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“What happened to Parker?” she goes on, her voice cracking over his name. I don’t say anything but I meet her eye and I know, in one look, that she knows the truth. Maybe not that she’s dead. But that he is.

Her face crumbles. She puts her hand to her head and stumbles backward.

Out of instinct, I go after her, my arms outstretched, hoping to reach her in time before she goes over.

I almost reach her when she smashes against the floor with a sickening thud. The world goes black. The lights go off and I find myself on my knees, my leggings ripping open on the cold hard floor.

“May?” I cry out and raise the camera, hoping to see her blue form through the darkness. I only read my own heat and no one else’s.

I slowly get to my feet and try to flick on the flashlight with my own hand.

Cold fingers reach over my elbow in a stealthy grasp. I can feel the ice through my jacket.

I am yanked harshly to the side until I crash into a wheeled laundry bin and another hand grabs me by the face and pulls me over the side and into it.

All I can think about is the painful cold that comes from the grasp, as if permafrost is entering my veins and creating a sheet of ice on my face. And then I find myself face first in a laundry bin, smothered by a million towels and pulled deeper and deeper into them until I can’t breathe and I can’t scream and I can’t move. I can only drown here.

The blackness behind my eyes grows darker somehow, as if the dark has a million different shades and nuances and I was only scratching the surface. It’s a different kind of obsidian, one that signals the end, finality. I don’t want to succumb to it, but all I can see is this blackness, and all I can feel are these hands that won’t stop pulling me deeper, that won’t let go, and my thoughts become less…and less…and less…

“Perry!”

I think I hear my name but it sounds too far away to be real. I think of May and wonder where she came from.

“Perry!”

My name again. It sounds familiar.

There is a rush of noise and light and commotion and I feel more hands grabbing me. Only these ones are warm and though they are strong, I can feel the care seeping through them.

I think of Dex. And remember where I am.

I put my hands at the bottom of the bin, and push myself off. As I do so, they come in contact with something beneath one of the towels. I’m afraid it’s the remains of whoever was pulling me down before, but I still close my fingers around it as Dex yanks me out of the bin and into the harsh fluorescent light of the room.

I cough wildly, trying to find my breath as Dex keeps his hands on either side of my shoulders, steadying me. As the air hits my lungs and my wincing subsides, I notice Pam standing beside the door, a key in hand, her face in a look of absolute terror.

“Perry,” Dex says. “Perry look at me.”

I manage to look at him. His dark eyes are searching mine relentlessly, his brow furrowed, his stance tense.

“Are you OK?” he asks.

I nod, feeling relieved and embarrassed all at the same time.

“Was I sticking out of the laundry bin?” I ask with trepidation.

He nods and I see a hint of a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. It would have been a comical sight, my giant ass in the air and all.

“I leave you alone for five seconds…” His tone is light but he knows there is more to the story. And that I’ll fill him in on it later.

“What’s in your hands?” Pam asks, looking at them with curiosity.

I glance down and see I am holding a rectangular cover of well-worn leather. I open it carefully and see what I thought I would see. A checkbook filled with writing. The possible proof that Parker Hayden was murdered and not a victim of suicide.

I walk over to Pam and place the item in her hands. She looks up at me surprised and confused.

“You may want to run this by a historian. Or even the police,” I say. “There’s a chance that Parker Hayden didn’t commit suicide after all. It could be a cold case file. A very cold case.”

I feel extremely cheesy as I tell Pam that. No surprise, Dex says, “Wow, I leave you for one minute and suddenly you’re CSI: Portland.”

I give him a tired smile. I’m ready to go home.

*****

A few days pass when I get a call from Dex. We’re not at the point where we call each other just to talk, but every contact I have with him is still important and I still get stupid butterflies every time I see his name pop up on the call display. This time, he’s calling to talk about our episode at The Benson.

“How’s it all looking?” I ask as I sit on my bed, listening to my younger sister Ada argue with my dad downstairs.

“Oh it’s looking fucking fantastic, kiddo,” Dex says, his voice coming in low and smooth over the line. “I just want to hug you for keeping that camera rolling while May was talking. I’ll have to run it over some other footage and do that little subtitle thing underneath but it really helps our case, especially when you get that blue shit on screen. That really is something.”

“Best show ever?” I ask, amused at his praise.

“Well,” he says slowly, “it probably would have helped had I been around but you did OK on your own.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“There’s something else, too, you should take as a compliment.”

My eyes perk up and I sit up a bit straighter, putting down my Spin magazine. “What’s that?”

“Pam just called me. She said she handed over the checkbook to the police who are having a division look into it or something. Anyway, the point is ever since our visit, all the haunting in the hotel has stopped.”

“What do you mean, all hauntings?”

“Well she says she usually gets some sort of feedback each day. Since our shoot, there hasn’t been any. I don’t know what that means but she seems to think that whatever you did down in that laundry room…well, I guess you cleared the place.”

“So I’m an exorcist now?”

“Don’t flatter yourself, kiddo. You’re miles away from being Father Merrin and for all we know the haunting could start up again. I’m just saying…next time you feel like being hard on yourself because we aren’t making a difference and there’s no point to any of this…I dunno. Don’t. Because you did good here. You did good.”

I let Dex ramble on a bit more to please my ego and then we hang up. Like the other times before, I still don’t know what to make of my ghost hunting. I don’t know how I got roped into doing the show, how I ended up being a magnet for the supernatural and what on earth it has in store for me. The only thing I do know is that it’s dangerous and I’m compelled to keep doing it.

But I also know that even though someone is dead, is doesn’t mean they’re beyond help. And for every ten ghosts that try and kill me, if I end up saving one of them, it might be worth it after all.

Though you may want to remind me of that, next time I’m locked in a coffin or something.

The End. For now.

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