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"Bite your tongue," Alex said quickly. "Don't you jinx this."
"Sorry," Nick replied, "all I said is I don't think this will last. It's too good to be true."
"Nick!" Alex shouted.
"Okay, okay," he said, grinning. "I won't say anymore."
"Well," Derek broke in, "I for one can't believe it myself, but it's true, we don't have one case. Not one single case."
"What should we do?" Rachel wondered.
"How 'bout a vacation?" was Philip's suggestion.
Alex sprung to her feet almost immediately. She said, "That's a fabulous idea! My sister and grandmother would love for us to visit.
New Orleans is beautiful this time of year."
Derek leaned forward, "A vacation sounds like a terrific idea. Why don't we go to New Orleans and go sightseeing and play tourist for a while?"
"Really?" Alex asked.
"Why not?" Derek answered.
Rachel's eyes sparked. "I'll go pick up Kat, we can be back here in a couple of hours."
"I can make all the arrangements, all you guys have to do is pack!" Alex said.
They arrived in New Orleans late that evening and checked into their hotel. Derek crawled into bed, praying nothing would come up.
that would call them back to California. If something did come up, then the Sacramento House would just have to deal with it themselves. This was something they all desperately needed. Before morning came, however, Derek began to dream restlessly. Dark and disturbing images swarmed around his mind. A young woman was lying down on something and he knew he had to go to her.
He had to hold her in his arms. He was paralyzed by fear. Derek saw himself running forward with Philip beside him. The place was cold. Derek sighed heavily in his sleep.
Jeslyn was running around the museum like the proverbial headless chicken. They received a new exhibit for the museum's Civil War rooms. Uniforms, rifles, medals and even a few portable, wooden surgical tables. Her great-great grandfather had been a Confederate doctor. She wondered if the tables were like the ones he had used before he lost his arm and had to be discharged.
Jeslyn's staff was busy trying to get things ready for tomorrow's opening. When she walked into the hall, she noticed one of the wooden surgical tables standing off by itself in the corner. She walked over and grabbed it, ready to give it a good push over near the
others. She was rocked backwards by an overwhelming feeling of fear. Her mother, she wanted her mother. Jeslyn released the table
and backed away from it. Her vision became clouded with distorted images. Someone was standing over her. She turned her head and saw a stranger running towards her. His face was frozen in fear and concern. There was someone next to him that she couldn't see. Her sights were fixed on the stranger.
Jeslyn snapped out of her trance and stared at the table. She got the uneasy feeling that whatever had made her so frightened when she touched the table was standing in the hall with her. Jeslyn shook her head. There was nothing there but her. At least, nothing that she could see. Jeslyn cursed herself for being afraid. She loved this house. It took care of her.
The plantation had been given to Jeslyn by the last descendant of the Davis family. It was a gigantic house with over thirty rooms and three stories. It was magnificent and Jeslyn loved it with all her heart. The Davis family built this house in the 1700's. They were way ahead of their times in that they did not believe in owning slaves or servants. They hired their help and paid them well. The Davis' were well to do people who allowed their employees to live in several guest houses that were built on the end of the grounds, free of rent. The Davis family was a loving family. Every generation had been as strong and caring as the one before. The last Davis died in 1990. Jeslyn took care of Eloise Davis as an after school job. The two became friends and Eloise left the entire estate to Jeslyn with the instructions that she turn it into a museum. Jeslyn didn't know anything about running museums but she had started to learn and love the job. When Jeslyn first walked into the house after Eloise had died, it was as if she had felt every Davis that ever lived in the place standing by her, protecting her and caring for her.
That was what scared Jeslyn the most. She couldn't feel their presence anymore and the house she loved no longer felt safe. She left the hall and walked down the stairs to the first level. As she was heading towards her office, Jeslyn heard a noise that sounding like squeaking. She turned around and looked behind her. The room she was standing in was the Colonial room of the antiques the Davis family brought with them from England, even an old spinning wheel.
