Rachel lunged and grabbed her hands. Mary’s boots scraped along the wall, but she couldn’t boost herself back out. Ricky’s hold was too tight.
"Pull me out, Rach!"
“Where you going, girlie? I said you could come in,” Ricky said as he pulled her further into the basement.
"What’s happening? What’s wrong?"
Mary shook her head and continued to struggle to get out of the window. As Mary became the rope in a tug of war between Rachel and Ricky, she realized how stupid this whole plan was. What did she know about exorcisms? She may live with this stuff, but she wasn’t a duck. She wasn’t born knowing how to swim through mystical waters. In fact, she was about to drown.
She kicked at the wall and tried to gain purchase or shake Ricky off possibly, but he had her tight by the knees. She was going to have finger shaped bruises there tomorrow. Rachel pulled her arms, but all she was doing was keeping Mary from slipping further into the basement.
“Don’t let go,” Mary pleaded.
“I think I can do better than that,” Rachel grunted. She took a deep breath, and she threw all of her weight back in one monumental heave and pulled her out. Mary winced as her stomach scraped across the windowsill, but Ricky’s grasp slipped, and she was able to wiggle the rest of her body out. She curled herself into a ball and looked at the open window. Rachel crouched down beside her.
Ricky’s voice boomed out. “You think you can get away from me? You’ll be back. Then it’ll be until death do we part!” Then he began to laugh, and his laughter doubled over upon itself with every roll until it was one long inhuman howl that was devoid of emotion and sanity. Mary stared at the open window.
“What’s he saying?” Rachel asked.
“Nothing now. He’s just screaming,” she answered before she could reconsider. She looked up and met Rachel’s eyes. There was something dark in her friend’s eyes. She looked haunted.
From the front of the house, the sound of tires squealing into the driveway reached them. They looked at each other in alarm. That sounded like someone had just come back home.
“What should we do?” Rachel whispered. Mary stood up and peeked into the kitchen window. She had a clear view to the front door, which swung open to reveal Kyle. He stomped into the house with a scowl. Mary knew that she couldn’t risk letting Kyle find them. She had to think of something to distract him so they make their escape.
She crouched down by the basement window. “Hey Ricky, you’re a foul-mouthed, stupid, weak, little man who didn’t deserve a thing in life and got exactly what you deserved in death: A dank basement full of junk that nobody wants, you included.”
A box crashed into the wall. “Why don’t you say that to my face?” From the inside the house, the two girls heard Kyle exclaim in surprise and rush to the basement. Mary slammed the window shut.
“Run,” she said.
They dashed from the back of the house to Rachel’s car. They jumped in and were quickly rolling down the street. “Shouldn’t we be worried about Kyle?” Rachel asked.
Mary took a deep breath. “I don’t think so. Ricky should’ve gotten weaker once I left.”
“But Ricky’s really dangerous on his own, right? I mean he hurt Terri Kuwalchek. He could hurt Cy or his family at any moment.”
Mary nodded. “Yeah, but my presence makes Ricky a lot stronger and angrier. Now that I’m gone, he can’t hurl stuff.”
“So what’s our next move?”
“I don’t know.” Mary rested her head against the car window as she mulled it over.
“Maybe we could try talking Cy into letting us come over?” Rachel offered. The school bell rang as she parked.
Ignoring the question because she didn’t think Cy would ever invite her over again and that depressed her, Mary looked at her watch. “I’m just in time to meet with Mr. Landa.”
“Do you want to skip?”
“No, I’ll go.” Mary sighed and unlatched her seat belt. What Mary really wanted was to get away from Rachel. Her best friend seemed to think Mary had all the answers when she didn’t. Ricky had just proven that. She was lucky that she hadn’t gotten seriously hurt.
