Dedication TBD

"We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe." -- John Henry Newman

"'Tis strange -- but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction." -- Lord Byron

Chapter One

Saturday, November 7, 1992
1:57 A.M.
Hill Valley, California


A mutter in response, made more out of a reflex than anything else.

“Marty?” A sharp nudge to the ribs. “Marty, how can you possible sleep through that?”

Marty McFly didn’t bother opening his eyes, hoping that the sound of his wife’s voice was somehow part of a dream. “Mmmm?”

Something pinched his arm, hard. “Martin McFly, wake up!”

The shrill demand was followed two seconds later by the sound of something crashing, loudly, from below. Almost like shattering glass or ceramic. Marty suddenly sat up, the noise provoking him into doing so more than anything else. “What the hell, Jen?” he demanded, his irritation clear in his voice.

Jennifer, his wife, was already sitting up, her eyes huge in the semidarkness of their master bedroom. “Shhhhhh!” she admonished, grabbing his arm. “That’s what I was trying to tell you,” she whispered. “There’s someone downstairs.”

Marty shot her a look of pure annoyance -- as much as he could muster, anyway, after being dragged abruptly awake in the middle of the night. “No, there isn’t.”

There was another crash from downstairs. It sounded like something was going on in the kitchen. “What else would it be?” Jennifer whispered. She threw the blankets back, scrambling to swing her legs over the side of the bed. “I should call the police--”

Marty grabbed her arm, stopping her. “No,” he said. “Remember what they said last time this happened? Any more false alarms and we get slapped with a $500 fine. No thanks. Just ignore it -- it’s only the house settling, remember?”

Jennifer jerked her arm out of his hand, not taking the sarcastic jab lightly. “Marty, it could be different this time. What if someone’s making off with your guitars or music equipment?”

That did rile him a little -- and cause him to reluctantly throw the covers back and swing his own legs over the side of the bed. “All right, all right, fine,” he muttered, leaning over to grope under the bed. His fingers touched the baseball bat a moment later. “But there’s not gonna be anything there. There hasn’t been before; what makes you think this is any different?”

Jennifer scooted back against the headboard of the bed, hugging her knees to her chest. “Just check, please,” she said, her voice filled with tension. “Those noises aren’t the house settling -- I don’t care what people say. They haven’t heard ‘em.”

Marty snorted softly as he headed for the door. “Maybe we should set up a recorder,” he said. “Not like that’ll do anything. If I’m not back in five minutes, you know the drill.”

He saw Jennifer’s nod out of the corner of his eye as he opened their bedroom door and stepped into the hallway.

It was funny, Marty reflected as he crept down the corridor, towards the stairs. He always figured that after living in apartments, with paper thin walls, and neighbors whose footsteps, voices, and choices in television programs could clearly be heard, moving into a house would be a nice, peaceful experience.

Peace, however, was in short supply nowadays.

The whole thing had started in mid-September or so, when Marty and his wife had finally saved enough money to qualify for some home loans and actually afford house payments. They had looked at a few places, but what they wanted -- a home with a large basement, in particular, that Marty could convert to a home studio -- was generally out of their price range, if not downright impossible to locate. Newer homes, particularly in northern California, didn’t seem to have basements at all.

Then Jennifer had seen The House while doing a story for the news station -- the best part about that day. In July of 1991, she had finally gotten a position at one of the local television stations as a reporter -- but as she was the most recent hire with the least amount of experience, she got all the strange, quirky stories that other reporters found beneath them. Thus, in early October, she had been in one of the older sections of town, interviewing a reputed pet psychic, when she saw the “For Sale” sign before a lovely Victorian-era home. Jennifer had a love of old buildings -- she confessed to her husband she particularly liked the architecture, which seemed much more creative and detailed than with buildings from the last twenty or thirty years. Older buildings had more character, and an almost quiet dignity, it seemed to her.

The building up for sale was known around town as “the old Bailey place.” At any rate, that’s what the realtor had called it when Jennifer had telephoned her for information about the home. It had sounded too good to be true -- the home was large, recently renovated by the owners, with four bedrooms, a lovely wrap around porch, a thoroughly modernized kitchen -- and a large basement that, while not already a music studio, could easily be converted to become one.

The asking price was astonishingly low, and Marty was immediately suspicious when Jennifer relayed it to him. However, he agreed to tour the vacant home, built in 1889, and what he saw had surprised him. The place was in good repair, with more than enough space for him and Jennifer and any future offspring. The electrical system had recently been updated to contemporary standards, as well as the plumbing system. The basement was dry and warm, with a thick stone foundation that wouldn’t be very hard to soundproof, and a lot of electrical outlets. The basement also could be accessed from the outside through a separate entrance, which Marty liked; if any business colleagues needed to visit, they wouldn’t have to tromp through the house and disturb Jennifer.

By the time they wrapped up the tour, Jennifer had fallen in love with it. Her eyes shone as she looked around, opened cabinets and drawers, and touched the wallpaper, quaint light fixtures, and doorknobs. Marty wasn’t entirely convinced; the whole thing seemed too good to be true. He requested another look around the house, and this time was able to get Emmett Brown to come along. Doc lived in an old house himself, and had a lot of experience with the upkeep and such of them.

Doc had been methodical in his examination of the home, and asked the realtor a lot of questions that hadn’t even occurred to Marty. The response as to why the price was so low was consistent with what the young couple had heard; the owners, a couple who had moved from San Francisco, had recently lost a relative and inherited a home in the process. The wife missed her friends and family from the Bay area, and so, after investing a lot of time and money restoring the old Bailey place, they were eager to sell it and return to their old lives in their former hometown.

When Doc’s examination was through, and the two of them were in Marty’s car, heading back to the Brown home, the scientist wasted little breath in his assessment.

“It’s a good deal,” he said. “The home has no outstanding problems that I could determine. No cracks in the foundation. The electrical system seems reliable. And the previous owners took obvious pains to keep some of the details historically accurate. I won’t argue that it’s a bit odd that they want to sell for so low, but I can’t see anything to be overtly suspicious about.”

“Yeah,” Marty agreed, frowning a little. “It just seems too good to be true, you know? After doing all that research about what Jen and I wanted, and what the typical going prices were, this seems like a dream come true.”

“Well, once in a while you are lucky in life,” Doc said. “Perhaps this is one of those times. I can’t see any reason not to buy the home; and I suspect if you linger too long with indecision, you won’t have the option of getting the home any longer.”

Doc wouldn’t steer him wrong. And Jennifer was already smitten with the home. So Marty agreed to his wife’s persuasive arguments and they made an offer on the home -- a couple thousand below the asking price. He really didn’t think they’d get it for that cost, but the owners accepted without any haggling at all. It was easy; too easy. But Marty decided to stop being paranoid. The money they had saved on the purchase could be invested in renovating the basement to his specifications for a home recording studio.

They had moved into the home over Halloween weekend, a week ago. Friends and family pitched in to asset them with the moving of multiple boxes, furniture, and even some things that were still stored at the couple’s respective childhood homes. Marty’s mother, Lorraine, and Jennifer’s mother, Susan, had taken it upon themselves to clean the home from top to bottom. George McFly and Michael Parker had cleaned up the brush in the yard, mowing the lawn and pouring down new barkdust. Doc had lent his help in setting up a soundboard in the basement for Marty, and Clara, the inventor’s wife, had sewed some curtains for the living room windows. Many of the couple’s contemporaries generously donated their time and bodies with moving some of the heavy, cumbersome things into rooms and up stairways.

Saturday night, their first night in their new home, had been somewhat insane. By the time everyone had left and they were alone, it was after midnight. It was two hours beyond that before both were in bed and asleep, exhausted from a long day of both mental and physical stress.

The noises had started sometime around three in the morning. Jennifer had heard a crash from the kitchen. She sent Marty down to investigate it, but the twenty-four-year-old had seen absolutely nothing. He blamed one of the precariously stacked piles of kitchenware, which had probably fallen unnoticed.

The next night, however, Jennifer had jarred him awake again, claiming she had heard footsteps in the hallway outside their room. Marty chalked that up to an overactive imagination, not allowing himself to be pried out a warm bed to look at that. Jennifer had angrily gone instead, and slunk back ten minutes later without a word, clearing finding nothing amiss.

A couple nights later, however, it was Marty who heard something downstairs -- more crashing, and what sounded like running footsteps. He had locked the bedroom door and called the police, who had showed up at three in the morning with guns drawn, ready to confront a nonexistent prowler.

“Old houses settle,” Doc had said when Marty had relayed him the stories midweek, the day after the cops had shown up. “It’s not uncommon to mistake those creaks and pops for something else. Footsteps in particular.”

That sentiment had been echoed by just about everyone else -- including the previous owners, whom Jennifer had contacted with an excuse of requesting a spare key. The wife, Madelyn, had admitted that she and her husband, Mark, had heard things, too, but that it wasn’t anything to be concerned about. “Once you’re used to the noises, you won’t even notice them,” she assured Jennifer.

Marty had wondered how long that would take.

Thursday night he had been out late, over at Doc’s, helping the inventor with a new project. Jennifer had gone to bed around eleven, and at midnight she had heard something downstairs. Footsteps, again, and then a horrible noise like a scream. Alone, without Marty, she had immediately panicked and called 911. The police had arrived at the home just when Marty pulled into the driveway. They checked the home from top to bottom, seeing no remote evidence of a break-in or prowler. The cops were understandably annoyed with being called out two times within the last week for the same thing, and informed the couple, not without some sympathy, that if this happened again they would be fined.

So Marty was not in a pleasant state of mind as he crept through the house, baseball bat in one hand, straining his ears and eyes for sounds or motion ahead. He didn’t see or hear anything weird in the upstairs hallway or down the curving staircase. Three steps from the first floor, however, he heard the distinct sound of a door opening and closing. It sounded as if it came from the kitchen -- perhaps from the swinging door that separated the room from the dining room.

He adjusted his grip on the bat, raising it up, his mouth dry and palms damp, moving quite silently in his socks on the hardwood floor. There were footsteps in the kitchen -- they were quite distinct in their sound. It sounded like someone was walking around in boots, or shoes with hard soles.

Christ, Marty thought, wondering for the first time if he’d be able to hit anyone with the bat.

He shivered as he drew closer to the kitchen. The old house was drafty, with all sorts of weird cold pockets to it. It felt like the middle of the Arctic just outside the kitchen -- way too cold for the t-shirt and shorts Marty used for PJs. He paused just outside the door, leaning forward, hearing the faint sounds of movement from beyond the swinging door.

Marty took a moment to prepare himself, then raised his foot and kicked the door open. He let out a quick shout as he did so, mostly to vent his strained nerves and perhaps unnerve the intruder. The door was struck hard enough for it to bounce open, slam against the wall, and swing back towards him. In the two seconds that he could see into the kitchen, he glimpsed someone standing at the sink, their back to him. Then the door closed again and he was left feeling very cold and very wide awake.

Go upstairs, get Jen, and get the hell out of here, he thought, but his limbs seemed temporarily frozen. He heard the noises from the kitchen still, a steady thump, thump, thump sort of sound, almost like tapping. Clearly the burglar was paying him no mind.

Marty was suddenly angry -- almost blindingly so. What the hell? This was his house -- he was the man of the house! And he was just standing here, shaking in a cold sweat, trying to figure out how to evacuate his home? No -- that’s not the way it was supposed to be! What would Jennifer think of that?

Screw it, I’m going in!

Marty flung himself through the door, yelling as he went, ready to hit the intruder at the slightest provocation. “What the hell are you” -- He blinked hard, looking around the room, spinning around -- “doing in my... kitchen?”

The room was empty and quiet. Light from a neighbor’s porchlight filtered through the window, giving him enough illumination to see that there was no one around. Marty turned around a couple more times, in a state of disbelief. The only way out of the large kitchen was through the backdoor, and that was still closed. There was no way he could’ve missed someone leaving through that; it would make way too much noise.

The musician lowered the bat, frowning, extremely confused. And very cold. It seemed like the kitchen was having worse problems with the heating system than the dining room. He rubbed one of his bare arms, feeling the goosebumps on it, then reached over and turned on the overhead light, just to be sure he was indeed alone.

A couple minutes later, after his eyes had adjusted and he checked under the kitchen table, in the pantry, and behind some of the paraphernalia on the coat rack, Marty concluded that he was the victim of a very overactive imagination. Again.

This was starting to get ridiculous.

“I’d better go back upstairs,” he muttered under his breath, recovered enough to feel irritation and annoyance at this little adventure. “Make sure Jen didn’t already dial the cops when she heard me yell....”

Something touched his shoulder from behind.

Marty yelped, managing to both jump and spin around. A part of his mind expected to see Jennifer when he turned around, and was already wondering if he was going to end up killing her or kissing her.

But there was no one there; he was still alone.

Marty chuckled once, extremely unnerved, and rubbed the back of his neck. “Great, McFly,” he mumbled. “Next you’ll be seeing things again....”

Movement out of the corner of his eye caused him to snap his head around -- and he saw the chain from the overhead light of the pantry swinging slightly. Marty was confused a moment -- and then realized he must’ve backed into it without thinking, explaining the touch from behind. He grinned nervously, then grabbed the chain and tugged the light off.

“Okay, that’s it,” he said aloud, mostly to break the almost thick silence around him. “Back to bed before my imagination really goes off....”

He crossed the kitchen floor to shut the overhead light off. A faint sound distracted him, a kind of scraping sound of movement. He turned his head -- and saw one of the kitchen knives rise up from the wooden block where it normally resided, move up through the air. Slowly.

Marty blinked several times quickly, his mind having trouble comprehending what he was seeing. This wasn’t noise and this wasn’t shadows and this certainly wasn’t his imagination, unless he was hallucinating. The baseball bat slipped from his hand and clattered to the floor, narrowly missing his feet.

The blade turned in the air, as if an invisible hand was admiring it in the light.

It was too much at this hour of the night, after everything else. He was sick of rationalizing. The world melted away as Marty fainted.

* * *

“I’m telling you, Jen, that’s what I saw! Why won’t you believe me?”

Jennifer McFly frowned as she guided her husband into the other room, towards one of the couches. “Take it easy, now -- you hit your head when you fell.”

Marty started to give her a look -- then winced, his hand going back to the bump behind his head. Jennifer had found him on the floor of their kitchen, next to the kitchen table. She guessed that he had struck his head on a corner of the table when he had.... what? Tripped? Fainted? She wasn’t entirely sure what to think.

She had remained in their bedroom after he had gone down to look around, crouching next to the door that she had cracked open a quarter inch. She had almost screamed when she heard him shout from below, but there had been no further noise, no evidence of any sort of fight or confrontation. So she had remained where she was, although she fingered the cordless phone in one hand more than once, wondering what the harm would be if she called the police.

She very nearly did so when she heard the heavy thud from below. It sounded bad, but the silence that followed it was even worse. After calling out for her husband a couple times, and getting no response, Jennifer spent a terrible minute or two engaged in a silent struggle between wanting to call the police (and risk more humiliation and a fine) and bravely investigating the matter. The latter, provoked by an overwhelming concern for her husband, finally won out. After arming herself with both the phone and the thick hardback copy of Stephen King’s The Stand that she had been reading -- which she figured would be just as effective as Marty’s bat as a heavy weapon -- she crept downstairs, pausing at each step to listen hard.

By the time she reached the bottom of the stairs, she heard faint moans coming from the kitchen. Jennifer hurried there as quickly as she could, bursting into the kitchen and expecting to find... well, something a lot more gruesome or grim than simply Marty, alone, lying on the floor. Her first thought -- that he had been assaulted by someone -- evaporated the moment she noticed the back door was firmly closed. She hadn’t heard any door slam, and the idea that a robber would pause to gently close the door was ridiculous.

Jennifer glanced about long enough to ensure that there was no one else in the room before she rushed to Marty’s side. Her husband continued to groan softly, reaching up to his head, though his eyes were still shut. She nearly tripped over the baseball bat, lying nearby on the floor.

“Marty?” Jennifer had asked, gently patting his cheeks. “Can you hear me? Are you okay? What happened?”

Marty groaned, his eyes fluttering open. “Knives,” he murmured -- or that’s what it sounded like. His eyes focused on her face above his -- and then he sat up, eyes wide, alarmed. “Jen, we should get-- ooh.” He leaned forward, one hand going to the back of his head, his eyes screwing shut. “Something hit me from behind.”

“Yes; I believe it was the kitchen table,” Jennifer said dryly. She stood and headed for the freezer. “What happened?” she asked again, her curiosity overriding her concern for the moment. A sudden thought stopped her cold and she turned to look at the musician, her eyes huge. “Is there a prowler in the house?” she whispered.

Marty took a moment to respond, clearly struggling with either his memory or the lump on his head. “No,” he said. “There is... where are the knives, Jen?”

“The knives?” Jennifer echoed. Her eyes automatically went to the counter. One of their wedding gifts had been a wooden block filled with a few very sharp knives of various sizes. It remained where she remembered setting it a few days before, though one of the blades was clearly missing. The reporter took a few steps forward, spotting it lying on the cutting board beside the sink. Odd.

“They’re all accounted for,” she said, picking up the large blade and sliding it back into its home. “Why? What happened?”

Marty opened his eyes, looking up at her as he continued to gingerly touch the back of his head. “That blade was moving by itself.”

Jennifer’s confusion and disbelief must have showed plainly in her face, for her husband immediately added, “I swear to God, Jen. I saw it floating in the air, towards me... and then I think I passed out. It was just.... I couldn’t believe it.” He started to get up and Jennifer bounced back to his side, helping him to his feet. He staggered a little but was able to remain upright after a moment.

“Are you all right?” she asked anxiously.

“I think so... I got a real headache now. Oh man....”

“Well, you probably shouldn’t be on your feet.” She escorted him out of the kitchen, an arm around his waist, just in case. “I’ll get you an ice pack and some Tylenol and--”

“You don’t believe me, do you?” Marty asked, cutting her off.

Jennifer bit her lip. She didn’t know what to think, frankly. She had her own ideas and notions about the strange noises in their home, but she wasn’t entirely sure if she should voice them just yet. “Well,” she hedged.

“I’m telling you, Jen, that’s what I saw! Why won’t you believe me?”

“Take it easy, now -- you hit your head when you fell.”

Marty started to give her a look, a kind of “no duh” expression, but the bump on his head apparently interrupted it. He winced instead, rubbing it a little as they reached one of the couches. Jennifer helped her spouse sit down, though she didn’t think he needed the assistance, then returned to the kitchen for some ice. It was frigidly cold in the room, and she didn’t feel entirely comfortable there alone. Her eyes kept darting to the block of knives, imagining what it must’ve looked like to see one rising up and floating through the air.

A couple minutes later she returned to the living room, several cubes of ice secured in a plastic baggy and bundled in a clean dishtowel, and a bottle of Tylenol in tow. Marty was lying on his stomach on the couch, his chin resting on his folded arms, staring blankly into the arm of the couch. He turned his head at the sound of his wife’s entrance, frowning faintly.

“I know what I saw, Jen,” he said. “I know it’s completely weird, and there’s probably some kinda rational explanation but... hell, I don’t have one ready.”

“I do,” Jennifer said, sitting down on the edge of the couch and placing the cold compress on the back of Marty’s head. “Well... maybe.”

Marty waited, closing his eyes and reaching up to put one hand on the compress. “Are you gonna tell me what it is?” he asked when a minute passed and Jennifer didn’t speak.

Jennifer sighed, rubbing her husband’s back. “Do you believe in ghosts, Marty?”

There was such a long pause that Jennifer had started to worry that Marty had either passed out or fallen asleep. Just as she was about to shake him, he answered. “I don’t know, maybe. Why? Do you think that’s what we’ve got? A ghost?”

Jennifer managed to both nod and shrug. “I read a lot of ghost stories when I was a kid,” she said. “Real ones and fictional ones. And a lot of what’s been going on could be related to a haunting. Strange noises. Footsteps. Even the fact it’s so cold so much.”

“But there could be real reasons for that, too. Old houses settle, remember? And places like this probably are harder to heat in the winter.”

“Well, maybe so,” Jennifer said softly. “But you asked for my opinion on what it was you saw, and that’s the only thing I can think of.”

Marty was quiet for a minute. “Maybe,” he said softly. “I thought I saw, before, in the kitchen... but it wasn’t there a second later. But who would want to haunt our house?”

“I don’t know. But it’s certainly old enough, and has enough history. Many times places are haunted when something tragic happens, or someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Or there’s unfinished business. That sort of thing.”

