"Misplaced Guilt"



'Part Two' of episode "The Beast in Black" where we ask the question: What if that evil spirit Sheila Redman had her revenge at the end by 'killing' two birds at one stone?

We're taking off where Ralph took a possessed Bill back to the fourth dimension to get rid of Sheila.

"The suit doesn't work in here," Evil spirit Sheila Redman crowed.. "Doesn't that worry you? It should."

Ralph took the keys from out of Bill's pocket and worked the cuffs while Sheila tried to stop him with her telekinesis powers.

"You can't protect him in here. You can't even protect yourself. You should have let me go. I begged you and I never begged for anything in my life."

"You have no life!" Ralph snarled. "You're dead! And you're going to stay that way. Bill was your last chance. And when this house goes, you go with it."

"Then you will too," she threatened, sending things crashing onto Ralph's head. She then pounced on him, pummelling his chest and back, trying to prevent him from returning to the other side.

Ralph managed to push her aside and focused his attention on hauling Bill into a wheelchair. As he pulled the agent to his feet, the beast came back with a vengeance, violently slicing Ralph's back with all the energy and intensity it could muster. Wailing and writhing in agony on the floor Ralph was slowly losing the battle to the ethereal enemy when Bill, still wobbling on his feet, dazedly pulled out a gun from his holster and stared at it in his hand.

"Kill him," Sheila ordered. "KILL HIM!"

In a trancelike state, Bill continued to gaze at the weapon, as his mind attempted to fence off the evil spirit's potent hypnotic suggestion. Sheila had drained him of his physical and mental strength when she possessed his body and he knew she had the upper hand in this match. Still he struggled against her formidable power, his subconscious refusing to do her bidding.

"I said, KILL HIM!" she hurled, her voice commanding and unwavering.

Bill watched helplessly as Ralph summoned his last ounce of energy to punch the beast into oblivion. Panting and wheezing, Ralph took a short breather before teetering to his feet. He lifted his eyes up to stare at the end of Bill's revolver pointed straight at him.

"Bill, don't do this. Fight her!" Ralph begged, hoping to sever the hold the evil spirit had on his friend. Bill could not shoot him once before and he knew he could fight the hypnotic suggestion now. "You're stronger than her."

Bill stood stoically, frozen with dread, with the gun aimed at Ralph's chest. "I...I... ca...can't."

"Yes you can!" Ralph insisted, slowly itching his way toward Bill. "Give me the gun," he asked calmly, holding out his hand.

"Get out of the way, Kid. I can't hold on much longer."

Ralph ignored Bill's plea for there was no doubt in his mind that he wouldn't be hypnotized into killing him.

As Ralph drew closer, Bill's hand shook violently. Seconds later a shot was heard. Then a second rent the air. Bill opened his eyes and set them on the figure standing stock-still before him. "Ralph?" he asked timidly, staring into a shell of a man whose glazed eyes took on a faraway look. "My God, Kid. What...Ralph say something."

"B.....i...ill," was all that Ralph could feebly stutter before he collapsed onto the floor.

No sooner had Bill grasped at the reality of the moment all that he dove to his knees to check his friend's injuries. Finding none at first glance, he frantically grabbed a hold of Ralph's shoulders and pulled the listless body towards him. He then hauled his friend up like a weighty sack of potatoes and unceremoniously swung him over his shoulders.

"He's dead Bill. You killed him!" Sheila's gloating taunted him, ripping at his heart as he hurried through the brick wall and out to safety. "You'll be back!" she continued to scoff. "You belong with me now."

Bill struggled to turn a deaf ear to her sneers, focusing on getting his friend out of this nightmarish dimension.

Thanks to Ralph's suit, the two men easily whooshed out the wall. Bill gingerly laid the inert form on the floor and gave the body a quick once-over to locate the entry wounds, which surprisingly he could not find. The suit was intact. No puncture marks, holes or anything. He took off his jacket and balled it up to use as a soft pillow behind Ralph's head. He pressed two fingers against the jugular to check for a pulse.

"Come on, Kid. Don't do this. Gimme a sign, here." as he frantically searched for the tinniest of beat to indicate a sign of life, his eyes roamed over Ralph's body, seeking the entry wounds he knew had to show.

"No, I'm not giving up on you, Kiddo. You breathe now, ya hear me? Breathe dammit!" Bill commanded pleadingly, straightening Ralph's legs and pulling the jacket from underneath the head to stabilize his neck as he began applying CPR.

"Ralph, ya gotta help me here, Kid. You need to suck in that breath for Uncle Bill," he instructed fretfully as he frantically continued to press on the flat chest.

"He can't do this to me, to the Counsellor, to the kids. He just can't," he repeated breathlessly until he was rewarded with a faint breath. "That's it!" Bill exulted, glueing his ear to Ralph's chest to drink in the sound of life. "Yes!" He chuckled nervously. "I knew you could do it, Kid."

As he peeled his ear off the chest his elation turned to horror as he noticed two bright red stains slowly permeating the suit. "What the...?" Bill quickly pulled the tunic off Ralph's chest to reveal two angry bullet wounds violently oozing blood among deep bloody gashes caused by the beast. One located in the upper chest and the second found in abdomen. "Crap!" Bill cursed, removing the suit's belt and then tearing at his shirt to create makeshift bandages to stem the haemorrhages from underneath the tunic. "Those suckers were hiding in there. Dammit it!" he swore as he tried to fathom how the bullets could have broken through the suit without tearing the fabric.

"Paramedics, I need to call the paramedics," he chastised himself for wasting precious time trying to explain the unexplainable. After securing all the dressings, he staggered to his feet and went to the phone but much to his dismay, the line was dead. Before he could cuss his misfortune and pump his level of adrenalin a notch higher, he heard voices wafting from outside. In a flash of lightning, he dashed outside.

"Hey! Hey you two over there!" he hailed to the two construction workers getting ready to level the old house to the ground.

"What are you doing here, mister? Didn't you see the sign?" he pointed crossly. "The house is condemned. We've come to bulldoze it."

"Bill Maxwell, F.B.I.," he stated matter-of-factly flashing his badge, showing up front who's boss. "I've got an emergency situation here. Do you have a radio or any phone of the kind?"

"Yeah we do, why?" asked one of the men.

"I've got a friend in here with three holes in him. He's losing a tremendous amount of blood. I need to get him to the hospital."

The two workers nodded in unison. One got on the radio to call an ambulance while the other followed Bill inside the house.