She mulled over the situation more as she made her way to Mr. Landa’s office. Rachel and Cy just didn’t get it. Cy thought the whole thing was a hoax, and Rachel thought it was a grand adventure, but Mary knew better. She knew Ricky was dangerous, and she had to do something soon. If she didn’t, someone was going to get hurt, maybe killed. She had to do whatever she could to make sure nothing like that happened. She just wished she knew what to do.
She realized then why responsibility was such a heavy burden. It was because responsibility was stuff that she didn’t want to do but had to. So did that mean going to see Mr. Landa was a responsible thing? Mary frowned at the thought as she dragged her feet into school.
Mr. Landa looked up from his desk when Mary tapped on his door and stuck her head in. He waved his hand for her to come in, but Mary stayed at the door. She was staring at his desk. It was a new desk.
"Where’s your desk?"
"We surplussed it, though it should be trashed. The thing was a safety hazard."
"Yeah, I really liked it."
Mr. Landa’s eyebrows quirked at her statement.
She slipped into the office and sat down. She didn’t know what to do. Mrs. Brown was gone. Who was she going to talk to?
“How’s your first full week back at school going?”
“Not that great,” she replied.
He nodded sympathetically. “Some students are giving you trouble?”
“Yeah.” She slumped in her seat. She folded her hands and looked down at them. What would Mrs. Brown say right now? Don’t let them get to you. You’re better than them. Which were nice things to say, but they weren’t going to help her with her problem, and she needed help. She was going to have to try something unprecedented. She was going to actually talk to Mr. Landa. They were going to have an actual conversation.
“How are they bothering you?”
“They’re saying stuff about me. You know the usual that I’m a freak.”
“And what do you want to say to them?”
Mr. Landa blinked at her. With a jolt, she realized how that had sounded. “That’s what I’d like to say to them,” she clarified sheepishly.
Mr. Landa’s eyes softened as he caught on. “You know that their words don’t mean anything, right?”
She shrugged. “I still don’t like being called a freak.”
He nodded. “No one likes being called names, but the secret to stopping the sting is to realize that the people calling you names are beneath you. What they say doesn’t matter.”
“Yeah, I get that, but people I like are starting to call me a freak too.”
Mr. Landa actually looked upset on her behalf. “If that’s true, then you need to reevaluate why you like them and if you should continue.”
Mary chewed on this. Why did she still like Cy? She still thought he was a good person. He’d been nice to her for a while, and even though he didn’t like her anymore, he hadn’t been mean to her. He hadn’t tried to hurt her. She couldn’t blame him for freaking about the séance and the paranormal explanation. It hurt that he wouldn’t give her a second chance or the benefit of the doubt. Should she just stop liking him? Could she do that? No, she didn’t think that she could just turn off her feelings like that. She didn’t want to turn off her feelings like that, and there was still the matter of Ricky.
She sighed. “It’s more complicated than that. I’m worried about this person. I think he’s in trouble, but he won’t listen to me about it. I don’t know how to reach him.”
Mr. Landa bent his head as he thought about it. Mary found herself actually waiting for his answer. She’d never really tried talking to him before. This was the first honest conversation they’d ever had. It surprised her how well it was going.
“Can you tell me what type of trouble this person is in?”
She shook her head.
“Is it drugs?”
She shook her head again.
She shook her head again and dropped her eyes. It looked like Mr. Landa wouldn’t be able to help her.
“Mary, if this person is in trouble then you should help him if you can: Be there for him, give him support and understanding, and don’t judge him.”
“But he doesn’t want me around him. He doesn’t think he’s in trouble.”
He gave her a wry grin. “Sometimes the help you don’t want is the help you need.”
“Is there irony in that statement?”
He chuckled. “Maybe a smidge.”
“So what should I do?”
“Be available, but don’t smother him. Don’t avoid him, but don’t follow him around. If you see him in trouble, offer him help or get someone to help him. It’s all you can do.”
