Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

There's A Devil in the Dark, Charlie Boone! - Chapter 3

Charlie woke just after dawn, stretched slowly in his bed, and smiled at the soft warmth of Kippy beside him.

"I'm awake, Charlie."

"Are you? Why didn't you wake me up?"

Kippy sighed and lifted his head to smile at Charlie. "Because you were tired, and deserved to sleep if you needed it. And because I like to watch you dream."

Charlie laughed, and nuzzled his face against his boyfriend's. "What time is it?"

"About seven-thirty, last time I looked. Still early."

Charlie sighed, stretched gently, but made no move to get up. "It's so nice, just lying here with you. I could do that all day."

Kippy kissed him, and then shook his head. "Well, we can't. There's things to do. My skwish is telling me so."

"Oh? What things?"

"If I knew, I'd be--" He suddenly turned, and looked back over his shoulder at the nightstand.

A soft chime erupted from there, the sound of Charlie's cell phone.

Charlie blinked, and then hauled himself up on one elbow, carefully pushed Kippy onto his back, and reached across him for the phone.

"It's Horace," Kippy said suddenly. "Wanna bet?"

Charlie picked up the phone and turned the screen to look at the name of the caller. "Nope. You win." He tapped the screen and put the phone to his ear. "Hi, Horace."

"Hi, Charlie. I'm sorry to call so early, but -- I hope I didn't wake you."

"No. We were just getting up. What's going on?"

"It might be better for me to show you. Can you see the screen?"

Charlie dropped back onto his back and Kippy snuggled closer so that they could both see the small screen. Charlie put the phone on speaker, and cleared his throat. "Yes. Go ahead."

The screen blinked, and Horace was looking at them. He gazed at them a moment, realized where they were, and smiled. "Oh. You really weren't up yet!"

Charlie laughed. "We're fine. Go ahead."

"'s my habit to take a morning walk when I get up. I came out this morning, and...well, let me show you."

Horace's face receded as he pulled the phone away and aimed it, and then they were looking at a street scene. It became obvious then that Horace was standing out by the curb at the end of his long driveway. Before him was the narrow blacktop road that wound its way through his very quiet neighborhood.

Lined up across the way were two dozen or more trashcans of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Some were wheeled and sported tilt-up lids and handles; others were the old aluminum sort you didn't see much anymore. All of them were neatly lined up along the curb, as if waiting to be emptied. Several people stood nearby, their hands on their hips, looking at the cans as if they weren't sure what to do next.

Kippy gasped, and reached up to pull the phone down closer. "Oh, Horace! It looks like the phantom again!"

The view flickered back, and once again the ghost hunter was looking at them. The background moved behind him, as if he was stepping out of earshot of the others. "I think it followed me home!"

For a moment Charlie's mind seemed blank, as some part of it considered things too rapidly for his mental eye to follow. But then he caught up with himself, and pointed at the screen. "Anything else out of place there?"

"Yes. Well...let me show you."

Again the phone moved, and the backside camera came on, and they were looking at Horace's long driveway, and his house back among the trees.

The driveway was full of cars.

At the front of the line, directly before the single roll-up door on the little garage next to the house, was Horace's own Buick Roadmaster woodie wagon, as clean as it always seemed to be. But parked behind it, in a neat line, were nine other vehicles, ranging from compact in size up to a big four-wheeler perched atop large mudder tires, at the rear.

"Whoa." Kippy shook his head. "This is not good."

At that moment Kip's own phone, which had also been parked on the nightstand, rang. He rolled over and grabbed it up, and looked at the screen. "It's Adrian!"

Kip threw off the blanket and slid to the edge of the mattress and sat up, and leaned over his phone and spoke quietly into it. Charlie let his attention return to his own phone. "What are you doing now?"

"Just standing here," Horace returned. "The neighbors are starting to show up now, both about their trash cans and about their cars. I just heard one of them say they'd called the police. Fortunately, there are lines of other cars parked in the drives of my neighbors to either side. But I'm sure I'm going to have to answer some questions when the authorities arrive."

Charlie nodded. "You want us to come over?"

"I would feel reassured if you did. Thank you, Charlie."

"That's fine. I guess Kip is going to get the mystery he wanted, after all."

