New Arrivals
Author-Kim Jackson
Titles

Phantoms
by Kim Jackson

Summary: Jim and Blair are on their way home from a well-deserved vacation when they meet a couple that aren't what they seem. Spoilers for The Waiting Room.

Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters don’t belong to me, unfortunately. I’m just borrowing them.

Detective Jim Ellison stood knee deep in the river, a fishing pole in his hands. He hadn’t caught anything yet, but he felt confident he would. Then he and his partner would enjoy a good meal. He glanced back at his partner. Blair Sandburg lounged on the shore with his hands under his head and a book lying open on his chest. His eyes were closed, and he seemed completely at rest, the book on his chest slowly rising and falling as he breathed.

Jim smiled as he returned to his fishing. They had both needed this vacation. They had been working on a particularly gruesome case for the last four weeks. It had been a serial killer case in which the killer liked to pluck out the eyes of his victims and keep them as souvenirs. Jim and Blair had seen every body, had inspected every murder scene in which there had been a lot of blood spatter.

As a sentinel, Jim used his heightened senses to look over each scene for clues that forensics might have missed. Normally, Jim’s senses were useful, but in this case, not only were they an asset but also a liability. The stench of blood had been so strong at each murder scene it almost had Jim gagging. Not to mention the condition of the bodies and the gruesome messages written on the walls in blood at each scene. It had been one of the hardest, and Jim didn’t think he could have gotten through it without Blair.

It had been especially hard on Blair though. With his kind heart and his belief that there was good in everyone, it had been hard for Blair to see man’s inhumanity to man in such a way. He had come close to gagging a few times himself at the murder scenes, but he had always pulled himself together and helped Jim with his senses. Of course, Blair went to puking in the bushes afterwards, and Jim had been right there beside him, supporting him.

Jim was still amazed at the young man’s stamina and strength of will. Jim knew rookie cops who wouldn’t have been able to stomach what Blair had witnessed, yet this young grad student had pushed aside his discomfort in order to help Jim get the job done.

And get the job done they did. They had managed to arrest the man responsible. He is now behind bars, and Jim and Blair had been granted a well-deserved two-week vacation. And they didn’t waste it. They had spent those two weeks out in the Cascade National Forest, fishing and camping and recharging their batteries. Jim was almost sad to see it end, but they had to get back to civilization. They had to get back to their jobs.

“Jim?” Blair’s voice called to him, bringing him out of his musings.

Jim turned toward his partner, who was sitting up and stretching. “Yeah, Chief?”

“Thought you were zoning for a minute there.”

“No, just thinking. How was your nap?”

“I wasn’t sleeping,” Blair denied.

“Right.”

“Ok. I was. And it was great by the way.” Blair placed his book on the ground, stood up, and walked to water’s edge. “So you catch anything yet?”

“No. Looks like they’re not biting today.”

“Oh,” Blair said, disappointed. “That’s too bad. I was looking forward to fish for dinner one last time.” The disappointment quickly disappeared as to be replaced by excitement. “But that’s ok because I’ve got something else in mind for dinner.”

“Nothing from the health food store, I trust?” Jim looked back at Blair, giving him a glare that said it better not be.

“No, no, no. You’ll love it, Jim. I promise.”

Jim looked at him skeptically but shrugged it off as he waded out of the water. He trusted Blair to give him a good meal. He just hoped it didn’t turn into a test of his sentinel senses. Often times when Blair made special meals, he’d try to get Jim to tell him what ingredients he used. Sometimes it was a challenge for the sentinel to get every ingredient right, and sometimes Jim enjoyed it. But this time, he didn’t want any tests.

“Well, we better head back, Chief. We still need to pack up our stuff before we leave tomorrow morning,” Jim said.

Blair nodded and gathered up his book and fishing pole, which he hadn’t used. He had decided to just relax on shore, read, and watch Jim at play. Sometimes it pleased the guide just to watch the sentinel in his delight.

Later that night, after packing all their gear into the truck, Jim and Blair lay in their sleeping bags in the tent, their bellies pleasantly full. Blair had been right. Jim had loved the meal his partner had cooked up, and it hadn’t turned into another one of Blair’s tests for which Jim was grateful. Jim listened to Blair’s breathing. The young man wasn’t quite asleep yet.

“Hey Jim?”

“Hmm?”

