Author's Note: A modern AU where the Seven are paranormal investigators.
Checking the address one last time, JD Dunne swung his car into the driveway and parked. Getting out and looking around, he didn't notice anything unusual, but then, they rarely did. The house was a nice-looking ranch, well kept, surrounded by multiple flowerbeds.
He walked up the sidewalk, stood on the cement slab porch, and rang the bell. An extremely attractive lady in her late twenties opened the door. She swept her long, dark hair behind her ear and asked, "May I help you?"
"Yes, ma'am. My name is John Dunne. I'm an Investigator from the OSIR."
"The Office of Scientific Investigation and Research. I believe you called about a possible haunting?"
"No, I'm sorry. You must be mistaken."
JD was accustomed to clients changing their minds. What appeared so real in the dead of night often seemed silly in the bright light of day. People hated to think something otherworldly could be at work around them.
"Are you sure?" He wanted to give her one last chance to retain their services.
"Yes, now please leave." She shut the door in JD's face, ending the conversation.
Shrugging, JD went back to his car. He had a short drive and a long flight ahead of him; he hated wasted time. As his hand lifted the door handle, he heard a shout.
"Wait! Wait a minute!"
Turning, JD saw a man running from the house, hands held in front of him. "Please, don't leave. I did call you."
JD glanced at the door and saw the woman standing with her arms crossed. "She doesn't look too happy about it."
"She's not," the man answered. "My wife refuses to believe in ghosts." He motioned to the house. "Actually, before this, neither did I." Sticking out a hand, he introduced himself, "Alan Decker."
"John Dunne, nice to meet you."
"I really do appreciate you coming."
Leading JD back to the house, Alan directed his visitor into the living room. Mrs. Decker was nowhere in sight.
Alan smiled as he ruefully admitted, "Now that I have you here, I'm not quite sure where to begin."
Sitting down opposite Decker, JD said, "Why don't you tell me about the incidents you say have been occurring?" Taking out a notebook and pen, the young man prepared to take notes.
"Well, as I told your organization over the phone, strange things have been happening for the last few months maybe even before. It just took me a while to realize they weren't normal. They were little things at first."
"Such as?" JD prompted.
"Items that had been moved, or were missing altogether. I'd put my keys down somewhere and when I came back, they had been moved."
"Are you sure your wife didn't move them?"
"That's what I thought at first," Alan admitted. "Evelyn and I were recently married, so I figured it was just two people learning to live together. But she adamantly denied touching anything. Most of the time when things happened, she was in another part of the house."
"Do you believe her when she denied moving things?"
"Oh, yes. She convinced me quite vehemently."
Eyeing the house with a practiced eye, JD said, "It looks like you don't have any children. Is that right?"
Alan shook his head sadly. "Evelyn can't conceive. I've suggested adopting, but she's refused to even consider it." Lowering his voice, Alan added, "I think she's too upset at not being able to have one of her own."
"How long have you lived here?"
"About seven years. My wife joined me when we got married five months ago."
A strident voice interrupted the conversation. "I'll be staying at a hotel until you are done with your games," Evelyn Decker announced, entering the kitchen, dragging a wheeled suitcase behind her.
"Honey, please " Alan said, attempting to placate his irate wife.
"Absolutely not. I told you I didn't want them here and I refuse to stay while these ghost busters," she scathingly enunciated, "invade my home." She turned and stormed from the room; her husband chased after her.
JD remained seated. He didn't want to get in the middle of a domestic quarrel. A few minutes later, Alan returned, an abashed look on his face.
"Sorry about that. She really doesn't want you here."
"Maybe I should leave"
"No! No, please. I can't take the uncertainty any more. It's getting to be too much to ignore."
"Too much?" JD asked, hoping Alan would elaborate.
"The last couple of weeks, the little stuff has almost ceased, but it's been replaced by other thingsbigger things."
Knowing people could be hesitant about describing possible paranormal events, JD gently probed, "What things?"
"It's probably best if I show you." Standing, Alan said, "Follow me."
Leading the way, he went down the hall, stopping at the last door on the end. "This used to be our bedroom, but now we sleep in the guest room." Decker took a deep breath, releasing it as he turned the knob and pushed the door open.
JD stepped inside the room, his gaze sweeping the area. On the northern wall, blood-red symbols had been drawn. Each was anywhere from one to five inches tall. They had the look of inkblots in a Rorschach test. Randomly spaced, they seemed to shine against their white-walled backdrop.
