Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Franklin Castle - Chapter 8

Table of Contents
Floor Plan 

Chapter 8

The fire popped as it fired a spark that landed on the sofa. Keith dropped his Orson Scott Card book on the ottoman to extinguish the red ember to his right. Ashley turned off her Kindle and stood up. She walked to the fireplace and closed the gate.
Terry strode into the room and dropped his computer bag next to love seat. He walked towards Keith and Ashley and sat on the cushioned footrest next to their feet.
“I met Keith earlier, but I didn’t catch your name,” Terry said. He offered his hand to Ashley.
Ashley looked at him with a furrowed brow. “Me?”
“I noticed Dr. Fran failed to introduce you,” Terry said.
“My name is Ashley,” she said and shook his hand.
“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said.

Terry stood up from the ottoman and backed into the love seat. He propped his feet up and crossed his hands behind his neck. “I guess I have one thing going for me this afternoon,” Terry said. “It appears the members of your parent’s team dislike the members of PRETA much more than they dislike me.”
Keith and Ashley giggled.
“You’re not giving yourself enough credit,” Ashley smiled. “You tripped them up with their own theories. PRETA isn’t capable of doing that. No, I think Dr. Fran and his team dislike you much more right now because they are afraid of you. So, don’t feel so bad.”
“I think they are planning to get even,” Keith said.
“Well, thank you,” Terry said. “I appreciate that. You know, I don’t feel like I’ve been successful unless I manage to tick off everyone I possibly can in the process.”

“Then you’re off to a good start,” Keith laughed.
The laughing ceased abruptly as Ashley’s father, Dr. Dunbar, strolled into the room. Dunbar read from his journal while he walked and did not acknowledge the others in the room. Dr. Dunbar knelt down and removed a book from his leather satchel on the coffee table.
“How’s it going, Dad?” Ashley asked.
Her father continued to read.
“Dad,” Ashley said louder. She shifted to the edge of the sofa and stiffened.
His head jerked up from his text. He looked at Ashley with little expression on his face.
“What?” He asked.
“I asked how it was going,” she said.
“Oh, fine,” he said, He returned his gaze to his book as he finished the response.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked.
He held up a finger and continued to read. When he turned the page, his eyes raised to look at Ashley. He looked at his daughter, his face revealed that he had not listened to his daughter. “No, nothing. Just have a good time,” he said and left the room without a look back at her.
Ashley sighed. She turned her gaze back to Terry. He looked at her and rubbed his chin.
“Are you all right,” he asked.
“Yeah, fine,” she said.

