Ghost Hunters fan fiction, School Spirits, Chapter 5

Disclaimer:  I do not own, nor am I affiliated in any way with TAPS, Ghost Hunters, or anyone involved.  The only things that are truly my own are my imagination and the ideas that come from it.

When we got to Center Command, Phil was just finishing up the computer connection to the Annex.  While the rest of us waited for Amy and Steele to join us, Jason and Grant rechecked the rest of the camera angles.  When Amy and Steele finally arrived, Jason said, “I think we’ll stick with the same teams we started with last night.  Everyone okay with that?”

Everyone agreed that it was, so we broke into our teams and headed out.  Jason, Ed, and Amber headed over to check out the Annex and then head to Lawrence.  Amy and Phil headed over towards McKenzie, Grant and I went to check out Appleton, and JoEllyn and Steele took the first shift monitoring the cameras from Center Command.

As Grant and I walked up the sidewalk towards Appleton Hall, I stopped and looked up towards the bell tower and shivered.  Even though Dr. Keane had told us that the story of the hanging and its resulting ghost wasn’t true, the bell tower still looked creepy to me, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being watched.  I noticed that Grant was holding the door open and waiting for me, so I shook off the feeling and hurried inside.

“Amy and Phil were in here for a while last night,” Grant began, setting down his walkie on the front desk.  “They had quite a bit of activity here on the first floor, so I’d like to start out down here.”

I hoped Grant didn’t hear my sigh of relief as I replied, “Okay, sounds good.”  I wasn’t ready to tackle the upstairs just yet, so I was just fine with investigating the first floor.  “What activity did they experience?”

“Amy heard footsteps and voices all along that hallway,” he answered, pointing down the short back wing, which was now mostly storage areas and meeting rooms.  “She said she seemed to be chasing the entity around; it always seemed to be at the opposite end of the hallway from where she was.  And Phil said she kept seeing shadows down the south wing.”

We decided to position ourselves on either end of the short wing.  I sat at the front desk, and Grant sat towards the rear of the building, close to the stairwell.  “Hello,” he began.  “My name is Grant, and Kyr is sitting at the front desk.  We’re not here to harm you; we just want to talk.”

After a moment, I tried.  “If there’s anyone here with us, could you give us a sign of your presence?”  I jumped as I immediately saw a shadow move across my peripheral vision.  “What was that?  Grant, did you see that?” I called out.

I heard Grant move quickly at the end of the hallway; then he chuckled.  “False alarm,” he called back.  “The campus police vehicle just drove past the building.  I’m sure it was just a shadow from the headlights.”

Letting out a huff, I settled back in the chair.  I hoped I wouldn’t be this jumpy all night.  Appleton Hall had always creeped me out, and it was even creepier when it was deserted.  I shuddered as I tried not to think about the last time I was here alone.

Grant and I tried unsuccessfully for about half an hour to get some kind of response from the entity.  I was about to reluctantly suggest we go upstairs when Grant approached me, rubbing his stomach.  “Hey, Kyr,” he began, sounding uncomfortable.  “Let’s head back over to Center Command.”

I stood up quickly and rushed to his side.  “What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned by the look on his face.

“I think something I ate didn’t agree with me,” he groaned.  “All of a sudden my stomach is killing me.”

I picked up my voice recorder and flashlight and took his arm.  “Let’s go,” I said.

We left Appleton and headed back to Center Command.  JoEllyn and Steele looked up when we came in.  “What’s up?”  Steele asked, leaning back in  his chair.

“I think Pete’s clam chowder is coming back to haunt me,” Grant joked weakly.  “I need to sit out for a while.”

Steele glanced at JoEllyn and then back at Grant.  “Well, it seems you’re not the only one.  Jo isn’t feeling well either.”  JoEllyn glanced up at me and gave me a watery smile.

Steele and I looked at each other, and I felt my stomach drop, knowing what Grant’s next words would be.  Right on cue, Grant caught my eye and said, “I know this wasn’t in the plan, but do you think you and Spook could team up for this evening?”

I glanced at Steele, then at JoEllyn and back to Grant.  JoEllyn and Grant did both look sick, holding their stomachs and grimacing like they were in pain.  To be honest, I wasn’t feeling well myself at that moment, but I didn’t want to look petty or unprofessional.  “Fine with me,” I responded, hoping I sounded convincing.

“Spook?” Grant asked, looking at Steele.