“Great; so we bought the Amityville Horror.”

Jennifer shivered in her thin nightshirt, glancing around the room nervously, half expecting to see some ghostly form tucked into a corner, staring at her. As much as she did love the home they had bought, she had to admit that she felt nervous more than once inside it, particularly if she was alone. She had chalked it up to the adjustment period of going from a small apartment to a three story (if one included the basement) house, but maybe there was something more....

“I don’t know if the ghost -- if there is one -- is exactly vengeful towards us....”

“Oh yeah?” Marty asked, opening his eyes and turning his head to look at her. “So pulling out the knives was supposed to be a gesture of goodwill and welcome?”

The newswoman frowned, bothered by what Marty had seen more than she cared to admit. Noises were one thing -- actual physical objects being moved was something else entirely, and opened up a whole new can of worms as far as she was concerned.

“Maybe you scared it,” she said.

I scared it?” Marty’s snort made his feelings abundantly clear about that.

“Well, if it wanted to hurt you, it had the chance when you fainted. And it didn’t.”

“Yeah, well, maybe it moved the kitchen table behind me so I’d get a concussion....”

“You don’t have a concussion,” Jennifer said. “And the kitchen table seemed to be in the last place I remembered seeing it earlier tonight.” She tapped a finger against her husband’s back, thinking. “Maybe tomorrow -- well, later today, I mean -- we could go to the library and do some research on ghosts, and this old house.”

“That could take a while,” Marty said, almost dismissively. Jennifer knew he didn’t enjoy research in the same way she did, not unless the subject was a personal interest of his. “I could just ask Doc tomorrow -- he and Clara lived in Hill Valley when the house was built. Maybe he would remember anything that went on.”

“Maybe -- but if he did, why wouldn’t he have mentioned it before?”

There was another lengthy pause. “I don’t know. But he’d still be a good person to ask, anyway. He didn’t really say much about the owners at that time to me -- did he say anything to you?”

“Honestly, I never thought to ask,” Jennifer said. “I keep forgetting he lived in the past all that time. All right, you go ask him tomorrow, and let me know whatever he has to share so I can dig into the history of this house. The sooner we know where we stand, the better off I think we’ll be.”

As if to underscore her words, there was a hollow metallic clatter from the direction of the kitchen. Jennifer jumped immediately to her feet, heart racing, weak in the knees, but Marty grabbed her wrist before she could so much as take one step.

“Don’t bother,” he said, sounding tired, almost bored. “You know there won’t be anything there. We might as well go back to bed and just ignore all this stuff.”

Jennifer glanced in the direction of the kitchen, extremely uneasy, but managed a nod for her husband. If it was indeed the supernatural, there was nothing more they could do about it tonight. Ignoring the noises, though, was not going to be easy; they had occurred nightly since they had moved in, and disturbed her, at least, greatly.

I wonder if there’s a way to fix this, she thought, narrowing her eyes. Perhaps she would have to research ghosts and hauntings at the library as well.

Chapter Two

Saturday, November 7, 1992
3:17 P.M.

Marty waited until the middle of the afternoon before stopping by his friend’s house for a visit. He wasn’t entirely sure how to broach the subject to Doc, and although he had told him about the strange noises earlier in the week, that was before Jennifer had put the potential supernatural spin on things. If Marty was a borderline skeptic, then Doc, as a “man of science,” would probably laugh at the very idea that a ghost was bothering the McFlys. The situation had to be handled delicately, the musician figured.

And maybe, he hoped, Doc would suggest a real, non-creepy reason for what was going on in the new McFly home. Marty would much rather believe in the house settling or the furnace going whacko than the unexplained. Though he honestly couldn’t see how anyone could explain the levitating knife he saw. Just the memory of that made his blood run cold, and had kept him wide awake the rest of the night.

Verne and Emily were outside in front of the Brown home when Marty pulled up in his truck. Emily, a month shy of turning five, was on her pink and purple bike, which still wore the requisite training wheels, carefully peddling on the sidewalk before the house. Verne, fifteen for little more than a week, now, was apparently trying to learn some skateboarding moves; as Marty approached, he was deliberately skating into the curb, trying to leap up on it without losing the board. The musician was careful to avoid both kids as he parked the car on the street. They both paused in their activities, watching him as he turned the car off and got out.

“Marty!” Emily called from her bike, beaming at him. “Look -- I can go fast without fallin’ off now!”

Without giving him a chance to react, the little girl took off, peddling down the street with a lip-biting intensity. Marty watched her for a minute, more out of concern than anything else, then looked at Verne, who was holding his board in one hand. “Is your dad around?”

“Yeah -- he’s in the house trying to help Jules with some science midterm,” he said. “College is apparently more of a challenge than he thought.” The blond teen smirked a bit at that. Jules, Doc’s oldest, had skipped a few grades, and last June graduated from Hill Valley High School at the tender age of sixteen. He was accepted on a full scholarship to Hill Valley University, where he began classes in September in biology; Jules was quite serious and driven to become a medical doctor.

Verne set his board down on the sidewalk and placed one sneakered foot on the wooden surface, rolling it back and forth in a restless sort of action. He had grown quite tall and gangly in the last year, and was now just a couple inches shy of his father; Marty found it slightly unnerving to look up to the kid to make eye contact, but he was getting used to it more every day. Most of the world’s male population seemed to be taller than him. “Hey, do you skateboard anymore?” the teen asked.

Marty smiled. “Not so much since I got out of college,” he said. “Why? Do you need tips?”

Verne shrugged. “I just seem to be wiping out too much when I try to hop on the curb,” he said. “And Mom’s getting all paranoid ‘cause of the bruises all over. She thinks I’m gonna break something.”

“Is that why you’re wearing the helmet?” Marty asked.

Verne scowled, his blue eyes rolling up in the direction of the offending headgear. “Yeah -- I’m supposed to ‘set an example’ for Emmy. Like anything will happen; I’ve never hit my head. Anyway, it’s not like you needed a helmet.”

“Those were different days,” Marty said. “And I did take a bad fall once, when I was about your age. One of my friends built a ramp, and when I went off it I didn’t land how I wanted.”

“What happened?” Verne asked, curious.

“I landed on my side, scraping my arm up pretty bad, and hit my head. It knocked me out. When I woke up I was in my room, with my mom sitting next to me, I guess making sure I didn’t stop breathing or something like that. She dragged me to the doctor, but I was fine -- just a mild concussion.”

“Did you wear a helmet after that?” Verne asked, though he knew the answer already.

“No -- but like I said, those were different days. My mom got a lot more paranoid about me skateboarding, but what could she do?”

Verne sighed. “Mom said I’d get grounded if she caught me skating without the helmet. I should be glad she’s not making me wear pads and guards. It’s so dorky....”

“Marty! Didja see me?”

The musician turned his head towards Emily’s voice, seeing the little girl pulling up a few feet shy of him, breathless, her cheeks flushed pink from the crisp fall air. “I made it all th’ way down the street an’ turned w’out fallin’!”

“She only figured out how to do that this week,” Verne murmured under his breath, too soft for Emily to hear but loud enough to reach Marty’s ears.

“Good job,” he said, giving the girl a smile. She beamed under the praise. He glanced at Verne again. “If you want, I could see if I can help you with the curb jumping after I talk to your dad. But it’s been a few years, so I might be a little rusty.”

“Cool,” Verne said, nodding. “You can just walk into the house -- the door’s not locked, and Mom went to the store.”

Marty thanked him and headed up the steps towards the house. Einstein was lying on the porch, clearly keeping an eye on the kids. He looked up at Marty’s approach and wagged his tail, but didn’t move from his post. Marty paused to give the dog a good scratch behind the ears. Einie was getting on in years; Doc had already had him when Marty had met him in 1982. And then there was the couple years he had spent in the past after Doc had created the second time machine. Einstein was at least thirteen or fourteen, now, which was ancient in dog years, and moved stiffly and slowly when he had to move at all. And yet he never complained. Marty wondered how many years he had left in him, and from time to time he had noticed Doc watching his pet as he slowly made his way in or out of a room, a pained look on his face. Such thoughts were no doubt bothering the inventor much more.

As Verne had promised, the front door was indeed unlocked. Marty helped himself inside, then paused to listen hard for a clue as to Doc’s whereabouts. He didn’t have to wait too long; by the time he had shrugged off his coat, he could hear the inventor’s authoritative murmur coming from the dining room, which was connected to the living room that was off the foyer. He followed the sound to its source, finding Doc sitting with Jules at the mahogany table, a couple fat textbooks opened and spread on the surface around them. Neither noticed Marty, who remained hovering on the edge of the room for a moment. He caught the tail end of what sounded like a confusing biology lecture before he decided to open his mouth and announce his presence.

“Hey,” he said. “Am I interrupting anything important?”

Jules looked up, clearly happy by the distraction; his father simply looked surprised. “Marty, I didn’t expect to see you today,” he said.

“I wanted to talk to you about something,” he said. “I figured it would be better to do in person than on the phone, but if you’re busy I can come back later.”

“I can take a break from this, Dad,” Jules said, quite generously, pushing his chair back and standing. “You’ve given me enough info so I can get a start on some of these problems.”

Doc looked at his oldest, taken aback by the offer. “Well, I suppose so, if that’s all right with you.”

“No problem,” Jules said. He headed for the kitchen door, giving Marty a look that clearly said, “Thank you,” then escaped through the door, leaving the musician and his father alone.

Doc was on his feet by the time Marty turned back to look at him. “What’s up?” he asked. “Did you need help with any of the sound equipment at the house?”

“No -- I mean, yeah, but no, that’s not why I’m over here. I had some questions for you. Jen and I both did, actually.”

The scientist looked intrigued, sitting back down at the table. Marty followed the example, taking Jules’ vacant seat. “What about?”

“Our house, basically. You lived in Hill Valley when it was built -- what do you remember about it?”

Doc clearly wasn’t expecting that question. His eyed widened a moment, then narrowed down, his brow furrowing. “What do I remember about the house?”

“Yeah -- who built it in the first place?”

Doc rubbed the side of his forehead, clearly straining his memory. “Let’s see.... I think it was the editor of the Hill Valley Telegraph at the time. And his wife. Now what were their names....”

“The realtor called it the Bailey place.”

“Oh -- yes, that’s right! That was their last name. Bailey, Bailey....”

“Do you remember anything about ‘em? Did you know ‘em?”

“No -- Clara and I didn’t really move in their circle. But we tried to keep to ourselves as much as possible, too. I remember that they had a big Christmas party every year, but neither Bailey or his wife were enormous pillars in society. I vaguely remember they were in the news a lot in the early 1890s. I think Bailey's wife died under some mysterious circumstances.”

Marty’s ears perked up. What was it that Jennifer had said the night before? Places were often haunted if people met untimely or dramatic ends? “Really?” he asked, trying to keep the eagerness out of his voice. “What happened?”

“I can’t remember, offhand. I had a great many things on my mind at that point in time than the latest gossip in town. But I’m sure that the news archives would have something about the matter if you were inclined to look it up.” Doc studied him a moment. “Why this sudden interest in the history of your home?”

“Well... uh... Jen had this idea about something.” Marty felt bad blaming his wife, but it really and truly had been her suggestion in the first place. “We heard more noises last night. Jennifer sent me down to check it out, and I saw some pretty weird shit.”

Doc looked at him, nodding once for Marty to continue. The musician squirmed a little, knowing just what his friend’s reaction would be to the next part. “In the kitchen I saw a knife floating in mid-air. I was alone down there -- I checked that out before that happened. When I saw that, I, uh, fainted -- it was really just too much to deal with. But I wasn’t out long -- I woke up probably a minute or two after that, and Jen was in the kitchen. I guess she heard me fall. She didn’t see anything strange, but the knife wasn’t where it was supposed to be. It was on the cutting board, and it wasn’t there when we went up to bed last night.”

Doc nodded again when Marty paused. The latter leaned forward, across the table. “We just wanna know what the hell is goin’ on, Doc. Jennifer thinks it’s a ghost, that the house is haunted. That’d explain a lot, I guess, including why we got the place for such a good price. But it just seems kinda... farfetched I guess. Still, she wants to know the history of the house, now, and I told her that I’d talk to you and see what you knew. So -- that’s why I’m asking.”

The scientist tapped one finger against the top of the table. “Interesting,” was all he said.

Marty couldn’t take the suspense. If his friend was going to laugh at him, he wanted to get it over with. “Do you believe in ghosts, Doc?”

“That depends on how you approach the question,” Doc said.

Marty didn’t care for the crypticism. “What do you mean?”

“I agree with the belief that there are many things in this world that cannot be explained by contemporary science. But I also think there are perfectly logical and rational explanations behind what is considered the supernatural.”

“So is that a yes or a no?” Marty asked, finding the answer a non-answer.

“It’s possible that these events in your home may have another cause. Maybe the home was built on a concentration of natural elements that cause electromagnetic fluctuations, disturbances in the atmosphere.”

Marty was more inclined to believe in ghosts than something like that. “So you’re saying that minerals or whatever made the kitchen knife levitate?” The scorn and disbelief was clear in his voice.

Doc smiled faintly. “Perhaps,” he said. “A force of nature that hasn’t quite been discovered or thoroughly explored yet. Are you sure you didn’t imagine the sight? That you were wide awake when you went down to the kitchen?”

“I’m positive.”

“Did you hit your head when you fell?”

Marty automatically reached up to the back of his head, where the bruise from the kitchen table still carried a dull ache. “Yeah,” he admitted, reluctantly. “But I saw the floating knife before I fainted. It wasn’t my imagination, Doc. I wasn’t sleepwalking or dreaming. I was wide awake.”

“Any drugs or alcohol earlier in the evening?”

“No -- nothing stronger than diet Pepsi. Doc, I’m telling you, I saw what I did. And I really don’t need a lecture on anything from you right now.” Marty closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead, feeling more than a little stressed. The nightly disturbances weren’t helping, either. He was starting to feel seriously exhausted from it all, and Jennifer seemed to be in a similar state if the circles under her eyes were any indication. They hadn’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep for a week, now.

“I’m not trying to lecture you -- I’m merely trying to point out some perfectly reasonable and possible explanations for the events in your home. It could simply be as basic as the building settling, or the old pipes, or the furnace.”

“And all that stuff’s been replaced in the last five years -- remember? Besides, that doesn’t explain what I saw!”

“Ah, but perhaps there’s a gas leak or something in the kitchen. That could cause hallucinations.”

Marty gave up. He wasn’t entirely surprised by Doc’s reaction to the story, but it still frustrated him nonetheless. “Forget it,” he muttered, standing up. “Just forget I even said anything.”

“Marty,” Doc said, also pushing himself up from the table, “wait, I’m sorry. It’s just a... fantastic story.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not just a story -- it’s becoming a pain in the ass. Jen’s on edge, I’m on edge, and we don’t even feel altogether comfortable in our own house right now. It’s stupid -- and we can’t get through a night without something banging around downstairs. I just want it to stop, and I don’t care if it’s a loose shutter or a ghost at this point.”

Doc turned towards one of the windows, staring outside for a moment. He seemed to be thinking, and Marty let him do so without interruption, wandering into the adjacent living room and flopping down in one of the armchairs near the fireplace. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back a moment, not looking forward to returning to the home and Jen without much anything to go on.

“Well,” Doc said, the sound of his voice causing Marty to open his eyes, “I suppose if you’d like me to, I could come to your house one night, set out some equipment, and see what it captures. It should give us a good idea what sort of phenomenon is going on.”

Marty was intrigued. “What do you mean? You have ghostbusting equipment?”

Doc smiled as he joined his friend in the living room. “No -- that’s simply fiction. There is an area of science called parapsychology, which is the study of paranormal phenomenon -- the unexplained, if you will. Those who are involved in that science make it a point to study unusual activities using scientific meters and equipment. I’ve got some of those things already, since they can be used in a number of different ways for more legitimate scientific experiments. In addition, we could set up an audio and video recorder and see if any of these sounds and sights can be captured, and perhaps analyzed.”

Something seemed a bit off to Marty on this. “How would you even know what to look for in something like this?”

“Deviations from normal readings,” Doc said. “I think it will be fairly obvious.”

“But how would you know what that means? Do you know anything about parapsychology?”

“I know a little,” Doc said. “It was an area of science that I found myself interested in when I was younger. Not with ghosts so much as other areas; I studied ESP when I was trying to create the mind-reading helmet.”

“Well, I don’t have a problem if you want to come over and set up things, or stay the night and see that Jennifer and I aren’t crazy. But I’d better clear it with Jen, first. I need to get a hold of her anyway and let her know what you told me, but I think she’s still at the library.”

“All right -- and I’d better check with my own wife about that matter. Staying the night would probably be the best idea -- perhaps tomorrow night, so I can have a chance to locate all the equipment and make sure it’s in proper working order. If I’m there the whole time I can make sure for myself that there are no glitches with the equipment.”

And then you can hear things for yourself, too, Marty thought, definitely supporting that idea.

* * *

After Marty’s discussion with Doc had concluded, and Jules reluctantly returned for more science help, the musician had gone outside to help Verne with his skateboarding challenges. The musician was a bit rusty with the sport, since he really hadn’t done much of it since his college graduation in 1990. (In fact, he wasn’t even entirely sure where his board was now.) Now, when he wanted to go places, he generally walked or drove. Fortunately, he had worn some old jeans, sneakers, and a sweatshirt to Doc’s place, so he was not hindered by any clothing restraints. Thus, he had only himself to blame for the falls he took before he finally got back in the swing of things and was able to show Verne a couple things. The kid caught on fairly fast, and in no time at all was pulling off the stunts better than his teacher, who was already feeling a little sore from the ordeal.

By the time Marty left the Brown house, it was almost five. Jennifer was home when he arrived, seated at their kitchen table with a bunch of papers spread out around her. She looked up as Marty came in through the back door and immediately stood up, fast enough that she nearly upset the soda can on the tabletop. “Where were you?” she asked, her tone almost accusatory.

Marty blinked, taken aback, as he shrugged his coat off and hung it on the rack nearby. “At Doc’s,” he said. “Grilling him about the history of the house, like you wanted me to. Which was pretty much a dead end, since he remembered practically nothing about the former owners. Did you find anything at the library?”

Jennifer’s eyes were wide, but Marty wasn’t sure why. She was either really excited or really nervous. “Oh yes,” she said, her voice almost breathy. “A lot. Marty, our house was involved in a murder!”

If Jennifer thought the news would shock him, she was in for a disappointment. Doc had mentioned that something big had happened with their home, though he hadn’t used the M word. “What happened?” he asked.

Jennifer grabbed his arm and dragged him to one of the kitchen chairs, sitting him down before he quite knew what hit him. “It was such a huge deal back then,” she said. “The HVTs talked about it for weeks -- and the editor of the newspaper was the man behind it all!”

“Yeah, Doc said that the editor and his wife lived here and built this house. Bailey--”

“Gilbert Bailey,” Jennifer said, shoving something -- it looked like a Xerox of an old newspaper article -- before his face. “And his wife, Elaine Bailey. That’s them, see?”

Marty took the paper from her hand and looked at the fuzzy formal cameo portraits of an unsmiling man and woman. They looked maybe around thirty years old each, give or take. The man wore wire glasses and had a mustache. The woman had a very angular face, and hair that was pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. Distinguishing features, such as hair or eye color, were impossible to glean from the grainy black and white copy, though Marty thought the woman had blond or red hair; it wasn’t as dark as her husband’s.

The photos were under a grim headline. Local Woman Vanishes; Husband Arrested, Suspected of Murder. The date, Marty saw, was Wednesday, December 9, 1891.

And Doc doesn’t remember this? he wondered, aghast. Sheesh. I wonder if Clara does?

Yet it wasn’t entirely unsurprising to the musician. His friend seemed to be peripherally aware, at best, of current events in town, and if he was distracted by creating a time machine and having a family -- because Jules and Verne would be right in that young child/toddler realm -- it wouldn’t be unrealistic to think that a big murder mystery elsewhere in town was unmemorable.

Of course, it wasn’t as if Hill Valley was a hotbed of crime, either. Not now, and especially not then.

Marty started to read the story, or tried to, but Jennifer’s babbling made it all but impossible. She wanted to share the details herself.

