Chapter Three: House Of Summer
The gravedigger didn’t want me to take the ring. Not without giving him forty dollars first anyway. We left him standing there looking at the crisp bills in his hand and walked back to the cemetery road. “Can I see it?” Summer asked, pointing to the ring in my hand. I held it up so she could get a good look at it. She went to take it, but when she found she couldn’t grasp its solid form, she just sighed. “I keep forgetting I’m not real anymore,” she lamented.
“Does it spark anything?” I asked. “Who’s Jeff? Do you remember when he gave it to you? What the occasion was or anything?”
“I know we were close once,” she replied a little uncertainly, “but I can’t picture what he looked like or even things we may have done.”
I smiled, trying to reassure her. If she’d been alive, I would have patted her hand or back in a gesture of innocent compassion. “Well, at least we know your name now, and can find out where you lived. Maybe your parents can tell me about you and Jeff.”
We passed by a headstone that had been knocked over. “Why do people do that?” she asked.
“I guess some people just have nothing better to do.” I glanced over at her. “Even with that in mind, I can’t understand why someone would have stolen your body.”
“I have a nice body,” she giggled.
I grinned at the joke.
“Don’t you think so?” she asked teasingly, her hand on her spectral hips.
How do you answer a question like that without sounding like a necrophiliac? It was bad enough a girl that looked like a college junior was flirting with me, even worse that she was dead.
“Not bad,” I finally answered.
“Not bad? Well…” She pretended to be in a huff and offended.
I just shook my head. “I bet you were something else.”
“I bet I was, too,” she winked. I’m not sure I liked this ghostly flirting of hers, but what can you do? If you ignore a ghost, they just keep at you. Trust me, I know this.
As we were leaving the cemetery, this time by the road, we saw the spray painted headstone the gravedigger had mentioned. In neon green was the graffiti message: “You’re going to die up there.” Nice to know I’m not the only one who has seen ‘The Exorcist.’
Outside the cemetery gates, I noticed the sun was getting close to setting. I guess we could have waited to go to her house, but I don’t like letting spirits linger too long. The longer they are in limbo, the more they want to stay in that state. This is why there are a lot of old ghosts out there. They just got used to it, and since there wasn’t anyone around to help them out, they just stayed right there reliving the same events over and over. If people like me had lived during the American Revolution, we probably wouldn’t have half the ghosts we do now.
It wasn’t that far to her house, but after being on my feet all day I was getting kind of tired of walking. So I hailed us a cab, and requested she stay quiet on the drive. This was always the hard part about taking public transportation with a ghost. If you started acting strange, most of the time the driver would kick you right out of the cab. So I had to sit there with my hands in my lap, trying my best to ignore her presence and pretending to be the only passenger. I had the driver stop at a phone booth and looked up Dennings in the book. New Sutcliffe had fifty-four of them listed. I started calling them one by one. I finally found the parents of Summer Lynn Dennings twelve quarters later. I told the woman who answered that I wanted to speak with them about their daughter Summer, and just as I suspected, she clammed up. Then I heard a beep. Turned out it was their answering machine. I hung up.
As I was getting ready to call the next number, the phone rang. It was Summer’s mom. She must have been standing there screening the call. I explained I was an investigator and just wanted to come by and ask her a few questions. She agreed and gave me the address.
The drive cost me the rest of my quarters, and a few dollars as well. In a moment of forgetfulness, or perhaps just chivalry, I held the door open for Summer as we stopped in front of her house. The cabbie gave me this odd look. “I’m practicing for a date I have coming up,” I explained with a shrug.
Summer and I stood on the curb as the cab drove off. I gave her a few pointers. “Okay, listen. Spirits are able to interact more in their own home and wherever their family members are. It’s the close ties that does it, so you have to be careful. You might bump into a chair and find it has solid form and end up scooting it halfway across the room. Unfortunately, they still won’t see you, so this could really freak them out.”
“Okay. I’ll try to watch where I’m walking.”
“Don’t pick up any objects or touch anything. If you see something of interest, point it out to me, and I’ll pick it up. It doesn’t do well for folks to see their family heirlooms floating in midair.”
“Don’t pick anything up. I got it.”
