|UNHACKABLE HEART: Glenn -- Her help to fix it|
Glenn wanted to bang his fist on the roof of his truck, furious he’d brought her today. Of course then he might not have found out what the shadowman was to Tessa. He’d not seen this before with a shadowman, but Glenn had seen poltergeists follow females from place to place; not attached to the house she was in, but attached to the female occupant.
He reached forward and grabbed each of her hands balancing in the air like he might actually have more than one option. She didn’t get it at all. “I want you to provoke that thing until the shadowman is burning and roaringly awake. In turn, the renovations to the house, to the land, and all the entities in this house should be foaming at the mouth and ready to play truth or scare. And then, Tessa, when the shadowman is focused on me, I want you to go to the van and hack the house.”
She blew out a slow exhale like she was trying to calm down and to find a way out of the net of contention the house had weaved around them both. “He’s never turned on me; scared me out of my mind a time or two, but you can’t stay in a state of terror perpetually . . . at some point there is energy left for neither fight nor flight. He followed me everywhere on this land, a bit like a pup, so eventually I gave him a name and started talking to him. And Shadow can communicate, Glenn.”
“Like when the shadowman attacked a man coming into your house from that big front window?”
“Folks were in and out of this house every time I left it! Wouldn’t a dog protect his home when the owners are away? When I had come back to pack and leave, before all hell broke loose with Sam, the siege and all that; it woke the entities in this house. Fear, fury, oh yes, no longer dormant but very active, very scary. It took a long time before the house and the things in it fell back asleep.”
“Sam wasn’t away. And that guy was coming in to take out the web cams after you so kindly burned all other expensive technological equipment planted in this house. Pretty big investments down the tube.”
“Tough break for you dudes.”
Glenn raked his hand down his face. He wanted to shake her. He wanted to kiss her. He wanted her.
His fellow ghost hunters had walked around the property and back to the cave which Glenn had told them he believed to be a portal to the spirit world dimensions.
Tessa clapped her hands like she was ready to go.
He waved at the teams of investigators. “They’ll want to know where the hotspots of activity are and what you’ve experienced in each specific area.”
“I’ll be in there waiting then.”
His friends and fellow ghost hunters were unloading equipment, so Glenn grabbed as much as he could carry. On the way up the porch and around men tearing up old lumber, Glenn told his bud the demonologist. “The shadowman has a name, Shadow, given to him by Tessa. She doesn’t understand at all, Paul. He’s like a poltergeist to her, but a shadowman. She just doesn’t get it that Shadow will follow her.”
First thing after stacking the equipment inside the house, Paul blessed their minds, anointing a cross and a soothing Latin chant. Tessa refused the blessing, not getting that either about another entity, a demon that dives right into your mind playing off your worst fears. The blessing immediately stopped the turmoil in his head. He didn’t intend to argue with her about it. But he didn’t intend to let her go forth in this house without it.
Glenn slid his arm around her waist, scooting her closer to Paul and a blessing. “You wear Kevlar in your first person shooter games, so why would you protect yourself less than you do your digital game player?”
She shook red-gold curls back before lifting her face; no argument to his logic.
Tessa showed them where wild and unexplainable paranormal events happened in this house and shared some of the activity she’d seen. She held her head high when she told them a little of the extreme paranormal she had experienced. She refused to go upstairs where Sam shot out his brains, but she pointed up there and muttered, “Hot hot hot spot.”
Glenn thought it probably the first time she’d told anyone. She did not like to share anything about her past and it had to be good for her, telling it finally, and to people who did not believe she was crazy. He had promised activity in this house to his hunter friends who had been chasing ghosts, collecting concrete evidence, for at least as long as him. In ten years, he’d seen a lot of above normal and haunted places. If they could find the time away from their family, their work, then Glenn would put them up in a hotel. They’d promised to stay and see it through with him.
As everyone unpacked inside, Glenn helped setup upstairs near the front windows where he’d seen glowing lights the night before when he’d kissed Tessa. This was where Sam had blown out his brains onto the wall and the bed, leaving Tessa named and blamed for his death in his note left on the bed. Thank God, Tessa had not been to one to find him. She’d been in the city for years and she did not return for his funeral.
