Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!
The unseasonably warm air buzzed with gnats and a john boat’s trolling motor navigating its way through the channel to the river. If whoever was in the boat didn’t get out on the water soon, the tide would be out and they’d spend most of the day stuck in the muck under the sun, Amber thought to herself.
A Sprinter van plastered with Thad’s face tinted with night vision green, and the ‘Haunted or Haint It?’ logo on the side rolled in, taking up three parking spots.
“Girl, keep that smile on, no matter what.” Derek squeezed Amber’s hand, and let go, pushing her out onto the porch. “I’ve got your back.”
She stumbled, and caught herself on the nearest column. “How sweet of you. Get out here.”
Thad slung a beaten leather bag over his shoulder, and waved on his way to the house. His producer Tricia, the short brunette crossfit junkie from New York, her mouth and legs running to keep pace with her meal ticket. Two more men unloaded gear out of the back of the van.
Thad whispered something to the producer, stopping the chatter. “Miss Simpson, you’ve already met Tricia Allison, my living and breathing calendar.”
“Mister Taylor.” Amber gave a curt nod. “Hi Tricia. Good to see you again. This is Derek Greene, my business partner and fellow medium.”
“That’s our camera crew Dave and Brad.” Thad halfheartedly pointed over his shoulder at the garden. Tricia whispered in his ear. “I mean, Dan and Steve.”
Amber chided, “Which is which?”
Thad looked over his shoulder, and realized he was pointing to the wrong spot.
“Green shirt is Juan, and the red shirt is Will.” Tricia nodded to the van and crew, cutting a look at Thad. “We’ll be filming B Roll most of the day, and scouting the location for tonight. We’ve brought the tables, chairs, candles and other props for the séance shoot, unless that’s a problem for you.”
“Not at all.” Amber held out with a map of the ground with numbers, and a stack of notes. “I would like a chance to look it over in the daylight though. Unless that’s a problem.”
Tricia shrugged, “Whatever. We do the walk and talk in the house at five once you’ve shut down for the day, set up the séance scene about seven and start the live feed promptly at nine. No cameras near or on your deal inside until they leave around ten-thirty. Is that acceptable?”
“That will be fine.” Amber shook hands with the producer. “Derek or I will be available should you need anything, but it is a busy day for us.”
Viola guffawed, “I floated my eyeballs through the air. The little fellow kept pointing them out and calling them really big ‘spirit orbs.’ He even chased me into the poison sumac. He’s going to be itching for days.”
“That Miss Tricia is quite insistent.” Lula Rose folded her hands across her stomach. The others seemed to like the different floral scents I used on them, except for her. I suppose she is not one for the botanicals. I did go knocking on things, they seemed to get all excited over a little noise.”
“I’m glad you ladies had fun with them today.” Amber shook her head at the two old ladies. Even curmudgeonly Viola looked to be enjoying teasing the television crew. “Constance? “
“Oh my.” Constance looked almost solid, except for the sunlight shining through her. “I managed to show enough of myself today that they said something about getting a walking shadow on their device. Kept complaining about their batteries running dry.”
“Remember, we want them to get hints you’re real, and get it on tape.” Amber looked out of the window of the office. “But no harm I suppose. Any idea where they’re at right now?”
“Down at the old dock I suppose.” Lula Rose mused. “They were carrying furniture out there. I can only imagine being eaten alive out there by the no-seeums.”
“It’s about that time. All of you keep them on their toes until tonight.” Amber rifled through her desk drawer, pulling out a can. It was late in the season, but the insects were still pretty bad. “I’ll carry down a bottle of bug spray as a sign of good faith.”
“I’d have thought the little bloodsuckers would leave them alone out of professional courtesy.” Derek picked up a box full of candles. “I’m going to get the ballroom set up while you go see your boyfriend.”
Amber gave him the universal hand gesture, indicating he was number one in her book, and took off for the stairs. Walking into the parking lot, bickering sounds drew her attention to the back of the Haunted or Haint It? van.
Tricia and one of the cameramen were snapping at each other. She threw her navy crusher onto the ground in a fit.
“Everything okay?” Amber announced at a safe distance.
“Everything’s fine.” Tricia gave a dismissive wave, and picked up her discarded hat. “A small technical problem.”
“Since you mention it,” Juan held up a battery pack, “Got somewhere we could charge a couple of these? We’re about tapped out. This happens sometimes.”
Amber suppressed a little grin and motioned to the house. “Derek is inside. You can charge them in the office.”
The cameraman ambled towards the house, and Tricia kept pace with Amber en route to the dock. “How did your day go on the grounds?”
