Author's Note: (edit (8/16/10): I went back and edited this story a little bit, apparently FF deleted my dividers which would make this story confusing to read. Anyway, I only changed that and a couple of typos I noticed, no new content in case you received an alert for this.)
Happy Halloween, and by the by, Halloween happens to also be my birthday :). So here's a one shot I put together for the occasion; there are a few pictures of it on my homepage.
Haunted America: Roslyn House
The lights flickered once and then went out. Outside, the storm raged on, challenging the house to remain standing in its wake. The window panes rattled as another crack of thunder shook overhead. Esme had stopped talking mid-sentence and peeked outside the heavy curtains just in time to see a bolt of lightning streak across the sky. "I can't stand it anymore," she let the curtain drop and faced Carlisle. She pleaded with him, "just make the call, you'll do it better than I can."
He ran a hand through his hair; he never understood his wife's fascination with the macabre. "I still don't know; have you seen those shows? They're so…so cheesy. How can we be sure they'll even -,"
Before he could finish his sentence, lightning flashed down, striking a power line several yards away. The wires flashed and fell to the pavement below, twitching as they reacted to the wet ground. Esme pulled open the curtain again to watch. "Please Carlisle."
He stood up and moved to the window, wrapping his arms around her waist. His kissed her neck softly. "All right, we'll give it a try." She put her palms over his arms and squeezed. "Come on," he pulled back, "let's go upstairs."
Bella walked into the little recording studio with a brand new file, she waved it at Alice through the glass and then sat down on a couch behind the producer to listen.
"Meet Emmett and Jasper, our equipment experts. They collect the hard evidence...what comes after that?" Alice glanced up at Mike, the producer.
"We'll do the montage of them from old episodes and their voiceovers will get put in. Keep going."
Alice nodded and continued. "And this is Bella, our historical researcher," she paused. "And Edward, the medium; can he communicate with the dead?" She waited a beat again. "Rosalie is our newest member; she's the resident skeptic and will need real proof before she changes her mind. And my name is Alice…Come with us as we tour – Haunted America."
Mike hit a button on the panel in front of him. "Ok, that's good, come on out." He turned and faced Bella, "hey, what are you up to?" He gave her his version of a sexy grin.
"She's not interested," Alice said. "What have you got?"
Bella jumped up and tossed Alice her jacket. The sooner they got out from under Mike's watchful gaze, the better. She kept quiet until they were outside in the bright, California sunshine. She handed Alice the file as they made their way down the street to the coffee shop. "For the Halloween episode."
She followed Bella into the air conditioned space; it smelled like sugar and pretentious coffee. They both inhaled deeply.
"Hey!" Emmett bellowed from across the room, motioning them over to the two couches he was protecting from trespassers with Rosalie.
Edward and Jasper jogged in next. "Are we late?"
"Right on time," Bella smiled at Edward, it grew when he smiled back.
Once they were all gathered, Bella spoke up. "Here's my idea for the Halloween all-nighter. The place is called Roslyn House; it's in Washington near Port Townsend -,"
"Point Wilson lighthouse," Emmett interjected. The lighthouse was the first haunted spot the team had investigated together two years ago. Bella had nearly fallen down some stairs by what Emmett was convinced was the ghost of the woman who had been seen there, but Bella blamed her own clumsiness for the accident.
"It's about ten or fifteen miles from there, in a little place called South Hollow." She continued.
"What's the back story?" Jasper asked.
"Roslyn House was built in 1899 as a gift for Roslyn Boyd by her husband, Terrence. They were both eighteen, came from old money. Legend has it that in 1918, Roslyn started getting jealous of a new a neighbor. I don't know what the final straw was, but in late autumn, Roslyn killed her husband and then herself. Now it looks like they come after couples."
"And that's documented? The murder and the suicide?" Rosalie asked. She had just joined the group a few weeks prior and was still trying to find her place. She was a steadfast skeptic of anything paranormal and, being a part of a troupe like this, sometimes felt like the outsider.
Alice and Edward had started the show three years prior with a single camera, Edward's car, and a star map of sorts of various haunted destinations. They gained access (whether legally or by other means) and recorded themselves trying to sort the real from the fake; they posted these videos online and gained a huge following. Emmett, Jasper, and Bella joined soon thereafter and now people all over the world watched them on television every Thursday night.
"Yeah, there are pictures and a copy of the report in there," Bella gestured to the file. "After that the house passed through several owners, I couldn't find all those records, but anyway, no disturbances are officially reported. Then again, there really wasn't much of a way to do that…," she digressed. "Anyway, the house was restored in the early sixties by Margaret Sinclair. She claims to have never had a problem in the house."
"But she was single, right?" Alice asked, flipping a page on the file.
"Right." She paused to take a drink of Emmett's water. "It was a bed and breakfast up until 2000 when it was closed by the owner, but was given historical landmark status." She motioned toward the file, "Carlisle and Esme Cullen sent me the deed listing them as the current owners." Bella took a deep breath, glad to be almost finished with her monologue.
"So, what do they say is happening?" Rosalie asked.
"The phenomenon during the day is fairly typical, whisperings, things moving on their own. But at night…there are four different instances over the last few years of couples hearing Roslyn and Terrence in their bedroom. Supposedly, they can hear what sounds like their last night alive."
"You mean they heard the Boyds dying?" Emmett sounded excited; Rosalie gave him an irritated look.
Edward took the file from Alice and browsed through it. "Well," he grinned at Bella, "I think it's a great idea."
The rest of the team agreed and the trip was set.
Haunted America goes to Washington.
They got out of the soccer mom van bleary eyed after the two hour flight and subsequent two hour drive, grateful for the dark, consuming fog and cloud cover; it added to the atmosphere for filming. Jasper and Emmett decided to take the van to shoot the town, so that left the rest of the group to haul in their gear. Actually, that left Bella, Rosalie, and Edward to haul in everything as Alice was using a hand held camera to record some opening shots. She walked behind us, talking animatedly at the little screen.
"It's October 30th and we're just checking into our hotel. Say hi guys," she pointed the camera at the group, who grunted in her general direction as they made their way to the front desk. "We're here early to interview some of the townspeople and the owners of Roslyn House, Carlisle and Esme Cullen -,"
"Excuse me," the front desk clerk interrupted.
Alice turned the camera on him and he flushed.
"Did you," he cleared his throat, "did you say you were interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Cullen today?"
"Yes that's right."
He 'hmm'd' to himself and took Bella's identification; the two rooms were registered under her name.
Alice kept the camera pointed toward him. "So, Mr.….," she looked at his name tag, "Cheney, what do you think of Roslyn House?"
He smoothed his hair back self consciously. "Well," he chuckled, "I wouldn't go in there with my wife, that's for sure."
That piqued Bella's interest. "Because of what other couples say happened to them?" The last husband and wife to stay in the house before it closed as a bed and breakfast reported a man and woman who terrorized them, trying to coerce the newlyweds into their same tragic end.
