcolm to Monica and then back. She scrambled to her feet, hand over her heart and chest heaving. “Did someone die at the bottom of the stairs?”
Malcolm hoped she wouldn’t run screaming out of the front door. He’d only had that happen once or twice before.
“Oh, I don’t think anyone died,” Monica said.
Monica had a fixed smile on her face. She’d picked up on something he had missed. Dismay and disappointment vied inside him, and he tamped down a surge of anger. Damn it all. Why now? Why when he had so much riding on this. All he needed was one legitimate haunting to use for substantive proof of his abilities.
“May I examine the closet?” Monica asked.
“Why?” Fiona’s voice sounded sharp with suspicion. “There’s nothing in there but coats and some old equipment.”
“Equipment?” Before Fiona could protest further, Monica strode to the door and jerked it open.
Malcolm followed his sister and peered in over her shoulder.
Surprise, surprise. Inside sat an electrostatic generator. Malcolm wasn’t sure what use it performed on a construction site. Typically used in classrooms to demonstrate the effects of static electricity—cold chills, hair standing on end, and even the feeling of being touched—the machine had often been used by fake spiritualists to imitate a spirit’s presence.
“The contractor must have left that awful machine behind,” Fiona informed him. “My husband called the company yesterday. They said they would pick it up sometime today or tomorrow.”
“Did you know the generator was operating?” Malcolm inquired.
“No. Do you think the ghost switched it on?” Fiona’s eyes widened.
What poor acting. Malcolm coughed to avoid the derisive words threatening to spill out.
“This accounts for the EMF spike.” Malcolm reached around his sister and turned off the switch. “What sort of reading do you get now, Monica?”
“Nothing, only baseline.”
Shit, the haunting was a hoax. Yet, perhaps the crying child upstairs had nothing to do with this machine.
Visibly shaking and moaning about hating this house and its ghosts, Fiona sank back into the chair. Her brown eyes welled up, and a single tear flowed down her cheek, leaving a trail of mascara through her makeup.
Faker. Other men might be swayed by crying women, but he had a twin sister who’d only just recently graduated from her drama queen phase. It would take a lot more than a few crocodile tears to influence him.
Together, he and the team moved through the rest of the downstairs rooms. Monica waved her damn EMF meter around but detected no further abnormal readings.
They mounted the stairs. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms occupied the second story. The master suite was the first room at the top of the stairs. A bed, two dressers, and a large walk-in closet comprised the furnishing. A Jacuzzi tub dominated the attached bathroom. Malcolm, unable to surrender hope of this being a legitimate haunting, theorized if the fixtures had been recycled from another home, perhaps the haunting had been transferred to a new location. He ran his finger over the tap and was rewarded with the scene of a candlelit bubble-filled bath. He’d been right; the fittings weren’t new. However, what he’d sensed was an imprint. Shit. His hopes dimmed.
As one, the team moved on to the guest bedroom, furnished as a home gym. Malcolm took a deep breath. No scent of sweat lingered in the air, and the polished metal of the weights wasn’t marred by a single fingerprint. Why would someone have exercise equipment installed for show? Or, as he suspected, did no one actually live here?
He sighed and followed Monica down the hall. As soon as they approached the last room on the left, things began to happen. The baby’s cries, which had been silent for a full ten minutes or so while they’d been in the other rooms, started up with renewed vigor.
Closing his eyes, Malcolm reached out to try to connect with the distraught infant. For a room festively decorated with balloons and stuffed animals, the atmosphere felt detached. Try as he might, he detected no child’s spirit. His heart sank as he drew his final conclusion. Despite the desperate wails, no ghost child haunted this house.
Monica led the way into the room. As she crossed the threshold, the infant’s crying shut off like a switch. Monica shot him a look, one that signified she knew the ‘haunting’ was a hoax.
With a sigh of regret, he joined Monica in her search for the source of the child’s cries. While she examined the windowsills, he ran his hands along the trim of the door. Within a few seconds, his sensitive fingertips located the small light sensor buried in the wood.
He waved to attract Monica’s attention and then moved on to find the source of the sound. An unobtrusive baby monitor sat on the dresser, but even for these hoaxers, that seemed too obvious.
His sister, Monica, was more thorough in her investigation. She, too, might have suspected it would be the easy solution, but she examined the equipment anyway. While he watched, she picked up the monitor, switched it on and off, and even popped the batteries out of the back.
A shadow flitted along the wall. Startled, Malcolm spun around. Ramon stood in the doorway, recording their every move.
While Monica was occupied taking the baby monitor apart, Malcolm studied the rest of the room. It appeared to be ready for the baby’s arrival. Teddy bears decorated the diaper pail, bed, and mobile. A row of stuffed bruins sat at attention on the top of the dresser and an enormous Teddy sat in the glider rocking chair. A tinkling sound interrupted the silence. The mobile over the crib began to whirl of its own accord, playing a tinny ¬rendition of a popular lullaby. Hell, he even caught a whiff of the scent of baby powder in the room. Whoever had set this hoax up had covered all the bases.
Too bad no tortured soul lingered here, no baby in distress. However, proving the haunting was faked wouldn’t be easy. In the past, once the controlling wires were found, they could be followed back to their origin to debunk a ghostly presence. With the enormous popularity of wireless equipment, determining real ghosts from electronic ones had become more challenging. He spotted the speaker by chance. Cuddled in amongst all the assorted teddy bears was a brilliant green frog. He picked it up and hefted it, realizing the stuffed animal was too heavy to be filled with nothing but cotton batting or small plastic beads. His fingers found a heavy square item about the size of a cigarette pack buried in the animal’s fat midsection. No dissection would be needed to convince him that he held a small but powerful wireless speaker.
He smiled and waved the frog at Monica and then at Ramon. “Perhaps we’ll hear something if we go down the hall a bit. Are you picking up any other readings?”
Monica had replaced her trusty EMF meter with another popular piece of ghost-hunting equipment. This one was used to pick up radio transmissions. With long graceful movements, she swept the probe around the room searching for listening devices. Malcolm wasn’t surprised when she paused to examine the base of the lamp. The fixture emitted radio waves.
With a sense of regret, Malcolm left the room to stand in the hallway. Monica replaced her equipment back into her bag, and slung it over her shoulder before giving him a brisk nod. As soon as they were both a few feet from the doorway, the crying started up again. Malcolm led the way downstairs, and Ramon followed them at a trot.
Fiona met them at the bottom of the stairs. “So, can you get rid of the ghost?”
Malcolm tossed her the frog. “You’ll be hearing from the network,” he stated dispassionately.
“What? What do you mean?” Fiona’s eyes were wide with pretend astonishment.
Refusing to answer, Malcolm helped Ramon pack up all of his equipment while Fiona wrung her hands and demanded to know what they’d discovered.
As they gathered at the front door to leave, Monica faced Fiona. “We investigate ghosts, and by that I don’t mean the electronic, Disneyland versions. So if you ever encounter a real haunting, don’t hesitate to contact someone else. Have a good day.”
Wild Ghost ChaseBy: Ericka Scott