Never Say Dye (A Sibyl Potts Cozy Mystery, Book 3) (6 page)

BOOK: Never Say Dye (A Sibyl Potts Cozy Mystery, Book 3)
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I explained about Dorothy’s more hostile than usual behavior to the ghost hunters, and their complaints about her harassing behavior toward them.

“Sibyl, she doesn’t have a criminal record, and we have no motive. Did any of the guests say anything about her making any threats? Were there any attempts to harm them physically?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Look, I’ll be back soon, and then I’ll get this case going. Until then, you are to do nothing,
nothing
. Understood?”

 

 

“How helpless we are, like netted birds, when we are caught by desire!”
(
Belva Plai
n
)

Chapter Eleven
.

 

“You want to do what?” I screeched.

James smiled as he paced around my living room, studying the shelves and furniture as he moved. “A ghost vigil. Essentially, we just want your permission to stay over and set up our equipment, to see if we find any activity.”

“I thought you guys were here to check out the boarding house.” I suppressed a twinge of anxiety over the way he was studying the room. I hadn't even given him permission yet, but he looked as if he was already plotting out where his cameras and dials and whirligigs were all going to go.

“Yep. But paranormal activity doesn't always stay within four walls. There are even reports of ghosts following their host families halfway across the country. In fact, whole neighborhoods have reported similar paranormal activities. Speaking of which, have you ever felt like you were being watched in here? Weird cold spots? Stuff moving from where you put it?”

“No, I haven’t.” I crossed my arms and shuddered. I would rather have such creepy conversations about being watched in broad daylight. I’d had too many close encounters with the living, to deal with my imagination being driven out of control. “Look, I understand the whole thing with the boarding house, but your rent does not cover poking around my place.”

“It would only be for one night,” he persisted. “It would make great ratings if we found some activity over here too. You never know, one of the deceased might have had a strong connection to this cottage. We would even compensate you for the intrusion after the contract is finalized.”

“Compensate?” I asked. That sounded good to me. “How much, and would you pay in advance?”

James nodded. When he named the figure, I immediately warmed to his idea. “What ratings?” I added. “A contract with whom?”

James squared his shoulders and threw himself, uninvited, into a chair. “A network has already picked up the pilot, and they’ve offered me a nice contract.” His voice shook when he said
nice
, and I wondered just how much money was involved. “They think we'll top all the other ghost hunting shows,” he continued, “given that we back our research with scientific measurements and equipment.”

“But all those other shows have scientific equipment,” I said.

James laughed. “Not as good as our equipment, and while they occasionally do manage to record something that might sound like a voice, we have collected considerable data. That is our point of difference,” he said firmly, as if delivering a sales pitch.

I took a seat on the sofa opposite him and tried to process the information. I had thought they were just a bunch of guys hunting for ghosts as a hobby, and now I had found out that they were big business involved with major television. “What does this have to do with the boarding house? And my home? You're not saying that you’re planning to put us in one of these episodes?”

“You don't sound sold on the idea.” James furrowed his brow.

“Of course I'm not sold on the idea, James. I like my privacy.”

“Well, the boarding house will be used to it, given the number of times they’ve been in the papers lately with murders. Besides, Cressida herself said we could film at the boarding house. That’s the only reason we booked in.”

That came as no surprise. Cressida would agree to almost anything, given the big renovation bills she was facing.

“Well, I suppose you can film here if you want to,” I said, thinking of the money, which would certainly come in handy. My divorce lawyer was nothing if not expensive. “It doesn't sound so bad. You can point those thermal digital things and take temperatures here if you like.”

James broke into loud laughter. “Temperatures and digital things, right?” he said after he managed to stop laughing. “The viewers are going to want more than temperature readings and thermal cameras, Sibyl. They want the story behind it.”

Warning bells went off. So, it seemed to me that James was going to bring in the recent murders. Newspapers and local news were one thing. Most people don't check the news archives before selecting a boarding house or dog groomer. After the initial shock, things more or less settle back down over time. Yet, James’s ghost series was going to be shown on national television, and that meant that Little Tatterford would likely attract more than its fair share of morbid people nosing around.

“What about poor Sue?” I asked. “Do you really want to do a television show where she died and, I assume, mention her ghost?”

