Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ghost Hunters, Pt. 40

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

The car bounced over the edge of the pavement, keeping perfect track with the red glowing lights in front of it. Wendy edged easily over the rough transition at the end of the road, and watched carefully until the brakes lights of the truck beamed powerfully at them and the vehicle stopped. She pulled the parking brake lever and quickly shut the car down as she pushed her door open, her free hand fumbling with the buckle of her seat belt to release it. JD noted the swiftness of her movements and hurried to get out with her. He wasn't sure why.

Dillon unfolded himself from the back seat and they stood beside the car, watching the lights of the truck in front of them. They heard the hollow metallic sound of the truck door closing as they approached, and Wendy froze, Dillon bumping into her as he quick-stepped around the back of the car to catch up to her.

JD noticed their sudden halt.

"It's okay," he said softly, "he won't notice us. He never has, and probably never will. I don't think Migo and Stanton will either. We can follow safely."

They hesitated a moment more, staring into the dark, and JD smiled as he proceeded toward the fence he'd hoped the night before. He realized he didn't have a flashlight when the terrain became dim and obscured by the dark and the fog. They passed the truck, and there was the car that JD followed the night before, parked nearer the fence, a few yards ahead.

He treaded lightly, hearing their footsteps behind him, and a wisp of the fog washed aside to show Jenkins' figure, silhouetted against the diffused and ethereal light, moving up the path on the far side of the fence. JD hopped over the fence, then reached for Wendy to help her over, his head turned to face Jenkins.

He clutched at the body than leaned into his hands and the weight, the texture, the feel was all wrong. He recoiled slightly, and looked back.

He stared into Dillon's grinning visage. "Heya, stud-muffin," he sneered.

JD nearly dropped him, and moved aside. "Will you quit fooling around? Come on, Wen."

"Dude! You're gonna let me fall??"

"Yes, now move," JD snarled.

She moved gracefully over the fence giggling, and JD and Dillon helped her down the other side. Once she was steady on her feet, they started up the access road after Jenkins.

"He's going to hide in the woods next to a clearing at the top of the road," JD said, rushing to catch up to the shade that wove in and out of misty clumps of cloud as it drifted up the road. "He'll leave before they do. I don't know what happens after that. I want to stay with him. The other two will be burying Brown's body."

They didn't answer, and he had to look back to make sure they hadn't been separated. The outline of the trees against the soft, gray dimness seemed ominous and threatening. They moved as quickly as they dared, trying to stay near the middle of the road. The crunch of the gravel under their shoes seemed too loud to JD, and he reminded himself forcefully that these events were 35 years past, and he was not intervening in them. No one could see him. No one could hear him.

No one but Brown and Bea. He pondered that momentarily before forcibly pushing it out of his mind.

They kept the figure ahead of them in sight, still not closing the gap. When the shifting waves of mist cleared, they found their distance and bearings and kept plodding forward when it vanished as the holes closed.

JD knew that the figure would stand at the top of the road for a moment before going into the trees across the clearing, careful to be out of sight. When they reached the top of the road the fog thinned for a split second just as that shadowy form stepped silently through the trees and disappeared for a moment. JD went on to the clearing and heard the muffled, laboring voices of Migo and Stanton working to hide their filthy secret, but didn't get close enough to make out their words. Wendy was wide-eyed with horror as she saw them shifting material to cover the crumpled, lifeless form in a canvas bag somewhere in the carved section of the mountain.

A few seconds later, with the images and sounds of what he'd seen earlier echoing through JD's mind, that figure from the trees snuck quietly to the edge of the boulders, tossed like a child's play blocks across the quarry's opening, and hid. They watched from the edge of the access road as he listened for a few minutes, then moved back into the trees. A moment later he emerged much closer to them than they expected, making them jump, jerking back in fright.

The specter was wordless as it quietly went down the hill, then the head hung as it stomped to a sagging stop. The soft sounds of weeping could be heard. After a few seconds, it seemed to stand to full stature again and went down the road toward the vehicles.

"What's going on up here?" Wendy whispered in the stillness. "Are those the two murderers?"

"Yes," JD said, not bothering to match her tone. "I don't think you have to whisper, Wen. He can't hear us. I don't think."

"Dude, what 'bout the killers, man? Can they hear us?"

"I doubt it, Dill. It seems that only Brown could interact with us. And Bea, the librarian."

"Yeah, she can inneract like nobody's bidness," Dillon agreed.

