Author’s Note: Wow, here we go again with another serial novel. And again, we deal with ghosts and mystery. Still, I hope you will join me on this latest endeavor. If you like what you read, please press that like button. And if you see anything that strikes you, please feel free to tell me about it, so I know what works and what doesn’t. See a mistake, or something that just doesn’t look right, please comment that too so I can try to fix it. If you have been following my work for awhile and have already seen portions of this somewhere, please note there will be changes abound, with scenes fleshed out more, as the original manuscript of this was only 40k words. I hope to turn this into something closer to novel length in this draft. So, let me shut up and allow you to get to reading. Thanks for joining me and I hope you enjoy.
Paul D Aronson
Jan 6, 2017
CHAPTER ONE : SUMMER & WINTER
The dead girl stood in my office. You would think I’d be used to such things by now, but thankfully she wasn’t too frightening a corpse. Though the dirt of the grave still clung to her white burial dress, she looked pretty as a picture, a postcard of youth and naivety. But I knew she wasn’t as innocent as she appeared, otherwise she wouldn’t have been standing there with that bewildering question in her eyes.
“You can see me?” she asked curiously.
“Yes, miss. I can see you.”
“No one else seems to.”
I smiled to let her know I understood her confusion. “Please have a seat.”
I offered her a chair and my card. I wasn’t sure if she could hold the card so I set it on the edge of my desk in front of her. She glanced down at it.
“Cole Winter, Advocate & Investigations,” she read aloud. Her voice was soft and lilting, almost a whisper. She laughed slightly. “That’s funny.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Your name is Winter. I’m Summer.”
I smiled and hoped she would see it as genuine. “Well, Miss Summer, what can I do for you?”
She slightly frowned. “To be honest, Mr. Winter, I don’t know why I’m here. I guess I just need your help.”
I nodded. She looked to be college age but I surmised none of her education had prepared her for this. Psychology 101 never teaches you how to mentally deal with being dead. Nervously, she ran her fingers through her long blonde hair and seemed surprised there was dirt clinging to it.
“I want to know what happened,” she said. She looked behind her at my office door, as if to check if anyone else had entered and was eavesdropping on our conversation. “I’m afraid I don’t have any money to pay you, but maybe my parents do. Perhaps they would agree to your fees if you explain it to them, though I’m not sure if they’d understand the situation.”
“That’s okay. We needn’t worry about that. This is more of a calling, than an occupation. I’m here to help so let’s start with your full name first.” I got out a pen to jot down the details in my notebook.
“It’s Summer Lynn…” She hesitated a second. “Oh my, I can’t remember my last name.”
She seemed distraught at this. Her face wrinkled up, and she squinted her eyes in concentration, trying to remember the particulars of who she was. Her distress soon turned to embarrassment. “I’m sorry I can’t seem to…”
“It’s okay, miss. It happens all the time.”
“Yes, it’s sometimes hard for a victim to remember details of their life when they’ve been through a severely traumatic event.”
She frowned. “And I’ve been through one of those?”
“Yes, I believe so. You wouldn’t be talking to me otherwise.”
“What happened to me?”
I glanced to my lap in an effort to gather my thoughts and then looked back up into her pale blue eyes. I could see the wall behind her, but those eyes kept pulling me back to her pretty, youthful face. I wanted to tell her the truth, but this was always the hardest part for me, telling the client how hopeless their situation truly was. It was something I struggled with, and I think she saw it in my face. She saved me from the awkwardness.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?”
I nodded with a sad smile. “Yes, I’m afraid so.”
This time it was her turn to nod. “It wasn’t pleasant? My passing?”
“Doubtful,” I replied in a quiet voice.
She reached her hand up to her face in an attempt to wipe away her tears. I could see them glistening in her eyes and starting to run down her cheek. She managed to catch one on her finger and seemed to study it for a moment. She looked at me.
“How can I still feel things?” she asked, showing me the dampness of the tear on her finger.
I straightened up in my chair and folded my hands together. “Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the things we have lived with. Your tears in reality aren’t there, but to you they still have substance because you aren’t quite ready to let go of the physical world.”
“And you can help me let go?”
“No, I’m afraid that’s not where my expertise lies. You’ll have to find a way to let go yourself.”
She seemed disappointed and so I pushed on, trying to encourage her that it wasn’t altogether hopeless.
“Sometimes,” I said, “once you realize your situation, that is enough to help you let go and move on to where you are supposed to go.”
