Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 353

THE

HOSPITAL

By. Sean P. McCracken


CONTENTS

Chapter 1
Emily and the Hospital

Chapter 2
Hibernation

Chapter 3
Rude Awakenings

Chapter 4
The Visitor in the Night

Chapter 5
The N.A.A.P.I.

Chapter 6
Distant Memories

Chapter 7
Plans
Chapter 8
Homecoming

Chapter 9
Back Home Again in Weston

Chapter 10
Emily’s Mission

Chapter 11
Final Arrangements

Chapter 12
Unto the Breech

Chapter 13
Fright and Flight

Chapter 14:
Deep Secrets

Chapter 15:
Sins of the Father
Chapter 16:
Double Betrayal

Chapter 17:
The Breaking Point

Chapter 18:
Timely Revelations

Chapter 119:
New Awakenings
Chapter 1
Emily and the Hospital

To everyone in the town of Weston, it was simply referred to as “The Hospital,” though
throughout the years many more colorful, if somewhat less polite, titles had been assigned to it.
However, whatever phrase was used to describe it, the Weston State Hospital was an imposing
sight that instantly drew the attention of anyone paying a visit to the small town in central West
Virginia.

Since its completion in 1881, the main building of the former State Hospital for the Insane,
the landscape of Weston. Crafted from tan sandstone and sculpted in an unmistakably intimidating
edifice, it seemed to have the power to instill both awe and fear into those who cast eyes upon it.

It was all together everything thing that you would imagine an insane asylum built before
the turn of the 20th century to be. From one end to the other, the imposing edifice of the main
building ran the length of two football fields from north to south, with a height that varied between
one and four and one half stories from right to left...a result of inconsistent construction over
nearly three decades. With walls of stone and giant main doors of solid oak, anyone who stood
near it could not help feeling like an ant placed beside a large tree.

At several points along its grim looking facade, its roof line curved, jutted and rose at
symmetrical angles, consistent with the gothic architectural styles of medieval Europe. As if to
accentuate its grandeur and domination of the surrounding lands, the spire atop its center clock
tower rose to at least twice the height of the building’s four main stories, finally culminating in a
razor-sharp peak. It was, to say the very least, a building that commanded respect.

For as long as anyone can remember, the hospital, and its surrounding campus of auxiliary
buildings that sprung up over the decades, had played a predominant role in virtually every facet of
life for the town’s residents. The town’s budget revolved almost exclusively around the day-to-day
operations of the facility. Nearly half of the town’s residents either worked directly for the
hospital, or provided service to it vicariously through one town function or another. It was a fact:
Some towns in West Virginia were “mining towns,” some were “logging towns,” and a few were
even “college towns,” but Weston was a “hospital town” in every sense of the word.

Throughout its 130 years of active service, the hospital had born witness to many of the
tragic after-effects of both state and world events. Many of its first occupants were Union and
Confederate soldiers, straight from the horror of Civil War battlefields and no longer able to
function in society. Each successive war, plague and natural disaster brought with it another influx
of pitiful survivors. These, along with the “normal” flow of individuals who were deemed in need
of help, kept life at the institution running full swing nearly every hour of every day.

To many, the thought of having an insane asylum in their own back yard might seem like a
frightening prospect. The very idea to some might seem a sure-fire invitation to rampant unrest and
omnipresent evil. For the residents of Weston, however, the State Hospital for the Insane was not
only an “accepted evil,” it was a way of life, for all of its highs and lows.
It was not at all unusual for townsfolk to walk by the wrought iron fence surrounding the
campus and hear the wails and moans of its inhabitants echoing from every direction within. From
time to time, the upper torsos of the institutions’ inhabitants were glimpsed peering out from many
of the windows that ran the full length of the stone section. Their arms waved madly and their cries
and shrieks reverberated up and down the valley of which they were now residents, before finally
fading into indiscernible echoes. Sounds such as these were a daily occurrence.

However, much like the ears of those who live beside railroads or factories who become
accustomed to the ever-present rattles and roars, the ears of most who lived in Weston quickly
adapted to the sounds that emanated from the hospital, and before long little if any mind was ever
paid to them a second time.

Along with the sounds of the occupants, the constant sound of first train whistles, and later
sirens...sounds that usually heralded the arrival of new inhabitants...also became common
occurrences, and were quickly shoved to the back of one’s mind. Such was life in a “hospital
town.”

One real threat which always hung over the town was the ever-present likelihood that one
of the institution’s inmates may, at any time, break free from his or her restraints and bolt. More
than once, patients were glimpsed roaming the streets of Weston, and no one will ever forget the
time that a delusional male inmate fled from the hospital and proceeded to take a local radio disc
jockey hostage inside of his studio. To make the matter even more of an embarrassment, the entire
affair was broadcast LIVE to a spellbound audience. Believe it or not, such incidents also became
regarded as merely “common.”

Augmenting the vast array of “common” occurrences that accompany a presence like a
State Hospital, there was always at least an intermittent flow of the “not-so-common.” More often
than not, these surfaced in the form of whispered rumors and neighborhood gossip that had a way
of flowing from one end of the town to another, seemingly faster than a passing train.

“Did you hear...five former Nazi scientists are working at the hospital now...secret
government experiments on Russian spies.”

“NO...it’s true...they drill holes right into people’s skulls...while they’re still alive...you can
hear the drills after midnight.”

“I’m serious, they sneak them out after dark and bury them out back...I heard them digging
just last night.”

“Five thousand volts...just to see how they react...not just on dogs, but PEOPLE too.”

“It’s the truth I swear it...and they just left them, for days and days...no food, no
water...women and children too.”
“Chemical weapon tests”... “drugs that make the walls melt”... “leather straps and metal
hats”... “a cure for the common cold”... “human guinea pigs”...and on, and on, and on and on.

At times the rumors and stories became so far-fetched that locals often took to placing them
in type and posting them on the bulletin board at city hall. Once the wild stories appeared in print,
however, most realized just how absurd they actually sounded, and usually within a week, the
rumor was dead. Yet there always seemed to be another one just waiting to rear its ugly head.

While incidents like these were often a cause of severe headaches for local politicians,
most townspeople took it in stride and wrote it off as just another vice that went with the territory.
One more price to pay for being a “hospital town.”

The years seemed to flow by like leaves in the wind around Weston. Generation after
generation of patients, staff and townsfolk came and went before the watchful eyes of the
hospital...eyes which somehow seemed unflinching against the hands of time. For every
generation that came and went some things in and around Weston remained virtually unchanged
for decades.

The constant influx of patients, the ever-present rumor mill churning away, and the
continual flow of dollars from Charleston and Washington kept the town, and most of its residents,
in clover for decade after decade. The by-products of an institution like “The Hospital” are much
easier to accept when they are putting food on the table.

“Sure, it gives me the creeps sometimes having that place so close,” quipped one resident.
“But if it weren’t here then I’d likely as not be living in the poor house inside of a year. Yup, I
guess you could call it a necessary evil.”

Sentiments such as this were echoed by most. To question “The Hospital” would be to
question the hand that feeds you, and throughout its life, “The Hospital” fed MANY of Weston’s
ranks.

One such person who owed not only her daily bread, but also her life’s calling to “The
Hospital” was a spirited young girl named Emily Flesher.

Like many of Weston’s younger residents, Emily, born in the Medical Center of the
institution in 1968, had more than just neighborly ties to it. Even before she was born, Emily’s
mother Nancy worked in a clerical position at the hospital, eventually rising to the head of the
office administration branch of the institution. Her father William, a field manager for Central WV
Power and Light, had headed up the enormous task of rewiring the aging facility in 1965, and thus
owed it a great deal of his own personal gratitude.

One would naturally think that such constant exposure to a mental health facility so early in
one’s life would bring about a desire to get as far away from it as possible and as soon as possible.
Not so for Emily; in fact, quite the opposite. To Emily, the hospital never was just “The Hospital”
it was her “second home.”
Before she was even old enough to start public school, Emily would accompany her mother
to work three out of the five working days a week. By the age of five, she was a constant and
welcome presence to others in and around her mother’s work station in the hospital’s center
section. It was always a refreshing change of pace to see an energetic, young and innocent face in
contrast to the usual day-to-day sites one beheld in such a place.

Even after she started attending elementary school Emily was never more than a stone’s
throw away from either the spacious and inviting grounds of the hospital or its corridors.

By the time she turned eleven, Emily’s mind was already made up that one day she would
work there…but not among the clerical staff. Emily’s goal was already clear to her: she wanted to
be a psychiatrist, or a nurse, or a mental therapist, or...or...or...well, ANYTHING...so long as she
could play a role in helping people like those she saw there.

“Mom,” Emily said one day to her mother, “When I grow up, I’m gonna work with the
doctors here...I want to help people get better. Mom, I wanna be a head shrinker too.”

A generation earlier, Emily’s desires would have been viewed as nothing short of fanciful
dreams or youthful enthusiasm at best. Twenty years prior to her birth, the idealistic views she now
held towards mental health had not yet matured....indeed, by comparison, they were still in their
infancy.

As fate would have it, Emily’s life happily coincided with a drastic change in how mental
health and psychiatric procedures were viewed and pursued. Fast fading into history were the days
of the four and five year patient, the liberal use of the rubber room, and daily doses of electrical
shock. Fast approaching were the days of serious and conscious diagnosis, with the eventual goal
being not to incarcerate and seclude, but to rehabilitate and reform. Emily desperately wanted to
play a part in this.

Her parents, however, reacted to her expressed interest with somewhat reserved
enthusiasm. Truth be told, they wanted to see her become a psychiatrist about as much as they
wanted her to become a mortician. But...this was Weston...a “Hospital Town,” and however
appalling her choice of paths may have been to them, it somehow seemed logical. Given this
fact...and the constantly changing times in which they were living...her parents begrudgingly
consented to give in to the inevitable.

“Alright sweetie, if that’s your dream then work as hard as you can to make it come true.”

At these words, Emily, now fifteen years old and beaming with glee, hugged her parents as
tightly as she could.

“Thank you,” Emily said through tears. “Thank you Mom (kiss) Dad (kiss) I will...I will, I
promise.”
Now, having a verbal contract with her parents to live up to, Emily applied herself to her
set task with as much grit and determination as anyone could have ever imagined. Not only did she
study twice as hard as any of her friends, but she forsook all extra-curricular activities associated
with girls of her age in exchange for a part-time job...a part-time job mowing lawns and trimming
hedges at her “second home” three days a week after school.

Her constant presence on the grounds of the hospital was her way of keeping her goal in the
cross hairs. If she was going to work there one day, then by golly, she was going to know every
square inch of it like the back of her hand. Besides, one day her lawn mower and pruning shears
would be replaced by clip boards and lab coats...not to mention a framed medical degree hanging
from her wall.

From her office window overlooking the driveway to the hospital’s main entrance, Emily’s
mother watched her at her thrice-weekly activity with more than just mixed emotions. On one
hand, she was still thrilled to see her having such a clear-cut path in mind...something that fewer
and fewer “youngsters” her age seemed to have. But on the other hand, why couldn’t she have
chosen to be a baby doctor, or a pharmacist, or general practitioner?

“Or even a damned brain surgeon,” Nancy lamented. “Why? Why in God’s name does she
want to work here?”

Mothers will be mothers, that’s true, but Emily never quite understood her mother’s strong
aversion to her chosen path.

“Mom, I just don’t get it,” Emily said in confused disgust. “Why are you dead set against
me on this?”

“Emily...” Her mother pleaded. “I am not dead set against it. I’m proud of you, you’re
aiming high and that’s a good thing. But don’t you think you might have chosen a ...well a...a
different...”

“What?” Emily retorted. “A different what?”

“Of all the places you could choose Emily, why, why do you want to work at that
crumbling, miserable old hospital?” she said finally.

“It is NOT miserable,” Emily shot back. “I like it there, I want to help the people there, I
WANT to help make it a better place. Are you telling me that’s a BAD thing to want to do?”

Emily’s mother simply lowered her head, yet again, in defeat.

“It’s your choice dear,” her mother said wearily. “Just be sure you’re not setting your
sights on a dying target.”

Despite her mother’s mysterious misgivings, Emily never wavered from her path. She
devoted her free time to her school work, with extra emphasis on science, mathematics and health.
Subjects like history, English and penmanship took a definite backseat.

“What’s the difference, no one’s suppose to be able to read a doctor’s handwriting


anyway,” Emily would reply to the concerns of others. “And besides, I want to change history...not
read it.”

Before Emily or her parents even knew it, three years of studying, testing, and lawn caring
had passed, and suddenly it was 1986. Emily’s hard work and perseverance paid off in a big way.
Her intention to enter the mental health field had not gone unnoticed by those at her school...or
those at the hospital. As a result, Emily was awarded a full medical scholarship to West Virginia
University upon graduation.

The next four years brought more of the same. Studying, testing, cramming, all of the usual
peaks and valleys associated with the colligate life. Emily’s heavy schedule of classes kept her
away from Weston for long periods for the first time in her life. In between lectures on neurology
and psychosis, Emily actually found time to be homesick once in a while. Visits back to Weston,
her family, and the hospital she loved were always events she welcomed with open arms.

However, each passing year seemed to bring with it more and more bad news from back
home. The changing trends in mental health care, coupled with another lagging state economy,
were not boding well for either Weston or the hospital. Costs were going up and it was becoming
harder and harder for the hospital staff to keep up with the constantly changing medical landscape.
Emily hoped and prayed that she could finish up her education in time to actually realize her dream
to work at the hospital she loved, near the people she loved.

Fortunately for Emily, time was once again on her side. Following four years at WVU and
two years in graduate school, Emily returned to Weston in February 1992...only now she was
‘Emily Flesher, Licensed Psychiatric Nurse,’ and she had a job waiting for her.

Within two days of her return to Weston, Emily was officially welcomed to the nursing
staff at what was now called simply Weston Hospital. All of her old friends from her childhood
days were still there, save one; her mother, who had retired from her position two years prior.

Emily wasted little time and immediately set out to meet her new coworkers and threw
herself head long into her new life. She had no idea just how far she was about to be thrown.

One thing that Emily had not been taught in her six years of preparation for her new
position was an old tradition among asylum staff. It was common practice to immediately subject
all new medical staff members to a “baptism of fire” of sorts in order to judge how they would
respond.

Emily’s “baptism” would come one week into her stint. On that day, a young woman was
admitted to Emily’s ward in a depressive and nearly catatonic state. The young woman had
apparently been the only survivor of a devastating house fire and had witnessed the death of her
parents and younger brother, all of whom were burned alive.

The head of her assigned ward, a 48-year-old Doctor of Psychology named Herbert
Jameson, decided that this would be a perfect scenario with which to judge Emily’s abilities.

Emily had known Doctor Jameson since she was two years old. He had come to work at the
hospital in 1970 as an intern. At the time, his father was also a doctor on staff and had him assigned
to work the female wards in the hospital’s northern wings. Dr. Jameson ‘Senior’ passed away three
years later from heart trouble and Dr. Jameson ‘Junior’ naturally inherited his father’s position at
the hospital after only a few months.

He was a genial and caring person by and large, but every bit the professional. He took his
job as serious as a general in the field. Emily thought of him as a friend, but at the same time she
felt that some of his views and methods towards treatment might be lagging a bit behind the times.
However, given that it was he who had pushed the hardest to get her scholarship approved, Emily
was MORE than willing to overlook a few occasional old-fashioned quirks.

Several hours after the young woman who had witnessed her parents’ death was admitted
and assigned to a room, Dr. Jameson paged Emily to his office on the second floor of the main
center section to give her her first trial run. She arrived at his office door mere seconds following
her page. After a deep breath and wiping of the sweat from her brow she pushed the old wooden
door open and approached Dr. Jameson, who was seated behind an equally as old wooden desk.

“Yes sir, you paged me?” Emily asked formally, trying hard to suppress her nerves.

“Yes, Ms. Flesher I did,” Dr. Jameson replied in an equally professional tone. “We’ve just
admitted a new patient to your ward this morning, her ah, her name is Diane Yost.”

Without missing a beat, Dr. Jameson reached across his desk and picked up a thin manila
folder with several medical forms inside of it. He opened the file and scanned its contents.

“We have tentatively diagnosed her with post-traumatic catatonia,” Dr. Jameson continued
while adjusting his bifocals. “Her house burned down several days ago and her father, mother, and
seven-year-old brother were all burned to death. Seems she witnessed their deaths and is, well,
responding accordingly.”

“Shutting down,” Emily said, instantly recognizing the symptoms.

“Exactly,” Dr. Jameson replied. “Emily, I would like for you to take her case under your
wing as it were. Seems fairly straight-forward to me, but I think we should give it a little extra
attention. There’s always a high probability of long-term damage if these types of cases aren’t
treated quickly.”

“Yes sir,” Emily replied, still remaining professional despite her deep-down urge to
pounce, go forth, and conquer. “I’ll start on it ASAP. Which room was she assigned to sir?”
“312," Dr. Jameson replied.

“Very well Doctor I’ll...” Emily said, suddenly becoming a bit confused. “Uh...312 sir?”

Dr. Jameson smiled lightly for a moment and then looked up at Emily.

“Yes, we had to place her in one of the rooms on the third floor I’m afraid,” said Dr.
Jameson. “What with all the damn painting down on one I thought it would be prudent. The rooms
in that section ARE a little out of use, but they’re also a bit larger. In Ms. Yost’s case I thought that
would be more conducive to her line of treatment.”

Emily was still just a bit taken aback, she knew for a fact that most of the rooms on the third
level were not even in use by patients when she was a child. In fact, she had ventured into the third
floor corridor on one occasion and found it completely deserted, very dark, and most of the corners
she remembered were covered in cobwebs. Still...

Emily did not have time to finish her thought. Dr. Jameson handed her the manila folder
and leaned back gently in his reclining chair.

“If you would, I’d like to see a brief report on her condition tomorrow morning before I go
in to see her myself,” Dr. Jameson said kindly. “I would be interested; of course, in any
conclusions you can gleam from talking with her...if she’ll talk, that is.”

Emily smiled and again swelled with confidence at hearing this.

“Yes sir, first thing,” Emily said confidently.

Dr. Jameson returned her smile and Emily knew at that point that it was time to get to it.
Her chance to make a first impression was here at last. Opening the manila folder at the same time,
she backed out of Dr. Jameson’s office and headed for the end of the second floor corridor where
the stairs were located. Emily nearly tripped twice while trying to ascend the stairs and read
through the folder at the same time, but she somehow managed to make it to the North end of the
third floor without breaking her neck.

To her relief, the third floor looked far better than it had twenty years ago. It was now fully
lit with newly installed fluorescent lights which lined up in one long column running the full length
of the corridor. Adorned with fresh coats of white and blue paint it actually looked like a hospital
hallway now rather than a haunted funhouse.

Tucking the folder under her right arm, Emily started off down the hallway towards room
312 which was located about halfway down on the left...the front side of the building overlooking
the spacious green grounds below. Emily reached room 312 and found that the door had already
been secured from the outside, and Diane Yost’s name written in pink chalk upon the small square
blackboard under her room’s number plate.
“Thinking would be a bad idea right about now,” Emily said silently to herself. “Better to
just dive right in and go on instinct.”

With another deep breath, Emily unlatched the shiny brass bolt securing the door and
calmly pushed it open. The light streaming in through the double windows opposite the door
caught Emily off guard briefly, but after a few seconds her eyes adjusted and the room came into
full focus. It WAS a little more spacious than the rooms on the first floor to which she was
accustomed. The lower third of the walls were painted a light sky blue and the upper two thirds, a
somewhat darker opal blue.

Emily instinctively turned to her left, where she knew the secured beds to be located, and
there, seated upon the edge of the iron framed bed, was Diane Yost.

She could not have been a day over sixteen, but her pallor and expression made her appear
years older. Her blonde hair, which only a week prior must have been a source of pride and beauty,
was now hanging in tangles, partially covering her forlorn face. She was still attired in her street
clothes, minus the belt and shoe laces of course, and she bore every sign of someone who was
absolutely at her wits end.

“Hello Diane,” Emily said in a kind motherly tone.

Somewhat to Emily’s surprise, Diane lifted her head without much of a pause. She seemed
to take a few seconds, staring at Emily from her feet up to her face, but she then reached up and
slowly pulled her tangles of blonde hair to each side of her face. She still bore a very sad, depressed
expression and her eyes looked somewhat sunken...but not dead.

“He...hello,” Diane said quietly.

“My name is Emily Flesher,” Emily continued in her motherly tone. “And I’m going to be
looking in on you from time to time while you’re our guest here.”

Diane looked back at Emily, her eyes again traveled from her feet back up her body to her
face, as if sizing her up, deciding whether or not she could be trusted. After her second appraisal,
Diane focused her eyes as steadily as she could upon Emily’s.

“Are...” Diane struggled to speak. “Are you a...a doctor?”

An even broader smile crossed Emily’s face.

“Well...sort of, I’m a nurse,” Emily said reassuringly while approaching a chair beside
Diane’s bed. “Diane, is it alright with you if I sit here?”

Diane nodded lightly and Emily gently sat down in the single-frame chair attached to the
floor.
“Diane, I need to ask you just a few standard questions, OK?” Emily said as she opened
Diane’s folder and removed a pen from her lab coat. Diane again nodded and then gently
straightened up into a more relaxed sitting position.

“Su...sure, I guess,” Diane replied meekly.

“Diane, can you tell me what year this is?” Emily asked in a kindly tone.

“It’s...it’s uh...1992,” Diane said after brief thought.

“Ok, very good,” Emily replied. “Now, can you tell me what your middle name is?”

“Uh...Casdorph,” Diane replied.

“Uh huh, Diane, who is the President right now?” Emily asked.

“Oh...oh uh...dum...uh...George Bush?” Diane answered.

“Yes, yes very good,” Emily said while making even more notes. “Now then, Diane, can
you tell me where you are right now?”

At this, Diane seemed to come back to life even more. With a chortle, she briefly gripped
her legs, loosened her neck and rolled her eyes and head towards the dull-colored ceiling.

“Yeah...the nut-house,” Diane said with a note of sadness and resentful fear.

“Well...I suppose that’s one way of putting it,” Emily replied, trying hard to suppress a
slight twinge of humor. “Diane, do you know why you’ve been brought here?”

Almost at once Diane’s eyes began to redden and fill with tears. She rolled onto her right
side, her head now resting upon the bed’s small pillow, and brought her hands up to partially cover
her face. Tears slowly started to seep out from between her fingers and she began to sob with full
force.

“Yes...yes I know,” Diane managed to say through her anguish.

Emily made a quick notation in the folder, lightly biting her lower lip at what was now
transpiring. She then closed the folder up and began to lean towards Diane with the intention of
comforting her. Emily’s hands had barely made contact with Diane’s left shoulder when she
quickly reared up in a blur and forced her back flat against the wall...her eyes staring Emily down
in a state of fear and confusion.

“Hey...Diane it’s ok...it’s alright,” Emily added in her most calming tone yet. “Don’t
worry, I’m not going to hurt you.”
‘What...what were you doing?” Diane said with a mild tremble.

“Why, the latest in modern medical treatment,” Emily replied with some humor. “The
absolute newest state-of-the-art procedure. The recently patented pat-on-the-back. They say it’s
been found to work absolute miracles if applied correctly.”

For an instant Diane was a bit dumbstruck at this totally unanticipated response, but once
the initial confusion passed, the slightest of smiles appeared on her face and she allowed her body
to slouch back into place.

“I’m sorry if I frightened you Diane,” Emily said.

“No...no I’m...I’m not afraid,” Diane replied slowly. “Well, I mean I...I am (sob) afraid
but...but not of, of you...I mean I...”

This time, Emily decided upon a slightly less forward plan of attack. Rather than the
shoulder, she simply reached out and gave Diane’s foot a good-natured shake.

“Well I hope not,” Emily said with even more humor. “It’s kind of hard for two people to
be friends when they’re afraid of each other.”

“Friends?” Diane replied with slight confusion.

“Sure,” Emily said happily. “Friends help each other, right? And I’m going to be helping
you, right? So it makes sense for us to be friends then...right?”

“Uh...er...right,” Diane said with a slight nod.

“All right,” Emily said with an even more jovial tone. “Now then...Diane I know this is
going to be a hard question...but what is the last thing you remember before being brought here?”

Diane sank back, a look of deep reflection upon her young face. She gently leaned her head
against the wall, looked towards the ceiling and placed one finger upon her lips.

“Uh...I uh...” Diane stuttered while in deep thought. “The uh...the fire, I guess. I had to
break my window to get out. Oh and the uh, the smoke, lots of smoke.”

“Diane, when did this happen?” Emily added quickly but calmly.

“I...I really can’t remember,” Diane replied, becoming slightly more confused.
“Yesterday…I think...I remember it was cold and there was snow on the ground...my feet were
freezing.”

Emily kept a straight face, forcing herself with all of her being not to allow the slightest
hint of visible emotion to form. She knew that everything she was hearing was pointing in a good
direction for Diane. Not only was she talking, but she was talking openly of the events which had
brought about her current problems.

“Uh huh...yes...now Diane,” Emily said with a deep breath. “What about your parents?”

Diane gave a distinct shudder. Her arms and legs seemed to tense up and she braced her
back firmly against the wall again. She appeared to be taking her breaths with much more authority
and at a faster rate. The expression of sadness and distant fear returned again to her eyes yet she
remained earthbound.

“They...no they...they didn’t make it out,” Diane said, again fighting tears. “My brother
neither. They...their rooms are, er, were on the second floor. I...I tried to get up to them but...but
they...the...”

The tears began to flow heavier and faster from Diane’s eyes. Her muscles contracted, her
eyes screwed shut and she again rolled onto her right side.

“They couldn’t get down...” Diane continued through her tears and trembles. “The...the
flames, and the...the smoke...they couldn’t make it...and I couldn’t get...to...them.”

Diane’s words were overtaken by sobs. She rolled partially onto her stomach and buried
her face into her hands and her hands into her pillow.

Emily, jotting down more notes as fast as her hand could scribe them, reached over again
and patted Diane on the back. This time, however, Diane did not jolt but reached her left hand over
her head and waved it in mid air, gesturing for Emily to take it...which she did.

Holding Diane’s right hand in her left and her pen in her right, Emily was now using up
every ounce of her strength to keep from showing her suppressed glee at what was transpiring.
From a psychiatric view point, all of Diane’s words and actions were following a positive path.

“It’s OK Diane,” Emily said quietly. “It’s alright, it’s OK.”

Diane tightened her grip on Emily’s hand. Emily had never felt quite so moving a touch in
all her twenty-four years.

“Don’t worry Diane,” Emily continued. “You’re in good, safe hands now.”

“I’m scared...” Diane said in tears. “Em...Emily I’m scared...I am really scared..”

“Yes...yes I know Diane...I know,” Emily added. “But we’re going to help you...I promise.
I know it’s frightening, but just trust me when I tell you that you could not be in a better or safer
place right now.”
“Can...can you help me?” Diane asked hopefully.

Emily smiled and reached over to run her fingers along Diane’s hair.

“You bet,” Emily said confidently.

Diane tried, and succeeded to some extent at returning Emily’s smile. She again tightened
her grip on Emily’s hand and pulled it close to her shoulder.

“Now then...” Emily said while rising up from her chair. “I think what you need right now
is to get comfortable. An orderly will be by in an hour or two and bring you some nice hot
dinner...dessert included, I promise.”

Emily reached into the pocket of her lab coat and removed a small transparent orange
bottle. From it, she tapped one small blue capsule out into her hand.

“When your meal gets here I want you to take this,” Emily added, again in her motherly
tone. “Before you eat, not after, understand?”

Diane nodded.

“Good,” Emily replied. “It’s just a little something to help you relax...nothing quite as
fancy as the ‘pat-on-the-back’...but it should help you to get a good night’s rest. Dr. Jameson will
be by to see you tomorrow morning around nine, alright?”

Diane again nodded affirmatively. Emily in turn placed the small blue pill on the wooden
night table beside Diane’s bed. As she was moving her hand away from the night table, Diane
reached her left hand over and again took Emily’s hand into hers in a loving way.

“Th...thank you,” Diane said, her tears now receding.

Emily rolled her hand around in Diane’s grip, and took a more “sisterly” hold of it,
something that would have seemed a bit more appropriate in a schoolyard.

“Don’t mention it...what’re friends for, right?” Emily said brightly.

“Right,” Diane exclaimed, wringing Emily’s hand in an attempt to show joy.

With that, Emily released Diane’s hand and slowly backed away towards the door to
Diane’s room.

“Remember,” Emily said with a finger pointed at Diane. “Relax, eat you dinner, take that
pill and get some sleep...got it?”

“Got it,” Diane replied.


“So long,” Emily added with a wave.

With one final exchange of smiles, Emily turned and stepped out of Diane’s room, closing
the door and fastening the lock behind her. She felt just like a corked bottle of champagne, ready
and willing to burst with utter glee and joy. After taking a few long strides down the corridor and
towards the stairs, Emily froze abruptly, nodded her head, gripped her file folder in one hand, and
made a silent yet gigantic gesture of triumph with her other arm.

She could not help but smile and quietly laugh and chuckle in harmonies all the way down
the side stairway. Her feelings of success and fulfillment were nothing short of intoxicating. She
had met her first real challenge head-on and it had gone better than she could have ever hoped for
in her wildest dreams. Full of energetic triumph, she made a beeline for her own office where she
would at once set to work typing a VERY favorable report to hand to Dr. Jameson in the morning.

Some twelve hours and a night of restless sleep later, Emily placed her completed report
into a clear plastic file holder mounted on Dr. Jameson’s office door. The hands of the clock had
not yet reached seven am and Dr. Jameson would not even arrive for another hour, but Emily was
so eager for this wonderful news to reach his hands that she simply could not wait a moment
longer.

Another four hours passed, and Emily went about her daily routine as best she could. She
dropped in on most of the regular residents of her ward, checking their nightly status reports and
occasionally exchanging a pleasant greeting or two. She updated the notations on each door’s
chalk board, made notes for recommendations on treatment procedure, and saw to it that each and
every resident received a large fresh cup of steaming hot chocolate to get the day started right.

The chimes in the main clock tower had just finished sounding to all that it was 11am,
when Dr. Jameson emerged from a set of double doors at the far end of Emily’s ward. Emily, who
was standing not more than ten feet from the doors, instinctively turned to meet Dr. Jameson, who
strode straight towards her as well.

“Morning,” Dr. Jameson said warmly.

“Good morning Doctor,” Emily replied brightly and happily. “You got my report I trust?”

“I certainly did,” Dr. Jameson replied, pulling several sheets of paper from his side coat
pocket. “I looked in on Ms. Yost this morning...and I think her prospects for a short stay are very
favorable as well.”

Emily couldn’t help beaming upon hearing this.

“Still...” Dr. Jameson added cautiously. “I think we should give her at least a week, if only
for observation. She’s coming along very well but I don’t want to run any more risk of a relapse
than necessary. Post-Trauma can be a little ticklish at times. I’m going to start her on a short course
of prescribed treatments this afternoon. I want you to check back on her in forty- eight hours.
Until then I am going to keep her interactions with others at a minimum, so that her body can have
time to adjust to the medication I prescribed.”

“Certainly,” Emily replied, making a mental note to steer clear of the third floor for two
days. “What have you...”

“Uh...” Dr. Jameson added with a slight stutter. “Just a twice daily supplement for nerves
and a mild sedative to keep her comfortable. Nothing out of the ordinary but she might not respond
to it right off the bat so I think contact should be controlled for a couple of days. If she reacts
negatively to this one cocktail I don’t want her to associate your presence with it afterwards.”

“I understand,” Emily said.

“But...” Dr. Jameson said with an upswing in tone. “Once we have her stabilized, I would
like for you take over day-to-day observation and therapy with her until she’s ready to leave. Ah
Emily, you did good, you know you really did good...as if I ever had any doubt.”

Emily blushed in response to a sudden, large rush of blood to her pride.

“Thank you Doctor,” Emily said with as much humbleness as she could muster.

“I’ll have her progress reports in your box on Thursday morning,” Dr. Jameson said. “Until
then...well...place faith in science and yee shall reap success.”

Emily, not expecting such a deep and cryptic response, blanched slightly.

“Uh...I eh...sure, I guess,” Emily said, trying to remain buoyant.

Dr. Jameson merely smiled and placed a hand upon her shoulder as he started down the hall
in the direction of the administrative section.

“I mean just don’t worry,” he added. “She’ll be in good hands.”

Emily was left still a little perplexed at Dr. Jameson’s odd choice of words. However,
taking into account all of his slight eccentricities and his usual bent towards older methodology,
she quickly pushed any concerns to the back of her mind and returned instead to her former state of
joy. She went about her normal routine for the next two days, trying to keep her thoughts focused.
It was not easy though. For some reason, she simply could not fully pull her mind away from the
third floor, and her new friend who was there.

Thursday morning dawned colder and grayer than the two previous days. The sky over
Weston looked decidedly angry, as if it might spew forth a cascade of heavy snow and ice at any
moment. The chill in the air made the smoke and steam pouring out of nearly every corner of the
hospital stand out all the more against the dark backdrop of evergreens which dotted the hills
behind it.

Yet all the chills and snow in the world could not have dampened Emily’s mood on this
day. From the moment her eyes opened at six am, through her morning commute, right up to the
moment she passed through the oak doors and into the hospital, her mind was fixated on but one
thing...her scheduled follow-up with Diane.

Much to Emily’s delight, she found that the many aging yet reliable steam radiators
throughout the hospital were functioning to their utmost this morning. The main entryway and side
halls were warmer and more inviting than they had been since she had arrived. The warm, moist air
drifting through the halls and nooks left a small layer of misty condensation upon the many glass
surfaces within, resulting in a slightly dimmer and more diffused lighting then normal. To Emily, it
seemed a perfect idyllic touch to make her morning all the merrier.

After removing her coat and scarf and hanging them upon one of the many coat racks
surrounding the main entryway, Emily immediately made for the large collection of wooden
pigeon holes that served as the mail boxes for most of the hospital staff. She had no sooner stepped
in front of the multitude of wooden slots when she realized that something was not right. Emily
cast her eyes upon her assigned mail box, only to find that it was just as empty as she had left it at
the end of her shift the previous day. A closer examination told Emily that nothing had been
removed prior to her arrival as the thin layer of dust...which accumulated after only a few hours of
stagnation...was even and undisturbed.

Emily was perplexed at this discovery. Forgetting to deliver progress reports seemed
VERY much out of character for the Dr. Jameson Emily knew, a man of total professionalism and
a stickler for punctuality. Emily gave the pigeon hole one last deep look, but no papers or notes
were anywhere to be found.

“That’s not...” Emily mumbled to herself. “Where in the heck.?”

Emily stood steadfast, momentarily lost in thought. Now what? What could have
happened? No word, no call, no nothing. For the first, and briefest of moments, Emily felt a light
chill run the length of her spine.

“Well...” Emily thought out loud. “Just go on up...nothing else to it.”

Emily turned on her heel and started down the main corridor of the North wing’s first floor.
A surge of mixed emotions seemed to bloom inside of her head and stomach. Technically, what
she was doing now was a breach of un-written hospital protocol, yet this fact seemed to give way
to Emily’s growing concern for both her patient and Dr. Jameson. Why no progress report...heck,
why no word at all?

These thoughts continued to swirl as Emily ascended the stairwell. Opening the double
doors to the main hall, Emily was greeted immediately by a gust of much cooler air then was
wafting up through the stairs. Not only that, but a full two-thirds of the fluorescent lights lining the
corridor were now out and the hall was much darker than it had been two days prior. Emily’s heart
sank to her gut; something was definitely NOT right with this picture.

For several moments she did nothing but stare at the cold, dark hallway, until another wisp
of cool dry air brought her back to reality again. Full of sinking thoughts and more than a little
trepidation, Emily started down the hall towards Diane’s room. About halfway between room 312
and the stairway doors, another gush of much colder air swept by, causing Emily’s long brown hair
to flow back, and every other hair to stand on end. It was only then that Emily became fully aware
of a faint sort of chant-like noise reverberating softly up and down the long, empty hallway.

Emily listened for a moment, the sound was both oddly familiar and eerie at the same
time...and it seemed to be coming from somewhere up ahead. Emily walked forward another few
paces, and the sound grew ever more distinct. It was not just a sound...it was a voice...a girl’s voice
that seemed to be laughing and giggling in a sort of sing-song way...but it was FAR from a pleasant
melody.

After walking another few steps, the full force of what was happening hit Emily like a ton
of falling rocks.

“Oh my God,” Emily uttered under her breath...which was actually visible.

Now, shaken violently back to her senses, she dashed forward the final few yards to
Diane’s door and without even stopping to think she unlatched the door’s dead bolt and pushed it
opened. What she saw shook her to the core.

The room was just as dark and cold as the hallway, but it was not the continued chill that
gave Emily the shivers, it was what she saw before her. Sitting, or rather teetering, on the edge of
the bed was Diane...yet her actions could not have been more different from their last meeting.

Now dressed in a dull grey hospital gown and robe, Diane wavered back and forth on the
edge of her bed as though she were sitting in a rocking chair, her hands gripped tightly around her
knees and every move forward made Emily feel certain she was going to fall face first. Her eyes
were darting wildly about in no set pattern and she seemed to be both humming, mumbling, and
singing all at that same time, with a tone and rhythm that was itself chilling enough.

Emily was at a complete loss for words, which did not seem much of a problem at the
moment since Diane seemed to be totally oblivious to the fact that she was even there. What in the
name of reason was going on here? Emily thought...and prayed...that his might be a prolonged
reaction to her prescribed medication, yet all of her medical knowledge and instinct told her this
was not the case. With a deep, bracing breath, Emily stepped forward and moved as though
walking on plastic bubbles over to Diane’s bed. Even when Emily was but a foot and a half away
from her, Diane paid no attention whatsoever. It was as though she was totally unaware of
anything outside of whatever world of her own she was now in.

“D...Diane?” Emily spoke cautiously.


An electric shock could not have produced a more sudden and violent reaction. At the first
sound of Emily’s voice, Diane sprang backwards violently with a mad cry, her back crashing hard
against the aging wall. Upon impact, Diane fell forward onto her face for a split second, but then,
with the agility and speed of startled cat, reared up onto her feet and pressed herself back against
the wall again in a defensive posture.

“Diane...Diane calm down, it’s me,” Emily said with caution. “It’s me...its Emily.”

Diane continued to try and back up, as though the wall behind was not even there. Her feet
scampered wildly, throwing her bed sheets into total disarray. Diane uttered something in a manic
and fierce tone, but it was not even close to being comprehensible. Emily approached Diane with
guarded steps, more confused and frightened than she had ever been.

“DIANE...Diane listen to me, listen to me please…it’s Emily, remember?” Emily pleaded


with Diane while edging closer. “Remember...Emily...your friend.”

At this, Diane stopped fidgeting and sunk to a half-standing, half-sitting position on her
bed, a look of sheer confusion and perplexity now upon her face. For another few seconds, she
again looked to be sizing Emily up just as before, only it now appeared as though she was trying to
make up her mind between “kill or spare” rather than “friend or foe.”

“Fr...friend?” Diane finally mumbled.

‘Yes...yes Diane, remember?” Emily pleaded with a glimmer of hope. “I saw you here the
other night...we talked, right here. You, and I, are friends...remember?”

Emily did her best to disguise her urgent fears with tones of calm and love, but it was not
easy. Fortunately, Diane crept forward on her bed, slowly, and finally sat down upon its edge once
again. She never for one second took her eyes off of Emily. Just as suddenly as she had sprang
back in fear, Diane now reared up in a wildly over-blown display of euphoria. She let out a huge,
roaring laugh and bounced wildly up and down on the edge of the bed.

“Yes...yes...I remember...” Diane wailed exuberantly. “Yes...yes...you, you were nice to


me...you were nice...and friendly.”

Emily placed a hand upon Diane’s shoulder and tried to stop her from bouncing. It took all
of her strength, but Emily finally managed to settle Diane down to a stationary position. The look
of total mania and wildly darting eyes were not affected by this. Diane seemed to remain in a
totally euphoric and over-enthusiastic state.

“Yes...that’s right, Diane,” Emily said calmly. “Yes...friends ARE nice to each other, that’s
right. Now...”

“He- he...I told her you were nice,” Diane exclaimed without prompt.
Emily was blindsided by this and was unable to respond immediately.

“Oh...you, you told one of the other doctors we’re friends?” Emily asked hopefully. “Well
that’s nice Diane I’m...”

Diane shook her head wildly from side to side.

“No...no...no...” Diane chastised in rhythm to her own head. “Not another doctor...told my
other friend you were nice...that you weren’t like the others...no.”

“Diane I...I don’t understand,” Emily said in total confusion. “Did Dr. Jameson let you talk
to one of your friends on the phone or...”

Diane let out a quick but distinct cry of loathing and waved her hands about in front of her.

“Ah...ah, don’t...don’t say that name...” Diane said in disgust. “Don’t...he’s is NOT
nice...he’s one of the BAD people. My friend told me so and she was right!”

Emily was as lost you could get, and at the very same time was beginning to feel the early
stages of the “creeps” encroaching on her.

“Now, now Diane, don’t say that,” Emily replied. “Dr. Jameson is NOT a bad person. He’s
your doctor and he wants to help you to get better.”

“NO...NO...” Diane wailed. “He IS bad...does bad things...he’s just like the other doctors
here. My friend she...she told me about them, and what they did. They did it to her too...she told me
so.”

“Diane...Diane listen to me...” Emily said with a bit more authority. “Now Diane, WHO
has been telling you these things?”

Diane let out a haunting giggle and brought her right hand up to her mouth with the manner
of a playful and mischievous child.

“He he he...my friend...my friend told me,” Diane said playfully. “She told me everything.”

“Diane...WHO is your friend?” Emily asked.

Diane again giggled, even more chilling and playfully than before.

“Ah ah ahhhh...can’t tell...can’t tell...” Diane said with even more of a childish tone.
“Promised I would NEVER tell..uh uhhhh...can’t tell.”

Emily was not sure how to proceed. She recognized all the symptoms Diane was exhibiting
as those of near dementia coupled with unexplained hallucinations. Just HOW to proceed was a
tougher decision to arrive at. Emily opted to “play along” in hopes of tricking Diane back to reality
through logical reasoning.

“Ok...ok Diane, I understand,” Emily said calmly. “You’re right...a promise is a promise,
don’t tell me. But I would like to know...what do you and your friend talk about?”

Diane again smiled happily, her look of mischievousness gone for the moment.

“Oh, she tells me lots of things...she used to stay here and she saw things,” Diane rattled on.
“Saw what the doctors did...and where they went...and...and she...she even wrote it ALL down.”

“She wrote it all down?” Emily asked. “She wrote what all down, Diane?”

“All about what they did...she wrote it ALL down in a diary she kept,” Diane continued
cryptically. “All about...all about the BAD things they did...did it all RIGHT here.”

“Here?” Emily asked, baiting a verbal trap. “Here...in your room?”

“No, no silly...” Diane teased. “Here...here at the hospital. The things that they did
were...were...VERY bad.”

Emily’s first trap had failed.

“Here, at the...uh...where at exactly Diane?” Emily asked tactfully.

“Way down below...down, down under the basement even,” Diane said with an air of
playful mystery in her voice. “They did lots of things there. My friend saw it...and I saw it too...I..”

“Wait, wait, wait Diane...back up now,” Emily interjected. “YOU saw it too? When?”

Diane again clammed up and shook her head defiantly.

“NO...no...no...mustn’t tell...mustn’t EVER tell,” Diane protested. “Won’t tell...won’t


tell...but it’s a BAD place...and I saw it...my friend saw it too, a long time ago. She saw even
MORE than me...that’s why she wrote it all down.”

Emily prepared to bait verbal trap number two.

“You say she wrote it all down in a diary?” Emily baited. “Did your friend ever, eh...show
you her diary or whatever it was?”

To Emily’s great surprise...and horror...Diane nodded her head wildly in what was
unmistakably an affirmative.
“Yes...yes she did...she told me where it was, and I found it,” Diane continued.“Was right
here...RIGHT in this room and I found it...read it too...full of BAD, and scary stories.”

Emily tried to re-bait trap one.

“Uh...stories you say?” Emily feinted again. “What were these stories about?”

Diane hesitated and once again appeared to size Emily up before answering slowly.

“Stories about...about other doctors here who did bad things,” Diane said ominously.
“Stories...names...dates...lots more names. About everything they did here...long time ago...but
they STILL do it...they still do it.”

Diane started to tremble a bit and Emily was hesitant to attempt another verbal mousetrap.
Not only that, these constant references to “other doctors” and “bad things in the basement” were
making Emily feel more than just a little creeped out. Of course, she had heard rumors and gossip
about things like this at the hospital ALL her life...but Diane’s eerie narrative was hitting a little
too close to home. Still...Emily decided to attempt one final trap before giving up.

“Diane...can you SHOW me your friends diary?” Emily asked before dropping her voice to
a playful whisper. “You can trust me. I promise I won’t tell Dr. Jameson...or another soul...I
promise.”

Diane, undaunted by Emily’s attempt at play, again shook her head wildly from side to side
in the negative, another playful grin crossing her face.

“No, no, no…sorry,” Diane chimed. “Sorry...but I crossed my heart and hoped to die if I
told.”

“But you KNOW you can trust me...we’re friends,” Emily pleaded even more playfully.

“I know...I know...” Diane said with a tone of pouting. “I wanted to tell you...but Mary told
me not to...she said that...”

BINGO. Finally, a slip.

“Mary?” Emily asked in a much more authoritative tone. “What did MARY tell you?”

Diane’s jaw dropped wide open and she instantly clasped both of her hands tightly over
mouth.

“Diane...has one of the staff brought a scary book or magazine to you?” Emily asked
firmly.

Diane kept both hands over her mouth, but shook her head in the negative again.
“Then how did you get hold of this so-called diary?” Emily asked even more firmly. “Now
tell me Diane...where did you get it?”

Diane lowered her head and for an instant Emily thought she might have won the battle.
Diane however did not answer, but rather sunk her head even lower and simply pointed her finger
toward the baseboard near the foot of her bed. Emily leaned over to see where Diane was
pointing...and nearly toppled forward when she saw the baseboard.

“She hid it...in there...told me how to get to it...” Diane said nearly in tears again. “But...but
I promised her I wouldn’t tell...I promised. Now I’ve broken it...I broke my promise...I...”

Diane’s voice trailed off to the back of Emily’s mind, for the time being she was dead
focused on what was now meeting her gaze. Right at the foot of Diane’s securely fastened bed, a
section of the VERY old wooden baseboard had been unmistakably pried open. Hand prints were
clearly visible in the dust at one end of the plank that was pulled back. Emily could plainly see that
the area behind where the baseboard had been fastened was hollow...and that something had been
removed from there recently.

Emily’s mind was racing. What in the heck was going on here? Diane had created an
invisible friend out of thin air for no reason...Dr. Jameson had failed to inform her of a turn for the
worse in her condition...the whole damn corridor felt like a morgue now...someone, or some
THING had torn a section of baseboard from Diane’s wall... and to top it all off...Diane was
hallucinating something fierce about topics that made even Emily herself feel chills.

“...and she told me that something bad would happen if I told...she told me that...” Diane
continued in a childishly fearful tone.

All right...enough is enough...time to get back to reality Emily thought. ONE final trap and
that will do it. Diaries don’t just APPEAR and then DISAPPEAR...so even if Diane had pulled a
book or something out of the wall, it had to be somewhere now.

“Diane...Diane I promise, no one will hurt you,” Emily said. “Now just where exactly is
this diary now? Is it still in here somewhere”?

Diane clammed up even tighter than before.

“No...no it’s not here...not here anymore,” Diane said.

“Then WHERE is it Diane...tell me,” Emily said in a demandingly yet parental tone.

“NO...NO I CAN’T...I CAN’T TELL...I...I...I won’t tell,” Diane mumbled in a near panic.
“It’s hidden...hidden..safe and sound...safe and sound...won’t tell till....till...till MARY says I can!”

“Diane...tell me...” Emily began.


“But don’t...don’t worry...don’t worry...” Diane added. “She says...she says I can tell you
soon...soon...but not now...not now...not yet...too soon.”

“Diane...tell me, just WHERE is Mary right now?” Emily asked, saving her best trap for
last. “Where did you first see her...and WHERE is she now, I’d like to talk to her.”

Diane quickly quieted down and again starred at Emily for a few seconds as if making up
her mind. Diane’s eyes settled first on Emily...then an area in front of the window...then back on
Emily...then on the window again...back to Emily...then on a spot just to Emily’s right.

“Ok...I saw her right here...two nights ago...she came to talk to me,” Diane said finally.

Emily crossed her arms and looked straight at Diane with a show of finality.

“And...right now...where is she right now?” Emily asked firmly.

“She’s standing right beside you...silly,” Diane said as if it was as plain as day.

Emily’s eyes bulged and fear coursed through every vein of her body. It was not just what
Diane had said that froze her to the floor...but rather the fact the no sooner had she said it then
another wisp of ice cold air passed right through her. The heavy, wooden door to Diane’s room
creaked open a full foot and then closed of its own accord.

“She’s gone now,” Diane added regretfully.

In terms of time, speed, and number of steps skipped, Emily’s flight to her office from the
third floor was never to be equaled again.
Chapter 2
Hibernation

For only the second time in years (the first time having come following her last round of
college finals), Emily felt the distinct need for a good, stiff drink. Every nerve in her body was now
tingling and her mind was running faster than a ten cylinder engine.

Now seated not-so-comfortably at her desk on the first floor, Emily was pushing her mental
processes to their limit trying to rationalize everything she had just witnessed. Her hands were
trembling, her teeth chattering, her feet had never really stopped moving and she was certain that
she must look white as a sheet.

This simply could not be happening. What she had just seen...and felt...was NOT possible.
There must be some explanation for it all. However, for all of her rapid-fire rationalization, Emily
simply could not come to any conclusion other the most obvious...she had just FELT a ghost.

No sooner had Emily finally come to this conclusion then there came a sudden knock at her
office door. The abrupt breaking of the dead silence caused Emily to jump what must have been
several inches off her chair.

“Co...come in,” Emily said in a trembling and rattled voice.

The door to Emily’s office quickly swung open and a split second later Dr. Jameson
briskly entered, a look of deep concern on his face.

“Emily...Emily are you OK?” Dr. Jameson asked earnestly while approaching Emily’s
desk. “Sandy told me you just ran past her in the hall at mach one and...”

Dr. Jameson stopped mid sentence and paused to study the distant expression on Emily’s
face. Emily looked as though she was barely aware of his presence, and her trembling had not been
helped by his sudden appearance. Dr. Jameson, however, seemed to quickly realize what was
happening.

“Emily...Emily I think I have a pretty good idea what’s wrong,” Dr. Jameson said
woefully. “And I can honestly say that I owe you a big apology. I promise...I swear I had every
intention of warning you about Diane before today. I’m sorry...I am so sorry, I didn’t even realize
until this morning I’d forgotten to tell you and...”

Emily finally reached the proverbial “boiling-over” point.

“NO...no it’s not that!” Emily said in near hysterics.

“What?” Dr. Jameson said. “I...I don’t understand. You just came from her room, didn’t
you?”
“Oh yes...yes...yes I did,” Emily ranted while continuing to tremble.

“Well then, you’ve obviously noticed she’s taken a bad turn,” Dr. Jameson continued.

“I don’t think she’s the only one,” Emily said, her voice going up an octave.

“Emily...Emily I...I’m afraid I don’t follow,” Dr. Jameson said. “It’s obvious you’re upset,
and God knows you have a right to be, but...”

“Doctor...” Emily started before trying to calm her tone. “Doctor it’s not just...her...or you,
it’s...I know this is going to sound TOTALLY off the wall, but I honestly think I just...just....”

A sudden look of total comprehension flashed across Dr. Jameson’s face.

“Oh...oh I see,” Dr. Jameson added in an unexpectedly calm way. “Well, now it makes
sense.”

“Believe me, Doctor,” Emily said, still shaking. “NOTHING that just happened makes
ANY sense.”

“Tell me...” Dr. Jameson said matter-of-factly. “Did you see, hear, or feel your first ghost?”

Dr. Jameson could not have brought Emily back to earth more quickly had he hit her over
the head with a dead fish. Her trembling stopped almost instantly, her mind quit racing and she was
suddenly able to feel her hands again.

“WHAT?” Emily gasped in utter disbelief. “How in the hell did you know...”

The smile that crossed Dr. Jameson’s face at this point seemed utterly ill-timed. Here she
was, scared half out of her mind, questioning her own eyes and ears, and he was smiling and
playing mind-reading games.

“Trust me,” Dr. Jameson continued with a very calming tone. “You’d hardly be the first
staff member to think what you’re thinking. In fact, I’m actually a little shocked that it took nine
whole days to happen, especially at this time of year.”

“Oh my God...” Emily said with panic again rising up inside of her. “Do you mean to tell
me that I actually...I mean…I actually felt a...”

“No, no, no,” Dr. Jameson added quickly. “Of course not. I don’t believe in ghosts, but
after twenty plus years of working of here...well...let’s just say that more than a few people have
tried to convince me otherwise.”

Dr. Jameson took a deep breath and sat down in a chair directly opposite Emily’s desk.
“Emily,” Dr. Jameson said as though beginning a story, “Virtually every staff member
here, including most of the doctors and nurses, has at some point thought that he had either seen or
heard something that he was absolutely sure was a ghost. Voices, cold winds, lights blinking on
and off, doors and windows opening on their own...and those are only the most common ones.”

Emily relaxed a bit and sat up a little straighter. Dr. Jameson’s words were again
succeeding in bringing her back from her fear-induced orbit.

“Truth be told,” Dr. Jameson added with a slight laugh. “There have been a few times I
thought I’d seen or heard something myself. Then, I’d realize that the AC had been left on...or a
window at the end of the hall was broken...or a thirty-year-old fuse was blowing...or someone on
an upper floor was watching a horror movie...or blaring a radio...or trying to give dancing
lessons...”

Dr. Jameson rolled his right arm in a circular motion to demonstrate the flow of things.

“Well...you get the idea,” he continued. “If ever there was a place that could make anyone
believe in ghosts, then this is it. So...which one of these just happened to you?”

Emily was at a total loss for words. Dr. Jameson had just managed to make her feel like
such a fool that she doubted she could ever live it down. All at once, nearly everything seemed to
make sense.

“Uh...I eh...” Emily tried to speak. “I don’t know...I mean I’m standing there talking to
Diane...she says that her new, invisible friend or whatever is standing right next me...then all of a
sudden this cold gush of wind and...and...”

“Don’t tell me,” Dr. Jameson interjected politely. “It chilled you to the bone and opened
the door to her room, right?”

“Ye...yeah...I mean, yes exactly,” Emily said, trying to bring some semblance of maturity
back into her voice.

“On a cold day like this, with those steam radiators going full force, I don’t doubt it one
bit,” Dr. Jameson said.

“But I don’t understand,” Emily continued. “Nearly all the lights were out up on three and
it felt like a damn meat locker. Why?”

“When we turn up the heat past a certain point, in order to keep the circuit breakers from
jumping we have to cut electrical use by 40%,” Dr. Jameson said reassuringly. “Today...that 40%
just happened to be on the third floor...and tomorrow it will probably be the x-ray ward. Ha…it’s a
wonder we don’t all have pneumonia by April.”

“Oh...well...yeah, that does make sense,” Emily said, now almost fully deflated. “But...I
just don’t...don’t...I mean she was doing so well two days ago...now she thinks she’s seeing and
hearing ghosts and I...”

“Ah...” Dr. Jameson said, a note of regret entering his voice. “For that, I’m afraid I
REALLY do have to ask for your forgiveness.”

“What...what happened?” Emily pleaded. “Why did she backslide so badly?”

“I honestly don’t know for certain yet,” Dr. Jameson lamented. “She started talking about
her new ‘friend’ Tuesday evening when we had our second session together. I have to confess it
caught me off-guard too, but it’s not entirely unheard of in cases like hers. She’s alone for the first
time in her life now, and she must feel the need for companionship. Emily...I swear...I WAS going
to warn you before this morning. God only knows I didn’t want you to get hit with something like
THIS in only your second week. I AM sorry.”

Emily let out her breath...which she had not even realized she’d been holding...and gently
sunk into her chair. However unpleasant these facts might be...at least they made some sense.

“I...I really thought she was going to be fine,” Emily said downheartedly. “I thought she
would be right as rain in...in...then out of the blue she’s seeing phantoms, talking to imaginary
people, reading imaginary diaries, talking like a...”

“Imaginary diaries?” Dr. Jameson interrupted with sudden interest.

“Oh...she told me her new ‘friend’,” Emily said while mimicking with quotation fingers.
“Who she says was a patient here back in the day...showed her where to find some diary or
something.”

“Do tell,” Dr. Jameson added, now even more curious.

“Did she not tell you this?” Emily asked, puzzled.

“No...no not one word,” Dr. Jameson continued, his tone now back to being professional.
“Just what is supposed to be in this diary?”

“Stuff about what doctors used to do here a long time ago,” Emily replied. “She said they
used to do bad things to patients here and her friend kept track of it all in this diary, then hid it
behind the baseboard in her room. Why in the hell would she even imagine something like that?”

“A good question,” Dr. Jameson said, letting out a deep sigh. “She’s obviously responding
to her treatment even worse than I feared. It’s not uncommon for people in her condition to turn
against those they associate with their fears. She did mention something about her new friend
telling her not to listen to me...that I was only trying to hurt her...things of that nature. But she
never did say anything about a book or diary...sounds like she may have read something or other
that triggered her ‘fight’ senses.”
“Hmph...I guess my first inclination must have been right then,” Emily said dejectedly.

“And what was that?” Dr. Jameson asked with growing curiosity.

“That someone gave her a scary book or something,” Emily said, now feeling totally
foolish for thinking otherwise. “One of the orderlies or nurses must have snuck one out of the
library and taken it to her.”

“Hmmm, well that would not be a first either,” Dr. Jameson added. “Very good thinking on
your part Emily. I’ll check into it but I’d say you’re probably right.”

“Thanks,” Emily said trying to muster a smile. “But...it was so eerie...I mean I was literally
glued to the floor I was so...so...the things she was saying. About you and about other things this
girl had supposedly told her. I mean it REALLY sounded like she had been seeing and talking to
someone...and I gotta tell you I...”

“Emily...” Dr. Jameson interrupted quickly and with a little more force than before.
“Emily...I am truly sorry for having put you through this...honestly. But what I think you need now
is a little time to unwind. I’d say you’ve just earned yourself your first four-day weekend.
Welcome to the club.”

Emily was stunned. Sure, she was still a little on edge, but she did not think for a second it
was something that merited time off after only nine days.

“Oh no, no Doctor, I’ll...I’ll be fine, really,” Emily said hastily. “I’m sorry I went to pieces
and all but...”

“No, no I insist,” Dr. Jameson added with more of a fatherly tone. “Now, I was damn fool
enough to put you through this whole ordeal, but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.
Just go home, get some sleep and relax. I promise, things will look a lot better come next Monday
if you just unwind and let your brain cells stop spinning.”

Before Emily could protest again, a female voice blared over the PA speaker.

“Dr. Jameson,” said the voice in a polite monotone. “Dr. Herbert Jameson, Dr. Sikes for
you on line three.”

“I’ll take it in a second,” Dr. Jameson spoke into the air.

Emily hit rock bottom. Dr. Edwin Sikes, age sixty-something-going-on-eighty, was the
oft-aloof Administrator of the Weston Hospital. Though Emily had not seen him since her
childhood days, she well remembered his brusque and stern manner. He had once actually
threatened to fire her from her job of raking leaves when the handle of the rake…which must have
been nearly as old as the hospital...snapped in two.
“Does...” Emily began hesitantly. “Does HE know about th...?”

“Oh no, no,” Dr. Jameson said in an even more reassuring tone. “What with the power
reductions and all he probably just needs help re-booting his computer or something. You know
him. I think as far as he’s concerned progress reached its peak with electric typewriters. Now then
Emily, go home and get some rest.”

Emily let out another deep sigh; she could not deny that she was still more than a little
shaken by all that had just happened. However, Dr. Jameson’s recommendation of time off made
her feel somehow that she had bungled her first real test in the worst possible way. Despite her
deep desire to stay and see the matter through to a more satisfactory conclusion, Emily relented
and took Dr. Jameson up on his offer. As she turned to leave her office, she heard Dr. Jameson pick
up the telephone on her desk. His voice faded as she slowly closed the door behind her and
sauntered towards the entryway, her head hung low.

“Jameson here,” Dr. Jameson said formally into the phone. “Yes sir...yes I’m positive.”

Emily could not help feeling like a total and complete washout as she passed through the
main double doors en route to her car. The sky had grown even darker in the two hours since she
had arrived and it was as though the clouds were settling down over her head and her head alone.
Emily wanted more than anything to stay at the hospital and somehow make amends for her
foolish actions. She could not, however, argue with any of Dr. Jameson’s deductions. Despite his
best efforts to reassure her that she had handled things as well as could have been expected, Emily
could not shake the feelings of failure and embarrassment no matter how hard she tried.

No, Dr. Jameson was absolutely right. What she needed right now was to fall back,
regroup, and make a fresh start of things after she was rested. Rest, however, would not come
easily to Emily over the next few days. Even when she did manage to force herself to sleep, the
events of Thursday morning continued to haunt her in her dreams.

Making matters all the worse, her dreams were saturated with even more garish and bizarre
sights than those that she had actually witnessed. Blurred images of secret, underground rooms and
distant screams of anguish reverberated over and over. Jumbled visions of dark, wooden, vertical
shafts and other unfamiliar places danced around in violent shades of purple and red. Cries for help
and desperate pleas for mercy echoed so loudly that Emily was repeatedly yanked from her
slumber in fits of jitters and covered in perspiration.

Emily tried everything she could think of to try and force the events and dreams from her
mind. Come Sunday morning though, she was still being nagged by the images and sounds that
were haunting her sleep and making her feel like the sinner paying her dues. For the first time in
her life, she was actually afraid that she was coming apart at the seams.

Fortunately for Emily, Monday morning arrived much warmer and brighter than that of the
previous Thursday. Upon arriving at the hospital, Emily had finally resolved that she was not
going to allow herself to be driven from her chosen path by one perceived failure. She braced
herself to meet the new week with a fresh attitude and a deep feeling of determination. As she
made her way through the main doors and into the much drier and cooler interior, she at last felt
some of her strength returning.

Emily tried as hard as she could to go about her routine as though the events of the past
few days had never occurred. She clocked in, scrawled her name upon the dry-erase board in the
admissions office, and then headed for the nurse’s kitchen.

Several minutes later she was striding down the main hallway of Ward A sipping a cup of
freshly made coffee. Suddenly, as though it had been pre-planned, Dr. Jameson appeared from a
side door and he was wearing an expression that was quite obviously not one of joy. As he slowly
approached her from the end of the hallway, Emily felt her heart sink to its absolute lowest
possible point. Dr. Jameson was making very little effort to keep his head raised, and his
mannerisms could only mean that things had not improved over the last five days.

“Good morning Doctor,” Emily said with badly-forced brightness.

Dr. Jameson still did not bother to raise his head much more than was absolutely necessary
to meet her gaze.

“Ah...good morning Emily,” Dr. Jameson said in a distinctly low volume. “Emily I uh...I
think you’d better come over here and sit down.”

Dr. Jameson feebly motioned Emily over to a small set of stairs that led into a nook off the
left side of the hallway. While her heart continued to free-fall, Emily carefully sat down on the
stairs, Dr. Jameson taking a seat right next to her.

“Emily I...I...” Dr. Jameson said with hesitation. “I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

“Diane?” Emily said hopelessly. “She’s gotten even worse hasn’t she?”

“She’s...well...she’s a little past ‘worse’ I’m afraid,” Dr. Jameson said while reaching into
the pocket of his white coat. “Emily...I’m sorry...but I’ll need you to sign this.”

Dr. Jameson removed a small piece of paper from his pocket, and with hands slightly
trembling, handed it to Emily. Another shot of cold, icy air shot straight down her arm as she took
the paper into her hands. Somehow, she knew what it was, but she did not want to believe it.

“What...what’s this?” Emily asked quietly.

Dr. Jameson took a deep breath.

“It’s...it’s a Death Certificate, Emily,” Dr. Jameson said with forced professionalism. “You
were Diane’s assigned nurse so I’ll need you to sign it before I can file it with the County Clerk’s
Office.”

Emily’s hands trembled even more. Slowly, she opened up the single-folded sheet of
paper. With tears starting to form, she forced herself to read over the jumble of formal and
uncaring words emblazoned upon it. Emily wanted with all of her being not to believe what she
was seeing, but the type-written name Diane Casdorph Yost at the top of the document confirmed
that her worst fears had just come to pass.

“Oh my...oh...my...” Emily muttered through her encroaching tears. “No, no it’s...it’s
not...”

“Emily,” Dr. Jameson said with a sigh. “I’m afraid it is.”

Emily forced herself to read over the other words on the document before her eyes were
swollen shut. Date of Birth...Color of Eyes...Color of Hair...Attending Physician... it was all there
in cold black and white. Cause of Death...Emily was suddenly jolted. Her grip on the sheet of
paper tightened as she read the words Accidental Death.

“What,” Emily mumbled in confusion. “What...accidental death? What does that mean?”

Dr. Jameson quickly placed his hand on Emily’s shoulder.

“We don’t know for certain yet Emily,” he added woefully. “A security guard found her
body Saturday night down the hall from her room. We don’t even know how in the hell she
managed to get out yet. But, she was lying on the hallway floor and her...her neck was broken
and...well like I said, we just don’t know for sure yet. Emily...I...”

Dr. Jameson’s voice faded. Emily reread the words on the certificate again just to make
sure her mind had not finally snapped. To her dismay, they read exactly the same as before...and
made just as little sense. Emily’s tears receded and she allowed her own head to fall forward upon
the sheet of paper for a few seconds.

“Emily,” Dr. Jameson began.

“No...no it’s...it’s fine I...” Emily said, trying her best to remain calm. “I guess I really
should have prepared myself a little better for this.”

Emily laid the death certificate upon her knee and removed an ink pen from her breast
pocket. She signed her name and then handed the piece of paper back to Dr. Jameson.

“Emily, there’s nothing we can do to change it,” he said. “It’s a cold hard fact...sometimes
doctors lose their patients. Knowing that never makes it easier to accept, so don’t start kicking
yourself again.”

Emily wiped her face with her sleeve.


“I’m not...I’m not I just,” Emily said while coming to grips with her emotions. “In all of
those classes...through all of those lectures...I never...DAMN IT, I’m such a...”

“No you’re not,” Dr. Jameson interjected. “Don’t even think that for a second.”

“I never should have let myself get sucked in so far,” Emily said with gritted teeth. “I
thought it would be so easy...I thought I could change the world right off the bat. Yeah...STUPID,
DAMNED...”

“NO...now Emily, stop it,” Dr. Jameson chastised. “There’s nothing you could have done
that would have changed this. You did all that could have ever been expected of you and then
some. But sometimes, even when you cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s, it’s still not going to be
enough. Yes...I know it’s hard to swallow...and it never really gets much easier. But don’t start
blaming yourself for events you CANNOT control...’cause it only makes things harder in the long
run. You’ll never become immune to death Emily, never.”

Emily slowly raised her head up. Dr. Jameson’s words had a very calming effect on her.
Closing her eyes and allowing a deep shudder to pass over her, she tried with all her will to clear
her mind and focus her attention in the right direction. Everything Dr. Jameson was saying was
true...there really was nothing she could have done. It was no more her fault than it was his. With
one final shake of her head, Emily finally managed to cast aside her feelings of guilt.

“Ah...you’re right...you’re right,” Emily said with a revitalized tone.

“Well...as long as we’ve got that out of the way,” Dr. Jameson added with another drop in
tone. “I guess I should pass along the rest of the bad news.”

“What?” Emily said, more confused than before.

Dr. Jameson pursed his lips and bit down hard, as though he were trying to force something
very bitter and bad tasting down his throat. Without warning, he slowly stood up and turned around
so that he was facing Emily.

“The word came up from Charleston last Friday,” he began with a note of dread and regret.
“H.H.R. finally made the call. The new mental health complex in town is going to be up and
running by the end of next year. In exactly two years...THIS hospital will be shutting down...for
good.”

Emily could not believe her ears. She could feel her life’s dreams and ambitions flowing
out of her like water from a pitcher. Dr. Jameson again dropped his head dejectedly.

“I’m sorry Emily,” he added with regret. “But our staff will be reduced by 75% at that
point...and I’m afraid that will include you...AND me.”
A red hot poker might just as well have been shoved through Emily’s heart. Dr. Jameson
slowly sauntered away, tucking Diane’s death certificate absent-mindedly into his pocket as he
did. Emily remained glued to the stair upon which she was sitting, her mind again reeling from the
third shock to her system in five days. Despite all the signs over the last six years that told her this
was a possibility...she honestly never thought it would happen...not in her lifetime. The hospital
had always been there for her...now...it would be gone in two years.

Emily gently leaned her head against the polished brick wall beside her.

What now? Emily thought to herself. Well, things certainly can’t get any worse...this is
about as bad as it gets...yet...I’m still alive.

Somehow, Emily managed to draw strength from somewhere deep down inside. If two
years were all she had...then...by golly she was going to make the best of them.

I’ve come too far now to just tuck-tail and bolt, she thought. Two years...all right...two
years it is then.

Surging with anger-induced confidence, Emily stood up and stepped into the hallway.
Starting right here and now, she was going to apply herself harder than she ever had before. Stupid
notions of guilt and ridiculous thoughts of ghosts were not going to throw her off her path...not
now...not ever.

“Go forth and conquer,” she said to herself again and again. “Go forth and conquer.”

At first, it was not easy. The following day, Emily learned that Diane’s body was to be
cremated and buried in one of the hospitals’ many on-site potter’s field cemeteries. Since she had
no surviving relatives living nearby, this was the only course of action the hospital could take.
Her ashes were placed into a simple wooden box and buried in an unmarked grave atop a remote
hill behind the facilities’ abandoned farmlands. Emily broke with her personal contract of
detachment just long enough to place a small triangle-shaped rock and a bouquet of flowers upon
the site of Diane’s resting place. On the rock, she chipped out a simple D.C.Y.1992.

Emily was left feeling a little uneasy by this last, unpleasant reminder of her baptism of
fire, but she quickly shoved the emotions out of her head and pressed on.

For the next twenty-two months, Emily applied herself to her job with as much gusto as she
could. Gradually, she grew accustomed to day-to-day life at the hospital and the events of her first
ten days were but a memory. New cases came along, cases with far better outcomes. Emily quickly
gained a reputation among the doctors and staff as the hardest worker and most dedicated nurse
that could be found anywhere. She was quickly accepted into their tight-knit family.

As the months turned into a year, Emily found herself more and more at ease. She finally
had every square inch of every building on campus down pat in her mind. She knew of every
double-back hallway, every shortcut, every dead end and every restricted area. She even learned
about the one light switch on the first floor that seemed to have a mind of its own.

One secret that she learned of finally made her realize how so many rumors about the old
hospital had grown and festered over the years: the secret door to nowhere, as it had come to be
called. In truth, it was only an isolated old door with a frosted window paneled facade that was
located off one of the many small dead-end corridors on the first floor. The word ‘storage’ was
written in peeling black paint just under the glass and no light ever shown through. It was always
locked and no one...not even Dr. Jameson...really knew much about it.

“It’s been locked as long as I’ve been here,” Dr. Jameson replied to Emily’s initial inquiry.
“Someone told me back when I started that it lead to an old root cellar were they used to store fruit
jars. Whatever it is, none of the keys around here seem to work in it.”

Other employees had other, more sinister explanations.

“Oh, that place?” most would say. “Leads down the to old isolation rooms where they used
to do experiments on people.”

However...cooler heads seemed to hold the real answer.

“I’ve never actually been down there,” said Dr. Fredrick Petrov, a wizened old doctor of 62
who had defected from the Soviet Union in 1948. “But best I can remember, vas just a
subterranean storage room. Nothing spectacular unless you’ve got a fetish for old, rotting boxes
and turn-of-the century newspapers.”

A quick check of an old floor plan put any other notions to rest in Emily’s mind. On the
plans, the door and stairway beyond it were merely labeled Stg. Space. Mystery solved as far as she
was concerned.

As 1993 turned into 1994, the realization that the beginning of the end for the old hospital
was at hand left Emily with a nagging tug at her heart. As of January 1, 1994, all further admissions
to the hospital were suspended indefinitely, and the hundred or so patients who were still residing
there were soon to be transferred to other facilities. As a result, most hospital staff were pulled
away from their previous duties and handed the unenviable task of preparing the old facility to be
placed into hibernation.

Removing all of the office equipment, furniture, files and other items from the walls of the
hospital was akin to the evacuation of a Norman castle in terms of size. Day after day, Emily
watched as piece by piece, the hospital seemed to be disappearing around her. Every time she saw
another bed or chair being carried unceremoniously out a door and tossed into a waiting truck, it
felt as though a small piece of her soul were going with it. However, as much as the impending
demise of the hospital had filled her with sorrow initially, the last few weeks of her tenure actually
succeeded in convincing her that the end could not come soon enough.

Ever since her arrival at the hospital two years prior, it sometimes seemed to Emily as
though the facility were somehow aging at three to four times the rate of the rest of the world.
Floors began to moan and creek with more authority. Lights and telephones became less and less
reliable as the end drew nearer. As for computers and word processors...well...the fickle electricity
in many parts of the facility appeared to have developed a sudden aversion to anything under fifty
years of age.

Emily was finally convinced of the need to get out of the building soon when a small,
crumbled pieced of the second floor ceiling scored a direct hit on her head. The piece of dislodged
masonry left a nasty cut in Emily’s scalp that eventually required seven stitches. As much as she
still hated to leave her old “second home,” she did not wish to be around when the rest of the
ceiling...or the roof...finally decided to give way.

“Ya know I never thought I’d say this,” Emily said to two of her female coworkers one day
in the coffee lounge. “But I honestly cannot wait until we finally get out of here.”

Emily’s two remaining close friends, Hanna Aldridge and Susan McCoy, both nodded
their heads.

“I know,” said Hanna. “I swear it’s like the old place knows we’re leaving and wants to
make us as miserable as possible in the meantime.”

“Is your head any better?” asked Susan.

“Yeah...just as long as I don’t think too hard,” Emily quipped.

“So what are you gonna do afterwards, Em?” Hanna asked.

“I’m moving down to Charleston,” Emily replied. “Gonna finish my medical training at
U.C. I’m not gonna rest until I have an MD after my name.”

“I’m not gonna rest until I have an MD after ME,” Hanna joked.

“Ha ha,” Emily replied dryly. “What about you?”

“I’m going back to Pittsburgh,” Susan replied. “Em I’m gonna miss you ya know.”

A slightly reminiscent smile crept across Emily’s face. This was the part she had looked
forward to the least.

“I know...I know,” Emily replied dreamily. “I’m gonna miss nagging both of you too.”

Despite the levity, there was a distinct note of sadness hanging in the air as the final week
arrived. Again, however, most of the feelings of those who were lamenting having to leave the old
facility were tempered by the ever increasing level of electrical and mechanical snafus. Getting
from one end of the hospital to another under a fully lit ceiling was fast becoming a distant
memory. Four days before the final curtain was to fall, Emily had a very bizarre encounter with
one of the electricians who was supervising the gradual shutting-down of the building’s
infrastructure.

“I know miss, and I’m sorry,” the technician replied in a very thick Cleveland accent.
“We’re trying to keep the flow going to the main building but...I swear I don’t know about you, but
I wouldn’t trust the old wiring in the place any further than I could throw it. It’s like a damn death
trap if you ask me.”

“That bad huh?” Emily replied.

“Oh Christ, and how,” the technician went on. “I think about half of it was installed before
the last war. We got main boxes going on and offline, light bulbs blowing out every two
seconds...sorry about that one by the way. But ya know...I thought I’d seen every damn thing in
world till this morning.”

“Why?” Emily inquired. “You find Jimmy Hoffa or something?”

“Heh…I would have been less shocked at that actually,” he quipped. “No, even better.
I’m down under the center section tracing an old faded wire back to the circuit box. I looked
underneath it and I damn near fell over. There’s an old gaslight line still under there.”

“A what?” Emily said in total confusion.

“Ya know...” he continued. “One of those ancient lines they used to run gas to light fixtures
through. Heh...until the turn of the century that is. This old place has had electric lights since 1902,
so this line’s gotta be over eighty years old. And the weirdest part is...it’s STILL active.”

“WHAT?” Emily replied in horror.

“Yeah I know...it’s a damn miracle we’re not all on the friggin’ moon right now,” he said.
“But don’t worry ‘bout it, it’s plugged up good. If it was leaking it would’ve gone off years ago.”

“Thank goodness for small comforts,” Emily said unenthusiastically.

“You aint kiddin’,” he went on. “What I’m wonderin’ is why the damn thing’s still there. I
can’t even tell where it’s running to...and it ain’t hooked up to the kitchen’s gas either, I checked.
Ah well, it’ll just get shut down like the rest of the stuff I guess.”

“And if you guess WRONG?” Emily inquired with a note of fear.

“Heh heh....then the whole North wing’s liable to go up like a Roman candle some day,”
the technician added with note of dark humor.

Emily made a mental note to steer clear of the North wing as much as possible lest she
become an unwilling passenger on a one-way trip to the moon.

The day before the final closing of the doors, most of the medical doctors were finally
having their personal effects and files hauled out. The majority of them were making the move
with the hospital to its new location on the other side of the mountain. Dr. Jameson and his protégé,
Dr. Phillip Braley, were not among them, however, so they were left to make arrangements for
their personal effects on their own.

Emily made a special side-trip from her normal route on this day in order to say her “good
byes” to them. She had never really spent a great deal of time around Dr. Braley and as a result did
not know him nearly as well as she knew Dr. Jameson. She DID however want to make certain that
she at least spoke to each of them one last time before they departed. Late on the afternoon of their
final day, Emily made her way towards Dr. Jameson’s office with a going-away gift of homemade
oatmeal cookies. No sooner had she entered into Dr. Jameson’s outer office area then the voice of
Dr. Braley wafted through Dr. Jameson’s partially opened door.

“Never been able to find it huh?” Dr. Braley asked in a not-too-polite tone.

“Don’t you think if I HAD I would have told you?” Dr. Jameson replied bitterly.

Emily froze in her tracks. Although eavesdropping was not in her nature, something about
the way in which these two supposed old friends were talking piqued her interest to the point of
committing espionage.

“I don’t know...would you?” Dr. Braley retorted.

“Of course I would,” Dr. Jameson replied with growing impatience.

“I don’t like it Herb,” Dr. Braley continued in what sounded like a cross between concern
and anger. “That thing’s around here somewhere and if anyone ever stumbles onto it...”

