He looked up from his laptop when he heard the creaking of the door. Just another item to add to the ever-growing list of things that had to be done. Nothing seems to be following the time schedule he had pitched to his backers. In fact, if things didn't change soon...he didn't have time to think about what that outcome would be. There was no more ways to stall this newest intrusion so he waved to the only unoccupied chair in the room. The mountain of a man declined and remained standing in the military fashion that had been ingrained into him. He, the owner knew the man wouldn't sit; he didn't know why he kept offering. The foreman would remain silent until he was spoken to, but he was great with the men and that was the owner cared about.
The office wasn't much: it had four bare walls with the only pieces of furniture being a desk, chair and filing cabinet. The only items on the desk were the laptop and a phone. This was far from the luxury that his main office emitted. That place was for future investors, where as this office was for function.
"If this keeps up much longer I'll never get the boarding school open," the owner paused. "What complaint does the crew have this time? No wait. "He raised his hand." Lemme guess, a door blew shut by the wind and they think it is the ghosts of the Hawthorne girls. Don't they understand there is no such thing as a ghost? Everything can be explained."
The foreman stood quietly until the owner finished, "Sir, the men only know what they've hear about what has happened in the past, so it plays on their minds when they hear noises. They've come to me as a group to say if you bring in an expert and they say the spirits approve the work being done, they will stay on. These are very superstitious men but they are also the best at rehabbing old buildings."
The owner was a college grad but when he was on site dressed just like the rest of the men. He never lorded over the men his education, but treated them with respect. It was how his father acted from the beginning and he taught his son that you got more out of your worker by showing respect. It was the only reason he was listening to the foreman.
You could hear the tiredness that also showed on the face, in the owner's voice when he asked, "What kind of expert do the workers want?"
"Sir, there are a group that call themselves "The Ohio Paranormal Society or TOPS" for short. They come out to a place with scientific equipment to investigate possible haunting. The group is very professional and would not bother any work since they come in late afternoon and stay the night."
"So you are saying you and the men want me to let a group of people have free rein of the orphanage in the dark. I don't think you understand what an insurance nightmare that would be. How do you expect me to trust strangers with all the material and equipment we have here?"
The foreman raised his hand, " But sir, they carry their own insurance and I'll be here with them so you don't have to worry about anything being stolen or being responsible for any one getting hurt."
Warily the owner sat back in his chair. He tapped the edge of his desk while deep in thought. "How do you know so much about this group?"
Looking down and taking a deep breath to give him some time to choose his words, the foreman then looked into the owners face as an equal. "Dave", it was the first time he called the owner anything else but sir, "My father was one of the founding members of the group and I have carried on the tradition. Before you say anything, let me give you the names and phone numbers of those we have helped. "He hurriedly handed the list." As you can see, many are very prominent in this town and all have given permission to be contacted. We understand that it's not easy to accept at first and all we are asking for is a chance to investigate. This building has been on many group's list of sites to investigate. It will not cost you anything and at the very least it will calm the men down."
Dave couldn't believe the names on the list. Being a competence businessman, he was going to talk with those on the list he knew well. "Jess, I'll talk with some on this list and will get back with you in the morning. If they recommend you then we can talk about the logistics."
Knowing that the meeting was over, Jess turned and let himself out the door. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the owner picking up the phone. His grin said it all.
The next morning found the two men in the same place. Both knew what the answer was going to be but they had to go through the formality. After Jess finished talking with only the top three on the list, he couldn't sleep. The description of events kept giving him nightmares. How could he argue against all the evidence these men gave him. Knowing that even his minister was on the list, gave him the most reason to say yes to this offer.
Enough staling, time to get this meeting over with, "I want this done as early as possible but with the least amount of disturbance to the work.
"We can come in on Saturday afternoon to set up and investigate that night. Since the place is so big, we plan on bring in a crew of eight. We'll be gone by Sunday noon and will review with you the results of the investigation on Thursday." Jess tried not to smile.
"Fine! You can inform the men. Now get them back to work. We're still two days behind and I want to get back on schedule by Monday." Dave turned back to his laptop. It was a clear sign that the meeting was over.
Dave looked up to see the door close. He knew the men had purposely slowed down to get their way but he also knew that they would vehement denied it and he had no solid proof. Laughing at himself, he knew he had been beat on all fronts when he spied Steve trying to hide a grin on his way out the office.
