[Author’s note : This is a straight up continuation of the story from part 1 and won’t make a ton of sense on its own. Feel free to read it here: Crabtree – Ghost Light – Part 1. Thanks – SC]
“That’s nice.” The young brunette licked some jelly off a spoon. “Not too sweet.”
“Mmm Hmm. Well, I’d have to confess, these grapes make much better jelly than wine, I’m afraid. Although the hipsters don’t seem to notice.”
She smiled and froze like a caught mouse. A giggle coughed out. “I promise I won’t tell a soul.”
Billy stuck his head in the doorway and looked at the two. They didn’t seem to notice him. Feeling awkward, Billy retreated into the hallway and slumped into one of the ornate high-backed chairs.
“So why chase ghosts, Mr. Crabtree?”
“I don’t. And it’s still Raymond.” He smiled. “I investigate paranormal cases. Ghosts are just one of many phenomena. Why do you see ghosts?”
“Well, I don’t really.” She talked to the ground. “I sense … things.” Swishing her bouncy brunette hair over her shoulder she made eye contact with Raymond. “I believe from talking to people and my own research that I’m in touch with spirits. But I’m not nearly practiced enough. Your last assistant; I heard she was quite adept.”
“She’d pick a paranormal pea out from under a stack of lies and myth a mile high.” The older man shrugged with his face. “Though she left me in the lurch, I can’t say she was anything but a top rate medium.”
“That’s rather kind of you.” The young woman’s eyes sparkled.
He shyly examined his teacup. “So how about you? For instance, here, are you picking up anything?”
“I think I felt something. Hard to place. Not threatening and not particularly motivated, just creepy. Like I would like to get clean or take a bath. Does that make any sense?”
“You mean slimy?”
Her face lit like a light. “Yeah! That’s it.”
“Hm. I’ll take a chance here. You’ve got the job. Ines lived upstairs and you are welcome to have her room.”
The light in her face grew even brighter. “I won’t let you down. I’ll be back later with my stuff.”
Raymond watched her small blue hatchback circle the driveway and exit through the gate. He gave a small wave as she drove down the lane and out of sight.
From behind him, Billy said, “You know she’s not buying your nice older guy gentleman routine. I mean, she’s not a total scam, but she sure ain’t Ines and she’s not anywhere near as sensitive as we need.”
“Hm. She’s imperfect, but she’s the best we’ve got. And under the circumstances, she’ll have to do.”
Raymond looked at the rummaged tea service, and his notes. “Hm. Forget this. I’m totally going to tame you at computer football.”
Grinning, Billy said, “You are so on, bro.”
A young man drove his motorbike up the driveway of the Crabtree’s stone house and again checked the address on the package. He pulled off his helmet to reveal his sharp features and dark Indian skin. “Must be the place. Talk about the middle of nowhere.” Arun Monohoran’s accent was all Pittsburgh.
He walked up the stairs and knocked on the solid oak door. Using his hand for shade, he looked through the frosted window. “Hello! I got a package here! I need a signature!”
Billy walked past the window and he said, “Hey! Blondie! Package! Need a signature”
Billy looked surprised and even looked for someone behind him.
“Yeah, you. Who else?”
Billy got up from behind the desk and carefully unlocked the door.
“You Raymond Crabtree?”
Billy tilted his head. “No, I’m Billy.”
“Whatever. I need a signature for this package.”
Billy took the package and the clip board and carefully signed his name.
Arun looked around. “What do you all do out here anyway.”
The blonde young man smiled. “We make alcohol, deserts, flowers and play video football. Care for a drink?”
“You make booze here?” Arun smiled. “Sure. What’d you say your name was?”
“Billy. Billy Crabtree.”
“Arun Monohoran.” He stuck out his hand. Billy smiled and shook it carefully.
“Hey, you any good at videogames? I’ve got everything here.”
Raymond and Lisa both carried boxes into the theatre. Once inside, Lisa swept her eyes over the high ceiling and the stage. Raymond was concerned.
“You getting anything?”
“No.” She shook her head quickly “I just feel cold.”
Grunting, he put down his box. “Well from the witnesses, our friend here is not the shy type.” He tilted his head at the stage where a single light was set up. “I wonder if that’s for him.”
