The Bad PlacebyEdge23©
Mike Stevens and Elizabeth Delaroca pulled up in front of the house in a nondescript red Jeep Cherokee. The stepped out, their blue jumpsuits not giving any indication that they worked for an agency designed to fight extradimensional beings. The FBEI, the Federal Bureau of Extradimensional Investigations, had cleaned out more haunted houses than the public would ever hear about.
"Happy Halloween, Liz. Halloween with a real haunted house. Perfect," he said with a grin.
"Thanks, Mike. You too."
Mike stood almost ten full inches taller than his partner, reaching just shy of six foot six. Tall and muscular, he had the scars and markings of someone who had been cleaning houses for a while, though he was only twenty-eight. He had a light complexion and his brown hair was kept in a crew cut.
Delaroca, on the other hand, was slim and attractive, somehow missing the burn marks and white scars that came with the job. Her scars were more mental, being the more sensitive of the two. She stood five foot eight and was muscular without being over muscled. She had a beautiful face, mostly thanks to her model mother, but her eyes were another story, much like the house they now faced: haunted. They were not the eyes of a twenty-four year old former model turned psychic investigator.
They surveyed the lot they stood on now. The house was older, probably built sometime in the late nineteenth century. Dusk was settling over the three-story house, which was light blue with dark trim around the shutters. To the right of the house stood a couple of outbuildings and just behind the house, they could make out a large shed.
"So, Liz," Mike started. "What do we have?"
Liz opened the file that she carried and started reading. "The house was built in eighteen seventy seven. It is now the house of one Mr. David Bronson, born nineteen twenty-nine, died nineteen ninety-seven. He bought the house in nineteen sixty. The late Mr. Bronson left the house to his children. Two boys, Daniel and Donald, and one girl, Denise. The children have tried to sell the house on four separate occasions. Every time a new owner moves in, unexplained things start happening."
"Unexplained? Like what?"
"Furniture moving, doors slamming, voices in the night. The usual."
Mike cocked his head to the side and looked at the house. "And what does the Bureau want?"
"They want a full cleaning with a minimum of damage to the house or property. That means you're on the short leash for this one." She smirked.
"The hell you say, woman. We came here to do a job. You know that."
"I know, Mike. I'm just giving you the rundown."
They stood next to each other and listened to children running a couple of streets away as they started their trick-or-treating. Almost as if she read his mind, Liz said, "Don't worry, Mike. The area kids know the house is haunted. They won't come anywhere near it. Unless they're teenagers." She shrugged her shoulders, knowing how teenagers were. Mike said nothing but headed for the back of the Jeep.
"You getting anything yet," he asked as he opened the rear door.
Liz focused on the house but then shook her head. "Nothing yet. Just a little residual, probably from the last manifestation."
Mike nodded and started hauling boxes out of the Jeep. He set down a couple and then grabbed a golf bag from behind the back seat. He pulled the cover off and took a look at his bag. Instead of golf clubs, it was filled with a shotgun, a sledgehammer, a crowbar and an axe. Extra ammunition and smaller implements of destruction were tucked into the bag's pockets.
Liz chuckled. "What happened to the short leash, Mikey?"
"Hey. They can fire me when we're done. Now, let's get going."
Mike slung his golf bag over his shoulder and hefted two boxes along with it while Liz grabbed her Beretta nine millimeter and slid it into the holster on her hip. She grabbed the last box off the ground and followed Mike, taking a second to kick the door of the Jeep shut.
They climbed the small steps to the front door, Mike trying the doorknob. "You have the key," he asked.
"Yeah. I've got it right...here." As she said this, the front door opened on squeaky hinges like any good haunted house. They looked at each other and Mike moved into the doorway, setting down his boxes and quickly drawing his shotgun, setting the bag down. Liz followed suit, moving next to him and setting the box down, drawing her Beretta and turning slowly in a half-circle. The living room was to the left and led off to the kitchen behind the stairs, which dominated the main entryway. The den was off to the right, following the far wall of the house.
Mike got her attention and pointed at his head, silently asking if she felt anything. When she shook her head no, he pointed her to the right, toward the den, and motioned that he was heading for the kitchen. She nodded and moved slowly toward the door while he got up from his crouch and shuffled toward the kitchen.