"What happened?" The worker asked upon laying his eyes on the unconscious man.

"He...he got shot." Bill faltered as it suddenly dawned on him that he lacked a plausible explanation for the incident.

"Shot? By whom? What's he doing in this getup?"

"Ahhhhh... costume party," Bill cobbled together. "We were the last ones to leave. Well actually us and the guy that poked three slugs in him."

"Was he drunk or what?"

"It's a long story, Kiddo. I haven't got time to sort out the details. The main thing here is to keep the holes from oozing blood.

Bill tore another piece of cloth off his shirt and handed it to the worker. "Here, take this and apply pressure to the gut wound."

The young man nervously followed instructions with an unsteady hand while Bill focused on the chest wound. He glanced up at Ralph's face and winced inwardly at the ashen complexion and cyanosed lips, ominous signs that his friend was knocking on death's door.

"He doesn't look good, Mister," the worker observed, the comment causing Bill to grunt his frustration.

"What do you expect?" Bill snapped, his temper uncontrollably flaring up. "He took three slugs. There's bound to be some color loss, that's why we can't let anymore blood seep out. He'll be all right."

"The ambulance's on its way," announced the second worker as he came rushing into house with a blanket. "How's he doing?"

His partner threw him a dismal look and shook his head.

"He's a bit messed up now but he'll bounce back just fine." The firm statement mainly aimed at convincing himself than the two strangers.

"Here, put this on him," the man handed the blanket to Bill who mantled Ralph's upper chest with it.

It wasn't long before ambulance sirens were heard in the distance, the sound bringing a smile to Bill's lips. "Good," he breathed out in relief. "Hang on, Kid. The medics are here. They'll fix you up."

Bill insisted on riding in the back of the ambulance where he kept a watchful eye on the medic's every move made to help Ralph keep his head above water until they reached the hospital. His breathing worked in sync with Ralph's own, shallow and rapid. Every so often he would draw in a deep breath as if to insufflate it into his friend's, all the while clutching in his hands the precious red suit that had been removed in the ambulance.

A ten-minute ride felt like a lifetime to Bill whose heart stopped along with Ralph's at some point. Luckily, the medic was successful at shocking the ticker back to life, but for how long?

The agent followed the gurney being wheeled into the emergency room where a brawny nurse stopped him at the door and forbade him to enter.

"I'm sorry sir, that's as far as you can go. Let the doctors work on him and we'll let you know how he is."

Dismissing the woman's stringent instructions, Bill tried to rudely shove her aside to gain access to the ER but he was no match for her. "Sir, I SAID you can't go in there!" she lashed out, snapping Bill back to attention. "Please, go wait in the waiting room. The doctor will be with you when he's done with your friend."

Sensing himself teetering on the brink of insanity Bill garnered all of his might to avoid venting his rancor through a fist in the wall. He sucked in a few deep cleansing breaths before making his way to the waiting room where he sat on the sofa, head in hands in complete prostration.

"The Counselor. I need to call Davidson." With a heart pounding out of his chest he jumped to his feet and hurried toward the nurse's station. "Euh excuse me, could I borrow your phone for a sec? I need to call someone. It's an emergency."

The nurse obliged and presented him with a phone. With a shaky hand Bill started dialing Pam's

home when he suddenly realized he had drawn a blank. He squeezed his eyes shut in frustration. "Damn, what's her number? Come on Billy boy, think! Think!" he scolded himself until it popped back into mind. He dialed the complete number and twitchily waited for her to answer.

"Counselor? It's Bill."

"Bill, hi! Is Ralph with you?"

"In a way."

"Let me talk to him. I need to ask him about the dinner tonight."

"Euh...well you see...he...well he can't right now," he stammered with a light sniffle.

"What do you mean?" a silence ensued, pricking her curiosity. "Bill? What are two up to?" Another long pause broken by a muffled sob caused her heart to jump down her throat. "My God Bill, what's wrong? Something happened to Ralph? Please tell me. Is he all right? Bill talk to me," she gasped in a single breath.

"You'd better come to the hospital right away. It's liable to be a long night."

"Bill please," she whimpered, "please tell me, how is he?"

"Just come," was all that Bill answered and hung up before Pam could query him any further. With his mental strength waning by the minute, he couldn't handle the onslaught of questions thrown at him over the phone.

He heaved a heavy sigh of despair and returned to the waiting room.

Less than forty minutes later, Pam showed up at the entrance and hysterically searched for Bill. She found him lying on the couch, hands tightly clutching the balled up suit to his chest, glazed eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. Never had she seen Bill Maxwell in such a vulnerable state. The once self-assertive indomitable FBI agent had turned into a beaten and helpless child. The sight of him all crumpled told her plenty on the condition of her beloved.

"Bill!" she cried out as she rushed toward him. "Bill, tell me. How is he?"

With a heavy nod of the head he beckoned her to sit beside him. He put the suit aside and swung his legs on the floor. He paused before turning to her with a gloomy expression.

"Oh my God...no!" she wailed. "No, he can't be. He just can't. Wasn't he wearing the suit?"

Bill ran his hand over his face to iron out the wrinkles in his features carved the moment he pulled the trigger on his best friend. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath before speaking solemnly.

"First of all Counselor, the Kid's not dead. At least he wasn't when they wheeled him in the ER."

Pam puffed out the heaviest sigh of relief and gave silent thanks to the heavens above for that bit of good news. "Thank God," she sobbed. "Bill, tell me please. What happened?"

"Ahhh, euh....did...did Ralph ever mention to you a condemned house that we combed for items to salvage?"

"Yes he did as a matter of fact."

"Did he tell you what the jammies enabled him to do?"

"What are you talking about? Enable him to do what?"

"Oh boy."

"Bill, tell me! Is that where Ralph got hurt?"

Bill raked his fingers though his hair and closed his eyes to summon strength. "Ok now I need you to bear with me. I'll gen you up on what happened but just...just let me cross that finish line because the old geezer's legs are still wobbly and if you stop me I'm liable to trip and keel over, so don't interrupt until I'm good and finished, okay?"

"Okay Bill. You're scaring the living daylights out of me but okay...I won't interrupt."

He heaved himself out of the couch and began pacing the floor, nervously wringing his sweaty hands until the knuckles turned white. The stinging pain finally compelled him to shove his hands into his pockets instead.

"The suit gave Ralph the power to see through the fourth dimension."

