Disclaimer: I do not own nor am I in any way affiliated with TAPS, Ghost Hunters or anyone involved. The only things that are truly mine are my imagination and the ideas that come from it.
Steele led me out of the building and into the courtyard, where he sat me down on the edge of the wall. The air outside was no less stifling and humid than it was inside Appleton, but at least out here we were in the open and not trapped in that bell tower. I glanced up at the tower and shuddered, hearing in my mind the creak and click of the door as the spirit shut us in. At least the door had not locked, I thought, beginning to tremble again. The experience still unnerved me.
I shifted and brushed up against Steele. Oh Lord, was he still sitting next to me? I groaned inwardly as I remembered freaking out and then almost fainting in front of him. For the second time that night, I found myself thinking, so much for proving I could be level-headed and professional like JoEllyn. Would I ever get this ghost hunting thng down, I asked myself. I seemed to take one step forward and fall two steps back.
I was suddenly aware of Steele’s eyes on me. Hoping my thoughts weren’t written all over my face, I took a deep breath and glanced up at him, wondering what he’d say to me.
I was taken aback by his expression. I had expected disdain or mocking, but instead I saw concern in his dark eyes. “You okay?” he asked softly. “That was quite a ride in there.”
Unable to speak, I nodded, then smiled slightly as he punched my shoulder. Why was he being so nice? Did he think I was that unhinged that he had to retract his claws, or was it possible that JoEllyn’s assessment of him was accurate, that underneath his roughness he really was a nice guy?
I was still shaky, but I wanted to put on a brave face. I stood up–more slowly this time–and asked, “Are you ready to go?”
After a brief look of surprise, Steele stood up and said, “Ready if you are.”
We started walking in opposite directions, me heading for the door of Appleton, and Steele headed back towards Center Command. “Where are you going?” we both asked at once.
“Well, aren’t we going back up to the third floor to see what’s up with that bell tower…banshee?” I asked, irritated.
Steele shook hs head and laughed incredulously. “Oh no. Absolutely not, missy,” he said firmly. “You’ve had more than enough bell tower for one night. You’re going to sit out for a while.”
Missy? Really? I put a hand on my hip and cocked my head at him. “I think I can judge for myself when I’ve had enough, Steele. I want to go back up there.”
“Bullshit, Carter,” he exploded. “You freaked out on me in the bell tower, you almost passed out on me in the stairwell, and in case you haven’t noticed, you’re still shaking.” Noticing he was right, I jammed my hands into my pockets. “You’re going back to Center Command. Now.” He turned and started towards Center Command, expecting me to follow.
I wondered what he’d do if I marched myself back into Appleton by myself. I decided to try, but I couldn’t make my feet move from where I stood. I glanced up at the bell tower again and shuddered, feeling as though something was watching me from behind the clock face. “Damn you,” I muttered, although I wasn’t sure if I was cursing the spirit or Steele.
I kicked at a rock and then trudged after Steele, who hadn’t even looked back to see if I was following him; he just assumed I was. When Steele reached the front door of Palmer Hall, he finally turned to face me and waited for me to catch up, his hand on the door handle. Just to spite him, I didn’t pick up my pace at all. I glared at him, but he just smiled, which darkened my mood even more. What, did he think I was a joke now? We walked in to Center Command to find Jason, Ed, and Phil talking and laughing with Grant and JoEllyn. I realized that Steele had been right about Grant and JoEllyn faking their illness, a fact he had to rub in by turning to me with a smirk and a raised eyebrow. At least Grant and JoEllyn had the decency to look guilty as I caught their eyes and shot daggers at them. If I hadn’t been so upset, I would have found amusing the look they exchanged at being caught in their attempt to set us up.
Jason, who had been hunched over leaning on a chair, straightened up quickly and spoke first. “What’s up?” he asked, looking sharply at me. “Is everything okay?”
