Les informations fournies dans la section « Synopsis » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third.
He fell asleep at the wheel and drove his car off a bridge into a lake -- that was the second time -- and was found on the shore by rescuers. When his half-sunken Honda was recovered, the doors were all locked, and the tempered glass windows were shattered like spider-webs, but still intact. No one could figure out how he'd gotten out of the car in the first place, much less survived a crash without even a scratch.
The third time, Ross was mugged in New York City. The thief took his wallet and beat him up, and then shot him in the back and left him for dead. The bullet -- fired close enough to have shattered his scapula and punctured a lung -- didn't. Instead it miraculously stopped at the bone, a small nugget of lead that Ross now used as a keychain.
The first time was years ago, when Ross had found himself in the middle of an electrical storm. The lightning, a beautiful blue charge, had staggered out of the sky and gone straight for his heart. The doctors told him that he had been legally dead for seven minutes. They reasoned that the current could not have struck Ross directly, because 50,000 amperes of current in his chest cavity would have boiled the moisture in his cells and quite literally made him explode. Instead, the lightning had hit nearby and created an induced current in his own body, one still strong enough to disturb his cardiac rhythm. The doctors said he was one hell of a lucky man.
They were wrong.
Now, as Ross walked up the pitched wet roof of the O'Donnells' Oswego home in the dark, he did not even bother with caution. The wind coming off Lake Ontario was cold even in August, and whipped his long hair into his eyes as he maneuvered around the gabled window. The rain bit at the back of his neck as he worked the clamps onto the flashing and positioned the waterproof video camera so that it was pointing into the attic.
His boots slipped, dislodging some of the old shingles. On the ground, beneath an umbrella, O'Donnell squinted up at him. "Be careful," the man called out. Ross also heard the words he did not say: We've got enough ghosts.
But nothing would happen to him. He would not trip; he wouldn't fall. It was why he volunteered for the riskiest tasks; why he put himself into danger again and again. It was why he'd tried bungee jumping and rock climbing and crack cocaine. He waved down to Mr. O'Donnell, indicating that he'd heard. But just as Ross knew that in eight hours, the sun would come up -- just as he knew that he'd have to go through the motions for another day -- he also knew he couldn't die, in spite of the fact that it was what he wanted, more than anything.
The baby woke Spencer Pike, and he struggled to a sitting position. In spite of the nightlights kept in every room at the Shady Pines Nursing Home -- nearly enough combined wattage, he imagined, to illuminate all of Burlington, Vermont -- Spencer couldn't see past the foot of his bed. He couldn't see anything these days, thanks to the cataracts; although sometimes he'd get up to take a leak, and in the mirror, as he passed by, he would catch a glimpse of someone watching him -- someone whose brow was not spotted and yellow; someone whose skin was not sighing off his bones. But then the young man Spencer had once been would disappear, leaving him to stare at the crumbs that were left of his life.
His ears, though, were sharp. Unlike the other sorry old morons in this place, Spencer had never needed a hearing aid. Hell, he heard things that he didn't even care to.
On cue, the baby cried again.
Spencer's hand scrabbled over the covers to the call button beside his bed. A moment later, the night nurse came in. "Mr. Pike," she said. "What's the matter?"
"The baby's crying."
The nurse fussed behind him, turning pillows and raising the head of the bed. "There are no babies here, Mr. Pike, you know that. It was just a dream." She patted the right angle that had once been his strong shoulder. "Now, you need to go back to sleep. You've got a busy day tomorrow. A meeting, remember?"
Why, Spencer wondered, did she talk to him as if he were a child? And why did he react like one -- sinking back beneath her gentle hands, letting her pull the covers up to his chest? A memory swelled at the base of Spencer's throat, something that he could not quite pull to the front of the fog but that brought tears to his eyes. "Do you need some Naproxen?" the nurse asked kindly.
Spencer shook his head. He had been a scientist, after all. And no laboratory had yet crafted the drug that could ease this ache.