Steele shrugged nonchalantly.  “Not a problem here.”  He got up and grabbed his digital voice recorder, the laser grid and a K-2.

Grant dropped into Steele’s chair and grunted, looking miserable.  Steele moved towards the door, then stopped and turned to look at me.  I looked back at him, then over at Grant and JoEllyn.  “Are you two going to be okay?” I asked.  “Do you need anything before we leave you?”

They both shook their heads, and JoEllyn replied, “I’m sure we’ll be fine, Kyr.  Just go ahead.”

“We’ll give a shout on the walkie if we need anything,” Grant added, waving us away.

I hesitated, feeling awful for leaving them when they were both obvioously in agony.  Steele gave me a nudge.  “Come on, Carter, they’ve got indigestion, not the bubonic plague,”  Steele drawled.  “They’ll be fine.”

My jaw dropped at his insensitivity, and I began to argue.  Steele left out a huff, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me out the door.  “We’ve got an investigation to do, Carter.  Let’s get moving,” he said impatiently.

I finally found my tongue.  “What is wrong with you?”  I exploded.  “It could be more than indigestion; it could be food poisoning.  They did both have the same thing at the diner.”

Steele pushed past me, but not before I caught the slightest hint of a smile.  “And to think I was worried about the chili,” he joked.

I stalked after him and came up beside him. glaring.  “I don’t see anything funny, Steele.”

“Carter, they’re adults.  They can handle a bellyache, and if it’s more serious…” he held open the door and motioned for me to go through.  “…they know how to get help.”

In the lobby of Appleton, Steele stopped and looked around as if trying to get a feel for the building.  I watched him for a moment as he cocked his head towards the ceiling as though he were listening for something.  I crossed my arms and was about to say something when he looked down at me and said with a knowing smile, “Carter, are you really that concerned about Grant and JoEllyn, or are you just irritated because you don’t want to investigate with me?”

My jaw dropped and I stammered, “What?  I…do you…”  His remark caught me off guard, not only because it was blunt, but also because I realized it was an accurate assessment.  I closed my mouth and glared at him.

He chuckled triumphantly.  “I thought so,” he said, tucking his K-2 in his back pocket.  He began walking slowly and deliberately towards the back wing; then he turned to me and continued, “Besides, I don’t think you need to worry about them.”

I cocked my head curiously and asked, “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” he said, walking backwards towards the back wing, “I don’t think either of them is really sick.”

I followed him, glancing around, watching for shadows and listening for voices or footsteps.  “What do you mean they’re not really sick?” I asked, low.

Steele laughed out loud.  “Wake up, Carter.  We’ve been set up,” he said, leaning against the wall to enjoy my reaction.  “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the two of them watching us and whispering to each other with their heads together.”  He crossed his arms and smirked at me.  “Either they’re playing matchmaker for us, or they’re fooling around themselves.”

I don’t know if I was more irritated by the idea of being set up by my best friend or by Steele’s suggestion that Grant and JoEllyn were having an affair.  Of course, I knew that even Steele couldn’t possibly believe that Grant would cheat on his wife, so that only left the first possibility.  “I don’t believe it,” I muttered, embarrassed and upset that they had played upon my compassion to try to get Steele and me together.

Reading my thoughts, Steele laughed, “Carter, you’re so naive.  Caring and compassionate, but naive.”  He gave me a sidelong glance and conceded, “Although I will give you that Grant is a much better actor than JoEllyn.  At least he genuinely looked sick.”

I said nothing, just stared at him through narrowed eyes, trying to decide if his remark was a compliment or a disguised barb.

I caught a wicked gleam in his eye as he leaned close and whispered conspiratorially, “Should we put on an act to get back at them?”

“No!” I gasped, shocked.  I didn’t even want to pretend to be falling for Steele.

As I looked up and caught his eye, I thought I saw a momentary flash of hurt on his face before his expression turned businesslike again.  “What are the claims in this building?”

I opened my mouth to apologize, but something in his eyes stopped me.  I had managed to hurt him again with a careless remark, and I felt horrible.  Clearing my throat uncomfortably, I replied mechanically, “Voices, footsteps and shadows on the first floor.  Footsteps, doors opening and closing, and feelings of being watched on the third floor.”

“Nothing on the second floor?” Steele asked stiffly.

I shook my head, glancing up at his hardened face and feeling like a scolded puppy.  I cleared my throat again and offered, “Amy and Phil had a lot of activity on the first floor last night–footsteps, voices, and some shadow play.  Grant and I didn’t have any responses tonight.”

