It wasn't a voice from outside. But, clear as a bell within me, I heard the words: "Stop them."
I closed my eyes, trying to home in on the voice. It might have been his. What I did know, fervently, was that there was urgency. I had to move right now. My keys were in my hand and I was coming out of the elevator into the parking garage before I knew where I was going.
Twenty minutes later, I pulled up behind Damien's truck and raced inside.
"Damien, stop," I screamed to be heard over the racket of power tools. "Damien," I called again, racing toward the stairs.
Halfway up the noise stopped, leaving a gaping silence.
"What?" He yelled from the furthest bedroom in number two. His tone suggested agitation more than alarm.
He was turned toward the doorway when I entered, hands on his hips, blue hard hat--that nearly matched his eyes exactly--slightly tipped to the right.
"Griffin?" Now he looked alarmed, as if he were seeing a ghost himself. "What's wrong?"
I was nearly shaking with relief and felt the color rise in my cheeks.
"Nothing, but..." I still hadn't caught my breath. "We need to stop right now."
"Taking out this wall. Stop, please."
Damien walked over and pulled me into his arms for a moment. He must have thought I was near hysteria or something. He was right, actually.
"It's okay, Griff. I'll take care of it."
Then he put me away and strode from the room. He wasn't far before he bellowed the crew to a halt with the magic words: break time. Then he returned and took me by the arm, escorting me--well, more like dragging me--outside to the car.
He sat me down on a stack of six by sixes that lay out by the construction fence. As I watched him, he looked off into the distance, his jaw clenched. At last, he took a deep breath and spoke.
"Don't ever come in there again without your hard hat." The words came out haltingly, quietly, but through gritted teeth.
I nodded mutely.
"You scared the shit out of me, Griffin."
It was then that I noticed that his face was just now beginning to return to its natural tan.
"I'm sorry, Damien. I didn't mean to."
He stepped over to his truck and tossed open the cooler in the back. He pulled two dripping cans of Coke from the ice and joined me on the pile of wood.
"Okay, so what's up?" He opened one can and handed it to me, finally smiling. Then, he drained a good bit of his.
"There's something in the wall upstairs."
His eyebrows shot up and he sputtered and coughed, setting the soda down and standing. I watched him, bent over, coughing and choking, but when I moved to help, he waved me off. It wasn't long before he straightened up, tears flooding his eyes.
He sat again. "Okay, let's try this again." He took another sip, just a sip then, "What do you think is in the wall upstairs? A body or something?"
I cringed. "I don't know."
He rolled his eyes.
"Do you, by some miracle, at least know where this mystery item is?"
"I think so."
We sat there for a while, not talking, while he finished his drink. Then he stood, tossed the empty into the back of his truck and tipped his head, inviting me to follow.
I followed him inside, only after he made me go back to my car and get my hard hat. I found him in the center of the main floor, sledge hammer over one shoulder, patiently explaining to his foreman that the guys could get back to it shortly.
He stopped, mid-stride, and took another deep, exasperated breath.
"Rose's room?" It wasn't a particularly patient look he gave me and for a moment I wondered if that might have been the look he had on his face when he heard that Marie Orgeron had fallen from the balcony. "I thought you didn't believe in ghosts, Griffin."
"Rose isn't a ghost." I waved him out of number two and toward number three. "Rose is the woman who lived here."
"And you know that how? Sťance?"
"No." Now I could hear his impatience in my voice. "I have her letters. The movers gave them to me."
"Letters," he said as he followed me up the stairs.
"Well, I don't have them now. I buried them at their graves..."
I stopped and turned to face him.
His eyebrows were drawn together giving him a fierce look. He held up his hand.
"More information than I wanted. Just show me where to swing the sledge."