“Do we really have to leave early tomorrow?”

“Sandburg,” Jim growled. Jim had heard this argument many times before over the past two weeks. Blair had tried many times to get Jim to agree to stay longer than the planned two weeks.

“I’m not saying we should stay another day, although that would be nice.”

“Sandburg.”

“Ok, ok. But what I am suggesting is that we don’t leave until, say, noon?” Blair asked, his expression hopeful.

“Chief, it takes four and a half hours to get back to Cascade. I’d like to be home before dinner time.”

“Oh c’mon, Jim. Don’t you want to sleep in just one last time? You know we won’t be able to once we’re back in Cascade.”

Jim looked into Blair’s hopeful eyes and sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. All right, but no later than noon.”

“Yes! Thanks, Jim.”

Content that he wouldn’t have to wake up early in the morning, Blair rolled over and snuggled more deeply into his sleeping bag. He was soon fast asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day, Jim and Blair were packed and on the road by noon. They were lucky they had decided to leave that day. For the two weeks they had been out there, they had had nothing but nice weather, which was pretty unusual for Cascade. Now storm clouds were slowly rolling in.

Jim stared at the gray clouds on the horizon and hoped that it wouldn’t rain before they got home, but Jim knew that wouldn’t happen. The storm was too close. It would rain soon, and Jim could tell it was going to be a pretty bad storm.

Jim glanced at his partner who was looking out the window at the billowing storm clouds. “Guess we decided to head home at the right time, huh, Chief?”

“Yeah, no doubt. The last thing I want is to be stuck out in the rain.”

Jim could believe that. The kid hated being cold, and he especially hated being cold and wet.

They drove most of the way in silence, each dwelling on finally returning home. The only sound in the truck cab was the rain pounding on the roof. It had started to rain soon after they left and had slowly gotten harder as they drove until it was a veritable downpour. Jim was glad they were the only ones on this one-lane mountain road. He was forced to turn up his sense of sight to see through the sheets of rain, and the headlights of an oncoming car would totally blow him out even though it wasn’t very dark.

Blair cast surreptitious glances at Jim. He knew his partner was using his senses to see through the driving rain, and he feared a zone out. He didn’t know if Jim could keep using his senses extensively like this for however long it would take to get back to Cascade or until it stopped raining. He didn’t want Jim to overdo it.

As Blair settled into a more comfortable position in his seat, there was a sudden, loud bang, and Blair thought for a moment that someone was shooting at them. Then the truck began to swerve and skid on the wet pavement as Jim fought to regain control. The truck swerved violently, and Blair’s head made contact with the passenger window. Pain exploded in Blair’s head and then there was nothing.

Jim wrenched the wheel hard as the truck did a 180-degree turn before coming to a stop on the side of the road. Jim took a deep breath and thanked god that they hadn’t hit a tree and that there hadn’t been any other cars on the road.

Jim looked over at his partner, and his heart slammed into his ribs as he saw his partner slumped over in the seat. Noting the spider cracks in the window, Jim surmised that Blair’s head had hit the window. The smell of blood that filled his nostrils confirmed his suspicions.

“Chief?” Jim reached over and touched Blair’s shoulder, eliciting a groan from his partner. “Blair, buddy, you with me?”

Blair groaned again as he slowly leaned back in his seat. His eyes blinked open and came to rest on Jim. “Jim?”

“Yeah. How are you doing?”

“Oh, what happened?”

“We blew a tire. Looks like your head hit the window pretty hard there.” Jim gently turned Blair toward him to look into his eyes.

“Feels like it,” Blair muttered.

“Look at me. Any dizziness? Blurred vision?” Jim asked as he gently probed the cut on the side of Blair’s head.

Blair let out a hiss of pain. “My vision’s fine. I am a little dizzy though, and my head is killing me.”

Jim reached under the passenger seat and pulled out the first aid kit. Opening it, he rummaged inside for a gauze pad and pressed it against the wound. When Blair winced, Jim said, “Sorry. It doesn’t look too bad. I don’t think you’ll need stitches, but we do have to stop the bleeding.”

Blair started to nod but decided not to as his head felt like it was going to roll off his shoulders. “Ok,” he said.

The honking of a car horn brought the partners’ attention to the street outside the driver’s side window. A car sat parked right next to the truck.

“Who’s that?” Blair asked.

