A Hollow Voice

Maya awoke to the sound of a child's voice calling out to her. Looking around the room she couldn't quite place where the sound was coming from. Convincing herself it was just a dream, she again laid her head on her pillow and closed her eyes.

"Mommy?" the hollow whisper sounded again and she was instantly alert.

The little hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and a cold chill entered the room as the child's voice continued to call out each time clearer then the last.

She looked over to Zack who was lying beside her, and realized he was fast asleep. He couldn't have heard a thing. She sat up in bed listening and searching her surroundings for anything that didn't belong there.

"Zack? Zack, wake up?" she whispered trying to shake her him awake. "Zack!"

He remained dead to the world as she heard the voice again but this time it was followed by the appearance of a little girl she guessed no more than five or six, dressed in a white nightgown gripping her teddy bear beside her.

Maya sat terrified as the air in the room turned cold. But then realized that the child looked lost and lonely and there was an air of sadness to her. And she felt bad for this apparition.

The child stretched out her hand and it filled Maya with a longing to pick her up and hold her. But before she could, another apparition entered the room and filled Maya's heart with fear.

This one was of a dark figure, it looked like a man, but Maya couldn't be sure. As she watched in horror the dark figure reached out for the child just as she turned and called out to her once more. In the next moment the two disappeared from sight, leaving her shaking and crying.

Zack awoke to her tears and wrapped his arms around her not sure what had happened. He'd never seen her so shaken up. Trembling in his arms he could feel the fear within her. Whatever she had been dreaming about was obviously very upsetting to her.

"It's alright baby, I'm here," he cooed comforting the stricken girl. "It was just a dream; nothing is going to hurt you."

Maya mumbled something under her breath that he couldn't quite decipher. "I'm sorry I couldn't understand you." He added rubbing her back gently to try and sooth her into responding.

"It wasn't a dream."

"Why don't you tell me what it was about?" he whispered leaning back up against the headboard and placing her in his lap as she rested her head against his shoulder.

Wrapping his arms around her he waited for her begin. "It wasn't a dream Zack, it was real." She stated with tears still streaming down her cheeks.

"What was?"

"A little girl, she was here."

"Where?" he asked bewildered.

"Here, in our bedroom."

"Maya that's impossible," he said. "We are the only one's home and the doors are locked."

"I mean it, she was here."

"Okay why don't you take a deep breath and start from the beginning."

"I awoke to the sound of someone crying, but when I looked around the room I didn't see anything. So I thought I was just dreaming and closed my eyes again. Then I heard a child calling out for her mother, and I sat up straight. The room got colder and a figure began to emerge, it was a little girl in pig tales and a long white night gown, carrying a teddy bear. She looked so sad as she called out for her mother and I reached out to her. But this man…"

"What man?" he asked unsure if he truly believed what she was saying.

"I don't know, but he came in and grabbed her," she sobbed. "That's when I woke you up."

"What did he look like?"

"He was a dark shadow," she cried.

"Then how did you know it was a man?"

"I just did," she hiccupped sitting up and wiping her eyes so she could see him better. "He hurt her, I just know it."

"Maya, you were dreaming," he told her. "There is no little girl and no dark shadow."

"Zack I know…"

"Sweetheart, go back to sleep," he whispered giving her a gentle squeeze. "There is nothing to be afraid of…I'm here," he added flexing his right arm so that she could see the clear bulge in his bicep.

"Yeah…um…that makes me feel a whole lot better," she replied with a wink and a small smile.

Zack patted her shoulder and grinned with a raised eyebrow. "So you see, sweet thing, you have nothing to worry about, now that thunder and lightning are on duty." He added kissing each bicep with confidence.

Maya just shook her head in astonishment and then laid back down after emitting one small glance around the room. Zack noticing the worried look in her eyes pulled her into the comfort of his arms and wrapped her up in a safe cocoon.

It had taken awhile to get her to sleep but eventually she was able to close her eyes and drift off in slumber. Yet her dreams were plagued with the visions she had experienced in her waking state, and it was a fitful sleep.

The next morning couldn't have come soon enough for the exhausted girl. Getting up out of bed she felt like to cement blocks were tied to her ankles. Her eyes were sore and she was tired from the long night of constant fear. She kept waiting for the alarm bells to ring and another figure to make an appearance.

Zack had left for work that morning and Cody and Bailey were still not home from their week long convention, and for the first time in a long time she had solitude. But although she had looked forward to having the house to herself, the feeling was now an unwelcome one. She relished the noise that her brother and sister in law brought to the vast emptiness of the rooms.

