A Halloween treat for you readers!
The Archive of Sinners
“Lake County Jail”
By Sanzaki Kojika
Foreword: This short story takes place after book 4 “Wrath” or book 5 “Sloth.” Please be warned that there may be some minor spoilers in the story. This story itself has no impact on the other books. The story itself is loosely based on my own experience ghost hunting in the Lake County jail. Thanks for reading!
“So, this place is supposed to be really haunted, huh?” Ken asked from the driver’s seat of his SUV. Ken Yoshimoto was a good-looking Japanese man in his earlier twenties, always full of laughter and warmth. He was smiling even now, as he stared straight ahead, keeping his eyes on the road unlike my usual chauffeur.
As if on cue, Priti leaned forward over, poking her head into the gap between the two front seats, “Yeah, I hear this place has a pretty notorious history when it comes to hauntings. I’ve always wanted to visit it!”
As Priti grinned, her fangs peeked through. Her deep, gently curled red hair was pulled back into a ponytail high on the back of her head, with a few tendrils framing her face. She was drop-dead gorgeous, with almost white skin and vibrant green eyes. She could charm anyone, and not just because she was a succubus (although that never seemed to hurt).
“We are coming here to help Klaas out, not go on a field trip,” I reminded her. She gave me a pout, and sat back without any comment. As Priti liked to call it, I completed our “Neapolitan icecream” look with my short blonde hair. I had an eternal baby face, and most people thought I was far younger than I was.
Ken laughed, “I still can’t believe you guys know a famous ghost hunter. Even if he’s only famous in Europe. You know all sorts of cool people.”
I shrugged and shifted in the passenger seat, “Well, we met him pretty much the way we seem to meet everyone. They hired us for help on a case. I told you about that time we fought that ghost sealed into a mirror.”
Ken nodded, still grinning, “Yeah, sounded both terrifying and exciting. I’m not sure how I feel about ghosts. I’m a bit nervous actually.”
I gave him a sly grin, “Really? I think the ghost may have to worry about from you.”
Just like Priti, Ken wasn’t exactly human. Unlike her, he had started as a human, but a couple years back, he was bitten by a werewolf. He didn’t realize it at first, so he hired us to figure out what was wrong with him. Ironically, we had been following him initially because his girlfriend thought he was cheating on her. It was a big surprise for sure to find out that he was loyal, he just also happened to be a giant wolf-hybrid.
Ken’s relationship with his girlfriend had gone south after that, but he didn’t really seem to mind. They broke up only a couple weeks after we resolved the situation. Right about the time I didn’t really want to think about. I had been in a bad place then, but it was thanks to Priti and Ken that I was still standing.
Unlike the two of them, I was actually human, but I was far from normal myself. I was what some people would call a psychic. I never really thought of myself in that way, but I did have inexplicable powers. I was sensitive to the paranormal, especially negative energy. It was because I was an empath, and I would always link with strong emotions. Priti had also taught me a few parlor tricks, like using my energy to create tracking simple spells and seals, pick locks, and even some minor telekinesis.
I had discovered my powers when I was a child and a ghost showed up at my school. I didn’t understand much of the situation back then, but I’ve been able to make more sense of it as I’ve gotten older and had Priti as a teacher to explain the phenomena. My power kicked in when the child me subconsciously realized the ghost drew her energy from people noticing her. I had ended up wiping out the entire school’s memory of her. I spent several days in a coma afterwards as the price, but it had been worth it. I had much better control over my powers now, but there were still times I couldn’t use them well.
My phone went off and I put it on speaker, “Hey, Mysie. Did you get the research like I asked?”
The caller on the other end sounded like an annoyed little girl, “Of course, Master. I still don’t understand why you are sticking your nose into such a potentially dangerous situation. We aren’t even getting paid for it.”
I could understand her annoyance, but I was helping out more because he was a friend. That was still a concept I was having trouble explaining to her, but it was understandable given her background. I wasn’t quite sure how to explain exactly what she was, but she had spent the last couple years trying hard to be human.
“I told you not to call me ‘Master,’” I reminded her. Like I did several times a day. Old habits are hard to kill. “Go ahead and give me what you found.”
“Sorry,” she suddenly sounded sheepish. I could picture her back in the office, sitting behind a desk that was nearly too big for her. She was probably embarrassed, maybe even pink in the cheeks. It was hard not to think of her as anything but the little girl she generally took the appearance of. Especially when I corrected her. I tried not to do it too often, but I also wanted her to feel like one of the team. By default she treated herself if she was a servant and I was the master. She was better with Priti and Ken.
She sighed and continued on, “The old Lake County Jail located in Crown Point, Indiana. It consists of two parts- a sheriff’s house and the prison behind it. The Sheriff’s House was built in 1882, to house the elected sheriffs in the city. It was in use until 1958. The two-story brick jail was added to the building in 1926, so it was easier to keep an eye on the prisoners. It was expanded later on, to add more cells. It currently has one hundred and forty-four cells. Both have had a number of renovations, thanks to the Sheriff’s House Foundation of Indiana.
“The Jail is infamous for being the place that the gangster John Dillinger escaped from in 1934. He escaped by carving a gun out of a wooden washboard and staining it with black shoe polish. He didn’t make it very far; the Sunday after his escape, he was killed by Federal Officers outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago.”
As she took a quick breather, Ken butted in, “It was closed in the 1970s, right?”
Mysie sounded annoyed, but she generally did where Ken was involved, “Yes, I was just getting to that. Anyways, it seems a lot of people have had paranormal experiences at the place. And, as you already know, it offers ghost hunts pretty regularly as an attraction. It’s considered one of the most haunted places in Indiana.
“As far as the accounts of what the hauntings are like, most of the disturbances are in the jail itself. Cell doors will open and close themselves, rattling bars, lights turning on and off, and noises like footsteps and voices in empty areas. Even a few accounts of someone hearing a harmonica. There are also a handful of reports involving physical interaction, such as people being bumped or even grabbed.”
“Any mention of specific spirits haunting the place?” I asked.
I could almost hear her frowning on the other end, “No. For one thing, there weren’t actually a lot of deaths that actually happened at the prison. Early on, there were some suicides or even fights that ended up with someone falling over the railing, but since it was only from the second floor, it was usually just injuries. There were people who died of illness, of course, but there aren’t any records I’m finding about police brutality or major skirmishes that resulted in deaths actually in the building. It was more of a holding place.”
“Thanks,” I offered her. I know she didn’t like the idea of us going out to help Klaas, but she also realized she couldn’t stop us.
“Just be careful,” Mysie added after a moment. “If you need anything else, just call.”
I ended the call and slipped my phone back into the pocket of my hoodie. Ken had a silly grin on his face, and when I lifted an eyebrow at him, he explained, “I just think it’s silly how she won’t even come with us. Just because ghosts are involved.”
Priti gently shoved the back of his seat, “It’s because she’s a type of spirit herself. She may have a physical form now, but remember, it was created by magic. Spirits don’t generally like to interact with any other spirits, and that feeling is even stronger for different types. Messes with their energy. I can’t blame her for not wanting to be around ghosts though.”
Priti and I exchanged glances. We met Klaas and his partner Yohan Funke during a ghost hunt near Halloween a few years back. Well, they had actually hired us to help find a missing mirror, but we learned pretty quickly that the mirror was haunted. After tracking down the mirror, we tried to exorcise the ghost from it, but it was a hard fight and we failed initially. Funke paid the price for our sloppy work. Later on, we managed to finally exorcise it, but it was a long and tedious fight. I doubt we would have been successful even then if it hadn’t been for us wearing down the ghost beforehand.
Ken pulled off the expressway and made his way down Route 30 to our destination. As we passed the mall area built off of the interstate in Merrillville, my phone went off and I glanced down. Just a text from Klass, asking for our ETA. I responded to him, knowing that we were only a few minutes away.
Traffic was moderate considering the time. We had to fight through the ends of rush hour traffic, but compared to Chicago traffic, this was nothing. The lights of cars dotted the landscape around us as we trudge forward and finally made it to our turn. We took a left onto Taft past a liquor store when Ken’s car instructed us to do so. The screen of his GPS was dim in the fading light, but it was loud enough we could all hear it.
The next stretch of road was long and empty, with a few residences and churches the only buildings I really saw until we neared the current Lake County courthouse and jail. On one side stood the dark monolith that was the courthouse, and kiddy-corner across from it was a gas station, grocery store, and strip mall. There were various other businesses along the stretch, but I didn’t bother to take note of them. Our destination was further ahead.
With Taft now Main, we continued through Crown Point, past strip malls and fast food restaurants until the road narrowed into one lane. The GPS guided us into the downtown square, a quaint section full of old fashioned-brick buildings and one-way roads circling around what used to be the courthouse and now housed a number of little shops.
