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Stranger, And Stranger Still

By Danielle Procter Piper

Humor / Horror

Blurb

Ray accidentally brings a stranger back to the firehouse. Weird things happen in her presence and nobody's sure what to make of her. They leave her behind when a big call comes in, but soon find themselves overwhelmed. When the unwary try to summon things they know nothing about, it can open the doorway to disaster. A powerful presence that has lain in wait for its chance to rise is awakened and wreaks havoc on a small town. The guys face their most destructive enemy yet. Can the stranger do anything to help them? Or will she simply stand by and watch the world crumble away to nothing?

Chapter 1

The little arms on top of the psychokinetic energy meter rose and tiny lights flashed manically while an electronic alarm kept beat. Then it froze, all of the lights lit, the device emitting an annoying, steady wail. Blinking in bafflement, the man who held it adjusted a dial, attempted manual manipulation of one of the arms, then poked ineffectually at grey silicone buttons until the sound finally died. The lights flickered twice before the PKE meter gave up the ghost.

He became aware of a presence too close to him. Inches from the hand-held device peered a pale face enhanced by two large, extraordinarily clear, light blue eyes fringed thickly by dark lashes. The startled man slowly lowered the defunct meter and spoke uncertainly. “Uh…hello.”

The girl beamed, a faint blush of pleasure tinting her high cheekbones as she replied breathily, “Hi.”

“Um,” the man continued, reaching to absently scratch at his jaw while passersby ignored them. “Do you know me? Have we met? Uh, can I help you…Miss?”

She reached for the PKE meter and he moved it beyond her grasp, smiling benignly as he forced the little arms down and dropped the object in a pocket of his long, beige raincoat. The stranger appeared disconcerted, then returned her gaze to his and smiled again.

The two remained still, grinning stupidly at each other for some unknown length of time, the world continuing to revolve, their own little shared space empty and seemingly frozen like the meter had become.

Uncomfortable, the man cleared his throat. He extended a hand, realized it was the one he’d just scratched his face with before politely exchanging it for the other one.

The girl regarded his hand as though surprised she had not been offered something specific, and when she lifted her gaze to his again, she appeared perplexed.

“Did you want…an autograph?” he tried, thinking perhaps she was starstruck, but shy.

“A what?” she asked.

He pantomimed scribbles in the air. “My, uh…my signature?”

Her look became vaguely suspicious. “For what?”

Swallowing, he licked his lips and inhaled deeply. “Well, then…okay…then.”

Her features brightened with expectation.

“Bye,” he told her, lifting a palm.

“Bye,” she repeated, mimicking his gesture, but making a quick fist before she opened her hand flat again.

Like she got me, he thought, slightly unnerved as he turned smartly and strolled off into the flow of pedestrians. When he looked back he saw that she stood before the black statue he’d been examining in the middle of the sidewalk, smiling his way like she was happy to see him.

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