“It knew things. Things about me. Things about you. It mentioned your secret. I thought… I’m so sorry Andrew,” I apologized as I gently stroked Alex’s hair.
Alex had finally stopped crying on top of me. Now she just rested. Her head lay comfortably in my lap as I sat up in the bed. Everyone had finally made it into the room now and we all stood around, staring at each other in uncomfortable silence.
“It’s been listening to us, to our conversations. Since we entered the house; maybe even while we were out on the street. It’s using everything it has heard to manipulate us,” Andrew explained.
“So, I’m still a little confused,” Daniel scratched his head. “You are saying a ghost spied on us, possessed Alex, used her to turn into Andrew, and then attempted to attack my mate?”
“That’s one way of putting it; I wouldn’t exactly call it attacking. It was more like sexually assaulting,” Rune replied scornfully.
“I’m alright Rune; he didn’t do anything to me.” I looked away from his glare.
Andrew spoke up, “Either way, if it’s a ghost that has been the culprit, then we need to be very careful. He could possess any given one of us at any given time. For… some of us, that could be incredibly dangerous. I would hate to see what he would do if he possessed werewolf powers.”
“Or an Archdemon’s?” Alex offered, turning her head towards the group.
“Can it be safe to say that the dead cannot possess the dead?” Stephan asked, his face still downcast, his eyes looking away from everyone else.
“No. In fact, you might be the most at risk of any of us. I’d imagine a ghost would have few qualms about taking over a body that is already dead,” Andrew replied.
Stephan lowered his head. “At least I’m the weakest here and invulnerable. If it took me, you could easily contain it and do whatever you had to keep it down.”
“Stephan, are you okay?” Andrew asked with concern in his voice.
“I let it take her. I just walked away and let it almost have its way with her, right after she fell down that hole and was injured.” A look of anguish flashed on Stephan’s face.
“Stephan, you did what you could. Even Jane was fooled.”
“Andrew,” I spoke up, “I mean, the other Andrew, said some things to him. They were not nice.”
“I am so sorry,” Alex spoke up. “I would never have said those things. I don’t believe those things. The ghost just wanted you gone.”
“You remember?” I asked.
“Bits and pieces, like a foggy dream. Oh, Jane… I would never force myself on you like that. You believe me, right? I love you and hurting you is the last thing I’d ever want to do.”
“It’s okay, I… l… think you’re a great person too,” I responded.
I almost told her I loved her in return. It was getting too easy seeing her as a sister. I’d have to put my foot down on this at some point, but now that we lived together things weren’t going to be any easier. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice my slip, their concern elsewhere.
Andrew moved over to Stephan, resting his hand on his shoulder. He squeezed slightly, causing Stephan to look back at him.
“You’re a good man. If I thought anything less, I’d never have let you near Jane in the first place. I count you as a friend I can trust. That’s why I left Jane in your care; because I know you can keep her as safe as I can.”
Stephan seemed in better humor, but that humor slid off as Andrew walked away. His appearance turned sheepish instead. I could relate; the two of us had almost kissed. I think Andrew just replaced one form of guilt with another. I felt slightly guilty too, but I didn’t know why. Was I guilty of almost kissing Stephan, or was I guilty of actually kissing someone I thought was Andrew? Am I guilty because I thought I was kissing Andrew, or because it turned out to not be Andrew? My emotions were a bundled knot of confusion.
“The thing I don’t understand,” I said, trying to deflect the situation; “Why is it interested in me?”
Daniel looked at Andrew before speaking up, “There is no reason to hide it. I think you are long past keeping secrets at this point.”
“Before you answer that,” Rune interrupted, “I would like you to explain why you are not wearing any clothing again.”
I sighed; Daniel was most certainly naked again. He did have wonderfully tanned thighs. No tan lines either, but given what I’ve seen, it didn’t seem that surprising that he tanned without underwear on.
“When I heard the commotion, I jumped into my werewolf form.”
“You shredded up your clothing, didn’t you?” Rune shook his head.
Daniel slightly blushed. After a second, Stephan sighed, unbuttoning his shirt. He tossed the shirt to Daniel. Underneath he still wore a tight white undershirt. While he wasn’t as muscular as Rune or Andrew, and certainly not Daniel, he still did have nicely defined abs, now that I got a peek.
Daniel put the shirt on, buttoning it up. It didn’t fit well, the buttons bulging. The shirt only went down to his waist, effectively covering up nothing. In fact, if anything, it accentuated his complete lack of pants.
Everyone looked over at Stephan, “Don’t look at me; I’m not giving him my pants.”
“Here.” Alex tossed Daniel an article of clothing.
It was a coat. It was my coat. Daniel wrapped it around his waist, covering himself. My coat was now pressed up against him. I glared down at Alex, who just shrugged and gave me a mischievous smile. I guess she was starting to cheer up.
“Enough about me,” Daniel interrupted my thoughts, “Andrew? We need to tell her.”