Now the house just gave her a feeling of loneliness and it was too quiet. Suddenly every slight sound made her skin crawl. She tried to force herself to look at things logically, to reason the situation away, but as hard as she tried her mind knew the truth.

Her senses became alert to a small squeaking sound in the living room directly facing her. Since the kitchen opened up to the room she could see every corner of it, and saw nothing. Yet she still managed to hear the distinct noise.

Trying to shrug it off as her imagination she simply returned to her task of filling the dishwasher and chose to ignore it. When the phone rang she jumped in surprise and almost laughed out loud at her own silliness. It was strange how things could get to you.

"Hey babe, just checking in to see if everything is alright," Zack stated.

"It's kind of weird how quiet it is in here," she replied. "Between Cody and Bailey being away and you being at work, I'm beside myself."

"I'm sorry, I wish I could come home for lunch today, but we're swamped."

"Don't worry," she smiled into the phone. "I understand."

"Yeah but after last night…"

"Zack I love that you're so concerned, but I'm a big girl. You don't need to worry about me, I'll be fine."

"I know," he told her. "But…"

"So I'll see you tonight when you come home," she replied.

"Alright, I can take a hint," he stated. "I love you."

"I love you too Zack."

"How much?" he asked sheepishly, making his wife blush.

"You'll just have to wait to find that out, when you get home tonight."

She heard his trademark chuckle and smiled. "I plan too," and she was glad he couldn't see the soft blush that played across her cheeks.


Maya turned around to the sound of her name but simply faced an empty room.

"Maya sweetheart, are you still there?" Zack asked her.

"Yes, I'm sorry. I just thought I heard…" she began but didn't want to worry him at work. "It was nothing."

"Are you sure?" he asked concerned. "Maybe I should come home."

"No don't do that, trust me everything is fine."

"Alright, if your sure?"

"I'm sure, I promise," she told him.

"Okay see you tonight."

Maya hung up the phone and again the eerie feeling crept over her. The silence again beckoning her and her senses all worked together to keep her on edge.

"Maya?" came a whispery voice and she turned in the direction of the call.

Again she saw nothing but that still didn't stop her heart from raising. Coming to the conclusion that if she didn't get some peace of mind she would go crazy, she searched each room and looked for the origin of the voice. Again nothing, she wondered if maybe she was losing it, until once again she heard it, but this time it sounded very male.

"Who's there?" she shouted to an empty room. "Show yourself, I mean it."

"Maya?" came another voice making her jump. But this time she recognized it as she turned to see her next door neighbor peering in through the screen door.

"Are you alright," Lauren asked. "You're complexion is white as a sheet."

"Sorry, it's been a long morning."

"I can see that. Who were you talking to when I first knocked?" the woman asked.

"No one, it was nothing."

"Are you absolutely sure," she stated again.

"Yes!" the young woman half shouted. "I'm sorry, I'm fine really."

"No I'm sorry, it's just you seem so jumpy," she asked concerned. "Don't tell me you've seen a ghost."


"A ghost," she chuckled. "I was kidding."

"Lauren if I tell you something do you promise that you won't think I'm crazy?"

"Alright," she replied. "Shoot."

Maya walked her over toward the kitchen table and they both took a seat as she filled two cups with coffee. As she began to tell her about the previous night, the woman remained quiet while listening intently. Something inside told Maya this wasn't the first time she had heard this story.

"Before you moved in last year," she began when Maya had finished recounting her ordeal. "There was another couple who lived here by the name of Robinson, newlyweds."

"Okay," she stated her interest peeked.

"Anyway, the young woman was always here alone, because her husband worked two jobs and at odd hours."

"Poor girl," she replied.

"Well one day about three months after they had moved in, Jeanine, that was the girls name came over and knocked on my back porch door. I greeted her and asked her in, I could tell she was very upset about something."

"About what?" Maya could only imagine considering what she's seen and heard.

"She told me a story about a little girl, and that there seemed to be a bad man trying to hurt her. She described her exactly as you have."

"Oh my God," Maya gasped. "What did you say?"

"I didn't know what to say."

"Do you know who lived here before them?"

"No we moved into the house next door about five years ago," she replied. "And it was vacant when we moved in so I have no idea who owned it before the Robinsons."

"So what happened to the young couple?"

"I told Jeanine, that she should talk to her husband and she took my advice," she stated. "But her husband Brian, I think was his name, wouldn't believe her and left her alone in this house."

"That's horrible," Maya replied.

"I never knew what happened but one night about six months after they had moved in, Evan and I heard a lot of strange sounds coming from their direction. We never investigated, but the next morning the house was on the market."

The back screen door banged open and both women jumped. "What was that?" Lauren asked as they walked over to investigate.