“Nah, that’s a ‘ghost light.’ You always want to leave a light on the stage so people can see the edge.” Raymond raised an eyebrow and she smiled. “I was a drama geek in high school.”
“Hm. Good. You can help with the cameras. They work like can lights.” He opened one of his cases on the ground, revealing four camera setups. “I’m going to want full coverage of this place. Let’s make sure everything is observable from at least two angles for triangulation.”
Lisa looked at the camera setup. It was actually two cameras, a cardioid microphone and a wireless transmitter, set in a custom made metal housing. “You make this stuff yourself?”
“Just the mountings. The big deal, is interpreting the data.”
“So you’ve got all this, what do you need me for?”
“This can only point in the vague direction of the issue. I need a medium to help with the other side of things.” He turned around and fetched one of the small camera units.
“How many of these have you done so far?”
“A few dozen. This is a really good case. They are paying and we have plenty of witnesses.” He smiled. “Let’s place these cameras and check the place out.”
They carefully followed the map Raymond brought in order to get all the right angles on the entire building. He covered both above and below the balcony/loft and went up on the stage when Lisa stopped.
“It’s cold here.” She rubbed her shoulders with her hands. “I don’t feel welcome.”
Raymond put out his hand. “It does seem a little drafty here.”
She walked across the stage to be with Raymond. “No, really. I get the feeling that we should leave.”
The older man examined her face. “That may be, but we are here to investigate. We can’t let what we came here to see frighten us off.” Placing his hand on her shoulder, he said, “Come on, I’ll be right here. We just need to place the cameras. Half hour max if we get to it.”
“Yeah, Ok. And why all the cameras? I mean, I’m new to field work due to … my specialty … but on the shows, they rarely have more than a couple of views of things.”
“Well, we want to get everything from many different angles – cuts out the artifacts and such. Also, I figure we’ll be set up for a couple of weeks to get a good sample.”
“Well yeah. Those people who think they can figure stuff out in a day or two with only a couple of sensors are unscientific morons. This is like any other social phenomenon, it takes observation.”
“That seems a little calculating, considering the subject matter.”
“Well let me ask you – do you haul off and marry some guy after a single date?”
“Yeah, that would be dumb. You’d only get a little piece of what they are about. The rest of the picture, if you choose to form one, would say more about you than the dude. Hm. The same applies here. We don’t want a ghost story, we want answers. Less mystical and scary that way, but much more satisfying.”
“So, the longer we look at it, the less frightening it is?”
“That’s not where I was going, but I guess you could say that. Again, it’s about data and resolution. We get the data from the cameras, and your observations, and we research…” He looked up to fix her with an impressed gaze. “…I’m really excited about your write up on this so far, very thorough….” He went back to his set up. “And then we look for the anomalies and how we can help everyone, spirits and people alike.”
She grabbed a camera mount and looked up into the ancient rigging system above the stage. The ropes were swinging in the slight breeze. All at once, they stopped. “Raymond?” Her voice was weak and her eyes wide with fright.
Flipping a master switch, she grabbed the basketball sized camera mount and pointed it at the rafters. Her hands trembled as she looked up.
“Yeah, Just a second. Good, your camera and sensors are on and recording. Should get a picture just as soon as I get the monitors going. Nice.” He walked back to the door, looking for a piece of equipment.
Up above the stage, the ropes were now starting to join with each other, dancing around in a circle. All too soon they wove themselves together into a crude face, with two eyes and a mouth. The ropes danced, giving the illusion that one eye grew suddenly huge. Lisa felt exposed under its gaze. She tried to call out, but all she could manage was a frozen squeak. The huge eye retreated and the whole face was in the ropes again.
In one swift move, the rope mouth became huge and lunged down toward the stage. The young brunette screamed and dropped the camera. In a panic, she rushed off the stage, jumping down five feet into the orchestra area, then scrambling up the three foot wall to run screaming down the center isle of the theater.
Bursting through the doors, she ran out into the grey fall day. The misty outside air made her feel better almost instantly. She no longer had the biological imperative to flee so firmly and forcefully bouncing about in her primitive brain.