Steele stood stock still for a moment, again looking as though he were trying to sense something there in the hallway.  I watched him silently, fascinated, and tried to pick up on  what he might have been sensing.  Finally, he looked down at me and said decisively, “Let’s head up to the third floor.”

I swallowed hard, feeling my pulse begin to race.  I really wasn’t ready to face the third floor, but not wanting to cause any more tension between Steele and me, I followed reluctantly.  He was halfway to the second flor before I caught up to him.

When we reached the second floor, Steele paused, then stepped out of the stairwell into the hallway.  I hesitated, then took a step towards him.  “Why are we stopping on the second floor?” I asked.  “There’s no activity on this floor.”  I peered around him.  “Is there?”

Steele crossed his arms and looked down at me.  I could see the coldness in his eyes as they reflected the light coming in from the outside.  I wished he wouldn’t look at me like that; it made me feel like I was six inches tall.  “Just for the record, Carter,” he said, low, “I was just kidding about putting on an act for JoEllyn and Grant.  I know there’s nothing between us and there never will be.”

He was right, of course, but I was taken aback by how much his words stung.  I swallowed the lump in my throat, nodded, and replied, “Right.  Good.”

Steele’s eyes darkened for a moment, and I shivered; then he responded, “I just didn’t want you thinking I had gotten the wrong idea about us.”

Us.  Why did that word make my knees weak?  I shook my head slightly and said, “No, of course not.”  I was sure now I had hurt him again.  I wanted to apologize, to make amends, but before I could think of a word to say, Steele stepped very purposefully around me and started up the stairs.  After a shaky breath, I followed him.

Steele stood peering down the third floor hallway.  I stayed behind him, peering around him and trembling.  Was it just me, or was it colder up here?  I watched Steele to see if he felt it too.  He turned to me rather abruptly.  “Amber said there was a suicide in the bell tower, a pregnant student whose boyfriend had dumped her?”

“Actually,” I began, “JoEllyn, Phil and I were talking to one of my former professors this afternoon.  He told us that the suicide story is completely false.”  I filled him in on what really happened in the bell tower.  “So the jilted lover ghost is just a campus legend,” I finished, happy to be able to give Steele the real story, and hoping he’d see me as level-headed and professional as he saw JoEllyn.

Steele regarded me for a moment, and I wondered what he was thinking.  Finally he spoke.  “So what about all the claims up here?”  he asked.  “Do you think they’re all part of the legend, or have there been recent claims?”

“Well, no, I wouldn’t say they’re all part of the legend,” I answered, not wanting to dismiss anyone’s claims, including mine.  “A lot of people have had experiences up here…”

Steele raised an eyebrow at me, and I thought I saw the corner of his mouth twitch as he interrupted, “Are you one of them?”

My eyes flew open wide and met his.  I wasn’t expecting him to ask me directly.  “Well…yes.  I mean…I thought…”  So much for being level-headed and professional.

He pulled out his K-2 and smirked at me.  “Feeling creeped out?” he teased, and I knew he was thinking of last night on the levee.  I suddenly didn’t feel so bad for hurting his feelings.  He must have caught the look in my eyes, because he softened and apologized.  “I’m just picking on you, Carter.  I figured you had something happen up here because you’ve been on edge since we came upstairs.”  He glanced down the hall, then back at me before asking softly, “So what happened?”

I swallowed hard, took a step past him and motioned at the bell tower door.  “It was that door.”  I began trembling again just standing there.

Steele turned to look at the door, then looked back at me and joked, “What is it?  The door to hell?”

I put my hands on my hips and glared at him.  Now he was back to joking–honestly, he should come with an instruction manual.

“I’m sorry,” he said again, trying to hide a smile and not looking very sorry at all.  “I’ll be serious.  What happened with the door?”  He swept the area around the door with the K-2; thankfully there were no high readings.

I hesitated, still feeling stupid about the last experience I’d shared with him.  Still, for all his teasing, he hadn’t belittled me or ridiculed me, but actually reassured me.  Reminding myself that we needed to investigate the claims, I swallowed hard and began, “One summer I was on campus helping with New Student Orientation.  I was alone here getting things ready for the first group coming in.”  I paused, glancing over Steele’s shoulder at the bell tower door.  He turned to the door again and then back to me.  “I came up to the third floor to get the rooms ready, and that door was hanging wide open, and the lights were on.”  Steele gave me a questioning look.  It sounded stupid even to my ears to be afraid of an open door.  I continued, “I freaked out, because that door was supposed to be closed and locked.  I…kind of…”

Steele crossed his arms and couldn’t help chuckling, “You kind of pulled a ‘Dude, run.'”  I felt my face growing red.  Jason and Grant had made the same joke, and I wondered if they’d told him my story already.  I ducked my head and raised my eyes to look up at him; he had a wicked expression on his face.  “No, Jay and Grant didn’t tell me that.”

