“Do you remember where it is,” Lasker asked Chan who had come to a traffic light on Main Street in the heart of the neatly laid out town.
“How could I forget such a place?” A shiver ran down Chan’s spine. “None of us could.”
“I don’t like this,” Allen said. “I’m frightened for you. He hasn’t told you everything. I can feel it in my bones…and I don’t have any.”
Shelly ignored him, her eyes taking in the touristy storefronts. “This looks like a nice place to shop,” she said, thinking about the clothing she had waiting to be washed back at the dorm. When am I going to have time to do that, she thought. “Maybe we can stop on our way back,” she asked.
Chan looked at her incredulously. What had Lasker told her? Didn’t she understand where they were going? He looked at the professor and detected a warning look on his face.
“The Chinese kid is looking at you like a lovesick puppy,” Allen said. “Yet another conquest,” he grumbled, again surprised he could feel such human emotions as jealousy.
It was all Shelly could do to not snap back an answer to him, but she was learning to not reply to his remarks with others present, no matter how snide some of them were.
“The next left,” Dr. Lasker directed.
“I know,” Chan replied making the turn a bit too sharply as if trying to punish Lasker.
Shelly saw large, well-kept houses positioned far back from the road. The houses were different than the homes she had known in Queens, much larger and with far more space between them. She would have killed for a porch like this one when she was little. “What a great place to play house,” she said. She saw a little girl serving tea to several dolls on an expansive white porch.”
“Don’t let the expensive covers fool you,” Allen said, “Some of these ‘book covers’ are hiding awful secrets. I’m getting a strange vibe already.”
“The expression is, “Never judge a book by its cover,” she replied.
Dr. Lasker looked back in surprise. “Do you feel something,” he asked. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if she did feel something this early, he thought. “Try to concentrate my dear,” he urged, still not fully believing in her ghost story, but knowing something was responsible for her uncanny test scores. If the scores were any indication, Shelly would be an even more attuned Ecto than Dodd had been.
So that’s it, Chan thought, Dodd was right, the sneaky doctor was bringing in someone even more sensitive than Dodd or him. Even though Chan had more to lose, perhaps even being sent back to China, he had not fallen prey to Dodd’s insanity, but knew he had to find some other way to fight or lose his job and immigrant protection. “I feel a tingling sensation,” Chan said, deliberately trying to place himself back into the psychic loop.
Shelly sighed. “Nothing so far. Right?”
Allen was deep in thought. If he told her what he was already picking up, the doctor would realize just how special having a ghost on his team, and therefore Shelly, really was. Shelly would be stuck here forever. Eventually she could end up like Dodd. But Chan hadn’t been damaged that way…or had he? Did Chan really feel something emanating from these houses or was he just saying it to protect his job and his stay in America? Would he be the next
former assistant to be let go if Shelly put on too good a show? “No. I don’t sense anything so far. Not yet,” Allen said. He hated lying to her, but felt caution was the best strategy until he could figure out what really was best for her.
“I feel the house is near,” Chan said. “I feel prickly, skin tight, breathing harder…headache….”
“You know where the damn house is,” Lasker sniped, shaking his head. “What do you feel, Allen,” Lasker asked, deliberately passing over Shelly who was staring at a large white house rising over a grassy front lawn that was showing signs of neglect, weeds taking over and ruts where the ground had dried in the hot summer sun. Grass and weeds were appearing in cracks in the concrete driveway that led to the house.
“That’s the house in the picture,” Allen said, feeling strangely alarmed, “Shelly, you can’t go in there.”
“Stop the car,” Shelly said. “That’s the house.”
Chan stopped the car. “I thought her name is Shelly. Who is Allen,” he asked Dr. Lasker as he held the van door for him.
“I’ll explain later,” Lasker replied, realizing he had made an unfortunate slip.
“Yes you will,” Chan said, his mouth so close to Lasker’s face the professor could smell garlic on his breath. “Or I’ll have some explaining for your new, little friend here.” Lasker’s shocked face told Chan he had finally found some leverage over the professor.
Dr. Lasker shook himself away from Chan who he now considered nothing more than a disloyal blackmailer. He forced a thin smile. “We are about to enter the world of American occultism. I am certain you have seen such houses featured on television, several movies, and of course in some rather over-rated books. But the truth of such possessions is far more terrifying and disturbing than all the fictions and legends. My dear Shelly, this visitation is step one in our revitalized mission to help these poor souls, both the haunted and the haunters. It is for their sake that we must do what we can to--”
“Oh brother,” Allen groaned as he reluctantly followed Shelly up the gravel driveway that he feared would bring them to the threshold of hell.