The next morning I did my usual routine. I headed to the gym, did thirty minutes on the treadmill thanks to Evelyn's love of desserts, and then lower body work-out. After my shower, I saw cute Jeff at the front desk as I left. I gave a quick head nod, then avoided eye contact successfully and managed to make my way back to my car without any major disasters. I didn't have school today, and by the time I made it home I was feeling pretty good. I put another hour into working on homework, declared my first draft successfully complete, and then eyed the bags of enchantments.
I looked over at where Evelyn was hovering over my bed in a faux lying position, listening to one of her books on CD that I had started for her, and I said, “I’m going to use one of the amulets. You want to watch?”
“You betcha girl,” she replied.
I paused her CD, then pulled out the first amulet and the phone book I had snagged from downstairs on my way home from the gym. I held the pendant over the phone book, the crystal dangling, making a wide circle as it swung on the cord. I flipped through the phone book with my other hand, not as easy as it sounds. It's a fairly big book. As I got to the H's the pendant jumped in my hand, pulling like a line with a fish on the other end. It felt odd but definitely magical. Then it started to circle again, so I started to flip pages again, but slowly, very slowly. I knew we were getting close. Suddenly it stopped again, pulling, pointing, then it made a small circle around a grouping of names. The last name seemed clear: Hurley. The first name, well I had a few options: Ben, Beavis, Benard, Bendal, Bendix, Benedict, Benjamin, Benet, Beringer, Berle, Bernsteen, Berwic, and Bevel. Those were all within the loop. I held the pendant there for about a minute, waiting to see if it would narrow down the search for me, but it just kept circling. Grabbing a pen, I circled the names, then stuck the pendant back into its bag. It was possible none of these was the right name, but the name was somewhere in that alphabetical order. Karen didn't promise it would give us the name. As a matter of fact, she pretty much said it wouldn't. Still, this was a sight bit closer than where we were yesterday, so I was happy.
“Now what?” Evelyn asked.
“Maps,” I told her.
I pulled out the map I had of Atlanta. Holding the pendant above the map I waited, watching as it circled wide around the map, swinging normally, then it stiffened slightly, narrowing its arc to a smaller area. I put the amulet off to the side, pulling out another map from the pile I had. I repeated the process, seeing the amulet react the same way. I grabbed one more map, this of downtown Atlanta. The amulet spun again, then stiffened, then spun in a tighter arc.
“What is it?” Evelyn asked.
“Well, it's just odd,” I replied. “This is supposed to help us track down his address, but look at the area it's pointing us to.”
“But he's homeless, right?”
I nodded. “I know that darling. I wasn't expecting a residential section, but it's circling around the interstate mainly. I mean, it's making a wide arc around I-20 and I-85. Doesn't that seem peculiar?”
“I don't rightly know. Not sure how this magic works,” Evelyn admitted. “There are some buildings in the mix. Maybe he was camping out in one of those. What are those places?”
I leaned in closer to the map. “Well, that one's the library. That one's the post office, and that one is...oh.”
I sighed. “It's the medical examiner's building. Do you think this thing could be reacting to where his body is stored, seeing that as his residence?”
Shrugging Evelyn replied, “You're asking the wrong spirit. I'm helpful, but ignorant here darling. Why don't you e-mail Karen and see what she says? Karen is helpful and well informed.”
I nodded. “You're right. You're helpful and wise Evelyn.”
“Well, I have been 'round the block a time or two. You gonna play with that last shiny necklace, or should I get back to my CD?”
“I want to use the last one. It's been set specifically for the murder site. Even if this last one got muddied up with where the victim's body is being stored, this one should work just fine.”
I put away the pendant I was holding, pulling out the last one. Grabbing the big map of Atlanta, I began the process anew. The pendant acted just the same as the last one did, except that it pointed at a different section of the map. The last one had ended up in the central part of Georgia, downtown. This one was pointing me south and west, more toward where I lived. Stretching my shoulders I dug through my maps and grabbed the next appropriate one, my eyebrows raising slightly when the pendant pointed and circled around the Greenbriar and Princeton Lakes section. I licked at my lips, grabbed the next map, knowing my house fell within this one. The amulet circled, stiffened and circled again. It circled around Ben Hill Forest, and Brentwood, the tip of the arc touching The Glen. My house was inside there.