We had to circle around most of the square before we turned right and headed to the Sheriff’s House less than a block off the square. We lucked out on parking, as someone pulled out of a space only about twenty feet from our destination. As Ken parked, I spotted a dark van across the street. The driver stepped out and offered a wave.
Klaas Sinclair usually looked disheveled, but today he wore his shaggy hair back behind his head. It was dyed blond, and it faded into dark roots. A few strands fell about his face, catching on the small, wire frames settled on the bridge of his nose. He always wore dark clothing adorned with brightly colored imagery. Today it was a vest of skeletons over a dark gray dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I was glad he hadn’t changed much. It had been a couple years since I had seen him face-to-face, and our last couple meetings hadn’t been in good situations. I hoped this time would be better.
Klaas quickly glanced across the street before rushing across. He got to our car just as a vehicle came rushing past, blaring their horn.
Klaas frowned and shook his head, “Why are Americans always in such a hurry?”
His voice was thick with a heavy German accent. He gave me a warm smile as I got out of the car and offered me his hand, “Long time no see, Vere. Have you finally stopped growing?”
I laughed, “Let’s hope so. You’re looking well.”
Priti flung open the back door, nearly smacking it into Klaas. We separated and took a few steps back as she jumped out and sprang on Klaas.
She squealed as she hugged him, “Klaas! So good to see you!”
Klaas attempted to squirm from her grasp, “Hello, Priti. I see you are exactly as I remember you. But, if you could please let go. You are hurting me.”
Priti chuckled, but she released him. She smacked him on the back and he almost lost his glasses, “Sorry, sorry. I forget my own strength sometimes.”
Ken got out and joined us, handing me my bag. He smiled warmly at Klaas and offered his hand, “Nice to meet you. I’m Ken Yoshimoto. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Klaas gave him a wary look, but he took the hand, “Klaas Sinclair. I’ve heard some interesting things about you…like werewolf?”
Ken grinned even wider, “Yup. Not as bad as it sounds.”
We moved away from the car and past a couple of buildings to reach our final destination. Klaas took the lead, and he stopped at the front walk. The Sheriff’s House was a two-story brick building with a porch standing guard at the front. A narrow tower ran up from the roof of the porch to a partial third-story- my guess was attic space. The red brick was dull in the fading light, contrasted by the white stone trim and light gray roof. Evenly trimmed bushes ran from each side of the step towards the sides of the house. There were two stone flower pots at the bottom of the stairs, both currently housing fake flowers and Halloween décor rather than actual flowers.
I couldn’t see much of the brick building behind it that housed the jail, but I knew it was there. A dark shadow looming behind the friendly-looking sheriff’s house. Before we had headed out, I had made sure to actually look up pictures of the building and any floor plans I could find. Information about the inside was limited, which is why I had asked Mysie to follow up on any other information she could find. She hadn’t presented any new information, but the recap was good, and I’m sure Priti and Ken needed it. Neither of them was as keen on research as I was. Ken had been trying to avoid anything that mentioned ghosts.
“This is the place,” Klass excitedly rubbed his hands together. “It was always on our list of places we to ghost hunt at, mine and Yohan’s. It’s nice to actually get a chance to come here.”
My smile faltered, and I tried not to think about Funke, “You were asked to come here, right?”
Klaas pushed his glasses up on his nose, “Yah. I got an e-mail from one of the caretakers here, so we started speaking and she requested I come and give my hand at investigating this place. Apparently there have been other ghost hunters who have come already, but she said they had no luck.”
Ken suddenly grabbed my arm, “No luck? No luck with what? Did they not find any ghosts?”
I knew I couldn’t fight Ken off, so I didn’t bother to try, “I assume you mean in regards to getting rid of it. There’s a ghost that just started acting up recently, right?”
Klaas nodded in agreement, “Yah. Some of the hunters were injured, and the last group actually had someone hospitalized. He survived, but it was pretty bad.”
Ken swallowed, “A-and we’re going in there? Even though it might kill us.”
Klaas gave him a look then turned back to me, “Is he really a werewolf?”
I rolled my eyes, “Sometimes I have trouble believing it, too.”
We started up the path, and as we approached the front door, it swung open. A short, plump woman gave us a smile, “Ah, you must be Mr. Sinclair and his assistants. Welcome, welcome.”
Klaas stepped up to her and offered his hand, “Thank you for having us. I’m excited to meet this ghost of yours.”
The woman shifted her head, and her reddish blond hair moved with it, “Well, we like having ghost hunters and ghost enthusiasts come visit us. This ghost is the worse we’ve ever had. It was bad enough before, but it keeps getting worse and worse.”
She shook hands with Klaas then offered her hand to me, “I’m part of the Sheriff’s House Foundation of Indiana. I help keep this place in shape and run events, like the ghost tours we hold here.”
I accepted her hand, “I’m Vere Cain. These are my colleagues Priti and Ken.”
Priti stepped forward and offered her one of our business cards, “We are from Cain Investigations, happy to help in any way we can.”
The woman took the card and eyed it, “Cain Investigations? Like the Cain Investigations? The one that has been solving supernatural cases behind everyone’s back? Do you guys actually work in the supernatural?”
Priti and I exchanged glances. As far as we knew, no one else knew what we did. There were plenty of people we met during our investigations, but not many that turned out to be ‘normal.’ I wasn’t sure how word got out. We did our best to keep a low profile, but I also knew it was impossible to keep everything hidden. We definitely didn’t advertise ourselves as a paranormal detective agency at least.
“Uh,” I wasn’t sure how to respond.
Klaas took over for me, “They do good work. I would want no one else covering my back.”
I know he only meant good things by saying that, but I couldn’t but feel it was a loaded comment. It was our feebleness that killed his partner. He would adamantly deny it, but I would always feel guilty about it. Funke wasn’t the only death I felt responsible for.
The woman nodded and smiled, “Works for me. I trust you know what you’re doing. Let me give you a quick tour before it gets too dark. Then I’ll leave you alone to do your work.”
She led us into the house, but our tour of the Sheriff’s House was brief. As she walked, she pointed and spoke, “This is where the Sheriff and his family lived while he was in charge. This room we are currently using as a museum. In here, you can find some of the books from the old jail, with inmate information. That room to your left is where we start our tours from usually. There is an entrance to the prison from both that room and the kitchen. The kitchen door leads to the prison kitchen. We are going to enter through booking.”
She led us into the open room to the left, which currently held a large television, a desk, and two rows of chairs set up before the TV. There was a large, metal door at the end, and she ushered us towards it. The door was already open a crack, and she pulled it the rest of the way open.
“I figure you guys already know the history of this place,” she glanced back at us, waiting for us to correct her. When we didn’t, she continued, “If you do have any questions, please feel free to ask me.”
Even our tour of the prison didn’t take very long. She rushed us through the venue, giving us just the basic lay of the land. I felt the buzz of energy before we even made it through the door. There was definitely something there.
We entered through the booking room, and she opened a door behind the booking area to give us a glimpse of the hallway behind it. She then led us into the main prison hall, which consisted of two other doors and a narrow, metal stair case.
She pointed above us, “The grating here was added after the initial construction. This was to prevent prisoners from trying to commit suicide, or throwing each other over.”
Between the stories of the floor was a metal wire grating that reminded me of barbed wire. Wire lined the stair case as it climbed up, too, keeping everything in tight confines. The walls were strangely bright, repainted a bright gray. It didn’t do much to take away from what the place actually was though.
She motioned towards the doorway on the end, “This is the other side of the hallway from the booking room. It runs straight back to the smaller staircase in the back of the prison. There are some cells off to the right side of it, too.”
She started up the stairs, briefly pointing towards the other door as we passed it, “That leads into the kitchen area. There’s access to the basement from the kitchen, too. It’s the part of the jail that’s in the most disrepair at this point. It’s hit or miss as far as paranormal activity down there goes. It was actually used as living quarters for a prisoner after he was released, since he had no place else to go. They gave him work and a place to stay. There was also a prison guard who held religious sermons down there secretly.”
She led us up the stairs, with Klaas in the lead and Priti bringing up the rear. I used the railing to ascend, since Ken was gripping my arm on the other side (and making it a bit difficult to walk). I could understand why he was nervous though; the air seemed to tingle around us. I didn’t think any ghosts were active yet, but I could feel the hum of their energy heavy around us. Most of it seemed harmless, but there was something that kept making me uneasy. I wouldn’t be able to tell for sure until the sun fully set, but I had a feeling it was the ghost we were looking for.