He caught a glimpse of Tessa through the back upstairs window. He followed her into the sunshine in the backyard. He wanted some other questions answered which she had not shared with the team. Of all the things she could do, Tessa slid on her shades, plugged up her ears, and climbed way up in a huge old tree where she used to hang out sometimes when he came by to fix her network. He liked that about her. A place of peace for her, like the cave sometimes was, but sometimes she came out of there spooked and jittery.
He stared up at her but then noticed some of his crew checking out the woman way up under a canopy of shade and cool breezes. She couldn’t grasp she was creating mayhem among men on the ground; she thought she could be invisible!
He climbed to the branch below her. With music blaring and her shades pointed back toward the cave, she swung her leg from her knee as she lay back on the branch. When he grabbed her ankle, she screamed and he put his hand beside the branch in case she lost her balance. No way he was gonna let her fall so he’d have to chase her ghost.
She laughed after her scream and leaned toward him while pulling out one earbud. “Did you happen to bring a lighter up here?” She opened her palm in front of his face to reveal a wrinkled fat joint. “Some of Sam’s stash from the first floor.”
“No lighter.” He wanted to grab it from her hand and rub it between his to crush it and float in tiny pieces to the ground way below. He used to get stoned too, long long ago. She’d had players come at her about evenly split between stoners and cops. She’d written in her diary, that hindsight being perfect as it is, don’t get high and get married. “How many times did the entities go dormant?”
“Twice. I knew they were awake again when I got the call about Sam. I didn’t wish him dead, only out of my life forever. You can bet your sweet hiney I didn’t come to this house when I came to court to get my divorce. I’m not sure which one of the things in there helped push him to that desperate end or if it was as his suicide note said, my fault.”
“How could it be your fault? You lived far far away. You didn’t put the gun to his head and you didn’t pull the trigger.” Glenn gritted his teeth so he wouldn’t growl. “But so like Sam to try and set that guilt trap down on you. Prepare yourself, Tessa, it’s gonna be creepy tonight.”
“I don’t want to spin out of control again. It may be as easy as putting your foot down, stopping the spin, but when it’s happening there seems to be a million reasons why you shouldn’t put your foot down to stop the spin. People get hurt whether you mean it or not because once you stop the spin, it’s time to move forward, to grow, so you don’t hop back on that same ride again.” The glint in her green eyes suggested she was not merely referring to ghost hunting.
Was she trying to tell him why she told him she was leaving and then vanished so long ago? It had hurt him. It had infuriated him. It had haunted him.
“I’m determined to close the door to your past, so you can move on to your future.” He was not suggesting simply her house either. “Being with me won’t be the same spinning ride you don’t want to hop back on.”
She tossed up her hands, almost losing her balance. “I only wanted it landscaped, that’s all! I’ll go in maybe once more, to face the last of the monsters hiding under the bed in my brain, and then once I have faced those bad memories, I’m done.”
“Come out of the tree, Tess. I can find another way to keep my crew’s morale high.”
Her shades reflected the ground below as men stared up at her and their boss high above them in a tree. She growled, before plugging the earbud back into her dainty ear. She tucked tawny curls behind her ears and blew out a long breath. Then she swung down, branch to branch, but graceful in her descent to the ground below.
He climbed down after her and spoke with the dozen men from paranormal teams across the prairie before they left to catch some sleep and prepare for the long night ahead. Tessa would want to leave soon and to return to town as he had intended. Now he knew she had a shadowman who would follow her; Glenn wasn’t taking her away from this house until Shadow was no longer in this dimension. If his theory was right, they would go through the portal near the pool of water at the back of the cave.
She headed toward the veranda near new flower boxes. She turned and grinned at him, dimples flashing.
A moving cloud of dust, rising between green cornfields, signaled the departure of a vehicle down this gravel road. Sometimes, no one but the mailman traveled this road for days. Once upon a time, everyone travelling this road was involved in a prank.
Glenn walked toward her as she turned a potted flower upside down and tapped the bottom so it would come out in her hand. He grinned and reached into the v-neck of her pink shirt, gliding his fingers over her skin until he hooked onto her USB necklace. He sat it aside; he wanted to play.
