(Just joining us? You may want to start at the beginning.)
JD sat in the car, staring into nothingness, thinking.
The night went perfectly. There were no apparitions. There were no visions. There were no sounds, no shadowy figures moving in the darkness, no fog, no lost time. There was nothing but a cool, crisp autumn night staring through the blackness of the parlor windows at them. They waited and watched as the hours slipped away, but the night was thankfully normal, rather than paranormal.
Dillon and JD loaded the car with his equipment. They worked in relative silence. They worked deliberately, not hurried or in fear. They walked without a second thought between the curb and house, never fearing the mysterious fog or the shades of long ago materializing from the quiet. They drove home past the quarry without a sideways glance at the final resting place of Robin Brown. They weren't even aware of it until it was already behind them. They spoke quietly about silly things, casual things, things that normal friends speak about when they drive. They laughed a bit, but mostly they introspected. They pondered the events of the last four days and they wondered how the future would be affected by them.
They used one of the boxes for JD's equipment to carry their newfound artifacts, the tiny things they treated like Egyptian treasures, unearthed from the lost tomb of some long forgotten pharaoh. No one spoke of them as they loaded them into the car, or as they rode with them in the back seat behind Dillon. Uncharacteristically, Dillon never gave them a second glance.
A strange calm had come over them. A peculiar sense of knowing, of being sure within themselves that the haunting was over. The spirits of the past had successfully brought to light the events of three and a half decades prior, and there was nothing more to tell. There were no more elements that were required. There was no more of the plot to know. The key players had spoken their lines, performed their actions, and the curtain had lowered. It was over.
They had nothing to assure them of that. They just knew it.
Wendy followed behind, and they chatted with JD's cell phone on speaker while they drove. It was a short 45 minutes, the time passing easily. They said good night and hung up when JD parked, and he and Dillon brought in the boxes of wires and cables, extension cords and carefully packed equipment. The little segment of pipe, its prized note and the expensive jewelry items entombed within it he carried in last, setting them on the counter in the kitchen without another thought. He locked the house while Dillon shuffled up to bed, then shut off the lights and went to bed himself.
He slept soundly that night, with no whispers lingering just beyond the audible range of hearing, no shadows shifting just beyond the visible range of the lights as he turned them off.
He just slept, without visions of rotted faces and black, wet orbs in their sockets. He didn't dream of bludgeoning criminals and murdered innocent victims. He didn't hear strange, unearthly and soul-numbing cries from the pits of hell. He felt no icy grip on his chest, was not accosted or screamed at, and when the alarm sounded the next morning, he was certain there would be no phantoms hiding in wait in his kitchen.
It was just over. The story had been told.
JD rolled out of bed and made his phone call, letting his employer know he'd be out for another day unexpectedly. He didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the mini treasures from the pipe as he loaded them into the car. He tried all morning to think about how he would handle this situation. He contemplated not addressing it at all, and just letting the story be told. But somehow he knew it was right to do this, to take this final step. He couldn't speak the entire truth as it was, but he could lead them in the right direction. He didn't know how to do that, he just knew that he had to do it, somehow.
He'd tried rehearsing in a mirror, but couldn't find anything that sounded either reasonable or feasible. The actual story was not an option for him. He already felt crazy. Adding to that sensation by talking of haunted houses and ghosts revealing buried treasures and bodies didn't really sit well. So, he sat in the car, thinking instead. Inwardly, he hoped that words would simply come to him, that they would flow out of him in a logical, coherent manner, and he wouldn't have to struggle with stumbling over difficult questions and piercing stares. Outwardly, nothing like that ever happened to him, and he didn't expect it to now.
Nothing conjured itself from his mind as he reflected on how he himself had changed. How different things were for him now. How much more he understood than he did before. He realized that he'd been so sure he could prove it all a lie, prove it all false. Most of all, he arrogantly assumed that he would debunk not just the paranormal things he was asked to investigate, but debunk those that reported them and believed in them. He felt, more than anything, humbled and small. He'd been afraid. Terrified. He'd seen things, heard things, experienced things that he never imagined possible. He never even believed he could imagine them possible. He'd run headlong into events and things that changed the course of his life, probably permanently. None of those things could be cataloged, categorized or labeled.
He'd seen ghosts. Heard them speak. Felt their grasp, their power, their force. He'd witnessed events that took place before he was born. He'd spoken with a woman that had been dead for two weeks. He'd witnessed a murder and the disposal of a body. He'd been through so much, and none of it came through any of the normally acceptable channels of stimuli for him.
JD was a very different man today than he was on Thursday, sitting in that frigid parlor, waiting to prove to two more homeowners that they didn't see what they thought they'd seen, didn't hear what they claimed to hear, and that there was no such thing as the paranormal.
Monday morning. He needed the convincing now. He was the believer now.
At least he was today. Unless something changed what he perceived, he was a believer today.
Tomorrow held enough mysteries of its own. Today was content to let him be a believer.
He checked his PDA and saw that he'd scheduled the call-back to the homeowners for that night, when he would try to explain everything. And he'd scheduled a follow-up with them in April, which he'd synch with his computer when he got home.
Smiling one last time, shaking his head in that acknowledging way he had, he gathered the little open cardboard box with the pipe, the note and the jewelry. He took a deep breath, and got out of the car.
Trying to draw himself up to full height, he snickered at himself.
"Well," he said to no one but himself, "no sense putting it off anymore."
And he strode into the police station to tell whatever story ended up coming out of his mouth.