In person, Curtis Warburton was smaller than he seemed to be on television, but he lacked none of the magnetism that had made Bogeyman Nights the highest-rated show in its time slot. His black hair was shot, skunklike, with a white streak -- one he'd possessed since a night nine years ago, when the ghost of his grandfather had appeared at the foot of his bed and led him into the field of paranormal investigation. His wife, Maylene, an elf of a woman whose psychic abilities were well known to the Los Angeles police, perched beside him, taking notes as Curtis posed questions to the owners of the house.
"First was the kitchen," murmured Eve O'Donnell, and her husband nodded. A retired couple, they'd bought this home on the lake as a summer retreat, and in their three months of tenancy had experienced supernatural phenomena at least twice a week. "About ten in the morning, I locked up all the doors, put on the alarm system, and went to the post office. When I came home, the alarm was still on...but inside, the kitchen cabinets were open, and every cereal box was on the table, spilled on its side. I called Harlan, thinking he'd come home and left behind a mess."
"I was at the Elks Club the whole time," her husband interjected. "Never came home. No one did."
"And there's the calliope music we heard coming from the attic at two in the morning. The minute we went upstairs, it stopped. Open the door to find a child's toy piano, missing its batteries, sitting in the middle of the floor."
"We don't own a toy piano," Harlan added. "Much less a child."
"And when we put in the batteries, it didn't even play that kind of music." Eve hesitated. "Mr. Warburton, I hope you understand that we're not the kind of people who...who believe in this sort of thing. It's just...it's just that if it's not this, then I'm losing my mind."
"Mrs. O'Donnell, you're not going crazy." Curtis touched her hand with trademark sympathy. "By tomorrow morning we'll have a better idea of what's going on in your home." He looked over his shoulder to make sure Ross was getting this on camera. Depending on what happened later, the O'Donnells might find themselves featured on Bogeyman Nights, and if so, this footage was critical. The Warburtons received over three hundred e-mails a day from people who believed their houses were haunted. Eighty-five percent of the claims turned out to be hoaxes or mice in the rafters. The rest -- well, Ross had been working with them long enough to know that there were some things that simply could not be explained.
"Have you experienced any spectral visions?" Curtis asked. "Temperature changes?"
"Our bedroom will be hot as hell one minute, and then we'll be shivering the next," Harlan answered.
"Are there any spots in the house in particular where you feel uncomfortable?"
"The attic, definitely. The upstairs bathroom."
Curtis's eyes swept from the hand-knotted Oriental rug to the antique vase on the mantel of the fireplace. "I have to warn you that finding a ghost can be a costly proposition."
As the Warburtons' field researcher, Ross had been sent to libraries and newspaper archives to locate documents about the property -- and hopefully the bonus information that a murder or a suicide might have occurred there. His inquiry had turned up nothing, but that never stopped Curtis. After all, a ghost could haunt a person as well as a place. History could hover, like a faint perfume or a memory stamped on the back of one's eyelids.
"Whatever it takes," Eve O'Donnell said. "This isn't about money."
"Of course not." Curtis smiled and slapped his palms on his knees. "Well, then. We've got some work to do."
That was Ross's cue. During the investigation, he was responsible for setting up and monitoring the electromagnetic equipment, the digital video cameras, the infrared thermometer. He worked for minimum wage, in spite of the money that came in from the TV show and from cases like this one. Ross had begged the Warburtons for a job nine months ago after reading about them in the L.A. Times on Halloween. Unlike Curtis and Maylene, he had never seen a spirit -- but he wanted to, badly. He was hoping that sensitivity to ghosts might be something you could catch from close contact, like chicken pox -- and, like chicken pox, might be something that would mark you forever.
"I thought I'd check the attic," Ross said.
He stood in the doorway for a moment, waiting for Eve O'Donnell to lead the way upstairs. "I feel foolish," she confided, although Ross had not asked. "At my age, seeing Casper."
Ross smiled. "A ghost can shake you up a little, and make you think you're nuts, but it's not going to hurt you."
"Oh, I don't think she'd hurt me."
Eve hesitated. "Harlan said I shouldn't volunteer any information. That way if you see what we do, then we'd know." She shivered, glanced up the narrow stairs. "My little sister died when I was seven. Sometimes I wonder...can a ghost find you, if she wants to?"
