Chapter 14

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Clara stared into the open trunk of the S.U.V. She wasn't quite sure what she was looking at, but she couldn't turn away.

"What am I seeing here?" she asked.

Dennis, crouching inside the vehicle, held a glowing tablet in front of his chest. He gestured to different points on its screen. Clara followed his movements.

"Watch here and here," he said. The excitement in his voice made Clara think that something was about to pop up. She took a quick glance around and saw that J.T. and Gaby were keeping a close eye on her. The new group of older kids stood a few feet behind the back of the vehicle, smoking and cackling.

And Nicholas was off to the side, arms folded. He'd positioned himself at an angle that made it seem like he couldn't see the tablet's screen, though Clara was sure he was at least able to glimpse it from his peripheral vision. More importantly, he was watching her.

The scene on the tablet was a webcam video of a dark bedroom. Its blocky quality made Clara think it must have been from the early days of those kinds of cameras. After ten or fifteen seconds, Clara realized that the video was a time-lapse – whenever a car passed through the window on the screen, only two or three frames of its streaky headlights were visible. The image of the bedroom didn't move, but three illuminated areas changed brightness levels continuously.

Eventually Clara could make out what looked like a very old man in a bed. She'd been looking at his form all along, but only now did she realize that it was a person under a sheet.

"Okay, now keep watching," Dennis said.

"She hasn't ever stopped watching," Gaby yelled back. "You're the only one distracting her."

"I just don't want her to miss it!" Dennis said. The tablet shook as he shouted. Clara quickly repositioned herself to get a clear view of the screen, and as she did so, she realized that her heart was beating faster than it had been a few minutes earlier.

Nicholas shuffled, watching his feet as he kicked up sand. "It's not like there's anything to miss," he said.

J.T turned to Nicholas and said, "Gilmartin, try not to be the town's biggest pussy for one night." The older kids burst out laughing. Nicholas said nothing back.

Clara could see how bothered Nicholas was, and she thought about going over to him. But as she turned her eyes back to the video, she caught something strange on the left of the screen – a dark figure entering the old man's bedroom from the doorway.

"Okay, there. There!" Dennis said. He bounced up and down in the back of the vehicle, shaking its frame.

Gaby got in his face and yelled, "Stop! We can't see."

Clara grabbed the tablet from Dennis and held it closer to her face, watching the shadowed figure walk over to the old man's bed. The stuttery motion and lack of sound added to the eeriness of the scene.

"What... what is that?" she asked.

One of the older kids who had a boy band beard whispered over her shoulder, "It's a ghost," before exhaling a cloud of cigarette smoke. Clara couldn't detect any sarcasm or teasing in his voice.

"But he wasn't one when the video was taken," Dennis responded.

Clara watched the figure in the video lay his hands on the old man. His frail form jolted upright in the bed. There was a surge of light around both figures. Then the scene darkened again – some kind of distortion seemed to black out the screen – and then the video went back to its original state, with just the old man laying in his bed. It stopped there.

"Ooooh!" a waif-like older girl wearing a studded collar said. She wrapped her arms around herself, shaking with excitement. "I get chills every time I watch that!"

Clara set the tablet back down inside the S.U.V. "Okay," she asked. "What did I just see?"

"That's Eric," J.T. said. "He used to work at the Breach Point Castle."

"I've heard of him," Clara said, not looking over at Nicholas. "But I thought he was inside the Castle when it burned down."

"Cover story," Dennis said. "This video was taken ten years later."

"Come on," Clara said. She could feel the hair on her arms and neck standing up. "This is an urban legend, right? Or a prank?"

Nicholas marched over. "Yes. It is," he said. "Eric was a real kid. Nobody knew where he came from. He just appeared at the Castle one day. Carlo, the owner, gave him a job helping out the other cast members. They kind of adopted him. Eric was a little slow, but they had him play dwarves and elves and stuff. He was good at it and he loved working there."

"How do you know that?" the waif girl asked.

"Because my uncle and his friends worked there," Nicholas said. "And our cousin Kenny was the firefighter who got burned that night. He was the one who went inside to try to find Eric – but the fire got to him first. Eric died – and that's it. That's the whole story."

Dennis jumped out of the S.U.V. and walked over to Nicholas. "Oh sure," he said. "That's the whole story! This kid comes out of nowhere, starts working at a haunted castle on a amusement pier, there's all kinds of rumors that he's got powers – and then he dies in a totally mysterious fire. That's storybook!"

Nicholas only shook his head in response.

"And let me ask you this, Gilmartin," Dennis continued. "What started the fire that night?"

"No one knows," Nicholas said. "And I'm sure to you, that's evidence of some kind of ghostly conspiracy."

"It sure as shit seems weird!" Dennis said.

Clara walked over and stood between Dennis and Nicholas. "Well then, what do you think really happened, Dennis?" she asked.

The waif girl spoke before Dennis could. "I heard they found him floating in the ocean the next day, but he was still breathing."

Clara nodded. Nicholas looked uneasy – like he wanted to tell her something, but he couldn't because of the others. Clara felt like she should ask him if he was ready to go back to the festival area – but before she could speak, the guy with the beard walked over to her.

"Here's what really happened," he said. "This 'kid' – or whatever he was – he did have powers. Supernatural powers. They caught him breaking into houses around here and doing... doing weird stuff."

"Like what?" Clara asked. "Stealing?"

"No," the bearded kid continued. "Like... getting inside people. Inside their heads. That's where the video came from. The old guy's daughter bought a webcam to keep an eye on his nurse. One morning, her father was acting all different, and when she checked the video she found what we just watched. And she knew – it was Eric."

Clara nodded. She didn't know what to make of all this, but she felt excited. The town had its own mystery. Now the strange things she'd heard and the attitudes she'd encountered made more sense.

She caught a weird look from J.T. The bravado he'd shown up until now had completely drained from his face. He was staring directly behind Clara.

Clara saw a mixture of fear and confusion on the other kids' faces as she heard a deep voice ask, "What's going on here?"

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- Steve


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