Horace chuckled. "And not just him!"

"Okay," Charlie continued, sitting up. "Adrian is on Kip's phone, so he must have felt something was happening. We'll put our heads together, and get there as soon as we can." Charlie pulled his phone closer and lowered his voice. "Um, Horace? I don't think I'd tell the cops about you being a ghost hunter, or about the Kinniston phantom."

The older man laughed. "I wasn't going to."

Charlie grinned. "Okay. We'll be there as soon as we can."

"Wonderful, Charlie. Thank you. comes one of my neighbors. I should go."

"Okay. Talk to you soon."


Charlie turned off the phone just as Kip put his own phone back on the nightstand. "Rick and Adrian are getting dressed, and then they'll be on their way over."

Charlie sighed. "I guess we should get up and get ready."

Kippy smiled, leaned forward, and kissed Charlie. "A new adventure!"

"Uh huh. You said you felt something was coming."

"But not this!" Kippy's frown slipped away. "I hope Horace will be okay."

"He will." Charlie kissed Kippy one more time, and then rolled out of bed. "Come on. Quick shower."

Kippy bounced up off the bed, laughing, and beat Charlie to the bathroom door.

"The police left a short time ago," Horace explained. "After the neighbors reclaimed their cars."

They were standing in his driveway, now occupied only by Horace's Buick and Charlie's new 4Runner. The SUV was a stark contrast to the old station wagon, obviously a relative, but a distant one, indeed.

"What were people saying?" Kippy asked, his eyes simply broadcasting curiosity.

Horace smiled. "Well, no one could figure out how it was done. They all had their car keys - none were missing. But it seemed obvious someone had started each one and moved the vehicles to the three drives at this end of the street. But how it was done, even the police couldn't guess."

Ricky laughed, a little disbelievingly. "I'm sure no one suggested they were just picked up and moved?"

Horace gave his head a slow shake. "No. No one." He brightened then. "But the police did suggest that kids had moved the trashcans. It seemed something young people would find funny, they said. I felt they were leaning towards the notion that the whole thing was a prank or a publicity stunt of some sort. I don't know how much time they'll invest in this, as nothing was actually damaged or stolen."

"That's good," Charlie decided. He smiled at the ghost hunter. "This phantom, if it's the same one you encountered in Kinniston, won't have any anonymity here if it starts acting out. No one to protect it. Things will not be kept quiet. If it starts becoming noticeable here, it will become a story, and news, very quickly. I don't think we want that to happen."

"I was thinking the same. The last thing we want are government investigators poking around here. They are so messy in their methods. They'll scare the phantom away, or worse...make it defend itself. That might not be a good thing."

"I'll say," Ricky agreed, nodding pointedly. "Last thing you want is to upset something that can grab up a big GMC four-wheeler like the one in your video, and carry it down the many houses did you say?"

Horace grimaced. "The truck came from the Chinganall's drive, eight houses up the road."

"See?" Ricky nodded again. "Take something pretty strong to do that, don't you think?"

"I do," Kippy injected. "Having moved that tree just a short ways, I can attest to the fact that it's an effort." He cast a probing look up the block, and swept it down the other side of the street. "Especially as my skwish is suggesting to me that all of this was done in a single moment."

That was followed by a moment of silence as everyone digested his words.

"You really feel it happened that way?" Charlie asked, staring at his boyfriend. "All at once?"

"I think he's right," Adrian agreed. "I feel the same sort of sensation. One, big...movement. It's sort of still echoing around."

"Right." Kippy nodded. "I think big skwish things like that leave a sort of imprint that hangs around after the deed."

Ricky grinned. "You felt a disturbance in the force, young Skywalker?"

Kippy stuck out his tongue. "Laugh if you want to."

Ricky suddenly looked serious. "I wasn't laughing at all, Kip. I was making an analogy." He shrugged. "We've never sensed these, uh, aftershocks before."

Kippy pouted a moment, but then smiled. "I'm sorry. I'm just --" He grinned then. "I'm just spooked by all this. This ability to sense these things is new for me."

"Me, too," Adrian confirmed. "It's a little eerie."

Horace smiled at that. "I would consider that a good description of the way I feel, too. A sense of very large things at work here. This phantom is not to be trifled with, not at all."

