Chapter 6: Brother Of A Ghost
Summer was punctual. At 10 o’clock she walked through the door to my office. I’d say it looked like she hadn’t gotten any sleep, but ghosts have the same look about them all the time. When I die, I hope it’s not when I’m so tired. I’d hate to think I’d come back with messed up hair. “Did you get any sleep?” she asked me.
“Yeah, a little bit.” I got up from my chair and collected my gun and coat. “You ready?”
“Sure. Where are we going today, chief?”
“I figure we’d go visit your brother. See what he remembers about you.”
She looked at me with a serious look. “I’m scared, Mr. Winter.”
“Scared of what? Ghosts aren’t supposed to be scared.”
“What if he remembers something I don’t want to know? What if he tells us I was a spoiled brat or a cast iron bitch? What if he says he hated me, or worse than that, that everyone hated me?”
“Summer, I don’t think you have to worry. You are a very nice person from what you have shown me. I think he’ll remember you fondly. At worst he might embarrass you by telling me he walked in on you when you were changing clothes or caught you making out with somebody on the sofa.”
She smiled. “You sure know how to make a girl smile”, she said. “Oh let me guess, it’s part of the job.”
“Well as a matter of fact, it is”, I grinned and she made a gesture as if she was going to punch me in the arm. Instinct made me step back. I still didn’t want her touching me. It would be a quick way of finding out things about her, but the after effects of such contact are hell.
Her brother lived on the other side of town, about as far away from their parents as they could get and still be in the same city. I didn’t really have a preconceived notion of Jeff, and on the ride over in the cab I asked Summer questions about him. Of course, she couldn’t tell me anything. She didn’t remember. I’d say her memory couldn’t get worse, but I knew it could. I’d seen ghosts who had started all over each day because they forgot they were dead in that small space of twenty-four hours. I hoped Summer wasn’t here long enough to get that bad.
When we arrived at her brother’s house I told her the same things as before. Don’t touch anything. Act like you’re not there. When my knock on his door went unanswered, I walked around to the back of the house. There was a man out there working on a lawn mower. If this was Jeff he wasn’t anything like I imagined him. The picture at his mom’s must have been an older one, because he didn’t look like a lanky college kid anymore. He was tall, dark, rugged…all the things I’m not. And he made twice of me.
“Jeff Dennings?” I asked.
He looked up from his work. “Yeah? Who’s asking?”
“I’m Cole Winter, an investigator.”
I flashed him my badge but he was too quick.
“What’s an advocate?”
“I represent people who can’t find help elsewhere,” I replied, putting my ID back in my pocket.
“Kind of like a court appointed attorney?”
“Yeah, close enough.” I laughed. If only he knew. “I’d like to ask you a few questions if I may.”
“About your sister.”
He looked at me suspiciously. “I’ve already talked to the cops.”
I didn’t want to let on I didn’t know how she died, but with that kind of response from him I assumed she went out under dubious circumstances. In those cases it’s sometimes best not to ask. “Well, I really want to know about people she may have known or associated with.”
He glanced back at the house. “Would you like a beer?”
“Yeah, that would be fine.”
He led the way inside and we entered the kitchen, where he sat a beer for each of us at the table. I took this as an invitation to sit down.
“So who do you want to know about?” Jeff asked, popping the top on his beer. It sounded loud in the emptiness of the house. I looked up to see where Summer was. She’d followed us in and was now sauntering around the kitchen, looking but not touching.
“Well, first I’d like to know about your own relationship with Summer.”
“Man, I loved Summer. She was a great girl..” I noticed Summer smiled at this. “A little messed up, but great.”
“Like messed up how?”
“Living in that house. Have you been there to see mom and pop?”
“They acted like a freaking sitcom, didn’t they?”
“They are always that way. They wanted us both to be the perfect kids. Growing up I thought they’d rather have Opie as a son than me. And as for Summer, they wanted her to be this prim and proper lady. Man, did she disappoint them…”
“So neither of you could take living in the house?”
“I’ll ask you that same question. Could you?”
I laughed. “No, I guess I couldn’t.”
“As soon as I could, I moved out. I told Summer she could come stay here and finally after that last fight with them, she did. I mean she was in her twenties. It’s not like she was a kid anymore having to put up with their shit.”
“Your parents seemed to think you two were close siblings. Your dad even said it worried him?”
“Yeah, well they couldn’t understand that all Summer and I had for awhile was each other. I mean those two didn’t understand a thing about whatever problems we may have had growing up. They were lost in their own little world. So Summer and I talked to each other. She was my best friend ever, Mr. Winter.”