She sat the yellow flowers in an empty planter and he hefted the big bag of soil from a stack. He slid his hands next to her, smoothing the soil over and around the plant. “See, Tess? I’m just a simple man. I like to sink my hands into the dirt and feel it between my fingers. I like the feeling of accomplishment in a job well done. I like to contemplate the universe on my back under the stars. I’m not the same man as the one who planted sonar in your basement.”
She nodded at him, smiling, before tipping on her toes and brushing her lips over his cheek. “I know. We’ve gone pretty deep, without talking about sex, in the last three months of chatting.”
“And that’s not weird for you?”
“Dude, I lived in one of the most haunted houses on the prairie. I’m the subject of a sub-seven legend. Takes quite a bit to be too weird for me. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? The mature thing to do?”
Glenn grinned, “Good.” Then he depressed the trigger to hold down and lock, before squirting water from the hose at her.
She screamed and then laughed as she ran toward him as if she might try to take it from him. He laughed, but then heard some of his men laughing too. He probably would not hear the end of this day for a very long time. He soaked her when she reached to bend the hose back and stop the flow of water.
She held a kink in the hose, closing off the stream of water. “Mean or funny?”
“Funny, Tess.” He had gone through a bunch of mean or funny with her over the last few months. Checking the pulse of his ethics, sometimes she agreed and sometimes she didn’t. Mostly she did, and she didn’t need that little piece of paper saying so about her hacking, certifying her ethics. The prank, game, bet, so many players had spun out of control; it had skewed her funny-or-mean meter to hell and back. As a privacy connoisseur, her security skills had been thrown out of whack too. Yet Tessa excelled in all things security.
She tipped up to press against him for a second, brushing her lips over his, distracting him. Her other hand on the handle, she pointed the hose up and let go of the kink, soaking him. She laughed. “I think so too.”
He turned off the hose, as wet as she.
She ran to the veranda, snatched up her USB necklace, muttering, “Thanks for not getting this wet.” She plucked plastered pink fabric from her breasts. “Find another way to manage your crew’s morale.”
Glenn cupped his hands around his mouth and told the men to go to lunch. They headed to their vehicles to leave the property and undertake quite the little drive to the closest fast food place.
Her smile flipped upside down and he peered around the corner of the veranda to see what had done it. His smiled died too as he strode toward the repaired area in front of the door now holding a vase of white long-stemmed roses. He could see a card sticking up and headed toward it.
Tessa ran ahead of him. She cussed and kicked the vase off the veranda. Green eyes glazed in sheen, she pointed straight at Glenn. “Are you doing all this,” she swung her arm toward the house and the yard, not toward the flowers, “as some sort of penance?”
“Not at all. Who are the flowers from? I don’t imagine your admirer would appreciate knowing you kicked the crap out of two dozen roses.”
She rubbed one hand over her forehead and then shut her eyes. “That was freaking fast!” She yanked her cell phone from her back pocket but held it up in the air like she was searching for a signal. “Can you get a signal out here?”
Glenn walked down the steps and retrieved the card. “Nicely played.”
Tessa jumped the steps two at a time toward him. “Your phone please, Glenn.”
He lifted it from his front pocket, soaked, no power. “You got your revenge; you can stop destroying my expensive equipment now.”
She lifted her lips on one side, one dimple winking at him. “At least I didn’t roast it toasty this time. Take me back to town now please.”
“Who sent these roses scattered over your front yard?”
“The black hat headhunter I mentioned.”
“Yori Korskovf, the head of the flipping Russian mafia, is sending you roses on your doorstep at the backdoor of Podunk?”
“Fast, huh? I never told you his name, though, or his family business. How do you know that, Glenn Reston!”
It didn’t sound much like a question, but Glenn answered anyway. “Cole. He’s not with the FBI anymore.”
“You guys punking me again? Another wicked sick bet perhaps?”
“No, Tessa.” Glenn checked the sky, early afternoon and a long time from the shadows and dusk. Could Shadow follow right now in the hot bright sun? Poltergeists could move without being detected by human eyes and follow the female to whom they had attached. If Korskovf had practically knocked on her front door way out here, it was time to take the risk of Shadow following her and get her somewhere safe. “Let’s go.”
“Get me to a phone, dude, or a signal.”
“Does the one in the house work?”