“You okay girl? You look like you saw a haint.”
“Been seeing one of those longer than I can remember, and very glad to have her in my life," I replied, smiling at my favorite haint. “The kill area...looks like we're inside it. What if it's someone we know?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Cause I know people, that's how. Plus I'm a nosy little girl. Ain't much goes on in this neighborhood I don't know about. I know where people hide their booze, who's cheating on who, and even who calls in sick and then sticks their golf clubs in their car. If one of our neighbors was killing someone, Inspector Evelyn would know all about it,” she said with a definitive nod.
She seemed so certain that I felt better. “Thanks. Well, I'm going to e-mail Karen and see if she can tell me if the body's location could have messed up the address amulet. Depending on what she says, I'll write this all up and send an e-mail to Detective Simpson telling him what I found out.”
“Why don't you just drive over and tell him in person?”
“Why would I do that?”
“So you can see him.” Evelyn stared at me as if waiting for me to respond, but nothing she said seemed to deserve a response. “Oh never mind. You're beyond hopeless. You're the crazy old ghost lady.”
“I'm not old Evelyn.”
“Time will fix that. Start my CD for me again darling?”
I started her CD, though I knew she could do it for herself. She said she didn't like to waste power needlessly, but I think she had plenty to spare. In my opinion, this was her 'peel me a grape' attitude. When I was young I adored doing things for her, my secret friend that no one else could see or hear, and now it was just a habit. I sat down and typed out my e-mail to Karen, then went back to my first draft of my homework from the other day. In just over an hour I had a solid paper. I did one final read through of it, then e-mailed it off to my teacher. When that was sent I looked at my inbox and Karen had e-mailed me back. She said where the body was resting shouldn't have affected the enchantment as her intention in casting the spell was clear. Intention was pivotal in magic.
With that knowledge, I began an e-mail to Detective Simpson. I wasn't sure exactly how much to share with him, but I wanted him to understand the full scope of the information I was sharing. With that in mind, I launched into the background of the enchantments, at least a high-level overview. Given how little I actually understood, my level was actually pretty high level already. He was really getting the view from the Space Station. Pretty much I told him a friend who was a witch used the hair to do a spell and here was the information she got, but I used a few more words. I supplied him with the vague information I had on the three victims, then told him to follow-up with me if he had any questions. I re-read the e-mail, made two quick changes, then sent it. I had no more new e-mails, so I sat on my bed and started on my reading for my other class.
Maybe half an hour later, the light in my room flashed on and off, telling me someone was at my door. “Come in,” I said.
My mom opened my door and signed, “You have a phone call. It's that police officer who was here the other night.”
“Detective Simpson?” I asked.
She nodded. “You've been working with him a while, haven't you.”
“Five years, going on six,” I replied. “Why?”
I looked quickly over at Evelyn, but she was paying us no mind, just leaning back and listening to her CD with a silly grin on her face. Turning back to my mother I replied, “He's a coworker.”
“Doesn't make him less cute,” my mother signed, then walked away.
I rolled my eyes, then went downstairs to where the Video Phone is set up in the kitchen.
I stood in front of the screen, finger spelling my name and signed, “This is Cassandra Forester, Detective. How may I help you?”
The interpreter signed, “I got your e-mail. Can you come down to the station so we can discuss this?”
I pursed my lips, considering. Was that a good thing? I'd told him to follow-up with me if he had more questions, so maybe he had more questions. Maybe he had questions and needed to have me sign the report.
“Right now?” I signed.
“If you can,” the interpreter signed.
It wasn't that long a drive to the station-house, and I had some time before supper. I reckon I had time to drive down there and get this done.
“All right. I'll head right down Detective.”
The interpreter replied, “Thank you. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” I signed back as we both disconnected. I stopped in to see my mom in the living room and said, “I need to go downtown to the police station.”
“Is anything wrong?” She asked.
I shook my head. “Paperwork. I'll be home for supper.”
Standing she hugged me and gave me a kiss, then stepped back and said, “The cute officer is welcome to join us.”
As I walked away I replied, “He's a detective, and I don't know how you and Evelyn are doing it, but I'm sure y'all are in cahoots somehow. Cut it out.” I went upstairs, grabbing my pocketbook and making sure it had what I needed. “Hey, I'm headed to the police station. Want to go with?”