"What?" Bill held a hand up as a reminder of her promise not to interrupt. "Sorry, go ahead."

Bill struggled to keep his emotions in check as he related the story of the evil spirit that possessed him and how she impelled him to shoot Ralph.

"Bill, it wasn't your fault. She had a hold on you. You didn't pull that trigger, she did," Pam tried to reason with the despondent man. "She's the one who did it Bill, not you."

Bill gnarled his teeth and clenched his fists as he felt a wave of rage wash over him. "I had the gun in hand," he groaned, pursing his lips to keep the flood of wrath from pouring all over Pam. "I could have stopped her. We're trained not to give in to hypnotic suggestions and it is a known study that nobody, but NOBODY," he emphasized, "can prompt you to pull the trigger on a pal and you know I'd do anything to protect the Kid. I'd die if I knew he'd be safe," he said with a voice cracking with emotions.

"Yes I know, Bill," she said with compassion. "But this was different. It was no ordinary hypnosis. This was an unearthly phenomenon. We have no control over what is surreal." She stood from the couch and walked over to Bill. "Bill, you are not to blame for your actions," she stressed with a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "Do you hear me? You are not the one who pulled the trigger on Ralph, she did."

"Oh what would you know? You weren't there!" Bill snapped, causing Pam to shrink back in shock. Bill drew in a deep breath and huffed out the last chunk of anger to adopt a softer tone, "I'm sorry, Counselor. I shouldn't have sprung at you like that."

"Don't apologize. This is bigger than all of us and we'll deal with it."

Bill turned to her with apologetic eyes and a strained smile. He then nodded and clasped Pam in his arms. "You know you all right for a skirt."

With eyes pooling with tears, Pam snivelled, "Gee Bill, you always did have a way with words."

The next four hours proved to be excruciatingly agonizing with Pam checking her watch every ten minutes while Bill was guzzling down litres of coffee to keep alert. Police officers had him in their crosshairs as the main suspect, but he had managed to untangle himself from their mesh by weaving a web of his own. However thin it was, the police bought his story of a party bump in a drunken stupor that took shots at the innocent victim.

"Bill, it's been over four hours. Something's not right."

"Don't go ballistic on me, Counselor. They're making sure that all the holes are patched up that's all. Here, have some coffee," he offered dazedly with a cup in his hand.

"No thanks. You should really cut down on your own consumption Bill. You're a walking zombie."

"Yeah well, I need my wits about me and this is the stuff that'll do it." He stared down at his full cup of coffee with a look of disgust and cringed. "Ahhhh who am I kidding? You're right, I need to sober up too." He tossed the cup in the garbage bin and rubbed his strained eyes. "What time is it?"

"It's nearly five. We should have heard something by now."

Bill agreed that word of Ralph's condition should have come by now. He clasped Pam's hand and pulled her to the nurse's station.

"Euh excuse me ladies, know me? Bill Maxwell? Came in with the frizzy blond with two slugs in him. Got rushed to the ER and I was wondering if news came through that he was doing okay or what..."

"I'm sorry Mr. Maxwell, only the doctor can tell and he's still in surgery. It shouldn't be too long now."

"Yeah, that's what you said two hours ago," Bill's smirk stung the young nurse who shot him a withering look in reply, one that he heedlessly dismissed.

"Look!" Pam excitedly pointed at a man clad in a surgical gear. "Maybe that's him."

Both quickened the pace toward the visibly exhausted surgeon. He lazily removed his cap and focused on the two figures hurrying down the hall. "You Bill Maxwell? You here for Ralph Hinkley?"

"Yeah, yeah I am. And this here is Pamela Davidson. She's his fiancée. Tell me Doc, how's the Kid doing?"

The doctor laid a friendly hand on Bill's shoulder and with a weak smile beckoned the two to follow him to the waiting room.

"Doc, level with me," Bill stressed, his level of adrenalin reaching an explosive peak. "Is he okay? I mean he's gonna make it, right?"

"Sit down Mister Maxwell. You too Miss Davidson."

"Oh God! It's bad isn't it?" Pam quavered with a shivering hand over her mouth.

"Right now he's critical and we're having a tough time stabilizing his condition. He suffered two cardiac arrests during surgery," eyes bulged out at the news, " but," he quickly added, raising a hand to appease the tension, "we managed to shock him back before he could suffer any oxygen deprivation to the brain."

A wave of relief washed over the two worried souls for a brief instant before the doctor returned on a more sombre tone.

"The bullet that penetrated the intestinal track did some damage but it's not fatal. We managed to stem the haemorrhage and get the bleeding under control. The third bullet however lodged itself inside the heart."

"WHAT?" Bill and Pam exclaimed in unison.

"You said... in the heart?" Bill repeated in slow motion, numbed as though he had suffered an aneurysm at the news.

"Understand that it embedded itself in the muscle. It didn't tear through the heart. It plugged its own hole thus preventing the blood from seeping out, which in essence saved him from instant death. We were able to remove it by doing a by-pass, but I don't have to tell you that the damage is done."

"What...what...what does that mean, the damage is done?" Bill queried in a catatonic stupor.

"We have to wait to see how he responds to the surgery. This is a crucial stage. The next twenty-four hours will tell. At the moment I estimate that he has a forty-sixty per cent chance of survival."

The grim prognosis opened the floodgate to Pam's emotions and she burst into tears. Bill wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her to his chest, resting his chin against the top of her head.

"We will monitor his vital signs every fifteen minutes and notify you of any changes in his condition." He laid a hand on the grieving woman and spoke on an emboldening tone, "Please know that we are doing all that is humanly possible to keep him alive."

Pam sniffed back her tears and nodded. "I know, Doctor."

"He's in good hands."

"May...may we see him?" she asked timidly with pleading eyes.

The doctor acquiesced to her request with an obliging smile. "Sure. You can go for five minutes. He's in ICU. I'll show you to his room."

Still clinging to Bill for support, Pam followed the doctor down the hall to the room in question. When they arrived at the door, Bill hesitated.

"Bill, what's the matter?" she asked, puzzled by his sudden retreat.

"You...you go in Counsellor, I'll wait for you out here," he said, his voice faltering at the emotions overwhelming him.

"You can both go, but don't stay long," the doctor chimed in.

"No it's okay I...well...I...I'm not ready to see him just yet. I'll be along in a while just not right now," Bill babbled, unable to phrase it together properly.

"Bill," Pam hailed, reaching to clasp his hand. "Please don't stray too far. I'm going to need you."

