Eight years later, eight years, and the light turned on again. I can't say exactly what happened, but it shifted and character after character I heard them again. Then new voices were added to the mix asking me to share their tales. I think it began with a simple e-mail discussion with a new friend, someone whose language inspired me and who became my muse. To her I shall be forever grateful, because she set those voices inside me free again. Now they won't stop jabbering endlessly and begging for attention. Though we call it writing, I often think of it as transcribing. Those characters know what they're doing. They just need someone to share their tale. For so long as they'll talk to me I'll journal it. If anyone cares to read about what they doing, I'll be happy to provide a bit of their days journeys.
Apr. 22nd, 2017
Eight years later, eight years, and the light turned on again. I can't say exactly what happened, but it shifted and character after character I heard them again. Then new voices were added to the mix asking me to share their tales. I think it began with a simple e-mail discussion with a new friend, someone whose language inspired me and who became my muse. To her I shall be forever grateful, because she set those voices inside me free again. Now they won't stop jabbering endlessly and begging for attention. Though we call it writing, I often think of it as transcribing. Those characters know what they're doing. They just need someone to share their tale. For so long as they'll talk to me I'll journal it. If anyone cares to read about what they doing, I'll be happy to provide a bit of their days journeys.
This is the first chapter of the book The Unseen Murders, which is the first in the Haunted Silence Series. The main character is deaf and uses lip reading for most of the book. Lip reading is far from a perfect or accurate form of communication. It does not work with some people, nor are most people able to read lips. In order to move forward the plot, the lip reading in this book is exaggerated. There are times when the character is unable to read someone's lips either because a word is unclear or because of a situation such as lighting. Additionally, a portion of this story is also in ASL, American Sign Language. The grammar for ASL differs from English grammar. For example, In English you would say, "I give the boy a ball." In ASL you would sign, "Me boy ball give." Of course there are more ways to sign that sentence, just as there are more ways to say that. Both languages are complex and open to variation of use in communication. However, while describing signing in this book, it is written in English grammar. It is not a literal translation of the signs being used. This book is not about being deaf/Deaf but just about someone who happens to not be hearing. It does supply some information about the Deaf community. This urban fantasy/crime series is a comedic look at life dealing with communication in general and relationships set in Atlanta, Georgia.
My name is Cassie Forester, and I was born deaf. I have total sensorineural deafness. This means I don’t just hear poorly. I don’t hear at all. It is a genetic condition described as being autosomal recessive. This means both my parents are hearing people, but they carried a deafness gene and didn’t know it. They got together, had me, and then the genetic testing came in. The rest was evident. Some people say I got the short end of the stick, but being deaf isn’t bad, just different.
I have an older brother and an older sister, and they are both hearing people. Me, I’ve never heard the voice of another living soul. Of course, not all souls are living. The dead talk to me.
They tell me I’m a necromancer because I can affect them, control them if I have to. Of course, I only do this when it is absolutely necessary. Most of the dead are nice, existing in a world layered on our own, not quite ready to pass over to the afterlife, heaven, wherever they go. They can’t tell you for sure. The answer is as different as there are beliefs in the world.
Some of the dead aren’t as nice, holding to this world because they fear their reward in the ever after. They act maliciously, usually picking a victim and sticking with them, an unlucky charm. This is where I step in, giving the ghost a good shake by their metaphysical neck until they get back in line.
Not all ghosts are reasonable and go beyond mean fun to the point of real harm. Even worse are those that have gone beyond humanity, turned into a bestial horror that lives for pain and despair. Both of these categories cause the same reaction in me: time to take out the big gun, exorcism. There is no circle or incense, no weird chanting. It is more like arm wrestling with a live electrical wire. So far I’ve had the higher wattage.
My best friend is Evelyn. She’s seven, and she’s been dead since 1973. She had a younger brother, a baby, who got snatched by some serial killer. They found the body, what was left of him, several days later. Her mom lost all touch with reason and drowned Evelyn in the bathtub. She didn’t know what happened after she was dead.
When I got old enough, I went to the library and we looked in some old newspaper microfilms. Apparently Evelyn’s dad came home and found them in the bathroom, her mom holding Evelyn’s body and crying that the woman had killed her. They put her mom in a mental institution and within a year, after several unsuccessful attempts, her mom killed herself. I don’t know what happened to Evelyn’s dad, but I’m still looking. When we find out, I think she may be ready to move on.
It was surprising for my parents when they found out I was deaf. I’m sure it was quite a shock, but they got over it fast because it didn’t change who I was or how they felt about me. Mom did what she does anytime she is challenged by something new. She takes a class on it. My mom took sign language classes for two years at the community college. She taught the rest of the family to sign. Now she works as an interpreter for the deaf community. She’s really cool.
Now I’m not saying everything was great growing up. The deafness wasn’t the thing that had me going to the doctor all the time though. It was the way I stared off into space and laughed at nothing, reacted to nothing that anyone else could see. Test after test showed no brain damage, but my parents were insistent that something was wrong. You know how sometimes your dog or cat will just stare at a spot on the wall, or will run from the room at full speed? That was me, minus the flea collar. And yes, I am saying that your pets can see spirits. It’s not always spirits that make them act that way though. Sometimes they’re just messing with y’all.
They changed their cries from brain damage to genius when I started reading at two. Okay, so I was nearly four before I started reading, still really young, but my parent’s didn’t know that at the time. All they knew is I’d sit down with a new book, flip the pages a few times while smiling, then I’d be able to tell them what was going on in the book. Believe me, the illustrations weren’t that good, but Evelyn was a good reader. She eventually taught me how to read.
Evelyn taught me how to talk too. The credit went to my teachers and parents, but it was really Evelyn. She’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember anything. She’ll be my best friend until the day I die or she truly passes from this world.
I don’t really fit into any community. I can hear the dead so I’m not deaf. I can’t hear the living so I’m not a hearing person. I don’t even fit into the dead community because I’m alive. I’ve looked for a deaf group on the necromancy website and a necromancer group on the local deaf website, but so far no luck.
I was the youngest ever licensed necromancer. Not by a few months or even a year. The old record was seventeen and I got my license at four…almost five. Apparently deafness allowed me to do something no hearing necromancer had done before, really listen to the dead all the time. You see the dead don’t usually scream and yell, but they’ll talk if you’ll listen. Most hearing people don’t hear them until it’s something big, like really major, or ignore what little they hear because it can’t be real. When it’s the only thing you can hear it’s pretty much impossible to ignore.
When I was four and in my special pre-school for deaf kids, one of the children came to school dead. I know that sounds weird, but that’s what happened. I was playing off to the side with Evelyn and
I turned and saw him standing there and that’s when it sunk in. Something had happened; he was dead.
“Are my mom and little sister all right?” He signed.
We were a school for kids who had families who were hearing, and we learned to speak as well as sign. We all practiced saying each other’s names, but American Sign Language, ASL, was our primary language. We worked on saying other words, but every one of us would sign given the opportunity. It was our first language, our preferred language, and it still is.
The ghost shrugged, looking a bit confused, then thoughtful as he signed, “I don’t know. My mama was driving us to school and we was just down the road a bit. I remember hearing a siren. It was the first thing I ever heard. It knew it was hearing, because it was new, and there was so much of it everywhere. It was like being under water, except I could breathe.” He shrugged again. “There was too much of it and I couldn’t get away. It was scary. I couldn’t find my mama, but I could see the school and I needed help. It got tired to coming here; then I saw you. You look weird; you glowy. I think you’ll help me.”
“I’ll help you
She looked around the room, then signed, “Where is Trent?”
“He died before he got to school. Can you call his mom?”
That was not the response she was expecting. “Cassie, you have to stop going on about death, child. I’m sure
“Tell her I heard a siren.”
I translated for Trent. “He says he heard a siren. Can you call the doctor?”
Right about that time the principal came in and pulled Mrs. Beals out of the classroom. She came back in and looked like she had seen a ghost. That’s just a figured of speech. I’ve seen lots of ghosts and they don’t make you look weird or anything. She took me out of the classroom to talk to me privately.
“Cassie, how did you know about
“He told me.” She seemed really upset, and I didn’t know why because I was telling the truth. Mrs. Beals took me to the principal and I had to tell him the same thing I told her. They called my parents and there was a big to do about it. I finally got them to tell me that his mom and little sister were okay. Trent smiled and gave me a hug; then he faded away in my arms. I don’t know where he went but I know it was full of love. I don’t fear death, just dying.
As a side effect, helping
My parents were all off kilter about this, but one hundred percent supportive of me. That’s their way. We went to see some specialists, and they did lots of tests with weird machines. They made lots of notes and faces like things were interesting.
They asked if there were any ghosts in the area. My lip reading was only so-so at that time, so Evelyn repeated everything just to make sure I got it all. Even now it’s more of an art than a science. I told them Evelyn had come with me today.
My mom was standing behind me talking to the doctors. “Evelyn’s her imaginary friend.”
That got Evelyn pouting. She hated being called imaginary. “She’s calling me imaginary again. Tell her to quit that.”
“Mom, Evelyn says please don’t call her imaginary.” Some ghosts I edit for grammar, some for language. For Evelyn I edit for attitude. In some ways eternally seven didn’t suit her.
Keep in mind my mom was standing behind me when she spoke and there were no mirrors in the room. My mom dropped down and spun me around in my chair to face her.
“Baby, Cassie baby can you hear me?”
My mom’s a smart lady, but dang that was a dumb question. Hadn’t Mom been paying attention for the last four years? Then it hit me. She was asking because I was translating for Evelyn.
I shook my head. “No mom, but Evelyn can.”
Everyone got super excited or worried or whatever their mood was, but it was super-sized. They were scurrying around like ants in a rain storm. Mom started crying. I couldn’t figure out why because I always told her things that Evelyn asked me to. The doctors made more notes and some phone calls. We all went to another room with more machines, my parents refusing to leave me alone in a room with anyone else. The doctors wanted to know if there was anything special I could do with Evelyn, and she translated for him.
“You mean like eating pie?” Okay, so that only sounds like a non sequitor. It actually was right on topic. Evelyn loved pecan pie, yet another reason she was my best friend. We discovered one day she could taste it if she rode shotgun in my body. Any time Mom made pecan pie, Evelyn would jump inside and join me for supper. I stayed in control but felt all tingly.
One of the doctors, I don’t know who he was but he was a doctor, asked me some more questions. “What do you mean about the pie Cassie?”
Evelyn translated for him too.
“Evelyn likes to eat pie with me. We eat it together.”
“If we get you some pie can you show us?” When it comes to pie, Evelyn was more than happy to tell me what people wanted to know. She was already nodding, so I did too. They stuck lots of weird wires onto me with sticky stuff before I could eat. Evelyn climbed inside me and machines lit up and needles pointed to the red. The doctors all got excited and jumped up and down. I turned to see my mom and dad and they looked scared, but I smiled to show them it didn’t hurt and we ate more pie. I signaled to one of the doctor guys and he came right over. He asked me something, but I couldn’t hear him and Evelyn can’t hear inside my body. When a ghost is in me, they’re deaf. She jumped out.
“Evelyn couldn’t hear you ’cause of being inside me,” I said. “She can hear you now.”
“Wow!” He looked over at the machines, shaking his head, then looked back at me and Evelyn told me what he said once again. “What do you need darling? Are you okay?”
I nodded. “Yes sir. Can we have some milk?”
He smiled, laying a hand gently on my head. “Of course you can sweetie.” He turned and apparently yelled. “Someone get this kid some milk!” We finished our food and Evelyn jumped out again to play translator. I think she was enjoying all of the attention. The doctors wanted to know if we could do anything else together, anything special.
“Well, we moved a car once.”
More excited note taking.
“How did you move the car darling?”
I turned to my mom. “Mama, you remember when we moved the car on that bad weather day right?”
My mom looked blank at first but then she remembered. Crouching down in front so I could see her lips she spoke to me and signed at the same time. “Do you mean on that icy day? The car that slid and almost hit us?”
I nodded, “We moved it.”
“Cassie, Cassie?” The doctor touched my arm and I turned around. “Can you and Evelyn move this?” He put a pen out on the table. It was a lot smaller than a car. It was easy. I reached out my hand and tossed it across the room and off the wall. I didn’t actually touch it, just pushed at it with energy. Honestly I really don’t know how to explain how it works. You try and explain how you walk. You just do it right?
I only thought that the doctors were excited before. The one who kept talking to me screamed, “Somebody get a fucking camera in here!”
He wasn’t facing me, but Evelyn heard and asked me what a fucking camera was. I didn’t know so I asked my mom. My mom started crying. I got scared and started crying too. Things went downhill from there.
The end result was that I was off the chart for any test they had ever done. We spent three days doing tests, but went home at night. I told them we had to stay at home because Evelyn got tired away from the house for too long. I got a card with my picture on it and they said it was a license. When I asked my mom if I could drive she laughed but then she started crying again so I started crying again. Evelyn made faces at me so I made them back and we laughed. My dad even started crying then.
