Their presence was just an accepted part of his routine by now. Perhaps just emotional impressions from previous inhabitants, or perhaps their lingering spirits. The house was old enough. Whatever the case, here they were: a man and a woman. Their faces were indistinct. Their demeanors were anguished, confused, unaware. When they came, it was in the moment between waking and sleeping, and only if his spiritual vision was active from an evening meditation.

His response was consistent. "Spirits," he would address them, "Guard my home against harm or leave. "

Connor believed in spirits earning their keep.

He only became concerned when his daughter of ten began to complain of emotional disturbances at bedtime. He felt helpless and perplexed as she described feelings of despair and deep sadness which seemed unrelated to her. On a late May evening, after the sun had sunk beyond the horizon, she told him, with trepidation in her voice, that there were rooms in the house in which the feelings were stronger. The only room that she felt entirely free of these feelings was the dining room.

He pulled the structural records for the house and noted that the dining room was added twenty-three years ago. This eliminated the last three owners, leaving only the original owners. Their names were right there in front him in black and white.

Fred and Gloria Burnett.

They had owned the house from the time it was built in 1966 until 1986 when it was sold by their son, Paul Burnett. Connor dug through his kitchen cabinet and found a phone book and began browsing the Bs for Burnett.

Burnett, Chas
Burnett, John
Burnett, Justin
Burnett, Paul

Paul Burnett. He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello?" answered a man with a tired voice.

"Yes, is this Paul?"

"Yes, who's speaking?"

"Paul, my name is Connor Davis. I'm looking for a Paul Burnett who sold the house on Cherry Creek Drive in 1986. Would that be you?"

"Yes. How can I help you?"

"I'm the current owner, and..."

"Listen," Paul interrupted, "I can't help you, Connor. Whatever problem you're having with the house, I can't help you with it."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, just wait. If you can't, perhaps you can get me in touch with one of your parents."

There was silence on the other end of the line. Connor thought perhaps he'd hung up. But just as he started to give up, Paul began speaking again.

"Look, Connor..." he began. Connor could hear Paul take a deep breath and exhale slowly. "My parents died in a car wreck just down the street from the house. You're not the first to call me. I know what this is about. But like I said, there's nothing I can do to help you, buddy. They're gone. Whatever is in your house is not them. It's not. I saw their bodies. I buried them. I mourned them. They are gone."

"Maybe you're right, Paul. But there is something still here, and I need to do something about it for my daughter's sake."

Click. Paul had hung up the phone. There was no use. Connor would be on his own with this.

"Dad."

It was Connor's daughter Zoe. Her voice was low and mournful like the cry of a dove. She was calling from her bedroom, as she had done many nights in the past few weeks.

"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad."

Her voice sounded so distant to him. He was deep in his late night meditation. He could feel the anxiety and dread in her voice. In his meditative state, it was like a tangible thing to him, something he could see and touch in his inward, spiritual state.

He roused himself just enough to walk upstairs to her room. He did not want to leave his altered state completely. He wanted to feel what she was feeling and, if possible, to see whatever might be hanging around. He sat down on her bed and touched her feet. Her room was dark and heavy with what he assumed was his daughter's anxiety and restlessness.

"What do you need, sweetheart?" he asked quietly and lovingly.

"I just can't sleep. I just feel like there's something very sad in my room."

Connor paused to consider what a strange thing this was for a ten-year-old to say. He closed his eyes to survey the emotional landscape of the room.

"Are you sad about something, sweety?" Connor asked.

"Well, I feel sad, but I'm not really sad about anything. It just seems like this room is sad."

This wasn't the first time she had expressed something similar since they'd moved into the house. At first, Connor and his wife, Laura, had just assumed that she was sad about moving from their old house. But he couldn't help but think that her feelings were related to the two presences he was sensing at night. He had felt their sadness and restlessness as well, although he did not want to alarm Laura or the kids by talking about it.

Instead of talking, he just laid down next to Zoe and held her until she fell asleep. As he did, he offered prayers of peace and protection until his daughter's room was free of restlessness and sadness. If they had been here, he observed, they are gone now. Where they had gone, Connor could not say.

He quietly left his daughter to sleep in peace and to resume his meditation in what he hoped would be a quiet house, and it was quiet, for a little while.

Connor settled back down into the over-sized chair that had become his favorite meditation spot. He crossed his legs and placed his hands on his knees. He began his breathing ritual and gradually started his ascent into the subtler spiritual realms.

But just as he reached a calm, spiritually active state, he saw their faces. It startled him and sent heavy vibrations of emotion through his now sensitive spiritual system. He was fighting against a tremendous wave of despair and desperation and fear, although he thought the fear might be coming from him. But he refused to give in to it. He used his breath to regain focus and calm and look at them, staring back at him, faces in anguish. They were pleading with him. They needed his help. They had never directly approached him like this before; they'd only been a presence, a lingering. This was different. This was beyond just impressions of long ago emotional events. This was something active, something he had not encountered. These were lost souls, and they needed help.

Connor was acting on pure intuition now. He had no previous experience to guide him. He began kindling love and compassion and comfort in his consciousness. He felt very strongly that he was in a position to communicate with these spirits, but wasn't quite sure how. He believed, however, that if he could feel them that they would be able to feel him as well, and fear was not what he wanted them to sense from him. He used his breath to intensify his spiritual state to overcome the disturbance with love and peaceful feeling.

He was calm now. He spoke aloud, "How can I serve you?"

The male spirit looked at the female as if for guidance or strength. Their images were very faint. Connor would say that he could feel them better than he could see them or hear them. And what he felt was loss and searching, searching for something or someone very dear to them.

He spoke again, "Who?"

