The Third Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Twelve: The Spirit is Willing
I wake up very well aware of where I am. I was finally readmitted into our bedroom after two and a half long, lonely nights on the couch. I tighten my arms around Kels and pull her back against me. I am rewarded with a firm kick from one of the twins for disrupting their slumber.
Tough luck, kiddo. I didnt sleep for two nights. You can handle a little jostling.
Kels runs her hands over my forearms, finally playing with my fingers, pulling them back from her stomach and then letting them fall. "Go back to sleep," she whispers.
I snuggle as close to her as possible. "You talking to me or the kids?"
"Both." She reaches down and tugs the blanket up around her stomach.
I prop myself up on my left elbow and look down at my girl.
"Tabloid," she says sleepily.
"Something on your mind?"
"Whyd you come get me from the couch last night?" I was inordinately grateful, but rather surprised. Kels wandered out around midnight, tapped me on the shoulder, extended her hand, and led me back to our bed.
"Those were beautiful flowers you sent yesterday afternoon."
I chuckle. "I had hoped you would like them." I lean down and kiss her cheek. "So this is all about wild flowers?"
"There was also your pitiful expression for the last couple days."
"I was hoping it would finally arouse your sympathy."
One green eye opens to study me. "Its the only thing it aroused, so dont get any funny ideas, Tabloid."
"Just happy to be here with my family, Kels." I play with her hair, eliciting a soft sigh from my girl. "You three are my whole world. I am so glad to be a part of your life. Thank you for letting me in."
"Youre welcome, Tabloid." She tugs me back down behind her and snuggles into my arms. "I love you," she manages through her yawn. "I just need to rest."
"Relax. Im here." I nuzzle her neck, inhaling the scent of her shampoo, lotion and skin. It is a heady mixture.
"Hmm, I know. Thats the best part."
* * *
Were on our way upstate to a little B&B Matt is thinking about investing in. Not only will it be a nice getaway for Kels and me, but also its perfect for Frankies first piece. The whole draw of this place is that its supposed to be haunted.
Should be fun.
I glance into my rearview mirror. Kels is dozing with her head resting on a pillow we brought, our wedding blanket tucked around her from the belly down. Kam has his head in her lap. What little there is left of it.
I glance over at Brian, who is riding shotgun. Hes reading a book. I dont know how people do that in a moving car, makes me queasy. "Brian?"
I refrain from rolling my eyes. "You and Kels talk a lot, right?"
"Yeah, since were together so much, we talk a lot."
"Will you give me a straight up answer to a question? No bullshit?"
He takes a deep breath. "As long as it doesnt require me to betray any confidence, sure."
I look at him. Im not sure how to take that. Is Kels keeping secrets from me? Or is he just such a well-trained reporters assistant that he knows the rules and the ropes?
"Okay. Thats fair." That took a lot for me to say. "How is Kels doing? I get the feeling sometimes shes putting up a huge front right now and "
I stop, noticing hes shaking his head. "Shes okay, Harper. Shes just a little stressed." He stops and grins at me. "And totally pissed she had to give up her Series tickets. She keeps bitching about the fact that Barbara Walters is getting to go to the games and shes not."
Like he needed to tell me that. Jesus, youd think the world had come to an end because Kels cant go to the World Series. I think I almost got my ass tossed back to the couch for not understanding how colossally big this Subway Series thing is. The stress alone of the first two games nearly sent my beloved into pre-term labor. "Anything else? Besides the Mets-Yankees tragedy of 2000?"
He shrugs. "Its the last few weeks before the babies come. Shes scared."
"Yeah." He twists in his seat to make sure shes still sleeping. Satisfied that she is, he turns back around. "She seems to think something is gonna go wrong. Shes had two or three meetings with her attorney to make sure everything is in order."
"Damn." I tap my fingers against the wheel. "Yeah, I know about the stuff with Beth, but what kind of something is she worried about?"
"She says its not anything she can put her finger on. She has a feeling. I think its a natural reaction to becoming a parent for the first time. Plus, shes headed into real unfamiliar territory."
"We both are."
"Not as much for you, though, coming from a big family. Plus, youre not the one giving birth. I know youre planning on being there," he says quickly to forestall my objection. "Lets face it, Harper, Kels is the one whos going to be in pain and the one who is ultimately going to have to be fully committed to having the babies. Thats gotta be totally scary."
Hmm, good point, Brian. I glance back at my sleeping beauty in the rear view mirror. She looks so young when shes asleep. I wish I could be back there and snuggle with her.
The cell phone in the truck rings and I hit the hands free button. Nothing I hate worse that people who try to drive while hanging onto a cell phone. "Kingsley."
