(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
The morning was the characteristically crisp, hazy autumn morning. It was his favorite time of year, and when he opened his eyes, the sight of the empty pillow beside him gave him a brief, hardly perceptible pang of loneliness. He sighed, thought about closing his eyes and going back to sleep, and decided against it. With a tremendous effort, he tossed the bedclothes from his warm body and sat up. He glanced at the clock: 8:45. He had a bit more than an hour before Wendy would come and pick them up. He wondered what the day would hold for them. The last two were strange, and left him full of odd dreams and goose bumps. He pondered only a moment what the others were feeling before realizing only one of them would have something different in the heart than he did. How different, he didn't know -- especially in light of everything they'd seen and heard.
With those thoughts still ringing through his head, Dillon pulled himself up from the bed, belched loudly, and stretched like an overweight cat in a beam of sunlight. A straining sound of pleasure extruded from him, and he stumbled off, scratching and blinking to his dresser, then to the bathroom. He was showered and dressed in 25 minutes, and raked the brush through his wet hair. Scratching at the underside of his chin, he considered shaving the characteristic stubble on his jaw. He hated shaving, though, and it didn't take long for him to decide against it.
After he showered and was dressed, he went downstairs, and froze in his tracks when he found JD on the couch, a grimace on his sleeping face, still clothed.
For a moment, he considered scaring JD awake the same way he'd frightened Dillon in the car just a few days before. Noting the expression on his anguished face, Dillon changed his mind and he gently laid his hand on his friend's shoulder.
"JD? Wake up, dude."
JD started anyway, and Dillon jumped even though he knew it was going to happen. Dillon chuckled, but JD's eyes shot open, and he tried to press deeper into the couch, abject terror stamped on his face, gasping so sharply it washed the grin from Dillon's face. A split second later JD sat bolt upright, then clutched his neck and groaned.
"Uuuugghh ... where ... what time is it?"
"Living room. About 9:15. Dude, what're ya doing down here?"
"I ... I came down to get something to drink last night. I saw -- I think I saw Jenkins in the kitchen. Scared the hell out of me. I couldn't go back upstairs."
"You saw a ghost? Here?"
"Yeah," JD said, and tried to work the kink out of his neck. "His face -- it was ... rotted, worm-infested, maggot-eaten. Horrible."
"Aw, gross dude! I'd blow chunks on ya if I had any!"
"He had ... stuff in his mouth. Like ... like mucus or something."
"Come on, dude! I'm gonna puke!"
"Sorry. Anyway, I couldn't go back upstairs. I was ... I was just too scared to. So I fell asleep here with the lights on."
"They're off now, dude. Ghost tryin' t'save us money on the 'lectric bill too?"
"I shut them off at first light. I got some sleep, but not much. No dreams, thank God."
"Word on that, bro. How d'ya feel?"
"I bet. Sucks t'be haunted. Or maybe it just sucks t'be you. Heh."
"Don'tcha think? I mean, you see 'em, you hear 'em, and now they're followin' you around. Sounds like haunted to me, dude."
JD thought about that. He didn't think he could argue it. "I guess. I don't know. I just know I couldn't get my nerves back together last night. It was awful."
"Sounds that way. But ... you better get ready. Wen's gonna be here, like, soon, dude."
"Yeah," JD moaned, laying his head back on the sofa. "I know. I gotta get showered and stuff." He slowly hefted himself off the sofa, and tried to stretch as much as his stiff body would allow. "I'd better get a move on."
"Dude -- what's goin' on an' stuff ... it's pretty heavy crap. You gonna be able ta handle it? You been through a lot."
JD stopped at Dillon's tone. It was genuine concern, and he knew that Dillon was legitimately worried about him. He was touched, but didn't know how to answer his friend. He smiled instead.
"I'll manage, bud. Thanks."
Dillon nodded, and went for the kitchen. As he did, JD rubbed his tired eyes and dragged himself up the stairs. He was moving much slower than normal, and it took him nearly an hour to finish getting ready. When he came downstairs again, Wendy was sitting beside Dillon at the counter, and she smiled at him. His spirits brightened immediately when she did, and he couldn't help smiling back. She'd worn an old sweatshirt and had a bandana holding her hair back from her forehead, her ratty, paint-stained jeans and dusty old work boots still managing to be sexy on her. At least, he thought she was sexy.
"Good morning," he said happily.
"Hi sexy," she cooed. "Dilly told me what happened last night. Are you okay?"
He nodded and leaned on the counter beside her. "Yeah, I think so. I was scared half to death last night, but I'm ... better now."
"I'm worried, baby," she said softly. "This has to be hard for you. And what are we going to do with ghosts following you home like stray dogs? How long is THAT going to go on?"
Dillon stopped with the spoon full of cereal in front of his face, his mouth wide open to accept the bite. "You mean ... you mean this could happen AGAIN?"
She shrugged. "I don't know, Dilly. I didn't know it could happen at all."
"I didn't either," JD added. "But I doubt we're going to have trouble beyond today. Provided we find that note."
"The note on the recordings? The suicide note?"
"I guess it's a suicide note. The ... visitor ... last night reiterated it's importance to me."
"It spoke to you too?"
He nodded. "Loudly. 'Find the note in the garage', I was ordered." He shuddered again. "At least this time it wasn't that unearthly scream."
"Oh, babe," Wendy said, stroking his face sympathetically. "Oh, you must be having the worst time with all this. You didn't even believe in ghosts before this."
He covered her hand with his and turned his face to kiss her palm lightly. "I'm okay."
"Did ghosty-boy say anything else?" Dillon shoved another scoop of cereal and milk in his mouth and munched it.
