Disclaimer: I do not own nor am I affiliated in any way with Ghost Hunters, TAPS, or anyone involved with either. The only things that are truly my own are my imagination and the ideas that come from it.
Judging by the look he was giving me, I assumed that Steele was just as unhappy to see me as I was to see him. We stood for several moments staring each other down; the only things we were missing were guns, holsters and a high-noon sun. I became aware of JoEllyn’s hand on my arm, and I noticed that Jason had moved closer to Steele. Ed, Phil, and Amy looked uncertainly between Steele and me.
Jason tried to lighten the mood, saying, “Well, we know you two know each other.” He quickly introduced the others. Then looking at Ed, he finished, “We’re still waiting for Amber, right?”
Still glancing questioningly at me, Ed responded, “Yes. She’ll be through with work in about ten minutes.”
The next quarter hour seemed to last an eternity while we all made small talk to pass the time. Steele and I stayed as far away from each other as we could. JoEllyn sidled up to me and tried to talk without moving her lips. “So that’s the infamous Spook Steele? Your aunt was right; he IS quite the hottie!”
I gave JoEllyn a withering look and was just about to give her a sharp reply when Grant came over to talk to JoEllyn and me. “So, how long have you ladies known each other?”
JoEllyn replied, “We met here at Willow Lake, in a literature class, of all places.” She glanced at me as if waiting for me to jump in. When I didn’t, she continued, “We got into quite a heated debate over ‘The Crucible.’ We eventually discovered we had a lot in common and ended up rooming together for three years.”
Grant leaned against the van, looking at me as though he wanted to ask me something. He seemed to think the better of it and said to JoEllyn, “Well, I know all about Kyr’s first investigation. How did you get your start?”
I tried to stay focused on what Grant and JoEllyn were saying, but I couldn’t keep myself from looking over Grant’s shoulder at Steele, who was leaning against the other van, talking and laughing with Ed and Jason, and smoking a cigarette. Cigarettes disguted me, and seeing him carelessly flicking ashes onto the parking lot and blowing smoke into the air made me shake my head and wonder what other bad habits he might have. Still, I couldn’t help watching the way his jaw moved when he took a drag, or the way the wind kept blowing his hair into his face. As much as I hated to admit it, JoEllyn and Aunt Julia had a point that the man was good-looking. I didn’t realize I was daydreaming until Grant waved his hand in front of my face. I blinked hard a couple times and noticed that Grant’s face was only a few inches from mine. His dark eyes sparkled at me, and the playfulness in his voice made my heart skip a beat when he asked, “You’re not falling asleep on us, are you? It’s not even dark yet.”
JoEllyn jumped in with a chuckle, “I don’t think she’s falling asleep. I think her mind is elsewhere.” I knew by the tone of her voice that they had seen me staring at Steele and were obviously drawing the wrong conclusion.
I stammered, “Oh stop…I’m not…I wasn’t…oh, forget it.” Lowering my head so my hair covered my reddening face, I stalked over to where Amy and Phil stood chatting about their favorite Etsy finds. I heard JoEllyn and Grant laughing as I walked away, and they began talking in lowered voices. I suspected their conversation had something to do with Steele, so I tried to ignore them.
Phil was just telling Amy about her most recent purchase, a crocheted throw that resembled the night sky, complete with constellations. I gathered she was either an earth science major or was interested in asrology or mythology. She heard me approaching and turned to ask, “Everything okay, Kyr?”
Still flustered, I forced a smile and replied, “Yeah, they’re just picking on me.”
Amy laughed, “Good old Grant, always dorking around.”
Phil and I laughed along with her, and I glanced over at Grant and JoEllyn. My breath caught as I noticed Steele had walked over to where they were standing and was talking to Grant. JoEllyn smiled slyly and said something to Steele. I expected him to give her the cold shoulder as he had done to me, but to my irritation, he didn’t.
Amy’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “You and Spook sure got off on the wrong foot, didn’t you?”
I snorted, “You got that right.” I crossed my arms and glared in his direction.”I’ve never seen anyone with such a big chip on his shoulder.”
“Well,” Amy said consolingly, “I told you he could be a little stand-offish till you got to know him.”
Phil twirled a lock of her long balck hair and commented, “Well, he’s sure not being stand-offish with JoEllyn.”