He gave a bit of a shrug, seemingly at a loss as to how to deal with my question. “Her memory would live on, right? And the director liked the idea of trying to contact a lost team mate.”

I shook my head. “James, I will allow you to film in my cottage if you pay me in advance, but it’s dark outside, and I don’t like talking about ghosts after dark.” I nodded to the door, and then shook my head. Did James really intend to use his ex-girlfriend for ratings? It seemed so.

James took the hint. “Goodnight, Sibyl, and thanks.”

I smiled thinly and opened the door.

I screamed as I saw a tall figure on the doorstep, his arm raised. James and the figure both stumbled back at my reaction. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I recognized an equally startled Blake.

“Nice to see you, too,” Blake said, his brow furrowed.

I turned to James, and stepped away from the door. “Good night, James. I'll talk to you tomorrow about things.”

James gave us both a gloomy look as he nodded, and walked out the door.

“Is he ghost hunting here?” Blake asked, as he closed the door behind him. His tone was jovial, but I could not help but notice an edge to his voice, almost as if he was annoyed that James was here. Before I could respond, Tiny and Sandy both appeared to greet Blake in a whirl of fur and wagging tails. Where had they been while James was around? Come to think of it, they had made themselves scarce right after James had arrived.

“Yes, James was here to ask if he could do a ghost hunting vigil here. He said he’ll pay in advance.” I knew I didn’t owe Blake an explanation, but for some reason, I was a little anxious in case he got the wrong idea. “I didn't expect you until late tomorrow.”

“Court wrapped up early around midday, so I was able to drive straight home.”

“Were you afraid that Mr. Buttons and I were going to do a secret mission without you?”

Blake smiled, and put Tiny down. “I'm surprised the town is still in one piece.” He took a step backward and studied the scenery outside the window for effect, acting as if he were making sure it was in fact still intact. “It
is
still in one piece, right?”

“Nothing some super glue and a reality TV show couldn't fix. Anyway, would you like some hot chocolate? I was about to make myself a comfort drink, once I got rid of James.”

Blake smiled at that. “Sounds good, thanks. A week of stale continental breakfasts and coffee flavored water got old real quick.” He picked up Tiny again and gave the wriggling, squirming, happy dog a belly rub, while cradling him in one arm. Tiny was the picture of contentment as he lay with his tongue lolling out the corner of his mouth. “Was James giving you a hard time?”

“Let's just say it's been a long week,” I said. Had Blake been irritated about finding James at my place at this hour?

“Tell me everything.” Blake followed me into the kitchen.

I would have thought, as tired as I was a minute ago, that talking about the long and strange week would be the last thing that I would want to deal with right now. Yet the instant Blake asked, I felt a wave of relief. It seemed to me that no matter what was going on, everything was going to be okay because he was there.

 

 

 

“One swallow does not make a summer.”
(
Aristotle,
Nichomachean Ethics
.
)

Chapter Twelve
.

 

As we walked into the first room, I saw James and the other ghost hunters tinkering with their fancy equipment, readying it for filming.

“Do you think this was such a good idea?” I whispered to Mr. Buttons. “I mean, us asking to join them so we can keep an eye on them?”

Mr. Buttons simply shrugged. “It’s all we can do, really.”

The dining room of the boarding house was crammed with various paranormal equipment. I noticed a small recorder sitting beside a strange device that looked more like a failed retro video game console than any type of ghost hunting item. “What’s this stuff?” I asked.

“That’s the EVP field processor. Be careful with it!” James scolded me. “Look, but don’t touch!”

“What does it do?” I asked.

He shot an annoyed look at me. “It’s an EVP field processor,” he repeated slowly and carefully, as if speaking to a young child. “We use a digital recorder to ask the spirits questions, and sometimes they reply, but their voices can’t be always be heard by the naked ear. They can only be heard during playback. This device here alerts us when a foreign noise or sound has been picked up, giving us a better idea of where to look for some proof of communication on the recording’s timeline.”

“Oh,” I said, unexpectedly satisfied with the answer. Mr. Buttons and I continued looking at the various equipment that was strewn around the room: cameras, strange canisters labeled
REM-Pods
, meters, and all the other odd objects that decorated the room, making the whole place feel more haunted than it had ever seemed before.