Over the next two days, Mary took Mr. Landa’s words to heart. She kept out of Cy’s way, but she didn’t avoid him. Rachel, she observed, did not have the same philosophy. Mary saw her best friend dogging him in the hallways. Cy’s face looked tense each time she saw them. Mary dearly wished to know what Rachel thought she was doing, but when she tried to confront her friend about it, Rachel dashed away saying she couldn’t chat--She had to keep the target in sight. Mary decided not to ask again.
Mary didn’t talk to Rachel outside of school either. When she’d call, Rachel’s father always said his daughter was ‘out’. She hoped Rachel wasn’t parked out in front of Cy’s house with binoculars, doughnuts, and a large cup of coffee. She didn’t want the police to arrest her friend as a stalker.
On the third day, Mary decided to eat in the school library because it was too hot outside. She hadn’t seen Rachel all day, but she thought that it might be because she hadn’t seen Cy either. She wondered how Vicky felt about his new shadow.
She was quietly reading her history textbook, trying to ignore the fact that she was lonely when a heavy book bag dropped onto her table. She jerked her head up to find Cy scowling down at her.
“Call Rachel off, I can’t take any more of her harassment.”
Oh. Mary hadn’t told Rachel to trail him, but she felt guilty nonetheless. Rachel came up behind him and joined them at the table.
“Mary didn’t tell me to follow you around. This was my idea.”
“Really? You have your own ideas?” he said.
“Hey!” Mary and Rachel both protested. The school librarian gave them a stern look in response to their outburst. She might let the students eat in the library, but she would not allow loud noise.
“My house is not haunted,” Cy said through clenched teeth.
“Oh yeah? Mary, tell him what happened to Ms. Kuwalchek. She lived in the house before you.”
“No, Rach. If he doesn’t want to know, it’d be wrong to tell him,” she said, remembering Mr. Landa’s advice. She wouldn’t force her help on Cy.
Cy looked at Rachel triumphantly. Rachel’s eyes narrowed in return. “Mary may feel that way, but I don’t.”
“Rach…” Mary said uneasily.
He threw his hands into the air. “Fine. What’s happened at my house before?”
Mary looked down at her hands trying to think of how to answer. She knew that he didn’t want to hear what she had to say. She felt a flash of anger at her best friend. Rachel might be right, and it might be good that she stuck to him and made him talk to Mary, but it put her in a bad situation and caused him to resent both of them.
“Mary, just tell me,” he said. She looked up at him. He’d calmed down some and was waiting for her to answer.
“A previous owner was burned terribly in a furnace explosion. That’s where I think the ghost is. He killed himself in the basement, along with his wife. He was a sick man. The man died; the sickness stuck around.”
“And what am I supposed to do about it?” he asked. She could tell that he didn’t give any credit to her news. He was humoring her.
“Let Mary and me come over and check it out. We can get rid of him for you,” said Rachel. Mary jumped at the surprise offer. She turned to her friend.
“Rach, that’s not a good idea.”
“What? Are you scared, Mary?” he asked.
“It’s hard not to be afraid when you believe in ghosts, and it’s hard not to believe in ghosts when they tell you that they’re there,” she said. Cy rolled his eyes and looked away.
“We’ll come over tonight,” Rachel said.
Mary stood and put her hands up to stop this rash plan. “Wait, that’s too soon. We have to plan or something.”
Rachel gave her a look that said not to ruin this. She glared back that this was NOT a good idea.
“We’ll be there tonight,” Rachel repeated.
“Whatever. I’ll see you after school,” he said. He shrugged on his book bag and left with his hands shoved in his pockets. Mary could tell by his hunched shoulders that he was not happy about the upcoming evening.
As soon as he was out of the library, she grabbed Rachel. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Her best friend shrugged. “Putting the ball in motion?”
“Why, so we can get squashed by it?”
“What do you need?”
“A plane ticket to Bermuda would be nice.”
Rachel grinned. “That could be our fee.”
She scowled at her. “We are not the Ghostbusters.”
“I know. We’re way cuter than Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray.” Mary wanted to shake Rachel and yell at her, but the bell rang.
Continue to Chapter 10