Just joining us? You may want to start from the beginning.
JD was leaning against the front door, staring out into the darkness. The stillness of the quiet, affluent subdivision left an unearthly silence in the house. He pondered, wondering what would happen, watching the eerily lit and strangely shadowed trees and shrubs in the front yard of the ancient, regal Victorian mutate into horrific, Van Gogh images of hell and torment. Black talons stretched toward him and innocuous limbs and trunks morphed into slithering demonic shades and wraiths, entwining ever more tightly to block out what little light the night offered.
A voice from somewhere in the echoing, hard-surfaced house overlaid with fluff and softness drifted to him.
"JD? Dude, where you at?" It was almost a reverent whisper as though spoken in an empty church.
"Here, in the foyer, Dill. Why are you whispering again?"
Dillon emerged from behind the wide stairway that wound up to the upper floors, looking trepidatious and skittish.
"Waiting for Wendy," JD was droning, monotone and flat.
"She gonna get lost 'tween the car an' the door?"
"I don't know."
Dillon paused. "Are you serious?"
JD turned to look at his friend. "What's wrong? Are you nervous?"
"Hellz yeah, dude," Dillon affirmed. "Ain't you?"
"No ... why would I be?"
"We're gonna see a ghost, dude!"
JD shook his head slowly and turned to look out the blackened sidelight again.
"Dillon, I've told you about six thousand times since we've started this investigation, there are no such things as ghosts."
"Yeah, right. I hear ya keep sayin' that. And I keep tellin' ya you're fulla crap."
"I know you're convinced, but it's not a ghost."
"What is it, then, Einstein?"
"I don't know yet. We may never know. But it's not a ghost."
"How d'ya know?"
"Are we going to go through this three times a day every day?"
"Naw, jus' 'til ya answer me straight about it."
JD leveled his gaze on Dillon. "I've tried to answer you straight about this, innumerable times. You aren't willing to accept a straight answer unless it's the one you want."
"So ... what's your answer, then? I keep forgettin', 'cause y'lose me in all the bullshit ya sling with it."
JD chuckled. "You're quite a piece of work, Dill." He looked squarely at his friend. "I'm glad we're friends. You're important to me."
Dillon blinked. "Dude," he said seriously. "Save that shit for Wen, okay? You're creepin' me out. Ya ain't gonna kiss me or nuthin', are ya?"
JD laughed. "No. You needn't be concerned about that."
"So what's the answer, then?"
"The answer is, I believe that it is appointed for a man to die once and then the judgment. I believe that our souls, our spirits, our life force -- whatever you want to call it -- when it departs our bodies is sent to its holding place until that judgment. I believe that those who have fallen asleep in Christ will have their judgment and be brought into His Kingdom, and those who did not will pass through that judgment into eternal damnation. I do not believe in purgatory, limbo, or any bright lights or long tunnels. We are alive and then not, on earth and then not, and so the idea of incorporeal spirits roaming about the earth is not what it appears to be. I believe that most apparitions can be explained by natural occurrences, by visual mistakes or optical illusions, by misinformed or flat out lying eye witnesses, by people under the influence of suggestion or mass hysteria, or by ordinary things appearing to be extraordinary by people reacting to what they believe to be true. I do not now believe, nor have I ever believed, in ghosts."
Dillon cocked his head in a bird-like fashion, narrowing his eyes.
"So ... wait. Can you repeat that?"
A knock on the front door made JD jump and Dillon cackled evilly. "'Bout time you got scared 'steada me!"
JD glared and opened the door, and his heart nearly leapt from his chest as Wendy flashed him her amazingly winning smile, her arms loaded with bags atop a precariously bowing paper mache drink tray with huge polystyrene cups mashed into it.
"Hi, baby," she said brightly.
"Hi!" JD said, his voice quivering at the site of her. He rushed forward and took the white paper bags from the top of the gingerly balanced tower and she exhaled her relief.
"HHOO-FRICKIN'-RAYYY!!" Dillon shouted, "WENDY'S HERE WITH GRUB!"
She laughed. "Look, Dilly, chocolate shake for you!"
Dillon darted forward and took the drink tray from her, heading off toward the parlor happily. Wendy threw her arms around JD just under his own and squeezed.
"MMM!" she grunted. "Good to see you!"
JD was startled momentarily, but quickly put his arms around her shoulders and hugged back, warmly. He kissed the top of her head.
"I ... I missed you," he said uncertainly.
She looked up at him, her flashing green eyes dancing. "Yeah?"
He nodded. "Yeah. A lot."