Almost twenty years later I’m the top necromancer for the state of
This is the second chapter of the book The Unseen Murders, which is the first in the Haunted Silence Series. The main character is deaf and uses lip reading for most of the book. Lip reading is far from a perfect or accurate form of communication. It does not work with some people, nor are most people able to read lips. In order to move forward the plot, the lip reading in this book is exaggerated. There are times when the character is unable to read someone's lips either because a word is unclear or because of a situation such as lighting. Additionally, a portion of this story is also in ASL, American Sign Language. The grammar for ASL differs from English grammar. For example, In English you would say, "I give the boy a ball." In ASL you would sign, "Me boy ball give." Of course there are more ways to sign that sentence, just as there are more ways to say that. Both languages are complex and open to variation of use in communication. However, while describing signing in this book, it is written in English grammar. It is not a literal translation of the signs being used. This book is not about being deaf/Deaf but just about someone who happens to not be hearing. It does supply some information about the Deaf community. This urban fantasy/crime series is a comedic look at life dealing with communication in general and relationships set in Atlanta, Georgia.
I pulled into the driveway at my folks’ place, which was also my place, and smiled. It was good to be home. I didn’t like taking cases that far away from home, but when a U.S. Senator called, it seemed polite to answer. It didn’t hurt that the government paid extremely well…your tax dollars at work. To be fair I saved the taxpayers more than I cost them, and it was also my tax dollars at work. A hostile ghost left unchecked could cause a lot of property damage, not to mention the damage to people.
Pulling the suitcase out of the trunk of my car, I turned to face my house. Like so many of the old colonial’s in Atlanta, Georgia, it had a stone front. With four bedrooms and three baths, it was the perfect size for my family when I was growing up: my parents, my sister Angie, my brother Robby, and me…oh, plus Evelyn, though she didn’t need a bedroom of her own. Now with just me, the folks, and Evelyn, I suppose the place was a bit big, but it felt like home. I walked past the swing on the front porch, smiling at childhood memories of sipping sweet tea in the blistering June heat.
“I’m home!” I yelled out as I opened the front door, stepping through the den and into the living room. To the right of the front door was the dining room, and through there the kitchen, where my mom could regularly be found. I figured both of my folks were home and would likely hear me, but I could only hear one person’s response.
“Cassie!” Evelyn’s happy yell proceeded her person flying down the stairs. “Cassie! Cassie! Cassie!”
I smiled broadly as she streaked toward me. “Did you miss…hey! Easy there girl. You nearly bowled me over.”
“I missed you. Did you miss me?” Evelyn glowed brightly, just inches from my face. Her dress was blue and white, and her curled blonde pigtails framed her face. Blue eyes twinkled as she stared at me expectantly.
“Of course I did darling. I always miss you when I need to go away for work. It’s good to be home.”
“You’re just in time for supper.” Evelyn pointed to the side.
I turned and there was my mom, wiping her hands on her apron that covered her white shirt and jeans. Her blonde curls hung loosely and framed her smiling face. “Hi mom.”
Smiling, my mom signed back. “I’m glad you’re back darling. You’re just in time for supper.”
I nodded. “Evelyn told me. Supper smells great mom, but you see, I ate on the plane.”
I heard Evelyn whimper even as my mom signed, “You couldn’t have eaten much. Plane food mustn’t have been very good.”
My mom was an interpreter for the Deaf community. She’d started to learn to sign as soon as she’d been told I might be deaf. Even before they had definitive results, she just had a feeling this is how things would end up. She’d taught the whole family to sign, and now worked in our community. She was the kind of person who tackled things head on like a good Forester. That’s who she was to her core, but even more than that, she was a southern woman. She pushed food like a drug dealer did crack. The first piece of bacon braised something was free, and after that you were hooked. Though she stood there smiling sweetly at me, I knew that if I tried to fight, it would be a losing battle.
“Well it wasn’t your food, good southern food, so I didn’t eat much.” I smiled, watching my mother’s smile grow. “I’m pretty tired, but I could eat a bit more.” I saw Evelyn rise slightly further off the ground and added, “And some of whatever you made for dessert, of course.”
“Yes!” Evelyn said, spinning in a circle.
Still smiling my mom nodded and signed, “I’ll just add another setting to the table. So good to have you home darling.”
“I’m just going to change and wash-up,” I replied, taking my suitcase and heading up the stairs. Entering my room I closed the door, tossing my suitcase on the bed and unpacking while I still had the energy. “Y’all know that wasn’t fair Evelyn. I already ate.”
“You could have told your ma that.”
“Right,” I said slowly. “My mom is real reasonable when it comes to cooking. I swear girl, I’m going to be round in a few years thanks to you.”
While I put clothes away, she said, “You look great girl. You don’t have anything to worry about. Lots of people notice how great you look. Lots of guys notice.”
“What guys?” I asked, honestly curious.
“Mark? Mark who?”
“Mark Simpson,” she replied.
I tossed dirty clothes into the hamper and ran that name through my head. Did I know a Mark Simpson? I didn’t think I knew a… “Wait, do you mean Detective Simpson?”
“Cassie, you know his first name.”
I nodded, putting socks back in their drawer and closing it. “I do. I just don’t think of him as Mark. First he was Officer Simpson. Now he’s Detective Simpson. He’s doing really well, going up in the ranks very quickly, don’t you think?”
“Thanks to you.”
“Nonsense. I mean my work is helping his close ratio, and how quickly he can close a case, but he’s a great detective. He’s the one who presented the idea to bring in a necromancer on every new homicide case of his for a year, and then check the ROI. I’ve saved the taxpayers more than three times as much as they’ve spent to have me involved in police cases.” Closing my now empty suitcase, I hefted it to the top of my closet. “Detective Simpson is forward thinking. He deserves his success.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that girl. I just think you deserve thanks for it too. You also need to wake up and smell the aftershave when it comes to Mark Simpson.”
Pulling my shirt over my head and tossing it in my hamper I said, “I don’t know what that means.”
“It means he’s cute girl. He’s an attractive man. You’re an attractive woman. You know what that means, don’t you?”
I nodded. “It means I need to hide the remote so you stop watching those daytime soap operas.” I tossed my skirt into the hamper, pulling yoga pants and a t-shirt out of a drawer.
“Those shows are based in reality…loosely based.”
“Y’all are loosely based in reality,” I countered. I pulled on my clothes, looking at myself in the mirror. I had my dad’s brown hair and eyes, though my hair hung in long, loose curls, like my mom’s. I also had my mom’s curves. I knew heads turned when I walked down the street, but I always felt like I was fighting off a German attack on the Ardennes Mountains on December 16, 1944…The Battle of the Bulge. “I think I’ve put on some weight.”
“You look great. Stop worrying.”
“Y’all are just worried I’ll skip dessert.”
“No,” Evelyn replied. “And don’t skip dessert. Your ma made pie.” I looked over and Evelyn was licking her lips.
“Fine,” I said. “I’m going to the gym in the morning. Want to join me?”
“Nah. The gym is boring. I’m not in the mood to peek at naked people showering.”
“I’ll ask again in the morning in case you change your mind.”
Evelyn nodded and we headed out. Just outside my room I nearly walked into someone. I stepped back, surprised to see her here.
“Angie!” After a moment of shock I smiled, hugging my sister’s thin frame, then stepping back. “I didn’t know you were here.”
She nodded. “I thought you were away. The folks invited me over because…actually I think the house was a bit quiet for them. I’m just here for the weekend, well until the end of the weekend. I’m here to celebrate your birthday. It’s great to see you early though.”
Angie is the oldest child. There are three of us. The first is Angie, then my brother Robby, then me. Angie is tall and thin with brown hair and eyes. She’s the spitting image of my father. Robby is about the same height, so short for a man. He has a broad chest and face, blond hair and blue eyes. He’s my mom through and through. I’m the mutt in the family.
Attitude-wise, we were all our own people. Angie was an accountant in every sense of the word. She was a very responsible, outcome driven kind of person. These weren’t bad traits, but she needed to learn to relax, and that was coming from me. If not for Evelyn I might have been as bad as Angie, but Evelyn knew how to put the fun in life.
“How’s school?” Angie asked me.
“It’s going well. How’s work?”
She nodded. “Fine, fine, as to be expected. You just coming back from a case?”
I nodded back at her. “I closed it a bit earlier than expected.”
“They’re contracts, so you get paid to close, not by the hour right? Mom says you close cases a lot faster than the usual quoted timeframe. You should have a bookrate, like a mechanic, and get paid for the job even if you’re done sooner.”
I smiled at my sister, managing not to sigh or roll my eyes. I loved Angie, but I hated the way she went straight to the bottom line. I know she did it because I was the baby and she worried about me. She had long ago given up on Robby…mostly, but she still wanted to protect me. I told myself it was sweet, no matter how it felt.
Waving casually I said, “Don’t worry. I’m grossly overpaid.”
Angie opened and closed her mouth, her eyes moving left and one eyebrow lifting. I reckon she wanted to know how much I got paid. She was probably trying to decide if she should ask or not.
Angie’s head turned left and then she looked back at me and said, “Supper’s ready. Let’s go.”
I nodded, watching her head downstairs. After what I thought was a safe time I turned on Evelyn. “Why didn’t you tell me she was here?”
Evelyn shrugged. “I’m not your sister’s keeper. What’s the big deal?”
“Robby’s not here, is he?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank the good Lord for that. I can’t handle the two of them together.”
“Really? I think they’re fun.” Evelyn smiled.
“You don’t have to play peacekeeper while they both try and get you to take their side. I’d prefer to celebrate my birthday with them separately. What I wouldn’t give for a major spiritual upheaval this Christmas.”
Evelyn shook her head at me. “Come on, supper time.”
Supper was fairly pleasant. We all sign over supper so I don’t have to lip read someone with food in their mouth. I’m used to having to do it at business lunches and such, but it isn’t enjoyable. The rules of a deaf household are different than that for the hearing. We keep a hand or elbow on the table, because someone will knock on the table to get attention before signing. We also don’t pass things as much to each other. We reach more to get them. I’ve noticed this especially when I’m out with friends from the Deaf community, as opposed to spending time with hearing friends. Hearing friends ask for things and y’all pass it to each other. If deaf folks want something from the middle of the table, we grab it.
I caught folks up on the job I’d just left. Angie caught us all up on work, though her signing needed some brushing up. Just by turning a hand to the side, or moving it from one location on the body to another, you can create a different word. Context helped us to understand what she was trying to communicate, though it was a tad confusing. Mom and dad did the same caught us up on their days. It was the same old same old in everyone’s life. I didn’t eat much, as promised, plus I wanted to leave room for dessert. I knew Evelyn would be whiney if we couldn’t finish dessert. We all helped clear the table, putting supper in the kitchen, and placing dessert plates on the table while Mom when to get the pie. Instead she came back and looked at me.
“Cassie, phone for you.”
“During supper?” I asked, standing slowly.
“It’s the police, Detective Simpson,” my mom explained.
“Ah.” I nodded, heading into the kitchen. We didn’t answer our phones during mealtime, but a call from the police would be different. It meant someone was dead. Life and death was pretty much what it took to get in the way of my mom’s cooking. The Video Phone was set up in the kitchen, replacing the old TTY phone that had been in their when I was younger. I remembered typing into that and reading the words on the screen in response. Even from a young age, my parents were always for giving me as much independence as possible.
A Video Phone looks like a computer monitor with a small video camera set up on top of it. When I get a call or make a call, an interpreter shows on the screen for me and signs to me. They have a small headset and speak to the hearing person when I sign. The interpreter will tell me everything they hear, that I’d hear if I could hear, like papers shuffling or even background noises. If someone says something rude they don’t intend me to know, but the interpreter hears it, they’ll tell me. Not everyone is pleasant when dealing with the deaf and receiving a call from an interpreter. Sometimes people think I’m a telemarketer or just don’t like the ‘hassle’ of talking with someone else in between. Most people are great, but when someone is rude, I can give as well as I get.
If it was the police, I knew who it would be on the other end. I always worked with the same detective. Standing in front of the camera so that the interpreter could see me, I signed, “Hello Detective Simpson. This is Cassandra Forester. How may I help you?”
In response the interpreter signed, “We have a case. I can be at your house in twenty minutes.”
“My house?” Why did he want to come to my house? He’d never come to my house before. That was odd. I signed back, “I can meet you at the station house.”
I watched as the interpreter signed, “It’s about ten minutes south of your house. We need to drive right past your place to get there. I can be there in twenty minutes.”
I nodded, but I was trying to think what was ten minutes south of my house. This area was largely residential. There was an old mill but…I realized I hadn’t responded so I signed, “That will be fine Detective. I’ll see you in twenty minutes. Oh, you’ll need my address.”
The interpreter replied, “I have it. See you then.”
“Goodbye,” the interpreter replied as we ended the call.
Heading back into the living room I announced, “I have to go to work.”
“But…but…pie,” Evelyn said, pointing at the blueberry pie on the table. “There’s ice cream too.”