“Okay, this is how it’ll go,” James began. “You two, you’re here to observe and help us communicate if necessary. Other than that, just pretend you’re part of the boarding house.”

“We
are
part of the boarding house,” Mr. Buttons whispered.

I resisted the urge to laugh.

James continued speaking. “You guys, let’s just do this the usual way.” The other ghost hunters readied their gear. Alex and Michael set up cameras in the room; Ken set up three flashlights in a row, and James kneeled down and opened an impressive looking metal case.

“Hello, hello,” James said when he stood up. “Is anyone here? Come forward. Do you want to speak to us? Give us a sign.”

Nothing happened. James repeated the words several times, and then, all at once, there was a scratching sound on the closed door.

I gasped and seized Mr. Buttons’ arm. I looked at the ghost hunters, and the four of them seemed terrified too. I fleetingly wondered why they would ask if there was anyone there, and then be terrified when there was a response.

The scratching sound came again, and by now, Mr. Buttons and I were clinging to each other. I wanted to flee, but the only way out was through the door which was currently being scratched by what I assumed was a fearsome entity.

Just then, the door opened, ever so slowly. I gasped in horror. I saw that Alex and Michael had the presence of mind to edge forward, each holding up a small camera. James, for some reason, seemed more scared than the rest of us. I hid behind Mr. Buttons, who in turn, was hiding behind a dining chair.

As the door opened wider, I peeked over Mr. Buttons’ shoulder.

Lord Farringdon walked in.

“It’s only that cat,” James screeched. “Catch it!”

Lord Farringdon’s relaxed demeanor at once changed when he saw James lunging for him. His tail fanned out like a toilet brush and he shot out the door.

I clutched at my throat, and breathed a long sigh of relief. Mr. Buttons stood up, still holding onto the back of the dining chair, and I saw that he was shaking.

James came back into the room, minus Lord Farringdon. “I’m going to take the all-vision goggles and go upstairs,” he said.

Several minutes later, commotion erupted. James flew back into the room in a panic, holding his left arm with his right hand. The ghost hunters didn’t react in any way other than by making sure they got the shot. We all crowded around as James revealed his arm. Three long, deep marks were etched into his skin. He looked up at one of the cameras and spoke softly, albeit with more than a hint of melodrama. “Something or someone doesn’t want us here.”

At that point, Michael and Ken stopped filming, and Alex turned on the light. I took a good look at the scratches. They were definitely real. The only question was, were they self inflicted, or had a ghost done it?

James, after complaining about the scratches, once again left the room, leaving the rest of us there. After we had been filming for a little over an hour, I was dreadfully bored and the crew was beginning to get restless. There had been several occasions where James had returned and mentioned that he had seen or heard something out of place, but nothing concrete had as yet happened to affirm the presence of any supernatural entities. “I really don’t think we’re going to pick anything up, man,” I overheard Michael say to James.

“I definitely picked up something in the west corridor,” James said. “I’m sure we’ll get something in playback. I think we should record some audio in here now.” James turned to me. “By asking questions and monitoring the radio waves, we can pick up on communication attempts of a supernatural nature.”

I nodded.

“Is anyone here?” James paused and looked intently at the meter he was holding in one hand. In his other hand was the digital recorder. “Are you trying to communicate with us? Do you welcome us, or do you want us to leave?”

Silence was the only response that could be heard. Suddenly, what sounded like a door slamming reverberated through the floor. We all jumped.

James held the recorder higher out into the air. “We aren’t here to hurt you. We just want to find out more about you, who you are, how you got here. Do you need help to move on?”

Just then, the most eerie sound came from behind the door. A chill ran down my spine. Mr. Buttons and I wasted no time assuming our positions behind the dining chair. We cowered, as high pitched sounds emanated from the corridor.

“There’s something out there!” Michael yelled. “Something’s broken through the REM pods!”

I didn’t know what REM pods were, and I didn’t care – yet the fact that something had broken through them seemed alarming.

There was no further sound, so James slowly edged toward the door. He opened it, and Lord Farringdon was sitting there, looking quite pleased with himself. This time, when James lunged for him, Lord Farringdon ran straight into the dining room toward me.

I picked him up and soothed him. “I’ll go and shut him in Cressida’s room,” I said. “Mr. Buttons, will you come with me?”

