I got up my usual time the next morning, packed my gym bag with clothes for school and my shower stuff. I made sure I’d have everything I’d need for school also. I expected I’d be going straight from the gym to school, but I made one final check-in first.
Seconds later she popped her head into my room.
“I’m going to the gym before school. Sure you won’t join me?”
“Nah.” She waved a hand in my direction. “Nothing there but people getting sweaty then getting naked to get clean. I’ve seen that all dozens of times. I think I’ll wander the neighborhood for a bit. You going to eat breakfast before you go?”
“You always ask, and the answer is always no. I’ll get cramps darling. You remember I’ll be home later right? I have to meet Detective Simpsons to talk about the case.”
“Right, a dinner date,” she said with a grin.
“Don’t call it that,” I replied, shaking my head and pulling my bag onto my shoulder. “That makes it sound personal. The Detective and I have a strictly professional relationship.”
“Because Detective Simpson and I work together.”
“I know that. What I mean is, why is it strictly professional? He’s so good looking and kind. Why don’t you date him, Cassie?”
I couldn’t help myself. That made me laugh. “Oh darling, he wouldn’t be interested in dating me. Detective Simpson only has a professional interest in me.” I grabbed my gym bag off the bed and turned, nearly walking directly into Evelyn who was floating about three inches from me, her arms crossed and an irritated look on her face. “What’s wrong?”
Evelyn leaned forward until her nose almost touched mine. “Do y’all remember that little talk we had about the birds and the bees?”
“We’re gonna have it again.”
“I…” Doing a modified limbo as she leaned further forward, I slid out past her. “I’ve got to get going or I won’t get a good workout in before class. I’ll see you tonight.”
I made sure my phone was in my pocketbook, then headed downstairs and out the door, trying to not think too much about what burr was under Evelyn’s saddle this time. She could be the moodiest little ghost sometimes. To be fair, that was a decent description of all ghosts. They’re just beings of memory and emotion. They’re all highs and lows. I do what I can to keep Evelyn in a good mood, which often means pie, cake, and ice cream, but she can get down if I don’t keep an eye on her. I can’t rightly blame her though. If I’d been dead for over forty years, I reckon keeping in a good mood wouldn’t be the easiest thing for me either.
In the gym I walked past the front desk, giving a little wave to Belinda who worked there. Belinda waved me through, not needing to check my ID. I’d been coming here for about a year and a half, since they’d opened the gym. Before that I’d gone to one in downtown. It was good, but this one was only a five minute drive from my house. If I’d wanted to I could have jogged here, but if I was going to jog here and back, what was the point of working out in between, right? That work ethic was the reason I needed a gym, well one of the reasons.
I did my time on the treadmill, eyeing the elliptical machines like I would a pack of violent spirits. At least a pack of spirits I could exorcise. Elliptical machines you had to deal with through…shudder…exercise. I’d seen plenty of people use the darn things, but for the life of me, I’d never understand why. Give me an angry ghost attacking downtown Atlanta any day.
I got some reading in on the treadmill. It was one of the reasons I did it before class, besides trying to up my metabolism for the day. I liked to read the day’s work before class one more time. It helped me with lip reading to know the context of the conversation. Trust me that it is more art than science. After the treadmill I headed over to the weight machines and did my upper body work. Once I was done I headed off to the shower, got clean, then made my way to the exit.
Belinda wasn’t by the front desk anymore. It was cute Jeff. As his name would make one assume, Jeff was cute. He had curly blond hair that came to just short of his collar and covered the tops of his ears. When he smiled, which he did regularly, he had deep dimples. For the record I hadn’t named him cute Jeff. That was Evelyn’s doing. I just didn’t disagree.
Jeff was one of the trainers here. I regularly saw him working with some of the other women, helping them with stretches, or showing them how to use a machine. It seemed to involve lots of smiling and laughing on everyone’s part. I found the directions on the machines worked just fine. I gave Jeff a head nod as I left, and he waved. Then I turned away before I could do anything stupid, which I could definitely do if I maintained more than two continuous seconds of eye contact with a male, who wasn’t a relative, in a non-professional or school setting. Jeff always seemed to be working when I went to the gym, and regularly tested my two second eye contact rule.
My first class was relatively uneventful. It was general American History, though for the Master Program. My biggest challenge with most history classes was not correcting my teachers. My teachers knew the history from history books. I knew the people from history books. Even though I could truthfully answer the question, ‘How do you know Abraham Lincoln didn’t say that?’ with, ‘He told me.’, it still didn’t help my grade in class. I long ago learned to give them the answers they wanted, then provide them with my insights in a way that wouldn’t embarrass the professors. I’ll admit that college was a sight bit better about it than elementary school.
