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.
Spook put his arm around me as we walked down the hallway. We were both quiet, which was fine with me; I was still a bit groggy from falling asleep in the study lounge. We stopped in front of my door, and he turned to face me, his hands resting on my shoulders. I looked up into his eyes, and he smiled tenderly at me. He asked softly, “Are you going to be okay, Kyr-tastrophe?”
I smiled briefly, still amused by his new nickname for me, and he grinned back at me. Lowering my eyes for a moment, I nodded in response to his question.
“You sure?” he asked, then chuckled and stroked my still-bruised cheek. “We had quite a bumpy ride up there tonight.”
Even though he was trying to make light of the situation, I could see the concern in his eyes when I looked up at him again. I smiled weakly and tried to joke, “Really? I hadn’t noticed.” As I said that, the realization of how close I’d come to losing him in the fire suddenly hit me hard, and I crumbled against him and sobbed.
“Kyr…” Spook whispered into my hair, pulling me tight against him. He reached down and unhooked my keys from my belt loop, unlocked the door and led me inside. He sat me down on the bed and then sat down next to me, still holding me. “Come on, Kyr,” he sighed, “I know you’ve had some rough experiences investigating, but you can’t let things bother you this much. I know you’re afraid, but don’t give the entities more power than they really have.”
Still crying, I pushed back and stared at him in disbelief. Did he really think I was this upset over an encounter with an entity? Of course, that had scared me, but nowhere near as much as seeing him chest-deep in the floor while the bell tower burned around him, nowhere near as much as the thought that I’d never see him again. Even my dream hadn’t frightened me as much as what had really happened.
My dream. I looked away from him as I recalled telling him—both in my dream and tonight after the lightning strike—that I loved him. But he certainly hadn’t responded the same tonight as he had in my dream. Of course, I wasn’t sure he’d heard me tonight, and judging by the way he was acting right now, maybe it was better he hadn’t.
I looked into his dark eyes again. Was it my imagination, or had I seen tenderness in his eyes only moments ago? Of course it’s just your imagination, I told myself. We’ve been through this, Kyr. He only cares about you as a little sister, nothing more. Stop trying to see something that isn’t there.
Spook grasped my shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze. “Are you going to be okay tonight?” he repeated, concern in his eyes once more.
I nodded, struggling to prove to him that I wasn’t bothered by what had happened and hoping he wouldn’t read my thoughts and sense how frightened I really was. “I’ll be fine,” I insisted. “I can take care of myself.”
The corners of his mouth twitched as he tried not to smile. I returned his gaze, not sure if I wanted to smile back at him or yell at him. He made the decision for me when he said with a gleam in his eye, “You sure I don’t need to stay with you to keep you safe from the ghoulies and ghosties?”
He laughed out loud as my eyes flashed in indignation. Like I needed him to keep me safe! Wasn’t he the one who’d gotten in over his head tonight? And what was with the mixed signals? Honestly, the guy had more masks than all the costume rooms in the Fine Arts Building put together. Suddenly I knew what to say to put him in his place. My eyes flashed as I retorted, “No need for you to stay with me; I’ll just call Eric.”
I saw a momentary glimmer of jealousy in his eyes, which was the response I was hoping for, but then he smirked at me and replied, “I hate to burst your bubble, Kyr, but you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell with the professor.”
Anger flared up inside me as I stared at him incredulously. What was he getting at? Was he saying that just because he wasn’t interested in me, no one else could be either? I opened my mouth to reply to him, but then I faltered. Maybe he was right. I didn’t have the best track record with relationships—Bret, Trevor, all the other guys I’d dated in college and after; none of them had stuck around. Still, Spook was the one with a divorce under his belt—not that I’d bring that up again—so who was he to talk? Finally I spat out, “And just how would you know who Eric would be interested in?”
He crossed his arms and gave me a knowing look as he chuckled, “Eric is more likely to be interested in me than in you.”
My jaw dropped as I glared angrily at him. What was he saying, that I was so undesirable that Eric would prefer him over me? Tears sprang to my eyes as I tried to find words strong enough to yell at him.
