Advocate For The Dead Chapter 23: A Sort Of Showdown

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 23: A Sort Of Showdown

I don’t remember much about the race home, only the thoughts rushing through my head. If I hadn’t been sitting in a driver’s seat, I would have kicked myself in the ass for being so stupid. Summer had been leading me around blind, pretending to have lost her memory, feeding me just enough to lead me to her victims. But why? If she wanted to kill somebody, why not just do it? Why the ruse? Why string me along for the ride? Was her purpose to drive me mad? What had I ever done to her?     The answer to that was nothing. This wasn’t Summer. This was an illusion. Summer was an innocent face, a mask for something darker, vengeful. It didn’t take much to figure out who was wearing the mask.

I came screeching into the driveway and jumped out of the car. I needed my tools. This had gone beyond a simple case of a ghost. This was a malevolent specter, a possession of someone else’s spiritual form. I was going to have to perform an exorcism of sorts.

I slammed the front door behind me and raced to my bedroom. I flung open the closet door and reached up onto the top shelf. There hidden behind an old hat box, it sat. My mojo bag. A black satchel in which I kept the necessary tools for the most difficult of situations. I opened the drawstring and peered inside. Yes, everything was there. I tied the bag around my belt loop and dashed back out into the hall.

What else was I going to need? My mind raced trying to think. Maybe I better warn Deacon trouble was coming. Into the living room I went, straight to the phone. I picked it up and listened for the tone. I automatically began dialing his number.

“Come on, come on,” I whispered, impatiently waiting for it to connect. It began to ring on the other end. “Pick up Deacon, pick up.”

After five rings, the answering machine kicked in. “Shit,” I growled and slammed the phone down in its cradle. Deacon could already be in trouble; I had to get over there fast.

I spun around to head for the door and stopped where I was. Someone was in the doorway. Her dress was white lace and her long blonde hair lay across her shoulders as if she had been brushing it for hours. She smiled, and for a moment, the mask held. But I wasn’t being fooled any longer. This wasn’t Summer Dennings.

“Hello Dexter,” I said.

Her smile grew wider and she clapped her hands in slow mock applause. “Well, well, well. It’s about time, Cole. I thought I was going to have to just whisper it in your ear there for a minute. It’s amazing just how stupid you can be.”

“Why the masquerade? Why pretend to be someone else?”

“Now, now, you know if I had shown up at your door as Dexter Dean, where would the fun have been in that? It has been entertaining watching you torture yourself so. Oh poor Lacey, oh woe is me..” The figure pretended to dot her eyes with a handkerchief.

“Where is Summer?”

“How should I know? Maybe heaven. Maybe hell. She was a suicide, you know.”

“You made her jump.”

“She made that choice herself. I was offering her immortality. All I needed was her flesh. To get inside her.”

“To possess her?”

“I needed a flesh and blood body. A way to get at you. What better way than such a pretty young form as this.” She spun around, her dress billowing out at her sides. “But when she wouldn’t let me have her, when she jumped, I just had to settle myself with this. It’s amazing what one can do as a spirit.”

Her shape began to change, and Summer ‘s form seemed to change into an old man, then into a child, and finally into a shape that haunted my every night. Lacey.

“No,” I trembled. Had Dexter mastered the spirit form so much he had played at being my Lacey, too? Lacey and Summer had never been in the same place at the same time. Could every spirit I’d dealt with these days been The Kaleidoscope Killer?

Finally the shape changed again, this time into a tall man, broad of shoulder, a hulking mass of muscle and sinew. “There, this is better. It may not be quite as I was, but it will do, considering the circumstances.”

The face of Dexter Dean leered at me from a bodybuilder’s frame and I put my hand on my mojo bag protectively. He noticed the movement.

“Oh, and what is that, hero? Magic fairy dust?”

I reached into my bag and pulled out a piece of chalk. I dropped to one knee and drew a circle around me. The spirit threw back his head and laughed.

“Oh, that’s rich. Do you really think a circle is going to protect you from me now? I have been practicing a lot of things since I’ve been dead.”

He picked up a chair that sat in front of my computer desk. He physically lifted it as if he had form and held it over his head. “A little hatred can go a long way when you are dead,” he cackled and threw it at me.

There was no way to dodge the chair. It came at me too fast. I threw up my arm to block it but the force was strong enough to knock me off my feet and out of the circle.

“I might not have a physical body anymore thanks to you, but I can still hurt you!” He walked over to the front door and picked up my coat rack. He turned it upside down and shook everything off of it. He stalked towards me, the rack held out like a spear in which to gut me with.

I rolled over and got to my feet. I reached in my mojo bag, but I knew there was nothing there that could hurt him now. He had somehow managed to cross the line between living and dead. He had no physical form, but he could command physical objects.

Wham! The coat rack smashed into the side of my head and the room spun around me.

“You killed me, Cole. Shot me dead in the back. Like a coward!”

Wham! The top of the rack jabbed me in the gut and all the air was pushed out of me. I coughed and clutched my stomach. I was trying to come to my feet.

“You killed all those people,” I sputtered.

Slowly I stood up, while Dexter pranced around me, bouncing on the balls of his feet like a boxer. He swung the coat rack at my legs. Crack! My knees buckled and I went down. He was too fast, moving like the flash from a camera.

I tried scurrying away and this just made him gloat over me more. “It’s different when you’re on the other end of the stick, isn’t it?” I braced myself for the coat rack to come slamming down on my back as I tried to crawl away. But he was content to watch me trying to escape.

Finally, I got to my feet and ran. “Where do you think you’re going?” he called after me. I limped down the hallway trying to get to my bedroom. I had my other gun in there; maybe I could get to it before he caught up with me.

I stumbled into the room and fumbled with my dresser drawer. I finally pulled it open and there it was. I knew there was one bullet in the chamber. I had saved it for those desperate nights when I got to missing Lacey more than most.

I spun around and marched back out into the hallway, where Dexter stood, the coat rack still held like a weapon in his hand. I raised the gun and came right at him. I don’t even know what I was thinking. I knew the gun wouldn’t hurt him. Though he had command of physical objects, I knew they couldn’t hurt him back. But I was desperate.

“Oh please,” he snickered and swung the rack. It hit my wrist and the gun went flying out of my hand, spinning back down the hallway far out of reach. I clutched my wrist. It felt like he may have broke it. I was fighting back the painful tears.

Dexter turned around and went back into the living room, no longer concerned about me. He knew I was helpless. Just as he had been helpless when I gunned him down in a dark back alley.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly, feeling defeated. “I should have let justice take its course. I should have taken you back to jail. but you killed my..”

He reeled around. “Sorry? You’re sorry?” He threw the coat rack down in the middle of the floor. “Don’t be sorry, Cole. You killed me and made me a God!” He threw back his head and laughed madly.

I looked at him and suddenly knew real fear. I backed up. I knew this was it. The time had come; he was done with taunting me.

“And you know what the beautiful part is? There is nothing you can do to hurt me!”

From a corner of the room came a voice. “No, but I can.”

Dexter spun around at this new voice, and so did I. We were no longer the only ones in the room.

The figure shimmered and stepped towards us. “I will not allow you to hurt my husband,” Lacey said, an angry glint in her eye.

“You bitch, you can’t hurt me either! I am invincible!”

“Just like a man to think that,” she grinned slyly. “But I will be a lady and give you the choice to leave now. Leave this house, leave this plane.”

“Oh my, you are a tough one, aren’t you?” He laughed, as Lacey walked past him and went down the hall.

I was still clutching my wrist as she went by. “Lacey, what’s going on?”

She didn’t answer, but stopped at the gun that lay there in the floor. “Dexter, I see that you mastered the art of handling material objects.”

He quickly reached down and picked back up the coat rack. “Yes bitch, let me show you.”

“Well I have mastered something as well,” she replied. “In fact, I think I can do you one better.”

Dexter hesitated, suddenly unsure.

“I have learned to take material objects and make them immaterial.”

He sighed in relief and leered at her. “What’s the point in that?”

She reached down. “Because now I can take a solid object and bring it onto the spiritual plane.” She picked up the gun. At her touch it shimmered and gained a transparency. “And by bringing it on the spiritual plane, I can use it against anything there.”

She pointed the gun at Dexter, who suddenly realized he had made a mistake. He was starting to back up, looking around himself for anything to defend himself with.

“One bullet, husband?” Lacey asked me.

“Yes,” I answered.

“You don’t need it,” she stated matter-as-factly. I watched her finger pull the trigger. There was a muffled bang as if the shot were coming from a room far away. The bullet struck Dexter in his chest. He barely had time to register a look of shock before he went down. He clutched his hand to his chest, and though there was no blood to see, I swore it looked like a mist; a sort of ectoplasm was seeping from his chest.

“You haven’t beat me,” he snarled in my direction. “I will find a way to come back again and again until you are dead as she is.” He made a gesture of spitting to the ground at my feet.

“You’re not coming back,” I said, and reached into my bag. In my hand I held a piece of chalk with rune type markings up its side. I knelt down and drew a circle around Dexter’s fallen form.

“What are you doing?” he looked at me frantically.

“This is called a conjuring circle,” I told him.

“What are you conjuring?”

Completing the circle, I muttered the words I had committed to memory, yet never hoped to have to use. With each arcane word, Dexter trembled. He knew what was coming, and I could hear their growls and snarls in the distance.

Lacey turned her face from the scene. She didn’t want to see, but I had to watch. I had to make sure he wasn’t coming back. They materialized within the circle, three black dogs that circled his prone form, salivating from their jaws.

