COME FORWARD

This chapter: Rather boring this time, I'm afraid. These first three are all introductory chapters, and this one brings in the final regular character before the action starts properly and I can stop with all the pre-amble… All future investigations follow the pattern I've established here. I'm attempting for logical character development, but it's something I've not done for a while, so bear with me. (Ah, the joys of fanfiction. I've become lazy.)

Oh, for David, because his cameo fell short of the mark and I suck: feel teH Fred + Thomas l0ve! :D I can't promise I'll develop it further, but I'm trying to make it at least semi-subtextual... though I get the feeling you'll still 'ship for them whether I intend it or not, so I might as well humour you, right? ;)

Chapter 3

The séance, despite everyone's best efforts and hopes, was decidedly uneventful. A few members of the team had mentioned feeling cold for no apparent reason, when others felt fine; Stewart had reported the same tingling sensation at the back of his neck, which Alec had earlier attributed to a spirit presence trying to enter his energy, and knowing this didn't make him feel any less uneasy about it. Mel had closed her eyes with all good intentions and promptly fallen asleep, which somewhat put a damper on things, though when she first keeled over forwards, there had been some brief excitement. At five-thirty, however, they called it a night and let the majority of their exhausted crew go back to the bed-and-breakfast across the road to get some sleep.

Alec had overseen the séance, as planned, and stated afterwards that, while everything was done properly and everyone seemed keen for something to happen, the various other-wordly inhabitants of the building were apparently unwilling to show themselves to such a large group. Determined to at least get some more information, Yvelyn and Fred stayed behind with him for a couple of hours, to see if he could ascertain anything else from either the card players or the supposed 'hanging man'.

By the time the sun rose, they'd finally discovered that the child Martha had been carrying was fathered by one of Isaac's card-playing companions, that same 'hanging man' from the upper floor, whose name turned out to be Peter. They filled in the gaps themselves – Thomas could also do some follow-up research later – and worked out that Peter must have gotten Martha pregnant without Isaac knowing about it. When he found out, he wasn't best pleased and asked that she get rid of the child, which she had refused to do. The next time the four men played, Peter was unable to pay the winner – unable to 'pay his dues', as it had been put earlier in the night – and had killed Martha as some kind of recompense, since Isaac had no use for either her or her unborn child, by throwing her off the building's roof.

It was all a very grisly business, and when they finally had enough information to construct the story, Yvelyn was feeling very jumpy in the eerie early-morning light. At least when it was dark, there were less unidentifiable shadows and haunting birdsong. There were woods at the back of the inn that she hadn't noticed during the night, having assumed that the amorphous black behind them was a fence or garden hedge. She was very glad that Alec hadn't picked anything up in the woods, as the night had been stressful enough as it was, and even the most sensible of them had a tendency to let their nerves get the better of them where woods were concerned. All three of them were in dire need of sleep, suddenly very glad that they only needed to trudge a matter of feet, climb a flight of stairs, and collapse in their respective beds.

They attracted some very curious looks from the few other occupants of the B-and-B, as breakfast was being served up just as they stumbled through the front door with their hand-held cameras. Yvelyn peered briefly into the dining room, and spotted Thomas at a table on his own, history book in one hand, cup of tea in the other. He must only have slept for three hours, if that, and it spoke volumes for his dedication. He's mad, she thought. I'm working with a band of lunatics.

She didn't bother trying to be quiet as she entered the room – and it was certainly good of the manager to understand their situation and provide two keys, she reflected – because Mark slept through everything. She recalled an investigation from a couple of years back, when they discovered themselves at the epicentre of an earth tremor, the largest the country had seen for years. Luckily, the investigation itself was to take place the night after, so it didn't interfere with their filming. Yvelyn had woken in a blind, confused panic to find the room shaking; Mark had slept right through it, and wondered the next day what everyone was so excited about. He'd seemed semi-convinced the entire nation, as well as the crew, was having him on.