“Apparently, on the night of Monday, December seventh, Gilbert contacted the local police. He came home from his job at the paper and found his wife missing -- and smeared blood leading from the kitchen to the cellar. There was a knife in the kitchen with blood on it, but there was no sign of Elaine. The police came out and sealed off the house, questioned Gilbert, but they didn’t find any body, and they didn’t see any signs of forced entry. But he didn’t have an alibi -- he said he was working late at the paper, alone -- and so on Tuesday afternoon they arrested him and charged him with the murder of his wife.”

Jennifer paused for breath as Marty lowered the paper in his hand to look at some of the other things on the table. “Gilbert was put on trial a couple weeks later. The evidence they had was basically circumstantial, at best, but they still found him guilty of murdering his wife. Gilbert apparently displayed no emotion when he found his wife missing, or after, so they were sure that had to mean something. And I guess Elaine came from serious money; guess who got it all when she died?

“Anyway, Gilbert pled not guilty and was hanged on February 14, 1892. But here’s the thing -- they never found out what happened to Elaine. They never found her body, but she was never seen again. She just vanished.”

Marty couldn’t help shivering a little at that. “Creepy,” he said. “So what do you think about all this?”

Jennifer blinked. “Isn’t it obvious?” she asked. “Our house is being haunted by Elaine Bailey!”


“It all fits, Marty. Most of the noises we’ve been hearing have been in the kitchen. The kitchen is where she was killed -- that’s where the bloody knife was, and where bloodstains started! Murder, a missing body, maybe the wrong person accused and punished for the crime... what else do you want?”

Marty didn’t want to think about it, but it did give him a good chance to bring up Doc’s offer. “Doc said he could investigate the house for us,” he said, not answering her question. “Set up some equipment and stay the night to see what it catches. I told him I’d check with you, but you won’t have a problem with it, will you?”

Jennifer shook her head immediately. “Absolutely not,” she assured him. “He can have the spare key if he wants. Does this mean that Doc believes in ghosts?”

Marty made a face, recalling the conversation about that. “Eh, no. I don’t think so. He seems to think he’ll find a scientific reason behind the noises and stuff. Like gas leaks or old floorboards and pipes. I dunno. I just hope that he gets something, and hears the stuff for himself. That’d convince anyone.”

“Well, things have been happening nightly,” Jennifer said. “I doubt the... noises would stop for him. Is he coming tonight?” She frowned faintly, looking around the kitchen. “I need to clean the house.”

“No,” Marty said. “He said something about tomorrow night at the soonest. I can call him now and get things worked out.” He waved to the articles and notes on the table. “Are those going to stick around?”

“Of course,” Jennifer said. “They’re my copies.”

“Good -- we can show them to Doc. Maybe it’ll jog his memory, too.”

* * *

After a phone call to Doc, confirming his visit the following evening, and dinner, the McFly phone rang for Jennifer. It was the news station, summoning her to a breaking story involving a warehouse fire in the industrial area of town. The more prominent reporters were all apparently unavailable for the job.

“More like they don’t want to be dragged out on a Saturday night,” Marty said after his wife hung up the phone and broke the news.

“Well, be that as it may, if I want any sort of promotion in the future, I have to jump when they ask,” Jennifer said, looking flustered. “At least we were at home tonight. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Naw, don’t worry. Have fun.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes a little. “Right,” she drawled, heading upstairs to change.

After his wife departed on the heels of the story, Marty headed down to the basement, his future studio -- though the area looked anything but at the moment. The space was large, sprawling almost the entire square footage of the first floor of the home. One area had been cordoned off as a kind of laundry room, which included a small half bathroom, but the rest was one large space. The former owners had used it as a kind of recreational den, so it was recently carpeted and painted, with a built-in wet bar in one corner, and track lighting. Marty’s intentions were to install soundproofing on the walls, along with a new wall with an entrance that would keep the sound and disturbances from the laundry room at bay. He would also have to reroute some of the wires, install a bank of sound equipment, and isolate that from a small space where one could record the music in a soundless environment.

The basement, however, offered plenty of room for his remodeling ideas, and even a bit for a sort of office corner, where he eventually intended to set up a nice desk and maybe even a computer to work on his music. It was in that corner where Marty settled after Jennifer’s departure, on the old couch that her parents had given her when she had moved out. The area was pretty much a mess -- his music equipment was still partially boxed up, and what was out was distributed helter skelter all over the floor and a few tables -- but it provided him few distractions, and was pretty quiet. Very important when he had some ideas he wanted to get down.

But, unfortunately, his own brain was conspiring against him. His mind kept wandering off from the task at hand, inspiration notwithstanding.

The ghost business provided a big chunk of distraction. Then there was the chaotic mess around him -- he was sick of having to dig through boxes to find what he wanted. And then there was a general fatigue, both from the long day and the repeated wakenings every night the last week. That half night of sleep the night before hadn’t helped, either.

By eleven P.M., prompted by an increasing headache, he set aside his notebook and guitar and stretched out on the couch for a couple minutes. The house was peaceful for once, quiet, and, in spite of the lights on around him, Marty wound up falling asleep.

Loud music jarred him awake an indeterminable time later. It’s late in the evening/She’s wondering what clothes to wear/She puts on her make up/And brushes her long blonde hair/And then she asks me/Do I look all right/And I say yes, you look wonderful tonight....

Marty bolted up, his eyes popping open, so startled he almost fell off the couch. He noticed a few things in quick succession: his CD player was on, and loud enough to wake the dead; someone had covered him with a blanket; and the room was icy cold. He felt disoriented and confused, stumbling off the couch to stop the musical assault. At least the lights were all still on.

“Jennifer?” he called out once the room was silent again, raising his voice to carry out of the basement. There was no answer, or no noise. Marty looked at his watch. 12:31 A.M. Smack in the witching hour. He rubbed his arms, chilled to the core.

The CD player came abruptly to life again. Once more, the beginning to “Wonderful Tonight” poured into the room. Marty jumped at the unexpected noise and nearly fell over his guitar, propped up against one end of the couch. He slammed his hand on the power switch, then unplugged the device for good measure.

“Maybe it’s a short circuit,” he muttered, though he didn’t really believe that. His heart was racing as hard as it would’ve had he just run a race, and he felt himself sweating a little in spite of the frigid cold.

Marty walked a few steps until he was standing at the bottom of the basement stairs. The door at the top of them was ajar, and he could see the light from one of the living room lamps. “Jennifer?” he shouted again, louder this time.

He swore he felt a hand on the back of his neck, as cold and clammy as a dishrag. Every hair on his body rose at the sensation. A second later Eric Clapton came on again, and he nearly wet his pants. He could clearly see the plug was still hanging away from the socket by several inches. And that stereo had no battery back up.

“Hello?” he managed, his voice shaking a little. “What do you want?”

There was no verbal answer. The volume on the stereo fluctuated a moment, going very loud, then very soft. Then the music stopped altogether, fading out. Marty sighed, leaning against an arm of the couch. His relief didn’t last, however.

The amp a few feet away suddenly clicked on, and invisible fingers strummed the strings on his guitar. The sounds were not pleasant, shrill and loud. The musician clapped his hands over his ears, and his fear morphed into genuine anger.

“Hey,” he shouted to the invisible visitor. “Cut that out! That’s expensive equipment!”

Marty felt more than a little ridiculous talking to thin air like that, but the sounds did stop. The amp remained on, the sound of no input hissing loudly through the room, but his guitar wasn’t touched any longer. Marty walked over and turned it off, half expecting it to switch back on. The silence around him felt thick. He realized, for the first time, that he was probably still alone in the house. There was no way on earth that Jennifer could have slept through all that racket, not if she was waking up from footsteps in the hallway.

Footsteps in the hallway....

At that precise moment, he heard just the sound. Slow, almost shuffling, steps coming down the stairs. Marty’s eyes flew over to that direction, but nothing was there. Except.... He blinked, squinted, and blinked again. A dark shadow, like that cast by a person, moved slowly against the wall, in synch with the footsteps.

The sight freaked him out worse than any of the other things put together. Marty wanted to run, but his muscles were locked into place, feeling like Jell-o. He managed to sit down on the couch, and was gasping for breath as the eerie sight descended the stairs. The sound and the shadows were there, but no person. It was so wrong.

And so cold. He wrapped his arms around his chest, hugging them close.

The shadow and steps continued beyond the bottom of the stairs, moving past Marty and towards an oddly shaped alcove in his office space. There were so many shadows there that the darker form of a person -- or the ghost -- merged, and was lost. The steps, too, seemed to cease... but a moment later there was a faint, almost muffled moan. He could feel his hair stand on end again.

Oh God, this is too weird!

Upstairs came the sound of a door opening and closing. More footsteps. Marty’s eyes darted over, and a moment later he saw his wife’s face peering down from the door at the top of the stairs. She was still dressed in her work clothes, a neatly tailored skirt, blouse, and jacket. “Were you waiting up for me?” she asked, giving him a tired smile. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Marty found the resolve to move, and jumped to his feet, stumbling forward towards the stairs. “Jennifer,” he began.

The newswoman’s smile faded as she got a better look at her husband. “Marty, is something wrong?” she asked. “You’re -- you’re white!”

Marty ran up the stairs. As he went up the steps, he felt the temperature shift from the frigid realm to one much more comfortable. He gently pushed his wife away and closed the door at their backs. “Ghost,” he managed. “It was the ghost. It’s down there, now.”

Jennifer’s eyes widened, and she immediately looked much more awake. “Really?” she asked. “What happened?”

“It.... well, I fell asleep down there, and then I woke up ‘cause the stereo was on. I didn’t have it on before. And I-- oh my God, it must’ve covered me up! When I dozed off, I didn’t have a blanket on me, but when I woke up, I did. Shit.” He ran a hand through his hair, shaken by the idea. “I unplugged the stereo, but it still came back on. And then it messed with my guitar and amp a little. I yelled at it, then, and it stopped that, but then I heard footsteps and saw this shadow moving on the wall. A shadow of a person, Jen, or what a person might cast. It was... it was eerie! And then that stopped, but I heard this moaning sound -- and then you came home.”

Jennifer drank in the words, captivated, then edged past Marty, opened the door, and ran down the basement steps. Marty followed her, too spooked to remain alone right now.

“Jennifer... Jen, what are you doing?”

“You saw something,” she said, sounding awed. “That’s amazing. So far I’ve only heard things.”

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t that great, believe me. What are you doing?”

His wife was standing near the couch, looking around with an intensity that the musician hadn’t seen before, aside from Doc. “It’s cold down here,” she said. “Was it like that when you heard the noises and everything?”

Marty reluctantly went deeper into the room. “Yes,” he said. “But it’s warmer now.” And it was. That bone-penetrating chill was no longer present. “Come on, Jen, let’s just go to bed. I don’t want to deal with this anymore tonight.”

Jennifer walked slowly around the office area, into the alcove, then back to the couch. “I don’t hear anything now,” she said, sounding slightly disappointed.

“It -- I think it left. I hope it left. God. I feel like we’re living in the middle of a horror film.”

Jennifer turned and rested her hand on his arm, her hand warm. Nothing at all like that creepy sensation of a dead hand on the back of his neck. “Oh, Marty, don’t be so dramatic. You weren’t harmed. It’s just noises.”

“Jennifer, it messed with my guitar!”

“Well, it didn’t hurt it, did it?”

“I dunno,” Marty muttered, a little sulky now. “I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. Look, let’s leave the investigation for tomorrow, when Doc comes over. I really don’t want to deal with it anymore tonight.”

Jennifer sighed, reluctant. “All right. It is late.”

As she headed for the stairs, Marty quickly grabbed his notebook and guitar. He didn’t feel like leaving them behind, on the off chance the ghost would try more tricks with them. Of course, it wasn’t as if he could secure the rest of his music and equipment. The idea made him more than a little uneasy. This was his space, his world, and it was being rudely invaded by something he couldn’t possibly protect himself against.

Doc’ll come tomorrow, he told himself. He’ll find a way to fix this. He’s gotta.

Chapter Three

Sunday, November 8, 1992
7:56 P.M.

Emmett Brown arrived at the McFlys a few minutes before the eight P.M. meeting time he and Marty had settled on. In the back of his station wagon were the boxes of equipment -- meters, cameras, sensors, and other things -- that he hoped would solve the mystery of the old home. Marty came out to meet him as soon as he stopped the car in their driveway, clearly happy to see him.

“How have things been during the day?” the inventor asked as he left the car and headed for the back hatch.

“Quiet,” Marty said. “But I think it’s harder to tell if anything’s going on because Jennifer and I are usually at work then -- and if we’re not, then we’re rattling around in the house, so any noise wouldn’t really be noticed. We’re still trying to unpack some things,” he added. “Jen wanted me to make sure you knew that.”

“Of course,” Doc said, slightly bemused by this trait that seemed to be shared by all women. Clara was the same way -- if any of their children’s friends or Marty or Jennifer were due to stop by, she would insist on running around and straightening the house up. No matter how close the visitors were to their family.

Marty peered into the back of the car as Doc pulled out a box. He handed it to the musician, who accepted it with some curiosity. “What’d you bring?” he asked.

“You’ll see,” Doc said, not wanting to get into it quite yet. “Jules and Verne are going to drop by later,” he added. “I hope that’s all right. They were a bit intrigued by the idea of unusual phenomenon.”

“Sure, I guess that’s okay,” Marty said, sounding dubious. “But if they expect to see anything, they’d probably need to stick around all night.”

“Oh, they won’t be doing that,” Doc assured him, pulling out a second box of equipment for himself. He set it down on the driveway, then paused to close the hatch of the car. “They both have school tomorrow.”

“And Jennifer and I both have work,” Marty said, with a sigh. He adjusted his grip on the box as Doc picked up the one from the ground.

“That’s right,” Doc said, only now realizing the fact. “I didn’t even think about that.... Would you rather this wait until the weekend?”

Marty shook his head. “No way,” he said emphatically. “I’ll just drink a lot of coffee tomorrow -- it’s fine. Jennifer will probably go to bed as usual, though, since she’d have more of a problem functioning if she didn’t sleep. All those cameras and running around and talking to people.”

Doc followed the musician up the driveway, then to the porch steps. The McFly home was built in a Victorian style, and at the time of the construction had been one of the more elaborate buildings in Hill Valley. There was a porch that wrapped completely around the lower level of the home, gingerbread trim, and a turret that provided a little alcove in both the master bedroom and the living room. The former carriage house of the home had been converted to a two car garage, with a vast space above that could be used for storage, or perhaps turned into an office or bedroom. The yard was vast, though not as vast as it once had been; previous owners had sold some of the land to other developers, perhaps in the early twentieth century, Doc surmised, based on the neighboring architectural styles. It was a beautiful piece of property, and the home looked like something from a picture book. He could see why Jennifer had fallen for the house; even his own wife had sighed wistfully upon seeing it for the first time. He hadn’t lied to Marty after he had his own look around; the home was a steal at the asking price, and there were no signs that the building was a lemon.

Until now, of course. It was more than obvious to the inventor that the previous owners must have had experiences similar to the McFlys in the home. Doc wondered how they had coped, but he realized it was a rather stupid question; they had coped by moving. That probably wouldn’t be possible for the younger couple. Most, if not all, of their finances seemed to be sunk into the home.

Jennifer met them in the foyer, smiling at Doc with an expression akin to relief. “Thank you so much, Doc,” she said, very sincerely. “You have no idea how much Marty and I appreciate this!”

“It’s no problem,” the scientist assured her. “I think it will be fascinating to see what we find out in the investigation. I promise to be as thorough as I can, but I can’t promise that we’ll discover an easy answer.”

“Even part of an answer is better than none,” Marty said. He veered off into the living room, setting his box down on the coffee table, then peered into the open top of it. “What is all this stuff, anyway?”

“All in good time, Marty,” Doc said, easing the second box down next to the first. “Why don’t you give me a tour of the house, first? I’ll need to know where this mysterious phenomenon is taking place.”

Marty showed him the upstairs while Jennifer went about collecting together the research she had conducted on the home, and which she wanted Doc to look at when they finished. Doc had seen the home before, when helping the McFlys with moving in, but at the time he hadn’t given it much thought. Now, as they went through each upstairs room -- even though Marty claimed that nothing really happened on that floor -- the inventor was carefully eyeballing the walls and floors, looking for any distortions that might indicate uneven flooring. He checked the lights, to assure himself that the electrical system was reliable and sound, and then ran the water in the bathroom, listening hard for any complaints from the pipes.

Marty then took him to the basement, where he detailed his eerie experience the night before. He had shared it with Doc over the phone, early that morning, but the inventor found it much easier to actually hear the story while in the same location, able to envision the events much more clearer. The tour concluded in the main floor of the home, in the kitchen where many of the disturbances had apparently taken place. Jennifer was waiting there for them, with a freshly brewed pot of coffee and a collection of the articles that she had copied from the library news archives. Her eyes were gleaming slightly as Doc sat down to look the research over, and she watched him intently as he scanned the news articles. His memory was jogged almost immediately.

“That’s right,” he said aloud, one paragraph into the first article, breaking the story about the disappearance and arrest. “I remember hearing about this around town, now. It was pretty big news.”

Jennifer, seated next to him, leaned forward, curious. “What was it like being there then?” she asked. “There had to be things you heard that weren’t printed in the newspapers.”

Doc frowned as he examined the muddy photographs of the couple. “I imagine so, but I really don’t recall much at the time. I was spending every spare moment I had in the barn, working on the train. Any gossip I heard came from people in town, or Clara herself, but I’d never put much stock in the talk around town. Not after what was said about me in Hill Valley for so many years. It’s unreliable.”

Jennifer looked disappointed. “Oh.... Well, what can you tell us about these people? You met them, didn’t you?”

“Yes, and I had seen them about town. From what I recall, Gilbert Bailey was a rather quiet fellow. Very serious or focused, perhaps; he worked hard at the paper. His wife was notable in town in that she was one of the first suffrages, and headed up an organization in town for more equality among the sexes -- Clara was interested in that, so she knew Elaine a bit better than I ever did. You might want to talk to Clara about her, if you’re curious,” he added.

“Maybe so,” Jennifer said, sounding much more decisive than her words alone implied. “What was the opinion in town about Gilbert? Did people believe he did it?”

“I think so,” Doc said. He skimmed the first article quickly, then moved onto the second, little snippets from those days coming back to him. He also realized why the entire incident had been pushed to the back of his mind.

December 1891... that was when Clara’s parents visited for the holidays!

Martha and Daniel Clayton had made the long trip from New Jersey to Hill Valley in early December, and stayed halfway through January. Those were stressful days for Doc. He hadn’t met his in-laws until then -- there were trips planned, then canceled, due to either the weather or the older couple’s health. It was the first time they had spent time with their daughter since their marriage, the first time they had seen their grandsons, and the first time they had been to California since the 1850’s. It was also the last time that Clara had seen her folks -- her father had passed away the following winter, and her mother shortly thereafter.

During their visit, Doc had been acutely aware of their scrutiny. He feared their disapproval only in that it would upset their only living daughter. Clara had sent her parents a photograph from their wedding day when they had married, and it was no secret that his age was more advanced than his bride’s. But that first meeting had been awkward. Daniel, Clara’s father, was actually five years younger than the inventor. The couple had been polite but cool towards him at the train station, and on the drive to the house -- but once his in-laws had seen the boys, and reunited with their daughter, they had softened up immensely. Jules and Verne had relished in their attention, and it had made the scientist more than a bit wistful when they had left and their kids were forevermore denied the experience of interaction with blood relatives. At least where time travel wasn’t concerned.

His mind snapped back to the present with another question from Jennifer. “Did you think Gilbert was behind the crime?”

“I can’t say,” Doc said. “I wasn’t paying the investigation much mind, but based on the information in these articles, the case seems based on purely circumstantial evidence. Of course, often times it was -- this was before DNA and fingerprinting were routinely used on crime scenes.”

“Maybe he was framed,” Jennifer suggested. “Maybe that’s why the house haunted.”

“Or maybe it’s because someone got murdered here, and the body is buried under the house,” Marty added, edgy.

The doorbell rang at that moment. Marty gasped, paling, and Jennifer bounced to her feet, nearly upending her chair. Doc didn’t so much as twitch at the disturbance, though he did find the younger couple’s reactions faintly amusing. “That’s probably Jules and Verne,” he said, getting up from the table.

Jennifer smiled wanly as the inventor left the room to answer the door. He could hear his sons before he even opened the door, bickering back and forth about something.

“...Serious, Jules, you drive like a wuss! Ever hear about being aggressive?”

“Ever hear of tickets and accidents? That’s what being a proto alpha male will get you.”

