“Morning, Dave,” I said cheerfully, slipping my card back in the rack. I looked for an inconspicuous place to sling my lunchbox as he shuffled up behind me.

“Evening, Charlie. Evening,” he mumbled, as he pulled his card and headed toward the time clock. Ker-chunk.

“Old habits die hard, I guess,” I offered, and headed for the bulletin board. “Besides, it’s morning somewhere. Time’s relative, these days.” I’ve always been one of those people who wake up cheerful. Dave…not so much. It wasn’t so much that he was a grouch, just that where I saw a silver lining, he still saw the storm cloud it surrounded.

We worked as night watchmen at the old Blackstone place on the edge of town, keeping out the riffraff. Normally, it wasn’t hard, as it was publicly known to be haunted…that alone kept many people at bay. But there were always the thrill-seekers out to test their mettle, not to mention the occasional folk who didn’t believe in such nonsense, that figured there had to be something they wanted from the old place. The place isn’t livable, so there must be some reason it hasn’t been knocked down, right?

Dave grunted and moved over to the board with me. “What do we have tonight?”

“Huh…looks like there were some folks poking around on the day shift, a few hours ago. Didn’t look like squatters or college kids out for a hazing.”

Dave peered at the report, squinting. His lips moved as he read, and then he suddenly scowled. “Aw, crap, here we go again,” he drawled. “Charlie, we got ourselves some ghost hunters checking the place out.”

Dave may have been put out, but I was looking forward to this. “We get to put on the show?”
He moved over to check the props closet, nodding. “Yeah, Charlie, we get to put on the show. Go find the cat.”

“Now? Football game’s coming on in a few minutes.”

“Go find the damned cat.”

Finding Jonesy…no, I have no idea who named the cat…wasn’t hard on a normal night, but tonight, he wasn’t hanging out near his food bowl. So I went out into the mansion itself, making the begging sounds humans always make with their cats. Here, kitty kitty. Psst. Psst. Got some nice treats for you. Blah blah.

I saw him streak by on the second story foyer, and tromped up the stairs. I couldn’t tell if he was spooked, or just chasing vermin. Either way, I was going to have to root around in the dark rooms for him. Maybe I’d get lucky and find him before….

“Charlie! They’re here already! Company’s coming through the front door in ninety! Stay up there, we’ll start with the creaky sounds. Get ready!”

So, in they came, two men and a woman, cautiously, looking around. It was a typical troupe of hunters: one skinny guy with a mop of brown hair, obviously the science arm of the expedition, one guy, blond, lantern-jawed, apparently the hero of the piece, and the woman, a bespectacled redhead, was in clothes that were somehow practical and slinky at the same time. And heels…I never understood why the women in these groups always wore heels when they know they’re coming to a dilapidated old mansion on a hill. Maybe they weighed the danger of a twisted ankle against impressing the hero-type, and hormones won out.

The three started to set up base camp in the foyer, unloading backpacks full of gadgetry, lights, and video equipment. Before they got the generator up and running, we started in with the creaks and groans. Nothing elaborate, just a matter of selectively applying weight and pressure to the proper places in an old structure, as if playing the house itself as some sort of macabre instrument.

It was enough to stop them in their tracks. Flashlights arced out in the darkness as they searched for the source of the sounds. Typical behavior…they never catch us.

The scientist type, however, pulled an instrument from his belt, and pointed it in my direction. The other two narrowed their eyes and started my way. Luckily for me, Jonsey chose that moment to rub up against my leg, having come out from whatever bolt hole he’d been in. He probably wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

So I picked him up and tossed him over the railing.

There was the obligatory kitty scream as he arced down at them, quite obviously tossed from somewhere. I mean, seriously, cats don’t naturally jump like that, and don’t make that scream when they’re pouncing…they’re annoyed. But for some reason, it always works…the rubes roll their eyes, ignore whatever they were investigating in the first place, and go back to whatever they were doing. In this case, fixing up camp. Jonesy, unharmed but perturbed, dashed off to a quiet, dark corner to sulk.

The camp in question was a new design…the scientist guy was setting up a perimeter of small boxes in a circle around the room, connected by a series of wires. Against form, the woman was apparently flirting with scientist, while the hero stood guard. Good for her. I circled around the balcony, and met up with Dave. “What the hell are they doing down there?”
He shrugged. “I have no idea.” He chewed his cheek. The group took up position outside of the circle.

“I could just jump in the middle of them and scare the bejesus out of them.” I hefted a leg over the railing.

“Not a good idea…” But I had already started my jump, angling for the center of the circle…after all, it was dead center of the group. “Boo!” I yelled.

You should have seen their faces. The blond and the girl freaked. Unfortunately, the scientist didn’t, he just grinned, hit the button, and the little boxes in the circle glowed. Zzzzp…and I was suddenly in a whole world of hurt. Everything went a prismatic flashy beige, if you can imagine such a thing, then black.

When I came to, I was trapped in this damned cell. I was apparently the first they caught, but soon the rest of you started showing up, and there ain’t no sign of the flow stopping. I hope they build us an annex or something…it’s starting to get awfully damned crowded in this ghost house. This prison needs more space.

Or at least get us some cable.

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