(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
The fog was so thick it was like a blanket had been thrown over the car. Wendy peered through the windows, trying to make out any shapes in the heavy mist. Only the swirling gray shroud stared back at her, and it was as muffling to the night as a layer of new fallen snow.
She could only hear Dillon rhythmically snoring softly in the back seat. And the sound of her own heart pounding in her throat.
She thought letting JD go into the dark following ghosts alone probably was a bad idea, but was certain that he'd be back soon. She didn't expect the fog to last another five hours, and it never even occurred to her that the time warp they'd been in at the house could continue. The sun would rise eventually, and some childhood superstition stopped her from believing that the supernatural events would continue through the daylight hours. Instead, she sat with her hands folded in her lap, tapping her foot impatiently, waiting for JD to come through the cloudy mist to tell her the apparitions vanished and he couldn't follow any farther.
But he didn't. And it was only when she checked the small duffle bag on the floor in front of the back seat that she realized he didn't even have a flashlight.
That's how her plan was formed. He couldn't be out there without a flashlight, right? He's in the woods; he's not exactly Paul Bunyan or Daniel Boone; he's going to need the light to find his way back. Without it, he could be hurt, possibly seriously. So she decided that, if he didn't return pretty quickly, she'd take the flashlight to him.
It now sat on the seat beside her thigh. She felt it gently touching her as she tap-tap-tapped her foot on the floor.
She kept watching the haze outside. JD wasn't returning. How long had he been gone? She wasn't sure. She checked her watch: 2:45 a.m. It was getting late, and she had no idea where they were. JD might have already fallen and twisted an ankle so badly he can't make the trip back to the car. Or maybe he can't find his way through the fog. After all, they couldn't find their way just a few yards in the pea soup cloud at the house, how was JD supposed to do that in the woods at night? She reached for the door handle.
She pulled back when she grasped it.
JD is a grown man, and she knew he could take care of himself. If he'd thought there'd be danger, he wouldn't have gone alone.
She reached for the door handle again. Her fingers danced over the chrome lightly, then fell away again and she sighed. She snapped open her cell phone and checked her signal. She had one, albeit not very strong. But she did have one. That meant JD probably did too. If he was afraid or if he felt he were in trouble, he'd call.
Unless he's too stubborn, of course.
Dillon stirred slightly in the back seat, adjusting to a more comfortable position, and fell silent. Wendy listened, but his snoring didn't resume for a moment. In that complete stillness, she listened intently.
There was no sound she could detect.
Not that it mattered, but she was conflicted. She was torn between loving JD and respecting him. There was a reason he wanted her to stay in the car, and she wanted to respect his wishes. He was looking after his friends, even though they were both grown-ups too. On the other hand, she didn't want him to be alone out there, by himself surrounded by what could potentially be hostile ... what? Personas? Ghosts. And if they could interact with them, as they'd done at the house, why couldn't they hurt him if they chose? She wasn't certain what to do. On the other hand, Wendy'd never been one to just sit and do as she was told. It wasn't that she was trying to be difficult, it was just that she felt she had more to offer than moral support from the safety of the car. And she didn't want him to be by himself out there in the event he needed help.
He is completely capable, however. He knows what he's doing. He's been on a lot of these investigations. He's probably better at it than the other two combined.
She continued to remind herself of all the reasons she should just cooperate with him as her fingers tightened around the door handle.
Dillon snorted and coughed, making her jump viciously and yelp in start. She covered her mouth with her hand and giggled alone in the car, turning her head back to watch Dillon as he adjusted on the seat again, trying to get comfortable.
"Dilly, you scared me," she said quietly in the car, but the sound of her own voice seemed eerie and spooked her a bit. She wondered why her imagination had run away with her so, but not being able to see through the heavy vapor outside had her skittish. She told herself to calm down and just relax. He'd be back soon enough, and they'd be on their way home.
Dillon shifted again. She wondered if he'd wake up. If he did, that would be an excuse to go find JD. Dillon just drifted off again, though.
She noticed her fingers on the door handle. She allowed her hand to come slowly back to her lap, and she laced her fingers and shifted in her seat to get comfortable. She looked out the window casually, watching the shifting wafts of gray as they tumbled like frothy waves over one another, vanishing in the night.
She yelped again when a flat pair of illuminated disks pulled up behind the car suddenly, emerging without warning out of the fog. She slapped her hand over her mouth again and her eyes bulged as she heard the rattling diesel engine shut down. A door opened and she heard it slam again. There was the sound of a footfall crunching through the gravel which finally receded into the distance, away from the car toward the spot where JD had vanished into the night.
She sat perfectly still, wondering how the driver hadn't seen her, and had to forcefully bring to mind that she may not actually be seeing something extant. Her heart raced, though.
JD didn't know this was coming.
Dillon yawned in the back seat. "Dudes ... we home?"