Jeslyn turned to walk back to her office when she heard the noise again. She froze when she realized it was the sound of a wheel turning. It was the spinning wheel. Jeslyn didn't turn around. She knew she was alone in the room and she didn't want to see what was spinning that wheel. She walked to her office and closed the door behind her.
"That was the New Orleans house on the phone," Derek said, hanging up. "They wanted to know what we are doing here."
"Word travels fast," Nick muttered.
"I reassured them that this was a vacation trip and not business," Derek said.
"What'd they say to that?" Nick asked.
"That I was lying," Derek replied. "Well, they didn't say that in so many words, but that was the implication. They think we're working on a case and not including them. I swore by every deity, spirit and god I know but they didn't believe me."
"Wonder why?" Nick asked sarcastically. Upon Derek's expression Nick added, "Secrecy is one of your characteristic traits, Derek. I wouldn't be surprised if we were on a case and you're playing it off as a vacation."
"Nick, that hurts," Derek said.
"Well, I'm sorry. But how many times have you played cloak and dagger with us? Given us information on a need to know basis only?"
"Okay," Jeslyn said to herself. It was getting late and she promised Jake she would try to be home before he went to bed. She poured herself a hot cup of coffee and set it down on her desk to cool off. Jeslyn scooped up a mess of files on her desk and walked over to the filing cabinet. She quickly shuffled them away and turned back to her desk.
Jeslyn reached for the coffee cup and inhaled sharply. It was empty. She blinked a few times before looking around her desk and on her floor. She hoped to God to find the black fluid in a puddle on the floor. There was nothing. Jeslyn grabbed her purse and keys and ran from the room. She started off down the hall but when she saw the wooden surgical table standing unfolded in the middle of the hall, she dropped her keys and screamed.
Leo came running down the hall. The tall security guard almost slammed into Jeslyn when he rounded the corner.
"Mrs. Jackson! What's wrong?" he gasped.
"Do you know who moved that table?" she asked in a hoarse voice.
"No ma'am. None of my people would. We know not to touch the exhibits," Leo told her.
"No, of course not. I didn't mean to imply anything. I was just wondering how it got out from the display," Jeslyn said. "You haven't seen any of my staff in the museum anywhere, have you?"
"No, ma'am. You're the only one that's still here," Leo said.
Jeslyn sighed. "Well," she said, "Could you put it back for me?"
"Me?" Leo asked. His eyes blinked rapidly.
"What's the matter, Leo?" she asked him softly.
"Well, it's the table. I mean, you'd have to figure a lot of people died on that thing, right? It gives me the creeps," Leo said.
"All right, I'll put it back," Jeslyn said.
"No, ma'am. I'll take it back. I just don't like the damn thing, that's all," Leo stammered. He tipped his hat to her then started off down the hall.
As Jeslyn walked to her car she repeated the same four words over and over. It's just your mind. It's just your mind. It's just your mind.
She said them as she drove home, hoping she would convince herself that they were true. If Charlotte saw her agitated state she would never let up until Jeslyn told her what was the matter. The last thing she wanted to do was upset Charlotte. The woman was only in
her late fifties, but she had a bad heart. Charlotte Parker had taken care of Jeslyn after her parents had died in a car accident. She had been a loving woman, but she worried too much and was always overprotective of Jeslyn.
When Jeslyn married her high school sweetheart and had Jake at the age of 18, it gave Charlotte three people to fret over. Jeslyn swallowed the lump in her throat at the thought of Tim. She and Jake had watched from the car as Tim had been killed in an ATM robbery. Jeslyn collected her thoughts and shoved them away. It had been two years and she would have to stop falling apart at every little memory.
When she walked in the house she found Charlotte asleep on the couch. Jeslyn grabbed a blanket from the closet and covered her. She climbed the stairs and walked into her bedroom. Jake had gone to sleep in her bed again. Jeslyn sighed and threw on her pajamas and crawled into bed. She was asleep before she had even laid her head down.
"Why do you always have to get up so early?" Nick asked.
