INVESTIGATION DAY ONE - 1:22 AM
"Parker!" Charlie finally bellowed, squinting her eyes in weary frustration at the lanky man-child sprawled over a sleeping bag with a look of amused innocence on his face.
Everyone else in the room was neck-deep in casework, calling and writing out phrases to the occasionally-voiced presence in the room. Parker, on the other hand, had changed into a t-shirt and distressingly well-cut jeans, and seemed rather unprofessionally bent on getting Charlie's attention. He looked up over the small book he held, hiding the title with one hand.
"Yes, m'lady?" he called sweetly.
"If you don't stop trying to teach the ghost foreign curse words, I'm gonna punch you right in your euphemisms, got that?"
Parker paled slightly. Charlie smirked knowingly and went back to quickly scrawling the words Liza and David were calling out from under piles of paperwork.
"Parker!" Charlie slammed her notepad down and leapt to her feet, storming over to him. "Every time you do that, I have to stop looking through my papers, stop listening to David and Liza, and try to figure out what you just said so I can record it."
She paused, breathing heavily, before looking murderous.
"And now I have to try to remember everything I just said!"
Parker pulled out a small notebook just as Charlie let loose with a feral shriek of frustration.
"It's okay, Chucks, I got this," he said seriously, looking up at her as he licked the tip of his pen. "Now, how would you spell 'Aaaiiuuuughhh'? I was thinking of dropping the silent 'g,' but we don't want to-"
"David? Can I legally fire him right now? I mean, really? Is that doable? Can I fire this man?"
"Fire Parker," the disembodied voice urged, sounding impatient.
"Oi!" Parker shouted, disgruntled.
"No, you cannot, Charlie," David said, sighing and rubbing his forehead. "And if you two are going to have a spat, could you take it outside?"
"Don't leave, Charlotte!" the voice said suddenly. "Fire Parker."
"She's not going to fire Parker, okay?" the lad in question glowered at the air.
"But she is going outside for a minute," Charlie glared at her partner. "C'mon, Mr. Riley, you're in trouble."
She stormed out of the entryway and onto the street, not bothering to wait for Parker. He stood slowly, brushing himself off and running his fingers through his hair as he raced after her. There was silence in the huge room for a moment, before the elusive voice spoke into the quiet -
The second they were on the street, Charlie whirled on him.
"What the hell are you trying to do?"
"Do to what?" Parker rolled his eyes, exasperated. "We've been doing nothing but reading phrases into the air for the last five hours. He, it, whatever - hasn't responded to a single one. You won't let me ask it any direct questions yet. I have a whole list compiled, and we're just sitting here in some idiotic, academic stasis that you seem to hold more important than our actual work here. So, actually, Charlie, you tell me - what the hell are you trying to do? Because you're stalling. It won't willingly address anyone but you, yet, you afraid of spoiling that?"
"What? Why would I-" Charlie stared at him. "What has gotten into you, Parker? When have I ever gone into some kind of twisted glory trip on a case? I want to know about this thing just as much as you, I just don't want to get a poorly-worded and thus ambiguous response to a key answer. Don't...don't accuse me of some kind of...augh! This stupid...this is exactly the kind of thing that made us terrible together!"
She broke off abruptly, hand flying to her mouth. Parker shoved his hands in his pockets and looked straight up, squinting at the sky blankly.
"Parker...Parker, I'm sorr-"
"No, 's fine," Parker said dully. "Nothing to do with the case at all, but it's fine."
There was a long silence as Charlie bit her lip, watching Parker closely. He continued to look upwards pointedly. She heaved a sigh.
"I'm sorry, Parker. I mean - for the case. I'm sorry. Give me another twenty minutes, I'll make sure we've covered the papers, and you can ask the questions. I do want to keep moving forward here. I just want to do it right."
"I know," Parker muttered, rubbing his eyes and looking down at her at last. "I'm sorry I snapped. Hyde moment, forgive me. I don't...I don't like that it's fixated on you."
Charlie was caught off-guard.
Parker smiled and shrugged lamely.
"Call it patriarchal and old-fashioned, but I feel protective of you. Not like...well. I just mean to say that I'm worried about a long-dead disembodied male spirit taking a liking to my young, attractive female boss."
