Chapter 11

 


Author: Rhonnie Fordham


The following morning left Linda’s group with even more mysterious questions than they ever could’ve imagined when they first arrived at the fabled Christy home. Nobody had slept well the previous night, particularly Amanda and Bridget (and Kevin). But in that living room, as they crowded around Bridget’s tape recorder, the group were wide awake with simultaneous fear and excitement.

Holding the recorder, Bridget let what they believed to be John’s voice finish playing on the tape. “They’re here, Amanda,” the creepy voice said.

Everyone listened intently, no one saying a word. Tony’s face resembled a child being scared shitless on Halloween night, Linda’s a child upon entering Disney World.

“They’re inside me,” John’s voice continued.

The heightened intensity of his voice sent the disturbed Amanda turning away, unable to even look at the recorder from which his voice boomed from. Hearing the domineering voice was enough. Facing it was like facing John himself.

“They’re inside all of us!” the voice finished.

As John finished, Bridget stopped the tape. The raw terror of John’s voice lingered over the scene for a few moments like the closing lines of a sermon from Hell.

Everyone was too scared to react. Like they were scared they would antagonize John’s spirit by saying one word.

“Well,” Bridget said, breaking the silence. She laid the recorder on the couch arm. “That’s what we got so far at least…”

“You got this last night?” Linda asked. She kept her voice low out of respect to Amanda and to the situation in general. But Linda’s palpable intrigue was still rather blatant.

“Yeah,” Bridget said. “I found all the pictures in the closet.”

“How’d you know they were in there?” Tony wondered aloud.

Facing Tony, Bridget pointed at Amanda. “Her children showed me.”

“What!” Linda said, unable to contain her excitement this time.

Recovering from the PTSD-like trauma, Amanda watched Bridget confront the others.

“It was Amy and Michael,” Bridget explained. “They came to me again. They led me to the closet, and that’s where I found the pictures. Boxes of them.”

Linda turned to Amanda. “You put them in there?”

Not enjoying being put on the spot, Amanda struggled to respond. “I had to. I just, I just couldn’t look at them anymore. I couldn’t look at John.”

Bridget took a step toward Linda. “But here’s the thing. His face was marked out of all of them.”

“What? Why?” Linda said.

“Marked out?” Tony asked.

“It was missing in all the pictures,” Bridget said. She looked to Amanda. “Tell them.”

Amanda nodded. “I don’t know why he did it.”

“It was probably Michael and Amy!” Bridget exclaimed. “They probably ripped his face out of all of them.”

“For good reason,” Tony deadpanned.

Like a teacher excited to see her students finally understand the lesson, Bridget faced him. “Exactly! I think that’s why the pictures changed later. The kids have that type of power.”

“Whoa, hold on,” Tony said with unease. “They have more power? Aren’t they already ghosts?”

Ignoring Tony, Bridget continued talking to the others. “But more importantly, they’re all still here! John, Amy, Michael. Their spirits are still in this house.”

Just the mention of their names and the confirmation of her own deepest fears unsettled Amanda. “I told you they were,” Amanda said quietly, avoiding eye contact with everyone.

Bridget looked at Amanda with sympathy. “Her kids are trapped with him,” Bridget said to the others. She faced everyone else, her grave seriousness rivaling a preacher in a cemetery. “And now he wants Amanda.”

Wanting to ease the room’s panic-meter, Kevin confronted Bridget. “Whoa, whoa, hold on a sec-”

“She wasn’t lying, okay!” Bridget quipped. She pointed toward the still-restless Amanda. “I know she’s telling the truth. I believe her.”

Linda stole a glance at Amanda. Distressed as ever, Amanda looked the part of the haunted homeowner and grieving widow.

“It’s not like that though-” Kevin began.

“John’s after her!” Bridget interrupted. “He attacked her again last night!”

“Attacked her?” Tony asked behind worried eyes.

“We got it on tape,” Amanda defended herself in a quiet tone.

“I know, I know,” Kevin stated. Pleading his case like a confident lawyer, he motioned around the living room. “But this house has too much history, Amanda. I mean what if it isn’t John, huh? There’s other stories all in this damn place. For Christ’s sakes, it’s called the Christy house! There could be any number of evil spirits running around! You don’t know if they’re specifically after you or us.”