"Why should we waste the precious daylight God has given us?" Derek asked. Philip stifled his laughter as Nick rolled his eyes. As their rental van passed the massive three story brick building, Derek slammed on the brakes. "Look!" he exclaimed.
"It's a museum, Derek," Nick commented dryly.
"How do you know that?" Derek asked.
"It says so on that sign right there," Nick answered. "It opens in a few minutes."
"Then let's go," Derek said.
Jeslyn was having one hell of a morning. She'd gone in early to make sure things were in order. Things were in total chaos. She learned from Leo that three of his guards had quit during the night. Jeslyn sighed. She walked into the large rooms that housed the Revolutionary War exhibits. Jeslyn loved to see the old uniforms and dresses that had survived time to come to her museum. The old swords and the powdered wigs added the perfect touch. As she walked by she thought she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. She turned quickly and saw nothing but the mannequins staring at her from the case. She walked on ahead, stopping when she reached the archway to the next exhibit. She suddenly had the feeling that she should keep on walking and not turn around. She disobeyed the feeling and turned. The mannequins were staring at her. Their heads were all turned and their plastic eyes seemed to burn into her face. Jeslyn didn't give herself time to scream. She just ran from the room.
An hour later one of her books decided it wanted to be on the other side of the room. When it flew and it hit the wall with a thud, Jeslyn knew it was time to wake up. The other incidents might have been nothing more than her tired mind, but a flying book most definitely was not. Jeslyn mulled it over and decided to open the museum anyway.
Jeslyn walked down to the main foyer and was surprised to see Charlotte the first in line.
"Charlotte? What are you doing here? Where's Jake?" Jeslyn asked.
"Jake is with Mrs. Bouvelle. I came to see the exhibit! What's it like?" Charlotte asked. Jeslyn was about the argue but Leo opened the ropes and let in the crowd. Charlotte rushed by and waved to Jeslyn, who waved back and walked back to her office.
"Looks like we got here just in time, they've added a new exhibit to the Civil War rooms," Alex said. Philip winced slightly.
"What's wrong?" Nick asked.
"It's just those words, 'civil war', I was born in a country where people kill each other senselessly. Brother against brother," he said.
"Isn't more like English against Irish?" Nick's Irish heritage said loudly.
"That's what I mean. Brother against brother. It makes no difference t'God if you're English or Irish, Protestant or Catholic," Philip said.
Nick decided not to say another word.
Although they all decided to stay together, they ended up dwindling apart. Each captivated by a particular exhibit. Alex and Philip were glued to a large case that contained an old bible brought over by the Davis family from England. It had been in their family almost 600 years.
Rachel and Kat were enthralled by the antique French dollhouses. Nick was stopped short by an exhibit on W.W.I guns and ammo.
His face and palms were pressed against the glass.
Derek climbed the stairs to the second story and felt Jeslyn's presence before he actually saw her. Her back was turned to him and she was in a heated discussion with a security guard. Derek moved in closer and caught the tail end of their conversation.
"Leo, this house is not haunted. I've been here a long time now," Jeslyn stopped talking when she noticed Leo's expression. His attention was focused on something behind her. Jeslyn turned around and almost had a heart attack. The man in from her vision was standing in front of her. Jeslyn recognized him, not knowing he had recognized her from a vision of his own.
"Good morning," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Derek Rayne." When Jeslyn grasped his hand she saw Derek's entire life in a matter of seconds. She has the gift of touch, Derek thought.
"I'm Jeslyn Jackson," she recovered quickly.
"I couldn't help but overhear your conversation," Derek said.
"That's because you were eavesdropping," Leo said bluntly.
"Leo!" Jeslyn reprimanded.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Jackson, but bad publicity isn't what this place needs," Leo told her.
"I am not a reporter," Derek reassured them. "In fact, I own a museum myself."
Leo looked Derek over quickly then walked off down the hall.
"Am I to understand that your security guard thinks this place is haunted?" Derek asked.
"No," Jeslyn said. "I do. But I don't want any of the staff to know I do."
"You're trying to keep up a brave front then," Derek said.
