114 West Briargrove, Flower Mound.
10:51 am . . .
“So, how does this work?” Travis said as he led us into the living room.
“First thing we’re going to do is try and debunk you,” Ricky says as we walk past a giant gilded mirror.
This house is large and intimidating. It may have been built recently, but they gave everything that old rustic look as if we were on the outskirts of some wealthy place where Zorro is rumored to be raising an army in the hills. I half expect guys with those sharp little mustaches to walk in.
And I get this feeling that something is going on here. Just can’t nail it down yet.
The floors are dark tile, the furniture a deep brown leather and stained to either look authentic and antique, or it actually is the real deal.
“Debunk me?” Travis said indignantly.
“Sure,” Ricky said as he leaned forward, his hands posting on the edge of a giant couch. “We’re going to look for a rational, scientific explanation for whatever you’re experiencing here. And if it turns out there are paranormal events taking place,” he turned to Ms. Josephine and I, “ . . . they’ll sort it out, relocating any negative energy so that you can go on about your life in peace.”
Travis is looking at the three of us, maybe a little less confident and comfortable than he’d like to be. We’re a motley crew—Ms. Josephine, Ricky and I. “I didn’t think they actually had companies like . . . your’s.”
“There are no other companies like ALG,” Ricky said as he walked slowly around the living room. “We’re the real thing.”
Travis nods, probably hoping that we’re not a group of house burglars using ALG as a ploy to case-out nice homes for future heists, “ . . . right.”
Ms. Josephine can sense his uneasiness, “Mr. Travis, I’m Ms. Josephine. I been dealin’ wit dese kinds of situations for many years. If dere’s a problem wit your house, we’re goin’ fix it for you.”
He seems to warm up to her, especially with her creole accent. She has a way of making people feel comfortable. She’s the embodiment of a black-magic woman. A spiritual Aunt Jemima.
She turns to me, her hand reaching for my forearm, “This is Jack, and he has experience in this field, too.”
“So, what, you guys are like, Ghostbusters?”
And right about the time the n-sound is forming at the top of my mouth, Ricky says, “Think of us as paranormal specialists. We don’t have backpacks and laser guns. But we’re intimately familiar with situation of the afterlife. Ergo, After Life Group.”
That Ricky, he’s good. I can see why his family is so successful. He’s got salesman DNA. He could rent ice to Eskimos.
“Mr. Travis, what exactly is going on wit your beautiful ’ome?” Ms. Josephine asks as she walks slowly towards him.
He crossed his arms, his head tilting to the side, “Well, I’m a contractor by trade. In fact, I laid the foundation for this house.”
Ricky’s got out his little notepad, “Was this property built on an old cemetery, or historic site?”
“No,” Travis said, kind of bothered by the idea. Maybe he had never asked.
“Did anyone ever die during the construction of the house?”
Travis looked shocked, “No! God no. Nothing like that.”
Ricky nods, marking something down in his pad. He can tell that Travis is rattled. “Relax, sir. These are just routine questions. I have to ask them.”
“Right,” Travis says, walking past us and leading us towards a large stair case that takes us to a lavish second floor. “At night, we hear things up here, and doors . . . they open and close and rattle on their own.”
We’re walking, we’re walking.
Ricky puts his hand on one of the door handles and delicately jiggles it, checking for any play. Ms. Josephine is leaning over the wooden guardrail, looking down on the living room where we just were.
The ceiling in this house is enormously high. It’s vaulted, with a huge fresco that looks like a knock-off of the Sistine Ceiling. It’s illuminated by several wall sconces and lights that look like torch fixtures.
I’m just looking at all the darker parts of the hallway, and under furniture, seeing if the shadows are really just shadows, or if they’re guardians of the Deadside. Everything seems fine on the surface, but I still have this eerie feeling that something is untoward.
“I know the carpenter who hung these doors and set the thresholds, and he’s good. There’s no reason the doors should be rattling all of the sudden.” He looks bothered by this. As if a natural explanation would be a black mark against his craftsmanship.
Then he looks up at the ceiling in the hallway, “And up there, that’s where the noises come from.”
“Noises . . . ” Ricky repeats as he makes the proper notations. He doesn’t even look up from the pad, “And what kinds of noises do you observe, if you can describe them?”
Travis rubs his forehead, obviously bothered by all of this, “Hissing, kind of. But, like . . . grunting, too.”
“Hissing,” Ricky says, still scribbling, “ . . . grun-ting . . . ” and then he glances up, scratching his chin with the back of his pen, “You have an attic?”
Travis nods, “Yes. But it’s empty. I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to fire safety, and I don’t have anything up there that could present a fire hazard.”
“We’re going to need to get up there,” Ricky says, almost to gauge Travis’s reaction.
The troubled homeowner points to an access panel cut into the ceiling farther down the hallway. “It’s got a sectional set of stairs that pulls down.”
Ricky then asks when the noises and door rattling display usually begin.
Travis says, “Right after sunset, most evenings.”
Ricky asks if they happen in unison, the noises and the rattling doors.
Some nights the hissing, other nights there’s rattling. Sometimes both. Sometimes neither.
Ricky asks if this happens every night.
Two or three times a week. More when there’s a full moon coming.
Ms. Josephine looks over at me and shrugs as if she doesn’t hear anything otherworldly that would cause her to be concerned.
I cross my arms and shake my head, and then something touches my leg.