"The baby's crying."
The nurse fussed behind him, turning pillows and raising the head of the bed. "There are no babies here, Mr. Pike, you know that. It was just a dream." She patted the right angle that had once been his strong shoulder. "Now, you need to go back to sleep. You've got a busy day tomorrow. A meeting, remember?"
Why, Spencer wondered, did she talk to him as if he were a child? And why did he react like one -- sinking back beneath her gentle hands, letting her pull the covers up to his chest? A memory swelled at the base of Spencer's throat, something that he could not quite pull to the front of the fog but that brought tears to his eyes. "Do you need some Naproxen?" the nurse asked kindly.
Spencer shook his head. He had been a scientist, after all. And no laboratory had yet crafted the drug that could ease this ache.
In person, Curtis Warburton was smaller than he seemed to be on television, but he lacked none of the magnetism that had made Bogeyman Nights the highest-rated show in its time slot. His black hair was shot, skunklike, with a white streak -- one he'd possessed since a night nine years ago, when the ghost of his grandfather had appeared at the foot of his bed and led him into the field of paranormal investigation. His wife, Maylene, an elf of a woman whose psychic abilities were well known to the Los Angeles police, perched beside him, taking notes as Curtis posed questions to the owners of the house.
"First was the kitchen," murmured Eve O'Donnell, and her husband nodded. A retired couple, they'd bought this home on the lake as a summer retreat, and in their three months of tenancy had experienced supernatural phenomena at least twice a week. "About ten in the morning, I locked up all the doors, put on the alarm system, and went to the post office. When I came home, the alarm was still on...but inside, the kitchen cabinets were open, and every cereal box was on the table, spilled on its side. I called Harlan, thinking he'd come home and left behind a mess."
"I was at the Elks Club the whole time," her husband interjected. "Never came home. No one did."
"And there's the calliope music we heard coming from the attic at two in the morning. The minute we went upstairs, it stopped. Open the door to find a child's toy piano, missing its batteries, sitting in the middle of the floor."
"We don't own a toy piano," Harlan added. "Much less a child."
"And when we put in the batteries, it didn't even play that kind of music." Eve hesitated. "Mr. Warburton, I hope you understand that we're not the kind of people who...who believe in this sort of thing. It's just...it's just that if it's not this, then I'm losing my mind."
"Mrs. O'Donnell, you're not going crazy." Curtis touched her hand with trademark sympathy. "By tomorrow morning we'll have a better idea of what's going on in your home." He looked over his shoulder to make sure Ross was getting this on camera. Depending on what happened later, the O'Donnells might find themselves featured on Bogeyman Nights, and if so, this footage was critical. The Warburtons received over three hundred e-mails a day from people who believed their houses were haunted. Eighty-five percent of the claims turned out to be hoaxes or mice in the rafters. The rest -- well, Ross had been working with them long enough to know that there were some things that simply could not be explained.
"Have you experienced any spectral visions?" Curtis asked. "Temperature changes?"
"Our bedroom will be hot as hell one minute, and then we'll be shivering the next," Harlan answered.
"Are there any spots in the house in particular where you feel uncomfortable?"
"The attic, definitely. The upstairs bathroom."
Curtis's eyes swept from the hand-knotted Oriental rug to the antique vase on the mantel of the fireplace. "I have to warn you that finding a ghost can be a costly proposition."
From Second Glance by Jodi Picoult. Copyright Jodi Picoult 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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