"Parker. It's dead, it's not like-"
"Charlie, we don't know what it is. I didn't just learn about dispelling ghosts before I joined up with you, you know? There are reports...entities that've attacked people. Done terrible..." He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "I just don't like it."
Charlie shifted uncomfortably on the spot.
"Look, I know you think I'm being ridiculous, but I have some stuff inside. Protective charms, things like that. Sage. If I just picked one thing - one thing - for you to use, would you promise to keep it with you while we're here? As a precaution."
Charlie rolled her eyes.
"Fine." She sighed heavily and quirked an amused eyebrow at him.
"And if it gets too aggressive, we have to back off and regroup, okay? We just need to quit for a bit and figure out how to deal with this."
"If I agree to this, will you behave?"
Parker smiled angelically in response. Charlie groaned.
"Thank you!" Parker exclaimed, pulling open the door. "I have a special bag where I keep all my anti-ghoul gear. I'll go through it and find the most applicable thing for you."
He ran through the door into the dim interior.
"Just no more swearing at the ghost! That's all I ask!" Charlie called out, following after him through the doorway.
It was going to be a long night.
INVESTIGATION DAY 1 - 2:01 AM
Parker's night was not going according to plan.
He had spent the final twenty minutes of Vocabulary Bowl searching through his bags to find that most of his protective equipment had been misplaced, and he had limited stores from which to pick his single piece of armament for Charlie. Heaving a sigh and settling pack into the nest he'd made of his sleeping bag and cushions, he glanced up at his ever-present boss.
"Okay. Your name wasn't on the worker's list. You weren't a tenant." She gazed around at the room, holding Parker's pages of questions. Her hand ran raggedly through her hair as she waited for an answer.
Parker had attempted asking the questions twenty minutes earlier, but it was immediately apparent that their disembodied friend was having none of that. Several shredded pills of paper and one demolished clock radio stood testament to the spirit's feelings on addressing Parker.
A long breath drew in over the radio line.
Charlotte rolled her eyes.
"Care to elaborate on that, Mystery Guest?"
Charlie looked over at Parker and heaved a deep sigh. Behind her, Liza monitored the screens of their equipment while she manned the voice recorders - if they ran out of tape, she was ready to switch in the new device. David leaned against the wall behind her, eyes closed and breath even in sleep.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to antagonize. Can you spell your name?"
"Charlotte, I don't understand." The voice sounded pleasantly confused, as if their conversation were no more than afternoon tea.
Parker let out a bark of tired laughter. "What, with your comprehension skills? Please, you're a regular Hawkings."
A loud bang sounded from the elevator shaft. Parker started slightly where he sat. Charlie looked over at him with a pleading expression.
"Parker..." She jerked her head towards the room at large.
"Sorry 'bout that, buddy," Parker grumbled, looking uneasily at the elevator doors.
"Parker needs to mind himself, Charlotte," the voice said quietly.
"I know, I apologize. Now, back to the issue of your name - we gave you the alphabet, and if you'd like, we have other equipment you can use to indicate who you are. Are you prepared to do this?"
"Charlotte I don't-"
Parker stood up abruptly, throwing his hands in the air.
"Seriously, Charlie, this guy is-"
"You know my name, Charlotte." The voice interrupted Parker with an abrupt, steely tone.
Everyone froze, looking to Charlie, who took a deep, shaky breath.
"Come again?" She looked over at Parker, who put his hand in his pocket began slowly walking over to her.
"You have my name, Charlotte. You have had it for some time."
"What is he talking about?" She whispered to Parker as he sidled up beside her.
"Not sure, Chucks," He murmured back, reaching for her hand.
She looked down at his movement in surprise, starting to pull her hand back.
"Chuck. One thing. You promised." He looked her in the eye, his gaze intent. "Before this goes any further. I don't feel right about this."
Charlie's face cleared slightly, and she smiled, reaching for his hand.
With a bang, Charlie was wrenched backwards from the waist, spinning slightly out to the side as she fell to the ground. A fraction of a second later, Parker found himself shoved halfway across the room, tumbling into his bags and workspace.
Liza leapt to her feet, moving forward.
