Ashes to Ashes Page 15


“When do we get a tour?” Rebecca asked. “I’d like to start getting as much footage as we can.”

“I’m afraid you’ll just have to be patient,” she said with a cock of her scary penciled eyebrow, not even picking up on her own pun. “Originally I thought I’d do it myself, but I’m running out of time today. All you need for now is to know this first floor, and I’m sure Kelly showed you that well enough. Tomorrow morning at nine o’clock I’ve arranged for a local historian to stop by. Patrick Rothburn. He runs the maritime museum here and comes from a family who used to run the post office for Sea Crest. He’ll show you the rest of the building. Hopefully you can get some good footage.” She lowered her voice. “To be frank with you, as much as I’d love to believe Ms. McIntosh, I’m not entirely convinced she is telling the truth. I hope the three of you will at least prove her wrong or right.”

She drummed her fingers anxiously along the side of the doorway, her attention off in the halls as a few students straggled in the background, heading to the main doors and the way home. She looked back at us after a few moments. “I’ll be working in my office for the next hour. I suggest if you’re going to get food, you go now. We lock this place up at night and I don’t feel like entrusting the keys to you. No offense, of course.”

“None taken,” said Dex. He turned to me. “Well, kiddo, what say we get some provisions before we get locked up in The Overlook Hotel?”

“Very funny,” I muttered. Images of the twins from The Shining were the last thing I needed in my head.

We bid goodbye to Davenport and hopped into the Highlander. We were halfway down the mountain when Rebecca exhaled noisily.

“What?” I asked, twisting in my seat to face her. She had rolled down the window, the cool air messing up her black curls. Her face looked paler than normal and her eyes were closed, exposing the perfect lines she’d drawn on her lids with liquid liner.

She kept her eyes closed. “I don’t know, I was just feeling I was going to be sick back there. Didn’t realize it until now.”

“Altitude sickness?” I suggested.

“It’s only 400 meters above sea level,” she said. “That doesn’t make sense.”

I looked over at Dex. His lips were pursed in thought. He eyed her in the rear view mirror. “You know, Becs, if you ever feel, uh, creeped the fuck out, you know it’s okay to admit it, right? Perry and I know the feeling better than anyone.”

“I’m not scared,” she said through clenched teeth, her eyes still closed and head back on the seat rest. “I’m not creeped out. I just feel sick.”

“You’re not preggo, are you?” I asked her.

Finally, her eyes flew open. Man did she look pissed off, considering it was an obvious joke.

“Really, Perry,” she said.

I shrugged and sat back in my seat. I also felt a million times better now that we were away from the school and back on Highway 101, winding south toward Tillamook. After we stocked up on simple groceries—frozen meals, freeze-dried coffee, health bars, and some fresh fruit—we pulled into a local diner to catch a quick cup of coffee before we headed back up.

As soon as Dex parked the car, I realized where we were. It was the same diner that we had gone to when we first met. The faded orange awning, tired-looking patrons, and peeling graphics all looked exactly the same.

“Wow,” I whispered, feeling the past rush through me.

“What? What is this place?” Rebecca asked as she peered at the aging café.

“Where Perry and I had our first date,” Dex answered with a grin. I looked over at him and smiled. With his newsboy cap pulled low on his brow, his light black jacket and scruffy face, the Dex of now—my Dex—could have been the Dex back then. Of course, that Dex would have been nervously chomping on Nicorette or breaking a toothpick in his mouth, his hands fidgeting, his face thinner and drawn into a mysterious scowl. Oh, and now he had hard, tight muscles to fucking die for.

Once again I was reminded about how far we’d come in such a short amount of time.

Rebecca eyed the both of us. “This was your first date? I thought that was at Zekes.”

Dex sighed. “If you want to be technical, then this was more our first…real chance to talk.”

I frowned and folded my arms. “If I recall correctly, we didn’t get much talking done. You were being an asshole.”

“That’s right,” he said playfully, “and you stormed out of here like I lit a fire up under that bouncy ass.”

“You said I was faking it,” I countered.

“Well you could have been a famewhore for all I knew.”

“You guys,” Rebecca spoke up. “This is really sweet and romantic and all—in a twisted way—but are we going to get coffee here or what?”

I ignored her. “And then when I came out here, that’s when I saw Pippa. Where she talked to me for the first time.”

At the mention of her name, their faces became drawn. I continued, “She warned me about Dex, told me to watch out. Then she said I’d need him.”

Rebecca looked over at Dex. “She was kind of right.”

“And after that,” I added, “she went into the diner. Next thing I knew, Dex was coming out of here like he was the one with the fire under his bouncy ass. He nearly drove us into a tree before he admitted to me that he’d seen Pippa before.”

Rebecca clucked her tongue. “All right then. You two definitely win the award for the most fucked up history. It still blows my bloody mind that your grandmother used to be his nanny.”

