Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be
Note: This story was loosely inspired by a true story. Betaed by Kerry
Feedback: Yes please.
Buck woke with a start, he was sure there was someone in the room with him. Reaching for the light, he felt a pang of panic when he couldn't find it, only after a few frantic seconds did he remember he wasn't in his own bed. Rolling over, he groped for the bedside light; its soft light illuminated part of the room, throwing other parts into deep shadow. Sitting up he scanned the room; there was no one there but him.
"Shit!" he cursed out loud, running a hand through his hair.
After a few moments he threw back the lightweight covers and sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for his breathing to even out. Then he stood and headed for the door. The bathroom was at the other end of the house, at the end of a dark corridor. Flicking on the lights, he cursed when he remembered that the bulb had blown the evening before and he hadn't bothered to change it. Moonlight flooded in through the slatted wooden blinds, casting strange stripes of light across the floor as he made his way along the passage.
The bathroom light worked perfectly, almost too perfectly, blinding him for a second or two, until his eyes adjusted. Once he'd taken care of business he stepped back into the moonlight-striped passage, but his eyes, now accustomed to the bright light of the bathroom, weren't ready for the darkness again and it all looked even darker. Two steps along he looked up and gasped. There, in the middle of the passage, illuminated only by two shafts of light, was a figure. It was hard to tell, but he seemed to be naked, where the light hit him his skin was silver.
"Vin?" Buck finally managed to ask.
The lean Texan, dressed in no more than pale pyjama bottoms, turned and raised one finger to his lips, before gesturing for Buck to join him.
It's alright for you to say 'be quiet' you didn't just have ten years scared off your life!
"What's up?" Buck whispered once he was beside Vin.
"Heard somethin'." Vin pointed toward the floor.
"Maybe someone got up for a snack?" After all, with seven of them all in the same house there were bound to be noises in the night.
"Nope, came from the hall. Larabee's asleep." Vin and Chris were sharing the huge master bedroom suite. "I can hear Josiah snoring above me. Ezra's right next to the back stairs, so he don't need to go to the front of the house to get a drink." Ezra had 'volunteered' to take the room over the kitchen extension. Probably originally intended for a maid or cook, it had its own staircase and, more importantly to Ezra, its own bathroom. For this luxury Ezra was prepared to give up a sea view and risk banging his head on the ceiling every time he got in or out of bed.
"What about the other two?" Buck asked.
There had been a delay at the airport on their arrival, so while Ezra discussed the loss of his luggage with the airline staff, the others worked out the sleeping arrangements. With only five bedrooms, at least four of them were going to have to share. Vin paired off with Chris. Everyone had assumed Buck and JD would take the other twin bedded room, the one in the attic. But JD objected.
"I don't mind sharing a room with Buck mostly," he began. "But this isn't like when we're at a conference, when he never uses the room we share anyway."
Chris looked over at Buck. "Never?"
Buck just grinned at him wolfishly.
"We're here for a fortnight and I do need some sleep."
Buck turned to his young friend. "What are you saying"?
"I'm saying that when you sleep alone, you snore. It's like a freight train running through the place."
"Do not!" Buck protested.
"Do!" All the others chorused.
"Then how come no lady's ever mentioned this?"
"Like I said, you only do it when you're alone. I guess when you got company you don't sleep on your back."
"That's what you think, I'll have you know, me on my back is one of the most enjoy "
"He said sleep!" Chris cut in. "Not any of the other activities you may get up to in bed." With that he turned to JD. "I hear you kid, spent enough nights in his company to know what you mean."
"I heard that," Buck muttered.
"I know it. So who's sharing with who?"
There was then some debate, mostly about snoring and ceiling height. This was when Ezra returned and 'offered' to take the back room. In the end Buck and Josiah - another snorer - got rooms to themselves and Nathan and JD took the big attic room with its own bathroom. Josiah and Buck tossed a coin for who got the attic, and Josiah lost.
"I checked in on them, both sleeping like babies," Vin confirmed, gesturing to the attic stairs. "Couldn't find you so I came looking."
Just then there was an audible thump from below them. Vin looked at Buck who nodded, he'd heard it. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, Vin had his pistol in his hand.
"Where the hell did you ?" Buck began, but then shook his head. Vin was always armed, he should know that by now.
"Wanna get yours?" Vin asked.
"No, you can protect me Kemo Saba."
With that, the two of them edged downstairs to the flagstone hallway. The source of the noise wasn't hard to find, one of the two hallway doors was open. There wasn't much of a wind, but when the breeze caught it, it banged against the wall. This wasn't the front door. The house was old and had a traditional through hallway with doors at either end, had it been a little wider you could even have called it a 'dog trot'. The door that stood open was the back door. This one led out on to a narrow stone terrace at the back of the cliff top house.
"We didn't open that," Buck pointed out.
"I know it," Vin replied. Picking up a large flashlight from the hall table, Vin handed his gun to Buck. "Take a look outside."
