CHAPTER ONE

Dextra Barlow opened her eyes and sat up with a jolt that almost tipped her from the chair. Her heart was pounding in her ears and her face was slick with sweat. She swallowed and looked around the room until she was certain that she was alone and in a familiar place. The carpet was a deep mahogany colour a few shades darker then the furniture. Dex cast her eye over the chest of drawers, the wardrobe, the large oak door and finally the desk she had fallen asleep on. She took a deep, shaky breath and jumped when someone pounded on the door. The clock on the wall informed her that it was just gone three in the morning.

Dex pushed herself up from the desk, closed her robe and padded across the room to the door.

"Someone better be dead" she muttered. Dex pulled open the door and stared at the young man who stood there. He was shorter then Dex and slighter but he held himself with an air of quiet confidence. Bright ginger hair flowed forward around his face and soft brown eyes stared out at the world. Despite the time, Flynn Waters was dressed and ready to go. He wore a long sleeve white t-shirt with a V-neck black woollen vest over the top, blue jeans and denim trainers.

Dex groaned and leaned against the doorjamb. The last time she had gone anywhere with the Cherry Group she had ended up with a spike through her chest. Flynn had been injured too and Dr Posner was lucky that his grandparents had allowed him to stay. Mr and Mrs Domingosa had fought to take Flynn away but he was twenty eight and refused to be pushed. Even his sister, Diana, had agreed that he was better off staying. Beside from the odd migraine and rare flash of temper, he was perfectly fine.

"Good morning. Dr Posner has just taken an emergency phone call and we need to leave within the hour. We're meeting in the hall downstairs, as usual" said Flynn. Dex allowed a rare smile to flit across her face.

"Okay, Flynn. I'll get dressed and pack a bag. Any idea of how long we're away?" Flynn raised an eyebrow, turned on his heel and strode down the corridor. Dex chuckled to herself and closed her door, throwing her robe onto the four poster bed. She stretched and pulled off her pyjamas, opening the wardrobe she just pulled a few things from their hangers and stuffed them into an overnight bag. Dex zipped it shut and pulled out some fresh clothes for travelling.

Green camo trousers and vest with a white, zip up top and yellow boots. She pulled on a black leather jacket and hauled her dreadlocks back into a ponytail, they used to be light blue and were now a dark shade of midnight. Dex hissed as her shoulder complained at the sudden movement, she pulled down the top of her vest and examined the still raw looking wound in the mirror. If Dex had any family she wasn't sure how she would have explained being thrown across a cave by the skeleton of a long dead cannibal killer. She smiled a little, her life would never be boring from here on in. Dex scooped up her bag, placed a pair of blue lensed sunglasses on her nose and left the room.

Flynn hurried down the corridor and almost collided with Dawn Wood as she turned the corner. Dawn had been with Dr Posner and The Cherry Group for just over ten years. She was like a mother to them all as well as to her own son but nobody that saw her would ever think she was thirty six. Dawn Wood was a self-described Hot Mama. She was tall and willowy with skin the colour of ebony and eyes of a bright emerald green. Flynn flushed a bright red as his eyes were drawn to what seemed like acres of bare flesh. This early morning Dawn had chosen a pink, low cut vest with a pink and purple striped tie, matching tights under a black mini skirt and black PVC knee boots. Her short black hair hung in her eyes, she blew the thick pink strand aside and smiled at Flynn.

"Am I late?" Flynn tried to answer but found his voice lodged behind a slight lump in his throat and a growing one in his trousers.

"No, I've just told Dex" he managed to squeak.

"I called Roger to let him know we were off again. Can I book a holiday with you? Joseph's birthday is next month and I want to make sure I can get home for it" replied Dawn. She led the way to the top of the main staircase and smiled again. The mention of her husband and son had cooled Flynn's ardour a little and he was at least able to make a sensible answer.

"Shouldn't be a problem. Not much on the books at the moment and if anything world ending turns up we'll think real hard before calling you away." Dawn's eyes flashed with pleasure, she kissed his cheek and almost skipped down the stairs towards the rest of the assembled group.

The Cherry Group was under the guidance of Dr Adrian Posner. They were a group of psychics, all with different abilities and they were called in to help anyone that found themselves in the midst of a paranormal infestation. Dr Posner started the group after his wife died during an exorcism to rid her soul of a demonic spirit. Most of the group knew nothing about the man they followed beyond what he chose to tell them. Their last case had involved a small community being terrorised by the possible spirit of Sawney Bean, a cannibalistic killer from a fair few centuries ago. Dex and Flynn had both been injured, killed nearly and the good doctor still had nightmares about losing them.