Steele jumped in and said, “We had some interesting activity on the third floor of Appleton.” He pulled out a chair and motioned for me to sit. After glaring at him for a moment, I complied, not wanting to cause a scene. Steele proceeded to tell them about our experiences on the third floor hallway with the laser grid and then about the spirit luring us into the bell tower and shutting the door on us. To my surprise, he didn’t mention that I freaked out on him and almost fainted. I glanced back at him questioningly. He brushed his hand almost imperceptibly across my back, and I felt a thrill run down my spine. Was his touch was intentional? I couldn’t help hoping it was. “Carter mentioned that the story about the suicide in the bell tower was false,” he finished. I wanted to add my two cents but couldn’t seem to find my tongue.
JoEllyn turned to Steele and confirmed, “That’s what Dr. Keane told us when we spoke with him this afternoon.” She glanced over at Jason and added, “He said we could check the library archives for the story. Apparently a construction worker fell through the bell tower floor and broke his leg. There wasn’t even a death involved.”
Jason looked at Grant and then at Steele. “Well, it sure sounds like there’s more going on up there than a construction worker’s accident.” I knew by his tone that someone would be researching the story tomorrow.
Steele crossed his arms and repled grimly, “I believe you’re right.” By the look on his face, I felt he was thinking the same thing I was–who might know the real story of who or what haunted that bell tower if it wasn’t the construction worker?
Jason picked up his equipment and looked at Ed and Phil. “You two up for checking out Appleton?” They agreed that they were and grabbed their equipment. Jason took the laser grid from Steele and turned to look at me. He looked as though he wanted to say something, but didn’t. Instead, he gave Grant a meaningful glance and then turned and headed for the door.
Finally finding my voice, I warned, “If you go up into the bell tower, be careful. The floor doesn’t seem to be in much better shape than it was when the construction worker fell through.” Jason nodded in response.
Grant and JoEllyn seemed at a loss for what to say to Steele and me. They both knew we had figured out that they set us up. I also knew they both sensed more had happened in the bell tower than Steele had told them, but neither wanted to say anything.
Steele broke the silence. “Where are Amy and Amber investgating right now?”
“They were over in Borland,” Grant replied. “Right now they’re in McKenzie checking out the third floor hallway claims.” He stretched backwards in his chair, cupped his hands behind his head and looked up at Steele.
Steele nodded tersely and said, “I’d like to get over to the Fine Arts Building; I’m interested in checking out the claims over there.” He moved to pick up his equipment, then said, “Let’s go.”
I was interested in checking out that elevator again, so I stood up eagerly. Steele turned to me incredulously and shook his head. “Not you, Carter. I was talking to JoEllyn. I think she’s sufficiently recovered to head out again. You, not so much.”
JoEllyn glanced at me, taken aback by his bluntness. Stunned, I sat back down, giving JoEllyn a look that said, see, he is arrogant and overbearing. JoEllyn picked up her equipment, and Steele held the door for her as she walked out without a word, glancing back at me. Steele followed her out, then stuck his head back in the door and said to Grant, “Make sure she takes it easy for a while,” before giving me a stern glance. Great, now I needed to be babysat? This night just got better and better.
After Steele and JoEllyn left, I tossed my walkie on the table and slumped down in my chair. I felt Grant’s eyes on me and reluctantly looked over to find him regarding me curiously with ill-concealed amusement. “Do I want to know what that was all about?” he asked with a chuckle.
I looked away and said nothing. I was sure Steele would fill him and Jason in later and they’d have a good laugh. I pretended to be watching the monitors so I wouldn’t have to answer him. As my eyes scanned across the video screens, I saw Jason, Ed, and Phil beginning to investigate the third floor of Appleton. I closed my eyes and groaned inwardly, realizing that Grant and JoEllyn had to have seen at least some of what had happened.
Grant slid his chair closer to mine and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Kyr,” he began gently. “Why don’t you tell me what happened in the bell tower? We saw you come barrelling out the door, and you didn’t look so good when Spook took you out into the stairwell.”
I hid my face in my hand for a moment before answering, “I lost my head. Again.” I looked at him miserably and continued, “Everything happened just as Steele said. But when we heard that door go shut, all I could think about was being locked in that room at the Berkeley mansion with Jeremiah. I was so afraid it was happening all over again.” I was shaking again, so Grant pulled me against his shoulder. “Why can’t I get hold of myself?”