On the second floor, she paused in the square that ran around the floor to the next level for a quick explanation, “That door on the far left was basically the drunk tank. Those who were arrested for intoxication would wait out the alcohol in there. We are still working on cleaning it up, but there really hasn’t been a lot of activity in there. The next door is the infirmary, which is also a work-in-progress. It’s another relatively dead zone though. The closed door there leads to the walkway. It’s closed right now, as it is still undergoing repairs to make it safe enough for people to use.”
She walked through a wide opening on the right side, set off on a different wall than all of the other doors. The room we walked into was well painted and unnatural clean. It looked newer than most of what we had seen so far. Upon closer glance at one of the cell doors, I realized they was actually wooden.
As if she had read my thoughts, she walked up to the cell closest to her and tapped on the door, “This was the part of the jail they used in that Dillinger movie. It was redone for the filming, but the doors are just wooden doors on tracks to make moving them easier. Please be careful with them, as they can come off pretty easily.”
She pointed beyond the line of cells to the back wall, where a wall of bars stood guard, “All of the set ups are similar, with a walkway around the cells, and the doors of the cells facing inward into a room that can be closed off if needed. Each floor housed different types of criminals. Dilinger’s cell was actually on a higher floor; this particular area was used to house the minor criminals, if you will. Basically, the least dangerous.”
She started walking out, but she paused in the doorway, “Despite that, this particular room is known to have entities appear. The ghost I called you about usually appears higher up, but even he has visited down here. This is where people will hear voices, or even doors or cells rattling.”
We took a quick walk around and headed to the back, where there was a wide space and dingy bunk beds, “Juveniles stayed in this area in the back. As you can see, they weren’t kept in cells, but this room was locked. There isn’t much in here now, but you can see some writing on the bottom of the bunk beds if you look closely.”
Ken and I peeked under one of the beds. I found initials carved into it. Maybe “RRK?” I couldn’t read the last letter clearly. There was similar scribbles on some of the other beds, too, but they were even lighter and harder to read.
The next floor was in more disarray, but it housed the more violent criminals. The cells were split apart, with what appeared to be a common room at the beginning, and then a line of several cells leading to the end. She took us into the cleaner side, which also was where the infamous John Dillinger was actually held. It was a part of history, but the cell itself wasn’t particular interesting.
Some of the cells had items strewn about the beds, like cigarettes and playing cards. She explained that these were things found while they were cleaning, and they put them up where people could see them. There was also a lot of graffiti, but we didn’t have time to look that closely at most of it.
As we headed back towards the first floor, she ran over the rules with us, “You guys are free to go anywhere that is open. Cells and doors that are closed are so because they have hazards in that room. There are some weak ceiling areas, and we don’t really want anything to collapse on anyone. We’ll kill the lights, so make sure you are careful when walking around. I’ll be in the house up front, so if you need anything, please come and get me. Oh, and there might be bats in the basement, so please mind that when heading down. I’ll do a quick check and see, but there may be some in there deeper that I don’t see.”
She left us in the booking area and disappeared through the doorway into the kitchen. She returned a couple minutes later shaking her head, “Looks like it’s all clear in there tonight. Watch your head when going down; it gets a little low in there, and some of you are pretty tall.”
She walked us back into the sheriff’s house and followed us to the door, “At this point, you guys do what you need to do. I’ve gathered reports and information from the other ghost hunters that have visited.”
She picked up a manilla folder off of the desk in the room and passed it to Klaas. As he flipped through it, she continued, “It mostly is similar to our standard haunting reports, just on a large scale. The ghost hasn’t offered his name up, but most of them agree he has a deep, male voice and always sounds angry. He has grabbed equipment like flashlights and thrown them, and even grabbed clothing like the hoods on sweatshirts and yanked the hunters back against the bars. He also has flung scrap stone and metal at the hunters in the areas still under repair, so please be careful around them. We only have one account of him throwing anything bigger. The last hunters that came in he threw a brick at. It hit one of them and knocked him down the stairs. He was the one who was hospitalized. I sent you a lot of this information over e-mail already.”
She offered us a smile, “Well, all the specifics are in that folder. It can tell you better than I can with my memory. The ghost seems to be progressively getting more hostile. I have a feeling calling ghost hunters in hasn’t helped, but I want to avoid any of our visitors getting injured. This place is really interesting because there is so much activity, and I would never want it to go away completely. But, I also don’t want this place to get shut down because a particularly evil spirit decides to call the jail home.”
Klaas smiled back, “We will do our best to try and chase away only that ghost. I agree with you whole heartedly. This place has a unique feel to it. Full of energy. I don’t think even if we tried we could get rid of all of it.”
She seemed relieved, “I’m counting on you.”
She followed us to the door, but waited inside as we moved to grab equipment out of Klaas’s rental van. He had a thick, plastic case with some of the heavier equipment, and a backpack for the smaller instruments. Ken grabbed the case and Priti got the backpack. Klaas grabbed a small camera bag off of the front seat then locked up. Priti, Ken, and I had our own gear tucked away in pockets, or my bag. Our tour guide held the door open for us as we rejoined her back inside.
She took a cursory glance of our luggage, but she made no comment. I could tell from the look on her face that she was expecting a lot more. It was to be expected. We would use some of the equipment, but a lot of our ghost hunting would come directly from us and our odd sets of powers. Or, at least that was our intention. We were pretending we were a lot more prepared than we were.
The lights were off in the prison now. As we stepped through the dark opening beckoning us in, she stopped in the doorway, “I’m closing this door, but you can open both it and the one through the kitchen if you need to get out. You can use this to call me.”
She passed us a walkie-talkie, “It’s set for the right channel, so try not to bump it. Good luck in there!”
I took the walkie-talkie and she closed the door behind us. Klaas and Ken both turned on their flashlights almost immediately. Klaas went to set up behind the front desk of the booking room, and I followed along to help. Priti and Ken gently set the luggage they carried in on the desk. Priti grabbed Ken and dragged him out from behind the desk area.
“Hey! Take my picture,” she pleaded. He sighed and obliged. She stood up against the wall directly across from us that had a height chart for measurements painted on it. She flicked her fingers to get a little light, sending a small ball of fire floating above her and Ken’s head. She grinned and made a peace sign, and Ken flashed a photo of her with her phone.
“Let me do you, too!” Priti grabbed Ken and spun him around by the shoulders.
I ignored the two of them and watched Klaas as he set up. His flashlight stood upright on the table, supported by small metal legs. It lit up the room nicely, and we could both see easy enough around the expensive equipment.
He clicked his tablet to life, blinking against the blinding light. He quickly adjusted the light down on it, keeping it just bright enough for him to read the data he got. He turned on the video camera and did a quick recording, running it back on the camera to make sure it recorded correctly. I could hear Priti and Ken talking in the background, but the recording was quiet.
“I think we will start in here with a simple test,” Klaas explained after a moment. He pulled out a small microphone and plugged it into the tablet. He opened a recording app he had on it. The microphone made a lot of noise as he tried it out. He adjusted the sound down and apologized.
“Do you feel anything?” he asked as he passed me the camera. There were two wooden chairs in the office and I took one for myself as I balanced the camera. I peered through it and decided I could see Klaas and the microphone well enough. It had night vision running, giving everything it recorded an eerily green hue.
“Hm,” I tried to find the best way to answer that, “well, it’s more of ‘I feel too much,’ than not feeling anything at all. There is a lot of activity here for sure, but most of it seems pretty innocuous. There is definitely something bad here though. It feels like it’s further in at this point, or maybe just not as active. It’s like an underlying feeling.”
Klaas nodded, “Yeah, I’m not as sensitive as you, but I don’t feel anything that stands out. This whole place gives me the gänsehaut. How do you say it English?”
I took a guess, “The creeps? Goosebumps?”
“Yes,” Klaas chuckled.
Priti and Ken rejoined us. Priti extinguished her flame, and Ken pocketed his flashlight temporarily. Priti took the other seat in the room, turning it so her back wasn’t to the door leading to the hallway. Ken hovered behind me. With us all settled in, Klaas closed both of the doors in the room.
“I’m going to turn out the lights and we’ll begin,” Klaas explained. Priti and I had both done a similar reading with him before, but Ken was new to it. I felt his warmth behind me as he huddled against the back of my chair. He gripped my shoulder, and I gently patted his hand with my free hand to try and keep him from freaking out too much. He was scared surprisingly easily.
Klaas clicked the flashlight off and turned the microphone on. He started the recording app, “Is there someone here with us?”
He paused to give any entities a chance to answer. All of us listened intently, but the static from the microphone was all we heard.
He continued after close to half a minute, “Did you work here?”
Another pause. Still nothing.
“We’re you a prisoner here?”
Klaas continued to ask mundane questions, and he heard no response. After another ten minutes or more of doing the ghost question-and-answer, he turned off the mic and flicked the flashlight back on. He glanced over at me, “Anything show up on the recording?”