Spook took one look at my face and realized I had taken his words the wrong way. “Kyr,” he began, trying to keep the laughter out of his voice, “I didn’t mean…” He tried to put his arms around me, but I pushed him away. “I didn’t mean he wouldn’t be interested in you personally.” He cupped my face in his hands and made me look at him before he said, “Kyr, Eric has a boyfriend. Phil told me that at the quarry this afternoon.”
The light bulb went off in my head, and I felt like a dunce as I finally understood what Spook was telling me. Still, the realization didn’t make me feel any better. Ordinarily I would have found it amusing to discover that a crush and I might potentially have the same taste in men, but in my emotional state at that point, I was nothing short of devastated. With tears still in my eyes, I glared at Spook, who couldn’t keep the amusement out of his voice as he gathered me in a bear hug and said, “I’m sorry, Kyr…”
I pushed away from him, hard, and replied angrily, “No, you’re not! You think it’s funny.” I was satisfied to see the amusement leave his face as I scooted away from him.
He stared at me for a moment, bemused, before he recovered. “Well, yeah, actually I think it is kind of funny,” he responded, still smiling, but no longer sounding amused. “How can you possibly be this upset over some guy you just met this afternoon? There’s no way your feelings for him are that intense already. So what’s really bugging you?”
He was right about Eric, and I knew it, but there was no way I’d admit that to him. There was more bugging me than dashed hopes over “finding a little romance,” as JoEllyn had put it. It was…so much more than that—my obviously growing attraction to Spook coupled with my confusion over his Jekyll-Hyde personality, guilt over my crush on Grant, the pain of my break-up with Trevor exacerbated by being back on campus where we’d met and spent so much time together. Not to mention the way the investigation had taken such a dark turn. There was no way I could tell him everything that was on my mind. I just shook my head and said softly, “You wouldn’t understand.”
Spook threw his hands up in frustration. “Why don’t you try me?” he exploded, eyes blazing. “You’re as bad as Mary in the damn bell tower! If something is bothering you, why the hell don’t you tell me? I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.” My eyes widened anxiously and I slowly backed away from him as he yelled. This was too much like trying to reason with my dad; he never listened, never heard me, just yelled. Suddenly, Spook noticed my reaction and buried his face in his hands for a moment before speaking, more calmly this time. “I’m sorry, Kyr. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. It’s been a crazy night for all of us; I just lost my head.” He took my hands gently in his and looked at me contritely. “I shouldn’t have teased you about Eric either. This wasn’t the time…”
I pulled my hands away and moved further away from him. “It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “At least I won’t make a complete ass out of myself by asking him out.”
Before he could stop himself, Spook chuckled, then tried to be serious. “Kyr, you wouldn’t have made an ass out of yourself by asking him out.” He slid closer to me; I tried to move away again, but I was already against the wall. He smiled playfully, knowing he had me trapped. “Now, flipping yourself upside down on a rock climb, that’s another story.”
I felt my face flame as he brought up this afternoon’s mishap. I wanted to be angry at him, but I felt the corners of my mouth twitching as an irresistible devilish grin spread over his face. Lunging at him to give him a playful shove, I tried to push past him, but he grabbed both my wrists and pinned me down on the bed with my hands above my head. He was so close to me that I could feel his breath on my face. The playfulness was gone from his eyes and was replaced by a look of desire that I had only seen in my dreams of him. My breath caught in my throat as I sank deeper and deeper into those beautiful brown eyes.
I tried to look away, and my gaze landed on his lips, his full, soft lips surrounded by his stubbly beard. I recalled watching him smoking this evening at the pizza shop, how those lips had pursed as he blew the smoke out of his mouth, and I wondered again what it would be like to kiss those lips. I looked into his eyes again to see him watching me intently. As his lips curled into a lusty smile, I knew that he was reading my thoughts again.
Before I could wonder if he would take action, he leaned in close and pressed his lips against mine, gently at first and then more insistent, testing my reaction. A satisfied moan escaped from me as I gave myself to his kiss. He let go of my hands and put his arms around me, embracing me, running his hands over my back and down my legs. I reached up and tangled my hands in his hair, stroking his face and his neck.
