Ghost of a Chance

Case 1: Evil Spirits All Over!? (Part 7)

'Wow…' Mai thought as she stared at all the equipment they had finished setting up on the tables, impressed.

"What's that?" Hitomi asked curiously as she stepped up beside Naru, trying to sneak a peek at what was in the last box he had just brought in. "A tape recorder…?" It looked like one of those big ones they used to use in the 90's for TV and radio stations, back before CDs and digital recording had replaced cassette tapes and floppy disks. She was a little surprised to see something so analog mixed in with all the newer tech. Even the thermometers she had carried in were digital…

"Yes, but this one is a little special. It can record for up to twenty-four hours. This is what we plug our mike into." Naru explained as he began setting up.

"I see… I thought you would be using a digital recording device, but I guess it's easier to prove a tape recording is authentic, since it's a harder to alter than a digital one, huh?" Hitomi mused, tapping her chin lightly with her finger as she thought. It would be pretty obvious if someone tried to splice the tape to add in 'ghostly evidence' after the fact, but it was pretty easy to alter digital soundtracks nowadays without being obvious, if you were good enough.

"What do you mean? What's it for?" Mai asked curiously, deciding to join the conversation. Naru paused in his work to glance up at Mai.

"I hate having to explain everything to amateurs." He replied coolly, furrowing his brow ever so slightly in annoyance. Hitomi might not be a professional in this field either, but she at least seemed to be using her head.

Hitomi sweat dropped as Mai slammed her hands on the desk. The younger girl clearly getting fed up with his attitude, and Hitomi couldn't say she blamed her.

"Moh!" Mai exclaimed in exasperation and irritation. "You knew I was an amateur when you hired me. If you've got a problem with that, then I won't help you." She stated defiantly.

"…" Naru said as he stared down Mai, who was managing to hold her own against his icy glare. She was tougher than she looked.

"Now, now… let's everybody take a breath and calm down, huh?" Hitomi said, smiling wryly as she sweat-dropped again, deciding to step in and play peacemaker. "You know Mai-chan has a point, Shibuya-san. I don't think the average Japanese high schooler would know too much about this stuff. I only know a little bit about it because I went through a phase when I was younger…"

Naru sighed and reluctantly began to explain the equipment, deciding they had both made valid points, and he may as well get it over with.

"Fine. It's to record the sound of a ghost or anything else unusual. All day today I recorded the sound of the first floor through the windows, just as a test." He explained concisely.

"Oh! That microphone from earlier." Mai said, , hitting her palm with her hand in an 'Aha!' way.

"Correct. Tonight, we'll set the mike and recorder in this room.

"You don't stay overnight?" Hitomi asked, a little surprised. It didn't really seem like a good idea to leave all of this expensive-looking equipment alone in here overnight, and the show she used to watch on the TAPS team had always stayed overnight during their investigations…

"Not yet. If there really is a ghost here, first I'll need to determine how powerful it is." Naru explained patiently.

"I see. That makes sense…" Hitomi said thoughtfully. After all, even if there was a plausible explanation behind the all the incidents that had occurred here, it didn't change the fact that people had still died here… Hitomi shuddered as a chill crawled up her spine at the thought. Maybe it would be better is she tried not to think about that, or her imagination might start running wild on her and make her as jumpy Mai had been earlier.

"You're the type of person to tap a stone bridge before crossing it." Mai observed.

"What?" Naru asked. He couldn't remember having ever heard that particular phrase before.

"It means you're extremely careful." Hitomi explained, noting the slightly puzzled look on his face. Her hypothesis that Shibuya-san was actually originally from an English speaking country was looking more and more likely by the minute if he didn't know such a common Japanese phrase.

"Of course." He replied matter-of-factly, now that he understood what Mai's odd turn of phrase had meant. "Sometimes you encounter great danger at a haunted house. If you underestimate them, you might never return."

"Well, there's a happy thought!" Hitomi said dryly, smiling wryly as she sweat-dropped. Did he really have to say that while they in said supposedly haunted building?

"Don't try to scare us like that." Mai scolded him, gulping nervously, as she took a step back. "Hey, what's this?" She asked when she noticed another kind of camera by her feet.

"I don't want to talk anymore." Naru stated rather sternly, not even bothering to turn and face them as he continued adjusting the settings on the equipment they would be using that night. He seemed to have run out of patience with the two girls and all of their questions.

