ParrishShannen Crane Camp
Future House Publishing
Cover image copyright: Shutterstock.com. Used under license.
Text © 2016 Shannen Crane Camp
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of Future House Publishing at [email protected]
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
ISBN: 978-1-944452-27-8 (paperback)
Developmental editing by Helena Steinacker
Substantive editing by Emma Hoggan
Copy editing by Jenna Parmley
Interior design by Helena Steinacker
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Also by Shannen Crane Camp
The Breakup Artist
Finding June (The June Series #1)
Chasing June (The June Series #2)
Catching June (The June Series #3)
Under Zenith (Under Zenith #1)
Sugar Coated (Sugar Coated Trilogy #1)
Rose Tinted (Sugar Coated Trilogy #2)
Silver Lined (Sugar Coated Trilogy #3)
For Ashlee, who loves these characters and was so helpful in fleshing them out with me. And my writing group who couldn’t read this at night and let me know I’d done my job by giving them late-night paranoia. And of course for The Husband who loves scary movies and haunted houses as much as me.
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About The Author
“Did you die here?”
The empty room didn’t answer me, although with the luck we’d had, I hadn’t expected it to. The musty cold air left a sheen on my forehead, but I wasn’t sure if it was the humidity or my own nerves.
“Did you read the notecards I gave you?” Jefferson asked in my earpiece, his thick British accent muffled by static. “There’s some brilliant stuff on there.” The static flared up, covering the rest of his dialogue.
“Look at the floor?” I asked, suddenly worried I had missed something.
“Number four!” he repeated.
I readjusted the earpiece, wondering if maybe all of the water was making it glitch and thinking, not for the first time, that anyone who didn’t know I was wearing an earpiece would think I was completely nuts, talking to myself like this.
I thumbed through the soggy notecards, pulling them apart while clutching my flashlight, until I reached what I was looking for.
“I hope they’ve got some bathtub gin in this joint—I’m as dry as a bone,” I deadpanned. “Seriously? Where do you come up with this crap?”
“That’s how they talked, Sadie; it’s not my fault it’s ridiculous. I’m just being authentic.”
“Nobody talked like this,” I said, trying not to get too frustrated by our lack of preparation and the fact that, despite my protests, I was yet again being cast as the damsel in distress meant to lure the ghosts out to play.
I was a glorified earthworm wriggling on a hook.
“And I’m pretty sure the blonde wig isn’t fooling anyone.”
“Why not?” Jefferson sounded genuinely shocked in my ear, and I could only imagine his huge owl eyes getting even rounder.
“Because I’m Cuban! How many blonde Cubans were running around in the twenties looking for a drink?”
“At least one.”
“This is stupid. I’m calling it, you guys. We’ve got nothing.”
“What? No!” Deacon, Jefferson’s cousin, whined over the earpiece.
I wasn’t sure what he was so upset about—he had to have been just as miserable as me, sitting out in the freezing cold Jeep in one of Portland’s famous rainstorms.
“Sadie, this place is supposed to be an absolute hotspot for activity,” Jefferson insisted. “If we leave now, we’ll miss our chance to be the first group to catch evidence on film.”
“It’s freezing, the floors keep creaking like they’re about to collapse, and my lines wouldn’t fool even the drunkest of bar patron ghosts.” I rubbed my hands over the cold skin on my bare arms. How were people in the twenties supposed to stay warm in these skimpy dresses?
The getup Jefferson had given me was itchy and terrible. Plus it was purple. My least favorite color.
“Besides, I feel like Daphne on Scooby Doo in this ridiculous costume.”
“Well . . .” Jefferson let his words trail off.
It was generally known that I didn’t appreciate always being the ghost bait when I had actual ghost hunting skills that I could put to good use in the field. Instead of utilizing my abilities, though, these two crazy British boys had recruited me to dress up in ridiculous costumes and recite awful lines to try to get some activity stirred up. It was the worst ghost-hunting technique I’d ever seen, but Jefferson (our self-proclaimed leader and group-labeled sociopath) insisted that being the only group out there to do it gave us an advantage. I thought it just made us look like the idiots we were.
My “actual” ghost hunting skills were just yearning to be used. Of course . . . that was using the phrase “actual ghost hunting skills” very loosely.
I wished I could say I was an empath, who could sense emotions of ghosts, or that I was some sort of gifted hunter. But really, I just loved the paranormal.