"It must have been the wind," Maya stated on edge both realizing that there wasn't any wind to speak of. In fact it was a humid, calm day, something neither of them wanted to think about.

"Would you like to head over to my place?" she asked. "I could really use some help on the pies I'm baking for our annual bake sale."

"That sounds great to me," Maya replied as she grabbed her keys and her cell phone, and they made their way across the yard.

Cody answered his cell phone on the first ring and smiled. "Hey bro, what's up?" he asked.

"Nothing much, just working," he replied with a smile of his own. "How's the conference?"

"It's okay, but I think it will wrap up a bit sooner than we thought," he told him.

"Oh that's great…"

"It is?" Cody smirked. "How so?"

"Well have you or Bailey talked to Maya this morning?"

"No, we haven't had a chance. Why is something wrong?"

"I not sure," he replied.

"What happened?"

"Do you have time to talk?" the older twin asked his brother.

"I do now," he replied walking out of the convention hall and into the courtyard outside. "What's going on Zack, I can hear the worry in your voice."

Zack told his brother about last night and the call he had just shared with his wife. He knew something was going on but he couldn't put his finger on what that was.

"Cody you said you researched the house before we bought it?"

"Yes, but mainly things like the set up of the neighborhood. Schools, structure damage, things like that, why?"

"Mind doing a bit more?" he asked.

"You think this was more than a dream or some weird hallucination?"

"I'm not sure, but she's seriously freaked," he stated.

"But it doesn't make sense we've been living there a little less than a year, and we've never seen, felt or heard anything," Cody analyzed. "So why now, and why Maya?"

"Why Maya what?" Bailey asked walking up to him.

"Maya thought she saw a ghost last night in her bedroom…"

Cody paused when Bailey gasped. "The little girl with the pigtails?"

"Zack let me call you right back," he stated before hanging up. "You've seen her?"

"Cody this is going to sound crazy, but I think she's looking for her mother."

Maya walked back across the yard a couple of hours later. She wasn't looking forward to returning, but she knew that she had to get dinner started before Zack came home. Thankfully he was due to arrive in about thirty minutes. Still she found herself wishing that she had taken Lauren up on her offer to have them both over to dinner.

Suddenly she froze having the strangest sensation that she was being watched. Yet, as she looked around her she realized she was alone in the yard. So that would only mean one thing, she regrettably looked up at the house that was supposed to be her home and instantly she saw it.

A small figure in a window on the second floor, the same figure she'd seen the night before was staring down at her. Watching her as if she were memorizing what she looked like. Not being able to withstand her gaze, Maya looked away for the briefest of moments, only to turn back and see nothing.

She heard a honk nearby and watched as Zack pulled into the drive. She'd never been more relieved to see another living human being in her life. Racing over she threw herself in his arms before he even had a chance to shut the car door.

"Wow what a welcome," he smiled. "I should come home early more often."

"Zack…" she smiled as they shared a tender kiss.

With his arm wrapped around her waist she felt content for the first time today. But then he always had that affect on her. No matter how on edge or upset she was he always seemed to have a way of making her feel as if the world was filled with rainbows.

Yet there was still that small part of her that felt leery and wished that they didn't have to go back inside. Taking one final glance up at the window, she almost expected to see the little girl once more, and she unconsciously shivered. Relief washed over her when nothing appeared but that still didn't keep her from worrying.

"Baby are you cold?" Zack asked. "You're shivering."

"Am I, I'm sorry sweetie," she replied as he took off his jacket and wrapped it around her. "It has been a long day."

Zack simply stared back at her with a concerned look in his eye. "Has something else happened?"

"It's nothing," she said snuggling up beside him as they walked side by side in silence.

"I talked to Cody today. He and Bailey should be home in the morning."

"So soon?" she inquired. "I hope everything went well."

"Everything was fine, but the convention ended a bit sooner than they anticipated."

"Maya, was last night the first time you saw the little girl?"

"Yes," she said. "Why?"

"Because apparently you're not the only one," he told her. "Bailey has too."

"I wish we could have gotten an earlier flight," Cody stated before plopping down on the bed beside his wife. "Zack didn't sound too good. Did you try calling Maya?"

"Yes, she was at Laurens baking all day, which in my opinion wasn't a bad idea."

"I agree," he said looking over and noticing the website that she was currently skimming through. "Do you think you'll find anything?"

"I hope so," she replied. "Something happened in that house and I have a feeling that man had something to do with it. I'd bet money on it."

"The other ghost?" he exclaimed.

"Yes," she replied rubbing her arms to gain a little warmth.

