(copyrighted material Caron Allan 2007)
When Amy awoke it was already mid-afternoon. She ached all over and felt as though someone was powering into her brain with a road-drill. She managed to grab her phone on the second attempt and squinting with one eye, she could see that it was a little after two-thirty. She had the second night’s work at the Old Mill Hotel to get through. She only hoped she would survive.
She hobbled to the tiny bathroom, her ankle was swollen and painful to stand on. But at least she could get around. She washed down her next dose of painkillers with a couple of handfuls of water straight from the bathroom tap.
Belatedly she remembered the plastic tooth mug wrapped in a plastic bag and positioned in the middle of the shelf beneath the mirror. She gulped down three more tiny glasses of lukewarm water. She washed her face and neck but didn’t feel up to a shower. She combed her hair with extreme caution, avoiding her bruises, and made up her face with more care than usual in an attempt to disguise the pallor. She put on fresh jeans and a cardigan over a silk t-shirt instead of her usual business suit and heels – she needed comfort above all else tonight, and she pulled on two pairs of socks then sturdy ankle boots as she needed the extra padding to give her ankle a little support. When she had given up her ‘proper’ career to begin her paranormal investigation business, Amy had promised herself she wouldn’t let her standards slip, but looking into the mirror now she saw they hadn’t so much slipped as plummeted. On the other hand, she thought, as she recalled her little daydream the previous night about health and safety – she was definitely learning from her mistakes – if she had to fall downstairs in the dark, she was no longer going to do it in three-inch Italian heels and thin silk trousers.
She fired up her laptop and transferred the photos and video files from her phone. She would look at them properly later. For now, she just needed to know she had a second copy. Logging in to her cloud storage, she loaded another back-up to there. That done, she logged off, feeling relieved to know her files were safe.
She threw her phone into her bag, packed more painkillers in case this dose needed back-up. She packed extra torch batteries and a pack of chocolate cookies, some chewing gum and a wad of tissues from the bathroom and left her room feeling like a veteran.
It was time.
She could hear the IPA crew talking downstairs somewhere. The sound of their hushed voices reached her although their words did not. In the darkened room, the area immediately surrounding her, all was quiet, still, waiting. She felt sure something was about to happen – the air was heavy with silence.
Hard upon these thoughts there was the sound of a footstep. She waited to see if there were more. The sound came from right outside the door. She tried not to tense up, tried to reach out with her mind, her energy. She heard another step, then another. Two more steps and the door creaked and opened a matter of two inches, the handle turning. The door opened a little wider. A figure appeared in the narrow gap.
‘Amy, is it okay if I join you?’
It was the medium, Kym Carpenter. Amy called back softly in reply.
‘No problem, nothing’s happening yet, but I have a feeling it’s about to.’
Kym came in, and halted just inside the door, scanning the dim room for Amy. Amy waved a pale hand and she saw Kym’s tall, athletic frame move in her direction.
‘Do you want to sit here?’ Amy asked. ‘It’s the only chair.’ She could just make out the small movement as Kym shook her head.
‘No thanks, this is fine,’ Kym said, keeping her voice low. She moved across to stand next to Amy, leaning back against the wall. ‘Are you okay after yesterday?’
‘A bit achy and stiff, but otherwise fine,’ Amy whispered back. ‘Thanks so much for all your help, you were really great.’
‘Oh listen, I was happy to help. Did you say nothing has happened in here yet?’
‘Not yet, but I feel like it’s about to,’ Amy said.
‘I agree; this room is heavy with raw emotion. I told the IPA guys I felt we should all head up here, but they’re too busy making a ‘prime-time television show’. Sorry but, er, well it’s possible they may barge in and ruin things in a little while. They really are a bunch of assholes.’
The two of them waited. Amy tried to get herself back in her receptive zone. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, almost as if in prayer, and she allowed herself to relax and become centred, reaching out to the room around her.
She was aware of the heat from Kym’s body nearby. It felt like electricity charging the room like a battery. Amy felt as though the charge was giving her power, helping her to open herself up more easily. And now she opened her eyes, not at all surprised to see the woman.
She was a full, corporeal apparition, standing in the centre of the room, facing away from Amy and Kym and towards the door. A glance from the corner of her eye, without turning her head, told her Kym was watching the figure just as intently as herself.
The woman was young, her face and the outline of her figure were very clear, almost luminous, but her hands, by her side, and her feet, faded away and melted into the darkness. The woman was blonde, pretty, and was wearing the long, pale-coloured nightgown of an older day.
‘Hello.’ Kym said softly. ‘Can you hear me? If you would like to speak with us, if you have something you want to tell us, or need to tell us, we’re here for you.’
The figure turned to face them. Amy felt as though waves and sorrow and fear were coming from the figure. Amy was about to speak when she saw the woman’s mouth open, and her hand came out towards them.
