I see dead people
“The name’s Jackson Bowman.”
“I’m Lilly. Lilly Barnes.”
“Nice to meet you, and let me guess, you need help with your unfinished business?”
“How about telling me how you can see me for starters.”
“Because I’m fucking cursed, that’s how,” Jackson answered, walking to the edge of the roof and looking down toward the ground far below.
“No, seriously. What happened to you that night in the ER?”
A sour expression crossed Jackson’s face. “I died,” he said solemnly. “And when I woke up I could see dead people, lucky me.”
“Yeah,” replied Lilly. “Looks like our stories are pretty much the same, except I didn’t wake up,” she added, with a slight laugh, trying her best to lighten the mood, if only by a little.
Her remark seemed to have worked, as Jackson let out a slight laugh of his own, and took several steps away from the edge. “So, what’s your unfinished business?” he asked, taking out a pack of cigarettes from the inside pocket of his jacket.
Lilly watched him put a cigarette and put it in his mouth and light it. He inhaled a deep hit, before blowing the smoke out and watching it being swooshed away by the wind. “I was abducted and murdered, and then buried in the woods.”
“Oh shit,” Jackson replied. “Sorry,” he quickly added, sensing his remark might have come off a tad bit insensitive. “I’m new to this whole dead people thing. Darnell was a suicide, if you couldn’t tell by the cuts on his forearms. It seems like the majority of the ones that were in line, died from something somewhat normal, I guess you could say. You’re my first…you know, real death, not like others didn’t die for real, but…”
“I get what you’re saying,” Lilly said, seeing that Jackson’s logic was starting to quickly unravel. “I’m supposed to bring my killer to justice somehow.”
“Really?” Jackson asked. “That seems like an awful lot of work.”
“It certainly is a little more complicated than cheating at cards.”
“Ouch,” Jackson retorted. “I gotta survive too you know. The way I see it, it was a win win for the both of us. Darnell got to cross over, or whatever it was he called it, and I got a little spending money to put in my pocket, and all I had to do was make a phone call,” he added, taking the last drag off of his cigarette and flicking it over the edge. “What you’re asking sounds dangerous, and I don’t think I want to do dangerous.”
“Fine,” Lilly said, throwing up her arm. “I didn’t ask for your help in the first place, I was just pointed in your direction,” she added, turning away from Jackson.
“Hold on a minute,” Jackson said, reaching out to grab Lilly’s shoulder. He took an awkward stumbling step, as his hand passed through Lilly’s shoulder. “Man, I can’t get used to that.”
Lilly stopped and turned back around. “Like I said, I don’t need your help, I was just pointed in your…”
“And that’s another thing. How do you ghosts keep finding me?”
“I guess the others have some kind of ghost network or something. I was told you were here.”
“By who?” Jackson asked, giving her a funny look.
“That night in the ER, did you happen to see the guy I was with?”
Jackson thought about the question for a minute. “You’re talking about the funny looking bald guy, aren’t you?”
“That would be him.”
“Who was that guy. I got a really strange vibe from him.”
“His name is Fred, and he is a…really decent guy. He saved my ass…and”
“But who is he, and how did he know I was here?”
“He’s a Grim Reaper.”
Jackson’s lower jaw nearly hit the ground. “No fucking way that guy was Death!”
“Oh, he was, and still is.”
Jackson swallowed hard. “And why did he send you to me?”
“He thought you might be able to help me, but I guess he was wrong,” Lilly stated, as she started to make her way back toward the roof door. She only made it a few steps. “Can you at least make a call for me? I can help you cheat at cards or something.”
“You ain’t gotta do that. Who do you want me to call?”
“My parents. I need you to tell them that I’ve been found, my body that is, and that it’s in Laflamme Ohio. It’s been six months, and they have no idea where I’m at, or even if I’m still alive.”
“I don’t think I can tell someone’s parents that their daughter is dead,” Jackson confessed. “That’s a pretty heavy thing to lay on someone.”
“Then don’t tell them I’m dead, just tell them where I am.”
“Fine,” he said, taking out his cell phone. “What’s the number?”
Lilly told him her parents phone number, and Jackson started to dial, but stopped half way through. “I don’t think I should do this,” he said to himself, turning the phone off and putting it back in his pocket.
“What do you mean? It’s just a phone call! How would you feel if it was you laying in a city morgue somewhere far from your home, and your parents had no idea where you were even at!” Lilly was trying her best not to seem too pushy with Jackson, because she feared that if she was, that he wouldn’t help her, but screw him, she thought, he’s not the one stuck in Purgatory.
“Whoa, slow your roll girl,” he told her.