Immediately he leaned over and wrapped his arms around her. As she snuggled into his embrace she adjusted the laptop in her lap so that they could both use it. The search took forever when they finally came upon a picture that made Bailey jump.

"That's her," she cried as they both sat up. "That's the little girl I saw."

Turning the screen toward him Cody began to read the article. It was an article in the local paper dated May thirteenth nineteen twenty three. The picture of the little girl took up half the page, but it was the headline that got their attention.

Body of Murdered Girl Discovered

The body of nine year old Annabelle Chambers was found last night. After a week of searching the surrounding area, they discovered her remains in the woods directly behind her home. She had been bound and gagged and had received a severe blow to the left side of her temple. This is now the main indication of her demise, but the coroner has yet to verify that. Her assailant is still at large and her step father and mother have yet to speak to the press.

Cody held her close as she continued to cry for the lost and lonely little girl. Skimming through most of the article, he came upon a small picture toward the bottom, of the young girls parents. Bailey's heart instantly began to rise as she eyed the man in the picture.

"Oh my God that's him," she yelped, but continued to study the picture. The people, especially the woman almost seemed familiar which she knew was a crazy thought.

"Who?" he asked her, noticing the look across her features. "He's the man you saw, the other ghost?"

"Yes," she half shouted. "Oh, Cody I think this man may have killed his step daughter."

"Wait let's not jump to conclusions just yet, let's do some more investigating," he advised clicking another link and opening up another article. "Listen to this."

Ferguson 'Gus' Aames, Annabelle's step father was taken into custody today for the murder of the little girl. Her mother Allison 'Ally' Chambers-Aames is shocked and distraught by this new revelation and swears that her new husband would not in his right mind ever hurt the young girl.

"That's terrible," she told him not sure if she was able to take much more.

"Now there is a bunch of related articles concerning the trial which only lasted three days before he was declared guilty and hung from the nearest tree," Cody continued. "Oh wait here's one more."

Most of the evidence brought forth during the trial was circumstantial and should not have been allowed in a court of law. But do to the seriousness of the case and the victim involved the eyes of justice have been closed and we as a town may have indeed sent an innocent man to his death. If this is the case then whoever the real culprit was has just earned a reprieve.

"So they think he may have been innocent of the killing," Bailey asked.

"Well this reporter seemed convinced."

"That's terrible," she replied. "Cody, can we just put this to rest tonight, I'm afraid if I keep thinking about it I won't be able to sleep."

"Sure sweetheart, let me just save the page."

But merely closing the laptop didn't block the image from her mind. She spent the night with the television set on in hopes that any small aversion would distract her from her current thoughts. But no such luck, Bailey knew for sure that this was indeed going to be a long night.

Half way across the country the clock read past midnight and Zack and Maya were fast asleep. The thermometer on the wall registered a freezing temperature as the atmosphere in the room turned cold. The two occupants on the bed pulled the blankets tighter around them as they snuggled closer together.

Deep in slumber they didn't at first notice the loud banging that seemed to reverberate off the walls. When it finally registered Zack woke up with a start. Looking over toward Maya's still sleeping form, he was at least thankful that she couldn't hear the noise.

Gazing over at their bed side clock, he wondered who the hell would disrupt them at such an hour. Thinking it may be one of his neighbors in some kind of trouble he through on his robe and sleepers and rushed out of the door.

"Alright I'm coming," he cried out just as the banging stopped.

Taking a look out the peephole he immediately noticed there was no one in front of the door. As his breath hitched and his heartbeat began to raise he slowly went over to a curtain in the window off to the side, knowing he'd get a better view. When he finally was able to pull the curtain back to take a peek, he noticed there was in fact no one there.

Thinking maybe the person had left, he breathed a sigh of relief and decided to head off to bed and investigate in the morning. Suddenly he heard the noise again, a savage banging on the door then someone jiggling the door knob. At this point he was officially freaking out, but also he was getting angry. If this was one of the neighborhood kids he was not going to be happy.

Running over to the window, he pulled back the curtain once more and again noticed that no one was near the door. Yet the sounds didn't stop, it continued for another minute until eventually it stopped all together. The silence scared the hell out of him but determined to stay skeptical he decided to investigate the rest of the house and make sure that everything was okay.

Double checking each latch and each door lock and each bolt he finally felt safe enough to head back to bed. He told himself that if he just pretended it didn't happen then it would be forgotten. Yet as he was walking down the hall toward his bedroom he saw an image walk across one bedroom into another. In his state of mind he thought it was his brother, because he was tall, lanky and had blondish hair.

The logical part of him knew that Cody and Bailey were still in Chicago at the convention. So when he took a peek into their room and saw nothing he forced himself to believe it was simply his imagination and he hadn't seen anything.