While Buck did this, Vin turned on the flashlight and began to examine the hallway floor.
"You know this place does have electric lighting." With that Ezra flicked on the lights, momentarily blinding Vin and bringing Buck to the door, gun in hand.
"Shall we shoot each other now?" Ezra asked, lowering his own weapon.
"What are you doing here"? Buck asked.
"I heard a noise, personally I put it down to the age of the property, old houses always make noises, but then I heard you two blundering about, so I came to see what was occurring," Ezra told them.
"If you knew it was us, why the gun?" Vin challenged.
Ezra pushed the little gun into the pocket of his satin dressing gown. "One can never be too careful. Have you found anything?"
Buck shook his head. "Nope, all looks quiet out there, as far as I can see. Vin?"
Tanner shook his head. "Nothing here, these floors are highly polished, but I can't see any fresh footprints down here. Mind you, now Ezra's blinded me with that over head light I couldnt see them now even if they were there."
"Sorry, I didn't think."
"Don't worry, I'm pretty sure there was nothing there."
"Then I suggest we shut the offending door, do a sweep of the house just to be safe and return to bed." Ezra pulled his gun out again.
"Damn, you look rough," Chris commented as Buck ambled into the kitchen the next morning.
Buck just grunted at him.
Buck poured himself some coffee. "Not much."
Chris frowned at his oldest friend. They had been ordered to take two weeks R&R. They had been immersed in a very long, difficult and distressing case for over three months, Ezra, and Buck had been undercover for all of that time, Chris and Josiah on and off for most of it. The others had been working fifteen hour days, six and seven days a week for the whole time keeping track of them. The conclusion had been particularly messy, people had died, innocent people. There was nothing Team Seven could have done about it, but it effected them nonetheless. Orin consulted the ATF staff counsellors, who, after the team's mandatory de-briefing, had expressed concern regarding the team's mental and physical health. They were all displaying symptoms of exhaustion and stress. Ezra and Buck were described as being close to burn out. Orin knew if all he did was give them two weeks off, they'd never truly relax, not so close to the office, so he made some calls. As a result Washington released some funds and with these Orin sent Team Seven - whether they liked it or not - to the other side of the country, for a two week break by the sea in Maine.
"You okay?" Chris asked.
"Just told you I didn't sleep much, and if you hadn't put away half a bottle of Black Label last night, you wouldn't have either."
"I'm on vacation, remember, I was ordered to relax, so that's what I'm doing," Chris told him pointedly. "Now, what happened last night?"
"It doesnt matter." Buck turned away and poured himself a mug of coffee.
"You tell him about last night?" Vin came in through the back door, from the look of it he'd been running - Vin's idea of R&R didn't involve much actual rest.
"Well I'd appreciate it if someone did," Chris demanded.
So they told him.
"You reckon someone was here?" Chris asked.
"In all honesty, no," Vin told him. "I just reckon we need to bolt the door as well as lock it tonight."
"Tell you what I reckon," Buck began. "Orin was right, we do need a break."
The house that had been rented for them had once been the home of the Start Point lighthouse keeper. The light itself was now fully automated and stood on a rocky shoal a little way out to sea, connected to the land by a long narrow walkway. The house stood above it, on a low cliff. Start Point itself was at the far end of Tore Island. The island, which was no more than a quarter of a mile long and seven hundred yards wide, was separated from the Berry Head peninsula by a narrow channel. An old, narrow, plank bridge spanned the channel and gave the island's inhabitants access to the mainland. The inhabitants being Team Seven, for the lighthouse keeper's house was the only building on the island.
The house was remote, even isolated, since even when you crossed back to the mainland the closet settlement was Brixham, a small fishing and yachting port some five miles away. Team Seven spent their first full day exploring their private domain and relaxing. The weather was warm and getting warmer. The island was wooded, with some clearings. The coast was mostly rocky, but there was a small cove with a sandy beach. Come the evening they had gathered behind the house, overlooking the lighthouse, for a cook-out before eventually, heading for bed a lot earlier than they would normally, a small acknowledgement that they really were tired.
Buck tossed and turned, the house might have been modernised, but it didn't have air conditioning. Suddenly he sat up, he was sure there was someone there, in his room. He put the light on, there was no one there, then he heard it; the banging, downstairs. His room was warm, even stifling, out on the landing it was cold. He hadn't bothered to dress, so now stood in no more than his boxers, and shivered. A door opened, light spilled out in a strangely distorted rectangle. Vin and Chris both came out on to the landing, both armed. The door downstairs banged again, and all three men shivered.
"I bolted that door," Vin whispered.
Chris nodded and silently gestured to Buck to get his gun. All three of them then edged downstairs. The door blew back and forth, no one was in sight. They switched on all the lights, there was no sign of any intruder, the door continued to bang.
"You notice anything?" Vin asked softly.
"There's no wind," Chris answered.
Buck shivered, despite the hot, still, night air. They bolted the door and returned upstairs, as they reached the top of the stairs, they met Josiah.
