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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.  

 

Chapter 2

 

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?  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?”

“Nope.”

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.”

“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.

I nodded.

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?”

“Weird stuff.”

“It’s true.”

“Sure enough, but it’s weird.  You know I love you, right?”

I nodded.

“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.”

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