“No wait,” he cried out, right before one of the hounds clamped down on his ankle. He screamed, as the dogs began to drag him away. They weren’t dragging him out of the circle, but further within it. A darkness seemed to slowly envelop them as they faded from the circle. His screams took longer to fade.

Finally gone, I collapsed, a certain darkness enveloping me too. I closed my eyes and welcomed it.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 22: The Bridge

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 22: The Bridge

Quarter Mile Bridge has a history. It has long surpassed being just a piece of architecture and has become something of legend. Summer Dennings was not the only tragic figure to go off its side. For as long as I can remember, it has been the place to go to if one wanted to kill themselves. The long fall, coupled with the freezing waters below, would ensure the jumper didn’t survive. Even in the days of my own youth, the place held a morbid fascination. One would think that maybe the bridge was cursed, that if it were a living thing, it planted the seeds of death in one’s mind. But it wasn’t a living thing. It wasn’t evil. It was just a bridge. The lover’s leap of our town it may have been, but it was just metal and concrete. Men had made this place the tragic setting it was.     I parked my car at the very edge of the bridge and decided to walk across to the spot I had last seen Summer’s ghost. From where I was, I didn’t see her. She was gone, but I remembered the place where she had stood. In my mind’s eye I could still see her there, frozen in a moment of having something to show me, and yet Deacon and I had been driving away.

I stopped where I believed she had stood. I ran my hand across the railing. Made of steel, it was cold to my touch and I wondered about the night she had jumped. Had her warm hands gripped this railing in the moments before she threw herself over the side? Or was her whole body cold inside by then, devoid of anything relating to joy or happiness?

I looked at the concrete where I stood. Had her feet been planted exactly here? Had she trembled or hesitated the slightest little bit? I imagined her standing there, shaking and trying to make up her mind what to do.

Peering over the edge of the railing, I couldn’t see the cold waters below, but I could hear its quiet flow beneath me, almost lulling me to sleep. I imagined a siren of the sea down there beckoning the unfortunate ones to jump, or a kelpie from the old country luring one to come join her with cries feigning that of a lost baby or helpless child.

I closed my eyes, and could almost feel the open air that one would experience upon leaving that bridge. How far to the bottom? Would you have time to think about what you had done? What waited down there besides the freezing river? Would death immediately envelop you, caress you like a long lost lover, or would it just be sudden blackness?

Before I knew it, I was up on one rung of the railing. I don’t remember stepping there. It was almost automatic. A name left my lips: Lacey. I could end all this misery now. Every piece of guilt I could bring to a close in one movement. A little voice inside my head said jump. My legs shook on the rung. My lips quivered.

“Lacey,” I sobbed. “I’m sorry.”

Then before I could jump, a last thought came to me, an image I had seen when Summer’s ghost had touched me, a voice I had heard from her gloom. “I want your body,” it had said. Summer had jumped trying to get away from it. I had seen her desperation, seen her jump in that brief glimpse inside her memory. I had watched her disappear over the edge and…wait a minute.

I stepped down from the railing, my mind suddenly alert, no longer thinking of my own shortcomings and guilt. No, it was something to do with Summer. When she had touched me in the car. I’d been inside her spirit and seen what she had seen that night. But something about it was wrong. Something about that glimpse inside was off, and it was trying to tell me the truth.

I turned around and put my back to the railing, trying to remember the vision she gave me with that touch. I had seen her standing on the bridge. The voice had said “I want your body” and then an arm reached out. In her final act, she had thrown herself over the bridge and I watched her fall into the darkness. I played the image over and over, like a video on replay. What wasn’t right with the picture? Maybe if I could look at it from another point of view…

Wait, that was it. The point of view. It was wrong. When Summer touched me, I should have seen exactly what she’d seen. I should have seen the person reaching for her. Should have seen him speak. I should never have seen her at all. If I was getting a look at her buried memories, I wouldn’t have seen her jump, could never have watched her fall. She would never have seen herself as she jumped over the railing. She wouldn’t have seen her own body descend. She would only have seen the river as it rushed to meet her. When she touched me, I had gotten a glimpse of a spirit all right, but it wasn’t hers. It wasn’t Summer’s memories at all. It was that of the one who made her jump.

I ran back to the car. This changed everything, this new piece of the puzzle. In the vision I had heard the voice, seen the hand reaching out to take her, followed by her tragic leap. But what did it mean? How could Summer show me this? It was impossible unless….Unless Summer wasn’t Summer at all.

No, that can’t be. Or can it? Had I been duped all along, strung along like a puppet for some unseen purpose? Oh my god, how could I have been so blind? I’ve been leading Summer to all the people to kill. The older brother, the lover Carla, former officer Jacobs. So, who was next? Who was the last person I had contact with? Darnell Dean? No, Sheriff Deacon. Oh Jesus, he was next…

I climbed behind the wheel and started the car. I had to get to Deacon before someone else did. But first, I needed to stop by the house. This was going to take more than a pistol. I was going to need some serious magic.

“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 21: Driving Through The Pieces Of A Puzzle

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 21: Driving Through The Pieces Of A Puzzle
At the station, Deacon asked me the standard questions, taking my statements of what had transpired at the Dean house. I argued that I had not broken or forced my way in. The front door had been unlocked and I just merely opened the door. Once his deputies arrived from questioning Darnell and Andrea, they confirmed I hadn’t picked the lock or made a forced entry, and so I was just charged with trespassing.     “It’s the best I can do,” the sheriff explained. “Maybe we can get Darnell to drop the charges before this goes to court. If you’re right about the ‘setting you up’ thing, it could be he just needs a little time to bask in his success. To know that he got you in trouble.”

“I had a feeling he would rather have killed me than call the police.”

“Well he called the police, so we won’t even consider the other possibilities. Just consider yourself lucky, Cole.”

“So what now? I’m under arrest. Do I need to get up some bail money?”

He got up from his chair. “No, we’ll just go before the magistrate real quick and we’ll get him to set you free on your own recognizance. It’s not like you’ve been in trouble before. And you’re ex PD too, so that’s two good things in your favor.” He grinned.

I grinned back, but I really wasn’t thinking of what he was talking about or what I had done to get in trouble. I was thinking about the last image of Summer’s ghost standing on the bridge looking over the side as we kept on driving. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something about her and that bridge just wouldn’t leave me be. It’s like I should have known what’s wrong with the picture, and yet it was just on the outside of my vision. I was going to have to go back and take a look for myself. There was something there, some other piece to be found. Summer wanted me to know something. But what?

Sheriff Deacon and I were in the car, driving back to the Dean house, where my own vehicle remained parked. I didn’t know if he was driving me back himself as a courtesy or to keep me from confronting Darnell again.

“Did your deputies ask him about the box in his basement?” I finally asked. “It was big enough for a body.”

Deacon sighed. “Let it rest, Cole. He let them search the house. There was a crate in the basement, yes. But there was no evidence a body had ever lain in it.”

“Did they ask him what had been in it?”

“Jesus man, don’t you understand? Darnell hasn’t done anything to break the law. But you have.” He glanced over at me. “You need to start getting your own life in order before worrying about what others might be doing.”

He was right and I knew it. I had let things get out of control. Instead of sorting out my own demons, I was creating other ones where they may not even exist.

“My suggestion, Cole, is that you go home. Go home and remove all of Lacey’s things you may have there. It’s driving you crazy what happened to her. You were doing real well for a while. We thought you were going to make it. But here lately I don’t know. It’s not looking good.”

“I know.”

“You just need to start over. Without her shadow hanging over you. She’s dead, and as much as I wish for you that she wasn’t, she’s gone and she’s not coming back. You have to decide what you’re going to do, Cole. Lay down and join her or get back up into the world of the living.”

We pulled up behind my car parked in front of the Dean house. The lights were no longer on. Darnell and Andrea must have gone on to bed, the night’s intrusion forgotten. Maybe he was getting into her skin, as he liked to call it. I can’t believe I had misread what he meant. What an idiot I can be sometimes.

“Cole, I’m telling you this as a friend would. There is more at stake here than just you. You have a little girl. She’s already lost her mom. Her father snapped once and it’s looking like he’s going to snap again. Do you want her growing up knowing that you just lost it? That you had a choice between the living and the dead, and you chose the dead? Get your life in order, Cole, and then get your daughter back. Believe me you, you don’t want a miss a minute of her life.”

I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was seeing a part of Deacon I’d never seen before. The father, the family man, the tender side that he shows no one. I thought I saw his eyes begin to tear up, but he turned away from me and looked out the window up at the Dean house.

“The Dean’s role in our lives are over,” he whispered. “Let it go.”

“Okay,” I answered. What else was I to say? We had come to this place by a hard road, and now I was beginning to think I had brought myself here, not ghosts or the dead, just me. If anyone was to blame for my misery it was myself.

I left Deacon in the car and went to my own. I didn’t stick around, though he waited for me to pull away before he too left the scene of the Dean house. He didn’t follow me, and so instead I found myself driving aimlessly, wondering how I could find my own peace. But I knew peace wouldn’t come until all the parts of the puzzle were in their correct place. I had to know about Summer. What happened and why it happened. Why did this young girl in her prime fall from the bridge? I already suspected she was pushed, forced. Murdered. But for what reason? And what did it have to do with me?

I found myself driving past places I had been before in the course of my investigation into her death. And there in those places, missing pieces seemed to wink at me, taunting me, daring me to find the truth and where they fit.

The cemetery offered up one of the strangest pieces, the case of Summer’s missing body. Why was it taken and who took it?