This was his expertise in the group. If he could get permission this would be a huge coup for his group. Even the famed Taps, had this place on their want to investigate list. All he had to do now was to wait for that phone call. The owner wanted to get the work done and the only way to have that to happen is to appease the workers. Jess grinned as he walked back to the cafeteria.
He didn't even make it home before his cell phone rang, "TOPS, how may I help you? You have Jess."
"Jess I don't know how you did it but that owner of yours just called and gave us full access to the place from Friday night to Sunday morning. I can't believe we have two whole days to investigate. Can you believe all the evidence we can get during that time? ", Jess heard Jayne yell in one breath.
Grinning, Jess waited for her to stop, "Jayne now takes a breath before you faint. If that happens you would not be able to join us. Call in the whole crew and if you can get any other of the TAPS family to help, go for it. We also need to bring stuff for one of us to stay and watch over the equipment" Jess knew Ben would insist on being the one. He was their techie and considered it sacrilegious to leave his babies for someone else to watch over but Jess was going to override and stay himself. This case was his baby and a dream of his since he was a small boy.
"Jess I know all the things we need to do. This is not my first go around. I'd think you would be more excited than usual. ", she laughs as she hung up.
Jess's grin grew bigger and he didn't think that was possible. This weekend was going to be one of the best he has ever had. If they could contact one of the three girls, it would be great evidence but if they could catch all three, he would be in heaven. Friday night could not arrive any sooner.
Friday flew by and Jess looked up when the whistle blew. He had to put his tools away fast so he could head out to the gate and welcome the crew. He couldn't believe who came to help. It was no other than TAP member. Jess was going to be one of the best ghost hunters around. As he opened the gate, he could see a caravan coming up the road. He hoped they remembered to bring him something to eat or it would not be the ghost voices they caught on tape but his stomach growling. He would not jeopardize this chance on anything going wrong. Everything including food had been double and even triple checked.
Walking up to the van, he was greeted by the rest of the crew. They were handpicked because of their expertise in the field of paranormal investigation. Along with Ben and Jayne, Marc strode around the van to help haul the equipment with the others. Jess didn't know much about him since he was a member of one of the California groups. Nevertheless, the one thing he heard was that he designed some new toys and brought them and a few of his crew with him to help. Jayne must have cast a wide call out.
The rest of the group was emerging out of the other van. It looked like they were going to have ten to investigate this weekend. Now while the others set up using the map he gave them, he was going to help Jess and Marc set up command in the trailer he moved near the back door. Compared to many of their previous locations this was going to be the Taj Majah.
"Jess this is Marc from the California group. He has some new toys he would like to use. If you could also help him set them up, I would appreciate it. This trailer also has a room for four of us to sleep in with a small shower and frig. We will have to use the microwave or hot plate to heat up everything."
It was amazing to even me with how fast we set up since most have never worked with each other. If set up were any indication, this location would be productive. That is if the ghost cooperated.
"Steve.", Jess tapped his shoulder and cause Steve to jump.
"Jess sorry about hitting you." I said after I swung, "What'd you need?"
"Nothing, we are finish setting up and wanted to get your okay before we locked everything in place."
"Let's take a look and get this show going", they wandered over to the table.
"What is this camera and mike?" Jess pointed.
"That is Marc's toy. I'll let him explain how it works." Steve moved aside.
Grinning, Marc spent the next 20 minutes explaining and answering all their questions about the new recorder and computer program. "You see it takes what we normally record and in real time interpret what is being said. Then it sends it to the earphone the person is wearing. This way questions will be tailored to respond with what the ghosts are saying. We don't have to wait until the crew can set down to listen. It's still in experimental stage but I thought this job would be an excellent site to continue the testing phase. If you don't want it I can always pack it up."
"No keep it set up. However, I think we need to keep those wearing the earphone to us three. That way it can be controlled." Jess answered.
"We can also keep it running when I stay to guard. That way if something happens I would be able to ask some more questions", Steve could see the gears rotating in Jess's mind.
Laughing Steve gave the command for lights off. They each took turn at command center until dawn approached. The night was a disappointment with personal encounters. Jess hoped that all the recorders and cameras in this place picked up something.
"Jess, don't sweat it. There are many times when Jason and the rest of the TAP group would leave a site with absolutely nothing to show the client. I still feel good about this place. Keeps everything running and who knows what we'll find. Get some sleep. ", Steve walked out with Jess, his arm around in comradeship.