Some twenty feet outside the theatre’s rear entrance, she found herself standing on a bit of damp lawn and realized what she had just done. Her body crumpled and she fell to her knees. The long wavey locks of her hair hid her face as she bent forward, pushing her jeans clad knees into the moist sod.
Silent sobs jerked at her curled over back. Breath came in gasps as her face moistened into a damp mess.
Footsteps on the gravel path made a crunching sound. The soft and warming weight of her white wool coat gently covered her back.
She didn’t have to look. “I…” A gasp of air broke her thought. “I’m not cut out for this. Raymond, I know you want to believe in me, but I’m not good enough. I’m scared.”
“Shhh. That was … very dramatic. Hm. A very acute occurrence.” He squatted down beside her. “It’s ok.”
“No. I wish. I thought, after I studied with my sensitivity, I thought I could finally get a job and not just be a nut-ball psychic.” She turned and looked at him through her locks. “But, I’m scared! I don’t know what’s going on and I’m only sensitive enough to be scared. Once that gets out, I’ll never get taken seriously again. And I’ll never be able … to get over it and…” She broke down once again in sobs.
Raymond rubbed her back as she jerked with sadness and embarrassment. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell a soul.”
“Screaming! The crowd went wild! Cheering and shouting Billy! Billy!” The greasy haired young man bragged as he stood in front of a screen full of cheering, digital people. “Thank you, thank you. You are all too kind.”
Arun sat on the couch watching the display, and drinking from a tall unmarked liter bottle of hard cider. “Best three of five?”
Pointing, he said, “You are on, dude.” He flipped the switches on the controller to re-start the football game.
The sound of the back door opening and footsteps in the hall could be heard over the startup screen.
“Is that your brother?”
“Yeah dude.” Billy settled into his chair, remote in hand. “Don’t worry though. Raymond plays like he’s all uptight, but he’s cool.”
At that moment Raymond peeked into Billy’s room with a still watery-eyed Lisa in tow. He looked at Arun and said, “What the hell’s going on? What do you think you are doing here?”
“Oh, it’s cool. Arun here just delivered a package and he mentioned that he liked videogames…”
Arun listened to Billy and nodded his head. “Yeah, how’s it going? You’ve got a real talent my man.” He smiled and put out his fist to be bumped.
Raymond was appalled. “Who said you could come in, much less raid the cellar? Get out!”
“What the… Billy, I thought you said your brother would be cool and all.”
“Oh, crud! Tell him Billy said it’s ok and that you aren’t dropping eggs.”
“What? Why can’t you tell him yourself?”
Raymond turned around and lifted an eyebrow. “You know Billy?”
“Of course I know Billy. We just met today, but… Dude, he’s right there!” Arun pointed to Billy who was waving his controller around.
“You mean you can see him? Hear him?” Raymond regained his calm composure. “Um… Hm. I hate to break this to you but, Billy has been dead for thirty years. What you are seeing is his spirit.”
Arun stared at Billy as he shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry man. I hope this doesn’t mean we can’t be friends and all.”
“Friends? Uh. This has to be some weird joke. You signed the receipt. I can touch you. Like this!” He reached forward for Billy’s shoulder only to have his hand go through.
Billy looked at the hand then back at Arun. “Sorry dude, I gotta concentrate to make something tangible and it only works on farm grounds. I probably should have told you.”
“Yeah. Kind of an oversight.”
Raymond walked further into the room. “Young man, Arun is it? Did you know you are a medium for spirits?”
“A what? Does that pay well?”
Raymond smiled. “Significantly more than a courier under the right circumstances. If Billy vouches for you, I think we can work something out. You can also work with my other medium to help you realize what you are experiencing.”
“That … um … Yeah, this is all …” Arun looked past Raymond to see Lisa standing in the hallway, observing the exchange. “… pretty… um… pretty strange and all.”
“Dude, what’s to be strange about? Ray’s a great cook, you get to work on the farm and let me tell you, the chicks we get up here to take cooking and winemaking classes! Damn. Makes me wish I could … you know … But YOU can, dude! It’ll be a blast!”
Arun looked at Billy and then realized that for everyone else he was staring at nothing.
“Ah, why not. I’m guess I’m your guy.”