"Yes ma'am." He handed her the room keys and directed them to the elevator.
"Well, I think it's pretty obvious what's going on here," Rose sat at the desk in the hotel room with her arms crossed.
Emmett and Jasper had returned and the group had all congregated in one room. Bella sat on one bed, painfully aware that Edward was stretched out on his back next to her. If she looked down, she could see where the edge of his t-shirt lifted to expose the tiniest sliver of stomach and hip. She wondered absently if he had the slightest idea what that little bit of skin did to her. She squeezed her eyes shut momentarily, regaining composure.
Rosalie was talking again. "They're using us to generate revenue, stimulate tourism." She said matter-of-factly.
Emmett leaned on the desk, "let's not jump to conclusions. Trying to figure it out is the fun part." He could tell she was nervous; it was her first trip with the team. Before this, she was a fact checker for a newspaper. He smiled down at her, flashing his dimples and she couldn't help but smile back.
"Alright," she said, "where to first?"
Bella consulted her schedule, "Edward, Alice, and I are going to interview the Cullens, and you guys are due down at the library and then here," she reached over and handed Emmett a slip of paper with an address. "This couple has an eye witness account. You guys can take the van."
The Cullens were waiting outside on the porch when they got there, both wearing long coats to cut the chill. Carlisle's was a deep charcoal, buttoned closed over what looked like pinstripe trousers. Esme's was a dark brown, almost black, with a belt at the waist; she smiled when she caught Bella looking at it with appreciation.
Esme reached out to shake Bella's hand and when she was close enough Esme noticed she was wearing a small, antique ring. "That's lovely, may I?" She lifted Bella's hand to more closely examine it. "Nineteen thirties, right?"
Bella smiled. "Good eye."
Esme looked delighted, "I think we're going to get along just fine."
Carlisle led them all inside and then into a small parlor room. "Is this alright? The men's parlor on the other side of the house is a gift shop now." He paused, seeming a little nervous about the new visitors. "Sorry about the weather, I don't know when that fog is going to let up." It was such a deep grey outside; it almost looked like night though it was only three in the afternoon. The tendrils of fog seemed to have wrapped tightly around everything. Bella was half afraid that when she first stepped out of the van she'd get stuck in the cold, wet mist.
Alice took charge, "this is lovely," she looked around the room. "Would it be ok if we made these two loveseats face each other? You could sit on one, and we could sit on the other."
After rearranging them, opening the curtains, and setting up a camera on a tripod, they settled in for the interview. This part was Alice's specialty. She was non-judgmental and had a way of giving the person talking her full attention, as if they were the only one in the room. An interview was how she met Jasper, actually. She was doing a story about various volunteer programs for the university newspaper. One thirty minute conversation later and it was all over.
"So, why don't you tell us how you two met?"
Carlisle looked at Esme with a little grin, "why don't you tell that one?"
"Well," she smiled, "Carlisle is a doctor -,"
"Was, I'm retired now."
"Was a doctor. And one day I was walking through town and not paying any attention at all. Well, this car was making a turn much too fast and I was right in the middle of the street! I jumped out of the way and scraped my knee on the ground."
Carlisle slipped his arm around her waist. "She's lucky it wasn't worse."
"He happened to see the whole thing and came over to see if I was alright. He checked my knee and tried to convince me that I'd have to let him sew it up." She smiled again, "it was barely a scratch. He walked me to my mother's and cleaned it up and the rest is history."
The conversation starter worked perfectly. After that, they were more than willing to discuss their fears of other tenants roaming the halls of the old house. Though they'd never heard the alleged Boyd murder/suicide in the master bedroom, the two had experienced enough unexplained phenomena that they rarely set foot in the house for more than was necessary and never alone.
Their last night actually living in the house, Esme claimed that Roslyn Boyd came to her in the master bedroom. She said Roslyn's words were vile, an attempt to convince Esme of Carlisle's unfaithfulness. They packed up their things that very night and left.
"So why come back at all? Why not sell the house?" Bella asked.
Carlisle looked at his wife, who answered almost wistfully, "there's something sort of sad and romantic about it, I suppose. Roslyn loved Terrence so much; she went completely mad at the thought of him with another. I just couldn't bear to sell it to someone who had no appreciation for the history, you know?"
"We should warn you," Carlisle noted at the end of the interview. "We were here several nights ago during the storm and lightning struck a power line right outside. We've had spotty power outages ever since. Is that going to be a problem?" He got up to lead the group through the house on a tour.
"No, we use a generator." Alice answered. She stopped at every photograph and knick knack, asking questions and marveling at how well kept the little house was. "Is this the mirror where Mrs. Boyd has been seen?" She stopped in front of a huge mirror, large enough that it reached the ceiling, in the living room and stared, as if Roslyn's ghost was going to show up and say hello.
The house itself was quite beautiful. The walls were an antique white which contrasted sharply with the mahogany trim and dark details. But perhaps the most startling feature was the staircase; it was a solid black wrought iron affair that twisted upward out of the middle of a room toward the second floor.
Bella lagged behind with Edward, who rubbed a hand over his face and then through his hair. He frowned, staring downward as they walked upstairs. "Are you alright?" Bella whispered.
"Yeah, I just feel…odd."
"Is it the house?" Bella never could quite figure out Edward's…gift. It seemed to depend on the place and who may have lived there and sometimes nothing happened at all. When they first met, she wondered if he was faking.
He paused and touched the railing for balance. "I don't know."
She slowed to walk upstairs behind him in case he fell.
After they toured the rooms; Alice led the Cullens through what to expect the next day. The plan was to get the house ready during the day; that would include getting equipment set up in what was called the "base camp." They chose the living room since it was the most central location on the first floor. They would also install motion detectors and thermal imaging cameras in all the rooms dubbed "hot spots" by the Cullens.
"You're welcome to stay with us in the house if you'd like," Alice said as they walked back out onto the porch.
Carlisle chuckled, "oh no, we've had enough of things that go bump in the night." He gave Alice a small brass key that would fit both the front and back door before they all said their goodbyes.
"Root beer?" Edward asked later in the hotel room. Emmett's half of the group had picked up dinner on their way back from the other interviews.
Bella took a small drink through her straw, "oops…I think this is yours." She held it out awkwardly, unsure if Edward would still want it.
He grabbed it and took a long swallow before sitting next to her on the bed. "I have your cooties now."
Bella blushed and tried to change the subject. "So…how were the Gundersons?" She was referring to the couple with the eye witness account. To be honest, she couldn't care less at that point, but she needed the distraction. "Do they really have the same first name?"
"They sure do," Jasper replied from his place on the floor next to Alice. He explained that Taylor and Taylor Gunderson spent their whole wedding night at Roslyn House ten years prior, only to run out at five in the morning when they couldn't take it anymore. This was back when the place was a bed and breakfast. Now it was basically a museum on the Washington Haunted Tours circuit. "Taylor the wife said that all night long she heard a woman whispering in her ear, saying that Taylor the husband had been unfaithful. She said the ghost was trying to convince her to 'do away with' her husband." Jasper made the requisite air quotes.
