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He raced through the fog, running break-neck through the mist toward the glaring white light and the shadowy figures ahead of him. He flailed his arms wildly in front of him, trying to feel his way through the dense wisps that threatened to swallow him as the silhouette raised the club over its head. He felt like he was running through deep water, every motion slowed and exerted, the club flashing down and reflecting beams of the flashlight blindingly at him, taunting him for not moving fast enough to reach the helpless figure on the ground in time. Down the club flew, moving maddeningly slow, yet faster than he could force himself to go, and he felt the shout bellow out of him from the depths of his core as he tried to ward off the impending blow. And the club fell faster and faster with every step he drew nearer until ...
He felt the adrenaline rush through his veins in a sudden burst as something touched his shoulder and shook him. His head shot off the pillow with in a start and a tiny yelp escaped him involuntarily.
He heard a shout then that sent another burst of adrenaline through him, jarring him the rest of the way from the dream. He whipped his head around and stared through the bleariness of his slowly waking eyes. He blinked and it felt like his eyeballs were made of sandpaper.
Dillon was standing a few feet from his bed holding his hands over his chest as though trying to keep his heart in.
"JEEZUZ, Dude!" Dillon shouted. "What the hell ya doin' scarin' me like that??"
"Dillon," JD sighed heavily, letting his face fall back onto the pillow heavily. "For God's sake, what time is it?"
"It's ..." Dillon stepped forward and leaned toward the clock on JD's night table. "... about nine. Dude, are you goin' back there? Tonight, I mean?"
JD thought about lying, for a moment. He'd been friends with Dillon since fourth grade, and except for the few years in college when they'd gone to different schools, they'd been close. When they both graduated college, they decided to room together. They had separate jobs and interests, but still spent most of their time together, and no amount of distance and time could make them less fond of one another.
But Dillon wasn't really cut out for paranormal investigation, and JD had known that all along. He invited Dillon along on last night's probe because Dillon had insisted, but things hadn't gone the way he planned. Dillon had been bored and restless, and too easily convinced that the house was haunted. If they continued together on the investigation, JD knew Dillon would probably be a hindrance along the way.
He also found it hard to just tell his friend he wasn't welcome to come any more, either. Dillon was JD's oldest and closest friend, despite their differences. He finally sighed deeply and rolled over onto his back in the bed, throwing one hand over his eyes.
"Yes. I'm going back there again. But not tonight. I'm going back to town this morning."
"Back to the town, but not the house?" Dillon seemed confused.
"Why not the house? Ain't all your tweety crap still there?"
"Yes. I will go back to the house, but this morning it's time to do research."
"Aw, MAN," Dillon groaned. "That sounds boring."
"It is. You won't like it at all."
"Dude," Dillon said, dropping hard onto JD's bed and bouncing a bit, "what's to research, man? We saw a ghost. Just deal, JD."
JD sighed. "Well, something weird's definitely going on there, that's for sure."
"It's a ghost, dick-weed."
"You heard me. Why won'tcha say it's a ghost? We all seen it."
"We saw something unusual, that's all."
"No, that's all. What are you doing up at this hour anyway? Don't you usually sleep until noon?"
"I wanna go with ya, bro," Dillon said. "It was kinda fun. When're we catchin' up with Wen? She's goin' back too, right?"
"She has a job, Dill," JD said flatly. "She can't go with us. She'll probably catch up to us tonight at the house."
"So what kinda research we doin'? Goin' to the cops an' find out if one of 'em got whacked an' shit?"
"Please," JD snorted, rolling onto his side and propping himself on his elbow. "The police aren't going to say anything to us about any cases. We have to look through public records."
JD shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Public, not pubic, records."
"Like the library -- newspapers, town history, maybe we can find out something about the house itself. If there was a police officer murdered there, it would be in public records and news items. We'll start there and see where that gets us."
"Sounds boring, dude."
"Can't we do somethin' excitin' like last night?"
"Paranormal investigation is very boring, Dill. You do a lot of watching and waiting and observing. I told you all this yesterday."
"Yeah, but things got excitin' yesterday."
"Wendy scared you."
"And we seen a ghost, dumbass."
"We saw something unusual, yes."
"Yeah, that ghost."
