The Barrier: Case One- Chapter Five

Once they had settled a bit, Ethan turned to Riley. “Normally, we start our cases with a brief intro given by Emily, so everybody is caught up. However, since we did that, I would like for you to present your knowledge of the location and your thoughts.”

Riley was a little surprised but happy. She pulled out her notes. “The current library that we are in was built in the mid-1800s. Abigail was put in charge in the 1880s, from what we know. She was an interesting person, one of the few outsiders that managed to make a mark and really become part of the town, more educated than most women at the time. She was also considered a striking beauty, but did not seem to care much for it or the attention that it brought her. She was quiet, seemed shy, and kept most people in town at a distance from all reports, including her own writing.”

Riley held up a few copies of her journal to give to the people. “The two noted exceptions were her friend Catherine, and the only man who she seemed to return the affections of, Jon. Although there is a little contention as to what that meant.”

“What do you mean?” Emily asked, then scanned the website again.

“You likely didn’t come across it and won’t there; the journals will clue in you in more. Abigail might have been gay, I certainly think she was. I am not even sure she was entirely certain herself, only that she was not interested in men, and it troubled her a great deal. Jon, it seems, was friends with a man before Abigail, a lot of similarities, very popular around town but was not interested in it. He told Jon his secret, but Jon encouraged him to tell nobody else. One day a woman who had been vying for the man’s attentions asked if she was wasting her time, Jon’s friend thought he could trust her and told her yes and explained why.”

“What happened?” Josh asked, dread forming.

“Officially, he was run out of town. Unofficially I think he was taken to the tree.”

“The tree?” Emily asked.

“The tree a lot of small towns like this had, a place to get rid of problems.”

Emily made a face and shuddered to which Riley nodded.

“Continue,” Ethan urged, though he was glad to get a bit of extra information.

“I believe that Jon was trying to protect Abigail. He might have noticed the signs and realized, regardless of if Abigail really understood or not. They did care for each other, Abigail often talked about him as an older brother. Jon had been married before and loved his wife a great deal, he was never the same after she died, according to all information we have. There was pressure on him to marry again, he was successful, and the town was so small. I think he saw a chance for both Abigail and himself. Marry to relieve the pressure on themselves, but not have to worry about expectations. They could go on as friends.”

“Good information, but speculation,” Ethan said, not wanting to discourage her.

“Oh, I realize that. The only thing I can confirm is Jon and Abigail were going to get married, and other than him, Catherine was her only real friend in town. Everything else is just hints from the writing. What else is confirmed, and I believe in the papers on the site I showed you, is her death. Two men who had been pursuing her came in one night, and all three died. Nobody knows exactly what happened, although Abigail’s death implied suicide. There used to be an upper part of the library, and she was found dead at the bottom, as though she threw herself from the stairs,” Riley said, although there was something different in her tone.

“You don’t believe that?” Ethan asked.

“It seemed suspicious to me, both men did die in a struggle, but I don’t know why it would cause Abigail to kill herself. One was shot, and the other was shot, then thrown from the same spot that Abigail fell or was thrown. Jon and Catherine were beside themselves, and Jon bought the library and demanded it be closed. The town became even more suspicious of outsiders as one of the men had been one, though he never fit in like Abigail. They tried to open the library in the 20s, hence some lighting, and then the 50s to which you know the result.”

“You believe the ghost is Abigail?” Ethan asked.

“It could logically be any of the three, but yes.”

Ethan nodded and went over the journals she had brought. He also looked at her notes. She was a great researcher, he realized. She had picked out and neatly organized for herself various things that had stood out to her. Some of it was superfluous, he noted but not much. She would be a damn fine researcher if she wanted to be and with a little direction. He was also even more annoyed at Miller’s insistence on leaving. Had she heard all this, it might have made reaching out easier. He would make sure that Emily got her a copy of everything before she came back tomorrow.

“I agree with almost all of what you said and researched,” Ethan said after a stretch. “In cases though, we try not to go in believing we already know the spirit. You are most likely right, but we cannot let confirmation bias blind us. However, in this case, I am sure the research is also informed by the city’s suspicions.”

