Rest Stop Stories Episode Thirteen: An Ugly Business
This is an ugly business. Anyone will tell you that. Paranormal investigator, ghost hunter, whatever you want to call us. Fraud is a common one. But regardless of what word you use, it’s an ugly business.
I’m on a case tonight as a walk through the dim ally toward the quiet, cheery line of brownstones lining Boston’s Back Bay roads. It’s a cool night, the mist splitting the streetlamp glow into shards that scatter across the dark road. It’s also surprisingly quiet for seven at night, but maybe the rainy weather is keeping the smart folks inside. They’re curled in front of roaring fires, flickering computer screens, and the sweet smiles of someone who loves them.
That’s not me though. Not tonight, not ever. I’m out in the dark and the cold, chasing down another case. I work alone and I’m just fine with that. In a field like mine, you have to be fine with that. Otherwise you’ll find yourself leaving it behind one way or another.
The house in question is just another brownstone in a row of them. The big shot rich guy owners have tried to differentiate it from every other townhouse on their street with some dying flowers and a flag out front, but it doesn’t matter. Everything is just the same thing one after another after another.
The owner is gone for the weekend. The ghost has apparently driven him away from his lux digs and into borrowed lux digs elsewhere. It doesn’t bother me. I’d rather have the client out of the house anyway. They’re a distraction at best and a danger at worst. Just leave me alone in your palatial home and let me get my job done. Then I’ll return to my own overpriced, rat-infested apartment and plan for the next case.
I walk in and kick my shoes off at the door. I don’t care much for social niceties, but that one seems like common sense, especially on a rainy night. Then I take a few steps deeper into the apparently haunted house.
To give the owner credit where credit is due, this house is in fact haunted. I can feel it in my blood as I walk into the kitchen. There’s a note on the marble-topped kitchen island telling me to help myself to anything in the fridge. That’s sweet, but unnecessary. I’ll eat when I get home. He seems to think I’ll be spending the night here. Which I might, but I’ll be working the whole time.
I take some time to set up my equipment throughout the house. It’s larger than I thought on first glance, with all sorts of small nooks and winding hallways. By the time I’m done, the weak sun has set and I have to reluctantly turn on the lights in order to keep from falling down the stairs and becoming a ghost myself.
Stationary equipment settled, it’s time for me to start the hands-on part of my investigation. I pull out my spirit box, the screechy little device that allows spirits to communicate through radio waves. It’s not the first time I’ve used it, in fact, it’s been a regular addition to my investigations for at least five years now. But I still feel a twinge of unease as I turn it on.
I scold myself as the static begins to crackle out of the machine. I’m a professional, not some child searching for ghosts in his grandmother’s attic. I need to act like it.
“Spirits,” I begin. “This is a spirit box. If you’d like to communicate with me, you can use this to do so.”
There’s more static, then a few garbled syllables float through. I disregard them. This thing is whipping through radio frequencies, so it’s going to pick up flashes of car ads and saccharine love songs. That doesn’t mean anything.
“Is there anything you’d like to say to me?” I ask into the darkness.
There’s a few seconds of silence. Then the machine springs to life.
The words are clear, clawing their way out of the static and into the silence of the room. I’m…
I’m touched. It’s been so long since anyone has asked me that.
“Not too bad,” I reply. “Could use a vacation.”
I laugh, then settle in to chat.