My jaw dropped.  What, could he read my mind or something?  He laughed at my expression then punched my shoulder good-naturedly.  “All right, so they did tell me that,” he admitted.  I reminded myself to slug them both later.  “Seriously, though.” he said, although he hardly looked as though he was being serious.  “Was that all that happened?”

“No,” I replied, irritated.  “By the time I got downstairs, I realized I was being stupid and came back up here.  I called out to see if anyone was up in the bell tower.  When I got no answer, I flipped the light off and closed and locked the door.  I went back to preparing the rooms, and I thought I heard a door opening.  I went out in the hallway to check, and the bell tower door was open again, and the light was on.  I turned out the light and shut the door again and tried to get my work done.”  I realized I was pressing myself up against the wall opposite that door as though I was trying to stay as far from it as possible.  “The same thing happened again, and I got an overwhelming feeling that I shouldn’t be here.  So I flat out left the dorm and refused to come back in until a couple of my coworkers were here to go up with me.  They actually went up in the bell tower but couldn’t find anything.”

Steele looked at me, nodding his head and thinking.  “And did that happen any other time while you were on campus that summer?”

“No,” I responded.  “But then I refused to come back up here either.  No one else had any problem with that door.  At least that I know of”

Steele turned to the door and tried to open it.  It was locked tight.  He tried shaking the door to see if it was a tight fit.  He shook his head and stood there thinking.  “Did you have any windows open that might have caused enough of a draft to open it if it wasn’t latched tight?”

I shook my head.  “I didn’t want to have to keep track of what windows were open, so I didn’t  open any.  And believe me, I shut that damn door as tight as it would shut.”  I had already tried to figure out what might have made that door open by itself.  “And even if a draft had blown the door open, that doesn’t explain the light turning itself on.”

Steele made a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that expression and glared at the door.  He seemed as perplexed as I was scared.  He turned to me.  “Well, why don’t we try to make contact?”

“Okay,” I replied reluctantly.  I began walking down the hallway away from the bell tower.

Steele chuckled and said, “Why don’t you go down the hallway, and I’ll stay by the bell tower?”

I stopped and gave him a withering glance, which I know he couldn’t see in the dark.  “Smart ass,” I muttered, sitting down about halfway down the hall.  I watched as he appeared to fumble with something at his end of the hallway.  Suddenly, points of light appeared all the way down the hall, and I realized he had set up the laser grid.  I turned on my digital voice recorder and began, “Steele and Kyr, Appleton Hall, third floor.”

“Hello,” Steele began, leaning back against the wall just opposite the bell tower door.  “Is there anyone here with us?  We’d really like to talk to you.”

Silence.

“We’ve heard…”  My voice was trembling, so I cleared my throat and tried to steady it.  “We’ve heard you spend a lot of time on this wing.  Why do you stay here?”

The hall remained quiet, but this floor still felt colder to me than either the first or second floors.  That, and I was definitely on edge, and I kept pushing myself tighter against the wall, trying to make myself less visible to whatever might be present.  There was definitely something here, whether or not it was making itself known.

“Carter,”  Steele hissed.  I looked towards him.  “Where are you right now?”  I could see him leaning forward, poised to jump up.

“I’m right where I was before,” I replied, flickering my flashlight at him.  “Why?”  I turned to look towards the other end of the hallway and saw what he had apparently seen–something was disturbing the points of light from the laser grid.  I began inching backwards away from it, still in a sitting position.

I gasped audibly as Steele was suddenly right beside me, whispering in my ear, “Don’t run from it.  Try to talk to it.”  I was torn between boxing his ears for scaring the life out of me, and being grateful for his nearness.

“What is your name?” I asked, watching as the laser points continued to move; whatever it was seemed to be pacing back and forth.  “Do you need help?”  I noticed Steele was pointing a handheld video camera over my shoulder towards that end of the hallway.