While he rewound the audio recording, I went to the video. I rewound it back, then played it in fast forward, pausing it whenever I thought I caught movement. I didn’t see anything unusual, just him and Priti shifting. I shook my head as I reached the end of the tape, “No, nothing.”
Klaas sighed, “I figured as much. Let’s explore the floor down here and then head upstairs. We’ll try talking with spirits again in that movie set room.”
Klaas left the case on the counter, but took the backpack with him. I continued carrying the camera, and he left the mic out. I decided to leave the camera rolling, just in case something happened upon us while we weren’t paying attention. I knew most of us could sense supernatural entities pretty well, but we had been surprised before.
The hallway behind the room looked to have once been additional office space. There were still old desks and chairs piled up off to the side, but it was used more for storage now. I saw Christmas decorations peeking out near the back.
We reached the end and turned back. There was a small opening into the hallway next to it, and Klaas squeezed through, motioning for us to follow. I went next, followed closely by Ken. Priti was about to follow us, but I heard her gasp out, “Hey!”
We stopped and waited for her to catch up. She frowned, fiddling with her hair. We waited in silence for her to explain.
“Sorry,” she shook her head, flipping her ponytail back behind her, “I thought something grabbed my hair. I guess I just got it caught on something.”
I glanced back through the opening she had come out of, but I didn’t see or feel anything. I shrugged and we resumed our walk down the hall. Ken handled the flashlight, shining it around the area in front of us. I walked with my hand against the wall, feeling the uneven brick surface beneath my fingers. It was worn with age, and there were plenty of spots people could get their clothing or hair caught on.
At the end of the hall, Klaas paused again. He set his flashlight down with on the ground, facing the light away from us as he turned it on. He moved back and motioned for us to move further down the hall.
“Let me try something a little different here. We will see if any spirits will move the flashlight for us,” Klaas explained.
We moved back to the beginning of the hall, and Ken unwillingly turned off his flashlight. He moved closer to me, once again gripping my free arm. I warned him not to bump me, and I held the camera up, aiming towards the flashlight.
Klaas turned on the recorder again, “Is someone where with us?”
The hall felt strangely empty, and a chill ran down my spine. I glanced around in the darkness behind us, but there was nothing there. Priti flashed me a grin, reassuring me that she didn’t see anything either.
“Can you turn off the flashlight for us?” Klaas asked.
He waited a minute or two in between each time he asked, but he repeated the question to see if any entity would dare come close. We waited in silence, and I could feel the grip on my arm tightening as Ken’s nerves ran thin.
“Not so tight,” I whispered to him in warning. He apologized and loosened his grip, but he didn’t let go.
After fifteen minutes of nothing, Klaas gave Ken permission to turn back on his flashlight then moved to the end of the hall to grab his. He took a quick glance up the staircase in the back area, but we all agreed to explore that staircase later. Instead, we made an about-face and went back into the main hall.
We followed the stairs up to the second floor and into the main room. Priti and Ken dragged the chairs scattered around the room towards one end, while Klaas and I set up in the center. I continued to record as Klaas pulled free a small light from his backpack. He set it down in the center of the room and clicked it to life. Pinpricks of light dotted the room.
“It’s a laser grid,” he explained.
“Oh,” I instantly understand what it was meant for, “to see if anything moves past us. The lights will get disrupted by the movement, right?”
Klaas grinned, “Exactly. You’re well suited to be a ghost hunter.”
I laughed, “I think being a private investigator is hard enough. I don’t seek out the supernatural; it finds me.”
“Fair enough,” he chuckled.
Ken and Priti explored the cells while they waited for us. I could see the flashlight as it ran through the bars, and the dim red light from Priti’s flame. A sudden yelp from the second cell on the right had all of us running. Ken’s flashlight shakenly settled over the bed in the room.
“What is it?” I quickly looked around, but I didn’t see anything.
“It’s creepy,” Ken whined, pointing at the wall.
Just above the bed someone had scribbled into the wall. I grabbed his hand and used it to bring his flashlight closer. I read the words aloud, “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end.”
I gave Ken a look, “Really?”
Ken pouted at me, “What? It’s really scary! Especially considering where we’re at.”
Priti laughed, “Sorry, sorry. I’ll never force him to play survival horror games with me the night before a ghost hunt ever again. I promise.”
I gave her a look. She pretended to look hurt. I knew the two of them had been up late playing games. I hadn’t realized last night they were horror games. That explained why Ken was already so uppity when we hadn’t even gotten started.
A gust of wind blew through the place, stirring up some stray trash in the cell. Ken screamed and nearly jumped on top of me. As I tried to squirm out of his crushing embrace, Priti just laughed. She moved her fireball closer to the bar-side of the cell.
“There’s windows on that hall out there. It appears some of them are open,” she snorted.
Finally freed from Ken, I dragged him out of the cell and sat him down in one of the chairs. I took a seat next to him, and Priti joined us. Klaas pulled free his mic and started up the recording app. Priti extinguished her fire and Ken turned out his light.
“Is there anyone here with us?” Klaas asked.
He paced as he asked the questions, “If you’re here, could you please walk past the laser for us?”
After another ten minutes of nothing, Klaas sighed and flopped down into the seat on my other side. I couldn’t see his details in the dark room, but the laser lights were enough to define his outline. He held the mic and tablet clutched in his hands, staring down at them.
“Do you have the information from the other ghost hunters?” I asked him, already knowing the answers.
“Yeah, hang on,” he set the tablet down and dug through his bag until he procured the manilla folder. He passed it to me, and Ken shined his flashlight down from the other side.
“Thanks,” I offered as I held up the pages to the light. I briefly leafed through them, looking for anything specifically relating to this room. I found a handful of notes about it, including a piece that may help us get them to respond.
“Oh,” I reread the line I was reading, “I think I found the common denominator in this room. Most of the times a ghost actually spoke, it was to a woman.”
“Well, we have a mighty fine woman right here,” Priti gave me a wink.
I passed the folder back to Klaas and he handed the tablet and mic to Priti. Ken killed his flashlight. Suddenly, there was movement from the other side of the room. Lights dotted out as something moved past the laser grid on the far left side.
Ken grabbed my hand, and I heard Priti let out a low whistle. I kept the camera aimed towards the back wall, moving it slowly back and forth between the two far cells to see if there was any other movement.
“Guess I’ll go have a chat down there then,” Priti laughed. She started the recording app and sauntered over to the other side of the room. Before she reached it, there was a rattling as one of the doors shifted. I couldn’t see which one in the dim light, but I kept the camera rolling.
She stopped just before the cell at the far left and spoke loudly, “Is there someone here with us?”
She continued questioning in the same fashion Klaas had. Just like him, she wasn’t having much luck. She decided to change the questioning up a bit.
“Can you tell us your name?” she asked. I heard her heels clicking as she took a few steps back. The laser grid moved with her, illuminating her figure in dots of red light. She repeated the question a couple more times, but there were still no changes.
Priti sighed, lowering the mic a bit, “Really? Come on! We know you’re there. Just tell us your freaking name!”
I felt it instantly. Ken’s grip tightened and a shiver ran up my spine. Klaas stood up, knocking his chair over. The air was heavy. There was a dark presence in the room with us. I squeezed Ken’s hand back. It was out for blood.
“So,” Priti took notice of it, too, “can you tell us your name?”
The ghost’s voice was loud and booming. It reverberated throughout the room, causing the flimsy sliding doors of the cells to rattle. One even fell off the track. I heard clanking as something slammed into the bars at the far end. It died down as quickly as it started, and the presence lifted from the room.
“Well, excuse you!” Priti shouted back. The ghost had already moved on though.
With shaking hands, Klaas found his flashlight on the floor and righted it before turning it on. He turned off the laser grid as he was kneeling before it. He pushed his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose and watched Priti as she approached him.
“I guess he really doesn’t want to talk to us,” Priti shrugged as she passed the tablet and mic back to Klaas. He took it, slowly nodding his head.
“We were told he didn’t like interference. We know he’s here now, at least,” Klaas put the laser grid back in his backpack.
I joined them, Ken trailing along behind me, “What went flying?”
“I think it was that chair,” Priti pointed to a chair laying sideways against the back bars. It had somehow missed the model building set up a couple feet before the bars. I think it was set-up like the newer prison.
“Well, since our ghost moved on, shall we?” Priti rolled her neck and stretched her arms above her head. She was grinning and I knew she was just itching for a fight. She had been waiting for a chance to show a ghost who’s boss. Especially after our failure last time.
We walked along the outer bars, and Ken shined his flashlight into some of the cells as we passed, while Klaas kept his beam facing forward. I could see bunk beds and more debris in them, and more scribbles on the wall.
“Oh,” Priti laughed as she pointed to one cell, “Look, a haunted shopping list.”
Ken rolled his eyes at her, “Please stop it.”