"When did they appear?" Dunne asked him.
"The first was about a week ago." Alan pointed to one in the far left corner of the room.
JD guesstimated there to be about forty of the figures now. "Wow."
"Here comes another one." Refusing to step into the room, Decker motioned at a spot to JD's right. "Right there."
As if painted by an invisible brush, a new symbol appeared. Both men remained silent until the symbol was completed.
Unable to stop staring, JD announced, "I'll call my team in."
Vin quietly walked down the steps into the basement, seeing Buck on a ladder. Wilmington had lifted a ceiling panel in order to peer into the shadows.
Startled, Buck dropped the flashlight he'd been holding; it bounced off his head on its way to the floor. "Goddammit!" He rubbed his head, scowling. "Why can't you announce yourself like normal people?"
"I thought I just did," Vin said, turning his head to hide the smirk. "Have you found anything useful?"
As a licensed contractor, Wilmington inspected each potential haunt site to make certain there wasn't a reasonable, non-paranormal explanation for the disturbances.
"Nah," Buck said, retrieving the rubber-coated flashlight. "This home is in great shape. Wish mine was built this well. Of course this one's only fourteen years old." He glanced at the young Texan. "You feel anything?"
"Can't say." Vin was a sensitive, a medium, and he could sense the presence of ghosts and mystical occurrences. But he refused to share his impressions about a place before all the standard research was done. He didn't want to influence the others' investigations.
"Come on, Vin, just a hint. You know we're about done here."
Tanner turned to face his teammate. "Then you won't have long to wait 'til I tell y'all."
"I hate it when you do that," Buck grumbled.
"I know," Vin called over his shoulder, retreating up the stairs. He wanted to finish his "psychic inspection" of the house and grounds before the rest of the team invaded the location. He had already scouted the house on his arrival. The front door opened into a small foyer, then to the living room. Off to the right was the kitchen, with the dining room just beyond. The door to the basement was in the kitchen as well. Through the living room was the main hall leading to two bedrooms, a bath, and an office.
Vin passed Ezra and Josiah in the dining room, setting up their "command post." Officially, Standish was in charge of the equipment, its maintenance and use, but everyone helped everyone else. There was just too much to be done, so each member of the team pulled double- or triple-duty.
After calling for the rest of the team, JD had gone directly to the local Department of Building and Zoning to research the house. Nathan had joined him there, checking the house's permits and records for anything out of the ordinary.
Something was pulling at him from the rear of the house, but Tanner couldn't tell specifically what it was. That was the problem with his gift. It wasn't exact, often giving him vague impressions or feelings. But, he had to admit, this house carried some of the most puzzling "vibes" he'd ever felt. And it was unusual to find them in such a young house.
No use putting it off any longer, Vin thought. He strode to the rear bedroom and placed his hand on the doorknob. Unknowingly, he mimicked Alan Decker's earlier actions, taking a deep breath before opening the door. A wave of disappointment brushed past him as he entered.
It seemed colder in this room than in the rest of the house. He would have to ask Ezra to set up a thermistor in here.
Stepping into the room, Vin chuckled when he saw Standish had already set up a temperature sensor at the foot of the bed.
I shoulda known Ez would be one step ahead o' me, Vin thought.
His lighthearted mood vanished almost immediately, overpowered by a feeling of great loss. Bringing his focus around, Vin moved toward the wall with the red writing. He held his right hand out, palm an inch away from the surface. Keeping it steady, he closed his eyes, willing his power to accept what could be sent.
Indistinct and unsettling images flashed through his mind. Before he could understand them, something brushed against his palm.
Startled, his eyes flew open. The wall had expanded outward and now rested against his hand. A burst of heat flashed through it and he jerked his hand back, cradling it to his chest. When he looked at the wall, it had returned to its correct position. Wondering if he had imagined it, Vin glanced at his palm to see one of the symbols imprinted there.
All righty then. Carefully, Vin touched the mark, but it no longer hurt. Going into the connecting bathroom, he attempted to wash it off, but it was there to stay at least for the moment.
* * * * *
Josiah connected his last wire and motioned to Ezra he was going to the adjacent room. Standish nodded distractedly, already studying the readings emanating from his equipment.