"Dilly," Wendy whispered hurriedly, "Dilly, it's happening again!"
"Huh? Wen? What's goin' ...?"
"Shh, Dilly, listen to me," she said, still speaking in that sort of theater whisper. "JD is out there in the woods somewhere, Dilly. I don't know where he is, but suddenly this ... this other car came up and ..."
"Okay, slow down a minnit," Dillon said, rubbing his eyes and sitting up. "I ain't all awake yet. Now, what's goin' on?"
"I fell asleep on the ride, like you," Wendy said, still whispering. "When I woke up, we were stopped in the middle of the road. JD was behind ... he was behind another car, I think. But the fog. It was the fog again. It was happening again."
"Yes, and it still is," she continued. "So we followed the car. It was so weird, Dilly, so strange -- we sped up, and it sped up, and when we stopped, so did that car. It was so weird!"
"Wait ... didn'tcha just tell me we was followin' the car?"
"But it did the stuff we did? From behind?"
"Didja see more ghosts?"
She shook her head. "Not ... well, not until we got here. Then some of them -- two of them ... they got out of the car and ..."
"Don't tell me anymore. Whadda we do now?" He stretched in the car and grunted satisfied as he finished.
"I ... I don't know. JD's out there, Dilly. He's out there alone, following ghosts. And I think another one just came out of that truck ... or whatever it is."
Dillon looked over his shoulder. The headlights were severely dimmed and nearly obscured as the thick fog roiled over them and played away into the dark.
"So ... none o' this is real stuff? It's all ghost shit?"
She shrugged helplessly. "I ... I don't know. Dilly, I think we're going to find the body up this road somewhere. Robin Brown's body."
"Whoa," Dillon said. "Really? You sure?"
"Well ... no, not sure. But it sure seems like it, because the ghost took something up the road with them. They were dragging it, like it was ... like it was ..."
"Dead weight?" he finished, his voice dropping ominously.
She nodded, biting her lower lip nervously. "Dilly, I think someone got out of that truck and is headed up the road, wherever it goes. JD's out there and doesn't know he's coming."
"Well ... technically this already happened."
"Yeah. JD says this stuff already went down. Like, forever ago. So it's pro'ly no big deal that they're sneakin' up on 'im out there." Dillon yawned hugely again, never bothering to cover it. "JD's, like, so not afraid o' this kinda stuff anyway."
"I know but ... well, that cop ghost spoke to us. We were interacting with it. What if ... what if they can hurt us too? And JD's out there by himself."
"You wanna go out there and get 'im?"
She hesitated, then nodded vigorously. "I thought ... I thought we could at least take him his flashlight. He doesn't even have that.
"Hmm." Dillon looked out the window toward the new set of lights beside him, and rubbed one eye tiredly. "Well ... I guess ... if that's what he wanted you to do ..."
"No," she giggled. "He wanted me to stay here. Why do you think I'm in the car with you instead of out there with him?"
"'Cause I'm hot?"
"You so aren't."
"Ouch! Dang, Wen. Okay, let's go rescue lover-boy from the ghosts, then."
"You're not ... you're not scared?"
"The ghosts, silly."
"Oh, I dunno. They don't seem as creepy as I thought they'd be. I figgered on all these bloody, rotten-ass yucky sorta ghosts. These seem nice, like they shower an' stuff."
She giggled again. "You're a nut."
"Well, in all the movies, they're ... y'know -- scary. But these? Not so much."
"They scare me. They scare me a lot."
"Didja have bad dreams?"
She looked away quickly. "I ... yes."
"Oh. You gonna tell JD?"
She shook her head. "He'd stop letting me come along if I did."
"He loves ya, y'know."
"I know," she beamed. "I love him too. Isn't that great?"
"Just frickin' peachy."
"I ... I think I'd better go out there, Dilly."
"You know which way he went? In this crap?" He gestured out the windows.
"Um ... not exactly. I ... I think I can find him, though."
The car was silent. The night around them more so. Dillon stared out the windows at the lights of the vehicle beside him, just off the left rear quarter panel of the car. He shook his head.
"Didja ... didja think 'bout whether he's out there wanderin' 'round like we did in the yard back at the house? What if he gets really lost? Like, inna woods lost? And we can't find 'im when the fog clears? Y'know?"
"I ... don't you think we should try and find him, then? Just in case?"
"Yeah. Just in case."
"You love him too, don't you, Dilly?"
"I only swing one way, baby. Strictly AC, y'know?"
"You really love him, don't you, Dilly?"
Dillon sighed. "JD's my oldest an' best friend. He's my ... he's my main dude, yeah. I don't wanna see 'im get hurt or nothin'."
"Let's go," she said eagerly and pulled open the door.
"I hope to hell I ain't sorry for this," Dillon muttered, opening his own door.