“I didn’t mean that I wouldn’t call, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to do it from my cell phone is all. I saw some pay phones down in the lobby, ok?”
Lilly nodded her head. She thought about apologizing again, but decided against. “Thanks.”
“It’s the least I can do, I guess,” Jackson replied, walking past her and heading down the stairs to the twelfth floor. The line of spirits outside of his room was still there, with poor Florence still at the head of the line. “I gotta take care of something,” he told Florence’s ghost. “You and the others stay right here, got it?”
“Got it?” the woman said giving Lilly a snickering glare.
Jackson and Lilly made their way to the lobby and to the rows of pay phones by the front doors of the casino. “After this we’re done,” Jackson told her, picking up a phone and slipping some change into the coin slot.
Lilly nodded her head in agreement. At least her parents could rest easier knowing where she was. As far as her unfinished business, she would have to do it on her own. Somehow.
She could hear the phone ringing, and then the sound of her mother’s voice. “Hello?”
“Your daughter is in Laflamme Ohio,” Jackson said.
Lilly could hear her mother saying, “Wait, what? Who is this?”, before Jackson hung up the phone.
“Ok?” he said to her, his expression asking her if they were good.
Lilly nodded her head.
“Good,’ Jackson replied. “Gotta get some rest before the next poker match. Good luck with everything,” he said. “I do wish I could help, but I gotta look out for myself.”
“No, I get it,” Lilly replied, walking over and taking a seat on a wooden bench by the entrance. “My parents can bring me home now.” Several tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“And that’s my que,” Jackson stated, disappearing into a wave of people.
Lilly felt so tired. The ordeal at the cemetery still had her drained, and now, she had gotten her hopes up so high after seeing Jackson that she crashed hard after he refused to help her. She couldn’t fully blame him though. More ghosts entered the lobby and began to look around, one of them noticed Lilly staring at them, and gave her a smile. “Twelfth floor,” she said. They thanked her and ran off into the casino. He was going to have his hands full for a while. Lilly closed her eyes. She just need to rest for a few minutes she told herself. Get some of her energy back, before she hit the road. Shouldn’t be too hard to find another pickup truck heading north. The sounds of the casino started to grow fainter, until they were almost gone. Then the sound of a familiar voice brought Lilly back to the sound of the living.
It was Detective Brandt. What was he doing here, she wondered? “I need to talk to someone in your security department,” he said, showing the young girl behind the front desk his badge.
A few minutes later a man appeared and introduced himself to Detective Brandt. “Ray Curshaw, Head of Security,” he said, extending a hand, which the Detective shook. Curshaw led Brandt to their security center, with Lilly following closely behind, feeling like she would be caught at any moment, before remembering that no one could see her.
“What can I do for you Detective?” the man asked, entering his own private office, and taking a seat behind his desk.
“Two nights ago, a call was placed from one of your payphones in the lobby. I need to find out who made that call. Can you see if you have any surveillance footage?”
“We should,” Curshaw replied, turning to his computer. “There isn’t much in this casino that isn’t under our watchful eye. What time was the call made?”
“One O four a.m.”
The man made a few key strokes, and within a few minutes the image of Jackson Bowman appeared on the computer monitor.
“I need to know if any of your staff recognizes him, and if so what his name is and if he is still here. I’m also going to need a copy of that picture.”
“Sure thing,” Curshaw said. “Can I ask what this is all about?”
“It’s an ongoing homicide investigation, that’s all I can really say at this point.”
Ray printed the image of Jackson using the pay phone and took it back out to the front desk. None of the on-duty staff there recognized the man in the picture. Ray then called out to one of the Bell Hops walking by and showed him the photo. The Bell Hop took a look at the picture, and shook his head no. “I need all available staff to report to the lobby,” he told the girl behind the desk.
It didn’t take long before Ray and Detective Brandt were headed up to room twelve hundred and three, but Lilly was way ahead of them.
She found the nearest stairwell, and found that the line of the dead waiting to be heard, had backed all the way up to the casino floor. “Excuse me,” she said, trying to push her way up the stairs. Some of the ghosts, moved, most of the grumbled under their breaths. Some shouted for her to get back the end of the line. This went on until she reached the third floor, when a mountain of a man, or what used to be a mountain of a man, stepped in front of her and crossed his huge arms, which were filled with tattoos. He had a bald head, a long red beard, a black leather bikers vest with no shirt, and a single tire mark running from his waist to the top of his bald head.
“Excuse me,” Lilly said, sounding rather annoyed.
“Don’t think so,” the large man said. “No cuts.”
“I’m not cutting,” Lilly tried to explain.
