The night had not been restful for Brian. Firstly were the obvious reasons. While Sharice's sigil on the door certainly kept the ghosts at bay, it didn't stop sound traveling through the walls. So their ghostly wails and howls persisted until the sun rose into the windows. Brian's body had also been pumping him with adrenaline and fear responses every time on of the howls sounded, so it was impossible to simply ignore them. Less obviously, Brian was kept awake by the abject terror of what would happen if Sharice had made a mistake somehow. Every time he closed his eyes, he swore he could see the pale blue glow of the ghost's traveling through his eyelids, only to open them and find it had been the bedside lamp he had not been able to bring himself to turn off. He could still see the monster's eyes in his mind. Luminescent pale blue circles seemed to have been painted on the inside of his eye lids.
However poorly the outcome, no one could accuse Brian of not trying. He tossed and turned for four hours making desperate bids to ignore the howling until it stopped, which he then traded for desperately trying to ignore the sunlight. In the end it was no use and when Sharice came to collect him, she found him showered, newly dressed, and entering a state of exhaustion so profound it was almost like alertness. The ragged trio made their way outside, jumping at shadows the whole way. Sharice had brought her shotgun with her, which was frequently leveled at innocent object looking out of the shadows.
The casino had not lost it's menace by day. All around was the sense that something lay in wait, just biding it's time till the sun went down and you had your back turned. It was not a welcoming experience and Brian was looking forward to never seeing the place again. Sharice had destroyed this comforting notion by pointing out all their stuff was still inside and that they had a job to do. However, nothing felt quite like clearing the front the doors and sprinting gratefully to the car, which he clung to as a drowning man clutches a life-preserver. Bentley had ran to the car with him and sat on his haunches panting in a relieved sort of way. Sharice kept her cool, walking to the pair at a brisk pace and going around to the car's trunk rather than the driver's door. Brian accompanied her as she was pulling open the trunk. She leaned into it and knocked on a small protruding case in the side of the trunk. It seemed to contain a car jack but after the second hard bang, it and the whole side of the trunk it was attached to fell forward to reveal a hidden compartment.
“Nice!” Brian hissed in appreciation as he beheld the space full to the brim of glittering lethal glory.
Several hand guns were hanging from specially made clasps on the wall which held them perfectly still. Their magazines were held neatly underneath them. Half the space was covered in knives, all of varying sizes and styles. There was one so small it could have fit into the palm of his hand, which seemed to be for throwing, and there was also one that was longer than his forearm with a wicked serrated edge, whose purpose seemed all the more vindictive. In the middle of the hidden compartment was a large empty space which seemed to usually contain a long shape. Sharice unloaded the shotgun, placing the shells into a pouch at the bottom of the compartment and slid the gun into place. When the tableau of weaponry was complete, she lifted it's covering up and slid it back into place. Looking at it now, Brian found his appreciation increasing. He would never, even now, have guessed that there was anymore to the trunk than what met the eye.
“So where's our first stop?” Brian asked as Bentley leaped up into his place in the back of the truck. Sharice walked around to the driver's side door and Brian opened the passenger's side.
“I think we need to check out the history of this area.” She said, sighing as though she was expecting some tedious and pointless task. “Usually with ghosts, recent construction can stir up ghosts that used to be there. We need to figure out why the people who died around here are hanging on.”
And with that they swung out of the casino's parking lot (more than happily in Brian's case) and back onto the main road. Sharice kept consulting a small paper map she'd printed out from somewhere and making turns down side streets. Brian had no idea what they were looking for until they pulled up to a marble white building two stories tall, the entrance flanked by white columns. A large sign attached to the building's fence bore the words: “O'Hare Public Library”.
Sharice was already out of the car while Brian was observing the building. Surprised he hopped out after he and helped her tie a reluctant Bentley to the pole of street light right by the car. Bentley seemed to resent the leash, and no wonder. Brian had never seen him with one on in the whole day or so that he'd known him. Never the less he would have to make due. Sharice made it perfectly clear that he couldn't come in with them, and even shot down Brian's offer to stay outside with him.
“It's already going to be a lot of work.” She said, seriously. “I need an extra pair of eyes and I can't spare you.”
So it was that the both of them trudged through the thick, musty smell of old paper and leather binding. To the back of the library where old newspapers and historical records for the town were kept. Large leather scrapbooks held pages of newspapers fifty years out of date and several large filing cabinets held official documents that would have been lost long ago with time and the day to day renovations time demanded. If the atrium of the library had been musty it was nothing to this. The air was thick and close in here, pressing in on all sides. This part of the library didn't seem to have any windows and the air itself seemed dry and old.
“It's to keep everything as preserved as possible” Sharice informed him as he sneezed for the third time.
“The air?” He asked sniffling.
“Yeah, I remember the librarian back at home saying some places did this with their old records. Pumped in dry air so that it kept everything from rotting.”
“Spend a lot of time in libraries?” Brian asked sardonically.
“As much as I could.” She said almost defensively. “You don't make too many friends as a witch's daughter and after a while you have to find your own fun. Books were mine.”
