I marveled at how fresh the mountain air was while I made my way through the woods. Snow started to fall during my ride over and now was coming down in big white clusters. The roads weren’t a major problem, especially for the four wheel drive of my grandfather’s pick-up truck. Still, I tried to keep my speed down to limit any possible accidents. I didn’t like to tempt fate.
The moon was full, but still hidden by heavy clouds. It was hard to see, but my eyes became accustomed to the dark. The snow beneath my feet made a crushing sound at every step. I turned on my phone to get some extra visibility, but it did very little. I pocketed my phone and followed the outlines of the path to guide me forward. I stepped slowly taking extra care not to twist my ankle off a rock or jetted root.
Up ahead I could see the clearing. The yellow police tape had already been taken down around the edges. I assumed the sheriff’s office no longer needed their crime scene. It was possible they were still watching so I waited by the edge to be certain no one else was there. When my worries eased I stepped out and made my way to the center.
I was alone, but I knew something else was out here with me. I tried to focus on seeing it, but nothing happened. I decided to clear my head of everything instead of focusing on any one thing. As soon as I did I could feel bubbles popping at the backs of my eyes.
My vision began to get fuzzy, like I was looking through a pool of water. I tried to wipe it away, but it didn’t work. The haze turned bright white and looked almost solid. It hung in the air around everything. My eyes grew numb from the cloud, but the haze began to change colors. From white it began to materialize into grey and then turned into a heavy blue mist. I could see the cloud clearly as if it were day time. The blue was glowing, but it didn’t illuminate anything around it.
As I approached the blue haze grew into a large rippling blue ball as if it were alive. My eyes began to burn as I tried to look into the mist. My eyes grew numb at the brilliant light and then I was finally able to see it clearly.
Moments later my ears popped releasing built up pressure I didn’t know was there. It felt like a balloon being popped inside my ears. I began to feel clear headed in a way I never knew before.
All of a sudden the heavy blue mist started to shrink into itself. When it stopped the cloud had given shape to a person. A moment later it became more apparent and feminine.
A girl’s face became clear, but I already knew who it was. I had been right, Laura McDermott, was hovering only several feet in front of me. She was completely transparent, but every detail of her face was crystal clear. The same transparent blue had created a pair of cut off jean shorts and a Rolling Stones tee shirt, matching Laura’s blue color exactly.
She wasn’t solid, yet I could see her perfectly down to the tiniest of details. There was a light shimmer to her skin, but it didn’t produce a glow. I reached out with my hand and tried to touch her. When my hand went though hers it felt cold. Her skin didn’t radiate any heat, yet I could clearly see it was glowing.
I slowly inched forward, but didn’t want to surprise her. “Laura?” I asked, but she didn’t respond. I circled around her and added, “Laura, can you hear me?” When I was directly in front of her face I realized she couldn’t see or hear me at all.
She started to move her lips but I couldn’t hear any sound come from them. She was definitely trying to talk, but the only sound I heard was my heavy breathing. I remained absolutely still, but still couldn’t hear. I could see her speaking, but couldn’t read lips.
I knew she was sad. I knew she felt lost. Her emotions were radiating into me, but I had no idea how that was possible. I remembered her brown eyes in her year book photo. They were dark blue now. Darker than the blue that made up her skin, but not as dark as her hair.
I knew what she was, but didn’t want to use the word. Everything I believed in was turning upside down. This felt so real, but the small voice in the back of my head was nagging at me that I was crazy.
Was it possible I was still hallucinating? I’d be back on the tenth floor faster than I knew what happened, if I was. They would lock me up and never let me out. I would spend the rest of my life in a padded room, eating tapioca pudding.
“Who’s there?” a voice shouted out from behind me. The question echoed across the clearing and I froze in place unsure of what to do. A flash light was moving in the woods scanning the area about twenty feet in front of me. “I see you there,” the masculine voice said as a uniformed cop came out into the clearing. It was a another deputy sheriff, one I hadn’t seen before. “What are you doing out here?” The deputy asked. “Maybe you’re returning to the scene of the crime?”