“Why you going there? Someone else die?”
I shook my head. “I just need to sign some papers. It should be quick.”
Evelyn thought for a moment, then replied, “Nah, I want to listen to my CDs. They're getting good. You put all six in there?”
“You're all loaded up girl,” I agreed.
“Okay, get. You're interrupted it right as it's getting interesting. The Contessa just found Raul sleeping in the stable, and she's offering him a job in the manor house to work off the food he's been stealing, or she'll turn him over to the magistrate.”
I thought back for a moment and asked, “Did you already listen to this one last month? I remember you saying something about someone having to work off food they stole.”
“That was different. That was Victor and he stole food from the Duchess while her husband was off at war. They thought he was killed, and then he came back years later and...get going. I'm going to have to skip back to the beginning of this chapter.”
As Evelyn waved me away I smirked, leaving the room. I had no idea where she got her interest in romance novels, but she ate them up like popcorn. To each their own. I did the same thing with books on history, and I know most people didn't feel the same way. Something spoke to each one of us, just made us feel alive, even when we weren't.
The drive downtown took me about twenty-five minutes with a touch of traffic. As I entered the police station I immediately saw a friendly face. Katlyn was one of my best friends. She worked the front desk and had been for four of the more than five years that I'd been working with the police. She was a tall brunette with a great smile and a very warm personality. During the time I'd known her, she'd even learned to sign. Now that was friendship.
As always, she was wearing her uniform, her hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. She rarely wore it down, even when we went out on Friday nights. Like me, Katlyn seemed to be permanently single. I didn't know why, and I didn't pry. She was bright, fun, and definitely pretty. Maybe it was a choice. If so, I thought it was a valid one. She was a little bit older than me and we had a lot in common. We both liked sports, having played all through high school, though she was allowed to continue through college. Necromancers, telekinetics, and psychics were banned from playing on a collegiate level. We all had certain perks available to us that could be an unfair advantage. Though it felt unfair when you love baseball like I do, if you ever saw me use some of my stored energy to hit a softball, you'd understand why they do it. Katlyn played in a league and I've gone to several of her games, even going to the after game meals with the ladies. It wasn't as good as playing, but it felt nice to be included.
As soon as she saw me enter, Katlyn signed, “Hello.”
I signed, “Hello,” back to her, and headed in her direction.
“Looking forward to dinner Friday night?” She asked.
“Always,” I replied. “Dolce Italian...they're going to have to roll me out of there. I'm going to eat way too much food. You know how much I love Italian food.”
“Well, that's the point.”
“You're the best. What did I do to deserve you?”
She smiled broadly, but before she could reply her eyes wandered behind me and she said, “Is he looking for you?”
I looked behind me, seeing Detective Simpson standing with a coffee and donut and watching us, then nodded and said, “Yes. I have some paperwork to fill out. See you Friday?”
She smiled again. “Wild horses couldn't keep me away darling.”
“Well, let's hope we don't have to contend with wild horses anyway.” We both signed goodbye, which is a different sign than hello just to be clear. The word isn't aloha. I walked over to the detective and said, “Did you have questions, or did you just want me to sign some paperwork?”
Several expression crawled over his face and he said, “Questions, definitely questions darling. Come with me.” I followed him to his cube and sat down as he said, “So when you said you got this information from a friend's magic spell, what did y'all mean exactly? How reliable is this?”
My hackles rising I replied, “Which word are you questioning Detective? Do you not believe that I have a friend?”
“No, I..." He leaned back in his chair, distracting my eye with a pen that he twisted near his face. Finally, he dropped the pen to his desk again and said, “I’ve misstepped…somehow. I want us to get along Cassie. We've been working together for years now, and I've been accepting of what you do from the day we met. Your results have been proof enough for me darling. I'm not doubting you. I'm just asking for something. Am I supposed to go to my Lieutenant and tell him that I got this lead from who, from a priestess?”
“Actually, she's a witch.”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, that's much better.”
I couldn't help from laughing. I put my hand over his and said, “If it helps, she's a good witch.”
He looked down at my hand over his. I suddenly became very aware of the warmth of his, and tried to pull mine back, but his fingers closed around mine. Then his other hand covered mine, and he patted my hand very gently.