The crew all piled into the vans and left Jess alone. Both Steve and Marc volunteered to stay and help, but Jess insisted he would be okay. He would patrol every few hours and then sleep and eat between his patrols. The crew would be back by 7pm to continue collecting evidence. With eager energy, Jess walked back into the trailer to get the earpiece for his first patrol. This has been his dream, to stay alone in this place. Ever since he was hired to restore the orphanage, he felt something. It was as if something was calling him to this place.
Grabbing an apple and the earpiece Jess took off on his first patrol. The only sounds he could hear was the normal creaks and moan of the old place.
"I know you three young ladies are out there. Every worker has been the target of one of your pranks except me. Well I am here so hit me with your best shot. I dare... no I double dog dare you", Jess hoped they were listening or he would feel a bit ridiculous.
"hehehehehehehe", came from his left.
"Shhhhhh", came from behind.
From the right came a distinctive sigh.
Smiling, Jess knew that if they were close the three would not be able to resist a double dog dare. No child could resist that. Acting as if he didn't hear anything he continued to stride down the hallway. It was looking more as if today would be eventful after all.
"Are you too scare to show yourselves?", Jess goaded some more.
He knew that the only way to get them to show would be to make showing so irresistible that they could do no less. With two nieces about their age, he knew what would give them that last little push. There was not one little girl who didn't like to get dressed up and have a tea party. With all the pomp he could muster, he left a piece of paper sitting open on the chair. Bowing in the direction, he hoped the three were, he turned and walked the rest of the way down the hall. It was so tempting to turn and see what was happening but he didn't dare. If something did happen, the IR camera will catch it.
As he turned the corner, he saw a glimmer of a young girl in a shape of a hinge doll. She was bending over the note that he left. It looks like he was going to have company today for a tea party. Jess finished his rounds and headed for the parlor.
Everything was just the way he wanted it. The small table had the tea set he had bought from the antique store in town. He even bought some finger cookies even though he would be the only one eating them. Who could know but maybe even spirits could taste them in their own way. Soon he would find out more than any investigator had in history.
Now all he had to do was wait for the guests of honor. It was not long before he could hear what could only be the sound of a little girl giggling and the shushing of someone not wanting to make any noise.
"I can hear you three out there. Please come in and make yourself comfortable. I have all these yummy cookies and the tea smells of lavender on a spring morning." he might had embellished things a wee bit.
Slowly three little girl size puppets materialized in front of him. Jess could not believe he was not only seeing spirits but also was going to speak with them without the use of any devise. This was the unreachable dream of everyone on the team and here he was receiving the honor.
Falling on his knees so the girls did not have to look up at him, "Good afternoon ladies. Let me introduce myself. My name is Jess and it's an honor to meet with you three."
The smallest of the three floated within a few inches of Jess and smiled. She had braided auburn hair and as the other two, her arms and legs had hinges at the joints like a marionette and their faces where set in an eerie smile. The littlest had tucked under her arm was a sooted teddy bear that was missing one eye and had a half ripped off arm. Their hair and that teddy bear was the only way he could tell them apart. Jess remains quiet as he could. He knew one wrong move and they would wisp away.
The tea party was a success as far as Jess was concerned. It would not be recorded even though he knew the others would be royally pissed at him. He didn't know how to explain it to them but he wanted this first exchange to be just for him. He learned so much from them. The least he could do is to make sure to document the experience on his laptop. They were friends but one of the few times they were not together was when the fire happen that took their young lives.
The oldest was Murielle who did not know who her parents were. In fact, it was the group of firemen that had found her wandering into the street that named her. Everyone at the school knew she would be going into the Olympics with the way she could run. When the fire started, Murielle was able to get out. She found that her two friends were still in there, so she dodged the adults and ran back into the smoke. Murielle had always been the leader and even in death felt the need to protect Macy and Lucy. She died outside of Lucy's door from smoke. The only thing that separated the two was the door.
Lucy was the kind of little girl that everyone wanted to protect. That teddy bear never left her side. The poor thing was left there when her parents died in a buggy accident when she was only 6 years old. Even in death, her limp that she received while being pinned over night entreated her clumsiness. She was hiding under the bed when the same smoke that killed Murielle creped under the door to her hiding place.