Driving by her parent’s house, I recalled my visit there and how upset they had seemed about their daughter’s friend, Carla. What kind of things had been said in that house about the two of them? How much anger and resentment had been offered up behind those doors?

The ruin of her brother’s house, though mostly hauled away now, was like a ghost in itself. Why burn down this house with us in it? What was I not supposed to find out? What was it her brother could have told me? Did he have some vital piece of information that would have brought me to the truth?

And what of Deacon’s tragic daughter? Did she hang herself from the tree house, or did someone help her long? And was there any significance in the fact it was the same tree house I had built for my beloved Lacey?

Lacey. What did she have to do with all this? Why did she linger around for so long before allowing herself to be chased away by me? Is it possible she had known Summer? She knew Carla from when she was living with Deacon, so had she met Summer then? Maybe she had told Summer about me and that’s why the girl had come to me when she died.

And why had everyone I knew on the force died off? I would be a fool not to admit it seemed strange everyone connected with the Kaleidoscope Killer case was now dead. Everyone except Deacon and I. Was some special kind of vengeance being saved for us?

Would we go out like Jacobs, slowly bleeding to death and helpless to do anything but write a message on a dirty window? What had it been? DEAD END. Some message that was. And the ring. What of Lacey’s wedding ring on the dash? What did it mean? Was it a message? A taunting? If it was buried with her, how did it make its way from her grave to end up in the car of a murdered man connected to her case?

I pulled my car to the side of the road. Closing my eyes, I tried to chase all these mind twisting thoughts from my head. It was just too much to digest. It was like a mystery where there were so many clues and all of them lead in different directions. It’s almost like someone is trying to deliberately send me down all these paths. But are all these paths legitimate clues? Or do some of them lead nowhere? How did I know which clue to follow?

I took a deep breath, and in that moment I thought of where it all began. Summer Dennings. All this came about in an effort to find out how she died.

I’d learned she’d went off the Quarter Mile Bridge, either pushed by someone or by jumping herself. The answers lay with her and that bridge. It was time to go back there, to see if she was still standing by the railing, peering down into the watery depths below. Something tells me the bridge and what happened there holds all the answers.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 20: A Lot To Talk About

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 20: A Lot To Talk About

In hindsight it felt strange being led away from the Dean household in handcuffs. It was a touch of irony in that the last time both Deacon and I were here together was when we had arrested Dexter. I had led the Kaleidoscope Killer away in handcuffs, as Deacon parted the way through reporters and onlookers. Lucky for me, on the night I stole into the Dean household in search of Summer’s body there were no reporters around.     Still, as the sheriff’s car pulled away, I felt as if I were in a spotlight. Or worse yet, a deer caught in a car’s oncoming headlights. Sheriff Deacon didn’t say much at first. We just drove quietly a couple blocks down and then he pulled over in the darkness. He turned around in his seat and gave me this serious look.

“I’m going to let you sit up front now, okay? Don’t make me regret my decision.”

He got out of the car and opened up my door. I hesitated for just a minute. I was waiting for Summer to give me more advice. But she just sat there in silence watching me, waiting to see what I would do.

“You going to get out?” Deacon asked.

“Yeah,” I replied and got out of the car. I went around to the front passenger side and got in. He watched me the whole way, and I got the feeling maybe he was testing to see if I was going to run or not. I wonder if he would have shot me if I had tried to sprint off into the darkness.

After I was in and the door was locked, he got behind the wheel and put the cruiser in gear. We hadn’t gone far at all when he asked the question.

“So, you want to tell me what you were doing in the Dean house?”

I sighed. “I don’t know if I should.”

“Cole, look, neither one of us likes the other very much, but I can’t help you if you don’t help me understand what’s going on in that head of yours. I don’t want to see you in jail, I really don’t. Maybe if you tell me, then maybe I can somehow convince that Dean kid to not press charges. But you got to be on the level with me, ok?”

I took a deep breath. With my next exhale I said it. “I thought he was the one who’d stolen Summer Denning’s body. You know, the missing body from the graveyard?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really. How did you come to that conclusion?”

“I overheard some statements he made lately that made me think he’d done it.”


I thought about it for a minute. “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe he just wanted to set me up. Knew I would take the bait.”

I glanced behind me at Summer in the back seat. She was nodding her head. Maybe I was finally on the right track.

Deacon didn’t seem to notice my distraction. He was just looking ahead as if he were thinking something out. “So, he made himself look suspicious in order to get you arrested for trespassing? That seems a bit much.”

“Maybe he thought I’d react differently. Maybe he thought there would be a struggle. Some reason to shoot me legally. Get his revenge or whatever.”

“For his brother, I assume?”


Deacon looked out his window and then back to me. “Well, his brother was the Kaleidoscope Killer. Justice was served. You and I both know that.”

“Yeah, it was.”

“Give me your hands.”

I looked at him. The question must have been in my eyes.

“This is just a courtesy, seeing you are former PD and all. I still haven’t decided whether you are under arrest or not.”

I offered my hands and he used a key to unlock the cuffs. I rubbed my wrists trying to get the circulation going in my hands again.

“Did I put them on too tight?” he asked.

“No. It’s just strange, all the years I told perps not to squirm or the cuffs would tighten and then I can’t sit still myself.”

He grinned. “Yes, I guess it’s a little different from the other side of things, isn’t it?”

I noticed he made a turn down a side street. We weren’t heading directly to the station. “We taking a short cut I don’t know about?”

“No, we’re just going to go the long route. We have things we need to discuss and I don’t want to talk about them at the station.”

“Okay. Well, it’s not like I can go anywhere else right now.”

He ignored my sarcasm. “So let me get this straight. You think Darnell Dean is trying to bring his brother’s spirit back from the grave. Is that so big brother can get revenge on you for shooting him in the back?”

“Listen Sheriff, you know the inquiry into his death said..”

“I know what the inquiry said, I was on the damn panel. I don’t care what happened out there the night he escaped. We all know what went down. Hell, we set it up. Everyone knows he did it, we just rushed the justice process, that’s all.”

“I wouldn’t have done it if not for Lacey. But I couldn’t bear seeing her killer go free. He brutally took her out of this life. I was repaying the favor. I was angry and consumed by revenge. Even though she was your girl then, I felt like someone had taken MY Lacey.”

“Cole, she never was mine. She didn’t love me the way she loved you. I think deep down I knew I was just a replacement. But I liked having her around you know. We had some good times, but I never would have meant to her what you did. You were her world really. She just felt like she was floating out in orbit alone, that’s all.”

“She tell you that?”

“She didn’t have to, Cole. Every time she kissed me, in her mind she was kissing you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He chuckled a little under his breath. “Sorry? Whatever for?”

“That you were stuck in the middle between us. That wasn’t very fair.”

“Hey, nothing in life is fair, Cole. It’s not fair my daughter hung herself from a tree house roof. It’s not fair your wife was raped and murdered in a dark alley. It’s not fair that Summer Dennings body was robbed from a graveyard. Which brings me to what I really wanted to ask you, off the record of course.”

“Okay. Shoot.”

“Do you think it’s really possible to resurrect a dead spirit? Could someone really bring a spirit back and place it in a body? I mean you think that’s what Darnell was trying to do, so is there some truth in that?”

“Well, I’ve heard of instances of spirits possessing live bodies and sort of pushing another’s personality or soul to the side. But I’ve never heard of anyone throwing a spirit into dead flesh and reanimating it. I’m not saying it’s impossible. Maybe someone has found a way.”

He put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it. He offered the pack to me and for a moment I almost took one. I hadn’t smoked in years. I declined his offer politely.

He took a drag off his smoke. “You know, I have to admit I don’t believe in all that ghost and spirit junk that you do. I believe when you die, you go to heaven or hell. There’s no other options.”

“A lot of people believe like that. I used to also.”

“What do you believe now?”

“You ever read Shakespeare, sheriff?”

“A little bit in college. Why?”

“In Hamlet he wrote, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’. That’s what I believe. There are things around us that I don’t quite understand. Forces at work that transcend the physical world.”

“So in other words, you believe some people become ghosts after death.”

“It’s not that they become ghosts. Not in the traditional sense. It’s that their souls can’t quite let go of their attachments to the living. So something of them lingers here. Sometimes it’s just a feeling that gets left behind; sometimes it’s an event in their life playing over and over like a movie. Sometimes it’s a disembodied voice, or a shadow we catch out of the corner of our eye. Only in rare cases do we see ghosts as a direct mirror of their former self.”

“So they don’t walk around like people?”

I glanced in the back seat at Summer. She had stuck her fingers in the corners of her mouth and was sticking her tongue out at me. I laughed.

“No they don’t,” I lied.

“But you help ghosts right? I mean, the word around town is you help spirits. You communicate with them somehow?”

“I would like to think I help the living more than the dead. Help others go on without their loved ones. Find out what happened to make them go from this life.”

“Ahhh,” he said. “Like the train track kid.”

“Yeah, like him.” I knew what he was referring to. One of my first ‘cases’, a young boy dead, his body lying by the train tracks. At first everyone thought he had just wandered across the tracks right into the path of the oncoming locomotive. But then the boy’s ghost had come to me. Like Summer, He couldn’t remember what happened, but over the course of the next couple days we pieced together the last hours of his life. In the end, another boy was arrested for his murder and disposing of his guilt by throwing the body into the train’s path. All because the one boy coveted the other boy’s bicycle. They found the bicycle in the boy killer’s basement, halfway repainted so no one would know it was stolen. The case of the train track kid made the papers, though no mention of ghosts appeared in print. Still the word in certain circles on the street had circulated: a man had communicated with a spirit and discovered the truth of the boy’s death.

