“I,” Owain said without ceremony, “need your help.”
Leo blinked, set his half-filled coffee mug onto the table, glancing at Owain. “With what? If it has something to do with that file on the Murakami Cooperation—”
“Uh, not that.” Owain cut Leo off, his ears pinking. “Well, I mean yes, I do require some assistance with those documents, however, that is not the issue plaguing me at the moment.”
“Then, what is it?” Niles entered the room, holding a steaming cup of coffee.
“Ah, Niles, you’ve returned from your journey.”
“Yes, my treacherous journey to the recycling bin. It was filled with cardboard and empty plastic bottles.” Niles drawled. “I can regale you with the story at a later date if you wish. First, tell us, what is this problem you’re facing?”
Owain perked, though his ears were still pink. “Well, my problem is of a more… personal matter.”
Niles stared and then sipped his coffee. “How bold. At least let me finish my coffee.”
Leo sighed and looked at Niles who whistled and sipped more of his coffee. He then directed his gaze back to Owain. “What is this personal matter you wish to speak to us about?”
“It’s um… you know Clarine from accounting?”
Leo immediately pulled a mental image of the woman — petite, long light-coloured hair, prim, proper, always punctual, held a strong work ethic. “Yes.”
“She and I were having a discussion about housing and you know that house down 65th street, just off Maple Creek Road?”
“The what now?” Leo wasn’t in the habit of knowing every single street and road in the city.
Owain’s ears were now red. “You know, the area that flooded like five years ago? Everything underwater? People evacuated?”
Oh. That area. “Yes, I know of it.”
“Well, we ended up discussing that house and the rumours. Clarine said she doesn’t believe in supernatural and ghost and well we got into a heated argument and long story short—”
“You said you’d bring evidence.” Niles finished Owain’s sentence. “Well, I suppose we have some time next week to trapeze off to help you win an argument—”
“—I sort of told her I’d prove it to her tomorrow.” Owain blurted out, cutting Niles off. “Other wise she might accuse me of tampering with the evidence… or something.”
Tonight. Leo looked back at his report and then the time at the bottom of his screen. It read “17:34”. He then looked back at Owain who at least had the common sense to fidget a little.
“Tomorrow.” Leo breathed deeply. “You have to show it to her tomorrow?”
“Well… I like winning and I sort of don’t want to lose the money…”
“You’re now making bets?” Leo exhaled sharply.
“I didn’t mean to! It was sort of in the… heat of the moment…” Owain bit his lip. “Please? Leo? Niles? I’ll do the household chores for a week. And I’ll actually clean out that one filing cabinet you’ve asked me to go through for like a month. And I won’t burst into your offices just to kiss you and…”
“Enough.” Leo cut Owain off. “How much money did you bet with Clarine?”
Owain looked at his feet. Leo waited. Owain shuffled and then mumbled the answer. Leo sharply exhaled.
“I’m sorry! She said because she’s betting that much it’s only fair that I equal or match it because other wise it wouldn’t be worth it and…”
“Coffee.” Leo held out his mug. “You’re going to make me coffee. You’re going to bring it back to me and then you’re going to leave me alone until at least ten thirty. That house is a good half and hour drive. This report isn’t going to write itself.”
“Leo…” Owain’s eyes watered. You mean it?”
Owain rushed at him and hugged Leo tightly. Leo fought the urge to smile and wrap his arms around Owain.
Leo flushed. “Don’t make me change my mind.”
“Of course, I won’t!” Owain pulled away. “I’ll be on my best behaviour!”
He then took Leo’s coffee mug and with a kiss to Leo’s cheek, scuttled away. A beat passed before Niles walked over to Leo, pressing a kiss to the top of Leo’s head.
“He’ll go with or without us you know.”
“I know.” Leo groaned. “Hence I better work. This report isn’t going to write itself.”
“I’ll leave you to it.” Niles kissed Leo’s head one more time before he glided out, vanishing.