Even with the face of a puppet, Macy's freckles and wavy hair could be seen. Since she had only arrived a month before the fire, she was the newest to the orphanage. Before that, she had lived with her two spinster aunts who made sure she had access to books. They had caught the flu and died just days of each other. The teachers at the orphanage could see that she would be their star pupil and found ways to move her learning along. She was the youngest to have free unlimited access to the library. Macy would sneak down from her dorm room when she could not sleep and read one of the books. In the morning, one of the dorm aides would find her curled up with a book on one of the couches. That faithful night found her in that room. She woke to the smell of smoke and ran to the door. She found the knob so hot she knew the fire was outside the room. Making her way to the window, she realized her doom. The windows were barred. As with the other two, she died from the smoke before the flames reached her.
Jess made sure he would not forget anything the girls had told him during the party. By the end he had them laughing at his youthful antics. They even told him they had a surprise for him but no matter how hard he tried, they would not tell him what. He would have to wait until noon before finding out what they wanted to show him. Looking up from his dictation, he saw the time to be 11:55am. It was time to find out what this surprise was going to be. Rising from his chair he hit save and closed his laptop. He would have to finish later but by then who knows what more he would be able to add to the story.
The girls were as excited as they led Jess down to what use to be the parlor. This was where perspective parents waited for their picks to be paraded in front o f them. Now it was one of many room that the new student could sit and study or just relaxes. Jess could feel the energy around him, pushing him to hurry up.. Their giggles were so contagious, he could not help but laugh with them. Looking from the corner of his eye, he could have sworn that the puppet facade that the girls showed was starting to dissipate. There was just a small hint of human arms showing instead of the hinged puppet that was first there.
"Hurry up Mr. Jess! We have something to show you", Lucy limped along. Even as a spirit, her limp from the carriage accident was visible.
Leading the way, Murielle peeked back from the parlor. "Lucy you forget he is human and they cannot move as fast as we do."
"Quit bossing her Murielle. She is just excited for the big reveal", Macy looked up from her book.
Leading Jess to the divan, Lucy started to giggle all over again. In turn, it causes Jess to shake his head. When he set up this investigation, he never expected to interact with ghost. Damn, this was the first time that he even thought about the investigation. Jess was torn between having them show up and keeping them hidden and safe from exploitation. The group was good people so he was just going to have to trust in them. After getting to know the three his most humble hope would be that, they would finally get to pass on from this place.
"Mr. Jess? MR. JESSE! Pay attention will you!", Lucy stomped or what seemed like a stomp.
"Sorry Miss Lucy. Have pity on this human. I have a bad habit of wool gathering", Jess saw Murielle crack a smile.
"Mr. Jess you can have a seat and we will bring your surprise down", all three flashed out.
Jess waited patiently until he heard some rustling outside the room.
"Come on Miss Kari, he wants to meet you. Don't worry, he will not hurt you." That had to be Murielle commanding voice he was hearing.
"Mr. Jess!" sweet Lucy with her off gate could be heard as she walked, "Close your eyes and no peeking. You do not want to ruin the surprise."
Jess waited and from the door could hear a squeak that sounded as if someone was pushed forward. He opened his eyes to just a slit and standing before him was a goddess. Her black tint hair was pulled up in a bun like those who taught during the early part of the century, but it was her face that drew his gaze. It was the face of an angel he had seen in the great masters' paintings. His fingers had a mind of their own. They wanted to loosen that bun and run through those strands. All thought left his mind; he could only stare at this beauty before him.
"Mr. Jess, I would like to introduce our favorite teacher Miss Kari ", Macy introduced with as much pomp as she could muster.
"Miss Kari this is Mr. Jess, he makes funny sound effects. Asked him to show you," Lucy giggled and trying to not be out done.
Jess shook his head to clear the sight that had mesmerized him. He wasn't imagining it since the vision of beauty was still here. Never did he believe in love at first sight. That was until now. This was the woman he had been waiting his entire adult life for something like this and here she was a ghost. Fate or whoever was in charge of soul mates could not be so cruel, could they? Right then he knew he would find a way to be with her. There had to be a way to come together.
With a bow, Jess pulled out the chair, "Sorry for my dismal display of manners, I was raised better than that. Please have a seat."
"I would be honored sir", she replied as she sat in the offered chair for Kari since he was always taught to be polite.