Spook broke away from my lips to kiss my cheeks, my temples, and my chin before trailing teasing kisses down my neck. His hot breath and stubbly beard against my skin made me shiver and squirm, wanting more. I gasped and arched my back as his searching lips found the spot where my neck and my shoulder met. I moaned and held his head there, squirming with pleasure as he licked and nibbled that spot. Chuckling, he raised his lips to my ear and whispered, “You like that, hm?”
With a delicious shiver, I breathed, “Yes. Oh yes, Spook. Don’t stop.” I rubbed my legs against his and buried my face in his shoulder, breathing in his manly scent and smelling the smoke that still lingered in his hair.
He held me tighter and growled playfully, nuzzling that spot till I giggled and squealed. He laughed again before giving my neck a final nibble and trailing kisses over my throat. My skin erupted in gooseflesh as his lips came back up to claim mine once more. My eyes closed in bliss as his tongue traced across my lower lip to the corner of my mouth, where he kissed me gently before tracing across my upper lip.
He pulled back for a moment, and I lay there breathless, my eyes closed and my lips parted. When he didn’t kiss me again, I opened my eyes to find him gazing longingly down at me. His lips curled into a smile as he softly stroked my hair. I closed my eyes again as his rough hand slowly stroked my cheek. I turned my head and planted soft kisses into his palm.
Suddenly he groaned and sat up to pull his T-shirt off. For the second time that night I found myself staring at the rippling muscles on his torso, only this time, I didn’t hide it. My mouth went dry as he propped himself up above me, one hand one either side of my shoulders. Once again I fought the urge to touch his chest, to run my fingers through that patch of dark hair, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
My eyes met his, and I saw both desire and playfulness in them. I blushed as I realized he had seen me looking at him. Before I had a chance to wonder what he was thinking, he rolled onto his back, pulling me along with him so that I lay on top of him, my breasts crushed against the hard muscles of his chest. I raised myself up to look into his eyes before leaning over to kiss him deeply, just as he had kissed me. I traced his lips with my tongue and even dared to give his lower lips a playful nibble, which made him chuckle.
I sat up and looked down at his chest. Oh, how I wanted to touch him, if I could only get up the courage. My eyes met his again, and he smiled a knowing smile. He took my hands in his and placed them on his chest. My eyes widened as he whispered, “Touch me, Kyr.” I swallowed hard and began slowly drawing my hands across his chest, savoring the contrast between the smooth skin of his pecs and the coarseness of the dark patch of hair. His moans of pleasure and satisfied smile made me feel braver, and I felt him shiver as I traced my finger along the line of hair to his belly button. Suddenly feeling mischievous, I wiggled my finger inside his navel. To my delight, he jumped and laughed, grabbing my hand. “Oh, so you do have a tickle spot,” I teased, tickling him again with my free hand.
He squirmed and laughed again, then grabbed my ribs threateningly. “Are you sure you want to challenge me on this one?” he teased back, beginning to gently squeeze my ribs. “I think we both know who would win.”
I giggled and bit my lip, recalling our earlier wrestling match. Did I want to challenge him? I decided that I didn’t, but not wanting him to think he had completely won, I tickled him one last time. He laughed and involuntarily pulled his legs up, knocking me off balance and making me fall forward onto his chest.
He slipped his arms around my waist, and I ran my hands across his chest and down his muscular arms. As I stroked his shoulder, I caught sight of the tattoo I had seen peeking out below his shirt sleeve at the Berkeley mansion that day. I leaned over slightly so I could see it better. It was a heart run through by a sword with a skull as the hilt. In the skull’s mouth was a banner that read “When Love Dies.” Recalling what he’d said about his ex-wife’s unfaithfulness, I felt a lump form in my throat as I realized how hurt he must have been to have gotten a tattoo like that. I tenderly traced the design with my finger till Spook realized what I was doing and grabbed my hand. My eyes met his, and I thought he looked somewhat abashed. “Sorry about the tattoo, Kyr,” he said apologetically. “I got that one on impulse right after my divorce was final.”
Trying to fight the tears forming in my eyes, I smiled weakly and replied, “No need to apologize, Spook. We all do crazy things when we hurt.” I leaned over again and kissed his tattoo several times, causing him to tense up and inhale sharply.
