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Jennifer Penland, of NBC affiliate WKYC TV Channel 3 Cleveland, looked into her compact mirror and touched up her make-up and lipstick. She teased her dark hair and raised the curls higher from her head.
She angled the small mirror and looked around the room at the cast of odd characters the station assigned her to interview this evening. Two groups of people who detested each other made for fun drama if she played them off each other properly. If she managed to get the leaders of the two groups on camera together, maybe fireworks would erupt.
Jennifer planned her interview techniques in her mind as she studied the people. A make-up artist motioned for Dr. Fran to sit at her stool. He sat with his back to Sir Nolan, the corners of his mouth turned down in a prominent inverted U, and his arms across his chest in a defiant pose. Sir Nolan remained upbeat after his make-up was finished. He moved around the room, his cape swiped in the air with each sharp turn as he conversed with each crewmember. When Jennifer announced her plan to give Dr. Fran and Sir Nolan equal time on camera, Dr. Fran argued the point with red-faced fury and Sir Nolan accepted the news with upbeat positivity.
“Just act natural,” she said. “This will be a fun piece for the viewers. So, we want you to be lighthearted. People love scary stuff. Have fun. We’ll probably air this during Halloween. Ditch the t-shirts, wear something warm, and make it look like its fall. I’d like to get different perspectives here. I want to talk to the homeowner so viewers understand why he called two teams of experts.”
Dr. Fran rolled his eyes.
“I want to talk to both teams,” she said. “Not just the leaders, but also various members. I’m fascinated by the skills they all bring, and so will the audiences.”
Jennifer turned and looked at Ashley. “I would love to talk to you on the air, young lady. I’d love to know what you are doing here this weekend.”
Dr. Dunbar answered. “She’s not part of the team. She’s just along because I couldn’t leave her at home.”
Jennifer ignored him. “I would like to talk to you anyway. It might be a nice angle on the piece to get the insights of a teenager. You know, ask if you believe in ghosts. Have you ever seen one? Do you accept psychics as real? And other things like that. And it doesn’t hurt you’re very pretty.”
“She doesn’t have any qualifications to talk about this,” Dr. Dunbar said.
“Have you ever seen a ghost?” Jennifer asked him.
“No,” Dr. Dunbar said.
“Then she can’t be less qualified than you in the television viewers minds,” Jennifer snipped. She turned back to Ashley. “What do you say?”
“I’d love to,” Ashley said. Her father scowled and approached Jennifer, who turned and left the room.
The interviews took several hours. Dr. Fran taped his interview first. Jennifer used her interrogation skills with questions designed to stroke Dr. Fran’s ego. The strategy worked as he relaxed and started to enjoy himself. Next, she brought Sir Nolan together with Dr. Fran. Jennifer knew Sir Nolan posed an easy interview regardless of the time, and since Dr. Fran’s mood improved during her interview, Jennifer discerned it was the best time to conduct the joint interview.
The joint interview went as well as expected. Dr. Fran’s good mood allowed some good-natured ribbing between the two initially, and then fireworks erupted. The two men agreed on nothing other than the fact that Archer Ryan invited both teams to the house for the weekend to research without the others knowledge. Dr. Fran viewed the situation as an insult and an affront to his reputation. Sir Nolan viewed it as an opportunity to substantiate the worth of his team.
The discussion eroded into shouts on the topic of photographs of orbs. The cameras stopped several times to calm down the two men. The interview ended after a heated debate about the validity of EVP recordings when Dr. Fran peeled off his microphone and threw it to the ground.
Jennifer calmed Dr. Fran as they strolled down the hallway out of the dining room. She asked him about his team and the best order to interview them. They walked into the parlor where Terry sat with Ashley and Keith in front of the fire.
“Ah, Terry, there you are,” Dr. Fran said as he walked over and clapped his hands on Terry’s shoulder. Jennifer followed him to the fire. Dr. Fran turned to her. “Terry here works for an agency of the federal government, but he won’t reveal the name to anyone. His agency is a cross between the FBI and the CIA. Very top secret.”
Jennifer’s eyes widened at the mention of all the initials. She smelled a story beyond silly ghost hunters. She noticed the subtle reaction in Terry as his jaw tensed and his eyes narrowed.
“I have to interview you for this,” Jennifer said. She touched Terry on the arm and felt a thrill at the touch of his skin. She detected an air of electricity about him, the sense of invincibility. “Does the government’s involvement in this investigation add merit to the existence of ghosts? And does your presence here confirm the rumors about secret research by the CIA involving the paranormal?”
Terry slowly rotated his head to look up at Jennifer. He locked eyes with her. She tried to read his eyes. The green pools contained no menace, humor, nor contempt; they were simply devoid of emotion. A silent pall held the room before Terry’s voice sliced through.
“I’m not here.”
Jennifer blinked twice. “Pardon me?”
“I said I’m not here,” Terry said in a level voice. “And the government has no interest in this investigation. Dr. Fran should not have spoken about my profession.” his gaze shifted to Dr. Fran, and Terry’s eyes narrowed and appeared angry.
“Then why are you here? Do you believe in this?” Jennifer asked.
Terry turned his head back to Jennifer. The right side of Terry’s mouth curled up in a hint of a smile. “I’m not here, and you can’t claim I am here. You can’t even hint. You can’t run the cameras while I’m in the room just in case someone might recognize the sound of my breathing.”
“Is your identity secret?” Jennifer asked. “We can distort your face and voice. No one would know it was you.”
“You could do that if I was here, but since I’m not, you can’t.”
“But—“ Jennifer stammered. “You are here.”
“Look, I’m going to try to expound on this to make this clearer,” Terry said. “I am on vacation. If you refer to my involvement or the government’s, you will put innocent people in danger. Active projects will be in jeopardy,”
Terry paused and said the final words slower. “Maybe even worse," Terry leaned his head forward.
Jennifer also inclined forward in anticipation at the pause. “What would happen?”
Terry sighed and dropped his head back against the chair.
“Okay, let’s try it this way. If you mention any of this, on screen or off, then men dressed in black suits will come to your home in the middle of the night and take you away, and do terrible things to you, and you may never be seen again,” Terry said. “Do you want that to happen?”
Jennifer squinted at Terry for a moment. Images and ideas swirled through her head; she deliberated if she believed the man or not. She looked into his green eyes and came to a decision. Her face smoothed, and she stood up. “Maybe you should make sure to stay in this room while we film.”
“I think that sounds like a good idea,” Terry said.
“Because clearly, you’re not here,” she finished.
Jennifer walked out of the parlor.
Dr. Fran looked at Terry, and turned and exited the room.
“Would all that really happen to her?” Ashley asked when they were alone.
“No,” Terry said. “We are discouraged from being the subjects of television shows. Mostly, I just didn’t want to be on her show.”
“Why not?” Ashley asked
“Because they’re going to make everyone involved in this look ridiculous,” Terry said. He paused and looked at Ashley. “Except you. I think you would be the only one to come out of this looking good.”
“Really?” I asked. “Why do you think that?”
“Well, Archer will be portrayed as a spineless coward because he’s afraid of ghosts and won’t sleep in the house. Sir Nolan is, well, he is what he is, goofy. They’ll portray him as a loony who will believe anything put in front of him, including all sorts of conspiracy theories. Dr. Fran will be the stodgy academic who will not accept anything without hard scientific proof. You have the ability to offer a middle ground to both of their extremes.”
Return to Chapter 9c
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Return to Chapter 9c
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