THE WHISPERER

PART ONE: DAYTIME

If the press wanted to call him crazy that was fine, but Charlie Jones knew that if he wasn't sane he wouldn't be allowed into his apartment complex, and so far they hadn't asked for his key back. Yet.

He was twenty-four and, as his older sister constantly informed him, much too old to believe in any of this "ghost business". He came from a religious family (Catholics, wouldn't you know) and where the rest of them couldn't understand why he would question "destiny" he had found it in his soul to be curious, a sin it might be.

Once upon a time he'd been a happy man with a nine-to-five job and a wife and three kids (triplets, two boys and a girl; the first ever born in St. Jude's hospital) driving home after eating dinner at a new Italian Bistro fifteen minutes from their lakeside home.

They hadn't made it ten before three were dead, one was paralyzed, and only the driver (who hadn't touched a beer in seventeen months) was the only one left able to stand.

It had been this, and a few other mind-killing events that had driven him to where he was standing at this moment: in the Agnatha Indre (which really did not match up to its title; all it was was a rickety old boathouse that hadn't been in use for two centuries) four hundred miles east of Bergen, Norway. The middle of nowhere if there ever was one.

"Roger thinks he's got something from last night in the stateroom," his buddy James said, coming up the rickety old stairs and holding a candle out in front of him.

Charlie watched the shadows dance on the old wooden walls and raised a brow. "You could just use a flashlight," he reminded his friend, setting the EVP recorder underneath the dusty window and wiping his hands off on his jeans.

"But that would destroy the mood!" James protested, grinning as he turned to lead the way back downstairs.

"Not such a bad thing, if you stop and think about it." Charlie said darkly, hands gripping the wooden support beams as he sidestepped a rotten stair.

"Come on, man, you gotta stop this depressing crap," James scolded, stumbling on a tricky step and nearly dropping the candle. He swore under his breath and recovered his balance quickly. "It's been three years."

"Really, James, your empathy is touching,"

James rolled his eyes and rounded a twisting corner. "You never used to be this sarcastic," he said moodily. "That was my job, come to think of it…"

Charlie coughed harshly but made no reply.

"And if Emily was still alive she'd kill you for being a smoker again. I thought you quit after graduation?"

"Old habits die hard," Charlie grumbled angrily as they reached the end of the staircase and the narrow archways opened up to the mouth of a large dining room. Dusty couches and love seats were scattered here and there, their covers moth-eaten and torn. An old fireplace was lit in the far left corner, the spider webs burnt from their decades left alone. A few people stood around looking at old charts and pictures or holding up the gadgets as they surveyed the area through green lenses.

"Roger!" James called across the room, and a thin wiry man hurried over, a tape recorder held gently in his hands.

His words came out fast and rushed in his apparent excitement and only after James told him to slow down with an amused smirk on his face did his information become clear.

"I got something, Charlie! Got something good! Dunno exactly what—maybe a humming noise? Thought at first it was a dog or something but that's impossible seeing as we have no dog here and neither did Ms. Agnatha so why would I be hearing its spirit? So then I thought to myself, I thought 'hey, what if it's not a real dog but someone pretending to be one', eh? 'Course I'm no expert so's I was looking for you but James said you were up brooding again so I've got it all set and ready—here, look! Or listen, actually,"

Charlie stared at him for a moment, trying process the words inherently before taking the tape recorder and pressing PLAY. At first he heard nothing but static and James went as far as sighing in impatience, and then they heard it.

Mmmmrrrr…mur mur…mrmmmur…

Charlie blinked.

"What the hell was that?" James asked, face comically confused.

Roger grinned widely. "Didja hear the dog? Didja? Well, maybe not, I think it's changed…" he scrunched his face up, before shrugging it off. "Naw, guess I just didn't properly listen to it 'till now. So? So? What did you think, Charlie?"

Charlie raised a brow. "Well," he began, scratching underneath his left ear. "There weren't any real words, but that doesn't mean it wasn't paranormal-,"

"-Sounds like the heater Julie had on last night," James interrupted, looking disbelievingly at the Sony machine. "You sure you weren't hearing that, Roger?"