"Did you just call me?" he asked Buck, his room was above Buck's.
"No, I was downstairs," Buck told him. "What did you hear?"
"I must have been dreaming, could have sworn, you called out - sorry." He turned to go back upstairs, then turned back to look at them. "What were you three doing downstairs anyway?"
"Shutting the back door," Vin explained.
Josiah raised an eyebrow. "Again?"
The next morning the warm summer sun made the nights events seem trivial, maybe there was a breeze, maybe the door was unevenly hung, maybe one of them was sleep walking - they were there to relieve stress after all. With no particular plan for the day, Josiah took one of their rented cars and drove into Brixham. It seemed strange to him that in such an old house there was no information about its history.
Brixham was a bustling little place, there was good size harbour with two distinct halves, one full of working fishing boats - mostly lobster boats, the other half was full of private yachts. The stores in town reflected this split personality, there were the day to day stores needed by the relatively small year round population, and the more specialist and gift orientated stores catering to the seasonal population. A small building, close to the oldest part of the harbour, housed a small town museum. What he discovered was quite illuminating.
That night they dined on the fresh made pizza Josiah brought back from town, and listened to what he'd found out.
"It probably isn't going to surprise any of you guys to know that this house is haunted," he began.
"Could have told you that," Vin commented, just before he stuffed another slice of pizza in his mouth.
"Nearly two hundred years ago, the lighthouse keepers were a pair of brothers, Thomas and William Foster, they were famous or infamous for not getting on, they argued all the time, sometimes they even fought. In those days there was no bridge, so in bad weather they were cut off from the main land. There was a summer storm, the like of which no one had ever seen. After it had blown itself out, neither of the brothers came to town for supplies for over a week - which was unusual. Eventually someone from the town took a boat and came calling. What he found was Thomas, dead, up there on the light." Josiah pointed to the lighthouse below them. "He was on the walkway, semi decomposed, covered in bruises, his skull smashed in."
"What about the other one?" JD asked.
"He was in the house, he had a broken arm and had gone quite mad. You see, the way his brother's body lay, one arm was through the railings, every time the wind blew, it moved the arm, and made it look as if he was beckoning to his brother. And every night, with a broken arm, William had to mount that tower and light the lamp, with his brothers body outside, and every morning he had to go back and put it out."
"And with a broken arm he couldn't move the body," Nathan pointed out.
"What happened?" Buck asked.
"No one really knows, Thomas was so far gone he couldn't tell them. The poor man was tried for his brother's murder, found guilty but insane and then locked up in an asylum for the rest of his life."
"So who's the ghost?" Chris asked.
"Apparently both of them. On stormy nights, Thomas is seen, up there on the light. Strange events in the house - such as blown lights and banging doors are attributed to William."
They had replaced the bulb in the landing light twice already and had now given up trying to fix it.
"Apparently he doesnt do much more than that."
"This is all a nice story, but that's all it is, there are no such things as ghosts," Nathan stated firmly.
"Spoken like a true scientist," Josiah commented.
"Spirit world is as real to the People as this world, you know?"
Nathan sighed. "I'm not disrespecting anyone's beliefs, all I'm saying is I haven't heard or seen anything to make me believe in ghosts."
"You know guys we could keep watch - tonight - on the door, after all with seven of us, we wouldn't have to do much more than an hour or so each," JD suggested.
That night the door was bolted, and they all watched Chris push the bolts home and turn the key in the lock; finally he took the key with him up to bed.
They drew lots to see who took which watch. Nathan had drawn four thirty, JD would follow him. Yawning, he headed downstairs to relieve Buck. He shivered as he arrived on the second floor landing. It had only been three days, but they had already accepted that the light didn't work. As he descended the stairs he could already feel the slight breeze. Looking over the banister, he saw the chair Buck should have been on empty and the door open.
"Damn it!" he cursed and vaulted over the handrail. "Buck!" he called in a stage whisper, there was no response.
Something told him Wilmington wasn't in the house. Grabbing the flashlight and silently complimenting himself on having the forethought to put on his sandals, he headed out. Buck wasn't out on the deck or in the small terrace garden. Standing on the edge of the cliff, he scanned the flashlight beam down the cliff with a lump in his throat. Relieved that he hadn't seen a body sprawled on the rocks at the bottom, he moved the beam out toward the light and its connecting bridge.
"What the hell are you doing all the way out there?" Buck was way out at the base of the lighthouse.
It took him what seemed like an age to get to his friend. Despite calling all the time, Buck didn't respond. By the time Nathan reached him it was clear why he hadn't responded, he was asleep. Standing at the base of the light, he was desperately trying to open the locked door.
"Buck?" Nathan kept his voice low and soft.
"I got to get it off, the light, they can't see the light," Buck muttered.
"It's okay, the light's working just fine." Nathan automatically looked up, and indeed the light was still sending out its beam, two flashes, every fifteen seconds.
