It was dark when Nolan came out of the library, but she was happy that she found some information. She put her headphones on and flipped her skate board to the ground and hopped on it. With one quick kick, she was on her way back to the Dancing Moon. When she got there, the “Closed” sign was posted, so she slipped around to the back door and tapped on it. Rhiannon opened it, her face animated with excitement.
“Did you find anything?” she asked.
“Yeah, just a little bit,” replied Nolan as she stepped in the door. “Is everyone else here?”
Rhiannon nodded and headed into the store area, where the girls were all seated at the round table. Ciaran nodded briskly at Nolan, who grinned back. “What is your report, Nolan?” Ciaran asked, her stylus poised over her smart phone, ready to type.
“Well, I didn’t find much, because all of Elliot Dee’s papers are locked up in the…ah… special library,” she hesitated, not sure of the wording.
Ciaran looked up from her typing alertly, her glasses reflecting in the light, giving her an owlishly intelligent air.
“You know, the one with all the old books that they don’t want grubby fingers touching?” Nolan shrugged. “Anyway, Elliot Dee was in fact a professor. His tenure started in 1921 and ended in 1932, though they didn’t say why it ended. That’s all I got.”
“Have,” corrected Ciaran abruptly. “OK. I found a little information on the internet. There’s a Dee at the college right now. A Professor Tristan Dee. He’s in the archaeology department. He graduated from the college in 1952, and started his tenure in the ’60s.” She turned to Doran and Rhiannon. “So what did you two find?”
Rhiannon carefully placed a small, dark book on the table in front of her. The title was briefly in plain view before she opened it. Her voice was hushed. “I stumbled across this book, Haunted Places in Syracuse.” Her finger traced down the page that she had opened and she began reading.
“1542 Drazek Circle: Formerly the home of Doctor Elliot Dee and wife Elsabeth Braun Dee. This site was infamous for the event that took place in 1932, when the Doctor brutally shot and murdered Mrs. Dee before turning the gun on himself. Her ghost is reputed to haunt the upstairs of her former home.”
The girls stared at each other in shock. What was once merely a game suddenly seemed more sinister and final.
“Well, we should go find this house and have a look,” stated Ciaran. “Maybe it’s been torn down or something.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Just a sec, I will tap into the cafe’s wireless and look up the address on the internet.”
The other girls were silent. Dragen, curious now, picked up the haunted house book and started flipping through it casually. “Wow. I had no idea there were so many ‘haunted’ places around here.”
Ciaran looked up irritably. “Dragen, there is no such thing as a haunted anything. That is a work of fiction, based loosely on facts.”
Dragen’s green eyes glittered with amusement. “Sure, Ciaran. Whatever you say.” She went back to the book.
After a moment, Ciaran frowned. “Well there’s no street in Syracuse by that name, but there’s a neighborhood with houses that fit the time period. Shall we start there?”
Dragen looked up from the book. “Let’s check it out now.” She stood up and tossed the book on the table. “It’s only like 9:30.”
Nolan stood up and grabbed her backpack and skate board. “I’m up for it.”
Doran nodded. “Me, too.”
“I’ll ride with Dragen,” said Rhiannon.
They all looked at Ciaran, who grimaced. “I guess I will go, too. I’ll drive, though.”
“Awesome!” exclaimed Nolan. “Let’s bail!”
Ciaran’s little white Honda pulled to a stop on the night street, dimly lit by scattered lamp posts. Nolan and Doran hopped out as soon as the car drew to a stop, boards on the ground and waiting as Ciaran looked around carefully before opening her door. She got out, then went to the trunk and fiddled around a bit.
“Ah, there it is!” she murmured triumphantly as she pulled out a long flashlight. “My maglight.”
Dragen and Rhiannon pulled up on Dragen’s dark motorcycle, the engine roaring that recognizable Harley Davidson rumble. With a flick of her wrist, Dragen turned off the engine, and gracefully hopped off the bike. Dragen pulled off her helmet and set it on the seat as Rhiannon slid off the back.
“Alright. We should split up,” said Ciaran. She pushed her glasses up absentmindedly. “We’re looking for Drazek Circle, so keep an eye out.”
Nolan grinned. “Right. Since we’ve got boards and can cover more ground, me an’ Doran will head that way and check out the farther streets.” Doran looked at Nolan and grinned back.
“Sounds good,” replied Dragen. “Ciaran and Rhiannon, you two should stick with me.”
With a nod, Nolan and Doran pushed off, heading quickly down the main street. Dragen, Ciaran and Rhiannon started walking.