I waited for the deputy to freak out at the blue glowing girl in the center of the clearing, but he didn’t see her. That didn’t make this situation any better, just made me feel crazier. The deputy was overweight, but most of the fat was in his stomach. A black bushy mustache looked out of place on his round bloated face.
I looked at his name tag and said, “Deputy English is it? My name is Charlie Kane. I believe I’m a little lost. I must have made a wrong turn somewhere. Could you help me find my car, please?”
The deputy walked closer, pointing his flash light into my face. He was so close I could smell his rank breath. I didn’t think anyone had explained personal space to Officer English before. After smelling his foul odder I wondered if anyone had explained personal hygiene to the man either.
“Just going for a hike in the middle of the night?” English asked with skepticism in his voice. “What are you really doing out here?”
“I’m new here,” I pleaded. “Lost my barring ten minutes ago, been wondering around since. Thought I’d take a break when I found this clearing. If you can point the way to the parking lot I would be greatly appreciated.”
“You think you are so smart,” the deputy snarled. “I know you most certainly did not get lost. You came straight to this spot and have been starring at nothing for the past five minutes.” The deputy was right of course. “Come on, boy. Give me one reason, anything really. I’ll clean that stupid grin right off your face.” He was looking for a fight, and I had no idea why. He got angrier when I told him my name. Of course, he knew my family. Everyone in town did.
I wanted to say, “Did my dad hurt you? I’m sorry if he did, I really am. I’m not sure what you think that has to do with me. Maybe you’ve been holding a grudge a long time, but it’s not with me. I didn’t know my dad, or even the existence of this town a month ago.” I wanted to call the guy out right there, but all I said was “Please tell me how to get back to my car.”
Before he had the time to retaliate his walkie talkie came alive with the sound of Rhonda McDermott, Laura’s mother and dispatch of the sheriff’s department. “All units report to 131 Woodlake Drive. We have a 264 in progress, please proceed with caution. I repeat please proceed with caution. All units, I repeat all units report.”
The interruption had eased the tension enough for English to remove his hand from his gun. He reached over and pushed the walkie’s button.
“Roger that dispatch. Officer 412, on my way now.” English pointed out into the distance. “Go back that way and you’ll find your way out.” He turned to leave, but decided to drive the point home, “I better not see you out here again.”
I did everything in my power to keep myself from running. I could feel Deputy English’s eyes piercing the back of my head. Why did everyone in this town hate my family so much? I hoped to hell they didn’t treat my grandmother like that.
On the way back to the Sunnyledge I couldn’t help but wonder why I was able to see these things. There was a huge chance I was having a schizophrenic episode. Was I experiencing what the doctors feared the most? Was I completely bat-shit crazy?
My mom would finally have her wish about institutionalizing me for good. I remembered when she had me committed the first time. I had cut myself pretty bad when I fell from some vertigo. She thought I tried cutting my wrists when she saw the blood. She tried to get the ambulance to take me to the psychiatric ward from the start.
The cut hadn’t been bad, only a couple of stitches along my wrist, barely hurt. My own mother lied to the paramedics, telling them I tried to kill myself. They took me right to the loony bin locking me up that very same night. Madison saw the entire thing while she watched from the foyer as the EMS took me away.
I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this alone. Could I tell anyone? What about Diana? Would she understand or would she think I was nuts? Hell, did I think I was nuts? Maybe I was imagining everything from being able to translate the journal to seeing Laura’s ghost. I wanted things to work out with Diana, but they wouldn’t if I dragged her into this now. Okay, so no telling Diana.
I knew I couldn’t tell my sister. She would be the first one to think I was going crazy. She would be the first one to call my mother. No one would believe any of it.
My stomach let out a long gurgle, and the next thing I knew I was starving. I needed to eat something quickly. It had been a while since I ate and thought I might be getting light headed.
I went into the den, after making a PB & J on oatmeal bread, to watch the flat screen. I didn’t care what was on I just needed to clear my head. In the morning I would examine the situation and then draw my own conclusions based on logic and facts. I wasn’t going to rush to judgment.
Was it possible I was delusional? Yes, actually. The likelihood was very high for that. Or was there really a chance I was seeing ghosts? There was a chance this was really happening, but I couldn’t rule out the more simple answer.