"Come on back to the house." Nathan placed his hand over Buck's. "Come on now, its dawn."
Out to sea the sky was beginning to pale. To his great relief Buck let Nathan lift his hand form the door handle and turned away from the lighthouse. As he walked back along the bridge, Nathan could see Chris at the other end, JD and Vin, stood at the top of the cliff.
"Buck?" Chris called.
Nathan quickly singled to him to be quiet and step back.
"What's going on?" he asked Nathan after Buck has passed him.
"He's still asleep, leave him alone he'll go back to bed, I hope. Worst thing we can do is wake him up right now." Chris nodded and signed the others to back off. "Have you seen his feet?"
Nathan nodded. "They can wait until morning, I'd rather he woke up natural than I woke him."
Unlike Nathan, Buck didn't had anything on his feet although they were cut and dirty.
Buck woke early, sunlight flooded in to his room, the drapes were wide open, he could have sworn he drew them last night. As normal his bladder made its presence known and he sat up and swung his legs off the bed. The instant his feet hit the polished floorboard he hissed. Looking down he was shocked to find they were dirty and bloody. There was a light knock at the door.
"Buck?" Nathan called.
"Can I come in?"
"Sure, I guess."
Nathan was carrying his medial bag. "Heard you moving around," he explained.
"Don't lie to me Nate, you were hovering, waiting for me to wake up."
Nathan shrugged and then nodded.
"What happened last night?" Buck asked, still looking at his feet.
"You were sleep walking, took yourself down to the lighthouse, tried to open the door. You remember anything?"
"Nope, kind of remember flashes of dreams, nothing I can pin down." Buck looked back down at his feet. "Made a mess of them, huh?"
"No that bad, I'd say. Let me take a look."
Nathan told Buck to take a long hot bath, with a little antiseptic in the water. Once he was done, he sat on the edge of the bed while Nathan assessed the wounds and dressed the worst ones.
"You ever sleep walked before?" he asked as he worked.
"Nope, not as far as I know. Why'd I do it last night?"
"Who knows, but you have been under a lot of strain lately. Guess it explains why we kept finding the door open."
"Well sure, I told you lot there would be a logical explanation." Nathan looked over his shoulder at Ezra and Chris standing in the doorway of Buck's room. "Take it easy on you feet for a little while, we'll wait on you."
Buck grinned up at Nathan as he stood up. "Well alright."
"Nate, do you know what you just did"? Chris asked.
"It's only for a day or two and he really does need to rest." With that Nathan pushed past them and out into the corridor.
"So it was me all along." Buck looked down at his feet.
"I don't think so," Ezra told him.
"No?" Chris asked.
"You took the key with you to bed, so how did Buck get it? I assume it was still in your room this morning?"
Chris nodded. "Maybe there's a second key?"
"Maybe there is." Ezra turned to Buck. "Do you know were the spare key is?"
"Not a clue."
Ezra gave Chris a 'see, told you so' look. "Besides, if he had used another key, where is it? Not in the lock and Buck didn't have it."
"That's a good point," Chris admitted. "And it wasn't Buck moving the door the other night when there was no wind." Chris turned back to Buck. "Apparently, you told Nathan you had to get something off the light, does that mean anything to you?"
"Nope. This is all too weird." Buck fell back on to the bed.
"Too weird?" Chris asked him.
"Huh?" Buck asked.
"You want to go home?"
Buck pushed himself up on his elbows. "Hell no, two weeks free holiday, an island to ourselves? No way." He dropped back down onto the bed. "I'm just tired is all. So what if this place is haunted? It's not the Amityville Horror."
"You sure pal?"
The next night, at JD's suggestion, they watched in pairs, Buck wasn't involved, he would spend the night in his room, resting his battered feet. JD and Ezra, natural 'night owls' took the first watch - nothing happened. With the early risers taking the last watch, Nathan and Josiah were stuck with the hated middle watch, 1am to 4am.
"You really think this is all explainable?" Josiah asked his friend as he sipped on a fresh mug of coffee.
"Sure, the light fitting is probably faulty, the landing feels cold - it's probably better ventilated than the bedrooms is all, so we perceive it as cold. Buck has been sleep walking, leaving the door open." He pointed to the door. "That lock is old, we have no idea how secure it is, after all why did the owners fit two huge bolts?"
Josiah got up, walked to the door, pulled back the bolts and tried to open the door. It didn't move.
"It seems to be pretty secure to me."
"Tonight, we can't be sure it was as secure last night, we still don't know if there is or was a second key - you'd be amazed what people can do in their sleep. Buck may have seen the key, but not remember, but his subconscious still knew were it was."
Josiah pushed the bolts back and returned to his seat. "What about the door that banged with no wind?"
"Who knows, maybe we had a quake?"
"Sure, it can happen, a really small one could set a door swinging and we might never feel it."
Josiah mentally shook his head, if a ghost didn't jump up and bite Nathan on the ass, he'd never believe in it. Reaching down he flicked on the little radio he'd brought with him.