She snorted. “I haven’t tried it, but I seem to remember it rarely did and you would come from a couple counties away to remedy it. I don’t want Shadow to overhear. I don’t want him to follow me in case you are right about that.”
“Me either.” He held open the truck door for her, holding out the keys with his other hand. “Get on the highway and pickup a signal. Call Cole, Tessa. I’ll find you when Shadow is gone.”
She cranked over the engine. “Come on, Glenn. I don’t want you in there with Shadow whether you want to distract him from me leaving or not. I don’t have Cole’s number. I’m not trying to lead you into trouble with Yori, but I trust you not Cole.”
Glenn tapped one finger over his watch. “You’ve not even been here twenty-four hours. Do you think I want to hand you over to my big brother so soon?”
“Cole Stone is your brother. You had a bet with your brother not your bud.” Not questions, she stated the facts aloud like she needed to hear it verbally. She shot him a glare that burned him, but her words were quiet. “Be careful.” She drove out of the circular driveway, spitting gravel when she turned onto the country road.
Tessa reached the highway and still no bars on her cell. “Hand me over to your brother,” she repeated as she pictured Glenn as he said it. His silver eyes stormy as he had looked her up and down, not happy but determined. “I’m so not going to find out what that meant.”
Still not finding a signal, she drove toward town. At least she had her hat, to pull down low over her face but she hadn’t done so at breakfast. There were only a couple hotels in town. Yori must have cruised surveillance with facial recognition software aimed in this direction!
She shivered. She’d resigned from her job to take another and left the city. How Yori had known where to begin to look for her, Tessa wasn’t sure she wanted to know. “Damn you, Sam. You just couldn’t leave that house.” It was the only possible tie to Tessa and this area a long long time ago.
She lifted the phone again to see one bar and then none. “Great.” She’d go to Haven and call David to make sure Yori hadn’t struck at him too. They had counterhacked in tandem last night to save the senator’s heart, both on the payroll, both headed toward tryouts in five days for cyber CT, both being headhunted by Yori.
She wished she had never met the Russian and patched his new insulin pump, or listened as he asked her to work for him to make things right at one of his companies, Medatron, and the vulnerabilities in each ICD.
Tessa picked up three bars as she drove closer to the hotel. She pulled the truck to the side of the road and then dialed David’s number.
When he picked up, David grumped, “Finally.”
“Have you heard from Yori?”
“Oh yes!” David barked. “Come get me, Tessa. I’m waiting for you at Haven, figured you’d come back sooner or later since the owner is the dude you are so hot for.”
“I’ll be right there.” She wanted to get David out of Haven. She wanted to keep Glenn safe. She’d gone in from Haven during the attack, but she’d been careful. With both David and her angry, they didn’t need to be going in from Haven. Glenn and Haven, she intended to protect.
Tessa pulled Glenn’s truck into a front space and ran into Haven. Finding David in the back as she too had chosen last night, she dropped into a chair beside him. “Tell me.”
“Yori blew up my apartment around dawn. He’s cracked wide open and when I came back from my jog to find cops and firemen working on my apartment, I hopped in my car.”
“Oh David,” she commiserated, thinking of all his stuff gone, including a primo technology setup. She wrapped her arm around him, giving him a hug. “We have to go to the hotel; it’s our best chance to use eye in the sky against him and attack.”
“I like Haven,” David said with a grin.
“I like the guy who owns Haven. A guy who has nothing to do with my dealing with Yori. A guy I intend to protect. Let’s go.”
“Nice truck,” David said after he slid in. “GPS, Tess, we could give Yori a wild chase.”
“I left him out there, David. It’s not something I talk about, but that house way out in the sticks is haunted. And I left Glenn there without a buddy when I know he intends to tangle with Shadow.”
David rested his head back. “I’m gonna need more caffeine before I can understand that. Put on your hat and we’ll go in like a couple. He won’t be looking at two people wrapped up together on the way down the hall.”
Tessa pulled into the hotel. She had a black cap in the truck and shoved her hair up in it. David had one. After she hopped out, David slid his arm around her waist, pulling her close, keeping their faces down and close. She almost giggled on overload. “Don’t puke on me.”
She no sooner slid the electronic key in her door than Cole stepped outside of his.
