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.