"That's nice to hear," she said, "but it's really unlike you. Everything okay, lover?"
Her face was a bit concerned, and he put the bags of food down for a moment and cupped it in both his hands. "Yes. I'm just ... I love you, Wendy. And I've never known this sensation before."
She was stunned into silence. "Oh ... Oh my God. JD ... I ..."
"HEY! We gonna eat or have Harlequin moments in the damn hallway all night??" Dillon bellowed from the parlor and it echoed in the foyer.
JD closed his eyes and smiled, shaking his head slowly. "What are we going to do? He's my best friend." He stooped around Wendy's embrace and picked up the bags from the floor. When he stood she was eyeing him suspiciously.
"Is this ... is this the same JD I've been dating for the last eight months?"
JD's brows knit over his eyes. "Eight months, one week, four days, and ..." he glanced at his watch, "... two hours, twenty-seven minutes ... mark. But who's counting?"
She laughed uproariously, throwing her head back and tossing her wavy, thick auburn hair. Then she nestled deeply into his chest, never removing her arms from around him, and shut her eyes, squeezing him again.
"I love you too, JD," she said softly. "So much. So, so much."
She turned and planted a warm, slow, lingering wet kiss on his mouth fully and sensually. JD, startled at the sudden outpouring of emotion, gradually melted and returned it.
"YOU GUYS??? WHAT THE HELL???" Dillon was nearly screaming from the parlor now. "I'm starvin' over here!"
They parted reluctantly. "Okay, Dilly, okay, I'm just loving my man for a minute. Keep your shirt on."
"Oh," Dillon said, subdued. "Well bring the food in here first, okay? JD porn so sounds boring as hell."
She laughed again and took the bags from JD's hands, then skipped lightly in her child-like way toward the parlor. JD smiled watching her go, and followed a moment later.
"Damn, dudes, 'bout time," Dillon sniped as they came in. "Hey, if you're gonna make out an' shit, do it on your time, 'kay? I SO need t'seriously CHOW here."
"Shut up," JD spat flatly. "Eat your burger."
"I got you two, Dilly," Wendy stated, passing him two large blocks of wax wrapping paper spotted with translucent grease spots. "I know how you are."
"You're a helluva woman, Wen," Dillon said, glancing at JD. "I hope y'know that."
"She does," JD smiled, winking at his friend. Dillon smiled back.
"What?" she quizzed, catching the exchange. "Did I miss something again?"
"Naw, you're good," Dillon said, partially unwrapping one of the char-broiled burgers bursting with tomato, lettuce and dripping with mayonnaise. "It's all good, Wen."
She looked at JD and he beamed at her. "I'll explain later," he mouthed.
She passed out fries and drinks to all, and pulled out a huge salad in a plastic container, topped with cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices.
"So," she said, dropping into a chair JD pulled over to the table for her, as she cleared a place of wires and connectors to eat, "what'd you learn today? You said it was big."
"Aw, dude," Dillon uttered around a huge mouthful of food, "it was so huge."
"What was it?"
"It was, like ... well, it was kinda ... JD, you tell. I can't 'member what it was."
JD did explain, carefully, everything they'd learned from their time at the library. Wendy listened, nodding, watching JD as he spoke, amused inwardly at his focus as he related the account. He watched his french fries and burger, almost never looking up, as he absently nibbled on his food between sentences. She noticed every subtle nuance of the way he spoke, his body language, his expressions. She watched him intently, listening carefully, but seeing him come alive as he objectively conveyed information stored in his powerful, vast mind.
When he finished, he looked up and noticed her staring at him, munching softly on her salad.
"What?" he said, wiping at his mouth with a napkin.
She giggled. "Nothing. Nothing at all. I love you, that's all."
He blushed deeply. Dillon turned to look at him, his cheek rounded with a large bite.
"Dude?" he said, raising his eyebrows. JD blinked.
"I love you too," he said softly.
"Finally," Dillon stated, and turned back to his burger.
"Shut up and eat," JD snapped at his friend playfully.
Dillon shrugged, mouth too full to speak as he demolished the messy burger in massive gulps.
"So now what, hon?"
"Ho wodda muffin," Dillon muffled around his food.
"Nothing?" Wendy repeated, deciphering the message.
"There isn't anything we can do for now," JD said slowly. "We have to wait, and hope the events are played back again. There just isn't anything else we can do, unfortunately."
"Isn't there some way we can cause the events to play back, JD?"
"That'd be doin' SOMEthin', at least."
"Not really, at least not that I can think of. We didn't do anything to cause it last night."
