Chapter 8: Two Cops & A Ghost
Thankfully, when the police came to the hospital to question me, it wasn’t Sheriff Deacon himself. I wanted to question him on my own terms and turf. If what Summer told me was true, then things were going to get crazy and unpredictable real soon. If Deacon set the explosion, the big question was why. What’s the motive? He had no advance knowledge I’d be there, so it couldn’t be that he was after me. Was he after Jeff or something he had in the home? Maybe Dennings had some dirt on him? After all, Jeff’s sister was apparently romantically linked to Deacon’s daughter. Maybe she had told Jeff something, or given him something before she died. No matter how I turned it over in my head, it just didn’t seem right. Sheriff Deacon didn’t seem like the type. I knew he could be nasty and mean sometimes, and he was a hell of a fighter, but to blow up a house? Deacon took his law seriously, and so did the two officers who came to see me about the explosion. Both of them must have been new to the department because I didn’t recognize them. But they did everything by the book, just like good little rookies. The tall one (why do they always pair a tall one with an overweight one?) took out his little book and started asking all the standard questions. Why were you there? What’s your relationship with the victim? Do you have any known enemies? Blah, blah, blah…
The over weight cop hung back by the door as if I were going to spring out of bed and make a run for it. I could have told them I used to be a cop too, but I hate telling people that. They always ask the inevitable ‘what happened to make you quit’ questions.
I answered all their questions politely and to the point, though I felt like at times Mr. Tall was trying to make some sinister connection between me and Jeff Dennings. But after the third time, they finally seemed to buy that I was just a friend visiting. By the time they left I figured they’d go back and tell Deacon I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I couldn’t agree more.
They held me at the hospital for observation for two days. I got out the day of Jeff’s funeral. Since his parents had made me leave their home I figured it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to attend the funeral. Summer told me she went, but as before, she didn’t feel anything for the stranger they were putting in the ground. She said her mom cried while her dad kept a tight, grim composure. I asked her if she noticed anyone unusual at the service.
“Everyone’s unusual to me”, she replied.
Leaving the hospital, I felt like I’d been in a movie theater for way too long. I squinted my eyes against the sun and decided on my next course of action. Go to the site of the explosion and see if I could find something the police overlooked. But first, I wanted to do what I should have done at the very beginning…visit the library.
When I was younger, libraries used to be all peace and quiet, and if you got too loud you’d get a stern look. Now there’s kids running everywhere like it’s a playground. People talking loudly, and every kind of distraction that shouldn’t be allowed in a library. It seemed the only quiet person in the place was the librarian herself, a young woman with jet black hair pinned up off her collar, dressed as if she’d born thirty years before her actual birth. Her clothes looked like they might have been in fashion in a 1950’s coffee shop, down to her bobby socks and black and white shoes.
“Hi, Clara,” I said. Her real name was Clarice I think, but she didn’t bother to correct me. She never did.
“Ah, Mr. Winter. It has been ages. What do we owe the pleasure?”
I smiled. She even talks like an old schoolmarm, even though I know she’s not much younger than me. “I’m searching for an obit,” I replied.
She stopped what she was doing, and began to punch something up on her computer. I was inept at such things myself. Didn’t even own one. I had learned early on that spirits had no problem manipulating new technology, so I didn’t have any of that stuff at the office or home. I didn’t even own a cellphone, and because of computer chips in cars, I didn’t drive if I knew I was going to be working a case. Most of the time, my car was kept under wraps in storage.
“How far back?” She asked, returning me to the moment and away from paranoid thoughts.
I berated myself for not writing down Summer’s date of passing from her grave marker. “Um, no more than a couple weeks.”
“Oh,” she said, stopping her typing. “Well, we have papers from that far back in our periodicals section.” She looked at me, a question in her eyes. “Unless you wish to use any of the public PC’s to pull up what you want. It looks like we have one available.”
“Um, no newspapers will do just fine.”
Of course, she knew my aversion to computers from times I had been in there before, so she just smiled graciously. “Of course. Well, if you should need me for anything else, feel free to ask. Always happy to accommodate a celebrity.”
I knew she didn’t mean anything bad by it, but the whole celebrity thing always made me uncomfortable. Still, I just smiled and said, “thank you.”