I was barely listening to her. I was staring at Dex, deep into his dark, brooding eyes, wondering if he was feeling what I was, the full circle of everything—that feeling that no matter what happened to us in the future, there was this aura of destiny about us. Okay, that was a pretty cheesy analogy, but I had nothing else. There was just this indescribable feeling that every little step in our lives had been a lead up to us meeting each other. I could only hope that the same fate would continue. After all we’d been through, that’s all we could really hold on to.

“Have you seen her lately?” Rebecca’s voice came into focus.

“Huh?” I said, snapping out of my daze and tearing my eyes away from Dex.

She snapped her delicate fingers in my face. “I said, have you seen her lately. Your grandmother?” When I didn’t answer her right away, she looked at Dex. “Is this a sensitive topic?”

I shook my head. “No. Sorry, I haven’t. Not since New Orleans.” It was a lie of course, but sometimes it wasn’t worth getting into my dreams, especially when I knew Rebecca couldn’t understand them the way I did. It was hard enough for me to figure out if my dreams were something to consider or not.

The image of the little girl and the bouncing ball flashed into my head. If I ever ended up meeting this Shawna I’d be a little bit closer to the truth.

She nodded and walked to the door of the café. “Well, shall we go in? We don’t have much time before we have to go back.”

We went in together with Dex putting his hand at the small of my back, a gesture I found so enticingly protective.

“Are you all right, kiddo?” he asked gruffly in my ear, his breath tickling the hairs on my neck.

“I’m okay now,” I told him. We found a booth at the back—it wasn’t hard since the diner wasn’t very busy—and the waitress came over with some menus. It wasn’t quite the same waitress as we had before—this one had severe bangs and a crooked smile—but Dex flirted with her just the same.

While we downed the tarlike coffee, we quickly went over the plans for the coming week. I wasn’t too keen on staying at the sanatorium for that long, but Rebecca shrewdly pointed out that we should take advantage of the free accommodations.

“Besides,” she said, sipping from her cup of green tea, “I don’t want us to pull the usual get in and get out.”

Dex snickered at that and I kicked him under the table.

She smiled mischievously at him. “That is what you call the Dex Foray Special, right?”

He gave her a stern look. “Hey now.”

“What’s the Dex Foray Special?” I asked, suddenly intrigued. Sometimes the two of them had these inside jokes that drove me nuts. I just hoped it wasn’t something that involved Jenn.

“Baby, you’ve already had the special,” he said with a wag of his brows. “And you liked it. Anyway, I agree with Rebecca, but only if it’s what everyone wants.”

“And by everyone you mean me,” I said, starting to feel the slightest bit annoyed. “Seriously, don’t treat me like my head might start spinning around at any moment. We’ll do what we have to do for the show.”

He opened his mouth but I cut him off with the raise of my hand. “It’s been almost six months since all that…shit happened. We’ve been taking it easy, and when things have gotten too scary or risky, we’ve gotten out. We’ll do the same here. There’s a difference between having our lives at risk and being scared. I know I’ll be scared every second we spend there this week, that’s just the way it is when you see fucking ghosts every day. But please don’t start treating me like I’m some special case. The three of us have been through a lot already—I don’t see how this is going to be any different.”

Yet the minute those words came out of my mouth, I knew it was a lie. Whether it was the warnings from my dreams, the look of utter fear in Brenna’s eyes, or the fact that Rebecca—our rock, our island—was being affected by the place, I didn’t know. But I knew we’d find out.

***

The plan for the next few days seemed simple enough at first. We would start filming tomorrow with the historian and take in an actual tour of the place from top to bottom. Then, depending on what we felt about each floor, or if there were any particular areas that stood out to us from the tour, we would start concentrating our efforts there. Rebecca wanted to make sure every corner of the place was covered, from the playground at the back of the building to the roof where Dex saw the paper planes come from, with the most haunted sections getting the most attention.

Once we got back to the near-empty school and put our meager groceries away, the plans changed. Like usual, it was all Dex’s doing.

While Davenport was bidding us farewell, she noted that Carl, the custodian, would be the last one in the building and locking up when he was done with his shift in a few hours. Rebecca, feeling her claustrophobia come back in full swing, was happy to know that the emergency doors at the ends of the first floor wings opened up from the inside.

“Remember, it can be very unsafe for you to investigate the upper floors without being supervised. I’ll have you know that I do have security cameras monitoring the first floor, turned on by motion detector,” Davenport said as she was ready to go out the main doors. She seemed to direct her eagle gaze at Dex, who didn’t squirm under her scrutiny. “Just keep that in mind. Of course, as long as you stick to your rooms, the break room, and the washrooms, that shouldn’t be a problem.” She finished that off by eyeing a place on the wall behind us.

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