We paused by the cell at the end, and decided to take a trip to the other side to check out the cell near where we heard the voice. Klaas examined it closely, “I think the two cells on the end are where the others saw the most activity. Do you feel anything?”
Priti squinted and tilted her head to the side, “If I were to put it into words, I just feel noise. Like, it’s all background stuff. No serious mojo going on here right now. The energy is heavy in both this cell and the one across from it. Probably draws a lot of spirits towards them, especially the weaker ones.”
“Yeah,” I agreed with Priti, “I definitely don’t feel that ghost anymore. I know what he feels like now though, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to spot him the next time he shows up.”
Ken wrinkled his nose, “This place reeks of spirits. I just don’t like it.”
Priti patted him on the shoulder, “It’s okay, we’ll protect you. Just try and be a big brave dog.”
He glared at her, “Isn’t it bad enough that I get that from Mysie? Now you, too?”
Priti grinned, “She’s not here, so I’m covering for her.”
We moved on through the small doorway in the back to the large, open room that once housed the juvenile prisoners. The walls were weathered, and metals doors I assumed lead to small bathrooms were so rusted I doubted they could even open. The room felt clearer than the others. Klaas set his bag down and shuffled through the papers, double-checking to make sure this room wasn’t a target for any of the other hunters.
I borrowed his flashlight and explored, scanning the light across the beds off to the right and the empty wall to the left. I could hear the traffic flooding in through the open windows on the empty wall, and the street lights below reflected upward, casting an eerie glow through the open grates. The light didn’t reach past the window, and the room was completely wrapped in darkness until one of the flashlights cut through.
Priti brought her fire to life and knelt down before a small wooden table in the center. She held her right hand up, balancing the flame, as she stared down at the bright, colorful toys spread about the center of it. She poked them with a long finger on her left hand, “These look too new.”
I joined her and made my own observations, “Yeah. Most of these toys weren’t even produced until after the jail closed. My guess is someone put them here for decoration. They haven’t been here long, judging by the dust. I think they were here earlier when we did our tour.”
Klaas agreed as he put the file back in his bag, “Yah, I saw them. Well, this room doesn’t seem to have anything. Let’s head upstairs.”
We made our way upstairs. Ken jumped when he bumped into a large, metal handle sticking out of the wall. Still holding Klaas’s flashlight, I bounced the light off of it. I wasn’t sure what it was, but my guess was it was a sort of pulley device for closing off this specific section from the rest of the prison. I imagined it would be used in cases where the prisoners got too out of control, or other emergency situations.
We started in the “lounge” area of this side of the cells. Priti poked her head into the shower area and suddenly started laughing. She motioned with her hand, “Vere, come see this!”
I handed Klaas back his flashlight and jostled the bag over my shoulder to pull out my own. I turned it on and shined it where Priti was pointing. Her fireball was still giving some light, but unlike her, I didn’t have sharp night vision. I found what she was laughing about pretty easily. There was a naked Barbie doll stuck to the wall.
“You’re so weird,” I rolled my eyes at her.
She just grinned, “I’m just glad people here still have a sense of humor. Do you think it was a human who put that up, or a ghost?”
I shook my head, “No way of knowing, but I assume it’s human work.”
We poked our heads into some of the cells as we made our way to the back of the block. There was a collapsing ceiling in one, so we decided to avoid going into any of them unless we absolutely had to. One of them was even blocked off, baring out entrance from it.
There was a ball in the hall, and Klaas picked it up, bringing it down to the end of the block with us. He set it down at the end, setting up his flashlight in front of. Satisfied, he motioned for us to move back.
“Let’s go wait in the other area. We can sit at the tables in there,” he explained.
He shouted back down the hall, “If there are any spirits here, could you please move the ball for us?”
We took a seat inside, but it was too far in for us to really see the ball or the flashlight. Klaas assured us that it was fine, that some spirits preferred to do their work beyond human’s prying eyes. We all killed our lights and sat around the same table in the growing darkness.
As we waited in semi-darkness, we tried to form some solid plan for the spirit. Ken huddled close to me, gripping my arm once more, “So, if we can lure it out, how are we going to stop it?”
I was pretty sure Klaas was frowning, but I couldn’t see his face in the darkness, “That’s going to be more of a problem. If we could figure out who the ghost was, it would help to limit our options. I have some hallowed dirt with me, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to trap it in the box. We all know how well that worked last time. Although I don’t think this ghost is as powerful as she was.”
During our ghost hunt with Klaas and his partner, we had tried capturing the ghost in a box full of dirt, and then burying her. It was supposed to purify ghosts. And although we caught part of her, it wasn’t enough to seal her completely. We exorcised her later…at Ikea.
“Do you think I could purify it again?” I glanced over at Priti.
She fiddled with her hair, “Well, there’s a chance you could. I mean, I really wouldn’t put it past you. The problem will come from whether or not you can make a connection with it. Last time you got to see the ghost’s past, so you were able to understand her. You linked to her emotions basically. As Klaas said, without knowing who the ghost is, we are at a loss. We know he’s angry, and that’s about it.”
I shivered despite myself, “Yeah, that’s all I could sense from him when he visited us earlier. All I could feel was his rage. It’s not even directed at one person or thing. It’s consumed him.”
Priti set her hands down before her, “Well, the other ghost we faced was caught up in greed. Like I mentioned before, it’s pretty common for a ghost to latch onto one negative emotion and to have it devour them. That’s why so many ghost stories have ghosts killing people. When that much of a negative emotion overwhelms them, they lose their true self. All they can do is strive to get rid of that emotion. Rage is one of the more common, and it drives them to try and harm others.”
Ken whimpered, “But it can’t really kill us, can it?”
Priti laughed, “You? Probably not. But, even I’ve had trouble with a ghost. Vere and Klaas aren’t quite as invincible as you and me. I think they can hold their own though. This ghost seems to be still growing, so he’s not even at his full strength yet. I know it’s nearing Halloween when they are the most powerful, but he is still pretty low on the power index, at least from what I felt. In any case, I wouldn’t be too worried about him actually killing us. Just wounding us.”
Ken squeezed my arm, “That doesn’t make it any better!”
Klaas decided enough time had passed, so he stood up and stepped out to examine the ball. We all joined him. The ball was exactly where we had left it.
“Can I see the camera?” he asked.
I passed it over to him. I had kept it recording most of the time, so there was going to be a lot of nonsensical dialogue on it. I knew it was more for record than anything though. Most ghost hunters needed it to check for any motion they missed, but with three of us with high supernatural sense, and even Klaas’s own (albeit quite a bit weaker than us), there wasn’t much getting past us. At least I kept trying to convince myself that was the truth.
He rewound it to the footage I had of the ball when we first set it down. He paused it on the screen and found the angle I was standing at when I recorded it. He looked between the two, and quickly decided it indeed had not moved at all.
He passed the camera back to me, “I guess we should go and check the other side.”
The other side had more debris and damage. The table in the lounge was covered in bricks. The walls were peeling, and Priti was sure to point out the nude drawing she found amongst the stains. There were long spots of rust running down the shower. The floor was piled up with dirt and pebbles. I even found a slipper buried within it.
Most of the cells on this side were blocked off, and I could see damaged ceilings and floor through the wire and random furniture pushed in front of the open doors to keep people out.
Something made me stop as we were heading out. I paused in front of a room that had the remains of a mattress blocking it. I didn’t see anything, so I turned and made my way to rejoin the group.
Suddenly, something grabbed my hood from behind. I was yanked hard against the bars. I gasped for air, my own shirt almost strangling me.
“Vere!” Ken rushed to my aid. He threw his arm up, and it transformed into a wolfish paw with the motion. He swiped at whatever it was holding me, and I felt the pressure subside. I slumped forward, and Ken was quick to catch me.
As I caught my breath, I glanced up at him, “Thanks. Did you see anything?”
Ken stared past me, glaring into the cell, “No. I just suddenly smelled blood.”
Priti and Klaas were right behind him. Klaas looked worried, “Is everything alright?”
“Something grabbed me,” I explained.
Priti let out a quiet shout and lanced a fireball into the cell behind us. It illuminated the room just long enough for us to all take a look around before fading back into the darkness.
Priti frowned, “I didn’t even sense anything that time. Maybe it’s not our ghost?”
I rubbed my neck, “Maybe. I thought I felt something, but it was at the back of my mind. I’m just glad Ken got to me when he did.”
After another check through that block, we made our way to the back of the hall and headed down the stairs from there. We double-checked some of our earlier stops, but we found nothing unusual. The only noises we heard were from us. The place was deathly silent and devoid of all life. It even creeped me out a bit.