The warmth from Steele’s body seeped into my back, and I found myself leaning slightly back against him.  Drawing some courage from his presence, I decided to try something different.  “We’ve heard stories about someone committing suicide in the bell tower.  Is that true?”  I asked, not taking my eyes from the shifting laser points.  “Did you take your own life?”

All of a sudden, the laser points stopped moving and returned to their original appearance.  Steele and I remained motionless, keeping our eyes fixed on the spot where we had just seen movement.  A moment later, we heard the unmistakable sound of a door creaking open.  I quickly turned towards the bell tower door, my face only inches from Steele’s.  Our eyes met briefly in the dim light before he too turned to look.

He moved quickly but quietly towards the bell tower door.  I immediately missed his closeness and felt exposed and vulnerable, but was still reluctant to follow him.  “What the hell?”  he exclaimed.  “Carter, come here.”

I didn’t need to go to the end of the hallway to know what he had found, but I started down the hall towards him.  Even though I knew what I’d see when I reached him, I still let out a yelp when I saw that the bell tower door was indeed standing wide open.  This time, though, the light was not on, so Steele and I stared into a black gaping doorway.  I recalled his earlier joke about it being the doorway to hell, and wished I hadn’t.  Steele flashed his light up the stairs to look into the bell tower, but I quickly looked away, afraid to see what might be standing at the top.

Steele stood still for a moment before moving deliberately to walk up the stairs.  Each step creaked and groaned under his weight as though no one had used them for a long time.  I stared wide-eyed after him, wondering if he was really that brave, or if he was just crazy.  Halfway up the stairs, he turned to me.  “Come on, Carter,” he coaxed.  “Time to face your fears.”

Continuing to stare at him, I tried to take a step towards him, but my feet were frozen to the floor.  I couldn’t help thinking my feet were smarter than my head at this point.  Steele walked down a couple steps and reached out to grasp my arm.  “You’re not pulling a ‘dude, run’ on me,” he laughed.  “Get up here.”

My face grew hot, although I couldn’t tell if I was more embarrassed or angry at his jab.  I shook his hand off and pushed past him up the stairs.  I stopped short at the top of the stairs, realizing that I had just willingly walked into the one spot on the Willow Lake campus that truly frightened me.  Steele had come up behind me and now stood blocking the only escape from the bell tower.  Unconsciously, I pressed back against him, not wanting to go any further into the bell tower.  Flashbacks of the bedroom door at the Berkeley mansion slamming shut on me and trapping me inside began playing through my mind; I didn’t want to experience that again, and I couldn’t help casting a fearful glance at the door, hoping it wouldn’t decide to slam shut on us.

Steele seemed to sense my distress, and he laid a reassuring hand on my arm.  I glanced up at him.  I was so close to him that even in the near darkness, I could see the beard on his chin and the squareness of his jawline.  Again drawing some courage from his presence, I shined my flashlight around, daring to look at the bell tower.  To my surprise, what I saw was really not menacing at all; it was just a typical, mostly-unfinished area.  I took a deep calming breath and stepped forward to explore.

The bell tower smelled musty, like old wood and aging paint.  Much of the floor seemed to be either unfinished or in a horrible state of neglect.  Fallen paint chips crunched beneath my feet as I walked across the finished part of the floor.  Moonlight filtered through the clock face at the front of the tower, giving the already-spooky room an even more eerie quality.  Spiderwebs hung down from the ceiling, and my flashlight beam caught the occasional spider skittering across the floor or ceiling beams.  It seemed as though Steele and I were the only ones who had been there in a long time.

I glanced over my shoulder at Steele, who had pulled out his handheld camera and was shooting video of the bell tower.  His eyes met mine, and he started slowly and carefully in my direction.  As I turned to take a step, a shadow darted across the floor in front of me and ducked behind the bell mechanism.  Startled, I gasped loudly and took a step backwards.

“What is it?” Steele whispered, coming up behind me.

“A shadow,” I responded.  “It ran across from left to right and ducked behind the bell.”  We both shined our flashlights around where the shadow had disappeared but saw nothing.  There was really noplace for someone or something to run to.

After a moment, Steele nudged my arm.  “I think I got it.  Stay here.”  He took a few steps back and then swept his flashlight across as he had been doing earlier.The light reflected off the translucent clock face and hit a pile of junk n the middle of the floor, casting a shadow that appeared to move across the room as Steele moved his light.  I breathed a sigh of relief, not wanting to chase something around up here.