“I did not agree to ice cream,” I replied.
“But the pie is warm,” Evelyn replied. “Come smell it Cassie. Does it smell good? I bet it smells good. Does it smell good?”
I walked to the table sniffing the pie. “It does smell good. I guess I could have a small slice.”
“And some ice cream?” Evelyn asked.
“Half a scoop.”
“Squee!” Evelyn clapped. “I want to smell it. I want to smell it!”
I dropped my shielding, letting Evelyn in. She smiled broadly in my body, sniffing at the pie, then rubbed my belly. I didn’t have to tell my family what was going on. They all knew Evelyn well enough by now. They knew her mannerisms and knew she was involved with dessert if she wasn’t in hot soup with me.
After dessert I went upstairs to change. Yoga pants and a t-shirt weren’t going to cut it for a night at work. I slipped on jeans and socks, then looked for my work boots. If we ended up at the mill building, there could be a lot of things to avoid and sneakers might not be the best choice. I dug around in the closet for a bit, not coming up with them.
“Evelyn, have you been playing in my closet again? Evelyn!” I waited, but she didn’t answer. “Evelyn!” Finally she floated into my room. “I can’t find my work boots. Did you take them?”
“Oh, no I think your sister was wearing them. She and your dad went on a hike.”
“Really? Doesn’t anyone put anything back where they find them?” I went to my sister’s room. “Angie, do you have my…” I looked left and right, but she wasn’t in there. By her closet were my boots though. I snagged the boots, taking them back with me and tying them on. Then I pulled on a fleece top layer, to avoid the chill, and headed downstairs. I paused when I saw Detective Simpson standing in my living room, talking to my mother and my sister. “Detective Simpson?”
Detective Simpson turned, looking at me and smiling. He was a good looking man, about 6’2” so eight inches taller than me. He’d played football in college some ten years ago and still had the build for it. He kept his brown hair cut short. The detective’s skin was tan and his brown eyes were so dark that they almost looked black. The thing I liked best about his was how expressive his face was. When he spoke he lit up, completely animated. It made him a great communicator. There was something else about him, something about him that just made me comfortable. He was a good person.
“Hey Cassie. These fine ladies here have been kind enough to entertain me while I was waiting on you.” He smiled more broadly, showing white teeth and a few lines around his mouth. “Y’all ready to go?”
I nodded. “Sorry to keep you waiting Detective.”
“Not at all,” the detective replied straightening his tie. As usual he wore a suit and tie, both dark blue this evening and in sharp contrast to his crisp, white shirt. “We all have been having a fine time. Unfortunately, work calls.”
“Tell him I said hi,” Evelyn said.
“Evelyn says hello Detective.” Long ago I learned to not say hello for Evelyn before she asked. Ghosts spend their life ignored. They like to be noticed, but on their terms. I knew she liked the detective and would want to say hello, but she needed to take the lead.
He smiled warmly, looking around, so I pointed her out and he said, “Hello Evelyn. Glad to have you along tonight darling.”
She glowed a little brighter, smiling at the attention and kind words. It was another reason to like the detective. He was kind to and comfortable around Evelyn. That went miles and miles in my book. If Evelyn liked someone, it was pretty much a given that I did also.
Detective Simpson turned so I couldn’t see what he was saying. He spoke to my mother and sister, and they both smiled and nodded. I grabbed my pocketbook, not looking to see how they responded. I’m sure it was the normal ‘nice to meet you’ type of thing. I checked to make sure I had my notebook, a few pens, a flashlight that worked, extra batteries, my keys, my cellphone, and my police ID with me. Just in case I did a quick check and my wallet was in there. I didn’t expect to need it, not if I wasn’t driving, but it never hurt to have. There were other things in there like tissues and make-up, but they weren’t my priority.
That was just one of the many reasons I was permanently single. The main reason was that I was awkward around any man that happened to show any interest. The necromancers that knew me tended to be in awe of me because I was a legend among my peers. You’d think it would make me a great catch, but for some reason I intimidated folks. Going out with non-necromancers was awkward because of ghosts, especially the one that lived with me. I vacillated between completely deaf and hearing perfectly well, so I was even unique in the Deaf community, plus the whole ghost thing. No, dating wasn’t my thing. I did better with history and the dead.
I tossed my pocketbook over my shoulder, looking up as Detective Simpson came to stand next to me. “Where are we going?”
“An old mill building, not far from here,” he replied.
I breathed a sigh of relief. It didn’t mean I didn’t know the person involved, but at least it wasn’t a neighbor’s house. I was grateful for that. I waved goodbye to my mother and sister, and then Detective Simpson, Evelyn, and I went to the detective’s car.
The detective started the car, turning on an interior light on his side and turning his head so that I could see him. “Your family seems nice.”
“They are,” I replied. “They’re only a little bit crazy.”
“Like every family,” he replied.
I nodded. “I’m surprised you got out of there without my mom feeding you. Usually if you walk in the front door, she sticks food into you. I mean, look at me.”
Detective Simpson smiled a bit, an odd look crossing his face as he looked me up and down.
“Plus she made pie tonight. It was probably still warm. She didn’t try and even slip a piece of it with you to-go? That woman has so much Tupperware, you’d think she sells it.”
He was obviously laughing. “She sounds like my mom. To be fair I was only there for a minute or two before you showed up. Maybe I should come back for pie another night. What do you think?”
I shrugged, pulling my notebook out of my pocketbook. “You should probably ask my mom. So what do we know about the victim Detective?”
“Oof! You really suck at this,” Evelyn said from the back seat.
As the car was put into drive and lurched forward, I looked over my shoulder and asked her, “At what? What did I do?”
“You should ask my mom?” She said.
She shook her head. “Why am I the one who got cut down in my youth?”
“What?” I asked, honestly confused.
Evelyn pointed to the front seat.
“I’m sorry, were you speaking to me Detective Simpson?”
“My name is Mark you know.”
“I know your name,” I replied.
“Oh good Lord!” Evelyn waved her arms in the air. “What is wrong with you girl?”
I just looked at her, shaking my head. I had no idea what she was on about, but I couldn’t get into it now. I’d talk to her about it later, likely tomorrow after I’d had some sleep. I was tired before this. I was going to be exhausted afterwards.
“So what were you saying Detective?”
He moved his jaw back and forth for a moment, maybe relieving some tension, then said, “Male, late fifties to early sixties, Caucasian.”
I nodded, taking notes. “Any ID?” I assumed not, but it was worth asking.
He shook his head. As he drove he’d turn his head a bit from time to time so I could see his mouth, talk in little bits. “When we get there…I’d like you to…assess the scene…take your notes. I’ll do the same. Then we can meet up. We can review…together, but I want…your impressions first.”
Brow furrowed I asked, “You have a theory already?”
“I do,” he agreed. “I don’t want to…poison your opinion with it.”
“Fair enough.” I pointed to the right. “Turn here. There’s a shortcut just past the Maycomb’s. Won’t come up on a GPS, but it will save you two or three minutes.”
He nodded, following my directions, and in no time at all we were at our destination.
The old mill is a manufacturing building that was destroyed during the Civil War by Union Soldiers, burned down. It was rebuilt after the war but burned down again in the 1920’s. There is a brick manufacturing building that still survives to this day, though it hasn’t been in use for some time. It’s got a lovely waterfall near the creek, and a picturesque covered bridge for folks coming from the other direction. There are old machine parts and many folks come by just to take snapshots. Local kids will hang out there to drink and smoke, just have someplace to go. Apparently it was also a good place to kill someone.
We could see the flashing blue lights as our car pulled up. There were two squad cars there and a van from some kind of CSI division. They always eyed me with apprehension. I’d want to touch the body, maybe some other evidence. That’s the last thing they’d want anyone to do. I was in a permanent struggle with those who gathered evidence scientifically. I’m sure I also cut into their budget, which didn’t help.
The manufacturing building was one big stone building, red brick and rectangular. Inside were machines and machine parts, none of them functional. We walked straight back to the taped off area and the officers. There was good lighting set up and people in jumpsuits already gathering evidence. Photos were being snapped. I saw one of the people in a jumpsuit look back at us, then do a double-take before nudging the woman next to him and saying something. Yup, CSI wasn’t happy to see me. They didn’t have to be. They just had to let me work.
Detective Simpson spoke to one of the officers on scene, and the officer responded, “A couple of teens found him and called 911. We’ve had Crime Scene take some samples, pictures, but no one has moved the body before y’all got here Sir.”
Detective Simpson looked at me and nodded, so I nodded back. Then we both began our own evidence gathering. I walked back through the area from which we came, looking for an aura of violence. The body had been stabbed repeatedly, but I found nothing there. I made my way all the way back to the body, only finding the after image of violence, a lingering effect, and then death. The emotions weren’t fresh, weren’t here. I made some notes while Detective Simpson talked to CSI, and then came back to me.
“Anything yet?” He asked.
“Well…I’d like to touch the body to be sure, to get a fuller picture but…” I nodded.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“He wasn’t killed here.”
The tiniest smile touched the detective’s lips. “It’s a body dump.”
“Unfortunately, yes, and the spirit has fled the body. It might have passed on, or it could be at the kill site, a hot spot created there. There is a small chance it is haunting the murderer, but if so that won’t last long…perhaps a few days tops. Detective, I investigate murder sites. I can get you some information from the body.” I looked over at CSI giving me the stink eye. “I’ll need to touch it and it won’t be pretty in more than one way. I don’t know how much help I can be though.”
The detective put a hand on each of my shoulders. “I’d appreciate any insight you can provide Cassie. I trust you. I’ll back you up here, with the techs and literally.”
I nodded, crouching down next to the body. He was a male, fifties, maybe sixty, Caucasian. He was old and not particularly well kept. This wasn’t something that happened overnight. I could see his teeth, some yellowed, crooked, and others missing. His hair was long and uneven. His nails had ridges and bumps, though many were broken. Those looked recent, and painfully so. He was dirty, filthy, but it was largely dirt. He was covered in cuts and scratches, even beyond the knife marks that covered his body. Those looked fatal. He was also barefoot, and for some reason that stuck out.
I felt Detective Simpson behind me, crouching also. We’d been this route dozens of times. When I touched a body I gained perspective from the residual emotions. The fresher the kill, the more emotional the kill, the more I gained. A freshly murdered body at the murder site, that gave me a lot of insight. Now I wasn’t CSI, but I’d say this body was at least a day old, more likely two. I’d just seen enough corpses in my life to be a fair judge of them by now. That meant this wouldn’t hit like a sledgehammer, but it would still hit like a hammer. This man had been murdered. He hadn’t passed comfortably in his sleep. That meant there would be strong emotions tied to his last moments, and therefore his corpse. I was about to have the dubious honor of sharing in those. When I was seven, and first touched a murdered body, I’d thought it was the most horrible thing in the world. Going on seventeen years later, I realized that what they’d gone through was the most horrible thing in the world. What I had was perspective in how valuable life truly was.
With just one finger I reached out, touching the man’s bare knee through his torn pants leg. I always tried to avoid contaminating the scene. I knew I was already persona non grata with the techs. At least I could tread lightly on their territory. Maybe one day we’d all learn to work together in peace and harmony, kumbaya and all that. I believed there was room for science and magic, but that was easy to say as the interloper.
As soon as my finger touched skin, probably as soon as the hairs of his knees brushed the tip of my finger, I was overcome with a wave of emotions. Fear, fear hit me solidly straight in the chest. I knew he was in pain too, but gratefully I can’t experience the pain, just know it was going on. The fear though, that was palpable. He was scared of them that done this, scared and betrayed. They treated him decent, they did, and then turned on him for what…for sport…no, but it was sick, they was sick. It weren’t quick either. The fear, oh they wanted that, didn’t understand why, but could see it. Seen lots of twisted stuff in his life, he did; knew screwed up folks, but them was the worst. The way they was, that there was a sickness. Anger was there as he fought for his life, but they was younger and healthier, and they eventually beat him down, cut him up, stood over him and watched him bleed like a stuck pig.
I gasped, staring up at the roof, the bright lights of the police investigative unit casting shadows along the tall ceiling. My heart was pounding and my breaths came in gasps. I could feel Detective Simpson’s arms around me, his chest against my back. Breath blew along my cheek and I knew it was him breathing, possibly speaking to me, but just breathing I thought.
Evelyn floated in front of me. “How we doing darling?”
I nodded, pulling myself upright, though the detective did help a smidge. I took a moment to walk around, compose myself. Eyes closed and working on my breathing, I help up two fingers at the detective.
“Hey girl, Mark’s asking you what that means,” Evelyn said.
Opening my eyes, I gave a small smile. “Sorry Detective. There were at least two assailants, and he knew them. I don’t know how well, but he knew them. There was a sense of betrayal to this like they’d treated him well before this happened. Also, this wasn’t done out of anger or revenge.”
“Then why?” He asked.
“Can’t tell you that. I get a sense of…excitement.” I shrugged.
“Excitement?” The detective's eyebrows rose high.