"And the other Taylor?" Bella asked.
"He said he heard a man's voice saying that Taylor the wife was going to kill him." He took a large bite out of his cheeseburger and continued, "he saw my ring and said I should pack up and go home."
"But neither of them actually saw anything?" Rosalie asked.
"Nope, just the voices."
"Oh," Emmett interrupted, "we bought liquor!"
"So…how do you two work…exactly?" Rosalie had reached her drinking limit and was sipping from a water bottle while the rest of the group quickly caught up. She waved her hand between Edward and Alice.
"You go first," Alice said, braiding sections of Bella's hair. Edward took up the other half of the bed, his hair already sporting three tiny haphazard braids.
He stretched and leaned up on his elbows. He opened his mouth as if to explain, "…what was the question?"
"Are you like, psychic or a mind reader or something?" Rosalie asked.
He shrugged, "I don't really know what you call it. I guess I get…impressions about what went on in people's minds when something happened, like…what they were thinking…I dunno, it's weird…," he trailed off, reaching for his half empty plastic cup. "Your turn, Alice."
Alice sat back against the headboard and crossed her legs, thinking. Bella moved to the floor at the foot of the bed and leaned back. After a second she felt hands moving through her hair, undoing the braids, Edward's hands. He worked slowly, loosening one small section at a time before combing his fingers through it. She sat absolutely still, afraid that if she moved, he would stop.
"Well," Alice started. "I guess I get impressions too…but not really about what they were thinking more like…what actually happened. It's like seeing the future except…I see the past. Sometimes the future, I guess you could call me an intuitive. Like, I get a feeling about things."
Rosalie looked at them both in disbelief. "Seriously?"
They both shrugged. Hearing them explain it reminded Bella of how strange it must sound to someone who wasn't used to it. But she had known them for a few years now and it was old hat to her; Emmett was forever trying to get Alice to help him pick lottery numbers.
Rosalie took another drink of water and mumbled, "I don't have a super power…,"
"You're super hot," Emmett called from the other bed.
"Ok, bed time methinks," Alice stood up and tip toed over Edward's legs before hopping off the side of the bed.
"How is that going to work?" Rosalie asked. There were only four beds and six of them.
"Well, I'm sharing with Jasper in the other room."
"You can stay in this room with me," Bella said to Rosalie, who looked a little relieved.
"So, you girls can share a bed, Edward will take the one in the other room, and I'll sleep here." Emmett stretched out on the bed he was already lying on.
"And you get a bed to yourself in here with us?" Rosalie huffed, "I don't think so. That one's mine."
Edward reached up and finger combed the braids out of his hair. "So, in that case…," he looked at Emmett, "you're sharing with me?" They had matching unhappy expressions.
"No way…alright, what if Edward slept in this bed instead?" He bargained.
"It's the principle of the thing -,"
Bella sighed, "I'll share with Emmett if -,"
"No," Edward said suddenly, "I'll share with you." He cleared his throat, "I'll share with you in here, Rosalie gets the other bed, and Emmett gets the one in the other room."
The group agreed and Bella felt her heart flutter with equal parts nerves and anticipation. Since she had made the "sacrifice", she got first dibs on the bathroom. She went in and locked the door. She washed her face, brushed her teeth, and wondered if the blush would ever fade from her cheeks. "You're just sharing a bed," she said to herself in the mirror, "it doesn't mean anything."
From outside the door she heard Edward call out, "what?"
"Nothing," she called back.
When Bella woke up in the middle of the night, the room was spinning. She closed her eyes and told herself to remember that moment the next time she felt like getting drunk.
She took a few deep breaths, distracting herself with thoughts about the next day. Usually, this was the time for excitement and that little tickle of fear, but something felt off to her, like they were all stepping into something they didn't fully understand.
"Bella?" Edward whispered, his face only inches from hers. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, just nervous, you know." She worried her bottom lip between her teeth.
He scooted infinitesimally closer. "I'll protect you."
She became suddenly aware of their proximity and fumbled for a subject change. "I was thinking…why do you think the Boyds only go after couples?" She listened to the sheets as Edward adjusted his position.
"I don't know…maybe because they didn't get their happiness, they think no one else should either."
"But why just couples? Why not anyone that goes into the house?" Bella had wondered about that endlessly. Margaret Sinclair had lived in the house for six years and nothing happened to her at all, no voices, unexplained accidents during the renovations, nothing. Why? What kind of haunted house goes completely dormant for that long? And then as soon as it opened as a bed and breakfast, the reported incidents began again…,"
Bella felt the tips of Edward's fingers touch her forehead, "I can see your wheels turning in there." He yawned, "Get some sleep."
She smiled at the contact, "well," she felt suddenly awkward at the pleasure the small touch brought her, "good night."
"Good night, Bella."
The next morning, they stopped at the South Hollow Diner for breakfast. They chose a large booth in the back corner, though the place was so small they could just as easily have been sitting next to the front door. Once they ordered, the group went through their checklist.
"…Five EVP recorders?" Bella read from the list and either Emmett or Jasper "checked" it. "Three thermal imaging cameras? Two hand held cameras? Tripods for all the static cameras? The boom and other sound equipment? Two EMF detectors? Motion sensors?" She waited for the last "check" before saying, "ok, that's everything." The growing feeling of unease was back, but she ignored it.
Every inch of the table was covered when the food arrived. Pancakes, waffles, bacon, potatoes, ham, eggs, toast, fruit, you name it, and they were eating it. Emmett was just finishing his second glass of orange juice when someone from the next booth over tapped him on the shoulder. He glanced back at the man; he was middle aged and wearing a Mariners baseball cap. "What's up?"
"Are you the ghost hunters from that show?"
"That's us, Haunted America," Emmett smiled.
"I'm a huge fan," he reached a hand over to shake Emmett's. "Are you here for Roslyn House?" His eyes were bright with curiosity.
"As a matter of fact, we are. Have you ever been inside?"
He shook his head, "the wife doesn't like that place. You know…people have died in there."
Alice spoke up, "the Boyds, yes."
"No," he paused. "My wife grew up here and she heard that -," he stopped and glanced down. "Sorry, phone's ringing. Really nice meeting you all." With that, he turned back around in his seat to take the call.
They all looked at Bella. "What was he talking about?" Alice asked.
Bella shook her head. "I have no idea." She flipped through her notes in her head. No, she thought to herself, the Boyds died in 1918 and that's when the haunting began.
They all turned to see if Mariners Cap was off the phone, but he was gone. They turned back to Bella as if she could produce new research that would explain away what the man had started to say.
"You know how rumors can spread in a small town," Edward interjected. "It's probably nothing."
Alice and Rosalie nodded. "True."
When the group arrived at the house, the Cullens were waiting; they seemed anxious to leave. Carlisle went through the house with Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper while the rest stayed downstairs to explain to Esme what would happen that night and the next day.