Walking into the living room, Josiah saw their client, Alan Decker, sitting on a recliner. He seemed to be in a state of mild shock, staring blankly at something in the distance. As the team's counselor, Josiah knew he would have to tread carefully.
Sitting down on the sofa across from him, Josiah softly asked, "Mr. Decker?"
Alan looked up.
"My name is Josiah Sanchez. I'd like to talk to you, if I could."
"Um, yeah, of course."
"I'm sure this is a bit surreal for you, to say the least."
"Yeah, you could say that." Alan ran his fingers through his hair.
"I need to ask you some questions. Now, I realize you may have answered them earlier with my colleague, Mr. Dunne, but I have to ask them just the same."
"Emergency Room," Alan mumbled.
"Excuse me?" Sanchez asked, puzzled by the non sequitur.
"When you go into the hospital, you have to answer the same damn questions at least three times."
Josiah laughed. "I guess it is a little like that, sir."
"When was it you first noticed something unusual happening?"
"About three months ago."
"And what incidents occurred at that time?"
Alan repeated what he had told Dunne earlier; Josiah took detailed notes.
"Would it be possible to speak to your wife, Mr. Decker?"
"No." Alan shook his head. "No way."
"And why is that?"
"She finds this whole thing ridiculous. She said I'm imagining things." Alan laughed sharply. "But I know I'm not," he adamantly stated.
"Since she is unavailable, could you answer some questions about her?" Josiah asked gently.
"We like to take everything and everyone on the site into consideration," the counselor explained. "Even the tiniest detail might be useful."
"I'll tell you what I can," Alan agreed. He answered questions while Josiah wrote the information down. "I just want to know what is going on," Decker said after the interview was complete.
"We'll do our best to find you some answers, sir." Josiah excused himself, settling in the kitchen to review his notes.
Larabee heard JD's call as he walked up the sidewalk to the Decker residence. He stood on the porch and watched his investigators approach.
"Any trouble finding the place?" Nathan asked him.
"Not a one."
JD let them into the house; Alan was stretched out on the couch with the remote in his hand, staring blankly at the television.
"Mr. Decker, let me introduce you to our Case Manager, Chris Larabee."
Alan stood, extending his hand. "Pleasure."
"Likewise," Chris responded. "Sorry it has to be under such unusual circumstances."
"I have faith in your team."
The C.M. smiled. "It's well-earned; they always do their best." Dismissing himself, Chris caught up with Nathan. "I'll want to hear everyone's reports," he stated.
"We can gather in the kitchen," Nathan suggested. "I'll get everyone."
* * * * *
A few minutes later, Chris, Nathan, Ezra, and JD took the seats around the table. Josiah grabbed a chair from the dining room and settled in behind JD. Vin hopped onto the counter while Buck leaned against it. Alan stood in the doorway, waiting for the meeting to begin.
Catching Josiah's eye, Chris jerked his head infinitesimally at Decker.
Josiah nodded his understanding. Standing, he moved to Alan's side. "Perhaps you'd be more comfortable with your wife in a hotel, Mr. Decker."
"Absolutely not," the homeowner protested. "I'm staying here."
"Of course," Josiah said soothingly. "But for the purpose of impartiality, would you mind waiting outside so we can discuss your case? We don't want anything said here to affect you or your surroundings."
"Yes," Decker agreed, "I can do that."
"Thank you, Mr. Decker," Nathan said, "we shouldn't be too long."
"Take your time. I just want this solved." Decker walked out of the room. They heard the front door open and close.
Josiah retook his seat as Chris started the meeting. "Nathan, JD, what did you find out about the house?"
"Our trip to the County Courthouse brought up nothing," Nathan reported. "No renovations have been made since the house was built. No problems have been reported in the surrounding community either."
"And there are no major power lines, airports, disused sewers, etc. around that could be affecting the grounds," JD added.
Chris made a notation in his notebook. "Buck?"
"The house is structurally sound. Plumbing is well kept, electrical wiring top notch, and the foundation is in excellent condition. No mice, no bugs." Buck shrugged and smiled. "It's a damn fine house, pard."
"How about you, Josiah?"
"I reviewed my own interview notes and compared them to JD's. Decker's answers were the same for both, but not identical . He wasn't just repeating a fabricated story."
"What's your take?"
"Alan honestly believes there is a paranormal presence here."