Liz passed the stairs and turned quickly and aimed up them, though there was nothing there. She got the sense she was being watched but hadn't felt anything on her 'radar.' She took a deep breath and nudged the den door open with the barrel of her gun. She moved in and looked around, finding nothing out of the ordinary. She holstered her gun and headed back for the front door.
Mike reached the kitchen doorway and peeked in. From where he stood, he was facing a dining nook with the kitchen off to his right, running along the back of the house. He turned and saw Delaroca at the front door. He motioned that he was going in and that she was to stay by the door. When she nodded, he took a tentative step into the dining nook, looking under the table. Nothing.
Mike turned and looked down the length of the kitchen, it's countertops polished so that they reflected what little light was left from outside. He moved over so that the counter was on his left, leaving the rest of the kitchen on his right. As he passed by the sink, which dripped quietly, he heard a small rattle from the cabinet about six feet in front of him. He turned and looked, seeing Liz standing in the doorway. He shook his head, knowing she had just obeyed orders, but feeling safer that she was there for backup.
He moved to the far side of the pantry door and grasped the small wooden handle. Liz moved about four feet into the nook, keeping the counter between her and the door. Mike nodded to her and she nodded back. Mike shifted his weight, stretching his arm out to full length and then jerked the door open.
He was assaulted by a handful of mops and brooms, as well as a couple of rolls of paper towels. He sank to the floor, a mop almost poking him in the face and started to laugh. Liz stepped out from behind the counter, obviously trying not to laugh but with tears welling up in her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah. Go ahead and laugh, Roca," Mike said, a long breath escaping his lips. "I'm sure I'll have something to laugh about to you before this is all over."
"Yeah, probably, partner." She walked over and offered him a hand, grunting as he took it and most of his two hundred and thirty pounds of weight threatened to tip her over.
"Come on, " he said, putting mops and brooms back in the pantry. "Let's get the gear set up and get this over with."
They went back out to the living room and switched on the light. They both noticed the front door was closed but neither said anything since it was expected. They crouched around the three boxes they had brought in and started unloading.
Liz opened her box and brought out supplies. Most of the supplied were food for the two of them for three days. They didn't think they'd need that much, but you just never know. Other items were a portable shrine, several tubes of holy water and crosses.
Mike was unloading the more technical gear. He opened a small box and pulled out two PDA-type devices. "This is your ectoscanner. It'll show you where a spook is and how far away. We should only need the short range readings for a single ghost haunt."
"Mike, I've done this before, you know."
He smiled in return. "I know. I'm just giving you the rundown. Hey. When was the last time they tried selling the house?"
She looked at the file and scanned down. "Summer of oh one. They some newlyweds to buy it, but the couple would sign. Husband had a 'bad feeling' about the house.
Mike nodded and took a quick walk around the downstairs, constantly checking his ectoscanner. Nothing was coming up. Nothing at all.
"Why were you asking about the sale?"
He stopped in front of the stairs and looked up and then back down at his scanner. Still nothing. "Because I'm not getting anything at all and you aren't getting anything at all."
She tilted her head slightly. "Dormant, maybe?"
He shook his head. "Wouldn't explain the front door."
The both jumped a little as a ringing sound was heard, but it was only Liz's cell phone. She smiled and answered. "Delaroca. Hey, boss. What? No, we're just getting started." She shook her head. "Stop? What? But we're...no, I'm not arguing, boss. I'm just saying..." she dropped the phone as a horrible hissing noise emanated from it. Mike pulled out his cell and got the same thing.
"That was quick," he said, replacing his phone. "They usually wait until we're in trouble to cut off communication."
"Well, this is Halloween. Fabric's thinner, which means faster responses."
"Great. A super-haunting."
"No," she replied. "This is not a super-haunting. Those guys still haven't gotten out of the psych ward from the last one. The whole team is still there and that was four years ago."
"That's because that super-haunting had over a hundred manifestations, not to mention a planar canker. It's amazing they all got out alive."
Liz simply nodded. Mike looked at his scanner again and noticed one small blip on the screen, though it made no noise. "Hey. I got something."