In the periodicals section, I grabbed some newspapers from a week ago and sat down at a table in the corner. Across from me, a man was teaching a Japanese student about American culture and language. I felt like telling the student about American ghosts, but he probably would have told me more about Japanese ghosts than I wanted to hear. I read somewhere that in Asian culture most of the ghosts are vengeful. They didn’t just wander around blindly, wondering what to do.
I went through the obits in four of the newspapers before I found the writeup on her death. There was no picture and only a small paragraph to mark her passing.
“Summer Lynn Dennings, age 22, passed from this mortal coil into eternal rest, etc., etc…” Just the standard obit. There was nothing to tell me how she died, only that she did. I looked through the headlines of that day and a few days before, to see if there was anything about her, maybe a notice of a fatal car wreck or a fire or something. But there was nothing. Maybe her death didn’t hold enough mystery to warrant a police investigation. Perhaps whatever happened was covered up or signed off on a police record somewhere. If that was the case, Sheriff Deacon had to know about it. And if he was in Jeff’s house, causing it to blow up, then there really had to be a high stake in whatever was going on. But how could one approach him without provoking an unnecessary stand off? There was no way. Confrontation was inevitable. But I needed to talk to Lacey first. Maybe she knew something more than she’d let on. And if she didn’t, maybe she could find out for me.
I was getting ready to leave when I saw Summer. She was trying to get a book off the shelf. It fell to the floor. Only a few people noticed and I guess they didn’t think anything of it. I went over and picked the book up, giving her a stern look. I put the book back in its place and noticed the title on its spine: “Repressed Memories And How To Get Them Back.”
When we got outside, she went right to the waiting cab. I thought she was just going to pass through the door and get in, but she stopped. “So tell me,” she said.
“Tell you what?”
“How I died. Isn’t that what you were looking for in the papers?”
“Yes it was. But I didn’t find anything. Just your obit.”
“That’s freaky. To tell me you read my obit.”
“Yes it is.”
“So where are we going now?”
“To your brother’s house.”
“There’s nothing there. I looked already.”
I looked at her strangely. “What did you look for?”
“Oh, just anything.”
“Well, I’d like to look for myself.”
We got in the cab and I gave the guy directions to the ruins of Jeff’s house. He gave me an odd look. Not over the directions, but over the fact I had been standing outside his cab talking to myself. Summer noticed his look and grinned. She made a zipper motion across her mouth, and rolled her eyes. We rode in silence for a few minutes, but then she looked over at me with a little smile. “I remembered something today,” she said.
“Oh, really?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“There was a place. I used to go there a lot. Someone used to go there and wait for me. I guess, maybe it was a meeting place.”
“That’s all I can remember. I can see this place. It’s clear in my head. I can’t see who is waiting for me, but if I had to guess I would say…”
“Carla,” I finished. “It’s where you two went to get away from others.”
“I guess. I don’t remember. I’m not sure if I want to.”
“Where is this place? Have you been there too today?”
“No I haven’t. I’m not sure exactly where it’s at. I see lots of trees. The place is like a fallen tree house. There is a tree growing out of its center. It’s like it fell out of a tree and then the woods grew up around it. Maybe it has been there for a very long time, I don’t know.”
I looked at the cabbie. He was watching me in the rear view mirror. I kind of got the impression he was weighing the possibility of throwing me out of his cab. I shrugged and said to him, “Practicing for a play.”
He shrugged too, but a little uneasily. This would probably be my last ride in his cab, that was for sure. I got out my notebook and jotted down a few notes from what Summer had just said, hoping it would make more sense on paper. Maybe we could narrow it down and find its location. Lots of trees, a fallen tree house, how many places could there be around here that fit that description?
“I can smell something too,” Summer added. “It smells like coal. And I hear a loud whistle. It lasts nearly a minute and then everything is quiet again.”
A whistle? A train possibly? No, the whistle lasts too long. Maybe the whistle of a factory shift changing, or could it be the 12 o’clock whistle at the train yards. Coal? There were coal cars there. They switched them from the tracks heading north. Could the tree house be in the woods behind the train yards?
“Okay, first your brother’s house and then to the tree house.”
“You know where it is?” she asked.
“I have a good idea”.
“After your brother’s” I said. I didn’t want her leaving and getting there first. Believe it or not, but ghosts can muck up a crime scene, and something tells me, some intuition I possess, that when we get there we’re going to find something important.
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.