“LOOK!” Dr. Jameson bellowed before dropping his voice to a barely audible whisper.
“I’ve been over nearly every damn inch of the place. If we can’t find it then neither will anyone else.
Probably threw it down the damned incinerator up on Four anyway.”

“We don’t know that,” Dr. Braley said in whisper. “Can’t you think of any other place she
could have...”

“I have thought about it EVERY BLESSED DAY...” Dr. Jameson replied, trying to
maintain a whisper. “For the last TWO BLESSED YEARS. As far as I am concerned
it-is-not-HERE!”

The sound of a fist being slammed down on a table told Emily that she had lingered too
long. After quietly placing the tray of cookies on a nearby box, Emily slipped quickly from the
outer office and back into the main hallway. She did not know exactly what she had just heard...but
was certain she was not meant to have heard it.

“Ah...I vouldn’t vorry about it Em,” Dr. Petrov said in response to Emily’s concern.

Emily and Dr. Petrov, standing in the nearly bare space that had once been Dr. Petrov’s
office, had been discussing the mysterious conversation Emily had overheard for several minutes
now.

“I swear,” Emily said in near amazement. “In all the years I’ve known him I have NEVER
heard him talk like that. NEVER”.

“Don’t give it too much thought Emily,” Dr. Petrov said dismissively. “Knowing Jameson
like I do it’s probably just an over-inflated expense report or something. New cufflinks or a silk tie
mixed in with thermometers and bedding.

This made sense, but something about the words they used and the way were using them
still left Emily feeling perplexed...and very curious.

“Yeah...yeah I guess,” Emily said. “Don’t know what difference it makes NOW anyway,
who’d even care?”

Dr. Petrov gave a light-hearted chuckle.

“Ya know Emily...I am REALLY going to miss you,” Dr. Petrov added in a friendly tone.

“Me too,” Emily replied, her mind now returning to its previous course. “So, where are you
going to go after tomorrow?”

“Oh I really don’t know yet,” Dr. Petrov said. “I thought about going back to Russia and
joining the KGB...but I think I might be too old for them now eh?”

At this, Emily could not help but laugh out loud and throw her arms around Dr. Petrov for
one last parting hug.

Barely twenty-four hours later the time had finally arrived. All non-essential electricity had
been cut, the heaters had been set on one-third capacity, every door had been locked and latched and
every window closed and bolted. The old hospital had, in effect, been placed in a state of
hibernation.

Around three o’clock that afternoon, Emily passed through the giant main doors for the final
time. As she descended the stone steps and turned for the parking lot her eyes were met with a
perplexing sight.

Parked just in front of the middle of the South section was Dr. Jameson’s car. As Emily
strode towards her own car, she couldn’t resist continually glancing at it and wondering just what
could have drawn him back to the hospital for one last day. After reaching her own car, Emily again
turned to give Dr. Jameson’s car a glance...when yet one final, odd sight caught her eye. For some
reason, thick, billowing white smoke was rising up from a seldom used chimney located in the
center of the main building. Emily was briefly reminded of how the Nazis had made a habit of
burning all of their documents at the end of the last World War.

“Whatever he was looking for,” Emily said to herself, “looks like he found it…and cooked
it.”

Emily allowed her eyes to drop from the smoke and onto the main facade of the building for
one final time. As she took in the scene, a single tear fell from her right eye and she allowed herself
to once again break her personal contract of two years prior. This was not only her last day at the
hospital, but also her last day in Weston. Having sent the moving vans from her apartment that very
morning bound for Charleston, Emily was now preparing to make the two hour trek herself. A
new future was waiting for her there, a new chance to start her life all over again. However, for
some reason, she found it hard to pull away.

She was not fully aware of just how long she stood there gazing. One minute, two minutes,
three minutes...who really knew...who really cared? The late afternoon sun was casting its brilliant
orange light upon the building’s edifice and it looked just as beautiful to her as the first day she laid
eyes on it...maybe even more so. Finally, Emily knew it was time to leave.

“So long ol’ girl,” Emily said quietly before opening the door to her car and sliding in.

Moments later, Emily gave her steering wheel a turn and pointed the nose of her car towards
the main exit, directly opposite the center of the main building. As the exit slowly drew closer,
Emily could not shake the feeling of a tiny balloon having its air slowly let out...air that seemed to
flow quicker the closer she got to the exit. At last, she maneuvered her car between the two brick
pedestals that signaled the end of Hospital Drive and the beginning of B&O Boulevard. As her car
crossed over the threshold, Emily was almost certain that she heard a sound like a vacuum of air
finally being sealed up. Maybe it’s true what they say about buildings going to sleep when they’re
abandoned.

“Well...pleasant dreams,” Emily thought as she drove off.


Chapter 3
Rude Awakenings

The loss of the Weston Hospital was a nearly crippling blow to the economy of Weston.
Following the closing of the hospital’s doors, a mass exodus of former employees to greener
pastures left a huge financial void within the city’s budget. While local politicians and historical
preservation groups lamented the loss to the town, the hospital slept.

For eight solid years, the old Weston Hospital stood its ground and attempted to weather
both the elements of time and the whims of man. After its closure in 1994, city fathers tried in vain
to find some use for the many decaying buildings of the former institution. None of the proposed
ideas ever seemed to hold water for long.

The state’s initial plan to turn the former hospital into a corrections facility fizzled out
amidst heavy public protests. The ideas for hotels, restaurants, and gambling casinos did not fare
much better. In early 2002, some unknown reporter from Charleston even went so far as to leak a
false story, claiming that the site had been chosen as a new command center by the Department of
Homeland Security. The rumor mill that had once flourished in the hospital’s heyday was still alive
and beating; though with each passing year its rhythm grew fainter.

With no prospective buyers and an ever dwindling town budget, nearly every ounce of
power to the campus was cut indefinitely in 1996. The lack of continuous climate control caused the
hospital’s once majestic interior to begin peeling and cracking more and more as the seasons went
by. The natural passage of time, combined with the persistent efforts of local vandals, had aged the
“Grand Ol’ Dame” seemingly beyond repair.

While life inside the walls of the hospital was stagnate, life immediately outside went on.
Since the facility was inactive, a need for extra-tight perimeter security was no longer a concern and
thus the number of guards patrolling the hospital grounds was greatly reduced. Much to the chagrin
of the local police, citizens of Weston quickly adopted the aging walkways and stone staircases
around the campus as their area of choice for exercise and recreation. In turn, the sprawling green
lawns at the front of the main building became the location of choice for many of the city’s public
functions and celebrations. Every Fourth of July, giant fireworks displays erupted in multi-colored
splendor, in full gaze of the now dormant hospital. Visitors at these nighttime events would often
swear that many of the windows lining the front of the hospital seemed to be ‘peeking out’ now and
then at the goings-on down below.

Despite the constant activity on the grounds of the hospital, the buildings themselves
remained undisturbed. That is, until September 2002. After years of false hopes and near misses, a
legitimate perspective buyer came forward with a serious interest in purchasing the old hospital,
renovating it, and turning the stone section into an enormous bed-and-breakfast.

The head of the firm that wished to purchase the facility informed the city that he would like
to give the interior and exterior of the hospital a first-hand inspection before negotiating on a selling
price. City fathers collectively held their breath. In years prior, many positive looking deals had
fallen through the floor when the buyers finally laid eyes upon that which they were to
purchase...and that was only the exterior. In an effort to help this “viewing” go as smoothly as
possible, the Department of Health and Human Resources agreed to power-up the main buildings of
the hospital one week prior to the buyer’s visit.

Heat, gas and electricity were allowed to function at normal capacity for the first time in
nearly seven years. Though no human being had entered the hospital since its closure, the facility
slowly came back to life...one flickering light at a time. Across the river from the front of the
hospital, residents found it strange to once again peer out at night and see lights glowing...or
dancing...in the building’s windows.

Charged with greeting and escorting the buyer around and through the facility was none
other than Dr. Jameson’s former protégé Dr. Phillip Braley. Unlike Dr. Jameson, who had left
Weston only months after the hospital’s closure, Dr. Braley remained behind and had eventually
been granted a position at the new mental health complex. Within two years he had risen through
the ranks to become head of the rehabilitation efforts there.

Many were a little shocked when, in 1998, Dr. Braley had eagerly volunteered to spearhead
local efforts to revitalize the former hospital. For the last four years he had worked both the phones
and computers, as well as the letter-writing campaigns in hopes of finding someone interested in the
old hospital and its grounds. It was not an enviable task. The amount of legalities and red tape had
driven the former heads of the effort to quit within weeks. Dr. Braley however remained doggedly
determined. To some, his efforts even seemed to border on obsession.

Thus, on the morning that the prospective buyer, a middle-aged real estate developer from
Lynchburg named Robert Schenkle, was due to arrive, Dr. Braley was waiting at the hospital’s
gates (or what was left of them) to meet him. Everyone in town felt that this was finally it, that they
were about to be handed the golden goose. What they got, however, was a disaster.

During the tour of the hospital’s interior, Dr. Braley, Mr. Schenkle and one of the few
remaining hospital security guards were climbing the stairs to the third floor when the unthinkable
happened. While gently leaning upon an old oak railing, Dr. Braley suddenly pitched sideways. For
no reason whatsoever, the base of the railing cracked and gave way, sending Dr. Braley plunging a
full three stories. He was dead upon impact.

The unfortunate incident had the feared effect upon Mr. Schenkle. He stormed out of the
hospital in a fit of rage mixed with fear. Later that day he took it upon himself to scream as loudly as
he could in the face of Weston’s Mayor.

“Forget it!!” he bellowed. “I wouldn’t take that thing off your hands for all the tea in China.
I couldn’t get anyone to stay there if I PAID them to. Take my advice, level the whole damned place
and build a shopping mall. Good day.”

Mr. Schenkle’s departure left everyone back at square one. The ensuing investigation into
Dr. Braley’s death was odd to say the very least. Examination of the base of the railing which gave
way revealed no decay or wear. Police and forensic investigators were equally stunned to learn that
Dr. Braley had actually been dead a split second before hitting the floor, the result of a massive
heart attack, for which there also seemed to be no logical explanation. Dr. Braley was only 41 years
old and by all accounts, in perfect physical health.

Local and state police were baffled. With no answers and no other evidence to go on, his
death was officially ruled as Natural Causes. Dr. Braley’s death, however, would not be the last
unusual event to occur over the following weeks.

Almost without pause, strange things started happening within the walls of the old hospital,
and in the areas immediately surrounding it. Late at night, residents reported seeing the lights
within the main building flashing on and off from left to right. Behind the hospital grounds, a
strong, putrid smell of rotten cabbage would linger in the air for days on end. Weird and sometimes
haunting sounds echoed from the many broken windows. And once, a late night jogger was certain
that he had seen someone walking around on the building’s second floor, carrying what looked like
a small candle.

“I saw some one,” the jogger told police. “Or some THING in there. Looked like a damn
ghost if you ask me, never seen anyone that pale before.”

In addition to the odd sights and sounds, unexplained events started occurring more and
more frequently just outside the hospital grounds. Children would coming running home in states of
near terror in the middle of the day and power to the surrounding homes and businesses started to
fluctuate at all hours of the day and night. Occasionally, motorists driving by on one of the
hospital’s side streets would suddenly encounter unexplained mechanical hiccups and failures. Two
days in a row towards the end of the month, cars had just suddenly “died” while driving along B&O
Boulevard...no warning or reason.

For all of the odd occurrences, no one seemed to put two and two together...until another
tragic death shook several old-timers out of their complacency.

On the night of October 4, Dr. William McIntyre, a 78-year-old former employee of the
Weston hospital, was found dead at his home in nearby McGuire Park. His death was also listed as
resulting from Natural Causes, another massive heart attack.

During his tenure at the Weston Hospital from 1946-1987, Dr. McIntyre had been well
known by most residents. In many instances, his name and the hospital’s were spoken in the very
same breath. Though in the minds of police there wasn’t the slightest link between the two
incidents, long-time Weston residents were not so sure. It all seemed like too much of a
coincidence. Something was not right.

A mere three days later, their fears were crystallized. Another former hospital doctor,
65-year-old Dr. Alexander Stewart, who lived only three blocks away from the hospital grounds,
was also discovered dead. Attired in a green jogging suit, his lifeless body was found behind the
former eating quarters of the hospital. Sprawled out on the pavement as though still in mid-step, his
face was frozen in an expression of terror. Again, the cause of death was ruled as natural, yet
another heart attack according to the County Coroner.

This third death finally caused people to stand up and take notice. No one was quite sure
what was going on, but ever since the hospital had been shaken out of its slumber, something
sinister had descended on the town. Old-timers professed that the ghosts of the hospital’s past had
escaped, but other residents took a much more rational approach to the problem. At the request of
city officials, an investigation by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
was launched with the old hospital its main focus of attention.

Many thought that the most likely...and most logical explanation...was that some kind of
airborne infection or virus had been stirred inside the hospital and it was now spreading through the
town. However, air and surface samples taken by the state investigators revealed nothing toxic in or
around the hospital. After interviewing several residents who had worked at the hospital, the state
investigators determined that what had occurred was nothing more than “a coincidental series of
accidents.” No further investigations by the state were deemed necessary.

Weston residents were scratching their heads and silently searching for answers. In
addition, many people whom the state investigators interviewed recalled later that they were
actually interviewed twice, but not by the same man. Upon comparing notes with one another they
were all able to agree upon being spoken to a second time by a man in a blue work suit...yet
agreeing on the man’s name seemed futile.

“It was Charles....Charlie, I’m sure.”

“No, no, no...Clarence, Clarence.”

“You’re both wrong...it was Casey, Casey Reynolds.”

“No, not Reynolds...Reingold.”

“I actually thought he said Steve.”

By whatever name, everyone agreed that the man was between 25 and 50 years old, driving
either a blue, green or purple station wagon, hatchback or limo, emblazoned with the state seal, and
had either brown or black hair. However, when the town council contacted the state offices in
Charleston for inquiry, no one there seemed to know who they were talking about, either.

“No sir,” replied the head of the team of investigators. “No one like that was assigned to our
team...and the vehicle description does not match any of ours either. Are you sure he wasn’t a
county employee?”

Amidst all the confusion, word reached people in Weston of two additional deaths, Dr.
Katherine Yates, 65, of Cheyenne, Wyoming and Dr. Kenneth Wilkerson, 57 of Melbourne,
Florida. The news brought about a fresh case of chills to many. Both of the deceased had worked at
the hospital between 1960 and 1985. While many residents quietly wondered what was happening
in their town, the old-timers remained convinced from the start that the answer was simple.

“Those damn fools,” they would chide. “They woke the place up.”

A hundred miles and a lifetime away in Charleston, the question of “what had been woken
up” could not have been farther from Emily’s busy mind, for she was now Emily Flesher MD/LPN.
A very successful and very content woman at 34 years of age, Emily could not have been happier at
the way her life had...and was unfolding.

After leaving Weston in 1994, Emily had wasted little time in trying set her life back on a
steady course. She settled in the east end of Charleston and immediately enrolled at the University
of Charleston to begin her quest towards MD status.

“I swear,” Emily would say to her small circle of friends. “I will NOT be happy until I have
the entire alphabet soup.” (Her joking reference to MD).

Four years, eighteen classes, two internships and eight boyfriends later, Emily achieved her
life-long goal. Her graduation from UC’s Medical School bestowed upon her the “magical” title of
Medical Doctor. She was now a fully Licensed Psychiatric Physician...and was ready to set the
world on fire.

For the next two years of her life, she worked on the Psychiatric level at Charleston General
Hospital. These two years served to firmly anchor her to her chosen profession. She loved virtually
everything about her job...working with patients and families, assisting in diagnosis, and best of all,
helping patients recover and re-enter the world in better shape than when they came in.

At the conclusion of her initial two year stint, Emily was offered what could only be
described as the opportunity of lifetime. A brand new private mental care center was set to open in
Kanawha City...only two miles away...in three months. While Emily knew of it and had actually
daydreamed about working at such a place, she was nearly blown away when a formal letter from
the president of this new center arrived at her home. In short, they wanted her to come and work
there...as the head of the General Care division. Given that they were offering to pay her roughly
twice her present salary...well...Emily did not have to be asked twice.

Three months later, Emily took the helm of her new position firmly in hand. On any given
day, anywhere from twelve to twenty other doctors and nurses were under her supervision. The
responsibility was great...but the rewards were doubly so. Emily was now able to work one-on-one
with patients for much longer periods of time. The much more hands-on nature of the center suited
Emily perfectly. As far as she was concerned she could work here till she died.

As a result of her sudden jump into an upper tax bracket, Emily took the opportunity to
relocate to another residence in a slightly more up-scale region of the east end. Here, the streets
were lined with many large and imposing turn-of-the-century houses, several of them of the two
and three-story Victorian variety. The location was a perfect one in Emily’s mind; in fact, many of
her co-workers lived in the very same neighborhood.

Emily’s choice for her new residence was a two and one-half story red brick “mansion” that
dated to around 1900...though Emily could still care less about dates and history. At first, she felt
rather dwarfed by the immense amount of floor space compared to her former one-level duplex.
However, the sheer elegance of the home’s architecture quickly buried these feelings, replacing
them with near delusions of regality.

“Ah...” Emily jokingly yawned to her friends one night. “MD...LPN...now if I could just add
a royal title I’d be content.”

Emily however, WAS content. Everything she had hoped for since childhood had come to
pass. With all of her success and busy work schedules, Emily had little time if any to ever think
back on her days at the Weston Hospital. On the very few occasions that the topic had come up
Emily had quickly put the issue to rest.

“Oh...yeah I worked there,” she would say. “Strange place, but I still loved it. Now then...”

“Was it REALLY haunted?” the next question would always be.

“NO,” Emily would add impatiently. “No it was not. Creepy, yes, haunted, no. Now let’s get
back to work here.”

Living in the past was still NOT Emily’s style. In fact, since leaving Weston in 1994, she
had made only one return trip: when she attended her father’s funeral in 1999. During those two
days, she hardly gave the crumbling hospital anything more than a curious, passing glance. In her
present life, Emily simply had no time for looking backwards.

“Heck, if it wasn’t illegal,” Emily quipped, “I’d even rip out my rear-view mirror.”

Such was Emily’s life in October 2002. While people in Weston seemed to be in a state of
utter confusion, Emily was in a state of utter contentment...totally oblivious to the odd events of the
previous weeks in her old home town.

One cool sunny morning, as the leaves on the trees were slowly changing to their fall hues of
red and orange, Emily rose out of bed and set about on what she assumed would be another normal
day of work. After a quick hot shower and donning of her work clothes, she descended the giant
wooden stairs to the lower level of her home and headed for her kitchen. As per usual, she planned
on partaking of a healthy breakfast, reading the morning paper, and then heading out.

While slowly munching on her freshly buttered toast, Emily scanned her newspaper. For the
first several pages, her eyes were met with nothing more than the usual headlines. Local politics,
weather, something about a man in Logan who swindled two hundred thousand dollars from the
Department of Highways, and then...Emily stopped for a second and re-focused her eyes. The
headline that had grabbed her attention read Sixth Former Weston Hospital Employee Found Dead.
Emily read on.

For the sixth time in only two weeks, another former employee
of the old Weston State Hospital...the former West Virginia
Hospital for the Insane...has been found dead of apparent
cardiac arrest. Dr. Frederick Petrov, 70, of Clarksburg
W.VA. was found dead at his home yesterday morning. His
cause of death was deemed a heart attack by doctors at
Clarksburg’s United Hospital Center. Dr. Petrov worked at
the Weston Hospital from 1953 through its closure in 1994,
and in recent years served as a psychiatric counselor in
Clarksburg and the surrounding area.

Emily had to re-read the article three times before it finally registered as truth. She simply
could not believe what she was reading.

“How in the hell,” Emily muttered to herself.

No sooner had she finished the article for the fourth time then she heard a sudden knocking
at her front door. The breaking of the silence caught Emily by surprise and left her puzzled. She
lifted her left wrist and checked the time on her watch. It was only five minutes past eight AM.

“Who in the name of,” Emily muttered while standing up and heading for the door.

Half-expecting to come face-to-face with the paperboy, Emily instinctively grabbed her
purse from its perch while approaching the front door. A quick glance through the peep-hole only
served to heighten Emily’s mounting confusion. Standing on her doorstep was a man in a blue
one-piece work uniform bearing the State Seal and the letters W.V.D.H.H.R. He could not have
been a day over thirty-five, was well-groomed with dark brown hair and had a clipboard tucked
under his right arm. Emily was certain she had never seen this man before in her life...yet he
seemed far from threatening in his mannerisms. She opened the main door but left the outside
screen door secured.

“Good morning Miss,” the man said with a smile.

“Good morning,” Emily replied in a non-committal tone. “Can I help you?”

“I’m sorry to call so early,” the man continued politely. “I’m with the State Department of
Health and Human Resources.”

“Health and Human Resources?” Emily replied in confusion. “I don’t understand...why?”

“We’re uh, following up on the deaths of the six former doctors from Weston,” the man
interjected with grace. “We saw in our records that you worked at the Weston Hospital for two
years.”
“Yes...yes that’s right,” Emily said with growing trepidation.

“Well Miss,” the man added with a small note of urgency. “I was wondering if you could
spare just a few minutes of your time. We’re trying to talk with as many former hospital employees
that we can track down.”

This was absolutely the last thing in the world that Emily expected to hear. However, given
the events that she had just learned of from the newspaper she felt that helping the investigators in
any small way was the best path to take. She unlocked the screen door and motioned for the man to
step inside.

“Uh...well yes, please come in Mr...eh?” Emily began.

“Reynolds,” the man said, extending his hand to Emily. “Steve Reynolds.”

Emily and the man who called himself Steve shook hands at the door and then walked into
her front sitting room. Emily was still a little uneasy about the sudden appearance of this man who
was talking of events occurring a hundred miles away. Emily took a seat upon a cushy love seat on
one side of a large glass coffee table. Steve took the seat directly opposite her and laid his
clipboard gently down onto the table.

“Ms. Flesher,” Steve began with calm professionalism. “I take it that you have heard
something of the deaths over the last few weeks?”

“Not until this morning, no,” Emily said cautiously. “I uh...I really don’t know what to
make of it. Am I in danger or anything?”

“Well, we think it’s pretty unlikely,” Steve said almost dismissively. “Likely enough it’s
just a series of VERY odd coincidences...but just to be on the absolute safe side we’re checking
every angle.”

“I uh...I’m afraid I still don’t understand,” Emily said earnestly. “I don’t see how I could be
of any help to you. I haven’t worked there in eight years...but then again neither has anyone else
have they?”

“That’s exactly why we’re checking all angles,” Steve added knowingly. “Just on the off
chance that we might be dealing with some kind of hibernating airborne virus or anything of that
nature. While you were working at the hospital, did you ever witness any unsafe handling of
hazardous materials or anything like that?”

“Not that I recall, no,” Emily replied.

“Uh huh,” Steve continued while writhing on his clipboard. “Any persistent gas or water
leaks over an extended period of time?”
“There were leaks at times, yes,” Emily replied. “But they were always dealt with quickly.
You know, water and fifty-year-old wiring don’t mix too well?”

“Heh heh...absolutely not,” Steve added with levity. “On that note...any unexplained losses
of power or power spikes?”

“Only every living day,” Emily replied.

“Sounds about normal,” Steve said while jotting down more notes. “Did you ever notice
any members of the staff or any the patients complaining of sudden chest or abdominal pains?”

“No,” Emily replied.

“Uh huh,” Steve continued. “In your two years there, did you ever see or hear anything that
you thought was out of the ordinary?”

“You mean like a ghost?” Emily said with mixed humor and impatience.

“Well, now that you mention it...yes,” Steve added with absolute calm. “We’re thinking
that some of the things people claimed to have seen...the hallucinations and such...might be
attributed to leaking gasses, or mold spores germinating in the vents.”

“Oh...I’m sorry I didn’t...” Emily said, pulling herself back to politeness. “No...not really.
Mind you, at times I thought I did...but I would have to say no.”

“It’s OK,” Steve said with another chuckle. “After having been there I can say for certain
that I know what you mean.”

Steve made another round of notes on his clipboard and flipped the first page over to start
another. Emily stared at the upside-down document now facing her and strained to make out the
writing on its opposite side. For all her effort, she could not make out one single word.

“Did you ever notice any unusual cracking or bending in either the walls or ceilings?”
Steve asked with an even more knowing attitude.

“Now that is a definite YES,” Emily said with conviction, drawing her eyes away from the
paper. “When we were packing the place up I saw several places where the ceiling was loose and
the walls cracked.”

“Were these also tended to quickly?” Steve asked.

“I don’t know about at the end,” Emily replied. “During my tenure there I saw repairs made
to the walls and ceilings frequently. But when we were leaving...I honestly just don’t know...I hope
so now.”
Steve gave another light chuckle as he scribbled own another note.

“Again, I wouldn’t be too concerned Ms. Flesher,” Steve said calmly. “This is more of a
formality than anything else. Now then...about these six doctors who have passed away recently...”

“Yes...I knew all of them but one,” Emily quickly added, a note of concern re-entering her
voice. “I actually worked with three of them. The man who died only yesterday, Frederick Petrov,
was a close colleague and friend of mine.”

“My sincere condolences Ms. Flesher,” Steve said with genuine concern. “Have you had
any recent contact with former coworkers or other staff members?”

“No...not for at least five years,” Emily said, becoming more and more uneasy. “Dr.
Jameson...uh...Dr. Herbert Jameson lives in South Hills, but I haven’t seen him in ages. Mr.
Reynolds...do you...or does anyone have any idea what is going on?”

The concern in Emily’s voice was now even more palpable.

“Right now,” Steve said “They are all listed as having died of heart attacks...and all have
been verified by state and local physicians. There’s no real evidence at all that it’s even related to
the hospital...but like I said...we’re just covering all of the bases. I know it sounds like too much to
be just a coincidence, but stranger things HAVE happened.”

“I’m sure,” Emily added in an unbelieving sort of way. “Like what?”

Steve seemed to clam up at Emily’s show of continued inquisitiveness. He clipped his pen
back onto his clipboard and rose from the couch. If she was not mistaken, he seemed to be in a
sudden hurry to leave.

“Well...I’m sorry, I’ve taken up too much of your time already,” Steve said while reaching
into his side pocket. “I’ll leave my name and office numbers with you just in case you think of
anything.”

Steve handed a small, green business card to Emily who quickly scanned it. It looked
legitimate enough to her.

“Honestly, ANYTHING at all that you think might even be slightly relevant,” Steve said
reassuringly. “Just call me directly on the bottom number...any time day or night.”

“Yes...of course, certainly,” Emily said vaguely. “Will you ah...would you also let me
know if...”

“I can assure you Ms. Flesher...” Steve interjected, “If we come across anything we will
immediately inform you and anyone else who might be at risk...you have my word.”
“Oh...well, thank you,” Emily said with a slight sigh.

“If you have the time,” Steve added while he and Emily headed back to the front door. “It
would not be a bad idea to have a standard round of blood tests done. You have an automatic
analyzer at your office do you not?”

“Yes...yes we do,” Emily replied, a little more taken aback by Steve’s knowledge.

“All right then,” Steve said with a note of finality. “Ms. Flesher, thank you very much for
your time...and I hope I don’t have to talk with you again...if you take my meaning.”

Steve smiled at his humorous parting words and placed two of his fingers to his temple in a
signal of “goodbye” to Emily. Emily made a point of watching him through the front door window
as he made his way down her front walk and across the street. He entered a somewhat large blue
van with gold striping, and emblems matching those of his attire on the side and rear panels. In
every respect, it looked like your common every day state vehicle.

As Emily watched the van drive off, she could not seem to shake a nagging feeling of
impending danger. Three of her former coworkers...along with two other longtime friends...had
died suddenly within a fortnight of one another. No one had a satisfactory explanation...and state
medical investigators were paying her visits at eight o’clock in the morning.

Emily racked her brains for the better part the morning trying to make some sense out of
these events. But it was like trying to add two and two and get six, it just was not working out. By
lunch time, however, the strain of a hard morning’s work...coupled with an even busier afternoon
schedule...gradually helped Emily put her concerns on the back burner. By the time she returned
home early that evening, the memories of both the unpleasant newspaper story and her strange
guest and had all but vanished from her mind.
Chapter 4
The Visitor in the Night

Emily’s comfortable home, partially hidden in front by several large and ancient oak trees,
looked especially inviting upon her arrival that evening. The waning sun streamed through the
color changing leaves and gave her front yard a magically healing property. As she made her way
up the front sidewalk, the sound of leaves and sticks cracking under her feet could not have been
more welcome, for it signaled the end of a strange day and the start of a nice relaxing evening.

Pausing only long enough to pull a handful of letters from her mailbox, Emily wasted no
other time in entering her spacious home. Time to forget all about the weird events of this morning
and unwind. While clumsily sifting through the small stack of letters she had retrieved moments
earlier, Emily made her way over to a television set in the far corner of her sitting room, turned it
on, and plopped down into a most comfortable seat.

“The state senate is not expected to take this issue under consideration for another several
weeks,” said the news anchor on television, his voice drifting in and out of Emily’s mind.
“Representatives of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources continue to
have no comment on the sixth reported death of a former employee of the now vacant Weston
Hospital in Lewis County.”

Emily was abruptly shaken from her relaxation. She lifted her eyes from the mail and
turned to face the screen. Images of Weston and the surrounding area played out on the screen
before her eyes as the announcer continued his report.

“Following the death yesterday of former hospital employee Dr. Frederick Petrov of
Clarksburg, representatives of the D.H.H.R stated that they still had no further comment on the
unusual series of deaths,” the announcer continued. “A spokesman for the agency would only add
that they will continue to stand by their original findings until quote ‘dramatic evidence to the
contrary is forth-coming’ un-quote.”

As if to deliberately make the already bad situation even harder to endure, the announcer’s
last quote flashed across the screen in giant white letters. Emily could not keep from taking in
every forthcoming detail.

“Residents and city officials in Weston remain rattled by this latest death, the sixth since
former hospital physician Dr. Phillip Braley died of apparent heart failure during a routine tour of
the facility two weeks ago,” the announcer went on. “Long time residents of the ‘hospital town’
have long since grown accustomed to strange occurrences and wild rumors. These latest events
have only served to reinforce their beliefs.”

“It just, it always seemed like the place had a...uh...a kind of spookiness about it,” said the
image of a slightly aged man. “It’s almost enough to make you think the place is haunted.”

“Former groundskeeper at the Weston Hospital, Harold Spiers has been witness to many
strange and unexplained events at the hospital over the years,” the announcer added. “During his
fifteen year stint from 1965 to 1980 he claims to have been witness to more than just a few unusual
happenings.”

“Ya know you’d hear strange noises...see lights in the windows at night,” Mr. Spiers
continued. “Other little things like trash cans over turning for no reason or...or windows opening
on their own. Just lots of little things. But over a period of years they...well you start to wonder just
what’s causing it.”

“Other long-time Weston residents have, or many years, also expressed their belief that the
empty hospital it most definitely haunted,” the announcer said, a glimmer of his own disbelief
slipping through. “However, former Hospital Administrator Dr. Edwin Sikes, who spoke to us
today via telephone from his home in Denver, Colorado, says that any such rumors are merely the
result of overactive imaginations...and the general nature of the hospital itself.”

An image that Emily was quite familiar with now met her eyes. Though he appeared a
littler greyer, and a few new wrinkles had crossed his once plump olive face, the picture of Dr.
Sikes...whom Emily had not actually seen in person since 1986...struck a chord somewhere deep in
her gut. Through a raspy and somewhat garbled telephone connection, Dr. Sikes’ voice sounded
totally unconcerned.

“It is simply impossible to work in a place like the Weston Hospital for so many years and
not hear stories such as these,” Dr. Sikes said with the air of an all-knowing college professor.
“The atmosphere and the general nature of the work that went on there...coupled with the fact that
the buildings we worked in were very, very old...makes conditions MORE than ripe for
over-active imaginations to run rampant. On at least thirty to forty separate occasions during my
tenure alone I heard accounts from other employees and patients who thought they had either seen
or heard something of this nature. It simply goes with the territory. You look at a place like the
Weston Hospital and you just automatically think...’that place has to be haunted.’ But I can assure
you that it most definitely is not.”

“Dr. Sikes,” the announcer asked on the pre-recorded tape. “How would you account for
these seemingly unrelated deaths of hospital employees coming in such close proximity to one
another?”

“It’s a very common, if still unsettling fact, that tragedies like these have an unfortunate
habit of never coming in singles,” Dr. Sikes replied. “Of course we do expect to see this more often
with transmittable diseases such as flu and fever, to see it occurring within the cardiac field is
somewhat rare...but certainly not unheard of. I suppose it may be attributed to what some have
dubbed the ‘domino effect’. One individual passes away and it triggers a kind of psychological
repercussion in the minds of others. This phenomenon is most prevalent in nursing homes and
hospitals. However, I have read the report that the state investigating committee filed last week,
and I agree fully with their findings. As hard as this might be for some to swallow, I think it just all
boils down to very unusual timing...turned into something sinister by outside sources.”
The evening news announcer returned to the small screen.

“In other news outside of Charleston tonight...” he began.

As if by reflex action, Emily scooped up her television’s remote control and switched the
set off. Her eyes, however, remained fixated upon the blank screen. While still aiming the remote
at the television, Emily’s mind began to whirl as she recollected the odd events of the morning.
Though the now blank television screen was offering no answers, Emily could not pull her gaze
from it.

For the briefest of moments her memory flashed back to her days at the hospital and they
now seemed as distant as the man in the moon. She recalled the faces of her coworkers, her
childhood friends from her mother’s days there, even the wild rumors she remembered hearing as
a toddler. It took a sudden cramp in her still outstretched arm to bring her mind back into focus.

“No, no, cut it out Emily,” she said to herself, giving her head a few shakes for good
measure.

Emily flung the television remote upon the side of the love seat and attempted to get her
mind back onto the task of sorting her mail. However, after viewing two bills and one letter
informing her that she had just won ten million dollars, her mind wondered back to Weston.
Visions of the hospital hallways, its clock tower and the wide green lawns played over and over
again in her head like a continuous loop of blurry film. Then, for an instant, she wondered just how
many of her former coworkers were still alive.

“ALL RIGHT....that’s E-nough!” Emily said forcefully. “Get a grip would you!”

Casting her mail down on the glass coffee table with a loud SNAP, Emily once again shook
her head from side to side and then ran her fingers through her hair. Her attempts to calm down and
focus were not going as well as usual and it was making her feel more than a little unsettled. Emily
wearily placed her hands over her face and pulled them down in a slow, massaging manner.

“Oh God...I need to unwind BIG TIME,” Emily said finally.

Forcing her mind into “relax” mode with all of her might, Emily ascended her stairway and
within minutes was soaking in a piping hot bubble bath while the soothing sounds of J.S. Bach
filled her spacious bathroom. The steam, soap and sound finally had the desired effect. Emily’s
mind gradually let loose from its continually tightening knots and an hour later she felt far more at
ease.

Now, attired in her blue silk evening clothes, Emily decided to brave another trip into her
living room. The comforting sounds and aromas of her upstairs bathroom drifted down the stairs
along with her. This, combined with the fact that her hair was still wrapped up in a towel, allowed
her to sit down on her love seat and resume the sorting of the mail with much clearer vision and far
more peace of mind.
The bills and notifications of instant wealth did not look any more inviting this time around
and they were quickly relegated to a temporary home on the kitchen’s breakfast nook to await a
final death in the waste basket.

Once the letters were out of her hands, Emily turned and headed for her living room...a
small glass of Port wine now in her hand...when she suddenly stopped. For some odd reason her
eyes were drawn up to her wall-mounted telephone...a bright red 1950s model that had survived
the past half-century with the house. Without warning, the thoughts of Weston and the hospital
flowed back into her head with full force, only now accompanied by an overpowering urge. Emily
did not hesitate this time around, but instead took the recurring visions to heart...which was sinking
amid a horrible thought.

“Oh my God.....Mom,” Emily mumbled as she grabbed the receiver and dialed rapidly.

Emily twitched and paced anxiously as the line on the other end rang faintly. Were all of
her visions and flashbacks some kind of intuition kicking in? Had something happened to her
mother and she was now somehow conscious of it? These thoughts gained a full head of steam
before a soft, kind voice on the other end of the phone shifted Emily’s mind back into neutral.

“Hello,” said the voice of Emily’s mother over the phone.

“Oh...Mom, hello it’s Emily,” Emily said while letting out a large amount of pent up
anxiety and settling down into a small chair against the wall.

“Emily?” her mother said curiously. “Are you alright dear you sound like you’re out of
breath?”

“Oh no...no I’m fine,” Emily faked while absent-mindedly twirling the telephone cord. “I
was just thinking about you so I eh...thought I’d give you a ring. How are things up there?”

“Well...your Aunt Susie and Uncle Casey are fine,” her mother said. “I’ve been down with
a little cold for a few days now. It’s on its way out now though...I hope.”

Emily smiled and leaned back against the kitchen wall with a silent sigh of relief.

“That’s good,” Emily replied. “So...I hear that things have been a little...eh...strange around
the old workplace lately?”

“Oh and how!” her mother replied with humorous exasperation. “State officials in and out
of town, everyone talking about ghosts and phantom lights and all. Television and newspaper
people wandering all over the place…same ol’ same ol’ really. It’s just that...”

“What?” Emily said slightly perplexed.


“Well,” Emily’s mom added hesitantly. “It’s just that it seems to have jumped up a couple
notches this time. Even more wild talk and rumors than usual...ha...if that’s possible. Since you
mention it, I was actually a little shaken myself a couple of days ago.”

“Why...what happened?” Emily asked.

“Dr. Stewart...the one who used to tell you funny ghost stories when you were a child,”
her mother began.

“Oh yes,” Emily said with a smile. “Yes...sure I remember him. I read his name in the
paper just this morning. So sad.”

“Well...I saw him at the market the morning he died,” Emily’s mom went on. “He seemed
perfectly normal then. We talked for a few minutes about this and that and then parted. But when I
saw him early that evening at the café...well I swear Emily he was an absolute bundle of nerves. He
was drinking coffee like there was no tommor...er...like it was going out of style, and when I spoke
to him, it was like he didn’t even know I was there. He was just drinking like mad, mumbling under
his breath and shaking like a leaf. Then, an hour later I heard that they found him dead behind the
hospital, in his jogging suit of all things.”

“With all that caffeine at his age and then jogging...I’m not all that surprised,” Emily said
off-handedly.

“That’s what I thought at first,” her mother continued. “But I talked to Violet Oldaker...his
neighbor...later that evening and she told me the oddest thing.”

Emily rolled her eyes at the things she was hearing. It was all relaxing and humorous to
her now...but still charmingly nagging nonetheless. A typical mother-daughter conversation.

“OK now what?” Emily ribbed. “He was speaking in tongues and howling at the moon,
right?”

“Not funny smart aleck,” her mother ribbed back before returning to her somewhat eerie
tone. “No, she said that she saw him jog behind the hospital, then stop at one of the lower
windows and look inside. Says he stood there for a good minute or so and then started staggering
away, grabbing at his chest and screaming. He was yelling over and over again for help and
saying things like ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘please don’t’ or some rubbish like that. Then he ran out of her
sight to where they found him.”

“Huh...weird,” Emily said. “Fear can make people do and see strange things though Mom.
With all that had happened already…mass hallucination and collective power of suggestion.”

“Oh, you and your textbook solutions to everything,” her mom again ribbed.

“Well it makes a hell of a lot more sense than ghosts and goblins and all that junk,” Emily
added.

“Point taken Em,” her mom added calmly. “I wouldn’t ever try and convince you
otherwise dear but...well you just never do know what would happen if walls could talk.”

“I beg your pardon?” Emily said, totally lost.

“Nothing,” her mom said softly. “Some things ARE just better left dead and buried. I just
hope they’re not awake now.”

Emily was now again a little spooked.

“Ok Mom...ha ha...early Halloween joke,” Emily said dismissively. “Don’t tell me you
actually buy into any of those old legends?”

“Emily...I know lots of things must have happened at that hospital,” her mom continued in
a more reflective tone. “And I wish that everyone who’s poking around and sticking their noses
into this would just leave well enough alone. A fire can burn well enough without being stoked
every two seconds.”

“OK Mom, you lost me at the ‘poking around’ part…just what are you talking about?”
Emily added with fake humor. “Exactly WHAT is supposed to have happened at the hospital?
Tell me.”

But Emily was not to get an answer to her question on this night. Out of nowhere, three
loud and very powerful knocks came in rapid succession from her front door, followed by the
distant and terrified voice of a man.

“HELP...HELP EMILY!” cried the voice from outside. “EMILY...PLEASE


HELP...OPEN UP PLEASE!”

Emily turned in the direction of the door so fast that she fell right out of her chair and
dropped the phone. After a few brief, frenzied seconds, Emily scrambled around on the floor and
regained her balance. She was now partially tangled in the telephone’s cord and could not move
much in any direction.

“What in the name of...” Emily screamed just as she picked up the receiver.

“Emily...Emily what’s that?” her mother said in a fearful tone.

BANG, BANG, BANG. Once again, three rapid knocks at the front door, even louder than
before.

“PLEASE...PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD OPEN UP!” cried the voice in a state of
mania and terror.
“I don’t...I don’t know Mom,” Emily said while turning in circles to untangle herself from
the telephone cord. “SOMEone is at my door and I don’t think it’s the paperboy...hang on.”

Emily slid under the cord and laid the telephone receiver upon her chair as she quickly ran
from the kitchen and towards the front door. Just as she reached it...BANG, BANG,
BANG...followed by...

“EMILY...PLEASE...I NEED YOUR HELP...THEY’RE GONNA KILL ME...OPEN


UP!” the voice cried again.

Emily hesitated, her hand perched just shy of the doorknob. She did not know just who or
what was on the other side of the door, and she was not really sure that she wanted to know.
Becoming the next victim of some murdering lunatic was not on her agenda for this lifetime.
However, the “doctor” in her could not allow her to simply stand by while somebody was
desperately calling upon HER specifically for help. With a deep breath, she pulled open her main
door.

“EMILY...oh thank God,” gasped the man...or whatever he was...on her front porch.
“Emily please...please you have got to help me...PLEASE!”

Emily nearly doubled over backwards. There, slumped on his knees and looking as if he
had just crawled through every drain in the neighborhood, was the disheveled form of Dr. Herbert
Jameson...and he looked like he had aged thirty years in the last eight. His face was scratched and
his graying hair all mussed up. He was dressed in a dark blue suit and tie with a heavy brown
overcoat...all of which were covered in mud and grass. A quick glance past him at her yard told
Emily that he had indeed crawled up to the porch.

The look in his glassy eyes was one of complete horror and desperation. Never, in all of
her years of treating patients had Emily ever seen such an expression. It was as though Dr.
Jameson were being pursued down the avenue by the Angel of Death himself. He was wildly
grasping at the screen of Emily’s storm door, desperately trying to get inside.

“Dr. Jameson?” Emily gasped. “What...what in the hell...what’s wrong?”

“EMILY...Emily let me in PLEASE,” Dr. Jameson pleaded. “Please...I need your help.
She...they...they’re after me I can tell...they want me...want me DEAD do you hear me...DEAD!”

Dr. Jameson tried to push his way through the screen door but Emily held it fast. After a
few seconds of fruitless shoving, Dr. Jameson again collapsed to his knees.

“NO...no, Dr. Jameson...calm down now, calm down,” Emily said with as much poise as
possible. “Now just what in the hell are you talking about?”

“EMILY...there’s no time...PLEASE,” Dr. Jameson rambled, now sounding even more


desperate. “I need you...I need your help. They...SHE...trusted you...THEY trusted you.
PLEASE...PLEASE HELP ME!”

Dr. Jameson assumed a prayer-like posture and pressed his hands and face firmly against
the screen, now near the point of tears.

“Make them go away please...they’ll listen to you, I know they will,” he continued to
plead. “It was my fault...ALL MY FAULT...and I am SO SORRY. PLEASE...help.”

“Doctor...Dr. Jameson get a hold of yourself,” Emily replied, her own fear and confusion
doubling with each passing second. “You’re going to wake up the whole damn street.”

Indeed, lights in the nearby houses had already begun to flicker to life. Several houses
down, one curious neighbor even appeared upon his porch trying to get a glimpse of what was
transpiring.

“Emily...Emily listen to me please...please,” Dr. Jameson said, trying hard to make his
words audible. “It was me...ME...I’m the one. I’m sorry...I REALLY AM. Forgive me please
Emily!!!”

“Yes...yes Doctor I forgive you,” Emily placated. “Now just what do you need me for?”

“You have to find it,” he continued through his tears and agony. “YOU HAVE TO FIND
IT. Find it and make them stop...PLEASE...make them...”

“Make WHO stop WHAT?” Emily pleaded with mounting frustration.

Dr. Jameson tried once again to speak...but only a dry, raw gasp came out of his gaping
mouth. All at once he was still and had stopped clawing at the door. His eyes went as wide as hub
caps, his face as pale as milk, and with his right hand he suddenly grasped at his chest.

Emily likewise froze. She knew what was happening, she had seen it before. She now
watched helplessly as Dr. Jameson tried with all his might to force out one more set of words.

“Fi…find…it…” Dr. Jameson gasped with his dying breath.

For a split second Dr. Jameson was silent. Not a limb moved and not a muscle twitched.
Then, a slow, sickening, rasp of air exhaled from his open mouth. With a final clasp at his chest
Dr. Jameson wavered once on the spot and then fell forwards with such force that he crashed
head-first through the screen and glass of Emily’s storm door.

If Dr. Jameson’s last round of pleas had not awakened the entire east end of Charleston
then Emily’s ensuing scream did. With her mandible hanging to her chest and her hands pressed
against her lips in total fright, Emily slowly backed away from the grotesque spectacle that now
lay before her. Dr. Jameson’s dead body was slumped across the lower third of her door, half on
the porch, and half inside the entryway. His hands hung in a morbidly limp fashion and shards of
glass protruded from his sides allowing blood to flow freely into tiny, crimson pools upon the
wooden floor.

With her hands still clutched to her mouth, Emily backed and stumbled her way into the
kitchen. When she reached the telephone, she dropped to her knees out of and staggered
sideways. Freeing one hand from her face she grasped around the floor until she finally found the
telephone receiver. Her mother was still on the other end.

“Emily...Emily what’s going on, are you alright?” her mother asked worriedly.

“No....no I’m not...I’m not,” Emily said through tears and convulsions.

“What’s going on Emily...tell me please,” her mother pleaded.

“It’s....it’s Dr. Jameson,” Emily rambled. “Dr. Jameson...he just died on my front porch.”

“Emily is...” her mother began.

The room and the world started spinning. Emily was vaguely aware of the telephone
receiver slipping from her hand. Her mother’s voice trailed into nothingness and the kitchen’s
ceiling fan and light began to violently whirl in a counterclockwise spiral. While Emily lay upon
the floor, darkness slowly surrounded her like black wisps of dense fog...a fog which eventually
concealed the spinning and swirling kitchen from her view and shut her off from the world for
nearly an hour.

“OH...stop that damn noise,” Emily mumbled as the world emerged from the shrouds of
pea soup thick fog.

Red and blue lights were flashing...both in and out of Emily’s head…and the persistent
wail of a siren made it all too obvious that she was no longer alone. Now, slumped back in a
sitting position on her living room couch, Emily was slowly becoming aware of her surroundings.

At least two dozen people, firemen, police officers, nurses, plain clothes officers,
photographers and a medical examiner were all milling about in controlled chaos. The continued
flashing of both the fire and police vehicles and the photographer’s flashbulbs were not doing any
favors for Emily’s head. She gently leaned back against the soft cushions of the couch and
reached up to wipe the sleep from her eyes.

“Are you alright Miss?” asked a nearby paramedic who had just taken notice of her being
conscious.

“Oh...I think so...but can someone please turn off that damn siren, my head is spinning,”
Emily said in a woozy state of anger.
Upon noticing that Emily was awake, one of the plain clothes detectives, a middle aged
man who looked as though he had stepped right out of a 1930s detective novel, moved forward.

“Good evening Ms. Flesher,” said the detective formally. “I’m Detective Michael
Cunningham, Charleston Police Department.”

The detective held out his trench coat-clad hand for Emily to shake. She wearily obliged.

“I am sorry that we have to meet under circumstances such as these ma’am,” Detective
Cunningham said with slightly over-inflated air of authority.

“Well officer...” Emily replied, regaining some of her wits. “Were it not for these
circumstances I doubt very seriously that we would even be meeting.”

“Yes...well,” said a stymied Detective Cunningham. “Most likely not.”

“How did you know to come here?” Emily asked weakly. “Did you hear the screaming or
something?”

“One of your neighbors did yes,” Detective Cunningham replied. “We arrived here about
two minutes later and found you on the kitchen floor...unconscious.”

Emily’s eyes flew open. She remembered she had left her mother on the phone.

“Oh my God my mother!” Emily blurted out as she attempted to stand up.

A nearby paramedic prevented her from rising.

“It’s alright Ms. Flesher,” Detective Cunningham added reassuringly. “She was still on
the line when we got here. We told her you had just fainted and that we would keep her posted on
your condition.”

“Oh...well, thank you,” Emily added, still bleary eyed.

“Ms. Flesher, I know you’re still weak and all but...” Detective Cunningham said,
obviously leading up to something. “Exactly what took place here earlier? Your neighbor told us
he heard a man...presumably the deceased…screaming loudly. Then a crash of glass followed by
your scream.”

Question, questions, questions. Emily again laid her head back. All she was hearing were
more questions when what she really wanted to hear were answers...or silence.

“That about sums up the play-by-play yeah,” Emily said with reserved bitterness.

“Well....why was this man screaming on your front porch, was he trying to break in?”
Detective Cunningham continued.

“No...no he wa...” Emily began before being abruptly interrupted by the telephone.

Welcoming any diversion and hoping that it might be her mother, Emily rose up from the
couch, despite the badly aimed grab of the paramedic who tried once again to stop her.

“One second, I’ll be right back with you,” Emily said swiftly while heading towards a
cordless phone on the other side of the living room.

“Ah...Ms. Flesher, really if you could...” called Detective Cunningham.

“Just one second...please,” Emily said, now even more frustrated.

With quick strides given her condition, Emily crossed the living room and headed for her
cordless phone, which lay in an area that was, thankfully, not cluttered with humanity at the
moment. Glad to be partially free of the hubbub, she grabbed the phone and brought it to her ear.

“Hello,” Emily said expectantly, hoping to hear her mother’s voice.

“Dr. Flesher...are the police still there?” asked an oddly familiar voice on the other end...a
voice that was definitely NOT Emily’s mother.

Emily instinctively dropped her voice, aware that others around her might be
eavesdropping.

“Ah...who’s calling please?” Emily asked in a low whisper.

“Emily, it’s Steve Reynolds, I spoke to you with you this morning, remember?” Steve
asked in an urgent, business-like tone.

“Uh...well, yes I remember,” Emily said, allowing her voice to go back up. “I suppose I
should have expected a call from you after this.”

“SHHH...Emily please, please keep your voice down,” Steve said sternly. “Now...don’t
talk just listen. If the police are still there then DO NOT repeat a word of anything I am saying to
you.”

“But I...” Emily began.

“No, now Emily listen to me,” Steve interjected with even more urgency. “I know what
happened there tonight and I need you to do exactly what I tell you. It is extremely important that
you not tell ANYONE there about speaking with me this morning...and if those dunderheads
don’t already know about your past relationship with Dr. Jameson, DON’T tell them.
“Why?” Emily asked quietly. “Look just what in the hell is going...”

“I don’t have time to explain right now Emily,” Steve continued. “Just suffice it to say that
we are in VERY deep waters and if you don’t want to drown in them you will follow my
instructions to the letter. NOW...once the police and everyone else have left, call me and I
promise I will explain more then. For now, just play dumb and tell them as little as possible.
Emily...your very life may depend on it.”

Emily could not believe a word of what she was hearing. With her ears still ringing from
her faint and the lights still flashing on and off in her head, she could not make up her mind
whether to trust this man or not. In effect, he was asking her to tell outright lies to city and local
officials...an offense which could spell out the end of her career in ten words or less.

“Emily, please, you have to trust me on this,” Steve now pleaded. “I promise you...I am
only trying to protect you Emily. Nothing more I swear. But I need you to do as I have asked.
Otherwise...I may not be able to help you at all.”

Now, believing that she had finally heard everything, Emily decided impulsively to throw
caution to the wind and play along. Simply put, she was far more willing to trust Steve’s word
than that of Detective Cunningham.

“Alright,” Emily said quietly before raising the volume of her voice on purpose.
“Yes...yes I’m fine and I promise I will take it easy Uncle Casey...but I am not buying a shotgun
so forget it.”

“Smart move,” Steve said, impressed at Emily’s tact. “Call me as soon as it’s clear, OK?”

“OK...ok I’ll at least look into it,” Emily continued to fake. “Now I’ve got to go and finish
with the police alright...alright I’ll call you later I promise.”

“Good night Emily,” Steve said before hanging up.

“Good night Uncle Casey,” Emily said while hanging up the phone and forcing a smile.

Even though she still had positively no idea what in the world was going on, Emily
managed somehow to keep her face unreadable as she crossed the room. However difficult it
might be, Emily quickly resolved that she would keep her lips pursed and her face blank to the
best of her ability.

“Sorry about that Detective,” Emily said with a very forced nonchalant tone. “My aunt
and uncle are like a couple of mother hens. In fact I’d be willing to bet that I might actually find a
gift-rapped shotgun on my doorstep tomorrow.”

“Yes...well...” Detective Cunningham stammered again, still not able to fully comprehend
all he was seeing and hearing. “You were saying that the deceased was not trying to break in
but...”

“No...no he was not trying to break in no,” Emily interjected “Just trying to get me to let
him in. I mean if my neighbors heard him yelling then they surely must have heard what he was
saying.”

“I would prefer to hear it from you Ms. Flesher,” Detective Cunningham replied with
increased professionalism. “Just why was this man attempting to gain entry into your house?”

Emily’s mind ran like a whirling dervish. She knew that she could not simply clam up and
say nothing...not even she was that good a liar. She was briefly reminded of a trapeze artist on a
very thin tight rope, for she was going to have to do her very best to tell the truth while giving as
little information as possible.

“I can honestly say that I have not the foggiest idea,” Emily said with conviction. “He was
just ranting and raving about needing my help with something. I could barely even make out most
of it he was so out of his mind.”

“Out of his mind you say?” Detective Cunningham inquired.

“Well he certainly sounded like it to me,” Emily retorted with a smattering of resentment.
“I’ve seen that look in people’s eyes before Detective. From a professional point of view he
was...I guess you could say...pretty ‘far out there’.”

“Have you ever met or seen this man before Miss...” Detective Cunningham began.

“Please...please I don’t want to sound snobbish or anything like that,” Emily interjected in
order to postpone the upcoming question for as long as possible. “But I am a certified MD and
LPN. I would be most appreciative if you would address me as ‘Doctor’ Flesher.”

Detective Cunningham was lost for words again. For a few tense moments his eyes met
with Emily’s and they seemed to be playing a kind of mental chess game with one another.

“Yes...certainly Doctor, I beg your pardon,” Detective Cunningham said with little
enthusiasm. “Now then as I was saying...Doctor...before the events of this evening, had you ever
met or seen this man before?”

“Since you mention it yes, I have,” Emily said carefully.

“When, exactly?” Detective Cunningham continued as if he were a spider preparing to


pounce on a newly spotted insect.

“It’s been at least eight years now actually,” Emily said truthfully. “He was an old friend
of the family, of my mother actually. He lived near us a long time ago. But like I said before, until
tonight I haven’t seen or heard anything from him in eight or nine years.”
“I see,” Detective Cunningham continued with his impromptu interrogation. “You say he
used to live close to you some years ago?”

“Yes,” Emily replied simply.

“Where exactly did he live at that time?” Detective Cunningham asked curiously.

Emily’s mind raced again in order to tell the truth while evading the crux of the issue.

“Lewis County,” she said truthfully. “He lived in Jane Lew just off of I-79...at least I think
he did. Mind you it’s been a very long time.”

“And where did you live at this time Doctor?” Detective Cunningham pried hopefully.

“Kitsonville...’bout two miles away,” Emily replied, automatically reaching for the old
name of her childhood neighborhood just outside of Weston.

“Very well,” Detective Cunningham continued. “Can you think of any reason why he
would come calling on you like this tonight?”

“I really don’t know Detective,” Emily dodged. “Though I have confidence that you
should be able to find something out. You’ll pardon my saying so but criminal detection is your
field...mine is psychology. Now if you would like a more in-depth professional opinion...”

“Oh no...no that really won’t be necessary Doctor,” Detective Cunningham said, cutting
Emily off as quickly as possible.

For another twenty grueling and agonizing minutes, Emily and Detective Cunningham
continued their verbal parries and thrusts. Detective Cunningham seemed to sense that Emily
might know more than she was letting on, but despite all of his best efforts he could not penetrate
her evasive shell. Each time he seemed to land upon a possible thread...Emily would cut it. For the
entire length of the interrogation, the words “State Hospital” and “Weston” never entered the fray.

By the time the battle of words and wits came to an end, the hands of Emily’s wall clock
were approaching eleven PM. Nearly everyone else had, by now, departed the scene. The dead
body of Dr. Jameson was carefully removed from its grim resting place and hauled out on a
gurney covered in a bright white sheet. In the streets, the small groups of curious neighbors who
had assembled during the time Emily was dead to the world had, by this time, retreated to their
homes.

“Well...” said Detective Cunningham, admitting defeat and throwing in the proverbial
towel. “I think that’s about all we need for the time being Dr. Flesher.”

“Thank you Detective,” Emily said, concealing her deep sense of relief. “I’m sorry I
couldn’t be of more help but I’m really just as lost as you are.”

“Yes,” Detective Cunningham added with a distinct note of disbelief. “Well if you should
happen to think of anything else...anything else at all, contact us at once.”

“Certainly,” Emily added formally.

Detective Cunningham reached into the pocket of his trench coat and handed Emily a small
blue and gold embossed card.

“My direct line is on the bottom Dr. Flesher,” Detective Cunningham said while moving
towards the front door.

“Yes,” Emily said vaguely while taking the card and remembering the parting words of her
morning visitor. “I figured it would be.”

“I beg your pardon?” Detective Cunningham replied, having only partially heard Emily.

“Oh nothing, nothing Detective, I was just...reading the name and number,” Emily added
with little emotion.

“Of course,” Detective Cunningham said, now having reached the front door. “Well, good
night Dr. Flesher and don’t forget...you may be called to make a statement if there’s a formal
inquest.”

“Rest assured Detective, I shan’t forget,” Emily said with an even greater tone of fake
superiority.

Detective Cunningham stood steadfast just in front of Emily’s doorway and carefully
observed her in silence for a few more seconds. With one hand on the side of the door and the other
in his pocket, he turned and carefully examined the edges of the wooden door and the blood stains
below.

“Can I help you with something else Detective?” Emily called suddenly.

“Oh no,” Detective Cunningham replied, quickly snapping back upright and hiding his
own expressions of suspicion. “Just making a last check of things. Ya know...it’s curious...”

A short silence followed. With a deep breath, Emily broached the awkward moment.

“What’s curious Detective?” Emily asked, keeping up her strong facade.

“It’s just that...” Detective Cunningham continued with false naiveté. “So much glass, so
much blood, yet no apparent reason. Very curious that’s all. You say that you and Jameson both
lived in Lewis County?
Emily put all of her defenses on ‘full.’

“Yes, that’s correct,” Emily said calmly.

“In...Jane Lew is that right?” he continued knowingly.

“I think that’s where HE lived, yes,” Emily said.

“That’s uh...that’s just outside of ah...Weston isn’t it?” Detective Cunningham asked with
no readable emotion.

“Yes...yes it is,” Emily said, the fear growing in her stomach.

Detective Cunningham however merely smiled and reared his head back as though just
getting over an epiphany.

“That’s it, that’s the name I was trying to think of,” Detective Cunningham said humbly.
“It was on the tip of my tongue but I just, for the life of me, could not remember it. Well, thank you
again for your cooperation Dr. Flesher...good evening.”

Detective Cunningham bid Emily one final parting wave...or rather a cross between a wave
and a half-hearted salute…before closing the blood stained door gently behind him.

Emily sat absolutely motionless...for how long she could not say…but by the time she
moved from her resting spot, all of the red and blue flashing lights were long gone and the
neighborhood was once again engulfed by its nocturnal silence. Emily glanced left and right,
convincing herself fully that everyone was now gone. Her gaze then instinctively turned to her
kitchen and her mind to the telephone.

Seconds later, Emily was standing in her dimly lit kitchen, dialing the telephone with one
hand and holding a business card in the other.

“Three...zero...four...five...four....” Emily muttered quietly as she dialed. “Nine.”

With the receiver clamped to her right ear and the business card clenched tightly between
her fingers, Emily listened intently to an odd, computerized ring on the other end of the line. After
four of the unfamiliar ring tones, Steve Reynolds’ voice spoke from the other end.

“Are you positive the coast is clear now Dr. Flesher?” Steve said right off the bat.

“Yes, yes they’ve all been gone for at least ten minutes now,” Emily said with urgency and
fear now returning to her voice.

“How much do they know?” Steve continued.


“Very little,” Emily added. “They know Dr. Jameson and I were old friends but not from
where. They know that I lived near Weston but the hospital never came up. One detective however,
named Cunningham, he...”

“Ah yes...Charleston’s answer to Dick Tracy,” Steve added with levity.

“True enough,” Emily replied. “He didn’t seem too convinced though, I think he suspects
I’m hiding something.”

“He may...but there’s nothing he can do about it,” Steve said reassuringly. “His potential
for interference ends at the city limits. Do they even know that Dr. Jameson was a doctor yet?”

“I don’t think so, from what I could gather he didn’t have his credentials on him,” Emily
replied carefully.

“Very good, Dr. Flesher, I appreciate the faith you placed me, it’s just possible that you
may have saved your own life as well as others,” Steve said with earnest professionalism. “I
apologize for having been so abrupt earlier, but I can assure you that it was an absolute necessity.”

“But why?” Emily begged. “Just WHAT is going on around her Mr. Reynolds? I really
would like to know. Not to be a nudge or anything...but I am not accustomed to having old friends
show up on my porch out of the blue and drop dead. Now if you know something about this I
would be most grateful if you would tell me, and now.”

“I can’t tell you everything over the phone, Dr. Flesher,” Steve continued mysteriously.
“We can’t take the remote risk of lines being crossed, it’s too dangerous. What I CAN tell you is
that I do not work for the agency I told you about.”

“Who then...FBI...CIA?” Emily asked with a touch of cynisism.

“No,” Steve said simply. “Now Emily, I still don’t have much time here so listen to me
very carefully and I will tell you what I can at this point...and be advised...there are many things
that I can’t tell you because I simply don’t know them myself. I’m a part of an investigation into
the events of the past two weeks, do you take my meaning?”

“Yes,” Emily replied quietly, her fears now coming to fruition again.

“OK, without going into detail I can also tell you that things just are not adding up...and
they are actually looking worse and worse with each passing day,” Steve went on. “We have
reason to believe, Dr. Flesher, that you yourself may well be in some form of danger from
this...from these incidents.”

“Why...how?” Emily asked urgently. “Mr. Reynolds if I am in danger then...”


“Dr. Flesher, just stay calm and hear me out,” Steve interjected with a calming tone.
“Now...again...I can’t go into detail, but we don’t feel that any danger is immanent. We DO,
however, need to speak with you again. It’s just possible that you might be able to help us with our
work.”

“And just what kind of work is that?” Emily added “Or is THAT a government secret too?”

“Work of a nature that you may find...well...unusual,” Steve said, with what Emily
perceived to be a hint of tease. “However, it’s absolutely imperative that we speak again
tomorrow. Don’t worry about work or your mother, we can take care of it for you. In fact, your
superior has already been sent a notice of your intentions to take an extended vacation owing to
your ‘traumatic incident’ this evening...and it’s likely that he will waste no time in informing your
mother.”

“All right...all right, this has gone far enough,” Emily with growing anger. “I don’t care
who or what you are mister but I do NOT like anyone interfering in my affairs without my
knowing it. Now...if you want me to play along with your little ‘cloak-and-dagger’ fantasies then
you’ve got about two seconds to say something that’ll convince me to.”

“Diane Yost,” Steve said without missing a beat.

Emily did not move...at least her body didn’t.

“Need I say more Doctor?” Steve asked with finality.

“No...no I think I get the message,” Emily said faintly, as if falling through the fog again.
“What do you want me to do?”

“Be at room 1310 of 300 Capital Street tomorrow at exactly nine AM,” Steve said firmly.
“The door will be unlocked, just go in and wait. You’ll have no trouble in finding your way, I
promise.”

“All right...I’ll be there,” Emily said flatly.

“Very good Dr. Flesher...until then,” Steve said before the line suddenly went dead.

Emily gently pulled the receiver away from her head, she was at a total and complete loss
for both words and rational thought. What she had just heard could not be true, she had not given
that name a second or even a first thought for over ten years. Yet, here it was, thrust at her out of
nowhere by a person who was nearly as much of an enigma.

Emily briefly harbored thoughts of calling her mother again to bring her up to speed on all
the strange events of the evening, but in the end, she relented. If she was going to place her faith in
Steve then she was going to have to stick to it. Besides, what possible good could it do to fill her
mother’s mind with as much fear and apprehension as she herself was feeling at present?
Now what? Emily thought.

Having reached the proverbial “point-of-no-return,” Emily felt that she could accomplish
little by standing and staring at a telephone that clearly was not going to yield any further
information, and thus decided upon sleep as her best course of action. It was well past the
“witching hour” before Emily drifted restlessly off to sleep. However, it was a sleep that would
prove to be anything but comforting.

Eight years of forgetting and burying her head in the sand seemed to melt away and old
visions returned to take their revenge upon her subconscious. The jumbled and dismembered
images of the hospital grounds, of long vertical wooden shafts and cold underground cellars filled
her dreams even more vividly than they had eight years prior. Emily had the distinct feeling that
she was free-falling through time and space as a kaleidoscope of half-remembered events swirled
around her.

She saw herself as an infant, happily playing on the grounds of the hospital as patients and
attendants looked on in joy. She remembered her first trip through the giant oak front doors as an
employee and the happiness that swelled within her. The spinning hands of the clock in the
tower...Dr. Jameson’s face following her “baptism of fire”...the spinning hands of the clock. The
hysterical laugh of Diane Yost...the spinning hands of the clock. The long, wooden, vertical shaft
flying past her at lightening fast speed...the hands of the clock spinning in reverse. A large sudden
jolt of electricity and its violent blue waves...the spinning hands of the clock. The grand facade of
the hospital drawing farther, and farther, and farther away from her vision...the hands of the clock
spinning faster...and faster...and faster...CLONG!!!

Emily flew upright so fast that beads of sweat from her brow landed several feet beyond the
foot of her bed. Near the point of hyperventilation, Emily wheezed heavily for several seconds in
the near darkness of her bedroom before she realized where she was. She was drenched in
perspiration, her pulse was running well off the chart and her heart...well...she wondered for a
moment if it was still around.

Trying to regain her bearings, Emily turned to her alarm clock. The glowing digital
numbers told her that it was well past six AM already, though she would have sworn under oath
that her head had first touched the pillow only moments earlier. “time” and “space” now seemed to
be disintegrating into meaningless terms, for it also seemed like only seconds later that Emily
found herself fully clothed and sitting at her kitchen table, unenthusiastically picking away at a
bowl of cold cereal.

The bright rays of sunshine streaming in from the east seemed like a cruel joke to Emily at
this juncture, for she could think of nothing in her present state of mind that would fit such a
display. The morning paper offered no further insight into the previous days events. Emily was,
however, delighted to see that no mention was made of the events of the previous evening either.

Too late to go to press...thank God. Emily thought to herself while forcing another
spoonful of bran flakes into her mouth.

Every other headline and column in the paper was nothing but a black and white blur to
Emily, for her mind might as well have been a million miles away...or at least downtown...for that
was where her thoughts continued to roam. Just what was waiting for her on the thirteenth floor of
the building at 300 Capital Street? Emily could not even recall just where this address was in
downtown Charleston, for her daily activities rarely called for her to go much beyond the east end.

At last, she could delay no longer. Her kitchen wall clock chimed out a classical tune,
informing Emily that it was now eight AM and that her mysterious rendezvous was due to take
place in one hour.

With more than a little apprehension, Emily grabbed her coat, purse, and cars keys and
headed for her door. As if being steered by an unseen force, Emily descended her front stairs,
crossed to her driveway, and minutes later was creeping along the Kanawha Boulevard with the
rest of the rush hour traffic streaming into the center of Charleston.

Thirty minutes and a parking fee later, Emily was walking along the brick sidewalks of
Capital Street, checking the off-and-on numbers on the fronts of some VERY old buildings. As her
trek continued northward, Emily became aware that she was heading for the commercial center of
the city. The number of people walking both around and with her steadily increased as she drew
closer to it.

A simulated antique clock on the west side of the street chimed once to signify that it was
now 8:45 AM. Emily quickened her pace and seconds later was on the north side of the “Triangle”
formed at the intersection of Capital and Lee streets. Emily looked all around in an attempt to
figure out which way should head. Upon turning around and glancing skyward, her question was
swiftly answered. Three bright gold numerals...Three Zero Zero...stared down at her from a
brownish brick veneer.

Though Emily had seen the building many times from the nearby highway, she had never
actually paid much attention to it. Now, standing at its base, she felt utterly dwarfed. The building
was constructed on what was as close to hallowed ground as you would find in a city like
Charleston, for the thirty-some story structure stood upon the very site where the State Capitol
building had burnt to the ground in 1921. A memorial to the fire, surrounded by gardens of roses
and street benches, lay clustered together in the nearby triangle.

Emily had little time to stop and think. Knowing that she only had ten minutes remaining,
she quickly entered the dark, Art Deco-style lobby of the old building and sought out the first
gold-rimmed elevator that she could find. A quick push of the button labeled 13 and the elevator
doors slid closed.

While slowly ascending in the outdated elevator...which clinked and clanked in


nerve-racking synchronism...Emily scanned a floor-by-floor chart of the building posted near the
controls. Curiously, the listing for level thirteen read simply Office Space, no name and no
business.

Before she had time to give the matter much more thought, the rickety ride came to a
sudden, jolting end. The elevator’s doors creaked open to reveal a long line of floor-to-ceiling
windows running the length of the hall in front from left to right. Emily gently stepped from the
elevator and momentarily surveyed the westward facing skyline of Charleston. Below her, she
could make out forms of people hurrying quickly along the sidewalks from one direction to
another...people who were blissfully unaware of what was happening thirteen stories up...people
who were certain to have “normal” days.

As the elevator doors slid closed, Emily turned around in the hall and checked the room
number directions upon a very old, and rusty, wall-mounted sign.

1300-1309: State and Local Services---->


<----1311-1319: Federal and International Services
1310 N.A.A.P.I. Appointments Only Please.---->

Emily did not have the slightest idea what the letters N.A.A.P.I. stood for. Room 1310 was
her destination, however. She turned on her heel and headed down the brightly lit hallway, taking
the first side hall to her left. She was struck by how juxtaposed everything appeared. Brand new
light gray carpet was set against what looked like sixty-year-old wood paneling. Freshly plastered
and painted walls joined with light fixtures hanging that looked like they went up when the
building did. Then, directly before her, a modern simulated wooden door with an ancient, rusted
metal name plate on it. The name plate bore the letters N.A.A.P.I. The flickering fluorescent light
overhead did not serve as a boost to Emily’s confidence.

With nowhere else to turn, Emily reached out and opened the door as though she were
entering another doctor’s office. The interior of the room looked like nothing more than an outer
and inner office combined into one multipurpose work room. One main desk, topped with an older
computer and green shaded lamp stood near the rear of the room. It actually bore a striking
resemblance to a psychiatrist’s office as the walls opposite the desk had two couches pushed
together in form with the “L” shape of the corner.

All told, the office could not have been larger than an average hospital waiting room. Much
more intriguing, however, was the fact that the entire room looked as though it had been frozen in
time. All furnishings and electronics were at least fifteen to twenty years out of date. The carpet of
the office, shag carpet, was a violently bright shade of orange and must have been an inch thick. A
small stack of magazines at one end of the two couches bore the dates 1983 and 1985. Even the
small office-sized television set, which sat atop an old metal filing cabinet, looked like an item
straight out of Emily’s childhood.

Emily wondered if she had just stepped into some kind of time warp, before she noticed a
small sheet of modern-looking, yellow notepad paper laid neatly across the top of the desk. Emily
crossed the room to the desk and leaned over to give the one modern item around her a closer look.
Before reading the paper, she paused to examine the desktop calendar under which it lay. Capped
by a giant red 1986, the calendar also bore three small symbols of flags spread equidistant across
its top. Emily recognized only two of them however, the U.S. and Canadian flags. The third,
consisting of red, white and green stripes was unfamiliar to her. Again, the letters N.A.A.P.I. were
written in formal, blue script beneath the flags.

Giving up on deciphering the contents of the calendar, Emily again focused her attention
on the sheet of notepad paper. Handwritten on it were the words:

Emily Flesher. Please take a seat; I will be right with you. S. Reynolds.

Now knowing that she at least was in the right place, Emily could think of nothing better to
do than take the advice of the note. She backed away from the desk and sat down gently upon one
of the couches opposite. For the next five minutes, nothing happened. Not a sound, not a word, not
even a passing shadow from beneath the door. Emily felt fear encroaching on her again. If this
were some kind of trap then she had walked right into it and now had no chance of escape. Another
five minutes and Emily’s knees were literally knocking. Just as she started to rise up and make a
dash for the door, a voice came over an inter-office speaker.

“Dr. Flesher...sorry to have kept you waiting,” said the voice of Steve Reynolds through
the speaker.

Emily stopped in her tracks and turned around quickly. With rapid left and right darts of
her head she scanned the room for the source of the voice. Her eyes landed upon a small, metal
speaker at one end of the desk.

“M...Mr. Reynolds?” Emily asked the speaker.

“Yes...I’m sorry for the delay,” Steve’s voice said honestly. “Just have seat and I’ll be right
with you in a minute.”

“Wh...what is this place?” Emily asked fearfully. “Where am I?”

“Charleston,” Steve’s voice said in a somewhat eerie tone.

Emily stared around the room, at the ceiling, at the desk, and then back to the couches as
she slowly stepped back and sat down again. The icy chill was returning to her spine.

“Well yes...I know I’m in Charleston,” Emily said, her voice cracking. “That kind of goes
without saying I mean doesn’t it?”

“For now...yes,” Steve’s voice said again. “Just relax Emily. I promise everything will be
explained.”

The speaker crackled and died. The door to Emily’s left suddenly clicked and the light
shining from under it vanished. From somewhere overhead, Emily heard the unmistakable sound
of a metal door sliding open. Her eyes darted to the ceiling, and an instant later thick, heavy, green
smoke started wafting down from an open vent. The putrid smelling gas was so heavy that it
actually seemed to bounce and wobble upon making contact with the floor.

Emily’s head swam. She had to escape...she had to get out...she had been trapped.
However, the instant Emily’s left foot hit the floor, both of her legs failed her and she toppled
forward onto the thick, shag carpet. Her strength bleeding out of her, she tried desperately to grasp
forward and pull herself up, but soon her entire body and mind had gone completely numb. All
turned to green, and then black, as Emily slid out of consciousness for the second time in two days.
Chapter 5
The N.A.A.P.I.

“Ohhh...ugh, gross.”

Emily’s first attempt at opening her eyes did not go so well. A thick layer of sleep and crust
had completely encircled each of them. After several minutes of scratching, rubbing and more than
a little hushed swearing, Emily was finally able to clear her vision and view her surroundings. Had
her throat not been dry from such a long sleep she may well have screamed.

Rather than lying on a thick, orange shag carpet, she was now laying on an ornately curved,
red-cushioned Victorian-style couch inside a well furnished office. Wherever Emily looked, she
saw nothing but more dark, wooden furniture. Large wooden desk, large wooden cabinet, even a
triumvirate of large wooden bookcases stacked to capacity with leather-bound and gold-lettered
books.

Atop the desk sat miniature versions of the three flags which she had seen lining the top of
the calendar in the other room. One U.S. flag, one Canadian, and the red, white and green flag she
still could not identify. The rest of the room did not offer up any useful clues either.

Several bottles and decanters of liquor along with ornate sets of glasses and cups, sat atop
one of the cabinets to the left of the desk. Given her strange new surroundings, Emily was severely
tempted to seize one of the bottles and drain it of its contents.

Hanging on the wall directly behind and above the large desk was a shiny metallic insignia
of some kind. The emblem consisted of a round circle, clearly a symbol for the planet Earth, and a
long, looping banner emblazoned with gold letters spelling out N.A.A.P.I. Fnd. 1969

“Jesus Christ,” Emily managed to spit out after several gasps.

Emily rose up quickly and pivoted around on armless couch. Her head still felt like it was
about to float away, but Emily now had the strong desire to get up and run in whatever direction
was opened to her. Another quick glance around the room revealed a leather-covered door just to
the right of the desk. Without even stopping to think, Emily made a dash for it.

Now near full-blown “panic” mode, Emily pulled the heavy door open and stepped into the
hallway beyond...which bore little resemblance to the room she had just departed. A long, white
hallway, as bright and sterile as an operating room stretched out in front and behind her. All along
the walls hung paintings and photographs of places and people that Emily did not recognize. One
of them was simply a large black-and-white photograph of an ornate dwelling of some kind which
looked like it had fared much better in the days before electricity.

Turning her attention away from the walls and back to flight, Emily began jogging down
the hallway to the left of the room she had just exited. Emily’s woozy condition made it nearly
impossible for her to run. The hallway ended in what looked like a kind of reception area. An
enormous, circular desk, not unlike one you might see in an airport or bank, sat across the room,
and an magnificent artificial waterfall was churning away to her right. Shaped like a gigantic,
shiny black mountainside it must have been at least fifteen feet tall. The water eventually fell into
a large, square pool at its base, a base which appeared to be made of green stone and inlaid with
bronze.

This room, like the hallway, was adorned with paintings and photographs, only there were
fewer of them and they were spaced farther apart. Emily felt she must be losing her mind as she
suddenly became aware that one of the larger pictures, hanging above and to the left of the
fountain, was a color photograph of Richard Nixon.

Further complicating Emily’s comprehension was the emblem to its right, at the center of
the fountain. Another large world globe, this one in blazing silver with oceans of deep metallic
blue sat at the very pinnacle of the display. The same banner as before looped and wound its way
around the sides and bottom of the globe, though this banner looked to be made of highly
roughened and buffed steel. It too was emblazoned with the enigmatic letters N.A.A.P.I.