"Don't you worry, I won't. Now you go and tell the Kid to fight this. And be stern or he won't listen. You know how pigheaded he can be?" he instructed with a contrived grin before placing a soft kiss on Pam's forehead. "You go ahead now."

She slowly let loose of his hand and turned to enter the ICU unit. No sooner had she disappeared inside that he dropped the mask and allow the despondency to chisel his features with deep wrinkles of worry. Heaving a shuddering sigh he turned on his heels and aimlessly wandered down the hall.

As he turned a corner he was mysteriously drawn to a room, which door was ajar. He risked a peek inside to realize it was a small chapel. With no one in sight he slowly pushed the door open and entered, scanning his surroundings carefully before choosing to sit in the front pew. A few seconds passed before he wavered whether to kneel, as he was not a religious man. He thought of the Kid fighting for his life and dropped to his knees.

"Ah God, I don't know if you're listening here. I wouldn't blame you if you turned a deaf ear to anything ole Billy boy had to say coz...well...as you know I'm not too big with that stuff, you know church, prayers and all that jazz. Maybe it creeps me out coz I don't understand much of it, never did."

He paused to regain a bit of composure and continued to pour his heart on his sleeve, "Guess you saw what happened back there? I sh...I shot my best friend. Ya heard me, I shot him point blank, no blinking no nothing. I just aimed and pulled the trigger." He hung his head to conceal the tears flooding his eyes. "You've got to believe me that...well...I had no control. She...she forced me. I couldn't stop her. I should have. I should have," he scolded himself with clenched teeth and fists of fury. His bottom lip trembled uncontrollably and held a hand to his eyes in an attempt to keep his emotions at bay.

"Look at me, I'm a mess. God I love this Kid. Please I beg of you and I never begged for anything in my life, keep him afloat. I don't care what you do to me, if we have to make a trade or what, I'm game." He quickly wiped the tears escaping the corner of his eyes before they pearled onto his cheeks. "Don't welcome him through the pearly gates just yet. It's not his time. He's got a job to do here. He's needed more than you can possibly know." He lowered his eyes and smiled to himself.

"I need him. He's grown on me. I can't shake him loose nor do I want to. He's my rock, my best pal, my...Kid. So as a favour I ask that you spare his life. I know being a heathen and all doesn't give me the right to tell you how to run your business up there but...I promise that if you grant that Kid a second wind I swear I'll do your biddings. I'll be your humble servant. I'll change...you'll see a whole new Bill Maxwell."

With one cleansing breath and a sniffle, Bill stared at the cross and prayed inwardly. So engrossed in his thoughts was he that he didn't hear the sound of padded steps approaching.

"Bill," Pam whispered.

"Counselor?!" he exclaimed in utter surprise. "How long have you been here?"

"I just came in and saw you. I wanted to tell you that...well you can go and see him now if you're ready."

He clasped her hand and squeezed it and without meeting her eyes, he asked chokingly, "How is he?"

"He's hooked up to all those machines with tubes coming in and out of him," she described grimly, rendering Bill nauseous, "but he's still with us, breathing. He looks peaceful actually."

Bill distractedly clenched and unclenched his hand, causing Pam to wince in pain. "Bill, my hand."

"Sorry. Did you give him an earful of instructions to follow? Number one he has to keep breathing. That's his main job right now."

Pam smiled, "I think he got the message loud and clear, Bill. I was stern just like you asked."

"Good, soldier!" He stood assertively and pretended to rub the strain out of his eyes but his actions didn't fool Pam as to what he was truly removing. "Guess it's my turn to march in there and serve him his orders."

"You go, Corporal!" she teased. "He listens to you."

"He'd better." On a more softly tone, "He needs to know who's boss."

"He wouldn't have it any other way."

She escorted him to the ICU unit and parted ways at the door, giving Bill a light shove inside before leaving for the waiting room where she sat, waiting for Bill to end his visit.

Bill edged up to the patient's bed with a faltering step, his heart beating down his throat at the sight of the pallid face barely visible underneath the iron lung taped to Ralph's mouth. The sight of the various tubes sticking out of his body twisted his gut in knots, sending him into the throes of mental agony. He briefly looked away as he tried to muster up the courage to near the bed and stare down at the listless form that was once his vibrant partner.

"Oh God what did I do to you?" With a shuddering sigh he let his dewy eyes roam over the patient's body, taking in the many apparatuses before he seated himself in a nearby chair. "I have no words, Kid. 'I'm sorry' sounds so plain," he lamented, choking back the tears threatening to overcome him. "Ole Bill couldn't live with himself if you should d...," his voice faded at the word and he swallowed hard the lump stuck down his throat. A brief pause later he sprung to his feet, miffed. "Can't do this!" He began pacing the floor, his fingers rubbing his temples to avoid a total emotional meltdown. He glanced heavenwards and pleaded with the O Mighty, "You've got to pump in a bit a fuel in this old motor here. It can't run on a dry tank. I try but I can't make it on my own. Please give me a sign here, huh? Show me what to do."

A bit later, Bill drove to Ralph's house with Pam following in her car. He parked his vehicle alongside the curb and remained seated, leaning heavily against the headrest with a blank look.

"Bill, are you coming into the house?" Pam asked, puzzled as to why he would not budge from his seat.

"Ah no, not right now Counselor. Got me something to do first, but I'll be back in a jiffy," he strove to assure with little success.

"You don't want me to come with you?" she asked, worried about the agent's mental state and the possible dire consequences of allowing him to be on his own in his condition.

He threw her a reassuring curl of the lip. "No and don't fret, I'll be here."

"Can I ask you where you're going?" Bill's silence was her answer. "Ok, don't be long."

"I won't," he winked before driving off.

It took all of Bill's might to maintain his focus on the road and restrain his mind from drifting back to the events of the past hours. He succeeded in arriving unscathed to his destination. Without lifting his eyes off the steering wheel, he shut off the ignition and got out of the car. He then set sight on the pile of rubbles that was once the Redman estate. He was torn between a sense of relief and anger at the thought of the house where the tragedy occurred had been levelled to the ground. Sheila was no more, thrust back to hell where she belonged. The thought warmed his heart for a brief moment before a sense of doom swiftly crept over him. 'What if she's there? Hovering over the area, seeking another soul to possess?'

Chills run down his spine as he gravitated toward the heap of debris. He stopped a few feet before the main entrance and stood defiantly at the chimney, the only eerie remnant still rising fairly tall among the litter of wood and concrete. He recalled Ralph saying that's where he saw Sheila sitting the first time he went across the 'wall'.