“That and the two men were not avid journalers like others from the time. I do have notes and copies of their stuff, too, as limited as it might be,” Riley said, handing over some more papers to them.

“This is extremely helpful,” Emily said, Josh and Ethan nodding in agreement.

“Makes me think we should reach out to locals more often,” Josh added.

“At least on cases similar to this where we are struggling to find anything. We have more now than we did,” Ethan agreed.

“Glad to be of help. Everything but my notes are copies, so that is all for you.”

“This is great,” Ethan said. “We will all, of course, go over it, but Emily’s job is to research and make notes for us, so as long as she has a copy, she will get us the information she thinks we need.”

Riley smiled, glad that she was right when she thought to bring this. It was a good way to start the night. Although the next few hours were, as the group had warned, fairly dull. At one point, Riley had left with Josh to get a few pizzas and drinks for the group. Otherwise, they had spent the evening watching the monitors and taking a few readings. Emily was still digging through the website on the town, and Riley pulled out the books she was working on for Ethan. As it neared midnight, Riley could feel herself losing the battle against sleep. Ethan saw her yawn once again and inwardly cringed; she had been working all day after all.

“You should at least try to take a nap,” Ethan told her and pointed to a small couch in the office. It had been there from before, but the group had covered it in sheets and blankets to make it a bit more comfortable and relatively clean.

“I think I might need to,” Riley conceded. She thought the excitement of the whole event and being in a room with others would keep her awake, but she was fading fast enough she was willing to try.

As Riley settled in, she could hear the voices of the group around her. But also something else. Someone else. She couldn’t pick up on what the person was saying, only that they wanted to communicate but were scared. Riley couldn’t tell if the voice wanted Riley to try to reach out to it or just go away and leave it alone.

When she woke, Riley was confused and tried to sort out what had happened. It wasn’t a dream, at least it hadn’t felt like one. Even if it had been, it was unlike any she had ever had before. Her brow furrowed, and she tried to concentrate on what was happening around her, seeing if she could find the voice. The voice, or rather what it belonged to, did still seem to be there, but she couldn’t be certain.

She thought about mentioning it to the group, but then quickly shook off that idea. She was tired and excited, so it was probably just in her head.

“Did you sleep well?” Ethan asked. He watched as she woke and seemed confused for a moment, but when her face cleared, he approached her.

“Yeah, a little odd, but I feel better. What time is it?”

“Early,” Emily replied with a groan.

Riley chuckled but looked back to Ethan.

“It is not even really morning yet, I am surprised you are already awake,” Ethan answered. “If you want, Josh can take you home on his way to the hotel, then after a bit, you can come back and relieve Emily if you can stand to be alone with me for the bulk of the day.”

“Sounds good,” Riley said brightly.

When she got to her apartment, Riley showered and settled in for another quick nap. She didn’t want to sleep too long as Emily was clearly tired when she left. Once her alarm went off, she prepared for the day and made sure to leave Jack a note in the kitchen with some food. She knew he knew not to expect her to, but felt she needed to leave one anyway. Riley made one more stop on her way to the library and arrived when it was properly morning.

“I come bearing gifts,” Riley said as she walked in with several coffees, donuts, and other morning baked goods.

“Oh, thank you!” Emily said happily. “I am going to skip the coffee, but would love some food.”

“I brought decaf tea,” Riley said, checking the drinks and handing one to Emily.

“Amazing,” Emily replied. They all dug in, and once Emily had eaten, she wished the two of them luck and headed for the hotel.

“So when is your break?” Riley turned to Ethan.

“I will take a short one when Josh comes back, but I am practiced at running on little sleep during cases.”

Riley hummed in reply. She didn’t feel she could argue with him, but knew she would likely disapprove of just how little his definition of little sleep was. The day passed slowly. Josh did relieve Ethan for a short while at one point, and Riley took a brief nap to help prepare herself for a full night.

By late afternoon Ethan and Emily returned. Riley took Josh with her to grab some food, and then the group prepared to settle in for the night. Riley was hopeful that they would get something, even a little sign, that night. She had to admit, even if only to herself, that she was concerned that the case was a fake. She understood the need for the group to debunk cases, but this might be her only chance to observe a real case.