"Harper, its Frankie."
"Hi there, kid. Whats up?"
"Were getting ready to leave the studio and meet you at the B&B, but someone from wardrobe left a note in your office asking if they needed to fit me for anything."
"Nah, kid, you got nice casuals packed, right?"
He laughs. "Dont I always?" Its true, he always looks good, even dressed down.
"Thatll be good for this piece. Dont sweat it. And if we find we need something when we get there, Ill show you how to use an expense account."
"Great." He pauses for a second. "Umm, is Kelsey with you?"
"Yeah." I grin. I can hear the blush.
"Think if I get stuck shell give me some pointers?"
I glance back at my slumbering wife. "Just try to stop her."
* * *
This is a truly lovely little place. If Dad doesnt invest in it, I might. If we didnt have our place in New Orleans, this is the kind of home I would want for us here: in the country, lots of trees, fresh air, with a lake close by.
Kam is running around, getting up close and personal with all the trees. He looks like a very happy pup. Harper and Brian are unloading our luggage and Im trying to figure out how to make my backstop aching. I know whatll do it. Giving birth, yup, thats the ticket.
I notice that Frank and the crew havent arrived yet. The para-psychologist team hasnt made it either. Well, maybe, Harper, Brian, Kam and I will have to spend a night in this spooky old house by ourselves. I make the mistake of mentioning this though to my assistant.
Brian pauses at the front door, setting down the bags he is carrying. Turning around delicately, he walks back over to me. "Gay men do not stay in houses that talk to them. Its in our handbook."
"The Fairy Tales?" Harper calls over from the Range Rover.
"Oh, hardy har har," he replies, smirking. Hes just mad he didnt get to make the joke himself. "When the walls start bleeding, dont come running to me, Stud."
"Yeah, you were going to be my first line of defense."
He sticks out his tongue and marches back to the house, opening the door dramatically. I didnt know that was possible, but it is. Deciding to play with my spouse a little, I call out, "Brian, if you get too scared, you can always come sleep between Harper and me."
"Hey!" I get the response I was aiming for.
"Oh, goody! Sleeping with Mommy and Dad!" Brian claps excitedly. "Ill bring the popcorn."
I do my best to keep from laughing.
"Its a good thing I love you, Kels." She takes the rest of the luggage and heads inside.
I wander in after her. The place is really charming. Very rustic. The background file says its set up as a retreat. The house only has six bedrooms. A small group can rent the entire house if they wish and have maid and cooking service, or they can choose to do that for themselves. It simply depends on their needs.
It has electricity, but no TV, no radio, no phone, no computer lines, nothing. You come here to rest and relax, and commune with nature and - according to legend - at least six different ghosts.
Needless to say we are on our own.
* * *
Harper and I take the master suite on the first floor. Very nice. Lovely, large room with eighteenth century décor. The bed is a large, four poster reproduction, all the other furnishings are complimentary. The fact that the bedroom has been redone to include an outsized sliding glass door to a deck overlooking the lake doesnt detract from it at all. I notice a huge wood burning fireplace on the far wall. Very nice indeed.
I reach to the floor for my overnight bag only to get my hand swatted away by my darling spouse. I grin at her as she puts it on the bed for me. "Thank you, Tabloid."
"Im still not sure why you unpack when we do these things."
"Hate living out of a suitcase," I tell her as I scoop my clothes out of the bag and put them in the dresser.
"You certainly got in a desirable line of work for that particular little dislike," she teases. She unzips her suitcase on a luggage stand and thats where it and all of its contents will stay while were here.
"Im not living out of it." I point to the dresser. "See? Its there and Im here."
"Umm hmm." I nod, moving to her and wrapping my arms around her. "Have I told you lately I love you?"
She makes a show of looking at her watch. "Not since about seven fifteen this morning."
"What is wrong with me?" I lean up and give her a long, deep kiss. "I love you."
"I love you too."
"Wanna take your favorite girl for a walk by the lake?"
"Absolutely." She removes my arms from her waist and moves to the door of the bedroom. "Brian, wanna go for a walk by the lake?" she calls down the hallway.
I dont bother to wait for him to answer her. "Oh very funny, Tabloid." I step out on the deck and take in a breath of cool, crisp air. Its not long before I feel her arms slip around me. "Settling for second best?"
"Afraid so," her comment is tempered by a sparkle in her blue eyes. "Anyway, Brian is busy nailing up crosses, sharpening wooden stakes, getting his holy water rounded up "
"Did you tell him were looking for ghosts, not vampires?" I chuckle, rubbing her hands that rest against my belly.
