Chapter 3

It wasn't until I left school that I realized that I had forgotten the business card in the pocket of the jeans I had worn yesterday. Nice going, Skyler. Before I could sigh and start trudging back home, a familiar screech pulled my attention to the street.

I couldn't help but smile at the rabbit van. Okay, it was more the fact that Max was waving at me from the driver's seat. I hopped in, unsuccessfully holding back a grin. "Thanks for picking me up."

Max shrugged as he pulled from the curb. "I cut out of Government early, so I thought I'd do something useful, you know? Anyway, how are you doing? I mean, not freaking out or anything, right?"

"Yeah—I mean, no. I'm fine. Peachy keen. Well..." I started, hoping Max had a white knight complex. "I was threatened by this one weird kid."

"Weird kid, what weird kid?" He asked, sounding more curious than ready to spring to my defense. Whatever, I'd take what I could get. Which was, at the moment, him giving me glances when he could as we drove. His expression open and warm. It was obvious that he was one of those people who had friends wherever he went and made them easily.

"Constantine Vegas. I think he went—"

"Connie Vegas!?" He interrupted me, slamming on the breaks at the next stop sign.

I rocked forward with the movement, feeling yet again nervous about the twig boy. "Yeah."

"He didn't like..." he made a weird finger-waving hand gesture at me, when words failed, "you or anything?"

"I don't think so." I said, completely unsure about that.

"You should get some salt."

"What the hell is with the salt?"

"Salt...keeps bad things away." He shrugged as he drove through the intersection. "It's like a purifying thing. Everybody put salt in front of their doors and windows back when some kids started disappearing. And fire. Fire's purifying too. That's why they burned Maggie Warren."

"They burned her? Angry-mob style?"

"This was like two hundred years ago. No, wait, Maggie was in the fifties. Grace Van Har—Something was like two hundred years ago."

I had only wanted a little concern over my well being that ended in some mild flirting, not a morbid history lesson, I swear. "Does Wisteria make a habit out of burning women?"



"They burned them alive. At the stake. Actually I think only Grace was burned at the stake. The papers say they locked Maggie in a house then burned it down., whatever you would call that."

"What?" Like a broken record, but it was a surprise—even after last night—that I lived in a place that had so many acts of immolating people, that it was easy to confuse them.

"I mean, compared to all the people they burned after they were dead, two's not that many."

"You mean like cremation?"

"Well, yeah, except it wasn't like planned. In the thirties, there was this gang of people who went around stealing dead bodies from hospitals and stuff and burning them."

"Why?" At least I had graduated from "what."

Max gave a laugh and shrug. "Because it's Wisteria, dude."

From the shit I'd already seen, I guess that was an answer. "So where are we going?" I asked, much more straight forward than why our hometown was so bat shit insane.

"You'll see. And you'll get to meet Turner." He swallowed hard, sobering. The attention he put on the road increased and his thumbs beat out a nervous rhythm on the steering wheel. "He—Turner—He doesn't have any legs. I mean, they're gone from the knee down, so he still has legs kinda. He's in a wheelchair. And I know it's rude to just say it like that." He turned to me for the first time during his little speech. Big, brown eyes imploring me to believe that he knew it was rude to blurt out people's disabilities. I nodded reassuringly. "It's just that he doesn't like people staring, so I thought I'd warn you—fuck! Not, warn-warn...I don't know."

We turned into a residential neighborhood, this one not creepily cookie-cutter. He parked in front of a two-story yellow house. As soon as we were stopped, Max rubbed his hands over his face. "I'm not good at stuff like this."

I reached out and patted his shoulder—and kind of left my hand there, hey, you never got anywhere if you didn't press your luck. "It's okay. I get it. We just met and for all you know I could be a raging douche who would say something horrible or rude to your friend. I do get it. And I'm not. A douche, that is. I won't stare or anything."

His hands had left his face and he was nodding, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. He was so cute. His hair was all haphazard and in his eyes. I couldn't help myself. I scooted closer and moved my hand from his shoulder to brush the hair from his face. My tongue swept across my bottom lip and Max's eyes flicked down to watch. Perfect opening for some serious lip-locking.

Max jerked away.

Or not.