My chest tightened as I continued to watch him. I hadn’t missed the fact that Steele was indeed chatting quite comfortably with JoEllyn, and Phil pointing it out only made it worse. I could feel the sting of tears in my eyes. I had always been the girl that everyone liked, so why didn’t Steele like me? He hadn’t even given me a chance, just made a judgment about me the minute he laid eyes on me. I told myself that’s what was upsetting me.
At that moment, Ed raised his hand to someone, and Phil said, “Sweet, here comes Amber. Now we can get this show on the road.”
Amy and Phil started towards Jason and Ed, but I stood for a moment watching Steele. He saw Amber approaching and gave Grant and JoEllyn a nod before heading over to the other van. He looked my way, and our eyes met briefly. The friendly openness vanished from his face and was replaced by the cold arrogance that he seemed to reserve just for me. He turned away, and I felt my face grow hot as the sting of tears increased in my eyes. As I stood there, uncertain of where I should go, my eyes met Grant’s. The look he gave me was full of sympathy, something I wanted from no one. I closed my eyes a moment to clear my mind and took a deep breath. Steele was NOT going to ruin this investigation for me. Grant and JoEllyn both headed over to where Amber was already giving an overview of the buildings we would be covering. “Like a lot of college campuses, we’ve had reports from most of the buildings, but the most activity seems to be in the Lawrence Fine Arts Building; McKenzie Hall and Borland Hall, both residence halls; and Appleton Hall, which used to be a residence hall but was recently converted to an administration building.”
Jason stuck his hands in his pockets and raised his eyebrows at Grant. “Looks like we’ve got some ground to cover. Care to show us around the hotspots?”
“Sure,” Amber replied, pulling her long, curly blond hair into a ponytail. She glanced at JoEllyn and me and said, “One of you two should probably come along on the tour since you’ve both lived on campus and had experiences in these buildings.”
I looked at JoEllyn. By rights I knew she should go since she had worked on campus after graduation, but I really didn’t want to remain behind where I’d have to work with Steele. In the end, I conceded, “You should go, Jo. You’ve been around on campus longer and have heard and experienced more.”
JoEllyn’s eyes lit up, and I knew she had been hoping to accompany Jason and Grant. She said, “Are you sure?”
I nodded. “I’ll help get set up and catch up with you later.” I knew JoEllyn would share some of the experiences I’d had, and I was certain I could stay out of Steele’s way for the time it took them to do the tour.
“Okay,” Jason said in a businesslike tone. “Let’s get moving, team.” He, Amber and JoEllyn started off towards Lawrence Fine Arts Building.
I was just turning to follow Amy, Ed, Phil, and Steele when Grant caught my arm and asked, low, “Everything all right, Kyr?”
I gave him a tight-lipped smile and answered, “I’ll be fine, as long as he,” I glanced towards Steele, who was unloading equipment from the TAPS vans, “keeps his distance.”
Grant looked at me through narrowed eyes, then gave me a half-smile and said simply, “Okay, hon, catch up with you later.”
A while later, after Jason, Grant, JoEllyn and Amber had returned from the tour and all the cameras and recorders were set up, we all met back at Center Command. Jason began, “Okay, guys and gals, we need to split up into teams.” He looked around at everyone, deciding who would work well together. I saw him glance at Steele and back to me before he said, “Kyr, why don’t you work with…”
Oh no you don’t, I thought before interrupting, “I’ll go with Grant.”
Jason glanced at Grant and cleared his throat, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Okay, Kyr, you go with Grant. JoEllyn, are you okay to go with Spook?” Steele glared at me briefly through narrowed eyes before turning away.
I thought JoEllyn would be disappointed not to be paired up with Jason or Grant, but her eyes lit up as she responded, “Fine with me.” By the look on his face, I could see it was fine with him too. Why was she all gaga over Steele, I wondered. I had told her how impossible he was, how cold, how arrogant, how rude…of course, he didn’t act that way towards her. But JoEllyn was seeing someone, and from what she’d said on the way up here, she and Brad were getting pretty serious. So why was she flirting so shamelessly with another man, and with Steele, of all people?
For the second time that day, I was pulled from my thoughts by Grant waving his hand in front of my face. Shaking his head and smirking at me, he teased, “I think you need a pot of coffee so you can stay focused tonight.”
I made a face at him and insisted, “I’m fine; let’s get started.” As I gathered up my equipment and prepared to head out, I stopped. I felt my face reddening again as I realized I hadn’t heard Jason tell us where we were investigating. In a small voice, I asked, “Where are we headed?”
