Hours later, we are still no closer to solving this crazy case. Toby fell asleep about an hour ago, with his head on his pages of notes, Jude is watching YouTube videos on his phone, Maria is getting increasingly frustrated with trying to find a missing person that may or may not exist, and I am struggling to keep my eyes open. I’m half asleep when Maria finally slams her laptop shut and I jolt back awake.
“I quit. I’m going to bed,” Maria announces. “I found nothing. I need more resources.”
“Where are you going to get more resources than the internet?” Jude asks. Maria just throws her hands up in the air and stomps into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the shower comes on. “Jeez. Someone’s in a bad mood.”
“I can understand. It’s barely been 24 hours and we are more confused about what’s going on than when we first started this case. I mean, really, this is a pretty routine sounding haunting. It should have just been in and out, but instead, it’s been this huge mess!” Just thinking about it is frustrating me. Jude just looks at me, an amused smile on his face. “What?” I snap.
Jude holds up his hands in mock defense. “Wow. Just calm down. Nobody has to get hurt.” I roll my eyes and throw my pillow at him. In return, he chucks it at Toby, who responds with an angry grunt. When Toby sits up, me and Jude both crack up laughing. One of his notes is stuck to the side of his face.
“What the hell, dude?” Toby says, pulling the paper off his face. “I didn’t throw anything at you when you were sleeping.” Despite his apparent anger, I can feel his emotions. Our laughter has put him in a good mood. Even Maria feels happier.
The funny thing about Jude is that, sometimes, he can be a real downer. Just in a horrible mood. Other times, he knows just what to say or do to make everyone happy. Even though, in reality, I can feel his anxiety. Even right now, he isn’t really happy. He’s more stressed than any of us. He’s good at hiding it, but there are a few small tells. Very small. His breath hitches just slightly, not loud enough to hear, but if you watch his chest, you can see it. The other thing is more obvious, but most people would just think it was a habit; he rubs at the scar that runs along his left wrist.
I watch as he runs his thumb across it, and he notices me watching. He quickly pulls his hand away, pretending like it never happened. “Okay. So, we’ve made no headway in the research department. Maybe we should find out who the Colton’s neighbors were. If they still live nearby, they might know something about the case that was never reported. Such as, a missing girl that looks exactly like the current resident’s daughter…”
“Yes, I’m sure they won’t think you’re crazy at all for asking that,” Toby says sarcastically.
“Psh! I lived in a mental hospital for half my life. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m crazy!” Jude grabs his laptop and starts searching addresses. It doesn’t take him long to find out who lived in the two neighboring houses in 1986. “Amy K. Long and Jerry Nelson. Okay, so it looks like neither of them are still living in those houses… That makes things a little difficult.”
“How is this going to help?” Toby sighs. “For all we know, they could both be dead. Maybe we should be checking the local cemetery.”
“Well, it’s a good thing I can talk to ghosts,” Jude says.
“Yeah, only if they’re still around.”
“You are being such a negative Nancy!” I say. “Give him a chance before you decide it isn’t worth it!”
We are all busy arguing when Maria suddenly screams from inside the bathroom. We all immediately jump up and run to the door. I shake the doorknob. Locked. “Maria?!” When she doesn’t answer, I try the knob again, but the door flies open, pulling me forward and into a terrified, towel covered Maria. “Are you okay?” I ask, looking around the bathroom. I don’t see anything.
Maria is shaking and breathing quickly. “I… I felt something. It felt like there was something right behind me in the shower!” She turns to Jude. “Do you see anything?” Jude moves past her and into the bathroom and looks around before turning back to her and shrugging.
“I don’t see anything, Ri,” Jude says. Ri is his nickname for Maria. “Maybe it was a spirit just passing through?”
Maria sniffs and nods, then throws herself into his arms to cry against his shoulder. If I couldn’t feel the fear radiating off of her, I might think she was just making it up so that she had an excuse to have Jude hold her. Jude doesn’t seem to mind much either. Am I jealous? I am not jealous. Am I? Why don’t I get a cute nickname? Like… Like… Okay, there’s nothing really short for Hazel. I shake away the thoughts.
When Maria finally calms down, we get back to our searching. With Maria’s help, it doesn’t take long to find out where both former neighbors currently reside. Jerry Nelson passed away about three months ago, but Amy K. Long is still alive, and lives about an hour and a half away.
Maria yawns. “Well, looks like we’re in for another road trip.” Jude and Toby both groan. “Hey, at least we get to leave this smelly, creepy hotel room.”
“Jude. You’re buying me new shoes tomorrow,” Toby says. He looks pointedly toward his bare feet, even though we are all barefoot right now.
Jude rolls his eyes. “Oh my gosh, would you let it go already? It was an accident!” Toby wiggles his toes in response. “Fine. I’ll buy your stupid shoes.”
