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.”