“I don’t know. Here, hold this,” Jim said, putting Blair’s hand over the gauze to keep it in place. “Stay here.”

Jim got out of the truck and hurried through the rain to the car. The passenger window rolled down as he approached. A man in his late sixties with white hair sat in the driver’s seat.

“You guys having some trouble?” the old man asked.

“Yeah. We blew a tire, and my friend hit his head on the window.”

The old man looked past Jim at the truck where his partner sat. “Does he need a hospital?” he asked, looking back at Jim.

“I don’t think so. He might have a concussion, but I don’t think he needs stitches.”

“Listen, why don’t I take you guys to my house. It’s not too far from here. You can wait out the storm, give your friend some time to recover, and you can come back and change your tire in the morning.”

Jim hesitated. He would like to trust the kindness of strangers, but almost six years of being a cop has made him kind of cynical, although he would never admit that to anyone. It always paid to be cautious.

“That’s very kind of you, but we don’t want to be any trouble.”

“It’s no trouble at all. It’ll give my wife an excuse to make one of her famous apple pies,” the man said with a warm smile.

Jim studied the man. His heartbeat was steady. His smile seemed genuine. And Jim really didn’t want his partner out in this weather with a head injury. Making a decision, he nodded. He had his gun with him. If anything happened, he would be able to handle it.

“All right. Thank you very much.”

Jim retreated back to the truck and headed around to the other side. Blair was leaning back against the seat, his eyes closed. His eyes fluttered open when Jim opened the passenger door.

“Jim, what’s going on?” Blair asked.

“There’s someone here offering to help. He’s going to take us to his house so we can dry off and warm up.”

“Oh. Sounds good to me,” Blair murmured.

“Thought you’d like that,” Jim said. He gently removed the gauze and was pleased to find that the wound had stopped bleeding. It would just need a few butterfly bandages to close.

Jim closed the first aid kit, tucked it under one arm, and then helped Blair from the truck. It was raining so hard now that by the time they finally reached the car, they were soaking wet. The old man stood outside his car holding the back door open as they approached. Jim helped Blair into the backseat and then slipped in next to him. He leaned Blair back against him and rubbed the kid’s arms to warm him. He could felt Blair’s trembles through his wet jacket.

When the old man got back into the car, Jim asked, “Hey, do you have a blanket?”

“Yeah, there should be one under the passenger seat.”

Jim reached under the seat and pulled out a thick, woolen blanket. He draped it over his partner and tucked it around him, then continued to rub his arms and shoulders. Blair smiled up at Jim and then looked at the old man as he started to drive away.

“Th-thanks,” Blair whispered.

“It was not a problem. The name’s John O’Henry.”

“Jim Ellison. This is Blair Sandburg,” Jim said.

“Nice to meet you. So where were you boys headed?”

“We were actually heading home, back to Cascade,” Jim answered.

“Ah. Vacation?”

“Yeah.”

Jim glanced out the window and noticed that they were heading back in the direction they had come from. Jim’s brow furrowed when they pulled onto a small dirt road. He didn’t remember seeing any dirt road on their way to the campsite or on the way back. Jim shrugged. Maybe it had been concealed by the trees. He hadn’t exactly been looking for any other roads.

They drove about fifteen minutes before a small single-story house came into view. O’Henry pulled to a stop near the front porch and turned off the engine.

“Well, here we are. Home sweet home.”

They got out of the car and entered the house. The house was small but cozy. A small living area was to their left as they entered, lit by the soft glow of the fire in the fireplace. A small couch sat in front of the fireplace. The kitchen was to the right. It was a rather large kitchen for such a small house. The kitchen table took up most of the space, big enough to seat about eight people.

“Jackie, I’m home,” John called.

An elderly woman with gray hair tied back into a bun and wearing a flower apron bustled into the room from a door off to the side. “John, welcome home!” She moved over and kissed John on the cheek. “But what took you so long. I was getting worried.”

“These boys were having car trouble. They blew a tire, and this young man hit his head on the car window,” John explained, pointing at Jim and Blair. “Boys, this is my wife, Jackie.”

Jackie O’Henry looked at the two young men standing near the front door, and her eyes strayed immediately to Blair. Standing there with his wet curls plastered to his head and the blanket wrapped tightly around him, Blair looked absolutely bedraggled and miserable. Her heart immediately went out to him.