Sheriff Deacon brought me back to the present. “So what makes a person so special that they become ghosts?”

“Often it’s a traumatic experience. Or maybe it wasn’t really their turn to die. Perhaps something was left undone that they were destined to do, if they were still alive. A ghost is basically here to finish something. They don’t always know how, and very rarely can do anything about it, even if they do know.”

He looked out his window, and we turned down another street. This one was a long road that wound out by the river. I knew where we were going. Quarter Mile Bridge. I glanced behind me at Summer. If she knew where we were going she didn’t show it.

I got the feeling Deacon was working the nerve to ask me something. Finally, he turned back to me. “Do you think my daughter’s ghost is out there somewhere? I mean, Carla’s death was traumatic, right?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes it’s best to think of these things as if everyone we know leaves the world in peace. If we dwell on the particulars of death too much, we’ll just end up torturing ourselves in all the things we never said or didn’t do.”

This seemed to satisfy him. “You ever thought of being a priest, Cole?” he grinned.

I laughed. “I’d be excommunicated for sure.”

We came to Quarter Mile Bridge and I thought to myself how nice it was to grin next to Sheriff Deacon. There had been so much bad blood between us it felt like a new door was opening, like maybe there was a possibility we could be friends.

As we crossed the ill-fated bridge, I heard a laugh from the back seat. I turned around and Summer was looking at a spot of railing. I guess it was where she went over. But why laugh about it?

“Something back there?” Deacon asked, noticing my distraction.

“No,” I replied, as Summer slid across the back seat and slipped out of the car. She stood on the bridge at the spot and looked over the side down into the murky depths. I watched her as Deacon and I kept driving until we were too far away to see. Maybe it was best she was alone for a little while. I know if it was me and I’d just passed the place of my passing, I’d be freaked out too.

“Something wrong?” asked Deacon, noticing my attention to the bridge we’d left behind.

“I think that’s where Summer Dennings fell,” I explained.

“You mean jumped?”

I didn’t want him to know I thought she was forced to go over. “Yeah, jumped,” I agreed.

We drove back onto the main road and were heading to the Police station. Our long ride and conversation was over. Now it was time for the sheriff to do his job. But what was it time for me to do?
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 19: Behind Closed Doors

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 19: Behind Closed Doors

I really didn’t know what I was going to do as I went up onto the front porch. Should I knock or just bust in? If he was in there with Summer’s stolen corpse in the midst of some ritual, I wanted to hit him by surprise. If I knocked, that would give him warning. He could hide anything sinister he was doing and put on that boyish charm. I kept thinking what he had said standing over his brother’s grave. ‘I think I might get in her skin tonight.’     My hand was half raised to knock when I felt her behind me. “Summer, go back to the car,” I whispered.

“No, Cole. This is wrong. Something is not right here. Darnell might be a lot of things, but he’s not one to conjure up the dead. Especially not his brother. They barely even got along.”

“How do you know this? Are you remembering something?”

“I just have this feeling. This isn’t what it looks like. Please don’t go in there and hurt Darnell.”

“Why? What’s your concern with him?” I reeled on her. “Is there something you want to tell me?”

“No, I just don’t want anyone to get hurt. You are angry and you’re chasing shadows.”

“Beats the hell out of talking to ghosts,” I snapped. “Now go back to the car.”

She didn’t budge. Why does every female ghost I run across have to be so damn stubborn?

I must have said it aloud because I swore she smiled just as I put my hand on the doorknob. It turned in my hand. I put my hand inside my jacket for my gun, but remembered she had asked me to leave it in the car. I sighed and slowly eased the door open. I was going in.

She was right behind me, though I think I was just as quiet as she. Thankfully the wood floors didn’t creak, and there was enough light filtering in through a skylight to guide my way.

The Dean household was large and richly furnished. I stepped lightly, exploring the rooms as I went. A kitchen, a bathroom, a study. The rooms were immaculate and something suggested to me that it was all for show. Under the wealthy facade, a darkness lurked here.

Where would he be hiding the body? And where exactly was Darnell? I came to a closed door and put my hand on the knob. It was warm. Someone had been through here recently. I slowly turned the brass handle and it opened with a light creak. I stopped and waited for the silence again. Then I eased it the rest of the way open.

A sparse bare bulb lit a stairway going down into the basement. I looked behind me. Summer wasn’t there. Where the hell did she go? I knew she followed me in. Reflex made me want to whisper her name, but I didn’t say anything. I needed the element of surprise.

I started down the stairs, slowly making my way step by step. Reaching the bottom, I noticed there was a big crate right in the middle of the floor. It was just about the right size for a body to fit in. I walked over to it. I checked to see if its lid was nailed down. It wasn’t.

I slid the lid away from it, slow and cautious. I had a brief thought I was stuck in an old vampire movie and was getting ready to face Dracula. But there was nothing inside the box. It was empty, except for a fine layer of dust. I ran my finger through it and put it up to my nose. Sawdust. Nothing sinister there, but maybe he had moved the body. Maybe the ritual was already complete and her body was now occupied by…

There was a creak on the stairs. I spun around, instantly wishing I had my gun on me.

“Winter,” Darnell hissed, standing there on the steps. In his hand he held a pump action shotgun. “I don’t recall inviting you in to my house.”

I looked back at the crate. “What did you do with the body?”

“Whose body?” he asked, the gun trained on me.

“Summer Dennings.”

“Oh, you’re real sick. What would I want with a dead girl’s body?”

“I was in the cemetery earlier, Darnell. I saw you at your brother’s grave.”


“I heard what you said, about getting into her skin.”

The shotgun didn’t waver in his steady hand. “And you think that meant I was going to do what exactly?”

“Bring your brother back in her body.”

He laughed and shook his head. “You are more far gone than I thought. No wonder you’re not a cop anymore.”

“Darnell,” a voice whispered from the top of the stairs. “Is everything okay?”

His eyes never left me. “It’s okay Andrea, go back to bed.”

I caught a glimpse of a girl wrapped in a blanket standing at the top of the stairs. It was the same one from Joel Caden’s attic. She nodded sleepily and disappeared from the doorway.

“That’s whose skin I was getting in to,” Darnell grinned slyly. “Not some sick raising the dead crap you seem obsessed with.” He came down to the bottom of the steps, the gun still trained on me. “You know I got you dead to rights if I wanted. I could blow your brains out right here and claim I caught an intruder. It would serve you right for murdering my brother.”

“Your brother was the Kaleidoscope..”

“Shut up!” he cocked the gun. “He was not, you friggin liar!”

He marched around me, as if I were the walls of a city he had just conquered. I kept my eyes on his trigger finger. If he pulled it, I was dead. Nothing would save me from that. I had made a mistake and it was going to cost me.

“But I think I’ll just let the real cops handle this one. I already called them before I came down here. Your old pals should be here to arrest you shortly. Breaking and entering isn’t such a big deal these days, but maybe it will give you time to think what a screw up you are.” He pointed to the stairs with the gun. “Up you go”, he commanded.

Could I have been wrong? All my suspicions about Darnell wanting to resurrect his brother somehow? I stopped halfway up the steps.

“What was in the crate, Darnell?”

The gun barrel touched my back. “Keep moving.”

I started back up the staircase. When I reached the top, he prodded me away from the doorway and into the hall. Andrea looked fearfully out of the bedroom and then closed the door behind her.

“We’ll just wait on the porch,” Darnell spoke between clenched teeth. I got the impression he was fighting the urge on whether to shoot me in the back or not. “You’re wrong about us. You always have been.”

He moved me outside, and just as we got on the porch I saw the sheriff’s car pull up. Damn, it just had to be Deacon himself, didn’t it? Another cop car pulled up behind him.

I felt the gun barrel leave my back and I knew Darnell was standing down. He had the police here now. Deacon was coming up the porch, his normal swagger more pronounced as if this was a day he had been waiting for.

“What’s the problem here, fellas?” he asked, coming to a stop at the foot of the porch.

“This fool broke into my house,” Darnell said.

“Why does that not surprise me?” the sheriff replied sarcastically.

They waited for me to say something in my defense, but I wasn’t looking at them. I was looking beyond the sheriff’s car where Summer stood. She was in the middle of the street and I swore for a minute she almost seemed to be smiling.

She had tried to tell me something wasn’t right about all this. She’d tried to stop me from going in there and making a fool of myself. Why didn’t I ever listen to the women in my life?

“Cole,” Sheriff Deacon spoke, bringing me back to the moment. “You know the procedure.” I hung my head and held my hands out. He put the handcuffs around my wrist. “I just knew this was going to happen eventually.”

“Deacon..” I began.

He cut me off. “Save it for your statement.” He nudged me off the porch and towards the car. I looked over my shoulder to where Darnell stood on the porch.

Andrea had come out wrapped up in his robe, and the officers from the other car were questioning them both.

Deacon opened up the rear door of his cruiser. “Watch your head,” he said almost automatically. He placed his hand on my shoulder, carefully pushing me down and inside the car. He closed the door and turned back to the Dean house. I watched him walk back up to the porch. He exchanged a few words with his guys and then came back to the car.

He got in behind the wheel and turned his head around to look at me. “If I put you in the front seat are you going to behave yourself?”

I thought this was an unusual question, and definitely not part of arresting procedure, but I nodded.

He started the car. “We’ll wait until we are out of sight,” he said, gesturing to those up on the porch.