The house wasn’t what Hollywood would call “haunted”. For starters, even though it was abandoned the house wasn’t entirely dilapidated. The original colour of the house still stood out (a rustic beige) and the steps leading to the porch were still intact. In fact, the entire porch loop around was intact with only a bit of faded staining showing age and lack of upkeep. Even with one of the sides of the house slightly caved in, some of the windows broken, and the front door clearly missing, the house appeared only slightly out of shape. However, despite the lack of appearance to a traditional “haunted” location the house was linked to a particular legend. Leo had managed to sneak a little bit of research before leaving, in between writing his report.
The house itself simply had a huge stream of owners who simply received jobs in other cities or decided to move due to mundane reasons (health, needing a bigger house, etc.). Then, the housing market took a downhill turn after a misfortune in the area due to flooding. Now, the entire end of the block and onwards were abandoned homes due to safety concerns. The house they were visiting was simply one of the less ruined ones, escaping most of the waterlogging other houses had suffered and suffering only minor damages. That’s where the legend came in, stating that all the misfortune in the area was due to the house being cursed. The details of the legend varied but the main legend focused on a lover’s suicide, possible a century ago. Or perhaps a murder; the details weren’t entirely clear. Leo glanced down the street. If this house wasn’t on the corner and thus the beginning of the damaged area (as well as the legend), it probably would have people living in it and they wouldn’t be here tonight.
“This,” Owain dramatically stood, his hand over his eyes like an improvised sun visor, “is the spot.”
Niles sighed and walked up to Owain, laying a heavy hand on his shoulder. “It’s night. There is no need to pretend you need sunglasses.”
“But Niles, my nocturnal friend!” Owain whipped his head around, eyes sparkling. “Ghost hunters are like paranormal agents of law! We have to wear sunglasses for appearance.”
“By that line of logic, we’d need to wear black suits too.” Niles replied before lightly cuffing Owain on the head. “Come on. We don’t need to posture. No one is around.”
“You and Leo are.” Owain helpfully added.
“We don’t count.” Niles gave a fond smile.
“Oh, but you do!” Owain shook his head, stepping away from Niles slightly. “You and Leo mean the world to me and your opinions are more valuable than all the—”
A cool summer breeze whispered across the field. The house in front of them moaned with the wind, as the broken walls and windows acted like the gaps in a musical instrument. Leo pulled his light jacket over his shoulders tighter. June evenings had been cooler than normal for the year. Owain and Niles’s voices died with the wind and for a second, silence spread warmly over the area.
“Let’s finish this up.” Leo walked over, staring at the house in front of them. “I still need to edit that report, Niles has archery lessons to teach, and Owain you have work and a play rehearsal tomorrow.”
“Righty-o!” Owain snapped his posture upright.
“Yeah,” Niles echoed softly. “Let’s find a ghost.” His lips twisted half skeptic, half fondly. “Even though a ghost could throw a rock at him and he wouldn’t notice.”
Owain gasped dramatically, placing a hand over his heart. “Niles! How could you say that? About your boyfriend! I thought you loved me.”
Niles rolled his eye. “I love you even with your spiritual denseness.”
“Niles!!” Owain drew the first syllable out.
“Fine. I love you as much as someone who just recently discovered one of his boyfriends is making deals behind my back…”
Leo huffed and their conversation faded. “We can have this conversation later. Let’s just go in, look around, and leave.”
“Don’t forget see a ghost! Or ghosts, if the lover’s suicide is to be believed.” Owain bounced over to Leo, the previous conversation laid to rest. “The world needs more proof!” He then turned on a flashlight, keeping the light dim.
Proof. Leo lazily drew his gaze over to the house in question and wished he was back at home, editing his report. Except they weren’t and Leo was instead at a supposedly haunted house. The things he did out of love. Though, having him around would speed the process up. Ghost hunting without Leo almost always took a longer amount of time. Pulling his jacket again, Leo walked up to the house, Niles and Owain in tow. Stopping by the door’s entrance, Leo stared into the house. The interior was just as much as a disaster as suspected. Leo wrinkled his nose.