“Looks that way to me.”
“Me too,” several others said.
“You don’t understand,” she tried to explain again. “I’ve already talked to Jackson, but there’s something he needs to know.”
“Why don’t you tell me, and I’ll be sure to relay the message,” the Mountain said.
“Fine,” Lilly huffed. “The cops are on their way up to his room right now, and if he doesn’t get out of there, none of you will be able to talk to him.”
The large biker just stared at Lilly with a blank expression, as the young girl swore she could see the gears of the man’s dead mind slowly turning. His eyes finally widened at the realization of Lilly’s message. Spinning around, the large ghost yelled for everyone to get out of his way, as he began to storm up the stairs. Any ghost that refused to move, or moved to slow for the big biker’s liking, found themselves being thrown over the railing, or worse, flattened under the force of the charging mountain.
Lilly followed behind in the biker’s wake, but by the time they reached the twelfth floor, Lilly saw Jackson being escorted from his room in handcuffs. Detective Brandt led him onto the elevator, and just as the doors were almost closed, Lilly took a chance and jumped through them.
“This is your fault!” Jackson blurted out, just as the ghost of the young girl entered the elevator car.
“I had nothing to do with this,” Detective Brandt calmly replied.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Jackson stated.
“What’d I do?” asked Ray.
“You gotta get me out of here,” Jackson told Lilly.
“And how am I supposed to do that?” she asked.
“We got some questions for you first, and then, depending on your answers, we’ll see,” Detective Brandt informed him, as the elevator doors to the lobby opened.
Jackson found himself being loaded in the back of Detective Brandt’s car. Lilly stepped through the door and sat down next to him. “I’m so sorry,” she told him. “I didn’t know this was going to happen.”
“This is because I made that call for you,” Jackson said, trying to keep his voice low, but his anger made it a little hard.
“So, you admit calling the Barnes’?” Detective Brandt asked. He was about to put the car in drive, but paused upon hearing Jackson’s statement.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Jackson told him again.
“Have it your way,” Brandt said, pulling out of the casino parking lot.
* * *
“Jackson Bowman, do you understand your rights as I have explained them to you?” Detective Brandt said, sitting down in front of the young man, and placing a manila colored folder down in front of him.
“And do you wish to waive your rights and talk with to me?”
“So, what brings you to the fine state of Ohio?”
“Just gambling at the casino,” Jackson answered, staring at the folder. He was seated at a long metal table. His hands were still cuffed, but now they were in front of him, and chained to a large metal hoop, which had been welded to the table. The rest of the room looked just like one of those interrogation rooms from one of those popular cop shows on TV.
“Two weeks ago, you paid a little visit to our local hospital, didn’t you?”
Jackson looked over to corner on his left side and found Lilly standing there, staring at him. What would she think of him, he wondered? Why did he care what she thought? She was dead he told himself.
“You were dead,” Detective Brandt declared. “Heroin over dose, right?”
The young man’s eyes snapped back to the Detective. “Cheaper than oxys.” he said with a nonchalant shrug.
“Your friends just tossed you out of the car like a sack of garbage and left you for dead.”
“They weren’t my friends,” Jackson told him, the tone of his voice raising just a bit, as did his anger level.
Detective Brandt took out several pictures from the folder and displayed them in front of him. Jackson took a look, but immediately everted his eyes at the sight of Lilly’s skeletal remains. Some were of her still in ground, while others were over her on the morgue exam table.
“Dude, what the fuck!”
“Jackson Bowman, meet Lilly Barnes.”
“The dead girl, whose parents you called, and told that their daughter was here.”
“And is that a crime?”
“No, but murder is.”
“I didn’t kill anybody, especially her!” Jackson exclaimed, fidgeting with the hand cuffs.
“Then how did you know who she was? I didn’t even know who she was until her parent called here looking for her.”
“Just tell them the truth,” Lilly said, coming to stand next to the table.
“Are you crazy?” Jackson asked her.
“I would like to think not,” replied Detective Brandt, giving him an odd look. “I get it, you’re trying to play the mental card, aren’t you?”
“I’m not mental,” Jackson informed him. “Can I have a cigarette, or something to drink?”
“Sure, after you tell me how you knew that it was Lilly Barnes who we dug up.”
“You won’t believe me,” Jackson said, staring down at the table and pumping his left leg up and down.
“Do it,” Lilly said. “I’ll help you convince them.”
Jackson laughed out loud. “Helping you is what’s gottten me into this,” he said, looking up to meet her gaze.
Detective Brandt looked to his right to see what Jackson was staring at. He didn’t think he would find anything there, and he was right. “Who do you keep talking to?”
