The two of them sat huddled in front of the softly glowing LCD monitors, the black-and-white images casting eerie light over their faces and clothes. The house was cold, and the open curtains showing the darkness outside let the chill penetrate deeper. The ancient Victorian had been beautifully restored, but that didn't include insulation or double-pane glass in the sashes. It didn't include new window casings, either, so that the blistering wind from the northeast whistled in through the gaps around them. The thick, opulent decor simulated the time period of the house perfectly, with rich mauves, oriental area rugs over pristine wooden floors, delicate tables packed with articles of pewter and nickel, each covered with a fantastically woven doily. Tiffany glass lamps sat in the midst of each and a large light fixture, designed to simulate a gas light from the Victorian era, was mounted low in the center of the room.
They were dressed warmly, in heavy jeans and a T-shirt over a thermal undershirt and a flannel over shirt. The watch caps they wore protected their ears from the biting chill, and their rag-woven socks did what they could beneath the Chuck Taylors to keep their toes from numbing. Light, fingerless gloves covered their hands, but because they needed to tweak instruments and knobs and keyboards, their reddened fingertips throbbed when they cupped their hands and blew warm air into them. Their words puffed out in wispy, white clouds from their mouths when they spoke, drifting lazily into the void or against the monitors.
"So," Dillon whispered, sniffing and rubbing his red, chilled nose, "now what?" He dragged his finger nails over his jaw, rasping against the three days of stubble growing on it.
"Why do you keep asking me that?" JD said, knitting his brows and glaring at Dillon.
"I'm curious is all," Dillon whispered back, holding his hands up defensively. "It's just that we've been sittin' here doin' a whole lotta nothin', and it seems like we oughtta be doin' somethin'. Ya know?"
JD sighed. "Yes, I know," he said tiredly. "I told you it would be tedious, Dillon."
"You didn't say nothin' about boring, though," Dillon retorted.
JD turned quickly in surprise to look at him. "Do ... do you know what 'tedious' means, Dillon?"
"Look, I'm just sayin', shouldn't we be doin' something 'sides sittin' here?"
"No, this is precisely what we should be doing. Watching."
"I'm sick o' watchin', JD." Dillon put his foot up on the table supporting the monitors and keyboards in front of them.
"Why'd you come then?" JD said, adjusting the EMV to his right, and watching the room in front of them on the monitor.
"You said we were huntin' ghosts, JD," Dillon whispered. "That sounded exciting. This shit's boring as hell, man."
"What did you think was going to happen? 'Ghost Busters'? A room full of flying objects mysteriously being levitated all over the house? Some apparition like on Scooby-Doo cartoons chasing us down the hall way?"
"Well ... yeah. Sorta." Dillon sniffed again, staring at his shoes.
JD looked at him sharply. "You're kidding, right?"
"Well ... no, man. What would you think? I seen you go off day after day, for months, and you never invited me once. That hurt my feelin's, by the way, just so ya know. How was I supposed to know it was like this? I thought you were, like, chasing ghosts, man. It sounded interesting."
"Dillon," JD sighed, trying to marshal his patience, "the reason I never asked you to come along before was just this -- exactly this, right here. You're bored. You have no patience. You don't like to sit and observe. It's not that we're not friends, or that I didn't want you in on my exciting, action-packed adventures, but because I knew this wasn't your thing. It's not something you'd enjoy. Didn't I tell you that when you asked to come with me tonight?"
Dillon was contemplating his navel carefully. "Yeah," he whispered. "Yeah, you did. Jerk."
"Why are you whispering?"
"I don't wanna ... I don't know. Aren't we supposed to?"
"We're not spies, Dillon. We're watching, that's all."
"What if we ... what if they get scared away?"
"The ghosts, ya dildo, the ghosts!"
"Scared away? By what?"
"By us talkin', dude, whattaya think??" Dillon was struggling to continue to whisper.
"We're not fishing!" JD said. "I've never heard of a ghost being startled away by human voices. If that were true, no one would ever see a ghost, doofus."
"Oh," Dillon said, not whispering for a change.
They were silent for a moment, JD continuing to check the cameras placed strategically around the parlor in the darkness. He watched how his adjustments affected the picture, and scanned the other instruments for changes in temperature, motion, infrared light shifts, and sound. The equipment was silent and sentinel in the dark room, and he yawned, billowing a heavy cloud around his hand as he tried to cover it.
"Man it's cold," he said at length, rubbing his hands over his upper arms then cupping his cheeks.
"Hey JD," Dillon said softly, "you ever actually seen a ghost, man?"
"No, of course not," JD said matter-of-fact-ly, never taking his eyes off the instruments and the image of the room on the monitor.
"No. Why, have you?"
"I ... No, I don't think so. Why haven't you?"
"Because I'm a very good paranormal investigator, and there are no such THINGS as ghosts."
Dillon screwed his face up into a confused mask. "Whah??"
"I said there aren't any ghosts."
"Are you serious?"
"Yes. Why, do you believe in ghosts?"
"I dunno ... sure, why not?"
"Because you graduated from a Christian college, that's why not. Didn't they teach you about how spirits work?"
"Uh ... like what?"
JD sighed, shaking his head. "You've GOT to be kidding me, Dillon. What did you study?"
"Pastoral Care and Lay Ministry," Dillon said flatly. "I still don't get your point, dude."
JD chuckled. "Why doesn't that surprise me? You did pass your courses, didn't you?"
"Hey, don't get all uppity an' stuff, JD," Dillon said, swatting him lightly on the arm. "You ain't all that, y'know."
"Well, did you sleep through the part about being absent from the body meaning being present with the Lord?"
"Eh?" Dillon looked confused.
JD sighed again, less patiently. "Paul said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."
"Paul the Apostle, numbskull!"
"Sometime in the first century, Dillon," JD said through clenched teeth.
"Is that in the Bible?"
"Are you sure?"
"How the hell should I know?" JD spat, looking at his friend in disgust.
"You brought it up."
"So, if you're gonna say somethin', you oughtta know where it's comin' from, don'tcha think?"
"Oh for ... okay, it's in the Pauline epistles, okay?"
"I don't have a Bible with me, Dillon."
"No? Then how d'ya know?"
JD shut his eyes. "Trust me. It's there."
"Oh, for the love of ... Okay, it's in Thessalonians. Okay?"
"I don't frickin' know off the top of my head!"
"You shouldn't've brought it up, then, man."
"I'm gonna ring your scrawny neck, Dillon. All right. Fine. Okay. It's in FIRST Thessalonians, all right? No, wait -- Second Thessalonians. No, FIRST. First Thessalonians."
"Aw, well how am I supposed to believe ya now? You can't keep your stories straight, you ain't sure of the book -- I bet you don't even know if it's in there at all."
"We can put the theory to the test right now."
"I'll kill you right now. If you don't go to either heaven or hell you can come back here and let me know."
"Aw, now you're gettin' hostile and shit, dude."
JD glowered at Dillon, opened his mouth to speak ...
... and a flash of light lit up the darkened monitor brightly, catching the attention of both of them.
They stared at the screen, shocked and startled into silence. JD checked the other instruments. Dillon put his face inches away from the screen.
"JD ... JD, what was that, man?"
JD studied carefully, watching the room wide-eyed.
"I don't know," he said finally. Only after he spoke did he realize he was whispering.