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Chapter 6: "The Reckoning"

June 10, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER / Pulse Contributor

The last daylight died in the west as research interns Icarus Shortfuse and Aurora Benjamin followed rookie Brooklyn cop Giovanni Fesano to the dark house.

The once-haunted house on the outskirts of Hagerstown was silent, damp and undisturbed. Once-haunted and now haunted again, thought Icarus. Badenne, the killer ghost, had been imprisoned in a New York research lab until Icarus had unintentionally released her.

Now, he suspected she had returned.

"Where's the ghost trap?" Aurora hissed suddenly.

"I don't need it," Icarus said.

"Are you going to catch her with your bare hands?" Aurora snapped sarcastically. Icarus didn't answer.

The young cop lifted faded police "Do Not Enter" tape. Icarus and Aurora followed him and crossed the threshold. They held their breath and listened. No creaks - the floor was strangely quiet for an abandoned house. Fesano's flashlight beam played around the foyer and living room, spotting nothing frightening.

Then the windows began to break. It might have been a garden-variety punk smashing a window but for the fact that every single window frame in the house sang out with tinkling glass. Aurora covered her face and stiffled a scream. Fesano swung the light around like a drunken firefly, but nothing could be seen except for glittering, tiny shards.

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Suddenly, the ceiling cracked. Three heads snapped upward, as the ceiling began to give way. This time Aurora did yell. A chunk of plaster easily five feet in diameter fell. The two men pulled Aurora away, but the ceiling landed on her ankle.

Aurora screamed. In his rush to help Aurora, Icarus found himself holding Aurora close. Glancing down, he noticed she wore a necklace. A silvery cross. Icarus remembered Badenne hated Christian women - women like her mother.

"Get her away!" Icarus bellowed at Fesano over the ripping of what could only be curtains - it seemed as though Badenne was completely irate now.

Fesano nodded with a rookie's obedience. Picking up Aurora as though she were a suitcase, he ran out of the house. With a flicker of morbid amusement, Icarus could hear the ever-stubborn Aurora chastising Fesano for not knowing how to carry a lady properly.

As soon as the pair of them were out of the house, the ghostly temper tantrum came to an abrupt halt. No more ripping, shattering, or damage. The stillness was eerie.

"Badenne?" Icarus called softly. A moment's pause, then the figure of the girl appeared before him, sneering. She appeared as solid as a living person, and her eyes were blue and cold as an October sky.

"I know you," she snarled, staring him down. She had been very young when she died, he saw, only about 18 or 19, but her dark expression made her look twice as old. "You're the idiot who released me. You're part of that group who made me a lab rat.

Badenne stepped toward him. Icarus took a step backward.

"I can't be kept there," the ghost growled. "I need to be here. He's coming back. He has train tickets. You didn't know about Arthur, did you?"

Icarus sighed. He did know about that - about Badenne's mother killing her before Badenne's lover came back to elope with her. Icarus's hands were shaking. The ghost wasn't afraid to kill, and what he had to say wouldn't please her. But if what Icarus said could put her to rest, he could spare her from being a lab specimen.

"He Badenne " Icarus said.

"No. Listen to me, fool. Arthur promised me he'd return for me. He swore he loved me. He'd never leave." She fixed him with a stare - a frozen expression that tasted like metal, or blood.

"Badenne, you're a ghost," Icarus tried again. "Don't you remember? You you've been dead for 15 years. The night your mother killed you, Arthur heard you had died he never came."

She stared at him, her eyes widening. Her opaque flesh shimmered, her sorrow was like a wall of water upon both of them. But underneath all of that was a flicker of acceptance.

"He really loved you, Badenne. There was nothing he could do except go. He didn't leave you, I swear. He was grieving. Because you were dead. But you can't keep waiting for him. It's done. Let go."

The ghost closed her eyes. Tears that glimmered like the broken glass all around poured down her face. She exhaled sharply, clenching her fists, and a force like a bomb struck the house. Icarus closed his eyes and fell to the floor.

He covered his head and waited for more, but everything was quiet. Carefully, Icarus sighed and brushed dust and bits of glass off his shirt. He had the feeling this was Badenne's sign of surrender.

He exhaled, stood. It was over. Badenne was gone. Sure, his boss would yell at him for his impudence but she would also praise him for getting rid of the most dangerous spirit on the East Coast.

Icarus stepped to the door of the house that was finally empty - finally free - and walked away without a backward glance. All had been laid to rest.

This is the final chapter of "Another Small-Town Horror Story." To read Chapters 1 through 5, go to Pulse's Website, hmpulse.com, and click on the newspaper on the floor.

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