Walking back into his room he was glad that the cold chill in the air was gone and his wife was still fast asleep. His mind was still warring with his logic as too what he'd actually witnessed and felt. So while he crawled back into bed with Maya and pulled her close he forced himself to close his eyes and go to sleep not realizing that they weren't alone and a figure stood watching them. A figure, that looked a lot like Gus.

The house was just as she'd seen it in her vision. Tall two story blue Victorian with a wraparound porch and a swing in front of a big picture window. From the street it looked almost picturesque but Melinda Gordon knew better. She knew from experience that every place had a history, every ghost had a story, every town had a mystery and it was her duty to piece the puzzles together.

All her life she'd always had what many referred to as a special gift. Half blessing, half curse, she often used it to help the spirits of tortured souls cross over to a better place, and to help their loved ones find closure. She loved that part of her job, but there was always the rare case where things weren't always so simple, and she had a feeling this would be one of those times.

For the past few days she'd been having visions of the house and her sixth sense was instantly alerted to something more. She didn't know why, but she knew this would be the perfect time to visit with her favorite niece. She knocked on the door and it was opened by a young man.

"Hi, you must be Zack," she smiled.

"Guilty as charged," he replied taken back. "And you are?"

"My name is Melinda Gordon," she replied. "Maya is my sister- in-law's daughter."

"Oh hi," he stated a bit confused by her sudden visit but happy for the distraction into his thoughts. "That's right I've seen your pictures."

"I'm sorry we couldn't make it to the wedding or visit sooner…"

"There's no need to explain I completely understand."

"Melinda!" Maya exclaimed as she ran over and wrapped her arms around her favorite aunt. "What are you doing here?"

"Jim is here for work and I've decided to tag along."

"That's great, where is he?"

"He had to stay behind in the hotel so he could be near the hospital," she replied.

"Oh I see. So then you'll be staying in town as well?" she asked with hopeful eyes.

"Is that a question or a request?" Melinda smiled.

"Well, I haven't seen you in a couple of years," Maya hinted. "And it would be nice to have some time to catch up, don't you think?"

"I think that is a great idea," she grinned giving her a gentle squeeze. "That is, if it's alright with you?" she added directing her question toward Zack.

Zack took one look at Maya's big brown hopeful eyes and realized he couldn't deny her this simple request. "That's alright with me," he replied trying not to add that it would keep her mind occupied.

"Thank you, my suitcase is in the cab," Melinda stated with a wink.

Zack gave her an incredulous smile but went to do her bidding as the two women walked into the house. While Maya was showing her around her beautiful home Melinda was studying her surroundings. She could feel a presence, more than one to be truthful. As always, she had done her research on the history and knew of the little girl and the man haunting the premises. But she also knew they weren't the only ones.

When Zack called for Maya to come downstairs it gave her the perfect opportunity to do some exploring of her own. She was searching the bedrooms upstairs when she felt the presence of a little girl. The child was smiling up at her and she returned the greeting. She had seen her in her visions several times as well as a picture of her in her research. So there was no doubt in her mind that the child in front of her still holding on to the teddy bear she had been buried with was indeed Annabelle Chambers.

"Hi sweetheart, I'm Melinda?" she quietly said so as not to scare her. "What's your name?"

"My name is Annabelle. Do you know where my mommy is?"

"No I don't, but if you let me I may be able to help you find her."

"I don't know where she went," she told her. "This is my room."

Although Melinda couldn't really see it, she somehow knew the room was pink.

"Pink is a pretty color," she smiled.

"I like pink, it's my favorite color," she told her looking around. "I wish my mommy was here, when do you think she'll come home?"

"Honey, do you know where…"

"I want to go to the circus?"

"The circus?" she asked. "Is the circus in town?"

Annabelle nodded and smiled. "But the clowns scare me."

"Why do they scare you sweetie?"

The little girl hung her head; she seemed so confused and lost that it tore at Melinda's heartstrings.

"I don't know," she replied then popped her head up as if she heard a noise. "I have to go."

"Why, who's calling you?"

"He's a bad man."

"Who's a bad man?" Melinda urged trying to get a bit more information. "Annabelle tell me who he is."

"I have to go."

And with that she was gone she couldn't see or sense her anymore. But she knew that something significant had happened. The man who had killed the little girl was a performer in the circus. Something inside her told her that this man dressed as a clown had lured the child away. Which means she had a bit more research to do, but as she was about to leave the room she saw another apparition.

This one of a man and Melinda recognized him as well. "Gus?" she asked as he stared in her direction.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Melinda I'm here to help you."

