Ashes to Ashes Page 26


I heard something muffled, then she said, “No. I’m fine. I was just exercising.”

“Exercising?” My sister did not exercise. She was thin as a rail and never needed to.

“Yeah,” she said. “You know, you break a sweat, move your muscles and shit like that?”

“Smartass,” I muttered. “I mean, why are you exercising? You’re fifteen and look like a model.”

“I’m sixteen next month,” she said. “And it’s not about weight-loss, you douchecanoe.” I nearly snorted at her choice of word. Her voice dropped a register. “Exercise helps your brain. It makes you feel better – happier.”

I frowned. “Happier? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“Ada. Come on, you can tell me.”

She sighed. A moment passed on. “I don’t know. I just…I really wish you were here, Perry. I really need someone to talk to. Someone that understands. Sometimes I think I’m going crazy and I get so fucking scared and then I get angry because you’re with Dex. Don’t get me wrong and stuff, I like, like the guy. But you guys both have each other. You both understand each other.”

I had to read around the lines there. “Are you seeing ghosts?”

Another weighty pause. “Just one. Just sometimes. It’s an old man. He’s not scary and I only see him on the walk home from school. Once I get my license I’ll be zipping past that floaty fucker.” She let out a nervous laugh.

Suddenly, I felt for my sister. I felt everything that I did at her age, all the shit that I went through and the way I buried it all with food and drugs and everything bad for you. I could only hold onto the hope that if I could be there for Ada, that she wouldn’t turn to that and turn to me instead. I mean, it’s not like either of us could ever go to our mom or dad about our affliction.

“Hang in there,” I told her. “I’ll see you in a few days and then we can really talk.”

“You better not be bailing on us.”

“I’m not. I promise. Anyway, I called because I have good news.”

“Shut the front door!” she squealed. “What, what is it?”

She sounded way too excited already. “Why, what do you think it is?”

“Either you’re moving back to Portland or Dex proposed to you.”

I nearly choked on my own spit. “What?” I hissed, my eyes flitting to the door to the breakroom as if he’d hear her over the phone.

“No?”

“No!” I whispered harshly. “Are you crazy?”

“Whoa, dude, why so defensive?”

I rubbed at my forehead. “I don’t know. Uncle Al said some stuff to me that kind of rubbed me the wrong way.”

“Like what?”

I wanted to tell her but unfortunately I didn’t have the time for it. “I’ll tell you later. But no, no one is getting…that. And we aren’t moving to Portland. But we did decide to end the show.”

Another pause. “EIT?”

“Yes, Ada.”

“Is that what you want?”

I pursed my lips, wondering why she was trying to sound rational. “Yeah, it’s what I want. I’m tired of this Ada. I need something more.”

“And Sexy Dexy?”

“Please don’t call him that,” I groaned.

“Why not?”

“It’s weird. Anyway, Dex agrees. He worries about me as much as you do.”

“Well, if you’re happy Perry, I’m happy. It’s one less worry for all of us. I know I never tell you this, but you’re pretty awesome and you can do anything you want with your life. You should hang out with the living more often.”

“Thanks, sis,” I said, my heart warming over.

“It’s too bad he hasn’t proposed,” she mused thoughtfully. “The two of you would make beautiful babies and I could be the kick-ass fashion designer aunt.”

“We’ve only known each other eight months,” I reminded her with a sigh.

“Is that what Uncle Al told you?”

“Well, yeah.”

She scoffed. “Old people. They don’t know shit. This generation is moving faster. Just last week my friend Amber slept with Cole Phillips on the first date. I mean, hello, way to welcome him into your hidey hole so soon.” And then Ada went off into a rant about these people I didn’t know. When she was finally done I told her again that we’d talk more as soon as I got to Portland and we hung up.

I put my head back against the wall and took in a deep breath. I thought about what Ada said, that Dex and I would make beautiful babies together. Hopefully they’d have all of his genes with my hair and eyes. Actually, they could all just look like Dex and I would be happy with that.

And once again I was getting ahead of myself. He hadn’t proposed and, aside from the fact that we’d known each other less than a year, I wasn’t really sure if Dex was the marrying type. After seeing the devastation of his parent’s marriage, the way his father just up and left one day and never contacted his sons again, the way his mother went crazy – I couldn’t imagine that was something he wanted. Not to mention his former man-whore ways and his fly by the seat of his pants personality. I just didn’t see it. Not saying I didn’t want it but…it takes two. And I couldn’t set myself up for disappointment.

Just then, Dex appeared in the doorway, his arm above his head, lazily leaning against the frame. ”You all right here, kiddo?”

I stuck my phone back in my pocket and gave him a smile that felt stiff. “Just talking to Ada.”