The plan was to record all night; the footage would be broadcast with only a two minute delay which meant the public would get to see almost everything. Alice was hoping for something big; Bella was just hoping to make it out without embarrassing herself live on television.
The Cullens were due back early in the morning; they would film the debriefing and reactions before doing a quick wrap up. After that, they would pack everything up for the two hour van ride back to the airport for their six o'clock flight back to California.
Piece of cake.
The house was buzzing with activity, people talking over each other, to themselves, setting up base camp, cameras, sensors. They were like a chaotic well oiled machine.
"Should we set up that camera facing the mirror?" Alice asked; she was setting up a laptop to establish a connection with the people in California. They were the ones that polished the raw footage, adding intros, teasers, sounds, and credits. Basically, they made twelve hours of recording look like a real show. And they were able to see all the feeds at once, so they could splice it together by what had the most interesting action or dialogue.
"You want it on the mirror all night?" Jasper furrowed his eyebrows and Alice shrugged. "I'll put it here," he repositioned the camera on the tripod. "That way it can see part of the mirror and all of you."
From upstairs, Bella called out, "I need a tall person!"
"I'm on it," Edward yelled back.
Rosalie came in from outside, "generator is working perfectly," she dusted her hands off on her jeans.
"Hey Jasper, this new EVP recorder isn't working," Emmett lumbered down the stairs.
"Say hi," Alice faced her hand held camera in Rosalie's direction; she waved.
"We need another motion sensor up here," Edward called down.
Jasper grabbed the little device from Alice, who was talking animatedly to California.
Bella leaned over the railing at the top of the stairs, "are we putting a thermal imaging camera in the hall?"
"Do we have an extra?" Jasper asked on his way up.
"Can you guys give me a hand?" Alice gestured to the mess of cords, screen feeds, and other equipment splayed out on the long table that was acting as their command center.
"Should we tape down the cords?" Rosalie asked.
"No," Emmett and Alice said together. "The adhesive rubs off onto the wood," Emmett explained. "And I really don't feel like paying to have their floors cleaned."
"Done!" Bella called on her way downstairs.
"Ready," Jasper and Edward followed.
"What time is it?" Rosalie was looking a little nervous.
"Two minutes to air time," Alice answered. "Hey, is the mic set up in the bedroom?"
Jasper nodded, lifting the boom. Emmett hefted a camera into his hands; he nudged Rosalie with his elbow. "You'll do great."
"Time for lights out." Jasper ran out to kill the house's electricity. He came back just in time.
From the laptop, California called out, "ok, teaser's going."
Alice looked up, "good show everybody."
They all echoed and took their seats near Alice, who acted as the leader on camera.
"Intro is rolling," California said. "Emmett, push out a little."
Emmett complied, backing up a couple of steps so the camera shot included more background.
Edward looked over to Bella and grinned; she bit her lip and made a fake scared face.
"Ok, Alice," California said, "and we're going over to you…now."
"…and Rosalie, our skeptic, has agreed to stay alone in the master bedroom, where, in a fit of jealously, Roslyn Boyd took the life of her husband before taking her own on one terrifying night." Alice gave a good dramatic pause. "Are you scared, Rosalie?"
"Of course not," she crossed her arms.
Emmett led her upstairs where a camera was already set up on a tripod in the room.
"Should I talk a lot?" She whispered in the hallway.
"Just explore the room a little, sit on the bed, talk to the audience about being skeptical. Whatever feels right." He stepped closer, "I won't let you stay up here by yourself all night."
"But I thought -,"
"We wouldn't really do that to you," he showed his dimples. "I'll come up from time to time, or you can come down as long as nothing's happening, ok?"
Rosalie smiled, "ok." Then she put on her brave face and walked into the Boyd's bedroom alone.
"Are you guys ready?" Alice asked Bella and Edward. They were going, along with Emmett and Jasper, to explore the house. The group was hoping Edward might pick up something.
Emmett and Jasper held their equipment up in response.
"Ok, start on the first floor. I'll stay and monitor the feeds." She brought up a split screen of what they were seeing on the various cameras.
Jasper came around the table and kissed her. "Stay safe."
Alice looked around the room. Except for the big mirror and their table, it was empty of all furniture. The bay window behind her let almost no light in, the moon hidden as it was by layers of clouds and fog. She got up to look outside.
Alice stilled, listened.
Although she had experienced things in her life not easily explained away, Alice was pragmatic. If there was a sound, it had a source. She leaned close to the window, feeling the chill from outside through the glass.
Alice knew the camera was on her, and that California probably thought whatever she was doing was interesting enough to broadcast. She took a deep breath. "I hear something," she said, hoping the mic Jasper rigged was picking up her voice. "But I think it's coming from -,"
Alice jumped, cleared her throat, "I think it's coming from outside." She looked out, squinting at the glass. It looked black.
"Oh," she backed up. Her eyebrows furrowed. For a second, she forgot about the cameras; her eyes glazed.
And then she exhaled. "Tree branch on the window," she smiled.
She sat back down, feeling miles away. It wasn't anything, she said to herself.
"It was nothing."
"Sorry, it's hard to see."
Bella paused, fixing the back of her shoe. Edward held her free arm to help her balance. Jasper tried not to hit anyone with the boom. "What part of the house are we in?" He asked.
As the researcher, Bella was the only one that had studied the floor plan and even she was confused. Each door seemed to lead them further away, every room had more than one way in and out, and the hallways were narrow and pitch and stretched much further than Bella thought the house had room for. "We're in…,"she mentally retraced their steps, "the library should be that door on the right, which means the gift shop is on the other side of this wall." She knocked it lightly for emphasis.
Something knocked back.
In unison, they took a step away. Emmett and Jasper regained their composure first, readying the shot to frame Edward and Bella. "That wasn't one of you?" She looked at the boys in suspicion.
They shook their heads.
"That knock?" Jasper raised his eyebrows. He looked at Edward, "anything coming through?"
"No, but…I feel…my head is killing me." He ran his hands through his hair. "I'm fine," he exhaled, "knock again."
Bella knocked twice, softly.
"What time is it?" Emmett asked, unable to look at his watch and still carry the heavy camera.
"Um," Bella checked, "eight thirty."
Rosalie cleared her throat and then kept talking though she was unsure if any of it was actually being shown on television. She needed something to distract her from the dark and the quiet. "You're a grown up," she said to herself. Outside, the wind picked up, loosening leaves from their branches. She could hear them scatter.
Inside, something creaked on the stairs, like a heavy weight pressing into the top step.
Her head turned toward the door, she smiled uncomfortably. "This house is over a hundred years old and made of wood. It's going to periodically settle, which is most likely the sound I just heard."
She heard it again, but this time it was in the hallway. "…Emmett?"
"What?" She glanced up from where she was exploring the rows of books in the library by the almost non-existent light of the window.
"What?" Emmett asked, looking up from his camera.
"You said my name."
"No I didn't."
She stepped around him to where Edward and Jasper were standing; they both shook their heads.