"I'm innocent," he said.

"I know you are," she said. "Gus, I need you to tell me what happened."

"I was supposed to be watching her, but I had so much work to do in the mill."

"The mill?" she questioned.

"He's close, I can feel it. I need to find Belle."

"So you're protecting her from him?" she asked trying to get the facts straight.

Suddenly he became angry. "Of course I'm protecting her, I love that little girl."

"Tell me what happened?"

"There's no time, I have to go now," he urgently shouted before disappearing.

And again just as Annabelle had, he disappeared and she was left alone with only her thoughts. She had more questions then she had answers, but at least she knew where to look.

Zack watched and listened to Maya's aunt with curiosity. He only meant to hand her the bags she'd brought and leave, but just as he was about too, he noticed she was talking to someone. Yet when he gazed into the room, he didn't see anyone or anything. But he could feel something in the room and a thought went through his mind.

"So you're some kind of a psychic?" Zack commented making her jump. "Does Maya know?"

"Zack you startled me?" she replied. "No, she doesn't know, at least I don't think she does."

"Okay so what do they want?"

"This is their home," she replied. "Or at least it was when they were still alive…"

Suddenly they heard a loud crash and Maya call out Zack's name. They were down stairs and standing next to Maya in a matter of moments, both recovering from the mad dash they had made.

"What happened?" Zack asked putting his arms around her as Melinda's attention was diverted toward an image running out the back door.

"I'll be right back," she exclaimed sprinting out the back door in pursuit of the spirit, and ran right into Cody and Bailey who just walked in.

"Oh sorry, hi," Cody stated as Melinda ran out without a word in the direction of the wooded area behind the house. "Who was that?" he asked just as Zack took a hold of his wrist and began to drag him along with him.

"Bailey stay with Maya, we'll be right back."


Bailey watched as Zack and Cody disappeared into the woods. Turning her attention back inside she rushed over to Maya who was sitting at the kitchen table and put a comforting arm around her. Still shaken up and crying from whatever she and Cody had just walked in on.

"What happened, who was that?" Bailey asked her.

"That man," she shivered. "I was so scared."

"What man?"

"The man that Aunt Melinda ran after," she told her. "You must have seen him, he ran out the back door."

"Maya we didn't see a man run out," she replied. "But I believe you."

"He's another ghost, isn't he?" Maya asked.

"I think so," Bailey replied.

"I think he was wearing some sort of a mask," Maya stated. "But his eyes, they were so full of hatred and so much anger."


"I felt like it was all directed at me."

"I don't think it was," Bailey stated. "And I think I know why."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll explain later, but Cody and I have been doing some research, and we think we've found some answers."

Zack and Cody had followed Melinda into a clearing. It was obvious to them that she was talking to someone, even if they couldn't quite figure out who. If there had been any doubt in his mind before, the older twin new without a moment of hesitation that this in deed was the real thing. And somehow he felt comforted by that thought.

"Is she what I think she is?" Cody whispered.

"Yes," he replied to his astonished brother.

"That's amazing," he told him. "Scary as hell but amazing."

"I agree."

"By the way Zack," Cody whispered once more. "Who is she?"

Zack would have laughed if they weren't currently trying to hide. "Maya's aunt from New York."

"You mean the one in Grand view, the one no one in the family is supposed to know is psychic?"

"That's her?"

"Why is no one in the family supposed to know she's psychic?"

"Have no idea."

"So does that mean, we're not supposed to know?"

"Cody, enough with the questions," he demanded trying to understand at least her part of the conversation. "And no, we're not supposed to know."

"Okay, good to know," Cody replied shaking his head and directing his attention back to the dark haired girl who by all accounts was talking to herself.

"Who are you?" they heard her ask. "I can't help you if you don't tell me who you are?"

"I was paid."

"Someone paid you to kill an seven year old girl," she asked shocked.

"Not her, the guy her mom was married too, but the girl became a liability."

"I don't understand?"

"She heard too much?" he said. "I chased her and I tried to stop her before she got to the house."

"You killed her inside the house?"

"I dragged her away from the house into this clearing," he told her. "I didn't want to, but the little shit would have opened her big mouth."

"You have to tell me the truth, what is your name and what is the name of the person who paid you?"

"I don't know I never saw her face."

"It was a woman?" Melinda asked astonished. "Why did she want you to kill this man?"

"I didn't ask questions," he replied. "I just followed orders. But you have to believe me I didn't want to kill that kid."

"I know you didn't but you had too, right?"

"Don't judge me; I don't like to be judged."

"You're right, I'm sorry I just need to make sure I have the facts straight," Melinda told him putting up her hands. "What is your name?"