Toby is being a real jerk, making Jude buy him new shoes. Jude contributes more money to the business than any of us, since he takes on odd jobs when we don’t have any cases. I get money from a savings account that my parents set up for me before they put me in the hospital. I got access to the account when I turned eighteen, and by that time, there was a good amount of money in it. Other than mine and Jude’s income, the only other income is what our ghost hunting business makes, and that isn’t very much.
“I have an idea, Toby. Get a side job like Jude, and you can buy your own damn shoes,” I snap. They all look at me, confused. I don’t usually have a temper, but I am exhausted and annoyed at all kinds of things. First, the case going nowhere, then Maria hugging Jude, and now Toby mooching off of Jude. I am so done.
“Okay, jeez. I’ll buy my own shoes…” Toby mumbles.
“Good. I’m going to bed, and so are the rest of you.” I turn out the lights as they all scramble for their beds. I feel like ‘the mean parent’ telling her kids to go to bed early, but I don’t care. Sometimes, the boys need a parent, even if it’s a mean one. Maria is the only one of us who still talks to her family. Toby may be older than Jude, but he acts younger than him sometimes. Jude acts like a teenager. All the time. I can’t blame him, though, since he grew up the way he did.
I wasn’t committed until I was twelve. Jude was committed when he was seven. None of the nurses there acted like mother figures to any of the kids. Not until Mary got hired. Mary was the nicest nurse in that hell hole, and she treated me and Jude like her own children. She raised us as good as she could. I still visit her every few months, but Jude refuses. He says he doesn’t want to bring back bad memories. I don’t blame him, but I do wish he would visit her. Mary asks about him every time I see her.
I close my eyes, remembering the first time I met Mary. I was fourteen, and Jude was thirteen. Jude was trying to convince one of the newer nurses that he never got his meds, and I was trying to convince Jude to stop before he got in trouble. The nurse was just about to hand the pills to Jude, when Mary stepped in front of him, hands on her scrawny hips.
“You sure you want to do that, sweetpea?” Mary had said. Jude had glared at her, but she wasn’t having any of his preteen attitude. “You don’t think I saw you swipe those pills earlier? They’re in your right pocket.” She had held out her hand, waiting for him to confess and give them to her. Of course, Jude being the stubborn brat that he still is, he didn’t confess. Instead, he spat in her face. Or, at least, attempted to. Mary seemed to know it was coming and dodged it. Jude was so surprised that she had dodged, that when Mary requested the pills again, he dumbly handed them to her, eyes wide.
Mary had looked at both of us with sparkling eyes, and said, “You two are special ones, aren’t you?”
I finally fall asleep, the memory still fresh in my mind. It seems like only minutes later that I awaken from my dreamless sleep, to the sound of Jude’s alarm going off. I must have forgotten to set mine. I also must be in an alternate universe, because Jude doesn’t ever set his alarm. I sit up and watch in amazement as Jude turns off his alarm. And then falls back asleep immediately. Okay, so not an alternate universe.
I check the time on my phone. 6:30. Well, it is about time to be getting up. We have to pack up our stuff, eat breakfast, wait for Jude to get his butt out of bed, and finally drive about an hour and a half, plus however long it takes to find Amy’s house. Waiting for Jude alone could take a couple hours.
Next to me, Maria sighs. “Why would he set an alarm and not actually get up? What is wrong with that guy?” She throws back the covers and chucks her pillow at Jude. I hear a muffled grunt, but he doesn’t make any attempts to get up.
“I set his alarm,” Toby said. “I was hoping it might actually wake him up if he had to turn it off, but apparently not.” He shrugs. “Oh well. Plan B. I’m not waiting all day for him.” He goes into the bathroom and comes back with a cup of water.
“Wait…” I start. Too late. He dumps the cup of water over Jude’s head, and Jude yelps, lunging at Toby. Toby laughs and dodges.
“I will kill you!” Jude growls. Winded from his sudden rude awakening, he’s too slow to catch Toby, who makes a run for the door. Jude gives up quickly and tries to catch his breath before flopping back down on his bed, throwing his arm over his eyes. “Coffee,” he mutters.
Maria snorts and heads toward the hotel rooms coffee pot. After inspecting it, she deems it unusable and shakes her head. “Trust me, you don’t want coffee from this thing. It looks like it hasn’t been washed in years. Just like the rest of this place,” she says, looking around in disgust. “Guess you’ll just have to get up and get ready first. Like the rest of us.”
He lets out a long, overexaggerated groan. “I hate all of you.”
I tsk and roll my eyes. “Sure you do. Just get ready to go.” I haul everything out to the van while they get ready to go. By the time everything is packed, Jude is actually ready. I’m amazed! I quickly comb out my hair and throw on some makeup.
Jude climbs into the back of the van and when Toby tries to follow, Jude shoves him out. Toby just laughs and climbs back in. Jude is always in a pissy mood before getting his coffee and getting woken up with cold water only made it worse. I think we all want to hurry up and get him his caffeine fix.
Twenty minutes later, we are fed, caffeinated, and on our way to find Amy.