Funny how aware I am becoming of every sensation. I can feel the fine hairs on the back of Harpers hands. I swear I can hear her heartbeat from twenty feet away. I constantly must have something that holds her essence on or near my body, just so I can take a deep breath and have her close to me. Even when she isnt. And kissing her now is as sweet as the honey I put in my tea. I think its mainly because Im at a point now where Im not feeling particularly sexy and were down to cuddling and nuzzling.
We both knew this would happen eventually so we make the best of it. Harpers being a real trooper about the whole thing. She holds me in her arms and uses that damn penlight to play with the babies. We talk about the twins and all the things we want to do with them. I simply like to look at her hands, play with her fingers and listen to her.
"So you gonna build a fire in the fireplace for me tonight before I go to bed?" I give her a little nudge. "Since youre going to be running around looking for ghosts."
"Anything you want."
"Right now, I want to take a walk by the lake."
"Lets go." She bounds off the deck by jumping over the rail. Then she offers me her hand from the bottom of the steps.
"I can use the steps, right?"
"Id prefer it, actually."
"Good. So would I. I dont much feel like a flying squirrel right now."
Harper laughs, giving my hand a squeeze. "Now thats a cute mental picture. I bet youd be a cute squirrel." She reaches up and pinches my cheek, for which I nearly swat her. "My own little Rocky."
"My own little Bullwinkle."
* * *
Once the rest of the production crew arrive, I leave Harper to do her job, getting everyone settled and giving the crew their production sheets for the next couple of nights.
I get the feeling everyone is going to have a really good time with this piece. I can tell Frank is dying to get started. I remember having energy and enthusiasm like that once.
Then I got pregnant. Now I am a slug. A fat slug.
I grab Kams leash and let Harper know were going for a little walk and well be back in a half hour or so. She raises her hand to acknowledge me without disrupting her duties to the crew. I take a deep, satisfying breath. I do love watching her work, but Im not allowed to, so Im going for a walk.
As I head outside another car pulls up. Two women and a man climb out and Kam is immediately on the alert. I know this dog is capable of tearing a man apart, but I have to admit hes kinda cute when he gets all protective and the fur on his neck stands up. I reach down and give him a pat and a scratch. "Easy, boy, its okay."
One of the women approach, keeping a careful eye on my puppy. I extend my hand. "Its okay, he wont bite. Im "
"Kelsey Stanton. I know. Im actually a big fan." She takes my hand and gives me a very charming smile. Its still odd to hear someone tell me shes a fan of mine. It also sends a certain shiver down my spine. "Thanks. And you are?"
"Im sorry. Im Dr. Andrea Silverman. Im your para- psychologist, a.ka. ghost hunter." She shrugs her shoulders. Then she gives me a good, hard look. "Do you believe in the spirit world, Miss Stanton?"
Ooo, I really want to correct her but I cant. Thats really frustrating.
"Yes, yes, I do." I think back to the piece I did early on with Exposure. "Well, Im glad youre here, but Im not here in an official capacity this weekend. Im just enjoying the country. The person you need is inside. Shes the producer of the piece, Harper Kingsley. You cant miss her."
Boy, isnt that the truth?
"Great. Thanks. I hope maybe we can talk a bit more later?" She releases my hand very slowly.
"Sure, Ill be around. Im just taking my boy here for a walk." I give Kam another scratch and he licks my hand.
"Terrific. I look forward to it." She gives me a smile and a little wink before turning to give her own team their orders and heading inside to find Harper. I look to my pup. "She wasnt flirting with me, was she?"
Kam cocks his head and seems to lift his brow, as if to say Well, duh. Oh boy, I so do not need this. Note to self: Keep clear of Dr. Silverman. Wouldnt want Harper to kill Franks expert even before he gets the chance to do his first piece.
Besides, what in the hell is she thinking? Im obviously very pregnant. I reach under Harpers jersey and take my wedding band out and let it dangle on its chain on the outside for the entire world to see. There lady, now buy a clue.
* * *
Frank is off with the ghost hunters watching them rig the house with all their equipment. I looked it over while they were unpacking. They do have some really cool toys. If I give up broadcasting, I may go into ghostbusting if only to play with the neat stuff.
My crew is all set and theyre in the kitchen fixing lunch so Im off in search of my girl. I need to take a nap in order to be up tonight and help Frankie get started. Naturally, I want to see if I can talk my wife into a nice, little cuddle with me. Ill bet I can, reading and napping are her two favorite pastimes these days.