Navy eyes studied her after the young man with a beard who Cole didn’t know had disappeared into her hotel room. He leaned against her doorframe. “Where’s Glenn?”
“Your brother is in the haunted house by himself! Why don’t you go help him?”
Cole’s lips tightened into a white line. “You’re so mad at him to find out we’re brothers,” he cocked his head toward her hotel room, “you take another guy in your room?”
She rolled her eyes and stepped inside her room, hurrying the door to push closed.
But Cole stopped it with his toe and narrowed his eyes on her this time. “That doesn’t sound like you, Tessa. Not at all. You’re supposed to be with Glenn, or with me, not running around—”
She pushed with all her might behind the heavy door, sliding his toe back, and slamming the door to shut and the lock to click. She leaned her forehead against the door and growled. She liked Glenn, she trusted him again, but she must surely be a fool to do so. “That is too weird for me.”
Tessa pivoted to find David already busy on a laptop. His brown hair was mussed from running his fingers through it who knew how many times since Yori had blown up his apartment.
David glanced up and grinned. “He’s hot; who was that?”
“Glenn’s half-brother, former Big Brother over my shoulder, and my guardian angel Cole Stone.”
They both turned at the sound of the bathroom door opening. “Well well,” said a bearded man as he pulled off his hat and his shades. “Tessa Kendall, you come with all kinds of bonuses.”
“God help us,” she whispered as Yori Korskovf walked from the mirror outside the bathroom to the area next to the first bed and the remaining five laptops. He opened the connecting door on her side, door still firmly closed on Cole’s side.
Yori lifted his shirt and tapped one finger over a readout of his insulin pump. “Now I’ll have you, your code, and my greatest enemy, as well as David. So nice to see you weren’t blown to smithereens. Don’t look so astonished, Tessa. I knew you would fight against the attack on the senator’s heart. You think you can vanish from the city without agreeing to work with me and then disappear this close to CT tryouts for Stone and DHS?”
David sneered. “I know at DefCon the recruiter definitely did not mention DHS.”
“Cole works for DHS?” She nearly hyperventilated. Hadn’t he been sitting right beside her during the cyberwar last night and watching her counter a heart being hacked?
Yori pointed at them. “Your Homeland Security has both your names, as well as mine, as terrorist suspects. You see, your own government does this to you, knowing you have not been a threat to them, merely because of your knowledge. We will take my plane to Russia, from a private strip, so we are not stopped.”
Tessa dove for the laptop bag with her gun, but Yori pointed a gun at her, a red laser glowing like a red dot on the back of her hand.
“Nyet,” Yori growled. “Move back to sit on the bed next to David while we await Stone’s return.” He glided the red laser sight onto David’s hand. “Close it and toss it over on the bed with her others. Do it, or you will never use your right hand again.”
Yori swung back to Tessa as David complied. “I haven’t had a chance to look over what’s on them yet. You came in but a couple moments after me.”
Tessa sat next to David, both of them aware that hanging around her neck was the code that could exploit a patch she’d written to block buffer overflows to Yori’s insulin pump. She knew it would work, but she hadn’t finished tweaking it . . . not sure how long it would take for the worm to work or how they would get hold of a laptop, not four feet away, and use the code to take Yori down.
Glenn paced back in forth inside the house, grateful for the blessing protecting his mind from the demon’s intelligent haunt, especially since the growling whispers of his fears flew at his head like invisible bullets, hammering him, not right into his mind to take root but in the air around him.
He repeated the fears back at the room. “Ghosted, gone, poof! She’s left here again; she’s not coming back.”
After fifteen minutes, atmosphere inside picking up a decidedly creepy vibe, and no sign of the shadowman, Glenn stood in the center of the house. “Shadow,” he tried out Tessa’s name for it. “She’s gone. You’ll never see her again.”
The front door slammed shut like a wind shear blew through.
Glenn picked up a handheld camcorder and turned it on. He turned on a voice recorder before he turned on the K2 and sat them both on the dining room table. No visible presence in the room with him, but the heavy pressure on his chest told him there was something in here with him now. “Come toward this,” he pointed at the K2, “and it will light up.”
The K2 flickered, registering electromagnetic energy.
“Are you the shadowman? Make the lights come on again if it is a yes.”