Yvelyn got as far as removing her coat and shoes, but gave up after that when her brain systematically began to shut down. Her last coherent thought before her head hit the pillow was to remember the night vision camera she'd automatically placed on the bedside table, and to wonder if they'd finally have some undeniably paranormal footage to show their parapsychologist when next they saw him…



By two o'clock that afternoon, everything was packed up into a van, and everyone was ready to go. The next phase of production was what everyone coined 'the boring bit': they took all their footage back to the studio and started putting it together. The editing job was always the worst part, working out what to leave in and what to omit, especially when the night had been eventful. Every year, there was a good day's-worth of team interaction on camera that, while amusing and often heart-warming, had ended up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. One day, it would probably end up on a specially released video or extra programme, hopefully long after the show had finished production and none of them could be embarrassed about it.

One of the most vital parts of this process was the input of Robert Carpenter, their level-headed and almost impossibly sceptical parapsychologist. He would view all of their footage and analyse it, usually attempting to explain away most of it with science, technical glitches, and so on, or, failing that, examine the behaviour of the team in the situation to see if that held any answers. He claimed that he was willing to believe, if given irrefutable evidence; in three years, he had yet to be convinced, to everyone's frustration.

In the car on the way back, Yvelyn was eagerly playing back the footage from the investigation, caught on her night-vision camera. Some of it was quite artistic, in her opinion; clearly, working with Stewart had rubbed off on her a little. When it came to the footage she'd shot in the kitchen, she cringed; she'd walked into the table at quite a speed and with some force, and as she'd anticipated, there was a rather horrendous bruise developing where she'd made contact. The footage itself was fairly amusing, though, she thought, and she was ever more convinced that people just enjoyed watching her suffer.

She watched herself making coffee, relieved to find that she'd managed to point the camera almost directly at the back door and window, and waited.

The scream could be heard, clear as crystal, and they could always tidy it up later to really isolate it for Robert to analyse. She ran it backwards, watching again, keeping an eye on the back window. She spotted it, brief and very blurred, but there nonetheless: a shadow, falling straight down past the window.

"Yes!" she said, triumphant. "I knew I didn't imagine it."

"Didn't imagine what?" asked Mark from the driver's seat.

"That shadow I thought I saw. It's right here on-camera." She shut it off, then, and put it back in its case. Pondering the situation for a moment, it suddenly occurred to her exactly what she held in her hands. "Wow. Do you realise what this means? We may actually have some of the only known evidence of a ghost caught on film, right here…"

"And without even trying," he agreed. "It's always the way. Though, you do realise Robert's going to hate you for this."

"Why's that?"

"You've just destroyed his sole purpose in life: proving us wrong."

She laughed. "True. But you know Robert. He'll still manage to prove us wrong; he'll probably say it's a tree falling, or something."

"Maybe if it was just the shadow," he said, "but remember, we have the scream, on night-vision audio from two different rooms, and possibly elsewhere, too. Plus, we have you on camera when it happens, so he can't say it's you, and we have both Cathi and Mel reacting to it, and if he thinks it was one of the blokes, I'd say he's grasping at straws."

She nodded, thoughtfully. "If Thomas can back up what Alec found out with some facts, we'll have everything we need." Changing the subject slightly, she added, "Did you know he was up at seven this morning?"

"Really?"

"Seems like it; might have been earlier than that. Fred, Alec and I got in at about seven-thirty, and he was in the breakfast room with his tea and a history book. I swear he just doesn't sleep."

"It wouldn't surprise me," noted Mark. "I've never known anyone as dedicated as him."

Suddenly concerned by Thomas' decided lack of sleep, Yvelyn asked, "Do you know how he's getting back?"

"Yeah, Fred's giving him a lift, I think."

"Oh." She breathed a sigh of relief. "Good."