'Wow… antisocial, much?' Hitomi thought, sweat-dropping. She was starting to wonder if their temporary boss might be bipolar…

"Ah, I see…" Mai said, also sweat-dropping and slightly chagrined. His face might be nice, but he should put a bag over that personality. "No problem. But I might make some big mistakes out of ignorance." She continued in a suspiciously innocent tone of voice. "Is this a camera or a fancy footstool?" She asked, gingerly setting one foot on top of it. "Oops…" she added sassily when Naru turned around and nearly visibly flinched upon seeing what she was doing to his expensive camera. She was clearly threatening to break it, which proved Mai had a lot of guts, and he was concerned she just might be stupid enough to go through with it. He was going to run out of cameras at this rate…

"It's an infrared camera." Naru said finally, emitting a sigh of defeat and relief when Mai removed her foot, though he found the victorious grin on her face incredibly annoying. Hitomi had to cover her mouth to hide her own amused grin. She decided she really liked Mai. That girl had spunk! "To save you the trouble of asking," Naru continued, securing his pokerface back in place, "this is a thermograph. And this one is a super high-speed camera. The infrared and super high-speed cameras are used for shooting in the dark. The thermograph is a camera that's sensitive to temperature and captures temperature levels."

"Wow… that's impressive." Mai said, kind of amazed. "Um, this might be a stupid question, but… why do you need to capture temperature levels?" She could understand the need for shooting in the dark in a haunted house, but temperature? "Geh!" Mai flinched a little when she noticed the look her jerk of a new boss was giving her. Apparently, it was a stupid question. Hitomi decided to cut in before Naru could give her another tongue lashing.

"A thermograph is used to measure temperature, because when a ghost appears, the temperature usually drops in the surrounding area." She quickly explained. "The camera records the different temperature levels using a range of colors, from warm to cool. It gives a clearer image of the difference in temperature between individual objects in the room than you can get by just taking the mean temperature of the whole room using a thermometer." Naru nodded in approval of her explanation.

"Oh, I see." Mai said, nodding in understanding. That made sense enough. Mai was also glad that at least one person here could give her a straight answer without being completely condescending.

"Now, if you understand, stop asking stupid questions and get to work." Naru scolded her, wishing Mai would stop wasting time and distracting Hitomi. He was starting to miss Lin. "I want the two to go take temperature readings for all of the rooms in this building. And don't forget to record the data." He added sternly, handing the digital thermometer to Hitomi. He didn't want them wandering around on their own in an unstable and supposedly haunted building, so it would be better to have the girls to stick together for now. He also felt that he would be able to finish getting everything set up here without them around to distract him.

"Y-Yes, sir!" Mai replied a little nervously, sweat-dropping. Geez, he didn't have to get that upset!

"Got it, boss!" Hitomi said a bit more cheerfully, flashing him a brilliant shit-eating grin, before grabbing a clipboard and pen. "Come one, Mai ~ It's ghost hunting time!"

—∞—

"So, Hitomi-sempai… you said you went through a 'phase'…?" Mai asked curiously while they worked together recording the different room temperatures.

"Yeah. I used to be really into ghost stories and stuff when I was younger. I was always reading Goosebumps, watching scary movies, and so on… one of my favorite TV shows featured TAPS, a team of ghost hunters, conducting paranormal investigations. They used pretty much the same equipment and scientific approach as Shibuya-san."

"O-Oh… I see…" Mai said, sweat-dropping. "Um, what are 'gooseu-bumpsusu'…?" She asked, smiling wrly.

"Oh, well… 'goose bumps' is a phrase that normally refers to the little raised bumps you get on your skin when it's cold, or when your hair stands up on your arms and the back of your neck… but in this case Goosebumps is actually the name of a series of scary stories for children." Hitomi explained, smiling apologetically. "Sorry, I grew up in America, so sometimes I tend to drop random English phrases here and there without realizing it."

"Eh!? You mean, you're not really Japanese, Hitomi-sempai!?" Mai asked, surprised. She (along with pretty much anyone who had eyes) knew Hitomi had to be at least half foreigner with her pale blonde hair and big green eyes, but Mai hadn't heard anything about the famous sempai being a transfer student! "I mean, is Sempai a foreign-exchange student?"

"Not really. I'm originally from America, but I've been living in Japan for the past ten years." Hitomi explained, a wry smile of bemusement gracing her lips. She was kind of amused by Mai's dramatic reaction, but it wasn't really that big of a deal, was it…? "Anyway, we should finish up with the rest of the rooms before Shibuya-san decides to come looking for us. 'Cause you know that won't be pretty." Patience did not seem to be listed amongst the virtues the bossy boy-genius possessed today…

"Haha… You've got that right." Mai laughed, smiling wryly, as she tried to picture that scene, with Naru coming after them all in a huff… actually, maybe they should hurry…

—∞—

"We're back." Hitomi announced upon her and Mai's eventual return to the base, causing Naru to glance up at them. They had good timing. He had just finished up on his side, too. "We measured the temperature in each room, just like you asked." Hitomi added, handing the clipboard to him so he could see the results for himself.

