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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Ghost · #2202074
Harold's law office might be haunted. Can the DBAGH guys help him?
         175 Grace St. was the least memorable building on the block. Sturdy brick construction, wrought iron fence surrounding the property, hanging basket of petunias by the front door. Nobody gave it a second glance when they passed. It sat among similarly styled homes on its block in what was known locally as “The Historic District”. Built in 1798, its former occupants included residents of a halfway house and, currently, a law firm.
         It was getting close to 9 p.m. and Harold Meeker, the proprietor of the law firm, locked the front door and pocketed the key. In his mid-fifties now, Harold had purchased the house in the mid-80s with several other upstart lawyers and spent most of his time lovingly restoring it to its former splendor. Sure, it wasn’t without its quirks – what older building wasn’t? – but this one, well, had some that were exceptionally peculiar. Harold looked up at the building and slowly shook his head. These guys now locked inside were nuts, but he needed answers.
         The house, at one time known as the Huntington House, was reportedly haunted. Harold had heard the rumors when he and his partners purchased the building but wrote them off as local gossip. Besides, he’d reasoned, the paranormal was just the stuff of the overactive imaginations of folks in the movie industry, right? Harold had witnessed some events first-hand, but always found a rational reason for their occurrence. His employees, however, were constantly reporting odd occurrences and even expressed hesitation at coming in to work. Harold had finally had enough with employees complaining of disembodied voices, strange sounds, and so-called apparitions. He called DBAGH: The Daring Brotherhood of Accomplished Ghost Hunters. They were the only ones in the yellow pages he could find that could help on his schedule. They claimed they would investigate in a one-night lockdown and be able to discern what was happening to the law firm’s employees. The expense was worth it if it meant his employees would stop being so jittery over every noise and shadow.
         When DBAGH arrived just before sundown, their lead investigator, Darren Cox, tried to reassure Harold he’d made the right decision.
         “We are the foremost respected paranormal investigators in the area,” Darren said, quoting directly from his group’s website. The remaining rays of the setting sun glinted off his dark tinted aviator sunglasses and Harold had to squint when looking at him. “We have the latest in paranormal detection technology and will debrief you tomorrow morning.”
Harold nodded, still unsure how legitimate these guys were; he hadn’t taken the time to ask for references. He led them on a brief tour of the three stories of the house as well as the basement. He pointed out areas where employees had noted strange occurrences and what he thought had been their cause. Darren nodded sagely. His two compatriots, Tom Chase and Chet Gilmore, nodded as well, mentally noting where they would set up equipment.
         When Harold left for the evening, Tom and Chet began getting their cameras and other equipment ready. Darren put off getting his stuff ready and instead decided to call his flavor-of-the-moment, Gabrielle.
         “Hey, sweetie. About to go on a job and wanted to say goodnight,” Darren said in a voice so saccharine Chet had to turn away from his friend to keep him from seeing his eyes roll.
         “Hi, honey,” Gabrielle purred, her voice sounding mechanical coming through Darren’s phone’s speaker.
         “Why does he always have to talk to her on speaker?” Chet muttered to Tom as they brought equipment into the house.
         “That bothers you?” Tom replied.
         Chet thought a moment as he unwound some cables. “I suppose it’s no big deal, but I just don’t understand why they need to broadcast their lovey-dovey nonsense to everyone.”
         Tom shrugged. “Whatever. Doesn’t impact me.”
         Chet shook his head and continued to set up for the night.
         “All right, baby. I love you!” Darren drawled, ending his conversation. He put his phone in his back pocket and took his equipment in the house.
         “About time,” Chet muttered when Darren swaggered into the front room.
         “Relax!” Darren said dismissively. “Tonight’s gonna be a good one, I can feel it!”
         Chet raised an eyebrow.
         By 10 p.m., the DBAGH crew had taken up their positions inside the building. Darren was on the first floor. He was outfitted with a night vision camera strapped to his chest with a harness and a handheld tape recorder. He narrated as he walked from room to room.