Someone else slipped into the back seat with me. Of course they didn’t open the door first. She didn’t have to. Summer could go anywhere she wanted. Now she was coming along for the ride. “I told you so,” she whispered with a shake of her head. I wanted to tell her to get out, but I thought Deacon would think I was talking to him.

So instead the three of us, a Sheriff, an idiot, and a ghost, would all be riding in the same car downtown.
“Advocate For The Dead 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 18: Touched By A Ghost

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 18: Touched By A Ghost

I was surprised to find Summer still waiting in the car. As I slid into the driver’s seat next to her, she looked at me and smiled. “I’m glad to see you. I thought you had ditched me.”

“Nah, just had to go talk to some folks.”

“Learn anything?”

“Yeah, maybe a little. Did you see anybody go in or come out while I was in there?”

“Uh-huh. The sheriff came up to the car and looked in, but he didn’t see me.” She giggled. “He was right in my face. I could have kissed him on the nose.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” I laughed.

“You been crying, Cole? Your eyes are red.”

I looked away from her and out the driver’s side window. “Yeah. A little.”

She put her hand on my knee. I knew it was just a compassionate gesture but it had a different kind of effect. Her hand passed through my leg and I felt the jolt of electricity that comes with direct contact with a ghost you are connected to. I had gotten used to Lacey and the pleasant visions her touch brought, but this was different.

My head went into a swim. The world turned topsy-turvy and I was no longer in the car sitting there next to a spirit. I was that spirit. I was standing on a bridge. I knew this place. It was where she had jumped. And there she stood looking down into those murky depths. She turned to me and I could see her eyes were crying. From somewhere I heard a voice whisper ‘don’t jump. I need your body.’ Then she disappeared over the side. She never said a word the whole way down. I heard the splash but felt nothing, only a tumultuous anger at the world.

I jumped away from her and her touch left me. I was back in the car and trying to get out of it fast. I opened up the door and rolled out, shaking all over. She was alarmed and screaming.

“What did you do to me!?” she cried out.

I was on all fours on the ground, trying to shake the images from my mind of her falling, and the anger spreading out from the bridge in search of something to latch on to. But it wasn’t Summer’s anger. It was something else.

“Please don’t do that again,” I gasped, trying to get to my feet. “Please don’t touch me.”

“What was that all about? I felt like you assaulted me or something.”

It took a moment to catch my breath. I got back in the car, but I kept my distance. “When someone, a spirit, connects with me and they touch me, I can see what they see, feel what they feel. It’s like I lose myself to become that spirit. I saw you on the bridge. You jumped. My god, you jumped.”

“I jumped from a bridge? That’s how I died?”

“Yes Summer, I’m sorry.”

“But what about Carla?”

“I guess she hung herself, distraught over your death.”

“No, I can’t have killed myself. It’s impossible. Then I’d go to hell. Mother always said that suicides go straight to…”

“You’re not exactly in heaven here,” I interrupted.

“But why would I jump? That makes no sense.”

“I think someone was after you. They knew you were thinking of jumping. They told you not to do it. They said they needed your body. But I guess it made you jump even quicker.”

“Need my body? What for? Sex?”

I thought for a minute. “No, not sex. They wanted it for something else.”

Then it hit me. The Ouija board conversation again. HE WANTS TO LIVE IN IT. Summer’s body had been stolen from her grave. And what was it Darnell had said standing over his brother’s grave? ‘She’s waiting for me at home. I think I might get in her skin tonight.’

I started the car. “Damn, it’s Darnell.”

Curious and confused, Summer looked at me.

“He’s picking up where his brother left off. He’s the ‘colored’ man.”

“Huh? He’s not colored.”

I put the car in drive and pulled away from the curb.

“Not colored as in race. That’s what I thought at first, too. No, colored as in, well, color. Kaleidoscope. He’s trying to resurrect his brother..”

“Cole, that’s crazy. You can’t resurrect dead people like that, can you?”

“Not that I’m aware of. But maybe he thinks if he puts his spirit in a different body than his own, it might work.”

“So, Darnell is trying to put his brother’s spirit in my old body? That’s nuts!”

“So is talking to ghosts, but I do it all the time.”

“Cole, listen to yourself. You can’t go in there guns blazing because you think he’s raising the dead.”

We ran through a red light. I heard the screeching of tires as another car avoided me in the intersection.

“And why can’t I?” I asked her angrily.

“Because you don’t know for certain that’s what he’s doing. And anyway you’re not a cop anymore!”

“And so what, you’re my voice of reason now?”

“You can’t just gun him down like you did his damn brother!”, she shouted. “Please don’t do this.”

I pulled into Darnell Dean’s driveway. “It’s too late. We’re already here.”

“Please I beg you. Let the cops handle this. Call them. Call Sheriff Deacon, tell him you think Darnell stole my body from the cemetery. But please don’t kill him.”

I opened my car door. “I’m not going to kill him, Summer. I’m just going to talk to him.”

“Then leave your gun here,” she pleaded.

I reached in my jacket and pulled the pistol from its holster. I laid it on the driver’s seat. “Satisfied?”

“Not really.”

I didn’t hear any other protest she may have made because I was already going up the walk towards the Dean household…

“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 17: Graveyard Chit-Chat

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 17: Graveyard Chit-Chat
Summer had wanted to come with. At first I told her no, but how do you keep a ghost from following you? Lacey may have been mostly bound to our house, but Summer appeared to go wherever she wanted to at whim. So I relented and let her ride with me. “But stay in the car, okay?”


I don’t know exactly why I was going to Dexter Dean’s grave, but something was just not right. Everyone seemed to be connected. Everyone I spoke to was linked somehow with the Kaleidoscope Killer. Maybe he didn’t have anything to do with why my client died, but I was willing to bet she didn’t just jump because she was distraught over her sexuality or choice of lovers. And I know spirits have a way of coming to me for answers, but why did she show up on my doorstep? Had someone subconsciously directed her there? Was she the starting gun for some other spirit’s thirst for revenge?

I parked outside the cemetery. I was going to have to jump the fence. I left my client in the car and scaled the wrought iron structure, landing on the other side in a crouch. I went in search of the grave I had to see for myself. Not everyone knew Dexter was buried here in the town’s cemetery. I guess if they did there would probably be some kind of protest about having a serial killer buried so close to their loved ones. But as it stood, no one had really gone to his funeral anyway . Just his family. A few friends. I had stood in the back trying to blend in. I had to see for myself that the bastard was being laid to rest. The only one who noticed me was Darnell. But that was enough. His anger was apparent.

I shook the memory from my head and went on to where I knew Dexter’s plot was. Ironically I had to pass by where Summer had been buried. I wondered if they’d ever found her body and returned it. It looked like the caretakers had filled her grave back in, but was her body still missing? And if it was, who had it? It made me think of the ouija board conversation with Carla. What was it she had said? HE WANTED HER BODY. But who? THE COLORED MAN. But who was the colored man? Colored? Could it signify his race? Was he an African American or did it mean something else?

I stopped where I was. Not because I figured out some truth, but because someone else was here in the graveyard. At Dexter’s grave. I could see them just a couple yards away. They stood looking down at the killer’s headstone. I ducked down behind another tombstone so I couldn’t be seen.

I could hear the person’s voice as they spoke to the grave. “You were right what you said to me. He’s relentless. And now he’s coming around asking about Summer.”

I peeked around the corner. It was Darnell talking to his brother’s grave. And it sounded like he was talking about me.

“I don’t think he realizes the truth. No, I don’t think he’d believe it either. He has blinders on.”

What was he talking about? The truth about what? Summer?

“Well I have to go, bro. She’s waiting for me at home. I think I might get in her skin tonight.” I could see his lecherous leer from even here. And then he walked away. I watched him as he disappeared in the darkness.

I waited until I thought he was long gone and then came out of hiding. I slowly approached Dexter’s grave as if I thought the man himself would come clawing his way out like something out of a bad zombie movie.

Standing in front of the tombstone I didn’t feel a thing. No remorse for taking his life. No regret that I’d handled justice differently. “You killed my Lacey, damn you,” I said quietly. I waited for something, any kind of response. But there was nothing. I fought back my angry tears and looked around. I was alone.

“You knew Summer, didn’t you,” I asked. “Darnell went to school with her. They were buds. But you..You were something else. She had a crush on you, didn’t she?”

Still there was silence in the graveyard.

“You made her jump, didn’t you? I know you’re not in there, rotting in that body under dirt. You’re out here somewhere.” I glanced around me again in a sweeping gesture. “But you can’t hide forever. I will find your wasted excuse of a spirit and take you down to hell myself if I have to.” I spit on his grave and turned around to walk off.

Sheriff Deacon was leaning against a tombstone in my path. “I don’t think there’s an ordinance for spitting on graves, but it still isn’t very becoming of an adult.”

“Deacon, please, not now. I don’t have time to go round with you again.”

He snorted. “Well, neither do I. So I’ll get straight to the point. I saw your car parked outside the gates, knew you must be in here. I thought maybe you were talking to Lacey’s tombstone or something. That I could understand, but to find you talking to Dexter’s. Now that’s just too weird.”

I didn’t know what to say. He was right. It was weird. But he didn’t see the world as I did. For Deacon, the dead were gone. For me, there were always around us in one way or another.