Max coughed and started talking before I could force out an awkward apology. "Yeah, we're here. We should go. They're probably all waiting and stuff. The girls get snippy if you make 'em wait. And PJ. And Turner, too, actually." The thought pulled him to stop, but only for a second. Then he was opening his door and stumbling out, more escaping than exiting the van.

The evidence was really piling up for Max not playing for my team. Dammit!

I got out of the van at a normal speed. Having been in this same situation before, I wasn't feeling embarrassment of the hide-in-a-hole level. Plus Max wasn't being an ass about it. I mean, I didn't get punched in the face or anything. It wasn't as horrible as it could have been. There was disappointment forming in my chest, though. Max was so sweet.

And hot. Come on, I was only human.

I tried to shake it off and focus on business. Like where the hell were we? Whose house was this? It looked just as normal as all the other houses around it. There wasn't any sign that a paranormal investigation agency hung out here enough that it was cited on their business card.

Max, despite his quiet freak out, waited for me by the door to the house. In fact, he held the door open for me. He studiously avoided making eye contact, his cheeks stained with a blush. God. It was a good thing he wasn't looking at me. He'd probably be able to clearly read my desire to go down on him in my expression.

Again, I was only human.

The first thing I noticed about the inside of the house was the noise. Four—I think it was four—little kids were running around, yelling about whatever game they were playing. They stopped—yeah, there were four, three boys, one girl—as soon as they caught sight of Max. I got out of the way as they rushed to mob him.

I was super confused until I spotted the framed pictures on the wall. In them, PJ grew from a crabby-looking baby to the scruffy dude I had met yesterday, the rabid hurricane of little kids currently besieging Max popped into the frames all at the same time—quadruplets. Yikes.

PJ himself appeared then, coming through a door that was little off the living room. "Hey guys. Welcome to casa de Grant, Sky." I was about to remind him that my name was actually Skyler, but he was soon gone again, disappearing down a hallway that lead further into the house.

I was going to ask Max if he needed help with the hellions, but he was making his way through them now, tossing each of them onto the couch where they bounced and shrieked with laughter. I guess it was cute, but I had never really liked super young kids. They just made me feel awkward and incompetent. Which was actually progress since when I had been a little kid, other little kids had terrified me.

"Just through there." Max pointed out the door PJ had come out of, a bit out of breath. I fled before Max could completely extract himself from the kids' shouts of "Again! Again!"

Through the door was the garage. There were stacks of cardboard boxes and abandoned exercise equipment like in anyone's garage, but space had been made for the scuffed-up dining table, the mismatched chairs around it, and the old file cabinets. This, I was pretty sure, was the actual headquarters for their "agency."

Tami was sitting on a weight bench arguing with a boy at the table that I hadn't met before—obviously Turner.

He had dark eyes behind black-framed glasses and dark hair that was curly enough I had to make a mental note not to touch it. Yeah, I so wasn't a spazz. But I just wanted to pull on the end of one of the curls and make sound effects as it sprang back into shape. He was...of Middle Eastern decent, I guessed. Being horribly unworldly, that was as much as I could pin it down.

"You know I have shit to do, right?" He demanded. He was pissed. Did the paranormal really get peoples' panties in such a habitual twist? First Zoe, and now this kid. Or was it just me? Speaking of Zoe, she was at the table too, slumped over using her crossed arms as a pillow. Apparently, it was nap time.

"Do I look like I care?" Tami demanded of Turner. No, no she didn't. Before he could respond, she turned towards me where I was just standing there like a jackhole and gestured back and forth between the two of us. "Turner, Sky. Sky, Turner. There, now we're all caught up."

"It's Skyler, actually." I was finally able to point out. Tami just gave me a look, making it clear that she was still very much in the default "don't give a shit" factory mode.

"Well, Skyler," Turner started, emphasizing my name so much, he might as well have just called me a dick and gotten it over with. "Why are you here? This isn't a game." Well, that was…blunt. And unwelcoming.

"I'm aware." I couldn't help but add some snip to my tone. I was aware, thank you very much. I had nearly been killed by a reanimated corpse. That would pretty much impress the seriousness of the situation on anyone and I liked to think I wasn't the dimmest crayon in the box.

"We'll see about that." I bristled at his doubting tone. He was the dick. He didn't even know me.

