She pulled herself to her feet, letting out a small sigh. A quick glance around told her that Emily wasn’t sneaking up on them too. Lowering her voice a notch, she added, “It’s just, I really want to believe she’s telling the truth. I don’t know why, but I can’t bring myself to think she’s just out of her mind.”
Greg shrugged. “Yeah, I know… but… maybe her brother really was right about her. Whether you like it or not, some ghost stories really are made up.”
“Not usually,” Alison argued, wanting to prove her point. “This would be the first one then.”
“In your extensive experience, right?′
“I think you mean second. Remember the guy with the raccoon in his basement. That one turned out to be a fake too.”
Alison made a face. “It doesn’t count if it wasn’t on purpose. He really thought he had a spirit living down there.”
“And besides,” Alison continued. “I still have three other bedrooms, a basement and an attic to check out too.”
“Don’t forget the kitchen.”
“Thanks.” She moved out of the master bedroom and back into the hall. She placed her hand on the wall, moving it back and forth across the smooth surface. She was looking for cold or hot spots. Sometimes it indicated either a spirit’s presence or their recent departure from the area. Her hand moved to a closet in the wall and she pulled it open, moving her eyes around inside. Just a few coats and a vacuum.
Shutting the door, she headed to the smaller bedrooms at the further end of the house, her hand still pressed to the wall as she walked. “Anyone here?” she called out again. “Hello?”
Who was she kidding? Greg was right. Nothing was there and the woman was as delusional as her brother had said she was. It was unfortunate but true. Alison made quick work of the bedrooms. She peeked under beds and into closets. She even pulled out drawers and searched behind dressers and mirrors. Still nothing.
She found a narrow door that led to the attic staircase and flipped on the light located at the bottom of them. She glanced behind her, looking for Greg who had wandered off. She wondered where he had gone to. Turning around again, she began to head up the cramped stairs. The steps and floor were made up of unfinished wood. It was especially dusty. She could tell no one came up there often.
Reaching the top, she began searching the room for evidence of paranormal life. The wide attic was covered in boxes, some piled up on top of each other almost as tall as she was, and stacks of old newspapers and magazines thrown in the mix. There was barely any room on the floor to walk.
The ceiling was high enough, but she bent her head down as she walked anyway to avoid the terrifying amount of fresh spider webs covering the place. The spiders that inhabited them were huge. There must’ve been at least a hundred of them that she could see, if not two. Ick, she hated spiders.
She bent down further, scooting away heavy boxes with her foot as she walked. There were so many dark corners. Loads of junk created more dark corners and hiding places. “Hello?” she called out again. The hair on her neck was standing completely on end, not from the fear of a hiding poltergeist but from fear of all the horrible black and spotted spiders that would surely devour her whole if she made any wrong moves.
She noticed that the ground dipped at the end of the room. The light barely touched that end of the attic. It made a sort of ditch. She moved her way toward it, feeling as though she were suddenly becoming encased in an unnatural amount of darkness. She bent forward, peeking into the black ditch.
A face rose up at her, a distorted shadow with narrowed eyes. She screamed, falling backward onto the floor. Again? Why again? What was going on? It was him. The same face she had seen on her television the other night. It was death’s face.
She crushed her eyes shut. When nothing happened she opened them again, looking in front of her. Where did it go?
A black cat leaped from the hole then, landing beside her. It took a seat, licking its paw and looking up at her.
Alison blinked. But, what about the shadow? Had she just imagined the face then? She pulled herself back up to her feet, brushing off the dust and peeking back into the ditch. Completely empty. Was she just seeing things?
She looked at the cat again and it darted away from her, racing toward the stairs at the other end of the attic and disappearing down them. She found it hard to believe that she had mistaken a cat for a very distinct face. But then again. It wouldn’t have been the first time she saw death’s face in some random place where it didn’t belong. Alison had come to associate the sighting with bad things happening. Twice in one week already she had seen it now. Alison could only imagine what sort of tragic event would follow.
She shook the thought from her head.
She couldn’t tell Emily Burt about the bad omen she had seen. It would only worry her. Besides, there was still no sign of any sort of haunting.
Alison made her way out of the attic, making her way back down the stairs. She was surprised to find Emily already standing in the hall, her face concerned. “Are you okay?” Emily asked.
“I’m fine,” Alison said. “Why?”
“I heard you scream.”
Alison felt embarrassed. She hadn’t realized how loud she had been. “It wasn’t anything. Your cat scared me.”
Emily smiled and she looked down at the black cat rubbing its face around her ankle. “Did you scare her, Kelly? That wasn’t nice.”
“I just have to check a couple more places,” Alison said quickly, moving past the woman. “I’ll be back when I’m done.” Alison realized that Emily reminded her of someone. Whether it was her face, or her mannerisms or simply the way she talked. It made Alison’s heart hurt to think it.
“Did you meet my daughter?” Emily called back to her.
Alison stopped in place for a moment. “No, I didn’t see her,” she said. The woman honestly believed she had a daughter living there, even despite the fact there was no child’s room set up, no toys, as well as the obvious, no traces of a little girl.