“Cole, I know we have never been much friends. Even on the force. And especially after Lacey left you.” He held up his hand to tell me to hear him out and not interrupt. “But I worry about you. I really do. Ever since her death, and of course Dexter’s, you seem to have not been your old self. Word on the street has it you talk to the dead and stuff. Personally I think it’s bullshit, but I think you believe it. And if that helps you get over Lacey’s death then I’m all for it, but Jesus man, you have to let it go. She’s gone. She’s not coming back. And I know I have said some cruel things about her before, but I was lashing out at you, not her. Okay, so maybe I didn’t love her like you did, but I tried to fill the void you left her with.”

“I don’t want to talk about this, Deacon.”

“I know you don’t. You never do. But you can’t keep going around talking to graves and ghosts like they are going to talk back. I’m just telling you this for your own good. I don’t want to read in the paper one day you’ve have been carted off to the asylum because you cracked up.”

“I’m not cracking up.”

“Okay,” he said. “You take care then. Don’t stay too long.”

I watched him walk away back in the direction of where I was parked outside the gates. As he disappeared in the darkness I felt a presence behind me. I slowly turned and saw a sight I’d never seen before. A whole group of spirits were huddled around the graves. There had to be at least 6 of them, maybe more. I’d never seen so many at one time. And they were looking right at me. An audience of the dead.

“You heard that, didn’t you? I can’t go on talking to ghosts. Go on, get lost.”

The spirits seemed to dissipate and fade back into the night. And I went to have one last talk with Lacey.

– – – – – –

I hadn’t been to her grave in a long time. It wasn’t that I had avoided it; there was just no point in it with her spirit wandering the halls of my house. Now it was different. I had run off her ghost, and now I was just like everyone else, standing at their loved ones graves and conversing with their own conscience.

“I don’t know why you hung around so long, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry I drove you away again. I’m sorry I failed you in life. I’m sorry I let you down in death. I wish I could change things. I wish there were some way we could start all over from the day you said ‘I do’.” I sighed. “But I know I can’t. Nothing I do will ever change what happened. Deacon is right; I have to let it go. I take my anger out on him all the time, but I’m really angry at myself. Maybe he’s the same way. I know I have to say goodbye to you, but it’s hard.”

A tear traced a line down my cheek, this was tougher than I imagined. “I’m going to go now. I’m not coming back here again. I just wanted you to know that I will always love you and I hope they’ll let me in to heaven to see you someday.” I wiped the tears from my eyes and sobbed. “I miss you. I have to go. Bye now.”

I turned and walked away. I could hardly see from the tears that filled my eyes. But as the cemetery gates loomed ahead I composed myself. It was time to get back in the game. Summer Dennings had died. Carla Deacon had died. So had Jeff Dennings and my old friend from the Police force, Jacobs. And I knew they were all tied together somehow. I had to solve this mystery before any more died. How many did Jacobs say was left? Two? The number of the living was whittling down fast.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 16: The Return Of Summer

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 16: The Return Of Summer

I looked at the ring closely. Yes, it was hers. The date was engraved inside with our initials. How did this get here? Did she put it there? Or had someone dug up her bones and retrieved it? Whoever put it there left it as a message, but what was it? Was Lacey responsible or could it be…suddenly the thought hit me. Deacon. They were together when she died. He had first access. He could have gotten the ring before she was ever buried. Took it right off her hand. Could he be the one? Plotting out my descent into madness for letting her die? He had all the motives and means, and it’s no secret of our rivalry.     I closed my hand around the ring, holding it tight in my fist. If it was him, why kill his own daughter? Did she know too much? Was he the one who blew up Jeff Denning’s house? After all, he’s law enforcement. He knows explosives. It seems like an awful lot to go through just to get revenge. And what about Summer? Did she jump or was she, as I suspect, thrown off that bridge?

Summer. Damn I’d forgotten all about her. I’d sent her to Deacon’s. But now it was time to bring Deacon to me. I went back in my house and placed a phone call to the sheriff’s department. Pretty soon he’d show up to investigate the dead man in the car outside. And I’d be here waiting.

I didn’t have to wait long. The dispatcher must have called him right away the moment they realized who it was calling. Several police cars showed up, as did the man from the coroner’s office, an older fellow named Crews. We were no strangers, Crews and I. He had performed the autopsy on Lacey.

Sheriff Deacon showed up with his usual swagger. Getting out of the car, he hiked up his pants by the belt as if he were a wild west hero arrived for a gunfight. After taking a quick look in the car and conversing with the coroner, he walked over to where I sat on my front porch.

“Why am I not surprised you keep attracting dead people?” he asked.

“I guess I’m popular.”

“A little too popular,” he snorted. “So you want to tell me what happened?”

“I’d spoken to him earlier when I came home. He was waiting for me.”

“For what?”

“He said he needed to speak to me about some deaths that bothered him.”


“Well, he said he couldn’t prove it, but he thought all the old crew were being killed off somehow.”

“Which crew would that be?”

“The crew that worked the Kaleidoscope case.”

Deacon pulled out his notebook and jotted something down. “Did he say who he thought this so called killer was?”

“No, he didn’t. He was just scared he was next.”

“Well, appears like he was.” He looked over at the car. “So how did you find him?”

“I had come out for some air and I saw his car was still there. So I went over to see if maybe he had fallen asleep or something. I found him dead.”

“Did you taint my crime scene?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“You know, move or touch anything?”

“No,” I lied.

“Okay.” He folded up his notebook and put it back in his pocket. “I have to ask you something, Cole. This has nothing to do with this here, but something personal.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“You been in my house lately?”

“In your house? No. What kind of question is that?”

“Some things have turned up missing.”

“What kind of things? What could I possibly want from your house?”

“Things of Lacey’s.”

“Why would I want her stuff?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you have this fixation where you can’t let her go. After all, you had a hard time letting her go to me.”

I didn’t know if he was trying to get under my skin or what, so I just said what I thought. “I didn’t want her with you because I knew she’d get hurt.”

A dark look came over his face. His eyes narrowed. Now I was under his skin. “What do you mean by that?”


He just glared at me for a minute. “Well, I’ll just say this, if I find evidence you have been in my house or find any of the missing things in your possession, I will lock you up so fast even your own mother won’t know where you went.”

“My mother’s dead, you know that.”

“Everyone around you seems to be dead, Cole.”

– – – – – – –

After everyone was gone and the crime scene reduced to just another spot on the street, I pulled the ring from my pocket. I turned it over in my hand, looking at it over and over. Why didn’t I tell Deacon I had it? Should I have just said, “here I found this in the dead man’s car?”

No, I didn’t trust him. Something was up with Deacon. Something quite not right with his part in all this. I needed to find Summer. See what she could tell me. Did she take Lacey’s things? Or had Lacey been there herself? Was that even important? There were so many things thrown into the light lately I didn’t know what was important and what wasn’t. All I knew was that my client had died and it may have been suicide or it may have been murder. I had to stop worrying about what had happened to my estranged wife and everyone’s role in that tragedy, and focus on helping Summer. She needed my help. She needed to have closure so she could go on. I still didn’t know why Lacey had lingered on long after the Kaleidoscope Killer was apprehended and killed. She should be at peace now. Unless there was something unfinished. But what? Was it me? Was there something there that needed resolved?

I got up from the porch and went inside the house. It was deathly quiet. I was missing Lacey’s ghostly presence already. I went into the kitchen to fix me a cup of coffee when I caught a scent. It was familiar and female. But it wasn’t the wife.


“Oh hi,” she said, coming around the corner.

“What are you doing here? How did you find where I lived?”

“The address was at Deacon’s. I figured maybe I should check on you.”

“How did you figure that?”

“Well, I heard him say ‘I’ll kill that damn Cole’ the last time he walked out the door.”

I grinned. “Yes, I reckon you had reason to check then.”

“You have a nice house,” she said, looking about the room. “A little too big for one person though. Maybe you should think about remarrying.”

I gave her a stern look.

“Or maybe not,” she added with a shrug.

“So what’s he like at home?” I asked.

“Deacon? He’s weird. For a cop especially.”

“Like weird how?”

“Well, in his den he has newspapers everywhere. And there’s clippings taped to the wall. I saw a picture of your wife by the way. She’s very pretty. She was in one of the clippings.”

I thought of my own clippings. The ones I hung on the wall in the den as I hunted the Kaleidoscope Killer, before he’d gotten Lacey. We were together then. They used to bother her. She’d close the door so she wouldn’t have to look at all the gruesome details. ‘I hope you guys catch him soon,’ I remember her saying every time I mentioned the case. ‘We will baby’, was always my reply. I didn’t realize at the time I would catch him too late.

“Do you miss her?” Summer asked, as if she could read my mind.

“Yes I do.”

She smiled. “I used to dream of having a house like this when I got older and married. Sharing a life, loving someone forever. Stuff like that. Dexter said he’d marry me if I had just been a little older.”

I stopped in my tracks. “What did you say?”

“I said I used to dream of houses like this.”

“No, not that. About Dexter.”

“Did I say Dexter? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive. Did you know Dexter Dean?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know why I said Dexter. I meant Darnell, his brother.”

“Darnell is about the same age as you. Why would you need to be older for him to marry you?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry. Just forget it. I say things I don’t realize I’m saying half the time.”

“Summer, listen to me closely, okay. This is important. Did you know Dexter?”

“No, really I don’t remember. You know how my memory is. I don’t remember much about my life.”

“But you are starting to, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she agreed.

“So when you hung out with Darnell or whatever, did you ever see his older brother Dexter?”

“I..really don’t know, Cole. I’m sorry.”

Something wasn’t right. After awhile you get a nose for these things. Either she was lying or it was still hazy for her. But something told me she was holding back. I had to press her.