“Hey, turn it to Sports Center,” a man’s voice said from behind me, “I want to see who won the Steelers game.”
One second no one was in the room, the next a young man was sprawled out on my grandmother’s couch. He had the same transparent blue haze to his body that Laura had. It was the man I had seen in the study. The same guy I saw in the kitchen. I stared at him in utter amazement.
I heard him talk and he seemed to know I was there. “I mean if you don’t mind,” he added. “You don’t appear to be that interested in sports, but there’s nothing wrong with that of course. Your daddy didn’t care for sports either, he was more interested in other things, like comic books and video games.”
If anyone was still up in the bed and breakfast I didn’t want them to think I was talking to myself, so I whispered, “What are you?”
“Really? That’s the first question you ask? The first time you get to talk to a spirit from the great beyond and you ask, ‘What are you?’ I would think it was certainly obvious by now. Do I have to spell it out to you?” The blue specter complained. “You can see through me and I can walk through walls. That sounds like...” He was prompting me to answer.
“You’re a ghost,” I answered, using the one word I didn’t want to use or say out loud. The word sounded fake, fictional. Once it was out in the open it felt more natural to use. I knew then that I wasn’t insane. “I’m not crazy.”
“Nope. You are not crazy,” the ghost replied while he sat back to watch ESPN.
“You’re real,” I proclaimed. “I knew you were real. Well, not completely, I did think I was going crazy. Actually, really crazy.” I shook off the disbelief. “So the girl from the clearing, she’s a ghost, too?”
“I prefer spirit over ghost, but technically, yes, I’m a spirit, and that poor girl, Laura McDermott is a spirit, as well. I’m not just any spirit though, Charlie,” the blue specter explained. More importantly he knew my name. If that wasn’t enough he added, “I’m your grandfather.”
I was speechless, was this guy kidding me? He looked younger than I was. There wasn’t a wrinkle on the kid’s blue face. I pegged his age at twenty tops, but something about him did seem familiar. I studied his face, the shape of his cheekbones, and thought he could be related. There was a resemblance I couldn’t deny, but that wasn’t reason enough to prove anything.
“Let’s just say for a second that you are who you say you are,” I said, “why don’t you look older? You look like we were born around the same year. If you’re Martin Kane, why don’t you look like him?”
“It’s just your perception, but I promise you I am Martin Kane. You see me how you want to see me. In this case as a peer. One of the perks of being a Kane. Your grandmother wants sees me at my true age. She wants to remember me as she knew me. She perceives me as the husband she wants to grow old with. In her eyes I still age every day, growing older with her until it’s her time to join me on this side.”
“This is to heady.”
“I can tell you’re seeing me as my eighteen year old self, but I have no control over that. You didn’t want a father figure, not yet anyway. You perceive me as a contemporary you can trust. Someone you can share your dreams with, and most importantly, have a friendship.”
I wanted to believe the ghost was really my grandfather. I wanted to believe him more than anything. This was another chance for me to get to know my grandfather.
“So Nunny knows about all of this?” I asked.
“She does,” Martin answered with a bit of excitement, “But that’s not the good part.” I perked up, joining in on his excitement. “I’m here because it’s finally time you knew the truth about yourself. The truth about who you really are. Where you really come from. There’s a reason why you can see ghosts.”
“Am I an alien?” I sincerely asked. “I know all about Area 51, the government cover up, and the two aliens they have. I’m a cross bread of alien- human, right?”
Martin gave a quick roll of the eyes, “Charlie, you are not an alien. Why would you think that was where I was going with this?” He covered his eyes and let out a sigh. “Seriously, aliens? You’ve been watching to many bad science fiction movies. How would aliens have anything to do with the spirit world?” He shook his head, then added, “You’re a necromancer, Charlie.”
I was excited at Martin’s explanation, until I realized I had no idea what that was. “I’m a what?” I asked confused.
“Seriously, you don’t know what a necromancer is?” Martin asked. “You’ve never heard of one before?”
“I literally have no idea what you are talking about.”
Martin started to hover around the room, “I bet witches don’t get these blank stares,” he said to himself. “If I said you were a vampire, you would know right away...”