As I looked up at him he said, “Your vouching for her helps Cassie. You're a good person, and I trust you. I trusted you the moment I met you.”
I didn't know what to say, so I sat there with his hand in mine, his hand over mine, and blinked like an idiot. He had vouched for me the day we met, had stood up for me on my very first day with the police even though we'd only just met. We'd caught the bad guy that day, and my career working with the police had started off with a bang. I made sure I put nice things about then Officer Simpson in my report, though he wouldn't be my official liaison until almost three years later. I did work with him whenever possible, as he seemed to have great comfort working with a necromancer, and volunteered to do so regularly. There were times I thought he did it just to help him make detective in record time, but my instincts said he was a better person than that.
As I sat there threatening to catch flies with my mouth, another face popped into my view. It was Detective Martinez. He was another homicide detective, a nice man with whom I'd worked in the past. He was tan and your classic handsome Latino. Word had it that he was quite the lady’s man, and he certainly flirted with everything in a skirt. I didn't think Scotsmen would be safe.
Martinez wrapped his arms around Detective Simpson from behind, his face showing over the other detective's shoulder as Martinez said, “Hey Simpson, holding hands with your girlfriend? You two should get a room.”
Detective Simpson pulled his hand free of mine as he elbowed Martinez in the gut and said, “I'm planning on it. I'm up for Sargent Greyson's office when his transfer to Florida goes through.”
“Oooh, big talk big man. Still, I don't think you're the little lady's type.” Martinez pushed Detective Simpson as he stood fully up.
“Neither are you,” Detective Simpson replied standing, the two of them beginning to lightly punch at each other.
I watched them, curious, not quite sure what was happening. I think it would have made more sense if I'd had brothers. I had one, just one, and Robby wasn't much of a fighter. He was a sandal wearing musician who once asked me about my feelings about legalizing marijuana. At the same time, he thought fluoride in the water was used as mind control. No, I don't think he'd been in a fight in his life unless it was over global warming or to save baby seals or something. Robby was born a generation too late. He was made for Woodstock.
The boys' boxing matching devolved, or perhaps devolved, into a wrestling match. As it ended, Martinez pushed Detective Simpson away. One of the detective's feet caught on my chair, and Detective Simpson fell backward, his arms windmilling in an attempt to keep him upright. I leaned away, not interested in being slapped due to their antics, or due to any other reason actually. He stumbled to the side, his legs hitting his desk, and sending him backward over it.
I saw him about to wipe out hard onto his desk. All I could see were his back, likely his backside, meeting up with his donut and coffee that he’d deposited there. The meeting probably wouldn’t be too good for his computer either. I flung out one of my hands, reaching out with some of my stored power, and creating a force shield along the detective’s back. Then as gently as I could, but a bit abruptly, I straightened him upright. I wasn’t telekinetic, so my use of power was all push and shove, no gentle manipulation. I’d seen telekenetics who could paint amazing pictures with a feather. My best trick was crushing a ten can high pyramid of beer cans in college. It’s on youtube. Check it out. It’s surprising how not proud my mother is of that accomplishment. There’s just no pleasing some folks.
Suddenly vertical again, Detective Simpson turned and looked behind him. Then he looked at me. I sat calmly with my hands folded in my lap, looking back and forth between both detectives, doing my best imitation of a normal. He looked confused, but he seemed to buy it. He said something to Martinez, who laughed and walked away, leaving me and my liaison to continue discussing our business.
“Sorry about that Cassie,” Detective Simpson said, as he sat back down. “I think I nearly fell on you there.”
I smiled sweetly, not commenting.
“Where were we darling?”
Keeping my hands folded in my lap this time I said, "Detective, if you need to speak with the witch who created the enchantment, I'd be happy to introduce you. If you need more details on how it works, I'd be happy to tell y’all everything I know. If it’s not enough, Karen can explain it. She’s the witch.”
“A witch named Karen?” He asked.
“A necromancer named Cassie?” I replied.
“Fair enough. Go on darling.”
“Thank you. I know most detectives here don’t choose to work with necromancers, but you aren’t most detectives. I know many cities, even many major cities, have only started to add a necromancer to their payroll. Part of it is that Atlanta has more necromancers per capita than almost any city in the country.”