“Dude, two little old ladies passed us on the way over here!”

“They were also breaking the speed limit.”

“No, they weren’t -- they were only driving the posted speed!”

Doc sighed, bracing himself for the eminent sibling conflict, then opened the door. Verne stood to his left, looking annoyed, his hands on his hips. Jules was to his right, frowning, his arms folded across his chest and the car keys clutched in one hand. Both boys were staring at one another as the door swing open, then looked over to their father at the sound of the hinges easing open.

“Any problems with the car?” Doc asked, looking at Jules. Although he was only two months away from turning seventeen, he had gotten his license little more than two months previous, in late August. Most of it was due to Clara’s extreme skittishness at the idea of allowing one of their kids behind the wheel of a very fast, deadly machine. Jules was only allowed his license around the time he started college, mostly to ease the driving duties off of his parents’ shoulders, but he still had no car of his own and bounced between the station wagon and the minivan that had been purchased when Emily was born. Naturally, he thought he should be entitled to have his own car “for the greater good of the family unit,” and had taken to posting notes around his parents’ bedroom and his father’s lab with little arguments in his favor. Doc had been amused by his son’s creativity, at first, but was now tiring of the entire matter. Jules, however, was not.

“No,” the older teen said. “Verne’s being an ingrate again, though. I think you should have him wait a bit longer until he can get his permit.”

Verne’s eyes widened. “I’m being an ingrate? I coulda walked over here faster than you drove, Jules!”

“Which proves that you have an unnecessary ‘need for speed,’ and that two seconds into your first solo drive, you’ll get a ticket.”

“No, you’ll get a ticket for going under the speed limit! That’s against the law, y’know.”

Doc raised a hand in an effort to ward off the argument. “Boys,” he said, warningly. They both closed their mouths. “I didn’t allow you to come over here to listen to you fight. If you want to continue that, you can just get back in the car and turn around. Otherwise, come in. The night isn’t getting any younger.”

The subject was dropped, and the teens shuffled into the house. Neither had been by since moving day, a week before, when the house had been filled with boxes and displaced furniture. Since then, almost everything big had been put away. Pictures were even hanging on the walls now. Jules’ head bobbed with an impressed nod as he looked about.

“They really put things together quickly,” he said.

Verne focused on something much more important. “Any more ghostly encounters?” he asked.

“They’re not ghostly encounters,” Jules said before Doc could answer. “They’re simply a currently unexplained phenomena. Or else atmospheric fluctuations. There’s nothing supernatural about it; there’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“Try spending a night here, then,” Marty said, sneaking up behind him. Jules’ eyes went wide and he gave a little gasp, then spun around. Verne snickered at the reaction, stopping only when his father gave him a stern look. “You might sing a different tune after you hear and see this stuff for yourself.”

“I believe ya, Marty,” Verne said loyally. “I’ve read a lot of ghost stories and it totally sounds like a haunted house.”

“You and Jennifer are gonna get along real well, then,” the musician said dryly. He led the Browns back to the kitchen, where Jennifer was putting away the news articles. She gave the teens a smile, offering them their choice of sodas from the fridge. Verne almost immediately began pumping her for information on the supposed haunting.

“So, have you actually seen the ghost yet? Or are you just hearing noises? And when do you get to hear the noises? At midnight? Or some other time?”

“I... well....” Jennifer looked flustered from the assault of questions. She regained her composure after a moment. “I haven’t actually seen the ghost yet, no. It’s mostly noises we hear.”

“Speak for yourself,” her husband muttered softly. With all eyes on him again, he reluctantly elaborated. “I saw that kitchen knife floating a couple nights ago, and then last night the ghost was messing around with my stuff in the basement. And I think I saw something last night, too... shadows.”

Verne’s eyes were wide with fascination. “Shadows? Like what kind?”

“Like... well, like a person’s shadow.” Marty shivered at the memory. “It was some weird shit.”

“So you’ve seen stuff moving by itself, and shadows?” Verne asked, excited.

“Uh, well, yeah, I guess.”

“Everything seems to happen mostly at night, when the house is quiet,” Jennifer added. “Not at any particular time I’ve noticed.” She glanced at Marty for verification, and he simply shrugged. “But it’s consistent -- it’s happened every night since we moved in.”

Verne looked at her a moment, then turned to his father. “Dad, can I please stay here tonight?”

“Absolutely not,” Doc said at once. “You have school tomorrow, and you’re not going to miss class to catch up on your sleep.”

“I could go anyway, and catch a nap there,” Verne said. “Nothing exciting happens on Mondays.”

“No -- besides, there is nothing supernatural here. At worst we may be looking at a gas leak, or magnetic deposits in the foundation.”

Verne frowned, clearly not agreeing to that theory. He turned back to Jennifer. “You know what you guys need to do?” he said. “Have a seance. Get an Ouija board and all that stuff. People always seem to get loads of information when they do that in haunted houses.”

Jennifer blinked. “That’s not a bad idea,” she confessed, looking at her husband. “Marty, maybe you could find one at the store?”

“Oh, sure, like something made by Parker Brothers can talk to the dead,” Marty scoffed. “Doc’s equipment has a better chance than that.”

Jennifer pursed her lips together, looking perturbed. “It still might be worth a try,” she said. “I’ll go to the store tomorrow, then, and see if I can pick one up.”

Verne grinned, rubbing his hands together. “Awesome! You gotta invite me when you do that -- I wanna see what the dead have to say!”

“More like your subconscious,” Jules corrected scornfully. “It’s a ridiculous idea to think that the deceased can communicate like that.”

Doc checked the time and frowned. “I hate to break up these debates, but we really should start setting everything up now. The boys both have school tomorrow, and Clara expects them home by ten.”

Jules and Marty were happy to accompany him to the living room, where the boxes could be unloaded of their cargo. Verne, however, elected to remain behind with Jennifer in the kitchen, eager to see the newspaper clippings on the house. The musician sighed a little when they were out of earshot

“They’re gonna feed off each other, Doc,” he warned. “By the time you leave, they’re both gonna be convinced this place is possessed by the supernatural and that werewolves and vampires are roaming the woods behind your place, ready to snatch babies and disobedient kids from their cradles.”

“Well, Verne always has been a bit imaginative and dramatic. It’s not entirely surprising to think that he’s so interested in all this.”

“He’s being a fool,” Jules said, fishing out a motion detector and setting it aside. “His imagination is completely taking over his life. I’m surprised you’re letting him get away with such delusions.”

Doc paused a moment to stare at Jules. “My powers are limited when it comes to controlling how others think -- including yourself and your brother. Believe me, if I could figure that out, you would have never dabbled in that ridiculous rebelling act a few years ago.”

Jules, who had briefly fallen in with a wayward crowd, reddened at the reminder and said nothing more about the matter. It was just as well; Marty was eyeing some of the things he was pulling out of the box, looking increasingly confused.

“What is all this stuff, anyway?” he finally asked.

Doc rattled off a list. “There’s audio and video recorders, including a tape recorder, 35 mm still cameras, and digital still and video cameras. Then we have some environmental recording equipment, which consists of temperature thermometers, humidity thermometers, air pressure meters, and barometers. I also have some environmental tracking devices, including magnetic scanners, and motion detectors.”

Marty blinked. “That’s a lot of stuff,” he said.

“Well, it’s a large house. Besides, I wanted to cover all my bases while we’re here. Leave no stone unturned, that sort of thing. Compare visual, audio, and atmospheric readings in the same location at the same time so we can get a clear idea on what is happening here.”

It took two hours before all the equipment was set up. Doc erected some of it in the basement, the hallways, and the kitchen. He positioned a couple cameras and sensors in the other rooms on the first floor of the house -- including the living and dining rooms, and the stairs -- but the bulk of his focus was on areas of the home where there had been consistent and established prior events.

Verne helped a little once he had finished absorbing all he could about the home’s history from Jennifer, and ran an almost continuous commentary as he worked for the benefit of the others.

“Didja know that there were smeary trails of blood found from the kitchen to the basement? And then it just kinda stopped.”

Then: “The knife that they found in the kitchen was huge, it said in the paper! Like, eight inches long. An’ whoever got Elaine got ‘er when she was in the middle of making dinner or something, so she wasn’t dead long before the cops showed up. Maybe an hour or so -- all that blood was still kinda wet.”

And: “Gilbert Bailey never complained when he got sentenced -- he was totally guilty, I think. He only said he wasn’t once, when the judge asked him. And then they hung ‘em before the courthouse on Valentines Day! How cool is that? People came all the way from Grass Valley to see it. Did you see it, Dad?”

“Absolutely not,” Doc had said, shuddering at such an idea. “There’s no need to expose myself to something so gruesome and horrific as a public hanging.”

Verne looked a bit wistful and curious. “I think it would’ve been neat. Wasn’t that stuff kinda like TV is now, entertainment?”


“Cheap entertainment,” Marty added from where he was trying to set up a video camera and tripod. “I’ll never forget Buford trying to break in the courthouse ropes with me as the guinea pig.”

“He had no last words, according to the newspaper,” Verne said, talking about Gilbert again. “So he had to have done it. Someone who was innocent would definitely have a lot more to say about it, right?”

When everything was successfully set up, Doc had help from his sons and Marty with taking some base readings so that he could have something to compare against later. Jennifer watched them work for a few minutes, then excused herself for the night. It was closing in on eleven, and she had to get up at six the next morning for her job. With that reminder of the time, Doc realized that he needed to send his sons home. Clara would probably be waiting up; they were an hour past their curfew. He made a quick call home, to apologize and assure his wife that the delay was wholly his fault, then sent the teens on their way. They went, under much protest.

The time slipped by slowly after that. Doc and Marty settled in the living room for the long night’s observation. Doc checked the equipment every half hour, taking down readings and looking for any changes.

But, for a while, there was nothing but normal readings -- no unusual noises or temperature fluctuations or anything. Maybe, the inventor thought, the plethora of equipment had upset the unusual atmospheric balance in the house.

He would later recall such thoughts with amusement.

* * *

“Six. Okay, that lands me on North Carolina. What’s that gonna set me back, now?”

“Hmmm, let’s see.... I think nine hundred dollars is about right. If you don’t have it, we can always work out a trade of some sort.”

“Forget it -- I have the cash.” Marty pulled a few of the pastel-colored bills from his pile of play money and thrust them across the board to Doc. “Here. You better have valets park my car for that highway robbery.”

Doc accepted the money with a smile. “And complimentary room service as well.”

He picked up the dice, shook them, and let them tumble across the board. It had been the inventor’s idea to play a game, to make the time go by faster. Television or videos, which could have killed the time just as well, would mask noises far too easily. Not that it really would have mattered much. It was almost three in the morning, and there had been no mysterious sounds, sights, or serious fluctuations in the monitoring equipment.

As if he could read his mind, Marty said then, “I don’t know if you’re gonna get anything tonight, Doc. I don’t remember if it’s gone this late before without any noises -- but I don’t really notice the time, I guess, when things do happen.”

“Well, unless you and Jennifer overtly mind, we can leave the equipment set up until something does transpire -- or else you get sick of tripping over it.”

Marty nodded, yawning widely as Doc moved his game piece the three spaces the dice had indicated. “I don’t think I’ve been up this late for a while,” he said, leaning back in the dining room chair. “Not since that time in the future before my wedding when we were trying to build the new time machine. And I gotta work tomorrow.” He sighed at the idea.

Doc glanced at the clock, then his friend. “You don’t have to stay up all night,” he said. “Take a nap; I’ll be here to monitor the situation.”

Marty didn’t look entirely convinced. “Maybe,” he hedged. “You owe me fifty bucks, Doc.” He pointed to the inventor’s silver horse marker, which was clearly on the musician’s property.

Doc gave him the due funds, then rose to his feet. “I’m going to do another sweep through the house,” he said, pulling out a small notebook from his back pocket. “Did you want to come?”

Marty shook his head. “I’ll wait here,” he said. “Maybe it’ll coax the ghost out if I’m alone.” He smiled wanly.

Doc began his check in the basement. He looked at all the monitors and detectors, penciled in the readings (which were still in the normal range), then moved to the second floor of the McFly house, and then the kitchen. He concluded his check in the living room before returning to the dining room with his report. Marty was where he had left him, still sitting at the dining room table before the game, but his head was now down on the table, resting on folded arms, and his eyes were shut.

“Nothing has changed,” Doc said. When that provoked no reaction, the inventor called his friend’s name, a little loudly. “Marty?”

Marty opened his eyes and raised his head. “Huh?” he said, sounding confused.

“I said, nothing has changed.” He paused, studying his clearly exhausted friend as he rubbed his eyes. “Why don’t you go lie down for a while? We can finish the game later. I’m perfectly capable of keeping an eye on things.”

Marty started to frown, but the expression was interrupted by another yawn. “I guess I could hit the living room couch,” he reluctantly agreed, standing. “Jeez, I don’t remember it being this hard to stay up all night before....”

“Well, we’re not facing eminent disaster.”

“And nothing’s going bump in the night right now. I’m glad you’re here, Doc,” he added. “Thanks.” He clapped the inventor on the shoulder as he walked past him. “Don’t let me sleep past seven, okay? I gotta be at work by eight.”

Marty headed into the adjacent living room. Doc looked at the board game a moment, then went into the kitchen for more coffee. The leftovers in the pot amounted to less than a quarter cup so, after poking around a little in search of the filters and such, he prepared a new pot. While he waited for it to brew, he walked around the kitchen, examining the countertops -- particularly the wooden block containing the kitchen knives that Marty claimed to have seen levitate a couple days earlier. The meters and the video camera still seemed to be functioning in the realm of normalcy, which was simultaneously comforting and mildly frustrating.

After he had a fresh, hot cup of coffee in hand, he picked up the folder left on the kitchen table, containing the articles on the home’s history that Jennifer had collected, tucked it under one arm, then left the quiet kitchen. He bypassed the dining room, and headed into the living room, intending to do some late night reading. Marty was indeed curled up on the couch, under a blanket that had previously resided over the back of said piece of furniture. In spite of the lamps burning in the room -- one right next to his head -- and lying in what looked to Doc as a mildly uncomfortable position -- on his stomach, forehead resting on one arm that jutted out, over the edge of the couch, and his cheek flat against the seat cushion of the couch -- he was already asleep.

The inventor turned off the lamp near his friend’s head, then settled on the love seat to the right of the couch -- and conveniently near the other lamp in the room. He set the coffee down on the small table supporting the lamp, then pulled out the articles from the envelope in order to examine them in greater detail, without Jennifer’s commentary or any other distraction.

Doc paid particular attention to the basic facts -- the date of the disappearance, the arrest of Gilbert the day after, the court’s verdict, and the subsequent hanging of the man -- more than any of the quotes or descriptions of the crime scene. Newspapers in those days were notorious for elaborating facts when the truth itself wasn’t sensational enough. And although this story definitely was sensational enough on its own, the inventor wasn’t sure if any of the reporters had actually spoken to Bailey, or set foot in the Victorian home. He wasn’t sure, for example, if the kitchen was indeed “splashed with blood” as the reporter claimed a witness had said, or if it was something fabricated or exaggerated to raise interest and excitement in the story.

Reviewing the articles did revive his memory considerably, however. He remembered now his father-in-law taking an interest in the story, and expressing concern about the safety of Hill Valley. Doc had politely rebuffed that idea by reminding Daniel that the alleged murderer had been caught, and that the crime, violent as it was, had been committed by someone the victim knew, not a random act of violence ala Jack the Ripper. He also remembered that Clara had been a little upset when she heard about Elaine’s disappearance, though she had never stated her clear opinion of whether or not she believed Gilbert was the killer.

All the women in the town were most upset by the death of Elaine -- she had held a strong, outspoken presence in their circles, and this appealed to many of the more modern-thinking ladies in the west. Most of the men, particularly the unenlightened and backwoodsy ones, did not like her. They felt she was stepping out of her place. Doc recalled, vaguely, overhearing one gentleman in town say that Elaine “had got what was due coming to her,” and there had been some tasteless jokes in the saloon about how Gilbert may have had enough when he came home and saw his wife was reading or writing instead of darning his buttonholes or making his dinner.

After the disappearance, and the conviction and execution of Gilbert, the Bailey house had remained empty for a couple years. The locals, Doc recalled, felt more than a little superstitious about the building. It took a family who had been unaware of the strange history to buy it. But he was uncertain how long they had lived there. There were no reports about that in the newspaper -- or Jennifer didn’t see fit to include them -- and the inventor had been tremendously sidetracked with the construction of the new time machine to pay anything like that much mind.

Doc set the articles aside once he had finished reading them and leaned back in the couch, thinking. No trace of Elaine had ever been found, he recalled. After Gilbert had been hanged, there had been some murmurs about town that she had perhaps faked her death and run off with another man, but those remained simply petty rumors. The scientist couldn’t begin to wager a guess on what had actually happened. A hundred and one years had passed since the events; any clues in the present had long since been forgotten or destroyed.

Doc looked at the time -- 3:38 A.M. He closed his eyes and sighed. Waiting was particularly unnerving, especially alone, late at night. It was--

Something clattered in the kitchen -- something metallic, like a pot or pan.

Doc jumped in spite of himself at the noise, his eyes popping open. He leaned forward, bracing his hands on his knees, listening hard. There was another sound from the kitchen, softer than the first. It certainly wasn’t his imagination.

Doc’s eyes darted over to his friend, but Marty was still dead asleep on the couch, snoring softly now. Was it possible that the scientist had dozed for a moment -- or more? Could Jennifer be in the kitchen now? It seemed impossible -- he was nearly certain that he had been awake this whole time. Tired, yes, but awake nonetheless. The inventor swung his eyes over to the clock, which still told him the time was no more than a minute after his last check.

He stood and made his way to the kitchen, curious but calm. For the first time he wondered if maybe the entire problem were rodents or small wildlife that could sneak in and out. Marty and Jennifer had no pets, but older buildings were often plagued with vermin.

Doc paused outside the closed kitchen door. There was a stead sort of sound that he could discern now, a thump, thump, thump. It sounded vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it at the moment. He hesitated outside the door for a moment, then pushed it open.

A blast of frigidly cold air gusted forward, chilling him to the bone. Doc’s eyes immediately went to the sink, and the window that was set above it. There was a sort of shimmer there of something, almost like smoke or light. He blinked and it was gone, leading him to conclude immediately that his eyes were planing tricks on him.

Doc took a step into the kitchen. The cold soaked into his clothes, leeching away his body heat. He looked at the three other windows in the kitchen, but all appeared to be closed tightly. As did the back door -- he reached over and tried it, but it was still locked, the knob not yielding in his hand. As he looked around, still trying to find the source of the frigid air, he noticed something lying on the cutting board in the kitchen. Something that he was quite certain had not been there a half hour ago, when he had come in to make some more coffee.

It was a long-bladed knife from the wooden block.

Odd, Doc thought, a faint sensation of unease stirring in him. He picked it up. The handle was icy cold to the touch, retaining not a shred of warmth. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled; he had the most unnerving sensation that someone was watching him then. The inventor raises his head, looking towards the kitchen door, then turned around to face behind him. He was still alone.

The monitoring devices, he thought. I’d better check their readouts now.

He stepped towards the video camera set up, and the other things that were plugged into a power strip that he had brought along. Halfway into his journey the lights overhead abruptly went out. Doc’s heart gave a nervous, irrational skip as the darkness settled in. The only light was provided by the windows, and the shadowy, uneven glow from a neighbor’s back porchlight. After freezing a moment in his tracks, he continued across the floor and freed the video camera from the tripod. Although it had been plugged in, it had had no trouble shifting over to battery power. Once that was in hand, Doc headed for the kitchen door, deciding that it was time to wake Marty so he could at least find them some flashlights.

As the scientist pushed open the swinging door, he felt a faint stirring in the air beside him. A breeze of cold, clammy air. He shivered all over, nearly dropping the video camera, his skin crawling and reacting in a most unusual way. The breeze, with seemingly no origin, rustled past the dining room table, stirring the paper Monopoly money stacked around the board game. It seemed to follow Doc as he continued on to the living room, walking briskly in spite of the darkness.

He opened his mouth to call out for Marty. At that precise instant the lights came back on, all at once, temporarily dazzling Doc’s eyes. He blinked several times. The living room’s temperature plummeted to the chilled degree that had been present in the kitchen. It was such an abrupt shift that Doc once more looked about for an open window or door. Marty was still on the couch, still zonked, but even he was not immune to the change in degrees. He stirred a little as the clammy coolness settled in the room, fumbling in his sleep to pull the blanket tighter around him.