"Something like that," Jeslyn answered. She stopped and said, "Look, I love this place, it means a lot to me. Ever since I set foot in this place I've had the feeling that it protects me. I feel safe here. But things have been happening that have nothing to do with the house."
"Tell me something," Derek said. "When you shook my hand, what did you see?"
Jeslyn hesitated, then said, "Lots of things."
"Things which you couldn't believe," Derek stated.
"Yes," she smiled shyly. "Who are you?"
"Someone who knows a lot about this kind of thing," Derek replied. "You're a clairvoyant, aren't you? You can see things by touching objects, you can see their future, past and present?"
"How did you know?" Jeslyn asked.
"I'm psychic, I sense things," Derek said.
"I've always kept it to myself. Not even Jake and Charlotte know," Jeslyn said.
"Jake and Charlotte?" Derek inquired.
"My son and my surrogate mother," Jeslyn answered. Derek said nothing more. He didn't ask about a husband. He knew there wasn't one. He Derek sensed a great loss within her. It was the same loss he felt in Rachel.
"Well," Derek said. "When did all of these strange happenings start?"
"With the table," Jeslyn answered.
"Derek!" Alex called out. She was walking arm in arm with Philip down the hall. "This is an incredible museum."
"You have Mrs. Jackson here to thank for that," Derek said. "She runs the museum." Jeslyn reached out and shook Alex and Philip's hands. She was electrified by the scenes in thier lives, many of them including Derek. These people are part of something big, Jeslyn thought. She noticed Alex's reaction when they shook hands. The woman was perplexed but said nothing to Jeslyn. Instead, she exchanged glances with Derek, who said, "Jeslyn is in need of our services. It appears this lovely museum is being haunted by someone or something." When he saw the look that passed between Philip and Alex he added, "It's not being haunted by the old inhabitants."
"Then by whom?" Philip asked.
"Well, that's what we have got to figure out," Derek told them. Philip began asking Jeslyn all kinds of questions. Alex put her hand on Derek's shoulder and guided him back.
"When I shook her hand, I felt the strangest vibrations," Alex said.
"She's a clairvoyant," Derek answered. "She was probably catching sight of every moment in your life."
"That's sad," Alex commented.
"What's sad? Your life?" Derek asked.
Alex gave him a sneering look and said, "No, her having the gift of touch. I mean, they call it a gift, but I happen to think it's more of a curse. Seeing fragments of memories from everything and everyone you touch. I would never want that."
"Maybe not, but I'm sure in her line of work it might come in handy. she can see the history of her exhibits. Whatever they may be," Derek said. As an afterthought he said, "It would come in handy in our line of work too."
"True, but I still wouldn't want it. Just getting a sensation or vision every once in a while is hard enough sometimes," Alex said.
Kat was in dollhouse heaven. Rachel felt a swell of love in her chest to see her daughter bounce around the room with fluid laughter.
"Mom!" Kat cried out. "Mom, look!" Rachel ran over.
"What is it, Kat?" she asked.
"This doll moved. By itself. It was over there, now it's over here," Kat said. Rachel was about to say something when she heard a volley of soft thumping sounds behind her. Kat whirled around. "Mom!"
Rachel turned around. Several of the dolls were out of their cases and lying on the ground at their feet. Rachel and Kat heard the sounds again and looked behind them to see the other dolls out of their cases and on the floor. Kat's voice whimpered in fear. Upon hearing her daughter so frightened, Rachel felt fear growing in her own stomach.
"Is there someone in here?" Rachel demanded. She looked around. She and Kat were completely alone. "Okay, sweetie, we're out of here," she said and scooped Kat up. She ran out into the hall and bumped into several people who were mingling about. When they reached the top of the stairs, Kat and Rachel looked down to see Nick. His smile died quickly when he saw how frightened the two of them were. He ran up the stairs, shoving people lightly out of his way.
"What's the matter?" he breathed. Rachel and Kat told them about the dolls.
"Let's find Derek and the others," Rachel said.