All through the tea party, he would sneak a look at her and each time it would reinforce his new belief in love at first sight. Kari jumped when his alarm went off and the mood was gone.
"Do not be afraid", Jess reached out to touch her hand, "That is only my alarm. It's to remind me that I need to check on the equipment."
Kari didn't wait for his explanation but had poofed away. Jess shook his head. What made him think that he could comfort her? She was not human anymore but a ghost. Being startled by a modern device was just one of many things that should remind him of that. Plopping back down on the divan, Jess covered his face in his hands and tried to wipe away the yearning.
Hours must have passed with Jess just sitting there. He lifted up his head and saw how dark it was. Feeling older than his age, he got up and headed back to the command center. The crew would be there soon and would worry since Jess didn't leave a message for them.
Jess and Marc started their shift in the parlor. This was going to be the last chance at getting some evidence. Marc was so positive that this was the time; they were going to get the golden piece that all hunters strive. Jess tried to show the same enthusiasm but he was teetering between the find and his love for Kari and those three sweet girls.
"I think we should lay the toys around here. The meters in here were off the chart yesterday while you were the only one here. ", Marc laid toys on the floor, "We brought you some toys with us. Will you come in here and play with us tonight? We will not hurt you."
Jess just smiled at the reason the meters were that high. The first was during his tea party with the girls and the last time was when he finally got Kari to sit down and talk with him. He learned that she was also an orphan who was taken in by her elderly spinster aunts. They both past away within weeks of each other when Kari was just 16 years old. Those two wise women had saved all their life and left it all to Kari. It was with that money that put Kari through school to be a teacher. When the head of the orphanage came to the school for a teacher, Kari accepted. She knew she could help those little ones as her own aunts helped her.
"Jess!" Marc yelled, "You haven't heard one word I said. Where were you?"
Laughing, Jess said," Marc my friend you would not believe me, but then again you just might."
With that cryptic remark Jess went back to gathering evidence, "Marc I think you have a good idea but I think we should stage a tea party with dolls. Remember these are little girls and I don't know of any little girl who would not like having cookies and cake."
"I think you have a great idea. How do you know what little girls like? I didn't think you had any children."
"I have a new friend who has three girls under her care. They've invited me to a few of those tea parties."
Jess found himself in the same chair as he had with the Hawthorn trio. At least that is how he had started to think of them. He knew they would show up eventually. He just hopes Marc was ready for whatever those three had up their sleeves. He did not have long to wait either. Right behind Marc was Lucy with her ever-present teddy bear.
With a sheepish grin, Jess watched the scene unfold before him. Lucy was slowly moving the teacup across the table before Marc's jaw dropped mouth and bulging eyes. Jess knew that was not going to be the end of it either and he did not have long to wait. Not to be out done, Macy took the teapot and started to pour tea into each cup. When Marc turned to see the teapot floating over the table he slipped off the chair and fell to the floor. Jess could not hold it in anymore and started to laugh.
"Welcome to what I've been experiencing all day. You wanted proof of the existence of ghosts and now you have it right before you." Jess turn to look for Murielle.
"Ah what um did er see?" Marc stumbled out as he tried to get up.
"I would love to introduce you to the Hawthorne girls. The one that was pushing the cup is Macy and the one pouring tea is Lucy. I don't know where Murielle is hiding but these three are the ones who have kept our equipment busy."
"Are you saying that you can see them?" Marc gathered himself.
"Of course I can. But they only show themselves when they are comfortable or when they think no one is around. Girls will you please show yourselves to Marc. He will not hurt you and is a good friend." Jess gave a hand to Marc.
Marc could not believe what appeared before him. Two girls with doll heads and appendages made from wood and hinged where elbows and knees were suppose to be. However, there was a hint of a little girl's face appearing over the dolls face. The girls smiled and started to talk over each other.
"My name is Lucy, Macy", they said together.
Jess laughed and pointed to each of them, "Marc these two are Lucy and Macy."
"Girls where is Murielle?" turning back to Marc, "Murielle is the third of the mischievous Hawthorne girls."
"Well you see Mr. Jess", Lucy guiltily looked around; "She did not want to be seen. In fact, she ordered us not to come down here to see you. I think she is mad at you for hurting Miss Kari."
"What is wrong with Kari?" Jess forgot about Marc standing there.
Macy elbowed Lucy. Lucy glared back at her and continued talking.