I sat up and gazed down at him. He gave me a mischievous smile and asked, “Are you going to kiss all my tattoos?” I blushed and gaped wordlessly at him, wondering where his other tattoos were. He laughed triumphantly and pulled me close again. With desire darkening his eyes, he teased, “I’m not telling you where they are; you’ll have to find them yourself.”
At the thought of searching his naked body for tattoos, my heart began pounding loudly in my ears. I imagined trailing kisses along his naked torso all the way down to…I gasped at where my thoughts had suddenly gone, and my eyes snapped up to meet his. I didn’t even have to wonder if he knew what I was thinking as I watched a slow smile spread across his face before he pulled me down into a long, slow kiss.
His tongue brushed over my lips again. I parted my lips, and his tongue sought mine. Our tongues danced, stroking and teasing each other till I was breathless. No one had ever kissed me like that, and I found it intoxicating. I smiled to myself, wondering if I should tell Spook that he had managed to unseat Bret as the best kisser.
I soon forgot all about Bret as Spook’s hands began to stroke slowly up and down my back; when they stroked lower and lower till he was caressing my bottom, I moaned contentedly and brought my leg over to straddle his hips. A gasp escaped my lips as I felt the evidence of his arousal pressing against me. He groaned and grasped my bottom, pushing me down onto him. I kissed him more urgently, feeling my body responding to his rhythmic caresses. As he slid his hands under my shirt to stroke the bare skin on my back, I began tentatively grinding my hips against his, slowly at first and then faster as my desire rose.
A tingling ache started in my belly and reached down into my very core as Spook squeezed my bottom and trailed his fingers up and down the backs of my thighs. I squirmed and arched my back, trying to coax his fingers to the spot that demanded attention. At last, almost by accident, his fingers touched that spot, but instead of the release I thought his touch would bring, it seemed to kindle an even greater fire.
My breathing became ragged as I ground my hips harder and faster against his. Suddenly, Spook grabbed my hips and said breathlessly, “Kyr…wait…how far…are we going to…take this?” His eyes were almost black with desire, and I could tell he was as aroused as I was.
Now that he had stopped me, I realized that he didn’t know, I had never told him—had never had to tell him…Catching my breath and pushing my hair back out of my face, I said bashfully, “Spook, I’ve never…been with a man…”
His jaw dropped and his eyes flew open wide as he sat up suddenly, knocking me off balance. “Kyr, why didn’t you tell me before? If I’d known, I wouldn’t have…” He swore and covered his face with his hands. “I should have known, the way you acted like you didn’t know what to do.”
I crawled off him and stared uncertainly at him. “Spook, I’m not mad. I just…thought you should know…” What had just happened? Why was he acting like this just because I was…inexperienced?
He looked at me apologetically and touched my face tenderly. “Kyr, I’m sorry. What the hell was I thinking? We can’t do this…” Grabbing his T-shirt, he looked into my eyes and leaned in to kiss me, then hesitated and planted a tender kiss on my forehead before bolting out the door.
I sat on the bed for several moments after he left, trying to figure out what had just happened. Finally, I hugged my pillow to me and burst into tears.
Even when I thought I was doing everything right, I still screwed everything up.
I didn’t know when I fell asleep or even how much I slept that night. All I knew was that when my alarm went off the next morning, I hit the snooze and lay there in a fog. I smiled to myself, recalling the wonderful dream I’d had about Spook, the way he’d kissed me, the way I’d explored his body, the way we’d almost…
As I came fully awake, I realized that it hadn’t been a dream. I sat bolt upright as yesterday’s events came flooding back—my afternoon of rock climbing and the frightening mishap that had resulted in Spook and me becoming friends, the fire during last night’s investigation, Spook trapped in the bell tower, and finally the obviously misguided passion that had somehow exploded in my face. I buried my head in my hands, embarrassed at the things we had done and mortified at Spook’s reaction to discovering my innocence. How would I ever face him today for analysis? And what would I do if the others found out? Tears filled my eyes as I thought to myself that Spook and I had been better off when we merely tolerated each other.
The alarm sounded again, and this time I shut it off. I rushed down the hall to hop in the shower. As the cool water washed the last of the smoke smell from my hair, I willed it to also wash away my confusion and hurt over what had happened with Spook. After a few minutes, I sighed and gave it up as hopeless. I headed back to my room to throw some clothes on and head over to the library before analysis. I hoped Mrs. Rutter would remember to bring her mother’s yearbook, although as Grant had said, I doubted it would shed much light on the mystery.