“Is he always like this?”
Ashley leaned back in the sofa. She smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “You might as well know,” she said. “When he’s working he acts this way towards me. This is pretty much how he acts all the time.”
“He made nice before in the driveway,” Terry said.
“Yeah, he wasn’t working yet,” she said. “Soon as he starts, I don’t exist.”
“Most unfortunate,” Terry said. “Are you involved in all this? Or are you just along for the ride?”
“We don’t have anything to do except sit around,” Keith said.
“Everyone else gets to participate,” Ashley said. “They take notes every fifteen minutes, whether anything happens or not. I tried to do one last time on my own, and gave them my notebook at the end. Dr. Fran didn’t care and left the notebook on the table when they left.”
“I haven’t spent much time with Dr. Rogers, so I’m not certain what I’m supposed to write down if nothing happens,” Terry said. “Good thing he gave me permission to do my own investigation.”
“First, don’t call him Dr. Rogers. You have to call him Dr. Fran. He gets really irritated if you don’t.”
“We’ve pretty much established I’m going to irritate him no matter what,” Terry said. “So, I think I’ll stick with Dr. Rogers.”
Keith and Ashley laughed.
“As for the notes, if nothing happens, you’re supposed to write down nothing happened,” Ashley said. She leaned forward in her seat. “But, Dr. Fran wants you to write down any sounds you hear. For example, you may write down that during a fifteen-minute period you heard a pounding on the floor above you. Now, if one of the other people wrote they stomped on the second floor during the same period, Dr. Fran can put two and two together and rule out the sound.”
“Pretty clever. However, it’s not going to work or produce anything. It seems the whole concept behind how they investigate slants to discount instead of discovering,” Terry said. “The PRETA people have a better chance than Dr. Fran. They’re at least excited about what they’re doing. However, in a way they are just as bad as Dr. Fran, just the other extreme. Will Dr. Fran ever relay the story behind this house to everyone?”
“Usually, the group doesn’t know anything about the place until after the experiment,” she said. “He says they won’t be expecting to see something.”
“It’s kind of like investigating a murder when you’re not sure if there’s been a murder,” Terry said. “And what about you? Do you subscribe to this theory?”
“Keith and I are not really a part of this,” Ashley said. “We just come with our parents. As long as we don’t make any problem and keep our thoughts to ourselves, we can do anything we want. We’re not good enough to help.”
“Too bad,” Terry said.
“Why?” Keith asked.
Terry leaned forward. “I’ve found younger people to be the best detectives. They are observant, but not egotistical enough to let what they think they know get in the way of what they really see.”
“What do you mean?” Ashley asked.
“I’m not saying you don’t know anything. I am saying your mindset assumes you have to learn everything. You don’t have degrees on your wall to give you an excuse to think you know everything. You observe and take things in because you want to learn more, and you don't have the preconceived notion you know everything. Even though you’ll argue you do, deep inside, you know you don’t. That is why your outlook is objective.”
Norma strolled into the room, her large flowered dress swayed back and forth. She walked with her hands behind her back, as if on a walk in the park. She wandered the perimeter of the parlor and sniffed the air.
“Norma, this is going to sound like a stupid question,” Terry said. “But, what exactly are you doing?”
She turned to Terry and walked to him. She knelt beside his chair, held his hand in hers, and studied him in silence.
“You are sincere,” she said. A broad smile developed on her face. “Too many people view my kind as a joke. You actually seem to respect me.” Terry nodded his head. Norma continued. “I’m walking through each of the rooms in the house and taking a perception.”
“A perception?” Terry asked.
She stroked his hand with affectionate. “I’m sorry, I’m talking in lingo. I’m allowing my senses to take in each of the rooms. I gain a good deal of information by my sense of smell and I feel air and particles touch my skin. By smelling the room, I can feel emotions. I can feel movement in the air against my skin.”
“You can smell emotions?” Terry asked.
“Yes, anyone can.”
“Another stupid question coming, what do they smell like?”
“Difficult to say, since we do not have common experiences,” Norma said. She hummed as she thought of her next words. “Hatred and anger have a bitter smell to me, though you might not even notice a difference.”
“Okay,” Terry said.
“It’s hard to explain,” Norma said. She stood up. “I would love to talk to you more about this, young man. But, I need to get back to work. Maybe Ashley can explain better. She’s psychic, as well. She just hasn’t broken through yet.”
Norma sashayed down the hall and walked through the kitchen door.
Terry smiled at Ashley. “Did you know you’re psychic?”
“That’s what she tells me,” Ashley said. Her cheeks colored red. “Don’t hold it against me. I don’t know how you feel about psychics, and I don’t want to set myself up to be grilled by you like you did to them.”
Terry laughed. “I would never do that to you. Does any of what she says make sense to you?” Terry asked.
“A little bit,” Ashley said. “What you said before to the group makes a lot of sense to me. I picture thoughts as if they float in the air and I seem to be able to understand them and hear them. It seems to be different for a lot of us. For John, it’s easy for him to read thoughts. He says things just pop into his head as if he is listening to someone in the room. With Norma, she has to feel the spirit. She doesn’t hear thoughts as easily, she feels the emotion in the air and really has to try.”
“So, it’s kind of like one person is good at basketball and another is good at baseball,” Terry said. “They’re both athletes, but gifted in different ways.”
“That’s a good way of explaining it,” Keith said.
“It is,” Ashley said. She raised her finger in the air. “Okay, John specializes in active thought. I mean he can listen to thoughts in the air.”
“While it’s still fresh and hasn’t lost any form,” Terry said. “After it gets stale, he can no longer sense it? He doesn’t receive historical thoughts, right?”