“How is Little Fifteen?”

“She’s fine.”

He pointed inside the room. “Do you want to see the plan for the next couple of days? It kind of involves you.”

I nodded and followed him back into the room where Rebecca had her planner out. In the short time I’d been on the phone, they’d managed to make progress.

I peered over the table and saw the terms “room of blood”, “demon on the ceiling”, and “Shawna’s ghost” scribbled on the pad of paper in Rebecca’s elegant cursive.

A blanket of unease came over me. Perhaps the best time to quit the show would have been before we came to the hospital of death. Still, I pulled up a chair and let them talk me through the game plan.

One last time.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

“Okay, stay right there, face the camera, and look more scared,” Dex said as he adjusted the settings. Rebecca flashed the light on me.

I was standing in the middle of the death chute. I was already fucking scared.

After the two of them came up with a shot by shot plan for the rest of the stay at the sanatorium, the three of us heated up some microwave meals, Dex and I started sneaking shots of Jack Daniels, downing them in the break room well after school was dismissed for the day.

I’d like to say there was a lot of boredom involved between then and when Carl the custodian left, but we managed to keep ourselves occupied with card games. Dex blatantly cheated during all of them and I didn’t care. Rebecca had turned sullen though, her once smiling face replaced by a glacial expression. It lasted all through the evening, and I wondered just what the hell was going on with her. Could it be that she took more stock in the show than we realized or was there something else at play?

Once Carl left, it was time for business. Since we couldn’t go back up the main staircase without Davenport finding out and kicking us out too soon, we had to go back in the body tunnel.

Luckily, our plan for the evening wasn’t anything too pee-your-pants inducing. Dex noted that though Oldman said the body tunnel eventually opened up down at the remains of the old post office, when he was looking out the window into the back of the school he could see a little mound of grass coming off of the edge of the building that looked like it might house an opening to the tunnel. The hearses had to park somewhere and they probably weren’t taking bodies out by the post office.

I looked up to see Dex appraising my supposed scared face.

“All right, that’s better,” he said, smiling at me with boyish charm. I swear, if he wasn’t so darn sexy I’d be hitting him a lot more often and not in a pleasurable way. Though, knowing his penchant for spanking, he’d probably like that too.

“I’m sure I’ll be screaming in a few minutes,” I muttered as Rebecca came over and stuck a wireless mic on my shearling-lined jacket.

“You scream, I scream, we all scream for my cream,” he sang. He had that look in his eyes, that devious, excited look that he always got pre-filming. Fuck. I had to admit, I was really going to miss that. “Okay, right, Perry, all we’re going to do is head down the tunnel in the opposite way than we did last night and look for the door out. Rebecca will keep the door open, and you and I will go around the children’s playground, hoping to interact with the wee dead ones. Sound good?”

I scowled. “Not really.”

He nodded at the door leading out into the lit hallway, the normalcy of the first floor. “We might as well leave it like it is,” he said. “If it closes I’m sure we can just push it open like we did before.”

Not exactly the kind of thing you wanted to assume, but okay.

I sighed and rubbed my clammy hands on my jeans. I was cold and sweating at the same time. “Can we get started?”

Dex raised a brow at my tone. I know I was supposed to be more relaxed knowing everything we filmed was going into our last episode ever, but still, he did say we wanted to go out with a bang and I really hoped that bang wasn’t literal.

“No problem, kiddo. We’re all ready.” He put the camera on his shoulder and made the gun symbol. “And you’re on.”

Here we go. I looked into the camera, holding my face at a flattering angle and said, “We’re back here in the death chute at the old Sea Crest Sanatorium. And yes, for those who are watching, I have had the Metallica song in my head for days.”

Dex broke into a wide smile behind the camera. I went on, “Last night we explored the first floor and experienced supernatural occurrences such as lights coming on where there is no electricity and shadow people. Tonight, however, we’re going to explore the chute and the playground area where many of the children used to play.”

I motioned for the camera to follow me, like it was my idea, and we went down the damp chute, the darkness ahead waiting like a trap. Every time I thought I was doing it for a show though, that I was playing host, that I was acting a part, it almost made it easier. I was Perry Palomino the host and nothing bad could happen to me on camera…

We walked for several yards, more than I anticipated, just the sound of our breath in the cold night air and the whisper of our feet down the steps, until we came across a door to my right. Rebecca shone the light further down the tunnel to see where it would go, but it just petered off into the dark.

“I guess this is it,” I said. I stood to the side while Dex handed me the camera and pushed his body against the door until it finally opened with a moan into the damp chill of the night. Sometime after lunch we lost our clear skies and the fog came rolling in like a massive dust bunny intent on suffocating us all.

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