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JD tilted his head to one side, listening, holding his finger to his lips.
"Shh! Shh, be quiet!" he whispered harshly.
Wendy and Dillon were joking around teasing one another, but when JD moved toward the parlor, they both caught his movement and heard his shushing sound. Gradually, they fell quiet with their faces growing sober.
"What?" Wendy whispered, "What's wrong?"
"Shh," JD repeated, stopping. "Listen."
The three of them were silent. Somewhere in the dark distance, an audible beep sounded.
"Oh, God, man!" Dillon softly groaned, his voice wavering with another bout of terror. "What's that, dude? JD, man, what's that??"
"Shh, let me hear," JD whispered again, and Dillon froze like a stature of horror, straining into the dark to hear.
The audible beep again.
"It's the thermometer," JD said glancing at them. "There's been a change in temperature in the parlor."
The other two didn't speak. They stood staring into the still darkness of the house's main hall, windows allowing in what little light there was outside through the Victorian-style lace curtains draped over them like widow's veils. The pale panes were stark against the surrounding darkness by comparison, backlighting the rooms they were in, giving the appearance of baleful eyes watching them from the blackness of the house.
JD stepped quietly toward the parlor, treading softly. Dillon pulled away from Wendy quickly and nearly knocked him down as he hurried behind him, making contact with JD's back.
"What's the matter with you?" JD hissed at him.
"Don't leave me, man!" Dillon pleaded.
"Oh please," JD muttered.
"He's just scared, JD," Wendy said. JD noticed she was alarmingly near his back also.
He closed his eyes and tried to garner his patience. "All right, fine, come on then. But be quiet."
They nodded, even though he wasn't looking at them in the dimness, and followed as he approached the parlor.
The floors didn't creak as they moved forward toward the open parlor. From the hallway, the monitors were casting a tiny white light out through the doorway, framing its outline on the floor in front of them. The high ceiling wasn't visible in the darkness as they approached the little patch of light.
"JD, man," Dillon whispered, "why we sneakin'? Didn't you say ghosts ain't scared o' people?"
"Yes," JD said, "but I want to hear anything coming from that room besides the thermometer alert."
"OOOOOhhhhhh, I get it," Dillon nodded largely, exaggerating his comprehension. "So if there IS a ghost we don' scare it away."
JD shook his head. "Yes, fine, Dillon. That's the reason. Please be quiet."
"JD, do you hear anything?" Wendy spoke. Her lighter, musical voice nearly stopped JD cold. He turned to see her pale skin glowing in the weak light and shook his head. Turning back, he smiled. Not even pitch darkness can stifle her beauty.
JD stopped, holding his hand up to signal the others to halt. Dillon didn't see it in time and bumped JD on the back again. JD signed in irritation and stood up straight.
"Do you mind?" He was whispering, but his aggravated tone was clear.
"Sorry, dude," Dillon said. "I was watchin' for ghosts."
"There aren't any."
"You said there were. That's why we're bein' sneaky. 'Member?"
JD dropped his forehead into his hand. "Dillon, I don't want to go over this again. Just ... watch what you're doing, please."
"Yeah, sure," Dillon said. "Sorry. I already said sorry. I mean it, though, I didn't meanta hitcha."
"All right, thank you."
"Are we going in or not?" Wendy said from the rear.
JD scowled at her from around Dillon. "Switch places with Dillon and this will go faster."
"Why can't we just go in?" she said. "And why are we whispering?"
"FINE," JD snapped, "let's go."
He moved a bit quicker, still stepping carefully but less lightly. He pressed himself against the wall next to the door jamb. Dillon saw his movements and slammed himself flat on the wall, pressing hard against it as though allowing a train to pass without making contact with it, hands splayed against the cold plaster, standing on tip-toes, holding his breath.
"What?? What, dude??"
JD looked at him, confused. "Nothing. What's wrong with you?"
"I ... wull ... nothin', but you ... I thought we ..."
Shaking his head again, JD turned back to peer around the corner of the doorway, staring into the room at the monitors. They displayed a much more illuminated version of the parlor, the furniture and expansive area rug clearly visible through the sensitive camera mounted high up on the wall in a corner beside the doorway. He couldn't see any movement, and didn't hear anything but the occasional beep from the thermometer announcing it had detected a change.
The rest of his body followed his head into the door frame and Dillon and Wendy pulled along behind him as he entered the parlor. He sat down at the table holding the monitors and picked the thermometer up. The display showed the current temperature and the change.
"It dropped something like 8 degrees in here," he said softly, brows knit over his eyes.
"Oh no," Dillon groaned, turning to Wendy, "OH NO. That's a ... that means that ... it's 'cause ... JD, what's that mean, man?"
"It means the temperature changed, Dillon," JD said looking at him, "nothing more."
"Why?" Wendy asked.
JD shrugged. "The thermometer doesn't really work that way, Wendy," he said. "It just shows the difference in temperatures."
"Man, that's bad," Dillon said shaking his head, "I jus' KNOW it. It's bad, ain't it? There's a ghost then, ain't there?"
JD shook his head. "It just means there was a change in temperature, Dillon. That's all it means. Don't read anything more into that. For all we know, the drop was because we opened the door to go outside, or because we opened it to come back in."
"I gu-eessss," Dillon intoned dubiously.
"JD, you can't believe the temp dropped almost ten degrees because you opened the door."
"Sure it can," he said calmly. "The house is poorly insulated, there's no curtains to speak of, there is no carpeting, a lot of hard surfaces ... easily. A draft comes in after we open the door and the thermometer picks it up."
"No way," Wendy was adamant, "that's impossible from this distance away from the door."
"Yeah, dude, what she said."
"It's the only possible explanation. The house is cold anyway."
"Naw, man, you gotta do better 'n that."
"JD, that's really unlikely if not impossible. The rooms are all isolated from each other."
"Dude, what she said."
JD shot his "gimme a break" look at Dillon. "Do you have a better explanation?"
"Aren't you here to investigate paranormal activity?"
"Dude, you're so here t'do that."
"Yes, but if there's a natural explanation for the events --"
"DUDE, it ain't natural!"
"JD, seriously, man -- can'tcha jus' SAY it mighta been a ghost?"
"There could just as easily be a paranormal explanation as a natural one, JD. Why did the homeowners --"
As she was speaking, still as the grave and without warning, a silhouette of a man passed quickly behind JD in front of the tall and narrow windows.
Wendy, mid-sentence, and Dillon standing beside her, leapt into each other, screaming in start. JD's heart tore through his chest wall, making him whirl to look behind him, his posture defensive.
"What??" he barked, taking a step back. "What is it??"
The two of them exploded wildly together, in unison, still clutching one another
"There was a man behind you ..."
"Dude, it was a DUDE!"
"He ran past the windows!"
"Was it inside or outside?"
"TURN THE DAMN LIGHT ON, DUDE!!"
"Dillon, calm down --"
"JD THERE'S SOMEONE IN THE HOUSE WITH US!"
"Wendy, relax! I'm sure --"
"TURN ON THE DAMN LIGHT, DUDE!!"
"NAW, MAN, TURN THE LIGHT ON!! PLEEEEEEASE!"
"Are you sure it was inside the house?"
"YES!!!" they screamed in unison and he turned back to them.
They were clutching each other, wide-eyed and shaking, and he knew something happened. They were clearly frightened, and he was certain they weren't faking.
He turned back toward the monitors, and there was nothing there. The room was empty except for him.
Maybe, he considered, there IS something going on after all.
Ready to go on to Part 5?