“It’s okay, Kyr. It’ll be okay,” he murmured into my hair. I took a deep breath and pushed away from him. He gave me a little shake and smiled at me again. “You had quite a bad experience at the Berkeley mansion, Kyr. It’s not surprising you had a flashback, and I can’t say I blame you for losing your head.” I couldn’t help thinking, but no one else would have freaked out like I did.
Without thinking, I muttered, “I would have to freak out in front of Steele.”
Grant stifled a laugh and raised an eyebrow at me. “Why is freaking out in front of Spook any worse than freaking out in front of anyone else?” He laughed at my reddening face and nudged me playfully, “Hmm? Hmm?”
I pushed his hand away, irritated, and glared at him. “Would you stop?” I growled, avoiding his question. “And just for the record, I’m not happy about you and JoEllyn faking being sick to throw Steele and me together.” Grant gave me a surprised look, and I responded, “Steele figured it out right away and just played along. He said it was obvious you two were playing matchmaker.”
“I’m sorry, Kyr,” Grant apologized, his face now turning red. “We weren’t trying to upset you. We just thought we could get you two to bury the hatchet.” He leaned forward and looked at me. “We weren’t trying to play matchmaker.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Please, Grant, I’m not that naive.”
“Kyr,” Grant said, his brown eyes staring earnestly into mine. “No one said you’re naive.”
“Steele did,” I muttered, turning away from him.
Grant laughed out loud, then apologized quickly. “”Look, Kyr, maybe JoEllyn had romance in mind, but I didn’t. Honest. I just thought if you two had to work together, maybe you could iron out your differences.” His dark eyes pleaded with me to believe him. “Besides,” he teased, winking at me, “Spook did go along with it even if he did have us figured out right away, so he must willing to get more friendly with you.”
I relented and gave him a crooked smile. How could I stay mad at him when he was so cute? I shrugged, “Even if you guys were matchmaking, Steele said there’s nothing between us and never will be.” I didn’t mention how much those words pained me when he said them, and I hoped he couldn’t read it on my face.
Grant looked at me as though he did understand what I was feeling, then reached over and squeezed my shoulder. “It’ll happen for you, Kyr. Okay, so maybe Spook isn’t the one, but you’ll find someone; I’m sure of it.”
Once again, Grant had accurately spoken to something that was troubling me, and I found myself wishing, despite JoEllyn’s scolding, that he wasn’t already taken. I turned my attention back to the monitors, and so did Grant. I cast furtive glances in his direction, thinking again how sweet and sensitive he was. He always knew just what to say, and it would never cross his mind to say something hurtful to anyone. I studied his profle, admiring the shape of his nose and the squareness of his chin. His brown eyes were so enchanting, so full of life and playfulness. And I loved hs dark hair, although I could never tell if it was black or deepest, darkest brown. Of course it wasn’t long like Steele’s, but for Grant I was willing to overlook that.
Movement on one of the monitors caught my eye. Steele and JoEllyn were on the ground floor of the Fine Arts Building. They seemed to be investigating the elevator; I wondered if they had seen the same figure that I had seen last night. A pang of jealousy gripped me, although I wasn’t sure if I was jealous because I just wanted to investigate, or if I was jealous because I wanted to investigate with Steele.
I shook my head slightly. What was I thinking? Grant was a much better partner, I told myself, glancing over at him. He was intently watching Jason, Ed, and Phil in Appleton, keeping an eye out for anything they might miss. Even in his seriousness, his kindness was evident, and a little sigh escaped from my chest.
A sudden movement on the Fine Arts ground floor monitor caught my eye. JoEllyn had said something to Steele, and Steele had turned quickly, flipping his hair as he did so. My eyes widened, and my heart fluttered in my chest as the sight of his long dark hair captivated me once again. I sighed again, unable to deny the fact that I found Steele attractive. Very attractive. I buried my face in my hands, wishing that Steele and I could just get along. Oh, if only he were like Grant…
“Kyr, are you all right?” Grant was watching me, quiet concern in his dark eyes.
