Authors: Annette Brownlee
Tags: #Adventure, #Paranormal
He watched for a few seconds, stretched, yawned, unscrewed a bottle of water and had taken a sip when his heart plummeted into his stomach. The rocking chair was moving by itself. Shit. Every instinct wanted to rush inside and make sure the women were safe. But if he barged in while they were communicating and scared it away, Linda would have his hide. So he watched - his legs tense and ready to run into the home if they needed him.
He glanced at the EMF recorder. Nothing. Not a blip. If the spirit was communicating with them, it wasn't using electromagnetic frequencies. Maybe they'd get something on the recorder. He saw Linda wave her hands in the air. She started talking. He knew the words by heart. She was cleansing the chair. Dakota relaxed. A residual haunt. Usually they had to ask the clients permission to cleanse any belongings or their space if they had residual spirit energy attached to it. These people had given their permission outright. They were scared. He supposed most folks would be if their furniture moved on its own, even if there was a logical explanation for it. The owner of that antique rocking chair must have enjoyed it and left some of their energy behind when they passed. It happened more often than people realized - especially in Colorado where the granite and quartz in the ground held onto energy like a superpowerful battery. He figured that’s why the Stanley Hotel in Estes was so haunted. It sat on a huge formation of granite. Every single person who stayed at the Stanley since it opened in 1909 left part of themselves there, stored deep in the stone and destined to become part of the hotel’s lore.
Dakota sat back, propped his feet up on the table, closed his eyes and relaxed. The women would likely be out in a few minutes and they could call it a night. Good thing. He was tired.
"Dakota," the walkie beeped. "Dakota, get in here."
Breathy and excited, Sheila’s voice sent a warning through his body. Something was wrong. “Shit.”In a flash Dakota was out of the van and tearing through the front door. “What’s up? What’s the matter?"
“Nothing’s the matter,” Sheila laughed. She had a pleased with herself look on her face that never failed to tick him off.
"She's on her way."
“Sheila has just had a vision,” Kat announced.
Linda lit a bundle of sage. She was going to cleanse the space thoroughly which meant they were going to be here a little longer than he thought. Exhausted, Dakota was more than ready to go home.
“Our new team member is on her way," Linda said. She blew into the bundle of sage to fuel the flames. Smoke began streaming from the sticks.
“Humph.” Irritated by Sheila’s drama, Dakota fought the urge to roll his eyes. He didn’t want a new team member. He liked their small group just the way it was. He trusted everyone and they did their jobs. Adding a new person to the mix was asking for trouble. He didn’t like trouble. And they didn’t need a new team member. Four was the perfect number for most locations. Any more investigators and they’d start tripping over each other. Of course he didn’t point that out to them; they seemed too excited. “You said, ‘She’s on her way.’ What does she look like?’”
“You’re such a man,” Kat said. Disdain dripped from each syllable.
“Well, yeah. So?”
“She has big boobs, a great ass and...”
“Nice, Kat. Never mind.”He turned to leave. The equipment boxes were in the van. The sooner he could get them in here the sooner they could pack up and go home.
“She’s just teasing you, Dakota. Actually, I couldn't get much. I can tell you that I feel hot, as if sunshine is beating down on me and warming my face. And she has two thick braids, blonde braids.”
“Like Heidi?” Kat laughed.
“Who is Heidi?” The mention of blonde braids wasn’t lost on him. Rather, he felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. The woman from his dream? The woman his ancestors had warned him about? It couldn’t be. He’d first dreamed about her a week ago and couldn’t stop thinking about her. Each night he woke in a sweat with visions of her seared into his brain. He knew how she smelled, how she tasted, and he’d seen the trio of freckles below her belly button. Each dream was more intense. And more dangerous, he thought. He went to bed hoping and fearing that he’d dream about her. He woke each morning more exhausted than when he went to sleep. It couldn’t be a coincidence? His dream woman had two long blonde braids.
“You know, the German milkmaid. Two long braids, big boobs, and a great ass.”
“You never let up.” Dakota turned away and started dismantling the camera equipment. "So when will she get here?”
“So you like the milkmaid look?” Kat asked. Coming up beside him she started winding up the long extension cords.
“What the hell does that matter, Tonto? I’m just sure Indians and Germans can screw. And besides, you’re only half Navajo. What’s the rest of you?”