For school I use something called VRI, Video Remote Interpreting. That means my laptop sits open on my desk and my I log into a service with a scheduled interpreter. My screen shows me the interpreter who can see and hear the teacher, but who signs to me. It lets me keep up with everything he or she is saying and doing in the class. I also pay to have someone take notes for me. It just takes a couple of accommodations and then I have access to all of the resources that the hearing do. In the Master’s program, that really matters.
My first class went well, exactly as expected, and I headed onto the next. When I arrived at my second class I was surprised to see a note on the door. The professor had gone home ill. He’d left us an assignment, and I took my copy, but class was cancelled for the day. I sent Detective Simpson a text, but about fifteen minutes later I hadn’t gotten a response so I headed home.
“Evelyn? Evelyn!?” I didn’t get a response which wasn’t surprising. Doubtless she was out roaming the neighborhood.
I decided to get a jump on my school work and headed upstairs to work on the assignment that my second professor had left us. It was fairly straightforward, just an essay on any of the key battles of the French and Indian War. It was child’s play. In about twenty minutes I’d cranked out an outline, then spent the next hour or so flushing it out. I checked the time on my computer, realizing I needed to get myself going to get over to meet the detective at the station house.
I wanted to give Evelyn one more chance, so I sent out a pulse of metaphysical energy. This wouldn’t be felt on the physical world. Only ghosts and other sensitives would be aware of it. It wouldn’t hurt them, just feel like someone wanted to get their attention, which I did. At this point Evelyn was so familiar with me she’d know my energy. Just a few minutes later, Evelyn came flying into the living room while I was texting the detective to let him know I was on my way, but coming from my house.
“Why are you home?” She asked.
“There you are. My second class got cancelled, so I came home. Come on. You can join me for lunch.”
“Are you out of your cotton picking mind? I’m not joining you on your date.”
I sighed. “Evelyn, stop calling it that. It’s just work. Detective Simpson and I are going to talk about work. Come on. Don’t you want to eat some lunch?”
“Well…” I saw her hesitate, clearly tempted by the thought of food. “Where are y’all going for…no! Mark doesn’t want me there.”
“Why sure he does. I told him you’d be joining us and he said that was great.”
“He did?” Evelyn asked, rising up slightly.
I nodded, holding up my phone to her. “See?”
On it was a one word response from the detective: Great
“Huh.” Evelyn furrowed her little brow. “Well okay, I’ll go along, but y’all need to listen to me about that boy when we’re there, and I want dessert with dinner.”
“A small dessert,” I said, “but no sweet tea.”
“No sweet tea!? What’s the point of living girl? How about a small tea, no refills?”
I shook my head at her. “There’s no such thing. Now you’re just making things up. Come on.”
“Well then I’ll only drink half!” Evelyn cajoled, floating out after me.
By the time we’d arrived at the diner, I’d agreed to a half a glass of sweet tea. I didn’t know if she’d stick to that, but I knew only one of us was growing older and tired of the conversation. I filed this under ‘battles not worth fighting’ and continued on with my life. In her heyday, Marilyn Monroe was considered one of the sexiest women alive and she was a size fourteen. I wasn’t there yet, but the way Evelyn ate I thought it was only a matter of time. I hoped an appreciation of a larger sized woman made a comeback.
The detective was already at a booth in the back when Evelyn and I arrived. We walked back to see him and he stood up, smiling broadly. I stretched out my hand, and he reached out to shake it.
“Detective, it’s so nice to—”
Detective Simpson held my hand but stepped in, putting his other hand on my shoulder. He leaned down, kissing my cheek as his hand on my shoulder slid around onto the small of my back. My eyes widened as I felt his stubble across my cheek. It was just a kiss on the cheek, the kind of thing I’d do with an uncle, but not the sort of thing I’d do with a coworker. As he stepped back, just a few seconds later, and smiled at me brightly, I stared at him with my mouth slightly open.
Not knowing what else to say, I turned to Evelyn and asked her, “Do you want to say hi to him?”
Pursing her lips she shook her head, but with a bemused expression, and replied, “Sure, tell Mark I said hi.”
I turned back, smiling nervously at the detective and said, “Evelyn says hello Detective Simpson.”