Alice was looking at the feeds from the three thermal imaging cameras. One was set up in the master bedroom with Rosalie, the other was on the second floor landing, and the other was in the room with Alice, pointing toward the entryway. Each screen showed a steady picture of green, the only red being Rosalie's body sitting still on the bed. It was the only color in the dark room besides California on her laptop.
"What was that?" California asked suddenly.
Alice looked up from where she was watching Rosalie, who had stood up and was moving toward the bedroom door. "What was what?"
"On the thermals, number one."
Alice watched his eyes dart to the side as if looking at another screen.
"Which room is that in?" He asked.
Alice checked the feeds; she felt her pulse thud loudly in the still space. "This room."
"None of you said anything?" Bella's eyes focused on each man with her, looking for a "tell" that one of them was lying. The only thing she saw was worry.
"Do you want me to check the recorder?" Jasper asked, motioning to the EVP recorder sitting on a large round table at the center of the room.
She stared at it. "No…no that's alright."
Rosalie stood at the door, her hand on the knob. She thought about the old King house. It stood at the edge of the town she grew up in and everyone believed it to be haunted. Kids with too much time on their hands spent their nights daring each other to go inside. When the thrill of that wore off they started daring each other to spend the night. Rosalie was one of the volunteers.
She was twelve years old and it was one of those hot and sticky summers where people were still outside fanning themselves even after the sun went down. She walked into the house bravely, not even turning around to look at her best friend, who'd chickened out at the last minute.
She closed the front door and listened to the stillness of the house and the riotous laughter coming from outside.
Young Rosalie had crossed her arms in front of her chest, stood tall. "I'm not afraid of you."
The giggling died down outside; she knew they would only leave two or three people to keep watch.
It was barely a whisper, but it was something she never forgot. "You should be."
"Was it a heat signature?" Alice tried to keep the shaking out of her voice.
"No, look at this," a video window popped up on her screen. It was a recording of the feed from a few minutes prior. It was the same green Alice had been staring at all night, but then, instead of seeing the red signifying a warm blooded presence, she saw blue. It moved across the screen so fast, she almost missed it.
"What was that?" She asked.
"Well, we're going to commercial now and then we're going to run with this so…you tell me."
Rosalie took a deep breath and swung the door open. "Who's there?...Emmett?" She waited for a sign that it was someone from the group, but heard nothing. Much more quietly and still aware there was a camera on her at least partially, she stepped a single foot into the hall. "Hello?" She leaned out, feeling bound by the barrier of the doorway. To the left were a black hallway and a thermal imaging camera. To the right was the end of the hall and a porthole window, but no people as far as she could see.
Back inside the safety of the room, she sat down again. "See?" She tried to sound relieved, "just the house settling."
Alice stood in the middle of their base camp, measuring the temperature of the air, checking for drafts or anything that might explain away what she'd seen. But there was nothing; she stuck the gauge in her jacket pocket and stood there, unsure what to do next.
"Ok," she breathed, "I'm going to try and…see. It doesn't always work, but there's definitely something going on here." She made a small turn so she was mostly facing the camera and closed her eyes.
It was like an emptying out of herself, making room for something more. So for a moment, she wasn't where she was, and she wasn't when she was either. It was a little like being inside a dream; she couldn't quite control what she saw or how much she remembered later. So she spoke out loud in a strange unattached way that she could never replicate when lucid, committing the vision to tape.
Her limbs were heavy and she felt strangely bound in some way to her spot in the room. She kept her eyes closed, watched the past uncurling in her mind.
"I'm here, but upstairs. There's a woman in high heels; I can hear them clicking on the floor in the bedroom. I think she's pacing…but I can't see…," she paused and let the images put themselves together before she spoke again. "She's yelling at someone…a man. He's sitting on the bed…he…," like a skipping record, the last couple of seconds repeated before fading out for good. The man raising his hand, grabbing the woman's wrist before she could slap him; the angle was off, almost sideways in Alice's mind. But that last second, she got a partial glimpse of the man. "He…his hair…,"
Alice strode around the table, her movements staccato and her teeth chattering. She swept her hands over the equipment, using the light from the screens to find what she was looking for. A walkie talkie; they rarely used them, but kept them just in case. From the laptop, she heard someone talking to her and from somewhere, farther back, she heard someone laughing.
"Where are we now?" Emmett walked backward in front of Edward and Bella, filming and hoping not to run into anything.
"The kitchen is through here on the right," Bella answered.
Emmett took the turn a little too soon and banged his elbow on the frame. "Shit."
"Censor," Jasper said.
They walked through while Edward lagged behind.
"What's the matter?" Bella stood in the doorway, blocking the shot.
"My head…it's just a headache, but the pressure. It's like…," he lowered his voice, "it's like something is inside my head." In truth, he felt like he was losing his mind.
Bella watched his expression go from pained to something else.
"What's going on?" Emmett stepped around her, pointing the camera at them.
She waved her hand, signaling for him to be quiet.
"I think he likes you." Edward looked at her, eyes wide. He grabbed her arm suddenly, as if to throw her out of the way of something.
"What are -,"
"He…he's in my head." He shut his eyes tightly, pressing a hand into them.
"Who, Edward?" Bella stepped closer, but kept her arms at her sides. "Do -,"
"He wants us both."
The temperature in the master bedroom dropped; Rosalie wished she'd brought a jacket. She hugged her middle and began talking again.
"The temperature change could be for various reasons. Again, this is an old house; it's drafty…or -," she froze, hearing someone speaking behind her.
"But they're perfect," a woman's voice said.
"I don't know if we can do it before they leave…and there's so many of them." This voice was male, calm.
Rosalie stopped breathing; her fear felt cold.
"We'll just have to try harder."
Rosalie had had enough. She stood up, made a quick apology to the camera, and raced toward the door.
Alice found her walkie talkie, but her relief was cut short. Sitting next to it was the one Bella's group was supposed to be carrying.
"Who is 'he', Edward?" Bella stood in front of him, trying to get his eyes to focus on her.
"I don't know…," he sounded exhausted.
Bella reached into her jacket pocket, found it to be empty. "Jasper, do you have the walkie? I need to talk to Alice." She wasn't sure she could retrace their steps with Edward almost incoherent. She turned around, expectant.
"No, I don't…I think I left it…," he checked all of his pockets.
"Great," she muttered, more angry at herself for not remembering either. She looked at Edward, who seemed to be standing a little straighter, and then back at Emmett and Jasper. Something wasn't right, something more than what was already in front of her. She'd felt it since they arrived and couldn't ignore it anymore. She needed her research, but didn't want to hold up the rest of the group. "Ok," she decided, "I'm gonna go back to our base camp, you guys go on ahead."
Edward grabbed her wrist, Emmett's camera forgotten for the moment. "No."
"It's ok, I -,"
He kept his voice quiet, "I told you last night that I was going to -,"
"Edward," Bella blushed in spite of herself. "I'll be fine; I'm more worried about you." She smiled, "Alice is right down this hall and around the corner." Actually, she wasn't entirely sure about that, but she stood firm anyway.