Half an hour later, with my still damp hair pulled into a ponytail, I dashed out my door and headed down the hall. As I came around the corner into the lobby, I saw Jason and Grant standing by the door chatting. As soon as they saw me, Jason gave Grant a poorly-hidden smirk and said, “Good morning, Kyr. No sign of Spook this morning; you haven’t seen him, have you?”
Knowing what he was insinuating, I felt my face flushing. Unable to keep the edge out of my voice, I responded, “Why would I know where he is? I haven’t seen him since he left me at my room last night.” I felt a moment’s apprehension that they didn’t know where Spook was, but I wasn’t about to show it.
Concern darkened Grant’s eyes as he glanced at Jason and then back at me. I wasn’t sure if he was concerned that I didn’t know where Spook was or that he had figured out that Spook and I were on the outs again. “Did something happen last night?” he asked.
Did something happen last night. That was certainly a loaded question. My lips quivered slightly, and I hoped they couldn’t hear the quaver in my voice when I answered, “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
They both regarded me for a moment before Jason shrugged and said, “Well, it is Spook; I’m sure there’s nothing to be concerned about.” He turned and walked towards the door.
“Be right there,” Grant called after him before turning back to me. “Are you sure nothing happened last night? Spook doesn’t usually just vanish on us.”
I studied his face to see if he was genuinely concerned or if he was just teasing me. Seeing no trace of amusement in his eyes, I hedged, “We did have a bit of an argument, but that’s not exactly unusual.” There was no way I’d tell him everything that had happened.
Grant shook his head and laughed. “Kyr, what did you two fight about this time? After what happened in the bell tower last night, I thought you two had finally put away your boxing gloves.”
“So did I,” I muttered, looking away for a moment. I crossed my arms and leaned against the front desk, trying to remember exactly what we had fought about. Rubbing my temples, I said, “He made some comment about me needing someone to protect me from the ghoulies and ghosties.” Grant stifled a laugh, and I glared at him before continuing, “Then we got into a scuffle about Eric; Spook said I didn’t have a chance with him because …” I glanced up at Grant, hesitating. “…Because he’s already got a boyfriend,” I finished in a whisper.
Grant groaned and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Aw, Kyr, I’m sorry.”
I shrugged and smiled resignedly. “Story of my life. All the good ones are either gay or married.” I glanced up at him and blushed, thinking once more that Grant was one of the good ones, and of course, he was married. I could tell by the way his lips twitched that he was trying not to smile and put in a good word for Spook, but I jumped in and finished, “Anyway, things just went downhill after that.”
Taking the hint that the conversation was closed, Grant nodded understandingly and said, “Well, like Jay said, I’m sure Spook will show up; maybe he’s even over there already. You headed to the library?”
I responded that I was, so we walked together out of McKenzie and across the street before going our separate ways. As I walked briskly towards the library, I couldn’t help worrying about Spook. Where could he be if he wasn’t in his room? Had he even gone back to his room at all last night? Was it something I had said or done? I shook my head and chastised myself for that silly thought. Spook was a grown man; if he got that bent out of shape because I was a virgin, then he was the one with the problem.
I glanced over and realized I was passing Appleton Hall. Even out here by the road, I could see the damage to the bell tower. Most of the tower roof was gone, leaving the blackened frame and the soot-covered clock face atop the building. Seeing a few people out in front taking pictures and assuming they were from the newspaper, I quickened my pace. That thought brought a sardonic smile to my lips. If they were from the newspaper, maybe there would actually be a story this time. Then I groaned inwardly, wondering if they’d mention Spook and me.
As my eyes drifted to the bell tower again, I stopped in my tracks and shuddered as I wondered if Spook might have gone back up there again, alone this time. Mary had wanted him up there alone, and Jason and Grant had said he was nowhere to be found this morning…
I shook my head and started walking again. That was crazy; Spook wouldn’t do that…would he? I groaned aloud, trying to push the thought from my mind. I’d worry about that if he didn’t show up for analysis.
