“Riley, Emily, Josh, go take readings,” Ethan said after the group had sat in silence for roughly an hour. They nodded and quickly got to it.
When they were outside, it was almost completely dark, just the last bit of sun was hanging on. The three walked quietly to the various locations. As they neared the camera closest to where the children had been killed, Riley felt a sudden rush of anxiety. She couldn’t shake it and still felt as though something was wrong with the ditch.
Riley slowly approached it and looked down again. Something was here, it had to be, why else would she get these feelings every time she got close.
Emily turned to ask Riley a question and was shocked to find that she couldn’t see her. “Ummm, Josh, what happened to Riley?” Josh quickly turned, also confused. They quickly nodded at each other and started backtracking.
Riley kept examining the ditch and moving her flashlight over it when she heard the sounds of laughter, children’s laughter. “Kids, get away from here,” she called out in the direction she heard it, starting to walk that way, confused because she couldn’t see anybody. “It isn’t safe.” Riley then stopped. Surely the people in town had told kids to stay away, there wouldn’t be any out here.
She felt a small hand on her harm and quickly turned. Riley began scanning again, not seeing anything, not even Josh or Emily. “Hello!” she called out.
When Emily and Josh approached, they could see finally Riley looking around with a dazed look on her face. They could also hear her calling out.
“We are right here,” Emily said, picking up the pace, she could tell Riley was worried and starting to panic. When she got closer, she was stopped by a barrier. “What the hell is going on?” Emily asked.
“I have no idea,” Josh answered and pulled out his walkie-talkie. “Boss, something strange is happening by camera 3,” Josh said, then reached out. The barrier was invisible until he made contact, then a light purple shimmer would show for just a moment.
“Mini cam!” Emily shouted and pulled it out to begin recording. As she did, Josh pulled out a small totem and began to chant in Navajo. Emily alternated between touching the barrier to record and calling out to Riley.
From the other side of the barrier, Riley kept searching. She could hear Josh and Emily distantly but could not see them or anybody else. “Josh? Emily? This isn’t funny!”
“We didn’t mean to scare you,” Riley heard from behind her, and she turned with a gasp to see two young light blue figures standing there. “We need your help. Our death is not what it seems.”
“Jose and Jennifer,” Riley said, not really asking.
“Yes,” the boy said sadly.
“How can I help? What can you tell me? The more I know, the better.”
“I am not allowed to say, but I gave you a clue. I will give you more if I am able,” the boy responded and started to fade.
“Wait!” Riley called out, but he was gone. She gasped as she was hit with a great force of emotions. Sadness, fear, confusion, it all rushed at her, and she couldn’t hold herself up under its strength.
“Josh!” Emily screamed.
Josh reached out and grabbed Riley before she could fall forward into the ditch. He pulled her away and regretfully lay her down in the dirt. He didn’t want to but didn’t know how she would respond to contact when she woke up or how long it would take.
“Riley?” Emily was calling out, but Josh just studied her face carefully.
Suddenly Riley came to with a large gasp and shot up. “I saw them.”
Josh nodded and watched her. “Okay, was there anything else?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. There were all these feelings, and he said something about it not being what it seemed,” Riley said and tried to concentrate on what had just happened.
Josh could sense Riley getting more stressed as she sorted through her thoughts and wanted to get her to slow down. “Riley, don’t try to work it out just yet. You just went through another experience with spirits you are allowed to slow down.”
“Gabrielle and Ethan can help,” Emily agreed, noticing the same problem that Josh had.
“How can they help when I can’t give them anything? Oh, I felt something and am confused, that’s not any sort of helpful.”
“That is not true,” Josh replied. “You are confused about what you experienced, but part of our job and experience is helping people sort through that confusion, even when it’s a member of the team. Right now, you need to calm down, and we will get you back to base and go from there.”
Riley nodded as Emily moved around to get new readings. “It’s strange, the gauge says the temperature is low, but I don’t feel it,” Emily said, staring at the equipment.
“Another thing to talk to Ethan about,” Josh replied. “Can you get up?” he said, focusing back on Riley.
“Yeah,” Riley agreed softly. She was happy that Josh stayed close and prepared to catch her but kept enough distance that he didn’t actually make contact. She couldn’t even imagine how contact would feel at this moment.
Static started coming through Josh’s walkie-talkie as the three tried to pull themselves together. “Josh? Come in Josh,” Ethan’s voice came through with a slight edge of panic.
“Hey, boss,” Josh replied.
“Oh, thank goodness, I was about to come out looking for you.”
“Sorry about that boss, I didn’t even know you had answered.”
“Answered?” Ethan started. “Never mind. Given the state of the recording equipment, I assumed you were having tech issues. Is everyone alright? We lost visual.”