"It looks like we're heading for some unseasonable weather folks. A severe weather warning has been issued for tomorrow, covering the New England coast and Brunswick. High winds and heavy rain is predicted. Doesnt sound like it's a good day to take the boat out folks."
The two agents were distracted from the weather report by footsteps above them. Both men stood up and looked up at the stairs. As they watched, Buck, dressed in nothing but his boxer shorts, came down, walking on wounded feet as if there was nothing wrong with them.
"Is he?" Josiah asked.
Nathan nodded. "He's asleep."
Josiah watched Buck, his eyes were open, if you didn't know him, you'd never know he was still asleep. As they followed his progress, both men turned back to face the back door - it stood wide open. No one had been in the passage with them, no one could have passed them while their backs were turned, for the passage was narrow and their large frames blocked it completely as they stood to one side of the staircase, their chairs still behind them. They had heard no noise as bolts and lock were released.
"You ready to believe now brother?" Josiah whispered.
Nathan just shook his head and followed Buck outside.
"His feet are in no state for another trip down to the lighthouse."
"Do we wake him up?"
"Not if we can help it. Get ahead of him close the gate at the head of the steps."
Josiah nodded and, after a wide detour around their somnambulistic friend, jogged over to the gate, grateful for the strong moonlight. Standing on the far side of the gate he shut it and held on to it, since there was no way to lock it. Buck approached, he stopped at the gate and didn't move; he made no attempt to open it or walk into it.
"Time to go back to bed now Buck?" Nathan encouraged gently.
Buck simply frowned and turned his head to the light.
"Come on brother, let's go back to bed," Josiah encouraged softly.
Buck's head whipped back to stare at Josiah. "Thomas is it you?" he asked.
For a moment Josiah didn't answer, finally he said. "Yes brother, it's time to go to bed now."
"But the light " Buck protested.
"The light is fine, come on, time for bed."
"Are you sure?"
Josiah released the gate and stepped over it. "I am, come with me." Gently placing his hand on Buck's shoulder he turned him back toward the house.
Chris and Vin were on the terrace as they returned, watching in silence as Buck once more mounted the stairs and returned to his own room, Josiah following him protectively.
"Tell me," Chris demanded of Nathan.
By the time Nathan had told it all Josiah was back. "He's fine, sleeping like a baby," he told them.
"We need to talk about this whole situation. Let's get the others," Chris told them.
"Just hold yer horses there Cowboy," Vin cut in. "If we have a meeting, then Buck needs to be there, it's not right to talk stuff that concerns him without him being there and right now he needs his sleep," Vin stated firmly. "Right?"
Nathan nodded. "It would be best if he was left to wake up naturally."
Chris took a deep breath. "Okay, as soon as we're all up."
Buck found it disconcerting enough that he'd been sleep walking, that he seemed to think, albeit in a dream, that he was the mad lighthouse keeper wasn't a pleasant thought. Still he didn't remember it and no one was getting hurt, other than his feet, so he didn't see why they should leave.
"Besides, what do we tell Travis?" he reasoned. "Sorry Boss, we disobeyed orders because of the things that go bump in the night."
"You're sure?" Chris had given Buck the first vote, knowing that if he wanted to leave the others would back him.
Chris nodded and turned to the others in turn. JD thought the whole thing was cool. Vin didn't see a problem, as far as he was concerned they were all living with spirits all the time. Nathan seemed to think it a fascinating experiment, though he was concerned for Buck's well being. Josiah wasn't so sure it was a good idea to stay, but was willing to go along with the others.
"Personally I have not experienced any phenomena, possibly because my room is in a more modern part of the building, but I must confess it adds a little excitement to this sojourn by the sea."
"Ezra votes we stay," Chris translated. "And so do I. Right so now that it's all settled, what are we going to do today?"
"Not much, haven't you seen the weather reports?" Vin asked.
"Can't say I have."
"Big storm coming," Josiah told him.
"A good day to read a book and do nothing then?" Ezra asked.
"That's all you ever do on vacation," JD pointed out.
"So glad you noticed."
As the weather deteriorated, they did indeed retreat inside and enjoy a quiet day doing nothing. Outside the wind built steadily. Rain came just after four, by seven it was coming almost horizontally. They turned on the television to see what the latest weather report was. The man in front of the weather map looked suspiciously jolly, considering the weather outside.
"Apparently," he began. "a woman called in to say she'd heard there was a hurricane coming. Well don't worry, there isn't, but it is going to be very windy. An unseasonably deep depression is moving down from the Arctic and we are going to get sideswiped by the trail. So close the shutters, bring the dog in, make sure the boat is well secured and have a cozy night in."