David was already moving, rushing over to where Parker lay prone on the ground.
"Parker!" Charlie scrambled to her feet and away from the spot where she'd fallen.
"Charlotte! Wait!" The voice spoke urgently into her ear.
Charlie stumbled slightly, as if something had caught at her lower half, and she fell to her knees, wincing as her joints hit the marble, hard. As the thud of her impact sounded, a higher-pitched noise resonated above it - the clatter of metal on stone. Liza reached her just as Charlie found the source of the noise.
"What-" She looked up, baffled, at Liza. "It must have still been in my pocket."
"The tintype?" Liza looked at the old artifact in Charlie's hand.
"If you Scooby types are done solving mysteries over there, my welfare could use some cooing attention," Parker grumbled sourly from where David was helping him sit up. He looked up at the man. "Not that you're not doing a fantastic job, David, but post-spectral attack, I lean towards a motherly touch."
"Don't speak too soon, I've been told I can be very maternal," David laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his neck and looking around. "She okay, Liza?"
"I'm fine," Charlie said distantly, staring at the photograph in her hand.
"You know my name, Charlotte," the voice said piteously into the air.
Parker winced as he moved forward to go to Charlie. David put a hand on his shoulder, shaking his head.
Charlie ignored him, turning the tintype over and reading the text aloud.
"1899," the voice hissed over the radio once more.
Parker snarled in the direction of the main equipment table.
"Listen you aggressive little fu-"
Charlie's head snapped up.
"Parker, stop right now."
Parker stared at her for a long time, expression going from disbelief to fury. Shrugging off David's hand, he stood up and walked to where Liza was helping Charlie to her feet.
"It attacked us, Charlie." His voice was iron.
"That's kind of in our job description, chump," Charlie said, rolling her eyes.
"Stop being so cavalier! You were thrown. I was thrown. I'm bleeding."
Worry flickered through Charlie's eyes as she quickly examined his face, reaching up when she saw the blood beading at the edge of his lip. Her thumb barely touched his skin, catching against the cut on his lower lip. Parker jerked back, grabbing her wrist.
They stood like that for a moment, before Parker turned her arm so her palm was facing him, and placed a long chain with three charms on the end into her hand. She closed her fist over it, and he dropped her arm quickly and strode towards the exit. Liza called after him.
"Parker, where are you going?"
"I'm taking a break."
David furrowed his brow.
"Where? We need to make sure we can get ahold of you."
Parker spun around.
"Christ, kids, I have my phone!" He held up his cell and waved it in the air. "I'm just going out to smoke. I'll be back in ten."
He spun back around and walked to the door. Just as his hand touched the handle, Charlie called after him.
"I thought we were quitting."
Parker stood still for a moment before responding.
"So did I."
David and Liza turned around to look at Charlie, whose gaze was locked on the closed door. Her hands turned the tintype over and over, rotating it through her fingers and worrying the edges in passing.
The radio hissed to life briefly.
Charlie's brain snapped back to attention, and her gaze left the door.
"Noah. That was not okay," her voice cracked slightly on her last word. "We cannot let attacks on us slide. If this continues, we will leave. We will go away, and you won't have the chance to receive our help. Do you understand?"
"I'm sorry, Charlotte. I thought I was protecting you."
Charlie glanced down to the charms and chain in her hand, and hastily wrapped it around her wrist as a bracelet before continuing.
"How were you protecting me, Noah? You've been observing us for some time, you know we're all very friendly with each other. Parker would never hurt me."
"He is not...cordial." The voice grew angry. "You are a lady."
Liza snorted. Charlie threw her a look.
"Noah, times have changed since..." Charlie stopped herself. As unsteady footing as they were on with this entity, she wasn't positive that mentioning his death would be the safest idea. "Well...it's just...different now. Women aren't treated any differently. Or shouldn't be."
She scowled, thinking of-
Charlie looked around in bewilderment.
"So you saw how Cronholm was behaving?"
"Victor was always very ill-willed."
"You mean Vincent?"
Charlie looked puzzled. There was a long silence before Noah spoke again.
"All men should endeavor to courtesy with ladies. Especially here."
Liza glanced quickly over at her boss, alarmed.