Grant laughed and led the way towards the Fine Arts Building. “It’s a good thing one of us was paying attention.” I followed him, determined to keep my mind on the investigation.
I needn’t have worried. As we approached Lawrence Fine Arts Building, all thoughts of Steele and JoEllyn left my mind. I smiled wistfully, recalling the classes I had taken in this building and the times I had spent hanging out with my theater friends. As we ascended the steep stone stairs leading to the front entryway, I glanced over at the large metal sculpture on the front lawn, a gaudy abstract piece entitled, “Wasted Dreams.” Several friends and I, upon hearing how much the college had spent on that awful thing, had dubbed it, “Wasted Money.”
Grant looked back at me and seeing me smiling to myself, he asked, “Good memories of this place?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Even though I wasn’t a fine arts major, I spent a lot of time here.”
Grant held the door for me, and we went inside. We stopped in the lobby and looked around a bit. Even in the dark, this place was impressive, with the large, modern-looking overhead lights hanging from the high ceiling and the art deco posters lining the walls. We could even make out the pattern in the black and white tile flooring. The same old study benches were still scattered randomly throughout the lobby, although they looked bare without students sprawled on top of them with books and backpacks piled on the floor around them. Grant asked, “Where should we start? We have cameras set up on the third floor music wing, the second floor overlooking the stage, and in the lower level offices.”
I thought for a minute before deciding on the thrid floor music wing, since I had had experiences there myself. As we headed for the elevator, Grant asked, surprised, “You hung out on the music wing?”
“Oh,” I waved my hand at him. “I dabbled on the pianos when I was tired of studying late at night. It was one of the few buildings still open after 10 PM.”
Grant cocked his head and smiled at me. “I didn’t know you played piano.”
“Dabbled,” I repeated. “I took lessons for a while, but I never took to it. The only thing I really liked to do was pick out melodies from the radio.” Knowing how talented Grant was musically, I was embarrassed to even mention my pitiful attempts at music.
The slow-as-molasses-in-January elevator finally arrived, and we got in. As the doors closed and we headed to the third floor, a sudden memory hit me and made me sigh.
“That sounded like a sad sigh,” Grant observed softly.
I shook my head and replied, “Sorry. I just remembered that I met Trevor on this elevator one cold spring afternoon.” Trevor, the long-haired guy with the guitar case. His green eyes and crooked smile took my breath away, and we flirted the whole way to the thrid floor. By the time the doors had opened, we had already exchanged phone numbers.
Grant interrupted my thoughts. “So, who’s Trevor?”
I let out a breath and looked up towards the ceiling before glancing at Grant. “My EX-fiance,” I answered simply.
He was quiet for a moment, then laid a hand on my shoulder and whispered, “I’m sorry, Kyr.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat, raised my eyes to his and replied stubbornly, “Don’t be. It’s over, it’s done, and I’ve moved on.” I turned away from him, but not before I saw what looked like understanding dawn on his face. I silently begged him not to say anything more. Thankfully, the elevator doors opened just then.
We stepped out onto the third floor hallway. Around to the left was the Gordon Small Stage Theater, a small performance area that doubled as a classroom. We headed right, towards the music wing, which was just a series of.classrooms on one side of the hall and practice rooms on the right where students either had individual lessons or practiced their instruments. More than once when I had been up here, knowing I was alone, I would hear doors slamming and footsteps going up and down the hall. When I’d open the door to look, there would be no one there. Countless others had had similar experiences, and one of JoEllyn’s friends claimed to have seen a shadow figure drifting down towards the far end of the wing before it vanished into thin air. It had scared her so much that she refused to come to the third floor unaccompanied after that.
Grant and I decided to sit at opposite ends of the hallway and do an EVP session. I walked down to the far end of the hallway and sat down. The hallway looked spooky to me, lit only by the red exit signs and a bit of street light shining in through the single window at the end of the hallway. I could see Grant’s silhouette as he sat against the wall near the elevator. The tile floor was cool beneath me, and I could feel the chill seeping through my jeans.
“Hello,” Grant began. “Is there anyone here with us?” There was no answer.
“Are you a professor? I asked. The hallway remained silent. “Why do you stay here?”
Grant tried again. “We’d really like to communicate with you. Can you make a noise or give us a sign to let us know you’re here.”