         “Okay, so I’m here inside the Huntington House. I’m on the first floor, Tom’s on the second floor, and Chet’s up on the third floor. We were contacted by Harold Meeker, the proprietor of this building, which is currently a law firm. He told us his employees have been experiencing unusual activity and hearing noises and voices. The DBAGH crew is here to investigate.” Darren pronounced the group’s acronym “de-bawff”. He panned the room. He moved slowly through the first room, a waiting area for law clients. “I’m going to do my first EVP session right now.” He paused dramatically for effect. “My name is Darren,” he said in a loud voice. “I understand that there may be the presence of some of the residents of the halfway house still here. If you’re here, let me know.” Silence. “What happened to you here?” Silence.
         Up on the second floor, Tom Chase was conducting a similar session. He was also outfitted with a night vision camera and handheld tape recorder. He also had a digital still camera. He, too, was narrating all his actions. He wandered slowly down the central hallway, peeking into rooms used as office spaces. He chose an office approximately halfway down the hall and entered, pushing open the door slowly with his toe.
“Hi. If I’m not alone in here, make yourself known,” Tom said, snapping rapid fire pictures with the digital camera. He stood still a moment, listening to for any movement.
         Suddenly, a scraping noise came from the hallway. “What was that?!” he shouted in a whisper. Tom stopped snapping pictures and ran toward the hallway, only to find himself alone. He pulled out a walkie talkie from his back pocket.
         “Hey D, are you moving things?” he asked.
         A moment later, the walkie talkie crackled to life. “Nope. Check with Chet,” came Darren’s voice. Tom changed the frequency dial and asked the same question to Chet on the third floor. “Sorry bro,” came Chet’s reply.
         Tom held out his recorder. “Who made that scraping sound?” Pause. “Am I alone on this floor?” Silence. He advanced slowly, narrating as he went. “The only thing,” he whispered, “that could have made that sound was a chair being moved. I don’t think there was a chair in the hall, but there’s one down at the end. I’m going to move it in just a moment to see if it makes the same sound.” He took hold of the chair by the arm and dragged it a few inches. It made a similar sound. “If you’re here, can you do what I just did?” He paused and looked around him, looking for signs he wasn’t alone.
         While Tom was investigating the scraping sound, Chet was placing objects in various locations around the third floor. These objects contained electromagnetic devices that glowed when their fields were disturbed. A few were the actual devices and one was placed inside a cuddly-looking rabbit.
         “Hopefully whoever is up here will set one of these off and we can get some good EVP readings,” Chet narrated aloud. He then began to go through each room, taking video and still photos, his digital recorder on and ready to catch disembodied voices. In the first room he entered, Chet asked, “Are any of the halfway house residents up here?” Pause. “What happened to you while you were here?” Pause. “Do you want us to help you? We can do that.”
         From behind Chet in another room, a door slammed loudly. “What was that?” he asked, turning in the direction of the sound. He held still a moment to see if his recorders would pick up any noises before heading in the direction of the sound. He unclipped his walkie talkie from his vest.          “Darren, did you come upstairs?”
         “Nah, bro. Still down here,” came Darren’s metallic voice.
         “Tom, where are you?” Chet asked.
         “Investigating a chair,” Tom replied.
         As Chet re-entered the hallway, one of the electromagnetic devices was glowing, it’s lights dancing off the walls in the dark in a miniature aurora display. “Who’s with me right now?” Chet asked. The lights continued to blink. “Can you give me some other sign that you’re with me?” he asked. Just then, a door to the room immediately near the device slammed shut. “Whoa!” he flicked on his radio again. “Hey Tom! Get up here! Some crazy shit is happening!”
         “Be right there,” came Tom’s voice.
         Chet then radioed Darren. “Dude, shit’s going down up here!”
         Darren and Tom made their way noisily up to the third floor. They found Chet near the electromagnetic rabbit. It’s fluffy ears and head hung limp to one side. It’s belly, where the device was located, was now dark.
         “Dude, this thing was going off!” Chet said in an excited whisper. “And doors kept slamming. Someone’s up here!” He was nearly out of breath with excitement.