“That’s the best word I have for it, Detective. There was a feeling of excitement, and then relief.”
“You mean when he died?” Detective Simpson asked. “Relief when the pain stopped?”
“No Detective, I’m not talking about the victim’s relief. I mean the killer’s.”
Detective Simpson stared at me for several seconds, saying nothing, then he nodded once, slowly. He pulled his notebook up again, writing in it. I watched waiting to see if he’d ask me anything else.
“Y’all are creeping people out, girl.”
I turned to Evelyn and noticed several people staring at me. As I looked at them, they all suddenly had something better to do.
Walking up to Evelyn, I tried to speak quietly. “What did I say?”
“Sure enough, but it’s weird. You know I love you, right?”
“Okay then. Go talk to the cute detective and try and act normal, you know, less like a necromancer.”
“But I am a—” At a little energy push from Evelyn, I stumbled, turning back toward Detective Simpson. I’d regained my footing well enough by the time I reached him. I waited until he finished writing and asked, “Was there anything else Detective?”
“Not for tonight I don’t think. What are your plans for tomorrow darling?”
“Gym in the morning, obviously,” I said gesturing at myself. “Then I have class until 1:00 P.M. Do you need me to stop by the station after school to sign a report?”
“Cassie, you know you look…” Smiling, Detective Simpson shook his head. “So tomorrow, I will need your signature on a report. There are two other bodies I’d like to you take a gander at though. I expect you won’t have had lunch yet. Maybe we could grab something to eat and discuss the case.”
“Yes! Cassie, have dinner with him! Tell him yes!” Evelyn was all lit up, shining and rising an extra six inches off the ground in a fairly unusual show of excitement. I wasn’t quite sure why. She liked food. She liked it a lot, but still that was a lot of excitement. Oh, I should also probably explain that Evelyn talked about meals much the way my mom did since she was from an earlier generation. My generation had three meals: breakfast, lunch, and supper. Evelyn’s generation had three meals also, but they were: breakfast, dinner, and supper. I’ve met Yankees that died a hundred years ago and have never heard of the middle meal being called dinner, but any southern over a certain ago knows it to be true.
I took a step back from Evelyn, holding out a hand in her direction. “What are you on about girl? Easy now.” Looking back at the detective I said, “I apologize Detective Simpson. Evelyn is just…very excitable when it comes to food. She got all riled up about lunch and got me a bit distracted. Evelyn, if I’m coming straight from school, you won’t even be with me.”
Evelyn smile grew. “I know.”
The crease between my brow grew as I shook my head at her.
“Talk to Mark,” she said, pointing at the detective.
“So lunch?” He asked.
I nodded. “That should be fine Detective, I mean if we have anything to—”
“Actually there are other cases I think might be related to this one,” he said.
“Oh, well in that case, then let’s discuss it over lunch tomorrow. I’ll text you before I head over. Sound good?”
He nodded, a broad smile growing on his face as he said, “Sure do.”
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.”
The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office was a several story brick building on Pryor Street SW in Atlanta, Georgia. They stopped using the term coroner in Fulton county back in 1965. Other counties would following over the coming years.
Detective Simpson and I parked and headed inside, showing our IDs to the attendant. I'd been to a morgue, I mean medical examiner's office, before, but not often. I got my clues from energy, and energy faded. I'd told Mark it was unlikely that I'd get much from a body that was more than a few days old, but he was rather annoyingly optimistic. Sometimes the traits you like best about people are also the ones you dislike the most in some situations.
In a back room were tables, sleek and silver. Along one wall were drawers, much the same design. Stainless steel was easy to clean. It also didn't hold energy well. The whole place smelled like disinfectant, which was preferable to what we could have been smelling so no complaints. One table had a white sheet covering a rather average sized mass, but we weren't here for that. That was a fresh dearly departed. Ours had been on ice a bit and were inside the doors on the wall.
“Well, How-dy!” The woman walking up to us was blonde, late thirties to early forties, attractive, and wearing a white labcoat over her blue dress. She smiled brightly as she pulled off a latex glove and held the uncovered hand out to the detective. “Well Detective Simpson, fancy seeing y'all around these parts. What can I do for you sugar?”
I stepped to the side, trying to make sure I could see all parts of the conversation.
Detective Simpson nodded, smiling back as he shook the woman's hand. “A pleasure as always doctor. Unfortunately, I'm here on official business.” He held out the papers he had in his left hand.
She took the papers, reading over them briefly, giving them serious consideration. Looking back at the detective she smiled and said, “Official business, of course. Always the bride's maid, never the bride. I can get these for y'all.”
“Oh,” Detective Simpson gestured toward me. "Doctor Ellison, this is Cassandra Forester. She's the necromantic investigator on this case. Cassie, Doctor Ellison is one of the medical examiners her in Fulton County, probably the friendliest."
“Probably the flirtiest,” Evelyn added.
I ignored Evelyn, shaking the doctor's proffered hand.
“A necromancer? What fascinating work, Cassandra.”
“It's Cassie. I expect our work has some similarities,” I replied.
She made a slightly odd face, then smiled and nodded saying, “Please, call me Lacey. This way.”
We followed her to the wall of drawers where she used the paper Detective Simpson had given her to locate the first body we wanted. “This is the most recent one. He came in nine days ago. Time of death was two days before that based on insect evidence.” She pulled out the drawer and then pulled back the sheet.
It was a man, late fifties, maybe sixty. He'd been dead for a week and a half and gone through an autopsy, so he wasn't looking his best. I examined him with my eyes, just a quick once-over to see if anything stood out. It didn't. He was white, old in a way that looked older than his age, dead, nothing special and that was an awful thing to think. I'd seen a lot of dead bodies, though, and this was just an empty shell. Whoever this had been, he was gone. Of that I was certain.
“I'd like to touch the body,” I announced, then looked up at the doctor.
“You want to touch him?” She looked about as excited with that idea as most folks would if someone announced they wanted to touch a twelve-day-old dead body.
It could have been worse. I could have been someone saying I wanted to do more than touch him. Technically I had no true want to touch him, no desire, just a need to do my job. I didn't think saying I needed to touch a twelve-day-old dead body would go over any better, so I only nodded.
Her head turned, clearly looking at Detective Simpson as he explained something, so I waited. Then she nodded, shrugged, and said, “Knock yourself out sugar.”
Mark stepped behind me, familiar with the process from the many murder scenes we'd investigated together. I'd told him not to expect much here, but he was hopeful still. I placed both hands on the man, one on his forehead and another on his torso. Usually, I just touch a fingertip to the body, but this time I was going to try and absorb as much energy as possible. Normally I touch a body and the energy rushes all over me, into me. The emotions crash over me like a swelling wave does over a toddler, and I have to fight to hold onto myself. This time it was more like sifting through a pool of water, trying to find something of value at the bottom. Everything was muddy, unclear, and it took all of my years of experience to pick out the pearls within. Strong emotions can be confusing for people, even love and hate looking like each other at moments. Carefully, patiently, I panned through his emotional residue, trying to find something of value.
I stepped away, blinking as I categorized what I'd found.
“You okay girl?” Evelyn asked.
I nodded. “Things were deluded, faint. There wasn't much left to work with. I found a few things, though.” I watched Detective Simpson flip open his notebook and I said, “There was a sense of betrayal, but it didn't run deep. I think he knew who did this, but not well. There was fear, so he saw it coming. I'd say he put up a fight, at least a little bit of one. Also, and this one is harder to tell, but I think there was more than one perp.”
The detective lifted his head, asking me, “You're sure?”
“From a body this old, I can't be certain of anything. I told you this was a longshot. I work best on crime scenes, fresh bodies. Your medical examiner and your CSIs will be more help than I will here Detective. All I can tell you is the sense I got from the lingering emotions. I'm no empath, but the betrayal involved a sense of ‘they’. It could have been multiple people involved, or it could have been an organization that the killer worked for. My best guess is more than one perp, but I'm guessing. Ask your medical examiner.”
Detective Simpson looked at Lacey and she nodded. “That would be consistent with what we've found. These knife wounds appear to be caused by a left-handed assailant.” She pointed to long, deep cuts on the body. “These appear to be caused by a right-handed assailant.” Again she indicated cuts on the body. These were obviously shallower and not as long.
“Could that be done by the same person holding the knife in a different hand?” The detective asked.
Lacey considered, then shook her head. "The possibility does exist, but it's highly unlikely. Both sets of cuts are smooth, straight. An off-hand cut doesn't leave this kind of clean edge and even pressure.”
“Even if someone is ambidextrous?” I asked.
“Even those that are favor one hand over the other. A true ambidextrous is rare. Not saying it can't be, just not the way the human brain works. Y'all want to see the other body?”
I looked up at Detective Simpson saying, “I'm going to get even less off of this one.”
He smiled. “Do your best.”
I tried not to, but I think I rolled my eyes. We followed Lacey over to the next drawer and another body got rolled out. It was another male, Caucasian, same age range. Thinking about the body we found in the mill, I furrowed my brow. This was a pattern. No wonder the detective had dragged me out here. He wanted to link these homicides. I touched the body but this one was even murkier, less information. I stayed as long as I could, until the emotions faded away, then stepped back shaking my head.
“Maybe betrayal, maybe, but maybe I was just looking for it. Maybe I should have done this body first. I can tell y'all he didn't have a pleasant passing, but you didn't need a necromancer for that, now did you?”
The doctor didn't reply, but the look on her face told me that she agreed with me. I'm sure she'd seen as much death in her life as I had, maybe even more. Neither of us had a pleasant calling.
“Question for you doctor, why has no one claimed these men's bodies yet? Even though their investigation is still open, I'd expect the bodies to be buried by now. Haven't the families come forward yet?” I asked.
She shook her head. “We're having problems IDing them. They're itinerants.”
I looked over at Detective Simpson and he said, “That makes them easy victims.”
I had to agree. “I have an idea,” I said to Detective Simpson. “Can I get a few strands of hair from each of the men?”
“You want some of their hair?" He asked, a skeptical look crossing his face.
“Girl, what did we just say just yesterday about not seeming odd to the cute detective?” Evelyn reminded me.
I ignored her, saying to the detective, “Yes please Detective Simpson. I can't get much of anything from these here bodies. I may know someone who can. She has a different set of skills.”
“And it involves hair?” He asked, still clearly not convinced.
“Yes Sir,” I replied, smiling just as sweetly as I could manage.
“You're dying a virgin you know. I'm an expert on this here topic.”
I ignored Evelyn, but I didn't disagree. I was an expert on history, ghosts, and ruining first dates to make sure there wasn't a second one. We all had our skill set.
Surprisingly Detective Simpson just smiled back and said, “Well okay then. Doctor Ellison, any problem getting this little lady here a hair sample?”
The doctor shrugged. “I don't see why not. Just let me grab y'all evidence bags and I'll get your samples. How much do y'all need?”
“Just a few strands from each body, but I need the root attached,” I replied.
The doctor looked from me to the detective.
“She needs the root attached,” he said.
“You're the...” The doctor gestured toward me but didn't finish that sentence unless she said something else as she turned away, grabbing evidence bags. I'm sure if it had been rude Evelyn would have told me. She loved repeating rude things.
I had my hair samples and was heading out the door when I passed by the body on the slab. It was still covered, but I came a sight bit closer to it this time than I had on the way in. I paused, attracted to a sense of unease, the unsettled energy from the corpse.
Pointing at the covered body I asked, “What happened here?”
The doctor replied, “Well the report on the scene listed it as a suicide but—” Detective Simpson's hand on her stopped her from speaking.
“You want to take a gander Cassie, see what you can suss out?” He asked me.
“You mind?” I asked the doctor.
“If you can provide any further insight, I'd appreciate it,” she replied, pulling back the sheet.
This body was sewn closed, but fresh. It was a young woman, maybe my age, so early twenties. She was Caucasian, blonde, might have been pretty before, but it was impossible to tell with all of this damage. She was covered with bruises, broken bones visible under and through the skin. One side of her face was wrecked.
“Cheese and crackers!” Evelyn said, pretty much summing up what I was feeling.
Nodding, not letting my emotions show as I tried to be professional, I asked, “How long ago did this happen?”
“This morning,” the doctor replied. “I just closed her back up.”
I looked up at Detective Simpson and he stepped behind me. A body this fresh, this was our usual process and he knew it well. I reached out, only touching the girl's body with one finger, and stiffened as the emotions, the memories, washed over me. As the fear hit my pulse increased, my pupils dilating to let in more light, take in more data. Then something shifted, my pupils contracting. Oh, fuck! Lights, his truck lights! My adrenaline surged as I tried to flee, hearing his voice in my memory yelling, ‘You can’t leave me! Get back here!’ I turned, the color red and three letters clearly visible. He was gonna kill me. He was gonna fucking kill me. Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! I tried to run again, my feet slipping under me on this thick mud, and as I went down, the lights closed in. There was the spot where pain came, then darkness.