"Whatever. Are you coming with me or aren't you?"
"Well, yeah -- DUH, dude. What else am I gonna do today?"
"Don't you have a job you have to go do?"
"No. Do you?"
"I've taken a few days off for this investigation. Why don't you have a job?"
"Well ... I had one, see, doin' stuff for this one comp'ny downtown. I hadda give people their mail an' drop stuff off, an' shit like that. An' it sucked. So ... I told 'em I didn't like it and I quit."
"How ... how are you going to pay the rent and utilities? Put gas in your car? Pay for your auto insurance? Buy food, toothpaste, toilet paper --"
"I get it, DAD. Don' worry, dude, I'll get another job. Are you gettin' outta bed or not?"
"Not with you standing there staring at me like a museum exhibit, no. Leave. Now."
"Dude, you're grumpy in the mornin', you know?"
JD set his jaw. "Leave, Dillon."
"Sheesh," Dillon muttered and left the room, closing the door behind him.
JD shook his head again and got out of bed. 20 minutes later he was showered and refreshed. He found Dillon in the kitchen shoveling a bowl of chocolate cereal down his throat, chuckling at the cartoon characters on the box.
"Heavy reading, I see," JD sniped cheerfully. "Getting ready for the research?"
"HA! You're a real gas, dude. I'm not doin' any friggin' research, that's your gig. I'm gonna scope the chicks at the library."
"You don't have a job."
"Dumbass, of course I do. I called in sick is all."
"Why did you lie to me?"
"You my dad?"
"Not on a bet, thanks."
"So don' worry 'bout it. I gotta be there Monday but I got today off so I could go help ya."
"Help me, huh?"
"Yeah, like I did last night."
"Oh, is THAT what you were doing? Because I could've sworn it was you being a pain in the --"
The phone chirping electronically cut off the insult, and JD snatched it from the base station on the counter.
"Hi, baby, did you miss me?" Wendy's voice sent another rush of adrenaline through his body and he caught himself involuntarily smiling. Quickly he straightened and wiped his hand over his face.
"Hi!" he said, realizing too late he'd said it more brightly than he intended. "How ... are you?"
Wendy laughed. "It's okay to be glad to hear me, you know. I'm always happy to hear your voice, too."
"You ... you are?"
She laughed uproariously. "Don't make me laugh while I'm at work! They'll know it's a personal call, goofy."
"I ... I am glad to hear you. You know that."
"It's still nice to hear," she teased.
"What's up?" he said, trying to change the subject.
"I'm just saying good morning. And finding out if you're going back to the house tonight to follow up."
"That seems to the subject on everyone's mind this morning," he said, glancing at Dillon, who was still chuckling at the cereal box.
"Last night was pretty intense," Wendy said.
"You'd better be careful how you say that," JD teased, "it could sound like you're talking about something else."
"Like sex?" she said frankly.
"What? Does that word embarrass you, sweetie? SEX?"
"Wendy, you're working!"
She giggled in his ear, and he again found he had a smile plastered on his face.
"Do you want to try phone sex, lover? Right now?"
She gasped. "JD! How dare you!"
"At any rate -- yes, I'll be there tonight. Will ... will you?" He grimaced at how awkward and shy he felt with her.
"Just try and keep me away."
"I'll do nothing of the sort."
"Better not. Wouldn't work anyway. I'll see you tonight."
"I'll be looking forward to it."
"I love you, JD."
His heart jumped wildly in his chest and he nearly collapsed.
He was frantic, internally arguing with himself rapidly. He should say it back. He wanted to say it back. He believed he would mean it and not just be saying it to be in response to her statement. He couldn't imagine another woman more perfect in every way in the entire world. Why was he having a debate, then? He should say it back, quickly, not hesitantly, with authority and --
... and the phone went dead in his hand.
She'd hung up. She never waited for a response from him at all.
He looked at the phone as though it had just asked him the meaning of life, and slowly put it back into its charging base.
"She hitcha with the 'L' word again, bro?"
JD snapped out of his quandary. "What're you talking about?"
"Did Wendy just say she loved you again? What're you, stupid?"
JD stared off into the middle distance, considering the conversation with Wendy.
"Yes," he said softly. "I must surely be."
Ready to go on to Part 9?