Back in the main hall, we decided to check out the kitchen. It was rather empty now, but I could envision it full of life back when the jail was still being used to house prisoners. There were two rusty doors near the back, one blocked off, and the other I knew would lead back to the sheriff’s house. There were high vents and even an old fashioned industrial stove still in the room. The paint had cracked and chipped, and rust covered anything metal it could find. There was a back door almost hidden in the shadows that presumably lead outside. It was locked and I wasn’t going to poke at it.
While Ken and Priti explored the room together, I joined Klaas hunched over his bag, reviewing the files again. He handed me some of them as I knelt down next to him, and we rifled through the papers.
“Just as she said, it looks like the basement is hit or miss,” Klaas frowned as he flipped the page he was reading over.
“It does look like some of the hunters ran into the ghost we are looking for down there,” I added, scanning through an excerpt from the page I held.
“What do you guys think?” I leaned back on my heels, glancing back towards the bobbing light that was Ken and Priti.
“Let’s go, let’s go!” Priti clapped her hands excitedly.
Ken didn’t share her enthusiasm, but he agreed, “Yeah, it’s the only place we haven’t checked yet. We need to find a way to lure the ghost out still. Maybe we can get it to interact with us more down there. Although I’d rather us just leave here right now.”
“Well, let’s get going then,” Klaas held out his hand. I handed him back the notes and he filed them all neatly back into the folder. He put it in his bag and stood up.
I got to the door first. The basement door was strangely shut, but we had gotten permission to go downstairs. I didn’t think too much of it, but when I tried to pull it open, it wouldn’t budge.
“What’s wrong?” Klaas stood behind me.
“I think the door is stuck,” I tried to throw my weight into the door. I pulled back as hard as I could.
Suddenly, the door flung open, almost knocking me over. As I recovered my balance, I felt the same dark presence I had earlier. I tried to warn the others, but something plowed into me. It struck me hard, and I tumbled through the doorway.
“Vere!” Klaas tried to grab me to stop me. He went tumbling after, and I heard the door slam behind us as we bounced down the awkwardly cut stairs.
“Vere!” I heard Ken shriek from above us. I heard banging on the door as he tried to break through. I could feel his energy as he started to transform, trying to use the full might of his werewolf form to tear through.
I landed face down on the ground beneath us, but fortunately it was damp dirt rather than cement. I retrieved the camera, using the light from Klaas’s fallen flashlight to find my bearings. I found my own flashlight a few feet away. I tried to click it back on, but it was cracked. I sighed and dumped the broken light into my bag.
“Are you alright?” I picked up Klaas’s flashlight and shone it towards his body. He groaned as he rolled onto his back.
“Verdammt! That hurt,” Klaas muttered as he picked himself up. He took his backpack and leafed through the contents. When he was satisfied that nothing was badly damaged, he shifted it back onto his back.
“What happened?” Klaas frowned at me. “I felt something, and then suddenly you were falling. Was it the ghost?”
I stood up and offered him a hand up, “Yeah, I think so. The door was sticking, or at least that’s what I thought. I guess it was more like someone was holding it closed. It suddenly opened on its own, and then I was knocked off balance. We aren’t the first people the ghost knocked down a staircase.”
Klaas laughed as he took my hand and he climbed to his feet. He brushed off his pants then offered to take the flashlight from me. I handed it over. I double-checked the camera to make sure it was still running fine. A quick glance told me it had recorded me falling down the stairs. There was a light scuff on the lens, but it wasn’t bad enough to ruin the footage.
Klaas climbed up the awkward staircase and tried the door. No surprise, it wouldn’t budge. He knocked on it, shouting through the other side, “Priti? Ken? We are okay, but we are stuck down here.”
Priti’s muffled voice responded, “Good. It looks like there’s some kinda barrier keeping the door in place. We’re working on breaking through it, but the source is probably from somewhere down there.”
“If you guys stay right there-” Ken started to say, but Priti interrupted him.
“Go and investigate. You guys might find a way to break the barrier so we can get down to you. Be careful, okay?”
Klaas carefully made his way back to me. He stopped and did a quick sweep of his room with the flashlight. He stopped when he saw a small staircase throw a hole in the wall. The floor was uneven, so the stairs helped straighten the slope. There were some stray wires tethered close to the break, but they were out of the way enough that walking through would be simple.
“I guess we’ve got nothing to lose,” Klaas said with a swallow.
We had to duck on our way down. Once the planks of stairs embedded into the dirt ended, we walked on boards across the floor, or even the dirt itself. Footing was tricky, but as long as we were careful, we didn’t trip or fall.
Not knowing where else to go, we moved deeper in. I could feel the dark energy growing as we got closer to the source. What was the ghost doing down here? Was he waiting for us?
A thought occurred to me that I almost voiced aloud, but quickly decided against it. The ghost had split our team in half. Specifically, he had split off the humans from the non-humans. We were the weaker of the group and the easier targets. Sure, I had my powers, but my body was still that of a human. And I couldn’t even guarantee my powers would always do what I wanted. Last time I had fought a ghost, I had only done so well because I got lucky.
The ground sloped upward again, and we climbed the dirt mound to another part of the basement. There was a room right in front of us, and we took a quick glance in. There was what looked like the remains of a wooden bedframe in one corner of it. Over a piece of cement on the wall someone had spray-painted the words “shoo shoo!”
Klaas paused behind me, “I don’t like the feeling in here. I can’t see anything, but I just know something is there.”
I agreed with him wordlessly. I took a deep breath and put one foot into the room. I slowly pulled the rest of my body in. I took a couple more steps in before the ghost hit me.
I didn’t feel anything until he was on me. He caught me hard in the jaw, knocking me flat on my back. I heard Klaas yell out and try to come after me, but a smacking and a clattering noise told me the ghost knocked him down, too (and probably sent his glasses flying).
I tried to climb up, but the ghost slammed me back down. The flashlight was somewhere out behind me, but the beam of light reflected enough to give me a dim view of the room. I saw the ghost for the first time.
His whole body was dark. Shadows wrapped around him, and I understood why we hadn’t spotted him before. The only ghosts I had seen up until now had been lighter; he brought the darkness with him. His face was nothing more than dark shadows. I could see no eyes, but I could see dingy teeth and…was that bone? He wasn’t more than a skeleton trapped in whirling shadows.
“No,” his voice was harsh as he grabbed me by the neck. He picked me up, and my feet dangled above the ground. “No, no, no!”
I struggled to breath, trying to pry his skeletal fingers from my throat. I gasped as I tried to speak, “What…who…?”
He suddenly flung me further into the room. I hit the cement wall and I could feel a trickle of blood as it dripped down my face.
He came at me. I couldn’t see him clearly, but I knew he was grinning, “That’s not allowed. Bad boys should be punished. All bad boys should be punished severely.”
I tried to stand up, using the wall behind me as support. I leaned against it, trying to meet his eyes, “What’s not allowed? Who are you? Why am I a bad boy?”
“No, no, no!” he flew at me.
I drew my power towards me, grabbing at a scrap of brick lying about the room. Charged with my energy, I flung it through the air at the ghost. It hit him and actually connected, surprising both the ghost and myself. I ducked out of the way, scrambling out of the room in the time it took him to recover.
I nearly tripped on Klaas in the darkness. He rolled onto his back, reaching out for his flashlight. His fingers touched it, and he was able to roll it towards him.
“What is wrong with him?” Klaas slowly sat up.
“I don’t know,” I pulled Klaas to his feet, “But we can’t stay still. We are just sitting ducks right now. I don’t know if I’ll be able to surprise him again.”
“Bad boys should be punished!” the ghost screeched from behind us.
Klaas and I made a dash into the next room. His flashlight bounced wildly around us, illuminating shelves with bottles of liquor on them. My foot caught on the uneven ground and I went down.
“Vere!” Klaas tried to turn back to me.
The ghost flew in a second later. I visualized the bottles on the shelves and reached out to them. Using a wave of energy, I flung them at the ghost. Most of them went through him, hitting the wall and ground behind him. The couple that hit him hit low, doing nothing to stop him.
This time he caught Klaas, lifting him off the ground by the back of the shirt. Klaas squirmed, trying to free himself from the vest.
My phone suddenly went off beneath me, and the sound was enough to throw the ghost off. Klaas squirmed away, leaving the vest behind. He dug through his bag, pulling free a small pouch. He quickly untied it and flung something at the ghost. It had to be salt.
The ghost hissed and spun backwards, temporarily retreating.
As I sat up, I must have bumped my phone because I heard a voice from beneath me, “Hello? Master?”
With shaking hands, I picked up the phone, “Mysie? How did you get through? There’s no reception in here.”
She paused as she thought out her answer, “Um, I’m sorry, I know you told me not to mess with technology too much because it could cause issues later on, but the call wasn’t going through, so my hand was forced.”