         “I think I’m going to try the spirit box,” Darren said. He held up a box with a glowing display and narrated for his camera, “This is a spirit box. If someone is with us, they can use the device to show us different words or short phrases to communicate with us.” He paused a moment before continuing. “Did someone set off our rabbit just a bit ago?” The three investigators stared expectantly at the device in Darren’s hand.
         “Wasted,” the disembodied electronic voice of the spirit box said. The word lit up on the display.
         “Wasted!” Darren exclaimed, triumphant.
         “What does that mean?” Chet mused.
         “Dude, this was a halfway house. Lots of folks wasted away here, or wasted chances to get better,” Darren said dismissively, as if his friend should have known all along. Chet raised an eyebrow, not completely convinced, but years of working with Darren Cox had taught him when to let things go.
         “Did you waste away here?” Tom asked. “Did you never get to go home?”
         “Stuck,” said the disembodied voice.
         “Are you stuck here?” Tom prodded. “It’s okay. You don’t have to stay here.”
         “Touch the rabbit if you understand,” Darren said.
         The investigators stared at the stuffed rabbit. It stayed dark.
         “Did you figure out what made the noise you heard?” Darren asked Tom.
         “It sounded like a chair being dragged. I moved a chair I found, and it made the same type of noise. I checked the other rooms before coming up here, but nothing seemed like it’d moved. I’ll have to check the cams later.” Tom was referring to the stationary video cameras set up in each room, trained to capture as much of a room as possible. If any unusual shadows, movement, noises, or orbs appeared in the room, it would be captured on the video.
         “Let’s go down and see what we can find there,” Darren said, turning to head back down the stairs.
         The three trooped down the stairs to the second floor. Darren began sweep the first room he came to with his cameras. Tom and Chet spread out, careful not to bump into anything in the dark.
         “This room had been one of the in-patient rooms when this was a halfway house. Many of the patients were recovering addicts, most of which were able to re-integrate into society,” Darren narrated, taking obscenely up-close shots of objects on shelves and tables he deemed relevant to their investigation. “Some, however, were unable to properly integrate and returned, time and again, to Huntington House, where they spent their last days on this earth.”
         Chet set his jaw at Darren’s comment. It always rubbed him the wrong way when Darren went over the top in his commentary, but it wasn’t his place to say anything. At least, not anymore. As Chet wandered out of one room and into another, he remembered the time he’d confronted Darren about how ridiculous Chet felt Darren was being about his narration. “It’s my goddamn show, Chet!” Darren had shouted, spitting Chet’s name out like a sour grape. It always irritated Chet that Darren referred to their business as “his show”. They had briefly discussed taking their concept to a network, but currently there were too many shows in the genre that they’d be lost in the shuffle. Chet was content doing house calls; Darren wanted more. “I call the shots here, okay? Your job is to shoot footage and do what I say. Got it?” That had been over a year ago and there wasn’t an investigation Chet hadn’t considered calling out of, despite his love of his chosen profession.
         Chet stopped short. After entering an office, he noticed a dark shadow move to his left. He aimed his video camera in the general direction and his EMF meter began to light up. “Hi,” Chet said to the apparently empty room. “I’m Chet. Who’s with me right now?” Silence. “I’m a nice guy,” he added. “Not like the other two,” he muttered quietly.
         In another room, Tom was getting some interesting reading on his thermal camera. “So over by that desk,” he narrated, aiming his video camera at the unassuming object, “there was a distinct warm spot in the chair. I saw it appear and disappear within moments. Not sure if someone passed by…” His words trailed off as the warm spot reappeared. “There it is!” Tom said in an excited whisper. “It doesn’t seem to resemble a human form, but there’s definitely something in the chair.” In a regular tone of voice, Tom asked, “Are you a former resident of Huntington House?” Pause. “Are you sitting at the desk in front of me?” Pause. “What do you think of us being here tonight?” Tom lingered on the desk as long as the hot spot was on is screen.
