ALG office, Dallas.
1:16 pm . . .
When we arrived at the office, Billtruck already had our gear and equipment packed into three large black duffel bags. He handed Ricky a manila folder and said, “Everything I could get on the house is in there. Construction, Zoning, the home builders that developed that street, tax rolls, everything.”
In trade we handed him bags full of hamburgers.
“Anything weird?” Ricky asked as he struggled to get the biggest duffel bag strung across his shoulder.
Shaking his head, Billtruck said, “Nothing came up. Street wasn’t built on any religious or ceremonial land. Nobody died tragically that lives within three blocks of the place. It’s a fairly new housing development. Quiet area. You know, Nouveau riche.”
Then he pulled a small grey plastic box out of his pocket. It wasn’t much bigger than a cigarette lighter. He handed it to Ricky, “Hide this somewhere in your Porsche. Somewhere obscure.”
What is it? I ask, the other two bags tugging at both my shoulders like heavy boat anchors. This can’t be good for my new tattoos.
“Tracking device I’m messing with,” Billtruck said as he leaned over one of the workstations and typed something impossibly rapid on one of the keyboards, “did my own little surgery last night.”
“What’s the range?” Ricky asked as he headed towards the door.
“The planet earth.”
Billtruck tilted his head back, a sinister grin forming at just the sides of his mouth, “Five feet, maybe less. I’m borrowing some space on an old Cold War spy satellite. A Keyhole.”
Ricky nodded and headed out the door saying, “You should have worked for the CIA.”
Billtruck snorted, “Who says I’m not?”
I followed Ricky, waddling behind, and as I passed Billtruck he gave me a good slap on the shoulder with his bowling ball sized hand, saying, “Go find us some ghosts to bust, Jack.”
Oh, if he only knew.
1:38 pm . . .
We met Ms. Josephine at the Cayenne and she greeted our bags of paranormal sensing equipment with roughly the same amount of skepticism that most of us attribute to psychics and tarot card readers. I find it humorous how the scientists scoff at the psychics, and the psychics laugh at the crudity of modern science.
We’re all going to the same place, just from different directions. Nobody is completely right, nor completely wrong.
“Dat’s goin’ ’elp us find da spirits?” she asked, clearly unconvinced.
Ricky shrugged as he got in behind the wheel. “It’s all the state of the art equipment that you can buy for tracking extra-sensory and supernatural occurrences. Top of the line, really.”
But, I remind him, nobody has ever filmed a real ghost . . . ever. Not one single accurate entity captured on tape or film that any reasonable panel of experts would agree on.
“Just cause you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Ricky returned as he hammered the small grey tracking device deep into the guts of the SUV, somewhere near the threshold between the console and the interior carpet. Satisfied, he sat up and started the engine. “Let’s go hunt invisible evil.”
We headed back up the Dallas North Tollway, going north towards the George Bush Tollway. And we’re all kind of quiet, lost in our own thoughts. My theory, which I haven’t discussed with them yet was sufficient to explain both uber-normal events that Travis seems to be experiencing.
Event one: The rattling of doors on the second floor, despite expert craftsmanship.
My theory: A draft created by air pressure changes on the first floor, creating the seemingly scary, but quite innocuous, rattling and shaking of the upstairs doors.
I watch Myth-Busters all the time, and I’m getting pretty good at figuring things out like this.
Event two: Hissing and grunting from above, in the empty attic.
My theory: That energetic little cat—Steele—he’s probably got a girlfriend in the neighborhood. Cats like to have a lot of sex. I saw it on Animal Planet. They make all sorts of terrifying noises when they make sweet love.
Bad plumbing and swamp gas.
And now that I consider it more, if the cat has a cat door, that would cause the draft. The cat door would have probably been a later addition to the house, so any time pre-kitty would be without haunting. Geez, I’m glad they didn’t blame Steele, and send him to the big litter box in the sky.
And right about the time I decide to enlighten my business partners I feel myself suddenly pinned to the back seat. It’s Einstein’s Equivalence Principle, again.
Ricky is accelerating.
I look up and Ricky’s eyes are glancing at mirrors as he weaves in and out of traffic. He doesn’t need to tell me . . . we’re being followed.
“They may be less experienced than the last batch,” he says as he tries to squeeze in ahead of an old Suburban, “ . . . but they seem much more ambitious. They’re really trying this time.” Lots of tire squealing and breath holding ensues.
And then he warns us, “Hold on, Team!”
The way he’s driving now, none of that is in my DMV book. He’s in full-on Formula-one mode. I’ve got my feet firmly pressed against the carpeted floor for support, not that it would make any difference at these near-light speeds.
“Who do you tink dat is, followin’ us?” Ms. Josephine asks, oddly calm for the predicament we find ourselves in.
Rare book collectors, or pure evil, I answer. Take your pick.
Ricky lowered his head, really getting into the zone, “This is my playground.” And then he performed some feats of driving that I’m having real trouble working out in my mind. Tricks that could have only been learned on the X-Box and Playstation.
We’re on the road, on the shoulder, slowing down, speeding up, taking an exit ramp, back on the entrance ramp, turning away at the last second to race off across the grass after jumping two different sets of curbs. Ricky is the kind of driver that Insurance companies cringe to imagine.
The kind of driver that screws up the actuarial tables.
“Number-one rule in racing,” he says between clenched teeth, his knuckles as white as bleached ice, “ . . . keep the rubber side down!”
And then he gets us into a full-on, pissing in your pants, 4-wheel slide at over 60 miles per hour. And I guess I’m the only one scared here because Ms. Josephine seems as relaxed and quiet as a church mouse.
She could be a mental patient on ten bottles of valium.
I’m just a crazed mental patient.
She’s like a statue.
I’m a crumbling mess.
Five minutes, four back roads, three hot-laps, two burnt stop lights, and one almost burped-up Double-Quarter-Pounder with cheese later, we’re back on I-35 going north toward Flower Mound.
“They’re gone, for now,” he said, catching his breath. “But this could be a problem. We can’t keep having high-speed chases.”
My heart is beating about a hundred miles an hour.
“Never a dull moment wit you two,” Ms. Josephine said as if we’d just left the museum.
And then I felt my stomach kind of turn upside down, like when you’re on a swing set and you’re just at the very top before you come back down to earth. And it was just the tiniest little flash in my left eye. Maybe it only lasted about half a second, but it was enough to send a shiver down my spine.
And for that brief moment, I felt the cold, again.
I might be losing me.