Directly under the emblem, written in raised, metal letters were the descending words:

“Founded in 1969 for the Express Purpose of


Researching and Investigating Paranormal
Activities.”

Pierre Elliott Truedau


Richard Milhous Nixon
Gustavo Diaz Ordaz

Emily staggered two steps backward as she stared up at the words. She could not for the life
of her believe what she had just read.

“Para...paranormal?” Emily gasped while trying to keep from stumbling. “Oh BOY.”

Emily again scanned the room and noticed a large window to her extreme left. Eager for a
view of the outside world, she ran as fast as she could to it. Upon reaching the large picture
window she found it to be made of glass as least two inches thick. Emily took one look outside and
quickly shut her eyes in horror. Pressing her hands firmly against the window, she took several
deep breaths and then gradually allowed her eyes to open again. The view had not changed...and
she still did not recognize it.

Emily was now gazing out upon a large, far-reaching metropolis cluttered with high and
low rise buildings, several of which looked like they came straight from the streets of Paris. Along
with the many European style structures, modern glass and steel skyscrapers rose up from thick
blankets of trees and winding rivers. Directly to the right, perched atop a large green knoll of
manicured grass, was a rectangular, Victorian style building with a large tower at its center front
and two smaller parapets on either end.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Emily gulped. “Where in the hell am I?”

“Ottawa,” said a familiar voice from behind.

Emily jumped up and around, and gave a loud yelp in surprise.

“It’s not Charleston anymore...but I’ll wager you’ve ascertained that,” said Steve
Reynolds, who now stood before Emily wearing a very out-of-place bright smile.

Emily’s fear vanished and was instantaneously replaced by blossoming anger.

“YOU,” Emily growled with as much hate and loathing in her voice as she could muster.
“You.”

Emily pointed a finger at Steve and slowly began advancing towards him.

“Yes...yes it’s me, Steve,” Steve said without a trace of fear as he matched Emily’s every
move forward with an equal move backwards. “But I think this might be good time to drop the
pretense. My name is not really Steve.”

“I don’t care if your name is George ‘Freaking’ Washington,” Emily grumbled again as she
continued to advance, her finger still pointed at Steve’s heart.

“Well, it’s not important right now I suppose,” Steve said with an even more cavalier tone.
“What’s really important is that you’re here and you’re safe.”

“Oh that’s important is it?” Emily taunted. “That I’m here, HERE...in...in...where in the
hell am I again?”

“Ottawa,” Steve replied while still backing up in rhythm with Emily.

“Ottawa...Ottawa...CANADA!” Emily cried out in recognition.

“Why yes, I do believe it is in Canada,” Steve replied jokingly.

“And just how in the BLOODY HELL did I get to Canada?” Emily growled again.

“By airplane actually,” Steve answered simply.

This simple answer caused Emily to stop in her tracks and think for a moment. She had no
recollection of a plane, or an airport, or anything else for that matter.

“Kidnapped,’ Emily said, now in a more pondering tone. “Do you mean to tell me that I’ve
been KIDNAPPED?”
“Well not really kidnapped actually,” Steve began. “More like saved.”

“From what...the ghost of Christmas past?” Emily spat, beginning to advance slowly and
menacingly on Steve once again.

“I was afraid you might ask a question like that right off the bat,” Steve said calmly.

“OHHH...If only I had a damn bat,” Emily bellowed. “Now…before I get my hands around
your neck you’d best tell me just who you are, and what the hell I am doing in Ottawa!”

“Well, with your hands around my neck it would be rather difficult to talk,” Steve said,
now nearing the end of the room. “So what do you say we just skip that part and stick with the
explanation?”

“First you choke,” Emily said, seething. “Then we talk.”

“I’ll at least try and reverse that,” Steve said, now flat against the far wall of the reception
room. “You were anesthetized by a harmless gas in Charleston and flown here for your own
protection. We were afraid that whatever was killing the other hospital employees might come
after you next, so we had to move fast to get you out of West Virginia. My real name is Nathan
Riley and I work for the North American Association for Paranormal Investigations.”

Nathan managed to spit out this entire explanation in less than ten seconds. Emily was now
within two feet of him.

“Right now you’re inside the command center of the N.A.A.P.I.,” Nathan continued. “And
that’s the long and short of it. Are you satisfied Dr. Flesher?”

“Oh yes...I’m satisfied,” Emily said threateningly.

“Well...that’s a comfort,” Nathan said, ignoring Emily’s malicious tone.

“I’m satisfied that you are a certifiable NUT,” Emily spat back. “And if I didn’t take pity on
mental cases then I would strangle you to death right here and now.”

“My lucky day I suppose,” Steve said with a smile.

“Will you cut out the damned smugness!” Emily roared. “And let me the hell out of here!”

“I’m afraid that’s going to be impossible right at the moment Dr. Flesher,” Steve said. “You
see, unfortunately, we still need your help.”

“No, no, no,” Emily threatened again. “What’s going to be unfortunate is when you don’t
show me to the nearest exit and I have to deprive you of oxygen.”
Suddenly, a door to Emily’s left opened and a tall, stout man in his mid 50s wearing a brown
pinstriped suit appeared in the doorway.

“Dr. Flesher, if you are indeed planning to inflect physical harm upon one of our agents
would you please do it quickly?” the man asked, almost out of boredom and with just a hint of a
British accent. “You see, I am rather displeased with him myself at the moment and wouldn’t mind
giving his neck a good ringing either.”

“You’re too kind Henry,” Nathan said jokingly.

Emily, totally blind-sided by the man’s sudden appearance, stopped in her tracks and
lowered her hands. She stared at the man for several seconds, taking in his aristocratic and
somewhat pompous features. To Emily he looked like a cross between Winston Churchill and Don
Adams. He bore a very distinct air of military professionalism and his poise did little to hide the fact
that he must be either THE man in charge or a very close subordinate.

“Who are YOU?” Emily asked blankly.

“My name is Henry Thompson, Dr. Flesher,” the man answered brusquely. “And, much as
it pains me to do so, would it be too much to ask for you to spare Mr. Riley’s life long enough for us
to offer you a full explanation...as well a glass of brandy?”

Emily’s mind tipped upon its scales and nearly shut down. Somehow, she felt she had just
walked right into a very bad, Sci-fi dime novel or fallen down some modern incarnation of the
Rabbit Hole. She stared at the man who called himself Henry Thompson for a few more seconds,
and then looked back at Mr. Riley, who was still leaning calmly against the wall with his hands in
his pockets. Emily could not make up her mind whether to run for her life or give the men a chance.

“How do I know you are who you say you are?” Emily blurted out.

“Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson began. “If it is proof that you require than I shall be more than
happy to provide all the proof that you will ever need. Then, if you still do not believe us you will be
free to leave.”

Emily milled it over as fast as she could.

“Proof eh?” Emily said, still not believing a word of it. “Proof of ghosts, and haunted
houses, and paranormal activity, and all that stuff?”

“Well no, we’ll save that for later on,” Mr. Thompson said simply. “For the present I seek
only to convince you of who we are and why you are here. I think that I can provide simple enough
proof of that if you will only permit me to do so.”

Emily hesitated.
No...there’s no way in hell this can be real. But, if I hear them out....

“All right...” Emily said with finality. “All right fine. Fine. I’ll play along Mr. Thompson.
So go ahead…convince me.”

Mr. Thompson merely smiled at Emily, backed up inside of the small room from which he
had emerged, and looked as though he were pressing a button.

“All personnel, secure from Station Keeping,” Mr. Thompson spoke into the wall.

The reception area and the nearby hallways suddenly roared to life. All manner of humanity
began pouring out from behind closed doors. Men and women, old and young, all dressed in a
variety of professional or medical-type attire swarmed the room. Many of them carried files or
folders with them, and several started up small conversations with one another as though things had
never stopped for them.

Two female employees, dressed in red and grey attire typical of receptionists and
secretaries, stepped in behind the large circular desk and took their places behind what resembled a
small communications center. Computer consoles, at least six separate telephone lines, security
monitors and various other pieces of electronic and clerical equipment crowed the top of the
circular desk space.

“Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said while gesturing back down the hall with his hand. “If you
will accompany me to my office, I shall present you with your proof.”

Having little alternative, Emily slowly stepped forward as Mr. Thompson lead her through
the reception area and back up the hallway from which she originally came. The man she now knew
as Nathan followed close behind. Mr. Thompson stopped at the opened door from which Emily had
emerged before and stepped inside. He then motioned for her and Nathan to do likewise.

“I thought that my Edwardian couch might provide a more comfortable alternative to some
of our guest rooms,” Mr. Thompson said politely. “I’m sorry that we had to bring you hear in such
a clandestine fashion Dr. Flesher...but I can assure you that it was only undertaken as a last resort.”

“Hmm...so, kidnapping is not a normal part of your daily routine?” Emily asked smartly.

“Oh hardly,” Mr. Thompson said while approaching the liquor cabinet. “Normally we
prefer to keep as low a profile as possible. Unfortunately, present circumstances have called for
more drastic measures I’m afraid.”

“Present circumstances?” Emily asked blankly.

“Stout...or perhaps a brandy?” Mr. Thompson asked as though he had not even heard
Emily’s question.
“No thank you,” Emily said quickly.

“Whiskey and soda?” Mr. Thompson asked.

“NO thank you,” Emily replied more forcefully.

“Right then,” Mr. Thompson said with a note of displeasure. “You don’t mind if I do?”

“By all means,” Emily spat. “I don’t care if you swill gin til you’re pickled…though I would
prefer if we could skip the cocktail hour and get right to the proof if you don’t mind,”

“Ah yes, of course, your proof,” Mr. Thompson said before taking a rather large swig of gin
and tonic and turning to face his desk. “Mr. Senator, are you still on the line sir?”

“Yes Henry, I’m still here,” said a voice from Mr. Thompson’s phone.

Emily could not move. She knew that voice...heck, everyone probably knew that voice.
Rather than a comfort, the sound of it sent the chills down her spine faster than ever before. It was
not possible, it was just not possible, but this whole thing might actually be true.

“Oh my...” Emily softly muttered.

“You see, Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said as if beginning a college lecture “in our
organization, we are required to maintain contact with at least five key governmental figures in each
state or province. Senators, congressmen, governors, attorneys general, so on and so forth. They aid
us in cutting through the red tape that would otherwise inhibit us from carrying out our work
efficiently. In the state of West Virginia, for example, our MAIN contact is in the U.S. Senate, and
he is, at this very moment, on the line waiting to speak with you.”

Emily stood up and slowly walked over to Mr. Thompson’s desk. She gingerly lowered her
head so that she could see the video phone into which Mr. Thompson was speaking.

“I would be more than happy to engage the video monitor if you would like,” Mr.
Thompson asked vaguely.

“No, no...not necess...not eh...no thanks,” Emily stammered before speaking into the phone.
“Hello.”

“Dr. Flesher?” said the VERY familiar voice on the other end.

“Ye...yes sir,” Emily gasped. “Yes sir Senator, this is Emily Flesher. It’s ah...it’s an honor to
speak to you sir.”

“Thank you so much Dr. Flesher,” the Senator said, slowly and politely. “Now then, Ms.
Flesher, I want to assure you that you are in absolutely no danger whatsoever. I’ve dealt with Mr.
Thompson here and the N.A.A.P.I on several occasions and I can promise you that you are in very
capable hands. I too am sorry that you had to be moved from Charleston like you were, but I assure
you that if they say it was for your own protection then you may take that to heart without
reservation.”

“Yes...yes sir,” Emily continued, still somewhat in awe and shock. “I eh...think I’m
beginning to realize that now.”

“Mr. Thompson has already briefed me on the things that he is going to discuss with you,”
the Senator continued. “I implore you Dr. Flesher, if you can help them in any way shape or form
then by all means do so. For my own part, I can only tell you that it is a matter of the highest
urgency and that lives may still be at stake.”

“Including my own?” Emily asked quietly.

“I DO hope that is not the case Dr. Flesher,” the Senator replied earnestly. “I promise you
that I will do everything I can from MY end, but it’s your help that is needed most right now. Dr.
Flesher, I hope that by talking with you I have, in some small way, eased your pain and fear to some
extent.”

“Yes...yes sir I...I think I can relax now,” Emily said with an exhale.

“Not yet I’m afraid,” the Senator said. “Henry, I leave it to you from here. Call the red line if
you need me for anything.”

“Yes sir Senator, thank you,” Mr. Thompson replied before switching the telephone off.
“Well now, Dr. Flesher, about that brandy...”

“NO,” Emily blurted while jerking her head upright. “Scotch...and make it a double.”

With pleasure,” Mr. Thompson replied, a touch of refined glee just slipping through.

Emily slowly returned to the couch and sat down, her mind reeling and her wits utterly
spent.

“I...I swear to God I can’t believe this,” Emily said in a higher octave than before. “I just
cannot believe it.”

“Hmm...belief is not always a necessity in our field Dr.. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said in a
fatherly tone while pouring Emily’s drink. “I’m not sure that I myself believe every account that
passes through this office. Truth and fact are often ingredients in which we are sorely lacking.”

Mr. Thompson turned from the bar and crossed the room to take Emily her drink. Without
hesitation, Emily snatched the glass from Mr. Thompson’s hand.
“I do believe one thing strongly, however,” Mr. Thompson said knowingly.

“What’s that?” Emily said mid-tilt.

“I believe that you had best have something to eat before you...” Mr. Thompson started
before Emily swallowed the entire double drink in three deep gulps.

“Don’t worry...I think that might actually keep me from fainting,” Emily said while rotating
her neck and allowing her drink to settle.

Mr. Thompson gave another light-hearted yet refined chuckle and returned to his desk.

“Well,” Emily began carefully. “I uh, I think my nerves are capable of handling a full
explanation now. So just why have I been brought here, aside from my own protection?”

“Emily,” Nathan suddenly interjected while emerging from the shadows in the rear of the
room and moving towards Mr. Thompson’s desk. “As you now know, we have been looking into
the incidents around Weston for the past two weeks. I’ll be as candid as I can here…we simply have
not made as much headway as we would have hoped. However, your name has crept up several
times.”

“In what way?” Emily asked curiously.

“Many of the former employees I talked with personally spoke very highly of you,” Nathan
continued. “I was told that if anyone could provide accurate and objective first hand information it
was you.”

“But I still don’t follow,” Emily said somewhat hopelessly. “First hand information about
what? I mean it’s obvious you already know about my little initiation in Ms. Yost’s case. Granted, it
was an unusual incident but nothing too far off the scale.”

“I am afraid at this point I have to make another confession,” Nathan said while gently
lowering his head.

“One of many I daresay,” Mr. Thompson added with a mild hint of tease.

“Thank you Henry, I know I can always count on you to throw me an anchor when I’m
drowning,” Nathan said with some indignation.

“Don’t mention it ol’ fellow,” Mr. Thompson said with only mild humor.

“Ok, what are you getting at?” Emily asked. “Confess what?”

“I do not know much about Diane Yost’s case other than her name and physician,” Nathan
admitted heavily. “I am sorry for misleading you again Dr. Flesher, but it was the only card I had up
my sleeve at that point and I was desperate to prevent anything from happening to you.”

“Do you actually think that all of these deaths are connected to Diane?” Emily asked
skeptically.

“We do not know anything for certain at this point Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said with a
return to marked professionalism. “That is precisely the reason it was so imperative that we prevent
harm from befalling you.”

“While we don’t know for a fact that any of this is related to either you or Diane Yost,”
Nathan added. “Certain things HAVE pointed in that direction.”

“Such as?” Emily asked automatically.

“Two nights ago...the night that Herbert Jameson showed up on your doorstep,” Nathan
went on. “He made a wild reference to something concerning Diane, something that happened in
1992. He was so shaken up by that point that I could not extract any other pieces of the puzzle.”

“Quite so, and I believe it is now time for another confession and apology, Nathan,” Mr.
Thompson said.

“Yes,” Nathan added with regret. “Emily, I am also afraid it’s my fault that Dr. Jameson
showed up at your home to begin with. I mentioned your name in order to jar him into talking. He
panicked, escaped from my custody and made straight for your home…and just WHY he would run
straight to your home...I have not the slightest idea.”

“As you can plainly see Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson began with a degree of urgency, “We
are in great need of any additional information you can provide to us. If we are to get to the bottom
of these deaths and prevent more from occurring then we must trace the events back to their
source.”

“Emily,” Nathan began calmly. “Just who was Diane Yost?”

The gears in Emily’s mind jammed yet again. Ten years of smoke and mist were now
descending all around her, obscuring details and hiding memories of those awful few days.
She did not want to speak of it at all.

“I...I don’t know,” Emily stammered. “I don’t know if I can even go into that
Stev...eh...Nathan...whoever you are. It’s been over ten years now but doctor/patient privilege is
absolute.”

“Yes,” Mr. Thompson said. “But, point of fact, you were not a practicing physician at that
time were you Dr. Flesher?”
“Well...” Emily stalled and stuttered. “Well no, but...”

“And seeing as how the ACTUAL attending physician as well as the patient in question are
now deceased...” Nathan added.

“I...” Emily strained. “I don’t know. I suppose…but I don’t even remember the entire
episode. Even if I did I’m still not so sure I should talk about it.”

“Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said with greater force. “I must impress upon you once again
the importance of accurate information at this juncture. If you do not help us then I cannot guarantee
you that come December, every former hospital employee...including more of your close
friends...will not have departed this world prematurely. Now are you actually willing to stake
further lives upon a questionable legal technicality?”

Cut to the quick, Emily lowered her own head and took a very deep breath.

“No...no of course not,” Emily relented. “Diane Yost was the first patient assigned to me. It
was one week after I started and Dr. Jameson felt it would be an ideal case for me to begin with.
Ha...I guess we all DO make our little mistakes now and then don’t we Mr. Riley?”

“He did not offer any further reason than that?” Mr. Thompson asked.

“No,” Emily said emphatically. “He did not. It looked cut and dry to me too. The girl had
seen her parents and brother die and was withdrawing, simple enough I thought. However, two days
after I first spoke with her she took a turn for the worse, and then two days after that she either
committed suicide or...or...”

“Yes?” Nathan asked gently.

“I...I...” Emily sputtered while racking her brain and grasping at thin wisps of memories.
“Oh Christ I can’t remember exactly. She died on a Saturday night...I think. She got out of her room
somehow and...and...dah! I just don’t remember.”

“Emily,” Nathan pleaded. “It’s important that you at least try.”

“Please, TRY and understand THIS,” Emily retorted, now approaching tears again. “I have
spent the last ten years of my life trying to forget that any of this ever happened. I don’t really relish
the idea of resurrecting old memories of imaginary friends and ghost diaries and secret underground
laboratories...”

“OF WHAT!?” Mr. Thompson blurted out in amazement.

Emily was startled by Mr. Thompson’s abrupt outburst. His eyes now widened as if
something he had just heard had shaken his mind to its foundations. Likewise, Nathan was now
staring at Emily with a gaping mouth, though she was totally oblivious as to why.
“Huh?” Emily asked blankly.

“Nathan,” Mr. Thompson said after turning his eyes to Mr. Riley. “Did Dr. Jameson not say
something about a book or journal?”

“Yes,” Nathan said seriously. “I couldn’t make much out of it though; he dodged
whenever I tried to bring it back up.”

“Emily,” Mr. Thompson said, addressing Emily by her surname for the first time. “You said
‘ghost diaries’?”

“I did?” Emily said blankly.

“Yes, just now,” Nathan added quickly.

“I...I don’t even remember saying it, I...” Emily said while rocking back and forth on the
couch and trying to recall her words of only ten seconds previous. “Yes, yes, something about a
book, no, no a diary. It eh...Diane found it and...eh she...”

“Please Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said urgently. “These are exactly the types of details
which may be crucial.”

“For God’s sake!” Emily half-screamed and half-wailed. “I just CANNOT REMEMBER!
Damn it to hell I don’t even WANT to remember! I saw a young girl go from a curable state to the
bottom of the heap in less than three days. It was my first assignment and I FAILED IT, so it’s not
a memory I was too keen on saving for posterity!”

“Emily,” Nathan calmly intervened. “Emily calm down, it’s ok.”

Emily abruptly stood up and began to pace around the couch, one hand held under chin the
other madly stroking her hair. Trying to draw upon these memories was like trying to extract useful
information from a slice of Swiss cheese. Her mind was now virtually lost in a fog of its own.

“I just,” Emily said helplessly. “I just can’t think. I mean, one day her prognosis looks
perfect and within forty eight hours it’s shot to hell.”

“Well what happened during those forty-eight hours Em?” Nathan asked with urgent
politeness.

“I just cannot remember,” Emily said with utter despair before slumping back upon the
couch and burying her head in her hands. “I was told to keep away from her for two days to help
with her treatment and when I went back to see her she was an absolute wreck...and before long so
was I.”
“Dr. Jameson told you to stay away from Ms. Yost for two days?” Nathan asked with some
surprise.

“Yes,” Emily said. “Something about not wanting me around for the early stages of a
treatment he was planning. He didn’t want her to associate me with it in case it didn’t work.”

“Did he tell you just what his treatment was going to consist of?” Nathan asked with
increased interest.

Emily again buried her face fully inside of her hands. Pressing, massaging and caressing,
she tried desperately to extract more details from her mind while at the same time attempting to
hold back her emotions which were ready to spill out in force. Probing her mind with the tips of her
fingers seemed to be yielding little more than a growing migraine.

“I don’t think so,” Emily said, now becoming more and more exhausted. “He was always a
little old-fashioned in some of his methods though. I don’t mean ‘drilling holes’ and’ rubber rooms’
old-fashioned, he was just more of a traditionalist. Inherited from his father I guess. My mother
always told me that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.”

Mr. Thompson gave a significant sigh and gently leaned back in his reclining chair. He and
Nathan exchanged meaningful glances with one another before breaking the silence.

“I think we may finally be hitting upon something Nathan,” Mr. Thompson said seriously.

“I agree, I’ll get a research team onto these name and dates,” Nathan added. “It’s not a
smoking gun but at least it’s a start.”

“All of the usual sources Nate,” Mr. Thompson said, now in full ‘business’ mode. “Birth
and death records, news clippings, medical reports if they aren’t buried. Anything at all from
February 1992.”

Hearing these words, Emily attempted to bring herself back into the mix despite her choppy
memory.

“I am sorry, I wish to hell I could remember more,” Emily said.

“What was this about imaginary friends?” Mr. Thompson asked with great curiosity.

“Uh,” Emily forced her mind to its limits. “Diane was hallucinating...and...she said she saw
a person or something and talked to it...or her.”

“Her?” Mr. Thompson asked. “Diane’s imaginary friend was a girl then?”

“Yes,” Emily said, now recalling the incident a little more clearly. “Yes, she said it was a
former patient or something and...something about this diary or journal but...I swear to it’s all a blur
now. I just can’t put all of the pieces of it together anymore.”

“It is absolutely critical that we try Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said. “The chain of events
to which you are referring may well be the keystone of this entire affair. And at any rate, we simply
cannot continue an investigation into such treacherous territory without at least some kind of road
map.”

“Accurate information on day-to-day activities at the hospital is NOT easy to come by


Emily,” Nathan added. “But it is JUST that kind of information that we desperately need. I mean, I
could compile two or three mountain-sized stacks of official reports, medical requisitions and even
a detailed diagram of the hospital’s sprinkler system if I wanted to...but all of that put together
would not be as helpful as personal, first-hand information. Emily...please, you need to try, we’re
not exaggerating when we say that this is a matter of life and death.”

Emily shook her head wildly as though she were trying to empty its contents onto the floor.

“Yes, yes I understand,” Emily said in total frustration. “But it’s no use. The memories,
they’re just not there. Or, if they are, I can’t get to them. I’m sorry.”

“The matter cannot simply be left to die on that note,” Mr. Thompson said.

“Well I don’t know what else I can do,” Emily said with an angry note of defeat. “Do either
of you experts have any ideas? Perhaps one of you could just shove a spoon through my ear and
extract what you’re looking for?”

“Emily,” Nathan asked as though walking on pins and needles. “Would you be willing to
undergo clinical hypnosis?”

“Undergo what?” Emily asked, Nathan’s words not fully registering yet.

“Hypnosis, Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson broke in. “It’s essential that we sort these facts out.
While I’m always hesitant to pull this particular sword from the scabbard, I too am convinced
myself that it may be the only course of action left open to us.”

Emily raised her head up a bit while taking in Mr. Thompson’s last few words. Having seen
hypnotic sessions performed on television, the prospect seemed far more practical than her spoon
idea.

“Ok,” Emily said hesitantly. “Sure, sounds reasonable enough.”

“It is however, not without some emotional risks,” Mr. Thompson added, carefully keeping
his tones as serious as possible.

“How so?” Emily asked woefully.


“You said yourself that you purposely pushed these memories from your mind,” Mr.
Thompson continued. “If you agree to hypnosis then it’s quite probable that these repressed
thoughts will be brought back to the forefront of your mind. It may be rather unpleasant. I foresee
that we have more than enough ordeals facing us in the near future. So I do not wish to overburden
you needlessly with so many uncertainties still before us.”

Emily had to stop again and think. While many of the details of those days in 1992 had left
her mind, the emotions attached to them had not. Her feelings of dread, sadness, fear and failure
were still very much present. So what would happen if the images and sounds of that time period
once again played out inside of her head? Just what would she remember? What would she say?
What would she do? What would she feel? More importantly, however...

“Do I have any other choice?” Emily asked with finality.

“None that I can see, no,” Nathan added with regret.

“Well then, grab a pocket watch and let’s get to it,” Emily said with false vigor.
Chapter 6
Distant Memories

On television, as well as in airport hotels, hypnotic sessions, as Emily knew them...usually


consisted of a man or woman dressed in a tuxedo and some dumb schmuck from the audience who
was desperate for five minutes of attention. Normally, the magician would swing a small gold
watch or other shiny object to and fro in front of the subject while chanting long, drawn out words
in a monotone. Then, after a few minutes...or sometimes seconds...the subject’s head would drop
forward and he or she would then be made to act like a chicken or a dog for a while. Amusing
enough.

Emily’s hypnotic session, however, did not appear to be heading down this avenue. Barely
ten minutes after agreeing to undergo the treatment, Emily found herself in another Victorian-
styled room, lying on another cushy and red-velvet covered couch. Slow, soft, violin music was
emanating from some well concealed speaker system, and the entire room reeked of cinnamon
incense. Emily’s head had begun to swim even before it had made contact with the extra soft
curvature of the couch.

“Just relax now Ms. Flesher,” said a man in brown sweater and white dress shirt. “For now
just get comfortable and let your muscles adjust to the cushions. We’re in no hurry here.”

Emily’s hypnotist looked to be somewhere between fifty and sixty years old. His hair
consisted of much more salt then pepper, lines were beginning to stretch from his forehead to his
neck, and the thin pince-nez glasses on his nose gave him a very distinct “tell me about your
mother” aura. A small bronze tag attached to his sweater read Dr. Archibald Fielding,
Parapsychologist.

“Yes Doctor,” Emily said with politeness as she tried to let her body unwind. “I don’t
suppose I could have another scotch before we do this could I?”

“I’m afraid not Ms. Flesher,” Dr. Fielding replied with a hint of humor. “Any additional
alcohol in your system might interfere with your thought processes. We need your mind clear and
your mouth dry.”

Emily sighed heavily, resigning herself as much as she could to what was coming. Role
reversal did not suit Emily one bit. She was more accustomed to listening to patients than playing
the part of one. Just how much was she about to reveal...or worse yet...remember, about the things
she had tried to forget? For that matter, just what HAD she managed to forget?

“Now just relax Ms...” Dr. Fielding began.

“Doctor,” Emily said, unaware that she was even now slipping slowly into a hypnotic state.
“Doctor Flesher...I’m a doctor first and then a Miss.”

From about ten feet away, Nathan could not help but chuckle. A quick nudge to his ribs by
Mr. Thompson quickly brought his snickers to a hushed end.

“Yes, yes of course Dr. Flesher,” Dr. Fielding said soothingly. “Now just relax your head
and neck and focus as much as you can on my voice.”

Dr. Fielding held his left hand up in the air and silently snapped his fingers. On cue, the
lights in the room dimmed. Only three small incandescent lamps directly over Emily’s couch
remained aglow. Still unseen, the violin music suddenly seemed to be coming not from just one or
two sources but from virtually every nook and cranny of the room.

“You may close your eyes Emily if it’s more comfortable,” Dr. Fielding said calmly. “Just
let them slide closed and stay focused on my voice, on my words, on my tone. Do you feel drowsy
now Emily?”

“Ye...yes,”’ Emily said, trying as hard as she could to remain in the here-and-now but
failing miserably.

Despite Emily’s best efforts at remaining coherent, the room and its occupants slowly began
to sink into a wavy and inky mire. Like hot water being poured onto an oil painting, Emily’s vision
and perception of the present slowly began to melt away with each of Dr. Fielding’s words. Her
mind protested every step of the way.

No...no...have to hang on...don’t want to go back...don’t want to go back...

“Can you still hear my voice...’Miss’ Flesher?” Dr. Fielding asked pointedly.

No...no, go away...don’t make me do this please...please...

“Yes,” Emily said, her voice now almost a complete monotone.

Nathan’s eyebrows rose instinctively but he and Mr. Thompson remained still.

“Emily, Emily can you still hear me now?” Dr. Fielding asked after a few quiet seconds.

Say no...just say no...fight it Emily...fight it...

“Yes,” Emily said softly.

“Very good,” Dr. Fielding said. “You are now very sleepy, very tired. Just let your mind
relax and don’t think about anything except for my voice. Block out everything else Emily. All you
can hear is my voice...all you can hear...is the sound of my voice. Emily, what do you hear?”

“Your voice,” Emily said, now fully under the hypnotic spell.

Inside Emily’s head, two opposing forces were now drawing up arms against one another.
One force commanded Emily to remain steadfast and not allow her mind to be pierced, while the
other side told her to lay down her arms and submit.

“Yes,” Dr. Fielding said with a bit more authority. “Emily, my voice is now in control. My
voice will tell your mind where to go. Do you understand?”

Let me stay here...oh please just let me stay here...it’s too much...I cannot go through it
again...please.

“Yes,” Emily said without even the slightest change in tone or volume.

The forces of “remain steadfast” inside of Emily’s head were now capitulating and giving
way. While Emily was still able to hear Dr. Fielding and feel the comfortable velvet beneath her
neck, they were now accompanied by the sensation of free floating within a vacuum. Her body felt
as though it were doing pirouettes and somersaults at will. Multicolored flashes now crept into her
mind and appeared to swirl and burst in rhythm with the omnipresent violin.

“Emily what year is it now?” Dr. Fielding asked simply.

“2002,” Emily said.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding said with the tone of a schoolmaster. “When you hear me snap my
fingers, it will no longer be 2002, it will instead be 1992. You will be back in Weston and back at
the hospital. Do you understand me Emily? 1992...Weston...at the hospital.”

No...It’s too painful...no please, I don’t want to see it again...I don’t want to feel it again.
I’m dizzy, I can’t stop spinning...please just let me stay here...please…

“1992...Weston...the hospital,” Emily repeated in subconscious acknowledgment.

“That’s correct,” Dr. Fielding replied. “Now when I snap my fingers, you will once again be
able to speak and think...and it will be early February of 1992. My voice will be your guide and you
will respond only to it. Do you understand me Emily?”

“Yes,” Emily said.

Dr. Fielding lifted his left hand into the air. For a few seconds it remained still then, with the
report of a small caliber rifle shot, he snapped his fingers.

NO...NO, I beg you please...I don’t want to go back...I don’t wan...OHHHHHH

Emily’s inner monologue died abruptly and all at once the lights came back up, the violin
music died, and her eyes flew open. However, her eyes were no longer the wizened, confident eyes
of Emily Flesher, 34, MD LPN, but rather the timid and naive eyes of Emily Flesher, 24, LPN,
WVU 1990, WHS1986.
“Hello Doctor Flesher, how are you?” Dr. Fielding asked brightly.

A blank and confused expression crossed Emily’s face. She could not understand how
anyone could confuse HER for a doctor so early in her career. Sweet though, she thought playfully

“Uh...hello, I’m fine,” Emily said in a slightly quicker and higher tone. “But I’m afraid
you’re confusing with someone else. I’m only a nurse...and a new nurse at that.”

Emily’s tone and pace now sounded exactly as it had in 1992. It was faster, with much more
of a varying range of volume and pitch. While speaking, her eyes continued to widen and lighten up
and their sparkle practically doubled inside of five seconds. In her own mind, Emily was now a 24
year old babe of the woods at Weston Hospital with her entire life and wildest dreams still before
her.
“Oh I’m sorry Miss, my mistake,” Dr. Fielding said with heavy politeness. “Now
then...nurse Flesher...how are things going?”

“Seven days and I’m still kicking,” Emily said brightly. “So I guess that’s a good thing.”

“I’m afraid I’m still getting used to the changeover...its 1992 now is it not?” Dr. Fielding
asked with mock honesty.

“Yeah, for over a month now,” Emily said with some playfulness. “Guess time really does
stand still around here for some people.”

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding said, returning to his authoritative tone. “When I snap my fingers you
will return to your trance but you will still be able to hear me.”

Without pausing for even a second, Dr. Fielding raised his arm and snapped his fingers.
Emily’s eyes went out of focus and her expression sagged. She was now staring at nothing
whatsoever...and feeling the same thing.

“Emily, I want you to tell me about the day when you met Diane Yost, all right?” Dr.
Fielding asked.

“Yes,” Emily said, her voice now back in a monotone.

“What day was that exactly?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“February tenth,” Emily replied blankly.

“Good,” Dr. Fielding said. “Emily, I want you to go back to the instant you left Diane for the
first time, can you do that for me?”

“Yes,” Emily replied.


“Ok now, on my mark again,” Dr. Fielding said before again raising his hand and snapping
his fingers.

Emily’s bright expression returned and her eyes came back to life with even more sparkle
than before. The look on her face now was not just one of happiness, but of unbridled joy.

“Now Emily, you’ve just left Diane’s room, how do you feel?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“I’m happy, I’m thrilled!” Emily said with enthusiasm. “She’s going to be OK I can tell.”

“How can you tell?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“She’s talking, she’s talking about the fire and her parents both,” Emily said through her
joy. “She’s not repressing at all hardly. She’s still sad and shaken...but she’s TALKING!”

“Good, good,” Dr. Fielding said. “Emily that’s wonderful, I’m glad for you. This was your
first case, right?”

“Yup,” Emily said. “You betcha. Score one for Emily. HAH...I did it...I did it!”

Dr. Fielding allowed himself to smile at Emily’s joy before again lifting his hand and
sending her back into her trance.

“OK, very good Emily you’re doing fine,” Dr. Fielding said reassuringly. “Now, when did
you see Diane in person again?”

“On Thursday,” Emily said in her monotone.

“That was a little over two days later, correct?” Dr Fielding asked carefully.

“Yes,” Emily replied.

“Now Emily, this is very important,” Dr. Fielding said with more seriousness than before. “I
want you to go back to that day...specifically...I want you to go back to the very moment you first
felt that something might be wrong. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” Emily said without hesitation.

“Good....now then,” Dr. Fielding said.

With another snap of Dr. Fielding’s fingers, Emily’s mind again landed back in 1992. This
time, however, her expression went to one of puzzlement.

“Emily, what are you doing and what are you seeing?” Dr. Fielding asked point blank.
“What is not as it should be?”

“It’s...it’s my mailbox, there’s no follow-up report yet,” Emily said with mixed concern and
confusion. “It should have been here by now. That’s not like Dr. Jameson; he’s a stickler for
protocol.”

“What report is this again Emily?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“His report on Diane,” Emily replied with a hint of deeper concern creeping into her voice.
“He said he would have it here by this morning. Something’s not right here.”

For a few seconds Emily made no sound at all though her eyes continued to dart around the
room and deepen with a look of foreboding.

“Emily, what are you doing now?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“I shouldn’t be doing this,” Emily said, “But I’ve got to go check on her. I hope she’s
not...ooooooh. God...brrr”

“What is it, Emily?” Dr. Fielding asked with heightened curiosity.

“It’s so cold up here,” Emily said with a shiver. “My God, there’s no heat at all. I can see my
own breath. This is freaky; it feels like a morgue up here.”

“Is it normal for this hallway to be unheated?” Dr. Fielding asked calmly.

“Good lord no,” Emily said. “It’s like a steam room downstairs and a freezer up here...and
it’s so dark. I swear I think nearly all the lights are...”

Emily stopped mid-sentence, her look of confusion and concern sank rapidly and she went
silent and rigid.

“Emily, what’s happening?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“I hear...I hear...” Emily said slowly, trying to figure something out. “Something, it sounds
like a bird...or a child or...OH MY GOD, DIANE!”

Emily started to breathe heavily. Dr. Fielding instantly raised his hand and snapped his
fingers. Emily again relaxed.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding said in an even more serious tone. “Emily, listen to me closely. What
did you hear?”

“Diane, she was singing...and...humming,” Emily said calmly.


“What did you do next?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“Went to her room,” Emily replied.

“And what did you see then?” Dr. Fielding asked carefully. “Describe it for me in your own
words first.”

“She’s...she’s sitting on her bed,” Emily continued in her emotionless tone. “She looks bad.
She’s rocking back and forth, humming and singing. She doesn’t even see me, she doesn’t even
know I’m in the room. She looks bad...really bad. She looks and sounds like she’s snapped.”

“Is she saying anything?” Dr. Fielding continued.

“No,” Emily replied. “No, just humming and singing.”

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding said earnestly. “Pay very, VERY close attention to me. I need for you
to tell me what Diane is doing and saying over the next few minutes. I’m going to guide you here,
follow my voice and move forward ONLY when I tell you, understand?”

“Yes,” Emily replied.

“Good,” Dr. Fielding said.

SNAP. Emily was back in 1992...and she looked every bit of it.

“Emily, explain to me what you are doing and saying to Diane until I tell you to stop,” Dr.
Fielding said.

“She’s...she’s going to fall off the bed,” Emily said with fear in her voice. “I...I’ve stopped
her, but she’s frightened, she’s very frightened and I don’t know why. She doesn’t even remember
me. I...I don’t understand, this is not right it’s....”

“Stop,” Dr. Fielding said calmly. “Now Emily, tell me exactly what you said to Diane, word
for word.”

In the back of the room, Nathan and Mr. Thompson now braved movement. Mr. Thompson
slid closer so that he could see and hear Emily better. Nathan did likewise, but he also pulled a
notepad and pencil out of his coat pocket and started scribbling with lightning speed as Emily began
an eerie sort of subliminal dictation.

“Diane?” Emily said as she did in 1992. “Diane, remember me? I’m Emily, your friend.
Yes...yes friend...I saw you here, the other night. You and I are friends...remember?”

Emily’s eyes suddenly widened and she looked like she was recoiling in fright. SNAP.
Emily went back into her trance.
“Emily...did Diane know you by now?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“Yes…she remembered me then,” Emily replied.

“What did she say?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“She said that she had told her friend I was nice,” Emily said automatically.

“Who did she mean?” Dr. Fielding asked with false naivety.

“I don’t know,” Emily said plainly.

Like a swimmer preparing for the plunge, Dr. Fielding took a deep, bracing breath. The
veins in his temples now came into full prominence.

“Now, Emily,” Dr. Fielding said slowly. “Did Diane say anything else that you found
strange or unusual, and if so...what?”

“She told me she had met a new friend in her room,” Emily said in perfect rhythm. “She told
me Dr. Jameson and other doctors did bad things to people under the hospital. She said her friend
had seen it, and she had seen it too. She said her friend had shown her where a diary of these events
was hidden...”

“Stop,” Dr. Fielding interjected.

Emily froze mid-sentence and returned to her trance.

“What was this diary and where was it hidden?” Dr. Fielding asked directly.

“A record of what doctors did to patients years ago,” Emily replied. “It was hidden behind
the baseboard in her room.”

“Was the baseboard loose or open?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“Yes,” Emily said with no more emotion than before.

All three men collectively inhaled and the tension in the room soared.

“You saw this yourself Emily?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“Yes,” Emily said.

“Did Diane tell you WHO her friend was?” Dr. Fielding asked calmly.
“Yes...her name was Mary,” Emily replied.

“Last name?” Dr. Fielding said.

“No last name,” Emily replied.

A collective exhale all around. Nathan scribbled wildly on his pad while Dr. Fielding took
another deep breath, straightened his glasses, and hunkered down.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding said. “Did Diane say anything else unusual?”

“She said she promised her friend Mary that she would never tell anyone what she saw until
later,” Emily continued.

“Did she tell you where the diary was hidden now?” Dr. Fielding asked.

Emily went silent. The gears inside of her head suddenly seemed to jam up for no reason.
She started to shake and quiver. Her lips began to twitch and beads of sweat appeared on her brow.

“N...n...I...I don’t know I...” Emily said in manic confusion.

“You don’t know?” Dr. Fielding asked, a bit puzzled himself at Emily’s overreaction to a
simple question.

“No I...I...it’s not clear I...can’t tell,” Emily said while becoming more and more frenzied.

“Emily, did Diane ever tell you in person where the book was hidden?” Dr. Fielding asked
quickly.

Emily’s mind jumped out it jammed state. Her twitching and jittering ceased and she
returned to her state of complete calm.

“No,” Emily said simply.

“I see,” Dr. Fielding said with enigmatic curiosity. “Now, did something prompt you to
leave Diane’s room?”

“Yes, I felt Diane’s friend pass by me and then I ran,” Emily said.

Dr. Fielding’s eyebrows shot straight up. He raised his arm, SNAP, and Emily’s face flew
into an expression of terror and fright.

“OH MY GOD...NO...DIANE NO...AHHH!” Emily wailed upon her mind’s return to 1992.
“No...LET ME OUT OF HERE!”
SNAP, Emily went calm again.

“Emily, relax for exactly one minute,” Dr. Fielding said before turning to face Nathan and
Mr. Thompson. “Well gentleman, I think we have made some headway. Clearly a paranormal
encounter. She’s obviously had good reason to repress these memories.”

“And how,” Nathan said after jotting down a final note.

“We need to know more about this book and her friend,” Mr. Thompson said with renewed
urgency.

“I don’t think we’ll get much more on that, Henry,” Dr. Fielding said simply.

“Yes, but, when you pressed her on the diary’s location...” Mr. Thompson continued with
his own air of curiosity.

“Yes,” Dr. Fielding said while pondering the issue. “There might be something there, but I
don’t think we should press it just now. She reacted too violently, and I’m not certain her mind
could stand it a second time. It’s just too risky.”

“But what do you think it means?” Mr. Thompson asked.

Dr. Fielding placed his fingers on his chin and went silent for a moment while considering
the matter.

“I can’t be certain Henry,” Dr. Fielding theorized. “But it may have been a subconscious
mental conflict.”

“You mean she both knows something and doesn’t know it at the same time?” Nathan asked
with interest.

“Possibly,” Dr. Fielding said guardedly. “Of course, it may just be her natural suspicion
slipping through...but I don’t think so. Most likely she’s picked up some fragmented piece of
information from somewhere and is not even aware of it.”

“COULD it be extracted Archie?” Mr. Thomson asked hurriedly.

“Not without the risk of severe psychological damage,” Dr. Fielding said emphatically.
“Whatever she picked up, she didn’t pick it up in any conventional way. If we push it, it might send
her into total shock.”

“Very well,” Mr. Thompson said simply. “We should pursue other avenues then. Is there
any possibility of broadening your questions further?”

“We can try,” Dr. Fielding said honestly. “Were you thinking of anything in particular to
hone in on?”

“Nathan,” Mr. Thompson said. “Did we ever locate any death record for Diane Yost in the
files at Charleston?”

“No sir,” Nathan said “Nothing even close. For whatever reason, no one ever bothered to
file any type of report after she died.”

“Yes...” Mr. Thompson said, his mind running at full bore. “Let’s go in that direction. Try
and find out if she heard or saw anything suspicions connected with Diane’s case AFTER her
death.”

“Right,” Dr. Fielding replied.

Dr. Fielding resumed a position between poised and sitting alongside of Emily. He carefully
examined the expression on her face and the distant look in her eyes, which were staring straight
ahead without even the slightest twitch.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding began slowly. “I know this is difficult for you, but can you tell me just
when and where you learned that Diane was dead?”

Despite the continued lack of tonal change, Emily’s face now went to an expression of deep
sadness and pain. Her lips quivered, her eyes watered and more sweat began to bead upon her brow.

“Monday morning,” Emily replied through her suppressed sadness. “At the hospital.”

“How did you learn of it?” Dr. Fielding asked.

“Dr. Jameson told me,” Emily replied again, her sweat flowing and mixing with her tears.

“Again,” Dr. Fielding began carefully. “In your own words Emily, tell me what happened
that morning.”

“Dr. Jameson stopped me in the hall on the first floor,” Emily said, her voice now returning
to an emotionless monotone. “We sat down and he asked me to sign Diane’s death certificate. He...”

“Hold,” Dr. Fielding interjected quickly.

Emily again went rigid and still. Nathan and Mr. Thompson, however, were about as far
from “still” as you could get. At the very mention of the words death certificate each of them had
taken a small bite of their lower lip to keep from speaking.

“Did she just say what I think she said?” Nathan asked excitedly.

“Yes indeed Mr. Riley,” Dr. Fielding replied. “Henry?”


Mr. Thompson stopped for a moment to try and decide how best to proceed. Placing his
hand under his chin he paced for several seconds in a small semicircle, every now and then rapping
his hand at thin air.

“Doesn’t make any sense Archie,” Mr. Thompson said thoughtfully. “If she was away when
Diane died, then why in blazes was SHE signing her death certificate?”

“A blind?” Nathan added. “A ploy to divert any suspicion in Emily’s mind away from
himself. If she saw the certificate then in her mind the affair was over and ended in an official way.”

“Must have been,” Mr. Thompson said while still in deep thought. “But, only physicians
and nurses present AT the time of death can sign off on death certificates, correct?”

“In nearly every case, yes sir,” Dr. Fielding replied. “Very few exceptions that I can
personally recall, stateside at least.

“Why, it would even be grounds for censure or dismissal, would it not?” Mr. Thompson
asked, his mind now wrapped in knots.

“Well...” Nathan began. “For Dr. Jameson perhaps, not for Emily, at least not if what she is
saying is accurate. If she followed Jameson’s orders then the chain of guilt would be linked back to
him in the event the matter was ever looked into. Which, I hate to say, would’ve been most unlikely
in Ms. Yost’s case. No immediate family and no one yet appointed as a guardian. If Emily is
recalling the incident correctly…”

“You may take her words to the bank Mr. Riley,” Dr. Fielding retorted. “She has succumbed
so fully to the hypnosis that I doubt she is capable of knowingly telling even a partial lie.”

“Archie, continue please,” Mr. Thompson said while motioning his arm towards Emily.

Dr. Fielding again kneeled down beside Emily and assumed his crisscrossed posture.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding asked. “Did you sign Diane’s death certificate?”

“Yes,” Emily replied without pause.

Another influx of air from all around the room.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding went on. “Can you go back to the moment you were signing Diane’s
certificate for me?”

“Yes,” Emily replied.

“Can you see what is written on the certificate?” Dr. Fielding asked with even more caution.
“Yes,” Emily replied.

“Can you read it out loud, starting from the top?” Dr. Fielding asked.

Nathan flipped a page on his notepad and gripped his pencil tightly. His eyes were now wide
and totally transfixed upon Emily. Nearby, Mr. Thompson gently leaned against a counter top with
an unreadable expression on his face, yet he also appeared to be all ears for Emily’s next statement.

“Patient, Diane Casdorph Yost,” Emily mentally read. “Age, 16. Hair, blonde. Eyes, blue.
Height, 5'5'. Weight, 135 pounds. Admitted on February 10, 1992. Time, 1643. Reason,
Post-Traumatic Catatonia. Admitting Physician, Herbert R. Jameson, MD. Death Occurred On,
February 15, 1992 between 2305 and 2345. Place of Death, Weston Hospital Corridor, Floor Three,
Ward C. Cause of Death, Fracture to skull and neck. Accidental Death...Possible Suicide. Inquest,
yes, no, check one, no. Physician on call/present at time of death, Phillip Braley, MD.”

Eyebrows around the room rose in unison and Nathan’s mouth dropped open.

“Assigned/Attending Nurse, Emily Flesher, LPN,” Emily continued slowly. “Cremation,


February 16, 1992, 0545. Burial, February 18, 1992, on site. Potter’s Field #3. Herbert R.
Jameson M.D.”

“Hold,” Dr. Fielding said.

“Good lord,” Mr. Thompson said with horror. “My God Nathan, it’s just as we feared, there
can’t be any other possible explanation. The hauntings ARE coming from the hospital, there’s no
room for doubt now. Also, you don’t risk dismissal or the unwanted attention of a censure for
falsifying documents…or cremate a patient six hours after death…unless the stakes are pretty damn
high. I think we can all now guess just HOW high they were.”

“Well,” Nathan said, still reeling from what he had just heard. “Sir, if that’s the case, then
we have our work cut out for us. 130 years, God only knows how deep this goes. What if we’ve only
scratched the surface?”

“I fear that indeed may be the case Nathan,” Mr. Thompson said with regret. “However, we
have little choice but to muddle through. Archie, when you bring her around, I need for her to fully
retain everything she has recalled for us.”

“Henry,” Dr. Fielding said with a not-so-pleased tone of surprise. “I would not advise that.
All of those memories flooding back into her conscious mind after ten years. It’ll be a massive
shock to her system...at best.”

“That is a risk that we have no choice but to take,” Mr. Thompson said firmly. “This young
woman here may be all that stands between hundreds of lives and certain death. Her memory must
be kept as fully intact as possible for we are going to need her in the coming weeks.”
“All right Henry,” Dr. Fielding said with a deep sigh of resignation. “It’s your call.”

“Believe you me Archie, I wish it weren’t,” Mr. Thompson added. “Nathan, assemble a
team for the field and get to work at once on what we’ve just learned. Crunch every number, trace
every cent, get a complete biography on EVERY key person involved, and do your best to pin down
some kind of a timeline for us to follow. Understand?”

“Yes sir,” Nathan said obediently while pocketing his notepad.

“Also,” Mr. Thompson replied with even more firmness. “Pull as many operatives as you
can out of nonessential areas and set them to work on the research end of this thing. I want every
piece of information on that damned hospital inside these walls within one week.”

“Yes sir,” Nathan replied, still near shock.

“Very well then, Archie,” Mr. Thompson said slowly. “Bring her ‘round.”

Dr. Fielding gave another deep sigh and returned to a kneeling position beside Emily’s
stationary body.

“Emily,” Dr. Fielding said, now forcing back his own trepidations. “Emily, I’m going to
have you wake up now. But, when you wake up, you will remember everything you have recalled
during this session. Names, dates, places and times, you will remember everything that has passed
through your mind. Do you understand what I am saying to you Emily?”

“Yes,” Emily said, still with no emotion whatsoever.

“Good,” Dr. Fielding said. “Now when I snap my fingers Emily, you will wake up. On my
mark now, one, two...”

SNAP. Emily’s eyes flew open with the speed of a blown hatch cover. For several seconds
she remained fixed and rigid upon the couch, her breathing increasing rapidly and her heart rate
doubling with each tick of the clock. As Emily’s breaths and convulsions grew even more intense
she clamped her hands onto her chest and began to wheeze wildly.

“OH MY...OH MY...” Emily gasped and choked as her suppressed memories returned
en-masse. “OH MY GOD!”

Emily’s body started to convulse and spasm uncontrollably. Her hands and muscles
tightened and tears began to flow freely from her tightly clenched eyes. Dr. Fielding threw his body
across Emily’s in a desperate attempt to keep her from rolling off the couch.

“SECURITY,” Mr. Thompson screamed into thin air at the top of his lungs. “SEDATIVES
AND RESTRAINTS TO ROOM 105, NOW!”
Chapter 7
Plans

The next three days for Emily passed in another disorientating fug. In fact, nearly a full
seventy-two hours seemed to have been surgically removed from her mind. Vague memories of
dancing lights, distant voices and recurring headaches were all that remained…at first.

Outside of Emily’s disjointed mind, however, events continued to move forward with ever
increasing vigor. While locked within her nearly comatose state, Emily underwent further hypnotic
sessions, and much to the delight of Nathan and Mr. Thompson, provided the N.A.A.P.I. with even
more valuable insight into her time spent at the hospital.

Her subconscious mind recalled not only the exact site of Diane’s impromptu burial, but
also the strange, overheard conversation between Doctors Jameson and Braley. This, along with the
accounts of the “door to nowhere,” the odd events of her final days, and Dr. Jameson’s nocturnal
visitation left little doubt as to the value of her presence.

“Nathan,” Mr. Thompson said in a low, foreboding tone. “We are heading into dangerous
territory. Possibly more dangerous than ever before.”

Finally, after just how long she could not be sure, Emily slowly began to emerge from her
shock induced hibernation. Three days following her unexpected arrival in Ottawa, Emily was
released from her secluded observation ward and allowed to move into much more comfortable
quarters one floor below.

The level below that of the reception area and office space closely resembled that of any
hospital or medical facility, though it would have been most unusual to find red, oriental,
wall-to-wall carpeting in any stateside institution. The hallway into which her room emerged
looked much like the one on the floor above. Instead of paintings and photographs however, the
walls bore nothing but an eggshell white coat of paint and signs posted beside each successive door.
Though not quite as cozy as the reception area, Emily found it much easier to breath in her new
surroundings.

During the next five days, Emily gradually began to come to terms with what was
transpiring around her. In fact, not more than two hours after she arrived in her new living quarters,
Nathan Riley appeared in her doorway and presented her with a thick, green, file folder. A plain
white sticker upon it read N.A.A.P.I: A History and Description.

“I thought this might help you to relax,” Nathan said thoughtfully. “Not exactly your usual
bedtime story I know, but it should answer most of your questions.”

Upon reading through the folder, filled with page after page of typewritten histories,
photocopies and charts, the full picture of Emily’s present situation at last came into full focus.

“Ghost hunters,” Emily said in amazement. “They actually ARE ghost hunters.”
To Emily, the details now filling her mind were nothing short of fantastic. She now knew
she was the official guest of a thirty-some year old organization whose only duty was to investigate
haunts, ghosts, and other occurrences of that nature within North America. Though far-reaching,
the overall “number of employed” was kept low, no more than 300 active agents at any given time.
While everything was controlled from Ottawa, the organization had a secret branch office in every
state and province of North America...and numerous contacts in each one.

Now aware that she was at least in the hands of the “good guys,” Emily relaxed and started
wondering just what was going to happen next. Exactly what role was she to play in whatever was
coming? She did not have to wait long for her answer.

Although Emily was asked to remain on the lower level of the building for the first five days
of her recovery, she was not left out of the loop. At least twice a day, either Nathan or Mr.
Thompson stopped by to bring Emily up to speed on their progress and to confirm newly acquired
facts with her.

The N.A.A.P.I. had wasted no time at all in checking out Emily’s subconsciously conveyed
information. She was told that no fewer than ten active agents had been dispatched to West
Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado in connection with the “Weston Affair” as it was now known. It
was revealed that the unusual events occurring in Emily’s old hometown were not subsiding, but
rather growing in intensity.

A check by a research team had discovered multiple discrepancies in several of the


hospital’s old expense logs and yearly reports. Thankfully however, no further deaths were
reported.

As the flow of minute information continued to trickle in, Emily took it upon herself to learn
just as much as she could about the normal operations of the N.A.A.P.I. To that end, whenever
Nathan or Mr. Thompson would pay her a visit, Emily never missed the opportunity to bounce a
question or two off of them.

“We don’t just run around helter-skelter, expecting to see ghosts and phantoms behind
every tree, Emily,” Nathan replied to one of Emily’s earnest queries. “Honestly, nine times out of
ten whatever we look into turns out to be a hoax or just overactive imaginations.”

“Do you follow up every report, like the Secret Service?” Emily asked.

“Heck no,” Nathan replied with a mild laugh. “If we did that we’d have to quadruple our
budget. For the most part, we just go on instinct. If a particular complaint or reported occurrence
looks and feels a certain way…then we proceed. ”

Nathan did his best to reassure Emily that she was not being held captive by some radical,
religious cult who were going to sacrifice her to appease a demon or something. Persuaded by
Nathan’s constant reassurances, Emily consoled herself to simply wait while her five day restriction
period passed. At ten o’clock on the morning of the fifth day, Nathan once again knocked on the
door to Emily’s quarters.

“Emily,” Nathan called from the other side of the door. “Emily, are you there?”

“Yes, just a minute,” Emily called back, pulling a black sweatshirt over her head.

Opening the door, Emily was again met by Nathan, who this time was wearing a serious and
businesslike expression.

“Emily,” Nathan began. “I need for you to get dressed and come up to our conference room
as soon as possible.”

“Why?” Emily asked, perplexed. “Oh no, has there been another death?”

“No, no,” Nathan said, trying to ease Emily’s anxiety. “But I do need you to come upstairs.”

Something about Nathan’s semi-regretful tone put Emily on guard. Thus far, she had seen
Nathan display nothing but a cavalier, almost comical attitude towards most things. Now, his
demeanor bore an unpleasant resemblance to that of the warden leading the condemned to his or her
last meal.

“Why?” Emily asked guardedly.

“Mr. Thompson has convened an emergency meeting,” Nathan said, his tone still
unchanged. “I know you’ve had a rough week here Emily, and I’d much rather you have more time
to rest and recover, but we just don’t HAVE the time.”

“Well,” Emily began blankly, confused at this sudden turn of events. “Just what kind of a
meeting are we talking about here?”

“It’s not so much of a meeting as a...” Nathan said before bracing himself. “A
eh...conference of sorts. Things are far worse than we had ever imagined Emily. Representatives
from at least ten different state offices have been called in.”

“For what?” Emily asked.

“To listen to a briefing on the Weston situation,” Nathan said “My briefing actually...and
yours.”

“Mine!?” Emily gasped.

“Yes, I’m sorry Emily, but there’s no way around it,” Nathan said with even more regret.
“They’re likely to ask some questions that no one but you can answer.”
Emily opened her mouth as if to protest, but Nathan quickly threw up his hands to quell her.

“Believe me, Emily,” Nathan began truthfully. “If there were any way to avoid putting you
through this then I would do it. But there just isn’t, we’ve run out of options. So, if you could, get
dressed and be upstairs in twenty minutes. The girls at the desk will show you the way to the
conference room.”

Emily stood still and tried her best to drink in what she was hearing. It was not going down
well. A week of recuperation had left her still feeling slightly weak and now she was to both attend
and SPEAK at some sort of ghost hunter’s meeting.

“What the hell I’m I suppose to say?” Emily asked herself aloud once Nathan had departed.
“Tell them I felt cold winds and saw doors open on their own? Heck, they probably hear that every
day.”

Emily continued to ponder her impending rendezvous with the unknown as she removed her
bed clothes and changed into attire much more suitable to a formal conference. Fortunately, this did
not prove too difficult at task. As a partial compensation for her ordeal, Emily’s Canadian hosts had
taken it upon themselves to provide her with several sets of new clothes. While a few of them
looked like they were pulled straight from the pages of a 1900 catalog, most were as modern and
normal as any from Emily’s own wardrobe.

Not knowing just what you were suppose to wear to a meeting of ghost hunters, Emily
decided to take the conservative approach and selected an unimposing gray blouse with a matching
black skirt. Following a brief and only partially successful battle with her hair, Emily left her room,
walked up one single flight of stairs at the end of her hallway, and made her way to the reception
area.

Save for the soft trickling of the nearby “mountain fountain” as she had learned it was
called, all seemed quiet and deserted. Emily would have thought the room totally empty had one of
the receptionists not moved from behind her partition upon hearing Emily enter.

“Good morning Dr. Flesher,” the receptionist said kindly. “It’s back down the hall a piece,
fourth door on the left. Just ring the buzzer and they’ll let you in.”

“Thank you Ms. eh...?” Emily said.

“Sorry,” the receptionist said teasingly. “But if I told you that I’d have to kill you.”

The faintest of smiles crossed Emily’s face. It seemed like forever since she had heard
anything even resembling humor. Now, perched on the edge of she knew not what, it was a most
welcome diversion.

“I won’t put you to the trouble then,” Emily said warmly before turning back down the hall
from which she had come.
After covering about fifty feet of the hallway, Emily finally came to the fourth door on her
left. It did not seem to give the immediate impression of being any more important than the other
doors. A gold panel attached to it read simply Conference Room B and a small red button was built
into the wall directly level with the brass doorknob. Upon pushing it, a low, raspy buzzer sounded
from somewhere inside. For about five seconds nothing happened. Suddenly, the door gave a
distinct click and a red light...which Emily had failed to notice above the door...lit up.

Instinctively, Emily took a step back from door, afraid that something repulsive was only
seconds away from leaping out at her.

“Do not be afraid Dr. Flesher,” said the voice of Mr. Thompson from an unseen speaker.
“Please come in.”

Emily stepped forward once again and pushed the door open. She was met by the sight of a
very large and well lit room full of men and women. Shaped like a typical colligate-style lecture
room, a set of eighty or more ascending seats rose to Emily’s left, ending against the rear of the
room. To her right, a long wooden conference table was positioned near the opposite wall with a
giant white screen situated directly over top of it. A few paces in front of the table, a wooden
podium, complete with microphone, was standing in the exact center of the room.

No fewer than twenty-five men and women, all dressed as if they were attending a board
meeting, were seated in the audience section. One or two of them seemed to have distanced
themselves from the others but most were either huddled or leaning together in groups of four or
more, engaged in what Emily felt must be very serious discussions. Upon her entry however, most
of them raised their heads and turned them towards her, which made her feel decidedly awkward.

Behind and above the audience, a clear glass panel was built directly into the wall and a dim
ray of light was shining through it. Fully completing the atmosphere of an academic lecture room, a
modern optic projector was positioned just to the left of the podium and a small stack of
transparencies sat directly beside it. Emily took one final look around, now fully convinced that she
was about to come face-to-face with one of her old professors.

“As I say Dr. Flesher, do not be alarmed,” Mr. Thompson said from the far left end of the
conference table. “Do come in and have a seat, we have been awaiting your arrival with great
anticipation.”

“I’m sure,” Emily said with no emotion.

From the center of the table, Nathan rose up and motioned Emily to take the seat to his left.

“Emily,” Nathan said while gesturing to the chair next to him.

Emily observed that a small black nameplate had been placed in front of her assigned seat. It
read: Dr. Emily Flesher. M.D. L.P.N. Still feeling uneasy with so many sets of eyes watching her
every move, Emily made her way over to her chair and sat down. The harsh lights shining down on
the front table were not doing her nerves any favors.

“Ladies and gentleman,” Mr. Thompson said loudly to those gathered. “I present to you, our
esteemed guest, Dr. Emily Flesher of Charleston, WV.”

A light round of applause and mumbled welcomes followed. Then...

“Hello Dr. Flesher,” said an oddly familiar female voice from the audience.

Despite the strong glare from the track lighting overhead, Emily was certainly able to tell
who was greeting her so personably. Again, it was likely that nearly everyone in the state of West
Virginia would have recognized both the face and voice of the woman who was seated in the third
row of chairs before her.

“You probably recognize me I....” The woman began.

“Yes madam, I too am quite certain that Dr. Flesher recognizes you,” Mr. Thompson
interrupted. “I regret, however, that we are...at present...not graced with sufficient time for
pleasantries.”

Right on cue, everyone in the audience sank back into their seats and the lights over their
section of the room dropped. Mr. Thompson then stepped from behind the table and slowly
approached the podium. After giving the microphone a slight tap for good measure he turned
around to survey Emily and all others seated at the table behind him.

“Good morning once again, ladies and gentleman,” Mr. Thompson said with total
professionalism. “First of all, I want to thank so many of you for traveling such great distances on
so short a notice. I apologize once again for the suddenness of this gathering, however, once you
have heard the particulars I am quite sure you will agree that your presence was essential. Our time
constraints being what they are, I shall come right to the point. A situation of the gravest possible
nature has developed in the city of Weston in the state of West Virginia. Three weeks of exhaustive
investigations have lead us to believe that a very powerful paranormal entity, or entities, of a deadly
nature have awakened there, most likely within the walls of the former State Hospital.”

Mr. Thompson’s opening statements elicited a slight ruffle and a round of low, hushed
voices emanated from those seated before him.

“To date, seven former employees of this institution have died suddenly from massive
cardiac arrest,” Mr. Thompson continued while turning his notes and adjusting his glasses. “In most
of these cases, the circumstances under which their lives ended were peculiar to say the very least.
Also, just this very morning, we received word from our Denver, Colorado office that Dr. Edwin
Sikes, the last administrator of the Weston Hospital, has disappeared from his home in Denver. At
present we do not know if he is alive or dead, though I fear we must assume the worst.”
This latest piece of information made Emily feel even more uneasy than before. If whatever
was striking at the other former employees could reach all the way to Denver, then what was to keep
it from stretching its hand to Ottawa, or Seattle, or to the North Pole for that matter? Her stomach
once again began to sink like a stone as Mr. Thompson continued his opening remarks.

“Seven deaths and one disappearance in a span of just under three weeks,” Mr. Thompson
summarized. “My friends, we can draw but one logical conclusion from the evidence we have
accumulated: We are now facing a malevolent entity or entities of tremendous potency, the likes of
which we have never encountered before.”

The audience again began to mutter and rustle, only a little louder and more nervously than
before. Emily actually found a small amount of comfort in the fact that she was not the only one
troubled by what was happening. To her, it was somehow nice to not be alone in being in the dark.

“Now!” Mr. Thompson said loudly to regain the attention of those present. “I know that the
vast majority of those gathered here...save for our distinguished representative from West
Virginia...know little if anything about the former State Hospital in Weston. In order to better
acquaint all of you with the facts of this case, I shall now turn the proceedings over to our agent in
charge of the Weston Affair, Mr. Nathaniel Riley.”

Nathan silently rose from his seat next to Emily and approached the podium. Under his left
arm he was carrying a black leather satchel, overflowing with what looked like at least 200 sheets of
paper. Mr. Thompson graciously stepped aside, motioning towards the podium as Nathan took his
place.

“Good morning,” Nathan said formally, with just a hint of his own nerves seeping through.
“As Mr. Thompson has already informed you, for the past three weeks we have been paying extra
close attention to unusual events occurring in and around the town of Weston. My initial findings
during the first fortnight were quite extraordinary, though inconclusive. It was apparent from the
onset, however, that paranormal activity was indeed present...though I could not estimate its true
extent at that time. Just nine days ago during a routine visit to another former hospital physician, a
series of unforeseen events transpired. Dr. Herbert Jameson, who held residency at the hospital
from 1970 until its closure in 1994, became quite agitated during my questioning and bolted before
he could be subdued. This error was entirely my own, and I make no excuses for it whatsoever. His
following actions, actions that ultimately lead to his unfortunate demise, prompted us to examine
the situation much more closely. Now...”

“Just what were Dr. Jameson’s ‘unusual’ activities on that evening?” said a male voice from
the audience with a decidedly northern accent.

“Dr. Jameson fled from my custody in a state of what I can only describe as total mania,
bordering on complete madness,” Nathan responded. “I was unable to follow him, though less than
an hour later he turned up on the doorstep of Dr. Flesher here.”

Nathan made a gesture with his hand towards Emily. All sets of eyes once again seemed to
be boring their way into Emily’s head.

“Under clinical hypnosis, Dr. Flesher has been able to recount for us the exact actions and
words of Dr. Jameson on that night,” Nathan continued. “The information we obtained from this, as
well as numerous other hypnotic sessions, has served to bring what we are facing into a
Far clearer, and I am sorry to say, much more terrifying light. I will now share with you a detailed
report of our findings and of our proposed actions.”

The lights at the front of the room now dropped to nearly nothing. Only small, dim lights
mounted into the walls at the end of each row of seats provided illumination. Were it not for the
gravity of the event, Emily would have guessed that she was now seated at the very front of a movie
theater.

Nathan lifted a small black cord from the side of his podium and took several steps back so
that the screen behind him could be clearly seen by all. With the click of a button on the end of the
cord, a large black-and-white photograph of the hospital grounds appeared.

“This is the center of our present investigation,” Nathan said, retrieving a collapsible
pointing rod from behind the podium and aiming it at the screen. “Weston Hospital, formerly
known as the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane. The main structure here (Nathan pointed at the
long, main building) was constructed over a period of years beginning in 1858 and ending around
1881 or 1882. The majority of the surrounding buildings you see here are all of more recent
construction, roughly from 1929 to around 1981. Bear in mind that over the years many other
structures have been erected and demolished on the same sites of many of the present buildings.
Again, THIS, we believe, is the genesis of the present paranormal activity.”

Nathan lowered his pointing rod and re-approached the podium, again taking the black cord
in hand.

“We now believe that the events of that past three weeks were triggered exactly twenty days
ago,” Nathan began, reading through his notes as he went. “On that day, Dr. Phillip Braley...”

Nathan clicked the button and a recent photograph of Dr. Braley replaced the view of the
hospital. It was all Emily could do to keep her eyes focused on the screen above her head. She had
never cared much for Dr. Braley in life, though she now found it heart wrenching to stare at the face
of man she now knew had died so horribly..

“...Former protégé of Dr. Jameson,” Nathan went on. “Was conducting a tour of the
facilities’ interior for a potential buyer of the property when he inadvertently fell from the top of a
staircase leading to the third floor. According to Weston Police Officer Daniel Bruce...who was
accompanying Dr. Braley and the buyer...Dr. Braley casually leaned against a solid oak railing
which subsequently gave way. Dr. Braley fell the full three story length of the stairwell, though the
fall did not kill him. Medics on the scene quickly ascertained beyond all medical doubt that Dr.
Braley succumbed to a massive heart attack well before hitting the floor. While in Weston, I closely
examined both the railing and its base. It showed absolutely no signs of decay or rot. The break at its
main base, and at the bottom of each of the smaller braces that gave way, were all clean and the
wood felt as strong as steel.”

For the next thirty or so minutes, Nathan went into grueling and agonizingly detailed
descriptions of all those who and died and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Hearing the
names, the dates, and the places again and again started to bring on another of Emily’s persistent
headaches. A photograph of each victim appeared each time Nathan came to their story, and with
each successive picture, Emily’s trance-like state grew stronger.

“Which brings us once again to Dr. Herbert Jameson,” Nathan said, rousing Emily from her
near slumber. “And our guest, or perhaps I should say, ‘refugee’ (Emily smiled a fake smile) from
West Virginia, Dr. Emily Flesher. Dr. Flesher worked at the hospital from February 1992 until
March 1994 when the institution was closed. Her insight into the workings of the hospital, along
with her subconscious recollections of several key events during her tenure, has enabled us to fill in
many of the gaps in our puzzle. As a direct result of Dr. Flesher’s revelations, we immediately
launched an even more extensive investigation, concentrating heavily on her related information.
Our findings, though illuminating, have been more than a bit unsettling.”

Still sitting, and occasionally squirming, Emily did her best to keep a straight face. She
knew what was coming next. Although she had come to terms with it in her own mind, the thought
of having it retold to her in front of an audience let loose a fresh hoard of butterflies somewhere
inside of her.

“A detailed examination of the hospital’s biennial reports from 1880 until 1965 has revealed
more than just a few irregularities,” Nathan said with emphasis.

“In just what areas?” asked another voice from the audience, this time a female with an
accent much closer to Emily’s.

“Specifically,” Nathan began with a breath. “We discovered an unusually high number of
unexplained expenditures for experimental treatment. Beginning with the report of 1918, these
requests were reclassified to read special treatments. Then, following a state investigation in 1953,
they were simply referred to as miscellaneous. We have thus far been unable to find any
documentation as to just what the funds from these requisitions were used for. However, when you
couple these unexplained funds with Dr. Flesher’s recollections of secret locked doors to cellars,
gas light lines from 1900 still in place, as well as many other findings which I cannot yet reveal,
well, the conclusion unfortunately becomes frighteningly obvious.”

“Oh good God,” said the familiar female voice of the WV representative, the enormity of
the situation now dawning on her.

“Yes I’m afraid so Madam Congresswomen,” Nathan said to the audience. “The evidence
supports no conclusion other than this: Clandestine medical and psychological experiments and
testing, most likely conducted in subterranean rooms, possibly located below the facilities’
basement level. Well away from all eyes. ‘Out of sight...and out of mind’ incarnate.”
Another round of chilling murmurs swept through the audience. Emily, however, did not
murmur; in fact, she did not even move. Once her jaw reached her neck again she was incapable of
movement or speech until Nathan began speaking again.

“At this point, we can only speculate as to just how extensive these experiments were, how
long they persisted, or just what they consisted of,” Nathan said. “We do believe, however, that
these experiments, and their unfortunate results, are the catalyst for the current paranormal
activity.”

“Hold on just one second Mr. Riley,” said a man in the front row who stood up as he spoke.

“Yes, Dr. Mathews?” Nathan said politely.

The man called Dr. Mathews looked to be about the same age as Mr. Thompson, though in
far better physical condition. He was tall, slender, and attired in a white shirt, brown tie, and brown
sweater. His own set of thick eyeglass gave him as much of a “lie down on the couch and tell me
your troubles” look as Dr. Fielding.
“I don’t dispute anything you are saying Nathaniel, it all fits together,” Dr. Mathews said
respectfully and knowingly. “But if your conclusions are accurate, then we could be looking at
literally hundreds of entities. I just cannot fathom how anything of that magnitude could remain
completely dormant for over eight years.”

“Well,” Nathan staggered. “I know it sounds unlikely, but...”

“Nathan,” Dr. Mathews said in a fatherly way. “You’ve shown us facts and figures, photos
and diagrams, and provided us with a perfectly reasonable justification for this haunting. Now, for
the moment, I want you to put all of that data aside, and tell us plainly and simply just what YOU
think is happening and why?”

“Very well,” Nathan said, feeling a bit put in his place but more than able to counter. “Dr.
Flesher, if you would join me at the podium.”

Clenching her teeth behind her lips, Emily rose from her seat, slid from behind the table, and
crossed the floor to the podium. Her expression remained fixed and unreadable, but inside, her
nerves were splitting and her heart pounding.

“G...good morning everyone,” Emily said, her voice noticeably shaking.

“Dr. Flesher here may very well have provided us with the key to this entire affair,” Nathan
said, placing his hand on Emily’s shoulder to aid her wavering balance. “A patient of Dr. Flesher’s
named....well, perhaps I had best leave this to you, Dr. Flesher.”

Nathan stepped aside and Emily took his place at the podium. From where she was standing
the faces of the people in the audience were mostly obscured in the dark, but the occasional
reflection from eyeglasses or jewelry reminded her that they were there, and that they were now
hanging on her every word.

“In 1992, when I first started at the hospital as a nurse, I treated a young girl named Diane
Yost,” Emily began, gripping the podium to avoid tilting. “In the span of only three days, her
condition deteriorated from ‘promising’ to ‘beyond hope’. During a visit to her room, she told me
about a secret ‘friend’ whom she had met there the previous day, a ‘friend’ which I now know must
have been a...a ghost or...or something. She said that her ‘friend’ had been a hospital patient in the
past, that she knew of doctors doing what she called ‘bad things to people’ underground, and had
kept a diary or journal of what she knew. This diary, or whatever it was, was hidden behind the
baseboard in her room. Diane took the diary and told me that she had hidden it again and would not
show it to me right then. Two nights later, Diane was found dead in the hallway of the third floor,
her neck broken. She was buried three days later and I never saw the diary or even bothered to look
for it, though apparently others did.”

“Who do you mean when you say ‘others’?” Dr. Mathews asked.

“Doctors Jameson and Braley,” Emily said heavily. “I overheard them arguing about not
being able find something before the hospital was closed. They didn’t say specifically what it was.
The other night however, when Dr. Jameson eh...(choke)...excuse me I’m sorry. When Dr. Jameson
arrived at my house, he was pleading with me to find IT and save him. He said SHE trusted me and
I had to find IT.”

“Did you ever learn just who Diane’s friend was?” Dr. Mathews asked.

“Only her first name, Mary,” Emily said, even more heavily than before.

Nathan abruptly stepped from the shadows and resumed his place next to Emily.

“I would like to follow up on that if I may, Dr. Flesher,” Nathan said as he motioned politely
for Emily to return to her seat.

“Yes, gladly,” Emily said, an obvious hint of relief in her voice.

“We have not been able to definitively identify this girl, Mary,’ Nathan began before taking
the black cord in hand again. “However, through some digging and cross referencing of patient and
census lists, we think we have narrowed the field to four possibilities.”

Nathan clicked the button and a faded brown photograph a of a girl of about 13, smiling
brightly and seated upon a large milk jug, appeared on the screen

“First, Mary Wilcox, age thirteen, admitted on July 8, 1927, no reason given. She died in
residence two years later.”

Another click and yet another photograph appeared. A crisper, black-and-white picture of
another young girl, this time on a bicycle, replaced the previous photo.

“Second, Mary Harless, age fifteen. Admitted on January 26, 1932. Reason: ‘Shock due to
death of mother.’ She also died in residence, seven months later.”

Another click, another photograph. This time, a vivid color photograph of an even prettier
young girl dressed in a well-tailored ‘Alice blue’ dress. With light blonde hair and deep blue eyes,
she appeared to have come from a more well-to-do family than the two previous girls.

“Third. Mary Elizabeth Courtney, age fourteen. Admitted on January 21, 1937. Reason:
‘Cranial trauma, fall from horse.’ Died in residence two years later.”

A final click and a final photo. This time, another faded black-and-white image of a slightly
older girl than the two previous. With dark hair and light eyes, she was seated upon a park bench, a
row of manicured hedges serving as a backdrop.

“And finally, Mary Shoemaker, age sixteen. Admitted on March 2, 1932. Reason: ‘Loss of
child...stillborn.’ Died in residence only two weeks later. All four of these girls seem to fit the
suspected time period, as well as the typical conditions ideal for afterlife activity. Not to mention
the fact that they are all buried on the premises. The stone markers for Ms. Shoemaker and Ms.
Harless are still visible today, the others were either never marked or else the markers are simply no
longer visible.”

Another click and an older view of the entire hospital campus appeared. The auxiliary
buildings behind the main structure were obviously not the ones present in the original photograph.
They were far more ornate, almost castle-like in appearance, with cupolas and towers at their ends
and corners.

“So there you have it,” Nathan said with finality. “In short, we are thoroughly convinced
that we are now facing malevolent entities, most likely spirits of patients who were subjected to
medical or psychological experimentations and either died as a direct result...or were
simply...eliminated afterwards. These spirits have somehow been roused and are now taking their
revenge out on those who either participated in or knew of the suspected activity.”

A very odd hush...broken only by a light cough and the tapping of a nervous foot...filled the
conference room. For a full five seconds not a soul inside the room uttered a word. Emily leaned
forward in her chair so that she could better see the old photograph of the hospital’s grounds. Mr.
Thompson removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes with one hand. Nathan simply maintained eye
contact with the spellbound audience.