         Darren, meanwhile, was having the time of his life. His EMF reader was lit up like a Christmas tree and his spirit box was practically holding a conversation with him. He was sitting crisscross apple sauce in the middle of the room, his equipment in a semi-circle around him, and he was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
         “This is incredible!” Darren whispered excitedly. “These readings are showing this room is hopping right now!” He panned his camera quickly to show all his equipment. “To whomever is interacting with me, thank you!” Darren called into the room.
         “What is going on in there?” Chet called from the hallway.
         “Dude, you okay?” Tom asked, poking his head into the room. “Whoa!”
         “What?” Chet asked.
         “Something super cold just brushed past me, like, right here,” Tom replied, gesturing to the space directly in front of him.
         “Guys, it was super chilly in here,” Darren said, slowly getting up off the floor. “Look!” He thrust out an arm to reveal goosebumps. “My tech was going nuts! The spirit box was giving me words like “help”, “scene”, and “gray”. When we review all the data, it’s going to be insane!”
         Chet glanced at his watch. “Guys, it’s almost 4 a.m. Time to wrap up.”
         The next day, the DBAGH crew and Harold Meeker met at 175 Grace St. to debrief the paranormal session.
         “Thanks for letting us investigate this amazing building!” Darren schmoozed.
         “Well,” Harold said, a bit nervous about what he’d soon be told, “thank you all for taking us on.”
         “I’ll get right down to it. Last night had us hopping!” Darren said with little preamble. “We all had different levels of experiences and when we reviewed audio and video later, there was a lot more going on than we initially experienced. We’ll start with Chet’s experiences.”
         Chet cleared his throat. “So, I was stationed up on the third floor. I employed a video camera with night vision, a digital camera, a spirit box, and EVP meters, including one inside a stuffed rabbit.” He felt a bit silly describing what he’d done, but this wasn’t anything new; Chet always felt silly when debriefing a client. “The first thing that happened was I heard a door slam. I checked with Tom and Darren and they confirmed it hadn’t come from them. When we reviewed the recordings, we couldn’t pinpoint where it had come from. That’s not unusual.”
         “Okay,” Harold said, trying not to squirm in his seat.
         “When I went into the hallway, one of our EVP devices was lit up, indicating spiritual activity. When I asked if any present spirits could give me another sign, a door near me closed. We debunked any pressure or air changes, meaning it was a spontaneous event.”
         “That’s when Chet summoned us upstairs,” Darren said, practically breathless with excitement. “When we got up there, the stuffed rabbit’s EVP device wasn’t lit up anymore so I used my spirit box to see if any present spirits would interact with us.”
         “Did any?” Harold managed to just keep his voice from cracking.
         “We heard ‘wasted’ and ‘stuck’,” Darren said triumphantly. He pressed the play button on the tablet laying on the table and the group heard the audio recording of that moment.
         “We’re pretty sure it was from a halfway house resident,” Tom said. “Possibly referring to their time here and how they felt being here.” He took this opportunity to share his experience. “I had the same equipment as Chet and was on the second floor. Not long after I got settled, I heard what sounded like a chair scraping across the floor. I confirmed with the guys it wasn’t coming from them. There was a chair at the end of the hallway and at first couldn’t confirm if it had been there the whole time. When we reviewed pictures and video, it turned out it had been. I didn’t get any voices or other unusual images or sounds.”
         “I had a similar solo session on the first floor,” Darren said, sounding like a child who was told no ice cream after supper. “Review of my cameras yielded nothing that couldn’t be debunked.” He suddenly grinned. “It wasn’t until we were all on the second floor together that things really picked up!” Harold tried to look interested when really he was dreading what the guys were about to tell him.
         “Yeah, some crazy stuff happened then!” Chet added. “My EMF meter lit up. I asked if anyone was in the room with me and when we reviewed the audio, we could hear a voice say ‘Davis’. Is this a familiar name?” Harold shook his head.
         “I did some research at the library this morning and couldn’t find anyone local with that name, either first or last,” Tom said.
         “I know records for the Huntington House have largely disappeared, even though it was operating as late as the 1960s,” Harold said.          “Could it have been a resident?”
