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Poltergeist

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Poltergeist

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Author: Kat Richardson
Publisher: Roc, 2007
Series: Greywalker: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Synopsis

Meet Harper Blaine. She doesn't just see dead people... Harper Blaine was your average small-time PI until she died - for two minutes. Now she's a Greywalker - walking the thin line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she's discovering that her new abilities are landing her all sorts of "strange" cases. In the days leading up to Halloween, Harper's been hired by a university research group that is attempting to create an artificial poltergeist. The head researcher suspects someone is deliberately faking the phenomena, but Harper's investigation reveals something else entirely - they've succeeded. And when one of the group's members is killed in a brutal and inexplicable fashion, Harper must determine whether the killer is the ghost itself, or someone all too human.


Excerpt

Chapter 4

Seven people were gathered around the heavy table. They didn't sit, but stood with their fingertips resting lightly on the ash wood surface and their heads slightly bowed to look at a vase of flowers in the center. A portable stereo in the room was playing the Glenn Miller version of Imagination at a low volume.

Earlier, the people in the room had been joking around as they waited to see if the eighth member of their group would show up. They were an interesting mix: two apparent couples - one college-age and racially mixed, the other middle-age and Nordic - plus one more woman who looked like a harried housewife, one vaguely Middle-Eastern young man with a sly grin, and one more man who seemed to be a military retiree. I hadn't yet linked names to faces, since there'd been no photos in the files. After some chatter, greetings, and clowning around, they'd decided the eighth wasn't coming and had gone to stand around the table.

The military man looked at the flowers and said, "Good evening, Celia. Are you standing by?"

Two quick raps came from the table. I raised an eyebrow. When I'd been under that table, there had been nothing there that could have made that sharp, hollow noise and I was certain nothing had been placed there since. At least nothing official or large enough to see from the observation booth.

Tuckman leaned his head close to mine without turning his eyes away from the scene on the other side of the observation room glass. "Two raps for yes - that's the code."

I gave half a nod. "That's the usual thing." I tried to look into the Grey and see what was going on in the overlap between the normal and the paranormal, but the two layers of glass between me and the séance room baffled my unnatural vision and all I saw were vague blurs and wisps of colored light writhing around the members of the project and painting occasional squiggles on the floor and walls. Whatever had made the rap didn't seem to be normal and I wished I could stand up and walk into the other room to see for myself.

"Was that one of yours?" I asked.

"No. That's a phenomenon they caused." I noticed from the corner of my eye that Tuckman smiled smugly as he said it. The rest of the group in the room greeted the poltergeist. A flurry of taps sounded all over the table and in a few locations in the walls. The board full of Christmas lights flashed a complex sequence of colors. Tuckman was frowning.

"You're in a feisty mood, Celia," observed the military man. "Are you happy to see us?"

The table seemed to quiver. Its wooden feet rucked the carpet and then it gave a distinct hop, coming back down with a thump. I wasn't sure that movement was within the limits Quinton had explained, but it didn't seem that way to me.

The sitters looked at each other. "Is that 'yes?' the military man asked.

A single loud crack sounded through the room, coming from the table top and sending out a sudden flare of red I could see even through the glass.

Someone murmured, "No?" Then the table flattened, bucked, and began a rapid jigging from one leg to another. The people gathered around it had to watch their toes and dance a bit to avoid having their feet crushed by the capering table. In the observation room, I glanced at Tuckman. He was staring into the séance room in confusion.

"Is your ringer doing this, Tuckman?" I asked.

"No, Mark's the one who didn't show up."

Dornier cleared his throat. "There's some really odd electrical activity in there. There've been several small spikes on the meters and whatever it is seems to be effecting the thermometers, too."

"What?" I asked.

He started making notes on a pad beside the meters, not looking at me as he responded. "Usually the temperature in the room goes up as things get more active and the sitters get more excited. They can work up quite a sweat if Celia is active. Sometimes we have to leave the window open. But, it's actually getting a little colder in there, today. That's anomalous."

That was when the table broke loose from the group and careened around the room. I could see it trailing red and yellow streamers in the Grey - they would have blazed like fire if I'd been able to see them without the glass in the way. The table slid wildly back and forth, then seemed to scurry around, dodging the sitters who chased after it. It ran faster and faster, galloping with pounding thuds around the wooden floor, scattering the lighter furniture, overturning a bookshelf to send books and pads of paper fluttering everywhere.

"Electrical readings are spiking, again," Dornier said.

"Continuing upward...."

Tuckman glowered. "What the hell...?"

"This isn't normal, I take it?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "It's damned strange. They shouldn't be able to move it that much by themselves. Damn it, when I find out which one of them is manipulating this, I'll..."

"Hire him?" I supplied.

Tuckman gave me a black glare. I would have laughed if I hadn't been so unnerved by the table's motion. I've been glared at by scarier things that Gartner Tuckman.

The séance participants chased the table into a corner by the window. The table reared up onto one leg. First it tried to climb the wall, then it pirouetted on its single leg and began to menace the people gathered around it by waggling back and forth. It hopped forward. They fell back. It spun. Faster. Faster. A wisp of smoke rose from the wooden floor where the twirling table leg rubbed against it.

The table lurched forward, twisting a little, flaring red... And collapsed onto the floor, top down, with a crash that shook the room.

Then it lay there, still and inert and dim. Everyone seemed frozen a moment, catching their breath. Watching them, I seemed to have caught their enervation and felt slightly dazed by the sudden change.

"Electrical readings back to normal. Temperature returning to normal."

"OK," I said. "That was kind of weird."

Tuckman turned to me. "That is what I was talking about. It's not within possibility."

I glanced toward Dornier. "Yeah. Do they do that all the time?"

"That's the wildest one, yet," he supplied in a cool tone. "They don't usually approach that sort of show without Mark in the room. They've had some good days without him. Nothing like that, though."

Tuckman looked at me significantly. "You see what I mean?"

I bit my lower lip. Someone was certainly contributing more than their fair share to that performance - there was something going on in the thin fold of reality between the normal and the paranormal - but whether I believed it was sabotage or not was another matter. But I wished I could have seen it better, the flashes and glimpses had been indistinct and intermittent, but there was something Grey going on.

Copyright © 2007 by Kat Richardson


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