This conversation was making his head spin. “Doesn’t matter,” he grumbled. He didn’t like to talk about his heritage. “So when is this German milkmaid going to get here?” How long did they have to prepare? It couldn’t be a coincidence. He knew that and couldn’t fight the feeling that once she hit town nothing would ever be the same.
Sheila looked at him, and through him - her eyes concentrating on a point past him. “She’s just hit the road. She’ll take her time getting to us. Maybe a week or more. She doesn't believe.”
Great, Dakota thought. That was the last thing they needed. A ghost hunter who didn't believe in ghosts. This was going to be interesting.
Dinner for One
Chaos punched off her iPod. The Eagles weren’t improving her mood. Heading into Colorado the sun was setting on her left and it cast a strange almost ominous purple glow on the thunder clouds building overhead. She knew it was her imagination, it had to be, but the thunder clouds rolled and bumped together. The result resembled giant skulls with cavernous black eyes. Maybe she should have taken a more direct route to Durango instead of the winding highway through the San Juan National Forest. Late October wasn't too early to get a snowstorm in the mountains.
Still, the air didn't feel quite right for a storm. She laughed at herself. Since when was she psychic or a meteorologist? The air didn't feel right. Ha! Nothing felt right. She was on the run from a damned ghost and well, ghosts just didn’t exist. This meant, of course, that after 25 disastrous years, she was finally losing her mind. She’d been pushed over the edge.
Her Jeep shuddered from the force of a sudden gust of wind. Chaos gripped the steering wheel with both hands and focused on keeping it straight. No one knew where she was. If she got into trouble she’d be on her own to manage. Not that there was anyone for her to call. Her cell phone certainly didn’t get any reception this deep in the mountains. Crazy or not, she needed to find a motel room soon. The sun was setting fast. She punched her iPod back on and skipped ahead. She didn't want to think or feel and on the road by yourself the only company was music.
Just south of Durango she found a chain motel. It looked safe and she figured it’d be a good place to stay for a night or two. Durango was a hot spot for mountain bikers and the parking lot was packed with SUVs with bike racks on the back and ski racks on the top. Guess it’s not too cold for mountain biking, she thought aloud. Maybe if she was feeling adventurous she’d rent a mountain bike and try out the easier trails. She could try skiing too but cycling seemed safer considering she’d never skied before. The mountains hugged the city and framed it from the north and east. The looming gray stone, tipped with a dusting of snow, felt both welcoming and overwhelming at the same time. Starting to relax into her holiday, Chaos grabbed her bag, registered at the front desk, and headed to her room. She was right. It was clean and functional. Perfect. Best of all, there was no reminder of Dead Bill. After showering and flipping through the magazines on the bedside table she decided to play it safe and walk to the little diner just down the road. She’d do her exploring tomorrow.
As she hit the sidewalk, her boots thunking the pavement, a fine mist began to fall along with the temperatures. Chaos contemplated turning back and driving instead of walking to the diner. Her Jeep could handle icy roads but she didn’t feel like pushing her luck. It wasn’t on her side. Never had been. And she’d borrowed enough trouble. Shoving her hands into her coat pockets, she forged on.
The warmth of the diner greeted her like a hearty hug. The place was packed. Despite the Halloween bats and skeletons hanging on the walls and from the ceiling, she felt instantly better. It felt good to be around people, even total strangers were better than being alone with her thoughts right now. She’d spent the day in the car with her thoughts. She’d had enough. Chaos stopped and surveyed the place. It was bigger than it looked. A small entryway gave way to a large room rimmed with booths and packed with tables. It strived to honor traditional diner style with a checkerboard tile floor and red vinyl upholstery. The chrome had dimmed with age and the diner lacked luster but the place felt warm and inviting. The kitchen lay straight ahead at the end of the room. Dinners waited on the counter, a warming light keeping them hot. A couple with two young kids ate burgers. Chaos felt her heart wrench. That life wasn’t meant for her, which only made her want it more. But a hubby and two point three kids were not part of her future. She’d accepted it but it still sucked. A waitress in a white apron caught her eye and held up a finger. Chaos nodded. She turned her attention to a loud group of men seated by the door. Dead Bill’s cologne sucker punched her. Chaos gasped. A group of men at a table to her right laughed rowdily.
“Hey, just one tonight?”