And with a rush of emotion, tantamount to a wail or a scream, he felt a name. Just as he had felt the emotions in his daughter's voice as something tangible, he could feel this name in his hands, in his mind, in his heart.

Mary

He dialed again.

"Paul?"

"Yes, speaking."

"Ok, Paul, it's Connor. Please don't hang up."

"Ok. What?"

"Does the name Mary mean anything to you?"

Paul was silent for a long time. Connor was not sure if he'd been hung up on again.

"Paul?"

"When can I come over?" asked Paul with urgency.

"Come over tonight after everyone is asleep. Eleven? Do you mind? Later is better."

"Ok, I understand. Eleven."

After the house was quiet and the kids were tucked in and his wife was sound asleep, Connor made his way downstairs to his meditation chair. He began to chant ancient words in a very low voice as he lit a few candles. That night he intended to put his house to rest. He didn't know exactly who Mary was but he expected Paul Burnett to hold the key to this mystery. His hope was to get Paul in touch with the spirits, who he suspected were the lost souls of his parents, Fred and Gloria, and end their anguish, thereby easing his daughter's restlessness...and bringing peace to their new home.

He heard a soft knocking at the front door. Paul looked like he must have been in his mid-forties, glasses, medium build, balding in the front. He stood on the porch, appearing uncertain. His face was weary with sadness and perhaps, thought Connor, with fresh grief.

"I haven't been back here in a long time. I don't even like to drive up this street anymore."

Connor welcomed him in with a gesture and said, "I'm glad you came, Paul. I really think you're the only one who can help my family...and your parents."

Paul responded with a sharp look.

"Look, Connor, I know what you think. You think my parents are somehow still here and that I can do something about it. But-"

"Paul, just hear me out. I know you're skeptical, but I'm telling you there's really something going on here. Now who is Mary?"

Paul reached into his jacket and pulled out a picture and handed it to Connor. It was a picture of a family; a man, a woman, a teenage boy, and a little girl.

Connor sat down and invited his guest to do the same. He studied the faces in the photo.

"So is this you with your family?" he asked

Paul nodded, perhaps waiting for Connor to ask the obvious.

"And who is the girl?"

Paul raised his eyebrows and nodded again.

"Mary? This is Mary? She's you're sister?"

"Was my sister. She died in the same accident my parents did," said Paul quietly leaned forward on his knees, and bowed his head. "I was twenty. She was ten."

Ten, noted Connor, the same age as his daughter Zoe.

"I loved that little girl," said Paul, with his face in his hands. "She was my baby sister. I loved her more than anything. She...she..."

Paul could not speak any longer. He wept quietly on Connor's couch, slumped over, face in his hands. Connor did not rush him. He let him cry.

Connor began to breathe in deeply and steadily. He spoke calmly and directly, "Paul, I want you to keep your eyes closed and just continue to feel what you need to feel. "

"Ok...ok," said Paul through his tears.

"I need you to picture your parents and your sister in your mind. Hold each of their faces in your mind and direct your feelings to them."

Connor could feel the emotional state of the room begin to change. He could sense Paul's worries and doubt and skepticism dissolving. He could feel his loss and love and grief begin to fill the room. It had taken on color and shape and weight. And although he could not see or hear the lingering spirits, he could feel them coming near with their anguish and confusion and searching.

He spoke to Paul through the thick vibrations of his altered state, so soft that Paul might not have heard him except that he too was drawn into a subtler realm. "Paul, I want you to say whatever is in your heart. Speak to your parents."

Connor could begin to detect a strengthening of their presence nearby. Their faces were indistinct, but he was just beginning to make out glimpses of them on the staircase.

"Mom? Dad? It's Paul, " Paul began, "I'm here. It's Paul, mom. I'm here for you. I'm want to help you."

The room became very still and heavy so that Connor could barely breathe.

"I'm here about Mary," said Paul.

Suddenly, the room filled with the vibrational presence of deep echos of grief-stricken sobs. The feeling was almost overwhelming to Connor.

"Mom! Dad! Listen to me! " cried Paul, his voice rising. "Mary is GONE! Mary is DEAD! She is no longer here! That little girl in Mary's room is another little girl! She is NOT Mary! Mary is gone! She's gone! " He cried bitterly now and Connor knew what he had to do.

"Spirits, Fred and Gloria," he began. "Yes. Mary is gone. Mary went into the light many years ago. She is waiting for you. Do you understand? She is waiting for you to join her in the light? She is not here. You have been looking in the wrong place. " He took a moment to breathe and center with the intent of filling his whole being with light. He breathed and reached and expanded, calling on angels and God and Christ to reach out to him until his body shook with the force of it.

"Gloria!" he called, sensing her strength first. "Gloria, take Fred's hand. Walk to me, Gloria, walk to me...walk to the light. Yes! Mary is waiting for you. She is in the light. " And in that moment, he could feel her little hand in his. Mary was right there in the light with him, and in an instant all emotion, all vibration, all the lingering, all the sadness rushed toward him and through him and out of him...up into a mighty stream of light. He slumped in his chair, breathless and exhausted.

It was done. He took a moment to survey the living room. It was quiet and peaceful. He opened his eyes to find Paul staring at him, mouth agape, tears streaming. There was nothing to be said.

After Paul had left and Connor was ready to go to bed, he stopped into Zoe's room to kiss her goodnight.

"Daddy? Who's Mary?" she said in a sleepy voice.

Connor looked questioningly at her.

"The girl, she said her name was Mary. She wanted to see my room. Then she was gone."

"Must have been a dream, Zoe," he said, patting her on the leg. "Are you feeling alright?"

But she was already fast asleep, resting peacefully.