Liz suddenly grabbed her head and both scanners started beeping. Mike grabbed his shotgun in one hand and his scanner in the other, trying to locate the ghost. The scanner pointed toward the stairs.
"Liz! Liz," he cried, trying to break through the energy that had doubled her over. She waved at him to go, cradling her head in her arms and curling up in the fetal position.
He ran toward the stairs and took them three at a time, slowing as he reached the landing. The scanner was pointing to his right. He turned and there in the hallway was none other than the house owner himself, Mr. David Bronson. He was about sixty or so, his head mostly bald but with a ring of hair just above his ears. He was dressed well for a dead man, in a sweater and slacks. He was a pleasant looking man as long as you didn't mind looking through him.
"So, young man. I assume you and your partner are here about my refusal to leave," he said politely.
Mike sighed. "Yes, Mr. Bronson. Your family would like to sell this house and its property, something that you are making quite difficult. Now, if there's anything we can help you with to speed your departure, just let me know and I'll do what I can."
Bronson laughed. "Oh, if it were that easy, young man. Unfortunately, I'm not the one holding the door shut or keeping you from making your calls."
Mike's eyes widened. "Wait. You mean there's someone else here? I thought this was a single ghost haunting."
"Oh, no," the spirit replied. "There are, I don't know, say forty or fifty of us, not counting the...perhaps I've said too much."
"No, Mr. Bronson. Please. I can't help you unless you tell me."
"I can't tell you, my boy. I wish I could. I really do. However, I will give you a hint."
As Bronson said this, Liz crawled out onto the landing, her arms and legs shaking and her eyes still trying to roll back in her head. "Mike. Too many."
"I know, Roca. Hang in there." He turned back to the spirit. "I'm listening."
Bronson smiled again. "Mike, my dear friend, I can only tell you this: do your home work." With that, he faded from view.
Mike's scanner started beeping like mad. He glanced at it and saw that the screen was covered in dots and they were all moving his direction. He cursed and slung his shotgun, stooping to pick up Delaroca like a small sack of potatoes and hurrying down the stairs.
He laid Liz on the couch and started rummaging through the box he hadn't finished opening yet. He quickly found what he was looking for: four small bars about six inches long and a collapsible metal rod that he unfolded to be six feet high. He set up the rod in the middle of the living room and set the four bars equidistant from it. Then he grabbed all of their gear and put it on one side of the rod near one of the bars.
He moved Liz to a chair and she groaned, the power still keeping her down. Quickly, he grabbed two couch cushions and a couple of throw pillows and made her a bed. He then moved her onto the cushions. One by one, he crawled around hitting the power switches for the four bars. Once there was power to all four, a hum began and a pale green light moved from each bar to the next until the square was completed and then four streams of light shot out to the top of the rod, forming an energy tent. As soon as it was complete, Liz sighed and drifted off to sleep. Mike lay down next to her, his shotgun by his side.
He looked over the file, searching for an answer to his one question: how had a single ghost haunting turned into a super-haunting? The file said that the house was built in the eighteen seventies, but only mentioned Bronson as the owner, no one before him. He grabbed his cell and tried to call the office, but there was still no signal. He wanted to explore the house, especially the third floor, but he wasn't going to leave Liz down here essentially defenseless if something really big showed up.
He sighed and closed his eyes, trying to will sleep to take him. After about ten minutes, he opened his eyes again, knowing it was futile. He sat up and looked at Liz, trying to gauge her condition. Her breathing was normal and her eyes fluttered slightly behind their lids. Mike reached over to grab the file and saw movement coming from the kitchen.
He grabbed his shotgun and moved toward the doorway. The field from the energy tent made his arm hair stand up as he passed through it. He moved through the doorway and heard a small giggle from the back of the kitchen. He moved in, lowering his night vision goggles, looking toward the back of the room. There, in the dark, by herself, was a girl about seven years old.
Mike lowered shotgun. "Hey, honey. Where did you come from? How did you get in here?"
"I live here, mister. I've lived here for a long time."
"Really? What's your name?"
"Sarah. My name's Sarah, though everyone calls me 'Runt' because I'm the smallest."
"Can I call you Runt? Would that be okay?" The girl in the dark nodded. "Okay, Runt. My name's Mike, but you can call me Mikey if you want."