I opened my eyes and I was curled up against Detective Simpson's chest. He was warm and safe; I felt safe against him. I could feel vibrations in his chest, him speaking again and again while he stroked my hair. I took a moment to calm my breathing, the smell of his aftershave filling me. This wasn't the first time I'd found myself collapsed against the detective after reliving a person's last moments, and each time I felt like a fool.
“I'm fine,” I said pushing away from the detective, taking a quick walk around to collect myself.
“You okay girl?” Evelyn asked me.
I nodded at her and stood still, letting her push a touch of energy into me. It felt good, a bit like a hug. I smiled up at her and she smiled back. I was glad she was here.
Turning back to the living contingent I said, “She was hit by a vehicle, a truck I think. It was red. I got three digits, letters from the plate: HEV. She was scared, being chased, and someone, a man, was yelling after her, telling her she wasn't leaving him. I'd check to see what the boyfriend or husband drives. The person chasing her felt very possessive.”
The doctor nodded slowly and said, “Her body was found on the interstate, under a bridge, apparent suicide, but I show most of this damage was postmortem. There were several fractures to the right side of the body that were antemortem, including one to the rib cage that nicked her heart. She would have bled to death in a matter of minutes.”
“So she was murdered and her body was thrown off a bridge onto the interstate?” Detective Simpson asked.
“That's my finding,” the doctor replied.
The detective nodded saying, “Well we can add Cassie's findings to your report. If the partner's license plate matches up to what she saw, that should be enough to bring him in and get a warrant for his truck.”
While the detective got the full autopsies and reports on the victims, Evelyn and I hung out in the hallway. I checked texts on my phone, seeing that my friend Tina had texted me while I was in dealing with dead bodies. She wanted to get together and do something for my upcoming birthday. I also had a text from Katlyn, my police officer friend who worked the front desk down at the station where Officer Simpson worked. She was sweet as could be and said she'd made special plans for Friday night, which was our usual night out together. She knew I'd be spending my actual birthday with my family, but had made reservations at Dolce Italian for us. My mouth made a happy circle and I tried not to salivate. I had a soft spot for cheese covered pasta. I think I sat on that soft spot.
Detective Simpson touched my arm. “Anything good?” He asked with a smile.
I smiled back, wiggling my phone in his general direction. “Katlyn made dinner plans, Friday night, at Dolce Italian for my birthday. She knows me so well.”
“Katlyn.” He looked thoughtful for a minute, then asked, “It's your birthday Friday? Happy birthday.”
“Saturday actually, but thanks,” I replied. “I'll be spending that with the family.”
“Oh, Katlyn isn’t ah…she and your family don’t…” He paused, his lips pursed, and I waited to see what he was saying. He scratched at the back of his head, then said, “Well happy birthday Cassie.”
“Thanks,” I said again, utterly confused as I followed the nice detective out to the parking lot.
He drove us back to the police station, where I'd ended up leaving my car, and I took it on a brief drive over to a main strip downtown. With my evidence bags of samples tucked safely in my pocketbook, I had a stop to make. There were many gifted individuals in this world, though far, far fewer than normal people, and we tended to associate with each other. I was a necromancer and dealt with the dead and the energy they left behind. What I needed was someone who dealt with a broader spectrum of magic.
I walked into the storefront of Mistress Minerva's, a lovely little mystical shop in downtown Atlanta. It sold tarot cards, crystals, incense, books on everything from divination through re-energizing your chakras. Silks hung along the walls, making it look warm and inviting, and the place always smelled wonderful. It was very 'Woo-woo', woman power, goddess, green Earth, natural energy, and positive. The tourists loved this place. I waved to Pete who stood at the counter reading, and he gave me a quick wave back as I headed through a curtain and into the back room. Anybody who was looking for any real magic knew to shop in the backroom.
Mistress Minerva’s was run by a woman named Karen. Karen was a witch, a good witch, a very competent witch. She was goodly also, not that she traveled around in a bubble, but she was a great person. Evelyn adored her and got along famously with her cat, Sebastian. I don't think the cat thing had anything to do with Karen being a witch. I think she just liked cats.
As I walked into the back room I didn't see anyone, so I called out, “Hey Karen, it's Cassie!”
Within a minute’s time, Karen appeared. “Well hey, sugar! It's so great to see you.”
Karen smiled broadly, the smile lighting up her face and her red lips stretching across her face. She was a big woman, tall and wide, what my dad would call a ‘whole lot of woman’. She had masses of red hair that hung around her shoulders and across her back, and she usually wore a loose fitting, brightly colored dress. Today was no exception. She didn't fear color in her makeup either, loving eyeshadow. Karen was larger than life and as sweet as could be.
Turning to Evelyn she said, “And how are you doing today Miss Evelyn?”
Now to be clear, she couldn't actually see Evelyn. As a witch, Karen could see auras. So she saw something, though I'm not sure what. It was just a something. Since I was there she assumed that something was Evelyn, and rightly so.
“I'm great!” Evelyn replied, glowing a bit more brightly at having been addressed. “How are you?”
“She says she's great and wonders how y'all are doing Karen,” I said for Evelyn.
“I'm doing fine darling, just fine. Thanks so much for asking. Now, what brings you ladies to my establishment? Is this business or pleasure?”
“Well always pleasure,” I said with a smile. “Unfortunately it's business, police business. I'm investigating some murders, and I'm drawing a blank. I was hoping you might be able to help.”
“You've hit a dead end and need my help?” Karen did something odd with her lips, puckering them together as she shook her head back and forth. I think she was whistling. I've seen ghosts do it. It's pretty neat. When the living do it, it looks a bit like they're kissing the air. “Dang girl. Death is your thing. If you're stuck in the mud, don't know that I can pull you out.”
I nodded, seeing her point, but also still thinking she might be able to help. “Well, thing is I don't know where these here folks were killed. The freshest body was over two days old, and the next one closer to two weeks. I don't have names for any of the victims. I'm kind of flying blind here. Hoping you can help me out, girl."
Nodding, Karen said, “What you got for me?”
I reached into my pocketbook, pulling out the evidence bags.
“The roots attached?”
“Of course,” I replied.
“You want a spell or an enchantment?”
“Y'all know I can't cast my way out of a wet paper bag. Make me an enchantment.”
“You got more power than you know girl. We'll make a caster out of you yet,” she replied, eying the contents of the evidence bag critically.
“You got plenty of power Karen. You want I should teach you how to exorcise a ghost?”
“Well don't start with me,” Evelyn said as she nosed around between the racks.
Karen looked at me out of the side of her eye, then said, “You want me to bind this all together, or are you looking for separate enchantments here?”
“Three separate ones would be more likely to give us clear readings, right?”
Karen nodded. “That would be more expensive though sugar.”
I waved at her, a bit dismissively. “That's fine. I want to do this right the first time.” Karen's enchantments didn't come cheap, but she was damn good and worth the cost. There were cheaper witches out there, but I preferred working with Karen. I wasn't one of those women that owned dozens of pairs of shoes or pocketbooks. The ones that I did have were what I needed for the occasion, they were high quality and classics. That's how I accessorized all aspects of my life.
“So what do you hope to find? Are we looking for names, where they lived, where they were killed?”
“I think they lived on the streets. Their names would be helpful, might help us in tracking down someone who saw us with the killers. If I could find where they were killed, if it was the same place...” I nodded. Pulling out the sample from the most recent victim, I held that out in front of Karen. “This one, on this one I want you to try and find where he was killed. On the other two, if y'all could try and get their names, or where they lived, that would surely help.”
Karen took the evidence bag back, but in her other hand to keep it separate from the two she still held. “It will take a bit. Come back in about three hours?”
“That would be great. Thanks, Karen."
As we left Evelyn said, “So supper?”
I sighed. “Why do you always think with my stomach?”
“But it's supper time,” she whined.
I checked my cellphone, shaking my head and saying, “Nope. We’ll go do some errands, then come back to see Karen. Then we can go home for supper.”
“Well can we get a snack?” She asked me.
“No, we just had lunch.”
“That was salad,” Evelyn replied.
“And dessert,” I added.
“Oh come on! In my day dinner was the biggest meal of the day. What's wrong with your generation? All y'all are so worried about your weight. Men like a little meat on the bone you know.”
“I'm not worried about what men like. I'm worried about my own cardiovascular health and well-being.”
Evelyn turned, floating in front of me and facing me so I could see her as she said, “Well in case you're curious, I think Mark likes a little plush in the tush.”
“Enough already about Detective Simpson. I don't know why you're going on about him lately. He's a nice man, nice looking too, I'll admit it, but even if he were interested it wouldn't matter. He has a girlfriend.”
“No, he doesn't.”
“Wh...yes he does.”
Evelyn shook her head. “No, he doesn't. They broke up a year ago, year and a half at this point.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sure I'm sure. I heard him talking to her that day she dropped off his key. She wasn't very nice about it either. She slapped it on his desk, told him she hoped he had a lovely life with his corpses.”
I was horrified. “Evelyn, you shouldn't eavesdrop!”
“I wasn't eavesdropping. I was right there in the middle of the room. She said it right in front of me.”
I closed my eyes, counting slowly to keep my composure. Opening my eyes I said, “Darling, when no one can see or hear you and they talk around you because they don't know you're there, that's still eavesdropping. We've discussed this.”
She just shrugged. “Anyway, she wasn't real nice. Remember how she acted when she met you?”
I shook my head. “I never met her.”
“Sure you did. You and Mark were working that double homicide over in Buckhead. You'd pulled an all-nighter, getting a confession. Mark was just asking if you wanted to get breakfast when that blonde gal came sauntering up to him with a basket. She kissed him on the cheek and said she'd brought him breakfast since he hadn't come home for supper. He introduced you two and she looked you up and down, her eyebrows going real high like. Then she said, 'This is that necromancer y'all are always going on about and working late with!?' She slapped the basket into the middle of his chest and told him to enjoy his breakfast and his company. Then she stomped off and said, 'You have got to be fucking kidding me!' You remember that, don’t you?”
I shook my head, feeling a bit stunned. “You'd think I'd remember that. Are you sure I was there?”
“Darling, what necromancer do you think she was talking about?”
“I don't know. I'm not the only one in Georgia.”
“Do you think I spend time with other necromancers behind your back?”
“Well...okay that's a fine point. I expect not. Maybe I was checking my phone and didn't notice?”
Evelyn started laughing. “Now that sounds like you girl. Some boy’s girlfriend gets all jealous around you, and y'all are too busy texting your parents to notice. That there is Miss Cassie Forester to a T.”
“She was jealous?” I shook my head. “She couldn't have been jealous. Why would she be jealous? Why would anyone be jealous around me?”
Evelyn stopped suddenly, putting energy onto one of my shoulders and forcing me to turn and face a store front. I stood there, looking at my own reflection in the mid-day sun.
“Girl, why wouldn't she be jealous? You're as pretty as a picture and as sweet as honeysuckle in June. You're also as sharp as your mama's best knife…on some subjects. You're the complete package, Cassie. The only one who don’t see it is you girl. You can keep hiding, but eventually, some boy is going to drag you out of yourself and convince you of what so many of us already know.”
I just stared at my reflection, an objectively nice one if I weren't doing it with my own eye, and finally asked, “nd what is that?”
“That you're truly special. That some boy is going to love you to the moon and back again. Who knows, that boy could be Mark.”
Feeling uncomfortable with this discussion, and too much introspection, I turned away from my reflection and began to walk again. “Stop teasing me. Detective Simpson isn't interested in me that way. Would you like to go grab a coffee with our errands?”
There were several seconds of silence, and then Evelyn caught up to me and said, “Sure would. I'd like to have some short ribs with it too.”
“Want in one hand, spit in the other, see which gets filled first,” I replied.
“You want me to spit in your hand?”
As Evelyn grinned cheekily, I just kept walking.
We had a few quick errands, but one took me to the Georgia Hill Library. This is just one of about three dozen libraries in the Atlanta-Fulton library system. I’d hit most, if not all of them during my various and sundry research times. I liked the open glass front this one had from a recent expansion, but I was here today because they had a book that I needed.
We had some time so we browsed for a bit. Evelyn went to the books on CD section, and I hit first the history and then the magic section, looking for what they had on metaphysics. A lot of what was there wasn't real, but sometimes I found gems. To be honest, history was much the same. I'd picked out three books, and made my way over to the books on CDs.
“You find anything?”
“These two,” Evelyn replied excitedly, zipping back and forth between two selections.
I examined them both, adding them to my pile. They were both what I considered to be trashy romances. Evelyn adored them. Since they were on CD, I could just turn them on and hear nothing, and she’d lap them up like a cat with a bowl of cream. It worked out perfectly for both of us. Most of the librarians were now used to me getting them. Occasionally I got someone asking me if I could hear them, to which I’d reply, ‘No.’ I gave no further explanation, and Evelyn giggled while the librarian got me my CDs. It was easier to be the deaf girl getting CDs than explain being a necromancer to normal folks.