“No!” Bridget commanded as she got in Kevin’s face, actually intimidating Kevin with her surprising toughness. “I know what I saw! It was John!” She pointed toward the hallway. “He was right there in that closet!”

Nervous, Tony took a quick peek toward the hall. He appeared to be making a mental note to never open that closet door.

Overcoming her defeated meekness, Amanda confronted the group. “The evil’s never left this house,” she stated matter-of-factly. “And it never will.”

Bridget grabbed Amanda’s arm, supportive. “Look, John’s here, Amanda. He’s after you.”

“He wants his family,” Linda noted to herself with some excitement.

Linda’s vague giddiness drew a glare from Bridget.

Amanda stared right at Bridget, Amanda’s eyes subdued. “Of course, he is,” Amanda said bluntly. She looked up at the ceiling. “They want us all here,” she said in a tone that mixed the musings of both an innocent child and disturbed lunatic.

Getting everyone’s attention, Kevin clapped his hands together. “Well, okay then, so what if it’s him? This is good, right?”

Bridget just glared at him. She hated this guy.

Kevin turned to Linda, glad to see her salivating eyes glued to him. “I mean the house is haunted, so let’s say we go ahead and draw up the paperwork?” Kevin proposed.

“Hmm, I suppose we could,” Linda hesitated.

Bridget looked over at Amanda. Amanda was already facing her, but their immediate eye contact wasn’t awkward. It was cool and mutual. Like Bridget had already expected it.

Begging for a sale, Kevin ran his hand up and down Linda’s arm, knowing his mere touch might be the finishing touches for the deal. “You sign the checks, Amanda moves on with her life.” He flashed Linda his smile of pearly whites. “We all live happily ever after.”

Linda seemed to purr. “You know I strike a hard bargain,” she said without a hint of subtlety.

“Well, we got a whole night to come to a deal, don’t we,” Kevin replied as he moved in closer toward her. They looked more like dance partners than realtor and client.

“Indeed,” Linda said.

Like a kid who’d stumbled upon the wrong fetish porn, Tony looked on at them, speechless.

Kevin squeezed Linda’s hand.

Bridget was joining Tony on the what-the-fuck-are-they-doing bandwagon. Really Ms. Kane, Bridget thought.

Not really paying attention, Amanda looked toward the tape recorder, like she expected it to turn on and greet her with that creepy voice once more.

Feeling Tony and Bridget’s disapproval, Kevin confronted them. “You see this isn’t just about us and our creepy little haunting,” he bullshitted to them.

Tired of Kevin’s act, Bridget turned and looked out a window.

“I’m just looking out for what’s best for Amanda,” Kevin continued.

“I bet,” Tony quipped.

A compulsion ran through Bridget. An unusual urge to look further. One of her intuitive pushes. She focused on the window like a propulsive force was drawing her to it, her intense eyes looking out into the front yard where the morning sun showcased everything.

Ignoring Tony, Kevin went on. “If she’s in danger, we need to get this done sooner.”

Not too discreet, Linda gave him a hard slap on the ass.

“Or by tomorrow,” Kevin corrected. “Tomorrow morning at the latest.”

Bridget faced him. “That’s not happening,” she stated affirmatively.

Kevin stepped toward her, outraged. “What? What are you talking about?”

“I mean it won’t help,” Bridget responded, keeping her cool as always. She glanced back at the scared Amanda. “He’s just gonna keep following her no matter what.”

“No, he won’t, it’s the house!” Kevin proclaimed.

Behind trembling eyes, Amanda didn’t say anything.

Kevin glowered at the silent Bridget. No one else was taking his side. Kevin faced Amanda, desperate to reassure her. “Look, the ghosts are only in this house, Amanda. They ain’t following you.”

“Bullshit!” Bridget yelled.

“Yeah, I don’t think that’s right,” Linda chimed in.