As I headed quickly up the walkway towards the library with my head down and deep in thought, I bumped into someone. I gasped and looked up quickly to apologize only to see that I had run into Spook. I gaped wordlessly at him, but he gave me a half smile and said, “It’s about time you showed up.”
I narrowed my eyes at him for a moment. He had dark circles beneath his eyes, and it looked as though he had gotten as little sleep as I had. Finding my tongue, I responded irritably, “You’re one to talk. Jason and Grant were wondering where you’d disappeared to.”
He stifled a yawn and laughed shortly. “Jason and Grant know not to worry about me. I can watch out for myself.”
I felt my chest heaving as I tried to ignore what he was insinuating. I also fought the urge to inform him that they had hinted that they thought we were together last night, but I couldn’t bring myself to open that can of worms.
“Well, should we see if your friend brought in her mother’s yearbook?” he asked, heading towards the front door.
Apparently he didn’t want to address what happened last night either. I tried to squelch the disappointment rising in my chest. If that’s how he wanted to play, then I’d play too. “What are we waiting for?” I asked indifferently.
Once inside, we headed right for the Reference Desk where Mrs. Rutter was showing a new student how to catalogue books placed on hold by professors for the upcoming summer sessions. She caught sight of me and motioned for me to wait for a moment. Spook and I stood in an uncomfortable silence, avoiding each other’s gaze. I wondered why he thought he needed to be here anyway.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mrs. Rutter told us to come back to her office. As we followed her to the back of the library, she said in a low voice, “I discovered something in Mother’s yearbook that I hope you’ll find helpful for your investigation.” She unlocked her office door and motioned for us to sit while she went behind her desk and rummaged in her tote bag. She pulled out a thin, black, leatherbound yearbook and laid it on the desk in front of us. She flipped it open to a page in the middle that showed two pictures of Appleton Hall, one before the fire and one showing the damage after the fire. Spook and I both leaned forward to study the photos. I swallowed hard, thinking how much the photo in the yearbook looked like the scene outside this morning.
When Spook and I sat back, Mrs. Rutter flipped back several pages to the class photos section. At the bottom of the page, beneath the photos of the Junior class, was a photo of the student who had died in the fire. A jolt of electricity went through me, making me involuntarily grab for Spook’s arm and cry out, “Spook, that’s her!”
At almost the same moment, Spook had a similar reaction as he started and cried out, “Mary!” pointing to the photo’s caption. “In memory of Mary Sarah Bollinger. Gone from this earth, but not from our hearts.” I noticed that nothing was said about how she died, nor was there any mention of a fatality in the captions of the photos of Appleton Hall.
A cold prickly sensation raced across my scalp as my eyes met Spook’s. Last night’s uncomfortable incident in my room was momentarily forgotten as we realized we had shared some kind of premonition. After a moment, I realized that Mrs. Rutter was staring at us with a frightened expression. As my eyes met hers, she asked, almost in a whisper, “Kyr, you saw her?”
Not wanting to admit I had only seen her in a dream, I simply nodded. I cast a guilty glance at Spook, hoping he wouldn’t contradict me. His expression said he understood. I looked down again at Mary’s photo, which showed a happier version of the menacing spirit I had seen in my dream. The hairstyle was the same, and the gentle eyes and easy smile suggested a friendly, perhaps even popular young woman. I shuddered as I wondered what might have happened to turn this sweet girl into the vengeful spirit that haunted the bell tower.
Mrs. Rutter glanced up at us and said in a shaky voice, “You can imagine my shock when I turned on the news this morning and heard there was another fire last night. A lightning strike, they said. Thankfully no one was in the building at the time; I assume you folks were finished with your investigation by the time the fire occurred.”
A growing sense of unease came over me as I answered, “No, Mrs. Rutter, we were actually in the middle of our investigation when the lightning struck the tower.”
Spook leaned forward and added, “You might say we had a front row seat.”
Mrs. Rutter looked at him questioningly for a moment before realization dawned on her face. Her jaw dropped, and her face paled as she asked, “Were you two…in the bell tower when it happened?”
Spook and I glanced at each other before we both nodded. Visions of him falling through the floor flashed through my mind, and I muttered, “Spook almost didn’t make it out.” My stomach turned sickeningly as I recalled how helpless I’d felt as I tried unsuccessfully to pull him out of that hole in the floor, and how fearful I’d been that I’d never see him again when I had to leave the burning tower without him.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Spook groaned and replied, “Kyr, it wasn’t that bad. I told you I’d get out, and I did.”