Nolan was happy to be moving again. All that sitting around was so boring. As she glided past the streets, she glanced at the old signs. Nothing like Drazek, she thought to herself. Up ahead, she saw Rhiannon standing beneath a light post waving at them. When they were closer, Nolan could see that Rhiannon was smiling.
“We found it!” she said, voice low. “It was renamed Dragon Circle!” She turned and walked quickly to the nearby street, Nolan and Doran gliding effortlessly behind her.
Dragen and Ciaran were standing just off the old road, barely paved, looking at an old house. Rhiannon, Doran and Nolan joined them. They all stared at it quietly.
“Well, someone lives there,” said Doran, studying the house with the experienced eye of the homeless.
“What do you mean?” asked Rhiannon. “It’s all broken down.”
Doran shrugged. “The plants are overgrown, but the grass is cut. No mail or newspapers lying around, and no trash.” She pointed to the driveway. “There’s a car in the garage, too.”
They stood in silence for a moment.
“Maybe we should go up and knock on the door,” said Nolan.
“Ugh! And say what?” snapped Ciaran.
“Hi, we’re looking for ghosts. Have you seen any?” quipped Dragen.
Suddenly, Rhiannon gasped. “There’s a man in those bushes watching us,” she hissed.
The girls spun around just in time to see a dark haired man fade into the bramble. Dragen let out a low growl and broke into a run. “Jerk!” she muttered, feeling for her sais, comfortably sheathed in her leather sleeves. She could hear the other girls close behind her… or rather Nolan close behind her and the others following more slowly.
The two girls screeched to a halt at the bushes, realizing that it was basically impassable. “How the devil did he get through this?” Dragen demanded.
Nolan and Dragen looked around carefully, while the other girls caught up. “Ah! Through here,” snapped Dragen, dropping to all fours. “He musta crawled through this mess.” She scrambled forward, still angry. “I’m gonna have some words with him!”
Just as she lept forward to crawl after Dragen, a tiny glint of metal caught Nolan’s eye. She paused, and snatched it up. “Hm. A pin?” she muttered, then stuffed it in her pocket.
Rhiannon, Ciaran and Doran were already following Dragen, so Nolan took up the rear. She crawled across the rocks and dirt, ignoring the grasping brambles around her as they pulled at her t-shirt and scratched her forearms. When she emerged, the other girls were standing on the narrow bank of a creek.
“Ow! That was retarded. Why did we crawl through the bushes?” demanded Ciaran. “I may have broken something!” Suddenly concerned, she started going through her hip pouch and pockets, carefully checking all her gadgets.
Rhiannon was absently rubbing her arms and looking around, her auburn hair catching a bit of the reflected moonlight. Doran stopped just past the path and was looking around, wide-eyed. Dragen stood just ahead of the rest, scanning the bushes around the small creek and cursing under her breath.
“Dammit! I lost him!”
“Something seems funky,” muttered Doran uneasily. “I don’t like this.”
Rhiannon’s meandering gaze stopped at a point downstream and she stiffened. “What is that?” Her finger pointed to a shape in the creek.
Doran shivered and backed up, halfway into the shrubs. “I really don’t like this,” she repeated in a low voice as the other girls went forward to investigate.
“Ugh,” said Ciaran as she eyed what apparently was rear half of a corpse of a dog. “It looks like it was torn in half!” Her flashlight glided over the corpse, pausing at the bloodied end. She shuffled around in her belt pouch, then the pockets of her overalls.
“Here, hold this,” she commanded, passing the flashlight over to Rhiannon. “I’m going to take a sample.” One hand held a Ziploc bag, the other held long tweezers.
As Ciaran bent over the corpse, Nolan looked back at Doran, who was scanning the trees with wide eyes.
Nolan walked over to her. “You alright?”
Doran’s eyes jerked back to Nolan. “No!” She went back to scanning, her thin body tense, ready to leap in any direction. “Something is wrong here. Can’t you tell?” Her voice was almost shrill.
“Dude.” Nolan touched Doran’s arm. “Take a deep breath. You’re freaking me out.”
Doran paused a moment and closed her eyes, breathing deeply. “I am freaked out,” she whispered shakily. “I trust my gut and it’s screaming ‘Get out of here!’”
“AH!” exclaimed Dragen. “Found his trail. He went upstream.” She turned towards the other girls. “Leave that thing there. Nothing we can do about it,” she said, gesturing at the mutilated corpse.
Ciaran looked up from her investigations and frowned at Dragen. “This could be important!” she snapped. “It looks like it was ripped in half!”
