Author: Dick Thomas PM
Autumn Faust is haunted by ghosts. Ike Isaacs claims he can rid her of her curse. Paul Reagan still battles against a horror from his own past. Leah Beach, dead at age 15 nearly 40 years earlier, is still not at rest. Their lives intersect when a once-in-a-century blizzard strikes a small town in rural Indiana. Will they find salvation or doom in… GHOSTVISIONRated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Supernatural - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3,128 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 11-14-12 - id: 3074395
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2. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Wednesday, December 9, 10:00 AM, CST.
A text message appeared on Ike Isaacs's phone: GREEK EXAM OVER. I ACED IT!
He smiled. Erica should have aced it. He'd helped her study for six hours the day before. Not that she necessarily needed tutoring. The previous year, in Intermediate Greek, she'd finished second in the class both semesters. This year, now that Ike had dropped out of the Antiquities program, no one could beat her.
And now that this exam was over, they could be on their way. It'd only take Ike five minutes to drive to the Antiquities Center to pick her up and begin their vacation.
He felt a little anxious about leaving his bookstore, Famous Lost Words, for three weeks, but he understood his anxiety was unnecessary. He'd hired good, reliable people over the summer, and he paid them well enough that the likelihood of their quitting in favor of more lucrative work was slim. As he told his staff goodbye and made certain they had all his instructions and contact information, he realized that his anxiety had very little to do with his bookstore. It was all tied to the anticipation—or the apprehension—associated with spending the holidays with Erica's family, particularly with her father.
Three weeks with the guy.
Erica was blissfully ignorant of her father's profession, and this was clearly by design. But Ike had done some digging and uncovered what lay below the topsoil of Connor Barnhart's FEMA consultant cover story.
Ike had a sinking suspicion that Connor had done some digging of his own by this time. Gun-toting federal types always did. So Ike prepared himself for impending unpleasantness over the holidays and he debated within himself whether or not to inform Erica of her father's true occupation.
It wasn't that Connor had outright lied to his daughter. Rather he'd told her half-truths, or maybe three-quarters-truths. He'd told her the truth that FEMA contracted his company occasionally, and that his job involved sporadic criminal profiling and disaster management at the federal, state, and local levels. He'd also told the truth that most of the details he handled in his line of work were classified and that he couldn't talk with her about them.
But a world of deception existed in the details Connor Barnhart was obligated to keep from Erica.
Ike's dilemma was, now that he knew about Mr. Barnhart's true occupation, ought he to play along with the deception? Or was he obligated by his relationship with and—dare he say it—his love for Erica to reveal what he knew of her dad's classified activities?
On the one hand, he might be able to use his privileged information to forge a sort of truce with Connor, by promising to keep the truth from Erica.
On the other hand, Erica would probably eventually find out about Connor's work if she kept dating Ike. And if she found out that Ike had known all along the nature of her father's classified activities and kept it from her…? Well, that would not be a pretty scene.
But Ike understood the value of only crossing a bridge when it lay right there at his feet, and he had at least thirty-six hours until the bridge would be that close.
So he decided not to worry about it too much just yet.
He pulled up in front of the building that housed the University of Michigan's Classical Languages Department and Erica came running down the steps, bundled up in a big wool coat with a knit scarf around her neck, and curly blonde hair spilling over her shoulders. She was slender and tall and the smartest girl he'd ever known and she made him smile whenever he saw her.
She rushed up to his car, smiling too. She got in, closed the door, and leaned in and gave him a kiss on the mouth.
Ike stowed away his misgivings regarding her father and kissed her back.
"Aced it, huh?" he asked when they'd finished greeting each other.
"I bet I got a hundred and five, at least. Maybe a hundred and ten."
Ike put the car in gear and began driving. "You're gonna wreck the curve for the rest of the class."
"So what? They should've studied harder. Anyway, Dr. Thomas never grades on a curve."
"I heard he sometimes grades on his students' curves," Ike commented.
"Yes, I've heard those rumors too," Erica said with a smirk. "However, I don't require that sort of assistance, nor would I accept that sort of assistance, nor am I interested in any guy but you paying attention to my curves."
"Well that's a relief," Ike said.
She laid her head on his shoulder. "Yeah, like you were really worried."
The campus buildings thinned out as he drove through Ann Arbor on his way toward Interstate [?] "You don't need to pick anything else up from your apartment do you?" he asked.
"Nope. I put everything I need in your trunk last night."
"All right then. We're on our way to Indiana."
"Can I see the amulet?"
"Sure. It's in that white box in the glove compartment."
Erica opened the door and withdrew a cardboard box about four inches square and an inch deep. She removed the lid. A shiny brass disc lay in a bed of pale blue tissue paper. "Pretty," she said. In the center of the amulet was set what looked like a dark red gem. Ike hoped Erica didn't know what it really was.
"If it's pretty," he said, "that's completely beside the point. I made it to do a job, that's all."
"Should I be jealous that you're giving jewelry to another girl?"
Ike sniffed out a laugh. "If you want to, I guess. It'd be pointless, though. I now practically nothing about this girl except that she's still in high school and she's got a problem similar to mine." He fingered the amulet under his shirt that lay against his collarbone.
"Is she pretty?"
"I have no idea. I haven't seen her. Probably she's fat, with limp, greasy hair."
"Let's hope," Erica said. "How old is she?"
Ike laughed. "Jeez, Erica! I don't know. She's a teenager, I guess."
"So are you."
"Still…you might be ready to trade me in for a new model already."
"The thought has never crossed my mind."
"Good," Erica grinned at him.
"…But now that you've raised the subject…"
Erica reared back from him and punched him in the arm.
"Watch it, buster."
"You're the one who brought it up!"
"What's a girl supposed to think when her boyfriend wants to spend the first two days of Christmas vacation visiting some trollop he met over the internet?"
Ike raised an eyebrow. "She's a trollop, is she?"
"For all I know."
"If were looking for a new girlfriend, I doubt I'd be bringing you with me."
"Maybe you're using me as a prop to amplify your desirability."
"Whatever." On one level, this conversation was amusing to Ike. On another, it worried him a little. Was this just play, or was Erica actually feeling insecure? And if it was genuine insecurity, was it justified because of the way Ike was treating her, or was she being unnecessarily clingy? He hadn't observed her behaving like this before. At the same time, Ike had never before traveled to meet a girl in another state to give her a piece of jewelry he'd made with his own hands. He'd beaten the brass himself, and inscribed the hieroglyphs, and set the little reliquary in place. He decided that he was displaying indisputably abnormal boyfriend-type behavior, and that Erica therefore merited greater than normal reassurance from him.
"You remember the night I took off my amulet?" he asked.
Erica shuddered. "Yeah."
"That's what this girl experiences every day of her life. And that's all I know about her. And that's reason enough to for me to help her."
"Okay," she relented. "I'm sorry. It's just… Dad doesn't understand about this side trip to Indiana. And I guess I let him get to me more than I should have."
Uh-oh. "I thought you weren't gonna talk to your dad about our detour."
"I just told him that a woman in Howardton was interested in some information contained in an old, rare book you had in stock. I mean, that's all the truth, right?"
"Yes. I suppose it is."
"And Dad thought it was weird."
"I'm going to have to talk to your dad about what I really do over the holidays, aren't I?"
"I don't know, Ike. Maybe."
He sighed. "Oh well. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."