While not particularly bookish, Brian felt he could relate to a lonely childhood and simply nodded.
“What am I looking for.” He asked after a moment's silence.
“Something, anything odd about the neighborhood near the casino.” She said walking away. “Odd deaths, unexplained disappearances, anything.”
Armed with only those vague instructions, Brian gave it a shot. He was hampered not only by the lack of specific guidelines but also by his lack of sleep. He could feel the exhaustion from the night before creeping in on him. The reading material was hardly stimulating. He started with the old records in the filing cabinets along side Sharice. After accidentally knocking out the third or fourth drawer of papers and seeing them fall all over the floor, Sharice angrily pointed him over to the leather bound books containing newspapers. He poured over leather volume after leather volume of old newspapers that seemed to cover everything from the building of a new steel mill at the turn of the century, young men enlisting and heading off to the Korean War, to a car accident that happened three weeks ago. None of it was very well organized or informative. There was a piece about Chinese workers settling into the town after the building of the transcontinental railroad he found particularly racist even for the time it was written. But other than these small glimpses into a particularly boring past. Nothing about the town seemed off.
Still he had weeks and weeks of papers to comb through. On a hunch he roamed through old obituaries and found really nothing of note. The Frustration was almost keeping him awake now. But even that faded in time. He keep feeling like this whole thing was a Sisyphean task. His eyes sagged as he propped his head up with a hand, barley able to get the tiny newsprint into focus. He was attempting to read a long boring article about the new casino coming to town and causing some sort of problem, but he couldn't do it. His head fell down upon the plastic cover of the page.
He was back in the casino, full pale blue moonlight was flooding in through the window. It lit the black gold and purple patterning on the carpet and changed it into something ghastly. Indeed this wasn't normal moonlight. Every thing it touched, did not become clearer or more easy to see as light usually made things. The things this moonlight touched became skewed and twisted. The moonlight crept down the hallway twisting the world out of shape as it came, and sweeping towards Brian with the air of a running predator. He felt fear as one always feels fear in a dream, Distant but still omnipresent. He began to run, but oh so slowly, too slowly. He had barely gone the length of the hall when he felt the light hit the back of his neck and sweep over him. It flooded his face with it's painful brightness, twisting his features out of shape and leaving him no other recourse than to scream his pain to the night. He rolled onto his side to escape the light, but through the haze of pain, he saw something down the hallway. Two children with their backs to him, one male and one female, held their hands and were determinedly walking away from him. Then he heard the rasping scream again, the scream he had prayed to never hear again. He rolled onto his back again in time to see a pale blue emaciated face fill the whole of his vision. It wrapped it's black hands around his throat and began to squeeze. Somewhere deep inside himself, he felt so hungry, so frightfully desperately hungry.
A slamming woke him out of his nap and caused him to fly back from the table, arms flailing in panic. The chair toppled spilling him onto the dusty library floor and sending that dust up in a cloud around him. His only consolation to the embarrassment he felt as he picked himself up off the floor was that he had just managed to contain his panicked scream. Sharice stood by the table smiling as he got up and rubbed his backside. It was that cock mischievous smile that bizarrely calmed him the most. All was well and his throat was not currently being wrung by angry spirits.
Well, Bully! Brian thought to himself sarcastically.
“Sleeping on the job, I oughta tell my mom about this.” Sharice was saying.
“She knows every other move I make I don't see how I could keep this from her.” Brian retorted, the pain, humiliation and lack of sleep were making him irritable. “How long was out for?”
“Barely an hour.” Sharice confirmed looking at her phone for a second. “I don't know about you, but I've combed this place back to front and I can find a damn thing.”
“Neither could I.” Brian yawned at her. Sharice fixed him with a dirty look.
“No shit, Sherlock.”
“I got through a decent bit of it before I passed out.” He shot back indignantly. “There's only so many times you can read about mayoral elections before they put you to sleep.”
He leaned on the plastic cover of the newspaper page, shaking his hair back into its elegant balance of messy and regal. Sharice crossed her arms and sighed deeply looking more than a little annoyed.
“Damn, I could have sworn those things were ghosts.”
“Maybe something happened here before papers would have been around.”
“I doubt it.” Sharice said dejectedly. “Something like this where people disappear and then reappear torn to bits and eaten. I think someone might have noticed it before now.”
Brian opened his mouth to make a rebuttal but suddenly found he didn't really have one. He just had the strange burning feeling that they had been on the right track, they had just missed some sort of vital clue. But he had no idea where or what that vital clue might be so he held his tongue.
“C'mon” Sharice said making her way back to the front of the library. “Lets get some lunch and maybe then we'll think better.”
Sighing deeply, Brian took one look down at his hand, resting on the plastic covered page of a newspaper. He looked at the black and white photo of the casino that would be, in the picture as nothing but cement and steel girders. He growled and attempted to bully his over taxed brain into some kind of conclusion, but nothing came. Finally he sighed as deeply as Sharice and followed her out of the library.