“Not without help, you didn’t,” I blazed, turning to give him an angry shove. “If the firefighters hadn’t pulled you out of the hole in the floor…” I couldn’t even finish the thought. I sat glaring at him, marveling at how at the same time I wanted to both strangle him and wrestle him to the floor and kiss him till he couldn’t see straight.
Mrs. Rutter’s anxious voice interrupted my thoughts. “Young man, you fell through the floor?” Her fingers pressed against her chin as she glanced fretfully between Spook and me.
Spook shot me an irritated look before answering, “Yes, ma’am, I fell partway through the spot where the floorboards are warped and weakened.” He smiled thinly and continued, “I wasn’t watching my step when I tried to get out of the tower after the lightning strike. Our not-so-friendly ghost had nothing to do with it.” He looked at me pointedly, warning me not to say anything else about it.
I looked away angrily. He was using the same tone of voice he had used at the Berkeley mansion when he had accused me of being overly-imaginative and attention-seeking. What was wrong with him? He’d said himself last night that there was an evil presence on the far side of the tower, and that was where he’d been just before the lightning strike. How could he deny there was a connection?
Giving Spook a doubtful look, Mrs. Rutter pulled a yellowed newspaper clipping from inside the back cover of the yearbook and handed it to us. “I’m wondering if this might change your mind about what happened.”
Spook and I both leaned close to look at the clipping. I gasped as I read the headline—“Appleton Bell Tower Burns, Willow Lake Student Perishes.” Unless I was mistaken, this was the article that had been blacked out of the microfilm for three newspapers. We both read the remainder of the article: “A fire in the bell tower of Appleton Hall, Willow Lake Teachers College, claimed the life of a female student Saturday evening. The badly-burned body of Mary Sarah Bollinger, 20, of Hall Township, was discovered in a pile of rubble in Room 325. Fire chief Edwin Franz said it appears that Bollinger fell through the floor after flames weakened the tower floor boards. Her fiancé, Warren McKnight, 21, of Willow Lake, was also injured in the blaze, but his injuries were not severe. It is not known why either Bollinger or McKnight was in the bell tower. The investigation continues.”
As I finished reading the article, I noticed that my hands were shaking, so I clasped them in my lap. I glanced over at Spook, who had picked up the clipping to reread the article. His expression was suspicious as he raised his eyes to mine. He tossed the article down on the desk and rubbed his hand across his chin. “The more we find out about this case, the more questions we seem to have,” he muttered.
Looking at Mrs. Rutter, I asked her the question that had been burning in my mind since we had started researching yesterday. “Who could have blackened out this article on the microfilm, and why?”
Mrs. Rutter pursed her lips and shook her head. “I really don’t know, Kyr,” she responded slowly. “Mother said that the Bollingers and the McKnights were both well-to-do families, and since there was some gossip about the young woman being pregnant and the young man killing her, it’s possible that someone connected to one of the families wanted to erase this story from Willow Lake’s history. Or from their own.” She looked pointedly between Spook and me before finishing, “Although, I’m sure if you’d bring up the subject around Willow Lake, you’d find quite a few people who would refuse to talk, not just the Bollingers or the McKnights.”
Spook and I looked at each other, recalling the fire chief’s behavior last night, as well as Amber’s comment about some of the staff denying anything paranormal happening in Appleton.
Glancing at my watch, I said hurriedly, “Mrs. Rutter, would it be all right if we made copies of these yearbook pages and the article?”
“Oh, of course, Kyr,” Mrs. Rutter replied, jumping up and taking the yearbook and the clipping to the copier just outside her office. A moment later, she handed us the copies and wished us luck with the rest of the case.
As we headed out of her office, I had a sudden thought. “Mrs. Rutter, would you mind sending me a copy of anything the newspapers might run about last night’s fire?”
Mrs. Rutter’s eyes lit up as she caught my line of thought. “I will certainly do that, Kyr,” she promised. With a flash in her eyes, she said, “It’s about time someone uncovered the truth about Appleton Hall.”