[Mysteriousheartland.com] Mike knew the Fallen were going to run into trouble when he first saw the black van parked on the side of the road near the Cambridge “Death Curve.” Sure enough, as he got closer, he saw the letters “P.C.P.R.S.” stenciled onto the side of the van in big yellow and orange letters. He clutched the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.
“Oh no,” Greg, who smelled like orange soda, said from the backseat of Mike’s dark blue Toyota Corolla. “Is it the Pan-Continental Paranormal Research Society’s van?” Greg’s hair was unkempt and pressed forward by hand, yet it was short enough to appear styled, and his face was weather-beaten and pocket marked. It was a face that had felt a dozen different climates, from deserts to the icy tundra.
Davin, who sat next to Greg, was pale and clean-shaven. He looked like a man used to living a sedentary life. He wore a simple undershirt and denim shorts soaked in sweat. Emmet, a foot taller than the others, rounded out the trio in the backseat. His nose jutted out from under the brim of his Chicago Cubs’ baseball cap.
“It is, unfortunately,” Aurelia replied from the front passenger seat. In contrast to her companions, Aurelia did not look like she had slept in her clothes the previous night. She wore a red and black striped tank top, urban camouflage pants, and dog-eared combat boots. The high temperature and humidity did not bother her.
“What are they doing here?” Greg asked, referring to the occupants of the black van, without expecting an answer.
After a few moments, the Fallen could make out the features of two men and two women wearing black t-shirts who stood along the side of the road at the apex of the curve. They were chatting with a man wearing a periwinkle polo shirt and khaki shorts who was furiously jotting down notes in an I-Pad he held in one hand.
“Who is that?” Mike asked when he failed to recognize the man in the polo shirt. “Isn’t he the reporter we ran into at Bishop-Zion Cemetery?” Aurelia replied. She snorted. “It is.”
Greg leaned forward eagerly. “What do you want to do? Do you just want to come back another time?”
Mike took his Toyota Corolla around the curve and pulled over as soon as he found room on the shoulder. “Heck no,” he said as he unfastened his seatbelt. “We have as much a right to be here as they do.”
“Which is not much—” Emmet interjected.
The Fallen’s arrival did not go unnoticed. Four members of P.C.P.R.S. stopped talking and stared at the dark blue Toyota as it approached. Fess Parker of the Paranormal Review and Gazette stood with them. Their eyes betrayed an equal measure of jealousy and hatred. Although the Pan-Continental Paranormal Research Society had chalked up countless interviews and television appearances, the Fallen had an uncanny access to the paranormal. Everywhere they went, potential clients spoke of the Fallen in hushed tones somewhere between fear and curiosity. Keith, president of P.C.P.R.S., knew this mysterious quintet were nothing but amateurs—kids who had never even appeared on Blog Talk Radio. Then there were the rumors of trespassing, theft, arson, destruction of property, and even (worst of all) charging for investigations.
“Shouldn’t you kids be out playing roll playing games or whatever it is you do?” Keith said as soon as the Fallen got out of their van. He chuckled and bumped fists with the other man in the P.C.P.R.S.
Mike could not help but laugh as well, but for different reasons. “Look,” he said as he laid his hand on Aurelia’s shoulder to let her know it would be Ok. “We just want to finish what we came here to do. That’s all. We’ll get out of your way and then you’ll never hear from us again.” Inside, he cringed. He hated to be polite to the P.C.P.R.S., with whom the Fallen had feuded since they came to Illinois, but he had more important matters to worry about.
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Keith replied. He wielded his potbelly like a weapon and positioned himself like a boulder in front of the Fallen’s path. “This is our investigation site. You’re disturbing the energy pattern, and we won’t be able to get any EVPs if you’re here talking all the time.”
Emmet rolled his eyes. “How many EVPs have you ever gotten?”
Suddenly, the reporter stepped forward. “How was that Phish concert?” he asked sarcastically.
“What is he talking about?” Mike whispered to Greg.
“It happened when you were in jail a couple of months ago,” Greg replied. “We told him we’d stopped to take a leak on our way to a Phish concert when he cornered us at Bishop- Zion Cemetery.”
“You can forget about that interview,” the reporter snapped. “Keith here has been telling me all about your group, and frankly, you disgust me. You charge for investigations? That’s really unprofessional.”
“First,” Mike said as he abandoned any pretense of politeness, “it’s none of your business what we do. Second, I can’t think of a professional who doesn’t charge for their services. That’s how everyone defines a professional. If you do it for free, it’s a hobby. Finally, we never wanted to do an interview with you anyway, so piss off.”
Greg cleared his throat and Mike regained his composure.
Davin, who never liked confrontations, hovered near the passenger door on the opposite side of the car. “Why don’t we just come back tomorrow?” he muttered.
“Why don’t you listen to your friend?” a member of the P.C.P.R.S., a middle-aged woman with a buzz haircut wearing stonewashed jeans, spat. She waved a thick arm wildly through the air and pointed down the road.
“You are getting dangerously close to stepping over the line,” Mike replied, and a curious smile grew across Aurelia’s face.
Keith pressed his fingers against his chest and began to shout like an out-of-control guest on the Jerry Springer Show. “What are you going to do, huh? What are you going to do?”
Mike stood quietly facing down his opponent as Greg, who had maneuvered into the man’s peripheral vision, pulled a Taser from the pocket of his cargo shorts. With a quick pull of the trigger, a pair of sharp electrodes embedded into Keith’s neck and delivered a shock of 1,200 volts a second until he collapsed onto the dirt at the roadside.
“Oh my God!” the two middle-aged women screamed. They covered their mouths with their hands and stumbled backward while the reporter dropped his I-Pad in shock.
Greg quickly ejected the Taser cartridge and replaced it. He then pointed the nonlethal weapon at the other members of the P.C.P.R.S. while they scrambled for cover behind their van. “We warned you!” he shouted. “We’re not playing around this time. Get in your van and get the heck out of here!”
“W… We’re calling the cops!” Keith stuttered as he got to his feet and headed for the van. The reporter and the rest of the P.C.P.R.S. quickly threw their equipment bags inside and followed right behind without worrying about where they were going to sit, fastening their seatbelts, or even closing the door. Keith threw the van into drive and peeled away while clutching his neck and uttering a string of obscenities.
Emmet scooped up the reporter’s I-Pad, laying on the pavement, while Mike and Aurelia hurried to the fencepost just beyond the curve in Timber Ridge Road. “I’d say we have about ten or fifteen minutes before the county sheriff shows up, so do what you have to do and let’s get out of here!” he yelled after them.
Laughing, Greg put the Taser back into his shorts. “Man, I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. It felt great.”
“It was reckless,” Emmet chastised. “I hope Mike finds whatever it is he’s looking for here. I hope this is worth it.”
“If we can find it—it will be. It’ll lead us like a beacon right to the missing child of the Seventh Avenue ghost.” As the words left Greg’s mouth, he heard Mike shout triumphantly and saw him wave something in the air. “Looks like a success.”
“It seems stupid to risk getting arrested again for helping out someone who isn’t even alive,” Davin said.
Greg shrugged. “We never break a promise.”
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