By nine any thought of a cozy night in was gone. The red painted tin roof was holding up, most of the windows were shuttered, but the shingles on the more modern garage were already lifting. As the rain became what Josiah called 'biblical' - water running down the hillside behind the house threatened to pour into the house through the front door. Sandbags were improvised, using garbage sacks filled with earth. Filling and stacking these bags - a task of such urgency, even Ezra helped - soaked everyone to the skin and forced them all to change their clothes. Most of then were still upstairs when the power went out. Muttered curses, bumps and yelps issued as they fumbled for flashlights, or tried to navigate by the light of a cell phone screen or illuminated watch dial. A quick check revealed that the phone was dead and the cell phone network they all relied on was down, as was the one for Ezra's second cell phone.
The scented candles decorating the fireplace were put to a more practical use and more work-a-day candles and hurricane lamps were located in the kitchen. Josiah's little battery powered radio managed to pick up the local station, though the reception was very poor.
"Okay folks we've got ourselves a real storm here. We have numerous reports of flash flooding, fallen trees, brides under water and flying debris. Apparently the storm that was meant to pass by out at sea has turned inland. This is going to be a rough night. The police advice is " Suddenly they lost the signal, getting nothing but static.
"Guess we're stuck here then," Ezra commented.
Six pairs of eyes turned to JD. "Cool?" Nathan finally asked.
"Yeah, trapped in a haunted house by a huge storm, no power; it's cool - right?"
"No," Chris stated firmly.
"Oh come on guys, it's like Scooby Doo."
"Kid, I don't think our ghost is going to turn out to be the owner of the old amusement park," Buck told him firmly.
"Well duh, I know that, but it is kinda like Scooby Doo, don't you think?"
Buck shook his head. "Boy needs to get out more."
As more of the garage roof was blown off and branches began to be blown off trees there came a crash from the front of the house. It was hard to see with only a flashlight, but it looked as if a falling branch had hit their third car, the one that couldn't fit in the garage, not that being in the garage was offering much protection to the other vehicles.
A few hours later there came a loud crash from upstairs, followed by a banging.
"Sounds like my room," Buck commented as he got up and switched on one of the flashlights.
"I'll come with you." Ezra rose to go with him.
"We'll all come," Chris stated.
"Oh for God's sake guys, it's mostly likely just the shutters, me and Ez can handle it."
"I assure you, any spectres appear I will call for assistance," Ezra told Chris.
The shutters in Buck's room had blown open and some of the glass had been broken. It took both of them some time to pull wildly flapping shutters back and latch them. Suddenly there was another loud bang from downstairs.
"Good Lord, now what?"
"Go and see, I'll just kick some of this glass out of the way," Buck told his friend.
Ezra nodded and crossed the dark room to the open door. Down in the hallway, the back door had blown open again. Hurricane lamps illuminated the scene as the men below struggled to close it again. Deciding there was more than enough manpower to get the job done he decided to just observe. As he stood there a cold blast of air literally rushed past him.
In the bedroom Buck could hear the voices downstairs, as he kicked broken glass from the centre of the room back to the edge. Suddenly his flashlight failed. Standing up he gave it a sturdy tap, but it remained dead. The lanterns downstairs were providing a faint light, enough for him to pick out the open door. He was about to walk toward it, when the shutters flew open again.
"Oh for the love of " He turned to call to Ezra, only to see a figure standing in the doorway.
"Vin?" he called out, for the man did look like Tanner, same lean frame, shoulder length tousled hair, stripped to the waist, in light trousers.
As the man moved into the room it was clear he wasn't Vin. This man was older, closer to Buck's own age, he didn't look at Buck, he didn't speak. As he watched - transfixed - the man walked to the open window and looked out, finally he lifted an arm and pointed. Buck tore his gaze from the apparition - for that was what it had to be - and followed the ghostly gaze.
Outside it was dark, so dark you couldn't see more than three inches past the windowsill.
"What? What am I meant to see?" Buck asked.
The figure just continued to point. Buck turned back to the window. It took him a few moments to realise he should be able to see something, he should be able to see the beam of the lighthouse, on this night of all nights. He counted to fifteen, there was no beam of white light, but he thought he saw a weak yellow glow blink on and off and on and off then it was gone. Fifteen seconds later it was back. It might be a light, but no ship could see it in time to save them from hitting the headland and its shoals.
Turning back, Buck found the spectral figure had gone. Quickly pulling the shutters back and latching them, he headed for the stairs. Downstairs the others were still fighting to get the door closed, storm or no storm it seemed to have a mind of its own.
"Forget the door, there's something wrong with the light, we need to sort it out!" he shouted as he ran past Ezra and descended the stairs three at a time.
He was almost outside before the others even reacted, or noticed that the excessive pull the door had on them had vanished. Suddenly Chriss hand shot out and caught Buck's bicep.
"Hold it!" he yelled above the roar of the storm.
"Chris I'm telling you the light has failed, we have to do something," Buck pleaded. "Take a look for yourself!"
All seven turned toward the light, like Buck all they saw was a faint yellow glow.
"Damn it!" Josiah cursed. "He's right."
"What can we do, it's locked?" Nathan pointed out.
