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Draw Down the Moon

Draw Down the Moon 7

Chuck Burks was not available until the end of the week, and when he came on Friday night he brought with him two students, a van full of equipment, and a psychic. John watched them set up video cameras, tape recorders and EMF detectors with bemusement, and whispered to Dana, “I thought they did this with baseballs and rope.”

“Ghost-hunting needs to be treated as any other kind of scientific investigation, John,” she said patiently.

“We prefer the term ‘ghost investigations’,” Chuck said, coming down the stairs towards them.

“Chuck, you remember my husband, John Doggett.”

The men shook hands, and Chuck said, “Did I hear you expressing dissent, Agent Doggett?”

“I’m just doing this for Dana’s peace of mind,” John said.

“I guess I get to put you down as the non-believer. While we’re here, let’s do the questionnaire.” He picked up a briefcase from the pile of cases and started shuffling through papers.

“There’s a questionnaire?” John said, pained.

“Standard procedure . . . if I can find the thing . . . here we go!” He produced some papers with a triumphant flourish. “Have a seat, please, Agent Doggett, Agent Scully—or do you prefer Mrs. Doggett now?”

“Dana and John should be fine,” Dana said with a smile, sitting on the couch with William on her lap. William had the same bemused expression that John felt on his own face, watching the proceedings as if thoroughly baffled. Chuck leaned over to tickle his chin and William twisted away, seeking the safety of Dana’s breast. “I’m sorry, he’s usually more friendly,” Dana said apologetically, lifting him up so he could hide his face in her hair.

“That’s fine, that’s fine,” Chuck said. “I’m sure this is all a little confusing. Won’t you have a seat, John? This shouldn’t take long.”

John perched on the arm of the sofa where he could put an arm around Dana’s shoulders. The whole thing felt strange and artificial to him, as if they were play-acting. Dana smiled up at him and he smiled back cautiously, touching William’s cheek to reassure him.

“Okay,” Chuck said. “Number of occupants, three . . . names and ages?”

“John, 41, Dana, 37, and William, five months,” Dana said.

Chuck nodded, scribbling. “Occupation, FBI . . .religious beliefs?”

“I’m a practicing Catholic,” Dana said. “John is . . .” She looked up at him.

“Undeclared,” John said. “Raised Baptist.”

Again Chuck nodded. “Okay. Total time of occupancy.”

“I’ve lived here three years, Dana and William for two weeks.”

“And how old is the house?”

“It was built in 1910.”

“Whoa,” Chuck said, grinning. “Cool. A great old place. How many previous owners has it had?”

“Seven, I think,” John said. “The original owners were here until the Sixties, then it changed hands about once a decade.”

“All right. And how about its history? Any deaths?”

“Well . . .” John looked down at Dana’s bright hair and William’s little face resting against her shoulder. “The original owners aren’t around anymore, of course. The realtor didn’t say anything when I bought it about someone dying here.”

“Okay, okay.” Chuck’s blue Bic moved even faster. “Has this house ever been blessed?”

“Blessed?” John echoed.

“Like an exorcism,” Chuck said.

“No,” Dana said. “Not that we know of.”

“Okay. Any recent remodeling?”

“No,” John said.

“Any occupants on medication, no . . .” He started writing, then looked up, his eyebrows raised. “Right?”

“Right,” said Dana.

“Drugs or alcohol?”

“No,” Dana said.

“A beer at night sometimes,” John said.

“But not heavily. How about interest in the occult: have you ever used a Ouija board or held a seance here, anything of that nature?”

“No,” John said. He wanted to laugh, imaging himself and Dana in a room foggy with incense and chanting “om” or whatever one says during a seance, trying to contact the otherworld . . .

“The previous owners may have, but we have no record,” Dana said. “When this house was built interest in the occult was still very popular, particularly after World War I.”

“True, true. We’ll have to have that as a ‘maybe.’ Anyone currently seeing a psychiatrist?”

“No,” John said.

“And have you consulted your clergyman about this?”

“No,” Dana said. “My priest doesn’t put much value in this sort of thing. He’s . . . pragmatic.”

“Interesting,” Chuck said. “What about other witnesses? Has anyone seen anything besides the two of you?”

“No, though I did tell Monica Reyes, my husband’s partner, about what I’ve seen.”


Okay. Now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty: the manifestations themselves. Have you smelled anything?”

“I didn’t know ghosts smell,” John said.

“Oh, yes. It depends on the kind of spirit, but they can smell like anything from flowers to decay. It’s quite fascinating.”

“No smells, that I’ve noticed,” Dana said thoughtfully. “But my sense of smell has been strange since the pregnancy.”

“What about sounds?”

“I’ve heard footsteps since I moved in, from the upper floor. Like someone running around.”

“And you, John?”

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said automatically, then frowned, wondering if it was really true.

“What about voices?”

“No,” John said, and frowned again.

“No, but the manifestation I saw earlier this week did try to speak to me,” Dana said. “I couldn’t tell what he was trying to say.”

“All right. Movement of objects?”

“Every morning John’s change has been separated into dollars while we were sleeping. And there was a picture—it fell off the wall and flew across the room.”