Stopping by the kitchen I watch my crew, which consists of four guys from the studio, devour lunchmeat sandwiches like they havent eaten for a week. Looks like Mama feeding the boys. I open the fridge and lean in to get water and juice before going to look for Kels. Suddenly I jerk up, hitting my head on the door.
Oh, that just didnt happen.
I turn around slowly, trying to get a grip on my anger so I wont kill the wrong one. "Okay, whos the smart ass?" They all stop mid-chew and look at me like Im nuts. I slowly lick my lips then grit my teeth before continuing. "Which one of you pinched my ass?"
Their eyes grow huge and they all deny it, even putting down sandwiches so they can make futile gestures of innocence.
I glare. "Do it again and die." I take my stuff and stalk out of the kitchen.
Stepping outside, I find Kels playing with Kam. Shes tossing around his favorite toy. Its this big hard rubber chew toy that kind of looks like a snowman, its called a Kong. We had to start buying him these because he was chewing all his other toys up within days. Those are some mean teeth in his head. He likes this one because it will bounce like a ball. So Kels bounces it off the ground and he jumps up and catches it, then he runs back and drops it at Kels feet. When she doesnt bend over to pick it up, he picks it up and nudges her hand until she takes it.
Kam loves his mommy.
"Hey, beautiful." I stroll down into their playground and offer the juice to her. "Wanna take a nap with me?"
"We are talking a real nap and not the kind of nap your parents take, right?"
"Aww, Kels." I grimace and take a sip of my water. "Did you have to go and say that?"
She smiles and wrinkles her nose at me, then tosses Kams toy for him again. "I might be persuaded."
I take her wedding ring between my fingers and give the chain a little tug. "Whats this? You should keep it tucked in your shirt so you dont lose it."
I start to put it back for her when Kels captures my hand. "Leave it, Tabloid." She gives my hand a little kiss. "You said something about a nap?"
"Yeah, then you mentioned my parents. Thanks so much."
Kam brings his toy back and drops it, then nudges me in the butt. What is it with my rear end today? I bend over and get his toy, giving it a good toss into the edge of the woods. "So, did you enjoy your little excursion?"
"Yeah, I did. It was nice. Come on, let me show you something."
She takesmy hand and leads me behind the house into an old barn. It doesnt stable horses anymore but they store the grounds keeping equipment in here and keep fresh straw. The pile already looks like its been nested in by a certain spouse and her dog.
"Its like the barn my Pa used to have when I was a kid." She tells me as we make for the pile of straw. "Of course, when I was a kid," she slowly lowers herself into the pile and invites me to join her, "I used to climb into the loft. Got my first kiss in a hayloft." She gives me a little grin.
"Oh yeah?" I drop down next to her and she automatically snuggles in and we get comfortable. "And who was the lucky recipient of your first kiss?"
Kam trots in. He looks at us, realizes his playtime is over, and lays down at the entrance to the barn on guard duty.
I give my girl a little poke. "Fess up, who did you smooch first?"
"Actually, it was my best friend, Rebecca. She lived on the next ranch over and we used to go horseback riding together. One day, after we brushed down our horses, we climbed up in the hayloft "
"Hey, I thought Beth "
"Beth was my first as far as sex went. This was only a kiss. You know the first Never done it, whats it like childhood kiss. God, Harper, I think I was all of ten or eleven at the time. Dont tell me you didnt have one of those."
"No, I was fifteen or sixteen and I pretty much went right for the gusto." I take a drink of my water and realize that this is really comfortable, snuggled down in the straw.
"Really? Tell me."
"Not much to tell, really. I was captain of the softball team "
"Of course, you were." She rolls her eyes and plays with the buttons on my shirt.
"Do you want to hear this story, or not?"
"One night after a late game, I went out with some friends and we met up with the cheerleaders for the team we had played earlier in the day. Well, their captain and I "
"Have you no shame?" She chuckles, unbuttoning the first three buttons of my shirt and allowing her hand to sneak in there.
"About as much as you do." I glance down at her hand.
"Im your wife. That was the rival cheerleading captain . So what happened?"
"Well, lets just say my team won twice that night."
* * *
Okay, its about ten oclock, Kels is sound asleep in our room and the ghostbusting has begun. The research team has been monitoring the house all day, watching for changes of any type in the temperature or electromagnetic field. I look at the bank of monitors and notice for the first time there is a camera in our room.
Oh, shit. Gonna have to make sure theres no tape of that kiss I gave Kels when I tucked her in. Well, I had to thank her for what she did for me in the barn. Got to love a woman who remembers I still have needs, and who takes care of them so very nicely.