“Leo?” Niles warmly threw an arm over his shoulders. “You see anything?”
“Just the house.” Leo replied. “You?”
“Nothing. Not even an inkling.” Niles edged Leo inside, kicking an empty beer can, the echo fading into the house.
“We won’t see anything if we just gawk in the door way!” Owain popped up, pressing his body against Leo’s back. “Unless you have a super power that I wasn’t aware of?”
“Seeing ghosts isn’t a superpower.” Leo automatically said.
“It sure is.” Owain cheerfully brushed past Leo. “At least, I think so. It’s definitely a super power.”
Super power, huh? Leo looked at the entrance of the house. Besides the usual dirt, litter, dust, animal, and plant life taking over, there was nothing remarkable. All abandoned houses began to look the same to Leo. There even was offensive graffiti on the walls. Distasteful. Leo walked further in and into the room that at once was the living room. The fireplace was definitely unusual with the chimney half caved in. There was broken glass all over the floor and more graffiti. No furniture was in the room and Leo thanked whoever made that possible. Seeing bugs crawl out of destroyed furniture was disgusting. Circling the room, Leo continued onward, into what was probably at one point the kitchen. Again, no furniture or appliances, but there was a sink. Leo skirted around the sink, not looking at the it. More beer cans and more dirt. More signs of animal and plant life. No ghosts.
“I’m not feeling anything.” Niles reported, stepping in with a twist of distain on his lips.
“Same here.” Owain followed.
Niles half chuckled. “Right, well if there is nothing here perhaps, we can continue onward? There are still the bathrooms, the bedrooms, and whatever else is around.”
“I’m not setting foot in the bathrooms.” Leo frowned. He had seen moldy, bug, and maggots in bathrooms. It was enough to unsettle his stomach.
“If I was a ghost I wouldn’t hang out in a bathroom.” Niles muttered.
“We’ll never know unless we look!” Owain beamed. “Also, if you two don’t see anything we could try a Ouija board.”
Leo rolled his eyes. Ouija board were a gimmick at best. At worst they were a sign of capitalism taking advantage of people’s terror and superstition. Continuing onward, they found the family room (just as destroyed as the previous rooms), the bathrooms (Leo didn’t walk into those, just glanced in), and a sitting room out the back (surprisingly clean). Nothing. That left upstairs. Continuing onward, the only spike of surprise in Leo’s heart was when one of the steps was missing and he almost plunged his foot into the broken part.
Upstairs was just as dusty and gross. Leo mindfully opened some doors (or the ones that were present) and glanced around. Nothing in the first two rooms (a small room that could have been an office or a guest room), and another bathroom (again, Leo didn’t walk inside). However, as they approached the master bedroom, Niles paused, his single eye narrowing.
“Cold.” He muttered. “Maybe something really is here.”
“Really?!” Owain whipped his head around. “Are you sure? I’m feeling rather warm.”
“Again, that’s because a ghost could throw a rock at your head and—”
Niles stopped. Leo blinked and glanced behind Owain, into the master bedroom. There, standing by the window was a translucent figure. From the distance it was tough to distinguish details to their appearance, but Leo was able to spot a hat. The hat was old fashioned, perhaps from the early 1920’s.
“…are you seeing something?” Owain’s eyes were wide, his flashlight a dull light at his side. “Tell me you’re seeing something!” He lightly shook Niles. “Niles?”
“I see what I always see when I see a ghost.” Niles replied.
Owain’s smile widened. “Then!!!” He whipped his head so fast Leo was more concerned about whiplash than the ghost. “Leo?”
“Yeah, there’s something here.” Leo tilted his head and then walked in. “Hello, spirit?”
Naturally the spirit didn’t turn or react. Leo hid a yawn, really, all they should do was take a picture and leave but he wasn’t going to be rude.