"Noah, are you talking about what happened here? The woman who was-"
"Charlotte, I'm tired." Noah's voice, filtered over the radio, sounded slightly harsher, crackling in and out of reception. What small illumination the room had, coming from their monitors and personal lamps, began to flicker rapidly. "It is such an effort."
"If you could just try and stay with us for a moment-" Liza began.
And with a final breath from the radio, he was gone.
The lights went out.
"Are you okay?" David called urgently from where he had been staring out the window looking after Parker. "Liza? Charlie?"
"We're fine!" Charlie called back. "I think Liza just needs her nightlight."
"Oh, you're hilarious, kiddo."
"Love you, too, Liza."
The lights suddenly hummed back to life. Charlie and Liza were suddenly illuminated in the middle of the room, Liza clutching Charlie's hand urgently in both of hers. Embarrassed that David could now see her panic, she dropped Charlie's limb post-haste. There was a moment of silence, the quiet aftermath of Noah's startling appearance and just as abrupt exit.
"Well...that was different."
INVESTIGATION DAY 1 - 3:53 AM
"Liza, you were right!" Charlie stood up, file in hand, from her self-contained cuddle puddle in the midst of her blankets. She walked over to the main station where Liza was backing up their recently acquired audio files. David sat behind her, examining the video footage of Charlie and Parker being thrown apart. Liza looked up.
"I usually am, but what concession are you making this time?"
"Cute." Charlie rolled her eyes. "You were right about the building - when it was built, the original Cronholm's son was in charge of running it - Victor. He was twenty-five when the building was being made, thirty-two at the time of the murder. Even though tenant turnover was ridiculously high after the murder, he refused to close the building. They couldn't close it until his death. The building was losing money for years."
"What bull-headed individuals these Cronholms are turning out to be," Liza muttered, taking the papers from Charlie. David snorted.
As her employees looked over her findings, Charlie glanced worriedly at the main door.
"Don't you think Parker has been gone an awfully long time? I'm kinda concerned."
David and Liza shot glances at each other.
"Seriously, if you guys do that much more, I'm charging you."
"Charlie," Liza handed the file over to David. "He's upset. He probably doesn't wanna see you right now."
Chuck threw her hands in the air. "I didn't do anything!"
David looked up from the file. "Yes you did."
"You promised him certain safety measures, which when he tried to implement, had varying levels of failure. He tried to give you the pendants and got thrown across the room, after watching you get attacked. He tried to get you to stop and reconsider how things were going, and you not only ignored him, you pulled at the emotional wound he's still carrying around over you."
"What? When did I do that?"
"All I'm saying is - was touching his lip really necessary? It was a little forward."
"I just-" Charlie shut her mouth and looked pensive. "I'm screwing this up royally, aren't I?"
"A little bit," came a voice from the doorway.
The three at the table turned swiftly.
Parker was shrugging off his coat as the door closed, his long hair drenched and hanging damply against his shoulders.
"How long were you standing there?" Charlie asked faintly.
"Not long enough to hear the good stuff, apparently - that's quite an expression of horror you're sportin', kid."
He wasn't meeting her eye. Charlie tried to compose herself.
"Uh. We were-"
"Discussing our progress!" Liza interjected, standing up.
"We wouldn't happen to have been discussing this with an additional member of the party, would we?" Parker dumped his jacket on the chair by his bed and grabbed a towel out of his bag, ruffling his hair with it.
"No. Noah is gone." Charlie said shortly.
Parker took an exasperated breath.
"What a loss."
"We got a few interesting leads from him towards the end, though," Liza said with forced cheer, grabbing the file of related papers from David and walking over to Parker. David looked after her, wounded, and dropped his hands with a sigh.
Parker took the pages from Liza, still toweling his hair with one hand. Flicking his wrist, he moved on to the next page in the packet.
"Who compiled this?" Parker asked, furrowing his brow as his eyes darted over the information.
"Me," Charlie said quietly from the station.
He glanced at her dismissively.
"Good work. You got a transcript started pretty quick."
"Well, when it comes to my typist skills, I'm second to none." She smiled winningly, not a little hopeful for a chuckle at the least.