“Vampires and witches are real?” I asked surprised.
“See, just my point. Charlie, focus, please.” Martin thought for a moment, “Yes, witches are real. Vampires are real. The supernatural is real. Lot’s of things are real, but you are a necromancer. You have the ability to communicate with the spirits. When your power matures you will even be able to reanimate the dead.”
The dead. First off there was life after death. It was a real thing. I couldn’t focus. I wasn’t even in the right mind to focus. I needed to eat something. I was hungry and was having a hard time processing Martin’s words.
Martin followed me into the kitchen. Watching the blue spirit move through the air gave me a fanboy moment. I was a big reader of science fiction and fantasy. I loved old campy horror movies. I was a fan of vampires, but not the vampires that shimmered in the day light. I liked the vampires with fangs. The ones who couldn’t go out during the day. Give me Anne Rice over Stephanie Meyer any day.
To have an actual ghost tell me I was a supernatural being was making today one of the best days of my life. I was literally giddy with excitement, but my stomach reminded me I needed to eat.
“I’m going to make myself a sandwich. Would you like one?” I asked wondering if ghosts could even eat. Even if everything was a figment of my imagination, I didn’t want to be rude.
“No, thank you,” the specter answered. “Spirits can’t eat.” Of course they couldn’t. Ghosts didn’t need to eat for energy. They couldn’t digest food even if they tried to eat. The food would just drop through them. I didn’t even think ghosts would have taste buds, making eating for pleasure pointless.
As I searched the kitchen for food the spirit, my grandfather, continued to tell me why he waited until now to let me see him.
“Since you arrived a couple of weeks ago I’ve tried to figure out why you couldn’t see me. I’ve been trying to repair you ever since then.”
“Repair me?” I echoed. “That would mean I was broken. How was I broken?”
“I couldn’t figure it out at first. I’m sorry it took me so long, but it was a pretty extensive problem.” My dead grandfather floated towards me. “A block was put there intentionally to repress your powers. That I know for sure.”
I opened the fridge and found a bag of chipped turkey, and mustard on the door. A loaf of Italian bread lay waiting.
“What was broken?” I asked while I put together a sandwich.
“Something was blocking your abilities. Your brain, in a sense, was broken. The area where your powers originate from was closed off before you arrived to Dumont,” he said as if we talked about the supernatural all the time. “It took me two weeks to get rid of the magic blocking it. That noggin of yours, was all out of sorts because of it. I think I got it all though. Kind of nasty in there.”
I finished making a turkey and cheese sandwich and shoved it into my mouth. I chewed rapidly and swallowed. When my mouth was empty I took another large bite. The food was very much needed. My hunger was almost overwhelming me.
“I’m not sure I understand this right,” I said. “You tell me I have powers. What did you call me, a necromancer? What kind of powers do I have? Super strength, can I fly, am I bullet proof, can I sense danger, can I pop out bone claws from my hands, laser beams shooting out of my eyes, can I read your mind, can I create a force field, can I turn into a cat, or can I bend like a rubbery plastic guy?” I took a deep breath when I was done running through all of the superpowers I wished I had.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Charlie. You’re not a super hero, and you don’t have any of those kind of powers. In time you will be able to control the spirits that roam this world. You already have the ability to communicate with the spirits. It’s only a matter of time before you can use your will to manipulate the spirit world.”
“You mean the blue mist?” I asked.
“That’s right,” my grandfather continued to explain. “Our family comes from a long line of powerful necromancers who took pride in their gifts. We are the real masters over death, Charlie. There are very few of us left, but we are spread out over the world living in plain site like the rest of the supernatural world. You should be proud of your heritage, Charlie.”
A master of death. Lucky me, I was able to talk to ghosts. Maybe I could become a ghost therapist? Could do a whole group therapy thing for the recently deceased.
Was it possible this was just in my head? I could have been accessing my subconscious, using my love of horror movies as a motivation for this hallucination. Over the years I’ve been impressed at the lengths my mind would go to play a trick on me.