Steele and I made our way across to the clock face, taking mincing steps along the main beams through the unfinished part of the floor.  I shook my head, wondering how they could leave this bell tower in such a state of disrepair.  As we got closer to the clock face, the air seemed to get colder, which was odd since the evening was warm and humid.  I grew more and more uneasy, till I finally stopped in my tracks.  “What is it?”  Steele asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered.  “I just don’t like it here.  It doesn’t feel right, and the air is colder.”

He nodded.  “I feel it too.”  He fumbled in his pocket for his K-II and did a sweep of where we were standing.  Where Steele stood, the K-II did nothing, but as he moved it closer to the clock face, more lights lit up.  We looked at each other curiously.  Why would a clock face give off that kind of EMF?  He moved the K-II away from the clock face and back towards it again; the same thing happened.  Then, as he held it close to the clock face, the lights suddenly went dark.  “What?”  Steele exclaimed.

“Is there someone here with us?”  I asked, peering around the room.  “Why don’t you talk to us instead of playing hide and seek?”  I held my hand towards the clock face again; to my surprise, the air there was as warm as the surrounding air.  “Steele, the cold spot is gone.  Whatever was here moved somewhere else.”

A muffled voice over to our right caught our attention.  We shined our lghts there, but saw nothing.  “Hello?”  I said, moving towards where I had heard the voice.  After just a few steps, the floor, which looked as though it was sturdy, suddenly sagged and began to give way beneath me.  Before I could even cry out, Steele had a hold of my arm and hauled me backwards onto the stable part of the floor.  I stumbled into his chest, grabbing a handful of his T-shirt.  “That was close,” I muttered.  I steadied my footing and let go of his T-shirt.  “Thanks.”

Steele looked down at me and let go of my arm.  “Well, I guess we know what happened to that construction worker you told me about,” he said wryly.

“I guess so,” I replied, shining my flashlight towards the spot where the voice had come from.  “Did you just try to make me fall through the floor?” I asked, somewhat irritated.  “If you want us to leave, you could just tell us.”

Steele stifled a laugh.  I turned to glare at him, and he teased, “Ooh, Carter’s got her attitude on.  He raised the camera again and panned across the tower.  “But she is right; you need to talk to us.  Do you need help, or do you want us to leave?”

Again there was silence.  My uneasy feeling was growing again, as I got the feeling that the spirit had intentionally led us up here for a reason, but my irritation had chased away some of the fear.  Steele and I continued questioning and provoking, but we heard no more voices.

I suddenly felt a cold draft pass by me, and goosebumps rose on my skin.  I felt Steele shiver, so I knew that he had felt it too.  Before either of us could say anything, we heard the bell tower door creak, and then a click as it shut tight.

My breath caught in my throat, and I could feel the panic rising.  No!  This could not be happening agan!  I tried to push past Steele, whimpering, “No, no, no, no…”

Steele grabbed my arms hard and forced me to look at him.  “Carter, calm down!”  he said sternly.  “Don’t lose your head.  We’re going to walk calmly down those steps, we’re going to open the door calmly, and we’re going to walk out of here calmly.”

Without waiting for me to respond, he turned me around and steered me towards the stairs.  “The door is locked.  We’re locked in here, the spirit locked us in here…” I said, struggling to keep my voice low.

From the top of the stairs I could see that the door was shut tight.  A powerful feeling of doom settled over me, and I dropped down onto the top stair, feeling light-headed.  Steele inched his way around me and down the stairs to the door. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see his face when he realized that we were locked in.

I heard him grasp the doorknob and turn it.  There was a click and a loud creak as the door opened.  My eyes flew open, and I all but leapt from those stairs to get out of that room.

As soon as I was out in the hallway, I broke out in a cold sweat, and Steele guided me out of the third floor hallway and into the stairwell.  He sat me down on the top step, and I put my head on my knees and took some deep breaths.

Steele sat down a few steps below me and laid his hand on my shoulder.  After a moment, he said quietly, “Carter, look at me.”  I raised my head just enough to peer at him above my knees.  He seemed to be gauging my mental state.  Then he gave me a half smile and asked, “Can you walk outside by yourself, or do I need to carry you?”

I wanted to slug his self-assured smirk right off his face, but I figured I’d better preserve my energy to get out of that building.  I stood up quickly, wanting to storm past him, but I swayed and had to catch myself on the railing as my light-headedness returned.  Steele had his arm around me almost immediately.  “Come on,” he said quietly.  “You can beat up on me later.  We need to get you some fresh air.”

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