"She was crying all evening. The only time it happens before was when she realizes that she was not alive any more. Between her fits of crying she has been in the attic repeating the same thing over and over."
Jess's inside was in turmoil as he waited for Lucy to get to the point. He knew he had to remain calm on the outside or he would scare the girls. They still had the emotions of little girls. Pulling from his experience, he calmly got down on his knee so he could look Lucy face to face.
"What did Kari say?" he held his breath.
"She said damn him for not coming into her life when she was alive. Mr. Jess? What did she mean by that?" Lucy eyes filled with tears.
Jess drew a calming breath as he tried to figure out what to say. Marc took a step backwards to not distract anyone. While everyone's attention was away from him, he repositioned a camera to record what was happening. The group hit the prize with this place. He knew that this was the proof all investigators dreamed about.
"Miss Kari meant she wished we were from the same time. Then we would be together. You see sweet Lucy; I truly believe that Kari is my true soul mate." Jess reached and kissed where Lucy's cheek was.
Turning back to Marc, "I hope you will treat the evidence with the respect its due. These girls have had a hard life and after life. Since meeting them yesterday, I have been hoping to find a way for them to move on. I think they can when they know that their teacher will be okay without them."
Returning his attention to the two girls, "You know I love her with everything I have. I will visit her and make sure she is not alone. Please tell Murielle that."
"Marc I think we need to move on and let the girls go back to Miss Kari. I promise there are other ghosts around that we can capture evidence for.", Jess rose and walked out of the room.
Marc knew if he had not seen it with his own eyes he would not believe what just happened. With a shake of his head, he followed Jess down the hallway to the command center. They arrived at command and Jess did not delay in laying out all that had happened since the group had left. He knew there was no chance of hiding it. All he could do was pray the team would be respectful of Kari and the three.
After listening to all the evidence, the team agreed with Jess about the three needing to help them to leave. Normally they only collected the evidence but this time was going to be the exception. Jess knew what he would have to do. As the others went out to gather evidence from other parts of the orphanage, Jess headed up the stairs to the attic. He needed to have a talk with a certain three girls.
As he got to the top of the stairs, he saw the three with their heads together. When they were like that, someone was going to get into trouble. He stood there quietly waiting for one of them to notice him. Just like he predict Lucy saw him first. Her face turned a deep red. Stunned, Jess just realized that the girl's faces were not as doll like as before. In fact, even their arms were looking more like the little girls and less like the girl puppets; they had been when he first saw them just that morning. Was it only that short of time?
"What are you three plotting now?" he boomed.
Standing tall, Murielle looked up to his face, "Nothing that concerns you."
Jess led them back down the stairs to the parlor. This was going to be the hardest talk he had ever had. How was he going to get through to these three?
"Murielle, I think we need to have a heart to heart talk. If you girls don't mind, we will just be over there. ", he pointed to the ratty divan.
Lucy and Macy looked at Jess and nodded their heads synchronized.
"Murielle, I know you three care about Miss Kari and want only the best for her. It's the same for her too.", Jess led Murielle to the divan.
"You don't know what she wants. She needs us to take care of her.", Murielle watch Jess with a suspicious stare.
Jess sighed before continuing, "I understand that you want what is best for Miss Kari. I know if you three found away to continue on your trip to your families, Miss Kari would be able to find what is in store for her. Those other two over there will follow you. I know from the moment I saw you three that you were the leader. Now think about it and talk it over. I will do what I can to help you."
Jess knew that Murielle was the key to what he had planned. Before he could get ready for his next step, he felt a brush on his shoulder. It was from the person he was going to see next, Miss Kari herself. Jess rose and offered his seat to her and the other two girls ran over to crowd around her.
"You three know that I have been honored to be your teacher and companion all these years. Each of you has stayed because you did not want me to be alone. Now though there are going to be many new students and orphans to keep me company. ", Miss Kari noticed the three having tears starting down their faces.
Lucy cried out what all three were thinking about, "Are you saying you do not want us any more Miss Kari."
Shaking her head and putting on her best smile, " No sweetie, never think that please. I will miss all three of you but you know that your families have been waiting for you to come to them. Now Lucy your parents have been waiting for so long just to hold you again. Macy I know those aunts of yours would love to have you back in their arms. My brave Murielle, do you not want to meet your parents? I will tell you this, I had a dream about what happen and you three know that spirit dreams are truths. Come up here you three and I will tell you how Murielle came here."