Normally I’d be upset with her for breaking one of the rules I had given her, but today it had come in handy, “I’ll be mad later. The ghost trapped Klaas and me in the basement.”
“Oh,” she sounded worried, “Is everyone okay? Where is Miss Priti and the puppy?”
“Upstairs. We’re all okay for now.”
“I had some ideas about the ghost, which is why I was calling. I’ll make it quick. There was a rather psychotic man who passed away just a few months ago. He was finally caught up near Lake County Indiana. He was taken into custody, but apparently suffered a heart attack and died in custody. You may have read about him in the news. His name was Nate Sullivan.”
I knew exactly who she was talking about. Starting down in Kentucky, Nate Sullivan had been in and out of jail from a young age. I believe the reports mentioned that he was a foster kid, passed from one abusive house to the next. My mind frantically searched for more information. Was the ghost Nate Sullivan? He did seem pretty crazy, but why did he keep talking about punishing?
“I think-” Mysie started to speak, but the phone suddenly overheated and clicked off. I cursed, trying to get it back to life.
“Bad boys, bad boys. No, no, no!” the ghost was right behind me.
I took a risk as I shoved the phone back in my pocket, “Nate Sullivan?”
The ghost stopped a few inches from my face. He floated low, slowly reaching out to my face. His fingers touched my cheek. Was he smiling? I didn’t think he was happy with me either way.
The instant he made contact, I got a peek of a vision. I saw a heavily wooded area. There was someone else there with me. I never saw his face, but I knew it was my little brother. Or, well, the little brother of the man’s memory I was seeing. A squirrel ran past and I felt a sudden rage growing. I grabbed a baseball bat and suddenly swung it at the squirrel. I could hear my brother screaming behind me.
Another flash, keeping me from the visuals of the squirrel’s gruesome death. Time had passed. I was older. My brother was gone. I was alone, sitting in a room that felt like a prison. A children’s home. My mother had abandoned me. Someone else was suddenly behind me. Another boy at the home. He grabbed me, and I knew what was coming even with the jump to another scene.
Shots of my mother as she turned me away from home, even threatening a knife on me. Being in the army as a cook. Bowling. Brief moments of light in a dark world.
And then the rage grew. The revenge I couldn’t get. The first kill. The growing fire within me.
“Vere!” I suddenly heard Klaas shouting.
I realized the ghost was strangling me, his long, bony fingers wrapping around my neck. I reached behind me, finding one of the bottles I had tried to throw earlier. My energy pulsed through it as I hit the ghost straight in the face. The ghost I now knew the name of.
“Phillip Teddy Forst!” I shouted as I climbed to my feet. I was weak from lack of breath, and my legs wobbled beneath me.
The enraged remains of Phillip Forst stared at me, mouth agape. I remembered when he was in the news, although I had been too young to really understand it. He started his murders when he was in Germany, serving as a soldier. He stabbed, strangled, and drowned his victims; anything to overcome them. He targeted children, mostly attacking young teenagers. He had been arrested and served seventeen years in Cook County, Illinois, before being released. Even he hadn’t thought he should be out without custody. Finally, he was caught in winter of 2003 for strangling a boy in Hammond, Indiana. The boy’s body, along with two others, were found incased in cement in his basement.
Most importantly, he had served time in the Lake County Jail. Not this old prison house, of course, but in the modern complex just a few minutes away. He hung himself in his cell only a few years after he was caught, ending his story.
I wasn’t sure why he had waited more than a decade to strike, but I knew there had to be some trigger. That wasn’t important now. What was important was disarming him.
He tried to grab me again. I shouted back at him, “Phillip Teddy Forst!”
I stepped backwards, closing the gap between myself and Klaas. I grabbed the bag from him, dumping salt into my hand. Sure enough, Forst’s ghost followed after me. I flung the salt in his face. It slowed him, but it didn’t stop him.
He reached for my throat again, but I caught his wrists. I had to keep my energy running through my fingers to even touch him. He was cold, and I could feel the hatred that fueled him. I quickly thought back to my vision. The revenge he never got. Maybe that was what was driving him. There was no way I would be able to help him get his revenge. I couldn’t even be sure that the target of his revenge was still even alive.
Ah, but his mother had also been a sore spot with him. Maybe that was why he reacted more to women when people called out for him. Did he still pine for his mother’s love in some dark recess of his mind?
I had to think fast. What else could I use to disarm him? The mirror ghost had ended up being simple; she never wanted to become a monster. She certainly hadn’t been one in life. But this was a serial killer. He had become a monster while he was still alive.
Klaas flung more salt at the ghost, trying to chase him back. The ghost flinched, but it wasn’t enough to get him off me. I could hear Klaas curse in German as he ran out of salt. My hands were tingling where my skin touched the bony apparition. I wouldn’t be able to hold him much longer.
“Dammit, Phillip!” I struggled to push him back. He bore down at me, knocking me back and into Klaas.
“You can’t stay mad forever!”
“No, no, no!” Forst laughed. His aura overwhelmed me and I lost my grip on him. Klaas went rolling back, smacking hard into the wall. I slid back, my back catching on a small shelf in the middle of the room. I held onto it, and it skidded a few feet back across the ground.
I don’t know why I thought about it then, but I was suddenly reminded of something my father used to do for me as a child. Incidentally, Thomas Cain- who became like a second father to me- had ended up doing the same for me years later. Whenever I was mad, my father could always calm me down. He would place his hand on my chest and take deep breaths. He would talk to me calmly, and soon, I would be taking the deep breaths with him.
My heart stung from the memory, but it was the first real answer I had. As the ghost charged towards me again, I held my hand out and forced my energy into it so I could touch him. I kept my palm outstretched.
As he connected with my hand, I took a deep breath, “Calm down. Think about what you are really angry at.”
The ghost clawed at my arm, tearing through the fabric of my sleeve and leaving dark gashes across my pale skin. It stung, and where he touched me burned with cold. I tried to ignore it, instead focusing on my breathing.
“Take deep breaths,” I ordered him.
The ghost hissed but the clawing let up. I thought about my father, trying to fight the tears from my eyes. I hated to think about him since he had died when I was so young. And his death was still shrouded in so much mystery. My whole life got turned upside when he died.
I faltered and the ghost resumed his attacks. I couldn’t let it get to me. I had to be stronger than this. I pressed on, calming myself and taking another deep breath.
“Whenever you’re angry, breath,” my hand was going numb where it touched him. “Breath in, and breath out.”
As he calmed down, I willed more of my power through my hand. I imagined tearing away the darkness. The darkness peeled away at my command, leaving the skeletal-looking ghost that lurked beneath the surface.
The ghost whined, “Mama. I’m not a bad boy!”
“Breath in, breath out,” I repeated the instructions quietly. I took a breath with each word, mimicking the actions I wanted him to take.
“Bad boys must be punished!” his voice wavered. Rage still swirled around him, but it had dissipated. I didn’t think I would be enough to force an exorcism on him, but maybe I could convince him to leave on his own.
“Bad boys must be punished!” he repeated, and the rage came back with him. He exploded out with the dark energy and he sent me flying back. I hit the shelf hard, and it wobbled against my weight. The glass bottles clinked together, and a couple went tumbling off from the force.
The ghost charged at me, bringing up a fist. He struck me across the face. It burned where he touched me. He hit me again, and my head hit the ground. Stars spun around me. I struggled to defend myself.
The ghost grabbed me around the neck again. He squeezed tight, and I could feel the burn of his touch as the breath escaped me. I flailed about, trying to direct my power into one of the nearby bottles. My power didn’t listen, and I gagged as I struggled to breathe.
I probably would have blacked out if it hadn’t been for the wild howl from behind us as Ken charged in, fully transformed into his wolf form. He bowled into the ghost, and it faded around him, reappearing behind him.
“Bad boys must be punished!” he shrieked.
“And what about bad girls?” Priti grinned in the light of her fire. Her face was illuminated in red, the heavy shadows and the crimson glow giving her the look of the demon she truly was.
She flung her fire at the ghost, and he tried to fade around it, but supernatural fire wasn’t something even a ghost could avoid. He screamed as it burned him, his panic rising.
“No, no, no!” he shouted.
Ken spun on his heels, lunging for the ghost, “How dare you lay a hand on Vere!”
His voice always sounded deep and guttural in his wolf form. It was unnerving, especially when compared to the peppy voice he usually spoke in when he was a human. He sounded like a completely different person. I suppose he was.
Ken caught the ghost by the neck and pinned him to the ground. He tore into the ghost, and strangely, the dark energy around Forst shrank back as Ken tried to claw it away. The ghost still burned with fire, but Priti’s flames did little to our werewolf ally. Their attacks were all focused on the ghost. The flames cast their reddish glow over the entire room.