Max and PJ trying to enter the garage ended the little stare off I was having with Turner. Well, I was having the stare off, I was glaring, he wasn't. It was more of a just slightly annoyed look, like he couldn't even bother to get properly angry at me like he had been with Tami.

Fine, whatever, I totally got it. I wasn't in the club yet.

I got out of their way. I heard PJ mumble something like "here we go." Max locked the door behind him—there was a flimsy one on the door knob as well as a bolt lock installed vertically on the top of the door—security measures against PJ's brothers and sister I assumed. Louder PJ proclaimed, "Got snacks!" He threw two bags of chips and a six pack of pop onto the table, which was enough to get Zoe's attention.

She ripped open a bag and pointed a chip at me. "Sup, blondie?"

I just took a chair, already over trying to get them to use my real name. I didn't mean to, but I ended up right across from Turner. He had a notebook and a small calendar open in front of him. He noticed my stare and closed his notebook with a snap that managed to sound bitchy.

"Oh, hey, I got like new business or whatever." PJ started, as Max sat down next to me and grabbed a can of root beer.

"What?" Tami demanded the exact same time Turner said, "No." I don't know for sure if Tami was returning Turner's glare since she was behind me now, but I was really starting to get what PJ and Max had been saying the night before. Bitch-fest.

"You brought him." Turner pointed out to Tami.

"Do it, PJ."

PJ looked between Tami and Turner, confused. "Was that new business or make sure new kid won't eat our skin?"

"Ah…what?" I demanded. "That's not…I'm not going to do that." I wasn't. Unless that was some kind of horribly gross euphemism. Even then, the only one I had any desire of "eating" was Max, and he didn't seem too interested in playing main course.

"Yeah, that's what they all say." Zoe remarked. "You know how many times it was a lie?" She shook up one of her sleeves to show me a scar on her left forearm. It definitely looked like teeth marks. So, literally eat their skin, then. "Ask the Mumbler scar."

"Mumble?" I was pretty sure that was what she said.

"To be fair, Mumblers don't mess around with pretending to be anything but fucked up monsters." PJ pointed out as he went to one of the filing cabinets and started to dig around inside. "The ones that do, those are the ones you gotta watch out for."

Zoe rolled her eyes as she crunched through another chip. "Well, excuse me. I'm sorry I didn't stick my arm in Tina's bitch-mouth so I can more properly serve as a cautionary tale." She threw her next chip at PJ.

"Any time now." Turner snapped at PJ.

I looked at Max, he shot me a reassuring smile. Or at least, he tried to. I started to get nervous. I mean, the issue was proving that I wasn't…what? A fucked up monster, as PJ had put it. How the hell were they going to do that? And what the hell was PJ getting out of the cabinet!?

It was a wooden box. He put it down on the table in front of me. If there was anything sharp in there, I was getting the fuck out of here. I couldn't help but look back towards the door. Which was locked. I looked over at Max, but he was studying his can of pop like the list of ingredients was going to be on a midterm. My heart started beating faster.

Turner reached over and lifted the lid on the box since I was just staring at it. Inside was a… mirror, I guess. It was one of those mirrors with a handle, it looked silver, though I didn't know if it really was. Most of the glass of the mirror was missing, but there was a still a sizable shard left stuck to the metal. The weirdest thing about it was that the glass of the mirror was black. I stared at my crappy reflection as I felt my pulse calm down. No scalpel or bone saw, I could do this. Except.. "What do you want me to do with it?"

"Touch it." Tami said from behind me. Like right behind me. I jumped and turned to find her standing behind my chair. Also not comforting. I took a second to look at everyone else. Snacks and bitching forgotten for the moment, they were all staring at me, tense.

Okay, time to get this over with. I touched the black glass of the mirror with one finger. There! All done, now we could—

You will never destroy me!

I jumped at the screaming voice, the rest of the group jumped back too. "What the hell was that!?" I demanded, holding my hand against my like it had bitten me. Though it hadn't hurt, just felt a little cold.

"What was what?" Tami put her hands on my shoulders like she thought I was going to get up.