“Oh, you poor dear. Come and sit down by the fire.” She gripped Blair’s shoulders, gently led him into the living area, and sat him down on the couch. “Now you sit there while I go get you and your friend some dry clothes.” She hurried back through the door she had just come through.

John smiled fondly and shook his head. “Don’t’ mind her. She likes to fuss. Would you like anything to drink?”

“Coffee, if you have it,” Jim said as he sat down next to his partner.

“Sure. And you?” John asked, looking at Blair.

“Uh, nothing for me, thanks.”

John nodded and went into the kitchen to prepare the coffee.

Jim looked over at his partner. “You doing ok, Chief?”

Blair was rubbing his temples. “My head’s killing me, and I feel nauseous.”

Blair started to lie down, but Jim grabbed his arm and pulled him toward him. “Hold on there.”

“C’mon, Jim. All I want to do is lie down and sleep.”

“I know, but let me tend to that cut on your head first. Then we’ll get you into dry clothes, and then you can lie down and rest, ok?”

Blair sat there in silence for a few minutes before nodding. Jim set the first aid kit on the couch next to him, opened it, and pulled out a couple of butterfly bandages. After Jim finished, he put the kit on the floor as Jackie returned with some dry clothes for both men.

“Here we are. These should fit you,” she said, handing Jim a pair of blue jeans and a flannel shirt. She handed Blair a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. “They might be a little big on you, but at least they’re dry.”

“This is fine. Thanks,” Blair said with a smile.

The partners changed quickly, hanging their wet clothes by the fireplace in their room, and returned to their seats on the couch where John and Jackie were waiting.

“There’s your coffee,” John said, indicating a mug sitting on the coffee table. “I hope you like it black because that’s all we have.”

“Black is fine,” Jim said. He gripped the steaming mug in both hands, soaking up the warmth.

“Well, you’re welcome to stay the night as I’m sure my husband has already mentioned. We only have one spare room, I’m afraid. It has a big bed if you don’t mind sharing. Otherwise, one of you can take the couch, I suppose.”

Jim glanced at Blair, who was lying down on the couch next to him and already starting to fall asleep. His partner still looked cold despite the now dry and warm clothes he wore. It was made obvious when Blair shivered slightly. He looked back at his gracious hosts.

“The bed’s fine.”

“Good,” Jackie said, smiling. “Now I hope you boys are hungry. Dinner will be ready soon.” She moved into the kitchen toward the stove.

Jim looked back at his guide. “Do you want something to eat?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You’ve got to eat something. You haven’t eaten since this morning.”

“Jim, I just want to go to sleep,” Blair mumbled, rubbing his head.

Jim stared at Blair with a critical eye. The kid looked exhausted. His face was pale, and Jim could see creases in his forehead from what was sure to be a killer headache. Jim didn’t think he could stay awake long enough for dinner to be ready let alone eat it.

“All right. Come on. You’ll be more comfortable in the bed.” Jim got to his feet and pulled Blair up from the couch. He then led his partner to the spare bedroom. After tucking the young man in (he didn’t even complain, he must be tire), Jim left the room.

Dinner was filled with questions. Jim had never heard so many questions come from one mouth before except for maybe his partner. Jackie seemed to want to know everything about Jim’s life from the day he was born to the present. Jim had answered every question he could graciously while he ate his beef stew and baked potato. After finishing the apple pie that Jackie had insisted he try, he gratefully returned to the spare room. Jackie was a nice woman, but she asked way too many questions.

After checking on Blair, who was still sleeping peacefully, Jim got undressed and carefully got into bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim awoke early the next morning. He looked over at Blair, who was still sleeping next to him. Not wanting to wake him just yet, Jim slowly got out of bed and headed to the door. He poked his head out the door and listened. The house was quiet. Their hosts must still be sleeping. Careful not to wake the old couple, Jim padded to the bathroom for a quick shower. Returning to the room, he made sure their clothes were completely dry before putting them on.

He looked at Blair. He didn’t want to wake the kid. He looked so young and peaceful, but Jim wanted to get back to the truck as soon as possible before it got towed away. He walked over to the bed and gripped Blair’s shoulder.

Giving the shoulder a shake, Jim said, “Rise and shine, Chief. We have to get going.”