“So what is to be our next move, Mr. Riley?” Dr. Mathews asked, his tone now far more
concerned than before.

Nathan gave a fleeting smile, and then clicked his tethered control yet again. This time, a
highly detailed layout of the hospital grounds and surrounding neighborhood appeared. At several
points along the diagram, building outlines overlapped and solid lines were crossed by dotted and
cross-hatched lines to delineate present and past structures. Several buildings along the fringe of the
grounds were colored in a dark shade of umber. Upon closer examination, Emily realized that these
three outlines were of buildings which were no longer present.

“After due consideration of all the variables involved...” Nathan began with added
importance. “We have decided that our only course of action is to attack the haunting at its source.
To that end, in two days time, myself, field agents Dawson and Rittenhouse...

Nathan motioned to the two other individuals seated at the front table with Emily and Mr.
Thompson. A man and a women, each appearing to be in their early 30s, and looking far more like
Emily’s idea of “ghost hunters” than anyone she had met so far, were seated to her immediate left.

The man, with a nameplate in front of him that read Patrick J. Dawson, looked to be the
more conservative of the two...which was not saying much given the fact that he was wearing a
blindingly bright neon green tie along with a loud orange shirt and solid black four-buttoned suit.
Though his black, thick-rimmed glasses may have been a medical necessity, they somehow seemed
to clash with his gel-filled blonde hair and rose-colored cuff links. Emily thought he would have
looked right at home selling computers or cell phones at a nearby shopping mall.

The women, whose nameplate read Claire Rittenhouse, had the appearance of what you
would get if you threw a librarian, a high school senior and a lab technician into a blender and hit
‘puree’. Her neatly pressed lab coat and blouse were offset by a plaid patterned burgundy skirt that
look just a tad too short, as well as hair that ran the gamut from brown, to blonde, back to brown and
then to auburn. Despite her attire, her pursed lips and formal posturing left little doubt of her
competence.

“...Along with Dr. Flesher here,” Nathan continued, “Shall travel to Weston and attempt to
neutralize the activity from inside the hospital itself.”

Emily nearly swallowed her tongue. Her eyes again swelled to the size of saucers and her
throat went as dry as a bone. Consequently, her intended shout of “What!” failed to register.

“Naturally, I would prefer a course of action which would bring the matter to a close without
the need to enter the proverbial lion’s den,” Nathan added. “However, I don’t see that we are left
with any alternative. I am satisfied that the key to unlocking these events lies somewhere inside the
hospital.”

“Somewhere?” Emily gasped in a very scratchy and nearly inaudible tone. “Good Lord
Nathan, have you (cough, cough) taken leave of (cough) your senses!? Do you have any idea
whatsoever just how large and complex an area you are talking about?!”

“Yes Dr. Flesher, unfortunately I do,” Nathan replied before again taking up his pointing rod
and stepping back from the podium to better reach the image of the map on screen. “As you can
plainly see, even the center corridor of the main structure runs some 600 yards in length. Three to
four and one half stories...that we know of.”

“Not to mention six or seven other buildings,” Emily chastised, her voice gradually returning
amidst her shock and rage.

“Very true,” Nathan agreed simply. “In addition to several hundred acres of undeveloped
land, three cemeteries and several long sealed off barns, (Nathan pointed to the outlines of two barns
near the top of the image) located here and here. A thorough examination of the main building and
grounds should be possible inside of twenty-four hours, though I hope we will achieve our objectives
far sooner than that.”

“Our objectives being?” Dr. Mathews inquired skeptically.

“To search for and locate any evidence of unauthorized experimental procedures within or
around the hospital,” Nathan replied. “Specifically, the aforementioned diary and any other
remaining fragments of information that may aid in proving our theories.”

“Search that entire complex in less than one day?” Emily said in near hysterics. “You ARE
certifiable. That Godforsaken place was a death trap eight years ago; think just how far gone it may
be now will you (Emily stood up and confronted the entire room). Mark my words; this is
SUICIDE…because if your ghosts don’t get you...or us...then the rotten floors and woodwork will.”

“Nathan, have you also given consideration to residual energies from former buildings
occupied by current structures?” Dr. Fielding added from his seat near the center of the audience.
“My God man, you could be facing multiple and overlapping manifestations from any given decade
all at once. They could be two or three dozen strong in some places.”

“I don’t even know what the hell that means but it sounds REALLY bad,” Emily stuttered,
now even more hysterical. “Sounds to me like nothing more than a damned invitation to become
ghosts ourselves.”

“Yes Dr. Flesher, it very well could be,” Dr. Fielding agreed. “Nathan, given what you’ve
told us here today, what you are suggesting does sound like nothing short of premeditated suicide.”

“OH…my God,” Emily whimpered as she slowly sank back into her seat, her eyes fixed
forward in a very “lost” state.

“Emily, calm down,” Nathan said in an offhandedly composed way. “No Dr. Fielding, I do
not believe so. Granted there is danger involved, but there’s always danger when direct
confrontations are sought. Thus far, however, the malevolence of these entities has been focused
solely upon those we suspect of either being directly or indirectly responsible for or involved in
these clandestine experiments. I have seen no evidence that their anger has been directed violently
against anyone else. I feel there is actually reason to believe that our presence may even be
welcomed.”
“Nathan, you cannot honestly believe that.” Dr. Mathews said in a very skeptical tone.

“And just why would he not, Isaac?” Mr. Thompson asked simply before standing up from
behind the front table. “If paranormal beings are capable of outright hatred and even murder...why is
it so much of a leap of faith to believe that they may be capable of emotion-induced actions of a
positive nature?”

Dr. Mathews eyed Mr. Thompson with an expression of sheer contempt, as though he could
not for any reason comprehend his words.

“Because, Henry,” Dr. Mathews said with embellished formality. “In all of our previously
documented paranormal contacts, I have yet to hear of a ghost or spirit who was motivated by
anything altruistic. If indeed we are facing spirits of badly wronged former patients, why on Earth
should we assume that our further intrusions into their territory would be met by anything other than
continued hostility?”

Emily gulped deeply, but suddenly, Nathan thrust his pointing rod to the floor and ran his
fingers through his hair in mounting frustration.

“OH, for the love of God Isaac,” Nathan replied unexpectedly. “Use your entire head and not
just your brain for once.”

Dr. Mathews suddenly looked as though he may boil over. His mouth began to quiver and his
hands drew into such tight grips that Emily fully expected to see blood ooze from between his
fingers at any second.

“I mean...that is to say I...” Nathan backtracked, trying to regain his professional poise. “Dr.
Mathews, if you would, for just a moment, consider this. What if these spirits have some ulterior
motive in mind?”

“I don’t think I quite follow you, Nathan,” Dr. Fielding asked calmly.

“What if...” Nathan said, his enthusiasm seeping through again, “And this is NOT without
documented precedent. Just what IF the deaths that have occurred were not simply intended as pure
acts of vengeance? What IF they were also meant as a signal, as a means of drawing attention to
themselves?”

“For just what purpose?” Dr. Mathews asked, his anger momentarily overridden by his
curiosity.

“Don’t you see?” Nathan said with enthusiastic frustration. “It’s entirely possible they just
may be calling out for help. If, as a result of their suffering in life, they have been trapped in
the...the…”

“Afterlife?” Emily interjected weakly.


“Yes,” Nathan concurred. “If they are trapped in some limbo or a purgatorial state, then what
possible reason would they have for showing hostility towards us?”

“Your point IS well taken Mr. Riley,” Dr. Mathews replied. “I still feel, however, that you
are taking a dangerous risk. Perhaps needlessly, perhaps not, I don’t know.”

“And neither will we if do not try,” Nathan replied in a ‘checkmate’ type of tone.

“Henry,” Dr. Mathews said in palpable resignation. “I want to go on record here and now as
stating that I have little confidence Mr. Riley’s chosen course of action. However, I am forced to
confess that I also see no other alternatives. I move that his operation be approved.”

“Second,” Dr. Fielding agreed loudly.

“All those in favor of approving Mr. Riley’s operation say ‘aye,’” Mr. Thompson said in a
very judge-like manner.

Just prior to a loud chorus of “ayes” from the audience, Emily jolted wildly and leaned
forward over the table, desperately trying to get Nathan’s attention.

“Wait...now wait just a damn...” Emily pleaded hurriedly with no success.

“All of those opposed,” Mr. Thompson added following the overwhelming decision.

“NAY, nay damn it, NAY!” Emily shouted desperately.

“I am sorry Dr. Flesher but only N.A.A.P.I. members are permitted to vote on such matters,”
Mr. Thompson said dismissively.

“WHAT?” Emily shouted in horror. “But, you can’t just...”

“So ordered,” Mr. Thompson said, replacing his glasses upon his face. “In accordance with
N.A.A.P.I. order number two, seven, four, nine, zero dash two, eight, the operation under the
direction of agent Nathaniel Riley is approved. I thank you all once again for coming in on such very
short notice, and Madam Congresswoman, I shall be contacting your office tomorrow evening to
confirm our requirements in this manner.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Thompson,” replied the WV representative. “Everything will be in the works
by then I can promise you. Carte blanche.”

“Very well, thank you,” Mr. Thomson replied. “If that is all, then this meeting is adjourned.
Mr. Riley and Dr. Flesher...would you please join me in my study so that I may go over a few
particulars. Agents Dawson and Rittenhouse, you know your orders, get cracking. Good day to you
all.”
As everyone in the giant conference room rose in near unison to leave, Emily found herself
again unable to move. Her jaw was still agape and her eyes as wide as ever. As the others in the room
filed towards the door and past Emily’s position, she merely swayed left and right, a blank and
somewhat crestfallen look plastered to her face.

“Emily,” asked a voice from somewhere.

SNAP, Emily came back to earth again.

“Ah huh, who,” Emily mumbled blankly.

“Mr. Thompson’s study, remember?” Nathan asked politely, aware of Emily’s still settling
shock.

“Oh, eh right...eh,” Emily replied, her senses and anger returning. “Right, RIGHT...and
then...”

“Emily don’t, it’s not worth it,” Nathan asked in a friendly tone.

“Oh isn’t it!?” Emily said in a determined and angered voice.

Her mania had yet to settle one iota when she and Nathan again arrived at the door to Mr.
Thompson’s study, and found him standing behind his desk, hunched over what looked like several
sets of old maps and photographs. Nathan motioned for Emily to enter first, but she declined and
held back. As Nathan passed over the threshold, Emily slowly stepped inside, took hold of the door,
and slammed it shut with all her might.

“Oh Emily really, there’s no need for...” Nathan said, startled by the sudden, loud noise.

“There is PLENTY of need for it ‘Mister’ Riley!” Emily spat.

“Rather formal all of a sudden, aren’t we Dr. Flesher?” Mr. Thompson asked, only half
taking his attention away from his maps and photos.

“All right ‘John Bull’, I have had it!” Emily said firmly. “I have had it up to here (Emily
motioned to a point well above her head) with these little surprises of yours. First I’m gassed, then
kidnapped, then brainwashed...”

“That’s being a tad melodramatic, wouldn’t you say?” Mr. Thompson asked calmly.

“And finally assigned to a SUICIDE mission!” Emily continued her rant, taking no note of
Mr. Thompson’s interjection. “Well I can tell you right here and now that my cooperation in this
entire farce just ended. There is absolutely no way in HELL that I am EVER going back inside that
Godforsaken hospital. NEVER do you hear me...NEVER!!”
“Yes Dr. Flesher, my hearing is quite satisfactory thank you,” Mr. Thompson said, still with
an air of complete disinterest. “And your delivery and tone most forceful, you should consider
standing for Parliament.”

Emily stormed towards Mr. Thompson’s desk, each footfall getting louder than the one
before. When she was finally no more than a desk-length from Mr. Thompson himself, Emily
slammed both of her fists down upon the desk and shoved the maps and photos aside in one fell
swoop. Emily’s eyes blazed with fury as Mr. Thompson simply stepped back a pace and reached
inside his coat for his pipe.

“Now listen to me Thompson, and listen well,” Emily threatened. “The only house that I
want anything to do with at this point is my own. I have no intention of taking part in your little
excursion back to Weston, and that is FINAL.”

“Oh, I was hoping it would not come to this,” Mr. Thompson said with a lazy sort of regret as
he lit his pipe. “Nathan, secure my door if you would please.”

Nathan, his head bowed low and with an expression now full of sorrow, crossed the room
and locked the giant door/bookcase. This time, however, Emily heard a low, sucking sound as it
shut, the same sound she had heard in Charleston just prior to her second blackout.

“Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson began. “You are without a doubt, one of the most stubborn
persons that I have ever chanced to meet in all my years…and given that I have lived in Ontario for
the past twenty-five that is certainly saying something. I really was hoping that this eventuality could
have been avoided, but I suppose I was only fooling myself.”

“Forget the levity…just what are you trying so hard NOT to say?” Emily demanded, now
again trying to hide her own simmering fears.

“I am trying, with all of my might,” Mr. Thompson continued while puffing calmly on his
briar. “To avoid a most unfortunate but seemingly impending inevitability.”

“Come again?” Emily asked, lost again amidst Mr. Thompson’s many multisyllabic words.

“Emily, I do hate it when the need arises to deliver an ultimatum,” Mr. Thompson said, with
what Emily perceived to be false concern. “But, I am duty bound to at this point. You see, Dr.
Flesher, you have but two choices upon the table now.”

“Yes?” Emily asked, her apprehension growing.

“Either you agree to accompany Nathan and the other operatives to Weston, and assist them
to the very best of your ability...or,” Mr. Thompson said plainly.

“Or?” Emily asked with a slight quiver.


“Or else I am very much afraid that you will not leave this room alive,” Mr. Thompson said
sharply as he reached down to his desk and pulled out a small, gray, electronic terminal. “I regret that
it has come to this, but for security reasons, we no longer can simply allow you walk out on your
accord. Point of fact...since your arrival you have come too far and seen too much. If you refuse to
cooperate...then you are nothing more than a liability to this institution and therefore must
be...eliminated.”

Emily stood fast, her eyes fixed upon Mr. Thompson’s. His hand was now hovering just
above a console with three colored buttons, one red, one yellow and one blue. Other than the motion
of his hand, Mr. Thompson did not flinch or shift an inch. Emily...her mind again racing at top
end...surveyed her situation..

“You wouldn’t,” Emily dared half-heartedly.

“Yes...he would,” Nathan said from behind, grave seriousness evident in his voice.

Emily was totally incensed. Despite all of her cooperation, all of her help, the psychological
sacrifices she had made... it all had come down to this. Here she stood, a virtual prisoner in a foreign
country, facing what had been called a “suicide mission,” wanting nothing more than to go home and
pretend that the past ten days had never happened, and now she was faced with a choice like this.

“I don’t believe this,” Emily spat back, her fear now overtaken by nerve. “Do you usually
make it a habit to threaten your guests with death Mr. Thompson?”

“Up until now Dr. Flesher, that has never been a problem,” Mr. Thomson replied. “You see,
this is the first time that it has ever come to this. Never before has a ‘guest’ of ours, as you call
yourself, refused our request for help. Thus far, they have all been willing and eager to aid us in
preventing further occurrences.”

“Were THEY facing death too?!” Emily retorted.

“They faced the same moral question that now lies before you, Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson
replied bitterly. “Whether or not to help us in helping others. Something akin to your own
Hippocratic Oath as I understand it. (Emily blanched) To your predecessors the choice was always
crystal clear, yet to you it seems to be...now what is the popular term...’fuzzy’?”

“Now hold on just a minute, I...” Emily replied, both incensed and shaken.

“Emily,” Nathan added with slight calming tone. “I promise you, we will take every possible
precaution, we will not leave a single thing to chance.”

“Nathan,” Mr. Thompson said sharply. “Don’t make promises that you know full well you
may not be able to keep. I will not conceal the danger from you Dr. Flesher, you may face it. The
unknown is always a danger. However, it really boils down to just this: Either you go to Weston and
take your chances, with the possibility of saving countless lives and freeing hundreds of souls from a
fate worse than death...or...you stay here and die yourself within the next minute. The choice is
entirely up to you.”

“You wouldn’t kill me,” Emily replied.

“At the touch of this button Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson added darkly. “My study will fill
with the same gas that felled you in Charleston. Mr. Riley and I will reawaken. YOU will not.”

Emily stared long and hard at Mr. Thompson’s hand. For a few seconds it hovered over top
of the console, swaying left and right, up and down. Emily now knew that if Mr. Thompson chose to
touch one of those buttons, the fog would take her again...for good.

“Emily, please,” Nathan pleaded desperately. “I need your help....WE...need your help. I am
begging you, please, don’t make us do this. Help us.”

Mr. Thompson’s hand was now hovering even lower than before. His eyes remained upon
Emily and hers upon his hand. Suddenly, Emily felt a hand gently land upon her left shoulder.
Lifting her head and glancing into the ornate mirror behind Mr. Thompson’s liquor cabinet, Emily
spied Nathan now standing right behind her. Looking even closer, she noticed, to her surprise, a
single tear slowly rolling down from his right eye. As his grip on her shoulder tightened slightly
Emily became aware that she could now feel his breath upon her neck. Nothing so warm had ever
sent such chills.

“What’s it to be, Dr. Flesher?” Mr. Thompson asked with finality, his hand now only an inch
above the console.

“All right,” Emily replied as she reached up and took Nathan’s hand into hers. “I’ll go with
you.”
Chapter 8
Homecoming

To almost anyone else, the prospect of returning to one’s hometown would be a cause for joy
and possibly even nostalgic tears. Visions of white picket fences, quaint old-fashioned store fronts
and mother’s homemade apple pie would permeate the psyche in nine out of ten cases. However, for
Emily, this was as about as far from a joyous occasion as she could envision. Given her choice, she
would have rather spent the next two years in a war zone as opposed to what she was now facing.

“I swore, Nathan,” Emily fumed not long after the conference. “I swore I would never go
back in that damn place again.”

Now seated upon the marble rim of the “mountain fountain” with a cup of coffee in one hand
and a half-eaten doughnut in the other, Emily was not coming to grips with her upcoming field trip
easily. Despite Nathan’s words and pats of comfort, the idea of going back inside of the building that
dogged her days and haunted her nights filled her with equal amounts of both fear and anger.

“I know Emily,” Nathan said, again patting Emily’s back in a vain attempt to buoy her
spirits. “I wish there were another way round this but we’re pretty well stuck between a rock and a
hard place now. If e go down and try to stop this thing…we endanger our own lives. No escaping
that. If we stay here and do nothing…then we may endanger other lives.

“Sure,” Emily retorted. “It’s an occupational hazard for you. To me it’s a nightmare. You
don’t think about that place and start feeling like it’s gonna suck the life out of you. You don’t lay
awake and wonder how many of your old friends may be dead or dying as result of all this. And
YOU won’t have to grapple with thirty-four years of memories slamming you in the face every
second!”

Emily took a deep swig of her coffee and then brought the mug down hard upon the marble
surface. Nathan sighed as he arched his back and stretched his arms.

“We all carry our own baggage in life Emily,” Nathan said. “So let’s not spend the next two
days debating who’s had the worst life, OK? That will get us nowhere in one BIG hurry.”

“That’s exactly where I would like to go in one big hurry,” Emily said cynically.
‘NOWHERE, or at least ANYwhere other than there. I mean…just what in the hell I am supposed to
do anyway? I don’t know anything about ghosts or...or hauntings or anything like that. I’m still not
even sure I believe in them.”

“Hmm,” Nathan chuckled lightly. “If you’d like I could show you some film that would
change THAT in ‘one big hurry.’”

“No thanks,” Emily said, throwing her hands up. “I’ll just take your word for it. But really,
what do you even need me for? I’ve told you everything I know...and some stuff I didn’t even know
I knew.”
“We need a bridge, Emily,” Nathan said.

“Well then call a contractor, not a doctor,” Emily replied dryly.

“No, no,” Nathan corrected. “I mean a bridge between us and the...well, the other side.”

“The other side of what?” Emily asked blankly.

“Ok,” Nathan said. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to spell it out like this but I guess I don’t
have any choice. We need someone who has had both a physical and a psychological connection
with the hospital, and its occupants.”

“By occupants you mean...” Emily replied hesitantly.

“Yes,” Nathan said matter-of-factly. “A connection with whatever or WHO ever is there
now”

“So basically...” Emily replied harshly. “The ghosts are the rats and I’m the cheese?!”

“No,” Nathan said flatly. “More like...the ghosts are the opposition and you’re
the...mediator.”

“Believe me Nathan,” Emily said with exaggerated truth. “I make one LOUSY diplomat.”

“You still stand a better chance of bridging the gap than any of us would,” Nathan replied
quickly.

“I still don’t understand why,” Emily said. “So Diane was my patient, big deal. I had
hundreds of other patients while I was there.”

“Evidentially you made a rather deep impression on this one,” Nathan said. “Look, we know
that Diane told her ‘friend,’ whoever she was, that you were a good person...someone who could be
trusted.”

“So she said,” Emily replied wearily.

“You cared about her,” Nathan continued. “You talked to her, you reached out and tried to
help her...you even marked her grave when no one else would have. Believe me Emily, if anyone has
anything to be scared of down there it’s NOT you.”

Emily paused, lowered her cup of coffee and reflected upon Nathan’s words. Owing to her
ever-present anger and disorientation, thoughts of this nature had never occurred to her since
arriving in Ottawa. For a brief instance, the fear and anger left her and she once again felt a twinge of
her Hippocratic Oath returning.
“Emily,” Nathan added with increased earnestness. “Only you did these things, not us.
Consequently, only you can tap into that good will and use it to help us.”

“So I...” Emily said, quietly lowering her head. “You think that I may be the only one who
can do this?”

“I don’t just think it,” Nathan said with absolute certainty. “I know it.”

Emily lowered her head even more before bringing her hands up to brace it. Feeling drained
and confused, she rubbed her face gently, trying hard to fight back the tears that were already
forming. Sensing this, Nathan wasted no time in reaching his arm around Emily’s shoulder and
pulling her into a comforting hold.

“I just don’t know if I can face it again,” Emily half-sobbed and half-pleaded. “Ha, it’s kinda
ironic, isn’t it? I help people face their problems every living day…and now I don’t even know if I
can face my own. Nathan, I just don’t know if I’m strong enough for this. Two weeks ago if anyone
had told me about half of this stuff I would’ve had them sedated and certified in two shakes. Now,
not only do I have to accept it...but I have to take part in it.”

Emily’s head rolled from Nathan’s shoulder and into his waiting arm. As Emily sobbed
lightly, Nathan could do little more than clutch her right arm and gently pat her hair.

“It’ll be OK, Em,” Nathan said softly. “It’ll be OK.”

I hope. Nathan thought nervously to himself.

As Nathan continued to comfort Emily, the main doors to the reception area slid open and
Mr. Thompson stepped inside. He immediately cast a wary glare at Nathan and Emily and did not
look at all pleased at what he was seeing.

“You know what they say about work and pleasure, Mr. Riley?” Mr. Thompson said.

“This is NOT the time Henry,” Nathan hissed quietly, none-too-pleased at Mr. Thompson’s
apparent lack of concern.

“No indeed,” Mr. Thompson seemed to agree. “I’ll just leave you two eh...to it.”

With a slight shake of his head, Mr. Thompson crossed the reception area and headed down
the main hallway. While Nathan seethed and pictured Mr. Thompson hanging by his ankles over a
pool of piranhas, Emily continued to sob. Only after several minutes of comforting and reassuring
did her and Nathan finally rise and part company.

“I think we can focus most of our attention on the center and medical sections,” Nathan said
hours later. “With extra emphasis on the northern wards...here.”
Emily, now seated at a long rectangular table in a smaller conference room, stared up at the
image on the screen to which Nathan was pointing, as did Mr. Thompson, Mr. Dawson and Ms.
Rittenhouse, who were also seated around the table. A slide projector was perched upon the table’s
surface and Nathan was once again at its controls, pointing to another aerial photograph of the
hospital.

“The female’s ward?” Claire Rittenhouse asked pointedly.

“Yes,” Nathan replied. “It’s our last known area of activity and 75% of the cases we see as
‘suspect’ involved female patients.”

Nathan clicked a button and the aerial view was replaced by a larger, more detailed diagram
of the hospital’s center section.

“OK,” Nathan said while drawing his pointing rod from left to right across the screen. “From
here...to here...three and one half levels with basement space running the entire length. And from
here...to here...two and one half levels, also with basement space running the length. Emily, where
exactly did you say Diane’s room was?”

“Third floor,” Emily replied, gathering strength from somewhere. “Four rooms to the right of
the administrative section. Ward C, room number 312.”

Nathan pointed at the corresponding location on the screen.

“Right about...” Nathan said while moving the pointing rod. “Here?”

“Yes,” Emily replied.

“OK,” Nathan said, now half in thought. “This section was originally completed around
1871, so in this area alone we are looking at 120 plus years of possible overlapping energy.”

“Were you able to find documentation of anything else ever happening in that section?” Pat
Dawson asked.

“Over 200 recorded deaths in this ward alone,” Nathan said with a serious and somewhat
darker tone. “Most of them routine, but at least fifteen look suspicious.”

“Suicides, murders?” Claire asked. “Anything unique or singular?”

“Several suicides, but no recorded murders,” Nathan replied. “Several overdoses, lots of
heart attacks, and more than a few no cause listed’s. Again, bear in mind that our main objective here
is to locate this diary or other documentation...OR, failing in that, to somehow make contact with the
spirits and pacify them if possible. Since I don’t know just HOW many entities we may be faced with
I cannot yet advise on a specific procedure for this. It’ll have to be worked out on site.”
Nathan again pushed the button on the end of the cord and another slide appeared. This time,
a blue image with the hospital outlined in white lines appeared.

“The vast majority of the wiring in the hospital, that we know of, dates to 1965,” Nathan said
while pointing at the projected blueprint. “The telephones to about 1972, plumbing...God only
knows...and steam lines to about 1953.”

Emily barely heard Nathan’s last few words as her eyes were drawn to the lower right hand
corner of the blueprint. In larger lettering it read Central W.VA. Power and Light Company,
Clarksburg. Under that: W.L. Flesher Field Mngr. Emily could not refrain from gawking as she read,
and reread the inscription. Her sudden interest did not go unnoticed.

“I take it you see something you recognize Emily?” Nathan said with a hint of tease.

“That’s my father,” Emily said in bewilderment.

Claire and Pat each turned to face Emily upon hearing this.

“Your father, Emily?” Claire asked kindly.

“Yes,” Emily replied, now smiling lightly. “Yes, that’s my father, W.L. Flesher. I
remember…he was in charge of that project.”

“Really?” Pat said with sudden delight and interest. “Would it be possible for you to contact
him? I’d like to ask him a couple of questions about the second floor circuit breakers...”

Emily’s smile vanished.

“No I’m afraid it would NOT be possible for me to contact him, Mr. Dawson,” Emily said
with restrained bitterness. “I fancy that would be more in YOUR line of work.”

“I eh...well…is he still in Weston?” Pat asked, confused as to Emily’s sudden aversion to his
questions.

“Pat,” Nathan quietly warned.

“Yes, it just so happens he is,” Emily replied enigmatically.

“Well I really do need to clarify a few things about this with him,” Pat said, totally unaware
of the dangerous lane he was heading down. “Where exactly does he live in Weston?”

“Pat,” Nathan warned a bit more loudly.

“In the town’s cemetery!” Emily replied with a little more indignation.
“I...oh,” Pat said, utterly embarrassed. “Well then, that does complicate th...I mean
that...eh...oh boy.”

In one smooth motion, Claire leaned across the table, turned Pat’s cheek, and thumped the
top of his head to accentuate his stupidity.

“Well go on Pat,” Claire chastised. “Aren’t you going to ask her if we can have a séance?”

“I AM sorry, Dr. Flesher,” Pat apologized profusely. “I had no idea.”

“Yes, well, now you do, so clam up,” Claire insisted.

“Alright,” Nathan interjected. “Alright. We’ll have time enough to get better acquainted with
one another later on. Now let’s get back on track here, shall we?”

Nathan lowered the cord hooked to the projector. He then crossed back to the table, shut the
machine off, and motioned in the air for the lights to be brought back up...which they were.

“The way I see it...” Nathan began. “We are going to have ONE night in which to figure this
thing out, just ONE night. We cannot start any earlier than four PM and we have to be out of there no
later than seven AM.”

“Wait a minute,” Emily said in surprise. “You mean to say we’re not only going in there...but
we’re going in at NIGHT?”

“Paranormal activity is always strongest after dark, Emily, there’s no way around that,”
Nathan said firmly and with finality. “Plus it’s a little easier to go unnoticed by prying eyes once the
sun sets. On that note...we have taken the added precaution of contacting Lewis County and taking
the newly elected Sheriff into our confidence. He has promised to clear the way for us to enter and
investigate the grounds under the guise of building inspectors for the D.H.H.R. Since everyone
already knows the hospital is under the state’s microscope we shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up
our front. Anyone asks any questions...just be vague, bureaucratic, and remember your part.”

Nathan collapsed his pointing rod into his hand and stood at the table between Emily and
Claire. Several layers of large, transparent sheets of paper were stacked on top of one another. Each
layer of paper showed another diagram of the hospital’s center section. The sheet on the bottom was
labeled 1881, and the one on top, 1991. Drawn in multicolored lines, the diagrams indicated internal
and external changes made to the facility throughout the years.

Emily took in the details as fast as she could. Water lines labeled in blue stretched like spider
webs over nearly every inch of the building, as did electric (red) and telephone (green) lines. Every
few inches or so, a purple circle indicated the presence of a vent or chimney, and orange
cross-hatches across the front of the building showed the number and height of windows.
“Now if you start to feel like a rat in a maze don’t worry, because you’re not alone,” Nathan
said while waving his pen over the complicated diagrams. “130 years of operation means one 130
years of placed and RE-placed wiring, piping, plumbing and everything else including the kitchen
sinks. Familiarize yourself with all eleven pages because we are not certain just what is actually still
in place. From Dr. Flesher’s own accounts we already know that at least one gas light line may still
be active.”

Nathan lifted up the top ten sheets and revealed the one from 1881. No red or green lines
here, just lots of blue, orange...and opal. Emily checked the corresponding key and found the shade
of opal labeled Gas Line. To her horror, she saw that it ran to the exact spot beneath the
administrative building where it was said to have been eight years ago.

“Oh my God,” Emily remarked in astonishment.

“You see something Dr. Flesher?” Mr. Thompson asked.

“Yes,” Emily replied, now more alert than ever. “This line right here (Emily pointed to an
opal line that lead from the center of the administrative section to the far end of the northern wards).
That’s it, that’s where the guy said he found one, right under the center hallway.”

Nathan allowed the next sheet to fall, the opal lines remained in place and several new blue
lines sprang up. The next sheet was dropped, now 1901. The opal lines still remained, though in
several places red and green lines now ran parallel to them. Another sheet fell, 1911, and all opal
lines, save for the ones in the building marked kitchen, vanished and were replaced by red and green
ones.

With interest now piqued, Nathan flipped through the next several sheets in rapid secession.
Blue, red and green lines jumped and flickered to more locations and vanished from others as the
years flew by, but no additional opal lines appeared outside of the kitchen area.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Emily said in confusion.

“No I’m afraid it does,” Nathan said seriously. “Obviously gas was needed for the
experiments, but it could not be drawn from the kitchen lines or else it would have rung up on the
yearly bill.”

“On site wells, Nate?” Pat asked pointedly.

“Exactly,” Nathan replied. “They were supposed to have been capped off around 1920 or so,
but it wouldn’t have been hard to keep one or two of the old lines active. With so many other wires
and pipes running underground I doubt anyone would have spotted them.”

“Have you any idea just what kind of ‘experiments’ we’re talking about here, Nathan?”
Claire asked with fear-tainted professionalism.
“Well,” Nathan said. “At best, we could be looking at just mild ‘tolerance’ testing. Electrical,
hydro-electrical, chemical...”

“Tolerance,” Emily said in disgust. “You mean to say that subjecting people to electric
shocks and toxic gasses is a ‘best?’”

“Unfortunately yes,” Nathan replied.

“Then what about ‘worst,’” Emily asked, now thoroughly horrified.

“Mind altering drugs,” Nathan replied darkly. “Conscious amputations...human-animal


breeding...sexual function limits...brain fusing...fluid blending...cranial impact resistance...shall I
keep going?.”

Emily clamped both of her hands over her mouth and dropped her head to the table as if she
were on the verge of vomiting. Both Claire and Pat remained standing, though each of them also
lowered their heads in equal disgust.

“And the gas?” Claire asked.

“Chemical weapon simulations,” Mr. Thompson said knowingly. “Possibly even ...”

“GOD, please STOP,” Emily wailed from her hunched position.

“I know, I know,” Nathan said, his own revulsion seeping through. “I’m hoping for the ‘best’
here…but given all that’s happened I think we had best prepare ourselves for the ‘worst.’”

“Yes, quite so,” Mr. Thompson said while rising up from his chair. “Well Nathan, I leave it
in your hands from here. I’ll square everything with our other two contacts before tomorrow
morning.”

“Thank you sir,” Nathan replied.

Mr. Thompson stepped from behind his chair and turned towards the rear of the meeting
room. As he passed Emily’s chair however, he paused. Emily still sat hunched over, her head again
between her hands and obviously trembling.

“Oh by the by, Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said offhandedly as he reached into his coat
pocket and pulled out a sheet of type-written paper. “I thought that you may find this of some
interest.”

Confused, Emily took the single of paper from Mr. Thompson, her hands still shaking.
Having had so many unpleasant surprises sprung upon her over the last ten days she was more than a
little leery about reading its contents. What if she had now been drafted into the Royal Mounted
Police or something? As Emily glanced down and scanned the first few words, her fears quickly
abated. She could not suppress an ear-to-ear grin as well as a good chuckle.

“I don’t believe it,” Emily laughed as she read. “Oh my...”

Charleston Police Detective Suspended Following Drug Charges

Charleston WVa.: Detective Michael Cunningham, 43, of the


Charleston Police Dept. has been suspended for thirty days with pay.
The suspension came soon after the revelation that three bags of
confiscated marijuana, which had been reported missing from the
Evidence Room, turned up inside of Detective Cunningham’s
personal locker.

At present, only preliminary charges have been filed by the city and
Detective Cunningham has strongly protested his innocence. A formal
hearing is scheduled for....

“I thought that might serve to perk up your spirits a bit, Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said
compassionately.

“So just what DID happen?” Emily asked through her snickers.

“Oh...” Nathan began in a prankish tone of voice. “Just a lucky coincidence I guess. I also
guess that in the end he’ll be cleared of any real damning charges. Still, it’ll be much easier to press
on with ‘Dick Tracy’ out of the picture for thirty days, now won’t it?”

“Uh huh,” Emily said in a jokingly disbelieving tone. “And just what if they check those bags
for fingerprints or something?”

“Well,” Mr. Thompson said, “In the case of that eventuality, I would guess that someone else
we both know might be in line for a thirty day vacation.”

“The gloves are in the river,” Nathan replied automatically. “Most likely in the Gulf of
Mexico by now.”

“You had best hope so,” Mr. Thomson added before smiling and stepping out.

Emily was again taken aback, but for once in a good way. The efficiency and thoroughness of
her hosts was making more and more of a favorable impression on her. Clearly, just as Nathan had
promised, they did not like leaving anything to chance if at all possible. Maybe, just maybe...she
might survive the next few days after all.

“Now then...” Nathan said in a near military fashion that shook Emily from her thoughts.
“Claire, Pat...you have exactly thirty hours to become experts on this site. I’ve compiled every scrap
of information you could possibly need. Histories, maps, blueprints, photographs, you name it...it’s
all on your desks now, so burn the midnight oil because you need to have as much of it as possible
embedded in your brain.”

“Sure thing...all right...you got it...” Claire and Pat mumbled together.

Nathan finally took a breath of air and stretched his back. He already looked as though he had
been burning the midnight oil for weeks, which of course he had. After rolling his arms and shaking
out a very nasty crick in his neck, Nathan himself took a seat at the conference table.

“With that behind us, I think NOW would be the time to get better acquainted,” Nathan said
with a drastically different tone than a few seconds previous. “As you know...Claire, Patrick...Dr.
Flesher here has only a limited idea of just how we operate.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” Emily said in a good humor.

“I know, I know,” Nathan said apologetically. “Need-to-know-basis and all that


cloak-and-dagger nonsense. Well, it ends here. For the next three or four days we are all going to be
working very closely with one another, and right now WE have the definite advantage over Dr.
Flesher. I want that advantage to be nullified here and now. Claire, ladies first.

Emily turned to better face Claire, who, in turn did likewise. Claire spoke in a very polite and
non-patronizing manner. Emily felt that she was purposely going out of her way to make it easier for
her to understand the myriad of complexities she was now faced with, and she was VERY grateful
for it.

“Well, I’m what you call a ‘sensitive,’” Claire replied. “I specialize in feeling, listening and
tuning in to ghosts, spirits, or anything else that’s present and can’t be seen. Sometimes, I can feel
the presence of an entity even from miles away. If I’m close enough, I can sometimes even tell you
what they’re thinking...or planning.”

“Don’t forget your middle name deary,” Pat ribbed.

Claire acted as though she were going to reach across the table and box Pat’s ears. Nathan,
however, raised his hand and Claire sank back into her chair, from where she cast Pat a distinct look
of loathing.

“Yes, my middle name,” Claire continued, sounding somewhat embarrassed.

“Go on,” Emily said warmly. “I promise I won’t laugh.”

“It’s Voyant,” Claire said reluctantly. “Claire Voyant Rittenhouse.”

Emily had to take another bite of her lower lip to force her chuckles to retreat. Pat and Nathan
did not even attempt to hide their humor as each snickered and laughed as though they were hearing
the name for the first time. Claire did not appear the least amused. Clearly this had been an ongoing
joke for some time and it was beginning to wear a bit thin for her.

“Ok, alright,” Claire chastised. “Go on, go ahead...take the damn Mickey out of me all you
want. I didn’t hear you laughing last year when I stopped you from going down that damn silver
mine! Hmph.”

“Sounds appropriate anyway Claire,” Emily said, trying her best to sound polite and
professional. “You mean you can actually feel and hear ghosts?”

“Yes,” Claire replied, sounding grateful for a return to formal conversation. “At times I can
even see them before others can. A sensitive acts kind of like a radio or television when it comes to
paranormal activity. For some reason or another I’m tuned in closer to their frequency than most
other people. It’s sometimes kind of nice to have some idea of just what you might be going up
against...isn’t it GENTLEMEN?”

Nathan and Pat each lowered their heads and pretended to cough. Emily, however, remained
fixated on Claire’s explanation.

“That’s amazing,” Emily said. “You say you can sometimes feel things even from miles
away...can you feel anything from the hospital yet?”

“Oh no,” Claire replied. “No that’s FAR beyond my reach. If I try to hone in on anything
over ten or twenty miles away I get the most God-awful headaches.”

Claire mockingly held her hand up to her head and leaned backwards, pretending that she
was about to topple over from fatigue. After several seconds though she righted herself and smiled,
obviously proud of her performance.

“I see that a sense of humor is NOT something that has to be checked at the door around here
after all,” Emily said, sounding more and more at ease.

“You don’t know the half of it my dear, just hang on,” Claire added teasingly.

“Ok Pat, you’re on deck,” Nathan said while motioning towards Pat.

“Ah well, OK,” Pat began. “Well, as you already know my name is Pat Dawson, Patrick
Sparks Dawson lest my esteemed colleagues here let me forget.”

“Sparks?” Emily asked curiously.

“My father was a radioman in the Navy,” Pat replied. “On that same track, I specialize in
electronic detection. Electromagnetic wave modulators, A.V.P. amplification, proximity and motion
detectors, UV and infrared imaging...”

“Yes, but can you program your own VCR?” Claire quipped.
“That only happened once,” Pat spat back as the other three chuckled. “Anyway, as I was
saying...well...I guess I already said it, but it’s still damned important.”

“Indeed,” Nathan said while suppressing his own amusement. “Emily, as you can see we try
not to take ourselves TOO seriously all the time. The nature of our work virtually demands open
minds and humor has a way of making it all easier to swallow. But I can promise you that both Pat
and Claire here are two of the best we have.”

“Thank you,” Claire and Pat each said in perfect, formal unison.

“As for myself,” Nathan added. “I have to specialize in a little bit of everything.”

“Oh yes,” Emily replied, ready to launch her own brand of humor. “You obviously excel at
impersonation, kidnapping, brainwashing...not to mention masterfully executed blackmail.”

“He’s quite proud of that last one too,” Claire joked.

“Alright, you got me on those,” Nathan continued. “Now then, ladies and gentleman...”

“Gentleman?” Pat said with mock surprise. “Where?”

“True,” Nathan agreed. “In twenty hours we leave for Weston. Emily, while Claire and Pat
are working their end, I want you to familiarize yourself with the files I have left in your room.”

“What are they?” Emily asked.

“Something I am quite sure you will hate,” Nathan said with little concern. “It’s a compiled
history of the hospital and its layout. Everything from floor-by-floor diagrams to a record of what
was done when and where it was done. You don’t have to hand in a report or anything but you do
need to look over it. We’ll concentrate on getting you up to speed on ghosts and hauntings once we
are on site.”

“Oh alright,” Emily sighed, her hatred of history still flourishing.

“For now, that’s it,” Nathan said before standing straight up. “You may consider this our
final briefing until tomorrow morning. We leave at 7:00 AM sharp. Until then…”

With a tip of his hand to his head, Nathan stood up, grabbed his black leather satchel from the
conference table, and headed for the door. Claire and Pat likewise began to gather up their respective
belongings. Pat filled his arms with notebooks and folders and made straight for the door as well.
Claire, however, seemed to linger, which left Emily feeling slightly perplexed.

“I can tell you’re still a little nervous,” Claire said out of the blue.
“That obvious huh?” Emily replied quietly.

“Well, not so much on the outside,” Claire said. “You do a remarkably good job of hiding it,
but I can feel that you’re more than just apprehensive. Not about hauntings or the idea of
ghosts…but about the hospital in general.”

Emily stopped for a second and leaned against the table. She did not feel any ill intentions
from Claire and certainly was not angered or offended. However, the idea of being in the
spotlight...or worse, behind the fluoroscope...still left her feeling squeamish.

“I’m sorry, I’ve just succeeded in making things even worse,” Claire said very
apologetically. “I’d better go.”

“No, wait,” Emily called after Claire. “It’s, it’s OK. I’m still just not used to being on the
opposite end of my normal profession. Most of the time I’m in your shoes, ya know.”

“Yes I know,” Claire replied in a friendly way.

“I suppose it really is silly of me to be as nervous as I am,” Emily said, trying hard to mask
her fears.

“Not at all, in fact I’d be more concerned if you weren’t,” Claire said knowingly. “I already
know most of what’s troubling you Emily, and it would trouble anybody in your position.
Sometimes, facing your past can be even more daunting and frightening than facing down ghosts on
a regular basis.”

“You sound as though you speak from experience,” Emily asked curiously.

“I think you will find that many of us do,” Claire said, again with an air of wisdom. “I know
Nathan told you to not concern yourself with comparing ‘baggage.’ Well, mark my words, if we
were on our way to Iowa rather than West Virginia, then Nate would be girding up long and hard to
face his own baggage...and I doubt he would be handling it any better than you are, Emily. Just
remember this, while we’re in Weston, Pat, Nate and myself are only going to be facing ghosts and
spirits. You, on the other hand, are also going to be facing demons.”

“What?” Emily said, a note of horror returning. “Demons?!”

Oh this is fabulous. Emily thought to herself. Not only was she going up against ghosts,
spirits, goblins, poltergeists and who knows what else, but she was also going to have to face beings
of the “Old Testament” variety.

“Yes,” Claire said frankly. “Your own demons...the demons of your past. Personally, I’d
rather confront a genuine demonic entity than my own personal brand. However, I think you already
know just what you need to do to clear your head once we’re in Weston.”
Emily sighed in relief, but stopped and thought long and hard about this last statement. What
could she possibly do in Weston that would put her mind at ease, short of running home to her
mother and begging for some freshly baked cookies. For several seconds Emily racked her brain
back and forth, hoping that the answer to her question would simply fall out of her ear and land on
the table. No such luck.

Though her fear and anxiety had greatly subsided since arriving in Ottawa, what Claire was
saying was true; it WAS more the idea of going back home and facing her past that scared her more
than the thought of ghost, spirits and demons. After eight years of repressing and suppressing, the
thought of facing her own past was not an event she was eagerly anticipating. Being forced to
confront long buried memories and feelings of guilt was going to be painful enough but...

“Buried,” Emily blurted out, instantly derailing her train of thought. “Guilt!”

Claire smiled in a very friendly sort of way at Emily. Then, without speaking a word, she
picked up a small stack of folders and notebooks and left the room. No matter, Emily now knew just
what she must do in order to cleanse her mind once in Weston. Until then...“sigh”...it was time to
study.

The next thirty hours seemed to be rushing by at not just double but rather triple the normal
rate. Emily, as ordered, remained in her room most of the time, pouring over page after page of
VERY detailed histories of the hospital and its grounds. After five or six hours of continuous
reading, Emily’s only real relief had come when she was finally able to ascertain that the hospital
was NOT built on an ancient Indian burial ground.

However boring, certain things that she was gleaming from the files and books did pique her
interest from time to time. The fact that several Nazi POWs actually HAD been interred there from
1942-1945 caught her eye, as did the fact that the state of Virginia had purchased the land on which
the hospital was built from a family named ‘Flesher.’

“Hmm,” Emily thought out loud while reading. “Maybe I’m mentioned in a will
somewhere.”

Though she already knew most of the main building inside out and upside down, she spent a
good deal of time tracing and retracing her usual daily routines upon both current and period floor
plans. She soon discovered that MANY changes had been made to the female wards in both 1936
and 1967. Had she attempted to follow her normal route in 1966, halfway down the first floor
hallway, she would have ran straight into a thin, wooden dividing wall protruding from a nurse’s
station. Oddly, the wall was gone in 1970 and the nurse’s station relocated. No reason given.

“Some damn excuse to keep a local contractor busy,” Emily mumbled as she read on about
the mysterious wall.

Attempting to keep this, and other facts that seemed important, locked inside of her head was
not easy for Emily. To that end, she fell back on the tried-and-true method of most
psychologists...she jotted down names and dates with the speed of light into a pocket sized notebook.

More importantly than her studying, Emily began making provisions for her “mind
cleansing” mission, which she planned to carry out well before venturing into the hospital. If she had
to go back inside that place, she was going in with as clear a conscience as possible. From the
N.A.A.P.I. supply room, Emily requisitioned a small hammer, flathead screwdriver, and a packet of
seeds. She took extra special care to make sure that these three items were double-wrapped and
carefully placed inside the smaller of her two suitcases she was readying for the trek south.

While continuously reading and rereading the seemingly never-ending amount of


mind-numbing information, Emily suddenly began to feel...well...strange. Just exactly what kind of
“strange” she could not quite tell. For some odd reason, looking back at the hospital through facts,
figures, photographs, and floor plans seemed to be reawakening yet another side of her past...her life
prior to February of 1992, before her “baptism of fire” and all it’s residual fallout.

Instead, she began to vividly recollect her days as a child, frolicking on the hospital’s lawn,
climbing its many inviting trees, and joining many of the patients in joyous games of kickball. This,
along with visions of the faces of her mother’s coworkers, the friendly maintenance crews and the
MANY patients...who were always eager to converse...momentarily revived distant, nearly
forgotten emotions. It had become harder and harder to remember as the years had passed, but once
upon a time, the hospital had held more than just a special place in her heart...it had also held her
love.

“Hard to believe...I used to love that place,” Emily wondered aloud to herself. “For years I
wanted nothing more than to play and work there, and now, I think I’d just as soon never see it
again.”

With a heavy, reminiscent sigh, Emily again buried her nose into a set of papers. Her own
personal memories would have to remain on hold for a little longer; now, it was time to learn even
more about the wonderful world of turn-of-the-century plumbing.

Thirty hours, and a good night’s sleep later, Emily was fully packed and ready to face
whatever was coming next head-on. Around 6:30 AM on Friday morning, Emily emerged from her
comfortable quarters, her two suitcases in hand, and headed down the sterile white hallway towards
the stairs, and then to the reception area. She was not the least bit surprised to see that Pat and Claire
had beaten her there.

Emily lugged her baggage along and joined them on the rim of the “mountain fountain.”
Each of them was now dressed more casually, obviously prepared for travel, with their own sets of
luggage setting at their feet.

“Early birds looking for worms?” Emily asked jovially as she took a seat along the fountain’s
rim.

“Either that or we both really ARE just a couple of masochists,” Claire joked.
“I’d go with option two, I hate worms,” Pat replied dryly.

“Where’s our fearless leader at?” Emily asked while glancing around the room. “He’s not
having second thoughts is he...I hope?”

“Sorry, no such luck, Em,” Claire replied. “He’s in a last-minute meeting with Mr.
Thompson. Making sure all the ‘I’s are crossed and the ‘T’s dotted.”

“Uh,” Emily said in confusion. “Don’t you mean ‘I’s dotted and ‘T’s crossed?”

“Not with Nathan she doesn’t,” Pat said as he took a swig of coffee from a steaming mug.

“Anyway,” Claire said, chuckling lightly at her own humor. “They’re just going over the
plan again, for about the twentieth time.”

“Nothing to chance?’ Emily said.

“Not if Nate can help it,” Claire said with a little more seriousness. “Nathan is always
cautious about taking others into the field with him. He’s comfortable enough taking care of himself,
but when others are involved he goes the extra mile.”

“And a half,” Pat added.

Just as Pat had finished speaking, the door to Mr. Thompson’s study opened into the hallway.
He and Nathan each emerged still engaged in what was obviously a very deep discussion.

“You’re sure you’ve cleared it all?” Nathan asked seriously.

“To the hilt Mr. Riley, to the hilt,” Mr. Thompson said with a reassuring if somewhat
haggard tone. “He’ll be there at four o’clock tomorrow afternoon, sharp.”

The two began walking down the hallway towards the reception area, yet they remained in
deep conversation. Emily could tell by the look on Nathan’s face that something was bugging him
and he was a less than reassured by the answers his questions were receiving.

“What about Dr. Sikes?” Nathan asked pointedly as the two men entered the reception area.
“Have the Denver police found anything yet?”

“No,” Mr. Thompson said with nervous regret. “Neither hide nor hair of him for three days
now. No sign of forced entry or vandalism at his residence, looks like he just up and dropped off the
face of the planet.”

“Uh huh,” Nathan replied in a VERY non-believing tone. “Or he was carried off on angel’s
wings, eh?”
“We do not know that for certain yet Nathan,” Mr. Thompson retorted. “Don’t jump to any
rash conclusions.”

“I don’t like it Henry, I just plain don’t like it,” Nathan said with suppressed anger. “If he had
turned up dead...well that would be one thing, but to just vanish into thin air... like I said, I just don’t
like it. However, I guess there’s really nothing for it now.”

Nathan and Mr. Thompson exchanged very tense glances with one another. Emily could tell
that she was not alone in feeling the thickness of the atmosphere, for neither Claire nor Pat had taken
their eyes off of Nathan since he emerged from Mr. Thompson’s study.

“Well, I trust that you are all ready for your journey?” Mr. Thompson said with a final upturn
of his eyebrows.

“Certainly,” Pat said simply.

“Ready and set to go,” Claire quipped.

Emily remained silent. Not sure of just how to respond, she sunk down on the spot and tried
to make herself appear as small as possible.

“Very well,” Mr. Thompson said. “And you Dr. Flesher?”

“I...I guess,” Emily stammered, feeling decidedly at a loss for words.

“Come now,” Mr. Thompson said, urging Emily to speak.

“Yeah...” Emily said, doing her best to feign bravery. “You bet.”

“Henry, if you don’t mind,” Nathan chastised. “I’m quite sure that Dr. Flesher is as prepared
as one could expect her to be. As for the rest of us, we’re all packed, the van’s packed and marked
and we are merely awaiting your orders to...”

“Shove off!” Mr. Thompson said, finishing Nathan’s sentence before his temper could
intervene.

“Thank you sir,” Nathan said with more than the usual forced politeness.

With a quick wave of his hand, Nathan motioned for Emily, Claire and Patrick to get up and
follow him. After each of them grabbed their respective bags and suitcases, they, along with Mr.
Thompson, followed Nathan to the main entrance to the reception area located directly across the
room from the fountain. Emily had seen this set of grey, double doors several times, the ones from
which Mr. Thompson had emerged at their first meeting, but she had never chanced to see anyone
else either enter or exit from them. Consequently, she did not have the slightest idea just where they
lead.

Once Emily and her entourage reached the doors, Nathan stepped forward and began to push
a series of numbered buttons upon a metal panel built into the wall beside them. Emily could not see
just which numbers he was entering, but he pushed no fewer than eleven before a red light above the
doors lit up. Seconds later, the grey doors gave a slight jolt and slid back directly into the walls
revealing a large elevator, the interior of which was lined in what looked to be stainless steel and
highly polished silver. The N.A.A.P.I. logo was embossed at the very back of the car in emerald
green lettering.

Once the doors had slid fully aside, Nathan stepped inside and edged to his left before turning
and facing forwards. In turn, Claire, Pat, Emily and then Mr. Thompson each followed suit and a
moment later the doors again slid closed with a very loud and deep CLANG. Nathan, now standing
in front of another large panel of buttons, pressed the one marked P. The elevator jolted and slowly
began to descend.

Barely ten seconds later, as the elevator came to a slow stop, a shrill buzzer sounded inside of
the car. Emily, startled by the sudden noise, ducked her head and shoved her fingers into her ears. No
one else however seemed to pay it much mind. Emily assumed therefore that this must be a routine
event for everyone else.

Nathan again punched a series of buttons on the control panel and after a few seconds the
buzzing came to an end with the single tolling of a high-pitched bell. The doors again slid open and
Emily could tell immediately that she was no longer in the reception area, but rather in a
subterranean parking garage of some kind.

“All right,” Nathan said as he stepped out of the elevator. “Let’s get cracking.”

Nathan’s last few words reverberated loudly as Claire, Pat and Mr. Thompson filled out first,
with Emily behind, trying to take in as much as she could and remain on the move. Several feet
away, Emily saw something that looked very, VERY familiar. The exact same van which had driven
away from her house several days ago was parked inside of a yellow box painted upon the pavement.
The van had now been painted in a dark shade of blue, with three gold stripes running its length at
about knee height. Along its rear section the words West Virginia Dept. Health and Human
Resources were printed in bright gold letters. It was just as convincing now as it had been the week
prior.

“Impressive,” Emily said as she approached the van with the others.

“Glad you like it,” Nathan said as he attempted to unlock the rear doors. “Thought she could
do with a fresh coat of paint.”

“I swear I don’t think anyone could tell the difference,” Emily said, now slightly in awe.

“Yes, we are counting quite heavily upon that Dr. Flesher,” Mr. Thompson said very dryly.
Claire slid open the van’s side door and climbed inside as Nathan finally managed to open
the rear door. Emily, her baggage still in hand, walked around to the rear of the van where Nathan
was rearranging several suitcases and boxes in an apparent attempt to make more room.

“Still room for mine I hope,” Emily said.

“Oh no problem,” Nathan said as he reached for a handle on the floor of the rear
compartment.

“What is all this?” Emily asked curiously. “All of our high tech gadgetry? The heat sensors
and ghost detectors and all that?”

“No, no, no, this is just our overnight gear,” Nathan said as he gave the handle a pull. “You
see we keep all of our fun stuff...in here.”

As Nathan pulled up on the once-concealed handle, Emily saw that it covered a large hidden
compartment. Inside were several black, hard plastic cases with red striping. The top of the case in
plain sight bore the label UV/NIGHT VISION. Nathan gave the case on top a thump with his hand
and smiled.

“Pat likes to make extra sure that these don’t fall out en route,” Nathan joked.

“I heard that,” Pat called from inside the van.

Emily and Nathan each smiled at one another before Nathan re-secured the hatch and placed
Emily’s bag and suitcase into a niche he had made.

“All secure Nathan?” Mr. Thompson called.

“Yes sir,” Nathan called back. “Lightly loaded but all set.”

“Very well, then,” Mr. Thompson replied formally as he watched Nathan and Emily head for
the front of the van. “The credentials in the glove compartment will get you through customs with no
trouble, your hotel in Weston is already booked, and...”

“Yes, yes I know,” Nathan said with joking impatience. “And the partridge is in the pear tree
ready to sing ‘God Save the Queen.’ Trust me Henry, we’re all set.”

“Good luck,” Mr. Thompson said with a parting wave.

After giving a parting wave of his own, Nathan climbed into the front driver’s seat of the van
and Emily into the front passenger seat. The interior did not bear any immediate signs of being
anything other than what it was intended to be, a West Virginia state work vehicle. Emily knew in
the back of her head though that looks were probably deceiving.
“Yes, they are Emily,” Claire said calmly out of the blue.

“What?” Emily said while jerking her head sharply around to face Claire, who was seated
directly behind Nathan.

“You’re right,” Claire said simply. “There is more than just meets the eye here.”

“Claire,” Nathan said with humorous impatience.

“Oh alright, fine,” Claire joked back before sinking into her seat.

“How in THE hell did...” Emily said in amazement.

“Buckle up,” Nathan said.

Doing her best to forget what had just happened, Emily turned around in her seat and
fastened her safety belt. Nathan flipped two small switches on the left hand side of the steering wheel
and then turned the key. Upon roaring to life, a section of the wall in front of the van began to rise up
from the ground, allowing the blinding morning sunlight to pour inside the eastward facing garage.
Emily squinted and covered her eyes as Nathan shoved the van into first gear and pulled forward.

Point of no return…again. Emily thought to herself.

“Perhaps,” Claire said lazily.

“Claire!” Nathan chastised again as he pulled the van onto the street.

“Sorry,” Claire shot back.

Hours later, having cleared customs smoothly and crossed into New York via Buffalo,
Nathan turned the van onto Interstate Ninety and pointed it southwest. As Pat dozed and Claire
stared at the passing countryside, Emily continued to ponder what was coming. Questions zoomed in
and out of her head so fast that she barely knew which one to start with.

“So where are we staying?” Emily asked finally.

“At the hotel in town,” Nathan replied. “The one at the corner of Main and Second that looks
like a Victorian department store.”

“Heh heh, oh yeah,” Emily said lazily. “The old Camden House, I remember that place.”

“Incidentally, that reminds me,” Nathan said. “In case you meet anyone in, or around Weston
who remembers you, YOUR cover story is that you’re assisting the state in its investigation. That
shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, should it?”
“I don’t imagine,” Emily replied. “Not too far from the truth now is it?”

“Just as well,” Nathan replied as he dodged the van around a slower car. “Like I’ve said,
don’t go into much detail. Pretend like you’re almost as much in the dark as they are.”

“That ALSO is not too far from the truth,” Emily kidded.

“Hmm hmm,” Nathan chuckled.

Winter had arrived early in western New York as most of the trees Emily saw from the
highway were already stripped of their leaves. Every now and then, a fierce wind blew from the west
and whistled lowly as it jostled the van from side to side. Though the sky was clear and the horizon
bright, bending limbs and wildly undulating power lines left little doubt as to what the conditions on
the outside were like. Just past the lakeside town of Erie, Nathan again changed routes, this time
turning the van due south.

As New York turned into Pennsylvania, however, the winds abated. The farther south the
van progressed, the more alive the countryside seemed to become. Blasé shades of brown and amber
were gradually replaced by blazing hues of orange, yellow and red. By the time the van crossed into
Wheeling, the fall colors were back in full force.

The hours dragged by and Emily found herself having to fight to stay awake. The afternoon
sun streaming through the front glass was making it more and more difficult. Claire and Pat had
already given in to their own fatigue. Emily, however, tried to remain conscious, not wanting to miss
the splendor of the passing terrain.

About a half an hour later, as Emily was surveying a particularly vibrant set of trees, she
suddenly became aware that the van was slowing down and moving to the right. Looking away from
the trees and towards the windshield, she saw that Nathan was steering the van off I-79 and onto an
exit ramp, even though they were still a good twenty miles north of Weston.

“Nathan, what are you doing?” Emily asked, puzzled at Nathan’s actions. “We shouldn’t turn
off the highway until we’re past Clarksburg.”

“I don’t want to go straight into town from the highway,” Nathan said quizzically. “We’ll
swing west for a while and come in on 33, fewer state police patrol that route.”

“But, then we’ll,” Emily stammered, now realizing something. “We’ll pass the hospital
before we get into town.”

“I know,” Nathan replied. “But it’s always better to come in by the back door if you can.”

“Great,” Emily said with no enthusiasm. “Just great.”


Following the smooth, easy-sailing ride on the interstate, the back roads of Lewis County
now felt even more stomach-churning than ever before. One after another, small towns and villages
with familiar names whizzed past the windows of the disguised van, each of them looking more
familiar to Emily than the previous. Slowly but surely, names and places that Emily could recall
from her childhood began to pop up left and right.

“We’re nearly there,” Nathan said with absolute calm.

“Yes,” Emily replied while still remaining mostly subdued, her feelings having yet to burst.
“I know. I remember these places...and believe me...right now I wish I didn’t.”

“Home sweet home though?” Nathan asked with mock curiosity.

“You can never REALLY go home Nathan,” Emily replied, her nerves now more apparent.
“It’s never, EVER the same...ever.”

Following a particularly sharp, blind curve around an abandoned gas station, a road sign
loomed up on Emily’s side. Weston 2 miles it read. Emily’s guts twisted into a painfully tight knot.

“Oh my God...” Emily mumbled quietly to herself, now taking a very tight grip upon the bar
attached to her door.

As the road rose up and down more and more with each passing second, Emily suddenly felt
the over powering urge to pull open the van’s door and make a mad jump for safety. For all of her
imaginative thoughts, however, she remained glued to her passenger seat, her eyes fixed on the
horizon as it grew closer and closer.

All at once, the light from above seemed to double as the thick layer of trees to the left and
right of the road thinned and gave way to side streets and small houses. Another few hundred yards
and the forest receded to nearly nothing and was replaced by rows of personal residences, small
storefronts and clusters of multicolored mail boxes. Another sign appeared on Emily side, this time,
a brown one with white lettering. Emily felt her insides loop-de-looping even faster than before.

WESTON: CITY LIMITS this official sign read. No sooner had Emily taken in the words then
her eyes instinctively looked skyward. Through an extremely thin layer of manicured shrubbery and
closely strung power lines, a tall, razor-tipped spire slowly began to loom ever higher into Emily’s
line of sight. Seconds later, splotches of bright white and dull, faded, rust-like colors peaked through
the branches. Emily could now barely breathe and her pulse rate was jumping up two pegs for every
beat of her heart.

At last, the layer of branches and electrical wires parted fully, and there it was...looking
almost exactly as it had eight years ago. The hospital, Emily’s once beloved “second home”...now
the vision of her worst nightmares...lay directly ahead. The van slowed to the town’s posted speed
limit of twenty five MPH just as the north wing of the Weston Hospital came into full view. The
bright green, freshly mown grass and the majestic oak and beech trees...capped by the most beautiful
display of fall foliage yet...could not stifle the pain that was now threatening to burst through
Emily’s chest at any given moment.

Nathan slowed the van down even more. Directly ahead, an old, slightly weathered, stone
bridge came into view...beyond which lay the city of Weston. Just as Emily’s heart rate was
beginning to level off at the thought of passing over the bridge and into the relative safety of the town
beyond, Nathan abruptly gave the wheel a swift turn to the right and pulled the van directly onto
B&O Boulevard, the thoroughfare that ran directly parallel to the hospital’s main gates.

“HEY!” Emily cried in shocked surprise. “Nathan...what in the hell do you think you’re
doing? Our hotel is over in town, this damn road runs right past the...”

Before Emily could finish her protest, the van’s brakes squealed and Emily pitched forward,
somewhat violently, in her seat as the van came to an abrupt stop. The sudden halting of the vehicle
also had the immediate effect of rousing both Claire and Pat from their three hour plus slumber.

“Huh..wha...” Pat moaned as he tried to figure out where and when he was. “What
happened....rest stop?”

“No,” Claire, who was suddenly as wide awake and alert as before, said. “I don’t believe so
ol’ pal.”

Nathan grinned as he put the van into neutral and lowered all the windows on the passenger
side. Having brought the van to a stop directly in front of the crumbling, main brick gates of the
hospital, Nathan had afforded himself, as well as his three companions, a spectacular first
impression of the “Grand Ol’ Dame” in all of her sunset laden glory.

“There she is,” Nathan said both proudly and teasingly.

“Wow,” Pat said, obviously impressed and with a note of awe.

“Stunning,” Claire said as she stared up at the mammoth clock tower. “It really is
breathtaking Em. I can see why you fell in love with it.”

Emily merely stared, an expression of near contempt upon her face. Resentment, slowly
mixing with feelings of confrontation and finality swelled inside of her as she cast her eyes upon
the imposing site for the first time in over three years.

“Hello again,” Emily said slowly. “OLD girl...have a pleasant rest?”


Chapter 9
Back Home Again . . . in Weston

“What was the last name again, sir?” the desk clerk asked the man now standing before him
in a one-piece, blue work suit bearing the initials W.V.H.H.R.

“Reynolds,” Nathan Riley answered jovially as if the clerk should know him. “Come on
Charley, I was here only two weeks ago. Don’t you remember me?”

“Oh yes,” Charley said with fake recognition. “Yes uh . . . Stac . . . uh . . . no . . . ”

“Steve.” Nathan replied in an even more friendly tone. “Steve Reynolds. I came in and
out like five or six times a day.”

“OH . . . yeah,” Charley said resoundingly, “with the State . . . yes. You were working over
at the hospital, right?”

“That’s right, and I still am.” Nathan replied.

“Do you, ah . . . ” Charley asked meekly, “I mean . . . have you made any . . . I . . . ”

“Yes Charley, everything is fine.” Nathan said in a very reassuring way. “Don’t tell me
people are still seeing and hearing ghosts around here.”

“Well, . . . ” Charley stammered. “Actually . . . yes I think so. At least . . . that is to say I
think they are . . . or THEY think they are . . . ”

“Trust me,” Nathan added, “once Halloween is over I have a sneaking suspicion everything
will suddenly come to a halt.”

“Ye . . . yes I . . . I hope so,” Charley replied, obviously not convinced. “Hope it gets here
before I go out of my skull.”

“Oh no, YOU haven’t been seeing things have you Charley?” Nathan asked jokingly.

“Well . . . I . . . ” Charley began hesitantly, “just, ya know, weird lights and stuff. At
night, over around the hospital. Blue and green ones.”

“OK, I’m convinced now,” Nathan said with mock seriousness.

“Of what?!” Charley asked horrified.

“That you are DEFINITELY due for a nice vacation,” Nathan replied lightly. “I hear
Canada is beautiful this time of year. Little skiing and ice skating might do wonders for you.”

Several feet away in the rear of the small, Victorian style lobby, the three other guests . . .
two women and one man . . . stood huddled together, trying their best to remain as inconspicuous
as possible. For all of their efforts, Claire, Pat and Emily were failing to prevent many of the
outside passersby from casting them curious glances. Emily, in particular, being a former resident
of Weston, felt that Nathan was doing something less than a spectacular job of blending into the
woodwork.

“Claire,” Emily said in hushed voice, “is this Nathan’s idea of keeping a ‘low profile’?”

“Actually, yes,” Claire said assuredly. “If this clown remembers him, then he might as well
pad his part.”

“I get the feeling that this guy might tell the entire town about us though,” Emily said with
suppressed anxiety.

“The better for us and the worse for him then,” Claire replied. “I just wish to hell he would
hurry up; it’s cold down here.”

Claire, Pat and Emily huddled closer together in an attempt to contain some of their body
heat. Meanwhile, Nathan was continuing his impromptu buddy-to-buddy chat with Charley the
desk clerk, who was now opening up and talking free as a bird.

“It’s been so freakin’ eerie,” Charley rambled on while typing rapidly on his keyboard.
“Just yesterday, Ms. Harshburger was walking home . . . past the main gates ya know . . . and she
says she hears this god-awful creaking and crying from somewhere inside. Said it was like
someone was torturing a cat or something.”

“Ya don’t say?” Nathan replied with false indifference. “Wind and shingles doing the
Tango I’d say. The metal caps on the front arches are about shot to hell; I heard ’em whistling last
time. Ha, it’s a miracle they haven’t been blown all the way to Ohio by now.”

“That’s it Nathan,” Emily said under her breath nearby. “Just keep joking.”

“He’s blending Emily,” Pat replied quietly. “Don’t worry. Nate knows what he’s doing.”

“OK, Mr. Reynolds,” Charley said after tallying the bill. “Two nights . . . two rooms . . .
State Employee Discount . . . that comes to two hundred fifteen after tax.”

Nathan removed his wallet and then placed three one-hundred dollar bills into Charley’s
waiting hand. Charley turned to an antique cash register, punched several buttons, pulled a handle,
and with a loud and resounding ‘DING’ the drawer slid open.

“Eighty-five is your change, Mr. Reynolds,” Charley said politely as he handed Nathan
four twenties and a five. “Rooms 310 and uh . . . 312 . . . ”

Emily’s stomach lurched and she coughed uncontrollably before Claire braced her.
“Are you all right Ms.?” Charley asked while peering over Nathan. “Shall I call the
pharmacy or anything?”

Emily coughed again but merely waved her gloved hand in the air in signal of “no thank
you . . . I’m fine . . . go to hell.”

“Sounds like she’s taking a cold,” Charley added as he watched Nathan sign the hotel’s
ornate register. “Better keep an eye on that, what with all those noxious gases coming from the
hospital.”

“Oh don’t’ worry ‘bout that,” Nathan replied with no concern. “We capped all those off
years ago . . . except the nitrous oxide of course. We make a fortune off that stuff on the black
market ya know.”

Charley smiled half-heartedly, fully aware that his attempt to trap Nathan into revealing
something had gone down in flames.

“Yes . . . heh heh . . . ” Charley laughed in resignation. “I can imagine.”

“Well that about does it, Chief.” Nathan said as he handed Charley a fiver. “Here’s a little
something for your troubles . . . and DO spend it all in one place; I insist.”

Nathan removed the two sets of brass keys from the counter top and placed them inside of
his coat pocket. He was just turning to leave the desk when Charley called to him.

“Uh, Mr. Reynolds?” Charley called.

“Yes?” Nathan said with a fake hint of confusion in his voice that only partially hid his real
feelings.

“Uh . . . this bill sir,” Charley continued in sheer confusion as he surveyed the bill in his
hands. “It’s uh . . . Canadian.”

“I know,” Nathan said as though it were nothing. “Like I said, Canada is beautiful this time
of year. See ya ‘round.”

Charley’s eyes darted from Nathan to the Canadian five dollar bill and back to Nathan . . .
his mind now totally sent for a loop. Nathan merely gave a parting wave and crossed the lobby to
join his three companions . . . who were all eyeing him wearily.

“Was that REALLY necessary Nathan?” Emily asked while remaining huddled together
with Claire and Pat.

“You know what they say about ‘the bigger the lie’,” Nathan replied in a very unconcerned
manner.
“Well, suppose ‘Mr. Nosey’ over there decides to tell the entire county that we’re in town .
. . what then?” Emily asked pointedly.

“He won’t have the chance,” Nathan said very simply.

“I don’t . . . ” Emily began.

“Look,” Claire interjected while rubbing her hands together in a further attempt to keep
warm. “I hate to interrupt your summit meeting . . . but can we get up to our rooms? I’m freezing
down here!”
Nathan nodded his head in agreement. Taking one brass key in each hand, he gestured for
his three companions to head back for the main entrance. Needing no additional incentive due to
their frigid states, Claire, Emily and Pat broke their huddle and quickly obliged. Once outside and
away from Charley’s prying ears, Nathan motioned for the three of them to gather close to him
before retrieving their belongings from the van . . . which was parked directly in front of the hotel’s
main entrance.

“OK, listen up,” Nathan instructed. “Our rooms are right next to each other and each of
them have a nice view of the hospital. Claire, you and Emily take 312, Pat . . . ”

“Can we PLEASE swap those around?” Emily pleaded. “I like irony as much as the next
psycho but I’d just as soon NOT tempt fate any more than is absolutely necessary.”

“Of course,” Nathan replied as he handed Claire the key baring the tag numbered ‘310'.
“For now, take only your overnight gear. Pat.”

“Yeah?” Pat responded, himself still shivering as the wind coursed through the narrow
streets.

“Once we get unloaded . . . ” Nathan said while pointing at the van, “take this thing and
park it three streets over, IN the alleyway. Set the alarm and then get back here ASAP. Try and be
as inconspicuous as possible.”

“Check,” Pat replied.

While still attempting to shield themselves from the icy air, Emily, Nathan and Claire each
removed their respective baggage from the rear of the van. Moments later, they made their way as
quickly as possible back into the lobby and toward the hotel’s single, secluded elevator. Emily was
fully aware of the unsettling fact that Charley never took his eyes off of them for one second right
up to the moment the elevator doors slid closed.

“I don’t like him,” Emily said wearily. “I swear to God it’s like he was trying to plow inside
my head with his eyes.”

“Well then, you know what that means?” Nathan asked seriously.
“What?” Emily asked with heightened curiosity.

“He’s got good taste,” Nathan replied.

“Oh my . . . ” Emily replied, realizing she had just been had. “Cute, really cute Nathan.”

“Thanks,” Nathan replied without a care in the world. “Still, he IS getting a little too
inquisitive even for my taste. Maybe he’ll prove he has good taste by taking me up on my advice.”

Emily did not have time to try and figure out just what Nathan was rambling about. No
sooner had he finished his latest enigmatic statement then the elevator bell sounded and the doors
slid open to reveal a long, narrow hallway. As Emily negotiated her way toward her room, she took
careful note that the walls . . . covered in a dull green Victorian style paper . . . were lined from one
end to another with large, portrait sized photographs. With their frames ringed in fake, gold trim,
each depicted another scene from Weston’s past hundred or so years. To Emily, it seemed that
nearly every other one was another view of the hospital.

“I think the place is following me Claire,” Emily said a few minutes later as she slumped
down upon the bed in her room, fully convinced that she was being dogged by the hospital’s
omnipresent images. “It’s not bad enough that I can see the place every time I look out the window
. . . and every night in my dreams . . . NO. NO it has to follow me down the hallway and even into
my damn room.”

Emily gestured to the wall above the bed. Centered directly over the wooden headboard
was yet another period photograph of the hospital’s grounds. From the number and type of
buildings present, Emily could tell that it must have been taken sometime in the teens. The mere
fact that she could now distinguish this time period irked her no end.

“I still think it’s gorgeous,” Clair said as she stared up at the large, sepia toned photograph.
“This may sound REALLY cliché . . . but they honestly do not make them like that anymore.”

“There’s a reason,” Emily said cynically.

“Oh now, come on,” Claire replied, attempting to interject some lightness into the
conversation. “You know you can only fool me so far Em. I know you’re not thrilled about being
here but deep down you still have feelings for the place. No matter how hard you try to deny it.
You’re still tied to it emotionally.”

“Ohhhh.” Emily moaned in fatigue as she turned over upright on the bed. “I guess.”

Claire smiled lightly and eyed Emily closely as she took a seat in an Edwardian high-back
chair placed near the window. With one graceful motion of her arm, Claire pulled aside the thin,
white inner curtains that hung down over the window, diffusing the incoming light. She squinted
her eyes as she gazed out over the tops of the surrounding buildings, and across the river at the
hospital.
“What was it like then Emily?” Claire asked out of the blue.

“What was ‘what’ like ‘when’?” Emily replied, not even bothering to raise up.

“The hospital,” Claire said calmly, baiting her trap as carefully as she could. “When you
were growing up here in Weston, what was it like then?”

Emily gently rose up on the bed and cast a leery eye toward Claire. Just why in the blazes
she would pose a question like THAT, at a time like THIS, left Emily momentarily stunned. Claire
remained still, holding back the curtain and staring serenely out of the window, calm as could be.

“Now what kind of a question is that Claire?” Emily asked as though tip-toeing around a
dozen mouse traps.

“A simple one,” Claire answered without raising or lowering her voice.

“Well . . .” Emily replied vaguely, racking her brains to try and put her deeply buried
feelings into camouflaged words. “It looked just about like it does now. There were some other
buildings around back at one point but other than that . . .”

“That’s not what I mean Emily,” Claire interjected, knowing full well that Emily was
gracefully dodging the issue. “I mean what was it like to be faced with it day in and day out? Must
have been really frightening for you, huh?”

“No,” Emily replied with indignation. “No, not at all. I loved the place, I . . . Claire . . .
that’s not fair. You tricked me.”

“Hmm,” Claire said with calm pride, never taking her eyes off the window. “Well, if you
loved the place . . . then all’s fair in ‘LOVE and war’ Emily.”

Emily now allowed herself to smile, fully realizing that she had fallen head first into
Claire’s well laid mental trap.

“All right,” Emily replied playfully. “But only because I’m envious of your technique.”

“Thank you,” Claire said politely.

“I didn’t just love the place Claire . . .” Emily began following a deep, soul-searching
breath. “It was more like it was a part of me. I felt more at home when I was there than I did in my
own house. The doctors, the orderlies, the nurses and especially the patients I was allowed to see .
. . they were as much a family to me as my father and mother.”

This latest mental rewind was more than Emily could take. She slumped forward onto the
bed and gripped the sheet tightly in her hands. Despite her earnest attempts at keeping her
emotions behind their floodgates, they had once again burst forth . . . along with her tears. Claire
let the curtain fall back into place and slowly pivoted back around to face Emily, who was still
sobbing quietly into the bed sheets.

“Hard to let go, I know,” Claire said knowingly as she watched Emily closely. “You still
feel guilty don’t you?”

“Yes . . . yes damn it I do,” Emily said, lifting her head from the sheets. “I am the living
embodiment of the word ‘hypocrite’ Claire. I owe everything in my life to that . . . that . . . place.
Now I can’t even face the idea of going back there without . . . dah. It’s MY fault Claire, my fault.
She’s dead because I was blind as a damn bat.”

“You know you don’t believe that,” Claire said without pause.

“I...I don’t know anymore,” Emily said, feeling totally helpless. “I just know that I
COULD have stopped whatever happened from happening had I bothered to put two and two
together.”

“Emily,” Claire replied. “There was nothing you could have done even if you HAD known.
If you’d said anything, what do you think would have happened? You just may have joined her.
Emily, we can’t change the past IN the past. We can only change it in the present.”

“I know, I know,” Emily replied, her tears gradually receding. “That’s why I’m such a
hypocrite . . . because I don’t know if I can bear it. I know what I SHOULD do, and what I HAVE
to do . . . I’m just scared to death to do it, and . . . I KNOW you know why. On that subject, have
you eh, ‘felt’ anything yet?”

