I expected Professor Redding to say more, but he didn’t. He just stood there and stared at me and soon I realized he was waiting for me to react. I muttered under my breath in my native language about how annoying it was not to be told things beforehand and Redding winced, reminding me he knew French. “Sorry,” I said. “But it is annoying. You warned Serenity but never told her why. There’s a big difference between saying ‘Up ahead is danger’ and ‘Oh hey the road drops off a cliff’ or something. I don’t know–but you could have given us a little more warning than just… danger… Here be dragons.” I was babbling and finally managed to stop myself. It wasn’t really his fault that this happened. So once I was able to actually control my words, I asked, “Who is he?”
“I’d r-r-rather not s-say,” Redding replied. “Suffice to s-say, he is d-dangerous. I have b-been worried my sister m-might try to see how his p-powers and your w-wife’s powers… interact. Thankfully, w-we’ve been unable to do anything w-with him other than keep him penned up, s-since he tends to be… very willful.”
“So what is it you’re not telling me?” I asked suspiciously. If there was a threat to Sen, I needed to know everything. There was too much at risk at this moment to just let his non-answers slide by. “You can tell me… right? If there’s something going on, Professor, I need to know. My wife–“
“He’s a gh-ghost,” he whispered and I was stunned. “We d-don’t think S-Serenity would be able to… use her powers against him.”
“But Serenity can’t feel me—can ghosts be psychic?” I suddenly began panicking. “If it’s a ghost the locked doors won’t stop him from getting anywhere, Sen’s in danger—”
“N-no, she’s f-f-fine,” he assured me. “We initiated a s-s-security protocol that s-sends a current through the w-w-walls and doors to prevent ghosts f-from going though, wh-which is why you couldn’t g-get through the bars. We initiated it as s-s-s-soon as we discovered he had escaped. You w-w-won’t be able to get back into your room without going th-through the opened door. I’ll take you th-there in a moment, I n-need to get these helmets to some of th-the employees since we d-don’t know wh-where he is. C-come with me, the p-prisoner can use his m-manipulation on other g-ghosts. So it’d b-be safer if you st-stick to me right now,.”
I drifted after him, relieved to know Sen was safe from anyone who tried to go into the room. Nobody physical could get through and no one like me could get through. I was anxious to get back to her and reassure her that all would be well, but I understood Redding’s need to hand out the helmets. We went down another flight of stairs—him having to unlock iron gates at both end—and we were now among the living quarters of employees.
“Why is the ghost dangerous?” I asked as Professor Redding checked rooms. So far they were all empty. Not many people were living here right now, just a small handful of employees. I knew the families were yet another floor down, the families with kids so the kids could run around and not bother many other people. I wasn’t sure where the Reddings stayed, though. Because the floor below that was the ground floor and then once you started getting lower was when the labs started. The Reddings probably lived near the labs. I wondered where this prisoner, this ex-experiment, had been kept. Probably somewhere down there. “Just because he’s psychic?” I assumed this ghost used his powers for bad stuff but I had to make sure.
“H-he is very powerful and has n-no regards for anyone b-but himself. He w-w-was a strong psychic wh-when he was alive and th-then when he b-became a ghost, his p-powers increased. M-my sister wanted to keep him, d-d-d-do research.” When he said that, I rolled my eyes. Of course she did. The psycho scientist deciding to keep a crazy powerful ghost, obviously it was a good idea. “We had him l-locked in a r-room he c-c-c-couldn’t get out of, the s-s-same technology we’ve used t-to prevent ghosts from g-g-getting around when we’re in l-lockdown.”
Panic rose and I stopped moving. “If he escaped that, he could get through the, uh, stuff you put up that I could g—”
“N-no,” Professor Redding said quickly, giving me a small smile. “He d-didn’t escape th-that way. Have y-you ever s-seen or read ‘Jurassic Park’?”
I raised my eyebrows. Was he insane at this change of subject? Maybe everyone in this building was except me and Sen. “Uh, I’ve seen it. And played the video games.”