JD nodded though Dillon couldn't see him. "They're burying Brown just like they did last night. But the fog lifted and the events quit playing out while I was up there. I never saw any of this."

"He seems sad. I mean, for someone that was a bad cop, he ... I think he cared about his partner. His friend."

"Yes," JD said, and he felt it too. Jenkins did seem sad about Brown's death.

They followed down the road, the pace more quick this time. There were occasions when JD let gravity pull him more quickly to ensure he kept pace with what he now realized he was inwardly calling a ghost, and not lag too far behind. Wendy and Dillon followed him closely, trying to stay single file to be away from the treacherous edge of the access way.

Jenkins was piling into the truck when they got to the bottom of the hill. JD stopped for a moment, listening and staring back up the hill.

Wendy noticed his gaze. "What?"

"I don't know. I got the impression he was ... I don't know. It's just that, he's leaving. And I don't hear Migo or Stanton. They're still at the quarry clearing. What's going on?"

"I sort of assumed they were going to meet here. Maybe they weren't?"

"Dudes, if we're followin' Jenky, we better move it."

The truck was backing away from the cars ... passing right through Wendy's to do it. In a moment, it completed the three-point turn and headed for the highway.

"Let's hurry up," Wendy said. "We'll see where he goes."

They moved quicker, going for the fence. The high weeds made them slow down, and Wendy stepped carefully, taking JD's hand as he held it out to steady her while she stepped up the fence face.

"Thanks, handsome," she said, kissing him lightly and quickly before hopping over the top and landing soundly on the other side.

JD blushed, smiling stupidly, watching her as she turned around to flash that melting smile at him again over the fence.

"Uh, dude? Couldja move yer ass? He's gettin' away."

"Oh!" JD said, snapping out of his trance, and clambered over the fence. Dillon was a beat behind, and they bolted for the car.

They fell into it as one, the engine firing a moment later. Wendy left room for the truck in front of her, so she could do a fast, gravel-spitting U-turn to head down the access road to the highway, slowing to check for oncoming traffic before accelerating onto the highway.

In a moment, they caught sight of the red tail lights of a truck ahead of them in the thinning fog.

"Is that him?"

"I-I don't know," JD stammered. "It could be, I guess ... or it could be an actual truck."

"Dudes, you guys dumb or somethin'? There ain't nobody on this road at night. This dump's a ghost town after dark. I mean ... well, yeah, it is. Heh. So yeah -- it's him."

"How can you be so sure?" JD turned around. "I've seen other traffic on this road. It does serve as a state highway, you know."

"Pff. It's for ghosts, man. Besides, if it ain't Jenky, he ain't gonna notice us followin' him anyway, right?"

"But we could be led on a wild goose chase following some poor trucker just trying to transport his goods somewhere."

"I have most of a tank of gas," Wendy said. "I'll follow until ... wait a minute, I know how we can tell."


She pressed the brakes, slowing the car quickly.

The lights ahead slowed at exactly the same pace.

"Yeah," she said, picking up speed again, "it's him."

"You're hawt, Wen. Every time you do somethin' like that, you're even hotter."

She chuckled. "Sorry, Dilly, none for you."

"I know, but ... damn, chicka! That's rockin'. I love me some women drivin' tricks, dudes."

"Uh ... thanks for ... sharing, I guess," JD said. "Why don't you contact Danica Patrick or someone like that? You're making me uncomfortable."

"'Cause Danica Patrick don' make you squirm, little-willy," Dillon teased.

They followed along the highway, the slight downward grade of the road winding them toward town. With unerring accuracy, the truck wove its way through the town, leading them back to the stately old Victorian standing silent and dark behind its dagger hedges and sentinel trees. It turned at the corner adjacent to the house and pulled the truck to the left-side curb.

Jenkins was out of the vehicle and heading for the gate when Wendy pulled up in front of the house. Her headlights cast briefly over the shadowy form and did not illuminate it.

"It's like he's made of shadows," she whispered as they parked.

"Maybe he is now," JD mused aloud, and opened his door. The apparition was going toward the parlor window again, moving quickly now, the head turning as if looking up the street for someone.

"He's watching for them," JD muttered. "He knows they're coming back here."

"How'd he know? How d'ya know he knows?"

JD shook his head. "Look how nervous and in a hurry he seems. What else would he be nervous about?"

"The people that live here seein' him?"

"Maybe. He didn't have a problem just going through the gate, though, and he's watching up the street. Like he's looking for a c--"

JD's words caught in his throat as a pair of headlights appeared, two yellowish disks emerging from the fog, and moved to park behind the truck.