Standish checked his readings before answering. "The temperature of the house is set at a comfortable seventy-one degrees Fahrenheit. When I started recording, it was sixty-eight. It has gone down roughly one degree per hour for the past three hours and continues its descent." Displaying a printout, he added, "Incredibly, the temperature in the master bedroom has remained approximately five degrees colder than the rest of the house."
"The house wasn't cold when I first arrived," JD said, interrupting Ezra's report. "The bedroom was a bit chilly, but that could have been a blocked vent."
"All the vents are clear," Buck asserted.
Nathan mused, "So the house's temp has lowered since your arrival."
"And Mrs. Decker's departure," Josiah added thoughtfully.
"Do you think the wife could have anything to do with this?" Chris asked them.
"It would be unusual to have this many residuals from someone gone that long," Nathan said. "Normally the energy dissipates quickly."
"From what little I saw," JD muttered, "she has enough negative energy to power a battleship."
Josiah and Buck both chuckled.
Ignoring his men's amusement, Larabee's attention stayed on Standish. "What about the other sensors?" he asked the man.
Paging through the papers, Ezra said, "I had a spike on the denometer in the back bedroom at 10:37 this morning."
"Electromagnetic energy? From what?"
"I can't say. I set up a video camera and infrared in the room to try and capture anything else."
"What about the markings?" Chris asked, recalling the wall of symbols he had seen in the bedroom.
"I took digital and chemical pictures of the symbols." Standish handed the photographs to Wilmington, who was standing behind him.
Buck flipped through them before passing them along. "What do you think they stand for?"
"They look meaningless," JD scoffed.
"They probably aren't meaningless to whatever drew them," Chris snapped.
"So," JD said and lifted his brows, "I guess I should scan them into my laptop and do some research?"
"Good call," Chris answered swiftly. "Anything else, Ezra?" The technician shook his head. "All right then," he said. "Vin?"
Vin nodded slowly. "There's definitely something here."
"Ha, I knew it," Buck cackled. "You owe me twenty, Ez."
"Mr. Wilmington, could we please discuss this at another, more appropriate, time?"
"Just don't be forgetting to hand over the twenty during the 'discussion.'"
"If y'all don't mind," Chris interrupted, "I'd like to finish this meeting today."
Buck and Ezra shut their mouths and turned angelic expressions on their boss.
Chris didn't buy it for a moment. Sighing heavily he asked, "What did you come up with, Vin?"
"The outside is clean. I didn't get anything. Inside the house I felt an overall sense of sadness or loss. When I went into the back bedroom it was amplified. As for the symbols," Tanner said, offering his explanation, "I think the spirits are trying to communicate. And, uh " He hesitated.
Chris grew suspicious. "What is it?"
Vin slid from his perch and approached the table. Slowly he put his hand out, exposing his marked palm to the group.
"What the hell is that?" Chris growled. "Nathan, take a look." As well as being a parapsychologist, Jackson had also trained as a medic.
"It happened in the bedroom," Vin offered, letting his palm be examined.
"When?" Josiah asked, leaning over to get a look.
"At 10:37 same time as Ez picked up that spike." Vin described how the wall bulged to rest against his hand.
"And you're just saying something now?" Chris asked, frustrated.
Vin shrugged. "No time like the present."
Chris rolled his eyes. "Ezra, get documentation."
Ezra already had his camera out, snapping pictures of Vin's hand while Nathan probed it.
Finally tired of the attention, Vin snatched his hand back, resuming his position on the countertop.
Chris looked meaningfully at Nathan.
"I can't see any physical damage," Jackson said. "It's almost like it's an old tattoo."
Buck sidled up next to JD. "Still think it's meaningless?" He nudged the younger man.
"Knock it off, Buck," JD snapped.
Tuning out his colleagues, Vin focused on the intensity of the mystical presence. Ever since Alan had walked out the door, it had been steadily increasing, but now it was undeniably strong. He hopped off the counter, moving slowly into the living room.
"It changed "
"What is it, Vin?" Chris asked. He and the rest of the team followed the medium.
"Shh." Vin continued his journey. He stopped in front of the couch, moving his hands around as if feeling the air. Walking to the front foyer, he closed his eyes. "Frustration," he said after a few moments.
"What?" Chris asked softly, as if afraid to be shushed again.
"They're getting nervous scared."
Before Vin could answer, the front door opened and Alan stepped inside. He saw the team gathered around and stuttered, "M-my neighbors were beginning to wonder why I was pacing out front, so I"
A sharp crash cut him off. A picture frame sitting on the mantel had fallen, smashing its glass on the marble fireplace.