"But you said it wasn't malevolent," Charlie returned. "You said it was harmless."

Horace looked surprised by that. "I don't think I did say that, Charlie. I said it had never displayed any malevolence in its actions in Kinniston. But that's a definition of its actions in that town over a long period of time, not a description of its personality - if it has one. That remains an unknown quantity, I think. But Kinniston must be considered its home, at least until we know more, and most people are quite comfortable in their own living rooms." He looked up and down the street quickly. "But it is no longer at home. I hesitate to fall back on that old saw, 'even the gentlest beast will fight, when cornered', yet I have to consider that a reality here. Having the government come in here to investigate, and possibly back this entity into a corner could prove disastrous."

Charlie looked at Kip, who shrugged. "I don't know what to do next," his boyfriend admitted.

Charlie nodded. "We need to identify our new friend, and locate him...I think we'll call it a him, at least for now...and perhaps try to communicate somehow. It would be nice if we could solve this whole thing simply by talking to, um, him."

Adrian frowned at that, and turned to look curiously at Horace. "You think it followed you here? What if it actually came with you?"

The ghost hunter looked surprised at that. "You mean, like...hitched a ride in my car?"

Adrian looked uncertainly at Kippy. "I kind of mean that...but not exactly that."

Kippy nodded. "It could have simply put a finger on you, waited until you got where you were going, and then followed its arm, so to speak, to get here. Not physically, but mentally."

Charlie scratched his chin. "I can get that. Like putting a tracer on something, and then following it to its destination."

"That's exactly what I mean."

Horace squinted a moment, and turned to look at his car. "I did feel unusually preoccupied with the phantom on my trip home."

"What about now?" Kippy asked. "Do you sense its presence here?"

"I might." The ghost hunter looked uncertain. "I have always had feelings about these things, but have also always had trouble sorting them. I've been feeling a certain something since arriving home, but I have just been thinking it was the pleasure I always feel upon arriving home." He smiled at them. "My house greets me, and I feel that."

Charlie and Kippy stared at each other. "Your house is haunted?" Charlie asked.

"Oh my, no. My house is possessed." Horace smiled at them, and turned to look back at his home. "You couldn't feel it when you were inside?"

Kippy immediately shook his head. "I sure didn't." He turned to Adrian. "Did you?"

"No. I would have said something, you know that."

Kip nodded. "So would I."

Charlie frowned at the ghost hunter. "I thought only people could be possessed. Places are haunted, aren't they?"

Horace shook his head. "Not at all. The term possession simply means that some supernatural entity has assumed partial or full integration with a host object, by joining with its very structure. A haunting is the presence of a supernatural entity at a certain location, and usually bound to that location. But it does not become a part of that location, it's simply present there. So people can also be haunted, and places possessed. The difference is actually physical."

Kippy gave his head a brief shake. "I'm not sure I get that."

Horace nodded. "In a haunting, a supernatural entity is usually bound to a place or a person for a variety of reasons, and manifests itself in ways that humans can sense. But the supernatural entity is not a part of that place or person, it is simply bound to that point. In a possession, the supernatural entity becomes one with the host, whether it be a person or a thing. They effectively become one unit."

"So it takes control?" Adrian asked, looking unsettled.

"No. With people I would consider it a symbiotic event, at the most. All this nonsense of exorcisms and such is balderdash. People that are possessed seldom even know it has happened. It requires someone sensitive with--" he smiled at Kippy "--skwish, and a certain type, at that, to detect a possession."

Charlie's boyfriend looked doubtful. "What about all this stuff of people's heads turning completely around backwards, and them vomiting gallons of blood?"

The ghost hunter laughed. "That's for the movies, Kip. There are no genuine recorded instances of that occurring in the real world. Or, none that were not proved later to be scams or tricks. The body of a possessed person doesn't change its physical abilities in any way, except perhaps in the area of health. The longevity and vitality of the host is of primary interest to an entity in residence, and it has been theorized that possessed people can live extraordinarily long and healthy lives."

"But what's the point?" Charlie asked. "Why possess someone or something, if the entity can't really act through either?"