With our mutual loot, I headed to check out and to get the book I had reserved. A librarian I didn't know, which was unusual, stepped up to assist me. He was in his mid-forties with brown hair, glasses, and a beard. He had a decent paunch going on under his rugby shirt. I was digging through my wallet and pulled out my library card to hand to him. When my gaze met his, I stopped and stared. He was doing the same to me. It was clear why. He had a visible aura and he could see mine. His eyes drifted to the side, where he looked at Evelyn, and then he looked back at me again and nodded, taking my library card.
Blinking several times I said, “I have a book on reserve.”
He looked at my card and said, “Of course Miss Forester. I’ll get it for you.”
He paused, looking back at me and said, “Judd.” Then he left.
Looking at Evelyn I said, “Well he’s new.”
She nodded, clearly excited. She loved new. “What is he?”
I shrugged. “I have no idea. His aura, it’s around his eyes. I’ve never seen that before. I don’t know what his gift is. Any idea?”
“I haven’t the slightest,” Evelyn admitted. “Maybe Karen will know.”
“Good thing we’re headed back there in a bit.”
Judd headed back with my book, adding it to the pile and checking us out. He looked curiously at both me and Evelyn a few times, but neither commented nor asked any questions. I was hoping he worked here now, and wasn't just covering for someone. I had so many questions but needed to keep my professionalism and be respectful.
As I took my books and CDs I thanked him and then said, “See you around Judd?”
He nodded, then said, “See you around Cassie.” Then he nodded at Evelyn.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Cassie, he’s staying here and he nodded to me.”
“Why are you whispering?” I asked as she and I walked out.
“Because…” She thought about that for a minute. “Because it’s a library girl.”
“You do know no one but me can hear you, right?”
“It’s good manners. I have them.”
“Finally,” I said, a bit dramatically.
Evelyn and I made one more stop, which was uneventful, then headed back to Karen’s. We passed Pete who was still reading at the front, and waved to him, then headed into the back room. Karen was already there, emptying a box onto a shelf.
“Good timing ladies,” she said. “I just finished up a few minutes ago.”
“Ask her! Ask her about Judd!”
“Okay, okay. Karen, Evelyn and I met someone new at the library today. He had an aura that was visible around his eyes. Do you know what that means?” I asked.
“Around his eyes?” Karen tapped at her lips for a moment, then crooked a finger and signaled for us to follow her. She walked over to a bookshelf, selecting a book. She held her hand over it saying, “Aura around the eyes.” The book opened and the pages flipped by quickly, slowed, and then stopped. Karen put her finger on the page, read briefly, and then looked at us saying, “Bibiomaker.”
“Say that again,” I asked her. I was fairly certain I’d had a lip reading fail. It happened with new words, when people talked too fast, too slowly, had thin lips, mustaches, or if they laughed a lot. Actually, there were a lot of reasons that caused it. Not everyone could lip read, and I couldn’t lip read everyone even though I was really good. I’d read that the movies made it sound flawless. It wasn’t. It was maybe 30% accurate then a lot of guess work and context. It was much easier with people I knew well.
She handed me the book. It read, “A bibliomancer gains knowledge from books or other written material. Their aura appears around the eyes of the gifted individual.”
I read a little further, which offered no further insight on this gift, then went back and read to before that section, but it didn’t explain anything else relevant either. “That’s it?” I asked, handing her back the book.
Karen shrugged. “It’s a rare gift sugar. I’ve never met a bibliomancer before. Y’all said you met him at the library?”
I nodded. “He works there.”
“Well, that makes sense. He must like books something fierce. Did you talk to him about…?”
I shook my head.
“Understandable. I have your enchantments, but you’ll want to pick out some crystals to go with them.”
“Me! Me! Please, Cassie!”
I nodded to Evelyn and she jetted back toward the crystal bin as I said, “Pick out three of them.”
Karen and I caught up to Evelyn while she fished around in the box of crystals. When she found three she approved of, she handed them off to me and I gave them to Karen. Karen had attached each of the groupings of hair to silk cords, and put the crystals onto these. It was the hair itself that held the enchantment, but the crystal would be used as a focus as I wasn’t a spell caster and couldn’t focus the power myself. She bagged them all up into their original bags again, though now they had an additional marking in Karen’s hand. They read: Name, Home, Death. It was fairly straight forward, though I needed an explanation on how to use them.
I asked and she explained, “You’ll need something to attract the talisman, to draw its energy. If you’re searching for the name, I’d use a phone book.”
“I don't think he was listed, Karen.”
“No, but I expect someone with the same name was. Now I doubt this will give you his exact name, but you’ll get something. Just hold this over the phone book and start flipping pages. It will react when you hit the right letter. Slow down and flip slowly. You’ll see it circle in on the right section, the area where the name is.”
“Will it point out his name?”
She shook her head. “No sugar. It ain’t that clear. It will give you an area on the page, and that should help, but it could also be confusing. You see, his name could be William, but if he thinks of himself as a Billy, it will stop there. He could also think of himself by a nickname, like a Bubba, and circle around the B’s. This thing here works on energy, not drivers licenses. If it were clearer, the police would come here and save themselves some man hours every time they couldn’t get a person’s name.”
I nodded. That made sense. As it looked like this man was likely not in the DMV, had no property and no one would come looking for him, this looked like my best bet. “What about the other two?”
“Use a map,” she replied. “I'd start big and let it narrow down for you. Now again, it won't give you an address, but I reckon you'll get to a neighborhood. You'll want to start with a large map and then move your way down to smaller maps once these things point y’all in the right direction. Any questions?”
I gave her a hug. “No, these are great Karen. Thank you so much.”
“Well y’all are so welcome sugar. It’s so nice to see you and Evelyn. You both should drop by more, come on up for some sweet tea. I know Sebastian misses Evelyn.”
“Can we?” Evelyn asked brightly.
“Not today,” I replied, “but we’d love that. We don’t see you or Sebastian enough Karen. I’ll e-mail you.”
“You do that sugar.”
Karen hugged me goodbye, saying goodbye to Evelyn also. I passed along Evelyn's goodbye and her best wishes to Sebastian. Evelyn and I headed out, on our way home to see the folks, have supper, and for me to work on my paper for school more before bedtime. I thought about e-mailing Detective Simpson about the enchantments, but magic wasn't much of an area of interest for him. Most people were skeptical. I decided to just do my usual routine tomorrow and use the enchantments, then share what I knew with the detective.
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.
It was Friday, and I hit the gym, same as usual. I had two classes that day, both interesting to me, but likely not to most folks. I had a late lunch planned with Tina, who's one of my best friends. Outside of Evelyn, and maybe Katlyn, she was my best friend. Tina was my best friend in the Deaf community. I didn't like trying to put people in this ‘best friend' bucket. I mean if I had to do it, Evelyn was my best friend. She understood me and she and I spent the most time together. We didn't have any secrets. Tina was awesome, though. She and I clicked on another level. I actually worked hard to keep Tina and Evelyn separate, which kind of rubbed Evelyn the wrong way. It wasn't that Tina didn't know about Evelyn, or that there'd been an issue the one time they'd met. It was just nice to have a friend that had no part in the supernatural portion of my life.
We met at a place that had a buffet that included multiple types of pizza and salad. Pizza is the go-to food for the Deaf community, near as I can tell. You can eat it with one hand and talk with the other. It’s the perfect food. Plus it’s pizza. What’s not to like about pizza? I got there before Tina, sending her a text that I’d arrived and had grabbed us a seat. Our standard rule was that whoever arrived first texted the other one. Within a few minutes, Tina arrived.
Tina is several inches shorter than me and cute, a fact of which she is well aware as are most men when she walks by. I don’t mean this as a slam on her. The girl just has confidence and that’s a great trait, but not one I share apparently. Her skin is a medium brown and her nose turns up at the end in an adorable way. She has full lips, and her black curls hang loosely to her shoulders, with a part on one side. She’s rather petite, smaller than me in every dimension, but there is a whole lot of personality in that little body.
Smiling, I stood at her approach and we hugged. It was so good to see her. I’d missed her. It always felt like it had been much too long since I’d seen her, but when we caught up it felt like no time had passed. That was the type of friends we were.
“Missed you girl,” she signed.
Like most Deaf people, Tina didn’t lip read, so we’d sign our whole conversation. Lip reading wasn’t all that easy. A lot of folks just couldn’t do it. I could. I just had a knack for it. No matter how much others tried, it didn’t work for them. For most in the Deaf community, signing was their only option.
“Missed you too,” I signed back. “I got you a tea.
“Thanks. Let’s grab food.”
We both got a plate of food, then returned to our seats.
“So what have you been up to?” Tina asked.
“Work, school, nothing exciting. How about you?” I asked.
“I met a new guy. His name is Ed,” she replied.
I smiled but didn't respond. Tina always had met a new guy. I wouldn't say she went through guys, but she certainly had a way with them. As much of an introvert as I was, Tina was an extrovert. She was social, had tons of friends, went to lots of parties, and dated a lot. Still, she never seemed to settle down. She was only two years older than me, just twenty-six, so there was no hurry for her to do so no matter what her mom said. Tina just seemed to have too much to do, to do it with any one person.
While Tina went on about how cute the guy was, what he did for work, where they’d gone on their three dates, I nodded and smiled. It all seemed so easy for her. I marveled at it. I didn’t understand how she did it. I reckon we all had our skills. Mine was talking to the dead and exorcising them if need be. Hers was making out with cute guys. As always, I wished we could trade. It felt like a raw deal to me.
“Want to see a picture of him?” She asked.
“Well sure,” I replied.
She pulled her phone out of her pocketbook, opening it to photos, and showed me a picture of him. He was a white boy, but tan and brunette. He stood more than a head over Tina in the photo, and his shoulders showed on either side of her. They both smiled as he wrapped his arms around her from behind. It was a great picture.
I handed the phone back signing, “Great picture. He’s cute. You two look great together.”
“Right? I like this one.”
“You like all of them.”
She smiled, nodding in agreement. “That’s true. We’ll see what happens. It’s early. Maybe I’ll keep him. Maybe I’ll throw him back. You dating anyone?”
I shook my head.
“I’m busy,” I replied.
“You should be busy getting busy. What happened to…you dated some redheaded guy. What was his name?”
“Jed,” I replied. “We went on one date. It didn’t go anywhere.”
“Why not? He was cute.”
“Well, what happened?”
“Me I reckon.”
Scrunching up her face, Tina replied, “Don’t be like that. Hey, Ed has a friend. We should double date.”
I shook my head vehemently.
She nodded in response. “I’m texting Ed right now, sending him a picture of you to send to his friend. This will be great.”
“No don't…" But she was already texting. I just sighed, then took a bite of my pizza. Tina was headstrong and fearless, a bit like a force of nature, and I'd been caught up in her weather pattern yet again. All I could do was weather it out, then hope to find someplace to hole up until this latest front moved on. Maybe I'd be lucky and Ed's friend wouldn't like me. I smiled, strengthened by that, though.
Tina smiled too as she looked up at me. “Ed is with his friend now and they both think you’re cute. Robin, that’s the friend, he wants to know if you’re free tonight.”
Damn it! “No, I have plans.”
“What about tomorrow night?”
“Supper with my folks,” I replied happily.
I hesitated too long.
“I’ll tell them we can do lunch on Sunday. This will be great!”
While Tina texted happily, I sipped my tea and worried. This would be a disaster. I had a date, a double date, which was even worse. Usually, only one person saw me make a fool of myself on a date, and he'd never text or e-mail me again. Now I had witnesses, one of which I saw regularly, to how awful I was when dating. I'd have to hear about my idiocy forever, or at least for the rest of my life. I could only hope the afterlife would be more forgiving.
When I went home I opened up my laptop to check e-mails while telling Evelyn all about my awful news, about the date Tina had set up with her guy’s friend.
“What’s his name?” Evelyn asked.
“Robert…no Reggie…no…I don’t know. It definitely started with an R though, or at least a consonant.”
“Well that narrows it down to Twenty-one letters, and sometimes not Y,” she replied.
‘And sometimes not Y,’ I mouthed silently as I checked my e-mails.
“I can hear you,” she said.
‘Dang it,’ I said silently.
“Heard that too.”
Spinning in my desk chair, I raised and dropped my arms in exasperation. “Well dang! How do y’all keep absolutely silent? Wait, could you really hear me, or are y’all just messing with me?”
Evelyn just grinned smugly. “So what does consonant name boy look like?”
“I don't know,” I replied eyeing her with suspicion. “It doesn't matter, though. The date will be a disaster, and I'll never see him again.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I’ll be there. I may make a mess of dating, but at least I’m consistent. Consistency is a virtue, isn’t it?”
“Not when you're a screw-up,” Evelyn pointed out. “Maybe he'll be into history.”
“You think?” I asked, perking up.
“Might be. Did you ask Tina what the boy liked?”
I shook my head.
“Well, what did y’all ask her about him?”
“Nothing,” I admitted.
Pointing at the computer, Evelyn said, “Send an e-mail to Tina. Ask for a picture of the boy and find out what he likes. If it’s a sports team, do some research on it. Whatever he likes, do some research. Treat this like a case, or a school project, and do your homework.”