For a fleeting second he swore he could have seen flames flickering. He gasped inwardly at the vision, squinting his eyes shut and shaking his head to clear the cobwebs away. "Don't go nutty on me, Bill. Mind's playing pranks. Don't go sliding down that road, now," he scolded, slapping himself on the cheek as he moved forward to sift through the rubbles looking to find his gun. As he strode along he could sense the evil spirit boring down on him. A cold draft brushed against him, causing him to leap back and lose his balance. He fell down butt first on a hard piece of metal, his gun. He reached for it with an unsteady grip and let it rest in the palm of his hand, staring at it, unable to wrap his fingers around the cold shiny frame, the very device that nearly killed his best friend.

"I win!" he heard said, a muffled voice wafting in the air. "He's going to die and you will be responsible for his death," it taunted, poking and bleeding the guilt-ridden man.

Hazel eyes turned smouldering black as if possessed by its own devil . Bill slowly rose to his feet and turned toward the fireplace where the voice was drifting from. "Don't count on it, Missy. I don't know why you're still here but you're weak now. The house is destroyed and you are now without a domain. Ralph will not die but you will eventually vanish, dearest," he gnarled between teeth set in suppressed fury.

He picked up a sledgehammer lying among the rubbles and swung it at the fireplace, smashing bricks that flew into pieces. "Don't do this Bill," the voice pleaded menacingly. "You will regret it."

"I'm riddled with worse poisonous waste than that, sweetheart. One more isn't gonna make a difference and certainly not where you're concerned." He continued to pound at the structure until it crumbled down in a heap of billowing smoke of dust. Bill waited for the voice or even a vision to manifest itself but all was quiet, save for the petter of raindrops against the debris. Was it a sign from above? Had rain started to pour down to douse the flames of hell that inhabited the house? Whatever it was, Bill was satisfied. A triumphant smile crept up his lips but was rapidly washed away by the thought of Ralph still fighting for his life. This chapter with Sheila might be close but the writing was still on the page.

It was dark when he returned to Ralph's house and knocked on the door. When no answer came, he unlocked it and called out for Pam. A note on the desk caught his attention, injecting him with a dose of dread that he rarely experienced before. He took the note and read it. "Gone to the hospital. Ralph took a turn for the worse. Need you there, Bill. Pam"

Bill gripped the side of the table as his knees buckled under him at the news. He had to race over to the hospital before it was too late. He drew in a few deep breaths to flush out the debilitating fear within and dashed out the door, jumped into his car and sped away with tires screeching.

Like a headless chicken, Bill scuttled down the hospital halls in search of Pamela. A nurse accosted him and directed him to the ICU unit. "She's in Mister Hinkley's room."

He distractedly grabbed the nurse's hands and searched her eyes for an honest answer to his question, "How is he?"

"The doctor will tell you. He's the room with Miss Davidson."

"Thank you." he dropped the hands and dashed down the corridor to Ralph's room. Instead of breezing in he came to a abrupt halt at the door. He doubled over, hands on knees to catch his breath and regain a semblance of poise before entering. The dimlit room seemed to be closing in on him, suffocating him as he inched toward the bed. He felt queasy, nauseous and on the verge of vomiting as he took sight of the two crestfallen faces.

"Bill!" Pam shrieked, falling into his arms.

"Doc?" Was all that Bill could utter with a constricted throat.

The doctor's dismal shake of the head spoke more than words could say. "Is he...?"

"He's not doing any better," Pam sobbed. "He's not fighting, Bill," she sputtered angrily.

"Well we're not gonna tolerate that attitude, no sirry," Bill said assertively, adopting a commanding tone to embolden the grieving woman to keep her wits about herself. He brought Pam closer to the bed and showed her the proper way to jump-start the sluggish mind cowardly drifting away from this world.

The doctor observed the professional at work as he spat orders at his friend, not mincing words with no holds barred. He stood across the bed, peeking at the monitor for any sign of a change as Bill pounded on Ralph with a harsh verbal abuse, vital to whip the comatose patient out of his complacency. Bill hurled a language bordering on insults but to his chagrin, the patient remained unresponsive.

"I'm sorry to say but this might be a good time to notify any next of kin."

"His mother's on her way. She should be here shortly," Pam announced quavering, aware this meant that all hope was gone.

"There has to be a way to get through to him." This from the guilt-laden man who felt himself slowly teetering on the edge of an abysmal void. The room was fraught with tension, fear and hopelessness. He couldn't allow this scenario to take shape. It wasn't meant to be. Sheila Redman could not win.

"I'm sorry Agent Maxwell. We did our best. The damage was just too great."

"Don't say that!" Bill wasped. "The Kid's gonna make it. I know he will. He's a stubborn ole cuss. He knows I won't stand for him taking the coward way out, no way!"

The doctor could only hang his head and sigh in response. He was sympathetic to the man's grief but could not lie on the gravity of the patient's condition. His fate now lay in God's hands.

"You stay with him, Counselor. Don't let him give up before I return."

"Bill, where are you going?" Pam asked, shocked that he would leave at this crucial time.

"I'll be back." He assured, kissing her forehead and heading out the door.

"Bill! We need you here," she cried, refusing to let Bill leave.

"I need to do this for the Kid."

"What are you talking about?"

"Trust me." And he was gone.

Bill whisked down the highway in direction of Palmdale. Fingers tightened around the steering wheel in dreaded anticipation of meeting with the spaceship. How he hated that place. Those little green guys freaked him out, but he had to face those gremlins for his friend's sake. They were Ralph's only chance of survival.

He reached his destination in record time and turned off the ignition. He took a breather from the overpowering flow of emotions threatening to engulf him whole before stepping out of the car to seek out the spaceship.

"Hey, you up there, you listening?" He shouted skywards. "Show yourselves. Bill Maxwell here. I need to have a little chat with you about Ralph." He waited for a sign before continuing his plea. "You must know what happened? He's in a bad shape and if you don't help him he's a goner. And you know damn well I can't and won't team up with another partner. So if you let him die, mind as well take me with him." An eerie silence filled the air, chilling Bill to the bone and prompting him to retrace his steps to his car where he waited for a sign.