That thought cycled through her brain and made her sad. She didn’t want this to be her only chance. She grew quiet as they worked their way through dinner, thinking of how much she had enjoyed the group, even for such a short time. She couldn’t remember ever feeling that way about anybody other than Jack.

As she thought on this, it felt like her sadness was growing, growing well beyond what she was naturally feeling. It felt like there were outside emotions weighing on her, influencing her. It reminded her of the voice she thought she heard in her sleep. She paused again and tried to concentrate, but when nothing changed, she shook it off. She still didn’t have reason to be certain what she was experiencing was anything.

Riley and Josh took readings again. As they walked through the building, Riley glanced over at one of the books that had been left on a table. She watched it carefully, and thought she saw the cover lift a little. When it did it a second time, she sucked in a breath and grabbed Josh’s arm. He turned and followed Riley’s pointed finger to the book.

As they watched, nothing happened, and Riley’s brows drew in, and her mouth slanted down. “I thought I saw the cover move. I’m sorry.”

Josh looked at the book for a bit but then turned to Riley. He didn’t think she would make anything up. She was talking herself out of what she had seen, he was sure of it. He didn’t want to push though, and simply reassured her it happened to all of them from time to time.

They walked back to the base, and Riley opened up a book to prepare for what would be a long night. She was confused and discouraged by what she had imagined earlier and was still doubting that it was just in her mind. About two hours later, Miller came back and noticeably grimaced when she saw Riley.

“I see your pet is still here,” Miller sneered.

Riley looked up and made a face at Emily, who rolled her eyes. The women smiled at each other.

“Must you?” Ethan asked, rubbing his forehead.

Miller dismissed the comment, but said nothing further to Riley. “I read over the notes and research you found, it was interesting, but I still sense nothing. But I assume you want me to do another pointless walkthrough?”

“We have no reason to assume it is pointless,” Ethan sighed.

“Other than the lack of activity?” Miller snapped back.

“Activity that might be halted by your presence and insistence there is nothing,” Ethan replied firmly.

“I will do a walkthrough, then I am leaving. Same as with last night.”

“Then same as last night, I hope you are fine with the consequences of that choice.”

Miller rolled her eyes, and did the walkthrough with Josh this time. As the others watched from the camera, they noticed she was barely stopping, trying to get through it as quickly as possible.

“Odds we get activity within a couple hours of her leaving?” Emily asked quietly while watching.

“Unfortunately, it might be the case,” Ethan agreed. “If we do not see anything tonight, I might ask her to not come back tomorrow. Her hostility cannot be helping, even if it is not actively hurting.”

As Riley watched her leave, she felt a sense of relief wash over her, but it wasn’t from her. Her brows furrowed, and once again, she was stuck trying to concentrate on seeing where these outside sensations were coming from. She was more certain now that something was going on, but was still struggling with the what or if she should tell them.

It wasn’t long before she and Josh were taking readings again. It felt good to walk around the library; she had been getting stiff from sitting for so long. When they got to one section, they both noticed a slight dip in temperature, and decided to hang out a while in that area.

Josh was moving around with the EMF reader chanting a bit to try and coax anything. Riley stood and looked around her, searching carefully over the library to see if anything stood out. She felt a cold shiver up her spine, and thought she saw another drop in the temperature.

“Josh!” She yelled. He rushed back but by then, whatever it was had passed.

“Everything okay?”

“I thought something happened. I must have been wrong,” Riley said, shaking her head, but a voice in the back of her mind pestered her, telling her she knew that wasn’t the whole truth. Honestly, it was starting to frustrate her, though.

They made their way back to the office, and Riley tucked back into her book. An hour later, she was annoyed as she felt the odd sensation again. Her annoyance was replaced, though, when she realized it was actually different this time. It wasn’t outside feelings – it was more like when your gut instinct tells you to be aware. She closed her book and moved closer to the monitors scanning them.

“Riley?” Emily asked.

“I don’t know, just a feeling,” Riley answered, eyes not moving from the monitors. Suddenly one of the cameras flickered.

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