“Bad boys must be punished! Bad boys must be punished!” the ghost screamed out, thrashing beneath Ken.
Klaas was beside me, helping me up. He tried to push up his glasses, but quickly remembered he had lost them earlier in the fight. He frowned over at me, “Are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine,” I assured him. He helped me to my feet. I staggered closer to Ken and the ghost. Priti watched me curiously from the other side of her flames, but she made no move to stop me.
“Stay back,” Ken warned, his words muffled as his teeth were wrapped around the ghost’s throat.
“It will be fine,” I assured Ken. I briefly stroked his head, and he stared up at me, worry mirroring in his now golden eyes. I nodded to him and he grunted. I knew he wasn’t going to interfere unless it got too dangerous. His biggest flaw was caring too much, but I also knew he trusted me without fault.
I knelt down beside the ghost. I took a deep breath and tried my father’s method of calming again. I set my hand to his chest. I didn’t even feel the warmth of Priti’s flames. Supernatural powers were a strange and magical thing.
“Calm down,” I spoke quietly. Ken kept him pinned. The ghost turned his head towards me, and I stared deep into the empty sockets. I could feel the rage burning with Priti’s flames. He didn’t want to listen to me, but he didn’t have a choice. He was trapped.
“No, no!” he tried to shout out.
I took another deep breath, “Breathe in. Breathe out.”
The ghost struggled beneath Ken, but he couldn’t force the werewolf off of him. Priti’s flames dwindled, but they still burned around him.
“Whenever you’re angry, just breathe,” I repeated. “Breathe in. Breathe out.”
I could feel the energy tingling around my fingers. I closed my eyes and let my powers take over. How had I helped the ghost move on before? I had helped her find peace with herself, but it had been simpler than that. I had connected with her on an emotional level.
I continued breathing as I thought about the rage inside of me. The rage about my father’s death. The rage about my family falling apart. The rage and fear that had driven me away from my powers and my old home to Chicago. The rage as the things I tried to rebuild were torn away. The rage over the deaths of my friends and colleagues. The rage over the murder I knew I would never be able to forgive.
My energy sparked around us. The ghost quieted down. I could feel him trembling beneath my fingers. I knew rage just as well. I knew how revenge could drive someone. Even now, I had to fight to keep it from taking over me. I was lucky I had friends like Priti and Ken. Without them, I knew the darkness would consume me.
“Breathe in. Breathe out,” I think my voice may have squeaked. The rage was building within me as well. The worst part of rage is that it was so hard to control. Even when I knew it was wrong, it still would sometimes get the better of me. I hadn’t killed anyone in my rage, but it wasn’t entirely impossible. My powers could surge out of control. I had hurt my friends before because I had slipped.
“Breathe in. Breathe out.”
The ghost whispered beneath me, “Breathe in. Breathe out.”
I opened my eyes, and I could see the darkness around him thinning. The face I saw started to take form, regaining its human visage. I knew I was looking into the face of a cold-hearted killer, but I saw a sadness lining his eyes. With the rage leaving him, that was all he had left. Regret was all revenge left people with, whether they satisfied that revenge or not.
“Breathe in. Breathe out.”
“Breathe in. Breathe out.”
My energy flared up. I started to falter, but Ken nuzzled up to my side. I leaned against him, spreading out my power further. I willed it to let my feelings transfer into him. To make him understand what he had become.
“Breathe in. Breathe out.”
I think he was crying. The world around me was getting fuzzy. I slumped against Ken, and my fingers slipped from Forst’s chest. He continued repeating my words, even as the darkness continued to be pulled away. With it gone, his ghost started to reform into the photos I remembered seeing in the paper. The worn out man who had lost himself to hatred.
He rose up, continuing to repeat my words. He turned from us, walking towards the doorway. Priti followed him, but I knew where he was going. He wouldn’t be bothering anyone here anymore.
I took deep breaths and leaned against Ken. He whimpered and drew his head around to face me. I gently patted his head, “I’m fine. That just takes a lot out of me.”
Klaas crawled over to us, fidgeting with the flashlight as Priti’s fire faded and the room went dark. He shined it about, making a quick sweep of the place, “I-is he gone?”
“Yeah,” I stood up and nearly stumbled. Ken caught me as he untransformed, regaining his human form. I pushed away from him, not wanting to be standing that close a naked man.
Priti returned a moment later, swinging Ken’s jeans and shirt, “Well, it looks like he’s gone. I’m gonna go check the rest of the place really quick. Just to make sure he didn’t escape to another part of the jail.”
She threw the clothes at Ken then sauntered out of the room. I heard her as she spread her wings and took to flying to give herself more speed in her search. The basement door rattled as she whipped past it.
As Ken got dressed, I found the camera on the floor. The lens was badly cracked, but the thing had continued to record, despite the abuse. I picked it up, delicately brushing the dirt from it. It had fought a hard battle alongside us. Another comrade injured in our struggle to overcome the supernatural.
“We got lucky,” I commented, eyeing the camera for any other damage I may have missed. I didn’t have any sentimental attachment to the camera itself, but I still felt almost sorry for the hardy piece of equipment.
“Yeah,” Klaas agreed. “This ghost was much weaker than the one we fought before, yah? I don’t think any of my usual methods would have worked for this one anyways. I feel like I need to really rethink the whole way I ghost hunt.”
I gave him a weak smile, “My way is no better. If what you do works for you, I’d keep going. Besides, you don’t have to exorcise them very often, right? Usually it’s just investigation.”
“I suppose,” Klaas searched around until he located his glasses. The frames were scratched, but he rubbed them off on his shirt before settling them back on his nose. Next he searched for his vest, which was much easier to find.
“Sorry,” Ken suddenly said behind me. I turned to face him. He was still standing a good distance away from me. I don’t think his eyes had quite adjusted back to the darkness after having a flashlight zip past him.
“For what?” I asked.
“For bumping you.”
“Ken. I’m not that close to you. And I didn’t feel anything.”
Ken let out a high pitch scream and knocked me over.
It was still dark outside as we sat in the main room of the sheriff’s house. Ken kneeled next to me, his face buried in my knee. He kept muttering to himself, “There are no such things as ghosts. No such things as ghosts.”
It was funny how much a little transformation could change a person. But I knew that when that energy was pulsing in his veins, he felt different. The usual timid, weak human became something strong and powerful. At least he was able to push back his fear when it mattered. I suppose dogs did the same for their families, too. I tried not to laugh at the thought. Ken was really like a dog sometimes.
Priti leaned against the desk, glancing out the window, watching the stragglers leaving the nearby bars. She eyed them, and I knew she was looking for potential marks. She had used a lot of her energy, and I’m sure she was exhausted. I know I was.
I briefly touched my head. It had stopped bleeding before we even made it out of the jail. I ached all over, and all I wanted to do is sleep. My arm was smarting, but Priti had helped me wrap it while our host made her sweep of the jail.
The woman stepped back into the room, a thoughtful expression across her face, “Well, I have no way of telling whether or not you did actually get rid of it, but it somehow feels lighter in there. We’ll just have to keep a watch.”
Klaas nodded, setting the towel he had borrowed down on his lap, “Yah. I’ll stay here for a few more days to make sure nothing flares back up. Priti, you will help me?”
Priti flashed him a grin, “Yup. We’ll only call in Vere if we really need it. And Ken only if we need someone to entertain us.”
“There’s no such things as ghosts!” Ken whined.
We were all exhausted, and we unanimously agreed to call it a night. The sun would be rising in a couple hours, but all of us were used to late nights and harsh hours. As Ken helped Klaas move his equipment back into the car, I couldn’t help but take a quick glance back into the booking room.
It was dark and quiet, as it should be. The dark energy I had felt earlier didn’t seem to linger in the air, but there was still the buzz of energy. The place was really busy with spirits. I wondered if they would resume their normal activity now that the dark spirit was gone.
A call to Mysie after we got out of the basement reaffirmed what I had expected. The renovations for the new prison had stirred up some of the spirits resting there. Mysie tried to explain that prisons had “like energies,” so she wasn’t surprised he moved from one to the next. She even said there had been unconfirmed rumors of prisoners getting hurt and claiming a ghost had done it. But, ghost stories haunted every prison.
“Vere, you ready to go?” Priti shouted from the front door. “Ken’s ready to go. If we don’t get in soon, I think he might leave without us.”
I laughed, knowing that he might actually do so if he was scared enough. Still, he didn’t like to leave my side, even when he was terrified. I suppose that was what friendship was like. I smiled at the thought.
As I started to turn away, a flicker of movement caught my attention. There was a white figure standing behind the booking desk. It looked to be a young woman, but her figure was pale and almost translucent. I couldn’t see it clearly.
She lifted her hand and waved, “Take care. Please come again.”
And I decided I would keep that incident to myself.