Time elapsed for what seemed an eternity before the long-awaited message came through the radio. "We... been... expect...in...you. Please...step...out. Come." Bill followed instructions and stepped out of the car. He took a moment to steel himself after which he unsteadily moved a few feet forward. He glanced upward at the tiny dot drifting above and prayed for a miracle, but at what price? Could they do for Ralph what they did for his former partner? And if they could, would they keep him on the ship as they did John? He could not fathom that possibility and yet he was willing to yield to the aliens' wish if it meant his little urchin would live.

He restlessly waited for the spacecraft to hover above him to stand in the direct path of the light that beamed him aboard.

Back at the hospital, Ralph's condition was deteriorating. His life was slowly ebbing away and Pam had reluctantly resigned herself to accept the inevitable. She cursed Bill's absence in her hour of need, loathing the thought of Ralph dying before his friend had a chance to bid a proper farewell.

"Come on Bill, where are you? It's been two hours. What is it that is so important that you cannot be here to say goodbye to your friend?" she hissed whisperingly, a tear escaping the corner of her eye. "Please, come back," she beseeched silently as she gazed lovingly at the love her life slowly drifting away from her.

He swam back to the surface and moaned awake. He blinked open his eyes to establish focus on the odd surroundings. Once the fog cleared, he sprung up and jumped down the table. Eyes darted nervously around to confirm his suspicions. "I'm here. I made it." Behind him a door slid open, startling him. Cautiously he inched toward the opening, taking a peak out before warily advancing the rest of the way.

He was met with an amusing little gremlin that handed him an earplug with instructions to stick it in his ear. Bill studied the small device closely from every angle prior to following directives.

"Welcome," a tinny voice greeted, causing Bill to gasp in surprise.

"Oh crap," Bill uttered with great discomfort. "Ah...do you understand me?"

"Yes, we do. And we are aware of the reason that made you seek us."

"Can you help me?" Bill asked expectantly with every nerve and quiver.

"In order to mend Ralph Hinkley's body you would need to bring him aboard this ship."

"I can't move him!" Bill hissed indignantly. "The Kid's knocking on death door, hooked up to a range of contraptions to keep him from checking out and without them, he dies."

"We are regretful of the situation but it is unfeasible for us to leave this vessel without dying ourselves."

"But...you have to do something," the desperate agent pleaded, "I didn't come here for my own health," ending on a scorching tone.

"You William Maxwell are able can change his destiny."

"What do you mean by that?"

The alien took three steps forward and clasped Bill's hands. "You are endowed with a powerful healing balm called love. Through your touch and your voice can you mend his body and soul."

"Slap my bread with better than this musty baloney!" Bill mocked the nonsense behind this obvious heartfelt statement. "I'm not into that mushy stuff and besides it doesn't hit the mark. The Kid needs more than a 'Hey, hang in there and get well,' drivel. Come on!!!!I expected more smarts from your brainpans."

The alien bowed his head and closed his eyes. Bill waited for a response that was a long time coming.

"You go now. Be with him. Summon that power and you will be rewarded." Before Bill could retort he was beamed back down to earth.

The despondent man raced back at the hospital, all the while psyching himself out for the dreaded news to hit him. As he neared Ralph's room he paused to collect his thoughts and emotions splattered all over the place before he padded in.

His step faltered and his heart sank at the sight of a dejected Pam leaning over her beloved. The muffled whimpers escaping from her trembling lips were scorching embers burning holes into his guts.

"Pam," he whispered with a light tremor.

"Oh Bill!" she exclaimed in surprise with a mixture of anger. "Where have you been?"

"I tried to knit a last-ditch scenario but that didn't pay off."

"What did you do?"

"It's not important now." He approached the bed and cringed at the ashen face staring back at him. "How is he?"

"He's ready to leave, Bill," she sobbed, turning to gaze at the listless form. "They've taken him off the respirator to see if he could breathe on his own but it's not enough. He seems to be fighting the inevitable so I assume he won't let go until you and he can say a proper goodbye."

Pam stood from her chair and enlaced Bill in her arms. "I'll leave you two alone. Set him free, Bill. It's time."

He pulled back from the embrace and with teary eyes, nodded in agreement, unwillingly resigning himself to his friend's fate.

Once Pam out the door, Bill gasped in a deep breath to pluck up his courage to deliver his final speech to the Kid.

"I don't give a rat's ass about what the Counselor wants, I'm not gonna let you get a free ride to the pearly gates, my boy!" Bill hissed between clenched teeth. "You're not ready to leave yet, Kid. You were given a job to do. First on the agenda is to pour your vial of wrath on old Uncle Bill here for what he's done to you." The tower of strength was slowly crumbling under the overwhelming guilt that lingered. He was suffocating under the heavy cross he had to drag since the tragedy.

"What a waste!" Bill snarled with disgust. He placed his hand on top of Ralph's and he leaned closer to the patient. "Come on, Ralph. You're no quitter!" he said on a mellowed tone. "The pretty skirt here, she needs you. The rat pack at school, well they need you to keep them in line and...well...you know," he choked, his voice faltering under the emotions.

A barely-audible muffled moan sliced through the thick sheath of gloom and yanked the remorseful man out of his torpor. "Ralph? Hey Kid can you hear me? Say something?" Bill exulted, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Ralph, come on, Kid, you can do it. Get back up there with the rest of us."

Another small shiver travelled through Ralph's body as though a surge of energy had been shocked into him. His eyes fluttered open but remained vacuous and blank. "Oh God, that's it. You're doing it, Kid. You...you stay there. I'm gonna get the Doc. Don't let go. You're doing fine."

Bill hurried out the door and dashed down the corridor to give Pam the good news. "Counselor, he called out to the distraught lady staring out the window of the waiting room. "Counselor!"

Startled by Bill's call, she turned and met him halfway. "Bill, what is it? Did he...?"

He gripped her shoulders and panting, he took a second to catch his breath before gushing out, "He's coming around, Pam."

"What? But the doctor said that..."

"Screw the doctors! They're a bunch of lamebrains who can see past their books. Ralph has beaten the odds I tell ya. He's coming back. Now where's the damn doctor? I want him to see this."

No sooner had Bill gone to the nurse's station to enquire about Ralph's doctor's whereabouts that the surgeon was seen coming out of the trauma room. The agent rushed over to him and pulled him to Ralph's room the witness the miracle. Bill's ecstasy swiftly turned to frustration at the sight of the motionless body. "He'd moaned and opened his eyes. I saw him," Bill argued to two sceptical people staring at him quizzically.

