Summary: #1 in the Tales of Haunted Cascade series.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Wish I did. If I did own them, I'd have a very crowded room with them, Lex Luthor, Clark Kent, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Wolverine and Professor X in residence.
"Are you sure you want to check this book out?" The librarian tucked a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. "I've heard some weird stories about the Stemple collection."
Blair Sandburg leaned forward, his forearms resting on the circulation desk. "Sarah, what kind of stories?"
"Some of the students would slip some of the books from the collection out of the library before we put in the sensor system. Usually, the ones that did would be waiting here the next morning for someone to open up the library so they could return the books. Several claimed to have been wakened by something in the night wanting the book back."
"Probably someone playing a joke." Blair glanced at his watch. "I better hurry. I promised Jim I'd meet him at the station.
She handed the book to Blair. "I'll be here around seven to do some paperwork if you want to return the book early."
Blair tucked the book in his backpack like the priceless treasure it was before giving Sarah a grin and heading for the door.
Since his roommate was out with some friends of his from high school, Blair spent the night reading. It was nearly two in the morning when Blair closed the book. Jonathan Karon had been a contemporary of Sir Richard Burton and had been with Burton in Paraguay. Blair hadn't known of Karon's journal until he found a reference to it in an out-of-print biography of Burton. Much to Blair's surprise and chagrin, the journal was part of the Stemple Collection, which had been left to Rainier following the death of former US Senator, Aaron Stemple.
Blair stripped off his clothes, pulled on a clean pair of boxers then crawled into bed. Turning off the bedside light, he rolled over and pulled the covers up to his chin.
The sound of nails dragging across a chalkboard filled the small room, moonlit room. Blair set up, the covers pooling at his waist.
The doors to his room opened slowly.
"J-j-jim?" For an uptight, anal-retentive cop, his roommate could play a practical joke with the best of them. "This is so not funny."
A gray mist roughly human shaped floated through the crack between the door. Blair drew his legs up to his chest, grabbed his covers, yanking them to his nose.
Definitely not funny.
The mist floated closer to the bed. As practical jokes this one was a beauty.
Something vaguely armed shape reached out towards Blair. "Where is the Caron journal?"
Jim didn't know about the journal.
The mist drifted closer, hovering at the edge of Blair's bed. Blair scrambled to the other side, his legs tangling up in the bed sheet, preventing him from fleeing off the other side.
"Where is the Caron journal?" the mist repeated. The mist brushed against Blair's cheek. Blair bit back the scream. It felt like an open flame against his skin.
"Where is the Caron journal? Where is the Caron journal? Where is the Caron journal?"
Blair shivered against the headboard of his bed as the cries continued for an eternity until the mist spread through the room then faded from sight
Jim drove through the early light. He had walked into the loft to find his roommate crouched the headboard of his bed, shivering from fright.
The younger man had explained what had happened. There was a bright red mark across Blair's cheek. It wasn't a burn. There were no blisters and no damage.
Blair wanted the journal out of the loft. Jim volunteered to drive to Rainier.
They pulled into a parking space as a red-haired woman steeped out her Jeep Cherokee. She slung a black backpack over her shoulder as Jim braked to a stop.
Blair slid out of the Expedition, the book in his hands.
"Jesus, Blair what happened?"
"Trust me, Sarah. You don't want to know." Jim joined them. "Sarah, I want you to meet Jim Ellison. Jim, Sarah Braxton."
Jim shook hands with the younger woman then her attention returned to Blair. "Blair, what happened?"
Blair shoved the book into Sarah's hands. "Trust me. Something wants books from that collection to stay in the library."
"You saw it."
"I did. Have you?"
Sarah shook her head no. "I've never taken one of the books from the collection home. To me it was just another one of those strange stories about the college."
"Strange stories?" Jim asked.
Blair and Sarah turned and looked at him in surprise, apparently forgetting that he was there.
"Well, one of the frat houses used to belong to one of Washington's Governors. Apparently, one of his maids hung herself in the ballroom. Her ghost haunts the place."
"Then there's the music building," Sarah said. "A custodian murdered one of the students in one of the practice rooms. Several people have claimed to have her screams late."
Jim held up a hand before either one of them told a story of haunted Rainier. "No more ghost stories on an empty stomach. Chief, you go in with Sarah and I'll pick us up some breakfast."
Jim heard Blair and Sarah talking about a tower and two Swedish stonemasons as he got into the Expedition.