Quietude fell in the car again, as Yvelyn put the camera carefully into a box of other equipment that was strapped into the back seat, and turned her gaze to the passing fields that lined the motorway. At least Thomas wasn't trying to make his own way home on the train, or in charge of any driving. He worked himself too hard, in her opinion, though he never seemed to suffer for it. There weren't enough hours in the day for him to get everything done that he constantly needed to do, so he made up for it by getting as little sleep as was humanly possible. Yvelyn knew his tendencies, and knew he'd never change, but it didn't stop her worrying about him.

Chances were, Fred would drive him slowly insane on the journey home. He seemed to take joy in annoying the historian, and the three-hour drive back would certainly prove interesting, if nothing else. Once he'd dropped Thomas off, he'd immediately get home himself and work on updating the show's official website with details of the investigation, as best he could, adding more after he'd viewed the final edit. The details wouldn't go live until the episode had actually aired, but he liked being prepared well in advance.

Yvelyn had been there to oversee the website's creation and content, but lately she had left the design side in Fred's capable hands. She did, however, quite enjoy the site's message board, because over the years she'd built up quite a rapport with the fans. Initially she'd adopted a pseudonym, but it became very quickly apparent that everyone knew it was her anyway, and she'd owned up; Fred had then implemented a different colour scheme so that the fans would know when a member of the team was visiting, as some of the others would periodically join in the fun, if prodded long enough. Most of them didn't last very long when presented with metaphorically squealing fans. Lately, she would visit almost constantly to keep everyone updated on new episodes, as well as giving them some behind-the-scenes information on the crew's mishaps, that she knew everyone clamoured for. The anonymous, faceless people on the message board seemed overwhelmed by her casual presence; she forgot that, in their eyes, she was a celebrity. Fame – or was it infamy? – was never something she'd come to terms with.

Mark kept his attention on the road, but his thoughts wandered back to the previous night: he'd still not entirely worked out why Yvelyn had been so affected by the scream, since she'd been unwilling to tell him. The day had been hectic and they'd not had time to sit down and talk. Now seemed as good an opportunity as any.

"Yvelyn…?"

She dragged her attention from the view and looked across. "Yes, love?"

"Last night… this morning, whatever, when we heard that scream, why did it freak you out so much?"

"It didn't," she said, a little too quickly. Mark wasn't buying it.

"That's not what it looked like to me."

She'd have to tell him, otherwise he'd just keep on pestering her and making a big deal out of it. Besides, it was an issue that needed to be addressed. Yvelyn conceded defeat. "I panicked, that's all. My first thought when I heard it was that one of the girls had fallen off that wonky balcony, or you had. Silly, I know. But then I saw the shadow and I knew someone had to have fallen, and all I could think about was getting out of the kitchen so I could find out. Thank God Alec was there to calm me down; I think I'd have been struggling with those deadbolts for an hour otherwise."

Mark pondered this for a while, then said, "Well, if it's any consolation, we all thought it was you, despite the fact it started on our level and fell. I panicked a bit, too…"

She was going to protest the fact that she didn't scream any more – she shrieked, actually – but decided that was rather beside the point. At least she hadn't been the only one to lose her head. "It got me thinking, though," she continued. "I'd never realised before how potentially dangerous these locations could be. We're always so careful about jeopardising our filming, or keeping Alec safe, but I think we've started overlooking how old the places are. It would only take a step wrong in an unsafe area and we'd have a hospitalisation on our hands…"

It was true they'd gotten a bit lax in their safety measures of late, especially when following Alec's leads; he would direct them into places they'd never have found otherwise, and they'd enter without a second thought. It was definitely time for a crew meeting. "We've survived so far," he reassured her, "but I think we need to talk to everyone anyway. I know for a fact most of them are usually more worried about some ghostie causing them an injury than whether or not the floor's going to cave in."

"I suppose I shouldn't worry so much," she admitted. "They're all grown-ups who can look after themselves."

"Exactly…"

"And you know what else? Bloody Robert's always laughing at me for being such a coward; well, I'd like to put him in a darkened room on his own and see how he likes it."