"Come on, Kid. You did once you can do it again. Don't make me out to be a cry-wolf chump here. Come on, give us a sign here."

"Mister Maxwell, that could have been an involuntary reflex. His vital signs indicate..."

"I don't give a damn what the machines say!" He spat . "He opened his eyes. He was awake."

The doctor put on his stethoscope and applied it against the patient's chest. As he listened for breath sounds, Bill took Ralph's hand and squeezed it. "Dammit Ralph! Open your eyes!" he commanded sternly, getting a moan in response. "There! You heard that?" He turned to Pam for confirmation. "Counselor, tell me you heard that?"

"Yes I did," she exulted. "I did!"

"Mister Hinkley, can you hear me? I'm Doctor Petterson."

Another moan followed by a groan prompted the doctor to take a closer examination, starting by checking the corneal reflex to which Ralph reacted painfully.


"What?" Pam asked.

"I can't really find a medical explanation for what's occurring but whatever it is sure is encouraging."

"Told you the Kid was invincible. He can weather all the storms thrown at him."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves and cry victory just yet, Mister Maxwell," the doctor warned, dampening the ecstasy of joy. "He still has a long way to go before he..."

Doctor Petterson's words of caution were interrupted by a feeble sound. "Billlllllllllllll," Ralph breathed out.

Without releasing Ralph's hand tightly wrapped in sandwich between his, Bill leaned closer to his friend's face and smiled, "I'm right here Kid. Uncle Bill's here," he quavered with delight.

The doctor excused himself from the room to fetch his team of nurses, leaving Bill and Pam to witness a set of hazy blue eyes struggling to peer through the heavy leaden eyelids.

"Billlllll," Ralph dragged out whisperingly. "Whe....where?"

"You're in the hospital, Ralph," Pam moved in, giving Bill a light shove aside, forcing him to release his friend's hand. "Hi Honey," she cooed. "Ralph I was so scared," she cried with a hand caressing Ralph's cheek. "You...," she gasped upon seeing the eyes slowly close. "Ralph?" She gripped his shoulders and shook him lightly to bring him back. "Ralph, stay awake now!"

"Let me in." It was Bill's turn to jostle Pam aside to take her place. Again he grabbed Ralph's hand and squeezed it tightly. "Don't you dare play that game with us, Kiddo," Bill chided, placing his other hand on his friend's forehead. "I know you're in there, so come out." A groan was Bill's reward. "That's it, come to Uncle Bill now, Kid. Easy does it."

"Bill, I...what..."

Doctor Petterson returned with two nurses and a plethora of machines to give the patient a complete examination. Reluctantly Bill and Pam abided by the doctor's request to leave the room during the examination. As soon as Bill released Ralph's hand that the patient succumbed to sleep, followed by a significant decrease in his vital signs.

Bill stared down at his hands and wondered about their actual power of healing. He recalled the burning sensation of an electric current coursing through when the alien held them both. 'You are endowed with a powerful healing balm called love. Through your touch and your voice can you mend his body and soul.'

"Could it be?" he marveled to himself. "Doctor wait! Let me hold his hand while you're examining him."

"I would rather you wait outside while I do this. It'll only take a few minutes."

"No. I need to be here. Trust me."

"Bill?" Pam asked, confused by the agent's behaviour.

"Counselor, I can't really explain right now, just bear with me, ok?" He then approached the bed and placed his hand on top of Ralph's. "He'll be all right. You just wait." Just as predicted, the vital signs stabilized and the patient began to stir.

"I don't understand this." The doctor shook his head in disbelief. "How do you do it?"

"A little green man taught me," Bill quipped.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Bill," Ralph groaned awake, struggling against the thick fog still enfolding him.

"Right here, Kid."


"She's gone and won't ever bother us again." He looked up at the doctor standing on the opposite side of the bed and asked if they could be left alone for a moment. "We'll howler if the Kid starts to slip again, promise."

Although reluctant to leave his patient, the doctor acquiesced to Bill's request and summoned his two nurses to follow him out the door.

Bill hovered over the patient, tightening the hold on his hand to bring him all the way up. "Ralph, do you remember what happened back at that house?"

Ralph gave a weak nod of the head and swallowed hard.

"Now you know that I would never hurt you intentionally. Now you know that Kid, don't you?" Bill slobbered nervously, bracing himself for Ralph's answer, all the while rubbing the Kid's hand steadily between his.

"I know," Ralph breathed out weakly, eyes still closed.

"I...I couldn't control her. She had this powerful hold on me and she made me...God Ralph! I didn't want to do it, you've got to believe me, Kid. Never would I do that to you."

"What...what are you blubbering about...Bill?"

"You said you remembered what happened?" Bill asked, puzzled by Ralph's question.

Ralph nodded.

"Then you know I'm the one who put two slugs in you."

Ralph forced his eyes open and stared quizzically at Bill. "What ar...you talking about?"

Pam moved in closer and piped in, "Ralph, Bill said he shot you. That the evil spirit had taken over his body and was controling his actions."

"True, once, but not in there," he panted, heavily heaving out every word.

"Ralph I had the warm puppy in my grasp. I aimed it at you and pulled the trigger. That very thought tore me to shred all the while you were lying on your deathbed."

"Sheila....it was Sheila."

"Yeah I know that Ralph," Bill exasperated. "But I did it none the same. I pulled the trigger."

Ralph shook his head. "No. She...she...tore it out of your...grasp," he dragged out in a lingering breath.

Bill's brow knitted in deep puzzlement. "I don't recall that."

"Guess she wanted...she wanted you to think you pulled the trigger when...when in fact she did," Noticing Ralph's strength waning down, Bill placed his other hand on his friend's chest to transfer a burst of energy. "She used her powers to hold...hold the gun in the air and aimed it at me."

"Ralph are you sure?" Pam asked, glancing at Bill whose expression changed from remorse to alleviation.

"Yes. Bill you fought her. You couldn't...couldn't shoot me and I'm grateful for that."

Pam turned to Bill whose relief and elation could hardly be contained. "Bill, you hear that? You're not responsible. You did not shoot Ralph. You were stronger than the entity, Bill. You won over her."

"I did, didn't I?" he laughed giddily. "I didn't hurt the Kid."

"No you didn't, Bill, but..." she looked down at Bill's hand entwined with Ralph and the other resting on his chest. "what is happening now? Less than an hour ago Ralph was at death's door and now he's awake and talking. You have to admit it doesn't fall short of a miracle."