"But it can," Horace countered. "What has to be understood is that the possessed and the possessor become one. But in the case of a human possession, the mind is the difference. The mind born with the body is always the stronger of the two, except in cases of mental instability in which the human mind deliberately or subconsciously hands control to the possessor. But otherwise, an entity in possession of a human does not control that human. At best, it can, um, make suggestions. And the host isn't even aware that the thoughts are not his or her own."

Adrian gave a shiver. "I don't like the idea of that at all!"

"Well, it's not like it's a common occurrence," Horace said. "In fact, it is exceedingly rare. I have never encountered a possessed person, myself. Just heard of them through others in the field. In truth, I don't know how much I would even believe it could happen, myself, save for the fact that my very own house is possessed."

"Wow," Ricky said, grinning at Charlie. "This just gets better all the time, doesn't it?"

Charlie laughed at that. "I'll admit that very few things surprise me anymore." He turned back to the ghost hunter. "So what's going on with your house? Are you able to talk to your, um, friend?"

"Oh, no, Charlie. It's not like that at all. I sense things, like the welcome home I get, and the pleasure I get just being here. And the pleasure the house gets from me being here. I can feel the vitality of the house, the life it has on its own. " Horace smiled, and waved a hand at his residence. "You see what a nice condition the house is in, don't you? It will be one hundred years old next year. Yet I have put very little into it. It's largely self-maintaining."

Charlie gasped at that. "Your...entity, keeps the house in repair?"

"'s not exactly a matter of maintenance, no. I think the house has simply been made to stay as it is since the day it was built, is all."

For a moment everyone was silent.

"You mean it hasn't aged?" Adrian finally asked, staring at the house. "Nothing has gotten old?"

"That's what I mean. Everything you see is as it was when I inherited the house over ten years ago. And everything then was as it had been since the house was new."

Charlie stared at the house. "You inherited this place?'

Horace looked fondly at the house. "Yes. It belonged to my Uncle Ken and Aunt Elizabeth. I grew up here."

Kippy gaped a moment at Charlie, and then smiled at Horace. "We didn't mean to pry."

The ghost hunter laughed. "It's not a secret. My parents died when I was a baby. They had gone to sea on a ship, which got into trouble and sank. They were not among the survivors. I had been left with my aunt and uncle, here in this house. As my only relatives, they were given custody, and I grew up here. So I have been living with the spirit of this house my entire life, pretty much."

"There have been some renovations," Charlie pointed out. "I saw new appliances in the kitchen."

"There have been a number of upgrades over the years," Horace acknowledged. "Gretchen is not averse to them. She simply takes them in her stride."

Kippy smiled. "Gretchen?"

Horace's eyes twinkled. "Well...yes. Everyone needs a name."

"You feel your, uh, guest is a female?" Charlie asked.

Horace smiled towards the house. "I don't know if such things actually apply to a situation like this one, but...there are some definite feminine touches to her presence, yes."

Charlie nodded, seeing then some possible connections. "Is this what got you into ghost hunting?"

"In part. My uncle and aunt were researchers into the paranormal, themselves. Growing up with Gretchen's presence in the house made me a true believer at an early age. I guess it was only natural that I would follow my adoptive parents in their chosen profession. My interest was captured very early on."

Ricky waved a hand at the house. "I'm surprised that Gretchen didn't detect the presence of the phantom."

Horace steepled his hands, and tapped the tips of his fingers against his nose. "She may have. In fact, I'm sure she did. She was quite excited when I came home from Kinniston. But she always is excited, after I have been away. She cannot directly tell me anything, so it is up to me to interpret."

"Oh." Kippy shrugged at Charlie. "So that could have been easy to miss."


Ricky seemed thoughtful a moment before speaking again. "This isn't anything like my cousin's house, is it?"

Horace shook his head. "No. The presences in that house were of course granted access by the amazing Tesla device hidden in the cellar. In that case, it was neither a haunting nor a possession. The visitors came from some other place or time, but were very much living beings as we understand them. The Tesla device initiated some sort of extra-dimensional breach, through which they were able to pass. That breach extended into the very house itself, providing them with a safe refuge." The ghost hunter turned to smile at his own home. "Gretchen is a part of every stone, every beam, every physical part of this home. She is one with the house."