         “That’s what we figure,” Darren said. “Though we’ll never know for sure,” he added ominously.
         Chet decided not to mention the same disembodied voice had agreed with him when he’d whispered he was nicer than Tom or Darren. When his compatriots had heard that, Tom grew cold and Darren lit into Chet for being what he thought was a traitor. Chet had apologized to get Darren’s wrath off him, but he wasn’t sorry. Not one bit.
         “While Chet was getting those readings, I was getting some interesting activity on the thermal camera,” Tom said. “It appeared there was someone sitting at a desk.”
         “In which room?” Harold asked tentatively.
         “The second one on the right from the stairs,” Tom replied. Harold winced. That was his office. “We ruled out the three of us or any air vents. As of right now, we simply can’t explain it.” Tom then handed Harold a tablet with a looped video of the warm spot captured by the thermal camera. Harold’s face paled.
         “It gets better!” Darren said, barely able to contain his excitement. “Tom asked if whoever was sitting in the chair had been a resident and when we listened to the audio, we could hear someone say ‘overnight’!”
         “Like a night watchman?” Harold asked, still staring at the video on the tablet.
         “Probably,” Tom said, nonchalantly.
         “We then heard it say, ‘all done’.”
         “Meaning?” Harold asked, hoping it wasn’t sinister.
         “We’re taking it to mean we were nearing the end of our investigation,” Chet reassured Harold. He pressed the play button on the tablet so Harold could hear it for himself. Harold’s face was ashy, and his hands shook a bit during playback.
         “Here’s the best part!” Darren was practically bouncing with joy. “The room I was in was positively hopping with activity!” He played a video of his encounters near the end of the session. “Incredible evidence, right?”
         Harold nodded mechanically. “So, what does all this mean?” he finally asked.
         “Well, nothing we encountered was malicious or gave us reason to think so, so you and your employees are safe,” Tom explained. “If anything, they are craving validation that they’re here. Acknowledge their existence but don’t become preoccupied with them.”
         Harold nodded, a tiny bit of his color returning. “That makes sense. Thanks for investigating, guys. This was helpful.” Harold shook their hands and walked them out to their van. After watching them drive away, he went back inside to take his own tour and calm his nerves a bit.
         He hadn’t been prepared for his reaction to their account of events that had taken place. When he’d locked them in, he’d gone home a skeptic, presuming his employees’ concerns to be flights of fantasy and the result of overactive imaginations. After hearing DBAGH’s stories, seeing the footage, and hearing the audio, he was starting to question his perceptions. It was compelling evidence. He remembered hearing that a skeptic’s mind could only be changed once he’d experienced his own encounter and had an open mind. He wasn’t hoping for his own encounter, but he wasn’t dreading it either.
         Harold went up to his office on the second floor to send an email to his staff the building was safe to enter. As he typed, a sudden cool breeze wafted past him. Harold looked up from his screen and looked around. The vent was closed, no windows were open, and no fan was on. He was surprised to feel at peace.
         “Hello?” he said tentatively aloud, his voice shaking slightly. He felt silly speaking aloud when he was presumably alone in the room, but after what he’d just learned, he suddenly felt brave. He got the feeling someone was behind him, and when he turned around and discovered he was still alone, Harold smiled. “I don’t know who you are, but this was probably the last home you remember. Or, at least, the last place you felt at home. You’re always welcome here, I promise. This is a safe space for you.” He then turned back to his computer to finish his work.
         When he was done, he noted the room still had a chill to it, but it was less obvious now. Either he’d grown accustomed to it or the spirit who’d caused it had left the room. Harold nodded as if answering an unspoken question. He was proud of himself for being so willing to be open to the experience.
         As he approached the door, a flash in his peripheral vision caught his attention. Just behind the door was a forgotten spirit box. Harold picked it up and, after some fumbling, located the volume button. Not that he needed it. The digital display was lit up and contained two words that validated everything for Harold. He smiled.
         “Thank you.”

© Copyright 2019 T.L. Dolan (caithyra at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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