"The um…" I looked around the room again to only see confusion and that same tension gearing up again. They…hadn't heard it? I belatedly realized they had moved after I had, a reaction to me rather than that fucking creepy voice. Well, that wasn't fucking good. The image of Max wiping gore off of his bat flashed through my head. I decided not to share unless they brought up weird disembodied voices up first. "Yeah, sorry." I forced a little laugh. "Made ya jump."

"That's not funny, dude." PJ complained.

"Stop fucking around! Touch it again, new kid." Zoe pushed at the box, almost making the whole thing fall into my lap. I wasn't sure it was a good idea, but with Tami holding me down, I wasn't going anywhere. Besides, I don't think I had really sold them on the fact that I wasn't a monster or a Mumbler, whatever-the-fuck that was.

I touched a finger to the glass again and held my breath. I waited for the screaming. Nothing. I pressed my palm to the glass before I realized what I was doing. Was I fucking disappointed? I was. It was my second brush with the supernatural, it made sense that I was disappointed that I been too busy reacting to it like a jump-scare to appreciate it.

"Congratulations, you're human." Tami said as she let go of me. She went back to sit on the weight bench.

I let out a relieved breath as the tension leaked from the room. I looked across the table to catch Turner's eye. I wasn't sure if he agreed with Tami, there was something questioning in his expression. I looked away when Max reached over and awkwardly patted my wrist. I felt like a dog that had just been tricked into going to the vet. PJ grabbed the box and put it back into the filing cabinet. "Get all our notes while your over there, PJ."

"What do I look like, a golden retriever?" PJ grumbled, but obediently got out a binder and tossed it to me. Not ready to have things chucked at my face, I just flinched like a dumb ass. Thankfully, Max had some quick reflexes.

"Be careful. You know Zoe won't do any of this again." Max warned PJ as he passed it along to me.

"Damn straight I won't." Zoe sounded proud of that fact. "Do I have to be here while you tell the new kid about all the things that want to eat and/or skull-fuck him?"

"Um, is that an exaggeration or has that been an actual issue in the past?" I asked. There had been no mention of skull-fucking up until this point. It made me hesitant to open the binder in front of me. Turner snatched it away from me before I could get over it.

"You know where the door is." He said simply, going back to his calendar.

I spoke up over the grumbling of Max and Tami. "Hey! That's not fair. I'm perfectly entitled to get freaked out by the idea of a monster skull-fucking."

Turner didn't look at all impressed. "I already told you once, this isn't a game." His dark eyes bore into mine, judging everything he saw in them. "If the idea of getting skull-fucked terrifies you, it means you don't belong here and that you have a terrible imagination. The creatures we're up against are very creative." He turned to PJ. "Get the file box."

"Dude, he just got here." Max protested.

"And I'll have to fucking clean it up if he pukes." PJ complained.

"Okay, yeah, I'm gone if you're getting that shit out." Zoe got up and tugged on Max's shirt. "Make yourself useful and unlock the door." As he went to go let Zoe out, I turned to Tami for…I don't know, I already knew I wasn't going to get any kind of reassurance.

"It's pretty bad, but I—" She sighed and rolled her eyes. "I agree with Turner. You need to see exactly what you're getting into. We can talk at you all day, but you probably won't get it until we're nipple-deep in a dangerous situation. And you'll freak out and we'll all die. So let's avoid that."

PJ kicked an empty paint can towards me. "Puke in there." I righted the can and swallowed hard. Obviously whatever was in the file box PJ got out of the cabinet and slid down the table towards me was gross and trauma-inducing. I tried to brace for it, but it just made anxiety squirm through my guts, I just wanted to rip the cover off of the box and get it over with. It was no surprise the scares that got to me most in movies were proceeded by a long build up and creepy tension music.

I reached for the box hesitantly, but when no one spoke, I grabbed the lid. Inside were files. I grabbed one at random and flipped it open. Holy shit! I nearly dropped it from shock as I realized what I was looking at. A police report. "How did you get these? This has to be really illegal."

"We stole them." Turner answered. "It wasn't all that difficult. The sheriff's department is less than competent."

"You can say that again." Max grumbled. He was still standing by the door despite the fact that Zoe was long gone. I guess he didn't want to go through this stuff again. Though I didn't see how frightening written accounts of crimes could be.

