Alex is haunted by visions of the dying, but now it seems the ghosts he’s seeing are real as well.
In this sequel to ALEX and THE SHED, Alex wonders if he’s seeing ghosts. His friend Justin has bought the Fulton place, a beautiful old mansion on the edge of Oakton. But something’s wrong in the house. Alex has visions of a small boy, trapped in the basement, and a man at the top of the stairs who won’t let him leave.
And Logan Fulton has come to town, Helen Kramer’s cousin, a psychic medium who wants something from Helen, whatever the cost. He and Helen had spent time in the Fulton house as children and Alex suspects Logan has something to do with the spirits now awakening in the old mansion. But whether Logan is calling them forth or if something else is controlling them, Alex can’t be sure.
The child’s spirit calls to Alex, as do others trapped in the house. There is a dark entity holding them there, keeping the child forever in the basement, the others for his amusement. But Alex has never believed in ghosts, so what is really going on? As he strives to learn the boy’s secret, his friends are one by one pulled to the Fulton place and put in danger while Logan works against Alex, having an agenda of his own. Will Alex be able to solve the haunting of the old house, or will he and his friends be taken one by one, doomed to walk the dark hallways forever?
Cold air swept onto the porch, heavy with the threat of rain, smelling of damp and rotting things. Alex shivered, shoving his hands deeper into his coat pockets. The nights were growing chilly with the promise of snow in the coming week. He’d love to go inside and sit by the fire he’d started earlier in the living room, cozy on the hearthrug with Jane wrapped in his arms. But Christopher McAllan had another twenty minutes to go on his lesson, and the last thing Alex wanted to do was disturb him. He’d taken time off work at the bookstore to be there Friday evenings. If painting with Jane gave him some comfort, Alex was glad for it.
The wind picked up, a roar in the pines circling the garden, the caw of crows riding the air. Alex braced himself against the rain splattering his face like the brush of icy fingers in a dark room. He started as a shadow formed beside him, blacker than the night, growing tall, looming over him…
A whimper escaped him, and he cringed back, hugging his small, starved body as he waited for the blow. It never fell. The dark thing moved away without a word, shuffled up the stairs, leaving him shivering on the cold cement floor.
“Papa?” he called, but only silence answered, and no one came to wipe his tears and keep him safe.
Alex caught back a sudden sob, blinking his stinging eyes. He’d been learning to anticipate his visions, but this one had struck hard, without warning. Should he call Doctor Reid? No, he’d see him in the morning. Besides, it was Friday night. His psychiatrist was probably on a date with Art Peters. A smile tugged at his lips. Peters owned the art studio in Fort Collins where he and Jane showed their work. Scott Reid had been dating the flamboyant man for the last month, two lonely souls who’d found each other.
He glanced at the house behind him. Kind of like him and Jane. Though he’d been the lonely one. Jane could have had her pick of husbands. In fact, she’d almost married someone else. Why she’d chosen him…
The light went on in the kitchen, and Alex hurried across the porch to join them inside, the unsettling images already fading. He let them go. If they meant anything, they’d resurface. His new motto in life was to enjoy every minute he had free of visions, since clairvoyance seemed to be a part of him. There was no escaping it. Scott Reid concurred and was currently helping Alex learn to control his visions. Before, Alex would blindly follow where a vision led him, without thought. Using Scott’s suggested techniques, he hoped to keep from doing that.
The back door squeaked on its hinges as he opened it and Jane and Christopher glanced up from the table. Jane looked as lovely as ever, dark hair sweeping her shoulders, her blue-green eyes like gems in her pretty face. Christopher’s hair, dyed a rich auburn this week, was held back with a rubber band. His blue eyes were startling in a pale, thin face. He’d been kidnapped and spent weeks imprisoned at the bottom of a dry well, on the edge of death when Alex and the police finally found him.
That had been a month ago, and his clothes still hung loosely on his too thin frame, but it would take a long time for Christopher to recover. Nightmares stalked his sleep. Nick Kramer, a former detective on the Gibson Murders’ case last summer, had abducted him and his brother Caleb for no other reason than to draw Alex to him. Kramer believed Alex had been working with Jack Gibson when Gibson tortured and killed his daughter, Mariam, though Alex had tried to save the victims. Kramer had killed Caleb in a fit of rage, but through his visions, Alex had been able to track Kramer down before Christopher had lost his life as well.
Christopher jumped to his feet when Alex entered the room, but he settled back down into his chair, the fear slowly leaving his eyes as Alex crossed over to them. Alex sighed inwardly, noting the blue aura surrounding Christopher was still bruised by his ordeal.