"What the ?"
The room began to vibrate vigorously, shaking more knickknacks and tipping over a lamp. Everyone staggered, trying to keep their balance while avoiding falling objects.
A heavy crystal flower vase flew across the room, headed straight for Alan's head.
Reacting instinctively, Vin flung out an arm, managing to deflect the container, but its extreme velocity brutally smashed it against his wrist.
All activity ceased.
"Son-of-a-bitch," Vin cursed, cradling his arm.
Nathan and Chris hurried to Vin's side; Buck and Josiah pulled Decker between them, as if to shield him from any further onslaught.
But nothing else stirred.
"Vin needs a doctor," Nathan stated. "There's imbedded glass, and his wrist is most likely broken."
"It is," Vin said with a moan.
"All right, Nathan," Chris said, "you and Buck get him to a hospital. We'll work on this end."
Vin was hustled away as Larabee bellowed, "JD, you got anything on those symbols yet?"
Returning to the waiting room, Nathan sat next to Buck.
"How is he?" Buck asked him.
"Broken wrist as suspected. The doctor removed the glass fragments without too much difficulty. They'll have to wait to put on a cast until his wounds heal." Nathan leaned his head back against the wall. "They're wrapping it up now."
"What story did he give the doc?"
"Vin told him he got into an argument with a ghost."
"And they believed him?"
Nathan snorted. "Of course not. They hear so many crazy stories, one more didn't even raise an eyebrow."
"By the way," Buck said, "Chris called again."
"I'll let Vin call him back," the parapsychologist said with a smile. "It's between them anyway." Looking at the door from which he had emerged minutes before, Nathan said, "Speak of the devil."
* * * * *
Vin pushed the door open with his left hand, inwardly cursing the fact he had stopped the flying vase with his dominant hand. Now he was next to helpless, his right arm in a sling. Praise the Almighty for painkillers, he blissfully thought. It no longer felt as though a colony of fire ants was crawling under his skin.
Nathan looked up at his return, saying something to Buck who smirked and held up a cell phone. "There's someone who wants to talk to ya, Casper."
Vin frowned. "Do I have to?"
"I don't wanna," Vin said petulantly.
"I don't care," Buck answered back.
"You guys are such children," Nathan said.
Vin scowled. "I don't see you volunteerin' to talk to 'im."
"That's because I'm not the one he'll want to talk to," Nathan returned calmly.
Vin sighed. "Gimme the damn phone."
Buck handed it over with a flourish. Vin grabbed it and stalked out the entrance, stopping on the sidewalk outside. Awkwardly, the medium flipped the phone open one-handed and speed dialed Chris's cell, noticing his friends had followed him.
Larabee answered on the first ring. "How is he?"
"He is fine," Vin said.
"What's the diagnosis?"
"Broken wrist is all; it's fixed up." Vin dodged Nathan's pointed look. "I already signed the discharge papers and we are on our way back."
"You aren't coming back. I already told Buck to take you to the motel."
"No way, Chris. I'm getting too close to something."
"Yeah, a concussion!"
"I'm sure it won't happen again," Vin assured, pacing along the cement path. "They didn't mean to hurt me; they feel bad about it."
"Ghosts with remorse?" Chris asked skeptically.
"You believe in ghosts, but not that they'd feel guilty?"
"Seems a bit far-fetched."
"Chris, I know I have to come back. There's a reason behind this. They're lookin' for something, or someone."
Vin waited impatiently while Chris made his decision. He could hear Larabee's breathing, so he knew the other man hadn't hung up.
Buck mouthed, "Well?"
Vin shrugged, unknowing.
Finally, Chris said, "I'll let you come back as long as you promise not to try and catch any flying objects."
"Scout's honor. I'll even let them hit you."
Chris grunted. "Thanks a lot."
"See you soon." Vin closed the phone before his boss could change his mind.
"Talked him into it, eh?" Buck asked with a smirk.
"Was there ever any doubt?"
"Hell, yeah. That ghosty pissed him right off."
"It weren't their fault," Vin defended, "they was just scared."
"Join the club," Nathan said.
* * * * *
Chris hung up the phone with a growl.
"Talked you into it, didn't he?" Josiah asked him.
"Was there ever any doubt?"
