Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 36

(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)

He fished around in the cramped, over-filled quarters of the tiny garage. He was sure the homeowners must hire a gardening service to take care of the yard, but the equipment, apparently, was all their own. Or it was from a time when they did the yard work themselves. A riding mower took up the bulk of the floor space, but there were wheelbarrows, hoses strewn over the jumble of nursery madness, stacks of cedar mulch and fertilizer, seed spreaders, rakes, hedge trimmers, weed trimmers and things JD didn't recognize.

He scanned the dim area, and finally saw a stand of wooden handles rising from the piles of equipment and junk in the far corner. He tried to discern the best path from the door to the tools, but there was no clear way to get there. He'd have to do an interesting ballet of tip-toeing and high-stepping to reach them.

He began the trek, trying not to trip and knock anything over. He teetered uncertainly for a moment, then something skittered away under his foot as he tried to push through the mass of miscellany. He sat back hard onto something solid, regained his balance, and with tremendous effort, pushed something that didn't look as though it weighed as much as it did aside to finally reach the far side of the garage.

He caught his breath for a moment, then examined what was there. The heads of most of the tools were buried beneath the junk piled around them, but he could see some of them. There was a garden rake, a lawn rake with bent and rusted tines, something that looked like a medieval torture device with pointed spikes spiraling down, and a manual lawn edger. He rattled the old brittle handles to move them around, looking for a shovel.

There wasn't one.

He shook his head in disappointment, then scanned the walls. Hanging on them were plastic accordion tubes of some type, copper pipes bound with twine, some things he couldn't identify ...

... and a shovel, hanging from a nail by a hole through the bulb of the handle.

He again did his dance of balance and progress, trying not to fall in the abyss of the debris scattered over the floor. He gingerly took the shovel down, then took a moment to eye his path back to the exit. Picking and prancing he found himself outside a moment later with the rain drumming on him steadily.

He trotted around the back of the house, and came up to the parlor window. He pulled the hood of his jacket over his head for the first time. He stared down, trying to identify where the ghost had buried the small section of PVC pipe so many years before. He wasn't sure exactly where it was, but he had a general idea.

He made a decision and planted the shovel's point into the soft ground. He put his foot atop the head and pressed down, sinking it deeply into the soil, to the ferrule. He gripped the handle tightly, and pulled back hard.

A lump of soft, dark earth upturned, and water began to collect in the hole while JD turned the shovel over to empty it.

He looked down, but there was no white plastic revealed. He studied the position of his hole for a moment, then planted the shovel again, a bit farther from the window. Sinking it deeply, he turned another big divot. Still nothing. He considered again. He drove the shovel again, and once more churned the earth out of the way. More nothing but dirt and the translucent roots of grass and weeds, cut clean by the shovel's blade.

Once more he thought. He stepped back, looking at his position to the window carefully. He came forward again, picking a spot between the two of them, and again planted the shovel head. The divot came up as JD worked faster, watching the darkening sky behind the steady tattoo of the rain.

Still nothing.

He looked at the ground again. There were three holes now, spaced apart relatively evenly. He couldn't tell whether his lateral position was accurate though. Shrugging, he plunged the shovel down again and upturned another large divot. Nothing in the hole. He pondered if the holes were deep enough, but Jenkins had used a smaller utensil and his hole wasn't as deep. He should have been turning up big enough chunks of ground even taking into consideration the settling of the ground. It couldn't have sunk that much.

He tried again, and again found nothing. A fifth time, with the same result. Confused, concerned and sopping wet now, he began to break up the divots, searching for the telltale white indicator. He found nothing. Again and again he turned up chunks of ground, breaking them with the shovel head, trying to locate the short pipe. He had developed a large hole, and still didn't find it.

He slammed the shovel into the ground in frustration, and heard a hollow thunk.

He froze. Trying to decide what to do, he carefully, deliberately turned the divot. His heart pounding in his chest he stepped forward, slowly. Peering into the hole, he found a silver gleam staring back at him.

Knitting his brows, he bent down and brushed aside the mud with his fingertips. The iron pipe from the basement sump vanished under the holes he'd dug into the wall of the basement.

He muttered a curse under his breath and stood up. He jogged back to the front porch, leaning the shovel up against the side of the porch before darting up the stairs. He stomped the mud from his feet before pulling his shoes off carefully. Dropping them down softly he opened the front door and tried to shake the excess water from his body.

"That you, JD?" Wendy called. She was still upstairs.

"Yes, Wen, it's me."

"I saw some of what you were doing outside. It didn't look like it was going well."

"No. Not at all well, I'm afraid."

"Dude," Dillon said stepping out from the parlor and coming around the stairs. "You didn't find the pipe-note-thingy?"

He shook his head. "I'm afraid not. I just don't remember exactly where it is, how deep it is ... or if it's even still there."

"Well, it's too dark to go out there now. I put Dillon's and my shirt and jacket in the dryer for a few minutes and we're good to go. Want me to do yours too?"

"You put ... all of your clothes ... "

"Not at the same time, goof," she said, glowering at him. "You're the only naked guy I want to see, thanks."

"Gee, thanks, Wen," Dillon said sardonically. "Always nice to know I'm wanted."

"You are, punkin," she cooed, and kissed his cheek. "But I don't want to see you naked, thanks. And dream on if you think you're gonna get to see me naked."