Oh God, I thought. How long had he been watchng? “I’m fine,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Just tired…” I turned my attention back to the monitors, hoping I sounded convincing.
As I watched Steele and JoEllyn trying to recreate an experience, Steele came close to the camera and then laughed at something JoEllyn said. His smile took my breath away, and I noticed for the first time the deep creases around his eyes when he laughed. I propped my chin in my hands and admired the sparkle in his eyes, not gently playful like Grant’s eyes, but wicked and roguish; I got chills imagining him looking at me with that expression on his face. I smiled wistfully and chewed my bottom lip, thinking about Grant’s suggestion that Steele and I might become friends.
As Steele and JoEllyn continued to try to debunk an experience, I wished that I was there wth him instead of JoEllyn. I wanted another chance to prove to Steele that I wasn’t another groupie, ghost hunter wannabe who was afraid of my own shadow. My vision suddenly blurred, and I felt a single tear run down my cheek. I quickly dashed it away and snuck a look at Grant, hoping he hadn’t noticed. He was still staring intently at the monitor, but I could swear I saw a smle tugging at the corner of his mouth. I shifted in my seat, turning away from the monitors.
Grant sat back in his chair and stretched. I looked over to see him giving me an understandng smile. “Would you like to get out of here and go investigate?” he asked, getting to his feet.
I returned his smile before asking grumpily, “You’re going to go against Steele’s orders?” The last thing I wanted or needed was to give Steele something else to look down on me for.
Grant chuckled, then joked in a funny voice, “Spook’s not the boss of me.” He reached over to pick up his walkie and a K-II. “You do know he wasn’t being mean, right? He’s just looking out for you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I muttered, picking up my walkie and digital voice recorder. “My knight in shining armor.” I stood up as tall as I could to look Grant square in the eye. “I can take care of myself, you know.”
Grant gave me a knowing smile, and I wondered what he was thinking. “I know you can, Kyr,” he said, heading towards the door. He turned to me and winked. “The question is, do you want to?”
He laughed at my expression before ducking out the door while I was looking for something to throw at him. Finding nothing I could throw, I dashed out the door after him, and when I caught up to him, I punched him on the shoulder. “What was that remark supposed to mean?” I asked, irritated. “I didn’t take you to be a…male chauvinist.”
Grant gave me a shocked look, then apologized. “Oh Kyr, I didn’t mean it like that. I was just teasing you.” He grinned at me playfully and explained, “I was just going off your comment about a knight in shining armor. Admit it; don’t you sometimes wish you had a white knight?”
“Oh,” I said, feeling bad for overrreacting. Then I giggled and kicked at a pine cone that had fallen from one of the trees. “Maybe if the right knight came along…” I admitted. Grant glanced at me, ready to say something. “And don’t start about Steele,” I warned, pointing a finger at him. “He’s more black knight than knight in shining armor.”
Grant just shook his head and laughed. I joined him until a sudden picture in my mind of Steele dressed like a black knight almost made me stop in my tracks. Oh yeah, he certainly fit what I imagined a black knight might look like. A thrill raced down my spine as I wondered what Sir Steele might do after he swept me onto his black horse and rode me off to his castle.
I shook my head to get that image out of my head, and I realized we were passing Appleton Hall. I involuntarily glanced up towards the bell tower. Even though we couldn’t see the clock face from where we were, I couldn’t help feeling there was something up there and that it knew I was just outside. I wondered how Jason, Ed, and Phil were making out.
Grant and I quickly made our way across campus. The air was finally beginning to cool off, but it was still humid. I could almost feel the dampness settling onto my hair and my T-shirt, and my jeans felt as though they were sticking to my legs. When we reached Belle Vista Avenue, we stopped and Grant turned to me. “So, shall we go across to Borland or up to the Annex Building?”
I considered for a moment. I had never liked the “suicide room” in Borland; it had always given me a bad feelng, but I really wanted to keep my distance from Steele for the remainder of the night. “Why don’t we check out Borland?” I replied nonchalantly.
“Sounds good,” Grant chuckled, and I knew he had guessed the reason I had chosen Borland.