I nodded and looked past Jeff. His sister was behind him just standing there. The look on her spectral face told me she didn’t remember anything he was talking about.
“What about Summer’s friends?” I asked. “Was she popular? Did she have many close friends?”
“The one thing you have to understand about Summer is that…ummm well….She was different than most her peers.”
“Different? Like how?”
“Well if you’ve seen her picture, you’d know she was drop dead gorgeous.” I hadn’t seen her picture, but thought it was a fair choice of words anyway.
“Yes I noticed that,” I replied.
Summer blushed a little and grinned, pretending to primp behind her brother.
“Boys fell all over her,” Jeff said. “But only one caught her eye. Joel Camden. Track star. Football star. Typical Testosterone kid.”
“What’s so different about that?”
“She dumped him for someone else.”
“Oh really? Who?”
“Her name was Carla.”
I looked up at Summer. Her mouth had dropped open like she couldn’t believe it.
“I saw a photograph at your mom’s house, up in your sister’s room.” I said. “A dark haired girl. Mischievous grin. Is that the Carla you are talking about?”
“That’s the one. Carla was trouble all the way. College dropout. Wanted everyone to think she was gangsta, but it was easy to tell she was just an average girl trying to be something else. At best, she was kind and accepting of Summer. At worst, she was a bad influence. After my sister dropped out too, I wouldn’t let Carla come here to see her. And mom and dad wanted to kill them both.”
Again I looked at my ghostly client, who appeared to be in a state of shock. She finally left the room, passing through the wall and into the den, I think more embarrassed than anything. She hadn’t expected this about her life, and neither had I.
“Are you telling me that Summer had a love affair with Carla?”
“If you want to call it that,” Jeff replied.
“Who knew about it?”
“Almost everyone. It’s not the 1970’s anymore. They didn’t really hide it.”
“Have you seen Carla since your sister died?”
“No, she took off, I hear. She came to the funeral, stood in the back. She didn’t stay to watch us put her in the ground.”
“Do you have Carla’s address?”
“Nope. But her family is in the book. Deacon.”
I looked up sharply. “Deacon? You mean as in Sheriff Deacon?”
Jeff nodded. “The same.”
“Oh my,” was all I could say. Sheriff Deacon and I didn’t get along. After all, he was the one Lacey left me for. This was getting a little too close to home. I didn’t know he’d had a daughter though. Of course I tried not to know too much about him. Especially after our fist fight at the Lacey corral. I was going to have to ask her about this one. Was this why she’d been at my house waiting last night?
“Anyone else your sister was close to?”
“Not really. While she lived here nobody came by. Well, except the Dean kid.”
“Dean kid?” Now he really had my attention. I had a feeling I was getting ready to hear something I wasn’t going to like. Please don’t let this be happening, I thought. Don’t let him be involved in this. Anyone but him.
“I think his first name isn’t so common these days. Like Dominic or Dexter or something.”
My blood froze for a moment. “Not Dexter,” I said quietly.
“No not Dexter. Not Dominic…oh I remember. Darnell. Darnell Dean.”
I closed my eyes. I could see the face on that kid. I knew him. This was getting bad. This was getting to be like a freaking soap opera every minute. My client, unknown to even herself, was attracted to girls more than boys. The girl she was involved with was the daughter of my estranged wife’s boyfriend. And I killed Darnell Dean’s brother on a rain swept downtown street.
Suddenly I felt the room was getting claustrophobic. I hate living in towns like this. Everyone is connected, and what one person does affects everyone else like a stack of dominoes. But this wasn’t a small town. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The connections were too much to be coincidence. It was like fate had made this big circle and somehow I was at both the beginning and the end of it.
Jeff was looking at me strangely. “Are you okay?”
I looked up. I realized I had been staring at my shaking hands. “Yes, I’m fine. Do you think it would be possible if I could see Summer’s room?”
“She stayed in the attic,” he replied. “I haven’t touched anything yet.” He gave me a light chuckle. “I guess I keep hoping she’ll come home.”
I looked around all of a sudden. That reminded me, where was she? Where had Summer gone? And what was that smell? Gas? Smoke? When the explosion hit, instinct had already driven me up out of my seat.
“We have to get out of here! Run!” Jeff looked at me with this strange look as if I had just gone nuts or possibly suffered from a case of Tourette’s. Already out of my seat, I sprang through the kitchen doorway and into the den. Leaping over the nearest couch, I pulled it over on top of me. I didn’t see if Jeff had followed. Then came the boom, and the rocking of the house as the ceiling collapsed, burying me in its rubble…
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.