The camera was still running. Doc did a slow pan of the room, then focused on one of the clocks in the room. “The time is 3:47 A.M. on Monday, November 9, 1992,” he narrated softly. “A few minutes ago, at approximately 3:40 A.M., I heard a sound in the kitchen.” He panned the camera about again, slowly, pausing on Marty a moment, then turning slowly around to catch the dining room as well. “I went to investigate and there was no one there. The room was bitterly cold; no doors and windows were opened. I did see, however--”

Doc stopped talking abruptly as he heard a new sound. He clamped his mouth shut, listening hard as he tried to puzzle the noise out. It sounded like footsteps -- a regular creaking and popping and clicking of heels on wood. But they seemed to be coming from inside this very room, from just a few feet away. His eyes scanned the area where his ears told him the sounds originated, and he saw nothing, no one. And yet the sound persisted, moving away from him, out of the living room.

The house is settling; it’s nothing more than that.

Nevertheless, Doc followed the sound, keeping the camera’s lens trained on the area. He was reluctant to tread too close to the noise -- it seemed, as irrational as it was, to feel colder in that region. The noises -- Doc refused to think of them as footsteps -- went down the hall, around the foot of the stairs, and towards the basement door that was set under the stairway. The door was closed, and remained closed, but the noises seemed to circumnavigate that and go down the stairs. Doc reached out to open the door. He touched the knob -- and drew his hand back with a quick hiss of pain. It was frigidly cold -- damn cold. He shook his hand a moment in the air, trying to rid the numbness from his fingertips, then used his shirttail to turn the doorknob.

By the time he had the door open, the noises were almost to the bottom of the stairs. Doc paused a moment to turn on the overhead lights, then continued on. But by the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, the sound had stopped. He stood for a moment on the last step, frowning, confused.

And then, from somewhere nearby, came a new sound. It almost sounded like a low moan or cry of pain. Doc cocked his head to one side, frowning. The air grew even colder around him, and a sense of dread and despair passed through him. Without thinking about it, he started backing away, up the steps. He knew he was being foolish, but the basement suddenly felt like a bad place to be; he was reminded of the graveyard in the Hell Valley world in 1985, a place without hope and with plenty of pain.

When he reached the top of the stairs, he realized quite abruptly that the temperature had changed; it felt quite warm, blessedly so. His mind reeling a bit, Doc turned away from the basement door and headed back to the living room. He walked briskly, shaking the last of the clammy cold from his clothes. As it departed, he felt much better, and was already questioning his experience of the last several moments.

I should have it on tape... and everything else should have been dully noted for scientific record.

Doc made a beeline for the couch. “Marty,” he said, shaking his friend by the shoulder. “Wake up.”

The musician reacted quickly, jumping at Doc’s touch. He raised his head, blinking sleepily. “Is it seven already?” he mumbled, sounding dazed.

Doc set the video camera down on the coffee table, then perched himself on the edge of it. “I just witnessed some of the phenomena for myself,” he said. “And I believe I got it on video as well.”

Marty blinked a few more times, the inventor’s words taking their time to sink in. He sat up, raking the back of his hand across his eyes. “You got it on tape?” he said. “What happened?”

“Well... I’ll show you.”

It took Doc a few minutes to rewind the tape, then tether the video camera to the McFly’s television. He shared the details of his experience to the musician as he worked. Marty took it all in silently -- he still seemed only half awake -- then visited the kitchen, returning with some coffee from the pot that the inventor had brewed earlier.

“The knife was still on the counter,” he commented as he sat down on the couch. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to mess with it, so it’s still there.”

“Thanks,” Doc said, wondering if he should take some photographs of that for the records. “All right, I think I got it set up. Let me show you what I saw.”

He pressed the play button on the recorder. The TV screen shifted from a plain blue screen to the home’s kitchen, empty. The time of day and date was stamped in one corner of the screen: 3:38 A.M. 11/9/92. “It should happen in a minute,” Doc said.

They watched. The audio on the tape was almost nil -- a soft mechanical hum of the tape’s operation.

Then, a few seconds after the clock clicked to 3:39, the quiet, empty kitchen was replaced by a new image. Marty groaned softly as it flickered into view; Doc stared at it numbly, in disbelief and confusion

The TV screen was filled with nothing more than static.

Chapter Four

Monday, November 9, 1992
5:32 P.M.

For once, to Marty’s simultaneous delight and horror, Doc couldn’t explain things.

He tried. Boy, did he try. When the television screen had showed static all during the time that the “mysterious phenomenon” had gone on, the inventor had been quick to cite a possible mechanical error -- or an electromagnetic interference. This latter guess seemed to be backed up by the readings on the other devices scattered between the kitchen and basement. Wild fluctuations in the electromagnetic fields had shown up during those minutes. But Marty was still dissatisfied by the explanation. Why were such distortions even happening in the first place?

Also going unanswered -- at least to the musician’s satisfaction -- was why his home was having such massive temperature fluctuations when the other weird things were happening. Doc’s devices confirmed a drop of almost thirty degrees within ten seconds at the onset of the mysterious noises or whatnot, and when the phenom went away, there was a similar upswing -- though it seemed to be easier to cool the room down than to warm it back up. Marty wasn’t about to buy any excuses of faulty heating in the home, and Doc was smart enough not to propose it.

“So, what the hell do you think it is now?” Marty finally asked when he got home from work on Monday. Doc had remained at the home while the McFlys were away, checking and rechecking the equipment, as well as running some tests in the hopes of mimicking the mysterious events. (Which, Marty guessed, had been unsuccessful, or he was sure he would’ve heard about it the second he walked in the door.)

Doc had sighed, looking tired and mildly stressed. He consulted the papers before him, with scribbles of numbers and whatnot that had been taken from the various devices scattered about the house, then raised his head to look at Marty. “A new, unexplored scientific phenomenon,” he guessed. “Perhaps psychically related. There is some evidence that the human mind can manipulate the environment in certain situations.”

Marty rolled his eyes, thinking of stories of people spontaneously combusting, or else moving solid things with their brainpower alone. “You believe that tabloid trash, but you don’t believe in ghosts?” he asked, incredulous.

Doc ignored him. “Do you mind if I stay on tonight?” he asked.

Marty cringed at the idea of a second all-nighter. He had barely functioned through the day at the radio station, running on caffeine and deliberately avoiding sitting down in comfortable chairs. His body seemed keen to remind him that he wasn’t as young as he used to be, not only with the exhaustion but with aches and bruises that had been picked up during Saturday’s skateboarding lesson. Perhaps the latter wouldn’t have been so bad if the former wasn’t contributing, but it was all a moot point to Marty. All he wanted to do, frankly, was take some Tylenol, crawl into bed, and sleep until the alarm went off the next morning. Solid, uninterrupted sleep, without mysterious noises in the night.

Doc seemed to sense what was going through his head -- no doubt the look on his face gave it away. “You certainly don’t have to stay up with me. I wasn’t planning on being awake the entire night -- I can nap on the couch, as the activity seems quite centered down on these floors moreso than the upstairs.”

Marty’s reluctance faded. “Oh. Well, knock yourself out, then. I don’t care, and Jen probably won’t, either. What about Clara?”

“Oh, I already cleared it with her. She’s supportive of it. I also talked to her about the Bailey’s a bit. She had some very clear memories of Elaine Bailey. Jennifer might want to talk to her about it, if she’s still interested in the history of the home.”

But that would have to wait a bit. When Jennifer arrived around six, she had a new project in mind. Provoked by Verne, she had indeed gone out and purchased an Ouija board from a toy store on the way home from work, and was eager to use it that night. Marty was skeptical and reluctant to participate; Doc, however, was surprisingly open-minded about it.

“I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try,” he said. “If there’s psychical energy at work, perhaps the Ouija board can act as an outlet of communication for it, much like a pen or pencil in the hands of someone can do the same. Of course,” he added with a bit of a sigh, “I suppose this means I should call the boys. Verne, I know, would kill me if I didn’t tell him about this.”

Marty rubbed his forehead, his fatigue making it difficult to process things. “Wait a minute, Doc, you’re supporting the idea of a seance with an Ouija board? What about all that talk about how you don’t believe in spirits, there’s a scientific explanation, blah blah blah?”

“I never said that spirits were behind this, Marty,” Doc said, sounding mildly insulted that his friend would even think that of him. “I still am holding to the theory of a new or previously unexplained force or field of interference. I think that nothing much will be yielded tonight; however, as a scientist, I learned long ago to try everything, even things that look like ridiculous dead ends. Because you never know sometimes. Life has surprises in it, and so does science.”

Jennifer began making preparations immediately for the evening’s activity, sending Marty out to pick up dinner from a Chinese place down the road. The musician envied his wife a little -- she couldn’t conceal her enjoyment of this entire mess. Of course, she had slept great the night before, though Marty knew that was no excuse for Jennifer. She thrilled at investigations and mysteries. She once confessed to him that’s what made her opt to select journalism in college -- the idea of not only making a positive difference in the world, but of providing answers and solutions to people about problems or puzzles. Maybe, Marty reflected, she was in the wrong business; instead of broadcast journalism, she should’ve gone into the writing area, and worked for a tabloid.

The food was ready by the time he got there, which was a good thing -- the wind was picking up, and Marty caught more than a couple flashes of lightning on the horizon. A storm was apparently headed their way. Marty rolled his eyes as he got back into his truck, realizing that would just add to the drama of the seance later on. Jennifer and Verne would get a kick out of that.

When he arrived home, he found the Brown’s minivan parked next to the house, and both Jules and Verne inside the house. Everyone was gathered in the living room when he came in with the food, around the television set. Doc was showing the boys the video tapes from the night before. Marty had had enough of those after a couple minutes -- the sight and noise of the static annoyed and frustrated him. (It also reminded him, creepily, of that scene in Poltergeist when the little blond girl had gotten stuck in the TV.) He didn’t buy into the idea of it being a coincidence or a mechanical error -- the tapes and the recorders worked fine when Doc had tried them early that morning, after his brush with the unexplained.

Verne was grinning as he watched his father start to fast forward through the static. “Totally cool, Dad,” he said. “You know, it’s real common for ghosts to mess with things like tapes. People’ve tried to get ‘em recorded and the camera stops working or it just records static like that.”

“This reaction would happen if there were strong upsurges in electromagnetic activity,” Jules said, looking at his younger brother with some scorn. “It’s not supernatural; if you take an electrified magnet and you wave it over a videotape, you’ll get this same result. Why else do you think videotapes have that message on them to avoid contact with anything magnetic?”

“Well, who’s to say that ghosts don’t mess with the atmosphere in the same way? Maybe it’s a side effect of them being there. Maybe that’s what they are, energy that’s all electromagnetic or whatever.” Verne looked quite pleased with himself for thinking up such a explanation.

“The belief of spirits manifesting themselves as clusters of energy, electromagnetic or otherwise, is nothing new,” Doc said, glancing over his shoulder at his sons. The picture suddenly cleared of the static, shifting to a shot of Marty sitting in the living room. Doc had taken the video early that morning, right after he had discovered the static gap on the videotape. The inventor removed his finger from the fast forward button, allowing the image to slow down and play normally.

“--me to say, Doc?” Marty heard himself ask on the TV, sounding tired.

“Just talk about whatever you want,” Doc’s voice came from off camera. “I need to test the operation of the equipment to make sure that it’s in proper working order.”

Marty headed for the kitchen, eager to set the bags of food down and not all that interested in watching himself make small talk on the video camera. Jennifer followed him, although it was clear she had wanted to stay in the living room and watch the recap of Doc’s findings in the home. Not that any of it would be of much news to her. She had insisted on hearing all about the previous night’s events before she had gone to work, and she had been busy grilling Doc about any new developments when the musician had gone out to get dinner.

Jennifer removed plates out of the cabinet as Marty pulled the warm boxes from the bags and set them on the kitchen table. “You’re not mad at me, are you?” she asked, a little anxiously.

Marty paused as he set down the box of steamed rice. “Why would I be mad at you?”

“Well, for wanting to have a seance, for buying an Ouija board. I know you think the idea is ridiculous -- don’t even try to deny it -- but ... well, what if it works?”

“You’re right, I do think it’s a... far out idea,” Marty said as tactfully as he could.

“Don’t tell me that you don’t think the house is haunted, Marty,” Jennifer said, staring at him with narrowed eyes, a plate in hand.

Marty wished he could say so but even he wouldn’t believe it. “No,” he said. “Something weird’s going on, and I think it’s much more likely that ghosts are behind it instead of Doc’s natural forces idea. I don’t like to think about invisible things watching us” -- his eyes darted nervously over to the block of knives -- “but I’m not gonna sit here and deny it’s happening.”

Jennifer nodded once. “Good,” she said. “I’ve seen less of the ghost than you have, but I’m sure that’s what’s going on. And I’d bet money that Elaine is the one haunting the house. I’m curious to see what the Ouija board says about that when I ask.”

“You’re really gonna talk to the Parker Brother’s game?”

Jennifer made a face at him as she set the plates on the table, then turned to get some utensils from the drawer. “It’s not simply a game,” she said. “I don’t think it is in a haunted house, anyway -- and this is a haunted house.”

“So does that mean you believe in Magic Eight Balls and tarot card readings, too?” Marty asked. He meant it as a joke, but Jennifer was clearly not in the mood to jest about such matters. She leveled him a look that told him he was one smart ass remark away from sleeping on the couch that night.

“You don’t need to participate if you’re going to have that kind of attitude,” she said frostily.

“What? Isn’t healthy skepticism a good thing? I’m sorry, Jen, but I really can’t help it. I mean, it’s a freakin’ board game people play on Halloween. My sister had one of those and she would always drag it out when she had friends sleep over. Like a spirit would really wanna answer questions from girls about who liked who at school.” He smiled at a sudden memory. “I once hid in her closet with a Halloween mask, and when they asked for a sign from the spirit, I jumped out and yelled. They freaked out.”

Jennifer was not amused. “I think we have plenty of skepticism already in Doc and Jules,” she said softly. “If you’re going to make fun of me for this, don’t bother participating or watching, Marty. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong -- I just want to get to the bottom of this mystery.”

“Why?” Marty asked. He accepted a spoon from Jennifer and pried open the lid of one of the cartons. “It’s all in the past. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

Jennifer raised her head and stared at him a moment. It was such an intense look that Marty froze mid-action, confused and faintly alarmed. He looked over his shoulder, wondering if the ghost was putting in a sudden appearance, even though it was illogical; the room hadn’t gone all icy cold like it usually did when something was happening or about to happen. “What is it?” he asked.

“The past,” Jennifer murmured. “I wonder if Doc would let us go back there and see what happened? What really happened?”

Marty’s answer was immediate. “Fat chance. It would probably screw up too much.”

“Maybe,” Jennifer said, her tone sounding distant and distracted. The musician looked at her sharply, immediately aware that something was up.

“Jennifer,” he said warningly.

“What?” his wife asked, a shade too quickly, the picture of confused innocence.

Marty stared at her a beat longer, then turned his attention back to the hot, fragrant food. “Don’t ask Doc what I think you’re gonna ask him,” he said. “He’ll just say no.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jennifer said, her cheeks flushing a little. She scooped some food onto her plate, then took a can of soda from the fridge. “I’ll let Doc know that dinner’s on,” she said, then left the kitchen before Marty could say a word in response.

The musician sighed as he dumped some rice and Mongolian Beef on his own plate. Jennifer wouldn’t bother Doc about going back in time... would she? She was not and -- for the most part, -- never had been an incredibly enthusiastic supporter of time travel; on the other hand, she was getting more than a little obsessed about this whole situation with the house.

Doc won’t go for it, Marty thought, quite certain. There were other things to worry about right now -- like this whole seance and Ouija board business. If it made Jen feel better, so be it, but Marty seriously doubted anything was going to come of it.

* * *

After dinner, the dining room table was cleared of the unfinished Monopoly game, and the brand new Ouija board was set up. Upon Verne’s suggestion, Jennifer had found a few candles and strategically placed them around the table and the room. Several of them were scented, so the room soon smelled like a bizarre combination of vanilla, pine, cinnamon, and lavender. It gave Marty a headache pretty quickly, though he had to wonder if the long day was simply catching up with him, too. But a faint curiosity prevented him from calling it a night just yet.

While Jennifer created the ambiance, Doc and Jules were busy setting up cameras -- still and video -- along with environmental and atmospheric sensors and audio tapes. Wires crisscrossed the floor around the table, causing the need to walk very carefully. Nevertheless, Marty stumbled over one and nearly knocked over two expensive-looking cameras. He finally sat down in one of the chairs around the table so he wouldn’t inadvertently destroy thousands of dollars worth of equipment from a klutzy move.

“All right,” Doc finally said, standing next to one of the walls, behind one of the video cameras. “I think we’re ready.”

Verne and Jennifer were already sitting down, waiting. Jules slid into the seat next to Marty, his every move dripping with reluctance; he was clear -- and vocal -- in his opinion that this entire matter was ridiculous.

“Whatever that board spells out is simply going to be the unconscious thoughts of any one of us,” he announced flatly. “If it’s not being consciously manipulated by anyone, that is.” Jules directed a sharp look to Verne, seated across from him.

The blond rolled his eyes. “Right, blame me for whatever the board spells out... It could be your subconscious that’s trying to spell something out, y’know.”

“Anything my subconscious has to say to me won’t come out on an Ouija board,” Jules said. “It’s got much better taste than that.”

“Boys,” Doc warned from a few feet away. “If you’re going to argue, then you can just go home.”

“Yeah,” Verne said, looking at his brother. “You’re creating too much negative energy. It’ll be your fault if we don’t get any results with this. Ghosts don’t like skeptics.”

“No, if nothing comes of this -- and nothing will -- it will be because there’s no such thing as ghosts or things that go bump in the night. Think about it, Verne -- if you were dead, why would you want to hang around your old home? It makes utterly no sense.”

“Yeah it does, ‘cause--”

“Boys! I mean it.” Doc’s voice carried a distinct edge to it now, which both teens clearly heard; they closed their mouths, though based on the looks they were shooting across the table at one another, it was obvious that the conversation was far from finished.

“Well,” Jennifer said after an awkward moment of silence. “I guess we should start. I haven’t used one of these in ages, but from what I remember everyone is supposed to have their fingertips on the planchette -- the plastic movable marker. Don’t put any weight on it -- just let your fingertips rest on the marker. Since there’s several of us, just use one hand and keep your other on the table, flat and exposed.”

There was a flurry of movement as the four of them -- Jules, Marty, Verne, and Jennifer -- did just that. Doc remained standing near the wall, out of the loop, monitoring the equipment and videotaping the event. Marty raised his eyebrows at his wife once they were settled. “Now what?” he asked.

“We’re supposed to concentrate,” Verne said, taking the lead. “So the ghost can use the board without us gettin’ in the way. Close your eyes and blank your mind and that sorta thing.”

Jennifer nodded once, which Marty took as confirmation of the younger teen’s words. Jules snorted softly from beside the musician, but no one paid him any mind. Marty took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trying to think about nothing. That was easier said than done -- he felt faintly ridiculous. It had come to this -- trying to communicate with the dead. How the hell had he let Jennifer talk him into this one? And what was Jen doing, listening to a kid like Verne, who had a head filled with unrealistic ghost stories and myths?

But you saw the knife floating, a little voice reminded him. And the event in the basement -- that wasn’t your imagination. It happened.

Marty frowned. He opened his eyes a crack, peering through his lashes at the other members around the table. Both Jennifer and Verne were sitting there with their eyes closed, but Jules had his open and was frowning a little, clearly considering himself beyond this whole thing. Doc cleared his throat gently, the sound drawing the attention of his oldest. There was a stern look, then Jules sighed heavily and shut his eyes. Marty closed his all the way again and smiled faintly.

They sat there like that for a minute or two, with nothing happening. In the distance, the musician heard the faint rumbles of thunder as the storm crept closer towards them; like the candles, it added to the atmosphere of creepiness. Not quite enough to disturb him, though. Just as Marty was starting to think that if this went on much longer, he’d wind up falling asleep, he felt the plastic marker under his right fingertips twitch. He opened his eyes in time to see it arc from the middle of the board to the board’s logo that was in the direct center at the top.

“It’s working!” Verne said in a whisper. “Is anyone there?”

