With Thad there, Meg very nearly felt brave enough to enter the house. Oh, she knew Turd wanted to--wanted a guided tour, complete with the enhanced version of Walking in the Ghost's Footsteps--but Meg was feeling distinctly faint of heart. Turd finally accepted her reluctance, with a big brother roll of the eyes. He even conceded when she denied him the treat of sleeping in the house. He bunked down on her couch in the barn apartment, but he kept making excuses for exiting. "Need a cigarette."
"You don't smoke."
"I'm doing an exploratory on your landscaping." He grinned, and she folded. "Maybe I'll put in a bid."
Since it was after dark, and since they both knew he preferred computers to dirt, he needn't have bothered. Meg had the curtains pulled across the windows, and all the lamps on. "Just don't be gone long...okay?" The last gave her away, and Thad laughed. Despite his own paranormal history, he clearly believed the night before's occurrences to be exaggerated, but just in case, he was going downstairs once again to check out the windows.
Meg peeked out and saw him at it, going from window to window. Some of them still had curtains, but Stacy the agent had opened most of them so Meg could be fully wowed by the prospect. Now, the darkened glass stared back at her like so many eyes. She wished Thad would back off. Her skin was tingling and she feared, irrationally, that her house was going to gobble him up...
When he returned, ungobbled and unfazed, he appeared mostly bored. Without his computer here, he was Disconnected from the Real World, as he put it. Her computer hadn't been set up yet, and he spent an hour and a half setting it up and surfing, while Meg pretended to read. Actually, it was more like read a paragraph, jump at a distant sound, read it over.
She felt much safer having Thad here, particularly since he was so prosaic about the whole ghost thing. It wasn't that he didn't believe her about the footsteps and the lights, but he'd been surprised she was letting it bother her so much. "It's just noise," he reminded her. "No biggie." As for the motel, he refused to acknowledge any connection. "You know how it goes, Mug," he sniggered. "Frying pan to fire."
He looked up from the computer now, bored again. Her computer didn't have the power of his, and what was worse, she didn't have any games he hadn't already clocked. "Sure seems quiet in here." "Maybe you're just not in a receptive mood," he taunted, and rummaged in his pack, pulling out a couple of DVDs. "Ghosts, anyone? These movies will make your experiences look like a walk in the park."
"Too tame." She hid her smile. Any suggestion of fear would have had him resorting to the rather juvenile tactic of establishing an ambiance of ghostly drama. She switched on the TV, and Thad went back to the computer. Hers was too slow, but it would have to do, he assured her.
No drama. Meg was reassured. Maybe the Ghost Man had turned up because she was alone. She confined her thoughts of Max the Missing to the back of her mind, and concentrated on the toilet paper ads.
She was nearly asleep in an armchair when the first rattle pattered down the metal roof, then another and another.
"Hail," Thad remarked. "Some big ones, too. Sure this place is solid?"
She wasn't so sure at this moment. The place was shuddering like it had been caught in a quake, while the hail continued its symphony on the roof.
Thad was having trouble hearing some of the YouTube videos he was watching, and finally, irritated, he opened the door to the small balcony.
The hail abruptly stopped. Dead silence followed, and Meg watched as Thad squatted to pick up some of the hailstones. When he turned her way, his face was pale, but his eyes were glimmering with excitement. He carefully shut the door and locked it before he said anything, though.
He held out his hand. "Stones, yes--hail, no," he announced triumphantly. Despite Meg's reluctance, he took her hand and plunked a couple onto her palm. She jumped. "That's right, little Sis. The best thing about 'em?" He grinned. "They're hot."