Chaos jumped at the sound of the hostess’s voice.
She nodded to the woman. Just a bunch of coincidences, she told herself. The men were just enjoying themselves and cologne was just cologne. Not a ghost.
“The Halloween decorations give me the creeps too,” she said. “You want a booth or a table?”
The men in the corner laughed again. Chills zipped up her spine. Every time they laughed, she felt a bit of her composure and sanity slip away. She didn’t want to risk causing a scene. “Sorry. Can I get something to go?”
Chaos awoke around midnight. Take-out containers littered the bedside table. Her water bottle was empty. Thirsty, she pushed out of her warm bed. She made her way to the bathroom, flipped on the light, pulled the plastic off the glass and filled it. Lifting the glass to take a drink, she looked in the mirror. Dead Bill’s face grinned back at her. The cup slid from her hand. It crashed on the counter. Water splashed the front of her t-shirt and sweat pants. Fists clenched, she whipped around to face him but he wasn’t there. She looked back at the mirror. He was gone. Vanished. “Like a ghost,” she whispered.
Climbing back into bed, Chaos pulled the covers up under her chin and wondered if she was losing her mind. Afraid to be alone with her thoughts, she turned on the television, found a nature show and fell into a restless sleep.
Just My Imagination
Take-out burger in hand, Chaos opened the door to her hotel room and waited. Fear tickled her spine. The dark empty room taunted her. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to step inside. Chaos flipped on all the lights, turned on the television, and opened the curtains wide to let the late sun fill the small space.
She left the door to the bathroom wide open while she showered. It was a chicken shit move but she didn’t want to be trapped in the bathroom and find the image of Dead Bill in the mirror. Yes, she knew it was her imagination, it had to be, but it still freaked her out. “You’re just tired,” she told herself. She’d rented a bicycle and spent the day exploring Durango. She’d even ventured onto a few beginner mountain bike trails. It’d been interesting and she was too exhausted to move onto another town so she’d booked another night here.
Stepping out of the shower and into the steamy bathroom, Chaos noticed a handprint in the center of the mirror. The bathroom door was closed too. She held her breath. Her heart began to race. It’s not Bill. It’s not Bill. It’s not Bill. Chaos closed her eyes. She saw Bill’s hands. They were on her face, holding her down. Touching her. The lump of a scream lodged in her throat. She opened her eyes. Refusing to let fear get the better of her, Chaos reminded herself that ghosts didn’t exist. “There has to be a logical explanation.”
Chaos leaned forward and examined the handprint. It was small. Too small to be Dead Bill’s. She held her hand up to the print to compare. It was larger than her hand but not by much. Definitely, not Dead Bill’s hand. The handprint was probably left from chemicals on the cleaning crew’s hand. Someone had touched the mirror when they were cleaning and had accidentally left it there. She opened the bathroom door and watched as it started to swing closed again. She opened it again and again watched it swing closed. Relief filled her. The door wasn’t level. “See, there’s always a logical explanation,” she said. She swiped her hand across the mirror and wiped away the hand print. Comfortable with her logic, Chaos slipped into her pajamas, snuggled into bed and fell asleep watching a documentary on sloths.
The strong smell of cologne filled her nostrils and pulled Chaos from a deep sleep. “Not again.” Sitting up she looked around. She was alone in her room. She recognized the scent and fought her gag reflex. Dead Bill. Fear crept up from her toes and threatened to engulf her. It’s just your imagination. Logic had worked earlier. She turned to it again. Reasoning that it must be someone in the hallway who’d taken a bath in the stinky stuff, she scrambled out of bed. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table. It was off. The light from the clock snuffed out, Chaos fumbled in the darkness for the switch on the lamp beside her bed. She found it and pushed. Nothing.
“The power must have gone out,” she said aloud to calm her hammering heart. Shuffling, Chaos made her way across the dark room to the door. She removed the deadbolt and the slide lock and cracked the door. The harsh overhead lights bounced off the maroon carpet and green wallpapered walls giving the hall an orange tint. Chaos squinted from the brightness. “The power is on in the hallway,” she muttered. Chaos looked to her right and then to her left. The hall was empty. She inhaled. It smelled like a motel hallway - stale and sanitary. No cologne. No Dead Bill. Closing the door she locked it and turned to face the bed. The scent was coming from her darkened room.