The car stopped and the lights extinguished. Two doors slammed in the gloom, and a moment later, two figures emerged from the misty night to cross through the gate and headed for the back of the house.

JD moved to follow them and the others trailed him quickly. He followed a few feet behind, unwilling to let them get too far ahead in the dark and fog. An orange flame shot out of the mist and a tiny ember glowed a second later, followed by the sound of a cigarette drag being exhaled into the cool wetness.

"That you, Migo?" a voice said.

"Yeah, and Stanton too," Migo called back softly. "Where the fuck you been?"

"Where I been?" Jenkins snapped back. "I've been here, asshole. Where the fuck you been? You were supposed to get here at ten. You know how to tell time, shit head?"

"No, you fuck," Migo growled nastily, "we were supposed to meet at 9:30, NOT ten. Shit head."

"Who said 9:30?"

"You did, dick head. What the fuck's your problem? Huh? You think this is a joke??"

"No, I don't think it's a joke, Migo," Jenkins said, "I coulda sworn I said ten."

"You didn't."

"Well, fuck. Sorry then."

"Yeah. Where's our shit, asshole?"

"The bag's in the truck, right there." He gestured toward the truck parked just beyond the dense barren hedges at the edge of the yard.

"Go get it, Stanton. Make sure it's not fuckin' Lincoln Logs or somethin'. I ain't likin' what's goin' on here."

"What's not to like, Migo? We got the times screwed up. Where'd you go after that?"

"We went and got somethin' ta eat. You gotta problem with that?"

"No, I don't got a problem ... why don't you just fuckin' relax, okay?"

Stanton was plodding toward the truck across the yard.

"Ya can't go that way, dumb-ass," Migo softly called after him. "Go through the gate like everybody else." He shook his head. "What an asshole."

"You're in a mood," Jenkins said. "What's wrong with you?"

"What makes you say somethin's wrong with me?"

"You're just bitchy as all hell. Somethin' up?"

"No," Migo said too quickly, "nothin'."

They stood in silence and listened as Stanton opened the back of the truck, climbed in and sorted through the bag, which echoed slightly through the quiet neighborhood.

"Christ, that guy's an idiot," Migo spat, dragging hard on his cigarette again. "Listen ta all that racket."

Jenkins said nothing, just waiting. They couldn't see his face to tell what his expression was.

The truck door rolled down noisily and they heard it bang and lock. Migo jumped slightly when it did. "You got the fuckin' bag, jackass?"

A second later, Stanton poked his head over the top of the hedge. "Yeah, I got it. Let's go."

"Pipe down, moron!" Migo snapped, whispering harshly. "You wanna use a bullhorn next time? Jeezuz!"

Stanton shook his head and walked away, toward the front of the house.

"You're jumpy," Jenkins said smoothly. "You sure everything's okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fuckin' fine I toldya," Migo hissed. "Get lost, willya?"

"Tell Bea ta call me tomorrow," Jenkins called softly after Migo, who was walking fast away from him. "Been a while since we talked."

"Yeah, whatever," Migo said over his shoulder.

They listened to the bang of the car doors, and heard the engine roar to life. The car sped away much faster than they expected.

Jenkins listened to the silence for a moment, then walked to the parlor window and plied it open, emitting that horrible screech again. It wasn't as loud this time, though, and when he could fit, he wiggled through the opening.

"Come on," JD said quietly. "Let's get back to the basement and see ..."

"No, dude, let's just watch through the window," Dillon countered, stepping forward and pointing at the tiny window at the foundation under the parlor.

"No, Dillon, we won't be able to hear him."

"We won't make it in time," Wendy said.

"Yes we will," JD said, smiling at her. "This is our show. It's for us. Come on."

They followed him as he went around the house and up the porch stairs, and waited while he unlocked the front door. They filed in after him and went straight through the foyer, into the kitchen and to the staircase down to the basement.

He didn't bother to turn on lights as he went, and with Wendy clutching his shoulder they felt their way through the initial debris to the spot between the windows.

Jenkins' shade emerged through the concrete wall, slightly lit by the dim amount of lit falling through the basement foundation windows. He stopped for a moment, and they heard the sound of his sobs in the dark, the form of his body wracked by the heaving emotion. In a few moments, he recomposed, then picked up his bag and shouldered it.

"I'm so sorry, Robbie," he said quietly. "I'll think of somethin'. I'll think of somethin'. They ain't gonna get away with killin' you."

As the words faded in the stony room, the apparition vanished.

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