“Summer, I can’t help you if you won’t help me. This is important. Try to remember for me. If you knew or had any kind of contact with Dexter Dean, this could really mean something.”

“He was the Kaleidoscope Killer, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, he was.”

“I saw the clippings in Deacon’s house. It mentioned him a lot. I think that’s where I got the Dexter name. It was everywhere. I think he wanted to catch him too.”

“Probably so,” I reasoned. She was changing the subject on me, stringing me away from Dexter and onto the subject of Deacon.

“He misses her too, you know. Just like he misses Carla. The funeral was hard for him. I watched him cry. I wonder if I was expected to cry since I was her girlfriend? I think seeing Carla in her casket made the sheriff think of Lacey. I wanted to comfort him, but the only thing I knew to do was remove her.”

“Remove her?”

“All her things he had. I took Lacey’s stuff and hid them in the attic, so he wouldn’t have to look at them anymore.”

This made me think of something. “Did you take a ring?”

“A ring? No, I didn’t see one.”

“Okay.” I decided to let it rest. I needed to think. So many thoughts were running through my head. But the biggest thing was Dexter. He was dead, I knew. I killed him myself. Shot him dead in a dark alley. But what if there was a connection between the past and the present? Or I couldn’t think this..but who’s to say Dexter had left this world completely? Lacey came back as spirit. Summer was here. Could Dexter be here too, orchestrating everything as a vengeful spirit?

“Summer, stay here. I’ll be right back.”

She looked at me with a curious eye. “Where are you going?” she asked.

“I’m going to pay Dean another visit.”


“No, Dexter..”

“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 15: Making Calls & Corpses

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 15: Making Calls & Corpses

I awoke on the floor, the photo album clutched to my chest. I took a last look at the pictures staring back at me and set it aside. Lacey was dead and gone, but Jessica was still here. I had to get my priorities straight. This had started out about a confused ghost named Summer and somehow it had descended into me haunting myself. I couldn’t very well help any spirits until I helped my own.     I went into the kitchen and picked the phone off its wall cradle, dialing a number automatically. I hadn’t called it in ages, but I still remembered it by heart. After a few rings a woman’s voice answered, formal and distinguished. “Hello?”

“Hello Barbara,” I said.

My mother in law sighed heavily as if this was something she’d been expecting. “Cole, you know you shouldn’t be calling here. The courts have said..”

“I didn’t call to start anything,” I answered quickly. I remembered our last phone conversation had been angry and with threats, resulting in a restraining order against me. I could almost hear the echo from that last conversation still ringing down the line. “Give me my daughter,” I had screamed then. I was a lot calmer these days.

“Maybe not,” she said, “but last time you started out civilly too. Before threatening to come and take your daughter back. But you know you can’t care for her, Cole. You’re neglectful and irresponsible as a father.”

“Barbara,” I protested, even though I knew she was right.

“I know you could have been a great father once. It’s just your continued grief is too great for you to be good for anyone.”

“Thanks for the vote of encouragement.”

“Listen, this is not a good idea. I don’t think you should call here again.”

“I just wanted to know if Jessica is alright, that’s all.”

“She’s fine, Cole. You know she is. We’ll always take care of her as if she were our own.”

I wanted to tell her she wasn’t theirs, and that the only reason they wanted her was to take the place of their beloved Lacey, but in the end all I could say was, “thank you.”

“Goodbye”, Barbara said and I heard that distinct click of the phone hanging up. I stood there with the phone silent against my ear for a moment. Should I have told her that Lacey was okay? That she wasn’t like other spirits walking around and torturing the wits of the living. No, they already thought I’m the loser of the year, I didn’t need to be thought of as certifiable crazy as well.

I set the phone back on the wall and stood there listening to the silence of the house. Everything was still. No more noise of Lacey moving furniture around to suit her. No more scents of her favorite perfume. No more knowing she would be here to watch over me.

Suddenly I felt it, a presence. Almost like a shadow, it passed by me briskly. It wasn’t something I could see, but just a feeling that someone was there. I turned towards where I thought it was, but it was gone.

“Lacey,” I whispered. But it wasn’t Lacey; this was something else. Something I could not see because it hadn’t yet connected with me. Like a new client, it had not yet introduced itself. “Hello, who’s there?”

I heard a loud screech from the kitchen, like a hundred nails being run across a chalkboard. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Even from here I could feel it. Fear. This was not a spirit in confusion, but something else. It knew its state and didn’t like it.

I crossed the room slowly, no longer worrying about trying to communicate. The screeching continued as I turned the corner into the kitchen. For a brief instant I thought I saw it by the kitchen’s back door. It had no real form, but was in a state of hallucinatory change. It was like a mist that dissipates in the breeze. For a moment I thought I saw a face. But if it was a man’s or woman’s I could not tell. Before I could focus on it, it was upon me. It was not solid and so passed right through me. I caught an image of blood and terror. A knife, its hilt buried deep in flesh. I gasped feeling the plunge of the imaginary blade.

Somewhere in my mind the flash of another scene assailed me. A woman on a slab in the morgue. Though the room was full of people in lab coats, no one wanted to look at her. She was almost blue. One of the lab coats turned to me. It was Jacobs. “I’m sorry Cole,” he said. He stepped away from the cart and I saw it was Lacey lying there.

I shook my head, trying to dislodge the memory. For that’s what it was. This wasn’t a hallucinatory vision, this was a real memory. But whose? I remembered the scene vividly, except I don’t recall Jacobs as being there at the time when I was made to identify my wife’s body. So why was he there now?

I walked to the window where the mad scratching had been. Across the glass I could see where someone had etched something there. It looked like they’d taken a knife and scratched words across the surface. It was faint but I could read it perfectly: DEAD END.

What the hell was that supposed to mean? I opened the door and looked out. Nothing was out there. I closed the door and returned to the front of the house. What had just been here? Lacey departs and then something else shows up. And what of the images in my head? Why was Jacobs there in that memory of the morgue? Then it occurred to me. Because he’s not here, that’s why.

I burst out the front door, down the porch and into the street. I drew my gun and held it with both hands. I crossed the street towards where his car was still parked. I stopped behind the driver’s side door. “Put your hands on the wheel,” I commanded, clicking back the hammer on the gun. I could see him in the front seat, but he was staring straight ahead, as if he didn’t hear me. I backed away from the car and leveled the gun as I moved forward alongside his door. “Get out of the car!”

He didn’t move. Didn’t even look at me or acknowledge my presence at all. I stepped up to the door so I could see all the way inside. A knife was stuck in his abdomen all the way to the hilt. Blood covered its handle and his lap. It was easy to see he’d bled to death. Blood was in the seat and smeared on his shirt as if he’d tried wiping it off his hands.

“Damn,” I muttered. Jacobs had been stabbed and bled to death inside his car while I had slept off the sorrow of losing Lacey for the final time. He’d sat here unable to move, to go get help, or to tell anyone his last words..But wait, he did tell someone his last words. DEAD END. On the glass. It had been Jacobs. The entity in the kitchen. It had been him, frightened over his new state, changing and evolving in the spirit as he tried to adjust to the metaphysical realm. The scenes as they passed through me were part my own memory, part what had just happened to him. “I’m sorry,” he had said in that vision, and I imagine he was. But so was I. Once again I had not been there for someone who needed me.

I took one last look inside the car and I noticed something strange. Something that didn’t belong. Something that wasn’t Jacob’s. It sat on the dashboard. I reached through the car window and picked it up. It was a ring. Not a cheap one either. I should know, after all I bought it. It was Lacey’s wedding ring.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Advocate For The Dead Chapter 14: Home Is Where The Hurt Is

Advocate For The Dead Table Of Contents

Chapter 14: Home Is Where The Hurt Is

I left Andrea right there where she was in the Caden family attic. Everything else was forgotten. Every question that should have been in my mind was gone replaced by one thought: Lacey.     Had it been her all along? We hadn’t been on the best of terms when she died. Could there have been a deep bitterness in her heart that festered in the grave until it brought her back? Had she been playing nice all this time just to set me up? When she came back, it was as the woman she once was in the early days of our marriage, not the exasperated woman who had left me to take up with another man. Why? Did she truly love me or did she blame me for her death the way I do?

My mind raced with these questions. I didn’t want to believe it. Please God, don’t let it be Lacey. Anyone but her please. Don’t let her be the force that drove Summer Dennings off the bridge. Don’t let her be the reason Carla was hung from our tree house. Don’t let her be the one responsible for blowing up Jeff Dennings house and killing him in the process. Had she been communicating with these kids through the ouija board, planning a resurrection of herself to take some sort of revenge on me for neglecting her? For abandoning her in favor of my job?

I skidded to a stop outside my house. I sat there for a moment and took a deep breath. My hands were shaking, gripping the wheel. If Lacey hated me so much that she wanted to harm me I don’t know if I could live with myself.

I felt the gun against my skin under my jacket. Would it be better if I just put a stop to it right now? If I just put the gun to my temple and make it better for everyone. No, that was crazy thinking. I had to finish this. See it through until the end. I had to know the truth.

I got out of the car and started for the walk. That’s when I saw the car across the street. A man was sitting behind the wheel. He was slumped over in the seat, wearing a black hat and dark glasses. From where I stood I couldn’t see who it was. But he was watching me. Or was he watching the house?

I turned to face him, torn between finding out who he was and going into the house to confront Lacey. He opened the car door and got out. He didn’t have a weapon that I could see, but still his dark figure looked ominous. Silently, he raised his head and I finally recognized who it was.