“Y-you know the r-r-r-raptors?” he asked, eyes going huge. “Always t-t-testing the fence? And th-they escaped when it w-went down b-b-because they never st-stopped testing? Th-that’s how this prisoner was. Always t-testing.” Oh good he wasn’t insane, what he was getting at made sense and wasn’t just completely random. That made me feel a bit better. “Someone ran an experimental p-program in the Ghost Holding r-r-room, and for some r-r-reason it shut down the security systems. W-we got th-them back up q-quickly but…”
“Not quickly enough,” I finished for him, and he nodded. “Where is he?”
“W-we don’t know. He c-c-could be on any floor, in any r-r-room. We’ve locked d-down the entire place so it’s j-just a matter of t-time to find him. Though I s-suspect he’s somewhere down b-below. The actual w-walls of this building are always ghost-proof s-so he couldn’t have gotten out anywa–Oh!” We finally found a room occupied and he explained to the people inside that it was Code D9. He handed them their helmets, did a quick check of the room then left, locking the door behind him. We found three other occupied rooms and then moved on to the next floor, the last floor to hand out helmets before he’d take me back to Sen.
I tried to imagine what this psychic ghost was like. Why he was so dangerous. Disregard for people other than himself? That wasn’t much to go on. Doctor Redding disregarded people but she didn’t go around–well, all right I heard she did sometimes go around killing people. But disregarding people could mean he just didn’t care about them and would just ignore them or something, or, more likely, he hated them? Did he go around trying to kill people? Sen’s abilities couldn’t kill people and ghosts weren’t exactly the most deadly things on the planet.
“Is he the sort to murder people?” I finally asked.
“I… I d-d-d-don’t know,” Redding admitted. “But he’s p-powerful.”
Power didn’t explain to me what he would do. I remembered the days of me and Sunny spooking young idiots who liked to hang out near the graveyard to smoke, or who dared each other to come in and stay the night. We never harmed anyone, though. What could a ghost do? Even one with Sen’s psychic powers, I just couldn’t fathom what one could or would do.
We had just locked up the bars and gone a couple feet down the hall when I unfortunately found out as someone came pounding down the hall as fast as they could.
The ghost watched me after he said those ridiculous words and I just stared back. It was impossible. Completely impossible. “You think I believe you?” I finally asked.
“I know for a fact you don’t believe me,” he answered, tappin’ the side of his head. “Though part of you is worried it’s true. My dear, it is true. I am your father. Your real father. Though, speaking of fathers, is yours still alive? Your other real father, I mean. Not… what was his name? Halbert?” I stiffened at that and set my jaw forward. The ghost laughed. “Oh yes, I know. Serenity, I know. Stop being so skeptical.”
“You can’t be him, cause he’s…” I stopped and then flushed at the words that had nearly come out of my mouth.
“Dead?” he finished for me. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am dead.” He waved his hands around to indicate his body. “Being married to a ghost I’d figure you’d be able to tell the dead from the living. I am dead, completely dead. Thanks to your daddy. Sebastian… ah, how is he doing? Last time I saw him he was driving a nail into my back.”
I looked him up and down then stepped back even more. My head felt like it was gonna explode. This man could not be–this ghost could not be–
“Stop it, you must believe me!” he pleaded with me. “Do you have children? Can you imagine one of them looking at you and refusing to believe you’re not their mother? I am your father. I am.”
That was like a slap and I was able to concentrate. “Get out of this room, whoever you are. Out right now. Or else.”
“Or else what?” He rubbed his chin and then leaned to the side so he could smack the wall with his hand. “Serenity, no ghosts can get through the building now. I cannot leave until that door opens. Once the Roods discovered I had finally managed to escape, they shut this place up and now I am trapped like a fly. As soon as they find me they will put me back in that–that cell and experiment on me!”
He was right in front of me and his hands closed around mine. I started to pull away but then realized I did not want to. I needed to hear him talk, hear his story. “Did you know I was here?” I asked.
“No. I knew there was a Danevbie here but I never imagined it would be my daughter.” His eyes searched mine and then one hand raised to touch a strand of hair. “My baby girl. I never got to see you, your father–Sebastian–he hid you from me. I suppose at the time I deserved it but oh, it hurt me. It hurt me, my dear, never to see my own daughter. You are so beautiful. And do you have children?” I did not want to tell him but apparently I didn’t need to. “You do? I’m a grandfather?” A huge grin spread across his face and then he was huggin’ me tightly. I felt disgusted and part of me wanted to rip away from his hold but part of me felt a bit glad that I was… I was…
“YOU BASTARD!” I began writhing and wriggling, trying to get away. He still a psychic! And he was using those manipulation powers against me!