If I was imagining this, wouldn’t I give myself cooler powers? I would have chosen super strength, maybe even the ability to fly, but talking to ghosts? Probably not. It might have made zero sense, but I was beginning to believe Martin. Something was still nagging at me though.
“Why didn’t you ever come find me?” I asked. “I mean, you probably knew all about me.” Hindsight was creating resentment towards the ghost hovering near me.
“We didn’t know where you were. The last time your grandmother and I saw you was when you were three years old. Your father and I had a falling out years ago. Before we knew what happened to you. By then you were already hidden from us. You and your mother vanished.”
“Logan took off with you and your mother in the middle of the night. Not a note, or even a word to where you went. He took you into hiding. That was a little over fourteen years ago. Your mother called us when your father died, but she wouldn’t tell us where you were. That was thirteen years ago.
“When you arrived that first night on our door step, I realized you couldn’t see me. Something was blocking your powers.”
“What was it?” I asked, completely enthralled. “What was blocking my powers?”
“Mental spikes,” he responded, “Necromantic energy driven into your brain like rail road spike. I can only imagine how much pain they caused you over the years. Your headaches were caused by a buildup of energy that you couldn’t displace. The spikes acted like a dam in a way, blocking the flow of energy. It created chaos in that head of yours.”
“My headaches? The spikes were causing those? No freaking way!” I was happier than I had ever been. I thought about the migraines, the nausea, the pain I had carried since I was ten. I thought about the hospitals, the doctors, all the fighting with my mother. If I only knew what was actually happening, maybe I could have had a normal life. “Why did I have these spikes in the first place,” I said, as I motioned to the top of my head.
“I guess your father put them there to block your powers from manifesting. Most likely to hide you. It would take a precision of a kind your father had towards the end. No one else could do the things he was able to do. I don’t think he could have foreseen the pain they caused. I’m sorry for what my son did to you, Charlie. If only we knew the reason, maybe I could have helped.”
I heard steps and the kitchen door slowly opened. “Who are you talking too, Charlie?” My grandmother asked. I must have woken her up with my excitement.
“I’m not talking to anyone, Nunny. It’s just me. Couldn’t sleep,” I lied as my grandmother moved closer to Martin. I’m not sure why I couldn’t tell her the truth. Martin had already said she knew about him. “See I made myself something to eat,” I showed her what was little left of the sandwich, “Can I make you a snack?”
Martin hadn’t moved when Nunny entered. He was watching my grandmother, but she hadn’t acknowledged him at all. I was beginning to think I really was crazy. Maybe I was really the only one to see Martin because I was still sick.
Nunny studied the scene for a moment and then said, “I’m happy to see Martin fixed you. You had us worried for a while.” Nunny turned toward the blue ghost and went to kiss his cheek, “You promised to escort me through town today,” she said to her dead husband. She hadn’t actually touched Martin, but only pretended too.
“Be right there, dear,” my grandfather replied with admiration.
I waited for my grandmother to leave before I scolded Martin. “So all this time she could have explained everything. Why did everyone keep me from knowing this? I could have been cured years ago. Do you have any idea how hard this is for me?”
“Would you have believed your grandmother if she told you the truth? Without being able to see me?”
I shook my head. He was right. I would have thought they were bullshitting me. No one would believe it without seeing it for themselves.
“Does my mother know about this?” I said while I ground my teeth together. I was dreading the answer. If she knew, that meant she had always known what I was. That would mean she had me committed when she knew the truth.
“If your mother told you anything before you were ready you wouldn’t have believed her. You might have tried to commit her just as fast. Until your powers worked, no one could just tell you. Can you see it from our perspective?”
All I could think of was how surreal this all was. On top of it, my own mother knew about necromancers this entire time. She had me committed even though she knew I shouldn’t be there.
There was still more I didn’t understand. More that Martin needed to tell me. “Why did she keep me away from you? You could have fixed me years ago.”
“When your powers manifested at ten, your mother didn’t know what was wrong. She thought bringing you here was a mistake so she kept you away,” Martin said with regret.
“Who were they hiding me from? You? My grandmother? Or maybe that crazy drunk Marcus Buffet? What about Deputy Sherrif English? There are not many people in town that like us very much.” I was mad, my voice was raised, but I knew I couldn’t blame my grandparents. It wasn’t their fault. They hadn’t done this to me. That was my father.