“Well hello Evelyn darling. So glad you could join us. You look lovely today Cassie. So sorry I couldn’t respond to your texts earlier today darling. I was interviewing a witness.” He gestured toward the other side of the table as we all sat, though Evelyn technically still floated. “So I brought some files that I think could be related cases. Oh, first though I brought the paperwork on the file from last night Cassie. You’ll want to read through this first, make sure it’s all in order before signing.”
I nodded, happily taking the papers and reading. I was still trying to figure out what had just happened. The comment about how I looked, that was just him being polite, a gentleman. The kiss on the cheek and near hug, that did seem odd. We didn’t do that. Then again, this was a much more casual environment than we were usually in. Maybe that was it. Maybe it was just our surroundings that set off his behavior. Nodding to myself and feeling more at ease, I finished reading the report and took the pen from where it lie on the table, signing and initialing where required.
Handing the report back to the detective I asked, “What else did we have to discuss?”
“Food first? The city is paying,” he replied.
“Food first,” Evelyn replied. “Do you want a BLT and some fries? That sounds good, doesn’t it?”
“We’re getting a salad,” I told her.
She moaned. “Not a salad Cassie. You don’t look like a rabbit. Salads are rabbit food.”
“We’ll get chicken on it, grilled chicken.”
“Ranch dressing,” Evelyn said.
“Vinegar and oil,” I countered. “I think they have that raspberry vinaigrette here. We like that.”
Evelyn nodded, looking a bit better as she reminded me, “And sweet tea.”
“And sweet tea,” I repeated.
I closed the menu but she said, “No, open it. I want to see the dessert menu. If we’re eating salad, I want to pick out my dessert now.”
I shook my head, opening the menu to the dessert section and looking away with a sigh. Across the table I saw the detective looking at us, a smile and a bemused expression on his face.
“What is it Detective?” I asked.
“The two of you,” he replied. “It’s cute. I mean, I can’t hear Evelyn, but the way y’all carry on is cute. I try and fill in her side of the conversation as best I can. For me it’s kind of like you’re on the phone, and I’m just getting your half of the call. I watch your face and that helps to understand what she might be saying, seeing how y’all react. You’re quite expressive you know. I take it salad wasn’t her first choice?”
I smiled. He had us there. “If it were up to Evelyn we’d have two desserts and skip lunch.”
“They have tiramisu,” she said. “You like coffee.”
“Well I’m glad she has a responsible adult to keep her in line.”
“Honestly, sometimes she’s the responsible adult. She is twice my age.” I watched that thought spread along his very expressive face. “She just can’t be trusted around sugared or fried anything. Maybe I should make her join me from now on when I go to the gym. If she had to be inside me when I was on the treadmill, perhaps she’d be less inclined to eat so much.”
Leaning forward on the table he asked, “She has a bit of a sweet tooth?”
I nodded then said, “Well I suppose I do.” I saw a waitress coming our way, looking at us, so I snapped the menu closed.
“Hey! I’m still reading that,” Evelyn complained.
“I’ll ask to keep it,” I told her.
“Y’all ready to order?” The waitress asked as she reached our table.
“You go first darling,” Mark said to me.
I nodded. “Salad, grilled chicken, with the raspberry vinaigrette dressing on the side please, and a tea to drink.”
“You got it sugar.” She reached for my menu.
“We’re just going to hold onto this. We’re thinking about dessert,” I told her.
“You do that,” she told me, smiling brightly, then turned to Mark and said something while I looked away.
I opened the menu to the dessert section for Evelyn, laying it down on the table in front of her.
“Humph,” she said, not looking at the menu but looking more across the table.
“What is it?” I asked her.
She shook her head at me.
I looked up, but all I saw was Detective Simpson handing back his menu and the waitress walking away. If something had bothered Evelyn, I’d missed it.
“So Detective, is it about these other cases that you think might be linked?”
“Well there have been two other homicides in this area in the past month, both body dumps, other similar MOs that link the cases. The men were white males, around the same age. They were found barefoot and with ligature marks on their wrists. The reports showed that there was straining at the shoulders that said their hands had been tied behind their backs. There were multiples lacerations and abrasions with particulates that aren’t rare to this region but that look like they came from falling damage. With two it’s hard to see a pattern, but once we have three, it becomes pretty darn obvious.”
“Homicides?” I wound one of my fingers through some of my curls as I tried to think if I’d refused any cases of late. I’d been out of the state this past week, but still I would have expected to have received notification. “Is there a reason I wasn’t brought in on these Detective?”