“But shouldn’t we just have things in common?” I protested.
“Yes, and different things like body parts, those are important too. You can’t just expect to meet someone who shares your likes, your passions, and get along like Flynn. Relationships shouldn’t be work, but they take work. You willing to do the work girl?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t even met him.”
“Well even if he’s Mister Wrong he’s good practice for Mister Right. Now go do your homework,” she said pointing to the computer again.
I nodded, typing up an e-mail to Tina while Evelyn critiqued it. Some of her suggestions I outright refused. Of the two of us, Evelyn was much more risqué than I. It was odd because ghosts lacked sexuality. They had emotion, were largely emotion, but without bodies, they lacked the desires that went along with them. Still, they seemed to delight in the things that were so basic to us living folks, in seeing us not just be alive, but live.
I did reading for school until I had to get ready for my plans with Katlyn. Evelyn helped me pick out my outfit for the evening. I ended up wearing a red dress with black polka dots. It had a halter top and a flared skirt. The shape was an A-line silhouette. It came with a black belt that was about two inches thick and tied in a big bow in the back, much the same as the halter top did. I paired it with black flats and a black sweater. It came up high enough that it covered my ample bosom, but also accented it nicely.
“You think this looks all right?” I asked Evelyn as I examined myself in the mirror.
“I think Katlyn will like it,” she replied.
“She’s not really much of a clothes horse. She’s sweet, always very complimentary of my clothes, but she’s really much more of a slacks and button up shirt kind of gal herself. I don’t think she cares much about clothes. She’s just being nice to me.”
“Oh, I think she cares what you wear.”
“Why would you say that?” I asked as I turned to face Evelyn.
She smiled. “Just have a nice night with your friend. I like Katlyn.”
“So do I.”
“I know you do darling. Goodnight.”
I smiled, waving goodbye. We had relatively early supper plans, and I was happy to see we’d be eating on the patio. So long as the weather was agreeable, they were the best seats in the house. There were no bad seats in the house to be fair, and no bad food in my experience. Dolce Italian was one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta, though I didn’t eat here all that often. It was respect for my waistline and the treadmill that kept me at bay.
Katlyn was already here when I arrived, and she'd texted me to tell me she was waiting on the patio. She rose, greeting me with a smile. She wore khaki slacks and a blue button up shirt, her hair in its ever present ponytail. As I drew closer her smile grew. I stepped close and we hugged. She kissed me on the cheek and I kissed hers in return.
As I stepped back she signed, “You look amazing. Is that a new dress?”
“No,” I signed back. “Haven’t you seen this before?”
“Absolutely not. I’d remember.” She pulled out my chair, waiting till I looked at her to sign, “Sit down. I bet you’re hungry.”
“For this place?” I nodded.
Katlyn smiled brightly. “Then sit.”
I reached for the chair and she grabbed my hand, surprising me.
When I looked back up at her she signed, “I’ve got this darling. Sit down.”
“You’re sweet,” I replied, then slid into the chair as she pushed it forward. When she sat across from me I signed, “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
“I just got here, though your company is worth the wait. How was school today?”
“Pretty good. I got my paper back on the French and Indian war.”
“And?” She waited.
“A+” I signed proudly.
“That’s my girl. Smart and beautiful.”
Squinting at her and smirking I signed, “You sound like my mom. Are you trying to marry me off to someone too?”
She looked shocked, her upper body moving backward as if I had given her a physical push. “Well, I don't want to sound like your mom. Who is she trying to fix you up with?”
“Anyone, everyone. So long as they can give her grandbabies they’ll do. Any port in a storm I suppose. No one even asks me if I want kids.”
Her face took on a rather serious hue as she leaned forward and asked, “Well, do you?”
“Do I what?”
“Do you want kids?”
I gave that some thought. Necromancy was hereditary. My form of deafness was also hereditary. That didn't give me pause, though. Raising a deaf child, that didn't concern me. The Deaf world wasn't bad, just different. Being a necromancer, though, that was a hard life. I couldn't rightly say that I wanted to bring in a child like me to this world. Growing up was hard enough without growing up with the dead. I loved Evelyn, loved her with my whole heart, but I didn't remember a time without death in my life. Since I was seven I'd been experiencing the deaths of others. Being alive was hard for me when I'd had so much practice being dead.
Exhaling slowly I signed, “I love kids. I think my parents are great parents and would be amazing grandparents. I want that for them. One day, when I’m older and a bit more settled, I could be a good parent to someone. I have a lot of love to give and a lot to teach a child. I have my parents to thank for that. The idea of passing along other traits, my gift as a necromancer, can’t say I’m anxious to roll the dice there. Maybe I’m just not up for that challenge.”
Katlyn was nodding as I explained, taking it all in. When I stopped signing she just watched me for a few moments then asked, “Have you thought about adopting?”
“Not really,” I admitted.
“Think about it, I mean if it would work for you. You’re young, so no rush, no matter what your mom thinks. It’s just children, and grandchildren for her, without fear of them being necromancers.”
I smiled. “I should come to you with all my problems. You’re a problem solver.” I saw a waitress circling and added, “We should figure out what we’re eating.”
“I know what I’m eating. Want me to tell you what you’re eating, solve that problem for you?” She winked.
“I’ll solve this one myself,” I replied, then grabbed my menu and snapped it open.
I already knew my food selection would involve pasta and sauce, likely lots of cheese. The only question was what kind. The options were numerous. I ended up with a seafood linguini and Katlyn got the twelve-ounce New York strip steak. No matter where we went, she was a meat and potatoes kind of girl, something I point out and about which I harassed her.
As the waitress walked away I began my usual picking on her. “Way to mix it up, Katlyn.”
She shrugged. “I’m known for my spontaneity. Did you notice the beer?”
“Light beer. Good thing I was sitting down.” I smiled. “If your dessert is cheesecake, I might pass out.”
“Should I have paramedics on standby?”
“Just let them know you are the police and they don’t need to call 911.”
“Actually, I do like to deliver some surprises.” She reached behind her, pulling something small out of the pocket of her coat that hung on her chair. It was a box, about two inches around and wrapped in silver paper. “Happy Birthday girl.”
“Seriously? You didn’t have to get me anything. Just spending time with you is a gift.”
“Well open it.”
I smiled, feeling a bit shy and unprepared. I always felt awkward when people got me gifts. I worried I wouldn't be grateful enough. I didn't want for much in life and wasn't the kind of person who loved getting gifts. Others always seemed much better at receiving gifts than I felt I was, and that made me feel uncomfortable…the spiral continued from there.
It was a jewelry box and inside was a necklace. It had a circle made of interwoven pieces of gold, looking like pieces of a tree branch. In the middle three of those pieces came in, and from each one of them, three little pearls erupted, so nine small pearls in all. It was dainty but strong and natural looking.
“Darling, this is beautiful,” I said, still holding the necklace.
“Well so are you,” she signed back. “Pearl is your birthstone.”
I nodded, feeling a bit awkward, but honestly touched.
“Y’all shouldn’t have gone and spent your hard earned money like this.”
“I have a cousin who owns a jewelry store. I get it wholesale. Don’t worry,” she replied. “Can I help put it on you?”
She walked around behind me, taking the necklace as I moved my hair out of the way. She put the necklace on me, then took her seat again smiling. When she picked up her phone, obviously asking to take a picture, I made a face, but she just held up her phone, persisting. Finally, I nodded and smiled, so she snapped a photo, likely more than one so she could get one to turn out decent. Less than a minute later I got a text with a photo and there I was, smiling and looking happy, wearing my new necklace. It did look great. The length even went well with the neckline of the dress. I was glad I hadn't worn a necklace tonight.
Katlyn and I chit-chatted for a while until food arrived, then got quieter during supper. Food that takes a knife and fork will do that, plus this was really good food. Really good food will always do that. We’d both look up and smile at each other, share a quick hand sign, then get back to the business of clearing our plate. Girls understand the priority that is a good meal.
We'd pretty much finished food, and I was nursing a glass of wine when conversation started up again.
“So what else is new in your life?” Katlyn asked.
“Nothing…well, I've got a date, unfortunately,” I admitted.
I nodded. “My friend Tina set me up with the friend of some guy she’s dating. I haven’t even met him, don’t know his name or anything about him. It’s going to be a disaster.”
“How do you know that if you don’t know anything about him?”
“Statistics. I have a perfect record when it comes to dating. They're all disasters. I have never, I repeat never, had a successful date with a man.” I dropped one hand to the table and with my other hand, I played with the necklace she'd given me. It truly was charming.
“Maybe that’s because you shouldn’t be dating men,” Katlyn said, her hand reaching across and covering mine where it lay on the table.
I nodded in agreement. Somebody finally got it. I was a dating disaster. As her hand stayed on mine, her thumb curling under my hand and tracing little circles on my palm, I tilted my head to the side. Katlyn sat smiling, waiting, looking expectantly at me. The way she looked at me, touched me, even the atmosphere seemed odd. It was almost as if…!!! Well paint me green and call me a cucumber! Katlyn’s gay.
Every muscle in my body tensed, even a few I hadn't had much use for yet, and I inhaled sharply. As my panic grew, I was trying to decide on what asinine plan I'd use to extract myself from my latest idiotic situation I'd gotten myself into. My first thought was to shout, ‘Look Elvis!' What stopped me was realizing only I could see Elvis' ghost were he actually here. Well, that and it felt cheap to use Elvis in that manner. He deserved better.
Just then I felt a vibration directing my attention to where my cellphone lay on the table. It was Detective Simpson sending me what had to be the three most beautiful words in the human language: Murder site located.
Pulling back my hand I grabbed my phone from the table, looking at Katlyn and saying, “Goodness, they found the site of the murders. I need to go.”
“Oh, of course,” Katlyn replied.
I looked around for our waitress. “I just need to pay for my—”
Touching my hand again, Katlyn said, “Oh, hell no girl. I asked you out tonight. This here is my treat.”
My mouth went dry at the phrase ‘asked you out’, that and the realization that it wasn’t the first time she’d used it. I think I’d used it in turn after seeing her use it more than one. It had just become part of our shared vocabulary.
Smiling weakly, I nodded as I stood, tossing my pocketbook over my shoulder and dropping my phone into it. Katlyn stood also, smiling broadly as she hugged me. She kissed my cheek and I awkwardly returned the kiss. How many times had we done that and it had felt so natural? Ugh! I was such an idiot!
I made record time to my car, locking myself in against I didn’t know what. The only thing I had to protect myself against was my own ignorance, and that followed me everywhere. I sat in the car for about a minute, head thrown back and eyes rolled up, wondering how I’d ended up in that situation. Had I really been out on a date with Katlyn? Had I been out on several dates with Katlyn?
Grabbing my phone from my pocketbook I texted back Detective Simpson, asking for an address. Within a minute he responded with a location.
My brow furrowed as I read: North Camp Creek Parkway Nature Preserve
Okay, well that was within the arc that had been created by the pendant that showed the kill area, but it wasn’t residential. I smiled slightly, even after my awkward parting with Katlyn. This meant one of my neighbors wasn’t a murder…maybe…probably, I was going with probably. I needed some positive thoughts right now. It took me about twenty minutes to get to the nature preserve, and then I had to stop and text the detective for better directions. It’s just over forty acres of public park in the southwest part of Atlanta. It’s not huge, but I’ve been through there before helping to look for lost trail hikers, or just walking.
I took the entrance from North Camp Creek Parkway Southwest, which was off the north side, as directed by the detective. There was a main dirt road that cut south through the park. About half way along that I saw the police lights. That wasn't the end of the journey, though. I looped my lanyard with my police consultant ID around my neck and approached the nearest officer who directed me to travel east about a quarter mile. He said there were more officers that way and things were set up out there. I was glad I’d worn flats.
I pulled the flashlight out of my pocketbook. There's a reason I keep one in this thing. I could use the app on my phone, but I don't like to waste the battery life. I also sometimes need to use a flashlight and a cellphone at the same time. After several minutes of walking, I saw more blue lights ahead marking the police. There was plenty of yellow tape too. I got close and held up my ID to the officer there who held up the tape for me to step under. There was a big fire pit in the middle of an open area, some stone slabs, and two picnic tables that had been turned on their end so they were taller.
Detective Simpson approached me, saying something, but all I got was, “Wow...amazing…walked…someone…darling.” Plus a whole lot of gobbledygook that didn’t look like words. He smiled at me amid the tree cover that obscured even the moonlight and the flashing blue lights providing confusing imagery.
I shook my head at him saying, “I’m sorry Detective, I didn’t get that.”
I waved my hands at him. “Detective, the light is a mess out here. Afraid I can’t understand you.”
That I got.
Nodding, he pulled out his cellphone, holding it up to me, then started to text.
I pulled my phone from my pocketbook, smiling at a text that read: Did you walk here from the road? I could have sent a jeep.
I started to text back, but he touched my hand, then pointed to his ear. I smiled again, but this time at myself.