Dex spotted the waiting group from the landing and dashed down the stairs, gritting her teeth as the movement jostled her still tender shoulder.

"So nice of you to join us." Dex ignored the voice and moved through the small crowd to lean against the wall.

"You'll get used to keeping a packed bag by your bed." Dex turned and graced Hale Redwood with a small smile.

"Reminds me of running from the bailiff" she whispered. Hale chuckled and shook his head. Dex watched him from the corner of her eye and gritted her teeth against the instinct to rip her clothes off and jump him. Hale was very tall and very broad, years of living on an almost-Indian reservation with his family had given him a healthy tan and a tasty set of muscles. He had been with Dr Posner for nine years and loved every minute of the strange world he had stepped into. Hale was a telepath and a very gifted one, Posner had heard of the young man's talents from Hale's father and offered him a place in The Cherry Group.

Dex stared at him again, a hot flush spreading across her face when he winked before turning away. She hated that he could do that to her and, almost before she could stop herself, reached out with her own gift and swatted him on the behind. Hale looked back over his shoulder, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief as his voice spoke in her head.

I owe you one for that

Hale flicked his black hair over his shoulder before pulling the heavy waves back into a ponytail. He wore a black t-shirt and jeans over yellow Caterpillar boots. The scar over his left eyes stood out a bright white against the almost toffee colour of his skin.

"Okay then everybody, let's go!" Dr Posner's voice yanked Dex back to where they were, a low chuckle floated to her ears as they headed for the door. She turned and found Max Bradley standing behind her, he moved to her side and followed the others out of Cherry House.

"I was about to ask you how you were feeling but if you're well enough to be spanking Hale I guess you're well enough to be coming with us" he said. Dex sighed and winced as the movement pained her shoulder.

"It's still tender but only when I make any sudden movements."

"I'd lay off the nookie with Hale then. I, on the other hand, am not quite so athletic and easily pleased." Dex snapped her head around to gape at the dark skinned, shaven headed doctor.

"Aren't you married?"

"Yep for many years. I wasn't making an offer, just a statement" said Max. He winked at her and boarded the Cherry Group Bus, leaving Dex to gape after him.

Max Bradley was the group doctor, Posner had taken him on eight years ago with ideas of Health and Safety but Max had been more use to them then as just a doctor. He was the ear they sometimes needed if things got too crazy and he had saved the day more than once. Max was an incorrigible flirt but he loved his wife and would never do anything to jeopardise his marriage. It was a shame in some ways, thought Dex as she watched him. Max was only a little taller than her and always dressed as if he were heading for a board room meeting. This evening, he had a white pinstripe shirt, green tie, cream trousers and white trainers. His golden eyes sparkled when he laughed and, if he hadn't been married, Dex would have gone after him the first day she had arrived.

"I think we should head straight for bed as it is 4am, we can talk properly in the morning. I have told the dining car to hold off on any food until at least midday" said Posner. The short journey was soon over and they quickly piled off the bus and onto the waiting train, another perk of The Cherry Group.

"Where are we going? Do we at least get to know that before we go to bed?" called Megan Carlsberg. Her twin brother, Kelly, nodded his agreement and they both turned their attention to Dr Posner. The old man sighed and ran a hand through the waves of his snow white hair.

"It's called Harkin's Corner."

"Never heard of it!" replied the twins. Megan scooped up her bag and flipped her shoulder length blonde hair over her shoulder. Kelly moved at the same time and they both became wedged in the doorway, neither willing to back off and let the other go first. Dex sighed and decided that this was probably why the twin's family hadn't minded them coming to Dr Posner. Kelly and Megan were the youngest in the family but their brother and sister were indulged much more than they were. Still, having twins that could see the past and the future was probably a bit disconcerting too.

Dex used her telekinesis to pull Kelly backwards, he turned and glared at her. At twenty two the twins were only two years younger than Dex but she was tired of feeling like the nasty aunt that always had to sort out their scuffles. Kelly took a voluntary step backwards, a grimace crossed his face as his brown trainers stepped into something soft that he really hoped was mud. The twins were very careful with the way they dressed too, it always seemed strange to Dex that parents dressed twins identically. Kelly wore blue jeans and a black long sleeve t shirt, his blonde hair was spiked up from his head and black square framed glassed perched on his nose. Megan's glasses were the same as her brothers, she also wore a black t shirt but her Capri pants were white and her little ballet pumps were black.