Edward's fingers trailed down until they were around hers. "Please be careful." He squeezed her hand.
"Here," Jasper stepped up, handed her a flashlight.
She thanked him and then set off, trying to ignore the fact that she was now completely alone.
Rosalie wanted nothing more than to go downstairs and find everyone else, but something was pulling her toward the door at the end of the hall. She grabbed her flashlight, "oh, what the hell…,"
Bella swore under her breath. She had this strange sensation that the hallways were moving and reconnecting in nonsensical ways to turn her around.
She opened another door – bathroom.
With her eyes closed, she tried to remember the layout of the house.
"You should have brought Edward with you."
Bella jumped, stifling a scream. After a minute of listening to the sound of her pulse, she spoke, "who's there?"
She waited for a response, but was met with nothing. She strained her ears, thinking it odd that she couldn't even hear the rain she'd noticed coming down the last time she peeked out a window. "Hello?" She called out, "hallucination?" She stepped forward, her flashlight only illuminating a few feet at a time.
"I am no such thing."
Bella clenched her teeth and her hand wrapped more tightly around the flashlight, prepared to hit someone with it.
"My dear, lower your weapon. I just want to talk."
It wasn't real, she thought to herself. "You're not real." Bella started walking, sure that she'd find her way to someone sooner or later; the house wasn't that big.
The voice was intimate, as if the two were sharing secrets over a rich dessert. But it wasn't real, Bella thought to herself again.
"You can stick your fingers in your ears all you want, it won't help. Tell me about Edward, do you love him?"
"Leave me alone," her voice was beginning to tremble as she searched for her friends.
"Wouldn't you like to be with him forever?"
"Go away," her steps were quick, but going in no particular direction. When she came to another door, she pushed through. She recognized the room as the ladies' parlor where the Cullens were interviewed the day before; this meant she was at the front of the house. She looked out the window, grateful for a tangible reminder that she was still in the world she knew.
"Why aren't you together already? Doesn't he love you back?"
Bella fisted her hands, unwilling to admit to a voice that probably didn't exist that the question was exactly what she feared the most. That Edward didn't have feelings for her at all, that she was doomed to carry that ache alone for the rest of her life.
She thought about the signals he gave her, the way he'd brushed his fingers through her hair and over her palms, how he shared a bed with her and offered his valiant protection. But now here she was, alone again.
Somewhere in that same room, a different woman smiled.
Rosalie turned the creaking knob and pushed the door open, wondering if she should have brought the camera. Too late now, she thought. There was no way she was going back into that bedroom with the voices a few feet away.
The room was musty and clearly used for storage. There were boxes everywhere overflowing with papers and photographs. Stacked five deep at one corner were a series of paintings.
There seemed to be a little circular pathway carved out around the room, almost wide enough to walk through without nudging the boxes, almost.
Rosalie bumped a stack of papers sitting precariously atop a stack of wooden crates; they scattered around her like autumn leaves in the dark room. She huffed to herself and kneeled down, gathering them haphazardly in her hands, the flashlight discarded on the floor. Its beam pointed toward her feet, where a photocopy of a legal document rested under her left shoe. She picked it up and read. It was the declaration of the house as a historical landmark, dated 2000; under "owner" was written the name, Barbara Owens. She stuck the paper back into the pile she was making.
When she was finished, she tapped the bottom of the stack on the floor once to straighten it out and stood up, feeling a small twinge in her back.
Impulsively, she looked at the top sheet. Exploration was the reason she'd come into the room in the first place anyway.
It was a letter, hand written, dated December of 2000. It appeared to be a part of some sort of ongoing correspondence. Rosalie looked at the date at the top of the page again, frowning. Something wasn't right about it. She read.
I understand your worries about the house, but aside from abandoning it, I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know why the last owner applied for landmark status. If it were me, I would have burned this place to the ground.
And before you say it, I do realize I've only been here a few months. But come and try to live here with Aunt Carol and you'll understand.
So please, please convince the city to take it; they can turn it into a museum or something.
Your loving and desperate niece,
Rosalie read it again.
She went back to that first day when she read through Bella's research. How that one little piece of paper seemed so incongruous next to the other documentation; it never totally fit.
All at once, it hit her.
"Hey man, are you doing all right?" Jasper was worried about Edward; he'd seen him become worked up before, but it had never seemed painful.
They were in another empty room; Edward had a hand pressed heavily into the wall. He was listening, but not to Jasper.
"They can't hear me, so don't bother asking." The voice was male and oddly familiar, but it carried that same toneless shape that one's own thoughts had. It was in Edward's head, but not. He couldn't be sure if it was real or if he was suffering some kind of mental breakdown.
"What do you want?" Somewhere behind him, he heard one of his friends asking a question.
"Tell me about Bella."
"Stay away from her." He all but growled the words.
"I'm not going to make her do anything she doesn't already want to."
"I said -,"
"No need to get angry. I'm just here to warn you, Bella isn't well."
Edward lunged forward toward empty space, "what did you do to her?" He could hear Emmett and Jasper, but it was like trying to listen under water.
"I haven't done anything. What I mean is…she isn't well."
Edward felt a brush of coldness near his temple and automatically put his hand to his head.
"She's going to do something bad." The voice was calm, almost cheerful.
"She's going to kill you."
The voice startled Bella again and she jumped, curling in on herself. "Please…," she started desperately, "just go away."
"Open the drawer."
She looked at the sideboard against the wall, the only other furniture in the room besides the two loveseats. Worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, she let the curiosity overcome her.
Bella was fairly skeptical by nature. It wasn't the idea of the supernatural that drew her into the job she had now, it was the history. She loved learning about the kind of lives people led and what might have happened to them. She loved that thrill that came with delving into a mystery, laying all the pieces out and then putting them together in a way that made sense.
So, unable to resist, she opened the little drawer.
It slid out smoothly and inside, resting at the back, was a gun.
Rosalie held the letter in her hand tightly along with the response from the man Dana Harris called Uncle Jack, who as it turned out, was a city councilman.
Her group had been lied to.
She strode over to the door. She didn't know exactly what any of this meant, but they had been brought there for a reason.
Rosalie grabbed the knob, turned. It stuck. She turned it the other way, nothing. She pushed, pulled, shoved her weight into it. And still, it wouldn't budge.
She was locked in.
Alice grabbed Bella's file, flipping through it rapidly.
His hair, she kept thinking.
On the laptop, California was trying to talk to her. She heard him, but didn't listen. If she had, she would have learned that something was wrong with some of their footage from the day before. The editors could see the camera turn on inside Roslyn House, it faced an empty loveseat. They heard Alice say something to someone and then pass in front of the lens. And then nothing but static, it lasted thirty minutes until the camera was shut off completely.
But Alice wasn't listening to any of that. Because she'd found what she was looking for, a photograph of Roslyn and Terrence Boyd from 1917.
"His hair," she said again, talking to no one in particular. "In my vision, his hair was blonde."