I watch as Frankie follows the ghoul crew around as they take measurements in the house and try to find one of these six ghosts who supposedly live here. I hope they find something or poor kid will be devastated. He doesnt understand that I can make a story out of crap. I have a lot of experience working with Bruce.
I listen in and watch with some amusement as they stop and take pictures and find spots in the house that are supposedly cooler than others. Well, no shit, this house is over a hundred years old. Its gonna have cold spots.
I want to see a guy coming down the steps holding his head in his hands. Something else that sounds dirty but isnt, since Im referring to the one that should be on his shoulders. Ah, I think its time for a beer. I leave the scream team to do their thing and head for the kitchen.
Dr. Silverman is at the kitchen table looking over some of the data theyve collected. "Whats up, Doc?" She gives me a smile and looks back down at her papers. I twist the cap off my beer and take a seat on a stool near one of the counters. "You find anything interesting around here?"
"A couple of things. Theres definitely some unusual activity in the house. Well know more in the morning."
"Great. Can you sit down tomorrow and do an interview with Frankie?"
"Absolutely." She looks up and takes sip of her coffee. "Whats the deal with Kelsey Stanton?"
"Excuse me?" I nearly choke on my beer.
"Kelsey Stanton, you know, the cute blonde one? I hear theres no man in her life. Thought maybe you could tell me what the deal was. Shes quite an attractive woman."
"Shes also quite the private woman. Id leave her alone if I were you."
"Yeah, well, she can be a private person. Im a private person, and youre not me. Thanks. Thats all I needed to know."
"No, its not all you needed to know. Stay away from her."
She looks up from her papers. "You have a vested interest in the good Ms. Stanton, I take it? Is it serious?"
I force myself to keep from growling. "Her name is Kingsley. Those are my kids shes having. My ring is well, currently - around her neck. Yes, Im thinking its serious."
She nods slowly. "Gotcha. Sorry. I didnt realize." She closes up her folder. "I really am sorry. Ill just go crawl under a rock now." She chuckles a bit as she heads for the door.
Good. Stay there.
* * *
I hear the voice saying my name and I roll over, assuming Harper is waking me up for some reason. My breath catches in my throat when I see him.
"Erik?" I sit up and rub my eyes. I must be dreaming. But even when I shake my head and am sure Im awake, hes still standing there by the sliding glass door looking at me.
"Hi, Kels." He gives me a shy, little wave.
"I I I " I swing my legs over the side of the bed and he motions for me to stay put.
"Dont get up. You need your rest." He walks across the room and kneels before me. His hands travel to my stomach. His hands are warm, surprising me. "Collin, huh?" A smile crosses his lips. "Im honored."
"I miss you." I want to cry. I realize this must be a dream, but I cant seem to wake up from it. I run my hand through his hair. Yeah, its got to be a dream. Ghosts arent this solid, are they?
"Dont miss me, Kels. Im always near and keeping an eye on things."
"Im so sor "
"Oh no, sweetheart, dont apologize. I did what I had to do. I dont regret it." His eyes are still that soft shade of blue. "Im glad youre happy and finding everything you always wanted. Remember, I told you, that one of these days youd find the one." He chuckles. "I didnt think itd be Harper Kingsley, but, hey, it works. Dont fix it if it isnt broken."
"I love her, Erik."
"Yup, we know." He nods.
"Ah, there are a few of us keeping an eye on you. Were glad you finally found your happiness, Kels. Your grandmother wanted me to tell you she thinks Grace is a fitting name for your little girl."
I smile. "Yeah, I bet she does. Tell her I love her, will you?"
He stands up and takes a step back. "She knows, Kels. We all know." He gives me a little gesture. "Dont worry about a thing. Everything is going to be perfectly fine."
I watch as he simply vanishes.
Okay, I wont be mentioning this to anyone or theyre going to think Ive totally cracked up.
I need tea. Or a good psychiatrist. Glad I know a couple.
* * *
Its nearly four in the morning. My girl couldnt sleep again and so were awake together. The family that doesnt sleep together is grumpy together, or something like that.
Kels is so uncomfortable lately. She is, for lack of a better word, huge. Having twins will do that to you, I suppose. It seems that lately she cant get comfortable in any position for long. One of the two kids always seems to be sitting on her bladder, the other against the small of her back, or some other painful combination. They also seem to like karate practice between the two of them.
I am trying to be the supportive partner I want to be. So, when Kels is up and uncomfortable, I am up and trying to make her comfortable. Thus, we are sitting outside, near the lake, bundled up in a ton of blankets, drinking hot chocolate, and looking out at the water. Kels is in the circle of my arms, leaning against me. Shes even allowing me to rest my mug on her stomach. One of the twins is kicking it, of course, so I am careful to drink it down so it wont slosh over onto Kels.