“We didn’t know what Logan was doing. He didn’t think he could trust us. We pieced together some of it, but why he did what he did, we don’t know. We didn’t have any idea where you were until the day you showed up. The day you showed up on our door step was the first time we had seen you since you were a baby.”
Martin studied a picture on the refrigerator held up by a small plastic magnet. It was of my grandparents years ago before I was born. They were happy then, and it looked like they were happy now.
“I think we should call it a day, Charlie,” my grandfather finally said. “I’ll give you the rest of the night to take it all in.”
He was right, I needed time to digest this. I needed to get some fresh air. Clouds had already moved in, masking the entire sky with rolling hills of grey. I threw on some old sweats and decided to go for a run. I needed to burn off some energy and clear my mind.
Rain started to fall melting the snow. The mixture of water and snow made big slush puddles, which I couldn’t help but continue to run through. It took me an hour to make it to Diana’s apartment. It was the only place I could think of going that made any sense to me.
I wasn’t sure if she was even home when I found myself on her front stoop. I was drenched from head to toe, but didn’t care as the cold stung at my face. I knocked on Diana’s door when I caught my breath. To my surprise she opened the door a few moments later with a smile on her face.
“I was just thinking about you, Charlie,” she said, and then realized I was soaked. “You must be freezing out there. What were you thinking running in this weather? Let me help you out of those,” she added as she helped me pull off my clothes, but to my dissatisfaction she was all business.
Diana quickly provided me with a pair of grey sweat pants she had stolen from an old college boyfriend, and a Mr. Bubble t-shirt she obtained from the local thrift store.
We curled up on the couch while Diana played around with her camera. I watched as she captured the mundane moments of a rainy day with an old 35mm. She could have used a digital camera, but she said she found comfort in film.
I could completely relax around her. She could see the beauty in almost everything. I, myself, found comfort in the mundane details, too. I dreamt about having a regular life, a normal one every teenager should be able to enjoy. I imagined my life with Diana, here in Dumont. Going to the movies, sharing popcorn, and walking her home at night.
Her eyes popped out from behind her lens. “I need to change rolls,” she informed me. “Can you grab me one?” I jumped off the couch and started to rummage in several carrying cases near by. “It’s on the side pocket of the large bag,” Diana said as I looked. There were three large bags in the corner of the room filled with camera equipment. In the biggest, where she had said, I found a fresh roll of film and handed it over.
“Tell me again how you get the photo from this roll of film to a computer.” Our hands brushed gently together when she took the film. I felt the rush of adrenaline that came next when our skin touched. I could tell she felt it too when her face blushed bright red. I almost forgot myself as I stared into her eyes.
“After I take the pictures I develop the negatives. It has to be in a dark room from when I pop the lid off this roll of film to developing prints from the negatives.” I watched her take the lead from the roll and load it into the camera. She closed the hilt and wound the film until she heard a click. “I use several different chemicals to expose, develop, and then set the negatives. Once I have the negatives all ready I use the enlarger to make the prints.”
“What’s an enlarger?” I asked quietly, but loud enough for her to hear.
“Basically,” she said. “It’s a machine where light shines through a negative and its projected onto special paper for just a couple of seconds. I take that piece of paper and again put it through a chemical bath.”
She handed me a black and white photo of a small boy alone on the road. I could tell it was taken in the town square, close to the hardware store. The boy was wearing a small dark suit and tie. His hair was a mess, and tears rolled down both cheeks.
“He was coming back from his mother’s funeral,” she explained. “My mother got me into photography when I was really young. When she died I guess some of my work turned a bit morbid.”
I knew the boy’s pain in the picture better than anyone. Like Diana I had lost a parent around the same age. I knew the feeling of the unknown deep in those eyes. The feeling that life was never going to be the same.
“I lost my dad, too,” I said solemnly.
I became aware of Diana’s body only inches from my own. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean for it to bum you out. I just thought it was a really good picture. You okay?”