The marker moved slowly, drunkenly, away from the logo. It circled the perimeter of the board a moment, seemingly without direction. Jules rolled his eyes in his brother’s direction. “Clearly there’s a presence here,” he drawled. “The decisiveness and clarity of communication is incredible.”

“Quiet,” Verne said. “You’re messing up the vibes. Anyone there?”

The marker continued to circle slowly. Marty looked at Jennifer, across from him. She was staring at the board, transfixed, biting her lower lip.

“This is stupid,” Jules said after another minute of the marker’s aimless circling. “Are you satisfied yet that this is just a ridiculous party game?”

Verne opened his mouth to make a no doubt smart retort when the temperature seemed to plummet in the room. Marty blinked a few times, wondering if the sensation was just in his head. Based on the looks from the others in the room, it was clearly not.

The marker stopped moving abruptly. Marty’s fingertips felt chilled, as if the planchette itself had suddenly grown quite cold. He glanced at the other faces around the board, then over at Doc. The inventor was frowning intently, checking one of the meters nearby.

“The temperature just dropped thirty degrees over the last ten seconds,” he announced softly. “I’m also getting some odd electromagnetic fluctuations. I think--”

There was an odd flash within the room, then the lights went out -- completely. Verne gasped, Jennifer jumped, Marty flinched, and even Jules let out a little yelp. The candles that Jennifer had lit to provide a suitable atmosphere suddenly had another, more practical use. A half second later there was a crash of thunder so loud outside that the windows rattled.

Doc swore softly under his breath. “The camera’s failed again,” he muttered, the words nearly drowned out by the echoing thunder. “Must be the battery.” He began to fuss with it.

Verne recovered quickly from his surprise. “Anyone here?” he asked.

The planchette moved abruptly, so hard it was nearly yanked out from under Marty’s fingertips. It came to rest on the word in the upper left hand corner. YES.

“Who are you?” Verne asked, his voice filled with a mixture of excitement and fear.

The marker moved in fits and starts. E-L-A-I-N-E, it spelled out, then stopped.

“Elaine,” Jules announced. He squinted at Verne as another blast of thunder shook the air. “You made it do that.”

Verne shook his head quickly. “Uh uh, no way. Are you Elaine Bailey, who used to live here?” he went on, before Jules could say anything else.

The marker moved back to YES.

“Why are you still here?” Jules asked loudly. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

Verne scowled across the board at him. “Dammit, Jules, I’m the medium. I’m the only one who’s supposed to ask the questions!”

“Watch your mouth, young man,” Doc warned from the shadows, where he was still fussing with the camera.

Verne ignored the reprimand. “You’re gonna mess things up if you ask,” he continued to his brother.

“Oh, far be it for me to mess things up....”

The room seemed to get even colder. Lightning flashed and a couple seconds later the thunder echoed. Marty shivered a little, looking at the scientist even as he felt the planchette move under his fingertips again. “What’s the temp, Doc?” he asked softly, lest he incur Verne’s irritation.

“Forty eight point five degrees,” Doc said after a moment, glancing at one of the meters. “It’s dropped several degrees in the last minute or so.”

Marty wondered if they were pissing the ghost off. The marker seemed to be moving much more quickly and more forcefully under their fingers now. It hesitated only a moment on a letter before it would zip to a new one. Jennifer spoke each letter out.

“B-L-O-O-D,” she said.

“Blood,” Jules said, apparently talented at calculating the words as the letters came in.

“Are you bleeding?” Verne asked.

The marker went to NO.

“Of course she isn’t, Verne,” Jules said, apparently forgetting to mention that nothing more than their subconscious was speaking through the board. “You don’t bleed once you die. After the heart stops, blood loss ceases to be such a problem.”

Verne deliberately ignored his brother’s comment. “Did you bleed to death?” he asked.


“Were you stabbed?”

“C-U-T,” Jennifer announced slowly, as the letters came in.

“Cut,” Jules said. “Obviously she was stabbed.”

The marker swung abruptly to the word NO. Marty frowned, confused.

“How can you be cut but not stabbed?” he murmured aloud.

The planchette moved once more. I-T-S-L-I-P-P-E-D.

“It’s lipped?” Jules said aloud. “No. It slipped.”

“What did?” Verne asked aloud. “The knife?”


Something tugged at the edge of Marty’s mind with that, but before he could bring it into focus, it darted away.

“Did Gilbert Bailey mean to kill you?” Verne asked.

NO. The planchette’s movement was very swift on this.

“So it was an accident,” Verne said, nodding once.


“Why are you still here in the house?”


Marty picked up on the message before Jules translated. “Need help,” Jules said, for the benefit of the others. “But why? You’re dead.”

Verne rolled his eyes. “Stop asking stupid questions,” he said. “You’re distracting the spirit, and only one of us is supposed to talk to it and ask questions.”

“Says who? The instruction manual for the parlor game?”

“Just shut it, Jules. You’re all skeptical anyway -- if you think this is a sham, why are you even asking questions?”

The planchette’s surface seemed to grow even colder, until it felt like Marty was pressing his fingertips against a cube of ice. He finally drew his hands back with a hiss of pain, the move mimicked by the other three participants at almost the same moment. “Ow!” Verne said, sounding surprised, raising his hand and shaking it vigorously. “That hurt!”

The planchette trembled a moment, untouched by anyone, then grew very still. Marty looked around, feeling that same eerie sensation again that he was being watched, and that someone else -- unseen -- was in the room with them. It didn’t add to his comfort that they were sitting in the dark, with only a half dozen candles about the table for light, and a wicked storm outside. He started to stand, feeling a sort of obligation in that it was his house.

“I should check the fuse box,” he began.

Something clattered loudly in the kitchen.

Jennifer let out a half scream, her hand to her throat, while Verne’s head swiveled towards the closed kitchen door, his eyes huge and his kinky hair nearly standing on end. Even Jules jumped, though he was quick to cover up his unease with a small smirk when he noticed Marty looking at him.

No one said anything for a moment. There was another crackle of thunder. Doc finally stepped forward. “Let’s look,” he said, sounding incredibly calm.

Still feeling like they were being watched, Marty was only too happy to follow his friend out of the dining room, even if it meant directly confronting the mysterious noise. He just hoped he wouldn’t see any more levitating knives.

Doc continued to hold a video camera in one hand. He stopped before he pushed open the door, handing it to Marty. “Here, take this for a minute.”

Marty accepted the device, which still appeared to be having technical difficulties; at any rate, it was off. Doc grabbed a fat candle from the edge of the dining room table, then pushed open the swinging door with one hand. He held the candle forward, raising it up to provide the maximum amount of light possible. Marty edged between the doorjamb and his friend’s arm, his curiosity temporarily outweighing any fear or uneasy. The candle cast weird and grotesque shadows over the interior of the kitchen, tricking the eye with the constant fluttering movements. Marty’s eyes darted back and forth, scanning the kitchen for any signs of danger. He heard a soft intake of breath at his elbow, where Verne was wiggling past.

“Check it out!” the blond breathed, raising a hand and pointing.

There, on the floor, was the large bladed kitchen knife. Marty felt himself tense up all over. Beads of sweat popped out across his forehead, in spite of the cool and clammy kitchen air. The knife had been safely put away last time he was in there.

At least it’s not floating in mid-air now, right?

Verne squirmed past his father’s side, dodging Marty and reaching out towards the knife. “Verne,” Doc began, but the teen stopped short of picking it up. He frowned, his eyes narrowing as he bent down for a closer look.

“Wow,” he said softly. “Look at the blade.”

Marty took a couple steps forward, feeling more than a little uneasy. Something was on the blade, but it wasn’t until Doc leaned in close with the candle that he could really distinguish what it was.

It was blood.

* * *

Jennifer woke quite suddenly. She sat up in bed, blinking a few times, dazed. The red digital numbers on the bedside clock told her it was twelve o’ clock... twelve o’ clock... twelve o’ clock. Jennifer frowned, realizing that while she had been sleeping the power had apparently been restored. As if to confirm that fact, she saw a shaft of light from the direction of the bathroom, spilling through the half ajar door. She felt a brief thrill of anxiety, wondering if she had overslept, then realized that she hadn’t heard the travel alarm she had set go off. So that couldn’t be the case.

Jennifer rubbed her eyes a moment, trying to clear her head, then glanced to her right, her attention drawn by a soft noise. Marty was sprawled on top of the blankets beside her, fully dressed. She wasn’t sure if he had intended to remain in his clothes -- in case, for whatever reason, Doc had needed him -- or it was simple laziness or old habit. Whatever it was, he had clearly crashed hard; not only was he lying flat on his back, one arm draped over half his face -- he seemed much more prone to sleeping on his side or stomach, in general -- but he was snoring a little.

Maybe that’s what woke me, she thought, still feeling dazed. Jennifer slipped out from under the blankets and reached for the quilt folded on the chest at the foot of their bed, then pulled it over her exhausted husband. She paused a moment to tuck the blanket gently around him, then bent over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Marty didn’t seem to notice.

Jennifer walked over to the bathroom, clicking the light off, then drifted over to the closed bedroom door and cracked it open. There was a faint glow in the hallway -- light that slipped from the downstairs. She hesitated a moment in the doorway, chilled even in her flannel PJs, then went back into the bedroom and grabbed her bathrobe from the back of the bathroom door. Although she had to get up early to embark on yet another workday, she didn’t feel entirely prone to rest. The events earlier in the evening still nagged at her. The seance and the strange messages from the Ouija board. The power outage -- which Doc, of course, had explained away as pure coincidence, from the storm. The noise in the kitchen and the knife on the floor -- a knife that was coated with blood.

“But it’s not blood,” Doc had assured them when the discovery was made, remaining irrationally calm. “A blood-like substance. I’ll have to test this tomorrow and see what it consists of.”

Fortunately, the noises and the cold chill in the air had ceased after that. Jules had helped his father collect the knife from the floor and enclose it in a plastic baggie, then left, taking a very reluctant Verne with him. Marty had gone out to check the fuse box, and reported that the entire neighborhood seemed to be without any power. When Jennifer had gone upstairs to go to bed, her husband and the scientist were still busy checking out the various devices scattered throughout the house with flashlights, making sure that nothing had been damaged by the storm and checking readings. She wasn’t sure when Marty had finally made his way to bed; she had fallen asleep before had come up.

And now, it was... later. She needed to find out just how much time had passed. It unsettled her to have no idea what hour it was.

Jennifer made her way down the stairs slowly, allowing her eyes the time to adjust to the light that grew brighter the closer she grew to the first floor. She shut off the overhead light in the foyer, which was empty, then slipped into the adjacent living room, where several of the lamps were on. This room, like the foyer, was also empty. She switched off the lamps near the couches, but left the dining room chandelier burning. She didn’t want to trip over things when she made her way back upstairs -- and, frankly, the idea of being in utter darkness in their home right now was simply not appealing.

She paused in the wide doorway that joined the living and dining rooms, frowning at the solitude. Had Doc had gone home, in spite of his vow to remain there all night?

There was a faint noise in the kitchen.

Jennifer jumped, her pulse immediately spiking. The ghost, she thought automatically, her eyes darting in the direction of the stairs. She wondered if Marty would be very angry with her if she woke him now, and sent him to investigate the noise -- but she dismissed the idea almost at once. Neither of them had been sleeping very well since moving, and she saw no reason to dump all of the responsibility on her husband to deal with the ghost. Plus, she was already awake, and right here. So Jennifer took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and shoved the swinging kitchen door open, hard.

Something crashed to the floor, followed immediately by a “Great Scott!” Jennifer jumped, stumbling back into the wall besides the door. Doc stood a few feet away from her, his eyes wide, the shattered remains of a coffee cup lying at his feet. Brown, steaming liquid was splashed across the tiles surrounding the ceramic shards. Jennifer’s hand flew to her mouth.

“Oh my God, Doc, I’m so sorry! Did I scare you?”

Even as she said it, Jennifer knew it was a foolish question. “Just a little,” the scientist said dryly. He bent down and began to pick up the larger pieces of mug. Jennifer hurried over to the sink, grabbing a dishtowel and kneeling down to wipe up the spilled coffee.

“I heard a noise in here,” she said. “I thought maybe it was the ghost.”

“No,” Doc said, standing with a handful of damp, sharp mug remains. “It was just me.”

“I’m sorry I scared you,” Jennifer said again. She finished mopping up the coffee and brought the towel over to the sink, wringing it and then rinsing it out, as Doc dumped the remains of the coffee mug into the trash. “I woke up, and I wasn’t sure what time it was.”

“It’s two oh eight in the morning,” Doc said, after a glance at his watch. “The power has been back on for about fifteen minutes.”

That explained why so many of the lights were on -- they had never been turned off since the power had been restored. Doc got another mug from the cabinet and poured himself a new cup of coffee. Jennifer watched the inventor a moment, then glanced over at the kitchen table. The knife with the blood on it was resting on the edge, still sheathed in the plastic bag. In addition, there were a number of notes and clipping spread out across the wooden tabletop, along with a couple candles that looked as if they were recently extinguished.

“What are you doing?” Jennifer asked the inventor.

“Reviewing information,” Doc said. He took a long slip from the coffee, then set the cup down on the tabletop. He looked tired in Jennifer’s eyes, making her feel a little guilty; he should’ve been resting at this hour, not squinting at text.

“What have you found out?” she asked, taking a seat.

“Very little,” Doc confessed as he sat down across from her. “There are definite adjustments in the atmosphere in this house -- sudden and without any real forewarning, as near as I can tell. I’m not entirely sure what is causing these fluctuations -- nor why some objects seem to be moving without any provocation. I’ve checked the alignment of the floors, and that’s not the cause of it.”

“It’s ghosts, Doc,” Jennifer said softly, glancing at the newspaper clippings on the house. “Something happened here and the people involved -- well, Elaine Bailey -- are restless. She’s trying to tell us something.”

“There’s no such thing as ghosts, Jennifer,” Doc said gently, glancing at some paper filled with scribbles of his handwriting. “Whatever problem that is plaguing your house has it’s roots in science, not the supernatural. That science may be unexplained, thus far, but that doesn’t mean there’s no rational explanation.”

Jennifer made a face, not appreciating the inventor’s unyielding skepticism. “I think what’s happening right now has it’s origins with this event,” she said, lightly tapping her finger on one of the news articles about the murder. “There’s a mystery here, Doc. An unsolved one. And I think if we figure out what happened, the things that are happening right here, right now, may go away.”

Doc grunted. “I think that the murder one hundred and one years ago has very little to do with what’s going on now.”

Jennifer stared him dead in the eye, not at all ready to back down from her argument. “Why?” she asked. “What makes you think that?”

“Tragic events don’t begot phenomenon like this,” Doc said. “If that was the case then there would be a great many more cases of things happening on war battlefields, or contemporary crime scenes, or roadways where fatal accidents occurred. Hospitals would be overrun, considering all the death and tragedy within those walls.”

“Maybe it happens, but it’s not reported or observed by many people,” Jennifer countered.

The look on Doc’s face clearly communicated his disbelief. “The crime that occurred here in 1891 has nothing to do with these unusual events.”

“Well, then, if that’s the way you feel about it.....” Jennifer paused, gathering the nerve to say what she was about to. “Let Marty and I go back to that time. To the week the murder happened. If we can find out the truth of that matter, before all the evidence deteriorated, maybe that can bring some peace to Elaine -- and to the house.”

Doc was shaking his head before Jennifer finished her first sentence. “Absolutely not.”

“Let me finish,” Jennifer said, not ready to back down quite yet. “We wouldn’t try to stop the crime from happening. I know that could probably cause some problems. We could just be there in town when it happened, and gain additional knowledge about it. It’s impossible to even begin to figure an answer based on these ancient news articles, and just the memories you and Clara have. I think if we know what happened, if we can find the answer to the mystery, we can stop these problems in our house. If that doesn’t work, then.... well, I can accept that.”

Doc still shook his head. “What you’re proposing is too dangerous for me to condone,” he said. “You’re correct -- interfering in those events of the past could cause tremendous problems in the here and now.”

“We won’t interfere in the events,” Jennifer said firmly. “We will just watch and listen -- and see if we can find out what really happened.”

“Which is interfering in some capacity,” Doc said. “No. The solution to your home’s problems won’t be found in 1891. It can be found here -- with more research, perhaps, and some more experiments--”

“Nothing’s working,” Jennifer said, her despair leaking into her voice. She paused a moment, trying to compose herself. “Things are getting worse, now, not better. Marty and I can’t live with this... this ghost, this scientific phenomenon mystery in our house. It’s too disruptive. If you can find a way to explain -- and to stop -- what’s going on here, that’s wonderful. But if you can’t, let me have a chance to try things my way and see if that makes any difference. Because I can’t live like this. Marty can’t live like this. And we can’t move. All of our money is sunk into this home.”

Doc stared at her for more than a minute before he said a word. “Is Marty behind this odd proposal of yours?”

Jennifer shook her head. “No, this is my idea. He doesn’t know anything about this. But he’ll want to be involved.” And if he protested, the newswoman wouldn’t be beyond using a little of her womanly leverage. This was his home, too, and if he expected her to be happy with things going bump nightly, he had another thing coming.

Doc tapped a finger against the table for a moment, clearly thinking. “All right, “ he said finally. “If I cannot find a cause and a solution in the next week, I will consider your suggestion. But while I’m conducting research into these events at your house, your task is going to be researching the mystery in more depth than you have already. Find out what you can about Gilbert and Elaine Bailey. And about Hill Valley in 1891. Because if I’m sending you back, and Marty” -- the inventor’s voice faltered a moment, as if he was going to change his mind mid-sentence -- “then you need to be prepared for what you will see there.”

It wasn’t a yes, not quite, but it was no longer a no. That was good enough for Jennifer. She smiled and nodded eagerly. “Of course,” she said. “I can do that. But if you don’t have these noises figured out and fixed in a week, you can’t change your mind about considering the idea. Promise me you won’t change your mind.”

Doc sighed. For a moment the newswoman thought he was going to back out. But he simply raised the coffee mug to his mouth, took a sip, then nodded once. “You have my word.”

Chapter Five

Monday, November 16, 1992
8:12 P.M.

The night before the deadline of Doc’s investigation, Jennifer drove to the Brown’s house to speak with Clara about the Baileys. She had wanted to have that conversation most of the week, but things kept coming up -- work, mostly. And then there was spending a few evenings at the library in the archives, investigating the backgrounds of both Elaine and Gilbert, and Hill Valley circa 1891. What she found -- about the Bailey’s, anyway -- wasn’t that much, and she was feeling faintly frustrated. Prior to arriving in Hill Valley in 1887, from San Francisco, there was nothing. No names of parents, or family histories, or even an indication of when the couple had married.

Her sensation of feeling like she was beating her head against a brick wall was nothing compared to Doc’s. He had been at the McFly home more than his own during the last week, venturing away only when Marty and Jennifer were around to monitor the equipment. He had even sent Jules and Verne over once to keep an eye on things, though Verne was more interested in trying to have another seance than looking at numbers and waiting for something to happen. Equipment continued to malfunction oddly, and there was no clear explanation for it -- or for any of the other things that were happening. At least none that Doc could offer and prove.

The ghost was showing no signs of disappearing, either. There had been instances every single night of things crashing, plummeting temperatures, strange shadows, and mysterious footsteps. One night one of the audio recorders in the basement caught the sound of someone moaning -- and no one had been making any such noise in the house at the time, let alone in the empty lower level. Yet with every day that passed, Jennifer felt more and more certain that the key to solving the mystery and perhaps stopping the activity lay in the past. The knowledge and certainty gave her a general feeling of calm, even as things continued to unravel at home.

Which was a good thing, because her notion was not shared by everyone.

“Are you outta your mind?” Marty had asked when she had told him about her agreement with Doc. “What makes you think going back in time will solve anything?”

“Because if we solve the mystery, maybe--”

“Jen, we can’t solve the mystery -- we can’t mess around with the past of this house. What if we did something, came back, and we had no home?”

Jennifer rolled her eyes. “That’s ridiculous. Observing events can’t change them. You’re being silly, Marty.”

Marty had frowned, looking perturbed. “I’ve got a lot more experience with time travel then you do,” he said. “Doc was probably just being nice -- I don’t think he’ll really let you go.”

Jennifer had bristled at this, annoyed by her husband’s negative, narrowminded attitude. “Oh, really?” she said, her voice cold. “It’s nice to know that I have your support with this. Especially because I think Doc would feel better if you were back there with me.”