"We went outside, dude."
"Wendy was already out there though, and nothing happened until we came back in. That's when the thermometer registered the drop in temperature, and shortly after that, the two of you saw the silhouette."
"You mean th' ghost," Dillon corrected.
"The silhouette," JD insisted. "And it was later yet, by at least a few minutes, that the main playback started."
"JD, if this is all a recording, was the shadow we saw part of that?"
JD narrowed his eyes in thought and shook his head slowly. "Good question. I don't know. It was almost certainly playback, but I'm not sure it was necessarily part of the same recording, now that I think about it."
"Two ghosts now??" Dillon said, his eyes bulging equal to his cheeks as he looked up at JD.
"Recordings," JD corrected. "They could have come from different time periods. If the water tape theory is even the explanation for all of this, then the recordings could be indiscriminately intermingled. The two separate events we saw last night may not even be related, for all we know."
"No ghosts at all, Dill," JD said patiently. "It's possible the beating we saw during playback had nothing to do with the silhouette you saw. I think, based on what we learned today, that the interaction we saw and the playback of the beating may be related, though. I just can't be sure until and unless we see it again, and possibly see more of it."
"How can we do that though if we can't even be sure if there will be a replay tonight?"
"I don't know, Wen," he said softly. "We're really at the mercy of whatever device we witnessed last night."
"The water DVD thing," Dillon said, sucking down milkshake.
"Or whatever it is. I suggested that last night because I have no other explanation right now, but that's not a very supported theory, as far as I can tell."
"It's not?" Wendy looked confused.
"Not really," JD sighed. "I've only seen one, maybe two web sites that talk about it, and neither of them give specific sources of information. Credible paranormal investigators don't seem to rely on it for explanation. There simply isn't any valid evidence that it works, how it works, and what if anything is being recorded. I just suggested it because what we saw last night fits the classic definition of a residual apparition. A lot of paranormal investigators -- most of which take a more faith-based or psychic approach to the field -- feel the theory explains those satisfactorily. Even without evidence."
"JD, are you saying this could actually be a real ghost?" Wendy was nearly excited in her statement.
"I don't think so, Wen," JD said patiently. "But anything's possible, I suppose."
He considered for a moment, with that thoughtful look over the top of her head that she adored so much.
"Do ... do you remember what time you got here, Wendy? Last night, I mean."
"Um ... well, it had to be close to nine. I'd think so, anyway. I went home and took a little nap, changed, ate, and came here. I got home around 5:30 or so, so I'd say by the time all that was done, and the drive out here, it was near nine. No later, I don't think."
"What if ... what if the time was the trigger?" JD pondered to no one in particular. "What if we just happened to be here, at the right time of year, at the right hour of the day, and these events are calendar related and not weather related?"
"What makes you think that?"
"His brain, same as all th' other crap that comes outta him," Dillon said, unwrapping the second burger.
Wendy giggled. "What specifically makes your brain think that the playback is time triggered, love?"
JD was still staring off into nothing. "I don't know. Just the chain of events, I guess. The homeowners contacted me but mentioned nothing about anything this dramatic. The fact that what you two saw was an escalation of what they called about, and what we all saw was an escalation of what you saw, perhaps ... I was just wondering."
"What did the homeowners say when they called you?"
"Yeah, dude, you ain't ever said what was up with that. How'd they know 'bout the ghost?"
"They called me because they heard a window opening in the parlor at night. But every night when the window was checked, it's closed and locked.
"And they said it happened every night for a week before they called me. The police found no evidence, including footprints, fingerprints, pry marks or any other indication of breaking and entering, but it continued for a week. They were leaving on vacation, so they called me to come check it out while they were gone."
"Okay," Wendy said, "that explains why you set up in here. But what makes you think it's time triggered?"
"The fact the homeowners said they always watch some show in bed. It's after that show that they hear the window opening and then closing again. So it's happening at the same time every night."
"Dude, when were you gonna let us in on this crap, man??"
"I just thought of it now myself. I just can't remember the name of the show they mentioned."
"So they watch this show in bed? How'd they hear the window then?"
"When I got here on Wednesday night, to meet with the homeowners before they left for vacation, they told me what they heard, and they demonstrated it. It's a very distinct, and loud, sound."
"DUDE, why didn't you say nuthin' 'bout this before??"
"Because we never heard it. I didn't think it had anything to do with what happened last night."
"But you do now?"
"Yes," JD said heavily. "I wonder now if the window opening is why the thermometer alarm was going off when we came back inside."