Buck and Chris looked at each other and then at Josiah. "Ezra!" they yelled as one.
In the driving rain and with only flashlights and hurricane lamps it was impossible to be sure what was wrong with light. Ezra was trying to see through the rain to pick the door lock with the aid of two flashlights held by Vin and Chris. It wasn't a complicated lock, just a heavy one.
"Got it," he announced, as the lock turned.
The lighthouse had its own storm proof power system, so the lights came on as soon as Vin found the switch. It wasn't a particularly tall structure and the door was half way up, so it only took a few seconds, for Buck - who'd barged past the others - to charge up the spiral staircase. Even as he opened the door to the lantern room it was clear the light itself was working, it blinked on, briefly illuminating the room. It may not have been for long but it gave him enough time to see what the problem was. Rigging, and in particular, sails from some ill-fated yacht were wrapped around the top of the light, entangled in the railings and enveloping the relatively small lantern.
Chris emerged behind Buck, took one look and turned to look down at the others. "Josiah, JD, Ezra, head back to the house see what cutting gear you can fine, knives, hatchets, scissors, garden shears, anything that'll cut."
"You got it!" JD shouted.
"I've got a knife!" Vin bellowed, already climbing the stairs.
"Of course," Chris commented. "Nate, see if there is any way to contact the authorities."
Buck was already outside, doing his best in the teeth of the storm, which was now verging on a hurricane, trying to pull the sails away. In near total darkness, the gusting wind was thwarting his efforts. Steel cables and nylon ropes whipped wildly around him and now Vin and Chris. There was a section of what they took to be mast, jammed through the railings, and a smaller pole, probably the boom, blocking the walkway they were working on. With only a knife, they were limited in what they could do, the sail itself had a steel cable sewn into the hem. So while they waited for heavier cutting equipment, they cut away the nylon ropes and tried to shove the mast free of the railings and failed, it was jammed in too tight.
Nathan arrived to report the only emergency contact information was a phone number, which until the storm abated and the cell phone networks were back up, was of no use to them. A rope with some kind of metal attachment suddenly whipped up and caught Chris across the ear. Blood instantly began to flow freely.
"Chris, let me see that!" Nathan shouted.
"Go Cowboy, me and Bucklin got this covered until the cavalry arrives. 'Sides, there ain't hardly room up here for more than two of us."
Chris looked at Vin, in truth he was feeling more than a little groggy and nauseated. Nodding once, he ducked back down into the body of the lighthouse. Vin and Buck managed to cut away most of the rope, while they waited for the others to return, both of them were hit by debris, but neither was hurt anywhere near as badly as Chris. The others returned with a meat cleaver, a hatchet and some garden cutters.
There really wasn't enough room for more than three to work outside, so only Josiah joined Buck and Vin. They managed to cut through the reinforced hem of the sail, after which Vin's knife cut the heavy nylon freely until it hit a seam, which only the garden cutters would cut. While he worked on the sail, Josiah and Buck tried to get the broken rigging clear. Unbeknownst to them, the broken section of boom was still attached to the mast section. Having hacked at the various attachments to the mast it finally began to respond to their attempts to shove it back through the railing and down into the wild waves. Suddenly it came free and fell. The boom section was suddenly and unexpectedly whipped away from the light, Josiah was closest and ducked. Buck, with his back to it, didn't get enough warning, it struck him on the side of the head and shoulder just before it was dragged over the edge and down to oblivion in the waves.
Buck fell; pole axed, he crumpled in a heap, his right hand falling through the railings, were it instantly waved swung, limp and lifeless, in the wind.
"BUCK!" Vin cried as he turned to him. "NATHAN!"
The newly cleared light all by blinded them as Vin and Nathan carried Buck down into the little room below the lamp. Blood covered the whole side of his face, his shirt was ripped and soaked in blood.
Even as Nathan was making his assessment, Ezra came to the top of the stairs. "We have to go now," he announced.
"Not just yet, I need to see how bad this is," Nathan told him.
"Now, the walkway is beginning to give way!"
There was no time to waste. If the wooden walkway out to the light was washed way, they'd be trapped in the little lighthouse until the storm abated. Chris was still unsteady on his feet, his head still bleeding. Vin helped him along as Josiah and Nathan carried Buck. Waves were washing over the narrow structure, one of the smaller support legs had already given way, the main one in the middle had come loose from its fittings and was swaying alarmingly. The wave and lying water made it hard to keep on their feet. Ezra was at the back, he was almost home when the walkway finally washed away under him. Luckily he was almost at the end, the water below him was only about a foot deep, but the rocks were treacherous. His yelp of alarm and pain drew Josiah's attention to his plight, but since he was carrying Buck he wasn't able to offer instant aid.
Ezra, in intense pain, had a death grip on what remained of the landward side of the walkway, was knee deep in water, with waves washing over him.
"JD, get back here and help Ezra!" Josiah bellowed.