“I’ve deliberately been blocking it,” Claire said in a slightly more nervous tone. “When we
pulled up in front of the gates earlier, I opened up to it for a second . . . and it was strong.”
“How strong?” Emily asked, genuinely interested though also eager to change the subject.

“Strong enough,” Claire replied seriously. “There’s a lot of pain and anger inside your old
second home though Emily. For all its charm and beauty, it has its inner stains.”

“Of THIS . . . I am fully aware,” Emily said with complete certainty. “Do you really believe
that we have any chance at all of putting things right?”

“I’m reminded of an old saying,” Claire said reassuringly. “‘ Of goulies, and ghosties and
long-legged beasties . . . and things that go BUMP in the night . . . Heaven protect us’.”

Emily took Claire’s words as much to heart as she could. That was exactly what she felt the
need for right now, protection. Suddenly, before Emily could question Claire further about the
origins of her unusual quote, there came a knock at the door to their room.

“Well, I guess that ends today’s session,” Claire said, now turning off her mental beam into
Emily’s mind.

“Do I pay here or at the window?” Emily quipped as another knock came at the door.
“Yes?” Claire called.

“It’s Nate,” Nathan said from the other side of the door.

Claire rose from her high-back chair by the window and headed for the door as Emily
desperately tried to clear away the evidence of her latest round of tears. She had just flopped over
into a quasi-resting position when Claire pulled the door open, revealing a smiling Nathan on the
other side.

“You brought dinner?” Claire joked.

“No . . . but I bring news, will that satisfy your appetite?” Nathan replied dryly.

“Come on in, welcome to Chez-Claire,” Claire said with embellished formality.

“Well, I’ve just succeeded in arranging a nice little northern vacation for our nosey desk
clerk,” Nathan said as he entered their room, fully aware of Emily’s conspicuous silence. “Seems
he’s been working FAR too hard lately, and one of our nearby agents . . . ”

“ ‘Travel‘ agents, I hope you mean,” Emily said, knowing perfectly well what Nathan
was getting at.

“I guess you could call him that,” Nathan responded. “At any rate, the reservations are set
and by tomorrow morning, our dear, sweet little busybody will be lounging in one of the coziest
rooms in Ottawa . . . under complete sedation of course.”

“Of course.” Claire replied without missing a beat.

“So, another West Virginian is heading to Canada on the N.A.A.P.I. Plan?” Emily said
heavily.

“It’s only for a few days Emily,” Nathan said assuredly. “You know what they say about
‘loose lips’ and . . . ”

“I don’t give a damn what anybody says . . . about anything!” Emily exclaimed harshly as
she jumped from the bed and crossed the room to meet Nathan head-on. “You can’t just go around
the entire state KIDNAPING people left and right Nathan! Who’s next . . . the mayor? The
governor? Or how about my third grade teacher . . . or my own mother . . . she MUST be a threat to
secrecy right?”

“Emily, calm down and get a hold of your emotions,” Nathan replied as Emily continued to
fume.

“Do you realize how long it’s been since I have even TALKED to my own mother
Nathan?!” Emily said bitterly.
“You have nothing to worry about,” Nathan said calmly. “She thinks you’re on vacation to
help clear your head after what happened with Dr. Jameson. Your superior even told her you were
in Canada. Believe me Emily, your mother is fine.”

“How in the hell am I supposed to know that for sure, damn it?” Emily raved with a stomp
of her foot. “For all I know she could think I’m dead in a gutter somewhere . . . or buried in snow at
the bottom of a ski slope.”

“Nathan,” Claire interjected with the air of a peace maker, “let her go and see her mother.
What could it hurt?”

“It could compromise the whole damn mission. THAT’S what it could hurt Claire,”
Nathan replied seriously.

“How?” Claire retorted, not believing a word of what Nathan said. “By letting her know
her daughter’s alive? You know, if anyone sees Emily in town and word gets back to her that she’s
around . . . we could have REAL trouble. Have you considered that little eventuality?”

“Yes,” Nathan said heavily.

“And just how were you going to deal with it?” Claire replied. “Send HER back to Ottawa
too?”

“If I have to . . . yes,” Nathan said with no conviction at all.

“Come off it Nate, remember who you’re talking to here,” Claire said pointedly. “How can
we expect Emily to do us ANY good if she’s worried about her mother twenty-four-seven? For
god’s sake, let her go and see her.”

Nathan did not move for several seconds. The wheels within his head seemed to be
spinning away at top-end as he eyed Emily cautiously. To Emily, it was eerily similar to the
manner in which Diane Yost had seen fit to size her up before speaking ten years prior.

“All right,” Nathan finally replied in resignation. “Emily, you’re free for the evening
anyway . . . go and see her.”

“I won’t divulge a thing I swear,” Emily replied as a glint of happiness crept back into her
tone. “I’ll just tell her I’m . . .”

“You can tell her anything and everything if you feel like it,” Nathan said with a hint of
bitterness mingled with humor.

“I eh . . . what?” Emily replied, confused beyond words yet again.

“What do you think I was arguing with Henry about before we left, huh?” Nathan said as if
Emily should have expected more of him. “He told me ‘under no circumstances let that young lady
near her mother.’ To which I replied, ‘either she is allowed to or I tendered my resignation here and
now.’ Then, following a long debate in which Henry proceeded to question my ancestry numerous
times in both English and Welsh, .he finally relented.”

Emily, her worries and woes now free-flowing from her body, beamed brighter than ever at
Nathan before lunging forward and enveloping him in a tight, full body hug.

“Thank you,” Emily said with joy. “Nathan, thank you.”

“What did you think I was gonna do?” Nathan began as Emily continued her embrace.
“Bring you within five blocks of her and keep you ‘hotel bound’ for twenty-four hours.”

“Yes, actually,” Emily said jokingly.

“She can be trusted, right Em?” Claire asked offhandedly.

“She’ll seal her mouth like a trap if I ask her to” Emily said happily as she relinquished
Nathan and headed back to the bed and her half-opened suitcase.

“Just one thing . . .” Nathan added, “I do need you back here by nine. Other than that, just
keep sharp, stay low and remember your cover-story if anyone else gets nosey. Got it?”

“Got it,” Emily replied vehemently.

Now, with something uplifting to look forward to, Emily’s spirits rose from the bottom of
the cellar to above cloud nine. With five o’clock now fast approaching and the sun beginning to
slip slowly behind the nearby hills, Emily dug into her suitcase, pulled out a coat, shawl and set of
gloves. Once fully protected from the elements, she quickly departed the hotel and started off on
foot toward her mother’s home on the northern side of town.

The temperature had managed to drop another five degrees since her arrival, and, as the sky
slowly turned from a crystal clear blue to a deep, purplish orange, the mercury began to fall even
faster. Traffic on the downtown and neighboring streets was as heavy as usual during the town’s
abbreviated rush-hour. However, even though she was forced to stop at nearly every street for
several minutes as traffic inched forward, Emily could not have been in a better mood had she
received another raise in pay.

Ever since Dr. Jameson had dropped dead upon her doorstep nearly two weeks ago, Emily
had spoken not a word to her mother per orders from Henry Thompson and the N.A.A.P.I. Though
for all of that time, she had never been more than a glancing-thought from her mind. As each newly
revived memory regarding her past experiences at the hospital surfaced, a new reminder of just
how important her mother was to her accompanied it. Every time Emily recalled the hospital in
either her childhood or adult recollections . . . association with her mother was impossible to
ignore. It had not only been their topic of conversation when last they spoke, but it had indeed been
their chief talking point . . . or arguing point . . . for years.
As Emily dashed across another street, crowded with barely-moving vehicles, she began
to wonder just how in the world she was going to explain her present circumstances without being
accused of ‘working too hard’ or ‘having delusions of grandeur.’ Telling her mother that she had
been promoted and moved to a new medical center was one thing, but THIS was an entirely
different story. How do you tell your own mother that you’re now working with a group of ‘Ghost
Hunters’ who are about to try and ‘cleanse’ your old place-of-employment of the spirits of dead
patients?

Having believed Emily to have spent the last two weeks skiing and relaxing in Ontario,
Emily’s mother, Nancy Flesher, was more than surprised to see her daughter suddenly come
walking up her sidewalk out of the blue. Following another hugging session and a quick retreat
into the warm security of Nancy’s comfortable home, Emily advised that they each sit down for
some tea as she had something important to tell her.

“Mom,” Emily said carefully as she took a cup of steaming hot tea from her mother
minutes later.

“Yes, Emily, go on,” Nancy said as she took a small sip from her own cup. “You’ve been
sitting there trying to NOT tell me something for five minutes now. I KNOW you had a nice
vacation and I KNOW you’re happy to be back. But just what is bothering you child?”

“It’s not really that easy to explain, Mom,” Emily said hesitantly.

“Oh come now,” Nancy said warmly. “I know all of the stuff with Dr. Jameson was terrible
Emily, but sometimes these things just happen. Now if you want to talk about it you don’t have
anything to be afraid of.”

“It’s not that, Mom,” Emily quickly interrupted. “It’s . . . well, I’m back in town here for a
reason . . . and I don’t exactly know how to tell you about it.”

“A reason?” Nancy replied quizzically. “Are you here to see a patient, Em?”

“Uh . . . something like that,” Emily said, not knowing at all how to proceed. “An ‘old’
patient of mine actually, one whom I treated when I worked over at the . . . at the uh . . .”

Emily waved her arm and pointed in the general direction of the hospital. Her mother
began to fear that Emily was having a prolonged negative reaction to what had occurred. Seeing
her wave her arm as she was and poke her finger in midair only made her even more certain.

“Emily,” Nancy said with a distinctively motherly air. “I don’t care if you did just get back
from a vacation, you have definitely been wo . . .”

“Working-too-hard,” Emily interjected, completing her mother’s predicable words in


frustration. “Mom, I think you could easily be a stand-in for a parrot. No, Mother, this time it’s a
little more complicated than that.”
“Then for heaven’s sake child, tell me,” Nancy replied, nerves now creeping into her
words.

“I’m afraid to, Mom,” Emily said simply.

“Why?” Nancy replied, thoroughly confused.

“Because you’ll only think I’m losing my own mind, which I’m not completely ruling out
yet,” Emily began, trying to remain buoyant despite her sinking confidence. “Or lying.”

“OK, Emily. Now stop playing your little mind games,” Nancy replied a little more
strictly. “If you’re just going to criticize me and tell me I won’t believe you, then you might as well
go on and get to whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.”

Emily took a breath and fought back her urge to scream, rant and pound the floor.
Regressions into childhood might have been a little early in coming for someone Emily’s age, but
she was feeling them rather strongly at the moment. She took another sip of her tea, looked her
mother straight in the eye and decided to again ‘throw caution to the freezing wind.’

“All right Mom, if that’s the way you want it,” Emily said in a type of mock, grown-up
voice. “I’m here in town helping some people to investigate the hospital.”

“Well,” Nancy replied calmly, failing to understand why something so trivial should cause
Emily such consternation. “What’s unbelievable about that? I can’t say that I’m thrilled about it
but it really doesn’t surprise me. You’re working with the State then?”

“That’s what you’re supposed to think,” Emily said, a slight hint of menacing tease in her
eyes. “And if anyone asks, THAT’S what you tell them. But there’s more to it. Mom, I’m here to
help some people investigate all of these weird things that have been happening for the past three
weeks. I am here, in a sense, to help them (gulp) search the hospital for ghosts.”

Emily did not speak for another minute, nor did her mother. With eyes wide and tea-hand
trembling, Nancy did not look away from Emily for a second. The air, which already had been ripe
with nerves and trepidation, now grew so thick that a chainsaw could barely have made a scratch
upon it. From somewhere, though having absolutely no idea where, a surge of confidence and
purpose swelled inside of Emily. Now that it was out, she felt ten times taller and twice as bold.

“Well?” Emily said finally, breaking the dead silence. “There it is. Go on, go ahead, call me
a nutcase or a whipper-snapper or anything you like. I’m ready for it.”

“Emily you’re . . .” Nancy said in near horror, “you’re serious, aren’t you?”

“As a heart a. . . .” Emily began before quickly reversing gears and choosing a new phrase.
“I mean, as serious as I’ve ever been about anything . . . including my chosen profession.”
“I was afraid this would happen,” Nancy said, now looking and sounding more horrified
than Emily had seen her in all her thirty-four years. “So, it finally came back for you too, eh?”

“Come again?” Emily replied, never expecting to hear a reaction anywhere CLOSE to this.

“I knew it,” Nancy said with the tone of someone who was building up to a ‘boil-over’. “I
knew that if you went to work there it would come back to haunt you too, Emily. God knows I tried
to talk you out of it but NO . . . no you had to go and jump right into the lion’s mouth and yell ‘do
your worst’ didn’t you?”

“Mom!” Emily replied hotly, feeling her mother was on the verge of her own heart attack.
“When in god’s name are you talking about? You knew WHAT would come back to haunt me?”

“That PLACE Emily!” Nancy bellowed, dropping her scalding tea to the floor and taking
no note whatsoever. “You don’t have to convince me that it’s haunted Emily, I’ve known that my
entire life! My entire life that I spent there, scared to death every living day that someone would
find out that I knew what I knew . . . that I had SEEN what I had seen!”

“Oh my god, Mom you . . .” Emily replied in astonishment, her mother’s words chilling her
to every stunned bone.

“YES . . . Emily, I know,” Nancy screamed as she rose from her chair, now near the point
of hysterics. “I’ve known for years that place is EVIL . . . evil to the very core.”

“How?” Emily began.

“Because of things I saw Emily,” Nancy replied bitterly. “I saw and heard more than I ever
wanted to. Patients dying abruptly, doctors turning blind eyes, and ME . . . me turning my own
damn head and covering their own damn feet because I was too terrified to say anything. I don’t
know just WHAT they were up to Emily, but it doesn’t take, if you’ll forgive me, a PHD to see that
two plus two equals FOUR.”

“So you know about the . . .” Emily began.

“Don’t say it Emily!” Nancy pleaded. “For the love of me and your own father, God rest
his soul, DON’T say it. Yes, I knew. I saw the . . . the things people thought were ghosts, I heard
what they said and if it’s actually true . . . then GOD HELP US ALL!!!”

“Well they WERE true,” Emily blasted back. “Why did you never tell me about this
Mom?”

“Would it have done any good?” Nancy replied. “No! No you had your path laid out
already and there was nothing I could do about it, save pray that by the time you graduated the
whole damn place would be swallowed up by the earth or something. But, no such luck. Now all
those idiots and damn fools have gone and woken the place up . . . and now YOU’RE mixed up in
it!”
“MOM!” Emily interrupted fiercely. “I’m not just mixed up in it, I’m here to help put an
end to it. To try and stop what’s happening.”

“Emily,” Nancy said in cross between anger and sadness. “If you go back inside that place
you’ll never come out again.”

“I’m not going in alone,” Emily pleaded madly. “I’m here with professionals. People who
deal with this sort of thing, Mom. In fact . . . if what you’re saying is true then you should come
back with me and talk to them.”

“NO!” Nancy said in sheer terror. “NO, Emily, no I can’t . . . I WON’T! I want nothing to
do with that place; do you hear me? NOTHING! Take my advice child, tell these friends of yours
that if they know what’s good for them they’ll get the hell out of Dodge while they still can. Before
it takes them too!!!”

“No . . . I won’t,” Emily said defiantly. “You feel so strong about it, YOU tell them. I
already tried.”

“You are ALL a bunch of damn fools Emily!” Nancy shouted with a maniacal look upon
her face. “You don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

“I don’t . . .” Emily screamed before she herself realized what she was saying. “Yes, yes,
Mom, I do know what WE’RE dealing with.”

“Oh my god,” Nancy said with tears of anger forming. “Emily, they’ve sucked you in, too.
I’ve seen those so called ‘ghost hunters’ at the hospital before. People who think they know what
they’re doing . . . who think that they can honestly understand pure evil and just sweep it away like
dust. Well, all of those people are about eight years too late Emily because they need to be in an
ACTIVE asylum, not an abandoned one! And if you go along with some half-baked scheme of
theirs then so do you!”

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Emily said with both anger and astonishment.

“Believe it!” Nancy roared back. “Emily I . . . I know you better than you think. You think
that by going along with these people that you’ll somehow manage to . . . to . . . purify that damn
place as well as your own soul. Well it can’t be done Emily. What’s past is past and there is not
thing one we can do about in the here-and-now.”

“You’re wrong!” Emily said bitterly. “Goddamn it, Mother how can you just . . . shrink
back and say nothing. I swear you are worse than an ostrich. You just bury your head in the sand
and bottle it all up . . . praying it’ll never come back.”

“Which it HAS!” Nancy replied.

“And what’s even WORSE,” Emily spat back before standing up and pacing in a small
circle, “is that I’ve inherited your damn ‘blind-eye’ streak! Well not anymore . . . NOT anymore!
You tried to steer me clear of it once and it didn’t work, and I’ll be hanged if I’m gonna let you pull
me away from it now. I swore an oath to help people to the utmost of my ability, and NOW, as far
I’m concerned, that includes ‘beyond-the-grave’!”

Emily took one final gulp of her tea before hurling the cup as hard as she could against the
brick facade of the fireplace. As small fragments of china and droplets of tea flew about the room,
Nancy’s eyes finally let loose their pent-up tears. Emily was not really sure if her mood was
actually one of sadness or insanity . . . and for the moment she could not have cared less.

“Goodbye, Mother,” Emily said as she started for the door. “I’m in room 310 at the old
Camden Hotel if you wanna call and hear me dictate a will.”

“Emily,” Nancy began, sounding more and more fearful rather than angry. “Emily don’t
say that, please . . .”

“Ya know . . .” Emily started as she paused directly in front of the half-opened door, “I’m
actually glad I came by here. Now I know why I never listened to you back in the day; you take the
coward’s way out. That’s why you quit when you did, wasn’t it? Not because I was coming to
work there, but because you were afraid to face it, right?”

“Emily,” Nancy sobbed. “Emily, please. I’ve already lost your father. I don’t want to lose
YOU TOO!”

“If your conscience ever turns down the right road, call me,” Emily said with as much spite
as she could. “Til then, good night.”

Emily pulled the door open and stepped briskly out onto the porch, making sure to close it
securely. Even as she descended the stairs from the porch to the walkway, her mother’s crying was
still clearly audible from within. As the nighttime sky grew clearer, and the temperature continued
to drop, Emily pulled her gloves over her hands and wrapped her shawl about her face. Mere
seconds later, her mother’s moans had dwindled to nothing as Emily, now headed against the
bone-chilling wind, slowly made her way back through the streets of downtown Weston and
toward the hotel.

The eerie, yellow glow from the ornate street lamps was of little comfort as they cast odd,
disfigured shadows onto the streets. Even the brighter headlights from the occasional passing car
were unable to divert Emily’s eyes from a straight-on, glazed over stare. As the facade of the hotel
finally came into view after the long, cold, five block trek from hell, Emily let out her breath and
shook her head from side to side. She was now fully convinced of what she had said earlier.

“No, you never can ever REALLY, go back home again,” Emily mumbled under her
visible breath as she entered the hotel.

“Oh my, Emily,” Claire said in astonished disbelief several minutes later.
As if preplanned by some narcissistic stage director with a morbid sense of irony, Emily
had now assumed Claire’s former position in the high-backed chair facing the window. Claire,
Nathan and Pat each looked on in varied emotional states. Having heard Emily’s somewhat
anger-tainted retelling of her recent escapade, each of her companions now looked as though they
felt a certain amount of personal pity for what she had just endured; Claire, in particular.

“Yes,” Emily said in a near daze as she glared out the window at the half-lighted hospital
campus across the way, “and then I just left. So . . . Nate, if you want to gas her and send her to
Ottawa by the next train, you have my complete blessing.”

“Emily,” Claire replied reproachfully. “You do NOT mean that, and don’t try to convince
me otherwise because . . .”

“Claire,” Emily interrupted in subdued irritation. “I don’t want to be rude, but could you
please turn OFF your mind ray for a while, I‘d just as soon not have my every living thought made
public knowledge.”

“Are you kidding me?” Claire replied. “I haven’t even had to turn it on. I can read you
like a book from the outside.”

“Then close the book,” Emily seethed, still gazing out of the window. “There’s nothing
more to tell anyway. I knew she’d be upset and all but . . . but . . . the fact that she KNEW about all
of . . . about everything, and never told me. Claire, I just feel betrayed all right?”

“That’s normal Emily,” Claire said soothingly.

“NOTHING about ANY of this is NORMAL,” Emily replied “I just had a debate with my
own mother about ghosts and demons. Now there is nothing even remotely normal about that. All
those years and she never bothered to tell me. NEVER! You’d think it would have been a
courtesy to mention something like clandestine, medical, torture tests. I mean something like
THAT might have made a difference to me, but no, no she couldn’t take the easy route. And now
she still won’t even tell me. Hell, I doubt if she’ll ever speak to me again . . . if I’m lucky.”

Nathan gave a deep, depressing sigh. Claire remained fixated on Emily, who had yet to
move any muscle other than her mouth for nearly fifteen minutes. Pat merely sat at the head of the
bed, his head held low in deep pondering.

“It’s a shame she wouldn’t even consider coming here and talking to us,” Pat said in as soft
a tone as possible given his regrets. “She may have been able to help . . .”

“Well she wouldn’t Pat, so just forget it,” Emily replied, never taking her eyes off of the
window. “She’d no sooner talk with me about this again than she’d consider getting remarried.
Well, at least one thing’s for sure now Nate.”

“What’s that Em?” Nathan replied with false surprise.


“You don’t have to worry about me jumping ship and running for home,” Emily said
firmly. “I’m in this 110 percent now.”

“Out of spite?” Nathan asked in his own sort of ‘parental’ tone.

“Damn right,” Emily said with conviction.

“Damn wrong if you ask me,” Nathan replied before taking a seat on the edge of the bed.
“Whatever happened to your Hippocratic Oath . . . and the love of your patients and . . .?”

“Oh spare me would you?” Emily said with fierce dismissiveness. “I haven’t forsaken my
oath or turned mercenary or anything like that. But if going back into that place and cleansing it
will give me something to rub in my mother’s face then by god I’m gonna go all out.”

“No,” Nathan replied adamantly.

“No what?” Emily asked as she turned in her seat to face Nathan and the others.

“No way in hell am I gonna let you go in there with that on your mind,” Nathan said more
firmly. “Emily we need you to utilize what we HOPE is your good standing amongst these spirits,
and I really don’t see you accomplishing THAT if you go inside with a vendetta on your mind.”

“LOOK!” Emily shouted. “Do you want me to help you or not?”

“Yes,” Nathan replied, completely unfazed by Emily’s outburst, “but I want you doing it
for the right reasons.”

“Well then don’t take it up with me,” Emily fired back with great cynicism. “Go take it up
with her if you want.”

“Emily, I am not going to try and browbeat your mother into coming over here and saying
‘I’m sorry’,” Nathan said with finality. “That’s up to you.”

“Well then it’s not gonna happen,” Emily replied. “I’m not going back over there until, and
if, I come back out of that hospital alive. And if you think she’d ever even consider coming here to
confess her sins . . . well then just get it out of your head because it would take a damn. . .”
Suddenly, a slow but distinct knocking came from the door. Emily’s eyes and ears sank
back level with the rest of her head as she stopped mid-sentence and stared at the door in disbelief.

“Miracle?” Emily finished, her mind again preparing to strip its gears.

“Who in the hell?” Pat began.

“Shall I turn my ‘beam’ back on, Emily?” Claire asked with humorous resentment.

Nathan, himself a bit surprised, eyed the door suspiciously for several seconds before the
knocking again returned, this time harder and more audible than before. After casting each of his
companions a meaningful gaze, Nathan rose from the bed and walked to the door, whereupon he
immediately placed his eye to the peephole.

“Well, will wonders never cease?” Nathan said mysteriously.

“Who is it?” Pat asked, now looking paranoid to the point of panic.

“Emily, it’s your mother,” Nathan said with overemphasized calm.

“Oh my god . . . she’s come to kill me. I KNOW it!” Emily said with fright. “She’s not
carrying a gun is she?”

“No,” Nathan said simply, “a box.”

“A wha . . .” Emily replied as confusion set in en masse.

“Should I let her in or would you like to jump out the window first?” Nathan asked with
dark humor.

“That is, on so many levels, not even remotely funny,” Emily replied.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” Nathan replied as he slowly pulled the door open until the chain
latch caught. “Ms. Flesher I presume?”

“Uh . . . yes . . . yes eh, Emily’s mother,” Nancy said hesitantly from the other side of the
door, her recent sadness apparent in her trembling voice. “May I come in?”

“Certainly,” Nathan said politely before unbolting the lock and pulling the door open.
“Though I’d better warn you to check any concealed weapons before entering. You see, I don’t
wanna risk the lives of my partners here prematurely.”

Nancy Flesher cast Nathan a curious and mind-piercing stare as she slowly stepped inside
the room. Right up until the moment that Nathan had closed and re-secured the door, Nancy never
took her eyes off his face. She appeared as though she were trying to remember either a distant
name or date . . . and having limited success.

“Wait . . .” Nancy said after a few more seconds of surveillance, “wait a minute. I
remember you.”

“I was hoping you would,” Nathan said with only partially hidden pride.

“Yes . . . yes you’re eh . . . eh . . . Stacy . . . no . . . Casey . . .” Nancy fumbled for words


while still trying to place Nathan’s face. “Uh . . . eh . . . Reynolds? No, no Reingold.”

“I think I told you Casey Reynolds,” Nathan added politely.


“Oh yes, yes that’s right,” Nancy said as her memory of Nathan’s last visit finally returned.
“But I thought you were working for the State on . . .”

“Please,” Nathan said politely. “Ms. Flesher, that box looks heavy. Shall I . . . ?”

“Oh yes of course,” Nancy replied as she handed the old and somewhat tattered cardboard
box to Nathan, who in turn placed it carefully upon the bed.

Emily remained in her chair although she had taken in every detail with extreme interest.
As her mother, now relieved of her excess baggage, finally turned to face her, she felt the anger
and hate begin to swell anew inside of her stomach. However surprised she was by her mother’s
sudden appearance. It was still overridden by outright loathing.

“Emily, I uh . . .” Nancy stammered. “I guess you’re obviously a little shocked by my


coming here.”

“I’d say that was putting it very mildly!!” Emily said spitefully.

“Emily,” Claire chastised.

“Claire,” Emily began to protest.

“YES!” Nathan interrupted forcefully. “This, as you already know, is Emily, and this is
Claire Rittenhouse and Patrick Dawson. I guess you could say that we’re Emily’s entourage while
in town. Would you, uh, like a glass of wine or tea?”

“Oh no, no thank you. I’m already full of tea,” Nancy replied.

“Yeah, you’re also full of . . .” Emily began.

“Emily, please,” Claire again interrupted. “I think your mother has a reason for coming
here. Now, why don’t we at least let her speak her mind before verbally abusing her.”

“Yes Ms. Flesher,” Nathan continued in a host-like manner, “to what DO we owe the honor
of your visit?”

“I eh . . .” Nancy began slowly, “I wanted to, ah . . . to . . . well, I wanted to stop by and tell
Emily that she was right. I really am nothing more than an old ostrich whose ‘buried her head in the
sand’ for far too long.”

“Eh, OK,” Nathan replied, not really knowing where Nancy may be headed but feeling
optimistic as well as confused.

“Mother,” Emily said as she rose from her chair and crossed to meet her, “what are you
talking about and what are you doing here?”
“I’m just trying to clear my OWN conscience Emily,” Nancy said heavily. “I didn’t have to
think long about it after you left either. I realized that I was just being foolish myself, and I
decided to try and . . . help . . . in any way I could.”

“Help?” Emily replied, her jaw now agape. “Help what?”

“Help YOU!” Nancy said with renewed vigor. “And your friends here. Inside that box,
you’ll find some things that I’ve been storing . . . or hiding . . . for years. For far too many years.”

All eyes turned to the old cardboard box now perched upon the ornate bedspread. Whatever
its contents, they must have weighed a considerable amount, as the box made at least a six-inch
indentation upon the firm mattress. Pat, unable to restrain his growing curiosity, leaned forward
and pulled back on one of the top flaps. A thin layer of dust wafted into the air as he did so.

After brushing the rest of the dust and dirt from the flaps, Pat eagerly pulled all four of
them apart, revealing the box’s contents. Piled tightly within its fraying and crumpled interior, was
a seemingly endless stack of what looked like old yellowing documents, bent and rumpled
photographs, note sheets, framed pictures and even a large, rolled up panoramic view of the
hospital, bearing the inscription: Fourth of July Picnic, 1905.

“Oh my!” Pat said with the eagerness of a child on Christmas morning. “My god there must
be at least two or three hundred . . . eh . . . things in here.”

“I’ve kept this locked away for nearly forty years now Emily,” Nancy began with
forgiveness in every word. “I was always afraid you’d stumble onto it someday and start asking
questions. Your father gave me most of it after he finished working on the hospital back before you
were born. The rest . . . well . . . let us just say that I have my sources and leave it at that.”

Pat, his curiosity now piqued, began gently ruffling through the first few papers on top.
After sifting his way through about fifteen or so documents, he finally came to a dark blue
well-bound, journal. In dull, cream lettering at the top it read: Central WV Power and Light: Daily
Journal of William Flesher. 1965. WESTON HOSPITAL PROJECT. Pat immediately took the
thick journal into his hands, brushed a layer of film and dust from its cover, and proceeded to hold
it against his chest as though it were a newborn baby.

“I hope some of this may be of use to you,” Nancy said wearily. “I know I never got
anything other than nightmares from it.”

“Ms. Flesher,” Nathan said, admiration and sincere thanks evident in every syllable,
“THANK you, THANK you very much. YES, this will certainly be of use to us.”

“I’ll say,” Pat said exuberantly, now flipping through the journal’s pages and nearly
salivating at each new detail. “HA . . . I knew it. Those second floor circuit breakers ARE tied into
the center section. Wonderful!”
“He brought a lot of stuff out back in 65',” Nancy continued heavily, her long held fears
still clinging. “Stuff that, that I didn’t really want to see even then. There’s that journal of his, his
personal blue prints with notes and . . .”

Nancy shuttered. A wave of fear seemed to flow swiftly over her as she slowly dropped her
head in mid-sentence.

“What Mom?” Emily asked with cautious curiosity. “What else?”

“Some . . . things,” Nancy continued with increased caution. “Things that he said he found
tucked into walls and behind bricks. Old scraps of paper with medical jargon of some kind
scribbled all over them. He said that Dr. Jameson, Herbert’s father, who was the assistant Super
then, told him to keep an eye out for an old diary of HIS dad’s. Said he had lost it back in the
thirties and . . . why are you all staring at me like that?”

Everyone else in the room had frozen. Their eyes, all wide as could be, were now locked on
Nancy as if controlled by radar. Nathan in particular now wore an expression of such shock and
interest that would have seemed more appropriate had he just been told he was inheriting a fortune.

“Ms. Flesher,” Nathan said as calmly as he could, “could you please repeat that last part once
more?”

“I said, Dr. Jameson Sr. told Emily’s father to keep his eyes open for an old diary that had
belonged to his father,” Nancy replied, having no idea just how golden her words were at the
moment. “I remember he told me that Jameson said he’d lost an old family diary down in the
basement or somewhere. Said he always thought it had fallen down a pipe or slipped between the
boards or something, and if he happened to find it while poking around down there to return it.”

“Did he say anything else about this diary?” Nathan asked with restrained enthusiasm.

“Just that it was an old, blue-covered book his father kept,” Nancy went on. “He did say
that he had kept some patient information in it and asked him nicely not to look through it just in
case any of it might still be confidential.”

“That seals it,” Pat said aloud.

“Good god!” Emily responded in astonishment. “THREE generations?”

“Why not?” Nathan asked simply.

“I don’t know just what you are talking about,” Nancy interjected, the significance of her
revelations still not apparent to her, “but if you’re referring to the Jameson family tree . . . well . . .
there’s more bad apples than ripe. THAT I can tell you. Anyway, if William knew anything about
this diary or whatever, it’ll be in there.”
Once again, the eyes of everyone in the room fell upon the dilapidated cardboard box
sitting upon the bed. For all they knew, the answer to the entire mystery might be sitting right in
front of them. Somewhere, amid the jumbled pile of papers and notes, might be the key that would
open the door to the hospital’s past. Or, at the very least, crack one of its windows.
Chapter 10
Emily’s Mission

Emily, her companions, and her mother talked well into the wee hours of the AM before
Nancy finally felt comfortable in parting. Her mind and conscience were now clearer than they
had been in decades. Her continued insight into the hospital’s day-to-day events did not go far in
disproving any of Nathan’s theories. Rather, they only made them seem more and more probable.

Before leaving the hotel, Nancy was strongly advised by Nathan to leave Weston the
following morning and spend the next twenty-four hours at Emily’s home in Charleston.

“I honestly cannot say just what is going to happen here, Ms. Flesher,” Nathan said with
serious concern as he escorted Nancy down the hallway toward the elevator with Emily in tow. “If
we’re lucky, it might be a cakewalk and we’ll all be out of there in time for dinner, but I wouldn’t
count on it. Whatever happens, you’ll be a lot safer in Charleston than you would here.”

“I don’t know,” Nancy replied with little enthusiasm.

“Mom, please,” Emily pleaded. “Look, if not for yourself then for ME, OK? I’ll feel a heck
of a lot better if you’re not five blocks away all night.”

“Yes Ms. Flesher,” Nathan added, “and it’s to our best advantage for Emily’s mind to be as
clear and relaxed as possible.”

“Hmm, then you ARE in trouble,” Nancy replied before giving Emily a good-natured prod
in the shoulder.

After several more minutes of coaxing, and a trip down the elevator, Emily and Nathan
were finally able to convince Nancy to leave for Charleston first thing in the morning. Now, with
the weight of the world lifted from her shoulders, Emily wearily returned to her room, her mind
finally settling back into its proper orbit.

As the antique Regulator clock in the third floor hallway clanged twice, Emily, thinking
Claire may have now turned in, gently inserted the key into the door to her room and slowly
opened it. She found Claire, still wide awake though now attired in a night gown, and once again
perched in the high-backed chair, staring out across the tops of the buildings toward the hospital.

As Emily quietly looked on, fully aware that Claire must know she was there, a gentle wind
caused a neon sign on the building directly opposite theirs to sway ever so slightly. Across the
river, the dull greenish tint from the aging perimeter lights caused the hospital to stand out in sharp
contrast to its orange-tinted neighbors.

“It’s still so hard to imagine,” Claire said out of the blue.

“What?” Emily replied cautiously, now fully accustomed to Claire’s way of thinking.
“That a place so lovely . . . so beautiful and so serene . . .” Claire replied airily, “can hold
such misery and suffering just out of sight.”

“You just have to have been there, but I definitely know what you mean,” Emily replied in
a wizened sort of tone. “Are you feeling anything now?”

“Pain,” Claire said gently yet simply. “Suffering and pain. And bitterness. Em, I don’t want
to make you nervous all over again, but this is not going to be easy.”

“Tell me something I don’t already know,” Emily said with little regard as she flopped
back first, upon the turned-down bed.

“Have you . . . thought about your . . .?” Claire asked.

“Yes.” Emily responded instantly.

“When?” Claire asked quietly, more fear seeping through her serenity.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” Emily replied vaguely as she attempted to remain awake. “If
we’re going in around four, then I’m going up there around noon. I plan on doing a lot of crying
and pleading so I want as much sunlight as possible.”

Claire kept silent for several minutes, her gaze still fixated upon the distant, green-tinted
grounds of the hospital. As Claire remained still, apparently listening in on the spirits intently,
Emily quickly shed her tight, restraining clothes she had now worn for nearly twenty hours and
traded them for the much-desired comfort of her long, cotton nightshirt. Just as she slipped under
the covers and began the process of allowing her body to slide into slumber, Claire gave a sudden
and very distinct yelp and jolt.

“OHHH!” Claire cried out, nearly sliding out of her chair with one hand now clamped to
her heart.

“What?” Emily asked wildly as she flew up from beneath her covers. “What is it Claire,
what’s wrong?”

Claire did not answer immediately, but from the sounds of her heavy breathing and the
sight of her gripping her chest and mopping her brow, Emily could tell that whatever had just
happened was not pleasant.

“Emily?” Claire asked, heavy fear now evident in her voice.

“Yes, yes what is it Claire?” Emily asked urgently.

“When you . . . do . . . your thing tomorrow . . .” Claire began slowly in a subdued but
obviously terror-stricken voice.
“Yes?” Emily asked, her fear and curiosity soaring.

“It might not hurt to ask for a little help,” Claire said seriously. “Or a lot of help. I think
we’re going to need it.”

Claire spoke not another word about whatever she had seen or heard. Less than a minute
later, the curtains were drawn, the lights extinguished and Claire had joined Emily beneath the
covers of the oversized Victorian bed. Though Claire made not a single sound for as long as
Emily was conscious, it was almost as if she was able to somehow hear Claire’s inner thoughts
herself. Thoughts that said to her ‘Anger . . . Pain . . . Hate . . . REVENGE.’

As these unpleasant previews gradually slid to the back of Emily’s mind, her eyes were
drawn once more to the picture hanging directly overhead, the picture of the hospital and its
sprawling grounds from the early part of the twentieth century. Emily remained fixated upon it . .
. upon its shell of beauty and splendor . . . upon the many trees and bushes that dotted its landscape
. . . upon its gentle curving roof . . . upon . . . upon a hurricane of purple and red lights, swirling all
around her . . . and the large, intimidating white clock tower of the hospital, each of its hands
spinning wildly in the opposite direction. Bent, twisted and disjointed images of long hallways
lined with doors flew by left and right, each door flying open and screaming as it passed. The
hands of the clock sped faster. The images abruptly switched direction, no longer left and right,
but now top to bottom. Chimes began to ring, bells began to toll, slowly at first and then faster and
faster. Now, soaring upward with the speed of a guided missile, Emily could now see, plainer than
ever before, the continuous line of horizontally set wooden planks flying past her. Nothing above,
nothing below, just boards . . . and boards . . . and boards. Diane’s sorrow-filled voice called in the
distance.

“Emily,” called the soft voice of Diane in an eerie whisper that echoed into oblivion
before dying out. “It’s here . . .”

All was black. No sounds, no lights, no nothing. For the first time in she knew not how
long, Emily was not roused out of bed like the dead from the grave by her dream. Indeed, when
her alarm clock sounded at ten A.M., she felt more rested and calm-of-mind than she had in
weeks. Despite the fact that every piece of her bizarre nocturnal visions was as fresh to her as
daisies in May, she was no more afraid or nervous than she had been when she pulled the covers
over her head eight hours previously.

With her nerves finally back in their proper place, and her head now less clouded by fog
than it had been in ages, Emily rose from her bed and immediately set out with a ‘Seize the Day’
mentality firmly entrenched in her mind. The day was young, and her mission clear. She did not
have the time or the desire to sit and attempt to analyze her dream and search for hidden
meanings. No . . . there was work to be done.

By late morning, the chilled air and gusting winds of the previous day and night had
finally blown themselves out. Around eleven, Emily, now showered and dressed, stood in front of
a large, round, titling mirror and attempted to convince her hair to stay in one place for more than
five seconds. As her battle raged, and steam rolled out of the bathroom from Claire’s shower, the
music on a nearby radio faded out and was replaced by an announcer.

“All right, and a good late morning to all of you,” the announcer said brightly. “Hey, if
you decided to sleep in today then you are being well rewarded by Mother Nature. The
temperature right now outside of Weston National Bank is fifty-five degrees under mostly sunny
skies, and by late afternoon we could see that rise to as high as SIXTY-FIVE degrees as a warm
front continues to roll on through. Heck, last night it sounded like it WAS roaring on through.
Wind speeds clocked at Lewis Airport registered upwards of thirty miles-per-hour overnight. But
today, once again, we are looking at highs downtown in the mid-sixties and those skies are gonna
stay mostly to partly sunny for the better part of the day. On the downside, our weather forecast
says that we could see a chance of both rain and possible thunderstorms into the mid-evening and
overnight hours tonight, lows not dipping down much below the upper forties. And for the rest of
the week . . .”

Emily never heard whether it was going to rain or snow the rest of the week. As she finally
achieved an armed-truce with her hair, the announcer’s voice faded out and her concentration
upon what she was about to do faded back in. For the next hour, her mind was headed down but
one set of rails.

A half an hour later, the door to the hotel’s elevator slid open into the lobby and Emily
stepped out, the hammer and screwdriver she had requisitioned in Ottawa held tightly in her right
hand. As she headed for the main doors, she took a second to glance over her shoulder toward the
desk. As she expected, Charley was nowhere to be seen. In his place, a young, blonde-headed girl,
who looked to be Charley’s superior in every way, including clothing taste, now stood behind the
desk; her eyes dead focused upon something she was writing.

Emily paused only long enough to bid the new clerk ‘Good Morning’ before stepping out
into the street. The radio was indeed correct, the air was calmer and the temperature far more mild
than it had been the previous night. Taking deep breaths with every few steps, Emily briskly made
her way down Second Street and crossed the aged concrete bridge to the western side of the West
Fork River which bisected the town. It would have been impossible not to notice the imposing
sight of the hospital looming up to her immediate left, even if she had not known already that it
was there.

“Good morning ol’ girl,” Emily said with confidence as she crossed the intersection
diagonally, making a beeline for the hospital grounds. “Ready or not, I’m back.”

Her determination and confidence growing with each passing step, Emily quickly walked
along the sidewalk which passed between B&O Boulevard and the hospital’s main gates. The
dark, spired tips of the wrought-iron fence were nothing but a blur to Emily as she headed south
toward the old Psychiatric Unit, a colonial styled, red brick structure jutting out from the extreme
southern end of the hospital’s stone section. Just past this rapidly crumbling structure, B&O
Boulevard turned sharply west, and so did Emily, sticking to the road and its sidewalk for as long
as she could.

At last, the Boulevard dead-ended at a set of old and rotting iron gates, once the southern
entrance to the hospital grounds. Stepping as high as she could, Emily crossed over top of the
ancient, metal barricade and stepped onto hospital soil for the first time in eight years. Though she
thought the feeling may be in VERY poor taste, she could have sworn that she felt a jolt of
electricity shoot through her veins as her foot hit the soil-covered pavement.

Pausing only long enough to take another breath of the clear, late morning air, Emily again
set forth at a brisk and steady pace, her head held high and eyes facing forward. She walked along
the aging road which snaked its way behind the Medical Center and toward the rear section of the
hospital. Perched upon a grass-covered knoll to her left, what was left of the hospital’s green
house was catching the midday sun with its few surviving sheets of glass which,
once-upon-a-time, had fed life-giving warmth to flora of every kind inside.

Then, a lone, concrete staircase, leading to nowhere, loomed on Emily’s left. Rather, a
staircase which had once lead to the hospital’s so called ‘half-way house’ where victims of
substance abuse had been gently nursed back to normal and made ready for the outside world
again. Emily smiled faintly as she recalled the awkward day, many years ago, when she had the
unenviable task of telling an old high school sweetheart of hers that his release had been delayed
two weeks owing to a questionable urinalysis. By then, of course, the ‘half-way-house’ was no
longer even standing, but the mere thought of it had the same magical effect upon her memory as
the rest of the campus.

Another hundred feet or so, and Emily made a hard left and headed up a hill, passing by
the oddly designed, grey, concrete building which once housed the “Criminally Insane.” For
about the fiftieth time in her life, Emily looked to the sky and thanked God that it had been
changed to a library long before she arrived.

At this point, the hospital buildings ended. A short distance ahead, a bright red, metal
fence stretched across the road as it headed upwards and backwards into the hills behind the
campus. Just beyond her horizon, Emily could just barely make out the faded red concrete blocks,
as well as the high peak of the hospital’s nearest barn. In a matter of seconds, Emily broke into a
sprint, gripped the top rail of the gate with both hands, and in one graceful swoop, cleared it by
three inches and landed perfectly flat-footed on the road beyond.

Emily trudged onward and upward, the road narrowing more and more as the first of the
barns appeared to her left, looking just as worse for wear as any of the other structures. Riddled
with broken windows and rotted-out doors, Emily thought it a miracle that it had even remained
standing. Then, as she glanced all around at the encroaching weeds and shrubs, her eyes suddenly
lit upon just what she had been searching for.

Lying just beneath a shattered window near the front of the barn sat a partially crumbled,
smooth-surfaced cinder block, the type which had been used for the foundations of many of the
hospital’s twentieth century additions. It did not take long for Emily to completely separate a full
side of the block from what remained. Measuring about a foot in length and maybe eight inches
across, she felt that it would suit her needs to an absolute tee. With both the section of block and
the hammer and screwdriver firmly in her grip, Emily started off once again along the road
heading west. Roughly ten minutes and a steep hill-climb later, Emily at last stared down at the
object of her mission.

There at her feet, partially covered in grass and mud, lay the triangular rock she had placed
upon the ground ten years ago when she felt at her lowest. As a wave of emotion swept both over
and through Emily, she gently knelt down at the stone which still bore the hand-etched
inscription: D.C.Y. 1992.

“Hello Diane,” Emily said quietly, sadness already inching its way into her voice. “Been a
long time I know. I should have come back here long before this, but you know me, ol’ ‘Damn the
Past and Full Speed Ahead Emily.”

Forcing a smile, Emily gently reached forward and placed her finger tips gently upon the
slightly sunken stone. Oddly enough, it did not feel ice-cold as Emily anticipated. Like the rest of
the weather, as well as Emily’s feelings, it instead felt quite warm.

“How have you been?” Emily asked graciously as she brushed her fingers across the
stone’s surface. “From what I gather, not so great. I hope to god we’ve got everything wrong
Diane but . . . deep down . . . I know we don’t. Listen, I uh . . . I’m not really. . . Diane, I’ll be
honest with you. You remember how scared you were when you first came here? Well, I hate to
play one-up games sweety but . . . I think I may have you beat.”

Emily pressed her hand firmly against Diane’s stone as tears again started to form around
her eyes. Using her hand upon the stone as a brace, Emily gently leaned forward, several droplets
falling from her eyes and landing upon the dark, brown, triangular stone below.

“Diane, ten years ago, I tried to be as straight-laced with you as I could, and I pray to God
I did it well,” Emily pleaded through her tears of fright and sadness. “So you can take it to heart
that I am really and truly . . . scared beyond belief. Diane, if you can hear me . . .?”

Emily glanced skyward and then back down at the stone.

“If you can hear me,” Emily continued, “please believe me . . . I am so very, VERY sorry
for what happened to you here. I swear if I could have done anything . . . Diane, I would have
given anything for things to have gone differently. I would have even given my own life-- which
may or may not still come to pass. But I am sorry. I promise you here and now that I AM going to
do whatever I can to make sure that the things that happened here don’t simply remain as
forgotten memories. Diane, I want to put this right. I NEED to put this right. So, sweety, if there is
anything that you can do from . . . well . . . over there, I would be MORE than eternally grateful.”

Emily kept her head held low for several quiet and peaceful seconds. A soft, warm breeze
swept over the high grass in the only partially kept-up cemetery. Nearby, the remaining leaves in
the trees ruffled and the slits of hay, just outside the wire fence, tilted downward. To Emily, this
was all the response she needed. Taking her two tools in one hand and the slab of cinder block in
the other, Emily again forced, though with much less effort, a smile onto her face as she looked
down upon Diane’s resting place.
“Now then . . .” Emily said with some pride. “I’m going to do it right this time.”

For the next hour, Emily Flesher the M.D. and L.P.N., became Emily Flesher the
‘Persistent Stone-Cutter.’ With slow and loving chips, Emily gradually etched away at the smooth
surface of the block until the words ‘Diane C. Yost, 1976-1992. With Love . . . Emily F.’
scrawled neatly across it. At last, when her labor of love was finally complete, she gave the stone
a great heave, and with all her might forced it down into the soft, moist earth. Emily swelled with
emotion. Now, at long last, her first patient had a name and life . . . as well as her eternal thanks.

And, just make extra certain that Diane’s final resting place would not be lost to the ages,
Emily gently dug a small hole in front of the newly erected memorial. With another soft and
searching smile Emily reached into her pocket and withdrew a small pouch of seeds. With as
much loving care as she had shown in all her years Emily gently broke the pouch’s seal and
emptied its contents into the freshly turned earth. Then, with a smooth wave and pat of her hand
Emily entrusted them to the elements…images of brightly colored flowers slowly flooding her
mind.

“Well Diane,” Emily said with parting sorrow, “I guess this is good-bye . . . for now.”

Emily gently blew a kiss towards Diane’s newly erected headstone before grabbing up her
hammer and screwdriver and heading back for the hospital, her mind now as free as the proverbial
bird. With the same skip in her step as before, Emily briskly walked back down the winding, old
road, past the ancient foundations of a coal tipple, and the gigantic crumbling concrete remains of
an elevated mine-car trail. At last, she arrived back at the pinnacle of the road overlooking the rear
of the hospital.

For several more seconds, Emily merely paused and savored the warm, clear air which
was now blowing past her face even steadier than before. However, as she slowly inhaled the
sweet fragrance of the surrounding hills and stared down in renewed awe at the backyard of her
old ‘Second Home’, Emily’s eyes were inexplicably drawn to her left . . . and she was suddenly
aware that she was not alone.

There, sitting upon a smooth rock embedded deep into the surface of the hill, was none
other than Nathan, and he seemed to be staring down at the hospital in either very deep thought or
very serene bliss. Briefly taken aback, Emily looked on at him in silence for several, pondering
seconds before she began walking in his direction.

Carefully maneuvering her way over and between the lumps of uneven ground and the
sprawling thorn bushes, Emily could not think of any good reason why Nathan, at this stage of
their ‘mission’, would be here, surveying the hospital and its surroundings. Just as Emily came
within a few feet of Nathan and his smooth, resting surface, he reached up and ran his hand
through his hair as though he had not a care in the world.

“Taking in the sites, too, I see,” Nathan said without even turning in Emily’s direction.

“You could say that,” Emily replied, momentarily stunned by Nathan’s perception of her
presence without actually laying eyes on her. “How long have you been here Nate?”

“Oh, I wasn’t far behind you,” Nathan said lazily, never turning his head away from the
hospital. “Ya know, this valley really carries sound a long, long way. You did a wonderful thing
today Emily. I hope . . . every bit as much as you do . . .that it resonates.”

Emily slowly walked the remaining few feet to Nathan, all the while looking down at him
with surprise and wonderment. Carefully edging her way around the large, round rock, Emily
made her way behind Nathan and to his left side.

“You heard me?” Emily asked quietly.

“Yes.” Nathan answered simply, still never averting his gaze from the hospital.

“Well,” Emily began as she slowly squatted down, giving her knees a much deserved
respite, “I just had to do it Nate. I’d like to sit here and . . .”

“Then do,” Nathan interrupted kindly, motioning for Emily to take a seat upon the rock
beside him.

“Uh . . .OK,” Emily replied in slight confusion as she slowly sank into a sitting position
alongside of Nathan. “As I was saying, I’d like to sit here and say that I was doing it for the ‘good
of the mission’ or something like that. But when you boil it all down I was just cleansing my own
mind. Guess it runs in my family, eh?”

“So do soft heads and warm hearts . . . and I’m glad of it,” Nathan said with friendly
conviction.

“Well thanks.” Emily replied. “So, just what brings YOU up here? Site seeing or
reconnoitering?”

“Hmmm, just thinking,” Nathan said with increased serenity. “Taking in some air and
letting my mind go where it wants. It’s kind of a tradition among leaders to step back and take
stock of everything prior to battle . . . or in our case . . . prior to entering the unknown.”

Nathan took in a deep, long breath of the crisp, warm air and let it out in one long,
drawn-out exhale. He then leaned back upon both of his hands and surveyed the entire rear of the
hospital campus from left to right. Emily took quick note of this.

“You see anything?” she asked calmly.

“No, not really,” Nathan replied blissfully. “I can see where Claire is coming from though.
From up here, it looks even more beautiful. I don’t know, even I sometimes wonder how things,
like what we’re up against, can be coming from inside of a place that looks so perfect on its
prima-fascia? I look at an old campus like this and I think something like ‘A tribute to man’s
ability to build and sculpt majesty to last for the ages’. Then, I think about what all went on inside
and underground, and I think ‘A tribute to man’s unique ability to be utterly IN-human’.”

Emily watched Nathan carefully as he pondered his thoughts aloud. For the very first time
his pallor was not one of humor, anger, determination or even manipulation, but instead, one of
deep reflection. His eyes remained so dead focused upon some single spot along the rear walls of
the hospital that Emily wondered for a few moments if his faculties were all still earthbound.

“Something . . . so strong, so powerful, so . . .” Nathan daydreamed, “so full of anger and


hate. Built up over time. Having started, only God knows when.”

“You see that bright red brick building?” Emily began, purposely breaking the tense
silence and pointing toward the rear of the Medical Center. “The one way over on the right?”

“Yes,” Nathan replied, shaking off his reflections for the moment. “Yes, the Medical
Center.”

“It’s hard to believe, but for me, that’s REALLY where it started,” Emily said in a slightly
reminiscent sort of way. “Not only was I born there, but I think I must have spent a year of my life
climbing those trees around front.”

“You spent a good deal of time here when you were young, didn’t you?” Nathan asked
airily.

“Only about every living second,” Emily said with a mild laugh/giggle at her herself, “and
that . . . that big patch of lawn, over there past the brick buildings . . . well, THAT is where I first
learned to play baseball, and basketball, and, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear, . . . cricket.”

“I’ll make certain to pass that one on to Henry,” Nathan added, continuing Emily’s tease.

“But, I think I was always happiest . . . right up here,” Emily said while she patted the
rock upon which she and Nathan were now lounging. “Just to break away for a while, walk up
here, hide in the grass and just look down and watch for hours. People coming and going, patients
running and playing, every now and then someone yelling ‘FOUL BALL’ heh heh. I just loved
it.”

“I can see why,” Nathan replied in complete, blissful, agreement.

“Have you ever loved anything that much Nate?” Emily asked offhandedly.

“Not eh . . . not really I don’t think,” Nathan said vaguely.

“I don’t know, I guess it still sounds silly but I really do think I fell in love with the place,”
Emily mused as she and Nathan both continued to drink in their surroundings. “I never wanted to
do anything else in my life but work here . . . or in this field. I’ve always wanted to help people.
But . . .(sigh), even the best laid plans hit pot holes I guess.”
“You mean with Diane?” Nathan asked.

“Yeah . . . yeah, nothing like a good ol’ baptism of fire to bring you back down to earth in
a BALL of fire,” Emily said in resentment-tainted calm. “Still, knowing I wasn’t entirely to blame
for that one, makes it a little easier to swallow. I swore to myself that, after that, I would NEVER
let myself get sucked into anything so deeply again. You might call it a refresher course on
‘detachment’. And that probably explains why I’m still single.”

“Hmm . . . I, eh . . . can sympathize,” Nathan said eventually, following another long, deep
breath.

“Nathan,” Emily responded in a much more concerned tone, “just what were you
REALLY thinking about up here?”

“Just clearing my own head Emily,” Nathan said, attempting to dismiss the matter
quickly.

“Oh no. No. Not this time partner,” Emily said emphatically. “I have seen that look in
people’s eyes literally hundreds of times . . . at least eighty of them coming while looking in the
mirror . . . so don’t try and pull the wool over my eyes. You were thinking about something
specific, now give out.”

“You’re very perceptive, Emily, I’ll give you that,” Nathan replied without emotion. “But,
like I said before, it’s not our place to be comparing baggage. We all have our little regrets in life,
and from time to time, I like to rehash mine and mill them over. That’s all.”

“Who was she?” Emily asked very simply. “Ex-wife, fiancé, girlfriend?”

“None of the above,” Nathan replied with a trace of friendly impatience. “I’ve never been
either married or engaged, nor have I ever had what you could honestly call a girlfriend. What I
had was an unfortunate encounter from which I myself learned a great many lessons the hard
way.”

“Is this what happened in Iowa?” Emily asked, recalling Claire’s off-the-cuff remark a
few days before.

“I see Claire has been up to her usual tricks again,” Nathan replied quickly, but without
spite.

“She said, that if we were heading to Iowa rather than West Virginia, you’d be doing even
more soul-searching than I’ve been,” Emily replied. “So just what happened in Iowa?”

“Well, I was born there for one thing,” Nathan quipped, his humor back in place in an
effort to dodge the issue.

“I KNOW that, Mr. ‘Fearless Leader’,” Emily responded kindly, in her most ‘therapist’
type tone. “I mean what happened that would cause you to be as nervous as I wa...eh...am?”

For several seconds, Nathan did not move or speak. His eyes again focused upon a section
of the hospital, some place between the kitchen and the female wards, and he did not move them
at all. He appeared now to be thinking even deeper and harder than at any previous time, and
obviously about something that struck a powerful chord somewhere deep inside of him.

“Well . . . it’s not unlike what happened to you, Emily,” Nathan finally replied in a very
low, quiet and introspective voice. “I . . . I fell in love.”

“But . . .” Emily began, puzzled as to why love would be a cause for consternation, “but
Nate, that’s a good thing. I mean even though it didn’t work out, it’s still natural to feel affection
once in a while.”

“This was a little outside of the normal purviews Emily,” Nathan said cautiously. “In my
line of work, detachment is equally important. And, just as in your case, I had the misfortune of
learning it the hard way.”

Emily froze. The full measure of Nathan’s puzzling response actually registered instantly
for once, and the mere thought of it sent her mind spinning.

“You . . . you mean to say that you . . .?” Emily gasped, “But . . . how in the world could
you . . .?”

“Is this the point where I lay down and tell you about my mother?” Nathan kidded,
interjecting humor as quickly as possible to alleviate Emily’s fears.

“I duh . . .um . . .yes,” Emily said absent-mindedly. “I mean NO! Nathan, are you trying
to tell me that you fell in love with a. . . .a . . . ”

“Perhaps I should start at the beginning?” Nathan interrupted.

“By all means,” Emily replied as she herself leaned back on her hands and eyed Nathan
with growing, morbid curiosity.

“I started with the N.A.A.P.I. when I was twenty-three,” Nathan began, taking his eyes off
Emily and returning them to their glazed-over state. “I lived in Council Bluffs, little town near
Sioux City. Well, it was simple enough. There was an old house out off the edge of town that
was showing signs of paranormal activity. I and my partner, the ‘Agent-in-Charge’, went in one
night on a routine job to see what was up and if we could stop it. This was my first REAL
opportunity in the field and I was pretty gung-ho. After we got to this old, run down and
crumbling shack that once had been an impressive mansion, I and the other agent split up to cover
both stories. I had been looking around the old front guest room for all of two minutes, when an
apparition appeared right in front of me.”

Emily inhaled instinctively. She had never heard a TRUE, confirmed report of just what a
ghost, phantom, or anything of the sort actually looked like. Her mind suddenly filled with images
of misty, human-like figures . . . of pale-gray transparent plumes of smoke . . . and of hideous,
disfigured and decomposed visions of what she could only describe as her idea of the “walking
dead.”

“What uh . . . what did it looks like?” Emily asked cautiously, now fully engrossed in
Nathan’s tale.

“You mean what did ‘she’ look like,” Nathan quickly corrected, apparently taking some
umbrage to her referring to his old flame as an ‘it’.”

“I’m sorry. What did she . . .?” Emily began.

“It’s really hard to put into words now,” Nathan said vaguely while continuing to stare out
into nowhere. “Sort of a silverish-blue . . . semi-transparent . . . her lower body was nothing more
than a long trail of mist and smoke. But her face . . . her face was just as plain and detailed as yours
or mine. I just stood there. She stared at me, and I stared right back, for a good two minutes or
more.”

“Where you scared?” Emily asked as calmly as she could.

“To begin with . . . yes,” Nathan continued, now sounding like he was more dreaming than
talking. “My first instinct was to yell for my partner, naturally, but I couldn’t speak. Something in
those . . . in her eyes just seemed to be saying ‘no, not yet’. It was then that I first realized that not
only can apparitions be seen . . . but also heard.”

“She spoke to you?” Emily asked, growing more and more intrigued.

Nathan merely nodded feebly before bringing his hands up and resting them under his
chin.

“Told me her name . . . Cynthia,” Nathan went on. “It was kind of strange, hearing a voice
that both was and wasn’t there. Sort of like a very distant telephone connection. I followed the
usual protocol, ’keep talking and learn all you can’. She had died of typhoid fever some eighty
years prior in the house and couldn’t leave it. Then, she literally begged me not to expose her.
Even after all these years I can still hear her words...her low, whispering voice...and the way she
clasped her hands together as she spoke.”

“Did you do anything?” Emily asked gingerly.

“Yes. I nearly asked her to marry me,” Nathan said with just the slightest hint of forced
humor. “We talked until I heard my partner coming back down the stairs. I never said a word.
Then, over the next several days I took every free second I had and went back to visit her. We
talked, shared our thoughts and feelings. Normally, it’s not possible to physically touch a spiritual
apparition, but we certainly tried. Then, it ended. Rather badly.”
Nathan shuddered and rubbed his chin in a fighting sort of way. Emily was quite familiar
with these mannerisms as well. It usually signaled an attempt to place an unfortunate event or
experience into the least heart wrenching words possible.

“Did she move on or something?” Emily asked.

“Yes, though not of her own accord,” Nathan said heavily. “I was paying her a visit one
afternoon when all of a sudden my partner burst through the main doors of the old place. He
nearly tore the damn things right off their hinges. Needless to say he was none too pleased at my
behavior. He screamed ‘Riley. I’ll have your god damned head for this.’ Then . . . Cynthia just
vanished. But a second later a bright blue orb appeared out of thin air right in front of me. My
partner...you’ll know why I’m not giving his name in a second . . . jumped back and the ball of
light just flew right toward him with a long, bluish trail of mist streaming behind it. He
screamed, fell to the ground, and the ball just sort of whizzed and zipped all around him as he
collapsed. Then, he just stopped moving...and breathing. I stood there, not knowing whether to
scream or run like hell, and the ball just winked out.”

“Was he . . .” Emily began as if walking on pins and needles.

“As a doornail,” Nathan said with less heaviness than Emily had expected. “I guess hell
really hath no fury like a woman interrupted . . . especially a dead one. I joke about it now but at
the time I nearly went into hysterics. My first partner was dead, killed by my first love, who had
moved on to the other side or wherever they go. I got to face a nice little internal investigation
and, thankfully, a very forgiving review board. Seems they thought my partner was more at fault
for his actions than I was. Plus, the haunting stopped and although they didn’t entirely approve of
my methods, they felt I had, for better or worse, been instrumental in stopping it.”

“You never saw or heard from her again?” Emily asked quietly.

“No, never.” Nathan said with deep regret. “However forgiving the review board may
have been, I was less than pleased with myself. So, I took a little vow like yours . . . something
along the lines of ‘think with your head and not with your heart’.”

Emily looked on at Nathan in sheer bewilderment. Never, in all of her wildest


contemplations and rationalizations had she envisioned Nathan’s story as anything like what she
had just heard. Though Nathan did not meet her gaze and continued to stare thoughtfully at the
rear of the hospital, Emily was fully aware that to tell her this tale must have taken more energy
than he had actually cared to expend at the this point. Still, his revelations cleared up many of her
preconceptions.

“Now I understand why you’re like a mother hen with Claire and Pat,” Emily said quietly
and with as little provocation as possible. “But . . . however much I hate Dr. Jameson now, he was
right about one thing Nate. Sometimes, doctors do lose their patients. Diane certainly wasn’t my
last. You just have to move on, which, I gather, you did.”

“It’s another sad fact that ‘Ghost Hunting’ as you call it, does not stop for bereavement,”
Nathan replied, his senses apparently returning slowly. “No, one week later I was on another case,
this time in Vermont. Much better outcome, obviously. Hmm . . . ministers are always glad to
have their parishes cleansed in time for Sunday services.”

Emily could not help but chuckle herself. No matter how grave the situation or how trying
the effort, it seemed that Nathan somehow never lost his ability to find the smallest bit of levity in
anything.

Thinking that silence might be best for a few minutes, Emily turned her eyes from Nathan
and again set them on the rear of the hospital buildings. As she did so, a small speck of a human
being, obviously a female in exercise attire, appeared on her right, jogging at a good clip along the
old, abandoned roadway running between the maintenance buildings and the old kitchen. Emily
followed her slowly for several seconds until she finally disappeared behind the brick, laundry
building.

It still seemed just as hard to swallow now as it had been in Charleston two weeks ago.
What with all that was unfolding, with all the danger looming on the near horizon and the
possibility of just who knew what before the next sunrise...somehow, there were still people in the
world, blissfully unaware of any of it. People still going about their routines without a fear in the
world. Emily’s envy was apparently more than just palpable as Nathan took instant notice.

“I know . . . it doesn’t seem fair,” Nathan said serenely. “But . . . we all have our duties in
life Emily. I don’t think any of us were promised an easy ride.”

Just as Nathan spoke, the unthinkable happened. Suddenly, breaking the silence of the
peaceful hillside setting, a low but powerful CLONG rang aloud from somewhere inside the
great, white, clock tower. Both Emily and Nathan instantly turned their heads in its direction. A
split second later, it rang again, even louder and livelier than before, and then again an instant
later. Despite the fact that the hands had never even moved, and that the mechanism inside of the
grand spectacle had long since given out, the tower had just, for the first time in years, sounded
out the correct time - three PM.

“I thought that thing was dead?” Emily said, utterly perplexed.

“It was,” Nathan replied knowingly. “And so WAS the hospital.”


Chapter 11
Final Arrangements

Fortunately, given the recent history of electrical and mechanical foul-ups associated with
the hospital, dismissing the ringing of the bell as nothing more than an electric anomaly was a
simple enough task. No sooner had Nathan and Emily descended the hill and began making their
way toward Second Street West, when Nathan removed his cellular telephone from his belt and
quickly dialed.

“Yeah,” Nathan said into his phone as he and Emily walked behind the old female wards.
“And tell him . . . to tell THEM that it’s nothing more than an electrical glitch . . . just one more
thing we’ll put on our ‘to-do’ list for tonight. What do I think it was? What do you think I think
Henry? No don’t try to say that three times fast. I think the place is even more awake now than it
was last week; that’s what I think. OK . . . alright, ten-four good buddy. That means I understand
and comprehend. Right . . . cheerio.”

With a humorous grunt, Nathan collapsed his cellular phone in one swift motion and
re-attached it to his belt without missing a step. He and Emily continued making their way along
the road behind the hospital and toward its northern-most gate.

“MORE awake?” Emily asked darkly. “Exactly how can something be MORE awake
Nate?”

“It’s like building a fire, letting it burn naturally and then three hours later, throwing a wax
covered pine cone into it,” Nathan replied.

“Pine cones, right?” Emily asked while alternately pointing at herself and Nathan.

“Either us or another potential victim,” Nathan said hurriedly, quickening his own
walking pace as he did. “It’s entirely possible that someone else with whom the ghosts have an
axe to grind may have just reentered their radar screen.”

“Oh good god,” Emily said horrified.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Nathan said, himself a little rattled now. “It wasn’t . . . if you’ll
pardon a bad pun . . . like clockwork, but I remember hearing that thing toll the day before your
Russian friend Petrov died, and the very morning that the women in Wyoming died. People also
TOLD me that they heard it ring the morning Braley died.”

“So, what does that mean for us?” Emily asked fearfully. “It ringing while we’re here?”

“Obviously it’s NOT what I would like to happen right before we go in,” Nathan said, his
voice rapidly returning to its ‘General-in-the-field’ tone. “This calls for a few stronger measures.
Emily...”

Nathan halted abruptly in his tracks just as he and Emily crossed onto the sidewalk
running between Second Street West and the northern wings of the hospital.

“Listen!” Nathan said quickly and with a good deal of urgency. “This crunches our
timetable. I’ve gotta go tie up one or two little loose ends. You go back to the hotel and saddle up.
I left a note for you on your bed along with a short little booklet I need you to scan before tonight.
I was hoping you’d have more time to go over it, but a glance is better than nothing. Read it, and
the note, and follow the note’s instructions to a tee no matter . . . no matter how . . . eh . . . unusual
or undesirable you may find it. Its five after three now, be in front of the hotel at forty-five after
and be ready.”

With a quick parting hug for good luck, Nathan stepped to the edge of the sidewalk,
glanced left and right, and then took off across West Second Street toward an ornate old renovated
railroad depot. Seconds later, he had disappeared behind it and a thick row of pine trees. At this,
Emily took another of her deep, soul searching breaths and quickly turned around so that she was
facing toward the hospital’s northern wards.

“Couldn’t be happy with a simple ‘hey, how ya been’, could ya ol’ girl?” Emily said to the
hospital while throwing both her arms into the air out of disgust. “No, no you have to go and tell
the entire town. DING-DONG . . . Emily’s back in town.”

Fuming, Emily cast the stone walls of the hospital a deep look of spite and loathing before
reaching down into her coat pocket. With a devilishly wicked sort of smile, she again removed
the small hammer and tapped it twice into her right hand. Then, recalling her childhood days as a
relief pitcher on the patient’s make-shift baseball team, she reared her arm twice in a circular
motion before hurling the hammer with all of her might directly toward one of the giant,
multi-paneled windows of the wall nearest her.

With the glee of a child taking revenge upon the nest of the bee that stung her, Emily
watched eagerly as the hammer summer-salted over and over in mid-air, making a direct bee-line
for the window. Just as the twirling missile was within two feet of making contact with the
window, it abruptly stopped - hovered for an instant within an arm’s length of it - and then, like a
ball from a cannon, shot straight up in the air and beyond Emily’s sight. From somewhere inside
the northern wing, a low gust of air whistled faintly through one of the already shattered glass
pains.

Emily, startled beyond reason, leaned forward and tightly gripped the top rail of the
wrought-iron fence. Craning her head as far forward as she could she gaped…eyes wide and teeth
clenched…at the spot where the hammer SHOULD have made contact. Then, guided by nothing
more than sheer fright-induced instinct, she arced her head skyward just in time to see the hammer
hurtling straight down. With a dull, moist, THUD, it hit the ground just apart from the stone
facade. Barely two inches of it remained above the soil following its unearthly re-entry.

For the umpteenth time, Emily was frozen. Her palms may as well have been welded to the
iron fence as she suddenly found herself unable to remove her shaking hands from it. What had just
occurred defied every law of both gravity and reason with which she was aware. Hammers don’t
just turn on a dime, fly to the moon, and then land two feet shy of their intended target. Unless, that
is, someone, or something, batted it away.

“Ok . . . you win,” Emily said while shaking like mad.

As the fence rattled and shook under her gradually intensifying grip, Emily gave a deep and
shuttering gulp. Seconds later, as a small section of the age-old fence now lay toppled inward upon
the hospital’s neatly manicured grounds, Emily found that she again had set another land-speed
record for Weston. The northern wing of the hospital to the opposite side of the Second Street
Bridge in twenty-five seconds flat . . . her heart having beaten maybe twice in the elapsed interval.

Now, leaning desperately upon a more solid, concrete block at the eastern end of the
bridge, Emily stopped., gripped her chest tightly, and rested at full wheeze. As she panted
uncontrollably, several passing motorists actually slowed down while crossing over the West Fork
River and took notice of her, before quickly driving on after realizing her obviously unbalanced
state. Emily, however, could, at this point in time, not have cared less about being the object of
curious motorists had she had her life savings riding on it. For the moment, one agonizing thought
was occupying her terror stricken mind.

Can hospitals defend themselves???

After several agonizingly slow passing minutes, Emily’s breath and senses finally caught
back up with her. Taking one final breath set her heart back at its normal rhythm. She gently sank
to a sitting position at the base of the small, concrete pillar. Now, still slightly shaking, she tried her
best to re-compose her rattled nerves.

Traffic along the downtown streets was comparatively light for the time of day, allowing
Emily to reach the hotel quickly and with few pauses. For this, she was eternally grateful. The
less time she had to stop and dwell on the events of the last few minutes, the better.

Her head still swimming with images of flying hammers and side-stepping windows,
Emily pushed open the hotel’s ornate doors with great speed and stepped into the lobby with the
intention of making for her room as fast as her feet would carry her. However, her desire for quick,
temporary seclusion was dashed the instant she entered. No sooner had she turned the corner to
make for the elevator, than she came face-to-face with Claire, who had obviously just stepped off
of the very elevator Emily was making for.

“Hey there,” Claire said warmly. “Everything go OK?”

Emily stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes drawn immediately to Claire’s sudden change in
attire. Rather than her usual brightly colored blouses and shirts, Claire was now dressed from neck
to foot in a dark, green, one-piece work suit. A light blue and gold emblem just above her left
breast bore the initials W.V.H.H.R., along with her name, embroidered in white, just below it. She
also, to Emily’s surprise, was carrying what looked like a medium-sized, metal, tool chest in her
right hand.

“Uh . . . well yes and no. It . . .” Emily said, unable to control her awkward gaping at
Claire’s new uniform. “It was . . . Claire . . .?”

“Oh this?” Claire replied, realizing instantly Emily’s intense curiosity. “You like it? Nate was
afraid he might not have one in my size, but I think it works pretty well, don’t you?”

“Uh . . . I wouldn’t know,” Emily said blankly, her surprise and shock still evident. “I . . .
Claire . . . I need to talk with you . . . like NOW.”

Emily quickly took Claire by her left hand and pulled her back inside the elevator before its
French-styled doors had a chance to close. Once the first floor was hidden, and Emily and Claire
were effectively shut off from prying eyes, Emily pushed the STOP button on the gold, numeric
panel, bringing the machine to a slow halt somewhere between floors one and two.

“Something just happened, Claire,” Emily said urgently. “I know you must have heard the
clock chime?”

“Yes,” Claire said knowingly. “I’m not really surprised though. You have to think of it as
the hospital’s voice. It . . .”

“I know, I know all of that Claire,” Emily replied hastily. “And although the thought of it
welcoming me back is flattering, I . . . I think I might have made it mad. I eh . . . with Nate . . . and
. . .”

“Yes?” Claire replied, urging Emily to continue.

“Well . . . I . . . Nate . . . then I . . . threw a hammer and . . .” Emily began.

“You THREW a hammer at Nate!?” Claire replied with horror.

“NO!” Emily replied very frustrated. “At the hospital.”

“OK?” Claire responded, now just as confused as Emily. “Why?”

“Damn it, Claire, I don’t know why,” Emily rambled, her frustration now even more
pronounced. “I was mad, and scared. The thought of the place knowing that I’m back, and . . . and
. . . I just wanted to . . . ERGHHH. I wanted to hurt it, that’s all.”

“Well go on. Did you chip the stone or break a window?” Claire asked.

“Not for lack of trying,” Emily said with dejected fear.

“You missed?” Claire asked again, her confusion still mounting.

“Sort of,” Emily replied very wearily. “It was just a foot shy of shattering one of the
windows in the north wing when it . . . well, it . . . I guess it was deflected.”
“Oh, I see.” Claire replied, now grasping Emily’s obvious fear and concern by the horns.
“So you think that the hospital . . .”

“CLAIRE! I don’t know what to think, that’s why I’m asking you,” Emily pleaded, now
in a state of total frustration and concern. “Can you feel anything, anything at all?”

Claire stood silent and still for several seconds, her eyes briefly glazing over before closing
slowly. She made no real movements of any kind, other than a slight twitching and pursing of the
lips.

“No,” Claire said after a few moments of deep concentration. “It’s alright. It could have
cared less WHO threw the hammer. It could have been you, or the Prince of Wales, for all it
knows. But Emily, you have got to reign in your emotions.”

“I know, I know,” Emily said, letting her breath out in relief. “But when Nate told me that
the thing rang just before the people were killed . . . I just lost it.”

“Emily, I know it’s not easy,” Claire said in her own motherly tone. “But if you don’t
calm down and regain a little composure, then, like Nate said, you’re not going to do US or
YOURSELF any good. And trust me, throwing hammers at haunted houses . . . or hospitals, is
NOT a good way of cashing in on earned trust. So do me one BIG favor, OK Em?”

“Anything. What?” Emily replied.

“Try to save a little of that capital for the rest of us, OK?” Claire asked kindly, cracking a
smile to help ease Emily back to calmer state.

“Sure! It’s a deal,” Emily replied as brightly as she could.

“On that same subject,” Claire began inquisitively, “before you tried to do the hospital an
injury, how did things go?”

“Fine, I think it went well,” Emily replied, her heavy breath now easing. “Well enough to
say ‘Mission Accomplished’ that is. Let’s just hope that place knows that I used the hammer for
something good before I . . .”

“Don’t worry Em,” Claire reassured. “Believe me, if your heart and head are in the right
place, then everything’ll be fine.”

“Does it know that we’re here yet?” Emily asked fearfully.

“Only partially,” Claire replied simply. “It’s aware of our presence for certain, but not our
intentions, for whatever good that may be. But . . . it’s really too soon to tell.”

Claire instinctively looked down at her left wrist and pulled up the green sleeve of her
bulky work suit so that she could see her watch.

“Claire?” Emily asked carefully, her fears still present. “What’s going to happen?”

“We will not have to wait long for an answer to that question,” Claire said in a distinctly
more serious and thoughtful tone. “You’d best go on up and get ready. Nate’ll have the van around
front in thirty-five minutes. There’s a suit like this one for you hanging in the wardrobe, along with
a few other choice items of clothing you need put on.”

“Other clothes?” Emily replied blankly.

“It’s all in the note Nate left,” Claire said before releasing the elevator from its state of
suspension and pressing the button for level three. “Trust me, follow it to the letter no matter how
strange it sounds. I mean it! It could mean the difference between success or failure.”

Just as Claire finished her agonizingly cryptic warning, the elevator bell chimed and the
doors slowly slid open. With a heart still heavy with trepidation and fear, Emily slowly stepped out
and into the afternoon sun-drenched hallway.

“See you in a bit,” Claire said to Emily as the doors resealed themselves, cutting Emily off
from the last person to whom she could turn for help.

Forcing back her fears, Emily made for her room. The sun streaming in through the thick,
Victorian windows at the far end of the hallway made it difficult for her to make out room
numbers. To that end, she passed her own door twice before finally noticing it.

Once inside, a mental drumbeat began to echo from somewhere in the back of Emily’s
mind. She could think of no better parallel for her present situation than that of a soldier preparing
to enter a battle upon which the very fate of the world may rest. She was unsure however if this
should fill her head with pride, her soul with confidence . . . or her stomach with butterflies.

“I think I’m having the latter,” Emily said quietly to herself as she approached her
wardrobe.

Situated at the end of the room directly opposite the window overlooking the town, stood
the large oak wardrobe where Emily had stowed her two sets of spare clothing the day before. Half
thinking that something may be readying itself to jump out at her, Emily opened it up very slowly,
causing its slightly rusted hinges to whine and moan every inch of the way. And there it was,
hanging unceremoniously in the dead center of the long, brass clothing rail, one single-piece dark
green work suit.