Bill held one hand in the air and smiled thoughtfully. "A gift from the little green guys I guess."

Pam frowned quizzically. "You mean...?"

"That's the last-ditch scenario I was weaving but I thought it had gone sour on me. Then I held his hand and...this happened."

"My God Bill, you healed him. You brought him back to us," Pam marvelled in complete awe.

"Correction Counselor," he pointed upwards, "they brought him back to us. Guess those little green guys aren't so bad after all. Got to remember to send them a thank-you gift."

Pam enlaced Bill in her arms and hugged him for dear life. "You know I was thinking when the Kid was playing tug-a-war with the O Mighty, maybe time had come to just hang up the suit and gave Ralph his discharged papers." Pam pulled away from the embrace and looked at him in puzzlement.

"Even if I'd pine for the shenanigans we'd play on each other and how he made Uncle Bill's star sparkle bright at the Bureau, I say he's done the job well."

"But now?"

Bill shrugged with slight embarrassment. "I don't know. It's up to him. Whatever it was to him, a wake-up call or otherwise, only he can make the decision and no matter how gut-twisting it is, I'll respect it." He reached for Ralph's hand and gripped it firmly.

"I'm not," a weak voice chimed in.

"What d'ya say, Kid?"

"I'm...I'm not quitting. So y...you're stuck with me...Uncle Bill," Ralph whispered weakly, throwing a heavy wink at Bill.

"You can be thorn at my side anytime," Bill rejoiced, giving Ralph's hand a squeeze.

It was a mere week later when Ralph was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health. Bill's healing powers had miraculously given him a second wind and moreover, they had bestowed upon him a knowledge of life that was almost frightening. He figured he was endowed with a spiritual awareness that enabled him to see beyond the realm of human perception. As for Bill, his own healing powers had begun to wither away, obvious that they were granted to serve one purpose only: heal Ralph.

Although excited at his new bequest, he knew he had to use it wisely and effectively. Was he now indestructible even without the suit? He had to test this possibility eventually when his body would be fully mended and that Bill and Pam would ease up on the mother coddling. Not that all this shielding wasn't appreciated, but it was exasperating and downright suffocating at times.

On Bill's request the police didn't pursue the investigation into the mysterious shooting. They were happy to close the case seeing how Bill and Ralph didn't press the issue, mostly on account of the 'shooter' who was described as wearing a mask. Therefore no positive identification could be made.

Weeks cascaded down but Ralph was still on sick leave from school. His students organised a surprise 'welcome home' party in his honor, with several of his friends and co-workers attended. All were amazed by his prompt recovery with no apparent scars whatsoever. The man was breathing life; the picture of health physically and emotionally.

Although Ralph appeared emotionally stable, Bill suspected his friend was teetering on the edge of a dark psychological abyss and it was up to him to prevent him from falling over. He tactfully chained himself to Ralph's ankle, cautious not to act as a canon ball that would otherwise limit the Kid's move and set him off.

On Ralph's insistence, Bill reluctantly drove him to the scene of the crime. The spot had been swept down to the last brick. Only remnants of wood splinters and glass shards littered the ground.

Standing dead center where the mansion once stood, Ralph unbuttoned his shirt collar to reveal part of the suit he wore underneath his clothes. He then closed his eyes and voided his mind of all thoughts and emotions.

"What are you doing?" Bill ventured to ask.

Ralph merely held a hand up to hush him as he continued his concentration. "I don't feel her anymore. She's gone," he signed in contentment.

"You mean Beelzebub?"

Ralph cracked a smile at Bill's wits. "Yeah, her."

"She was a hard nut to crack but I smashed her to hell where she belongs. I'm sure she's having a ball down there," he quipped, wringing another curl of the lip from Ralph.

An uneasy silence ensued, prompting Bill to broach a delicate subject. "Euh Ralph, I want to ask you something."

"Ask away," he said distractedly as he focused on a particular area with knitted brows.

"About what happened," Bill asked awkwardly.

"Bill, let it go! It's over," Ralph huffed out in exasperation.

"I can't!" he sassed back with a tinge of fright. "Don't you realize you nearly bought the farm back there?" he scorned, subduing Ralph into remorse. "I've never freaked out so badly in my life! If I hadn't paid the little green men a visit, you'd be pushing up the daisies by now."

"Sorry Bill," Ralph apologized with a look of repentance. "It's just that I don't wish to rehash the past. I'm here, I'm alive. Can you just leave it at that?"

Bluntly dismissing Ralph's request, Bill continued, "The gun...it was in my hand. I remember you inching towards me, reaching for it."

"Do we need to go through this again, Bill?"

"Please, humour me."

"The gun, it was in your hand. You were about to hand it over to me when she ripped it out of your grasp with her telekinesis powers and pulled the trigger. It happened in a split of a second. Neither of us knew what was happening."

"That's just it, I don't recall that part."

"Bill I told you, she wanted you to think you were the one who pulled the trigger. She still had control over your mind back there. In that dimension she had full use her powers. On this side she needed a vehicle to do her bidding and that was you. Only you were stronger, fighting off suggestions that your subconscious didn't want you to execute, including hurting me."

"Are you being straight with me, Kid?" Bill eyed Ralph with a sceptical glare.

Ralph chuckled at Bill's obstinacy. "Yes I'm sure. And from the bottom of my heart I am utterly grateful to you for saving my life. I know how hard it must have been for you to seek out the aliens."

"They give me the creeps," Bill griped, grimacing as a chill ran down his spine at the very thought.

"If it hadn't been for your bold move I'd be dead," he said with a genuine heartfelt gratefulness.

An uneasy silence passed through both men.

"Yeah, well, I like you Kid. Even though you can be a pain in the behind I...like having you around." Bill stuttered nervously, finding it hard to wear his heart on his sleeves.

"Likewise Bill," Ralph returned with a appreciative grin that slowly melted into a knitted brow.

Noticing Ralph sudden look of dread, Bill asked frowned. "What's the matter?"

"I don't know. Feels like...like someone's watching us," he said, scanning his surroundings.

"The Princess of Darkness?"

"I don't think so."

"Ok what d'you say we get the hell outta here?" Bill proposed eagerly as his skin turned into gooseflesh. "Uncle Bill's had his quota of freak shows for this month."

"I'm with you."

They walked back to the car with Ralph casting a last worried look behind.

From the neighbouring house, a threatening figure appeared in the attic window and fumed, "This isn't over yet. You will both suffer for what you did to me and next time I won't miss."