The Barrier: Case One- Chapter Six

“Ethan!” Emily called.

Riley had jumped up and leaned even closer to try and see if she could pick up any detail. Ethan moved over and leaned by her when another camera flickered. Then the next, and the next.

“Beautiful,” Riley whispered.

Ethan looked over at her and saw her enraptured by the movement. He fought a smirk, and felt a little tug in his chest that he ignored. He wasn’t sure why he had been drawn in so quickly, and wanted to convince himself it was his friendship with Jack and desire for friendship with her driving it. He could not ignore that he knew that wasn’t entirely true.

“What do we do?” Riley asked.

This snapped Ethan out of his brief moment and back into work mode. He was usually better at keeping parts of his mind shut down while at work, and hated that he slipped. “Take the equipment for readings, but this time take a hand camera with you and try to capture anything you see,” Ethan replied.

Josh handed Riley the camera, and the two quickly set off. Riley heard Ethan tell Josh to go to section 4 over the walkie-talkie. When they got there, it was a corner of the library. All of the tables and chairs had been stacked, possibly in anticipation of work that would never be completed. They were covered in the same grime, dust, and cobwebs as the rest of the building. Riley noticed the books had also been removed from this section. Once they got closer, it felt as though they had crossed some invisible line, and suddenly everything felt different. Both their breathing slowed as a feeling settled over them, and the coldness started to creep in.

“Holy crap,” Riley said, a bit nervous but excited. She held up the camera and steadied her arm, trying to look for actual visual signs of activity while Josh took readings with the equipment.

“The temperature has dropped for sure, and I am getting a few spikes on the EMF,” Josh said into the walkie-talkie.

Riley was distracted though, her head began to tilt a little. She thought she could feel something calling to her. Slowly her arm with the camera dropped as she stepped forward and looked through the darkness.

“Riley?” Josh asked.

“Josh, what is she doing with the camera?” Emily asked over the walkie.

“She seems sort of spaced out,” Josh replied.

“Can’t you feel it?” Riley asked; she sounded a bit out of it, her awareness not fully there.

“What? Can’t I feel what, Riley?” Josh asked, holding down the buttons so they could hear too.

“I don’t know, but I think it wants me to find it.”

“Josh, get the camera from her,” Ethan said.

Josh hooked his walkie to his pants and then went for the camera. Riley didn’t resist as he pulled it from her hand and began to film her and into the darkness. Abruptly all the furniture around them started to rattle and shake. Josh instinctively stepped back, but was worried to see Riley take another step forward.

“No you don’t,” Josh said, grabbing the back of her shirt, still filming.

“Josh, get her out of there!” Ethan’s troubled voice sounded.

Josh didn’t bother to answer; he knew he needed to and wanted to focus on keeping her safe. “Come back to base, Riley.”

“It won’t hurt me,” Riley said softly.

“Damn it,” Josh said under his breath and grabbed her upper arm. He had seen how nervous she got when people go too physically close to her, but he was concerned. He pulled her just enough to get her attention, but not enough that it should actually hurt.

Riley hesitated a moment, but then finally turned to him. Her eyes were glazed and unfocused, and she had to blink a few times before they started to come back.

“You don’t know that you can trust that feeling,” Josh said kindly but sternly. He needed her to listen and understand quickly.

Her eyebrows furrowed, and she glanced back. But finally, her eyes seemed to clear fully, and she nodded. “You’re right.”

As soon as she admitted that, Riley felt sadness hit her almost as strong a physical shove. Her knees buckled a little under the weight of it, and she regretted causing it. At the same time, all the furniture lifted then dropped. A lot of it breaking as it crashed down.

“Get back to base now!” Ethan’s angry voice rang out.

The coldness and feeling the two had gotten completely faded, leaving the two slightly out of breath, looking at the destruction. Josh made sure to snap himself out of it and pull Riley along. He knew Ethan was already mad enough, and did not want to test him.

“What the hell do you think you were doing!” Ethan snapped when the two walked in.

“Hey!” Emily shouted, and even Josh looked surprised and slightly angered by the man.

Riley raised a quick hand, but focused on Ethan. “I honestly don’t know. I felt something, almost as though we were just outside of a bubble, and something was calling me in.”

“She looked pretty spaced out,” Josh added, stepping in. He knew Ethan was concerned but could also feel the tension rising, and didn’t want someone to snap and say something they’d regret.

“Spaced out or not, I don’t think it wanted to hurt me.”

“It threw furniture at you!” Ethan insisted.

“No, it really just lifted and dropped it, and also only after I agreed to leave. Before that, it just felt like it wanted help.”

“That may be what you think you felt, but you have no idea what you are doing or talking about.”

“Look, my practical experience may be limited, but I am no dummy when it comes to the subject of the supernatural. You don’t get to treat me like I am completely green.”

“I will treat you however I want. This is my case. My team!”

“So you don’t listen to their suggestions or opinions?” Riley asked, motioning to Emily and Josh.

Ethan was brought up a little short, but his frustration was overruling his better nature. “Of course I do.”