“The house is evil,” Bridget started, eviscerating Kevin like a professor berating a smartass student. “But it’s in John now. It latched onto his personality almost instantly because of his past and his schizophrenia. And now he’s only gonna follow her even after she leaves this house.”

“Aw, come on!” Kevin protested.

“She can escape the house, but she can’t escape him,” Bridget said.

Amanda looked down, entangled in a web of convoluted emotions. “I know. You’re right..”

“I’m afraid she is,” Linda commented.

Realizing he’s being shot down by experts, a defeated Kevin threw his hands in the air. “I mean we can try! It’s better than just having her stick around here all day.”

Bridget stole a glance out the window before looking straight at Kevin. “I don’t think you and her could leave tonight anyway.”

“Why?” Kevin demanded.

Bridget waved him toward the window. “See for yourself.”

Fearful of what to expect, Tony led the others up to the glass. They all peered out into the front yard.

From here, their cars were all visible in the driveway. And it was a fucking mess. The windshields and windows were busted completely, just like the mirror from the living room. As if the cars were either exposed to untolerable decibel levels of sound or had spontaneously combusted on their own accord.

Dents ran all along the vehicles. Deep dents that rivaled those of the deep piercings the knife had caused in Bridget’s guest room. And most importantly, each car tire was meticulously slashed. Not just one puncture in each tire, but many. A frenzy of stabbings. Hell, it may have even been done by the same butcher knife from last night, Bridget thought.

Rubber debris scattered across the yard. Sunlight shone off the broken glass littering the driveway, reflecting off the glass and shining right back toward the horrified faces of the car owners.

“Oh fuck…” Tony muttered. Somehow, he was reaching new levels of his terror with each passing event in this house.

“What the Hell!” Kevin yelled. His irate eyes stayed focused on his once-shiny, once-new truck standing in the driveway. “What the fuck happened!” He gave Tony a harsh push. “What is this!”

Tony held his hands up, shielding himself. “Hey, he got our car too!”

Trying to calm Kevin, Linda reached toward him. “It’s okay-”

“Goddammit!” Kevin growled as he avoided her touch and ran for the front door.

“Geez…” Tony commented.

“Just let him go,” Linda told Tony.

“I hope he’s got insurance,” Tony said.

Like a distraught spouse refusing to be restrained, Kevin tore the door open and rushed outside. His loud barrage of profanities could even be heard from inside. The “family-friendly” real-estate champ had seemingly lost his mind.

While the others didn’t quite react with such emphatic panic, they were just as uneasy. The driveway scene before them captured the visceral horror of a grisly car wreck. A car wreck of paranormal origin.

“It’s crazy,” Linda stated, almost in rapture. “Unbelievable…”

Breaking the tension, Bridget looked over at Amanda. “This is all him, isn’t it?”

Amanda didn’t say anything. But the overwhelming fear on her face gave Bridget enough of an answer.

“Fuck, man…” Tony muttered.

Standing near what was left of his truck, Kevin yelled and held up a large piece of glass. Straight off his truck’s shiny windshield. Irate, he waved the glass toward the others as he screamed with the tenacity of a holy roller. No one in the house could really tell what he was saying, but he was definitely cussing.

“What’s he doing?” Tony asked Linda.

Outside, Kevin hurled insults up into the sky. Presumably to God.

“Who knows…” Linda replied.

Still yelling profanities, Kevin gripped the shard tight. The piece slid deeper into Kevin’s palm, drawing blood. Now in pain and pissed off, Kevin yelled even louder as he grabbed his bleeding hand and jumped around in bitter rage. His blood dripped all over the driveway, giving the wreckage the grotesque quality of a fatal car crash.

“Ouch…” Tony muttered.

Kevin hurled the glass toward the window, right toward his potential customers. Everyone jumped back.

“Whoa!” Tony yelled.

The shard banged off the window, leaving specks of Kevin’s blood behind. It now resembled a red stained-glass window.

“Just look at him,” the amused Linda said.

Clutching his bleeding wound, Kevin looked right at them, yelling at the top of his lungs. His cut hand more bloodied than an overused cast. Too bad no one could hear him.

Facing Kevin, Tony threw his arms up in confusion. “I can’t hear you, man!” he yelled back.

