(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
They grabbed the recording materials as quickly as they could, and they left as quickly as well.
They hoped the fog wouldn't roll back in while they gathered the things they were taking with them. They hoped that the events they'd seen, and worse still the sounds they'd heard, wouldn't repeat themselves. In near silence the three worked to gather the items JD needed for the analysis, and they furtively glanced out the windows of the now-eerily dark parlor before they went for the front door ... and they looked through the sidelights one more time when they got to the foyer too.
They glanced about them as though a sniper may lay in the darkness, waiting for them ... then they moved down the porch stairs and waited anxiously while JD locked the large, looming and now somehow threatening house behind him. He rushed down the stairs to where they waited and wondered what it was they were afraid of.
Then the sound they'd heard on from that shadowy figure kneeling beside the image of Robin Brown's body echoed somewhere in his frazzled psyche and he shivered. That is what they were afraid of.
They walked quietly, trying literally not to wake the dead, to the gate, and JD's hand hesitated just briefly before he opened it. He allowed Wendy, then Dillon to pass through the gate before him, watching over their heads at the crouching black house, waiting for it to pour that mystic fog from around its corners and eaves to swallow them again.
For the first time since the investigation began, he hoped it wouldn't.
He was staring at the house as he backed through the gate and pulled it gently closed behind him, trying to make as little noise as possible in doing so.
They stood stiffly at the doors of the car, waiting for him, their nervous energy palpable to him. He hurried to unlock his door and trip the locks on theirs. Almost in unison they nearly leapt into the car, and pulled the doors shut behind them quickly. Strapping the seatbelts on, they shifted their weight to get comfortable, the other two looking out the windows at the black windows of the house, staring like soulless, baleful eyes at them. JD put the key in the ignition and silently prayed as he turned it over.
The car started without incident. They collectively -- and quietly, trying not to let the others hear -- breathed a sigh of relief.
JD pulled away from the curb, checking the empty streets behind them in the mirrors as they pulled away into the ethereal stillness of the cool night.
Before long JD was on the highway, heading back home. The exhaustion quickly overcame them, and quietly Wendy's head lolled against her shoulder and presently Dillon was snoring in the back seat. JD was far too wired internally to be sleepy, though he knew he should be tired. He threaded the car over the ribbon of blacktop winding through the dark forest around the road, his lights illuminating only a few yards before finding another wall of tree trunks. His mind wound through the events of the last two days as much as he could.
There was so much he still didn't understand, and not the least of these was that the events he'd seen were best explained, for the moment, by an actual apparition. That didn't sit well with him. He'd taken a theological, logical and fundamental position that there were no such things as ghosts, and everything he'd seen indicated that this was, in fact, a ghost. Even so, it didn't fit any conventional definitions of "ghosts" as he understood them. It was like a traditional apparition, but had more ability to interact than he'd ever heard of or read about prior. He was certain that this was either Stone- or Water-tape playback, but that idea had been dismissed quickly and easily. He wasn't sure he'd ever really believed it anyway. It wasn't an imprint type of manifestation, which would have been his second choice to explain the repetitive behavior of the things he saw. That left him with almost nothing except a traditional apparition, but it still didn't quite fit.
And then there was Dillon's statement that this particular apparition didn't realize it was deceased. He wondered about that too; could it be true? The statement Dillon made earlier about the fact that this apparition wasn't actually Robin Brown but Darren Jenkins was very interesting, too. As was Dillon's sudden surge of insight. Where'd that come from, he mused, and smiled to himself in the dark.
He chanced a quick glance at Wendy, her face turned toward him slightly and completely relaxed as she slept. The pale, soft light from the dashboard glowed on her and accentuated her clear, perfect features. His chest fluttered slightly, annoying him mildly, and he turned back to the road, the smile still imprinted on his face. He sighed as he refocused on the road ahead and tried to marshal his thoughts again.
That's when he drove right into the cloud of collapsing fog that swallowed the car whole.
He gasped audibly, and leaned forward. The road wasn't visible any more; the headlights were shining directly into a dense wall of mist.
He tapped the brakes, and pressed them gently, trying not to slide on what he assumed must have been wet, slick pavement. From the gloom ahead two red orbs pierced the haze.
He gasped again, and pumped the brakes, slowing the car so that the tail lights were only a few feet from him.
He tried to back away from the car, but the familiarity of the fog urged him to stay close. He wasn't sure why, but he felt he shouldn't lose sight of those dim islands of light in the sea of murkiness. As he continued to slow, the lights in front of him seemed to match his speed.
Furrowing his brow, he slowed more. He was barely moving now. The lights ahead of him were no more than two yards away.
JD stopped the car. The lights ahead of him stayed two yards away.
He sat there, straining to see the shape of the car beyond the lights. He leaned so far forward the steering wheel began to hurt his midsection. Leaning back, he shook his head.
A tiny sound beside him caught his attention.