The trio crowded around Miss Kari. None saw that Jess had also slipped onto the wing-backed chair to listen.
Kari made sure she had everyone's attention, "Your parents were so happy when you were born. They had decorated your room with everything a baby could need or want. They had the means to spoil you since your father was the banker of their small city in Illinois. Every day your father would come in and watch you sleep before he would go to the bank. In the afternoon, your mom would push your stroller around the park. She would then rest and watch the other park goers on a bench under a maple tree. The small animals and birds would come close to watch over you. "
Pausing to allow Murielle to digest, "All was perfect until one fall day. Your father came into your room and found your crib empty and the only sign that there was anything wrong was the window was wide open and leaves had blown into the room. They searched the house frantically without finding a sign of what happened to you. They contacted the law and the police questioned everyone on what they saw or heard that night. The next day a letter had been slipped under the front door. It said: She is ours now and you will never see her again. It has been ordained from the beginning that she was not to be yours. You can know she will be raised as a princess."
"Miss Kari?" Murielle whispered amongst tears.
Building up courage to ask, "Why did they not look for me?"
Kari wrapped her arms around Murielle, "Aww sweetie, they never stopped looking for you. Every year on your birthday and the day you were taken, they would light candles. It was a few years before they had twins but they also made sure your siblings would remember you. You see, the dream also revealed something else."
All sat without breathing, well at least Jess was not breathing and the spirits don't breath, for what else was reveled in her dream. Kari was trying to figure out how to tell this last but most important part of the story.
"Jess and Murielle, the fates showed me that you too have an important connection. One of those twins had a daughter who married a Native American and had a daughter. That daughter gave birth to a happy boy who was open to many things that could not be seen or heard, yet he believed in the paranormal. He grew up and took jobs that allowed him to use his hands but he never was far from his heritage or his affinity to animals. Animals would come to him without fear, just as they did with you. In fact, one day he was out walking with a friend and a cougar leaped down on his friend. He yelled and the cougar jumped off and there were no marks on his friend. It was as if the cougar was just playing. That cougar came to Jess and there was an instant connection. They would have stayed that way if not for the friend coming out of shock screaming."
Jess turned to Kari with confusion. It could not be but all that Kari had said fit with what he was told. She knew that Jess had made the connection.
"Kari are you saying that Murielle here is my a few times great aunt?" he asked even though he knew the answer.
"Yes Jess, you and Murielle are related. It has been foretold that when you came here, the girls would find the courage to continue on to their family."
Kari and Jess turned when they heard a gasp coming from Murielle. Tears were coming down her face. Not the face of the puppet she had shown for all these decades but the face of a beautiful girl with long blond hair and brown eyes. It was the same eyes that he would see when he looked at the photo of his lost aunt. His mom had photos of all the ancestors proudly standing on the mantle. He was now seeing her before him. Lucy and Macy were standing beside her and they too had changed back to their natural selves. Their arms and legs lost their woodenness and hinges were replaced with elbows and knees.
Behind them, the wall started to shimmer. Jess could even see it. The wall slowly lost its solid form and a gateway was opened to a beautiful valley. There were a few dozen people standing there. The trio turned to see what had caught Jess and Kari's attention and in unison squealed. It was as if they knew that the people waiting for them were their family.
Lucy turned her head back, "Miss Kari? Am I allowed to go to them? I don't want to leave you alone."
The other two turned back too and Murielle looked her in the eye, "Yes Miss Kari, I want to meet my parents but who will take care of you?"
"Children", Kari paused to stop the tears from sounding in her voice.
Jess spoke up, "I will take care of her Auntie".
It felt right to call her that. The three ran to Kari and gave her huge hugs. Before heading to the gateway Lucy and Macy stopped and gave Jess a feather kiss that he could feel. With glee, they then turned and ran to their love ones. You could see them being picked up and loved. Lucy's father twirled her around. Macy's aunts started their fusing until her mother came up. The joy could be seen emitting from her as she saw Macy. Jess knew they would be okay now.
He looked down at Murielle, "What is stopping you from running to your parents, Auntie? Don't you see the hope on their faces?"
Murielle looked to them and then back to Jess, "You promise to take care of Miss Kari until it's her time to leave, right?"