Terrence Boyd's hair was jet black.
Rosalie slammed the side of her fist into the door again, following it with her the tip of her left shoe. She hadn't told anyone, especially not the group, that she was claustrophobic. She'd even been to a doctor about it as a kid.
It was because of the King's house, the one she was dared to spend the night in when she was twelve. Rosalie remembered the voice, that threatening deep pitch, telling her to be afraid. She'd hid in the hall closet until her mother came to get her hours later. She never told anyone but her therapist about the things that voice said while she hid in that tiny black space.
But her doctor told her it wasn't real and Rosalie spent her life up to that point disproving the paranormal, blaming the unexplained on lies and overactive imaginations.
But her claustrophobia was real.
She banged both hands into the door, trying to keep her head clear. She thought about windows looking out onto wide open spaces, stretching her arms and legs out on by the pool on a sunny day.
She thought about how the room she was in had no windows.
"Hello?" She called out. "Emmett? Anybody?"
She counted her breaths; she counted too many in too short a time period.
Her heart squeezed in her chest. The room was shrinking; the boxes were multiplying. They towered over her, ready to fall, crush her, bury her under their heavy weight.
Rosalie yelled out as loud as she could, trying to hold onto what was real. "The Cullens lied!" Her breathing came out stilted and shallow. "The Cullens lied! They don't own the house, the city does! Does anybody hear me?"
She was met only with the sounds of her body on the verge of a full blown panic attack.
Bella wasn't sure how much time had passed. She wasn't sure how the gun ended up in her hands.
But she was sure of one thing. That voice. That relentless voice belonged to Esme Cullen.
"Where are you? Show yourself," she demanded.
"I'm everywhere," Esme's voice whispered in her ear.
Bella whipped around, pointing the gun toward the sound. She had grown up around guns and though she was never comfortable with one, she knew how to use them.
She kept talking, trying to draw Esme out into the open. She hoped the gun would scare her. "What do you want?"
"It's not what I want, it's what we want," she corrected. "We want you and Edward."
Her panic stuck in her throat, "Edward? Wh-why him?" She turned blindly in another direction.
"You're going to replace us here."
Edward, Emmett, and Jasper stormed through the endless hallways. The camera hung limply, but still filming, from Emmett's hand.
Jasper called out, "Alice?"
They went through a doorway into the living room; they'd been there before.
"Wait," Jasper paused, trying to make out the shapes around him. "Through here."
Their feet pounded across the floor to another door; they shoved it open and were met with another hall. Jasper led them straight across to a closed door. He opened it.
"Oh, thank God, Alice."
Alice was still there in body, but her mind was in a very different place. She was like an unwilling spectator, watching two people's last night.
Esme's hands were shaking, but she was close enough to Carlisle that when she fired, she wouldn't miss.
Her voice was ragged and worn from crying. "You're lying," she accused.
"Esme, you don't - you don't know what you're saying," he sounded tired and aggravated by his wife's ravings. This wasn't the first time they'd had this argument, but it was the first time she'd brought a gun.
"I know exactly what I'm saying," she stepped closer. "She saw you, Carlisle."
That set him off. "She's not real!" He shouted from his seat on the bed.
"You can't say that! I know you hear them too, I know it."
"You're not well, Esme," he started to stand. "Darling, give me the gun."
"Stop it," her hands shook, but she kept it pointed at him.
He reached out.
She pulled the trigger.
It echoed off the walls, the sound too big for their little bedroom.
She felt Roslyn's cool breath near her ear. "That's a good girl."
Esme didn't turn; she knew she wouldn't see her if she did anyway. She looked at her husband, the person she loved more than anyone. "Oh," she breathed. "What have I done?"
"Alice," Jasper said again. She was crying, but her eyes were glazed; he recognized the look. He wrapped his arms around her. She was so small, sometimes he forgot that. "Alice," he whispered. He waited and then felt her shudder, collapsing into his chest. She was mumbling something so he leaned back just enough to hear.
"She killed him, Jasper. I saw it," her face crumpled in pain as she relived the memory.
"Who? Roslyn Boyd?"
"No, Esme Cullen, she killed Carlisle, she," her voice broke, "she shot him and then…,"
He pulled away a little more. "Alice, you're not making any sense."
"It's not the Boyds, it's the Cullens, they're the ones -,"
"Where's Bella?" Edward looked around as if she would appear if he said her name.
And then there was confusion and questions asked into the air from raised voices.
"Is Rosalie still upstairs?" Emmett sounded incredulous. "I'm going to get her," he dropped his camera on the vacant chair before charging toward the staircase.
"What do you mean…the Cullens are dead? But -,"
"Where the hell is Bella?" Edward yelled.
Alice looked at him, "I thought she was with y -,"
Before she could finish, a gunshot rang out.
Their heads snapped toward the sound. Edward ran out of the room with Jasper and Alice right behind him.
"Bella, call out!" He yelled, approaching a door, fairly certain that through it was where the sound originated from. He pushed it open, hoping it was the right one.
Emmett heard the shot, but kept moving up the stairs.
He was scared, though if you were to ask him later, he'd deny it. And he was oddly proud that Rosalie had stayed in the master bedroom all that time; he didn't have that kind of patience or self control.
"Rosalie?" He reached the landing. The door was open; he pushed it and stepped inside. The room was empty. He checked the places a little kid might hide, under the bed, in the closet; he even pulled back the rumpled bedspread which he knew was stupid, but he did it anyway.
Where was she?
He stepped back through the doorway, straining to listen for any movement. He looked left and realized he'd forgotten his flashlight. "Rosalie?" He heard something and took off toward another door still calling her name. When he reached it, he found it locked. "Rosalie, are you in there?"
There was a noise, something shuffling. "Emmett?" She sounded close to tears.
It was wrong; he didn't want her to ever cry.
"Rose, honey, open the door."
When she spoke again, her voice was shaky. "I can't," she turned the knob back and forth for emphasis. "Emmett…please, get me out of here."
Emmett tried it again from his side, pushing hard enough to make the wood groan. He rubbed a hand over his face, deciding. "Rose, move away from the door alright?"
"Ok," she replied, her voice slightly more distant.
He counted off in his head, trying to ignore how much he knew this was going to hurt.
Bella was pointing the gun at Edward. She didn't mean to, but she didn't feel entirely in control of herself anymore either.
He stood still, palms up. Jasper was behind him with Alice at the very back. "Bella -," Edward started.
"She's here! She wants you too," her hands shook; she was crying. "I thought I could kill her, but…,"
Edward tried to keep his voice soothing. "Who's here, Bella?"
"Esme, she wants me." Her voice sounded raw, as if she'd been screaming. "They want to leave, Edward…they just want to go."
He took another step closer, but stilled when the sudden movement startled her. "Then why don't they just leave?"
"They can't, they, they replaced the Boyds and now…," now they needed two people to replace them.
Edward was reminded of something Esme said during their interview, that they never sold the house because there was something sad and romantic about the Boyds. Now he was wondering if she was really talking about herself. He looked at Bella; she looked like she was listening to someone.