Ross looked away. "I don't know," he said, wishing he could have offered her more -- a concrete answer, a personal experience. His eyes lit on the small door at the top of the stairs. "Is that it?"
She nodded, letting him pass in front of her to unlatch it. The video camera Ross had mounted outside watched them from the window, a cyclops. Eve hugged herself tightly. "Being here gives me the chills."
Ross moved some boxes, so that no shadows would be caught on tape that could be explained away. "Curtis says that's how you know where to find them. You go with what your senses are telling you." A wink on the floor caught his eye; kneeling, he picked up a handful of pennies. "Six cents." He smiled. "Ironic."
"She does that sometimes." Eve was edging toward the door, her arms wrapped around herself. "Leaves us change."
"The ghost?" Ross asked, turning, but Eve had already fled down the stairs.
Taking a deep breath, he closed the door to the attic and shut the light, plunging the small room into blackness. He stepped off to the side where he would not be in range of the video camera, and activated it with a remote control. Then he fixed his attention on the darkness around him, letting it press in at his chest and the backs of his knees, as Curtis Warburton had taught him. Ross cracked open his senses until the lip of disbelief thinned, until the space around him bloomed. Maybe this is it, he thought. Maybe the coming of ghosts feels like a sob at the back of your throat.
Somewhere off to the left was the sound of a footfall, and the unmistakable chime of coins striking the floor. Switching on a flashlight, Ross swung the beam until it illuminated his boot, and the three new pennies beside it. "Aimee?" he whispered to the empty air. "Is that you?"
Comtosook, Vermont, was a town marked by boundaries: the dip where it slipped into Lake Champlain, the cliffs that bordered the granite quarry where half the residents worked, the invisible demarcation where the rolling Vermont countryside became, with one more step, the city of Burlington. On the Congregational church in the center of town hung a plaque from Vermont Life magazine, dated 1994, the year that Comtosook was lauded as the most picture-perfect hamlet in the state. And it was -- there were days Eli Rochert looked at the leaves turning, rubies and amber and emeralds, and he simply had to stop for a moment and catch his breath.
But whatever Comtosook was to tourists, it was Eli's home. It had been, forever. He imagined it always would be. Of course, as one of the two full-time police officers in the town, he understood that what the tourists saw was an illusion. Eli had learned long ago that you can stare right at something and not see what lies beneath the surface.
He drove along Cemetery Road, his usual patrol haunt on nights such as this, when the moon was as beaded and yellow as a hawk's eye. Although the windows were rolled down, there wasn't much of a breeze; and Eli's short black hair was damp at the nape of his neck. Even Watson, his bloodhound, was panting in the seat beside him.
Old headstones listed like tired foot soldiers. In the left corner of the cemetery, near the beech tree, was Comtosook's oddest gravestone. winnie sparks, it read. born 1835. died 1901. died 1911. Legend had it that the irritable old woman's funeral procession had been en route to the cemetery when the horses reared and her coffin fell out of the wagon. As it popped open, Winnie sat up and climbed out, spitting mad. Ten years later when she died -- again -- her long-suffering husband hammered 150 nails to seal the lid of the coffin, just as a precaution.
Whether it was true or not didn't much matter to Eli. But the local teens seemed to think that Winnie's inability to stay dead was good enough reason to bring six-packs and pot to the cemetery. Eli unfolded his long body from the truck. "You coming?" he said to the dog, which flopped down on the seat in response. Shaking his head, Eli slipped through the cemetery until he reached Winnie's grave, where four kids too wasted to hear his footsteps were huddled around the blue-fingered flame of a Sterno burner.
"Boo," Eli said flatly.
"It's the cops!"
"Damn!" There was a scuffle of sneakers, the ping of bottles clinking together as the teens scrambled to get away. Eli could have had them at any moment, of course; he chose to let them off this time. He turned the beam of his flashlight onto the last of the retreating figures, then swung it down toward the mess. They left behind a faint cloud of sweet smoke and two perfectly good unopened bottles of Rolling Rock that Eli could make use of whe...
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description du livre Hodder & Stoughton, 2008. Paperback. État : New. book. N° de réf. du libraire 0340897260