On this pitch-dark spooky Halloween night, Steve drove Cassie to a remote area up in the hills and parked across a shadowy street from an old abandoned mansion.
“Here we are!” Steve intoned as he turned off the ignition.
“Okay, now that we’re here, mind explaining why we’re here?” Cassie grunted, exasperation dripping from her voice. She hated having to work on Halloween night, particularly on one shrouded in mystery.
“Well this is kind of a stakeout.”
“Kind of? Would you care to elaborate on that?”
“See that mansion up on that hill?” he pointed.
Cassie followed the finger. “I see it. It looks abandoned.”
“So it seems but people have reported witnessing strange occurrences.”
“Let me guess; ghosts?”
“There have been rumours of such.”
“Oscar asked you to be on this stakeout?”
“Euh no,” Steve replied rather embarrassingly. “It was my idea. I thought it’d be fun to go ghost hunting seeing how it’s Halloween.”
“Ah Steve! You don’t believe in that stuff.”
“I don’t. But like I said people have seen peculiar occurrences so I thought we checked it out?”
“You’re not afraid, are you?” his teasing was rewarded with a steely stare. “Could be a front for some covert organisation. I mean why would there be activity when this place’s supposed to be deserted?”
“That makes sense.”
“Come on. Let’s go check it out.” He reached inside the glove department for two flashlights, then stepped out of the car and rounded to Cassie’s side.
“You and your bright ideas,” she sighed in despair.
“It’ll be fun.” He raved as he clasped her hand and steered up the path leading to the front door of the mansion. He applied a bionic force to the doorknob to break it open. “After you,” he invited gallantly with a wave of the hand.
“No, you go ahead.”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?” he chaffed with an elfish grin.
“Wipe that smug off your face, 34. I’m not. But since this is your harebrained idea, you lead the way.”
Steve shrugged at her insolence and entered the dark house, waving his flashlight around to better scan the premises and ensure the coast was clear. Dust-covered sheets mantled most of the furniture; floorboards squeaked beneath each step; chilling drafts coming from every crack in the wall. A huge staircase stood in the middle of the foyer.
“I think we should start upstairs,” Steve suggested but felt a grip on his arm.
“Why? I think we should start here on the main floor.”
“Why don’t be part ways to cover more ground? You check this floor while I look around upstairs?”
“I think we should stick together. Besides I don’t think we’ll find anything now. We should inspect this mansion during the day when we can see more clearly,” she suggested in a hushed voice.
“You ARE afraid,” Steve teased, getting a swat on the arm in return.
“Stop saying that. I’m not!”
“Why are you whispering then?”
“Elementary my dear Watson. If they are indeed people roaming these halls, you don’t want them to know they have unwanted guests, do you?” she quipped.
“The odd activity occurs at night. If you want to leave, it’s up to you. I’ll even give you the car keys.”
“So long as we’re here let’s make the most of it,” she sighed, rolling her eyes in annoyance.
“Why the hurry? It’s not as though you’re going trick or treating tonight,” he further goaded.
“Oh gee thanks for that reference to my age. Lead on, ghost buster.” she replied icily, giving him a light shove onward.
Steve flashed his light toward the dining room. Cassie followed closely on his heels with this eerie feeling that some one was watching them.
“I’ll go check the kitchen. You check the dining room.”
“Okay but don’t stray too far.”
“I promise,” he chuckled, giving her a kiss on the cheek, which gave her a slight start, much to Steve’s delight. “You are frightened.”
“You say that once more and you’re the one who’s going to be frightened; of me!” she warned sternly with a withering glare that Steve could sense piercing through him in the cloak of night.
Steve made his way to the kitchen while Cassie inspected the dining room. As she approached he door, she heard a distinct yelp. She hurried to the kitchen and searched for her partner.
“Steve, where are you? Are you okay?”
“I think so,” came the muffled voice.
“Where are you?”
“I fell through some rotten floorboards.”
Cassie flashed her light around. “I don’t see any hole. Can’t you climb back up?”
“I don’t think I can. I just realized I’ve dislocated my left shoulder. God, that hurts,” he rasped out. “See if you can find you way down here.”
“There must be a door leading to the basement somewhere.”
“I’ll try. You stay put.” Cassie methodically studied every corner of the main floor, groping her way to every door she encountered in her path. Finally one opened to her chosen destination and embarked on a scary trip down to a hellish hole with only the dim flashlight leading the way. “Steve, are you down here?
“Yeah. Over here! Follow the sound of my voice.”
“Are you okay?” As she climbed down the last step, lights blinded her and a loud “Surprise!” sent her jumping ten feet in the air, which caused her to back into a stack of crates. Steve’s grin turned to a worried frown as he dashed to her aid “Cassie, you all right?”
“What a question!” she shot back insolently. “You nearly gave me a heart attack. What’s the meaning of this?”
Oscar stepped out of the shadows to hand her a glass of champagne. “This was Steve’s idea to commemorate your first anniversary.”
“First anniversary of what?”
“Don’t you remember?” Steve asked, feigning innocence. When Cassie failed to recall he proceeded to explain that today marked the first day of their meeting.
“It’s us women who are sentimental about anniversaries. Men are known to forget them.”
“Not this guy,” Steve pointed at himself. “There hasn’t been a dull day since I’ve met you. I also am grateful to you for having yanked me out of my torpor after mom died. If it hadn’t been for you kicking my butt I might still be wallowing in self pity.” He walked up to her and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. “Thanks for a great year, 35.” They locked eyes for a moment before falling into each other’s arms to hug.
“Why did you pick this place to hold your party?”
“It’s the OSI’s newest acquisition,” Oscar piped up. “This will be converted into a boarding house for foreign agents on mission in Washington.”
As the crowd gathered around to discuss future plans for the mansion, a pair of dark eyes watched them from behind a picture on the wall.