"Not really," the counselor said. "When that boy gets something in his head it's best to just step aside."
"Even if it kills him?"
Josiah smiled serenely.
"Chris, I found it!"
At JD's shout, Josiah and Chris ran into the kitchen. The young researcher sat on the floor Indian style, with his computer on his lap, and numerous photographs spread out around him.
"How can he work like that?" Chris wondered aloud.
"It is called a 'laptop,'" Josiah joked.
Groaning at the pun, Chris asked, "What did you come up with?"
"I found out what the symbols mean," JD crowed, grinning.
When JD didn't continue, the C.M. barked, "Well, what do they mean?"
"Oh, sorry." JD hurried to cover his embarrassment. "Actually, studying them, I found out there are only three symbols repeated, but because they are cock-eyed, upside down, backwards, and stretched out it looks like more." He pulled one of the photographs out and placed it on top of the pile. "This is the ancient Minoan symbol representing 'Life.'" Choosing another picture, he pointed and said, "This is 'Death.' And the final one symbolizes 'Rebirth.'"
"Which one is on Vin?" Chris asked, more than a little nervous at the implications.
"Rebirth," JD answered.
"Could be worse," Josiah commented, obviously concerned as well.
"It is worse," Ezra said. He stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. With a wave, he brought the men over to his control station computer. With JD concentrating his energy searching for the symbols' meanings, Ezra had taken up the slack completing the extensive background search of their clients. "Alan's married to a dead woman."
"I ran Evelyn Decker's social security number it belonged to a woman named Evelyn Bedford."
"That's her maiden name," Josiah said. He had learned that during his interview with Alan. "Wait, what do you mean 'belonged'?"
"Evelyn Bedford died eight months ago," Ezra revealed.
"Are you sure you got the right number?" Chris asked him.
"Absolutely, I confirmed it with Alan. He has photocopies of both their cards in his lockbox."
"So who is he married to?" Josiah wondered.
"I would surmise his wife is a con-woman," Ezra said knowingly. "She probably stole Evelyn's identity after her death."
"Do you think the haunting has anything to do with her?" Chris asked them.
"Maybe the spirits are trying to protect him from her," JD suggested.
"By tossing a vase at his face?" Josiah countered.
"Okay, maybe not." JD's eyes widened. "How are we going to tell Alan?"
"Tell me what?" Alan asked, entering the room.
From inside the kitchen, Buck watched Alan march past the door opening for the eighth time. The man had been pacing ever since he had gotten off the phone with his wife.
"Still can't believe you convinced him to trick her," Wilmington said with a grin. "You are a silver-tongued devil."
Ezra maintained a superior air. "It was merely a case of laying out the facts, I assure you." After telling Decker what they had learned, Standish had persuaded Alan to call his wife and tell her the OSIR team had left.
Vin frowned. "Still don't sit right with me."
"It was the only way to resolve this," Nathan said. "A face-to-face encounter."
They heard a car pull into the driveway.
"I think she's here," Josiah stated.
It was confirmed when Alan rushed to the front door. After a minute it opened, and a murmur of voices followed.
"What're they saying?" JD asked in a stage whisper.
"If you'd be quiet, maybe we could hear," Ezra remarked.
A loud thud drew everyone's attention to the rear of the room Vin lay on the floor next to Buck's feet.
"What happened?" Chris asked, rushing over.
Moving out of the way, Buck shrugged. "He just collapsed."
After checking for injuries, Nathan tried in vain to revive Vin. "He's out cold," he said.
"Let's get 'im on the couch," Chris ordered.
Josiah and Buck hustled Vin out to the living room. The rest of the team trailed after.
"What the hell is this?" Evelyn screeched. She turned an accusing stare on her husband. "How could you?"
"I'm sorry," Alan apologized. "I love you, but they raised some doubts."
"You love me but?"
Pushing aside his concern for Vin, Chris forced himself between the couple to stop the escalating argument. "Who are you?" he asked Evelyn.
"Who the hell are you?" she shot back.
"Chris Larabee. Who are you?" he repeated.
"What are you talking about?"
"Listen," Nathan said, "we'd rather not involve the police."
"Of course you wouldn't," she snarled. "They'd stick you all in an asylum."
"Knock off the self-righteous attitude," Wilmington snarled. "We know the real Evelyn Bedford died eight months ago."
She visibly blanched. Softly, she asked, "How did you find out?"
