I'd Rather Be...

"It's not haunted. It's abandoned."

"It creaks." Parker said resolutely.

"It's old. Don't tell me you seriously believe all that haunted crap."


Eliot sighed impatiently, correctly assuming she meant that she wasn't going to tell him, and not that she didn't believe the hotel was haunted. "Where do we look first?"

The air smelt like burnt dog fur and mould. His nose itched, his eyes burned, and he really just wanted to scrap this assignment and go back out into the fresh air. He shuddered to think what kind of poisons he was breathing in. He'd even be willing to wear one of those face mask things if he had one, which he didn't, because he hadn't known just how polluted this place was going to be.

He should have known though, because Nate sent him. Nate always sent him to the worst...

Parker jumped as something thumped behind the wall beside them. "Ghosts?"

"Mice. Rats. Not ghosts."

"You're sure?"

"There are no ghosts. I've been in worse places than this, and I have never seen anything even remotely supernatural. No ghosts."

She seemed to relax a little after that.

"These aren't my places. I don't like dead places. I like office buildings; everyone knows ghosts don't live in office buildings."

"Ghosts don't live anywhere. They're dead."

"See, I knew you believed in ghosts too. You know what you don't find where there are ghosts? Money. There's a lot more money in office buildings. Ghosts don't need money."

"Just tell me what to look for and let's get this done," Eliot growled. This wasn't how he wanted to spend a Sunday afternoon, especially knowing that Nate and Hardison were sitting back watching the football game. He'd rather be fighting ninja's, or getting a root canal, or just about anything other than rummaging around in a rat infested abandoned hotel. He'd even rather spend the afternoon watching Sophie act in a play.

Parker shifted slightly as she concentrated on thieving. "Nate said the hotel manager must have stashed the jewellery somewhere in the hotel because he died before leaving the building, and though there has been enough media coverage of the lost jewels to attract all kinds of treasure hunters, the stash was never discovered. Assuming the obvious places have been checked, we will concentrate on the not so obvious." Parker aimed her flashlight down the long dark hall. The beam of light didn't reveal much; mostly illuminating the thick clouds of dust particles in the air.

"Most people will hide stuff under things when they are in a hurry, like burying it." Parker added. "Look for holes in the floor, or broken wall panels. He wouldn't have had time to hide it anywhere too elaborate because he died in the hotel fire that night. He could have hidden it somewhere temporary with the intention to come back for it. Somewhere no one usually goes."

Eliot preferred the method of finding whoever had what he wanted and taking it from them. This hide-and-seek stuff was Parker's deal, and Nate only sent him along because Parker refused to be alone with the ghosts. Nate wasn't about to miss the football game, Hardison claimed to have allergies, and Sophie didn't like rats.

And that left Eliot. Sophie wasn't the only one who didn't like rats. A lot of people out there didn't like rats. Eliot and a lot of people couldn't stand rats. Just the sound of claws scratching on cement floors brought up memories...

He stopped suddenly as something way to big to be a mouse skittered across the hall just in front of his feet.

"Is it a ghost?"

Eliot cleared his throat. "No. Rats."

"Rats don't fly," Parker supplied helpfully. "Are you afraid of rats?"

"No. Of coarse not," he said a little too quickly.

"The boiler room is a classic hiding place. We should start there." Parker spread out her blueprint map Hardison printed out for her. "The layout of the hall is square. We'll work our way around."

None of it looked good. Beyond barely being able to see through the thick dust, and constantly choking on the stale air, there were piles of rat feces everywhere. There seemed to be alcoves and crevices all over where the manager could have stashed the jewels, and each and every one of those holes held the remains of wood shavings and shredded insulation. Rats . "How do you want to do this? Stick together?"

"Nate told me you'd keep the ghosts away."

"Yeah, I bet he did," Eliot answered with secret relief while steeling a covert glace around the room for anything furry. Parker didn't notice. "Let's get started then."

There were plenty of potential hiding places to search in the boiler room. Parker bent down and reached under the equipment in the boiler room while Eliot stood back and watched. Parker really was better at the whole searching thing, and Eliot wasn't about to volunteer.

Fortunately, Parker assumed he was busy standing guard to keep the ghosts at bay.