“And try not to speak too loudly. If you must say something to me, whisper it as quietly as possible. Family members can sometimes hear the spirits of loved ones. The problem is they may be able to hear you, but it’s translated in different ways from your realm to this one. Some might hear a scream. Others a moan. They won’t be able to tell what you are trying to say in most cases. Consider this the devil’s joke. Being able to communicate and not be understood.”
“So in other words, act like I’m not here.”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“I don’t think I like this being dead gig much.”
“I only know one person who does,” I said.
“Never mind. Come on; let’s go see mom and dad.”
They answered on the first knock. Summer’s parents were your typical cliché of a suburban mom and dad. Clean cut, jovial working class father. Always smiling, stay-at-home mother. Kind of like ‘Leave It To Beaver’ without Wally or The Beav. It was almost scary. Thank God, my parents weren’t like that.
I did my ‘flash of the business card’ trick and told them I was an investigator who was looking into a sensitive matter concerning their daughter.
They invited me in and led me to a sofa in the living room. We all sat down. “You do realize, Mr. Winter, that our daughter passed away recently,” Mr. Dennings said.
“Yes sir, I’m aware of that. I don’t quite know how to inform you of this, but her grave was desecrated last night and I’m trying to find out why.”
“Desecrated,” Mrs. Dennings gasped. “How?”
“Her body was stolen.”
Mr. Dennings jumped up. “Stolen!?”
“Please sit down sir,” I said quietly, trying to diffuse this alarming moment for them. “We are working hard to find out who did this and get her body back where it belongs.”
Mrs. Dennings exclaimed, “And you damn well should!”
I almost laughed. I don’t think June Cleaver ever cussed on TV. But I bit my lip to keep my cool. “If you could answer a few questions, it might be helpful.”
“Okay,” she said, calming down.
I took the ring out of my pocket and handed it over to them. “Do you recognize this?”
“Yes, it’s Summer’s ring. Jeff gave it to her last year.”
I looked around for Summer and saw her standing over at the fireplace mantle looking at something. I knew what was going to happen before it did. She tried to pick something up and it fell crashing to the floor. It was a picture frame and it lay shattered face down. I was hoping they wouldn’t see it as a bad omen. Supernatural things involving pictures tend to freak people out. It didn’t faze them however.
Mrs. Dennings got up. “We have all kinds of things breaking in this house lately,” she reasoned.
As she went to clean it up, I flashed a warning glance at Summer. “Who’s Jeff?” I asked, returning my attention to her father.
“Brother?” I quickly looked over at Summer. She gave me a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, ‘hey don’t ask me.’
“They were close then, I assume?”
“Yes,” her father replied. “It used to bother us when they were younger.”
“Hush, Del,” Mrs. Denning said. “Mr. Winter, Jeff adored his sister. Nothing less, nothing more.”
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Summer was going up the stairs on tiptoe. Instinct made her reach out for the railing and she stumbled. Her feet did a quick shuffle as she righted herself.
“What was that?” her mother said, looking at the staircase and seeing nothing.
“I didn’t hear anything,” I quickly interjected. “So, your children were close as siblings?”
“Yes,” she replied, returning her attention to me. Summer disappeared at the top of the stairs, but this was not a time for her to go exploring on her own.
“Umm, would you mind if I took a look at her room?”
“I don’t see why not,” Mr. Dennings replied. “Honey?”
“No, go right ahead. It’s at the top of the stairs and to your left.”
“Thank you kindly.” I got up. Something slammed upstairs. A door, a drawer, something. I coughed loudly and stomped my foot, hoping to cover up the sound. It didn’t work. They both bounded up the stairs to investigate.
“Damn it, Summer,” I muttered. I walked over to where Mrs. Dennings had been cleaning up the mess her ghostly daughter had made. She had swept up the pieces of the picture frame into a dustpan. Lying on top was a picture of the proud parents and a young man, not much older than Summer. Must be Jeff, I thought. I noticed my client wasn’t in the picture.
Mr. and Mrs. Dennings both came back down the stairs. “It was nothing,” the man of the house said. “Something must have fallen over, but I’ll be damned if I know what it was.”
I nodded and held up the picture. “Did Summer take this?”
Mrs. Dennings beamed proudly. “Oh yes. She would have made a fine photographer, don’t you think?”
“Yes mam, she would have.” I handed the picture over to her. “I think I’ll go take a look at the room now if you don’t mind.”
“Certainly, go ahead.”
I went up the stairs and took the first door on the left.
“Advocate For The Dead” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.