“Jacobs, jesus man, you nearly made me draw my piece!” I called out.

He looked even worse than he did outside the ruins of Jeff Denning’s house. He was almost skeletal, a gaunt figure of gray. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

“What are you doing here?” I asked him.

“I was waiting for you, Cole.”

“What’s up?”

“We’re in danger. Grave danger. And I think I’m next.”

I recalled our earlier conversation. He thought that then too, but I thought I had eased his mind on that point. He’s a man plagued by inner demons. There’s not a lot I can do but try and turn him from his paranoia.

“Next for what?”

“To die,” he whispered.

“What are we talking about here? Natural causes? Murder?”

“You didn’t hear, did you?” he asked.

“No. Hear what?”

He looked down at his shoes. “Brandywine is dead.”

“Brandywine?” This wasn’t making much sense.

“Yeah, she walked out in front of a truck. For no reason at all. Just stepped off the curb into its path.”

Suddenly it occurred to me who he meant. Brandywine. The nickname for our dispatcher in the days we were on the force. Her real name was Sheila Brandy. I remembered her vividly. How she had looked at me that night when I told her to divert all cruisers away from the escaped Kaleidoscope Killer. She’d given me a concerned look as I headed out the door into the night. She never was very friendly with me after that. And now she was dead.

“Brandy was a good person,” I said.

“One of the last, Cole. There are only three of us left now.”


“Me, you, and Deacon.”

“Left from what?”

“Don’t you read the papers?”

“No, not here lately. I’ve been busy.”

“In the past three weeks we’ve been dropping like flies. Everyone who was in on it.”

“In on what?”

“The Kaleidoscope investigation.”

“All of them killed?”

“It’s not provable as such. They’ve taken their own lives, been in accidents, natural causes. But I know it’s not natural. Something’s going on. Someone is killing us off. Narrowing the number of us down until..”

“Until what?” I interrupted.

“Until there’s just one of us left.”

“Which one?”

“It’s you, Cole. You’ll be the last one standing. Someone wants you to suffer.”

I looked up at the house. Was Lacey in there waiting for me? Was Jacobs showing up fate’s way of saying ‘you’ve been warned’? To tread softly and carry a rocket launcher?

“Go back home, Jacobs,” I told him. “You’re not going to die.”

“Yes I am. And so are you, Cole. You just don’t know it yet.”

He got back in his car, and I shut the door for him. He did look like a man on his deathbed. Fear was eating him to pieces. He took his glasses off and looked right at me. “You can’t stop it,” he said. “It’s unnatural. It’s more powerful than any of us.”

“No, I will stop it.”

I left him there and turned to the house. Yes, I would stop it. Right here tonight. I headed to the house with renewed purpose. All these people dead, and for what? A vengeance without reason?

I stepped up on the porch and opened the front door. “Lacey!” I called out as I crossed the threshold. I didn’t see the door closing behind me. Didn’t see the shadow cross the room. All I could see was the all-encompassing blackness after the blow struck me in the back of my head. Before my consciousness faded, the last glimpse I caught was her face looking down on me. I tried to say her name but nothing would come. Nothing but darkness..

– – – – –

My eyes came into focus. Lacey was looking down on me, her face betraying grave concern.

“Oh God Cole, I’m sorry. I thought you was him.”

I put my hand to the back of my head and felt where she had hit me. No blood, that was a good sign.

“Who?” I grumbled.

“The man who has been hanging around outside all day. He tried coming in earlier, but couldn’t get the door open. I thought he’d finally picked it.”

My head was a little groggy, but the spin the room was in was slowing down. “Jesus Lacey, what did you hit me with?”

She grinned kind of sheepishly. “A chair.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really? Felt like the whole damn table.”

“Sorry about that. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve been practicing moving solid objects.”

She’d been practicing moving objects? Or was it that she was close to regaining solid form? Had the ouija board communications with the kids been restoring her to flesh? I wanted to say something. I wanted to grab her and ask her why. But I feared the answer.

I stood up and walked to the window. “That the guy who was trying to get in?” I pointed outside to Jacobs’s car. He was still sitting there. I must have been out for only a minute. “That’s Jacobs. He was on the force with me before I quit.”

“Cole, I’m sorry. I thought he was someone bad. I was only trying to protect you.”

She seemed genuine about it. How could I not believe her? But something inside of me, some internal personality flaw refused to let it go. I’d forgotten every reasoning bone in my body and chose not to believe her.

“Lacey, I need to ask you something.”

She looked at me. The tone of my voice told her something was wrong. She narrowed her eyes and I saw her look become one of defense and suspicion.

“Am I the only one you talk to or visit?”

“Yes of course,” she answered.

I walked into the living room and set myself on the couch. She followed me.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

She knelt down before me. Normally in life, she would have taken my hands in hers and implored me to confide in her. Now she could not. She could not physically touch me, and even if she could, my line of questioning kept her at a distance.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

“Why? What kind of question is that? I’m here for you.”


She furrowed her brow. “You don’t know? Don’t make me tell you, Cole. It hurts bad enough to see you in confusion.”

“I am confused. We weren’t together anymore. You’d left me and I’d shut myself up in this house wishing you’d come back home. Then you died. Only then did you come back. You could have returned to Deacon. He was your man then, not me. So I have to know. Why did you come back to me? What was so unfinished that has kept you here?”

“Cole,” she spoke, looking at me with a face that read only sympathy and pity. “I have always loved you. But you pushed me away. Turned my affections from you. That’s the only reason I left in the first place. I came back to you after death because I realized the connection we have is permanent. What we have done together requires a peace between us and we cannot be divided anymore. You can’t just stop loving someone.”

I looked away. I didn’t want her to see me on the verge of losing it. A part of me was still in denial; the other wanted to believe her sincerity and heart. I was torn between the twin emotions of love and regret.

“Look at me, love. What we created in our lifetime was blessed. But you got caught up in your life, and I got caught up in mine, and we both forgot what was ours until we lost it. I blamed you for a long time. And you blamed me.”

I knew she was right, but it still didn’t answer the question that swirled around my head. “Do you think of revenge?”


“Getting even with the one who caused you to die?”

“No I don’t.”

“You don’t resent me for not saving you?”

“Oh my darling, I would never resent you for a thing. Why are you thinking these awful things?”

I swallowed hard and wondered just how much I should say. “I was interviewing someone. They said they’d been communicating with you through a ouija board. They said you wanted revenge. That you told them things.”

“What kind of things?”

“That you knew how to raise the dead.”

“No one can do that. Once you’re spirit, you are spirit. You cannot inhabit the flesh again. You know that.”

“They said you wanted to kill me.”

She looked at me. If real tears could have formed in her eyes, it would have been running down her face. “And you believe that? After everything we’ve been through, you believe I would think such things? How could you think me so cruel?”

I didn’t know how to answer her. I didn’t know what to feel. I wanted to trust her, but a seed had been planted and so my response was both vague and yet clear to her. “I don’t know what to believe anymore, Lace.”

She got up from her place in the floor and moved away from me. She was hurt, and I knew then I’d lost her a second time.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “I came back for you, Cole. I knew you couldn’t make it without me. That you needed me. And yet this is how you think of me? As some cold calculated murderess? I am not the Kaleidoscope Killer, Cole. This is your Lacey, damn you. The friend you once trusted. The girl you professed to love. The woman you married. The mother of your child!”

I looked up sharply as if she had just slapped me awake from a dream.

“Do you think I would rob Jessica of her father, too?” she continued. “It’s bad enough I can’t go to her like you can. You can tell her all about me as she grows up. I have had trouble even leaving this house. And yet you think I want to kill you because you can’t forgive yourself for not being there for me or our daughter. Well to hell with you Cole! This house used to be a place of love, but you’ve made it into a place of suspicion and distrust. I hope you’re happy now, because this is it. I won’t be pushed away again. Have a nice life!”

She nearly spat the last sentence in my face. I watched her face contort; the tears were running down her face now. Anger, hurt, every painful emotion was there on her face. And it was all my fault. I had done it again, chased away the woman who only wanted to love me. Her image flickered and faded and I watched as she dissipated like smoke. She was leaving. Whatever force had kept her here was letting her go. If she had been here for some divine reason, the reason had now been erased.

I put my head into my hands and cried.

“You stupid, stupid, stupid man,” I sobbed. Once again my mind and mouth had run far ahead of my heart. I had disproved the old adage: home is where the heart is. She was right, I had made it a place of hurt.

I reached in my jacket for my pistol. I couldn’t take this. “You are a fool, a disgusting old fool,” I admonished myself. I pulled the gun and placed it against my temple. I closed my eyes. Nothing else mattered. I had lost Lacey again. There was nothing that could keep me here now.

Suddenly a book fell off a shelf on the other side of the room. It had just slid to the edge of its own accord, as if Lacey before leaving had one last message to say. The book hit the floor and opened, the paper rifling briefly before stopping on a certain page.

I lowered the gun and walked over to where the book lay. It was a photo album. I knelt down so I could see the pictures. There was Lacey and I at the beach, the wind blowing through our hair. There was a wedding picture, not a formal one, but she and I getting ready to run out the chapel door into a hail of rice and confetti. There we were cheek to cheek at a Christmas party. And there on the bottom lay her final message. A picture of herself in a hospital bed, I at her side. And in her arms our daughter.

I dropped the gun and kicked it away from me. I grabbed up the photo album and clutched it to my chest, letting out a wail of anguish.

“I’m sorry,” I sobbed, but no one was listening. I was alone.
“Advocate for the dead” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.