Nothing. No direct response. “Are you the one who slammed the door shut?”
The K2 lit up again.
Glenn blew out a shaky breath in-between excited about the interaction and uncomfortable on his own dealing with mysteries of the paranormal. The most obvious possibility other than Shadow to be provoked by Tessa’s departure was Sam. “Are you attached to Tessa?”
Blinking lights suggested one flash as a yes.
“Are you Sam Kendall?”
This time the lights came on and stayed on, shooting a zing of adrenaline through his system. “Are you trying to spook me?”
The lights had not gone off yet. Maybe it was off-kilter, but the negative energy in the room told his instincts it was Sam. “Are you sorry you hired out guns to take her down you sorry piece of shit!”
The steady flicker of LCDs stopped. The camera with a previous full battery when he started recording flashed a warning of battery empty. Air temperature dropped around him and gooseflesh tickled up his arms. A red orb, pulsating with energy, formed beside him.
His urge to see what the orb could do, stronger than his urge to run, Glenn taunted it. “You didn’t dent her success, not even close to finishing her off when you tried to dump your death on her head. She didn’t come back from the city. She didn’t even come back for your funeral.”
The orb swelled, elongated, and throbbed a deeper red while floating about six feet off the ground in front of him. Glenn blinked his eyes shut for a couple seconds before opening them. Still an eerie dark red yet transparent, the orb morphed, shifting shapes, until Sam’s image flickered within the red transparency.
The front door swung wide open with a bang. Cole stepped in, mouth gaping, and reached for a shoulder holster, pulling out his gun and firing in a blink.
The entity disappeared.
Glenn marched toward Cole and grabbed the gun from his hand. He pointed at the bullet hole in her dining room wall. “He’s already eaten a bullet, brother. Do you think he’d be more dead if you had managed to plant your bullet in him?”
Cole spun on his toe, making a beeline out the door, past the scattered white roses in front of the veranda steps. “Whew! How do you do that?” Cole demanded and held out his hand for his gun.
Glenn handed it to him. “Been doing it a long time now; don’t worry sometimes I still almost pee myself. If I get past that, then it’s time to stop hunting ghosts for a while.” Glenn glanced past Cole at his motorcycle. “Where’s Tessa?”
After holding up his cell phone, Cole asked, “Why aren’t you answering your cell?”
Glenn pointed up on the porch at his phone, battery out, drying under summer sunshine. “Dead. I didn’t think she’d get hold of the hose.”
Cole swung one arm to indicate the scattered white roses. “Did she throw these back in your face when you told her we are brothers?”
“They’re not from me. The Russian mobster had them delivered right to her doorstep with a card saying, nicely played.” Glenn lifted his face toward the sun. “God, please make my brother tell me that Tessa has called him.”
“He can’t do that. I’ve seen her though. She’s in her room at the hotel.”
“Let’s go get that fool woman out of where he’ll be able to find her. If he can track her to the backdoor of Podunk when she’s not even been in the area twenty-four hours yet . . .? Can even you still hide her away in safety in DC until tryouts?”
Glenn hopped on Cole’s bike as Cole revved the engine. His brother glanced back as if gauging his reaction. “She’s got a guy in there with her, Glenn.”
The wind carried away the harsh expletives Glenn muttered.
By the time they reached the hotel, Glenn had run through a hundred reasons why he wasn’t going to kiss her when he saw her. He wanted to strangle her first! She needed to move on from the rural lands and back into the city where she seemed to live quietly and successfully. Not still bleeping like a target from long ago for counties, even states away, blinking her GPS position while finding every bit of trouble for hundreds of miles yet in the middle of nowhere.
He glanced at his truck in the parking lot.
Glenn accepted Cole’s keycard before he marched into the hotel room and then swung open the connecting door to knock. Only it was wide open. Tessa and a dude with brown hair and a stubbly beard sat on the edge of one bed, taking turns toking a fat wrinkled joint.
He blinked at her, confused. She dated a dude in the city, a cop at that; was this him? That was supposed to have been over six months ago. What the heck was she doing getting high? She’d come here to see him, Glenn knew it. Not somebody else. Not to fall back but to move forward.
Wide green eyes, scared and glassy, beseeched him. “I’m sorry, Glenn.”