Suddenly there were loud sounds from the hallway and almost immediately the door was thrown back by a man with a camera reversing into the room, and two of the IPA team entered, speaking to the camera in exaggerated stage-whispers.
‘We’re now entering the bedroom of the inn’s owner, and let me tell you, there have been some pretty exciting things happening in here!’
The woman had gone. She vanished in the very second that Amy’s attention was distracted by the arrival of the IPA guys. Amy felt more disappointed at the lost opportunity than angry, and when Kym clutched at her sleeve and whispered that they should leave, she was more than happy to go.
At the head of the stairs they halted.
‘Where next?’ Amy asked. Kym didn’t need to think about that. Immediately she said,
‘The reception lobby. If we’re in luck, it should be empty by now.’
It was. The security light outside shone through the glass of the door and illuminated the interior in a patchy half-light, glancing across floor, chairs, tables and counter like high resolution moonbeams.
A quick double-check showed that the area was indeed devoid of all IPA personnel.
‘Thank God, they’ve gone!’ Kym said. She led the way to one of the sofas placed to one side of the lobby for the comfort of the guests who never came.
They sat. Amy said, ‘What did you make of the woman upstairs? Was that what you were expecting?’
Kym turned to face Amy, in the dark she smiled. ‘That was interesting, wasn’t it? I mean, I was actually expecting a male apparition. But that was just based on what I had picked up in the room and in the hallway. An even down here, I’ve sensed this very forceful male energy. But as soon as she appeared, the room seemed to be flooded with this much softer, gentler female energy. And she was so young!’
‘She was young. I was expecting a female, but older. I’d pictured her as grandmother-age. I think if those IPA guys hadn’t burst in just at that point, I think she may have communicated with us.’
‘Oh definitely. I agree,’ said Kym. ‘She really wanted to reach out to us. I don’t know if you noticed but just as those guys arrived, she had turned toward us and started to move forward, I felt like she was going to lie down on the bed.’
‘Really?’ Amy said, intrigued. ‘I got distracted by our ‘co-workers’ and their perfectly-timed arrival.’
‘But it’s weird though,’ Kym said, and even in the half-light, Amy could see her shaking her head and frowning. ‘I mean, the bed in that room – well it’s new, it’s not exactly a family heirloom – it couldn’t have been in the room whenever what’s her name was alive. So how would she know where to lie down?’ She shook her head in frustration. ‘Maybe I mistook her intention.’
‘It’s not a very big room. Maybe the bed was in that position back in her day too. We’ll go back in there when the other guys have gone. Maybe we’ll be able to make sense of it,’ Amy said. ‘I feel that she was sad, even fearful.’
‘Yes. And it would have to be something pretty traumatic to keep her here in such a strong form. It’s not very often I’ve seen a full-bodied spirit like that.’
They were silent for a moment. Then with a change of direction, Amy said,
‘You sensing anything here right now?’
‘Not really – just the usual – a dominant male spirit, kind of brooding. It’s not focused though.’
‘Want to try to get him to focus?’
So Amy took Kym’s hand and called out in a firm voice,
‘We’re here to speak with you. We know you’re here now, watching us. Could you please show yourself and speak with us?
They waited for a few minutes. A clock ticked loudly and steadily from its place on the wall behind the counter.
Amy was about to speak again but was halted by the sound of footsteps – heavy, solid – moving across the lobby floor from the stairs to about six feet in front of where they were sitting. Amy felt the hairs on her arms prickle upright. Something or someone was standing right in front of them, but they couldn’t be seen.
In a lower voice, Kym said, ‘Thank you for joining us. I hope you don’t mind us being here, I guess it’s not always nice to have so many strangers in your home. We don’t want to intrude upon your private space. If you have the time, we’d like to ask you a couple of questions. Will you knock on this table and let us know that’s okay?’
There was immediately a loud rap on the low coffee table in front of the sofa where they were sitting. Amy was startled even though she’d been expecting it.
‘That’s great,’ Kym continued calmly. ‘Thank you. Now am I right in thinking you’re the boss around here?’
Again there was a single emphatic knock on the table.
‘And where you are from, is it the 1800s?’ There was no sound.
‘The 1900s?’ Kym asked. Again, silence. Unable to hide her surprise, Kym asked, ‘The 1700s? Is that what you mean, it’s the 1700s?’
There was immediately a loud bang on the table. Kym and Amy exchanged a look. They could still see nothing but empty space in front of them.
‘Is it the 1750s?’ Amy asked. No sound.
‘The1740s?’ Kym asked. Still nothing.
‘The 1760s?’ Amy asked, and from upstairs she could hear the sound of voices and loud, hurrying footsteps. Time was running out. ‘The 1770s?’ she asked, frantically.