As we walked past James, Mr. Buttons said, “We haven’t heard a single peep from a ghost all night.”

“That’s completely understandable,” James said. “The thing is, you often can’t hear them without the equipment. We usually wait until we go back over all of the recordings the next day.” He pulled out a recorder and fidgeted with the buttons. After a few moments, a recording played. We heard James’s voice trying to communicate with spirits.

“Do you welcome us, or do you want us to leave?” his recorded voice asked.

“Leave!” The lone word came out as a raspy, horrid whisper.

James rewound the recording and pressed play once more, and we heard the ghastly sound again.

“That is most creepy and unseemly,” Mr. Buttons whispered. I nodded in agreement.

Lord Farringdon did not object when we placed him in Cressida’s bed, and then shut him in her room.

On our way back to the dining room, Mr. Buttons whispered to me, “Do you think it’s all faked?”

“What is faked?” I said. “Nothing’s happened so far, apart from that one creepy voice.”

“True,” Mr. Buttons said, “but I don’t mind telling you, I’m not comfortable with this.”

As we approached the dining room, I could hear a dispute, and the dining room lights were back on. James was speaking forcefully. “I don’t understand why you guys are against it. Sue was part of this stuff too. She believed in it, and I know she would want to talk to us if she were able to.”

“What?” I asked, as I walked over to them.

“James wants to see if we can communicate with Sue’s spirit,” Michael said, and Alex shook his head.

James’s hands were on his hips. “I just figured we might be able to ask her what happened to her. Maybe she can tell us if her death was an accident or if someone caused it.”

“Sure, it would be nice to know what happened, but don’t you think this is the wrong way to go about it?” Ken asked him.

“It’s in poor taste,” Michael said.

All four men looked quite irritated.

Mr. Buttons put his hand on James’s shoulder. “James, they’re your crew, and she was their friend too. Just let them have a say in the matter, at least. No?”

His words of wisdom seemed to get through to James. He nodded. “Look, I won’t keep pushing it. Just let me ask once, and see if she answers. If not, we move on and forget about trying again. Does that work?”

Each of the three men looked at each other and then their leader. In unison, they all nodded agreement to his terms. “It’s still in poor taste, as far as I’m concerned,” Michael said, “but if it helps at all or at least doesn’t harm anyone or anything, I guess it’s worth a shot.”

“That’s all I’m asking for,” James replied. He turned to face the center of the room. “We wish to speak to a spirit named Sue. She was recently lost from this world and delivered to yours. Please break through the barrier and speak to us. We miss you.” Silence met his query.

After about five minutes, Michael spoke. “It’s just not going to happen, James.”

“Why do you think that?” asked Mr. Buttons.

“We’ve just never spoken to recent spirits before,” Michael said. “We’ve always spoken to ghosts that have been reported as haunting specific locations for years before we even show up or hear about it. I think James was just hoping to catch something unexpected on camera for this show. It’s really important to him, so he might seem a bit overzealous at times, especially during recording. This show is his baby; he is very protective of it and wants it to be the best it can be.”

“You can’t really blame me for that, can you?” James said.

Michael and Ken murmured agreement, and Alex nodded.

“All right, we’re about ready to call it a wrap.” James looked down at his watch. “We’re going to keep the cameras rolling for the next few hours while everyone sleeps. We might need you two to do some interviews tomorrow.”

Mr. Buttons and I looked at each other and then at James. “Us?” I said.

“Yes. We like to splice together interviews about the actual events and reactions that we recorded during the investigation. It won’t take long – it’ll be fun!”

I agreed reluctantly.

“Well, that was an experience,” I said to Mr. Buttons as we walked out, leaving the ghost hunters behind. “Do you think this stuff is all real?”

“I do believe in ghosts, and I do believe that genuine paranormal researchers have discovered valid evidence as to the presence of such ghosts,” he said, before pausing for a moment. “I just don’t know whether James is for real.”

“Yes, that’s my problem as well. Plus, I’m sure he intends to edit out Lord Farringdon, to make it seem as if a spirit was making those sounds and opening the door.”

Mr. Buttons turned to me and laughed. “At least we got to see how scared the ghost busters were when Lord Farrington got the drop on them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK: Never Say Dye (A Sibyl Potts Cozy Mystery, Book 3)
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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