"This digital thermometer is pretty handy." Mai said. Hitomi had showed Mai how to use it and let her have a turn taking the last few measurements herself.

"Nothing unusual… the temperature isn't lower in any particular area." Naru said thoughtfully, ignoring Mai, as he read through the data they had recorded for him. "The first floor's a little lower than the other classrooms… but not enough to matter."

"Then, that means there are no spirits here?" Mai asked, tossing the digital thermometer playfully into the air.

"Well, I don't know if we can say that for sure yet…" Hitomi said, sweat-dropping, as she watched Naru snatch the thermometer back from Mai, in midair, and narrowed his eyes reproachfully at her for playing around with the equipment again. She was impressed with his reflexes, but felt kind of sorry for Mai, to be on the receiving end such a withering glare. "… Ghosts can be shy, sometimes."

"Right. It's normal for paranormal phenomena to stop temporarily when an outsider comes in." Naru agreed coolly. "At any rate, this isn't helping us gather information." He added, keeping his eyes on Mai to let her know he was referring to how she kept playing around. Mai stuck her tongue out at him when he turned to set the clipboard and thermometer down on the table behind him. It may not have been the most mature thing to do, but it certainly made her feel better! "First… let's position the infrared cameras: four of them in the first and second floor hallways and one at the entrance."

—∞—

[Several ridiculously heavy cameras later…]

"—Ouch. Ah. Oh…" Mai groaned, sweat-dropping, as she rubbed her aching back, bent over in pain. She seriously didn't understand how Naru and Hitomi could still be perfectly fine after all that heavy lifting… Was it just her, or were these two not human…?

"What's wrong, Mai? Did you pull a muscle?" Hitomi asked, concerned. She was used to working out and lifting heavy things for club and at home, but it seems Mai wasn't so fortunate…

"You may go home now." Naru informed them carelessly as he checked the camera's settings one last time and jotted something down on the clipboard. "We're done for today. The cameras will do the rest."

"Seriously, you really don't look like a psychic." Mai told him, miffed by his indifference to her pain.

"Ghost Hunter." Naru corrected her. "Don't confuse me with psychics."

"Same thing…" Mai mumbled under her breath.

'Not really.' Hitomi thought, but she didn't really feel like starting a debate with her tired Kohai.

"Well, I'll be leaving now." Mai told them waving weakly as she started to limp away. She didn't get far.

"Okay. Wait, are you going to be okay getting home this late by yourself?" Hitomi asked responsibly, frowning slightly at the idea. What if she ran into a pervert or something?

"Yeah, thanks Hitomi-sempai, but I'll be fine." Mai reassured her, touched that at least someone there cared enough to worry about her safety. "I live pretty close to the school, so I'll be home in no time if I take the bus."

"Are you sure?" Hitomi pressed. She wanted to make sure Mai wasn't just trying to be polite.

"I'm sure." Mai said, smiling slightly as she nodded. Hitomi really was a good sempai, looking out for her like this. "See ya, Hitomi-sempai, Shibuya-san."

"Tomorrow," Naru spoke up suddenly, "after school, I want both of you to meet me in front of the van again." Mai nearly face-faulted.

'Tomorrow...?' Mai thought incredulously. Hadn't he tortured her enough already!? Mai opened her mouth to protest, but decided against it. She was too tired for this. But she'd get back at him tomorrow… somehow

"Uh… Bye-bye, Mai-chan… Take care of yourself, okay?" Hitomi called after her, sweat-dropping, as she watched poor Mai trudge wearily down the hallway and out of sight. "So…" She said, turning back to Naru. "Do you want me to drive you home, Shibuya-san? We can also check in on Lin-san, if you want." She offered courteously. After all, his usual designated driver was still laid up in the hospital for now.

Naru stopped writing. He glanced at the older girl. He could tell by the look in her eyes and the expression on her face that she was, by no means, going to leave him alone in a building that was practically falling apart at the seams and possibly haunted. Getting rid of her wasn't going to be that easy. Naru sighed. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately.

"I had been planning to leave the van here overnight rather than go through the trouble of moving it, and I was going to take a taxi after visiting Lin at the hospital. There is something that I want to show him." He explained smoothly.

"Oh, well… in that case, how about we walk to the hospital together?" Hitomi suggested, undiscouraged. "I have to go that way anyway to get to the stop for the bus I usually take home." She lived a lot further away from school than Mai, so it was only natural they took different bus roots.

"Very, well. I'll be finished in a couple of minutes." Naru agreed, deciding to use the situation to his advantage. After all, he still had a number of questions for Matsumoto Hitomi.

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