"I didn't see him on the first floor, let's try the third," Nick said. He took Kat from Rachel and swung her around on his back. When they reached the third floor they found a woman collapsed in the hallway. No one else was up there. Rachel rushed forward.
"Ma'am, are you all right?" she asked her.
The woman breathed painfully. "In there," she gasped. Her face was a bloodless white. Nick put Kat down and carefully entered the room the woman had pointed out.
"I saw," the woman breathed out, "I saw....."
"Shhh, it's okay. Try not to talk, just rest. You're going to be all right now," Rachel soothed.
Nick walked out of the room. "There's nothing in there but some old civil war uniforms and a couple of old surgical tables," he said. The woman's eyes widened at the mention of the tables and she grabbed at her chest.
"Dying," she moaned. "They were dying."
Kat heard familiar voices coming down the hall and turned. She ran straight for Philip's open arms. He kept her back as Alex, Derek and Jeslyn rushed forward.
"Oh! Charlotte!" Jeslyn cried out. She cradled the woman in her arms. Charlotte looked up at the man and woman that stood behind Jeslyn.
"Derek?" Charlotte wheezed.
"My God," Derek exhaled. "Charlotte."
Jeslyn snapped her head around, "You know her?"
"Derek," Charlotte said. "Don't tell her anything." She jerked painfully and then laid back and died in Jeslyn's arms.
"No," Jeslyn moaned. "Oh, no, please." She shook Charlotte lightly, hoping to wake her up. Derek laid his hands on Jeslyn's shoulders and drew her into him as she cried.
Philip took Kat downstairs while Rachel phoned for an ambulance.
Jake and Kat played together out on the back porch. Jeslyn watched them together through the window. She heard soft footsteps behind her and turned around.
"What did Charlotte mean when she said, 'don't tell her anything'?" Jeslyn asked. "How do you two know each other?"
Derek tried to think of something to say. In the end, he decided it would be best to tell Jeslyn where she came from. That her parents didn't die in a car accident like Jeslyn had been told. Her parents were New Orleans Legacy members, along with Charlotte. They were killed while on an assignment that almost killed Charlotte and Derek as well. Derek was only a young nineteen years old.
Charlotte had a weak heart since that night and quit the Legacy to raise Jeslyn.
Alex listened from the hallway and was pleased that Jeslyn took it as well as it did. She didn't appear angry or upset. It was almost as if it was something she expected.
"You forget my ability," Jeslyn told Derek. "I knew they were part of some kind of organization, I just didn't know what it was until now. I have things that belonged to my parents. I held them in my hands, saw their lives. It was the same with Charlotte. I knew she never wanted me to know about the Legacy so I just didn't ever say anything to her."
"We will help you find out what is happening at the museum, Jeslyn. I promise," Derek told her.
"Thank you," Jeslyn replied.
"Whatever it is, I don't think it is a malevolent force," Derek said. "I feel no evil here, only fear. Rachel and Kat said they were terrified in the doll room."
"Maybe the spirit was trying to tell them something," Jeslyn said.
"No, I think the phenomena isn't the work of the spirit, but rather the effects of the great amount of supernatural power that is present.
The spirits of the Davis family, your power, mine and Alex's power, Kat even shows signs of having some second sight, and then whatever is attached to that table. All of that power can have strange effects on the balance of this world's equilibrium," Derek explained.
"Charlotte was scared to death, she always had a weak heart and whatever was in there scared her heart into collapse," Jeslyn said.
"What we need to do is find out more about that table," Derek said. He looked at Jeslyn intently.
"You mean, touch it?" she asked.
"Would you be willing to?" Derek wondered.
Jeslyn thought about Charlotte. She said, "Yes, I'll do it."
Jeslyn dismissed all of the security guards but Leo. He stayed on the first floor at her bidding. She walked with Derek, Philip, Nick and Alex up to the third floor. Rachel stayed with Jake and Kat. They five of them stood around the table. Derek looked at Jeslyn carefully. He said, "You can change your mind. You don't have to do this, Jeslyn."