Moving down the stairs, Alison made her way to the first floor, finding Greg standing in front of a picture hanging on the wall. She stepped closer, finding that the picture was of Emily and her brother, Joshua, standing beside one another in front of her house and smiling. It looked like it was a few years old.
“Too bad, huh,” Greg murmured. “Good-looking girl like that. She’s too young to be so confused.”
“I still haven’t checked the basement,” Alison reminded him.
“Because that’ll make all the difference, right?”
“I have to try,” Alison said. She looked down, feeling self-conscious as she spoke. She had never told anyone about the dark shadowed-face she often saw when something bad was about to happen. She hadn’t even told Greg, and Greg usually knew everything about her before anyone else. “I guess I have a bad feeling. Even if her house isn’t really haunted, I think something bad is going to happen here.”
Greg furrowed his brows at her. “Why do you say that?”
“I… I don’t know. It’s just a feeling. I could be wrong.” She turned away. “I’ll be back in a minute. If the basement and kitchen come out clear then we can go.”
Greg followed her as she walked to the kitchen. It was absolutely spotless. Clean countertops and not a single dish in the sink. It was brightly lit, thanks to a wide window and an open door. Two small bowls labeled ‘Kelly’ sat beside one another, brimming with water and cat food.
“I told you,” Greg said.
She knew he was right. There wasn’t anyone else in the house.
They went down to the basement, flicking on the light. It was carpeted and furnished. It appeared to be the recreational room. Very comfortable looking, with couches and an oversized wide-screen television set up in the entertainment center. There was exercise equipment in one corner and laundry machines set up in a smaller room separated by a thin wall.
“Let’s go,” Alison said.
“You feel better now?” Greg asked.
She was definitely disappointed that they hadn’t found anything. She had been certain that Emily was telling the truth about her house being haunted. It wasn’t often that these sort of stories were made up. She felt bad as she made her way back up the stairs to the kitchen. Emily’s brother was right. The woman simply wasn’t right in the head.
She found Emily seated in the living room, quietly watching television.
Alison realized who Emily reminded her of now. Emily reminded her of Linda, Alison’s dead sister. Letting out a breath, Alison moved toward the woman on the couch. “What’d you find?” the woman asked, looking up at her.
Alison shook her head. “To be honest… I didn’t find anything. There’s no one here, Emily. Your brother said it, and I think I might have to agree with him. This might all be in your head.”
She looked understandably upset by her words. “What do you mean?”
“There’s no one here. I couldn’t find anyone.”
“But, I’m telling the truth,” Emily insisted. “My daughter saw it. I swear.”
“Do you really have a daughter?” Alison asked, starting to feel agitated. “Because your brother says you don’t. And to be perfectly frank, I find it hard to believe you when there’s no kid’s room anywhere in the house.”
“Well…” Emily trailed off. “What I meant was…”
Alison interrupted her. She was tired of hearing it. “Here. I’m going to give you my card.” Digging into her back pocket, she pulled out a wrinkled rectangle of paper. “You can call me if anything strange comes up. But otherwise, as of right now, I can’t find anything, all right? I’m not trying to doubt you and I’m not trying to be mean.” She thought of the face she had seen in the attic and pursed her lips together. “Just watch out. There are other things to be afraid of too. It doesn’t have to be a poltergeist. Sometimes… bad things can happen if you’re not careful. So just be careful, okay?”
Emily nodded slowly, taking the card into her hand. “You really didn’t find anything,” she asked again, her voice meek. She looked as though she was having a hard time believing her. “You didn’t see a little girl upstairs? Not anywhere?”
“I didn’t see anybody or anything,” Alison stated. “But you can still call me if anything does come up.” She sighed. “I gotta go.” She felt stupid for believing the woman to begin with. Joshua may have been right about his sister’s condition but he was wrong about how to deal with it. Calling Alison hadn’t been the right thing to do. He needed to get a hold of a hospital and get Emily set up with some kind of counselor.
She made her way from the house, Greg joining beside her. “You weren’t that nice to her,” Greg commented.
“I couldn’t help it,” Alison muttered. She pulled her car door open and climbed inside. Her keys were in her pocket and she pulled them out again, starting the ignition. “I guess I could’ve handled that a lot better, couldn’t I’ve.”
“Well, yeah. Kind of. It’s not like her brother didn’t warn you.”
“I know. I know.” Alison pulled the car from the driveway. “I better call and tell him that I talked to his sister. He’ll be happy that I told her there wasn’t anything there.”
She pulled a cell phone from her pocket and began to call the number listed in her phone as New Client J. It rang four or five times before giving her a voicemail.
“Hey, this is Josh. Leave me a message.”
The tone sounded and Alison began to speak, “Mr. Hunter. I met with your sister. I told her what you wanted me to tell her. If you could call me back later tonight, I have something else I’d like to talk to you about. You can reach me on my cell phone. The number’s 781-3456. Thank you.”
“Something else,” Greg asked, raising a brow. “What’s something else?”
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” Alison said, pushing the silver flip phone back into her pocket. “I wanted to talk to him about his sister. I think she needs more help than I can give her. I’m not sure if he realizes that or not.”
“You don’t think it’s crossed his mind?”
“Maybe. Still, I think someone needs to say it. I’m not a doctor, and I think she might need one.”