The Jennings gang followed Miss Duvall and Chester, twittering about the grove and what they might see. Mrs. Jennings paused and smiled at me.
“I know you’re a skeptic, Travis, but I hope you and Corey will join us tonight.
Eleanor is convinced we’ll have a better chance of seeing the ghost if your sister’s with us.” “Don’t count on it,” I told her.
Mrs. Jennings sighed. “Chester was very tactless at dinner, but then I suppose that’s how it is when you’re a genius.
The ordinary rules don’t apply.” With another smile and a pat on my shoulder, she hastened after the others, leaving a trail of sickeningly sweet perfume behind her.
Across the room, Tracy cleared tables.
The setting sun shone through the windows and backlit her hair, making it shine like fine threads of gold. She turned and caught me staring at her. “What do you think of Chester and Eleanor?” she asked.
“Bona fide nut cases, both of them.” With a serious face, she set her heavy tray on my table. “If you’d been in the grove last night, you wouldn’t sound so smug.” More embarrassed than smug, I scraped the last bit of chocolate icing from my plate and licked it off my fork, tine by tine. “It’s all fake,” I said. “Corey and I wanted to make people think the inn was haunted so Grandmother would get more guests. She dressed up like a ghost and—” Tracy shoved her face so close to mine we were almost nose to nose. Which would have been a thrill if she hadn’t been so mad. “There was something in the grove last night—and it wasn’t Corey!” She snatched up my plate and fork, dumped them on her tray with a clatter, and huffed out of the dining room.
There I was, all by myself, surrounded by empty tables covered with dirty linen and crumpled napkins. It was obvious Tracy was never going to be my girl friend. Not only was I tactless and offensive, but I was shorter and younger than she was.
“It was your imagination,” I called after her, but the only answer I got was the whop, whop, whop of the kitchen door swinging back and forth.
“But what if it wasn’t?” the little voice asked, a little louder this time.
“What if . . . What if . . . ?” Exasperated, I tossed my napkin on the table and went to find Corey. I wished we’d never thought of the ghost game.
As it turned out, Corey agreed with me.
I finally found her sitting on the patio in the dark all by herself. At first she refused to look at me or answer any questions. “Why are you mad at me?” I asked her.
“What did I do?” She turned to face me. “I told you I wanted to read, but you made funny noises outside my door, threw apples at my window, and thumped on my wall. You even unplugged my light and my radio and changed the time on my clock.” I stared at her. “Are you crazy? I knocked on your door once and you told me to go away and I did. I never made funny noises or threw apples or thumped on your wall or anything.” “Then who did? Mr. Brewster?” “Corey, I swear to you I did not do that stuff.” “Oh,” she said sarcastically, “then it must have been the ghost.” We looked at each other in the moonlight, electrified by the same thought. “No joke,” I whispered. “No.” Corey folded her arms across her chest and shivered. “No joke.” Delicate shadows from the wisteria vine patterned the table and Corey’s face, shifting as the breeze blew. From somewhere in the darkness, an owl hooted and another answered. Much closer, I heard something that sounded like a muffled giggle.
“Did you hear that?” I whispered.
Corey shuddered. “A mouse,” she said.
“A cat, a bird. Nothing to be scared of.” “Admit it,” I said. “You’re scared—and so am I.” She shook her head stubbornly. “Speak for yourself.” At the same moment, we heard a whispering sound in the bushes and then the giggle—louder this time, followed by an eddy of cold air that tousled my hair and then Corey’s.
My sister jumped to her feet. “Let’s go inside.” The two of us ran to the inn and dashed through the kitchen door, sure we were being chased by an invisible gang of ghosts. Mrs. Brewster was scrubbing the sink.
She frowned when the screen door slammed shut. “What’s the big rush?” she asked.
“A person would think something was after you.” Neither Corey nor I knew what to say.
We just stood and stared at Mrs.
Brewster, wishing we were safely home in New York or even at Camp Willow Tree—anywhere but here.
“I thought you two were out there with them so-called psychics.” She waved a hand in the direction of the grove, where flashlights bobbed about in the dark. “They’re aiming to take pictures of things that don’t want their pictures taken,,” she muttered.
Grandmother opened the door to her apartment and poked her head into the kitchen. “Corey and Travis,” she said, “it’s time you were in bed.” At that moment, the power went off, and the inn became totally dark and silent—no lights, no radios, nnnnno humming refrigerator. Not a sound.
“Go get Henry,” Grandmother told Mrs.
Brewster. “The power’s out again. I meant to get the wiring checked the last time this happened.” Grandmother had no sooner lit a candle than we heard a commotion outside—shouts, screams, the sound of people running toward us as if they feared for their lives.
Tripping over each other in their haste to get inside, the Jennings gang poured into the kitchen. Behind them, Chester was yelling, “We got an image!” Grandmother closed her eyes and shook her head. “I don’t believe this.” In a louder voice, she repeated herself. “I do not believe this.” Someone giggled, and Grandmother glared at me, her face stern in the candle light. “This isn’t funny, Travis!” “I didn’t laugh.” The guests milled around the kitchen, stumbling over things in the darkness.
“Why are the lights off?” Mrs. Jennings cried. “Please turn them on,” Mrs. Frothingham begged. “We’ve had a terrible scare.” “Serves you right, you silly old scaredy-cat,” someone whispered, causing an outburst of giggles.
“Travis, apologize at once!” Grandmother said, shocked.
“It wasn’t me!” “I don’t care who said it,” Mrs.
Frothingham cried. “Just turn the lights back on.” “I’m sorry, but the power’s off.” Grandmother lit more candles. As the kitchen brightened, something scurried into the shadows, too quickly to be seen.
“I can fix tea,” Grandmother offered. Some wanted tea. Others wanted something stronger. Two or three wa...