"I won't," she shook her head, the gun already lowering. Her voice was strained past breaking. "You can't make me do it for you," she said to someone only she could hear.
"Bella," Edward was closer now, close enough to touch her.
"Please...take it," she looked down at the gun like she couldn't let go of her own free will.
He reached out with both hands and touched hers, slowing slipping the gun from her grip. It seemed to release something inside and she let out a shuddering sob as Edward cradled her to him. He murmured to her that it was alright. He ran a hand through her hair and rocked her back and forth, trying to show her that she was safe.
Edward wasn't sure how long they stayed like that, but all too soon he heard a familiar set of footsteps pounding down the stairs.
"Let's get the hell out of here, yes?" Emmett called out, fumbling in the dark for the front door.
They all ran together out of the house, stumbling all over each other, everything else forgotten for the moment.
Outside, they all froze.
It was morning.
Jack Harris liked to sleep in on Sundays.
So the fact that he was up at seven and in his car already had him in a foul mood. He didn't always hate Halloween, but ever since his niece donated Roslyn House to the city, he felt it was his duty to keep the prank loving idiots away from it.
And they loved Halloween.
He got the call from Mrs. Crowley at a quarter to seven. She was walking her cat Buster, yes her cat, and heard what could have been a gun being fired inside the house. She ran back home, which was no easy feat at her age, and called Jack.
"There was a van parked out front and I swear I heard a gun go off."
He mumbled into the phone, "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure," she snapped.
"Then why didn't you call the police?"
"I thought you should know first; it's your house after all."
"Mrs. Crowley, it's not my house, it belongs…alright fine," he sighed. "I'll go take a look."
Jack parked behind the van. Whoever these people were, they had one foot in the grave already.
The group looked around. It was light outside; the fog had broken and the barest hint of sunlight was piercing through the cloud cover.
"But, inside…it was still dark…," Rosalie started. She held Emmett's hand more tightly; they hadn't let go of each other since he'd broken down the door to get her.
Before anyone else could speak, a car pulled up. It was beige, a little boring. The driver got out, his expression angry. "Who the hell are you people?"
Rosalie's lips curved up softly, her composure momentarily regained. "I've got this." She stepped forward while Emmett stood sentinel behind her. "Hello sir, my name is Rosalie Hale. What's yours?" She cooed at him.
His mouth opened once, closed, opened again. "Jack…Harris. You know," he shifted his weight from left to right. "You and your friends are trespassing."
Rosalie pouted, "You're not going to punish us, are you Mr. Harris?" Behind her, someone snorted. She watched as Jack Harris' anger melted away.
"Oh, no dear…but I do have to tell you that you and your friends need to leave."
"Yes, of course."
He was reluctant to them go. "What…what were you doing in there anyway?"
"Um…," she cleared her throat. "We were documenting our night in the house." She smiled, "we're on television."
He didn't say anything, so she decided to press her luck.
"Would you mind signing a release form so we can show the footage?" She didn't mention that the footage had already been shown, but getting his permission in writing would stave off possible legal action.
"Uh…," Emmett started. "I don't think -,"
"I'd be happy to, my dear."
They watched Jack leave a short while later, a smile on his lips. In the end, not only did he sign the release, he also arranged for people to come and break down their equipment. No one was very eager to walk back inside that house.
"See everyone," Emmett said as they neared the van, "our Rosalie does have a super power after all."
When they got settled in the back, she let him put his arm around her.
"I don't believe it." Alice said to her laptop screen. The group was congregated at the coffeehouse, relieved to be back in California.
"Believe it baby, best numbers we've ever seen on the network."
California had scrambled to throw together the footage once it was clear that no one was really filming anymore. The editors wanted to be furious, but the viewership had been huge.
"But we didn't even record the best stuff." None of the tapes showed the Cullens, or picked up any voices.
"Doesn't matter, you shot enough. So, listen, we want you to film some interviews of each other, fill in some gaps. We're going to call it Return to Roslyn House."
They all looked at each other, gauging the various reactions.
"It could be good," Bella said tentatively. Out of everyone, her experience had been arguably the worst. She said it was like a presence in her mind, not unlike what Edward felt, but this presence was actively trying to control what she did. She almost couldn't stop it.
Edward put his arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer. "Ok…let's do it."
One Week Later
"What I will say is that I experienced something I cannot explain with logic or any other sort of rationale. It was jarring and frightening enough that it's made me rethink some things about the way I see the world."
"And would you ever go back to Roslyn House?"
Alice smiled at that. "Ok, I think that about wraps it up then." She turned the camera off and Bella relaxed. Of the group, she was the least comfortable with being filmed. "So what's the next project?"
Bella stood, stretched her back. "Not sure yet, we're getting a ton of requests." She glanced around the little set they used for filming; it was meant to look like a Victorian era living room.
"I think we should look at the one in Maine, or the one in Colorado, that place Stephen King stayed."
Bella nodded, "the hotel, that could be good." Bella promised to call her when she did a little more research.
"Oh, I think Edward is waiting for you outside," Alice winked at her playfully.
Bella tried to keep a casual pace as she walked out, but probably failed. She pushed open the outer doors, squinting at the bright sunlight.
"Hey," Edward was leaning against the wall, looking every bit a James Dean body double. "How'd it go?" His face creased with worry at Bella's having to relive her night in Washington.
She shrugged, "it wasn't bad. I think we're going to Colorado next," she grinned at him.
He stared in surprise, measuring the truth of her statement.
He shook his head, "how do you do that? How are you so…ok with everything?"
She raised and dropped her shoulders, "I'm just good with weird, I guess. Want to get some lunch?" She started walking.
Edward smiled and put his arm around her waist. He'd asked her out for an official date, which was taking place that night, but knew he wouldn't be able to wait all day to see her. That was why he'd shown up outside the studio when he did. He smoothed his fingers over a soft bit of skin under the hem of Bella's t-shirt and felt her sigh and lean her head on his shoulder. He grinned at her.
"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you," she raised her head, but kept walking with him down the street. "Jack Harris billed Emmett for the door he broke down." She chuckled, remembering Emmett's face when he found out.
Edward laughed, "I bet he was pissed."
"Yeah," she paused, thinking about it. "It was kind of romantic though, without the bill part."
"He's got it pretty bad."
"I guess we all do."
Bella smiled toward the sidewalk and snuggled further into Edward's side. "Yeah, I guess we do."
Esme was at the window again, watching the sun dip down below the trees. She loved a good sunset. Carlisle came up behind her, slipped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on top of her head. "There will be others."
"We're back on the map now, at least." She leaned back, enjoying the feel of him around her.
"And everybody loves a good scary story."
Carlisle pressed a kiss into her hair.
"Yes," Carlisle agreed. "Next time."
Author's Note: After a little debate, I've decided there will be another installment of this story due out next October. It'll go out as a new chapter in this story so if you'd like to read it, put me on alert.
Also, thank you for reading! :)