“Nothing serious,” Josh prefaced knowing that his answer would only add to Ethan’s stress. “But Riley did have a bit of an incident.”
There was a beat of silence, and Josh tried to anticipate how bad Ethan’s reaction might be. “Nothing serious?”
“No,” Josh reassured, picking up the man’s tone. He was certain most people would miss it, but it was a different type of worry than the team was used to from the man.
“Alright, were you able to get readings?”
“Okay, get her back here safely, please.”
“You don’t even have to ask boss,” Josh said, then put up his walkie and nodded to the other two. “You ready?”
Riley just nodded and slowly started to walk back. She felt shaky and like she might collapse again at any moment, so she rushed as much as she was able. She wanted to be back and safe in case it happened again. When they arrived back at the house, Riley immediately found a spot by the front door to sit. Josh chuckled but walked in to get her a light blanket which she accepted with a smile.
“I’ll send them out,” Josh said and pulled Emily with him. He knew Emily was worried about her friend, but Riley needed some alone time.
Riley put the blanket around herself and focused on the stars and her breathing, trying to calm herself and focus on what just happened. She processed it slowly, trying to catalog everything in her mind so that she could give Ethan whatever information she might have. It seemed useless to her, mostly confusing, but maybe Josh was right. Maybe there was something there that would help the group that she wasn’t seeing, they had more experience after all.
“Hey,” Gabrielle said, bringing Riley’s attention back to the present. “We need to talk to Ethan about the other day.”
“He already knows,” Riley admitted.
Gabrielle shook her head. “Not surprising, but it should still be a discussion.”
“I agree,” Ethan startled the women. “Why exactly did you sneak out the other day?”
“It is my fault,” Gabrielle spoke first, “I wanted to test her power.”
“Her power that we are not certain she has?” Ethan asked sharply. Both Ethan and Gabrielle picked up on Riley’s reaction and hurt.
“Is that really what you are afraid of?” Gabrielle replied harshly, mad that Ethan’s words were hurting Riley and that he was being stubborn.
“I am in no mood to be pushed.”
“Bull,” Gabrielle snapped. “You can’t get mad at us for going behind your back while you are hiding things from her.”
“Gabrielle,” Riley interrupted, “Now is not the time.” Before Gabrielle could protest, Riley went on, “Something is going on, and I want answers, but right now, Jose and Jennifer are all that matter to me.”
Gabrielle gave Riley a sad smile and deflated a little. “You’re right. Good on you.”
“So, what happened out there?” Ethan asked.
Riley sighed and built herself up mentally, and began. “I was walking with them to take readings, and when we were down by the camera where they drown, I felt overwhelmed by anxiety. I walked closer to the ditch, and I heard children but couldn’t see anything,” Riley paused, “By anything, I mean I couldn’t see Emily or Josh either. It was as though I was cut off from everyone. Then I saw Jose and Jennifer.”
“You need to be careful about assuming it was them. Malevolent spirits can project in different ways to manipulate people. If it was a spirit that killed them, it might know how desperate you are to make contact with them and are using their appearance to manipulate you.”
Gabrielle rolled her eyes at Ethan’s continued doubts.
“I guess that’s possible, but it’s not what happened.”
“No, Ethan, it was them,” Riley stopped his interruption.
“Alright, what happened next?”
“Jose said that he was not allowed to tell me much, but their death was not what it seemed. He believed that was a clue.”
“I think we already realized it wasn’t what it appeared. There is something wrong with that ditch, and you seem to have a theory which involves Emily researching living people.”
“Which, by the way, also goes against it being something else.” Gabrielle looked at Ethan pointedly.
Ethan sighed and gave a reluctant nod at that.
“He’s a kid, I think he believed it was a hint because he was thinking like a kid,” Riley paused, “I know that I am new, and you are having issues with me, although I don’t know what they are. But I know this. I know that it was Jose and Jennifer, and I know their drowning was not an accident.”
Ethan dropped down, so he was squatting in front of her. “I cannot take your word alone in these matters. I will take it into consideration, and it does seem likely, but I must acknowledge the possibility that you are wrong. Especially again with even the small chance that they were killed by something that dark. You know that darker spirits don’t always present as they are, and are capable of many tricks.”
“This does go along with my theory, so we will work it through. You cannot hide things from me, though, even when Gabrielle asks you to,” he said, turning to Gabrielle and glaring, it only increased when she shrugged in response. He turned back to Riley and continued, “We will get you tested when this case is done, I promise I will not put it off too long. How things develop is dependent on that test. I will try to be more honest with you when we have more information.”
“I guess that will have to do.”
“It will, it is all I can give right now.”
“Okay, well, we have a case to solve.”
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