“So it’s just mine you find objectionable.”

“Riley,” Ethan began.

“No! I know what I felt. You either want to hear it, or you don’t.”

Ethan hesitated, his own mind screaming at him to stop being such an ass. He let the inner debate go on just a bit too long, though.

“Alright,” Riley said, grabbing her bag, “Nice meeting you, and good luck.” And she was gone.

“Damn it,” Ethan released a heavy sigh.

As she walked to the door, Riley could feel whatever it was reaching out to her again. She hesitated for a moment, debating reaching back just to see what would happen. Then she thought about the way she had been dismissed and shook it off. “I am sorry,” she whispered softly, but kept walking.

Once she walked outside, it felt as though something had been lifted off her shoulders. The confusing feelings that she didn’t know where they were from or what they meant were gone, and instead, in their place, anger and, more so, disappointment. She hated the way that Ethan had refused to listen to her; it made her feel so disrespected. However, she had to admit she hadn’t responded the best and got immediately defensive. He seemed to bring that out in her, strong reactions that she wasn’t sure why she couldn’t control.

“Don’t you think that was a little much,” Emily snapped at Ethan back in the office.

“Emily, give us a moment,” Josh said softly.

Emily rolled her eyes but complied, putting her earbuds in and turning up the music while doing some more research and organizing their notes.

“She’s right,” Josh began.

“Yes,” Ethan admitted easily.

“What’s going on?”

“I do not know. You know I am slow to trust.”

“Sure you are, on a personal level. However, you aren’t the type of person to outright dismiss people. You brought her here then hid behind her lack of experience. This is clearly personal.”

“I know,” Ethan said, defeated.

“She would be good for the team.”

“I had those same thoughts.” Ethan rubbed his hand over his face. “Even our first meeting, I could not control my responses as well as I normally do. I am not used to this feeling, this lack of control. Perhaps it is loyalty to Jack and not wanting to take her away.”

Josh gave Ethan a look, to which Ethan huffed. They both knew that was not what was going on. Still, Josh did not push further on that. Josh had no problem with how strong the attraction had grown in such a short time, he had seen it happen before, he still knew the two of them would need to come together at a slower pace. Instead, he needed to work on making sure Ethan didn’t blow the chance to have her on the team.

“Go find her, bring her back, apologize. Hold firm on her needing to listen to you, but admit that you need to listen to her too. I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You are a good boss and good man, you know this.”

“I do,” Ethan agreed and quickly moved out of the office. Josh was right. He needed to get her back before the chance to have her join them passed him by.

Ethan was more than a little surprised when he rushed outside and saw Riley sitting on the ground using the wall of the library to lean on. He was brought up short by the sight, and hoped it was a good sign.

“Hey,” She said softly.

“Did you know I was going to follow?” Ethan asked, then cursed himself. Why was that the first thing out of his mouth?

“No, although maybe a bit hopeful,” she sighed. “I am honestly not sure. Debated coming back on my own as well, also on just calling it.”

Ethan sat down next to her, making sure to keep an appropriate amount of distance. “I am not normally like that. I was scared, I always am about someone being hurt, and that does cause me to act angrily. It is, however, rare that I refuse to listen to someone as I did with you.”

“I wasn’t exactly behaving the best. In fact, I was being a bit immature. I just don’t like the feeling of not being heard.”

“It is reasonable to feel that way. No one likes to feel ignored, and I am sure it made you feel disrespected as well.”

“Also, as though you have no trust in me.”

“I do both respect and trust you, Riley, at least as much as possible given our brief relationship. I am sorry. You are right to say I cannot demand you listen to me while I do not return the courtesy. I may be the boss with final say, and I need the team to listen to me. But it does not mean it is right for me to ignore and disregard the team,” Ethan paused and considered. “I find myself struggling more so when it comes to you.”

“Same. Maybe we shouldn’t work together,” Riley suggested.

Ethan felt something deep in his chest at that thought, but quickly recovered while his mental voice screamed at him to disagree. “Is that what you want?”

“Not really, but what about you?”

“Not at all. We both just need to try harder.”

“It’s a lot of effort for a short-term relationship.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“Maybe not short-term?”

“I had not meant for us to discuss it now, but if you are already considering leaving the case, I need you to know. It is my plan to ask you to come with us when this case is done.”

Riley found herself less surprised than she thought she should be. Part of her suspected, knew, that this was the plan, at least Jack’s desire. “Okay. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Ready to go back in?” Ethan asked, a bit relieved although desperate for more of an answer on how she felt about that possibility.

“Yeah,” Riley agreed. They both stood and nodded at each other. Ethan found his hand on the small of her back to help guide her, but realized he needed to keep his touch light with everything that happened tonight.

When they walked in, Riley sucked in a sharp breath. “Oh my god, do you feel that?”

“No,” Ethan said, looking around in confusion. Before he could ask her for more information, Riley suddenly dropped, and her body was dragged across the floor a short distance into a side room where there was a resounding slam.

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