"Babe? What's up? Are we home already?"
"No, Wen. Are you awake enough to look at this?"
She blinked her eyes opened slowly and yawned delicately. She sat up straight and tried to focus through the windows, but her breath caught in her throat when she finally caught the scene around her.
"Oh my God -- where ... where are we?"
"We're about half an hour up the highway. I was driving home when the fog closed in."
"Are we ... we're not moving."
"What's ... what's with that car? Is there an accident? Does someone need help?"
JD sighed. "I don't think so. I think ... I think there's more. And this is it."
Her hand leapt to her mouth to stifle her gasp. JD smiled. "That's what I said, too."
"What ... JD, what's going on?"
"I don't know. I slowed down because I thought this might actually be fog, but the lights you see ... they slowed down with us. When I stopped, they stopped. Not gradually, like a driver reacting to me. They stopped and moved exactly as I did."
"Oh my God. What ... ?"
"I don't know. I'm going to proceed and see what happens."
"If it's a car you'll hit it."
"Yeah ... yeah, I know. I guess ... well, I have insurance, right?"
She exhaled through her mouth. "Well."
JD nodded. "Well. You can go back to sleep if you want, hon. I just wanted to see if I was the only one that saw those lights."
"You're kidding, right?"
He chuckled. "Okay. Let's see what happens."
He let the brake off easily, and the car began to roll slowly ahead.
The lights stayed two yards ahead. JD's vehicle never closed an inch.
He shifted in his seat, and held the wheel more tightly. Then he accelerated.
And the lights ahead of him maintained that fixed distance between them as though they were attached to his car.
"Reflection?" Wendy said softly.
"No. Nothing red to reflect. The lights on the front of my car are either amber or white. I don't even think it's legal to have a red light anywhere on the front. And there is nothing to reflect from the woods, either."
"Trick of the light and fog? Making something reflecting look red?"
"Possibly. But unless it's coming from my car, why does it match my movements?"
She fell silent, and JD maintained a steady speed as he drove. The lights would swerve gently to the left or right as they went on, according to the direction of the road.
They proceeded for a few more minutes, and then suddenly, the lights brightened ahead of them.
The lead car was braking.
JD hit the brakes gently to slow down, and then the tail lights rounded a sharp corner to the right.
"It's turning," Wendy said, barely audible.
JD followed. There was a jolt as the car bounced over a junction between the asphalt and the shoulder, and then a gravelly crunch announced they'd hit a new surface.
"Access road," JD said flatly, to himself.
Wendy nodded as the car gently bounced on, keeping the fixed distance between them and the lights. The curves were steeper here as the vehicle led them into the gloom and night. They led around a tight curve that took them back toward the general direction of the highway, and then the lights before them brightened again.
"They're stopping," Wendy monotoned to no one in particular.
Then, the lights dimmed again, and a sudden flash of white briefly pierced their eyes.
"They're parking." JD was putting the car into park and shutting it off as well, watching the lights ahead carefully.
They winked out into the mist.
"They shut the car off," he breathed. "They've shut the car off in the middle of the woods."
"This is bad, isn't it?"
"Does your cell phone have a signal?"
She checked. "Sorta."
"Okay. Okay, stay here ... I'm ... I guess I'm going to see what goes on next."
"JD, you can't do this, this is stupid ..."
"I ... it's okay. If I don't come back in half an hour, call the cops and get out of here. Keep the doors locked."
"Locked? What are you talking about?"
"I think this is just another segment. But we should have a 'plan B'. Just in case."
"JD, please --"
"Shh, it's okay. Just ... just don't move, okay?"
She sat there staring at him wide-eyed. "It's okay," he reassured her. "Really. Even if it's not another segment, I'm sure this is nothing."
He opened the door, locked it behind him, and shut it soundly before she could object. Dillon snored undisturbed.
JD moved forward, hands outstretched, moving as carefully as possible in the depth of the fog and dark. He could hear his footsteps on the gravel surface, seemingly wet with the moisture of the cloud. He couldn't see as the swirling mist parted and re-swallowed him.
Suddenly he felt something stiffly resist against his chest. He felt through the dark and fog, and felt the remains of an ancient cyclone fence. He felt along the top, and the mist seemed to lighten, just for a moment.
He was standing in front of a gate ... and it was slightly ajar.
Just beyond it, he heard something. He stopped, and listened, trying to still his heart from pounding in his ears.
Voices. Faint, drifting in the melancholy night. And then, the fog lightened just a bit more, and he could see two forms then, dragging something large between them, trying to be quiet and hurry up the path beyond the rusted wreck of gate.
He fought for a moment with his instincts. His breath was ragged and burned his lungs a bit while his chest thumped with his heartbeat. He swallowed, looked over his shoulder, trying to gauge the distance he'd come, where the car was behind him. Turning back, he could see those figures disappearing into the murky dark wisps of fog, moving away from him.
He hopped over the gate to follow them.