"Um ... sure. I could use a good shower too. I hope this doesn't get too expensive."

"What happened out there?"

"I ... I couldn't find it. I dug up a good portion of the yard in that area, but I couldn't find it. I'll have to come back and look again tomorrow. The ground is soft and it's not hard to dig, but I have to find the location ... and the depth."

"It wasn't all that deep," Wendy said softly. "... at least, I didn't think so."

"No, I didn't think so either, but ..."

"How we gonna find it, man?"

"I don't know. Just ... keep digging, I guess."

"Okay, so ... now what?"

"Well ... we have a few hours to kill. Then the show begins again. Hopefully."

"Hopefully for you, dude. I'm hopin' not."

"I know. But it's the last bit. Until we find the note, or whatever may be in that pipe."

"I'm sure it's the note, hon."

"It could be anything, though. We don't even know if it's really important yet."

"I don't think we'd have seen that portion of the ... whatever ... if it weren't important. Do you?"

He sighed. "No. Not really."

"So how we gonna pass time, dude? Cards? We could play strip poker."

"No thanks," JD said. "I thought we could look over our data. See what we actually have. Make a decision about what to do with the tapes from there."

"Whattaya mean, dude?"

"Well, if they're not going to reveal anything ... no sense in keeping them. I'll use them for other cases, I guess."

Wendy nodded. "I guess if there's no posterity to preserve, preserving them for posterity is pointless."


"What about that -- you know -- that sound on the recorder, dude?"

"Oh. Well, that's ... interesting. We'll see if we can get it downloaded on the computer and analyze them. If not, I can contact a local university and see if they can analyze it for me. If it's not too expensive."

"Those AV guys ... an' nobody thought they'd be doin' anything after high school, huh?"

JD chuckled. "In the meantime, let me get myself cleaned up and dried off. I'll be able to think more clearly then."

"Go 'head, love," Wendy kissed him on the cheek, "I'll get your clothes rinsed and dried while you're showering."

"I'll play with the water so you get hot, then cold, then hot, then cold ... like that. Okay?"

"Thanks, Dillon ... nothing like being productive. Maybe I'll take a bath instead."

"All right, then, I'll get the recorder thingy outta the car and listen to that scary-ass, wethca-pants sound and see if I can get it on the monitor PC."

"Better. Thanks."

"Go on, babe. Leave your clothes on the floor. Bathroom's up the stairs and third door on the right."

He kissed her softly. "I can do the clothes myself, Wen. You're not a maid."

"But ya oughtta see 'er in a French Maid suit, dude."

"You never have."

"But you oughtta."

"Yes you should," Wendy giggled, shaking her hips at him teasingly. "Now scoot."

JD took a luxurious bath, letting the hot water melt over him, soaking into his bones like the warmth of a good brandy on a cold winter's night. He pulled the circular curtain closed around the tub, and could feel his muscles relaxing, sleep threatening him. Wendy came in at some point, though he didn't hear her, and took his clothes. He could hear the rinse cycle of the washer and eventually the dryer running somewhere. He soaked for much longer than he should have, but when he was finished, he had a freshly laundered towel and warm, dry clothes to put on.

He was down the stairs nearly an hour later, yawning lazily as he plodded his way down the stairs. When he entered the parlor, it was dark. The two shadows of Dillon and Wendy were leaning together so closely, they were nearly touching. They weren't speaking. At all.

"Hey," he said softly, and both of them jumped, shouting with the start.

"Dude! Don't do that, dammit!"

"Do what?" JD said, confused.

"Oh, God, babe," Wendy stammered, nervously. "You ... you have to hear this ..."

"Dude. Word."

"What? Hear what?"

"Shaddap and listen, dude."

Dillon pressed the button and that unearthly, bone-chilling wail filled the room, echoing from the plaster walls. JD shuddered violently as the sound twisted its way down his spine like an electric pulse. When it finished, dying off and seeming to echo in the cavities of his mind, Dillon shook his head violently.

"We've ... we've heard it before. It's disturbing, but not new. What's wrong?"

"Jus' listen, dude."

Dillon clicked the mouse a couple of times and reset the recording, then adjusted the GUI controls on the recording program on the PC. "Ready, dude?"

JD shrugged. Dillon clicked the mouse again. The recording played at a much higher speed. JD felt his heart stop and his jaw drop.

"Oh my God."

"Yeah, dude. Exactly."

"JD, what does that mean? Does it mean what ... does it mean anything?"

JD slowly shook his head. "I ... I don't know."

"Dilly, play it again. NOT the slow one, please."

He nodded, then clicked the mouse again.

A single phrase came through the speakers, and JD leaned close to the two of them. "Dillon ... did you ... did you alter this somehow?"

"I just sped it up, dude. This program did it. I just changed the speed. Me 'n Wen were freakin' out 'cause that sound ... that horrible sound was just too much, y'know? So we figgered if we played it faster, we wouldn't hafta hear it as long. An' this is what happened."

"My God ... this is ... this is incredible."

Dillon nodded. "I couldn't believe it either, man. Pretty frickin' creepy."

JD nodded. "Yeah. Once more, please."

Dillon sighed, and clicked the play button again. The single phrase came through again, high-pitched from the acceleration, sounding like Alvin and the chipmunks, but the words were crystal clear.

"The garage," the voice said.

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