“Which city has more? Wait, is it in Alaska?” He asked grinning.
I shook my head. “Alaska has more than half their population in Anchorage and one of those people is a necromancer. The population of Anchorage is about equal to that of Atlanta. The answer is East Honolulu.”
“East Honolulu. East Honolulu is a separate city with about one-seventh the population of Atlanta and only one necromancer.”
“Huh. You sure do know a whole mess about population darling.”
“No. I just know where necromancers live in this country. We have conventions, talk a lot about the challenges of dealing with the living population, and the unliving population. Those metrics matter to us. We’re still working on accurate census data for ghosts, but as you can imagine, it’s challenging Detective.” While I watched that thought play itself out across his face, I kept talking. “Detective, you’re a progressive man, a leader in your field. I know the ROI has proven your faith in the program, but that faith took guts. You work with brave men and women, people who wouldn’t hesitate to face an armed opponent, but they avoided working with me probably worried about some teasing. Nothing frightens you.”
I saw his shoulders jerk upwards briefly, a quick laugh, and then he said, “Well sure it does. Being brave don’t have nothing to do with not being scared. Being brave has everything to do with being scared and doing it anyway. Way I see it darling, the real progress in this world didn’t happen in inches; it happened in big, giant leaps, a mile at a time. Sometimes it was hundreds of people working together, or thousands of people marching together, until the world woke to a new reality. Sometimes it was a few innovative people introducing a better way of doing something, and people wondering how they ever did without it once they had it.”
While Detective Simpson spoke, I felt a smile slowly grow on my face. By the time he stopped, the smile was large and doubtless goofy. Most of my time with the detective had been spent on crime scenes, here signing reports, or investigating witnesses. We’d never been the heart-to-heart type of coworkers. Thinking back to some of the things Evelyn had said about him these past few days, about him being single and about his possible interest in me, those filled me with a sudden curiosity. His talk about courage, about giant leaps, that pushed at me also.
Taking a deep breath, I opened my mouth and asked, “Detective, are you—?”
"Excuse me, darling," he said, holding up one hand as he grabbed the phone from his desk.
I stiffened, suddenly stopped in the middle of asking the detective if he was single. It might have been the single bravest thing I’d ever done…ever almost done. Immediately doubt crept in, wondering if this phone all was divine intervention. How would he react if I asked him? Even if he were, would he ask why I wanted to know? What would I say? I don’t know what I’d say. I didn’t think things through that far. I didn’t think things through at all.
While I was sitting there panicking, my gaze rolled across Detective Simpson's desk. On it were the usual objects. He had office supplies, paperwork, a computer, donut, and cup of coffee I'd saved from being crushed earlier. I looked at his picture frames and there was one of an older couple, who I assumed were his parents. They looked like they could be his parents. Then there was one of a little girl, maybe two or three years old, though I'm no expert on a child's age. She was wearing lots of pink and white, a little tiara, and had a scepter in her hand. The picture frame had the words, ‘My Princess' on it. She was young enough to be the detective's daughter. Was she the detective's daughter? Did he have a daughter?
As his hand touched my arm, my eyes moved back to Detective Simpson’s face again. He was smiling gently.
“Now, what did y’all want to ask me, Cassie?"
I just raised my eyebrows, staring at him.
“You said, ‘are you’ right before the phone rang. Am I what?”
Right, I was about to make a complete idjut of myself before I was saved by the bell. “Oh…I…Are you needing anything else from me on the enchantments Detective, or are we done here?”
“Well, I need a bit more of an explanation darling. Your word is good enough for me, but I need something to push this by my Lieutenant. Help a fella out?”
I nodded. “I’ll tell you what I can. If you need more, we can go and speak to Karen together.” I pulled my phone out of my pocketbook, checking the time. I’d told Evelyn I’d be home soon, and this was taking a bit longer than expected. I should probably send my mom a text and let her know I’d be longer than I’d said, but should still be home for supper. If not, I’d text again. Looking up I said, “Excuse me for a moment Detective. I just need to send a text to someone.”
I laughed. “Well, not tonight.”
He opened then closed his mouth without saying anything then finally said, “I’ll grab the file while you send your text.”