“I’m not,” he breathed into my ear. “I am still a psychic but I would never use my manipulation on you. I can feel what you’re feeling but you know as well as I that it cannot be turned off because you inherited my abilities.” He stepped back, still holdin’ tightly to my arms. “That is why you are here? How awful! Doctor Rood is a miserable woman. Darling daughter, help me escape and I will help you. We can get away from her.”
I felt an overwhelming desire to do so and it was hard to fight it. “Stop it,” I croaked, giving him a shove but my hands went through his chest. “Let me go! If you don’t then… then…”
“I am not going to hurt you,” he whispered in a soothin’ voice. “I would never hurt you. I know your father told you a lot of things about me but can you believe them? I did some bad things, I admit it. I was overly jealous when your father and I were young and made a few mistakes but it was never my intention to hurt anyone. I loved your father, and believe me–you must believe me–when I say I love you.”
I wanted to believe him and part of me believe him, and before I knew it some tears were comin’ out and he was hugging me again. “Stop, stop, please stop!” I wailed, tryin’ to fight the feeling of love that was consuming my body. I wanted to accept him as my father, I wanted to just be his baby girl, and it was so hard to fight it. I tried to throw emotion at him but he just kept holdin’ me, and I could not feel his feelings. He could control me but I could not fight back.
“Don’t be scared,” he said which caused the fear swirling inside me started to subside. “My baby girl, I would never hurt you. I love you. And I need you as much as you need me. We can get out of here together, yes? And then we can get to know each other. Me and you, baby girl. Daddy and daughter. Would you like this?”
I shook my head, more tears comin’ out. “Y-yes,” I gasped out. “Yes.” I had no choice. I could not fight him. I was tryin’ but I couldn’t. So this is what it’s like for people under control. This is what my father lived through for so long.
The monster, I refused to think of him as father or even give him his name, began strokin’ my hair. He was still going on about me being his daughter. Each honeyed word made me feel sicker, making the tears come on harder. I was trying so hard to push him as far from me as I could but I couldn’t, not mentally, and not physically. It felt like he had reached right into my body and squeezed my heart, turnin’ it into something else. Like it belonged to him. Mom, I thought. How could he have gone through this?
“Serenity.” He pulled back to look into my face again. “We need to talk a bit though, right? We need to lay out a plan. Will your husband come back? Or did he leave you?” I clenched my jaw and tried to hit him but my hand went through his face. He laughed and seized my wrist. “You are so much like Sebastian, it amazes me. Even your eye color… it’s almost like seeing him, looking into his eyes. What did you get from me? Besides your powers. Your eye shape looks familiar.” His finger touched my cheek and I gagged loudly at the feeling of his cold, dead finger on my face. “Your sense of theater is certainly from that idiotic uncle of yours. “
“You know, my fathers are still happily married,” I managed to get out and it was the right thing to say. His eyes narrowed and a lip curled up in an angry sneer.
“First of all, one of them is not your father. Sebastian is, and I am. Second of all, I really don’t care. I’ve been dead a long time, darling. Nearly thirty years. Oh my, you are almost forty aren’t you?”
“A father would know how old his child is,” I spat out.
He just laughed even more. “I can’t disagree with that. However being locked up as I have, cut off from the world… my sense of time is a bit screwed up. Days and nights blend together into one. I am guessing you are in your late thirties. Wow, it has been so long. So very long.” He let go of me so I was able to back away to the wall, pressin’ back against it.
This man is the monster. It was like a nightmare. How could this be happening to me? Why did the Reddings even have him? “How?” I squeaked and he turned to face me again. “How are you a gh-ghost?”
“I died, that’s how,” he said bitterly. “Sebastian whacked me in the back with a piece of chair that had a nail sticking out of it, and it punctured deep in me, and I bled to death. Why, how did your husband die?”