"What do you think theyll be like?" I ask, kissing Kels cheek and then doing a little ear nibble.
She leans into me more. "Hmm I am betting that Brennan takes after you."
"Oh really? And why is that?"
"She loves you already. I think youre her favorite."
I laugh softly. "Hardly, sweetheart. Besides, I hope shes exactly like you." I do. I want her to have blonde hair and green eyes and the cutest smile in the world. I want her to be perfect like her Mommy, so that some other lucky man or woman can have all the joy I do.
"She certainly knows when youre talking to her. The little stinker does flips whenever youre around."
"Do you really think its her? How can you be sure? Its not like you have a little window in there." I tickle her stomach. "Or do you?"
She captures my hand in hers and squeezes my fingers. "No, the hood hasnt been installed yet. But if they take much longer in coming, I might have it put in."
"No, you keep them for a little yet, chér. But, really, can you tell the difference between the two of them?" That would be amazing, if she could.
"I dont know for sure. But when I use their names, I think Brennan is on the right and Collin is on the left. I could be totally wrong, but thats how is feels. Well have to see if Doogie can tell us this week. Ill be he can. Its not like they have a lot of room to move around."
"Either that or well have two totally confused kids on our hands in a few weeks."
We settle into silence together, simply enjoying our togetherness. I wonder how much of this well be able to do once the twins get here. Although, the mere thought of holding Kels as she holds our children sends a bolt of joy through me like Ive never known before.
I press my cheek against Kels and let my mind simply drift. I look out at the lake and watch the moonlight sparkle on the water like scattered diamonds. I can hear the gentle lapping of the water against the dock and, strangely enough, what sounds like the rhythmic stroking of a paddle in the water.
"Harper," Kels breathes out softly, tugging on my hand.
I follow her gaze out to the center of the lake. "Oh," is all I can manage in reply. Moving out of the mist, gliding across the water, is a canoe. It is piloted by a young Native American brave. Seated opposite from him is his woman, wrapped in garments with designs similar to our wedding blanket.
"You see that, right?" Kels asks.
"I sure do," I answer, trying to remember if there are any reservations near this area. Hoping there are.
We watch the young couple move across the lake, disappearing into the fog on the far side.
"Care to go back inside?" I hope I get the right answer from my girl.
"I think that would be good."
Thank you, God.
* * *
I leave Harper sleeping and crawl out of bed. Its very early, but I can hear people moving around. Or I should say, I can hear Brian in the kitchen, singing. Ah, its Saturday morning. He always makes me a wonderful western omelet on Saturday mornings. I slip on my robe and head for the kitchen. Besides, I need time to consider the fact Im apparently the only one around here seeing things.
My faithful assistant is bent over getting a pan from under the cabinet. I know I shouldnt but I cant resist. I get as close as I dare and
He screams, jerking backward, then skids before falling to his butt. I step over him and pour a glass of juice.
"You bitch!" He is quick to offer as he scrambles from the floor. "Its a good thing I love you."
"You scream like a girl," I tell him, watching him dust his backside as he gets up.
"You expected something else? Of course, I scream like a girl. Thats in the handbook, too."
"Why do you get a handbook, by the way?"
"Because lesbians get toasters."
"Cute." I take a seat at the breakfast table. "Whats for breakfast?"
"You dont deserve breakfast after that little stunt." He puts his hands on his hips and taps his foot impatiently.
I point to my belly. "You want to tell them or should I?"
"Yeah, cool, isnt it?" I tease. "The one thing Ill miss about being pregnant."
Before Brian can say anything, Frank comes bouncing into the kitchen. Showered, shaved, dressed and ready to go. Apparently he doesnt know gay men are supposed to spend the first part of the morning in a dingy gray T-shirt and boxers or sweats. I mean, doesnt this guy watch Will and Grace?
"Good morning." He takes a seat next to me. "Umm, Kels, I was wondering if youd give me a hand later with my interview questions?"
"You do them and Ill look them over. I can offer suggestions, but ultimately its your segment. You have to take the responsibility for its content, good, bad or indifferent. And I dont expect you to let my comments influence what you want to do or what you plan on doing. If you do that, then youre already compromising yourself and a great reporter never does that under any circumstance."
"God, Kels, you sound like such a mom," Brian chirps from the counter.
"Comes with the territory. But you need to get this man a handbook. Look at him, hes far too chipper for this hour of the morning."
"What handbook?" Frank looks at us both like weve lost our minds. Im thinking maybe we have. I believe its a good thing Harper brought us to the country. We needed some fresh air.