“Ah, olive drab . . . just in time for fall,” Emily said cynically to herself as she pulled the
eyesore from its perch.

As she eyed the heavy fabric of the jumpsuit with an ever sinking disposition, she suddenly
became aware that it was not the only item left hanging on the rail. Pushed to the far right hand side
hung another dark green item, but this time, no jump suit. It was a normal, run-of-the-mill, man’s
suit protector, the kind that Emily would have expected to see elderly, very conservative
gentleman, lugging through airport on a one way trip to Florida.

Her curiosity overwhelming her sense of dread, Emily pulled the odd item from its rail.
Whatever was inside was more than just a ‘something’, it was ‘some things’, as they required not
one but three metal hangers. While attempting to guess the contents of the protector by their
weight, Emily noticed a yellow note taped to the exterior near the top. In Nathan’s handwriting it
read:

Emily

I know you won`t care for this, but it is


imperative that you wear this set of clothes
under your green work suit. I realize it may seem
more than a little unusual, but I would not ask
this of you were it not essential to our plans and
I promise to explain everything later. Also,
please read the note and as much of the booklet
on your bed as you can before 3:45. I will bring
the van around front at that precise moment, do
not be late.

N.R.

Holding the suit protector in front of her as she read, Emily made her way over to the side
of her bed nearest the window. There, laid neatly upon her pillow in a manner which would be
certain to grab her attention, was another yellow sheet of hand-written paper, and a small blue
booklet bearing the title.

N.A.A.P.I. GUIDE #15


FIELD GUIDE FOR AGENTS IN TRAINING
AND
CIVILIAN ADVISORS
(Condensed Version 2000)

The letter lying directly beside it read:

Emily

Our time may be short. Please read


through as much of this as you can in
whatever time remains and bring it along
with you. You may find its contents helpful as
well as informative. Enjoy. See you at 3:45
SHARP.

N.R.

With her mind now spinning in anticipation of some answers, Emily picked up the most
recent letter from the pillow, folded it once, and tucked it inside her pants’ pocket. She then leaned
over and removed the small blue booklet. A quick scan of its interior showed it to be no more than
thirty or forty pages in length and, thankfully, written in a far more layman style than any of the
other literature from the N.A.A.P.I. which she had read. This point now resting in her mind, she
turned her attention to the dark green suit protector and its mysterious contents.

Whatever WAS inside was taking up most of its interior. The edges and folds of the fabric
within were easily seen upon the protector’s plastic, outer surface. Knowing that time was now of
the essence and her rendezvous with her old ‘Second Home’ was fast approaching, Emily flipped
the suit protector over and pressed it out firmly against the bed. Then, her hand still trembling
slightly, she grasped the zipper and pulled it all the way down. When the contents of the bag finally
caught her eager eyes, she nearly toppled over backwards.

“Oh my . . . why in the hell?” Emily gasped as she pulled out the three hangers and the
attached garments from the bag.

Thirty minutes, and a good deal of griping later, Emily woefully stepped out of her room
and into the upstairs hallway. The sun, having begun its slow, late day slide behind the nearby
hills, was no longer bathing the elegant green walls in its rays. Only the faint, orange glow from the
simulated gas lights on the ceiling gave any additional light.

Emily, now dressed in the slightly oversized and bulging work suit, carefully locked the
door and hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the brass doorknob. Then, squirming nearly every inch
of the way, owing to her attire beneath the jumpsuit, she begrudgingly walked the length of the
hallway - stopping only once to make sure that the small booklet had not fallen from her shallow
pocket - descended to the lobby, and quick-stepped her way to the front doors, eager for the
soothing outside air. Truth be told, her fears and worries about what was coming next had all but
been totally eclipsed by her present, uncomfortable state.

“I feel like a ship in a bottle,” Emily mumbled as she stepped onto the sidewalk.

Barely two seconds after arriving upon the hotel threshold the dark blue camouflaged van
pulled to a sudden halt directly in front of her. As she watched and wiggled, the driver’s window
slid down slowly, gradually revealing Nathan. Now also attired in a dark green jump suit as well
as thick, dark sunglasses, Nathan motioned for Emily to come around to the other side of the van
and get in. Still wobbling as she walked, she obliged though barely avoiding being hit by a passing
station wagon.

“Be careful Em,” Nathan said after Emily jumped inside to avoid sudden death. “There’s
no point in risking your life before we even get there.”

“Well pardon me Mr. ‘I know you’ll hate this but do it anyway’,” Emily shot back while
trying to wiggle her way to a sitting position in the passenger-side center seat, “but it’s not so easy
to run when you’re packed up like a duffle bag. Why do I have to wear this crap anyway?”

“All in due course Emily,” Nathan replied evasively as he shoved the van into gear and
pointed it down Second Street.

Emily again cast Nathan a sour, hateful glare before returning to the task of getting
situated. Directly to her left, Claire, apparently no more comfortable than she was, sat silently,
her eyes fixed upon the side window. Directly to her rear, Pat, in a position somewhere between
stooping and kneeling, and nearly oblivious to Emily’s sudden appearance, was fidgeting with
several thick plastic containers. Emily recognized them at once as the cases which held the ‘toys’,
or rather the special electronic thing-a-ma-bobs used by the N.A.A.P.I. for ghost detecting.

Feeling about as uncomfortable and jumbled as you can get, Emily at last managed to
situate herself into a semi-bearable position in her seat. Just as she did so, the van crossed the
intersection at River Road and Second Street and proceeded slowly across the concrete bridge.
As always, the hospital and its sprawling grounds came into immediate, and somewhat deflating,
view.

Just as Nathan cleared the bridge and began to turn the van onto B&O Boulevard, Emily
suddenly became aware of a something and a someone, parked and standing directly in front of the
crumbling brick pillars at the hospital’s main gate. As they slowly drew closer, the two figures
came into sharper focus and Emily was able to ascertain just what and who they were.

The ‘what’, was a full-sized Lewis County Sheriff’s Department patrol car, and the ‘who’,
an officer in full uniform standing just outside the driver’s door. The officer, whom Emily did not
recognize, stood at least six feet in height with a fairly substantial build, and did not move or flinch
a muscle. His folded arms and lack of any real expression made him look more and more like the
image of a Marine Corps drill instructor as the van crept closer.

“Who’s the welcoming committee?” Emily asked Nathan as she continued to stare past the
front seat and out the windshield.

“Our contact,” Nathan replied. “The Lewis County Sheriff.”

Nathan himself neither spoke nor changed expression for the next few seconds as he
gradually maneuvered the van up to the rear end of the sheriff’s vehicle. For his part, the sheriff
kept his cool, keen eyes upon the windshield every inch of the way as well. If Emily had not
known better, she would have thought that Nathan and he were attempting to read one another’s
intentions through eye contact.

Finally, Nathan brought the creeping van to a stop and placed it in neutral before turning
the upper part of his body toward his companions in the rear.

“All right,” Nathan said in his most serious of tones, “everyone stay put and don’t make
your presence known unless I signal you to. Got it?

“Check,” Pat called from the back.

“Sure thing,” Claire replied automatically.

“Right,” Emily said unenthusiastically.

Following a quick adjustment of his dark glasses, Nathan pushed his door open and smartly
stepped down onto the street. Like a scene from a long-forgotten “Spaghetti Western”, Nathan
turned on his heels until he was facing directly toward the sheriff and his car. The two men again
looked to be taking stock of one another, deciding whether or not to proceed, back off, or shoot to
kill! Nathan’s mind must have arrived at its decision sooner than the sheriff’s, as he smoothly and
calmly began walking toward him.

Cool, calculating, and even slightly intimidating, Nathan walked confidently toward his
waiting contact, never tilting or wavering his head an inch. At the other end, the sheriff fidgeted,
first at his belt, and then at the brim of his hat, as Nathan drew closer. When Nathan had finally
come to within a yard of his staunch, yet obviously nervous, contact, he stopped and stood his
ground.

Back inside the idling van, Emily craned her neck past the front passenger seat so that she
could see what was transpiring. As she looked on with suppressed anticipation, the sheriff
seemed to be eyeing Nathan in the same, unnerving manner with which Emily was all too familiar.

“You Riley?” the sheriff asked finally, having given Nathan the usual looking over.

“Depends on who wants to know,” Nathan replied in a cold, professional monotone.

With just a hint of a scowl, the sheriff lifted his right hand and pointed to a thin, metal name
plate directly beneath his gold badge.

“T. J. Camden,” the sheriff replied in his own professionally cool manner. “Lewis County
Sheriff.”

“Nathaniel Riley, North American Association for Paranormal Investigation,” Nathan said
calmly as he pointed at the logo on his jump suit, “but as far as you’re concerned, it’s Steven
Reynolds, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Comprende?”
“Fair enough, if that’s the way you want it,” Sheriff Camden replied, looking as if he were
going to great lengths to disguise his own worries.

“That’s the way it’s going to be,” Nathan said sternly. “I assume the fact that you’re even
here means you received a call from a certain ‘gentleman’ in Washington, informing you of our
intentions?”

“Damn right I did,” Sheriff Camden said with more nerve. “Hadn’t been for that call I’d
have told YOU and this Henry Thompson, whoever he is, to go and take a flying leap.”

“How fortunate for us then,” Nathan replied dryly, “although I very much doubt Henry
would have taken you up on the offer. Camden, eh?”

“That’s right,” Sheriff Camden confirmed, a very minute grin crossing his stone face.
“Timothy James Camden.”

“Great grandfather or great-great grandfather?” Nathan asked as he stepped another foot


closer to Sheriff Camden.

“Great-great,” Sheriff Camden replied, a sense of pride now entering his voice. “You’re
obviously well acquainted with my progeny.”

Back inside of the van, Emily’s mind was racing madly as it attempted to unravel the
meaning of what she had just heard. “Camden, Camden . . .” Emily thought aloud. “I know I’ve
read that name somewhere in those papers.”

“T.B. Camden . . . Superintendent here in the 1870s,” Pat suddenly announced, having left
his work behind and crept forward until he was even with Emily and Claire.

“That’s probably the only reason Henry let Nathan contact him,” Claire interjected without
taking her eyes off the window. “Figured he’d be sympathetic as well as useful.”

“Nate says he knows more about this place than anyone,” Pat added. “Kept up on the
history and latest news about it his whole life.”

“Does HE believe in ghosts?” Emily asked.

“If he doesn’t now,” Claire said, her voice returning to its mysteriously, serene tone, “he
will by morning. Of THAT I am certain.”

“How many are you?” Sheriff Camden asked as he glanced back toward the van.

“Including myself, four,” Nathan replied.

“And you’re . . . ALL . . . going inside?” Sheriff Camden asked with note of dread.
“That’s correct,” Nathan replied, again in his calm monotone.

“You’re all nuts, you do know that don’t you?” Sheriff Camden said, glancing at the
hospital and then back at Nathan.

“Well that remains to be seen,” Nathan said dismissively, “and even if it’s true, it’s really
beside the point now, isn’t it?”

“All right,” Sheriff Camden replied. “Guess it’s not my place to question your methods OR
intentions. It’s just that things are complicated enough around here as it is. I’m not too keen on
stoking a roaring fire if you take my meaning.”

“Whatever happens Mr. Camden, YOU will in no way, shape or form be held
accountable,” Nathan added simply, taking a step toward the twin, brick pillars across the
sidewalk. “All of our agents are under a code of secrecy, as is our agency itself. Rest assured
were your help and cooperation not needed, you would not have been bothered. Nor would you
even be aware of our mission.”
“I believe that well enough,” Sheriff Camden said as he stepped toward the main entrance
along with Nathan, “but now that I’m here, I have to confess, I don’t really see what good I can do.
I already told this ‘Mr. Thompson’ everything I know about the place.”

“What’s the situation with the interior infrastructure?” Nathan asked.

“You’ll have full power, water, and twenty-five percent steam,” Sheriff Camden responded
automatically.

“Gas?” Nathan replied quickly.

“No go,” Sheriff Camden said with regret. “I tried to swing the foreman at the plant but he
wouldn’t budge. Wouldn’t even take a bribe, the big, fat idiot.”

“Good enough,” Nathan said as both he and Sheriff Camden now stared up at the hospital’s
clock tower.

“You gonna explain to me why that thing REALLY rang this afternoon?” Sheriff Camden
asked with calm curiosity.

“Would you believe me if I did?” Nathan answered without movement.

“Probably not,” Sheriff Camden replied honestly.

“Let’s just say it meant that we got here just in time,” Nathan said with an increasingly
darker and more threatening tone, “and let’s also say that it means it’s in your best interest to
follow my every instruction to the absolute letter.”
“If it means putting an end to all this once and for all . . .” Sheriff Camden replied earnestly,
“whatever you want . . . just name it and it’s yours.”

Nathan looked up at the main center section of the hospital and clasped his hands tightly in
the small of his back. Then, after taking a breath and turning to face Sheriff Camden, he reached
up, and with a quick SNAP, whipped his dark glasses from his face. His eyes looked like they
were attempting to see past Sheriff Camden’s face and into his brain.

“First of all,” Nathan began in his ‘Commanding General’ tone, “I hope you like long
nights.”

“I’ve got three jugs full of coffee just waiting for company,” Sheriff Camden said with the
air of an obedient soldier.

“Good,” Nathan went on. “Right. I want you to park across the road here, directly
opposite the main gate and as far back against the guardrail as you can get. Keep your eyes on the
hospital, the road, the grounds . . . everything. BUT, under absolutely no circumstances will you
enter the grounds unless I specifically direct you to do so. I don’t care if you hear screams, see
flames . . . I don’t care if you see the spire get fired out of the tower like a missile. You DO NOT
cross that gate unless you either see us come out, or I direct you to enter. Got it?”

“Got it,” Sheriff Camden said obediently. “How will you direct me?”

Nathan removed two small, cellular, flip-telephones from his hip pocket and placed one of
them into Sheriff Camden’s hand.

“Take this,” Nathan instructed. “Now, keep the instant channel open, but you don’t contact
me . . . EVER! I contact YOU! And whatever I ask for, no matter how far-fetched or impossible
it sounds . . . do your damndest to get it done fast. Do you have two officers who you can trust,
implicitly?”

“Yes,” Sheriff Camden responded, nearly coming to attention. “Two local officers, Daniels
and Markum. Helped to train them both. They’d follow me into hell if I asked them to.”

“Good,” Nathan continued. “Station one of them at each of the side gates in unmarked
vehicles. They are to WATCH, repeat, WATCH the entrances. They are not to allow ANYONE
in or around the hospital. If either you or they see anyone lurking around or trying to get inside,
you know our cover story. Use it, and enforce it. If anybody comes around and starts asking
questions, just feed it to them and play it up.”

“I gotcha,” Sheriff Camden replied.

“Now, Sheriff Camden,” Nathan began before placing his arm upon the Sheriff’s left
shoulder and looking him straight in the eyes, “there IS a very good chance, that not all four of us
will come out those doors tomorrow morning. But, whatever happens, whatever you hear or see .
. . after tomorrow at seven AM . . . it never happened. As far as you’re concerned, WE were never
even here . . . just some state workers whose names you don’t remember. If anything needs to be
swept under the rug, just leave it to us. Any questions?”

“Tomorrow at seven . . .” Sheriff Camden asked slowly, “what if . . . no one comes out?”

“Prayer,” Nathan said after flashing a thin, morbid grin.

“I think I can handle that,” Sheriff Camden said with another hint of a smile. “Well, I
guess you’re ready, eh?”

Nathan gave an affirmative nod. With that, Sheriff Camden reached down to his waist
and removed a set of old, rusty keys from one of his belt loops. After a few moments of fumbling
for the correct key, he turned away from Nathan and toward the large chain stretched across the
main driveway leading to Hospital Road. A couple of clicks and a few clanks later, the chain gave
a final rattle and dropped to the ground. Sheriff Camden again turned toward Nathan. With
another of his slight grins, he held up the giant padlock which had been holding the chain together,
and brandished it, as if it were a freshly-felled pheasant, for Nathan to see. With that, he stepped
away from the chain, gave Nathan a parting salute, and entered his vehicle.

Nathan watched intently as the sheriff’s car pulled away from the curb and turned sharply
across B&O Boulevard into the grass and gravel directly opposite. Satisfied now that the sheriff’s
role for the evening was set, Nathan returned to the van and re-assumed his place behind the wheel.
Emily was all eyes and ears as he did so.

“What was that all about Nate?” Emily asked eagerly as Nathan began to inch the car
backward.

“Just laying out our game plan,” Nathan said while watching his mirrors. “Making sure
all the pawns are in place while we knights go to work.”

Nathan continued backing the large van backward and diagonally into B&O Boulevard
until its nose was pointed directly at the old, main entranceway. After giving the steering wheel a
pat for good luck, he threw the van into first, and edged it forward and over the concrete curb and
onto the sidewalk.

Emily, her emotions and nerves now tingling uncontrollably, inhaled deeply. She had not
crossed this particular threshold in over eight years. Nathan gave the van a little more
encouragement and its rear tires finally cleared the edge of the curb. Without any further
hesitation, he carefully steered the front of the van between the brick pillars and onto Hospital
Road.

As the van crossed between the two stout, brick yeomen, Emily’s stomach suddenly felt as
if it had been injected by a bicycle pump. Her lungs filled with air, and the strong, sickening
sound of an inflating balloon filled her ears. The sounds and feelings were so strong that Emily
actually brought her hands up to rest on her stomach before the perceived inflation subsided.
“Emily,” Claire inquired with concern. “What is it? Are you OK?”

“No,” Emily said in a near pant, her arms still clutched against her chest. “I can FEEL it
Claire.”

Claire did not inquire further, she simply watched in silence. Emily gritted her teeth,
shook her head from side to side and devoted every ounce of her strength to fighting off the
invisible hands that seemed to be constricting her. Oddly, as Nathan brought the slow-rolling van
to halt in front of the hospital’s main entrance, Emily’s pains and feelings of tension vanished as
fast as they had appeared. Having no clue at all what to make of the unusual phenomenon, Emily
simply swallowed hard and tried to let the incident pass from her mind.

“You’ve felt this before, haven’t you Emily?” Claire asked in a serious tone of voice.

“Yes, eight years ago,” Emily said, her lungs still readjusting to a normal flow of oxygen.
“But this time was different. It’s like it’s the exact opposite.”

Emily lifted her head and brought it directly level with Claire’s. For a few seconds, the
two women exchanged looks of the utmost significance, as though their brains were
simultaneously tuning into the very same channel and having the same unpleasant reactions.

“Alright, let’s get to it,” Nathan called out as he exited the car, his sudden interjection
abruptly breaking Emily and Claire’s mental bond.

Emily, taking one final breath to re-inflate her waning courage, took the lever of the sliding
door into her sweating palm, gave it a tug, and pulled it open. The cool, dry afternoon air which
rushed in was a great comfort to Emily’s overworked lungs. Eagerly sucking up as much of the
sweet, autumn air as she could, Emily swiveled around on her seat, adjusted the awkward attire
beneath her work suit, and dismounted. Claire immediately began to follow, but just as her right
foot made contact with the pavement, something caused her to stop and shiver.

“Ohhhh!” Claire gasped in sudden shock as a wave of emotion swept over her.

With each of her hands clamped tightly to either side of the opening, Claire did all she
could to keep from reeling backward. Emily, hearing Claire’s cry, turned around just in time to
see Pat appear at her back.

“Steady now,” Pat said calmly to Claire as he helped to gently settle her back into the van.
“That’s it Claire, nice and easy now.”

“Oh my . . .whoa!” Claire managed to say through her horror.

As Pat took one of Claire’s shoulders into each hand and attempted to massage away some
of her fright, Claire, herself, slowly angled her head upward toward the hospital’s clock tower.
Nathan stepped quickly from behind the rear of the van.
“Claire!” Nathan exclaimed while rushing toward her, Pat and Emily. “What is it, what did
you feel?”

Emily, her courage again beginning to wax and wane with each passing second, stooped
down beside Claire. Now, half-seated on the van’s floor and half-leaning against Pat, Claire
struggled to get both her breath and her senses back to full capacity.
“Claire,” Emily asked gingerly, “what was it?”

“It knows,” Claire said with heightened fear. “It knows we’re here. THEY know we’re
here.”

In near unison, Nathan, Pat and Emily each lifted up his or her head. After exchanging
glances with one another, they slowly turned their heads away from Claire and toward the large,
wooden doors of the hospital, which stood silent vigil barely ten feet away. A light breeze swept
by, causing many of the dead leaves on the porch in front of the doors to rise from their resting
place, and swirl in tiny, phantom-like whirlwinds.

Seconds later, the silence was again abruptly shattered by another ear-splitting CLANG.
All eyes and heads now tilted skyward as the newly awakened chimes sounded three more times in
quick succession. Two of the three clock faces in the tower were clearly visible, and each of them
now told a chilling story. Despite having been deprived of power for the same duration as the
chiming system, the two clocks each read the exact same time . . . four o’clock. A quick check by
Nathan of his wrist watch confirmed the accuracy of the supposedly dormant mechanisms.

“Four o’clock,” Nathan said in an eerily quiet calm.

“And all’s hell,” Emily added.


Chapter 12
Unto the Breach

Emily made a mental note to throw out all non-digital clocks the second she arrived back
home in Charleston. Having now twice heard the supposedly dead clock tower sound out the time
of day, she began to fear that she was now a prime candidate for developing a permanent hate
complex for all time keeping devices. As she helped Nathan lift another heavy, black plastic
container from one of the van’s secret rear compartments, she was painfully aware that the echo of
the chimes inside of her head was dying away much slower than she would have liked.

“I wish to hell the damn place would just shut up,” Emily muttered in frustration as she
handed a black container labeled Proximity Detector to Nathan. “First it tells everyone in town that
it’s awake again, then it defends itself against a hammer, THEN it plows its way into Claire’s head.
Why? I ask you . . . why?”

“Hopefully by tomorrow morning I’ll be able to answer that question,” Nathan said as he
took the black container in hand and headed toward the main doors.

“If you’re still alive you mean?” Emily called after Nathan.

“I’m not planning on a quick death,” Nathan said with a huff, placing the black container
down gently upon the hospital’s large, stone porch. “At least, not yet anyway.”

“Well then, will you at least answer me this?” Emily asked while gesturing to her green
jumpsuit. “Why do I have to wear this . . . this . . . THING under my jumpsuit?”

Now thoroughly at her wit’s end from constantly having to squirm inside of the oversized
suit, Emily grabbed its front zipper, planted her feet firmly on the ground, and pulled down. Once
fully unzipped, the top part of the jumpsuit slid from Emily’s shoulders and fell to the ground,
leaving only the very bottom of her legs covered.

“I really HATE dresses Nate!” Emily fumed as she attempted to unwrinkle her unusual
attire with her hands.

The clothing, which had been causing such consternation for Emily, was a simple,
one-piece, slightly faded yellowish dress. It was the type of outfit that would not have turned a
single head, as it was about as plain as “plain” could get.

“Why is it so damned important that I wear this?” Emily asked as she freed her ankles.

“We’re entering into a ‘period’ atmosphere Emily,” Nathan said flatly.

“A what?” Emily replied, having no idea at all what ‘period’ meant.

“A ‘period’ atmosphere,” Nathan said more slowly as he reached into the rear of the van.
“We can be certain that any type of entities we encounter inside are going to be of a different time
period. It may only be ten years, it may be 130 years, but whatever the period, spirits are more apt
to make themselves seen and heard if the atmosphere remains as unchanged as possible. We dress
in our normal street clothes and we . . . well . . . clash.”

“Oh forgive me,” Emily said cynically, “I didn’t know I was going to be facing fashion-
conscious ghosts.”

“I’m serious Emily,” Nathan added more firmly. “The more we blend with the time
periods we are trying to tap into, the better our chances. And since we’re trying to tap a pretty
broad spectrum, the simpler the better. Besides . . . you look good in drab.”

Nathan grinned at Emily, who failed to see the humor in his comments, then took another
black container in hand and carried it over to the porch. By now, seven containers of one form or
another were lined up in a single row directly in front of the large, oak doors leading to the
hospital’s main hallway. Pat, now dressed in plain brown pants, black suspenders, and a simple
white dress shirt, stood just behind the odd looking column, clipboard and pen in hand. After
placing the latest container in line with the others, Nathan again headed for the rear of the van.
Rather than wait for him, Emily turned her attention to Claire, who, by this time had also shed her
green jumpsuit and was now sitting against one of the old vine-covered trees that stood within the
circle surrounding the hospital’s decrepit looking water fountain.

Having been hit hard by the massive surge of emotionally-charged energy from inside the
hospital, Claire now looked decidedly the worse for wear, even more so than her white and blue
dress. Though Nathan had ordered her to rest and allow her mind to clear while he, Pat and Emily
unloaded the van, Emily got the distinct impression that rest and relaxation were having little
effect on her.

“You OK?” Emily asked tenderly as she stooped down beside Claire. “Brain cells stopped
spinning yet?”

“Yeah, they’re starting to get back in line,” Claire said heavily, her voice now much more
breathy and weak than before. “It’s mostly my fault though Emily; don’t let it worry you too
much. I let my guard down when we crossed through the gate and it just took me by surprise.
It’s no more or less potent than it was last night . . . hmm, I just let it all in at once.”

“What DID you feel?” Emily asked quietly.

“Awareness,” Claire replied. “Acute awareness. When you crossed through those gates
something ELSE woke up, something that you and you alone triggered.”

“Diane?” Emily asked point-blank, hoping for the best but expecting the worse, as Nathan
had directed.

“I can’t tell,” Claire said with resignation. “I just know that whatever or whoever it was,
was shaken, or at least stirred, by your presence.”
“I thought you just told me NOT to let this worry me?” Emily in a half-joking, half-serious
sort of way. “Who is aware of MY being here, other than the hospital itself?”

“Right now, I’m getting too many mixed signals to hone in on any ONE presence,” Claire
said, closing her eyes and arcing her head upward as she did. “Nothing else specifically about you
though.”

“Wait, hold the phone, you mean you’ve already opened back up?” Emily asked in
complete surprise.

Claire gave a small giggle and then straightened her back more firmly on the tree she was
resting against. Had Emily not known better, she would have sworn that Claire was toying with
her . . . making light of her own misfortune.

“Hmm hmm, of course,” Claire said with her playfulness firmly back in place. “I’ve got
all my mental filters up now owing to my extreme hatred of migraines. But . . . yes. What, do you
think I’d let you and those clods over there go inside without making sure it was safe?”

Emily smiled and Claire did likewise, each feeling her own bit of personal pride. Since
Claire had still refused to check HER sense of humor at the gate, Emily braced herself and vowed
to follow her example. After giving Claire an encouraging pat on the back, she rejoined Nathan
and Pat in their game of “lighten the van’s load.”

At precisely fifteen past four, all was in readiness. No fewer than twelve boxes and
containers now sat upon the hospital’s porch, each pushed off to one side making access to the
main doors easiest. Nathan, Pat, Claire and Emily now stood shoulder-to-shoulder, like four
vulnerable ducks in a row, at the bottom of the small flight of stone steps leading to the entrance.
Each stared up at the doors as if they expected them to fly off their hinges at any moment.

With a rap of his fist and a deep breath for luck, Nathan broke ranks first, confidently
stepped forward, and proceeded to remove his own jumpsuit. Like his colleagues, Nathan now
looked about as nondescript as you could get without being invisible. Black trousers faded white
dress shirt and an unbuttoned black vest. He would have looked as much at home at an 1880's
dockyard as he would have in a 1970's Weston postcard.

Nathan rolled his blue jumpsuit up and tucked it under his left arm before starting toward
the steps and beginning a slow, deliberate ascent. Pat, Claire and Emily each followed a few
paces behind, watching intently as Nathan cleared the final step and approached the front doors.
Overhead, a rusted and decaying old light fixture creaked ominously as another breeze swept by.
Emily glanced up, remembering how many times she had seen the wrought-iron encircled light,
and wondered whether or not it was going to survive another day.

Now back upon her old familiar turf, Emily sidestepped past Nathan, walked to the left-
hand side of the doors, and gently rested her fingers against the exterior of the windowpane.
Although she could not see through them to the inside, the thick, ornate glass windows
surrounding the doors on its sides and top were aglow with greenish light from within. CLICK . .
. Emily’s fingers ceased their probing of the window and closed into her palms. She knew that
sound.

To her right, Nathan had just slipped a small, brass key into the door and turned it.
Another round of electric pulses shot through Emily’s body. She abruptly pulled her hand from
the glass and stepped back to Nathan’s side. Emily stared at Nathan; Nathan stared back, his eyes
seeming to ask the question: “Now?”

Even though every fiber in her body was urging her to tuck tail and run, even though the
mere thought of opening that door went against every instinct she possessed, and even though the
idea of stepping into a “haunted hallway” DEFINITELY went against her better judgment, Emily
simply raised her brow and nodded affirmatively. Nathan, his eyes still locked with Emily’s, bit
his lower lip, gave a firm return nod, grasped the doorknob with his right hand . . . and pushed.

CRICK, CRACK, SQUEEEEEEK. A warm, musty, and sweet gust of pungent air rushed
forth as the ancient door swung open protestingly. Pat and Emily both brought their hands up to
their mouths in a futile attempt at fending off the putrid smell. An instant later, a loud and
nerve-splitting crash echoed off of every interior wall. The door, having been unrestrained as it
swung open, slammed hard against the wall to which it was attached, sending up a plume of dust
and plaster as it did.

The musty white cloud, along with the eerie combination of fluorescent and incandescent
lamps, made Emily’s first view of the hospital’s foyer look about three times as spooky as it
actually was. Even through the diffused and discolored mist, it was easy enough to see that time
had not been overly kind to Emily’s Second Home. Cracks ran like spider webs across the
paneled ceiling, paint chips littered the floor, strips of green wallpaper hung at disjointed angles,
and even the majestic hard oak woodwork lining the walls appeared to be feeling the wrath of
“Father-Time”.

Emily and her three companions stared inside through the open doorway, taking careful
stock of what lay just beyond the threshold. Claire, who had made a point of sliding in behind
Nathan as the door opened, cautiously tilted to her left to afford herself a better view. As she
looked on, her eyes slowly slid shut and she carefully pressed her fingertips against the sides of her
forehead.
“Anything Claire?” Nathan asked.

“MMMM . . . no, nothing. It’s clear for now,” Claire replied in her mystic-like way.

“Well . . . now let’s go for it,” Nathan said as he prepared to step inside.

“NO!” Emily intervened forcefully.

“What Em?” Nathan asked, blindsided by Emily’s abrupt interjection.

“This was MY stomping ground,” Emily said in a sudden display of nerve and pride. “I
worked here, I walked these halls, and I went through these doors every day for two years . . . I’m
going in first.”

Nathan eyed Emily with equal amounts of surprise and suspicion. As he gently lowered
his foot back down, Emily could read his expression. His eyes betrayed every one of his
misgivings. It was easy for her to deduce that he was more than hesitant about her stepping into
harm’s way first. Still, Emily was now determined that Nathan’s past experiences and fear for the
safety of his colleagues were not going to stand in her way. If she were to assume the role of ‘tour
guide’, then she should be the first inside.

“Emily . . . are you sure?” Nathan asked with a good deal of misgiving in his voice.

“Once more unto the breach . . .” Emily quipped confidently. “Dear friends?”

Nathan’s lips slowly curled into a slight yet very respectful smile. Taking a step back
away from the door, he lifted his arms and politely motioned for Emily to enter. She did not
hesitate. In two confident strides she crossed the door’s threshold and, for the first time in . . . well
. . . it felt like an eternity, stood within the walls of her Second Home.

“Knock knock,” Emily said aloud into thin air. “Wake up ol’ girl.”

Expecting either the walls to rattle or the roof to undulate at any second, Emily stood fast
and listened hard. Nothing, not even another wisp of wind. Having heard nothing even remotely
resembling an answer to her call, Emily turned back around just in time to see Nathan and Claire
step through the doorway, all the while gazing about in their own unique ways. Behind them, Pat
was stooped over one of the sets of containers, deciding which ones to move first.

“Emily,” Nathan said as he stepped past her and into the foyer, “I need hardly remind you
that there is a very fine line between bravery and flippancy. I don’t think it’s a good idea at this
juncture to be taunting our ‘host’ as it were.”

“Oh give me a break,” Emily said with complete dismissal. “I said ‘wake up’ to this place
nearly every morning for two years.”

“Yes, well it’s been sleeping for a little longer this go-round,” Nathan said as he turned
right and stepped toward a warped side door. “It might still be cranky.”

Nathan gently pressed his hand against the wooden side door, checking to see just how
secure it was. Though its paint was badly chipped, and its doorknob coated in thick, brown rust,
the door seemed solid enough as Nathan gave it a gentle shove. Another small avalanche of dust
cascaded down from the top of the door as it creaked open, revealing a barren and equally as
decaying old room.

“Mail room,” Emily said to Nathan as he looked the room over. “Guess now you could
call it a DEAD letter office.”

Claire giggled faintly as she, too, walked past Emily and headed toward the middle of the
large, main hall, the junction of the north and south running wards as well as the exact center of the
entire complex. Moving slowly, her head tilted back and her eyes fixed on detail, Claire turned
and pivoted several times, taking in every inch of the foyer. Emily, noticing Claire meandering
about, thought that her heightened concentration might actually be bordering on the
transcendental.

“Such detail,” Claire said airily as she turned in circles beneath the giant, wooden
archways. “Such attention to form and geometry. I can see it . . . yes, yes. Eggshell white walls
lined with paintings, hand-crafted wood frames, fine mahogany furniture covered in red velvet, a
row of potted palms along each wall . . . glistening, varnished waiting benches backed with brown
leather, ivory ash trays, ornate cabinets with etched glass fronting, and . . . and . . .”

Claire craned her neck back even farther. For several seconds she twirled slowly, her eyes
streaking back and forth along the length of the hallway’s ceiling.

“The lights,” Claire continued in an even more mysterious tone, “low-hanging, polished
brass fixtures . . . capped at each end by gorgeous, crystal globes. Magnificent. I can see it all.”

“Been looking at those pictures in the old ‘Board of Control’ reports?” Emily asked simply.

“No,” Claire replied in her soft, dreamy voice. “I mean literally, I can SEE it. Its aura is
so strong that I can see it all plain as day. It’s so clear I could almost reach out . . . and touch it.”

Claire slowly extended her left arm and groped in mid-air at something that Emily couldn’t
see. Whatever Claire was attempting to touch came to about waist-height, and must have been
placed against the center pillar on the right hand side of the foyer. For several seconds, Claire
continued to carefully poke and grab at the invisible “something”.

“My god, Nathan,” Claire exclaimed, her voice returning to its normal pitch. “I’ve never
seen a residual imprint this strong before.”

“Well,” Nathan said as he pulled his head back from the room he had been examining,
“let’s just hope that everything comes as easily as that. Pat!”
“Yeah?” Pat called from the porch.

“Looks like three folding tables and . . .” Nathan said before glancing back over his
shoulder at a spot somewhere near the center of the hallway, “and two outlets right near the center;
will that work?”

“As long as we don’t blow out the main buss box . . . yes,” Pat replied with his own brand
of humor before stepping inside. “We’ll tie the auxiliary devices into one power strip, and the
main unit into another outlet, preferably one on a different breaker.”

Nathan again glanced over his shoulder and scanned the area in and around the main
intersection of the foyer and the doors leading to Ward A on the right . . . and Ward 1 on the left.

“Can do,” Nathan said after spotting another receptacle on the opposite side of the hall.

“Excellent!” Pat exclaimed with delight. “Would it be possible to tie the Central Unit into
the hospital’s old intercommunication system?”

“Probably,” Nathan said as he looked toward the wood-lined window that led to the old
reception office, “provided it’s still operational. Why?”

“I’m thinking if we tie the EVP sensors into IT along with our own mics . . .” Pat continued
to brainstorm, “as long as we can filter out any residual feedback, we may be able to triple our area
of effective coverage.”

“Yeah . . .” Nathan said as he pondered Pat’s suggestion. “Good idea Pat. But are the
input jacks on the external modulator compatible with a system as old as this one?”

“Oh definitely,” Pat said with total conviction. “I checked it just last night. It’s a 1968
Inter-Flux model GH-2. Standard input and output capacity on both the transmitting and
receiving ends. Same type as that school in Maine we did two years ago.”

Nathan stepped toward the reception window. Its sliding glass panels were now glazed in
a thin layer of crud. Gently pushing one of the panels aside, Nathan stuck his head inside the
small partition and studied the interior of the office. The communication system’s console, made
of smooth, buffed metal and roughly the size of a small refrigerator, was still built into the wall.
Its enormous metallic panel, lined with dozens of knobs and switches, now covered in thick
blankets of dust and cobwebs, looked to be fully intact, microphone and all.

“We’ll need to clean it off before we can be sure,” Nathan began as he pulled his head out
of the reception window, “but it looks like it’s in fairly good shape considering.”

“Alright, I think we’re good to go then,” Pat said as he surveyed the line of fluorescent
lights on the ceiling, mentally tracing each of them to its respective power source.

Pat turned from Nathan and walked back to the porch with the usual child-like spring in his
step. Nathan quickly followed suit after pushing open the door to the reception office and once
more showering one end of the foyer in dust.

“I wish I had just the faintest idea what they’re talking about,” Emily said to Claire, feeling
a little silly at being left out of the loop.

“Oh you know,” Claire said, her dreaminess returning as her eyes again started to peruse
the walls and ceiling, “‘boys and their toys’. Granted however, these toys do serve a purpose.”

“Sounds at least like Pat’s in his element now,” Emily said dryly as she, too, began to stare
up at the ceiling and its massive archways. “Just what are they doing now anyway?”

“Setting up a Central Command Center,” Claire answered vaguely, still never actually
looking in Emily’s direction. “Our electronic versions of eyes and ears. Much as I do hate to
admit it, Pat knows his stuff, and it’s every bit as effective as MY . . . (sigh) talents.”

Just as Claire finished, Pat, followed immediately by Nathan, reentered the foyer with one
of the large, black “toy boxes” in each of his hands. Moving with more purpose than he had
heretofore exhibited, Pat walked to the dead center of the hall, turned back toward the front door,
and sat each of the containers down onto the green, tile floor with one bend of his knees. Nathan
placed his two containers right alongside before heading back to the door, without even so much as
a pause or breath.

“Emily,” Pat said suddenly though politely.

“Uh, yes Pat?” Emily replied, briefly stymied by Pat addressing her so directly for the very
first time.

“Can you give us a hand?” Pat asked, gesturing toward the main doors with his thumb.
“The sooner we get this stuff up and running, the better.”

“Sure,” Emily said, not allowing her surprise to seep through.


“Thanks,” Pat said, his humility and introverted manner still in place. “Claire . . .”

“Way ahead of you,” Claire answered, without ever taking her eyes off of the side doors in
the rear of the foyer.

“Oh eh, well, good,” Pat stumbled for words before motioning for Emily to follow him to
the door.

With Nathan, Pat and Emily working in tandem, each and every container and box was
safely inside the hospital’s walls in less than three minutes. Altogether, they numbered fourteen.
Ten specially designed black, plastic cases, two leather satchels . . . filled to capacity with what
looked to Emily like papers and books . . . one large cushioned, black carrying case with the words
‘CENTRAL UNIT ‘written in yellow lettering on its side, and, much to Emily’s chagrin, the
crumpled cardboard box which her mother had brought to her hotel room the night before.
“Nice little arsenal, huh Emily?” Pat asked proudly as he gestured toward the row of
containers now lining the back, left-hand wall of the foyer.

“Well . . .” Emily stammered, not sure just how she would even BEGIN to articulate her
present thoughts.

“Even though we’re operating at minimal capacity,” Pat began with childish glee in every
word, “we’ve still got everything here that you could possibly imagine. Heat sensors, UV vision
cameras, ultra-sensitive EMF meters, proximity indicators, electromagnetic variation detectors;
heck, we even got a brand new Infrared Image-Capture Unit.”

Emily merely stared down at the dingy, empty floor space directly between the sets of
staircases on either side of the hall. Minimal capacity? For all of Pat’s obvious knowledge of
electronic gadgets, to Emily, he might as well have been speaking Chinese, as she had managed to
pick out maybe three words in his entire dissertation that she actually recognized.

“It’s eh . . . nice,” Emily said, trying to keep her naiveté about such things hidden.

“It’s also complicated as hell, Emily,” Claire announced suddenly as she walked around
past the doors to the Female wards, his mental workings still going strong, “so don’t let Pat make
you feel TOO embarrassed.”

“Gee, thanks a million,” Pat said with a certain amount of wounded pride. “Like your
mental processes aren’t just as complicated. At least with my methods, Emily can actually SEE
what’s happening. With you she has to play guessing games.”

“It’s OK Pat. Really I . . .” Emily broke in.


“So a licensed psychologist is not capable of understanding mental phenomenon?” Claire
teased back more forcefully. “She needs visual aids?”

“I’m just saying that audio and visual techniques produce results that are easier for others
to comprehend,” Pat replied, sounding more and more like an offended adolescent. “Emily,
we’re arguing on your behalf here, so you be the judge. What do you think?”

“Well, I just have one question,” Emily said through a very heavy veil of reluctance.

“Shoot,” Pat said eagerly.

“Were you two married in a previous life?” Emily asked with hesitant humor.

From the other side of the hall, Nathan laughed and allowed his head to fall gently against
the doors to Ward 1. Having been so hesitant to even ask the question to begin with, Emily was
very relieved to see that it did not seem ready to blow up in her face. Both Claire and Pat simply
stopped in their respective tracks, as if they had both been cut to the quick in a friendly manner . .
. which they had.

“That transparent huh?” Pat remarked as he leaned his head forward and peered at Emily
over the top of his thick, horn-rimmed, ‘period’ glasses. “What do you think CV, should we tell
her?”

“Oh my god,” Emily stammered in momentary shock. “You weren’t actually . . . I


mean…”

“No Emily,” Claire said in her most normal and calming of voices. “No, fortunately for
each of our families, Pat and I have NEVER been married.”

“Fortunate for me, too,” Pat mumbled jokingly under the guise of a fake cough.

“I heard that SPARKS,” Claire taunted, as Pat and Nathan continued to chuckle.

“My middle name is James,” Pat shot back.

“Not to me it isn’t,” Claire replied. “No Emily, Pat and I have just known each other
virtually our entire lives . . .”

“Which explains my graying hair,” Pat again quipped through a series of embellished
coughs.
“Are you going to let me tell this or not?” Claire shouted in a very ‘big sister’ way. “Like
I was TRYING to say . . . several times . . . Pat and I go back a very long way, birth actually. We
each grew up in the same small town, Fall River, Massachusetts.”

Claire paused for several seconds and acted as if she were waiting for Emily to recognize
some vital bit of information in what she had related. Emily replayed Claire’s words over and
over in her mind, but could find nothing even remotely familiar about anything she or Pat had said.
After several more silent and increasingly awkward seconds, Emily shrugged her shoulders and
held out her upturned palms in a display of sheer ignorance.

“And . . .” Emily said with cautious and somewhat embarrassed curiosity.

“You’ve never heard of it?” Pat asked with some amazement.

“Massachusetts?” Emily said vaguely, striving to make herself look less ignorant than she
felt.

“Fall River?” Claire asked politely, though also with some astonishment.

“Uh . . . no . . . I fell in a river once though, does that count?” Emily joked, finally giving in
to the fact that she had positively no idea what Pat and Claire were hinting at.

“Blank blank took an axe . . .” Nathan suddenly sang out from across the room, “and gave
her mother forty whacks.”

“And when she saw what she had done . . .” Pat continued in a playful rhythm.

“She gave her mother . . .” Claire chimed in.

“Forty-one,” Emily finished the rhyme while laughing, finally realizing the significance of
Fall River, Mass. “I should have known; it makes perfect sense. So you both grew up in Lizzy
Borden’s hometown. Ya know, as maudlin as it sounds, it actually explains so much.”

“Doesn’t it though?” Nathan quipped as he went on about his business of examining the
door to the male wards.

“Anyway,” Claire said, returning to her and Pat’s life story, “yes, we both grew up there.
And played there, and went to school there, and became close friends there, and . . .”

“Nearly drove each other BATTY there,” Pat said while continuing to chuckle. “Emily,
you have no idea what it’s like to have a best friend who can read your damn mind.”

“Hence why to this very day I HATE all Reference sections,” Claire replied.

“Remember that night we conned the people at the Borden House into letting us stay,” Pat
humorously reminisced. ”heh heh . . . when we were like fourteen?”
“And on a school night no less,” Claire laughingly continued Pat’s story.

“OK,” Emily said with forced humility. “I don’t think I need to hear this.”

“Oh nothing like THAT, Emily,” Claire said truthfully through her giggles. “It was sort of
like our first ‘ghost hunt’. Pat spent all night hooked up to some jerry-rigged, electronic listening
device, and I just sat by the window in a semi-conscience trance.”

“Did you hear anything?’ Emily inquired eagerly.

“Yes,” Claire said seriously.

“What?” Emily asked with increasing interest.

“Pat’s snoring,” Claire said in an overly serious tone.

Emily gave in. She stooped to her knees in a fit of uncontrolled laughter. All of her
trepidations and misgivings about being back inside of the hospital had, at least for the moment,
vacated her mind. The story that Pat and Claire were now recalling filled in so many blanks. They,
too, had grown up in a town with a dubious reputation, and in all likelihood had been exposed to
stories of ghosts and goblins since birth.

Pat, Claire and Emily each continued to laugh until the air was abruptly shattered by an
ear-splitting whistle. Emily at once clamped her hands to her ears, fearing that the ghosts and
spirits had, for some reason or another, taken offense at their jokes and levity. The whistle,
however, was not of unearthly origin. Rather, it had originated from Nathan, who, in the midst of
Emily’s laughing-fest with Pat and Claire, had stepped away from the southern door and moved in
upon them.

“Children!” Nathan announced in a stern yet genial voice. “Pat, Claire . . . you know how
much I love these stories . . . and god only knows I’d love to hear the one about your Prom Night
again . . . but I think we need to anchor ourselves in the present here. Pat, let’s get the command
center up and running. Claire . . .”

“I know,” Claire said, mildly deflated, “turn off and tune in.”

“Good, and Emily . . .” Nathan said, continuing his ‘General’ order.

“Yes?” Emily asked, her squeamish feelings creeping back in.


“It’s gonna take us at least a half an hour to set all this up and get it running,” Nathan began.
“I think now might be a good time for you to lose yourself (Emily gulped) in that handbook I left
for you. You do still have it, don’t you?”

“Uh . . . ” Emily fumbled, trying hard to avoid admitting that she had left the book inside of
her gratefully shed work suit, “yes, but it’s out in the van.”

“Well, go get it - quickly - and read as much as you can,” Nathan said in a fully composed
manner. “The more you can digest before we get started, the less risk you’ll run of being sucked
into an inter-dimensional time warp.”

“A WHAT!?” Emily shouted, chilled to the bone once again by one of Nathan’s surprise
revelations.

“Nate,” Claire intervened, sounding like a school headmistress.

“Alright,” Nathan relented, failing to hide his self-serving smirk. “Forget about that last
part. But seriously, get it and read it. It honestly may help your chances.”

“Nathan,” Emily remarked through her latest rounding of retreating hyperventilation, “you
have a VERY morbid and warped sense of humor.”

“That I have,” Nathan agreed in an overly-formal yet friendly way.

While Pat and Nathan began popping open the latches on several of the black containers,
Emily walked right past them and out the front doors. As she stepped down from the interior and
onto the concrete porch beyond, another breeze blew by, again causing the leaves on the porch to
take flight and spiral in mid-air.

This time however, Emily could feel that the wind had now taken a much cooler and
forceful attitude. While walking down the steps and toward the van, it happened again, with even
greater force than before. As she attempted to shield her face from the much more consistent gale
blowing out of the west, she glanced skyward, and saw that a line of thick, dark clouds were slowly
edging their way eastward.

Emily watched the sky for several tense and curious seconds, her mind inadvertently
flashing back to the worst morning in her life. It was under atmospheric conditions very much
like this, that she had arrived at the hospital full of hope and eager anticipation about her follow-up
session with Diane. As Emily reached inside the van and pulled the small, blue, manual from an
inner pocket of her jump suit, she hoped and prayed that history would not find some devilishly
wicked way of repeating itself.

“That’s all I need,” Emily grumbled to herself as she headed back for the doors, still
shielding the left side of her face from the constantly cooling wind. “Focus Emily, just focus.”
Minutes later, Emily sat down against one of the walls in the back of the foyer directly
adjacent to the rear exit. For a brief and wild moment, she contemplated a mad dash through them
and then a ‘world-class’ sprint up the back road and into the safety of the woods. Fortunately,
common sense and a nagging renewed sense of duty kept her glued to the floor, where she tried
valiantly to find a comfortable way to sit without her dress riding up her back.

While Emily battled with both her emotions and her attire, Nathan and Pat continued to
make progress in the setting up of their command center. Three collapsible, cafeteria type tables
were now setting in a “U” formation in the middle of the intersection, with the head table facing
toward the main doors. Already, several electronic components had been removed from their
cases and were scattered about the tops of the tables, apparently waiting to be tied together into
some meaningful bundle.

As Pat and Nathan labored away, and Claire continued her slow, calculated
circumnavigation of the foyer, Emily finally managed to win the battle with her dress and finagle
herself into a comfortable sitting position. Although the light shining through the dusty windows
surrounding the rear door continued to grow darker and more diffused with each passing second,
Emily took the blue booklet into her hands and settled herself down for a crash course in “Ghost
Hunting”.

“Civilian Advisors,” Emily read. “That’s me.”

Emily adjusted her back one final time, allowing herself to slide forward into a
semi-reclined position, and began to read the inscription upon the manual’s flyleaf.

WARNING

ATTENTION READER

This publication is intended solely for the use of those to whom it has been
issued. If you have come into possession of this booklet by chance DO NOT read
further. Failure to heed this warning shall constitute a Federal or International
crime, punishable by the severest possible means.

If this book has come into your hands by accident, destroy it at once by
whatever means available. Incineration is highly recommended. Thank you.

Emily whistled in a low monotone before attempting to turn the next page, only to find that
it was glued to the back cover, thus preventing any of the writings within from being seen. Feeling
confident that she was well within her right to proceed without fear of thumb screws or death by
lethal injection, Emily slid her hand between the pages and broke the seal.
INTRODUCTION

Greetings. The purpose of this publication is to help provide you with


an elementary understanding of what you may be facing in the field of
paranormal investigations. Whether you are an agent in training or an
outside advisor providing assistance, the information contained herein will
help enable you to better understand the many, and often frightening,
situations which you may encounter.

Here, we will attempt to better familiarize you with many of the basics
of common paranormal field activities, and provide you with common sense
data and explanations for many of the scenarios you may face. While it is
impossible to cover every facet of this field in a publication such as this, this
general overview should provide you with ample information to be of use to
both yourself, and those with you.

Welcome to the wonderfully fascinating world of the supernatural and


paranormal, and best of luck in your present endeavor.

Hauntings and Ghosts

While there are many different types of both hauntings and ghosts, in
roughly 95% of all cases, these may be broken down into two very distinct
categories: Residual and Interactive.

Residual ghosts and hauntings are the most common, accounting for
better than 65% of all documented incidents. Simply put, a residual
apparition is nothing more than a film-loop of a moment in time being played
over and over again in a certain location, most often the exact spot where the
scene being replayed occurred. Sound rarely if ever accompanies this type of
haunting. They are often a well of useful information as they present the
opportunity to see into the past to some extent.

Residual hauntings are perfectly harmless. No matter how gruesome or


unpleasant the scene may be, it is not and cannot affect you in any physical
way.

Interactive Ghosts and Hauntings, although not as common as


residual, cover a much wider spectrum. Interactive ghosts are just that,
spirits or apparitions that are not always bound to any one location or any
pre-set actions. More often than not, these types of entities will make their
presence known and felt by disrupting their surroundings or attempting
communication with the living.

Doors opening on their own, lights going on and off, objects moving or
rattling, all are tell-tale signs of an Interactive spirit.
While the vast majority of Interactive entities are either harmless or
merely playfully annoying, a small number of them have been known to lash
out against humans or other living creatures in their vicinity. In extremely
rare cases, severe injury or even death has been attributed to malevolent
Interactive spirits.

Procedures

It is normal to be nervous or outright scared when entering into


situations such as the one you are now in. This goes double for advisors. It
is unlikely that you have anything other than a “bare bones” knowledge of
ghosts and the paranormal. Do not let this normal apprehension cripple you.

As you probably know by now, paranormal investigations of any type


are planned out WELL in advance of entry into a possibly haunted area.
While each and every situation has its own unique characteristics, standard
procedures for field activity are in place to act as a road map. In other words,
procedural recommendations are intended to simply keep you on the right path
and keep danger to a minimum, NOT to restrict you to any one set of
guidelines.

At this point, your Agent in Charge will decide how best to proceed.
Your input and opinions are more than welcomed, but in the end, the final say
goes to the leader of the investigation.

A NOTE TO CIVILIAN ADVISORS: While the Agent in Charge


maintains overall control, your input and knowledge concerning both your
surroundings and past incidents are highly valued. Since you are not
officially bound by all N.A.A.P.I. regulations, considerable leverage is allowed
to you in many instances. We ask only that you do not abuse this leverage in
any way detrimental to the investigation or to your personal safety.

Common Sense Tips

1. Always remember that whatever the type of haunting you are


investigating, you are facing nothing more than disembodied human beings,
usually their souls or the like. With the exception of the darkest of the dark
Demonic-type entities, virtually all ghosts are the ghosts of some “ONE”.
They were once human, and you are still human, common ground should be
easy to find.

2. Never be afraid to seek interaction. Most spirits behave much like


forest creatures, if you show fear then your chances for a successful
investigation are severely hampered. Spirits will generally either remain
elusive...most likely out of a desire to ease your fears...or they will seize upon
your fear and turn it against you in the form of pranks and parlor tricks.

3. Know your territory. If you are a civilian or outside advisor, it is


likely that you are only present because you ARE knowledgeable of the
investigation site. For agents in training, make certain to learn as much
about the site you are visiting as possible. Any and all details are crucial and
NOTHING is ever too trivial.

4. Follow the leader. Your Agent in Charge is there because he or she


knows what they are doing. Follow their directions and recommendations to
the hilt and help them in any way you can. I.E. If your Agent in Charge says
to run, don’t bother to ask “how fast”, just move.

5. Be respectful of all paranormal entities. As mentioned in Tip One,


it is likely that any spirits you encounter were once living, breathing humans
just like you. While their bodies may be gone, their feelings are almost
certainly intact...and probably heightened. Research shows that attempting
to communicate with spirits on a sub-adult level is often counterproductive.
Unless the spirit is confirmed to be that of a child or infant, speak TO it or OF
it as you would any living being of the same age.

6. Pay attention at all times. If an Interactive spirit attempts


communication with you, do not block it or refuse unless it sounds threatening.
Allow it to speak or to be seen and take careful note of what is said and shown.
It is very rare for a spirit to either appear or speak unless it has a VERY good
reason to.

Emily’s original assessment of the book’s contents was right on the money. It was written
in a very easy to understand manner. As she read on, she learned about things like Cold Spots,
Electromagnetic Spikes, and she finally learned just what EVP meant.

“Electronic Voice Phenomenon,” Emily read quietly to herself. “A recording of a spirit’s


voice captured on any electrical recording device. Note, the sound of the spirit is generally heard
only during playback and NOT during the time the recording is being made. For further details
see page 14.”

Emily read on. For well over thirty minutes she poured over the contents of the small, yet
highly useful booklet, this time learning about the differences between Common Hauntings,
Poltergeists and Demonic Entities, and why you should never tell the latter to “go to hell.” By the
time Emily reached the closing paragraph, it was nearly Five PM. What precious, little light had
been shining through the rear windows had now dwindled to practically nothing. The sky had
now completely clouded over in a thick, dark overcast, and the wind was whistling through the
small crevices surrounding the rear double-doors.

In closing, the N.A.A.P.I. wishes you the best of luck as you proceed
ahead with whatever task you are to take part, or assist in. Always remember
this: Whether you have an elementary knowledge of the paranormal, or if this
is the first time you have been exposed to it, do not fear the “unknown.”
For it is only through investigations such as these that we may ever hope to
gain further knowledge and understanding of what you may now view as being
simply, an “unknown.” The N.A.A.P.I. wishes you the best of luck in your
upcoming operation.

Sincerely
Henry
Thompson

“Ah, magnifique,” Pat said jovially from within the ‘U’ of the newly constructed Central
Command Center. “She’s all wired and ready for juice Nate.”

“Not a minute too soon either, Emily!” Nathan called out from several feet away, one end
of a long, orange extension cord in his right hand. “Plug this into the outlet between those doors.”

Before Emily had a chance to react, Nathan sent the cord hurdling through the air in her
direction. Though it landed harmlessly at her feet, the sudden sight of a semi-tangled, snake-like
object flying through the air caught her off her guard.

“Little more warning next time would be nice Nate,” Emily said cynically as she struggled
to her feet, her back remaining against the wall most of the way up.

Once Emily had straightened herself up, she bent over and brushed as much dust and dirt
from her dress as she could without tearing the hem. She then reached down, picked up the
pronged end of the extension cord, and carried it a few feet to a waiting receptacle directly between
the door to the old Records Office and the elevator. Emily took great care in making sure that all
three prongs of the plug were pointed straight before plugging it into the wall and slowly backing
away.

“OK now,” Pat began as he surveyed the myriad of electronic devices now surrounding
him within the ‘U.’ “We’re tied into the Intercom, the EMF modulator is set, camera and
thermo-units are good. Central Unit and data recorder on one circuit . . . everything else on
another.”

“Data recorder?” Emily asked as she joined Claire at the side of the ‘U’ nearest the Female
Wards.

“It’s like a ‘black box’,” Nathan explained. “It records and stores all of the data that
comes through the system. Every read-out, every sound and every image.”

“And its battery operated,” Pat said proudly, “so even if everything else goes south, we still
have a record of what they heard or saw BEFORE they went south.”
Emily looked on in amazement at the massive amount of electronic gadgets and gizmos
laid out around the three tables. In the center of the front table stood a large, flat-screen monitor .
. . complete with a lone keyboard and mouse . . . tied directly into what looked like nothing more
than an over-sized, jet-black computer tower directly beneath it, under the table. From its size
and shape, Emily guessed that this must be the “Central Unit”.

Sprawling out to the left and right of the monitor, cords of every size, shape and color
wound their way into various other devices, each of which resembled something straight out of a
high-tech spy movie. Emily saw what looked like an audio mixing console, a grey box with three
needle readouts, a large reel-to-reel audio tape machine fully-spooled and ready for action, and one
enormous, silver microphone hanging from one of the archways overhead. It bore an uncanny
resemblance to an enormous recording studio . . . with Pat assuming the role of D.J.
.
“Fire it up Pat, any time you’re ready,” Nathan announced from the opposite side of the
tables.

Pat intertwined his fingers and gave them all a good cracking as he stared gleefully down at
the keyboard and monitor. He then reached under the table and flipped a large, red switch built
into one side of the giant, black tower. A loud, dull hum filled the foyer. All around the “U”,
lights began to flicker and slowly come to life. The needles on the grey box flew to the center of
their plastic covered dials before starting to waver back and forth.

Pat took a seat in a folding chair situated in front of the keyboard. He looked on eagerly at
the monitor as it, too, slowly began to power up. From a blank screen, the N.A.A.P.I. logo
gradually faded in and remained for several seconds before disappearing. It was instantly
replaced by a hopelessly complex visual mesh of computer generated dials and indicators.
However complicated it looked to Emily, it must have all been in working order as Pat clamped
and rubbed his hands together in another display of childish joy.

“We’re up,” Pat said as he fidgeted with the mouse. “All we need to do is place our main
microphones and give it a test run.”

“Isn’t that the main microphone?” Emily asked while pointing at the large, silver device
hanging directly over Pat’s head.

“One of them, yes,” Pat replied, “but we need to run one down each of the side hallways
here; the intercom should handle the rest.”

“Claire,” Nathan said in his serious tone while pointing toward the door to the Female
Wards.

Emily was lost, but Claire must have read Nathan loud and clear as she nodded and walked
straight over to the door which connected the foyer with Ward A and took hold of the door handle.
Nathan, directly opposite Claire, did likewise with the doors leading to Ward 1. For several
seconds, Nathan and Claire stared across the foyer at one another. Emily, standing equidistant
between them, rapidly turned her head from one to the other in a desperate attempt to figure out
what was going on.

“All set Pat?” Nathan asked, never relinquishing the door’s handle.

“Yes,” Pat said in a lower voice as he placed his hands in a stationary position overtop of
the keyboard.

“What are you . . .” Emily stammered in hopeless confusion.

“Emily, step back!” Nathan said forcefully, motioning for Emily to step out of the pathway
between the two doors.

Still lost and confused, Emily’s mind darted back to one sentence in the booklet she had
just sat aside. ‘Don’t ask questions....just move.’ . . . or something like that. Needing no further
inducement, Emily quickly stepped backward until both Nathan and Claire were out of her line of
sight.

“Ready Claire, on three,” Nathan directed. “One, two, three!”

Simultaneously, Claire and Nathan each pulled their doors open. Emily flinched, her eyes
nearly shutting in anticipation. Although another round of warm, musty air rushed in from both
sides of the foyer, it did not appear to have been accompanied by any ghosts or flying objects.
Emily gradually walked forward until she could again see Nathan and Claire out of the corners of
her eyes. They were both pinned flat to the wall adjacent to the doors they had pulled open,
apparently taking care to be out of harm’s way, had something actually come flying through them.

“Anything?” Nathan called out to Pat.

“Negative,” Pat said without a care as he maneuvered the computer’s mouse back and
forth. “No temperature fluctuation and no magnetic spikes. Looks clean here.”

“Claire?” Nathan again called out.

Claire remained flat against the wall, but shook her head in the negative. At this, Nathan
let out his breath and slowly leaned forward, away from the wall.

“What was that all about?” Emily asked as Claire and Nathan each stepped back into the
foyer.

“Just a test,” Nathan replied.

“Of the equipment or me?” Emily asked with some indignation.

“Yes,” Nathan added quickly.


As Emily fumed and stared at Nathan with death in her eyes, he and Claire each took a
tethered microphone in hand and headed back to and through the doors they had thrown open
moments before; the cords gradually unraveling behind them as they went. Both ventured down
their respective hallway, no more than fifteen or so feet before returning.

“Good to go Pat,” Nathan said as he leaned over the table to get a better view of the
monitor. “How’s it reading?”

“Clear as a bell,” Pat said.

Emily, too, looked on at the screen with curiosity. On it, she saw two digital audio wave
pattern indicators, one on the left side of the screen and one on the right. Each of them were
fluctuating only slightly at this point. At the top of the screen, another audio readout was visible,
and this one seemed to jump and jitter each time Emily took another step closer.

“That just leaves a system test,” Nathan said to Pat.

“And just how exactly does one test this thing?” Emily asked, her latest round of anger at
Nathan having yet to fully die away.

“Simple,” Nathan said without acknowledging Emily’s anger, “we just move to some other
location in the hospital . . . mill about . . . then come back and see if it tracked us.”

Emily again stopped and tried her best not to move. Although she knew this moment was
to come eventually, it did not make it any more pleasant upon its arrival. Standing inside the
foyer, reading books and listening to Claire’s inner-monolog was one thing . . . but venturing back
into the halls and byways of her old stomping ground was another. What would she see? What
would she hear? As she stood fast . . . momentarily paralyzed with fear . . . her stomach again
became her own worst enemy and began doing its best impression of a roller-coaster.

“So, where to first?” Emily asked slowly, her voice cracking.

“We don’t need to go too far to get a good reading,” Nathan said while thinking. “Dr.
Jameson’s office was just above here, right Emily?”

“Yes,” Emily replied reluctantly.

“Well, then that’s our first stop,” Nathan said, his very words cutting directly into Emily’s
gut. “Emily, lead on.”

Nathan again assumed a pose that seemed better-suited to a hotel doorman, and politely
motioned Emily toward the giant, wooden stairway near the Male Wards. Feeling as though her
fears were on the verge of swelling up and strangling her, Emily begrudgingly put one foot in front
of the other until she was standing at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor. Her
throat now dry and her heart somewhere down around her ankles, she stared up at the flight of worn
out, paint-chip covered steps ascending before her . . . fought back her tears of fright . . . and
placed her foot upon the first step.
Chapter 13
Fright and Flight

To Emily, now being in her thirties, opting to take stairs rather than a convenient elevator
had become somewhat of a norm rather than an exception. Though she had never placed much
stock in what she considered to be the “myth” of the “thirty-something spread”, she knew the value
of a good dose of daily exercise. Most of the time however, her daily exercise did not include
regular doses of thick, moist air, foul smelling walls, and stairs that seemed to hit a different note
with each successive step.

Hearing the creaks and cracks all too clearly, Emily took each step with added caution. The
fate of Dr. Braley returned to the forefront of her mind. As a result, she also took special care to
make sure that no part of her body came within a foot of the wooden railing. A trek which eight
years prior would have taken Emily barely ten seconds to complete, hit the two minute mark just as
she set foot on the second floor.

Breathing more like she had just completed a cross-country marathon rather than two flights
of stairs, Emily staggered her way into the hallway of the second floor. It, too, was looking far
worse than it had when she had last laid eyes on it. Peeling paint, chipped walls, warping
woodwork, and a ceiling that looked dangerously close to the breaking point, all made Emily wish
more than ever that she was back home in bed. As she stepped toward one of the Southern facing
windows in a fright-induced daze, Nathan, Pat and Claire filed into the hallway behind her.

“Emily,” Nathan called quietly, knowing full well that Emily was still grappling with her
emotions, “second door from the front, right?”

With her forehead now leaning precariously against the window pane, Emily barely
managed a weak nod of the head. Claire, who had thus far taken it upon herself to help steer Emily
back on course whenever she strayed, walked past Pat and Nathan and joined Emily at the window.

“Still a nice view,” Claire said in a calming way as she placed her arm around Emily’s
trembling shoulder. “Even from up here it still looks beautiful.”

“Sure,” Emily said with a total lack of enthusiasm, “sure it’s still lovely Claire. It would
look even lovelier if I weren’t scared out of my freakin’ mind. And you don’t have to tell me that
I’m not supposed to let fear get the better of me . . . I think I could recite that damn book by rote
right now if I had to. That still doesn’t change the fact that I’m expecting to be sucked down
through the floor any second.”

“Hmm,” Claire replied as she tightened her calming hold on Emily, “there’s no
malevolence aimed at you Emily. If there were, I would have felt it.”

“Are you feeling ANYTHING?” Emily asked hopelessly.

“Snippets here and there, sure,” Claire continued in her own therapeutic way.
“About me?” Emily asked darkly.

“No,” Claire reassured. “Emily, the minute I feel anything significant you’ll be the first to
know. But if I tune in on an old flame of yours, sorry, I draw the line at some things.”

She had done it again. With one simple, humorous sentence, Claire had yet again managed
to pull Emily’s sinking hopes - and stomach - back from the brink. Emily felt her tears recede and
her gut return to its rightful place.

“Oh . . . Claire, I . . .” Emily said, cracking a smile as she felt her nerve returning, “I’ve gotta
stop doing that. I swear, it feels like my emotions are stuck on a roller coaster or something. One
minute I’m fine, the next, I freeze up. Thanks again for pulling me back . . . doc.”

“Listen Emily,” Claire said with even more tease in her voice, “if we keep having these little
sessions every few hours, I AM gonna have to start charging you.”

“Not without a couch and pillows you’re not,” Emily said as she turned around to face
Claire.

Before Claire had the opportunity to counter Emily’s retort, their session was suddenly cut
short by a sharp, rattling sound. Turning their eyes away from each other and toward the noise, they
saw that it had come from just down the hall, where Nathan and Pat were standing in front of the
door directly opposite Dr. Jameson’s former office.

“Emily,” Nathan called out, giving the object in his hand another rattle.

Claire and Emily walked toward Nathan and Pat, each of them staring in wonderment at
whatever it was that Nathan was rattling. Upon arriving at the door, Emily was more than just
mildly surprised when she saw just what it was that Nathan was holding. It was a padlock, a large
padlock and double-bolted hinge, fastened securely to the door and its jam.

“Did Dr. Jameson by any chance make a habit of locking up like this?” Nathan asked
pointedly as he again tugged at the lock.

“No,” Emily said in complete bewilderment, “I never remember seeing that thing there at
all. Even on my next-to-last day I’d swear it wasn’t there.”

Nathan relinquished his grip on the padlock and tried the doorknob instead. Unlike the
padlock, the doorknob turned easily, allowing the door to be opened only as far as the padlock’s
hinge would let it.

“Well, the main lock’s not fastened,” Nathan remarked off-handedly. “Where does this
door lead?”

“Just to an old file room,” Emily said plainly. “Dr. Jameson was one of the few who actually
used it.”
Nathan carefully examined the padlock, the doorknob, and then turned around and surveyed
the door to Dr. Jameson’s actual office. It was not secured in any way. Puzzled, Nathan then
turned to his right and glanced down the hallway toward the rear of the building. Again, each door
along the way was opened slightly into the hallway.

“It’s odd,” Nathan said quietly as he pondered the problem before him, “he doesn’t bother
to lock his OWN office . . . you say he was the only one to use this room Emily?”

“Best I can remember, he kept a lot of his stuff in there,” Emily said, trying to send her mind
back in time.

“Leaves his own office wide open . . .” Nathan continued to ponder aloud, “yet he seals this
one up like Fort Knox . . . with a private lock no less. No key on this chain will fit that lock, they’re
all too large.”

Nathan jangled the ring of keys fastened to his belt as the wheels inside of his head started to
turn even faster.

“Ya know,” Nathan said, his voice raising an octave, “I think we might go so far as to call
this our first clue. Claire.”

Nathan stepped away from the door, allowing a clear path for Claire to approach. Without
hesitation, Claire walked right up to the door, placed her left hand flat against it, and slid into her
trace-like state. Her hand slowly began to quiver and a smile of satisfaction crossed her face.

“Yes . . .” She said finally, “something . . . something happened here. Something was . . .
eliminated here.”

“Oh my god . . . killed?” Emily gasped.

“No, not a someONE,” Claire went on, “someTHING . . . fire. I can sense a fire and . . . ”

“Wait . . . hold it,” Emily forcefully interrupted, “the rooms on this side are still tied into the
old chimneys. They used them in place of incinerators when my mom was here. Nate, during one
of my little naps back in Ottawa, didn’t I recall something about . . . ?”

“SMOKE!” Nathan exclaimed, grasping the same straw as Emily. “That’s it, I’m sold. Pat,
did you bring your Mini-Chem kit up?”

On perfect cue, Pat stepped forward and took the small lock into his own hands. For several
seconds he surveyed it top to bottom and back to front with fixated eyes, every now and then
emitting a thoughtful hum, finally topped off by a low whistle, signaling that he had arrived at some
kind of decision.

“Piece of cake,” Pat said, with knowledgeable pride evident.


Satisfaction now evident in his movements, Pat reached down to his brown ‘period’, leather
type, belt and gave it a twist, revealing a small grey pouch. After a quick readjustment of his shirt,
he grabbed hold of the small pouch, which Emily had failed to notice up ‘till now, opened its one
‘snap-button’ type flap, and pulled out two small glass vials. No longer than Emily’s index finger,
each of the vials contained a different colored liquid of some kind; one a dark shade of red, and the
other a sort of lime-green.

Once again, oblivious as to what was happening right in front of her, Emily watched each of
Pat’s next actions with the greatest of interest. With each of the glass tubes in his right hand, he
again stepped toward the door and took hold of the lock, this time simply turning it upside down,
and letting it rest atop its flat surfaced latch. He then carefully removed the cork stopper from the
glass vial containing the red liquid, and with the same amount of exacting concentration that a
biochemist would employ when mixing some deadly poison, slowly poured half of the bottle’s
contents directly into the key slot of the padlock.

“What in the . . .” Emily said quietly but with utter distinct confusion.

Nathan ‘shushed’ her delicately and motioned with his arm for her to back up and allow Pat
more room to work and breathe. She, Claire and Nathan each backed into the center of the hallway
just as Pat repeated his strange action, this time with the greenish colored liquid. No sooner had this
concoction - whatever is was - entered the insides of the padlock, than a quiet, hissing noise began.
An instant later, dull, brownish colored smoke began seeping out of the padlock’s orifices.

After quickly re-corking the two glass vials and slipping them back into his belt pouch, Pat,
too, backed away from the door. As he joined the others several paces away, Emily gazed in quiet
astonishment at what was now occurring. Accompanied by the hissing, as well as tiny intermittent
clinks and clanks, the smoke pouring out of the lock continued to grow in thickness. Had it not been
for a rather strong draft due to several missing window-panes in both the front and rear of the
hallway, the entire area would have been filled with the fowl mist inside of a minute.

Emily continued to watch. Seconds later, a louder CLINK - and the lock shifted sideways.
A few more seconds - another CLANK - and the lock toppled completely over, back into its former
position hanging from the twin metal hinges. Tiny droplets of whatever Pat had poured into it
dripped out of the key slot, and, to Emily’s horror, left dark, smoldering stains upon the aged
linoleum directly beneath it.

Yet Emily had little time to let this worry her. The entire metal casing of the lock slid loose
from its fastener and crashed to the floor, whereupon it instantly collapsed in on itself, its insides
and most of its outside completely melted away. Its looped steel latch was now dangling from the
hinge above. Each of its downward pointing tips, charred brown and smoldering, had melted to
garishly disjointed points.

“Less than one minute . . . lab’s getting better,” Pat said with his usual nonchalance after
consulting his watch.
“Exactly WHAT was that?” Emily asked with amazement as she stared at the still
collapsing remnants of the padlock on the floor.

“Think of it as a set of twenty-first-century skeleton keys,” Nathan replied as he moved


toward the door, eager to enter.

“I can say one thing,” Emily said with a small gasp and shake of her head, “I’m glad you all
are on my side.”

Nathan gave a hushed chuckle and ever so carefully began lifting the half-melted loop from
the hinges with the tip of a pencil. After unceremoniously dropping it to floor, where it, too,
continued to smolder, he then pulled the two metal hinges apart and slowly pushed on the door.
Emily again froze…her heart now inconveniently obliging itself to stop for a breather…and
watched with clenched nerves as the door to the old file room slowly swung open.

Several window-panes inside the long, bare room were also absent, and another gush of
musty and putrid air rushed forth into the hallway. After allowing the unpleasant odor to pass,
Nathan stepped inside the room, Emily close behind him.

Other than the peeling yellow wallpaper and a ripped window shade, two distinct features of
the room quickly caught Emily’s eye. First of all, there was the ancient, brick fireplace to the
immediate right, which might have conveyed a more homey touch, had it, too, not been painted in
the lifeless and dull ‘hospital’ yellow paint. Secondly, directly opposite the fireplace, about ten feet
to the left of the door, stood a large, three-drawer, metal filing cabinet. Having been left in close
proximity to the windows, it was now evidencing heavy signs of rust and corrosion and looked to
be near the same fate as the padlock.

A great deal of junk and miscellaneous objects - sheets of paper, pens and pencils, an empty
bottle of lighter fluid and so on - were scattered about the wooden planked floor. A single
metal-framed, green-cushioned, office chair sat in the dead center of the abandoned room, giving
the entire place a feeling more befitting a Soviet interrogation cell rather than a doctor’s filling
room.

Nathan cautiously walked up to the chair before stopping and turning back to face his
companions, all three of whom had now entered and began sizing up the room from all sides.

“Looks innocent enough,” Nathan said, sounding as though he did not actually believe it for
a second. “To be clear, you say Dr. Jameson was the only one who actually used this room, Em?”

“While I was here, yes,” Emily answered as she looked about, “but it’s directly across from
his office so I never really gave it much thought.”

“Were you ever in here?” Nathan asked, gripping the back of the office chair and gently
rocking it, as well as his brains.

“Maybe three times in two years,” Emily said simply. “My last office was at the other end of
the hall and the other nurses used their own rooms. I only came in here those few times to pull some
older case records, and once when our copier was out.”

“This room is awake,” Claire said suddenly in her most mysterious of voices while
examining the wall opposite the fireplace.

“Awake?” Nathan asked with great interest. “Recently?”

“Very,” Claire said with conviction, “as in two minutes ‘very’. The presence I felt is awake.
There IS something of significance here . . . but there’s no real direction to it.”

Nathan, Emily and Pat each stood fast and eyed Claire attentively as she went about her
routine. She scanned the high, green ceiling with piercing eyes, brushed her fingertips along the
chipped and peeling walls, and slowly made her way over to the file cabinet, all the while breathing
steadily, and revolving her head as though it were an antenna searching for a signal.

“I can feel . . . deception . . . fear . . .” Claire whispered as she closed her eyes and laid both
of her hands flat atop the ancient filing cabinet. “It was . . . it’s . . . paper . . . fire . . . death . . .”

Claire’s eyes flew wide open as she suddenly came back to earth and began pointing
emphatically at the fireplace.

“Nate, the fireplace!” Claire said with total certainty.

Nathan needed no further incentive. He pushed the office chair hastily aside, quick-stepped
over to the fireplace, and knelt down in front of the grate. It was only then that Emily’s
long-forgotten memories of smoke and burning documents flooded her conscience again, for the
fireplace was not empty, but rather bursting to its brim with ashes and half-burned sheets of paper.
So full was the small nineteenth-century hearth, that the white and black ash within was literally
spilling out onto both the concrete base and even the wooden floor.

“Something that was in here DIED in there,” Claire said.

“We couldn’t be that lucky,” Nathan said to himself in a hushed voice before taking hold of
each side of the metal grate and pulling it forward.

Shaken from its foundation for the first time in years, the feet of the grate screeched
viciously, and the pile of ash and paper remnants collapsed and fell through its web-like bars as
Nathan pulled it out and began sifting. Each of his hands steadily grew darker and darker as he
poked about amongst the ash and tiny slits of incinerated paper. As he continued sifting, a look of
dejection crossed his face.

“Pretty well done . . . no pun intended,” Nathan said, attempting to keep one slightly larger,
yet charred, slip of paper from disintegrating in his hands. “I think he took his time wi . . . hang on.”

Nathan dropped the charred sheet of paper he been attempting to salvage, and instead
reached back behind the grate and inside of the hearth itself. At first unable to reach whatever he
was grasping for, Nathan was forced to lean forward and stick the entire upper part of his body
inside of the fireplace. An instant later, he emerged with two blackened and wadded up, yet intact,
sheets of paper.

“You found something?” Emily gasped as she moved in to kneel down next to Nathan.

“I don’t know,” Nathan said with some distraction while carefully beginning to un-wad the
papers. “Must have been in a hurry and over-shot the grate with these two.”

“Wysteria Lodge.” Claire said from the other side of the room.

