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“Well doesn’t that make for a memorable stay,” Dex comments underneath his breath.

Pam giggles nervously at his lame joke and then gets up. “I’m afraid I will have to leave you two now. Duty calls.”

Dex lowers the camera and touches her arm lightly, causing her to pause mid-bustle. It’s obvious she wants nothing more than to get out of the room. I have half a mind to join her.

“Where is the laundry room?” he asks.

Pam looks down at her feet quickly. “The laundry room? Why?”

“Well, we aren’t ignoring the place where the man hung himself. With towels, mind you. I mean, I can make a swan out of towels, but a noose?”

“I’d show you, but I really must—”

She looks at me for support as he reaches forward and plucks the keys out of her hand.

He holds up the keys in front of her face. “Just tell us which key will get us into the laundry room and we’ll have no problem finding it on our own.”

“Dex,” I begin, not wanting him to step out of bounds. He can be relentless sometimes.

He ignores me and flashes Pam a smile that usually makes me weak at the knees. “Come on, Pammy, you know you want our little show to succeed here. Parker would want us there. Give the man some closure.”

Her mouth twitches while she thinks it over. Dex gives her a quick wink and she blushes slightly. I can’t help but roll my eyes again.

“All right,” Pam mumbles and takes the keys from him. She goes through them in a blur and pops one off the ring and into his outstretched hand. “It’s in the basement. This will open the freight elevator at the end of the hall and take you right there. But I want this back, OK?”

“But of course.” He grins and closes his hand over the key before she has a chance to change her mind.

She looks at me and I give a little shrug.

“We won’t wreck anything or scare the guests,” I say. I want to add, “We promise,” but I know we can’t promise anything. Destruction and fear seem to follow Dex and I wherever we go. That is the nature of the ghost hunting business, even one that’s only on the Internet.

I can see Pam isn’t comfortable with the situation, but she doesn’t say anything else. She just leaves the room and shuts the door behind her. The movement causes the dust to fly off of the nearby lamps.

I slowly let out my breath and look at Dex. He’s watching me carefully.

“What?” I ask.

“Do you want the lights on or off?”

He raises his camera a bit and I get it. Are we going to shoot this in the dark or in the light? I know what I’m going to say, and I know what he’s going to say.

“Leave the lights on,” I tell him.

“I think we should have them off.”

I knew it. “Why do you even bother consulting me if you’re just going to do what you want anyway?”

“I like you to feel like this a partnership,” he says, and sounds strangely sincere. He tucks the key into his cargo pants and gives me a quick smile. “And you know that shooting in the dark adds to the tension.”

“It also adds to my ever-building threat of dying young,” I point out.

“Twenty-two ain’t so young anymore, kiddo. I mean, you’ve almost surpassed James Dean. If you kick it now—”

I raise my hand in the air. “That’s enough. Let’s just get this over with.”

“Perry’s famous last words.”

“Dex. Shut up.”

It’s his turn to roll his eyes. I feel a cold waft come in from the living room area, and I automatically rub my hands up and down my arms. There’s definitely something going on in this place, and I am in no hurry to find out. But of course, it’s my job to find out.

“What if we just leave this light on here?” I say, pointing at the lamp. The rest of hotel room, including the bathroom and the living area, are only lit by residual light. It’s just dark enough to be spooky over there, but it’s not so black that I’d be having a panic attack.

“If you wish,” Dex says and I hate how unafraid he sounds. Then again, he always gets to view things through the lens. He never has to be the one seeing the horrors face-to-face.

It’s a catch-22 with my job. On one hand, I’m often scared shitless at the slightest thing and pray that I don’t bump into a ghost (or a skinwalker, now that I know those things exist). On the other hand, if I don’t run into anything, it makes for a pretty bad episode. I mean, most ghost hunting shows don’t have much to show for themselves, anyway, but that’s also the point: We don’t want to be like most of those shows. We are above and beyond that, at least that’s what Dex rattles off half the time. I don’t even know if he believes what he says, but the fact is that when we do capture some unexplainable stuff on film, the views go up and we look good.

It’s too bad our looking good comes at the cost of me nearly peeing my pants every time.

“So…” I begin.

“So, just come here.” He places his strong hands on the sides of my arms and physically moves me over so I’m right in front of him and the camera. I don’t want him to let go but he does. “I’ll roll it, you give a quick spiel based on whatever Pam just said and then walk into the other room. I’ll be right behind you.”

“Don’t I get a flashlight?”

“I’ll be your eyes. Ready?”

I nod, square my shoulders and take a deep breath. We usually go in just one take and I give a very quick overview of what we are doing in The Benson hotel and what we hope to find in room 818.