“We can’t fix things messing around in the past,” Marty said, folding his arms across his chest. “We’d have better luck hiring real ghostbusters or an exorcist. Give it a rest, Jennifer.”

Jennifer did not give it a rest. She went ahead conducting her research, intending to not blow the opportunity Doc had promised her.

After dinner on Monday, she left Marty and Doc -- the latter still trying to rationally explain the events -- and arrived for her prescheduled visit with Clara. The older woman was perfectly amiable to the idea of discussing the Baileys, though she admitted to Jennifer over the phone that she wasn’t sure if she knew any information that would help her out. The newswoman was quick to assure her that anything was better than nothing, and would probably be much more useful than the ancient documents she was finding in the archives. And her hunch was not incorrect.

“I knew Elaine better than Gilbert,” Clara said as they sat in the living room. It was quiet, for once; Jules was studying and Verne was entertaining Emily for a small fee in the family room at the back of the home. “She was in charge of a women’s caucus in town, which had the eventual goal of allowing women to vote and hold property.” She smiled faintly. “It seems like a terribly quaint idea now, what with all the freedoms women are allowed, but it was a very serious matter one hundred years ago.”

This gelled with some of the prior research Jennifer had done and, though she was glad to have it cross-confirmed, she craved more detailed information. “What was she like as a person?” she asked curiously.

“Oh, she was quite smart, brash and outspoken. She told me once that if she hadn’t married she had wanted to be a doctor, which was extremely difficult for women in those days. But she was kind, too. If you had a matter you needed to discuss with her, she would make time for you. She and her husband had no children of their own -- I’m not certain if this was by choice or fate -- but they did have a dog that they treated as one of their own.” Clara frowned, her eyes unfocusing as she thought. “I think his name was Curly. Elaine would bring him to the meetings sometimes. He was quite well-behaved, but a few of the women in the caucus thought it a bit odd. I don’t believe a great many of them had domesticated dogs.”

Jennifer hesitated before asking the next batch of questions. These would be the harder ones to deal with. “What kind of relationship did she seem to have with her husband?”

Clara brushed aside a strand of hair from her eyes. “They seemed happy,” she said. “Gilbert was much more quiet than his wife. In that way they reminded me of my parents. Gilbert was always chasing a story around town, spending time in the office of the Telegraph preparing layouts. But Elaine didn’t seem to suffer from any loneliness. She was a very independent woman and involved in a great many matters about town. Besides the woman’s movement and suffrages, there was the church committee and the town committee.... She also, I recall, had a great deal to do with the design of her home -- of your home. I remember the talk that caused about town, her discussions with the architect and builders. She had very distinctive ideas on what should and shouldn’t be done. I believe the architect was ordered to defer to her and not to Gilbert when it came to such decisions.”

“When was the last time you saw her alive?” Jennifer asked.

“Oh, I guess it would be the prior Sunday, at church. I don’t recall that we exchanged any words. The last time I spoke with her would have to be at our woman’s caucus meeting the previous Wednesday evening. We had discussed ways to raise funds to support a trip to Sacramento in the spring, when politicians would be visiting. 1892 was an election year, you see, and there were a number of politicians coming through the state capital to try and get votes.”

“When you heard the news about her disappearance, what did you think?”

Clara frowned. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I suppose my first reaction was disbelief. It seemed inconceivable that something like that could happen in Hill Valley. But I knew something had to have happened to her. Some in town suggested she faked her death and left, ran off with another man, but I think the very notion is ridiculous. No one who knew her would say that.”

“Did you think that Gilbert had done it? Had killed her?”

Clara hesitated a long, long moment. “No,” she said eventually. “He seemed genuinely confused by the whole matter. I don’t think that was an act. And, really, Hill Valley at that time was much more rural than it is now. It wasn’t a farfetched idea to think that someone from outside the town could have passed through and committed the crime. I think that was the argument for Gilbert’s defense. Their home was a mile from the closest neighbor.”

“What did most of the town think?” Jennifer asked.

“People were divided,” Clara admitted. “Those who didn’t know the Bailey’s assumed that Gilbert had committed the crime. Those who did know them thought that something else had happened. But no one thought the same thing. There were all sorts of ideas going around -- that Elaine had run off, that Indians had murdered her and carried her body away for a ritual, that she was the victim of a Californian Jack the Ripper.”

“And after Gilbert was hanged? Did they just close the book on the case?”

“I believe so. It made perfect sense -- as far as the sheriff was concerned, the crime had been solved and the guilty party punished. Their beautiful house was vacant for a time after, though. There were rumors that it was haunted even then -- strange lights seen in the windows, noises, that sort of thing. I thought it was the silly imaginations of people, as did Emmett. I think it was in 1894 that the house was finally bought by a family that was new to the area, having moved to Hill Valley from Nevada, but I’m not sure how long they lived there. Emmett and I left the area before they moved out, that’s certain.”

Jennifer nodded once and glanced at the notes she had been taking down as Clara had talked. “You know that Marty and I have had some weird things happen in the house,” she said, then stopped.

Clara nodded. “And you believe it’s being haunted by Elaine? Yes, I could certainly understand your reasoning behind that. I find it rather upsetting that she was never found. The loss of blood that was found on the floors was enough to cause her death, or so it was reported in the newspapers.”

Jennifer nodded -- she had read that very notation in one of the articles. “Can you remember anything you heard about town that wasn’t reported in the newspapers?” she asked. “Anything at all?”

Sadly, the older woman shook her head. “I’m sorry, Jennifer,” she said gently. “That was a very busy time for me; we had houseguests, and Jules and Verne were so young. I’m afraid I didn’t pay much mind to the news and gossip in the streets. It was too difficult to separate the fact from the fiction.”

Jennifer felt an ache of disappointment with the answer, though she wasn’t entirely surprised. “It’s all right,” she said. “If all goes well, I should have the chance to be there myself.”

Clara raised her eyebrows. “Ah, yes, Emmett’s agreement,” she said. “I think that’s one reason why he’s been so determined to find a way to explain the going ons in your home.”

Jennifer closed her notebook and leaned forward, elbows on her knees. “What do you think about it?” she asked. “Do you believe in ghosts?”

Clara bit her lower lip. “Well,” she said. “Yes. Emmett’s never tried to talk me out of this view... much. And I imagine that if he had had the experience I did as a child, he might think very differently about this subject.”

Jennifer didn’t have to ask for more information. The older woman continued ahead unprovoked. “When I was ten years old, I had to stay late after school to make up an exam. The academy I attended was housed in what was a former home of a wealthy dignitary, and it was built in the late seventeen hundreds. My instructor left me alone as I worked through the exam, but not more than ten minutes after she left I heard a noise at the front of the room. I looked up and I saw a older gentleman walking across the front of the room. He was dressed oddly, I noticed at once, and seemed quite familiar to me. He walked across the width of the room without a glance at me, as if he didn’t know I was there. And then he was simply gone; I blinked, and he was not there any longer.

“This gave me a terrible start, as you might imagine. I left my seat and walked to the front of the room, searching about to see if someone was playing a trick on me. I was alone, however. When my instructor checked on me about twenty minutes later, I asked her who the man was -- and she told me that there was no such person on the premise. Furthermore, she had seen no one pass by her office just outside the classroom door.”

Clara paused and Jennifer opened her mouth to ask another question, but she picked up the narrative one more. “Perhaps that might’ve been the end of it. But as I was leaving school that day, passing through the foyer, I noticed the painting of the gentleman who had built the home. A Mr. Willis. I had seen this portrait countless times before -- but only when I saw it this time did I realize that the man I had seen in the classroom looked just like Mr. Willis. Their clothes were even from the same time period. It gave me a terrible turn; I never wanted to be alone in that school after that.”

“So you saw an authentic ghost,” Jennifer said, awed.

“I can’t think of another explanation for it,” Clara admitted. “Mr. Willis passed away in 1821, in his home. I didn’t know that what I saw was a ghost, either; not when I saw him. He looked quite three dimensional, as real and solid as you or I. It wasn’t like those movies where you can see through them, or they float in the air. I even heard his footsteps.”

“We’ve heard footsteps,” Jennifer said. “Marty saw a shadow with the noises once, but none of us have seen the ghost . I’m positive that it’s Elaine Bailey. And that if I can be back there when the event happened, maybe I can find a way to stop the hauntings and put her spirit to rest. There are so many reasons why she could be hanging around. What if Gilbert was the wrong person accused? Or what if her body is buried under the house somewhere?”

Clara nodded once. “Those are possibilities,” she agreed. “But it could be something as simple as her not wanting to leave her house. She did love it in life.”

“Maybe,” Jennifer said, the doubt she had about that clear even to her own ears. “But it seems like she’s trying to tell us something. If she was just relaxing in her home after her death, I don’t think she’d be playing with knives in the kitchen.”

She let out a sudden hiss of frustration through her teeth. “I’m surprised Marty’s being so resistant to the idea of going back in time,” she said. “He’s seen stranger things than I have, but he’s just closing his mind to the idea that we can do something to stop the haunting. Doc’s being more supportive, and he doesn’t even believe in what’s going on!”

“Well, Marty has had more experiences with time travel than you,” Clara said. “Some of them not very pleasant. I can understand his reluctance. Do you have a plan on what you’ll do when you’re back there, Jennifer?”

“Of course,” Jennifer said. She ticked the itinerary off on her fingers as she spoke. “Arrive in town the day before the murder and see Gilbert and Elaine for ourselves. I’d like to visit the home and see if I could set up some cameras at the windows -- in the kitchen, for example -- to show us what really happened. Then after the murder or disappearance happens, we can collect the cameras, go home, and take it from there. I’d also like to visit the house after Elaine vanishes, but I’m not sure if that’s possible. I guess it depends on if they sealed the house off to people or not, since it was a crime scene. I wonder if they did that back then...?”

“Is Emmett aware of the details of your plan?” Clara asked.

Jennifer tilted her head to one side. “Sort of,” she said, which was a bit of an exaggeration. It hadn’t yet been discussed. “I think we’ll talk about it more tonight.” She glanced at her watch, checking the time. “Which reminds me -- I should get back.”

As if on cue, there was a shriek from the other end of the house, then Verne’s voice rang out. “Mom! You need to put Emmy to bed! She’s freakin’ out over here.”

Clara stood as Jennifer did and gave her an apologetic smile. “I hope that I was able to help you,” she said.

“Oh, yes, thank you,” Jennifer said. “I’ll let you know if I have any more questions.”

She let herself out of the house -- Emily’s shrieks were getting louder and more annoyed, accompanied now by a “Mommmmieeeee!” Jennifer sighed as she shut the front door at her back, relieved that kids were out of the mix with her for hopefully a few more years. She just couldn’t deal with it now, not with everything else in her life.

During the drive home, she mulled over Clara’s words about the Bailey’s, particularly Elaine. She sounded like an interesting woman. Jennifer wondered if she might be able to meet her while they were in the past -- for a minute or three, at least. That couldn’t possibly hurt anything.

When she arrived back at the house, she found her husband with Doc in the living room. They seemed to be engaged in an intense discussion -- she could hear their voices raised clearly as she came in through the front door. As she shut the door behind her, however, the voices abruptly cut off. Curious, Jennifer headed straight for the the source. Doc was on his feet, his hands clasped behind his back, as if he had paused in pacing. Marty was also standing, leaning against one of the walls, his arms folded across his chest. They both looked over at her as she arrived in the doorway.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

The question wasn’t answered immediately. “How was your conversation with Clara?” Doc asked.

“Good,” Jennifer said. “She gave me a lot of information about the Baileys. How is the investigation going? Have you reached a conclusion yet?”

Doc glanced over at Marty for a second, who had shifted his gaze to the floor. “No,” he said. “Not any hypothesis that I can prove, anyway.”

Jennifer nodded, not surprised. “So that means tomorrow we can go to 1891, right?” she said. “That was the deal we had, and I’ve kept up my end of the bargain. If you’d like to see all my research notes or give me a quiz, that’s fine.”

“Well, actually, Jennifer--”

“I’m not going,” Marty said, cutting off Doc. He looked up at his wife, his gaze an odd mix of challenge and apology. “Sorry.”

Jennifer blinked, the announcement not wholly surprising. “You’re not going?” she said. “Why not?”

“I don’t think anything will come of it,” Marty said. “And too much could go wrong.”

Jennifer looked over to Doc, wondering if he had talked her spouse out of the idea. Doc knew what she was thinking and smiled faintly. “I’ve been trying to encourage him in going,” the inventor said. “Because I don’t want you going back there alone. That’s too dangerous.”

Jennifer’s shock kept her rooted to the spot. “Too dangerous?” she echoed. “Why?”

“You’re not as experienced in matters of time travel as Marty is,” Doc said gently. “I don’t doubt you’ve done your research and are prepared, but ... well, taking a trip through time alone carries with it a lot of risk. I wouldn’t be comfortable sending you back in time without an escort.”

Jennifer transferred her hurt and anger at this restriction past the scientist, straight towards her husband. If he wanted to come along, she knew, they wouldn’t be having this conversation. “What makes you think this trip is so dangerous?” she asked Marty. “How is this worse than being on the Titanic? Or dealing with cannibalistic island natives? Or pirates? What’s so bad about visiting Hill Valley for a couple days a hundred and one years ago?”

“If we mess around in this mystery, we could stop it.”

“Not if we watch from a distance.”

“What if we do something and make it so we don’t live here anymore?”

“That won’t happen.”

“What if the time machine broke down?”

“We’d... Doc would know where we were, and if we didn’t come back, he’d come after us.” She glanced to the scientist. “Right?”

The inventor nodded once. “Of course.”

Jennifer turned to Marty. “We’ve tried everything else,” she said, forcing her voice to stay low and calm. “We can’t live with a ghost in the house -- it’s too disruptive. And we can’t move. You know that. And what about Elaine? She deserves to rest in peace.”

“She’s long dead, Jennifer,” Marty said, bluntly. “And I’m not going back there; it won’t do anything to fix this situation, and it could make it a lot worse.”

Doc sensed the escalating tensions in the room and cleared his throat gently. “Well, I should go home now. Thanks for your help in taking things down, Marty.”

Marty nodded once, locked into a staring contest with Jennifer. “No problem, Doc,” he said, not looking away from his wife.

The inventor left the house a moment later, moving none too slowly. Jennifer waited only until the door had closed before she opened her mouth again. “So you’re giving up?” she asked.

Marty lifted his shoulders in a shrug. “Sorry, Jen,” he said. “We can figure something out to fix things from here--”

Jennifer didn’t let him finish, turning around quickly and heading for the stairs. When she reached the top, she heard Marty’s footsteps start after her. “Jennifer? Wait, where are you going?”

Jennifer made a beeline straight for their bedroom, her anger and hurt carrying her legs faster than she thought possible. She wasn’t running, not quite, but it was close. She strode into the master bedroom, slamming the door hard at her back, then turned around immediately to engage the lock. Marty arrived a moment later, tried the knob, then knocked.

“Jennifer? What the hell are you doing? What’s wrong?”

Jennifer narrowed her eyes in a glare at the wooden door. She headed for the bed, yanking Marty’s pillow from the sheets, then stomped back over to the door. She unlocked it long enough to crack it open a half foot and drop the pillow in the hall. “Here,” she said coldly. “If you think that we can just ignore this problem and hope it will quietly go away or resolve itself, then you can just sleep downstairs -- with the ghost.”


Jennifer slammed the door, cutting Marty off before he could really start. “Let me know if you change your mind,” she called through the wood, seething. If he was going to be so narrowminded, he could deal with the ghost by himself.

* * *

Jennifer was nuts.

That was Marty’s current opinion. This entire thing with the house and the ghost had turned into an obsession -- one that was getting worse with every passing day. He couldn’t believe that Doc was actually buying into her madness, willing to let her go back to the time of the murder and mess around. But the inventor felt cornered, sort of -- and, he confessed to Marty, he felt he owed it to her.

“I’m frankly baffled about how to explain what I’ve seen and captured here,” he admitted that evening, while Jennifer had been away interviewing Clara. “The phenomenon in this house goes against the rational, known laws of science as I understand them.”

“So does that mean you believe in ghosts, now?”

Doc had shot his friend a look. “Just because I can’t explain a situation doesn’t mean that disembodied spirits are behind it... or that the phenomenon is simply overactive imaginations and whatnot. However, I promised Jennifer that if I couldn’t explain things or solve this problem by now, I would allow her an opportunity to fix things her way by using time travel. But you’ll need to go with her.”

Marty’s immediate response was a flat “No way.” He expected Doc would just let it go at that, but to his surprise the scientist tried to talk him out of the idea. It was the last thing that the musician would have expected from his friend.

And then Jennifer had come back home, and flipped out when she heard about her husband’s decision. He could understand if she was disappointed and all that. But it shouldn’t end up with him being barricaded out of their bedroom and forced to take refuge on the couch.

In spite of his decision to leave the past unexplored, he was nervous being downstairs alone -- especially at night. An evening hadn’t gone by yet without something happening since they moved in, usually in the kitchen and usually after midnight, when things were especially dark and quiet. Marty’s intention had been to ignore the noises and such from the comfort of the master bedroom, far away from any possible interaction with the ghost. Jennifer’s tantrum, such as it were, threw a bit of a wrench into his plans.

Rather than directly confront his wife, however, and try to cajole or argue with her some more, Marty picked up his pillow from the hallway floor and trudged downstairs. He didn’t feel up to arguing with someone who seemed incapable of remotely seeing things from his perspective, and was basically refusing to compromise. She could cool down, he figured, and maybe tomorrow she’d be more willing to understand that he was not being petty or vindictive.

In the meantime, he had the whole night to kill -- alone, for the first time in a little more than a week, without Doc’s rational presence nearby, without his meters and cameras and everything around to ensure Marty that he was not imagining things or losing his mind, that stuff was really happening. He wasn’t exactly overjoyed by the prospect.

So he did two things to keep himself from feeling thoroughly freaked out -- he turned on just about every light on the first floor, and then the television. Jennifer was probably going to kill him when they got their electrical bill, but Marty figured she only had herself to blame on this one.

In spite of -- or perhaps, because of -- everything going on with their haunted house, he was exhausted. Marty knew there was no way he was going to stay up all night, no matter how much he might wish for the ability, and, sometime in the middle of Jay Leno’s opening monologue on “The Tonight Show,” he dozed off amid the noise and blazing lights.

Cold -- an intense, bone-penetrating cold -- was what gradually drew him back awake. He made a face without opening his eyes, reaching out to pull the blankets back over him. Musta kicked them off, he thought fuzzily. Or else Jen’s hogging them again....

His hands encountered nothing more than the fabric of his sweatshirt and jeans. Further exploration and he felt the couch cushions -- That’s right, I’m downstairs -- and was provoked into opening his eyes.

Darkness surrounded him.

Marty sat up, disoriented. He reached up and rubbed his eyes, something not making sense. When he had fallen asleep, he knew that the TV had been on; he had recalled the soothing murmur of the device. And the lights had all been on; he remembered the glare bothering him a little, but not quite enough to encourage him to turn them off.

And where was the blanket that he had been using earlier?

Marty shivered, leaning over to retrieve the blanket from the floor, where he assumed it would be. But it wasn’t there.

Okay. Maybe Jennifer’s messing with me. She could’ve turned out all the lights... the TV... taken the blanket... jacked up the air conditioner....

The television suddenly came on. Marty was so startled he toppled off the couch. Laughter blared out of the speakers, the kind usually heard in sitcoms. The picture faded into focus -- then abruptly changed to a different station. The musician sat up, his heart thudding. He suddenly felt more than a little angry at the invisible entity that was invading their home.

“Is that the best you can do?” he asked sarcastically. “Play with the TV? Or the stereo? And make the knives move in the kitchen?”

The temperature seemed to grow even more frigid. Marty hugged his arms tightly across his chest. The television stopped changing channels, stopping on what appeared to be a late night infomercial for knives. Of all things, the musician mused, wondering if that was supposed to be a message to him.

Marty felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, sensing... something unusual. His eyes darted around the room as he climbed to his feet. He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to shake whatever it was that was making him feel creeped out in the extreme.

Something touched his arm from behind -- something painfully cold. Marty spun around so quickly he nearly fell. He expected to see nothing, really, so when he saw... something, he simply froze.