"Now Runt, when you say 'everyone' who do you mean by that?"
"Everyone who lives here, Mikey. They all call me Runt. Except for...oh! I have to go now."
"Runt! Wait! Except for who," he asked, but it was too late. She was already gone.
He slammed a fist down on the countertop making the silverware in the drawer underneath jump. He turned and started to head back out to the living room. He stopped short and hid behind the doorjamb. He couldn't believe his eyes.
In the space of the two minutes he talked with the little girl, the living room had filled almost to capacity with spooks. The only thing keeping them away from Liz was the energy tent but even inside, Liz was moaning and tossing in her sleep. He knew he could go through them and get to the tent, but they could still turn their energy toward him if the saw him.
Before he could decide what to do, his ectoscanner sounded an alarm, which caused every specter in the room to turn and look at him. From the stairway, a large dark ball of ectoplasmic energy rolled into the living room, scattering the ghosts. It came to the edge of the energy tent and Mike watched in horror as the field started to flicker. Whatever that thing was, it was much too powerful for them.
Without thinking, he fired his shotgun, immediately racking the slide for another shot. The entity stopped its advance on the energy tent and slowly moved toward him. Mike quickly shifted the shotgun to his left hand and reached around to his waist in the back and grabbed a vial of holy water, uncorked it and threw the bottle at the onrushing mass of energy.
It stopped and shuddered, almost coalescing. In the midst of the chaotic purple mass, he saw a single face, that of an angry woman. Could this be whom Bronson and Sarah were afraid of? If so, he could see why.
"She will be mine, mortal," the face in the cloud yelled. "She will be mine, as will you!" Then, the whole thing vanished as if it had never been there, though the air was a few degrees cooler. Mike shivered and looked toward the energy tent. The field seemed to be back up to full strength.
As he walked back to the tent, he looked at the wall behind where the entity had been. He was surprised, though only slightly, that there were no marks on the wall from his shotgun blast. The thing had been fully manifested.
He climbed through the energy field, the hair on his arms still standing up. He knelt next to Liz and checked her pulse and her breathing. She seemed to be okay, though he was worried that the face had claimed her as her own. Himself, he didn't really mind. The only thing it could do to him was kill him and death was part of the job. It was his partner he had to worry about.
Mike sighed angrily, trying to keep himself under control. He picked up the file again and read over it, trying to figure out what Bronson had meant by 'home work.' The spirit had intentionally left it as two words, rather than just one that kids complained about.
Robert Bronson had stressed the word 'home.' Maybe Mike was looking in the wrong place. He scanned down the file but it told him nothing. His attention was diverted as Liz groaned and tried to sit up.
"Mikey, what happened?"
"Long story, Liz. Here. Have an energy bar." He handed her a bar from their rations, opening it for her and handing it to her, followed by a cup of water.
"Thanks. God, my head hurts."
"That's not a surprise, given what I've just seen."
Over the next five minutes, he gave her his account of what he had seen and heard, what Bronson had told him and that the ball of energy had claimed them both.
"Wait," she said. "I climbed up the stairs and warned you?" Mike nodded. "I don't remember that at all." She held her head in her hands, almost trying to squeeze it tight around her brain.
"Well, I'm not surprised, Roca. You were pretty much dead on your feet at that point."
She just nodded and held out her cup for more water. After draining that cup and getting a third, she seemed much more steady. "So, have you found anything on the house?"
"Not yet. I was about to pull out the reader and see if I can get anything. How about you? You getting anything?"
She winced, but focused. "Some. It's almost like they're on the edge of my range. Are you sure there were that many in here?"
"Positive. I'd say twenty-five to thirty spooks in this room alone. That jives with what Bronson told me, which was forty or fifty. If they could've fit more in here, I think they would have."
"Mike, I can't believe you're trusting a ghost on this. That doesn't seem safe."
"He doesn't have anything to lose, Liz, and everything to gain. He wouldn't get anything from us if he lied." Mike reached into one of the cardboard boxes and pulled out what looked like a small flat panel LCD with a spike on the bottom of it. Without a word, he slammed it into the floor below him and waited for it to load.