That being said, I was also a normal human being, which meant when things got too intense for my liking, I leaned heavily towards the “flight” part of the “fight or flight” reaction.
It was embarra
ssing when it happened in front of the guys.
“You’d better not tease her or she’ll quit, and it’ll be you out there in a dress talking about bathtub gin,” said Brighton, our fourth and final group member.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jefferson said. “Deacon’s got much nicer legs.”
“I could point out that you’d be a better fit for the dress,” Deacon said.
“Yeah, but then who would run the equipment?” Brighton asked.
Brighton was sort of amazing with technology. She also happened to be terrified of ghosts, which made no sense since her hobby was ghost hunting. But this combination meant she always stayed in the van and operated tech.
“Touché,” the guys said in unison.
“Wait, everyone shut up,” I said to the empty room.
A loud beep came from the storage room of the abandoned pub we were investigating. “The shadow detector just went off,” I said slowly.
“Which one is that again?” Deacon asked.
Deacon was a bit of a skeptic, which meant he didn’t bother to learn about the equipment we used and constantly needed reminders about what each thing did.
“The one that detects shadows,” Brighton said. “The answer’s in the question.”
Ignoring the banter in my earpiece, I shone my flashlight over the bar, the beam of light distorting and bending as it hit the rows of hanging wine glasses, sending shadows skittering every which way. The air around me grew cold (well, colder), and a chill ran down my spine. They were all signs that I was about to be monumentally scared by some unexplainable thing.
I used my free hand, which was amazingly steady, to turn on the audio recorder, and held the device out in front of me, squinting into the blackness ahead.
“Hello?” I called, the fear leaving me and the excitement taking over.
Maybe Jefferson’s ridiculous lines actually did work.
“Who’s there?” I called again, hoping that I was getting some good audio on the recorder, even if I wasn’t currently able to hear the response.
I took a step forward on the creaky floors, hoping they would hold my weight in this condemned building. Secretly, I thought that was the real reason the boys made me do all the dirty work. I was short and skinny, and I was pretty much built like a twelve-year-old boy despite the grand total of twenty-one years I had under my belt. If one of those tall lanky guys came in here, they’d collapse the whole building with their clumsy tromping around.
“Did you die here?” I asked again, a smile beginning to spread across my lips at the thought that I might actually make contact with someone or something.
“Sadie!” Jefferson suddenly exclaimed in my ear as he grabbed my sides and made me jump a mile in the air.
He threw his head back and broke out into maniacal laughter. I grabbed a handful of his dark, curly hair and pulled as hard as I could, turning his obnoxious laughter into an exclamation of pain.
“What did you do that for?” he asked with a scowl, running his fingers through the untamable mess of hair he refused to cut.
I didn’t bother answering, tired of babysitting the infamous Parrish cousins tonight. It was a wonder I hadn’t killed them years ago.
“What’s she doing, mate?” Deacon asked over the earpiece.
“Just walking away,” Jefferson replied, sounding as puzzled and clueless as ever.
I shook my head in frustration, pulling off the less-than-convincing blonde wig (that wouldn’t fool anyone) and running my fingers through my dark brown pixie cut, fluffing it up a bit.
The floor continued to creak under the clacking of my heels, but I had a point to make and that point could only be made with a fast-paced “angry stomp” out of the pub. I flung the front doors open with force, Jefferson hard on my heels, and slogged through the rain, jumping into the back of the old beat-up Jeep Wagoneer and gratefully accepting the big puffy coat Brighton offered me.
Brighton was the only sane one in the group, even if she was a walking contradiction. She looked like a typical high school mean girl, but she was the most bizarre blend of phobia-ridden beauty to ever walk this planet. Still, she had my back when the boys went nuts (which was every second of every day), so that made her my only ally in the overwhelming sea of crazy.
“I didn’t come here to play pranks or feel like the butt of some anti-feminist joke. I came here to find evidence of the paranormal.” I wrapped the coat tightly around my shivering form and stared at Jefferson.
He stood in the rain, not looking like he even noticed the torrential downpour that was soaking him through. His brow was furrowed and his dark green eyes looked intense as he tilted his head slowly to the side. It was a disturbing habit he displayed when thinking, and one that I had never quite gotten used to. There were a lot of creepy things about the boy, but his whole dark-and-twisty demeanor was the creepiest. He looked like a Tim Burton character come to life—tall and thin with abnormally large green eyes, which always made him look like he was staring into your soul. The fact that he also dressed like a Tim Burton character didn’t really do much to deflect his unsettling nature, but I could ignore the dusty three-piece suits and skinny ties because as much as I hated to admit it, Jefferson had a gift. He was a good paranormal investigator . . . when he took things seriously.
