"Ethan -- "
"I know." His voice dipped down at the edges. "Three more hardflips."
"Two." Without waiting for agreement -- she would concede, and they both knew it -- Ethan sped off again. Shelby cracked open her novel, the words registering like cars on a freight train -- a stream without any individual characteristics. She had just turned the page when she realized Ethan's skateboard was no longer moving.
He held it balanced against his leg, the graphic of the superhero Wolverine spotted white. "Mom?" he asked. "Is it snowing?"
It did, quite often, in Vermont. But not in August. A white swirl tipped toward her book and caught in the wedge of the spine; but it was not a snowflake after all. She lifted the petal to her nose, and sniffed. Roses.
Shelby had heard of strange weather patterns that caused frogs to evaporate and rain down over the seas; she'd once seen a hailstorm of locusts. But this...?
The petals continued to fall, catching in her hair and Ethan's. "Weird," he breathed, and he sat down beside Shelby to witness a freak of nature.
"Pennies." Curtis Warburton turned over the coin Ross had handed him. "Anything else?"
Ross shook his head. It had been three hours, and even with a raging storm outside providing a well of energy, the paranormal activity had been minimal at best. "I thought I saw a globule on the screen at one point, but it turned out to be a smoke alarm hung in the back of the attic."
"Well, I haven't felt a damn thing," Curtis sighed. "We should have taken the case in Buffalo instead."
Ross snapped some used film back into its canister and tucked it into his pocket. "The wife, Eve? She mentioned a little sister who died when she was seven."
Curtis looked at him. "Interesting."
The two men walked downstairs. Maylene sat on the living room couch in the dark with an infrared thermometer "You get anything?" Curtis asked.
"No. This house is about as active as a quadriplegic."
"How is it going?" Eve O'Donnell interrupted. She stood at the doorway of the living room, her hand clutching the collar of her robe.
"I think it's safe to say that you're not alone in this house. In fact," Curtis held out the penny Ross had given him, "I just found this."
"Yes...sometimes there are coins lying around. I told Ross that."
Ross turned, frowning. But before he could ask Curtis why he was playing dumb, his boss started speaking again. "Ghosts can be mischievous that way. Especially the ghost of a child, for example."
Ross felt the charge of the air as Eve O'Donnell lay her trust at Curtis's feet. "I have to tell you," Curtis said. "I'm getting some very strong sensations here. There's a presence, but it's someone you know, someone who knows you." Curtis tipped his head to one side and furrowed his brow. "It's a girl...I'm getting the sense it's a girl, and I'm feeling a number...seven. Did you by any chance have a younger sister who passed?"
Ross found himself rooted to the floor. He had been trained to consider the fact that 85 percent of the cases they investigated were hoaxes perpetrated by people who either wanted to waste their time, or get on national TV, or prove that paranormal investigation was anything but a science. He couldn't count how many times they'd found a speaker hidden in the moaning wall; fishing line wrapped around a quaking chandelier. But he'd never considered that the Warburtons might be putting on a show, too.
"It would be an additional charge, of course," Curtis was saying, "but I wouldn't rule out holding a séance."
Ross's head throbbed. "Curtis, could I speak to you privately?"
They put on their coats and went out, standing under the overhang of the garage as the rain poured down. "This better be good," Curtis said. "You interrupted me as I was hooking her."
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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