Mark smirked; he was sure everyone else wanted to do that to Robert as well, especially Thomas. Those two had nearly come to blows on several occasions over the issue of the paranormal. "Maybe next time," he promised, "but I'll let you be the one to suggest it…"



He was acutely aware of several pairs of eyes staring at his back as he watched the footage, which didn't make concentrating any easier. It was days like this, he hated being the voice of reason. Especially when the six people behind him were determined to finally prove him wrong.

Robert stopped the tape and turned, slowly, to face the assembled crew members. "What… um, exactly, am I looking at?"

Everyone stared at him some more. Thomas was the first one to cave. "Are you serious?"

Robert shrugged helplessly, and Mark suggested, "Why don't you play it again?" The parapsychologist ran the footage back again until Mark told him to stop, and everyone else gathered further around the back of his chair so they could all see the monitor. Yvelyn and Mark stood either side of him, and the former got ready to point out what he was trying to find.

"Turn the volume up a bit," she instructed, "or you'll never hear it." Robert did as he was told, and watched again. Something about Yvelyn's demeanour told him that if he laughed, he was in for it. When the crash of the table and her loud expletive rang loud and clear, however, it was all he could do to keep a straight face.

"Oh, very good, Yvelyn. Very graceful."

"Shut up. Just keep watching."

The scream was definitely more obvious with the sound turned up, and Robert was genuinely surprised by how clear it was, even without it being isolated. Before he could comment, though, Yvelyn pointed at the back window, and he saw what they were all talking about. The tape kept playing as he asked, "My God… who fell?"

"No-one," said Cathi. "You'll see on the other tapes."

"Yup," said Yvelyn. "We got outside and there was nothing there. You can examine the three sets of footage all you want, but there's no way you're going to explain it."

He looked thoughtful. "And I suppose Alec came up with an explanation?"

"Yes," interjected Thomas, "and everything he said turned out to be correct, as far as I can work out."

"And there's no way he-"

"No. Absolutely no way he could've known."

Robert didn't bother asking what that explanation was, because he'd find out in due course when he watched the rest of the tapes. "Hm…" he said, somewhat at a loss for the moment. "Well… I have to say I'm stumped, but leave it with me and I'll… think of something."

The others started to file out, muttering about him being a spoilsport. Stewart didn't mention the tingling he'd felt at his neck, knowing it'd be passed off as paranoia or some other emotional reaction. Somehow, everyone knew he'd manage to come up with a logical explanation, even though they'd tried to eliminate every possibility themselves. Sometimes it seemed like everything was for nothing as far as Robert Carpenter was concerned.

Yvelyn stayed behind a moment, sensing everyone's disappointment. "It's good footage, Robert," she said. "Even you have to admit that much."

"It is, yes," he said, "but you know I can't just accept it. And just as much as I know none of you would try and fake any of this, I have to look at it from every angle, just in case."

She knew he hated being the bad guy, but he didn't have a choice. "It's why we hired you," she said. "Just… try to open your mind a little on this?"

"I'll try," he said.

At that, she left him to it. His analysis process could take anywhere from an hour to nearly a day, dependent on how many people he had to talk to, and he'd let her know when everything was ready. Until then, and the next investigation, she had a few days off.

And that was precisely why, five hours later, she was scouring the internet for future locations, weeks in advance. 'Days off' were nothing of the sort. Once she'd found suitable buildings, she had to email the proprietors with details of who they were and what they were doing, then let everyone know, assuming the various landlords and owners were willing to cooperate. After that came hours of phone calls as they organised a date. She also had to give Thomas the appropriate details so he could start researching, and check with Alec to see if his diary was free so they could set a date for the investigation. Mostly, it was a process that ran smoothly, give or take the occasional glitch.

She'd found four likely places to investigate, and had run them by Mark, who had agreed that they looked promising. It seemed as though they'd never run out of Britain; there were enough places in England alone to fill at least another five series, without taking into account Wales, Scotland, and the entire of Ireland. She'd taken to putting 'X's onto a large map on the wall to keep track of the areas they'd covered, as well as circling those that warranted further investigation, if the chance to do so ever arose.