There was a groan from beneath the blankets. The Blair-shaped lump didn’t move, however, Jim shook him again.

“Blair, buddy, time to get up. We have to get back to the truck.”

Blair groaned again, and then one blue eye opened to peer up at him. “Jim? What time izzit?”

Jim looked at his watch. “It’s five past seven.”

“Oh man,” Blair groaned, closing his one eye.

“Blair, come on. The sooner we get going, the sooner we’ll be home and then you can sleep, ok?”

Blair opened his eyes and looked up at the sentinel. Finally, he nodded, and sat up straight. Once upright, he gripped his head and another groan escaped his lips. Jim grabbed him by the shoulders as he started to lie back down.

“Whoa, easy, partner. How’s the head?”

“Pounding.”

“We’ll get you some aspirin when we get home. Can you last that long?”

“Yeah, it’s not that bed.”

“Are you sure?”

Blair nodded as he started to get to his feet. Jim helped him and steadied him when he swayed slightly. When Blair had his balance, he pushed Jim’s help away.

“Are you alright to get dressed on your own?” Jim asked.

“Yeah.”

“Do you want a shower?”

“No, I’ll wait until we get home,” Blair replied, heading toward his clothes still hanging by the fireplace.

“All right. Get dressed and we’ll head out.”

Blair paused and looked back at Jim. “But what about John and Jackie?”

“They’re still sleeping. I don’t want to wake them.”

“We’re just going to leave without saying anything?”

“I don’t want to disturb them.”

“But we should at least say thank you.” “Look, if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll leave a note on the kitchen table, ok?”

Seeming to accept that suggestion, Blair nodded and proceeded to get dressed while Jim went out to the kitchen to leave the note. Finding a piece of paper on the coffee table, Jim pulled a pen out from his jacket and wrote a short thank you note. Blair came out of the spare room just as Jim was finishing the note. Leaving the note on the table, Jim joined his partner at the front door.

“Are you ready to go?” Jim asked.

“Yeah. I still don’t feel right just leaving like this.”

“It’ll be fine. I’m sure they’ll understand. Come on.”

It took them over an hour to make the trek from the house to the truck. It had been especially hard on that dirt road, especially for Blair, with all the potholes and tree branches strewn about, but it had gotten easier once they reached the main road. Still, Blair was pretty tired when they reached the truck. He hadn’t yet gotten all his energy back.

After Jim settled Blair in the truck, he got to work changing the tire. While he was doing that, his thoughts strayed to that road. He didn’t remember all those potholes and branches on the way to the house last night. In fact, if he remembered correctly, the ride had been smooth. Then where did all that debris come from? There was no way it just cropped up over night. He was beginning to get an unsettling feeling all of a sudden, and he didn’t know why.

When Jim got back in the truck, he looked over at his partner. The kid was leaning against the door, his eyes half closed. He looked about ready to fall asleep again. Jim frowned when a small shiver traveled through Blair’s body. He reached under his seat and pulled out a blanket he kept there for emergencies and cold, late-night stakeouts. He spread it over his guide, who immediately pulled it closer and snuggled down in it.

“Thanks Jim,” he whispered.

Jim was about to start the truck when Blair suddenly sat upright.

“Uh oh,” Blair muttered.

“What? What is it?”

Blair looked at the older man. “I forgot my jacket.”

Jim sighed in exasperation.

“Jim, we gotta go back for it.”

“Oh no. No, I’ll buy you a new one.”

“But Jim, my glasses are in that jacket.” Blair gave him a pleading gaze. “Please, Jim.”

Jim groaned silently. He never could resist that puppy dog look. His partner was good at it. “Oh, alright.”

Blair’s face stretched into a smile, and Jim ruffled his curls in response before turning on the engine and pulling back onto the road. When they reached the dirt road, Jim pulled over. Blair looked at him quizzically.

“Why are we stopping?” he asked.

“You saw how bad that road is. There’s no way I can get the truck through that. We’re going to have to walk the rest of the way.”

Grumbling, Blair got out of the truck and followed Jim as the older man started down the dirt road, stepping over tree branches and around deep potholes as they went.

“You know I’d like to know how John got his car through this,” Blair said, nearly tripping over a particularly large branch.

Jim stopped to steady his partner before continuing on more slowly. “I don’t know. I’ve been wondering that myself.”