Andrew sighed. “I suppose you are right. Jane, have you ever heard the story of the star-crossed lovers? It’s a popular one at our school.”
“Yeah, but there are so many versions of it,” I spoke up.
“Well, in the one I’m thinking of particularly, there were two lovers many years ago. It was a young boy and a young girl, only fifteen years of age. The girl’s father owned this mansion, as the story goes, and was wealthy. The boy was a poor kid who only met the girl on happenstance. They fell in love, but the girl’s father would never have approved. He was a vile tyrant who controlled his family with an iron grip.”
Andrew continued, “Eventually, the pair ran off and eloped. The boy worked nonstop for months with three jobs, keeping every penny he had so that he could afford to take her away from her family; starting with a romantic honeymoon where they could consummate their hasty betrothal.”
“Unfortunately, the girl’s father found out. The story doesn’t really say what happened to the girl, but the boy snuck into the girl’s bedroom on that last night with a pocket full of money and a plan to escape the city with her. Her father was waiting instead, and he murdered the boy and buried his body in the basement.”
“I remember that one, but what does that have to do with me?” I asked.
Andrew glanced once more at Daniel before pulling out a picture. “We found this while we were searching one of the rooms.”
I hesitantly reached out and grabbed the picture. It was an old time black and white photo. The person in it looked remarkably like me. I took a long, hard look at the picture. That was so strange.
“Why is my great-grandma’s picture in this house?”
Andrew’s eyebrows rose. “You know her?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen a few older photos of my great granny. She died before I was born, but they said I took after her a lot. I’m even named after her.”
“You never heard about any of this before now?” Rune asked in disbelief.
“She kept her history private. She never talked about her past. Grandma said she never mentioned her parents at all. I certainly never knew about us being rich.”
“It would seem that finishes our story. Your great-grandmother must have run away and started a new life on her own. The boy, however, never left the mansion. Even you could imagine how he might react if he saw someone identical to his betrothed, carrying the same name.” Andrew shook his head.
“What should we do, then?” I asked.
“Well,” Andrew continued, “Since we know what it wants and why it wants it, I think we can conclude that it was just a coincidence. Either way, you should probably leave. It’s least safe for you here. We’ll continue to search the home on our own.”
“What if it attempts to possess one of you to get to me again?”
“Oh, I have a solution,” Alex suddenly perked up.
She reached into her handbag and then reached in farther. It was about the point her elbow went past the relatively small pack’s lip that I realized something was amiss. I raised my eyebrows as she struggled to pull something out of it.
“It’s interdimensional. You don’t stay a demon without picking up a handful of interesting artifacts. I keep all kinds of things in here. Makeup, changes of clothing, that kind of thing.”
“Changes of clothing?”
“Yeah, well, you never know when I might end up turning into a guy, or simply my size changes. I keep an assortment of generic clothing for that purpose.”
“Daniel’s wearing my coat around his waist and you have a magical purse with clothing exactly for this purpose?”
Alex blinked. “Oops.”
I sighed. “Just get what you’re looking for.”
Alex dug around a few more minutes. She tossed Daniel a pair of pants and I recovered my coat. It was all warm. I didn’t really know how I felt about that. After another few moments, she pulled out a small device. It was shaped like a gun, however, it was more like a ray gun you might see from some alien science fiction drama.
“Here it is!” she declared.
“What is it?” Rune asked in annoyance.
“It’s a ghost gun.”
“A ghost gun?” Stephan asked with curiosity.
“Supposedly, if you shoot it at a ghost, it harms them or something. I’ve shot it at myself loads of times and it never did anything. So, I think we can probably just shoot everyone. If they had a ghost in them, we should be able to tell.”
“It can’t harm people?” Andrew asked.
“Well, it has a list of side effects.”
“Let me see.” Alex turned the device on its side, seemingly reading a label located on the bottom of the gun. “Exposure to radiation can cause itching, constipation, rectal bleeding, hot flashes, Vietnam flashbacks, diarrhea, feminine odors, general well-being and peace of mind, abdominal cramping, and inability to distinguish reality from a cartoon.”
“You’re making that crap up,” Rune snapped, moving over and grabbing the gun.
He looked at the bottom of the gun for a second, mouthing off the words as he read. After a moment, he shook his head in disbelief.
“What the heck are feminine odors?” he asked.
“I…” I shook my head; this was not a conversation I was going to have with him.
“You’re not using that gun on me,” Daniel declared.
“It’s the only way to keep Jane safe,” Andrew defended.
Daniel stared for a few minutes at the gun like it was a snake, then finally nodded. The others nodded in turn. Then, all of the guys turned to me as I sat in my bed.
“Are you okay with leaving tonight?” Alex asked me with concern in her eyes.
I looked at each of these friends in turn. Every single one of them was willing to risk themselves to keep me safe. I knew that I should feel like the luckiest person on the planet. At the moment, I just felt guilty that I was the weakest link.
“I suppose it’s the safest thing to do now.”