"No, it was gone after that. Just -- 'Find the note in the garage'. Then he was gone."
"Are you sure it was Jenkins, baby?"
"No, but ... I don't know who else would be telling me to find the note in the garage. He's the only one that would know that. Isn't he?"
"Dunno, dude," Dillon spoke just before slurping the milk out of his bowl, tipping it in front of his face to drain it. He set it down, and looked at JD. "If there's rules for this crap, nobody's tellin'."
"No kidding. I have no idea what to do except go find the note and hope this ends the apparitions. If it doesn't ... well, I guess we'll have to let them tell us what WILL, then."
"Well, THAT sucks." Dillon deposited the bowl and spoon in the sink and turned to JD and Wendy. "So ... now what?"
"Well," JD said slowly, "I guess we'd better head over to the house. The garage is a mess and we have to find that note somehow."
"Didn't you want to go to the library, love?"
"No, it's not necessary anymore. I found some stuff online last night that I think will dispense with the necessity of doing that. I'll tell you about it on the way."
"Am I gonna get bored, dude?"
"If you do, you can sleep instead of listen. But don't ask me what's going on later. I won't tell you."
They piled into Wendy's car and before very long they were driving the now-familiar route toward the stately and somewhat ominous old Victorian on the corner in that sleepy little village. Once they'd gotten onto the highway, JD explained what he'd found. He outlined the deaths of Migo, Stanton and eventually Jenkins, and noted that all of them occurred on October 29. Hearing it, Wendy was stunned to silence. Dillon knit his brows.
"Maybe that's why ol' ghosty-boy was so grumpy," he said. "Today's the big day for 'im."
"Yeah, maybe," JD said. "I don't know. I just know that somehow this date seems significant. We've been given all the story parts already. I'd have thought THAT would occur today. Instead, we have the instructions to find the note. Well, I do anyway. I would think it'd be the other way around somehow. If I were a ghost, that's how I'D tell it."
"I guess they don't see it your way on this."
"So, whatta we do? Take all the crap outta the garage? Then what?"
"Look through it. All of it. I'm hopeful that it's not buried under the concrete floor or embedded in a wall or anything. I'm not sure what to expect."
"Yeah. We thought it was in the yard where Jenkins buried it originally. But he's been telling us to look in the garage. I'm sure if it weren't there, that wouldn't be the case."
JD nodded. "Maybe. I hope so. I just ... want this to be OVER."
"I bet, love. I bet. It's been a tough ordeal for you."
"I'm tellin' ya, dude ... they're like CATS. They sense ya don' like 'em and BAM! They're all over ya."
"You gotta believe in 'em now, though ... right?"
JD sighed. He stared through the windshield, silently stewing.
"Oh, come ON, man! You gotta NOW! After all this crap?? You GOTTA!"
"JD?" Wendy said softly, eyeing him carefully. "You DO believe now, don't you?"
He lowered his chin and set his jaw. "I'm not sure WHAT I believe anymore. I ... I just don't know."
"Wow, love," she said, shaking her head slowly. "You really ARE stubborn, aren't you? Even more than I realized." She blew him a kiss. "My mysterious lover, still revealing himself to me. Like an onion."
"Onions make ya cry, Wen," Dillon said from the back. "Jaded's more like an artichoke. Lots t'peel away, but it's bitter an' not very tasty. Unless ya dip it in ranch dressing or mebbe some hollandaise or whatnot."
"I'm not bitter. I'm just not convinced."
"You gonna try the Bible thing again, dude?"
"What Bible thing?"
"Sayin' the Bible says there ain't no ghosts. You goin' there again?"
"Why not? The Bible doesn't really allow for the idea of ghosts."
"Yeah it does."
"No it doesn't."
"Not, infinity. Where, if you're so sure of yourself?"
"How 'bout Luke 24?"
"Luke 24? What about it?"
"It says the Jesus dudes thought he was a ghost when they seen 'im for the first time after the resurrection. Verses 36 through 40, dude. And how 'bout when Jesus walked on the water that night, and all his posse freaked? It was 'cause they thought he was a GHOST, dawg. And what about Saul and that witch-chick? You know, the one that made the old guy get up an' stuff. All ghosts, dude. Want more?"
"Uh ... no. No thanks. That's ... that's ..."
"Wow, Dilly, that's great! You know lots!"
"Heh. Thanks. I studied it in school," he said, and glowered at JD.
"The word used there is 'spirit', Dillon. Not necessarily 'ghost'."
"The word can also be 'ghost', Poindexter. An' you know it."
"As fun as this is, we're going to be there in a few minutes. Should we stop and eat first? We have a lot of work to do."
"Yes," Dillon said quickly.
JD chuckled. "Sure. Let's get a bite and then get started. We'll lose daylight soon and there is a LOT of stuff to get out."
They ate quickly, and within an hour were standing at the garage door of the ancient old Victorian. The little shack-like structure seemed out of place with its majestic counterpart, despite the matching paint. The two barn-doors on the front added to the sense of disunity. They stared, wondering what secrets were hidden in it.
JD fumbled with the keys and found the one that opened the padlock swinging on the shackle. Unlocking it, he tugged the creaking, dust-spewing doors aside, the hinges crying out against the sudden use after being shut for so long.
Part of the pile of debris inside tumbled out, and they danced quickly back to avoid being hit with it.
"See? I told you."
"Holy CRAP, dude," Dillon said, surveying the veritable landfill inside the tiny building. "Holy CRAP."
"Exactly. A daunting task, isn't it?"
"I'll say," Wendy whispered, and she hugged JD's arm. He kissed the top of her head.
"Well," he said finally, "there's no sense putting it off. We may as well get started."
Ready to go on to Part 44?