The rest of our guys come in and the kitchen fills up pretty quickly. Were all having a great time until Tabloid comes in, giving us all dirty looks.
"Ooo, lemme get you a caffeine IV in your arm, Boss."
Harper simply thrusts her arm at Brian. "Hook me up."
* * *
I watch for a few minutes while Frank gets set to shoot his stand ups. Then I realize my presence is making him nervous. I decide on another walk. God, Im gonna miss this place. For a place thats supposed to be haunted, I do get a sense of peace here.
Kam and I head for the lake and I stand there wondering what it was that Harper and I saw last night. I know what we think we saw but we havent talked about it since.
It was a little creepy. Okay, who in the hell am I trying to kid? It was a lot creepy. Then theres whatever the hell that was I had with Erik.
Im not losing my mind.
Im not losing my mind.
As Kam and I round a corner leading back up to the barn I see an older gentleman unlocking the door. This must be Jim, the groundskeeper. The owners told us hed be around.
"Excuse me!" I call and make my way over.
He turns and smiles at me. "Yes, Missus?"
I have to smile. Given his age and my condition, hes bound to automatically think Im married. Thank God, some people still have a brain.
"Hi." I offer him my hand which he accepts, giving me a very gentle greeting in return. "I was wondering if I could ask you a question?"
"Of course, Maam. I hope I have an answer for ya."
"Do you know anything about local legends?"
"Most of them. Spent my whole life around here."
"Do you know anything about the lake?"
He nods. "Theres a story about two Indians in a canoe. That one?"
"Yes, sir. What do you know about that one?"
"Local legend says that this newly married Indian couple were traveling back to their tribe after a day out. Before they could make it they got ambushed by a group of white men traveling through the area. They were both killed and their bodies were dumped in the lake. Legend also says that only couples who are supposed to be together for eternity ever get to see them. The local tribe says its a sign of good luck for any couple who does."
"You ever see them?"
"Oh no, Maam."
"You ever want to see them?"
"No, Maam." His answer is firm.
"Youve never met my wife."
I chuckle. "Thanks, Jim, I appreciate the information."
"Youre welcome, Maam, but Im not Jim. Im Harold. Jims out sick today."
"Well, thank you, anyway. If youd like to, come down to the house and join us for lunch later."
"Thank ya, Maam. If I get the chores done, I may just do that."
* * *
Apparently, sleeping is not something I am to do while up here.
Scooby Doo and Shaggy have pulled me out of bed to look for ghosts. All weve managed to find is each other. When I find out which one of them keeps pinching my ass, Im going to kick his.
So, a fruitless hour later, we are huddled up in the kitchen, sitting on the stools around the butchers block. Why does the term butchers block suddenly sound so ominous?
We make coffee and popcorn, and Frankie decides that what we really need to do is tell ghost stories. Yeah, thats what we were missing here. Why the hell should I stay here when I could be snuggled next to my beautiful wife? I am about to excuse myself, when Brian begins telling another lame version of the Woman in White ghost story. I mean, how many times can people pick up a hitchhiking girl in white, drop her off at a cemetery and not realize the chicks been dead for fifty years?
I mean, really.
I suffer through it, stifling a yawn. Brian gives me an arch look. "Think you can do better, Miss Thing?"
I assume hes speaking to me and not Frankie. "Think? Hell, I know."
"Oh yeah?" Brian takes a sip of his coffee and leans forward. "Lets hear it, Stud."
Ah, well, so much for snuggling with my honey. I settle back down on the stool and make myself comfortable. "All right, but I aint telling no ghost story. This is a true story. I know it, because its part of New Orleans history. When you come down for the birth of the twins, Ill take you to Rue Royale and you can see the place Im talking about."
"Can I come visit you guys?" Frankie asks, the uncensored seventeen-year-old.
I smile. "I insist. Now, New Orleans was going through a terrible summer in eighteen thirty-two. New Orleans summers are always hot, moist and unbearably long, but this one was particularly fierce. In addition, there was an epidemic of the cholera going through the city, and many of the commoners were dying in the streets daily.
"Of course, Doctor Louis LaLaurie, his wife, Delphine, and their two daughters, were not affected by all this. Their daughters were coach driven to the local Catholic school and they only wore the best clothes imported from France. The doctor and madam LaLaurie gave gala balls at their house on Rue Royale. Their homes architecture was exquisite and its furnishings were all direct from the old country. Further, they had a large staff of slaves who would prepare elaborate feasts of seafood and freshly baked pastries.