"Patrick Dobson," he stated then disappeared from sight.

Melinda looked around her, but didn't see or sense anything. At least not from the non-living, she could feel a pair of eyes or rather two pairs and smiled. She knew that they had followed her out of the house but at the time she couldn't say much about it.

"So I guess the cat is officially out of the bag?" she smiled.

"It would seem so," Zack replied then turned and introduced his brother.

Melinda had known they were twins, so the resemblance didn't face her. But what did was the way he looked so much like Gus. His blond hair and thin frame were identical. There features were different but their eyes were both blue. She would have shrugged it off as mere coincidence but in her line of work she learned that there was a reason for everything. Deciding to put it aside she again smiled.

"Did you get all that?" she asked.

"Well your end of things," Cody grinned. "How did you know we were here?"

"Call it a hunch," she sighed walking back toward the house with them in tow.

As soon as they returned, everyone recounted their parts of the stories and shared notes. When Melinda told them what she had heard about the conspirator being a woman, Cody and Bailey revealed some news of their own. Ally, the child's mother married Davis Rockwell two weeks after Gus had been hung.

"Who was Davis Rockwell?" Maya asked.

"The district judge," Bailey supplied. "The same judge who tried the case."

"You think there's a link with them and the murder?"

"Well if there isn't, it sure as hell was quite a coincidence."

"Zack?" she warned. "We don't know anything for sure."

"I do know this," Zack replied getting everyone's attention. "This started with a contract killing and poor Annabelle and Gus whether intentional or not were the victims."

"So what's your theory?" Melinda asked him.

"Okay here goes," Zack began. "Ally and this Davis guy were having an affair, but because divorce was forbidden and frowned upon in that time period. They weren't able to divorce so they weren't able to be together. Ally knowing the man was wealthy decided that she needed to find a way to cut her ties with Gus and so she contracted a killing with a man from the circus. In comes Patrick Dobson, needing the money and not afraid to get his hands dirty, agrees to do the killing."

"Okay but, what about Annabelle?" Bailey asked.

"Annabelle wanted desperately to go and see the circus; she had waited for her mom the entire day. She decides to go anyway and takes a shortcut through the woods. While she's there she hears two people talking…"

"I couldn't see the other person," Annabelle said quietly as Melinda put a hand up for Zack to stop talking. "But he said he was going to kill my daddy. I started crying and he heard me."

Bailey and Maya could see the little girl also but Zack and Cody couldn't and wondered what was going on. "What happened then sweetheart?"

"He started chasing me, I tried to get away but he was so fast," she cried. "I wanted to tell my daddy."

"You ran here to find him?"

"I called out to him, crying and screaming for him to help me," she began to tremble.

"I couldn't hear her over the sounds of the machines in the saw mill."

"Gus?" he looked so devastated and heartbroken.

"If only I had finished my work the day before like I promised. I would have been able to take her to the circus like she wanted."

"I got to the front door and I banged on it and I jiggled the doorknob but I couldn't get in," she cried. "I couldn't get inside, so I turned to go around the porch to the back door."

"But Patrick was there?"

"No, mommy was there," by this point Melinda didn't know what else to do but encourage her to continue, if only to help ease her pain.

"She was home?"

"I tried to tell her that there was a bad man chasing me and that he wanted to hurt daddy."

"What did she do, sweetheart?"

"I don't know what happened, everything went dark and the back of my head hurt something awful."

By this point Bailey and Maya were practically sobbing as their husbands stood behind them waiting, unsure of what was going on, they didn't know how to help.

"I woke up in the woods and the man was there," she said. "He was talking to mommy and she told him to finish doing what she had paid him to do. Then they saw me looking up at them, and she gave him a stick, I saw him reach up and then…" she cried into her hands.

"I didn't know what had happened," Gus chimed in placing an arm around the little girl. "When I walked into the house Annabelle was gone and Ally assured me that she was probably just running around in the yard. I didn't think too much of It and continued into my study."

"Gus this wasn't your fault."

"I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember is Ally shaking me awake saying that Belle was missing. We searched all that afternoon and well into the night but couldn't find her. Finally about a week later a neighbors hunting dog found her lying in a shallow grave. My little girl was gone and I knew it was all my fault because I wasn't there to watch over her."

"And I'm sure by that time the circus had packed up and left."

He looked into Melinda's eyes and nodded. "I put so much blame on myself that I never even thought about who might have actually killed her," he shook his head in shock and disbelief. "Or that it would have been her mother that inflicted the first blow."

"So she killed you both because of the wealth she could gain by marrying Davis."