“Fine.” Tricia’s voice could shave ice into a mint julep. “Couldn’t have gone any smoother. Are you ready to do a quick shoot, out at the dock while we still have some sunlight?”
The floating dock rested just above the water with the tide just starting to roll back in. Small gusts of unseasonable wind tousled the taller clusters of cordgrass, sending birds nesting down for the night into tantrums.
Thad sat in a hardback wooden chair, the setting sun turning the bands of clouds into a mosaic of scarlet and crimson with violet accents as his backdrop. “…research into the plantation, I found my own – no, that still isn’t right.”
“Thad.” Tiffany waited for the cameraman to give the high sign to step onto the creaking boards. “Let’s do the quick five so Amber can do her thing.”
Thad rose, and held out a chair for Amber. “We’re going to just do a few quick Q and A’s for tonight’s lead in, if that’s okay with you.”
Amber shifted to half-face the camera. A shadow flitted nearby.
Thad settled into his chair, “We’re here with Miss Amber Simpson, the –“
“Wait.” The cameraman raised his hand. “That weird clicking, scratching sound is back again.”
Amber focused in on the shadow. In the sunlight, it was harder to pick out the details, but Viola came into focus, rubbing her fingers along the foam of the boom mike. She waved a quick finger at the spirit, who decided to shuffle further onto the dock, causing the boards to groan.
“It’s quit again.” The cameraman gave a thumbs up.
“Damnit.” Tiffany swiped her hand at her floating hat and missed. The merest outline of Lula Roses’ thin and nimble form had the Navy crusher in her hands, sending Tiffany into a less interpretive dance than a toddler trying to find their legs and swinging at the old aunt coming in for a mustached kiss. Ultimately, the hat swiveled into the marsh. Tiffany held onto the post, and tentatively moved to step onto the ground.
“I wouldn’t do that.” Amber nodded to her merry pranksters. “You won’t get that hat back, and you’re likely to lose a shoe, or worse.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Tiffany hung from the wooden piling.
“The pluff mud giveth life, and beach winds take the odd sacrifice.” Amber lifted a pole used to pull in small boats off its hooks, and retrieved the lost clothing. Plucking the now muddy hat off the pole, she offered it back to its owner. “That’s one achievement unlocked to become a Carolina girl.”
“That’s supposed to be a good thing?” Tiffany sniffed the muddied hat, and shoved it into the camera bag.
“I’m going back to the van to splice to upload the video, and see what they can splice together out of this mess. The audio sucks, but it looked like your feed with Simpson was about the only clean shoot of the day.” Tiffany powered off the camera. “Can’t wait to get out of here.”
“Aw, you’re not buying into all this, are you?” Thad fired up his hand held night vision camera, doing a test sweep of the bay, still a sea of color from the warmth of the day against the chilled water.
“God no.” She scoffed. “Just some locations suck to shoot in, and this seems to be one. I’ll see you at the van in a half hour.”
“Sweet.” Thad gave the thumbs up. “I’m going to walk around a bit, and get a last lay of the land in the dark before we start the live feed.”
Thad pocketed the camera, and turned on a small red headlamp. Taking mental notes about spots to do live shoots, and figuring out the time he’d need to move between locations, something moving in the dark caught his eye.
A young woman followed him at enough of a distance, he didn’t hear her, and wouldn’t have even caught a glance if he hadn’t turned around at just the right time.
“Hi there.” She looked to be maybe twenty. Not old enough to take for a drink, but not that far out of his age range. The thin dress looked like it should be too light for the night air, but he figured she was staff. Or a lost tourist. “You here for the séance?”
“Oh no.” The girl edged closer, still half in the bushes.
“Are you staff here?” Thad palmed the camera. “You know we’re doing a TV shoot tonight.”
“I heard something about that.” She cocked her head to look around the bush. “You could say I help around here sometimes. When needed.”
“You know how I am? I’m the star of ‘Haunted or Haint It?.” Thad studied her movements. She seemed hesitant to leave, but fascinated at the same time. He wondered if she was part of how Amber pulled of her show. “Do you watch it?”
The girl twisted with a coy grin, her hands clutching the thin fabric of her dress. “Oh, I do not spend my time on such things.”
Thad paused, hoping she was start struck, or at least a fan. “Too bad. Here’s my card, and our usual show times, plus clips on the website. And here’s my cell number.” He jotted his cell down and put the card just out of the girl’s reach, then backed up a few steps.
She took the piece of paper, and tucked the memento into her dress. “How kind.”
“I’m Thad.” He reached out his hand. “Maybe I can see you later? We’ll be around all night.”
She shrugged. “I may be around. You can call me Constance.”
Gotcha, Thad grinned.
And we’ll see you tomorrow for the finale, Part IV!