"But where did she come from?" Charlie asked.

Horace cocked his head to one side. "I suspect she was in some way at this location long before the house was built, and simply joined with it after it came to be. A genius loci, as it were. The spirit of a certain place. I view Gretchen as a natural force, not one that was human at one time. This is not a haunting, but a possession by a natural force that is in some ways sentient."

"A natural force that is in some ways sentient," Charlie repeated, giving his head a little shake. "Amazing."

Kippy moved closer to him and wrapped an arm around Charlie's. "We keep running into extraordinary things!"

Horace laughed at that. "I suspect that is your natures, just as mine is to chase ghosts. You are either great attractors for these sorts of things, or just as strongly attracted to them. You should be used to it by now."

"Oh, we are," Charlie returned, smiling. "Sort of."

Kippy seemed enchanted by the house now. "How could, um, Gretchen have been here before the house was built?"

Horace looked around the neighborhood, and sighed happily. "This was all virgin forest once, and dense forest, at that. This is a very unusual neighborhood, for what it is. In the 1920's, when this neighborhood was constructed, it was a common practice to put large homes like this one on very small lots, so that they were right up against each other. You will note that this is not the case here."

Charlie looked up and down the quiet road, and nodded. "Your neighbors are a ways off."

"Exactly. Each of these homes was built on a three acre lot. In part due to the rural location, I surmise, but otherwise quite extraordinary for those times. "

"What has that to do with anything?" Adrian asked.

"Nothing in itself. Just that privacy here is a given." Horace smiled at them. "Have you ever been walking in the deep woods, and arrived at a place that somehow felt special? Just there, in the middle of the trees, and for no real reason that you can put your finger on...but special? Even enchanted?"

Charlie considered that, and nodded. "Sort of." He smiled. "Yes."

Horace nodded. "There are many places such as that. And not just in the woods. In wild areas everywhere in the world, you will stumble upon these quiet, enchanted places. These are the abodes of genius loci - the natural homes of forces such as Gretchen. I think that when her natural home was disturbed by the construction of this house, she simply adapted herself to the new situation." He smiled. "She moved in."

Kippy seemed excited now. "So forces like Gretchen are bound to one spot?"

"I think so," Horace agreed. "What lore exists about these spirits of place suggest that they are bound to specific locations. Which means that our phantom is not of the same nature."

"But it could still be a natural force of some sort?" Charlie asked. "Just not chained to one spot?"


"Then what made the phantom move?" Ricky asked pointedly.

Horace frowned a moment, and then sighed. "I suspect it was me."

Kippy waved his hands excitedly now. "I can see that. You were probably the first person to come along in Kinniston with some real skwish talent. It was attracted to you." He looked at Charlie. "It was curious."

"That could well be. And when you left, it was curious enough to tag along." Charlie nodded. "Which may mean we can get it to go back to Kinniston simply by having you go back there, Horace."

The ghost hunter nodded. "But what then? I can't stay there forever."

"We'll have to convince it not to follow you again." Charlie turned to Kip. "I think we should go to Kinniston with Horace."

Kippy's eyebrows knit together a moment, but then he relaxed and nodded. "I think so, too."

"We might be stuck there over Halloween," Charlie warned.

"I know. But this is important. Halloween will come no matter where we are, don't you think?"

Charlie smiled, and put an arm around his boyfriend's shoulders. "Are you growing up on me, Kip?"

"Just a little. But I won't get carried away with it." Kippy laughed. "Besides, this is probably what we're supposed to be doing for the holiday. But even if it isn't, Kinniston is only an hour away, and we have all of today, and all of tomorrow. So if something else is to come along, we can still get back by dark tomorrow, and we won't miss a thing."

"The phantom only seems to manifest at night," Horace reminded. "That would only give us one night in which to work."

"I can live with it." Kippy closed his eyes tightly, and a smile spread over his face.

Charlie grinned. "What are you doing now?"

"Wishing real hard that Max or Keerby would show up. So that they can fix time for us. Just in case!"

The boys all laughed.

"You want to cheat a little, huh?" Ricky asked.

Kippy gave an airy wave of his hand, and his smile intensified. "Of course. I'm not growing up that much! "

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