“You,” came a heavily accented male voice, “are not Cole Stone.”
Beyond who must be the Russian, a six foot silhouette of the shadowman lurked in shadows near the front of the room. Glenn growled and Shadow shifted back into the shadows.
“He has nothing to do with this, Yori,” Tessa implored. “Nothing. I gave it to you; your dark word might not be much but you swore you wouldn’t hurt him!”
Another deep rumble started in the back of his throat as a red laser dot focused on Tessa’s forehead, right above those green eyes streaking with pink glass. She was so not invisible. She was stoned; Shadow had followed her; she was sharing her room with a Russian mobster and some guy she’d smoke pot with! “Go ahead and shoot her. Make my day.”
Glenn pointed next to Tessa at the man with a burning roach in his hand. “Who. Are. You.”
“Oh my; I’m David. You must be Glenn.”
“What the hell is going on here, woman?” he demanded, not liking the way the dude was looking him up and down.
Yori chuckled, but pointed the gun and red laser sight over Glenn’s heart. “You should be more worried about me. Where is Stone? We are awaiting his return. Come inside and join us, Glenn Reston. Haven is quite the sweet spot.”
Yori walked over to Glenn, keeping the laser over his heart. “Has she hacked your heart?” As if it might have been rhetorical, Yori then demanded, “How did you get into Stone’s room?”
“Key like most regular folks. How did you get into Tessa’s?”
“She did not invite me in, if that is what you are asking.”
Yori stepped around Glenn, checked out the connecting room, before moving back to the far side of the other bed. He shifted the laser back to Tessa’s forehead again. “Where is Stone? I have her code;” he held up the USB necklace. “Do you think I won’t kill her now?”
The shadowman moved like a dark flash, appearing in front of Yori to shove the man beyond the bed. As if Shadow had superpowers, he picked Yori up in the air and tossed him to the front door. Yori crumpled back against the door, dropping the gun.
David screamed as Tessa patted his back. “It’s okay; it’s okay. That’s just Shadow.”
Glenn grabbed the gun from the floor and tucked it into his waistband. When he turned back around, Tessa was pulling her gun from a laptop bag. Cole stepped into the room, gun in hand.
His brother sniffed the air, before glaring at the woman and young man on the bed. “Well, well, my two most promising candidates for CT tryouts. Gonna go out in style if you’re at the end of your days and on your way out? That’s not the answer. Homeland Security people will be arriving within minutes. Get disappeared.”
Glenn slid his arm through hers. “Come on, Tessa.” With his other arm, he grabbed her six laptop bags and swung them up on his shoulder. He scanned the room to make sure he saw nothing else of hers except for a keycard. “Make sure you invite David and Shadow to come along.”
He hustled her out to his truck and held up his hand. “Give me the keys.”
She handed them to him, slid over to the middle, as David sat on her other side.
Glenn dumped her laptops in the backseat.
Men in dark suits jumped out of dark sedans in the parking lot and surrounded a large RV with multiple satellite dishes mounted on top.
Glenn drove away from the hotel, heading back to her house. She’d been out of his line of sight for what? Two hours max? He saw the red laser on her forehead again in his mind’s eye. He didn’t speak to her and hoped she had enough wisdom not to talk to him now.
“Don’t,” he barked in warning to both of his passengers. “Gotta calm down first.” He glared at her. “You scared me to death. I’m disappointed in you, Tessa. Don’t,” he warned her when she opened her mouth.
Fifteen absolutely silent minutes later, his heartbeat starting to return to normal, Tessa broke the silence. “I won’t go looking for it, Glenn, but if it lands in my hand? I don’t think all my neurons will stop firing. I wouldn’t want to be writing code, but—“
“Yeah, dude,” David interrupted. “He blew up my apartment. We were already paranoid. We thought it might be the end.”
Glenn pressed a button so music blasted into the truck, end of conversation.
After he turned the truck into the driveway, he hopped out and held out his hand. “Come on, Tess.”
She placed her hand in his and walked into the house. She pulled back on their clasped fingers though when Glenn charged up the stairs leading to the master bedroom.
He pulled her the rest of the way before holding his hand out toward the bedroom. “Go ahead. Why stop now? Isn’t this is where Sam kept most of his stash? Find it.”