“Hmmm?” He shook his head, his mind obviously wandering for a moment. “Oh, well these cases were both in other counties, so they weren’t under our jurisdiction. I contacted the investigating officers and they happily handed the cases off to me.”
“Just like that?” I asked, surprised. I’d been working with the police for more than five years, and from what I’d seen they could be a bit territorial.
“Just like that darling. These are not easy nuts to crack, but I got me an ace in the hole.” He winked at me while making a little shooting gun motion with one hand.
I leaned forward, resting my elbow on the table as I pointed at him. “Detective Simpson, these bodies will be even older than the one we saw last night. With older bodies and without the kill site, I’ll be able to tell you even less.”
“Well I have faith in you, more than a mustard seed’s worth of faith.”
“What about the chocolate mousse pie?” Evelyn asked. “Cassie, look at the picture.”
I turned to see the picture in the menu. I had to admit it did look delicious. I mean, who didn’t like chocolate? No one in their right mind I reckon. I bit my lower lip, my resolve waning, when I felt a hand on mine. Looking across the table, I was surprised to see the detective smiling at me, his hand over mine. Just then the waitress appeared. She placed the detective’s coke in front of him and my glass in front of me, causing us both to straighten up and our hands separate. I watched as she poured my tea from the pitcher and Evelyn clapped.
“I want tea. Let me in.”
I dropped my shields and Evelyn immediately rushed inside, using my hands to unwrap one end of the straw. I was rather surprised when she blew the paper across and hit the detective on the forehead, but he only laughed. She thrust the straw into the tea with great fervor, drinking deeply.
As soon as she stopped I said, “Just half, remember?”
“Are you actually gonna make me keep to that?” She replied in my body.
“Well a promise is a promise,” I said.
“Oh come on Cassie, neither one of us expected me to keep to that. Plus I agreed before you told me you’d be getting salad. That’s a deal breaker.”
“If you want to break the deal we can get rid of dessert all together little missy,” I countered.
Evelyn gasped, “No dessert? That’s blasphemy girl!”
I shook my head. “You use that word because Reverend DeRies does, but I bet you don’t even know what blasphemy means.”
“Well I’ve seen Reverend DeRies eat at church picnics, and I’m pretty sure he’d use the word if someone tried to take his dessert away,” she replied.
Looking across the table, I noticed Detective Simpson had one elbow on the table and was leaning on one of his hands. He was also grinning rather widely.
“What’s so amusing?” I asked him.
“You ladies,” he replied, removing his hand from his face. “It’s charming, don’t get me wrong, but highly amusing. I like this better, being able to hear you too Evelyn. We all should do this more often, have lunch together.”
“She’ll have dinner any time with you detective.”
“Evelyn.” I could feel my brow furrowing. “Don’t say that. Don’t speak for me. She doesn’t mean that Detective.”
“Well then speak for yourself girl,” Evelyn said.
The detective laughed. “Well you’re all welcome to lunch anytime. You two are cute.”
“So are you,” Evelyn replied.
I gasped, hands flying over my mouth as I shook my head quickly. I spoke into my hands. “No you’re not. We don’t…I don’t think that. That wasn’t me. Damn it all to hell Evelyn.” I shook my head again. “Excuse us Detective.” Tossing my napkin on the table I stood up, making my way toward the bathroom.
“Shhhh you!” I snapped at Evelyn. “Not another word yet.” I made my way to the bathroom, going into a stall and dropping my shielding. “Step out or I’ll boot you out.”
Evelyn glided out of my body. “All right. All right. What got into you?”
“That’s what I should be asking you. How could you tell Mark…?” I rolled my eyes at myself. “Detective Simpson, how could you tell Detective Simpson that we think he’s cute?”
“Well don’t you?”
“The detective and I work together. It doesn’t matter what he looks like. I shouldn’t be commenting on it.”
“Yeah you work together, but not in the Vatican. There’s nothing wrong with you two looking at each other, appreciating, commenting, even doing something about it girl. He’s a fine looking boy, don’t you think?”
I closed my eyes, taking several cleansing breaths, before looking at her and replying, “I think I’m going to show some professional decorum. If you can’t be trusted to do the same, you can forget about sweet tea and dessert.”
Both hands over where her heart would be if she had a body, Evelyn said, “You wouldn’t.”
“I swear Evelyn, any more shenanigans, and no dessert for a week.”
Both hands over her mouth, and her eyes fairly bulging, she nodded slowly.
