“I shouldn’t have slept with my brother’s wife, but was that really a reason to kill me?” The spirit’s disgruntled voice echoed in my aching head.
“Not now.” I glanced around uneasily, praying none of the other cops at the crime scene noticed me mumbling to myself. “Please, go away.”
“Go away?” The spirit sounded insulted. “But I need your help.”
“Shhh. I’m trying to work,” I whispered, following Thompson up the red brick path of a quaint blue house. It was charming with a small garden stuffed full of mustard gold and purple petunia and surrounded by a white picket fence. It looked like the kind of place where nothing bad ever happened.
The bloodied corpse of a woman on the porch steps shattered that notion.
The displaced spirit muttered, “One time. I slept with her one time. She was no angel. I mean, she came on to me!”
Pressing my fingers to my temples, I grumbled, “Be quiet.”
Thompson gave me an uneasy glance. “You okay?”
“Yes.” I sighed. “I just have a hitchhiker I need to get rid of.”
“Oh. Not related to this case?”
He gestured toward the crumpled body of the deceased woman. “Is she here yet?”
Gritting my teeth, I said, “No. Although, it would be hard to hear her with this other guy yammering at me.”
Thompson handed me a pair of nitrile gloves and some shoe coverings. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Not really.” I pulled on the gloves, my head throbbing. Clearing my throat, I softly addressed the frustrated spirit. “Listen, I… I can’t help you. I’m really sorry. Your brother is long gone. He can’t be prosecuted.”
“It wasn’t fair,” the spirit whined. “Not fair.”
“I agree, but it’s too late. I’d help you if I could, but I can’t.” Perspiration broke out on my face as his energy surged.
The spirit hissed, “So he just gets away with it? That’s not right.”
In a dull voice, I said, “Yes. It’s not fair. You’re right about that.”
“Then why won’t you help me?”
“Your brother is dead. What could we do at this point?” I blew out a shaky breath, trying to mentally shield myself from his spiteful energy. Some spirits had a gentle presence that was almost soothing, and some made you feel as if you were sticking your hand in a hot toaster. This guy was definitely a toaster type.
“There must be something you can do.”
“No. There just isn’t.” I swallowed hard, wincing at the tingling in my limbs. “The police can’t punish someone who’s dead. I’m sure you’re frustrated, and that’s why you’re lingering. If you’d let go of your anger, you’ll pass to the other side.”
“Maybe I don’t want to move on.”
“There’s no point in haunting this area. Everyone you know has crossed over. You should too.”
“You’d have helped me if you could?” he asked suspiciously, his blurry outline moving closer. “Do you really mean that?”
My skin pricked as he circled me. “Hmmm.”
“I have a job to do, and you’re distracting me.”
“Why is she more important than me?” He scowled, moving closer.
I shivered. “She isn’t, but we can punish whoever did this to her. Her killer is still alive.”
“So unfair,” he mumbled resentfully.
“Yes. It is.”
“I deserved justice too,” he whispered, but I felt his energy diminishing.
“I’m sorry.” Relief nudged me when I felt his angry spirit receding, fading away like a bad smell. Once he was gone, I leaned against a supporting column on the porch, wiping sweat from my brow. “Jesus, his energy was so aggressive.”
Thompson watched me, a line between his eyes. “If you’re going to pass out, warn me.”
That was all I needed—to pass out at a crime scene. A lot of the uniform cops already thought I was a joke. It wouldn’t help my rep much if I fainted like a Victorian lady with the vapors.
Thompson bent down over the woman’s body and slowly began searching through her clothing. “Looks like several stab wounds to the chest and abdomen.”
“Do we know her name?” I tried not to look too closely at the corpse. The sight of all that blood made my already churning stomach worse.
“Shelia Sebastian,” Tim, one of the forensic guys, said as he came out of the house. “You guys got here fast.” He held out a paper evidence bag. “Officer Hardy was the first on scene. He found this inside. Looks like it might be the murder weapon.”
Thompson took the bag from Tim and peeked inside. “I guess we’ll see.”
“Yep.” Tim nodded and slid his gaze to me. “You talk to her yet?”