After a while, we still hadn’t received any audible response. I heard Grant stretching and looked down the hallway in his direction. I could tell by his silhouette that he was looking at me. “What do you think, Kyr? Should we move on?”
I was about to suggest moving downstairs to the stage area when something occurred to me. “You know, every time I had an experience up here, I was in one of the music rooms playing the piano.”
“Well, then,” Grant said, getting to his feet, “Let’s go into one of the music rooms.”
We chose a room right in the middle of the hallway and went in. I shut the door, and we stood looking at each other in the dim light coming in through the window. Grant smiled at me and asked, “Would you like to do the honors, or shall I?”
I smiled sheepishly back at him and shook my head, “No, you go ahead.”
Grant handed me his flashlight and pulled out the piano bench and sat down. I moved closer to the door and turned on the digital voice recorder. “Grant and Kyr in one of the 3rd floor music rooms, Lawrence Fine Arts Building.” Grant began playing a soft, beautiful melody. I wondered if it was one he had written himself. I was enjoying the music so much that I almost forgot we were investigating.
Suddenly, a sound outside the door caught my attention. I put my ear to the door and listened harder. Footsteps! I brought the voice recorder to the door as I heard the footsteps coming closer and closer to the room where we were. “Grant,” I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear. “Footsteps outside.”
He stopped playing for a moment and listened. I saw him nod. “I hear them too,” he said quietly. “I’ll keep playing; you stick your head out and see if you can see anything.”
“Okay,” I replied, turning back to the door. When Grant started playing again, I turned the doorknob as quietly as I could and inched the door open. I quickly stuck my head out and peered up and down the hallway, but saw nothing. The footsteps had stopped as well.
I pulled my head back inside and eased the door shut, disappointed. “The footsteps stopped as soon as I opened the door.”
“That’s okay,” Grant said. “I’ll start playing again. If you hear the footsteps again, go out into the hallway and try to make contact.”
Grant’s suggestion made sense, so he began playing again. I put my ear and the voice recorder to the door and listened. Sure enough, the footsteps began again, starting at the end of the hallway and getting closer. Once again, I eased the door open and peered out. Again, no one was there. This time, I stepped out into the hallway while Grant continued to play.
I could still hear Grant’s music in the hallway, although the footsteps again had ceased. “Hello?” I began. “We think we heard you walking around. Do you like Grant’s music?” I glanced towards the far end of the hallway. Thinking I saw a shadow moving, I shined my flashlight in that direction. “Can you give me a sign of your presence?”
Suddenly, at the opposite end of the hall, I heard a sound like the elevator doors opening, so I hurried down to the elevator to check it out. To my surprise, I could see that the elevator doors were open. Just as I was getting there, however, they were starting to close. As they were about to shut, I saw a figure inside the elevator. Without thinking, I thrust my arm in between the doors to prevent them from shutting the whole way. I cried out as they closed on my arm then opened again. Ready to confront whoever was in the elevator, I was shocked to find it empty.
I heard a door open down the hallway. “Kyr?” Grant’s voice called out. “Are you all right?”
Still holding my throbbing arm and staring in disbelief at the empty elevator, I called back shakily, “I’m fine.” I drew a shaky breath. “Grant, there was someone…something in the elevator.”
I heard footsteps coming down the hall and turned to see Grant coming up beside me. “What was it?” he asked. “What happened?”
“I came out in the hallway to make contact,” I began. “I saw a shadow down at the far end of the hall, and when I asked for a sign, I heard the elevator doors open.” I looked over at Grant and continued, “When I got down here, the doors were just closing, and I swear I saw a figure inside. I stuck my arm in to keep the doors from closing all the way, and when they opened, the figure was gone.”
“Wait,” Grant exclaimed. “You stuck your arm in between the doors? Are you all right?” He grasped my arm and shined the flashlight on it. A large bruise was already forming on my arm.
I quickly pulled my arm back, feeling foolish for acting so impulsively, and thanking my lucky stars I was with Grant and not Steele. “I’m all right, Grant, honest.”
Grant touched my shoulder briefly, acknowledging my comment, then pushed the elevator button to open the doors. The elevator was still empty. Grant stood in between the doors to keep them from closing and shined his flashlight around inside. “The walls are reflective,” he observed. “Do you think you may have just caught a glimpse of your reflection?”