The same couldn’t be said of his cousin Deacon, but somehow I thought the Parrish boys would be lost without each other.
We sat in silence for a moment: Brighton staring at her computer screen and fiddling absently with her inhaler, Deacon watching the showdown, and Jefferson and me having a staring contest. I’m sure I just looked pissed, whereas he looked like a homicidal maniac.
Okay, that’s unfair. Jefferson really was a nice guy. All four of us had met in college at a scary movie marathon one Halloween night, and, after confessing our love for the paranormal, it only seemed natural to form a group to go out and seek the “truth.” But, Jefferson’s being a nice guy didn’t mean he wasn’t also the single eeriest person I’d ever met.
“So, are we just going to keep staring at each other,” Brighton asked, “or can we call it a night and go grab some Chinese food? Because I’m starving. Besides, I’m going to catch a cold in this weather,” she said, taking a puff on her ever-present inhaler as though to prove her point.
Call me crazy, but I didn’t really think ghost hunting was the best profession for an asthmatic with an anxiety disorder.
“Since the night’s ruined anyway, I’d love to get food,” Jefferson said much too brightly. He narrowed his owl eyes at me dramatically and walked toward the front of the Jeep with a poorly hidden pout.
Of course, he failed to mention that I had actually been investigating and he was the one who had ruined the night. And now that he was throwing a tantrum, Brighton and I would be forced to gather all of the equipment from the pub.
“Well done, mate,” Deacon said to me, crawling out of the back of the Jeep to join his cousin in the front seat. “Now he’ll be unmanageable all night.”
It was nearly three in the morning by the time we pulled into the parking lot of our apartment complex. We all grabbed armfuls of equipment and carried them up the three flights of stairs that led to our adjacent apartments. Our wet shoes squelched on the linoleum floors and we were all completely exhausted from the disappointing night. Our oversized jackets did little to keep the cold from seeping into our bodies, and I could have sworn I felt my entire skeleton groan as I walked.
Brighton and I dumped the various cameras, cords, and audio recorders onto the Parrish boys’ couch, which was already full of tapes from previous investigations that we still needed to go over. They were labeled with Deacon’s untidy scrawl, sporting vague titles like “House with yard 1” or “Old snowman attic 8.” To anyone else, his code wouldn’t have made sense. Unfortunately, I understood it perfectly, and all it meant was that we had a lot of recordings to go over.
Being a paranorma
l investigator was a lot more work than I had originally thought, and regrettably, it didn’t exactly pay well, which usually meant we were digging through our couches for grocery money.
“Better luck next time, right?” Brighton stretched her long arms high over her head and arched her back, which emitted a dull pop.
“Same time tomorrow?” Deacon asked, his blue eyes locked on Brighton’s stretching form.
He wasn’t exactly subtle in his love for her.
“I’m out,” I said, cutting him off with a wave of my hand. “I’ve got a twelve-hour shift tomorrow. There’s no way I can investigate all night after that.” Just thinking about it made my body hurt. I wasn’t even sure how I’d get up in the morning and manage to stay on my feet for all those hours of waiting tables.
“It’s just as well,” Jefferson said, leaning lithely against the door frame and blocking my escape route. “I can go over the footage from tonight’s investigation.”
“Don’t you have work?” I asked, afraid of the response I knew I’d receive.
“I quit,” he answered disinterestedly, picking at his fingernails.
“Jefferson!” I exclaimed.
I really was more of a babysitter than anything, which didn’t make any sense, since Jefferson insisted on being the group leader. I mean, he even wanted to call us The Parrish Paranormal Investigators, which I wouldn’t have agreed to in a million years.
“How are you going to pay your rent?” I brought a hand up to my forehead, unable to look at the train wreck of a man in front of me.
I could feel my Cuban temper flaring up. Or at least, I liked to blame it on the fact that I was Cuban.
“Deacon still has a job,” he answered, nodding at his cousin.
Deacon quickly pushed his thick black glasses up the bridge of his nose and straightened his posture a bit, trying to look much more responsible than he was.
“I do,” he said with a sharp nod, obviously hiding something.