“What are we working on?” he asked gently, careful of Christopher’s taut nerves. Alex had seen him take a breath, the trembling lips firm, the moment Christopher was no longer a victim. He liked Christopher, admired his courage. They’d buried Caleb a few weeks ago, and Alex recalled Christopher’s grief-stricken face as he stood over his brother’s grave. He still jumped at shadows but continued doggedly to put his life back together. Alex would help him all he could.
Giving him a shy smile, Christopher turned the still wet canvas on the table toward Alex, who made a sound of surprise. Where he and Jane used bold strokes and vivid hues in their work, Christopher painted in pastels. The field of iris was done in watercolor, delicate, sweet. Though Christopher had only met with Jane twice before, there was promise in his use of light and shadow and the depth caught in the picture.
“This is very good,” he murmured, tilting the canvas carefully to the light. “What’s the plan for next week?”
“We’ll add the final touches to this picture, and then I’d like Christopher to make a charcoal sketch of the iris for me.”
“She wants me to practice shading,” Christopher put in before Alex could ask why, and they grinned at each other. At times, Christopher seemed able to complete his thoughts. Alex wondered if his time alone in that terrible well had made him more empathetic to those around him. Whatever the case, Alex welcomed it. There were so few people in his life who got past the wall he’d put up against a world that was often cruel. Most people didn’t bother.
A sudden thought struck him, and a shiver of apprehension crept up his back. He’d made a connection with Christopher while he was trapped in that well, at one point his vision so intense he’d actually joined him in that terrible place, spoke to him, touched him. Was that the reason Christopher could read him so clearly now? What did that mean for them?
He must have been staring too long because color tinged Christopher’s cheeks and he glanced aside. Oh, shit. The last thing Alex wanted to do was make him feel uncomfortable in his house.
“Hey, why don’t you grab your stuff and I’ll give you a ride home?” he offered, wanting to talk with him alone, voice his concerns. Jane lifted a brow in question, but Alex gave her a slight shake of his head. He’d had his license for over a week now. “I’ll drive like an old grandmother,” he promised her.
Christopher snorted. “What else is new?” he muttered under his breath, though his teasing smile took the sting out of his words. While he fetched his backpack from the living room, Alex pulled Jane into his arms.
“I’ll come right home,” he promised against her lips.
“I could drive him—”
“He’s been on his own for a week now. I want to see his apartment and ask him how he’s doing. It was probably hard moving out of his parents’ place, whatever he says.”
“You think he’ll open up to you?”
“I hope so.” Alex studied Jane’s lips, then kissed their softness. She murmured encouragement, and he pulled back with an unsteady laugh. “I’d better get going.”
“If you say so,” she teased, placing her hands on his hips, pulling him against her.
Alex caught his breath. “I’ll be right back,” he growled, letting her go with reluctance. Christopher was putting on his coat by the front door, and Alex joined him, pulling a thick sweater over his head. For early December, it was already dipping below freezing at night. Seemed it would be a hard winter in Colorado this year. No big surprise. The year had been difficult all around.
“Ready?” he asked, disconcerted when his head breached the sweater, and he found Christopher’s gaze on him. He looked quickly away, but Alex frowned to see his cheeks redden. What was going on with him?
Christopher hitched his backpack on his shoulder, and Alex led him outside. Cold air struck them, and they hurried to the small sedan parked at the foot of the porch stairs. Christopher scooted into the passenger seat while Alex rounded the driver’s side, turning up the heat as soon as he had the car started. Having driven it earlier to pick Christopher up, the car quickly warmed, and Alex eased the sedan into reverse, turning to take the gravel road into town.
The wooden planking on the bridge thumped loudly as they crossed it and Christopher made a soft sound. “The infamous bridge, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“I felt the echo of an old fear from you as we crossed it. Is this where you kept hearing Bobby Gibson this past summer, even before his dad tossed him in?”
Christopher alluded to the murders last summer and the time Alex rescued Bobby from drowning under the bridge. Jack Gibson had tied him in a sack and thrown him in the river for spying on him with his victims. Alex gave Christopher a sharp look, but couldn’t see much in the dark. “You felt that from me?”
Christopher lifted a shoulder and Alex frowned. “We need to talk,” he said, turning his attention back to the road. They reached Oakton in short order, and Alex’s heart sped up as they turned onto Christopher’s street. Homes that had been set aside as low-income housing for college students rested between tall maples and pine. Kyle Bronsin had taken Alex to his rooms here once last summer and kissed him. Before Gibson murdered him in the park. Alex touched his lips with his tongue and tasted wine. The coppery stench of blood filled his nostrils, and he forced his hands to relax on the steering wheel, not daring to look at Christopher and pass on the heart-wrenching emotion.
They pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex at the end of the street, and Christopher tentatively touched his arm. “Will you come inside, just for a few minutes?”
“Of course. I haven’t seen your apartment yet.” And we really need to talk.