“How did you retain your powers, then?” Maybe if I stalled him long enough Henri would come back and–Oh no, I can’t have Henri be in here! Can a ghost hurt another ghost? He won’t be able to use his powers on Hen though…
The monster shrugged and pushed his hair away from his face. “I have no clue. One minute Sebastian attacks me and leaves me to bleed to death and the next thing I know I am floating over my body and that idiot Professor Rood shows up. I was so…” He trailed off and then smiled. “It didn’t take long from him to trap me. He brought me back here, they locked me up, and for so long the two of them have been performing awful experiments on me. Just awful. Let me tell you something, they’re not natural. They’ve looked the same all this time. You’ve grown up and become quite the lovely young lady, and I am sure Sebastian has gone all grey and wrinkly… but those two… cannot be human.”
“More human than you,” I muttered.
He narrowed his eyes and came in close. “You know how they retain their youth? Perhaps they’d know how to turn a ghost human again. I would like that, to be able to live my life the way I was supposed to. I was born here, you know. Not here exactly. Another lab. They kept me prisoner until I escaped when I was a teenager.”
“Don’t give me that crap, I know they released you,” I snarled. Though he had been so convincin’! I was pretty sure it was just his powers though. But I wanted to believe his words, part of me did. “Just shut up. Leave me alone. I won’t help you. I’ve changed my mind!” But then he filled me up with the desire again to help him. I sank down on the floor and hugged my knees close to my body, trying to hold back the waves of emotion he was sending my way.
“So they did release me, after I escaped,” he said. “As evil as you think I am, how can you think any good of them? They let me go in the world, knowing what I was capable of. Knowing how strong I was. They just let me go. They gave me a story and plopped me down in the middle of Sunset Valley with nothing but my own strength to keep me going. You hate me? You think I am terrible?” He bent in very close and I could smell some blood on him. Was it from his death or did he actually have blood on him? It was hard to tell because of his color. “If I’m so terrible, how can you trust the people who released me to the world, who released me to go and find your precious daddy?”
I tried to push myself back even more but I was right up against the wall. “So you admit you’re horrible?” I asked.
He squinted at me then chuckled, the smell of blood becomin’ stronger. “I admit I’ve done some bad things. Love and passion will do that to a man. Now then, dear daughter of mine, let us plan this escape. Someone will have to let your husband back in through the door–unless he’s abandoned you–and when that happens, I will be hiding and you demand a key. If you cannot get a key…” He rubbed his ghostly stubble and then shrugged one shoulder. “I will just have to come out and attack whoever is here, then you and I can escape. I will get you away from the Roods. I will do anything to save my daughter. I’m sure that is a sentiment you’d understand.”
“I don’t need rescuing, especially from you,” I said weakly. “I mean, I don’t need you to rescue you. I might need someone to rescue me from you.” If he couldn’t control Hen’s emotions, would he try to hurt him? Could a ghost really hurt another ghost? He had spoken of experiments done on him, were they painful–could he actually cause pain to Hen? Could he do worse? My hands began shakin’ and as the monster smirked at me, knowing exactly what I was feeling, I began to fear for Henri’s half-life.
The monster was now near the door, watching carefully. I knew I’d be able to tell when Henri was gettin’ near by someone bringing him, since he’d have to find someone to open the door from the outside. Unless he was trapped somewhere. What if he had been… oh Watcher, what if he had been floating through a wall when whatever stopped ghosts went around the building? Would he be cut in half or just trapped? My fears grew more and more and I had no idea if they were even my real fears, or if the monster was makin’ them stronger. It was so frightening and I didn’t know what to do.
“Nothing you can do, dear,” the monster said softly. “And I am not using my powers against you. I would never, except maybe to calm you down if you got hysterical. Distrust me if you will, I cannot change that.” He paused then began shrieking with laughter. “Then again, yes I can change that! Hah! Oh and, Serenity, I will not harm your husband.” He tapped his chin slowly and then smiled equally slowly. “Unless… I need to. Understand? Good. Please keep that in mind. I do not want to harm anyone… but I am willing to, if I absolutely have to.” He turned back to the door to wait and I buried my face in my hands, tryin’ to ignore the feeling of wanting to help him long enough to figure a way out of this.