"There were a few things, though, that didnt seem quite right in the household. Sometimes, during these galas, moans could be heard, seemingly coming from nowhere. Also, the guests noticed that the slaves serving at these parties were never the same. This was unusual. It was quite common for a slave to stay with a family throughout his entire life. Whenever anyone was quite so rude to inquire about it, Madam Delphine always replied that the slave had run away or committed suicide. While questionable, no one ever dared question her replies.
"One day, Madam Delphine chased one of the younger slaves throughout the house. She was planning on punishing her with a cat of nine tails for some minor infraction. The young girl, trying to escape, ran out onto the third floor balcony. Unfortunately, it had been raining that day, and so the balcony edge was slippery. The young girl slipped and held onto the ledge with one hand, her small fingers grasping at the slick marble.
"Once, twice, Madam Delphine snapped the nine straps over the girls bare knuckles. With a cry, the girl let go and fell to her death on the pavement below, before her knuckles even had a chance to bleed.
"One of their neighbors saw this horrific act and told the authorities. The police came and impounded the other slaves, because New Orleans had an ordinance prohibiting their cruel treatment.
"But, in New Orleans, the rich and powerful can get away with almost anything, and routinely do. Madam LaLaurie was tried for the murder of the slave girl, and found guilty. Her sentence? To not be allowed to own any more slaves. And the slaves that had been taken away from the household? The LaLauries had friends and relatives buy them back and return them to the household.
"Life returned to normal.
"Two years went by before a fire broke out in the house. The kitchen was separate from the main house, but the fire quickly spread. The firemen found the cook chained to the stove. She was hysterical, but kept muttering about the roof. They released her, and ran over to the main house to save it. The firemen rushed through the house, eventually going up to the attic. There they encountered a horrible, foul odor. They attacked the attic door with their axes and it finally gave away.
"What they saw, caused all of them to be ill. Inside the small, cramped, hot, attic room were seven slaves, some in pieces, all of them part of medical experiments gone awry. Some were strapped to torture devices, others shoved in cages like animals. Two had their eyes and mouths sewn shut. One girl had her arms and legs broken and reset at odd angles, so as to resemble a crab. Another had his internal organs laid outside his body, so that the LaLauries could see physiology at work. Still another had a very primitive sex change. Another had been subjected to a lobotomy.
"The firefighters rescued the seven, but they died within days of their release.
"When the town heard about what had gone on, they formed a mob and went to the house, intent on bringing the LaLauries to justice. But, they discovered after ransacking the house that the family had escaped. Some say they only went as far as the other side of Lake Ponchatrain. But, most say they moved back to France.
"Its further rumored that Delphine died a few years after moving back to Paris. Apparently, she was thrown from her horse. Its not clear what spooked the mare, but several onlookers reported seeing a small, black girl run out in front of it and startle it. Of course, no one ever saw the child after that, nor was she known to any of the locals.
"In the years since the LaLauries, the house has been owned by a number of different people. At first, it was left to New Orleans homeless. Some vagrants went into the house, never to be seen again. Others reported hearing screams throughout the house at night.
"Then a new owner opened up a girls school in the old mansion. But attendance dropped off as the girls told stories of a woman chasing them through the hallways with a whip.
"Later still, the house was split up into apartments. One man said he was greeted at the doorway to his apartment by a black man, his shackled hands holding his severed head.
"It was a furniture store for awhile. But the owner would often come to work in the morning and find the furniture doused with some kind of rank, putrid liquid. Another man opened up a Haunted Saloon on the premises. But business never went well.
"Now, a wealthy attorney has remodeled the house. While doing so, the skulls of several more slaves were found in the walls, more victims of the LaLauries. The new owner says that the only thing out of the ordinary is the smell of French perfume in the master bedroom."
I take a final sip of coffee and give the boys a small smile. "Good night." I have someone waiting for me in bed. I dont intend to disappoint her.
* * *
All in all, a very successful weekend. Harper and Frank got a good story and I had a lot of good feelings take over some of the bad ones Ive been having. I pick up the cell phone and dial my Dads number.
"Stanton residence." Its Amanda. I love the fact she answers her own phone.
"Amanda, Kels. Is Dad home?"
"No, Kels, Im sorry, hes not. He got called to the Middle East on an emergency. Hell be gone for about two weeks. Anything I can do for you?"
"I wanted to give him an update on the inn. If the draw of the place is the fact its supposed to be haunted, theres something up there. He should go for it."
She laughs a little. "Ill tell him. So what did you think of Jim? Isnt he a character?"
"I didnt get to meet Jim. He was out sick. The keeper this weekend was named Harold."
"Harold? Kels, Harold was Jims father. Hes been dead for about thirteen years."
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