“A picture of what?” Chuck said, leaning forward. His two graduate students had sat down on the steps to listen. The psychic was nowhere to be seen.

“Just my parents’ place in Georgia,” John said. “My father’s an amateur photographer, so I’ve got some of his prints around the house. Those three are just some interesting views at the vacation home.”

“Your parents have a vacation home?” Dana tilted back her head to look at him.

“It’s a cabin on a lake. Barely has running water. Good views, though.”

“Interesting,” Chuck repeated. “How about levitations?”

“No,” Dana said.

“Nothing like that,” said John.

“Hot spots? Cold spots?”

“It’s hard to tell with the heat lately,” Dana said.

“How about the electronics? Anything turning on or off by itself?”

“No,” Dana said.

“Anyone having nightmares or trouble sleeping?”

“Yes,” Dana said. “Both of us have nightmares this past week. We both have lost children and have been having dreams about them.”

“Really,” Chuck said. “Well. Would you mind telling me more about them?”

“Mine was about my daughter not being my daughter and trying to take William away. John’s was . . .” She touched his hand. “What was it, baby?”

“It was . . . just about my son,” John said. “He was murdered eight years ago. I don’t want not go into it.”

“He awoke in a panic,” Dana said. “I’d never seen him like that.”

“Well,” Chuck said. “That’s . . . where were you living when this happened, John?”

“New York. Long Island.”

“Not this house. Hm.”

“No. Not this house.”

Chuck frowned at his papers a moment, then sighed and went on with the questions. “What about physical attacks?”

“Not an attack, exactly,” Dana said. “Just before the picture fell, I was taking a nap and felt someone touching me. At first I thought it was John come home early. It didn’t frighten me until I realized it wasn’t him.”

“Okay. This is important, Dana: do you feel threatened here?”

She bit her lower lip and stroked William’s back—the movement to soothe herself, John thought, more than for the baby’s sake. “Not exactly,” she said quietly. “I think we’re dealing with two spirits here. I think John’s son is trying to reach us, and I think there’s a second spirit that intends something towards William. On Monday, the same day the picture fell, I saw a shape trying to touch William in his crib. I told it to stop and it disappeared, but I don’t know if it will stop the next time.” She looked up at John again, her eyes wet with apology, and he rubbed her shoulder.

“Do you think the two are related?” Chuck said, leaning forward again, his voice soft. “Do you think John’s son is trying to tell you about the second spirit?”

“I don’t know. He tried to tell me something I saw him that same day. He appeared in the front hall, just for a few seconds. But I didn’t hear a voice.”

“Do you feel threatened by the thought of John’s son haunting this house?”

“Oh, come on now!” John exclaimed.

Dana rubbed his leg. “Baby, please,” she said quietly. “Please. I think I’m more afraid of not knowing what’s going on than anything else,” she told Chuck. “And there have been so many threats to my son that one more, from a supernatural source, it’s starting to feel like the breaking point.”

“What about since Monday? Have you seen or heard anything since Monday?”

“No,” John said.

“No,” Dana repeated in puzzled tone. “It’s been quiet.”

“Hm,” Chuck said. “Usually when we investigate something more phenomena have occurred over a longer period of time. This is interesting because there’s no pattern to it. You’ve heard different sounds, you’ve seen different types of apparitions, and the apparitions themselves have chosen to manifest in different ways. I’d say definitely you’ve got more than one spirit here, and I’d venture to say maybe even three, considering the dream about your daughter. Are you sure you don’t want to give us any details about your dream, John?”

“No,” John said. “I don’t.”

“All right,” Chuck said, getting to his feet. “We’ll be doing our scans after nine. The witching hour,” he added with a grin. “Do you two want to participate?”

“No,” John said again. Suddenly he felt very tired: there were too many people in his house, and he wanted to be alone with Dana. “Are y’all going to be in the bedroom? I’d like to hit the sack early tonight.”

“Um,” Chuck said, stopping on his way up the stairs. “Yes. We’ll be here all night.”

“Oh. Great.”

“I was hoping you’d want to help,” Dana said quietly.

“Help do what? Chant? Wave incense?”

“This isn’t a seance, Agent Doggett,” one of the students piped up. “We scan the areas of activity with the EMF decoders, we videotape, we digitally record, and we’ll go over the footage later for signs of haunting.”

“Great,” John said without enthusiasm. “I’ll wave the incense.” He stood and left the living room, taking off his suit coat as he went.

In the twilight, the back yard felt like a retreat. He walked across the lawn to the rose bushes, where a few late blooms drooped in the heat. He grasped one flower in his hand and rubbed his fingers on the smooth petals.

After a moment Dana came out too, still holding the baby. “John,” she said quietly, but didn’t continue.

“I’m trying to be supportive,” he said shortly.

“I know.”

“But you can’t honestly expect me to take this seriously.”

“Actually, I was expecting you to take this seriously.” She exhaled, and sat down on the garden bench beneath the apple tree.”But I know how it can be—to accept something that you don’t want to believe.”

“Dana.” He let go of the rose and turned to face her.