“Her,” Jackson said again, this time motioning toward the photos spread out before him.
“You’re talking to Lilly Barnes?” Detective Brandt asked, almost laughing out loud, the tone of disbelief weighing heavy on his voice.
“Told you you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Ok, help me understand this. When you say that you’re talking to Lilly Barnes, you really mean…?”
“Hmmm,” Brandt murmured, tapping his fingers on the table top. “And she’s standing right here?”
Jackson nodded his head.
“And how long have you been able to see dead people?”
“Ever since I died.”
“You really are playing that mental card, aren’t you?”
“Told you this was a crazy idea,” Jackson said Lilly.
“Tell him that I was hit on the left side of my head, and that whatever hit me left a small dent in my skull. Oh, and that the killer cut off a piece of my hair on the right side of my head.”
“I’m not telling him that. Are you crazy?”
“What is she saying?” Detective Brandt answered.
Jackson sighed. “That whoever killed her, hit her on the left side of her head, and something about him taking some of her hair.”
“Really?” Jackson said, a glint of hope sprang up in his eyes. Maybe he was wrong about this cop. Maybe he really did believe him.
“Yes. That information was never released to the press. So, that would mean that the only person who could possibly know about those specific set of details, would be the person who killed her.”
“Tell him that there’s a ghost of a prisoner in the basement. He’s got a bruise around his neck, and he’s in the last cell on the left.”
“I’m not saying another word,”
“Are you now invoking your right to remain silent?”
“Again, I’m not talking to you.”
There was a sudden knock at the door. Detective Brandt gave the door an annoyed look. When he didn’t get up to answer it, his phone rang. “Brandt,” he said, answering it, but only after he saw his Lieutenant’s name on the caller ID. “What? Are you sure? Ok, ok.” The Detective put his phone away, and took out a small key. “Your free to go,” he said, undoing the cuffs shackled around Jackson’s wrists.
“Yes, it would appear that six months ago you were sitting in a jail cell in Mcpherson County South Dakota. You got sixty days for a drunk and disorderly, which means that you couldn’t have killed Lilly Barnes.”
“I told you I didn’t,” Jackson answered, rubbing his writs.
“That still doesn’t explain how you knew she was here, but he higher ups told me to release you, so your released,” Brandt explained to him, walking over and opening the door.
“Just like that?” Jackson asked, stepping out into the hallway.
“Just like that.”
Jackson went to leave, but stopped. He opened his mouth to say something, but wondered if he should.
“Do you have else to add Mr. Bowman?”
“I’m telling you the truth about Lilly,” he said, pushing his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket. “She said that you’ve got the ghost of a prisoner living in your basement. Something about a bruise around his neck, and the last cell on the left, whatever that means.”
“Tell him that he can’t leave because of the iron bars,” Lilly pleaded.
“I guess he can’t leave because of the iron bars.”
“Right,” Detective Brandt said, handing Jackson a clear plastic bag containing his things. He showed Jackson to the front lobby of the department, before returning to his office, where sank deep into his chair and let out a loud, exhaustive breath. That kid had to have known something more than he was saying, but orders were orders. A cold shiver ran down his spine when he thought about the basement. Nearly seventy years ago they used to keep rowdy prisoners down there, but it had been converted to extra storage after one of the prisoners had hung himself in his cell. As a rookie, he would often have to go down there to get office supplies, and he always got the creeps. Did he say the prisoner had had a bruise around his neck? The county had somehow managed to keep out the fact that the prisoner had hung himself from the public files, so how did he know.
Brandt got up and made his way down to the basement. Standing at the front of the cells, he looked down toward the end and saw that the last light bulb had burned out again. He lifted a large brass key from the wall and made his way down to the last cell on the left. Thick layers of dust covered everything in the other cells, telling him that no one had been down here in years. They never kept anything in the last cell, because whenever they put something in it, the items always got damaged. Once a water pipe in the ceiling broke. Another time a hole was discovered in the wall, allowing rats into the cell, who chewed through half the boxes of paper work. In the summer time, the temperature was always cooler in this one cell, leading to more humidity, which led to mold covering all of the old files that had once been stored here.
He took the key and inserted it into the lock. He started to turn it, but stopped, when a feeling that someone was watching him came over him. He looked to the end of the hall and saw that no one was there. “This is crazy,” he told himself, turning the key and opening the cell door. “See, nothing here,” he said after a few minutes of nothing happening. He started to close the cell door, when it hit something solid and bounced back, nearly knocking him over. The three working lightbulbs exploded one by one, starting with the one closest to him and moving down the hall in the direction of the door, leaving him in the dark.