Bridget grabbed Amanda’s shoulder. “Has John always been like this? This violent?”

Behind her big green eyes, Amanda just looked at Bridget in cofusion.

“Amanda, please,” Bridget pleaded. “I know you said the violence was escalating in the videos. Tell me, is this normal? Is he getting worse?”

“It’s never been this bad…” Amanda said meekly. “He’s only gotten angrier. He’s just…”

“More powerful,” Bridget said. To her horror, she now realized the probable reason. The eerie epiphany.

Overhearing their conversation, the intrigued Linda looked over at the two women.

“Since we came here, the house has made him stronger,” Bridget told Amanda.

“It’s you,” Linda said to Bridget.

Amanda and Bridget turned to see Linda approach them with uncontrollable excitement. Linda was back in mad scientist mode.

Bridget wanted to protest but couldn’t. How could she? She knew Linda had made the ultimate connection between all these weird events.

“It’s your gift, Bridget,” Linda continued as she stopped in front of them. Her hands moved at a frenetic pace. “The house can feed off of it.”

“So can John,” Bridget commented.

“Yes,” Linda said. “But my point is your abilities. The house senses it, it makes it stronger!”

Stunned, Amanda and Tony watched Linda step closer toward Bridget.

“With your gifts to see the other world, you helped accelerate the Christy house’s power,” Linda told the uneasy Bridget.

“Shit,” Bridget said wearily. “I know. It’s never happened…”

Linda rested her hand on Bridget’s shoulder. “But that’s not a bad thing-”

Breaking away from Linda, Bridget faced Amanda. “I’m sorry!” Bridget said. “I didn’t mean to do this, but you really can’t stay here! We have to find you a way to get out! To get away from John!”

Crippled by anxiety, Amanda couldn’t say anything.

Bridget realized Amanda was back to her timid victim persona.

“But Bridget!” Linda interjected.

Bridget ensnared Amanda’s arm in a tight grip, trying to convince her. “It isn’t safe here, Amanda!” Bridget told her. Bridget faced the others. “It isn’t safe for any of us! Not with me here.”

“I can’t,” Amanda said quietly.

Bridget looked at her.

“We all know I can’t leave,” Amanda went on in defeat. “John won’t give up. He’ll find me. He’ll find a way. You know that, Bridget.”

“But we can’t just stay here!” Bridget pleaded. She looked over at Tony and Linda. “None of us can! It’s too dangerous!”

Neither of them responded, even though Linda struggled to hide her disappointment. They could tell Bridget was passionate, but most of all, they could tell she was being serious. Bridget wasn’t ever this rattled. She was the tough cynic of the group.

Amanda snapped Bridget’s wrist, startling Bridget. Bridget looked right into those endless green eyes.

“We don’t have to go anywhere,” Amanda said without so much as a stutter or stammer. She said it with resiliency and strength. A complete 360 from the meek Amanda that was there moments earlier, Bridget realized.

Linda flashed a grin. Her optimism that they were staying here restored.

Bridget wasn’t sure what to make of Amanda’s mood shift. “What?” Bridget asked Amanda, confused.

“I’m not leaving,” Amanda responded. “Not now.”

“But Amanda-”

Like a long-suffering prisoner ready to confront their captor, Amanda threw Bridget’s hand back at her. “And I ain’t leaving y’all here by yourselves either. I ain’t running away anymore!”

Before Bridget could protest, Linda interrupted their confrontation. “Let her stay,” Linda said.

Bridget glared at her. “Are you crazy! We can’t do that!” She looked at the determined Amanda before looking to Tony for support.

Holding his hands up like a man held at gunpoint, Tony took a step back. “Hey, not my fight.”

Outraged, Bridget faced Amanda. “Amanda, this is crazy!”

“I have no other choice,” Amanda replied.

Linda grabbed Bridget’s shoulder, making Bridget face her. “Bridget, please.”

Bridget stepped away from Linda, glowering at her with uneasy eyes. “Linda, no! I’m not letting her-”

With the reckless abandonment of a rogue researcher, Linda lurched forward and grabbed Bridget by the shoulders. “Bridget, just listen to me! This is the closest we’ve ever come, don’t you understand. This is our dream! What we’ve been wanting.”