“I’m not going to ask you to touch something or talk to us. I can see you.” Cutting to the heart of the matter was the most important. “All I’d like is for you to turn around for us.”
This time the ghost did slightly turn. Now that they were turned a little, Leo could spot a few more details. Hair to shoulder, swept to the side, a traditional kimono, gloves, as though it was spring or fall for the ghost.
“Hello.” Leo stared directly at the ghost. “Sorry to bother you—”
“You can really see me?” The voice was soft, hard to distinguish much. “Truly?”
“Yes, it’s a gift.” Leo jabbed a finger backwards to Owain. “Could you possibly help one of my boyfriends out? He’d appreciate if you’d allow him to take a photo.”
“A photo.” The ghost dryly said. “That’s all you want? Not here to figure out why I’m a ghost?”
“Is that something you wish to share?” Leo tilted his head. “I’ve learned that sometimes that information is sensitive.”
“It is.” The ghost then gave a wide smile, almost too wide and inhuman. “I like you. Sure. I’ll let your boyfriend take a photo. Which one? The sunshine beam or the silver haired one?” They pointed.
“Why is the ghost pointing at me?” Niles mildly asked.
If the ghost could blink Leo was certain they would have. “He can see me?”
“He can sort of see you, sense you… whatever you care to call it.” Leo replied. “And the other one.”
“Sunshine beam?” The ghost confirmed. “Sure.”
Great. Leo turned to Owain. “You can take a photo. The ghost says you can.”
“You’re the best!” Owain grinned and then bounced into the room, phone in hand. “Uh…”
Leo turned Owain around, so he was facing the ghost. “They’re here—”
The ghost had moved and was rather close to Owain, head tilted. Their arm was out and they were poking Owain’s shoulder. Their hand just went through.
“Um… what are you doing?”
“My apologies. His voice just sounded similar to someone I knew.” If the ghost could they would have shrugged. “Not important.” They then moved away, standing in front of Owain. “You can take the photo.”
“Great.” Leo angled Owain properly. “Take the photo and let’s go.”
“Uh… here?” Owain held his phone up.
Owain snapped the photo and then looked at his phone. “No way!” He grinned. “Look, a silvery outline, a hat, a…”
“That’s lovely.” Leo gently touched Owain’s hand, forcing the phone down and towards his pocket. “Thank you for the cooperation. We’ll take our leave now.”
“Sure, sure,” The ghost waved a hand, “stop by any time… or not… whatever you like.”
Leo nodded and turned to direct Owain out when he suddenly stiffened and looked in the same general direction as the ghost. “Wait, can I ask a question?”
“The ghost says you can.” Leo informed Owain.
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, that?” The ghost laughed. “Well it’s—”
A light breeze blew in as the ghost spoke, carrying the smell of camellia flowers along with their name.
Niles stood up from the café’s chair and glowered at the blond man in front of them (Owain, Leo was certain). “You sought us out because of some rumours on campus?”
“Yes? Are they true, or did I ramble on for fifteen minutes for nothing?” Owain asked.
Lying was their go-to-answer. Leo didn’t like advertising his “ability”. All that would do was spell trouble. Still, trouble always found a way. At least the café’s coffee was good and their pastry selection wide. Leo would have to swipe an orange scone before they left.
“If it was, are you being serious?” Niles asked.
“Of course, I am!” Owain filled his cheeks with air like a chipmunk. “I want to form a ghost hunting team with you and Leo.”
Leo rubbed his forehead and stood up, touching Niles on the shoulder. “So, let me sum this up. You sought us out because of the rumour that I can straight up see ghosts, Niles is kind of sensitive to them, and you, as you put it, could be hit by a rock by one and not notice—"
“That last part was your companion’s paraphrasing, but yes.”
“—so the only logical conclusion you came up with after all of this is ‘let’s form a ghost hunting team’, correct?”
“That’s about it!” Owain grinned, “So?? What do you say?”