Instead of telling her what I was thinking I lunged forward and planted my lips firmly onto hers. I took her in an embrace, while she kissed me back. I could feel heat radiating off her as she pressed her body against mine. Diana led me to the couch were we sat down, but a moment later she was laying on top of me. She placed her head against my chest and laid like that for a while before we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
When I woke up the rain had stopped, and the sun was getting ready to set. Diana was still sleeping peacefully and the last thing I wanted was to disrupt that. Unfortunately, my bladder would explode if I couldn’t get to a bathroom soon.
When I returned she was already awake. “Good morning,” I said as I slipped back onto the couch. “Or good night. Not sure what to say when you wake up so late.” She placed her head on my shoulder. “Don’t you have to go to work?” I asked quietly. “The evening shift starts soon I thought.”
“Actually, I have the night off. If you want we could hang out,” she said in a soft whisper. “Get to know each other better. Maybe have dinner?”
“That sounds like a brilliant idea. I’m staving. What did you have in mind?” I asked, willing to follow her anywhere. “I’ll drive, maybe you can take the camera.”
“We’re not going too far, just down the street,” Diana said as she tied the laces to a pair of boots. She wrapped the camera around her neck and took an extra roll of film in case she needed it.
We left her apartment and made our way down Main Street. The sky was still over cast but the clouds were brighter and fluffy, not stormy at all.
Rosie’s diner was visible from a distance and a crowd was already forming. The coffee sign turned on as we walked by the window. The barber shop was just closing, while the general market still had another couple of hours of operation left.
I found myself feeling overwhelmed by my newly discovered powers. Not to mention what it all would mean. If ghosts were real, what other kind of creatures were out there? What other kind of monsters were hiding right under our noses? Was my grandfather serious about vampires?
Diana cut down an alley and we found ourselves at a black stone building. The alley lacked much light, but it looked like the side wall of a gothic style church. She produced a key to a large metal door and we went in. She laughed as I stumbled up a step I didn’t see. The lights flipped on, but it took several seconds for my eyes to adjust.
The door was opened to a large room with photos lining the clean white walls, producing a striking contrast. It looked like an art gallery.
A photo of a man on a park bench hung next to a photo of a lumberjack cutting a tree with a chain saw. Each picture was of the mundane, the normal every day moments that made up lives in Dumont. I could tell right away every picture in the room was taken by Diana. The photos told the stories of everyday people experiencing every day relationships, and living an everyday life.
“Is this your exhibit,” I asked somewhat surprised. “They’re all really amazing.” Diana blushed, this time from the compliment. “I mean it. There is a lot of good work here.”
“Thanks,” she said. “But this isn’t what I wanted to show you. She pulled me into another room and I realized we had been in the lobby of another business. We were now standing in a chapel the size of small ball room. At least twenty pews lined the room for seating. A dark oak pulpit was positioned next to a light brown coffin with smooth brass hand rails.
“What are we doing here?” I asked Diana.
“I grew up here, Charlie.”
“You live in a funeral home?”
“My dad is the funeral director here. There’s an apartment upstairs where he lives. Pretty much does everything by himself since my mom died. Want to see a dead body?” she suddenly asked, changing the topic of conversation again.
She didn’t wait for an answer as I followed her down the aisle to the light brown coffin. Gold metal rails lined the outside of the box so the pallbearers would have something to hold onto. The rails would be removed before lowering the coffin into the ground.
“This one lost half his face when he tripped into an empty well. My dad tried to get them to have a closed casket for the ceremony, but they insisted on it being open. My dad does amazing work, but even he isn’t a miracle worker.” She opened the box and let out a gasp of terror. How horrible did the body look I wondered as I waited to see.
“What’s wrong,” I asked. Diana lifted the coffin door further up so I could get a look. As I made my way around she excused herself. I wasn’t sure what all the fuss had been about, but she jogged up the aisle and out of the chapel.
I slowly crept over to the front of the coffin to see what had made Diana so spooked. Was the man’s face that terrible? Had her father’s make up done its job? Maybe something she hadn’t expected was in there? I looked in, but was immediately confused. There wasn’t a body in the box. The coffin was completely empty.