After forty-five minutes, they finally reached the end of the road. They stood and stared at what lay before them. It was a burnt out shell of what used to be a single-story house. It looked like there had been a massive fire that left behind nothing but a skeletal structure, a few pieces of furniture, and ashes.

Blair’s mouth was hanging open. “What happened? Are you sure this is the right place?”

“Of course I’m sure. That was the only dirt road in the vicinity,” Jim answered, just as confused.

“But…there’s no way the house could have burnt to the ground in the time that we were gone. I mean you would have smelled the smoke, wouldn’t you?”

Jim walked toward the blackened frame that used to be a house. He took a sniff of the air. He smelled burnt wood and ash, but it was faint. Bending down, he held his hand just above the ash-covered floor. There was no residual heat. If this had happened recently, Jim would be able to feel the heat from the fire even after it was put out. Jim stood up.

“This definitely wasn’t recent. This has been like this for quite some time,” Jim said matter-of-factly.

“So we’ve got to be in the wrong place then,” Blair reasoned.

Jim looked around and spotted something white sitting on a charred tabletop. As he moved toward it, he belatedly realized that this had been a kitchen table and the something white was a piece of paper. That didn’t make any sense. If the paper had been in the house when it burnt down, it would be just a charred as everything else. Picking it up, he looked at it, and his eyes immediately widened.

“Jim, what is it?” Blair asked, noticing his partner’s rigid stance and shocked face. He immediately moved to his sentinel’s side.

Jim showed him the paper. “It’s the note I wrote this morning.”

“What?” Blair said in disbelief, taking the paper from Jim. He recognized Jim’s handwriting saying thank you and that they were heading back to their truck. “No way,” he whispered.

Jim looked past Blair and saw a familiar jacket hanging prestigiously on a piece of the blackened frame of the house. “Chief,” he said, pointing.

Blair spun around and let out an almost inaudible gasp. He hurried over and plucked the jacket from where it was hanging. Examining it closely, he said unnecessarily, “It’s my jacket.”

Jim felt a sudden chill that went all the way down to his bones, causing him to shiver.

“You ok?” Blair asked, noticing the shudder.

“Does it suddenly feel cold to you?”

Blair’s brow furrowed. The cold never bothered Jim before. Blair always suspected that it was because as a sentinel, Jim was able to regulate his body temperature automatically. What was different now?

“No,” Blair answered. “What’s up?”

“I don’t know. I can feel the cold seeping into my bones, kind of like…” Jim paused, his mind lost in thought.

“Like what?” Blair asked impatiently.

“Like how it was with Molly.”

Blair was confused for a moment, and then realization dawned. Molly had been a young woman who had been murdered in the 1950s by her lover. Jim was able to see her and feel her presence even though no one else could. Blair had been kind of jealous at the time. He believed in that stuff wholeheartedly but had never actually seen anything like that to prove that it was real. Now it looked like he had just did, and somehow he didn’t seem satisfied.

Still reeling from what Jim had just told him, he tried to process it. “Wait. Let me get this straight. Jim, are you telling me that there are ghosts here?”

“I don’t know. I mean I’m getting that same feeling I got when Molly was present, so I guess, yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

Blair looked around, as if trying to see any ghosts lingering. “Do you think it’s them? John and Jackie. Could they have been the ghosts?”

Jim looked at him steadfastly. “Maybe.”

Blair shivered. “Ok, I’m officially freaked out now. Can we go?”

Jim nodded. Placing a hand on the small of Blair’s back, he led his guide out of the shell of the house and back toward the dirt road. Jim stopped just before they started down the road and looked back at the burnt out structure. He could have sworn he saw the outline of two transparent figures standing inside the former house. But in an instant they were gone. Jim shook his head. Now he was getting creeped out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Few Days Later

Jim came home from the station to find his partner seated at the kitchen table with his laptop sitting in front of him. The kid was deeply engrossed in what he was looking at. Jim smiled. Blair had had a few classes to teach that day so he wasn’t able to come into the station to help Jim, but obviously he had found something else to occupy his time.

“Hey Chief,” Jim said as he hung up his coat on the coat hook next to the door.

“Oh, hey Jim,” Blair said distractedly. He didn’t even tear his eyes away from the screen.