The coffee table tipped up on one end and crashed to the floor again, a leg falling off, and at almost the same moment, the front door blew open forcefully and crashed back against the wall before slamming closed once more.
The IPA crew were coming down the stairs at a run, exclaiming loudly and swearing in their excitement, their cameras and boom mics swaying as they came.
Kym turned to Amy with a wry grin.
‘I think our time’s up!’
Frustrated, Amy said, ‘Yes, but how did they know there was something going on?’
Kym said, ‘I’ll tell you over breakfast.’
They found a booth in the diner. Amy was doubtful about the wisdom of drinking the coffee she’d ordered – she was falling asleep after being up all night, and that was what she wanted. On the other hand, though, she didn’t want to fall asleep in the middle of whatever it was Kym had to say. Yet if she got too wired up on coffee, she would lay awake all day and not be fit for work the coming night. In the end she cancelled the coffee and ordered tea instead. Tea didn’t affect her the same way.
The waitress brought them their orders: a spinach and tomato omelet for Kym, and three small, sugary warm pastries for Amy. Once the waitress had brought everything including the bill, she left them to eat, and Amy scooched forward and gave Kym a knowing look.
‘Okay, dish. What happened tonight?’
Kym took a moment or two to sip her coffee before answering.
‘Well, it’s like this. When IPA arrive to do an investigation, they wire up all the rooms that will be part of the investigation with all their gadgets – temperature gauges, infra-red cameras, normal cameras, and of course, sound recording equipment. And one of their guys – Nate – he’s the techie, he sits out in the truck all through the investigation and monitors all the equipment through headphones and screens. So if a camera trips on in a room, or if a sound is recorded, he can tell the rest of the guys over the radio and they go and check it out. Simple.’
Amy set down her cup with a crash and slapped herself on the forehead.
‘Of course! How could I be so stupid? I even knew that already. I mean, I stood and watched them setting it all up. I had to wait outside when I first arrived because they were still bringing all that crap into the Inn. And of course I’ve seen the show on TV a few times – it has a horrid kind of fascination for me.’
‘I know,’ Kym cut in, her tone wry. ‘You tell yourself you’re only going to watch it for a few minutes, just to see where they are doing the investigation, but it kind of draws you in, and then before you know it you’ve been sitting there watching it for a half hour. And the whole time you’re screaming at the screen, ‘What the bleep are you idiots doing?’ It’s horrible.’
‘Exactly. I actually feel dirty afterwards. But, coming back to last night, so you’re saying they listened in to what we were doing, and everything we said, and their tech guy, this Nate guy, tipped them off and they rushed upstairs to try to muscle in on our lady, then later, rushed right back down again when they heard us asking our questions in the lobby. Those sneaky bastards!’
‘Yeah, well, don’t beat yourself up, I always forget too, and I’ve actually worked with those idiots half a dozen times now. In fact, I may well have cost myself my job when they replay some of the tape and find out I shared some of their information with you. I know Jake, in particular, is not going to be happy about that.’
‘Sorry,’ Amy remembered one or two things Kym had said that could be viewed as critical of the IPA technique.
‘Don’t worry about it. This omelet is gorgeous. If it wasn’t a terrible thing to do, I would eat another one right after I finish this one. But my hips will punish me forever.’
Amy smiled. ‘So what do you think? Do you think the woman upstairs in Megan’s bedroom and the guy downstairs in the lobby are from the same time-frame?’
‘Ordinarily I’d say it was unlikely. It’s not unheard of to have simultaneous but completely separate hauntings going on, but it less common. And in this case, I actually think these two are connected.’
‘Interesting. So it sounds as though I need to ask Jackson to find out some information: who lived there, anything newsworthy or notable that happened, that kind of thing. That male apparition was quite a temperamental type.’
‘Yes. Now, I was wondering what you thought about that. It seemed to me less likely that he was angry with what you asked, and it was more that he was angry at being questioned at all.’
‘Yes. I reckon we started to narrow down the era a little bit too much for him. Do you think we could say he was probably from the late 1700s? Or was it too vague for that?’
‘Well, we did get some pretty definite responses. I think we were more or less in the right era. Maybe I’ll be able to get Nate to let me listen to the tape.’
‘There was definitely an element of the spirit being angry at being questioned.’
‘I had a strong sense that the guy just hates women, pure and simple. He doesn’t like accounting for himself to a woman. I think we’re looking at a wife-beater,’ Kym said. She picked up the bill and got to her feet. ‘I’m sorry, I really have to go get some sleep, I’m completely whacked.’
‘Well, at least let me pay, after all, you helped me so much last night,’ Amy said, but Kym wouldn’t hear of it.
‘I’ll no doubt see you later. Sleep well!’ she told Amy