"We ran your social security number. We are awaiting final proof," Standish said. "Our office will be forwarding a picture of the real Evelyn Bedford."
Evelyn fell onto the lounge chair, head in her hands as if surrendering to the inevitable. "I thought you were happy," she whispered tearfully. Alan knelt in front of her and hugged her as she cried.
There was a beep from the kitchen. "It's the e-mail," JD announced. He fetched his laptop, setting it on the side table, and prepared to open the attachment.
Holding Alan's head, she gave her husband a deep, longing kiss. "Go ahead and look," Evelyn told him, pushing him at the other men.
Alan joined the OSIR members crowded around the computer screen, gazing at the photograph. He looked between the picture and his wife.
It was the same person.
"Why couldn't you just leave it alone?" she asked. Tears sparkled in her eyes as she faded away.
As soon as she vanished, Vin started to rouse. He looked around, confused. "They're gone," he announced.
"Yes," Alan agreed desolately, falling into the closest seat. "Gone."
* * * * *
JD thrummed against the armrest, beating a fast-paced rhythm with his fingertips. He had been doing it steadily since the plane lifted off nearly an hour before.
Next to him, Buck again pleaded for silence. The tapping stopped briefly before resuming.
Due to the full plane on their flight back to their office, the team had been split in two. Vin sat next to Buck and JD, while Chris, Ezra, and Nathan had been seated many rows away unable to hear either the drumming or the repeated pleas. Josiah had stayed behind, counseling Alan Decker through his shock and grief.
Leaning back against the headrest, eyes closed, Vin tried to keep the smile off his face. He was used to the antics between his teammates especially after the adrenaline rush of witnessing a genuine apparition.
Finally, with a growl of frustration, Buck grabbed JD's fingers, holding them still.
The trapped digits seemed to loosen JD's tongue. "I just don't get it," he remarked.
"What?" Buck asked in exasperation.
"What was the deal with the symbols?" After Evelyn Decker disappeared, so had the marks on the bedroom wall.
Releasing JD's hand, Buck elbowed Vin. "Spill it, Casper."
"I was wonderin' when one of y'all would ask," Vin drawled. His eyes remained shut.
"Come on, Vin," Buck begged, his curiosity piqued as well.
Straightening his seat, Vin leaned over conspiratorially. "Near as I can tell," Tanner began, "they was drawn by spirits from the other side."
"What, were they bored?" Buck asked and chuckled.
"No, they wanted Evelyn." Vin tried to explain what he had felt in the house. "She belonged with them. They were calling her and she refused."
JD pointed at Vin's arm, still in a sling. "So why did they try to hurt Alan?"
"I think they got nervous when he went outside. Their domain only extended inside the house. He was their link to Evelyn if he left, she might never return to them."
"So when he came back in "
"They got a tad over-zealous," Vin confirmed.
"Feisty spooks," Buck retorted.
Ezra opened the doors to the office and strolled to his desk. Noticing the adjacent desk was empty, he asked, "Mr. Sanchez has not yet returned?" It had been three weeks since Evelyn's ghost departed.
"He'll be back tonight. He's overseeing Alan Decker's transfer to a new therapist," Nathan said, stretching to answer his ringing telephone.
"How's Alan doin'?" Vin asked him.
"Josiah said fairly well, once he got past the shock," Chris said.
Buck nodded sagely. "I guess it ain't easy gettin' over bein' married to a ghost."
"Could be worse," Vin replied, "coulda been married to you."
"Listen to you talk," Buck said and laughed. "I'm used to women swooning at my feet"
"I didn't swoon," Vin angrily denied, "I was overwhelmed."
"Uh-huh. Whatever you wanna call it, you ended up on the floor at my feet."
"Hell, Bucklin, a freakin' ghost walked in the door."
"Good lookin' one, too," Buck agreed.
"Has the mark disappeared yet?" Ezra asked, interrupting. He'd had enough of the teasing and rehashing to last a lifetime, if not beyond.
Vin held up his arm, a cast covering it from wrist to elbow. "Still there." For some reason, unlike the marks on the Deckers' wall, the symbol on Vin's palm though faded had remained visible.
Nathan hung up the phone. "That was JD," he called out. "He said Mrs. Blanchett's cat just flew across the room."
"Poltergeist?" Buck guessed.
"Or an entirely new species of feline," Ezra drawled.
"Go check it out," Chris ordered.