Like a lot of what Linda said, her reasoning made sense to Bridget. Even if Bridget didn’t approve. After all, they had come a long way from the Tomberlin farm or the Howards mansion. They were in a real haunted house. With real activity. Their dream.

“With your gifts,” Linda continued. “We can get whatever we want! We can get our greatest proof yet.”

Bridget made direct eye contact with Tony. His unusually calm expression told her to give in. This is Ms. Kane’s legacy, Bridget thought. And she knew Tony would go with whatever Linda said.

“Please, Bridget,” Linda stated. “We can do this. Everything we’ve worked for is right here. In this house.”

Trying to hide her uncertainty, Bridget faced Linda. “It’s almost like you’re using her as bait,” Bridget noted.

“No-” Linda began.

Bridget pointed toward Amanda. “But you’re putting her in danger.”

“It’s fine,” Amanda proclaimed.

“Hell, you’re putting us all in danger just for this!” Bridget told Linda. “You didn’t see him like me or her have. You didn’t feel his anger, his rage. He’s dangerous, Linda!”

“I know,” Linda replied, still calm about the situation.

“We might not even survive to get the damn proof,” Bridget said.

“But it’s worth the risk!” Linda’s voice was much louder and stronger then. As if all the pain of her divorce and the frustrations of the failed ghost hunts culminated in her one adamant stance. Her statement single-handedly blanketed the room in tense silence.

Unable to suppress her disgust, Bridget avoided eye contact. Even Tony was surprised by Linda’s dogged determination.

“It’s okay, y’all,” Amanda said. Her calm, stern tone commanded everyone’s attention. “She’s right. I’m fine just staying here and trying to help with everything.”

Hating the idea, Bridget looked at her. “But you don’t have to-”

“I want to,” Amanda stated. She looked up at the security camera. “We’ll give it the weekend like we planned.” She gave Linda a bemused smile. “That should give you the show you’re looking for.”

“Thank you,” Linda said dryly.

“It’s not a good idea,” Bridget told Amanda. “You told me you were scared. John’s only gonna get more dangerous!”

Amanda confronted her. “So let him!” With fire in her eyes, she looked over at everyone, almost challenging them. “I’m settling this once and for all. We prove John’s here then we’ll figure out a way to get rid of his sorryass.”

Bridget didn’t like this. This was a death sentence, she thought. But what could she do? After all, it was Amanda’s house and Linda’s passion. Hell, Linda’s funding was what brought them here in the first place.

“Fabulous,” Linda beamed.

The front door burst open and slammed against the wall, scaring the shit out of everyone. But it wasn’t John or any other ghost behind it. Just Kevin.

“Goddamn, man!” Tony yelled in anger.

Breathing heavy like he just ran a marathon, Kevin leaned into the open doorway. “Y’all ain’t gonna believe this!” he cried between exasperated gasps.

*

Under the beaming sunlight, all the broken glass resembled gorgeous crystals. The cars themselves were hideous, turning the driveway into a junkyard.

The group all stood outside the wrought-iron gate opening, stunned. The gate was closed, but now it was locked. Thick chains wrapped around the gate while a huge padlock entrapped the chains together. Along with the roving cameras, such security made the Christy house look more like a prison.

Frustrated, Kevin kicked the chains. “Fuck me…”

“I don’t understand,” Bridget said.

Trying to help, Tony pulled on the chains to no avail. They were big and locked tight. Not even a muscleman like Tony had a chance.

“Someone really wants us in,” Linda said, some amusement in her voice.

Straining, Tony’s hands, arms, and face turned a painful red. “God!” he yelled.

Amanda just stared at the padlock. No emotion was in her eyes as if she expected this sort of play from the house. ”

“Fuck!” Tony yelled in frustration as he stepped back and gave up on the task.

“Who could’ve done this?” Bridget asked everyone.

“I don’t know,” Kevin replied. He waved over at the damaged cars. “I came out here and saw all this shit.”

“Obviously,” Linda smirked.