We headed across the deserted street and into Borland Hall. Grant led the way past the front desk and back the hallway past the door to the all-purpose room.. I thought I saw a shadow move in the corner by the pool tables. I took a step back and grabbed my flashlight from my back pocket. “What is it?” Grant asked as I shined my light into the room trying to see what had caused the shadow.
“I saw a shadow moving in there,” I replied, edging slowly into the room. Grant came in behind me, also shining his light around. Besides the two pool tables, the room also contained some vending machines along one wall and a red leather couch.
Grant shook his head, trying to figure out what might have cast a shadow. “Did you see the shadow before or after I passed the door?” he asked. “If your light was on me, I might have cast the shadow that you saw.”
I doubted that, as didn’t have my light out till after I had seen the shadow. “I’m pretty sure you were past the door, though,” I said uncertainly. “Why don’t we try to recreate it?”
Grant agreed, so we walked past the all-purpose room door several times, shining our lights at different angles. At one point, my flashlight hitting Grant’s back did cast a shadow into the room, but in a different place than I had seen it. “Your shadow isn’t as concentrated as what I saw, and it moved differently.”
“Hm, interesting,” Grant replied, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. He pulled out his K-II. “Let’s check it out.”
We walked into the all-purpose room, and Grant did a sweep with the K-II. He got a few spikes near the outlets where the vending machines were plugged in, but otherwise it was fairly quiet. Finally, Grant walked over to the pool tables and laid his K-II down on one of them. He leaned up against the other table, and I turned on my voice recorder and leaned up against the wall. “Hello?” he began. “I’m Grant, and this is Kyr. We’re not here to harm you or to chase you away; we just want to talk to you.” He paused and looked around, waiting for a response.
“Grant set a device on the pool table,” I continued. “You can communicate with us by making the lights light up.” I stood back and waited a moment. “Was that you I saw in here?”
The lights remained dark.
“If you want us to leave you alone, light up the lights,” Grant offered.
“If you want to talk to us, light up the lights,” he tried.
Still nothing. Either our spirit was feeling antisocial, or my eyes had just been playing tricks on me and there had been no shadow.
“Are you a student here?” I asked, glancing around the room again. “Do you live here in Borland?”
Again there was nothing. Grant and I continued for about half an hour, with no response.
We finally gave up and continued back the hallway towards room 110, where the suicide had occurred. Grant opened the door and stepped inside the room. I hesitated, glancing around the room before I cautiously walked in. This room still bothered me, although I wasn’t sure if it was because there was really activity in this room or if was just my imagination playng tricks on me because I knew what had happened here. I had had friends who lived on this end of the wing, and no matter what time of day or night I’d come to visit them, I’d still feel uneasy walking past this room, even if someone else was with me.
Grant pulled out his K-II and did a sweep of the room. There were no obvious spikes, although the whole room seemed to be a bit higher than usual. I continued to look around the room, trying to figure out what could be making me uncomfortable. “Amy and Amber didn’t have much activity here earlier tonight,” Grant informed me. “They just noted a somewhat higher than usual EMF reading.”
“Steele said he and JoEllyn had nothing but a couple K-II spikes last night,” I responded. The room felt chilly to me, and I kept rubbing my bare arms, which were covered with goosebumps.
Grant turned to look at me, and I realized my voice had been shaking. “Are you sensng something, Kyr?” he asked, sitting down on the bed.
I couldn’t settle down in one spot, but kept pacing back and forth. “It’s colder in here than it was in the all-purpose room or the hallway, isn’t it?” I said. “I just feel uneasy, like there’s somethng in here with us.”
Grant was quiet for a moment, assessing the atmosphere of the room. He cocked his head, listening, and glanced around. He shook his head and replied, “There is definitely a teperature difference, but I wouldn’t say it was cold. The air does seem heavier though.” He stood up and walked out into the hallway for a moment. When he came back in, he said, “It’s definitely different in here than in the hallway.”