“Where am I supposed to go?”
“I don’t know. People go to different places, depending. I can’t be that kind of judge of character. Again, that’s not what I do.”
“Then what do you do, Mr. Winter?”
“I am an advocate for the dead. Basically, I help those like yourself who have unfinished business in their lives. In most cases I just serve as a messenger, relating the wishes of the departed to the living, resolving standing issues, sometimes just saying goodbye. Every now and then I do a little investigative work if the situation warrants it. Seeking the truth for those who cannot seek it for themselves. People like you.”
“You mean ghosts?”
“Yes, if you wish to use that word.”
She seemed to think on something for a minute. “Can you find out what happened to me? Why I died?”
“Yes, I think I can.”
She smiled. “I would like that.”
“I know,” I agreed. “I will do my best.”
I stood up from my chair. Under other circumstances I would have shook her hand, but I knew in this instance there might have been no point in that. My hand may have just passed right through her. You never can tell about the physical state of the recently deceased.
A look of sudden puzzlement crossed her face. “What do I do while you are investigating? Should I stay here out of sight?”
“That’s not necessary. Not many people would see you, Miss Summer. There’s very few of us who can see those who have passed from the material plane. So you can go wherever you want really. The chances of anyone taking notice of you are quite slim. At the worst, people may feel a disturbance in the air when you get close to them, but that’s about it.”
She looked ready to cry, and I realized in trying to explain things to her that I had caused her anguish by letting her know just how insignificant she’d become.
“I’m sorry,” I tried to explain, “but for all intents and purposes you are dead and buried. That may sound harsh but I can’t mince words. You are deceased and lost to nearly everyone. That is not to say you are forgotten though. I imagine that there are those out there who really miss you and would love nothing more than to know you are alright.”
“Alright? But I’m dead.” She began to cry. “Oh my, this is so hard.”
“I know it must be. It may not make things easier for you, but you are more than welcome to come with me.” I was already getting my coat and hat off the peg hooks by the door.
“I don’t want to be alone,” she confessed.
I wanted to tell her she already was, but I bit my lip. My job here was to find answers for her, not to dish out further cruelty than she may have already faced. So instead I looked at her with my most sympathetic expression.
“I don’t like being alone either,” I said.
She sadly smiled. “I won’t leave you if you won’t leave me.”
“Deal,” I said, though I knew one day she would leave. There’s no point getting attached to the deceased any more than you have to.
She smiled and for a moment I thought she was going to hug me. I didn’t want her to do that. I almost trembled just thinking of it, the feeling of invasion that occurs when the spirit meets the real. It is bad enough the feeling of longing that hugs can bring, and even more so when the person you hug is no longer of this earth.
“Come on, let’s go,” I said, before she could act on her impulses. I quickly stepped to the door and she fell in behind me. I stopped at the threshold and looked back into the safety of my office. Sometimes just leaving this familiar place filled me with a sense of dread. I went back to my desk and opened the top drawer. There was a Glock 9mm in a shoulder holster lying inside. I picked it up, took off my jacket and strapped it on.
She seemed taken aback by this. “Is a gun necessary?”
“Never can tell,” I confessed. “Until we know what happened, I feel safer with it. If we find out you died of a disease or something, I’ll put it up.” I put my jacket back on and the weapon was perfectly concealed. You couldn’t even tell I had it.
“So, where to first?” Summer asked.
“That depends. What’s the last thing you remember?”
She looked at me and shivered in her dress. “Cold. Earth. Emptiness.”
“Your grave,” I suggested.
“Yes, I guess so.”
She looked so lost and forlorn; I wished I could have consoled her and told her it was going to be all right. But it wasn’t going to be all right. I couldn’t comfort her. In fact, no one could. I wished Lacey could be here to help me through this, but I chased that thought from my head quick. My estranged wife would show up when she was damn good and ready to.
“Alright, Miss Summers, let’s go find out who you are.”
I stepped out the door and closed it behind me. Just as I thought, she had no problem passing right through it. Together we went down the street like the lost leading the lost, both seeking the truth, not knowing where it would take us. Sometimes that is best, not knowing what is going to happen. Otherwise I guess we’d all just try to run and stay one step ahead of the shadows. I thought of the task ahead, of immersing myself in this young woman’s life to forget the tragedy of my own. Sometimes being an advocate for the dead is simply a means for avoiding the living…
“Advocate For The Dead” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.