Page 22 of The Body Departed

Taking an active interest in the proceedings, the red-eyed beings crept out of the shadows of the ceiling and stopped about a quarter of the way down the wall. Lord help anyone who touched that painting. Anyway, unless you knew what you were looking for, they appeared to be nothing more than shadows cast by the outside tree.

Ponytail was now standing directly beneath the statue of Jesus Christ. “Let’s get some shots of me standing here.”

The cameraman obliged, dropping to a knee and angling his camera in such a way that he got both Ponytail and Christ in the same shot. The former struck a very intrepid pose as he slowly surveyed the dangerously haunted inner sanctuary. Ponytail next walked over to the piano and, with the cameraman trailing behind, turned and looked somberly into the lens.

“Over the years,” he whispered with pseudoreverence, sliding his fingers over the closed piano keyboard cover, “there have been many reports of this piano mysteriously playing itself.” He paused and flipped his thick ponytail from his right shoulder to his left, a completely unnecessary move. He went on. “And, in a surprising twist, the school’s music teacher was found murdered on this same piano just a few months ago.”

As he glided his hand slowly over the closed lid, I drew some energy from the camera light—which caused it to flicker—and reached down through the closed wooden lid and struck a key.

A minor key, I think.

The sound echoed through the sanctuary, and Ponytail nearly did a backflip. He jumped about a foot or two off the ground and landed on his cameraman. Both landed in a heap.

When they had untangled, the cameraman, who looked a little pissed, said, “What the hell happened?”

“Something pressed the key down!” said Ponytail excitedly.

“You mean, you pressed the key,” said the cameraman.

Ponytail spun on him. “How the fuck could I press the key down if the cover is closed, dumbass?”

The commotion had attracted the attention of the younger costar and his own cameraman, who both hustled over.

“What’s going on?” asked the kid.

“The piano played by itself, Ray, I swear to God.”

The kid, or Ray, inspected the piano with his flashlight. “The cover is closed.”

“Thank you, Einstein,” said Ponytail, and took a deep breath and collected himself. He turned to his cameraman. “How did I look?”

“Scared shitless. And that was before you landed on me. The shot is wasted.”

“Fine. Let’s do another take. We can edit the piano key being struck later, too.”

And I proceeded to watch a rather amusing display of TV magic. On the second take, Ponytail once again ran his hand over the closed cover—then feigned hearing the sound. But this time, instead of scrambling for his life, his reaction was much more civilized and under control. He turned his head sharply, opened his mouth in surprise, then cocked his head knowingly, as if he had almost expected the piano to play.

“Good,” said the cameraman. “We can use that.”

“What’s going on?” Jacob asked me. I had nearly forgotten about the boy, and a lot of the fun I was having was lost on him.

“We’re having fun,” I said.

“We are?”

“Yes,” I said. “Watch this.”

Ponytail was currently leaning over and watching himself on some replay feature on the camera. I got the sense that he enjoyed watching himself. That he, in fact, lived to watch himself. Liking him less and less, I walked directly into his right shoulder and exited through his left. As I did, his body convulsed nicely.

“What’s wrong, Bob?” asked the other cameraman, looking at him.

Ah, so Ponytail had a name.

Bob, aka Ponytail, said, “I don’t know, man. Something very cold just went straight through me.”

Jacob giggled next to me. “Can I try?”

“Sure,” I said.

With a big grin on his face, the boy drifted quickly through Ponytail, entering through his back and exiting through his stomach. Ponytail spasmed instantly.

“Jesus Christ!” said the lead investigator, looking around wildly. “I swear to God it just happened again! Look at my arm! Quick, film it!”

The camera and light swung over to his forearm. I took a peek, too, and never have I seen such glorious goose bumps.

Ray, his young costar, looked at his forearm, too, but with skepticism. “Are you messing with us, Bob?” he asked.

“No, goddammit. I swear to God something went through me twice.”

And Jacob went through him yet again.

Ponytail shrieked, spun wildly around, and looked like a cornered hellcat. Except, nothing was cornering him. “It happened again! It’s attacking me! Help me, please!”

Jacob giggled some more. I nearly rubbed his damaged head, but stopped myself.

“Nothing’s attacking you,” said Ray calmly. He turned to one of the cameramen. “Is the air-conditioning on or something?”

The cameraman swiped his hand in front of a vent in the floor near the altar. “No, it’s not on.”

Ray looked over at Ponytail. “Should we continue rolling, Bob?”

Ponytail took a few deep breaths, calmed himself, stood a little straighter. “Of course we should continue rolling, dumbass. What the fuck do you think we’re here for?”

“Bob,” said one of the cameramen, “probably not a good idea to be cussing, you know, in a church.”

Ponytail looked like he was about to lay into the guy but decided against it. Instead, he turned to Ray. “Get the EMF detector.”

The kid reached inside a pocket and produced a handheld electronic gadget-thingy. Ponytail grabbed it without a thank-you and switched it on. A glowing LCD screen illuminated his face in a soft green glow.

“Point zero one,” he said, then lowered the gizmo to the carpeted floor. “Still point zero one. Looks like our base reading is point zero—”

I waved my hand in front of the detector.

“Holy shit! Thirty-four point two! Thirty-nine! It’s climbing.”

Those numbers got everyone’s attention. Ponytail swept the gizmo-thingy around some more—and plunged it straight into my chest.

“Sweet Jesus. Fifty-eight point three!”

He raised the thing as high as my head, then lowered it down to my feet, all the while calling out numbers that seemed to steadily rise. He then moved it away from me, and the numbers lowered.

“Okay,” he said, short of breath. He had worked himself up. He then shoved the detector back into my chest, which I found rather rude. “Whatever it is seems to be isolated right here.”

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