I let Evelyn back in and together we made our way back to the table. The detective stood when we returned. Likely he’d done the same when we’d left, but I’d been too busy being mortified to notice. Our food had been delivered in our absence. I began to eat my salad while the detective ate his burger and fries, and conversation began again. I was happy to see he’d swallow and wipe his mouth before speaking to me.
“So Cassie, you’re working on your Masters?”
I nodded, wiping my mouth also. “In history. This area is so rich in history, for good and bad. Knowing the past, that’s good. After all, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
One eye closed as he tilted his head to the side, Detective Simpson said, “I thought it was ‘those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it’.”
“That’s good Detective, but the original quote is by George Santayana and it’s, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ It’s been paraphrased by many though.”
He smiled. “I guess those who can’t remember the past are doomed to misquote George Santayana.”
I smiled too. “That’s clever.”
“And here you thought I was just a pretty face. I have a mind too you know. Don’t you go objectifying me girl.”
“Oh no I—” As his smile broadened I said, “You’re teasing me.”
“A might bit, just to see you smile. You get a sight serious at work.”
“Well we’re investigating murders. That’s serious work.”
The detective nodded. “True enough. So then what do you do to have fun outside of work Cassie?”
“Well school is fun.”
He rolled his hand in front of himself.
“Well I like it,” I said.
“You’re being boring Cassie,” Evelyn said as she took a sip of my tea.
“What about sports. Do you play any sports?” Detective Simpson asked.
I thought back to playing sports in high school, something I had to stop when I started college. I shook my head. “Not since I was a kid. How about you? You played in college, football, right?”
“I was a Yellow Jacket,” he said with obvious pride. “Hey, maybe we could take in a Yellow Jacket’s game sometime.”
I could feel Evelyn’s excitement swell inside me. I held myself in check, and within a moment she calmed. “I go to Georgia State Detective. Go Panthers.”
“A Panthers girl.” He leaned back in his seat, eying me for a moment as he took my measure. Taking a French fry from his plate he pointed at me and said, “Well at least you’re not a Bulldogs fan.”
As he threw the fry in his mouth and chewed I smiled and said, “Certainly not. If I were, I reckon we couldn’t work together.”
“Don’t see how we could,” he said, but a smile slowly grew on his face.
Evelyn was on much better behavior through the meal, so I agreed to mud pie for dessert. She ate it with great joy, and I added another ten minutes to my treadmill time in the morning. When food was done Evelyn jumped out of me again. She was only there for the food, and could only get into trouble body sharing. It wasn’t worth it when a week’s worth of desserts were on the line.
When the waitress came with the check she stopped partly behind Detective Simpson and asked, “Can I get anyone anything else?”
“We could get another dessert to go,” Evelyn suggested.
I shot her a dirty look, then shook my head at the waitress saying, “No thank you. Everything was great, thank you.”
“Sure thing sugar.” Then she placed her hand on the detective’s shoulder and asked him, “What about you darling. Can I get you anything at all?”
“Really?” Evelyn said, crossing her arms.
“What’s wrong?” I tried to whisper.
“Look at her flirt with Mark.”
I watched the waitress with her hand on Detective Simpson’s shoulder. She smiled broadly, laughing a bit at something he said. He smiled back, shaking his head and then she reacted, covering her mouth and then touching him again. She seemed to be laughing harder.
“I think she’s just doing her job. It gets them a better tip.”
“Nah. Look at their auras. They have complimentary auras,” Evelyn pointed out. “That ain’t right, not with him sitting here with you. She’s taking his credit card, but I bet what she wants is his phone number.”
I watched them again and Evelyn was right. You didn’t meet a lot of people in this world whose aura truly complimented your own. I knew the detective was seeing someone, but still, I thought he should know about this. His situation might change at some point, and likely he came here regularly since it was so close to the station house.
As the waitress walked away I said, “Detective, do you know that waitress well?”
“May? Well enough I reckon. I eat here once or twice a week, and May is my waitress on occasion, well regularly I suppose. Why’d you ask?”
I smiled over at Evelyn and she looked as curious as the detective did. Looking back at Detective Simpson I said, “You and she have complimentary auras Detective. That’s not very common. If you and someone have a complimentary aura it means they’re probably a good person to…spend time with. A lot depends on where you both are in your life of course. I suppose I’m saying if you were ever looking for someone in your life, like a date, she’d likely be a fine choice for you.”
He looked surprised, but still smiling I turned back to Evelyn. She had her face in her hands and was shaking her head.
“What’s wrong?” I asked Evelyn.
Not looking up she just mumbled, “Somebody kill me again.”