“I don’t want it,” she stated quietly.
“But you couldn’t pass up temptation thirty minutes ago. Am I bringing you down, ruining your fine high?”
“I don’t want to look back, to go back, I want to move forward.” With that, she turned on her toe and ran down the stairs.
Tessa stormed out the backdoor and called to David and Shadow even though she couldn’t see him.
David sat outside the cave and raked one hand down his face, over his new beard, before pointing toward the inky black six-foot silhouette of a man standing in the cave with her. “Talk about buzz kill. What was in that stuff?”
She ignored her friend, rude as that was, and dealt with Shadow, a dude from another dimension and a lot like an old friend. “You have to go, Shadow. Glenn hunts guys like you. Go back to the shadowland. I don’t want anything around me that reminds me of my life with Sammy. I’m going to make a play for Glenn and he’s not going to ignore you lurking in the shadows. Go, Shadow! I want to move on. Go move on too!”
Footsteps sounded in water at the back of the cave as Shadow moved in a blur of black speed. A blast of white light exploded, knocking her back on her butt. Ears ringing, she blinked to help disperse temporary blindness.
“Tess,” came David’s voice even if she couldn’t focus on him yet. “I need some dry pants before you make a play for Glenn.”
She stood up and dusted off the seat of her pants. “I do love you, David, so I’ll get you some sweats. Sorry, but welcome to my spookville. Dare you to walk away from here still a skeptic. Another form of they that is out to get you. Will you stay in the van and hack the haunted house?”
“Wicked sick.” David joined her forward charge toward the backdoor. “He hacks and hunts ghosts too? He found a way into your unhackable heart. Where did you get this guy?”
“I haven’t gotten him yet.”
“And when we tryout in DC you’ll walk away from him? Can you see us in DHS?”
“Don’t borrow trouble,” she warned him and tossed him some sweats out of a dresser in the back bedroom. “I can’t move forward until I get rid of the mess still here. Now please go out to the van; I hear car doors. The other ghost hunters must be here.”
She blew out a deep exhale before marching back upstairs to find Glenn. “Will you be my buddy tonight? Now I might not be your first choice, but when it comes to super creepy, the furniture can spin, books fly in circles, a monkey shadow with claws can jump at me, and I won’t run if you’ll stand next to me and hold my hand. Shadow has already left for the shadowlands.”
His silver eyes seeming to find what little light was in the room, shining maybe from the inside like his heart smiled, Glenn held out his hand. “Let’s finish this.”
“Carpe noctum,” she agreed and took his hand. She didn’t let go for the next six hours until every entity escaped the weakened vortex in the cave and the men shut down the door to other dimensions. Funny how easy it was for her to say a prayer again, to believe in the Big Man Upstairs again, when a demon had screeched in her face. She’d been only too happy to have Glenn’s friend Paul, a demonologist, take charge when the evil thing yelled its name.
Had she thought she was wrecked when she’d given her code over to Yori in bargaining to keep Glenn safe? Tessa now had a dull roar of adrenaline at the same time as being drained of energy from dealing with all the energies pulling off her tonight.
She closed her eyes, staring out the moon-roof of his truck in the still predawn night. Glenn had kissed her senseless, until her brain had to reboot, but he didn’t say a word after he slid in the truck beside her. They were close to town now. She could feel David’s eyes boring in the back of her head from the backseat where he had access to her laptops. She cleared her throat. “Thank you ever so kindly for that, Glenn.”
“You’re most welcome, Tessa. Ready to move forward and not to look back?”
“Yeah,” she said as his arm came around the back of the seat behind her. He pulled her head over on his shoulder as he drove past the hotel. “We are we going, Glenn?”
“My house,” he stated like she was silly. “Watch the stars, Tess, until dawn. Tomorrow night you won’t even be able to see them.”
She glanced over at his face and inhaled his scent. “Can’t see the stars from your house?”
“Not the one in Georgetown. I’m taking you to the city, Tessa. I can remote into the work that’s here. And I can hunt ghosts anywhere. I have to get you out of Podunk where you can be invisible again and hack hearts.”
He did understand her. She sighed. “I love you, Glenn.”
“I love you too.”
Happily Ever After!