“Of course, y’all can hear me just fine. I did walk. It was just fine, but thank you Detective. So this is it? Is it secure? May I…?”
He nodded, then texted me: Using the area you provided, and what forensics had on the body for particulates, they came up with this for a location. We had dogs out today searching the area, and this is where the scent took them. Thanks.
“Thank you for trusting me on the enchantment. I’ll take a look around if there isn’t anything else.”
His fingers mashed the buttons of his phone and I read: Just that you look amazing darling. You should dress up more often for work.
“Oh.” Head shaking I said, “No, I was out with Katlyn and…” Even as I said it, that incredibly awkward feeling I had earlier came back. It must have shown on my face because he looked just as awkward. After several seconds of us staring at each other with discomfort, I said, “Excuse me.”
I began to walk through the area, avoiding anything that was taped off or had a little flag. I steered clear of the techs. Right now I was just getting a feel for the place's energy. There were spots that stuck out, resonated if you will, differently than others. Nothing was a hot spot. That means there were no ghosts left behind. That was good for the murder victims because they'd been able to resolve their lives, and deaths, and move on. It was bad for us because we didn't have a witness. A ghost could literally tell me who did it, when, how, if it were in the library with a candlestick…you get the idea. They tended to be very motivated to solve their own murders. Surprisingly, most murder cases did not involve a ghost. I'd have to look back at the math, but it was less than five percent, closer to two percent, that did. That number was likely greater counting ghosts that latched onto their murderers to haunt them, but those passed on quickly without the help of a necromancer. As far as we knew a person couldn’t be a hotspot. Only necromancers could hold ghosts, and not indefinitely.
After I’d finished reconnoitering the area, I returned to Detective Simpson with my findings. “Well, there is definitely a lot of negative energy here Detective. That there picnic table, that one has my attention. I’d like to examine it. Y’all think you can arrange that without starting World War III with CSI?”
He smiled, pulling out his phone, and I received a text that said: “Darling, for you I’d wage WWIII with CSI.”
I looked up at him briefly, then back at the phone. When I looked at him again the detective was just smiling, so I nodded. That message was confusing. Was it flirty? It could have been the kind of thing you'd say to a professional, a partner, telling them you had their back. That was likely it. Between Evelyn's latest obsession with the detective here and my error with Katlyn, I was seeing hoof prints and thinking zebra instead of horse. I was being irrational. I watched the nice detective standing with his arms crossed, nodding defiantly to the CSI tech. As he shook his head and pointed forcefully at the ground, the tech turned and walked away. The war was over, Detective Simpson victorious and smiling at me. Yes, he'd fought for our mutual professional victory. There was no zebra.
When the detective signaled me toward him with one hand, I moved closer. He pointed to a few flags on the ground that marked evidence. I nodded, well aware of them already. There were markers on the picnic table also. I knew why. Someone had been killed here, more than one someone I thought. Using my flashlight again I shed some light on the back of the picnic table. There were eye bolts, thick and strong, screwed into it from behind. There were four, two near the top and two near the bottom of the length of the table. It seemed to me they’d work just fine if someone wanted to tie someone down and put the rope through here. I hadn’t examined the bodies, but Detective Simpson had mentioned ligature marks on the prior bodies found, even though the part of the report I read didn’t include that.
A hand touched my shoulder and I turned to see Detective Simpson with a concerned look on his face. He just stood there, staring at me. I reckon I’d been staring myself, staring and thinking, and that got him to worrying.
“I’m fine. Just getting a feel for the place Detective. I’m going to open myself up to the energy now.”
I put away the flashlight, extending my hands and lowering my shields. Oh yes, this was the spot. I could feel it, feel the fear, the exhilaration, the humiliation, the pleasure, there was pain, and from that pleasure. This was strong, not recent, and it was layered. I could feel four, no five, different tiers of it here, the last so slight as to be almost non-existent. There could have even been something below that which was too faint for me to pick out. I let the top layer of energy wash over me, go through me, until it ended with a release of pure joy and pleasure.
Sliding my hand up and down, I felt material, suddenly aware that I was touching Detective Simpson’s chest. Turning, I looked up into his dark, brown eyes. I was breathing hard, trying to expel the last of the excitement from the killers. My mouth was agape as their energy escaped me and I leaned into him.
“They were excited, feeling a release of pleasure at the kill,” I said, almost breathing the words as I stared up at him and licked my lips.
He said nothing, just looked wide-eyed back at me, then blinked several times. After a few seconds of mutual staring, he pulled his phone from his pocket. He fumbled with it, almost dropping it, but juggled it a bit and managed to keep it in hand. Mashing the buttons he managed to send me a message.
Looking at my phone it read: “The killers, did they do this for sexual pleasure?”
I took a moment to consider that question, then met his gaze again and said, “I’m not sure I can answer that with great accuracy. If you can find an empath willing to examine a murder scene, you’d have your answer. If I were to hazard a guess, and again this would just be a guess, I’d say this were done for carnal reasons.”
He nodded, pulling out his pad and making some notes. Looking around I saw the CSI folks were giving me no mind. That was a nice change. I thought about what else I learned. There were two more things, one to tell the detective, and one a follow-up.
“Detective Simpson?” As he looked up from his writing I said, “I could feel both killers here, and more than one murder. The murders were layered, the deaths fainter as they became older. What y’all need to know is that I felt at least five layers of death here, and there could have been more.”
He said something, but I didn’t catch it.
"I assume you're asking me if there are more bodies we haven't found. The answer to that is yes, at least two and possibly more. It's not good news, I know. It's the truth, though. There's one more thing. There's a trail of energy going off in that direction." I pointed toward the east, further into the woods.
The detective and I moved off into the woods, me with my trusty flashlight in hand again. More lights came on and I looked to my side, seeing two officers had joined us, likely at Detective Simpson's request. I followed the energy, feeling a sense of excitement, a sense of importance in this direction. We went out maybe two hundred feet to an area that looked no different than any other. I looked around, not seeing anything that stood out to me. Still, I was certain this was the place.
“Here,” I said. “This here spot matters to the kills. Something important happens here.”
Detective Simpson pointed down.
I nodded. “It's here. It's right…” I took just a few steps, trying to narrow it down any further, and settling on a spot maybe a foot across in one direction and a bit less than that in another. It had a rather large, flat stone over it. “Smack dab here. Something about this here spot matters. I can't say why, but I'd bet the farm on it.”
A hand on my shoulder, the detective turned away. He motioned to one of the officers who came and stood by me. Then he pointed, likely speaking to the other, who nodded and headed back the way we’d come. No one was running. It was dark and hurrying led to injuries. Detective Simpson motioned with his head, putting his hand on my shoulder onto the square of my back as he led me toward the main area again. We got there and he led me to one of the jeeps, opening the door and gesturing for me to enter. When I did he got in through the driver’s side, then started it, fiddling with the radio for a moment and turned on the interior light.
“Oh.” I smiled, finally able to see his face better. “Well, that's a sight better.”
“Can you understand me okay now?”
“So much better. Thank you, Detective.”
“I turned on the radio, just to give us a bit of privacy. Some of the folks around here are worse than old women,” he explained. “Do you need more time with the site? I’m happy to chase the techs off as much as you want darling. Y’all just say the word.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think there’s much more for me to get here. The first twenty-four hours are the most important for my work, and we’re well outside of that. I’m happy to stay in case there’s anything else all y’all want me to examine for you. For now, though, I don't think there's much more I can tell you."
“You already told us so much. This lead was…” He nodded. “I don’t know how long it would have taken us to find this place, or if we would have, without you. Now we know there are at least two other victims too. I need to get that added to my report. Can’t thank you enough for your help.”
“Just doing my job Detective.”
“No, you…” He looked down at his hands, several curious expressions crossing over his face. I didn't know what to make of it all. When he lifted his eyes again, the topic had changed. “I apologize for interrupting your evening, especially it being your birthday celebration and all. You're a lovely girl Cassie, but tonight you're a sight to behold. I knew you had plans, but it done slip my mind soon as we found this place. I feel like a heel interrupting your night out. Are you mad at me?”
“I dragged you out into the woods, to feel whatever you have to feel when people been murdered, when you should have been having a nice dinner for your birthday. My timing was off, to say the least.”
I leaned slightly forward, a very serious expression on my face, and asked, “Detective, did you kill those men?”
“No ma’am,” he replied, just as seriously.
“Well then, I shall not be vexed with you. No Detective, I’m not upset. This is the job, and it is a priority. Taking care of the dead is important.” He opened his mouth, looking like he wanted to say something but I continued, “Anyway, you likely did me a favor tonight Detective. The train was going off the tracks, as is usual for me. Your timing was actually perfect.”
I nodded. “Me, as usual.”
“That don’t sound right.”
“That’s because you don’t know me. I’ve gone and made a mess of things again. I’m not looking forward to fixing this one.”
Reaching across, the detective squeezed my hand. “Whatever it is, I’m sure you can straighten it out.”
I closed my eyes for three breaths at his choice of words. “This time I don't think so. Thank you though, Detective. If there's nothing else, I'll get going.”
He pointed behind me and I turned, seeing one of the officers standing at my window. I clicked off the light in the car and we both stepped out. The officer explained something to Detective Simpson, and I waited. The detective looked excited, turning to me and gesturing for me to hurry after him. We all made our way back toward the main site area. Laid out on a plastic sheet was an open box. Next to it was a knife, sharp and unpleasant looking. Even in the bad lighting, it was clear that it had blood on it. One of the techs opened a black trash bag and dumped the contents on the sheet. Inside it was rope.
I licked my lips, feeling my pulse quicken. I was still a good dozen feet away, but I was certain these had been used on the men while they were being tortured, murdered. I stepped closer, catching the ugly look from the techs, but ignoring it. I used power to walk above the tarp, not touching any of the evidence. Kneeling several inches above everything I lowered my shields, letting the power of the artifacts rise over me and fill me. It was awful and wonderful at the same time. It took what I thought I needed, shutting it down as quickly as I could and walking away.
When I felt hands on my shoulders I didn't turn. I knew who it would be. Detective Simpson was a worrier, and a good man, but right now I needed some distance. He persisted, though, stepping around in front of me and placing a hand on my face, lifting my face so that I looked at him.
“That knife will be missed,” I said. “The rope not as much, but the knife is special. For one of them, it's been around a whole mess of years. Do you remember what I said earlier about bringing an empath in here?”
I put my hand on his chest, sliding it up and down once, then pulling it back by force of will. “Don’t do that. I only had a taste of their…type of excitement. An empath would be more greatly affected than I am. No one should have to experience this. It’s disturbing. If y’all won't be needing me anymore tonight Detective, I'd like to go home and take a shower.”
The detective drove me back to my car without conversation. From there it was a very quick drive home. I suppose that was the advantage to having murder practically in your own backyard. When I got home Evelyn was waiting for me in my room.
“How was supper at Dolce Italian? Did you bring dessert home in a doggy bag?” She asked.
I shook my head. “I got called to a crime scene and left before dessert. We found where they've been killing those men. It looks like there are more bodies out there that we haven't found yet. We did find the murder weapon, though.”
“Oh, well bad and good I reckon. So…I’m hearing you say you didn’t have dessert.”
Dropping my shoes in my closet, I flopped onto the bed, ignoring Evelyn’s less than subtle hints for dessert. “Evelyn, I have a problem.”
“What's wrong, girl?”
“It’s Katlyn. You see tonight…I think tonight was supposed to be a date.”
I sat up, staring at Evelyn with a combination of shock and surprise. “What does that mean? You knew?”
“Sure enough. Been telling you about it for near on a year, but you don’t listen. To hear you tell it no one finds you attractive, and barely anyone wants to be your friend, so what do I know. So about that dessert—”
“Wait! You knew that Katlyn was gay and was interested in me and you let me get dressed up and go out with her anyway!?”
“Girl, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. In this, you’re a horse’s ass.” Evelyn floated around to my side, hovering next to me as she asked, “Darling you have a nice time with Katlyn. You leave happy and come back happy. Everything in the middle there must be going right. The world has changed and fast from my day, and it keeps changing. That Katlyn, she's a pretty girl and a nice one. She does right by you. You sure you're not interested? You could do worse.”
I gave that a bit of thought. Katlyn was nice and sweet. I did feel more comfortable with her than when I went out with men. It didn't feel like a date, though. It felt like two friends hanging out because, for me, that's what it was. Katlyn was attractive, but I wasn't attracted to her.
“I’m sure,” I finally said. “I like Katlyn, but not in that way. I just…no.”
“Well okay then. Cross off half the population you need to be an awkward mess about. That’s progress right?”
I stuck out my tongue at her.
“So about dessert…”
“What am I going to do about Katlyn?” I asked, ignoring the eternal question on dessert.
“You tell her the truth girl. You tell her you value her friendship, but that’s all it will be for you. Friendship is amazing, take it from me. She’ll understand.”
Biting my lower lip I stood and asked, “What does my mom have for dessert in this place?”
“Now you’re talking girl! Let’s go raid the kitchen.”