I texted my mom while he grabbed the file from his desk. I knew she could step into my room and deliver Evelyn a message, even though Evelyn couldn't respond. We'd been this route before. The detective and I went over how the enchantments worked in a bit more detail, though words like power focus and conduit only caused his face to go through some interesting acrobatics. I don't think he truly understood. I didn't truly understand to the degree I understood necromancy, but I was a sight better to understanding it all than he was. Still, he nodded, added a bit more to his notes, and seemed more at ease with it all then he was when I'd shown up.
When I asked if he wanted to go see Karen he replied, “Don’t think so, least not yet. If the Lieutenant pushes back, that might change. We’ll see how hard he pushes.”
“I truly believe that information will help you in finding the identity of those men detective, and find where at least one of the murders took place. I’m not saying ignore any other evidence you have. I’m just saying don’t ignore this evidence.”
As I stood he stood also and said, “May I quote you on that?”
“If you please.”
“It’s just the kind of reasoning my Lieutenant has a hard time ignoring. Maybe y’all should be talking to him.”
“Oh, I don't think so Detective. Is your Lieutenant really that big a fan of having some of his budget going to a necromancer?”
“No, but the mayor is a big fan of the close rate this department has on the cases you work,” Detective Simpson pointed out. “You working with us, that was the Mayor’s brainchild, and he’s up for reelection soon.”
“Well then remind him of that. If you don’t need anything else, I’ll be heading out Detective.”
“Think I’m good Cassie. If I need you, I’ll call, all right?”
I smiled. “That will be fine.”
On my way back out I signed goodbye to Katlyn. This was a bit more like a wave I reckon. Picture moving all four of your fingers down to your thumb, which is held out, twice. You bend at the knuckles, though some folks bend at the wrist a bit too. It's important to hold your hand just above your shoulder when doing so, and have a pleasant smile on your face. ASL isn't just about the hand gesture. There are five parts that make up the sign in ASL: handshape, location, orientation, movement, and facial expression. You have four of the same but in a different location, it's a different word. You have the other four but with a different orientation (which way the palm is facing) and again it's a different word. There, their, and they're are all different words with different meanings, but I've heard ghosts say them and they all sound the same to me. Everyone's language is complicated.
I got home well before supper and headed upstairs.
“Well that took longer than expected,” Evelyn said.
I paused her CD. “I almost did something dang stupid, and it’s all your fault.”
“I wasn’t even there.”
“I know. I almost asked Detective Simpson if he was single.”
“I told you he was,” she reminded me.
“I know. That’s why I almost asked him.”
Pointing toward the bed she said, “Tell me all about it.”
Crawling onto my bed I said, “Well, we were talking about the case, and he started speaking about advances in the world, and being brave. It was very inspiring. I was just all caught up in the moment, and I just kept thinking about what you'd said about him being single, about him being sweet on me. I just felt…well, I don't know what I felt, but I almost asked him if he was single.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“His phone rang.”
“And?” She floated closer to me. “Who was it?”
“God I think.”
“God!?” She shook her head. “Girl, you’re making no sense. God don’t call on the phone.”
“Well, then his reverend. Whoever it was, it was the Lord working in mysterious ways to keep me from making a complete ass of myself. Does Detective Simpson have a daughter?”
“I…I don’t think so? Did he say he does?”
“No, but he had a picture of a little girl on his desk. Do you know who that is?”
Evelyn shook her head. “You should ask him.”
“Oh, I couldn't do that. I came near enough to embarrassment today. I'm not adding to it. I'm just adding a little something extra to the offering basket this Sunday in the way of thanks to the Lord.”
“Maybe you should ask him out,” Evelyn suggested, a bit of a devilish look in her eye.
“I could never do that.”
“Oh come on, girl. What have you go to lose?”
“My dignity, my self-esteem, my modesty, my decorum, my…”
“Enough, enough already!” Evelyn waved a hand in my face. “Girl, you only live once. Take it from me. Make it count. Now if nothing fun came of your meeting with that cute detective, start my CD again. The Contessa's horse threw her and Raul had to carry her back to the stable right as the rainstorm hit. They were both soaking wet and in the hay when you paused it.”
I shook my head, starting the CD for Evelyn and then walking away. I wasn’t sure what to make of her advice. I knew I wasn’t ready to take it, but I’d think about it. Between what she’d said and what Detective Simpson had said in our last meeting, I had a lot to think about.