Jess got down on one knee, "I swear on this charm I have been given when I went on my first quest. I will watch over Miss Kari."
Murielle nodded and ran into the arms of the parents she had not known. That magical moment erased all the time apart for them. As Jess and Kari watched, the gate shrunk until nothing was there except for the shimmer. That too disappeared.
"You know you don't have to watch out for me. I can take care of myself and there are other spirits here to keep me company." Kari gave him an out. She just hoped he would not take it.
"I swore I would and I take my promises to heart. However, it is not just the promise I made that will keep me with you. Somehow, in these two days I have come to fall hard in love for you. My Grandfather warned me that when I found my soul mate it would be fast and hard. He also said that the journey to be with her would not be shown immediately but if we did not lose heart we would be together in the end", Jess brushed his hand near her cheek.
They stayed like that in silence for what seemed like an eternity but were only a few moments. A crash from the hallway broke them from the trance.
"I guess that is my cue to go back to command center so we can finish breaking down everything. When I come in tomorrow I will come up to the attic to see you if that are okay." Jess asked hopeful.
Kari nodded and evaporated but from somewhere Jess could here, "I will be waiting my dear Jess."*
The team had finally packed up everything and left to get some much-needed sleep at the hotel rooms. With nothing else left to do, Jess knew where he wanted to be but still the solution had not come to mind. Humming an old song that his Grandma would sing, he found himself at the base of the stairs.
Jess came up the stairs to where Kari was sitting alone. Now that the girls had found peace, they went onto the next part of their journey. He knew it was a long time coming and they deserve the reward waiting for them. He was going to miss those three little imps. Jess had to chuckle at the antics those three had pulled on him over the last two days.
At least the group had enough evidence to keep them busy for a few weeks. It was going to take at least that long to go through all the tapes, photos and audio. Steve from TAPS promised to help and was going to see about having the two groups work again in the future.
Jess grin blossomed all the way to his eyes when he saw the beauty of his life at the top of the stairs. He was going to find a way for them to be together. If not in this lifetime, then in the next. He knew down to the core that they were soul mates.
"Good evening my love", Kari turned around and her face lit up.
"How is my favorite ghost hunter?", she touched his face with a touch as soft as a whisper.
"Content. The boss just made me a partner since I was able to take care of the 'problem' he had and it didn't cost him anything. I guess I need to quit calling him boss now", Jess sat on the top rung.
Kari lit beside him and laid her head on his shoulder. He didn't know how it was possible that he can feel her but he wouldn't give it up for the world's riches. Her touch calmed his soul and mind.
"I never believed in love let alone love at first sight. Because we are from different times, I know we cannot make this a true relationship. When I close my eyes, I can see us together at one of those grand balls dancing in each other's arms. You are wearing a peach gown with a string of pure white pearls that I gave you for Christmas. I am wearing my tux with the tails you always teased me about. Can you hear the music my love? They are playing our waltz."
Kari sighed, " I can see it too. We have known each other in the past and sometime in the future, we will be back again. This is just a small span in the story of our destiny. "
Looking into each other's eyes, they knew their time would come. Jess turned and walked down the stairs and out the door to his truck. When he was half way down Kari faded into nothing only to appear in one of the third floor windows. She knew she should have told him more.
It was time to lock up and head home but in the last few days, this place seemed more home than his apartment. Jess looked up at the orphanage with pride. What looked like a disaster just a few short weeks ago had become a home. Children would once again roam the halls and study in the library. Jess wondered how many tea parties that parlor would see. It was great that the boss had given him a permanent position here when the children started to arrive. Jess felt a brush against his neck. He turned and looked up to the window. With a final wave to the shadow, Jess climbed into his truck. When he was not at work or spending time with Kari, he would have to start looking for a way for them to be together on the same plane. He might even have to find some time to take a trip to visit Grandfather. He had a feeling the old medicine man might be able to help find the answer.
Looking down at the human, she smiled at what could have been if they had lived in the same time. Kari knew her love for this man could not be acted on, even if the puppet girls wanted it to happen. She needed to stop thinking of them as puppets. That glamour fell away when they felt love. Before they left they had asked her to take care of him and that when Jess and her least expected, they would be together. They called her and Jess soul mates. What else did they say to her? Oh yes, Love will conquer all, even time itself. With that last thought, she dispersed back to where all spirits go when humans did not see them.