JD scooted past the others as he headed back to Ezra, it wasn't hard to get him up onto dry land - thought 'dry land' was a relative term. It wasn't hard to do, but it was painful, Ezra wasn't able to put any weight on his right ankle. It took all of them some time to make it up to the house, not knowing if the building would still be there. Half way up the steps a tree had fallen across the steps, it took some time to climb over it, and Vin had to leave Chris briefly to help Ezra over. Finally, soaked, cold and battered, they crested the cliff and were relieved to see the house was still intact. Branches and other debris littered the ground all around it, several stutters had blown open, at least one first floor window was broken, but the roof was still on.
"They built them to last back then," Josiah commented.
In the living room the wounded were placed on couches, Josiah and Vin held a flashlight and a lantern apiece as Nathan continued to check on Buck, when JD ran back into the room with Nathan's medical bag.
"What's wrong?" he asked anxiously.
"Just give me a moment." Nathan was cutting Buck's shirt away. "Ezra, how you doing?" he called as he worked.
"I'm fine, don't concern yourself with me."
"The truth Ezra, now!"
"I believe my ankle to be badly sprained or broken, I have some cuts to my lower leg and a rather large splinter in my hand."
"JD? Take his boots off, elevate the injured ankle and see if you can find some ice for it."
"I'm on it," JD called as he set about his task.
"Chris?" Nathan called.
"What year is it?"
Nathan looked over at Larabee, who was sitting in the recliner holding a towel to his head.
"I like Christmas."
Nathan just rolled his eyes and turned back to Buck. "Guys put the lamps down. Vin give your flashlight to Josiah and go and check on Chris, keep him awake. JD?"
"What you got?"
"Frozen sweetcorn, not defrosted yet."
"Good, put it on Ezra's ankle and go get all of us some dry clothes and towels."
"Flying." Vin told him. "What about Buck?"
Nathan was still working on that. "His shoulder's badly torn up, he's got a nasty gash on his head." He was about to say something about Buck still being unconscious and how this was very worrying when his patient groaned. "Buck?"
"Come on open your eyes."
"Yes, come on."
Slowly and reluctantly Buck forced his eyes open. "'M still alive?"
"Last time I checked."
Buck closed his eyes again. "Should have known it, dying wouldn't hurt his bad."
"Just lie still, and I'll have you fixed up in no time."
"We get the light working again?"
"We did," Josiah told him.
"Everyone else okay?"
"More or less, Ezra hurt his ankle, Chris took a whack to the head - you remember that?"
"Well he's flying right now, but he'll be fine."
"Christmas trees and candy canes," Chris muttered.
It took another hour to get everyone in dry clothing, their wounds all seen to and resting as comfortably as possible. Chris was snoring gently, Buck, who'd been dozing, suddenly opened his eyes.
"Oh my God, that's it!" he gasped.
"What?" JD asked.
"The two brothers, that's what happened to them, that's how Thomas was killed. William didn't kill him, it was an accident." The others frowned at him. "No, think about it, Thomas died from blunt force trauma and was covered bruises, it must have been from some rigging, like us. William was driven insane, having to watch his bother's body waving to him everyday, calling for help he couldn't bring him. So he couldn't tell them what happened, he was condemned as a killer unjustly."
"All these years, all he's wanted was to clear his name," Vin realised.
"And we'll see that it is," Josiah confirmed.
"How?" Ezra asked. "All we have is speculation."
"Maybe it's enough that we know," Buck speculated. "That someone knows, someone understands."
Just then a terrible ripping sound from above them drew their attention back to the storm outside.
"I'll go." Vin stood.
"I'll come with you." JD followed him out.
The roof had finally succumbed to the wind, one corner had, the corner over Buck's room. Water sprayed in as it flapped back and forth. There was nothing the two men could do other than gather Buck's possessions and anything else they could carry, and move it to a dry room. Half an hour later they returned downstairs.
"Buck?" Vin asked softly.
Buck had his eyes closed again.
"Found your little black book, thought you'd want it safe." He handed over the small black, leather bound book.
Buck frowned. "That's not mine."
"But it says 'Buck' inside the front cover." Vin showed him.
"Not mine, I swear."
Josiah reached over. "Let me see that."
A few moments later Josiah looked up. "This is William's diary - Buck is sometimes a familiar name for boys named William," he began.
"He must have hidden it in the roof, storm brought it down." JD realised.
Josiah continued. "He explains how his brother died, just the way Buck said, and the torment he suffered after. Eventually there is no more than scribbles, then nothing." He looked up and around the room. "We understand now, we'll clear your name."
Buck looked past Josiah, there stood William, just as he had seen him before, in the bedroom, only now he was smiling, then he was gone.
"You see that?" he asked.
"See what?" JD responded.
Buck smiled "It doesn't matter, he's gone now."
"It's nothing, it's all okay now." JD still frowned at him. "Honestly, everything is going to be fine now."
As if in answer to his statement, the wind outside dropped, the storm was finally passing.