"Though I'd hate to see what would happen to them if they were." Turner went on. He reached over and flipped to the next section of documents in the file I was holding. That was a fucking autopsy report. Thanks to Turner, the pack of papers moved and a few pictures fell out from the back of the file. They landed on the table, face up so I was hit with a collage of pale, very dead-looking skin and the vague impression of parts before my brain tried putting everything together.

I pulled the rest of the photos from the file and laid them out on the table. There were four dead people. A middle aged woman and man, and two teenage girls. The woman and the girls all had deep auburn hair. The fact made me realize that it was a family. A family that had been taken apart like pigs in a butcher's shop. They had been…reassembled, but it still very clear they had been taken apart with horribly neat cuts.

"What happened to them?" I asked, ripping my gaze away from the pictures. Looking up, I met Turner's gaze again.

"Oh, the Sharp murders." Tami said, claiming Max's abandoned seat.

"Good, at least you're not starting with Gordon." PJ said with relief, coming back to join the table, too.

"I wouldn't start there." Turner huffed.

"Yeah, you would, you're an asshole." PJ beamed at Turner, before turning to me. "Okay, the Sharps. Just your nice, average family—" PJ switching into storyteller mode, was interrupted by Tami.

"Your nice, average family that was cut up in their own kitchen."

"Way to ruin it." PJ complained. "But yeah, they found them in the kitchen, with their parts like fucking posed. Mom's arm tied to the fridge door handle, her legs sitting at the table, her head in the oven. They were all like that. And that's not even the worst part—"

"It left the youngest kid alive." Tami interrupted once again, earning her a glare from PJ. "The neighbors found the kid hiding under the kitchen table the next day."

"And get this…" PJ trailed off and looked at Tami to see if she was going to interrupt again. She waved a hand at him to get him to go on. "When they got the kid talking—which took like a week, 'cause, you know, he was traumatized as shit—he said the oven did it."

I just looked at PJ. That sounded like a really crappy B-movie. The Night the Kitchen Appliances Attacked.

"And when the police looked into it, they found out the oven was—"

"It was a ghost." Turner explained, taking his turn to cut off PJ. I half-wondered if they had a plan for when PJ started talking like he was sitting at a campfire.

"Fucking fine! Take all of the joy out of my life." PJ complained, literally throwing up his hands. "Restaurateur went a little serial killer, killed himself before the police got him, oven got sold off in an sale, found its way to the Sharp house infected with the ghost of said serial killer. There? Ya happy?"

"So ghosts can really attach themselves to objects?" I asked. I had seen more than one horror movie with that premise. But they usually chose to get stuck to creepy dolls and antique jewelry, not industrial appliances. Real life, always so less glamorous than the movies.

"Yeah." Max answered.

I ran my gaze over the gruesome pictures again and swallowed hard. "This is horrible. I get that. I know this is serious, okay?" I said the last more to Turner than anyone else. "And I haven't changed my mind. If I can help, I want to."

Max shot me a smile.

"Maybe we should show him Gordon." PJ said.

"No. He knows he can die. You want to know what happens if you live?" Turner asked me.

"Turner, you don't have to—" Max started, but Turner cut him off.

"Shut up!" With that, he wheeled himself so he wasn't behind the table anymore and I could clearly see his chair. "Did you think this happened in some run-of-the-mill tragic accident?"

I hadn't thought about how it had happened when Max told me about it. I'd been too concerned with reassuring Max to think about it.

"What did it?"

"You don't need the details. All you need to know is if I kept my head down and ignored all of this shit, I'd still be able to walk. Think about that." I just stared back at him. Admittedly, I had been looking at it as a death or nothing situation.

"He can't ignore it. He's already in it." Max spoke up while I tried to take in what Turner just told me.

"He got chased by a zombie, that's barely anything."

"He had a run in with Connie Vegas."

The fact that Turner shut up at that made me think some of the rumors flying around about that boy had to have some truth to them. Tami and PJ even looked like this was a serious issue. What the hell was up with that skinny boy?

"What happened?" Tami asked with all the intensity of a cop getting the story from a victim of a crime.

I related our literal run in quickly. PJ laughed at me as soon as I was done. Tami smacked him in the arm.

"What? You can't get mad at me. This kid managed to get chased by a zombie and make an enemy out of Connie Vegas in the same twenty-four hour period. That's fucking funny, okay?"