Jim shook his head as he made his way into the kitchen. He frowned when he noticed that there was nothing cooking. Jim had known the minute he reached the top of the stairs that Blair wasn’t cooking anything because he didn’t smell anything wafting from their loft apartment, but he had hoped he was wrong. But then again, his nose never lied. He looked over at Blair who hadn’t moved a muscle.

“Hey, Chief. No dinner?”

Blair looked at him quizzically for a moment. Then his eyes widened. “Oh. I’m so sorry, Jim. I forgot it was my night to cook. I’ll get right on it.” He started to get up from his seat, but Jim waved him back.

“No, no. That’s ok. I’ll order something,” Jim said, moving over to the phone. “Chinese or pizza?”

“Uh, Chinese is good. And I’ll pay for it,” Blair insisted as he reclaimed his seat.

After making the call, Jim got two beers from the refrigerator and wandered over to the kitchen table. He sat down next to Blair and placed one of the beers in front of the young man. Blair smiled his thanks as he reached for the bottle.

“So what’s got you so riveted?” Jim asked.

“Nothing. Just research.”

Jim leaned over to look at the screen. He glared at his partner. “Research on John and Jackie O’Henry?”

Blair sighed as he leaned back in his chair. “Well…yeah.”

Jim shook his head. “I thought I told you to let that go.”

“I can’t. Come on, Jim. Aren’t you the least bit curious about what happened?”

Jim got up from the table. “I don’t want to think about it.”

“Jim, you felt it. Just like you did with Molly. We stayed with a couple of ghosts.”

“We don’t know that.”

“I do,” Blair said adamantly.

“How do you know?”

“Come here and look at what I’ve found out.”

Jim hesitated a moment before joining his partner at the table. He scooted his chair over next to Blair to get a better look at the screen.

“Ok. According to what I’ve found out so far, John O’Henry was born in 1922. Jackie McGuire was born in 1924. They were married in 1950 and moved into their house in the middle of the Cascade National Forest in 1951 where they raised two children, Mark and Caitlyn, both of whom were moved out by 1973. John and Jackie died in 1980 when their house caught fire. Investigators say it was due to faulty wiring. The house burnt to the ground before the fire department could get there. Neither one made it out.”

Jim leaned back. “Ok, so they died in a fire. That doesn’t prove that the two people we met were the real John and Jackie O’Henry.”

“You wanna bet?” Blair scrolled down the page until he came to two pictures. “This is John O’Henry and his wife Jackie. Look familiar?”

Jim stared at the pictures. They looked exactly like the two people they had stayed with. “Oh my god,” he whispered.

“I also did some research on the property and surrounding area,” Blair continued, switching to another website. “According to this site, the house is said to be haunted.”

“Haunted?” Jim said incredulously. “Yes, haunted. In fact, it’s one of the more famous parts of Cascade because of that. People go up there all the time to get a glimpse of a ghost. I mean people have reported seeing ghostly figures moving through the burnt-out house. And here, on this website,” Blair scrolled through the website until he came upon a row of pictures, “these pictures were taken at the house. You can clearly see two figures standing in the background.” He pointed to each picture.

Jim leaned forward for a closer look. They were kind of dark, obviously taken at night, but Jim could make out the remnants of the house and in the back a glowing human-shaped figure. He leaned back and clasped his hands together. Well, he couldn’t deny it now. He knew they had been ghosts from the moment he felt that cold chill, but he didn’t want to believe it.

“Ok. I admit. There are ghosts out there.” He paused as he looked at Blair. “But I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

Blair sighed as he gazed back at the screen. Jim frowned.

“All right. What is it, Junior. You proved your theory. You should be happy.”

“Oh I am.”

“Really? Because you don’t look like it.”

Blair pasted a smile on his face and hoped it didn’t look too fake. By the look on Jim’s face, he knew it did. But Jim shrugged and waved it off. Jim smelled Chinese and heard someone coming up the stairs to their floor. He got up and moved to the door.

“Food’s here,” Jim informed his partner.

Blair closed his laptop and carried it into his room. He didn’t know why, but he just didn’t seem satisfied with proving that they actually stayed with ghosts. He hadn’t even known at the time that they were ghosts. Maybe it was time to do a little digging. If he could find another resident ghost of Cascade, maybe this overwhelming curiosity would be quenched. Yeah, he thought as he placed his laptop on his desk, he would start looking tomorrow.

The End…for now