Rhiannon shrugged sadly, looking down at the animal. “Poor thing.” She touched Ciaran’s shoulder. “Let’s go.” Ciaran sighed heavily and put her tools and tissue sample away, then stood up.
They moved to follow Dragen, who was already purposefully striding upstream. Nolan watched Rhiannon walk by, then turned back to Doran who was shaking her head.
“I don’t wanna go that way,” she muttered. “I got a bad feeling about this.”
Nolan shrugged. “Yeah, but we shouldn’t be by ourselves.” She smiled wryly at Doran. “Let’s go.”
Doran took a deep, shaky breath and nodded. “Ok. But something is not right here.”
The girls went upstream until the brush broke at a small, open back yard.
“Hm,” said Dragen quietly. “That’s the Dee house.”
They stood quietly, staring at the old Victorian home, it’s back porch clear of clutter, the dark windows almost menacing. Nolan shrugged. “So where did the guy go?” she asked, looking around.
Dragen frowned. “I don’t know. Lost his trail,” she replied, voice low.
“We need to leave now!” exclaimed Doran suddenly. She was shifting from foot to foot, obviously ready to bolt, eyes wide with a fright that was almost terror.
“What is up with you?” demanded Dragen. “Chill out!”
“Ew!” exclaimed Ciaran. “What the heck is th….” Her voice trailed off as she looked up at the shadowy branches above her, one hand touching a dark, streaky stain on her shoulder. “Well,” she said matter of factly, “I found the other half.”
All the girls looked up, eyes wide. Nolan had a firm hold on Doran, who was pulling away to run. Sure enough, high in the branches of the tree, the other half of the mutilated dog hung, its blood blackened by night, leaving shining wet streaks on the leaves below as the blood dripped slowly down.
“Let’s get out of here,” whispered Doran. “Please.”
Nolan nodded. “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.”
The girls slowly retraced their steps back to the creek and up the brushy bank. When they arrived at the top, they paused again in front of the house.
“Well,” said Dragen. “I have an idea as to how we can get in the Dee house.” All the girls turned towards her.
“Yeah?” Ciaran was skeptical.
Dragen glanced at Ciaran, an eyebrow raised. “Yeah. I have ideas every now and then.” She smiled. “This one will work, too, to at least get us inside.”
She paused. “Funny thing is, it’s mostly the truth.” Her even white teeth flashed in a grin. “We can tell the owner that we found a mutilated dog corpse in his back yard and we need to borrow his phone to call animal control.”
The girls looked at each other, then Nolan nodded slowly. “Ok. I think it’s a good idea.” She paused. “And no one else has a better one, so I vote we do it.”
Doran, much calmer now, nodded. “Yeah, sounds fine.”
They walked towards the house slowly. Nolan grinned mischievously and slid a sly glance over at her dark haired roommate. “Hey, Ciaran, don’t you have some gadget that reads ectoplasm levels or something? You know, like Egon in Ghost Busters.”
“Oh! Yeah,” smiled Rhiannon. “That thing with the little blinky wings that came up when it detected paranormal activities!”
Ciaran looked at them in disgust and snorted derisively. “No.” Her voice was flat. “I’m a scientist, not a quack.”
They arrived at the door and fell silent. Dragen knocked with three quick raps. They waited, and after a moment, heard shuffling steps and then the sharp click of a lock turning. The door slowly opened, and an elderly man stood looking at them questioningly. “Yes?”
“Sir,” began Dragen respectfully, “we were back at the creek behind your house doing some research for our school when we found the corpse of an animal. We thought we should notify you, and also ask if we could borrow your phone to contact animal control?”
The man studied each of them, then said slowly, “I will inform the Master. One moment, please.” He took a step back and quietly closed the door.
The Master? Doran mouthed, clearly puzzled. Nolan shrugged.
“I dunno,” she muttered under her breath. “This place is weird.”
A few minutes later the door opened again. The elderly gentleman stood there, holding the door. “Please come in. The Master said you may use his telephone.”
The girls stepped into a Victorian foyer, with a mirror and stand along one wall, and a credenza along the other. The man looked at the girls. “I am Anton. Who will be calling?”
Ciaran stepped up impatiently. “I’ll call,” she stated.
Anton glanced at her. “Very well. Please follow me.” He looked at the other girls. “The rest of you will please wait here.” He stepped down the hallway and into a room with Ciaran close behind him.
Doran stood close to the door while Rhiannon and Dragen chatted quietly. Nolan looked around curiously. There were several little boxes on the stand in front of the mirror. One box, a dark wooden box with gold inlay, caught her eye and she opened it. A chill ran down her back as she looked at the tiny baby teeth that were piled inside. Baby teeth?! She closed the lid gently and stepped back.