He nodded enthusiastically, eyes wide. "Yeah!" he exclaimed. "'Cuz Davis and John had there's recording, too, and they didn't pick up anything."

"In the same room?" Charlie asked him, a frown line appearing on his forehead. He exchanged a look with James who shrugged.

"Yeah!" Roger said again a bit defensively. "I'm telling you it was a ghost, man!" he looked from man to man in eager impatience and in the end it was James who spoke first.

"Sounds suspicious to me," he said slowly, taking the recorder and studying it. "Let's clear whichever room you, Davis, and John were in last night and set up the cameras and more recorders. Sound good, Charlie?"

Charlie shrugged and nodded. "Did anyone else get anything?"

Roger shook his head. "Joe thought he might've, but there was a mouse hole right next to the recorder and that explained the squeaking."

James chuckled. "Thanks, Roger." He waved the tape recorder in the air. "We may just have something here."

Once the kid had walked away James turned to Charlie. "What do you think?"

Charlie shrugged, sighing. "Might as well try it out tonight." He meandered over to the kitchens as the first pale lights of the morning shone through the dusty glass windows. "Is that it, is that all we got?"

"Guess so," James nodded. "Bruce is gonna kill us if we don't find anything for the agency in this house."

Charlie voiced his agreement before walking into the kitchen to the smell of waffles and bacon. Using a mini camping stove, the two girls, Julie and Melanie, smiled as the two walked in. "Hey, hungry, anyone?" Julie asked, holding up a plate.

"Definitely!" James grinned, grabbing a fork and immediately indulging in the Egos. Charlie nodded quietly and Julie looked at him sympathetically before handing him a small plate and a napkin.

"Busy night?" she asked him, sitting down in the next chair.

He shook his head. "Not at all," he said. "Roger—you know that thin little Asian kid?—got something on his tape and he's convinced it's a ghost."

Julie swallowed her bacon. "Is it?"

Charlie downed his glass of orange juice in a great swig and shrugged. "Maybe," he said. "We're gonna circle the room tonight to check it out."

"Well if you and James," she turned to him and Melanie who were deeply engrossed in a competition over who could finish their food first. "Need any help just let me know," she said, turning back to him and smiling. "I'm supposed to be scoping out the balcony again but last night I got nothing but this creepy little bird."

Charlie nodded around his waffle. "Maybe Ms. Agnatha was murdered and has come back as a sparrow," he said slyly and Julie smiled wider.

She laughed once and rolled her eyes. "Yet another reference to Venezuela," she said, clearing the plates. "I still stand by my theory that that cat was really my old psychology professor coming back to torture me," she stood and balanced the two cups, growing more serious. "I'm sure there's something in this house, Charlie," she said kindly. "We'll find it."

"Yeah," he sighed. "Bruce wouldn't have sent us to an empty place, right?"

She shook her head and walked away. Charlie exhaled deeply and stood up slowly, looking to James to follow.

"Coming!" his friend said, pecking a kiss on Melanie's cheek and winking as she rolled her eyes. He hurried over to Charlie, a piece of bacon hanging out of his mouth. "You know," he said around the food. "This hours for this job suck, the pay is pretty much nonexistent, and it really doesn't do much for my sleeping, but man do the benefits add up!" he threw a glance back at Melanie who raised her finger in a very rude gesture and cracked up.

"Go see what Davis and John are up to," Charlie said, heading back towards the stairs. "Meet me in the library in two hours."

"Aye, aye, captain," James saluted and turned the corner into another room.

He climbed the stairs again, careful to skip the rotten step again. The upper level of the house had yet to be scoped out by the team; to his knowledge, he had been the only one to really examine it closely. It was pretty much just one giant room that wrapped around the staircase snugly and was cluttered with old lamps and tables.

Charlie looked around grimly and walked over to the window, looking down at the frozen ground below. Nothing. Besides Roger's "discovery" (which could, and probably was, be just as easily himself snoring rather than paranormal EVP activity) they had come up with zero, zip, nada, nothing about the house that was in the least supernaturally suspicious.

He could only hope and wait for the night.

Little did he know that there was something in the Agnatha Indre, and it was watching his every move.

Part two coming soon.

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