"I knew about her and Davis," he sneered and a hint of anger and hurt crossed his features. "But I chose to ignore it, because I didn't want to lose out on my family and watching Belle grow up. I was an orphan and they were the only family I had ever known."

"So Ally let you take the fall with the help of her lover," Melinda stated.

"Apparently so," he replied with little emotion. "I've had years to forget, but I knew one thing if Belle was going to stay then I was as well. I was determined to keep my promise and take care of her."

"Sweetheart," Melinda once again gave the little girl her attention. "I need you to forgive your mother. She wasn't in her right mind; she was sick with greed and didn't realize what she was doing. Would you be willing to do that for me, for Gus?"

The little girl nodded her head and slowly walked over to Maya, "I forgive you mommy."

Maya didn't know when she started to cry but all of a sudden she was on her knees and sobbing. All sorts of illogical thoughts went through her mind and her emotional stability was at a breaking point. Bailey looked over in shock and the boys who were still in the dark just gazed stunned at what they were witnessing.

"I'm so sorry baby," she cried. "I panicked, and I didn't know what to do. I only meant to knock you out for a few minutes not…oh God what have I done. In the woods I didn't know you were still alive and when I saw that you were I tried to take the stick from his hand. But it was too late, and he was too strong. I only wanted to build us a better life, a more secure one. After your father died, I, I'm so sorry."

"I know," she said taking her hand and brushing a strand of hair back from her mom's face. "I'm not mad anymore."

"I never forgave myself," she cried. "My marriage to Davis ended a few months after it started and I died a few years later of pneumonia. But I never forgot my baby."

"It's okay, everything is okay now," Annabelle whispered.

"I should have given your Uncle Stewart and Aunt Liz a chance to raise you like they wanted. You would have had such a wonderful long full filling life."

The little girl looked up at Bailey and Cody with a knowing smile, which Bailey returned with a wink. Zack looked more confused than before as did his brother, hoping that they would be let in on the big secret sometime soon.

The child turned around as if someone no one else could see had just called her name. Her face lit up and Melinda knew that look all too well. They were going home. Turning one final time toward Maya she softly placed a kiss on her cheek and thanked her for her teddy bear. Maya nodded and watched as she walked over and took Gus by the hand and they disappeared together, both with serene looks upon their faces.

"So basically what you're saying is that Maya was Ally, Cody was Stewart and Bailey was Liz?" Zack asked in bewilderment, as jaws dropped around the room.

"Yes," Melinda replied feeling sorry for the young man who was trying so desperately to make sense of everything.

"Who was I?" he questioned. "Was I involved in all this too?"

"Yes, if my guess is correct I think you were Grant Chambers, Ally's first husband and Annabelle's biological father. During my research I found that Grant unfortunately was killed during World War I and Stewart was his brother. That is why he wanted to help take care of Ally and Annabelle, because he felt it was his responsibility."

"Wow, that's crazy."

"So then we've been around this block together a few times?" Cody concluded.

Zack just snickered and rolled his eyes. "Don't you ever stop thinking?" he teased and just received a raised eyebrow from his twin.

"What about Patrick?" Maya asked.

"I don't think he'll bother you anymore," she replied. "Knowing that Gus and Belle are gone should force him to move on."

"I hope you're right," Zack replied.

"I hope so too," Cody added taking a peek at all the sad expressions around the room.

"I know that the judge, this Davis guy was the circuit judge but how did he get a conviction so fast?" Bailey asked the small group.

"My guess is that he tampered with the evidence."

"That would be my guess too," Cody replied. "Anyway, on that note, it's been a long few days I suggest everyone head off to bed."

"I second that," Zack replied. "Maybe tonight we'll all get some sleep."

"I hope so," Maya replied, "Because I could really use it."

"I think we all could really use it," Bailey smiled as the two couples headed up the stairs followed by Melinda.

The night was quiet and everyone slept soundly. The atmosphere in the air was one of content, as if a weight had been lifted on the house as well and any negative energy had been extracted. Their dreams were filled with happy thoughts and the world seemed at peace.

As their days returned to normal, the house once again belonged to them. That is where they made plans for the future, still making sure to honor their past. For every once in awhile Maya would dream of her little girl and hope that one day they would meet again and she would get a chance to be a real mother to her once more.

An: For those of you who have never seen The Ghost Whisperer, Melinda Gordon is a woman who can communicate with the dead and does so in order to help them move on. I know that in the show her relatives don't know too much about her gift, but I thought that this would be a great way to incorporate her into the story and also give her a connection to the characters in the suite life universe.

Many thanks for reading and reviewing! :)

Originally posted in the Halloween Tricks and Treats Halloween 2010 Collection.