I had a thought. “Let me go into the room next door and the one across the hall and see if it feels any different there.” Grant agreed, so I took his K-II and headed across the hall and stood in the middle of the room for a few moments. A sweep of the room showed a lower reading than in room 110. The air didn’t feel heavy at all, and the temperature was normal. I headed over to room 112 and experienced the same thing.
“Kyr, did you just say something?” Grant called out.
I quickly headed next door to find Grant standing next to the closet. “No, I didn’t say anything. What did you hear?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied, looking in the closet. He stepped back and leaned against the desk. “It kind of sounded like a voice, but I couldn’t make out any words.”
The room seemed more uncomfortable to me now. There was almost a tangible presence in the room, and I wondered if Grant could sense it.
“Do you know exactly where in here the person died?” he asked suddenly.
Caught unawares by the question, I searched my memory for the answer. Had the authorities ever released that information? I couldn’t remember. “Grant, I really don’t know,” I finally responded. “I don’t know that they gave a lot of details about what they found, at the request of the family.”
Grant glanced around the room and then back in the closet. “How did he die?”
“The news said he hanged himself,” I replied, looking inside the closet as well. I shivered as a strong feeling of…what?…emanated from inside.
Grant looked over at me. “Well, if he hanged himself, he didn’t have a lot of options for where he could do it.”
As we exchanged a glance, I knew we were both thinking that the victim had hanged himself in the closet. Grant was right; there really was no other place in the room where he could have done it. “I wonder if any of the others sat in the closet for an EVP session,” I said, mostly to myself.
“We could certainly give it a shot,” Grant replied. “There is definitely something happening in here tonight.” He stood next to me, looking down at me thoughtfully. I wasn’t thrilled about sitting in that closet, even with Grant close by. He seemed to sense that and offered to do it.
I sat on the bed while Grant set up in the closet. After the usual introductory questions, Grant got down to business. “Did you take your own life in this room?”
There was no audible response, but I seemed to sense a cold draft. “We’ve heard you were distraught over a break up with your fiancee. Is that true?” I asked.
“Did you just sigh?” Grant asked suddenly, peeking around the closet door.
“No,” I responded. “Did you hear something?” I checked the K-II; there were definitely some strange spikes.
“I thought I heard…” Grant jumped up. “I just got touched! It felt like someone grabbed my shoulder.”
I got up quickly and walked over to the closet. “Really?” I asked. “That’s two definite responses.” Standing there, I decided to try something. “I understand how you feel about losing your fiancee. Mine left me too.” A moment later, an overwhelming sense of sadness hit me. I wasn’t sure if it was my own hurt coming through or if I was sensing the spirit’s emotions.
Grant gave me a look of sympathetic understanding, and I knew he was recalling our conversation from last night’s investigation. He looked away and asked, “Did you think you had no other option than to take your own life?”
Again we heard a brief sigh. The feeling of sadness became stronger and turned into outright hopelessness. I felt as though everything were collapsing around me and that nothing would ever be right again. A lump rose in my throat, and I wanted nothing more than to lie down on the bed and ry and sleep forever. I didn’t realize I was crying until I suddenly sniffled and tears began running down my cheeks.
Grant was next to me immediately. “Kyr, what’s wrong?” he asked, concerned. “Why are you crying?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know,” I snuffled. “Everything feels so hopeless. Why? Why did it have to happen?”
Grant picked up his equipment. “Let’s go. We need to get you out of this room.”
I didn’t want to leave. The spirit understood my feelings. He knew what I was going through. Grant all but dragged me out of the room,, and when we got a ways up the hallway, he grasped my shoulders and looked into my face. “Kyr, how do you feel now?”
I took a deep breath. Things didn’t seem so overwhelming now. “I’m okay now. Grant, what happened in there?”
He gave me a look of concern. “Kyr, you were drawing the spirit’s feelings. You made some kind of emotional connection with him, and he was trying to attach to you.” He shook his head. “You need to stay out of that room, at least for the rest of tonight. Come on, let’s get back to Center Command.”
Great. For the second time that night, I was being pulled from an investigation. The sense of hopelessness came back, but this time it had nothing to do with a failed relationship. I felt like such a failure. I was sure Steele would have a field day with this.