"Ladies first" said Dex, smiling at Kelly. Megan gave her brother a look of triumph but it soon faded when Dex moved her aside too and stepped on board. She hurried down the corridor to the same compartment she had been given last time, it was just big enough for two almost bunk beds and a little wash stand. Dex pushed her bag under the bottom bunk and rolled onto the little mattress, being careful not to put too much weight on her still throbbing shoulder. She closed her eyes and sighed as the warring twins passed her door.

A slight tap on the door frame made Dex open her eyes, a slight frown creased her forehead at the sight of the red haired girl standing in the doorway. She was small and slight with that pale almost translucent skin that most redheads seemed to have. Her eyes were a deep violet and there was a sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Despite the slight chill in the morning air she wore a red jumper, red and yellow checked mini skirt, matching socks and black shoes. Her hair was a huge mound of waves that cascaded down her shoulders like ringlets of fire.

"Don't you usually share with Brook?" asked Dex. Odessa Furlong smiled and pushed her own bag under the bottom bunk before swinging herself up onto the top mattress.

"Usually I do but she's really been getting to me lately and as Dr Posner doesn't want a murder on his train, she's sharing with Dawn this time" she explained. Dex laughed but she wondered what Brook had been saying. Odessa was usually so calm and even tempered. She was a psychometrist, anything she touched would give her an image or an idea of what had happened around it and most of it was bad. Four years ago Dr Posner had helped her to see that there was more to the world then all the bad stuff that continually filled her head. Odessa was usually such a positive and calm person, much like Flynn. Brook must have been pushing some serious buttons this time.

"I'm surprised even Dawn would put up with her" said Dex. Before Odessa could reply, the sound of raised voices could be heard in the corridor. Dawn appeared in the doorway, dragging a younger girl whose face was almost scarlet with rage.

"How the Hell have you put up with this little cow for this long?" growled Dawn, her greens eyes snapping with barely concealed anger. Odessa reached into her bag and held out her hand to Dawn, the older woman actually laughed as she stared down at the offered earplugs. Dawn took them and dragged Brook back into the corridor.

Dex didn't know what to make of Brook. She wasn't the youngest of The Cherry Group at nineteen but she acted like a spoilt four year old. She seemed to think that she should be running the show despite the fact that Dr Posner had a good few decades of experience on her. Brook assumed that because her daddy was one of the major financial contributors to The Cherry Group that she should have a bigger say in where they went and what they did. The first time Dex had seen her, Brook Ayres had looked like a little green pixie. Long brown hair hung down her back and a sharp cut fringe framed her elfin face and blue eyes. She had been a pain in the arse but not an all-out bitch. Apparently the colours she chose had an effect on her mood. Today was red, ballet pumps and puff ball dress with a white under shirt and lace white tights.

"Where do you think this Harkin's corner is? I don't think I could handle another island so soon" said Odessa. Dex dragged herself out of her private reverie and turned her attention back to the sixteen year old above her.

"No idea. Dr Posner knows what he's doing though" she said.

"I didn't know if you'd stay after what happened last time. It's not usually that exciting, it's normally just some kids playing pranks or a basic haunting. Things have really picked up since you came along" said Odessa with a small laugh. Dex's smile turned to a grimace as her shoulder pulled. Hopefully it wouldn't always be quite that exciting.

Doctor Adrian Posner, aged sixty seven but still handy, was sitting in his compartment staring at a pile of maps and other assorted paperwork. From the looks of things they should arrive at Harkin's corner by 3pm, another bus was already booked to pick them up from the nearest station and take them to the village. Posner's vision began to swim, he blinked his green eyes and pushed the paperwork aside to stare out at scenery that was just beginning to glow in the pale dawn light. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a photo of a pretty blonde woman in a grey suit, she was waving from the doorway of a building.

"Happy anniversary Cherry" he whispered. Posner sighed and wondered if he was doing the right thing. He hadn't wanted to be in the home that he and Cherry had shared for so many years during their anniversary, it bought back too many memories and nightmares of the night she died. Posner couldn't rid himself of the idea that he was taking his young team into danger for purely selfish reasons, this might have nothing to do with the demon that had taken his poor Cherry. Posner picked up his mug of tea and sipped, his eyes grew wide and he spat the liquid across the room. He looked down at the blood in his cup. Laughter echoed around the small room, Posner opened the window and threw the cup outside.

"Now I know I'm on the right track. You wouldn't be trying to frighten me if you weren't scared, Bealzibub" snapped Posner. With a last growl, the laughter faded. Posner allowed himself a tiny smile before switching off the light and trying to sleep for a few hours before all Hell possibly broke loose.