I gave a weak smile. “I’m working on it.” It would only freak him out if I explained another spirit had been hounding me. Tim seemed cool with me, but he mostly kept his distance. I assumed he was creeped out by my “gift” like most of the guys.
Once he’d walked away, I closed my eyes and attempted to connect with the dead woman. “I’m here if you want to talk, Shelia.”
I blew out a shaky breath and tried to calm my racing mind. That other spirit had me agitated, and that made it difficult to attach to the other side. I focused on my breathing and tried to block out the sounds that surrounded the crime scene. The buzz of radios and the thwack of the shutter on the forensic tech’s camera faded into the background.
“Tell me who did this to you, Shelia.” I waited, relaxing my muscles and focusing on having a peaceful mindset. “I’m here. Talk to me, please.” Her presence came on slowly, slipping around me like water edging up the bank of a flooding river. Light flickered on the edge of my vision, and my chest squeezed. A cold chill permeated my body, and I opened my eyes, knowing she’d be there.
Sure enough, Shelia’s spirit was in front of me, her eyes wide and confused. She blinked at me. “You see me?”
I grimaced. “I… I just do.”
“Can you stop it? Is it too late?”
Not sure what she meant, I didn’t say anything. It was obviously too late to stop what had happened to her. Did she not know that yet? Was she referring to something else entirely?
“Find her,” she wailed. “Hurry! Hurry!” Her skin was translucent, showing every vein and artery she’d had in life.
“Who am I looking for?”
Gritting her teeth, she leaned toward me. Her eyes were dark and angry, and the scent of decay reached my nostrils. “No point in running.”
Another chill ran down my spine. Was that something the killer had said to her, or was she saying that to me? “Did you know the person who hurt you?”
“Someone had to protect them.”
“I… I don’t understand.”
“Just doing the right thing.” She cast her wild eyes around the area. “Didn’t do anything wrong. Why? Why? Why?”
“Can you describe the person who attacked you?” Frustration nipped at me, but I stamped it down. While it wasn’t their fault, newly murdered spirits were the hardest to communicate with. They were always in shock and unable to understand what had happened. Their thoughts pinged around like the little chrome balls inside a pinball machine, bouncing from one idea to another. “Do you have a physical description?”
“Description?” she echoed.
“Yes.” Elated she seemed to have latched on to something I’d said, I nodded eagerly. “What did they look like?”
She stared at me as if trying to understand.
“Can you give me their hair color? Eye color? Anything that stood out to you?”
She touched her mouth. “Rotted teeth.”
Shocked she’d actually answered, I asked, “What else?” I realized that just because she was talking didn’t mean she was telling me anything useful. It was possible she was describing her attacker, or maybe a movie she’d seen before her death. But she did appear to be talking to me, and that was something new.
“No hair,” she whispered.
Rotted teeth and no hair? Was that actually a person she’d met or a nightmare?
I shuddered. “Was he my height or taller?”
Her vacant eyes zeroed in on me, sending yet another shiver through me. “Shorter than you but bigger.”
“Bigger? Do you mean as in muscular?”
I felt almost giddy at her responses. I’d never been able to get actual answers to my questions in the past. It usually came out of the spirit’s mouths in a kind of riddle that I had to try and decipher. I was positive now that Shelia was responding directly to me.
“Do you know why he hurt you?” My voice wobbled, and the icy chill rippling through my body increased. She was a little too close, which sucked the energy from me. But I didn’t want to move away. I needed her to keep talking.
“Blamed me. Not my fault.”
“What did he blame you for?” I felt excited and breathless but also anxious because she was beginning to fade. “Quickly, tell me what he blamed you for.”
She started to cry. “Find her before he does. Hurry. Please, hurry.” She disappeared.
“Shit,” I growled, leaning against the porch column once more. A trickle of sweat streaked down my spine, and I felt shaky and drained. “She’s gone.”
“You should sit. You look very pale.” Thompson took hold of my arm, radiating concern.
I blew out a shaky breath and met his worried gaze. “I’m okay. Really.”
He didn’t argue, but he looked unconvinced. “You seemed to be having a conversation with her. Is that possibly true?”
I nodded. “It is. I mean, she actually talked to me. She was trying to answer my questions.”
“It is. I don’t know why she was able to focus, but she was.”
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