“The way I see it,” she went on in the same calm tone, “is either something really is happening in this house, or I’m losing my mind. I know I saw your son, John. Either I’m hallucinating or he’s really haunting this house. Which would you prefer it to be?”

“There has to be another explanation. There has to be. You know, this is one of those times I wish I were Mulder for you—then I could find a reason and give you an explanation and make it make sense, but I can’t, Dana! I can’t make it make sense for you when it doesn’t make sense to me!”

Dana set her jaw and said, “I have never expected you to make the world fall into order.”

“Well, it’s what I want to do. And it kills me when I can’t.” He sighed and scuffed his foot against the grass. “And you’re not losing your mind. Don’t be ridiculous.”

She played with William’s foot and said, “Sometimes I wonder. My life has changed so much in the last month. I was so scared and unhappy and suddenly there you were, with all the solutions.”

“It wasn’t sudden, Dana.”

“It was for me,” she said gently, then smiled and added, “I mean, aside from that period of lust I felt for you during my second trimester.”

John chuckled and went to her. He caressed her cheek and she kissed h
is hand and nuzzled it, her eyes closed. “I just want to make you happy, babe,” he murmured.

“I know. I’m just not used to being happy.” She opened her eyes and sighed, lifting the restless William so he could stand on her lap. “If you don’t want to be here while they investigate, we could go to a hotel.”

“Do you want to be here?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll stay. I’ll try to keep the sarcasm to myself.” He added after a moment, “And whatever Chuck says, I’ll accept. Deal?”

“Deal,” she said, and rose so they could go back inside.

***

It was a long night. The psychic, a perfectly ordinary-looking man named Tim, walked through the house with a serious expression, saying little. The students whispered to each other while poring over their gadgets, and fell asleep slumped against each other in the stairwell. Chuck, after a few hours of enthusiasm, started re-checking the equipment to make sure it all was plugged in and working.

Nothing happened.

After midnight Dana pled weariness and went to lie down in the bedroom with the baby. John stayed downstairs, watching the feeds from the video cameras on Chuck’s computer screen. They had cameras pointed at all the places Dana had mentioned: the baby’s crib, the front door, the pictures in the bedroom. He could see her shape on the bed, and hear William’s little murmurs.

“Usually,” Chuck said, gesturing to the screen, “we see little—they’re almost like big dust motes. But they fly around, they don’t just fall or drift. They change directions, they zoom up or down . . . I love watching those.”

“What are they?”

“Just how spirits are captured on videotape. I have seen some footage that is supposed to be of genuine ghosts, but I find them hard to swallow. There’s something about videotape that can’t capture a physical manifestation other than the little floaters. Film can, though. It’s very strange. It’s the subject of Debbie’s thesis—or will be, if she wins the argument with her chair.”

“Oh. What about the tape recorders?”

“Voices,” Chuck said. “You may not see a thing but the tapes sometimes catch voices hear or there. You must understand, John, that a thorough investigation is not something that can happen over night. This is only a first step—and an unusual one, really.”

“Doin’ it all for Dana, huh?”

“She’s a special woman. Of course, you know that.”

“Yup.” He looked at the quarter-screen where he could see the small silhouette she made on the bed. “So I guess you all will be coming back, if tonight’s a bust?”

“If Dana wants us to, we will. The part that worries me, really, is Tim. He hasn’t felt a thing. Usually in a place where there’s been spiritual activity there’s some twinge in the air, at least, but here, nothing.”

John started to speak, hesitated, and then said, “If the house isn’t haunted, what other explanations could there be?”

“That’s a tough one. Usually you find it’s the noises old houses make, or somebody playing a prank, or noisy ventilators . . . I went along a hunt once where the homeowners swore they heard voices all the time, and it turned out their house had this old intercom system, through tubes in the walls, where they’d hear the other people in the house talking but it was so muffled they couldn’t make out the words. It was very disappointing.”

“I bet.”

“Given that Dana’s not the hysterical type, though, I’m guessing we’ll find something. The question is, what then.”

“Yeah. What are the odds of an exorcism?”

Chuck shrugged. “It wouldn’t be an exorcism, really. Just a blessing and a binding prayer, encouraging the spirits to move on. That’s really all you can do.”

“No—” He waggled his fingers. “Hocus-pocus?”

“John,” Chuck said patiently, “we’re scientists.”

John didn’t laugh, and said, “Well. Okay. I’m going to make sure Dana’s okay. You mind if I turn that off?”

“Go ahead.”

He went upstairs to the bedroom, and paused in the doorway. The light was on in the hall, and when his eyes adjusted to the darkness he could see her body curled protectively around William, her head on her arm. He shut off the camera, went to the bed and lay down behind her, his arm over her waist.

After a moment she stirred. “John?”

“Yes.”

She nodded and sighed. “Good.”

“You were expecting somebody else, maybe?” He kissed her cheek.

“Just making sure,” she said sleepily, obviously too tired to tease. Her hand smoothed down his arm and pulled his hand to just beneath her breasts. “Mm . . . that’s better.”

He kissed her cheek again and lay down his head. It was better.

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