An arm’s length away from him stood a figure -- a woman. She was dressed in old fashioned clothes, a white blouse and a long dark skirt. Her hair pinned up in a knot at the back of her head. Those weren’t the most unusual aspects about her appearance. Having done a fair share of time traveling during the last seven years, Marty had gotten almost used to seeing people in period clothes. The fact that the woman looked familiar -- in fact, just like the fuzzy, black and white picture of Elaine Bailey he had seen in the copies of the news articles -- was much more unnerving, as was the expression on her face -- a dark scowl. There was also the matter of her form shimmering in and out of focus, vaguely transparent. But the utterly worst part of it, in Marty’s point of view, was the eyes. The sockets were filled with a darkness, an utter blackness, that made his blood seem to freeze.

Because the ghost had no pupils.

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God--

Marty thought he would faint for a moment. He clamped his eyes shut tightly, clenching his hands into fists. He willed the form before him to disappear, to be a dream, but when he opened his eyes again the figure was still there, silently glowering at him. Elaine Bailey. In the not-so-flesh. Jesus Christ.

He took a step back, slowly, then another. The ghost didn’t move, but he could feel her stare and see her face track his movement. Marty wondered if she was going to turn into a monster and lunge at him, like the librarian at the beginning of Ghostbusters. He didn’t want to turn his back on her -- it -- whatever.

Marty opened his mouth, intending to call out for his wife -- but no more than a whisper of her name passed through his lips. He was having enough trouble breathing at the moment; speaking seemed to be asking too much.

Five steps into his slow retreat he banged into an end table, knocking over an empty can of Pepsi that had been resting on the surface. The hot flare of pain on his hip from the impact seemed to break his semi-trance; Marty suddenly turned around and ran like hell for the stairs. “Jennifer!” he bellowed as he took the steps, two at a time. “Jennifer, for God’s sake, open the door!”

The bedroom door was still closed when he reached it at the end of the hall. Marty pounded on it with both fists, terrified to turn around and look behind him. What if he saw Elaine looming there with a kitchen knife, ready to slit his throat? “Jennifer! Let me in, dammit! This isn’t funny! Let me--”

The door suddenly gave way and he stumbled forward, across the threshold, nearly knocking his wife to the ground. She looked pale in the light of her bedside lamp. “What is it?” she demanded, her voice a little shrill.

Marty slammed the door at his back and locked it -- for all the good that would do. He leaned against the wood a moment, gasping for air, his heart still racing a mile a minute. Jennifer’s immediate concern had passed. She stood a foot away, her arms folded across her chest and her head tilted to one side as she studied her spouse.

“What’s going on?” she demanded, a distinct edge to her voice. “If this is your idea of trying to apologize to me--”

“I changed my mind,” Marty said before she could read him any riot act. “Let’s go back in time and fix this problem.”

Jennifer’s irritation vanished -- but the concern that replaced it wasn’t much better. “Did something happen I should know about?” she asked. “What brought this on?”

“Let’s just say that Elaine talked me into it,” the musician mumbled, still chilled by the memory of the encounter.

Chapter Six

Tuesday, November 17, 1992
9:08 A.M.

After his face to face meeting with a ghost, Marty was, naturally, unable to rest for the remainder of the night. Every time he closed his eyes he remembered waking up in the dark and cold, and Elaine glowering at him. The presense of Jennifer nearby, or the lock on their bedroom door, did little to settle his nerves. Ghosts, after all, couldn’t be kept out by conventional means, and there was nothing to suggest to Marty that she would leave them alone upstairs if she didn’t want to. Thus, he watched the clock tick slowly towards morning, trying to keep his mind away from replaying the moment he had eye contact with the ghost. Reading and watching the bedroom TV helped matters little.

Jennifer, who had slept for several hours intermittently, in spite of Marty’s restlessness, took one look at her husband’s face the next morning and suggested he might want to call in sick to work. “You look like hell,” she said. “Take the day off and rest. If we’re going to leave tonight to fix things, you need to be clearheaded.”

Marty agreed with her -- to an extent. He made the obligatory call to his boss, feigning illness (which wasn’t too hard to feign), but, rather than go back to bed, he left the house when his wife did. He was not going to linger there alone, even during the day. He ended up driving to the Burger King, ordered some breakfast and coffee, and killed some time reading the newspaper in one of the booths as he ate. When nine o’ clock came, he decided it was finally late enough to visit Doc’s; if the inventor wasn’t up yet, Clara definitely had to be, since Verne and Emily, at least, had school at around eight in the morning.

Clara, in fact, was the one who answered his knock at the door. She blinked, clearly startled to find him standing on their front porch on a weekday morning. “Marty,” she said. “What a surprise. Shouldn’t you be at work today?”

“I called in sick,” the musician explained. “Is Doc up yet? There’s something important I needed to talk to him about....”

“He’s out in the lab,” Clara said. “I don’t think he’ll mind the interruption.”

Marty thanked her for the information, then circled around the house and crossed the lawn. The lab door was locked -- that was typical, now. Marty reached for the intercom button mounted next to the door, which was far more effective than simply knocking on the wood. Especially if Doc was in the cellar and not the main rooms of the barn. “Yo, Doc, you in there?”

There was a pause of about a minute, then a response. “Marty? What are you doing here?”

“Let me in, and I’ll let you know.”

Marty heard the click of the locks as they slid over, triggered by Doc’s input inside of a security code. He pushed open the door, then closed it as his back. Doc was descending the stairs that led to his lofted study, his brow knit together in an expression of clear confusion. “You’re here early,” he said. “Isn’t today a weekday?”

“Yeah -- I called in sick to work today. I needed today off.”

Doc eyed him as he reached the first floor. “Yes, you do look a little pale.... Did something happen?”

Marty nodded vigourously. He launched into a recap of the events of the night before, with his encounter with the ghost of the house, then asked the question that he had come over to say: “So, can Jen and I go back in time tonight?”

Doc sighed. “I suppose,” he said. “If you’re sure.”

The musician nodded again. “Yeah, definitely. I am not going back to that house alone,” he added. “Not before we fix things, I mean.”

The inventor grunted. “I wish the vision you saw might’ve appeared while we had the home under survellance,” he said, sounding both annoyed and wistful. “Come up here, I want to show you something.”

Marty followed the inventor up to his study. He saw most of the recording devices piled on the floor and on the desktop at the far end of the room. The computer at Doc’s desk was on, and there were a number of notes spread out across the top, nearly burying the keyboard.

The inventor brushed aside the papers to access the keys, typed something in, then pointed to the screen. “Look at this.”

Marty looked. He saw two lines, parallel to one another. One was spiking and scribbled in wide arcs, the other was much more stable, more rounded with shallower peaks. “What is it?” he asked. “Looks like those whaddayacall it... Richter scale things from earthquakes.”

“This is electromagnetic energy,” Doc said. “The one on the top represents captures of the unusual activity in your home, and the other is a baseline reading.”

“Okay...” Marty said, wondering what Doc was leading up to. If he was trying to show the musician that there were differences between the two states, he was wasting his time; Marty already understood that.

“I attempted to mimic the output of electromagnetic energy, and record the process with audio and videotape. What I got was static -- on both the audio and video. It wasn’t enough to thoroughly erase all the details that were being recorded, but it certainly distorted it and made things a bit inaudiable. So, I don’t think any supposed ghost or spirit is shorting the equipment out so much as this energy is.”

Marty waited a moment before he spoke, sifting through the information slowly, in case he missed something. “Isn’t this something you already thought?”

“Yes, that was my hypothesis. But now I’ve got proof to back it up.” Doc rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Of course, I still haven’t been able to figure out what the source of the energy is....”

Marty decided to change the subject before the inventor could fully go off on that. “So, after Jennifer gets off work tonight, can we take off to 1891?”

“After some preparations,” Doc said. “I’ll need to talk to Jennifer about this more in depth, since I’m not entirely sure about what she has in mind. Clara gave me the gist of her idea last night, but.... And I’ll need to talk to both of you before I let you go, of course. You realize that Clara and I will be living back there. It’s imperitive that you avoid contact with us at all costs.”

Marty nodded once, this matter not new to him. “Uh huh. Listen, do you mind if I hang out here? I don’t want to go back to that house today.”

Doc gave him an odd look. “Why did you decide to not go into work, then? Not to just share your decision with me...?”

“No -- I haven’t really slept for a while. I couldn’t go back to sleep after... well, after I saw what I did last night. I’m functioning, I guess, but I don’t think I could deal with any serious decisions at work today. And Jennifer thought I’d want to try and get a nap in if we’re going somewhere tonight.”

“That’s a wise notion. And you don’t want to go home to rest?”

“I don’t want to go back there at all,” Marty said again, edgy at the mere idea. “Not alone, anyway.”

Marty half expected Doc to try and talk him out of that idea, launching into a mini-lecture, or “pep talk,” about how whatever was going on in the home would not hurt him and shouldn’t scare him, but he did not. “Well, if you need to get some sleep, you could lie down up here,” he said. “If you don’t mind me coming in and out.”

“I’m fine for now,” Marty said, honestly. The coffee from his breakfast was no doubt to blame for his jittery energy. “If you want to put me to work with anything, I won’t mind. I need something to do that’s not related to haunted houses.”

* * *

Doc seemed caught off guard with the offer of assistance, but he didn’t turn the musician down. Ten minutes later, Marty found himself occupied with the job of refiling a bunch of books and such that Doc had pulled from the shelves in his study. When he finished that chore, Doc put him to work cleaning up the main floor of the lab, with it’s typical plethora of odds and ends strewn about. Marty wasn’t the world’s most organized person himself, so Doc’s instructions were deliberately vague -- putting thing in different boxes depending on what they were, and he would take it from there later on. The scientist, for his part, was all over the lab, from the loft to the cellar, working on what seemed to be more tests or experiements relating to the phenominon at the McFly home, as well as making preparations for a trip through time later that evening.

After lunch, thoughtfully provided by Clara before she left to pick up Emily from her morning at pre-school, Marty took Doc up on his earlier offer to use the couch in his study for a nap. His burst of energy -- or, rather, the burst of energy provided by a couple cups of coffee -- had exhausted itself, leaving him feeling testy and unable to concentrate on much of anything. Jennifer’s earlier recommendation to embark on the trip tonight clearheaded nagged at him, so he finally let himself lie down on the couch. Marty expected to be bothered by the memory of his encounter with Elaine once more, but being in unhaunted surroundings helped tremendously in allowing him to relax; he was asleep within five minutes, and was undisturbed by Doc’s coming and goings in the study all afternoon.

Doc roused him around six -- a somewhat difficult job. Marty was groggy, thoroughly disorietnted, and felt he could sleep straight through the night without any problems. But Jennifer was waiting down on the main floor of the lab, and the inventor felt he had already allowed his friend to rest long enough -- too long, perhaps. It took Marty a few minutes before he was coherent enough to leave the lumpy couch and venture down the stairs. Jennifer, who was pacing restlessly around the lower level of the lab, frowned as she saw her husband slowly decend the steps, one hand on the railing.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Doc answered before Marty had the chance to even begin to think of a response. “I think he’ll be fine once he walks around a little. I apologize; I should’ve woken him up a couple hours ago. He slept too long.”

Jennifer’s eyes flickered to Marty as he sat down on the last stair step, resting his head against one of the bars of the railing, then returned to Doc. “Can we still leave tonight?” she asked, sounding anxious.

“I don’t see why not,” Doc said. “But there are a few things that we’ll need to go over, first. Marty, did you want something to drink? Water? Pepsi? Coffee?”

Marty shook his head once. What he wanted was to crawl back up to the study and sleep until dawn, but that wasn’t going to happen. He was awake enough to clearly recognize the look on Jennifer’s face. She was practically jumping up and down in her eagerness to get on with things. Too bad he felt more asleep than awake.

Doc stared at him a beat longer, then looked back to Jennifer. “Clara shared with me what you had in mind in doing back there,” he said. “But I’d like to hear it in your own words.”

Jennifer nodded. “Sure,” she said. “I thought we could go back a day or two before the disappearence. I’d like to see the house myself, the way it was in that time. And if you had some small still or video cameras we could set up in the windows, that would be really convienent. Marty and I could pick them up later, after the murder, and then have an answer on what happened without being there and possibly changing history.”

“This would require you staying longer than a day,” Doc said. “Unless you simply took the time machine ahead a day.”

“Well, I’d like to stay there, if possible,” Jennifer said. “I think we could find out much more that way.”

Doc frowned and paced a couple steps, clearly thinking hard. “I suppose it would be acceptable if you both stayed at the Palace Hotel. I don’t believe Clara or myself went anywhere in that vicinity then. You know not to contact either one of us, correct?”

Jennifer nodded, a little hesitantly. Marty grunted his response, leaning forward and resting his forehead against his fingertips. This was old news to him. “And cameras,” Doc muttered. He froze a moment, then turned and headed for the steps to the loft, squeezing past Marty on the bottom step. Jennifer watched him go, puzzled, then stepped over to her husband. She put her hand on the back of his neck. Marty smiled faintly at the touch.

“You okay?” she asked, sounding a little worried. “You look pretty out of it.”

Marty yawned before answering. “I’m fine... just kind of groggy. You know how it is if you sleep during the day.”

Jennifer gently squeezed the back of his neck. “Have I thanked you yet for doing this for me?”

Marty looked up at his wife, squinting a little from the overhead lights. “Not so much,” he said, a faint smile spreading across his mouth.

Jennifer returned her own coy look. “Well, we’ll have to fix that later on, won’t we?”

“Mmhmm. But I’m not doing this just for you, either,” he admitted. “I want that thing-- I want her out of our house.”

“Yes,” Jennifer agreed. “She deserves to rest in peace.”

No -- we do, Marty thought, but he didn’t voice his opinion.

Doc returned a moment later with a couple small objects in hand. “This is the best I can do,” he said, edging past the couple and heading for one of the worktables. Jennifer followed him, and even Marty’s curiosity was piqued enough to prod him onto his feet. Doc held up one object in his left hand, about the size of a large gumball.

“This is a video camera,” he said. “I bought it in the year 2010. It’s wireless and can emit a signal up to two miles. The reciever is here.” He held up his right hand, which contained a small, flat device in whitish plastic. It looked almost like an overly large make-up compact. “You can view the image and control the angle and focus of the camera from these buttons right here.” The inventor snapped open the reciever. The top portion of the clamshell had a small, flat color screen, and directly under that, on the opposite portion that one could cradle in their palm, were several buttons marked with different symbols, and a couple little knobs, embedded in the plastic casing, one marked Focus and the other Zoom.

“How does it record?” Jennifer asked.

Doc shifted his fingers down to a small notch on the side of the reciever. “There’s a slot here for a burnable disc -- a mini-DVD. If you are not choosy on the quality of the picture, you can record up to ten hours of footage. And, yes, you can control when you begin and end recording from this device with these two buttons here.” He pointed them out.

“So we can easily place this in a window of the Bailey’s home, and be distant when the crime occures?” Jennifer asked. “Can it record sounds, too?”

“Yes -- but I doubt you will pick up anything through a window or the walls of the home. However, I don’t think it would be necessary. I can also provide you a small digital camera, if you’d like to photograph anything, but it cannot be controled via remote.”

“Thanks,” the newswoman said, sounding pleased. “What else will we have?”

“Different clothes, of course,” Doc said immediately. “And some period money. I’ve already set those aside for you.” He walked over to one of the tables, where Marty noticed for the first time a couple stacks of folded clothes. The inventor had apparently collected those together while he had been napping. “Why don’t you both go to the house to change, and then I’ll give you the rest of the instructions?”

The couple took their respective articles of clothing and walked to the house. While Marty changed into the outfit Doc had provided in the first floor bathroom, Jennifer required some help from Clara with her costume upstairs. Naturally, it took her a little longer to get prepared than it did for Marty, who finished changing in about ten minutes. He noticed that the clothes were only faintly different than the stuff he had gotten used to wearing in 1885, just a little nicer.

After he had exchanged his jeans and sweatshirt for the stuff Doc provided, he took a moment to splash his face with cold water. The shock of the sensation on his skin helped clear his head, as did the walk across the lawn back to the lab. Ever paranoid, Doc had secured the door, requiring Marty to intercom him to be allowed back inside. He smiled quickly when he allowed the musician passage inside, then looked beyond the door into the yard.

“Is Jennifer behind you?”

“Not yet. She was still upstairs with Clara.”

The scientist nodded once, not surprised. “Yes, the ladies’ fashions of those times are a bit elaborate. Corsets and petticoats. Anyway, that’s fine. I was hoping I could talk to you alone for a moment.”

“What about?” Marty asked.

Doc gestured for him to come over to one of the worktables -- the same one that the clothes had been waiting on. There was a small suitcase now on the tabletop, open, filled with what appeared to be some extra folded clothes -- and a stack of bills.

“Here’s the period money,” the inventor explained, picking up the currency. “There is enough here to pay for a room at the Palace for two nights, as well as your meals during that time. And there’s extra, of course, in case you run into an emergency.” Doc placed the bills into a wallet, then passed it over to Marty. “Don’t lose this.”

“No, I won’t.” The musician carefully pocketed the wallet. “What else did you want to talk to me about?”

Doc looked him dead in the eye. “Give me your word that you won’t look myself up back there.”

“Doc! I know that already.”

“I know you do -- that’s why you have to make sure Jennifer doesn’t do that very thing.”

“I think checking out you and Clara back there is the furthest thing from her mind,” Marty said dryly, remembering his wife’s obsession with the house and the Bailey’s. He wondered if she would even be aware that a younger Doc and Clara were just across town.

Doc studied him a moment, then nodded once. “All right. Now, the time machine. You haven’t taken the Aerovette out by yourself yet, have you?”

“Um.... I don’t think so. But I know how to use it if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Good -- but let me just show you a couple minor things I added in....”

Doc was in the middle of his demonstration when Jennifer arrived at the lab with Clara, who was able to allow them entry without the inventor’s permission. She was wearing a dark green dress with a high neck and long sleeves. Her hair was pinned up, and a hat was resting on top of her wavy hair. The newswoman looked vaguely uncomfortable in her period attire, but Marty thought she was stunning. He never noticed before how tiny his wife’s waist was.

“It’s the corset,” Jennifer said when Marty made the comment. She made a face and shifted uncomfortably. “It pinches a little, but you can’t wear one of these dresses without one. You might have to help me get in and out of this while we’re there.”

Marty smiled at the idea. “Not a problem,” he said.

Doc clapped his hands together. “All right. You have the money, you have the car keys, and you have the survellance equipment. Don’t forget this,” he added, closing the suitcase and passing it to Marty. “And your bags?” he added to Jennifer.

“It’s right here,” Clara said, dragging a suitcase twice the size of Marty’s forward. Upon the musican’s astounished look, she smiled wryly. “Women’s attire was considerably more complicated than the men’s, and thus required larger bags.”

“Uh... great, I guess.”

It took a few minutes for Doc and Clara to fit the bags in the trunk of the car. Marty helped Jennifer into the passenger seat -- she moved stiffly, almost as if she were in pain -- then got behind the wheel. He looked over at her as she tucked her skirts around her ankles, keeping them clear of the doorway.

“Nervous?” he asked.

“No -- I’ve been waiting a week to do this,” Jennifer said. “I’m ready.”

Marty smiled at her attitude. “You look good in that get up, Jen. Kinda like an actress or something.”

Jennifer smiled faintly. “It’s not real comfortable. Clara said I might be a little sore for a couple days, with the corset and these shoes... and all the layers! Ugh. I don’t understand how women wore things like this every day and lived to tell the tale.”

Marty reached over and brushed a wisp of hair off her forehead. The illusion of belonging to another time had also included her hair, which was pinned up and looked much... thicker than it should. Jennifer’s locks were only down to her shoulders, after all. “Did you do something to your hair?”

Jennifer reached up and patted the red-brown tendrals. “Clara teased it a lot, so it looks like there’s more there. Women in the 1890’s wore their hair long -- longer than mine -- and put it up during the day. I hope I can get it back like this tomorrow morning; I’m absolutely not sleeping with it like this.”

There was a faint vibration through the seats as the trunk was slammed shut. Doc popped his head into view a moment later, in the driver’s side doorway. “You’re all set,” he said. “Be sure to return a minute after you leave -- the closer the sonic booms are heard together, the less attention the neighbors should give them.”

“Okay,” Marty agreed. He started to pull his door shut, but the inventor’s hand stopped him.

“Be careful,” he warned, once more. “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do.”

Knowing some of the risks Doc had taken when time traveling, Marty thought the advice was faintly trite. But he nodded. “Don’t worry, I won’t.”

To Be Continued....