"I need to do it. For Charlotte, and for this house and all it has meant to me," Jeslyn told them. Before any of them could reply, she leaned over and grabbed the table with both hands and gripped it tightly. She concentrated solely on the feel of the wood underneath her hands.
Jeslyn let go of the table and wailed. Derek held her closely. She told them what happened. Alex suggested they go down to the basement and check some of the old records. Jeslyn was grateful to get away from the table. They had only gone through a few books when Jeslyn hit the jackpot. She ran her fingers over the photograph of the Louisiana unit and stopped on the tiny face of Private Jared Baines. Derek took the book from her hand and read aloud.
"The 58th Louisiana regiment led by Captain Charles Raleigh Taylor was killed by shells that landed directly on their position. Only Captain Taylor and Sergeant Shaw survived. Every one of their men died on the operating table back on the battlefield due to their wounds," Derek read. Alex through her hands up in the air.
"Of course! It makes sense now," she said. "Classic scenario. Many people who have died violently by murder or war, sometimes don't know that they're dead! They haunt a particular area or an object, in this case the surgical table. That's the source of the extreme feeling of fear. These poor men were probably terrified enough as it is being in such a bloody war. Then they die and they don't even know it. Who knows what kind of private hell they're trapped in."
"Makes sense t'me," Philip said. "All I have t'do is say a few sacred rites and let them know it's time t'move on and that should take care of things."
A scream erupted from above. "Leo!" Jeslyn yelled. The five of them charged up the stairs. Leo explained that he had seen something move on the second floor landing. Nick nodded at Derek and bounded up the stairs. Jeslyn went behind him.
"Jeslyn! Wait!" Derek yelled. She got up to the third floor before Nick could even turn around. Her high school track days had paid off.
When she entered the room rough hands grabbed her. She felt dizzy and frightened. Voices were calling out to her.
Derek grabbed Jeslyn off of the surgical table. Philip started to chant his prayers. The psychic energy in the room was stifling them all.
"Dammit, even I can feel it," Nick muttered. Alex's eyes were welling up with tears.
"Those poor boys," she breathed. "Those poor, poor boys."
Philip finished his rites and prayers and the room lightened up. Choking on the emotion in his voice, he said, "It's okay now. You can let go. The war is over and it's time t'go home now lads, it's time t'go home." The light in the room grew so bright that it blinded them.
Alex and Derek felt the release of several souls. Souls that were now free. Souls that were finally going home.
"So, are you comfortable with your new surroundings?" Derek asked. Jeslyn grinned. The lavish mansion that was home to the New Orleans Legacy House was her new home. They had accepted her warmly despite their earlier animosity towards Derek's presence in New Orleans.
"I'm comfortable. I feel like I belong here, but I can still work at the museum, right?" she asked.
"Absolutely!" Derek reassured her. "We all have something extra we do in our own time. You have to, otherwise you could really go insane."
"I believe it," Jeslyn said wryly. She stared into his eyes for a few moments. Behind her, she could hear Jake and Kat saying their tiny good-byes. The two made good friends during the past two days. Maybe someday they would meet again when they were grown ups.
Jeslyn smiled at the thought.
"You know, you were very brave in there," Derek said.
"So were you, but then I guess you've had more practice, right?" she laughed. He didn't laugh with her.
"It doesn't make any difference how many times you've seen something fly across the room, or seen something come after you and your friends..." he hesitated. "You don't ever get used to any of it. Never, Jeslyn. Every time is a first time. It's always something new, most of the time it's frightening, sometimes it can be exhilarating. The only advice I have for you, is to keep your head together. Never panic. Tell your partners everything. They are your backup and you are theirs. No secrets."
"That's quite a speech," she said. "I'll keep that in mind." Jeslyn then did something that shocked even her. She stood on her tip toes and kissed him on the mouth in a more than friendly manner. He kissed her back, something that made her feel incredible.
"Keep in touch?" Derek asked.
"Absolutely!" she smiled. "You'll never get rid of me now!"
"I would never want to," Derek said softly.
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