Yvelyn zipped off the final email just as Mark wandered into see how she was doing. "Are you going to be much longer?"

"Probably not," she said, which usually meant she'd be there another couple of hours at least, getting sidetracked. She was turning into an internet junkie. Once the emails had been sent, two more tasks remained: first, she'd check Fred's latest investigation write-up as it coincided with the television broadcast (she tried to avoid watching them if she could help it; they made her feel uncomfortable), and then she'd log briefly onto the message board to update everyone on what they could expect in a few weeks' time.

She pulled up the write-up, and Mark read it over her shoulder. "I see he's putting everyone in as decent a light as usual," he said.

"Yes, well, we didn't tell him to flatter us. He's never put anything to get himself into trouble."

"Yet…" He carried on reading. "Hey, when did that happen?" he asked, pointing to a specific paragraph.

"What?"

"That." He read it out. "'The crew were convinced they all heard doors opening of their own accord, and some of them even claimed to have seen several orbs in one particular area, though they were not caught on film and cannot be corroborated.' I don't remember that."

She tried to remember. "Oh, I think you were outside. Climbing a tree and nearly breaking your neck, if I remember correctly."

"Ah, yeah. Remind me not to listen to that historian of ours ever again…"

They continued reading in silence, occasionally commenting on Fred's dry sense of humour and his less-than-flattering descriptions of everyone freaking out, especially Yvelyn and Thomas. "If I didn't know any better," she noted, "I'd think he had something against us." She clicked the link for the message board and signed in, briefly scanning the message headers before starting a new thread of her own.

"I don't know how you can do that," said Mark, watching her. "Isn't it just slightly weird knowing they're all talking about you?"

"Not really," she said. "There's never anything libellous. They know better than that now they know I'm watching. It's interesting, actually, finding out what people think."

"If you say so. I couldn't do it."

She started composing her message, which was essentially just to say that there was some very good footage coming up in a few weeks that they might find intriguing, and the usual 'thank-you-for-watching' sign off. She kept the content brief, because there would undoubtedly be a new member who would ask if she was who she said, and then there'd be a week of inter-board message warring, at which point she or one of the old-timers would have to step in and break it up. Mostly, she'd convinced everyone she was telling the truth, though there were still a few on there who firmly believed she was a very clever hoaxer.

The message posted, and the board returned to the main page. Mark continued to watch as she skimmed for anything that looked interesting, and gave up on removing her from the computer when she found something. Placing both hands on her shoulders, he kissed the top of her head. "I'm off to bed. Don't stay up half the night, okay? You're getting to be as bad as Tom."

Yvelyn reached up to grasp one of his hands and turned her head to look over her shoulder. "Considering I actually do need sleep to function as a human being, I don't think I'll ever be as bad as Tom," she told him. "I won't be long."

He didn't believe that for a second, but it was easier to leave her to it. The sound of distant typing followed him halfway up the stairs, and he thought, mostly ironically, that of all the things he could possibly have lost her to, the internet came somewhere at the bottom of the list.

To be continued...

A/N: An omen of what is to come? Well… we'll see. Even though most of you already know. ;) I've decided, incidentally, that this is now to be more a story about Yvelyn and Mark than anything else, even though that completely detracts from my original point (but don't worry, Michelle/desired_destiny, because the plot will remain as you've already read about, and I will not disappoint… I hope.) Basically, the more I read about their real-life counterparts, and the more old episodes I watch, the more I feel guilty for messing with things…

Anyway, you may have noticed Yvelyn as being slightly distant with Mark (if not, she is; it wasn't my original intention until someone noticed, so now it's being written in deliberately) even though he's blatantly incredibly fond of her. As this progresses, you'll learn she has… well, issues. Not extreme and horrible childhood issues, just issues. She had to angst over something. ;)

Keep those reviews a-coming, please...