"Okay, what the hell is up with Connie Vegas?" I asked out loud. I already asked Shay, but they would probably know more being a paranormal investigation agency and all.

Tami dragged the forgotten bag of chips closer and sighed. "We don't know exactly."

"We have theories." Turner responded. Tami responded in turn by rolling her eyes and making a dismissive jerk off gesture.

"Whatever's up with that kid, it's some dark juju." PJ said. Turner was the one to roll his eyes now.

"His grandmother is a medium. We're pretty sure that's legit." Max said.

PJ snorted. "Grandma, right. Gloria Vegas isn't a grandmother. She likes to garden topless, and trust me, those are not grandma boobs."

"You're so gross." Tami vocalized what the expression on my face was giving PJ.

He held up his hands. "All I'm saying is that's she's not old enough to be Connie's grandma. And that's fishy as hell." He spun the bag of chips to grab out a handful.

"So what should I do?" I asked. The silence that followed that question was not inspiring.

"We'll get you some salt." Max said and nudged me with an elbow.

"And who is that Gordon guy you guys keep talking about?"

Turner reached for the box of files, but PJ knocked his hand away. "Dude, not when I'm eating, fuck."

"Gordon used to work with us." Max answered again.

"He was the—well, one of—town's nutcases." PJ started. "Only that he wasn't actually bat shit, just more knowledgeable of all of the strange stuff that goes on around here."

"Oh, so he was like an honorary member, too?" I wondered if they freaked him out with a human test.

"No, he was actually useful." Turner said. I glared at him, not that he saw it because he opened up his notebook again and was going over whatever he had written in there.

PJ disrupted my attempt at making Turner burst into flames with just the power of my mind by throwing a chip at me. "This is the part where you ask what happened to him."

"Do I want to know?"

PJ nodded emphatically. "You just don't want to see the pictures."

I rolled my eyes as I realized PJ wasn't going to tell me until I actually asked. I wanted to ask him if he had been thrown out of some kind of campfire story club and was jonesing all the time now. "What happened to him?" I asked in a monotone.

"He got nailed to his wall like a rat."

"Who the fuck nails rats to walls?" Tami asked, stealing the chip bag back.

"And you can't actually nail a person to a wall, their body weight wouldn't let the nails hold them in place." I pointed out.

It was PJ's turn to roll his eyes at me. "Oh, excuse me, Mr. Fucking Science. I'll have you know it's a lot easier if you then proceed to open the person up like an anatomy diagram and then spread all of the eternal organs all over the walls. Well, 'smeared' is a better word. And they did this... thing to his face." He shuddered but didn't elaborate. "Zoe thinks the same thing will happen to us, that's why she's against the business cards."

"She does have a point." Tami said. "He ended up on the wall right after he started talking about getting all of his research published."

"Like in a science journal?"

"No, like a paranormal thriller or some shit. Some publishers were interested in it."

"You all knew the risks." Turner added, not bothering to look up from his notes. "Besides I think we found a... permissible balance. We do operate in the open, but we don't go around and try to convince everyone that they're surrounded by monsters. That's why I support the business cards."

"Yes! A man with vision and taste." PJ tried to high five Turner, but the other boy refused to humor him.

"Permissible?" I asked and he did look up then.

"Exactly. Gordon was a cautionary tale. Whoever—whatever—killed him did so to let people like us know what was allowed and what wasn't. That 'whatever' being far and above our pay grade."

"Do you guys run into those things often?"

"Once." Max answered, his voice hollow and his eyes stuck on something in the middle distance. Things got quiet again.

PJ broke the silence with a subject change. "Yeah, Wisteria is a magnet for weird shit, but, hey, at least you're gay."

"What?" I had to ask. I felt like I had a stroke in the middle of the sentence since the beginning and end made no sense crammed together.

"Kinda hard not to notice with how you've been eye fucking Max since you've met him, dude."

I could feel the heat crawl up my face as I blushed. I resolutely did not look at Max. Even though I knew it wasn't news to him. Tami started laughing. Laughing at me, definitely. PJ looked like he was going to start, too. Turner was still too preoccupied with his notes to give a fuck.

"I wasn't asking how you knew I was gay, I was asking what the hell you were talking about."