After a moment, Ciaran returned with Anton quietly walking behind her. Just as she reached the other girls, she turned to him. “I’m sorry. Can I borrow your restroom before we leave?” Her voice was anxious.
“Certainly. This way, please.” He turned back to the hallway, again leading Ciaran away.
The girls looked at each other, confused. Nolan shrugged, and they waited in the foyer. Several minutes later, Nolan heard a crash coming from the back. “Ciaran?” She darted quickly down the hall.
Anton stood next to a door, a surprised and worried frown wrinkling his face. “This is the restroom,” he said, pointing at the door.
Nolan knocked sharply. “Hey, Ciaran! Are you alright?” She checked the doorknob. Locked.
After a moment, Nolan heard a slight shuffling, and Ciaran opened the door. She leaned heavily against the door frame. “I’m feeling a bit dizzy,” Ciaran muttered. Nolan grabbed her and looked at Anton in alarm. He returned her look, wide eyed.
“Let me show you to the sitting room.” He led Nolan, who was supporting Ciaran, to a very Victorian sitting room where a fire flickered in the fire place and warmly lit the dark room. Nolan slowly made her way over to an elegant lounge, bearing most of Ciaran’s weight, and propped Ciaran on it. Ciaran was muttering deliriously.
Anton stepped out, and led the other girls to the room. “I’ll inform the Master that you will be staying a bit longer.” He disappeared into the hallway as the girls stood and stared at Ciaran.
“What the hell happened to her?” Dragen demanded.
Nolan shrugged, worried. “I dunno. Looks like she’s tripping, though.”
Ciaran looked at the empty doorway, pupils dilated and black. “I’m sorry,” she whispered disjointedly, “I can’t hear you. Black clouds and…. teeth…. behind you! You must be careful.”
“What the hell!” snapped Dragen.
Rhiannon knelt in front of Ciaran. “Look at me, hon.” She lifted a hand and gently turned Ciaran’s face to her own and looked carefully into Ciaran’s dark eyes. “Who are you talking to?”
Ciaran’s head wobbled a little as she looked at Rhiannon. “The lady, of course… in the hall… she said find the book…” Her whisper died and her eyes widened as they focused on the fireplace past Rhiannon’s shoulder. “Babies in the fire!” she stammered. “So many babies burning…” She curled up on the lounge, whimpering and shivering.
Rhiannon looked up, worried. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her!”
Doran nodded, eyebrows furrowed. “It’s like she’s on a bad trip or something.” Nolan nodded in agreement.
Dragen stood near the doorway, quietly watching for the butler. She stiffened, and quickly walked back to the group. “He’s coming back,” she said quietly. “Shut her up.”
Rhiannon moved up and sat next to Ciaran, gently running her fingers through Ciaran’s short, dark hair. “Shhh,” she whispered quietly. “It’ll be ok.”
Anton stood in the doorway. “Here, give her this.” He held out a glass with dark liquid in it. “It’s tea, and should help calm her.” In his other hand he held a thermos. “This is some more to take with you.”
Nolan took both from him and gave the glass to Rhiannon, who slowly helped Ciaran drink it. After a moment, Rhiannon looked up. “We should get her home.” She gave Anton a worried smile. “Thank you so much for your hospitality.”
The elderly man nodded. “It was the Master’s pleasure,” he said solemnly.
Nolan bent over and helped Ciaran stand. Rhiannon swiftly stepped to the other side of Ciaran, both girls supporting her and helping her walk. “I can… walk…” Ciaran muttered, straightening.
“Yeah, I know,” answered Rhiannon as she held Ciaran’s elbow.
They paused on the front porch, and Dragen looked back at Anton. “Thanks again for your help, Anton.” He nodded briefly, then quietly shut the door.
The girls made their way back to Ciaran’s car. Carefully, the laid her in the back seat, and Rhiannon climbed in next to her.
“Guess I’ll drive,” muttered Nolan, quickly rifling through Ciaran’s pockets for the keys.
Doran looked in the back seat at Ciaran. “Do you think she’ll sleep it off?” she asked, worried.
“I dunno,” said Nolan.
Rhiannon looked up. “I think so, but I’m not sure. She seems to be getting better already.”
As the car slid through the streets, Ciaran quieted and slowly drifted into a deep sleep. They stopped in front of the book store and Rhiannon looked up. “I think I’ll head home. Call me if she gets worse.”
“Ok,” Nolan nodded. “Doran will help me get her up to our room.”