A moment later, I heard the creaking of floor boards above me and then footsteps racing down a stairwell. A middle aged man, wearing only a bathrobe over a white t-shirt and green boxer shorts, ran down the middle aisle as fast as he could. I moved out of his way before he knocked into me. He side stepped and looked down into the coffin. His gasp showing his utter surprise at the empty box.
“Who would steal a dead body?” The man asked me. I hoped the question was only rhetorical, because I didn’t know. He turned to face me and immediately asked, “Did you steal my body?” I shook my head, but he turned to the back to see Diana speed walking down the aisle. “Diana, where is Mr. Wheeler?” He opened the lower lid. “See, usually a pair of legs would be under this bottom part, but it’s as empty as the top half.” Instead of finding a body Diana’s father picked up a large piece of pink and red rubber. He turned it in his hands and I moved closer for a better look. A human eye and nose were shaped into the rubber mold. It looked like a piece of someone’s face. Mr. Wheeler’s face to be exact.
“Dad, that’s what I’m saying. I have no idea where it is.”
“What are you holding?” I asked the man. “Was that covering what was left of the guy’s face?
“It’s pretty good, dad.”
“Thank you sweetie,” Diane’s father said, then he looked back at me, “Who are you?”
“This is Charlie Kane,” Diana said for me. “Remember I told you about him already.” She was worried her father would embarrass her, but she didn’t have to worry. I would be a hypocrite if I judged Diana because of her dad.
“Logan Kane’s son?” He asked. I nodded looking away trying not to make any kind of eye contact. “Name’s Andy,” he said as I shook his extended hand. “From your look of terror I can assume you’re wondering what I’m going to say about your family. I know some folk around here don’t have many nice things to say about your daddy, but I don’t feel you can judge a man by his father.”
“Thank you, sir. I couldn’t agree more.” I liked and respected Diana’s dad right away.
“Dead men don’t just get up and walk away,” Andy said to his daughter. “Do you know anything about this?”
“Not at all,” she answered. “I don’t usually let my friends steal the bodies.”
Andy called the police and gave a report of the missing body. I could hear the laughter on the other end of the line. “Some kids must have come in when I was asleep and taken him. I just don’t understand it, I usually hear everything.” Andy started back on the phone, “You found him? That’s fantastic!” Andy shouted. “I’ll be there in five minutes with the hearse. Thank you. All right, good bye.” He hung up the phone. “They already found the body! Can you believe that? I wonder what could have happened.”
“Are you going to the sheriff’s station right now,” Diana asked her father. “Can’t it wait until after dinner?”
“I’m sorry honey. They already have Mr. Wheeler’s body on ice, but I have to start his make up all over again. It took a while to fit the face piece on. If I don’t get him now I’ll have a hell of a mess later to deal with.” Andy grabbed his keys. He looked at his daughter and could see she was upset, “Rain check?” he added.
She nodded, but asked, “Did they tell you where they found him?”
Andy began to laugh. “You won’t believe it. They found him in the high school gymnasium. The school’s janitor actually found him under the bleachers. Damn kids must have taken him. I’ll be back in an hour or so. Charlie, it was nice meeting you. Honey, please lock the doors when you leave.” He gave his daughter a kiss on the forehead and a small embrace.
“Why don’t you live here anymore,” I asked Diana when Andy left without putting on pants. “It must be lonely for him in this big place all alone.”
“I love my dad, but we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. I still help him occasionally when he has a lot on his plate.” Diana casually pressed her body against mine. Our lips came together in a brief kiss. “Sneaking in to see the bodies is one thing, but this time they actually stole one. Can’t remember this ever happening before. Why would someone want to steal a dead body? Gives me the creeps.” She shook her head, frustrated. “So this is where I grew up. The three of us lived upstairs in the apartment until my mom died.”
“Is that why you moved out?”
“Part of it,” she responded.
“Thank you for bringing me here, and for meeting your dad. He seems like a really nice guy.”
“You really aren’t grossed out by any of this?” she asked. “Even Sara has a hard time hanging out here.”
“I don’t think you’d believe what I’ve seen lately,” I explained. I began kissing her neck, feeling the heat radiate off her skin. I stopped a moment later when my stomach rumbled. “You said something about dinner?”