“What?” Emily asked, casting Claire a quick over-the-shoulder glance.

“Nothing,” Claire replied with a wave of her hand.

“Well, this one’s nothing,” Nathan said as he dropped the first of the two sheets to the floor.
“Receipt for a set of cuff links and new watch.”

“No surprise there,” Emily said, deflated. “Like Fred told me, just over-inflated expense
reports.”

“One can always hope, Emily,” Nathan replied.

Nathan next took hold of the final sheet of salvaged paper and gently unrolled it, before
tapping it once upon the floor to dislodge some of the soot and ash. The dejection in Nathan’s eyes
vanished as he intently read the type-written words on the paper.

“Well now . . . this is certainly interesting,” Nathan said with renewed enthusiasm. “Listen
to this: Offenbach/Heisler Geselschaft, Munchen Deutschland.”

“What in the hell did you just say?” Emily asked.

“It’s German, southern German from what I can tell,” Nathan answered. “It’s from a
company in Munich to Dr. Jameson . . . SENIOR.”

“Well, the plot thickens,” Pat exclaimed.

“It says,” Nathan began, “Munich, March 22nd 1969. Results were varied; further data will
be required to reach an adequate conclusion. Your figures regarding the current dosage appear
too conservative; we request that you increase your efforts in this area. Records from Dr. Von
Kessler unattainable...either destroyed or confiscated by Soviets. A similar test was conducted by
an Austrian chemist in 1937, however, results were unfortunate. With regard to our next shipment,
delays may be expected owing to increased security at Cleveland docks. Next time, cinnamon. With
regards, Dr. Heinrich S. Offenbach.”
Emily could make neither heads nor tails out of this personally written communiqué. To
her, it sounded like the type of general “psychobabble” as she called it, you would hear from two
doctors conversing in text.

“The plot DOES begin to thicken,” Nathan said with raised eyebrows.

“Yeah, it’s about as thick as pea soup if you ask me,” Emily replied somewhat hopelessly,
the message’s hidden meaning failing to immediately register in her over-worked mind. “Just
sounds to me like a clarification on shipping troubles and dosage recommendations. I must have
read a thousand messages like that in the last ten years.”

“Did they include words like ‘confiscated by Soviets’ and ‘security at Cleveland docks’?”
Nathan asked very pointedly.

“Well . . . .” Emily murmured, stymied by the clarification of the unsettling facts. “No . . .
not that I can recall.”

“Cinnamon?” Pat asked out of the blue.

“Code for something,” Nathan pondered aloud. “No way of telling WHAT just yet . . . but at
the very least we have some names and dates for the research team to go through.”

Nathan lowered his hands and gently slipped the wrinkled piece of paper into his trouser
pocket. Then, after once more giving the room a thorough visual scan, he purposefully trained his
eyes upon the rusted file cabinet.

“I think the fireplace has told all of its secrets,” Nathan said as he took a step forward.
“Perhaps our rusting friend here might have more to tell.”

However, Nathan had barely taken three steps toward the file cabinet before Claire
swooned, her knees nearly buckling as a wave of some sort seemed to pass through her. Overhead,
the low hanging fluorescent light fixtures began to shutter and rattle as if an unseen hand were
attempting to wrench them from the ceiling. Tiny flakes of paint and plaster, along with a few of
the thin, metal light dividers, began dropping to the floor as the rattling intensified. Nathan, Emily
and Pat each froze and instinctively turned their attention to Claire. Though her eyes were closed,
it was obvious that her mind was WIDE OPENED.

“Ohhh . . .” Claire gasped as she braced herself and struggled to speak. “Wait . . . no . . .
it’s here!”

Events came to a head fast. All at once, the ceiling of the small file room was set ablaze
with a blinding, bright, bluish glow. To Emily, it looked like the entire room had been engulfed by
a streak of lightening. Scant moments after appearing, the light seemed to shrink inward upon
itself.

With electric streaks jutting out in every direction, the light collapsed to the dead center of
the ceiling until it was nothing more than a metallic blue orb, roughly the size of a baseball.
Emily’s throat again went as dry as a martini. She watched in petrified horror as the glowing and
swirling orb slowly descended from the ceiling, its glow still managing to flood the room with an
eerie blue tint.

“Don’t move,” Nathan said quietly and with extreme seriousness as he, too, followed the
orb with his eyes.

The orb continued to sink down, and what appeared to be either liquid or gas swirled and
pulsated both within and around it. After what seemed like an eternity to Emily, the orb finally
halted its descent once it had reached relative eye-level with all four of its spellbound observers.

No one moved, no one breathed, and the orb simply hung in mid-air, a dull gray mist now
beginning to dangle beneath it. Whatever the substance was inside of the object continued to
revolve around its interior. Emily had a sudden and terrifying vision of a phantom’s eyeball -
revolving in its socket as it sized her up for the kill.
“Hello,” Claire said softly from the other side of the room, her words nearly sending Emily
out of her skin. “Can you tell us who you are?”

The orb gave a sudden but distinct jolt, zigzagged rapidly in several directions, and then
floated several feet in Claire’s direction.

“Whoever you are . . . we are not here to hurt you,” Claire continued in a soothing, friendly
tone. “We are here to try and help you.”

It was all over in a heart-shattering instant. The orb suddenly blazed a bright red, circled
four times in a dizzying spiral, and shot directly upward like a bullet from a gun - causing the light
fixtures to shake and undulate even more violently than before. For several moments, a dark,
circular impression remained upon the ceiling, marking the spot of the orb’s exit. Then, it too,
appeared to collapse in upon itself until it vanished completely, leaving only the swaying light
fixtures in its wake.

“Gone,” Claire interjected after several tense and unmoving seconds.

Emily let out her breath and tried her best to convince her heart that it was time to resume
its normal activity. Her first “real” encounter with the supernatural had left her with both a rapid
pulse and a severe case of the shakes. With her hand clamped tightly upon her heart, Emily slowly
started to half-step, half-stumble sideways when her nerves were practically split wide open.

POP!!! Emily felt herself flung sideways by an outstretched arm. One of the fluorescent
tubes, shaken loose by the sudden and powerful appearance of the mysterious apparition, slipped
from its housing. It landed barely five inches from where Emily had been standing, followed
closely by another cascade of metallic separators and ceiling plaster.

“LET ME GO!” Emily screamed in a blind panic, now pinned against the wall beside the
door by Nathan’s right arm.
“Emily . . . calm down, calm down, it’s gone,” Nathan pleaded as he loosened his
life-saving grip around Emily’s mid-section.

“Please!” Emily roared back as she forcibly shoved Nathan’s arm away and pushed herself
to her feet using the wall as a brace. “What . . . was . . .”

“Just a curious visitor, Emily,” Nathan said with what Emily thought was
BADLY-misplaced calm. “It’s likely we’ll come across several of those before the nights over.”

“How in GOD’S NAME can you be socalm!?” Emily asked with fear-tainted frustration.

“It’s an acquired trait,” Nathan said, actually making light of the situation. “You just have
to get used to it. It DOES mean, however, that we may have overstayed our welcome in this
particular room. Claire?”

“Whoever it was, they were not hostile,” Claire replied as she again took in every inch of
the room with her piercing eyes. “At least, not outright. Something I said sparked a powerful
negative reaction. I felt no direct danger . . . just anger . . . and . . . bitter frustration.”

“Once again, I am totally lost,” Emily said through her slowly returning nerves.

“All the more reason to fall back and regroup,” Nathan added in his ‘leader’ tone. “Pat, do
you think we have enough to calibrate the sensors now?”

“MORE than enough,” Pat said without hesitation.

“Then let’s head back down and go over our final game plan,” Nathan replied. “I think
these two revelations coincide well with our original hypothesis.”

“In English, please,” Emily said with even more helplessness.

“All of our ducks are lining up in a row,” Nathan added as he began to stride purposely
toward the door, “but we’ve still got a lot of gaps to fill to make a column. I’ll explain everything
downstairs, but suffice it to say Emily, your mother’s late night gift has proven to be quite . . .
revealing.”

Emily pondered this intriguing statement all the way back down to the first floor foyer.
Once all were safely back upon familiar ground, Pat wasted no time in plunking himself back
down in front of his computer monitor. After several frenzied rounds of key tapping, his prideful
smile again slipped though.

“Perfect! Electromagnetic spikes, a twenty degree temperature fluctuation, and it tracked


our own movements to a tee,” Pat stated gleefully. “We’re dialed in now, Nate.”

Nathan nodded his understanding of Pat’s assessment and then signaled for him to come to
the rear of the foyer. There, they retrieved yet another folding table from one of the rear offices
and sat it up in the dead center of the hallway junction. Once the table had been erected and
positioned, Pat and Nathan then proceeded to place upon it what looked like a jumbled mass of
stacked papers and rolled-up maps. Emily remained puzzled until she spied the panoramic
photograph of the hospital’s grounds, the same one her mother had delivered to her hotel room the
night before.

“Don’t tell me you were actually able to make any sense out of that junk?” Emily asked in
astonishment.

“It wasn’t easy,” Pat replied as he began to arrange the mess of papers into some
semblance of order. “Most of the useful stuff was pretty cleverly hidden . . . or concealed. It
required a little more than just reading between the lines.”

“Let me guess,” Emily said with a cynical note, “lemon juice and black lights?”

“If only it were that simple,” Nathan said with a huff as he hoisted a huge mass of rolled-up
and fraying maps onto the spacious table. “But from what we were able to piece together, our
original theories look to be…as Henry would say…spot on. And this latest little tidbit only
reinforces our conclusions. Now, I’ll do my best to keep this simple and brief.”

Emily and Claire each approached the table and took their places alongside of Pat and
Nathan. All eyes now centered upon the mass of papers laid out before them.

“From the outset, we have been proceeding on the hypothesis that we might be facing
spiritual victims of unauthorized medical testing,” Nathan began in his lecture-type voice.
“Several discarded notes and memos we found in your mother’s box seemed to bear out this
theory. We were able to analyze the handwriting on many of them, and were able to conclude,
beyond ANY doubt, the identities of the authors. To make the long story short, MOST of the
authors are now deceased. Some recently…and some not-so-recently. The writings in and of
themselves are not enough to make even a circumstantial case, but, I believe they have steered us
in the right direction.”

With this, Nathan reached across the table and took hold of one of the large, rolled-up
maps. Taking care that he did not disturb any of the papers beneath, he carefully unrolled it and
placed it face-up upon the table, utilizing two smaller stacks of paper at each end to keep it flat.

Emily stared down with ever increasing curiosity at the map. It was another HIGHLY
detailed blueprint-type layout of the hospital’s first floor. A small caption at the lower right hand
corner read: WV Structural Survey, 1935.

“The state had this map drawn up after a fire gutted part of the south wing in 1935,” Nathan
said, as he gestured toward the southern, male section of the building. “They decided it was as
good a time as any to do some renovating, and used these as their guide.”

“These?” Claire interjected. “I only see the one section here, are there more?”
“At one time, yes,” Nathan replied. “The other plans were filed and later burned when
new ones where drawn up for the ‘65 renovation. Yet, this one section was kept, and someone did
a pretty good job of hiding it. I found it in the archives in Charleston, rolled up in a Lewis County
plotting map from 1884.”

“I don’t get it,” Emily said, equally as puzzled as Claire. “Why would anyone go to such
extremes just to HIDE the thing? If they wanted it destroyed, why didn’t they just let it burn with
the others?”

“That’s a good question,” Nathan answered. “It was filed with this other map sometime
around 1970, and I never really understood why until you mentioned the ‘door to nowhere’.

“That old place?” Emily replied. “But I checked that out back in ‘92. It’s just an old
underground storage room for fruits and canned goods. I even checked it on a map like this one.”

“You actually checked it on a map COPIED from this one . . . the ‘65 map,” Nathan said.

“Well, whatever,” Emily said with little concern. “It was written there plain as day ‘storage
room’.”

“You mean . . . right here?” Nathan asked as he placed his finger upon the map.

Emily craned her head forward and strained to read the small print on the oversized
floor-plan. Nathan’s finger was planted firmly upon a spot in the northern (female) Wing where
two corridors are separated from one another by a dividing room. Emily recognized this area
clearly as the spot where the door in question was located, hidden around a double-blind corridor
that you would walk right by unless you already knew it was there.

“Well…I can’t make it out, move your finger,” Emily said, motioning for Nathan to
uncover the section where the door’s square should be.

Nathan lifted his finger...and Emily’s jaw again dropped. Though the inscription was
blurred...the result of some one’s feeble attempt to conceal the printed words beneath pencil
scribbling...it was still readable. In a very gothic style of lettering it read Medical Supplies/R.R.
Delivery Dock.

“Oh, it’s different it’s…” Emily stammered, “what…what in the world is an R.R. Delivery
Dock?”

“You didn’t know about the old food delivery tunnels?” Pat asked in his usual naive way.

“The what?” Emily replied, drawing a complete blank.

“The food tunnels,” Pat answered as though it should be clear as crystal. “They used to
cart food on railroad cars to the wings before the new kitchen was built.”
“Under GROUND?” Emily inquired.

“Yes,” Pat said, his enthusiasm again slipping through. “At least eight separate tunnels
fanning out from the rear of the Administration Section. Until 1915 that’s where the kitchen was.
They used these rail cars to speed up delivery to the wards to keep the warm meals from getting
cold. Then, they’d haul it up on dumbwaiters to . . .”

“That’s exactly what you would be in another life,” Claire interrupted forcibly. “A very
DUMB waiter.”

Pat scowled back at Claire…who merely smiled and nodded toward the map…and then
sunk back into place.

“Yes, well, be that as it may,” Nathan said, resuming his lecture-type voice, “it may be a
simple matter of the room being reconverted for storage, but your father makes several references
to this section of the building in his journal. If I may?”

Nathan reached beneath the sprawling map and pulled out William Flesher’s blue journal.

“I quote,” Nathan began with a quick clearing of his throat, “September 15th, 1965.
Subterranean wire and piping proving to be more a problem than first anticipated. No less than
200 ft. of pre-1900 wiring has been left behind...cloth covering is virtually gone in several places.
These problems are doubly worse directly beneath the dividing section between wards A and D.
Here, I have encountered an unusually high number of un-attended electrical lines which also
date to before the turn-of-the-century. In addition to this, copper piping...most likely abandoned
gaslight lines...is visible in several places. All of this must either be removed or by-passed in order
to afford space for the new inter-office communication system cables. Note: Stone masonry in this
particular section is DANGEROUSLY unstable. I have recommended to the Supt. that it be tended
to post haste. W.F.

Nathan paused and remained dead silent for several seconds after he finished reading the
incriminating entry. Although it felt weird to be hearing the words of her father from three years
before she was even born, Emily remained glued to Nathan’s every word, only this time, it was
actually making sense.

“Well . . . go on,” Emily urged eagerly.

“I’d love to . . . but the next entry is dated September 20th,” Nathan said pointedly, “and by
that time, the work had already moved back to the kitchen and Medical Center. As you can plainly
see…”

Nathan held up the journal and pulled its flaps back until it was wide open. He then
placed his right index finger on its center-section and on the ripped edge of what should have been
another entry sheet…only there was no sheet between Sept 15 th and Sept 20th.
“Either we are looking at the biggest coincidence in recorded history…” Nathan went on,
“or else someone has AGAIN gone to great lengths to keep something about that part of the
hospital hidden. Emily, you knew your father better than any of us could ever hope to. Was it in
his nature to either misplace or discard work records?”

“Hardly,” Emily said with the greatest of confidence. “He kept a detailed record of every
project he worked on for insurance.”

“Was he ever in the habit of . . . ?” Nathan began, sounding as if he were treading on pins
and needles.

“Of what?” Emily inquired with some indignation.

“Now don’t fly off the handle, I’m putting this as delicately as I can,” Nathan continued in
his gentlest of tones. “Would he ever…COULD he ever . . . purposefully conceal or try to hide
certain facts which might have proved, well . . . ?”

“NOT on your life!!” Emily replied strongly. “My father was as honest and truthful as the
day is long, Nate. If he ever hid or concealed anything, it was either a birthday present or a surprise
vacation.”

Nathan remained stone-faced, and although Emily felt nothing sinister from his silence, it
unnerved her nonetheless. Here she was, trying her best to help…as well as keep her mind from
turning to jelly…and Nathan could find nothing better to do than question her father’s integrity.
Some show of appreciation.

“Emily don’t think that,” Claire said suddenly. “We have to know everything; otherwise
we’ll just be stumbling around in the dark. I know you mean what you say, but these questions
have to be asked.”

“Well, don’t go making my father into some kind of co-conspirator or something,” Emily
replied, doing her best to keep her emotions in check. “The fact that he even saved all of this junk
must count for something, right?”

“Yes,” Claire replied soothingly. “It’s obvious he cared a great deal about his work . . . and
about you. Emily we’re not trying to tear down his good name or anything.”

“Quite the opposite in fact,” Nathan said without emotion. “If he knew something, or
stumbled onto something he wasn’t supposed to have, then it’s damn lucky for him that he even
lived to pass along these little snippets of information.”

“You had him in your power…yet you are still alive,” Claire quoted aloud.

“Huh?” Emily said, as confused as before.

“Hound of the Baskervilles...chapter six,” Claire said simply. “Sorry, it just seemed
apropos.”

Emily herself remained silent as she allowed Claire’s words to settle, and she continued
staring at Nathan’s unflinching face. His eyes darted to and from Emily’s gaze yet they remained
unreadable. Though she still could not be certain, she had the uneasy feeling that the wheels inside
of his head were again turning, and she did not like the direction in which they were heading.

“It’s obvious that SOME one didn’t want us to know some THING about something,”
Nathan surmised, doing his best to put his briefing back on a more positive track. “Seventy percent
of the unusual cases were females, Diane is found dead in one of the female wards, we’ve got a
room below the female section that seems to have an identity crisis . . . and we’ve got a missing
journal entry referring to work being conducted UNDER the female wards.”

“Along with unaccounted for gas and electrical lines,” Pat interjected seamlessly.

“OK Nate, bottle the acid for me, please,” Emily said with growing impatience.

“Gladly,” Nathan replied without a flinch. “Our main objective here is to try and track
down this “hidden” diary. We’ve already scratched one possible location from our list . . . all we
have to do now is search the others. I can’t think of any better place to start than . . .”

Nathan stepped back from the table and began walking toward the door to the female
wards. Upon reaching the door leading to the partially lit hallway, Nathan again assumed the
posture of a bellboy and motioned toward it with a small, yet equally as devilish, grin.

Emily’s mind again slid from its rails as the full meaning of Nathan’s words slammed
headlong into her brain. She, too, strode towards the door - only with far heavier steps than Nathan
had taken.

“You cannot possibly be serious!?” Emily bellowed before her senses caught back up with
her. “You . . . you are serious . . . aren’t you?”

“Claire . . . Pat . . . ” Nathan called out, “grab your gear and let’s get going. Stop number
two . . . the door to no . . . ”

Before Nathan could finish his order, the entire foyer echoed with an ear-splitting POP,
accompanied by a blinding flash of pink light. Pat and Claire and Emily and Nathan each reared
backward in their respective directions and attempted to shield their faces from the sudden blast.

“GET BACK!” Nathan screamed as he again flung himself between Emily and the
mysterious light.

The pink light vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and was instantaneously replaced by
another bluish tinted orb which floated down from the ceiling in the exact same manner as before.
Then, another orb appeared, this one emerging from the floor and levitating upward until it, too,
was at eye-level. Before Emily even had time enough to blink, another one appeared from the
ceiling . . . then one from the back doors . . . and another from the ceiling . . . then one from inside
the stairwell.

All told, no fewer than eight brightly glowing orbs now bobbed and weaved around the
center of the foyer. The combined light from all of them was enough to virtually obscure Nathan
and Emily’s view of the opposite side of the room, including Pat and Claire. From what little
Emily could make out through the glare, they, too, were now huddled together in fear, their backs
to the southern hallway.

“PAT . . . CLAIRE!” Nathan called out desperately through the jumble of lights.

“NATE!” Claire called back, the fear Emily had heard the previous night now back in her
voice.

Nathan did his best to keep Emily behind him and shielded from whatever might be
coming next. For Emily’s part however, her own feeling of protection and duty now overwhelmed
her fears. With no regard for her own safety, she quickly stepped backward, then sideways, and
dashed past Nathan and headed straight for the mesh of pulsating orbs.

“EMILY!” Nathan called out as he attempted in vain to grab Emily as she passed.
“DON’T!”

However, just as Emily re-entered the foyer and was within two yards of the nearest orb,
the intensity and speed of their activity suddenly seemed to triple - along with their glow. Emily
slid to a dead halt and flung her arms in front of her face as the orbs began to dart to and fro at an
even more rapid pace, forming a sort of barrier between her and the opposite side of the room.

“NO . . . DAMN IT, NO!” Emily yelled helplessly as she staggered backward in Nathan’s
general direction.

Whatever these objects were, it was agonizingly obvious to Emily that they did not wish
for her to re-join Pat or Claire. Not one to back down from any challenge, Emily, her arms still
shielding her face, made another attempt to dash across the hallway - only to find herself stymied
yet again at the outer perimeter of the light.

“CLAIRE!!!” Emily called through the chaotic jumble of zigzagging orbs.

The only response - a loud BANG as the door directly opposite slammed shut - apparently
taking both Pat and Claire with it. This horrible thought had barely enough time to register before
Emily felt a tight grip and tug on her left hand. The next thing she knew, she was against the far
wall of the small dividing hallway on the other side of the door to the foyer, which Nathan was
making a desperate effort to deadbolt.

“Nathan . . .” Emily pleaded madly, “what are you doing . . . we can’t just leave them!!”

“Remember what the guide said about running Emily?” Nathan asked hurriedly as he
secured the giant, metallic door.

“Yes but . . .” Emily continued to plead, her fear having yet to catch up with her.

“Well, trust me Emily . . . ” Nathan said with a grunt, as he forced the rusted deadbolt into
place just seconds before a purple-tinted orb appeared less than three inches from his face, “NOW
would be a good time . . . ”

At the sound of Nathan’s raised voice, the orb rocketed straight upward and through the
ceiling above, again causing paint and plaster chips to fly loose in every direction. Then, another
three of the glowing orbs appeared out of thin air in front of the metal door, each of them
continuing to dart and hover rapidly in small semi-circles.

“To do just THAT!” Nathan said with mounting urgency.

Emily, her fear now returning steadily, pressed her back up against the wall opposite the
door with all of her might - though she did not remain there long. Nathan turned away from the
three menacing balls of light, again took Emily forcibly by the hand, and together they each took
off at a full sprint through a set of double fire-proof doors and into the hallway of Emily’s old
Ward A.

There was little time, however, to stop and reminisce. Nathan slammed the double doors
shut with all of his might, and continued his hand-in-hand dash with Emily down the hall. After
covering nearly 100 feet of Ward A in something like two seconds, Nathan abruptly halted and
spun back around in the direction of the doors. Emily, not so gracefully, also came to an
off-balance stop and did the same.

“What . . . what in the hell is going on?” Emily gasped and wheezed.

Nathan did not answer. Instead, he quickly lunged sideways and forcibly shoved Emily out
of the hallway and into a modern side-passage between two, cubical-type rooms. A split second
later, one of the orbs shot down the hallway - at what must have been twice the speed of sound -
and vanished with a BANG into the set of double doors at the other end.

“Not as warm a welcome as I had hoped for,” Nathan replied after sticking his head around
the wall to see if the coast was clear.

“No . . . really?” Emily shot back.

“We’ll settle this later. Right now we just need to . . .” Nathan began before another orb
hovered through the door behind Emily, “RUN!”

Emily spun around and had just enough time to get an ‘up-close-and-personal’ view of the
purplish orb before she was again yanked off her feet. She and Nathan resumed their desperate
sprint northward. With one hand each outstretched, they bolted through the next set of fire doors,
turned sharply to their left, and made for the doors leading to Ward D.
To Emily’s dismay, when Nathan grabbed the handle of the door and pushed - nothing
happened. He tried again with greater force - still nothing. He rammed his right shoulder into it
twice, resulting in nothing more than another dusting of plaster.

“Goddamn it!” Nathan cried out in frustration before giving the door a solid kick, still to no
avail. “Got to find the right, bloody key!!”

Nathan began fumbling wildly with the loop of keys attached to his belt, yet despite his
best efforts, he could not locate the one he was searching for. Emily tilted sideways into the wall.
She watched quietly as Nathan grappled to find the key to the door - her wits now steadily wearing
thinner and thinner. Fear began to take a firm grip on her mind, and at the sight of Nathan again
putting his shoulder to the door, Emily began to wobble and waver.

“Emily!” Nathan yelled out, having noticed Emily’s slowly deteriorating state. “Stay with
me, Em!”

“Nate . . .” Emily gasped, a vague thought now entering her mind. “Nate . . . the door!”

“Emily, I know,” Nathan replied in frustration. “I’m trying, but the damn thing’s . . .”

“NO . . . NO,” Emily said with more vigor. “Nate . . . THE DOOR.”

Emily pointed over Nathan’s shoulder and toward the rear of the hallway. A faint green
light was visible through a dust-veiled window, just enough to cast a perfect shadow into the blind
hallway to the right. Nathan ceased his efforts to open the double doors, and instead turned his
attention to Emily, who was steadily sinking toward the ground, her pointed finger still
outstretched.

“Emily . . . Emily hang on,” Nathan said as he hoisted Emily back to her feet and gave her
head a small jolt. “Wake up Em . . . come on.”

“I . . . I . . .” Emily said as she returned to reality. “Nate . . . the do . . .”

BANG!!! Another orb, this one a violent shade of turquoise, rocketed through the doors
which Emily and Nathan had just passed. For a moment, it merely hovered and oscillated in a
small horizontal circle, but then, it turned its attention to Emily and Nathan, and began looming
toward them.

“We’re out of options . . .” Nathan said to Emily with finality. “Lead the way!!!”

The orb, appearing somehow to sense their intentions, intensified its circular oscillation
and began glowing a bright red. Emily didn’t waste another second despite her weakened state.
Every voice in her head was pleading with her to jump through the window and run for home.
She waved her arm in the direction of the blind hallway and bolted, Nathan in hot pursuit.
They barely managed to clear the first right turn into the seldom used hallway before the
orb streaked behind them through the window and out of site. Another right turn and there it
stood, looking just as it had the last time she had laid eyes on it - the infamous “Door to
Nowhere” which Emily hoped was about to the become the “Door to Salvation”.

Nathan pushed forward past Emily, took hold of the rusted door handle, and gave it a firm
shove. Nothing. Another, desperate shove . . . nothing.

“Good grief, NOT AGAIN!” Nathan screamed at the door as he continued to apply all of
his will and strength into forcing it open.

While Nathan continued to try and force the door into compliance, Emily, now in a near
stupor, ambled forward and rested against the wall directly beside it. She managed one, feeble
wheeze before another orb appeared at the opposite end of the hall. Emily reared backward into
the wall and Nathan spun around on the spot, immediately assuming a defensive posture.

The orb then zipped forward and shot straight through Nathan’s midriff. Nathan howled in
agony and fell sideways into the wall as the orb began a rapid-fire orbit of his entire body from top
to bottom. Emily screamed in mortal terror as yet another orb suddenly appeared from the floor
and joined in the attack on Nathan, whose arms were now flailing about in an attempt at fending
off his unearthly opponents.

Emily, screaming and crying in utter confusion and desperation, took hold of the door
handle and began to shove her weight into it in a mad attempt at flight. As she did so, she watched
helplessly as the two orbs continued to encircle Nathan despite his attempts at fighting back. Emily
shoved and shoved, but the wooden door simply would not budge an inch.

Then, in a hideously, macabre finale, Nathan’s feet abruptly left the floor, and he was
hurled upward into the ceiling. He hit with such force that his head actually left a small
indentation in the decades old plaster. After two additional violent thrusts, this time into the wall
rather than the ceiling, Nathan’s body collapsed to the floor and went totally limp.

Emily again screamed, the sight of Nathan’s crumpled body and bleeding head finally sent
her mind over the edge. With all of her senses now taking their leave, she once more thrust her
body toward the door, only to find that it was no longer closed.

All of a sudden, she was seized by the sensation of spiraling downward. The dull, blue tint
of the two orbs faded to a pinpoint and then vanished into a sea of blackness.
Chapter 14
Deep Secrets

Being left out of things had always annoyed Emily. If she ever felt that she was being kept
in the dark about anything, she did not hesitate at all to make her feelings known. More than once
she had succeeded in ruffling the proverbial feathers of her various superiors until they finally
relented and decided to clue her in. Now, after being thrust into total darkness for the third time in
as many weeks, Emily, for the first time in her life, earnestly wished that she could actually be
“blissfully unaware” of what was happening.

“Ohhhh . . . I think I broke my back,” Emily moaned in disoriented agony.

This must be what those people who spend their free time poking around in caves mean
when they say that bit about not being able to see your hand in front of your face, Emily thought to
herself; it was not merely dim or dark…it was PITCH black. Had it not been for the reverberating
sound of dripping water, and the fact that she could feel the ice cold floor beneath her surely
fractured body, Emily would have thought she was dead.

“Ahhhhh,” Emily again moaned.

Luckily, another shooting pain in her lower back confirmed that her body was still earth
bound - at least for the time being. Wherever she had landed, Emily knew that she had a long and
bumpy ride in getting there. Once the light from above had vanished, it was only too clear to her
what had happened. Somehow, someway, the “Door to Nowhere” had decided to open up and
swallow her whole. And, it apparently planned to tenderize her body by sending it plummeting
down a seemingly endless flight of hard, wooden stairs.

After several seconds of painful rest, and the wrenching of more than a few kinks from her
spine, Emily managed to hoist herself up onto her knees. A quick counter-clockwise roll of each
arm confirmed that they were still in working order, along with her legs. Though they were still
beneath her at the moment, they too still felt intact, and if she was lucky, maybe even functional.

Once her self-diagnosis confirmed that she had survived her plunge in comparatively good
order, Emily turned her mind to the much more pressing issue at hand, which was:

“Where am I?” Emily wondered aloud.

And more importantly…

“How in the hell do I get out of here?” Emily again pondered, rolling her head in circles in
a hopeless attempt to glimpse any, tiny, little speck of light.

With no other real course of action, Emily took to feeling around on the freezing floor,
which, she was able to surmise, must be made of buffed concrete. If she could only lay one of her
hands on a cord . . . a chair . . . an . . . an anything for that matter, then maybe she could find some
way of extracting herself from whatever fresh, new hell she had literally fallen into. The floor was
not very willing to give up its secrets, however. After two or three minutes of cautious crawling
and constant probing, all Emily was able to deduce was that she did not want to be wherever she
was any longer.

“Good . . . great . . . nice little mess you’ve fallen into here Emily,” Emily chastised herself
aloud, more to simply hear a noise other than dripping water. “You scream at the guy trying to
save your life . . . you get HIM killed instead . . . and now you’re being saved for dessert.
Fabulous.”

Emily continued groping around the floor, her unpleasant thoughts now beginning to take
over amidst her desperate search. The image of Nathan being seized by those things and tossed
about like a rag doll would not go away, and grew stronger with each passing second. She felt an
extreme rush of guilt. It was her fault. SHE suggested the door. SHE was the one who hesitated
when Nathan told her and the others to move out. And, SHE was the one who had stood back and
cowered against the door as Nathan was . . . was . . . it was all too much to take.

Her mind continued to replay the garish spectacle ad nauseam, and Emily continued with
her blind exploration of her mysterious, new surroundings. With no discernable point of reference,
it was impossible to be sure, but she was certain by this point that she must have crawled at least 15
or 20 feet - and still nothing. Just a cold, damp, concrete floor and the ever-present DRIP . . .
DRIP . . . DRIP echoing from some invisible corner. Then, the obvious answer hit Emily square in
the face.

“Owww!” Emily screamed as her nose made contact with the lower section of the staircase
she had tumbled down. “Damn it. Good going Em, you’ve been crawling in circles. OK . . .
alrighty now . . . just calm down . . . heh . . . that’s a good one. Anyway, just chill out and try to
focus . . . even though there’s really nothing to focus ON . . . hehehe. Wonderful . . . now you’re
talking to yourself. Well, they say that’s the first REAL sign of mental decay. Maybe I’ll get
lucky and lose my mind before I. . . . ”

Emily’s frustrated verbal tirade came to a sudden and heart-lifting end as her outstretched
hand finally made contact with a wall. Her spirits momentarily on the rebound, Emily slowly
started to crawl closer to the wall her hand had located. Once she was close enough, she firmly
pressed each of her palms flat against the surface. It felt . . . different. It certainly wasn’t concrete
or stone . . . in fact it felt like . . .

“Paneling?” Emily mumbled. “That’s impossible. It . . .”

Emily began gliding her hands over the wall’s surface, now desperately seeking out either
a light switch or doorknob leading to a fast exit.

“Ahha...got it,” Emily rejoiced as her hands lit upon just the thing she had been looking for.

Under her right fingers, Emily could feel the cool, ribbed surface of a water-resistant,
industrial power line, the type that she had seen before in her own basement. Knowing that these
types of cords, more often than not, lead to either fuse boxes or light switches, Emily hastily rose
to her feet as she traced the wire cover for several feet to her right - then, the miracle!

“Oh thank you lord . . . thank you,” Emily gasped, her fingers now perched upon what felt
distinctly like a small, metal panel of switches.

Emily lightly ran her hand over top of the panel, and to her fervent delight felt four
switches, all in a row and all in the down position. Feeling that she had indeed been left in the
dark for long enough, Emily wasted no time in flipping each of the switches one by one. In
response, one small and meager incandescent light came to life at least 50 feet away from where
Emily was standing. The light, hanging barely two inches below the ceiling did not offer as much
comfort as Emily had hoped.

“I think I liked it better in the dark,” Emily quipped, valiantly attempting a jab at humor as
she stared in awe around the room where she now found herself trapped.

The word “Dungeon” would not have been too far off the mark. Although the wall to
Emily’s right was indeed lined with an out-of-date type of wood paneling that was about the only
quasi-normal feature of the enormous, almost cavernous room. All in all, the room, lined on every
other side by ancient stone masonry and brick patching sections, must have measured over 55 feet
in length and no less than 40 feet in width. Oddly enough though, its ceiling cleared Emily’s head
by a mere foot.

The light coming from the single, clear-glass light bulb was not ideal, but it did allow Emily
to take in several of the room’s more unusual features. In particular, it was noticeably void of any
type of furniture or office equipment. With the exception of a partially rotted wooden shelf in the
same far corner as the light, Emily did not see even so much as a folding chair in sight.

Then, there was the floor. Though the room was now mostly barren and empty, the floor left
little doubt in Emily’s mind that it had not always been so. Here and there, brownish, rusted
outlines delineated spots where some kind of equipment or machinery had once been placed. In the
center of the spacious room, the tips of four, large, metal bolts - each of them spread equidistantly
apart in a rectangular shape - remained in place, baring mute testimony to whatever purpose they
may have served. This, along with several dents and scrapes in the decade’s old concrete floor,
made it quite clear that this room had been used for something at some time.

One thing was certain; this room was never, at ANY time, intended for use as a store room,
or fruit cellar or any other mundane purpose. However hollow it left her feeling, Emily could draw
but one logical conclusion based on all she knew and saw.

“This must have been where it happened,” Emily said quietly as she sheepishly walked
away from the light switches and into the room, “whatever IT actually was.”

“As if you didn’t already know!” said a very malicious female voice, sounding as if it had
been run through an artificial echo chamber.

The small incandescent light went very dim, and Emily came to a dead stop. Her muscles
tensed, pulse quickened, her senses doubled, and her palms - well, they suddenly felt like a pair of
beached flounders. Determined not to let her encroaching panic get the better of her, Emily focused
all of her faculties on what she had read from the field guide, and stood her ground. With the room
now back to a state of near pitch blackness, Emily figured she had no real choice other than to
answer.

“Yes . . . I already know what?” Emily said into nothingness. “Hello . . . hello? Is anybody
there?”

No answer . . . now what? Emily racked her brain and tried her best to recite the field
guide’s words in her head. Something about “treat all entities with respect, they were once human
. . . don’t be afraid to engage in communication” . . . or something like that.

“Listen,’ Emily repeated. “I don’t know who you are . . . but . . . but . . . (Gulp) . . . whoever
you are . . . believe me, I . . . eh, that is . . . WE, are NOT here to hurt you . . . we are here to try and
HELP you.”

In no conceivable way, shape, or form could Emily ever have prepared herself for what
happened next.

“Words . . . nothing but empty words,” the unseen female voice said in the same distant,
reverberating tone. “I’ve heard them all before . . . many times.”

A powerful gust of icy wind hit Emily head-on, causing her to stumble and fall backward
upon her hands and feet. Meanwhile, a wispy veil of pearl-colored smoke began to steadily rise
directly out of the floor some 15 feet from where Emily had landed. It was nowhere near as intense
as the orbs she had seen upstairs, yet it gave off its own, eerie aura nonetheless. Little by little, the
vague and distorted clouds of lingering smoke began to assemble into a semi-human shape.

Emily struggled back to her feet and gazed on in fear-saturated awe, as what had been
nothing more than a cloud of smoke and fog, gradually took on the pearly-grey, transparent form of
a teenage girl. She could not have been more than five feet tall, with hair that fell past her ears and
down onto her shoulders. From her face to her knees her body was well defined, but after that, it
trailed off into nothing more than a rapidly dissipating mist. Despite her semi-transparent state,
Emily could tell that she was attired in a very archaic, regulation hospital dress - the kind that went
out of style with the “Jitterbug” and “Bobby Socks”.

As if an encounter with a disembodied specter or spirit would not have been frightening
enough, the figure before Emily stared her dead in the eyes, with what was most certainly NOT an
expression of “Greetings and Salutations”.

“I heard them from the nurses as they escorted me to my room,” the ghost girl said in a voice
saturated with bitterness and spite. “I heard them from the doctors who assured me that I was in the
best of hands. AND . . . ’DOCTOR’ Flesher . . . I heard them from the lips of my very own father as
he kissed my cheek . . . left my room . . . and NEVER returned. And, I even recall hearing them
from the brain-washed orderly . . . as he INNOCENTLY jabbed a hypodermic into my arm . . . and
sent me into purgatory! So, you will forgive me if I am a little HESITANT to take your worthless
words at face value.”

Emily let out something between a gasp and a hum just before her arms gave out and she
once more fell to the cold floor. It was actually fortunate for Emily that the floor WAS so cold for it
prompted her back to her feet with speed that surprised even herself.

“Well . . . I uh . . . ” Emily babbled, feeling more and more like the Connecticut Yankee in
King Arthur’s Court. “You ah, you seem to have me at a disadvantage here. Obviously you
know who I am, but I’m afraid I can’t say the same.”

“Please, do not waste any of your psychological snare traps on me,” The girl spat back with
even more hatred. “Surely by now you must have guessed who I am . . . at least . . . HALF of who I
am.”

Emily stood dead silent and still. She knew what was about to come, only some childish
intuition - perhaps a result of morbid fear for her life - was telling her that if she just stood still and
played dumb that it might not.

“Why not simply take a GUESS Dr. Flesher?” the girl continued to taunt. “After all, you
have at least a 25% chance from what I’ve gathered.”

“Uh . . .” Emily muttered with great reluctance. “Mary?”

“Obviously,” The female specter said, almost with a hint of playful boredom. “So as to not
subject your already overtaxed mind to anymore needless discomfort, I shall simply tell you the
second part. It’s Courtney . . . Mary Elizabeth Courtney. Or, perhaps I should say . . . the LATE
Mary Elizabeth Courtney, at your service.”

The ghost of Mary Courtney did a very gracious, if somewhat overemphasized, curtsy and
bow.

“Yes . . . well . . .” Emily said, trying her best to remember which description fit this
particular ‘Mary’. “Hello, Mary.”

“Greetings . . . Dr. Flesher,” Mary said with fake and over-embellished etiquette. “To what
do we owe the honor of your unexpected . . . and highly unwelcome . . . intrusion into our own
little personal HELL!”

“If you mean . . . why I am here,” Emily said, trying her best to harness her ‘therapist’ skills
and put the bizarre conversation at least partially back on familiar terms. “I’ve already told you. I’m
here with some other people . . . who are . . . trying to help you and . . . well eh . . . whoever ELSE
might still be here.”

“How noble,” Mary said flatly. “You’re sure that you do not have some other . . . ’hidden’
motivation? Perhaps a neurotic need to cleanse your own soul? Or perhaps, merely because you feel
your own miserable life may be in danger?”

“I . . .” Emily replied, cut to the quick by Mary’s passionate retort, “I really don’t see where
accusations are going to get us Mary. You asked me . . . and I told you . . . there it is.”

“Well,” Mary said, “you may put your poor, misguided, and hopelessly one-track mind to
rest Dr. Flesher. You are not . . . nor have you ever been in any danger. Though, I must add that I
do not entirely trust you . . . or your family. But, for better or worse, we have no quarrel with you
directly . . . or your friends.”

“Really?” Emily asked, interjecting her own accusatory tone. “Is that why you attacked me
upstairs? Is that why you killed Nathan and . . .”

“Your friend is not dead Dr. Flesher . . . merely a forceful warning,” Mary replied, again
sounding almost bored.

“A warning of what?” Emily said in her best ‘parry and thrust’ way.

“A warning that we neither want . . . nor require your presence here,” Mary said forcefully.
“We will extract ourselves from this purgatorial state by our own means . . . and then . . . your
friends need have no further interest in either the hospital . . . or you.”

“I see, then why even bring me down here . . . just to crow over me?” Emily said calmly and
soothingly. “No . . . I somehow doubt it. Mary...I know about what happened here, and I know
why you and the others are lashing out. Please believe me, we . . . I . . . know about what went on
here and I want to help make things right.”

Mary’s image vanished on the spot and a split second later re-appeared less than two feet
from Emily’s face. At the same time, the entire underground room shook violently, as if the hands
of a giant were rocking it back and forth. The noise and jostling were so strong that Emily was again
knocked backward off of her feet.

“YOU CAN NOT POSSIBLY KNOW!” Mary roared in a maniacal way. “Once again I
hear your words and they sound just as EMPTY as ever! You think that you can even begin to
understand what 75 years of isolation and torment feel like? How do you think it feels, Dr. Flesher
. . . to be abandoned by your own father and left in the hands of certain DOCTORS here!? To have
your body subjected to inhuman testing day in and day out! To lay alone . . . for hours . . . and days
in this room, watching the walls melt and the tables turn into chairs, and vice versa. Feeling your
mind slowly but surely ripping apart at the seams . . . HOW DO YOU IMAGINE THAT FEELS?!”

“I . . . ” Emily said in a near whimper.

“You care no more about us than the others, Dr. Flesher!” Mary continued.

“You’re wrong,” said another, and far calmer, female voice from out of nowhere.
Emily’s fast approaching tears receded upon hearing the second voice. It had been ten years
. . . and yet it was as familiar to her as that of her own mother. Feeling a rush of hope from
somewhere, Emily lifted herself up to a sitting position and stared past Mary’s transparent form to
the other side of the room . . . and there she was.

“Hello again Emily,” said the newly arrived spirit. “Thank you for the flowers.”

“Diane . . . is it really you?” Emily said while managing a faint smile.

Though she, too, was now nothing more than a pearl-grey, semi-transparent specter, there
was no doubt whatsoever that it was indeed Diane. Her face, her hair, they all looked exactly the
same as the last time Emily had seen them . . . no matter how traumatic the circumstances at the
time may have been.

“Yes,” Diane said kindly as she hovered toward both Emily and Mary.

“Diane, we are not in need of a third party’s opinion,” Mary said, though with slightly less
spite than when she had been addressing Emily.

“Mary, you’re wrong . . . I’ve been telling you from the beginning you are wrong,” Diane
argued passionately. “Emily can be trusted. She took care of me and did her best to help. She had no
control over what happened.”

“Yes,” Mary replied, “Because you could not keep quiet. If you would’ve just waited, this
would have all been over ten years ago.”

“What’s past is past, Mary,” Diane said fervently. “Neither you nor I know for certain what
might have happened. But one thing I DO know for certain . . . is that Emily and her friends are not
like all the others. We can trust them. We should let them try.”

“You are STILL willing to place our fate into the hands of . . . of . . .” Mary replied.

“The living?” Diane answered. “What have we to lose? What can it hurt to let them try?”

“They have tried before,” Mary replied with just a hint of dejection mixing in with her
anger, “Yet we are still here.”

“And where have our own actions gotten us?” Diane asked simply. “We cannot free
ourselves through vengeance, Mary.”

“Excuse me,” Emily interrupted on VERY tender hooks. “I know I’m only a poor living
human being . . . but . . . why? I just don’t understand; why can you not leave?”

Diane gently dropped her ghostly-gray head to her chest in a display of sheer futility and
sadness. Emily clearly had finally struck something other than a cord of “anger” in each of the two
girls, as Mary’s spectral image also seemed to now exude a much more melancholy demeanor.
“Until the truth is known . . . and the people who did this to us are exposed . . .” Diane began
with a mournful and somber tone.

“Our souls will remain earth-bound until we are avenged!” Mary said. “Until the truths of
this hellish place are proven, and the fates of all who perished here are flung in the faces of those
who turned their heads and did nothing . . . we must remain. But, as you must know by now...we
are FAR from powerless!”

“For what it has been worth, you mean?” Diane added dejectedly.

“You’ve grown soft,” Mary said with faked hatred.

“And you have grown bitter . . . and blind to our reality,” Diane continued. “Seeking
revenge upon those guilty of action and inaction has done nothing. Therefore I say we allow Emily
and her friends the chance to help us.”

“You have a rather strong advocate amongst us, Dr. Flesher,” Mary said with half-hearted
spite as her figure turned away from Emily and faced the opposite end of the room. “Exactly what
do you and your . . . friends . . . have in mind?”

Emily was struck dumb. She had enough trouble trying to convince herself that this entire
affair was nothing short of a fool’s errand . . . and now she was to convince a GHOST that it wasn’t?

“Well . . .” Emily said, doing her best to keep her voice buoyant, “we planned to search for
anything that would prove what you were saying was true. That diary you gave to Diane for one
thing . . .”

“Ah yes . . .” Mary’s floating figure pondered aloud with a slow cross of the arms, “my own
meager contribution to the literary world. That WOULD be nice. To have the names of those
‘REVERED’ doctors and nurses dragged through the slime and ruined forever. Yes . . . I would
dearly love that.”

Mary spun on the spot until she was again facing Emily, now with a skeptical look upon her
face.

“But you see . . .” Mary said, her malicious tone returning, “I’m still just not
THOROUGHLY convinced that I can trust you, Dr. Flesher. True, your own actions had little to
do with our damnation, but on the same note . . . they also did little to alleviate it. Runs in the family
I suppose. A very recurrent theme in our little dilemma, wouldn’t you agree Diane?

“If you are referring to my mother, then . . .” Emily spat back, her own anger ready to boil
up again.

The figure of Mary merely chuckled and laughed with the same air of boredom and
superiority as before. She then placed her ghostly hands upon her hips and swirled in several
pirouettes while smiling and grinning.

“Oh my . . . oh, if you only knew half as much as you think you do, Dr. Flesher,” Mary
chimed away. “However, perhaps we can forgive past sins in light of present events. Very well . . .
you and the others may continue with your little ‘hunt’ . . . and we will not interfere further with
your efforts.”

“Thank you, I . . .” Emily began before being ‘shushed’ by Mary’s forceful spirit.

“We will NOT interfere . . .” Mary continued, now sounding ominously playful, “nor will
we assist you in any way. If you are as driven by your noble intentions as you claim to be, then I see
no reason why we should stand in the way of your heroics.”

“Now wait a minute,” Emily said before Mary again cut her off sharply.

“No . . . you are on your own Dr. Flesher,” Mary said with finality. “Consider it a test of
your honesty, which you have yet to fully prove. Besides, (Mary again chuckled with delight) I
have grown rather fond of watching others stumble around aimlessly in the dark like sinus-ridden
bloodhounds. It should be amusing to see how you and these others stack up.”

“Mary . . .” Diane intervened, though somewhat meekly.

“No . . . no Diane that is my final offer,” Mary said with even stronger finality. “Let them
prove their integrity on their own.”

Emily’s spirits waned, and any hopes of a quick end to this hopeless mystery deflated faster
than a punctured tire. In addition, Emily’s initial fright at the sight of ghost orbs and spiritual
bodies was rapidly being replaced by a deep feeling of resentment. Not only did Mary and her
less-than-helpful attitude make no sense at all, but it also flew straight in the face of everything
Emily had come to love about the hospital and its occupants.

“Mary . . . I think you are letting your bitterness and hatred get the better of your good
judgment,” Emily ‘the therapist’ said. “Does it really make sense to hold things back from the
very people who are here to try and help you?”

“Possibly,” Mary said with little regard, “And it is also quite possible that after 75 years I
simply no longer give a damn. You would do well, DOCTOR Flesher, to simply take my offer and
go on about your business.”

“Look,” Emily said more forcefully as she rose to her feet and began pacing towards Mary’s
ghost, “Mary, I don’t by any means claim to know every little detail about what happened to you
and all the others who ended up stuck here, but . . . ”

“No . . . that’s true . . . there’s no way you could have,” Mary said in a wickedly pondering
tone. “Well then, perhaps it would help you to better understand our bitterness . . . if you were to
SEE IT!?”
“Mary, don’t!” Diane said fervently.

“Now hold on just a minute,” Emily said as she threw both of her hands in the air and reared
backwards. “I never said that I . . .”

“You have until dawn . . . 7 AM, Dr. Flesher,” Mary said bluntly, paying no attention to
either Diane or Emily. “The very best of luck to you. In the meantime . . . (another evil smile) . .
. enjoy!”

Diane’s ghost again hung its head down, appearing totally helpless to prevent whatever was
about to happen. Mary lifted up her right arm and made a swishing motion, at which point the one
small light bulb overhead blinked out, along with the glowing spirits of Mary and Diane. Emily was
again left standing in complete darkness, though this time she was more angered than frightened.

“Wait!!” Emily called out into the dark, thin air. “Mary . . . Diane . . . come back I . . .”

All at once, the air in the room went as cold as ice. Emily froze, figuratively as well as
literally, in her tracks, and then began to slowly back up toward where she knew the staircase was.
For some reason, she was overcome by the unsettling intuition that something quite unpleasant was
only seconds away from happening - - and she had the deepest desire to be as far away as she could
when it did.

Emily had taken maybe five or six cautious steps away from the center of the room, when
she was again struck head-on by a fierce gush of bone-chilling wind. This icy blast, even colder and
more powerful than the first, had the instant effect of again knocking Emily over backward and
sliding her, shoulders first, all the way back across the room and into the base of the staircase.

“Owww!” Emily screamed in pain as well as agitation. “Maybe this would be easier if we
just had the entire hospital . . .”

By now, Emily was getting used to having her sentences cut short by odd sights as well as
sounds, but nothing could have quite readied her for the spectacle that brought her latest verbal
tirade to a sudden end. Having rolled over to a sitting/lying position, Emily was struck silent at
what she was looking at now. All around her, with the exception of the paneled wall to her right, the
enormous underground room had taken on a light blue glow and sparkle.

In addition to its new source of lighting, the room was no longer a vast, empty void. Here
and there, all around the walls and the floor, various items materialized, each of them appearing as
nothing more than an outline, and all the exact same shade of light blue.

At the far end of the room was a large and very long cabinet of some kind, complete with
glass doors and several odd-looking, medical-type devices running the length of its top. In the right
corner of the room, the rotting shelf was still visible, only it was now partially hidden beneath the
aura of an equally as large, rectangular machine, about the size of two filing cabinets. Two sets of
what looked like antique electrodes were perched on top of it. Here and there, chairs, small tables,
as well as outlines of charts and billboards, began to slowly materialize out of nowhere.

Finally, in the dead center of the room where Emily had glimpsed the large, equally spaced
metal bolts, the final shock. A typical, if somewhat antiquated, hospital observation table slowly
faded into view - along with the lifeless body of a patient lying flat upon its surface. The eerie
silence of the room was then broken by the intermittent sound of feet on the floors overhead and the
mournful drones of a pipe organ, softly wafting down from somewhere above.

Emily stared all around in stunned wonderment. She was still able to see all the features of
the room as she had known it before; all the recent additions appeared to be nothing more than
over-lays. It quickly became clear to Emily what was going on. What she was seeing WAS indeed
the same room, only at a different point in time. Emily listened intently to the sound of the organ
‘till it dawned on her that she actually recognized the tune being played.

“Onward Christian Soldiers?” Emily wondered quietly to herself. “Well, whenever I am,
it’s obviously a...”

“Sunday!” said an unknown male voice from somewhere to Emily’s right. “A day to
repent for our sins and ask for forgiveness. Ha . . . I must remind the Chaplain to remember our little
friend here at mass tomorrow morning.”

“She’s not even Catholic,” said another male voice in a very dispassionate way.

“Right . . . well, then I needn’t even bother,” the first voice said with equal indifference.

As Emily listened, the blue colored outlines of two men, one slightly taller than the other,
walked right out of the paneled side of the room, directly adjacent to the observation table and its
lifeless occupant. Their features were not quite as sharp as those of Mary and Diane. Emily was
able to see, however, that the taller of the two figures, a man somewhere between 40 and 50 years of
age, was wearing a long lab coat, thick horn-rimmed glasses and a wicked grin. In his left hand he
held what looked like a mug, possibly of coffee, and a clipboard was securely tucked beneath his
right arm.

His companion, attired in nothing more than trousers, suspenders, and a button-down shirt,
looked much younger, perhaps 25 or 30. He, too, had a clipboard tucked beneath his right arm and
in his left he held something that bore a striking resemblance to what medical novices usually
refer to as the little black bag. It was quite clear by his mannerisms that he was less accustomed to
his present position than his older counterpart.

Emily strained her eyes to take in as much as detail as she could. Luckily, the two men stood
still and silent for a few seconds, the older taking a deep drink from his mug and the younger
rocking on the balls of his feet, and she was able to focus in upon the sparkling name tag of the
elder. Beside the typical medical caduceus, Emily was horrified to read the name Hiram R.
Jameson M.D. L.P. She then did a stupefied double-take upon reading the name tag of his
co-hort. Emanuel E. Braley, Ord.
“Orderly?” Emily mumbled in quiet astonishment as she continued to watch intently.

“Too bad Dr. Von Tramp had to be at Spencer this weekend,” Braley said with youthful
enthusiasm. “He was pretty keen to see how she reacted to the new dosage.”

“Don’t worry Manny,” Dr. Jameson said after taking another sip from his mug. “Everett is
quite capable of reading a medical report.”

“In English?” Braley asked.

“Yes . . . he IS getting better,” Dr. Jameson said with a light chortle. “Though it WOULD
greatly speed up the process if our friend, Albert, would simply consent to learn more English.
Using a middleman wastes time . . . and time and history wait for no man Manny, remember that.”

“Right,” Braley replied with even more enthusiasm.

“Now then,” Dr. Jameson said as he shifted his attention away from Braley and toward the
observation table, “on to more pressing matters. Were you able to make any headway?”

“No sir,” Braley replied officially. “I pushed it as far as we did with that Langford girl, but
she still wouldn’t give out. I’m afraid some of the damage may be irreversible by now.”

“For everything there is always a way my lad,” Dr. Jameson said reassuringly as he
approached the table. “Place faith in science and ye...

“Shall reap success,” Emily said in perfect sync as she felt her fists begin to clench.

“I think a few ccs of adrenaline will put our patient in a more suitable mood for
conversation,” Dr. Jameson said to his young orderly. “Then we can better determine just how far
her insolence may have gone.”

With a cold-hearted wave of his bluish-outlined arm, Dr. Jameson motioned for his
companion to carry out his request. Following suit, Braley reached into his black bag and
removed what was unmistakably a very out-of-date hypodermic needle with double-finger grips at
its base.

Emily was barely able to suppress her feelings of shock and revulsion as she watched
Braley approach the limp body on the table, lift its left arm and unceremoniously jab the needle into
its lower half and drain it of its contents. The effect was almost instantaneous. The body on the table
- which only moments before had yet to even twitch - suddenly jolted to life in a sickening series
of spasms and convulsions. The unfortunate female patient cried out several maddening and
incoherent epithets before attempting to extract herself from the table’s surface. Only the wrist and
ankle restraints kept whoever it was from flying off of the table.

“God . . . damn . . . you . . . aghhh . . .” the voice of the female patient cried out before she
was seized by a wild fit of vomiting.
“Hmmm, yes . . . and a good morning to you, too, Ms. Courtney,” Dr. Jameson said with
intimidating calmness. “I trust you have had a pleasant rest following yesterday’s strenuous
activities?”

Her hate and anger gaining steam with each passing second, Emily continued to watch and
listen intently, as the ghostly image of Mary Courtney - strapped securely to an observation table
and at the complete mercy of her heartless care givers - cleared her throat and spat with all of her
might into the face of Dr. Jameson. Dr. Jameson however, seemed totally unfazed and simply
went about the calm, cool motions of wiping the spit from his glasses, and then re-assuming his
actions as though nothing had happened.

“Still so utterly charming, aren’t we?” Dr. Jameson asked coolly as he slowly approached
the observation table. “It would seem that you have still retained your strength as well as your
bodily control. You have no idea, my dear, how well that pleases me.”

“Go to blazes!” Mary shouted, her throat still recovering from a re-ingestion of phlegm.

“I dare say I shall in time,” Dr. Jameson replied. “I am, however, very much afraid, that if
you do not come to your senses and tell me what I wish to know, you shall take up residence there
long before I.”

“There’s not enough room in hell for TWO devils!!” Mary yelled madly.

“You can dispense with your usual high-decibel ravings, Ms. Courtney,” Dr. Jameson said
calmly. “You know full well that this room is insulated against them. As am I. Now then, let us
pick up where we left off yesterday morning. Emanuel, would you please wheel over the
machine? I fancy our friend here may have yet to . . . now what is that cliché . . . ‘wizen up’?”

“Yes sir,” Braley said with a nauseatingly eager smile.

While Dr. Jameson continued to survey Mary up one side and down the other with an evil
grin of superiority, Braley retreated to the rear of the room where the rotted shelf was standing in
the present. With slow and methodical movements, he walked to the rear of the giant machine, now
partially obscuring the shelf from view, and reached down as though he were grabbing for a
push-cart, which turned out to be just the case. Continuing his eager, yet meticulously executed
task, Braley proceeded to wheel the push-cart toward Mary and her devious onlooker.

Perched flatly atop the old-fashioned cart was the blue-tinted outline of something about the
size and shape of an egg crate. What looked like either wires or string were running down from the
back of the box to a smaller, cube-shaped device on the lower level of the cart. Emily’s “innards”
spun ‘round like a whirling dervish when she was finally able to ascertain just what this
“something” actually was.

Though she had only seen them in books and trade magazines, usually under the heading of
What Once Was, there was no mistaking the simple, yet wicked outline of the object before her. It
was nothing less than a VERY old - and well-forgotten - electroshock inducer. Making the scene all
the more gruesome, this particular model bore a very unpleasant resemblance to a model which had
been discontinued sometime in the early ‘teens.

“I’m afraid I still must apologize for the antiquity of our equipment Ms. Courtney,” Dr.
Jameson said with an ominously playful tone. “You must understand that our budget still has not
permitted us the purchase of a more ’modern’ equivalent to our little toy here. Yes . . . I must
remember to press this issue with Dr. Offner at our next yearly review.”

Emily seethed and was only JUST able to fight back the urge to charge the apparitions and
attempt to wrench their heads from their shoulders. While she had never been morally opposed to
modern and supervised forms of electro-convulsive therapy, the thought of Mary being subjected to
the “period” equivalent of its great-great grandfather filled her with equal amounts of anger and
loathing.

While Dr. Jameson continued his nauseatingly detached sermon to Mary, Braley continued
with the task of readying the archaic device for use. First, he opened a folding panel at its front and
removed two small, circular devices, each of which was attached to a wire running to the inside of
the machine. Never deviating from his well-rehearsed duty, he then proceeded to lean over top of
Mary’s helpless form, and attached the circular devices to each side of her temple. Emily’s eyeballs
were now attempting to escape from her skull.

“Not too cold I trust?” Dr. Jameson asked with cold indifference. “Good.”

Braley next stooped down to his knees and flipped a small switch on the cube-shaped device
directly beneath the main apparatus. A small shower of sparks shot out from its top as he did so, but
for the moment, Mary did not seem to have been affected. Dr. Jameson then side-stepped slightly
and placed his hand upon the top of the machine, and looked to be adjusting several dials and
switches. The machine then began emitting a dull, persistent hum that echoed around the
dungeon-like room in an eerie monotone.

“Before we begin today’s session Ms. Courtney,” Dr. Jameson began, this time with a more
serious and intimidating tone, “I do not suppose you have anything to say to me which may . . . ease
. . . the process somewhat?”

Mary again cleared her throat and spat as hard as she could, her saliva again scoring a direct
hit upon Dr. Jameson’s nose.

“I see,” Dr. Jameson said calmly as he again wiped his face. “Well then, we need waste no
further valuable time. Manny, have your notepad ready.”

Braley obediently removed a small notepad and pencil from his pocket and stood at the
ready, all the while eyeing Mary’s helpless form with utterly immoral eagerness. Dr. Jameson did
not hesitate. With one twist of his hand the machine’s hum doubled in intensity as the current was
sent through it and into Mary. At first, Mary’s body seized up and went totally ridged, but a
split-second later the scene went from bad to unthinkable. Mary began to twist and undulate as
much as her restraints would allow. Her convulsions and jolts were accompanied by a
soul-wrenching cry of pain and agony. Then, with another slight twist of his hand, the flow of
electricity ceased and Mary’s body fell limp - though her breathing had now tripled and her head
was swaying left and right as she slowly settled.

“Feel familiar Ms. Courtney?” Dr. Jameson asked, his wicked nature now slipping through
his placid demeanor. “It should. That was the exact same voltage with which we concluded our
last session. From this point, we shall be moving into territory, heretofore unexplored. Now, will
you at last come to your senses and tell me WHERE you hid your little journal . . . or would you
rather we proceed into the unknown?”

At first, Mary’s only response was to continue the uncontrolled rolling of her head, along
with the intermittent spasms in her arms and legs. Then, she again cleared her throat.

“I . . . won’t . . .” Mary struggled to say through her great pain, “wouldn’t give you the
satisfaction . . . you . . . bastard. Would . . . rather die.”

“Turning rather morbid are we now my dear?” Dr. Jameson replied. “Manny, make a note:
Increased current appears to have brought about a bizarre sort of ‘death-wish’ in the subject . . .
along with unusually abnormal delusions of grandeur. Further study of this phenomenon is
obviously required. Voltage increased by 20%.”

Another twist of his hand and Mary’s body again started to writhe and twist in a very sickly
manner. This time, her spasms and cries of agony seemed much more profound. For several
seconds during the hideous episode, Mary’s back arched nearly a foot off of her restraining table -
her ankles and wrists remaining firmly held in place by her tough, leather bonds. After a full ten
seconds of exposure, Dr. Jameson again ceased the flow of current, and watched coolly as Mary’s
body slowly settled back into place, her spasms dying out much slower than before.

“You have made history Ms. Courtney,” Dr. Jameson said with a very evil sense of
false-pride. “You have just been subjected to - and survived - the highest recorded level of
electroshock ever administered to a human. If you would now simply tell me the location of your
memoirs, I would be more than happy to document the events of today within its pages, giving
YOU full credit of course.”

Emily bit her tongue at the word “administered”. To call this garish display of medical
treatment anything other than outright “torture” seemed the understatement of ANY century. She
wanted more than ever to grab the apparition of Dr. Jameson, hook the electrodes up to HIS temple,
and push the bounds of scientific study even further. For all of her desires however, Emily knew
that she was only a “witness” to this more-than-accurate display of what the Field Guide
dispassionately referred to as a “Residual Haunting.” She remained silent and still, horrified at the
thought of what may yet come.

Following Dr. Jameson’s latest offer to cease his experiments, Mary still remained
steadfast. Though she now seemed too far gone for speech, she did mange somehow to shake her
head violently from side to side in a very distinct show of defiance. Dr. Jameson frowned, crossed
his arms, and shook his own head in a very tisk-tisk way.

“Still bound and determined to test my resolve to the very end are we?” Dr. Jameson said
with false regret. “Well then, we’ll just see how far your iron will is capable of stretching. Another
20% increase.”

“Uh . . . sir,” Braley said softly.

Ignoring Braley’s interjection, Dr. Jameson again attempted to twist the dial on the top of
the machine - only to find that it would no longer budge.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with this thing?” Dr. Jameson grumbled as he attempted to
convince the dial to turn further.

“Sir . . . it won’t go any higher,” Braley said squeamishly.

“Well, why in the hell not?” Dr. Jameson demanded.

“This model is over thirty-five years old sir,” Braley gently replied. “It’s only able to carry
so much voltage.”

“Damn it!” Dr. Jameson screamed at the top of his lungs. “Useless . . . antiquated piece of .
. .”

Thoroughly aggravated at this turn of events, Dr. Jameson lifted his right foot and planted it
firmly upon the edge of the cart. Then, with all of his anger-surged might, he kicked the cart as hard
as could, sending it sailing toward the nearby wall with the speed of an MX missile. Upon impact,
the machine, its battery, and even the image of the cart itself, shattered to bits in a shower of sparks
and wood chips.

“Agghh, to hell with our next yearly review!” Dr. Jameson roared. “Manny, you tell Offner
that he had damned well better order a new and stronger electroshock treatment machine by next
month. And tell him that if he doesn’t, then the Board of Control may find out just how he
managed to pay for his new Packard!”

“Yes sir,” Braley said with a smirk. “With pleasure.”

“I thought you might enjoy that,” Dr. Jameson replied as he laid a finger upon his chin.
“Now then, how best to proceed with our dear little tattletale here.”

“We could try an injection of Pentothal,” Braley suggested eagerly.

“No, no Manny we already have enough data on its effects . . . too unreliable,” Dr. Jameson
said as he pondered to issue. “I think now might be the best of times to put Dr. Hoffman’s new
concoction to the ‘acid’ test. I’ve doubled the normal amount of ergot alkaloid in the formulation. If
his theories hold, it should have the almost instant effect of rendering her virtually helpless . . .
trapped in some type of mental fog for hours.”

“Sir I . . . I don’t think she’s strong enough to stand it right now,” Braley said with just a hint
of humanity in his voice. “She’s nearly catatonic already. An ergot alkaloid could cause her entire
system to give out . . . from the brain down.”

“You want to be a part of medical history don’t you Manny?” Dr. Jameson asked
threateningly, as he pulled open his lab coat and removed another hypodermic needle. “In order to
progress, it is often necessary to press on to the limit with all possible dispatch.”

“Sir I . . .” Braley stumbled hopelessly for words, “I . . . just don’t want to have to go
through another one of those formal hearings again. The Survey Committee asked enough
questions last year to sweat ten pounds off me. How are we going to explain . . . ?”

“There will be nothing TO explain Emanuel!” Dr. Jameson yelled, before grabbing Braley
by the collar and pulling his chin level with his own. “The girl’s family are all in Maine and they
want nothing more to do with her, anyway. But that need not even concern you. Now you listen to
me Manny, if you value your lavish lifestyle . . . as well as your LIFE . . . you will not back out on
me now.”

Mid-rant, Dr. Jameson suddenly changed his tone from one of billowing anger to a very
fake, evil sort of high-pitched calming tone. “Besides,” Dr. Jameson continued, now in his softly
intimidating way, “her life as she knew it is over anyway. If we let her go without finding her little
diary then she’s libel to talk. Talk Manny . . . about you and me. She might get herself into trouble.
You see . . . we are actually trying to HELP her.”

Dr. Jameson tightened his grip on Braley’s collar until the two men were virtually
nose-to-nose.

“Understand, Manny?” Dr. Jameson asked wickedly. “HELP her. And once we learn what
we must for . . . scientific sake . . . we shall then HELP her to a far better world than this. Now then
Manny . . . go ahead . . .”
Dr. Jameson relinquished his grip on Braley’s collar and placed the hypodermic needle into
his quivering hand.

“HELP her . . . on her way to the other side,” Dr. Jameson said, backing away and
motioning for Braley to approach the examination table.

Emily slid back down to her hands and knees as she watched Braley take the needle in hand
and step toward Mary’s twitching body. She could feel the tears forming in back of her eyes as he
raised the needle to eye level, excreted a small amount of the liquid contained therein, and leaned
over Mary’s body.

“Just . . . relax now,” Braley stammered as he slid the needle into Mary’s left arm and forced
its contents into her. “We’re just trying to help you my dear . . . just . . . trying to . . . Dr. Jameson,
something’s wrong!”

Braley’s desperate shout immediately prompted Dr. Jameson to leap forward in a manic
display of shock and confusion. With one swing of his arm, he thrust Braley out of the way and
perched himself atop Mary’s body, which had just entered into another . . . yet FAR stronger . . . fit
of convulsions.

“No . . . no damn it, you son-of-a . . .!” Emily wailed hopelessly as Dr. Jameson gripped
Mary’s jolting body with each of his hands.

His expression now near the edge of insanity, Dr. Jameson shook Mary’s body vigorously
in an attempt to undo whatever had just been done. Mary, however, continued to convulse and
spasm for several more seconds before she let out a faint rasp of a scream, followed by a very deep
exhale. Her body then went still, as life left her.

“No . . . damn it to hell . . . NOOO!” Dr. Jameson roared as he began to furiously pound
Mary’s mid-section in a futile attempt at forced resuscitation.

“STOP IT . . . make it stop…I don’t want to see any more!” Emily shouted as she fell
completely to her stomach and began sobbing full-force, only moments before the room again went
pitch black. She pressed her face to the floor in an attempt to block out the mind-twisting sounds of
Dr. Jameson’s actions. As suddenly as the darkness had descended, so, too, did a dead silence - a
silence that was shattered only seconds later by a low rumbling noise to Emily’s right.

Fully convinced that the stone ceiling was going to bury her at any second, Emily pressed
her nose as hard as she could against the smooth, cold floor. If she was going to die then, she might
as well be as flat as possible when she did, for it would snap her spine and make her death a quick,
and painless one. She waited . . . waited . . . and waited . . . and then began to fall down a
seemingly endless vertical tunnel or shaft of some kind. All around her, bright lights began flashing
on and off - lights that were accompanied by the low, distant sound of a ticking clock.

This is it . . . my time is up, Emily thought to herself as she descended into another mental
abyss.
Chapter 15
Sins of the Father

“Emily!” a vaguely familiar voice called out from somewhere. “Emily, are you OK?”

Emily rolled over onto her side as the distant voice echoed inside of her perforated brain,
but once her left cheek landed upon the freezing cold floor she came to her senses very quickly.
With one hand clamped upon the left side of her face, Emily sat straight upright. Rather than lying
at the bottom of some deep vertical tunnel or underground well, Emily was only partially relieved
to see that she had not moved at all, and was still a prisoner within the hospital’s secret,
subterranean room. As before, only the lone, clear light bulb was providing illumination.

“Emily!!” the female voice called out again, this time sounding far closer than before.

Now that the cobwebs were being swept from her mind, she realized that she recognized the
voice, and its sound raised her spirits.

“Claire . . . Claire, I’m in here!!” Emily called out in the direction of the nearby staircase.

Emily struggled to get to her feet, as a round of fast, thunderous, footsteps rumbled from
somewhere up above. Following a brief battle with her equilibrium, Emily managed at last to
stand up. Seconds later . . . another miracle. Not only did Claire herself emerge into the dim light
from the stairwell, but Pat and Nathan also stepped into view behind her. Though all three of them
. . . Nathan in particular . . . looked haggard and a bit worse for wear, they were all alive.

“Oh, thank God,” Emily half-cried and half-huffed as she stumbled forward and threw her
arms around Claire. “Claire I . . . I thought you all would never find me.”

“And we thought YOU were dead,” Claire replied in a caring voice, as she patted Emily
gently on the back. “Are you hurt?”

“No, just a few bumps and bruises . . . to both body and ego,” Emily again cried before
shifting her attention to Nathan, who she was horrified to see had a medical bandage wrapped
around the upper part of his head. “Oh good lord Nathan. I . . . I’m sorry I didn’t.

“No, no,” Nathan replied dismissively and with a wave of his hand. “No need for
apologies, Em.”

“You look like you’ve been through the wringer,” Emily said.

“Not quite,” Nathan said with his usual lightness. “Hit over the head with it perhaps, but I
never went through it. The ceiling, that is, not the wringer.”

“Oh . . . she told me you weren’t dead, but I didn’t know whether or not to believe her,”
Emily said as she surveyed Nathan’s injured head.
“She?” Pat asked. “She who?”

“I’ll get to that later,” Emily said, eager to hear what had been going on in the land of the
living. “How . . . (Emily glanced at her wrist watch, only to see that it had shattered in her tumble
down the stairs.) What time is it? How long have I been down here?

“The better part of three hours,” Pat replied, himself sounding more tired and winded than
Emily had ever seen him.

“THREE hours . . . I must have blacked out again,” Emily said, feeling very confused and
disoriented. “Yes . . . yes I’m sure I did. I had another one of those damn dreams. I . . . oh
forget it. Nathan, what happened?”

“The last thing I remember was hitting the ceiling,” Nathan said simply, though the weight
of his past ordeal was still apparent in his tone and pace. “I woke up, saw you weren’t around
anymore, tried to open that damned door and it still wouldn’t give . . . so I went back to the foyer
and checked the equipment. I couldn’t find you anywhere on the grid, but I saw Pat and Claire were
down in Ward 19. I paged them on the P.A. and by the grace of god . . . and your father’s electrical
prowess . . . they heard me and came back.”

“Ward 19?” Emily said in astonishment. “What were you doing all the way down there?”

“Running in circles most of the time,” Claire replied. “The lights chased us all the way
down there. We tried ducking in and out of the rooms along the way, but they still didn’t stop. We
reached the rear of the ward . . . saw that we were cornered . . . but then we found an old entrance to
the cellar under a fallen curtain and jumped down. They didn’t follow.”

“Then we spent a good hour or so hiding under an antique operating table,” Pat continued.
“I swear I thought Claire’s head was going to rupture, she was getting so overloaded.”

“Emily, I’ve never been hit with energy that potent and so . . . directed,” Claire said with a
pant. “It was personal. Whatever ‘it’ or ‘they’ were, they were not happy that we were here.”

“Did you see anything?” Emily asked. “Other than those . . . those . . .”

“Orbs?” Pat asked, again sounding a bit surprised at Emily’s lack of knowledge. “Yes . . .
about 14 rats, two possums and a jet black cat with a poor sense of direction.”

“You stepped on HIS tail,” Claire said, quickly snapping out of her winded state.

“Children,” Nathan interrupted. “Look, it’s ah . . . been a pretty hectic few hours Emily, but
we actually HAVE managed to accomplish a few things up top. How have you been?”

“Oh . . .” Emily said with a sigh of fatigue, “just ah . . . just peachy. I fell down a flight of
stairs as long as a football field . . . stumbled around in the dark for what seemed like two lifetimes
. . . then, spent another DELIGHTFUL few minutes talking with two . . . two eh . . . ghosts. Then, to
top it all off, I was treated to a wonderfully nauseating and grotesque replay of Mary Courtney’s
torture and death. But . . . HEY . . . all in a night . . . eh . . . morning’s work I suppose.”

Nathan threw both of his hands up in the air. Emily’s rapid-fire recollections had flown by
so fast that he barely had time to string two of her sentences in a cohesive manner.

“Whoa . . . whoa . . . hang on Em,” Nathan said as he attempted to calm Emily’s splintered
nerves. “Back up the A-train for a sec. Mary COURTNEY? You actually made verbal contact with
two apparitions? I think for all our sakes you’d better start from the beginning.”

Emily did her best to regain at least part of her composure. As was the case with Nathan’s
sudden and violent attack, the recent images to which she had been exposed were not rapidly fading
from her thoughts. With a deep breath, Emily then proceeded through as detailed a re-telling of her
recent experience as her pulse would allow her. At the mention of the ghost’s intentions not to
interfere with their efforts, Pat bristled and appeared momentarily astounded. When she had
finished with her forced and painful recollections of Mary’s last moments, all were at a total loss for
words.

“So as you can see . . . I haven’t been idle,” Emily concluded with some pride.

“They promised not to get in our way anymore?” Pat asked with great interest.

“That’s what it . . . eh . . . she, Mary said,” Emily repeated, “but on the very same note, she
also said they wouldn’t help us either.”

“Neutral spirits?” Claire pondered in her mystic tone.

“So we have kind of a . . . a eh . . .” Pat began, placing a finger on his chin as he fumbled for
the right words, “Non-Aggression Pact? Nate this is . . . this is ah . . . very . . .”

“Fortunate,” Nathan added, with what sounded very much like happiness.

“What is a ‘Non-Aggression’ . . . thingy?” Emily asked in blind frustration.

“The Nazis and the Russians at the start of World War II.” Pat began in his eager, boyish
way. “You see they . . .”

“I hate history, Pat,” Emily chastised. ‘Remember?”

“It means that we shouldn’t have to worry about being chased, thrown down stairs or . . .
rammed into ceilings anymore,” Nathan said with a slight air of triumph. “This is exactly what I
was hoping would happen.”

“You HOPED you would get your skull crushed in?” Emily asked with morbid confusion.

“Not exactly, no,” Nathan continued in a much more up-beat tone, “but I WAS hoping that
the spirits here would see what we were trying to do and help us.”

“Well, kiss that idea goodbye,” Emily added dejectedly. “They just wanna watch us stumble
around and make fools of ourselves, at least Mary does anyway.”

“NO, no,” Nathan said with even more enthusiasm. “Emily don’t you see? They’ve helped
us already. They wouldn’t just do it openly . . . for anyone. It had to be done on THEIR terms, and
they did it.”

“Did what?” Emily asked with agonizing impatience.

“Helped us. They made contact with you,” Nathan went on.

“Yes, and YOU made contact with the ceiling, thanks to them!” Emily said fervently.

“But you see,” Nathan said, making an earnest and concerted effort to make Emily see his
point, “they would not have even made contact with you if deep down they didn’t want some kind
of help. You have to understand spiritual pride, Emily. They’re so full of hate and pent-up anger.
Remember, we’re talking about HUMAN spirits here. Spirits with feelings of pride and volition,
only multiplied about ten times. Emily, they wouldn’t open up to me when I was here three weeks
ago . . . and they wouldn’t open up to any of us as long as we were all together. They needed a
familiar and trusted person to breach the gap on honorable terms. You . . . you served as a . . .”

“Bridge?” Emily questioned in a moment of epiphany.

“Exactly,” Nathan replied, mentally complementing Emily on her deduction. “They may
not show themselves again, or draw arrows on the walls for us to follow, but they told and showed
you elements of this enigma that are CRUCIAL. Confirmation of Mary’s last name would have
been worth its weight in gold but . . . trust me Emily . . . you did well.”