Suddenly doubting what I had seen, I hesitated. Finally, I ventured, “It didn’t look like my reflection, but I guess that’s possible.”
Grant shined his flashlight around inside a bit longer and said, “Okay, just covering the bases.” He then suggested we experiment with the doors to see if we could recreate what I saw. We tried having me stand at different angles with the flashlight held in different positions, but had no luck. In the end Grant shrugged his shoulders at me and said, “I guess we’ll have to chalk it up to a really neat personal experience.”
I nodded, silently kicking myself for not having a camera pointed at the elevator when I approached.
While we were still puzzling over the elevator, Amy’s voice came over the walkie talkie. “Amy for Grant and Kyr.”
Grant stepped out of the elevator and grabbed his walkie. “Go for Grant.”
“Amber and I are at Center Command,” Amy began. “We’re seeing some light play around the stage area. Do you want to check it out?”
Grant glanced at me, and I nodded. “We’re on it,” he responded. To me, he said, smiling, “Shall we take the elevator, or would you rather take the stairs?”
Not wanting to admit I was still a bit freaked out over seeing the figure in the elevator, I replied, “Let’s just take the elevator since it’s here.”
We got in and rode down to the second floor. Grant pulled out his K-2 and took readings inside the elevator. “Nothing unusual here,” he said, shaking his head.
The elevator completed its slow crawl to the second floor, and we got out. I led the way around to the left to the room that overlooked the stage. Grant went right to the camera to check the tape while I went to the edge of the balcony and peered down to the stage.
Grant pulled out his walkie. “Okay, Amy, where are you seeing the light play, and what exactly did you see?”
“It looked almost like a flashlight,” Amy told him. “It went from right to left, then started back but disappeared right in the middle of the stage.”
“Copy that,” Grant replied. He came to stand next to me and looked out over the stage. I turned to him and was just about to say something when he pointed and hissed, “Right there! A light!”
We headed quickly down the stairs that led down to the stage area. We came in the side door just below the stage, and crept quickly up the stairs and onto the stage. Grant shined his flashlight slowly around the stage and then back the aisles and into the seats. I glanced up to the second floor and could see the tiny glow of the power light on the camera.
Grant pulled out his voice recorder. “Grant and Kyr in Lawrence Fine Arts Building, on the stage.” He walked over to the edge of the stage and sat down with his legs dangling over the side. “Hello?” he began. “I’m Grant, and this is Kyr. Is there anyone here who’d like to talk to us?”
As before, it remained quiet.
“We’re not here to chase you away,” I began, walking slowly across the stage. “We just want to talk to you. Could you give us a sign…”
Suddenly, a bright light shone in my eyes, and a voice called out, “Who’s there?”
I let out a shout, and I heard Grant scramble to his feet. He shined his flashlight beam over my shoulder onto a flesh and blood person standing just on the other side of the curtain at the back of the stage. Campus law enforcement.
Grant and I spoke briefly to the officer, explaining who we were and what we were doing. After we explained, he slapped his forehead and admitted, “Dr. Cuomo told me someone would be in here these next few nights, but it completely slipped my mind.” It had been his light Amy had seen as he did his rounds in the building. He was genuinely apologetic and felt horrible for interrupting our work.
Grant laughed it off and assured him that no harm was done. He was about to suggest going back to check in at Center Command, but on a whim, I asked the officer, “Have you ever experienced anything here while you were on your rounds?”
He paused and scratched his head, and I wasn’t sure if he was trying to recall an experience, or if he was just reluctant to share. Finally, he said, “Mostly I just hear your typical nighttime empty-building sounds. If you’re not used to those noises, you can get spooked pretty easily.” He looked at Grant and then back at me before continuing, “I have heard doors slamming up on the third floor. Never anyone there when I check. Voices down in the basement office area. Never anyone there either.” He chuckled and stuck his flashlight in his back pocket. “Ghosts or no ghosts, there’s nothing here to harm anyone.”
We shook hands with him, and he continued on his rounds of the campus. Grant and I looked at each other and laughed. “Well,” he said. “That’s one solid debunk.”
As we headed back to Center Command, I was somewhat disappointed that our stage entity turned out to be a flesh and blood person, but it was encouraging to hear that he’d had experiences similar to what we had experienced. I was really looking forward to going over the evidence we collected in Lawrence, as well as excited to get into some of the other buildings.