Parker looked at her stonily before returning to the file. Charlie sighed inwardly. After a moment, he looked angry.
"What does he mean, I'm not cordial?! I am a frickin' gentleman!"
"Clearly..." Liza rolled her eyes.
"He was apologizing," Charlie muttered, somewhat defensively.
"To you," Parker grumbled back, not looking up.
There was silence as he perused the rest of the file, Liza returning to the monitoring station to continue the file back-up. David continued looking through their files for information on Victor Cronholm while keeping an eye on the video feeds. Charlie, for her part, tried very hard to hide the fact she was doing nothing but watch Parker. Finally, her partner put the file down, shrugging into a hoodie and sitting back in his blankets. Charlie busied herself with twiddling a pencil as he looked over at her.
"So where does this leave us? You think he's coming back?"
"That's the hope," David said absentmindedly, handing Liza a handful of pages to add to the Victor File.
"The hope?" Parker looked at them incredulously. "I see. So there wasn't any huge surge in intelligence in the group while I was gone. Great."
"Charlie, you promised we would re-evaluate if it escalated."
Parker glared at her.
"What, so if I were to toss a woman across the room and then call her a lady, I'd be scott-free, accountability wise?"
"You have never died!" Charlotte threw her hands in the air exasperatedly. "You are not a ghost whose whims and fleeting emotions get carried out in immediate physical action! You have a level of control that Noah is no longer afforded!"
"That's one hypothesis, sure."
"Parker." David shot him a warning look. "She's being professional. She has a job, and she's trying to see it through."
Parker looked around at the stern faces aimed his way, and seemed to deflate.
"I just...don't want anyone to get hurt." He glanced at Charlie, then away.
"No one does, Parker," Liza smiled gently at him. "Now, do you want to help David and I with the technical work, or force Charlie to continue with the paper trail?"
"Uh. Chuck, I guess." Parker half-heartedly attempted a smile in her direction.
"To the trail we blaze!" Charlie pointed wildly into the air and dove into her blankets, sending herself shooting across the marble floor and colliding into Parker's carefully arranged area. Parker followed her trajectory, jaw dropping as his belongings went skidding away.
"Jesus, woman! Will I never know peace?!"
As he headed over to straighten out Chuck's mess, Liza turned on her heel and walked back to where David sat at their work station.
"You know they're just going to goof off until they fall asleep."
"I'm aware," Liza smiled. "You can take a break and get some sleep, yourself, if you'd like."
"I may just," David frowned, yawning. "Wake me up when they fall asleep. Noah seems to have calmed down, but I don't want anyone left alone."
"Don't worry. I won't stand for your unconscious abandonment."
There was silence for a moment.
"Did you get it?"
Liza quirked an eyebrow and held up the tintype.
"Thanks." David reached over and took it, examining it carefully. "Christ, how many times did she try to get rid of this thing?"
"Too many. Think you can use some of your mysterious contacts to get some readings on this thing? I don't know if I trust our equipment on its home turf, you know?"
"On it," David reached down and slipped the tintype into his briefcase. "I'll drop it with them on my off-time tomorrow. Should get the results in forty-eight hours, tops."
"Thanks, David," Liza looked worriedly over at Charlie and Parker, who were leaning against each other as they sorted more info into the files. Parker kept trying to slip Charlie more protective charms, eliciting a somewhat exasperated and violent response from his boss. "I know Charlie's in charge, but...I'm starting to suspect she's less in control than she thinks."
"That makes two of them," David laughed humorlessly.
With mutual sighs of concern, the two went back to work.
A/N: Man, writing this after reading House of Leaves makes me feel so inadequately gifted to write anything remotely creepy. If you haven't read that book, definitely give it a go. I wanted to try a new format with this chapter, which is why the note is going at the beginning. I haven't ever gotten the line breaks to work properly on here, and there's going to be a lot of jumping around in the story line, so - because they're on assignment, and keeping careful records - everything is going to be noted with time and date. That way, if I jump - you know I jump. I'd really appreciate anyone's feedback telling me how the format works, and anything that would help the reader enjoy it more. I also wanna apologize for how long it's been between updates. I'm inept at time management. Let's just say that. Thank you so much to everyone who's been reviewing! Love!