Aggravated, Kevin pointed toward the fence. “And then I saw this! It’s all fucking locked!”

“Does anyone have a key?” Bridget questioned.

“No, fuck no!” Kevin replied. He pointed at the padlock. “I’ve never even seen this shit. How the fuck are we supposed to get out now!”

“It’s John,” Amanda said, her stoic eyes still staring on at the chains.

The others looked over at Amanda, both interested and fearful of what she had to say. Amanda had the spotlight again.

“He’s keeping us here.” With weary defeat, she finally looked at the others. “He wants us trapped here just like me and the kids were.”

Bridget started to walk up to her. “Amanda-”

Amanda stepped back, avoiding her. “Don’t touch me.”

“Look, maybe we shouldn’t stay after all,” a dejected Kevin said. “This is a little much.”

Adamant, Linda gave him a shove. “No! We’ve come too far to quit now.”

Bridget confronted her. “But it’s suicide, Ms. Kane! Amanda’s already been attacked, John destroyed our cars. We can’t stay here like this! He’s just toying with us!”

“So he’s toying with us,” Linda said calmly. “So what’d you expect. He’s a ghost.” She motioned toward Amanda. “If Amanda’s fine with it, I see no reason why we should leave.”

Caught between a sell and a hard place, Kevin bit his lip. And his tongue.

“Linda, come on,” Bridget pleaded. “We have enough evidence-”

Linda scoffed. “No, we don’t! We don’t have shit!” Full of jaded anger, she motioned behind the gates, toward the neighborhood. “You’ve see how people are! They mock us, Bridget, and I’ve had enough of it!” She stepped closer toward Bridget, getting eye-to-eye with her favorite clairvoyant. “We’re not leaving without proof. Definitive proof.”

Upset, Bridget hesitated. “Linda, we can always come back.”

“No. This is it. We have everything now.”

“Look, we’ll find more places,” Bridget protested. “I know we can.” Looking for support, Bridget looked over at Tony. “Won’t we, Tony? Just tell her!”

Noticing Linda’s staunch glare bearing down on him, Tony didn’t respond. He was caught between his two partners.

“Tony, come on!” Bridget pleaded. “Nothing’s been right since we came here! This shit’s too dangerous! I can feel it! John’s not gonna stop.”

“I’ll be fine,” Amanda said with some annoyance.

“No!” Bridget snapped at Amanda. “You won’t be, none of us will be. We need to call the police and find a way to get the Hell outta here.”

“Just let her do it, Bridget,” Tony chmed in. He kept his demeanor calm and collected, hoping to keep the tempers down between Linda and Bridget.

Bridget stared right at him. She knew he’d never wish to pick between them. He needed them, and they needed him. They were like a ragtag support group.

“It’s what we’ve always wanted,” Tony reiterated. He looked over at the pleased Linda. “Especially her. Let’s do it for Ms. Kane.”

“Thank you, Tony,” Linda said appreciatively. “This isn’t all for me either. I’d have never gotten this far without you two. We did this together. As a team I might add.”

Annoyed by their stubbornness, Bridge avoided eye contact. Don’t ask the expert here, she thought to herself.

“And we can’t let John tear us apart,” Linda continued. “We can overcome this house as long as we stick together.”

Feeling Linda’s gaze hone in on her, Bridget forced a weak smile for her.

“This is history,” Linda said as she caressed Bridget’s shoulder. “With your power and Amanda’s willingness, we’ll see things no other paranormal researchers have ever documented. This is what we’ve been waiting for for years, Bridget. To prove the paranormal to the people who’ve doubted us and questioned you! We’re not letting this slip away. Not now!”

“I’m in,” Amanda reassured Linda.

Tony and Bridget looked toward Amanda and her confident grin.

Kevin intervened, “I still don’t think this is fair to-”

Not missing a beat, Linda faced him real quick. “I’ll pay the full listing.”

Shifting gears quickly, Kevin looked straight at Amanda. “What do you think, Amanda? You on for one more night?”

“That was our original agreement,” Amanda said. She locked eyes with the uncertain Bridget. “One more night it is.”


 

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