Then I turn around and face the darkness of the living room. I don’t know how it’s possible, but it seems to have grown darker in the last few minutes. Before I could make out a couch and a table, as well as the entrance to the fancy bathroom. Now, I can’t see anything at all. Just the partition with its slightly transparent sheets of fabric paper and that terrible feeling that there is something, or someone, just beyond it, waiting for me to enter its clutches.

Dex clears his throat, a signal that I need to move. I feel frozen on the spot but will my legs to step forward, even though every part of me is screaming not to.

Somehow, I do it. I step into the void and feel a rush of frigid air flow around me. No, flow is too gentle of a word. It slams into me like an invisible hand.

I pause and take another step, trying to pick up where the bed should be. I still can’t see anything, but Dex says in a low voice, “Move to the right a little. The bed is right in front of you.”

I do as he says and stop. Dex sucks in his breath in one sharp motion.

“What is it?” I whisper uneasily. I wish I could see what he is seeing.

“Do you not see it?”

I turn around and see his silhouette against the light. “See what?” I feel the symptoms of a panic attack poking around my spine.

He doesn’t say anything but keeps the camera trained on me while reaching into his backpack. He pulls out what looks like the small infrared camera.

“Here, turn the switch on, it’s on the side,” he says and hands it to me. I fumble for it, feeling around for the button.

It comes on and then I can see again. Well, kind of. It’s aimed at the floor and I can see the shape of my feet and legs glowing a hot red against the blackness. I feel a lot like I’m in Predator.

“Now turn around and aim it straight in front of you.”

I hesitate for a second, afraid of what I’m going to witness. Then I turn on the spot so I’m facing the black room and look through the infrared camera.

I nearly drop it.

Right in front of me, to the side of the bed, is a tall, long shape of pale blue light. A hazy silhouette. The outline of a man who isn’t there.

“That’s unbelievable,” I hear Dex say from behind me. I can’t form the words to agree. The fear is overpowering my fascination. There is someone standing right in front of me. Parker Hayden.

“Talk to it.”

“What?” I whisper hoarsely, my eyes flitting from the screen to the blackness in front of me. If I walk forward, will my hands grab onto a desperate dead man? Or will they pass through them, like no one is there at all? Do I even want to know?

“Mr. Hayden,” Dex speaks in a gentle voice, void of any self-consciousness. “Mr. Hayden, we can see you. Would you like to talk to us? Would you like to tell us something?”

The shape on the camera shakes vigorously on the spot, like the picture on a television that’s being hit from the side. Then it stops and in a blink of an eye it bursts out of the screen, screaming past us in a blur of cold, miserable energy.

And just like that, all the lights in the room come on and it’s just Dex and I left staring at each other, cameras in hand, feeling cold and dumbfounded at what we just encountered.

I manage to shut my mouth so I don’t look like a drooling fool on camera and look back down at the infrared.

“We need to follow him.”

I look up at Dex with the most incredulous stinkeye I can muster.

“We need to follow him? We don’t even know what that was. Or who that was. Or where he went. Or if he wants us to follow him…”

Dex turns around and heads to the door.

“Dex!” I yell after him and grab onto his sleeve. I look up at his eyes but I can see he’s already gone, thinking in the mind of a ghost, plotting where Parker would have gone next.

“Perry, we can’t just leave it at that.”

“I don’t know, I think what we just captured is some pretty awesome stuff. Maybe that’s all we’ll get for tonight. Maybe it’s time to go home.”

The side of his mouth twitches and before I know it, he’s grinning at me. “Why Perry, I thought you’d turned into quite the little fearless ghost hunter back in Red Fox. Getting cold feet, are we?”

I wish I had a snappy rebuttal for that, but I don’t. The truth is, I’m scared. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen a ghost; it’s still scary. And considering how often these supernatural beings have tried to kill me in the past, I think I have every right to fear each one I encounter. Every chance I get to get out of the shoot alive is a chance I want to take. I mean, deep down inside, I’m just an ordinary, 22-year-old girl who likes to listen to metal and dreams about chocolate on a nightly basis. Just because I’m ghost bait, doesn’t mean I have to exploit it.

But I don’t say any of this to Dex. Even though he’s just my partner (and I’m usually the sane one), I can’t bear the thought of losing face with him. He took a risk by creating this show and by putting me in it. I took a risk by giving up my old job to make something of my life. I want to be the person that he thinks I am, that fearless, brave girl—woman, even—who laughs in the face of danger. Something more than ordinary.

“Cold feet?” I repeat, my voice hard. “You’re the one who is showing up all icy on my infrared.”

He studies me for a second, sucking slowly on his full lower lip, trying to read me. I hate it when he does that. But instead of looking away as I often do, I hold his gaze, challenging him.

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