Emily neither flinched nor blinked for the better part of a minute, as she took in Nathan’s
words of healing. Having been shaken to the very core by what she had seen and heard, it had never
actually dawned on her that she was even accomplishing anything, other than saving her own skin.
Yet, she could not fight Nathan’s logic. Yes, it would have been only too easy for these . . .
whatever they were . . . to snuff out her life in an instant had they chosen to, but they didn’t.

“Well I . . .” Emily fumbled amidst a light, resurgence of hope, “I guess all those years of
study really did pay off. Not really how I thought they would though. I never exactly envisioned
myself psychoanalyzing a ghost, or ghosts.”

“Yes, well,” Claire interjected with a smile, “you can bet that Henry will want a detailed
report of your methods once we’re through.”

“Another landmark,” Nathan began. “The very first supernatural therapy session.
Congrats.”
“That’s all fine and well Nate, but . . . now what?” Emily replied while trying to suppress a
severe onset of blushing.

Before Nathan could answer, the paneled wall to Emily left gave another deep rumble. She
and the others stood fast and braced themselves in preparation for an earthquake. For several
seconds the rumbling from behind the wall continued. Then, as though in answer to Emily’s
question, a small section of the paneling in the dead center of the room buckled and splintered as
several small fragments of brick and rock tumbled through it and out onto the floor.

“What in the . . . ?” Emily wondered aloud, as she turned and faced the breached wall.

“Ask and ye shall receive, Emily,” Nathan said, as if he somehow expected something like
this to happen. “I was just about to get around to asking you how Jameson and Braley managed to
walk right through a wall.”

“Well . . . they were ghosts,” Emily said, as she attempted to reassemble the scene in her
head. “I figured walking through walls was normal and . . . but . . . WHENEVER they were . . . then
they wouldn’t have been . . . they would have still been alive. They weren’t . . .”

“That’s right, they weren’t,” Nathan said with a wide, almost gleeful smile as he quickly
walked over to examine the splintered section of paneling. “PAT, get your light and come over
here; I need a hand.”

“Right,” Pat called out before retreating back to the stairs, grabbing a dark lantern and
rushing over to join Nathan, who was in the process of attempting to wrench the paneling loose.
“What is it?”

“I can’t tell yet,” Nathan said with a huff as he ripped one section of panel loose, “but I’ll bet
you two new laptops that there’s some kind of opening or recess back here.”
Nathan and Pat hurriedly tugged and pulled at the old strips of wood paneling, one-by-one
loosening them from their fastening nails and bolts. Emily and Claire slowly walked forward and
took their places directly behind them. Emily simply watched in bewilderment, whereas Claire
seemed to be attempting to hone in on some kind of mental, or spiritual signal. Her efforts did not
appear to be paying off.

“Anything Claire?” Emily asked in a hushed voice. “Any idea what’s back there?”

“Nothing, not even background voices,” Claire said in a near-whisper as she continued
adjusting her mental antenna. “I can feel residual energy directly ahead, but it’s clouded . . . like it’s
been masked. Something IS back there, but whatever it is has either moved on or been concealed
from my sight.”

“Is that possible?” Emily asked.

“It’s possible . . . but very unusual,” Claire said vaguely. “I suppose your spirits may still be
testing our intentions, but, if that were true, I should still be able to feel more than this. Regular
spiritual apparitions can’t normally deflect psychic energy without giving off even more vibrations.
It’s very strange.”

“You’re not doing a good job at instilling me with confidence here, Claire,” Emily teased
through her fears.

While Emily and Claire waited and watched, Pat and Nathan tore several more panels loose
from the wall. Little by little, the genesis of the rumbling began to emerge into the lamplight. From
what Emily could see, the wooden paneling had been placed up against another, much older wall,
one that seemed to better match up with the others in the room. It, too, looked to be made of
century’s old limestone, intermittently patched and resealed with brick and bits of concrete.

Something about the overall appearance of the newly exposed wall, however, did not look
quite right. The stone did look as old as that of the other three walls, yet its makeup and
configuration did not look as symmetrically accurate and exact. In addition, the caulking between
the stones and bricks was not nearly as neat, and was a much brighter shade of white. Once Nathan
and Pat had succeeded in removing enough of the panels, Emily was finally able to see why.

“Holy . . . !” Emily gasped, as she stared at the wall.

With its outer shell now removed, the unmistakable form of an ancient, arched doorway was
now clearly visible. Within the archway’s form, the laying of bricks and stones looked even
sloppier and haphazardly erected than its adjoining sections. Closer examination also revealed that
the entire stone wall behind the paneled facade had shifted from its foundation and partially
collapsed, allowing the loose bits within the arch to work loose from their fastening and breach the
flimsy paneling. In their wake, these fragments of brick and stone had left several gaping holes in
the doorway they were apparently meant to seal.

“Another door to nowhere?” Emily wondered aloud.

“Not a chance,” Nathan said with complete certainty. “Pat, I need a . . . eh . . . something
like a hammer or chisel or something.”

Pat did not answer, but simply shoved the palm of his hand against the loosened barricade
with a good deal of force. The blockade must have been erected in a big hurry, for no fewer than
four bricks and several hunks of rock gave way and fell into the room beyond. A faint, and stale
rush of air poured out of the breech.

“Or . . .” Nathan said in surprised response to Pat’s actions, “a pretty rushed job. Someone
was in a big hurry for someone not to see something.”

“Nate,” Emily called out from behind, “is it written in your job description that you always
have to talk in riddles?”

“Paragraph five, section ten,” Nathan teased before turning his attention back to the task at
hand. “Here, let’s clear the rest of it.”
Nathan and Pat tugged and shoved away at the remaining stones and bricks. Each time a
new section was torn open in the breech, another soft gust of stale air crept forward, indicating that
whatever lay beyond the rapidly-opening entryway must have been abandoned for quite some time.

After several more minutes of rough work, Nathan and Pat at last managed to break loose
the upper two-thirds of the obstruction. No light was visible within the room beyond, and thus
nothing else could be seen. For Emily’s part, she was not entirely sure that she even wanted to see .
. . whatever it might be.

“Let’s shed a little more light on the subject, Pat,” Nathan said as he wiped some sweat from
his bandaged brow. “Lantern.”

Pat picked up the lantern by its handle and passed it to Nathan, its transition of hands
causing everyone’s shadow to cast disfigured patterns along the walls. With a strong source of light
now firmly in hand, Nathan stepped forward, up onto the small pile of debris at the opening of the
archway, and slowly stretched out his right arm to the point that the lantern was well inside of the
mysterious room. All mouths dropped open in silent awe, once light was shown within the room’s
interior.

Howard Carter could not even have held a candle to this, so to speak. Beyond the
once-barred passageway, another room . . . only slightly smaller in length than the previous one . . .
glistened in the lantern’s flickering light. There was a great deal to be seen.

To the immediate left of the entryway sat an enormous and ornate wooden office desk with
an equally impressive high-back reclining chair still in place behind it. Though the walls of this new
room were made of the same kind of limestone common to the hospital, only a scant few sections of
it were visible. Virtually every inch of wall space, from behind the desk to the opposite side of the
room, was lined with either shelves, pictures, charts, bulletin boards, or were obscured by objects
placed . . . or perhaps more appropriately . . . stored, in front of them.

The area around the desk (which seemed to be the hub of the room, suggesting that its
original use had been that of a personal office) was strewn with all sorts of junk and commonplace
office supplies, though all of them looked like they came straight out of the Johnson administration.
A wastepaper basket, placed at the left side of the desk, was filled to the brim with bits and pieces of
paper . . . all of which looked to have been either shredded or burned prior to disposal.

However intriguing the desk and its long vacated work space were, they paled in
comparison to what lay against and near the wall directly opposite. As Nathan gently stooped and
made his way through the arched doorway and into the office, his lantern cast a better light upon
this side of the room. Its contents all looked like they had come straight from the set of a cheap,
1950s sci-fi/horror flick.

Emily was instantly able to recognize the grotesque size and shape of the antique
observation table placed unceremoniously near the room’s center, its leather straps and ankle
restraints still very much intact and in place. Next to it sat three oxygen tank-type containers, two
of which had hoses protruding from their valves leading to plastic breathing apparatuses.

Three wooden shelves lined the far end of the wall, and each level was adorned with some
sort of medical or scientific implements. Once she cautiously stepped into the room herself, Emily
was able to clearly make out three extensive racks of test tubes (some of which were not even
empty), two sets of Bunsen burners, no fewer than a dozen specimen jars (which fortunately WERE
empty) three large, metal microscopes, and other various and sundry items which gave the room a
very “Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde” feeling.

Not the least of which was an enormous, refrigerator-sized metal cabinet. Like the
blue-tinted machine in her flashback, it, too, had a set of large electrodes on top, from which spiders
had seen fit to string a seemingly impenetrable amount of webbing. A brass nameplate at the top
center of the machine read: Offner Model 520. Rochester N.Y. 1940

Several hours before, the sight of this gigantic machine would have sent Emily into a fit of
tears and screams. But now it simply kindled a burning desire in her stomach to once again
throttle Dr. Jameson’s grandfather until he cried “uncle.”

“Offner Model 520 . . . nice,” Pat said coolly as he, too, looked the machine over. “Perfect
for calming shattered nerves and making roast duck at the same time.”

“That’s not funny, Pat,” Emily replied, but with little real anger.

“These were recalled two years after they came out,” Pat continued. “Dr. Carletti nearly
went balmy when he heard how much voltage they put out. Someone’s amassed quite a nice little
collection here. This gem, two smaller models down there (Pat pointed to the bottom of the nearest
shelf where two smaller, metallic electroshock machines were perched) and I’m pretty sure that
straightjacket up on top, are as old as this room.”

Nathan held his lantern a bit higher and allowed its light to shine onto the top shelf. In
addition to a wadded up, dull, tan straightjacket, several more glass jars and odd-looking metallic
devices all set lined up in a row, as if they were all still awaiting further use. This very thought
caused Emily’s gut to do another one of its loop-de-loops.

“I wonder if . . .” Claire said softly to herself from back near the entryway. “Nate. Hold
still I’m gonna try this switch.”

CLICK-CLICK. Claire flipped two sets of switches built into the wall directly beside the
entryway. To everyone’s stunned amazement, four sets of double fluorescent lights overhead all
flickered to full life within seconds. For the first time in god only knew how long, the entire office
was now full of light, as well as the sound of dull humming, typical of older fluorescent tubes.

“Amazing!” Claire said as she stared up at the lights.

“They didn’t even bother to cut the wires or pull the tubes,” Nathan said to Pat,
matter-of-factly. “They MUST have been in a hurry.”
“What . . . are those things?!” Emily cried out as she turned and pointed toward the wall
opposite the doorway.

Prior to the additional illumination, this section of the room had remained virtually hidden
by the way the shadows had been falling, but now, three additional pieces of garish looking
equipment were visible. One of them looked like a giant, cast-iron bathtub - wrist and ankle straps
built into its rim - and two small, black hoses attached to its rusted taps. The other two items were
even more bizarre. They looked to be either cabinets or wardrobes of some kind, as they each had a
set of doors built into their frame at the front. The tops of the cabinets were flat, but in the dead
center of each of them, a hole, just large enough for a human head to fit through, was cut into the
woodwork.

Nathan slowly approached the three odd-looking items while Emily hung back and tried to
remain calm by resting her chin on her knuckles while crossing her arms . . . which resulted in little
more than even less oxygen flow. Nathan stooped down in front of one of the cabinet-type devices
and wiped a layer of dust away, exposing another brass nameplate.

“Fever cabinets, mid-1940's I’d say,” Nathan announced, “used to induce artificial malaria
in hospitals, and to sweat away ten pounds at Vic Tanny’s. This other thing is a hydro-therapy tub,
used to treat hysterics and calm nerves with body-temperature water-flow. This is a comparatively
more modern model, early ‘50's. All innocent enough for the times, Emily, though the fact that
they’re stored away in here is NOT quite so innocent.”

“Why so?” Emily asked as her nerves settled.

“Most of this . . . this . . . stuff, was out of use by 1960,” Nathan added as he continued to
look the tub over. “At least it was supposed to have been. The State Department of Health started
to scrutinize treatments a little more closely after 1957. Out-of-date little wonders, like these
pre-war cabinets, would have been removed and sold for scrap, and that Offner machine would
have been confiscated.”

“So . . . exactly what is . . . or was . . . this place?” Emily asked squeamishly as she
continued looking around.

“Well, my guess would be it started its life as just what the map said it was, a Medical
Supply Storage Room,” Nathan said, turning away from the fever cabinets and toward the office
desk, “and if this is the storage room, then the room next door was . . . ”

“That R.R. thing . . . right?’ Emily added.

“Right,” Nathan said, now walking toward the office desk. “Lower the supplies down from
the loading dock overhead and put them straight into storage. This entire space at one time must
have served a perfectly legitimate purpose, but along the way, someone found a creative,
re-adaptive use for . . . Claire!”
Claire, whose attention had been focused on a particularly large glass jar on one of the
shelves, turned sharply at the sound of Nathan’s raised and urgent voice. Nathan, having arrived at
the edge of the large, wooden desk, was standing directly in front of it and staring down at its
surface with apparent interest. In answer to his call, Claire left the shelves behind, dodged around
the observation table, and joined Nathan at the front of the desk. When she saw just what he was
looking down at, she had to close and reopen her eyes to make certain she was not seeing a residual
image.

“Can we possibly be that lucky, Claire?” Nathan asked with reserved hope.

Lying upon the very top of the table, on top of a jumbled mass of file folders, papers and
numerous pens and pencils, lay a book with a blue paper dust-jacket. Scribbled on the front cover of
the book were the words: Journal of M.E.C. 1939. Claire immediately placed all ten of her
fingertips upon the book’s surface and closed her eyes. Rather than ecstatic or thrilled, she instead
looked puzzled and quizzical, as though two and two were being added together and the end result
was five.

“Well?” Nathan asked calmly but with obvious hope.

“I . . . the paper is real and it’s full of mystery that’s for sure . . . but I don’t think . . .” Claire
said before pulling back the blue paper and revealing the surface of the book inside. “Oh, wow!”

The book within the paper cover was most certainly NOT a journal or diary of any kind,
though it was certain to be full of mystery. On the front, in gleaming gold letters were inscribed the
words: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. By A.C. Doyle. Nathan let out a dejected gasp at the
reading of the title. Claire, on the other hand, seemed to beam with joy and come to life.

“This is a first edition,” Claire said with reverence, as she took the book into her hands and
began flipping through its pages. “Perfect condition, ink drawings intact . . . but why? Why would
anyone want to wrap a first edition Sherlock Holmes with a journal’s dust-jacket?”

“A blind,” Pat said with all of his deductive reason. “The blue paper fit that particular book,
and it was used as a decoy. The doctors found IT, but not the real diary.”

“Or . . . maybe Mary just has an over-developed sense of humor,” Emily said from the
center of the room. “Like I said, she just wants to lead us down the garden path . . . then dump us
into the swamp.”

“No, no there’s more to it than that,” Claire said with her usual beyond-the-scope
knowledge. “There’s some other connection, but it’s too weak for me to get a fix on. Maybe
there’s something else somewhere in this room, Nate. It’s dim, but I can feel the presence of
something.”

Nathan gave another deep sigh before cracking his knuckles and arching his back.

“Fan out,” Nathan calmly ordered. “Look at, under, behind, and even inside anything and
everything. This room’s not huge. If there’s something here, we ought to be able to find it.”

Per Nathan’s order, Claire, Pat and Emily each headed in a different direction and
commenced an in-depth examination of the office and its strange contents. While Nathan remained
at the desk and proceeded to go over it inside and out, Pat made for the end of the room where the
hydro-therapy tub and fever cabinets sat. Claire returned to the rear of the room, where the
bookcases and shelves of various items made searching a slow and laborious task. Emily, to her
fervent relief, was left to examine the side of the room where the entryway was located. There, she
saw little more than a wooden table topped by a world globe, a small empty glass decanter and desk
lamp, and a1960's era mahogany entertainment center with a large green-glass ashtray on top. The
charred remnants of a large cigar still remained within its bowl.

“Harmless enough,” Emily said quietly as she ran her fingertips over the dust-covered
surface of the table.

For the next ten minutes, everyone gave their respective section of the room a complete
going-over. Claire thoroughly examined each and every object perched upon the various levels of
the shelves, going so far as to turn one of the electro-shock machines on its end, so as to read its
manufacturer’s stamp. Pat turned the fever cabinets inside out, and lifted up a grey, rubber sheet
from the top of the hydro-tub which allowed a black cat to escape into the light with a loud,
indignant “MEOW”.

“OK, that’s two black cats that have crossed my path , Nate,” Pat said, half-jokingly and
half-seriously.

“Just keep clear of mirrors now,” Nathan responded calmly, as he continued to sift through
the mountains of papers stacked upon the desk.

Emily’s section of the room yielded even less. A bulletin board attached to the stone wall
behind the wooden table did not offer much more information, other than it still thought it was
September 1965, that button-down collars, striped ties and blue cardigan sweaters were the “In”
look for the coming winter, and that the hospital’s annual harvest party was scheduled for the 29 th
rather than the 31st. Moving to the other side of the entryway, Emily carefully lifted the hinged top
of the entertainment center. Still, not much in the way of useful information. A Frank Sinatra record
remained on the turn-table, and the radio dial was set to AM, somewhere around station 980 - the
frequency of Weston’s local radio station since the beginning of time - WHAW. This, along with
a section of newspaper showing radio and TV listings, were the end result of Emily’s intensive
search.

“Sandoz Lab...Basel Switzerland, Sept. 9th, 1943,” Nathan said aloud as he held up an old,
yellowed document. “Pat, did you know that Albert Hoffman loved Wheeling Whiskey? Well,
we’ve got his autograph anyway.”

Nathan slid the desk drawer he had been examining shut in frustration. Thus far, most of the
documents and notes he had found revealed nothing either incriminating or insightful. Just
personnel reviews, cryptic inter-office memos regarding patients (none of whom were known or
thought to be involved in any way with the investigation), and at least a hundred personal request
forms for things like rubber-soled shoes, rayon lab coats, and run-of-the-mill medical supplies.

“They may have barricaded the doorway in a hurry, but they took their time in disposing of
anything concrete,” Nathan said to the others as he opened one of the bottom drawers of the desk.
“Once again, it looks like the good doctors have done a pretty good job of covering up their tracks.”

With little hope of a smoking gun turning up, Nathan pulled a small stack of papers and
manila folders out of the drawer, placed them on top of the desk and began flipping through the
dozens and dozens of documents.

“Receipts for new bedding, plumbing bill for three hundred dollars, closed circuit TV repair
bill . . . huh . . . one thousand dollars,” Nathan read aloud, more to break the silent monotony than to
actually take in the useless info. “Attendant’s rosters for 1963, ‘4 and ‘5; this is a bottomless pit.”

Nathan dropped the latest stack of papers onto the desk, sending up a small cloud of dust
and dirt, before reaching down into the drawer again to remove the final set of papers. This time,
however, as his hand took hold of the two remaining manila folders, something in the bottom of the
drawer shifted, and the folder tilted up and back, then slid to the rear of the drawer. Nathan’s
senses sharpened as he gave the drawer a much closer examination. This drawer, for some as yet
unknown reason, had a false wooden bottom, and Nathan was able to see several more sheets of
multi-colored paper beneath the small slit of wood used to hide them.

“Ho ho . . . what have we here?” Nathan chimed out, as he removed the small cache of
documents from their hiding place.

“You find something?” Pat called out from behind one of the fever cabinets, his face now
partially blackened with dust and dirt.

“I’ll know in a minute,” Nathan replied, carefully placing the papers down upon the desk.

All told, about 15 loose sheets of paper, and one thin, emerald-green file folder, had been
placed beneath the false, wooden insert. Nathan carefully leaned over the desk to see just what his
most recent find may yield in the way of information.

“Huh . . .” Nathan said quietly, as he flipped through the 15 loose documents, “this is
interesting. Most of these are dated August or September, 1965. They look like more personal
correspondence. This one’s even on stationary from the Camden Hotel, and it’s NOT a room
service bill. Further shipments impossible until danger has passed...all data sent to Warsaw must
be reclaimed or all may be lost...Petrov can no longer maintain contact with laboratory in Minsk as
all international calls will be recorded on bill once new system is installed...situation is very
volatile and is likely to remain so...experiments on previous levels may be hampered for a very long
period of time...local fail-safe connections failing...funds diverted to Federal Poverty Aid... Ah,
yes . . . now this is more like it. I think we’d better head back up and look these over under more
comfortable surroundings.”
“With pleasure,” Emily said with great relief, letting go of the ancient, wall-mounted lamp
she had been examining.

In response to Nathan’s order, Pat pulled himself away from his examination of the fever
cabinets and hydro-baths, and started back across the room to meet Nathan at the desk. Just as he
was nearing the edge of the examination table, where a small, partially rotted, red rug was laying,
his left foot suddenly sank several inches into the floor. Pat swayed, pitched sideways, and fell to
the ground, his foot having left a large indentation in the rug, which had apparently attempted to
swallow his left leg.

“Pat!” Nathan exclaimed loudly, jumping from behind the desk and rushing to Pat’s aid
along with Emily and Claire. “What happened? What was . . . . ?”

Nathan halted abruptly at the edge of the rug, his eyes lighting upon the unusually deep dent
Pat’s foot had left in it. Claire and Emily arrived at Pat’s side and stooped down to check his
condition. Nathan, on the other hand (though he, too, stooped down), instead directed all of his
attention to the rug.

“Nate,” Emily called to Nathan, obviously miffed at his apparent lack of concern for Pat’s
wellbeing, “never mind the damn rug, what about Pat?”

“Pat,” Nathan said distantly and with utter disinterest, “you still breathing?”

“Yeah,” Pat replied as he massaged a section of his thigh.

“Both eyes still working?” Nathan asked with the same disinterest.

“Yes,” Pat answered, his own attention shifting from his condition to whatever was drawing
Nathan’s attention.

“Then fix them both on this,” Nathan said with great emphasis as he flipped over the
molded red rug, revealing a large, tilted, metal grate.

Pat rose to a sitting position so that he could better see the hospital’s most recently
uncovered oddity. As Nathan looked down at the grate with super-concentrated attention, Claire
decided to leave Pat’s side for the moment and join Nathan in his examination. As she knelt down
beside him, however, a swift but powerful wave swept forth from somewhere, setting off Claire’s
mental sensors.

“Oh boy,” Claire gasped lightly, as the rush of energy went as quickly as it had come. “Nate
the . . . the residual vibrations are more than just strong and focused, they’re multi-layered. Just how
many I can’t tell, but I’d say 120-plus years would be right in the ballpark.”

“One hundred twenty years of background energy? “Pat said curiously, as he and Emily
slowly made their own way over to Claire and Nathan. “From a DRAIN?”
“I’m not feeling the rats, if that’s what you’re implying,” Claire retorted in her same
playfully combative mood as before.

“And I’m not feeling any condensation vapors,” Nathan chimed in as he held his hands out
over top of the metal grate. “No sewer fumes . . . no echoes of running water.”

Nathan did not waste another second. With both hands, he gripped the sides of the grate,
heaved upward with all of his remaining strength, and slid it back from its niche. Leaning forward
cautiously to try and make out something in the pitch black abyss the grate had been guarding, he
then raised his arm and motioned for Pat to retrieve the lantern from the end of the room he had
been searching.

Seconds later, Nathan adjusted the shade and mirror on the powerful electric lantern so as to
allow it to cast a very bright, piercing beam of light in one specific direction. To Emily, this seemed
a prudent course of action, as she personally, could also make out not thing-one within the vertical
shaft, beyond one or two feet down.

Once his readjustments to the arc-lantern were complete, Nathan slowly lowered it, beam
first, into the inky blackness of the newly uncovered shaft. Immediately, the unmistakable outlines
of hand grips, attached to the edges of the tunnel, loomed into view. It was still impossible to tell
just HOW far down the mysterious shaft went. Even when Nathan had lowered the powerful
lantern a full three feet down the shaft, no bottom or curvature of any kind could be seen.

“Is this another one of those R.R. things Nate?” Emily asked as she peered over the edge of
the opening and down into the abyss.

“I doubt it,” Nathan replied, pulling up the lantern as he did. “I can’t say for certain, but I’d
venture a guess that we’re looking at some kind of escape tunnel.”

“Escape to where exactly?’ Pat asked, all thoughts of his bruised thigh and ego now gone.
“There were no drains or anything of this sort on the maps we have, and I don’t see any wires or
pipes of any kind, not even gas portals.”

“Well,” Nathan replied, “those rungs look like they’re cast from nineteenth century steel
molds, so the thing’s probably been here about as long as this room. It may have had a legitimate
use at one time, it might not have, who knows. Just another little slice of pie to digest.”

“Personally, I’m not really hungry, anymore,” Emily quipped.

“Agreed,” Nathan replied. “I think we’ve got enough to chew on right at the moment. I
about half-expected to find something like this anyway. A Victorian asylum without secret
passages would be like a high-rise with no elevator.”

Nathan passed the lantern to Pat and then replaced the metal grate, making certain that it
went back into its recessed floor-niche more level than before. He also slid the partially
disintegrated red rug back over top of it as well. After a quick meeting in the center of the room,
where Claire assisted Pat in working a kink out of his left leg, Nathan gave a wave, and all four
began walking in single-file toward the arched doorway, with Nathan leading the way. He, Pat and
Claire ducked and side-stepped through the breached opening without trouble, but as Emily was
stooping and edging her way through, her right shoulder struck one of the loosened bricks along the
jam of the doorway, causing it to tumble to the debris-covered floor.

Momentarily stymied by the obstruction, Emily began re-situating her body for a smoother
pass-through, when several other items fell out of the wall and landed between Emily’s
precariously balanced feet. Having noticed the movement out of the corner of her eye, Emily
glanced down and saw a tightly rolled up envelope, along with two wadded-up pieces of paper, now
laying upon the small mound of rocks and bricks.

“What the . . .” Emily mumbled as she light-footed her way off of the debris mound.

“Emily, you OK?” Nathan called from several feet ahead.

“I don’t know,” Emily replied hesitantly, grappling with whether or not she should look
down again. “I knocked a brick loose and something else fell out.”

Nathan turned on the spot and walked back to where Emily was standing. Without even
paying her so much as a passing glance, Nathan immediately turned his attention to the three small
articles now laying on the rubble. Emily perceived a strange vibe of heightened curiosity, as Nathan
knelt down gently upon the debris, and took the three items into his hand. Throughout this entire
time, his eyes never wavered, nor did his attention veer from its guided course.

“I wonder . . .” Nathan murmured before motioning for Pat to join him and bring the lantern,
which he did, promptly.

“Wonder what?” Emily asked with great caution.

“I don’t . . . I don’t know Emily,” Nathan said, now sounding more deadly serious as he
carefully unrolled the envelope and removed three wrinkled sheets of paper. “Oh . . . oh . . .”

Nathan nearly toppled sideways as his attention shifted from his balance to whatever he was
reading. After regaining his equilibrium, he motioned Pat even closer so as to cast maximum
illumination upon the mysterious documents. As both Pat and Nathan each surveyed the papers
with looks of extreme angst, Emily began to grow steadily more and more impatient. She had
obviously unearthed something, and even though it was done by sheer accident, she was anxious to
see just what was causing Pat and Nathan to look as though death were ready to take them.

“OK, times up and the panel is clueless,” Emily interjected, breaking a very thick and tense
silence. “What is it?”

“The missing page from your father’s journal for starters,” Nathan said, though not with the
kind of enthusiasm Emily would have expected from such a discovery.
“Really!” Emily exclaimed, feeling a sudden rush of excitement.

“Yes,” Nathan replies in a deeply morose tone, “and it’s accompanied by a two-page . . .
confession.”

“A what?” Emily asked.

“Perhaps it would be best if we went over this upstairs,” Nathan added hurriedly as he took
a long step toward the door.”

“Oh, No!” Emily said forcefully, physically halting Nathan in his tracks, “how about we go
over it right here and now! If my father found something and felt the need to confess it, then I
wanna know just what it is! Now give!!!”

Emily held out her hand to Nathan and dawned a very demanding type of expression.
Nathan stood still, shot a very intense, meaningful glance at Pat, who gave a weak look of approval,
and finally handed the three sheets of papers over to Emily. Barely five seconds into the reading of
the first sheet Emily had already sunk to the floor, her expression now changed to one of horrified
disbelief. Claire, Nathan and Pat gently edged their way behind Emily, so that they could all read
what was written and gauge Emily’s response.

“No . . . no it . . . that’s not possible. It . . .” Emily choked out through forming tears.

“It’s not a death-nail to his character, Emily,” Pat said in a very calming voice.

“I . . . I know Pat . . . but . . . ” Emily whimpered before her tears got the better of her, and
she held the two pieces of paper up in the air, where they were quickly snatched up by Claire.

“Emily, may I?” Claire said kindly to Emily, who nodded her partially buried head.

“Pat, do you have your voice recorder?” Claire asked quietly to Pat, who promptly removed
a small, digital device from his pocket. “Turn it on. Ahem . . . To whom it may concern ... (Emily
clenched her body together in an even tighter, full-body hold) you may consider this a confessional
by me, William H Flesher on this day...September 18 th 1965. I hope and pray that whom-so-ever
finds these papers will have better luck at putting right a serious wrong than I have had. Though it
will never truly absolve me from my own sin of inaction...my enclosed journal entry, along with the
two other pieces of evidence I have managed to procure...I hope will in some small way atone for
my cowardice in the matter I am about to relate. During a routine re-fitting of copper wiring just
above this wall, a small section of loosened masonry gave way revealing an office space behind, the
existence of which I was ignorant of. However, the nature of what I stumbled onto was apparent. A
blind man could have seen it. Once it was known that I had uncovered the God-awful secret of these
rooms, I was told...by Dr. Jameson...that any mention of my discovery could and would place not
only MY life in danger, but that of my wife’s as well. He stopped just short of offering to kill me
himself. Not knowing just how serious a threat this was...I opted to take the coward’s way out and
play ball. My only action taken, that of re-acquiring my journal entry for the 16 th...which Dr.
Jameson saw fit to keep as a reminder of my compromised position...as well as lifting two letters
from the desk of the hidden office and hiding them within this wall, which I am deeply ashamed to
say I helped reconstruct and panel. (Claire flipped to the next page) I am ashamed and deeply sorry
for my lack of action. Were the situation better within my control then the truth would be known to
all. In my position however, I feel that I cannot chance the risk to my beloved wife should the
implied threats to our lives prove to be legitimate. My only hope as I write this...with a heavy heart
and a ruptured conscience...is that one day this confession and its accompanying documents be
found, and that proper justice be done to those who have for years stained this institution with their
evil and inhuman actions. Reader...if you are a soul of strong will and stout heart...then I beg you to
forgive me of my inexcusable sins and endeavor...in as much as you are able...to deliver these
documents into the hands of those who can help right this grievous wrong. W.L.F. Central W.V.
Power and Light, 9-18-65"

By the time Claire finished, Emily had curled her entire body into a very tight-knit ball of
seclusion. Her arms were wrapped around her locked knees with a grip of steel, inside of which, her
head had virtually disappeared from view. Even though her face was effectively hidden, her tears
and sobs emanating from within were less easy to hide. Claire handed the two sheets of paper to
Nathan, and then knelt down next to Emily, placing her arm around Emily’s neck with extreme
tenderness.

“Em, I know it’s not easy to digest something like this,” Claire said kindly. “All I can say
is that we have to put it into its proper perspective.”

“And just what perspective is that?” Emily quipped with some bitterness through her tears.
“My father buried his head in the sand right along with my mother . . . and myself. Mary was right,
it does run in the family.”

“And from what I’ve seen, so does enlightenment!” Claire said pointedly. “You came
around, your mother came around, and now your father has as well. However belated, his part has
now been played. And if you think for one second it’s an accident that YOU stumbled onto this,
then you might as well bury your head again.”

“On that note,” Nathan said suddenly, now scanning over the two documents which
accompanied William Flesher’s confession, “I hope you and your mother don’t mind being
one-upped.”

“What?” Emily said, raising her head up in a momentary return of interest. “What is it?”

“I think ‘solid gold’ would be a good description,” Nathan replied. “Trust me, your
father’s good name is secure. In fact, right now he would get my vote for SAINT! Emily, I know
you’re still pretty shaken, but we need to get back upstairs and process this stuff. We might just be
able to bottle things up by morning after all.”
Chapter 16
Double Betrayal

Emily contemplated the meaning of Nathan’s words all the way up the endless staircase she
had not-so-gracefully descended, and back into the upstairs hallway. From her own jumbled
perspective, none of what she was hearing made much sense, though she was steadily becoming
more and more accustomed to that. Her father’s actions of thirty-seven years prior were still
pervading her mind. Despite her best efforts to take Claire’s words at their obvious value, she still
could not shake loose a very profound feeling of guilt and shame.

“Emily, stop kicking yourself for something that you didn’t even do,” Claire said
soothingly, as she and Emily followed Pat and Nathan back down Ward A and toward the foyer.
“You can’t blame yourself for something that happened three years before you were born.”

“I know . . . I know,” Emily replied with frustrated agreement.

“Vindication will not be long in coming Emily,” Nathan announced from the point, as he
pushed open the door to the dividing room between Ward A and the foyer. “Once we run these
papers through the hopper, most of our ducks will be ready to fall. Then, we tie up one or two little
remaining threads, and I’d say that the hospital’s inhabitants will be more than able to sleep . . . ”

Nathan’s words trailed to nothing once he pulled open the door to the foyer. He halted dead
in his tracks, causing Pat, Claire and Emily, in that order, to gently bump into his back as they
attempted to continue. One by one, each of them edged either left or right in order to see past
Nathan and find out what had caused him, once again, to stop both mid-sentence and mid-stride.

“Oh…blast!,” Pat exclaimed as he looked into the foyer, pushed around Nathan, and rushed
toward the front table.

The source of Nathan’s sudden halt would have been apparent to a two-year-old. Though all
four of the tables comprising the hastily constructed Command Center were all still in place, the
items atop them were not. While still plugged into their respective ports and jacks, most of the
tethered items, like keypads and mousses, were either rolled up, tied in knots or (in the case of the
main keyboard) suspended from the archway above.

The system’s main monitor was turned squarely onto its side, making its visual readouts run
top to bottom rather than left to right. The main microphone overhead was looped double and tied
into a very intricate bow. Even the so called “black box” was not spared. Somehow, its long power
cable had been successfully wrapped four times around the top of the table it was placed under, and
the box itself, had been dragged several feet away from its original location and dropped inside the
sliding glass panel of the former reception room.

All told, at least 90% of the Command Center had fallen prey to some form of childish
playfulness. However, notwithstanding the mass of tangled cords and flip-flopped monitors,
nothing within the center appeared to have suffered any real damage. Nothing was smashed or
mangled, the connecting cords were tied into knots, but they were all still intact, as well as plugged
in. The system’s printer may have been sitting on top of its paper tray, but it, too, appeared to be
fully functional, as well as recently used.

Sticking out from the rollers of the large, ink-jet type printer, a single sheet of plain white
paper dangled down over the edge of the table, and flapped gently in the draft created by the
opening of the door to Ward A. Claire’s eyes caught sight of the peculiar spectacle first, and she
immediately dashed forward to investigate.

Claire gently slid the single sheet of paper from the printer, and held it in her hands for
several seconds, while she attempted to ascertain if anything about its presence could be learned by
psychic interpretation. This piece of paper, however, seemed willing to reveal its secrets only in the
old fashioned way - printed type. In a very child-like font, the words on this sheet of paper read:

Just letting you know that we are still here...watching and listening. Mary C.

“Well, nice to know we’re not alone,” Claire said, loud enough for all to hear, “and that our
hosts are not wanting for a sense of humor.”

“Why . . . why do playful spirits always enjoy taking out their frustrations on the
technicians?” Pat wondered loudly while beginning to untangle the main keyboard cable. “I mean .
. . is it some kind of obsessive, other-worldly hatred of technology?”

“No, it’s just that a geek is a geek in this world, as well as the next,” Claire joked.

“Cute . . . very cute,” Pat replied, wholly unimpressed at Claire’s wit. “Emily, I thought you
said these spirits promised to stop getting in our way?”

“They did . . . but you seemed quicker to believe them than I was, so don’t hang this on me,”
Emily said defensively. “I still don’t trust them. I don’t know if I trust anyone OR anything
anymore.”

“Pat,” Nathan jumped in quickly, eager to cut Emily’s emotionally-charged rant short in a
hurry, “is everything still hooked up and running?”

“Well yeah, but . . .” Pat replied dejectedly.

“Then un-jumble this mess and get it set for a wireless file transfer,” Nathan ordered calmly.
“Burn the black box’s data to the Central Unit, ready the scanner, and line the transmitter up with
our western satellite.”

“Yes sir,” Pat replied again with equal dejection.

“And don’t call me sir again, or I’ll tell Emily about the Portland case,” Nathan added with
levity, in order to ease the tension of his direct order.

Nathan dodged around the side table, walked up to Pat, and gave him a friendly nudge in the
shoulder. Pat, who continued unraveling the keyboard’s cable simply nodded and tilted his head
from side to side as if to say “Yeah, yeah . . . fine and dandy for you”. Paying little mind to this,
Nathan again edged his way out of the middle of the Command Center and started walking back to
the junction point in the center of the foyer. Emily, now standing just outside of the door leading to
Ward A, tapped Nathan’s arm as he walked by and motioned for him to stop.

“Portland?” Emily asked, her emotions shifting to neutral for the moment.

Nathan could not help but crack a smile. He held one finger up in the air to secure Emily’s
attention, and then pointed it back toward the Command Center and at a pair of large,
noise-reduction headphones lying on the table nearest them. Emily shrugged her shoulders and held
up her own hands to show that she still had no clue what Nathan was driving at. Nathan, in turn,
pointed at Pat, clamped both of his hands over his ears, silently mimicked rapid speech with his
lips, and then replaced his hands over his ears. Following another smile, Nathan abruptly pulled his
hands away from each of his ears as if to signify an explosion, boisterously mouthed the word
BOOM, then mimicked the end result by rolling his eyes, swaying his head from side to side and
wavering to and fro.

Unable to resist the urge, Emily herself cracked a silent smile, held her own hands up to her
ears and pointed over to Pat. Nathan nodded comically in the affirmative and then gripped his left
earlobe, gesturing a nearly total loss of hearing. Emily laughed silently before mouthing “how
long”, to which Nathan mouthed back “one month”, while again holding up a single finger.

“Are you talking about me over there, Nate?” Pat asked without even looking up.

“How can he be talking about you when he’s not even talking?” Claire joked from the
center of the foyer.

“Sure, I wondered the same thing about YOU all through school,” Pat replied cynically,
apparently fully cognizant of Nathan’s silent retelling of his past.

“Alright, OK, back to our jobs now people.” Nathan ordered, with only partly convincing
authority, before retrieving his cellular phone from the nearby table and dialing. “Hope to heck he
hasn’t gone to . . . Henry! Yes . . . I’m still alive . . . we all are, just a few bumps and bruises. Right
. . . to skin and ego, right.”

As Nathan talked into the small, black cell phone, he seemed to partially zone-out and
become nearly oblivious to anyone’s presence other than his own and Pat’s. Every now and then, he
gestured with his hand at one item or another within the Command Center, once accidentally hitting
Pat in the ear as he was re-rigging the printer’s connecting cables, or simply into thin air.

“Listen, tie your line in with the research department there and in Charleston,” Nathan
continued. “We’ve gotta scan a few documents first, but Pat’ll be transmitting all of our data in a
few minutes. Also, I’ve got some more names and dates I need crunched beforehand. Very. No.
No, not at the moment. For the time being I think we’ve managed a temporary truce, and don’t
bother to ask how, because I don’t have two hours to explain. Mike? Hey. It’s Mary Elizabeth
Courtney. One hundred percent and you were right about Jameson’s family history, as well as
Braley’s grandfather. OK now, pull up whatever records you can for 1939 and cross-index them
with Swiss and Austrian records for the same period. What was that Henry? Lysergic Acid, or an
early form of it anyway. Also, Sandoz Chemical shipping records from . . .”

Nathan’s words fell to the back of Emily’s mind. Her spirits once again balanced and her
mind on the slow rebound, she felt no desire whatsoever to retard the process by attempting to make
sense out of Nathan’s words. Wanting to exit the scene as quickly as possible, Emily turned toward
the rear of the foyer, with every intention of retreating to one of the back rooms and giving her mind
and body a well-deserved rest, only to come face-to-face with Claire, who had managed to cross the
room and close in on her position in the exact same fashion.

Claire, undoubtedly aware of Emily’s intentions, tilted her own head toward the rear of the
foyer, to which Emily gratefully responded with an eager nod. Seconds later, their movements
having not even been noticed in the slightest, Emily and Claire found themselves standing in front
of the double doors, which lead out of the foyer and toward the auxiliary kitchen out back. As they
stared through the filth-encrusted windows of the long-sealed fire doors, Emily noticed that every
so often, the sky outside lit up in a silent display of lightning, signaling the imminent arrival of
rough weather.

“I guess it’s also written that any ghost hunt has to be accompanied by a thunderstorm,
huh?” Emily asked placidly a she continued to gaze up through the window.

“I think that’s in article four, section . . .” Claire began.

“I get it, I get it,” Emily quipped back.

“Feeling better?” Claire asked thoughtfully.

“I think so,” Emily replied. “My roller coaster at least feels like it’s on an up-swing right
now. I can’t exactly say I’m thrilled about what I just learned, but . . . well . . . no need to cry about
it. I guess history really does have a nice, morbid way of repeating itself?”

“Emily,” Claire said in a friendly, yet slightly impatient, manner, “the son, or daughter,
shall not bear the inequity of the father.”

“Sherlock Holmes?” Emily asked.

“No, Ed Murrow, though I think he borrowed it from Shakespeare,” Claire replied.

“I’ve been thinking of that part about life being nothing but a walking shadow,” Emily
sighed, her breath slightly fogging the windowpane. “Maybe this really is nothing more than some
tale told by an idiot.”

“I’m afraid not,” Claire said.


“Damn it, who in the hell taught ghosts how to tie a sheep-shank knot?” Pat blurted out from
the Command Center, a particularly massive knot of cables increasing his mounting frustration.

Both Claire and Emily smiled and giggled at hearing this. Claire retained her glint of
serenity and amusement even longer, however, prompting Emily to cast a curious glance of her
own toward Claire.

“Still in his element, at least,” Emily said calmly. “He’s a good egg, isn’t he Claire?”

“Yes,” Claire agreed whole-heartedly, “underneath that academic facade is a very dedicated
and capable person.”

“Dedicated to whom?” Emily asked with tease and intrigue.

“To . . . now what is that supposed to mean, Em?” Claire asked with a bright smile.

“Come on now, you may be able to read my mind like a book, but I can read your feelings
on your sleeve equally as well,” Emily replied with the full confidence of a therapist who had just
made a certain diagnosis. “I never had a brother, so the only people I ever bickered with, the way
you do with Pat, were my beaus.”

Claire grinned begrudgingly, and allowed her forehead to slump forward against the
continually fogging glass of the rear window. Though her view was obscured due to the angle,
Emily was clearly able to read the expression now playing out on Claire’s face. It was one of glee,
reflection and slight embarrassment, all rolled up into a sight that could only be described as “cute.”

“I don’t think I would even be here today, were it not for Pat,” Claire said with a deeply
reflective exhale.

“Did he save your life on a mission or something?” Emily inquired discreetly.

“Not on a mission, no, much, much earlier, and far less conventional,” Claire continued.
“Now, get the idea that he ‘rushed in where angels feared to tread’ and rescued me from the arms of
some vindictive spirit or something, out of your head. No, it was . . . deeper than that . . . much
deeper.”

“Well,” Emily, the ‘therapist first’, replied in a friendly yet inquisitive way, “we don’t
appear to be going anywhere in a hurry. I’ve poured my heart out to you enough times in the last
week...high time we traded places, wouldn’t you say?”

“Wouldn’t that constitute ‘comparing baggage’?” Claire jokingly stalled.

“We’ll live with it,” Emily said without missing a beat.

“I don’t know, no couch or anything?’ Claire teased. “I might not be able to keep my facts
straight unless I’m reclined.”
‘Try,” Emily kidded right back.

“Emily, I’m sure by now you know something about what it’s like growing up with an
extra-developed sense of observation.” Claire responded, initiating her story on as level a playing
field as she could.

“Do I ever,” Emily agreed. “Nearly every guy I dated wondered when I was going to start
psychoanalyzing him and asking him to tell me about his mother.”

“Exactly,” Claire went on, her voice fading back in time along with her mind. “I was born
with this little ‘gift’ of mine, Emily, but like . . . well . . . everything else, it didn’t start to fully
mature until I did. VERY rotten timing.”

“Oh my,” Emily replied, the full measure of Claire’s words registering instantly.

“Oh my head, I kept thinking,” Claire continued. “Clairvoyance and a social life go
together about as well as nitro and glycerin. And if that weren’t bad enough, I wasn’t able to fully
control it for the longest time. Heh, I think I spent the better part of my teens distrusting everyone I
came in contact with. Oh god, it made any kind of relationship virtually impossible. On the rare
occasion I was actually able to get a guy to talk with me, I’d pick up on him wondering something
like ‘what it would be like to kiss me?’ Then, I’d panic, kick him in a very vulnerable spot, and
storm away. It seemed like I was picking up negative vibes off of every guy I talked to, except for
Pat.

“Never?” Emily asked with great surprise.

“Not even once,” Claire said, sounding more human and open than Emily could remember.
“You know we both grew up in Fall River? Well, your little joke about falling in a river was rather
apropos. One night, early on, it got so bad that I ran down to the edge of the falls and contemplated
taking a nice, LONG, dip to make my troubles go away. Pat tailed me and talked me back from the
brink. That night he swore he’d be there for me from then on. And so it went. I’d have an . . .
incident, I’d run straight to Pat. I did so much crying on his shoulder it’s a wonder he was ever able
to keep dry. He was more than just a friend Emily, he was my emotional crutch for at least five
years.”

“And he never ever thought about . . . you know?” Emily nudged.

“I don’t think so,” Claire reminisced. “Neither of us had any other real friends, him being
the vice-president of the AV club and me spending most of my time in and out of the school’s clinic
with terminal sniffles. About the only free time we ever had, we spent with each other.”

“Claire, I think that defies about every written account of male/female interaction,” Emily
said with some good-natured jest.

“I never thought about it like that Em,” Claire calmly corrected. “When I was with Pat, I felt
safe and accepted. Oh, we did all the usual boy/girl routines; dances, football games . . . just for the
sake of appearances. I suppose you might call it love, of a sort. And ever since then we’ve never
been apart. All through college and right up to the time we joined the N.A.A.P.I.”

“OK, OK,” Emily interjected, failing to fully believe Claire’s hopelessly-innocent life
story. “But . . . what about now? Still just friends?”

“Well,” Claire said with a slowly widening grin, “you never know. In our own way, Emily,
we already . . . love . . . each other. But whether or not that ‘love’ fits the conventional definition is
a different story. I make it a rule to avoid probing into the ‘personal ‘emotions of co-workers, but
once in a while I think I feel a little something. Of course, he could just be scared to death that I’ll
refuse to help him reprogram his stereo the next time the power goes out.”

“Oh sure, sure,” Emily exclaimed with humorous disbelief. “You don’t fool me for a
minute, CV, not one minute. I’d be willing to bet two month’s pay that if anything untoward ever
happened to Pat, you would cry your eyes out for a week and spend the rest of your life wondering
. . . ‘what if . . . what if?’ Just take a step and admit it, Claire, you love him.”

“I thought I already did?” Claire replied, playfully dodging around the question.

“That was NOT a confession Claire,” Emily replied, prodding Claire in the stomach to drive
home her point. “That’s like me admitting that I love my grandfather. Now come on, just say it,
I…”

“I think we’re ready, Claire,” Nathan called out from the center of the foyer.

“Hmm . . . the stars just aren’t in your favor tonight, Emily,” Claire said with a triumphant
flip of her short hair. “Coming Nate!”

Emily smirked and snickered to herself all the way back to the Command Center. In her
own mind, she was more than certain of Claire’s true feelings, but also very aware of her desire to
keep them on the Q.T. for the time being. Feeling that this impromptu conversation might just as
well fall within the parameters of doctor-patient privilege, Emily silently swore to herself that she
would honor Claire’s wishes and keep her knowledge of the subject to herself. Also, she honestly
could not think of a worse time or place to try and kindle a smoldering romance. The hospital may
have been many things to Emily, but there were also many things it was NOT, and it most certainly
was NOT a romantic setting.

“It’s all in the eye of the beholder, Emily,” Claire said with a totally unreadable tone, having
once again read Emily’s mind without her knowing it.

“Now cut that out,” Emily shot back with a giggle. “I’ve beheld it longer than you have, so
just trust me.”

“Trust you on what, Em?” Nathan asked blankly, letting his cell phone slip back onto his
shoulder as he spoke.
“Nothing, nothing,” Emily said, eager to put the issue to rest before she dug an even deeper
hole for herself. “Just a little inside joke.”

“OK?” Nathan replied with absolutely no idea what Emily was alluding to. “No, no Mike
not you OK, I was OK’ing Emily. I don’t know Mike, girl-talk I guess. Well, how I should know,
I’m not a girl. Let’s get back to issues here. I’m gonna put you on speaker and I want you to tell the
rest of my team everything you told me so we can all be on the same page. (Nathan laid the phone
down on the table and switched on its external speaker) Go ahead.”

“Good morning Claire, Dr. Flesher,” Mike’s voice said as it came through the cell phone’s
speaker and echoed throughout the foyer. “Dr. Flesher, my thanks to you and your family for
helping to make my job a little easier this morning. The documents they saved have all but allowed
us to wrap this case up with a nice red bow on top. Simply put, all of our original theories were right
on the money. Nate, the papers you just sent me, along with records we had already perused, have
proven the presence of unauthorized medical testing almost beyond the shadow of any doubt.
What’s more, one of the papers Dr. Flesher’s father preserved for posterity, shows that these tests
were carried out, at various times, under the cloak of what was known as the Brotherhood for
Progressive Psychiatric Advancement, an organization formed around 1885 by a collection of east
coast physicians, for the purpose of administering, documenting and sharing data from new or
untested methods of treatment. Weston Hospital physicians were among the most active and
outspoken members of this little fraternity. Officially, the organization was supposed to have been
dissolved in 1925 by the A.M.A. due to ‘questionable procedures’, but we now know that it
continued on, in a clandestine fashion, until only a few years ago. Several courts in both the U.S.
and Canada are still hearing malpractice cases against former members. These documents give us
names and dates and are all very damning . . . but, still not entirely water-tight.”

“A clever counsel would ‘tear it to rags’,” Claire chimed in, once again utilizing a published
quote to sum up the situation.

“‘Silver Blaze’ was always one of my favorites, too, Claire,” Mike said, apparently well
accustomed to Claire’s little fancy. “And you’re quite correct. Nathan, Henry, Isaac, Archie, and I,
still feel that the only way to terminate the paranormal activities there is to find Mary Courtney’s
diary. Hopefully, with that, we can match up the names, dates and methods, compile a conclusive
report, and make the information public. Isaac feels THAT should adequately vindicate the spirits
of anyone who died as a result, and thus, bring an end to the haunting. So, suspend all of your
paranormal research and focus all of your efforts on finding that diary.”

“Simple as that, huh?” Emily waxed pessimistically. “Search twenty acres of floor space by
first light?”

“Yes,” Nathan replied as though the answer should have been obvious. “Mike, thank you,
and the rest of the research team. I’ll see you back in Ottawa.”

“Good luck, Nate,” Mike said before Nathan scooped up the phone and shut it off.
“Holy cow!” Emily blurted out, fully aware that the task laying ahead of them was nothing
short of monumental. “Let me make sure I have all this straight: An entire secret society of quack
doctors, 100 years of violating the Hippocratic Oath . . . and WE have to find that diary within the
next four hours, or else they all get away with it?”

“That’s it,” Nathan replied.

“That’s NUTS,” Emily said, throwing her arms into the air to accentuate her feelings of
futility. “Just where do we start this needle-in-a-haystack search?”

“Room 312,” Nathan said, still calm and as unruffled as ever.

Emily could not believe her ears. Aside from wanting to revisit that room about as much as
she wanted to visit the inside of a tomb, she also failed to see how or why the diary could have
ended up back there. After all, Diane had found it there, and moved it to keep it secret. She certainly
would not have brought it back to its original hiding place, and even if she did, it seemed to Emily
to be the first place Jameson or Braley would have looked, once they learned of its existence.

“What?” Emily said to Nate, wondering if his own senses had begun to fail him. “Nate, I . .
. I don’t see why. I’d think that would be the last place it would be.”

“Perhaps,” Nathan said nonchalantly, “but when following a cold trail, it’s always best to
start at the beginning. Room 312 is the last KNOWN place the diary was hidden. Even if it isn’t
there now, maybe we can at least pick up its trail somehow. I know it’s a long-shot, but at least it’s
a starting point. Pat, lock all of those documents up in case seven, then reset the tracking system and
tune in the mics on the third floor. If we don’t SEE anything, maybe we’ll at least be able to hear
something.”

“Check,” Pat replied, and then once again began tinkering with the myriad of electronic
gadgets spread out around the tables.

“Nate,” Emily said with a calm yet disapproving tone, “I think this is just another fool’s
errand. Call it female intuition or whatever, but I can tell you, it’s NOT going to be there.”

“Well,” Nate said, still sounding totally un-phased, “there’s only one way to be sure.”

Nathan grinned lightly and then pointed his right index finger straight up in the air,
indicating to all that their next stop lay directly overhead. Emily did not share in Nathan’s
optimism, and returned his grin with another of her disbelieving scowls. However, she may as well
have been protesting to the walls themselves.

Though climbing the winding staircase was definitely easier for Emily this go-round, the
time spent in doing so did absolutely nothing to dissuade her feelings that all that was being
accomplished by heading to Room 312 was a needless waste of time. Throughout the entire
two-story trek, with the creeks and cracks of the stairs ringing in her ears, Emily never wavered in
this conviction. Perhaps it was merely a result of her deep desire to avoid returning to a room which
held so many painful memories, or, perhaps she was actually becoming more and more caught up in
the “case” than she had realized. Or . . . and this was a BIG or . . . perhaps some unseen force
within either her head, or the hospital’s walls, was trying to sub-consciously warn her against it.

Whatever the reason, even when she found herself once again trudging down the third floor
hallway towards the room in question, Emily was still unable to shake the nagging intuition that this
trip may actually be a dangerous waste of time.

“This is not right Claire, I know it, something is not right,” Emily said firmly while she,
Claire, Pat and Nathan walked slowly down the third floor hallway. “I can’t explain how, but I just
KNOW we should not be up here.”

“I feel it, too,” Claire said quietly so that Nathan, walking several feet ahead of them, would
not hear.

“So then, why in the HELL are we still walking?” Emily asked hotly.

“Nathan’s right, we . . . we have to start somewhere,” Claire said, though with far less
enthusiasm.

“I think Nathan needs a reality check, Claire,” Emily replied with conviction. “It makes no
sense to me whatsoever to go somewhere we know for certain is a dead end. Mary said that she and
her cohorts would give us until dawn to solve this thing, and I can’t see how wasting time like this
is going to . . .”

Claire quickly raised her right hand to her neck and made a slashing movement with it, in
order to cut Emily short. Reason being, they had just arrived at the door to Room 312. Though the
paint had begun to chip and peel in a few spots, it looked to Emily very much as it did in 1992. The
brass bolt was still in place, although unlatched; the brass doorknob actually looked to have
retained some of its shine, and even the small chalkboard was still in place, as was the smeared
name of the room’s last occupant: Diane Yost, 16.

Emily choked and fought back the powerful urge to cry as she stared down at the door, and
at the board which still bore Diane’s full name in blurry, pink chalk. Far from boosting her spirits,
this most recent ‘blast-from-the-past’ only reinforced Emily’s certainty that they should NOT be
here.

“Nathan,” Emily said with forceful respect. “I know, (gulp) I know I’m only an advisor and
I’m not supposed to interfere in matters like this . . . but you have got to listen to me. This is
WRONG! I don’t know how and don’t know why, but I just know it. We should not be up here!”

“Emily,” Nathan said, actually with a hint of a laugh. “I think you and Claire have been
bonding too much. Don’t worry, we’ll try to pick up a trail, and if we can’t, we’ll move on. Now I
know you have more than a few good reasons to want to avoid this room but . . .”

“Nate,” Emily pleaded. “That is not it! Heaven help me I have no idea how, but I’ve made
peace with that for the moment. Something else is telling me that we are in the WRONG place . . .
and at the WRONG time.”

A crash of thunder and lightning momentarily lit up the dilapidated hallway, and actually
caused the floorboards beneath Emily’s feet to shutter. Nathan, who had begun to reach for the
doorknob, halted mid-stretch and looked up toward the ceiling, with a funny sort of expression
Emily had never seen before. Though she could not be certain, for an instant she thought she heard
him utter the word “no” as if attempting to convince himself that something was not so. However,
after shaking his head and refocusing his attention, Nathan took the doorknob in hand, opened the
door without the slightest pause, and stepped inside.

“Won’t even take hints from HIGHER powers,” Emily mumbled, in a disgruntled way, as
she shook her head, held one hand toward the heavens, and followed Nathan inside.

Just as was the case with the door and chalkboard, the room looked as though it had been
neither touched nor visited since Diane had vacated it, prematurely, in 1992. Like the rest of the
hospital, the room did not appear to be adjusting well to the passage of time. Two panes of glass
were missing from the windows at the front of the room, thus allowing the cool, damp, early
morning air to flow in freely, and the walls were actually “bleeding” paint and paper due to several
leaks in the ceiling overhead. What had once been a gorgeous, two-toned blue wall, was now an
aging eyesore with a cascade of surrealistic colors fanning out from the ceiling to the floor like a
gigantic, multi-colored waterfall.

Despite the room’s less-than-willing slide into the 21st century, nothing else within it
seemed the slightest bit unusual. More importantly, a rapid survey of the room’s interior told
Emily that she had indeed been correct. Though the baseboard remained ajar, protruding into the
room in the same disjointed bend as before, there was, in fact, no diary in sight, inside or out.

“Well,” Emily blurted out in a desperate attempt at hurrying things along, “no diary. Guess
female intuition counts for something after all, eh? Now let’s clear out of here before we get hit by
lightning.”

“Slow down, Em,” Nathan said as he headed toward the now infamous baseboard. “Haste
makes waste and I don’t want to pass something over by rushing.”

Claire and Pat filed cautiously into the room just as Nathan stooped down in front of the
baseboard and ran his finger along the surface of its top. Other than a thick coating of dust, Nathan
did not seem to have found anything. He then continued his slow examination of the area by
reaching his arm inside of the small recess, which the oak boards had covered at one point.

“Claire,” Nathan said, while feeling around inside the wall, “can you feel anything? Any
spiritual residue or anything?”

“I feel something, Nate . . . but, not the diary,” Claire said hesitantly.

“Well, what then?” Nate asked with some impatience, as he removed his hand from the hole
in the wall.

“I feel that we should move on,” Claire said in a daring tone. “Nate, this isn’t like you. If
you won’t listen to Emily, then at least listen to me. We need to get out of here before . . . ”

CRASH . . . BANG. Two very sudden and very loud sounds echoed up through the small,
well-covered, ventilation duct in the floor beside Diane’s former bed. Nathan jumped to his feet
reeling backward, and nearly stumbling into Emily. Before he even had a chance to fully regain his
balance, another loud CRASH reverberated up through the vent. Emily, Claire, Pat and Nathan all
froze and stared at one another, each now in varying stages of shock, fear and confusion.

It sounded to Emily like someone was tossing furniture around on one of the floors below,
and doing a very good job of destroying it in the process. CRASH! . . . BANG! Emily jolted and her
breathing increased tenfold; she was now certain that any minute now, another one of the ghost orbs
was going to fly up through the floor and swallow her whole for not heeding its warning. CRASH.
Emily’s breathing stopped completely, as the lights within the small room flickered for a few
seconds, and then went totally out, along with the lights in the hallway.

“Uh huh, yup,” Emily said with quiet disgust, as though she had expected nothing less, “and
just where WAS Emily when the lights went out? In the bloody dark!”

For the next five or so minutes, Emily and the others carefully crept and felt their way back
out into the hallway; their path lit only by the dim, greenish glow of the perimeter lights streaming
in through the windows of the eastern-facing rooms. While Emily remained incensed and Pat and
Claire each took care to not let go of one another’s hand, Nathan was left nothing short of
flabbergasted.

Another five minutes of nerve and anger-resting, then found Nathan standing in front of a
wide-open, very old, circuit breaker box, with a lighter in one hand, and his cell phone in the other.
Pat stood at his side, ready to render assistance. Emily and Claire sat against the wall directly
opposite them, huddled closely together.

“I don’t KNOW what it was,” Nathan said agitatedly into his cell phone. “One minute it’s
quiet, then we hear crashes from downstairs. The next thing I know, we’re all as much in the dark
as you are.”

“Cute Mr. Riley, very cute,” said the voice of Sheriff Camden on the other end of Nathan’s
phone.

“Thank you, I try,” Nathan replied with even greater agitation. “Now tell me, did you see or
hear anything?”

“Flickering lights down on one section, then the whole north end went out,” Sheriff Camden
said formally. “The outside lights are still up, so are the ones on the south end and back in the
Medical Center. My man at the north gate says the one light at the laundry is up, and that’s it for that
end.”
“Well that’s certainly reassuring,” Nathan added with a huff. “Now do you think you can
help me get the lights in MY section back up?”

“Look, I already told you,” Sheriff Camden said, “I checked with the power company and
this grid’s still hot. Whatever happened, happened on-site, and I fancy you know a damn site more
about the wiring in this old place than I do. I’m sorry. If I see or hear anything, do you want me to
break phone silence and let you know?”

“Ah . . .” Nathan said as he considered the question amidst his increasing ire, “no, no
maintain phone silence unless another section goes black.”

“You figure we can chalk this up to . . . ah . . .” Sheriff Camden prodded gently, doing his
best to avoid the use of the word ‘ghost’ over the open channel.

“Again, I don’t know,” Nathan replied.

“Nate, flip the bottom three switches over, then reset them,” Pat said after consulting the
barely discernable diagram on the circuit breaker’s metal door.

“I’ll get back to you, Riley out,” Nathan said into his phone before shutting it off and
following Pat’s orders.

The flipping and resetting of the switches did nothing, aside from prompting Nate to bang
his already injured head against the wall beside the breaker box. He then brought his lighter back up
to reexamine the long, vertical row of switches, and was in the process of brushing a layer of dust
from the top row of switches, when the fluorescent lights overhead suddenly began to hum and
flicker back to life. Nathan jerked back from the box, burnt his right thumb on the flame of his
lighter, and looked up at the lights with extreme confusion.

“What? What did I do?” Nathan asked hurriedly, himself rattled by the sudden resurgence
of power.

“Nothing,” Pat said blankly and with equal confusion. “Nothing that should have made any
difference anyway. Maybe it was just a brown out . . . that just . . . happened to coincide with a little
poltergeist activity.”

“I doubt that,” Nathan said, as he motioned for Claire and Emily to get up and follow him.

“I hate to say I told you so, Nate, but . . .” Emily chided as she and Claire struggled to their
feet, each still very reluctant to let go of the other.

“Then don’t,” Nathan replied brusquely, as he began to quick-step back down the hallway
toward the center section.

“Nathan,” Claire cried out, “will you please get a grip and slow down!”
“I don’t have time to slow down, Claire,” Nathan called back waving frantically for all of
them to follow him, and fast. “Something’s not adding up here and I wanna find out why!”

Claire and Emily each huffed in frustration as they, along with Pat, sprinted down the
hallway after Nate. Due to his large head start, the three of them did not catch up with him until he
was halfway down the final set of stairs leading back into the foyer. Without hesitation, Emily
reached out and grabbed Nathan by the cuff of his period shirt, and forced him to stop.

Not very pleased at Emily’s hindrance, Nathan reluctantly stopped and turned to face her.
For her own part, however, Emily, at this point, did not care all that much about further bruising
Nathan’s ego or breaking N.A.A.P.I. protocol. For the moment, her chief concern was figuring out
what had sent him into orbit, and how best to bring him back down.

“What?” Nathan said hurriedly to Emily.

“Look, Nate,” Emily said with tactful force, “I don’t know what has set you off all of a
sudden, but as an advisor to this investigation, I am officially ADVISING you to stop and listen to
me. Now I’m sure you know that old saying about fools rushing in where . . .”

“Angels fear to tread,” Nathan impatiently finished Emily’s sentence. “Yes Emily, I know
the entire song verbatim, Claire taught it to me. But I don’t have time for prudence and looking
before I leap right now. I also don’t have time to stand here and explain. Just trust me, something is
wrong.”

“You don’t have to convince me of that partner, I can tell something is wrong,” Emily fired
back as Nathan broke free and quickly trotted down the last few steps. “Something is wrong with
YOU my friend, and I am not going to go one step further until I find out . . . oh my…!”

Emily and Nathan each stopped simultaneously at the bottom of the stairs, and each of them
dropped their jaws when they looked into the foyer. Seconds later, Claire arrived behind them. She,
too, stopped dead in her tracks when she saw what Nathan and Emily were gawking at. Pat, having
not had time to slow his forward motion before realizing that Claire had done so, collided with her
and fell down backward, landing on the bottom step of the curving staircase.

“Oww,” Pat moaned and grumbled as he picked himself up and made his way to join the
others. “Claire, do me a favor and at least signal next time, would you pl . . .”

Pat’s jaw dropped as well, even lower than any of the others, for he, especially, could not
believe what he was seeing. The interior of the downstairs foyer looked as though it had been hit by
an F-5 tornado. All four tables were toppled and flung into other sections of the hall. Virtually every
piece of electrical equipment, which had been sitting atop them, was now either shattered, busted,
or lying several feet away from where it had once stood. For all intents and purposes, the Command
Center had been reduced to nothing more than a scattered mass of rubble.

Pat ambled forward past his three companions, and began to slowly meander amongst the
remnants of the equipment he had worked so hard to set up and program. With each of his palms
turned upright in a display of sheer shock, confusion, and disbelief, Pat gently nudged a small piece
of the reel-to-reel tape recorder with his left foot. To Emily, Pat bore all the signs of a man whose
entire world had just come crashing down around him, not unlike a child finding himself lost
following a flood or hurricane.

“Wha . . . it . . . I . . . ” Pat mumbled incoherently as he continued to walk gingerly about the


foyer, trying in vain to avoid stepping on any of the debris of what had been the Command Center.
“I don’t . . . Emily . . . Nathan, I . . . what happened?”

“I . . . , Pat, I don’t know,” Nathan said hopelessly as he, too, entered the foyer and began
walking around amidst the debris with his head tilted downward. “Unless . . . someone . . .”

“Or someTHING, you mean?” Pat suddenly roared.

“I suppose it’s possible, yes.” Nathan answered.

“Well, some non-aggression pact!” Pat yelled out as he gave a small piece of debris a solid
kick, sending it sliding back toward the rear of the foyer.

“No,” Claire said in a desperately, pleading tone as she rushed toward Pat, who was looking
more and more like he was ready to explode. “Pat, it couldn’t have been. If anything supernatural
caused this, then I would have felt it.”

“Sure,” Pat replied, “sure you would have. Don’t play me for a fool Claire; I know you
don’t put any stock in what I do.”

“Pat, that’s not true,” Claire said, shocked by Pat’s sudden outburst, “and even if it were, I
wouldn’t lie to you about something like that.”

“Well then, who in the bloody hell did this?” Pat shot back.

“I haven’t a clue, Pat,” Claire said, with all of the calming tone she could muster.

“All that damn work,” Pat began to mutter in a crescendo of anger. “It’s not enough to get
my goat and raise my blood pressure by chasing me from one end of this place to the other, or by
turning the whole setup inside out and upside down. NO, no they have to go and completely destroy
an entire night’s work. Always the techno geeks, isn’t it Claire. Why is it always the GEEKS?!”

In a fit of uncontrolled rage, Pat picked a small section of what had been the Central Unit,
and bounced it in his hand twice. He then eyed the sliding glass window to the reception room with
anger-generated glee, reared his arm back . . . and . . .

“PAT, NO!” Emily screamed wildly from back near the foot of the steps, outstretching one
arm in Pat’s direction as she did.
Too late! With all of his might, Pat hurled the now useless section of equipment toward the
dividing window, which was instantly shattered into a thousand pieces. Although Pat’s face now
bore an expression of delight and revenge, Emily’s sunk into one of total horror, for she knew all
too well, what the end result of this hasty action would be.

“Oh no,” Emily said in a fearful whimper as the wheels of her mind slid from their spindle.

Still looking overjoyed at what he had done, Pat turned away from the remnants of the
reception window and began walking, with far less concern about where he stepped, toward Nathan
and Emily in the center of the foyer. In his exuberance over his successful act of revenge, he had
failed to notice how deathly quiet the entire room had suddenly become.

“What?” Pat said to the others in a dumbfounded way, still oblivious to the stillness and
increasing chill in the air. “So sue me, Nate, I’m allowed to get miffed once in a blue moon, aren’t
. . .”

A blast of ice-cold wind, with the strength of a jet engine, shot out from the doors leading to
the female wards. The dust, loosened plaster, and bits of paper scattered about the foyer began to fly
about and swirl in several tiny, phantom-like cyclones. In the midst of this, Claire suddenly went
rigid, her eyes flying open one instant and then shutting tight the next.

“Oh, no . . . no,” Claire said with growing mental pain, before bringing her hands up to her
ears and groaning loudly as her senses overloaded.

Emily took a few precautionary steps backward. Claire’s grip upon her head tightened.
Nathan remained still, but continued staring at Pat, who still had failed to grasp the gravity of the
situation. His blissful ignorance, however, was shattered mere nano seconds later when an outline
of an old hospital gurney emerged from the wall just beyond the northern door. At first, the gurney
remained nothing more than a bluish, dimly defined outline, but as it crossed the threshold and
entered into the foyer, it materialized into the real thing.

“Pat . . . RUN!” Emily shouted from the back of the foyer.

Pat had no sooner turned to face the oncoming gurney, when it slammed into his upper legs
with the force of a speeding automobile. Pat’s feet left the floor immediately on impact, and he fell,
stomach first, onto the gurney’s surface as it continued to cross the foyer, heading straight for the
door to the southern wards, which flew wide upon as the gurney neared them.

“PAT!” Claire screamed as she helplessly watched the gurney clear the dividing door.

Emily’s mind began racing, nearly as fast as Pat’s ghostly abductor. In her heart, she hoped
and prayed that she was wrong about what was going on. Maybe, just maybe, the hospital only
wanted to give Pat a fright in return for his actions. Even though she knew this to be a fool’s hope,
it circulated round and round her brain as she, Nathan, and Claire took off at full sprint in pursuit of
the runaway gurney.
Pat’s terrified screams filled the southern hallway and he seemed unable to move, as though
his stomach were being held tight against the gurney by some unseen force bent upon its own
revenge. The gurney had traveled nearly half the length of Ward 1 before Claire first, and then
Emily, entered into it as well. Claire bolted forward madly to give chase.

BANG! The glowing, fluorescent light fixture directly overhead exploded in a bright,
glittering shower of sparks, glass, and dislodged metal. Claire slid to a halt, flung her arms over top
of her head, and retreated back to the doorway in a fit of screams and unintelligible words of
anguish.

The exploding light fixture, however, was only the beginning. Whatever or whoever wished
to prevent anyone else from venturing down the hallway, opened up the two doors on opposite sides
of the hallway. As the next light fixture in line blew up in the exact same manner as the first, the
next two doors facing each other were violently ripped from their hinges, and flung against one
another in the dead center of the hallway, falling to the floor and creating another barricade.
Nathan, Emily and Claire each looked on helplessly and terrified from the doorway, as this
grandiose exhibition repeated itself again and again down the full length of the hall.

When the ghost-powered gurney, with Pat as a hostage, neared the far end of the hallway,
the set of double-doors there flew wide open, like the jaws of a vengeful beast bent on having Pat
for dinner. It was only at this horrifying moment that Emily was finally able to see just what
awaited Pat on the other side. Her heart skipped several beats and then stopped altogether, as the
gruesome spectacle came to a sudden, and mind-numbing end.

Unable to move or grab hold of anything, Pat remained glued to the surface of the gurney as
it passed through the double-doors and into the narrow day room that separated Wards 1 and 4.
Pat’s gurney swiftly cleared the doors, crossed the narrow hall, and rammed into the opposite wall
directly under a large array of fuse boxes and exposed electrical paraphernalia, with doors and
safety covers which had all rotted, or rusted away.

At the moment of impact, Pat’s invisible restraints vanished. He was thrown free of the
gurney, and slammed, back first, into the electric panel with breakneck force. The result was instant
and grotesque. The weight of Pat’s body slamming into the fuse box wedged it an additional three
inches into the weak, plaster wall, while at the same time ripping loose many of the wires running to
it. Blue and orange sparks flew from the fuse box, while sections of the wall into which it, and Pat,
had been smashed, began to char and sizzle, as the wires within melted and burned to a crisp. Pat
was engulfed in a glowing, bluish net of electricity, his back instantly welding itself to the fuse box.

At the other end of the hall, Claire fell to her knees in tears as she watched Pat’s body twitch
and jolt morbidly within the halo of fire and sparks. All at once, the lights back in the foyer began to
flicker, and the few lights visible within the rooms lining the hallway also blew themselves out in a
succession of loud POPS. Fire alarms then began to go off, as smoke from the burning wires
gradually began to fill the entire hallway

Pat’s body continued to writhe and twitch wildly, his head jerking from left to right in
uncontrolled, ghastly spasms, as the powerful current continued to circulate throughout his body
for several more agonizing seconds. One final, large, explosion from somewhere over top of Pat’s
head blew out a section of wall the size of a dinner plate and finally ended the flow of current, thus
freeing his lifeless and charred body from its unseen shackles. His face now frozen in a contorted
expression of agony, Pat’s body gradually slid loose from the fuse box, and fell to the floor in a
smoldering heap, his fingernails scorched and smoke still pouring out from under his smoldering
shirt collar.

Claire let out a blood-curdling, ear-piercing scream, every bit as loud as the fire alarms,
threw all caution and rationality to the wind, and began running down the hall toward Pat’s body,
tiny droplets of tears trailing behind her.

Emily and Nathan also began to move forward, though with far less urgency. A quick
glance at each other’s face said all that needed to be said, without even saying it. There was no need
to rush, no need for any kind of first-aid, and more importantly, no need for false hope. No amount
of fast action or quick thinking was going to change the simple, horrible fact that Pat was dead.
Chapter 17
The Breaking Point

Although Emily had never been a real lover of history, she had, on some rare occasions,
found certain “historical ironies” that had caught her attention and stuck with her. One of these
interesting historical facts, which she found mildly entertaining, pertained to the final battle of the
Revolutionary War. She recalled that at the conclusion of the battle of Yorktown, when the British
troops were laying down their arms and marching away in defeat, the band struck up the tune “The
World Turned Upside Down”, signifying the disbelief at the events felt by many of the British
officers.

Now, as Emily walked solemnly alongside Nathan while he pushed the gurney bearing
Pat’s body with one hand and attempted to talk into his cell phone on the other, she felt a strong
sense of commiseration with those disheartened troops of 200 plus years ago. In its own sick and
twisted way, Emily’s world, in her own mind, had also been “Turned Upside Down.”

“What in the HELL was that?” said the voice of a much frazzled Sheriff Camden.

“We . . . we blew out a fuse box on the first floor,” Nathan said through his own misery.

“Yeah, and you also blew out power to half the houses on Chestnut and State,” Sheriff
Camden replied in an obvious huff, “not to mention the damn fire alarm and . . .”

“LOOK,” Nathan said hotly before regaining his composure. “Look, just tell the fire
department we . . . that is . . . those ‘State Workers’, blew out a fuse box while checking the wiring
and they’ll have it fixed ASAP. It’s not a lie either. I’ve disconnected the fire alarms and bypassed
the blown box. When I get back to the center section and reset the main system, it should put the
whole grid back online. And, if not, then just blame it on the damn storm. It IS storming outside
just in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Alright, I’ve got my lies straight,” Sheriff Camden replied. “Now . . . what really
happened? Are you all OK?”

Nathan halted. Casting a quick glance at Claire, who was on one side of the gurney crying
into an old, white hospital sheet covering Pat’s body, and then down at Pat’s body itself. Emily was
still not able to be absolutely certain, but for a second, she thought she saw a tear forming in the
corner of Nathan’s right eye.

“No,” Nathan said into his phone after deep consideration. “No, we’re not.”

“What’s happened?” Sheriff Camden asked in a far more low key and concerned way.

“I don’t have time to explain right now,” Nathan said with impatient remorse, “but . . .
remember how I told you not to be surprised if less than four of us came out in the morning? Well,
as of right now, count on only seeing three.”
“I’m sorry,” Sheriff Camden said after several seconds of silence. “Is there anything I can
do?”

“No,” Nathan said with extreme dejection, “just keep the perimeter clear for another three
hours, and for god’s sake keep the channel open. Out.”

Nathan shut off his phone and shoved it back into its belt holder in a fit of fury. He then
continued with the slow, mournful task of wheeling Pat’s lifeless body back to the foyer, upon the
very instrument that had led to his demise. The ghoulish irony of this had not been lost on Emily
when Nathan had proposed it, however, the thought of having to serve as a pallbearer without a
coffin left her feeling even more morose, and she had thus consented.

The trek from the far end of Ward 1 back to the foyer felt like it took an entire lifetime. The
brief feelings of optimism, which had kindled within Emily’s psyche on occasion throughout the
investigation, now felt like they had been extinguished for good. In addition to her own sadness, she
also felt utterly betrayed. Both by the ghost of Mary Courtney . . . AND . . . by the hospital itself,
for she was now not entirely convinced that the two were operating independently of one another.
But no amount of rationalization or mental finger-pointing was going to bring Pat back, so Emily
simply allowed her mind to slip into a state of mourning and resignation.

Nathan gently maneuvered the gurney through the doors at the end of the hall and then back
into the foyer, which still looked as though it had been ransacked by a hoard of wild animals. With
Claire still refusing to let go of Pat’s hidden hand, Nathan then wheeled the gurney toward the front
portion of the foyer on the side of the broken reception window - another irony that Emily felt was
wholly lacking in compassion - and slid it gently against the wall, finally obliging Claire to
relinquish her loving grip and back away. As she moved, Nathan pressed his foot against a small,
metallic pedal at the base of the gurney, and slowly allowed it to sink down to floor level or at least
as low as the ant