"The population of individuals who identify as queer in Wisteria is statistically higher than in most other areas of the country. Especially for small towns." Turner said. He was apparently a multitasker. The fact that he was paying attention made me blush more.

"Yeah, chock full of queers." PJ said with a gesture that encompassed everyone at the table. "It's hard out here for a straight guy."

"Boo fucking hoo." Tami picked up the chip that had bounced off of me and threw it back at PJ.

So Tami, Turner, and Max were something other than straight? That was good to know. I just wanted to figure out where and on what spectrum Max identified. Now was definitely not the time to ask, though, not with how PJ just laid out all my business like that. Jerkwad.

"Didn't you have new business?" Turner asked PJ.

"Oh, right! Yeah, bad news, guys, we have to relocate the headquarters for awhile. Or maybe permanently, don't know yet."

"What the fuck did you do?" Tami demanded, smacking him on the shoulder.

"It's not my fault! Mostly. I just came home smelling like weed and now my mom's gearing up to nose through all of my shit. We have to move this stuff before she ships me off to rehab or Gatewaters."

"So what are we supposed to 'relocate'? My place is definitely out."

"Your house is huge, it'd be perfect." PJ argued.

"I already got into enough trouble over this, I'm not getting into anymore." Tami's tone didn't brook for any argument so PJ moved on to the next target.

"Max! Your mom's always working."

"Doesn't mean she won't find the stolen police files. It's like a mom super power. And there's a lot of stairs." Max sent an apologetic look towards Turner, but the other boy just responded with a dismissive gesture.

"Turner, your parents let you get away with anything now, how's about it?" I cringed at PJ's bluntness, but Turner didn't seem to mind.

"Not happening. I don't want any of you hanging around my house."

"Oh, what, are we still not good enough for you?" Tami wanted to know.

I chimed in by talking over Turner's probably not every helpful retort. "Obviously, my house would be the best place. I mean, I know I'm just a honorary member, but there's tons of space in my garage and my house if need be. My parents aren't too nosy either."

"Sky to the rescue! Done. I vote for that. How soon can we move our shit into your house?"

"That's not how democracy works." Turner pointed out.

"Yeah, well, none of you douchebags are trying to help, and it's my ass on the line when my mom starts snooping. So? New kid?"

I shrugged. "Ah, as soon as you need to."

"Awesome. Max get your van and we can start loading the amps."

"Amps? Like... amps?" How did amps help them find supernatural creatures or occurrences?

"For our band. They make instruments not sound like shit." PJ elaborated like I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. He was a tool.

"You guys are really in a band?" I asked. I remembered Max mentioning it, but seeing them all interact made it seem like it'd be next to impossible to get them to work together on anything less serious than lives being at stake.

"Yeah, dude. where do you think we get the cash for supplies and bribes?" PJ answered, but that just raised more questions.

"Bribes? And you get paid?" I'd dated a guy in a band before. Which just meant he hung around one of his bandmate's living room riffing or whatever. They had one gig at a bar and the owner paid them in beer.

"Weddings." Tami said, sounding like her soul was leaving her body. "So many weddings."

"Hey, they're not that bad. We sometimes get food." Max said.

"Yeah, two words: Open. Bar." PJ threw in.

"And the same damn songs every time." Tami grumbled.

"Is this meeting adjourned? Can we start moving shit now?"

"Can we do that tomorrow after school, PJ?" Max asked.

The other boy sighed. "Fine. I'll offer to babysit the horde. It'll make my mom suspicious as hell, but she won't care enough to pass on a night not dealing with the quadruplets."

"Glad we got that taken care of. We done now? Do you have anything yet, Turner?" Tami asked him.

It took a second, but Turner closed his notebook and took off his glasses to rub at his eyes. "No."

"Alright then, everybody kick rocks. Unless you guys wanna help me wrangle the gremlins." Everyone started moving as soon as PJ stopped talking, some—like Tami—before he was done.

So that was my first paranormal investigation agency meeting.

I was out in the living room when Max caught up to me. "Hey, Sky. I'm giving you a ride home, right?"

"Please? Thank you." He smiled at that then got ahead of me to lead me to his rabbit van. Maybe he wasn't so disinterested in me? Maybe? A guy could hope.