“Right,” Ashley said. “Norma perceives something different. She can sense a presence better than John can, but has to make an effort, but can sense old thoughts.”
“Which is why she has to operate in a different manner,” Terry said.
“What do you mean?” Keith asked.
“Let’s just say she can sense the presence of a ghost,” Terry said. “A ghost’s energy would not be active and fresh, so John does not see ghosts well. A ghost is partially dissipated and old. Norma receives older information better, and that is why she has to feel them. She uses her skin and nose, which are two of the most powerful senses, although we don’t realize it and depend on sight and sound.”
“Yeah, that sounds right,” Ashley said. “Once she feels the spirit, she starts to hear the thoughts. She says it’s patchy, she can’t often get complete thoughts.”
“If they are old thoughts, there may be gaps in them,” Terry said. “Imagine an old video tape that’s been played too many times, or stretched and damaged. The result is the playback is not as good. Could be the same thing here.”
“And Yvette is completely different from everyone,” Ashley said. “That’s why all three of them worked well together because they received different information.”
“Yvette was the one who could not come in, right?” Terry asked.
“Yes,” Ashley said. She shuddered as she remembered the incident in front of the house. “Yvette was probably the most powerful of them. However, she was afraid of what she could do, so she held back. I think she takes Prozac to deaden the senses.”
“What is her power?”
“She’s a Talker,” Ashley said. “She not only can sense their presences and read active and stale thoughts, but she can communicate with spirits. She used to tell me ghosts came to seek her out, and scared her, because she was one of the few who could talk to them.”
“Really? That’s spooky,” Terry said.
“Norma said Talkers are powerful. They usually don’t develop their skills because the experience scares them too much,” Ashley said. “She said if Yvette would sharpen her skills, she could become a Walker.”
“And what’s a Walker,” Terry said.
“The strongest psychic. That’s someone who not only can talk to the dead, but also go into their world and interact,” Ashley said. She ran her hand over goose bumps on her arm.
“So, which are you?” Terry asked.
Ashley shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never been able make anything happen. I just get images and thoughts on occasion.”
“You don’t try to do more, because you’re scared to, right?” Terry stated.
“Yeah, that’s about right,” I said.
“So, you’re not like Norma, she has to try,” he said.
“I guess that’s right.”
“Do you see things current or past?”
Ashley averted her eyes to her hands. She twisted the ring on her finger. “I think I’ve heard current thoughts, but I know I’ve heard older ones as well,” she said.
“Interesting,” he said. “So you can see the past and the present, and you don’t make an effort to do so. So, you can do what both John and Norma do, and you may not have their limitations. You are much more than they are.”
“I don’t know,” she said in a throaty low voice.
The crackling of the fire punctuated the silence.
“Well then, let’s go,” Terry said.
“Where?” Keith asked.
“Since you two don’t have anything to do with either of the other two investigations,” Terry said. “How would you like to join my misfit investigation?”
“Really?” Ashley said. “You want us to help you?”
“Sure, I’d love some help,” Terry said.
“Cool,” Keith said.
“I’ll do it,” Ashley said. “You’re not going to make me do all the dirty work, are you?”
“Depends on what your definition of dirty work is,” Terry said. “But, like anything worth while, once you’ve proven yourself, the amount of dirty work goes down.”
“So, I have to prove myself,” Ashley said.
“Of course you do,” Terry said. “But, I promise I’ll pay more attention to what you do than your father does and your efforts will be valued.”
“Then, I guess, we have a deal,” Ashley said. Keith nodded his head.
“Now, what I will need you to do the first day here is to familiarize yourself with the house,” Terry said. “I don’t care how you do it, whether you walk through the house or sniff the air. Just pay close attention to details. Make a map of the house. Measure the rooms. Look for holes and areas that don’t add up, nulls in the house.”
“What are you going to do?” Keith asked.
“I have some additional research I will need to do,” Terry said. “But it’s important we have this preliminary information before we start.”
“Okay, you got it,” Ashley said.
“So, would you like me to violate Dr. Fran’s rules and tell you about this house?” Terry asked.
“You know about this house?” Ashley asked him. Her eyes widened in excitement.
“Sure, I do,” Terry said. “I did a little research before coming here.”
“How did you know where we were going?” Ashley asked. “None of us knew anything about this.”
“When Dr. Rogers asked me to come along this weekend, he told me I couldn’t know where we going or what we were doing. So, naturally I couldn’t accept that. I took it upon myself to find out all I could.”
“I did a little hacking on Dr. Fran’s phone bills, and found the numbers he called often. Since he was flying out of Atlanta, I assumed it was on Delta Air Lines. I mean, what else flies from Atlanta? I hacked into Delta’s reservation system and found the travel arrangements he made, tracked the addresses of the calls, and I took the next step. How many haunted houses can there be in Cleveland? The answer surprised me, as there are more than I thought. I did a little research on the Internet, checking folklore and ghost websites. I looked at websites such as Ghosts of the Prairie, Obi-Wan’s UFO-free Paranormal Page, and Haunted Ohio.”
“I found the Franklin Castle and one Archer Ryan; founder of SearchNet.com and one of the few dot-com entrepreneurs smart enough to get out while they were still a millionaire. And he recently purchased said Franklin Castle,” Terry said. “What did you think of him? You think someone would have pulled him aside in school and taught him how to dress?”
Ashley and Keith laughed aloud.
“So, what’s the story?” Keith asked.
Terry leaned back in the chair, and brushed away some of the dust on the arms of the chair. His voice steady, he began to tell the story.

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